On the Eve

Anyone else think 2o1o just zipped on by?  Wasn’t it just January last week?

I’m sure I did something this year . . .

I remember working a lot.  Playing a bit.  Parenting some.  Writing as much as possible.  Undersleeping.  Finishing the best novel I will never sell.  Watching far more television than was good for me.   Encountering so many terrific, helpful, and kind members of the online community of writers, agents, and editors.   Turning forty.  Beginning another novel that may be the one—or maybe even the first one—that does sell.  Enjoying a lot of other people’s books.  Receiving several rejections, not all of them forms!  Changing the very last diaper I will ever change (barring emergencies or grandchildren).  Starting a blog.  And discovering that astonishing number of people appreciate potato humor.

Busy year. 

Encouraging year.

Good year.

Thank you for sharing it with me!

Believing is Seeing . . .

My blogfriend Averil is having a bad time of it right now.  I started to share a semi-similar experience at her place, but it became a little too long for a comment.  So I upgraded it to a post and moved it here.

A year and a half ago, my husband was “let go” from his job as a bank manager and decided to take the opportunity to pursue his dream of becoming a yoga instructor.  He’s truly happier now.  And I’m happy for him.

But it took me a while.

Because his dream made me the main breadwinner and sole health insurance provider* of the household.   I do love my job—I’m lucky to have found work that suits me and my principles and in which I can take pride—but now I’m trapped in it.  I no longer have the option of leaving or even of going part time so the kids don’t have to spend all day in after care or so I can write more.

I didn’t know how much I’d depended on that “someday option” to keep me grounded until it was taken away.  It took me a while to get over my anger and resentment and my guilt at being angry and resentful.

The painful truth is that, except for the articles I do for the library, writing—nonfiction or fiction—isn’t bringing in the necessary bucks right now.  Paying for food, shelter, clothing, health, and education trump the luxury of indulging myself in what is still, essentially, a sideline.  A hobby. 

And I know full well that when I chose to have a family, I accepted responsibility and abdicated from everything being all about me.  So, practically speaking, my dream of writing full-time is most likely on hold for the next twenty-five years.  At least.

But.  But . . . .

I continue to steal writing time—from my family, from friends, from sleeping hours —because writing is what I do.  I can no more stop sticking words together and scribbling them down—on the backs of envelopes and receipts with tooth-sharpened pencils, if I must—-than I can stop loving my children, even when they break my heart.

I have to believe that my weird little thoughts have value and the act of writing them down is worthwhile.  Even when I’m the only one who thinks so—even in those moments when I half-convince myself that it’s an obsessional waste of time.

Even if my scenes are never read by anyone but my betas, if my manuscripts are never published, never read by people who do not know and love me, even if I never earn so much as a single author’s copy of the local, free, alternative newspaper . . . I have to believe that I will not have failed.

I have to believe that the only failure is in not continuing to do what I love to do, whenever I can, however I can, despite frustrations, obstacles, and setbacks.

Otherwise . . . what’s the point?

***

Anyone else want to chime in?  Because the value that we put on what we do—whatever it is that we do—is, I think, pretty important stuff.

____

*Not including my MIL, but I’m on a dramatic roll here.

The Potato of Willendorf (and also a stew recipe)

I know I said I was going to blog about our incontinent clothes washer today, and I had fully intended to whine about how expensive it was and/or rhapsodize over our stupidity when it turned out to be a loose rubber stopper or something.

But it has become clear after the passing of the fourth hour of the window I was given with neither call nor knock, that the repairperson just isn’t that into me.  So I’m not going to waste any more space on the topic.

Except to say that since I was stuck in the house anyway, I decided to make my favorite stew.  And since I was stuck for a blog post, I’m gonna share.

First, turn to page 142 in the book to the right.  Can you tell that this is one of my favorite cookbooks ever?*

I bought this one when I was pregnant with Janie and was browsing the cookbook section with the vague idea that homemade, organic baby food was The One True Way.  Then I spotted this book called One Bite Won’t Kill You and remembered that I married into a family of the most stubborn picky eaters imaginable—and that one of the main reasons I was willing to give breastfeeding a try was that I didn’t have to do anything except eat more.*

You can probably guess the rest.

The recipe is a snap:  toss two pounds of stew meat, six sliced carrots (or a bag of the baby ones), one or two chopped onions, and a large diced potato into a dutch oven or heavy-duty, oven-safe, lidded casserole.  Or in my case, a crockpot, as my MIL is baking ginger-raisin cookies today and we do not interfere with Grandma’s Cookie Baking, or she might decide to stop.

Sprinkle in about a teaspoon of salt and half that of pepper (or suit yourself), a little oregano, a little bay leaf—you know, whatever samples  Penzeys sent you in that last shipment.***

Add a  10 or 11 ounce can of condensed tomato soup—I usually use Tomato Bisque, since that’s what the recipe actually calls for, but I’ve also used Cream of Tomato or whatever was on hand—and half a can of water.  If you’re really skilled—or really bored—sometimes you can coax the soup to come out in one cylinder.

No, please hold your applause, there’s more.

Mix it all up and give it a squirt or two of Worcestershire sauce, if you like it—this isn’t  in the recipe, and if you don’t have it on hand, it isn’t worth making a special trip to get it.  Seal up the pot with a layer or two of foil and put the lid on it.

