If I can’t be a good example . . .

funny pictures

Sometime between Saturday and this morning, I lost  a nine-hundred and seventeen word scene for a Red Robin project.*

This is exactly why you don’t ever congratulate yourself about bringing something in well under deadline because your butt is as good as bit the moment that thought is thinked, or worse yet, vocalized.

I’ve got my notes, the sketchy outline I spent most of Friday evening and Saturday morning filling out . . .  but no scene.


Before each of you wonderful, supportive people send me comments and commiserations about the importance of backing up Each and Every Time,  I swear to you, loudly and thoroughly, that I did—I can be taught and I learned my lesson after the Laundered Flash Drive Incident almost exactly a year ago.

But before I backed up my document,  I must have confused drafts and pasted the contents of the older draft into the newer document.  So I have two backups of the sketchy outline. . .

Feel free to comment about that, I deserve it.

The right stuff is gone.  Nine-hundred words.  Just like that.

I spent the whole morning trying to reconstruct the scene** and while the results aren’t bad, they aren’t as good as I remember.

They never are.

Then again, I have a few days left.   I can rebuild it .  . .  I have the imagination.  I can make it better, stronger, faster . . .

Sigh . . .

Anyone want to share any similar moments of Gaaaaah?  I’d love to know I’m in the middle of the Boneheaded Moves Bell Curve instead of way out here at the end . . . .


*Five people (this time around—more than seven and we tend to lose the thread of the thing) playing “Can you?” with a premise.  We each add a scene or chapter to the story in rotation, being very careful to end each of our contributions in a way guaranteed to make the next person in line pull out their hair and send e-mails like, “Really?  A tadpole?  Really?!”

**After running around looking at every file that might possibly be it (no) and then doing it again in case I missed something (no) and a third time just in case (no) and then seeing if I’d e-mailed it to anyone without remembering I’d do so (no) or if I’d saved any scraps of it in the places where I save scraps (no) and then calling myself every name in the book and reeling from the sudden, depressive weight of having to recreate what suddenly felt  like the Best Thing I Have Ever Written.

Holes in our Heads

Janie had her ears pierced Sunday.

I’m so proud of her—a statement that’s neither sarcasm nor the crowing of a mother who has five sets of piercings running up the outside of her own ears.

See, those two little fake-emerald studs stapled through my firstborn’s lobes are the culmination of two really long, and at one point really loud, Learning Experiences™.

Janie has been mentioning getting her ears pierced since she was seven and a half.  I thought ten was a good age—I hoped that by then, her reluctance to brush her teeth for more than three seconds, with toothpaste, would be overcome and other acts of general hygiene would have become habit.

But it soon became a daily topic of conversation and comparison:

“Hi, honey!  How was school?”

All of my friends have pierced ears but me.”

“That’s nice.  Did you do your math homework?”

“Yes.  Shianna has two holes in each ear!”

“How about science?  Any science homework?”

“Sarah has earrings shaped like gummy worms.

A quick survey of her class showed that all of her friends do  have pierced ears—plus two of the boys.   So I relented and agreed with my husband that when she was ready, we’d go.

The first time, we took her to the earring place at the Mall as a surprise on her eighth birthday.  She froze—turned out she wasn’t as ready as she thought she was.  And then she cried because she thought she’d ruined our excitement . . . and that we wouldn’t let her pierce her ears at all because she didn’t want to do it when we wanted her to.

We told her that we were sorry for springing it on her, told her it was completely her decision, and bought ice cream instead.

The second time. . . I kind of forgot about that middle bit.

Six months later, she decided she was absolutely ready.  I took her into the earring place, she picked out a set of birthstone studs, sat in the chair, giggled through the disinfecting process, took one look at the piercing guns . . . and went fetal duck-and-cover in the chair.

A Good Mother would have backed off immediately.  A Good Mother would have said, “We’ll save these studs for when you’re ready to wear them.  It’s okay, honey.  I’m not mad.  They’re your ears.  Let’s go get some ice cream.”

But I’d already paid for them.  And I thought all she needed was a little bit of coaxing, a little comforting, a little bribery . . . And when that didn’t work and she wouldn’t get out of the chair or straighten up, lost what little cool I had and told her in a no-nonsense way that it was happening because we were here and I’d already paid for them so let go of your ears.

She started to scream.  Full-throated, tonsil-vibrating screams.

Did I mention that we were at the Mall?  In front of a glass wall?  With people looking through it wondering if they should call child services?  I actually held up my hands and backed away from her—something I should have done twenty minutes prior.

The manager of the store refused to come near her and that’s how I ended up with my top piercings—because I’d already paid for them.

