Music: The Sensory Edition

If you know me, or have followed this blog for any amount of time, you realize that I love music. I use music for mood alteration, inspiration, and escape. My preferred listening method is live, in concert. For sanity sake, I try to attend at least two live performances a year but life doesn’t always allow that.

My second and third choices for listening are earphones and in the car—alone. 100_4829

Having songs plugged into my ears is great for tuning out exterior noise, but it isn’t always practical when supervising children. Plus, I don’t want to subject those around me to my butchered attempts when singing along.

When driving, I usually have my nifty homeschool kids in the car and they like music, too, just not always the same stuff I like. I used to put the “Children’s Music” playlist on shuffle when we went anywhere but I found myself getting a little snappy after fifteen minutes. So now the whole iPod—which is attached to a cassette adapter because I’m so last century—gets put on shuffle when we go.

A Disney song = the kids happy, or most of them, and often me.

A little Mitch Malloy = me happy, and sometimes the kids.

Queen = everyone is good.

Sesame Street = one happy kid.

The Beach Boys = all good, for most songs.

And on, and on.

There are a few times it’s easier to skip to the next song because the natives are noisily protesting, but most of the time they settle down when I say “it’s Mommy’s turn.” When a song I love comes on, my immediate reflex is to turn it up, but with boys with sensory issues in the car, they drown out the music with their own shrieking of discomfort. (That or I get “What’s Mommy singing?” from my teen with autism, as if he can’t tell I’m trying to sing the song that we’re listening to. Funny kid.)

All this—and more—is why my favorite non-live music experience is in the car. ALONE. I can turn it up as loud as I want and sing off-key without annoying people. (I’d also say without embarrassing myself, but I never know who is watching from the outside of the car.) Listening in a vehicle is a step above earphones because the music cocoons your whole self, not just your ears. At times you can feel it, but it’s an immersive experience and the steering wheel makes a good keyboard or drum.

What’s your listening habit?

New Orleans Revival

I finished the first draft of FORTITUDE last Tuesday, September 10, 2013. Cue the party horns!

It felt great and I immediately took a few days off from serious writing because I busted my fingers and brain the previous two weeks to get it done. Yes, even though it’s Laurie Halse Anderson’s annual WFMAD challenge this month, I played hooky. I’d planned on keeping away from FORTITUDE for a couple weeks to get the whole distance and perspective break most professionals suggest writers take before diving into revisions, but that didn’t happen.

What did happen was something like this:

DAY OUT WITH FRIENDS IN NEW ORLEANS

Last Thursday I drove Joyce, Lee Ann, and MeLeesa to the big sleazy for dinner and a concert at House of Blues. We bought tickets for the Hanson show at the beginning of summer but it happened to fall in place that we all had literary milestones to celebrate last week: fishing drafts, multi-book contracts, and waiting to hear back from NYC editors. It was—is—an exciting time and we all needed the change of pace to escape the writing cave and chill with those who understand.

(Yes, I did say Hanson and I’m not ashamed. My musical interests span genres and centuries and there’s a special place in my music library for the guys of Hanson. They rock, with a little Motown jive here and there, plus they’ve matured nicely.



Just to show a sampling of what I listen to, on the drive back I switched from Hanson to Mitch Malloy to Boston before settling on Helloween. The guitar chords got heavier as the night grew later because this driver needed to stay alert.)

What happened the day after was constant music playing in my head. Music inspires me—always has, always will—and by late afternoon I had to get back to FORTITUDE. Four days later I’ve finished a complete round of editing plus several scene rewrites/additions to the praises of my first beta reader. I think I’ve got something good here and I can’t wait to share it.

Diva of the Day

As noted in the previous post, my family attended a wedding in June. We drove 800 miles to central Illinois to see my sister-in-law’s union to her boyfriend of several years. Hooray for them!
A family road trip with three kids is one thing.
Having your four-year-old diva surpass half a dozen meltdowns in one day is another!
I warned them, truly I did.
But I’m not sure they believed the level of Drama Queen perfection my child can reach. Then the wedding day struck. I sent her ahead of me with her cousin so she could keep her hair appointment with the other girls in the wedding party.100_3102
A few hours later there was a phone call during the worst—not the first—fit asking for me to try calming her down while in the back ground I heard “someone needs to get her to breath so she doesn’t start hyperventilating.” Needless to say, I arrived soon after.100_3121
I will say that she did well during the ceremony, it was just those meltdowns before—and one or two after—that brought out many “candid photo ops” as the professional photographer called them.
The wedding wouldn’t have been complete without the cake and flowers. My in-laws are fabulously talented.100_3148
One of the good memories of road life is the down time on the way there and back. In closing, here’s a photo of the oldest (autism spectrum son) doing what he loves best at bedtime.100_3226

June’s Highs and Lows

June was a month of many miles: physical and emotional. A wedding, a funeral. Harsh realities and re-envisioned dreams. First times, and also, some repeat situations.

