Archives for July 2011

Excuses, Excuses

I have no excuse. There is absolutely no exciting reason why I haven’t posted in seven days unless, of course, you count the following:

1. Post-residency exhaustion. That’s right, I was tired. Let’s see you go back and sleep in a college dorm for 10 days at this stage in your life! The beds are lumpy, the hallways are filled with slamming doors and the showers require protective footwear. Don’t make me spill the gory details (because I’m saving them for another day.) It should suffice to tell you that by day six, I made two of my new friends stop at a grocery store with me so I could buy a six-pack of beer. I then proceeded to knock back three of them in 30 minutes in the lounge area of the dorm. Yes. I got drunk at 4:00 in the afternoon. On three beers. I think I might have cried a little.

2. Post-residency letdown. I spent 10 days surrounded by talented new friends and faculty and I miss them. On my second day at Stonecoast, I wrote that I had “found my tribe” on my Facebook status. I can’t tell you how many times I heard my classmates say the same thing over the course of ten days. Returning to the real world, the one that requires hiney wiping and laundry folding, wasn’t easy. Not at all.

3.  I can’t write. My children won’t let me. In fact, as soon as I sat down and typed the very first sentence of this post, Kate came into the room and demanded to sit on my lap. She came armed with Pinkerella which, in case you were wondering, is “based on the classic game of BINGO” and it’s just as unexciting. I think that they actually missed me while I was gone.

4.  The pool turned green. Evidently, while I was away some sort of algae monster invaded the pool while no one was looking. The best part? I came home two Sundays ago and watched my children enjoying the cool refreshing water from my seat on the patio. However, sheer exhaustion caused me to miss the noxious green slime hovering on the bottom. It wasn’t until Joe asked for a jar to put his “new swimming bugs” in that I grew suspicious. Those swimming bugs were like no insect I’ve seen before. Ever. My children were swimming with them and I have no idea for how long.

5.  I drained the pool and threw it away when I realized that saving the Target glamour pool just wasn’t worth it.

6.  A heat wave struck the very next day. The day after I drained the pool… and it’s swimming bugs. I may or may not have cried. We drove to the beach where, despite record high temperatures 8 miles away, we all froze our asses off. Yay, Maine!

7. It became clear that stopping anti-depressants when I have three small children, a house to run and two years of graduate school looming before me was a terrible idea. Very bad.

Maybe it’s because I know that I am about to embark on some heavy-duty writing, but I think I just needed a week to do absolutely nothing but take the kids to the beach, to the movies, to the doctor and to the local barnyard. I’ve fed them a steady diet of ice cream with sprinkles, macaroni and cheese and hot dogs. Basically, all those things that I wouldn’t normally feed them. We’ve watched cartoons and taken walks. We’ve been riding our bikes, we swam in the neighbor’s new pool, we ran through the sprinkler and celebrated Joe’s 7th birthday with yet more ice cream in cake form.

Yesterday afternoon I napped on the couch.

Last night I watched a movie with my husband.

I haven’t planned the birthday parties. I haven’t returned telephone calls. I’ve wrestled with the fact that I’m going to need to dig deeper and write about the things that I’ve barely touched upon.

I haven’t stepped away from writing for this long in a year. Today I started to get nervous. What if I’ve been rendered speechless? Is this performance anxiety? Is it because I am overwhelmed by the amount of work I need to do to move forward as a writer? Is it because I miss the connections I made at Stonecoast? Or maybe I was simply taking some time to enjoy these people.

  

Just Answer My BLEEPIN’ question!

I might be back, but I’m still reeling. The 10 days that I spent at my graduate school residency were filled with readings, critiques, faculty presentations, graduate presentations and emotion.

How odd it was, at my age, to become awash with nerves as I approached the Bowdoin College campus. Years peeled away with each step that brought me closer to the doors of the building where I would check in. By the time my right hand wrapped around the wooden handle and I pulled the heavy glass door open, I was feeling all of the emotion that typically accompanied the first day at a new school. I haven’t felt that unease for more years than I care to discuss.

Will they be nice? Will they like me? Will I make friends? Am I smart enough? Am I doing the right thing?

I was handed a meal card and a key to the dorm where I would be sleeping. The dorm was still deserted. I was early.

But was I? Was I early or had I begun this endeavor 18 years too late? Those were the questions I posed to an overly friendly squirrel who sat on the steps with me outside of Thorne Hall. His silence reminded me of a therapist I once saw. She had a maddening habit of blankly staring at me when I posed questions like, “Should I marry Steve?” or, “Is it weird that my future mother-in-law still makes her 26 year old son’s bed?” or, “Why would he propose to me at Disney World…right after we rode the Tower of Terror? That’s just not at all how I envisioned it would happen.” The therapist never responded. She simply sat in her chair, nibbling on the end of her retractable pencil and allowed my questions to linger in the space between us.

