Saturday, April 30, 2011

A memory

A lengthy sentence I wrote for today's 100 words exercise:

Spring was a muddy time in Upper Michigan, and I can remember recesses during elementary school when we weren't allowed on the soggy playground and instead were told to play on the school driveway and sidewalks, where teachers and aides would patrol among us, ensuring that we didn't run out into traffic or throw balls at cars, and I can remember the gym teacher, Mr. Teddy, commenting on my looped pigtails as I paced the sidewalk that led toward the high school, wondering why we had to play outside at all, wondering why we couldn't just stay inside and read.

Friday, April 29, 2011

"Books are a refuge..."

"Books are a refuge, a sort of cloistral refuge, from the vulgarities of the actual world." ~ Walter Pater, English author

Like most writers, I've always been an avid reader. When I was a child, I used to spend lazy summers walking from my grandma's house to the library and back, arms laden with books, and I remember how excited I was to dive into those stories, to immerse myself in the words. I still feel that excitement and anticipation each time I pick up a new book--that wonder about where the story is going to carry me and that eagerness to become lost in the characters and their lives.

Every January since 2005, I've set a reading goal for the year. For the past several years, my goal has been to read 104 books, an average of two per week. The closest I've gotten was 102 books in 2005. However, even though I now have children and therefore considerably less time to read--I read mostly at night, choosing to stumble through my days on only four or five hours of sleep--I still average about 100 books a year. So far this year I've read thirty-three, and I'm nearly finished with number thirty-four.

I try to read a wide variety of books, and every year, I inevitably reread some of my favorites--Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, for example. More often, though, I prefer reading books that are new to me, books whose stories are still a mystery. And although I once used to read a book from start to finish, regardless of whether I was enjoying it, now I don't hesitate to set aside a book that doesn't hold my interest. In January, I wrote one of my 100 words entries on this topic:

I've learned as I've gotten older that life is too short to read bad books. I used to finish every book, regardless of how uninteresting or poorly written it was. Recently, however, as I've grown more conscious of the passage of time, I've realized I just don't have enough life to read anything but the best. I once heard that people should read as many pages as their age subtracted from 100 before passing on a book. In my case (age 38), I should give each book a 62-page chance. Sometimes even that seems like a waste of time.

Books are a refuge, just as Pater said. They've saved me so many times when life was bleak and I longed for an escape, a way out. A break. They've taken me to places I may never go and introduced me to the kinds of people I may never have the privilege of meeting in "real" life. They've made my life richer and more meaningful and have also taught me so much about the craft of writing, about how to engage readers and become a better storyteller. There's no doubt that my life would be emptier without books.

What about you? Tell me about your love of books, about what you read and why. What have you discovered about yourself as you've turned the pages?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Rest in Peace, Fragile Life

For the past couple of days, I've been heartbroken about the death of a mother eagle who was nesting with her partner and eaglets at Norfolk Botanical Garden in Virginia. She was struck by a plane while bringing a fish--food for her five-week-old babies--back to the nest. A Web cam has been documenting these birds for some time, and although I am a very recent follower of the cam, I cry every time I think about what happened. My heart hurts for the mother, who was just trying to feed and take care of her babies; for the eaglets, who are left without a mother; and for the father, who must wonder what became of his mate.

Thoughts of the father in particular bring me to tears because yesterday, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, concerned that he might not be able to provide enough food for the growing eaglets, took the babies out of the nest and transported them to the Wildlife Center of Virgina to be raised until they are old enough and strong enough to be released. My heart lightened a tiny bit when I read this news, happy that the eaglets would have a good chance of survival, but then my thoughts turned to the father and how he would react to the absence of his babies. In a discussion forum on the Web cam page, I learned that soon after the eaglets were taken, the father bird flew to the empty nest with a fish for them and seemed confused that they were no longer there. My heart broke for him when I read that, and I sobbed. I still cry for him.

