Wednesday, February 28, 2007
States of Mind
I'm in music. In swells of sound, washed away by rhythm, moved and restored. Brought back to the shore.

I'm in books. Lost between pages, found in other places, times and then returned. Led down the path to home.

I'm in sleep. In twisted sheets and blankets, pressing palms, cheeks, closed eyelids against the gray veil, the slip between sleep and wake. And then I am crossed over. The baby's crying.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Seeking Failure?
While skimming through things over at Duotrope, I realized that the particular literary magazine I have my sights set on is ranked as the #1 most difficult market for short stories. Yet, I'm completely undeterred.


Is it arrogance on my part - or is it that it's somehow safer to submit work to a place where failure is almost guaranteed? So that when my work isn't accepted, I can shrug it off and say "Well, it is the hardest market for short-stories."

I'm not sure. Don't think it really matters, actually. If I'm going to do this whole writing thing - might as well shoot for the moon, right? And if my work doesn't land, at least it's launched.

I haven't submitted anything non-contest related yet. I need to do this - to really start acting like a professional as opposed to someone searching through millions of candy bars for that one golden ticket.

The plan, as of this moment, is to finish my thesis (still about 30 pages shy), then work on submitting several of the short stories to various markets (starting with the almost surefire failure market), and then proceed to work on the
novel that I've had on a shelf for the past two years. Who knows, perhaps it is something worth going back to and finishing. (The editor at FC that I worked with has been sending me responses to my story, several of which have indicated that they'd like to read a novel of mine...and, I'd love to oblige them. Of course, I'd also love to just finish a novel for myself anyhow.)


Monday, February 26, 2007
Ha ha!
Let me preface this by explaining that not only did I grow up relatively near to Boston, but also, near the lovely mill city of Lowell. Both cities are breeding grounds for two of the (no offense) strongest and least attractive accents known to man. Or at least, known to me.

My parents and extended family all speak with what I've come to refer to as the Merrimack Valley accent - they drop the letter 'r' from words, similar to the well known-Boston accent - the difference is, they find a better use for their r's (nothing goes to waste, mind you.) They hide r's at the end of words that require no r - the classic example is: I have an idea-r (which is pronounced I-Dear -and makes me cringe every time I hear it.)

There's also something in their inflection that's different from the typical Bostonian accent. I can't quite put my finger on it - the attitude is different? The way words are drawn out, sentences mumbled, something altogether...different.

The small town I grew up in has a muddled mixture of these two accents. And, I assure you - it ain't pretty. And so, when I was asked to narrate a skit in high school because my speaking voice was the most articulate in the class, I was over-the-moon proud. I can't explain why, except that perhaps it confirmed in some small way that I didn't entirely belong there.

Now, onto the real meat of this procrastination-post. I, as usual, was making the best use of my children's bedtime by bouncing around the blogosphere looking for something to spark my interest (and aide in my procrastination.)

Enter, the accent quiz. I was afraid that perhaps, having lived closer to each of the cities over the past ten years, I would've aquired some of the sloppy lost letters along the way. Not to fear. I am "without an accent" (And I put my faith fully in this ten question quiz - I firmly believe that it is the best indicator of speech patterns...)

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Midland

"You have a Midland accent" is just another way of saying "you don't have an accent." You probably are from the Midland (Pennsylvania, southern Ohio, southern Indiana, southern Illinois, and Missouri) but then for all we know you could be from Florida or Charleston or one of those big southern cities like Atlanta or Dallas. You have a good voice for TV and radio.

The West
North Central
The Northeast
The Inland North
The South
What American accent do you have?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

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Friday, February 23, 2007
Unfortunate Events...
You know how it is. You turn your back for one minute, to make some coffee, run to the bathroom, maybe blow your nose, you know, something quick and simple - and this happens:

And so you then put the culprit in lockdown for a few minutes, not as a punishment, but so that you can clean up the mess that has been made...only to walk in ten minutes later to find him pantless with poop everywhere, standing on top of a (poop smeared) toychest reaching a dirty finger toward the lightswitch.

(You can thank me for not taking pictures of the latter scenario...)

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Thursday, February 22, 2007
Oh Drat
It's part of something bigger.

