Thursday, May 31, 2007
My so-easy-a-monkey-can-do-it evening job has fallen victim to a hospital wide layoff. I'll still have my one day a week position, but the real bulk of my paycheck came from the 12 hours I worked in the evenings.

So, on to new things. Though, I can't seem to find any local colleges hiring adjunct faculty (of course, my search has been limited to the past hour and a half since learning about the layoff, so this assumption may be premature.)

Also annoying - my cell phone broke. It has been calling people at random from my contact list...only to let them talk to me, but not be able to hear me. All of the conversations are one sided and annoyed "Hellloooo...Hello? Why are you calling?"

In a thesis update, the bound copy was due to the office by today - but considering that I have not yet received my manuscript back, it's not yet bound, let alone delivered. I did get a very kind note informing me that the reason for the delay was because the reader was quite happy with my work and wanted to write a response worthy of my accomplishment.

Nothing quite soothes an impatient writer like the stroking of their ego.

And on that note, I'm off to continue my job search.

Anyone want to pay me to teach you how to write?

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Friday, May 25, 2007
On My Mind...
Let's play a game called Where in the World is Mella's Thesis?

According to the reader reviewing it, whom I emailed on Tuesday: My thesis was received, read, and is "very well done." It is not, however, in my mailbox yet. It was due back to me on Monday so that I might have, say a day or two to revise it before getting it bound and shipped to the department chair for is final review, less than a week from today. Have I mentioned I haven't even received it back yet?

Another thing on my mind? The specks of mouse droppings that I found in my silverware drawer this afternoon. Seriously. Sure, my son may not be potty trained yet, but at least even he knows that it's not polite to do his business on someones eating utensils.

The mouse had been caught by the time I returned from work tonight - but still. Ew. Ew. Ew.

Also, I'm spending a lot of time thinking ahead. To life after graduation. This is mostly inspired by two things:
A) Family and friends asking, repeatedly, So, what are you going to do with your degree?


B) Sallie Mae sending me bills reminding me that I will soon be returning to my previous state of sending her slices of my paycheck for the next decade or more, thus I need to start making more money.

Unfortunately, writing short stories isn't exactly lucrative.

And so, the big plan is to go back and rewrite, revise, and finish Revising Grace (which may or may not even be the title when I'm through) - finally.

In other writing news, I did finally hear back from the one very predictable "no" market that I submitted to. And, yes, it was a pleasant, though form, "No" - which is fine. It's the other's who have had my work for quite a bit longer, yet haven't responded, those are the ones bothering me.

There are other things on my mind, things much too large for this scattered-brain post.

They'll have to wait.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Question for Fellow-Mama's
What are the top ten things you couldn't have survived your first year of parenthood without?

A couple of our best friends are having their first baby and when they asked for advice for building their baby registry, I couldn't even think of ten must-haves.

I know that my husband and I are a bit laid back when it comes to gadgets and gizmo's for child rearing, but you'd think that with two little ones (one still IN her first year), I could've at least come up with 10 things. Not so.

On the flip side, I was quickly able to name off several things we most certainly didn't use.

The big bulky swing, for example. Neither of my kids were fans of that. Or even the beloved Diaper Genie. Perhaps our son was just extraordinarily stinky (which is quite possible), but we just didn't find it all that useful in either containing the stench or adding in convenience to our lives. To the contrary, my husband bemoaned his chore of pulling a long chain, like dirty-diaper sausage links, from the bucket.

We've found that plastic grocery bags work just as well - same concept, and they're free.

Like I said though, we're really laid back, and we might be a bit overly frugal when it comes to things of this nature.

The only things I could think of to register for were diapers and wipes - because those are the only true definites. Your child will poo and you will need to clean it. Where you clean it, if the wipes are warmed in a warmer, or if they're pulled from a fancy diaper bag - those are all extras, non-essentials.

As for Pack 'n Play's and Strollers? Sure, I like ours. I'm glad we have them. The travel system is probably the most useful "big" item - we love the portability of newborns from car seat to stroller with just the click of a latch.

But, the Pack 'N Play? We probably should've used it more to make it more worth it. Lila can't stand it. It is useful for travel. Insta-crib. But even then, Lila is good to sleep just about anywhere we lay her, so long as it's safe. So even a Pack 'N Play for travel hasn't been a necessity.

