Writing 101, Day Nineteen

Day 19, freewrite 400 words

Well, that’s not hard.  I am famous for not being able to shut up, not having a problem starting.

So, let’s see.  Right now I’m sitting at my awesome desk, with my daughter’s rats on my shoulder.  She’s cleaning their cage, and needed sitting.  I guess this will be funny in like twenty years when I’m babysitting for her.

It’s the same desk in the picture of my rough draft.  Man, I’m still proud about that.  Took me so long to finish Starting Chains, when the rough draft of the first book took no longer than six weeks.

To be fair, nothing was going right or going on when I wrote Patterns.  Starting Chains was written after PBW was in full swing, and I had a bunch of other story telling opportunities in the making.  Looking back, I think I’m going to shut everything else down when I write the rough draft of the next book.  Maybe write all my articles for a month in advance, and work just on the draft.  Really pour ever bit of my creative energy on that one project for just as long as it takes.

Maybe.  As much as I’d like to think my brain works that way, I’d probably get bored.  No matter how many projects I have in motion, I always want to do something new.  I’ve got a ton going on, now I want to take a day off to learn about ways to boost my twitter following.  I have so many plans, so many ideas, that I can’t ever really focus on one long enough.

Honestly, I don’t know how I’ve managed to write two books in the same series already.  Except for the fact that it’s the series that saved me.

In September of 2013, something really bad happened to my family.  I’d made an outline for Broken Patterns, and made maybe a token effort at writing it.  Then, my whole world flipped over.  Nothing was going right in my life, and it all got worse for the next few months.  The only thing that was going right, that made me feel in control, was my writing.  I finished the last 500 pages in two weeks.  As we went through a nightmare that included my husband nearly dying, a horrible custody fight, and a less than congenial parting of the ways with my old day job, my writing was my escape.  My safety net after days and days of tears and torture.

Writing 101, Day Seventeen.

Today’s Prompt: We all have anxieties, worries, and fears. What are you scared of? Address one of your worst fears.

My worst fear used to be spiders.  I don’t like them, they skitter.  These days, though, my worst nightmare is something terrible happening to my daughters.  More specifically, something happening to my daughters, and it being my fault.

Wouldn’t that be the worst?  Like it wouldn’t be bad enough that my child was gone, but having to live with the fact that I did it for the rest of my life.

Fortunately, my kids have been pretty safe.  Even so, I was  a typical scared mommy for the first few years.  I remember one time my older daughter sprayed cleaner in her mouth.  I had a panic attack, and called the poison control center, who’s number I had on every single bottle in the house.  “Alright, Ma’am, what kind of cleaner was it?” the very calm lady asked me.  (And God bless her.  Can you imagine having that job?  I wonder how many lives she helps save every day, but you know there’s the one that haunts her.)  “Um,” I replied, “Clorox Green Works.”

“Isn’t that just orange oil, and some acids?” the lady asked.

“Yes,” I replied.

snort.  Okay, have her drink some water, and keep an eye out for vomiting.  Have a nice day.”  So yeah, let’s here it for all natural cleaners.

I calmed down a lot, enough that when my older one rolled down a flight of stairs in her winter coat, I managed to stay calm long enough to realize she was just fine.  The coat cushioned her, and she didn’t even have a bruise.  She wanted to do it again.

When I first started hanging out with my husband, it amazed me how protective he was over our younger girl.  He babied her, and was constantly telling her not to do things because it was too dangerous.  He got over it eventually, but it took him longer.

Even so, that fear is there.  Are they okay playing outside alone?  Should I let her read that book?  Who is she e-mailing, has she e-mailed them too much?  Who is calling her?  What’s going on when my girls aren’t in my line of sight?  There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t have at least one moment of worry over one of my girls.

It will never end, that’s the thing.  The girls will grow up, and then my real worry will start.  What are they doing in college?  Are they working too hard, too little?  Are they seeing someone who will be good to them, and are they being good girlfriends?  What about when they get married?  Have I taught them enough to be good wives?  Are their spouses being good to them?  What about their babies?  Are they good mommies?  Are they taking time to take care of themselves?  They won’t tell me, I know.  How am I supposed to know if there’s a nervous breakdown just a second away from that smile?

