Wednesday, January 30, 2008

New Beginnings

Yesterday our youngest son moved out. Our baby has flown the nest. I had planned to drop him off and have a good cry. But I ended up spending the afternoon with him at his new digs, and by the time I left I had no desire to cry. He obviously enjoyed my company. But he also seemed so happy and relaxed in his new place and with the people he'll be rooming and working with, that it truly seemed like the best of both worlds. He'll be busy, happy and engaged, and then when we visit, he'll have all sorts of new things to tell us.

When I got home, our oldest was here for a visit, and later our middle son called. We enjoyed visiting with them. Then my husband and I spent a lovely evening and morning alone. It feels sort of like being honeymooners again, only richer, fuller.

It's sort of funny that people call this empty nesting, because when we were first married, we had a truly empty nest. No children whatsoever. Now we have children, and although they don't live here at the moment, they still fill our hearts and minds, and even house. It doesn't feel empty at all. It's full of so much. It's full of memories. It's full of their stuff, too! Often they come, which is lovely. But it is also full of possibilities, full of our love and laughter as we plan our future together again, but having filled the world with three wonderful young men!

Saturday, January 19, 2008


Today I got a rejection email for one of the articles I submitted. Getting rejected by email was a novelty, which held off the sting for a moment. Besides, as the old adage goes, if you don't have enough rejection letters to paper your walls, you just aren't trying. Not that you can paper your walls with emails, but you know what I mean. I read the rejection letter again, admiring the fact that it was from a real person, it wasn't just a form rejection. Every writer knows that rejection letters come in levels, and this one rated fairly high. Signed by someone, for one thing, who took the time to write a personal note. And the note was encouraging too, telling me that my story was "nicely written." Maybe that's not a rousing endorsement, but of course it is not going to be too rousing or she'd of accepted it. She also wished me success on finding a more suitable market to place my story with. So, all in all, one of the better rejection letters in my collection.

There's only so much you can pretty it up, though, because the truth is, rejection hurts. Writing is a creative process, and any time you put yourself out there, you secretly long to hear that the recipient is absolutely blown away by it, loves it, and intends to pay you piles of money and publish it immediately. But once you let people other than your mother read your work, that's not very realistic. So, the temptation is to quit writing, or at least quit submitting for publication. In writing, like in anything else, quitting will not get you where you want to be, though. As my teenage son told me, if you don't send out your work, it's an automatic "No." This is the same son who played Chess for years with his older brothers, his dad and me, knowing he couldn't win. He played anyway, focusing on learning from the different styles of each opponent, and now he's a formidable chess player, able to excel at defense and offense in the same game, and winning routinely. Besides, I've been writing since I could hold a pencil and I don't think quitting is even possible. As for submitting, that's the only way I'll ever get any better. I could write for myself forever but I am not a good judge of the merits of my work. I am apt to despair and think it's all junk, or fall in love with my words and refuse to see the flaws. I need unbiased opinions, what used to be called "Gentle Readers" to sharpen my skills. The discipline of submitting, of waiting for a verdict and not letting it destroy my confidence, of sending out the article to the next market on my list, will be, I'm convinced, the method by which I will become a professional writer and not just a scribbler. This is a business and if I want to make any money at it, I have to toughen up. I don't know if it's really possible not to take rejection personally, but I believe it is possible to put it in perspective and work harder and smarter to make the sale.

I know it can be done, because I've done it. I know it wasn't luck, because it has happened several times. I know I am a writer, I think in stories. I tried to do something more with it when the boys were little and the time just wasn't right. My husband assured me my time would come, reminding that to everything there is a season. I believe that season has come, and so I accept the rejections as part of the process of becoming an established author.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Home Sweet Gym

January and New Year's Resolution Management time. For me, that means exercise. I've gotten out of the habit over the holidays, but one thing that will make it easier this time is that I know it really works. I think a lot of people don't do it, not because they think they can't, but because they don't think it will do any good anyway. When every session leaves them breathless and aching, sleepy and hungry, it seems pointless. I used to feel that way too, but when I was diagnosed with diabetes and hypertension, I knew I had to do something. I wasn't sure what to do, though, that would really do any good. I couldn't afford a gym and had no way to get there anyway. I am no athlete and even if someone was chasing me, I would probably just try to talk my way out of it. So reading an article by the Joslin Diabetes Center that losing as little as 7% of my weight and doing moderate-intensity physical exercise could improve my major blood vessel function by 80% was just the news I needed to get motivated.

