The Game Of Life

I love games.  Games that require thought, shuffling, rolling dice, spinning a spinner, turning over a sand timer, or leaning over to move a game piece.  It’s a dying pleasure. Board games and cards have been replaced by Apps. The personal interaction has transformed to a virtual world of screen names and avatars.  Apps are great and playing with family and friends all over the world is awesome, but it’s not the same as gathering together with snacks, music, conversation, and laughter.

Uno Card GameI spent a lot of nights at my grandma’s house with my cousins.  Apart from arguing about who would get the primo sleeping spot under the dining room table (I never won that argument), we played Uno. The best games were the ones that lasted hours.

Another favorite was Monopoly (until my husband sucked all the fun out of it.  He has great potential as a loan shark.) I lived two doors down from my cousin and we’d play Monopoly during the summer.  One game lasted a week.  We had the patience and dedication to keep coming back to it, day after day, until we finished.  I can’t imagine my kids doing that now.

My cousin’s family loved games. We’d sit around the table, eating chips, while the adults played “Twenty Questions.”  They always laughed so much. I realize now that a lot of that laughter was at the suggestive nature of some of the questions.  A dirty mind is a terrible thing to waste.

The Game Of LifeThat same cousin and I played a lot of games together, too.  We loved to play Scattergories, Trivial Pursuit, and Life.  The game of Life is especially precious to me.  Near the end of her life, my great-grandmother came to live with my paternal grandmother.  My cousin and I would go stay with Mamaw when Grandma wasn’t home and I always brought Life.  My cousin and I would play in the floor for hours while Mamaw sat in her chair and watched.  We didn’t talk to her much and we felt guilty.  We were there for her, but we just sat and played games.   We were only 12 and didn’t yet understand the concept of loneliness or the joy of children.

When I watch my children play, it takes me back to my childhood.  I remember what it felt like to have no other care in the world than who was going to win a game of Uno.  I remember how effortless it was to play Twister.  When I watch my children play, I marvel at their intelligence, their joy, their existence.  I delight in them. My Mamaw, sitting in her chair watching her two great-granddaughters play Life, laughing, and chattering probably felt the same way.  I imagine her thinking about her children, her grandchildren, and her great-grandchildren.  About her Life.  We needn’t have felt guilty.

While we were playing Life, she was enjoying the fruits of hers.

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This is a revised version of an earlier post.  I’m linking up with the Yeah Write Summer Series.

read to be read at yeahwrite.me

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These Moments

“Mommy, can I hold you?” She holds her arms up in the air, opening and closing her tiny hands and batting those gorgeous blue eyes at me.  The answer is always yes.  I scoop her up and she lays her curly blonde head on my shoulder.  “I love you, mommy.”   My insides turn to jelly.

She’s my girl. My Anna.  Twenty-six pounds of sweetness and spunk.

The Spunk

The youngest of five, Anna is naturally spoiled.  From the moment she was born, people have fawned over her–me, her daddy, her sister, her brothers, her grandparents, church members, strangers in the street.  Really, it’s beyond ridiculous.  We’re creating a monster but I can’t bring myself to stop telling her how beautiful and smart she is.  I can’t help holding her every time she asks.  I can’t help marveling over every little thing she does. I can’t help it because I know she’s the last baby I’ll ever have.  I can’t help it because I know in the blur of raising her older brothers and sister, I missed valuable moments.  The guilt of that is overwhelming, though I know it’s not a unique experience to me.  All mothers, especially young mothers, get lost in the lack of sleep, the frustration, the uncertainty of parenting.  By the time we learn to relax and just go with it, our babies aren’t babies anymore.  We’ve missed the joy.  Anna is my chance to recapture it.

When I held her as a newborn and smelled that sweet baby head, when she smiled at me for the first time, when she said her first word, took her first steps, tasted her first lemon, gave herself her first haircut, I remembered my other children doing the same things.  When she says, “Look at me!” and does a dance or makes a funny face, I remember all the performances I’ve watched over the last thirteen years.  She’s my trip down memory lane.  I thought those memories were gone, but with every new thing Anna does, they rise to the surface, whispering, “Remember when…?”

