Tag Archives: Writing

Melting Away

After several returns of summer-type weather, we finally seem to be immersed in autumn. The leaves are wildly different colors, and are falling off the trees, causing Maggie to yelp “Uh-Oh, the leaves fell down!” half a dozen times every time we step outside.

Because it has cooled off some, we’ve started once again taking nice long walks in the afternoon. We walk in the cool air and watch as the Halloween decorations in our neighborhood go up, becoming more and more elaborate. (We have two carved jack-0-lanterns sitting outside, but other than that, we’ve relied on our neighbors to provide the ambiance.)

When we go for these walks, Maggie has started asking to walk for the first leg of the journey instead of being pushed in a stroller, and so yesterday when we left the house for a walk, Maggie walked next to David. I walked behind them pushing Beckett in his stroller.

As we walked, I had the opportunity to really look at Maggie for what felt like the first time in months. Of course, I look at her every day. I spend all of her waking hours in the same room with her. And yet, I realized yesterday that I had not really seen her for what seems like a long time.

She was wearing an outfit that she had picked out herself: red, polka-dotted pants; purple fleece jacket; bright blue sun hat. She chattered away to David as we walked, asking questions about the leaves and trees and pumpkins and Halloween.

And maybe it was the distance. Maybe it was the fact that I was just watching her instead of interacting with her. Maybe it was the few moments that I could spend around her, but not working to meet her immediate needs, but she suddenly seemed so grown up. I could not see the baby she was even just a year ago.

On the one hand, this is hardly surprising. Anyone who has spent any time around children knows that they tend to grow and change over night.

On the other hand, this is MY kid. She’s my firstborn, and I thought I would notice.

Instead, her babyhood has simply melted away. She has become a kid – one who talks and can walk to the library and back, instead of riding in a stroller. She is steady on her feet. She crawls only in solidarity with her brother. She can peel her own banana in the morning. She even sits and “reads” to herself when I need to work and write.

It’s not heartbreaking, or even bitter sweet. I love her independence. After all, this is what we all want for our children. We want them to grow into amazing, interesting, inquisitive people who can peel their own bananas.

But I really thought I would have noticed when it happened.

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Filed under Babies, Choas, Life, Parenting, Toddlers, Writing

Three-Minute Fiction

Okay. Here’s the deal. I do not write fiction. I have tried to write fiction, and I am a terrible, nigh unto dismal, fiction writer. But this blog is about building some chops, and so I’m going to throw this assignment out there.

NPR has an ongoing series called Three-Minute Fiction. A few times a year, they have a special celebrity judge who gives a theme, or a phrase, or some kind of rule. You can read about it here. Go on. I’ll wait.

So, stealing this assignment from NPA, I am putting this assignment out there. Write a three-minute piece of fiction (about 600 words or so) that features a US president: real or imagined, past or present. If you want to submit it to NPR, go to the website referenced above. The deadline is Sunday, September 23 at 11:59PM.

(I am going to attempt this, but I will place a disclaimer excusing anyone from actually reading it. I will also probably drink some whiskey first.) (See above, with regards to my fiction writing.)

For those new to Small Assignments, if you choose to accept the challenge, just post your link in the comments here, so we can all read each other’s work.


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Filed under Drinking Whiskey, Humor, Life, Politics, Small Assignments, Writing

On Inspiration

This is a post in response to Small Assignment 4. Also check out responses from Anecdotaltales and Prajjwal. Thanks for writing and sharing!

A few years ago, I had a supervisor who drove me crazy. The reason for the crazy-making is that I was supposed to get a written review every quarter, but quarter after quarter, I did not get a written review. Then, all of a sudden, I would receive four quarterly reviews on the same day. This was… unhelpful. The excuse that my supervisor gave for the late reviews was that he needed to “be inspired” to write. Let’s be clear. He had to be “inspired” to simply do his job.

Now, years later, I am a writer. I get assignments and deadlines, and I must meet those deadlines or not get paid. When I get to work (often still wearing my pajamas), my first step is staring at a blank screen, or maybe write a little chicken scratch on a notebook or on the back side of an envelope. But at the end of the day, the deadline does not move, and the deadline does not wait for inspiration.

The experience of writing professionally and on deadline has crystallized one thing for me: writing is NOT about inspiration. Writing is about, well, writing. The moments when I feel inspired are wonderful moments, but if I’m honest, I must admit that those moments are rather few and far between. I am always more capable of finding an excuse to not write than I am of finding “inspiration.” In fact, not feeling inspired becomes a wonderfully convenient excuse to avoid writing. It’s right up there with “I have two babies” and “I don’t get any sleep.”

