Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Trips for writers: Finding inspiration at The Edision & Ford Winter Estates

 I've struggled to find an identity for my blog, and now I think I've found it. Trips for writers, whether virtually or in the flesh, is a great way to find inspiration. I've read agents blogs and many, many times they state very simply, "Stop writing and get out there and live." I mean really, how creative can you be when you are sitting at your lap top in your PJ's, listening the the garbage guys compact your recycling and hoping like hell that they don't wake up your baby? 3,2,1...Creativity officially sucked out of me.

 This week, I'm talking about Florida. I may talk about Florida for a long time, because I love it there. Sunshine, beaches, cheap gallons of milk. Really, they have it all. I experienced my first Krispy Kreme donut there, and was thrilled at the way that tiny fishies nipped at my toes on the beach in Destin.

Unfortunately for me, every single time we go there we have some sort of calamity occur (scorpions stinging in um, tender places, impacted hernias, protein spills at the Animal Safari, haunted beach houses that have beds that don't fit the frame, thus ensuring you slip lopsided all night long). It is enough to make a person want to stay home, and yet I still wish I could go back.

Florida is much more than the house of the Mouse (aka Disney World) or the epic thrill that is Islands of Adventures (that Spiderman ride is so much fun). If you take a trip down the hwy's to Fort Meyers, Sarasota, Long Boat Key, and Sannibel Island, you'll see a side of Florida that you (as a non-Florida native) never knew existed. This is great for people who don't live there and have no idea what Florida is all about.

By far my favorite part of Florida so far, and the place that I go in my mind for inspiration,  is The Edison and Ford Winter Estates.  To get there, you have to take a drive down a palm tree lined street and enter across the road where his labs are currently housed. When Edison lived there, there was no road, and those palm trees were planted by himself and his neighbors. It's truly amazing to see the gardens he planted. It was a windy day when we were there, and the bamboo trees were knocking together. I was standing outside by the swimming pool, and I literally never wanted to leave. The sky was obscured by the waving of the trees, and you felt like you were about to walk into a secret forest. They should make an audio recording of the sounds of those trees, they take me to my happy place. If you get there, sit down and listen for awhile.

I think if I lived there, I'd spend most of my time on this porch. The house is based right on an inlet, and they could walk out to their dock and watch the water swirl by them. It felt serene. You can imagine Thomas Edison and Henry Ford sitting and discussing ideas, mulling over research. They truly were an example of starting with a small thought and working it into a huge idea, much in the same way that writers do with novels.

Visiting his lab and discovering the many, many inventions he patented is really surprising. His lab is full of tools he used to fuel his research for a natural source of rubber. Light bulbs, record players, telephones, you can find them all in the museum and labratory.

As a writer, I find that I struggle to find the words to really describe this place. It is truly one of my favorite spots in Florida, and an excellent source of inspiration for anyone with a dream and an idea.

Friday, April 9, 2010

My house is a very, very, very fine house

And I'm feeling nosy today. What does your house look like?

I'm one of those people that, when in the passenger seat, strain out my window to look into other people's windows as we're driving by. I'm no peeping tom, I'm mostly looking for walls, furnishings, etc. I just like to see how other people live. I've yet to see a naked person (thankfully!) and I've picked up a design tip or two for the home decor advice column I write for a client in Australia (seriously, I do write one).

Here is my house:

Isn't it pretty? My mom drew my attention to the fact that it looks great in pictures. I have to agree, it does look like a nice house. From the outside, you can't tell that the layout is a bit on the unbalanced side.

Perceptions are wonderful things. My mom informing me of what a nice house I had actually made me remember what it was like to appreciate it. Way back before I had four kids and three bedrooms upstairs, I loved my house. I'd walk up the driveway when it was night, listening to the frogs croaking in the creek up the street and I would just be blissed out. Before I was worried that my baby would fall down the back stairs (and before he did fall down the front stairs), I enjoyed the green grass in my yard.

I'm lucky, because I have a house to love/hate. I feel fortunate for that all the time. Do I wish I had a bedroom for each kid? You bet. Do I wish even more that I could knock a hole in the floor of my kitchen and create a staircase to the lower level? Oh yeah. That would be amazing. *Hides my jackhammer from husband*

Oh well, we can't have everything!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The portal to sanity

I wrote a blog post way back when about how the grass is always greener on the Twitter side of the fence. I'm no stranger to web sites. Kidswap.ca was my baby, in addition to my real babies, for many, many years. I tried Twitter out in the summer of 2009, lost interest, then came back and signed up under the name "Kidswap". At the time, it was because I was trying to figure out a way to revive the site. After I realized that it wasn't to be, I kept the name and got sucked into the Twitterverse.