I'm upset by this story not only because I have a heart for animals but also because I can identify with these birds. That poor mother bird--she was doing her job, bringing food to her babies. She was taking care of them, and then suddenly her life was extinguished. She was there, and then she was gone, and her babies were left motherless. And the father: the heartbreak he must have felt--and I believe deeply and sincerely that animals have emotions. He must have been so confused, wondering where his mate was, then wondering where his babies went, as he stood there with the fish in his beak, looking for the ones who were depending solely on him for their lives. He's alone now--no mate, no babies. When I put myself in his place, I can't even fathom what pain and loneliness he must feel. And those babies: a mother gone, and now left to face these early weeks of life without their father as well. My heart breaks for all of them, and it breaks for me because these birds are me; I am these birds. I, too, love my babies with a fierce love; I also do everything I can to keep them fed and safe and warm.

But that all could change in an instant.

Every time I see the memorial picture of that proud momma eagle, the tears come again, and I am reminded about how fragile life is and how we should be grateful for every moment we have with those we love.

And though I can see and understand the lesson, knowing doesn't make the news any easier to bear.

Rest in peace.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Unable to find the words

Since I began this blog on January 8 of this year, it's been important to me to post an entry every day. Admittedly, some entries have been more thought-provoking than others, but all of them have been genuine--they've all shown the real me, good and bad, and I'm happy that I've been able to fulfill my goal.

That being said, I feel as though I need to apologize for today's words: I don't have any.

I've been working on an entry since yesterday afternoon, but my emotions about the subject are raw, and I'm having trouble seeing through my tears to write something that might be worthwhile for you to read. Even these words have been difficult to write. The topic breaks my heart, and just thinking about it--especially at this early juncture--is painful enough to make me wonder if I'll ever be able to post the entry.

For now, I just don't have the words.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Good news today!

I'm very grateful to Tara at Tara Tyler Talks for awarding me this Stylish Blogger Award. It's my first award, and I'm honored. Thanks, Tara!

Tara asked me to include seven facts, so here they are:

1. I love reality TV, and I've gotten many story ideas from watching how the people on these shows interact.

2. My favorite number is five. I can remember riding my bike up and down our long driveway on my fifth birthday and thinking, "Yeah, five is a good age." I've stuck with it ever since.

3.  I used to be a college instructor in Nebraska. I taught English and journalism and advised the student newspaper.

4.  I met my husband in a chat room online. He's thirteen years older than I am and has two sons in their twenties (in addition to our kids, ages 4 and 21 months).

5.  My first car was a blue 1990 Buick Skylark. I didn't get it until I was in graduate school, and I had friends who would tease me about driving an "old person's car." I didn't care what they said--and I still don't. We recently traded in my second car, a Buick Century that I had owned for thirteen years, for a Chrysler Town and Country, but I love Buicks and hope to own another one someday. (I never would have traded in my car had it not been rear-ended at a stoplight. That Buick had been running perfectly!)

6.  My first kiss happened at age 12. I was in the seventh grade, and my eighth-grader boyfriend kissed me on the staircase landing right before band class.

7.  When I was in junior high, my creative writing teacher, Mrs. Jacobson, encouraged me to write and even featured several of my stories in the school art show. She's part of the reason I'm still writing today.

Thanks again, Tara! This was a lot of fun!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Still struggling to find that balance

I started this blog as a way of trying to figure out how to balance my responsibilities as a stay-at-home mom with my passion for writing. I needed a place to record my thoughts--not only my thoughts about writing but about family life and other musings as well--so that I could step back and see where I could make changes or alter my days so that I have time to do everything I want to do. I needed a plan.

I haven't found one yet.

What I've learned most from seeing parts of my life "in print" is that I can't do it all. This is something I've always known, of course, but recording my thoughts here has made me see how true it is, and since I've always been a perfectionist, this truth really hurts. I see that I'm hard on myself for not being able to cross everything off my to-do list each day, and I suffer from a huge case of Mommy Guilt whenever I try to do something for myself. For example, if I decide to write a few paragraphs instead of playing a game with the kids, I feel almost crippled by the guilt. All I can think of is that I'm "wasting" their childhood and that I should be spending every possible minute I can with them before I'm no longer the center of their world.