With my last child, as with my first, I’m learning how to be a parent. This time, it’s not about when and what to feed them, how often to change diapers, when to call the doctor, or when to put them to bed.  It’s about spending time with them, listening to their stories, and  marveling at their accomplishments.  It’s about watching them grow into the people they’re going to be and seeing all the little things that brought them there.

It’s about living in the moment.

Baby Blues

The Diaper Hat Moment

I’m linking up with the Yeah Write Summer Series. Click on the badge below to meet some amazing bloggers and learn a thing or two about writing. It’s a fantastic community.

read to be read at yeahwrite.me

Going Beyond National Novel Writing Month

I’ve got two shiny new badges in my sidebar. One is the JuNoWriMo Winner’s badge and the other is the CampNaNoWriMo Winner’s Badge. That’s right. I did it. I wrote 50,000 words of a novel in 30 days. Actually, I wrote 53,137 of a novel in 29 days, but who’s counting? Answer: Me, because that’s kind of the point. It’s about the numbers.

I’ve got the numbers. I had the numbers in November for the official National Novel Writing Month. What I don’t have is a completed novel. I have 50,000 words (give or take a few) of two novels and neither one of them is even close to finished. That, my friends, is not the point of National Novel Writing Month. I’m supposed to complete a novel. Problem is, I don’t know if I can.

If I’ve learned anything from the NaNoWriMo experience, it’s that vomiting words on a page is not how a novel gets written. Not for me, at least. It takes me a good 30,000 words to even find the heart of the story and those first 30,000 words? Are mostly garbage and completely unsalvageable. It’s probably my fault. I don’t outline before I start the word purge and nothing good comes from writing on the fly, hoping something that someone might actually want to read spews forth at 3 AM when the only thing keeping me awake is copious amounts of tobacco and coffee. Substitute alcohol for the coffee, and maybe. Isn’t that how Hemingway did it?

Hemingway drinking and writing

I love him.

I’m kidding, of course. Not about Hemingway. That’s true. But I’m no Hemingway, neither in writing ability nor in alcohol tolerance. And I’m never going to Spain to watch bull fighting.

Point is, I need to find a new way–a better way–my way– to write a novel. It will involve planning and dedication and hard work and patience and a basic grasp of punctuation and grammar usage–none of which are my strong points. Seriously, the odds aren’t good. Thing is, I’m not a math person. I’m a words person. And I have those in droves.

Now, to take these two pieces of a novel and decide which has more “viability”( By “viability,” I mean “which sucks less”) and devote myself to it. Get it in my head that a novel is not written in a month. It will take time and sweat and a schedule and learning how to use commas.

I can do it. I will do it. Otherwise, I’m a wannabe novelist. That’s unacceptable. I’m aiming for the big prize: The Unpublished Novelist. Because that is a title I can be proud of.

Coincidentally, I learned something new this week. Did you know that it is incorrect to use two spaces after a period? No, I’m not kidding. It’s a rule. The Chicago Manual of Style says so. That blows my mind. Anyway, in my endeavor to follow grammar and punctuation rules, this post was written using only a single-space after each period.

That is progress.


Related Posts:

NaNoWriMo Dropout
NaNoWriMo Week One: Six Lessons 
NaNoWriMo: The Last Three Days 

Chin Hair and Other Fantastic Things

So I found another hair growing out my chin this week. It’s amazing, really, how those things just sprout over night. One day, you’re feeling pretty good that your diet is paying off and you only have one chin, instead of three, and the next–BAM! A long, black hair is poking out of your new-found chin. I guess it’s nature’s way of keeping you humble.

woman shaving

Despite the weight loss and not working, my back is worse than ever.  I wake up most mornings not able to walk or stand up straight without gasping and/or crying.  That means I haven’t been able to start exercising.  I want to exercise.  It will help my back and speed up this dieting drudge.  It’s the ol’ Catch-22.  I need to exercise to make my back feel better but I need my back to feel better so I can exercise.  Grrrr.

Oh and the 6yo had a stomach virus yesterday which I now have.  I’m sitting here, typing, in an effort to concentrate on anything other than the fact that I could vomit at any minute.  When I vomit, I cry, and I’m an ugly crier.  So, I’d rather not be an ugly, puking crier.  I’ll just keep my slightly green tinge, thank you very much.  *deep breaths*

Dawson Ugly Crier

“I don’t want your life!” Oh wait. That’s not right. Oh yeah. Joey left you for Pacey. Poor Dawson. No girl AND an ugly crier.

