Showing posts from January, 2015

I don't own that thought

When you spend the majority of your day inside your house with a bunch of baby humans, there’s a lot of time for thinking. My mother always said I thought too much, and it certainly doesn’t further the cause for me to spend the better part of my life talking to myself. But that’s the way of it, I suppose. I am my own most constant companion.
Amidst all this thinking, the unfortunate reality is that a lot of garbage seeps in to my daily dialogue. Judgments about myself, judgments about my husband, judgments about my children, judgments about my neighbors, and judgments about the mailman who always loses my mail. Judgments about the weather, judgments about my (lack of) decoration skills, judgments about my use of time… the list goes on and on. All this judging builds a lot of negativity and frustration in my life. And in an effort to avoid this grumpy lifestyle, I spend a lot of time shutting down these thoughts.
But until recently I hadn’t realized that the very act of shutting these…


Today, I sent off a submission. There is always a magical moment when you send a submission. You’ve completed a project. You’ve had it read. You’ve re-edited and re-written. You’ve gone over it yet again. Let other people see it. Then, you’ve let it sit. You’ve mulled it over. Finally, you’ve read it out loud to really hear it. You’ve edited it again, attached it to an email, and sent it out into that big, wide world.
For the first few moments, it’s possible to believe. Like a fairytale, destined to a happy ending, you imagine the pleasant reception your writing will receive. It will be loved. It will be applauded. It will be read from here to Australia (but not by anyone you know, because that would be embarrassing – after all, you are an introvert). Such grand dreams for that little submission.
Reality comes hard on the heels of a submission. People always number their rejections, but I don’t keep track. Too many. Too many. When I get a rejection, I archive it immediately, almost b…

Origin Story - Part Three

After Moiria appeared, Bearskin wound its way to an ending. I sent the manuscript out to my trusted readers, made corrections, and began sending queries to agents. I can’t say I’ve ever crafted that magical query letter that results in multiple requests, but I did receive a partial, and then a full request for Bearskin from an agent I would have been very pleased to work with – a compliment of sorts. In the end, she passed on the manuscript, but it always feels good to know that someone has read your writing and not laughed hysterically – you know, at all the wrong places. Still, at the end of the line, Bearskin had not found a home. I stared at it, and wondered what to do.
With each of my prior attempts at writing a novel, I had felt that movement toward improvement. That feeling of something gained in a loss. With Bearskin, I felt confused. It wasn’t where it needed to be, but I didn’t know what to do with it next. I didn’t know what lesson to take on for my next novel, what proble…

Better or Worse

There's a cheesy line that find its way into 99/100 Romance movies:
"Does he make you a better person?"
I was thinking about this in relation to homeschooling the other day. We've been doing great with our 20 minute lessons, and we enjoy our family time together, but sometimes I still get this crazy mad feeling inside that says:
"What in the heck are you doing!!!!????!!!!"
It would be nice if our school sucked, or our kids had psycho friends, or there was some outside reason that made homeschooling imperative (not really). It would release the constant pressure to be sure we're making the right decision, to keep weighing and evaluating. Instead we have a good school, good friends, and good situation that we've traded in for a different experience. It doesn't always sit smoothly on the right or wrong scale. So there I was, having an existential crisis over lunch, and I thought this thought:
"Does it make you a better mother?"
Because m…

Origin Story - Part Two

My normal method of writing is to push a draft through until I hit a wall. It usually takes me a few days to realize I’ve hit a wall, but eventually it becomes apparent that I can’t move forward, that what I’m writing is shallow and unwarranted. Since I’ve never been the type to plot out an entire story arc – my concentration level can’t handle this type of organization – the best way to put this is that I run out of story. I don’t know what happens next. I can’t find my way out of a conflict. I’ve painted my way into a corner.
When this happens, I start over. I read from the beginning, editing and adding as I go, and by the time I get back to the wall, weeks or months later, the way has opened. Either a character becomes clear, or a wrong turn becomes apparent, and I’m able to press through some more words. This means that while Bearskin officially went through 15 drafts, not every draft was a full manuscript. It’s better to say that Bearskin has been through 15 “pushes”.

