Tuesday, August 25, 2015

A shot in the dark

Well, I did it.  I entered one piece into an essay contest and applied for a grant.  The prize for the essay contest is $3000.  The grants are either for $6000 or $2000 if you are a runner up.
I know that I am one applicant among...thousands? Tens of thousands?  I really don't know what size fish I am and in what size pond.  "Small fish, big pond," would be my guess.

I didn't have much to lose.  The essay had no entrance fee; the grant had a $15 application fee.  That's not too much to spend on the chance to receive $6000 to use in order to take writing from being an avocation to a secondary vocation (secondary to being a wife and mother, that is).

I worked painstakingly on the essay and the application (which included attaching 25 pages of writing samples).  I'm pleased to say that I attached a personal essay and 18 pages of my novel (!) as samples.

What? A novel?

Yes, I guess so. You see, from childhood through college, I wrote scads and scads and scads of beginnings of stories (although I never intended any of them to see the light of day or for any audience other than myself).

But in 2008, I had a very J.K. Rowling experience:

Harry Potter, schoolboy wizard, popped fully formed into the mind of author J.K. Rowling on a train journey 10 years ago, she revealed yesterday. "The character of Harry strolled into my head," Rowling told Sky Television. "Harry arrived very, very fully formed. I really did feel he was someone who walked up and introduced himself in my mind's eye."
Rowling's staggeringly successful creation is going to be turned into a Hollywood film, due out in November 2001. Up to 40,000 people have applied to play the celluloid Potter.
Rowling, on a publicity trip around England on the Hogwarts Express train, said she wrote the final chapter of her seventh and final Potter saga many years ago: "It was like an act of faith. I had no publisher at that point. I will get there and rewrite what is there, but it was for my own satisfaction." (this article published July 17 2000)
She was on a train, I was driving to the Safeway at 45th and Woodstock to buy trash bags. All of a sudden, I was playing out a dialogue in my mind from a fully-formed character with her husband.  Within a day or two I had multiple characters fleshed out, complete with names, ages, appearances, and backstories, and the beginnings of a plot coming together.  This was shaping up to be something real, something that wasn't just the beginning of a story without a middle or end.

And then...life took me off to the races. I started my first real teaching job (AKA teaching all by myself and not with a lead teacher in the classroom).  I met Allen and we got married later that year.  I started a new job at a new school, found out we were pregnant about three years before we'd planned to be, and then it was off to the races even faster!

When I was on maternity leave with Max in 2012, I happened upon what I'd written of the story on a flash drive (thank you, God, that it didn't get lost!)  I reread it...and was transported back to it all.  I added a few more pages and mentally added on to the plot.  But maternity leave was over far too soon and I was back to work part-time and fully occupied otherwise with a 2 year old and an infant.

I don't think I gave it another look until earlier this year.  I still liked it and still thought it was worth the work.  But finding the time for it...when?

I had a conversation with my brother-in-law a while back where he asked why I wasn't trying to make money with my writing.  I told him that I had this novel but that it would likely take a long time to finish it, not to speak of the difficulty of trying to publish a novel. "Maybe in my 40s," I estimated. He looked somewhat shocked (since he considers himself "old" at 25).  But I figure that a novel can only get better with (my) age.  I just get more life experience, and that turns into good writing.  It's encouraging, too to see that Ms. Rowling took 10 years to go from idea to finished product, from struggling single mom writing whenever she could to the richer than rich person she must be today.  I don't expect to have anything like a best-seller.  I actually doubt whether it would get published at all--such a cutthroat industry--but it would be worth a try, if I ever get it done!

Anyway, we'll see what happens.  I'll find out about the award at the end of November and the essay contest at the beginning of January. Of course, I'll keep you posted!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Ah, Sweet Harmony!

It doesn't last all day, of course, but the times of brotherly/sisterly love and collaboration are pretty wonderful to behold...and amusing, too.

Exhibit A: Cinderella

In case you were wondering, Max looks just like Allen did at that age!
Ruby is Cinderella.  Max is the Fairy Godmother...but not the Disney version!  He's a fairy godmother who FIGHTS the bad guys and PUTS THEM IN JAIL!  The wand is a weapon, of course.  After a few minutes of playing the FG, Max said, "Never mind, I want to be Cinderella's enemy.  I'll be the wicked stepmother!"

Exhibit B: Three Witches

When shall we three meet again, in thunder, lightning, or in rain?
They galloped up the steps on their brooms (or in Ben's case, a kiddie rake).

Exhibit C: Dress up "shopping" in preparation for various imagination games

You look simply mahhhvelous, dahhhling!

Ruby is helping the boys find their "perrrrfect costume!!!!" (Ruby always speaks with implied exclamation points)
Ruby is offering different dress ups to her brothers and using her best saleslady patter: "Oh, let's see if this is your size...no no, let's try this. Oh yes, this suits you wonderfully!  Now, does this suit you?"
Even I was given something that would "suit me"...
Kind of Carmen Miranda-esque
As I type, Ben is wearing a pink tutu and holding a fake rose; Max is holding a "magic mirror," a few fake roses, and brandishing a magic wand...now getting another tutu.  