The first thing I did was walk every evening with my husband, up and down the road in front of our house. Sometimes it was hard to drag ourselves out, but once we got going, talking and enjoying the evening air, the time passed quite pleasantly, until soon we were truly looking forward to it. We usually walked around half an hour, although we didn't really time ourselves. Once I got used to that, I decided to add to it during the day. The only equipment I own is an exercise bike, and I thought I'd start out modestly at 5 minutes a day. Turned out that wasn't modest enough! The first day I did one minute with little problem and then had to be coached through the remaining hours - I mean 4 minutes- by my son. Yikes, that was a wake-up call! I kept on, though, and before long I could do 30 minutes at a time, especially if I had something good to read. In fact, I've discovered it is the perfect time to read the Bible!

One day my sister and I were talking about exercising and she reminisced about Richard Simmons tapes, which reminded me that I had a couple tucked away somewhere. I didn't know if they'd still work, but I dug them out and they did. What a blast! It was a nice alternative to the bike and I truly enjoyed dancing up a storm in my living room, where no one could see me. I also discovered The Body Electric, with Margaret Richards, on PBS. She was on way too early for me, but that's what they make VCR's for, right? She fantastic, in her 50's, but bursting with personality, looks wonderful, and does an intense but calm workout. These focused on stretches, weights, strength and endurance, balance - the sorts of things that look easy but aren't. At least not at first. She gives ways to vary the moves for intensity and always stresses correct form so you don't injure yourself. I hated it at first. It was torture. But I made a decision that I would not stop moving until she did. Maybe I could only do one push-up, or even half of one, but if I couldn't do any more pushups, I'd do something else, like stretch or march in place, until she went to the next exercise. Before long, I could do most of the repetitions on most exercises. Once I began doing her routines, I began dropping dress sizes. The pounds came off too, but very gradually. I'd heard muscle weighed more than fat, and I guess it is true, because once I began building muscle I didn't lose as many pounds. But that's when people began to notice and comment on how much weight I'd lost. Everything got redistributed or firmed up or something. I also began to feel really energetic, which of course fostered more activity. It was really nice to move because I wanted to! Around this time I discovered Leslie Sansone, who does walking tapes. Sounds weird to walk in your living room, but it's fun, and there isn't a bunch of hard choreography to learn. Everyone already knows how to walk, right? There are a few basic steps, but they are easy - things like side-steps, knee lifts and kicks. I also began trying out other tapes, just to change things up, which is good for the muscles and the morale. Now I've got a variety of tapes for different moods and energies.

The exercise became a habit, and it enriched my life so much. What had at first seemed too time-consuming actually began to give me extra time just because I had so much energy. My blood pressure and sugar levels improved greatly too, and my appetite actually dropped. I've come to see that exercise is a lot like brushing my teeth. I don't see drastic improvement from one day of brushing my teeth, either, but I just do it anyway, and one day I realize, hey, my teeth never fell out! Each day of exercise builds on the one before, and one day I realized I was strong and healthy and loving life. Really, exercise is a choice, one that I am realizing I can't live without.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Winter Day

The sun is shining down like a benediction from a flawless sky, sapphire-blue and cloudless. A variety of small birds sing their hearts out from sheer happiness. Several larger birds ride the wind currents, strong and powerful daredevils breathtaking in their freedom. Squirrels are clowning around on the power lines like tiny performers in a circus highwire act. Butterflies flutter by, weaving among the roses in tantalizing flashes of orange and yellow. The roses lift their faces to the sun, perfect buds in pink, red, white or yellow slowly opening, gently releasing their soft perfume into the beauty of the day. It is winter in Florida once again.

Monday, January 14, 2008


Well, the party was great. Everything worked out perfectly. Except for the cake, of course. I have finally accepted the fact that I make the worst cakes on the planet. Well, no, that's not really it - the cakes always taste amazing. It's the way they look that is the problem. I can do everything well up to the point where the cake comes out of the oven. I have a whole series of disaster cakes. There's the avalanche cake and the mudslide cake, depending on if it is white or chocolate. I have a volcano cake and an earthquake cake. The cakes stick, or they are uneven; one layer slides slowly off the other, or the cake splits in three parts and the icing runs into the middle. Oh, speaking of icing, it's my other problem. The first time I made buttercream frosting I was 13 years old, and I put in too much milk, causing the icing to run down the cake in rivulets. Now I err on the side of caution, and the icing is too thick to spread.

Aware of all my cake shortcomings, I decided to just go basic for the party, baking in a 9 x 13 pan, icing it with (thick) chocolate icing and tossing pink and white heart sprinkles all over the top. That actually worked out pretty well, but then, flush with success, I decided to make cupcakes. Not the big ones, the little, tiny ones. Usually I just spray the muffin tins with non-stick spray, but for some reason I thought it would be more "professional" to grease each little cup by hand. So I baked the cupcakes and only realized my mistake when I pulled them out of the oven. The over-filled cups mushroomed up, and because I hadn't gotten spray all over the top of the tin, the tops of the muffins stuck fast. I began scraping the edges of each with a spoon, to loosen them, and managed to get the tops off. Now they were in two parts and the tops looked dreadful. My husband rescued me by suggesting I cut the tops off neatly with a knife. Now what? I plopped a dollop of nice, thick icing on each muffin bottom and put it's top back on, creating "FrankenMuffin Surprise." They looked like they were aptly named, but tasted wonderful. The icing in the middle really was a nice surprise and they were the perfect size. They were a big hit at the party. Who knows, maybe I'll open a bakery some day with my horrible looking wonderful tasting treats.

