That moment when you are poised on the brink of something wonderful, waiting for it to begin, anxious to experience every glorious second that is to come, and savoring the knowledge that every little morsel of it still lies ahead. That frisson of excitement, of wonder, of expectation. Waiting for Santa. Staring at the outside of that college admissions letter. Lowering the Sorting Hat onto your head.
Don’t get me wrong. When the moment comes, the experience itself will also be wonderful, but the anticipation is special. For those moments before the leap, every possibility exists. You already know it’s going to be good, but it might actually turn out to be amazing. The reality has the potential to be extraordinary, or life-changing, or magical.
And that’s where I am, poised on the brink of something wonderful, made even more entrancing by its mysterious nature. For our 10th wedding anniversary, Dustin and I are going on a Grand European Excursion, and Dustin’s gift to me is that he is doing ALL of the planning, and the details of the voyage will be revealed to me only as they are happening. I am about to be surprised by three weeks of new places, delicious food, and incredible experiences. That is the sum total of what I know about the trip so far.
“Oh, how can you let him do all that without even consulting? I could never give up that much control!” you say? (I know you say that, because everyone we’ve told about this trip has said it.)
Here’s the thing: my husband is amazing, he’s really good at this stuff, and I love surprises.
(Also, I’m really bad at planning trips. So seriously. This is a gift.)
I haven’t written many blog posts in the last couple years. Life has been preoccupying for many reasons – some of them good, some of them difficult, many of them just Life. Writing is one of my passions, though, and it needs to reclaim a place in my life. One of my goals over the next month will be to write on a regular basis, and this upcoming adventure provides both an excellent excuse and brilliant subject matter. Dustin will be guest-blogging, as well, so you’re double lucky if you follow along.
Lest my poetic waxings about incredible adventures make you feel jealous or make it appear as if my life is only excitement and fun, I plan to take a couple opportunities during this Week of Anticipation to get back into the writing groove by posting a few slice’o’life stories about some of the less glamorous things we’ve been up to recently. Tune in next time for musings about such titillating topics as cleaning bathrooms, searching for the perfect audiobook, constructing a dream bathroom for someone else to use, or musings about why the show Naked & Afraid is so great.
I could have sworn I’ve been writing a post like this every year since I started this blog, but it turns out I wrote one for 2008 and have spent the intervening four years thinking about writing one, and not actually doing it. Huh.
Well, I shan’t regale you with a full five-years-in-review letter, because that sounds exhausting, even to me. Let’s see what kind of excitement 2013 brought to the Floyd family then, eh?
January found Dustin and I fleeing the frigid north for the incredible beauty of St. Croix, in the Virgin Islands. We are both blessed with jobs that allow us a lot of flexibility to travel, and a grandmother who has the good sense to go south every year, thereby providing us with a locale and an excuse to go visit. I’ve never been to a place quite so island-y as St. Croix, and confess that I found the experience of being surrounded by SO MUCH OCEAN a bit unnerving. Nevertheless, the island is incredibly beautiful. We spent time on fine-sand beaches, counting spiders on rain forest trails, and touring old sugar (rum) mills.
February brought us back to chilly South Dakota where I had the privilege to spend some quality time with Megan and Grace, my new adopted family from Kansas. We met them as guests when they came to stay at our bed & breakfast last December, and now we’re stuck like glue. They came away from a very difficult family situation, and through our time together and many, many long conversations, they have taught me so much about how my own life is blessed.
Oh, did I mention we started a bed & breakfast?
In 2010, Dustin and I moved into a historic house in Deadwood, and we’ve been slowly – oh, SO slowly – restoring in over the last three years. The place is huge, so fairly early in the process, we began sharing our extra bedrooms through airbnb.com. As of last December, we are an officially licensed Bed & Breakfast, and while our website is still a work in progress, you’re welcome to check out the online preview of the guest books we just made, or oogle our listing on bedandbreakfast.com. Over the summer, we were full to bursting. Thankfully, fall and winter have proved to be very quiet. My sanity is grateful.
