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When she unpacked the glove: “It’s the Earth! It’s the Earth!”

We’re back from our trip and I am finding it difficult to get back into things with the blogging. But here’s what you can expect soon:

  1. I’m preparing an update on our second Riot month (December 2008), so that might get me started. DONE.
  2. We’ve been doing more drawing, so of course I’ll report on that. DONE.
  3. I’ll also put up some pictures of our adventures in NY City and Washington DC: they involve lots of drawing, dinosaurs and a fearful run-in with the Big Bang.
  4. Thanks to a reader of this blog, I will be able update my “green diaper” product reviews with new information on Nature Baby Care.
  5. And I owe you pictures of our Homemade Christmas, which turned out smaller than we had planned but was a success anyway and a good way to get a tradition started.
  6. We’ve almost completed the construction of our haybox cooker. I  want to try it out before I report back on that.
  7. We’re wooing a friend to come stay with us as a semi-permanent house guest. I’m so excited about our co-housing experiment!
  8. In the meantime I’m still waiting for news about the novel from the agent. What a drag to have to wait so long… I feel at a loss about my future and this totally squashes my inspiration to work on it or on its sequel. I have some short stories brewing, though, and maybe even a poem or two. I just need a couple of hours without having to clean or dig out the gutters…
  9. The seeds should be arriving soon and if Skippy’s Vegetable Garden planting schedule is any indication, we’d better start working on that, so expect some reports on the installation of a seed growing bank in our basement. DONE
  10. I have some thoughts/feelings about how to deal with Climate Change/Peak Oil/Economic Depression despair and conversations with “unconverted” friends. That will make a more philosophical discussion: one that I often indulge in these days, before the flurry of practical action has to set in.

That’s quite a list…

{This was written yesterday but I had already posed two entries so kept it for today}

I slept badly last night, or rather not at all (this cold is getting the better of me). Ever since having Amie I can function pretty well on very little sleep, on a certain level. But this morning I just couldn’t wrap my brain around the sequel to my novel. I’ve been rereading A Trail Through Leaves by Hannah Hinchman and she got me all excited about patterns in nature, for instance why it is that leaves curl. On our nature walk yesterday Amie brought home a bunch of dead leaves and… well, see for yourself:

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I had never drawn a curled leaf before (I usually go for the easy top-down view) and I was pretty intimidated by all those curving, curled lines. But I took my time and looked as closely as I’ve seen Amie looking. And then there it was!

It felt so good, taking that hour or so to draw for myself and by myself. And to get to use my fancy (and barely used) watercolor set, which I keep it hidden from Amie.

Taking one’s time though isn’t so simple in this day and age of the clock. This is the larger view of the desk (Amie’s art desk):

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It’s funny and typical: the cup of tea, the art objects, the journal open, but also the dolls and the playdough and especially that clock-clock-tick-tock. Five more minutes and I need to leave to pick her up from preschool.

Oh, you want to see this?

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It’s The Potboiler, all 340 pages of it, before it was sent off to the agent (my first attempt). Everyone keep their fingers crossed, please.

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Besides birds, we have also been observing the resident squirrel eating our three ears of Indian Corn and guarding it from other squirrels. He/she somehow got it down from our porch light.

Amie was enthralled by how he carried a kernel in his mouth, ran along the balcony ledge, then down and through the drain hole, just a little bit out into the front yard, there dug a little hole, dropped in the kernel and covered it with some leaves.

“He’s making little cupboards!” she said. She laughed, seeing him so jittery and secretive and going back and forth and back and forth.

He is very used to us now and often looks in on us. Very quaint. He sits on the balcony’s ledge, on his bum, looks straight at you, holding and rubbing his little front paws under his chin, stretching his body up, up… I love the thick white pelt of his belly. Sometimes he just stops and stays, not moving, for a minute or so. Amie and I wave at him and jump up and down (a mere three feet away, with the window in between) but he doesn’t budge.

On other news: the novel is totally, absolutely, finally finished, edited and formatted and everything. I’m sending it off on Monday.

Amie gave up her nap when we were on holiday in Toronto. We like it because it no longer takes 2 hours to get her to sleep in the evening (sometimes she would lay awake till midnight!). On the other hand, I no longer have that 1 1/2 hour nap to quickly do some more work.

