Category Archives: writing
Sometimes, real life interferes with writing.
Writing is my self-prescribed therapy; the hectic days, weeks and months I have the least amount of time to sit with my laptop are the days, weeks and months I need it most.
Lately I’ve been writing a lot in my head, but haven’t found time to put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard, in this case).
It’s killing me.
Speaking of writing…I’m on a rather spammy email list from a prolific actual (read: published) writer.
Sometimes the nudge to join his newest master class or buy his latest book feels a bit too pushy. My mouse often hovers over the “unsubscribe” link, but at the last second my finger declines to click, because in that moment I find the gem.
In the last email, he spoke of having no time to write. Of setting up a typewriter on a board across two chairs in his living room. Of carving out time in the evenings after his children were in bed. Of declining the allure of evening television or the seduction of a soft bed, of instead parking himself in a chair and writing.
Of Making Time.
Making Time is difficult, but not impossible.
Finding Time is improbable, at best. Lost minutes will never be recovered. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve come to a sudden awareness I have nothing to do.
“Carving” Time is essentially the same as Making Time but seems so much more appropriate in terms of my life. I wedge a blade into the calendar and plunge it between appointments with savage and ruthless abandon.
Ruthlessness is the only way, because otherwise my life overwhelms my intentions and conspires to drown me.
Tonight, I’m feeling a little ruthless, a bit cutthroat. Life is too overwhelming; I must make time to write, even if that means cutting out something else.
For now, I’ll cut whatever was going to happen in the next half hour.
Join me. What will you write?
P.S. Anyone recognize the photo?
We agreed for a little girl to live with us while her parents sorted things.
Dad is in jail, mom was on drugs but is trying to get clean.
She is ten, with thick, frizzy brown hair pulled back in a low ponytail. Round, sweet face, eyes made owlish by thick glasses with dark purple frames.
She wears a purple puffy jacket, which should be my first clue it’s a dream.
Those went out of style decades ago. Then again, trends cycle. Maybe she’s ahead of the curve.
We meet at a small, family-owned restaurant with a store attached. Evidently this is where she has spent her after-school hours starting back in pre-school. Her babysitter used to work here but is long out of the picture.
“She was such a good little girl” that everyone else agreed to jointly keep an eye on her until her mother sent a ride home or wandered in to pick her up. Someone noticed she wasn’t growing much in kindergarten and they started providing after-school snacks and a hearty dinner. The undernourished waif grew into a hale and healthy ten year old.
The last few months, they’ve been giving her rides home at closing. A light was always on and she had a key, but finally the cook decided to walk her to the door and found mom sprawled on the floor in a drugged stupor.
She called the police, who called social services. Our small town had no other foster homes available. Since the cook claimed to be a distant cousin and had a clean record, they let the child stay with her for 48 hours while the social worker looked for a foster parent.
These people have been her family for six years. None of them are happy to learn I live clear across town.
“You have to bring her back to see us. Come for dinner at least once a week. On the house,” the owner cajoles.
The cook chimes in, “yes, please do,” in a tone I recognize as, “I’m asking nicely but you can expect a consequence if you don’t comply.”
The child has gone back to her small play area in the rear of the store to tidy up. I follow.
As I pack her things into a plastic green suitcase, the social worker calls my cell. Mom entered the rehab program. This may be a very temporary placement.
For their sake, I hope so, but I won’t mind if this sweet girl stays with us longer.
Suddenly I realize we never finalized sleeping arrangements. I guess we’ll put her in the guest room for now. I wonder if our two will be jealous she gets the big bed.
For that matter, how will they all get along? Will a new addition send them into a tail spin?
Should I put her in class with one of them or in one of the other 5th grade classes?
It’s getting late. I haven’t even thought about dinner. I tug her heavy case toward the door, starting to feel overwhelmed. Will she even like us?
I pause by the door, ready to call her name and realize I’ve forgotten it.
The cook gives me a piercing glare.
“What?” I say.
She replies, “nothing,” but I feel her eyes on my back as I turn.
I shake my head, stress washing over me.