Speaking of things that make our house more interesting, meet Luna, our newest family member:
Dustin’s mother found her wandering stray near their mountain-side house last November. We thought she was a kitten when we took her home (she weighed less than two pounds), but the vet said she was at least a year, maybe two years old. The above photo shows her after we’d had her for about three months. These days, she has turned into a regular fluffy blimp. I don’t know how to put her on a diet without starving the skinny one. Hm…
So, speaking of that above cat photo, you may have heard that we’ve had some really wacky weather this year.
And then there was this freaky business in October. October 4th, to be precise. It started snowing one nice Friday night, and did not stop until Sunday. We got 48 very solid inches. The trees hadn’t even started changing colors yet. The arboreal carnage was immense. Our power went out for about 36 hours, and it got very, very cold inside our house. We were the fortunate ones – some of our friends were out of power for six days. My shoveling muscles will never be the same.
(Dustin would like me to point out that between the Hail and the Great Snow, there was a lot of summer. Most of it was filled with changing beds and doing laundry for a very busy B&B, but we snuck in a trip to Yellowstone, explored a ghost town with friends from France, went to Denver for a three-day district convention, and I tried very hard to grow a vegetable garden that wasn’t a complete failure, although that blizzard really did in my tomatoes. Now then.)
Barely a week after the Mega Blizzard, in the deepest throes of the government shutdown, my beautiful sister Megan got married just outside of Yellowstone. It should have been IN Yellowstone, but the government had far bigger problems than a few dashed hopes and dreams. (I exaggerate – nothing was dashed and the wedding was perfect, drifts of snow and all.) We got to see family from far and wide, who all rallied to make the event awesome despite the complications.
We spend a lot of time in Yellowstone these days. My daddy went full circle and has returned to work there, now at the top of the heap. He and Mom live in a beautiful historic home in Mammoth Hot Springs, so we take every possible excuse we can find to visit while the hospitality is so good.
In all the bits of 2013 when I haven’t been working, hiking, or shoveling, I’ve spent a lot of time working on writing projects. Very exciting for me is that in February, I got my first piece of fiction published: a short story written for a collection done by the Saucy Ink writing group. Check it out! Woo!
Aaaaand just last week the third collection, containing my second story, came out. They’re good stories! Go read them! 😀
In other, less episodic or photographic news, Dustin continues taking over the world one good logo at a time. Business at TDG is hopping, and now that the office is only a five-minute walk from home, there’s no excuse not to work ALL THE TIME. (Except that I like to sleep a lot, so I don’t work much in the mornings. I believe Dustin works double hard in the mornings to make up for it.)
Our dabbling in American Sign Language, started back in 2007, has paid off. The small group of us that began learning to help out a deaf man in our congregation have now become a congregation entirely dedicated to ASL.
So there’s 2013. More than you ever needed to know. So much more than you would have gotten if I was the kind of person who could get to a post office once a year.
But how are your years treating you?? My mailbox has been a bit light on the incoming updates as well as the outgoing ones. I’d love to hear from you, and will happily trade mailing (or emailing) addresses with you. I’m sending much love and many good wishes for the coming year.
I’m working on something I need to procrastinate, which leaves my mind wandering in every direction except the one that’s on-track. One side-effect is that I’ve been dreaming up ridiculous facebook status updates all morning. Here, for my procrastinating enjoyment and your reading pleasure, are all the things running around in my brain so far today.
What ISN’T funny at 5am?
Oh, running a bed and breakfast. So many things you never expected, like guests literally knocking themselves over with laughter in the room above you at 5am. I don’t use the word “literally” lightly – there was so much thumping accompanying the laughter that I have to assume they were, literally, knocking themselves over in their hilarity. Needless to say, I missed some sleep this morning.
Oh look: the singing orange cat has returned to the neighborhood.
That cat I took up to the shelter last week? Yup, he’s back. Strolling around the neighborhood meowing and looking for love. Fortunately, the kind of love he is looking for won’t result in any unplanned kittens, since the shelter was able to confirm that he is fixed. The shelter was also able to confirm that he belon
gs to my IMMEDIATE NEIGHBOR. (“How could you not have figured this out for yourself,” you ask? Well! Let me tell you!)
