What I’m doing while I’m not doing the stuff I’m supposed to be doing

Happy February 1st.

OMG. It’s February 1st.

2016 has already gotten away from me. I’d like to say that it is because I’ve fallen so deep into a writing coma that I couldn’t come up for air because of all of the amazing sentences that I’m constructing… but that’d be bullshit.

I’d like to say that it’s because I’m swamped since I won the Powerball, too, but well… clearly, no.

Here at Casa Filak, things have been a bit hectic in 2016. Just before Christmas, our youngest daughter was diagnosed (finally) with Fibromyalgia. She’s eleven. That really, really sucks. She was, understandably, suffering from some pretty severe depression after having felt like crap for over a year, and we’re getting that under control, as well as learning new ways to help her cope with her pain and her new reality.

I don’t want to help her cope with a new reality.

I want to go back to the old reality, before she was in pain all the time. Before she felt nauseated. Every. Single. Day. I want to go back to the reality where she runs around and plays like a kid, where she doesn’t have to remember to do neck stretches to keep herself from getting headaches. I want her to be staring down the highway of life where the biggest worry she has is who’s going to be assigned to her cabin at 5th grade camp.

I’m kind of pissed.

But I can’t show her that, because I have to show her how to be strong. And I can’t show her that, because being angry isn’t going to do her one bit of good. And I can’t show her that, because this isn’t about me at all… it’s about her and I want her to know that she’s perfect, even though her muscles aren’t.

So… right now, a lot of the things that I’m supposed to be doing are slipping to the wayside. We have about 7 specialists appointments a week, right now, as we try to wrangle her symptoms under control and help her to learn coping strategies and warning signs. Right now, all the creative juices in my head have turned to sludge. Right now, the characters that are living in my head are a lot quieter than the kid that lives in my house… in my heart. And right now, I’m having a hard time remembering that I’m an author. That I’m a woman. That I’m anything other than mother.

I know that this will pass. Each day gets easier. Each day, she gets stronger and as she gets stronger, so do I. One day, soon, I’ll remember that I’m somebody else, besides just her mom.

But right now, I’m having a hard time remembering that, so I have to tell myself. Just as a reminder.

Forward Progress

As everyone in the world knows (due to an annual media blitz), today marks the 13th anniversary of the worst terrorist attack to ever happen on American soil. September 11, 2001 will live in our collective minds as the darkest day in United States History–hopefully forever. I don’t want to live in a place where the horror surpasses that of 9/11, so I fervently hope to never see a world where we live in more fear than we did, that day.

We’ve spent thirteen years rehashing the stories, remembering the heroes and those that died so tragically, and needlessly. I wasn’t in New York, and I didn’t know anyone that was. I was in the hospital, in pre-term labor with my second child. I was terrified for my baby’s survival, already, when the planes struck, and that juxtaposition of the horror outside–in the stark, unforgiving world–and the war that my own body was fighting against me, will always be a part of my life story. It will always be a part of my son’s life story, even though he was not even born on the events of that day.

My son is now going from a boy, to a man, and as such transitions tend to be–some days are harder than others. He is nearly as tall as I am, and his shoulders grow broader, each day. Some days, he is sweet and kind-hearted, offering hugs and help–a bigger, stronger version of the little boy I’ve always known. And some days, his fuse is short and his grudges are long. His sense of fairness is skewed, and the ribcage that protects his heart from hurt is thin and inconsequential. In short, he is learning how to navigate the world–how to be a citizen of the world. He is learning how to treat others, and how he wants to be treated. He is becoming something other than he was.

I’d like to think that our thoughts on 9/11 are becoming other, as well.

I’d like to think that as a nation–as a world–we can begin to move past fear and hatred. That we have grown enough to see that a small, non-representative group of extremists do not represent a greater culture. I’d like to think that we can remember and memorialize those that lost their lives, that day, without a renewed call to arms and bile and venom and mistrust. I’d like to think optimistically.

We live in a world full of ugliness and violence. Ferguson. Ray Rice. ISIS. Unrest and war and pain. Control and domination and abuse of power. The United States feels divided and broken–us vs. them–like some schoolyard rumble.

