Adventures in Potty Training, Prelude (or Thoughts of the “Chair” again…)

So a few weeks ago, my hubby says to me, “Looks like it’s getting warmer.”
I says, “Yep.”
He says, “Nice days again. Sunshine. Washing the car. Going to the park…”
I says, “Yep.”
He looks at me. “You know what that means, right?”
I look at him. “Nope.”
At this point, his mouth goes into super slo-mo, and I can see his lips coming together, then stretching out in a horrible rictus of revelation:


Okay, I’m exaggerating. What I meant to write was that he said, “Potty training,” and a chorus of red devils rose up behind him, shrieking and pointing their pitchforks at me. “Potty training! Potty training! Potty training! Bleahhhh!!!” Then they wrapped me up in toilet paper and took me to a place where the Potty Song played over and over 25 hours a day and tiny naked urchins stomped and hooted and threw their body leavings on the floor and the walls and the ceiling, but never, never, the clean, pristine potty chair sitting in the middle of the floor…

You see? This is what happens when a writer gets upset. I only have to think about putting Daniel on the chair again and I start to hyperventilate and my hands start to shake. After the humiliating setback last year, I don’t even want to consider potty training again. They make size 6 diapers anyway. I can go on blissfully changing Daniel until the day he starts kindergarten and all the kids point and laugh at him because he’s still wearing a diaper, then he runs home, crying, and I will stand, pointing my finger at him, and say, “Well, that’s what you get for not learning to use the potty like I told you to when you were 2. Did you listen? Noooo…”

Yeah. Okay. Forget that last paragraph.

Truth is, the thought of trying to potty train Daniel again makes me cringe. My head says that I’m reluctant to do so only because I’m afraid of it failing again. I don’t want to get my hopes up for a week, then go into a major relapse. I don’t want to force Daniel into potty training if he doesn’t want to. It’s not like I have a magic button that automatically makes Daniel say, “Mommy, I have to go potty.” If I did, I could put that button to far better use (“I want a book contract.” Bzzz! “Done!”)

Granted, Daniel is a little older now than the last time we tried. He knows how to pull his pants down and up, which he didn’t do so well last time. And just yesterday, he completely surprised me by coming up to me and saying, “Mommy, change my diaper.” It seems that he’s no longer content to let his diaper fill up anymore. According to all the ‘books’, that indicates a certain ‘readiness’ for ‘clean underwear’.

I guess the only reason why I’m writing this entry is to psyche me up into doing it again. ‘Cause, after all, I will be the one doing the training. I’m the one who will have to patiently tell Daniel, “Let’s go to the potty!” And I need to realize that if he’s still not ready, then it’s okay. I haven’t failed. It just means that I’ll have to wait a little longer…

So I guess I’ll have to dig up the Over the Rhine’s “The Poopsmith Song” again…


Book Review: The Twelfth Transforming by Pauline Gedge

I know I’ve read Gedge before. Gedge is known for writing Egyptian stories (even her scifi story “StarGate” has an Egyptian bent). Some years back, I read her House of Illusion. It was an okay story, not really memorable. Her older book, The Twelfth Transforming I think I would remember far, far more.

12th transforming

The book tells about the reign of Amunhotep told mainly through the eyes of his mother, Tiye. Prophesied to cause the death of his father, Amunhotep slowly descends into madness, taking Egypt with him. He uproots the royal palace and relocates it in a desert-like land. He instills the rule of worshiping one god instead of many, but does it so that it causes chaos and confusion. He also sees himself as the only bearer of the god to spread his seed, and he does so by sleeping his wife (cousin), all of his daughters, and even his mother.

Incest is already pretty much the standard in Gedge’s book when it comes to Pharaohs. They marry cousins and the old pharaoh before Amunhotep is entertained by his daughter. But even within this setup there’s objections. The old pharaoh is also taking a young boy to him to bed as well, and that’s got the populace shaking their heads. He also doesn’t sire children with his daughter–he does that with his other wives. I guess if you’re going to sin horrendous, you still gotta set standards…or else you become just like Amunhotep–bedding children far before they’re ready to become mothers. Nefrititi is in this, too, as the scheming first wife denied the title of Empress–that goes to Tiye, Amunhotep’s mother after he marries her–and her attempts to take power for herself on ends up in exile and humiliation. But at least she looks nice.

