Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Turning Stumbling Blocks into Stepping Stones
This is what I'm trying to do - as days go by without the peace of nap time - as nights go by spent away from home, working a job that will never be a career - as I try to find moments to sit and write.

If for no other reason than this - that I have never been so motivated to write and succeed at doing so, than I am at the moment - the entire MFA program was worth it.

Sure, my motivation is partially born from my natural inclination to scribble and doodle and spend time caring deeply about worlds that no one will ever know exist if I don't sit down and create them - but it is also born of a desperation and a desire to achieve that has not been there prior to now.

Perhaps it's from watching as Lila takes her first steps - how she falls and rises again and again. How she applauds herself in between, perhaps for learning better how to fall, for learning better how to anticipate and prepare herself for the inevitable, the soft bump of her bottom on the carpet, the tile, the wood planks of the floor. And there's the determination in her eyes as she pulls herself back up - focused only on using her strength, on straightening her legs, on balancing her weight, on doing everything in her control to reach her goal. She strives. She succeeds. She claps. And then her face pinches for a moment, as she prepares again for the fall, and we begin again. With applause.

I want to tell her that this is where I am too.

But there's time for that yet.

*Challenge update: Muddled. Been writing, not nearly enough, perhaps an average of 1100 words a day. But what has become interesting is how this (supposedly new) novel has begun to teach me about Grace - about her character and how perhaps there was more to her story that was waiting for the right quiet moment to present itself. And so, I say the writing is muddled, because, I'm not sure what it is that I'm writing anymore. Is it new? Or is it simply a back entrance to a work I thought I'd wandered too far away from?

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Monday, July 30, 2007
Conversations with The Boss
The Boss is standing on the edge of the yard, staring out into the wooded area. He begins babbling, and so I ask, Hey, who are you talking to?

I talk to the woods. He answers quickly. As though it were obvious. Ah, the woods. Of course, of course.

What does it say? I ask. He pauses for a long moment before answering.
It says Mama.

I should've known.

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Thursday, July 26, 2007
And We're Off...
Yesterday was day one of my writing challenge and I spent it, of course, avoiding all things writing related by going to a local amusement park - the same one that my parents took me to as a little girl. The Boss rode the same rides that I did in my childhood. He went in the same slow circles on speed boats and fire trucks and helicopters, ringing bells and firing wooden semi-automatics from the rear of space ships. Ah...childhood.

I'm going to give it to you straight...It was fun. Vastly more fun than typing.

So there.

(Ok, so I did manage to get down a little before we left.)

Total Word Count: 1531

Man. That's a L O N G way from 50K.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Darn you debt!
I've once again been forced to sell my soul to "the man" and interviewed this morning for an evening job that will help to recoup the money lost from the dissolution of my last one. The hours will be longer, the money not nearly as good, and the work more, well, work-like. I am not pleased.

Although, there is a slim, very slim, possibility that I might be able to sneak in a few spare moments here and there to sit and write, and this is what will keep me enthusiastic about the position. I long for a quiet place to write.

Speaking of which - Zhoen has challenged me to pound out 50,000 words in 30 days, sort of my own Nanowrimo (dubbed: Melnowrimo)

I accept the challenge - not without my doubts that it can be accomplished, but happy to have a goal. I'll post word counts here periodically, if not daily.

And so...back to the book.

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Monday, July 23, 2007
Bolt, Boo-Boo and Me
It's official, Lila is getting ready to leave me.

She's taking steps, not entirely successful beyond that first one yet, but considering that she has only just gone from standing on her own to taking that step in the span of a week, I think it's safe to say that by her first birthday she will be asking for keys to the car and then giving me attitude when I insist on a curfew.

The Boss has been both helpful and difficult as Lila has begun showing an interest in walking. He wants to hold her hands and guide her, as I do, but this often turns into the two of them on the floor and both of them whining. Lila, upset that she has been seemingly mauled by her brother, and The Boss, because he wants the sympathy that I give to Lila.

Boo Boos! He cries umpteen times a day. (And most emphatically after he has popped his sister off the head with a toy or tumbled himself while climbing over her on the carpet...)

But I don't mind his asking for me to kiss for his Boo-Boo's. It's amazing to me how quickly a gently laid pair of Mommy-lips can cure anything that ails him. If only it could always be so simple.

In writing news - I was struck recently with a new idea for a novel. Something that actually kept me excited about the prospect of coming and sitting here to write. I'll be at work tomorrow - and I plan on utilizing the time away from being Healer of All Things Boo-Boo, to hopefully make some headway on the first chapter or two.

