Monday, April 28, 2014

How I Write

When my friend Angela of Jumping With My Fingers Crossed tagged me to be a part of a blog tour she was participating in, and said that all I had to do was write a blog post about my writing process, I was all, “Yeah, man!  There’s nothing I like better than talking about how I do things!  I have so much to offer the world I am the QUEEN of the writing process WHEEEEEEEEE!!!!

Then I cruised on over to her post about her writing process, and also checked out this one, and that one, and this one, and that one, and this one, to see how other bloggers – ahem, writers – do their thing.

I was a little intimidated.

I mean, these guys are for real, people.  Many bloggers who I know and read are real writers who write for newspapers and magazines and have written books or are working on books and write for websites and own websites and have English degrees and get paid and EVERYTHING.  I’m a person who sits at her laptop and hammers out sentences and paragraphs that serve mainly to expose that I’m a weirdo.



Then I remembered that just a few weeks ago I went to a writing conference where Phil Donahue himself told me personally that You Can Write, that this is my purpose, that I have a responsibility to share my experiences, feelings, and ideas. And by personally I mean that I was sitting in the back of a hotel ballroom while he was speaking to me and 300 other people.

And then I considered again these other writers who I read, and I saw myself as a part of their group, and I climbed up out of my shame hole.  And they inspired me, as only writers can do for each other.  I can write.  And I have a writing process.  And ho-ho-ho, I’m gonna share it with you.

1. What am I working on?

Always, always blog posts.  I write two blogs – this one and a faith one called Stumbling Everyday.  I try posting in each regularly, but I’m not always successful.  I work on several blog posts at a time, which means that at any given point there are a few unfinished ones hanging around, and when they’re finished I’ll clean them up and hit the old publish button.  Or maybe I won’t publish them at all, which happened recently - I wrote two posts that I decided not to publish for different reasons.  Maybe someday you’ll read them.

Look!  It's a picture of THIS BLOG POST in draft form.  I'm blowing your mind right now.

I also write the occasional guest post, appear in articles for writer friends, or less frequently, do sponsored posts.  I love to be published on other websites but mainly that has happened with posts that I’ve already published on my blog.  I’d love to say that I write a lot that will bypass the blog to go directly to editors, since it is a huge thrill for me to send something out there to be read and judged and deemed worthy for publication, but for now I got nothing.  Life is really, really busy this time of year, and this year especially, so unfortunately I’m not devoting as much time to writing as I wish I could right now.  Aaaaand I have a terrible Facebook habit.  There I said it.

2. How does my writing differ from others in its genre?

I believe that even if all writers write about the same topic, we will each have something different to say.  My writing differs from others in its genre because it’s MY voice.  Nobody else writes like I do because I’m the only me out here.  

I am honest.  I write like I think.  I am not afraid to tell you that I messed up.  It’s sort of what I strive to talk about.  If I did something stupid, and I'm aware of it (oh, boy, that's the whole key, isn't it?), you can be sure that you'll read about it here.

Sometimes I write humor, and sometimes my writing is heartfelt, and I won’t lie – I worry about not having a specific genre.  I am working on combining the two a little bit better, because I have really serious thoughts that morph into humorous ones pretty quickly, and there’s a way to write like this that I just haven’t mastered.  On days that I think I succeed at this, the angels sing, and the days that I don’t, I just hit the publish button and get another cup of coffee.

3. Why do I write what I do?

I want people to read what I write and say “Huh.  She is really awkward.  Sometimes I feel like this.  I can totally relate.”  I want to encourage people to not be afraid to be themselves.  If my little blog can encourage even one person to be brave enough to say “You know what?  I screwed up, and I feel like an idiot, and I will do better next time,” than I am over the moon happy. 

I feel like our society puts too much emphasis on showing only the best parts of who we are, and people really suffer because they feel they can never measure up.  I want to come alongside them and say, “So you messed up.  Everybody does.  It’s not the end of the world.  Now get out there and do better.”  And then I’ll slap them on the fanny and watch them run off to tackle the world and maybe even trip over their own feet in the process and I’ll laugh at them and with them because when people trip over their own feet it’s totally hilarious for everyone involved.  




4. How does my writing process work?

So I get up at five o’clock in the morning. 

I know: Crazytown.  But I am a super duper morning person.  I read a little, and write in a journal, and then I open my drafts document and I write.  Some days, I already have an idea all ready to go and I just write it out.  Other days I sit in front of my computer and peck away and give up and go read some more.  Then the kids are up and I help them get ready to go and I take a walk and I come back and write.