What was I thinking, taking this on? I just started a new job. My kids may not respond well and I forgot to tell them about it. Hubby’s out of town for a week. Wait, who is with MY kids? I suddenly can’t remember.
The girl reappears, hugging the staff as she makes her way to me.
“I’m ready,” she tells me, pushing past through the wooden screen door to the country porch.
I follow, panic rising, and stop, face to face with a huge young buck. I eye his antlers, uneasy with the proximity, and glance around for the girl.
He snorts, demanding my attention, and stomps his hoof on the echoing porch floor boards. He touches his nose to mine, huge brown eyes glaring.
I wake, wild-eyed, stressed and panting, nose-to-wet-black-nose with my German Shepherd.
He needs to potty. He snorts and stomps his paw on the bed once more.
I shake my head and let him pull me out of bed.
Thank God, it was a dream.
Later that day, I pull up photo listings on adoptuskids.org, searching for a round, sweet face with owlish eyes.
It is so good to have a few moments to write.
Even better: hours.
I have hours. I’m away from the house. Cannot hear the dirty dishes in the sink nor the clothes to be folded calling my name. I have nothing but my laptop and am choosing to ignore my phone and social media.
If you are also a writer, you know what I mean.
And by writer, I don’t mean famous, or published, or even, “manuscript completed and rejected fiftyish times.”
Do keys tapping in a satisfying click-tick rhythm make your anxiety melt?
Words fascinate and enthrall you?
Sentences with perfect balance give you deep satisfaction?
Alliteration, onomatopoeia and entire-paragraphs-sans-adverbs bring you joy?
That’s what I mean.
I ran through my follower list today and realized it’s been a while.
Goal 2: Read something on every follower’s blog by June.
See you soon!
What’s your goal?
Not sure how to begin? Read my easy guide to goal setting.
As a young girl, I heard an adult tell his friend, “I took a page from your book.” Avid reader and lover of all things in print, I misunderstood his statement. Annoyed that anyone would rip a page from a book, I determined not to lend my books to anyone without first ensuring they agreed to leave all pages intact.
Later, I learned this was simply a phrase meaning, “I did something you would do.” Reading other blogs, I often find my recent thoughts mirrored. I’m not sure if this is because we tend to gravitate to others similar to ourselves (in physical life and online) or simply coincidence, but I feel as though we are having a conversation. I thought something you would think.
I’ve been thinking lately about what I’ll leave behind. How only a moment—just a breath—can take us from one reality to the next. What a sheer curtain hangs between now and forever. Seems like you’ve been thinking about the same.
Just so you know, I took a page from your blog.
When you don’t have an artifact which will save you in your afterlife, don’t give value to your artifacts in this world! – SP
You are not alive in memories
but that is the place I find you,
so I fan the small fire,
today. – LL
I don’t fear death anymore; I fear looking back on my time here on this earth and realising that I missed out on so many wonderful opportunities because of such a naïve notion of allowing apprehension of the inevitable to destroy the wonderful gift of life that I have been presented. I don’t want to grow old having squandered my time, or having lived an un-lived life. – CN
I’ve missed you.
In September, I accepted a part-time job. In October, I agreed to work full time when my supervisor said those two little words I can never resist: process improvement. Almost nothing makes me happier than finding better ways to do…well, pretty much anything.
The downside is a sharp decline in free time and I’ve really missed writing.
Tonight I listened to a goal-setting webinar led by Michael Hyatt. I chuckled a little bit when he talked about his own goals. Maybe one of his goals for the year is to sell a lot of the “5 Days to Your Best Year Ever” program he offers at the end of the webinar.
Sales pitch aside, I learned (re-learned) a few things:
- Goals must be written.
- I believe the statistic on the webinar was around 40% more likely. I found a couple articles with statistics up to 80%. The point isn’t really HOW much more likely we are to hit our goals, but that we ARE more likely to do so. Check out some of the articles on the Forbes site.
- Goals must be measurable.
- “I need to lose weight,” is not specific enough. “I want to permanently lose that stupid ten pounds I keep regaining,” is better.
