A Mother’s Lament

I am a liar.

I lie to my daughter every day.

I send her to school, knowing someday she might get shot there.

I take her to Walmart, knowing she might get shot there.

I allow her go to the movies, knowing she might get shot there.

I let her go to church, knowing she might get shot there.

I take her to festivals, knowing she might get shot there.

I send her to camp, knowing she might get shot there.

I let her go out into the world every day, knowing she might get shot there.

Because the alternative is living in our own armed compound.

I tell her she is safe, while all the while I carry the weight of the fear, and the anger, and the grief. A burden that grows heavier with each casualty.

I hide it from her and tell her she lives in a land where she has an inalienable right to LIFE, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, knowing there are people out there who believe her death in a shooting is simply the price we pay for freedom.

People to whom a hunk of metal means more than her precious blood.

So I carry the weight alone, and I lie to her every day.

I lie to her every day, because if I don’t, how is she supposed to have a life worth living?

Washington, D.C., 2019

I missed posting last week. For the first time in about 8 years. I think the reason why will be self-explanatory when you read this post.

So, my child started a light, dry cough July 15th. I got a cold Thursday, July 18th. On Saturday, July 20th, after a broiling hot swim meet in the morning, Husband, Young One, and I headed to Washington D.C. for our long-anticipated trip.

Young One was especially excited. We were going mainly because she had asked specifically to see many of the monuments. She spied a palm tree as we entered the city limits and exclaimed, “A palm tree! We’re not even there yet and this is already the coolest place I’ve been.”

We arrived at the hotel (where Young One declared the public bathroom “too fancy” to use), and got settled. Then we started to look for dinner. And that’s when Young One said she was cold.

 Mind you, it was 100+ degrees outside.

She had a fever.

Well, that immediately threw a wrench in the works. We had planned to go down to the Washington Monument and see the Apollo Landing presentation and the projection of the Apollo on the Monument. Clearly, we could not do that as a family. Luckily, we were only about 10 minutes walk from the Monument, and the presentation was repeated three times. So I went to the first one and my husband went to the last one, while our poor sick child slept in her luxurious king sized bed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The night was long for me. My own cough kept me awake, and then in the other bed Young One would start whimpering in her sleep. When that happened, I went to her bed and lay next to her feverish little body until she quieted.

At 8 AM Sunday, Young One woke us up and said she felt fine, so “Let’s go!”. A hurried breakfast, filling up water bottles, and off we went into the day that would eventually reach 100+ degrees. We passed the Washington Monument (closed for renovations), and stopped at the World War II Monument (where we put our feet in the cooling fountain pool), the Martin Luther King Memorial (and took refuge in the attached air-conditioned book store), the Korean War Memorial, and the Lincoln Memorial.

Washington Monument

WWII Memorial

Martin Luther King Memorial

Korean War Memorial

Korean War Memorial

Lincoln Memorial

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Luckily many of the walkways are shaded, and there was a breeze. The walk back from the Lincoln Memorial past the Reflecting Pool was not bad, and we made another stop at the World War II Memorial to cool off our burning feet. Then we had a long, non-shaded trek back past the Washington Monument (with a glimpse of the White House) on our way to the American History Museum. Inside the cool building, we had lunch, and it was at that point that Young One’s fever came back. Luckily, I had fever meds with me, and she took it. Since we had time to kill before heading to our BnB, we “did” the museum, finding the two artifacts from the Lewis and Clark expedition that Young One especially wanted to see.

Reflecting Pool

WWII Memorial Pool

White House

 

 

We traveled to our BnB and got settled. A burning hot child curled up next to me on the sofa and slept until her fever broke. The rest of our family arrived a bit later. We had dinner and Young One seemed okay, and we hoped the worst had passed. Then I rubbed my eye and it exploded in pain, mucus, and redness. I had little time to wonder what the heck was going on because by bedtime Young One’s fever had returned.

Another night of me going to her multiple times between my own coughing bouts passed. Monday dawned and she slept late. Eventually she woke up and we gave her some fever meds. Soon she was feeling okay and we made our way to the Capitol Building for our scheduled tour time. Young One did well until the very end, when she was shaking with cold as her fever climbed again. More meds, a terribly long walk back to the Metro (wherein she asked to rest several times and we didn’t always say yes) and thence to Urgent Care—both for her and for me, because my eye was no better and my ear had begun hurting.