And I learned that I suffer from another kind of guilt as well: Writer Guilt.  If I use naptime to try to keep up with the laundry instead of plotting the next part of my WIP, I feel guilty. If I opt to walk on the treadmill before the kids are up instead of working on the 100 words exercises I do each morning, I feel guilty. If I decide to relax by watching television when the kids go to bed instead of trying to edit or write another chapter, I feel guilty. The list goes on.

There are so many important things that I want to do and that I need to do, and I can't seem to find the balance.

It occurred to me today that maybe I just have a guilty personality. I've felt guilty about things all my life, some serious and some silly: guilt over going out with friends rather than spending time with my now deceased grandma; guilt over leaving my dog at home when I know that she'd really like to go for a ride in the car; guilt over opting to sleep in instead of going to church... I realize that everyone experiences guilt, but I think I take it to an extreme. I let it paralyze me until I'm unable to accomplish anything. Maybe it is just part of my personality, something innate, wired in. But I know I could learn to control it, if only I knew how.

Since I can't seem to find the answer--if there is one--I want to ask you. How do you achieve balance in your life? How do you decide which of your responsibilities is most important at any given moment? How do you "do it all"? Or if you don't accomplish everything, how do you find peace about the things that you're not able to do?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Chocolate bunnies, jelly beans, and children running amok

Happy Easter!

It's been a long, full day of church and Easter baskets and chocolate and jelly beans and ham and plastic eggs filled with treats... My husband and I are ready to pass out, but the kids, high on usually forbidden sugar, are still going strong. I'm afraid I'm running as low on energy tonight as I was last night, so I don't see myself writing in the very near future. A good night's sleep should cure that problem!

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday!

Oh, my aching legs!

This is the first time I've had a chance to sit down since I read and commented on blogs this morning. (I'm caught up. Yay!)

Why is it that holidays are the opposite of relaxing? There's always so much to do, and somehow I always manage to leave most of it for the last minute. Today I've been to the grocery store for more Easter basket stuff (twice), washed everyone's dressy church clothes and found all the accessories (shoes, tights, ties, barrettes...), prepped tomorrow's French toast (it stays in the fridge all night and bakes for an hour in the morning), filled baskets and plastic eggs, and double-checked that I have everything I need for the Easter dinner I'm cooking tomorrow evening. And that's just the holiday stuff! Those everyday chores--dishes, laundry, cooking meals, cleaning--didn't go away, as much as I wish they had. I'm unbelievably tired and so glad to be able to sit down right now. After I post this, I'm taking my tired legs to the bathtub, and I think I'll bring along a glass of wine and a book. It's "me" time now!

Happy Easter!

Friday, April 22, 2011

I'll catch up. I promise!

Big apologies to all my readers who have posted blog entries in the last few days. I'm so far behind on my reading. Life has been like a roller coaster--all ups and downs with frequent side trips to the not-so-fun house--and I've been having trouble concentrating on anything that doesn't involve weighty matters like children's birthday parties, imaginary arguments with certain bookstore employees, vacation plans, chocolate bunnies (solid or hollow, that is the question), stain removal, Thomas the Tank Engine (which in my opinion is one of the most boring kids' shows of all time), and dogs digging up the lawn and creating death traps in my backyard. I read the blogs of everyone who follows me, and I feel awful that I haven't been able to keep up. Never fear, though: I've declared tomorrow to be my personal "catch up on your reading or else" day, and I'm going to try my best to read and comment on as many blogs as I possibly can--or face the consequences. (I don't know what those consequences will be, but I can bet they'll be horrible and involve the withholding of chocolate, the cruelest punishment I know...)

Seriously, though, my vacation plans can wait a day. Your blogs cannot. :)

See ya tomorrow!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Dana the Spy

“The great advantage of being a writer is that you can spy on people." -Graham Greene, English novelist

I'm a writer; I'm a spy. I listen in on conversations, even those I'm not a part of, and I write down the things that you've said. I watch as you tap your wedding ring on the dining table, run your finger around the rim of your wineglass, ogle the woman with Sarah Jessica Parker hair sitting across the room. Everything you do, everything you say, every gesture you make--I capture them all. Thanks for the inspiration.


