Monday, September 15, 2014

Meeting the Significant Others of Your Sons

Cafe du Monde, New Orleans, LA 2013. Copyright Beabe Thompson 2014, All rights reserved.

One of the things mothers have to get over early in their children's lives is the presence of "the significant other." The first one in Eldest's life was in kindergarten when he was officially engaged to a classmate. They were dead serious. He's now 22, and if you ask him her name, he'll look at you as if you'd started speaking in tongues.

The second for him came in high school when a fellow classmate decided he was hers, and started coming over for choir show rehearsal. I kid you not. He did eventually take her to Homecoming, buying her a Texas"double" mum instead of a triple. Good move since the gigantic corsage was larger than she was at the time. When they broke up, she would stand across the street, staring at the house, crying. Mystifying and sobering.

His last high school girlfriend is someone still dear to my heart, and the most amazing young woman. They're no longer together, but I still love her dearly, and her parents remain good friends. If I could've adopted her, I would have but instead hired her at my now defunct toy store.

I liked the next girl, especially since she was artistic and funny, creative, and seemed good for him. Sad day when that ended, at least for me.

The current girlfriend has been his for months now, and despite the fact she's a native of Houston, I've never had the privilege of meeting her. They both live in Austin, a few hours away, studying at a university there. Perhaps my eldest is ashamed of me, afraid I'll embarrass him, or God knows what. I did tell him that perhaps he was ashamed of me, and that's why I hadn't met her. He did say no to that, but perhaps there is a kernel of truth there for sure. Maybe it's the mayhem of my housekeeping. Know knows?

Having a twenty-plus son means letting got of a lot of things parental, but there remains a thread that pulls and pains at times. Who knows if I'll ever meet her? For whatever reason, he's chosen to not bring her home, I have to respect it and keep going. Parenting grown-ups really is painful at times, and no one knows that better than a mother, except a father.

So here's to the parents out there who remain in the dark, hoping for the best, keeping cheerful, not resentful, respectful, not guilt inducing. I raise my glass of ice tea to you. Hopefully, our children picked a delightful person we'll eventually get to meet.

Sláinte, y'all.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Letting Go As A Mother

Photograph by Beabe Thompson, 2014, all rights reserved.

I grew up in a father-less household, three women on their own, for the most part. After having lived through a rather mental barbed wire childhood, I said parenthood was not for me. It wasn't just that I didn't want my own offspring, it was that I had no courage or thought no talent for being a good parent.

When I met my second husband, Dan, my mind changed. We had our first son a few years after our marriage. Both of us admitted complete ignorance about what we were doing, although he was the oldest of four with sane parents, and actually had a better idea. I stumbled through his toddler years, watching parenting shows, reading books, talking, talking, talking to my dear husband about what we were doing.All along there was this fear I was getting it so wrong, and that little mistakes were really big ones.There was a miscarriage, then a few years later my last child, another boy came into our world.

I've made so many mistakes as a mother, bumbling along being too sharp, too meddling, too inflexible because of my ignorance and inexperience.  All this has come to fruition.Eldest is off at college, with a girlfriend I've never met. Youngest is going off soon to a faraway college, and my heart's breaking into a million pieces. I've decided eldest is ashamed of me, of our house, something I've done, or not done. Youngest is ready to be done with my meddling, but wants some help and money. Come here, go away, Mom. Adulthood is here for them, ringing the doorbell. If I felt better about the job I'd done as a mother, it would be less painful to let them go. A part of me wants to fix the mistakes that can't be undone, relive the best parts that can't be relived, be loved and held affectionately by my boys. Letting go of all those things is a hard, hard task.

How we rear our kids sets them up as parents later, and faulty parenting screws up more than one generation. Maybe my sons won't ever have kids because of me, because of my parenting skills being poor. I hope not.
Time to open my fingers and let go, let go of the strings we mothers use to bind our family together, let go of the expectations that make no sense and only hurt. Those strings stick to my fingers like fine cotton candy, and don't want to go.

Monday, August 18, 2014

True Blood Drags Its Bloated Corpse Towards the End.

