Monday, December 1, 2014

The Countdown Is On

There’s a two-part episode of Star Trek Voyager titled “Year of Hell” in which Captain Janeway and her crew suffer a series of calamities over the course of a year. Eventually, through the magic of temporal phenomenon, everything ends up honky-dory, and the Year of Hell never happens. Voyager’s crew continues on their journey unaware of the disasters that befell them or they avoided...I’ve never understood temporal mechanics.

There have been more times than I can count that I’ve wished for a temporal phenomenon to undo this year or fast forward it. My very own, very real, very intense Year of Hell. As science fiction isn’t all science fact yet, that leaves me just waiting for the end of 2014.

Many times, almost daily, I ask myself what right have I to complain. I know people who’ve been through far too much for me to ever complain about anything. How dare I mope when people are starving, when wars rampage across the world, when cities burn, and mothers lose their children! Who am I to lie in bed at night crying? My husband holds me but is helpless to comfort me because I am inconsolable. In those moments, I allow myself to fall because I tell myself that grief is not a contest and there is no measurable way to compare pain, that even though others have suffered far more than I could ever imagine, my anger, sadness, and hurt are just as real.

I count, I breathe, I pull myself together because I have no other choice.

Am I depressed? Yeah. Clearly. There’s no denying that. My one and only solace? I know that my depression is situational. That things are generally shit right now, but it won’t be like this forever. I know that as long as I keep putting my feet on the ground every morning, that someday it won’t feel like such a chore. There are days when my smile is genuine and my laughter is not forced. And those days are slowly starting to outnumber the others.

I’ve said it before that I should have done an anonymous blog, then maybe, I’d post more about my life. Maybe if I had a top secret super blog I’d vent, I’d rant, I’d utilize an outlet that I honestly should have been using: my words. My chaos has been my own this year. I’ve not wanted to share it or talk about it here or anywhere, so even an anonymous blog would have sat unattended this year. I’ve got 31 more days to go in what I expected to be a great year. I have used this year as an excuse for not writing, not crafting, not doing and that’s got to change. Whether I post to a public blog or just jot notes in a journal, writing has always helped me work through my issues and I need to get back to that.

In 31 more days I’ll have survived 2014.

In 31 more days I’ll file 2014 away as a lesson learned.

In 31 more days I’ll jump into 2015 looking to exceed rather than endure. 
 
Scott asked me the other day if I expected 2015 to magically be better. Of course not, I said. But it’s like a clean slate. New Years is a tangible mark, a concrete, albeit human, passage of time. Time allows distance and clarity, healing and hope. Time, right now, is the best friend I’ve got.

This year I fell. Come January 1st, I will start standing again.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Troublesome Little Elf

By now, everyone is probably sick with all the Elf on the Shelf photos floating around the Internets in December. But I was going through my Christmas photos (finally!) last night and doing my monthly external back-up when I happened to spy this one photo of Rupert's Shenanigans that I absolutely loved.

Rupert is our Elf on the Shelf brought to Cyra when she was in kindergarten, before the huge Elf on the Shelf bandwagon was formed (OMG please tell me that doesn't make me hipster!). After a pretty rough November in which said kindergartener was misbehaving, Santa brought Rupert to keep an eye on things.

For the most part, Rupert just moved around, watching...watching...like the burning eye of Sauron. That is until 2012 when Rupert decided to have some "fun" and got into plenty of trouble: TPing the Christmas tree, dying all the milk green, using all of Cyra's bodywash taking a bubblebath. You get the idea.

This past Christmas was probably the last that Cyra will be a firm believer in the Magic of Christmas. And Rupert, willing shenaniganer that he is, was a willing participant. That is until some of the other toys in the house got tired of his crap...

A Paizo Goblin, a Dalek, and Sebastian from Black Butler all ganged up on Rupert and Irish Princess Barbie (Rupert's love interest) and tried to feed Rupert to a collection of evil monster miniatures.
Cyra, the calm, collected kid that she is, came out in the morning and just shook her head.

