So Much Rain

I wonder if I should be building an Ark instead of writing a blog. We sure have had a LOT of rain today and tonight.

I had a doctor’s appointment this morning and it went pretty well. My blood pressure was good. I’m doing a good job with my blood sugar. So I guess I’ll keep doing it!

This afternoon Lucy and I went to Aldi to stock up on chai party supplies. I was glad to have her help. Since then I’ve been anxiously checking the weather in hopes that the rain will be gone by tomorrow evening.

It’s been a rather miserable, warm and muggy day. I wouldn’t mind so much if I didn’t know that this is just the first of countless miserable warm and muggy days!

Antibiotics and Allergies

Since Isaac spent the night last night, I sent Jasper, Isaac, Lucy and Spencer on a walk to the donut shop to get their breakfast this morning. Now that the donut shop has finally opened up, I have a feeling it is going to have some regular customers among my offspring. Both Lucy and Spencer got free donuts today to thank them for their patronage!

I spent part of the morning trying to get a new prescription for Lucy without having to go in for another appointment. When her course of antibiotics ran out, her symptoms began to return. I did manage to get them to prescribe a stronger antibiotic, but when we went to get it, the pharmacy had not received the prescription. So that necessitated more phone conversation and another trip to the drugstore to pick up the much more expensive antibiotic. I hope this one works!

Isaac went home shortly before lunch, so Jasper was able to still get some schoolwork done in the afternoon before we had to leave for the bee meeting. The speaker at the meeting was the man who has offered to give Jasper some new bees. Right during the meeting, he asked Jasper if he had brought his hive box. We had no idea we were supposed to bring it, so we jumped up and drove home, got the box, and then walked back into the meeting! Jasper should have a new hive of bees in about a week. Meanwhile his buddy Sam, our neighbor, got his first hive this evening. Soon the two of them will be busy with their bees.

I have been struggling today because I’ve had to drive around a bit and since Walter hasn’t had a chance to look at the Toyota yet, I’ve been driving the Suburban, which means no air conditioning and driving with the windows down. So it turns out I’m really allergic to something that was in the air today . . . I’ve had to take allergy meds twice and I am still miserable.

A Doozy of a Day

I had high hopes for today. I had no reason to believe it wasn’t going to be a pretty good day. It started with my husband waking up sick. My husband doesn’t do sickness by degrees. He is either functional or incapacitated. He was supposed to teach a seminar this morning so he got up and got dressed, but after almost passing out while drinking his tea, he agreed that he needed to cancel the meeting and go to bed.

Meanwhile, I had to take Lucy up to her final art class. I wasn’t able to do my normal Aldi shopping because Lucy and I had planned to go out to lunch to celebrate finishing her co-op class. So I ran a couple of other errands and then went to pick up Lucy. Her first choice of restaurant was closed, so she picked another one. We had a nice lunch, but when we went back out to the car and I backed out of the parking space, there was a horrific scraping sound.

I had only driven a few feet before I realized that the car felt and sounded “funny.” Another car was coming in the opposite direction and the driver stared at the front of our car. Fortunately, we were still in the parking area of a large shopping center, so I just pulled into another parking spot and we got out and looked at the car.

Yikes. The car appeared to be made of cheap cardboard. The plastic thingy that hangs down below the bumper was hanging almost to the pavement. Apparently I had parked too close to the parking bumper, and it had ripped out the plastic thingy when I backed out. This was very upsetting because I have tried to be so careful with this car. I have never driven a car with such low clearance before. With the van and the suburban, you could pull up to a parking bumper until the tires bumped into it. In fact you almost had to so as to avoid sticking out too far into the parking lot. With this little car, you have to avoid touching the bumper at all. I thought I had avoided it, until I backed out!

Well, we couldn’t drive home with the thing hanging down like that, so we walked across the parking lot to Target and bought a roll of duct tape. The only duct tape they had was very inferior. Then Lucy got down on the ground and went to work. After she did the first bit, she realized she needed to jack up one side of the car a little bit. We had to empty the trunk out so she could get at the jack. I didn’t even know that we had a jack!

