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.