Tuesday, November 30, 2010

My life is an existential crisis.

My goal all along was to have a first draft completed by the end of November. I really thought it was achievable. I mean, it is achievable. I'm at the end of the last chapter. I've been writing all day, and, aside from my shift tonight, I can write most of the evening as well. Realistically, I could finish before midnight. And how cool would that be? To complete an entire first draft of a manuscript in thirty days! Who would have thought?

Except, I'm at the end and I have no idea how to finish the story. I know where I'm going with it, but I can't see the last scene. My poor Jess, her life is stalled. She's heartbroken and there's no relief. I can't make anything better for her. Worse, I can't even end it with a tidy resolution. This isn't any writer's block, it's more an existential crisis. Because there is no such thing as a tidy resolution. Oh sure, it's fiction. It can be whatever I want. But that's not true of life, and my purpose in writing is to explore and try to find meaning. Only lately I'm pretty sure there's no meaning to any of it.

What's the point of writing this book? Of finishing? Am I doing anything with it? Am I doing anything of value by spending all this time and energy working through a story that will likely never be read by anyone other than me? Seriously. Look at my house. It's a fucking mess. My poor kids are playing unsupervised upstairs while I type away and the laundry pile is a mile high. I'm not even sure what's clean and what's dirty.

You know, I really think life is a lot like laundry. You wash, you dry, you fold and put away. Then you wear something and it's dirty again. The pile grows, you repeat your cleaning process. Dirty, clean, dirty, clean and never ending. It's never resolved. It's really trying, you know?

I get bummed out at the idea of the happy ending. And I really hate those optimistic people who think things work out. It's a bunch of shit, honestly. And that's not me being a pessimist. I think about my parents. (There she goes again...) My mom used to have all these dreams about houses. She'd buy a house, then, upon moving in, would find all these rooms she hadn't seen before. It would thrill her because she couldn't wait to decorate them. If that's not a metaphor, I don't know what is. The only thing is, she got sick and died really young. And what did she get to decorate? She left everything unfinished- all her dreams, her kids, her relationships- nothing resolved. And my dad. He worked his whole life. All he wanted to do was retire and play golf. So he retired and found that he needed surgery. Then another one. And then arthritis left him in so much pain he couldn't walk the aisles of the grocery store, much less play golf. Then he freaking got cancer and died. Can you tell me how these things worked out? Because I totally don't see it.

There are a lot of times when I lose my will to keep trying. I'm not talking about suicide, so stop rolling your eyes. I just mean I've always thought there was purpose, that there was some goal, that there was a reason *I* was here, and have soldiered on with that light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe I'm wrong. Probably I'm wrong. And I hate how disheartening I feel realizing that. But maybe it's better not to expect anything. Maybe I'd be in a better place if I stopped thinking there was more and just accepted what is. Sigh.

Anyway, no one ever says they feel this way too, so I'm probably a depressed minority, but there it is. I wish I could say this rant made me feel better, but I'd be lying.

Listening to: Florence + The Machine "Hurricane Drunk" on repeat. Day 4.

xo. kb.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Books 2010

My fellow Virgo Patrick Alan had a blog post today that spoke to reading, of getting sucked up into a story and devouring it,and it got me thinking. You all know I write. Mostly because it's all I seem to talk about. And maybe that's why no one calls anymore. But anyway. I think more than I am a writer, I am a reader. Hard core. Ask my family. Give me a book and forget about talking to me until it's finished. Lucky for my kids, I can read a book in a couple hours so dinner may be slightly late, but it isn't take-out. I love stories so much, love the transport I feel when I forget there's a "me" and my perspective becomes the main character's, love the emotional roller coaster I ride when I live their adventure.

I thought I'd make a list of the books I've read this year. Because I love making lists. And because I'd like to see how many there are. Here goes:

Blake Nelson:
The New Rules Of High School
Rock Star Superstar
Prom Anonymous
Destroy All Cars
Paranoid Park
Laurie Halse Anderson:
Sarah Dessen:
Someone Like You
Keeping The Moon
This Lullaby
The Truth About Forever
Lock and Key
Just Listen
Along For The Ride
Suzanne Collins:
The Hunger Games
Catching Fire
Libba Bray:
A Great and Terrible Beauty
Rebel Angels
The Sweet Far Thing
Going Bovine
Melissa Marr:
Wicked Lovely
Ink Exchange
Radiant Shadows
Lauren Oliver:
Before I Fall
Gayle Forman:
If I Stay
Hannah Moskowitz:
Shaun David Hutchinson:
The Deathday Letter
Sean Ferrell:
Ann Brashares:
My Name Is Memory
Jonathan Franzen:
Kiersten White:
Charlotte Bronte:
Jane Eyre*
Frank Portman:
King Dork
Andromeda Klein
Nick Hornby:
About A Boy
How To Be Good
A Long Way Down
Juliet, Naked
Nicholas Sparks
The Last Song
The Choice
At First Sight
Kody Keplinger:
The Duff
Siobhan Vivian:
A Little Friendly Advice
Same Difference
Audry Niffenegger:
Her Fearful Symmetry
Terra Elan McAvoy:
Jennifer Weiner:
Good In Bed
Alice Sebold:
The Lovely Bones
Sarah Ockler:
Twenty Boy Summer
Stephanie Kuehnert:
Ballads Of Suburbia
Andy Greenwald:
Nothing Feels Good: Punk Rock, Teenagers, and Emo
Haven Kimmel:
The Solace of Leaving Early
The Used World
Jane Green:
Dune Road
Straight Talk
Second Chance
Mr. Maybe
Jemima J
The Other Woman
Helen Fielding:
Cause Celeb
Olivia Joules and the Overactive Imagination
Bill Cameron
Chasing Smoke
Jennifer Crusie
Welcome To Temptation
David Levithan
The Realm of Possibility
Jandy Nelson
The Sky Is Everywhere
Margaret Atwood
The Year of the Flood
Oryx and Crake

This is preliminary. I'm adding books as I remember them.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

I'll have the Tooth Sundae, please.

I love Thanksgiving. An entire holiday dedicated to family and food! What's not to love? Okay, so it helps that I love my family and we're all really good cooks. But still. Unlike many of the religious holidays which are exclusive, or even the Fourth which is a blast, and #2 holiday in my book, but really about celebration, Thanksgiving is intended for us to to gather and celebrate all the things we are grateful for. To reflect and meditate on the things we have, not the things we want. Awesome.

I was very excited to be going downstate to my aunt's house to celebrate. Sure, it's a three hour drive. Sure, I'd be making the return trip later in the day and therefore couldn't drink myself silly. No matter. I love my aunt and uncle, and my grandpa. My kids love them too. We are a small family and we are close. This was the first family holiday without my grandma. Grandpa is having a difficult time, which is to be expected- they were married for 70 years and were honestly *IN LOVE*. The kind that you read about that you think isn't actually true. You know what I mean. They had it. So he cries a lot. And I knew today would be hard for him. This is one reason I was so intent on going downstate, because I knew he would feel better having his family surrounding him.

We made it through dinner just fine, but after we'd pushed ourselves away from the table to make room for our stomachs, Grandpa busted out a CD he'd had made from an old audio recording. THANKSGIVING 1994. My aunt Sue, Grandpa, and I sat at the table to listen to the CD. On the CD (I keep wanting to say tape) was my Great Aunt Helen (Grandma's sister, whom we were very close with), Grandma, her best friend Jean, husband Bill, and daughter Carol, Aunt Sue, my little sister, my mom, and me. Aunt Helen, Mom, and Grandma are gone now, and just hearing their voices, so alive with stories and laughter, was as wonderful as it was sad. The three of us sat at the table and cried.

Then my oldest daughter (who is still going by GG, but it now stands for Gymnastics Girl due to her skills in bending and stretching), came over to the table. GG is a funny girl. An Aquarius, for those of you who might understand what that means. Anyway, she's off the beaten path at times, and had chosen at this moment to play restaurant with us. She came over to the table and presented us with her menu.

She took my order then Aunt Sue's. We were laughing hysterically. I told her to get Grandpa's order. He hadn't been paying attention to us- he was in the land of memory. GG went up to him, tapped him on the shoulder to get his attention, and handed him the menu. He looked at it and said, "I'll have Organs on the Bone, Brain Juice, and the Tooth Sundae." Then he handed her back the menu, with no reaction except a small smile creeping on his face.

It was the single greatest moment of the day, beating the first bite of my AMAZING dressing and that second glass of wine. It's also reason #9340293480940289475209 that I love my kids.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Listening to: Faith No More "Angel Dust"

xo. kb.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

It's not my fault- I'm a Virgo.

I posted some of my favorites on Twitter the other day. Not that anyone was particularly interested, more because I enjoy making lists. Here are some things I like to list: 1)favorite movies 2)favorite albums 3)favorite bands 4)favorite foods 5)favorite books.

Anyway, I listed my favorite book as GIRL by Blake Nelson. This is only mostly true. GIRL is my favorite book by someone other than myself (I love my books). Let me also stipulate that it is my favorite fictional book. My favorite non-fiction (though some of you naysayers might 'refudiate' that designation) is THE ONLY ASTROLOGY BOOK YOU'LL EVER NEED by Joanna Martine Woolfolk. She's right, you know. I'll never need another.