I’d like to revisit some of June’s milestones in the next few posts and I’ll begin with a geek moment.
On June 14th I took my eldest child (son with autism) to Springfield, Illinois to see the Dana-Thomas House. No, we didn’t travel all the way up from the Gulf Coast to visit the house—we were only an hour and a half away staying with family—though I would if I could for Frank Lloyd Wright. This was my son’s favorite spot, the Lego model of the home in the carriage house. 100_3029

It was my first time in a Frank Lloyd Wright residence. I was able to go to the Guggenheim Museum when I was in NYC last year, so that was my first FLW building, but his homes! I’ve been collecting books about and drooling over them for years. 100_3052

The home was everything I expected and more. My favorite rooms were the library and concert hall, both in The Gallery wing. The built-ins in the master bedroom and dining room were gorgeous and the bowling lane in the basement wasn’t too shabby either. 100_3044

If you want to learn more about this historical home (with a great gift shop) visit http://www.dana-thomas.org for more information.

P.S.
Remember, you can find a featured story or essay on my “SHORTS” page. The current one is “Midsummer Ado”, a historical fiction piece perfect for this time of year.

Hangin’ In

Whoops. It’s been over a month since I’ve posted a blog. Much of what’s happened already feels like distant memories. Here’s the quick recap.

 
The end of April I spent several days in Morristown, New Jersey, and New York City with my big sister. We went to concerts, a Broadway show, and sightseeing in places like the Guggenheim Museum and Cathedral of St. John the Divine (which was a special treat because I got to be with buddy Léna Roy, again.)

Word of advice: if you ever make it to NYC, go to the Russian Tea Room and order cheesecake. I’ll blog more about my adventures on the vacation in the near future. Lots of adventures to share!

 
May brought another birthday—I’m older and wiser now—plus I was re-elected as president of Mobile Writer Guild for another year. The new board members are beginning to plan the next season’s events and it sounds like it’s going to be better than ever.

 

Besides the above, I’m still homeschooling the kidlets and trying to keep up with family and friends.

 
Oh, and writing! I’m about one third of the way through my rewrite of Corroded. Hope to finish this draft by the end of June. Then, I’d like to find a new set of eyes to give it a read through before I think about querying. It’s been a labor of time and love.

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jig

Resettling back into a routine after a vacation is like trying to sift curdled milk with a gold mining pan.
Last week was a dream. Even the hours in a minivan with three kids and a grouchy husband were enjoyable- at least for me. Hey, I didn’t have to chase anyone! Plus the sky was blue and there were plenty of snacks within reach.
If you want to feel like your “A Thousand Miles From Nowhere” (name that country singer) then visit a village in the Midwest that’s surrounded by Amish farms. Call me crazy, but I’d up and move to Arthur, Illinois, tomorrow if I could. The weather was a nice break from the humidity of the Gulf Coast, though I have been up there when it’s been sticky hot. The snickerdoodle cookies at the local Country Cheese and More bakery were as delicious as usual. (I only gained one pound! And no, those two dozen I picked up on the last day didn’t make it home, but I had help.) The Amish crafts are gorgeous to look at and I was able to bring home a piece of oak furniture, which is the best physical keepsake of the trip.
Though I’m sure my children would disagree. They were spoiled, as usual, by grandparents and aunts. And having time with cousins, an uncle, and great-grandma was wonderful, too. Besides the daily trips on foot to the main street they had fun on the front porch with sidewalk chalk, a couple afternoons at the local school’s playground, a trip to Rockome Gardens, and a festive luau party.
Memories of family time and adventures with horses, buggies and trains to last until next time. Which hopefully will be in the not too distant future. It’s been about three and a half years since our last visit- much too long!

… and she flies the coop…

I’m here on time this week. Blogoriffic!
My timeliness blooms from guilt: I won’t be posting next week and I wanted to make sure I get this week’s post up. The next few days will be filled with packing and laundry and cleaning. Saturday the family heads north on a fourteen hour drive to reach my in-laws’ home. Thankfully the trip will be split between two days, allowing for a stop in Nashville to return two of my nephews to their home and see my sister and the rest of her family.
I love to travel! I haven’t been more than forty-five minutes away from home since last June when I was blessed enough to travel (flying first class no less!) to the Boston area to visit with my oldest sister. I was six months pregnant and away from my boys for the first time. Need I say I was spoiled and self-centered during that visit? Such an odd feeling to get away from it all… (See photo above.)
But this time it’s interstate travel and car seats and too many pit stops. French fries on the floor and cranky kids.
It’ll be so worth it, though! Seeing the world go by one mile marker at a time. And if I’m lucky, a book-on-tape to listen to… as long as the kids are quiet enough and the narrator’s voice doesn’t annoy the driver. I’ll have my bird book next to the seat and my journal within arms reach as well. And a camera, though I probably won’t remember to use it much.
The days ahead will be filled with family, fun, and a little frustration, I’m sure! Bon Voyage!