“That would be so much more fun to work on…”

It’s the first Wednesday of the month, so time for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group post.

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!
Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day.

You can join here: https://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/iwsg-sign-up.html

October 6 question – In your writing, where do you draw the line, with either topics or language?

***

I don’t have a lot to say on that subject, so I’m going to write about tangent projects and haiku.

While working on another project, I had an idea for a silly haiku book. You know how it is—your work in progress has hit a point where you are just unimpressed, and then some tangent projects start poking your brain. “Hey! This chapter is going nowhere. How about you write a book of haiku? It’ll be great!” My brain convinced me it would be fun, so I set aside my novel (again) and worked on the haiku book.

I did rein myself in after a few days and got back to the novel. (What a mature writer moment. Who saw that coming?) The haiku book idea is filed away for future use. I don’t foresee there being a big market for it, so it’s just going to be a “look at this fun thing I did” project.

I read once that the goal of haiku is to illustrate a particular moment, preferably something in nature. I came across that bit of information about 30 years after being taught the 5-7-5 format, so my brain has never been hard wired to that “moment in nature” philosophy. (Haiku philosophy! So cool!) My haiku tend to be on the less “artistic” side, but I don’t let that get in the way of haiku fun.

Though I love the challenge of finding those perfect 17 syllables, I read recently that the 5-7-5 format isn’t as important as capturing the essence of the moment/idea, so you can be flexible with structure as well as content. Poetry is subjective, ideas evolve, etc. so you do you in your haiku.

(Note: I was proofreading this and realized that last bit in the previous sentence has seven syllables. My haiku senses are tingling! I will probably have a new haiku to post tomorrow.)

I wrote the haiku below years ago after spending two days making up haiku for just about everything that was happening. I think it started as a friendly haiku challenge and then I could not stop. I don’t remember the exact details, but I seem to remember someone saying, “Are you going to do this forever?”

Help! I’m trapped in a

Haiku factory and I

Can’t find the exit!

It’s one of my favorites. Very meta.

Anyone else get distracted by tangent projects?  Any other haiku lovers?

The Philosophy of Success

This post is for the monthly Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story.

You can check out more details here: https://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/iwsg-sign-up

September 1 question – How do you define success as a writer? Is it holding your book in your hand? Having a short story published? Making a certain amount of income from your writing?

***

Ooooh- being invited to philosophize about word meanings! The universe is shining on me today!

Success is all about the mindset, right?

When I was about twelve, inspired by an author interview, I found the place in the library stacks where my future book would be shelved. For ages, that was my view of writing success—a book in the school library. I had no plan, but I didn’t worry about it. It didn’t even occur to me that I might need a plan. My book being on a library shelf was just a thing that was going to happen. Success, baby!

I’m not sure when that version of success faded, (though now that I am reminded of it, it would be pretty cool to have a book in a library) but these days success is as simple as being able to write a few hundred words a day, or even coming up with a perfect synonym. Woohoo!

It would be nice to say that this modest version of success is due to my new, zen-like outlook on life, but I doubt that’s the case. Though I am measurably more chill lately, I suspect the new definition of success is more due to lowering my expectations. What can I say? Life pressures wore me down.

It’s not a really a problem, though. Recognizing the day-to-day successes keeps me from getting so discouraged that I give up writing altogether. I could recycle the library book version of success as a long-term goal, but it might make more sense to just shoot to finish that first draft. (This should be a no-brainer, but my sixth-grade brain is in control right now. Don’t judge.) I’ll have to think about it. In the meantime, I’m going to celebrate the opportunity to be philosophical about definitions. I’m feeling like a winner already!

Writing Craft Book

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds! You can sign up here: https://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/iwsg-sign-up.html

August 4 question – What is your favorite writing craft book? Think of a book that every time you read it you learn something or you are inspired to write or try the new technique. And why?

I am currently reading “Story Genius” by Lisa Cron. The exercises have helped me develop a different way to think about what I’m writing. I’ve also learned new ways to observe how elements relate to the overall story.

I am not exaggerating when I say that I had an “my novel makes sense now!” moment. Of course the moment didn’t last, and I do still sometimes wonder if it’s even worth it to continue with my work in progress. But the book did help me create a sort of philosophy to get back to when I get lost writing.