I knew it was all along, it's part of the larger story I've been carrying with me for the past year and a half. I really just wanted to squeak by though and get it out - enough. Just enough to clear my mind. To let me sleep.

But, now that I've laid it down, I'm even more sure than I had been that it's part of something bigger. Not a novel or novella, but a part of a collection. The story itself is complete, but there are other stories, revolving around these characters, the before's and the after's, still lingering, still waiting in line for their place. Stories told from other's points-of-view, of Anna and Danny and of Cindy's backstory and her loss, and of Lily all grown up. Enough for a small collection all to themselves.

And so, drat. Not because I don't look forward to writing out these other stories - but because I can't right now, don't have time, energy, space enough in my life. Drat, because I'll be sleeping with them for perhaps another year and a half, before I'm able to write them out.


Wednesday, February 21, 2007
The Stealing Season, Finally
This is how I spent yesterday:

Reading. Editing. Hunched over the keyboard, squinting, back aching. Pause to change diaper. Pause to heat bottle. Pause to play. Feed. Clean. Back to reading. Editing. Hunching and typing. Feeling the end in sight - knowing it's in me, finally.


After nearly a year and a half of living with these characters, I have the first draft completed. It's the longest attempt at a short-story that I've done and as a story, it has morphed, numerous times - both intriguing and infuriating me.

If you have the time, the first draft can be read, here.

Now, I'm going to go and do the million things I didn't yesterday. Check various email accounts, blogs, websites. Resume my normal routine. Enjoy having my thought process uncluttered with the what-if's of these characters. Go to work for a few hours. Shower.

Perhaps not in that order.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Blessed, originally uploaded by Mellahoney.

Lazy Tuesday Morning Post.

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Sunday, February 18, 2007
Life as a parent is filled with questioning our choices. It's night's spent laying awake wondering "Did I double, no, triple check the label on that oatmeal bar I gave him...did it have nuts in it? We're not doing nuts yet. Oh no, I'm pretty sure there must've been nuts...why am I such a slacker? Why can't I even survive lunchtime without potentially killing my child?"

I live in a constant battle to keep Mommy-guilt in check. Constant. I need to breathe, in and out, to regain a sense of reality, the sense that not everything that I do to or with my child is going to impact him or her forever. Sometimes, an oatmeal bar is just an oatmeal bar.

And sometimes, watching an educational DVD, is just watching an educational DVD.

Yes. I let my son watch television. Shocking, I know. Give me a moment to breathe in and out, let my Mommy-guilt subside.


The trouble is, in the modern world there seems to be no moderation, no middle ground - there is nothing but the "Don't ever!" and the "Sure, I plop my kid in front of that thing seven, eight hours a day - cheapest babysitter around!"

And so, I'm here, often feeling alone, or as though the "Don't Ever" camp shrugs me off as a lazy parent (or one who is either uneducated about the 'risks' of television, or simply dismissive of them), while the "TV=Babysitter" camp can't understand why I don't let my son watch anything other than specific programs at specific times, with a specific purpose.

The truth is, I choose to believe that the way that my husband and I have integrated television into our child's routine is not going to harm his development - and that the benefits of it (his vocabulary has sky rocketed since introducing him to a DVD created by speech pathologists for children his age) will outway the potential risks. (Much like how I choose to have my children vaccinated, falling again into a debate. As a person who hates to debate, I'm fairly sure that if I'd known how many heated debates that there are always raging in the realm of parenthood, I might never have come.)

What it all boils down to is this: Mommy-guilt exists because parenting is complex and difficult and filled with decisions such as how much (if any) television should you let your child watch, how and when to potty-train, what type of shoes should you buy - the good one's perfectly fitted to his wide feet, or just a pair from Walmart because he'll out grow them soon anyway. Each of these seemingly small decisions will weigh on me, and find me as I'm tossing and turning and trying to sleep.

If my son doesn't love books, I'll blame myself for letting him watch Blues Clues. If he doesn't excel in sports, I'll blame myself for stunting his feet somehow with those darned cheap shoes. When really, the fact is, sometimes, some kids just don't like books when they grow up - television or not. Long before the idiot box was invented, there were kids trying to get out of doing their reading to go outside and play. And as for my son's athletic prowess? Maybe he'll prefer to be in the band.

