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I’ve wanted to update my About Me page for AGES.  Or four years.  Because somehow, I’m now 36.  Even stranger, my fiance has been my husband for nearly four years.  And the tiny human we made is now very tall and seventeen, nearly three years old.  They are awesome people and I’m glad we get to do life together.

However.  That’s not really About Me, is it?  But it’s been what I’ve been all about for awhile.  I no longer think in sentences, but Isla-isms and cartoon theme songs.  It’s a good day if Isla has a good day.  It’s a good night if I sleep.

We’ve moved to Skye from Edinburgh, into a house that’s needed more work than we originally thought.

I love our quirky house, but I’d love it more if we could plant it somewhere with neighbors.  And a bookstore.  And a Starbucks.  And my friends.

I’ve become accustomed to missing people.  Most of my friends are everywhere I am not.  Because I’ve moved a lot.  Before I met Neil, moving and starting over just seemed to be something I did.  I was good at it.  Until realised I didn’t want to do it anymore.

My first move was from Dallas to New York, I was a baby, but it counted.  I lived on both ends of Long Island, flitting between Mom’s house and Dad’s house and both sets of grandparents.

My Dad moved to Scotland when I was 12ish, and I started going back and forthish.  I was just a girl, landed at an airport asking the people of the country beyond its doors to love her.  I loved both.  I love both.  I’m from both.  I’m from neither.

I never kind of embraced my third-cultureishness, but there it is.

You tend to think about this stuff when you turn 36.  And you have conversations with your too-nearly-three year-old that go like this:

Isla:  Daddy’s from Embra.  So, where are you from, Mummy?

Me:  How long have you got?  Let’s just say Canada.

As I write this, I’m at my kitchen table in my kitchen on Skye, drinking coffee and eating cheese on toast.  The snow from two days ago has melted and I’m listening to country music.  Figure that out.

Neil is working from home as he does up here and Isla’s at school because she’s too smart, already.  We have New York magnets on the fridge.  Next to our penguin-in-a-kilt magnet.  I’m surrounded by books and those envelopes with bubble-wrap lining. I use them to send stuff to my friends, where ever they are.

I sometimes wonder if my confusing cultural clutter, even with it’s frequent-flyer positives, is well, confusing for Isla.  But then we have conversations like this:

‘Where are you from, Isla-Monkey?’

She avoids the question entirely.  I told you she was smart.

‘This is my home,’ she says.

‘Yeah.  Mine, too.’

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This is my home.

Christmas Coffee With The Grinch

If we were having coffee, I’d introduce you to our new as yet unnamed coffee machine.

As an early Christmas present from me to us, the coffee machine Neil bought me when we first started dating has been upgraded to something from the future. Actually, I think we should call it Jetson.

What sort of um, coffee experience would you like?

My favourite so far is a mild double-shot medium-hot latte.

In my house.

What can I get you?

After you figure that out, I’d show you the Christmas tree we put up two weeks ago.

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It doesn’t look like that anymore. Isla likes to hide the decorations on us. You might be sitting on one right now.

If we were having coffee I’d tell you we took Isla to see Santa last weekend. It was in the midst of shopping, everyone was in a bad mood, and Santa might have called me the Grinch.

Before we’d lined up, Isla had a tantrum in a coffee shop because they’d run out of orange juice. It was kinda my fault.

We’d been staying in a hotel the night before. It was 300 degrees in the room, so I drank our not really endless supply of OJ that we drag around where ever we go.

We arrived to the mall early. So early, most places were still closed. Except the coffee place with no OJ.

I’m sitting there sipping what just might be the best latte I’ve ever had outside of my house. And my kid is refusing perfectly good apple juice. Because it isn’t orange. I feel kinda bad. I give her my breakfast, because hers doesn’t include anything that is orange juice.

