Bucket List, Check!

My number one bucket list item is officially checked off: I attended my first Europe concert this past weekend. It only took twenty-five years and nearly a thousand miles of driving, but people have always told me I’m patient.

Photo by my husband.

Photo by my husband.

Yes, Europe is in America, at least for a few more days. My family and I made a road trip to the in-laws in Illinois (post about that soon) and after a few days of visiting, my husband and I left the kids with the grandparents and drove two and a half hours over to Indianapolis to catch Europe’s show at The Vogue. The venue’s neighborhood is an awesome mix of restaurants, local shops, and good vibes along the river—a great place to walk around and people watch.
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We got there early and I had fun talking (well, mostly listening) to the other diehard fans that were lined up. Listening to the stories of the blue collar Mid-west rock fans was great, and there was even a guy from down under in the group. The experience reminded me that I need to get out of my usual circle of book nerds, homeschooling moms, and church friends and expose myself to a wider variety of people more often. It’s good for the soul.
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And so was the music!
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Being third in line landed me a center stage spot when the doors opened. Before hand, I couldn’t decide if I wanted to be stage right, near John Norum and his guitar skills, or stage left, next to the bass (John Levén) and keys (Mic Michaeli), but since the stage was small, I opted for center. That put me first row, in front of Ian Haugland’s drum kit and Joey Tempest’s microphone, when he wasn’t moving around with it.
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Plus, I was in the middle of the vertically challenged. But when you wait twenty-five years to see your favorite band in concert, you don’t feel bad about blocking people’s view. The show was fabulous! I’ve never gotten front row before, so that was a bonus, but I also got my first guitar pick—the leader singer/guitarist pressed into right into my hand. Thanks, Joey!
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Great sound.
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Seventeen song set list.
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Awesome band!

People need to put down their phones and watch concerts live, not through a screen. (I took less than two dozen pictures during the whole show--too busy enjoying the moment.)

People need to put down their phones and watch concerts live, not through a screen. (I took less than two dozen pictures during the whole show–too busy enjoying the moment.)

Vacation from Reality

Vacations are great. They’re so nice, sometimes I need a break from real life after a vacation—the old “I need a vacation to recuperate from my vacation” situation. That’s about what happened, but now I’m here, and this week marks my first full one back in the old routine.
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Boring, you might think, but it’s not so. Structure is a good thing in my house, as highly sought after as a trip to “The most magical place on earth.” When living with autism, there needs to be a sense of balance in day-to-day life. My oldest son loves his wall calendar. He needs to know when to expect certain activities and send reinforcements if the month doesn’t have a “Play Date” listed at least once. Our schedule might not be as hectic as yours, but both he and I need to know where we’re going in the days ahead, even if it’s just a “work” and “play” day at home.
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Where does all this talk lead me? To the realization that even though I didn’t finish the first draft of my current work-in-progress, THE UNRAVELING THREADS OF KYNDRA FIELDS, before leaving on vacation like I wanted to, I will finish by the end of this month. That might be a big leap for some, but hang in there. When (not if) I complete this draft, it will be my quickest completion to date. Granted it will also be my shortest manuscript, but taking a full story from idea to finished first draft in six months is amazing for this writer.

More on this forth coming miracle in the next two weeks, for now, let’s savor in the vacation memories.
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Where have you gone lately?

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