My fears will never end.  I will always be afraid for my daughters.  Goes with the territory, I guess.  Got to say, spiders don’t bother me much anymore.

Writing 101, Day 15

Today’s Prompt: Think about an event you’ve attended and loved. Your hometown’s annual fair. That life-changing music festival. A conference that shifted your worldview. Imagine you’re told it will be cancelled forever or taken over by an evil corporate force.

So, this is ironic, because there’s a chance that’s actually going to happen this year in my town.

My favorite season is fall.  I know, that’s not a normal season to be someone’s favorite, but it’s mine.  I love all things pumpkin flavored, Halloween is my favorite holiday, fall leaves are beautiful here in Western PA, cinnamon is my favorite thing ever, and I really don’t like to shave my legs.

There’s this great fall festival in town, and we look forward to it every year.  There are games, and carny food, and live bands.  My kids get their faces painted, and their hair colored.  We make sand art, and play awful games.  We also take the opportunity to donate to some of our favorite local charities, like VOICE, and our local chapter of GLAD.

One big part of the Fall Festival that lots of people like but I think is rather boring is the car show.  There are actually two other car shoes downtown every year, Cruisaplouza and the Jeep festival.  Did you know that the Jeep was invented in Butler?  People come from all over America for the event every year, if you can believe that.

The problem is, the fall festival isn’t being as well funded as we might like.  In fact, we’re being told that this might be the very last year for it.  My older daughter and I have been going for the past ten years, and my whole family for five.  Last year my daughter wouldn’t let us paint her face, and she was flirting with some boy on the bungee jump.  I’m literally gauging them growing up by the pictures I take of them every year.  I honestly don’t know what we’ll do if this is the last year.

Writing 101, day 14

Today’s Prompt: Pick up the nearest book and flip to page 29. What’s the first word that jumps off the page? Use this word as your springboard for inspiration.

The closest book to me was Zen Inspirations.  The first word I saw on page 29 was kind.

Dear Dr. Sanders,

I have tried to be kind, at least as much as I could have been in this situation.  Really, I have.  It’s not always been easy, but I have tried.

You, sadly, have not returned this kindness, have you now?  In the months that I have wasted, seeking a peaceful resolution to this sad situation, you have been anything but kind.  I have tried to send you letters, which you’ve returned unopened.  I call, and you’re receptionist says that you are too busy to come to the phone.  Surely, she will call you back, he informed me over and over.  But do you?  No, you do not.  Surely it wouldn’t take more than a moment for you to call, and set my mind at ease over this whole situation.  This messy, awful situation that you, Madam, started.

I was finally forced to come to your offices myself, and speak with you.  Again, though, I was told that you were too busy to spare a moment for me.  Me, who you have so terribly wronged.  You couldn’t come speak to me.  I waited, in the office.  I was patient.  I didn’t make a scene, nore did I do anything to earn the looks of discomfort that I received from your staff.  Even so, you didn’t come out to speak to me.  I know that you think I didn’t see you sneaking out the back door to avoid me.  But I saw you.  Oh yes, I saw you.

So now, I’m afraid I have come to the end of my kindness.  If you will not speak to me to resolve this injustice, if you will not give me back what is rightfully mine, then I will have to take it by force.  I will be in your office Monday morning, Doctor, and if you do not put my reproductive organs back where they were, I will be forced to mark the entire office as my personal territory.  As I’m sure you know, it’s a very hard thing to remove cat urine smell.  Consider your next move wisely.



Writing 101, Day 13

On day four, you wrote a post about losing something. Today’s Prompt: write about finding something.

So, I’m supposed to relate this post to the one in which I lost something, which can be found here.

Alright, I lost that very important box of things the day that my husband and I moved into that crappy little apartment.  Except that was before we were married.  So then he was just my boyfriend, and we were moving in together on a strictly temporary basis.  He was looking for a place for just him and our younger daughter, who was then just his daughter.  I just wanted out of this terrible apartment complex I’d been living in up until then.