"Oh, Rupert," she said softly, "What have you gotten yourself into now?"

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Changes

I'm not burnt out on blogging. Let me just make that clear. It would be great to say amazing things are happening: I won the lotto, I discovered a new element, Scott and I bought an RV and are currently traveling the lower 48, my novel was getting published.

But none of those dreams have come to pass...yet.

In all honesty, my job has changed gears and although I am now working a normal 9-5 day by the time I get home, dinner, kids, chores...you know the drill, the last thing I feel like doing is sitting at the computer. When I worked 2nd and 3rd shift, it was easier to define my time. I could work on a blog post in the morning when the girls were at school or in the middle of the night when all was quiet at work and I didn't feel like I was short-shifting my time with the girls.

I don't know how other do it! Jobs, kids, chores, blogs?

Well, no. I do know. We make time for what we prioritize. I get that. And right now, my problem is that this blog, blogging in general, just isn't a priority. I've got other things that I need and want to focus on. 

Am I saying goodbye? 

No. 

No, I'm not shutting down. I'm not going anywhere. 

But trying to force myself to commit to a blogging schedule just stresses me out. It stops being fun and entertaining and becomes a chore, just one more thing I need to take care of like the laundry or mowing the lawn. So for the time being, I'll work on posts as and when I can. With no rhyme or reason, I do hope you'll all still check in with me from time to time!

Happy New Year, Friends!
 


Friday, November 8, 2013

The Piano Guys Made My Daughter Cry and It. Was. Magical.


Shortly after Cyra started taking violin lessons last year (her school offers a Strings Alive program so for a nominal $10 fee she gets weekly lessons and a violin to borrow) she was searching for violin videos on YouTube and she discovered The Piano Guys. If you have never heard of them, please stop reading right now and go check out a couple of their videos. This one is Cyra’s favorite or this one or maybe this one…heck pretty much any and all of their videos could qualify as her favorite! It just depends on her mood that day. Anyway, go click some links, I’ll be here when you get back.

We good? Did you check them out? Amazing, right?

Anyway, for months Cyra would watch theses videos daily. She began to talk about learning to play the cello.

“I bet I could learn cello easily now that I know violin,” she’d tell us.

She talked about cello so much it broke my heart because at the time I was still unemployed and we couldn’t afford lessons much less a $600+ beginner’s cello. Nonstop all through the winter, through the holidays, and well into spring we heard about cellos and The Piano Guys.

In early spring, The Piano Guys announced their upcoming US tour and Cyra nearly jumped out of her skin when she saw that they would be playing the Florida Theater in Jacksonville, a mere 40 minutes away. Still unemployed, I told Cyra that we really couldn’t afford the tickets, but really, I knew that I would save every penny I could to get her there even if it meant doing without Internet, power, or skimping on groceries for a few weeks.

But with gainful employment comes financial wiggle room and after I’d gotten a few paychecks into the bank, I told Scott I was buying tickets. That was in May. Coincidentally, the scheduled stop in Jacksonville fell just a few days before Cyra’s birthday.

Perfect timing. She’d be thrilled with her birthday gift.

All that spring and summer Cyra talked about cello lessons. And the more she talked the more Scott and I really started playing with the budget to see if it was possible. I priced cellos online, I looked around town for a music store that offered cello lessons.

This wasn’t a passing fancy for her. Cello was her dream.

When school started in August, her music teacher told Cyra that she might not have returning students join the Strings Alive program. Cyra came home devastated. Violin, you see, was her gateway to cello. She knew that if she couldn’t take cello lessons then at least she would still get the practice with a string instrument.

That same day, I emailed the one store in town that offered cello lessons. A few phone calls later, Cyra had a meeting with the instructor, an older gentleman whose preferred instrument was the cello. He was thrilled that such a young girl would be interested in cello.