Capitol Building

 

 

 

Urgent Care gave us the news: Young One had bronchitis and pneumonia, and I had pink eye and an ear infection. As we emerged from Urgent Care, my daughter piled on the guilt, “I TOLD you I needed  to rest when walking today!” Urgent Care sent us to Children’s National Hospital ER to have them look at the pneumonia. We got antibiotics and went back to the BnB for another restless night.

Tuesday the others did things, but Young One and I stayed home and nursed our illnesses. My husband ran to get the prescriptions filled and we watched several movies as a family to pass the time. Tuesday night was another long night with a fever roller coaster for the child.

Wednesday morning we all started packing to leave. Young One helped by drinking water, having a coughing fit, and throwing the water back up. Finally, we were all packed and on the road. We arrived home mid-afternoon, and we unpacked. Then I, with my aching ear and laryngitis, went to a Freeholders meeting to give a speech to try to save my daughter’s pool. The meeting went long and I got home near ten o’clock. Then I put my sick Young One to bed and lay with her until she fell asleep.

And that’s why there was no post on Thursday.

We did see some neat things in Washington D.C., and we will certainly return to do the things we didn’t get to do this time around. Once the trauma of the illnesses fade into the background, I think we will have some good memories of this trip.

Have you ever been to Washington D.C.? What was your favorite place to see there?

Speak Up: Democracy is Not a Spectator Sport

I am one of those parents you see at the polls with their kid on election day. I have often taken my daughter with me to vote. I have brought her to visit a Congressman’s office. I have included her in my run for the Board of Education. I have let her read my letters to the editor. I have had her with me at a Freeholder’s meeting as we protested the closure of her pool.

It may seem silly to some people, to involve a 9 year old in events like this. How much, really, can she grasp of what’s going on? Someone said to me, “None of it will probably make a difference, so why bother?”

Why bother?

I bother so my daughter sees me participate in the most valuable of rights in America–the right to vote.

I bother so my daughter sees that our duty as citizens does not end in the voting booth, but requires us to hold those elected accountable, and remind them they serve us, we the people.

I bother so my daughter sees an average, every day woman running for office.

I bother so that my daughter sees how to use the freedom of the press to use her freedom of speech.

I bother so my daughter sees her mother standing up and speaking out in front of those in power.

I bother so that when her turn comes, she will remember. And she will speak out. And she will stand up. And she will teach her children to do the same.

I bother because democracy is not a spectator sport. I cannot ask others to fight for what I value while I sit back in silence.

So, yes, maybe my single voice won’t make a difference. But, sometimes, my voice, and your voice, and that person’s voice, and that one’s…sometimes all of our voices together, can make that difference.

And that is a wonderful lesson in democracy to teach my daughter.

Eating Away at Characters

As I sat in the dentist’s office as my daughter got her cavities filled, I thought about the types of things eating away at people, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Physically, disease eats away at people. Think cancer or dementia or autoimmune problems. Those things quietly gnaw away at the person, stealing pieces of them as they progress.

Emotionally, everyone has their demons. Jealousy or anger or fear. Sometimes these emotions run unseen, deep underground, eroding the person from within.

Spiritually, people wrestle with feelings of inadequacy, or frustration, or failure. They may feel stuck, or like their dreams are dead. This daily numbing of the spirit can lead to apathy and just going through the motions.

The hidden problems that eat away at people on a daily basis are interesting to apply to characters. We all try and give our characters at least one major flaw, usually one they have to overcome by the end of the story, but I know I don’t often think too deeply beyond that. A smaller, repressed undercurrent running through the whole book layers the character and makes them more authentic.

For instance, suppose your character has always resented how easily their sibling seems to accomplish anything they set out to do, while they struggle and get nowhere. This resentment explode at some inopportune moment in the plot. It’s an extra layer of tension bubbling away under the surface the entire story.

Examining the unseen elements eating away at our characters will add nuance and depth to the characters and the story. Hopefully the story events will clean out and fill these demons gnawing away at the character—just like with my daughter’s cavities.