‘Course, so had Janie. I apologized for that, later and for a while.

Every time I fiddle with those little hoops or look at them in a mirror, I’m reminded not to push my kids on non-essentials.   I don’t get to override their feelings or their rights just because I’m frustrated or embarrassed or mad or I just don’t see the big deal.  I can push on medical and safety stuff, weather and decency appropriate clothing, a certain level of cleanliness, education, and nutrition.  The rest is not my call.

That was my Learning Experience™.

Which brings me to this weekend.

Last Wednesday, Janie said it was time.   It.  Was.  Time.  We believed her . . . but checked her resolve anyway over the next few days:

“How are you feeling about getting your ears done now?”

“Good.  This weekend?”


“Umm . . . Sunday.”

“You sure?”

“Yes.  Well . . .  I’m going to do it anyway.”

 I’d already told her that if and when she wanted to get them done, her father was going to have to go with her.  I explained that it didn’t have anything to do with her behavior and everything to do with mine.  I wasn’t the right person to guide her through this—I didn’t trust myself to forget what I’d learned.

My husband, bless him, understood

So Janie and Sunny and my husband and I all went to the Big Mall a few towns over to spend some Christmas money and maybe drop by the big earring place at the far end, if Janie still wanted to.*

We shopped around for a while—bought Janie some sunglasses and Sunny some mini-skinny jeans that might have half a chance of staying around her waist,** then found a pie crust ring for my MIL and a microwave popcorn popper for me.***  You know—just doing our part for the American economy.

Then we all trooped over to the earring place.

Sunny and I shopped in the half of the store where Janie and her father were not.  Sunny picked out two headbands and tried on the entire lower third of a display of sunglasses, while I browsed through the earrings,  wondered why half of them were tiny,  happy-faced, food items and congratulated myself on my parental cool.

Which was when Sunny spied something across the crowded room, fell in instantaneous accessory love, and took off for the racks on the other side of the piercing station.

I made a grab for her, missed, and followed as casually as I could.

Janie was sitting calmly in the chair, talking with the clerk and her father and even laughing a little bit.  I wanted to check on her, see how things were going, offer a hand to hold . . .

. . .  but instead,  I edged past and carefully examined Sunny’s New One True Love, a yellow purse shaped like a flower, and entered into serious Christmas money negotiations.

I’d just capitulated—it was that kind of day, plus the purse was 30% off—when I heard a ka-CHUNK and a small, thoughtful, “Ow.”

Two seconds later, a beaming smile bounced up to me and said, “I did it!  I said I was going to and I wasn’t sure but I did it anyway, Mommy!  I decided and I did it!”

And the newly punctured kid behind that huge smile gave me the biggest hug ever, absolutely thrilled with her own Learning Experience™.

So this is why I’m proud of Janie for putting holes in her head.

And maybe just a little proud of myself for letting her.


*I haven’t set foot in the earring place in the Other Mall since The Big Screaming, and I’m not particularly planning on ever doing so again—Learning Experiences™ only go so far in erasing terminal embarrassment.

**In size three for a nearly five-year old—she’s such a peanut.  If it weren’t for the fact that she has my SIL’s smile, my MIL’s build, and my BIL’s ability to knock down walls with a single belch, I’d be wondering if there’s a pre-kindergartener out there with thick, wavy brown hair whose tiny, curly-blonde parents are wondering where her kite-shaped mole came from and if the growth spurts are ever going to stop.

***I’m not so sure it’s going to be healthier than my regular Smart Pop microwave packets in the long run, considering my informed opinion that plain, unsalted popcorn makes for fine packing material and not much else.  But it might be cheaper, even with all the stuff I’ll put on it.

Amateur Wine Watching

I mentioned that we went to my kids’ godparents’ big Holiday Bash this past Saturday, where birthday girl Jane was serenaded by 300 of Marguerite and  Demitrius’ closest friends.  That was neither exaggeration nor sarcasm —Marguerite is one of the warmest, most gregarious people I know and is constitutionally incapable of having a small, intimate dinner party for fewer than twelve.

So where would one hold a celebration for three hundred?  In January?  Supposing none of the guests are sardines or quite that well acquainted?

Did I ever mention that Demitrius owns a wholesale wine business?  With a warehouse?

The moment you enter the front offices of this place, it’s obvious that you’ve entered Wine Country, where Pinots and Merlots, Zinfandels and Moscatos  roam free.

