Planning The Not So Perfect Christmas

Today I started organizing for the holidays.

My goals this season:

  • Focus on faith – Monkey is so excited for Santa Claus, but I want her to know the real reason for the season. She may not fully understand, but I want to plant the seed now. I’ve been waiting for years to having weekly prayer time around the Advent Wreath. My mom did this with us when we were kids and I look forward to doing it with Monkey.
  • Focus on family – Scheduling all the family activities I want to do is the only way to make sure they get done.
  • Focus on fun – I can’t let the stress of ‘To-do’ Lists overwhelm me and I can’t let financial stress overwhelm my hubby. Being on a tight budget makes buying gifts a stressful experience, but I’m hoping with careful planning and calm discussion we can avoid this particular stress.
  • Focus on tradition – My family has a lot of Christmas traditions that Monkey is finally old enough to appreciate. I’m looking forward to making the old traditions our own and making new ones together.

Useful Links to Plan the not so perfect Christmas:

The Tell-Tale Blog – Tips for Writers from Edgar Allan Poe

For Halloween, my blog dressed up as the blog of Edgar Allan Poe

About Me

 

Edgar A. Poe, New York

 

Known in some circles as “The Tomahawk Man” because in criticism I will be bold, and as sternly, absolutely just with friend and foe. From this purpose nothing shall turn me.
I am also the Editor of THE BROADWAY JOURNAL; author of THE RAVEN, and still as poor now as ever I was in my life.
I blog about the art of writing and occasionally rage against the idiocy of the literati.

Blog Excerpt

We would have to be living in the 19th century to not know that National Novel Writing Month begins tomorrow. In an effort to assist participants in their endeavor, I have compiled a list of tips for writers from my critical essay The Philosophy of Composition.

  • Always be original.
  • Have the plot mapped out in your mind. Every plot, worth the name, must be elaborated to its [final resolution] before any thing be attempted with the pen. It is only with the dénouement constantly in view that we can give a plot its indispensable air of consequence, or causation, by making the incidents, and especially the tone at all points, tend to the development of the intention.
  • Ask yourself, “Of all the many emotions the mind body and spirit can perceive, which will leave the greatest impression upon my reader?” then choose a novel and vivid ‘effect’, or impression.
  • Once you have determined the effect you wish to convey, decide whether the effect is best illustrated by incident or tone — whether by ordinary incidents and peculiar tone, or the converse, or by peculiarity both of incident and tone — afterward looking about me (or rather within) for such combinations of event, or tone, as shall best aid me in the construction of the effect.
  • Make your work readable in one sitting.

It is my opinion that any work should be undertaken step-by-step with the precision and rigid consequence of a mathematical problem, even though this seems too rational a process for a romantic writer.

For the sake of an example, let us look at my own process for writing The Raven, which actually began with the final stanza.

I started first with structure. I did not conceive of any specifics about what the poem was going to be about. I was not thinking of a Raven. I only determined the length of the poem, which is ideally 100 lines. (The Raven is 108.)

Next, I considered the impression, or the effect I wished to convey to my readers, and if I’ve blogged about it once, I’ve blogged about it a thousand times: Beauty is the essence of any poem and an obvious rule of art. That pleasure which is at once the most intense, the most elevating, and the most pure, is, I believe, found in the contemplation of the beautiful.

Having determined my effect, I next considered tone. Beauty of whatever kind, in its supreme development, invariably excites the sensitive soul to tears. Thus, melancholy is the most legitimate of all the poetical tones.

With the tone defined, I next contemplated what poetic techniques to use to best evoke melancholy, and hence, I decided on the refrain, specifically a one-word refrain. At this point, I considered the sound of the refrain, which led me to the word – ‘Nevermore’. Note, that this word came to me through the mechanics of the poem and not through any contemplation of character, setting, or other story details.

Nor did the use of a raven in the poem arise from a previously constructed story idea. I chose a raven because the refrain was most plausible being repeated by a non-human being. My first thought was of a parrot, but a raven fit the tone of the poem.

At this point, I asked myself “Of all melancholy topics, what, according to the universal understanding of mankind, is the most melancholy?” Death — was the obvious reply. I now had to figure out how to combine my ideas in the best way possible to prove this point. Details like setting, character, dialogue began to emerge, but it’s important to note that these details and circumstances came as a means to fill out the meter and structure I first determined.