A few weeks before I read this book, I watched “Marie Antoinette” by Sofia Coppala. A lot of nothing happened in that movie, which was how Coppala meant it to be. Just a queen going to party after party after party, far removed from the action and the turmoil happening in her city. Reading Gedge’s book gave me the same feeling. Lots of parties and luxurious activities take place in the book. But instead of lurking in the periphery, tragedy flourishes within the palace itself, growing as Amunhotep takes the throne, changes his name to Akhenaten, and begins his downslide into ruin. The people surrounding him knows he is taking them to hell, but they claim they’re powerless. After all, Pharaoh is god. You don’t take down god. Thus, you can’t help but watch as a drought devastates Egypt, alliances are cut loose, royal children die one after another, and Amunhotep grows more and more mad. And though I cringed at each of his insane antics, I couldn’t stop reading either. It’s like “Marie Antoinette” meets “Macbeth”.

I do say that the book goes longer than it should. Gedge mainly tells the story through Tiye’s eyes, but then Tiye herself dies (in a strangely convenient way) and the story somewhat lingers after that. You want it to end, but it doesn’t, suddenly switching to a power struggle between a Fanbearer Advisor and the Captain of the Army. I understand the necessity for it, but their battle really dragged the story down and I skipped whole passages just to get to the end. But still, I really did like this book. It gets 4 out of 5 cobra headed crowns and thank God that we don’t have power hungry insane dictators who think they’re god anymore in this day and age. Oh, wait…

Retreat of Silence


So last week, my hubby asked me, “Wanna go on a retreat?” I said, “What kind of retreat?” He said, “I’ve been asked to go to Cedar Camp to do some computer stuff for a couple of days. The kid can stay with relatives. You can do whatever you want. You can write. You can sleep. Whatd’ya say?”

So last Thursday, we packed the kid off to Indiana, then we took off for Michigan.


Cedar Camp is owned by InterVarsity, a Christian college group I was involved in back in the day. Cedar Camp had been the first place I traveled to on my own. It’s an 8-hour drive from Chicago to the Upper Peninsula. The first time I went, I drove in a caravan of white college students, unsure of what I’ll see. What I saw was lots of water, lots of trees, and barely anything else. I was mesmerized.


Last week was the first time my hubby and I came to the camp alone, as a couple. We also came here last year, but it didn’t count because we had Daniel with us. It had made for a pretty miserable time– thus Daniel is staying with relatives this time around. I had two full days to do whatever I want. Eat. Read. Sleep. Write. It’s a writer’s retreat in it’s purest form.


Only problem was, I couldn’t really write. Suddenly thrown from time constraints, I couldn’t concentrate so well. Oh, I did write some of the time. I managed to get a couple of Willow chapters done. But the idea that I would write constantly, from sunup to sundown didn’t happen. I needed time to rest my mind. I needed time to rest. So I did just that.


And you know what? I really enjoyed myself. It was nice to exist out of time for a while. Got some reading done. Got some sleeping done. Got to spend some time with hubby. And I got to spend some time with God. I think that was the best part.


I think the next time we go, Daniel will be ready to enjoy it. I hope so. This place is ripe for him.

Happy Birthday to me…Happy Birthday to me…Happy Biiiirthday!

Birthday CD #1: Testimony: Vol. 1, Life and Relationship by India.Arie
From “Private Party”
“I’m havin’ a private party/Learning how to love me/Celebrating the woman I’ve become, yeah…”

On Friday, I didn’t feel any older. Maybe it’s because I’ve been thinking that I was 36 already that when my birthday actually came, it was all moot. I think I felt the same way when I turned 26–ages are beginning to blur for me. I’m still trying to figure out if that’s good or not.

Or maybe it’s because all last week, I’ve been focusing intensely on a rewrite of my short story. I actually sent it off on my birthday. Talk about a crash. After I sent it off, I didn’t want to do much of anything, so I decided not to. Did no cleaning, no errands. Just camped with Daniel in the family room and read. It was pretty nice. Not bad for a Friday the 13th.

Birthday CD #2: Dream Again by Phil Keaggy
From “Dream Again”
“Ready with a pen in hand, I’m wondering why I haven’t slept, well/I’ve had a lot on my mind and it shows, it shows…”

Because I focused so much on this short story, I haven’t done anything with Willow, which is just as well. I just finished a very important scene in the book, one that set off a lot of changes. It also had a character reveal his true nature, one that I wasn’t ready for him to reveal yet. I’m still trying to figure out how this impacts the whole storyline in general. I guess, when this rewrite request came through, it gave me a chance to set aside Willow for a bit.

