Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Community Based on Trust.

Days since hubby deployed: 134

Days 'til he returns: currently unknown

Work In Progress: shelved for a bit, preparing for NaNoWriMo

As I write this, a sick, sick man is being tried for horrible, unthinkable crimes. Crimes committed here. Where I live, where I work. He was my husband's boss. In fact, he was the boss of thousands. And thousands more trusted him with their lives, their careers...their families. He abused that trust, using information he gathered through his power at work to stalk, steal, rape and murder. Where I live. Where I work. Where my children play. I thought he was a friend.

It's thrown me for a bit of a loop. You can't avoid the shocking testimony. It's on the cover of every local paper. On the television. On the internet. It's talked about in the grocery store. On Twitter. On Facebook. It's terrifying, sickening and it's very real, because it's right here. I keep my dog close. I triple check the doors and windows at night. Leave lights on outside. I hug my kids. I pray the time will go quickly and my husband will be home soon.

Miltary families are regularly thrown into situations where they have to trust complete strangers. We move. We rarely have extended family to depend on. Our spouses go away. Our commanders have access to information no civilian boss would. It is a system based on trust. Honor. Integrity. Respect. These are words that we live by. And this one man has threatened it all.

There are so many people I have had to trust in the past. Neighbours, babysitters, workmates, book club friends...people I've met through my husbands work, through military family resource centres, standing at kids' schools, waiting outside kids' activities. Some are miltary, some are civilian. My 'military family' includes people from across the globe. People I've had to depend upon. Wonderful, wonderful people that have listened to me when I needed a friend. Supported me. I am so thankful for each and every one of them. It's quite overwhelming to think of the wonderful friendships I've built over the years with people who started out as strangers. I hope I have been as valuable to them as they have been to me.

I debated a long time before discussing the fact that my husband was away on the internet. I didn't want to advertise the fact that he was away. Especially as his ex-boss was awaiting trial for preying on women who were home alone. But I want to share my experiences, maybe to help another deployed spouse, maybe to help others understand life in the military community.

I know this will pass. He'll be sentenced. The news will find something else new and shocking to cover. But my military family will endure. I won't stop trusting people just because of one man's hideous crimes. In fact, I will trust them more. Trust that we will keep each other safe.


Sunday, October 10, 2010

A Vacation in the Clouds

Days since hubby deployed: 122 That's four full months.

On my reading list: Actually, I'm not reading anything right now. Just finished all of Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments, and Clockwork Angel

Eagerly Awaiting: Crescendo. What's going to happen with Patch and Nora??

Current Work In Progress: About 17,000 wds. Sadly, I've not been at my computer much.

I am a lucky lady.

Seriously. I just got back from the absolute BEST vacation ever. 14 days of perfection. Five nights in Tuscany, two nights in Venice and seven nights cruising the Greek Islands on the Norwegian Gem. Bliss. And the best part? I got to spend the whole time with my wonderful husband! Sure, crossing the Atlantic (sans help)with my three children was a bit daunting. And the preparations required for two weeks of travel with a diabetic daughter were a little more than average...but so worth it.

We got to climb to the top of the Tower of Pisa. We crossed the Ponte Vecchio in Florence. We went horseback riding and drank locally produced wine in Tuscany(me sitting at our Tuscan villa at left) . We took a gondola ride through the canals of Venice(photo at top right), and a donkey ride up the cliffs of Santorini. And we were spoiled rotten on a beautiful cruiseship in the Aegean.

Travelling with kids may not be for everyone, but those who have read through my Dunnesinuk posts know that we are HUGE fans of it. While sitting in our apartment in Venice we were reading The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke to the kids- and realized we'd had lunch in the very Piazza that Prosper and Bo were in. So Cool. And then we revisited many of the same places Tom and I had visited on our honeymoon thirteen years before- the kids got to see it first hand.

Unfortunately, at the end of all of this bliss my husband had to board a plane going one way, and we had to board our squishy-tight and very delayed transatlantic flight going the other way. All good things must come to an end. I'm not complaining-just stating a fact. I am very blessed to have had the opportunity. My kids were OUTSTANDING travellers. Even the stewardess on the flight stopped to tell me how impressed she was with their manners and behaviour (shameless brag). I was very proud of them. And I actually returned feeling refreshed- both physically and emotionally. I loved just about every minute of our trip, but I'm glad to be home. In two and a half months we'll all be together again, and family life can restart. Well, that is until we get the posting message that's due...