When we went to meet him, he measured her to see what size cello she would need and watching her touch and hold a cello for the first time cinched the deal for me. Her smile just about engulfed her face and she couldn’t stop trembling.

“If I made a down payment, would you be able to let me make payments?” I asked the instructor softly as I stared at Cyra pulling the bow across the strings.

“Absolutely,” he said.

“Done. Let’s do it,” I said.

Cyra looked up at me, tears welling in her eyes. “Really?”

I nodded. “For really.”

I came home with a cello that barely fit in my car, weekly lessons that worked with my work schedule, and a little girl in complete shock.

(And now I do something that I don't often do: post photos of the girls. But today I feel it is important for the story.)

Cyra and her cello, first day home. Possessive doesn't even cover it.

First time practicing before lessons had even started. By the end of the first evening home, she had a reasonable sounding Twinkle Twinkle going. All that violin work really helped!

Let’s return the The Piano Guys.

Around the end of September, Cyra once again asked me if we could go to the concert. I looked her dead in the eye and I lied to my child. Lied through my teeth knowing that what I was about to tell her would sadden her.

“I’m so sorry sweetie,” I said softly, “With Ashleigh’s wisdom teeth and buying the cello…we just don’t have the money for it.”

Her face fell a little, “I understand, Mommy. It’s okay.”

And not another word was mentioned. Until yesterday.

Yesterday, the day of the concert, Cyra came home, scuffing her feet, frowning, and irritated.

“What’s wrong sweetheart?” I asked as she sat on my lap and wrapped her arms around me.

“I had a rough day, Mom,” she sighed.

I nodded sympathetically as she told me about her day. “Sounds like you could use something to cheer you up.”

She nodded. “Maybe a nap too.”

I laughed, “You’re that tired?”

Another nod.

“Well, maybe this will help.” I grabbed the envelope that held the tickets for over 6 months.

She raised her eyebrow at me.

“Open it up.”

She pulled out the printed tickets and scanned over it without really seeing it.

I pointed to the top, a small gray rectangle with the concert information. "Read in here,” I told her.

She read.

She looked at me.

She read it again.

“Mommy, I think you better cover your ears because I am about to squee like I have never squeed before.”

She jumped off my lap, jumped around the living, the walls echoing her squees of joy.

At the Florida Theater, after buying $70+ of merchandise, including a book of sheet music, Cyra, Ashleigh, and I sat quietly as the house lights fell dark. Cyra took a deep, calming breath as The Piano Guys walked onto the stage.

It. Was. Magical.

The first three songs, Cyra cried. Tears of happiness and joy streamed down her face and her quiet snuffles made me wish I had brought some tissues. Ashleigh and I couldn’t stop smiling.

These guys put on a great show! Aside from the music, which is phenomenal, they were personable, humorous, and humble. Sprinkled throughout the show the guys talked about their background together and the piano player, Jon Schmidt kept telling the audience that Steven Sharpe Nelson was the number one cellist in the world. And while I absolutely loved the show, the best part was watching Cyra’s reactions: amazement, admiration, hero worship.

Afterward, I told Cyra we could hang out in the lobby to see if they’d come out for autographs. She about fell over.

We waited in the lobby for a good 45 minutes. After most of the crowd cleared out and there were only about 30 people left in the lobby, the security guys had us line up.

And then, there they were. Cyra, who had been containing her excitement as best she could earlier, broke into a jittery dance and tears welled up again. As the line moved forward, Ashleigh and I tried to keep her calm.

“Can’t blame her,” Ashleigh said, “I would totally be fangirling as hard if I was meeting someone I really liked,”

Then it was her turn. And surprisingly she stayed put together.

“You’re going to need the table,” she told them as she handed over her items for signing.

The guys were gracious, polite, and asked her all sorts of questions.

“Do you play an instrument?” Jon, the piano player, asked.

“Yes,” she replied, “The cello.”

“You are my favorite person so far tonight,” Steven, the cellist, replied. Apparently, everyone they had met had claimed the piano as the instrument of choice. “How long have you been playing.”