Sometimes, when I get stumped on a short story, I like to put it aside for a few weeks, let it percolate a bit in the back of my mind while I work on other stuff. But this is the first time I ever stopped working on Willow. I don’t want to leave it for too long–I don’t want to lose momentum on it. But I have been thinking about it, and that’s been nice. When I dive back into it today, it will be interesting to see how the story will pick up. Maybe it will go off in a new direction. Or maybe I’ll just scrap the last chapter I wrote and start over.

Lots of stuff to consider.

Birthday CD #3: Back Numbers by Dean and Britta
From “Say Goodnight”
“I will keep my eyes open when you turn off the light/because the sparrow at night don’t mean it’s morning/and soon, everything will be alright/Say goodnight…”

“So what would you like to do for your birthday?”
“I dunno.”
“Wanna go out to dinner?”

So, just like that, my hubby and I are driving to Japan77 after dropping Daniel off at a nearby neighbor’s. We’ve never been to a Japanese steakhouse before. It’s nice, flashy, good entertainment. But I think I like the driving more, of leaning back and looking at my hubby while playing one of the CDs I got for my birthday. It feels dreamy, holding his hand, talking about when we dated. It makes for a mellow birthday, but you know what? I like mellow birthdays.

The next day, I get an email from Kaleidotrope. They want to purchase another short story of mine, “Click”. It’s a print magazine, which means that this will be the first time any of my works show up in print.

Happy birthday to me.

Rewrite Requests: The Foot that Holds the Door Open

So how was your Easter weekend? Go to any church services? Cross your arms and refuse to go? Did some weird ritual that involved chocolate bunnies and eggs?

My Easter was pretty much standard as holidays go. Go to church, go to relatives, eat a big supper, take a nap while the boy runs amuck, trusting that the other relatives will watch him for once. We came home, I checked my email, and saw that one came in from a market I sent a short story to.

Now, for the past couple of months, I’ve grown used to emails like, “Thank you for sending such and such…didn’t work for us…blah, blah, blah…too weird…etc. and so forth…” But when I opened up this email, I got something very, very different.

“We really like this story. We like the voice. However it meanders in places, diluting the focus of the story. Would it be possible for you to do a rewrite?”

Whoa…a rewrite request! I’ve heard of these!

Actually, I’m more excited that I can possibly convey in this blog. Rewrite requests are special. It’s not exactly a guarantee that this certain market will publish my story if I rewrite, but it does mean that someone really, really liked it enough to comment on it, and even offer a few tips that will help push the story over the top.

What’s really made me happy is that a few days before, on a whim, I had pulled up the story and reread it, thinking, “Ooh…you know, maybe I should rewrite this, tighten it up a bit.” It’s awesome that this market is allowing me to do that.

So that’s what I’m doing this week–if you haven’t heard from me much, that’s why. I’ve been editing and cutting and polishing my little heart out; in fact, I haven’t done much work on my other stories or Willow. I want to get this story perfect. When I do, then we will go back to our regularly scheduled blogging and writing.

The Steven Banks Show on YouTube

This morning while I was cleaning, the song “So You Want to be a Rock and Roll Star”, the version by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, came on the radio, and I thought to myself, You know what I haven’t seen in a while? The Steven Banks Show.

Now why would I think that? Well, those who saw his show back in the early 90s knows what I’m talking about. Steven Banks was a comedian who had a one-man-act play called “Home Entertainment Center”. It later got broadcast on Showtime called under the name The Steven Banks Show. In it, Banks play himself as a writer trying to write a speech, but getting horribly distracted, from his girlfriend calling to a sudden desire to dress and sing like Bob Dylan.

My sisters and I watched that show frontwards and backwards. It was freaking hilarious–mostly sight gags and musical bits (the best song he does on it: “Rock and Roll never dies, but Rock and Rollers do”). It was only an hour long, but we loved that show to bits.

Now, years later, I had a sudden urge to watch it again. Too bad that it’s not released on DVD, but…someone loaded the entire show on YouTube. So tonight, I got to watch it again. And I have to say, now that I’m a writer, I really, really, appreciate it a lot more than I did then. And I thought I had a tendency to procrastinate. Daniel was watching it with me, which he can do because this wasn’t some vulgar, profanity-laden slop that Comedy Central serves up nowadays. He loved the drum solo towards the end. Gotta hand it to Banks, he’s a funny guy, but he can also rock.

