Thursday, February 26, 2009

Short Delay . . .

I couldn't decide whether to label this post a 'short delay' or a 'minor setback.' In actuality it was neither - but I thought people probably wouldn't want to read about an almost MAJOR DISASTER. (And nope, it wasn't QUITE that bad either.)

Not long ago, I won a slot to pitch one of my children's books to an online publisher. Okay, so I totally bombed the interview. But, all was not lost. The gracious editors told me to submit the book - the whole thing -- when I felt it was "ready."

So--I got it out and did some revisions. Took it slowly and added some tweaks and perks and a few other minor things. Reread the book once, twice, three times. Thankfully, it was only 25,000 words. Short is good when you have to read it three times.

The third time I noticed something peculiar. Very, very odd. The manuscript for reasons of its own had shifted into a different font than I usually used. How it happened is anyone's guess. Frankly, I wouldn't hazard even an opinion considering my ability to do unspeakable things to electronic things just by looking their way.

So, I left the manuscrift in the weird font until I judged it "ready" to send. I changed the whole manuscript back into Times New Roman and then THINGS HAPPENED.

All of the quotation marks VANISHED. And they didn't just disappear, they changed into giant AAAAAAAA's. EVERY SINGLE QUOTATION mark. As if that wasn't bad enough, all the apostrophe's changed into equal signs. ALL OF THEM. Okay, I'm calm. I can deal with it. Sure, easy to fix.

So--the apostrophe's were easy. I did the find/replace feature and all the equal signs vanished. So then I tried the same thing with the giant A. Do you know what happens when you try to replace a giant A with a quotation mark? All the giant A's vanish. All the small a's vanish. You get quotation marks--lots and lots and lots of quotation marks in the WRONG places - like the middle of words. I never quite realized just how many a's you can have in 25,000 words.

Okay, so it wasn't going to be so easy to send this manuscript off. I worked three hours one day replacing quotes line by line. Didn't finish. On Wednesday, I virtuously took the laptop the the library to FINISH the thing, or else. So what happens? SOMEONE ELSE IS IN MY HIDDEN CUBBY!!! GRRRRRRRRR.....

Happily, I noticed a study desk and a PLUG right underneath. So now I have a second place to plug in - even if it is right out in the middle of the room. I sat down and kept at it for two and a half very long hours. Until I'd read through the manuscript a fourth time and replaced all the giant A's. In reading it that time, I realized just how many sentences I begin with A's. This time through, I changed a lot of 'as,' 'after,' and 'and' with stronger words.

So--it's off. They may like it. They may not. I feel relief for following through on an opportunity.

And now---it's time for the Daphne and the Genesis contest entries. Also time to write more unit studies for Gryphon House's new book titles. This time it's Insect, Animals and Ways to Save the Earth.

Feel like I'm slowly, slowly coming out of the backlog of everything.
Eventually, I will get everything done.

Tonight I'm feeling better for getting the VERY LAST of the Christmas presents done - um, for last year. Had planned to make my niece's Heather and Jenny each a framed scrapbook collage to celebrate a 2008 event. Jenny made the National Honor Society and Heather graduated from high school. My slowness was the result of having lost the program from Heather's graduation. But, tonight I finished assembling and wrapping them. Will have Jenny take them home when she comes on Friday night.

Also managed to put together some copies of my published stories in a scrapbook to take to school tomorrow. Some of the girls in my Fiber Arts class keep asking, "What do you write?" Now, I can show them.

Now if I could just finish those dirty darn doll clothes!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Baby steps and a crash . . .