Happy 4th of July 2019! Politicians and Patriotism

Leading up to this 4th of July, I have been involved in trying to save the pool where my daughter swims. In the course of that journey, we have spoken with all sorts of politicians–County Freeholders, State Assemblymen, and our federal Congressman.

I think it is amazing that we live in a country where we have access to our government officials. Too many people don’t take advantage of that openness to let officials know what they want, what issues are important to them.

We vote in our representatives, but our duty as citizens doesn’t end there. We should tell them what they are doing we like, and what we don’t like. If they are unapproachable in person in their offices, go to public meetings or call or email the offices. People think of doing this when the official is the opposite party from them, but it is perhaps as important to hold the official you voted for to his or her promises. Letters to the editor can also gain a politician’s attention, as they have people who check the media every day.

Democracy is not a passive form of government. We all must not only vote, but pay attention to what the politicians are doing once they are in office. Because (shocker!) some tell us what we want to hear to get elected, and then do the opposite once in power. If they break their promises, we need to let them know, and vote them out if needed.

The thought of speaking to a county or state or federal representative intimidates a lot of people. It’s understandable. We often have to meet them on their terms in their centers of power. But guess what? They are just people, no better than you and me. And guess what else? They work for us. If they don’t work to make things better for us, we can fire them at the ballot box.

So this 4th of July, I am thankful for living in a country where I can make my voice heard. I hope you all speak up and stand up for what you believe in, and remind our elected officials who their bosses really are.

Have a safe and happy 4th of July!

Just Beachy! 2019

This week I have no writing post ready–although I have managed to get through editing about 7,500 words this week. And the reason I have no writing post is because I am on vacation.

 

 

 

 

Beautiful sunsets. Waves on the beach. Barefoot walks in the sand. Ahh.

So me and my gal and my extended family are having some down time, away from the hustle and bustle of the modern world. I am not a big beach person, but I do love being near the water. I find it relaxing and therapeutic.

 

 

 

 

 

Where do you go to take a break from the crazy world we live in?

Summer Schedule Begins…Now!

Today is the day many parent-writers dread: the last day of school. Now, if you are a writer who works outside the home as well, then your writing schedule might not change much. You are likely already squeezing writing in between day job and ferrying kids to evening activity. But if you work/write from home, like me, the dreaded summer schedule is now upon us.

Calling it a schedule is a bit optimistic, at least in my house. Try as she might, my daughter can only leave me alone for relatively short periods of time. Much of my writing time will be shorter bursts caught when I can. This is not the way my brain works best (I hate multi-tasking), but you work with what you have.

I am a person who likes schedules, so the unpredictability makes me a bit crazy. On the other hand, one of the joys of summer is that free feeling, that lazy pace of not much to do and little pressure. So I am going to have to find a balance between being lazy and being productive.

Library runs are always good, because afterwards my daughter will hole up for a few hours reading. However, my daughter has decided she wants to be a writer, too, so who knows? Maybe we can try writing sessions together.  She may surprise me. Or she may drive me nuts wanting me to read every sentence as soon as she writes it.

Good luck to all the other parent-writers out there as your summer schedule kicks in. Do you have any tips and tricks to share with us?

Philadelphia Writers’ Conference 2019: My Biggest Takeaway

This past weekend was the Philadelphia Writers Conference. I consider it my “home” conference, and I have been going for about 10 years.

Every year I think about what my biggest takeaway is from the conference. I learn so much every year, it’s hard to pick. This year, one thing echoed in almost every workshop: there is no one right way to write.

There are so many ways to write a book. Plotting vs. Pantsing. Linear vs. The Jigsaw Puzzle. Scientific vs. Intuition. Efficient vs. Meandering. And you know what? They are all valid. As long as you end up with a finished, polished product, it’s all good.

The thing I have found about the writing process is that it changes over time. It changes as your skills mature, and according to the needs of your book. For example, my multiple-POV, multiple-subplot YA scifi required more planning than my middle grade single-POV quest story.

Young authors often think there is only one correct way to write a book, and that the professional teaching the workshop is the holder of that Holy Grail. This is certainly not the case, and I was heartened to hear so many of the workshop leaders espouse the uniqueness of each person’s process.

