I am slogging away this week and until the 30th on my memoir which I am going to try to get published, but I can’t promise will ever see the light of day in the wider world. Immersed as I am, I will try to update you dear readers once a week as to my word count and progress.

Today, I would like to know how the first sentence (or paragraph, but please not the whole chapter) of your own memoir might read. Remember that your life has high and low points and has periods that are too boring for most people to be interested in, so it’s best to focus on time periods rather than whole lives. A life from beginning to present/end point are called “biographies” and as my husband reminded me – they are reserved for people who actually count in the historical record of the planet.

Therefore, pick a time period and begin. Here or at home with a link back.

Over the summer I got the bright idea to use one of those white-board calendars to plot my writing course over a three month span of time. I think I made it to week six before illness and deck construction ran me off the rails. But I haven’t abandoned the idea because it helped me complete a revision of a novella I first wrote about 12 years ago and is now sitting, waiting again for a final polish before being shipped off to the wide world of publishing.

I have so much to do despite the fact that in the last week plus I have written two pieces for 50 Something Moms, finished/submitted my flash fic election horror piece for the Apex contest, and created two Facebook groups for my writing groups while helping plan the joint anthology for next spring. 

I am not at all certain why I thought the anthology was such a great project to take on. It’s not like I don’t have a memoir to write for NaNoWriMo in November or another website to administer since I also let myself be talked into serving on the Strathcona writing groups board as the website manager.

I don’t think I was this busy when I had a job.

So, I need my calendar thingy again. Today one of my “to do’s” is the calendar. Another task on deck is getting my blogging obligations outlined and hopefully drafting a few. 

I am up to three blogs that I actively contribute to in addition to this site and not counting the website managing gig or the blog I need to create to go along with that. One would think there should be money in this somewhere, but still I toil in relative obscurity. I guess that is where everyone starts, who isn’t the child or spouse of someone famous.

Sixteen days until I disappear into memoir writing. I am kind of looking forward to writing it. Mostly looking forward to being done with it. Another widow – a 9/11 casualty – whose novel I will be reading and reviewing in December, wrote on her blog yesterday that she was uncertain how to follow the book up. Talk about her search for “happy ever after” or her journey from New York to the West Coast. It got me thinking about the focus of my memoir. I had thought to concentrate mostly on the after. After Will was diagnosed. After he went into the nursing home. After hospice. After death. After the first months of widowhood. There are so many things now that I simply can’t recall with a high degree of accuracy or that are just not share-able. Is that a word? But I am guessing most people know what I mean. Even a die-hard blogger like me doesn’t share everything. Some events are mine or mine and my late husband’s or mine and Rob. I don’t write about those.

Which brings me to the reason I need to organize the memoir’s direction beforehand. I don’t want to spend too much time wandering in the desert. I have only 30 days and hopefully I will surpass the 50,000 words. It needs to really be twice that length which means writing about 3,000 plus words a day. Not out of the realm of possibility. I can easily crank about 2,000 a day if I am focused and have an idea of where I am going.

NaNoWriMo means getting my blogging house in order. I need two pieces a month for both my other blogging obligations, and I have ideas so the thing is to draft/revise before the end of this month and get them slotted. I also need to get a bit of blogging ahead done here. I am woefully neglecting my dear readers and readers, however dear, are fickle and go where there is reading to be done.

I have what feels like a ton of urban fantasy to finish (I discovered during the month I spent at the workshopping site that I am not writing pure sci-fi but in a genre called urban fantasy – who knew?). I am pushing it back to December. One of the things they recommend doing after a NaNoWriMo is putting your manuscript aside for a month and then coming back with fresh eyes to read and revise in January. And that is what I am going to do, therefore December will be urban fantasy month for me.

In between all of this I have writing group business including: monthly meetings, board meetings, anthology preparation, and a publishing workshop. And also the daily life stuff of husband, children, house, dying father, grieving mother, yoga class, and reading.

Man, do I have reading to do. My Bloglines is so backed up it is groaning. I do apologize if I am not commenting much. I just have so much to read that I don’t often get to it all in one sitting and sometimes my mind is too empty to find words. Would a “hi, I was here” be acceptable? Somehow that seems very trite.

A few things before I leave off for today:

  • I am still interested in trading links. Leave a comment if you are too.
  • Please vote for me over at FuelMyBlog if you get the chance.
  • If we are not friends on Facebook, perhaps we should be. Let me know.
And so I am off to organize the writing machine which is me.

Globe and Mail writer, Christie Blatchford, was moaning about blogging and bloggers in Thursday’s paper, so in her honor I have decided to write the most banal of all blogging pieces – the update on my life.