Here are a few labels they corralled in the tasting room for the occasion—as you can see, the first two rows are gone:


I usually designate myself the driver during this particular Bash, so my husband (who will take his turn during Demitrius’ birthday party) can sample without worry.  Luckily, driving under the influence of a metric ton each of tiropita and baklava isn’t a crime, yet:


 This year, Sunny was old enough to join the pack of feral kids running through the festivities, my husband was off somewhere, and I was between conversations with people I recognized from other Marguerite events, so I thought I’d take the time to go Wine Watching.

I’m new to this noble sport, so I’m not always sure of my vintages and I still haven’t picked up the habit of carrying my binoculars with me.  But I did have my camera, so I moved away from the partygoers and crossed the border from the public area into the warehouse Preserve.

At first, it can be difficult to spot Wines in their natural habitat—the ones who have had prior contact with oeneologists and sommeliers can be especially timid:

But just beyond a formation of Grigio cartons, I spied a small gathering of what I took to be California Reds—see them to the right?  At the time, I thought they might be Masked Rider Gunsmokes, but I tripped over the corner of a skid trying to get closer and spooked them.

A little deeper in, I encountered some Brouilly Reds keeping watch for the rest of the clan like bottled Meerkats, only fruitier:

To my surprise, they didn’t raise the alarm—once heard, never forgotten— and I was allowed to pass.  I was watched carefully from all sides, though, particularly by a small herd of Cloverdale Pellegrini , huddled together under the cold air intake.  Several Pomegranates also stopped what looked like a preliminary mating ritual to stare at me—I felt like the world’s worst voyeur:

Soon though, I was accepted as part of the landscape and was able to get some good shots—just look at that brilliant plumage, shining under the fluorescents:

The mountain Wines were out prancing among the stacks as well, the more adventurous looking down their corks at those who preferred not to risk a sudden drop:

I even managed to get a look into a nest of slumbering Burgundies.  Don’t they look peaceful?

Other vintages, well away from the vents, preferred to bask on top of the stacks in reclaimed bedding that their caretakers had spread around the area—I did see a squabble over the wooden box, which I’m told is a favorite napping place of a large bully of a Moscato, though he didn’t win this round:

And I finally got my Gunsmoke Red photo!   I would have preferred an action pic, but I’ll take what I can get:

This image makes me think that the Wines in that first image may have been Merlots . . . but I’m afraid I may never know.

After scoring this last shot, I wound my way back to the baklava tray and rewarded myself with a glass or two of the finest diet Pepsi (best by Mar 19 12) just before my newly nine-year old was feted.

Marguerite really does throw the best parties.

Good clean fun. Not.

I washed my book last night.

This isn’t some euphemistic editing term you’ve never heard of —I literally washed my book.

I’m a creature of habit, you see:  every weekday morning after my early writing session, I take the flash drive on which I have my working copy of Pigeon and stick it in my pocket so I can work on it on breaks or print pages to edit at lunch.*  Every evening, the first thing I do when I come home from work is take the flash drive out of my pocket and plug it into my laptop, whether or not I’m going to power it up right away or not (usually not).

And on Thursdays, I knock out a couple loads of laundry.**

Yesterday, Janie had an all-lower-school musical at 6:30, so I went straight there from work.  After an hour of completely enjoyable mass chaos, we went home to sing Happy Birthday to Sunny, watch her open her presents,*** and eat cake.

Then I changed into my comfy pants and decided to start on the laundry.

About ten minutes after that, there was a brief physical and mental struggle as I tried to run to my laptop and the washing machine at the same time. 

The laptop won, because I didn’t want to be a complete idiot or have to haul great wads of soaking wet cloth out of our front loader.

Twenty seconds later, when I was hauling great wads of soaking wet cloth out of our machine—and sticking my hands in cold wet pockets and cursing the fact that four out of six pairs of my work slacks are black and so is the &@%# flash drive-–my husband came in, surveyed the damage, and said, “What are you doing?

“My book!  I’ve washed my book!”

“Which book?”

Which—my book!  My book—on the flash drive, it’s in my pocket, it’s in there, I washed it!”


Yes. Yes, that’s right.   To his premenstrual, exhausted, and frantic wife who had just drowned ten months of work, this man said, Oh.

And yet he lives. Partly because I was knee-deep in wet laundry, which is both heavy and binding, but also because the next words out of his mouth were:

“But you made backups, right?”

I opened my mouth to scream denial to the heavens before collapsing in a sodden, inconsolable heap . . . then closed it and blinked at him.

Because I had.   Not as recently as I would have wished, but I’d only lost three days of work instead of three weeks—or three months.  Granted, eleven pages and a boatload of notes were gone . . . but that was survivable. Hellish, but survivable.  I could recreate them . . .right?