I feel the need to tackle this aggressively, as though it were as simple as a short story - just purge it all onto paper and then tidy it up later. The process of finding an agent or publisher seems like such a daunting and lengthy one, that I fear if I don't get something prepared to begin it soon, it might never happen.

And since school loans and mortgages don't care what your potential is as a person - only how timely you can repay your debts, I must begin to think the same way. That potential as a writer is not the same as being a writer.

Oh sure, there is personal success, and I won't take the title of 'writer' away from myself, should I never even achieve monetary success. Because more than money, there is the satisfaction that you have communicated and created and used the giftings given you in this life. And that certainly extends beyond any monetary gain.

That being said though - monetary gain would certainly do this writer no harm, but perhaps even speed the writing process by allowing less time to be spent with finger's plugging the dams and more time with them tapping on keys.

And coffee. If I had more money I could drink better coffee in larger quantities - perhaps on the porch of a farm house, as my kids play in a field and I write the afternoon away on a fancy new laptop.

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Saturday, July 21, 2007
I don't read Redbook magazine. And I am aware that this sort of editing and photoshopping is the standard on, I suppose now, all of the covers that are displayed in all their glossy glory at supermarket checkout lines across the country. But, it's because Redbook has been the sort of magazine I associated with middle aged housewives, as opposed to anorexic fashionista wannabe's, that this particular cover photo caught my eye:

I followed the internet trail to the website where it originated and was simply aghast. The larger flashing image between before and after shows in stunning clarity how much work was put into making an already beautiful woman look like an uber-slim, overly made-up bizzaro being. There is even a laundry list of the specific changes made (ahem - arms drawn in, hair added, hand removed, to name a few...)

(A small warning though, the language at this site is, at times, offensive.)

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Friday, July 20, 2007
My Childhood Home
The ever-amazing Owlhaven (mother of ten and writer extraordinaire) has posted a call for stories about our childhood homes. To read her own story, click here.

If you post your own, let her (and I), know.


Our house was brown when we moved in, a two storied chocolate colored house perched at the top of a hill. Its windows were flanked with pale yellow shutters. The sloped driveway led to a tall pile of concrete steps. A workout just to reach the front door. The whole side yard was a hill, creating the perfect course for sledding in the winter.

There was an old birch tree at the edge of the lawn, pressed beside the neighbors chain linked fence. Beneath the tree, my sister and I would sit pulling up violets and smelling sweet, shiny tea leaves. When the lawn was neglected at the end of the summer, we'd lay in it, hidden between the tall stalks of browned grass, staring at the sky and waiting for the street lights to click on overhead.

Our backyard was shadowed by the house and lined with shrubbery and mounds of browned leaves. There were wild blueberry bushes - we'd pluck tart berries to bring in for pancakes, or to sit on the piano shaped rock and eat from our dirty palms.

In the winter, we could see clear through the bare trees into the backyards of the houses the next street over. In the summer, we did shows - performances with neighborhood children. Songs. Puppets. Crafts. We hung signs around the neighborhood. Offered snacks, Kool-aid.


First upon walking through the front door was the cream colored living room. The sunlight from the picture window was cut into the curved shape of the drapes and fell on the floor like a bright white Christmas tree on our carpet. We laid on it on Saturday mornings, belly down and playing Atari 800.

The picture window came to be marked with cat-nose prints and spotted with paw-marks. It's where Smokey, our cat, would come to let us know he had returned from his adventures, in the woods across the street. The woods where we once lost him - wandered for hours calling his name, until dusk was falling and we had to go in. Had to give up. And only then did his meek cry appear, his thin little body came from the edge of the forest, running toward us, running home.

The staircase was where we came running on holiday mornings - Christmas, we sat at the top stop, plotting our grand entrance. Cartwheels, songs, perhaps a dance. All on film now. Us, swishing in new bathrobes and pajama's, wild with bedhead and eyes wide with Christmas morning excitement.

The kitchen was carpeted for years - a thin, green and brown speckled monstrosity that stretched from dining room to family room. It was on that carpet that I first knelt and prayed for Christ, earnestly, and without simply repeating the prayer of another.

In the laundry hallway is where Smokey was brought when he first arrived, and where he stayed in a cardboard box - until he was brave enough to explore. Brave enough to be put in a plastic pink Easter basket and held up in the bedroom I shared with my sister - held up to see the posters of other kitties, just like him - and didn't that make him feel more at home?

