Friday, July 6, 2018

Florida, Writing Lair, & Last 200 Words

It's hard to pause during summer to write about stuff, but I'll squeeze in some quick updates:

Florida: I was in Orlando, Florida last week for a conference. Clint brought the kids and we stayed in the Disney Coronado. They did all the touristy stuff while I did conferency stuff. Not an ideal vacation for me (insert pitiful woe-is-me music here), but I still did a lot of bonding with my coworkers, ate some good food, drank some great drinks, and attended at least a few sessions that reinvigorated me for the upcoming school year. Oh, and I got to go to Gatorland (and feed baby alligators!).

New Writing Lair: Aside from a few finishing touches like window trim and attic-access, my art/writing studio is finished! I have a little stereo in there now for music, cabinets with all of my drawing/painting supplies, my lounge area if I want to relax between writing sprints, my "fireplace" for cooler evenings...I even stocked it with wine for when I get writer's block (one bottle is leaning toward empty already). It's a good thing this space isn't equipped with a toilet and a fridge because at this point my belly and my bladder are the only two entities that can convince me to leave.

Driving Test: Trinity finally overcame her driving-anxiety and got her license today. It was her first time taking the test and you're allowed to miss fifteen points. She only missed one! I say this with excitement because back in the day I missed... well, let's just say a few more than one. ;)

I'm thinking this is enough updates for tonight? Here's the last 200 words for Black Lilies, chapter four. If it sounds familiar, it's because I actually posted this one in the past for reasons I can no longer remember. Anyway, it'll be the only 'last 200 words' that repeats.

 "I’ll tell you my name as soon as you tell me who you are, and what’s going on.” I crossed my arms and stepped back in a show of defiance. The assignment that was crumpled in my hand fell over my fingertips onto the linoleum floor. Moving quickly, I reached down to pick it up.
 “I’ve seen this stationery before” he said, leaning forward to look at my paper.
 “It’s not stationery, it’s just my assignment. It’s what I’m supposed to be working on right now, but I’ll get an ‘F’ now because of your impromptu performance of the Star Spangled Banner.”
 He squinted his eyes, examining it closer. “Let me see that.”
 Why would he want my paper? There was barely anything written on it. I shrugged. “Here.”
 I tried to hand it to him, but he didn’t move to take it. Instead, he tilted his head, as if trying to get a better view. He mouth gaped open before he quickly snapped it shut. His body seemed to freeze. “I know this writing.” He jerked back, his fists clenched at his side. “Tell me your name, clever girl.”
 I stood silent.
 “It’s you, isn’t it? You’re Aviva.”
 My mouth fell open, and he disappeared.

(206 words)

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Curse of Sharenting

Think about an embarrassing photo of yourself from your childhood. Maybe it's that one where you're sitting naked on a toilet as a toddler, or that prepubescent pic with the giant braces and bad hair. Thank goodness that old cringy photo is tucked away in some dog-eared album, right? A sealed-off remnant of your childhood.

Now imagine that picture, plus hundreds more, posted on Facebook for everyone to see, with cutesy little hashtags, day after day, year after year. One of my 7th grade students got me thinking about this issue right before summer break, when she commented that she had deleted her Facebook account because her mom kept posting pictures of her. "It's not that the pics were embarrassing or anything," she explained. "I just don't want my friends seeing what I'm up to everyday. It's weird."

It's no wonder teenage kids have veered away from facebook and are gravitating toward social networking sites such as Snapchat that allow for more privacy and anonymity. Maybe they’re trying to escape the barrage of childhood photos that force them into endless public scrutiny. Maybe they just want to live their lives without being a “celebrity” on their parents' timelines.

If you're an '80s child like me, you’ve never had to deal with the crux of parents with smartphones. Our personal childhood moments--bath time, potty-training, the first day of fifth grade, awkward junior high dances, etc.--were safely tucked away into photo albums and scrapbooks where only a few close friends and relatives would ever see. Yet as parents today, we never stop to question what it’s like for our own children to have all of these moments (embarrassing, adorable, or otherwise) exploited online.

So let’s pause right now and ask this question: How will the adult version of your child feel having his/her entire childhood chronicled on social networking? As Celia Walden (writer and wife to Pier Morgan) states, our kids have “got a lifetime of being subjected to other people's gaze and other people's judgement.” So why would we, the parents, choose to add to this? At the best, even if our kids are comfortable being in the limelight, highlighting every moment of their lives is taking something meaningful away. If every moment is special then none of them are.

The answer is, we shouldn't.