As I’ve reached the word limit we typically set for blog posts, I will close for now with a final piece of advice for those endeavoring to write a novel in one month:

Words have no power to impress the mind without the exquisite horror of their reality.

***

Bibliography

Poe, Edgar A. The Philosophy of Composition.

English, Anthony D. ed. Concise Anthology of American Literature. NY: Macmillann Publishing, 1993.

8 Writing-themed Halloween Costumes

For my daughter’s Halloween party at preschool, my daughter was an adorable Scooby-Doo and I dressed in a super-cute giraffe costume, kindly loaned to me by Dawn @ The Write Soil. Exhibit A –

As I paraded down the hall, feeling silly and very mommy-like, I imagined hosting an adult writer’s costume party, where guests come in writing-themed costumes, not literary character costumes, but dressed as a writer or as something specifically writerly.

8 Writing-themed Halloween Costumes:

  • Nothing screams ‘writer’ to me more than a typewriter.

(Okay, you got me! She doesn’t ‘scream’ writer, but she does give specific tips on making a typewriter costume.)

  • Except, a book might scream writer too! I like these two costumes I found on Google images (since I couldn’t find photo credits, if either of these ladies see this and want the pictures removed let me know, but I do give you mad credit for serious creativity!

How cool would it be to go to a party wearing your very own book cover?!

  • A modernist writer – When I think ‘writer’ I picture a woman in black-rimmed glasses, dressed mainly in black with a scarf wrapped around her neck. In one hand she holds a cigarette and in the other she holds a tumbler of amber whiskey. Sometimes I’m tempted to step in to her shoes (black flats) and try writing as her, but I don’t smoke, can’t stand the taste of alcohol and thanks to my faith, believe that love can conquer all and death is not the end. I can dress like a modernist on the outside, but lack the emptiness of the modernist inside.

 

  • A journalist – Notepad and pen in hand with a camera bag slung over my shoulder – Voila!

 

  • Mark Twain – Not terribly original, but like a ghost or skeleton at a regular Halloween party, Mark Twain’s got to be a staple at a writing-themed costume party!

  • Edgar Allan Poe – Again, not terribly original, but a staple! No Halloween costume party is complete without a witch, or in this case, an Edgar.

  • Emily Dickinson – A long white cotton or flannel nightgown with my hair pulled back in a bun – Hey, I frequently dress as Emily Dickinson on chilly winter nights before bed! I wonder if I’ve ever scared hubby as the ghost of Emily Dickinson?

 

  • Francine Pascal – A blond wig and a gold necklace! Easy peasy and classy! And if you are a fan of Francine’s, please click on the link and read the interview!

***

So, everyone is invited to my Virtual Writers Halloween Costume Party! Who are you coming as? Share your costume ideas!

***

ETA: After I posted, I found a Halloween Blog Hop hosted by suspense writer, Jeremy Bates . I decided to ‘hop’ into the Hop because my novel is supernatural suspense and I realized I don’t follow very many blogs by suspense writers, so this is an opportunity to change that!

I just need to add one thing to this post to take part in the Halloween Hop, my favorite horror movie, which I am happy to share is The Watcher in the Woods.

Spooky, thrilling, and spine-tingling without blood and guts. Also? Bette Davis. ‘Nough said.

WIML Weekend

Busy weekend!
Here’s a quick run-down:

Saturday

13 mile run –
Very windy! I didn’t take my camera, so of course, I came across the perfect photo-op: a German Shepherd and Jack Russell Terrier playing together!

Monkey/Daddy Moments –

Ironing –
The one chore I despise! The only reason I bother is because it’s my husband’s dress pants and shirts for work.

Sunday

6 mile run (easy)
Church
Grocery Store
Laundry
Crop Walk for Hunger (3.2 mile stroll with Monkey)
Lunch
Laundry
Confirmation/Church Conference

I was too busy moving from one activity to another to take any pictures on Sunday.

While I was at the Church Conference, Hubby and Monkey had a very interesting conversation, which Hubby was only too happy to record:

Daddy: “Let’s get a quick bath, Monkey. It will make Mommy happy when she gets home.”
Monkey: “Mommy can’t be happy. I gonna make her mad!” *insert evil laugh*

Notes on A Week in my Life –

While I’m not sure that my readers thoroughly enjoyed a glimpse into my ‘everyday’ routines, I’m so glad I took the time to capture the details of my day because I know that next year, everything will be different and I want to remember as many aspects of Monkey’s childhood as possible.