It escalates. I tell her to calm down. Once. And then I don’t say much else. I figure she’ll fizzle out soon enough. But I’m getting looks. I can tell, because if one eye is looking at you, my other eye is looking at someone in New Jersey.

It’s useful. And it doesn’t distract me unless I notice someone looking back at me. Like last weekend. Like I am a horrible mother.

So I turn my head and this woman gets both my eyes. ‘Does she look abused, though?’ I ask.

The woman says nothing.

Neil and I count to ten with Isla and then I ask if she’s done.

‘Yeah,’ Isla says. And we high-five.

And then Isla kind of launches herself at me like she does these days. Because I’m a horrible mother.

As we are leaving, the staring woman offers to help me. ‘No thanks. But Merry Christmas,’ I say.

We are in line to see a grumpy looking Santa. Isla won’t sit with him and I want to leave. Somehow, we all end up sitting for the photo.

‘Bahumbug,’ I said. Sorry, not sorry.

‘No wonder Isla’s in a bad mood. Mum’s the Grinch.’

‘Screw you, Santa,’ I mumbled. And the photo was done.

We left, and I may have cried all the way to the toy store. Because I’m a horrible mother. Obviously. Not really.

Do you want more coffee?

Abstract Sandwiches

On Tuesday, when I picked Isla up from nursery, she hugged my lap as she sometimes does.

‘I MISSED you, Mummy.’

‘Really?’ I asked.  She’s a Daddy’s girl, see.  I am obviously still questioning every bit of affection she doles out.  To me.

‘Yeah,’ she said

‘Did someone pay you to say that?’

‘Uhm.  No.’

When I’m happy, my eyes kinda crinkle up until you can’t see them.  Like Isla’s.  Because, y’know, I’m her mother.

I did a little dance in the carpark, my day made at one o’clock.

‘Mummy funny,’ she laughs.

Yeah, I s’pose I am, a bit.

Isla’s funny, too.  She has my eye crinkle and my sarcasm.

Yesterday, she was loaded with big foam puzzle pieces.  Her arms were so full she was just a stripey sweater on legs.

‘I LOVE you,’ I tell her.  ‘Where did you come from?’

She cranes her neck and looks at me sideways.  It is my own incredulous face looking back at me.

‘From my bedroom,’ she says.

True enough.

I did the pee-pee laugh with that one.  Also true.

Since Isla’s started nursery, I’ve been doing some thinking.  I’ve also been doing some Math, mostly at 4AM.  Mayhaps, more about that later. For now, I will say this: Don’t do Math at 4AM.

Anyway.  This is what I’ve been thinking.  Since Isla started doing things.  Outside the house.  Without me.

This is how life goes.  I’m proud of her.  I’m allowed to miss her.  We need to keep going. And I’m so fucking proud of her.

I’ve been thinking that getting help to do things makes me no less of a mother.  Because I’m the one who misses her when she’s at school.  And also when she’s asleep.

It doesn’t matter that sometimes, I can’t lift her onto the toilet. Because I’m the one who claps when she pees on it.

I’m (one of) the people who reads to her at night. And in the afternoon. She sits on my lap, in my chair. And I can still find that place on her neck that I’ve loved since before she was born.

And sometimes, still, she falls asleep on me.

We wake up two mornings a week, and I make her lunch. Her sandwiches have holes in them, because I have very few knife skills. I don’t care. She eats her lunch.

I might squirt mayo hearts on the bread.

I send her out and she comes home and hands me her empty lunch box. And sometimes her boogers.

She makes me a coffeeshop and a dragon out of blocks.

She goes into the fridge and gets a snack. I tell her not to ruin her dinner.

And she gives me that sideways glance. The one she gets from me.

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Kinda like this.  Isla isn’t sure about empty envelopes.

Line By Line

If we were having coffee, we’d be hiding in the kitchen while Isla counts the balls in her ball pit and Neil plays the shit out of Isla’s toy guitar.