Hope you all had a great Canadian Thanksgiving.


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

An Ode to September

September. Oh how I love thee. Fresh apples, blazing red leaves, sweaters and wood fires...

And let us not forget...BACK TO SCHOOL! Yippee! Today I walked three children to the end of the driveway and waved goodbye. Have fun kids! See ya later! And then, joy of joys, I was alone! And even better, today is my day off! Heaven. Oh, how I love September.

I took the dog for a run, came back into my (incredibly disasterous) house, lit a candle (to cover the reek of unwashed laundry) and sat down with a cup of lukewarm coffee. The sun came out. The humid air freshened to that early-fall crispness. And now I hear the leaves rustling in the breeze. Oh, how I love September.

September is the month where I finally get to take a breather. Kids in school, summer activities are gearing down, winter activities not quite geared up yet...the heat of August is over. The bitter, hateful January cold is still far away. There are still 3 months until I realize Christmas is two days away and I'm not finished shopping/wrapping/baking. Oh, how I love September.

And this September, there is something better. A break from deploymentland. In less than two weeks the kids and I will be on a plane. To Venice. Italy. Where we will be met, at the airport, by my wonderful husband. We'll drink wine in Tuscany, walk the narrow alleyways of Venice, then hop on a cruise ship for seven days of cruising the Greek islands. Does it get any better than that?

Oh, how I love September.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Limbo, Laundry, and Paddington Bear

Days since hubby deployed:75-not quite half way
On my reading list:
On Writing by Stephen King (I'm savouring this one, reading bits at a time and loving it)
My Name is Memory by Ann Brashares
Eagerly awaiting: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (Really eagerly awaiting)
Current Work in Progress- Adult fiction (something different!)- 15,000 wds and counting.

The evening's silence has descended(well, sorta- the dog is whining to go out and the cat is crying to come in), and I do believe my blood pressure has come I'm taking the time to sit and write a few thoughts. The kids have been home from camp for all of about fifty hours and I'm already starting to feel frazzled. And really, it has nothing to do with the kids. Well, it has something to do with the kids, but it has everything to do with the dog. And hubby being gone now for over two and a half months. And being a physiotherapist at a busy clinic. And being a writer who hasn't enough time to write. And kids being kids- mess-making, sibling-picking, chore-grumbling, taxi-needing, money-gobbling kids.

As most of you know by now, my youngest has type one diabetes (ie.Jeuvenile diabetes-insulin dependent), so sending her to a non-diabetes camp was a bit of a leap of faith on my part. We have tried to give her a normal life since diagnosis two and half years ago. However, anything more than a sleepover requires alot of work, and a wholelotta trust. There are blood tests, carb counts, and pump site changes to be considered. But...if brother and sister were going to camp, so was she. And the best part about this camp--it was free to kids of deployed personnel. Yup. F-R-E-E. Well, except the medication that they gave my kid without my permission..but that's another story and I don't want this to be a camp-bashing blog.

So. Seven days without kids, without blood tests and the immediacy of diabetes, without fighting siblings, and constant taxiing...was pure bliss. I needed it. I'd like to say I cleaned the house from top to bottom, but NOPE. I didn't. I wrote. I read. I ate brie and rosemary foccacia. I hung out with my sister. And I slept. True respite.

All good things must come to an end.

I could suck it up, and act all happy and gushy, saying this is "sooo easy!"(said in an annoying high pitched voice)...but I want to be honest here. It's not. Two and half months of living in the limbo of deploymentland is getting to me. Things are starting to break down around the house. The pool vacuum started to spew sand instead of picking it up. My new laptop has not returned from the Geek squad guys, and the old one is painfully slow. Our prehistoric PC refuses to accept the internet stick. Our stockpiled lawntractor gas is gone. We're out of garbage tags, the bathroom sink is plugged, we have ants, and wasps, and a squirrel nesting somewhere our vents. The cat ran away for 5 days. And then the kids came back from camp with seven days worth of filthy laundry. Individually, these things would not bother me. Together, and combined with my partner/love/best friend being 8000km away...not so much.

I know, everyone wants to hear the socially acceptable: "Oh, I KNOW! I can't believe it's been almost three months!!!! Time is going so FAST!!!! We're all doing so well! :) We're almost halfway!!!" (complete with extra exclamation points and smiley faces) And really, the statements minus the expressions are true. But the glass can be half full or half empty- and the context in which you look at that glass determines the description.