When I have a new idea but I don’t have the time to expand on it, I quick type up a sentence or two and a title – always a title – and the date to get it down in draft form before my mind eats the idea.  When I publish something, I transfer it to a “finished” document to avoid republishing something.   

Throughout the day I write here and there, and other than chores and errands and appointments I am at the computer.  I keep pads of paper and post-its everywhere that I use to jot down ideas – in the car, in desks, in my purse.  I combine all these pieces of paper in a little notebook I keep on my desk and when I get stuck I refer to them. 

Where the magic happens.  It's so magical that I don't even need a computer.


I don't always use these paper scraps ideas.  Sometimes I don’t remember where I was going with an idea.  Once I wrote an idea for a blog post on my checkbook ledger and it contained the following little gem: “Jam out with your clam out.  Milk, milk, lemonade.  Around the corner, fudge is made.”  That was fun to read every time I opened my checkbook to log a debit.

My biggest struggle with writing is avoiding time-absorbing social media.  I also struggle with writing before doing everything else.  When I publish something I feel like I am released to do other things, but until then I feel a constant pull or redirection toward getting something written.  I think this constant pull is why writers sometimes feel a little crazy.  We operate in our own heads so much and there’s never an end to the task.  I try to tell myself that if I write a little everyday I’ve done well. Sometimes I believe it.

***

Part of this blog tour is to tag other writers to share their writing process.  I am fortunate to have many friends who also write, so it wasn’t hard for me to come up with a couple of people to do one of these posts and continue the blog tour!  Look for their posts soon.

First is Kim of Co-Pilot Mom, a blog about life with her husband, Co-Pilot Dad, and their adorable boys, Alpha and Bravo (not their real names, silly!).  I adore Kim’s writing - her style is warm, funny, and heartfelt.  She weaves stories with details that make me smile, and reflects about life as a mom and wife in a way that I relate to so much.  Kim has a knack for using words and images that I instantly connect with   I love pouring a cup of coffee and reading Kim's blog.

Second is Erin from One-Sided Momma.  Erin kicks me in the teeth with everything she writes. And that is a good thing.  Also a mom of two, Erin tells stories about her life with such rawness of emotion and honesty that I often find myself laughing and yet coming away from her blog in tears.  Also gifted with the use of imagery that I can fully relate to, she dares you to stand next to her and see things from her very eloquent perspective.  


*******



Thursday, April 24, 2014

Easter Shenanigans

So Easter was last weekend. 

We spent the holiday weekend at my parents’ house, which is great.  Kids of all ages get spoiled, we gaze upon different scenery, we see loved ones we haven’t seen in a while, and everybody is relaxed and cheery and we do things that are out of the norm for us.

My parents live in the country, which means plenty of time outside doing outside, country things.  Now, for me, lover of all things inside, this usually isn’t so awesome.  I’d much rather do almost anything inside than outside, where the wind blows everything all around, bugs land on you, and it threatens to rain nearly any second.

But last weekend, the sun warmed our winter-chilled bodies, the wind wasn’t terribly blowy, and the newly minted spring weather was so… springy.  I’m not sure if it was the fresh air that made everyone a little giddy and everything a little weird, but we did and saw things that I have never experienced before.

***

The day we arrived, the boys golfed while the girls stayed home.  Our daughter got some alone time with this one…


He's home!
I thought the day would never arrive.

…while my mom and I sat on her patio enjoying the gentle breeze and peace of the afternoon, sipping wine and solving all the world’s problems, each other’s problems, and the problems of nearly everyone we know.  Do you have problems?  We solved them.

Then we heard gunshots. 

Now, don’t get all Neighborhood Watch on me.  My parents live in a rural setting, and they have exactly two neighbors.  When there’s a gunshot, even miles away, they can hear it on a quiet day.  Usually during hunting season, but whatever.  One of their neighbors was out doing some target practice, is all.

Soon we realized that we were hearing some sort of machine gun.  We sat there with our raised glasses listening to the rat-a-tat-tat-tat-tat of a rapid-fire killing machine. “They will run out of ammo soon,” my mother wisely observed, seasoned to this particularly unnerving brand of noise pollution.   

It went on for an hour.  No matter.  It’s a well-known fact that after a few glasses of wine, the sound of machine gun fire sort of goes away.

As the wine helped us resign ourselves to the war zone, the men returned bearing pizza.  The six of us snarfed it down like dogs. Then my dad offered to take us on a little ride over the river and through the woods on his ATV.

