That Was Awkward

As I mentioned earlier this week, we were up in northern Wyoming with David’s family, laying his mother to rest. Despite the circumstances, wintery weather in Wyoming, and the extensive miles put in over a short time – about 1,600 miles in four days – it was a good trip.

We stopped in Denver on the way and picked up my stepdaughter, Lauren, and her kids, our grandchildren. They rode with us there and back again. Of course, #kidsthesedays have all sorts of electronic devices to keep them entertained in the car on long road trips. So, Aerro and Tobiah had their games and tablets – and also borrowed my phone, my tablet, and their mother’s phone.

Yes, they overran my data usage and I don’t even care. I’m totally a sucker.

I also brought along some books to read to them – some of my very favorites that I’ve kept all this time. One of them was Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl. I’d always loved that one, for the wiliness of the fox and how he outwitted everyone. Aerro picked that out for me to read, because foxes. 

So, I’m reading along – and Tobiah was totally drawn into the story, too, despite initial grumpiness – and we get to this scene near the end. Mr. Badger expresses reservations about what they’re doing.

Suddenly Badger said, “Doesn’t this worry you just a tiny bit, Foxy?”

“Worry me?” said Mr. Fox. “What?”

“All this … this stealing.”

And Mr. Fox goes on to explain that they’re taking food they need to live from the farmers who tried to kill them. The animals are just trying to live. On the page below, Mr. Fox explains:

“If they want to be horrible, let them,” said Mr. Fox. “We down here are decent peace-loving creatures.”

Badger laid his head on one side, and smiled at Mr. Fox. “Foxy,” he said, “I love you.”

I might have paused a little at that, I’m not sure. It did kind of read funny. But Aerro spoke right up and said, “Well, that was awkward.”

Which totally cracked me up. I don’t remember ever noticing that before, but Aerro sure knew her boundaries there. I confess it bothered me more that Mrs. Fox and Mrs. Badger were the first to become weak from hunger, while the men folk remained strong and resolute, and even the small badgers and foxes could keep digging. And then Mrs. Fox, so weak from starvation and dehydration that she can’t help dig is still able to muster the energy to cook a feast with all the food the others acquire.

I nearly caustically commented that the females were no doubt weak from popping out so many babies, but I do try not to editorialize. At any rate, so are our expectations and assumptions laid in, yes?

I might not be saving this book any longer, alas. 

Recalibrating

I caught a bit of sun on this one, but I love the happy look on Granddaughter Aerro’s face.

We spent the weekend with family, celebrating David’s birthday and Tobiah’s a bit late. It’s fun to do these things, to see everyone, but I ate lots of food I don’t normally eat, got no writing done and got all out of my routine.

I know – I’m cantankerous.

I think this is why so many people dislike Mondays though. It’s much easier to stay with a routine than to start it up again. My folks are retired and they don’t notice the days of the week so much, except for planning events. Sometimes I think that’s the best way, just to let the flow of time be even. When I’m home for the weekend, though I sleep a bit later, it’s not by a huge amount – maybe an hour – and my exercise and writing schedule is pretty much the same. Then Monday isn’t so much of a shock.

This morning, though…

So I’m gearing up. Lots to do this week. I’m almost done revising The Body Gift. I’ve been strengthening the hero and it’s working. I found myself mooning over him the other day, which is lovely, because he’s been very difficult to get to know. I’m 70% done, with 15 chapters to do over the next 7 days. Totally doable, right?

(There is the small matter of adding an entirely new scene where my characters end up in this very particular image I have in my head, but I don’t really know how they get there or what happens. The story magic will fill that in, right?)

Then I send it off to my (potential) agent who is enthusiastically (I like to think) waiting for it.

Okay, off I go to catch a wave. Wish me luck!

Writer’s Life

This weekend wasn’t about writing, so neither is today’s blog.

I’m still tagging it as writer’s life, because this is life, too. When we returned from our whirlwind party weekend last night, I caught up on blog reading. I noticed several people bemoaning that they weren’t recovering from the holidays fast enough. Here we are, ove two weeks into 2011 and they haven’t ramped up like they thought they would. People have flus and colds. It’s dark and cold. Day jobs have no trouble ramping up.

It’s easy to think that only actual typing away is writing. Of course, the big trap for writers is only talking and thinking about writing and not doing it. We’ve all encountered people who say they always thought they’d like to write a book. Many of them never will.