I wrote the paragraph above during one of my morning writing sessions a couple of months ago, and I often think about it. I love the idea of being a spy. As a child, two of my favorite books were Louise Fitzhugh's Harriet the Spy and The Long Secret. Harriet knew everything, and I wanted to be her. I would lurk around corners, hide in closets, listen to conversations with my ear to the wall... And I would write down what I heard and saw: tidbits of information, flashes of dialogue, descriptions of the colorful personalities I came across each day. These real-life details helped me in my early attempts at writing; they brought life to my stories.

As I grew older, I continued to spy on people, although I was no longer a lurker. Instead I spied out in the open, usually at restaurants or while waiting in lines. When I first moved to New York a few years ago, my then-boyfriend and I went out to dinner, and I think he was a little annoyed with me because I continually shushed him so that I could hear (and write down) the conversations around me. I remember remarking that our waiter looked just like my main character's best friend, and then I took out my purse-size notebook so I could record all the details.

I still spy today.

I love being a writer, and I think to be a writer, you do need to spy. You need to pay attention to the people and places around you and use what you learn to help make your characters real: three-dimensional rather than flat and one-dimensional. The details count, and what better place to find them than in "real" life?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

On sleepiness and apes

I had an idea for my post today, but I'm getting to my blog so late tonight that I'm too tired to think, much less write intelligently. I decided to post a bit of writing I did in March, another one of my 100 words exercises. I feel like I'm cheating on my blog by posting something I've already written, but here it is:

We took our kids to the zoo yesterday. It was beautiful, sunny and warm, and the kids were thrilled to be out after having been cooped up indoors for so long. I didn't want to go, but I'm glad I did; being there provided another opportunity to learn to see life through a child's eyes. When I see an ape, I might smile, but when my kids see it, they exclaim and giggle; their voices rise in excitement, their awe genuine, and their emotion doesn't embarrass them. They teach me every day about the purest way of seeing this world.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Unconditional, unquestioning love

Today was another rough day with the kids. Even though they're still very young, they've already started to gang up on me, and their screaming and fighting and unwillingness to listen really got to me this afternoon. I felt pushed to my edge and yelled, which I don't like to do and which I always feel guilty about afterward. The day seemed extra long because my husband worked late tonight, and I couldn't wait for him to get home so that I could sneak out for an hour before the kids' bedtime. I had to buy Easter basket treats, so I needed to go out for that, but maybe more importantly, I needed that time to myself. I needed the peace. When my husband came home, I practically ran out the door.

When I returned home, my son, the son that I had yelled at all day long, ran to the door and hugged me around the knees, and shouted, "Mama! Mama's home!" I wanted to cry. After everything bad that had happened today, he was still excited to see me. Despite it all, he was glad I was home.

I was too.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Every once in a while, you gotta have one...

A dreadful, appalling, hideous, horrible day, that is.

The kids ran me ragged today, and although I'd like to post something worthwhile and interesting, my brain is just too fried tonight. I won't bore you with the details, but suffice it to say that today was a long, trying, tiring day, during which I was forced to confiscate library books and withhold snacks, among other things.

Tomorrow will be better, right?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

We're going through changes

Tonight I reread some of the emails that my husband and I exchanged after we first met in a chat room in early 2004. I haven't looked at them for about six or seven years, and it was bittersweet to read them. Even though we love each other, it's no longer the same love we shared in those emails; we're not those people anymore. In a lot of ways, I miss who we were back in those days when everything the other said (or wrote) was wonderfully exciting, those days when we counted the hours until we would talk again, when we shared the minutiae of our lives and hung on each other's words, when we finally met and shared that first breathless kiss...

Things have changed now. They have to, I guess, as we evolve, as we grow older, as our circumstances alter and fluctuate--living together, getting married, having children, weathering the ups and downs of day-to-day life. It's a different love now--not better or worse, but different. And I know that our love will continue to evolve as we go through life, as we grow older, as our children leave home to pursue their own dreams and goals, as we settle into a life with only each other to hold on to. I look forward to growing old with my husband, to seeing who we become.

But my heart does ache a bit for those lost days, for those two people who were so much in love.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

My dream-thoughts snatched away...