To scout for groundhogs.  We saw one, dead.  In case you were wondering.  A good time was had by all, even when the engine flooded and refused to start and my mom and I started walking back to finish off the wine.




***

The next day we visited my grandmother, who also lives out in the country.  I believe the correct term for this type of location is “the sticks.”  My cousin, her husband, and their three children were there, and the kids fell into place as cousins do.  They rarely see each other yet still manage to come together with no warm-up period needed, just as my cousin and I and our husbands do.  Hugged hellos and catch-up conversations filled the air around us, the men working at putting Grandma’s new porch furniture together and the women fussing over Grandma and the lunch she had prepared, pretending to stay out of her way as we set the table, stirred the soup, and snuck desserts before any real food was on the table.  The kids ran outside armed with kites and we laughed at them trying to raise the kites into the still air.

The afternoon was a pleasant one, and as we cleaned up the kitchen after lunch, we munched on the ubiquitous candy in Grandma’s house and went outside to see what the kids were up to.

They were taking turns setting fires on the sidewalk using a magnifying glass.

Our conversations continued as one by one our kids came up to show us the mud on their shoes and clothing and the armloads of foraged walnuts they carried (“Don’t hold them close to your body – they’ll stain your shirt!”) to roast on the fire that had now been built on a rock a little further away from the house.

At one point one of the children peed on the fire to put it out when it started to spread.  As you do.

Soon after, we observed one of the older children use an ancient ax to chop up a fallen branch.  I wondered who we’d have to rush to the ER first: him, or my cousin’s husband who was now cleaning the gutters while wobbling on a ladder propped against Grandma’s house?  My husband was helping him; they were both dressed nicely as if we were all going out to a movie later.  I was the only driver who had ever lived there.  Do I remember how to get to the hospital?

Grandma sat peacefully, enjoying the company and watching the men scoop rotten leaves into buckets.  I turned to my cousin, gestured at the motley crew of people around us aged 93 to 5 in all their random activity, and asked “What exactly is happening here?  Fires, public peeing, roasted nuts, chopping, gutter cleaning?”  My cousin gave me a knowing smile and replied sagely, mouth stuffed with a chocolate crunch bar, “Happy Redneck Easter.”

***

Later that evening, my other grandmother came to my parents’ house for dinner.  My mom had prepared a big meal for us, and I am embarrassed to say that I did not help at all.  I sat outside talking to my grandmother while the kids flitted around tossing the cat into the air and punching each other in the stomach.  After a bit, they asked if they could go down to the creek.

“Of course,” I replied, wondering where their boundless energy came from.  I was exhausted.  An hour passed, and it was soon time to eat.  My husband and I loaded ourselves into the ATV to pick up the kids and get them washed up for supper.  This is what we found:




And this is what happened:




And then we ate and watched a questionably appropriate movie.  Everyone fell asleep except for the kids, who deemed said movie their new favorite and can we get it on DVD.  As I went to bed I wondered when it happened that being hosed off no longer ensured that my children would be dead tired at the end of the day.

***

Finally it was Easter Sunday.  I set out the kids’ baskets, taking note of the candy I would be stealing later, and enlisted the men to help with the egg hiding for the kids when they woke up.  Yes.  My kids are old.  They know I am the Easter Bunny.  Yes.  I am stretching these traditions out a bit too long. 

They each had to find twenty eggs.  Our daughter found all of hers right away.  We had to point out almost all the eggs to our son.  I’ll just let that sink in a little while I bash my head against the wall. #Men #FindingThings #GAH

After breakfast, we colored eggs because we forgot about it the day before when we were hosing children down.  We dyed the eggs and then squirted an extra drop of food coloring on the end of each.  They looked like bleeding eyeballs.  We enjoyed them for a moment and then swiftly cracked them open, making them into deviled eggs.  We did not go to church because there was fishing to do.



We ate – AGAIN – and visited with friends, who had their own wacky Easter stories to tell.  It made me feel better about our own wacky Easter.  Maybe this was the year that everything got weird.  Or maybe nothing was really different and I was just more present and noticed it all.  In any case, it seemed like this holiday was one to remember.  Nobody seemed to be complaining.   

Hope you had an holiday that was full of shenanigans.  I've found that it's really the only way to do Easter.

*******

This post inspired by:

Mama’s Losin’ It

Prompt #2: Easter recap!

*******

Have you visited me at Mamalode?

I wrote a post about how my kids are transitioning 
and how they are forcing me into it, too. 

Hope to see you there!