The neighbor this cat belongs to lives in a house that never has lights on, but does have a couple of trees growing out of the roof. If only it had a few cracked window panes, it would be a perfect haunted house. The only reason I even believe people live there is because their car is sometimes there, and sometimes not there. Driving ghosts…? (Or maybe this cat’s name is Toonces……)
Our house guest just returned from running an ultra-marathon. He looks like he’s been hit by a bus. Do I congratulate him or offer to drive him to the hospital?
What I actually did was offer to make him breakfast. There is healing power in food, right? He looked like he wished we had not been around when he came back – I wouldn’t want anyone to see me looking that horrible either. I mean… seriously. If I was casting for a zombie movie, I would hold this guy up as the ideal for all my actors. Why would you DO that to yourself??
I’ve got peas!
Status sort of says it all. My garden’s first fruits are nearly ready to be turned into a delicious dinner. 🙂 Yay peas!
So… my story is kind of awesome.
And now we come to the crux of it. I’m on a revision deadline for my short story project, and I finally sat down to get something accomplished. I haven’t given the story a single lick of thought since I turned it in for critiquing six weeks ago, and I opened my document with serious trepidation. I can only imagine it’s like sending your kid off to his first day of school, and then getting a note back from the teacher when he returns that says “your child is terrible and you should never have brought him into this world.”
Of course, the note didn’t say that. It said, “Your child is a wonderful, creative boy who is friendly and plays well with others. Of course, he seems to be a bit behind in his verbal skills and his socks definitely do not match his shirt. Here are some suggestions on how to make sure he’s a bit more together before you send him in again tomorrow.”
Haha. I think my metaphor is cute. If you’re a real parent, please don’t kick me.
Anyway, the comments on my story were all really helpful and insightful, and now that I’m actually working on the thing, rather than thinking about working on it, I am much happier. In fact, rereading it after six weeks of not thinking of it? I’m back to the place where I think I’m kind of freaking brilliant, and that everyone should read my awesome story.
Of course, three of my commenters had NO idea what the conclusion of the story was supposed to mean, so maybe I should work on that a bit first. By which time, no doubt, I’ll be back to believing my story is perfectly terrible. It’s a very bipolar process.
(That photo up above totally goes with my story, by the way. Yup, it’s awesome.)
I make dinner for the cats every night. You’d think they’d return the favor by making me lunch once in awhile.
Lunch time. And since the maid has the day off and I wouldn’t actually want to eat anything the cats prepared, guess I’ll go see what I can dig up for myself.
Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert is taking on Philip Roth over some advice he gave to a young writer named Julian Tepper. In a Paris Review essay, Tepper says Roth told him he should quit writing: “Really, it’s an awful field. Just torture. Awful. You write and write, and you have to throw almost all of it away because it’s not any good. I would say just stop now. You don’t want to do this to yourself.” Gilbert counters with an essay in which she says being able to write for a living is “a profoundly luxurious act,” and not “some sort of dreadful Mayan curse, or dark martyrdom that only a chosen few can withstand for the betterment of humanity.” Amen. Roth, for his part, hasn’t said anything.
This little blurb particularly struck me today, because I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about writing lately. I love writing. It makes me happy. I love revising. That makes me happy too. (I don’t tend to care for reading the comments that lead to revising. That’s just painful. But what’s a little pleasure without pain, right…?) In fact, I’m going to have a short story published in anthology by the end of the month. Woo!
But I wrote that story last spring, and I haven’t really written anything since. I made a really half-hearted attempt at NaNoWriMo last November, but the timing was bad and the idea I was working on didn’t even start to gel until about the 20th of November.
Novels are intimidating.
On vacation, over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been reading a lot of short stories. Jeffery Archer is possibly my favorite short-story author of all time. If you haven’t read any of his work, go check him out now. I also gave some time to Steven King (though I vastly prefer his short stories to his novels, this particular collection was a little dull) and an anthology of Best-Of Sci-Fi and Fantasy. In the anthology, each story is preceded by an author bio which lists the humongous number of awards and awesome publication credits these authors have.
Which lists make me jealous.