Steven Banks has moved on since then, entertaining a new generation by writing for Jimmy Neutron and sponge bob Squarepants. I even understand he got a YA book out last year: King of the Creeps. But check out his show, anyway. Especially all you writers out there; I guarantee you’ll get a kick out of it. And if you get a great sale of your story and you suddenly start hearing “So You Want to be a Rock and Roll Star” playing out of nowhere, just roll with it, baby. Pick up those drumsticks and roll with it.

You can go to the Steven Banks show on YouTube here. There are seven parts roughly 9 1/2 minutes each.

Edit: I have since learned that the account has been deactivated, but someone has put the entire show on Youtube. I updated the above link accordingly, but I don’t know how long it will last.

The Disappointed (Dealing with more rejection…)

Yesterday I read a blog article on Dealing with Disappointment from the Urban Muse, which was being featured on The Writer’s Block Carnival. Although the Urban Muse has it geared towards freelance writing, I could totally understand where she was coming from. She gives a few pointers on dealing with rejection that became quite timely for me, as I received Yet Another Rejection yesterday. (Hmmm…I think I’m gonna have to shorten these things to YAR…they seem so prolific…)

I feel pretty bad about it because it was the first story I’ve ever written and sent out, but, at the same time, I’m glad, too. You see, because it was my first story, I never sat down to come up with a marketing plan for it. I just did research online, thought, “Ooo…here’s a cool place to send it to,” and sent it off to the first couple of places that looked good to me, without any regard for what the market was, or what type of stuff they would publish. Add to that is the fact that the story I wrote is rather hard to pigeonhole and is quite long–7900 words. What genre is it? Slipstream? Magic Realism? Literary? Hard to say. I simply thought, “Eh, it’s Christian.” And sent it off that way.

I’ve come a long way since I finished that story and sent it out. After writing a few more stories, I’m beginning to streamline the process of finding markets for my work. I don’t just pick and choose just a couple of places anymore. I now gather fifteen, maybe twenty or more markets that might take my work. Then, I start winnowing each market down, checking out their stories, seeing if they have samples, figuring out if they would be the right fit for my story. It’s a long process, but once I cut out the chaff, I have a more decent list of markets that I can now work with. My recent stuff have been easy when it comes to categorizing by genre, but harder works, like the story that just came back to me right now, need special care. It means that I have to expand my definition of a story’s genre to figure out what will be the right place to send it, which could be a market I’ve never considered before.

Today, I spent the time I usually eke out for writing Willow to focus on finding markets for my returned story, and this time, doing it right. I feel better about it–I now have a more focused strategy on sending this story out. We’ll see if it works.

So I guess this fits in with the suggestion from the Urban Muse: “Have a plan B” when it comes to dealing with disappointment. I don’t feel bad anymore. In fact, I feel quite hopeful. But hold on. I think I’ll feel better if I do this:


Ah. There. I feel much better.

Outlook Tasks is my crack (and organizes it well, too…)

Being April 1st, I had a joke all set up for today. Had it all planned–was going to turn the Cafe into a squirrel’s paradise. All squirrels, all the time. I had pictures of squirrels doing all sorts of tricks, water-skiing, wearing little crochet hats. I was going to replace Daniel’s Word of the Month with Squirrel of the Month. All sorts of goofy stuff. It was going to be funny, trust me.

However, instead of working on the blog yesterday, I spent it on reinstalling Outlook 2000. Yeeeuck.

Sometime last year, Microsoft released their beta of Office 2007, which meant that anyone could test it for several months. We already had Office 2000, but my hubby downloaded it because hey, free software. I was more ambivalent about it. I had no problems with Outlook–getting an upgrade for several months was fine and good, but I didn’t really see the point. It’s not like we can afford to get 2007. Why play around with features we’ll probably never use again?

Actually, I have more of a bone to pick with Outlook 2007. Sure, the categories are all color coded in Outlook, you get an expandable to-do list bar, you can hide the toolbars, keeping only what you really use. But it really screwed with my email layouts. It wouldn’t download embedded pictures, so if you’re sent me a email card, it breaks it apart into pieces that I have to view bit by bit. All done in the name of security, but a royal pain for viewing most of my email. What was worse was that it viewed any attachment with high suspicion–even attachments that came from its very own program. I once attached a journal shortcut to a task, and not only did Outlook disabled the shortcut–removing it from the task completely, but every time I closed the task, an annoying window popped up stating that I had attached an unsafe shortcut and that I must delete it. Dude, first of all, it’s an shortcut to to a Journal item–your own program. Second, since you removed it anyway, I can’t delete it! How stupid is that?

