The days are numbered for this patch of pachysandra. I’ve already started imagining what I could plant here… possibly a lilac bush….
The other morning when I woke for work, I immediately recognized the sound of rain pounding on the roof.
Normally when I hear that sound in the spring and early summer, I frown and drag myself to the shower in dismay. I can’t ride my bike to work. I have to work out in the gym. And, besides that, I’m stuck in the house all day. Even though 8 or so hours of my day are spent indoors, the sight of a gray rainy day in Northeast Ohio depresses me (even though I’ve lived here most of my life).
But this morning was different. My first thought was: Oh, good, the garden and my flowers will get watered!
It hadn’t rained in about a week and we’d just planted about 90% of our vegetable garden. Not to mention the plants I’d recently planted around the house in my new flower beds. And the red bud tree I’d planted about a month ago, nursing it out of infancy by watering it from the hose every couple of days.
I was relieved because Mother Nature was going to take care of all the plants for me and I wouldn’t have to worry. What a change in perspective for me! Especially considering I had not once planted a vegetable garden at any of my previous residences (though I always wanted to but couldn’t find the time), and I’d taken not one iota of interest in the flower beds I’d planted at my previous homes. Except occasionally to enjoy a flower or two, I pretty much set up my flower bed and let them do their thing. Which meant that the weeds got as big as anything I’d purposely planted.
Up until this point in my life, I found gardening to be a waste of time. It got in the way of my bike riding, writing, socializing. The one or two weekends a year that my mom would come over and force me to plant and then mulch the flower beds was pure boredom to me. I just wanted to get through it as quick as possible and get on with my life.
I think it partly has to do with this house. I love it here. I think I’m living in as close to a dream home as I’ve ever desired. It’s odd but I had this vision of living in a place like where I live now as far back as my first husband. I never ended up there as a single person because, well, I guess I knew I didn’t have time for it. Also, I was probably intimidated by the whole idea of living on 3 acres of land in a house where the water comes from a cistern and the waste goes to a septic system. It seemed like too much work (and probably is, Crow handles most of the filtration system maintenance so he could tell you better).
It’s really a house in the woods, as Crow is quick to point out, but to me it’s a cabin. It’s our own private getaway from the world that’s still close enough to all the amenities of a city. I think sharing a place like this with Crow makes me want even more to make it beautiful.
So, initially, I planned to just remove two beds of pachysandra growing on either side of the entrance to our house. I asked my mom to come over and help me remove them and then plant something–anything–in their place. The entry way did have a big rhododendron plant that we wanted to keep. But after all the pachysandra was removed, there would be a lot of open space for plants. Fortunately, my mom is an avid flower gardener and she was able to bring pieces of her own plants over.
I also had three pots of salvia–a housewarming gift from Crow’s aunt and uncle–that had somehow miraculously survived the winter neglected in the front of the house between the ugly bushes. I didn’t mean to neglect them. We were so busy with indoor repairs and remodeling that I just didn’t have time for them. By the time winter came, I thought they were goners, but I didn’t bother moving them. (Hey, the label said they were perennials, so…) I was totally thrilled they were still alive to plant!
I planted the much diminished little salvia plants among the day lilies, forget-me-nots, and hosta plants my mom brought. Two of the three plants have survived and one of them is thriving quite happily! I’m not sure what happened to the third one. It was starting to grow and then it just gave up. I felt horrible when it did.
Well, the external remodeling did not stop at the two flower beds in the entry way. Oh no. There were several ugly pine-like bushes in front of the house that Crow and I both despised and decided they must go. My mom returned another Saturday afternoon and, using Crow’s car for muscle, we yanked those suckers out of there. Of course, this meant we had even more space to plant flowers. My mom again provided some miscellaneous plants.
It didn’t end there, though. I found myself stopping to look longingly at plants in the greenhouse section at Lowe’s. I wanted a Miss Kim lilac bush because it was one of the plants my mom had planted at my house in Stow that I really loved. Miss Kim lilacs bloom after the regular lilacs and smell just as intoxicating. Lilacs are, and always have been, one of my favorite flowers not only because of their generally purple color (except for Miss Kim which is white) and their fragrant smell that reminds me of spring.
Besides the Miss Kim, I started seeing other plants I wanted to try: petunias, pansies, several nameless flowers that I recognize from my mom’s various gardens throughout the year. The next thing I knew, I was actually buying my own plants, reading their instructions, and planting them! I lacked the confidence, though, to believe that I wasn’t going to immediately kill them… I worried as I put them in the ground. Was I doing this right? I talked to them and fertilized them with MiracleGrow and started–this is earth-shattering–checking up on them daily! I started spraying weeds with Roudup and then plucking them out of the garden! This is really monumental if you’ve known me in any way, shape, or form before this house.
Up the street is a place called Crown Point Ecology Center that has a big organic plant sale in May. Crow and I went there to buy some starter plants for our vegetable garden and I ended up buying, on impulse, a nasturtium and a celosia. This was a huge step for me as it was the first time I bought flowers without asking my mom about them first. I was afraid to plant them without advice but I did so anyway following their tags’ instructions to plant in full sun. The nasturtium really took off and it seems to keep getting bigger and healthier looking each day. I’ve really grown to love those little orange flowers and I wish I’d bought more in different colors. People keep pointing out to me that I garnish salads with the tasty flowers, but they are just too cute to pick so I enjoy them on the plant instead. And eat them? I’m not a cannibal!
The celosia is not doing bad either and I think soon I will get to enjoy it’s signature scrunchy, fluffy flower.
We bought a lot of mulch. Much more mulch than we needed for the front of the house. My mom suggested mulching along the side and back of the house as well. The previous owners had planted two holly bushes on the side of the house that we liked very much.
It was my idea to frame the garden with rocks. My mom’s flower beds at the house where I grew up were all framed by rocks and I always thought it looked really professional. Fortunately, we didn’t even have to buy these rocks. Dig anywhere in our yard and your shovel will hit rock in no time at all! We removed our rocks from the soil Crow dug up in the wooded area of our land. We actually have some really rich soil and so we decided to “transplant” some of it from the woods to the flower beds before we mulched. Much cheaper than buying more soil, for sure.
I would also like to point out that the hosta plants featured in these pictures were but little tiny numbs of plants–rolled up leaves in soil that looked to me like that wiggly plant the medicine girl uses to save Captain Kirk in the episode “A Private Little War.” These plants define prolific! The one shown above got haphazardly moved by me twice and it’s still alive. A great plant, I must say, for the beginning gardener.
The backside of the house still needs some work, I admit. It’s kind of hard to plant anything there because it’s shady pretty much all day. A few weeks ago, Crow brought home some coleus and begonias, and I planted some back there, but they are not doing well. I don’t know if they got affected by the frost we had at the end of May or what. I keep feeding them fertilizer weekly hoping they will suddenly feel better. I will be surprised if anything happens, though.