When I was growing up, the standard time to begin a new journal was January 1st. In fact, I can remember getting a new journal or diary for Christmas and waiting, breathless with anticipation, to write down everything that happened over the jam packed holidays. Usually, to my absolute disgust, when the 1st came, I was too worried about the fading days of vacation to give much thought to writing anything. School - that dreaded place - loomed in the distance and who wanted to waste precious FREE time with writing?
Now that I've gotten a bit smarter (well, there's still lots of room for improvement, I'm sure) I generally begin a new journal whenever I either a) fill up a notebook, b) get tired of the current notebook and never want to look at it again or c) decided I'm going to turn over a new leaf in my life and the pages of a current journal with disappointments or disasters is holding me back.
For the April issue of "Cookies and Milk," I decided to go with a Make Your Own Journal activity. (See photo above and yup, I made it myself.)
While I don't anticipate starting a new journal anytime soon - having gotten out of the habit since last fall - I did decide to turn over a new leaf. I'm starting with baby steps. Seems like with Carol's illness and passing, then my getting sick among other disasters, so much has piled up for me to do. While there's no way to do everything at once, I'm finding if I just whittle away one or two catch up details every few days, it doesn't seem too bad.
Today was really the first day I've felt like myself in a while. Caught a cold and it seemed to drag on and on. Then last Tuesday, I crash landed on my bedroom floor.
All the electricity in my bedroom (the house is very old and was rewrited a few years back) comes though one section of wall. I have a nice surge protector strip and plug everything in there. Sometimes I need extension cords, but most everything that has to plug is near that wall ---well, except for my lamp.
Since that wall is also home to built in bookcases, I have to pull the lamp about halfway into the room so that it is convenient to my reading chair. Since I'm not about to let Martha Stewart take photos of my bedroom for her magazine, it bothers me not a whit that I often have a lamp, sitting on my old fashioned school desk next to my reading chair and that the cord is like a mini-tightrope across the room. I've gotten well practiced at ducking under it to go into the alcove, or if the lamp is closer, stepping over the cord. Until Tuesday.
I had the laptop and lamp both plugged in. When I stepped OVER the lampcord, my feet got tangled up and the lamp and I both crashed to the floor. Instant darkness and the tinkly sound of glass - this was not good. I was winded, my kneecaps were huge sores and my arms were bruised in a dozen places. My first thought was the laptop! Had my tumble pulled the laptop off the desk????
Don't know if I ever prayed as hard as I did while crawling away from the glass from the broken lightbulb and back to the laptop cord. Ever so slowly, I followed the cord and it led to the laptop ---thankfully, still on the desk! Hopefully, I will learn to be more careful from now on and unplug the laptop instantly after using.
I suppose it would help if I didn't have three desks in my room. Um, yes, three. One is the old desk my parents bought for my first real bedroom in our first forever house. It's still in good shape, proving furniture was better built in them days, by gollee!! I also have a laptop desk - round - and low enough that I don't have to raisse my arms too high to use it. It wasn't too expensive at Wal-Mart, but the screws come loose at odd intervals and writing is often a tipsy event as it wiggles and twists. Then my third desk is a very old fashioned school desk of the wrought iron and wooden seat variety. It came from one of my old schools when they replaced all the desks with the separate tables and chairs. It's painted "Barn Door Green," one of my favorite colors with white accents. I use it as a table for my lamp, my current reading and "get to it now" stuff - as well as a handy beside my reading chair. My laptop can be found on any desk at various times. Suppose this means I need baby steps in better habits . :)
As I'm whittling down my "to do" list, I have the doll coats almost finished and am working on the little fleece pj's. My new sewing machine and I have finally gotten into a flow and it's much easier to use now. Still haven't explored all the 70 stitches - relying on 3 or 4 - but will eventually get there. Baby steps . . .

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Since I've spent so much time lately talking about Carol - off the blog mostly - I thought you all might like to see a picture of her in happier days. I'm thinking this is either her high school or college photo. She had long, brown hair that she wore in a ponytail. Her usual style of dress was bright and bold! Lots of psychedelic flowers and prints from the 70's.

