Wednesday, May 26, 2010


You've got to find your balance, the lyrics say.
Lyrics which I am hungrily listening to right now. Trying to glean strength from, trying to somehow absorb, like so many UV rays from the sun into my skin.
Except not the kind that cause cancer.
You've got to find your balance/You've got to realize/You've got to try and find what's right before your eyes/
Finger 11 had it right. There's a lot to be said for balance.

5 pm brings with it the end of one work day and the beginning of another.
I come home tired and already feeling frustrated. I just wanted to relax a little bit, even for only a few minutes. But no. I get confronted, instead, by an angry mob of people, unhappy with my bun selection (of all things) for tonights meal- cheeseburgers (I mean, honestly, I didn't think I could really go wrong with that one). Kaiser buns as opposed to Wonder Buns. Well, how was I to know that one seeminly inconsequential decision like that could lead to a major uproar?
"Mom, we hate these buns!" Gage yelled, holding the offending bun as though it were a weapon of mass destruction of some sort, aimed at my head and poised to strike.
"You know we hate these buns!" Payton chimed in, almost on the verge of tears, as though, quite possibly, this was the worst thing that could have ever happened to her. Ever.
Honestly, in that moment in time I wanted to take the buns and cram them down the kids' little throats, imploring them "Eat the frigging buns I gave you". Truly, I could envision this. The crumbs falling from their mouths, spilling across their cheeks, mixing with the tears that would be rolling down. The sputtering.
Eventually, they would learn to appreciate that a bun is a bun.
But, alas, I decided to go for a little walk, opting to skip my cheeseburger dinner and also the scene I saw unfolding, which would quite possibly end with a 'domestic disturbance' call to the po po.

Anyways, I decided, after much walking and some thinking, that what I need is some balance.
Sometimes the pressures of working full time combined with parenting three kids just brings me to a boiling point. I mean, it just seems to be so relentless. From the moment I wake up to the moment I go to bed, there are these little mini fires to put out.
A phone call from day care "Payton's not doing very good..." (she's on antibiotics now, after shadowing me at work for about two and a half hours yesterday).
Alex just put the toilet paper roll in the toilet.
("Well how did he... oh, never mind.")
The dog just knocked over the garbage can and now she's eating a container of sweet and sour sauce. ("Well how did she... oh, never mind".)
My baseball pants have grass stains on the knees and my game is in half an hour.
You have to sign this permission slip (as said permission slip is thrust under my nose while I'm driving to school) ("Well what is it for? Actually, nevermind, I'll just sign it. I trust the school board isn't taking you to a radioactive isotope display. And if they are, well. We'll worry about that later.)
Alex took a number two and tried to take his diaper off.
The dog ran away and she's across the street and she's barking at a little kid and the little kid's crying.
Alex just dumped his milk into his spaghetti ("Soup!" Alex proudly proclaims.)
And once: I think the dogs having a seizure ("no she's just coughing... oh, shit, maybe not." )
And so on and so forth.
Sometimes I feel like just letting the fire rage, or even a little like adding fuel to it, just to let the chaos reign as it so clearly wants to.
I mean, isn't that what they say? If you can't be part of the solution just be part of the problem?
I think it's something like that.
You have to find your balance.
You have to realize.
And my balance is this:
One part working: one part family: one part chocolate: four parts booze.
Anyways, that is all for today.
I should be going.
To drink.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Query Wars

I have spent a lot of time lately on the internet looking at sites about querying agencies in the States. It is tiring and exhausting and at times, very confusing. For example, one agent advises that the word count should never go in the first sentence of your query, as it is boring information and you should begin with the 'meat' of your query. If interested, the agent can then go on to read about the word count and such. Makes sense.

