And so it begins…


School is still crazy. I took 15 units this summer for a Transitional Kindergarten certificate I don’t absolutely need since I have an Early Childhood credential, but the units are good for salary increases, I’m not paying for the classes, and it’s been fun reigniting my love for teaching small people.

I added grandma to my resume last April.

12111910_10152985726397924_526071649991148320_n He’s a cutie, as you can see! (Plus, I’ve already corrupted him with Storybots jumping on the bed and he knows me because I sing The Wheels on the Bus at him over FaceTime regularly. He’s in the Seattle area. I’m not.)

No one got married this year. I have no writing to speak of. And though life is crazy busy, I’m happy and well. And this is my first step into thinking about writing again. After I finish another nine units and training for SEAL (through school) and whatever other insanity comes my way.

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Is this thing on?

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I don’t know where the time goes!

However, I will announce that I am now officially ON vacation! So that means more time… more time to sleep, more time to avoid the things I should be doing (*ahem* Looking at you, unit development!) and oh! Well, spending time here, too.

Plus, we actually got away for an overnight stay. It felt like forever, because we turned it into an earlyish morning takeoff and a very late night return. School feels far away and misty. (Another reason to keep it that way by avoiding UD!)

A new snapshots of where we were:

Hearst Castle! And the indoor pool, a little over-the-top, I suppose…

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Montana de Oro State Park… with complementary addition of seagull feasting on what may be a sea cucumber, and…

Elephant Seal Beach. And my family complains that I never do anything but landscapes. But this time with cooperating wildlife! Ha!

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However, the monarch butterflies were not nearly as cooperating at the grove in Pismo Beach, and dang, those little things are fast! I would have given you a shot of a eucalyptus tree and told you to hunt, but none of those tree shots are in my Dropbox file. Lucky you!

Plans for the remainder of this week include writing. Real writing. Wow.

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Second try at this because WordPress ate the first one in its entirety. :(

First off, the really good news!

I will be a grandmother on or about April 22nd and we have photos of the little bean to prove it! Needless to say, we’re thrilled. This is a result of last October’s wedding, and I hope… I really hope! The Eldest Child gets his in spades. (No, I don’t think this retribution… I just think he needs to experience the fullness of all that life has to offer. )

It’s time. My younger sister has been thrice blessed; my younger brother has been at this far longer with his three grandchildren. It’s my turn. Although I’m being very careful on the who’s the grandmother in charge, because this is not my actual daughter, and I think the other grandmother will be very involved. Still, lots of excitement around here, and all we’re asking for is a healthy baby.

The Eldest Child, however, has plans for purchasing toddler ski suits.

Let me repeat: What goes around, comes around. Oh, please.

Charlie bounced my buttonhole story back with lovely comments and a suggestion to whip it into selling shape. I sent the rewrite onto the Freeway Dragons, and I will see what people say about the tale tomorrow. One of our group has already suggested that it’s a Shimmer story, so maybe there. I’m just glad to send something out in the world again after a bounce because there was a time when one bounce was a story’s death knell.

I managed to acquire an allergic reaction (or two, because I have a fine rash and something more like hives) to something I ingested earlier this week. I haven’t been this bad since I sampled blue crab at a sushi place in San Jose at World Fantasy whenever that was. It has not been fun, although it wasn’t nearly as bad as the last time, either. Thankfully, most of the itching is gone (all praise to antihistamines!) and everything’s slowly fading. I might be back to normal by Monday with any luck.

Finally, school is school, and I’ve had too many subs for comfort. It’s not a good year in that regard–I’ll be out for more than twenty, and the calendar of days when I’m out makes me dizzy. This is mostly about me being a unit writer, and if I knew now what I didn’t know then….


Still. Baby!!

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It’s been a while…

But I’ve regained some control of my life, school is in process and this year’s batch of kiddos coming along nicely in terms of being in school and dealing with school demands. Every year is a little different, and this year is a drama year with all the girls. I’ve already had the ‘she won’t be my friend’ and pinching episodes, and that will simply not continue. Most of my boys are little boys and mischievous, rather than malicious. Lots of wiggles and conversations, and getting them to stay on task and be in the right place is taking time. Oh, well. Beginning of the year and we have places to go.

