Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Kid Pitch

I grew up with a wax paper, Coca-Cola cup in my hand, hiney side in the red clay dirt at Goodwyn Ball Park in Montgomery, Alabama. Like literally - that's where a heaping portion of my youngest childhood memories are set. Playing in the dirt or mud (whichever it happened to be that particular day), buying Fun Dip and Slush Puppies from the concession stand, and sitting as close up to the fence as I could get right behind the batter's box calling strikes and balls in my head and comparing them to what the umpire said out loud. With two older brothers, that was my life. And it was so much fun.

I guess it was then that my love for baseball began. It deepened later in life in realized just how cute a boy's backside looked in baseball pants, especially if they were a catcher. I guess with all that up and down squatting and all, the catcher always had the nicest looking rear in the baseball pants. Granted that was at a time in my life that I still appreciated the taste of good Slush Puppy, but had traded playing in the dirt with watching the boy that made my insides swirl with delight compete on the field.

Now days, I don't make a habit of paying that much attention to the booties in the baseball pants I see on a regular basis. Most of them are under the age of ten, so that's neither appropriate or interesting to me. But I am more into the game since my little man has baseball pants of his own. He's been sporting the pants, pulled up to just below the knee and tucked into the socks pulled high, for four years now but is somehow just now finding himself playing real baseball. Kid pitch, leading off, stealing, baseball. And I love it...

Sunday, David and his Bandit friends played their first (and probably only) tournament of the fall. It was our kid pitch debut, and I was so excited to see how our boys could hold up. We've not practiced much since all but two of our boys play football. We've had two real practices - meaning the whole team, practicing all facets of the game. For the most part, we've met and done a little pitching and a little hitting, but not much full-field practice. We knew the odds of us coming out of this tournament victorious were slim to say the least. I think all the parents walked into it with an expectation of being beat. I considered it not-so-free, really organized practice.

We lost our first two games, the first one 8-4 and the second 10-6. Most runs as this level are scored by stealing, not actual hits of the ball. The pitchers' arms are erratic and unpredictable to say the least, so there's ample opportunity to advance once you've gotten on first base. Some people think it makes the game more boring, but to me it was more intense mainly because I honestly never knew what was possible once the ball left the pitcher's hand... could be a strike, a ball, a pitch right over the umpire's head, a stolen base or run, a batter whose elbow would be greatly bruised the following day from being hit with a pitch. The list could go on and on. And I never really knew what the players on the field would do, because, God love them, they've completely forgotten how to strategize the bases. We're trying to throw a runner out at second when there's one ready to steal home on third. Honestly, it's as though these kids have never played before.

Even though we lost the first two, we still showed well for ourselves. Most of our boys got a couple good hits during the day. The ordinary plays on the field looked good. It's just the mechanics and strategies behind all the other elements that have to be added in. In other words, once the days are warm enough in the spring, we will practicing baseball so much that even I will be able to try out for the major leagues.

We did pull a victory the third game, beating the poor little team we played 13-0. I was glad to end the day on a positive note for our boys' sake, because, bless them, they aren't accustomed to losing. And neither are the parents. But I felt so bad for the team we beat. They were just plain awful. Hate to sound ugly, but that's just the truth.

So, I got a little teaser of baseball. And I got to see my little man pitch for about half an inning. And, well... I thought I was about to barf the whole time he was on the mound. Don't know if I can handle him being out there or not. Luckily (for mama, anyway) I don't foresee David being one that pitches a whole lot unless something drastically changes. But we'll see. At least now I'm hoping I won't be eating nearly as much at the ball park because I'll be nervously fretting around most of the time or barfing on my shoes if David takes the mound.

Is it spring yet?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Emerging...

I am emerging from the streptococcus fog I have been under... my word. Why is it the older you get the worse strep is on your body? When Madalyn was sick two weeks ago, it took all I could do to keep her away from her neighborhood friends and stop her from eating everything in the pantry. Not so much the same experience for me.

Friday morning, I went to doc-in-a-box after a tough evening with fever and chills. I pretty much knew it was strep, and I was glad to go get my throat swabbed in exchange for the magic medicine that would make it all go away. By Friday afternoon, my fever had spiked to 103.5 despite the copious amounts of Advil and Tylenol coursing through my veins. I was pretty much delirious for the span of two hours. I remember texting Scott to let him know how high my fever was under the pretense that someone should know there was a possibility they might find me expired on the couch with a wet rag on my forehead and rerun episodes of Grey's Anatomy going on the Lifetime channel. Just trying to give him a heads up, because I really did think I was dying. It certainly felt like my insides were boiling, and we already know my brain is fried...

Saturday, I laid on the couch all day reading a book and watching football with my poor husband who had taken the Saturday off to enjoy his birthday weekend. I am very sorry there was little enjoyment in the weekend outside of Auburn's continued success on the football field and having a half-dead remnant of his wife sitting beside him.

Sunday, I did what any strep recovering mom/patient should do... I sat at the ball park all day watching my little man and his compadres play in the first ever kid pitch baseball tournament. I wouldn't have missed it for the world, though I was a wee bit grumpier than usual, and was swapping comments with another parent on the other side within the first 15 minutes of the first inning. Hey - I was on antibiotics, Cherritussin, and Advil and had sweat out 2 pounds of fluids in the previous 48 hours, so I got a little worked up. No harm, no foul. (And I promise to give the gift of a quality baseball post very soon detailing the experience as a whole... I know, you may sleep with anticipation now...)

Finally, during the day yesterday, after I thought I was going to pass out from low blood sugar, I quickly scarfed down a whole can of Double Noodle Campbell's soup for breakfast. Someone was nice enough to remove those daggers that had been stuck in my tonsils for the past few days one by stinking one, and the throat pain began to subside. And, as the pain subsided, my head began to clear (a little). And this morning, I feel somewhat like a real person. Somewhat.

I don't get sick all that often, but when I do, it's a good one. I go all out. In the midst of all fever and the body aches and the misery, I thought about the people that fight every day with their body... I thought about the few people I know that lost their battles in the last couple of weeks... I thought about a lot of really deep stuff in the midst of times when there wasn't a whole lot of coherent thinking. For many, the way I have felt over the last several days is a common thing in their life, and I honestly don't know how people deal with chronic illness that has you down for the count like that. For me, I am feeling better today and know that each day will be more and more like myself. I also know that I will probably be healthy and have no major sickness like that for another two years. But some aren't as lucky as me.