And yet, I see so much hope for the future. I see my children making friends with people from a diverse number of cultures, and backgrounds. I see women rising up and being recognized as capable, admirable leaders of society. I see marriage equality winning the day. I see the discussion for an ecologically sound America moving forward. I see America, growing.

September 11, 2001 was a dark, terrible day, and the deeds done on that day–both heroic and villainous–were epic in proportion. Those that did wrong, that day, did unforgivable wrongs, and those that risked themselves–those that died, needlessly–they will always be heroes in our collective memories. But I believe that we–as a nation, as a culture, as a species–must move forward. We must make progress. We must continue to grow, and change. Our transformation is not complete.

The United States is–in the scheme of world history–merely a teenager. We do not always respond to situations with the best possible response. In regards to September 11th, we are all, quite literally, teenagers, now. It is time that we begin to see the entire picture. Let go of our grudge against those that are only associated with the villains in this tale through cultural and religious ties–those that reject extremism and wish, like us, for a better world.

I, for one, plan to remember those that lost their lives, thirteen years ago. I plan to honor them by continuing to hope and pray for forward progress for humanity. And though the ribcage that protects our heart is thin, and vulnerable–the bones newly knitted back together–I have hope.

Crisis Averted

So, here it is.

Two weeks ago, my computer crashed and I lost about 65,000 words of the novel I’ve been working on, all summer. I spent some four or five hours in a frantic tizzy, trying to bribe a guy named Hutch at Google to help a girl out, before he and I finally found a way to “sort-of” recover my words. This was a big frickin’ crisis. I mean, I had a total mental breakdown–sobbing-in-the-fetal-position-lost-my-mind-kind-of-day.

BUT the words were found, and though there will be some effort required to get them back in the shape/format that I want them, all is not lost.  I have a hard copy, and that is all I can ask for. That was the worst day of the summer, for me.

Until… fast forward seven days, to last Thursday. My two big kids had gone to the high school football game. Hubby and I had finished dinner and cleaned up, and we sent the two littles upstairs to brush their teeth and put on their pajamas. A moment later, they came back down, announcing that the lights wouldn’t turn on upstairs and that there was a weird smell up there.

Hubby and I investigated and found smoke, though the source was uncertain. We checked lamps and plug-in air fresheners, radios and fans, to no avail, until I went into the kids’ bathroom. The first thing that I noticed was something odd had dripped onto the toilet seat. At first, I thought that little man had made a mess when he’d gone to the bathroom and just hadn’t told us, but when I looked up, I could see scorch marks on the ceiling. Hubby brought in a flashlight, and when he touched the metal cover of the ceiling vent fan, it was hot.

I’d like to say that we were totally on the ball, rushed into our pre-planned fire escape scenario and handled the whole thing with aplomb, BUT that would be a lie. First, he removed the cover and we stared up into the smoking remains of a clearly fire damaged fan. Then, I opened all the windows upstairs to let out some of the smoke. We sent the kids to the basement, to get away from the bad air, but at this point, we were seeing no flames and we honestly thought that the motor had blown on the fan, but had been contained by the metal box that held it.

So, we talked about electricians and told the kids that they could sleep in the basement overnight, and that was that. Except it wasn’t. Hubby called his dad to see what he thought about the situation, and I got on the Google. Turns out, a lot of house fires start in a bathroom vent fan. Turns out that it can start the insulation in your attic to smoldering, and you won’t even know you have a fire until WHOOSH! Your whole attic and roof goes up in flames.

I was sitting there, at the computer, and in the back of my mind, I could hear my dad’s voice. For those that don’t know, my stepdad, who raised me, passed away a few years ago. He was a fixer and a tinkerer, and he was my go-to handyman. If he were alive, I’d have been on the phone with him, right then. I stared at the screen and I heard him say, as plain as day, “Don’t you leave it like that. Get up. Go check.”

I took the flashlight out and shined it at the roof, and my heart stopped. I could see smoke leaking out of the roof. Our home was on fire.

The next moments were a whirlwind of activity. I called the fire department, gathered the kids and their beloved blankies. We unplugged the external hard drive that holds all of our pictures and I grabbed the file folder with the hardcopy (see above: the only copy) of my novel, and the kids and I hopped in the car and drove away. We passed a multitude of flashing lights on the road–four huge fire engines, a couple of smaller fire trucks and an ambulance, maybe a police car. To be honest, I lost track. In my mind, all I could see was that smoke, rolling out of our roof.

