Monday, April 29, 2013

Au Revoir! OR Mom's Takin' a Lil' Break

I'm leavin'.  On a jet plane...

My bags are packed (sort of), the kids' schedules have been finalized and distributed (mostly). And tomorrow at 1:30, I'll be headed to Chicago's O'Hare airport where I'll board a 5:30pm flight bound for Paris.  This trip has been 8 months in the making (I first wrote about it here) so you'd think I'd have had ample time to prepare, right?  Well, with three kids, a host of last minute stresses, oh and throw in a few surgeries, it's been pretty tough to pull it all together.

Have you ever planned a weekend away without your kids? A little getaway perhaps with the spouse or the girls?  Moms never just pack up and go. We have to arrange and rearrange and schedule and assure, and write notes, and email teachers... I realized this past week, that, well, I do a LOT! Just on a daily basis.  Good LORD, no wonder I'm so tired!

It's hard for moms to admit, too, that not only do we need a break, but we deserve one, too! We have so much guilt, and if you're Catholic, well, you've got it in spades.

But I digress, with the help of my mom, and my kids' dad, I am, in fact, taking a break. A 10-day break to be exact. I'm not sure if I'll know what to do with myself without all the... stuff.  The homework, the school lunches, meals, play dates, driving to and from wherever. Oh, and the laundry. Good Lord, there's a lot of laundry! Housework and yard work, and whatever else.

I can't imagine having no dishes to clean after dinner - for 10 DAYS straight! No alarm clock to wake me up. No boot camp (although I will be taking my bands, and fitting in workouts because, well, a Shark's a Shark no matter where you put us).

These eight months have flown by! I was going to make time to learn French (at least enough to get by). Instead I downloaded an app yesterday that will teach me the basic phrases (where's' the bathroom; Red wine, please; another round, please...).

So, I'm off.  But I will be writing. And I'll be posting my "American Girl in Paris" blogs as often as possible, so stay tuned!

But first... I'll be hugging my kids a little tighter, staying up a little later tonight just to be together.

Au Revoir!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

On Rejection and Looking Forward

I was cleaning out my filing cabinet the other day.  A task I enjoy so much that I space each occurance out by about five years.  So, I am going through these files for my freelance business that I began back in 2004.  This is also when I started trying in earnest to get published.  When I graduated in 2005 (um, no, I was not 21), I was given a copy of Writer's Market as a gift. I scoured the pages, highlighting and dog-earing any publications for which I thought I might like to write.

And then I started writing and sending query letters.  I really wished I'd saved the letters, but oh well.  What I did save were all the rejection letters.  I learned early on (from Stephen King's "On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft") that rejection letters were not a bad thing, that every writer receives them, that they are really just a sign that you're doing your job, getting your work out there, trying.  So, I created a special file folder which I labeled "Rejections" in big read letters. And that is where they have resided all these years.  I pulled them out the other night and was shocked at how many I'd received.  Wow! Look at all the publications I'd sent to! I was actually proud of my younger, greener self.

From my seat on the floor of my office, I looked up at the credenza above my writing desk where I keep a copy of all my published articles.  The Chicken Soup books and various magazines now number more than a dozen.

Ten years ago, I only dreamed of having a dozen or more publications under my belt, my bio listed in various anthologies and publications both regional and national.  And now, years later, here they are.

As I continued going through files, I came across one from my Webster University days filled with short stories I'd written for creative writing classes. Those protagonists I created are just lying in wait to be given new opportunities, new challenges, new life.

When was the last time you took the time to look back over the last 10 years or so to see what you've accomplished?  My guess is you've come a long way, baby.  We all fall into ruts now and then. Face rejection. Have trouble finding inspiration.  If you haven't yet, take a few minutes today to remind yourself of all you've accomplished, the goals you've reached, the ones you're working towards. Then get back to working on them.  They're not going anywhere, and the days, months and years are going to pass whether you go for it or not.