Regardless, I’m proud of the work I’ve done. I admit that every day I walk around the house to check my little babies out. I feel personally responsible for every plant I’ve put in and when they don’t thrive or they die I feel like I’ve failed. It’s odd how attached I feel to the plants. I guess because they are alive, I feel some sort of cosmic connection to them. Like us, they need good food (from sunlight and the soil), a warm place to stay, and plenty of water. I try to find a place that can provide all three. I find myself talking to each one as I plant it in the ground, asking it to thrive and not die on me. “Please be happy, little plant,” I say. I guess this is where your maternal instincts go when you’re 38 and childless…
So my successes gardening emboldened me to step it up a level. When Crow was buying some trees for our aforementioned vegetable garden, I mentioned how much I love red bud trees (can you guess why??). At the greenhouse, we decided to look at some. They were a bit pricey, but I ended up buying what I felt was a hard luck case–a prospering red bud tree that did not get sold last season. It was bigger than all the other plants and, according to the worker at the greenhouse, probably “itching” to get out of that pot. I liked that it was the kind with reddish purple leaves–a “forest pansy.”
I planted it under Crow’s direction one evening. Crow was sick with a fever and could only sit in a chair and “supervise” while I dug and rototilled the area where I was going to plant it. I needed him there because even though he is also pretty much a fledgling gardener, my instinct before doing anything I’m not versed in is to ask over and over, “Like this? Is this right?” I carefully read the instructions several times and planted the tree with the bulb above ground. We filled the hole with dirt and peat moss and, a week later, I bought a few bags of mulch to give it an extra level of security in its new home.
I’ve kept up with watering the red bud when it was dry for too long. It seems to be doing really well where I’ve planted it at the treeline on the edge of our yard where I can view it from the kitchen window. I’ve enjoyed it both during its blossoming stage and with its head full of rusty leaves. I really look forward to watching it grow bigger and more magnificent with each year.
In the last few weeks, we’ve added two clay pots of flowers in addition to the flowerbeds. I wanted some petunias because I heard they attract humming birds, but I had no more room in the sunny spots of my garden. I’d particularly loved the colors phantom and black velvet (any guess why? anyone?). Okay, my pot is pretty much comprised of several varieties of purple petunias and one “candy cane” striped color that I added so that my leaning towards purple would be a little less obvious.
Crow put together a pot of pansies which he placed on the stump of an old tree we cut down. As you can see, his color choices are a little more varied than mine… (But he did put a purple one in there!)
And now… the vegetable garden… Well, that’s an epic story of its own. We fortunately have a big clearing of trees behind our house that allows sunlight for a majority of the day. This is pretty amazing for where we live. I couldn’t even put in a garden at my house in Stow because my backyard was 100% shaded.
When we originally decided to plant a vegetable garden this year, despite all the other things we had going on, we assumed we’d cordon off a big area of the clearing for future expansion. Because we live amidst deer country in a national park, we knew we would have to build a fence around any vegetable garden we intended to plant… So Crow planned a fenced in area that would be enough for present and future purposes. He got a crew of friends and built said fence… and meanwhile, we went a little crazy with our seed planting and plant buying because it just seems too good to be true that you can grow the food you love to eat.
Needless to say, over several weeks, we got most of what we bought planted: lettuce (three kinds and a bunch from seed), tomatoes (12 plants, several from seeds started in March, several more that we bought while shopping), hot peppers (4 starter plants), sweet peppers (4-6 plants, some from seed, most from starter plants), pumpkins (from seed), spaghetti squash (from seed), acorn squash (from seed), brussel sprouts (2 starter plants), watermelon (2, I think), strawberries (2 starter plants), red onions (10-12 starter plants), basil (3 plants: Aton, cinnamon, lemon), chives, cilantro (not sure it’s going to make it), corn (just in from seed last week), curry (which isn’t really curry, but it smells like it), mint (chocolate and regular, both in a pot) and sunflowers. Additionally, we planted 3 grape vines, a blueberry bush, and two kinds of raspberries (I think–this was Crow’s pet project). And then there’s our starter fruit grove: 2 cherry trees, 2 plum trees, and 2 peach trees. We won’t be getting fruit from those this year because we want them to grow.
I’m sure I’m missing something. As I said, we got a little carried away. I don’t expect everything to work out, but I’m enjoying the experience of trying. What impresses me most are the plants that we grew from seed in small containers. When I planted them, they were very small and frail. Most of them have grown immensely in the few weeks they’ve been in the ground. I’m so impressed that something so small has started to thrive. The tomatoes have been particularly successful. I’m totally convinced that tomatoes are a new gardener’s best friend!
I feel like I’m starting to understand the development cycle of plants. Watching them grown has forced me to slow down and pay attention more to the plant life around me. I now can identify tomatoes and peppers at a distance from their leaves. I’m even recognizing certain flowers in other people’s yards! I’ve never noticed these details before. But just over Memorial Day, while on a bike ride with our club, I pointed out to Crow every single rhododendron I saw! Two months ago, I wouldn’t have known a rhododendron from a hibiscus or a peony! Now I can identify all three.
It’s been a really interesting journey of discovery for me. I’m already making plans to plant some lilac bushes and another red bud. Oh, the things I will be able to do to this yard! I’m so excited to see how everything turns out.
Speaking of those plant life cycles, much like people, plants want to survive… As I learned last night when Crow pointed out this lonely descendant of the pachysandra I removed hanging on to the gutter pipe as if to say to me, “Hey, I’m not technically in the garden. So na!”
I didn’t have the heart to hit it with Roundup.
Well, it’s been a long time.
I know, I know. There are no excuses for what is apparently the longest I’ve ever gone without posting to my blog.
But I’m going to try excuses anyway.
Let’s just say that I’ve bitten off far more than I can chew lately. I guess it wasn’t complicated enough that I was planning a wedding and making numerous changes to the new old house that Crow and I bought. No, I had to take it a level higher. I applied for and accepted a new job. True, the environment at that other job was so miserable that it was literally painful to walk into that place every day. And then I got passed over for a raise at time when I felt the most financially drained. I could have stayed there and accepted the comfort of complacency… But no, I had to go looking elsewhere.
Don’t get me wrong. The environment at the new job is 100% better. And the work a bit more challenging as I’m the only technical writer and I’m tasked to create something out of nothing for a software product that is long past needing some comprehensive documentation. Both of these are good. The benefits are better, the pay is better. Good, good, good.
But why now? I ask myself every day. I could have gotten by at the other job, miserable, but using half my brain to focus on the wedding and the house. Oh, but, I’m a restless one indeed!
And then there’s my personal writing. I was going a long so well on my goals, motivated and inspired. I had joined a writing group and I felt even more compelled and inspired to write. So I was trying to squeeze writing in between everything else I was doing. I’ve got two open novels that are begging for me to work on them.