I remember sitting with my friend, a few years ago, talking about what it means to be a military family. She was employed by the Military Family Resource Centre, and I was the Chairperson of the Board of Directors. We were working on deployment programming, I think; trying to help the younger members and their families cope with deployment stress. Somewhere in the conversation one of us used the phrase "Suck it up, princess!" God, I hate that phrase now. I HATE that I used it. I am ashamed that it even came up in our conversation. Deployed spouses should not be told to suck it up. Deployed spouses should be championed. They should be supported. They should be loved.

Anway, today was one of the days when the glass was half empty. It rained. The dog ate the butter out of the dish on the table. He ripped up his LLBean dog bed. Dirty laundry is still piled everywhere. The kids bickered. My daughter's post-camp blood sugars are completely out of whack. And I was a less than stellar mom through it all.

But tonight as the kids went to bed, they asked if mom would read them a book. Book reading used to be part of the bedtime ritual...but the kids read so much now (8 year old is reading HP and the Half Blood Prince), that I find it's hard to keep up with them. They chose tonight's book: The Paddington Bear story. It was wonderful. Snuggles, and memories of our visit to Paddington Station, what a great end to the day.

I came down and joined in on a little online chat with WriteOnCon organizers. More happy thoughts. And now I'm doing the thing that seems to be keeping me sane these days...writing for you.

Only three and a half months to go.


Friday, August 13, 2010

Humble Pie and Hard Drive Errors

Days since hubby deployed: 67
Days til return: 138 (approx)
Status of Completed manuscrip: um...well... (more later)
Reading: On Writing by Stephen King, Black Powder war by Naomi Novik (book 3 of the series)
Hours worked (paying job):6
Hours taxiing:2

So. I don't know about you, but I am SO GLAD IT IS FRIDAY. Insanity has reigned in the Dunne household this week. I cannot tell you how good it feels to be sitting in my comfy chair with my feet up and my laptop on my lap. And tomorrow I do NOT have to get up at 6:00. Nope. Maybe 7...but definately not 6.

It has been one freakin' crazy week. F- factor was WAY up there. It all started when I got this crazy idea that it was high time this momma did something for herself. It didn't look that busy at work, we had minimal time commitments (or so I thought), and there was this wonderful little online conference for writers of children's fiction going on. And, amazingly enough, it was free! I like free. I like writers even better. So I signed up.

It was to start at 6 a.m. on Tuesday morning. I had to work, but no biggie, I could bring my superfast brand-new laptop to work, and peek in when things were quiet.

When the first lull hit...I whipped open my laptop and typed those wonderful letters... and voila! FORBIDDEN Error 403. Well friggity-jig! Tried again. No luck. Checked twitter, my favorite news source. Elana's tweet reassured me that yes, they were working on it (God bless 'em), and yes, it would be up soon.

Treat a few more patients...check again...and YES! I got on!

But laptop froze. I shut it down and restarted it. Hard Drive Error. Restart. Hard Drive error. Missing hard drive. Restart. Hard drive error. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACK!!!!!!!

Yup. She was dead. Done like dinner. With my recently revised query, my recently edited manuscript, and all of my recently started works in progress. GONE. I could have cried.

And so began the emotional roller-coaster that was my week. Point form:

*laptop dies (utter depression)
*get old laptop running (slight elevation)
*kids orthodontist appointment- in which I discover orthod. wants to pull 12 more teeth from 2 kids mouths, and add a $500 appliance to 11 year old's mouth (extreme agitation)
*visit with mother in law/step-father in law (even keel)
*discover daughter left blood testing kit in MIL's car (Are you SERIOUS?)
*log in to writeoncon and find queries and honest critiques(moment of weightlessness)
*Mark McVeigh's amazing live video workshop (happy rush)

~ 6 hours sleep~

*read/watch/listen to amazing panelists/presenters (giggle like a school child)
*tune in to Elana Roth's live blogging event (anticipation at the top of the big drop off)
*have query completely skipped due to word count not being appropriate (250 foot drop to the darkest tunnel)
*spend 6 hours taking kids to riding lessons and walmart-one of my least favorite stores in the world-(scraping fingers in the dark tunnel of doom)
*catch the last live event of the day- a live video presentation with the amazing and up-beat Daisy Whitney (start to see the light again)