I find “real” writers’ abhorence of blogs and their laments about the decline of “real” writing and journalism amusing. Newspapers long ago succumbed to the tabloidy tricks that placed selling above content. Print will never be able to compete with cable news channels and the Internet for timeliness of delivery, and when it comes to depth of topic, the political blogs have the edge and the freedom. Everything evolves. Just ask Darwin.

Besides journalists with blue-blooded leanings make lousy bloggers anyway.

So read along as I squander my finite word bank* by committing to the blogosphere my “most idle thoughts and mundane obeservations”**

My funked up mood from earlier in the week has cleared up thanks to a near complete abandonment of my schedule. No gym. Late lunches. Later suppers. No manuscript.

I just did as I pleased, and oddly it pleased me to reorganize the bathroom closet and search out the source of the fouler by the day odor in the cabinet where the dry goods are kept. The former is still awaiting final purge approval from the husband and the latter turned out to be a sack of something that had reached the gelatinous stage of decomposition therefore defying labeling attempts by both Rob and I.

I attended writing group on Tuesday evening and managed to be racially offensive to a potential new member of Cree descent. I didn’t do it on purpose but as I was explaining more of my novel to the group after reading the first several pages, I mentioned that one of the stories my main character tells is based on a family story. My grandmother’s great- uncle was the source of much concern when he was a toddler because a local native woman took quite the shine to him and hovered about whenever they ventured into town. The family, like most white immigrant settlers of the time, mistakenly thought she might snatch him. I could see the new member tightening as I told the story – even though I explained its origins and how it fit within my novel. I hate having to weigh words. I hate more that when people are offended they often fume instead of speaking up.

I finalized my writing course picks for the fall. Made out my yoga class schedule.

I prepared a new dish for supper.***

BabyD and I shopped. For her. She is quite the opinionated little clothes pony. While trying on a variety of pants, she jumped, pranced and wiggled – admiring herself in the full-length mirror as she did so. One pair of leggings left her standing completely still and not smiling. When I inquired about this, I was told,

“This pants don’t make me dance, Mom.”

A girl with her priorities straight.

While at the cute children’s clothes boutique, which is actually in The Fort, I overheard the owner mention she was looking for part-time help and I inquired. I nearly danced myself when she asked me to bring in a resume. Until I remembered that I don’t want to work for someone and that I dislike “service” work. Oh, and I am none to fond of the constant flow of humanity in the real world and that I find most things SAHM-ish incomprehensibly dull.

In fact now that I am sounding a bit more mommy-bloggish than I am comfortable with- let’s get back to me, shall we?

All deck work stopped this week. Rob and I are slightly fried around the edges and have just taken a step back from all the reno for this week. Sometimes one needs to surf the web and watch pointless movies in bed.

I got back to contributing at Moms Speak Up. Wrote a piece on Texas teachers being allowed to carry concealed weapons on the job. I won’t go into why this is the worst idea ever but if you knew some of the people I have worked with over the course of two decades, you would just take me at my word. I have yet to meet the educator who hasn’t uttered the phrase “It’s a good thing I wasn’t carrying a gun” at least once in their career – out loud and in the presence of witnesses.

Oh, and I have been reading. A novel.

Finally, I finished tagging my earliest blog posts from mid 2006 until about the time Rob and I started dating. Mostly very depressing widow stuff, but if that kind of thing interests you or you would like to know where I started my blogging journey, I am now easy to search under widowhood or grief. They can also be found under remarriage or long distance relationships or YWBB. Enjoy.

* Michael Farber of Sports Illustrated believes that writers have but a finite number of printable word combinations in them and to blog is to basically piss them to the wind.

** To quote Ms. Blatchford

*** That deserves its own paragraph. I am sure my husband can attest to the wonder of my attempting to expand my meager repertoire.

My Canadian work permit arrived on Friday. It’s somewhat of an anti-climatically thing however since the move to Texas appears to be back on – in theory anyway. We will know more next week after Rob chats with the man in charge of bringing all the project elements together. 

The first thing I did upon opening the envelope from the CIC was to glance through the Fort Record to see if there were any jobs of interest. A pointless activity as I have no intention of getting a job until my daughter is in school full time and even then there are more things that don’t interest me than do. Teaching for example is only of slight interest and drops to negative interest levels when I ponder the prospect of teaching in Texas. I turned down an offer from the Houston Independent School District long ago. In Iowa we are taught to believe that any school south of our own border is teaches Genesis in place of Darwin and a twangy version of English grammar. Besides when I was offered the position back in the late 1980’s it was well-known that Texas schools were just looking for new hire straight out of college fodder to plunk down in the worst schools. Socially and economically disadvantaged kids grew on trees in Iowa then too and I didn’t see the point of being underpaid in an expensive place to live when I could do the same thing in Iowa within my meager means. Anyway, I have a very negative view of the American education system right now. It stifles good teaching in favor of bad policy. And it’s not fun. Why would I want a job that is joyless to perform? Even if I am good at it. 

