Stealing Time.

I know I’ve been absent here for a long time, but I think I’m finally ready to come back. See, we signed up for this little thing that has been sucking away my time and energy, and I’ve been using it as an excuse for not writing. We thought about jumping into this project for a while, but we finally decided to pull the trigger in January and become foster parents. Yup, you heard right. Along with two preteens of our own, we now have a 1 year old baby. It’s been a crazy beautiful and intense 8 months, but I feel like we’ve finally settled in to some sort of rhythm. It helps to have the girls back at school.

I still dream of finishing a novel one of these days. Actually, I think I’ve finally found a way to help me stay on track! I bought a notebook and have been writing the traditional way, pen to paper. It seems like my writing time is always stolen between appointments, while waiting in the car, or on family trips. My laptop sucks, and honestly sometimes it’s just tough to be creative when Facebook keeps beckoning me away. Oh, you. You know what I’m talking about. Another perk to writing longhand is that I can’t go back and delete everything I wrote the next day because I think it sucks. It keeps me moving forward, and I wish I would’ve just started doing this a long time ago. I still think everything sucks every time I re-read it, but I am determined to make it all the way through the story line and wait to edit until I am typing it up. It feels really nice to be unstuck.

I started looking into some novel writing software – do any of you folks have experience with this? The prices range a lot. What are the things I should really make sure to look for? Any great recommendations? I am looking most seriously at Write it Now and Write Way. Also, still looking for a critique buddy…

Last thing for you all. Just came across this blog by Chuck Wendig and really like it! He’s got great insight for any aspiring writer, but he’s kind of a smart ass so avoid it if you don’t like sarcasm. I especially like this one and this one. That’s all for today, folks! Have a beautiful one.

A Human Challenge

Today I am following yesterday’s prompt from The Daily Post, which challenges us to write on anything we want for exactly 10 minutes:

I’ve held a conviction lately that we, as humans, aren’t supportive enough of each other. This sounds very broad, yes, but within it I’d like to create a challenge. I challenge you to donate 10% of your income to helping other people.

This seems quite simple and maybe even redundant to. Biblically, tithing is supposed to be 10% of your income donated to the church. Regardless of your religion, I challenge you (yes, you!) to set aside that 10% and figure out a way you can bless someone with it. How different would our lives look if we simply did this to help out our fellow humans?

Recently we got a bill from my husbands life insurance company. It was for a few hundred dollars, just to maintain our insurance in the case of his accidental death. This is the incident that really got me thinking. I could throw away that few hundred dollars to a huge insurance corporation with the hopes that I might get to see some of it in the case of my husband’s untimely death. And God forbid anything happen to me, because then we’re screwed. Or I can take that cash and donate it to some of my friends. I know that many of them are hurting for various reasons. One is going through treatment for Lyme disease. One just lost her husband. One is trying to save for an adoption. What would it mean if we, as humans, supported each other instead of insurance companies? Medical bills for untimely illnesses aren’t covered by any insurance companies, so anyone that is sick is guaranteed to have mounting expenses that they are probably having trouble paying for.

So, I challenge you this: Invest in each other. Bless people financially where they are hurting. There isn’t always a whole lot we can do to physically help each other, but sometimes money can take so much weight off of someones shoulders. Invest in each other, and have faith that if catastrophe ever found you, those people would rally around YOU and support you, too. I guarantee that the people in your life care more about you than any insurance company. Pour your heart into them and have faith that what goes around, comes around.

**GoFundMe.com and YouCaring.com are great crowd sourcing sites where many people with expenses that they can’t afford are investing their hope in fellow humans. Check them out if you like this idea and want to find people who need help!

Rant of the Day

I had to take my child to the Dr. today. She had an earache that wasn’t going away with warm drops of tea tree and coconut oil. Yes, I use these hippy medicines as my first line of defense, mainly because of what I am about to tell you. Are you ready to be floored, people? Get this – I had to pay $90.48 for them to tell me that my daughter had swimmers ear and for a prescription of antibiotic ear drops. The real clencher? We already pay somewhere in the ballpark of $14,000 per year in health insurance to make sure our perfectly healthy, relatively young family of four has health coverage.