“Laura,” I say to myself (because in moments of self-loathing I always talk to myself), “you’re not allowed to be jealous. You’ve never even tried to publish in any of these fancy magazines, so it isn’t like you’re failing where these people are succeeding. You’re failing on a completely different level!”
But I’m right, you know. I socialize in circles of writers. I have two friends who have been published in such impressive journals as noted above. They do it because they write, they edit, and then they try to get published. If they can do it, why can’t I?
Because I’m not very focused. Nothing new there. Look at this poor blog. I was posting 4-5 times a week when I started. Now I’m down to what, 4-5 times a year?
I read a blog around the end of the December that described the author’s mission to read 366 books during 2012. Ridiculous, right? But he did it. He did it because he didn’t do anything else for fun that year. He kept up with his job and continued to be a good husband and father, but he gave up video games, he gave up newspapers, he gave up everything except reading books.
That thought, combined with the Cracked article about harsh truths that will make you a better person, has really been rattling around in my brain for the last couple of months. “Do the math: How much of your time is spent consuming things other people made (TV, music, video games, websites) versus making your own? Only one of those adds to your value as a human being.”
I don’t DO much. I consume a lot, but I don’t DO much.
Perhaps it’s time to see about switching that up. If a dude can read a book every day of the year by giving up all of his other hobbies, surely I could write a few stories in a year by just slimming down on a few of mine?
My life is full of interesting places, interesting events, and most importantly, interesting people. I certainly do not lack for material about which to write. (Ooh, and look at that good grammar!) So let’s do this thing. Let’s get some stories written, or some blog posts, or even some letters to people I haven’t seen in awhile. Then maybe one day I really will be the person my 5-year-old self was sure I would be, after writing my first story, called “Majic Dors”. (Upon reflection, that story idea was awesome. Doors that take you to magic places? Maybe I should revisit that.)
Derp derp! I am looking forward to my first non-win since I started NaNo in 2008.
(I originally typed “my first failure” but that isn’t right, because as I’ve been preaching to my Wrimos all month: writing less than 50k words does NOT equal failure!)
I’m actually kind of pleased about it. As an ML (regional coordinator, for you uninitiated folks), I feel like I ought to know what it feels like to be one of the people who doesn’t make it, but who keep writing every day anyway. That includes a fair majority of people who participate. Now I know some of the trials and real excuses, and I know a little better how to support that crowd. Yay me!
On the other hand, my story really started taking shape around the 20th of the month. I went from writing rambling pages about my characters taking a walk through town, describing every single thing they see in excruciating detail because I had no idea what the plot was supposed to look like, to suddenly having two or three major insights in a row that gave my story substance and direction.
It was very exciting. If only my organizational abilities could keep up with the thoughts zinging around in my head.
And I’ve had an interesting revelation about how I handle brainstorming. Apparently I deal with brainstorming the same way people with addictions handle interventions. This might have something to do with the fact that most of my brainstorming happens as a conversation with my husband. Here’s an example:
Me: My characters have no motivation! Why would anyone go to such huge risk and expense just to drag a couple of dragon hearts home from the mountains?
Him: To save someone’s life?
Me: Mm, that could be good. But the people mounting the expedition are bad guys. Whose life could be worth saving to them?
Him: Maybe they want to start a war.
Me, internally: Psh. War is stupid. I don’t write about war. What a dumb idea.
Me: Interesting. I’ll write that down.
Him: But their obvious motivation should be something noble. War could be a secret motive!
Me, internally: War is stupid.
Me: Secret motives are interesting! But saving someone’s life is too hard to work in, since this expedition will take, like… eight months. Should be something a little less dire.
Him: What if they’re trying to do something stop-gap to fix the problem they need the dragon-batteries for? Maybe there’s a coal shortage.
Me: There can’t be a coal shortage. My world runs on coal.
Me: Oh, that would certainly create a need, wouldn’t it?
Me, internally: Noooo! I already wrote thirty excruciating pages about the wonders of the steam-driven technology in my world!
Him: There you have it then, coal shortage and war.
Me, internally: War is stupid.
Me: I’ll write it down.