So today, I say thank you to my Lord and Savior for making me healthy and enabling my body to come back from the sickness. And I ask Him to wrap his arms around those who are suffering physically more than I can even imagine and speak to them and let them know that You are there beside them. Amen.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The kind of writer I am...

This past summer, I sat at my computer wondering how I could go about getting my name out there and gain credibility as a writer. I have no fancy degrees or list of published works. I don't have a pretty office with a flowing green plant on the desk. I'm a college drop-out, stay-at-home-mom, and blogging nut. So in my search for how this normal, everyday girl could find a place in the writing community, I did a search for writing contests. I found one in particular that appealed to me immensely ~ a memoir contest put on by a company that makes a living helping people put their memories in print.

The memoir has to be the simplest genre in which to write. To me, it's so easy to write about your own experiences. There's no pressure to fabricate brilliant characters, scenes, and realistic dialogue... life has already created those things for the writer. So I quickly went to work putting my summer experiences at my grandparents' cabin on Lake Jordan in literary form. I revised, polished, revised some more, and I was completely satisfied with what I had done when I slid it into the manila envelope and sent it on its way to California to be judged.

Now, let me start by saying that I had no belief that I would win the contest. It was my first time ever sending my work off to be looked at by those who make a living off the written word. After I sent off my entry, I perused the website of the sponsoring company and realized I could read the winning entries from contests past. I was by no means impressed with what I read, and at that point began to think I may have a chance in landing one of the three top spots. As I stated last week, the winners were finally announced, and I was not one of them.

Last night, two of the winning entries - the first and second place memoirs - were finally posted on the website. I was disgusted. The first place entry was a loose interpretation of a memoir... it was a modified psychiatric evaluation questionnaire on grief. Even though I am not incredibly artsy, I was around enough artsy people in upper level English classes in college to have a general understanding of the kind of things artsy people like to do in writing. Even though I don't like the approach nor believe that a list of 20 questions equates a memoir, I can at least interpret that there is a feeling of grief behind what was written. There was feeling behind each question. But the second place entry..... I am in utter disbelief.

The second place entry was all about this writer's relationship with her female parts throughout her life. How she felt about her parts in her childhood, in her free sexual days of her twenties, and after she had her children. Yes... you are reading this right... she basically wrote and ode to her vagina and actually won money for doing so.

If I had only known... I totally forgot to throw the word vagina into my memoir. Totally forgot. And I didn't have any curse words either, and I am pretty sure I got docked some points for lack of vulgarity.

I've already sent in the fee to have my entry critiqued, and I am beyond interested to see what these judges have to say about my entry. Beyond interested. Truth is, I am finally realizing and accepting that I write well. It's hard - always has been - for me to accept that I do something well. Why is that? The nice girl inside of me says, "Well... it's just not nice to think you are better at something than someone else...." But in reality, when you have a gift or talent, you should reach a point in your life that you are able to accept that you are better than some, just not better than all and never will be the absolute best. I mean, that's what I try to teach my kids - accept that you have a talent, work hard to be the best, do well with humility, and realize that there is always someone out there more talented than you. I digress...

I am also realizing that I am not main stream. I am not worldly. I am not mass production. I am not provocative in an American sort of way. I don't use foul words in my writing. I won't write about sexual escapades (mainly cause I don't have any) or my feelings about my girl parts (cause I never really realized that those feelings were literarily appealing). I want to write about life... about how God reveals Himself through the everyday... about His love and how it's displayed. I want to make people think, not about vagaygays or abstract writing styles or pushing the envelope, but about their relationship to the One who created them and His love for His creation. I want to write words that mean something. I want another woman to read my words and think, "Oh, wow..."

So, I am over the writing contests. I don't need accolades or recognition from haughty-taughty, artsy-fartsy writers. I don't need a degree. I don't need a fancy office or business card. I will just continue to write my story and know in my heart that it's a good one. That one day, when my story is complete, it will reach the desk of someone whom God has purposed and she or he will say, "Now here's a story with meaning..." I will write for God, and He will work the rest out for me.

Here's my favorite verse right now. It would take a whole other post to explain why, so I won't...

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come to me and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you..." Jeremiah 29: 11 - 14

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Stuck in critter hell...

I haven't been feeling incredibly productive lately. I've been writing a lot, but that's not something that many people in this world consider productive. And it's not an activity that reveals itself via fresh lines in the carpet or stacks of clean clothes. Writing is the long term goal, not the short term payoff. Anywho... this morning began normal as most. Kids up, Pop Tarts consumed, argument with Madalyn to get dressed 15 million times, and they're off. Freedom. I was on the phone catching up with my sister-in-law while picking up and stirring about, and I noticed Buddy, the dog, hovering over something in the yard. The kind of hover that only a moving, breathing critter could cause. I hollered out the door for him to leave it, the universal command that all dogs should understand and heed with no problem.

Buddy did not obey. So I put him in the garage and went to check on the unsuspecting critter. I found a tiny chipmunk, paralyzed from the waist down, lying in the grass. I knew I had to do something - if I didn't he'd be a mushy mess and I would never be able to allow Buddy to lick my toes ever again. So I got the shovel I use to pick up all the dog poop from the yard and lifted the wounded chipmunk. He, of course, panicked, and with the two good legs he had managed to pull himself over the front edge of the shovel. Great... this campaign of chipmunk salvation may prove to be more difficult than I had imagined. After two more efforts, the odd sounds of chipmunk fear squeaking out of his mouth (yes, they squeak... didn't know that until today), and a little soft baby talk to Mr. Chipmunk, I managed to get him to the tree line behind the fence where he could pass or be eaten by a stray cat (but definitely not by my brown-eyed, precious dog).

Let me rewind to last night when my husband and I sat side by side on the couch and were startled by the craziest noise we had ever heard in our lives. I looked at Scott, and he looked at me, and we knew there was a critter in between the drop ceiling and the floor above it. We could hear it scampering over the ceiling tiles. We've had a little issue with mice in the garage, but there's been no sign of any in the house and definitely no sounds of them having a party above our heads. Let me make myself clear... I am over the critters. I am a city girl. Always have been. I have never had any intentions at any point in my life of shoveling critters or putting out massive sticky pads in order to trap bothersome mice who have taken up their unwelcome residence in my home. I am beyond disturbed at this point. Every time I open the door leading into the garage, my eyes scan for any movement. Any time I am in the basement, I remain in a constant state of awareness of what may or may not be scurrying around at my feet.