Parenting is difficult because no matter the choices that we make, the outcomes may not be that which we have intended or hoped for.

Parenting is difficult because we can not protect our children from everything that can harm them - and trying to shield them from everything may wind up doing more harm than good.

Parenting is difficult because other parents, teachers, grandparents, cousins, your neighbors, the lady behind you in the grocery store - everyone - has an opinion that they feel is worth sharing, under the assumption that it is the key - the golden answer to unlock all the mysteries of what-if's - the way to avoid ever needing to feel Mommy-Guilt again.

The way to raise the best child possible.

But the fact is, I don't want to raise anyone else's best child possible. I want to raise my own.

And no matter how The Boss or Lila turn out, they're the best that I'll ever have. The best that God has given me, and I'll know that I've done my best with them out of service to Him.

And I'm ok with that. Because when it comes right down to it, to the two-in-the-morning moment of the soul when I'm laying awake replaying each of the choices I've made that day for my child, this is what I know beyond doubt:

I want my kids.

Kids with messy faces and who hide behind the couch when it's time to put their bibs on for lunch. Kids who pull off their diapers and bring them to me, proudly declaring Poop!

I want kids who toss play food behind the toy chest, then walk around the house asking where it went. Kids who pull down book after book after book and imitate cow sounds, duck sounds, bird sounds, clock sounds, then point to roofs and chimneys and trees and rivers and kids who know them all by name, even though their tongue's can't yet speak them clearly.

I want kids who ask for Blues Clues, but still play nicely when it's not turned on. Kids who dance around to The Laurie Berkner Band with their arms moving in perfect motion, mimicking the people on the TV. Kids who reach for the guitar and try to play along. Kids who pull out notebooks and hunt around the house on a scavenger hunt, in search of Blues Clues, but finding their own imagination leads them different places.

These are my kids. And I won't let Mommy-guilt take away the joy that they bring me - or take away the pride that I have in knowing that though I'm not perfect, by the grace of God, I'm doing OK.

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Anyone else...
Ever have an amazing, blissful, incredible day of writing - finishing a story that you didn't even know you had in you - but the burst of inspiration doesn't stop - it keeps pushing you straight through a second story, effortlessly as water dripping from your fingertips.

You're standing, arms outstretched, marveling in this downpour, this deluge of creativity...and then you hear a small voice, one outside of your head, the voice of your child in their exersaucer just beside you. And you look down into their huge eyes...and suddenly...the deluge disappears, and it's just dry-old-you, sitting at a desk with an empty container of fat free pudding, a cluttered word-document on the monitor, a glass half-full of warm ginger ale...and that little baby with the round eyes begging you to ditch it all and get on the floor.

And so you do.


Friday, February 16, 2007
Writer's ADD
Rather than accomplishing much of anything on either of the two stories that I have lingering between beginning and end (Scenes to Nowhere One and Two) - I spent much of today working on the beginning of yet another potential story for my Motherhood collection. I think rather than suffering from Writer's Block, I'm afflicted with Writer's ADD and I completely lack the ability to focus (and finish) anything.

I bought beer at the grocery store tonight (not much of a drinker, but I do bake a mean beer bread - and by "bake" I mean, I pour a can of beer into Beer Bread Mix), this is how the conversation went:

Girl: Can I see your ID? (I hand it to her, she checks it, looks at me, checks it again, types my birthday into the computer and proceeds to continue scanning the rest of my items)

Items are scanned, she pauses and looks at me curiously before telling me my total. There is a line forming behind me.

She finally speaks again: You look really young for your age.

Me: Huh? Oh...Um...(smile, a little confused)

Girl: I mean, I just didn't think you were that old. You really don't look like you're that old.

Me: Oh, well, you know. Uh. Thanks.

I left the store not sure how to digest the comment. I'm only twenty-seven. Should I be pleased that a 16 year old doesn't think I look "that" old, or should I be offended that a 16 year old thinks I look young, but am indeed "old."

