Sunday, July 31, 2011

a few highlights, low key

Pretty low key weekend, but we found a watermelon growing in the cukes.

 Toots had a haircut on Friday, but with the humidity, you would never know. Many women in the salon pleaded for a head of hair with her natural caramel highlights and those curls. Of course, they don't have to comb them out three times a day. I do, or dreadlocks.

 It was too hot to even blow bubbles, but we did.

 ""But I done wanna yook at you, Mommy. I'm busy here."

I walked Lucy, also known as The Goo, Goose, Goosie, Lucy Goose. We sat by the lake for a bit. It was cooler than it has been, a few clouds rolled in and spit on us today. I wouldn't exactly call it rain, but it made things about fifteen degrees cooler. Again, poor cellphone camera capture, but that lump on that branch on the tree across the inlet? That's a great blue heron. He was magnificent in person. I know, bad tease. I'll try to remember a better camera next time.

Mostly, this weekend was spent wandering in a big box store, watching a three year old who has been full of beans lately, and reading Sookie

I have come to the conclusion, that I like the books better than the show. The show mucks with perfectly good material way too much. They need to leave a good thing well enough alone. Although, I do love the show, too, but now that I'm well-ensconced in the books, I love it just a little less.

I'm really ready for the boys to come home.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

i won't come out til she's done

Social networks have a way of making you keep to your word, and mine this morning was:

assessed i have more chapters to edit than days to edit them to meet my personal deadline. must disappear into the depths of my public library. if i don't come out, come find me, battered and greasy and gnawing on that giant biography, portrait of diana.

So wish me luck! I'm loading up on protein and carbs right now to make a long session of it today. Signs all over the library read No Food or Drink Allowed. I hope surreptitious chocolate, hard candies and my bottle of water don't count. Ssssssshh...

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

distracted and frustrated

This post is kind of a way for me to work out hitting a wall in my manuscript. All I want is to finish it. In my heart, I still love it. But after so many edits, this edit is really a bore to do. In my house, two kids are gone for a month, including the most distracting one. In and around my house is a lot of neglected house stuff, largely due to my trying to focus on the manuscript.

When I try to write at home, even if I have my mother-in-law take the three year old out of the house for a couple of hours, invariably I putz around finding other things to do until, lo and behold, they return, and I haven’t even pulled the critiqued manuscripts out of my tote bag.  Like the day last week, when Toots decided waking up throwing up was the way to go that day rather than out of the house with Grandma. I sank her into the couch with Netflix streaming kid videos, and the next thing I knew, I found myself hacking branches in the yard in 100 degree heat, because that apparently was immensely preferable to actually finishing my novel.

And I had a good session on it the day before when I did my usual Tuesday routine of packing everything up and taking it to the library to edit. Okay, so the next day, off to the library I went, and knocked through two chapters in a fairly painless edit session.

As I write this, I look back over this very morning, noting that, yes, I had an early doctor appointment, from which I left a bit upset, mostly just burnt out on doing the specialist shuffle, so I gave myself permission to see another human being, I mean tea chat with a friend, and then another friend who is back in town visiting from far far away showed up, and finally I trotted myself off to the library. I couldn’t settle in as the place was teaming with people, and then the summer camps came tromping through in droves, so I turned right around, having never even opened the laptop.

Home again, Toots was getting a dose of the one program I don’t let her watch, which frustrated me, because I thought I was pretty clear about that to Grandma, but I didn’t make a stink about it. (Do we really need one more show for her to request immediately and often?) I preferred to focus and to attempt to write during and after lunch, Toots’s nap time, and when Grandma typically goes upstairs for a reading rest of her own.

Well, then I started getting ideas. My, isn’t it a lovely day out there, not a hundred degrees, now that we had a good thunderstorm last night. I know! I’ll go out to the picnic table around the side of the house that has a little privacy and an outlet! I got all set up and touched my black keyboard in the sun - youch! like a stove burner that has been left on.

Trot everything - drink, lunch, boiling laptop back inside, two trips - turn on the a/c in the office, and try to “white noise out” that Toots is not interested in napping at that time. Stare at my laptop screen and start typing this instead.

So what is my problem? Why am I having such difficulty with starting a single editing session? Any session for that matter? The excitement is inside me to Git ‘er Done!  Yet instead, here I am devising ways to rearrange the office so that I can work better, more comfortably, get more organized, etc. Frankly, I have rearranged the place a dozen times, and nothing seems to work, and that box of papers that grows and shrinks but never disappears is still in more or less the same spot - not in the file cabinet - it has sat for the past five years since we moved it to Virginia from Massachusetts. Don't ask me how many residences that thing has moved from or the decades involved, I implore you! It is my my little hoarder albatross. It's a smallish box, I swear.

