Sunday, July 29, 2007

hi there

We're back in Dublin after our whirlwind tour of Ireland. We arrived Thursday morning at Gatwick in London. We flew to Dublin and arrived at our hotel in the Old City. We walked around and saw stuff. J had his meeting Friday morning with eircom, and it went super well. While he was there I walked though the Old City some more. We met up after his meeting for a tour of Trinity College, where we saw the Book of Kells. We rented a car and drove a couple hrs to the Rock of Cashel. After checking that out we drove to Kilkenny, where we stayed the night. Saturday morning toured Kilkenny Castle and then drove over five long hrs in the rain to the other side of Ireland, specifically the Dingle peninsula. We were exhausted but couldn't bare to skip the pub music, so out we went. In spite of hitting several pubs and getting to bed past midnight, we were up early this morning for a walk along the beach. (Bet no one else at those pubs was up early! There are benefits to being teetotallers.) After our walk we were out to do the Dingle loop, stopping to explore Beehive huts, famine houses, and the like. And then we drove the five hrs back to Dublin, which brings me to this hotel room by the airport. We are getting up at 4:45 am to get to the airport in time for our flight to Lisbon.

Will we keep up this pace for our entire trip? I don't know. We'll see how much we can take.

I think I will post more of my impressions of these sites once I'm able to put photos up. For now I will say that I can't stop thinking about how young the United States is and what a puny little bit of history we have. As I visit the prehistoric, Celtic, and Anglo-Norman sites I realize that this is also my history. So far in tracing our family history on my mom's and dad's sides, we have found ancestors almost exclusively in Ireland and Great Britain. I imagine that is not rare for "old" Maine families like ours, though "old" seems like a very silly word to apply to any of the United States now.

So I've been thinking a lot about my Norman ancestors. What a bunch of bores they were. I know I need to learn more, but from what I know so far, it appears that they only cared about owning lands. They went from place to place in their chain mail, butchering the locals and setting up bigger government. They walled themselves up in dank, comfortless, stone towers to protect their... way of life? From my point of view, it doesn't seem like it was very worth protecting. Just a thought.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

potter envy

I really should be packing since I leave in a few hours. But I'm so tired. I had to take a break.

I don't think the Harry Potter books are the greatest thing ever. I think they are pretty good. I read the first two and listened to the third on audio book. I really enjoyed the audio book. I saw the fourth movie, and then tried to read book 5 last spring in an attempt to bring me up to date for the release of book 7. I couldn't get into book 5. I found it boring. Friends have since told me that that's because I skipped book 4--seeing the movie evidently doesn't count. You need to read book 4 to get into book 5, they told me.

Anyway, since I have a lot of painting in the house to do, I will probably listen to the audio books when I get back. But what I've been feeling the past couple weeks is Potter envy. Everyone talked about it. The excitement and anticipation were palpable. Most of the people I know spent the weekend reading it, and I felt envious. I envied them their pleasurable reading. I really have no idea what it's like to look forward so much to the release of a book. I also feel left out. In fact, maybe that's the problem more than the envy. I feel totally left out. Like a little beggar girl staring in through the window at sumptuous festivities.

Ok, so maybe that was over the top.

I wish that for this past weekend I had planned some sort of anti-Harry bash. Why didn't I think of that earlier? All of my good ideas come too late. I could have invited... ...

I do have one friend who I know wasn't reading Harry 7 over the weekend, and I bet if she hadn't been at a feis in Milwaukee, she would have come to my party.

Here's what I'm taking to read in Europe: Inkspell and Becoming Jane Austen.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

smarties



I didn't get to do SMART Habits yesterday. It was an extra busy Saturday.

But here's how I'm doing:

Habit 1: Clean speech--habit.

Habit 2: Violin practice--still need a little time off.

Habit 3: Daily writing--This went really well through Wednesday. One day I wrote 1500 words! It's starting to come more naturally. It's exciting and fun. I love it! It's been so helpful to find a healthy outlet for my intensity and imagination. Those of you who know me well probably have an idea of what I'm talking about. I tend to obsess, sometimes not in healthy ways. For example, I often decide I need to move. (Remember the Barcelona thing?) Not because I need to or should. I'm just bored and I need something to think about. Or sometimes I become over-involved in my children's lives when what I really need to do is support them in what they love and then let them be. Or sometimes I decide, for example, that I'm going to go insane if I don't replace my carpets. Now that I'm writing, I find that I don't give a fig about my carpets. Sure they don't look great, but who cares? There are much more interesting things going on in my other world.