~5.5 hours sleep~

*check in quickly before work to see how my posts are doing, and find some honest, good critiques, but none of those magical PMs (private messages, not prime-ministers)(go around turn and down short drop)
*work 6 hours, rush home to pick up kids, and drive 1 hour plus to youngest's doctor's appt-get good report-head to mall for retail therapy (exit tunnel start long hard climb again)
*get home, find out dog has peed on carpet, yell at dog (small downhill)
*put kids in bed and log on to conference just in time for super-wonderful Regina Brook's live video presentation and Q&A (with out-of-this world closing offer to remove attendees from slushpile? seriously?) (See sunset from the top of the biggest hill :) )

There's a lot more filler, but that's the essence of my week. Up, down, up, down. Phone calls from hubby-up. Conference ends and no PMs-down. Hugs from kids-up. Late for meeting-down.

As this was my first ever writers' conference, I had very little idea of what to expect. I got lots of kind, honest critiquing from people I'd never met, and that was good. I gave critiques too- which is something I found incredibly hard to do-and in doing so recognized some of my own faults. I met lots of new 'friends' some of whom are even following me now- on twitter and on this blog (yay! Hi! Lisa, Elana(you are truly amazing) and Melissa too! Eleven! 11 maaarvelous followers...ah-ah-ah-ah...). And I've still got time to meet more, critique more, and learn more before the site closes.

So on the whole it's been a positive experience. Humbling...probably at a time when I wasn't hungry for humble pie...but I'm not perfect and neither is my query letter. Yet.

Back to the editing screen. That is-IF I can recover my manuscript. Where did I put that memory stick?

Have a great night,

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The F Factor

Days since hubby deployed: 55

Days until his return: ? 150 (return date still unknown- maybe December?)

Status of completed manuscript: querying

Works in Progress: 4 (longest work at about 5000 wds)

Reading: 'Temeraire' by Naomi Novik on Kindle
'On Writing' by Stephen King on Kindle

Hours worked in physiotherapy (ie paying job) today: 7.5

Hours spent taxiing kids and waiting at activities: 2.5

Extra kids at our house tonight: 1

Today's 'F' Factor: Low

So you're probably wondering what an 'F' factor is.


Several years and about 3 moves ago, the Dunne family were in Greenwood, Nova Scotia. At the time we had three pre-schoolers and I was in the process of trying to get re-licensed as a physiotherapist in that fine province after a two year stint in North Carolina.

To go even further back than that, I should tell you that when we moved to North Carolina, we had an 18 month old toddler and a four week old baby. I decided against attempting to get my American license (duh...) which was a good thing as my youngest was born a year and a half later. If you think about all of those pregnancies, all of those kids, all of those moves, and the amount of time I had to myself, you get an idea of the amount of stress I was under.

So. Back to Nova Scotia. Trying to get my license. My application was refused. I was told I didn't have enough hours worked in the profession over the past 5 years (again...duh...), and if I would like to get my license approved I would have to write my National Physiotherapy Board Exams. THIRTEEN YEARS AFTER GRADUATING FROM UNIVERSITY and they wanted me to waltz in and do an exam (to the tune of about $3000)on stuff I hadn't even looked at since I graduated! I was not impressed. Oh-- and I was to write this bell curved exam with kids graduating that year, and with the least detailed topic outline I'd ever seen.

And while I was doing all of this we were building a house, my husband was incredibly busy at his job, and I was volunteering 10+ hours a week as the Board Chair of the Military Family Resource Centre in town.

I like to do all of the major life stressors all at once.

During this time I swore alot. Under my breath, mind you, so that none of the little ears in our house could hear and so that none of local socialites could titter about Mrs Dunne's potty mouth.

There were days when the 'F word' was frequently in my mind and on my lips. A non-stop inner monologue of verbal filth. "'F-ing' alarm clock why the 'F' can't anybody pick up their own socks well 'F' the milk is gone and the 'F-ing' van is being serviced so I don't have an 'F-ing' car what kind of 'F-ing' lunatic tries to canoe across the 'F-ing' ocean in 'F-ing January causing my husband to be 'F-ing' called out at 'F-ing' 2 a.m. while my son was 'F-ing' barfing all over the 'F-ing' last set of sheets and somehow I've got to 'F-ing' study for this 'F-ing' exam..."

Yah, you get the idea. Not pretty. Not lady-like in the least.

Every once in a while, when it got REALLY bad, one would slip out in front of the kids and I'd have to change it last minute: "Well, FUUUUU...riggin-jiggin CRAP!" The kids soon learned to steer clear of momma when she was talking like that.

