The Wall

There are a lot of books and websites and phone apps that tell you how to raise a child. A plethora, in fact. I should know, I looked at a number of them. They all agree on certain things (sleep on the back!), disagree on others (set a sleep schedule as early as possible; don’t set a sleep schedule until a few months old!), but mostly they all boast that you should engage your child as much as possible. Okay.

Yesterday, I grabbed a rattle and started shaking it by L, trying to get her to follow the sound with her eyes. She looked at it momentarily, then stared at the wall behind us. No matter what I did, she just kept staring at the wall. What’s so interesting about an off-white wall? I thought out loud before realizing something. At just over two weeks, her eyesight is improving. She’s seeing things more clearly – she’s seeing things for the first time.

That includes the boring off-white wall. That moment could have possibly been the first time she really saw a wall.

How cool is that?

Everything, no matter how bland and boring, is new to her. Everything! The floor, the lights…even the sounds around us. She has no idea what any of it is – to her, everything is magical.

So I put down the rattle and my songs about the alphabet and numbers. Instead, I took her outside and we saw the grass, the sidewalk. We felt the sun, the breeze. We heard a lawnmower, a bird chirping. I explained everything, and though she fell asleep, I think she heard.

We have time for hand/eye coordination and mobility. Right now, I just want her to see and feel and experience all that’s around us. Because, to her, even the most ordinary things and insanely extraordinary. And seeing everything in this new, fresh light is pretty extraordinary for me, too.

Bend and Snap

It’s weird how the body can adapt to situations as need be.

Like how it created a viable, comfortable (I think?) home for Leila during my pregnancy. How it changed and moved and grew just to accommodate all 7 lbs 11 oz. of her. (I give my body full credit – the only thing I did to assist was eat. A lot.)

And how it prepared itself for her birth. And how it, now, is slowly going back to what it once was prior to her invasion. (Invasion sounds weird here, but it’s kind of what she did.)

Now it’s doing it again. I was in labor for 33 hours, and it ended with surgery. I have sore muscles and scars to show what I went through. (I’m not complaining – it was a hard process, but the end result made it beyond worth it).

It was bad at first. If I was sitting and holding L, S would have to help me stand up because I couldn’t on my own. If I was sitting in bed, S would have to take L to put her in the bassinet because my torn muscles wouldn’t allow me to turn. And for someone so independent like myself, it was a trying experience. I wanted to do everything I could, and yet, physically, I couldn’t.

Now, two weeks post birth, S is back at work and i’m having to figure out how to move and lift and place on my own. And, again, it’s as if my body just knows it’s time to act. Because two nights ago I put her in the bassinet on my own. And yesterday I got out of the rocking chair while holding her without assistance. Yes, i’m still sore at times, and the cuts and scars have not healed, but i’m adapting. I’m growing.

I’m not totally okay yet, and I don’t know when I will be, but i’m happy with my progress, and i’m excited to see it continue. Because she’ll only get heavier and snugglier, and I want to be strong enough for every hug and cuddle.

Leila

Sleepy sleepy

Baby Leila is here! Born just a week ago, she’s been an absolute joy. S and I are completely and utterly in love with our little girl.

I’ll admit I was hesitant about being a parent at first. What if I didn’t know what to do? What if I did everything wrong? Could I be responsible for someone? Could I be okay with changing up my life so much that it revolves around someone else? Even with S’s constant love and help, could we do it?

Obviously we decided that we could, that we wanted to. It was a natural decision. We took our time and I think that was for the best. Because now we’re ready. And, yes, we’re still petrified of doing something wrong, and yes, we’re not sure what we’re doing, but we know it’ll all be okay. Because we’re in it together. The three of us now.

It feels right.

Before Leila, I considered TNWSY to be my baby. In a way, there are similarities. I birthed it, nurtured it. It sometimes made me stressed or sad, but also extraordinarily happy and proud. And, when it was ready, I put it out into the world to create its own life.

I still consider TNWSY to be my baby (it will always be!), but it’s different now that I have an actual one. When TNWSY comes out, if someone doesn’t like it, it won’t be the end of the world. Sure i’ll feel rejected and sad, but it can’t force someone to like something I wrote. But if someone says something negative about my girl, I will come at them with the fury of dragons. I will do everything I can – everything in my power – to protect this little human. I will show her a good life. I will keep her nurtured and loved. I will love her every single day as she learned the highs and lows of the world. I will hold her close through everything.