I have little over a week before I retrieve the boys and my mayhem returns to its full tilt, after a camping trip with all the kids.  I have about twelve, albeit, short chapters to go, a bunch of query letters to write and send, and a writing group twiddling their thumbs to see this last draft before I send it out.

Maybe just putting it down where I can see it: twelve chapters in about as many days, is what I needed to do. I sure hope so. Once I get started, I’m good for at least a chapter a session, so now, I just need to do it. Hello five a.m. for the next week?   Any suggestions would be appreciated. 

Monday, July 25, 2011


I think my favorite thing about growing okra (besides frying it up and eating it) is these beautiful blooms. They bloom for one day, then the next you have the beginnings of a pod and within 48 hours, you have an edible delight. I tried my best to capture the deep buttery yellow petals and burgundy center. Temporal nature of beauty at its best. Tough to do the other day, even making some digital adjustment. I'll get one soon with a better than cellphone camera. Macro that baby up.

Tonight I'm frying up a batch with my grandmother's recipe (but I sub peanut oil for her bacon grease.). I can't wait.

Blurry Cucumber Babies

A Green Pepper

Yay Tomato!

But this is what I am most excited about. Right now that striped beauty is about the size of a large grape. Soon enough, it will grow to the size of , that's right, a watermelon! After the squash bugs decimated my beautiful bevy of squash, I was really worried they would get the cukes and watermelon, too. But both waited to fruit until after I got rid of the hordes of death. At least, I hope so while crossing fingers. 

I have also been picking quite a lot of beans and basil, two kinds. I think tomorrow night's dinner will be pesto. 

Friday, July 22, 2011

innovation by kids

We planned on the kids playing SlipnSlide.

 They waited pretty patiently for my friend to blow it up. In the oppressive heat, it eventually dawned on us to use the bike pump, but it didn't work so well.

Then we discovered, by the two older girls' turns that playing SlipnSlide the way it was intended could be very painful.

And that's where toddler and dog innovation came in.
And then the school aged girls figured out the physics of squeezing the tube on the side, making a sprinkler.
Pardon the Adirondack block. Come on now, it was hawt! Cut me some slack. I'd already done a bit of yard work and all I wanted to do was sleep right about when I took this shot.

Something else proved much more fun, as the toddler and preschooler initiated a new game.

I was just happy to be sitting in in the shady yard. Shady was nice, but I still melted into a my very own puddle.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


I'm at the library. I'm driving myself nuts.

I am working on a really tough chapter to edit, trying to condense and strengthen an important scene. It's a kickball game, a hovering bullying threat, a lot of misplaced emotions and misdirected kick in the head.

You would think it would be easier to write than this. I've rewritten it dozens of times already.

Summer camps have let loose their wards, about the same age as the characters I am editing, in the stacks. They wander in small gaggles and pairs, some individually. It's like they all know I am right here and each has to walk within a foot of my work area.

I nearly gave up and packed it in for home, then I realized most of the noise was in my own head. I am too distracted these days. It's a painful process to be editing this same chapter yet again. But I read it, and it only works about seventy-five percent. The idea comes across, but it's a little flat. Until the kick in the head. I really need to build the emotional pressure a bit more concisely so that when the kick happens, it explodes like a ripe tomato thrown at a wall. Figuratively speaking, of course. There will be no murders in this book. But there really needs to be spike of the pressure that has been building through the book up to this point. This kick is a minor pre-release to the main confrontational event. It is a nail in bike tire, not the whole crashing flat that comes later.

I am definitely having a moment of why am I still working on this, but it will pass. It kind of is now, as the summer campers appear to dissipate enough that I can hear the air conditioning working overtime against the heat.

Back to it, Cath, that's it.

But first, I want to share something I read before I left home today to edit. It's an inspiring account of personal endurance. Grab a cuppa your favorite beverage and settle in. It's a tad long, but it'll do wonders, I promise. It inspired me to stick with this manuscript, to stick out this editing session, to stick out writing.

And that's the least of the inspiration. This is big Life Stuff. Thank you, Max. Vineman 7.3 2011

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

walkin the dog

It's hot.
I walked the dog.

What's that?

Get in for a closer look, but not too close. Sorry, only had the cell phone, again.


Yesterday, on my fence, a lizard skittered. By the time I got the yes, cell phone, out of my pocket, he was replaced by this dragonfly.