Thankfully those days weren't particularly frequent. I passed my exams (really!), started working again, our beautiful house got built, we moved in, and SURPRISE!...fourteen months later we got posted to Ottawa.

There's no life like it.

In response to those vulgar, bleary eyed days of the military motherhood trenches, I coined 'The F Factor'. A phrase used to describe how rock-bottom those days really were.

Low F Factor days are the usual kid snot and book-club kind of days. Good friends, lots of coffee and happy family dinners. High F Factor days involve barf, diarrhea, snot, hubby unexpectedly leaving for a two-week trip, freezing rain, kid fights, forgotten dentist appointments, being late for the bus, being late for work, and empty refrigerators. Temper tantrums abound on these days, and it's not necessarily the kids having them.

And now you know. Today was a low F Factor day.

I hope it was for you too.


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Time to Crash the Pity-Party!!

Wow. Just re-read all of my blogs. Holy pity-party! I think it's time for some happy Brenda. (It's not all bad in deployment-land!) Blogs below, though true, sound dangerously close to Eeeyore... on a bad day! Woah, woah, is me. Poor, Brenda. ENOUGH!

So...what makes me happy these days (because the spa gift certificates haven't rolled in yet)? My book. A Flower of Stone . Ellen Margaret Peterson, a soon-to-be fourteen year old British teen is banished (her word) to Canada for her summer holidays. Sent to her brainiac Aunt's house for a summer of mental gymnastics. But there is nothing scientific about the stone chair she finds deep in her aunt's forest. Nothing logical about the faerie she sees beside it. And no textbook could have prepared her for what happens when the full moon rises and her world turns upside down.

Written for late middle grade readers, A Flower of Stone follows Ellen as she learns to listen to heart--even as parents, portals and prophecies contrive against her.

Oooooooh, aaaaaaaaaaaah, ooooooooooooooah. *smiles like a goofball*

So yes, my manuscript makes me happy. Which is a good thing, as I've entered the daunting world of queries, agents, editors and other scary entities(And if you're one of the above, reading this drivel...Thank you!). I was in a bit of a slump, but thanks to my friend @marcyberg I revisited my Twitter account a few weeks ago. I've joined in (or maybe I should say lurked) on a few chats (#scribechat, #kidlitchat) and have learned LOADS. The best thing I've learned from these hour-long online sessions is that the experience is universal. Most unpublished authors go through the same emotional roller coaster. Sure, there are a few who luck out and get published quickly. But, from what I can see, a published work is the product of long term perserverance and hard work.

And I've also met some really nice people through these chats. Encouragement in abundance. As I mentioned below, I need lots of encouragement I've become a bit of an Twitter addict. Which led me to sign up for an online children's writer's conference in August. Very excited! Check out for details.

Oh...and you know what else makes me happy? Hubby (from his post overseas) has booked us all a MEDITERRANEAN CRUISE!! Whooot! Oooh, baby! Italy and Greece better look out, cause the Dunnes are coming to town! We get to see him, and be pampered to the nines at the same time. Now THAT is something to look forward to.

See? I can be happy!

Now to go get another thing that makes me!


Sunday, July 18, 2010

Quarrels, Quinte cups, Conversation killers (and Queries)

It's been a month and a half that I've been parenting on my own, thanks to the Canadian Armed Forces. The kids and I have gotten into a routine. We've pulled one of the chairs away from the table, so it doesn't seem so empty without dad (pictured, left) there. I work my shortened work week, I taxi the kids to their activities, and I try (unsuccessfully) to keep the house from looking like a complete pig stye. I feed them at least one vegetable a day. We eat out more than once a week. Pretty normal, actually.

According to my handy-dandy Family Deployment Handbook (FDH), I'm right on schedule. I'm in the 'Recovery and Stabilization Phase'. Meaning...I'm not sick? And I'm not so unstable? That the old boat ain't so tipsy? True, the almost-in-labour anxiety has calmed down, and I spend less time sitting in the middle of the bathroom floor sobbing. But I still hate it. Just because I'm not running down our country road screaming obscenities and pulling my hair out doesn't mean I don't think about it.