And everything else is up to the personality of the child. The Boss loved pacifiers, Lila won't touch 'em. My kids love(d) their exersaucer - it trumps the swing ten-fold. But, that's also a matter of personality. My kids like to be up and in action, hands going, feet going, things moving at their command. Other kids? Maybe they're calmer, who knows? (I'm holding onto that swing, just in case I'm someday blessed with a snuggly little child who just wants to rock and listen to music...)

So, back to the question: What are the things you couldn't have survived the first year of parenthood without? And if some of your "must haves" are things I've listed as "non-essentials" - I'm interested to hear if they've been useful for you.

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Sunday, May 20, 2007
Coming Clean
(I wrote this the other night, then quickly filed it away as a draft. I wrote it only as a challenge to myself, to come clean about the things I never mention here - things that, in the grand scheme of things aren't terribly important, but are a part of who I am, and I've felt that by not expressing them, I've somehow been hiding them...)

I write because writer's have the luxury of hiding behind closed doors, between bookends, away from debate. Specifically, I write fiction because it is something completely free from the jurisdiction of reality, with all it's arguments, opinions, and misunderstandings. Even here, where I'm "open" about my life, I prefer to write about others, or school, or the poop my kid smeared all over his bedroom- when the reality is, it's only a shadow of who I am.

I'm nearly silent here about the things that keep my husband and I awake at night. The hours we spend discussing our world, politics, beliefs, the planet, the future. I'm quiet, because I so loathe debate that I'm almost considering turning off the comments box on this post. I'm quiet because while I know what I believe and why, I am not a great orator, and my gifting with words is for fiction only. And although I'm passionate and opinionated, I'm also compassionate and understanding and would have a terrible time trying to explain to someone why I think that certain choices are wrong.

Now you see? There's the beginning of my troubles - I believe that there is absolute right and wrong. It's something that, if someone knew nothing else about me, might make them turn away from the start. I'm quiet, because I never want to be the person who makes someone uncomfortable. I don't say much, because I'm more interested in knowing people than in being right at the end of an argument.

Having said all that - my writing, my family, this blog, everything that I say and do is sprung from the core values that I live by. And even if I never mention them here again, as an exercise in honesty in the otherwise oft-murky blogosphere, I'm going to just come out with them.

For the faithful readers of The Empty Sky, I don't suspect you'll find any surprises. But for me, this feeling of putting my thoughts and beliefs out there is actually quite terrifying. Surprises or not.

Here goes:

I'm a Christian. Not news, I know. But I feel the need to clarify. I am neither the televangelist watcher who hands out tracts on airplanes, nor am I the "special occasion" (Wedding/Funeral/Christmas/Easter) church goer. I am born again, baptised and passionate about God and raising my family according the guidance given us in the Bible. Had I not met my husband, I planned on being a (probably single) missionary traveling around Eastern Europe, putting my hands and heart to the best possible use.

I am pro-life, and strongly so. And while I mean it in the obvious sense, that I'm against abortion, I also mean that I am for all of human life. If ever there is a question where life is in the balance, I prefer to err on the side of life.

Now for the tough one, especially as I was raised in the midnight blue state of Massachusetts. Though I first registered as an independent - I am married to a card carrying member of the GOP, and I cannot foresee a time in the near future when I could ever vote democrat. (Please, don't shoot.) Of course, this doesn't mean that I adore all Republicans either. I am not a blind voter.

Speaking of which, I'm just going to sputter these out quickly and move on: I am against big government, against amnesty for people who have broken the law to establish themselves in our country and could potentially wind up living off of our tax dollars sooner, for having cheated the system. I like democracy, I like the constitution and while our government is flawed (not referring to the specific administration that's bungling things at the moment - but the principles of our government at their core), it has great potential, and I fear for the future if we lean too far in either direction.

And because it has been in the news lately - I believe in climate-change and in being responsible with the habitat we have been provided with. Having said that, I also fall into the category of people who believe that it is a natural occurrence, that the planet goes through warming and cooling periods and that things are being spun, stretched and pushed in an alarmist manner. (Note: You still won't see me tossing litter from my private jet as I fill the sky with CO2 anytime soon.)