In the end, we discovered the fire, just in time. The damage was fairly minimal, in the scheme of things, and we have a great Home Owner’s Insurance policy. We have worked with an excellent restoration company that has gotten the mess (mostly insulation from the attic) cleaned up and livable, once more. We are very, very lucky and very, very fortunate.

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The fire department told us that we had maybe 15-20 minutes before the whole roof caught. If we hadn’t been home, or if we’d been asleep–we could be looking at a total loss. We could be looking at a loss of life. We could be looking at the kind of grief that I cannot even put into words.

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The last few days have been hard. The mess was being cleaned up, but I needed to wash every piece of clothing and stuffed animal and bedding and everything from the kids’ rooms. We’re talking about 40 loads. We couldn’t run the A/C until the ducts were cleaned, and it has been hot and humid, these last few days. I got sick–whether it be stress, or back-to-school germs, or allergies from the dust, and that hasn’t made things easier. And I’ve been walking around with that feeling, like after you narrowly avoid a car accident.

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Holy Shit. Something really, devastatingly horrible almost happened. Something that changes everything, forever. But it didn’t. You know the feeling that I mean? Adrenaline shaky and checking everyone over for bumps and bruises? Waiting for the other shoe to fall.

I nearly lost my mind when I thought I’d lost my book, and now, faced with the possibility of actual, horrible loss, that feels downright trivial. It feels microscopic. It feels like it happened to someone else, entirely. I haven’t cried over the fire. I don’t need to. We lost nothing that cannot be replaced. We were lucky. We were fortunate. We are blessed.

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Two weeks ago, I almost lost my book.

Last week, I almost lost my home, and I could have lost so much more than that.

This week, I am just going to breathe deep, let the tears come if they ever need to (although, I don’t expect them). It’s all good. I’m going to watch both of my sons play football, tomorrow, and I’m going to try to relax. Because when that book–the one that I lost, and then found–gets published, I’m going to have a damn fine story to tell.

Best Wednesday Gift, Ever.

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That’s my grandfather. When I was growing up, he and my grandmother lived fairly close to us, dropping in each day for coffee and a chat. When I was very small, before Grandpa retired, they lived outside of town, on a dirt road. Every day, Grandpa got dropped off at the corner, some 3-ish miles from his house, by his carpool buddies. And every day, rain or shine, or three feet of Michigan snow, he walked home in it.

One of my earliest memories is of waiting for him at the edge of their yard. He was a whistler–beautifully skilled, with a little tremor to his tune. Just thinking about it, now, makes me well up. But back then, that whistle crested the hill before he did, and I can still remember the giddiness, knowing that he was almost home. He’d come over the top of the hill, swinging his metal lunchbox, and I’d squeal with delight. When he reached me, he’d pick me up and toss me in the air. Call me a “Dutchman.” Then he’d pick up that silver lunchbox and open it up. No matter what, there was always something in there for me. A half a brownie, or a Twinkie. A sandwich bag with potato chips inside.

That lunchbox carried within it the smell of overripe bananas and bologna, which is a pretty odd scent for me to associate with love, but there it is–as strong in my memory as if it happened, yesterday.

When I was in seventh grade, I wrote a poem (one of my first) about that lunchbox, and I gave it to my grandparents. When I graduated from High School, they gave me the lunchbox. It is maybe one of the best gifts I’ve ever been given.

 

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About a dozen years ago, the lunchbox (“dinner pail” as Grandpa called it) was lost in a move. I was heartbroken, but of course, sometimes you can’t go back. This was one of those times, and it wasn’t until cancer was eating away at my Grandpa that it really hit me, how much that dinner pail had meant to me. When he died, I lay in bed that night and dreamed of the smell of bananas and bologna. Losing that dinner pail is one of my greatest regrets, in all my life.

It’s strange, the things that mean the most to you, once someone is gone. When my Great-Grandmother died, the only thing that I wanted from her was the round, cardboard cheese box that she kept crayons in, for when we came to visit. I was 23, when she died, but all of my memories of her are tied up with those broken crayons in that beautiful, ancient cheese box. (I have it, and it still has the wonderful bits of crayons inside, some 35 years after I first used them.)