On Thursday I started to have too much to do to get ready for the trip to work on the book. I've spent hours trying to book b&bs in Ireland and Spain. The good news is I only have 2 nights left to book. I may not get back to writing actual chapters until we're home, but since the setting of my book is based partly on northern Spain, this is all research. ;-)

I can think of a few more habits I should add, but not before the trip. When I get back I will start again with SMART Habits.

Friday, July 20, 2007

with marcus


I don't know why but Marcus always does this with my hair. He finds it very amusing.

at the park




with mom and dad



serious reading


haircut

At first I was peeved because I did not ask the lady to layer Bernie's hair. I said I wanted it brought up to her chin in a bob. Does that look like what she did? But now I have to admit it's cute.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

in less than a week


J and I are leaving for Europe next Wednesday. The opportunity came up rather suddenly. J has meetings in London, Dublin, Lisbon, and Madrid. I've been pouring over these travel books and the internet trying to figure out what I most want to see. We'll be gone fifteen days, but we don't have much time at all in any of these places. The more I read about Portugal, the more I wish we were staying there longer. Still, it looks like I'll finally get to see Barcelona and Basque Country, too! I really want to see some of Andalusia, especially La Alhambra in Granada, but looks like that will have to wait for another trip. Our stay in London is very brief. In Ireland, we will be in Dublin for a day and a half or so, and then two and a half days in western Ireland.
J's parents are coming to watch the kids.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

habits

I just found this quote on Lara Gallagher's blog:

"In truth, the only difference between those who have failed and those who have succeeded lies in the difference of their habits. Good habits are the key to all success. Bad habits are the unlocked door to failure. Thus, the first law I will obey, which precedeth all others is-I will form good habits and become their slaves."

"As a child I was slave to my impulses; now I am slave to my habits, as are all grown men. I have surrendered my free will to the years of accumulated habits and the past deeds of my life have already marked out a path which threatens to imprison my future. My actions are ruled by appetite, passion, prejudice, greed, love, fear, environment, habit and the worst of these tyrants is habit. Therefore, if I must be a slave to habit let me be a slave to good habits. My bad habits must be destroyed and new furrows prepared for good seed."

The Greatest Salesman in the World, by OG Mandino

sorry, amity girl





Amity and I were in this together. As you can see, from the front it still looks like I'm growing my hair out. From the back...


It happened on Thursday. I was desperate. I couldn't endure to the end. Maybe I will still grow it out, but I needed to do something to the massive, randomly flipping back of my hair. It was dragging me down! I feel relieved of a heavy burden.

smart saturday

I'm not adding any new habits this week. I think I have enough to keep me busy for now. Here's how I'm doing so far.

Habit 1: Clean speech. Now I really notice when I slip up. Swearing is no longer a way of speech for me. I know that "dang" and "crud" are not horribly taboo words, but I like my speech, and self, better now that those words are in my past.

Habit 2: Violin practice. Didn't do it this week. And to tell you the truth, I'm reconsidering it for the summer. We have so little enjoyable weather in this state that I hate to stay in when I can get out, except of course when I'm...

Habit 3: Writing daily. This one I'm not giving up. It is slow, slow going, but I now have a chapter one of 4000 words and a beginning to chapter two. More than half of my writing time has been spent tweaking my outline, so maybe I'm not doing so badly. Not that I have a deadline on this project, anyway. No editors calling. Yet.

As I've noted previously on this blog, I really dig Shannon Hale. On Shannon's website she has some thoughts on writing and I found these cool quotes:

"People have writer's block not because they can't write, but because they despair of writing eloquently."Anna Quindlen (that's me. a tough one to get over.)

"The writer who cares more about words than about story (characters, action, setting, atmosphere) is unlikely to create a vivid and continuous dream; he gets in his own way too much; in his poetic drunkenness, he can't tell the cart--and its cargo--from the horse." John Gardner (well, at least there is no danger of that here. i must have a high tolerance for my poetry, because I don't appear to be drunk on it.)

"An insufficiency of pigs is one of the great faults of modern children's books." Frederick Laws
(plenty of pigs in my book.)

"Douglas Coupland, the author of Generation X, once told me that selling your first book is like winning the lottery; keeping your career going in this industry is like winning the lottery over and over again...The truth is, writing a novel can be painful and horrid. It's like having a stomach virus that lasts three months: You're hunched over your desk, heaving again and again, trying to get the last bit out, but it just won't come. On the other hand, some elements of this business are incredible, fulfilling, glamorous, and life-changing. There's no better feeling in the world than seeing your work on the bookstore shelves for the first time. I may never write the Great American Novel. Likewise, I may never reach the status of John Grisham or Michael Crichton. But I will always follow the advice I got from Mr. Louisiana (a bodybuilder/model/retail broker), a fellow contestant in Fox's Sexiest Bachelor pageant. 'You've got to shake what your mamma gave you.'" Ben Mezrich (i can attest to the stomach virus feel, but i think i need to work on shaking.)

