Jun 302010
 

The first time I heard the term “Beta Reader” I thought it had something to do with the fish. Shows you how much I knew when I started writing my book.

But I’ve learned a little since then. And gotten brave enough to start sharing my work with people I actually interact with, even if those interactions are limited to 140 characters per message. And so far? So good. I’m getting great feedback on little things I missed, like scenes that didn’t connect or using a certain word too many times in a paragraph.

And the typos. Let’s not forget those.

All in all, though, the beta reading process has been eye-opening and exciting. There’s always that little bit of terrified anticipation every time I have hit send with a manuscript (and I have a few in the works and multiple almost ready for agent queries) and even more when a response is received.

But nothing compares to the email I just sent.

To my personal trainer.

Can I just say, “Holy Shitballs, Batman!

Let me explain.

I walked into this new little gym a year ago with great expectations and a plan for a book. “I’m fat and need to lose weight and want to share my experience with other mom’s tired of being fed the company line about how easy it is,” I explained to the man nodding his head as he took notes for our introductory meeting and the woman who leads my Zumba classes. “How much weight do I want to lose? Oh, 40 pounds. I’m 236 right now…hoping to get as close to NOT being 200 pounds as I possibly can by the time I write “The End.

I explained I had PCOS, hypothyroidism, and karmic vengeance kicking my ass. I also explained that I was a doormat, raised to put my family before my own needs so there was a high chance making dinner and QT time with The Husband might be a barrier I needed to work on. But that I wanted this to happen and that I needed this to happen. Not just for the book, but for my own sanity.

Fast forward to the present.

I’ve lost a grand total of 10 pounds. To be more precise, I’ve lost something along the lines of 30, but each incremental loss yo-yo’d me right back to Holy Hell status. I eat right: no pop, minimal processed foods (Ben & Jerry’s  is my kryptonite), trim the fat off my meats, serve fruits and veggies with almost every meal, have learned to love my coffee black and my eggs minus the gooey yumminess of the yolk. I avoid all food items with the so-called “bad oils” and stick to the good ones, and spend a small fortune on organics each time I enter the grocery store.

I might not work out as often as I had planned, but I do work out. Zumba, hour long walks in my hilly subdivision, tae bo, pilates, and that Spanish Inquisition torture thinly disguised as a workout known as P90X (No, I did not make it 90 days because it was too X for my jiggly ass).

But still…

My nephew visited recently from out of state and was shocked to see how we eat. What I buy. How I prepare it. I honestly think that he (and the rest of the family) assumed I ate like I just didn’t give a damn because well, I don’t exactly look like I eat like I do. I try. Each and every day. Some choices may not be the best (like the PMS-inspired Chicken Marsala at the Olive Garden tonight) but I’m not sure how much more I can do in the little time I have left in my year of discovery short of cashing in my chips and denying a tummy tuck and lipo, Hollywood style.

All of this is in my book. And every word about to be read by the husband-wife team who have followed up on their end of the bargain. They’ve done their job. I’m just not sure I’ve done mine and well, that’s why I am all cluster-beeped in the nerves while waiting for their reaction.

Then I saw a tweet from @writersblocktips.

A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song–Chinese Proverb

I don’t write because I have an answer. I write because I have a story. And I need to share it.

So I am.

Jun 272010
 

Her arms are stretched out. Her laughter almost skips across the surface of the pool, not unlike a stone that has been sent out with a perfect flick of the wrist.

It’s time to practice jumping into the pool again, under the watchful eyes of her teacher. I watch, eyes wide and holding my breath, as she confidently reaches out for her teacher’s hands and momentarily disappears under the water.

I can’t breathe.

My breath picks up again, shaky, not even seconds later when her head breaks the surface and her laughter rings out again.

They are practicing “scoopers and kickers” (the toddler-friendly terms for strokes and kicks). Not even two attempts have come to pass across the length of the pool when I hear Buttercup tell her teacher that she wants to do it herself. Up until this point, Buttercup’s whole body has been kept afloat by her teacher’s outstretched leg as she hopped backwards on the other foot to facilitate Buttercup’s forward movements. Now she wants to go it alone.

I chuckle. Surely, her teacher will congratulate her for her confidence and continue to help so as not to traumatize my little girl the moment she realizes that for the first time in her young life, she’s on her own. Right?