Kick in the Head

My mother always said to me: “It’s better than a kick in the head.”
(Actually, I think she said “pants” but it’s stuck as “head” for me, so there you go.)
This was meant to imply that sure, it wasn’t quite what you expected or planned – but hey, it was better than a kick in the head. Or, on a more personal level, perhaps you hadn’t quite pulled off a 100% grade – but look, it was better than a kick in the head.
Lately (since Sterling was born) this has been my mode of operation. Say I clean the bathroom, but I haven’t done it for three weeks. It’s better than a kick in the head! Or, even better, let’s say I don’t manage to actually clean the bathroom. Instead, I just wipe up the worst parts and put in new towels. It’s better than a kick in the head! In some ways, this might seem like a rationalization. But I’m not so sure.
Consider: In the eighth grade I was enrolled in an AP US History course. This course was full of other eighth grade over-achievers and we diligently set out to pas…

The 20 Minute Lesson

After the first week of our shift to 20 minute lessons, I am all happiness. This has made such a difference in our homeschooling, so thank you to Michelle for pointing me in the right direction. Now I spend our mornings doing 20 minute increments with the kids. I am able to work with one child at a time, while the other does their own project. We move back and forth between Math and English. Every day is a little different, depending on what the girls need to do. Then, any extra items I have that we don’t finish I place on “the afternoon list” (more on that later).
What I love about 20 minutes:
I already knew this from my own training in college (I graduated in Secondary Ed) but I had forgotten the truth of it. 20 minutes is really the optimum time for concentration and learning. My own habitual preference is to get work out of the way, but this makes everything a grind. Now we work for 20 minutes, and then we change topics. It’s refreshing.
Also, do you know how many 20 minute incre…


I’ve never had a settled sort of fashion sense. This is, perhaps, putting it mildly. After all, it’s true that when I arrived at college my new roommates had to quietly pull me aside and confiscate the same braided brown belt I wore with everything I owned.
“No,” said Julia. “Just. No.”
Since then I’ve meandered in and out of trying to find clothes I like, always coming up a bit short. Once I even made a new-found Iowa friend of mine take me shopping at the nearby outlets and tell me which clothes I should actually purchase. I think the entire experience was a little strange for her, especially when I gave up on walking in and out of the dressing room and made her take up residence inside. She didn’t know me that well at that point. Regardless, all of my efforts usually resulted in me wearing the same two shirts I liked until they expired in exhaustion.
Most recently, my habit had been to only wear black or gray. It made coordination easy, and required little thought in the morning. …

Ice Skating

Margaret (Meg in my head, but Margaret at her request) turned 7 recently. For her birthday she requested ice skating and ice cream. You know, to go with the general theme of freezing our rears off this January in Iowa. Anyhow, off we went to the skating rink last Saturday. Justin skated with the older kids (Spencer did eventually join in, and then sobbed when it was time to leave the ice), and I sat ringside with Sterling. Luckily, the glass was the perfect height for him to stand and watch, and he was happily entranced by all the motion and activity. The morning was fairly relaxing for me.
While watching my family skate, I also took in a few ice skating lessons which were going on during the free skate period. The same instructor stuck around for the entire period, skaters coming on and off to partake of his wisdom. Perhaps that phrase seems a bit high and mighty thrown into a paragraph like this: “partake of his wisdom.” But the more I watched this instructor, the more I felt this …

Origin Story - Part One

Over Christmas break, I took the kids to $5 Tuesdays at the Movies and we saw “Flyer” for the first time. You may not recognize the name of this particular flick, and that’s because it’s not actually called “Flyer” – that’s just what our kiddoes call it. “Flyer” is really Disney’s “Big Hero 6.” Grant had somehow come into possession of a “Flyer” – Baymax – and the name has stuck since then.
To get to the point, somewhere near the middle of the film – after taking Sterling out twice for a stinky diaper – I watched as the characters of the film decide to become superheroes. At this point, one of them remarks, in awe, that it is time for their “origin story” to begin. As a superhero geek myself, I loved this remark. Who doesn’t love a good “origin story”? Heck, who doesn’t love a good retelling of a good origin story. Over and over again, if possible. Hello, childhood obsession with Lois & Clark.  Hello, teenage obsession with Smallville. Origin stories are definitely my kind of thi…
Justin needed a haircut. He's been growing out his lovely locks, partly because I enjoy his curls. But the hair needed a little taming. When we looked online at hair photos we noted a startling resemblance to a fuzzy Prince Harry.

