Saturday, January 13, 2007
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
Sometimes we do the oddest things.
Every summer in college I worked at a summer resort as a way to pay for school. My parents encouraged this in all of us kids, so we were often in far-flung spots.
When I was 18 I was working in Michigan on the shores of the Lake.The swimming pool was available to staff (and townies who worked at the resort) before it opened to the guests, so usually by 7:30 there was a good crowd. The waitresses were off-shift, the maids were going on, the desk clerks had just changed duty and the yard guys couldn't work yet because we didn't want to wake the guests. Anyway,we had a good 2-3 hours to use the pool.
I'm a strong swimmer, having grown up around artificial water (swimming pools) all my life. That summer several kids were there who'd never been near a lake the size of Michigan or near a pool. They were mainly inner-city kids from Detroit or Milwaukee. One girl, Paulette, was a skinny black girl with a 'fro and a laugh you could hear a mile away. Paulette and I became buddies since we were both waitresses. She was determined to learn to swim, but damned if she didn't just sink like a rock every time she got out of the shallow end.
We all kept an eye on her, of course, and all tried to help her learn to 'inflate' so she'd float (many jokes were flung around about my ample flotation devices, but we won't go into that). So one day there's about 30 kids in the pool and we're cavorting. I hauled out of the pool to the side, looked around ...
I looked at the spot under the diving board and saw a black shape at the bottom of the pool. I didn't think twice. Literally. I just yelled, "Paulette" and dove in.
She was almost out of air. I arrowed down to her and got next to her. She didn't know what to do. She didn't know how to push off or kick or anything. So I got an arm around her and pushed off the bottom. She, of course, was panicked and almost drowned me by clutching on. I kicked, pushing her ahead of me. I had one hand on her butt and the other on her thigh and I was pushing her up for all I was worth. I really wasn't sure we'd make it. I was starting to take in water, and I'm sure she was, too, because she was getting weak.
Then a couple of other kids dove in and got her arms and dragged her up. A friend got me and hauled me up to the surface. We got Paulette out and turned her over and pumped her, releasing a bunch of pool water. I was able to drag myself out on the ladder and when she could sit up we sat together and had a good cry.
That night we all 'went to town' (the nearest place with streetlights) and went to Sherman's Ice Cream Parlor, where Paulette's townie boyfriend,a HUGE intimidating black guy, bought me an ice cream sundae and kept hugging her like a big old teddy bear. It was great.
Monday, January 08, 2007
I have no idea what came over me, but I jumped on the hotel phone, had them call an ambulance, then jumped over the registration desk, pushed people back, yelling if anyone was a doctor or EMT. Luckily, one of the attendees was an EMT (this was a real estate conference) and she rushed to his side. I, meanwhile, went into 'fence' mode - pushing back the curious, pulling people I knew into a ring around the guy.
Then my boss showed up. My boss who couldn't stand the sight of blood. Luckily her husband was standing right next to her to catch her when she fainted.
The ambulance arrived quickly, cleared out the area and I went behind the registration desk, adrenaline running high, ready to help revive my boss then decompress. BUT then the temporary worker who was working with us said, "I don't feel very good." Here, the girl was a diabetic and she was going into shock - totally unrelated to the seizure incident, but she was young and obviously not caring for herself properly. So, there I went, back on the hotel phone and looking for orange juice.
Once that was taken care of and the break-out sessions re-started, I found a nice corner to crawl into and have a good cry. It seems, instinctively, I'm a good person to have around for an emergency (and since having children, this theory has-unfortunately-had cause to be proven true), but I absolutely fall apart afterwards.
God willing, I'll never have a reason to see what my reactions would be if my life were at risk. Your perceptions change when you've got kids. I'd lay my life on the line for them, but for a stranger? I'd like to think yes, but I rather think I wouldn't because I wouldn't want to leave my kids without their mom. But, like I said, God willing I'll never have to find out. Hats off to the subway rescuer! He's a hero.
Sunday, January 07, 2007
The big news story this week here in the States, of course, was the guy who leapt in front of a subway train and covered another guy with his own body, saving him from sure death.