I turned in to my writing group a rough draft of something I’d been working on. It got devoured whole and regurgitated in a lump at my feet. Or at least that is how it seemed to me. I cried the whole way home in frustration. I’m not entirely sure I was just crying about the review, though. It was probably part stress. I broke down because, I don’t know, some part of me pridefully believes I’m instantly brilliant without a lot of work. Stupid, right? It’s been a long time since I’ve done any serious fiction writing that I’ve let anyone read and I think it showed in the piece I submitted. I was ashamed of myself because somewhere along the line I lost the fire I had when I was younger. Not that I was instantly brilliant then either. I just had a lot more confidence about myself and I could take criticism easier. I’ve gotten brittle and faint at heart in my elder years. Lack of exposure, I guess.
That was in March, the day before my birthday (NEVER submit your art for review the day before you’re birthday). It launched me into a depression that I’m still not sure has completely lifted. Well, for the first time since November (and NaNoWriMo), I haven’t touched either of my novels. I’ve gone into the file and looked at them, messed around a bit, and then just lost interest. All the fun is gone. From just a few words from people trying to help me with my art.
I think my frustration stems from the fact that somewhere within me I believe that my writing is my last chance to having a career I actually enjoy. Which is completely and utterly stupid. Unless you’re one of the lucky ones, the chances of making actual money solely from being a novelist is mighty slim. It’d probably more likely that I’d win the lottery. It’s definitely not a career possibility. It’s just a fun hobby that I have to figure out how to do on the side.
At this point in my life, I know that the best I’ll probably ever achieve is to self-publish something. (And I would do it right by hiring an actual editor.) Again, hobbyist. Not a career. I know I’m not instantly brilliant or even brilliant. Period.
It’s like this blog. I write it really for myself but I know that I don’t have many real readers. I have a few trolls who spy (and I suspect are people who know me in real life and enjoy trying to hurt me). A few friends who read with passing interest. My mom. I guess I haven’t felt compelled to update this blog for those same reasons….
Anyway, my point is, the problem with believing that my writing is my last chance to career happiness is that when I hit a road bump–such as criticism, no matter how constructive–it becomes a real obstacle. It’s the deflation I need, though, to come back down off of cloud 9 and back to reality. It’s the reality that made me cry. The reality that I faced a long time ago and I’ve faced over and over and over again.
I think I can go back to the writer’s group once things calm down over here. Maybe after the wedding and the honeymoon. When I’m ready to focus on my writing, and I’ve accepted the reality that I’m just doing this for fun, I will be able to face the group again. I’ll go back humbled. I’ll listen intently. I’ll be a little less arrogant about my abilities.
Crow pointed out, though, that it was a huge step at all for me to show my writing to anyone, which is something I haven’t done (other than my memoir piece about losing Mike, which has to be the best thing I’ve ever written) since college. So it’s progress.
What else has gone on in the past four months?
We have finally put some sort of covering (blinds, curtains) over every window in the house. At last. After a year.
I planted a red bud tree in my yard. They are such beautiful trees and not only did I get to enjoy its flowering beauty this past spring, but I’m now watching its pretty red heart-shaped leaves quiver in the breeze.
Together with my mom, we tore out some ugly bushes in front of the house, removed some pachysandra in the entryway of the house, and replanted a flowerbed in the entry way that also wraps around half the house! We planted a bunch of hostas, some day lilies… The purple salvia Crow’s aunt gave me last year miraculously survived the winter. Two of the three plants are now blooming happily in the front flowerbed. Crow bought me some coleus and begonias and I put those in the shadier areas.
Crow built a huge 9 foot fence around what is to be our vegetable garden. We planted six fruit trees there (2 plum, 2 cherry, 2 peach) this past weekend. I planted tomatoes, peppers, hot peppers, and some basil. We still have some other veggies to plant–lettuce, spinach, corn, squash. I admit that the garden was a little over ambitious… But… why not?
I competed in Calvin’s Challenge with a migraine headache and the left-overs of a flu. I felt awful the first 70 or so miles of that ride. I couldn’t eat because I felt nauseous. I almost SAG’ed out in the middle of the second 50 mile loop. But after laying down at the rest stop for a bit, and sucking down one of those awful goo gel pack things (which was strangely inoffensive in my state), I found a second wind (called a tailwind) and I completed the entire 12 hour race with 122 miles. Not as grand as 2011′s 154 miles, but still a notable effort considering how sick I felt for the greater part of that ride. And I won a silver medal!! There were only two women in my age group.
(Somehow the words of my friend Joanna keep coming to mind, “Heidi, if you used half the effort you do in cycling with your writing, you’d be a star.” Ha. Probably true. Where’s the stubborn tenacity I have while riding when I’m writing?)
I commuted to work by bike once thus far.
I sold my Stow house at the beginning of May! No more paying 1.5 mortgages! No more payments to utilities I wasn’t using. I was a little sad to let go of the house, though, after all the work and money I’d put into it. I’d transformed it nearly into something that was my own. The kitchen–the one big room I never got to remodeling–was just a sad reminder of the dreams I had for it. I hope the new people do something fabulous with it. I like where I’m living better now… But I believe I was actually attached to the Stow house.
It’s been a journey these last several months. A bit of change. Some adjustment.
I’ve noticed I’ve started falling into new patterns. Older ones left over from perhaps my life with Mike are falling away. It’s a lot less painful than I thought it would be.
People are wrong when they say that a relationship doesn’t change you. Or that it shouldn’t change you. The fact of the matter is, when two people come together, they become an entirely different being at some point. A new person exposes you to new experiences. You find new interests together. You get into new habits together. You change some of your old habits to accommodate the other person. And vise versa, if it works. It has to go both ways to work. There’s an adjustment period… But then one day you catch yourself enjoying gardening, picking up new catch phrases from the other person, making references on you and he understand. Sometimes you even catch yourself doing the laundry differently (I used to wash everything in cold!). It’s weird. But exhilarating.
Slowly, bit by bit, the wedding details are falling into place. I’m looking forward to my special day with Crow… and especially for the three weeks following where we will do what we do best together: explore the natural world. I’ve not had more than an extra day off of work since last summer and even that was a working (on the house) vacation. I really need some time away. I feel so tired and exhausted.
I hope that when I return, I’ll feel fresh again about writing. I still want to do NaNoWriMo (though I’m not sure what I’ll write). I still want to take some bass lessons (it’s out of the question at the moment, I’m not going to throw myself even more off balance). I’ll do what I need to do to get back on track. And I’ll try to update this blog. For what that’s worth.