It’s also a fun read. The tone is friendly and has a “you’re not the only one thinking this sucks” attitude. (The author probably didn’t use that exact language.)

I did have to rein myself in a bit and remind myself that none of it is an assignment — I am allowed to stray from the lessons if I need to. Almost made myself MORE insecure there for a minute!

Other books have been helpful in general ways, but this one is giving me the exact help I need at this time. It’s been great. I highly recommend it.

I am looking forward to reading other people’s favorites and picking out the next additions to my “to be read” pile.

It’ll Never Work

It’s the first Wednesday of the month, so time for the ISWG!

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

It’s fun! Join here: https://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/iwsg-sign-up.html

July 7 question – What would make you quit writing?

The only thing that could make me quit writing is if someone came up with a version of Extreme Meditation.* Extreme Meditation would give me the ability to make my brain quit thinking things like “Hey that would be a great name for a character,” or “Sure, you’re irritated now, but won’t this make a great story?”

But really, even if someone did come up with Extreme Meditating, I’d be much more likely to use it to make my brain leave me alone about things other than writing. No more obsessing about whether I bought the wrong house or if I talked too much in that one meeting. There are a lot of things to quit thinking about. Writing/being a writer would be way down on that list.

Peace and love!

*Philosophical question- is Extreme Meditation a paradox?  I’m pretty sure it is. (Do you see what I’m dealing with here? While I’m writing, my brain is already thinking of other things to write about. Even meditating to the extreme probably can’t fix that.** I’m doomed to be a writer forever.***)

**Especially if I make ‘comma’ my mantra. “Commmmmaaaaa.”

***I don’t have a problem with this.

Leave a comment with your completely unhelpful mantra!

Lori

Scheduling “space” from your writing project

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group:

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Check it out here: https://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/iwsg-sign-up.html

June 2 question – For how long do you shelve your first draft, before reading it and re-drafting? Is this dependent on your writing experience and the number of stories/books under your belt?

I don’t think I’ve made conscious, consistent choices with this. Usually by the time something is “finished” (I am using that term loosely) I’m so over it that I don’t bother going back to it for months, if ever. That is probably because I rarely have a strict timeline in mind. Mainly I just want to get what is in my head on paper (Ok, screen, but I still think of writing as “getting it on paper”. Who doesn’t love paper?) and then get on with the next thing. Or just go back to slacking. Whichever.

This downtime will be something to keep in mind now that I’m trying to write with more specific goals. I’ll have to build some “lock it in the cabinet and don’t look at it” time into my writing schedule. I guess the length of the piece is probably a factor? Also how long I’ve been working on it? Seems like a day or two break wouldn’t be long enough for a novel, but it would probably be sufficient for a blog post.

I look forward to reading how other people plan this.

PS- I can’t help picturing going back for the rewrite and having to explain to the work in progress, “WE WERE ON A BREAK!”

***

Secretary of Bizarre Cosmic Injuries

I finally have something in common with a President of the United States. No, I have not mastered bodysurfing or started wearing stovepipe hats. Like Joe Biden, I have broken my foot while playing with a dog. (Note: it is NEVER the dog’s fault when this happens. I am confident Joe agrees with me on this.)

I was thrilled to have this in common with the next President, so I texted my kids about it.

Me: JOE BIDEN BROKE HIS FOOT PLAYING WITH HIS DOG

Me: #notjustme

Daughter: I bet he didn’t do it twice *three laughing emojis*

Yes, as my daughter loves to point out, I have two dog related broken foot incidents. Not exactly fun, but I think I can use the experiences to help the Biden administration.

The first one was when my kids were young. I had just put a frozen pizza in the oven. I never preheat for frozen pizza—I just put it in and start the oven. As the oven warmed up, I smelled oven cleaner and realized I must have missed some when cleaning the oven earlier that day. The smell didn’t seem like it would enhance the pizza flavor, (also-would the fumes somehow get in the pizza and poison us?) so I pulled the pizza out and turned off the oven. I wiped the oven out a few more times to be sure to get all the cleaner, then turned it back on, put the pizza in, and restarted the timer.