Last week, some old friends came to visit us for a few days, and then we drove out to middle Tennessee a rented a cabin for the weekend. While there, all gathered under one roof, we decided to work on a little group art project, which took the form of a book for each of the three families. Most people drew a little picture or a sketch. The kids who could be trusted to not eat the pens made drawings of their own. Now, I am not an artist. The best I can do on most days is draw a cartoon cow, although I do think I happen to draw a mean cartoon cow. So it was suggested that I write a little something.

Now, we were in a beautiful cabin out in the woods. We were half a mile from a beautiful lake, surrounded by friends and children and a hundred different reasons to feel inspired. But I did not feel inspired. I felt pressured and on the spot and a little weird. I was busy trying to keep my kids from destroying the other kids’ toys, and I really just wanted to pour another glass of wine. But one afternoon, I sat down and wrote a little something to put in the memory book. It was not the best something I’ve ever read; in fact, it was a poem. I am really not a very good poet. But it fit on the small sheet of paper, and it was written.

I believe in inspiration. I do believe that there are times when the Muse whispers in my ear and the words fit together like pieces of a puzzle. But most of the time, writing is just about getting the words down. So let me go and pour myself a glass of wine, (or coffee, as it is not yet noon), and let’s get to work.

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Filed under Babies, Choas, Life, Parenting, Small Assignments, Toddlers, Uncategorized, Writing

Small Assignment 4: Inspiration

Sitting down to write and staring at a blank screen (or notebook, or whiteboard, or whatever) can be one of the single most paralyzing experiences I have on any given day. In fact, the time when I am most likely to walk away in defeat is in those moments when I am simply terrified that I will not have anything worth writing.

This is when many writers (and creative people, generally) begin to look for inspiration. We wait for the muse to show up and hit us over the head (hopefully with some kind of a Nerf implement).

Once upon a time, when writing was a hobby for me, and not much else, it was easy to walk away due to lack of inspiration. But now, writing is not only a hobby. It is my livelihood. It has become a way of life. Inspiration really can’t keep up with that. So now, I am going to write about inspiration.

The small assignment this week is to write about inspiration. Think about where you find inspiration (if you do, in fact, find inspiration.) Write about a time when you felt particularly inspired. Write an inspirational haiku. Write a short story about a musician seeking inspiration from the Niagara Falls. Whatever. Your inspiration is inspiration. Go! Good scribbling!

As usual, if you choose to write something based on the prompt, write it and post the link in a comment here. Also, please “share” the small assignments with anyone who might be interested in writing them!



Filed under Life, Small Assignments, Writing

And.. I’m back!

Right. So, I went out of town there for a while.

I took the kids and spent the week with my parents, where there is a pool a block away and where someone else always did the cooking. From there we went and spent a few days with my grandmother, who turned 94 in May. It was wonderful to spend the time with family and to watch the kids discover the joys of swimming. It was a week of sun and light and laughter. But it was not particularly conducive to writing anything worthy of publication (on the blog or otherwise.)

So now we’re back in Memphis, and the kids are going through typical grandparent withdraw, what with the drag of just hanging out with me now. We’re all getting back into the swing of things, just in time for another little trip out of town next weekend. And then another trip out of town a couple of weeks after that. I know. My life is so hard. First world problems.

I am hoping, though, that in the next few days I will manage to get something worth reading written down and posted here. For now, though, let me encourage you all to keep on writing. Put pen to paper. That’s what counts!

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Filed under Life, Parenting, Small Assignments, Uncategorized, Writing

The Impossible Days

I’m working on thinking up a new Small Assignment, but in the mean time, I want to talk about impossible days.

Since we have gotten back from Nashville, writing has been kind of like… pulling teeth?  No. Pulling teeth is kind of cliche. More like trying to catch fruit flies in a butterfly net, except not quite so whimsical. Maybe it’s been like walking through foot-deep mud – the really thick kind that clings to your boots and sucks the shoes right off of your foot.  So I’m left wading through the mud with my butterfly net. Or something.

Of course, Maggie has been kind of sick since the return from Nashville, though no return of the puke-like symptoms. She just occasionally wakes up in the middle of the night whimpering “My tummy hurts.” It is both the most adorable and the most pathetic thing I’ve ever seen. We have continued the experiment of the shared room, and while it is getting better, Maggie seems to prefer sleeping on the floor right next to Beckett.  When she whimpers, he wakes up.  And the cycle continues.

So I’m tired.  I feel like creativity is kind of leaking out of my ears.  I have tried writing on the computer, in a notebook, on scratch paper, on a great big tablet with a sharpie.  Most of what I keep coming up with is halting and weirdly worded, at best.  Most of time I just end up doodling.  I can draw a MEAN cartoon pig, let me tell you.