It’s amazing, looking at this little girl as I am right now, and realizing that S and I created her. She’s ours, all ours. I never thought I could love someone I barely know – yet someone know so well – so much.

College Shenanigans

We played with tinfoil sometimes.

When I was a freshman in college, my dorm mates and I decided to jump into a pool on the coldest night of the year. (Yes, I went to college in Florida, but it was North Florida, where temperatures actually dropped down to the teens!) The pool was behind our building, so after submerging in the water, we ran back inside to the safety and warmth of our shared rooms.

To keep the tradition alive, we decided to do it again sophomore year,  only this time we were in different buildings, and this time we raised the stakes. With no pool behind our building anymore, we decided to race across the entire campus, jump into the fountain (which was normal to jump – or be thrown – into), and run all the way back home. It was far. We were wearing bathing suits under our jackets, and the temperature was around 14 degrees. We were stupid.

Still, five of us did it – three guys, two girls. We raced, we jumped, we screamed, we ran back. Icicles clung to my braided pigtails. I couldn’t stop shaking, and then everything hurt. I collapsed in the bathroom with my roommate as the water from the shower heated up the room and warmed our blood. About an hour later, the guys came by to check on us and we all had hot soup together, laughing about what we’d just accomplished. Needless to say, we didn’t try to recreate it the following year.

I’m still friends with many of these people, and oftentimes we’ll reflect on this event, along with the others that, in a weird way, shaped our early college years. (That time we dared him to eat all the cinnamon, that time we played assassins across campus with loaded water guns, that time she fell through the ceiling when trying to crawl from one room to the other, that time they rappelled off the building…). There are more memories, of course, more crazy nights, and it’s fun thinking about them, running them through my mind like a highlight reel.

A few of those dorm mates have kids now, just like I will any day now. I thought about this, while talking to one of them, joking that one day our kids will be in college and, maybe, running across campus in freezing weather. That they might replicate some of the not-so-smart things we did.

And that’s terrifying.

But also…we were good kids. Yeah, we broke rules, but we never did anything too bad, too dangerous. We knew what was right and wrong, despite the desire to break free. But most importantly – we had each other. And that was the most important part. We kept each other inspired, but also grounded. We looked out for one another. We cared, we loved.

So, yeah, it is frightening to think about my daughter going away to college in the future, to think about what she’ll get up to, to wonder if she’ll be shaking icicles out of her hair at 2 a.m., too. But honestly, if she makes a group of friends like I did, I know she’ll be just fine.

Gators

IMG_0757

There be gators in them waters

A benefit to living in Florida is that you get used to really weird things. Like gators, for instance. Around the corner from my parent’s house is a state park that’s home to canoeing, a really great swimming hole, and, yeah, a ton of gators. You just canoe around them. Behind my grandparent’s house is a lake that oftentimes has gators swimming in it. When they’re out, you just don’t let kids play by the water – simple as that. And then, overnight it seems, these gators disappear.

Florida wildlife is weird. And also very cool.

A month or so ago, my supervisor urged me to enter this Florida 250-word micro-fiction contest, wherein the prompt was simply “They named the gator…”. I didn’t win, but I still have my entry and thought i’d post it here. Though to me seeing a gator in your backyard is completely normal – apparently it isn’t for everyone.

(If interested, I’ve posted previously about weird Florida wildlife interactions, only that time about black bears!)

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They named the gator Green, because that was its color. It showed up in their backyard one night, slithering out of the pond that gently shivered with the wind. How it got into the pond was never asked. They wanted to play with it, teach it tricks like they did their dog Chip (named after his color, too, that of a chocolate chip). Their mom said no and kept them inside, fearing what a gator would do with two inquisitive five-year-olds who yearned for another pet.

At night they snuck out anyway, creaking open the back door they’d seen their parents lock and unlock hundreds of times. With G.I. Joe flashlights in tiny hands, they crept down the yard until they sat beside the black pond. There was no air that night, no wind creating waves, but still there was movement. The water lapped against their naked toes as two yellow eyes watched on. “There,” one whispered, pointing a shaking finger. Green moved its head, blinked twice, then opened its mouth to expose rows upon rows of sharp teeth. Daggers glistening in the night. The boys screamed and darted back into the house, flashlights forgotten in the hustle. Woken up, their mom scooped them up nervously, reprimanding them for their disobedience.