A special thank you to Melissa @ Adventuroo for the inspiration!

WIML Thursday

I sat down to type up my Thursday WIML post three hours ago, but got sidetracked by a cute font, which lead me to this tutorial on creating blinkies, making me play around in Photoshop, eventually leaving me revising my blog logo! This happens too often: I sit down to blog, but end up spending time on design and not content. In any event, don’t be surprised to see a revised header on Pocketful of Playdough soon, although I don’t think that would really surprise my regular readers.

Enough with my rambling. Let’s talk about Thursday! It was another rainy day, but luckily the rain held off and I got in 7 dry miles of running. After stretching and cooling down, I walked one block from the church to the CVS drug store to pick up some Sudafed. On the way back, the sky opened up and I was soaked within seconds. Major bummer!

I really wanted to go home and take a hot, steamy shower, but on Thursdays after preschool I take the girls to the library and couldn’t disappoint them.

Normally, the girls go straight to the toy bin and spend the time running around the library playing, rather than looking at the books. Then no sooner do I get them home, then they are pulling books off my book shelf. This week for the first time, they wanted to read books! Hooray!

Memorable conversations of today:

First thing after waking up, Monkey took her blankie, ‘Bobo’, held him in front of her and said, “Bobo. Bobo. I’ve got something to tell you. Don’t jump out of the car when I go Bible school. Wait for me in the car.”

@Library –

*Monkey looked so cute trying to protect ‘Bobo’ from the rain as we walked into the library, I said to her, “I’m going to hug and squeeze you.”

She replied, “Not till we get home.”

*The first thing Monkey said to Zoey once they picked out their toys: “I princess. You doctor.”

*As I was taking notes on the morning while the girls played in the library, I heard, “Mommy! Mommy!”

“What?” I asked.

Monkey said, “Not you. I’m talking to that Mommy.” She then pointed to Zoey. (They play a game where they take turns being the ‘Mommy’ and the ‘Honey’, aka [baby].)

Dinner Time

For supper I made rigatoni with my MIL’s homemade spaghetti sauce. As it warmed, the flavorful aroma filled the house.

Just a side note: My MIL makes the most delicious spaghetti sauce! My FIL is the family ‘chef’ but my MIL gives him a run for his money when it comes to spaghetti sauce!

Monkey agrees, at least I think so. She gobbled it up! And of course dropped a few noodles on her dress.

“Well.” She paused and took a breath before continuing, “That’s okay. It’ll dry. The sun will dry it.”

“The sun will dry it?” I asked.

“Yeah, it’s okay. Sun will dry it.”

She was so confident! I even believed her for a second even though the sun wasn’t out all day :)

Notes on the day:

I took a lot more pictures.
I still haven’t captured any Daddy/Monkey moments, though.
I still need to set the correct date on my camera!

Weekend Plans

No WIML Friday post.
Possible WIML Saturday post -if I can get Monkey/Daddy time covered.
WIML Sunday post scheduled for Monday.

***
This post inspired by WIML host by Melissa @ Adventuroo.

WIML Wonderful Wednesday

Wednesdays are ‘Wonderful’ around our house. This week was no exception, despite the pouring rain outside. From the middle of September until the week before Thanksgiving, our church hosts an evening meal followed by Bible studies for adults and programs for the children. My writing group, 1st Writes, started out as a Wednesday night Bible Study and we continue to meet on ‘Wonderful Wednesdays’. This is the first year that Monkey has been able to attend the Bible study for preschool children. She really looks forward to it!

So far she’s learned:

  • God wants her to help others.
  • God keeps his promises.
  • God keeps her safe.
  • She can do what God wants her to do. (I still need reminded of this Bible truth.)

Because of the rain, I took the day off from running. I normally do between 40 and 45 miles a week with two days off. One day a week I do a 30 minute free-weight workout and I do two yoga sessions a week as well. Today I did yoga, but didn’t get any pictures, which is a shame because Monkey likes to do it too and she’s pretty funny in her poses.

Before yoga, I posted Tuesday’s WIML and worked on my lesson for the 1st Writes meeting (It was my night to lead the group).

After yoga, I did some housecleaning. I vacuumed Monkey’s bedroom and mine before I realized that I had forgotten to put the canister back in the vacuum! This was my ‘duh’ moment of the day.

For supper, Monkey had peach cobbler -homemade? yes; made by me? no. Dessert was delicious and the main dish was very tasty. Our church is awesome because they take our vegetarianism into consideration and include a meatless option. Tonight’s veggie dish was quinoa salad, which I enjoyed, but Monkey did not.

