Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Some Things Matter More

This weekend, I didn’t do one bit of writing. And you know what? I’m not the least bit sorry or even bothered by it as I sometimes am when I let opportunities to write pass me by.

Even though I’d already known I wasn’t going to be doing any writing on Saturday, I did have a plan to spend a nice chunk of my Sunday working on my new novel. That plan fell by the wayside when I sat down on the couch to unwind and the activities from the day before quickly caught up to me. It wasn’t long before my husband and I were sleeping side by side on our sectional, no doubt thanks to the fact that we’d been up twenty-two hours straight the day before.

I started to say our adventure began at 5:00am on Saturday, but the truth is that it started weeks earlier. That’s when the planning began for our daughter’s last band competition, not only of the season but of her entire high school life. Though she’s been in the marching band the last four years, we had no idea there was a big to-do held for the seniors until we received an email asking that all parents attend a meeting to begin planning the senior dinner. At the first meeting, we learned the pomp and circumstance that go into this event, and it’s all coordinated by dedicated band parents.

Anxious to be a part of making the experience memorable for our daughter, my husband happily volunteered our services for a number of things, including providing and hauling the trailer that would carry all of the supplies needed for the senior dinner. Little did we know what we were getting ourselves into. The senior dinner isn’t an independent event. It’s actually scheduled around the performance of the final competition of the year and it’s something every high school marching band does for its senior class members. While the rest of the band members are served tri tip in chow line, the seniors are provided a catered dinner complete with steaks and sparkling cider and served by, you guessed it, their parents!

The day of the big event, which included participating in both a parade and field show competition, we all rolled out of bed at five in the morning. After dropping our daughter off at the school at six, we headed over to the house of one of the band moms so we could hook the trailer up to our truck. Thankfully, we’d made time the night before to load up the trailer so all we had to do was hook and go. A shade under three hours later, we were there, but there was no time to rest. As soon as we were parked, we had to unload the trailer which was probably the easiest part of our day. Once everything was out, we got to work on the assembly.

A team of about ten people, including me, my husband and our freshman daughter, worked together to assemble canopies and tables. We hung lights draped in black and white tulle and strategically placed cutouts of musical notes. We covered blue plastic chairs with black fabric to give them a more sophisticated look. We set the tables with chargers and china and stemware. We spent time trying to figure out who wanted to sit where and arranged the place cards accordingly. There was a bit of a break when we all headed off to watch the kids compete in the parade and then it was back to work. Another brief break came for lunch and then we were back at it, setting out favors and putting on those final touches.

It was just before three in the afternoon when we finished and we took the time to walk over to the vendor booths outside the stadium. There we paid a pretty penny for a sweatshirt that featured the name of the competition and even paid extra to have our daughter’s name ironed on the sleeve. My daughter wore that shirt for three days and swears it’s her new favorite shirt!

Throughout the day, I was compelled to see what the other schools were doing for their senior dinner. I have to admit, I thought ours was the best, and the comments I heard from other spectators not affiliated with our school seemed to agree.

Dinner was scheduled for five but students began seating at four-thirty. Twenty-eight kids and two instructors gathered under the decorated canopies to dine on steak and pilaf and salad while watching a video of their performances of the past four years. Some of the parents served food and drinks in between snapping pictures. For dessert, it was a three tier cake made to look like a castle. While the kids enjoyed their cake, raffle prizes were handed out, including smaller cakes and table centerpieces.

All too soon it was finished. What had taken parents hours to assemble took the kids less than an hour to be done with. Having gotten their fill of food and fun, the kids headed off to rehearse for the upcoming field show, leaving the parents behind to clean it all up. Before dashing off, my daughter made it a point to come and not only thank me and her father and her sister, but she hugged all of us. She even hugged her sister! And she told us that she appreciated everything we’d done for her. I had to take a moment to absorb that one.

With the kids preparing to compete, the parents went about taking everything down and restoring order to our host school. There was a brief respite after everything was loaded into the trailer before it was time to watch the kids compete, followed by a late night awards ceremony that didn’t get underway until ten fifteen.

I’m pleased to say that for her final competition of the year, my daughter was part of something special. The marching band walked away with a first place finish in the field show category of their division, third place overall for woodwinds, second place overall for brass and being the Grand Sweepstakes winner. By the time all was said and done it was after one in the morning when we made it home and almost two when I dropped into bed.