- Instead of “I want to be recognized at work,” a more measurable goal is, “I will meet or exceed my assigned metrics every week,” or “I will read three industry-related articles each week and discuss ways our team can utilize what I’ve learned to improve our processes.”
- Goals must have a deadline or time frame.
- Deadlines provide urgency. I’ve been “working” on updating spreadsheets for the past few weeks but never seemed to finish. Other When the top brass informed us (yesterday at 6 am) that the analysts would pull a report for a presentation at 3 pm today, guess what I finished by 2:30.
- Deadlines provide the ability to draft a timeline—and again, writing the goals improves our chances of finishing.
- Goals must be realistic.
- “I will run a marathon next week.” Written, measurable, deadline. And crazy, unless you’re an avid runner. For most of us, “I will walk to the mailbox instead of driving to get the mail,” or, “I will stop circling the grocery parking lot to find a spot three spaces closer. Instead, I will park at the far end of the parking lot,” are realistic goals.
Most of that is old news. Michael said a few things I’d never really considered.
Goals should be visible.
Post goals somewhere we’ll see them daily. Make a list or, like the picture here, find a creative reminder.
Goal lists should include no more than seven to ten items.
Bonus if we can pare it down to four or five. A goal list shouldn’t be twenty-five things because our brains can’t track that many items, even in writing.
Goals should be passion-driven.
If a goal isn’t exciting, why is it on the list? I never before realized that goal-setting is different from “the list of things I need to accomplish around the house this year.” No one is passionate about painting the front porch steps (on the other hand, I take great delight in plastering sheet rock…but still, not a life goal).
Our goals should make us uncomfortable. Even afraid.
If we’re comfortable, we won’t grow. We won’t take risks.
I plan (IN WRITING) to spend time this week (TIME FRAME) thinking about goals for the upcoming year. I know, it’s a little earlier than the traditional “it’s a New Year; I must revamp my life,” but I invite you to join me.
Let’s choose four or five goals (MEASURABLE) fired by our greatest passions.
Goals that freak us out a little.
Let’s talk about what we’ve accomplished this year and where we want to be next month.
Goal One: Even when working like mad at the job I love and working like crazy for the Hubby and kiddos I love, I will I WILL
I will (this is in writing) make time to post at least once a week (measurable and realistic) for the rest of the year (deadline).
Your turn! What’s your goal one? Comment below.
I updated the “About” page. Is this better, or worse?
(And yes, I found the Text Color button…to save your eyes, I tried not to get crazy.)
Trying to make the site more readable; I appreciate your feedback.*
*Like, seriously. If you hate the page, please tell me how to make it better. 🙂
Nutshell if you’re in a rush:
Hi, I’m Casey.
Hubby and I adopted two very traumatized kids through foster care. Our social worker called me hypervigilant (because I wanted her to do her job*) and now I write at Hypervigilant.org.
Resources for families of adopted children proved difficult to find; once we were right-side-up again, Hubby urged me to share our experiences. YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Find HOPE here. And also lots of cyber-hugs.
*No offense if you’re a good SW. I know good ones are out there and we appreciate all you do.
Details of our story if you have a minute:
Hubby and I adopted two wild hyenas and lived to tell about it (and so have they), and now I’m sharing the saga with you. I share personal experience and thoughts from adult adoptees (some of the best resources EVER for figuring out how to help kids).
I started writing for anyone involved in adoption, but adoptive or not, consider yourself invited.
Stay a while; speak your mind. I love hearing your perspective. Some of the best parenting advice comes from people without kids, because their brains aren’t fried on square pants and the Lego movie theme song.
If you have no personal connection with adoption, but you read this blog and think “Geez, why doesn’t she just try _____,” please share suggestions. It takes a village to raise an idiot—I mean, child.
Similarly, it takes a blogging community to keep the child’s parents from singing EVERYTHING IS AWESOMMMMMMMMMMMME to the bank teller.
