Author Archives: caseykins

Road Lessons

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I have two moments to rub together – a rare occurrence these days – so I thought I should take the time and get a blog entry up.  This weekend has been an eventful one.  Most notably because of baby’s first tire blow-out.

Yup.  I blew out a tire on the way to my mother’s house.  I must have run over something and gotten a flat, because the tires were brand new.  I had just loaded the twelve-million things I bring when I take this kid places into the car (stroller, Ergo, diaper backpack containing four diapers, two bottles, changing pad, three fresh outfits, and pacifier, child securely strapped into his seat, his sweatshirt, a knit blanket, a swaddle…) and merged onto the freeway when the car started to shudder.  I got off the freeway at the next exit, and just as I was pulling to the side of the road the passenger side dropped, started smoking, and made a horrible grating noise.  I thought for sure the transmission had dropped out of the bottom or something equally dire, and couldn’t think of anything I did for this new-to-me car to have collapsed so epically.

I pressed the red button for the flashers and got out of the car.  Relief.  Not only was the rear right tire flat, but it was shredded like a doughnut and completely separated from the rim.  That was the smoking and the drop.  The car itself was fine.  We were in a safe spot, and there was shade to wait in.  Tires are imminently fixable. I called for help.

AAA was wonderful.  The lady on the other end put a rush on the service request when she heard the kid screaming in the background, and then he and I went on a walk in the stroller down the street.  He fell asleep in contentment and stayed that way while the gentleman from AAA put on my spare.

The best part?  Well, there’s two of them:

One – I broke down in front of a Lowe’s and several construction workers and contractors came to check on me, concerned about the baby.  It restored my faith in humanity to see these beefy gentlemen so concerned about us.

Two – it was Anime L.A. this weekend and I was slated to take care of this kid ALONE all night for the first time ever while Brian ran midnight RPG games in Ontario.  It scared me to death.  But after handling a tire blow-out with aplomb, I knew that 3 am held no terrors I couldn’t overcome.  Mom’s got this.

Not the best afternoon ever, but definitely a moment that turned out to have good in it.  Tire repaired and we’re on our way.

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Fantasy, LeGuin, and Miscellany

I just heard the news that Ursula K. LeGuin died, and I am saddened beyond belief.  I think, like with Elie Wiesel, that I will need a while to gather my thoughts.  Right now, all I can think of is the books she wrote that I would recommend someone read, and it turns out that it’s all of them.  But she meant so much more to me than her literature, and to express that I will need time.

If you can get a copy, though, the one that sticks with me hardest today is her fake Ethnography of the Kesh people in post-nuclear California: Always Coming Home.  It’s a beautiful, odd, and terrifying thing that doesn’t read dystopic at all.  And of course you already know of the Earthsea series and The Left Hand of Darkness.

I have been trying to figure out a way to keep myself from going insane with boredom with nothing to do all day but hold a small boy, and I’ve been reading odd fantasy books: Maggie Stiefvater’s All The Crooked Saints (I cannot tell if I like this book or not because it was a hard one to love and yet it was so BEAUTIFULLY written…); Katherine Addison’s The Goblin Emperor (where she does everything they tell you not to do in a novel and it still ended up claiming me completely); and Pamela Dean’s Tam Lin (the best thing I’ve read since Uprooted last year, and the first thing I’ve been head over heels for since Robin McKinley’s latest). It feels good to contemplate other worlds, and I think I’ll continue.

I have been reading the books out loud to the baby when he’s awake, and I’m sure he’s thoroughly confused now since he gets only snippets of whatever passage I’m on when he happens to have his eyes open.  I’ll warrant that he’s getting a pretty good vocabulary, though.  And a knowledge of his people, since his big eyes and pointed chin have me half-convinced he’s a Fairy himself.  Or maybe just a changeling.

