Saturday, June 22, 2013

Ramblings about Life

I've been slightly missing.  Okay--a little more than slightly.  I went off the lamb, because I had things to do over the last couple of weeks.  Our moths did not make it.  I am thinking this is because I didn't put them in a dark place or put soil in their jars.  They started stinking up the house, and we threw them out.  There is always next time. 

I have been editing and writing like a crazy person.  I'm intent on re-revising my novel.  I'm adding detail, even though I know most people say don't add but take away when you edit.  Still, the previous length put the story more into a novella category than a novel category.  I need to add a few things, change a few things, do a complete re-edit, and then go crazy sending out to agents again.  I'm keeping a list of those I've sent to, so I won't re-send after I have received a rejection.  I'm also thinking about self-publishing, but I don't have a lot of TIME or MONEY to advertise my self-published book.  Sure, I could promote it on Facebook, but most of my friends would get sick of that I'm sure.  I could also become a Goodreads author and try to promote it through there.  We'll see.  I don't "have" to get published, but it sure would be nice. 

Today, I'm trying to get back on track with my diet and exercise.  I haven't run since I realized I had a stress fracture back in April.  I want to run on Sunday, starting slowly with one mile.  Today, I'll do Taekwondo, and I'll just try to stay more active and watch my food intake a little bit more.  I've been "treating" myself too much lately, and it's starting to show in how my clothes fit.  This means I really need to cut back, and adjust my eating behavior.  I know I can do it, but chocolate seems to be calling my name this week!

I snapped a photo this week of Number One with his little sister.  She stuck Hubby's cap backwards on her head, and when I took the photo I was amazed at the resemblance between she and her eldest brother.

I remembered taking a photo of Number One in a hole in the wall restaurant when we lived in Hagerstown.  It was one of our favorite food joints.  Number One was somewhere around 1 or 1.5 years old in the photo, but the resemblance between these two is uncanny.  It never ceases to amaze me how much they look alike.  Excuse the quality of the newer photo: it was taken on my phone since my camera decided to die!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Face to Face Communication in a World of Technology

Yesterday I was playing around on the Internet, like every other day in my life.  I read this great article by Jonathan Safran Foer, he's one of my favorite authors even if his middle name always makes me think of yellow rice (it's Safran not Saffron, but my brain just cannot tell the difference apparently!). 

In the article, How Not to Be Alone, Foer writes about sitting in the park playing on his phone.  He was people watching, but also mindlessly playing with his technology the way we all do.  He sees a young girl, and she is crying.  She is on the phone with her mother, and she keeps saying, "I know, Mama."  Foer wonders, "Do I do the hard thing and break away from my phone and try to comfort her?  This might make her uncomfortable and me uncomfortable, but it is the human thing to do.  Or do I just hide behind my technology and pretend there's not a young girl crying over there?"

Foer makes the point that technology was invented to make us communicate MORE.  Telephones were invented so people could call other people far away.  At some point, however, people began liking the simplicity of the telephone and would rather call then sit face to face, rather leave a message than actually talk to someone, rather text than actually phone.  The communication style became more and more simplistic: taking away tone of voice in the end.

Foer expounds with this acceptance of a "diminished substitute" as the primary communication in our life, over time we'll become diminished substitutes too, capable of feeling little empathy for others, incapable of offering sympathy, as in the case above.

I am one of the biggest culprits of technology overuse.  I can't stand it when someone doesn't know how to use computers.  When someone doesn't have a smartphone, I wonder if they're stuck in the rotary phone age.  I simply don't seem to understand that some people don't NEED WANT these things in their lives. 

I too rely on my phone.  I have it with me almost always.  I check it incessantly sometimes, for what?  The next text that says, "What's up?"  The next Facebook post of somebody's smiling kid (yes, I do love to look at Facebook posts of smiling kids!).  While my phone keeps me "close" to people who are not in my immediate family, it also diverts my attention away from my family.  With a computer screen always open or a phone to always look at, my kids get less and less of my attention, and they begin to think it's acceptable to communicate that way.  Hubby jokes when I misplace my phone, "Oh Lauren.  I'm sorry you lost the love of your life!"  It's funny, but not funny ha ha, more like funny in a sad way. 