But then another agent on another web site suggests that the word count should always go in the first sentence, as if it is not an appropriate word count then there is very little point in reading anything at all.
Also makes sense.
So what is a person to do?
Especially in light of the fact that the writer who proofed my query (harshly, I might add) suggested that I do not include the word count at all as it is not important information unless the agent is interested, at which point the details could be discussed.
Anyways. I have been including it in the first sentence.
Sometimes I find this process rather overwhelming.
But then I remind myself not to sweat the small stuff. I mean, honestly- would say, Stephen King, for example, not be a writer today because he had included the word count in the former rather than the latter portion of his query letter? Would he be somewhere else right now, say working in an oil rig somewhere or something, because of a minor detail like that?
Of course not.
Writers write.
And eventually, they do get published.
Anyways. The querying continues at a slightly slower pace for now. I was pretty enthused after my first response was a positive one. I had, at that point, a 100% success rate at querying.
But with one more email my stats dropped to 50%. And now, two more emails later, I am sitting at 25%.
Kinda but not really.

My husband said to me that night that I got my first positive response (okay, only positive response--at least so far ), Debbie Downer that he is, "try not to get too excited." And I was like "I have to get excited now, this may be my only chance to get excited." Which he didn't really understand but I was like "well imagine (finger quotes) you were a geeky guy in high school who didn't get many chances with girls and every girl you ever tried to hook up with slapped you across the face. Well imagine once, that you didn't get slapped across face. For once in your life, you didn't feel that cold sting of rejection. And maybe you only made it to first base, but still, that would be like the high light of year senior year.
That's how getting a partial request is for me.
It's not a book deal.
It's not an offer of representation.
It's not even a full request.
But still. It's not a straight out slap across the face.
And as one writer wrote one query tracker: "all we really want is for someone to read the dang thing"
And that, perhaps, says it best.
Anyways, here are my stats to date:
Days of querying: 18
Queries sent: 16
Positive responses: 1
Negative responses: 3
Responses pending: 12
Anyways, I am going to go to sleep now. Have a good night.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Sleepless in Seattle

The title is probably misleading, I realize. I am not sleepless and this is not Seattle. But I thought it could work, because at some point, I probably will be sleepless. And as far as the Seattle thing, well, it had a better ring than Saskatoon. Just deal.
Anyways. It is nine pm and I am beginning to wind down for the night, although I anticipate a light sleep tonight at best. The reason: my dearly beloved husband is away. Every year he goes away for two days to participate in "Rusty Swingers" which is, I believe, a golf tournament and not a swinging convention for older, balding men.
Or at least, that's what I've been told.
And every year I spend two days with little to no sleep.
Why this should be the case, I have no idea.
When he is home, he snores like a chainsaw. I complain that I cannot fall asleep. I kick him in the shins from time to time to make my point very clear (not very hard, mind you, so bear that in mind. I mean, I don't leave bruises or anything. He's not battered.) Sometimes I take my pillow and blanky and stalk off to the couch, with a few choice words for him on my way out. Sometimes he takes his pillow and blanky and stalks off to the couch after being kicked one too many times. Baby.

And yet.
When he's not here the absence of snoring is the loudest noise ever. I just can't fall asleep. I hear the clock tick. I hear various noises coming from outside, which I perceive to be thugs doing their thugging: what that entails, I don't know, at least not exactly. But I have a pretty good idea vis a vis CSI Miami. Drug deals. Stabbing. Rape. Rape that includes stabbing: aggravated assault.
I look out the window.
I sit back down, not wanting to make a target of myself in the window for the thugs.
I sleep with the phone beside me.
The thugs. I know they're out there and further, I have reason to believe that they may or may not have been casing the house out for long enough to know that my husband is out of town. And there I am, ripe for the picking. Alone and defenseless. A thuggist dream rape victim. Because, of course, the mother of three with a sloppy half bun/half pony tail driving a 94 mini van is exaclty what they're all after.
Well, I'm not defenseless, I tell myself. I have a nail file beside the bed which I glance at furtively from time to time, making sure it's still there. I'll use it if I have to. I'll use it and I'll F them up. Of course, I'm not exaclty sure how I'll do that, but I do recall (vaguely) watching an episode of Oprah about how you could use objects from your purse as weapons. I'll aim for the eye, I tell myself.
I should just take up an affair, I think to myself.
The problem with an affair is that I don't know any men, and the ones that I do know are mostly related to me. I mean, good guys. But still. Relatives nonetheless.
Although, just this very morning a very good looking young doc asked me on a date.
Well. I'm paraphrasing a little.
I think his exact wording was that he asked me for the date, as he was filling out a lab requisition for me. But still, it's very similar. Virtually the same thing.
Anyways, I'm not kidding about the fact that there is a good looking doctor at work. He's young and blond and rather dreamy. Perhaps most importantly, he isn't inclined towards snake skin, pointy toed shoes which I am, apparently, averse to (see "Vaguely Uneasy" for elucidation on that point). So when he first started out, I spent some time chatting him up. About three sentences in he said "Oh, and did I tell you? I 'm getting married this summer!"
That was pretty much the end of my chatting him up. I was like "Yes, well, I see you're pretty much set up here, so I should just let you be."
Anyways, whatever. What do I care? I'm already married.
Such as it is sometimes.
But I should be going right now.
Have a good night.
Hopefully I will as well.
Thugs willing.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Pap Test Dummy