My daily schedule has changed dramatically this year, too, because we’ve added in computer lab again. Still working on getting little finger to left click. Still working on a few who treat the mouse like a remote, and try pointing it at the monitor to click.

Last weekend (already?! wow) I headed to Redondo Beach for the afternoon’s SFWA readings in the library there. I had a great time chatting with fellow Dragons, because we had a good showing, and then a few other people besides. Got to meet a few familiar writers whom I’d never actually met in person and a few new-to-me writers completely. I’m very happy to know that Sofia Samatar actually lives in the vicinity. We’re trying to drag her into the Dragons, too!

I’m starting to feel as though I really don’t belong in the group based on my lack of publications. I do have another short (my buttonhole story) out to Charlie at SF&F, and he’s on a roll with his responses, so I should be getting my reject in the next few days. Nothing like being prepared for it!

And then I’ll send it out again. It’s been long enough that the magazines it was sent to originally have had the readers change completely, and I might, might get further with this rewritten version. I think it’s better at least.

And that’s the state of the Marsha.

There is some good news I’m holding back, that I can’t share until the people involved give me the go ahead. But it’s exciting! I’m hoping that I can share next week some time.

Now, off to chores and whatever else is waiting for me until we leave this afternoon–to see Pentatonix live! Yay!

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Enter school

We’re slowly regathering ourselves here. My two sisters and I cleared out much of Mom’s house last weekend. It was good to be with them and laugh. It was good to be there and tear up together. Our goal of leaving as little as possible for my only in-town sister to deal with was successful. Seven stuffed carloads of donations. Furniture and much of the remaining possessions were gifted away.

A niece who had separated herself from the family seems to have rejoined us. I hope it lasts because it would have made Mom happy to have her back.

Tears still catch me unaware, but I’m burying myself in school. It’s a slow process this year; I’m taking time to think and stare at the room. Something I did not have time for last year. I have yet to nail down my iPad plans for the classroom now that we have a set of six to share, but there’s no rush until I get the class under control. And this will be a year of drama most likely: the ratio of girls to boys is 2:1. We will spend most of the spring dealing with “I won’t be your friend if…” and other small manipulative tricks.

Boys. Boys punch or kick and get it out of their systems. Two minutes later, they’re best friends again. Girls can hold onto perceived slights for a long time and will retaliate when you don’t expect it.

I managed to send Charlie a story for F&SF today. The rewrite is the only thing I accomplished for the Clarion Write-a-thon, but I’m not chastising myself for being a slacker. I did the best I could do under the circumstances. I’m not returning to the novel yet. Another unfinished short story crawled out of the pile and is insisting I write it. It’s about how we carry love within us, even after the loved person is gone… how we let go, and how we move on.

I wrote the damn thing eight years ago? Maybe longer. And the fact that it’s appropriate for today makes me sad, and at the same time, willing to stare it down and face what pain it may engender.

I’m still tired, but not as much as I had been. Five o’clock is far too early for humans to revive and be productive. I hope to regain control of that by next week, when I won’t have the option to roll over and go back to sleep.

The fact that Disney is planning a movie based on A Wrinkle in Time thrills me no end. I hope it’s a good translation to the big screen–the book deserves one.

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Wandering in the forest of grief

One of the most difficult things to do as a child when you’ve lost a parent is to sift through their possessions and decide what parts you’re going to keep and what you’re going to give away or throw out.

Now when you’re suddenly orphaned at age 60+?

It’s not just the things that represent their life–it’s the house, too. So not only have you lost that last parent, you’ve lost the home that was them, and that center of celebrations and reunions.

When a door closes, a window may very well open. In my case (lots of siblings, for sure, and we’ve all drawn closer) it’s a huge window.

But the dimensions of that window will never match the size of Mom’s forever-closed-to-me door.

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Every so often a light goes on….

And man, even in the state of California, once in a while, someone opens a barricaded door.

So there’s no surprise that Common Core demands children have a set percentage of non-fiction text exposure in kindergarten and I’ve been thoroughly annoyed with the stipulation that 40% of what we read (independently and aloud) be non-fiction.