… Later, in the throes of ecstasy over having taken away most of the technology in my world …
Me: What could possibly be so important that you would pay for the coal to make an 800-mile train trip to the edge of nowhere every month?
Me, internally: I should have known better than to ask that after I saw him watching that History Channel special on the Vanderbilts.
Me: Oil is boring.
Him: Yes, but it’s valuable.
Me: I’ll write it down.
Me, internally: This is not going to be a book about freaking energy crises.
… Two days later, I’d done some outlining and much additional pondering and realized that an energy crises presents a perfect backdrop for a more atmospheric setting, the opportunity for royal conspiracy, the introduction of monsters, AND it produced – out of non-smog-filled thin air – the missing mother of my protagonist.
I have to admit, after much denial, bargaining and depression over lack of other prospects, that boring, real-world-style world conflicts can make excellent background music for a story that does not have to be about those things at all. My story can still be about clockwork dragons and mysterious power-sources and missing persons and wild adventures across dangerous terrain, now everyone involved has proper motive to get started.
My name is Laura. It is Day 30 of NaNoWriMo and my novel has just begun.
My vacation in Mexico is about to end with no further adventures other than watching (“watching”) the Super Bowl with a spanish commentary and spotting a gecko living under the TV. So rather than put up another long-winded account of my day lounging around, here is an ode to the delights of brevity.
A couple weeks ago, right before the inauguration, I heard a show on the radio talking about a contest hosted by SMITH Magazine and the National Constitution Center. The challenge was to submit a suggestion for a six-word inaugural speech, meant to inspire President Obama. Here are a few of the more entertaining entries, which I can’t find on the website, but I remember from the radio program:
“I will put away my blackberry.”
“Fellow Americans, meet our new puppy.”
And the winning entry was: “Divided by fear, united by hope.”
Now TODAY I have discovered another wonderful site dedicated completely to brevity. The site is called “One Sentence,” and it records true stories. The catch? They must be written in a single sentence. Here are a few good ones I picked out of the most recent submissions:
“Somewhere in the Colorado penal system, there is a man named David with my name tattooed on his chest.”
“When the cashier at the grocery store called me ‘sir’ without really looking at me, I was tempted to pull up my shirt and show her my boobs.”
“It took the internet to find out about my uncle’s successful career in porn.”
“My cat challenged me to a game of “Guess Where I Pooped Before You Step In It” and I lost.”
Now I need to come up with one to submit. I’m having a lot more difficulty with it than I think I should. Maybe I’ll use this thought to ponder myself to sleep. I’ll check back when I have a brilliant one-sentence story.
Tis the season to receive letters from your far-flung friends and family telling you all about what they, their children, and their pets have accomplished during the past year. I really enjoy this time-honored tradition, since it is frequently the only time I get news from people who haven’t been sucked into Facebook yet.
And there is something extra special about the year-in-review letters, something about trying to sum up your life for people who you hardly care about that causes you to do very strange things, such as narrate the letter from the perspective of the family dog, or the newborn baby. Better yet are the letters that seem to be narrated by absolutely no one, referring to all the members of the family in the third person, as if they’ve hired a reporter to document life at home.
The star of this year’s collection is a letter which detailed how the new puppy got sick and required surgery, after which the vet divulged that the source of the illness was a couple pairs of fancy panties that the dog gobbled down, and would you like to have those back?
And now I’m going to transcend a new level of tackiness by posting my Year-In-Review letter here on my blog rather than sitting down and handwriting envelopes and taking them to the post office. I always mean to do that, but my good intentions never actually make it to the post office. If I don’t do this, I probably won’t do anything. Maybe next year.
Laura, Dustin and Minou: 2008
Hello friends and family! It has been an exciting and eventful year in the Floyd household.*
Dustin and I have spent the last year+ learning American Sign Language, a skill at which we are both becoming increasingly adept. We are capable of interpreting talks up to 30 minutes on a fairly impressive range of topics. Starting this year, we will begin focusing less on interpretation and more on using the language for conversation and discussion. I find this exciting but also a little frightening. We took a field trip to Denver in September to attend a one-day convention held specifically for the deaf community, and I felt lost and totally adrift all day. I guess that’s why I need to do more work dealing in ASL without anything audible to fall back on. Yikes!