There were obvious issues with my first apartment.  It was too small, the walls were so thin I could hear my neighbors shaving.  The landlady was a control freak that conducted inspections and threatened to evict people if their house wasn’t as clean as ‘she’ wanted it to be.  It was like living in a college dorm, with the housemother Hell kicked out for being too much of a bitch to the sinners.

It was also not an apartment that I chose.  I moved out on my own within one month of turning eighteen.  I wanted to stay in my mom’s place for another year, because I had a three month old and another year of high school.  I wanted to have a job, and a way to support myself.  Instead, my mom walked me by the hand down to apply for welfare benefits, and get an apartment of my own in the HUD sponsored housing that we were already living in.  I was still with my evil ex at the time, and he even got a job for a month or two.  My mom offered to watch my older daughter while I was in school, (if I paid her).  I thought everything would work out fine, because ‘smarter people than me’ had told me what to do, and I had listened to them.

Nothing turned out right.  My ex’s job didn’t last, and I couldn’t handle going to school, and raising a baby, and keeping a home of my own with no forethought as to how that actually worked.  The people that had been so quick to tell me what I should do with my life were equally as quick to not help me at all once I’d listened to them.  So there I was, in an apartment I hated, with no income at all, holding a baby that depended on me for everything, when I didn’t have anyone to depend on at all.

Now we get to the part where I found something.  My strength, and my spine.  I got a job, a really crappy one.  I sorted trash, washed cars, washed dishes.  Eventually I got a job at a local health food store, which helped me get a job at GNC, where I rose to the rank of manager.  That let me get a better management job at a shoe store.  Along the way, I kicked my ex out, and met my current husband.  And, I started writing again, like I’d wanted to when I was a kid.

When we moved into that first apartment together, it was just supposed to be me and my older daughter.  We thought we weren’t ready to be a family yet.  We both wanted to make sure we were okay on our own before we committed to being okay as one family.

Well, that didn’t work.  We found that it was really nice having the other person there when we woke up.  We got a cat, Harper, the one from my picture last week.  There was a pregnancy scare that didn’t really scare us so bad, and was a real disappointment when we found out it wasn’t real.  The girls went from ‘your kid,’ and ‘my kid,’ to ‘our kids.’  I found my voice, my strength.  I spent a lot of time deciding what sort of woman I wanted to be.  Then, my family sort of built itself around that.

We moved again a few years after that.  This time, we picked the home together.  We’re still there.  Three bedrooms, a bathroom I fell in love with on sight.  This fluffy shag carpet that I hated until I took my shoes off and walked around on it barefoot.

I lost so much of my past in the last ten years.  Most of it’s better off gone, but not all of it.  What I’ve found instead, is my place in the greater scheme of things, and my family.

Writing 101, Day 12

Today’s Prompt: Write a post inspired by a real-world conversation.

So, I might have mentioned this before, but there’s not one, but two great little coffee shops on Main Street in my town.  One is this quaint little place that’s been there since forever.  The other’s very new, very posh, and serves Starbucks.  I love them both.

It was in the newer of the two that I seem to run into the best conversations, though.  It seems to be the meeting place of some different groups that are just fascinating to listen to.  Lawyers hang out there, and judges.  It’s just a block from the courthouse, you see.

A wonderful group of pastors also meet there once a week.  I love to got write while they’re there.

I’ve never had a very good opinion of organized faith, you see.  I’m a Christian, but anything that smacks of someone having authority over other people and saying it’s in the name of God makes my skin crawl.  I think it’s something about all the arguing over religious dogma, and the constant infighting that always seem to go with it.

But these pastors, they meet, and they talk shop.  They talk about writing their talks, and helping their congregation.  They put all differences aside, and talk to each other like brothers and sisters.  You know, the way we’re supposed to treat each other.

I sneezed once, and they all blessed me.  It was kind of cool.

Writing 101, Day 11

Today’s Prompt: Where did you live when you were 12 years old? Which town, city, and country? Was it a house or an apartment? A boarding school or foster home? An airstream or an RV? Who lived there with you?

Can I be honest?  I’m not totally sure I remember where we were living that year.  We moved around a lot when I was young, and by a lot I mean once or twice a year.  I realize now, as a grown woman, that my mom must have had some sort of good reason for this constant moving around.  Surely she wouldn’t have put me through the incessant packing, uprooting me from school after school, constantly leaving people places and sometimes pets behind without good reason.