Everyone needs hope and the occasional laugh. I try to provide both by sharing the truth about adoption with an honest picture of our wins and mishaps. I also write a little fiction on the side. These are my favorites.
Alternately, you can read Adoption = for the same reason Hubby watches Cops: “Well, at least we’re not THAT crazy.”
Find hope here, whether you are in a beautiful moment of triumph, in the middle of ongoing battles, in the throes of a nervous breakdown or wishing you could just give those kids back to someone. Anyone.
(No, this does not make you a bad person. You WILL get through it. Please do not give your child to the grocery clerk with the kind eyes.)
I don’t have all the answers, but I’m happy to give you what I’ve got. If Hubby and I can endure HellonEarth and keep two kids alive (which is sometimes a bit harder than it sounds), so can you.
If you are in the circle of an adopted child or adoptive parent, sometimes you will feel like walking away. Please don’t. They need all the help they can get. You’ll see what I mean. There’s a LOT they aren’t telling, because they don’t want you to run away screaming.
Adoption can feel very isolating. Almost like Witness Protection.
If you’ve read this far, thanks for hanging in with me. Tenacity is an excellent quality for dealing with adopted children. Also, you’ll need patience, empathy, and the ability to open a big ol’ can of whoop-a—oh, sorry…I mean…the ability to guide darling children through extremely difficult emotional ups and downs.
Actually, the can of whoop will likely be necessary for the social worker or other adult standing in the way of what your child needs. Keep it on hand.
Our kids will choose our nursing homes. I, for one, do not plan to end my days living in a storage unit with a bare bulb for heat. Especially now that we have to use those energy-efficient ones.
Casey Alexander writes and lives with her amazing, talented Hubby and two wonderful (and sometimes very weird) adopted children, along with three dogs and six outdoor cats. And also a hawk, who hangs around hoping to steal a cat (as the kids have grown too large).
Here’s the full first chapter. I’m submitting the book idea at the end of the month, so if you have editorial commentary, now’s your chance. 🙂
Summary: Colleen, adopted through foster care with her brother, dreams of finding her birth family and learning they are royalty. She hates chores and feels displaced by her adoptive parents’ pregnancy. She wishes her life were different, the life of a princess. A gift from her grandfather might make her wish reality.
I am so tired of that woman. She will not leave me alone.
I just want to have peace and quiet, but no. It’s bad enough that Mom puts her nose in my school business, calling my teachers, showing up for lunch without warning, bribing my friends with cookies so they’ll like her. But that’s not enough meddling in my life. Nope. She also makes me do work. Like I’m her slave or something. If I forget, she follows me around and nags.
“Chores are your duty as a citizen of this great land we call our household,” she tells me.
Chores. Ha. More like doing her job for her. Parents are supposed to take care of the house. Moms do the inside, dads take care of the lawn and the cars and all that. Or they hire someone. None of my friends have “chores.” So much for my childhood.
“You’re lucky, Colleen,” mom says. “Not every kid learns life skills. When you graduate, you’ll be able to survive on your own. I know you don’t appreciate it all, but chores are good for your character. Be thankful. Your life, even when you think it’s horrible, is someone else’s fairytale.”
“Fairytale, ha. Emily and Madison don’t have to learn life skills,” I complain.
She laughs. Laughs. Like it’s no big deal.
“Well, when they pull their first all-pink load of laundry out of the dryer in college, they’ll wish they did. In the meantime, you still need to clean the downstairs bathroom. People are coming over in three days, and you’ve left it a mess. And then sort your laundry so we can start a load for you. I’m asking you to clean up after yourself. It’s not like you’re Cinderella.”
Pink clothes? What does that even mean? And no, I’m not Cinderella. If only. I’d ride off with that prince and live in style.
My thirteenth birthday party is Saturday. I will be a TEENager. Almost eighteen. In just five more summers, I can be outta here. A few weeks ago, I said this out loud. Stupid me. She laughed then, too.
“Wait,” she said, doubled over and gasping for air, “you’re killing me. Do you remember how long it’s been since you were eight years old?”
I sniffed. “That’s forever ago.”