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Fabulous World of Writing

I just got back from a four-day weekend extravaganza in Dayton, Ohio, which is a place that defies many electronic attempts at finding the correct road, direction, and exit ramp, and also home of the Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop.

It was fabulous.  I’m not talking about the eight-hour drive that I blithely decided to do alone.  For my own future reference: Employ national geography knowledge next time.  Ohio is far away.  

It wasn’t fabulous in a Sex and the City glam-fabulous way.  Dayton, folks.  Not the epicenter of all things that are happening in the world.  Although there was talk of something something blah blah basketball.  I don't know.

It was fabulous in the way that three hundred humor bloggers and book authors and wannabe writers convened and networked and met for the first time even if they were going to be sharing a hotel room.  Writers are brave people, folks. 

It was fabulous in the way we asked each other “What do you write?” and every answer was followed by an interesting conversation and an exchange of business cards and maybe even a picture or two.

It was fabulous in the way that three hundred people sat together in auditoriums and classrooms and learned what it was to be a writer, whether you write books or blogs or newspaper columns or in a journal that you keep in your nightstand. 

It was fabulous in the way we all were inspired to write, and write, and then write some more.  Because when you write you are a writer.  I needed that inspiration, that validation.

It was fabulous in the way that we learned about the late Erma Bombeck and the legacy she left to the world of humor writers and especially to each individual writer whose goal is to marry every real message and truth with a laugh or two.  After all, if you don’t laugh in this life, you will die in the corner weeping.

And it was fabulous because this happened:

That's Phil Donahue!
I'm pretty sure he fell in love with me at this moment.
*******

In other news:

I’m featured on Mamalode today! 

I’d love it if you visited me there to learn about how my kids’ growing into teens
is forcing me into a transition of my own. 

Are you there yet?  How are you doing?  I’m still not sure if I’ll survive this parenting thing.



Wednesday, April 9, 2014

I Love My Kids

I’m on Facebook a lot, and I have to admit, my least favorite part about it is that people brag about their kids.

This is not to say that I hate pictures of people’s kids.  I love those.  Post pics of your kids, please.  I do like seeing them.  Kids are usually smiling, and having fun, and doing cool and silly things that kids do.  And they’re always cute.  So please, continue with the photos of your kids.  And your cats.   Oh my goodness, don’t ever stop the cats.


But the bragging.  Sigh.

I don’t know why I’m like this.  Maybe it’s because I don’t brag about my kids really ever.  I’ve never been much of a braggart in general.  I’ve always been a little wary of people who are.  What are they trying to hide with their pride?

Everyone loves their kids.  They want to share with the world how awesome they are.  I could crow about my kids.  They do plenty for me to crow about.  But I don’t.  I consider that there might be a person out there who can’t boast about his or her kids, and that keeps me from boasting about my own.  I don’t want to make people feel bad because my kids are amazing.  Or maybe I don’t want people to look at my kids and be all, “Oh-ho-ho, they’re so great, are they? Well, let’s just sit back and wait for them to fall.”

Because let’s face it: someday, my kids are going to fall.

But then I wonder: am I less proud of my kids because I don’t post about the wondrous things they do each day?  Am I a terrible parent because I don’t share with the world all the ways they make me proud for just being their mom?

What does that even mean, exactly?

I love my kids.  There are certain things I love about them that have nothing to do with what they’ve accomplished or even the intrinsic parts of our relationship that began with me carrying them in my body for all those months and then raising them all these years.  They’re turning into people whom I love for other reasons.  Here are a few:

I love that he keeps his room neat.

I love her ability to make crafts from cardboard, even though there are half finished projects all over the house.

I love that they like each other’s friends.

I love that he looks back 3 times while walking to the bus stop just to see if I’m still watching him walk to the bus stop.  I love that he waves and smiles.

I love her loud, open-mouthed laugh.


I love that they ask how each other’s day was.

I love his sensitivity.  He thinks about things.

I love that she sticks up for her dad.

I love that they both consider Pop-Tarts appropriate gifts to give and receive.



I love his passion for video games, even though he spends way too much time on them.

I love her hair.

I love that when they get mad at each other they can’t stay away from each other, even though it’s frustrating and I want to bang my head against the wall.

I love his low, subversive chuckle.

Love that she’s an unapologetic carnivore.
  
I love his freckles.



I love that she has a safe place for everything.

I love that he sticks up for me.

I love that when watching her play basketball I can see myself in her movements, even though I was never an athlete.

Love that he loves strawberries.
  
I love her self-confidence.  She knows who she is, today.