It might just be a coincidence in timing (or his elfin heritage), but Fantasy books seem to have him sleeping better at night.  He’s been letting us sleep a solid 4 hours at a time most evenings, and even a 6 hour stretch every once in a while.  I never thought 4 hours of sleep would sound luxurious, but it does.

I have also stopped doing strange things in my sleep now that he’s sleeping longer.  So far I have woken Brian up twice to ask him to take the baby when the baby had already been sleeping in his bassinet for at least an hour.  And then there was the evening where I tried to convince Brian that I was feeding the baby right now, when the kid was actually in Brian’s arms and yelling at me about not being quick enough with the midnight snack.  Parenthood is mostly a comedy of errors, I’m finding.  But at least it’s a comedy…

Next on the reading list is probably Ellen Kushner’s Thomas the Rhymer.  But maybe I’ll get out some of my old LeGuin instead.  It’s been ages since I’ve read The Tombs of Atuan, or Voices – two I have read countless times in the past because they’re my favorites.

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One Month

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This kid is already a month old, and I can’t even believe it.  He’s as sweet as ever.  Or perhaps even sweeter now that we know how to calm some of his crazy.  He’s an angel, but also very colicky, which means long hours of crying while he tries to work out the gas.  Poor kid.  We think we mostly have the answer now, though.  He doesn’t cry for hours on end anymore, and he’s rarely completely inconsolable.  Level up to the next challenge, please.

I’ve had a lot of time on the couch to ponder, and the thing that struck me this month was something I observed when my cousins were born, too; all those little things from your childhood that you’ve forgotten but suddenly come to roost.

Right after my c-section when I was still immobile, my sister came over to visit us.  We lounged in my cozy 4-poster, and Cody held Asher, since she never wants to put him down. Asher was fussy, and so we sang my dad’s patented lullaby to him together.  The words are variations on “Be quiet and gentle before I kill you.” Bonus points for older kids if you grab them and make them squeal on “kill.” It was a moment it never dawned on me might happen, and there was something magically ludicrous and loving about it.

I was cleaning my ears after a shower the other day and remembering how my mother used to pretend that she found things in our ears when she cleaned them for us.  Mostly it was animals, and she’d do the voices.

And then there are the nick–names that seem to persist through the generations.  I find myself calling this kid Asherkins and Little One, all things I was called myself at this age.  I know that my own mother was Kathykins, and maybe it goes back even farther than that.  Virginiakins does seem like a stretch, though.

Its strange, this deep and nostalgic return of old comfort amidst the newness of this child; of this fresh job of Mother.   I don’t know what it means, but I do know it adds to the baby-endorphin high I’ve been on.  I’ll be riding that for as long as possible.

 

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The Resolution Post, 2017

I do a post of writing and reading resolutions every year (as you may recall if you’ve been following this thing for a while).  This year was not a good year for completing resolutions.  In fact, I know I failed so completely that I don’t even want to look at the 2016 post to do my usual comparison.  The only one I succeeded on was the Goodreads Challenge of reading 100+ books.  Romance novels and escapism for the win, I guess.

Still, I don’t want to completely give up on the resolution tradition.  In L. M. Montgomery style, I say that 2018 will be a new year with no mistakes in it yet.  That means I have a chance to regroup and maybe actually complete some resolutions this year.  So, here’s what I have:

I have been reading a TON about self-publishing lately and the more I look into it, the more I think it’s for me.  I mean, I don’t see myself as the next J. K. Rowling or Julia Quinn or anything, so I’m actually likely to do better monetarily on my own than in the slush of small titles that come out each year.  Especially considering how dismally small advances have become, etc…, and how legitimized self-publishing has become.

I do have some hindrances for the process – the biggest being that I don’t crank out novels at lightening speed.  But I also am in the luxury position that I don’t need to make a living from my writing.  I’d LIKE to.  But I don’t NEED to.  And mostly I just want my work out there to be read.