She not only knew where it was; she knew how to use it. So I took my chair and sat under a tree in the shade and let her have at it. I was so proud of her. She got everything taped into place and got the car down off the jack and put everything back in the trunk.

4-27-16 Lucy by car

My hero!

We made it home safely and then a few minutes later, when we headed out to pick up Jasper’s friend Isaac, we took the Suburban. *sigh* It was a hot day, and we were already sweaty!

Isaac is here to spend the night with Jasper because Jasper had a birthday this week. He doesn’t get a party but he gets to invite one friend over for the night, and he chose Isaac because he sees him so rarely these days. I think they have been having fun.

I spent the afternoon preparing and then sending submissions to the two agents I had appointments with in Fort Worth this past weekend. Agent number three requested a different project and that will take a few days to get ready.

We picked up some pizza for supper and then when I checked my email I already had a rejection from one of the agents. Four hours turnaround time! It is less disappointing than you might think though. First of all, I was surprised she expressed interest at all. I didn’t think it would be her cup of tea, and it wasn’t. Secondly, when a rejection is almost instantaneous like that, you don’t really have time to get your hopes up. My reaction was more along the lines of, “Whew! I don’t have to worry about that one anymore!”

So instead of wallowing in self pity, I practiced my autoharp, which I have sorely missed the last couple of weeks. And by the way, my husband perked up and was able to struggle through his evening job today.

Parting Shot:

4-27-16 Lucy's hands

Lucy’s hands after taping the car together.

A Breakfast in Bed, a Talk, and a Meeting

Last night I was so tired and so unable to focus on what I needed to do that I went to bed early. I didn’t think I’d be able to sleep, but I was. Thank goodness. This morning I had to hit the ground running.

My first job was to make Jasper’s breakfast in bed. He didn’t get it yesterday on his birthday because I hadn’t gone grocery shopping yet. He loved his breakfast!

Then I had to finish getting all my visual aids organized for my talk this morning. I normally put a lot more time into preparing for a speech, but the last few weeks have been absolutely insane, and then I had kind of forgotten what my talk was supposed to be about until yesterday when I got an email reminder about it. So I was trying to still hang on to my plan and also cover the topic of time management.

I ate breakfast before leaving because I knew it was unlikely that the breakfast there would be something I could eat (and I was right). I was speaking at a local MOPS group (Mothers Of PreSchoolers). I wish I could tell you that I did a good job despite all my misgivings, but it wouldn’t be true. The activities before my talk went longer than expected, so I had to cut short what I wanted to say and I ended up leaving a lot of stuff out. I’m sure it sounded very disjointed. I felt that I totally fell flat on everything I said about time management because I left so much stuff out and my notes didn’t help me remember some of the things I wanted to say!

The general tips for staying sane as a mother of preschoolers went a little better, I thought. I passed out pipe cleaners and bubble solution and I think that part wasn’t as bad as the first part. I sure was glad when it was over and I could go home, though.

I took a long nap this afternoon. I decided I’ve been so tired lately that maybe I need to just try and get some rest!

Then it was time to go to my critique group meeting, followed by the regular writers’ group meeting. Our speaker was Steve Hemphill, who has spoken to us and inspired us before. Once again I found myself challenged and inspired, this time by the power of God’s word. I have a lot to think about!

About Sunday

Okay, so the worst of the crazy is over for this week and I will attempt to catch up, going all the way back to Sunday, which was my second day at the conference. I got up extra early on Sunday because I had realized I had a dilemma. The conference went until 5:00 on Sunday afternoon. Checkout time at the hotel was at 11:00. This meant I had to check out before I left for the day’s classes, but in the meantime, what would I do about my luggage? I was very worried about it, especially since I had my electric cooler which was keeping my insulin chilled.

I packed up all my stuff and then called the front desk to explain my problem. The lady there told me that the bell staff had a room where they would store my luggage free of charge until I called for it. Phew! She transferred me to a bellman and I explained my problem with the cooler. I said it could function as a normal cooler if we could put ice in it. He assured me they would be happy to plug it in once they had it in their storage room. So, problem solved! A bellman was at my door almost instantaneously and everything was beautifully taken care of.

I crossed the street to the conference with a load off my mind. The morning’s classes were excellent, and I did a lot better at staying alert even though I hadn’t slept that well the night before. That’s the weird thing about my life these days. There is rarely a provable correlation between how “rested” I am and how exhausted I am. I just have these days of overpowering exhaustion and there is no obvious reason. It may be a side effect of some of my medication.

We had another excellent lunch with gluten-free food clearly labeled. That makes everything so much easier for someone like me! After lunch I made a beeline for the lobby and sank into one of the deep armchairs. This being my 12th conference, I have learned something about myself, and that something is that I need to take a break on the second day. By lunchtime on the second day my brain is full to overflowing and I need to give it a rest. The class period right after lunch didn’t have any classes that I felt I simply must attend, so I sat in the red chair, put my feet up on the ottoman, and took my Sunday afternoon nap right there in public.

After that I was rested and able to enjoy my afternoon classes. One of them was on self-promotion for introverts. Boy, did I need that one! I decided to skip the final session as I really wanted to get home before dark. First, though, I made a pass through the vendors’ area. Now I’ll be honest and say that up until this point I had all but ignored the vendors. I didn’t want to spend a bunch of money, and some of the vendors were selling stuff that I found mystifying at a writers’ conference. Bed linens, for instance. I did get an adorable handmade book ornament. But for the most part, the vendors were more or less invisible to me.

Then, during lunch on Sunday, one of the organizers encouraged everyone to check out one particular stall—two teenaged boys who were trying to sell their artwork. I admit, I was curious. What kind of artwork? What kind of teenage boys think of having at booth at a writers’ conference? By the time I finished my last class and was headed out the door, most of the vendors had already packed up, but I found the two boys manning their booth to the bitter end.

The 17 year old boy was a glass artist, and was selling blown glass vases and other receptacles. His work was stunning, my friends. The 18 year old boy was a ceramic artist, and was selling handmade cups, vases, bowls, and bottles. All were beautiful. I am such a sucker for handmade pottery. So anyway, I stopped to admire their stuff and to tell them how gorgeous it was, and I bought this lovely little vase/bottle.

4-24-16 vase

I admired them so much for making these lovely things and then going out to try and sell them. I asked them, “Have you ever thought about selling your things at Renaissance faires?” They both just gaped at me before saying, “No! But that’s a really great idea!” Ideas are my stock in trade. They were so tickled. One of them said, “That’s the only good idea we’ve heard all day. We’ve heard lots of really dumb ones though.” Those guys were great. I hope they get into some renfaires and make a killing, because they deserve to.

Before going back to the hotel, I wandered through the Fort Worth Water Gardens for a few minutes.

4-24-16 water garden a

These lovely gardens are right next to the convention center.

4-24-16 Water garden pool

I’m not sure I’d enjoy them much in the middle of summer, but on a warm April day they were enchanting!

4-24-16 water garden cypress trees

Look at the vivid green of those new cypress leaves!

Then it was back across the street to my hotel:

4-24-16 hotel

And sure enough, my cooler had been kept plugged in and the valet got my car and everything was fine. I headed for home, taking a much more direct route than the one I’d taken on the way there, and stopping for supper on the way. Boy was it good to get home!

Another Birthday

First off, today is someone’s birthday! Yes, Jasper is 15! Last night I hugged a 14-year-old son for the last time in my life. We plan to have a family celebration of some kind when we have more family here for graduation. Meanwhile, he got to try out the new donut place for breakfast this morning, go for a bike ride, and then go swimming this afternoon. He had a pretty good day.

Meanwhile, I know you’re expecting a full report, but I am beyond exhausted and today was my only day to prepare for a talk I am giving to a bunch of young mothers tomorrow.  Suffice it to say that I made it home safely yesterday and am still feeling a little “peopled out.”

There is a Fountain

There Is a Fountain Filled With Blood

William Cowper

There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.
Lose all their guilty stains, lose all their guilty stains;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.

The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day;
And there have I, though vile as he, washed all my sins away.
Washed all my sins away, washed all my sins away;
And there have I, though vile as he, washed all my sins away.

Dear dying Lamb, Thy precious blood shall never lose its power
Till all the ransomed church of God be saved, to sin no more.
Be saved, to sin no more, be saved, to sin no more;
Till all the ransomed church of God be saved, to sin no more.

E’er since, by faith, I saw the stream Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme, and shall be till I die.
And shall be till I die, and shall be till I die;
Redeeming love has been my theme, and shall be till I die.

Then in a nobler, sweeter song, I’ll sing Thy power to save,
When this poor lisping, stammering tongue lies silent in the grave.
Lies silent in the grave, lies silent in the grave;
When this poor lisping, stammering tongue lies silent in the grave.

Lord, I believe Thou hast prepared, unworthy though I be,
For me a blood bought free reward, a golden harp for me!
’Tis strung and tuned for endless years, and formed by power divine,
To sound in God the Father’s ears no other name but Thine.

What a Day I Had!

You know what bugs me about this fancy hotel? There is no comfy chair to sit in. There are two lovely queen sized beds, so presumably the room was designed to accommodate two people. Yet there is only one chair–a desk chair. No comfy chair in which to sit and knit and contemplate the meaning of life. I feel like they could have afforded to put a chair in here. I would really love to put my feet up and be comfortable while writing about today.

So anyway . . . after the second almost-sleepless night in a row, I started the day off at a distinct disadvantage. I had a very strong cup of tea with my protein bar breakfast, but it didn’t seem to make much of a dent in my exhaustion. The convention center is literally right across a narrow street from the hotel entrance, so I got there about 7:40, which was good because the check-in line wasn’t all that long yet. I don’t remember it taking so long last time!

I had to walk out in the middle of the first keynote address because my first appointment was at 9:00. Yes, I was nervous! When we were let into the room, I looked for the table labeled with my agent’s name, and I eventually found it, but I was very puzzled because there was a man sitting there with a computer, and the agent is a woman! Turns out she was unable to come at the last minute, so she was conducting her interviews over Skype. It was unexpected, but it actually went really well. I pitched one book and she asked for a full manuscript, so I told her about another book I’m working on and I felt like we hit it off pretty well.

I was much less hopeful about my second appointment at 10:00. That agent had been much farther down my list and I wasn’t sure she even represented the kind of stuff I like. But you know what? She loved my story idea and asked for a query letter, synopsis, and first five pages. So surprising!

One thing that both agents mentioned was how efficient and succinct I was in telling them what my book is about. Ha! I’ve had plenty of practice . . .

After the second interview I went back into a class and tried to pay attention, but I could. Not. Stay. Awake. I took one of those little “5 hour energy” shots and it perked me up until about halfway through the next class. I was so embarrassed about my drowsiness that I finally left the class and sank down in a chair in the lobby and dozed off until lunchtime. I felt guilty about it, but I was out of strategies for staying awake.

Lunch was a pleasant surprise. Instead of the boxed sandwich lunches that we had last year, we got two kinds of salad, roasted veggies, roasted chicken, meatloaf, rolls and desserts. I was so tickled. I could eat both of the salads and the chicken so I didn’t have to eat more protein bars! I sat with two interesting ladies and we had a great conversation that mostly centered on New Orleans, the Civil War, and World War II.

During the lunch hour, we had another keynote address followed by the infamous Gong Show. It is both entertaining and instructive.

The first class after lunch was really excellent, but by the end of it I was fading again so I gulped down my second energy shot. It did not help. I fell asleep in the next class and then sneaked out in shame. My falling asleep had nothing to do with the quality of the class. It had everything to do with the quality of my sleep for the last two nights!

This left me in a quandary over the last session. I had signed up to participate in an interactive session titled “So Close and Yet So Far.” In it, I would have a chance to present my work to a panel of agents, editors and writers and ask for their help in determining why I haven’t made a sale yet. Yikes! I was afraid of two things. First, that I’d end up sounding like a complete idiot, and second, that I’d fall asleep in front of everybody. I wanted so badly to just sneak out and go back to the hotel, but I did sign up for it and I felt obligated to follow through.

I hung back and let everyone else go first. They were all a lot younger than me. One was an adorable young lady who has written a picture book about axolotls! I was interested in that since Flynn has a pet axolotl. Then it was my turn and there was nowhere to hide so I had to stand up and talk about my book. Not the one I pitched this morning–a different one, that I’ve been reworking the beginning of. One of the people observing the class was Isabella, a lady I met at the seminar last month. Bless her heart, she all but cheered me on audibly all the way through!

The panel members were very encouraging. They said to resubmit it ASAP to the editor who rejected it, but asked me to resubmit it if I fixed the issues she had pointed out. The axolotl girl popped up and offered to read the first 50 pages tonight and give me some feedback! I was so tickled! Then, as the class ended and I was getting the girl’s email, one of the agents walked up to me, handed me his card, and said, “I want to read your book.” Just like that. I want to read your book.

I almost burst into tears. It was so unexpected. I had not even considered pitching to that agent because I didn’t think he was interested in the kind of stuff I write.

This morning when I walked across the street, I was really hoping that I’d get a request from that first agent—and I did. I honestly did not dream that I’d get two more agent requests today, and that one of them would be completely unsolicited.

So, when I finally got back to my hotel room, do you think I was able to rest? Nope. I was too jazzed about that final request and I finally sat down and ponied up for the hotel wi-fi so I could sent the 50 pages to Lauren, the girl who offered to read them. I ate the chicken salad I’d brought from home and drank another strong cup of tea. Then I changed into my “nice” dress and walked back across the street for the cocktail party/reception. This was something I skipped last year but I felt I should make the effort to be there this year. (They do sell water and soft drinks too.)

I ended up talking for a long time and sitting with Stephanie, the other acquaintance I made at the seminar I attended last month. I was so proud of myself for actually socializing. Then when I was waiting in line to get a drink, I was next to a social worker who writes sci-fi and motivational books! He was fascinating to talk to and I enjoyed hearing a little about his life. Once we were all in the ballroom, they had two of the attendees get up and read some of their poems. Wow. Powerful stuff. Not the kind of poetry I write or gravitate toward, but as I said, very powerful and well done.

So there you have it. In my mind, today was a win. Successful interviews and some actual human interaction. Tomorrow I can just relax and enjoy the classes. No pressure. Nothing to dread except the long drive home.




Day 1 of My Luxury Exile

I hate going to a writers’ conference unprepared, and there really is no hope that I could be prepared at this time of year, what with wrapping up my classes for the school year and looking forward to two graduations, a road trip, a wedding, and teaching summer classes! Last year, when this conference was held in July, it worked a lot better for me. Having it now also means that Walter could not get away from work to come with me.

So anyway, I spent the morning frantically preparing to drive to Fort Worth. I had to pack and run errands and get my hair done by my in-house hair professional. I had hoped to leave by 1:00 in order to beat the worst of rush hour traffic, but alas I did not get away until 2:15, which meant that I got to enjoy the full rush hour experience.

Fort Worth is farther away from us than Dallas. Nigel, my lying troll of a GPS, said it would take 3 hours. Following his explicit instructions, it actually took 4 hours and 15 minutes to reach my hotel. Once I got here, I was faced with a conundrum. My choices were an expensive “self park” garage at some distance from the hotel, or even more expensive valet parking. Given that I had just a little too much stuff to carry by myself, I resigned myself to valet parking.