Because of this, I wasn’t really broken up as the end date for the beta testing approached. I didn’t mind going back to Outlook 2000. In fact, I looked forward to it. Until my hubby said, “I don’t want to reinstall Office 2000. It’s too buggy and it doesn’t have a decent spam blocker.”


Now, I know all you Microsoft haters will come rallying to his cause. Microsoft is evil, blah, blah, blah. Use Thunderbird. It’s free sourceware and much, much better. And you are right. Thunderbird works very well as an email client. If all I used Outlook for was emails, then I would have switched to Thunderbird a long time ago. But here’s the reason why I open Outlook every day and keep it open:

Its Task function make for an awesome, kick-ass manuscript tracker.

Back when I was a working woman at the Reformed Church in America, I stumbled upon the ability to customize forms in Outlook. It’s actually pretty neat. You can find the feature under “Forms” “Design a Form” toolbar. Basically, you can add custom fields to any Contact, Task, Journal or Calendar form in Outlook. I did a lot of playing around with it when I needed to keep a database of churches and their givings to missionaries. Instead of duplicating all the contact information in a standalone database, I decided to redo the Contact form to reflect more of the type of information I needed instead of the generic info Outlook already displayed. For instance, I put in mission chairperson names, church information like pastor info, mission giving history, etc. I even pimped it out a bit by adding some pictures of anime characters, changing the background, etc. It wasn’t simple–I spent a lot of time on it, particularly since I never really had any training on say Visual Basic or anything. I simply did a lot of creating and dragging of custom fields. But dang it, I was proud of what I ended up with.

When I started writing full-time at home, I soon realized that with all the stories I wrote, I needed a way to keep track of them all. I had downloaded manuscript tracking software and tried them out, freeware and shareware, but none of them really had what I wanted. There was one that did meet my needs pretty well, but it was shareware, it had several modules that could only be open one at a time (for instance, its publisher contact module was separate from the others).

What I wanted was a way to keep things in one place. I wanted to keep track of my writing, to show If it was an essay, short story, or a Willow chapter. I wanted to see its status, whether it was in editing mode, ready to send out, or if I should shelve it. I wanted to list at a glance all the stories I had out circulating among markets, or to show uncompleted projects. If a email comes from a market I wanted to keep, I wanted to make a note of it, maybe a shortcut. What I needed was a way to manage all my projects from conception to print, and keep contacts of all the publishers I sent it to. Hmmm…what could keep contacts and projects at the same time?

Redoing the form was easy, though I’ve forgotten how to change the backgrounds. But when I finished, I had something like this (click on it to see a larger image):

My Task Form

Once I finished created it, all that was left was to set up the Task pane views. Using filters and automatic formatting, I could set a view in the task list so that it only showed all my writing projects, which ones I was waiting to hear from, which ones I was currently working, etc. I could even show what stories needed following up (again, click on the image to get a larger view):

Writing view

With Outlook tasks, I could link projects to Contacts or keep a log of time I spent on each project using Journal. I didn’t need any extra programs to keep track of my writing. Outlook was all I needed. And besides, I also used Outlook tasks for my daily tasks as well. I practically live in Outlook tasks. It’s my crack, so to speak. I can’t work well without it. How else can I keep my life, such as it is, organized?

So I asked my hubby to let me keep Outlook, though instead of using the intelligent argument outlined above, I resorted to foot-stomping and whining. “You can’t just take it away just like that! I need Outlook! Ohpleaseohpleaseohpleeeeeeeease let me keep it!”

Finally, my hubby relented. He’s going to look into getting a license for Outlook 2003, which is a step up from 2000 and a little better on security issues. In the meantime, I took off 2007 and reinstalled 2000, which meant that I had to recreate my task views, but in light of keeping my sanity, I felt it was necessary. When I want to go back to writing on Monday I don’t want to deal with spending several hours refamiliarizing myself with 2000 again.

So, in a nutshell, that’s why I didn’t do any April Fool’s Jokes. And now that I look at the time, it’s no longer April 1. Oh well. Happy April Fool’s Day anyway!