There used to be many places I liked to write before the pandemic, but several of them have either closed, or only have indoor seating right now. One of the places I still like to go to write is on the patio by the lakes on the UT Tyler Campus on a Saturday morning or Sunday afternoon. The campus is quiet during those times, and the weather right now makes it a lovely place to go for writing. You can hear the sloshing of the water and the quacking of the ducks. It’s just a quiet and comforting place.
I’ve also been enjoying sitting on the patio at The Foundry Coffee House, near the square in downtown Tyler. They have made it very pretty outside with a lot of plants and strings of lights. During certain times of the day there is shade, but this time of year with the temperatures finally cooling off, it’s nicer to sit in the sun.
Today’s Spiritual Practices class discussion was so apropos. It was on “Waiting.” There was so much good commentary on that. My favorite quote of the night was this one:
“Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up.” —Anne Lamott
As a writer, waiting is the hardest part of the story process. I mean, yes, some days writing is a slog and I want to quit, but that is nothing compared to waiting to hear back from another author or editor. Some days it feels like writing is all waiting – waiting to get the research done so you can start writing, waiting for the critique group to reply to your manuscript so you can see what else needs work, waiting for cover art, etc. I have tried to improve my patience over the years, but am still not proficient at waiting.
Yesterday I finished most of the edits on Caro’s Quest Chapter Nine, which wasn’t as dire as I’d believed it to be, thank god. I have a few last little bits, but should be ready to send the chapter out to the Pineywoods Critique Group on Friday afternoon.
Today I edited, then submitted three short stories and four poems various places for October 31st deadlines. I have a few more short stories to send out tomorrow and probably even more poems. My list of tabs opened for submission guidelines right now far exceeds frivolous tabs, which is saying a lot. Some have said I’d hear back just after the first of November, but others had dates as far out at the end of January 2022. Ah, the wait is upon us.
This will be short. My dad has gone home, my kids are back at school, my husband is at work, and I have three and a half hours all to myself for writing. I’m reworking Caro’s Quest Chapter Nine after a couple weeks away to let me feel not so terrible about the utter disaster that the ladies at the Pineywoods Critique Group thought it was. To be honest, it was probably not great. First draft and all that. Back to work!
AKA: How I managed to spend a whole week NOT writing
This was a hard week for me. As I’ve mentioned before, my half-brother Ray passed away last month. Last Thursday I drove to DFW and dropped my car off at Katherine’s and she drove me to the airport. I hopped on a flight to California in order to help out Ray’s widow, Susan, and kids getting reading for the memorial service. I’d brought my writing stuff with me, hoping to get to spend some of my free time writing, but there honestly wasn’t any minutes to spare.
I got to their house after a long day of driving and flying and with a negative time change, I was so very tired and it was only 8pm. I tried to stay up and talk with everyone, but it was no use – I was in bed by 9:30pm PST.
The next day I woke up at 4:45am, but managed to coax myself back to sleep until about 6:30am. I went to make coffee, but my nephew ran out and shooed me away, telling me that his dad always got up and said “Make the coffee, Joe,” and he was determined to keep on making the coffee, even without his dad around to remind him. Just like that, I could hear my brother in my little nephew’s voice and see him in his every movement. I had to shoo myself away before I cried all over the little guy.
We spent the rest of the day taking kids to and from school, organizing, then cleaning rooms of the house and the patio so it could be all ready for the memorial service the next day.
The next day I was again awake at 4:45am, but this time I got up, made my own coffee, and spent some time taking photos of photos in my birthmom’s room (which was where I was staying). Her walls are absolutely covered in photos, many of which I’ve never seen before. I stood up on a stool and angled myself this way and that to get the best photos possible. Once the other’s were up, I started decorating the house with photos of my brother and his family, and then put out the tablecloths, and washed up all the dishes and platters I thought we might need. An hour before people were due to arrive, the first visitor showed up. He was the ex-husband of my brother’s housemate and since he was early, we put him to work carting drinks into the house, setting up the coolers, and re-installing the door to the garage that Joe had taken off a few weeks ago (and was unable to put back up alone).
After that, everyone else started arriving and over the course of the day I manned the buffet table, meeting many members of the housemate’s family and Susan’s family. There were even some little kids there. Everyone brought fruit. It was fruitopia. The day spun by so very quickly. We were unable to have the main part of the memorial service, due to some clerical errors that kept Susan from being able to get Ray’s death certificate (and therefore also his remains), so the little tree she was going to plant in his honor remained on her front porch. A few of us spoke about Ray, even his little son Jeff, and we all cried. It was nice to meet so many people that loved my brother and sister-in-law.
Because it was also the busiest day of the band year back home, I skipped out on the early evening’s visitor (who had come late due to his work schedule). I went back to my room and watched the livestream of my kids marching at UIL Contest and then looked for photos of them from the Rose Parade earlier in the day. I texted with them, congratulating them on their Sweepstakes win. And then I went back out and joined the conversation.
The next morning I did not get up early. We all got up a little later and then moseyed over to church, which was part Southern Baptist-part rock band church-part surfer dude speak. Everyone there was really nice and no one bugged me about my mask. After church was lunch and after lunch my best friend from high school came and scooped me up and we ran off to Starbucks for a while. I was sad to leave her when our time was up, but I love how easily we slipped back into that friendship for a couple hours.
After that, Susan and I loaded up the kids and went to the beach. We didn’t stay long, just long enough for Joe and I to get thoroughly soaked from the waist down and for Jeff to lecture us on the improbability of us turning into merpeople and Susan to get creeped out by some weirdo. A couple hundred beach pictures in ten minutes, really. But it was good. I always feel better at the beach.