Our bedroom was our clubhouse, where we charged our little brother an entrance fee. Where we hid a dying bunny in our desk drawer. Where we danced on our beds and hung posters of the singer's we skated to at the local roller rink. It was where I stuffed Barbie dolls down beside my bed and pulled them out after lights out to put shows for my sister. Stories.

Down the hall was the computer room - and there at the pressed-wood desk I would sit and learn to love the feel of my fingers on the keyboard, learn to create worlds out of words, and lose myself for entire afternoons.

It's the room I think of most often, the room I go back to when I start a story. I'm again surrounded by the cool mint-green walls. Sunlight spills through a smudged window and over my shoulder. I hear neighborhood children yelling and playing in the streets. I feel the keys beneath my fingertips. And I'm home.

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Thursday, July 19, 2007
Um, No Thank You?
While searching for organizations that sponsor Walk-for-a-Cure type events, I was brought to what looked like a page of general cancer-fund raising information...and then I scrolled down and happened to glance at the google-advertisements on the right.

Ever the bargain shopper, this one really caught my eye:

"Save up to 50% on Cancer. Search over 15,000 sites with one click."

Um...I think I'll pass, thank you very much.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007
The box is Italian and when opened it sings Edelweiss. On our honeymoon, I found myself hunting for the perfect one. One with the combination of shape, design, color and music that I wanted to bring home with me as a souvenir. But it was surprisingly difficult and we came home empty handed.

Six months later, we spent Christmas morning in our 500-square foot apartment just south of Boston, knelt side-by-side in front of a two-foot tall tree in a pot, decorated with miniature bows by the people at our local Home Depot. And my husband surprised me with this:

He even requested that they change the tune when he couldn't find exactly what we'd looked for. The ironic thing is that I don't even wear much jewelry - don't even keep my wedding rings in the box. (I keep those on a wooden fruit stand from Guatemala that's beside our stove - the obvious place for one's most expensive jewelry.)

And so when I came across a Meme (while procrastinating, of course) that asks you to open your jewelry box to the world, I thought it was inapplicable to me. But still, I opened the box - if only to listen to Edelweiss.

Here is what I saw:

Contents, originally uploaded by Mellahoney.

It was more like a memory box than a jewelry box, though most of the contents are 'jewelry', I suppose, most have some specific memory attached. The watch in the center was a hand-me-down gift from my aunt just days before I left for Romania, for example. You can click on the picture for details about the rest of the objects in my box - there are notes attached.

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Not 103 Questions
Because I'm stressed and lazy, I dug a Meme from my draft's bin and decided to call it a post.

