why I’m doing National Novel Writing Month

In the next month, I’m about to undergo something truly preposterous.

I’m going to write a novel in thirty days.

Maybe it will be good. Maybe it will be awful. Probably it will be somewhere in the great in-between. But I am hereby going public: I am going to write 50,000 words of fiction between this Friday and Thanksgiving weekend.

screenshotYou may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. National Novel Writing Month starts November 1st, and this year 180,000 people (and counting) have signed up to participate. Why? Because lack of a deadline is the only thing standing between any of us and that “someday” goal we set for ourselves. I’ve had a novel outline, and Chapter One, written for longer than I’d care to admit. I kept saying I’d start tomorrow, next week. I even swore here that I’d start anew- eleven months ago. But without a deadline, it hasn’t happened.

My first book came with a “real” deadline. That is to say, a deadline with money attached and signatures in triplicate. And that terror was an effective motivator. I wrote every day, even if I had to get up at 5:30 am to do it. So I’ve done this before, I keep telling myself. Even though that feels like a lifetime ago, I can do it again.

But it’s still scary. It’s still hard, for anyone, but for mothers I think it’s even harder. We are supposed to caretake, to enable, to selflessly provide. We are not supposed to say “I think I’d like to do a marathon. I’m off for a three-hour training run. Bye!”

We are not supposed to say, “I’m going to write a novel in a month and I might be impossible to live with for that whole time, and certainly our house will be a train wreck, and dinner will be peanut butter sandwiches, and it will all be in the service of something which feels very important to me but which in my darker moments I will fear is entirely self-indulgent and without merit.”

And so I haven’t said any of that. Neither has my spouse, even though he knows me well enough to know that all of that is probably true. He also knows that I am happy when I create, and out of sorts when I do not. I think he’d say  that he would rather have things belly-up in our house for a month in order to reap the happiness rewards, for the whole family, of a creatively-fulfilled me thirty days from now. I hope so, because ready or not, we are about to begin that experiment.

The goal of NaNoWriMo is not to write the best thing anyone has ever written. The goal is merely to finish. Wish me luck. Or… join me?

Bake it Happen: the best banana bread ever (plus support for breast cancer research)

Out of my many friends in the blogosphere, there’s only one I knew before she ever was a blogger, and that’s Shari, from My Judy the Foodie. Shari started her blog after losing her mother, Judy, to a long struggle with breast cancer. Judy was a great cook; Shari knew how to use a microwave (kind of). But after her mother’s death, Shari started making her mother’s recipes, and today Shari has become a confident cook with a big-time blog and flair to spare!

Here’s Shari on her mother’s legacy:

Judy was just one of many whose life was cut way too short from breast cancer.  She was a skilled cook and baker who effortlessly spread her love through her meals.  And her special Banana Chocolate Chip Loaf was, hands down, her most sought after dessert.

People, I have tasted this banana chocolate chip loaf. It really is that good. And since October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Shari has come up with a way for all of us to taste a little bit of her mother’s genius- and raise some money for The Breast Cancer Research Foundation at the same time!

bfb-rectangle

Head on over to Bananas for Boobies to get Judy’s Banana Chocolate Chip Loaf recipe. Bake that awesomeness.

Then share your bounty with family and friends and online! Each banana bread picture shared on Facebook before October 31st donates one dollar to BCRF.

You can share pictures on the Bananas for Boobies Facebook page, or upload to your own Facebook page with the tag @bakeithappen.

(If you’re not on Facebook, you can email your picture to bananasforboobies@gmail.com.)

Even better- when your @bakeithappen picture is posted, you’ll be automatically entered to win an iPad pre-loaded with some of the best cooking apps out there! Just make sure your picture is uploaded by October 31st.

If you’re on Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram, share away there too- with the hashtags #bakeithappen and #bfb.