Or should I not really care, but write about it to the blogosphere at large anyway, simply because it's killing time and keeping me from creating yet another world to add to my stack of spinning plates.

Yes, that's the one.

I'm off to jog now - and hopefully find some sort of conclusion for at least one of the now three stories I've got in progress.


Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Cafe Mella
I swear, I'm not just procrastinating. Ok, maybe that's not something I'd be comfortable saying in court - but regardless - as far as the new-story I referred to in my previous post, I'm venturing out of my comfort zone a little. I thought it would be nice to try something a little different, something to break any humdrum sort of rhythm in my collection (thesis) - and so I now have two dark, perhaps humurous(?) stories that are on the verge...yet not developed. I've labeled them, for time being "Scenes to Nowhere", and they're up on The Stealing Season if you'd like to see (and maybe offer some ideas for where you think they should go?)

I guess, the trouble I'm having is that this is the point in the creative process where I'd like to be sitting around a cafe with some friends discussing the various worlds that we're each building - but, this morning, there's a blizzard outside, a toddler screaming Momma and a baby whining to be picked up - welcome to Cafe Mella. If you have time, pull up a chair.

I'm a...

Between writing here and on stuff that I actually should be writing - I swear "I'll be off in a minute" is almost always coming out of my mouth. (And my husband is almost always asking "Are you on the computer, again?")

There's a new blogroll on the lefthand side of the page with a list of fellow Blogging Chick's, beneath my other list of favorite places to wander (which I also recommend most highly, for those who haven't already done some exploring from here...)

And now, I'm off to work on an entirely new short story for school, and for an upcoming contest deadline...wish me luck.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Good Reads...
My recent post, I Am From, was part of a writing exercise inspired by Mary over at Owlhaven. She ran a little contest and my attempt at the poem is up as one of the finalists. I highly recommend taking a moment to read over the other five finalists on her site - there is some deliciously descriptive, evocative writing to be found...

The Price of Things
I'm considering things - small and large. The roles I play, the weight that each has on myself as an individual - as an artist, a mother, a friend. And how I balance them all, the desires of my heart, with the rules of the world (must earn money to pay for home, feed children, etc) and the demands of parenthood.

A friend asked if it's too much - if there's a price to be paid for wanting it all. I shook my head and said, Of course not - it's completely possible to balance everything! And isn't it better that your children see you reaching for your dreams, in order to see that it's ok for them to reach for theirs?

Thinking about it though, I know I'm wrong. I know that logically speaking, there must be a price. No one is able to do all things and be all things that they want for themselves, and for those around them - not without something falling to the wayside.

And so, the question I found myself considering wasn't, is it possible, but is it worth it. Was getting married young worth it? Was having children before I established myself in my chosen "career" worth it?

I'm not far enough past my decisions to see the full impact that they'll have on shaping my life - but from where I am this answer is yes.

It's worth it to me, to see the world through my childrens eyes. To rediscover things I've long dismissed, filed away as things-known in the back of my mind. Grass can be sharp and prickly when you sit down on it with bare legs. Bugs are incredibly fascinating. Trucks are loud, (and sometimes blue, or yellow or green.) Sticky fingers will soon make sticky cheeks and clumpy hair. Laughter is contagious. Snow crunches when you step on it, and melts when you try to bring it inside.

All things that I know, have known for years - but watching as the realization breaks over my son's face is priceless - and completely worth every moment of quiet that I've lost - completely worth the wobbly sense of balance I've developed, straddling the line between the me I was before children, and the me that I am in their eyes.

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Monday, February 12, 2007
Sharing the Wealth
I have an entire email account solely devoted to housing messages I receive from a Creative Writing Opportunities list. The list sends between five and ten emails a day ranging with submission calls for everything from online journals to writing contests in major markets (Family Circle Contest was in there) as well as calls for chapbooks, story collections, poetry, essays, etc.

I've found it helpful, not only for inspiring me to write, but for guiding me toward specific markets where I can send my work (or where I hope to one day send my work...) If there are any other writer's out there interested in signing up - shoot me an email, it's a pretty nice resource (though, you may want to create a junk-account to house/organize the messages.)