So, that’s my resolution this year.  I will format my first novel and send it out to beta-readers, and have it self-published by the end of the year.  In the mean time, on the pretext of learning how to use all the software, I’ll publish a book of short stories.  I also want my second novel ready for beta-reads by the end of the year, although it probably won’t be ready to officially publish until 2019.

And we’ll see how that goes. They’re light goals, but with a baby in tow I’m not sure I want to be more optimistic.  There’s only so much I can do in fits and starts, one handed, while sitting on the couch.  I’m definitely not gonna have the time for the massive search and shuffle of trying to get short stories in magazines.

I’ll throw in the 100+ books on Goodreads again for good measure, but I think we all know that one isn’t going to be hard.

And that’s it.  That’s all the resolutions there are.  Hopefully posting them publicly will keep me on track better than it did last year.

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A Hero’s Journey

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Between the new motherhood gig and Brian’s school schedule (it’s finals week), my life has been a little nutty.  Most of my time has been spent with a sleeping baby on my chest while I watch crap TV or read on my kindle so that Brian can do as much homework as possible.

Now that I have a few minutes, I thought about writing a big “this is birth” post, but I honestly don’t think that birth is as scary a deal as I thought it would be.  Yeah, it wasn’t much fun.  But I don’t feel like I’m a different person after coming out the other side.  Even though I had a c-section, my body feels better than it did the whole pregnancy, and never felt much worse unless the pain meds wore off those first three days.

So instead of a tell-all, I’ve decided that I’m co-opting Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey for the birth experience.  (This may be an indication of too much time on the couch).

But seriously, it fits pretty well.  And it makes me feel like an intrepid warrior for bringing back the “Elixir of Life” to the world at large.  I do get to be Aerin of Damar, or Ged, or Aragorn.  I get to be a hero.  It helps when I’ve been peed on for the fourth time today, or when I accidentally sleep in spit-up because I remembered to change the baby but remembering to change myself at 3 am is evidently beyond me.

  1. The Ordinary World: Fairly self-explanatory, I think.  This is everyone before they go on the pregnancy journey.
  2. Call to Adventure: The positive test.  You’re pregnant now, so you have to deal with that as your new reality, planned or unplanned as it might be.
  3. Refusal of the Call: After the third time you vomit all over yourself in the car, you’re definitely wondering if this pregnancy thing is worth it, and if you really want to continue.
  4. Meeting of the Mentor: Anyone who ever gave you advice – all the women who told you their birth story, all the people who gave you newborn soothing tips or shared info about breastfeeding.  There are many mentors on the way through the process.  Some of the advice is bunk, yes, but some of it is so helpful.  And I honestly found most of it to be good stuff.
  5. Crossing the Threshold: The first time you feel those little fluttering kicks.  There’s a human that’s obviously alive in there now, and it changes everything. It makes the whole thing real.
  6. Tests, Allies, and Enemies: I consider this to be all the crap symptoms you have.  The peeing every 5 minutes, the hip pain, the bad sleep patterns, and all the other awfulness your body throws at you.  Your Allies are your doctor and your partner, hopefully.
  7. Approach: There is a moment in the third trimester where you know it’s getting real, and you start to panic a little bit that maybe you don’t know enough about birth, or you’re not ready to be a mother, or whatever else.  You read everything you can get your hands on, or scrub the tile grout to make sure it’s clean for baby.  It’s nesting, and preparing yourself for what’s ahead, even though  you don’t know what’s ahead.
  8. Ordeal, Death & Rebirth: This, of course, is labor itself.  It’s less tied to death than it was in the past, but it’s still a transformative experience that does involve some danger to both yourself and the life you’re bringing into the world.  This is creation, and it’s no joke.
  9. Reward: The reward is the baby.  Those sleepy little eyes, tiny red bow of a mouth, and addictive milky smell, and all the small noises they make.
  10. The Road Back: Your recovery.  And in some versions of the Hero’s Journey, this is also considered a “reconciliation with the father” moment.  Because we’re women, the Gospel of Casey says we get to reconcile with the mother as we become mothers ourselves.
  11. Return with the Elixir:  Go home with your baby in tow, and introduce the world to the new life you have discovered, the miracle you found in the facsimile of the underworld that is birth in this scenario.  You are bringing great change and miracles to the old way of life.