The FDH states that by week 6 I should be experiencing "Feelings of increased confidence, independence, competence, freedom, pride, isolation, anxiety and depression". How can you be confident and still be depressed? How can you feel competent and independent, yet have anxiety? Living in deployment-land is full of nasty contradictions. I'm moodier than a PMSing teen deprived of sleep and coffee. One thing's for sure...if Momma's grumpy, everyone's grumpy. I try to be patient. But patience has never been my forte. So the kids are less patient with each other...and then the fights start. I have adopted the 'Mom's having a time out' technique. Rather than blow up at them for blowing up at each other, I lock myself in my bedroom and count to 1000 (10 just doesn't cut it). It works...more or less. The kids go 'Huh?' and stop quarrelling. And I get a precious moment or two by myself.

It bugs me that the little FDH book is so accurate, though. I hate to be pegged. But it's right. Independent? My husband (and parents, and siblings...)will tell you that he didn't have to go away for me to be independent. And now that he's gone, independence has hit full force. Whatever you do, DON'T suggest I can't do something. I'm like a kid with a dare. Two weekends ago the girls were at their first away horse show (One of the Quinte Cup Series)of the season. Two ponies, two girls, my son, saddles, bridles, helmets, show outfits, water, a sun shelter, chairs, food, diabetic supplies (for my youngest) and coffee, all had to be packed into boxes, trucks and trailers for a day long show in the heat. We got up at 4 a.m. to leave. And it went...okay. We got there, the girls showed, and we came home. I did it, with help from others, of course, but I did it. So there, ha ha. Independent me.

And as to coversation killers... I read a post on Facebook this week that just about hit the nose on the head. I can't find it now (of course) and can't find the author, so forgive me if you wrote it. (And let me know if you did so I can give you credit) but it was along the lines of "14 things to NOT say to a spouse of a deployed soldier". I have great friends, and they generally know how it is with me. But I'd like to paraphrase a few of the points:

1. "I know how you feel." You don't. Heck, I don't even know how I feel most of the time. If your husband has NOT gone away for 6 months and flown in and out of Afghanistan at least once during that time, you don't know how I feel. If you haven't sat beside your diabetic daughter at 3 in the morning praying her sugars come down, you don't know how I feel. Just like I don't know how you're getting through whatever challenge you have in your life right now. My FDH tells me I feel isolated. Darn right. I'm alone in my experiences. I don't generally want to talk about it with anyone, because it kills the conversation dead.

2. "It could be worse, he could be in..." Gee, thanks. Make me feel even worse than I already feel. Sure, he could be somewhere worse. I'm sure there are a million things that could make my current situation even more stressful. Do I want to think about them right now? NO.

3. "Well at least the kids are older (not babies)" Have you ever had a pre-pubescent daughter? Not fun. Tears at least twice a day. And my kids are old enough to understand where their dad is. They get it. It's on the news every day. Someone killed, someone bombed, funding cuts...I try to turn off the news, and thankfully hubby is not in Afghanistan all of the time, but they hear it. And they think about it. Babies don't.

I could go on and on, but the negative vibes are making me grumpy, so I'd like to add a change of tone. I want to give you a few things I'd LIKE to hear. Music to the deployed spouse's ear, a balm for my tired soul.

1. "Here's a gift certificate to the spa. I'll stay at your house and watch your kids." I don't have time to look after myself these days, what with summer (ie kids are home), work and taxiing. I'd love to have a moment alone. And if my kids are home, I have less to worry about than if you took them to...Wonderland or anywhere else far away and less safe. I can't relax if I think there's some danger. And with a diabetic daughter, keeping my diabetes-educated kids together, and keeping them at home means easy access to whatever food, medicine, or equipment she needs. If you offer something like this to a military spouse, though...make sure you follow through. There is nothing worse than looking at a gift certificate on the fridge for six months straight. And I can guarantee they won't ask you about it.

2. "Let me pick up the milk, pizza...(insert food item here)" I could really use help with lunch/supper now and then. I love to cook, but hate to decide WHAT to cook. We live 10 minutes away from even a corner store, so dinner = preplanning. The less I have to do, the better.

3. "You look great." "You're doing great." "You're a super mom." "You're husband is so lucky to have you." "Insert compliment here." What I'm doing is hard. My main cheerleader is gone. My kids complain. A little bit of heartfelt flattery goes a long way.

And here's one for just me...

4. "I loved your query...please send me your full manuscript!" Sorry, had to say it. My biggest project for the week ahead is to FINALLY send off a couple of queries to agents in hope that one of them will support my book. A wholelotta anxiety over that one, I can tell you! I've spent over a year editing and coddling it since my last misguided attempts(yup, I did EVERYTHING wrong with those first queries). It's time to let go again, and see what happens. Query number one went out today. Wish me luck.