Even taking our kids’ right to privacy out of the equation, there are other reasons why sharenting is wrong. Such as the fact that it’s inconsiderate to your friends/followers. Imagine going to your Aunt Hilda’s house and being forced to endure two hours straight of little cousin Joey’s photos (a phenomenon that we actually endured in the ‘80s). Yes, you’ll insert the appropriate “Awwww”s and “Isn’t that adorable” in the right places, because you’re a polite person. But meanwhile you’re kinda wishing a chunk of acoustic ceiling will inexplicably fall down and gouge you in the eyeball just to have an excuse to escape. And you’re also kinda thinking Aunt Hilda could use some conversational empathy here, because who in their right mind thinks that anyone enjoys this form of torture?

Yet you yourself do the same thing every day on social media. Nice to meet you, Aunt Hilda. Luckily your family and friends aren't held hostage on a couch. They can slap a polite ‘like’ on your posts and move on. But do you really want to put them in this position rather than simply downsizing your posts to interesting, relevant things they genuinely care about? I constantly hear the argument “If people don’t like what I post, they can unfollow me.” Well kudos to you, standing your ground and all that. But close friends and family will never unfollow you because they're decent people, and maintaining a relationship with you is important to them regardless of how annoying you are on Facebook. So now you’re just *that* person. The person whose grating posts they’ve learned to slap a cursory ‘like’ on as they scroll past.

Another interesting fact about over-sharenting? It’s a sad attempt to dig for praise or approval. When I was a kid my mom's parenting strategies (like many moms of the '80s) fluctuated from amazing to downright crazy and everything between. I could write a book on this woman and the complexities she went through while raising me and my sister. Yet one thing that stands out is my mom never felt the need to constantly showcase her good parenting moments online. To be fair, the internet didn’t exist back then, so no mom felt this need. Being a good parent in the ‘80s had its own intrinsic rewards, such as creating laughter, warm feelings, and unscripted memories with your kids...memories that were never cheapened by the rehearsed facade of a facebook post. But many moms today have the mentality that good parenting is wasted if it’s not publicized on facebook. Like, “If others can’t see how much I’m rockin’ it, what’s the point?”

Over-sharing mommies, it's time to face reality. Other than Grandma and maybe that super devoted aunt (who you can easily text), no one cares about your thousands of photos. And on some level you know this, which means you're doing it for yourselves. For the likes. The comments. The dopamine rush you get every time someone reacts to your post. The positive affirmation. As stated by 'Wellness Mama' Katie in her article Why I Don't Post about My Kids Online, “I get it. Parenting is hard and positive feedback is helpful. I definitely bounce ideas off of friends or ask for advice in person. I just try really hard not to use my kids as a means for social affirmation.”

The final (and possibly most important reason) moms need to escape the clutches of sharenting is because constantly being in Photographer-Mode means sacrificing the present for the future. That is, you miss out on so many of life's amazing, impromptu moments in your attempt to capture them on camera--all so you can look upon that snapshot later and reminisce on a memory that you never truly experienced. Instead of fake-smiles for the benefit of the camera, let's embrace the genuine smiles our kids radiate when they're living life for real.

I’m not suggesting that we should never post pics of our kids. Our kids are a huge part of our lives and it would be silly to pretend they don’t exist. In the last few months Facebook has shared memories of my daughter holding a crocodile, my son hanging upside down from a punching bag, and both my kids engaged in an epic shaving cream battle in the bathtub (clothes ON). But there’s a difference between sharing an occasional whimsical or anecdotal moment of your kids, versus turning your timeline into a relentless baby album chronicling every moment of your child until he is now ten-years old and frankly not-so-cute anymore (sorry but...truth). I know the excitement of being a brand new mother and wanting to share every moment of the experience, which is why upon entering motherhood I called my own mom every-other-day and texted her a barrage of photos. But for the sake of social networking, one or two carefully selected pictures a week will still capture the adorableness of your handsome little cherub just as well as a dozen.

Remember, once your child reaches the age of awareness, it is no longer your life and your experiences you are sharing. It is theirs. And frankly, some things need to remain unshared, and precious. Childhood should be one of them. How about we stop feeling consumed with posting a record of everything our kids experience, and just enjoy the moments as they come? My most treasured moments with my kids are the ones you don’t know about. Why? Because I keep them close to my heart--not on Facebook.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Dirt Bike Jousting, Squobbing, & Last 200 Words

Quick highlights from the last few weeks:

  • I went to a party on Mother's Day weekend held by my sister's neighbor. He has a bazillion acres, which means in addition to all the normal party stuff (such as an open bar and catered tacos), there was also zip-lining, Whore Shoes (like Horse Shoes but with spiked stilettos and some interesting rules), and THIS: 

Welcome to the world of dirt bike jousting, where hillbilly meets class. 
(Kind of like me when I wear a dress).
  • Trin is in the midst of all her graduating-stuff right now, which means I'm in a state of squealing and sobbing...squobbing? Yep, I'm a big fat squobber. Prom, Grad Night, and then the graduation itself. My baby girl!
  • I'm finally having a housewarming party. Er--if you can even call it that given that we've lived in our home for over nine months now. Here's the invitation:

Alright, that's enough recapping for now. Here's the last 200 words for Black Lilies, chapter three.