This morning, after the chipmunk incident, I sat at my computer writing away on my destined to be best selling novel. I needed Carmex. If you don't know me, then you can't understand the helpless addiction I have to the medicated lip balm. It is not normal, but it's not damaging and therefore not on my list of things about myself that need to be fixed. So, I found a tube on the pool table, and as I unscrewed the red top, I heard it. A screech. A tiny little squealy, squeaky, screech. The sticky pad is an amazing invention, I tell you.

Just a few short weeks ago, I sat outside talking to my neighbor and she shared with me an incident of mice in her former home. She shared with me the sound of the mice as they lie on the sticky pad, the screeching sound they make. I didn't believe her. Now I do.

I am stuck in critter hell. The dog is maiming them in the back yard, and I have to deal with that. I've found them in the dog food. I've seen them stuck on the sticky pads in the garage under the water heater. I have heard them scurrying above my head on the ceiling tiles. I have now heard the sound of the dying chipmunk and the dying mouse in the same day. And I am over it. And the burning question I have for Buddy is this - why in the world don't you kill the critters in the garage late at night when we allow you to come in to sleep???? Doesn't that seem like the reasonable thing to do? To repay the kind lady that pets you even when you stink, that feeds you and bathes you and gives you treats and talks to you like you are the third baby she never wanted... Don't kill them in the yard, Buddy... get 'em in the garage. PLEASE.

Oh, and if it's not too much trouble, could you do it and have them lying right there in front of the door so I can make sure Scott sees them and disposes of them before leaving for work??

My secret place...

There's this magnificent place I can visit any time I wish. The people draw me in and beckon me to stay. The sights, sounds, and smells are real to me. I control the weather, the events, and what each person says. My own little place... my own little world.

It's a blessing and a curse, really. When I'm there and in the middle of it all, it's such a blessing. I can feel all these emotions and work issues out between people and create any situation I want to create. But when it's time to go - when it's time to reenter the real world... well, that's when this place becomes a curse. How do you just flip the switch and go back to reality as a writer? How do you leave these people you know and love so dearly and tend to the ones in front of you? I feel a strange obligation to my characters to work things out for them, to see them through to the other side. And it's a huge responsibility, though nothing comes close to the duty I have to the living, breathing bodies in my home.

I've finally reached a point in my plot line where my main character is making the turn... and I can't wait to see where she's going. It seems insane to me that I am the only person in the world that knows Lilly, my main character, yet I have no idea what's going to happen in the next chapter. I have general ideas, but when I sit down to write, something just spills onto the keys. It's a truly fantastic, beautiful, pure experience. Something I wish all people on the earth could experience. I am so excited about it, I find myself wanting to talk to others about it. And that's where I have to remind myself that this place I have created is not real. It's make-believe. It's fiction. But I am so closely wound and intertwined with the fantastical right now that where it begins and ends has become blurred. There's no black and white line separating the two. Only a thought. And the thoughts are constant.

I can't wait to finish the story. I can't wait to share the story with others. And I thank and praise my Creator for giving me this opportunity to put it all on paper... it's been an amazingly spiritual experience so far, and I'm not finished yet...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The green-eyed monster...

Isn't Facebook fantastic? Well, it can be... it's pretty cool to be able to keep up with folks I went to high school with and rarely get to see. I love rummaging through their Christmas pictures and of their kids' soccer games as well as reading their thoughts on current events. I can keep up with family and all sorts of other random people I never knew I'd like to keep up with until I joined Facebook. When I first signed up, I befriended this girl I knew while I was in high school. We rivaled for the same guy, and though we didn't go to the same school or run in the same circle of people, we were very much aware of who the other was. Very much aware.

I was so envious of her then. We were complete opposites. She had this blond hair with amazing natural curl. She was tiny, petite, always dressed to the nines in the latest fashion. Her parents had tons of money. She was just one of those girls - cute, perfect, put together. She was everything I felt I wasn't. We never spoke to each other back then, but we definitely despised each other from a close distance when we were around one another. And ultimately, she got the guy. He broke up with me and started dating her.

Fast forward to my twenties, and we started running into each other out and about. We recognized one another in the bathroom one night at a bar, and we sat down on this bench and laughed and laughed about the old days. It was great to reminisce about when I hated her and she hated me and that we were both crazy to have been ga-ga over that particular guy.

I have found myself, in the present day, still in a state of envy. She still looks perfect. Still petite and incredibly thin. Still has the most beautiful blond hair with all this natural body. Dresses even better now and with the matching accessories. I find myself looking at her pictures and rolling my eyes... looks like the perfect family, the perfect clothes, the perfect body, the perfect life.

God humbled me this morning as I read her status from last night mourning the loss of a baby that would have turned six today. I mean, He hit me right over the head with a ginormous brick and said to me, "You see, Tamara... everyone has their trials and struggles. Quit focusing on the outside." You know, the truth is, life's not perfect. No matter how things appear from the outside, everyone has their own tragedies they are mourning on the inside. No matter how cute and perfect and blond the woman, she's battling something inside.

So, I've gained a little weight in the past few months. My skin is not flawless. I am not an all-put-together dresser, nor do I accessorize well. I am not the picture of a cute little blond Barbie on the outside. My kids' clothes don't always match. But those things aren't me. It's what is inside. And I truly hate it that there's still a part of me that gets caught up in the external.. that envies other women because of how they look on the outside without ever questioning what they are going through in their heart.

So here's a big kick in my rear this morning... let go of the earthly jealousies and envies... let go of what the world says is beautiful... let go of the false visions of perfection in your own mind... and let God go to work on the stuff that really matters.

Monday, October 18, 2010

I got carded...

I got carded yesterday. At Walgreen's. Buying Sudafed.

I must say, I've been asked for my ID only a handful of times when buying cold medicine, and it always takes me off guard. I tell myself what a pitiful world we live in where we can't even allow the free sale of Sudafed without signing something and showing an ID. It's easier to buy a twelve pack of beer than Sudafed at my local Walgreen's. But then, last night, I found a show on TV that made me realize why...