Friday, February 09, 2007
Oh, If Only
The Boss bops around me while I'm huddled away in my little corner "office" - sometimes he dances around, other times he sits beside me with a toy or two, making enough noise to keep Lila from falling asleep in the bassinette across the room.

Last night, he showed more interest in my actual "work" - he stood and decided to watch what I was doing. Since staring at a word document isn't exactly interesting, I went to Flickr and showed him pictures of himself and Lila, my husband and I - to all of which he responded with gleeful squeals and an enthusiastic pointing: "Alex!" "Momma!" "Baby!"

Then, he got bored and settled back beside me with a toy truck. Vroom Vroom.

So, I went to check my various email accounts. While waiting for my Yahoo mail to load, he stood and pointed enthusiastically at the screen - "Momma! Momma! Momma!" I was confused at first, until I followed his finger to the advertisment on the right hand side of the screen of a bikini-clad brunette beauty advertising who-knows-what.

Awwww, that sweet boy.

He got extra kisses goodnight.


Thursday, February 08, 2007
At Last
It ain't pretty, but it's done.

(First draft, anyway...)

Big Smiles, originally uploaded by Mellahoney.

Baby cheeks, anyone?

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My morning started off wonderfully. Not only did my son manage to sleep soundless through the night, but he played quietly in his room until 9:30, whilst his sister and I snoozed.

And then, I checked my email and had another "Congratulations!" email. Not quite as great as winning the FC competition, but I did place 12th in the 2006 Writer's Digest Short-Short Story competition. 12th out of nearly 10,000 entries - I'll take it. And it's especially nice for my ego, since the story that won is one that got completely torn apart by my fellow students at my last workshop on campus. (Ha ha!)

So, I won a nifty $50 to spend at Writer's Digest (they have actually have a decent selection of books, so I found this morning...) and my story will be published in their
Short-Short Story Competition Collection, which features the top 25 winners. (The link is to last year's collection)


Wednesday, February 07, 2007
Sleepless Ramblings
The Boss has determined that sleep is overrated.

For the past two nights/wee-early hours of the morning, he has been screaming. Not just waking and fussing then falling back asleep - but ranting and raving and thrashing about whenever we attempt to return him to his bed.

It's not just his bed either, we attempted to get him to sleep in our bed last night - one AM desperation and exhaustion. He struggled and fussed and fidgeted until finally, he zonked out. A few hours later, we moved his sleeping body back to his own bed, only to hear him an hour later, up and screaming again.

When my husband went in to check on him, he was standing on his benchseat beside the window, just standing and screaming.

We're thinking it's nightmares (as he's also adverse to sleeping during naptime) - but if anyone has any other thoughts, or advice on why a not-sick two-year old would be freaking out (and tips on how to calm him down) please share.

Whatever it is, we're all crabby and miserable here.

Luckily though, sleep deprivation is one of the things that triggers me to write.

Speaking of writing - after the initial elation of seeing myself in print wore off, I was faced with a mild panic of "Ok, what's next?" And, I also thought about how I don't think I'll ever be able to read the story itself again, for fear of nitpicking it to death. I need to just accept that it's done and try to be satisfied with it.

It's odd, for as much as I love writing, I think it, the whole process of it, actually tortures me - yet without it I'd go insane.

Or maybe, it's without sleep that I go insane. Or do the two go hand in hand?

Either way, time to stop rambling, brew some coffee and get back to work...educational DVD's only distract little one's for so long.

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Tuesday, February 06, 2007
It's Official!
I'm published!

The March issue of Family Circle Magazine is out (or at least, it's in mailboxes - might take a few days for it to be on the news stands) and my story "The Simplest of Acts" is in it.

So much for anonymity (not that I have much here anyway) - you can go out and buy the magazine (and see my full name), and then write a wonderful letter to the editor telling her how much you loved the story and gosh darnit, they should ask that woman to write for them more.

Ok, you don't have to do that last part...but if you want to pick up the issue and see the story, that'd be cool.

Monday, February 05, 2007
I'm hiding from my story.

I had all the best of intentions of working on it several times over the past few days. Really, I did.

Saturday, for example, I had my husband reserve me a room at his hotel so that I could go and be away from everything that would distract me. I stopped off and bought a coffee, set up the 'ol laptop and settled in for a few solid hours of productive writing.