Death brought me to True Blood and Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse novels. I had a very sweet and beautiful childhood friend who loved the TV series, and never missed it. Before brain cancer finally claimed her, she was responsible for introducing True Blood to a lot of her friends.

Lisa and I were both from north Louisiana, the location, supposedly of the TV series and novels.  I just couldn't make myself watch another badly researched Hollywood version of my state. When Lisa passed away, she left us so quietly that her friends were stunned. No fancy funeral and flowers for her, but a simple goodbye and she was gone.

I was left needing "to do something, anything" to mark her passing, and so Sookie finally showed up on my Nook. Note that I did not want her there, but Sookie was a connection to Lisa. I read all the books, rolling my eyes at how Louisiana geography and culture was turned on its ear. 

North and south Louisiana were defined and divided by language and culture for hundreds of years. In the north, it was Scots, Irish, English, African Americans, and displaced Native Americans. To the south were French Creole, Acadians (Cajuns), Spanish, Irish, German, Sicilians, Italians, Native Americans, and African Americans. The Acadians, having been expelled from Canada by the English, settled in south Louisiana, and evolved into the Cajun culture. Note: they had the sense to stay in south Louisiana where there was abundant seafood, fertile land, and good hunting.

True Blood and the Sookie Stackhouse novels annoyed the crap out of me with their geography and cultural issues, but those were the least of their problems. After the first season, the television writers went off on a tangent of keeping alive characters killed off in the books, minimizing the interesting characters (IMHO), and dragging hopeful book readers along until they realized the Eric-Sookie love story arc had been shoved aside.

By the time Harris had finished the Sookie Stackhouse series, having gotten death threats by thwarted crazies, we readers knew the Eric-Sookie situation was not going to happen the way we needed it to go. Between fairies, werewolves, werepanthers, angry witches, and minor characters taking over the show, I gave up on True Blood.

I wanted to see Eric and Sookie have the passionate relationship the books told, without the last book's story arc and that damned Queen of Oklahoma. The fans of the series desperately wanted volcanic passion between our favorite Viking vampire and the waitress from Nowheresville. Year after year we were thwarted.

Now the series is down to one episode, and I'm not biting. Too much disappointment in the previous five years, too much knowledge of what could've been, not enough interest in Hoyt, Jessica, Lafayette, Arlene brought me there. 

My youngest son came home from work last night, and asked why I was watching the first season of "Once Upon a Time". I muttered back something about Jamie Dornan under my breath. My interest in that show took a huge nosedive when they killed him off. Who in their right mind kills off a hot sheriff? (I'm starting to see a pattern here about my taste in paranormal heroes). I watched right up to the moment when Regina crushed the life out of him, waiting for a magic regeneration spell that never happened. Last night found me looking for something interesting to watch while the menfolk were out. Despite it being True Blood night, I was watching Netflicks and ogling Dornan.

Now, while I ignore the bloated, rotting corpse of True Blood, my mind is now on "Outlander". My heart hopes it stays true to Jamie and Claire. Common sense says the movie/series is never as good as the book, but I'm still hopeful after episode 2. Lisa would've been plastered to her tv watching Outlander, and comparing book notes and scene nuances with her friends. 

Lisa, I know you're in Heaven and keeping tabs on your old shows. When True Blood ends, I'll be saying goodbye to you again, but in my heart we'll be discussing how Eric should've gotten the girl. As it should've been in a romantic, messy, happy ending that we all deserve. Alexander Skarsgard in his most erotic and beautiful finest hour. Maybe you're writing fan fiction up there, Lisa. If you are, I hope you're rewriting the story arc of True Blood. Miss you.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

How NaNoWriMo Helped Me Get My Dream Back

Sometimes published authors forget what it's like to struggle to put words to a page, wrestle with editing, revisions, and feel the rejection of readers. For a chronically disorganized personality like mine, writing is both wonderful and devastating. Being a Pantser, the words can flow, even rush out like flood waters. The stories want out, and sometimes it's not pretty. Sometimes they fight being put into order and edit.