I joined a local writer’s group. They meet twice a month and I’ve already attended three meetings. I’ve really enjoyed working with them so far–they are kind, respectful, and insightful with their critiques. It reminds me a lot of how we critiqued each other in writing classes in college–how the Great Joyce Dyer, my favorite professor and adviser–taught us to critique. So far, I’ve just been involved as someone providing a critique of the submitted pieces. I have enjoyed this thoroughly–so many wonderful writers in our group! It’s inspiring, really, to be in the company of much great talent.
I’m submitting my own piece for review for the March 21st meeting.To be honest, I’m not even that nervous about it. I have an abundance of things I’ve been working on in the last year, between the novel I started in 2011 and my NaNoWriMo novel, and I’m really curious to see how an audience reacts to them. This group is really respectful and nice so I can’t imagine feeling upset or defensive about their input. As they said at the first meeting I attended, “It’s better to hear it from us than an editor.”
They are really constructive about pointing out plot flaws and inconsistencies. After having participated in two critiques now, I feel like if anything I need to improve my own critiquing skills. Part of the problem stems from my nervousness at talking solo in a big group of people who are all listening to me during the two minutes I’m allotted to speak to the author. I’m sure this nervousness will dissolve in time as I get used to the people in the group. But this nervousness often makes me forget what I wanted to say. I also think I’m not as detail-oriented when I read. However, I have been making notes of the things I question. Some of the people in the group are really, really detailed readers, though. That will be good for me when I submit something for them to read!
I think I’ve come to terms with the fact that I probably will never actually be a published writer (unless you count the manuals I’ve written as a technical writer as published). At this point, though, I’m just aiming at writing a novel to its completion, editing it, and then…?? We’ll see. If I have enough confidence in the end product, I might actually put myself on the path to real publication. I know it’s not easy, though, and there’s the very real possibility that no matter how many times I try, it may never happen, no matter how marvelous my story is. Many great talented people I know have tried and failed, and continue to fail, so I know it’s best not to get my hopes up for anything.
I’ll definitely self-publish (after some very strict editing). I know that’s not a real route to the kind of publication I desire, but it might be enough to fulfill me. At the end of the day, if you ask me why I write, it’s simply because I want to. I like to do it. And that’s all that’s important to me. So this is the year–despite all the crazy stuff I have going on–that I just focus on doing that writing and completing one of my projects. And then I’ll figure out what the next best move is to make.
(You have to understand that for me it’s better if I just focus on a short-term goal. I get overwhelmed by thinking about all the details of long-term goals. So I need to just focus on accomplishing one thing before going to the next level.)
I’m not giving up. I’m just being realistic. And that’s another sobering truth about being around other writers. The good thing, though, is that we all have each other for support. I think having people to be accountable to also makes me find the time to do the writing. Like anything else you want to do, despite loving to write, you still have to make a conscious effort to do it. (Oh how I long for those summers off that I had in my high school years!)
It feels good to be finally taking some action on one of my life’s goals. It’s too bad I took so long to get here. I truly think my summer of U2 was the catalyst. Following them around the country was one of the most spontaneous things I’ve ever done… The whole adventure woke up the little girl whose voice I let be stifled (by myself and by others). Now I’m dreaming out loud and I’m ignoring all the voices who snicker, scoff, or minimize my dreams as ridiculous. It’s my life and I’m taking command from here on out.
I had kind of a panic attack the other day because I thought, for just a few moments, about dying. I mean, really thought, not just one of those passing realizations you have that someday you will die. I imagined myself on my death bed, ill or old–I’m not sure which–and I tried very hard to think about how much I pain I’d have to be in to want to die.
You see, I’m not religious. I don’t buy into any particular system of faith. I call myself spiritual because I am fairly open to new ideas. I’d like to believe that there’s life after death. I’d like to believe a lot of things that involve faith. I’ve kind of made up my own religion, my own thoughts on what a higher being could be. But I know it’s all lies I tell myself to make myself feel better. I think that’s probably why religion never stuck to me very well… I’m not good at trusting anything on faith alone (hell, I don’t have faith in people to catch me which is why I’ve never successfully done a trust fall). So now matter how much I want to believe something, I just can’t. It’s how I’m wired.
When I look realistically at death, I realize that the most likely outcome is that my life will just end. It will be like falling asleep if it’s gentle and like being knocked out if it’s sudden, unexpected, or tragic. I had a taste of this notion when I hit a dog and crashed my bike on a commute home from work back when I lived in Denver. I don’t even remember anything other than the sensation of my bike wheel hitting the dog, and then the realization that I was going to crash, and then nothing. A big blank. I know my head hit the street from examining the huge dent on my bike helmet days later.
I woke up in an ambulance sometime after the accident. How much time went by? I’m not even sure. I figure at least 20 minutes to a half hour. I don’t know how called 911. Or when 911 was called. Or who found me on the street. But I woke in the ambulance to someone calling my name. (Thankfully, I always carry my wallet with ID one me.)
I was confused. I didn’t know where I’d been. The last thing I remembered upon reaching consciousness was waiting out a rain storm in a BP station about halfway between work and home. I didn’t understand why I was in an ambulance. People were working hurriedly over me. I had an oxygen mask on and an IV in my arm. The ambulance rocked me ungracefully around as it bounced along the city streets.
“Do you remember what happened?” one of the paramedics asked. I must have given him a blank look because he prompted, “You hit a dog…?”
And suddenly it all came back to me in fast forward. The ride home, speeding up my bike to over 20mph in an attempt to make the radar speed limit sign in my neighborhood flash, the white blur moving from my the corner of my eye right into the street… I hit a dog! I remembered.
That event shook me to my core. What if I’d taken a fatal hit to the head? Thankfully, I always wear a helmet. But a helmet does not always save a person’s life. What if I’d died? I wouldn’t even know. I just never would have woken up. And the world would have gone on without me. Game over. Unlike a cat, or a video game, I am not awarded extra lives.
Every once in awhile, my mind slips to thoughts about my own death. I think about being on my death bed and realizing I’ve got little time left. I have witnessed people die before. I’ve seen them go in fear and against their will, as with my first husband, and I have seen them slip away peacefully, as with my Grandpa H. (and, as I heard told, my Grandma H. also went). It’s easier for me to imagine going out the way my husband did–fighting, unwilling–than to imagine going of my own free will as it seems my grandpa did. No matter how much I think about it, I cannot imagine being so worn down that I want to die. When I look at death, I see darkness and oblivion. Nevermore. And it scares the living crap out of me.
It’s hard to imagine the ceasing of one’s existence. I mean, unless you’re Bono or a Beatle or some other equally as famous person, the majority of the world does not care if you’re here or not. Most of the world does not even know you exist. It goes along fine without you. And yet the world is all that I know. And all I know is my single sliver of existence in the grand flow of time. When I think about all of history, anything that came before me is just as real to me as any story I’ve read in a book of fiction. I wasn’t there when the Civil War took place, I never knew a world in which racial segregation is the norm, and, while I’ve known people who have fought in World War II and Korea and even Vietnam, these events are really just a story to my frame of reference. All I know is the way the world was when I became aware within it (which was much later than the day I was born), all the events that have happened in my life time, and the way it is now. I imagine this experience is the same for everyone else as well.