Friday, July 9, 2010

Overdunne Writing...a manuscript is born.

I love to write. I always did, but didn't really realize it until a few years ago. Like most people, I wrote through elementary and junior high school, but only when I was told to. Mostly I read. And read. And read.

In high school I started to write articles for the school paper, and then for the local newspaper. I penned deep, teenage hormonally-charged poetry and hid it in my closet. I started university with a full scholarship and the conviction that I was going to be a journalist someday. And, yah baby, I was going to change the world.

But then the practical side of me kicked in. I am not a city girl. The glamourous, exciting, adventure-filled life of a prime time news correspondent didn't sit well with my inner chi. So what did I do? I became a military physiotherapist and moved to Ottawa. Not a whole lotta logic there, but it's what I did.

And before I bore you with any more of my life history, we'll skip over about 15 years. One husband, one military release, 3 kids, 7 moves and a tumultuous physiotherapy career later, and I'm sitting in a village in the UK, trying to figure out how to connect with family and friends back home.

I began to blog.

And I liked it.

Now, if you've stuck with me to this point, you'll know that I have absolutely no fancy computer skills in the blogging department. But for an entire year I filled page after digital page of words, photos, and links. Dunnesinuk was a diary, and a connection to home. My then 92 year old grandmother kept a copy of my posts in a binder at her bedside. I tried to draw a picture of our crazy life, from my youngest's scary night in a Swindon hospital and her first insulin needles, to the Paris Metro, to tea with the Queen. And the more I wrote, the more I wanted to write.

Enter my eldest daughter. This girl eats books. At 9 she had read all seven of the Harry Potter books...five times. Our local British library tried valiantly to keep her in prose, but it wasn't easy. So (cocky me) I decided to write her one. Sure! I could do that! A cinch, really! A little Middle Grade fantasy...a bit of danger, some faeries and elves... why not? In amongst all of the diabetic insanity, military and social engagements, travel, and general family madness, I sat down to write my kids a book.

Well, needless to say, I didn't finish it as soon as I'd hoped. Nope. Another trans-Atlantic move and more of the same slowed me down. But I kept plugging away, feeling a little thrill every time I got my characters through another chapter.

14 long months after I wrote my first words I had a 90,000 word, 330 page first draft in hand. I gave it to my daughter. "Here, Sweetie, try this!"


"Momma, when are you going to write another one?"

Are you KIDDING ME?? It took me 14 friggin' months to write that and you scarf it back in less than a day? I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. Don't get me wrong, I was elated that she had liked it, read it that fast, and wanted more. But, Holy Cow!

So that was a year ago. I've edited out 20,000 words, and I've gotten my first polite, but firm rejections from publishers. My Twitter education (thank you, Twitter friends!) has taught me that I need a bit more polishing yet, but I wouldn't change a thing. I'm starting the search for an agent. I still love to write. I still love my manuscript. And some day, maybe someday, you'll see my book on the shelf.

Till then, I'll be here, sitting at the computer, with my kids reading over my shoulder...and a smile on my face.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Canadian...and Proud of It.

I got to sleep in today. Well, if you call 7:30 a.m. sleeping in. For me, it was blissful. To wake up without the BEEEEEEP! BEEEEEP! BEEEEEP! of my very annoying alarm was a true treat. I came downstairs, made coffee (Canadian Blend), and sat down to listen to my happy kids and the wind in the trees. For the first time in what seems like forever, I had no one to wake up, no one to make lunches for, and no where that I HAVE to be today. Aaaaaaah...

But I will in no way forget WHY I get this treat. It has nothing to do with me deserving a break (although I'd like to think I do). Nor is it simply wearing red and white and eating beavertails.

Today I'm wearing yellow. I'll admit, it's a first for me. But without the yellow ribbons, red and white might be something very different.

I had the privilege three years ago to take a trip to France with my family. We spent New Year's eve in a beautiful chateau near the Loire. We ate escargot and mushrooms in a cave. We drank wine. We spoke french. And then we took a small detour.

Outside of the village of Sailly, near Cantimpre, there is a wide expanse of farmer's fields. In the middle of one of them is a walled cemetery with rows of white stones. Near the back, in the left hand corner, is a gravestone marked "Lewis Ward Love". He was my uncle.