So here I am.  Tired.  Trying desperately to remember that word.  You know, the one that means… that thing?

My guru Anne Lammott says we all have impossible days, and maybe even impossible weeks. During those impossible times, we need to keep on writing, even when it’s just a wet trail of snail slime.

So, here goes. Writing snail slime.

Time to strap on those boots and grab that butterfly net.  I’m hunting some words.

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Filed under Babies, Choas, Humor, Life, Parenting, Pregnancy, Small Assignments, Toddlers, Writing

Small Assignment 3: Vacation

(Once again, there was one responder to the small assignment last week on School Lunches.  If you haven’t already, go and read his response here.)

I don’t really know about elsewhere in the world, but in Memphis, though it is not yet summer by the calendar, it certainly is summer in terms of temperature.

It is also the time of year when I look at the next three months and see travel plans stacking up every two weeks or so.  Now is the beginning of a season of traveling to visit family and friends and having family and friends come and visit us.  We’ll be taking some shorter jaunts to some more-or-less local-ish places, and one big, pack-the-rented-car-and-drive-for-two-days trip.

All of this planning makes me think of the days before adulthood when vacation meant waking up one day and getting in the car.  Being magically transported to a new place with new smells and new sights.  These days, vacation is more about watching my kids have that experience.  (Maggie is already running around saying, “Beach!” even though we won’t be leaving for our beach vacation for another two months.)

So the assignment this week is to write about vacation.  It can be a memory of a particular vacation, a meditation on vacations more generally, a short story about a dude who goes on vacation and gets more than he bargained for, or a haiku about a beach ball.

As usual, if you choose to write about this assignment, post the link to your response in a comment here, and I’ll share it at the end of the week on this sight.  Also, as usual, if you or someone you know might be interested in this little virtual writing group we’ve got going, share this post.  Anyone is invited to participate, with any writing style and really, any topic.  (Also, if you have a suggestion for a small assignment, let me know!)

Good scribbling!


Filed under Babies, Choas, Humor, Life, Parenting, Small Assignments, Toddlers, Writing

Small Assignment 2: Lunch

(Last week’s assignment was to Find Your Funny Voice.  One person took the challenge.  Read his response here.)

Today, we had a family lunch.  David and I ate some leftover Vietnamese food, which we ordered the other day after a very long and exhausting day.  When we get food from that place, we always have enough leftovers for one or two more meals.  Maggie requested, in this order, apples, celery, biscuits (which she “helped” me make) and then some of the Vietnamese curry from my plate.  Beckett ate bits of sauteed mushrooms and zucchini with feta cheese, and then had a biscuit, and finally tried a little of the Vietnamese curry from my plate.

Meals are so integrally important to shaping who we are and who we become.  We do not yet have “family” dinners, because the kids go to bed quite early.  But David and I do our best to make sure that at least one meal a day is one that we eat together as a family.  (Usually, that meal is breakfast, but you get what you get, right?)

But as we were sitting at lunch today, I started thinking about how much my lunches have changed over the course of my life to this point.

In Bird by Bird, Anne Lammott describes a moment in her writing class where she instructs a student who is panicking to write about school lunches.  (No, really, if you have not read this book and you are a writer, you should go and read this book.  Right now.)  Describe the lunch.  Describe the setting.  Pay some attention to detail.  Some of this you might pick up and continue to write about later.

I know we all have stories from our school days about lunch.  So the assignment this week is borrowed from Anne Lammott.  Write a piece about school lunches.  Write your own memory about a school lunch.  Write a short story that includes a school lunch.  Write an ode to your lunchbox.  Just write something.

As usual, write a piece and post the link in the comments section here.  Please share the project with anyone who might be interested.

Good scribbling!


Filed under Babies, Humor, Life, Parenting, Small Assignments, Toddlers, Uncategorized, Writing

Aannd.. This Was Unexpected

An unexpected and pleasant surprise came my way recently.

Amy, over at readncook.wordpress.com recently nominated me for a blogging award: The Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award.  Color me bashful.  I’m honored and thankful to Amy for the nomination, and glad to be making some new acquaintances on this here Interwebs.

The nomination came at exactly the right time.  I’ve been feeling a bit discouraged about the “blogging” thing, and have run out of steam a bit.  But I’m so happy to hear that at least one person is reading and enjoying what I’ve written.  All of us writers, I think, get a boon from the confirmation that our writing has spoken in some way to another person on the planet.  If we didn’t want desperately to have our words be read, we would just keep a private journal (which is what I did for many years before actually becoming a writer.)  So thank you, Amy, for the nomination.  I am very humbled and grateful.  (Also, if you have not read ReadnCook, go there now.)