There were no oven cleaner fumes the second time, but we did smell burned pizza. I had forgotten that the pizza would be thawing while I wiped out the oven, and I hadn’t shortened the cooking time accordingly. Smoke, burnt cheese, black crust, etc.

  The kids were starting to wonder if they’d ever get dinner. To keep them occupied while the second pizza was cooking, we played tag. I chased them to the back of house and tagged them, then turned around and ran to front of house while they chased me. The dog was on both teams, running back and forth with us. On one pass when the kids were “it”, I ran into the dog and fell. Have you ever had the kind of break where it seemed like you heard it from the inside? It was like that. From the pain and the sound, I was pretty sure it was broken. I wanted to yell, but I tried to be as calm as possible so the kids wouldn’t freak out. (The dog was uninjured. Yay!)

I was lying there trying to look like everything was fine when the pizza timer went off again.

“Don’t burn this one too, Mommy” said my daughter, looking down at me.

Sighing at the lack of sympathy, I got up and hobbled to the stove. I cut the pizza into bite size pieces, then sent the kids to their kiddie table with their plates.

By then the foot hurt too much to even limp on it, so I hopped to the couch. I called my mom, then sat there waiting for help to arrive. A few minutes later the kids came to the living room. Clearly their “read the room” skills had not developed yet, because they asked for more pizza.

“I’m sorry. You’ll have to wait for Granny to get here. I can’t get off the couch right now because I hurt my foot.”

“Granny! Yay!” they replied, clearly not the least bit concerned about me.

(This proved to be a trend with my kids. Years later, I fell off the monkey bars. Did they worry? Not at all. My daughter continued swinging across, stopping only to hang over me and ask, “Are you dead down there, Mom?”)

My husband got home soon after and took me to the emergency room. I then got to tell the front desk person, the admitting nurse, the x-ray tech, the doctor, and what seemed like 14 other hospital employees that I had tripped over a dog. Super fun.

I had to wear a walking boot and use crutches for about six weeks. Telling the “tripped over a dog” story for six weeks turned out to be even less fun than telling my mom that I had gotten hurt while running in the house. About three days in I started wishing that I had gone with hang gliding or something cool like that.

Moral of the story:  Cleaning ovens is for suckers. If at all possible, wait until you are moving out of state to clean your oven. Then you will not be the next person to turn it on.

It was twenty years, five houses, and four dogs later the next time I broke my foot, but when I fell, I acted as if I had done it the week before.

“I @&#%ing did it again” I yelled from the living room floor. (Since I no longer had young children, I felt that I was justified in being as dramatic as I wanted to be.)

My daughter ran in and immediately wanted to take me to the emergency room (Compassion! Finally!) but I resisted. After about an hour of pretending to be fine while my foot swelled and turned purple, I finally agreed to let her take me. (The dogs were uninjured. Yay!)

There were no rooms available in the ER so I was assigned to “Hall Four”—literally a bed in the hall, with a large number four painted on the wall behind the bed. By then my foot was so big and so purple that every ER employee who went by stopped to gawk and say something along the lines of, “Whoa! Dude! What’d you do?”  So many people came by that after a while I started to suspect that someone had sent an IM saying “Go check out that foot in Hall Four. Dang!”

Walking boot technology had improved a bit over the years, but my attitude about them had not. I was irrationally crabby about the whole thing. A few days later when I went back to work, I was not in the mood to tell even more people that I had tripped over a dog. Even if most of the people at work had not heard the previous story, I was not doing that again.

So I started telling people it was a meteor strike. Genius idea, right? Who’s going to question a meteor strike? Some people laughed; some people gave me a blank stare. That’s pretty much how my days go anyway, so it worked out well.

Moral of the story:  Blame any embarrassing injuries on a meteor strike. No one believes you, but it doesn’t matter because they don’t mind laughing with you. It makes the situation just a little less aggravating.

Five years later, I still maintain that the second one was a meteor strike. “Prove me wrong” is my attitude about it. And that attitude is exactly what I will use to help President Biden:

Me: JOE BIDEN BROKE HIS FOOT PLAYING WITH HIS DOG

Me: #notjustme

Daughter: I bet he didn’t do it twice *three laughing emojis*

Me: Meteor.strike. Get it right

Me: Hey! There WAS a fireball meteor seen on the East Coast a few weeks ago. Clearly Joe is a victim of a meteor strike as well! No dogs involved at all!

