Pardon me, I seem to have a frog in my throat

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My blogging has ground to a halt, a dangerous thing to happen to a blog. The thing is, there have been a series of events that seem to have…stolen my voice.

(WRITER WHINING ALERT!)

First there was Camp NaNoWriMo. I was busy being a novella writer and, I know I’ve mentioned this before: I’m a horrible multi-tasker. So July, no blogging.

After the full month’s break from my romance novel, I decided to try a contest. One of those ones where you submit your query and first chapter and hope for…something. I had no illusions, no realistic thoughts that I would get picked. My bar was set low. Submit. Practice sending my work into the wider world.

But then, all around me, writers started hearing back. Acceptances, or reasons why their particular story wasn’t accepted. People who got accepted by one judge got feedback from others as to why that particular judge had declined the submission. People who didn’t get accepted received emails from their chosen judges anyway. Sentences, some even paragraphs, of feedback.

Now this is not “part” of the contest and I had no reason whatsoever to expect anything. Feedback is something extra the judges may or may not choose to do. But I let hope take over and my goal shift. I wanted feedback. Was it the query? The premise? The writing that didn’t click? I heard from one of four of the judges I submitted to, a one-sentence reply I clung to like a rescued baby mermaid, and I hoped I’d get a little something more from the others. Something. Anything.

But no. Crickets.

Hope turned to brussels sprouts in my mouth. I reminded myself I had expected nothing. Told myself I was being unreasonable, unprofessional. Admonitions morphed into the conviction that I couldn’t handle the rigors of the publishing game, where success equals an even lower batting average than in baseball. I wasn’t cut out for this, and obviously, my story was dog poo because no one could find the wherewithal to even send me a little note.

(I gather this bleak state is one writers sink into quite readily.)

I convinced myself nothing would come of my book, and stopped writing altogether. No novel, no novella, no blog. Intellectually I knew nothing could come of a book one didn’t SUBMIT. But like Ramona the Pest, I crossed my arms and stomped my foot. Figuratively, but still…Yes, I am childish.

And then, In the midst of this self-immersed, apocalyptic doomscape, I received a horrible text message. One of my sorority sisters, Maria, who had been battling a rare—and incurable—form of cancer, was in the hospital, her family by her side. My world stopped. Everything went into suspension.

I saw her in January, lively, vibrant, laughing, drinking wine with her sorority sisters and sharing a wonderful, loud, chatter-filled meal. It was as if we were back in the big dining room at the ADPi House eating, talking, laughing. That wonderful night I forgot Maria had cancer, that her prognosis was dire. There was no way the woman I saw was going anywhere but back home to raise her boys to adulthood. She’d outlived her diagnosis by more than a year, after all.

A day after the text message, confirmation came. Maria had taken her eternal flight.

What were my petty complaints compared to the death of my friend, for God’s sake? What of Maria’s sons being left without their mother, her husband left without his wife, her family left without their daughter, their sister. Grief grabbed hold of me and squeezed. Maria had bugged me and bugged me about reading my book; I’d wanted to have her read it before cancer took her away. Chalk up another unmet goal.

Where before I was childish, now I was breathlessly mute.

I’ve lived a pretty charmed life, haven’t often been touched closely by death or grief. I didn’t know how to handle it. I felt like the pebble that starts the snow ball that becomes the body of the Guiness Book of World Records-sized snowman. One thing after another just seemed to layer onto my woes. My words felt small and stupid and unimportant. I lost a dear friend. And my will to say anything.

It’s been a rough month and a half, but slowly the metaphorical sun has started to shine and I’ve started to poke my finger through the slush that was the snowball. The words are building up inside me again. I still have a frog in my throat, but I have a lozenge on my tongue.

I think the sunshine is Maria. Maybe she got in my subconscious ear to remind me of something important: I have to keep going. I can still hit a goal, albeit a revised one. She may not hold my book in her hands, but if I send it out into the world again, somewhere in the great universal ether, Maria will know she helped bring it to fruition. I’m holding on to that.

May the universe embrace you and wrap you in the joy you gave to everyone you touched on this earth, Maria.

Maria Sofia Rimkus 1964-2014.

Maria

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And It Lived Happily Ever After. A Follow Up.

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I hoped. I kept good thoughts. But in a tiny black part of my heart, I didn’t truly think it would happen. And then on Saturday my husband’s phone rang. “Hi there, did you lose a ski at Aspen?”

Now let me tell you, a lot of wonderful things have happened over the course of my life, and some not so wonderful things, which I’ve managed to write off as experience.

So after our not-so-adventurous adventures in Aspen, wherein Nick’s ski was swallowed by the mountain, (detailed here in an earlier post) I hoped we’d get the ski back, but so much had to go right. I honesty didn’t believe we’d see that ski again.

Back to Saturday, the culmination of our adventure, and the confirmation of a son’s ridiculous good fortune. It’ll cost him the price of shipping, which, when you’re a college kid, might hurt a lot, but it’s less than the cost of new skis.

We’d like to be able to acknowledge the person who found the ski and turned it in, but we have no idea who it is. Still, there was more than one person who made it possible, so to all the lovely people at Aspen who kept an eye out, who kept track of our Lost and Found report, and the person in the office who made that happy call and will be shipping the ski back,  THANK YOU for giving us a happy ending to this crazy tale.

 

Photo attribution: By Devastator pc (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Sometimes Why

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Airplane_takeoff_on_blue_skyWe hadn’t had a family vacation since 2008 and now I know why. Vacations can be grueling. On the first day my darling husband lost track of one of our suitcases. Mine, of course. It ended up with a discombobulated family who, after waiting in an inordinately long line for the rental car, all the while trying to keep their kids from completely losing it, accidentally packed our bag in their car and took it to Steamboat Springs. We were heading for Aspen. The two ski meccas are not conveniently close together. So, sans ski coat, underwear and *gasp* my phone charger (I am the only non-Forbidden Fruit user in the family), we made our way to our destination.

There are times when the kindness of strangers staggers me. The flustered family from Cleveland realized their mistake, called us up and assured us they would courier the bag to us ASAP. (This is an wholehearted endorsement for putting your cell phone number on your bag tag!) The suitcase made it to our hotel before we did. It would have been far easier for them to have just parked it in the lobby of their own hotel and pretend they’d never seen it. A lot of people would have handled it that way. After all, a vacation from Cleveland to Steamboat Springs isn’t cheap. Nor is same-day delivering an accidentally-pilfered suitcase through the Colorado Rockies. Continue reading