Yet… it’s impossible for me to real absorb the idea of no longer being in the world. Of no longer being. How is that possible? I feel so real to myself. I’m full of thoughts and ideas and ponderings. Where does all this energy go when I’m gone? Does it just deflate like a balloon?
It likely does. I’ve seen it happen with my first husband who was a very real person to me and all those who knew him, but to those who only know him from my description, he’s as real as a book of fiction too.
It makes me rather sad.
I admit that I fear death. Not in any way that keeps me from doing the things that I love to do. I realize that if it happens, it happens. I can’t hide from death by never leaving my house. What I have trouble dealing with is the realization that no matter how alive and real I feel now, I am going to die someday. I think that is the fact I overlook a lot. I still think I’m immortal, I guess.
I’ve been ill before. I’ve had mind-splitting migraine headaches and I’ve doubled over with a really bad fever. I’ve had the chills, I’ve been so sick I was throwing up every half hour. I’ve dealt with depression issues. I lost my first husband at the age of 26 and suffered with about 4 years of grief-related depression. Through it all, I’ve never wanted to die.
I can’t fathom suicide. Volunteering yourself to die? No way.
No matter how bad life has gotten (since being a teenager when I couldn’t think things through like this), I’ve never wanted to end it all.
Stay in bed for weeks and not do anything but stare at the TV, sure.
But die? Never.
To want to die would require me assurance that life continued after death. And I don’t have that assurance. So for me there will always be fear and trepidation about death. I try not to think about us. I’m sure most of us don’t. But it’s always there, looming in the distance, and I never completely forget it. Every once in awhile, reality hits and I find myself staring down the gaping black maw of life’s terminus, and for just a second I feel like I know what it’s like to face death. My heart pounds. All the air in my lungs turns to a vacuum. I feel cold and alone.
It’s not that I think about death all the time. The reality of it just worms its way into my thoughts from time to time. Perhaps it’s when I feel most comfortable and happy with life that I’m reminded of that nothing lasts forever. I wish it did. Don’t we all, right?
Well, with any luck, it’s a long way off for me. I’m still aiming to live to be 100. Maybe by the time I get there, they’ll have found a “cure” for death. Or at least doubled the human lifespan through many medical advances. I think, though, that no matter how much time we had to live, we’d still feel it wasn’t enough. And maybe if we could live forever, we wouldn’t appreciate all the beauty and wonders in life enough. That’s what they say, anyway. I think I would still appreciate all the beauty and wonders of the universe. Forever is a nice number.
I’m not one to make resolutions because I’m really not good at following through. At the start of each new year, I feel like I have plenty of time to get a lot of things done. But then time has a way of slipping away from me. When I spend 40 hours a week at work and I’ve got a lot of other distractions and things to do, it takes a lot of effort to make headway on goals.
I guess that’s a cop-out. If I felt really motivated, I suppose I would manage my time better–fit my goals within those small spaces of time between the things I have to do in a day. I know if I spent a lot less time goofing off on, say, Facebook, I might actually squeeze some writing in. Or finish that book I started reading.
Well, I think the problem is that I’m motivated, but I have no idea where to harness that motivation. Story of my life. But at this moment, I’m going to harness that energy on some promises to myself for the coming year. Nothing grandiose. I’m starting off small.
1. Get back up to speed on my cycling. In 2012, I had an average mileage total of just over 2,000 miles. Though still a substantial amount of miles to cycle by most people’s standards, 2012 was not a particularly aggressive year for me. I only did about 3 rides between 60-100 miles. I did not climb very many hills; I even completely avoided Oak Hill all year (when I did it multiple times on Tuesday nights in 2011). I totally lacked confidence. I know I have a wedding coming up with three weeks of a honeymoon out west, so I can’t promise a higher quantity of miles, but I can promise higher quality of miles. Which means challenging myself on hills again, doing longer rides, and continuing my effort to commute to work more often. I will start by working to beat my previous record of 154 miles on Calvin’s Challenge, which I signed up for this year.
2. Writing. I make the promise to write more every year. With my first successful attempt at NaNoWriMo in 2012, I feel I’ve had a little kick in the ass. It made writing a novel seem like more of a reachable goal, even though I still have to spend a lot of time editing or doing more writing after the event. I met some fellow writers who helped motivate me and keep me on task.
I pledge to do NaNoWriMo again next year, possibly finally knocking out that memoir about my personal experience as a widow that I’ve always wanted to write. I think that the fast-paced environment of NaNo would force me to write the things I’ve been afraid to write to get that story out and it will help me to linger less on writing everything perfectly, which has always been one of my problems with that piece. Also, I think my perspective has changed a bit more positively as I enter into a new marriage and the clock starts again as a married woman. I always thought I couldn’t write that piece once I fell in love again, but I am starting to realize that I was probably completely wrong about that. Being in love again brings up a lot of emotions and memories from the first time that I didn’t know were there and it also reminds me more of the realities of a relationship which brings out more details about Mike and me that I forgot. It could be really interesting to see what thoughts time and new love bring to the surface. I’m not even sure yet what I have to say about these topics but I know the words are starting to form beneath my skin.
Besides NaNo, I just purchased a book about writing flash fiction which is a form of short story I’ve recently become interested in through listening religiously to a science-fiction podcast. I’d never heard of flash fiction before, but I’m now fascinated with the form. I liken it to be what haiku is to poetry–trying to express grand ideas in a few concise words. I’ve always loved how haiku forces me to condense my ideas into 17 syllables. So flash fiction will force me to condense an idea into much less words. (And as you can see from my blog entries, brevity is not my forte!)
I just purchased Scrivener–a software specifically designed for writers. Some of my fellow NaNos used it and recommended it. It’s really great for organizing your story because you write everything in “scenes” rather than making documents by chapter which is what I was going in my normal word processing software. You can easily move scenes around and organize them into folders. I can’t tell you how often I’ve struggled with organizing the chapters I write. Sometimes one chapter is too long and I want to split it out into a separate one. This is extremely annoying in a normal word processing software in which everything is contained in separate files. In Scrivener, it’s a snap to move a scene around or put it in a new folder and you can constantly see the ultimate arrangement in an outline bar on the side of the screen. There’s a section for writing character bios and an area for posting links to research items or jotting notes. When you are ready to create a manuscript, the text outputs to a number of file types from PDFs to MS Word documents.