Roses, Roses, Roses

Friday, January 11, 2008

Nifty Fifties

My husband and I are planning a birthday party for my mom. I don't remember her ever having a birthday party, even though she threw some great ones for me when I was a kid. I guess it's just too close to Christmas and everyone is partied out. She's turning 70 this year, though, and it's time she had a party.

We decided we needed a theme. A 70's party? Nah, that would just be too weird. That was when we were teenagers, so it can't possibly have been long enough ago to parody. Besides, Disco Duck, leisure suits and John Boy? Too far out, man. But mom was born between the Great Depression and World War II - not the most cheery party themes. Finally we hit upon a 50's party. Get hip, Daddy-O! The amateurs are gonna roll up their jeans and give it a whirl.

This has turned out to be a perfect theme, because there is plenty of material out there for it (and because it is all relatively cheap!). Of course some of it was pretty tacky. Five foot tall Elvis cling-sheets, inflatable juke-boxes and "You Ain't Nothing But a Hot Dog" vinyl record impersonations by Frank n' the Furters didn't make the cut. We stuck to simple things. Crepe paper and balloons, record albums and sock-hop music, really cute invitations with mom's picture from tenth grade on them, and a fantastic 5-ft. long Happy Birthday banner covered with little pictures of mom across the years. It never hurts to be married to a graphic artist at party time!

Well, the gingerale is chilling and I have the lime sherbet to complete the punch. The chocolate cake is out of the oven, but I need to make the icing. Since mom's never, to my knowledge, had a birthday party before, a lot is riding on this one, so I better go get busy. I'll let you know if her tears ('cause I know she's gonna cry) are from happiness or horror!

Thursday, January 10, 2008


Wow, I just learned something new about blogging today! I discovered that it really is important to put something in your profile. I guess I thought it would be blank until I got around to doing it, but it turns out I was an accountant from Afghanistan by default. Who knew?

It's not that easy doing a profile, either. For instance, you can list your favorite movies. But mine are everything from Anne of Green Gables and Little Women to Flushed Away and The Emporer's New Groove! And lots in between. In other words, very eclectic. And to add to the dilemma, we have a TV Guardian ("The Foul Language Filter" - we just call it our crud-meter), so I can watch the movies that are excellent except for the language. That has opened up a whole new category of movies, but I hesitate to recommend them, because without the crud-meter, there would be too much profanity to slog through.

As for books - I read everything from children's books to philosophy, history, sci-fi and fantasy, classics - it totally depends on the book. The only consistent thing is that I'm always reading something. Same with music - smooth jazz, contemporary Christian and all the hymns, country, marches, and I find techno relaxes me!

What about hobbies and interests? There is so much to interest me in this life. Writing, horses, gardening, esp. roses, cooking, playing snare drum, obviously reading and watching movies and listening to music. I homeschooled all of my children from K-12 and now I find being the mother of young adults endlessly interesting. I went to college in my early 40's and there's always more to learn. My husband and I have been married for 29 years and he still fascinates me. No matter how many times I read the Bible, I always learn something new.

I finally decided to just stick with the basics on the profile. Although I thoroughly enjoyed Accounting in college, I didn't end up becoming an accountant, and although I'd love to travel the world some day, I've never been to Afghanistan. Other than that, all bets are off!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Progress vs. Cows

The woods behind our neighborhood were long ago converted to cow pasture, but now a rather slow process has begun to upgrade pasture to a new neighborhood. The trees have all been removed and recently a lot of dirt was trucked in for a berm around the entire perimeter. They have been working very hard on it too, digging and piling the dirt with a small forklift type thing, then smoothing and shaping it with hand tools into a tall, sloping dirt barrier. There is still plenty of grass in the center, so someone let the cows back out to graze. The next time we checked, there were a dozen cows all together in one corner of the pasture, playing king of the hill on the nice, new berm! After they strolled around on top for awhile, they lumbered down the sides, evidentally deciding to save escaping with a quick hop over the fence for another day. I had to laugh because they reminded me of my friends and I when we were children, trying to sneak on construction sites to slide down the dirt piles. I could have given the work crew a heads up, though. The reason my back fence is just weeds now is because the cows ate all my morning glories!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Inaugural Posting

Here goes nothing - time to jump in and explore blogging. I've always kept a journal, but privately. This will be a whole new experience, but one I am looking forward to. I've just got to get up to speed on the ins and outs so I will close for now until I learn more.
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