The show was called Drugs Inc and was on the National Geographic channel. From what I could tell, it is a series devoting an hour long program to a specific drug, its manufacturing, its effects on society and the human body, and outlining the obstacles in fighting its manufacturing and sale. The episode I happened upon was about methamphetamine. Crank. Crystal. Back in the day when I frequented bars (I know.... GASP... I used to frequent bars in my 20's) people referred to it as Chicken. Why they referred to it as that I will never know, but it took me a while to figure out what was being discussed in some conversations. I have never personally seen meth or anyone using it, but I have no doubt that every person reading this post has probably been around someone under the effects of meth, whether they knew it at the time or not. Those odd acting people at Wal-Mart may not have mental problems, you know. They may be meth addicts.

The show followed a narcotics unit in Athens, Georgia as they tracked down people they called Smurfs. These Smurfs weren't little blue cartoon characters, but rather they were people who went around to various drug stores and bought their monthly allowed amount of the decongestant used to make meth and then pass it along to a manufacturer. Among those arrested in this particular campaign was an 18 year old girl. 18 years old. Her mouth had sores in the corners, and she looked much older than she really was.

The show narrator also revealed a shocking statistic - that only 6% of meth addicts are able to successfully kick the habit. Only 6%. That means that the other 94% of people who become addicted to meth live a life battling its firm grasp on their soul. The thought weighs heavy on my heart. I look at my two kids and pray that they will have the courage and the wisdom to make good choices. I pray that they will never put something into their body that can grab a hold of them so tight that they only have a 6% chance to break free.

My heart just aches for America. For the millions out there searching for something. Those out there who are looking for love, for warmth, to feel good only to find themselves involved in a world of false feelings of euphoria and height. But I guess that's what Satan does, right? The older I get, the more I believe in Satan. The more I realize that literally all good things come from God, and everything else is just part of Satan's ploy. Add meth to his arsenal.

I feel like I am blabbering a little today - maybe from the Sudafed and the head cold I am battling right now. But the show last night was so disturbing - so completely disturbing. And it made me realize that the little comfy bubble I've been able to keep my children in is slowly disappearing. With each day that passes, their independence from my safety becomes more evident. I've talked to David about drugs, about how they come in all forms, about how if anyone offers you anything to decline and tell me or a trusting adult. How it's all a lie - it may be fun for a while, but it can take over your life and turn you into a totally different person. Still, I wonder if I have said enough. If I have taught enough. If I have loved enough. If I have been the kind of parent I need to be to prevent my children from making those huge mistakes in their life. After all, I have seen people who were raised in seemingly fantastic families who turned out to be drug addicts.

Sometimes, the weight and worry of being a parent overwhelms me. And when I see the evils of a deadly drug displayed the way it was on this show last night - well, I don't ever want my children to make a handful of decisions that could change their life forever. I guess all I can do is pray and keep those conversations going... pray, pray, pray.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Halloween...

As I type, I am looking at a blood-stained Jason mask. Yes, it's official... I am one of those moms that allows their child to dress up like glorified horror flick mass murderers. I never thought this day would arrive, and I am still in a state of disbelief.

I think back over the years of costumes. We did Eeyore at just four months of age, and I must confess he was the most precious sanguine blue-grey donkey I've ever seen in my life. We did Super Man one year, he was a Power Ranger twice, he's done two types of ninjas, and he made a great Indiana Jones a couple of years ago. Last year, he sorta started hinting around that he wanted to be something scary.

"I like the Scream guy..."

"No, David... the Scream guy scares me, and you're not gonna be anything that scares me. And nothing with blood."

He settled last year for some white ninja thing-a-ma-bob from GI Joe, and when we arrived at our place to trick or treat and saw that most of his friends were something scary, I could tell he was disappointed. Not that I am into the whole it's what everybody is doing thing, but it does break your heart to see that your kid feels like they didn't get to do something that he feels like he is ready to do and it's truly not harmful to their soul.

Yesterday, we went to the Spirit Halloween store here in Alabaster. Now that's a place that is harmful to your soul... definitely not for the faint at heart. But the costumes at Wally-World totally ate it this year, so we opted for the Halloween store instead. I was amused to see that most mothers in the store had the same distinct look on their face as I did: "WE ARE ALL GOING TO HELL IF THE GOOD LORD COMES RIGHT NOW... THIS PLACE IS OF THE DEVIL."

David, like any good hearted nine year old, gravitates toward all the stuff that scares the crap out of me - the Scream mask and the freaky clowns. I don't particularly like clowns anyway, whether specifically designed to scare people or not. They are strange to me, the way their faces are painted on and you can't tell what they are really thinking or feeling - only the emotion painted on their white face. If you don't think that's strange, well then you're strange. And my son likes the weirdo clowns that have blood around their mouths and razors for fingernails. I have failed him along the way somehow, I fear... As for the Scream mask, I think that movie was one of the first horror/scary movies I ever watched. And it scared the crap out of me. Therefore, I don't like it. And the mask somewhat resembles a clown without his emotion painted on his face yet, and the vicious cycle continues.

We walked out of the weirdo Halloween store with a Jason costume complete with hockey jersey, wicked hockey stick, and a bloodied mask. I am still struggling with allowing my son to dress up as a murderer. Like, is that okay? I don't remember my brothers dressing up at all because they were so much older than me. I never dressed up like a murderer, but I remember doing a punk rocker which was mainly a modified Madonna. And to be honest, I'd rather have my son dress up like Jason than have my daughter dress up like Madonna. Of course, last year Madalyn was Hannah Montana, but that was before Miley's release of her controversial album and dressing up in feathers and dancing in a cage. This year she's a pretty pink witch... oh, dear. I've really lost it this year with the costumes, haven't I?

I find myself looking at the nine year old lately and wondering what happened to David? Oh, and when will this nine year old be planning on returning my David? Or will he? Where has my sweet boy gone? The one that was scared of the loud sound of the weed eater. The one that stood on the hearth of the fireplace and performed Barney songs for me. The one that did Power Ranger moves all day long. The one that was nervous on the first day of kindergarten. Sometimes, I feel like time is slipping away....... and there's no amount of holding on tight I can do to stop it. So I have to let go a little. Even if it means buying a Jason costume. I guess only in the end will I know if I let go at the right times and held on when I should have. Only time will tell...

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Rough Week...

It's been a rough week. I wanted to say bad, but I try to stay away from that word because just when you think things are bad they tend to automatically get worse.

We started out the week with fever and strep throat in the littlest Blair... Miss Madalyn. Not that her being sick was all that terrible, but it's stressful when your little one is sick and feverish and in that cry-at-the-drop-of-a-hat mood. By Tuesday night she was good as new, even proclaiming to us all, "I'm back!!" Indeed she was back and running all over the place and talking up a storm.