I'm ever aware that while I do have these opinions on life and politics, that things are always changing, new facts presenting themselves, new discoveries made, and I so I don't ever let myself sit too comfortably on my opinions. Perhaps another reason why I don't share them often...or, ever.

My faith, however, is unwavering. And though the world may change, God does not.

I'm sure there are more confessions, opinions, beliefs that I should/could/would say, but it's midnight and I am spent.

If you've read this far - I can very nearly promise you that you'll never read anything even remotely this blunt, political and potentially controversial again. As I said, this was an exercise - one that I've been considering for quite some time. Coming clean.

Thank you for reading. Stay tuned, The Empty Sky will return with lighter blogger-fare momentarily.

(Also, because I do so loathe debates, I have decided to turn the comment box off on this one. This was more of a challenge for myself than an attempt to instigate political/religious/cultural debate - not that that's a bad thing. If you do have anything you'd like to say, please do drop me a note - my email address is in my profile.)

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Saturday, May 19, 2007
Mailbox still empty. Even after I walked all the way out to it in the rain yesterday afternoon. No thesis.

Also, still not a word from any of the submissions I sent. Though, I did see that the markets are still alive and well - sending out rejections for sub's that were sent well after mine (thanks Duotrope!) It's either a good sign, a sign that my manuscript was lost, or it could mean nothing at all and I may receive a "your submission made it far in our editorial process, but unfortunately it does not fit our current needs," type rejection.

I suppose we go back to waiting. At least the thesis should be here in the next day or two.

And in the meantime, it's the weekend and I've got an art show to check out and a house to clean and time to be spent lolling around doing nothing of importance with my husband and children - might as well enjoy the quiet time before the thesis does arrive.


Thursday, May 17, 2007
Why I am a Petty and Impatient Woman
A couple of our friends are getting married in a few months. Great friends. The type of friends who help you move, or help your family put the dock in the lake summer after summer. The type of friends who come to your house with dinner and a movie to keep your mind off of terrible things, like loss.

My husband and I are in the wedding party, happy to be so. As I've said, these are great friends. So why is it that I'm so petty as to whine about needing to dye shoes or alter a dress? Certainly, I never heard a squawk out of my eight bridesmaids when they had to squirm around in their strapless little numbers.

Maybe it's the hormones - ugly, make-you-cranky, hormones - but earlier today, I was directed to their wedding site, where they have a listing of their wedding party. A who's who, so to speak, listing how we know the couple and interesting information about each person. For most of the people - it lists school's graduated from, degree's in process, goals attained - for me? "We all met in college. Mel married Vin. She lives with him and her two kids."


I know I shouldn't be petty, and as far as the site is concerned, it's hardly important. It's just the idea that this is how a very good friend of ours knows me. I'm a wife and I'm a mom. Forget that I'm weeks away from finishing my MFA, that I work 20+ hours a week outside the home, and am finally having some success as an emerging writer.

Nope, I just live with my husband and change diapers.

Like I said, it's probably just that time of the month (I wish I wasn't a walking cliche in that regard, but it's true) - and it's not important how a bridal registry website has portrayed me. It's just me - being petty.

Now, onto the impatient part of this post.

I am not cut out for a writing career. It requires a well of patience that I simply do not have. Knowing this when I first decided to submit, I specifically chose magazines with records of expedience. Now, nearly 70 days later - I'm still checking my inbox and mailbox daily with anticipation.

At this point, I'd just like verification that they even got my submission in the first place - forget acceptance. I just want to be free from this burden of waiting.

Adding to the list of things I'm impatient for, my thesis reader (an author that I greatly respect) is due to have my thesis returned to me with her notes and comments any day now (but not today - I already checked.)

I feel like I'm standing in line at the DMV - the sort of raw, irritable impatience that comes from florescent lights and people sneezing in your bubble of personal space.

And on that note, Ms. Petty McCranky-Pants who lives with her husband and changes diapers, needs to go...well... change a diaper.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Little Lila Bean
I can hardly believe she's already six months old.

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I drive by my past once a week. It's spread out like a necklace, link-to-link, as I travel the short stretch between my mothers house and my office. Down the rural route that I once thought was the be-all and end-all of roads in our state (and was later shocked to discover that my husband had never even driven on it) - my past winks at me at each turn.