I’m so enthused! I already set up my 2012 NaNo story in Scrivener to begin the process of rewriting and editing! Having the right tools definitely makes the work a lot more pleasurable. I still have to write the story myself, but at least I can access all my information easily and quickly rather than poking through multiple files trying to find stuff. Having used one tool that didn’t work for me for so long, it’s really refreshing to find a tool that was designed specifically with a writer’s needs in mind!
So. I think I’m moving slowly towards my writing goal. I’m certainly a lot less dormant than I’ve been. Things are looking up! And Crow has been so supportive about my writing that I just feel so overwhelmed with gratitude for having him in my life.
3. Bass Lessons. Over the last year, I’ve become convinced that I want to learn to play the bass guitar. Knowing this, my sweetie bought me a bass guitar for Christmas! I’m so excited to take on the challenge of learning a new instrument. I used to play viola in elementary school and I admit that I regret giving it up in middle school. Viola, like bass, is the unsung hero of a musical piece because it’s tune is not often noticed–never getting to take the solo or the main part–but without it the piece would just not sound the same. I like the idea of being the touch to a music piece that makes it perfect. I also like the throbbing sound of the bass. I can always identify it in a song, hone in on its singular beat, and I want so badly to play along with that music.
I pledge to give it my all in lessons with the bass and to not quit early. I had a stint learning guitar in college and I don’t think I gave it my all (though I did learn to play some of my favorite songs, like “Sunday Bloody Sunday”). I have my very own bass now and I need to give it the chance I should have given instruments before. I know my life is busy, but hopefully by the end of 2013 I’ll at least know how to play one song on my new bass.
4. Relax. I’m getting married this year. Eek! It’s going to be stressful. Very stressful. But I need to just let things roll off of me and remember that this wedding is not about all of the things in the periphery that might go wrong or cause stress. It’s about me and Crow and our commitment to each other. I need to just breathe, relax, and have fun when the day arrives. These are the moments to hang on to in the years ahead no matter what happens. The specific details of the day don’t matter. I will barely remember the mishaps; it’s the great moments in between that will eclipse all other memories.
I need to stop telling myself that we should have eloped or had a destination wedding. The moment for that decision has passed and we are now full-throttle into the planning of a full scale wedding. Let those thoughts of doubt go. They only cause conflict, confusion, and frustration between myself and the people who hear me utter them. The theme of my life is that I need to go forward bravely and confidently with decisions I makee and not second-guess myself every step of the way. It’s time to grow up. There is no time in life for second guesses or regrets.
A little yoga might help as well. Meditation. Lots of meditation.
I look forward to the year ahead. I think this will be a magical one for me (and Crow). Fiscal cliffs or no, I’m not letting anything stop me from having the time of my life while learning something new every day. It’s the year to work on becoming the person I want to be and growing with the person I love. I will win no matter what happens.
And if I make mistakes along the way, or life doesn’t work out the way I plan, that’s okay too. I’ve learned I can roll with the punches. As I’ve learned, forward is the only direction a person can go. So, onward, ho!
I rang in the New Year with a cold. It started Friday night and pretty much increased with intensity as the weekend went on.
Even still, I was determined to enjoy my favorite holiday out and about, like I always do, and, of course, I wanted to spend it with Crow. We decided not to go anywhere this year because we needed to save some money with all of our house and wedding expenses both ahead and in the rearview mirror. Fortunately, Akron has a First Night event that is a mere $10/person for an entire night of entertainment around the town. It seemed just the perfect thing to do.
So we looked at the schedule and picked out some events we’d like to attend. Then, Crow skillfully laid out a plan for where we needed to be and when. (I always seem to latch on to people who are better planners than me.) I took three Tylonel and some cough suppressant, stocked my coat pockets with kleenex and cough drops, and off we went! The event started at 6pm and we arrived at the first item on our schedule–a trivia contest–just a few minutes late. We watched six people play a round of trivia set up like Jeopardy (except that no one had to phrase their answers with “What is…” or “Who is?”) which had all local-themed categories like Akron Sports, Akron People, and Summit County. I would not have done very well in this game because, being relatively new to Akron, I’m not really up on the scene. It was fun to watch, though. And there were no real points taken so at the end of the game, everyone got a prize.
After the first round, the host called up another six players and Crow pulled me up to play. Totally against my own normal inclination to just sit back and quietly watch other people participate in something I secretly want to participate in but am too afraid of looking stupid and drawing attention to myself. The host gave us a choice of themes and Crow spoke up to vote for “toys” so we played a board with topics related to toys but also contained pop music and movies as categories. Once I got over the unfounded fear of looking stupid (we were all in the same boat), I answered a few questions and had some fun playing. In the end, Crow and I each chose for our prize the Akron passport which will get us into various events at local venues for free.
Next, we headed off to the Summit Artspace building where we got caricatures of us done. We also watched a little bit of Hal Walker‘s set. Hal is an amazingly talented local folk artist who also happens to be the music director at my church. I always enjoy watching his performances.
We then watched the University of Akron’s Steel Drum Band. Totally fun. Crow loves steel drums (even wants to own one himself) and I’ve loved steel drum music since I first experienced it on a trip to Trinidad & Tobago in college. I was there over Christmas time and to this day whenever I hear a Christmas carol, I can’t help but remember walking around the streets of Port of Spain and Scarborough hearing the same carol played on steel drums, reminding me that it was indeed winter and the Christmas season, which is something you tend to forget when you’re walking around in shorts in very tropical weather. We’re definitely going to have to check out more of this University of Akron Steel Drum Band in the future. Apparently they play concerts locally. I forgot how much fun it was. I seriously wanted to dance to that calypso beat but the crowd was generally kind of passive so I just took to bobbling my head in time with the music.
We really had a full night. After the steel drums, we got a ride on a horse drawn carriage downtown. It wasn’t a long ride–just down the street–and the wait was longer than the actual ride, but it was fun. We watched the last half of the Western Reserve Brass Band’s show. Trombones also jog a childhood memory…. My dad had one which he used to play as a kid. My dad taught us how to blow on it to make noise, which was probably his biggest mistake because my brother and I used to take great joy in “playing it.” By playing it, I mean, we made it sound like a dying elephant. Hours of noisy entertainment for youngsters while driving the adults crazy. Whenever I see actual musicians playing trombones, I wonder how they are able to make actual music from such a cantankerous instrument. More than any other brass instrument, I’m intrigued by the sounds of this instrument.
I was really amazed that by the time we left the brass band, it was already 11pm! Based on my previous experience at First Night, I thought there might be a lot of standing around with nothing to do. I guess I can attribute the flow of the evening to Crow’s planning. It was really a lot of fun. We watched a 25-minute ice sculpting competition outside Lock 3, and then waited the remaining 20 minutes out listening to the stuff going on at the main stage where they got a choir to lead us in a song. Then we had the magic countdown to midnight followed by fireworks. Crow and I danced with the music blared over the speakers to the fireworks show. It was magical and I felt just as content as I did in my single days when watching the fireworks display from the lodge at Holiday Valley. Well, actually, I was just as content but a lot less lonely!