See, don’t you feel extra-awesome now?  I totally do. It makes me more than ready for the next adventure in the new life that is three of us intertwined instead of two. Even if inordinate amounts of time are currently spent pondering things on the couch while listening to a small boy snore.

 

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Victorian Confinement

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I’m nine days away from my due date today, and I have been pondering pregnancy in general.  I always used to tell Brian that I felt like we could handle this parenting thing.  I read a book about Victorian life a while ago and they had horrifying child-raising practices.  Dosing a baby with laudanum was common, and fruits and vegetables were considered dangerous for babies and toddlers until, like, 3.  If the human race survived the Victorian era, surely Brian and I could raise a healthy child in this one.  I mean, we’re already not going to give him any laudanum. That means we’re ahead of the curve, right?

The Victorian’s didn’t have it all wrong, though.  At least not among the upper classes…

I used to think that Victorian confinement was such a sexist practice.  Like, why can’t a woman go out in society that last trimester?  What’s so wrong or unnatural about being pregnant that she has to stay at home and hidden?  She can totally still do things.

Right about now, I’d LOVE me some Victorian confinement.  Three months in the house to just relax and only see my nearest and dearest?  Yes please.  I could stay in my pajamas all day long and read romance novels.  I wouldn’t have to worry about braving the hip pain on the staircase at work or picking the spidery elevator instead.  Didn’t sleep at night?  No problem.  Just sleep all day.  No dressing up, or trying to squeeze my feet into the one pair of shoes that mostly still fits.  I could still see my best friends and my family.  Sounds amazing, right?

How do we get back to that, guys?  I mean, I guess I’d rather have Paid Family Leave first, but once that’s over I vote that we lobby for the right to confinement next – 3 months off before your due date to just wallow in the symptoms, think about how great having a small baby around is going to be, and make the best of it.  I think it’s an important conversation we’re not having.

I stop working tomorrow, so I’ll have about a week of that goodness if this kid doesn’t come early.  I’m still hoping that he does, though.  He’s not even born yet, and I already know I’d rather have a small hand grasping my finger than enough sleep.

It’s going to be weird to be a parent.  Obviously what I need is 3 months of confinement to adjust to the idea of it all…

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Nanowrimo 2017 Update

Nanowrimo is in full swing, and it’s been a nice distraction from being pregnant.  Which, PS – the symptoms just got REAL, guys.  Like, the crap that was happening before feels like it was just an inconvenience.  If I’m up and around now, you can pretty much assume I’m not pain free.  Not even Tylenol cuts it anymore. And then there’s the witching hour when, at 7:00 pm on the dot, my right leg decides to get restless to the point where I sometimes can’t sleep.  Couple that with a kid shoving his fists into my hips and I’m basically a wreck.

The good news is that we’re at 18 days and counting until this kid is due.  I don’t have to suffer for much longer.

Nano has given me something else to think about for a while, which has been nice.  Instead of beating myself up about all the stuff on the baby list I have to still do and worrying about my hips, I can instead agonize over the fact that I haven’t been able to get a good word count together for Nano.

I have 450 new words so far.  That’s it.

I’ve never failed this badly at Nano, and I’m not 100% sure what to claim as the cause.  I’m relatively certain it isn’t the pregnancy, because writing isn’t physically onerous.  My brain is working fine.  I think it might be that I’m just SO rusty.  I probably haven’t written anything new in over a year.  I’ve been editing things instead.  It feels like I don’t know how to go back to creating things from scratch.