An unusual work day today.
Which really says a lot because as an inner city health nurse, every day is unusual in some manner or another.
But today was our first day working out of our new building. Our new building which, as we discovered upon arriving at work today, is still a construction zone. But still we attempted to move in and set up shop, harried though it was.
At some point, the contractors were asking me to point out where the overhead pap test lighting needed to be installed in the exam rooms.
I blinked.
I looked around.
I really wasn't sure how I had become the Pap test lighting expert, and I didn't feel exactly comfortable with it, having never performed a Pap test before. So I had a quick consultation with someone who had. I pulled a doctor into the room with me. "Where should this go?" I asked, light in hand.
Oh, I don't know.
We hemmed and hawed.
It's so hard to know until you actually have to do it, is the thing, the doctor said. She looked at me.
Next thing I knew I was up on the bed, my feet in stirrups. She was shining the light this way and that, trying to decide which angle was better for... well.
You can imagine what for.
Contractors were in and out of the room.
"Don't ask," we both said.
Anyways, the things were installed in what I hope was an appropriate position.
Shortly after that someone else approached me.
"Do you have your vehicle here?" she asked, looking panicked almost.
"Yes," I replied, hesitantly, thinking, OMG- is it being towed away or something??
"The movers need to go back to the other building for another load of stuff. Could you just pull your vehicle in behind them as they pull away so that the spot will be there when they come back?"
It sounded simple.
And still I was nervous about it.
"Will I get a ticket?" I asked.
"No," she assured me.
"Will I have to parallel park?" I asked.
"Probably not,"she said with a shrug. "If you do the movers will help you," she assured me after I hesitated for a minute.
"O-K" I replied tentatively, hoping that by 'help you' she was implying 'get in your vehicle and physically park it themselves." Because that was pretty much what it was going to take.
So, thinking I had covered all the major snafu scenarios, I pulled out of the parking lot and into the street behind the building.
Heavy traffic, I thought, nosing in between two cars.
Slow traffic, I thought, as the traffic, bumper to bumper, crept slowly forward. I tried to pull out of the queu and get ahead of it somehow. The people looked at me with such disgusted stares that I though better of it and stayed in place.
And then I noticed that there was actually a hearse at the beginning of the line, holding things up. And that all the cars had the blinkers on.
I realized, with a sinking feeling, that I had landed myself in the middle of a funeral procession.
Finally I arrived at the builing and happily pulled into the spot (no parallel parking necessary- at least one good thing).
Apparently, I had failed to ask the all important third question: is the church across the street conducting a funeral that's just letting out??

