Why Divorce?

You’re probably wondering why I got divorced.  There’s the old cliche that marriage isn’t for everybody, but that wasn’t the case for me.  I liked being married.  I just didn’t like being married to my ex.  He was messy.  He was addicted to online gaming.  He didn’t care about anything or anyone as much as he cared about himself.  He was always angry about something, and if he wasn’t, he was sure to be at any moment.  I was sick of walking on eggshells all the time.  I was sick of having no social life.  I was sick of never having my opinion or my feelings matter.  I was sick of every single conversation turning into a giant screaming match.  I was sick of being treated like a maid/nanny/nuisance. 

So I told him it was over.  I honestly don’t think he believed me.  I hardly believed it myself, until my dad showed up four days later with my uncle, two of my brothers, and a trailer hooked up to the Jeep.  I had nothing packed and my ex had called in sick to work that day, so he was home, playing video games, as usual.  It was hard to pack with an 8 month old needing my constant attention, but somehow, we managed to get the majority of the things I needed loaded up and were on our way in a few hours.  My ex cried and begged me to stay, which broke my heart even more than it was already broken.  But I couldn’t stay.  We were both so unhappy.  No offense, The Beatles, but love is NOT all you need.  Apparently, respect, and communication, and kindness are pretty important, too.  And a slow temper.  And not caring about World of Warcraft more than your wife and child.  Don’t forget about those.  But that doesn’t make a very good song.

Even though I moved out, it was about a month before I filed for divorce.  I think at first I secretly wished we would work it out, even though I desperately just wanted it all to be over already.  The final straw for me was when I dropped our 9 month old son, Liam, off at his dad’s for an hour so I could go to the chiropractor, and he had a woman sleeping over.  In our bed.  Even though he knew I was coming over.  I went that same day and filed for divorce.  I wasn’t sure what had been stopping me before, but whatever it had been, it was gone.  Of course he tried to tell me that “nothing had happened,” and that they were “just friends.”  I didn’t really care if he was being honest with me or not.  Having another woman sleep with him in our bed totally cancelled out any sort of marriage contract we might have still had and made me absolutely, 100% sure that our marriage was completely over.

And I never looked back.

P.S. Just so all of you don’t think that I am absolutely perfect (I mean, you can think that if you want, I guess,) but I made mistakes, too.  I knew what I was getting myself into, and I still married him, not realizing how long until death really is.  Let me tell you – with the wrong guy, that is an unbearably long time.  Also, I ate his ice cream a few times and pretended I didn’t.  I’m sure there were other things, too, like passive-aggressively putting post-it notes on everything he left lying around the house, and things like that, but those are the main things.  I just didn’t want you to get the wrong idea about me.

New Beginnings

In 2011, I decided to take a break from blogging because I was going through a divorce.  Divorces are very stressful, and being a single mother is sometimes just as stressful.  But I never meant for the break to last this long!  It’s been about two and a half years since I moved out and I’m finally feeling ready to take on new challenges, which means getting back to writing.  I’ve been working on a novel this whole time, which has almost been finished several times until I suddenly realize that I have to change a million things and I might as well just start all over.

For the first few months after separating from my husband, life alone was enough of a challenge.  My ex-husband refused to move out of our home, forcing me to move out with our 8 month old son, no job, and no place to go.  Fortunately, an old friend was kind enough to allow us to stay with him and his family until I was able to find a job, and a place for my son and I to live.  We lived in their basement in a tiny room which we shared, and although I was immensely grateful, it was miserable.  It was embarrassing, to say the least, moving back to my hometown and suddenly being surrounded by all of the people I hadn’t seen much in the six years I was with my ex.  At first it felt intimidating, and I felt ashamed by the fact that my marriage had failed.  Also, because we had lived almost an hour away from my family and friends, and most of the time we were married I didn’t have a car, I wasn’t really used to being around these people anymore.  It took me months to start feeling comfortable being around my friends and family again.

About a month after Liam and I moved in with my friend and his family, a job opened up at the local library, where I had spent countless hours as a child.  I immediately applied, and within weeks, I finally had a job – a job that I’ve grown to love over the last two and a half years.  A couple of months later, I had saved up enough money to rent a cute little two-bedroom duplex on a nice street, only a few blocks from the library. 