001. Last time you ran? On the treadmill, will do so again today.
002. Do your jeans have rips, tears, and holes in them?
As a rule, no - but I'm actually made a pair of cutoff denim shorts over the summer, out of necessity.
003. What are you dreading right now?
The dark cloud of school loans approaching my bank account. Badness. Very, very, just, bad.
004. Do you celebrate 4/20? No? Should I?
005. Do you like Mexican food? I like some - depends on my mood. I'm a big fan of salsa.
006. Favorite ice cream? Mocha Chip...if only someone would make a fat free, low-sugar version of it, I'd be in heaven.
007. When was your last doctor's visit? My 6-week post-partum check-up back in December. Haven't been to a non-OB doctor in years.
008. Do you get the full 8 hours of sleep a night?
009. How many pets do you have? None, unless you include the small-human variety.
010. "First Loves Are Never Over;" is this true for you?
I suppose it is. I never dropped the L-bomb to anyone prior to my husband.
011. Think of all your exes. Would you take any of them back?
I've only had one person who could be considered an "ex" - and he is a perfectly fine and wonderful guy. But he's no Vinnie, so no.
012. If anyone came to your house on your "lazy days" what would you be wearing?
I wouldn't open the door, first of all. I'd grab the children and hide out in my bedroom and wait for whomever was at the door to leave. And, no, I probably wouldn't be wearing pants. I hate pants.
013. What's your favorite shirt? At the moment? A super-soft, thin black t-shirt with capped sleeves.
014. Where are you at right now? Sitting in my very dark bedroom - it's a dreary morning.
015. Do you eat raw cookie dough? No, but I have in the past. Who hasn't?
016. Do you watch the news? Occasionally. I tend to read about it or listen to talk radio rather than watch television.
017. Do you watch Trading Spaces? Not in years.
018. How do you eat oreos? I don't.
019. Are you cocky? Oh, no. Unless your talking Fantasy Football. If I've had a good draft, watch out.
020. Did you have an imaginary friend as a kid?
No, though I did prance around the schoolyard on an imaginary horse and then feed it carrots while I sat in class. Huh. Maybe that was my imaginary friend?
021. What t.v. station do you watch the most?
ESPN is probably on the most at home. Either that or NBC (The Office, specifically), but either is rare compared to DVD's.
022. Last time you saw your best friend?
This morning, I kissed him goodbye as he left for work.
023. Do you still color in coloring books? Yes. I have a child.
024. Can you read music? Not anymore, I don't think.
025. How do you like your eggs? Egg whites only, boiled and topped with spicy brown mustard.
061. Your favorite restaurant you don't get to eat much at? We don't eat out much at all, so Bertucci's?
063. What do you drive? A banged up Dodge Intrepid and an aging Oldsmobile Bravada.
064. Do you actually eat Easter Peeps? Never been a fan.
065. Can you cook? Affirmative
066. How do you eat your steak? In the form of a soy burger.
067. Do you return your cart? Always.
068 where you at? This is a repeat of a previous question. I am still in my bedroom.
069. Do you have a dishwasher? Wouldn't buy a house without one.
070. What noise do you hear? Monster's Inc
073. What was the last thing you ate? Turkey breast with brown mustard
074. When was the last time you said I love you and meant it? About five minutes ago to The Boss
075. Who is the youngest in your family? Lila
077. Do you know anyone with the same name as you? Yes. It's not an uncommon name.
078. How many shoes do you own? Pairs? About ten. That I actually wear, four? 079. Do you mind flat soda? Yes I do. Unless I'm queasy and want flat ginger ale, I won't touch it.
080. When is the last time you ate peanut butter? Good question
082. What's for dinner? Boca burger?
083. What's the last thing you purchased? Groceries
085. Where is your cell phone? Dead. RIP
087. What brand are your pants right now? Old Navy, three years old, very worn sweats.
088. Ever been to Georgia? Yes
089. Did you do breakfast this morning? No
090. Do you like marshmallows? Yes.
092. What brand is your digital camera? HP and a new Canon
094. Do you write poetry? It has been a while, and most of what I wrote was fairly embarrassing, to be honest.
095. Is your refrigerator dirty? Cluttered, yes. Dirty? No.
096. What song best describes your life right now?
097. Do you own expensive perfume/cologne? Negative. I do have some good smelling deodorant though. Does that count? Probably not. It was a 4 pack at BJ's anyway.
098. Are you taking college classes right now? No, though I'm considering going for PhD, just to defer loans for another couple of years.
099. Do you have facebook? I do, actually. If only to play Scrabulous (I'm addicted) 100. Do you know how to change a tire? No. I'm a bit ashamed of this.
101. Do you like sushi? I don't think so. Nothing about it appeals to me. I don't like cold food. Don't like seaweed (have had that), don't eat much rice, or enjoy avocado or raw fish...so...no.
102. Do you get your hair cut every month? Try once every pregnancy. That's what we're going on now.
103. Do you go online everyday? Most days, yes.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007
I'm Procrastinating...Again
I sit like a reader before a blank page and wonder what will appear. Keys strike and I wonder what words they'll spell - what story is coming to life.

This is my process.

There is no preconceived outline of plot or characters or dialogue. There is no end in mind, no beginning either, really. The story is already there, and I'm simply typing it as fast as I can to capture it.

This brings me to wonder if perhaps this is why I'm struggling so much with sitting down and finishing Grace. It's a piece I've lived with long enough that I know the character, the settings, the supporting cast, the tensions, the peaks, the lulls and even the finale. I know where it's going, where she's going - I can see the end.

And I'm either scared by knowing this - afraid to misrepresent what I've known for years now. Or I'm bored. I'm worried it may be the latter. That I'm having trouble sitting down and just finishing the darn thing, because I already know the outcome. There is no excitement, no curiosity to keep my fingers moving.

Or is there?

With a few minor changes, the course could shift and I'd be on a new set of tracks...



Monday, July 16, 2007
Is it just me, or are they both giving their father the same look?

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Friday, July 13, 2007
Friday Goodness
Goodness is the sense of satisfaction that comes when a story is finally out of your system - when the characters have stopped whispering in your head, when they finally go and take with them the nagging sense of things left unfinished, of worlds left half-built and lives left lingering in limbo.

I've recently been reworking an old piece, not entirely sure why, but once I decided to dredge it up from my archives, it began to haunt me. The woman rattled around in my brain until I finally fleshed her out sufficiently. I'm not convinced that the story is complete (yet) - but at least a draft is done and I slept last night without listening to her, at last.