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mothers Day

Happy mothers day to all the mothers out there.
This years mothers day for me was, once again, a total wash. Last night Geoff went out shopping after work, his obligatory trip to Wal Mart.
"I'm going to buy a Barbecue," he told me.
"For mothers day?" I asked, but as it turns out, he had wanted to Barbecue supper and, apparently, needs a new Barbecue in order to do so.
So he returned with a giant stainless steel barbecue for himself, two paperback novels for me, which look totally gruesome at quick glance ("The Killing Room" and "The Blood Game" Yikes. Do I sense some underlying hostility here??), a pair of Tinkerbell pyjamas bearing the caption "If I'm pouting DO SOMETHING!!" and a goofy card. Literally. A Goofy card with some dumb cartoony poem.

Today I was shopping for Mothers Day cards and came across one that had a beautiful picture of a newborn infant being cradled in the loving arms his mother. The card read "I still remember the first time you held our child in your arms. I never thought I could love you more than I did in that moment. But I do."
I wanted that card. I was tempted to actually buy that card and sign Geoffs name on it and give it to myself. I mean, why, for the love of God WHY?? Why did it always have to be some over sized card with cartoon characters? I've complained to him before about it, and he always says in his defense that he lets the kids pick the cards out.
That's why, for him, I let the kids pick a card from them and I pick a card from myself.
This, apparently, had never occurred to him.
So anyways, he spent the entire night last night putting together his Barbecue, during which time I kept the kids sequestered in the house, because if there's one thing I know about Geoff it's that you do not, NOT, disturb him when he's got a hammer in his hand, or any kind of tool for that matter.
He was off to work already when I woke this morning with the kids. An hour later or so he called to say Happy Mothers Day. Thanks,I said, sweeping the floor. Oh and by the way, he said, could you run out and pick up some steaks for dinner tonight? And maybe some garlic bread?
No problem, I said.
So there I was, shopping for steaks for my own dinner, with three kids in tow. Payton was crying because she wanted in the cart. Alex was crying because he wanted out of the cart. Gage was demanding that he needed a new video game. And some triple A batteries for his Ipod, which he still had plugged into his ears. Intermittently, he would sing the lyrics to some song called "Bedrock." Lyrics which sounded terrible, and I might add, inappropriate for a twelve year old.
I plucked the ear piece from his ear, for which he refused to speak to me for several aisles.
And then I hurry home to marinate the steaks. Which was fine.

"I just need your help carrying the Barbecue out of the garage and up to the deck" Geoff tells me when he gets home from work. So then there I was, lugging a barbecue up a flight of stairs.
And then he makes a big production of throwing a freaking piece of meat on the Barbecue, flipping it over once, while I'm in the house making the potatoes and the salad and the garlic toast and the corn on the cob.
And he made me dinner??
How does that make any sense??
But I suppose I should be thankful.
At least it wasn't another ham scented candle??
Well, happy mothers day, anyways.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The verdict is in

And so you are probably saying, what verdict? I didn't realize we were waiting for a verdict.
Because it all happened so long ago-- I sent away my manuscript out into the world, with a very little postage stamp and a very big dream.
Actually, the postage stamp wasn't so very little. It was pretty big, one of those computer generated bar code dealies. Expensive, too. Cost me about thirty dollars.
But anyways, today I checked my emails and saw a message from Hilary McMahon.
My heart rate sped up. Here it is. The moment I've been waiting for. The moment of truth.

I skimmed through the email quickly, but the words that jumped out at me initially were "with abject horror" and I thought YIKES, this is bad- I mean,honestly, of all the things you DON"T want to read in a rejection letter, the term 'abject horror' has to be up there at the top, along with the phrase "the only good use for this book would be as a sedative". But upon further reading I realized she wasn't talking about my writing, she was saying 'with abject horror I realized that your manuscript was still sitting in a pile in a corner of my office." and then I thought "well that's better" but then I read the next sentence... "I didn't quite fall in love with the characters" and from there on it was citing a difficult market, which truly I understand, as the reason for not wanting to pursue this project. She didn't use the word difficult. I don't want to misquote her (the omnipresent libel threat). She used the term "risk averse".
So, I was disappointed to hear that. But. Life goes on. And as I said to her in my response (I thought it was only right and kind to respond) writing is its own reward and as such I will continue on.
She did suggest that I should try to query some of the agents in the States, which is useful advice as they have many more agents there that deal with womens fiction, and many more, larger, publishing companies to sell them to. And honestly, it hadn't occured to me to try the States. I mean, would they really sign me? I'm just a small town girl, living in a lonely world. Took the midnight train going anywhere.
Wait. Those are song lyrics.
Anyways, I will try that. Onward and upward. I have little faith in it, but still, it doesn't hurt. I always like the feeling of sending out a fresh new query letter. The hope is so high then. It's kind of like playing query letter roulette.

