Seven really quick questions

1. Did you read my post at Parenting? No? Because my editors would LOVE IT if you did.

2. Be my Genius Playlist: if I like Taylor Swift, who else should I be listening to? And in this specific instance, I'm looking for content rather than melody. Who else speaks teenage girl?

3. Do you know what Twitter Lists are? If so, can you fill me in?

4. So I'm sitting here thinking of other questions I want to ask you and this just occurred to me: does anyone remember a post I wrote recently where one of the comments suggested I was about to announce I was pregnant? I am thinking VERY HARD about which post this was, but I can't remember, and I am realizing with no small amount of horror that I did not address that comment so I shall do so now: NO. NOT PREGNANT. DEAR GOD.

5. On the same topic, do you realize that when Jack was Molly's age, I was 7 months pregnant? CANNOT. EVEN. FATHOM. Stay tuned for related post 2 months from now, where I continue to not fathom.

6. Do you have a good (AND PG RATED) driving-in-a-car-with-a-boy story? DO TELL. I might want to steal it. 

7. You haven't written a single word of your daily 1,667 word quota. You are looking at a blank computer screen. You feel lost, bereft, panicked. You consider jumping out the window, hiding under the bed, quitting this stupid write-a-novel-in-one-month party, whose idea was that anyway, because it is the STUPIDEST IDEA YOU HAVE EVER HEARD. Then you think about how many people you told you were writing a novel in November and decide to eat your sorrows instead. You have a choice of 1) the four Lays potato chips your husband left in the bag or 2) store brand chocolate chips or 3) Weight Watchers vanilla yogurt or 4) leftover pot roast or 5) toaster waffles or 6) your two-year-old's fruit snacks. WHICH DO YOU CHOOSE?

Brought to you by stubborn determination to update the blawg no matter WHAT

There are some days when I feel like a Successful Parent and then all the other days, by which I mean Pretty Much Every Single Day, when I wouldn't exactly recommend my parenting techniques. Like this morning when Molly was screaming bloody murder and I had no idea what her deal was and after a half hour of Incessant Scream I just started screaming back. That was about as effective as it sounds. But I didn't know what to do. I couldn't even put her in her bed to get all her screamies out because Jack was still sleeping and everyone knows you don't wake Jack up unless a dinosaur is about to stomp on the house or something.

But it sounds like Seattle mothers were in God's favor today - all the friends I spoke to today were in mild states of shock over how late their kids were sleeping. ALL of them. Was it leftover effects of Daylight Savings Time? The fact that it was a beautiful glorious morning and we'd all had the foresight to send our little beasties out for tiring exercise? Did God hear our collective cries for relief? I love my babies, I really really do, but I loved them even more after a three-and-a-half hour nap.

I had my house professionally cleaned last Thursday, but it hasn't even been a week and you'd never know it. I still haven't returned about half the emails I told myself I needed to send this weekend. The results of my online shopping spree have started arriving on my doorstep, and now my dining table and kitchen counter are littered with packing materials and cardboard boxes. Some nights I don't bother putting the toys away - this is one of those nights. And I opened the bag of chocolate chips because all the good Halloween candy is gone. I feel like I need a do over.

On the other hand, I've written over 10,000 words for NaNoWriMo. I am not saying these are GOOD words, but they are generally coherent and form sentences and follow most grammatical rules. I've given myself a nice cushion for week two which I've heard referred to as "a creative wasteland" and "when you consider sticking your head in the oven". I ran into a tough spot today - I spent about an hour this afternoon wondering if it was too early for a glass of wine (yes) so I wandered around the house talking to myself and making notes on Post-Its (I threw them away) and looking up lyrics to Taylor Swift songs and refreshing Twitter every thirty seconds. But for the most part I'm kind of surprised at how easy this is going. (And yes, I know it's only Day Three. But allow me my small victories.)

I credit a few Psychological Tools. First: I have a note taped to my computer that says REVISION IS FOR DECEMBER. Every time I want to rewrite something (or, more likely, delete it and deny I'd ever written it in the first place) I walk myself through a scripted conversation between me and my brain. Basically I tell my distraught and horrified brain that I am well aware those are the worst words every strung together in the English language, but that I need them for WORD COUNT. In November I am a slave to WORD COUNT, not PERFECT PROSE. It's totally like that one paper in college (or all of them?) where you've run out of time and you still have 3 pages to go and you're playing with fonts and margins and wondering how much of your introductory paragraph you can repeat in the conclusion.

Second: I tell myself that bad things can happen. In fact, they NEED to happen. I am bad at allowing bad things to happen in my writing because, well, I don't LIKE bad things. What I DO like are my characters and I can be all proud of the 10 pages I wrote only to go back the next day and realize that I wrote a 10 page character sketch, not a chapter of a novel. I like to write about, for the most part, people I would want to know in person and I am loathe to make their lives miserable. Unfortunately this makes for a terribly dull novel. Bad things must happen. I shall make it so.