Last night, Hubby and I took the kids out to Chappy's for dinner.  I purposely left my phone at home.  You know what?  I felt liberated.  I didn't care if I missed a call.  I didn't care if I missed the next Facebook post.  Whoever was going to text me would have to wait.  I was spending quality time with my kids, without the distractions, giving them all of me instead of only part of me.  It felt wonderful, and I'm sure they felt the glow of undivided attention, even if they still acted like little monkeys!

Technology does have a time and a place, but face to face communication is what makes us human: reading body language, listening for tone, and having someone's full undivided attention is a gift we can give to each other.  In regards to technology use: Limit it, use it for its purpose, but don't forget you're human and your job is to be empathetic of other people and raise your children to be the same way so they can become effective adult communicators, instead of mindless phone texters, TV-watchers, video game players who are incapable of feeling anything for their fellow human companions.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Butterfly (or MOTH) Life Cycle: Day 1

Yesterday, Hubby and I took the kids over to my parents' house to swim.  My Mom was out of town, so we sat around the pool, watch the kids swim, and spoke to my Dad.  He mentioned he had some caterpillars for us.  These caterpillars had eaten almost a whole tomato plant!  He said he saved three of them then killed the rest.  Nasty little garden culprits!

This will be the third time we've watched the butterfly life cycle.  Dad gave us three: two great big ones and one small.  Last time we had Blue Swallowtails, which were absolutely gorgeous.  These guys look like they may be Swallowtails too, but we've yet to see how they attach to branches.  Swallowtails hang upside down from branches by two strings. 

Taking care of caterpillars is so easy.  All you need is a big jar.  Put paper towels on the bottom, because their voracious eating habits make these guys poop a lot, and you don't want it gathering at the bottom because it can cause mold.  Clean out the paper towel and replace with a new one about once a day. 

Find their food of choice.  Most caterpillars will live off of parsley, dill, tomato plants.  If you know what type of caterpillar they are, then you can research online and figure out what they like to eat.  Watch them eat themselves silly and turn into mega-caterpillars.  Then watch them turn into a chrysalis.  Swallowtails stay in their chrysalis for an average of 9 days.  When they're in the Chrysalis you can clean out the remaining plant matter left in the jar, just be careful not to knock them off their branches.  Butterflies need sticks to stand on to dry their wings on when they emerge. 

**After doing a little bit more internet research, I'm pretty sure these guys are tomato hornworms.  They will probably turn into moths.  I'm not exactly sure how they cocoon or turn into a chrysalis, so I guess we'll just be surprised! 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Jealousy in the Spokes

No insomnia last night.  I dropped into bed after barely making it there.  I took Taekwondo which kicked my A$$, and then I came home and pretended to read for a while.  The words weren't quite making it to my brain.  I was visually looking at them, scanning the page, but then gave it up and turned in.  I'll probably have to re-read that whole chapter.  Oh well.

I woke up thinking about my middle sister.  Because she's in the witness protection program, I'll just call her Delores in this blog.  Yes.  Delores.  Jealousy began rearing it's ugly head the moment Delores met me.  Or maybe it was vice versa.  I'm still jealous of her today.  For one thing, she has this beautiful head of flowing brown hair.  It always looks perfect.  And I got this:

Not the baby.  The bald head.  This photo endlessly cracks me up, by the way. 
Most of the time Delores and I just fought.  We fought and fought and fought. And we did some horrible things to her.: my sister and brother and I.  We locked her in the closet and turned out the lights, and she was so afraid of the dark.  We wouldn't let her in our sticker club, because her stickers weren't good enough.  My Dad made us disband the sticker club after that one.  We made it our job to exclude her.  Unfortunate middle child that she was.
But jealousy really reared it's head on one fateful day.  We took piano lessons about two miles from our house.  We would bike there and bike back home.  One day biking back home, Delores' bag hit the spokes of her wheel, and she went tumbling off her bike. 
I'll never forget the pitiful look on her face, as she lay on the cracking sidewalk moaning in pain.
"I'll go get Mom," I announced.  I could be the hero!
I rode my bike all the way home and burst into the house.  My Mom was in the den watching the news with my older sister Sally. 
"Mom, Delores is hurt!  She fell off her bike."
"Tell her to hop on her bike and come on home!" (My Mom to this day HATES this part of the story).
Sally looked up and said, "I'll come with you."
We rode our bikes as fast as we could.  By the time we made it back to Delores a small crowd of people had surrounded her.
"Where's your Mom?"  One of the ladies asked me.  She was still wearing her purple hat from her earlier outing.
"She told me that Delores could ride her bike home."
At this point one of our neighbors pulled up.  "Lauren, does your Mom know?"
Exasperated by now, I suppose I probably screamed: "My Mom says she can get on her bike and come on home!" 
The adults seemed horrified by this, but now looking back I GET it.  Kids can be seriously dramatic or melodramatic--take your pick--and falling off a bike usually doesn't amount to serious harm.  My Mom probably thought Delores had scrapped her knee. 
Finally our neighbor convinced my Mom to come.  When my Mom saw Delores' knee it had swollen to the size of a watermelon.  She blanched, her face took on the look of Casper the Friendly Ghost, and then she immediately called my Dad.  Delores was taken to the hospital where they learned she had torn some ligaments and would actually need SURGERY.
In the days that followed, Delores was propped up in the guest bedroom.  She could watch all the TV she wanted, something that was strictly portioned in our house, and eat candy in bed.  Basically she could get away with murder!  She smiled as complete strangers brought her balloons and presents, making the guest bedroom look like she was having a month long birthday party. It simply was not fair!  At this point, I felt it was my duty to be her mortal enemy and not help her at all. 
Cast all the way up to her thigh, she'd call out, "Lauren, will you refill my water?"
"Get it your own self!" 
I hated she was getting all the attention.  Seriously what had she done?  Broken her knee, endured surgery, and for that she was showered in presents.  Did people know who she really was?  Did they know how she tortured me?  Jealousy had reared its ugly head, and from that point forward it was there to stay in our relationship!
Delores is the one person in the world for whom I am endlessly jealous...STILL.  She has so many qualities I wish I had.  She's such a hard worker.  She seems motivated all the time.  Still, no one is perfect, and I know she is just a person who I love very much.  I have to remind myself, even at 34 years old, that being jealous is a stupid emotion meant to make rifts and not bring you closer to people.  I have to love my sister for who she is not for who I'M not.  Jealousy stems from low self-esteem, from comparing yourself and wishing you were better or more or just plain different.  That's all it is, and the target usually has little to do with the actual problem, besides maybe physically representing someone you wish you were or something you wish you had.
Delores and me.  1983ish.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Elusive Sleep

3:30 AM.  I was staring at the ceiling, noticing that we don't have cracks, and listening to the soft breathing of Darling Daughter next to me as she slept soundly.  She sleeps soundly whenever she has her security blanket with her: ME. 

I hate waking up at 3:30 and wanting to go back to sleep.  I think the more you wish sleep would come, the more it eludes you.  Your brain starts to wander, and then suddenly you are the Queen of Egypt and it's 600 B.C.  When I was little, I thought creating stories in my head would help me fall asleep, but now it makes my mind WIDE awake.  My brain is ready for more, ready to be creative, spill the words out, and suddenly I am more awake than ever, and I'm still staring at the ceiling but now the clock says 3:33. 

Things that don't work when you have insomnia:

  • Counting Sheep: Why would you want to do this anyway?