There have been two deaths that have affected families I know this week. One I had already discussed on Tuesday, and then another sweet lady went to be with God last night. She lived a full life - close to 80 years - and was diagnosed with cancer just a short month ago. I am not sure what type she had, but it was obviously pretty well progressed when found. Her husband passed away about a year ago, and in a way, I think the family knows that she is happier to be in heaven with her husband than here on earth. But still, the loss is sad for those left behind.

I also have a friend whose husband is probably in surgery as we speak. He had some sort of rupture in his intestine and a nasty infection has set in. They will have to remove a portion of the intestine and will not know the extent of the problem until they get in there. He's a young man - around 40 - and has a son David's age. And I just can't imagine the stress his sweet wife - who in all honesty is one of the sweetest women I have ever known - is under right now.

On a totally unrelated note, the results for the writing contest I entered a couple of months ago were finally announced late Tuesday evening. My memoir about my summer visits to my grandparents' cabin on Lake Jordan did not place in the contest. I was a little disappointed, I must admit. But I know in my heart that the piece was well written, though in reading back over it I did find a couple of places I would revise a little. And I keep reminding myself that it was just my first contest and that there are many more to come.

Life's disappointments. Letdowns. Losses. I guess it's all a part of the game. But it seems like they come in waves. Has anyone else noticed that? That they come in waves... anywho. I am waiting to catch the wave of good vibes.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

I hate cancer...

A lovely lady joined the Lord at home this morning. 5:21 a.m. Ms. Pam. Just one month short of her year anniversary of her diagnosis with pancreatic cancer.

Have I mentioned how much I hate cancer? Cancer of all kinds - I truly detest them all. I know it's not right to hate, but when I think of it not being right, I really think it's wrong to hate people. So, in my mind, I don't think God frowns upon me hating cancer. In fact, I'd like to think He stands beside me in that feeling. He must not be too terribly fond of cancer Himself. Sort of an aggravating snag in His beautiful creation.

Cancer - it's synonymous with loss. Not just the loss of life and breath, but the loss of faith and hope and energy and hair and radiance and weight and laughter. And the list could go on and on. To find a gain from cancer, you have to really look hard. But often time the gains in life aren't the obvious, especially those that rise out of despicable pain.

There must be some positive gain from cancer. After all, the Scriptures promise that all things work together for good for those that love the Lord. All things. Maybe even cancer. Maybe just seeing the love and faith of a family, like Ms. Pam's, blazing high like a campfire while she fought for her life - maybe that's the good that can rise. Maybe seeing the energy and support rallied around women battling cancer at the Race for the Cure - perhaps that's a good that I could gather. Perhaps it's just this huge loss of control that you have to accept when you find out that someone you love so dearly has cancer - maybe that could in some way be perceived as a positive. I guess the fact that I am trying so desperately to lean on God to get me through my mom's illness is the biggest gain of all.

Ms. Pam's death really upset me this morning. Each time I think of her family, I tear up a little. She has a daughter with two children, and a son (who happens to be married to my cousin) with two small children as well. So I automatically identify with them - especially her daughter who must learn to navigate the world now without her mom. Without her favorite person to call at the end of the day and share a funny about the kids or to ask advice. My heart grieves beyond words for a family that will never be the same. How can you ever be the same once the most central part of your family is gone?

If you are reading this post, please stop right now and say a prayer for Ms. Pam's family... for her husband, her children and grandchildren. And pray for all who are dealing with the tragic losses that cancer bring.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Race for the Cure

Saturday was an eventful day being my anniversary as well as the 2010 Birmingham Area Race for the Cure. My mom, Madalyn, and I went two years ago and enjoyed being there. Last time, we did the one mile walk, but this time I wanted to run the 5K. So the plan was that my mom would keep Madalyn with her during the run, David would run with me, and we would meet up at the finish line to all do the mile walk together. Sounds like a fairly simple plan until you mix in between 16 and 17 thousand other people.

I knew there would be a ton of people having been there two years ago. But I was completely amazed at the sight of it all. It's a wee bit overwhelming. David and I got in the pack of people and waited on the horn to sound off the beginning of the race. It probably took us between 8 and 10 minutes just to reach the start line from where we waited, and we were moving along at a very slow walk. Just past the start line, the road opened up, and we were able to pick up the pace to a jog. We ran the first mile, and then I had to slow back down to a walk. The whole time I was running, David was running in circles around me, turned around running backwards, and laughing hysterically at how slow I was. Note to self: DO NOT EVER RUN A RACE WITH DAVID AGAIN.

I walked a little, then ran a little more, walked a little more, ran a little more, but we did finish the race running which was painfully UPHILL and that's just downright unfair. All in all, I was proud of my efforts and performance. I haven't been feeling well over the last few weeks, so to be able to run half of it was satisfying. By the end of the day, my shins were hurting pretty bad, and I was glad I took those walking breaks. Besides, it's not really a race that's performance driven... everyone is walking or running with a higher purpose in mind, so there's not a ton of pressure to run and run fast.

There were moving parts of the morning, and the most emotional for me was way unexpected. As we stood in the huge mass of people waiting on the start of the race, the announcement was made that a lady would sing the National Anthem. I stood there as she sang, tears streaming down my cheeks, listening intently to the words of a song I'd heard so many times before. But in that crowd, surrounded by a sea of pink, the lyrics took a different meaning. I can't say that I will ever feel that way about the Star Spangled Banner ever again, but on that morning, it sounded like a song of triumph over cancer. And it was just beautiful.

When we crossed the finish line, we started scanning the crowd for my mom and Madalyn. We looked and looked and looked. For 20 minutes we searched. And finally, just when I was as near a panic attack as possible for me, we found them! But it was so late that we had already missed the mile walk. I hate it that the four of us didn't get to do that together, but I was so thankful to find them in the crowd! Next time, we will set an EXACT location instead of leaving it up to chance to find one another.

It was a fantastic day, and it was great to share the experience with my kids who don't fully understand how much their life has been touched by breast cancer. And, in some weird way, it helps to be one on the midst of that large crowd of people knowing that most everyone there has been affected by cancer as well. It helps to know you are definitely not alone.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Eleven Years...

Yesterday was mine and Scott's eleventh anniversary. Eleven years.