“By God, sweet girl, you can see me.” His lips spread into a triumphant smile, and then he glided past my desk. “We’ll discuss this after your mathematics lesson.”

I swallowed hard, my hands clutching the side of my desk, my stomach stuck somewhere in my throat.
Mathematics lesson? I found myself lipping the phrase, though I knew his proper speech should be the least of my concerns.
“What’s wrong?” Brett whispered next to me two beats after the strange man had left, snapping me out of my trance as he touched my arm. “You look really pale, Viv.”
I already knew the answer, but I needed to be sure. “Brett, has anyone new been assigned to Rosa’s desk?”
“Not that I’m aware of,” he said, glancing in that direction. “It’s been empty since she moved. I saw you looking over there earlier. What’s up?”
A feeling of panic flooded me at Brett’s words. I couldn’t be the only one who was able to see and hear the oddly-dressed stranger. I couldn’t be. Because that would make me crazy.
Or it would mean I was seeing a ghost.

(188 words)

Monday, May 14, 2018

28 Places to Sit in My Yard

The other day I started noticing a trend in our yard. The trend being...places to sit. Lots of places to sit. 28, to be precise. So of course I had to take pictures of all of them. Don't worry, it's only 9 pics; not 28.

So here we go, the first and only edition of All the Places to Sit in my Yard:

Small Table for four on our front balcony.

Gliding swing set for two. This one is far back into our yard, right next to the soon-to-be She-Shed.

 Clint's parents' bistro table, located on the small balcony next to their studio apartment. When they're over it has pretty cushions on it and stuff.

Southern rocking chairs on our front patio--tied for 1st place for the Most-Used Seating Award. Clint and his dad can almost always be found here, shootin' the breeze over a beer and cigar.

 Cozy bench for two on our front patio. This one earns the Least-Used Seating Award. In fact, my one and only time sitting here was right after I took this picture.

Table for four on our side patio, and by far the family favorite! This is the other recipient of the Most Used Seating Award. On nice days we eat all of our meals here. The first two weeks of summer I will be repainting this table and adding new cushions to spruce it up.

This table for six is one of my personal faves. Carey (Clint's dad) leveled this piece of land for me so I could have a table out in the sunshine. It's a great place to soak in some rays during more temperate weather, and its sturdy construction makes it perfect for painting/crafts.

Trinity's space. She has a patio attached to her bedroom, and we bought her this outdoor set for her birthday. All we need now is a plant for that planter. 

This little bistro table was a housewarming gift from Shannon, and has my favorite view. Maybe not too practical for eating a meal here (though I have), but perfect for plopping down with a cup of coffee in the afternoon.

And this concludes my super fascinating edition of All the Places to Pop a Squat in my Yard, or whatever. I'm going to make it my goal this summer to use ALL of them and film every minute of the entire experience. 

Okay, I wont really do that.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Last 200 Words - Chapter Two

Quick highlights from the week:
  • I celebrated Cinco de Mayo with Shan and Sarah on Saturday night. It had been too long and I love hanging out with my BFF! Even though I showed my gratitude by dumping Sarah's margarita all over her crotch. I tried to wipe it up for her but that just got weird.
  • We discovered an amazing winery/vineyard on my mountain, right down the street from Shan's house (the winery is actually using the apples from Shan's orchard to make hard cider). A group of us went for a wine tasting and even though I'm a closet hillbilly I decided to go along with all the swirling and inhaling and checking for legs. Did you know wine has legs? Which is funny because the more I drink of it, the less I have legs...well, usable ones that walk straight, anyway.
  • A swarm of bees attacked our school during lunch last week. By swarm I mean SWARM. They had to do an on-call telling teachers to keep our students barricaded in class until the rampage had ended.

Okay, last 200 words for Black Lilies, chapter two.