Son: That is hilarious. You should be his cabinet member of “bizarre cosmic injuries”

We laughed at the time, but later I realized that it is another genius idea.

I would be great at this job. If there is ever a dog related incident, I am confident that I will be able to find a meteor shower/eclipse/sunspots/Death Star malfunction/whatever to explain it away. It will exonerate the dog as well as shield the President from having to tell an ER physician that it happened again. To avoid potential conflicts of interest, if I am injured (dog related or otherwise) while Secretary I will not use a space related instance to explain it. I will sacrifice my dignity for my country and for dogs everywhere, and just say that I fell off the monkey bars.

Believable. Unprovable. Win/win.

Since most of the major cabinet positions have been filled now, it is a perfect time for President Biden to think about this.

I can start immediately, Mr. President. Just let me know!

A Pleasant Surprise for My Writing

It’s time for IWSG!

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!


Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day.

This month’s question is about reader reactions — have any responses been unexpected or surprising?

I haven’t put much of my writing out in the world yet. Response to my blog has been positive, but being an insecure writer, I naturally attribute that to my blog being read (mostly) by people that love me. My family and friends wouldn’t criticize my writing in public — right?

Occasionally the number of views is higher than I expect. Originally I expected about four views, so it doesn’t exactly require a viral response to beat the expectations, but it is still a pleasant surprise every time.

I was shocked the first time there was a view from another country. Naturally, the insecure part of my brain immediately reminded me that proxy servers are a thing. It simultaneously reminded me that I’m hardly important enough that someone would have to hide that they’re reading my blog. Insecurity wise, those thoughts balanced each other out and became the general “Hey, people I don’t know are reading my blog! Who saw that coming?”

I use all that information in feeble attempts to psyche myself up: “Even people that love me wouldn’t read something they hate”, and “They can’t all be hackers”. Surprisingly, those miniature pep talks do motivate me to write more often.

The feedback from the IWSG has been great for my morale as well — other writers reading my work! I never expected that! Many thanks to all of them.

If anyone is interested in joining in ISWG, you can find the information here: https://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/iwsg-sign-up

Check it out and get your motivation on!

But Is It Really Cool?

Philosophical question: Can I really be cool with my nerdiness?

Don’t get me wrong. I am totally at peace with my book-reading, word-philosophizing self. Embrace the geekiness, that’s me. But is cool really the word to use here? Cool and nerd have traditionally been opposites, so trying to be cool and nerdy at the same time could theoretically cause a paradox so big it could tear a hole in the space/time continuum.

(You saw the geeky thing above right? That was blatant foreshadowing indicating that at some point you’d be marking “space/time continuum” on your blog bingo card.)

So can you (I) be both cool and nerdy at the same time?

Of course!

The most obvious, if a bit boring, argument for it is that “cool” no longer has to mean you sit at the popular kids’ table at lunch, or even that it’s literally a bit chilly at that table. “Cool” has evolved to mean, “I am at one with the present circumstances and do not let them bother me.” So yes, in the most basic sense it is possible to be cool while the popular kids call you a nerd. It’s barely a paradox at this point.

(Note: I can’t tell you why someone would be pleased to sit with a group of people who think discussing grammar is odd. All I’m saying is that it can happen without endangering the space/time continuum.)

Literary paradoxes are fairly common. They’re used to help make a point or to capture the reader’s interest. Two often quoted lines are “I must be cruel to be kind,” by Williams Shakespeare, and “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” by Charles Dickens.

No danger there. In fact, the examples above show that literary paradoxes can actually be a bit boring. Shut up already, Hamlet, we get it — everyone must pay for this outrage. Make up your mind already, Dickens, or I’m closing this book until less confusing times.

Paradoxes can be fun though, even the ones that aren’t strictly literary. One of my favorites is the video “Hip to Be a Square” from the tv show Sesame Street. (A spoof on the Huey Lewis and the News song.) In the video a square sings that it’s ok to be a square — all shapes are “hip” in his neighborhood. That’s a great lesson even if most kids probably don’t understand the paradox in being “hip” and “square” at the same time. But what makes this video paradox perfection is that the singing square and his square friends are in a rock band! Being “square” and in a rock band simultaneously is not possible — ask anyone! The video is a paradox with paradox subtext! Genius! Look out space/time continuum!