I wrote this piece this morning after being awakened by the rain.
Rain battered the roof, waking me from sleep, the steady ping-ping-ping piercing through my dreams, and I sat up, confused, as I tried to piece together the source of the sound, the origin of that unwanted alarm clock that had torn me from sleep, snatching away my dream-thoughts of you and the life we had shared once long ago, before we imploded, our togetherness shattered, and found ourselves suddenly living separate lives and separate dreams, no longer breathing in sync as the rain pattered against the roof or the hot sun shone brightly through the window.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Even better than living my dream

As a child, I dreamed of the day I'd become a mother, but on the day I discovered I was pregnant with my son, all I felt was apprehension.

I think a small part of that apprehension probably stemmed from the fact that I was a slightly older first-time mom: I was thirty-four when my son was born and thirty-six when my daughter arrived. I realize that many women are waiting until their thirties and even later to have children, but most of my friends had had their kids in their twenties, so compared to them, I felt ancient.

The larger reason for my trepidation was fear. In all of my daydreams about motherhood, I had never envisioned myself being single and pregnant. I had pictured the white house with the picket fence, the successful career, the husband--and then the children. But that vision didn't turn out to be my reality. My life ending up taking a different path that meandered through marriage and divorce, then a move across the country to be with a man I had met in a chat room online. I moved in with him in November of 2004, and our surprise son made himself known in June of 2006. So even though I wasn't truly single--I was with a man that I loved and would marry in just a few months time--on the day I found out I was pregnant I felt single, and that was scary. I don't know if that will make much sense to anyone on the outside looking in, but for my life to have veered so far from the course I had set out on was terrifying for me. I welcomed the pregnancy, but the questions still nagged at me: What happened to my plan? Where did my life get off track? How did I end up here?

As my pregnancy progressed, however, much of my fear disappeared. I loved being pregnant; it had been my dream for so long. And when my son was born by emergency C-section on February 21, 2007, I couldn't have been happier or felt more blessed. I don't even know how to describe the peace and overwhelming love that came over me when I was finally able to hold him, the sense of comfort, the certainty that everything was going to be all right.

Even though my life didn't take the path I had dreamed it would--and perhaps no one's life does--I'm grateful to have gone through all the things that brought me where I am today. I have a wonderful husband and two beautiful kids. Things happened differently than I thought they would, but I'm now living a life that's better than anything I ever dreamed.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Time to make the doughnuts bagels!

Today the kids and I did something we've never done before: we made homemade bagels. We followed this recipe, and although I can't call myself a baker by any stretch of the imagination, the bagels actually turned out quite well. They were lopsided and kind of ugly, but they tasted good, and that's what counts, right?

I found it relaxing to bake with the kids. Usually I'm stressed out, wondering how I'm going to fit everything I need to do into the nineteen or so hours I'm awake each day, but today I decided that I was going to put everything else aside--writing included--and spend some quality time with my kids. As someone posted in my comments yesterday, my kids are still young, and they need me now more than they ever will. I want to be there for them, do things with them, create memories that they'll never forget. My writing is important, but there is a season for everything, including writing. I'm certainly not going to stop writing, however; I have to write. I feel compelled to--and more importantly, I enjoy it.  What I'm going to try to do is stop stressing out about it--stop worrying about word counts and pages written and edited. I think that now is the time in my life when I need to focus on more than only my own desires, and if I can just relax a bit about what I want to do, I believe that things will fall into place.

As it is with so many things, I'm sure this resolution will be easier said than done, especially for my type A personality. When the hard days come, I'm going to focus on how much fun I had making those bagels with the kids, how nice it was to enjoy "real" time with them, time that wasn't spent at the dinner table or in the car driving to storytime or the grocery store. When it's kid time, I'm going to focus on them--and not worry about my writing projects.