I sent out emails back in January, when I thought Texas was a surer thing, soliciting letters of recommendation. I got four positive replies and assurances I would have the letters by March at the latest but now we are into the second week of April – no letters. Hmmm. Whenever I have been asked for a letter and committed to writing it, I have them to the requester within days. But that is just me. And I wrote letters for anyone who asked really regardless of their work for me. The way I saw it was even if the person (a student usually) didn’t do much for me wasn’t any indication of how they would fare somewhere else. A lot of what we call “underachievement” is really just due to bad fits. Of course some people never find the right fit and that is another matter all together. Anyway I don’t have the interest in tracking any of these letters down, so I will just let it go but for this blog piece. C’est la vie.

So I have no letters, but I have one published writing credit to my name and about three rejection letters. I think that makes me a writer in most people’s eyes, but I don’t think you are allowed to include the rejections on your resume. I had a Technorati authority of 15 but it dropped a bit of late. Someone unlinked me I guess or the link expired. They do that. I don’t really understand the whole blog ranking thing. It’s a bit of a puzzlement and probably doesn’t mean much unless you are actually engaged in advertising on your space. In terms of writing resumes, blogging doesn’t count for jack even with that curious prohibition many literary outlets – paper or virtual – have on self-publishing.

Dilemmas. Dilemmas. I have a work permit. Now what do I do with it?

Sometimes it’s difficult to come up with blog topics day after day. Today is one of those days. It’s not that I haven’t ideas, but many of them are vetoed by my husband as being to TMI for even him. Others just aren’t thought generating to fill an entire page of blog. Often, I self-censor. Yes, hard to believe that I would veto myself, but I do. And then there are the days when nothing comes and words limp forth “like crippled children” to badly coin a phrase from my favorite childhood book Harriet the Spy.


The ironic thing is that much is afoot but perhaps too much for me to break down into a single blog right now.


The highlights:


I have three good short stories in the works right now and very good idea of where I might get each one published.

We are all planned and booked for our honeymoon at long last. A B&B in Dubuque after we drop Katy off at my folks and a cabin on the edge of The Shawnee National Forest in Southern Illinois (yes, we are once again going for the non-traditional romantic spots because why mess with what works?)

My plan to get back into shape has hit a snag. I am putting on muscle and that means weight and size increase. I was really liking being bony but that is no way to approach old age, sadly. 

We may be staying here in Canada after-all as the Texas thing is tied up in sky-rocketing costs and morphing into a position that might entail too much travel, but it may yet come out okay. We won’t know until late March at the earliest.

Canada Immigration has updated their turn around times on residency applications and we could have approval by early April.

We are still lice-free (knock large pieces of timber together).

I can navigate the city by myself (and with a little help from OnStar).


Oh, and I have reached a decision about wanting to give back in terms of grief and grieving. I don’t want to start/or lead any kind of group. I am not a mentor and think really that this is a silly idea. Mostly because of something Rob pointed out to me about the widow board. He noticed that people tended to group in the 1 to 6 month sections according to common dates or months and then stick together for a while lending support. He noted however that the vast majority of these groups disappeared as the people lost the need for the board and stopped interacting there. And he was right. My problem is that I never fell into any “peer” group there. I found the board too late in my first year and had already come to many of my own conclusions about a variety of things – hence my need to “give”. As Girl pointed out to me, I will know what to do when the opportunity arrives. So, I think I will wait and see. 

Okay, so because I haven’t joined nearly enough blog sites (MSN-Spaces, dot.mac, LiveJournal, Blogger, Blogher, NaBloMo) or have blogs enough, I went to WordPress the other day and started a whole new account and am rebuilding this site essentially at WordPress. A really neat function allowed me to transfer all the stuff at Blogger (which are the same posts as here) to WordPress. I called the site Anniegirl1138 which was my “handle” at the YWBB. In my first post there I explained the story behind the name too. While most people at the widow board tend to create monikers based on their loss, my name was all about me. What an selfish little thang I am, eh? But I saw being there as being about me anyway. Not Will. I was there to see if I was normal (found out that normal is a bit more relative than I had believed it to be) and to rant (as I had no outlet for it in my real time) and I wanted to find people who were coping, internalizing and moving on – which is what I was more than ready to do. Rob was teasing me a bit this morning about naming my site for myself as he is grappling with what to call his on site. I named this site Second Edition because it was the second blog after my Widowed:The Blog at MSN-Spaces, literal name and boring, but I like the idea of my blog being christened with my online persona.