Work…

My “work” is writing this novel. I’ve been working on the first 12 1/2 chapters, over 400 pages, for over a year now, at the rate of about 20 hours a week. Those 20 hours consist of the four mornings Amie is at daycare and napping.

I’ve been working on the thirteenth chapter – the second-last chapter – for over two months now. No, not at 20 hours per week. In those two months Amie has been home sick for three weeks, her daycare took a week off, and I was out of commission myself (“on a holiday”) for a week. We also bought a house, of course, which involved a lot of work, research and stress.

So I haven’t worked in weeks. And I’m frustrated.

I have been spending a minimum $800 a month on daycare – many months for two weeks of nursing a sick child at home. I write “I” because I consider that to be the income I bring in, not DH. Or rather, my “non-income”, as my friend Shari calls it, because I haven’t as yet brought in a dime. It’s my investment into the novel, which I hope will at least break even in the most modest sense of paying for the daycare. My time, and even the potential income I gave up for writing the story, I will consider repaid simply by the fun of having written.

But the main frustration is with how my “work” gets perceived, even by those closest to me, those who know how much I love it, how much I have riding on it, and how much I put into it. It isn’t considered “work”, because it earns no income. Or it isn’t considered hard work, again because there’s no income and perhaps even because I enjoy it so much! Which just indicates the sorry state of the concept of work…

And so also I don’t have the right to be tired, because what I do do when I don’t “work” – namely mothering – isn’t “work” either (and it will never be considered as such as long as mothering isn’t paid). Because staying inside all day wiping a snotty nose and soothing a sad little whining child couldn’t be tiring. Because stealing hopeless glances at my laptop, feeling my story’s momentum and inspiration seep away along with the hope of making it pay off couldn’t be heartbreaking and stressful…

Should mothering be paid? At least we could consider the tax break for a “dependent” as payment for the work of the stay-at-home mom, not as repayment for what the working dad has put into daycare or diapers (though obviously it is a tax break on his income).

But forget about the money.

That I drop my work (at home or not, paying or not) at the sniff of a nose to do the most difficult kind of mothering, that of taking care of a sick child, doesn’t mean that writing wasn’t “hard work” to begin with. And that, when the child is recovered, I return to my work as if I was starved of it, doesn’t mean that mothering isn’t important to me either. Far from it, each should underscore the importance of the other. Both are what I do best, and what I need to do to be the best person I can be.

Okay, end of rant.

Here’s my pledge:

After the novel is done,

(I still have a couple of months to go before I release it to the Underworld—I mean, the industry… Cheeze!)

I’m going to make something with my hands!

Dig a garden (if we have one by then).

Make a cob structure for Amie (in the garden, if we have one by then).

If we don’t, I’ll remodel the bathroom.

And make a painting (it’s been a while).

A piece of furniture.

Throw a pot (first learn how to do it).

Look at these pictures of Rick Beerhorst’s studio!

As you may know, I am writing a novel (in English), by the preliminary and rather misleading title of “The Potboiler”. I gave up my PhD studies in Philosophy – I had only the dissertation to go – and started writing an adventure novel! Sounds crazy, what? But (fiction) writing was something I had wanted to do since I was 14. With the support of DH, it became possible!

I wrote a novel (in Dutch) some years ago, during a long hot summer in between academic years. I had heard it said that you have to write a novel, as if you really mean it, then put it in the drawer, and then write a second one, and that one will succeed. I didn’t believe it back then, but now I do.

And now I also understand the phrase “the story writes itself”. This one does, I am not kidding. And the more I write, the easier it gets. The occasional writer’s block has more to do with life outside the story.

It’s not just me. Friends have read it, some of them professional readers, readers of the genre (adventure thriller), professional writers and journalists. They all love it and believe it should and can be published.

I want to send it off to an agent soon, but I fear they will want the whole thing. I’m on Chapter 8 now – a good 250 pages into the book – and estimate there will be 5 more chapters.

In any case, I just wanted to let you know. In case I seem to have fallen off the face of the earth: I’m writing!

It feels so good to be doing what I always dreamt of doing! So good!