I got TOABYEN from my super fantastic and like-minded friend Babs (@babsmoran for those of you who enjoy following someone who never tweets and only posts cryptic messages or RFK quotes). Babs and I know this book like some people know the Bible and spend a great deal of our time analyzing our friends based on their astrological signs. I've used it to complete my personal birth chart and, in conjunction with WHAT YOUR BIRTHDAY REVEALS ABOUT YOU by Phyllis Vega, have analyzed and charted all my characters as well.

I've been given some crap about my obsession with astrology, and I think it's unwarranted. It's all very accurate. Let me explain. I am a Virgo, which means I am busy, both physically and mentally. I am intelligent, detail-oriented, and focused. But more specifically, I am a September 15th Virgo born at 5:19am CST in Chicago, which means so much more. Here is what I've learned about myself from charting my specifics:

I have a strong will and sense of self.
I am tenacious and resourceful.
I am independent, and strikingly original in speaking and writing.
I am an imaginative and stimulating parent.
I have a desire to achieve in life and will have good results in my career.
I am a leader in my circle.
I am a contemplative and insightful thinker.
I am emotional and sensitive, capable of giving true and selfless love.
I am solitary or reclusive.
I am unbelievably cute and 'extravagantly sensual'.

All true. Especially the last one, which I swear was in the book and not something I added myself. Anyway, there's a lot more to the chart, but they were all my negative characteristics and I didn't think you'd care about those.

So what does any of this have to do with anything? It doesn't. This is my blog and I like to talk about myself, so I did. However, to make this a worthwhile post for the rest of you, I am offering to do a complete birth chart for my 24th and 25th followers. Not because I'm a follower-hoarder, but because I want to be at 25. (It's divisible by 5. I prefer numbers that are divisible by 3 or 5, or the number 8 just because. Trust me, this is not weird at all.)

So followers 24 and 25, please comment below because I also prefer comments. I'll need to get some specific information from you, so we may have to exchange email addresses. Please don't let that frighten you. I for sure have no time for stalking while NaNo-ing.

Listening to: WHERE CURRENTS PULL playlist. If you've read it, you understand why it's the perfect choice.

xo. kb.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Accomplishing and Underachieving.

We are in Week 2 of NaNoWriMo and I've kept close to my goals so far. To hit 50K by the end of the month, you have to average 1667 words a day. I set a stretch goal for myself- 2000 words/day- so I could take off Thanksgiving, and give myself a cushion. I'm a little behind today- Kate goal was to have 14K written yesterday, and I had 12,616 because of stuff that needed to get done in the morning, a long work day, then my odd desire to sleep. So I'm going to need to haul today to get to 16K, but I think it's feasible, as long as I ignore MG and just write a lot of makeout and sex scenes, which seem to move me along faster. Just kidding. I mean about the sex part. I haven't gotten to that part of the story yet. I will ignore MG however. I'm teaching her independence. Kidding again.

It's weird for me, to write to a word count. Generally, my expectation is two pages, single-spaced. Or finishing a scene. I don't like to deal with numbers, because I feel they're intimidating. I don't want to think I haven't done anything significant just because I haven't churned out a certain amount. Achievement to me is about consistency and dedication. But I entered NaNo as a challenge to myself and so now I'm doing the numbers thing.

I follow a lot of writers on Twitter. I enjoy reading about their journeys because, although there may be a million writers out there, I don't know many personally- certainly none in my (tiny) circle of friends- and it can be very isolating to write. I'm locked in my head almost all of the time, and when I'm out with other people, I find it difficult to disassociate from what I'm working on at the time in order to make conversation. At least conversation that isn't my writing. Which, let's be honest, most people don't want to hear about. It's been great for me to hear that other writers share my struggles. On the flip side, it becomes isolating again when I see these writers having successes that I don't.

Many of the writers I follow are participating in NaNo and are killing word count. A few have already achieved 25K. They're tearing through their novels. Seeing their progress makes me feel discouraged. I'll admit it. Because there's no way I can write that fast. Really. I mean, sometimes I have a sprinter day, where I write a ton, but it's unusual. I know this about myself, which is why I set a SMART goal for myself in the first place. SMART, for those of you who don't know is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely. (Eve- you are not allowed to make fun of me, btw.) But even though I'm on target and not overwhelmed, I can't help but think I'm underachieving. Or am a lesser writer because I'm not super speedy.

