Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Small Town Snow Days

My actual Parent Alert screen!
There are two words that every student, teacher and parent looks forward to in January more than any other: SNOW and DAY...  unless those words are repeated over and over and over again, until no one even remembers what it feels like to have a daily rhythm in their life and they have completely run out of Netflix options.  This is the current conundrum of our household.  3 snow days, 1 holiday, and 1 late start, all within the last week, and at this point, no one actually remembers the route we take to school every morning, or even what classes they are taking.

The first snow day is always exciting.  The kids flush ice cubes down the toilet and stick a spoon in the freezer the night before, anticipating an extra day of sleeping in.  This year, on the first snow day, we made popcorn for breakfast and stayed in our PJs watching inspirational movies all day.  By snow day number two, we had run out of inspirational movies and had moved on to "Central Intelligence," with the Rock and Kevin Hart, which was mostly inappropriate, but I pretty much just cringed and ignored it because we were out of options...and by yesterday, I had pretty much given up on life...I have no idea what the kids were watching, but Carson spent the day with an iPad and headphones...so I'm just hoping it wasn't anything that will turn him into a serial killer.

Today's ice day pretty much pushed me over the edge.  There's something to be said about having structure to the day, and right now I have so little structure, that I keep forgetting to even feed my kids.  At this point they're going to have to settle for whatever they can grab on their own - which, looking in the refrigerator, includes half a bag of frozen tater tots and a jar of pickles.

In case you thought I was kidding.  And don't be fooled by the ice cream carton...it's empty, but we're all too lazy to throw it away!

In an effort to get out of this snow day funk, I'm trying to make a list of things to do today based on recent suggestions I've been given by others.  Here's what I have so far...

1. Go sledding.  Except, there is no snow.  And honestly, we don't really go outside unless it's above 60 degrees.

2. Bake something.  Except, I only own one measuring cup and I'm not actually sure where it is.  I do have some flour in the freezer, but I only have brown sugar (not white), so unless I can bake something with those options, we're out of luck.
I actually found the measuring cup!  Right next to the rest of the unused kitchen appliances!

3. Work-out.  Except, the couch already has an indentation from where I've been sitting for the past week, and it's really hard to get out of it.  I could probably do some sit-ups from this position - but even that seems like a little too much effort.

That pretty much leaves me with catching up on America's Next Top Model, staring at the ceiling, or going to the store to buy food to feed my family.  But since ANTM is only an hour long, and since I really don't have the energy to leave the house, I suppose that the most viable option is really to lay in my couch indentation and stare at the ceiling until this snow day is over.  I will make an effort to melt all of the ice in the freezer so that no one can accidentally flush a cube down the toilet, and I've hidden all the spoons...and just in case, I'm also crossing my fingers so that I don't get any more early-morning notifications...until next week of course, when I'll probably need another snow day.  But by then, my fridge will be restocked, and new movies will be out, so I'll be much more prepared to sleep in, make popcorn for breakfast and enjoy a day in my PJs.

Until then, a very happy small-town, snow day to everyone...here's hoping we all make it through!

Friday, January 6, 2017

Well...I wrote a novel.

Yesterday, I sat down and I finished the final page of my very first novel.  Granted, it's taken me 7 years to complete it, and if you do the math, it's really not that impressive - that's only 31 words per day. Seriously, at that rate I could have written Les Miserables 3 times over!  It figures though, it took me 11 years to finish my Bachelor's Degree, and another 10 to finish my Master's, at this point, 7 years is pretty much a record.

And speaking of Les Miserables, I have to be honest and say that my little novel is really not the literary gem that you might expect from an AP Literature teacher, in fact, it's much less Victor Hugo, and much more Hallmark Channel.  It's one of those books that no one ever admits to reading - like a Harlequin Romance or a Nicholas Sparks book, but that everyone secretly enjoys.  And that's the thing.  I. love. it.  Honestly, I just really love this story.  It's lighthearted, people fall in love, and everyone lives happily ever after - and right now, it's at the top of my "favorite books I've ever read," list - but I'm probably a little biased.

Writing isn't easy (obviously - it's taken me 7 years to do it!) And believe me, I'm no expert.  But here are a few things that I learned were especially difficult along the way.

1. Language: as in bad language...as in curse words. My personal vocabulary is pretty PG.  We actually have a swear jar at our house, and Carson is very rigid about pointing out when someone needs to contribute.  There are $5.00 words, which should really never be used, but sometimes slip out when Michigan loses to Ohio State in overtime, there are $1.00 words, which should really also not be used, but sometimes slip out when you slide along a slippery road and almost get hit by a semi (actually, if you want to go ahead and use a $5.00 word during that experience, you have full permission), and there are $.50 words that no one actually knows if they are swear words or not, for example:

Kaitlyn: I'm so pissed!
Carson: That's a dollar!
Kaitlyn: Pissed is not a swear word!
Carson: Mom?
Me: I don't know - put $.50 in the jar
Kaitlyn: Ugggghhhhhhh!