Since the "longer haired" Justin is a new experiment, Justin decided to visit a friend at a salon. He hoped to get a tad bit more advice than they offer at Great Clips, you know, when it comes to styling and "products."
On entering the salon, Justin found himself surrounded by women. One of those waiting was of the elderly variety. She sat in her chair, hands on her walker. She looked up when he passed through the door, and signaled for his attention.
It should be said that the cold of Iowa is meant only to be endured. After several years of experience, we've joined the Iowan club and taken to wearing jackets unless the mercury drops below freezing. But traveling by jacket often leaves you breathless upon entry. Justin stepped in…


This week our family began homeschooling. Some of my greatest advice regarding homeschooling has centered on staying in line with specific goals. Before we began, Justin and I made a list of what we wanted to accomplish with homeschooling, and I am trying to check in with those goals and make sure that the process is successful and purposeful for our family. I decided I would try reporting online because for the many years I considered homeschooling I wished and wished to be able to see inside others' experiences with homeschooling. Maybe I can provide that for someone else here.

First of all, for clairification, reasons we DID NOT choose homeschooling.
1. Bad Schools - Our family lives in the boundaries for a great school. Our kids have wonderful friends with good values and had fantastic teachers. They had access to excellent programs and learned many  wonderful things. When we made our choice, it was not between bad and good, or right and wrong. It was a decision of "better …


Monday means school’s back in session here at the Wood household. My goal this break was to rethink our program and make some changes. Of course, my real goal was to “try” something new every day – which totally didn’t happen! But I have thoouuuggghhhhhtttt. Ten gold stars for me! And I also spent one entire morning looking into items to add to the program, as well as planning two months ahead for Math, English, History, and Science. So, there’s that: 20 additional gold stars. After two weeks, these are the weaknesses I would like to address:
I must become less obsessed with Math. Take deep breaths. We are doing okay at Math. Right now I spend an hour on Math, 4 days a week, with both Meg and Ellie. But guess what? I don’t think this is necessary. Deep breaths. Deep breaths. I am not just teaching Math!!!!!
Along with the “don’t obsess with Math” slant, I need to move to “20 minute lessons.” If I control my compulsiveness, we can work in 20 minute shifts and achieve a wider range of go…

A writer, what, what.

Oh, the inner mind of someone who spends their time writing. Let me tell you, it’s a strange place to be. Writing is a solitary world, and decidedly dreary at times, and also, very full of self-doubt. And when you are a beginning writer, as I am, it is a place you inhabit in secret. Writers are readers, and they know, because of this, that there are good writers and bad writers. And they also know, based on the percentages, that it is probable they are a bad writer, and also that no one in the outside world likely cares.
Writing, as I’ve often moaned, is nothing like quilting. There are, of course, similarities. Quilting is hard work. Quilting is intricate. Quilting requires a plan and time-developed skills. Quilting is a work of creation. Quilting seeks to provide beauty and inspiration and meaning. But quilting is always, even in its most basic form, tangible. And no matter how ugly the quilt, someone is certainly bound to make use of it. This is the difficulty in writing, at least…

Homeschooling Comment

A good friend of mine emailed this great comment about homeschooling that I wanted to add here for my reference later. Trisha teaches elementary school and shared her thoughts on finding topics to study. *****
So this is what I imagine......
If I were to homeschool,  part of a way  I would make it better than public school is I would make it themed.  Some schools actually try this, but you would have more freedom.  I think I would mostly choose from science because there is the most to do there and children love science.  So say for a month or two we might study the rock cycle, minerals, soil, erosion, weathering, all the geological stuff.  We would read (everyone on their own level, possibly) passages about the topic.  We would research it on line and look up their questions.  Then they could write.  If you give them enough resources they will come up with good questions which will give more resources and then their writing is powerful.  With writing, then mini lessons on grammar an…