We know that. We used to be those people. Until we finally got our acts together and starting WRITING instead of talking about it.

So the fear eternally chases us, that we’ll revert. That we’ll lose the oomph to stick it out in the chair.

But there’s also life.

We celebrated belated Christmas in Denver on Friday night, with our 2 1/2 year old grandson, Tobiah (that’s powdered sugar from Donettes on his mouth), and our new 2 1/2 month old granddaughter, Aerro.

She looks like an Anne Geddes baby. Alas that I am no Anne Geddes.

Saturday was my colleague Val’s wedding. Our widely scattered work team flew in from New Hampshire, Florida and Nebraska, to stay at my mom’s house in Denver. We went out for brunch on Saturday morning (there, Laurie, it’s documented!) and met up with another colleague who lives in Castle Rock. With six of us, brunch took a long time. We had a few hours to kill and they wanted to see some sights.

So we tooled around my old neighborhood. I showed them my favorite art and architecture around the Denver Tech Center, like Harlequin Plaza, where I’d hang with my very first love. Places even David had never seen, because we never seem to have time to burn when we’re visiting. We drove around Cherry Creek State Park and over the top of the reservoir, to prove to them there really is a big lake there. I told them how, when I was a kid, the only road across was that little two-lane along the top of the dam. My mom used to hate driving it, with so much traffic on such a narrow road. Now six to eight lanes of I-225 bustle below.

No one else was on the reservoir road.

We hung by the fire a bit, then piled into the car to head to Loveland for Val’s wedding. There was a baby, there, too.

We stayed up late, drank a lot of wine and laughed until our sides were splitting.

Sunday morning we bustled everyone out for pick-ups and airport appointments.

David and I drove back to Santa Fe and I reflected on how fun it was to have a weekend party with my friends in my mom’s house. Those who’ve followed this blog for a while know that my mom has been prepping the house to sell it, after nearly 40 years. Our last couple of visits have been melancholy, full of sorting through things and memories. Lots of letting go.

So there’s a synchronicity to how this happened. I revisited some places I wouldn’t have thought to. I have memories full of joy, babies and friends.

The writer’s life doesn’t get better than this.

Diapers and Destiny


This weekend I went shopping for diapers.

Along the way, I stopped into the Borders and found Enemy Within cozied up with the Iron Duke. In broad daylight, even.

I started reading Enemy Within, too, and *love* it. No, I hadn’t read it before. I read a draft of Marcella’s second book and my comments resulted in her gutting it, rewriting and missing her deadline by, oh, a couple months. She says I shouldn’t feel guilty.

Now I don’t because if Enemy Within is what she’s capable of producing, then I’m glad I held her to a high standard. I realize I haven’t read any classic sci fi in a while. I know I’ve never read a post where the main character has been imprisoned and tortured by insectoid aliens. The latent psychological trauma is gritty, moving and incredibly well done. Romance-wise, I’m all about the hero getting through to trauma-girl where no one else can.

(Currently plotting time away from work today to read more, more, more!)

Anyway – I went shopping for diapers for little Aerro. I mention this here because everyone seems to forget I have grandchildren. I bought a few cute things, too, but for a tiny baby she has lots of stuff already. My stepdaughter and son-in-law are doing cloth diapers this time around and they do need more of those. Lauren told us the brand they planned to use, which I ought to be able to buy in Target.

So, I went to Target, I went to the cute baby stuff section. Nope. Several burgeoning couples were there with the baby-registry scanners having a grand old time, but no sign of diapers anywhere. I went wandering forlornly, expanding my circles outward through the various stages of clothing for kids, teens, adults, fat adults, cars. Finally a worker in the automotive section spotted me for what I was, completely at a loss. I hesitated to say I was looking for diapers – of course, he immediately laughed at me. I wanted to explain that I figured they didn’t keep diapers in automotive (being clever like that) but that I was on my way to somewhere else where they might more logically keep it.

The baby section, right? No no no.

He says “see this big wall right here?” Yes, even I can spot that big wall. “Go to the opposite wall on the other side of the store.”

Right. Paper towels, cotton balls, Q-Tips, tampons, depends and…diapers! Organization by function. All absorbent materials must be shelved together.

Then they didn’t have the kind Lauren said. So, I’m the woman on her cell phone getting the man at home to look them up. Turns out Target sells them in Colorado, but not New Mexico. Not in Wyoming, either, David discovered. Why? It’s a mystery. Emptier landfills in Wyoming and New Mexico, perhaps.