You’d be convincing me that I can write a mystery on a wharf including a dog collar for NYC Midnight’s Flash Fiction Challenge.  While I do feel better about this assignment  than the Short Story Challenge, it would seem that the only story elements I can work with these days are:

Coffee

Peppa Pig

and

Angst.

Isla just wandered into the kitchen, opened the fridge and took out a yogurt.  She grows a year older every night.  Today, she is a teenager shuffling around the house and raiding the kitchen.

Pass me the tissues.

So, the TV is on in the backgroud.  Neil has traded the guitar for turning on the washing machine.

Yes, I know I’m lucky.  I’m lucky my husband does things around the house, I’m lucky my child does her own thing, even if that thing changes every five minutes.  And the things don’t stop until she zonks out at 8.30pm.

I’m lucky we live in the country.  With the peace and quiet.  And the sheep.

I’m lucky to have people come into my house every day to help me wrangle my very active child.  I’m lucky she goes for walks and brings me back flowers.  I’m really lucky if she gives me a kiss with those flowers.

I live for those kisses.

But I’m lucky Isla isn’t clingy.  I’m lucky she likes people who aren’t me.  I’m lucky I’m the one who cries when she leaves the house.  I’m lucky I’m the one who needs hugs.  I’m lucky she likes to read.  To herself.

I’m lucky we have all these friends to visit in other places.  I’m lucky shopping and coffee and looking at those friends has become a treat.  Because y’know, seeing your friends all the time can be really fucking boring.

I’m lucky that Neil is taking Isla out for awhile, so ‘Mummy can write.’

Before they left, Isla brought me some paper.  Apparently, she’ll kiss me if there’s words on it when they get back.

youshouldbewriting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Is What We’re Going to Do

And so, I said yesterday  all the days that I want to write more.

This is how I’m going to do it.

Write 500-1,000 words a day.  Fiction or non-fiction.  Story or essay.

Read a book a week.  Doing Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge to help with this. Although, I really don’t need any help with this one!

Write/Draft one complete short story a week.  From a prompt or my, um, archives.  Open to story sparks, if you’d care to throw them at me.  Might post my efforts here for feedback.

Journal daily.  Not really into the concept of Morning Pages these days.  But we shall see.

Write more snail-mail.  I used to be really big on this.  Freed me up for other writing, and I met some wonderful friends.  Anyone wanna be penpals?

Subscribe to magazines again.  I love mail that isn’t bills.  My favourite magazines have been Lonely Planet Traveller and National Geographic.  What are your favourite magazines?  

And y’know, accountability and all that bullshit  good stuff.  I will mostly report back to Isla, ha!  But I’ll also try to blog here at least three times a week.  More is a bonus and may be a list.

A note on time management.  Isla still takes an afternoon nap.  She’s a good kid.  Words will happen when she sleeps, either in the afternoon or at night.

Let’s see if we can pretend there’s 25 hours in a day.

 

Dear Competition Judges

I’m writing to explain why I did not submit my story for your esteemed competition.

It’s because I suck.  And because I have a toddler.  And because the story has only one line.

‘Whose idea was this?’

Well, mine.

And I was very excited about it.  Until the week I had to write the story was the one week my husband had to work in his city office.  Which meant he wasn’t here to ply me with White Russians until I fell asleep  wrote a complete story.

And did I mention we’re moving?  Yeah, that’s next week.  I’m sharing the home office with empty bookshelves, full boxes and a bedframe.

And we’re still waiting to hear about our mortgage.  Which is y’know, kinda important for the move.  I spent a bunch of time this week gathering proof of residence, because I’m still American.  Apparently.  I sent copies of my green card (I really have one.  It’s actually a stamp.)  And then there were copies of my tax returns.

And I still needed more proof.  Two years of proof.  And so, I suggested we send them a picture of Isla.