Moving into our new home felt like… well, it felt like freedom.  The months of quietly crying myself to sleep so I wouldn’t wake up Liam, who was only a few feet away were finally over.  I could now cry myself loudly to sleep.  Except now that we had our own place, and my divorce proceedings were well under way, I didn’t feel quite as much like crying.  At least not every night.  It was the end of March, and spring had arrived.  The snow was melting, the birds were chirping, the sun was brighter and warmer.  And as I spent the nights sitting on my porch steps with a few of my best friends, who now lived only a few blocks away, talking until long after midnight, I suddenly felt something I hadn’t felt in years.  I had forgotten it was even possible to feel this way.  I felt alive.  And I felt happy. 

When Liam turned 1, my ex-husband, who was already living with a new girlfriend, decided he should probably start taking Liam more than the 12 hours he had been taking him every other week.  It was a tough adjustment for me to be away from Liam longer than the hours he went to my parents’ house while I worked, or the brief amount of time he had spent with his father in the past.  And this also meant that I now had every other weekend entirely to myself.  And I had no idea what to do with all of that time.  At first, I mostly just worried.  I didn’t know this new girlfriend very well.  I had met her only once, and every time I’d been there to drop Liam off or pick him up, the house had been strewn with empty beer cans, bottles of booze, dirty shot glasses, and bottles of prescription drugs.  Liam had just started walking a little over a month earlier, which meant he was into everything. 

But after a few weeks of Liam returning alive and unharmed, I started worrying slightly less.  Enough to actually leave the house and spend time with friends.  And suddenly, I felt like a person again, instead of just a mother.  I lost nearly 30 pounds without even trying.  And instead of dreading the future like I had for years, I started to look forward to it, and to all the possibilities I now had.  I had a second chance, a fresh start.  A new beginning.

Christmas

I finally finished my Christmas shopping today.  That’s earlier than most years, but considering that I started around October this year, I was hoping to be done much sooner.  I still have to wrap them, but I figure I still have about 5 days to do that…

Every year on Christmas Eve, we have a little family party at my parents’ house.  We have hors d’oevres and exchange gifts.  Then, we usually watch a holiday movie or play games.  It’s a nice, relaxing evening, and I always look forward to it more than Christmas Day.

Here is our annual menu, and the recipes:

Taco Dip

  • 1 (8 oz) package cream cheese
  • 1 (16 oz) container of sour cream
  • 1/2 packet of taco seasoning mix
  • Shredded cheese
  • Lettuce
  • Black olives
  • Tomatoes

Combine the softened cream cheese with the sour cream and taco seasoning mix (you can add more or less to suit your taste).  Spread in a 13X9 pan.  Top with chopped lettuce, shredded cheese, tomatoes and black olives.  Serve with tortilla chips.

Little Smokies

  • 1 package Little Smokies Sausages
  • 1/2 cup barbeque sauce (we generally use Sweet Baby Ray’s)
  • 1/2 cup grape jelly

Combine all three ingredients in a crockpot and let cook on low for several hours.

Ham and Pickle Roll Ups

  • 1 package of ham lunch meat (thick sliced)
  • 1 jar of pickles
  • 1 package of cream cheese
  • Toothpicks

Soften the cream cheese.  Spread a thin layer on each slice of ham.  Place a pickle in the center and roll up.  Secure with toothpicks.

Pina Colada Punch

  • 1 bottle of Pina Colada mix (We use non-alcoholic)
  • 1 (2 L) bottle of lemon-lime soda, such as 50/50
  • 1 can of frozen pineapple juice concentrate (let sit out for about an hour so it’s not a solid block).

Combine all ingredients in a punch bowl.  Serve immediately.

Crab Dip

  • 11 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 5 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 (6 ounce) cans crabmeat, drained and flaked
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). In a medium bowl, combine the cream cheese, onion, mayonnaise, crabmeat, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Spread mixture into a 1 quart baking dish. Bake for 20 minutes in the preheated oven. Remove from oven. Stir. Bake for an additional 10 minutes. Serve hot with crusty bread or crackers.