I can write when we're done making those bagels.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Flipping the switch

One of my biggest writing challenges is my struggle to make the transition from Mom mode to Writer mode. I schedule some of my writing time during my daughter's nap (my son has quiet playtime then), and I often have trouble leaving behind all of the stresses of the day in order to concentrate on my writing. Instead of working on my WIP, I'll find myself making a store list or doing laundry or just sitting in front of the computer thinking about the meltdown my kids had at storytime or what I need to do to get dinner on the table on time. All of these thoughts get tangled up with thoughts about my story and my characters, resulting in a snarl of ideas that seems impossible to sort out in those few precious moments of writing time.

Certainly this struggle isn't unusual, and I'm sure that all writers, whether they stay at home with their kids or work outside (or inside) their homes, have similar struggles. One thing I've been trying to do to ensure better productivity is to schedule more writing time early in the morning, when the house is still quiet and the stresses of the day haven't yet had a chance to become forefront in my mind. I've been scheduling this morning time since the beginning of April, and although it's been working well, I would like to be able to get even writing done at different times throughout the day. However, flipping that switch from Mommy mode to Writer mode is proving to be very difficult, and I'm not yet sure how to overcome that challenge.

I'm curious. How do you put aside other thoughts so that you can fully concentrate on your writing?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A little thrill to brighten my day

Last night, someone commented that a short piece of writing I did for another site was in a class with Hemingway.  Although I would be extremely hesitant to say that anything I write is or ever will be even close to Hemingway's caliber, I am unbelievably flattered and very honored and humbled that someone else would say that.

Today is a good day.

Monday, April 11, 2011

My dog ate my homework!

I'm having a hard time writing my post tonight, but only because I can't get my mind off my WIP. Thank you all again for your suggestions about how to make a cheating wife seem sympathetic. I've been brainstorming directions for each of your points and have been coming up with a lot of good possibilities.

In lieu of a blog post, I'd like to post another snippet about my grandma. I wrote this one this morning as my 100-word writing warm-up. It's something I remembered while I was thinking about the children who hang around in this neighborhood:

The neighborhood kids called her a witch. They'd ride their bikes up and down her street, making wide sweeps past her driveway, advising each other to "Watch out. The witch lives there." I don't remember if I witnessed this happen or if I was merely told about it later, about these kids who bestowed upon her such a thoughtless title, but what I do know is that I could never understand why. There was nothing witchy about my kind grandma, a woman who always helped out the neighborhood kids, bought what they were selling, gave them prime chocolate every Halloween...

Sunday, April 10, 2011

An old woman

My grandma died about seven months ago. I was thinking about her today--about how she was sometimes lonely and afraid during the last years of her life--and this extremely rough little scene (long sentence, really) came to mind. It's not about her so much as it is inspired by her. I'm not sure what, if anything, I'll do with it, but maybe someday I'll build a short story around it--or a poem:

An old woman sits alone in a dark living room, the glow from the television illuminating her face, the remote in her hand, clicking idly from channel to channel, life flashing by in bursts of color and sound, frightened, not knowing, not understanding--how did I end up this way?--forgotten and alone in days that pass by too quickly, in nights that linger too long.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Before she cheats...what do you think?

I'm working on a story right now in which a married woman falls for another man, but I'm concerned that readers will dislike her. So my question is this: what would make you feel sympathy for a main character who loves her husband but discovers she has feelings for someone else? Would it depend on how far she took her feelings for the other man? How would you feel if she had an affair with him (slept with him)? What if she only kissed him? Would you feel differently if her husband were abusive? What if he wasn't abusive but instead loved her more than she could ever understand?

I want readers to like this character, but I realize I'm walking a fine line when it comes to adultery (if that's the path she takes). So what do you think: is a cheating main character ever acceptable? I'd appreciate hearing your thoughts on this. 

Friday, April 8, 2011

I have my answer

I'm not pregnant.

I knew soon after I posted yesterday's entry, but I needed to take the day to absorb the news. I'm sad, of course, but I'm also relieved that I have an answer, that things didn't go on and on for weeks, as they did once before, alternately leaving me to worry and wonder, dread and dream.

I want to thank all of you for caring, for checking in with me, for sharing your own stories. As I said before, only a handful of people knew about my past losses. I've always been reluctant to talk about them, but I'm so glad I shared my story with all of you. It was cathartic, and I'm grateful for your support. And Tara, again, thank you for your poem. It gave me peace.