  • Coming Up with Crazy Stories or Alternate Realities in Your Head:  This passes the time, but won't help you get shut eye.  This may help you come up with a wonderful idea for a novel, which may one day be published if you're lucky and/or rich or both.  Everyone can dream right?  Even when you are staring at the ceiling wide awake.

  • Drink Warm Milk:  One word: GROSS!!!
To be fair to you all, my audience of 20 people, I don't fight insomnia much these days.  I usually fall off to sleep, and I awake about ten minutes before my alarm.  I think this has to do with my biological clock.  If you go to bed around the same time and wake up around the same time every day, your body sort of regulates itself. 

Yesterday was emotional though and having an emotional day makes you do one of two things: sleep TOO MUCH or sleep NOT ENOUGH.  My body chose NOT ENOUGH last night.  I cried yesterday and then I laughed.  I laughed and laughed and laughed, which was a nice diversion from the crying.  Laughing is a great defense mechanism when emotions are too hard to handle.   

My goal this year was to laugh more, and I think I may have accomplished that in one day.  At 3:30 in the morning, I should have just stepped out of bed and left Darling Daughter Vampire Chicken Princess snoozing soundly, hopped on the computer and started writing.  I could have used the extra time to my advantage.  Instead I reflected on the funeral yesterday. I thought about my friend who lost her mother and how I could help her.  I thought about the color PURPLE.  I didn't come up with any good story lines, plots or climaxes, and I didn't continue to revise my book despite the need.  Part of the reason is my free trial to Word expired, and since I'm a procrastinator I haven't yet downloaded the $9 version my work offers.  I need to get on that, like today.  It's not like I own a typewriter or some other mechanism that could help me set words down on paper: like a pencil and a piece of paper. 

Hopefully if I'm awake at 3:30 tomorrow morning, Word will be installed on my computer, and my brain can relax as I revise, revise, revise.  Or maybe I can work on my 2nd novel, which is a great diversion from revising my first novel. 

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Crapshoot Called Life

Today is going to be a tough day.  Sometimes something happens and you realize all at once the mantra that you're always telling your kids: Life Simply Isn't Fair.  One of my friends from Taekwondo lost her mother this week.  She is young.  She doesn't have a large family to fill in the gaps, to be there for her, to hold her and comfort her.  She received a ton of support from our Taekwondo family, and I'm so thrilled we can all be here for her.  She is a great girl, and she will go far in life with a good attitude. 

But it gets me thinking, because that's what I'm best at doing.  I have a HUGE family.  I have a HUGE support system.  When something goes wrong, there are always people around to help pick up the pieces.  I was blessed with that due to a crapshoot.  Some people aren't. 

When I was growing up, my Dad always said, "You're so lucky to be growing up in America."  He'd say this when I refused to eat my peas, implying that some starving child in Ethiopia would probably give their right arm to eat my peas, and everything else on my plate too.  I think it was a lesson to me: be happy for what you have and not for what you think you don't have.  There are so many people out there who have a lot less than I do.  They have less family members to help pick up the pieces when someone they love dies.  They have less support, less food, less money and yet sometimes these people with less make MORE of their lives. 

In times like these, I like to be thankful for what I have.  I have wonderful friends who are caring and understanding, despite my sometimes unreasonable expectations of them.  They always forgive me when I'm being selfish or stupid, or less than empathetic.  They are always there for me, and in turn I hope they feel like I'm always there for them.

I have a big family with loving parents and siblings.  Yes, sometimes we don't get along, but I know each and every one of them has my best interest at heart.  I love my siblings passionately.  I love my parents with all their unique idiosyncrasies.  I'm so thankful that I have them for support, and I only wish everyone else had the same type of familial love that I have enjoyed.  I wish everyone could feel blessed the way I do. 

Life is not fair.  We are not given the same things when we are born.  We take what we get, and we have to make the best of it.  We have to endure the hardships in order to live the joy.

Today, my goal is to be thankful for my friends and to be supportive of a young girl who, if life was fair, wouldn't be having to face the tragedy of losing a parent at such a young age. 

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