Bagel Dip

  • 1 package of cream cheese
  • 1 package of sour cream
  • 1 packet of ranch dressing mix
  • 1 package of thinly sliced ham (about 8 oz)

Chop ham into small pieces.  Soften cream cheese and combine with sour cream and ranch seasoning mix in a medium bowl.  Add chopped ham and stir to combine.  Serve with bagel pieces.

In addition, we also have shrimp,

Pickled Herring,

And a variety of Christmas cookies and candy. Of course we all end up eating way too much, but that’s part of the holiday, I suppose. What are some of your favorite Christmas appetizers and dishes? I’d love to give them a try.

Have a Merry Christmas and I’ll post again soon!

Break from Blogging

I know I’ve been terrible about updating the last couple of weeks and I apologize for that.  I’ve had a lot going on in my personal life.  My son and I moved out of our family home due to some major problems that my husband and I have been having, so the last week or so, we’ve been staying with a friend until we can get our own place.  It’s been really hard on my 9 month old son, having to adjust to new surroundings, and for me, too.

I’ve decided to take a small break from blogging – probably for the rest of the month – so that Liam and I can get settled and figure stuff out.  I promise I’ll be back soon, and will post all of the fun projects I’ve done in the meantime.

I hope you and your families enjoy the holiday season!

Kiley

Thanksgiving and Stuff

Wow! Time flies by when you’re busy with the holidays! I promise I haven’t forgotten about you, in fact, I have several new projects to post in the coming days, including a dining room chair reupholstery project, a holiday banner, a clock, and some yummy recipes.

I had an amazing Thanksgiving.  This year, I had a moment of temporary insanity, and decided to host Thanksgiving at our house, not just for my family, but also for my husband’s family.  It was pure craziness.  We have a tiny house (here is a picture of my tiny kitchen – try cooking Thanksgiving dinner for 17 in it without freaking out!) so it was a bit of a challenge, and we had to set up an extra table and chairs in the front room so that everyone would have room to sit and eat.

My mother in law brought Brussels sprouts.  Now, I haven’t had Brussels sprouts since I was about 9 years old, and I’m pretty sure I hated them, and ate only what was necessary in order to be excused from the table.  I was a little bit nervous about trying them, but they were amazing!  She made them with bacon, walnuts and pomegranate seeds.

Here is a link to the recipe I think she used, except she added walnuts, too.  Delicious!

How was your Thanksgiving?  Any new or unusual recipes this year?

Writing a Novel – What to Avoid

State of Being Verbs

Avoid using the “to be” verbs which are: am, is, are, was, were, be, been and being. Any sentence that uses these verbs is “telling,” rather than “showing,” which is what we want. For example, instead of saying: “Sally is a funny girl,” you could say “I like Sally’s sense of humor,” or “Sally makes me laugh.” Even better, you could portray her being funny – maybe have her telling jokes, or making witty comments, which will completely negate the need to say she is funny in the first place, because the reader will already know.

Excessive Adverbs

Try to avoid using adverbs in your writing, especially after dialogue. An adverb is a word that modifies a verb, adjective, other adverbs, or various other types of words, phrases, and clauses, and typically are just adjectives that end with the suffix -ly. They will distract the reader from your story. There are too many instances of “he said incredulously,” or “she said sarcastically.” A good story or dialogue will convey the tone you’re trying to create without the use of an additional descriptor. The reason adverbs are bad, is that they draw attention outside of your story. It’s important that the reader does not feel the author’s presence but instead, should be able to absorb the story without distraction.

Excessive Description

Description is very different from specific details, which are necessary in a good novel. Description, however, can slow down your narrative. Use this rule of thumb to decide whether to provide a description in your writing – Does it relate to the plot and advance the story? If the answer is no, cut it. Writing is all about moving the plot along, and if you pause to provide a two page description of a building, no matter how lovely, you are stopping the action and taking the reader out of your story. Pace is everything. Stick with the action.