There is something that happened this week than I’m really excited about.  I discovered a wonderful blog gathering called, “Yeah Write.”  Basically, it’s 50 blogs linking up and competing for awards–peer choice, editor’s choice, and 2 lurker’s choice.  But I don’t really care about the awards.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’d love to win one.  Who doesn’t like to win awards?  Stupid people, that’s who.  And I’m not stupid.  But just reading these blogs and leaving comments and having these sweet people do the same is award enough.  Seriously, these are some awesome people.  I wish I’d found it sooner.  If you’re interested, you can read more about it here.  If you don’t want to compete, there is a hang-out where you can just read and share the blog love.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go throw up.

Related Posts:

I’m Thinking of Growing A Beard…
Wordless Wednesday:  Momfog’s Survival Kit 
Ten Things I Learned On Summer Vacation  
Scheduling Summer 

Camp NaNoWriMo

Some of you may have noticed a new badge in my sidebar.  The Camp NaNoWriMo participant badge.

Camp NaNoWriMo Participant Badge 2012That’s right.  I’m doing it again.  50,000 words of a novel in a month.  I figure if I managed it last November when I was working, I can certainly do it now that I’m not.  It might even be easier.  And better.  Surely it could be better because the last one sucked.

No, seriously.  It wasn’t good.  I read over it now and laugh and laugh.  It’s a great pick-me-up after a rotten day.

So I’m going to try again, using a character from the old one and anything I can salvage from it (that won’t count toward the 50,000 words because that would be cheating and I’m not a cheater.)

Or maybe I’ll write something new.  Who knows?  I’ve got time.  23 hours to figure out what in the world I’m going to write about.  No biggie.

The only reason I’m doing this is because somebody asked me to.  I didn’t even know about Camp NaNoWriMo until she opened her big mouth.  Then I opened mine and said I’d do it.  Now, we’re both committed.  Thanks, JM.  (JM writes the wildly entertaining blog, Accidental Stepmom.  She’s stepmom to 5 fabulous children, one who has a serious addiction to bacon.  Then again, who doesn’t?  You should check out her blog.  You can thank me later for introducing you.)

Just to pass on the “holy crap, what have we done?” vibe, I sort of talked my friend into participating, too.  That’s not accurate.  I let her talk herself into joining in and neglected to tell her what she was in for.  Misery loves company, and all of that.

I’m an excellent friend.

Coincidentally, she also has a blog (*gasp*  *say what?*) and she just wrote a fabulous post about what it means to be a military family.  It’s not easy (duh) but it’s even tougher when you have 4 kids, all with special needs.  She’s sort of my hero.  Yeah, she’s got her issues (don’t we all) but she does a much better job of hiding them than most people.  Go.  Read her post.  You’ll see.

Change @ Mom’s Mixed Nuts  (Isn’t that a great blog name?)

After you read these wonderful women writers, you’ll understand my panic about doing Camp NaNoWriMo with them.  They set the bar awfully high and I’m a terrible jumper.

Happy Birthday, Baby Brother

My baby brother turns 30 today.  For his birthday, I’m giving him a blog post.  I’m sure he’d be thrilled if he actually read my blog, but I’m pretty sure he doesn’t.  Well, I know he did once because he left a comment (on Facebook, not here *eye roll*), telling me about a typo, but that was way back in May. (The Test, if you’re interested.)  To be fair, I never talk about my brother.  Well, except that one time, when I wrote this:

I even miss my brother, the spoiled brat who never had to do any housework, who is too smart for his own good, and who, without fail, has a smart-alec remark for everything. (My Old Kentucky Home)

Is it any wonder he doesn’t read my blog?  Anyway, like any good big sister would do, I’m taking the opportunity to throw him under the bus again tell you the great things about my brother.

First, he’s wicked smart.  Seriously smart.  And, yes, he knows it.  I mean, come on, he uses the word MENSA in his email address.  Which is a nice segue into the next fact.