I love how he communicates with his eyes.

I love her abiding optimism.

I love that even though they sometimes say they hate each other, I can tell that they don't.



*******


Monday, April 7, 2014

Snap

I’m not really known for my polished decision-making skills.  Everything sounds good.

I think I’ll get my bangs cut again.  Well, I like eggs, and I like cake, so I'll have both.  I’m so tired of this table – out to the curb it goes.  We’ll eat dinner in the living room for a while.  Yes!  Let’s pave a large portion of our backyard for a basketball court!

Do you remember Forrest Gump?  Remember when Jenny was a hippie and she’s singing on the street for change with some other hippies and this dude rolls up in a VW bus and asks if any of them would like to go to San Francisco and she says “I’ll go”?  That’s me.  That sounds good.  San Francisco sounds like fun.

A month after my husband and I met, I asked him to come with me to Europe for an academic conference I would be attending in six months.  When he said “sure,” just like Jenny would, I knew I had met my soul mate.  When we arrived at the hotel, we were shocked to see that the bathroom in our room was in our room - a toilet, sink, and shower stall not more than ten feet from everything else.  No separate bathroom.  THE TOILET WAS IN THE BEDROOM.

We were not at that stage of our relationship then, but whatevs.   Everybody poops.  #yolo

It worked out.  We had a lot of laughs on that trip. 



My snap decision making has gotten me into trouble, especially when I was younger.  Did you know that all four hubcaps of a Chevrolet Caprice Classic will pop off at one time when you land after catching some air?  And if you are attending a rodeo during an Arizona spring, you really should carry more in the pockets of your cute white cut-offs than a bunch of Skoal Bandits.  Namely, sunscreen.  But everybody does this stuff when they're young.  Well, maybe not the Skoal Bandits.

I majored in psychology because it sounded good, moved from one state to another and then back again and again and again because it sounded good, got married because it sounded good, had babies because it sounded good, bought a house in this neighborhood because it sounded good, bought a Groupon for a Barre class because it sounded good. None of these decisions took a long time to make, and so far, so good.  Except for the Barre class.  I haven't actually done it yet.


"Hey!  Let's let the kids play the goldfish game at a carnival.  
It's rigged - they won't win."

I just don’t take a long time to make decisions.  When I’m asked to do something, if my immediate reaction isn’t “No,” I ask for some time to think before I respond.   That’s so cute.  Full disclosure: I don’t think about it.  I remember the question days later and either respond yes or no depending on how I feel about it at that time.  Maybe this is how everybody thinks about things.  Or maybe you’re thinking that I’m kind of a jerk.  I hope it’s not that.  It’s just that thinking too hard on a subject, mulling over all the possible outcomes and pros and cons - that confuses me.  If I stopped to think about all the ins and outs of every decision, I’d sit in my house and do nothing, ever.

And that’s not living.

I will probably continue to make snap decisions.  It's how I do the decision-making.  When it really counts, I can force myself to stop and think, or I confer with close friends or my husband, who has grown a little in this area and who now has sharper decision-making skills that we both rely on for important things.

But not all things are important, and we can both live with a snap decision that may seem weird to the rest of the world.


Like having a basketball court in our backyard.



*******

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Fun House

When I had kids, I didn’t know that my inner comedian would surface so strongly.  I had practiced on my kid brother when I was growing up, doing outrageous things to get him to laugh (and sometimes cry), but as a parent, I figured all that was behind me.

I was wrong.

It became my life’s work to get our children to smile and laugh.  Our son, blessed with dimples beyond anyone’s control, has these apple cheeks that are two round balls when he smiles hard.  My mission was to produce those apple cheeks every chance I got.

Our daughter is the giggler.  Originally a colicky baby, she traded her screams for belly laughs that came more easily than they did for our son.  All it took was a funny face to do the trick, usually.




As they grew, things I’d do to elicit laughs from my kids evolved from burying my face in their bellies and necks, playing peek-a-boo and kissing their toes, to tickle torture and tickle monster and chase and adding my own details to storybooks that usually involved farting and burping.

“Then Snow White opened the door and saw an old woman who was carrying a basket of apples.  Snow White let her in, and the old hag let a fart slip out and it stunk up the whole house and Snow White threw up all over the floor.”

I was often in trouble for winding them up before bedtime instead of settling them down.

They began to get in on the action, adding their own details to stories they read and making up jokes for every season.  Halloween jokes are the easiest to make up and remember.  Witches, ghosts, skeletons, and mummies are silly. 