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When my grandmother passed away, the only thing that I could even think of asking for was the plastic wigs that my sisters and I had played with, as children. (You can see how thrilled my young man is at modeling the “lady hair.)

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And when my grandfather died, the only thing that I wanted in the whole world, to keep of his, was that old dinner pail. Which I had lost. Which I could never have. Which brings me to the reason that I write this, today, and why I found myself sobbing in the grocery store parking lot, this afternoon. I received a text from my sister, who confessed that she has been looking for a dinner pail, just like Grandpa’s for the last twelve years. Today, she found one, bought it for me, and she sent me this picture.

 

 

 

 

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My sister and my cousins are all younger than I am. Most of them hardly remember Grandpa going to work, so this particular talisman is all mine. I realized, when I saw that picture, that while I loved the dinner pail, and while seeing the one that was so like the one I had lost made me so, utterly happy–that wasn’t the whole of it. 

I can still smell the inside of Grandpa’s dinner pail. That’s what love smells like. And today, that’s what my sister smells like. I cannot put it any plainer than that. This is the second greatest gift I have ever been given, in my life.

Remembories

Tonight, I curled up on the couch with my two daughters, ages 15 and 9, and watched TITANIC. The younger has been fairly fixated on the disaster of the Titanic since she read several books about it, this past school year, and since Dad was out with his friends for the night, we decided we’d have some girl time. Let me be clear–while I think that TITANIC was a cinematic marvel, there is much in the film that could have been improved. I am not going to post a review of the film.

What I am struck by, tonight, once the obligatory “Jack” tears have been cried and Rose has gone on to die an old lady, warm in her bed, is how film can transport you back in time.

Not, in this instance, to 1912, but rather, to the cold, early-winter of 1997.

I was 21–almost a baby, myself–and I had, six weeks prior to the release of TITANIC, suffered a devastating miscarriage. I was not in a good place, barely leaving my bed, and I went to see TITANIC six times. Because it was a place that I could cry,  and no one would ask if I was alright. It was a safe zone–everyone was crying–and that made it all the more cathartic. Everyone in the theater, in my mind, wept for my lost baby.

Now, seventeen years removed from that theater, I realize how terribly depressed I was, and how lucky I was to find a way clear of it. That luck came in the form of my now fifteen year old daughter– who fell asleep before the end, tonight–because she’s seen it many times, and because she worked a long day, today, and because blessedly, she is not in that bad place, where you need an excuse to cry.

I spent a lot of time, in my early twenties, in that place. When the mother in steerage tucks her children into the bed and tells them the story of Tir Na Nog,  it hits me, every time.  That nostalgic feeling that my little girl used to call “remembories.” It’s a certain song on the radio, or a scene from a film. It’s certain smells, or places. It’s a gentle, beautiful reminder that I am whole, and healed, and I almost never slip back to that lonely, sad, broken place, any more.

I am grateful to TITANIC, for the safe place that it gave me, to loudly and publicly mourn for the baby I would never know. Watching it now, I realize what a gift it was, and while Jack’s death on the screen has long since stopped goading me to tears, I still choke up when I hear of Tir Na Nog, and the land of eternal youth and beauty. I like to imagine that it exists, even if it is just a memory.

Critical Mass

We’ve reached it, folks.

Today marks the end of another school year. (Well, for two of my kids. The other two have a half day on Monday, but still, we’re right there). Nine long months of homework and school programs, projects and reports, learning and doing and extra-curriculars and a million and one other things. The kids have learned a lot.

But, I’m an old pro at this. There isn’t anything I could possibly have still to learn about school, right?

WRONG.

For instance, I have–just this week–learned that when the silverware drawer seems strangely empty, you should probably check your daughter’s desk at school. I’m not kidding, guys. When she cleaned her desk out for the final time, she brought home six forks and eleven spoons. THAT IS SEVENTEEN PIECES OF SILVERWARE! Seriously?

Also, this week, I noticed that my twelve-year-old son has been putting the same two pairs of shorts in the washer, every other day, and keeps repeating them in his wardrobe. When asked why, I discovered that he has left ALL of his other shorts at school, in his gym locker. So he has nothing else to wear, and cannot be bothered to remember to bring his clothes home.

Littlest Little Man tried to smuggle 57 Pokemon cards to school, and my eldest daughter is convinced that she’s going to flunk her gym class exam.