“Exactly,” she said. By this time she was cackling, that annoying snorty laugh she does when she thinks something is really, really funny. “You are not almost eighteen. Trust me, five years is a long time. By the time you hit eighteen, thirteen will feel like ‘forever ago,’ too.”
I’m counting the days, believe me. One thousand, eight hundred twenty-nine, to be exact. In case you’re checking my math, don’t forget leap year.
I head downstairs to my bathroom. It’s actually the guest bathroom, but last year I sort of claimed it. Mom said it was fine as long as I clean it. And I do. Most of the time.
My twin brother Kevin and I used to share a bathroom. He’s completely gross. Leaving him in his filth was one of the best hygiene decisions I’ve ever made, right up there with deciding to wear deodorant. So he has to clean the upstairs bathroom himself. Now, if we could just get him to shower. With soap. Mom said he’ll start when he finally discovers girls. Like that will happen. He’s got his head so far inside his science books, he’s lucky he remembers to eat.
I wipe the toothpaste dots off the mirror. Mom always checks. She says “no one wants to see that.” I rub the chrome until it sparkles, then flick the rag across the counter. If the chrome is shiny, no one notices the rest. After I pour blue stuff in the toilet bowl, I figure the bathroom is good enough. It’s not like party guests are going to use the tub.
My birthday is horrible.
I knew this would be an awful day before I opened my eyes. Drops of rain splatter against my window as thunder crashes above. Kevin, always up “at the cracka,” according to my dad, is already adding his ridiculous noise to the cacophony. Apparently my parents gave him his big present early. Of all things, an electric guitar. My parents were thrilled when he started showing interest in music.
“Finally, we’ll hear something from Kevin other than science facts,” my dad winked at me yesterday from his perch on the edge of his favorite chair. Leaning over the Fender’s slick black and pearl body, he finished tuning the instrument and ran through a few chords. “Beautiful music will be a blessed change.”
Maybe, but this is not beautiful. Or music. It’s awful.
Wrapping a hypoallergenic, fiber-fill pillow around my head, I blunder out into the hall. The pillow stuffing shifts under my hands, soft and puffy. Still groggy, I try to keep it over my ears, skimming my shoulder along the wall for support. Mom appears, carrying a large gift bag.
“Happy Birthday, honey!” She crows. Yes, crows, like a rooster. It is way too early for this. I’m pretty sure it’s not even eight o’clock.
I narrowly avoid her kiss; it lands on my pillow.
“Can you do something about Kevin? I’m still trying to sleep!” I grit my teeth.
She laughs. Why does she always laugh at me? Like I’m trying to be funny. This is serious.
“Really, mom. It’s Saturday. It’s my birthday. I should be allowed to sleep in a little.” I pull the pillow tighter, trying to block the noise.
“It’s your birthday, Colleen. Plural. His too, you know. He can play if he wants.”
“It’s not playing. It’s noise,” I frown.
“Well, you remember what your teacher said after the Christmas program. ‘We’re supposed to make a joyful noise. Nobody said anything about talent.’ As long as he’s happy, and he’s making noise…” she trails off, looking at the hall clock. “ And, hey, it’s already nine. You should be up anyway. I need your help.” She hefts the bag.
“Help? On my birthday?” I grimace. Can’t even catch a break on my birthday.
“Yes. If you’d cleaned the bathroom properly the other day, you could sleep longer. As it is, you gave it a lick and a promise instead of a good cleaning. So, now you have to clean a toilet on your special day. Seems unfair, I’m sure, but you did this to yourself.” She grins.
“I gave it a what?” I imagine licking the tub faucet.
“Never mind. Go.” She staggers down the hall under the weight of the bag and her enormous belly.
Yep, that’s right. She’s pregnant. Preggers. Bun in the oven. Having a baby. Knocked up. Mom, laughing again, asked me where I’d heard that last one. It’s so ridiculous, at their age. I mean, seriously. She’s like, thirty-eight. And do you know what they had to do in order for her to get that way? So disgusting. I can’t even think about it.