Just answer my fucking question, lady.

She didn’t need to answer me. I knew the answers to my questions. I knew I was asking because all of it was wrong. For me, it was wrong. I knew it was a terrible idea to marry him. I knew that he would invite his mother into our relationship far more than I would ever be comfortable with. I knew so much, but chose to ignore that silent therapist and marry him anyway. I ignored my intuition and I suffered for that mistake.

Now, at 40 years old, I found myself sitting on the steps outside of a college dining hall and demanding answers from a common grey squirrel.

Am I smart enough? Am I doing the right thing? Am I allowed to call myself a writer?

The squirrel stared at me and nibbled a morsel he found in the grass. He allowed my question to linger in the space between us.

Just answer my fucking question, squirrel!

He didn’t need to answer me. I knew the truth. I knew that I was asking because what I was about to do – attend my first MFA residency – was right.

I sat on those steps and pondered the path that I’ve been resisting for the better part of my life. The squirrel dropped his morsel and, without hesitation, he ran to catch it again. For some reason, that squirrel jumped onto a wall then leapt onto the grass and approached his prize after making a wide arc across the sidewalk. He didn’t follow the easiest, most obvious route.

Thank you, squirrel.

I stood up, brushed the debris from the back of my skirt and introduced myself to the other writers who had just finished checking in.

*****************************************

I’d like to take a moment to thank Diana of BettyShmetty fame, the always encouraging Eden of Evergreen Eden , Amber, that talented writer from http://www.thedailydoty.com/, Mary Lauren from My 3 Little Birds –  she makes it all look so easy, doesn’t she? She even navigated No. 7 without suffering any nasty bites. Mollie from  OK in UK…I love when a person shares my dry sense of humor, so much so that sometimes we can’t tell when the other is kidding..or not. Mollie truly is awesome. Katie, that talented and insightful writer from Chicken Noodle Gravy. Katie gets me…on so many levels. We share a deep dislike for mean girls and women who seem unable to stop acting like mobs of 13 year old mean girls. Patty from Another cookie, please. Patty who I’ve known for so long – our friendship actually began before the blogs! She’s been my biggest fan, provides continuous encouragement and support and she’s one hell of a writer. Stop selling yourself short. Finally, I’d like to say thank you to Ada from Of Woods and Words . I stumbled upon Of Woods and Words last fall and immediately became a fan.

Thank you, friends! Thank you for babysitting No. 7 while I was off getting edumacated.

Please take a moment to vote for No. 7. Just one click does the trick!

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Punching Out the Donuts (Guest Post featuring Of Woods and Words.”

As a college undergrad, I had a tendency to freak out about my chosen major (English) and the career path I’d have to negotiate after graduation. Turns out, my freak outs were totally justified; I graduated in spring 2007, right as the great recession began settling heavily on the world’s shoulders.

To alleviate my growing panic about “the real world,” I’d often call upon my professors during office hours to “talk it out.”  Since they’d all chosen to stay in the (what I consider) insular world of academia with their own English majors, their insight was rather limited. Still,  a couple of them said something to me during those talks about how I could make a living with my writing that I’ve never heard before or after.

“You’ve just got to keep punching out the donuts,” they said.

Maybe I misheard them.

Writing was supposed to be angst-y, inspired, imaginative, fulfilling. It wasn’t supposed to be a repetitive task like punching out donuts.  The whole reason I’d chosen to study English and focus on my writing was because I loved discovering stories, finding new angles, and gaining a deeper understanding of the world around me and my interactions with it. In short, I wanted to be a writer because it was the most exciting thing I could think of to do with my life that I was actually qualified for and capable of.  (After brief consideration, I decided to leave Mt. Everest for other braver souls to summit.)

Now, four years out of college and still working away at making my living as a freelance writer, I’m starting to get what they were trying to say about those donuts. I think they were saying (metaphorically of course . . . they were English professors) that writing is a job.  A really freakin’ awesome job if you ask me, but a job all the same.  One you’ve got to stick with, through the good, the bad, and the nonexistent feedback, to succeed at . On Twitter the other day, I spotted a tweet that summed up the donut philosophy perfectly: “Note to my 15-year-old self: don’t become a writer. It can get boring sometimes.”