That’s the game, parents. Some things change, but most things stay the same. Silverware and a child’s entire clothing collection = new. Anxiety and sneakiness and learning through osmosis and a little bit of luck = same old, same old.

We’re looking forward to a busy summer. One child will embark on her first job. The others have plans for visits with grandparents, summer camp, camping, and generally terrorizing the neighborhood with their gang of hard-core biking thugs. We’ll go to the beach, and the zoo, and we’ll try to squeeze in some reading and some math facts, so that we don’t revert completely to our sludge-like former state.

But the thing is that next year, on the last day of school, I’m going to write another post about the things I’ve learned “this” year. I’m going to be stunned at how the time has flown, and appalled at the fact that my son is still hoarding his clothes in his gym locker. I’m going to be staring at my daughter’s senior year, and college apps and all of that.

That’s the thing about being “The Mom.” I keep needing to be reminded that I’m still figuring it all out, one year at a time. One day at a time. One moment at a time.

I’m pretty lucky, though. I’ve got great teachers.

Best Friends Forever

This is the title on the gift that my daughter is giving away, tomorrow, and it had me sobbing in my car, twenty minutes ago.

Tomorrow, two of my nine-year-old’s best friends–twin boys that live within shouting distance of us–are moving across the country.

She’s had time to get used to the idea, and she has some other amazing friends who will all work through the adjustment, together. They are all off, basking in their last few hours together, as we speak. And they are great kids.

And that is why I found myself driving down Centre Avenue with tears streaming down my face like I’d just watch the trailer for The Fault in Our Stars.  I’ve seen at least one of these boys on my front stoop, nearly every day for the past two years. I’ve cleaned up their blood and listened to their erupting laughter. I’ve watched them treat my daughter kindly, and with mutual respect.

I’m sure that they don’t remember, and maybe their mom doesn’t even recall, but these boys were on my daughter’s first sports team–a co-ed YMCA basketball team when they were four. And you know what I remember? I remember that the twins always tried to pass it to my girl, even though she was the only little girl on their team AND she was more worried about breaking a nail than she was about getting the ball. They cheered for her and included her. They were kind.

In the last two years, since they have become good friends, the boys have embraced my daughter’s half princess/half tomboy attitude. They ride bikes and scooters to “The Blackberry Patch” where they are detectives, solving garbage related mysteries. They have neighborhood wide scavenger hunts (I cannot even begin to say how amazing their mom is!) and they make crazy loom bracelets and ask my food allergy prone daughter over for dinner, often. They are thoughtful and polite–the kind of kids you want to have around.

They are exactly the kind of boys that you want your daughter to know, when she goes from being a little girl to a young woman–and that makes me both sad, and happy. I will miss them, and I know that she (and their other close friends) will miss them, and so I am sad that they won’t be right down the street. But I am also incredibly thankful and happy that when my daughter was just starting to figure out who she was, she knew some amazing, kind, sweet, sensitive, thoughtful, playful boys, who will inform the way she sees the opposite sex for the rest of her life. They couldn’t have given her a nicer gift.

Well, there I go, again with the tears. I expect that these won’t be the last tears I shed for my girl, when it comes to boys, but I sure am thankful to have had the chance to cry these.

Books, Books, and More Books

So, for those of you that don’t have young children, you may not know that March is Reading Month. We kicked off the annual word-fest with Dr. Seuss’ Birthday on March 2nd, and both the Elementary kids and the Middle Schooler have their own special reading calendar that they are supposed to follow, with special school-wide activities and fun dress up days.

Around here, every month is reading month, but we’ve been spending some extra time on it, what with all of the extra assignments, and it is really quite exciting to watch the kids really start to get it. Our 6th grade son has a map of the U.S. with 50 different assignments to accomplish, throughout the month. Some are as straightforward as “Read a Fantasy Novel” or “Use no screens, except for homework, for one day.” Others are a little more in-depth, such as “Follow a recipe and bring in samples for the class” or “Memorize a poem and recite it to your teacher.” Yesterday, he had to write a fan letter to his favorite author and send it, after showing his teacher.  What was really cool? It has just come to my attention that his favorite author is one of my favorite authors: Brandon Sanderson. I love him for his Mistborn books, finishing The Wheel of Time series, and The Stormlight Archives (Words of Radiance just came out! Hooray! And it is 1100 pages long! Hooray!) My son loves him for Steelheart and Alcatraz vs. The Evil Librarians and the Infinity Blade books, but I hear the things that he enjoys about them, and I know that someday soon, he’ll be reading the books that I love. He has never been much of a reader, up until recently, and I really love that he has found someone who speaks to him. It pleases me.