Of course I DO know.  The reality is that you sit yourself in the chair and you force yourself to put words down (however bad) until you have a story with a beginning, middle, and end.  Then you go back through and make it something that won’t embarrass you to show to others.  I’m just feeling such an aversion to it right now.

Maybe I tried to thrust myself too far into the deep end.  I don’t know.  But I do know I’ll need a new plan if I’m going to make this work.  I still have time to turn it around.  I’ve done it before six days into Nano, and sometimes longer.

Alright, I’m off to regroup and get some writing done.

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Nanowrimo Advice

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This is just a quickie blog post.  Since Nanowrimo is just a little more than a week away (yikes!) I thought I would post some links to some advice/writing I had crafted from earlier years.  I have six wins under my belt at this point, so I feel like my street cred is valid.

Also, all of this advice still applies.

Why Nano is worth it: https://caseykins.com/2015/10/22/on-my-love-for-nanowrimo/

General Nano Tips: https://caseykins.com/2015/10/26/nanowrimo-advice/

A breakdown of my planning process, in detail: https://caseykins.com/2016/10/13/nano-nuts-and-bolts/

That’s it for today.  I’m writing short stories this time, which are both easier and harder.  And, of course, I’ll be interrupted by the end of the month by a small, hungry, and active boy.  The madness just got madder.

If you’re joining the party, good luck!

 

 

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The Third Trimester

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I was going over old Blog entries last week, and it’s amazing to me how much has changed in just a year.  It’s not just the political situation, but also the fact that I wasn’t at all thinking “kids” like I am this year when I’m basically obsessed.  And the old pregnancy posts are so interesting.  I had already forgotten some of it, like his little bird flutters in the early days.  That first ultrasound he was such a froggy thing, and now he’s a real human being with recognizable parts on the ultrasound screen.

I’m well into the third trimester now, and close enough to 8 months that I’m claiming I am.  I felt like complaining through a lot of this pregnancy, but for some reason I don’t want to do that anymore.  I don’t think things have gotten better.  I think I’ve just become resigned to them.  The hip pain only gets worse with time, and I can almost feel my pelvis rubbing in disturbing ways when I try and climb into bed around my pregnancy pillow.  I’m waddling, and I say “oof” just about every time I get up and start moving (which amuses me).  I try to do it quietly the 12 times a night I get up to pee so I don’t wake Brian.  Someone deserves to get sleep around here.

But honestly, I’m not doing that badly.  My constant pregnancy cold seems to have gone away, and I AM sleeping fairly well.  My Gestational Diabetes diet is repetitive, but it’s all stuff I like to eat.  I have never been so excited to be diagnosed as anemic, because the iron pills have me feeling GREAT by comparison.  I mean, I still feel mostly like I could use a nap.  But the debilitating exhaustion is gone, and I’ve even been able to enjoy things that would have floored me previously – the LA County Fair, Oak Glen Apple Picking, a shopping trip longer than 15 minutes… And the hip pain is only really bad in the mornings and at night after I’ve been static for a long time.  As soon as I get moving, the pain is manageable.

At my latest appointment, we got excellent news.  Baby is measuring at an estimated 5 lbs 3 oz, so that’s one complication of Gestational Diabetes we dodged.  No Macrosomia (big body).  He cannot physically gain 5 additional lbs in a month so even if things go totally off the rails he won’t be over 9 lbs.  I’m breathing a sigh of relief since I’m the one that has to give birth to him, and would have been pressured to induce early and/or have a C-section.  We still have Jaundice and his non-ability to regulate his own blood sugar to dodge as complications, so I’m not totally off the hook. But knowing we’re clear of one makes me optimistic we can be clear of the others.

The baby is getting more fun.  He’s so big now that I feel every little flutter, and can sometimes feel individual body parts.  His toes sticking out near my ribs are the most common.  His movements are strong enough that he sometimes wakes me up at night.  His arms like to dig into the space near my hip joints.  My gigantic stomach undulates when he moves, and you can clearly see it rippling.  It blows Brian’s mind.  It kinda blows mine, too, although I’m more used to it.  It’s this weird combination of disturbingly alien and exciting.