But maybe she didn’t.  If there was ever a reason, she never shared it with me.

What resulted was a very fluid childhood, in which there were very few constants.  Except the town.  I was born in Connecticut, and we spent a year in North Carolina.  But the rest of my life, I’ve lived in Butler, Pennsylvania.

For someone who spent most of her childhood either packing or unpacking boxes, there’s a comfort in this.  I can see the hospital where my daughter was born from my bedroom window.  My first job is here, and so is my first good job.  People know me here.  Some people even like me here.  I take my kids to the coffee shop I used to stop at after school with my friends.  I walk down Main Street, where there’s still a Burger Hut that my mom used to work at.  We lived right above it, in this crappy little apartment.

We lived in a different crappy little apartment on Main Street when my mom managed a greek restaurant for her boyfriend, that’s now a chinese restaurant where I took my older daughter for her fourth birthday.  (After taking her to the Carnegie Science Center, of course.  No four year old wants to go to a chinese place for her birthday.)

I walk past the junior high I went to when I was twelve, every day on my way to work.  It’s across from the Catholic church my great grandmother attended.  The only time I was ever in it was for her funeral.

So, where was I living when I was twelve?  In Butler, and that’s all that really matters.

Writing 101, Day 10

Today’s Prompt: Tell us something about your favorite childhood meal — the one that was always a treat, that meant “celebration,” or that comforted you and has deep roots in your memory.

So, food.  There wasn’t a real celebration food in my house growing up.  My mom wasn’t a very good cook, and never wanted to be bothered with it, really.  I can’t really think of anything my grandmother made that was particularly memorable, either.

It’s my grandma June that I talk about the most when talking about food.

Grandma June was particular.  Near the end of her life she didn’t eat or drink anything but oranges and diet, caffeine free Pepsi out of a can with a straw.  But the whole time I had her in my life, she always had white tic tacs with her, wherever she was.

She had a little garden in the back yard, and she’d grow tomatoes.  Then she’d slice them, and make tomato sandwiches with mayonnaise, salt and pepper, on bakery bread.  She’d never buy pre-cut bread, my great grandma.  She always went to the bakery, and bought rye bread there.

Then, there was the stuffed cabbage she made.  It was the best thing ever, and she’d make it any time I was coming over to stay the night.  She’s also the one who taught me to make cookies from scratch, and not out of a box.

The best thing, the closest thing to a traditional seasonal meal, would have had to been her pork and sour krout, every New Years Eve.

But the thing I remember most is the tomatoes.  Even to this day, I can’t bite into a tomato without thinking of my Grandma June.

Writing 101, Day 9

Rough draft, mostly playing with this idea.


It was warm out finally, and thank God for that, Marcey thought.  At 72, the cold was no fun.  But finally the winter chill had gone, the wet grass was dried by the late May sun, and she could take her work to the park.  So she packed up her knitting supplies, and took herself down to the park.

She bought herself a cup of coffee, and settled into her work.  She was making a little red sweater for a client who wanted something more personal for her nephew’s second birthday.  It made Marcey’s daughter laugh whenever they talked about her little ‘side hustle,’ as  they called it.  It wasn’t like she needed the money.  She wasn’t hurting like some her age.  She just liked to keep busy.

As she made her way to the chest of the sweater, a young couple walked past.  The woman was keeping up a constant stream of chatter.  The man, however, stopped in his tracks, and stared at Marcey.  Specifically, he stared at the sweater.  She was starting to wonder whether she should yell for the police, when the man burst into tears.

“Sorry,” the woman said to her, pulling the man away.  “I’m really sorry.”  She hurried away from Marcey as quickly as she could, still dragging the sobbing man along.

“What was all that?” Marcey muttered.  Since she knew she wasn’t likely to find out, she sipped her coffee, and made a mental note to tell her daughter about it later.

It was a warm day, but Jordan didn’t feel very warm.  There was never such a thing a good weather for a funeral, after all.

She’d put a lot into helping Paul plan it.  There was no one else around to do it, and hadn’t he always been her best friend?  So she pulled on her black dress, and went to his apartment to pick him up.