I've always loved Five for Fighting's 100 Years, and to take one of their lyrics for my own, "we're moving on"--I'm moving on. Tomorrow I begin again--back to the things I know, the things I love, the things that make me happy.

And tomorrow I write.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

On waiting and fear

I'm late now, about three days, if I go by the average length of my cycle.  I've taken three tests in the past several days because my symptoms have been so strong--exactly what I felt with my other pregnancies--but all of them have been negative. As I mentioned before, my husband and I haven't been trying to have another baby. In fact, we had agreed that we were done, mostly because of finances. But the possibility of being pregnant again excited me, so with each test I took, I admit that I was hoping to see that second line. I still am.

Honestly, though, I'm scared now. Although I haven't been charting my basal body temperature each morning this cycle, I did start taking it when I suspected that pregnancy was a possibility, and my temperatures are high, even today; they're clearly in the luteal phase range and haven't dropped to indicate that my period is on its way. My cycle has always been very regular--the only time I've been late is when I was pregnant--and as I look back over the charts I kept when we were trying to conceive our daughter, I see that the temperature pattern I'm experiencing now is very similar to the pattern I experienced when I tested positive. The difference is that I tested positive with my daughter long before this point in my cycle.

I realize that three days isn't that late, at least not for the average woman. However, for me, it's terrifying. I don't talk about this much because it hurts to think about it; only a handful of online friends know, and I've only told one friend in "real" life. Not even my family knows.

I have two beautiful, wonderful children, but I've been pregnant four times.

My first loss came unexpectedly--but who really expects to lose their baby, especially after an earlier pregnancy was textbook and routine? My miscarriage (I hate that word) was a horrifying ordeal that I would never want to go through again: an hCG level that wouldn't rise yet wouldn't fall; talk of ectopic pregnancy; endless blood tests; a doctor's advice for me to get an injection of Methotrexate to induce miscarriage, which was something I could never do; discussions about laparoscopy; so many ultrasounds.

Talk of my death.

This went on for a month, this nightmare, before my period came, and along with the shedding of my uterine lining went the shedding of the last of the hCG in my body. To this day, the doctors can't figure out what happened to me; they had never seen a case like mine before. Mostly what I remember from those days was looking at my then eight-month-old son and realizing that if I died (as the doctors kept telling me was a real possibility) then he would never remember who I was. Just thinking about that makes me cry...

About a year later, I became pregnant with my daughter, and I was on edge the entire pregnancy, worrying that something would happen. Thankfully, nothing did, and she's healthy and perfect.

When she was just over a year old, I became pregnant again, unexpectedly, and I lost that baby on my birthday. I'll forever associate my day of birth with my fourth child's day of death. That anniversary comes up this August.

And now here I am again. My period is late, the tests I've taken are negative, yet my symptoms and basal body temperature indicate that something might be going on. Although it's still early--although I'm not yet that late--my experiences and knowledge of how my body works have me feeling scared. I'm going to wait until Monday, and if nothing happens--if my period doesn't start or a positive doesn't appear on a test--I'm going to see my doctor.

I can't go through this again.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

That darkness that brings light

My favorite days to write are those dark, otherwise dreary days when the rain pings against the windows, those days when the sun doesn't dare to peek from behind the clouds, days when thunder sounds across the gray sky. The passion of these storms has always brought out my passion for shaping stories, for creating in words the world and characters I see in my mind and giving them breath and life on the page. I find peace in these days, and solitude--that feeling that I'm the only person in a world that's cleansing itself, cleaning the slate, forging a new beginning...

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

That song's still running in the background of my mind...

Not teasing--just updating. I want to know the answer too. :)

I promise I'll let you know when I do.

"I don't know what to say"

Every morning I like to do a writing warm-up in which I type one hundred words on whatever topic comes to mind. Often these words are fiction: bits and pieces of stories, character sketches. Less frequently, I write about myself: my past, my thoughts about life, writing, motherhood. Today, though, I placed my hands on the keyboard and...nothing.