A great thing about a multi-day conference is that we get to concentrate on the writing. We can dim or even turn out the lights of the outside world and immerse ourselves in the writing world. At the beginning of one of my classes, a bird got into the room. It flew around, disoriented, banging into the mirror, until one person got the smart idea to open the doors and turn out the lights in the room. As soon as we turned out the lights, the bird raced to the open doors and flew through to freedom.

Go into the light, my friends—and write your own way.

Filling the Writing Tank

Sometimes a writer’s life ends up with very little writing in it. This past week has been one of those weeks for me.

Saturday my family attended the first annual Color Fun Run. Lots of colored powder, lots of laughs, and no rain! Then I stayed for another couple of hours to help clean up. 10,400 steps by 11:30 AM. Whew!

Sunday I dragged my stiff-muscled self out if bed and the family headed to a local farm for their Strawberry Festival. More sun, a hayride, animals, and, of course, strawberries.

Most of Monday was eaten up catching up on PTA Treasurer work, which leaked into Tuesday. Tuesday also found me frantically reading and assembling my weekly post Top Picks Thursday, which isn’t due until Wednesday night, but…

On Wednesday my daughter’s class trekked to the Academy of Natural Sciences for their field trip. The kids had fun, no one got injured or lost, and only one instance of tears. I rule the day a success!

And so here we are, Thursday, and I have no deep and meaningful insights into writing to share, as I have been doing everything but writing this week. Still, they say you can’t write if you don’t live, so I suppose this week was about filling the writing tank.

On Friday I head out to the Philadelphia Writers Conference, so I will get the tank further filled by hanging out with fellow authors. Look for nightly updates on the Conference over on the Author Chronicles blog.

How do you fill your writing tank? However you do it, go and fill it up—and then get writing!

Devon Horse Show 2019: Lessons from the Ring

Over the weekend, my family made our annual pilgrimage to the Devon Horse Show. We usually go to the closing weekend, rather than the opening weekend, but our schedules didn’t line up for that this year. So my mom, my 9-year-old daughter, and I had our girls’ day out this weekend instead.

My daughter is not as horse-crazy as my mom and I are, but she loves the rides on the Midway and claims that Devon pizza is the best pizza ever, so she is happy to come out with us. My mom and I enjoy watching the horses do their thing. The beauty and power of the horses leave us breathless.

We got rained on twice, but not too badly. Got a little wet the first time, but happened to be having lunch under a tent the second time, so it was all good. It’s all part of the adventure—I recall having to hide in the bathroom tunnel at other times when thunder and lightning rolled through. The rain kept the heat from becoming too intense, which was a relief.

 

 

 

As is my tradition, I bought a Breyer horse at the Devon Shop, and my daughter found herself a book and a couple of small toy horses. We stowed them in the car, got our also-traditional ice cream, and made our way to our seats for the big evening showcase event.

Usually we time our visit to the Gold Cup show jumping competition on the last Saturday. Because we came a different day this year, we saw a different style of jumping—eventing, also called cross-country. This consisted of 26 obstacles spread between two rings, testing for both jumping ability and endurance. Eventing had different jumps than we were used to—a few of the “normal” barred jumps, but also hedges and wooden objects, which tested the versatility of horse and rider.

The class was large, and the final jump-off didn’t end until about 9:30 PM, but there were no falls or injuries and it was exciting. My daughter was happy because the horse she rooted for came in 4th and so still got a ribbon. As the eventing went on, my daughter asked why the riders kept going once they knew they couldn’t win. And so a metaphor dropped into my lap.

They don’t give up, I said, because in life it’s not always about winning. Every one of these horses and riders are learning something new about their job and about themselves, and that is more valuable than winning. They are getting better at what they do, even if they are making mistakes now. It’s how you improve yourself. Life is about keeping going even when it’s hard, even when the obstacles seem insurmountable—and even if you knock one down.

There is nothing more vivid when trying to explain the value of persistence than watching a horse refuse a jump (sometimes violently so) and then the rider bring him around and go at that same jump again and clear it beautifully.

That obstacle that seemed too hard the first time might be overcome the next time.

Don’t give up.

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