I've been writing fiction since middle school, but only my nonfiction has been published other than Wattpad. There was one night in Knoxville where everything I'd ever written was burned in our fireplace, stinking up the house for days. It was a really low point in my life, having post-partum depression, missing a lifetime's worth of friends in New Orleans, dealing with motherhood without my mother and extended family. I don't regret burning them, because a catharsis was needed.

Last year I heard about National Novel Writing Month, and decided to give it a go to get me restarted with novel writing. The camaraderie of others struggling towards a goal of 50,000 was encouraging. By the end many had fallen because of time limitations, self-doubt, family situations, illness, and mind games. The whole situation resembled a runner's marathon, with the finish line blinking 50,000 words. The victory of getting the word count is sweet, but what participants often miss is that just the doing, the joining is a victory in itself.

So what if someone didn't make the goal? They tried. The self-doubters, and I count myself among them, can allow this to either destroy their writing dreams once and for all, or to give themselves credit for trying.

Some participants think the 50,000 words should be a legible, readable, fully edited and ready to be published work. No way. Just stopping to edit during that month can be a stumbling block. Wait until December or January to edit and expand. The NaNoWriMo word sprints on Twitter don't exist to create a full fledged page or paragraph, but to bust a writer out of a block or plot dead end. Write in dates at local coffee houses aren't meant to do anything but spur writers on with like-minded souls who want to get those 50,000 words.

That's what NaNoWriMo did for me. Yes, my manuscript was a mess after the deadline, but I managed to finish because of the helps build into the system. The daily practice of putting words down, using a goal, established a routine. Experts have said that if you practice a new activity for a month, it should become a habit once that month's done. That's what NaNoWriMo did for me. My prose is not supposed to be perfect, just like a blacksmith takes a piece of metal and hammers it into a horseshoe. The hammering blows shape prose and make it something whole and finished.

I was talking to some writers about NaNoWriMo, and one made a comment about how participants had a mess on their hands at the end of the month. How it would have to be whipped into shape to be publishable. How can something so beautiful as a month's worth of written story be a mess? No, that's what NaNoWriMo taught me. What might be considered a mess by an outsider is a thing of beauty and accomplishment. Yes, it needs to be edited, rewritten, formatted, beta read, but a soul has squeezed out a story, perhaps a partial story in 30 days. That in itself is a miracle and something to celebrate.

So that girlhood dream of being a professional novel writer survived journalism school, a nonwriting career in the oil industry, motherhood, discouragement, rejection, to find NaNoWriMo. My dream is imperfect, but it has been restored.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Fellow Writers, Give Scrivener a Chance!

What's the goal when we get lost in the doing of it?

The other day I participated in a Scrivener workshop during a local Houston writers' group meeting. I've been using it since last January while participating in the 2014 NaNoWriMo run. So many writers in my NaNoWriMo group were debating Word vs Scrivener, with the later coming up with the most praise for organization and features.

For some time I'd been fighting with Word as my primary novel writing software, and felt something more flexible and feature conscious was needed. I bought Scrivener and immediately felt overwhelmed. It reminded me of when Microsoft "improved" Excel and Works until they were no longer low tech friendly. Luckily one kind soul suggested making use of the YouTube videos out there, and learning it became tremendously easier.

While I still haven't mastered a lot of it, Scrivener has been a time and productivity life saver. Rearranging chapters, reorganizing outlines were never so easy with Word.

Here's where my meeting came into the fray. An established author taught the workshop, someone who's got the street cred in a writers' group. I overheard two people from the first made up their minds it was too hard to learn, took too long from their book writing, etc. (Writers as a whole are easily distracted, so it's a valid point.)

Yes, it's hard to teach complicated software in 1 1/2 hours, but it's worth a look. The only time I use Word now is to download from Scrivener for a run through Grammarly, then off to my beta reader. If you're content with Word, good for you. If Word makes you crazy when saving drafts, rearranging chapters, dialog, then give Scrivener a chance and check out the videos. Take a class. There's a really good reason why so many writers are in love with it, and just like real love, it's worth the work.

Some Links for Scrivener helps and tutorials: