Saturday, April 4, 2009

Going Under

I keep seeing her there under the water, just near the surface. Her arms flailed and her mouth was agape, but her eyes were the most striking. Their usually mischievous twinkle was replaced by sheer terror and panic. My sweet girl was fighting for just that moment.

Over and over I told them not to run on the dock. My son, 7, and daughter, age 2, would run back to shore, grab a handful of rocks and then run back to the dock to toss the rocks in. Ignoring my protests, again and again they ran back and forth while I sat and tried to untangle Ben’s fishing wire. And then I heard the splash.
I immediately knew exactly what had happened.

In a second I was on my feet and there she was, under the surface. My nine years of lifeguarding experience kicked in to gear. Quickly assessing the situation, I realized that I couldn’t just reach her, I would have to jump. In a flash, I gently jumped in behind her and scooped her up under her arms, my feet sinking in the goopy mud and rocks making it hard to keep both her and my own head above the water. I spun her around and plopped her sitting on the edge of the dock. Then I finally took a breath.

Oh, sweet girl. It could have been so much worse. I am so thankful to God that it wasn’t.

We stripped her down out of her wet clothes; Dada offered her his shirt, long sleeved and blue. But she refused to put the sleeves on, instead baring her shoulders to the spring-warm sun. Her curls dripped still from the mud brown water, and she sucked her thumb, intensely trying to self-soothe.

By the time we started our picnic, she was over it. She laughed and chowed-down with her usual gusto. But I’ll never forget that moment. Her face, so close to tragedy, will always remind me of how precious life is.

A Trip to Lake Cumberland, KY

For spring break my family and I went on a trip to Lake Cumberland, Kentucky. We stayed in a secluded cottage in the hills, far away from our normal routine. As with any trip ours was filled with adventures, and over the next few days, I’ll be writing about them.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Seeing Stars

Really. We saw stars last night. My family and I are on vacation deep in the hills surrounding Lake Cumberland, Kentucky, and when we got back to the cottage after grabbing dinner, we were stunned when we saw the sky. I can’t remember the last time that I saw such a bright natural glow shining from up there. My son, who just recently has taken up an interest in the stars, couldn’t believe the sky looked exactly like the constellation poster that hangs above his bed. Orion with his three starred belt was larger than life as he hunted the great bear, and Cassiopeia shone regally in her throne. The constellations hovered so low over the towering trees that I felt I could just reach up and poke my finger on their shiny points.

Even more amazing, though, was the beautiful darkness. With the wind whistling through the pine trees, spring peepers chirping from down in the creek, and blackness closing in on us, the stars showed us the vastness of the universe and all that was beyond.

It’s been so long since I had been surrounded by such darkness. It was both chilling and exciting at the same time. Immediately my mind set to wondering what sorts of creatures I couldn’t see lurking behind the trees, and a lovely thrill of goose bumps went up my arms and neck. Part of me wanted to run inside and slam the door against the unknown, while the other part of me wanted to throw caution to the wind and run out into the woods. Of course, my cowardly side won that battle.

While I’ll be happy to get back to my comfortable bed at home, getting away from our lovely suburban life once in a while is such a gift. We get to experience the true beauty of nature, to breathe it in and to get away from the pollution of noise and light and go-go-go

Thursday, January 29, 2009

On Revising…

For me, one of the hardest things to do is to revise my own work. It’s difficult for me to see the flaws, because I’ve usually read the words so many times that they become natural for me. Also, I’m usually so close to the writing that it just “feels” right. But I do understand that in order to get my best piece out there, I will have to do some major revisions.

My WIP right now is undergoing a massive revision. After attending the Prairie Writers’ Day conference in Chicago this fall, I realized that I needed to inject it with voice. The way it was, no one reading would really get to know the main characters, and that is key for good writing. I decided that the best way to do this is to rewrite it in the first person, thus hearing the story directly from the character herself.