As great as that video is, the best part about paradoxes (at least if you’re a word philosopher) is that you can make them up at anytime. “I’m on-board with being shipwrecked with Indiana Jones,”— made that one up while I was on hold with the cable company. Try it on your next road trip or while waiting for a table at a restaurant. Show them that you’re cool with your nerdiness. Best paradox wins.

Keeping the Clichés at Bay

The clichés are out to get me.

Not that I’m special or anything. Clichés stalk everyone, trying to wedge themselves into people’s lives. The more people they can convince to write/do/be clichés, the happier the cliché powers-that-be are. “Do what you want,” says the cliché, “I can’t stop you. But don’t you want to just try this other thing? Or maybe just describe it this other way? See? I knew you’d like it. All’s well that ends well.”

I don’t know why the clichés were even putting effort into my life. It was practically a cliché already when all of this started. I’d been married to my high school sweetheart almost thirty years. We had kids, dogs, a mortgage, etc. The only thing even a bit unusual about us was that we were a military family, living on bases and moving frequently. Maybe the cliché committee wasn’t meeting its quota or something. Who knows. But for whatever reason they sent one of their oldest, most reliable, cliché inducing situations: the mid-life crisis. My husband, about to turn 50, left to start a new life.

For weeks, I was a total break up cliché — crying, binge watching TV, grief eating. Going to work and keeping the dogs fed were about the only two things that I could accomplish. Somewhere, an entry-level cliché handler was awarded an “Employee of the Month” parking spot for provoking my oh-so-typical response.

But soon, it occurred to me that the situation was not as common as it seemed. My Marine husband hadn’t left me for a woman he met on a deployment. He left to pursue a relationship with a woman from his Bible study group. Not ultra-common.

I was in the midst of preparing to be a bridesmaid as well. The wedding was in a different part of the country, so all the preparations were being handled long distance. Literally two weeks after husband left, I had to drag myself out of the house and go to the bridal store alone to try on bridesmaid dresses. I did manage to not roll my eyes or cry when random brides-to-be picked out their dresses. Bonus non-cliché points for that.

I had also recently been placed in the Jeopardy contestant pool. I was excited to get that far into the Jeopardy process, but I didn’t really expect to get on the show. But after my husband left, I just knew the next catastrophe would be Jeopardy calling me while I could barely function. There’d be a laryngitis epidemic, and I’d be one of the only people in the contestant pool that could still speak loudly. Jeopardy would be forced to call me as a last resort. Then, I’d get to have a nervous breakdown on TV when Alex revealed the category “Happily Ever After.” Surely that hasn’t happened often.

So, to review: Husband left me for Bible study woman; I was preparing to be a bridesmaid; and I was waiting for Jeopardy to call me out to Hollywood.

Nice try, forces of cliché! Instead of adding up to the biggest divorce cliché ever, my life had become the premise of a sitcom.

Sitcom me would be angry, not sad. She’d say things like, “Which Bible verse made him think this is ok? ‘Rationalizations, Chapter 2018’?” or “What, he’s a pirate now? Vows are more like guidelines?”

Sitcom me would lose weight and look fabulous in her bridesmaid dress. So fabulous that she’d convince a sexy groomsman to accompany her to the Jeopardy taping. In a brilliant, season-ending plot twist, she’d win big in Final Jeopardy by being the only contestant who knew that John A Lejeune was the 13th Commandant of the Marine Corps. Sitcom me and sexy groomsman would use the winnings to get surfing lessons in Hawaii.

Of course it’s not how my life went. I didn’t think up those snarky comments until I started writing this blog. I had a great time at the wedding, but the only thing I picked up was a hangover. Jeopardy never called. But even though my life didn’t become a sitcom, thinking that it could be one cheered me up. For a while, I even quit thinking my life was a cliché.

Of course the cliché committee couldn’t let that continue, so they sent online dating.

I had not been thinking about dating at all. When you’re dealing with a divorce, you’re not really thinking “Can’t wait to have another guy break up with me.” But people talked to me about dating all the time, especially online dating. Some of them even sang dating app jingles at me.