Anyways, something went awry when I sen her my reply. I was proofreading it and somehow inadvertenly pressed the 'send' button and then BLAMMO it was sent. I looked frantically for an 'unsend' button, but apparently there isn't one. I was pretty much done the message anyways except that I didn't write "Kind regards," at the bottom with my name underneath it. Probably she can live without that?? I mean, hopefully she knows who the message is from?? But then when I looked at it again I realized with dismay that in the sentence "Thank you for your response", the 'response' had no 'e'. It just said 'respons' Hopefully at quick glance she will not notice?? Maybe it doesn't sound like a very big deal, but it is VERY bad form to spell something wrong when corresponding with a literary agent.
Good thing she's already rejected me.
She's probably thinking the same thing.
Anyways. Maybe that was my subconsciouses (what's the possessive form of 'subconscious' miss Editor in Chief, hmmm, answer me THAT) way of sticking it to her. It's like "Missy, you just messed with the wrong mother fucker. I'm not even gonna spell check this shit before I send it to you."
Put that in your pipe and smoke it.
Well, I should be going to bed now.
Wait, what am I talking about?
It's nine oh six.
Maybe I am suffering from a major depressive reaction.
Maybe I am just tired.
Have a good night.

Banking Roulette

I have a strategy for paying my bills and it's called, basically, banking roulette. I just write a bunch of checks to various people and agencies, and then hope that they all clear. In the meantime, I check the computer compulsively to see what is going on, sitting, on times, at the edge of my seat. It's just like the plot in a B rate thriller. Things are going along and going along and then BAMMO someone cashes a random check for some random insurance fee when you don't expect it and then that sets off a wave of panic. Like dominoes,the other checks that are in the cue hang in the balance, wobbling precariously on the edge.
Today was a particularly scary day.
We have to pay our daycare fees on the first of the month, so on the first of every month I dutifully hand over my check, just as any responsible parent would. What they don't know is that, secretly, I have grave doubts about the validity of said check.
It's not that I don't have the money.
It's just that I don't usually have it for very long.
There's basically about a fifteen minute window period for check cashing. After that it all becomes very iffy.
So still, they haven't cashed the check for daycare fees, I noted when I logged onto Scotioonline this morning. That might have been all well and good.
Except for the fact that SGI ended up budding in and taking their auto payment early.
Shit fuck shit fuck I was thinking to myself.
Geoff gets paid tonight at midnight, but if they cash that check before midnight that check might bounce, and how humiliated, HUMILIATED I would be, especially given the fact that I sit on the board of directors for the daycare.
So I phoned Geoff all in a panic "Our bank account is in maximum overdrive" I tell him, to which he replies not with panic or surprise or even confusion but only a sigh and a "OH well, what can you do? Whatever happens happpens and we'll just have to deal."
But of course, translation: I'll just have to deal, because I didn't anticipate him being the one to be called into a meeting with the daycare director to discuss the NSF fees.
But anyways, I just checked the bank account situation and it's all good. The check didn't get cashed today, and we will live to see another day. It feels pretty good to get away with it.
I can sort of see why people would like to play real roultette. Not the game where you spin a wheel, but like the one with the gun to your head.
Well, except for the whole gun to your head thing.
That's pretty unpleasant.
Anyways, one would think that I might have some pride and not want to share this story, but I tell this story to people because I don't think that people realize that daycare is a financial hardship for most families. If you're low income you can qualify for subsidies. If you're high income, you would just have nannies. But for those of us in the middle, it's pretty tight sometimes.
Anyways, that is all for now.