Our eldest has always been a big reader, and she has found an adoration for all things John Green. I can totally relate to this, as I think that he is a stunningly accurate, honest writer of teenagers. He gets them, and they love him for it. We are both dreading and looking forward to the release of The Fault in Our Stars when it hits theaters in June. Like so many others, we’ve both shed a few tears over that one. She’s reading An Abundance of Katherines right now, and I look forward to her review.

Our nine-year-old has just graduated from Magic Tree House books to Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Three times, today, I caught her reading when she was mid-painting on a project, in the middle of a t.v. show, and just now, when I checked on her in bed. I cannot begin to express the joy that finding them stealth reading gives to me.

Our youngest, a kindergartener, is just finding his way in the world of words. We are reading Redwall aloud, at night, and every once in a while, over my shoulder, he will find a sentence that he can read. Tonight, it was “Try to be brave like your mum and dad.” I wasn’t even to that point on the page, yet, but he was looking, finding meaning, and discovering, all on his own. And, I’m not going to lie–the fact that he is fully absorbed and engrossed in a book about sword wielding mice and badgers with cudgels pleases me like a kid on Christmas morning.

As for the grown-ups–my long-suffering husband is slogging his way through my second novel’s manuscript and doing his best to put up with my inability to accept criticism. I am reading Before They Were Hanged by Joe Abercrombie, which is the second book of The First Law series. I’m finding that I really, REALLY enjoy his books–mostly because they are such excellent character studies. You really come to understand the psyche of his characters, none of which are clearly in the good or bad category. He writes an ensemble of gray protagonists, often gritty, often brutal, but you really get to understand their motivations in a way that many books don’t give you. It isn’t rainbows-and-unicorns type fluffy fantasy, but it is fantastic in its ability to make you believe that the characters he writes are real, even if you wouldn’t want to meet them in a dark alley.

Writing-wise, I finished the first, revised draft of Whirlwind and have since sent it off to my beta readers. This is the tough place, anxiety-wise, for me. While I wait for feedback, I definitely start to second guess myself and develop a pretty good case of Imposter Syndrome. All will be well, though. That’s what revisions are for, right? I’m also working on a re-write of A Sown Wind, as well as beginning the outlining, brainstorming stage for book three, which I am thinking of entitling, When Gods Toss Dice.

In non-wordy stuff, I cannot recommend “True Detective” and “Black Sails,” enough. Both shows have really drawn me in, and I was sad to see the season finale of “True Detective” come so soon. We are also cruising through the last four episodes of “How I Met Your Mother,” and looking forward to the return of “Game of Thrones,” next month.

How about you? What are you reading? What are you watching? Where do you get your inspiration, and what stories speak to you? Enquiring minds want to know.

Weekly Recap and Germs, Be Gone!

What I am Reading: Still working on The Blade Itself, by Joe Abercrombie. I am still enjoying it, and it is reminding me of the in-depth world building of GRRM in Song of Ice and Fire. My favorite scenes center on Logen Ninefingers, right now, and I am interested to see how the separate groups of characters will come to interact.

What I am Reading to My Kids: We are still chugging through Charlotte’s Web and Pippi Longstocking, although I expect to finish both, this weekend. We plan to read Because of Winn Dixie and The Mouse and The Motorcycle, next.

What I’ve been watching: In order to force myself back onto the treadmill, I’ve guided myself back to my first season obsession with Once Upon a Time. Catching up on season 2 on Netflix… It’s not as good. BUT… it’s enough to get me onto the torture machine, so I guess it is worth it. My husband and I have just started watching True Detective (HBO) and Black Sails (Starz). Both are really good. True Detective has given me some honest respect for Matthew McConaughey’s acting chops, and Black Sails (while occasionally falling into the GoT gratuitous sex scene trap) has drawn me in, in two episodes, more than Agents of Shield has in half a season. I’m looking forward to these two shows’ next episodes more than I am the return of Walking Dead, for what that’s worth.