There are many mornings when I rise early to get my required writing done before heading off to the 40h/w job.  There are plenty of mornings when I’d rather catch a few more winks of sleep or spend that precious alone time at the desk sipping my black tea while reading through other bloggers’ recent posts.  But my words must come out. Articles, commentaries, and blog posts all have to get written. There are deadlines and payment involved, not to mention, important “platform building” for if I ever (oh please, please, please) get a book contract.

“Dogged” and “panic-stricken” often describe my writing lifestyle better than “exciting” or “glamorous.”

I’m totally punching out donuts these days. And those donuts aren’t always especially inspired, imaginative, or fulfilling. But you know what? Sometimes they’re down right delicious.

Ada blogs at Of Woods and Words about writing and rural living.

Don’t fear: Ms. Narragansett No. 7 herself will return TOMORROW!

It’s my turn…I think!

There is magic in long-distance friendships.  They let you relate to other human beings in a way that goes beyond being physically together and is often more profound.  ~Diana Cortes

Great quote isn’t it?  In a way, it sums up the relationships we have with each other here in the Land of Blog.  I’m Patty from Another cookie, please and I am…a Writeaholic.  Sometimes.

Once again, I’m attempting to contribute a worthwhile guest post for my friend Kelli who just returned home from a ten-day college excursion which heralded the beginning of her quest to gain her MFA in Creative Writing.  Rumour has it that she headed straight for some sleep in her big comfy bed but I’d imagine that, in her head, the wheels are spinning fast with endless stories about her stay in the prison cell dorm along with interesting quips about the other inmates students in residence.  I, for one, cannot wait until Kelli hits her blog running again.  I need my No.7 fix…badly!

I follow a line of some wonderful bloggers who have each contributed posts over the last days; Diana, Eden, Amber, Mary Lauren, Mollie and Katie.  Sadly, I cannot offer Kelli’s readers anything that compares with the quality of what these ladies have posted on her behalf.

I’ll just ramble.  That’s what I do best.  Right before Kelli left, she sent a message to her victims guest posters and I’m sharing that, along with my critique…

 
First, I apologize for being a truly sucky blog friend, reader and comment provider over the past few weeks. I’ve been buried.

Like, she needed to explain this??  She’s a mom with three young, and very active, children who manages her lovely family, a home and a fabulous blog.  Sucky?  I think not!

That said, please feel free to tell me to go straight to…well, a not very nice place, because I know you’re all very busy as well. BUT, if anyone is interested in guest posting while I’m away let me know. You’re all my personal favorites for so many reasons so I won’t be offended if you can’t do it. Please don’t feel obligated. I’ll still love you lots.

How could I possibly expand on unconditional love.  We all need that, Kelli.  Thank you!  But, if you think that, for one moment, any one of us would have skipped doing a guest post and have you publicly lambaste us for non-compliance (or some other big-worded, demeaning description citing human failure) you are sadly mistaken.  We love you lots right back!

 Either way, I’ll be living in a dorm a la Will Ferrell in Old School…hopefully gathering juicy blog posts to share upon my return. Pray for me.

Kelli, we all prayed every step of your way, asking Him to let your incredible writing talent shine above everyone else’s.  We know your capabilities and that this golden ring that you’ve reached out to grab belongs to you and you alone!  Some of us (like me) live vicariously through you and look forward to your great success as the Writer you were meant to be. 

Continue to make us proud…and make sure you spell our names right on the dedication page of your first book.

 

 

  

 

An Unspeakable Evil, aka Fan Fiction

Hello, beautiful and incredibly intelligent readers* of Narragansett No. 7!  It is I, Katie of Chicken Noodle Gravy, back to wreak havoc guest post while Kelli is away getting edumacated. When last we met, I shared with you a story of my Eighth Year and the evil force that scared the pee out of me back then. Today, I thought I would like to talk about a different but equally evil presence that haunted me later, during my teenage years.

In high school, my love for writing manifested itself in a horrible, demon form. A form upon which should we look upon now would render us all blind. That’s right, my friends, I wrote fan fiction. Please take a moment to let the tremendous weight of this information sink in.

You okay? Deep breaths. If you feel that you’re going to be “sick” at any point during the post, air sickness bags are provided for your convenience. Remember, it’s best to never stare directly into the eyes of fan fiction should you see any. Keep those eyes lowered and back away slowly; if you keep your posture nonthreatening, you should be fine.

Let’s continue.

I wrote fan fiction, but not just any run of the mill, Star Trek, Harry Potter, or Titanic fan fiction. No, I served the mother of all fan fiction, a fan fiction more monstrous than any you  can imagine: Days of Our Lives fan fiction. Dun Dun Dun!!