If this was a one time thing, I wouldn’t even care that much. I would pay the money and wash my hands of it. But guess what? Back in July my other daughter had a sore throat. It wasn’t going away, and when I peaked back at her tonsils with a flashlight after a few days I could see the white spots. Damn. No hippy medicine for this, I was going to have to take her in. Check out this bill:

american insurance bill Kaiser Foundation

American insurance bill – Kaiser Foundation

At the time, we paid our $50 copay. Thank God she didn’t even have strep throat, so we didn’t have to front the money for the antibiotics. I thought we were all done with everything, but a month later we got the above bill. Turns out a NON-URGENT, same day office visit is $346.00. Phew – glad we only have to pay $75 of that out of pocket. Also note that it was ANOTHER $62 for them to “directly observe” her tonsils at the office visit, of which we only had to pay $15. Oh, and that last part? It was $44 for them to swab and culture her to make sure she really didn’t have strep. We paid $11, but they charged our insurance company (which, essentially, is themselves – the Kaiser Foundation) that other $33. To culture bacteria in a petri dish. Seriously, people. Our total out of pocket expenses for our daughter that day were $151. FOR THEM TO TELL US SHE DIDN’T HAVE STREP THROAT.

So, back to my poor Estelle’s ear infection. I expect we will get another bill for the rest of the costs in the next month. I’m 34 years old, and my kids are 9 and 10. My husband has been a public school teacher for the last 9 years (another rant, another day) and I can honestly say that this is the first year that I’ve felt raped by our healthcare system. I’ve known its been bad for a long time. Working in the public sector has not paid well by any means, but at least it’s always given us healthcare. Over the years, my mind has been blown by the percent increase in cost every year when open enrollment comes up. The district always has paid $1,000 every month for us toward health coverage. Nine years ago this gave us really good insurance, actually. Slowly, though, we’ve had to opt for less and less health coverage because as the cost of premiums increased, his salary did not. The school district covered the same amount, and this last year we had to pay an extra $200 or so on top of that thousand just to give us the bottom rung that they offer.

This is the first year that I’ve been afraid to take my kids to the doctor. I do everything I can to wait it out, to make sure they REALLY have to go before I take them in. I get ill thinking about how much I’m going to have to pay, and I pray that nobody gets really sick. We are considered middle class America, and I am worried about what this means. It should be a right of everyone here to not fear taking your children to the doctor. I don’t know a good solution, but I know something needs to change. I paid for our prescription yesterday and when I walked outside with my daughter I cried. I feel so dirty. But hey, it’s good to know that the VP of Architecture at Kaiser Permanente gets paid 200k per year. Because that, folks, is an extremely important job. (See more salaries at http://www.glassdoor.com)

Bah! I just finished re-reading the story thus far and it’s terrible! This is the thing I hate most about writing. It is so difficult to finish stories because the desire to go back and fix and re-write is so, so high. That’s why I really want to do it this way, actually. If it’s out there and people are reading it and waiting for the next piece, I can’t go back and fix what’s already out there. I just have to keep moving forward! I can’t wait to get to the end to be able to go back to the beginning and fix grammar and inconsistencies 🙂 Let’s get the skeleton finished, then beef it up into a real story. For anyone new, start here to start at the beginning… Here goes nothing!

CHRISTIAN

When Christian got home that night he did his best to wash the smell of cigarettes off of his fingers. He scrubbed his teeth until his gums began to bleed and then proceeded to strip down to his boxers, effectively peeling the last bit of evidence of the night’s transgressions away. Silently, ever so silently, he tiptoed into the room he shared with his brothers, but this time, rather than squeeze in between them, he opted for the carpet right next to the mattress. It was getting too tight in that damn bed, anyway, and the floor was good for his back.

Christian couldn’t sleep. He didn’t think he was gay. He didn’t think he was anything. Was there such a thing as that? It wasn’t that he thought of other boys in a way that he should be thinking about girls, it was just that he didn’t think about girls that way, either. He had too much on his plate to think about girls; he had seen first-hand the drama that they could cause. He didn’t want to think about having another mouth to feed, and girls were a straight path to exactly that. Christian’s older cousin lived close by, and he had visibly witnessed the weight of his primos’s heina settle onto his shoulders. It etched lines of worry into that space between George’s eyebrows and around the edges of his mouth, and that was before the baby was even born. Not to mention Christian’s own little brothers, the ones he had essentially raised from the time they were 3 and 5. Nah, he knew what girls led to and thus far it made him a little sick to his stomach to think about getting too close. They recently learned about asexual organisms in biology, and he felt like he could relate. Not gay, not straight – just not needing anyone else in his life for any of that. Yup, he was asexual alright.

Things with Annie were different. It wasn’t that she was female – she was just… cool. He could think of so many good adjectives to describe Annie. She was refreshing, a tiny tropical island that he could escape to whenever he wanted to get away from his reality. He’d always known Annie and liked her, but from the time they’d really started talking almost two weeks ago it was like they’d known each other forever. It was just easy with her like that. Pinche hell. He’d never thought of kissing her! Why’d she have to say that? It was like a picture that had never been drawn before that point. An idea that he hadn’t known existed until someone told him about it, and now he couldn’t get it out of his head. Well, it didn’t matter anyway. He was asexual, and he was never going to let a girl put those lines between his eyebrows.

Shifting the Tangent

I had the strangest thing happen to me today. As many of us do, I was perusing Facebook and came across an old friend from high school. I added him, of course, and he quickly accepted. Within a few minutes, he sent me a chat message to say hello. I reciprocated, as any well-mannered Facebookie would do, and what transpired after that kind of floored me. His next insta-message said, “Hey, this is so impersonal. I know I haven’t talked to you in, like, 15 years but do you have a minute? Give me a call – here’s my number.”

So, my initial inclination was to pretend that I had shut down facebook and didn’t get the message until later, at which point I could send him a message and say something like, “oh, sorry, didn’t work out maybe next time!” Instead, I went against my knee-jerk response and said ok. “You mean right now? Let me grab the phone…”

It was so uplifting to have a real conversation with an old friend on the other end of the line. We too often hide behind the guise of our cyber-personas and find excuses to avoid each other in real life. Technology is great at creating a disconnected falsity of connectedness among us, one that makes us feel as if we are more in touch than ever but really just allows us to pretend that it’s true. More often than not, I find myself dreading picking up the phone when it rings or meeting face to face with old friends. At first I blamed it on getting older and having kids, but I’m pretty sure this isn’t an affliction of age- it’s a symptom of society.

I fear a little bit for my golden age and the future that my kids will live in. I am unsure that we’ve done a fabulous job of handling the exponential cyber-growth we’ve gone through over the past 15 years. I fear a breakdown of friendships, of face-to-face conversation and real telephone calls. I hope my children and grandchildren learn the art of mingling with real people and experience the joy of hearing people laugh at their jokes. My kids and grand kids need to learn how to deal with confrontation face to face, to see peoples emotions in real life and to spill their heart to someone with words instead of text messages.

I am unsure how to shift this inevitable tangent we seem to be on, but I have faith that there is a way to tilt it just enough. We have to start now by picking up the phone instead of sending a text, of making that dinner date and opening our homes to old friends. Our future generations learn from us. It’s up to us to hold on to the value of interpersonal relationships and teach our kids how to navigate them, too. I’m not trying to persuade anyone to shutter their social media pages — by all means, keep using Facebook as a way to connect with old friends. Then, step outside of your box and pick up the phone.

See the weekly writing challenge on The Golden Years at: http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/03/10/weekly-writing-challenge-golden-years/

Random Ramblings

I got another article accepted today that was a total blind submission. YAY for that! It’s the little things in life that keep you moving forward sometimes. I’ve also been thinking a lot more on the direction I’d like to really take with my writing. I quite enjoy family travel adventure stuff, on a budget with kids, etc. I think this is what I am really going to focus on submitting to various places and see where it goes, along with reviews of certain things that pertain when they come up. I feel good about this, I think it suits me. I really ultimately want to write books, but bills must be paid over the course of however long it takes me to actually finish one.

My husband and I have this idea in our head that we are going to take our family on a crazy 30-day Amtrak adventure. We used to travel a lot when we were in college and kid-less. I think we always were sure that our children would be well traveled by the time they were 10, but of course we didn’t take into consideration the cost of actually buying 4 plane tickets anywhere. We’ve lowered out idealistic parenting expectations since they are now 8 and 10 and have barely been to Mexico (we live 10 miles away,) but we are really enjoying this age range and love taking them on low-key adventures around the city. While 4 plane tickets to anywhere seems prohibitive, Amtrak actually offers half price fares for kids and they have these cool US Rail deals. Essentially, you get 30 days of almost limitless travel with one ticket AND you can take bicycles on the trains for free. This is just the type of adventure our bohemian hearts are yearning for. Now, we just need to figure out how to save the cash to make it happen. Keeping my fingers crossed for a writing gig that actually pays decently! Hey, I’d even settle for consistently.