WordPress is a bit more complicated and I am still playing with the free features before I upgrade (which I think I will have to do to get the cool stuff) but I think it will eventually be my permanent – and only – online home. I want to continue this blog there and also have a page for my writing and a page of resources for widowed people – just cause I want to help and I haven’t much of an outlet for that right now.

Cell phone novels are a big Japanese thing right now. I went to look at a couple of blog articles on them and wondered if I could do something like that myself. It made me wonder too if I could, or should, put some of my own fiction online. I used to write fanfic in the long ago. It was fun to get feedback and have an audience that was so immediate. It reminded me of when I was a sophomore in high school and I was writing a soap opera satire that all my friends (and even kids who weren’t my friends) were asking to read it. I couldn’t write fast enough. I love writing for people. How did I lose that? Why did I forget that? Oh, yeah – I was told I wasn’t quite good enough when I tried to go back and get into the Writer’s Workshop at Iowa. Now if that happened I would chalk it up to a problem with the source but then I was twenty-seven and very insecure.

Rob and I have talked more about the Texas move and my working and my writing. I am being silly to worry about what feminist society thinks about my role. Shouldn’t my role be whatever I choose for it to be? I choose to be a writer who does the stay at home stuff. Men are practically applauded for that but women are selling themselves short and up shit creek at the same time. As Rob has pointed out on many an occasion, who decided that career and all its material accouterments were the be and end all? If everyone let fear of failure or loss of status or society’s aversion to living a scaled -down material life get in the way of the pursuit of one’s true talents, interests and dreams what a real shit-hole this life would be.

I was hoping that when Alicia spelled out the rules to her recent game of blog topic tag – being that there were to be no general tagging of all readers and that you needed to tag people by name – that I would easily avoid this topic. I never get tagged by name. I am not a inner circle person. I just read blogs and comment as the spirit moves me and blissfully avoid much in the process. But, Marsha – you rebel child you – tagged all her readers and thus I was caught.

The topic came from The Daily MEME which is a blog for bloggers who need ideas or topics or just about anything blog. I checked the site out and though I haven’t used anything there myself, I am going to recommend it to at my next writer’s group meeting because there are a few people who have expressed interest in blogging and several others who are old-school journal keepers and might find it useful.

Since Marsha broke the rules to begin with I am going to venture further out onto the limb and change the structure of the topic a bit. There were all sorts of lists to be considered and filled in. What do you want your children to know before they grown up? What do you want them to know about you? Etc. Etc. as the King would say to Anna. It was too daunting and seemed a bit redundant. So here is my version.

Things I want my Daughter and Step-daughters to know
before they are middle-aged women Like Me.

1) You are beautiful. Believe it. Live it. Ignore styles and trends and beauty advice of all kinds unless it concerns skin care (because you are all fair and need to take care in that respect). Too tall, too thin, too short, too fat? Only if you think so and thinking so and agonizing over anything that you have no control over is a waste of time and will cause wrinkles. Happy people accept themselves physically and only seek to change aspects of themselves for themselves alone.
2) Establish good credit early and never be without a credit card in your own name alone. Women are sadly screwed when they marry and join their finances with their mates. Be wary to not let your credit history as a single person in your own right disappear because you will have a devil of a time re-establishing it.
3) A good education is one of the most important things you will ever give yourselves. Don’t throw away educational opportunities and never let financing be the reason you don’t pursue advanced schooling (college, university, graduate school). Your dad and I may not be keen on funding a backpacking trips across Europe, but we would not say “no” out of hand to the idea of you furthering your education.
4) Be inflexible when it comes to your value system. Don’t compromise it to be liked or loved.
5) Don’t expect love to fix you but don’t walk away from the opportunity just because the package it arrives in doesn’t match your imagination.
6) Be honest, but not in a mean way if you can help it (and on occasion you can’t.)
7) Know that I love you even when you are making me crazy, or I disagree with your choices.
8) See as much of the world as you have an opportunity to when you are young.
9) Don’t marry before you are thirty. Give yourself a chance to get over all the Disney princess notions (Katy) of love. Love is wonderful but it isn’t a fairy tale.
10) Remember that the glass is really half-full (or just poorly designed as your dad would say).
11) Be fair.
12) Don’t prejudge but remember that leopards can’t/don’t change their spots.
13) Be a good friend but not a doormat.
14) Finally, when I am very old and can’t see well enough to notice, please pluck the stray hairs that are growing on my chin. (I had to add this because my mother made me promise the same thing.)

Probably not the greatest or most comprehension list ever. It’s not even profound in any sense, but I have come to realize in all the years I have taught, and in the few I have parented, that kids by and large grow up to be who you raised them to be even when you take into account their own particular personalities.