Never a dull moment around here, folks.  Never a dull moment.  

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Funny Kid Things I Will Undoubtedly Forget...

...unless I record them here.

When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.
When Mom hands you a sandwich you're tired of eating, make bangles.

While on the phone with my mom, Max treated her to quite the story.  He was a mommy; Ben was the daddy.  The baby was in his tummy for a while (i.e. the baby--a plastic whiffle ball--was under his shirt.)  Then the baby was born.  Her name is Honey, but her nickname is Bucket.  After a while he put the baby back "in his tummy to grow more."  He said that his name was Jenny.

I love the look on Max's face: "Really, Mom?  Is this a Kodak moment?"
(Also, that phrase is now completely obsolete now that everything's digital...)

And no, this is not some kind of stealthy pregnancy announcement...just a game that Max thought up on his own.

That's right, Ben...the fact that you don't have a younger sibling at your age
makes you a record-holder among your siblings.
Ruby was your age when Max was born,
and Max was 4 months younger than you are now when YOU were born.
I just hope you don't get too spoiled by being the baby for *so* long ;)  

Another funny kid conversation of late: we were in the car talking about Heaven (all of our best theological discussions happen in the car).  Ruby was saying that she hoped she could bring some of her favorite toys and books with her.
Me: Well, maybe you will...but I'm sure there will be lots of things there that are so cool, things we don't even have!
Ruby: Yeah, like stairs!  And an attic!
Max: And closets!
Ruby: And a dishwasher and washing machine and dryer! And a minivan that doesn't cost any money!
It is so nice when they play together happily!
So all of who have those things here and now...well, I guess you didn't know that you truly are living the heaven-on-earth life ;)

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Hey, I'm over at Ordinary Lovely this morning!

Theresa at Ordinary Lovely had the neat idea to run a mini series of guest posts on the theme of how large families are living with contentment in small spaces, and I'm one of her guests!

Now, I wouldn't say that we have a large family, but it is large relative to our living space.  And I certainly can't say that I have perfect, serene contentment 100% of the time.  Just the other day I was in our kitchen getting dinner ready.  I glanced to my left and surveyed the scene: Ruby and Max were running in circles around a pile of books and Ben was looking on, roaring with laughter at the hilarity of it all.  There was something a bit absurd about it all, especially after spending some time housesitting for another family.  Our house looked so...miniature.  Fun-sized, if you will.

Read more here!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Renovation Updates

First things first: thank you so very much to all who have donated either money or materials to our renovation project.  We have been blown away by the kindness and generosity of friends, acquaintances, and strangers (well, "stranger" in the sense that we have one anonymous donor)

The house renovations are going well so far. Two projects down and the biggest one to go.

The Boys' Bedroom

Allen made the needed changes in about two (long) evenings' work.

Since taking this picture, we've cleared out that pile
and moved furniture around 

See the nice side rails?

Rearranged shelving
 My goal this week is to paint a mural on the back wall behind the boys' beds (as you can see, that wall needs something!)

The Kitchen Floor

We had a few boxes of tile donated by friends, but discovered--alas!--that they were not enough to do the whole area.  We called some stores and searched online to find more of the same type of vinyl tile, but couldn't locate any.

What to do?  At first our plan was to find another kind of tile which would complement the ones we'd been given.  This proved hard to do, since it was a very distinctive, glossy gray stonework pattern.  We found some tile at Home Depot called "Copper Slate" and decided to get a box of it; we'd work it in somehow...

As we did the dry fitting, we realized that we really liked how the copper slate looked, and decided to do all copper slate tile instead of a mix of the two types.  Thanks to your generosity, donors, we could do that without worrying that it was going to break the bank.

A reminder of the "before" look:

Caution tape is one of our favorite decor motifs
Allen took about three (long) evenings to do demo, underlayment, and tiling.

Goodbye, tile...you were a nice idea, though

Some of the lineoleum laid by previous owners
Don't you just love perspective shots like this one?


Ruby took this picture, which might explain why it's a rather low view

Any floor that causes Max to fall asleep on it is good in my book!
I REALLY like this new tile.  It's a much better camoflauge for our usual kitchen messes and it goes really nicely with the taupe walls and pumpkin accent wall.  And it's easier to clean without the grout.    It accentuates the kitchen cabinets.  It's great!!!

And we rearranged the kitchen furniture, too, so that the table is less in the way.  Rearranging is an extremely common occurence in our house (in case you hadn't guessed...)

Allen also had one last minute project to do: beautifying the shed. Here's how it turned out:

So now, it's on to the bathroom...the biggest project yet!  We'll keep you posted, of course.