Third: I keep asking myself what happens next, and whatever I come up with, I USE. I don't sit there going, "OMG, there is no way, that is the dumbest idea ever, why I don't I go eat lunch/take a shower/do the dishes/take a nap and the thing that should REALLY happen next will MAGICALLY APPEAR." It doesn't work that way. I know that. You have to keep writing and maybe the ridiculous idea turns into something awesome. Or, more often, you start writing the ridiculous idea and THEN the thing that really happens next magically appears. Sometimes you have to delete, sometimes it fits with what you're already doing. Using my first idea is probably one of the largest contributing factors to the Unreadableness, but it's what's working for WORD COUNT and see point number one, where WORD COUNT IS KING.

Fourth: By the time I get to this point in my conversation with myself it is time for wine. Excellent.

I'm exhausted. I'm going to gear up for tomorrow (which may or may not include a phone call to the doctor re: Jack's mounting and various weirdnesses, which are not SWINE FLU but still sort of concerning) by going upstairs to read my Donna Leon mystery (set in Venice, and I'm really enjoying it except for the graphic descriptions of FOOD which makes me 1) hungry and 2) sad about not being in Italy) and fall asleep with my glasses on. A note or two before I leave though: I'm about forty frillion emails behind. I'm also despairing that I will ever manage to keep up with my feed reader, let alone leave a coherent blog comment, during the month of November. Will you still love me? 

Weekend in orange and green and tulle

Remember how I said I would be busy today and all you'd get are Halloween pictures? I WAS RIGHT.

"Don't WANT to touch punkin guts, Mama, want SPOON. No! Don't WANT TO TOUCH!"

"I want nothing to do with this disgusting tradition."

"I will wear this tutu and this ridiculous headband and these ridiculouser shoes, but don't expect me to look at the camera and don't EVEN think about taking my pacifier away."

"I not alligator. I DINOSAUR."

"Okay, Jack. When they answer the door, what do you say?" "PWEESE?"

"I don't want dinosaur hands, I want my BOY hands."

"When you're the first girl grandbaby your grandmother can't help herself in the face of craft fair tutus."

"Am Halloween princess, OBVS."

3600 words down, 46,400 to go.

Projects! And gifts! And many, many parentheses!

So, I need a project. In all my fretting over what grad school was going to be like, I never fretted about being bored. (Which is the problem with fretting, anyway. Whatever you're fretting over is rarely what you SHOULD be fretting over, and even though I KNOW THIS, I fret anyway. AHEM.) It never occurred to me that I'd be wandering around wondering what to do with myself. I have my television, a giant stack of magazines, books, exercise and HELLO, I have THE INTERNET. And I even HAVE a project - about nine thousand things to learn to improve next year's Blathering website. (DORK!)

But Phillip goes to school at night, or he's doing homework downstairs, and I'm sitting on the couch not feeling my TV or my magazines or even (I'M SORRY!) the internet. I feel purposeless. Blah.

I started thinking about writing. I realized NaNoWriMo was around the corner. I thought, "Hmm?"

On Saturday I attended a Catherine of Siena Institute workshop called Called and Gifted. It was like career counseling for churchy people. What are we good at? What do we like to do? What things do we do that make us happy? Add up your scores and figure out what committee to join!

Okay, so not QUITE like that, although there was definitely some adding up of scores. No, most of it was sitting in these TERRIBLY uncomfortable metal chairs and listening - being taught, really - by the coolest priest I've ever had the pleasure to hear. And yes, I just used "coolest" and "priest" in the same sentence.

Dudes, this guy? Was like your favorite college campus minister (for those of us who HAD a favorite campus minister) in a Roman collar. This priest could hang with any of the [many, many] fabulous speakers I got to hear during my four years in Protestant youth culture; I'd even say he'd be near the top. He was probably in his mid-thirties and had the most worldly way of speaking... and I know that probably doesn't sound like a compliment to some of you, but BELIEVE ME. It was so refreshing. So appealing and CLEAR. Maybe I just haven't been around younger priests, but I WAS sitting behind two seminarians and even they, I think, were enthralled with (and possibly intimidated by) this guy. I'm awful at repeating other people's stories (I'm awful at MY OWN stories) so you'll just have to trust me that he was hilarious, but appropriately hilarious. Entertaining but with meaning. You know? It's not like you ever forgot he was a priest. And for a while I thought maybe he just appealed to my generation, but he made all 130 participants laugh in unison, and when I was leaving an old Filipino lady sidled over to me and said, "Usually I fall asleep, but not today!"