In the latest ELA/ELD draft from the state, they quoted Neil Gaiman. O.O

“Fiction plays a central role. Author Neil Gaiman (2013), who writes for children and adults, promotes fiction as a gateway to reading:

‘The drive to know what happens next, to want to turn the page, the need to keep going, even if it’s hard, because someone’s in trouble and you have to know how it’s all going to end…that’s a very real drive. And it forces you to learn new words, to think new thoughts to keep going, [and t]o discover that reading per se is pleasurable. Once you learn that, you’re on the road to reading everything.’

He also argues that fiction builds empathy:

‘Prose fiction is something you build up from 26 letters and a handful of punctuation marks, and you, and you alone, using your imagination, create a world and people it and look out through other eyes…Empathy is a tool for building people into groups, for allowing us to function as more than self-obsessed individuals.'”

I would just like to say THANK GOD. And D’OH.

Now whether this quote will remain in the final draft? Ha. We’ll see. I also don’t expect it to do much in terms of reducing the amount of non-fiction to be read.

*mumbles something not very nice about the writers of Common Core*

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Those work well, and keep my mind off everything else.

The photo albums I brought home? A gold mine of mysteries. Some have names on the back, which is helpful, I suppose when I find time to do the family research. But mostly? Total mystery. Like this one with the information on the back.

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I haven’t decided if he’s a curiosity that whoever began the album couldn’t give up or somehow related to the family. Banister and West Circus operated during Victorian England and toured Scotland mostly. That’s all I’ve found so far.

I’ve tinkered with a short story, thinking I will send it to Charlie when the F&SF window opens. I can’t quite bring myself to work on the novel, as much as I want. I’m pretty distracted and it’s easier to hold my attention with research. And work around the house. Heaven knows that needs doing.

My kids’ dogs are keeping us on our toes, too. I walked Shasta first this morning (because the two little monsters together tie themselves up) and she was so worried about Baxter not being with us that she slipped out of her collar as I bent to scoop her present for me, and I had to chase her home.

It’s really annoying when the fur baby stops to make sure you’re still following and then takes off again when you’ve made it within arms’ reach.

I’m still having trouble when people who haven’t heard ask how Mom is, and I don’t know if I’ll get over that any time soon.

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Seasons of Love on repeat in my head

How do you measure a lifetime?

Mom had her own weight in photographs. Every time we open a drawer or a box, we find more. I brought a full trunk home with me to sort through, but they’re my father’s mother’s, and some of them date to mid-1800’s or so based on the daguerreotypes and clothing. Some have names. Most don’t. I should have written or taped everything Mom ever told me about Grandma Mac’s side.

None of the Allenbys are actually related to me. My paternal grandfather was adopted into the family, and the albums and bible were passed down through him. You can’t throw these things away, but I’m wondering what we’re going to do. Store them for yet another generation?

Mom seems to have kept almost every card she was given. My grandmother was worse in that she kept letters, too. It was pretty astonishing finding two notes written by my dad in second and third grade to his grandmother. None of it is organized. Heck, it’s not even in the same boxes. Grandma’s stuff is with my other Grandma’s stuff is mingled with Mom and Dad’s stuff and all our kids. Even the boxes that pretend to be organized aren’t. And if I find any more unidentified locks of hair… (Two today. Please, no more. Maybe if you know the person. But if it’s 50-year old hair? Not so much.)

We cleaned out Mom’s closet yesterday. Considering that Mom only left the house for doctor appointments and hospital stays this last year, she had more clothing than I have. We happened on some vintage pieces (40’s, I think) of my grandmother’s, both the coat and the top with lovely cuts and trimmed in fur. Real fur. Those we’re saving for the estate sale along with the nicer pieces Mom had. We cleaned out Mom’s bathroom, too.

And all this cleaning and sorting has convinced me that I can’t leave anything like this for my kids. I’m cleaning out the bathroom tomorrow, and I’m adding my closet to the list.

I’m pretty sure I’m focused on the ‘stuff’ of a lifetime so I don’t have to contemplate the hole in the center of me.

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