So, we’ll order online. I bounced off to the bookstore and to get a pedicure like the light-hearted non-diaper buyer I normally am.

I’m not quite sure at what point in my life I became the non-maternal type. When I was younger, I babysat all the time. I didn’t have much social life, so I babysat pretty much every weekend and on weeknights, too. I cared for newborns, even, which was the big money in those days. I could change any diaper in a flash.

A friend of mine has a daughter who just started her sophomore year at a prestigious Ivy League college. She’s always been a startlingly intelligent and talented girl. However, she has never had a job. Last summer, strongly encourage by her parents to start getting a feel for the earning money thing, she babysat for a friend’s baby. When the baby’s mother returned home, she saw a Google page up for “how to diaper a baby.”

I love this story.

But I was not that girl. I always had the idea, as most girls do, I think, that I’d have babies someday. Somewhere in the sweep of graduate school, acquiring stepchildren, and trying on careers, I never got really excited about having babies. Once, when I was 36, a woman I knew asked me if I’d regretted never having children. I replied that I didn’t know I’d never had them yet.

Yeah, it was a bitchy thing for her to say.

I did think, though, for a very long time, that I might wake up one day and have the overwhelming urge to have a baby. That clock that women talk about would suddenly tick-tock in my head and I wouldn’t be able to hear anything else until I had a baby in my belly.

Didn’t happen.

Instead I became completely obsessed with writing and becoming one of the great writers of my generation. Or possibly just supporting myself as a writer. Both of which have the added bonus of never requiring diaper-shopping.

People talk about being childless-by-choice. I’m not that. I helped raise Mike and Lauren from the time they were five and seven years old. And I never really decided not to have children of my own. Instead, I never decided to have babies. Kind of like I never decided to move to Thailand. It’s just that, most people never decide to move to Thailand.

It could be pointed out that a lot of people don’t necessarily decide to have babies either, but fall into parenthood, as it were.

I suppose I’m just on the opposite wall from everyone else. On the other side of the store, wondering why anyone would dress up their car in zebra print.

Aerro Nicole

Aerro Nicole De La Fuente, daughter of my stepdaughter, Lauren, was born yesterday.

She’s actually my second grandchild, as her brother, Tobiah, turned two this summer. Their dad, Damion, has gorgeous eyes, too, so I expect both kids will be heartbreakers.

It’s funny how many people don’t know I have stepchildren. I look young for my age anyway, due to good genes, a long-term skin care program and a happy life. But I also acquired my stepchildren young. I was twenty-four when I met David twenty years ago. At that time Lauren was six and her brother, Mike, was eight.

So they could have been mine biologically, too, if I’d gotten started early. One of Lauren’s best friends had a baby at sixteen, so she’ll be on my same track.

It seemed David and I were always out of step with the other parents. Most of them were older than we were – or maybe they just seemed older. I was still in grad school. David had gone to college late and was in the early years of a new career. Neither of us had any money. We lived in a tiny apartment, with a grocery budget of $50/week, and Mike and Lauren stayed with us every other weekend, all summer and visited once a week for dinner. Our friends always forgot we needed to either bring Mike and Lauren along or find a sitter when they threw impromptu parties on kid-weekends. None of our friends had children. And the parents of the kids’ friends seemed so much more fixed in life than we were.

By the time Mike and Lauren were older, that was when our friends started having kids. Many of my cohort, my high-school and college friends now have children who are around ten years old. Lauren had her first baby at twenty-four. The same age I became a stepmother, I pointed out to her. She seemed young for it, but then, so was I.

Am I young to be a grandmother? I suppose so. But I’m hearing people say 60 is the new 40, which means that 40 must be the new 20. By that measure, I acquired stepchildren when I was in grade school.

Age is a rapidly changing concept these days. People may not be living a lot longer, but they’re certainly more youthful for it. Here we are, twenty years later and David is back in school, training for a second career – or perhaps third, depending on how you look at it. Mike is back in David’s home town, doing the things David did in his twenties, before he went to college. Lauren has a son who is two years older than her new daughter, who was born the same weight as Lauren was.

It all cycles around. David and I are looking forward to spending time with Tobiah and Aerro (named for the snowboarder in last winter’s Olympics, if you were wondering. And Nicole is Lauren’s middle name) as they grow up. We have more room and more money now.

And we’re still young. Doesn’t get any better than that.

Welcome to the world, Aerro. We love you.