Okay, it’s not that bad, and maybe I am being a twinge overly dramatic, but I really did write fan fiction, and it really was for Days of Our Lives. I was what you might call an original fan fiction writer, meaning I used the characters of the soap opera but placed them in my own worlds, using my own plot lines.

Not only did I produce dozens of these stories, I shared them with the world in a forum dedicated specifically to Days of Our Lives fan fiction, where fellow writers, readers, and lovers of all things Days of Our Lives could indulge themselves. It was quite the operation.

During this brief yet prolific period of my writing past, I wrote what can only be referred to as romantic fiction. You might even call some of my stories chic-lit-ish. The common thread among my tales? They were all incredibly fun to write. Yes, a little fluffy but definitely FUN! Plus, the fan fiction community I was a part of was supportive and sweet, and I made some great friends there, one of whom I’m still friends with to this day.

Unfortunately, my fairy tale relationship with this community eventually came crashing down. A couple of fellow writers and I were the targets of some “mean girls” who ran the community. They had created a separate, private forum solely for the purpose of making fun of their community members, and I was one of their favorite targets. Eventually, this board became public knowledge. As an 18-year old girl, I was devastated when I learned that I was nothing but a joke to everyone but a select few friends. It might have only been fan fiction, but some of the things that were written about me were humiliating. A couple of us retaliated, but it was useless, sinking to their level only made us like them, so I eventually just left the community. It took awhile for me to recover from the embarrassment and hurt I felt after that experience. And for a while after that, I completely abandoned writing.

As you can see, I didn’t give up writing forever though…just fan fiction writing. And honestly, I wanted to be more than a fan fiction author anyway, so it was probably best that my love affair with that guilty pleasure played itself out.

But fan fiction will always be a part of my sordid past and will always remain my little secret. Shh…don’t tell anyone I told you.

 

*Totally not sucking up here. If you read Kelli’s blog, then you definitely are beautiful and incredibly intelligent. It’s a given. But if this does happen to earn me a few points, then so be it 🙂

 

Birthday Month

*Editor’s note: the use of “awesome” multiple times in the following post is for ironic purposes only. No superheroes were harmed in the making of this post. Neither were ninjas or hippopotamuses.

*Editor-in-chief’s note: The initial spelling of hippopotamuses threw us for a loop. We had to consult Google for spell check. We were wrong.

Hi. I’m Mollie from OK in UK. I’m among the select elite Chosen babysitting your favourite (and mine) blog. Here’s the conversation I had with #7 a few days ago about that very thing…

#7: So I’m going to this awesome writer’s retreat for my awesome head. I want you to write awesomeness for my awesome blog. A famous author is going to critique my writing because it’s so awesome.

Me: Oh sweet Jeebus, that’s awesome! Um, when are you going?

#7: Next week and you’re Saturday.

Me: Huh. Yeah, I can do that. It’s not like I’m moving that week nor am I hosting my daughter’s 4th birthday party or even getting ready to go out for my first night on the “Toon”.

(oh wait, yes I am doing all those things on that day/week)

#7: Perfect! Oh, and you’re gonna have to use WordPress. It’s awesome.

Me: (sotto voce) Mutha#$@&%*!  (out loud) Oh, I’ve wondered about that and how it works compared to Google Blogger.

#7: I heard that! Don’t worry, I won’t be all Scumbag Steve and leave you hanging around, wondering how it works. It won’t be like I’m all busy. Don’t forget, there’s Twitter where you can tweet for help!

Me: Great! Do you care what I write about?

#7: No, but it should be awesome so I don’t lose followers.

Me: That’s a lot of pressure. I’ll do my best! (salutes with a half full wine glass)

And so, here we are, you and me. True story.

I tend to appreciate multitaskers superhard and I also admire those women who pretend to be such. I’m one of them, I think. To prove my point…

  1. I got married on the same weekend as I graduated from college.
  2. Twice, I forced my 30-some odd years divorced parents to spend Christmas with me at the same time. Both have remarried since so that day’s gotten pretty awkward over the years.
  3. I moved my family across the Atlantic Ocean the same week my husband defended his thesis and was awarded his doctorate. And all I got was this lousy t-shirt.

Yeah. Our university gives out tshirts to successful PhD candidates. It's now my sleep shirt because The Man refuses to wear it.

 

 

 

So, really, it makes tons of sense to me that I guest post for dearest KFC#7 during the busiest month for my little family. Oh, the ‘C’ stands for “Champion” which is Brit-Geordie-speak for “awesome”.