Who knew I could have so much fun just staying at home for New Years? I have gone away for so many years I forgot that about the fun things my own locality has to offer. Anyway, I have this feeling that part of the fun always comes from who I’m with. Crow and I seem to have fun everywhere we go. I hope it’s always this way–that we have a sense of adventure and a willingness to try new things.
We stopped into the Lockview–my favorite restaurant–after the fireworks to have our first beer of the new year. In addition to great gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches, the Lockview has a vast beer selection in bottles and on draft. I ordered a Stone Arrogant Bastard; Crow, Bell’s Winter Ale. Unfortunately, my cold decided to get worse; my nose stuffed up badly and I could only taste the beer for about halfway through drinking it. But at least I could taste it for a little bit. I’d been eating wasabi peanuts all night in an attempt to clear my sinuses but not even that worked anymore. Bummer.
I spent my first day of the new year doing laundry and trying to fix the formatting of this blog. Apparently one of my pictures in either the last entry or my gravitar caused the sidebar to stop displaying correctly. I figured it out, I guess, by correctly some messy tags in the last entry and deleting my gravitar. In the process, I’ve also updated my template to a newer version that wordpress apparently released recently. Anyway, enjoy the new look.
I’ve been sneezing and blowing my nose all day. I’d like to hope that this last cold of 2012 becomes the last cold of 2013… but I’m not holding my breath. I have been having a rough time this past fall with colds. I think this is my fourth one since October. Ack.
Well, we finished the replacing the flooring in our house (wood) and we finally cleaned things up a bit so that we feel like we’re living like normal people, not out of boxes and all, and so we also spent some time decorating for Christmas. There is a tree in almost every room of the house! (I think the only rooms lacking a tree are in the basement and the master bedroom bath.)
So I thought I’d share some pictures of our (mostly Crow’s) handiwork…
Please pardon the mess in our office. We have ordered some nice hardwood desks and still await their arrival. At least we still have a nice blue tree to match the nice blue (Behr “Windjammer”– Crow’s pick) room.
Our first live tree together… And the most important as it is the one under which we place our presents.
Some ornaments we purchased in Frankenmuth…
Let’s have a look at those presents!
No Christmas is complete without Dr. McCoy decked out in his best festive attire!
And, of course, our “pop culture” tree appropriately in the library. This tree contains all of our goofy pop culture ornaments, many of which make sounds and/or perform an action. This is the fun tree where you get to go press buttons on all of the ornaments.
And let’s not forget the kitchen.
No post on the internet is complete without a cute picture of a cat… So my Nicki will do the honors…
Merry Christmas and happy holidays to everyone!! With lots of love from me and Crow!
I don’t know if anyone noticed, but under the “Mars Girl” title on the right-hand side of my blog page, I have made a little change… The description used to read:
Who is Mars Girl? I’m a young widow, avid cyclist, sometimes amateur astronomer, world traveler, and relisher of red wines.
It now reads (changes in bold):
Who is Mars Girl? I’m an avid cyclist, sometimes amateur astronomer, world traveler, and relisher of red wines and craft brews.
Well, it’s true. I’ve recently developed a taste for craft beers.
Oh, yes, and I’ve dropped “young widow” from the list of items describing me.
I decided it was time to stop identifying myself as a young widow. I’m not in a state of denial about my past. My new love and relationship doesn’t erase the pain of the past. Crow does not replace Mike in my heart. (He has his own place in my heart.) However, my world has changed. It’s undeniable. In a little over 7 months, I will be married for the second time in my life. I won’t be widowed, technically, any more. I will be someone who was widowed once. Someday, the one-time widowhood might be “a long, long time ago.” Hell, it already feels that way. This is good.
I thought about changing that paragraph to describe this scenario–something like an allusion to a phoenix rising from the ashes. Well, maybe not that dramatic. But I wanted to find words to describe what I feel I am: someone who prematurely and tragically lost the first love of her life, suffered a lot of pain, went through a lot of self-reflection, healed herself through avid cycling and the passage of time, learned to love life for herself by going out into the world and doing what she wanted, and then just so happened to find a wonderful man and fell in love again. But that’s a mouthful. And, also, it sounded too Hallmark channel for me. And a part of me is still sensitive to a recently widowed audience who would maybe have been a little disturbed by the language. I know it used to make me feel as if I couldn’t relate to the widow if they were finding themselves in a new relationship or getting remarried.
It is what is it is, as they say. I don’t want to be the voice for anyone else’s experience but my own. I’m glad I have a happy new beginning to my life. But it’s really just another of many new beginnings. Everything that happens to you in life is an opportunity for a new beginning. Even the tragic loss of a spouse. Some beginnings are happy, some are sad. Hopefully I’ll be lucky enough to have many happy new beginnings with Crow.
I’m lucky. Or fortunate. Whatever you want to call it. And I don’t for one second take any of that for granted. I’ve been given a chance to share my life with someone and I’m grateful.
And that’s that. I’m no longer a young widow, but soon-to-be a (not as young) wife.
Well, the good news is that I did complete 50K words and am therefore considered a NaNoWriMo winner!!
The bad news is that what I’ve written does not in any way constitute an actual novel. If I do want to do something with this story (ie, self-publish or publish), I’m going to need to do some major reworking. For one, in its form, my “novel” is basically a random collection of scenes with no real action taking place. I have a lot of speeches, a lot of character development, and a pretty good ending scene which I wrote on the last day to get my 50K with a sense of closure.
The problem is, I went into this challenge with a very small scattering of an idea for a story that needed to be a lot more fleshed out. I should have thought the whole thing through and wrote an outline–at least mentally. I don’t usually “write” an outline; it’s usually in my head. But I didn’t even have that. But in reworking this story, I definitely plan to write an outline. More on that in a few paragraphs.
When I started NaNo, I was sure everything would just start to flow out of my head. The first couple days were easy because the only thing I had for this story were what I considered then to be the opening scenes. I gathered from the immediate surge of words from my fellow NaNos that this is generally the case for everyone in those first couple days. Most likely, most writers have the start and end for the story already, too; it’s how to get from the great opening scene to the awesome ending scene that is often the murky area.
It was a struggle for me to get the 1,600 word count at first, though, because I was still trying to write like every single word counts. Which is how I always write. Which is probably why nothing I start ever gets done. That internal editor always nags me about word choice while I’m just struggling to get an idea on “paper.” I think a part of me always feels like every thing I write–from shopping lists to this blog–has to have substance and be brilliant.
The internal editor really restricts more than it allows you to create. And I know this from my writing classes in college. From reading the patron goddess of creative writing, Natalie Goldberg, I know that I’m supposed to just sit down and let ideas spew out of my head unrestricted, that doing such freewriting daily will actually build my writing muscle and free me from blocking myself with criticism.