It was exciting and inspiring and such a blessing to hear him speak. And not just because the lady next to me referred to him as Father What A Waste. [The priest's gifts, as determined by a layperson in the second-to-last row: Leadership, Teaching, Evangelization, Using Snark in a Priestly Fashion.]

My "Catholic Spiritual Gifts Inventory" (SIGH) (I wish it wasn't so... BUSINESSY) (I mean, doesn't that name just BUG?) was, at first, not much of a surprise. I've taken enough personality tests (and lived enough LIFE) to know that I would get a running start, tackle The Gift Of Administration and kick all other would-be claimers as far away as possible. 

But Administration was only my second highest score. My first highest score was Writing.

I know, I know that sounds like I Am The Best Writer etc. though I should think it's obvious that's not the case. It's more like... the potential to USE writing to glorify God. At least, that's how I thought of it. And that's why it was a surprise to me, because I have never really used writing in that way. I write the occasional churchy post and sometimes I write something that elicits a thank you email or two, but mostly I write because IT JUST COMES OUT. (Side note: long time friend said something like, "Don't take this the wrong way, but I just don't think I could... WRITE that much about my LIFE." To which I said, "ARE YOU CALLING ME A NARCISSIST?" Sniff! No, I knew what she meant. She meant, although she might not have realized it herself, that she is not a writer.) [Her gifts as determined by her old friend: Administration, Knowledge, Teaching, Leadership, Picking Out Way Cool Glasses.] But anyway, I was never one of those earnest girls who journalled (I have many journals, but they are all about boys, none of whom are named Jesus) and have never entertained the thought of writing as a ministry. A blurb about St. Anthony for the bulletin on his feast day? A reflection on the Gospel reading for the top of the worship aid? NO THANKS.

The presenter said we have the gift if, when we use it, we are energized, we feel we've found our "place", we are fruitful and effective without struggle, we experience joyful satisfaction and we are in the minority (meaning, as a possible example, that I am alone among most of my real life friends in wanting to write about my life every single day on the internet.)

I was hemming and hawing about writing as a gift, a spiritual gift, when I heard the priest say something about experimenting. Trying it out. Seeing what happens. And NaNoWriMo popped into my head again.


So I'm gonna. I'm not going to try writing something churchy, or something that *I* think would glorify God, I'm just going to write. If it's a gift then it can't help but glorify him anyway. I'm not entirely sure how teenage romance (I KNOW, HOW EMBARRASSING, you should see my father slinking away, hiding his face in shame, all "Why can't she just pound out a good sci-fi novel? If she'd only just READ the books I keep RECOMMENDING, she'd SEE THE SCI-FI LIGHT!") will glorify The Almighty, but that's all I've got right now. Unless you want to read about a SAHM with a husband in school and two kids fighting over their respective pumpkins OH WAIT. You're already reading that.

I am under NO impression that I am going to actually WRITE A FREAKING NOVEL. I am doing this to 1) attempt to get in the habit of writing (NOT FOR THE BLOG) every day and 2) stomp my inner editor to a bloody pulp. I swear, I have been writing the first 10 pages of a novel for A YEAR. I really love what my yay-you've-joined-NaNoWriMo email said: ...your inner editor is a nitpicky jerk who foolishly believes that it is possible to write a brilliant first draft if you write it slowly enough. And oh yeah, 3) experiment with this gift idea.

And while I'm not sure how much I will be writing here (my guess: probably just as much, if not more, hello procrastination!), I hope to have your support. I told some friends last night I was going to do this (that's another thing the email recommends, because potential humiliation is a great motivator) and they were super supportive and way more excited than I expected them to be. But they are also not writers. They don't have blogs. They don't spend free time dreaming up characters. They don't have file folders full of unfinished drafts and 10 page starts. I do. I bet some of you do too. And I am going to need you to dry my tears and mix me drinks. Deal?

My Spiritual Gifts Inventory didn't exactly help me figure out what to do at CHURCH, however. It did give me some language to describe my sometimes still-conflicted thoughts about the Non-Denominational College Fellowship (the institution valued some gifts over others! or maybe they wanted everyone to have the same kind of gifts! or that these were the best gifts! why else would they threaten hellfire when I didn't want to invite my Goth neighbor to the barbecue!] [well, not HELLFIRE] [you know what I'm talking about!]) I still don't know about NOW, though. No magic answer! Boo! Although, and this is true, I did have a flash forward of myself chairing the Yearly Ginormous Fundraiser Organizational Committee meeting at the Catholic school and my next thought was REALLY, GOD? THAT'S WHAT'S IN STORE FOR ME? BECAUSE I QUIT.

[My gifts, as determined by The Inventory: Writing, Administration, Intercessory Prayer, Hospitality. Not Discernment of Spirits, which, if you must know, was a MAJOR BUMMER.] [And also, I forgot, The Gift Of Parenthetical Statements.]