Have you ever been faced with this dilemma? Have you ever seen someone who was in trouble and didn't really think about it, but just leapt in and tried to save them? I suspect those of you who are parents have experienced this -- near death adventures involving trees, kids dashing into streets, etc.
Tell us about it....
Saturday, January 06, 2007
Who would have thought...
But with this large group, we were missing important events, like birthdays. Now, I don't mean we forgot their birthday, but celebrating them as a group wasn't happening.
So, in September I had the bright idea of a monthly 'Birthday Bash.'
During the first one, Grey, a grandkid, asked me if we were going to do this every month, as his ninth birthday was in December. It touched my heart. So, I confirmed that there would be a 'bash' for his birthday.
I always cook, then we have the 'bash' after we gorge ourselves with food. One thing about living in Louisiana, every major event has to include great food. Each month the menu changes, with some of the daughters bringing dishes from their homes.
After chowing down, each 'birthday' person gets a small cake of their own. With one candle. We sing the famous song, they blow out the candles, and the gift opening begins, youngest to oldest.
Caroline turned two in November, and believes that every party is for her. So, in December, I purchased a cupcake 'cake' and took one of the small cupcakes and placed it on a plate with one candle, just for her. None of the other grandkids questioned why I did this for one, but not for all. They seemed to understand, without me explaining.
What makes this event stand out for 2006 is the response of the grandkids. Ethan, 12, told his mother that when he went to his friends birthday parties that the aunts and uncles were never there, and he thought that it was great that his aunts and uncles and cousins were there to celebrate birthdays.
Which brings me to the 'best thing I did in 2006'--bringing my family together to celebrate the entry of individuals into our family. How great is that!
Friday, January 05, 2007
I thought I'd have my first WIP completed, but unfortunately I got stuck in the middle of the story and haven't made much progress in weeks. Ladies, I'm going to need you all to stay on my back to finish a manuscript. One of my critique pals and inspiration romance writer, Denise "Chicki" Jones, has inspired me to really sit down and set goals for the coming year. With goals written down and in my face to inspire me on a daily, weekly and monthly basis, I hope to make some inroads with my writing and submissions this year. So here they are:
1. Completing one or two full manuscripts,
2. Find an agent,
3. Study the romane publishing market, both in print and e-book,
4. Participate in writing contests,
5. Continue critiquing and learning from others,
6. Educate myself on marketing and promotional tactics,
7. Renew my membership to RWA and Virginia Writing Group,
8. Submit my finished manuscript to publishers, and
9. Buy a laptop or Alphasmart (Dana).
Looking at the goals in a list is daunting. But challenge is good! Facing any challenge requires the support friends, family, colleagues, and even intestinal fortitude (sounds yucky but you know what I mean.) I know the Mavens will be here to support me.
I know it isn’t my “day” to blog, and I can’t even remember what our topic is this week. What’s on my mind is the “end”. Not the victorious “THE END” we write after we complete a manuscript; I’m talking about the big end for all of us: death.
A cousin of mine passed away between Christmas and New Years, a person with as much life and vitality as anyone you’ve ever seen – until cancer zapped it out of her. She struggled long and hard against the disease and I greatly admire her courage. Near the end, when we’d go over to Hospice for a visit, she’d often tell us “I’m dying.” We were all a bit uncomfortable with this, and usually managed to say “We’re all dying.”
But now that the time is passed, I’m wondering if she felt differently inside. If she knew that, even though she was willing to continue the fight, her body was done. I wish I’d had that conversation with her, but again, it was an uncomfortable time, and there was no pressing ahead to get to the bottom of the mystery.
The truth is we are all dying. Every day of life brings us closer to our own mortality.
Another relative is in the midst of being hospitalized for Alzheimer’s. In lucid moments, this 86-year-old calmly says that he can’t remember things. And yet a few seconds later, he’s angry and shouting that he isn’t crazy. His body is hanging in there, but his brain has checked out.
All of this has me wondering about death. Will we all have that moment where we recognize the end is here, or will it catch us unawares? Will we face dying like a warrior or will we cower in fear? For me, the answer isn’t clear cut. I want my “end” to be blindingly quick and if possible, pain-free. The thought of fighting a disease for 7 years like my cousin, and losing, doesn’t have much appeal. It isn’t death I’m afraid of, its pain and lingering between life and death.