The day she took me to find a dress for the eighth grade dance, she was all excited because she and dad went to the doctor that morning and they found out the baby is a girl. She couldn’t even concentrate on my dress. She said, “that’s great!” and, “beautiful!” every time I tried on something new, but I could tell she wasn’t even looking. Not really.
A little blue dress was already hanging in my changing room, the kind they’d never let me wear, so I tried it on for fun. It made me look older. I liked the way it stayed up without straps and barely skimmed my knee. I knew she wasn’t paying attention when I pranced out in front of the mirrors and she said, “wow, cute!”
I almost got away with it, but her eyes focused at the last minute and she said, “when you’re twenty-one, you can come back to get that one.”
Finally, she said, “come, on, just pick one already.”
She used to spend more time picking out my dress than I did.
Before the baby.
We spent the rest of the afternoon in the baby department, looking at frilly baby clothes. Everything was impossibly fluffy and lacy and pink. She gave away all my baby stuff years ago, so we have to buy it all again. And, since baby things are expensive, Kevin and I will have to pick between two weeks of summer camp, instead of getting to attend both. This baby is already irritating. I’m just waiting for her to tell me I have to let it share my room.
I toss the pillow back on my bed and pull on my favorite jeans, the ones with colorful cheetah print on the side. By the time I pull a brush through my hair, Kevin has stopped his racket. Thank God. Hopefully this new interest will go the way of his pet hissing cockroach, last year’s birthday present.
Mom said it escaped. I’m pretty sure she flushed it.
Pulling my hair into a ponytail, I head downstairs to scrub the toilet. Like a slave. On my birthday.
After she made me do everything three times, the bathroom finally met mom’s military inspection. Seriously, no one notices dust in the corners. Ridiculous waste of time. I got all sweaty scrubbing out the tub and had to take a shower, so all that work was for nothing. At least she didn’t make me clean it again.
Thirteen. I just can’t stop saying it. Thirteen. ThirTEEN. Finally a teenager.
The night before I turned five, I remember thinking I’d be able to reach the kitchen faucet in the morning. When I woke up, I ran to the sink, shocked to find the handle still several inches out of reach.
This time, I am a teenager. No question. Height is irrelevant; I am older. More mature. Almost eighteen. Almost out of here.
I can find my birth parents.
Kevin and I had other parents, but no one knows much about them except our mother was really young. “She loved you so much, she wanted you to have a family with parents who could take care of you.” That’s what they say to our faces. But once, years ago, I heard mom whispering to Aunt Melissa that the social worker said our grandmother forced our first mom to give us up. I think of my birth mother’s mom as a green-faced wicked witch, not a grandma.
I bet our mom was from a really rich family and the wicked grandmother just didn’t want to deal with the stigma of teenage pregnancy. We learned about stigma in my psychology elective class. It’s when people get treated differently because of something shameful they did.
So they dumped us into foster care for six months, and then Dad and Mom picked us up. A year later, we officially “belonged” to them. Don’t get me wrong; I appreciate what they did for us. But some days, I wish I knew about the family we were born into. And borne out of.
When I turn eighteen, I can see the files. And maybe, by that time, the wicked witch will be gone, and our birth mom will be happy to see us, and we’ll get to live like the modern-day royal family we were born to be.
Finding time to write is not a problem for me.
I meant to post that on April 1…but didn’t have time.
Another blogger and I have been kicking around the idea of forcing ourselves to novel with a deadline.
I suggested we call next month Manic May (in which we write like mad) and proofread each other’s work in Judgmental June (because I couldn’t think of a better word starting with “J”).
Upon hearing my idea, Hubby said, “and then, Judgemental July because neither of you will finish writing in May, so you’ll have to push back proofreading.
Then will come Angsty August because you don’t like each other’s novels but don’t want to say so.
During Sad September, you’ll find your friendship ending over red pen.
You’ll try to salvage the project, if not your camaraderie, during Objective October.
Finally, in Nasty November: a fight to the death over grammar, stabbing each other with the Oxford comma.”
Geez. Maybe HE should write the novel.