“I just started this year,” she paused. “Because of you.”

“Wow. That’s fantastic!”

I swear he was flabbergasted.

“Did you name your cello?” he asked.

She nodded.

“Did you name it Steve?” Jon Schmidt asked.

“No, Agent Romanoff.”

“Whoa. That’s a serious name.” The guys laughed.

Cyra nodded.

“When I grow up,” Cyra said shyly, “I’m going to be right up there with you,” she looked at Steven, “I’ll be the second best cellist.”

Steven looked down at her with a smile, “No. You be the number one cellist. I’ll be second.”

Oh. My. Heart. It pretty much exploded.

Pictures all around and then our turn was over and once again Cyra could not keep the joy contained and she burst into tears again. She was floating as we walked back to the car.

“Best day?” I asked her.

“Best. Day. Ever,” she said through her tears.

From left to right: Al Van Der Beek, Steven Sharp Nelson, Cyra, Jon Schmidt, Paul Anderson


Friday, November 1, 2013

Committing to Commitment

I work better, I’ve found, when I have multiple deadlines looming over my head—even if they are self-imposed deadlines. So, I know I said back in October I was back in the blogging game, but then I fell off the edge of the planet again. Go figure. I blame my BFF Sara for that, although she doesn’t know it (then again, maybe she does, she is scary perceptive like a ninja). Sara is in her third trimester and I have gone crafting crazy trying to get my BIG plans completed before Baby arrives! So October passed in a blur of yarn and fabric and emergency poodle skirts. And I’m still not done!

So what does that mean for me? Well, November is going to be busy. As always. I don’t even try to pretend to be surprised. In addition to the crafting and NaNoWriMo, I am going to commit to getting at least two posts a week. They might be short, maybe just be a photo or two. But the more I have to accomplish, the more willing I am to manage my time appropriately and not procrastinate.

And Friends, I am a big procrastinator. If I started a list of all my faults, procrastination would be at the top. I totally blame my family for that one. As the baby of the family, I learned very early on that if I waited long enough, someone else would do my task for me. Heck! My mom and sister still do it! Remember that whole painting my house thing?

(Another fault, since I’m listing them, apparently I don’t like to take responsibility for myself. But I blame my birth order for that.)

But no one is going to craft for me. And no one is going to NaNo for me. And clearly, no one is blogging for me. So I’ve got to pick up the slack. And by pick up the slack, I really mean, actually do the stuff that I want to do: crafting, blogging, writing.

Of course, there is one teensy flaw in my plan. Work. Yup. Me working, as much as I love my job (and a post is coming out soon about that) it really is putting a kink in my whole time management plan. Although to be fair, there are a few things I can do while I am at work that doesn’t interfere with actually working especially during the slow period, but don’t tell anyone I said so!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Free Advertising

Ashleigh had her first SAT today and as chance would have it we were short on #2 pencils, water bottles, and snacks - all things recommended for students taking the SAT. I don’t recall being told I could bring a snack or drink when I took the SAT but times, they do change. With a grocery store on the way, a quick stop to grab the required items was no problem.

Knowing that I was going to spend the morning cleaning, I threw on an old pair of shorts and the first winner’s t-shirt I ever bought from NaNoWriMo. It’s my favorite simply because it was the first one I was ever qualified to buy. Soft grey cotton, bold orange block lettering, and a squirrel saying “Whoa!” What’s not to love?
Image source
Ashleigh and I were walking down aisle 8 looking for #2 pencils when a man - probably about my age or maybe just a touch older - came striding down the aisle, a basket in his hand. He was a ginger, so of course I noticed him. And he had a beautiful, rugged full beard. But what struck me the most about him was his deliciously bright hot pink shirt, shorts, and socks. He had on black running shoes and a number pinned to his shirt so I can only assume he was doing some sort of run, probably for breast cancer (because that’s all October is about now-a-days).