Since I’d been married so long, my only experience with online dating was from years before when someone used my debit card number to sign up for a dating app. So aggravating. Not only did I have to block my card and reset all my automatic payments, I also had to convince my financial institution that I did not sign up for that dating site. “No, I did not sign up for that app, I’m married. No, really. Look at my birth date, I don’t even technically qualify to use that app yet. Trust me, if I were to ever use a dating app, it would be something more along the lines of “cougarsrus.com.”

(Ok, I never said that last one to my financial institution. I said it at a party when the idea of being single seemed impossible. Sometimes the clichés team up with irony. Jerks.)

But now I was a prime candidate for a dating app. Why not?

Not sure what I was expecting. I guess some grand algorithm that paired me up with my ideal mate. He’d probably live in Buenos Aires and I’d never get to meet him, but at least I’d know a match was out there. We could at least be pen pals.

I’d forgotten that some apps are based on location instead of algorithms. I was shocked when I hit “enter” and men immediately appeared on the screen. I hadn’t even answered any questions about my favorite books yet! Was it swipe right or left if you liked someone?

On the first day I noticed a lot of guys from a city about 75 miles away. I’d never heard of the place, which was weird since the number of possible matches seemed to indicate it was a decent sized city. An internet search revealed that it’s a truck stop. Guys were stopping for gas, checking the app, and then driving away! Seemed weird and counter-productive, but then again, I had just learned which way to swipe. For all I knew, gas station likes earned extra star power or something.

On day three I finally got brave enough to send messages to some of the men. First guy responded with one word. ONE WORD. I gave him a day to add more information before giving him the left swipe heave ho. “No thank you,” I said to the app. “I do not have the mental energy to pry conversations out of a man.”

Another guy suggested we go for a long car ride on our first date. Oh sure, that’s not creepy.

After a few more frustrating interactions I took a break from messaging, but I kept stalking the app. I quickly developed some auto-rejection criteria:

Guys at the truck stop

Guys pictured holding a fish

Guys that didn’t smile in their pictures

Guys wearing a hat in every picture

Guys posing at the gym

Guys whose beards weigh more than my dog

Except for the not smiling one, there is nothing wrong with any of those things. They were just reasons to not have to pick anyone.

Rejecting every man no matter what? Afraid to open myself up to a new relationship? Ugh. You could practically feel the clichés in the room.

I kept scrolling and swiping, but with no real purpose. Two profiles finally convinced me that I probably wasn’t ready to date.

First guy said he was in the Air Force. “Give me a break, Air Force. Get back to me if you join the Marines Corps.”

Very next guy was a Marine. “NO MARINES! SWIPE LEFT! SWIPE LEFT!”

I laughed at myself and gave up. Probably just in time. Cliché-wise, I was probably only a day away from taking a chance on a giant-bearded, body-building, hat-modeling fisherman.

The only thing I got out of the app was stories. The truck stop thing made people laugh, as did my ridiculousness about Marines. I started thinking that the whole thing would be fun to write about.

BAM! Sneak attack! Big cliché had obviously found out I’d avoided the “I’d given up on love when I met him” trap, and they’d leveled up! Of course they’d suggest writing about online dating! Writing about online dating is practically the cliché-est of clichés!

I fought the urge to write. I told people that I’d really like to write about it, but it had already been done. I pretended I didn’t have a blog, or even a journal. But come on! I’m supposed to resist writing about people checking their dating apps at truck stops? Can’t be done!

So, I gave in and wrote this blog post. But that doesn’t mean the clichés are the boss of me! Sure, I wrote about online dating even though it had been done a million times before, but if I saw a cliché heading my way, I grabbed that cliché and used it as a weapon! I invoked clichés to beat other clichés at their own game!

Yes, I achieved Meta-Cliché! Victory! Bow to Your Queen, clichés! I own you.

Probably not interesting enough for a TV show, but it might make a good t-shirt.

Anyone else out there beating clichés into submission?

That Time I Tried to Be Normal

My kids say we’re crazy, “but in a good way.” It’s fine. It’s a family trait, like having a cute nose, or being loud. Our lives are not non-stop, call-the-cops insanity. We just think a little silliness makes life fun.