Why’s it the busiest? Okay. First off, you got the fourth of July gatherings and plans to accomplish.  This is everybody’s deal, not just ours and if it isn’t, then you’re going to hell because you ain’t all patriotic and shit. VIVA EL PRESIDENTE!  VIVA EL CONGRESO ASAMBLEA NACIONALE! VIVA EL WEINER Y EDWARDS! Nevermind me, I don’t speak Spanish. All I really know how to say is, “where is the bathroom/library?” and some massive spiel about a white napkin named ‘Blutus’.

Blutus is a good napkin. A ‘muy bueno servilleta’. Anyway.

So after the 4th then, comes the birthdays. July 10th, my sister-in-law. July 15, me. July 17, my daughter, Kiddo. July 27, my husband, The Man.  In addition, numerous friends and distant relatives that I’ll not bore you to death with. My point is, July is a busy month and so was Halloween for our parents.

What am I doing this week? Well, I gotta buy pillows and sheets and teacher gifts. Teacher gifts at the end of the year are a big deal here. I gotta buy thank you cards, pick up and pay for the cupcakes, because there was no way in hell I’d be able for the challenge of baking on my 12” by 12″ countertop workspace. Then there’s presents to buy for Kiddo. She’ll be four. Please send cashier’s checks, not cash. Thanks.

I gotta stress out over the number of children that are RSVP’d and the ones that haven’t…must notify the venue for the final count too, because you pay by the head. I gotta call to switch over and change addresses for bills such as gas, electricity, water, Council Tax, internet, phones, and banking. Oh, while I’m at it, might as well pay the £8.00 fee to have our mail forwarded to our new address.

Yeah, mail forwarding isn’t free here. Ah yah, and I’ll be doing this all without a car. Don’t forget, I mentioned my birthday? Same day that Harry Potter 7.2 comes out? Am I seeing it that night?

No, it’s already sold out. But it’s going to be awesome when I do get to see it!

Oh yeah sure, I guess I kinda sorta need the adrenaline rush from the stressor-beta-blockers jibbety jabs that help me feel like I’m getting something done. Helps me to channel my inner superheroic ninja hippopotamus.

An OKinUK original.

So what did we* learn from this experience?

No, I will not be making the switch to WordPress. I used to blog on a platform similar to WP. But for all of its things that go wrong, Blogger ain’t all that bad. It has the simple approach rather than a complicated interface.

Yes, I’ve made the decision to be more aware of my calendar of events. In fact, I’m buying a calendar.

No, one cannot force awesomeness. It must be inadvertent to be genuine without being ironic…or pitiful.

Yes, I can still write about pretty much nothing and it turns out to be a blog post.

And that’s about it. Thanks Kelli, for the crash course in the awesomeness (non-ironically) that is Narragansett #7.  I hope one day that this week will be seen as a good experience for you, even if it hasn’t gone the way you hoped.

*by we, we mean ‘royal we’ because we’re still aiming for some modicum of awesome.

This Sleeping House {Guest Post featuring My 3 Little Birds}

Hi there. I’m Mary Lauren, and Kelli asked me to feed and water her blog while she’s away. Luckily it didn’t bite me when I entered…I have to say I was a little scared.

Seriously, I love No. 7 and Kelli so much and am really pleased to be posting here today. I hope you can stop by my blog, My 3 Little Birds, and say hi.

Today I’m sharing a poem I wrote a few months ago. This Sleeping House didn’t start out as a poem…I wrote the words first then gave myself permission to call it one. Maybe it’ll speak to you.

Image Source: http://vfnonfiction.wordpress.com/

This Sleeping House

This house sleeps. One dog at my feet, the other on the kitchen floor. My three year old, limbs sprawled across the couch, breathes deeply, dreaming of monkey bars and finger paint and matchbox cars.

I can imagine the other two upstairs: my daughter in her crib, clutching her pink blanket with one arm and holding her brother’s hand with the other in a dream. My seven year old is her hero. I ask her, “Who do you love the very, very most?” and she always says his name.

He is underneath his patchwork quilt, his favorite toy at his side. Tonight we read from Frog and Toad and reviewed his spelling words. Swooping. Harbor. Morning.

If I could, I would create a magic bubble and place my family inside it. I’d make a snow globe to keep them in. A dream, where this sleeping house could be forever.

Road Block or Detour?

Hello No. 7 Fans!

This is Eden E over at Evergreen Eden. (Enough E’s for you? I think not, you can never have too many E’s.)

While your darling hostess is out running around having a grand old time (just kidding Kelli, we are trying to imagine that know you’re working hard!) I thought I’d meander over and fill in for a day.

I have a little story to tell you. Which may or may not end up being so little, but you get the idea:

Late this last Friday evening I realized that my hubby and I had signed up for this awesome meditation class Saturday, and I’d forgotten to find a sitter. (Oh, and by the way? When I say “Friday evening,” that means somewhere around 1 or 2 a.m. Mountain Time. Because I work full-time graveyard shifts.)

(Which, btw, is where I am now and which is why this post will probably be “late” for some of you eastern folk who check your faves first thing in the morning. Heheh. Sorry.)

So, at that point I considered just cancelling our class. After all, we were set to go camping Saturday night, and I had nothing packed yet. And then I checked my email.

There was a message from the class teacher about Excuses. He said “running into things” is inevitable. But will we choose to let them stop us? Or find a way around them?

And so I decided that we were going, come hell or highwater. Little did I know how apropos the term “highwater” would turn out to be!

The morning wore on, the sun came up and eventually my shift ended. I texted everyone I could think of who might be willing to babysit, but so far I wasn’t getting any bites. (DUH.) So we went online to see what our options were for one of those hourly daycare places.

The options were slim, but we found one that seemed great – albeit a 30-minute drive in the wrong direction – and so Doug, who wasn’t too happy about leaving Weston “at some random daycare,” finally relented and let me call. As I went to hit “send,” my phone beeped: It was my darling next-door neighbor, saying she would love to have Weston come over for as long as we wanted! (Um, does she know our son? Sheesh, sweet lady.)

Phew! Possible daycare disaster: Avoided.

So the class was wonderful, and both of us came away feeling so positive that we decided we’d most definitely stick to our camping trip plans, even though the forecast called for rain. We’d have my daughter for just the one night (I HATE summertime visitation schedules.) The kids were SO excited. So even though we weren’t too thrilled about the impending downpour, we still decided to go for it.

After all, WeatherBug said it was only 40% chance of rain. So that means 60% chance of not rain, right? Riiiiight.

After class, we booked it home and loaded up the 4Runner. You guys, we got that thing entirely packed and ready to go in just under 2 hours, flat! And we didn’t even have a list!

Oh, don’t worry, there’s no foreshadowing going on here. We really did remember everything we would need, except maybe… Oh, wait. That’s right. My camera. (Of all the things to forget, I’m pretty sure that one rates right up there with “tent,” and “bottled water.”)

We hit the road and went to go pick up our girl, who by the way was at a wedding. (Don’t worry, I had remembered to bring her some clothes… oh, but I did forget her tennis shoes. Ahem.)

And then we hit roadwork. Now. For those of you who haven’t been introduced to the wondrous unbelievableness that is Utah’s summertime roadwork? Let’s just say, if you’re planning a trip to Utah, plan for surprises around every corner. Literally. Standstill traffic, Los Angeles style. (I’m from SoCal, so I can verify.)

Not just on the freeway (yes, only one… but lots of highways!) but also on the city streets. In fact, that’s where it’s the worst. I have literally jumped ONto the freeway during rush hour, just to get OFF of a certain road that is making me personally responsible for adding about 10 cubic feet of ozone depletion. (If you couldn’t follow that particular rant? Just nod/shake your head.) Moving on.

The roadwork just happened to be on the road that was lined with all the drive-thru restaurants. Drive-thru restaurants just happened to be part of our little “time-saving” plan for dinner. And we were starving. Of cousre, NOT so starving that Doug didn’t decide when we were already in line at one restaurant, that he didn’t like that one and he was going to a different restaurant. (*Ticking clock and Jeopardy music, please.*)

Fast forward literally one entire hour of idling engines, exhaust fume inhalation, under-breath cursing, and disgusting tacos, and we were at the reception hall picking up Jae.

Alright! So far so good! At this point I was getting a little grumpy and trying not to growl at my innocent family.

We stopped at the nearest supermarket to grab a few essentials (i.e., air mattress to replace the one my rambunctious and adorable nieces had popped, as well as a couple of extra tarps in case of rain.) I ended up spending just under $150. Depending on who you are, you might or might not say I was successful at just getting the bare essentials. I will leave that one open to interpretation.

Yup. Just the bare essentials.

Then we headed on up to the North Ogden Divide. Half an hour’s drive from where we were, and not one sign – NOT. ONE. sign, telling us that it would be closed. The reason? Road work. Did we find out until we go to the very bottom? No. So at this point, it was 8 pm. And now the shortest drive to get to the camping spots would be one hour long.

Yeah, summer days do go longer, but really?

So we took a second to step back and survey the situation…

And decided to go for it anyway! (Our meditation guy would be so proud.)

We drove there, all the way marveling at how the rain wasn’t so bad after all, and it looked like it was petering out, really.

Until we got there, found the last campground open (which was open, of course, because someone else was smarter than not as determined as we are) backed in, and stepped out of the car into…

Rain like you’ve never seen it rain. Yes, it started to really pour the second we opened our doors. So we jumped back inside, where I got really fidgety because the sunroof adding insult to injury, and leaking all over my arms.

I snapped at people, growled about what a total disaster of a pipedream this had been, and eventually drove us out of the campsite and down the street.

But then something happened. My poor, patient family was kind enough to remind me how badly they wanted to be there. How hard we had all worked to get there. And so I turned around, pulled back in, and we waited.

And five minutes after it had started, the rain slowed to a tiny sprinkle. Before the next deluge, we were able to get everything set up and make s’mores. Yeah, that’s right. It may have been a wet night, but we did it!

And we ended up having one of our favorite overnight camping trips, ever. I’m so glad we decided to JUST DO IT.

We all learned that when life gives you roadblocks (figuratively and literally) you can either go home, or make a detour!

And if you hung in this long, thank you for listening to my (1284 word) little story!

My attitude on platitudes

Hi! I’m Amber and I’m filling in for the day while Kelli takes some time to become a gentlelady and scholar. I normally blog about pure chaos over at www.thedailydoty.com. Today I’m sharing some of that here at No. 7. I hope you enjoy. It took me a while to figure out how to work the word nipple into a guest post.

I can barely spell the word segue and I’m definitely not skilled at them. So, lets just get right to it. Shall we?

A few years ago, I received an email from a friend. She found herself unexpectedly pregnant and, being that we were in our early twenties and  I was the only person she knew with children, she wanted my best parenting advice. This shouldn’t be a problem. It was simply one friend to another asking for some insight into the world of motherhood, only, I do not give parenting advice.

This is one of the few rules in my life that I never break or even bend simply because nothing, absolutely nothing, can prepare one for the deafening, sticky, pungent, disorienting mess that is your life post-birth and I refuse to add to the chorus of parenting platitudes.

I was confident that she would receive a plethora of unsolicited advice over the coming years, most of which she would do herself a favor to promptly ignore.

After all, what had the many comments on and suggested activities for my breasts really done to ease the chaos of the moment my milk let down and began drenching the squirming newborn in my lap who much preferred to scream in place of nursing? Breast is best! “What a pearl of wisdom,” I thought as I smeared an entire tube of lanolin on my cracked and bleeding nipples “or, you know, utterly devoid of usefulness.”

Then there were those who urged me not to rush to the side of my crying baby. Didn’t I know I would spoil him? “Holy crap!” I thought. “You mean to tell me these things go rotten?” Though they certainly smell that way at times, I find no merit in the idea that comforting a crying infant leads to raising a brat. All children must pass through the ages of two and three at which point they morph into cold, calculating monsters and when that time came I was thankful for all those warm and fuzzy memories when my cuddling brought them reassurance. It was these moments I recalled fondly when my two year old scaled an end table and hurled a shoe at my head for preparing her juice in the wrong color sippy cup.

I could fill the world’s dullest book with all the advice on my child’s diet. It must be organic, hormone and high fructose corn syrup free, all natural, no preservatives! Feeding your children anything less is nothing short of child abuse. Can someone tell me what the mandatory minimum prison sentence is for feeding your kid a diet which consists entirely of Nutrigrain bars because, as it turns out, mine would rather starve than ingest anything else.

Given the vast wealth of knowledge bestowed upon me from the moment the bump in my sweater announced my impending status as mommy, I was surprised at the number of things my colleagues, relatives, and fellow grocery shoppers omitted from their parenting pep talks.

For instance, not one person informed me that a time would come when I would look back fondly on the days of using the bathroom without an audience and I’m certain no one alerted me to the fact that my toddler, ever eager to imitate those around her, would attempt to stealth wipe me as I sat unsuspecting on the toilet mid-stream.

No one counseled me on the proper damage control of those ‘kids say the darndest things’ moments either. What exactly does one do when their son makes the rounds at the family reunion personally identifying each relative as a “penis haver or a buh-gina haver?” or when they point at the full-figured woman pushing her child on the swings next to yours and say “Wow, mom, look how big that lady’s belly is. Is there a baby inside of her?”

What with all the advice on potty training (buy them a book on the topic, have them aim at cheerios, reward them with stickers/M&Ms/dollar tree toys), I went into that thinking I was practically a licensed professional. However, it seems the masses left out the part where it would be necessary to travel with a trunk filled with extra pants every where we went, that I would never remove the scent from our car created by urine-soaked car seats baked in the summer heat, and that our entire house would need to be re-carpeted by the time the ordeal was over.

So, what advice could I offer my dear friend who had reached out to me, nervous and unsure of her unanticipated and rapidly approaching major life change? What knowledge could I bestow upon her despite my grudge against the endless supply of parental how-to’s?

My advice was simple. Survive.

It’s all any of us can hope for really.

What ever happened to common courtesy?

First, let me start by saying that I am absolutely thrilled that Kelli asked me to guest post here. I have a blog called BettyShmetty and I have been blogging since March. I met Kelli through another blog friend, Dweej at House Unseen. Life Unscripted.. Imagine my delight at being welcomed into a circle of talented and funny ladies who are moms just like me! Even more astonishing is that Kelli and I both have similar unfortunate childhoods behind us. I feel very humbled and honored that someone as talented as Kelli is would think that I am worthy to post on her blog…here goes…

After reading Kelli’s letter to a rage filled stranger the other day, I started to think about courtesy.   When did people start to feel that they are entitled to treat others with such disrespect?  Why is it okay to “express yourself” in a manner that is offensive?

In my family (dysfunctional as it was) my mother always stressed the importance of using common courtesies…saying “please” and “thank you,” holding the door open for older people, using last names when talking to adults.  My mom was no model citizen and she always told us “Do as I say, not as I do!”  She was generally NOT nice to people and felt it was her God given right to tell everyone, from the cashier at the grocery store to the Pope, exactly how she felt about whatever she was feeling it for.    I spent many moments of my childhood wishing I could shrink myself very small and disappear when my mom “went off” on someone when they wronged her.  Not only was my mom loud and aggressive, she also included many of the most offensive expletives in her tirades.  This behavior was not limited to my childhood either, she felt it her obligation and privilege to behave this way while I was in the process of getting married also. ..at my future mother in law’s home, with Kurt’s whole family present.

I am not talking about someone who drinks a little too much and then dances with a lampshade type of embarrassment, I am talking about mortification…is there such a word?  I think so.  What did she do you ask?  To make a long story short, she decided to twist something the best man said about my sister (he thought she was cute and wanted to ask her out) into this (which she said loudly to my sister in the middle of the whole group of us) “He (best man) said he fucked you!”  Which, of course, led to a screaming match and many members of Kurt’s family standing there gaping at us with their mouths open.  Oh, and then my mom tried to run over one of my bride’s maids because she was “sucking the energy” out of her.  No, I am NOT making that up, it happened just like that!

Anyway, what I am really wondering is what ever happened to the good, old-fashioned values of keeping your mouth shut, biting your tongue, turning the other cheek, putting on a happy face and just plain being nice to people?  Can’t we all just get along?  Why do we feel entitled to say and do whatever we feel like saying and doing in a given moment?

Why is it that when a stranger cuts us off in traffic, we take it personally instead of just realizing that they were probably not paying attention?  Why should we get so upset that we curse them out and then aggressively follow them for the next five miles, tailgating and gesturing at them?  What is that?  Why not just shake it off and move on?  Is it really worth all of the aggravation?

And what about when something goes wrong with a meal in a restaurant?  Why do we feel it necessary to berate the waiter/waitress who has NOTHING to do with the food prep beyond writing down what we order and turning it in?  It’s not their fault if the meal is overcooked or part of it is incorrect.  Why take it out on them?  Why not simply tell them the problem and then let them handle it?  What good does it do to take it personally and say things you shouldn’t?  Do you LIKE opening yourself up to the possibility of revenge when they decide to secretly spit in your food?

Seriously, does any of the rude behavior we so thoughtlessly display when we are angry do us ANY good at all?  Does it really make any of us feel better about ourselves or the situation at the end?  I think not.  Why don’t we spend more time thinking about how our actions affect the people around us?  Did you ever see the movie Pay It Forward?  The movie is based on a simple concept wherein someone helps another person simply for the benefit of that person, not because there will be a payoff afterwards.  This in turn leads the person who received the help to respond by helping another person, and so on, paying the act of kindness forward.  When I first saw the movie, the thought of doing something so simple that would have such an impact was exciting to me!  Wouldn’t it be great if we all thought that way?  How different would our world be if we all helped others or practiced random acts of kindness instead of flipping someone the bird the next time they pissed us off?

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JvbgetKzrmA&w=560&h=349]