Bake it at 275F for five hours or on the low setting on the crockpot for about six.  The house will start smelling like Pure Savory Goodness in about three.  You can check about halfway through to make sure there’s enough liquid in there, but I’ve never had a problem.

So what’s this about a will-something-dork potato?

Well . . . when I was rummaging through the potato bag looking for a few small taters to make up the large one we didn’t have, I found one with an odd shape, as you do.  This one had legs.   Not only legs, I discovered, but a rather distinctive, if not fetching, curvature on one side:


Potato got back.

So, in the tradition of Charlotte’s Web, if spiders were given to admiring pig derrieres—and it’s really not my place to say—I spared the potato’s life and plan to show it to the kids before tossing it back in the bag and letting it take its chances.

Hey, I have photos.  Way, way too many photos.

As for the Willendorf thing . . .

. . . I’ll let you all decide.  I have to check the stew—and I think I hear my doorbell!

______

*I know I’ve used this for other books, but it holds true here as well:  if I’m ever forced to send this book to the rubbish heap, it will, through the Velveteen Rabbitesque magic of being loved to shabby bits, become a Real Cook.

**Yeah, there was a bit more to it than that,  but only because I work outside our home in a place without on-site child care.  Since I didn’t have proximity, I had a pump instead.

***If you cook at all, or know someone who does, and you don’t already get the Penzeys catalog, order one now.  They are the Victoria’s Secret catalogs of the cooking world.

The Saga of the eReader, part one

I resisted eReaders for a long time.   I don’t know if it was fear of change, the relatively low quality of fiction when eBooks first hit the scene, my love of reading in the bathtub (and the relative safety if I forgot where I was and took a book into the shower with me), or simple job security.

But my fear of change annoys me.  Most of my favorite authors are now releasing electronic versions of their books and a few have completely switched over.  I can be taught to take only hardcopy books into wet places or, possibly, to not multitask while bathing—odds are, I’ll only mess up once.

And since my library started offering downloadable eBooks* through Wilbur and NetLibrary, I’ve learned that the public still needs librarians—especially librarians who know a data port from a power port.** 

An eReader takes up less space, too.  I’m getting tired of lugging around reading material and manuscripts in my shoulderbag, not to mention the wear and tear—if I had a chiropractor, he’d be torn between his Hippocratic Oath*** or putting his kids through Yale.

Decision made.  Now, which one to get?

This was tough—so tough that, as I think I mentioned before, I e-mailed the tech-savvy and extremely patient Sarah Wendell over at Smart Bitches and told her what I needed in an eReader.  She suggested Sony or the Kindle.  My friend Grace had a Sony Touch and she showed me how easy it was to make notes on a pdf file.  Sold!

Except I’m on a budget.  So I started saving up the money with the goal of giving myself a useful Christmas present . . . and frittered most of it away on four all-weather tires earlier this month.   I sighed and started over, figuring it would make a good birthday present.  And it wasn’t like I really needed an eReader.  It’s a luxury item.

But it turns out that the finance people over at Honda forgot to stop taking car payments out of my account and I forgot that they aren’t supposed to do that anymore.  So a nice reimbursement check arrived last week that wasn’t earmarked for anything. 

Seriously.  Nothing.  Checked with my husband first and everything.  And I placed an order for a brand-new, shiny Sony Touch, a charger, and a carrying case before the words, “I don’t think so,” were completely out of his mouth.  I might have done a few steps of the New Toy Happy Dance.

Because a true story without a touch of slapstick isn’t one of mine, I must mention that one hour and seventeen minutes after I received notice that my order shipped, the clothes washer^ disgraced itself all over the floor and suffered a nervous  breakdown from, I assume, sheer embarrassment.

But that’s tomorrow’s post.

My brand-new, shiny Sony Touch arrived today.   And now all I have to do is learn to use it.  

Perhaps while waiting for the repairperson to arrive.  Or at the Laundromat.

Either way, I’m determined to have something to read . . . even if it’s only the user’s guide.

___

*If your public library doesn’t, you might want to say something to your director.   If they don’t know there’s a need for a service, they won’t provide it.

**Because, you know, they teach us to read labels in library school.

***Do chiropractors do this?  Do physicians still do this?  Because they damn well should.

^It was a ticking timebomb anyway—the warrantee and the service contract expired a while back.

Energy is wasted on the young . . . .

Humorous Pictures

Since Janie is at Fun Camp today and my husband had an early class, Sunny and I spent the morning together.

We played with her new dollhouse, went to the postal place to mail books,*  and tore  around the Family Museum, followed with a nice, heavy lunch with Daddy and Grandma.   The object was to tire her out  so she would take a nice, long nap—and I could spend an hour doing a little research and typing up some notes.

And it worked.  Sort of. 

Sunny is napping . . . but my nose is about to hit the keyboard for the third time. 

Instead of applying caffeine to the problem, I’m going to try something radical—a forty-five minute strategic retreat to the couch.  I know fighting the sleepies with actual sleep is a bit counterintuitive, but what the heck.

I’ll let you know if it workzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

____

*Note to glasseye and Richard:  check your e-mail!