I unpacked some utility bills and copied about 40 pages of bank statements.  At the bank. Because who gets paper statements any more?  So I went to the bank and probably rambled on a bit too much, but thankfully the lady at the bank was really understanding. Or maybe it was that thing where customer service people aren’t supposed to call customers really fucking stupid.

At least to their face.

As the paper pile grew, so did my heartburn.  How was I going to scan all this?  And would I like an envelope?

I took my envelope and my kid and trudged to the library.  I scanned four of the 40 pages and hoped for the best.

Even with all this daytime stuff happening, I thought I would be able to write my story at night.  But did I also mention that Law & Order: SVU is really good?  And that there are 5 different episodes a night 34 different channels?

I forget about this stuff when Neil is home.  Because, well, we read a lot.

And then there was Storm Gertrude, the awkward little sister of Storm Jonas.  She rattled some windows and kept me awake.  Which was good.  I got the whole story in my head.   When I got up from two hours of sleep, my new story threads were as frayed as my nerves.

Other stuff is happening that isn’t my story to tell, but I’m having flashbacks to my Grandmother with Alzheimers breaking out of movies and into other people’s cars. Flashbacks to eggnog and bacon-grease and nice teeth and peach polyester not-so-much power-suits.

And how, farther back than all that, she was my best friend.  And I still miss her every day.  These are weird, if somehow appropriate, feelings to have in the midst of packing up to move into my first home, with my favourite husband and my favourite kid, all of which I wish she was here to enjoy.

So, apologies for not writing a comedy that includes a cooking show and a paramedic.  I tried.  But life happens.

And, full disclosure here, I haven’t written a piece of fiction since before Isla was born.

I look longingly at my notebooks and prompt books.

And then I blog.  It would seem that these words are safer.  But I’d like to shake things up again.

The competition entry fee was part of my Christmas present from Neil.  Yesterday, I did some crying while I paid him back.  He didn’t ask, I just felt like a fraud.

I’m even tearing up now.  I can write over six hundred words about not writing.  That’s a real skill.

I’m going to really try at the new house.  Maybe unpack some new characters.

Starting with 500 words a day.  Coffee essential, White Russians optional.

Will write harder,

Lorna

youshouldbewriting

 

 

 

 

 

Comedy Is Hard

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Lucy.  My hero.

And so, I just got my assignment for NYC Midnight’s Short Story Challenge.  And we have:

Comedy. Cooking Show. Paramedic.

Apparently.

I’ve been waiting impatiently for these writing orders.

Our internet connection is rather slow up here. And then there’s that annoying time-zone issue, so the assignments were out a bunch of hours before I made Neil read mine.

I make him read my important stuff first, because husbands have all the power,  I really am a giant wuss.  About some things.  And writing makes me nervous these days.

‘I think you can do this,’ Neil says.  ‘Comedy.  You’re very funny.’

‘I’m hysterical.’

‘And you like cooking shows.’

‘It’s raw because you didn’t facking cook it!’ I say, in my mediocre Gordon Ramsey voice.

‘And when you cook, we need to call the paramedics,’ Neil says.

‘You were so close,’ I say.  ‘Can I use that line?’

And so.  I was happy with my lot.  And then I got out of bed.  And thought about it.  Read up on the other assignments.

I emailed my best writing friend.  ‘I want your assignment.  And everyone else’s.’

Because comedy is hard.  Because THIS IS FUNNY BECAUSE IT’S FUNNY, DAMN IT is annoying.  And not funny.

‘I’m not funny’, I say to Neil.

‘Is that a joke?’

‘OK, I’m not funny anymore.’  ‘Motherhood has made me, I dunno, obvious.’

‘What the hell are you talking about?’

‘Well, yesterday I made a joke about slipping on a banana peel.  Really.  It was very laboured.’

‘That was yesterday.’

Indeed.

I don’t think you can switch assignments.  So I’ll try with mine.  And I’ll go easy on the Caps Lock.

I PROMISE.

P.S.  If anyone else is um, doubting themselves, genre pointers can be found here.