There are times in life when I stop and look around and think to myself, "How did I get here? Whose kids are these, and what happened to my girlish figure?" Then I remember that I've been there the whole time - moving, changing, growing, maturing (or somewhat maturing). I feel much the same on the inside. I still have a weird sense of humor. I am still painfully insecure. I still feel young on the inside - certainly not old enough to have been married eleven years and have a fourth grader.

Eleven years. That's a long time, especially when relating to marriage these days. I think back to eleven years ago - to 1999 - when we were preparing for something between all computers shutting down and the end of the world. We didn't know which extreme it would be at the time, but we named the phenomenon Y2K. Gas was pretty cheap. So was lettuce - I remember paying roughly 99 cents for a head of it back then. We rented a little apartment for about $450 a month. We had a lot of gatherings there, me and Scott. A lot of friends. A lot of beer drinking and late nights. And I'm sure if we could go back in time and press the pause button and question all those friends, "Do you think Tamara and Scott's marriage will last eleven years?" that some would say yes but some would say no.

I was a mess - an emotional wreck from the abrupt (but definitely fortunate) end of a very abusive relationship. The wounds were still fresh, and if anyone rubbed up against the thin scab that had formed over the wound, it would crack open and begin to bleed. Scott was hell on wheels - a little less hell on wheels (so I am told) than he had been in the past. Somehow, despite all the things we had working against us, we fell in love and decided to get married. I would love to hear some of the conversations that went on when word got out that I was getting married again.

We were two young fools, both divorced, walking right back into the fire again, knowing full well that we only had about 40% chance of our marriage making it. And we did it anyways. Now, here we are, eleven years and two kids later with a mortgage and life insurance. Seems crazy how much and how little things have changed. We've both grown up and matured beyond measure - maybe Scott more so than I (hate to point that out, Scooter). He's gone from this hell on wheels, hold nothing back, pit bull of an attitude to being a wonderful father who tries his hardest to instill values in children, a man who is softening his heart toward me and God by the minute, and the hardest working man I know. Me - I've dealt with some of my insecurities, learned to speak my mind a little more often, and I think I am a pretty good mom, too.

On the other hand, we still have the same friendship that we enjoyed so many years ago. I think back to when we dated and the comfort I felt with him - this feeling that I could tell him all the stories that other people may not want to hear, that we could sit and talk about whatever, that we could sing to the radio together. And all those things still hold true today. We may not always like each other, but we always love each other. And I know he's always got my back, and I've got his as well.

Eleven years. Just like that - it's flown by. I look forward to seeing what the next eleven have in store for us, for all the changes, and for all the things I know will stay the same.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Hot Air Balloon

This morning, sleepy-eyed and pre-coffee, I stood at my ironing board engaged in my wake up routine... the ironing of pants. I do it every day (that Scott works) and have for years. I hate to stand at the ironing board and do four or five pair of pants at a time, so I do one each morning. Works for me. Anywho - I was working away on the pants, and I kept hearing a noise outside. A loud noise - a torch noise, the release of enormous pressure in a short spurt. The unmistakable sound of a hot air balloon.

It's a common noise every now and again around here. On beautiful, crisp Saturday mornings, I've heard it while still in bed just after the sun has crept over the horizon. We saw one last fall on a Friday afternoon just before dusk, and it landed right behind our house in the yard in front of the elementary school. So this morning, I recognized the sound and moved over to the paned door leading onto our deck to try to find it in the sky.

There it was in all its multi-colored splendor - every hue from the rainbow. So close I felt like I could reach out and touch it. I ran to get David, and I woke Madalyn up and carried her outside to have a look. The three of us stood in amazement watching it float with the ebb and flow of the wind and rise with the shot of a flame. The pilot waved down to us and issue the decree of the day, "Good morning!" And he passed right over our heads as we gazed upwards at the majestic beauty of his balloon.

There are few things in life that render me to simply stand still and observe. One is the hot air balloon. It's magnificent and beautiful and mesmerizing. It's simple yet intricately complicated. It's peaceful. It's allowing yourself to float and move at the mercy of the winds. It's the loss of control to the highest degree. In a hot air balloon, the pilot and passengers travel with only one truth in their favor - hot air is lighter than cool air. It's really that simple. Of course, there's a lot of work that goes into taking that balloon up in the air, and the atmosphere needs to be favorable as well. But without the simple truth that when air is heated it weighs less than cool air, no amount of work or atmospheric conditions will send that balloon into its flight.

The balloon filled my head this morning about my own truths. What truths do I operate my own balloon on? I looked up at that colorful display of simple truth and somewhat envied the pilot. It looks so freeing, to fly above and enjoy the creation below. And I realize that my ultimate goal here lately is to do just that (figuratively, of course) - to rise above it all and enjoy what lies around me. My faith is like that propane that heats the air in the balloon - big bursts of flame and heat causing the molecules of air inside my balloon to enlarge and dance around, energizing and rising. And then, of course, there are those days my faith is weak and my balloon deflates and loses altitude. No matter how complicated the environmental factors become, the one simple truth controls my balloon. My faith in God.

Thank you to the balloon pilot this morning. I can't think of a better way to start my weekend. Tomorrow I'll be running the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. I will be surrounded by women (and a few men will be in the mix) who have survived cancer, who have lost loved ones to cancer, or who are currently battling cancer. I can't think of a morning in my life that my faith will be more important to me than tomorrow when I am in that crowd with my own mother. We were there two years ago when we believed her to be cancer free, and this time, her situation is much different. There are times when my mother's health gives me reason for my balloon to deflate, but I have to keep in mind that God wishes for me to use Him as my fuel, to find in Him a way to rise above it and look around. It's hard to understand - no, it's impossible to understand - why my mother has cancer. But I doubt I will find a single soul in the crowd tomorrow that understands the whys of cancer in their own loved ones.

Lord, refill my propane tank. Let me rise and float and drift on the ever-changing winds, knowing full well I am not in control. Let me take in the beauty below. And fill my balloon so that others might see your colorful beauty and majesty in me...

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Book Review: Love & Respect for a Lifetime

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I had joined Booksneeze. Hey - free books and all I have to do is write about them... I'm in! For my first book, I chose Love & Respect for a Lifetime by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs. I am always looking for advice on the subject of marriage. Let's face it - in today's society where divorce has become the norm, the stress of maintaining healthy relationships in the midst of raising children and holding down jobs leaves most of us seeking words of wisdom on how to put more love and respect into our marriages.