Early in the spring, I undertook to participate in the first theatrical production to take place in the Deadwood Opera House since the place burned down 25 years ago. I fulfilled my dreams of stardom in the role of Tzeitel in Fiddler on the Roof. It was a fantastic amount of fun, even though our opening performance was canceled by a record-setting snowfall on the 1st of May. Dustin got roped into running the spotlight, so he got to be involved too. The final performance was for a standing-room-only crowd, which made everyone involved very happy. I look forward to finding out what they’re planning to do for the coming year. Rumors say Grease. I hope they’re wrong. :p
Since, in the course of rehearsals, I spent my anniversary pretending to marry another man, we headed to Vegas for a belated anniversary trip in May. The warm and sun were lovely, the shows entertaining, and the million miles of walking between casinos was a good work out.
In June, I got to spend a week working as a Real Live Archaeologist for the Deadwood Archaeology Camp. It was a lot of fun. Myself, two other archaeologists, a handful of counselors, and 26 kids started excavating the site where an ice house once stood. We found bricks, nails, chunks of wood, shiny rocks, caterpillars, and all sort of other indicators of civilization long past. (It’s just as well that I don’t work with kids every day… the caterpillar thing might eventually have done me in.)
August saw Dustin and I escaping the insanity of Rally Week on a road trip to Washington DC driving a very small car. We took our time, drove the backroads, and finally spent a few days with my folks in DC. We didn’t do many of the things tourists are supposed to do. Seeing the FDR monument and part of a concert on the Mall were the extent of our outings, but we did discover a bakery that makes the best macaroons ever, and we got to visit our friend Scott from college, who is a Big DC Wahoo-In-Training. It was a nice trip.
After a long, lovely fall, winter arrived with face-slapping suddenness, catching all the trees still wearing their leaves and wreaking havoc with the roads and power lines. November brought one of the earliest big blizzards in my personal memory of the Hills, trapping us in our house for a couple of days. We couldn’t get out at all until our very gracious neighbors lent a hand, since ALL the snow in the neighborhood had blown into our driveway and our shovel broke.
We escaped the freezing cold for awhile when we flitted over to California to visit my grandparents. The weather was rainy, but compared to great drifts of snow, no problem! We toured around San Fransisco and got plump on my grandmother’s incredible cooking. It was wonderful.
That brings me to how I’ve spent the last couple months of the year, which is in a flurry of fiction-writing. I decided to participate in NaNoWriMo, an event which challenges participants to write 50,000 words of fiction in 30 days. And no, despite my father’s total bafflement, no one actually reads the final product once you’re done. There’s no chance of me getting Discovered and becoming an overnight gazillionaire because of my brilliant work. (Even if someone DID read the NaNoWriMo manuscripts, there would be no chance of anyone calling what I wrote brilliant.) I completed my 50k words in the nick of time, then promised myself I’d finish the novel (50k words got me about 75% of the way there) in December, which I did not do. Maybe in January!
In Dustin news that doesn’t involve me being attached to his hip, he has taken over part of the family business, and despite the crappy economy, has managed to help scrounge up a good share of new business. Next stop: an office in Scotland. (Okay, so that isn’t in the official plans yet, but heck… optimism: pass it on!)
Minou has also been keeping plenty busy. She spent all her summer days running amok outside, escaping our yard to pick fights with the neighbor cats or sleep under the neighbor’s porch. She refuses to tell us why our porch isn’t good enough. Now that the weather is cold again, she has completely forgotten that cold = not going outside, and spends most of her days complaining about being cooped up. She doesn’t even seem to mind the snow very much, frolicking from drift to drift, just happy that we decide to let her out now and then.
Things that have not happened this year: I have not had any babies (nor are there any in the works, sorry); no personal or family disasters (thank goodness); no long-lost twins discovered (oh well). I expect 2009 will be equally full of joy and happiness and blah blah blah.
I hope the year was, on the balance, also good for all of you who might be reading this.
*I believe this opening sentence is legally stipulated somewhere. Exclamation point optional.