When I woke up on Sunday morning, late Sunday morning, I thought about writing. I planned to write. I even knew what I wanted to write, but exhaustion got the better of me. I spent most of the day on the couch recovering from our activities the day before. So I didn’t get any writing done Saturday or even Sunday. So what? I got something better, the joy of seeing my daughter so happy. Some things are more important than writing. Don’t you agree?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Always worth Remembering

Veteran’s Day was this past Monday. Many of us, myself included, took advantage of an extra day off work. Hopefully, we also took the opportunity to remember and even to thank those who defend or have defended the country.

If you don’t already know this about me, I’m a creature of habit. Once I establish a routine, it’s rare that I deviate from it. How I spend Veteran’s Day is no exception. For the last few years, I’ve watched the local parade on television and then watched a movie called “Taking Chance”. If you haven’t seen this movie, I highly recommend it.

This year, I had to add something new to my routine; a visit to the cemetery. It's been nine months since my father died, but it's still so fresh in my mind.

In addition to watching the parade followed by my beloved movie, and now visiting my father's grave, I always have this period of reflection in which I marvel over the impact the military has made on my life. I wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for the United States Air Force. You see, my parents met when stationed at the same Air Force base. Besides this immediate personal connection to the military, it was also instrumental in getting my writing career off the ground.

My first novel, Letters from Linc, tells the story of a young Marine deployed to Iraq and the wife he left behind. Through letters, which they favor over e-mail or social media, they find a way to not only stay connected but to nurture that connection. The story, set in 2003, was actually written in 2005 and first released in 2006. Since its release, it’s opened all kinds of doors for me, both professionally and personally.

I’ve always felt I owed my success to Letters from Linc. I still feel that way, but I also know a story like this wouldn’t exist without the countless men and women across all branches of the military. It wasn’t that my story was theirs. Instead, the jobs they do made it possible for me to tell the story.

I’ve heard it said that ‘Some gave all and all gave some’.  I couldn’t have said it better myself. To those of you who’ve given some and to the families of those who gave all, I thank you from the bottom of my heart and celebrate your stories every day. No matter how much time passes, it's always worth remembering. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

It's Not for Everyone

Look around any social media site and you’ll see that National Novel Writing Month, also known as NaNoWriMo, is everywhere. Considering November is National Novel Writing Month, it makes sense.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with this concept, the basic premise is that writers are challenged to write at least fifty-thousand words of a first draft of their novel. Writers sign up on a website specifically dedicated to this cause. Participants must complete a minimum number of words per day with progress being tracked on the NaNoWriMo website. At the end of the month, all writers who reach the fifty-thousand mark are declared winners. There are no awards to speak of save for a printable certificate and the pride of accomplishment.

Social Media hype for NaNoWriMo usually begins in October, and it’s about that time I have to make that decision as to whether or not this will be the year I give it a go. To date, I’ve not participated in NaNoWriMo. While I love the concept, as I do with anything that promotes writing and writers, I never can bring myself to participate.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but November is not the most ideal month for me to take on an additional project. Being a mother of two teenage daughters, I usually find myself up to my eyeballs in their extracurricular activities. This year is no exception. We’re knee deep in marching band competition season which is in addition to the football games the band is required to attend. Then there’s cheer. One of my girls eats, sleeps and breathes cheerleading. Not ony does she cheer for the school, but she’s a competitive cheerleader. Next month we’ll be traveling to San Jose for the Golden State Spirit Association championships. November also marks the official beginning of the holiday season, which is a busy time for any family. And let’s not forget, writing is not my money making job. I have a full time day job that I’m currently working at six days a week.

Family and work obligations aside, there’s one other reason NaNoWriMo has never spoken to me. For me, it feels as if it turns writing into work. At the height of one of the busiest times in my life, I’m expected to pen a certain number of words daily, good or bad. Like I said, I understand the premise. It gets writers writing. It takes away excuses like mine. I understand it and I support it for others. I just can’t get on board for me. I want to write on my own terms.
For those of you brave enough to through your hats into the NaNoWriMo ring, I commend you, but it's not for everyone.