Where I am at, writing-wise: Alas, I am not much further along than I was, last Friday. The knights screwed everything up, and I had to do some edits to fix the paradoxes that they had created. Ugh. But I have done some other cool writing related stuff, this week (see below).

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I figure that if the best I can do is set aside the period between packing five lunches at 6:30 a.m. and driving the smallest heathens to school at 8:20 a.m., every Friday morning, for blogging– well, so be it. So here you have it, the second weekly recap. Ta-da! Aren’t you impressed? Thank you… thank you.

But seriously… it has been madness around here. We are all at the point where we just want to throw the windows open to get rid of the germs and the winter blahs with a little fresh air, but the wind chill is -20, right now, so fresh air = frozen flesh. Not really what they’re depicting in the sales brochure. Our five-year-old was home sick with a cold for a couple of days this week, and every one has that drug out, sort of “winter overdose” look on their faces. The snow piles next to our driveway are taller than the minivan, though, so it’ll probably be June before it is all gone.

In Valentine’s Day preparations, we are busy putting together goodie bags and the 3rd grader has to design and assemble her own Valentine mailbox. Have I mentioned how the 3rd grader is my overachiever? This process has involved blueprints (yup… blueprints), two trips to the craft store, and use of the oven on two different occasions. I’ll post results, next week when it is finished, but this is clearly not an amateur project. (Meanwhile, the kindergartner could not care less about any of it. Go figure.)

The two big kids are in the midst of mid-winter chaos, too. Our 15-year-old is on the tech crew of The Crucible, which is showing this weekend, as well as preparing for the forensics team. I think she will be home for a total of about 12 hours, this weekend, hopefully some of which she’ll spend sleeping. Sixth grade son is busy with basketball, and he has spent a great deal of time figuring out EXACTLY how many games they can still lose and make the playoffs. Its high stake stuff, here.

Speaking of playoffs, let us never speak of that Super Bowl, again, shall we? It wasn’t just that the Broncos lost… it was how truly, disgustingly awful they played. That was the single most boring game of football I have ever watched, and frankly, I was just relieved by the time it was over.

In word related news, I am excited to be heading to Art Hop, tonight. My youngest daughter and I are planning a special date to go see a show of college artists who have illustrated some pieces by local writers (one or two of which *might* have been written by yours truly). It should be fun, and I haven’t seen the artwork, at all, so I am interested to see how they interpreted my pieces.

Also this week, I participated in my first Twitter pitch party. For those of you not on Twitter, or not familiar with the process of trying to get published, a brief explanation: Once an hour, you can post a “pitch” for your book. It has to fit in 140 characters (which is about as painful as childbirth, but without the drugs), and agents and editors will peruse the posts. If they are interested in seeing more of your project, they can “favorite” your pitch, which is sort of an invitation to query them, with the added bonus that you get to say, “You WANTED to see this… Like me! Like me!” It was a fun and interesting experience, and I received two requests from agents and two from editors, so we shall see where this goes. If nothing else, it was a great learning experience, figuring out how to describe my book in such a short space and how to hook the reader, with such limited word count. I’d love to think that an agent is on the horizon, but if not… I’ll definitely do another one of these. Reading other authors’ pitches was incredibly helpful, and there are a great many books out there that sound really interesting and fun. I wish all of those that participated in #adpit, good luck.

Beyond that, I am very excited to get back to our tradition of Saturdays spent playing RPG’s, which has been on hiatus since Christmas (Stupid winter.), a weekend full of art and time with my kiddos (Except for the big one. Soon, I’ll forget what she looks like.), and a full day, today, dedicated completely to working on Whirlwind. It is like my birthday and Christmas and the county fair, all rolled into one! Happy Friday!

Week in Recap — Happy Super Bowl and some fun, word related stuff

What I am reading to myself: The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie — Dark, gritty fantasy with engaging, flawed characters. I’m not too far in, but it is keeping me up past my bedtime, so that speaks highly.

What I am reading to my kids:  Pippi Longstocking and Charlotte’s Web (see below for anecdotal awesomeness)

What I just finished: The Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence — I wrote up a review on Goodreads, which you can see below. This book is in my head. It’s hanging around, poking at the cerebral cortex. Jorg likes to stab things, and I think he’s checking out my hypothalamus. This is not a book for the faint of heart, BUT it is a really, excellent read.