And then I found these Kentucky Wonder Beans under the tangle of vines covering my posts. I found quite a bit more than those. I think I'll cook them tonight. If Toots hasn't eaten them all in refrigerator drive-by snacking.

Today, I spent a few hours at the library, editing another chapter and a half. I hope to make more good headway tomorrow. I am making good, if slow, progress. 

Kinda like walking the dog in muggy Virginia mid-July.

Monday, July 18, 2011

my other boys

I stayed up way too late last night.

The Red Sox went into a 0-0 16 inning game against Tampa Bay. My endurance gave out in the 15th, before Dustin Pedroia made the winning RBI and then Papelbon's and Gonzales's close.

But in the 11th inning, Josh Reddick made a thing of beauty catch against the wall and rolled, keeping it in his glove. That's just darned good baseball.

I've been watching Pedroia play since he was a pup. He still kind of looks like one beside his teammates, but no one in the game has played with more heart and fire than him in the past several years. If anyone was going to bring that endurance match home last night, it was my boy Pedroia. Ellsbury comes close, and now Reddick, too.

And you know what? That is why I love the Red Sox. These guys are highly fallible guys, prone to injury, because they put everything they have into the game. Each moment matters to them in a way you don't see with some of the other teams. The Red Sox players, individually and as a team, have more heart even than their deepest loving fans of any sport. I give my kudos to Terry Francona for keeping that kind of spirit alive in them from game to game. It's not just the skill, the talent and the know-how, the calculations and the play. It's the pure love of baseball.

I love these guys like they're my own.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

quiet & things

Back from camping, this week was mostly much needed downtime. 

My writing group had a lunch meeting after a hiatus period due to travels of each, and surgery of one. We had a logistics meeting discussing where we all were at the moment in writing, how we want the group to function, and dare we invite some new blood in after loosing two members to moves somewhat cross-country in the past year. We all agreed on new blood, some of us moaned about the current transitory state of publishing world, the other members all recently submitted works and are in that sea of rejections and non-responses. I ended up being the cheerleader to keep them all from quitting writing, and thankfully it worked. They are all too good to not be read out. 

One had to remind herself of why she writes besides trying to publish. I not so eloquently put it, "If I'm not writing, I am miserable to be around. Might as well shoot me it the head." And the rest, thankfully, recognized that in themselves.

Speaking of writing and rejections, I saw a bit of an interview last night in which the author of The Help claimed to have received 60 rejections over the course of three years. Now she's a best selling author with a highly anticipated film on its way to release. 

So there's always hope.

I had one good writing session this week. Polished up another chapter. I am hoping to get more in this week, especially while the boys are out of state with their father. I really want to knock this revision out and get it in the same state as my writing group compatriots. Although, if I feel as hopeless as they did before my cheer session, maybe not. Who am I kidding? I want to get the book out of my hands and into the public. And I have other starts and ideas to work on.

It's quiet. Too quiet. I find it disorienting, though it is what I loved most about my pre-motherhood. I really loved just curling up with a book because I felt like it and no one interrupted me for anything darn thing. Or just going outside for a walk to clear my head. Not that it needed much clearing then. And writing for endless hours because my head had empty rooms to wander around in.

Now I want to be interrupted. Curses.

I miss the boys. I miss my grown up talks with my really perceptive teen. I miss Captain Comic yelling and stomping through the house because I am ruining his life or crushing his dreams because I won't buy him a real movie camera. Hm, just Googled, looks like that would run me about $67K, used. I would sooner replace Big Bertha, my rusty year 2000 minivan, and the fence. Or maybe try to put in that second master suite to the house.  Or sock it away toward the kids' college educations, half of one of them anyway. I miss how he always makes me laugh.

Other than that, I have been battling weeds and squash bugs, a Normandy style invasion of which destroyed my beautiful squash plants, again. And Toots and I have been having fun with each other and with friends. 

So this Saturday is an extra quiet one, and I almost - note almost - feel a smidge ho-hum. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

harpers ferry wv, final round

Friday night's excitement was mostly roasting marshmallows. 

Toots was very sticky.

We had more showers overnight then I took Lucy for a dawn walk to the dog park at the KOA. I wish these pictures showed the misty gold dawn better than they do.

Sunlit mist over a golden meadow, Civil War battlefield, through the trees that bordered the dog park.

 A couple of hours later, after KOA's free pancake breakfast, we embarked on the day's adventures, mostly in an attempt to find Thomas Jefferson Rock, an Appalachian Trail site I've been curious about seeing since I was a kid. 