Give yourself the opportunity to look back 10 years from now and be proud of all you've accomplished!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

You Just Never Know

Yesterday, I was driving to the hospital with my middle son (Jack), who was scheduled to have knee surgery. While his knee is in a large brace, turns and bumps in the road are still painful, so I was very careful as I turned into the gas station. Checking my rear-view mirror as I did so, I saw the young driver behind me.  To say that he was not happy with the speed at which I turned into the lot is an understatement. This young man was making all kinds of hand gestures, yelling, basically full of road rage. Normally, I laugh this idiotic behavior off, but this time it got me thinking...

You just never know what people are going through at any given moment.

That older man you just passed on the highway doing 55 in the fast lane? Maybe he just found out his wife has Cancer.

The young couple in front of you taking the turns so slowly? Maybe they're on their way home from the hospital, their newborn baby cradled in the back seat.

The woman speeding down the highway like a fool? Maybe she's racing against the clock to say goodbye to her father.

But I digress.  Yesterday, Jack had surgery.  He had a complete knee dislocation, and 30% of his kneecap had broken off in the process.  This was Jack's first surgery (and hopefully his last). I've been in the waiting room at St. John's many times, though. His older brother has had six surgeries, his first when he was just five...

I remember when the nurse called me back to the post-op room - where the patients wake up after surgery. They only allow one parent in that room... I don't even think I gave his dad a chance.  I got back to my little boy, who was just starting to open his eyes.  I held his hand, and ran my hand through his hair, telling him everything was okay, mama was here. Suddenly, he opened his eyes. "Mama? Mama! I need the nurse!" I tried to calm him but he was insistent that he needed to see the nurse right away.  I ran to get her.  She reached his bedside and leaned close to find out what was wrong. When he saw her there he reached for her hand, and started to cry. "Thank you.  Thank you so much for taking care of me."
That was all he needed to say.
The nurse and I cried with him.

But I digress.  This was Jack's turn. And when they called me back, I headed to the post-op room to hold my boy's hand.  When I got there, he was in a great deal of pain, in a fog from the anesthesia, and couldn't feel his leg at all because they'd put in a nerve block. "They cut off my leg!" he screamed.  It took a few minutes - and several doses of morphine - for the nurse and I to calm him.  But when we did, and that medicine took hold, Jack was in typical form. In fact, the nurse loved him so much, she called the other nurses over for a laugh. The two that rolled his bed up to his hospital room were in stitches and told him they wished they could hang with him all afternoon.  He shook hands with everyone who entered his room, cracked jokes, sang songs and generally made everyone else feel good.

Speaking of Nurses... These people are angels. Really, they are.  If you are a nurse, know or love a nurse, or happen to need a nurse sometime in the future, please remember that these people devout their entire career to taking care of people who are miserable, in pain, unhappy, don't want to be there, can't sleep, are crabby, and generally not too pleasant to be around.  I've spent the night in the hospital with my boys a total of 7 times now. And believe me, it's work. There are constant requests for drinks, urinals, food, scratching of itches, and pain medication. There are countless complaints, many tears, some frustration and general crabbiness.  At one point today, trying desperately to help Jack into a wheelchair I just burst into tears. I simply had enough. I was beaten down, exhausted, stressed and ready to go home.

Nurses take care of perfect strangers. I watched half a dozen of them work with my son, and not one of them was anything less than helpful, kind, and caring.  Props to all of them.

But back to that young man in the car behind me on the way to the hospital yesterday morning. He really got to me. I mean, ask any mom.  Mess with me, okay - I can deal with that.  But you f*&k with my kid? We've got a problem.  Maybe I need to take my own earlier advice and realize that teenage boy might have been going through his own turmoil.  Nah. My guess is that he was just a kid - selfish, as teenagers can be.

But someday, that teenage boy is going to be a husband, driving his very pregnant wife to the hospital. He's going to be a daddy, racing his own teenage boy to the emergency room. He's going to be a grandfather, driving a little slower, a lifetime of living and worry slowing him down just a bit.

Until then, I'll do my best to remember...
You just never know what someone else might be going through.

Author's Note: Jack is home from the hospital and doing well. He's got a long road ahead of him... Four weeks in a locked leg brace, and then the pins in his knee will have to be removed. But he's in good spirits and glad to have the worst of it behind him. Thanks to everyone for your calls, texts, prayers, and kind thoughts!