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

escape

The kids have been pretending this afternoon that there is a fire in the house and they have to escape through G's new egress window. It's proved very thrilling. They just came up and asked me, in five minutes or so, to yell down to them "The house is filling with toxic gas! Run for your lives!" so that they could be caught going about their business unawares.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

walking the mississippi


You could follow the headwaters down a little ways, so that was fun.

itasca




is from the words "verITAS" and "CAput." This lake is the source of the Mississippi River. We dropped by on our way home Friday because it's close to Many Point. The state park is gorgeous, the most beautiful I've seen here is Minnesota.

many point




Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday we were at Many Point scout camp up in northern Minnesota. A friend of ours got a week there as the camp doctor. He has children of similar ages to ours, and they invited us up. We got to stay in a beautiful cabin with a kitchen, washer and dryer, and air conditioning! Yes, our type of camping. And get this: we got to eat all of our meals in the staff room of the dining hall. No cooking! It was SO relaxing. All I could hear were the loons and other birds and the wind rustling through the trees. After 7 pm we got to participate in activities like shooting, archery, wall climbing, and swimming.

We did a lot of fishing because my kids are never happier than when they are fishing. They would fish every day if they could. J takes them fishing at a park here fairly often, but this was much more special because they got to fish from a boat. Even Bernie can bait her own hook and remove the hook from the fish. When they go to the park there are usually Russians, Laotians, or Hmongs there fishing. An old Russian guy was amazed at Bernie's fishing abilities. He watched her for a long time. The funny thing is, neither J or I enjoy fishing. In fact, the reason our children are so proficient is that we tell them we will take them as long as we don't have to do anything.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

another habit

We just returned last night from a little trip up north. More on that, including photos, later.

The rehash on my SMART habits:

Habit 1: Clean speech. Not exactly a habit yet, but improving every day. Earlier this week I was waiting at a stop light. The light turned green and I started to go. Suddenly, a crazy lady ran her red light and careened out in front of me. I saw her in time and avoided a collision by slamming on the brakes (it wasn't too bad since I had just barely started accelerating.) Pre-SMART habit, this would have provoked a creative volley of expletives to gush from my mouth. But now? The relaxed smile on my face stayed right where it was. I inhaled deeply and exhaled slowly. I did not say a word and I didn't even think a word, except "Yes." Yes, I am in control. I felt like a queen. I felt powerful.

Habit 2: Violin practice. I did practice every day I was here, but we were out for three days. I find that I have to practice at least five days per week, 1/2 hr each time, to make noticeable progress. Keeping my violin out of the case seems to help because then I pick it up more often.

And now, the moment you've all been waiting for. The unveiling of my latest habit: daily writing. Ta-da! That may not seem very exciting to some, but to me it is. I've finally started working on a novel. I have been wanting to write fiction for years, but I've let several things get in the way. I had college classes to get through. I was busy with the kids. I didn't think I could write something worthwhile. Whenever I would sit down to write, I couldn't come up with any ideas for a good short story or novel. For the past six months or so I've been throwing around some pieces of a novel in my head. I imagined all types of exciting, suspenseful middle chapters, but I couldn't come up with a beginning or end, a setting, or a framework. Finally, all of that came to me about two weeks ago and I've been working on it ever since. I have my characters pretty well fleshed-out in my mind. When I go walking in the morning, they talk to me. They are a pretty noisy bunch. I have the first two-thirds of the book outlined, and a synopsis for the first five chapters. I've started writing the first chapter. It's slow going. I'm awful at writing first drafts. The perfectionist in me prickles up at the stinky writing. It's hard for me to refrain from going back to obsessively pick at it.

I don't want to talk about specifics of the book yet. I think it will sound stupid to anyone but me at this point. However, I did want to throw it out there that I'm working on it, because 1) it's nothing to be ashamed of, and 2) maybe people knowing about it will help me stick with it.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

happy fourth!




"May it be to the world, what I believe it will be ... the signal of arousing men to burst the chains ... and to assume the blessings and security of self-government. That form, which we have substituted, restores the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion. All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. ... For ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them."
~Thomas Jefferson

last night at dinner

Marcus: "Tomorrow is impotence day!"