But did I ever let myself actually write that way? Well, to some degree on this blog, in the entries I wrote in my journal when I had one in the past, and letters to my pen pals Sarah and Mr. Kincaid. And that’s because I’ve allowed myself to let go in those forms because it seems “okay” whereas when I’m trying to write a story it does not seem “okay.”
It took me about a week to figure out that I needed to say goodbye to my internal editor. She’s good for helping me craft my words, but she’s really lousy when it comes to trying to write 1600 words every single day. So every day that I sat down to write for NaNo, I had to come to terms with the fact that whatever I felt compelled to write at that particular moment was going into the word count regardless of quality. To do this, I had to give myself permission to write something that I knew might only help me understand the characters and may not ever be used in a finished final product.
I can’t describe to you how hard it was for me to do just that apparently simple task. It was a real struggle to tell myself I could just write a bunch of scenes because I was inspired to write them and it didn’t matter if I’d used them later. Of course, to a writer, these characters are real. So I had to remind myself that whether or not these scenes are usable, my characters were channeling through me events that really took place in their lives. It’s my job to sort through the rubble to string together a story.
I really am impressed how well I managed to keep it going despite the fact that I had no direction and I got behind twice for several days. As you can imagine, 1,600 words is not a lot by itself; however, two days behind puts you 3200 words behind. It adds up FAST. And before you know it, you feel overwhelmed. It’s when you’re behind that you really have to tell the editor to take a vacation so that you can just write.
I managed to write through Thanksgiving which was a real challenge. In my past as a single woman, Thanksgiving weekend was a big break for me to relax and enjoy myself. I usually wrote my annual Christmas letter and designed the card I would use. I would turn on a tv channel playing Christmas movies and start decorating my house. It was laid back and relaxed. But now that I am engaged (to a wonderful man, let us not forget), I must visit both my own family and his. Since his family lives near Bowling Green, approximately 2 hours away from home, a visit usually involves staying a few days.
I started that weekend behind (for the second time). But I was determined to drive up my word count and have fun visiting our families. So on Thanksgiving Day while Crow was driving from my parents’ house to his family’s house, I was typing away on my computer in the passenger seat. I wrote Friday evening after an entire day of shopping. I wrote on the way to and from Frankenmuth. I not only caught up, but I got a little ahead. And I never got behind again for the rest of the month. I’d say that was an accomplishment. If anything, it was a real testimony to my determination. At least I have that, if not actual talent!
Ironically, on the last day of writing, a real plot burst through my muddled brain for the first time since I started NaNoWriMo. The new idea actually invalidated how the novel started and many of the scenes I’d written during the month. I actually wasn’t depressed about this development because I think that the exercise of NaNoWriMo showed me that the direction I was going with the novel was not going to work. The new plot with the new setup I imagined is a lot more exciting, fun, and thrilling. I can’t believe it never occurred to me in the first place. And now, honestly, I can’t wait to start writing this novel again.
I wrote the ending scene as though the first half of the novel had actually been written with the new plotline. When I validated my word count online after writing that scene, I found I was just 200 words short of 50K. So I then wrote a scene for the very beginning of the novel using the new plot. That got me across the finish line with words to spare.
Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to work on the novel since. I had a lot of catching up on housework to do since my absolutely wonderful, sweet, supportive fiance took the brunt of the labor for the entire month of November. I love him for not begrudging me or making me feel bad about not pulling my weight with getting the house together. To top it off, he kept telling me NOT to quit. He gave me the confidence I needed to realize I could finish NaNoWriMo. And I love him so much for wanting me to succeed as a writer because he knows how important this dream is to me. Crow is not a man who believes that goals are impossible; he’s the type of person to just do what he wants, which is evidenced by the fact that he’s self-employed running his own business. He’s reminding me that dreams are still attainable and that if I want something badly enough, I really can reach for it. Where has this support been all my life? I’m so glad I’ve found it in him!
I also found a great support network in joining the local Akron NaNo group for write-ins. We’d go to Panera Bread on Mondays and Nervous Dog (a local coffee house chain) on Wednesdays. I missed all of the weekend write-ins due to commitments with the house, but one weekend Crow and I both sat in a Panera–he worked on stuff related to his job while I wrote–for several hours after running errands. It was so refreshing to be around other writers. We speak the same language! (Which primarily consists of talking about our characters as though they are real people which is crazy-talk to non-writers.)
At one of the last write-ins I attended, we had two writing “sprints”–10 and 20 minute time periods where we just had to write without thinking at all about content to boost the word count. It was a lot of fun and, again, a lesson in just getting the scene out of your head instead of toiling over every minute detail.
We also had a Facebook page where we cheered each other on virtually. That was great too because I was able to get ideas from other writers. One fellow writer even came up with the name for the rival band in my story! If I ever do get something published, I definitely have to write a dedication to these people because they helped me so much with just their conversations, questions, and often panicked chatter. Whenever someone felt down or defeated, and they posted on the page, everyone chimed in to motivate them to keep going. It was a real group effort to get us all to keep going and I was also motivated to get keep writing as I saw each of them hitting the 50K finish line.
Another inspiration I’ve had along the way is a band called Blondfire. I downloaded their Where The Kids Are EP and played it repeatedly for the last two weeks of NaNo because for some reason their sound really reminds me of how I envision the band in my story to sound. The lead singer is female–as is the lead singer in my fictional band–and she just has the sound of a space-age singer. The words to Where The Kids Are and Hide And Seek both sound kind like the kind of thing a young band would write about: hopes and dreams and trying to accomplish stardom. That EP got my juices flowing and still does when I play it. Music and writing to me go hand in hand; I’ve always been inspired to write from certain songs and albums. Music draws pictures in my head. (Past influences for stories I’ve written have been Depeche Mode’s Policy Of Truth and Duran Duran’s Rio! These both inspired novels I wrote in high school.)
So. Lessons learned? I think next year (oh, yes, there will be a next year for sure, this was too much fun) I will come into NaNo with a better developed story. I will need to think about my story longer, perhaps in October, and then start jotting down some notes. I think I can do a better job of actually having something somewhat coherent if given a complete plot. If I had used NaNo to write my rock star story (which, incidentally, was left unfinished at 27K words), I could have probably finished the whole novel, though, of course, it would have required some heavy editing. But the full story would be there.
Also: Next year I will hopefully not have major upgrades to do on my house. And I cannot book up my schedule very much in November.
Whether I ever write anything that is publishable is not the point. The point is, I had fun. And I finally stopped bemoaning the fact that I want to write and I actually sat down and wrote. That was definitely worth the whole exercise. I needed NaNoWriMo to motivate me to make action out of my talk. And now I can say I’m a novelist and no one can dispute it. Yup. (Published novelist, however, is another thing all together.)