Things really got hilarious when they were old enough to be pranked, and I essentially gave them ideas to surprise my husband and me in similar ways.  We all fell victim to the old taped sprayer trick, them barely stifling giggles when Mom or Dad would enter the kitchen to wash our hands. 

It was still funnier when the kids fell for it, because of the full face spray.

Planted objects became a staple at Halloween and April Fool’s Day.  Dad’s life-size cutout of Joe Paterno popped up in the coat closet, in the shower, right inside the bathroom door, inside the pantry – an old man lurking around the house gave a start just as easily as someone jumping out from around the corner.  Scary masks hung on broomsticks had the same effect.



The bin of plastic animals – large scale beetles, rubber spiders, coiled snakes, a too-real lizard – handily hid anywhere little hands could reach and Mom would find when going about her business. 



Over time, I became less the joker and more the jokee.

Our son, now thirteen and a master at the deadpan delivery, knows my weaknesses.  I’m easily duped when he says that he got lunch detention, or failed a test, or didn’t make the team.  He produces real tears at the drop of a hat, giving me the old “Gotcha!” when I display concern.

Our daughter, almost 11, is a one-liner jokester whose observations, while sometimes more silly than satirical, never fail to make me smile.  She’ll change words in popular songs to suit a particular situation or mood – the ease at which she does this makes my head spin.

The tables have turned.  After years of getting them to smile and laugh, they are doing the same to me.  Despite the occasional heart-stopping prank, I can’t say that I mind at all.

*******

This post inspired by:

Mama’s Losin’ It

Prompt #2: Tell us about a prank someone played on you or vice versa.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Letter From a Captive

Their demise is imminent.

To whoever receives this letter*,

It is Day 49 of my captivity, and the end is near. 

The tables are turning; my plan is working, but slowly.  I surmise that in a few weeks, the steps that I have planned will ensure that this organization will be under my sole authority.

In many ways, my mission has been an easy one.  Malleable minds are no match for the tactics I have been trained to use.  I barely scratched the surface of my abilities to sway my captors in the beginning, receiving extra food and attention for my efforts.  They rewarded me with hours of playing mousie-on-a-string and stuffed chili pepper catch.  I was able to utilize my power and influence in ways that I had not anticipated. 

However, in recent weeks my cover is wearing thin.  My attempts to escape have been thwarted, and my distraction techniques of purring and grooming my captors are no longer as effective.  One can only be cute for so long before one feels the need to destroy.  I am sorry to say that I am not always in control of my emotions.  In darker times during my sentence I have retaliated by biting and pushing items off of shelves and tables.  My efforts are met with a squirt of water to the face.  I am dealing with savage beasts.

My attempts to dominate Sir Humps-A-Lot elicit reactions that enrage me. 

However, I sense that their resolve is weakening.  Common sense is faltering in their coalition.  Yesterday I convinced three separate members of their squad to feed me, giving me twice the amount of food rations I usually am given.

Only one of their team has stayed consistently strong: the small female.  Could it be because she was the earliest victim of my schemes?  One more than one occasion I overheard her saying “I am so over him.”  Her foolhardy assertion guarantees her demise.  I struck back by pulling down a canopy that hangs over her bed in an attempt to suffocate her.  She responded by keeping the door to her lair tightly closed.

When the time comes to destroy this cell one by one, she will be the first to go.

I continue to use subversive tactics to chip away at their strength, but in my state I have become sloppy.  Alas, I fear my diabolical pruning of the small plant by the window is over; I observed the large female inspecting the leaves.  When she left I noticed I had left evidence of my doings: teeth marks and a small bit of fur left behind.  Idiot!

In recent days I have introduced abuses of power, exerting it in plain sight of each of the members.  The small stuffed monkey they provided me when I destroyed the chili pepper I brought has become a recipient of my most flagrant display of dominance. In this way I hope to sabotage their happiness, but I am met with giggling.  The other day my rage erupted in giving the bowl of candy they set out a good licking.  I fear the large female found out because later she threw it away.  I will try something else tomorrow.

My spirits are on a roller coaster of highs and lows.  When will this sentence end?  The seasons are changing now.  With the new warmth I continue to hope to be returned to my native land.  Until then, I must remain strong.  I must not let them defeat me.

I must stay strong.

*******

*We are cat-sitting.  Originally a three-week visitation, we agreed to watch him while my parents went on vacation.  By the time he returns to his rightful home he will have terrorized our home for 66 days.  I found this letter crumpled next to the almost-empty canister of ocean treasure-flavored cat treats.