As he approached, he slowed down, hesitated, his stride broke and he looked me up and down. He regained his footing and continued on. Curious, I kept my eye on him because - well, he’s a ginger! And I never get perusals. He got about ten feet beyond me and then turned and looked me up and down. Again!

Folks, I was floored. Dumbstruck. Flabbergasted. Getting one glance almost never happens and a second one is unheard of. 

He walked a few more feet, stopped, turned fully around, and caught my eye.

“I love your shirt,” he says. “I’ve thought about giving it a try and just haven’t .”

Of course, my shirt, my walking billboard to NaNoWriMo. I laugh.

“You should give it a try. It’s a lot of fun.” I tell him. By this time, Ashleigh and I have successfully acquired #2 pencils and were heading back up the aisle towards the guy.

We start walking together.

“My friend does it and keeps trying to get me to do it too,” he says.

“That’s how I got started.” I reply, “You know there’s a small group that tries to meet at Barnes and Noble, usually in the mornings-”

“Oh. I teach,” he interrupts.

“Well, the time is flexible.” I tell him as his pace quickens. Am I being too outgoing? Too pushy? “The website is NaNoWriMo.org,” I tell him and slow down a little.

He strides on ahead of me. “Thanks, maybe I’ll look into it.”

He continues walking. I continue walking. Following right behind him. Crap. He’s going to the same aisle that I need to go down.

“Now I feel like I’m stalking you,” I laugh.

He turns around and smiles. “No problem.”

Is he creeped out? Was that a forced smile? Am I reading too much into it?

Social awkwardness at it’s best.

He beelined down the personal care aisle and I made for the cheese and dairy aisle. We parted ways, but jeesh, wouldn’t you know it, back at the register, who am I behind?

So, I’ll take a second and throw out an apology to the guys over at NaNoWriMo. I tried advertising and recruiting for you. I don’t think it worked. Maybe next time I’ll leave it at, “Gee thanks. You should give it a go,” and walk away.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Write Way to November

Last year, between a whole bunch of crazy, I decided to forgo my usual November pastime: NaNoWriMo or as I like to call it, No Sleep November. At the time it was the best thing for me to do. Honestly, last year, a month of bizarre writing schedules was just not something I could handle nor commit to. But it was like a punch in the gut when I dropped out. I felt like a tool, disappointed in myself for allowing myself to contrive a nicely wrapped gift package of excuses.

I told myself I hadn’t prepped my story enough. Then I decided I hated the story I was telling. Then I spun into a cycle of “who am kidding,” and found myself staring at a blank screen on my netbook and empty lines in my NaNo notebook - I get a new one every year and all those pages made my head spin, my heart pound. Was this real? I asked myself. Am I having an anxiety attack over something that is supposed to be fun?

So I stopped. Cold. Dead. In the middle of a sentence, I closed the document, did not save, turned off the computer, and walked away from the table.

I was done.

I’m not sure what I regret the most: dropping out or trying to start in the first place knowing I wasn’t feeling it.

Truth be told, I had actually put NaNo out of my mind until yesterday when I got the first official updates from the NaNo people in my inbox. And I panicked!

I’ve got nothing planned! I’ve got too much on my plate! I’m working now - crazy work hours with an even crazier sleep schedule!

After my moment of sheer and utter panic, I stopped and shook my head in disbelief. What am I doing, I thought? I’m already making excuses and I‘ve got a month. I’ll never get anything done unless, you know, I actually go and do it. I love NaNo. I love the crazy, the fast-pace, the insane daily word counts, the weaving and crafting of a story (no matter how much I might think it sucks). I love my few hours at Barnes and Noble typing furiously and drinking buckets of coffee.

I know that I’ve got a good half dozen story ideas that I can plan out this month and be ready to commit to writing in November. So here I am making a public commitment. Call me out on it if you think I’m slacking. Demand that I post my word count in prominent locations. Throw crazy ideas my way and challenge me to make something out of them. I’m game.