I do this in other arenas as well. I run or workout every day. Every day. Because it's important for my body and spirit to have that release. I do the elliptical for 37 minutes (do not ask me why that specific time- I will never tell you) or run 2 miles. Any more than that and I get bored. Or tired. Or my lungs want to explode. I should feel glad that I accomplish what I do. And I do, until I hear about my runner friends participating in 5Ks or marathons, or even working out for an hour or more, and then I feel like a lazybone.

I know it's important not to compare yourself to other people. We're all different. Sure. True. But I'm pretty sure we all do anyway. We compare good and bad. Because even as I write that I allow myself to be discouraged by other peoples' successes, I also just told you my specific successes. And maybe you're impressed that I write 2000 words a day. Or run 2 miles. And maybe I'm proud of it too. Proud and embarrassed at once.

Listening to: Death Cab For Cutie- all of it.

xo. kb.

Monday, November 1, 2010

A departure for me.

NaNo began today. My personal writing goal is 2000 words a day, and to achieve that I'm doing two sessions- one in the morning and one at night after the kids are in bed. I've achieved my first 1K for the day and am about to embark on the next, but I need to get into the mood. So I'm doing something I don't normally do. It's been a terrible two days and I figured, Why the hey not? I'm posting my first page. You probably won't see me do this again. Chances are, I'll take this post down later after a bout of nerves. I'm not even linking it to any of my social media accounts, so if you chance upon this, consider yourself... well... consider yourself one of a very few. Here goes.


Some people hate Mondays. I've never been one of those people. That said, I hate mornings. Any morning. And this particular Monday morning was proving to be retched. I'd hardly slept, the baby up and crying every few hours. I'd been careful not to make too much noise and wake Adam, who needed to get up early for his flight. The flight was to New Orleans, where Adam's company was hosting a convention that was supposed to be more meetings than debauchery. He'd be gone for a full week, only to return Friday afternoon and leave again Sunday evening for three days in Dallas. I wasn't looking forward to all that time alone.
The alarm sounded, and though I was already awake, the noise of it startled me. I sat up in bed, turned the electronic chiming off, and rubbed my eyes. The house was early morning quiet, the soft pattering of water running in the bathroom and a sliver of light shining from under its door my only clue that anyone but me was up. I slid my legs over the side of the bed, slipped my feet into my slippers, and padded downstairs to get coffee. I rubbed my eyes as I walked. The kitchen was full of the roasted aroma. I inhaled it deeply and said a brief prayer of thanks to God for coffee and its magical properties, for Adam and his salary, which enabled us to buy a state-of-the-art programmable coffeemaker, and then for my own foresight to have set the machine up last night. It was not the kind of morning to have to wait for caffeine. I poured myself a cup, took a first sip, a second gulp, then made Adam a mug and brought both upstairs.
I nudged the bathroom door open with my hip and went in. Adam was still showering and the room was full of steam. I set both mugs on the counter and wiped a clear spot on the mirror.
“Morning,” I said. “I brought you some coffee.”
“Thanks, babe,” Adam called back cheerfully.
He's abnormally chipper in the morning. We are complete opposites in this respect.
I frowned, analyzed my reflection in the blurry glass, and frowned again. Even through the vapor I could see I looked tired. There was nearly an inch of outgrowth on my highlights, my blue eyes were flat and there were purple circles underneath. My tan was fading and my skin's golden tone was yellowing.
The water turned off. Adam stepped out from behind the glass and wrapped himself in a thick, beige towel. He meticulously dried his feet on the bath mat, then met me at the counter and gave me a kiss on the cheek. His face was soft and smelled slightly of eucalyptus. I turned to him and noticed a small patch of hair on his jawline.
“You missed a spot,” I said.
“Did I?” he asked, and felt for it.
“Let me help you with that,” I offered, and reached for the razor in its cup.
“It's okay. I've got it,” Adam assured.
He cleaned a spot on the mirror with his towel, wrapped it back around his waist, and found the patch. I put some toothpaste on my toothbrush and watched as he wet his shaving brush, swirled it in the soap and applied the lather to his face. The patch was no bigger than two, maybe three millimeters, but it didn't matter to Adam. Everything must be done in a certain way.
My teeth were brushed, my mouth rinsed by the time he'd finished. I raised an eyebrow and looked at him.
“You know you're ridiculous, don't you?”
“Laurel, the only way to do things is to do them right.”
His face was earnest, but a smile crept on it. He's fully aware of his idiosyncrasies. I smiled back. I'm aware of them as well, and some things cannot be helped.
“Yes, well, your coffee's getting cold.”
He took a sip.
“Not yet, babe. Lukewarm, just like I like it.”


xo. kb.