Avoid Generalizing

In contrast to excessive description, specific details are very important to a story. Taking a moment to name a street, or a restaurant, or to briefly describe a dress, makes all the difference to your readers. I recently read a book, which I won’t name, that didn’t provide any details. It made me so mad! She talked about a dress she had chosen to wear out that evening, but didn’t say a thing about it! She could have said it was a little black dress, or a slinky red evening gown, or a floral sundress. The fact that she neglected to provide such important details really took away from her story. It made it less believable. Most readers do have some imagination, but you have to give them something to work with. Expecting them to come up with all the details themselves is unprofessional, and frankly, a bit lazy.

Spice Boil

Here in Wisconsin, it’s very humid in the summer and very dry in the winter.  This can cause dozens of problems come November – itchy, flaky skin, stuffy/runny noses, dry, cracked lips and hands, etc.  I’ve found that the best way to lessen these irritations is to add moisture.  Some people use humidifiers to accomplish this, but because I’ve never found one that isn’t a pain to use/clean/refill constantly, and because I’m too cheap to purchase one of the expensive ones, I’ve found the easiest alternative ever – boil water!

For the last two or three years, I’ve been simply boiling water on my stove to steam up my house.  Around the holidays, it’s fun to add a few spices and let it fill the entire house with its delicious aroma.   It’s wonderful.  (Note: please only do this if you’re going to be home.  It probably isn’t a good idea to leave your stove on all day while you’re at work.)

Another way to do this, if you’re uncomfortable with leaving your stove on ALL DAY, even if you are home, is to use a crockpot.  Plug it in, turn it on high, and put the cover on for an hour or so until it starts to boil.  Then, remove the cover to let the steam fill your house (and skin).  When the water gets low, just add more water.

Here are some delicious scent combinations to add to your water:

Apple Cinnamon – Just add a few sliced up apples and a few cinnamon sticks to your water. You can also use a tablespoon or so of ground cinnamon if you don’t have cinnamon sticks handy.

Christmas – Add some pine needles or pine cones, a handful of cranberries and a few cloves to your boiling water.

Winter Spice – Add a sliced orange, a dash of cinnamon, some cloves and a few sprinkles of nutmeg.

Chai – A vanilla bean, a dash each of ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, and a few cloves.  You can also toss in a bag of black tea for good measure if it suits you.

For a Cold – Add a few drops of Vicks VapoSteam, just like you would to a humidifier.

Clean – For a fresh, clean scent, and to remove odors from your home, add a few cut up lemons and a few tablespoons of baking soda.

Calm – Add a vanilla bean and a few drops of lavender essential oil or a few sprigs of lavender.

Vanilla Bean – Simply add vanilla beans to your boiling water.

Coffee Shop – Add your choice of coffee beans to the water.

Clean Laundry – Add a splash of your laundry detergent to fill your home with that clean laundry smell.

Does anyone have any other ideas?

Creating Characters – Part 2

Once you’ve figured out what your character’s name will be, and what basic personality traits they will have, it’s important to go deeper, and get an even better understand of “who” your character is. It’s helpful to keep a file, or even a separate Word document with all of your character information to refer back to.

Here are some things you may want to know about your character:

1.) When is their birthday?

2.) How old are they?

3.) What do they look like?

4.) Do they have a family? How many siblings? Are their parents still alive? Do they have any children of their own? Do they have a husband, or a wife, or a significant other, or a best friend?

5.) Do they have any enemies?

6.) What do the other characters like about this character?

7.) What do the other characters dislike about this character?

8.) What are they good at?

9.) What are they bad at?

10.) What do they do? Do they go to school, do they have a job? What hobbies do they have? What do they do for fun? What movies do they like? What books do they like? What music do they like?

11.) Are they optimistic or pessimistic?

12.) What are their favorite foods?

13.) What are they afraid of?

14.) What is their favorite color?

15.) Do they have any pets?

16.) What do they carry in their purse, pocket, backpack, wallet, etc.?

17.) Has anything bad happened to them in their life?

18.) Are they shy or friendly?

19.) How do they walk, talk, and behave that makes them different from everyone else?

20.) Do they have any bad habits?

21.) What sort of facial expressions do they make?

22.) How would they react to good news? To bad news?

23.) Why should we care about them, anyway?

The main thing to remember when creating your characters is to make them believable. Nobody’s going to believe, or even like, a perfect character. Characters need flaws, just like real people need flaws. It’s what sets them apart and makes them different. Find that one thing that makes your character different and run with it. Readers embrace imperfection in characters. It makes the characters more relatable, and everyone wants to relate in some way to the characters they’re getting to know.