Where I am at, writing-wise:  Finished a read-through and minor edit on A Sown Wind, this week, as well as churning out about 12,000 new words on Whirlwind. I’m feeling the end creeping closer, but those pesky knights keep spoiling the cream. See below for more on this, too.

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So, lately I haven’t been so faithful with the blogging, and I apologize. If it makes you feel any better, I’ve gotten a lot of writing done on Whirlwind. If not, well… screw you. 😉

So I thought I would just do a recap of what’s been going on at Casa Filak, what is coming up, and that sort of jazz.

Firstly, I have to say, “Go Broncos!” I love the gladiatorial feel of football season, and I am usually sad to see it come to an end, but I am really happy for Peyton Manning. He isn’t a spring chicken, anymore (although, I am loathe to admit that he is only 3 and a half months older than I), and at this stage in his career, this may be his last dance. I think there is a pretty solid argument that he is the greatest quarterback to ever play in the league, and to be the first QB to ever win rings with two different teams would be a fitting swan song.

Second, I have to give a shout out to Worldbuilders. If you haven’t heard of them, they are the fantastic charity started by fantasy author Patrick Rothfuss. This year, so far, in their annual fundraising drive, they have pulled in over $500,000 dollars in donations for Heifer International, from geeks, all over the world. They are giving away some pretty fantastic prizes to those who donate, in a lottery-type format, and there are still two days to donate. Check out Pat’s blog for more information, or to just feel the love, because… wow. It is pretty awe inspiring to see so many geeks doing good for the world.

Book-wise, I have gotten a lot written this week, and for the most part, I am feeling pretty good. CAVEAT –  I have these characters–a group of knights. They’re good men. Loyal, headstrong, opinionated men. AND THEY KEEP BUGGERING UP MY STORY! I kind of want to hold up a little sign that says, “Zephyrs, I am not your b*$#@!” Except, well, I am. Because without them, my story has a broken backbone. And, as I’ve said previously, I sort of enjoy the way that characters highjack the story line, on occasion, but seriously, boys, this is becoming an epidemic.

As everyone in the whole country knows, the weather has been a bit horrific, as of late. We had three snow days in a row, where we live, and even my hubby took a day off, because our road was impassable. But something cool happened, while the kids were off.

My five-year-old son LOVES to read and be read to, which is awesome, but until this week, we had stuck to picture books. He enjoys a trip to the library, where we stock up on good reads, and we read two, or three, or four, each night. His nine-year-old sister gets in on the act, too, although we are usually reading a chapter book aloud to her at bedtime, too, and she is always reading one to herself, as well. (The big kids read, too, but they’re way to cool for mom to read to them, these days.)

Anyway, so the little man wants to watch Charlotte’s Web on one of the snow days. After it was over, and we were talking about it, I said, “Did you know that Charlotte’s Web was a book, first?”

He gave me this amazed-stunned look and asked if we owned the book. We did, and I found it on the shelf. He flipped through it for a few minutes and said, “It only has a few pictures.”

I agreed, and I said that we could read it out loud, a chapter at a time, if he wanted, instead of the picture books that we usually read. He was hesitant, but his love of Wilbur got the best of him.

After the required argument between siblings (Big Sister: “I’ve already read Charlotte’s Web, can’t we read something else?” Little Brother: “Shut up! You stink like Templeton’s rotten egg!”), we decided to read BOTH Charlotte’s Web and Pippi Longstocking. So we read a chapter of each a night, and it is awesome.

But that isn’t the best part. The best part is watching Little Man find words that he knows on the page. It is watching him absorb the story and beg for more (I’m not going to lie, we’re up to two chapters of Charlotte’s Web, most nights). It is having him beg for more story, as he gets out of bed in the morning. It is recognizing that he is changing from an observer, to a reader.

This is the last time I will watch this transformation in one of my children. This is the last of my brood to move from mundane, to literate. This is monumental, and heart-rending. This is as good as it gets.

*sob* I have a book to write, just after I finish looking through baby albums and eating therapeutic chocolate. Have a great weekend, and “Go Bronco!”