After supper, Monkey ran around the fellowship hall as usual. Normally, there are other kids running around too, but Monkey finished early. I ran behind her trying to get some good pictures. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any really good shots.

I do love that last picture because her cheeks look especially squeezable!

During her Bible study tonight they watched Veggie Tales – Big River Rescue. Monkey is just starting to enjoy Veggie Tales. She and Zoey especially like watching Veggie Tales on the TV at the local Christian Bookstore.

After a quick bath, Monkey was ready for bed and fell asleep pretty quickly.

For Thursday, I’m hoping to take more pictures and capture some Monkey/Daddy time.

***

This post is inspired by ‘Week in my life’ hosted by Melissa @ Adventuroo.

WIML Tuesday

I am happy to report that Tuesday started off on a dry note -no pee spills to clean up! This put me in a very good mood. Amazing how the simplest things can make me happy these days.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays Monkey and her cousin Zoey go to the preschool in our church. Thankfully, Monkey was up around 7am so I didn’t have to wake her. She takes after her father when it comes to sleeping habits and can be a real bear if I have to get her out of bed before she’s ready. Immediately I asked what she wanted to wear because Monkey is very picky and getting dressed can sometimes take an hour or more. Of course she wanted to wear a dress and unfortunately, I haven’t put away her summer dresses yet.

“I wear that one,” Monkey said and pointed to a lightweight purple, flowery dress.

“No. It’s too cold for that one.” I shook my head.

“Well,” Monkey put her hands on her hips and a finger to her bottom lip as she looked in her closet. “I wear this one,” she pulled out another purple sundress.

“No. Too cold.” I really need to make time to go through her clothes and switch out summer for fall.

We repeated this process until I eventually couldn’t take it anymore and pulled one of her favorite dresses off the hanger.

“You can wear this one,” I said.

“But, but, but…” Monkey never just says one ‘but’; she says a string of them.

“It’s got pockets; you love the pockets don’t you?” I felt smug. Monkey never turned down a shirt or dress with pockets.

“Okay!” Monkey agreed – maybe too quickly.

Since it was going to be in the 70s, I didn’t spend too much time arguing over whether she had to wear tights or not and in a reasonable amount of time, Monkey was dressed and ready to go.

“Fill pockets now,” Monkey announced and began stuffing her pockets with princess figurines.

“Oh, no you don’t. You can’t take toys to preschool.”

“But, but, but…”

“No. You’ll lose them or fight over them. Toys stay home.”

Crying ensued. I knew she had agreed too easily and that there’d be a tantrum at some point. I ignored her crying, which sounds mean as I type it, but ignoring her little fits is the best way to put an end to them.

“What do you want for breakfast?” I asked.

“I don’t want breakfast.” She sniffed.

“Fine.”

I made a big bowl of oatmeal and sat down to eat it. Sure enough, here comes Monkey. “I have some?”

The trick to getting Monkey to eat when she says she doesn’t want to or to get her to try something new is to not offer it to her, but to just eat it myself. It never fails that she wants what I have, but if I give her a plate or bowl of her own, forget about it. Toddlers.

After breakfast, it was time to leave and pick up my niece, Zoey. The ride was uncharacteristically silent. Usually the girls are talking and laughing, but not this Tuesday.

With the girls in preschool for 2 1/2 hours, it’s easier (and saves gas) if I just run from the church in town rather than drive home, run, and drive back. It’s a nice change in scenery and encourages me to vary my pace, which is good. As the wind blew, leaves trickled from the tree tops, gliding softly on the breeze and landing gently on the pavement where they were then stirred to a frenzy by passing cars. As the cars drove by, the leaves trailed behind them the way tin cans tied with string  trail behind the cars of newlyweds.

The run was great. My knees didn’t hurt and I wonder if maybe the stroller is putting too much stress on them. The weather was perfect, maybe even a bit too warm, but I’m not complaining. At one point, on the busiest street in town, I tripped on the uneven sidewalk, but managed to catch myself before falling flat on my face. My face flamed with embarrassment, but then I quickly reminded myself that I don’t care if drivers laugh at me; at least no one honked!

This post inspired by Week in My Life hosted by Melissa @ Adventuroo.

*Note to Self*
Capture Monkey and Daddy playtime! Tonight I really goofed and didn’t take pictures or photos of their outside time together!