I was doing pretty well with the stretch marks, too, until recently.  This kid has been pushing out on me for more room, and I noticed the other day that they’re everywhere in a nice line across my stomach.  Don’t tell anyone, but I like it.  I’ll be happier when they fade from purple, but I have this kid on me forever now.  It’s like nature’s memorial tattoo, and I didn’t even have to deal with needles to get it.

We’re at T-minus 5 weeks and some change now until we meet this fellow in person.  I’m hoping it will go fast.  I’m REALLY looking forward to Jelly Belly Sours, gingersnap cookies, and small baby toes.  I predict he’s going to like Christmas lights, too, although maybe he’ll be too young to notice.  Still, even if HE’S too young, I can enjoy penguin onesies and small Christmas sweaters.

I do hope he decides his birthday is soon…

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On Writing in 2017, and Nanowrimo

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We’re getting to the end of the year, and I’m starting to think about my resolutions from last year.  Spoiler: I completed almost none of them.  I just found the blog entry that John Scalzi wrote the other day that I thought was incredibly poignant.  And it instantly made me feel less guilty, too. Frankly, he explains it better than I ever could: https://whatever.scalzi.com/2017/10/02/2017-word-counts-and-writing-process/ 

I thought my lack of production was a little bit of depression, or perhaps I was just in a non-prolific season right now.  After all, you can’t be on-point all the time, right?  Reading Scalzi made me realize that it’s probably not me… and a lot of other people are having this problem too.

I’ve been doing exactly what he says he had been doing.  I’ve been trying to figure out why my system isn’t working and how I can go back to it.  I’ve wasted almost a year on it.  I don’t know what the answer is yet, but I know now that I have to regroup and find a new normal for myself.  The old way isn’t going to work in this climate.  Or, most likely, with baby in tow.

At least I’ve been feeling more like a writer lately. I have to thank the L. M. Montgomery institute for that.  There’s nothing like a deadline and a required bio to get the juices flowing.  I’ve been feeling that soul-itch, too, to put words on paper and make a new thing out of them.  I haven’t felt that way in a long time.  Now all I have to do is come to terms with my less-than-stellar production.

Nanowrimo is gearing up and I want to participate.  I have a 7 year winning streak to uphold, and the knowledge that the biggest writing party on the web is happening and I’m not a part of it is agony.  But this year I’ve decided I’m not writing a new novel from scratch.  I’m writing instead a few short stories for a collection I’d like to put out sometime this year (with the excuse being that I’m learning how to format and upload a Kindle book, in prep for Blue Gentian).  So, 5 short stories in just a few weeks?  I probably won’t make it, but it will be fun to try (and to be able to call myself a rebel for once).

If you’re interested, The book will be called “A Blatantly False History of the World” and will feature the following stories.  Everything with an asterisk is something I still need to write or edit heavily.  The ones with titles have plots.

  1. The Sea – Rome, 73 BC
  2. Ordeals – England, 1490
  3. The Wages of Sin – Plymouth Colony, 1622
  4. *A Stitch In Time – Virginia, 1779
  5. There Must Have Been Some Magic – London, 1814
  6. *Coyote’s Earth – California, 1831
  7. The Call – Arlington, 1862
  8. *Dr. Pragnum’s Restorative Tonic – England, 1896
  9. The Immortals – Italy, 1917
  10. Plenty of Fish – India, 1924
  11. Easterbay – Costal Maine, 1945
  12. *Thunderbird’s Desert – California, 2017
  13. *???

Looking for a Nanowrimo buddy?  I’m Caseykins, and I’ll buddy up right back.  Happy writing if you’re trying it.  And cheers to finding a new normal in this relentlessly stressful world.

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