Dancing was always part of that fun. We cranked up the radio and surfed with the Beach Boys. Ray Charles led us through “Shake A Tail Feather.” There were victory dances practically every day. Got a turkey in bowling? Victory dance! Poured the milk without spilling? Victory dance! (That one’s for me. I lack pouring skills).

Another silly favorite was the cutout in the kitchen wall. It was originally intended for handing food through to the dining room. But since we used the dining room as a family room, the cutout was pretty much pointless. Not to the kids, though. They renamed it the “pizza window,” and could not get enough of it. They’d “order” their food at the window, and then go eat in front of the TV. It was the best restaurant ever, as far as they were concerned.

The family room also functioned as a campground. We built tents out of chairs and sheets, and the kids would live in them for entire weekends. One summer, they convinced me to leave the tent up for a week. I was invited in for games, snacks, and TV. Even the dog would hang out in the tent. In the manner of our family tradition, she was a bit weird, too.* Her favorite snack was crickets. Obviously, this campground didn’t (usually) have crickets, but she considered sharing the kids’ chips an acceptable alternative.

Though the kids were perfectly fine with silliness at home, they weren’t always quite as chill about public displays of weirdness. My demonstrations of different ways to jay-walk (jay-skipping, jay-twirling, etc.) were usually met with “Maaaaahmmmm. Stop.” There were also minor protests over my “Meanest Mom Ever” Halloween costume. Even so, most goofy behavior was met with a shrug and “Whatever.”

(Or so I thought. When I mentioned putting the jay-skipping in this blog, my daughter said, “Oh man. Wow. I had totally forgotten about that,” and hid her face in her hands. I’m sure she’s fine.)

They’re adults now, but so far none of us has grown out of being a little crazy. This past winter, my son convinced us to create a multiple snowman display in the front yard. Just this week, my daughter and I did a “the Wi-Fi works” dance. So yeah, we’re still one with the weird.

I did try to be boring once. The kids saw something about a “normal” family on TV, and it somehow led to me trying to prove I could be normal, too. Of course, I couldn’t just stop dancing and making jokes. There’d be no fun in that. I decided to be “ultra-normal” and started acting like a proper, boring mom like the one on TV.

“What would you like for lunch, children?”

“Grilled cheese sandwiches, please.”

“Excellent choice. I shall get started right away.” Giggles from the kids.

After about ten minutes my son started getting worried, and the conversation changed a bit.

“What pleasant weather we’re having.”

“Ok, Mom. You can go back to being your normal self.”

“This is my new normal self. Your lunch will be ready presently. Would you like to eat at the table like a normal person, or do you prefer to eat in front of the television like crazy people?

“Mom, please go back to being regular.”

Looking back, I realize he might have been a bit freaked out to see his mom change personalities so dramatically. (Maybe I really was the Meanest Mom Ever.) On the other hand, it might have been that he just didn’t like the idea of eating lunch at the table. Either way, he was done with the normal experiment.

“Mom. Just be the regular you.”

“Whatever do you mean, children?” I replied in my posh voice. But as I flipped the grilled cheese, I couldn’t resist a quiet cheer and a tiny “didn’t set it on fire” victory dance. (Gas burners. It’s happened.)

Unfortunately for the normal experiment, I hadn’t noticed that my daughter had come up to the pizza window to see if the sandwiches were ready. Busted! She giggled at my little dance but didn’t say anything, so I broke into the “Monkey” for a super victory dance.

Before I could come up with another boring comment about the weather, my son also got up to check on lunch. He spotted me and yelled, “I KNEW IT! I SEE YOU DANCING IN THERE! DOING THE “MONKEY” IS NOT NORMAL!”

Experiment over. I failed the normal test. We laughed and did the “Monkey” for a minute, then I handed them their lunches through the pizza window.

As my son was taking his plate he said, “I’m glad you’re not normal.”

I figured he was really saying “I’m glad you’re not being normal anymore, and went back to being our regular fun mom.” After all, I was handing him food through the wall. But I asked anyway, just to see what else he had to say.

“Why?”

“Because you suck at it”.

A normal, boring mom would have grounded him. But we’re crazy in the good way, so we just laughed and made it a family legend.

The Cricket Patrol
The Snow Squad saluting me as I drove by

*See previous blog posts about the other crazy dogs in our lives