Just Imagine How Much Cooler I’ll be in SUMMER!

Memorial Day has come and gone and summer has officially arrived.

We traditionally kick off our summer with a trip out-of-town–this year we went to Atlantic Beach in North Carolina, with a last-minute surprise trip to Disney World tacked on to the end. We had a blast and I can’t wait to share more with you about it next week.

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We will be wrapping up our home school year this week. This was our pre-k year, and it was really about trying things out and considering the different options. JC didn’t even really know he was doing “school” things this year, which is something I think I would like to carry over into our kindergarten year. He is definitely into math, science and engineering, which means I will be spending a good portion of the summer learning myself, so that when we hit the fall I’ll be ready! He isn’t reading by himself yet, but he still loves to sit and pore over his books.

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He’s got a lot of sight words in his arsenal–granted, they are words like The Lone Ranger, volcano and the various types of steams trains he loves–but I did manage to get some core words in there, too.

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This is what happens when Disney fans do sight words.

We won’t be completely lazy this summer. Our preschool playgroup has summer activities we’ll be going to once a week, and I’m working on a camp theme for JC to earn “badges” by completing challenges. He really rebels when we sit down and “learn”, so I’m hoping he’ll enjoy it. I also want to do a summer reading program with him.

The biggest event this summer is our move. Being the type A personality I am, I really had to fight myself not to start obsessing and packing earlier this month, but now that we’re back from vacation and June is looming, it’s time to get started. We think we have the location all nailed down, but there are still a few things that are up in the air. So, not stressful at all. Nope.

On that note, my goal is really to relax. Our family has a lot of transition and stress so far this year, and there is still a lot ahead of us. I want to spend a lot of time outside, I want to read a lot, and I want to write a lot. Oh, and there is an ice cream maker sitting in my storage unit that is calling my name. Homemade peach ice cream, anyone?

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I know you’re singing the song now. You’re welcome.

What are your summer plans?

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You Need a Time Out

It’s writing workshop time! The prompt this week: List 10 people, places or things you’d like to give a timeout to. 

10: Myself. Being sent to my room alone to think? Yes please.

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9. John Greene, because his books give me too many feels.

8. Ansel.

7. The kiosk workers at the mall who swoop on you as you walk by. I know they’re just going their job, but whoa.

6. The super skinny, super perky sales girl who worked at Destination Maternity back when I was pregnant. Also, the genius who decided to put that particular store next to Victoria Secret in my mall. Both of you, in the corner.

5. The writers of “Let it Go”. Because we still haven’t.

4. Whoever decided take strawberry daiquiri Jelly Belly jelly beans out of circulation.

3. The 85/75 connector in downtown Atlanta, because no matter what time of day it happens to be, there is traffic on it.

2. The party responsible for canceling Firefly.

1. People who consistently mix up “you’re” and “your”. Go sit in that chair and think about things until you’ve got it figured out.

Who would you put in time out?

Famous Last Words

This is my Dad.

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He’s been gone seven years today. Seven years since he lost his battle with multiple sclerosis. It was a long and ugly battle, and he fought hard. He fought harder than I thought a person possibly could, through a myriad of issues: a stroke. The loss of his limbs and hands. Blindness. It was his heart–the biggest part of him–that finally gave out on a beautiful May morning in 2008.

But I don’t want to think about that right now. I spend most of the spring thinking about it. Most people cheer when the winter doldrums are over. But the spring is my saddest time. As the months warm I start reliving the last months, weeks, and days I had with my Dad.. And I get overwhelmed by it all. Sometimes the fact that I will never see my father again crushes me, so that I have to stop and remind myself to breath.

I always try to do something special to remember my father on this day. But as I thought about what I wanted to do on this anniversary, I didn’t find myself uplifted by the thought. I just felt sad. And so I decided that today, in his honor, I would give myself a break and just not think about it. At least, not think about the sadness–today, I’m going to go remember before the sadness.

And, if you’d like to listen, I’d like to tell you about him.

He liked to hear himself talk. He talked a lot–with his voice and his hands. He smiled all the way up to his eyes.

He loved the Miami Dolphins. He liked the Falcons, too, unless they were playing Miami. On those days we would all dress in our Miami finest–I even had Miami Dolphin high-top sneakers. I was one stylin’ pre-teen.

He would pull me out of school randomly, and the secretary at the front desk would ask what the reason was.

“I want to spend time with my daughter,” he would tell her. And then he’d take me fishing. Or to get french fries. Or we’d just drive.

The summer I was 19, he, my mom and I went drove to Boston in my little Rav-4 with a puppy I’d bought on a whim three days before. We went to York Beach, Maine and visited the Lighthouse and he and my mom ate seafood that had been caught that morning.

His favorite Christmas movie was Miracle on 34th Street…followed closely by National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. I still watch it every year and crack up. It confuses my husband, because it’s not typically the kind of humor I enjoy. But every time I watch it, I can hear my Dad laughing so hard he couldn’t talk.

After my parents dropped me off at college, he came back and had lunch with me three times that week. I went to school just under two hours away.

When no one asked me to the homecoming dance my first year of high school, he bought me a corsage.

He always got me a card on Valentine’s Day.

When I was little, I made him a coupon for “one Daddy/Daughter day, place and time to be picked by him”. He kept it almost 20 years and threatened to cash it on my wedding day. He did not. I found it in his wallet after he died.

He and my mom came to every single performance and show I ever put on. This includes the entire run of my first theater production in college and every marching band show for two years.

When I had written something he liked, he’d put a copy of it on the fridge with a big A+ written on it.

Of course, he wasn’t perfect. But who is? Heaven knows I’m not a perfect person or parent. But I do the best I know how–and I know he did, too. And in my eyes, that makes him perfect.

Just a few days ago, while my Husband and I were watching reruns of “How I Met Your Mother”, we came across an episode where one of the characters loses his father and then discovers he has a voicemail from him he hasn’t listened to. And it made all the characters think about their last conversations with their loved ones and the words they would have to remember them by if something were to happen.

I know I said I wanted to remember the happy today, the before. But if you really want to know who my Dad was, you need to know his famous last words.

I remember the last time I saw him quite clearly. It was, ironically, at the funeral of a father of a girl I had grown up with. We had all been close to the man and it was quite sobering. My Dad waved at me from the car window as I drove away. I’m sure I spoke with him on the phone before he died a week and a half later. But that was the last time I saw him.

I don’t remember exactly how either of those conversations went, that last one in person or on the phone. But I know the last thing he said to me. It was the last thing he always said to me.

I love you.

There was not a time in my life he let me out of his sight without telling me he loved me. No matter how mad he got, no matter how much yelling was involved. You never know when it’s going to be the last time, he used to tell me. Always say I love you. Perhaps this is a fatalist view of the world. Maybe thinking like that makes it hard to live in the moment.

But then it was the last time. And the last words were I love you.

And so even though I don’t remember, I know.

And that’s my Dad.

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How Do You Write?

I’ve been thinking a lot about my writing process.

In the past, I’ve written in long stretches late at night. My characters take over my thoughts–they talk to me in the shower and get really crabby if I leave them alone too long. I get into a zone where I’m walking around in this world, but my mind is in my writing.

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And now I’m a mother, and there is very little opportunity to be in the zone. For awhile it stopped me from writing. Then I started writing what would turn out to be The Goldens, and the whole thing was written in fits and starts. It was ten minutes here, writing standing up when I had time, adding notes about it on my iPhone when I thought of them. Somehow, it turned into a book, and miraculously, a publisher wanted it.

A close friend told me that my success was due to the fact that I simply don’t have time to over think everything as I did when I was in “the zone”. Motherhood has converted me to the wham, bam, thank you ma’am method of writing.

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There are some days, however, that my brain really wants to be in the zone. I wake up with a conversation I’ve had with a fictional character still on the tip of my tongue. The songs on the  radio remind me of people I have penned. And on those days it is almost euphoric when the evening has come and I can put JC to bed and sink into writing, even though I know morning and parenting will come quickly. That’s what coffee was invented for, right?

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I’m curious to know–how do you write? Do you have to have a nice clean desk, sharpened pencils and a clean house, or can you plunk down and write whenever the mood strikes you? Do your stories stay with you once you stop writing?

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Writer’s Workshop: Things I Might Have Been

You HAVE to go back in time and choose a different career path for yourself. What do you choose?

I didn’t have to think about this much at all. If I had to go back and choose something totally different from anything I ever did, I would be an archivist.

I have always loved recording things.I have an uncanny knack for remembering dates and obscure timelines. I love photographs–especially ones that belong to other people. I like to piece together stories, and I would be perfectly content to bend over dusty old books in a big library.

I can just picture myself in this other life: distracted, oblivious to all other things except my current project, pencils sticking haphazardly out of my bun…

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…Okay, so maybe I’m not that far off.

If you could go back and have a different career, what would it be?

Today’s musings brought to you by Mama Kat and her writing workshop.

Imaginary Friends

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You’d think I’d completely understand my son’s imaginary friends.

They say that children with imaginary friends are extremely intelligent. I take comfort in this knowledge, because my kid’s imaginary friend is quite the character.

Ansel is, without a doubt, a trouble maker. When something goes wrong in our house, Ansel is behind it.

Ansel does things that JC would never do. Like pull every container out of the cupboards and fill them with unpopped popcorn and my very fancy pink Himalayan salt. Ansel encourages very naughty behavior, like sneaking out of bed at 3 AM to swipe the iPad and watch train videos. He is the driving force behind all the bad words that come out of JC’s mouth, the reason he whines for oreos, and the mastermind behind the million selfies of JC sticking out his tongue on my phone.

These are the things we know about Ansel, via JC:

  • He’s usually a boy, around 11, an age which apparently boasts supreme wisdom. Occasionally he’s a little sister.
  • His favorite color is green.
  • Despite this color preference, he drives a pink Mitsubishi Lancer with the word “whatever” written on the side.
  • He has a Playstation 4 and an Xbox One, and no, he doesn’t consider than overkill.

In an interesting turn of events, JC informed me a few weeks ago that Ansel had been sent to jail due to his very bad manners. In his place, Christopher Casey–who hails from Hawaii, has more toys than JC, and excellent manners–would be arriving soon. He had, apparently, let JC know he was arriving via text message.

Sure enough, 36 hours later, Christopher Casey and all his imaginary luggage had joined our family. Christopher Casey has impeccable manners–even correcting me sometimes.

But being good all the time can get boring. Ansel, JC told me one morning, was “reformed” in jail and got to come home.

We are now a happy little family: myself, husband and son, and his two imaginary friends that serve as the devil and angel on his shoulders. They are constant companions–they even play with another little girl’s imaginary friends at playgroup– acting as guideposts and feelers for how the world should work. And even though Ansel still causes trouble that Christopher Casey cannot talk him out of–“Ansel TOLD me to squeeze all the toothpaste into the sink, mom!”–a little mischief does a 4-year-old good.

Books in Twitter Form

Brevity: I don’t have it.

I’ve been really working on my short stories and flash fiction–creating a beginning, middle and an end in one sitting. This week, my challenge was to take popular books and sum them up in 140 characters, a la Twitter. Here is the result. AnneTwitter GoneGirlTweet GreyTwitter HPTwitter HungerGamesTwitter JonesTweet TwilightTwitter

How would you tweet your favorite book?