30 April 2012

Megan's Excellent Adventure

Today's post will be mostly green, as I mention all the lovely people I met at the New England Chapter of the Romance Writers of America Conference. Click away if you want to learn more about them!

Here I sit with my friend, Golden Heart Nominee Colette Auclair. Colette and I were finalists in a contest last year (she won), and met in person at the RWA Conference in New York. It was a lovely surprise to see her in Salem! Colette is my Mack truck--I'm drafting behind her as she blazes her way to glory! She'll get all the awards but I'll get better gas mileage. Don't laugh--gas is pretty expensive these days.

This photo was taken by my roommate, Kate George. I'm telling you, I've slept with some outstanding women at these conferences! Last year, I roomed with Delia Moran, and I shacked up with Deborah Blake at National. I'm making my natural hussy tendencies work for me.

It was fantastic to see my friends Serena Bell and Ellen Dean, who is social-media phobic but effervescent in person. You should remember their names, folks, because you will see them on book jackets soon. Rebecca Rose and Meg Maguire are already published, but were pitching books at the conference. While we waited for our appointments, I quizzed them on their projects and whether Meg's chicken hat from the previous evening was a rooster or a hen. Because romance writers are an incredibly supportive group, Rebecca volunteered to be my critique partner, and Meg told me where she bought her hat.

The conference workshops were informative, the panel discussion lively, and the presenters inspiring. Kristan Higgans made me laugh and cry--no easy feat at an early breakfast! And when a presenter offers to help, they mean it, as evidenced by Jen Talty's willingness to sit and discuss her digital publishing business with me. She's the mother of three hockey-playing boys, so I felt an immediate kinship with her.

One of the reasons I attended the conference was to meet LaToya Smith, an editor with Grand Central Publishing. I submitted ten pages of my manuscript, along with my query letter, for her to review before our appointment. It was an opportunity to get constructive feedback from someone in the business. LaToya was kind and enthusiastic, and at the end of our meeting she asked to see my full manuscript!

Now you know where you can find me for the next few weeks--polishing BIG SKY until it is so blindingly brilliant LaToya will scramble to snap it up!

It was an excellent weekend.

23 April 2012

Sunday in the Bed with Five

The door opens and Five comes around to my side of the bed. We have recently purchased a new mattress, which rises Princess-and-the-Pea-like from the floor. It didn't seem so fluffy in the showroom, or we would have chosen one we can actually sit on while we put on our shoes. Despite the fact that I need a step-stool to gain access, Five scrambles up and shimmies his skinny body under the covers with ease. I throw my arm over him and pull him close.

"Mom, what day is it?" he asks.

"Sunday," I mumble.

"Arrgghh! That means I have Sunday school! Why can't I just have two days off like everyone else? It's really unfair, Mom, that I don't get two days off to rest. Didn't God say that Sunday was a day of rest?"

The Captain snorts from his under-occupied side of the bed.

"It's your last day of Sunday school, Five."

"So I'm making my communion?"

"Not this week; but it's your last day of class."

"Oh, okay. What time is it?" He rolls over to check the clock. "It's 7:28. No, it's 7:29. Do we have doughnuts for breakfast?"

"No, we have waffles." As I gain consciousness, a dull throb gains traction behind my eyes. I ask the Captain to let the dog out.

"No doughnuts? But it's Sunday. And why don't we ever get Dunkin' Donuts anymore?"

"Because they're expensive. The doughnuts that Nonni bought are fine."

"So we have Nonni's doughnuts?"

"No. They got eaten."

"Mom! That's so annoying."

My iPhone alarm rings, and  Five hands it to me. I roll over onto my back, because the throb has become a pounding in my sinuses. I hope for a positional cure, or the removal of any contributing factors. "Yes. It's also annoying when you yell at me. My head hurts."

"Oh." The contributing factor props himself up on his elbow and looks at my face. "Do you want me to rub it? Remember that time I rubbed your neck and it helped? I haven't had much experience rubbing heads, but I could try."

"Yes, thank you, that would be very kind."

I lay with my eyes closed. He places the heel of his small hand near the bridge of my nose and presses down, kneading the space between my eyes. "Is that comforting?" he asks.

It is neither gentle nor palliative, but his hand is cool, and he wants to comfort me.

"Yes," I answer. The throbbing keeps time as he pats my head a little for good measure. "Thank you, dear. Go eat your waffles."

"Okay. You feel better?"

"I do. But could you ask Dad to bring me some Advil?"

Five slides out of the bed, runs down the hall, and returns in a moment clutching a small cup of water and some pills. "Sit up," he says. I swallow the pills and lay back down."I'll put the cup here, just in case you need more water." He places it on my nightstand and jogs away. The room is quiet. I recall his hand upon my forehead, and am comforted.