First, the building that brought our family to the area - a twice (or thrice) bought and sold office building where my father's van spent nearly a decade, parked by the back door. I would wave at it from the backseat of my mother's car if we happened to pass by while he was working.

Just beyond the parking lot is a pair of tennis courts and an athletic field - where I took gym classes and played soccer. The booth at the top of the stands is now orange with large black tiger paws, but the field remains the same. Pepsi-cola scoreboard towering over a football length field, circled by a pummeled gravel track.

Keep driving. Pass by the playground where I worked in an after school program, where I swung barefoot at midnight with friends as a teenager, where I went on warm spring afternoons with my preschool class. Next, of course, is the preschool - followed by the corner store where we bought penny candy, sucked on smarties.

Keep driving. I pass the building where we held our rehearsal dinner for our wedding - it's now an office park. Two buildings down is the hall where I sat through Mother's Day luncheons, eating swollen ziti with fellow girl scouts. It's also the hall where five years ago, I danced my first dance with my husband.

Keep driving. Pass the best soft-serve ice cream you'll ever taste - but never will. It's now an Enterprise Rental Car office. Then there's shell of the grocery store that once fired me over a stolen kiwi. Then there's the Wendy's that popped up on the town line and prompted the McDonald's on Main Street to hang banners and flags - terrified of losing it's place as the fast food heart of the town.

Keep going beyond the town and there are small shops I went with my mother - then the private school she worked at - and ultimately, I arrive at the hospital she works at now. The hospital that gave me my first job, the first job I quit. The building where both of my children have been born. The children I dropped off this morning, at the start of day, at my mother's house, before driving through two decades of my life, and arriving here.

No wonder they seem so far.

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Sunday, May 13, 2007
Things I did not
I did not write a word this weekend. (Here, there or anywhere.)

I did not shower yesterday. (The Boss doesn't mind if his playmate is unkempt. Most of the time, he doesn't even have pants on himself, so who is he to judge?)

I did not need to raise my voice or put anyone in time out.

I did not get dressed before opening my mother's day cards from my two children (Lila's was only slightly damp from being gnawed on...)

I did not make The Boss go directly back to bed when he woke up at 9:30 last night and wanted to sit and snuggle on the couch for a few minutes.

I did not make fancy dinners or set the table.

I did not run the dishwasher.

I did not give into Mommy-guilt or wife-guilt or aspiring-writer guilt, or I-ate-too-much guilt.

And it felt good - a mother's day gift to myself.

Friday, May 11, 2007
It's Out
The short short story collection that I'm in is out now at Amazon. Really, this isn't a shameless plug for you to buy the book - I don't profit from it, the story in it is an early, short and unrevised version of a story that I've since posted at The Stealing Season, and I'm not going to be buying a copy myself (they're sending me a free one anyway.) I'm just happy to see it up at a place like Amazon.

Maybe sometime soon the publisher's will make it so that we can "search inside the book" on Amazon, and you can read the story that way. (Or just wait 'till I have a my own short story collection published, someday...)

Wednesday, May 09, 2007
I've set somewhat arbitrary deadlines (upcoming journal submission periods ending, contests postmark dates approaching, etc.)

And so, today's task is to write. Something eloquent, and perhaps purposeful. To gather my pile of letters and divide them into words, then line them up, over and over until something appears. A picture, perhaps. Like one of those magic images that only comes into focus when blurred. I'm staring at this page, and waiting for something brilliant to appear.

Coffee has been drunk. Children dropped off with Memere. All assignments, revisions, lesson plans - everything, sealed, stamped, sent. Nothing left to do go to the place where it all begins: My fingers on a keyboard.

Now...any plot suggestions for me?

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I'm Not Catholic
But I like this Pope.

"...Life is beautiful, it is not something to doubt but it is a gift, even when it is lived in difficult circumstances. It is always a gift."


Tuesday, May 08, 2007
Because It Always Comes Back to This...
The Boss drags me to his toy area to play trucks, then leaves me and runs off to the kitchen. This behavior isn't that unusual for him. He has a tendency to move me places and then go off somewhere else. This time though, he returns, bringing with him a toy train and a definite stink.

"Hey, did you poop?"

He avoids eye contact and shakes his head, settling down beside me with his train. "Choo Choo!"