“Are you sure?” Her teacher is smiling. Proud. Smartly avoiding eye contact with the nervous mother who is wishing there was alcohol instead of water in that bottle I brought with me to calm my nerves. For a moment, I consider jumping in and backhanding this woman for even entertaining the thought and encouraging more like it in my daughter.

Are you crazy?” I think. “She’s three! She’s innocent! She’s mine!”

“Yes!” Buttercup is ready. She wants her first real taste of independence. In a pool. During her second swimming lesson.

I think I’m going to die.

I watch, shaking, as Buttercup and her teacher begin the process of scooping and kicking and balancing her little body on one of the teachers legs. And on the count of three, Buttercup is released to scoop and kick on her own for a fraction of a second, her teacher lifting her body back up above the surface. My daughter sputters. Shocked. She wants to stop. I want them to stop. I would stop if it was me in the water with her. But it’s not me in the water. And that’s probably a good thing. Whereas I would do everything in my power to avoid creating fear by not pushing her beyond her limits, I would actually be creating the situation I’d be so desperately trying to avoid by not allowing my baby girl to learn to rely on anything or anyone outside of me.

“No, we can’t stop in the middle of the pool, silly!” her teacher says cheerfully. “We need to scoop and kick to the other side so we can practice some more!”

So Buttercup keeps going, continuously pushed just beyond her comfort level, and gaining confidence with each and every moment spent in the water with a stranger. And as each moment comes to pass, I relax just a little more.

She’s not the only one learning to let go.

 

“No, not that one! You mom got that one for her last Easter. Remember?”

The Husband throws the floppy-eared bunny back in the “Keepers” pile. He holds up the next one and I almost scream.

“No way! I got that one in my Congratulations basket from my old job after having Buttercup.”

The Husband rolls his eyes at me but tosses the pink lion in the keep pile and moves on to the next one.

Another Pink Floppy Bunny. “Heidi and Justin, baby shower.”

Santa Claus. “Madrina Elma. Christmas. Two years ago.”

Winnie-the-Pooh. “My mom gave it to me and I gave it to Buttercup.”

A fluffy dog in a winter hat. “My mom. It was one of those charity purchases.”

Two hand puppets. “Pati got those for her at IKEA this year.”

A zebra. “That’s a $60 stuffed animal I got for free when I was reviewing crap, it’s fair trade and organic. That bad boy stays put until she obliterates it.”

A fuzzy-maned lion in red heart pajamas. “Are you fucking crazy? That’s the one I got you for your 26th birthday that you passed on to her! We can’t get rid of that one.”

“You have a memory attached to every single one of these stuffed animals,” The Husband says. “And by the way, when did I pass on Mr. Lion to Buttercup, because I don’t remember doing that.”

“You passed on Mr. Lion when Mr. Lion got tired of being in a tote in the basement,” I says, indignant. “And I do not have a memory attached to every single stuffed animal. See?” I motion across the room. “I got rid of a few because I had no idea who got them for her.”

“You got rid of three stuffed animals and think you succeeded at thinning out the zoo of stuffed animals that she never plays with? This? Is progress?”

I sigh, fast running out of any arguments. I’ve already tried pointing out that I didn’t buy 90 percent of the stuffed friends she has. Buttercup boasts ownership of the entire Backyardigans collection, the Ni-Hao Kai Lan crew, The Wonder Pets, Dora and Boots, and Diego, along with half of the Disney channel, thanks to my sister, Pati and my mom. My weakness is the Build-a-Bear workshop and an excuse to relive my own childhood through my daughter. And because she was a super-good girl in her swimming lesson and overcame her fear of putting her face in the water, I decided she deserved a new friend and that her new friend deserved the dignity of an outfit.

She came home with a Fourth of July Hello Kitty. The Husband took one look at the receipt and told me to get rid of $50 worth of her old (read: ignored) stuffed animals. I’ve been at it for two hours now while her cousin keeps her busy downstairs and only come up with half of a garbage bag because I can’t seem to part with any item that I can state the when, where, and why of the gift-receiving details.

The Husband knows this and he’s tired of watching me torture myself, so he’s decided to be The Heavy. After me through a trial-run of the entire collection and managing to only get me to agree to one “Toss” for a generic teddy bear I couldn’t match to a memory, he is now ruthlessly going through the pile again and tossing animal into both the “Keeper” and the “Toss” piles so fast I can barely keep up. Until I see Pink Floppy Bunny.