 The dark figure seemed to turn on the rope. Without thinking I reached for it, wanting more than anything to touch it. To touch him. To help him, somehow.
 With a long arm, he reached for me. 
 Coming to my senses, I choked on my scream and jumped back, nearly tripping on my feet. I felt a hand grab my elbow and I almost screamed again, before I realized the hand was trying to steady me. 
 “Whoa there. Are you okay?” It was the dark-haired guy with the sling. Joe, I thought. His brown eyes were deep and warm against his olive complexion. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
 I gratefully accepted his hand and righted myself, trying to control my breathing. Heart beating like a drummer on steroids, my eyes darted around the space where the shadow-man had hung. He—it—was gone.
 The grand clock in Pendulum Square, the one we Sezonians call The Face of Maui, tolled in the distance, its deep bells cutting through the night. Ten soulful chimes, each slipping into the dark like a shadow.
  I swallowed hard and looked up into Joe’s concerned face. 

  “I think I did see a ghost.”

(197 words)

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Last 200 Words - Chapter One

Lots to write about but no time! Just to keep my blog from going stale, once a week I'm going to copy/paste my last 200 words for each completed chapter of Black Lilies (similar to what we used to do for the WIP Marathon), unless the last 200 words is a big fat spoiler.

Note: These excerpts are being pulled from a working draft and are subject to change.

Okay, chapter one! Dang it, this one is the most boring when it's out of context. Oh well.

Yet the words chilled him. They seemed aimed directly at him, though he had only conceived a name for the clock minutes ago. He turned around, suddenly feeling watched; vulnerable.
  The paper began to skid in the breeze, and he reached down to retrieve it. Flattening it again, he skimmed down to the end of the letter to find the closing salutation.
Yours in Time, Aviva
He let out a breath. That confirmed it. He didn’t know anyone named Aviva. He had never heard of that name in his life.
Curious now, he went back to read the letter in its entirety. The beginning was confusing, and some parts made him chuckle. But by the time he reached the end, his eyes were fogged with moisture, and his skin felt hot. He was glad that William and George had gone home so they wouldn’t witness him behaving like such a pansy.
He carefully folded the letter and stuffed it into the pocket of his trousers. The letter wasn’t meant for him.
So why did he feel, deep down to his core, that it was?
(185 words)

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Duck Derby

For the record that last post was written well over a month ago, and I either forgot to post it, or thought at the time that it was too depressing. But it doesn't really bother me now, plus that's a damn fine graphic of a butterfly.

So, life right now in a nutshell: Work, commuting, sleep deprivation...the usual. Monday through Friday sort of sucks. (Wow, I'm off to a chipper start here). I love my job the way I always have, but I'm drained like, all the time. The weekends, on the other hand...those are magical. Every weekend I feel like I'm on vacation. Clint makes us breakfast on Saturday mornings and we eat it outside on our patio, rain or shine (really 'snow or shine'  would be more accurate). We bought one of those patio heaters a few months ago:

You may have seen these in outdoor areas of restaurants. Anyway, this thing was the best hundred bucks we've ever spent. Even when the temperatures are freezing we keep nice and toasty. We end up outside for probably a good hour in the mornings, chatting, drinking coffee, enjoying our little neck of the woods. Literal woods too, which is even better.

Friday on our way home from work we swung by Goodwin's (local grocery store) and purchased our ducks for the mountain's annual Duck Derby next weekend. I've never been to one, but I've heard about it from Shan for years. Basically a bunch of rubber ducks are released down a waterslide down into the lake, where they proceed to bob along in the world's most pitiful "race" in which most stall into giant clumps and need help from firefighters with giant hoses to move them along. Everyone cheers for their duck, not really knowing which one(s) is theirs. The owner of the winning duck gets $1,000 (2nd place = $500, 3rd = $250, last place = $100). Proceeds for the duck derby pay for the town's fireworks for 4th of July.

So despite being super cheesy, the Duck Derby is a big deal around here. Over 3,000 people attended last year, and nearly $8,000 was raised. Isn't this the best thing ever? I am so, so excited for this stupid event. I love it that I live in a community that does corny stuff like this. It makes me feel like I've stepped back into the '50s.

Other reasons I love living here: Regular visits with my sis's family! It's amazing to be able to meet them spontaneously for lunch now, or to swing by their house for a beer and a game of shuffleboard. Trin and Elijah get to see their cousins all the time...those crazy kids get together with or without us. On Thursday night, Cassidi, Dylan and I went to a school board meeting to support Rim teachers (long story), and both Cass and I gave a speech. The whole thing was such a cool experience; being there with my niece and nephew, seeing the community rally together like that.

But mountain living is definitely not for the faint of heart. This is what we've dealt with this past month:

 Our driveway

Trin conquering Mount Crap-Ton-of-Snow

The snow is finally gone now, and we somehow made it through the season without losing a single day of work. Thank goodness we bought the Renegade. That little beast saved us.

Off-topic, but we caught the culprit who keeps eating my fern.