But first we found Bolivar battlefield, Robert E. Lee's first battle foray into Northern territory. It was the first of a many of the bloodiest battles of the whole Civil War. Antietam is in the vicinity, but our focus this trip was more on the natural beauty of the area than the Civil War. As terrible a history as this rolling hill has, it is beautiful. 


At Bolivar, we finally got a good set of directions to Jefferson Rock from a bus tour guide.

Remember the stone stair case in my prior post? This is a pretty accurate example of what all of the stairs look like. I swear I felt I was stepping in thousands of people's footsteps over centuries. 

We were hot and feeling that stair case when we reached the church. And then we discovered that was only about a quarter or less of the trip up to Jefferson Rock.

Across the street and up the bend of the mountain side a bit was the ruins of the old Episcopal Church. I guess the Catholics lasted a bit better in Lower Town.

Another third or so the way up we caught sight of the famous rock. This smidge of the trail was paved rather than the old stone stairs.

We made it.

"This scene is worth a voyage across the Atlantic" - Thomas Jefferson

And you know what? Thomas Jefferson was right. The vistas were stunning, even if the rock itself looked like a toy version of what I had imagined from pictures I'd seen of it since I was a kid. It was definitely worth the hour plus climb up a winding steep stone staircase worn down from a couple of centuries' worth of visitors.

Down was harder on my ankle, especially while holding the leash of a little dog who wanted to go with the momentum gravity tried to give her.

Episcopal Ruins
Here's what to see along that lower road way above. What angles up in front of the ruins along the wall is more of a little foot path that has been paved for tourists.
People live among the historical tourist places from the Civil War Museum to the Black History Museum, Lewis & Clark Museum, John Brown, etc, etc. Historical figures from George Washington to W.E.B. Dubois have set foot and established major US historical events here. 

We had lunch and more ice cream then headed back to KOA for the afternoon. Toots wanted to bounce and a while later Honey took her to the pool while I stayed at camp with Lucy.

Toot and this kid giggled and giggled when Honey bounced them. 

Close to dinner, Toots was tired, it was a big day.
 Camping is serious business.
 "Aah, I can't do this." She wanted to help me build the campfire.

I am amazed at what kids find to do when there is apparently nothing to occupy their minds. Toots made a game of holding a specific rock between the bottoms of her feet.
A college friend I had not seen in twenty odd years lives near Harpers Ferry in Maryland, and she stopped by camp bearing fresh grown veggies and loads of fun conversation about things long ago and what's going on now. Great to see her.

Later in the evening, Toots was positively melting into her little blue seat by the campfire. She had asked me before what my favorite part of camping was, and I reminded her of it as I answered her again, that this, sitting by the campfire under the stars is my favorite part of camping. I asked her what her favorite part was. "Camping." She said with finality. I eeked out of her that that meant sleeping in the tent in sleeping bags with Mommy and Daddy and Lucy.

Toots also had tons of fun with kids around the campground. These two were our neighbors in a popup trailer. Toots loved running around, especially with the girl who is not quite a year younger than her, and taller.
 This rock was a major part of their play, situated between our camps. No, Toots is not dead below. She is "westing on da wock."

We had many adventures and loads of fun. Some of it was ambitious, but mostly we relaxed and enjoyed being us together in nature and away from home and the TV and all other screens. Even though there was a promise of wifi access, it was spotty at best. We were better for the inconvenience regardless. It was the most refreshing thing to my spirit I have done in a long long time, though, three days later, I am still exhausted, but it's the best kind of exhausted, similar to postpartum euphoria. I am elated, though I've been through a very hard physical task, in heat and storms, and little sleep on the ground. I loved it all.

We're doing it again near the Natural Bridge area of Virginia next month with the boys. Life is good. Bring natural bug spray.

Monday, July 11, 2011

harpers ferry wv

Adventures in family fun Thursday through Friday:

First we drove the boys to the parental switch drop off with their dad in Wilmington DE. It's always mixed feelings, goodbyes to the boys for a solid month, a quiet month, a month without their squabbles or their laughs and hugs.  Then we headed to Harpers Ferry, WV and so did a storm. Here's its approach as well as ours.

We managed to set up camp, cook eat and clean up dinner before the rain came.
"We're camping!!!" 
The potty seat was only used once. 
She got the hang of a big toilet in the KOA restrooms.

Honey being a man, sparking the grill. Lucy wonders what is going on.