And then I saw a black oblong thing by the cat’s bowl.  I grabbed it and dried it off on my shirt.  The cap wasn’t completely watertight, but the plug wasn’t too damp. 

Then I did a series of sensible and remarkably undramatic things: I set it down and left it alone until morning, when it would be as dry as it was probably going to be. I took a deep breath or two, reassured the children that their mother was fine, mopped up the water, restarted my laundry,^ and began rebuilding those eleven pages. 

I managed almost three before my nose hit the keyboard.  Four more this morning.

After putting it off all day in superstitious angst, I plugged in the flash drive about an hour ago.

It lives.

All my files, all my documents, all my darlings.  Everything’s there, everything’s fine.

But if it hadn’t been—if my laptop hadn’t detected a thing . . . I’d still be okay.  Not as okay as I would be if I’d backed up every single day—and guess what I’ll be doing from now on?—but okay in that moving-on-but-still-kicking-myself-in-the-head-for-a-week kind of way.  I guess that’s good to know.

Almost as important as knowing for a fact that backing up files is Essential 101 stuff that does actually apply to me.  And that I’m really, really lucky I’m not writing a completely different kind of post.^

Have a great weekend. 

Imma lie down now.


*Emphasis added to reassure any co-workers or library supervisors who might have discovered that I blog.  Hi!  I love my job and I would rather lose sleep than moonlight.  Seriously—take a look at my eye luggage sometime.

**I believe they call this foreshadowing.  How’m I doing?

***Note to Mom and Dad:   We were only halfway through the show when you called—but Sunny’s favorite gift was listening to you sing to her on speakerphone from my voice mail.  Twice!

^I thought about it, as an April Fool’s Joke—but it wouldn’t have been funny.  At all.  But there is a punchline in this, just for April’s biggest Fool . . . I think I like those seven rebuilt pages better.

Somewhere over the rainbow, kid

I admitted yesterday that I’d created a small plot hole by fixing a minor mistake.

It was such a small error—embarrassing, yes, the ignorance before which plots crumble, no.* But characters refer to it a couple of times, and its removal did mean some spackling and a bit of reshuffling . . . which last night uncovered a bit of redundancy that wasn’t so obvious before.

It’s not enough that two team members located certain information through social engineering and misrepresentation—I had two others simultaneously confirming it through official records, which is the method I’d recommend to non-grifters who aren’t on a literal deadline.**

But as much as I hate giving up the opportunity to show the real way to do genealogical research,*** documentation isn’t necessary.   It’s a waste of the team’s resources and implies a breakdown in communications.

So I needed another reason to get those two characters  off page, preferably together, for about three chapters.^ A reason that in no way implied that they were actually hanging around craft services and calling their agents during that time.  I figured the solution was to bring them back on the page, but they still needed to help move the plot along—or tangle it up.

Maybe they could investigate that suspect who I worried might be a tad Mysterious Cardboard Stranger™ . . . maybe they could investigate that business card I threw in there and never mentioned again . . . maybe they weren’t together, exactly—maybe he followed her or she followed him, which means they’d snark at each other.   I love a good snark . .  .

I was sorting through the possibilities during this morning’s commute, so intent that I not only crossed the Mississippi River without noticing, I may have been mumbling dialogue under my breath as well.

So focused was I that when a worried voice from the backseat said, “Where are you going?” I answered, “Reno, I think,” before reality smacked me between the eyes.

“Where’s Reno?” asked Janie.

“Nevada,” I said, whipping down a side street to double back.

“Oh.  Am I going to be late for school?”

“No, no, we’re fine,” answered the top contender for Mother of the Year.

I’ve forgotten things before, while concentrating on a story. I’ve forgotten to cook dinner, shower, make phone calls, pick up dry cleaning, and, Lord knows, the laundry in all its various stages.

But I’ve never forgotten my kids before . . . piano books, maybe, or gym clothes—that’s par for the course, even for non-writers—but never an entire kid.

This had better be one hell of a scene.

*I’m not going to tell you what it was down here, either. But oddly, enough, it didn’t involve guns.

**Except for the part where they break into the Clark County Recorder’s Office to do it. Please wait until normal business hours—the clerks are very helpful.

***Again, except for the felony part. At least, I think it’s a felony. Nevada burglary law seems to hinge on intent rather than the act of breaking and entering. And the characters don’t intend to stealing anything physical, or anything that they couldn’t have learned the next Monday, if they’d wanted to wait. Then again, vital records aren’t precisely public records, and they would be entering a government office . . . I can’t tell you how glad I am that all this is moot.

^Yeah, I know, but these two aren’t that friendly—or the right kind of unfriendly.   Yet.  Hmmm . . .