I never knew Lewis Ward Love. In fact, he died before even my mother was born. But I was the first member of his family to visit his grave. As I stood there, the bitter January wind stinging my cheeks, I had a glimpse of what it meant to be Canadian. My kids were with me. My husband was beside me. The wide open sky held only birds. And in front of me was a man I never knew, buried in a cemetary miles away from home nearly a hundred years before, so that I could have the privilege of walking free on this earth.

So today I wear the yellow ribbon. Yes, for my wonderful husband who is spending Canada Day overseas. But also for Lewis Ward Love, an unknown soldier in a distant grave. I am proud of both of them.

Being Canadian isn't just the shmoltzy wearing of sytlized maple leaves. It's snowsuits and swimsuits. It's city streets and quiet fields. It's smiling at a stranger. It's sitting here, writing words that mean something to me, without fear of repercussion. It's being willing to stand up for what you believe in, even it means facing your own fears. It's the rows of people who line the highway when a brave soldier comes home. And it's standing by the plane when that soldier is carried on.

Today I celebrate all of these things. And as the fireworks go off tonight I'll be standing proud.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Day 18

Thirteen years ago I married my soul mate. In today's day and age that sounds like flimsy fiction...but for me, it's the truth. He is my love and my life, my partner in crime and my comforter in chaos. And believe me, there's been lots of chaos. You see, my husband is a member of the Canadian Armed Forces. And he left 18 days ago for a 6 month deployment. Left me, 3 kids, a cat, a dog, and all of the issues, problems, and WORK that goes along with our day to day family life. For six months. That's a long time.

I HATE it.

According to the 'Family Deployment Package' we were sort of given (sort of, because I actually picked it up for myself, thinking it may hold some piece of useful information, and having found out about the workshop they were having about 2 hours before it was held) I should currently be in the 'Emotional Disorganization Phase' of the Emotional Cycle of Deployment (their caps).

So get this--right now I should be feeling: relief, guilt, anger, numbness, depression, confusion, disorganization, indecision, loneliness, vulnerability, irritability, and believing the impossible or unlikely. In other words, I have full license to be a complete nutter, and just blame it on the deployment. Although I don't deny feeling some of those emotions, what I really feel is tired. Where there once were two of us doing household work, now there is one. When a problem pops up, there's only me to deal with it. And still I must do my own job (I'm a physiotherapist--physical therapist for my friends south of the border), and somehow find time to look after myself. My house looks like a disaster zone. My fridge has more science experiments than a tenth grade biology class. And the laundry pile that fell over this week contributed to the earthquake felt across Eastern Canada and the US.

There are moments, thankfully brief ones, where I panic. I get the feeling I got when I was in labour, having my second child, listening to an aquaintance screaming in the room next to me, and remembering just what it felt like to actually give birth. I KNEW it was going to hurt. I KNEW I was going to suffer. I KNEW that there were a whole lot of things that could go wrong in the next few hours. And there was not a damned thing I could do about it. Pure panic. Again, these moments are brief, because in thirteen years of marriage I have learned that I am NOT a helpless damsel in distress. I can sit on my butt and feel sorry for myself, but that won't get the kids fed, nor will it make the time go any faster. So I get up, put my head down and push through the relief, guilt, anger, depression, blah-bity blah, blah, blah, and move on. I make the supper. I mow the lawn. I walk the dog. I hook the trailer to the truck and move it. I wield power tools.

And I bandage knees. I sing lullabies. I hold a child that misses his father so much that he's lost in himself. I help a little girl become a woman. I challenge a little boy to become a man. And I pray for each member of our family. Every night.

There are many, many women (and men) who have gone before me in the 'Emotional Cycle of Deployment'. I salute them whole-heartedly. It is their groundwork that has made things so much easier for people like me. I have a renewed respect for single parents. My extended family are always there for me when I need them. And I am HUGEly blessed to have such amazing friends and neighbours.

It still sucks. But I'll be okay.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


The time has come. It has now been nearly two years. The Dunnes are no longer in the UK. Dunnes in UK is out. This Mom is Overdunne is in. A fresh start, and a platform for posts of a different sort.

At 'This Mom is Overdunne' I'll be posting on the frenetic pace of life in the Dunne household; kids, writing, working, playing, and the military-induced lifestyle of single parenting. I'm attempting to find a publisher for my first novel. I'm running a physiotherapy clinic. And through it all I'm trying to raise three wonderful kids while my hubby is away.

The next year will be a challenge. I love a challenge. I may whine and complain, but I won't give up. I hope you'll join me in the adventures of an overdunne mom.