 Friday morning:

Appalachian Trail, Virginius Island, Lower Town, Ice Cream, Train & Rivers 

Virginius Island Ruins, The old Pulp Factory.
Before Toots decided she didn't want to walk anymore.

She got tired, then scared Honey would drop her into the canal which was quite a drop behind that rock. 

And then everyone just wanted Mommy. It made me happy, then my hips got mad.

Tired Toots.

Loads of amazing old stone work

Then we stopped and picnicked on the little Island that had an old habit of being flooded really badly. Last flood resulted in complete ruins and permanent evacuation of residence and business in 1936. 

The gnats were quite fond of Honey everywhere we went.

More incredible stonework.

Then we 'hiked' back to the van and drove into Lower Town. Just prior to the shot below, we met a young man covered in sweat and tattoos. He had footed the Appalachian Trail to where we crossed back over the bridge above. He had been alone on foot since Georgia. He was doing the whole trail. When I was younger, it was among my ambitions, so I let him know what an incredible thing he was doing. 

In Lower Town we found the most delicious (and bluest) ice cream I have had in over a decade. I love Mom & Pop places. They take great pride in their product. This is at Scoops, if you are ever in Lower Town, Harpers Ferry National Park. 

Thank goodness that blue matched Toots's blue flowers on that white shirt. 
It didn't look as messy as it was.

Honey got the orange sherbet.

I rhapsodized about this black raspberry. The last time I had black raspberry so full and rich in berry creamy goodness was in Maine, in the mid-90s. The boys' father's family had a cottage on Lake Pemaquid, and there was an ice cream place on the way into Damariscotta with black raspberry of the gods.

 Here we are at the confluence of the Shenandoah River into the Potomac. Lewis & Clark supplied themselves and headed west from here into a new world, as far as the European Americans were concerned. I found the historical note "They bought tomahawks and other supplies" amusing.

 A nice family offered to take our picture all together after I took the one above. 
I took theirs in exchange. 

Row row row your boat.

More stone work.

An ancient sign carved into the side of the mountain where the rivers came together
 I need new glasses, couldn't make it out except 'powder' at the bottom.

John Brown's Slave Revolt didn't work out so well in 1859. But I bet it served to plant the seeds of hope and fight into the slaves for what followed. This little building of his has a long and odd history because of its association with him. He was hanged nearby, too.

 Click to zoom and read about this little fort moving all over the place over a century.
Toots rang the bell inside.

This place is so full of nineteenth century history I can't even write about all of it here, even the railroad to west. They still run regular freight trains through the mountain of Maryland Heights. (look at the map above)

Sorry it's blurry, I ran to snap the train coming out of the tunnel.

Beyond that brick building is a stone staircase that goes up to the Catholic church on the mountainside. Little did we know how far past that church it continued up the mountain or how prominently it would figure in our lives the next day.

Toots sitting on stonework. This whole town is hewn from and built up the mountain. 

There are houses built up above that train car restaurant.

Looking down the other direction into the main part of town.

 Zoom in for a good look at the stonework. This is the next street up the hill from the main one. 
I was enamored with the little town in a mountain in the middle of a national park, and the fact that people lived there! There was a funky little town quality to it that reminded me of Provincetown, MA. An interesting mix of Civil War buff tourists, hippie Appalachian hikers, and locals populated the streets.
Don't mind my lucky three legged frog. He keeps Big Bertha on the road. 
She had a rough time of it getting up this incline.

Just trying to show the house on the approach in the prior shot is sitting on top of the ravine, likely above that red train car restaurant.

Lower Town's Old Town district. Poor folks working as costumed characters have to walk around in civil war attire and antebellum gowns made from wool. It was a very hot couple of days between the downpours.

Lucky snap of more stone work as we drove away.

Some of the mountainside that had been cut to build the town.

After our morning hike and trotting around town, Toots was pooped. 
As soon as we buckled her in, she was out.

What's this?

 Oh, it's our campground! 

We pulled into camp. Thunder and rain was so heavy, there was zero visibility and Lucy shook on my lap til I thought she'd shake herself out of her skin.

Toots awoke to lightning and thunder very surprised.
 We sat there for quite some time while our tent got drenched after making through the night before's storm pretty well.

Honey stayed at camp, cleaning up and getting dinner together while Toots and I took the sleeping bags and pillows to the laundromat. I watched a unicorn wrestle with sleeping bags in the big dryers.

Another post to come soon, in which I conquer a mountain with a bad ankle, a hot and tired three year old, little determined dog and an even hotter man. and some other adventures and beautiful vistas and one famous rock.