I watched the company I write for, Triskelion, move from a small e-publisher to a medium sized publisher of ebooks and print, in mass market paperback, ready to duke it out with the majors in Borders and Wal-Mart.
I'm still reeling from the success of the Department 57 series, which I want to see go to even bigger things, so I've worked hard to get all the accompanying stuff right, as well as the books. No point in writing a new series if nobody knows it's there, right?
And I've made plans to go to Romantic Times in Houston in 2007. Now that is partly a non writing achievement! Personally I'm shy, I don't like meeting new people, because it sends me into panic attacks. So why do you think my ideal job is sitting at home on my own with a computer?
Well, I'm traveling on my own, sharing a room with a lovely person I've only met once before, and meeting tons of new people. My resolution is not to hide in my room, but sally forth and enjoy myself!
Terror is only something to be overcome!
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Tuesday, January 02, 2007
Well, it wasn't related to my writing, but to my critique partner's. So I'm going to use that.
She has almost finished her first manuscript. She and I have been brainstorming it for the entire year, shaping it, working on it, and now she's nearly ready to send it out. Neither of us has aspirations that it will get picked up, but it will get her that Pro Pin, from RWA. She's been in RWA for about 10 years and has not finished a manuscript or gotten a PP, and by gum, that was my goal for 2006 -- get her that pin, show her that she could finish a manuscript and help her to do it.
I think this relates to my theory of the 'plateau' system of writing -- actually, a plateau system of anything. When you start, you're on the bottom plateau. You strive, you work, you accomplish something. You go up a step. All of a sudden, there's a new world in front of you. There are new things to learn, new aspects to hone, new things you never thought about. You learn, you aspire, you accomplish. You go up a step.
There's always another step, there's always more to learn. This is true in writing, in life, in everything. I think, watching her struggle with this #*(@ book has taught me the power of stubbornness. She was bound and determined to finish that story even though she'd lost interest in it, even though she wanted to move on to another one. She wanted to FINISH what she'd started. I admire that. She's learned a great deal from this process, but so have I, and that's what it's all about, isn't it? It's all part of the plateau-system of learning ...
Monday, January 01, 2007
What did it teach me? Never take your mobility for granted. I've actually been through something similar before. About 20 years ago I was in a car accident and ended up partially paralyzed on my left side. Couldn't walk, couldn't fend for myself and we were in a 3rd floor apartment with no balcony and no elevator. I was stuck. New to the state, hours from my family and my husband worked all day - luckily about a mile away. Talk about isolation! And boredom - I've seen every episode of Bewitched, Gilligan's Island, I Dream of Jeannie and about a zillion other 50s and 60s sitcoms ever made. Too bad I wasn't writing at that point.
I had to relearn how to walk. Talk about frustrating! And, here it is, almost 20 years later that I had to learn the same thing again.
I wasn't the best pupil this go-round. There was a lot of anger over how the whole thing happened that I had trouble letting go of (some will say I still haven't). Twenty years later, you're more aware of how easy things can break. Your muscles may not be in as great a shape as two decades ago, making recovery that much more difficult. LIFE is more complicated and hectic so finding the time for rehab isn't as easy... it goes on.
So, my biggest accomplishment? Something I had hoped to never have to do again: re-teach myself how to walk.
Did I do it in the most positive light? I'd love to be all heroic and say "yes," but the truth is, I didn't. I complained. I whined, I even told my physical therapist I hated him while he was stretching my knee (I later apologized - after we all got a good laugh). I was not the most enthusiastic patient.
But I did it. Around week three I had a serious talk with myself (always a fun thing to do - like you can really argue with yourself and hope to win????) and decided that I have too much life left to be crippled by this stupid surgery. I'd elected the surgery in the first place because I don't like body parts that don't work, so I could quit complaining and get my tushy in gear and make this thing work! I think that next day I had a 13% increase in bending in my knee and from that point on, things improved much quicker than they had.
Sometimes all it takes is positive thinking. So, that's how I'm going into 2007. Positive that this is my year. If not in the American Title III contest, then with an editor or agent who has expressed an interest in my other works.
And positive that I won't be riding in the 4th of July parade this year!
Happy New Year!