That’s when I realized just how out of my league this place is. It’s one of those hotels where they don’t allow you to do anything for yourself. Instead they insist on being paid to do it all for you. I asked for a cart for my luggage (I have my electric cooler with me because insulin). They happily provided one, but I was not allowed to touch it. An attendant loaded my stuff onto the cart, and sniffed disapprovingly when I tried to help. Then we walked into the lobby and he parked the cart and stood guard over it while I went to get my key (I had checked in online).

As soon as I had my key card in hand, a bell man swooped in and took the cart from the other guy and then guided me to my room on the sixth floor. He set my suitcase on the stand for me and unloaded the other items. I knew I had to tip him. I have no idea if my tip was appropriate because I almost never move in these rarified circles. Apparently I can feel free to call on him if I need help at any time. Ha!

I was so glad I had bought a salad at Buc-ee’s when I stopped to put gas in the car on the way here. By the time I got to my room, I did not want to go out again, let alone get my car from the valet parking or worse yet, pay the sky high prices in one of the hotel restaurants.

I know what you’re thinking. Why didn’t I just stay somewhere cheaper, somewhere that might actually have free breakfast and free wi-fi? Well, because this is the official conference hotel and it’s right across the street from the convention center where the conference will be held. I have learned from experience that it is really worth it to stay in the designated hotel. For one thing, you get a huge discount, which is how I can even be here at all. And usually, it is either hosting the event or is right next to it, which means that you don’t have to navigate downtown in a big city. Plus, of course, everybody else will be there too, which means you might actually meet some new friends if you are brave enough to leave your room!

But meanwhile, I’m in this classy joint worried that they’ll find a way to charge me for breathing the air here . . .

Now to practice my pitch a few hundred times before trying to sleep. You’ll be reading all of this after I get home, because I’m too cheap to pay $15 a day for wi-fi . . .

Edit: You’re reading it just a day late because the events of the day made it worth my while to pay for the hotel wi-fi . . .

A Birthday and the End of an Era

Arabella 1

Today is my sweet daughter Mary’s birthday. She is 25! The child who couldn’t allow me out of her sight as a toddler is now a fiercely independent and competent woman of whom I am so very proud. We can’t be with her on her special day, but she and her husband will be here in a couple of weeks and we will celebrate then. Boy, will we celebrate! Two graduations and two birthdays!

Today was our last geography class. I tacked on an extra hour because we had to cancel class last week and I knew the girls would need extra review time before taking the final test.  Haley made a vegetarian stew from the Solomon Islands, Chandler made some Puerto Rican stew and pastries, and we provided rice, lamingtons, and birdseed bars. We watched a video about Tahiti and Samoa which made us all want to hop on a plane to Tahiti. I also showed the girls a slideshow I’d put together of sunsets in 229 countries, all of which we have learned at least a little about. I thought they’d think it was cool, but I think they actually found it rather boring . . .

It was a pleasant afternoon. Even though the girls had to study and review, there was a lot of laughter as they did it. It was a bittersweet moment for me. Every year I have students who come and students who go. Sometimes, though, I have a student who stays in my classes for years, and when those students graduate, I definitely feel a sense of loss.

4-21-16 Geography girls

This year, of course, is Lucy’s senior year and I have been teaching her since kindergarten! My other two geography girls are seniors too. I have been teaching Haley for the last four years, and I have also taught Chandler a couple of times in the past, so this year is harder than most because of the history we have together. Next year will be completely different!

I always give my geography students a souvenir or memento as a reward for surviving my class. Since I had all girls this year, I gave them matching bracelets with a world map printed on them. I am going to miss those girls. They, meanwhile, are planning a graduation trip together that I think is going to be a wonderful experience for them.

Parting Shot:

4-21-16 Geography girls 2

I love the shots they aren’t expecting.