Susan dropped us back at the house and stayed just long enough to say hi to the chair lady. Then she drove back out to pick up Angela. I made my “famous” chicken spaghetti and “Aunt Mandy’s” green beans for a late “fancy” dinner. I laughed at that. Chicken spaghetti is the easiest thing ever. I taught Joe my secret sauce, just in case they liked it. Oh boy, did they! Jeff said I took him to “Flavor Town” and “Delicious Land.” I’m so happy it was well-receieved.
We went to bed very late that night, in some part due to a conversation that needed to take place out of the earshot of the children. We had to wait for Joe to fall asleep. In the end, an agreement was reached about what would happen with the kids if something happened to Susan. It was a hard conversation, but necessary. I was really glad to be included.
The next morning we all got up at the crack of dawn so Susan could drop me off at the airport and then take the kids straight to school. I waited in the longest TSA line I’ve ever seen, but made it to my gate all right. The flight itself was mostly okay, but there was a medical emergency towards the end in first class, so we ended up spending quite a while at the gate waiting for that to get sorted out. Then Katherine picked me back up and we had a late lunch and then went to rest at her house for a while before I drove home. I was feeling so foggy and out of it, I was worried about driving home. I did end up making it home okay, but I had to stop for a while halfway home and walk around for a bit to get my brain back online. So I didn’t get home until about 7:30pm (I’d expected to be home by 5pm).
Tuesday I spent cleaning my entire house. Being away from home on a super busy weekend makes the mess so much worse. But I was also still feeling so groggy and weird that it was hard to get anything done. I started to worry that I was coming down with a cold or something. I attended my Spiritual Practices group, but I absorbed none of the conversation, alas.
Wednesday morning was my pill box refill day. I couldn’t find the pills I needed to fill the box. I finally realized that the reason I was so out of it was that I had picked up my medicine at the pharmacy before I left on the trip, but had forgotten to put that one in the box I took with me. So I’d skipped it for a couple days by accident. (And now I know just how essential it is to my health and well being.)
I taught a lesson at the Wednesday Whatchamacalit group that day and it went well. That is detailed in an earlier post. Later. I spent the rest of the day resting/spending time with my younger kids because I knew that the next day I had some more big cleaning to do.
Thursday I went over to the David House and helped him get it cleaned up because my dad was coming to visit. David was supposed to have finished moving rooms before my dad came to town and he had not finished. Plus there was resetting the room he’d moved out of and resetting the closet of the room that stored the stuff that used to be in that room and putting stuff from the room he was moving to into that closet. If it sounds circuitous, it really was.
After that was the recycling. I don’t think anyone has taken the recycling out of the house since January. I filled my entire Jeep up from top to bottom and back to front. It was only about 2/3 of the total recycling. I had other errands to run, though, so I did that and never got back to check on the David House.
This morning I got up and realized that I’d never gotten around to doing the critiques for the Pineywoods Critique Group, which was just as well because I hadn’t sent anything in over the last weekend, either. So the spouse and I went and got haircuts, which we have literally never done at the same time before. Then we ran a couple errands and ate lunch. One of the errands was picking up all the boxes of history for the ETWG Historian position before the current Historian moved and took them with her.
This was the last thing on my To Do list for the day besides feeding and chaperoning the band. It’s also the first real writing I’ve done all week. I’m not sure I’ll have time during the weekend to write, unless I am very careful with my time. We have the game tonight, my dad in town, an afternoon church party tomorrow, dinner at my dad’s and games, then church Sunday morning, and an ETYO concert Sunday afternoon. I may not get anything sent in to the critique group this weekend either. Chapter Nine of CQ needs re-drafting. Maybe I’ll send them some more poetry.
I spoke today at the Wednesday Writers Whatchamacalit. I had gotten a slide show and topic prepared, but we got a little off topic, as sometimes happens with the WWW. Instead, I got to coach a group of ladies on Gender Identity, Personal Pronouns (and how we don’t say that anymore), and how language change can sneak up on you if you’re not paying attention. Eventually we got around to my topic, but we came at it sideways, so I never got around to my slides. We had a great time helping one of our writers figure out how to redraft parts of her novel, so the midpoint was really the midpoint and what to add that would carry the rest of the story on through with the theme she wanted. It was a really good experience and I still have this slide show in my back pocket for another speaking engagement. 🙂
One year at MOPs (mothers of preschoolers), a mentor talked about her costume chest. Every year, the day after Halloween, she’d go buy the costumes that were 80% off and save them for the next year, so over the years she always had stuff that was new or different for costumes. Her kids by that point were in their 30s and still came home at every costume-needing event to dig through the box.
So I have striven to be that mom. When the kids were in elementary school, we brought the whole costume box up to school for storybook parades, Halloween, and Living History Museums. Some of them were cheap store-bought things, but many of them were things I had sewn or crocheted. Literally hundreds of kids have dressed up out of our costume box. I would always take photos of as many of the kiddos as I could.
When the last of my kids outgrew the smallest outfits, I started donating them to the school, so over the years our at-home costume box has dwindled and theirs has gotten bigger. Our kids don’t dress up as much now that they’re in high school and college, but every year at Halloween I’ll see at least one kid wearing something out of our old box and it really makes me smile.
I forgot to post a link yesterday. We (the Tyler Public Library Writing Club – aka Open Door Writing Group) are sprinting in the global sprint at myWriteClub. Today I sprinted off and on for another 8 hours and got 7,496 words. Caro’s Quest Chapter 7 rewrite got done yesterday and Chapter 8’s rewrite got done today. This has been fun!