He’s kind of a snot.  But it’s not his fault because he was also spoiled as a child. His only job was to cut the grass and we had a riding lawnmower.  Like I said before, he has a snarky comment for everything and, I must admit, it is usually hilarious.  He reminds me of Seth Meyers, whom I happen to adore.

He’s a raging liberal.   I honestly don’t know how this happened.  Like I said, he’s smart, so where’s the disconnect?  I had hope for him until I saw the Michelle Obama magnet on his refrigerator.  What is that?  I will say that he knows how to argue politics and keep his sense of humor.  He’s not offended when I call him Comrade. Not. One. Little. Bit.  That is awesome.

He can eat whatever he wants and not gain weight. Genetics are cruel, people.  I can think about a Snicker’s bar and BAM! an extra roll of fat appears around my midsection.  This man can eat and eat and eat and not even a blip on the scale.  Why didn’t I get his metabolism?  Why?  Why? Why?

So It’s the Laughter We Will Remember

Now would be a good time to share my favorite memories of my brother.

Homer Simpson  Doh!We were on vacation with our parents a few years ago.  We were staying in a lovely cabin with an extremely clean sliding glass door leading out to the patio.  The couch, where I was sitting, happened to be in front of this crystal clear glass door.  My brother, beer in hand, was on the porch, grilling, I believe. (He’s an excellent cook, by the way.) My brother decided to come inside.  He turned and walked directly into that sparkling clear window.  SMACK!  Forehead hit the door and beer ran down it in sheets.  And I had the best seat in the house.  I giggle every time I think of it.  I’m giggling now.  It was GREAT.

Now, maybe that’s mean.  But, hello?  He EATS whatever he wants and DOES NOT gain weight.  He’s SMARTER THAN ME.  He DIDN’T have to DO DISHES.  MICHELLE OBAMA REFRIGERATOR MAGNET!!!!

My brother and I are as different as night and day but we “get” each other.

When my house burned down, he called me.  That was such an important call.  He let me make the inappropriate jokes I needed to make to cope and he laughed at them.  I knew he would.  I knew he was the only one, other than my husband, who would understand these horrible attempts at humor.

1.  I was going to do a major clean on the house this weekend.  Glad I didn’t decide to do that last weekend.

2.  At least it happened before I did the big grocery shopping.  We literally had no food in the house.  We’re going to need that grocery money now and I hate wasted food.

3.  The headline on the news is “House Fire Leaves Family of Seven Homeless.”  Wow.  I’m homeless.  Isn’t that hilarious?

4.  Well, we were thinking of moving anyway.  At least now I don’t have to pack.  I hate packing.

5.  Heck no, I didn’t give an interview to that news reporter.  Me, standing outside my burning trailer, hair a mess, no insurance, and 5 kids running around me?  Might as well paint “white trash” on my forehead.  Though it would have been awesome to use the thickest southern accent possible to say grammatically incorrect sentences and ask if anyone seen my dawg runnin’ around anywheres.

Not my best stuff, but it’s all I could come up with, considering the situation.  Point is, my brother laughed.  I love him for that.

The Honeymooners Ed Norton and Ralph KramdenI love that he’s a wonderful husband and father.  I love that he’s a smart butt.  I love that he asked for a cake for Christmas when he was four.  I love that he gets super excited about food and can eat approximately 50 tacos in one sitting.  I love that he bakes and makes homemade buttercream icing.  I love that he loved The Honeymooners and Dobie Gillis when he was in elementary school.  I love that my grandma had to drag him out of bed by his feet to wake him up for school.  I love that an 8 oz. coffee gives him the jitters and makes sleep impossible.  I even love that he snored like a foghorn and kept me awake when my parents forced us to share a bed in a pop-up camper for “fun” family vacations.

I just love him.  Period.

Happy Birthday, Baby Brother

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Now let’s see if he does read my blog.  If you read this, little brother, leave a comment.  In the comment section.  Not on Facebook, not in an e-mail.  Here.  We’ll be waiting.

My Top Ten Favorite Books of All Time

Writing a post naming my top ten books was not my idea.  Someone requested it.  I’ve never had a blogging request before.  I’m flattered, but also at a loss.  Off the hundreds of books I’ve read, how can I possibly pick just ten?  I can’t.  Not really.  Once I pick the top ten, I’ll remember something else I read, the book that changed my 16-year-old self, which means something entirely different now that I’m 33, but will always be a part of my soul, my heart.

