A Shooting at our Local Mall

Another shopping mall shooting happened over the weekend. This time it was close to home at the Columbia Mall. The last time I went shopping for clothes, I bought them at the Columbia Mall. Every year, during the holidays, there is a magnificent “tree” created in the central fountains made from red and white poinsettia plants. Every year I take my children to see that tree. There’s a carousel not far from where the shootings occurred – the boys have ridden it countless times. Were there children riding that carousel, laughing and enjoying the ride, when the gunman opened fire? If so, how terrified were they? How terrified were their parents?

Two people were killed. Three, if you count the gunman. It was enough to make the national news. Great, we’re on The Today Show for a shooting! It’s disgusting.

A friend of mine, also a parent of two small children, expressed her anger and frustration over the shooting. How do you raise children in a world like ours? A world where innocent people are shot at random in public places? Places that are supposed to be safe? How is it possible to feel safe anywhere? And if you don’t feel safe, how do you make your children feel safe?

No children were shot at the Columbia Mall. Thank God. But children have been shot. The unthinkable happened at Sandy Hook.

So what now? Who do we blame? Do we blame the guns? Do we blame the media for glorifying the gunmen who might otherwise have offed themselves in a basement and checked out quietly? The gun laws? The NRA? Mental health experts? The government? Society as a whole? Apathy? Who? What? Where does the blame belong?

And what do I do, as a parent, to not only make my children feel safe, but to actually keep them safe? I don’t want to be afraid every time I walk out my front door. I don’t want to feel fear every time I let my children out of my sight.

I don’t have any answers. Right now I am banking on the idea that life is a game of numbers. Gun violence came to my backyard. But it was on a day that I wasn’t at the mall. And if I had been at the mall that day, I probably wouldn’t have been shot. When the DC sniper was terrorizing our area, I told myself that odds were he wasn’t going to shoot me. And now I am doing the same thing. Which is really sad, but right now, I’ve got nothing else.

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My Son Loves Dolls

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I’m going to take a break from talking about the publishing process/agent search and talk about a subject that’s wildly off topic. This post isn’t even about the heart child – it’s about his heart-healthy brother, Mason. But first, a quick update on the agent search: I’ve sent about 20 queries/submissions thus far, and received a few rejections. I’ll just have to keep on keeping on I suppose. More on that later.

Let’s talk about my son and his dolls. Ever since he met his first Disney Princess, it was love at first sight for Mason. He loves all things pink, frilly and girly. As his parents, we have done our best to allow him to be exactly who he is. For example, this year the one item he wanted most from Santa was an American Girl Doll. He now owns Caroline, and she goes everywhere with him. She sleeps next to his bed. She watches him build Legos. She’s pretty much everywhere that he is, except at the dinner table. I drew the line there, because I don’t want spaghetti sauce in the hair of this $100 doll.

Last year he was obsessed with princess dresses. He wanted his own. So Santa brought him 3 Disney Princess gowns. Those of you who know Mason know that he is a HUGE kid. Literally a full head taller than all the other first graders in his class. Finding Disney Princess gowns that fit a giant 6-year-old boy was a challenge. But I did it! And he stomped around the house in them for a couple of months. He has now outgrown that phase, but I’m so glad we let him enjoy it on his own terms.

I think about what might happen to my son if we chose to squash his love of dolls and princesses. Instead of growing out of his princess-dress phase, would he have gone on to rebel as a teenager? And what would that have looked like? Something mild like dying his hair pink? Or something more permanent, like piercing his nipples and tattooing his face? It’s hard enough to figure out who you are – there are plenty of people my age who haven’t figured it out yet – without having people in your face telling you that you are wrong or bad for not conforming to society’s gender-based standards. 

And Mason is learning to self regulate. I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, I am glad that he is capable of being realistic. On the other, I am sad that he has to justify his love of the color pink to anybody. At the ripe old age of 7, he already understands that some kids will make fun of him for loving girls and princesses. Not long ago, a kid on the bus sneered at him and called him “a stupid little girl.” That really broke my heart. But it also gave me a chance to tell him, one more time, that it’s okay for him to be just exactly who he is. Whatever life throws at him, he will always have his mother’s love and support, and like every other mother, I hope only that it is enough.

I need an agent!

My book is written.  My pitch is written.  My proposal is written.  I was all set to pitch small publishing houses, but then, after speaking with another author, I changed my mind.  I may end up trying for Tiny Publishing House You’ve Never Heard Of, or self publishing, but first, I’m going to try and land an agent and end up with Random House.  Why not go for the gold?  If it doesn’t work out, at least I’ll know that I tried.

So how hard is it to land an agent?  Here’s a good quote from the National Writers Union, “Finding a literary agent is like moving to a new town and having to find a contractor to remodel your house and a mechanic to fix your car all at once.  It has a strong element of Russian roulette.”

Great.  Where’s my gun? 

The key to pursuing an agent is apparently patience.  Everything I have read suggests that finding an agent is difficult.  Extremely difficult.  If you’re lucky enough to find an agent after six months and hundreds of query letters, working with the agent before your book is submitted to publishers will take another six months.  Or a year, or two years.  It may be a decade before my book sees the light of day if I stay the course.

A decade is too long.  So I’m going to try and land an agent for the next few months, and if I can’t do it in that time frame, then I’m going to pitch the small publishers directly.  It took most of the day yesterday to get seven query letters out, so I need to get back to the computer!

Wish me luck….

 

Happiness in a Jar

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I’m not talking about Aunt Millie’s homemade jam, although that might qualify as happiness in a jar too. I’m talking about an idea I saw posted on Facebook last year. You might have heard of it. It’s simple – as the year unfolds, you fill a jar with little notes. These notes can be about anything that brings you joy. Accomplishments, nice dinners, simple moments with people you love – anything that you can fit on a little scrap piece of paper and put in a jar. At the end of the year, you dump out the jar and read the notes.

I did this for 2013, and this morning, on the first day of the new year, we dumped it out and read the scraps of paper while we at a bacon, egg and cheddar quiche. And I have to say, it was really nice. Reminiscing about the good moments throughout the year made us smile, and seeing how full of joyous moments the jar was – actually seeing so many scraps of paper in it – gave me a sense of how good my life is. It’s easy to get bogged down in the difficulties of life and focus on the negative. It happens to all of us. This little reminder of the happy times made for a great start to 2014. 

So what did the notes say? Everything from a weekend trip summary – “April 2013. Went to DC for the Cherry Blossom Festival. Favorite meal @ 1789. Chef’s tasting and wine pairing – broccoli salad, scallops, lamb-stuffed ravioli, lamb shoulder – mmm. Best hummus @ Mediterra.” – to a sweet moment with my son – “Thurs. 1-17-2013. Corey came in to snuggle with me @ 7:08 AM and said, ‘Hello! Good morning! I love you!'”

Time to get started on my 2014 jar. Happy New Year!