I was a little surprised when the book arrived in the mail. It's a small, ornate book - beautiful pages throughout with pictures, lovely scripts and fonts. The book looks and reads more like a gift book. In fact, I think this book would be perfect to include in a bag or box with other goodies for a wedding or anniversary gift or even as a gift for a recently engaged couple.
Love & Respect for a Lifetime takes a look at the differences in how men and women translate communication from their spouse. Dr. Eggerichs breaks it down by using the colors blue and pink as representing the man and woman, how vastly different they are, but how when mixed together they form the color purple which Christians translate as the color of God. I had never heard some of the points Dr. Eggerichs made in the book, and I was very surprised at how he constantly reminds the reader that through marriage we can fully demonstrate God's love in our life. He really tugged at my soul when he stated, "In the ultimate sense, your marriage has nothing to do with your spouse. It has everything to do with your relationship to Jesus Christ."

Despite its small size, Love & Respect for a Lifetime is packed with incredibly challenging and useful tidbits to help anyone communicate with more love and respect in their marriage. Be prepared to be challenged and to take a closer look at how you treat and speak to your spouse!

Anything SHE can do...

I don't try to hide the fact that I get to feeling a wee bit inadequate around here sometimes. As a mom, as a wife, as a woman who has extremely messy drawers in both the kitchen and the bathroom and whose children barely ever throw away their own trash. I digress...

The other day, a friend on facebook (whom I am sure I'd slap squarely on the right cheek if given the chance today) posted a recipe from The Pioneer Woman. Mind you, I do not make the website of said Pioneer Woman a regular visit on my bloggy travels. Think back to the whole inadequacy thing. But the cookies looked divine. And if she can home school a bazillion kids, cook fantastic meals, post beautiful pictures along with step by step instructions of how to do it at your house, and write the brilliant love story of how she met and created her perfectly adequate life with her infamous Marlboro Man, well then I can bake a batch of freaking cookies.

Of course, I don't have real butter at my house. I went through a real butter phase several years ago, but I quickly got over it. I grew up on margarine, and I find that the only time I enjoy real butter is when I am at a restaurant and there's hot, fresh bread or fluffy rolls to go along with it. So I subbed in two sticks of Blue Bonnet. No biggie - do this all the time. After all, the package insists that it cooks like real butter... I also didn't have Kosher salt. Heck, I don't have Kosher anything around here. But note to all: I now firmly believe that when using regular salt in place of Kosher salt, you should probably reduce the amount. Just sayin'. The cookie dough contained all the things that I find fantastic, including brown and white sugar, flour, oats, Rice Crispies, M&Ms, chocolate chips. I was so stoked about the cookies. So stoked.

Let me start by saying that I had already decided to cook dinner last night. Hamburger steak and gravy with mashed potatoes and field peas. I was in a comfort food sort of mood, I guess with the cooler weather (and the raging monthly hormones, but that's another post). I pattied up the burger-steaks, got out all the pantry ingredients for my homemade cookies, and peeled the potatoes to carry outside while the kids played for a few minutes before time to go in and prepare dinner. David had been home not feeling well, and I had agreed to let him play for 45 minutes or so to let off some steam. I figured I could cut up the potatoes while sitting outside.

I was in the garage about to pull out a chair to sit in the driveway and work on the potatoes, and I kept hearing this scratching noise. Weird little scratching coming from the large plastic bin that I store Buddy's food in. I started to totally freak out, and if you don't believe me, you can ask my mom - I was on the phone with her when I heard the noise. I quickly discerned it was a little mouse trapped in the bin; he had found his way into the heavenly abyss of dog food but couldn't jump quite high enough to get out. So I backed my car out of the garage, pushed the bin out into the driveway, and dumped it over on its side to release the unwelcome visitor. All of this activity with a ton of high pitched, alarming squeals, I'll admit. Little mouse quickly ran away, and I was so relieved that it had been as easy a disposal as that. So I looked down into the bin before pushing it back into the garage only to see another little head tuck away in fear...

Scaredy-mouse wasn't quite as easy as the first... I beat the heck out of the side of the bin trying to scare it out. No such luck. And the old pair of soccer cleats that were resting innocently on the top of the bin spilled into the dog food. I pushed the bin completely over on its side hoping it would just run out. Nope. So I took my big stick I was using and pulled the pair of cleats out. With that movement, the little mouse who had hidden himself in the safety of one of the cleats, scurried out and BACK INTO MY GARAGE. Dear me...

All of this excitement, and I still had dinner to prepare and homemade cookies to bake. I can totally do that...

I rallied the kids back in, omitting my battle with the two mice figuring Madalyn may never enter the home again if she knew she might be sharing a space with a mouse. We started the end-of-the-day routines, and I began cooking my fantastic meal and desert. I decided to use my stand mixer which was a gift from my grandmother and I had never used. I mean, that's what the Pioneer Woman uses, so why shouldn't I? Well, I can tell you why I shouldn't have... because mine is a Sunbeam, whereas the PW's is a Cuisinart, no doubt. And mine didn't work worth a toot for creaming the sugar, Blue Bonnet, and eggs as I had to continuously scrape the sides of the bowl which stopped the bowl from spinning. I finally decided to get out my hand-held mixer who has yet to let me down.

Between the mixer and the measuring of ingredients, I totally forgot to put my frozen field peas on the stove top. And by the time I noticed it, it was too late to start them. But in my mind, that was okay - I'd have the rest of the dinner and these fantastic cookies for desert.

I finally finished the dough and spooned it onto my cookies sheets, minus the fancy Silpat liners the Pioneer Woman uses. I watched them closely and realized my cookies wouldn't look anything like hers as they were all melting together and creating one big freaking cookie. Must need to add more oats and Rice Crispies...

By the time it was all complete, my tiny kitchen was a gigantic mess, I had no vegetables with dinner, and the cookies were awful.

The Pioneer Woman I am NOT. But I can still cook a fantastic hamburger steak with paper-packet gravy and real mashed potatoes. And I can also buy a brownie mix or one of those pre-portioned refrigerated cookie doughs and bake either one of them like no body's business. As for the homeschooling a bazillion kids... well, I only have two, and they both go to public school (Thank the Lord!). So I think I will stick to what I know... Hamburger Helper, frozen pizza, and the occasional home-cooked meal. I mean, there's nothing wrong with that, right?

There's absolutely nothing wrong with that...

Monday, October 4, 2010

Blogger's Block

I don't know why I am having such a hard time writing a post here lately. I will start one, and then I just go blank. Like I can't complete a thought. I have a lot to say, but don't know how to say it all, and most of it is completely random unrelated subject matter.