See, now I’ve gone off the deep end.

Anyway, here’s a tentative list, in no particular order.  It’s hard enough to pick ten, much less rank them.

1.  Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

I’ve read this approximately 273 times.  It’s my “go-to” when I don’t know what to read.  It’s charming, witty, romantic, and is single-handedly responsible for every dissatisfied feeling I’ve had about the man in my life.  (Sorry for that, dear husband.)

2.  See Under: Love by David GrossmanSee Under:  Love by David Grossman

This was my first foray into magical realism and I was enamored by the strangeness and the beauty of it.  It paved the way for Salman Rushdie and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who, I must confess, I never took to like I did to Grossman.  Maybe it was the new experience or the Holocaust connection–an event as fascinating as it is horrifying.  Whatever it was, See Under: Love gets me right here.  *hand over heart*

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens3.  A Tale Of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

A tale of war, sacrifice, betrayal, and love.  The first book to make me cry.  And that beginning!

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

Dickens writes a run-on sentence like nobody’s business.

4.  A Summer To Die by Lois Lowry

I read this in fifth grade and never forgot it.  The story of Meg, coming of age as her sister, Molly, is dying from cancer.  No sugar-coating.  It’s grief, jealousy, sex, relationships, and family–all without being vulgar.  I can’t wait until my daughters are old enough to read it.

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss5.  The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

So.  Beautiful.

6.  To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper LeeTo Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

This book is the closest thing to perfection I’ve ever read.  I’m assuming that’s why Harper Lee never wrote another novel.  How could she possibly follow To Kill A Mockingbird?  If she did write another novel and it was as good as (or better than) her first, how could she possibly follow that?   Better to just let it ride.  (Lee did work with Truman Capote on In Cold Blood, a chilling, true account of multiple homicide in Holcomb, Kansas.)

Harry Potter Box Set Paperback by J.K. Rowling7.  Harry Potter (Books 1-7) by J.K. Rowling

Yes, it’s seven books, but it’s one long story.  A magical, endearing, gut-wrenching story.  I especially love reading them one after the other as Rowling’s writing got better and better.  Added bonus?  These books are appropriate for all ages.  I love that.

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery8.   Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Aside from Elizabeth Bennet, Anne (with an e) Shirley is my favorite female character.  She’s delightful.  I read this book to my daughter this summer and it’s one of my most precious memories.  She loved it and I can’t wait to show her the mini-series, aside from that mess of a last movie (where did that story line come from?)

Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy9.  Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

Hardy is depressing, Fate-obsessed, and “in your face” with this critique of Victorian principles. I wrote a killer research paper on this in college.  Got an A.  It was awesome.  Don’t read Tess, or any Hardy work, for that matter,  if you’re prone to melancholia, .  It’s not happy stuff.

10.  A Moveable Feast By Ernest HemingwayA Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

Okay, so it’s Memoir.  But, come on, does anyone believe this is the absolute truth?  Of course not.  It is like a sophisticated version of the National Enquirer, combining my greatest pleasures in life–great writing and celebrity gossip.  Hemingway sells out Ezra Pound, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Gertrude Stein (among others) and does it in such a way, the reader, at first, believes he’s a) being completely honest and b) doing it with the best of intentions.  It’s classic Hemingway–drunk, arrogant, and macho–and I adore him for it.  Hemingway knows how to describe food, weather, drink, pleasure, and pain using only the necessary words.  Really, I could have listed any of his books in this slot, but this one is too…delicious. He’s kind of my idol, in a strictly literary sense, of course.

So, there it is.  Ten books (more or less) I consider “The Best.”  I’m already doubting my choices.  How is there no Margaret Atwood on this list?  What’s with all the YA?  Surely, The Oystercatchers by Susan Fletcher deserved a spot?  What about the 20 or so books I haven’t read, sitting on my shelf over there?  The thousands in the library, Barnes and Noble, and the used book store?  What if my absolute favorite book of all time is one of those?

Ah, well.  I’ll think about that next year, after I’ve read them.  Who knows?  This may be it.  These may be the best books I’ve read.  EVER.

Somehow, I doubt it.

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