Yesterday was Valentine's Day and I spent some time reflecting on last year. On Friday, I drove past the Loveland Post office and saw all the heart shaped signs posted out front. They do Valentine's Day big in the city of Love - selling sidewalk hearts with special greetings. I read that "Grandma loves Brittany and Chad," "Tom loves Shelia," and "Happy Valentine's Day Sugar from Ben!"
Because of the valentiney name, Loveland gets cards and letters from all over the world to postmark and send off. They have special "Valentine Ladies" who sit at tables in the lobby to postmark with a special Valentine only stamp.
I love Valentine's Day - in fact, I think it's my favorite holiday. Ever since I was a little girl, I've loved making valentines from those heart shaped doilies and glitter. Some years I got creative with other material and cross stitched or sewed a valentine greeting. About ten years ago, I bought some pink and red crepe paper fabric and made a batch of Valentine's for my family and some select friends. To my surprise, my friend, Kitty, made a scrapbook for me one year and sent the Valentine back with a line, "Remember this?" I loved it - a Valentine with a past.
Last year, I made some bookmarks for different friends and some of my nieces and nephews. For the first time, I stood in line at the Loveland post office and got the special postmark. It's free but they are so busy as the holiday nears you have to wait in sometimes long lines. I didn't mind. Even though I seldom get many Valentine's in return, I love sending them and would do it even if I never got another one myself.
So yesterday, I was reflecting that because of the recent stressful events in the family, I hadn't had time to do anything for Valentine's Day. Not even buy some of the little kid meal tickets from one of the local restaurants to give to my nieces and nephews. For the first time in a long time, I was reduced to ecard Valentines. It sure felt like a sad state of affairs - although as the recepient of some wonderful ecards myself - I enjoyed every sentiment!! So maybe the people who got mine didn't mind not having a homemade one this year.
As I was thinking about friends and friendship, counting up the many wonderful people in my life, I feel so blessed to have so many friends and so many close ones at that! Some of my friends I've had for a long, long time, others are more recent friends. During the past year, many of my friendships have become deeper and stronger - old and new friends have grown closer. Then sadly, some friendships have become distant and we aren't as close as we once were. I always dislike when that happens. Maybe I end up cherishing my friendships too much - maybe the fault lies in me for caring so much. But, I guess I should figure that as relationships grow and bloom, there are some that fade away for reasons unknown to me. Makes me sad to think about it --
Not long ago, I found a cute Valentine in my keepsake box. It had a sweet grey kitten poking at a heart and it had a kid type verse. Inside, some little girl had written -- You are my bestest friend, Judy. The only trouble was--I couldn't remember having a friend named, Judy! Yet, the card has my name on it and my teacher - so we were in the same class. And I liked her well enough to keep the card all these years since third grade. Makes me wonder - didn't she move, go to a different fourth grade, did we chose other friends, dislike one another on sight the next year or what??
Guess it proves a point - that friendship is a rare and precious gift. Maybe the true test of a lasting friendship is whether or not you remember the name on the Valentine card twenty years down the road!
Happy Valentine's Day - belated!

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Got tagged today on Erica's blog. The tag is to open the fifth folder of pictures on your computer and then open the fifth picture in the folder and post. So, here is mine. This is an old picture of my nephew, Drew, which was taken on Valentine's Day - in 2006, I think. He's playing with a red balloon and that's at my brother's house.

Today is a kind of disconnected day. Still no good news about my cousin, Carol. As most of you know all of January has been taken up (or most of it) with her being in the hospital. Because she told Mom and I that if she were ever unable to speak for herself, we should tell the doctors to do everything possible to keep her alive. We were all in agreement that getting food and water - even through Iv's or a feeding tube are not extra ordinary means to keep someone alive.

Every day has been a constant battle with the hospital. It's just too heartbreaking to go into details. All I can say is - have a good, binding power of attorney or a living will and make your feelings known. Then the best thing you can do is stay well and out of the hospital because most of them don't listen to your wishes anyway.

Carol is now in hospice but is alert. I'm hoping that she is able to speak and say - listen, I'm not ready to go yet.
With all the worry and stress, I haven't been able to get much of anything done this past month. Writing has been done in dibs and drabs - none of it very good. I barely managed to get my assignment done for the History magazine. No word yet.
Then today, I had an online pitch with a publisher. I had seven minutes and they gave me ten but I think I bumbled the whole interview. Didn't have enough time to come up with a decent 100 word pitch - although I wrote and rewrote several over the past week. I had a list of questions and answers ready. Was able to sound clear and knowledgeable on some of them. The pitch bombed I think. The editors had some questions I couldn't answer and some that I answered "wrong." One of the moderators later told me that I'd said a couple of things that showed my mindset was clearly not on the same page as the publisher and what type of manuscript they wanted.
Despite all that--they did tell me to go ahead and send the entire manuscript when I thought it was ready. It's finished but in light of what they said, I'd like to revise it again and add a few other elements to bring it more in line with their guidelines. So, I'm sure it's a good thing. I'm just too tired to think about the work involved right now.
We had another blast of wintery weather on Wednesday and NO SCHOOL. Tomorrow is our first day back in two weeks. I need to take Mom to visit Carol so will probably not make the Fiber Arts class.
Oh--forgot---I'm supposed to tag five people to open the fifth folder on their pc and post the fifth picture - so I tag ---