One is divorce - we have some friends who have recently gotten a divorce. Even though we are not extremely close to the couple, it's weird watching it all take place. I went through the same deal last year with some friends, and the man from that relationship has just gotten remarried. In the most recent situation, both the man and woman are now seeing people and are giddy with excitement. Maybe I read too much into things... maybe I am just strange. But it's hard for me to be excited for people who have thrown their family away and give it no extra thought. I know that there are reasons for divorce. I get it that there are occasions in life where there is no other option. But to see parents move on so quickly from marriages that have lasted ten or eleven years and produced two or three children, well, it's just plain sickening. It's hard to accept that this new person is the gravy on the mashed potatoes, and the person they once shared their life with is nothing to them anymore. It's just plain weird.

I've been writing a lot. Writing and revising and polishing and perfecting. Last week, I specifically worked on a piece for a writing contest I plan to enter. This piece is highly personal and moving and drained the ever-loving life out of me. It also woke up parts of my brain and forced me to think about some things I don't like to focus my energy on much anymore. I dreamed like crazy last week - vivid, random, wacky dreams.

The funny thing about dreams is that when you try to talk about them out loud, they don't make any sense. There are some dreams that I know right away what they mean, and others I never can quite figure out. But I believe fully that every dream means something whether we want to admit it or not - and whether we can figure out their meaning or not. But that's what last week was - this strange fusion of dreamworld while asleep and imagination land while awake. Several nights last week, I lie awake in bed writing pages in my novel. I wanted so desperately to get up and go downstairs and write. But I certainly don't want to get in the habit of doing that. Hopefully now that Scott as returned to work (as of today), I can get back into my schedule of writing during the day, of purging my imagination before I lie down at night to go to sleep. (Is it "lay" or "lie"?? That was the grammatical question of the week last week... and the grammatical lesson of the week. I think I have it figured out now, Erika...)

Anywho... lots of things tossing and turning in my mind. But that's pretty much always, isn't it? Part of the joy of a melancholy, artsy soul. I guess part of the segment of life I'm in the midst of as well. Watching those around me and how they handle life. Taking the evidence and weighing it carefully to determine just how close I should let others in. Trying to use what I have to show others God's love, even though what I have is a highly imperfect display. But I am working on things. And I believe right now I am rambling...


Friday, October 1, 2010

The latest happenings..

This week has flown by... funny how time continuously speeds up as the days go by. I am tired, very tired. Scott's lack of schedule has led to us staying up later but still having to get up early to get the kids off to school. Me - I need my rest. Desperately. So I am looking forward to getting back to a normal routine around here.

That brings me to my first bit of news... Scott starts his new place of employment on Monday. He is ready to get back to work, and I am ready to have my little schedule back around here. He feels good about where he is going and the people he will be working with, especially since he knows the other two managers that will be there with him so well. I've said many, many, many, many prayers about Scott's work situation over the past several months, so time will tell whether this is the right place for him to be. I hope so... he's not one who likes to move around from place to place, and he's so skilled at what he does. He deserves a place that appreciates him and values his place in their organization.

A big stress this week has been school - primarily speaking of David here (surprise, surprise!). Monday night, we attended the family extravaganza at the Intermediate School, and I am so glad we did. We were able to see first hand what his daily work looks like and what is required and expected of him. Good for me, bad for David. This week I have tightened down on him more now that I realize he hasn't been doing his daily language arts lesson properly all school year. I don't know what to think about him sometimes - it's like the elevator doesn't go all the way to the top. I don't say that to sound ugly, but in all honesty, when information is thrown at him, whether it be school stuff or requests from me, and it's just the luck of the draw as to what actually sticks. I went over his language arts work with him on Tuesday afternoon. It focused primarily on using the apostrophe to signify the possessive noun and contractions. That's the focus. She gives them a new sentence each day to correct, goes over the answer with them each day, and then tests them on the SAME sentences on Friday. No reason not to get a good grade. So last night, when I wrote out the sentences with no punctuation for him to correct, he didn't add a single apostrophe. I almost cried. When I made up my own simple sentences for him to correct, he could do it just fine. But don't throw in an extra adjective or anything...

When we got our graded papers on Tuesday, enclosed was his first science test of the year, on which he received a 54. Yes, that would be a 54 out of a possible 100 points. The test was on the African Dwarf Frog, which why in the hell anyone would ever need to know as much about the African Dwarf Frog as these kids should know right now is just beyond me. Well, I guess I should say as much as all the other kids know, seeing as how David failed the test. There were two questions that even I thought were confusing when we went over the test yesterday with the study guide, and David is supposed to ask his teacher about them today. I pray that he does. He has a test on the Fiddler Crab today, and we have studied every night this week and went over the study guide a final time this morning. He should make a B today... there are a couple of things he is still uncertain of, but I would be comfortable with him making a B.

When did life become about apostrophes and Fiddler Crabs? Like I told Scott last night, David breezing through school is catching up to him. I've asked the teachers all along, "David seems to struggle with this-and-so... is this normal? He's not organized and not completing things... is he okay?" And every teacher, from 1st grade to 3rd grade, have answered, "Oh, David is fine... doing great! Just a normal little boy..." But he's not fine. He obviously hasn't been doing great. Because why would all of the sudden everything change? Why was he fine and great just six months ago and now he's failing science tests? It doesn't make any sense to me...

Now some news about myself... I received an email yesterday from the company sponsoring the writing contest I entered a couple of months ago. When I saw it in my inbox, I almost threw up in my mouth. No results yet; it was just an email to thank everyone for the entries and to say that the winners would be announced next week. They are also offering "feedback" on entries for a fee... they will mail you your manuscript back with written comments and suggestions from the judges. I am thinking I should pay for that - it would be nice to know what a professional eye thinks when they read over my work. The critique would help with future writings, both for contests and my novel. Along with the email came that overwhelming sense of inadequacy that sweeps over me from time to time. The realization that I am incredibly uneducated and not familiar with formal writing skills and styles and plot development and character development and all the fancy terms that go along with it. The fact that I am this name without any pretty credentials following it. But the hope is still there that what I write is good enough, moving enough, to overcome all my misgivings. I don't anticipate to place in my first writing contest, but I didn't expect to be this nervous and wound up about it, either.

Okay - that's it. Marathon post today, and I still didn't ramble about all I could have rambled about. But there's always tomorrow...