"Uh huh, that's a choo-choo. Good." I nod and lean closer to him, touching his diaper for a peek, but he stops me.

"No," he says, swatting my hand away and shaking his head. "I fart."

Nine times out of ten, he answers a question by repeating the question - to the point that my husband and I have questioned whether or not he's even listening. Apparently, he is. And apparently, when he does answer the question, he's lying.

Because that was not a pleasant diaper to change.

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Saturday, May 05, 2007
I've been very inward.

This is a natural for me. After intense periods of socializing, I draw back into myself. Think, write, find amusement in quiet things (and I've learned to accept the not so quiet ones as well, as is necessary with The Boss - whose silence is a sign of something awry, bookshelf torn apart or fingers near electric sockets.)

In the past, these periods of quiet have led me to write here. But lately, I've not had the slightest desire. So I haven't, (save an entry about a supermarket harpist,) for fear of forcing something. Writing blather just for the sake of it...just to make sure the blog still had a pulse.

This morning is the first that I've felt a twinge of desire - perhaps it's the beginning of the long crawl out of myself. Before it goes away...

Brief glimpses of the past couple of weeks:

...Push-ups. I've found that I can do ten regular, infinite girly.

...There's a small train museum in Danbury Connecticut that will charge you $6 to walk around their depot and press buttons to activate elaborate model train landscapes and look at pictures of the olden days of rail, or their photo collage of the time that Hitchcock used their depot in one of his movies. This might not seem worth it, however, if you have a small child who has been pent up in a hotel room for a day, they also boast a corner filled with train toys that will entertain him for at least an hour. In my opinion, six dollars well spent.

...Television is exhausting. While we were away, our DVR filled itself and we've been working (and it has felt like work) to watch the programs and purge them from the machine. After reading a post about wallets and DVR's over at Trapped in Colorado I'm stunned at the number of shows that DVR allows us to watch. We record too much. If something looks like it might be worthwhile, we record it, along with our weekly recordings of our other shows. Pre-DVR, we watched maybe two or three hours of television a week - tops. And that was only if we managed to catch "our shows." Now, with the convenience of watching things whenever we want rather than sticking to a programmed schedule, we're a mess of scripted madness.

...We've begun disciplining. The Boss has reached an age of understanding and it's time to begin enforcing rules, to become (gulp) parents, in the sense that what we say goes. Because if it doesn't, then we're going to lose him down a street somewhere, he'll run off our yard and just keep going, despite our calling out after him. He doesn't listen to No, doesn't stop when we yell stop - and he's old enough to learn that he needs to. For his own protection, we need to become the bad guys. It's hard. I don't like it. But it's necessary. I'm not from the camp of being buddies rather than parents. Of course, I'm not a drill sargent either.

...I miss living near the ocean and walking along the coastline with my friends. Not some glamorous oceanfront, but a concrete sidewalk lining a mediocre strip of gravely sand - a shoreline boarding a cold ocean that no one swims in for fear of contamination. Still, it's springtime, and I miss it. Cool salty wind and conversations between best friends.

...I've seen approximately twelve ants in the past two days. Mostly teeny-ones that scurry away from my fingertips as I move down to crush them - but also two big ones, carpenters, milling around in my son's play area. I am not pleased.

...My son has just brought me an empty pizza box (perhaps not the best thing to have out considering my previous mention of ants...but I swear, he pulled it from the trash. Ugh. Now that doesn't paint a pretty picture either, does it?) Now, Lila is stirring.

Time to go, hopefully not to vanish again...

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007
Peripheral Vision
I heard a harpist at the grocery store today. Plunked down between produce and express checkout, she plucked soothing melodies while I debated whether or not to scoop-up the orange-tinted grape tomatoes from the salad bar.

I didn't even realize she was there, didn't appreciate her music as being anything more than the static muzack that most stores buzz through their overhead speakers whilst we shop for canned goods or squeeze melons and heads of cabbage.

It wasn't until I passed her with my salad in a plastic bag. While paying, she had been right behind me, and while making my salad, she had been in front of me - but it wasn't until I was walking past her that I finally saw, finally made the connection that she and the music had been right there all along.

I love those sort of unexpected moments, caught ever-so-briefly from the corner of my eyes.