Turns out that you can't really whip a muse if you can't find it in the first place.

After three hours, about a hundred trips to the bathroom (small bladder and large coffee, never wise) and only one page of a disjointed scene that may or may not even wind up in the draft when it's complete, I packed it in. Called my husband, told him to order in because I was coming home, hungry and defeated.

And then yesterday, an entire afternoon slipped through my fingers. Between bouncing my baby on my stomach and cooing and giggling, and of course cuddling and soothing our not-quite-himself-could-be-sick pre-schooler (ack, yes, he has graduated from toddler to pre-schooler), somehow it was kick-off and all attempts at writing, real or imagined, ceased.

Other places that I hid from my story? The shower, for one. I stood there, scalding my back (oooh, I so adore hot showers) and thinking earnestly about the family in the story - hashing out details and working my way through scenes, collecting bits to bring with me to the computer whenever time allowed. I convinced myself that this was productive, even though all those fantastic bits of well-thought out inspiration never found their way to the page.

And now, tonight, I've sat at the computer for the past hour and a half with 16 pages of an incomplete story staring at me - and I'm actually hiding from it. Checking up on friends in the blogosphere, browsing other (finished) stories, looking through strangers pictures up on Flickr - anything to keep my mind somewhat creative and engaged, but hardly productive.

My husband's going to be home from his basketball game any minute, and I'll click off the computer and settle in to cuddle on the couch for a few minutes before I fall asleep. And then tomorrow, we'll do it all over again.

T-minus three days until it needs to be in the mail.


Sunday, February 04, 2007
Ever get really bored?

Wedding Collage originally uploaded by Mellahoney.

And then start going through your drawers, just desperate to find something to do?

We've been married almost five years, and I still haven't organized any of my wedding pictures, or bothered to put them in an album. So, today, I spread them out all over the room and started trying to arrange them. Then, I thought about how much I wished that digital camera's had been a little more "in" back when we got married - or that I had a scanner.

Having neither digital copies or a scanner, I did the next best thing, I took pictures of the pictures. Then I went and did the honeymoon pictures too.

Most productive naptime ever, I know.

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Friday, February 02, 2007
Update on my Musical Quest
Have downloaded an obscene amount of music in the past 48 hours - and am currently working through listening to it all. Thanks to everyone for the most excellent suggestions.

New stuff that I'm loving, thanks to suggestions:
Kt Tunstall - Eye to the Telescope
The Weepies - Say I Am You
The Trashcan Sinatras - Weightlifting (found via The Weepies suggestion, as a "similar" artist)
Snow Patrol - Eyes Open
Jack Johnson - (Multiple albums)
Tara Mclean - Passenger

And...that's just the beginning... more of your suggestions to look into. Again, much appreciated.

(We've still got 24 gigs to fill, so if you haven't left a suggestion yet, please do!)

Thursday, February 01, 2007
The Boss has been busy all day. Busy Busy Busy - basket's to toss, blocks to stack then demolish, and of course, phonecalls to make. Oh, the phonecalls.

We gave him this
phone over a year ago because, at the time, it looked like the same old-school Nextel model that my husband and I were rocking. It's a neat little toy, talks, plays music, and rings thirty seconds after you close it. This is the feature that kept my son busy this morning. Over, and over again. Phone Rings, he answers, and this conversation ensues:

(Phone Rings, Boss looks excitedly around the room with his hands up, like he's looking for the phone, even though he know's exactly where it is because he just put it down ten seconds ago)

Oh! Telephone!

(Answers phone)




Poo Poo?
(grabs at his diaper)

Oh... (drawn out, as though he's listening to the response to his poo poo question.)

Choo Choo! (Little fist up in the air, charging forward.)



(Pause. Look around the room.)

Poo Poo.


(Snaps phone shut, puts it down on the arm of the couch and takes off for his toy corner...R-I-N-G)

Oh! Telephone!

So goes my day. At least between his business calls and my daughter napping, I've had lots of time to waste looking for mean...doing lots of productive writing on that story that's due in a week. Yes, that. Lots and lots.