As Steven Taylor Goldsberry says in The Writer’s Book of Wisdom, “We adore eccentricity. Most of the folks who populate the real world, never mind invented ones, distinguish themselves by being unusual.”

He’s right. Uniqueness is important. Use your imagination to create a character that people will remember.

Creating Characters – Part 1

Often, the most important part of your story will be your characters. Sometimes, you decide to base one or more of your characters on someone you know. This can be a great way to start. You already know most of the things about them, anyway – how they act, how they speak, what they would or wouldn’t do. But unless you’re writing non-fiction, you will probably have to come up with some of the characters on your own.

Deciding Who Your Character Will Be:

The first thing you must do when creating a character, is to decide on basic defining characteristics. Will your character be male or female? Approximately what age group will your character be in? Is he or she a small child, or a teenager, or a young adult, or middle-aged? Maybe he or she has just had their 100th birthday. Once this has been decided, you must decide what this character will look like.

Maybe your character will be tall, dark and handsome. Maybe not. Maybe he or she will wear glasses, or have blue hair. Maybe your character has a pug nose or bushy eyebrows or very tiny ears. Find that one thing that will set your character apart, and use it. Readers like your characters to have flaws. It makes them more believable, and it’s very important for your audience to relate to your characters. The success of your novel will depend upon this.

How does your character speak? Is his or her voice very low or very high? Does he or she speak in complete sentences or fragments? What words does he or she use often? You need to be able to hear in your mind what this character will sound like, because this will help you immensely with dialogue.

Each character needs to have his or her own distinct personality. Maybe he or she is one of those happy-go-lucky people who always has a smile on their face. Or maybe he or she is very shy and quiet. Your character could be very funny, or dry, or cynical, or romantic, or even some odd mixture of everything. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Try something, and if it doesn’t seem right, change it. Getting to know your characters often continues long after you’ve begun working on your novel, and sometimes, you’ll have a flash of insight and suddenly just “know” that your character has a fear of dogs, or an interest in aviation. Go with it. It’s easy to go back and change things if you need to.

Naming your Character:

Once you’ve figured out who your character will be, you need to name him or her. Try to pick a name that suits them. Often, naming your characters can be one of the hardest parts. But sometimes, you’ll just know. You know that the sweet old lady living down the street is named Betty, or the cute little baby in the stroller is named Davy. You don’t know how you know that, you just do. Sometimes, all you need to do is get to know your character a little better, and the name will just come to you.

Happy writing!

Clutter

Photo Credit: EvelynGiggles

I’ve always subscribed to the theory that a cluttered house makes for a cluttered mind, and vice versa.  I’ve been struggling with clutter for most of my adult life, and in the last year or so, have finally started to get a handle on it.  However, the fact that my husband is a minor hoarder doesn’t help matters.  He keeps EVERYTHING!  He has collections of things that most people wouldn’t even think about collecting (rusty screws, random chunks of metal, used lighters, dirty pens, etc.)  He has socks, boxers and tee shirts from his high school days – things with holes that he will never, ever wear again (I hope.)

His desk is strewn with unopened mail, piles of empty soda bottles and cans, food wrappers, and random junk that he is either seriously attached to or is simply too lazy to throw away.  (I say lazy, because there is a large garbage can literally INCHES from his desk.)  He has boxes of unidentified junk treasures lining the shelves in the basement that he has not gone through in years. Don’t even get me started on our two car garage that I have not been able to park in for two years.

So why am I suddenly so concerned with my husband’s clutter, when I’ve been living with it and dealing with it for almost 6 years?  Well, we have recently decided to sell our three bedroom house, which has been a huge source of financial stress for us in the last year or so, and downsize by moving into a two bedroom townhouse, which is much more affordable.  The house we have now is literally bursting at the seams with our stuff, and I’m a little concerned as to where we will put everything when our space is even more constricted.

This whole situation has forced me to come to the conclusion that “we” need to reduce “our” clutter by at least half.  So I’ve decided that the month of November is going to be “Decluttering Month.”  Now, I just have to find a way to get my husband on board…