After calming quivering fears and tucking them back into bed, she looked outside. The gator was still there, still staring at their house, waiting, contemplating. As if to say, come back. As if to say, goodnight.

Editing Process: Step Two

(A continuation of my “editing process” series for TNWSY.)

“Dee, turn it up!”

That was the first line I ever wrote in my very first variation of TNWSY. I won’t even say draft because it was merely a scene, not even a chapter. In the end, I didn’t use much from that first bit of writing, mostly just the setting (a bedroom) and the two girls talking, but even their names changed. (There is no “Dee” anymore.)

But, somehow, in all of the drafts and revisions and edits and craziness, that line remained. It’s not the first line, but it’s still in the book. Which is kind of cool, at least to me.

Because currently I’m going through my book another time. There are line edits now, corrections and suggestions in track changes for me to go through and revise. I like these kinds of edits because I know exactly what my editor is looking for. It’s not “elaborate on this theme,” It’s “elaborate on this scene.” It assures me that the rest of the book is succeeding, and that there’s still a chance to make small moments bigger, better. And after going through all of the edits and thoughts, I’m super happy to be with the editor I have because she gets it. And that’s really awesome.

In theory, this might be my last revision before copyedits, so I’m a bit nervous about making everything as perfect as possible. I suppose we’ll see.

But as I go through it and see how things have changed and evolved from that first draft, I smile whenever I find an original piece. Because it all started from a thought, a line, and now here it is. It was a simple note played once, and now it’s a full song getting ready to be heard. It’s bigger, better, louder.

Turn it up, indeed.

Writing Endings

When I have an idea for a manuscript, I usually have a general idea of how the story will begin and end. The middle is muddled, of course – some scenes here or there – but I generally know how I want to end it.

But here’s the thing – most of the time that ending is altered. Maybe not the full concept, maybe not completely, but for the most part, what I originally planned will grow change, just as the story itself grew and changed. Characters evolve. Stories evolve.

This is, primarily, why I never stick to an outline. (Bravo to those who do!)

I mention this in light of last night’s How I Met Your Mother finale. A lot has been said about it already, so I’m not going to review or critique it. I didn’t enjoy the ending for a number of reasons, but that’s not important. I will say that i’ve always liked the show, and will remember it as that of a great premise with really fun, relatable (at times) characters. (In other words, I’m going to watch the reruns when they’re on, and I’ll still enjoy them.) These characters started one way, and grew and evolved as the show went on. They aged, and they felt real because of that. And though at times it felt forced (Barney, specifically), we believed in their growth because we wanted it. And I loved that about the show.

(Another show that, in my opinion, showed fantastic subtle growth for characters was Sex and the City. Charlotte and Miranda had great subtle turnarounds as the seasons progressed. I loved seeing them in the end, how far they came. Even Samantha had her moments. Unfortunately, the movies kind of killed some of that for me, but that’s neither here nor there.)

When they started filming HIMYM, the creators knew how they wanted it to end, so much to the point that they filmed the final moment (the children’s reactions to the general story of how their father met their mother). (To be fair, they had to film it early, because, hey, children age.) And therein, at least in my opinion, was the problem with the show’s finale. Their ending was set in stone, no matter how much the story grew over time. No matter how much they progressed these characters, they had to have this ending.

Now, i’m sure the creators love what they did, and fully stand behind their ending. That’s awesome, and I applaud them for that (and for NINE seasons of a really popular show). But, to me, it feels so controlled. If the show ended this way after a handful of seasons, okay, maybe I could have bought it (though, I will forever say that the closing of the first episode, when it’s revealed that Robin is NOT the mother, is such a great moment, that I hate that it goes back on itself a bit), but after so long, and so much pull and take, it just feels…sad.

Because the creators did a great job of creating these characters and making us believe in both their growth apart and together. We saw them change and turn into their last season selves. So, for instance, when it was revealed that Barney and Robin divorced in, like, a second, it felt cheap. You made us believe, and then you took it away. I wanted to continue believing in them.

I’m not saying my method of changing an ending as you go is better than anything else, (hey, I don’t have a hit TV show) but I can’t help but wonder if the creators would have gone a different way if they could have. As their characters, and they, progressed, I can’t help but wonder if they even considered it.