A lonely road

This month I took a real walkabout, driving out west for several reasons, including booksignings, a master writers’ class and some research/picture gathering for the Elf Clan series.

The first week, I gloried in the Adventure of the Road. For the first time in a long while, I had time alone. Miles and miles of it. I love seeing new places, so while good old I-80 was a familiar friend, this time I drove across Nebraska to Colorado, new territory.

(I’m not counting the time I nearly got arrested in Colorado when M was a baby, when the trooper thought I was trying to outrun him to the state line. I wasn’t. And I still don’t think cigarettes are a good idea.)

Surprised to find that Colorado wasn’t all snow-topped mountains, at all. In Denver, I took photos of the places my characters visit in my post-apocalyptic story, which I’m getting back to if I can ever finish the contracted work I have. 🙂

(I know. Complaining about “having to write.” Ridiculous.)

Then I went on to Golden, where the muse on the mountain, Margie Lawson, imparted great wisdom and I met some wonderful sister writers. I’ll talk more about this experience here.

Unfortunately, my body didn’t adjust well to the 8,888-foot altitude, and it colored the rest of my trip. But seeing the continental divide from the top was spectacular, especially at sunset:

Then back down out of the mountains through all the high desert I ever want to see, on the way to Reno and back. I don’t find that scenery in the least inspiring, all tan and brown and scrub green. The mountains both north and south are much prettier in my estimation.

And then there was this, which is not in fact a bunch of metallic Tinkertoys, but a gas refining plant in Sinclair, Wyoming.

And this, which is called “Metaphor, the tree of Utah”:

See more about it here at the Weird Roadside Attractions site.

But right about there, on the way back, the trip began to fall apart. I was still woozy from the altitude issues, heading back into the mountains. My camera had some kind of lens error issues and quit working. The van’s “check engine” light came on and started blinking at an alarming rate.

I realized being out on the road alone wasn’t really all the adventure I’d expected.

I’d had a wonderful day with B and her friend in Reno, wishing there was more time, finally getting a grown-up trip to the casino (we each went in with $20–he came out with three or four dollars, I have a receipt for seven cents, but B won $60. So I guess we’re even), and a walk in the forest with the ebullient Elbee. My sister Shawna rescued me on the last day and let me crash there while we determined that the car was just needing routine maintenance service and would make it the rest of the way home.

So I survived, coming home a little more tired and a much better writer. Ready for booksignings the next two weekends, and nearly ready to get back in the routine.

Oh yeah, and I received two contracts for more novels while I was gone, one for my vampire thriller, and another for a lawyer-over-40 romance. Seems to me I’ll have plenty to do, staying home cozy in my office this winter. Here’s to the Adventure, and here’s to the comforts of Home after a long trip away.

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Whither my little girls have gone?

I’m on the road today, somewhere in Iowa, on my way to a five day intensive writing workshop with Margie Lawson, having a “deluxe continental breakfast.” Not really sure what continent it might be from, but the coffee is fabulous.

But the topic of conversation on the TODAY show overhead is whether mothers and daughters can be best friends. They interview a set who are, at the same time the experts are horrified and gasping “no! No!”

This is a subject I’ve been thinking about for awhile. Not about being best friends with my daughters, but my relationship with them. As I’ve said before, most of my girls packed up and bailed for parts unknown. M picked the Navy, traveled the world, met The One, has a lovely family now living in Florida and soon to take off for foreign parts, if she has her way. B lives 2500 miles away in Nevada. K moved to North Carolina. (D is still in town, but she’s so busy we hardly see each other!) It’s hard to stay close from that distance.  They have their own lives. Mother isn’t part of it.

I asked M recently if she’d done it on purpose, moved away to exclude me. She laughed and called me a “silly mom” and assured me it wasn’t like that.

So many people I know in our small town live here forever. As do their parents. Children. Brothers. Sisters. Cousins. Even the ones once removed. Big family parties, cookouts, so on.  I see B doing this with her new family, and I’m glad she has the support.

So am I wishing they were too frightened of the “big world outside” to leave to stay home near me? Of course not. Maybe I’ve just done my job and sent them out, free and secure, to fly on their own, like any good mother bird.

At the same time, I resent only seeing them once every year or two. I wish they were close so we could do things together, so I wouldn’t worry when they had hard times, so I could pop over with a pot roast when I knew they needed it.

Mary Quigley quotes Jonas Salk like this:

Good parents give their children roots and wings. Roots to know where home is, wings to fly away and exercise what’s been taught them. — Jonas Salk

She makes some good points in her piece on adult children. It’s certainly not my intention to become a helicopter parent. I hate flying, for one. But I have grandchildren I hardly know, and all three of these girls are just slipping away in the passage of time. None of us knows how much time might be allotted to us. We might say, “Oh, someday we’ll…” but we don’t know whether we’ll ever get that chance.

Meantime, I suppose, I should be grateful they’re flying so successfully. If they don’t need me then I’ve done my job, right? It makes sense. But sometimes it just doesn’t satisfy my heart.

Progress? Maybe

As Little Miss headed back to school this morning for the last year of her elementary education experience, I had to admit some trepidation on my part. She’s grown this summer, in a number of ways that I expect will impact her school year.

Physically, of course, about five inches. At 11 years old, she’s approximately 5’3″. A big change. We snuggle on the couch now side by side, definitely not with her in my lap any more.

Hormonally, as I posted earlier, as she has entered womanhood. The actual details of the “what you do when” have been incredibly smooth, thanks to her usual linear thinking; i.e., once she learns this is the process for handling something, it will always be the process, and she will follow it every time. That will work great until the day she uses all the supplies and forgets to tell me and then the world will end. But I digress…  The moody end of the hormonal thing, though, is somewhat difficult in a child who isn’t particularly aware of or interested in social “coolness.” When she feels crappy, so can everyone else. her teacher, Mrs. L. will be so pleased.  (NOT.)

Over the summer, her speech has expanded quite a bit in terms of words she will understand and use, but she has regressed into mumbling or whispery talk that makes her hard to understand. Considering how often we prompt her to have conversation, this gets frustrating for both sides on a regular basis.

On the other hand, she’s become very proficient in just handling things without words. She marked time this summer until the fair, so she could enter her bell peppers therein. If she sees a mess, she cleans it up, unlike the men of the houshold, who will gladly walk through any puddle for hours before grabbing a paper towel.  She has learned to cook some minor things, so she doesn’t have to depend on an adult. I’ve even found her trying to make coffee on several occasions, so I’ve taught her how to brew a pot correctly, before she sets herself on fire or something.

She continues to be empathetic and looks out especially well for children younger than she is. Which is good. She also doesn’t always stop and think about rules, as she showed when she decorated my other daughter’s new swingset with indelible marker last month. Oy.

Has she come a long way from “your child has permanent brain damage and won’t be able to accomplish much”? You bet. That’s exciting as heck. The rest, as with all children, I suppose, is a work in progress.