I have so many words I want to write, so many thoughts I want to communicate, but at that moment they all escaped me. I think there are times in life when there's so much to write about that the writer just can't get her head around anything in particular, and she's left to gaze helplessly at the screen, hands quiet on the keyboard. This was one of those times for me.

Finally, though, after many moments spent flipping through my mental file of all the ideas and thoughts I'd like to give voice to someday, a memory came to mind about my past as a college instructor out in Nebraska. I wrote about that time this morning, and tonight, since the piece sums up not only how I was feeling then but how I'm feeling right now, I've decided to repost it here:

When I was teaching college English, I would ask my students to freewrite in their journals, either to brainstorm ideas for their essays or in response to an in-class writing assignment. I would walk around, observing them, and often I would see students whose pens weren't moving, whose pages weren't filled. They would tell me "I don't know what to write," and I would respond that those are precisely the words that they need to be writing--"I don't know what to say"--over and over again. The rest would follow.

I don't know what to say...

Monday, April 4, 2011

And the theme song from Jeopardy continues to play in my head...

No news on the pregnancy front, as I'm sure you guessed from my title. The wait continues...

All this Jeopardy-style waiting is playing havoc with my creativity. I've been finding it really hard to write these past few days. I guess I need to get better at separating my writing self and my...well, self-self. Ha!

Do, do, do, do, do, do, do....

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The waiting is the hardest part

Just a short post tonight...

I'm still waiting to find out if I'm pregnant or not. I should know within the next couple of days, and I'll post when I have an answer.

Some good news to report: my finger is healing nicely now that I'm taking Keflex. I should be able to start typing quickly again soon. No more hunt-and-peck!

Hope you're all having a nice evening. :)

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Is she or isn't she?

A conversation my husband and I had today:

Me: I'm so hungry. I feel like I'm starving.
Him: (Reading Facebook on his cell phone) Uh-huh.
Me:  I'm serious. (Laughing) I know I'm not pregnant, but I feel just like I did when I was. You remember that? I would eat my food and yours too, most days.
Him: (Whipping around in his chair to face me, a strange look--panic?--on his face) Wait. How do you know you're not pregnant? Remember when you were ovulating...
Me: That was this cycle? I thought it was the cycle before. (Pausing to think and trying to ignore look of exasperation on husband's face) You're right. Huh.
Him: (Slumping in his chair) Huh.

So...this is weird. My husband and I aren't trying to have another baby. We have our two, and my husband, who's thirteen years older than I am, has two sons from his first marriage, both in their twenties. Although I love being pregnant and wouldn't mind having one more, my husband and I talked it over after our daughter was born, and we agreed that we already have our perfect family.

But, as my husband reminded me, a couple of weeks ago we did kind of ignore the fact that I was ovulating and didn't take the right precautions, so although I would say the chances are very slim, I suppose I could be pregnant.

Huh. We'll be happy if I am, of course, but it will definitely be a shock. I guess we'll need to see what the next few days bring.

Friday, April 1, 2011


About a week and a half ago, I developed a paronychia (infection) around the fingernail on the ring finger of my left hand. Because I still engage in the nasty habit of biting my nails, I get at least one of these kinds of infections every year. Usually, they go away pretty quickly with just a minimum of at-home care. This time, however, the infection just seemed to be getting worse, so today I finally made an appointment to see the doctor, who confirmed that it is indeed a paronychia and gave me a prescription for Keflex and orders to soak my nail in a mixture of hot water and antibacterial soap several times a day. If I don't see improvement by Monday, the doctor said she'll need to refer me to an osteopath to make sure that my bone hasn't become infected. Yikes.

It's hard to believe that a tiny paronychia can be so painful, but it is. Today I've been having trouble bending my finger more than a tiny bit, and typing has become really difficult. To top it off, I've strained the muscles in my right arm because I've been trying to compensate, so even typing with only my right hand--the old hunt-and-peck method--is getting harder. This infection needs to go away soon.

It's depressing to be sidelined from my writing plans so early in the month--if only it were an April Fool's Day joke--but I'm determined that I'm not going to let this infection keep me from writing. I'll probably need to use pen and paper for a few days and take lots of breaks, but I will write.

Take that, paronychia!