The nomination, however, comes with some conditions.  The first is to share seven random facts about myself, and then I will share the love with some additional nominations.  So, on to the random facts.

1. When I started college, I was absolutely convinced that I was going to be a physician.  I stacked up on chemistry and math classes right out of the gate, and added a philosophy class as an elective, because I was required to take a certain number of “humanities” courses.  Then, I took another philosophy class.  By the time I declared my major, I was a philosophy and religious studies DOUBLE major, but I kept chemistry as a minor.

2. My husband and I tell people that we met in grad school, which we did.  BUT, we actually “met” the year before we met at a reception being held at a professional conference in Philadelphia.  Confirmation of the small world in which we live, especially the “we” who are religion scholars.

3. For a short period of time in my teens, I wanted to become a youth minister.  That changed once I grew beyond being a “youth” and I understood that teenagers are not. my. element.

4.  When I was in third grade, I read Where the Red Fern Grows, by Wilson Rawls. I am not a dog person nor particularly an animal lover.  BUT, I finished reading the book when we were driving from Pittsburgh, PA (my home town) to Grand Rapids, MI (where my dad’s family lives) for Thanksgiving that year, I sat in the back seat WEEPING.  My mom looked back at one point and panicked when she saw me sobbing in the back seat.  The book still gets me.

5.  I was in eighth grade when my mom got her first full-time teaching job.  While I was in high school, my mom and I would watch the VHS box set of BBC’s Pride and Prejudice while she graded papers and I did my homework.

6. I am a terrible fiction writer, but at times I have dreamed of being able to write novels (as evidenced by the terrible short story that I wrote in college).  If I wrote a novel, I would want it to be a novel like Chaim Potok’s My Name Is Asher Lev, which is my favorite novel.

7.  I have a Master’s degree in theology, and I occasionally teach night classes to college students who really don’t give a twiddle about theology.

Now for the nominations.  (This is the “Pay it forward” part.)  Please support and check out these blogs, because I think they are worth reading.

“View from the Rafters” jenniferharrisdault.wordpress.com

“Kezalu” at kezalu.wordpress.com

“MummyMates” at mummymates.wordpress.com

“The Fulcrom Chronicles” at http://thefulcrumchronicles.wordpress.com/


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Filed under Life, Writing

My Funny Memory

(This is my attempt at Assignment 1.)

I want to tell a story about my father.

In order for me to adequately tell this story, however, I need to tell you a little about my father.

My dad, you see, is a gentle soul.  My most vivid memories of Dad when I was growing up are of him puttering around the house, the yard, the basement.  He is a mild-mannered man who cooked most of our family dinners (and still does),  taught (and still teaches) Sunday school.  He is a lover of puns and single-malt scotch.  He is slow to anger, but always quick to help.  He is not at all prone to sudden outbursts.  His humor tends to be dry and subtle-ish (though the puns are not always so subtle.)

The other character in the story is a seemingly innocent bottle of ginger ale.

Dad has, for as long as I can remember, done most of the grocery shopping.  He goes out early on Saturday morning and drives around to several different stores in town (Giant Eagle, Aldi, Wal-Mart.  When I was growing up, there was no Wal-Mart, but there was Shop n’ Save.)  He usually sticks to the grocery list that he’s made, but occasionally an item will catch his eye, and if it is on special, it might coax him into an impulse buy.

On the Saturday in question, there was a bottle of Vernors Ginger Soda on special.  Dad came home from his shopping trip with a bottle of “America’s oldest surviving ginger ale.”  We were not normally a soda-drinking people, so this was indeed a special occasion.  Asked why he bought a bottle of ginger ale, Dad responded that he had heard it was different from most other ginger ales, and he was curious.  Fair enough.

The thing is, Vernors Ginger Soda apparently has a very distinctive taste which is a bit… stronger… than your Schwepps or your Canada Dry.  (Their tag line is “Barrel Aged. Bold Taste!”  They’re not lying.)  It is also, apparently, quite a bit more carbonated than your average soda.  So when Dad decided to sample the soda, he poured himself a glass, took a sip…

…and promptly spit it out in the most phenomenal spit-take I have ever seen in real life.

Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever seen another spit-take in real life.

Vernors Ginger Soda was sprayed over the floor, the island in the middle of the kitchen, and the cabinets across the room.

To this day, my brother and I both burst into giggles when this memory bubbles into consciousness, and it is, quite frankly, a very fond memory for me.  I’m tremendously fortunate that Dad, in addition to being wise and mild-mannered, has the rare ability to be able to laugh at himself, and tolerates a more than a decade of his kids still making fun of him for the one time he tried to drink Vernors Ginger Soda.

Personally, I’ve never tasted the stuff.

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Filed under Humor, Life, Uncategorized, Writing