“What the hell, Dude! That one is sacred!”

He raises an eyebrow. “She never touches it.”

“So what! Look, she never touches this one, either.” I hold up a backpack that’s made to look like a dog. “She got it last year from a woman I barely know who came to her birthday party and she’s never touched it. And more importantly, I won’t miss it.”

I take a deep breathe, as if about to negotiate for the release of a hostage.

“I’ll trade you the dog backpack for Pink Floppy Bunny.” It’s a good deal. Pink Floppy Bunny is three years old. Dog Backpack is brand new and practically re-giftable. He’d be a fool not to take it.

“You’ve resorted to trading for Buttercup’s stuffed animals?” The Husband now has tears in his eyes from laughing. While I can feel my lips twitching, I refuse to break until I know Pink Floppy Bunny is out of harm’s way.

“We’re not trading. We’re negotiating.”

“Oh God, that’s worse.” The Husband throws Pink Floppy Bunny at me as he walks out of Buttercup’s room with the bag of the Condemned. “But you better watch it. Pink Floppy Bunny gets it the minute Hello Kitty’s sister crosses our threshold.”

I stay silent, momentarily focused on formulating a plan to keep the rabbit safe whenever the time comes and…

“And hey,” The Husband interrupts my thoughts. “Get a life.”

 

Once I figured out I was going to BlogHer10, I had a new slew of crazy to add to my regular To-Do List. And even though I’m still navigating the joys of cross-country childcare, a trip top Michigan to drop off Buttercup so I can hope another plane to NYC from there after she’s safe and sound with my mom, and of course, figuring out how much it’s all going to cost me when I finally book a plane ticket, I can  still call it good.

After all, I’ve got my self-proclaimed official BlogHer10 Blog Bling from Survival of The Hippest in my hot little hands.

Yeah, I know I still have to arrange for dog care, call a neighbor to pick up the mail, have someone else stop by to feed Buttercup’s new Birthday Fish, and make sure another someone else is on standby to dispose of the body and run out for Emergency Backup Birthday Fish should Original Birthday Fish not survive to two-week trip to Michigan that’s sandwiching my BlogHer10 festivities…

But let’s concentrate on my new shiny, pretty, Sparklies.

It keeps me calm, people. It keeps me calm.

First up we have my super-awesome-because-it’s-mine key chain. This bad boy is made of sterling silver, spelled correctly, and sure to reflect all known sources of light from that mega-huge purse that I’m still looking for, because that’s where I plan to hang it.

And you can bet your ass I plan on working it into the conversation if this conversation-starter just happens to go unnoticed.

Hi! Nice to meet you! My name is Pauline and I’m Aspiring Mama on Twitter.” Smile, smile, gush, gush, chuckle for effect. “Lemme get you a business card from my purse. Oh this?” Bigger smile as the camera pans in. “It’s my new twitter bling from Survival of the Hippest. No, they didn’t sponsor. I paid my own moolah. But that’s cuz I love them!

What do you mean, actually use it as a key chain? Are you crazy? Oh no! This baby stays on my purse, where it can be protected, fawned over, and shown off on a regular basis, but thanks for asking!

The bracelet, while super awesome in and of itself, could be attributed to allowing myself to hit SUBMIT ORDER before letting myself think the whole process through. My friend and BlogHer10 roomie, Juliette, just spent a very reasonable amount of money on business cards and other Things That Make Sense. I? spent a very unreasonable amount of money on Things That Don’t.

And here’s the beauty of it, folks.  I still feel good about it. Because thanks to Survival of the Hippest, I can count on making an impression even if I don’t squee, fan-girl, or otherwise make an ass of myself.

But since we all know I’ll be doing plenty of all of those, I can now safely say all my bases are covered.

 

I made a few friends. Margaret was one of them.

I met a few incredible authors. Stephanie Elizondo Griest was kind enough to provide proof.

We admired a few of the paintings adorning the walls at Rudolfo Anaya’s house. And Frances? Was always smiling.

We listened to a few songs and sang along with a few more.

We’re not just writers at a conference. Music and laughter connected us on our last night.

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