Paul was dressed when she got there.  Well, that’s a step in the right direction, she thought.  He even managed a smile for her when he came to the door.

“Did you eat?” she asked him.

“Not yet,” he replied.

“Let’s take a walk through the park, and go to the diner,” Jordan said.

“Yeah, okay,” he agreed.

Jordan felt triumphant as they started along the path.  They’d talked about nothing but the funeral for days, so she thought of anything she could to talk about now other than that.

“So that Rick guy called me again,” she said.  “Just out of the blue, like our last date went well or something.”

“No kidding,” Paul said, and actually managed a laugh.  “After spending half the date talking on his phone?”

“I know,” she replied.

They were coming up on a bench.  There was an old woman sitting there, drinking a coffee and knitting a red sweater.  When Paul saw her, he froze.  Then he started to sob.

The woman looked scared to death, which made absolute sense to Jordan.  Generally, people don’t start crying at the sight of art projects.  “Sorry,” she said, and started pulling Paul away, “I’m really sorry.”  She drug him down the path, trying to figure out what about that old woman had made Paul so upset.

If it had only been Maureen, Paul thought, maybe he could stand it a little better.  He dressed in the bedroom they had shared for three years, where her side of the bed still smelled a little like her.  He had loved her since the first day he met her, and when she died it broke his heart.  But if it had only been her, he supposed it would have healed.

Jordan was pulling up.  She’d been so great though all this, the only person he’d had to rely on.  He had put so much of this on her, even though he knew she must be hurting too.

So when she suggested a walk through the park and breakfast at the diner, he gave her a smile and said yes.

And at first, he really did feel better.  Listening to Jordan babble, walking with her in the sunlight, he felt warm for the first time since Maureen died.

Then he saw the woman, knitting a sweater with red yarn.

Maureen had laughed at him when he brought her that red yarn and a pair of knitting needles.  “I hope those are for decoration,” she’d said, “because I don’t knit.”

“Yeah, but you’re going to be a mommy now,” Paul had told her with a laugh.  “Everybody’s mother should knit.”

He couldn’t help it.  He started to weep.

If it had only been Maureen, he supposed he could have healed.  But knowing there would have been a baby, and now there never would be?  He didn’t believe he would never be warm again.

Writing 101 Day 8

Today’s Prompt: Go to a local café, park, or public place and write a piece inspired by something you see. Get detailed: leave no nuance behind.

Ironically, I went somewhere today that is right out of my childhood memories, but I didn’t remember until my husband pointed it out.

Our kids don’t go to normal school, they attend cyber school.  This means they attend live classes online, in my living room.  This is great fun, because it means we get to chime in on all their lessons.  It also means that they have to go somewhere else to take there standardized tests, known here as the PSSA’s.

This year, they’re taking them at the local Days Inn.  It just so happened to be the same place I’d had my ROTC ball in high school.

Of course, I didn’t remember.  Of course he did.  And of course, since we’d both attended the ball, just at different times, we had to go see it.

There was a business fair today, but I could still see how it had looked that night.  I wore a gold gown, petite white gloves, and more make up than I had ever had before that day.  And I went with my best friend, instead of a guy.

There were chandeliers, and a terrible catered dinner.  But the best moment of the night?  I got a medal.

it was the first time I remember getting awarded for doing something.  We’d had a big national inspection a week before, and it was discovered that not all of our Class A uniforms had a required patch on their arm.  I came in early armed with thread and needles, ready to baste stitch as many of these jackets as humanly possible.  A few other cadets joined in, and we got it done.  I mean, some of them were sort of crooked, but damn it, they were there!

I got to walk up and get my medal, which I then got to wear on my class A uniforms every time we wore them.  Now, it wasn’t as cool as the cadet who had preformed cpr on a lady and kept her breathing until the ambulance got there.  No, that was way, way cooler.  But I got a medal for doing something I was good at, and volunteering.  It also set a precedent for the rest of my life.  I was a girl, in ROTC, and I sewed.  I was and am, exactly who I am, and my gender has not a thing to do with it.

All of that from walking into a ball room I hadn’t been in for over a decade.

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