The problem with language in a novel is that I am not a character, and even though I rarely use $1.00 words, other people do - including some of my characters.  But to be honest, I just can't picture most of the characters getting themselves into situations in which they would say, "Oh gosh, golly, jee!"  So there are some $1.00 words in there...and maybe a $5.00 word...

2. Love Scenes: Ok, so there isn't really a full out love scene in the book, because to be honest, I just couldn't do it.  I felt that I could definitely leave the heaving breasts for someone else to write about.  But there is kissing.  And writing about kissing is a weird thing.  Like, do you describe whether or not it's open mouth or closed mouth? Do you talk about the awkward head tilt or the weird sounds that are made. Regardless, it is a love story, and I couldn't very well have the happy couple seal the deal with a fist bump. So I closed my eyes and barrelled through...similar to my first actual kiss I would say.

3.  Relevance: When you take 7 years to write a book, you realize just how much things change.  I was going back through one of my first chapters and realized that the character, "flipped open her phone." Flipped open her phone? Who is this person? A grandmother? No, actually she is just someone stuck in 2009.  My character was also at one point wearing a velour track suit...enough said.

Now for the real question...and the answer is no, I'm not looking to publish it (it's not nearly as well-written as a Harlequin Romance!) my goal was really just to finish.  And I'm so glad I did. Because while I may have only written at the incredibly ridiculous rate of only 31 words-a-day, in the words of my husband who is over-the-top supportive of this endeavor, that's 30 words-a-day more than most people in the world - and after 7 years, I've finally even written the two little words that matter the most:

Much love from your very own Small-Town Writer!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Small Town Resolutions

Last night I had the privilege of ringing in 2017 by watching the ball drop...well not THE ball, but A ball.  The ball that our charming small-town community hangs from a crane and drops down a wire as the crowd counts down to the new year.  To be honest, the ball is not quite the Swarovski chandelier that the New York crowd is used to, and instead my hubby looked at it and said, "hmmm...kind of looks like they made it with barbed wire and Christmas lights.

In all fairness, this is only the second year that our little town has held the midnight ball drop, and last year, my daughter exclaimed, "Maybe we shouldn't stand so close, it doesn't really look stable up there." So, our little town has made progress, and the ball drop has gotten more stable and made for a fun little event. In fact, despite the awkward jerking of the ball as it descended the wire, the crowd was fun and enthusiastic, and even us 40-somethings got excited about the celebration and joined the younger, hipper party-goers in our own attempt at selfie memories.  My friend Amy's selfie attempt is here:

Basically, by the time we figured out how to change the direction of the phone camera - all while wearing gloves - the ball had already dropped and our picture ended up including the tops of our puffball hats and the black sky above us.  All in all, a great memory!

As with each January 1st, this new year brings with it the anticipation of exciting new things as well as the stress of trying to decide which of the exciting new things I'm actually supposed to get excited about.  I'm currently in a slight panic about all of the very motivated and organized women out there who have written down their goals, created resolution support groups on Facebook and posted very encouraging statuses such as:
Today is the first blank page in a 365 page book, write a great story!

For real, I'm just trying to get through this week without locking my keys in the car, I'm not sure I can handle 365 pages of goal-achievement!  That being said, in an attempt to make 2017 the best year yet, I did create a few manageable resolutions that I'm hoping won't make me cry by the end of the week.

1.  Exercise.  I feel like this is doable as long as I keep my expectations low - so like a few times a month...give or take. I used to work out all of the time.  And then I just got tired...and busy...and I know that working out is not about having time but about making time, but right now I just can't make time...because that would mean giving up things like watching Netflix or sleeping in.  I started today on this goal, and hubby and and I took a great 2 mile walk around the neighborhood - I even wore running shoes, and to be honest, my legs are already sore, so basically I ran a 5K.

2. Do nice things.  This past year I watched my students do really nice things for others - they raised almost $20,000 just in the month of December, all to give away to others - I love that! And I love that they all began to understand life is really not about serving themselves but serving others.  My goal is to hold on to that same others-centered living and do random acts of kindness that will change others' lives.  I'm so excited about this goal that today I had my groceries put in paper bags instead of plastic - it's the little things!

3. Wear red lipstick. I really love red lipstick, but somewhere along the way I became too worried about what other people think, so I stopped wearing it.  This is common for me - I often worry about what others think.  In fact, I few years ago I was writing and blogging quite a bit, and then someone said to me, "Don't you think it's awfully narcissistic to think people want to read about your life?" So I stopped.  Because I certainly don't want to be narcissistic (see goal #2) but really, writing about my life is kind of like wearing red lipstick - it's not for everyone, but I really love it!  

My real goal this year is to be brave - in fact, BRAVE is my word for 2017.  I've even written it down in my journal, so that I will remember to take risks, to try new things, and stop worrying about everyone else's opinion.  

I really love my Lilly Pulitzer day planner/journal!

So in 2017 I'm going to wear more red lipstick...and write more, because really, it's 2017, and it's time to do new things, or maybe it's just time to do old things that I love, and when I do, I'm going to do them looking like a diva and writing all about it for all of my friends!

Here's wishing you a very happy and small town 2017!