18 April 2012

My Legs Too Short to Box-Step With Gary

It's already the middle of the week! Time has flown by, my lovelies, without offering me a ride. The last two weeks have been a blur of commitments, and the next month promises to be the same. My heart is fluttering. Really. I have this flutter sensation that travels up into my throat every so often, and it takes my breath away. It's like I'm living in a romance novel! Except that I think the flutter is exacerbated by stress, not desire. Because, (she quickly clarified), the Captain is here to satisfy all my desires!

That said, here I am visiting my boyfriend, Gary Lightbody.

You can't really see Gary, which is kind of how it was for me, too. The Captain and I stood on the floor, which isn't the best place for the vertically challenged. I think concert venues should follow school rules, and line everyone up by height. Then Gary clearly would have recognized me as one of his most ardent over-40 fans (I would lose in the finals to the ladies who tipple, because drunk babes are a little looser, you know), and invited me onstage to sing with him. Which I would do in a heartbeat, a characteristic of mine the Captain finds fascinating, yet horrifying, similar to body piercing.

It took a day or two to recover from the concert because I am, as previously mentioned, over 40. And it's not like I have any down time. Life's a go-go, baby, and I'm just trying to shimmy fast enough that I don't lose my pole position. (How's that for a stripper/NASCAR mash-up? We aim for all demographics.)

In between the dancing, I'm trying to finish my manuscript before next weekend. My fingers are typing as fast as they can, when I'm not falling asleep at my keyboard. Wish me luck, people, because my back-up plan left for Canada without me.

Gary! Wait! I know all the lyrics!

14 April 2012

Sexy, Boots, and Snow Patrol

Yesterday I started a post about body issues and sexiness. I got halfway through it and the rest of the day took over, preventing me from finishing it. This is pretty much how my whole week played out.

I went back to the post after having a lengthy discussion with the Captain about what it means to be "sexy." Then he took the time to explain the differences between "sexy," "hot," "dirty," and "pretty." I finished the night no more enlightened, and frankly a little annoyed because I didn't have one personal fun moment in the day. And I don't ask for much, people, just a little time to write or surf the Internet and connect with all of you. I didn't even get to sit and fall asleep during an hour of television.

Anyway, I've given up on that post for now. The subject matter was prompted, in part, by the Captain telling me I'm very sexy. My response was "I think I'd feel sexier if I lost ten pounds." Then I remembered this article by Ashley Judd, and got to thinking about how I view my body. So in lieu of my post, I offer you her thought-provoking piece.

In other, more exciting, news: I'm going to see Snow Patrol tonight! They are performing in New York City! I am allowing the Captain to accompany me, even though that will diminish my chances of running away with the band. It's probably better that way. After all, one guy in your hand who thinks you're sexy is worth two lead singers in the bush...wait a minute.

You know what I mean.

 Here are the awesome boots I will be wearing!

The Captain got me motorcycle boots for my birthday last year, but they didn't fit right, so I traded them in for this pair. They're made by Ariat, a company I first read about on Kari Lynn Dell's blog, Montana For Real. It's like Harley Davidson and Ty Murray had a punk-rock love child who grew up, became a shoe designer, tapped into my dreams, and cobbled these...

You know what I mean.

09 April 2012

We Are (Unplanned) Family

I went back and read last year's Easter post, which I remember typing in bed after I spent the day at the hospital. This year, family and friends visited, the teenagers hid the eggs for the little cousins, and we ate every bit of our simple, satisfying meal. As a bonus, the Knicks beat the Bulls in overtime, and a nice man named Bubba hugged his mom and cried after he won the Masters. It was a good day.

Two returned from Europe late Friday night, tired but happy. We got to hear a few stories about the hotels and the beautiful cathedrals, and he distributed small gifts he'd purchased for us all. He gave me a very charming coffee mug, which means he's been paying attention to my work process all these years.

While Two was away, the Captain and I delighted in the effect of a little-known phenomenon called "Minus One." You may be unfamiliar with this if you have fewer than five children, but it is also known as the "No More Than Four" rule. If we remove one child from the mix, the house becomes disproportionately calm. The truly odd component is that it doesn't matter which child leaves. Peace and quiet reigns in every variation.

We have decided this is God's way of illustrating the beauty of family planning. You know, God created Earth first, which means He's heavily invested in protecting it. Too many earthlings are a drain on the natural resources, which is really why humans should follow the "No More Than Four" rule of procreation. There are subtle reminders of this in our daily life. Beer and soda get sold in six-packs. Sure, you can buy a dozen doughnuts, but that means no seconds for one unlucky soul. Heck, even our van only has real seatbelts for six occupants. The poor guy stuck on the 60/40 split in the rear has to use the temporary belt that pulls down from the ceiling. When it's not actively engaged in saving your life, it's trying to strangle you, in order to restore natural balance.