I’m about to do all this myself, having just baked Judy’s Banana Chocolate Chip Loaf at our house yesterday. History will indicate that I am not much of a baker, but I had expert assistance.

stirring

 

The recipe makes two loaves, one to keep, one to share. I found that our loaves only took about 50 minutes to cook (the recipe suggests longer). I tried lining one of the pans with baking parchment, which definitely made removal much easier.

finished product

 

The kids had a great time deciding who to love-bomb with the extra loaf, and there was hearty agreement that Chef Louis, head chef at their school cafeteria, deserved someone baking something nice for HIM for a change.

chef louis

 

Hope his Judy’s Banana Chocolate Chip Loaf lasted longer than ten seconds, because ours sure didn’t.

Please join me in Baking it Happen this October!

my son’s soccer team is a real buzzkill

I am a soccer mom. And I gotta say, it’s starting to be a real buzzkill.

The game is fine. My son runs around, he gets a jersey, he gets exercise, he gets a snack, who could ask for anything more?

But about that snack. We parents received this email from the league:

No donuts.  It’s soccer.  Breakfast before, lunch after.  Snacks should be limited to fruit and water.

Wow. Way to recognize all the parents who have been volunteering to drag two shopping bags full of drinks and snacks all the way from their apartments (this is New York City, after all- no cars, no trunks). They have given their time, their money, and whatever they bring is always fallen upon by kids acting like they have never eaten in their lives.

And by the way, wouldn’t we all be thrilled if our kids’ sports teams said “no snacks”?  Or if they told everyone to bring their own water bottle? But to arm-twist us into “volunteering” snacks for a dozen Manwich appetites-and then to send a snotty email because some kid’s mom brought Munchkins- seems a little ungrateful. Even the kids remember to say thank you once in a while.

But that was two weeks ago. Last week we soccer parents got this one:

Please be reminded that this week is Silent Soccer. We are not asking you NOT to cheer for your players. We are simply asking you to do so in a silent manner.

Say what?

So, sometime this week, stop at the store and pick up some poster board and markers. Talk to your player about what they do best on the field and make a special sign for them. Decide to use the gesture of hands up in the air and waving to celebrate a goal!

Yes, parents! Add that trip to the art store to your yawningly boring weekday! Why not “decide to use the gesture” that we are strictly prescribing you use? Please be reminded that using only one hand in the air, pumping it with closed fist, has already been co-opted by Arsenio Hall circa 1990 and is NOT ACCEPTABLE FOR SILENT SOCCER USE.

But even this was not enough. Some parents apparently continued to behave in ways highly embarrassing to both themselves and the sport their second-grader claims to love, because last week, we received an emailed list of

South Side Soccer League No-Nos

No-nos. Because we are best addressed at the preschool level. I’ll spare you the whole list but this one was new:

4. No verbs.  Support your kids as they play but without instructions.  Try losing the verbs.

and:

7. Enjoy all the interesting parents who are cracking up at their creative attempts not to use verbs.

Too bad the “interesting parents on the sidelines” are looking for whoever wrote this email so they can tell them where to shove these “creative attempts.”  Oh wait, “shove” is a verb. So they can tell whoever wrote this email… it sucks… it is insulting to our intelligence… hoo boy, am I cracking up! What fun!

Why does everything our kids do have to be so over-thought, over-programmed, needlessly strict? When I was growing up, as long as there wasn’t more than three inches of snow on the ground, there was a pickup wiffle-ball game in my backyard every day after school. The bases were dirt patches. No refs. We drank Hugs. We used verbs.

imagesThat way of life seems Leave-it-to-Beaver-distant now. We don’t have a backyard, and the last time I checked, you need a permit to play wiffle ball in the park. But I feel duty-bound, as my children’s mother, to help them remember that the reason they are playing sports is that they- and all of us- are supposed to ENJOY it. And I’m not sure treating the parents and players like recalcitrant toddlers will get any of us there.

So watch for me on the soccer field this weekend. I’ll be the one saying “Go, Seamus!” Why yes, that was a verb. And I might yell it like, really loud. Heck, I might even bring Munchkins.