What I should be dealing with more actively is Grace - the character who has been a constant in my life for nearly five years now. Time to just finish things, even a first draft completed should be enough to buy me a night or two of restful, wonderful, blissfully deep sleep.

If you're interested in playing a little "it's Friday and I don't want to work" hooky, check out the recently finished (at long last) story by my oh-so-talented friend/writer/hot-mama,
Novice. She has been sharing bits and pieces of this story for the past year, and finally put it to rest earlier this week. It's beautifully rendered - I read it and was left scratching my head, trying to think of what it reminded me of, until my sister (who very often does) knew at once, Arsenic and Old Lace.

(For access to the link to my story, feel free to send me an email...)

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Muse Wanted
I realize I've been sporadic here as of late.

It's a combination of things - both an abundance and a lack.

I have much, perhaps too much, controlled chaos (ok, so it's only as "controlled" as a two and a half year old can be.) I have to plan my phone calls around times when Lila is manageable and willing to be held (rather than wanting to be down and wandering the living room - a moving target to be trounced upon by The Boss), I have to plan showers around nap times. I have to maneuver my entire day through air dive proclamations of "Look, I big jump, Momma!" and the diva-like cries of my daughter who is, honestly, good enough for an academy award in the category of get-my-brother-in-trouble tears.

And then my husband comes home and I have a short amount of time to get dinner made, fed and cleaned up before I can snag a small slice of coveted me-time (to jog, of course) and then it's time to give the kids hugs and send them to bed. This is, of course, only if I'm able to get the treadmill done - and am not interrupted by either a bawling babe or a preschooler who wants to hop on and walk with Mommy.

And during this dose of me-time - I watch mindless rerun sitcoms or clips of Food Network shows. Hardly the sort of fodder that's going to increase creativity.

What does? Reading short stories from the small stack of lit mags that I've begun accumulating. Unfortunately, this only happens if I'm able to lock myself in the bathroom for a short while during the day.

The lack, I referred to above, is that I lack a life outside of this chaos. Which isn't to say that I feel as though I'm wanting anything more - but as a writer, it's difficult to dredge up the muse in this sort of endlessly busy environment.

My muse likes quiet.

She also likes coffee. And soft music. Perhaps a walk, (sans stroller)

Hmmm...looking at that, I think maybe it's time to recruit a new muse.

Here's my Ad:

Seeking Creativity-inspiring entity to spark new and imaginative stories (or at the very least, come bearing super-glue to stick my bottom to my desk chair)

Must be good with children.

Must be able to inspire without the aid of music or any other noise that might wake a sleeping child.

Should be comfortable in sweats and be able to conjure vivid story lines while I am busy wielding a bottle of 409 or wiping a baby's bottom with a wetnap.

Preference will be given to any Muse who arrives with either take-out or prepared meals for my family. (A list of our favorite restaurants will be given to qualified candidates.)

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Sunday, July 08, 2007
Early Communication
Blowing Raspberries


Monday, July 02, 2007
The Mall and Me
I don't do the mall. The mall does me. This one at least, with its flat screen televisions hanging down over me as I walk beneath, scouring the ceilings for the words "Restroom This Way"

Dr.Phil points as me as I pass, "Don't forget, you have choices!" The words scroll across the giant screen and I look down and straight ahead - down the tube of kiosks, storefront displays, and people, shuffling past me, some walking into me, all seeming to somehow fit here, in this mad environment.
Choices. Uh huh. I acknowledge Dr. Phil with an eye roll as I glance up to the next TV screen - some other daytime television "celebrity" is spouting rapid fire words, selling...something. I don't wait to find out what.

I keep walking, toward who knows where. I hear two men discussing the poor shoe choice another shopper has made - clearly, they don't match his charcoal pants.

I can only imagine what they could say about me.

Rumpled t-shirt, the same denim Capri's I've been sporting for the past few days, only my wedding and anniversary rings. I feel like a sore thumb, a big one, swelled with gangrene and turning chartreuse, in this world of flash and fashion.

Oh, the fashion.

Apparently, I've missed something. Somewhere between graduating from college and this afternoon, I fell into a hiccup in the fashion world and am now sort of bobbing around in the sea of newness like a piece of lint in the sink that just won't make it's final exit down the drain.

And that's fine with me. I'll just try to avoid places like "the mall" as often as possible. And I do already, really. They take too much of my money, for one thing. Even walking out with an $88 dress for $50, I feel cheated, swindled. I can practically hear the walls snickering at me as I make my long, slow-footed walk between the final rows of cosmetic counters before I'll make my grand exit into reality.

But really, they can keep that money. It's the time spent that I want back.

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