As I was saying, I am no stranger to web sites. Because of this, I am always happy to hear when one starts from scratch and goes bonzo, the way that Twitter did. Twitter has become more than just a bunch of status updates; those who are really involved can see that it's more of a lifeline. I will use motherhood as an example, because although I am a freelance writer, I am a mom first.

Imagine if you will, life before the Internet. You have your books on babies, your doctor, and your parents and friends. Your personality is slightly less than the average extrovert, as in the thought of going to mommy and me groups puts you off like rancid hotdogs from the gas station. You are comfortably social within your own bubble, and confident that the people who will support you when you bring your little bundle home are adequately prepared to give you advice.

Week three of new parenthood. You aren't eating or sleeping, and you have a case of irritable bowel that won't go away. It still hurts to pee and bend (stupid epidural) and your baby eats every 20 minutes. You read frantically through the parenting magazines, books, and pamphlets from the hospital. Why is she eating so much, then vomiting after? When I hold her, she sleeps. When I put her down, its party time. How much advil can I give her if she's 3 months but the weight of a 4 month old? Seriously, WTH? Is she actually teething at 12 weeks?

You ask your mom, who promptly tells you that you should be giving her mashed potatoes. Make them real runny, then slip them into her mouth before she eats. Not thinking that is such good advice, you ask your doctor, who advises you against the potatoes but tells you that you should let her cry because she is using you as a soother. You don't mention to your doctor that you co-sleep, because she only sleeps when she can smell you and you don't sleep unless you see her breathing. Is that Post partum? Are you cracking up? Friends tell you that you aren't cracking up, but you should join a gym or take some antidepressants. Leave her and have a wild night out at the bar.

Post Internet mommyhood wasn't fun and was ridiculously full of crappy advice.

Flash to now. You have your blogs, the doctors blogs, the mommy blogs, mommy forums, Facebook (although I am not a fan),  and now Twitter. Why is Twitter such a mecca for motherhood? It combines everything. If you have a mommy blog, post it. If you have a mommy forum, highlight what they are talking about. Promote, publicize, and share away.

My 4th baby was born in June of 2009. As he's grown, I've become more involved on Twitter. If I am awake at 2 am with a teething, crabby baby I can check and see who else is online doing the same. Often, someone has posted a good night to me, or best wishes for a decent rest. As a mom, that little wave makes me feel less alone when I'm at my wits end.

And speaking of wits ends? There are things I've read about on Twitter that are immediate reality checks. My 4th baby is a really crappy sleeper, so crappy that I've basically gone through the past few months looking at life in a really bleak light. Postpartum? Probably. Knowing hasn't changed it though, and as I solider on each day I find myself having severe ups and downs that are indicative of life with four young kids. On the days when it gets really bad, and I sit bleakly wondering how to get through the rest of the day, I will open my computer and click around on Twitter. It becomes a window to the rest of the world in a way that talking to family and friends can't be. I can find people in the exact same situation and see how they are doing. Or, I can find things that snap me out of my bad mood and make me just eternally grateful for those 4 little creatures that mess up my house and make my ears ring with their screaming. I've grieved for babies whose mothers I'll never know, and I've taken that grief as a wake up call to love and appreciate my own children.

Yes, Twitter can also make one really, really insecure. I'm a freelance writer within a large group of writers. While you feel happy for their success, you also feel that it takes you one notch down the ladder. I follow agents, publishers, and literary journals. I watch magazines I'd like to write for, and I come up with ideas for articles. I started my own work in progress, when I realized that so many people out there were doing it, why couldn't I? Of course I think mine sucks more than theirs, but still, I'm trying and that is due to Twitter.

Yes, someday I will spend more time with my friends who are living close to me, but at the point I am in my life, where its overwhelming to just get them all to school and back and I can't talk on the phone because my 9 month old has woke up for the 9th time that evening? I have no brain space for chat or playdates and I live for weekends when I'm not on my own with four demanding little people.  At the very least, I have Twitter. And for an overwhelmed mom, it's more than enough.