Following The Mantra

Write every day! We’ve heard this over and over again, and I am just attempting to fulfill this promise to myself. I’ve got a house full of kids and no room for solitude unless it’s in my head. All you parents know what I’m talking about. It’s impossible to buy a moment. I find myself agitated that my kids are disrupting the imaginary world in my head, then realize how out of order my priorities can get. I received an email yesterday from the studio I write for letting me know that all of us writers can expect no work for at least the next few weeks, at minimum. Another stark reminder that I need to find other outlets asap. I think I really enjoy writing articles on doing things that are fun and unconventional. Travel articles with kids, local travel, local restaurant stuff (kid-friendly, of course) and anything on-a-budget. Where is a good place to submit these? Can I just go in blind, or do I need to query, or is there a list of suggested article topics I can pull from? Is this just whaImaget happens when you are actually hired as staff somewhere? Am I delusional in thinking that maybe I can just waltz in and submit unsolicited articles like this somewhere? Throw me a bone here, people. Let me know if you have insight into any of this stuff. I know some of you write for a living.

I hear children giggling behind closed doors. I wonder if I intervene too much or not enough. I wonder if it’s always a parent’s nature to question if they are doing this right. We only get one chance. It’s so strange, this transition between milestones. It happens regularly; I remember distinctly different times, like when I couldn’t figure out why C kept crying in her car seat when she was a baby. I realized, finally, that she was squished in there with that stupid little infant pillow and she couldn’t turn her head. One day it just occurred to me to take it out, and she was so happy. She was growing from infant to something bigger and I wasn’t realizing it. As soon as I did and modified my end, she was fine and able to be happy in the skin she had grown into. It’s like, you find balance together as a family and then your kid decides to jump onto that next rung and family life is thrown into upheaval for a moment until we can find our equilibrium again. I think we are hitting that phase right now, fast and hard. We can figure out how to grow and climb to that next precarious step together, parents balancing kids, or we parents can refuse to move and throw the entire thing of kilter. I guess it’s time to figure out the best way to step up and take that next pillow off.

Daily Prompt: Our House

I vividly remember short bits and pieces of my first home. It was on Bermuda Drive, and it was blue. There was a massive oak tree in the front yard that dropped more acorns and leaves than aught to be possible for a single tree. My dad would rake the leaves into mountains, then we would dive into them and bury ourselves deeply into the scratchy mounds. Afterwards, we’d be left digging leathery leaf bits and acorns out of our netherparts for quite some time. One year he decided the tree needed to go. He and my uncles rented a chainsaw and took that sucker down while my siblings and I cried, lamenting future leafless autumns.

A swing set with candy cane stripes sat prominently in the postage stamp back yard. The cherry red fence was trellised with vibrant moss colored grapevines that grew the sourest grapes you’ve ever eaten, and a shaggy white dog named Schnapps was always at our heals. Our fence was low and I remember peaking between the peeling planks to spy on the old woman who lived in the house behind us. In hindsight she was probably in her 40’s, but to me she was old.

My brother and I would use the doggy door to go in and out of the backyard — who needed doorknobs, right? One day, soon after I crawled into the kitchen through that doggy door, I was playing at the kitchen table. The wall adjacent was made out of mirrored tiles and I was hanging upside down on one of the chairs, looking at my reflection and contemplating my hair that hung all the way down to the ground. This, I remember vividly. In the mirror next to my reflection sat another little girl, and I was talking to her. She wasn’t anyone I knew; in fact, I wasn’t quite sure what she was doing in my house. She was close to my age. My mom heard me talking to her and came in to see what was going on.

“I’m talking to the little girl, mama, the one that’s right here under the table with me,” I said, but when I turned to look she was no longer there. My mom’s eyes grew wide as she sat me down and asked more questions. I didn’t really know what the big deal was, I think I just knew that she was from some other life. My mom called my dad in a panic, then they spent the next hour going through the house looking for her. They never found anything, but I’ve always remembered that little girl.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/03/03/prompt-our-house/

Losing My Voice (and trying to find it)

I’ve always been a wordy person, in the written sense, anyway. Don’t ask me something unless you want ten times the answer you bargained for, plus all of the research to back it up. I love complex issues, and I’m a very opinionated person. Call me a woman. It’s been interesting, then, that I’ve felt very lost since I’ve decided to really try to pursue writing as a career. The first step was easy. I wrote a few articles and found a job that semi-pays the bills and lets me work on my writing (in one sense, at least, even if it is very dry.) The tough part for me has been what comes next. It’s like this huge door was opened and I’ve got the whole world in front of me, but I don’t even know where to step. Intimidation almost to the point of paralysis. Have any of you had this happen? How did you overcome it?