The writers’ conference really helped me to look at my novel in a new way, but there are other ways to do this too. The best way is to have other people read it. Lots and lots of other people—and not just your mother and grandma, because as much as they love you, they might not be the most critical voices. I am a part of an amazing writers’ group—amazing because of the wide range of genres that we work in. There’s a children’s’ poetry author and fellow blogger, Kelly. Cathy has the eye of an editor, and she writes short stories. While Angela is part memoirist, part children’s storywriter, part editorialist. This range of eyes on my words can only make my work more scrutinized.

Another way to have your writing seen by others is to follow blogs such as Miss Snarks First Victim, and Nathan Bransford, or Legend of the Protectors, and hope that you enter their contests in time. On these blogs, you’ll get constructive criticism from other writers.

I have really appreciated all of the invaluable advice I’ve received from my readers, and my WIP is transforming from a lump of coal into something maybe just a bit shinier.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Hello Mr. President!

What an amazing day to be an American. As I watched Barack Obama being sworn in I was thrilled by the moment in history that we all are sharing, especially coming on the heels of Martin Luther King Jr. day! There is hope!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Desperately Seeking Summer

Lately, as it always happens when the cold weather comes, I’ve been wishing away the winter. I’ve been dreaming of escaping. It has to be somewhere warm—shorts weather—and sunny and sandy with warm blue water that I can swim in. Hey, I’d settle for somewhere I could go and just wear a sweater instead of my fifty-pound coat and all the other accoutrements. I’ve even been singing the Beach Boys’ song “Kokomo”, which always seems to make me feel a bit warmer inside.

Then yesterday I had a thought. Instead of escaping the cold, shouldn’t I just try to embrace it? So, driving over the icy snow-covered roads at twenty miles below the speed limit, passing cars in the ditch, I thought to myself—“Look! I can still get around.” And watching the sun come up over the horizon this morning, I thought, “Hey, the snow makes that pink sun look even brighter.” It is pretty fun to go sledding and to make snow angels with my kids. Why should I wish all of this away?

Besides the constantly salty muddy footprints tracking in on my kitchen floor? And the fact that it takes me twenty minutes longer to get the kids ready to head out the door? And the fact that the ice is now seeping inside and frosting up our windows? And the cracking dry skin on my hands? And the static in the air?

We did have a lovely wimpy sun shining in the piercing blue sky today…

I’m struggling here to find the positive, but I can’t wish the days away because that would just mean that my sweet wee ones would only grow up faster. Think, Ann, think!

Warm slippers…piling as many fluffy blankets on my bed as possible… fires in the fireplace… hot cocoa… snow days… pink cheeks and red noses… cuddling with my family to stay warm…

It’s not so bad, is it?

Friday, January 9, 2009

Poetry Friday

We're homebound again on this wintery day in northern Illinois. They're expecting about eight inches throughout the day. So rather than fighting the traffic and the snow covered roads, I thought I'd snuggle up with my coffee and enjoy the snow from inside, maybe read some poetry.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though,
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Robert Frost

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Back At 'Em!

The holidays are such a lovely time—the decorations, the cookies, the caroling, the cookies, the sleeping in (finally my kids are learning how to sleep past 6!), the cookies, wearing pajamas all day long and not bothering to shower… But honestly, by the time New Year’s drags its weary butt across my path, I’m ready for the holidays to be over. I love spending time with my family, but I was overjoyed when my son went back to school yesterday.

That wild, out of control feeling that you get on the first day of vacation thrills old and young alike. It’s the feeling of freedom from the grind of daily regimens, from people telling you what to do all day long, from, well, structure. I love a bit of spontaneity, but I’ve discovered that I can only stand so much chaos.

I dropped the kids off at school yesterday—usually one of the more mundane tasks in the line up—and as I drove away the word Routine eased itself into a smile on my face. Routine is like a deep breath, even in the most stressful times you can always count on it. It’s reliable, it’s expected, and it’s calming. It graces every aspect of my life—as a mother, an athlete, and especially as writer. Knowing that at a certain time each day I will be sitting down to work on my WIP or brainstorming something new sets my mind free.

So, goodbye vacation, I enjoyed our little fling, but now it’s time to get back to my steady Routine.