Two had been away from his friends Charlie and Keenan during spring break, so he immediately invited them over on Saturday. By immediately, I mean around two o'clock, after he'd been asleep for twelve hours. We were going to attend Easter Vigil instead of Easter Sunday Mass, but Charlie scored Rangers tickets from a friend, so the Captain took all three boys to Madison Square Garden. The seats were awesome, the Rangers were not, but it was a nice experience for the Captain. He enjoys spending time with his boys, which gets harder as they age. Plus, he's a Rangers fan.

Keenan and Charlie ended up spending the night with us, and at nine-thirty the next morning, we divided up between two cars and went to Mass. We always sit in the front row so the little people can see what's going on, so I imagine our testosterone-filled pew was quite a sight for all the folks behind us.

Before we were married, the Captain and I attended "Marriage Encounter," which is designed to help couples navigate life beyond wedded bliss. There was a seminar on "natural family planning," because the Catholic church isn't big on contraception. I remember being outraged because, at the time, I was a little more vocal about my feminist beliefs. Little did I know that I would become the poster gal for their doctrine. But on Sunday, as I looked down the row and saw boy, boy, boy, boy, boy, little boy, man, and little boy, I couldn't have been more proud.

04 April 2012

Good Things Happen in Three

Three's team won the championship!

For the second year in a row, the Captain and Three advanced to the finals and won a hard-fought contest. We are excited for all the boys, especially the ones that had never played on a team before this season. I am especially proud of my guys, who have been together as coach/dad and player/son since third grade. It hasn't always been easy.

Life with Three has been a challenge, like assembling a jigsaw puzzle. The picture on the box looked fairly straightforward, but when we opened it up, it was missing a few key pieces. Three was speech-delayed, which we've learned is an indicator for other disorders. He had sensory issues, which primarily presented themselves in a steadfast refusal to wear anything other than track pants. He was nervous in new situations, which became belligerence as he aged. He was self-centered, but had no self-awareness, so it was impossible to have a logical discussion about his behavior.

Three began missing school days in third grade, and by fifth I could not get him through the schoolhouse door. We had witnessed his anxiety, but didn't recognize it by that name. We just found it infuriating, because, well, Three looked normal. He didn't have any of the physical difficulties of One, or the social awkwardness. He seemed fairly well-adjusted, except for the constant battles to get him to batting instruction ("I don't need anyone telling me what to do. And they think I suck."), football practice ("My ankle/wrist/back/hurts/ I think I'm concussed."), or religious education ("I don't know anyone in my class.").

Three is a natural athlete, talented in any sport he chooses to play. He could be a great athlete, if he were willing to work at it. Which has generally not been the case. In the past, this drove his father crazy. But when Three's anxiety finally overtook him and he wasn't able to attend school for four months, the Captain had an awakening. Youth sports weren't that important anymore. Whatever Three decided to play was fine, even soccer. When they were paired again during basketball, the Captain and Three decided to treat each other as coach and player, which worked out better than father and son.

Over the next few years, Three's attendance at school improved. He joined the chorus, and performed in the school musical. He gave up football, which made us all happy, but continued with soccer, baseball, and basketball. This year he joined a spring youth basketball league, and plays for a coach he had never met. Impressed by his skill, the coach invited Three to attend a clinic he was hosting at the New Jersey Nets training facility. It was a last minute invitation, and most of Three's teammates were away for spring break. The Captain and I were astonished when he said he would attend. Alone. In the past, we wouldn't have even told him about the opportunity.

Next week, Three will return to the eighth grade, and juggle his weekly commitments of homework, play rehearsal, baseball games, and league basketball. He's expressed an interest in attending a six-week advanced skills clinic run by one of the top high school basketball coaches in the state. We're so impressed by his recent dedication to the sport, we're willing to fork over the cash.

He has not missed a day of school this year.

Three is growing up. He is still goofy, even more so when his ADHD meds wear off at the end of the day. He still acts irrationally, but apologizes to me when he crosses the line, because he can now see the line. Recently, we talked to him about getting a job as a caddy, and his initial reaction was dismissive.

"I don't know anything about golf. And I don't want a job where I have to meet new people."

"Three, you need to recognize how far you've come," I said. "You went to a clinic where you knew two people walking through the door. You led your team to a championship even though you'd hurt your elbow. You're at school every day. There's no limit to what you can achieve in life."

After a pause he said, "You're right, mom. I was telling a girl my life story the other day, and her dad overheard the conversation. He told her I was a keeper."

We agree.

02 April 2012

Happy Birthday, Ma

Seventy-five years ago, Norma was born.

She is kind, patient, forgiving, full of humor and creativity.
 She is wonderful sister.

She is a caring grandmother.

She is artistic and nature-loving. In my mind, she was this age for about ten years.

She is confident and stylish. Especially when walking a bride down the aisle.
She is a true friend and role model.
She is the center of our family.

Happy Birthday, Ma. I love you.