I’ve got a head full of ideas and I haven’t taken the first step in many of them. I started writing a novel, got about 30 pages in, then went back edited, then re-edited based on my mood du jour. Sometimes I think there’s another book I should be writing, something better or more my style (or mood) but I don’t know if it’s ok to have two books going on at the same time. Do any of you write more than one book at a time?

I think that one reason I’ve been so paralyzed is because I’ve gotten caught up in this idea “writing for others” or, er, this concept of writing for money 😉 I am trying to fill in gaps by thinking of articles that might sell, but between that and my side job, it takes up all my brainpower. Or maybe I’m just hiding behind articles because it’s easy and I don’t have to be too creative on my own. I’ve got a million excuses, but the truth is that I just haven’t gotten very far. What tricks do you use to get yourself writing more, for you?

I think I am going to use this blog for ramblings like this, but also for short pieces that I’ve been thinking about putting into book form. I worked for a long time at a non-profit with youth that spent a lot of time incarcerated. We taught them soft job skills such as being timely and working on a team, plus the necessities like filling out resumes and interviewing skills. I still work there part time as a mentor coordinator. I am always struck by how amazing these kids (young adults, really) are. I’ve always thought it’d be amazing to write a little on their lives, how much they’ve lived through and how dedicated and brave they truly are. The kid with tattoos on his face working at Jack-in-the-Box probably has one of the most amazing stories you’ve ever heard, but no one’s helping him tell it. I’ve struggled with wondering if this is exploitation, or a story that deserves to be told one way or another. Can I even do them justice by putting their lives in my words? By simplifying them into a series of shorts? I think I need to try.

Another idea that keeps tugging at me is writing a memoir of sorts. I live a funky sort of life. My family lives with another family in a cooperative living situation in the middle of San Diego. We have a small farm in the middle of the city, with goats and chickens and rabbits. Throw in a few dogs, some cats, turkeys, a parrot and a gaggle of kids and you kind of come close to who we are. When we embarked on this journey, we didn’t know how long it would last. We dove in head-first and it’s truly been a wonderful ride. We didn’t know we were essentially marrying another couple when we started this, but that’s really what it’s been like. Ups and downs and life altering moments that we’ve had to get through together, and it’s made us infinitely stronger. It’s been 4 years now, and I don’t think there’s an end in sight. But then I think, who would want to read all about my life and my anecdotes? This is what I need to get out of my head — I should write it for me and my community and not worry so much about who on earth would read it.

Here lies the problem. We say that we are writing for ourselves, but truth be told we wouldn’t be here if we weren’t writing for each other, too. I wouldn’t care to put it on my blog, I wouldn’t fret about where to start. I do care if you read it, and I care that you actually like it. How do we get around that?

Weeding Through Memories

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/02/24/daily-prompt-shake-it-up/

I am 33 years old, so my twelfth birthday was just over 20 years ago. I can’t even believe I’m saying that. My best friend and I were reflecting just today on how crazy it was to think that we’ve had certain things in our possession, things like tongs and pans and children for 6 years, 10 years, 15 years. Not so very long ago, this duration of time was unfathomable; a lifetime to my adolescent self.

I barely remember my twelfth birthday. Jim Morrison once wrote a poem that’s been one of my favorites since I stumbled across it in high school because it strikes me as true. A rock star’s truth and my truth, parallel universes and worlds apart:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

As I look back over my life

I am struck by postcards

ruined snapshots

faded posters

of a time, I can’t recall

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

So for my twelfth birthday, I have flashes of memories in my head that are somewhat confirmed by my mom’s old photo albums. I think it was a slumber party. I am pretty sure that I invited a bunch of girls that weren’t really my friends, simply because they were the cool girls and everyone who was anyone invited them to their parties. I remember one of them being a bitch – I hadn’t really wanted to invite her. She topped it off by throwing up all over my mom’s rug. In reality, it was insignificance followed by 20+ years of other mostly insignificant things, broken up by bits of truly significant and beautiful things.

I can’t believe I have an almost twelve year old child now. She soon will be planning her epic twelfth birthday party. Me? I’ll be there with my camera.