Saturday, November 29, 2008

Well now I'm reallly a writer...

... because I have the obligatory cats.

Two to be exact. Zorro, a three year old male and Ziggy, a three month old male. Both very cool individuals adopted from the Humane Society.

I'm so incredibly pleased with myself because the kids are loving on these cats and the cats (for the most part) are loving on them. Zorro is sleeping in Army Girl's bed and Ziggy with Army Boy. You wouldn't think that cats would voluntarily stay with a seven year old or a two year old. But they did. Both of them were purring like crazy and looking like bliss personified when I left them - the kids were still awake but content to sit and be happy with their new kitties.

Zorro, the older, fluffier cat is the ultimate writer's cat. He climbs up on my desk and curls himself around the mouse because he knows that's where my hand rests.

I've missed having animals in the house. I'm glad they are back.

Friday, November 28, 2008

My Vices

I have a couple of vices. I admit it. I am not perfect. My family will die of shock right now. Fer shizzle.

One. Books, yeah this is no surprise. I have 700 or so books. The problem is that I haven't read them all. I buy them to HAVE them. It's wrong somehow - I know that. There are people in this world, probably kids in my own city that have no books and here I am, hoarding them. But reading a good book is something incredible. It's like if our life is one massive house, each book is a window or a door. I tend to look for God in every book I read, even when it's not overtly a Christian book.

Two. TV. Yes, I get caught up in all sorts of shows. House. Criminal Minds. Grey's Anatomy. ER. It's been going on for a long time, every since I had a crush on Mighty Mouse as a child. Then there was Little House on a Prairie, which was really the first show I felt I Could Not Do Without. Oh how I loved the story of Laura and Almanzo. It was the first romance I really felt I could believe in. Of course he was a stubborn man and Laura was headstrong, so it probably set the tone for my future lovelife. Nice. Thanks Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Thursday and Sunday nights have always been my night to watch TV. And yet now Mr. PVR has come into my life and everything has changed. I can save up all the shows I want until a night where I have finished all my work and the kids go to bed sweetly (or are at grandma's, like tonight) and I get to sleep in tomorrow. Now I can watch oodles of Criminal Minds and House and the movies I've saved. I love it!

How does this have to do with writing?

Like any vice, the call of it can be almost overwhelming. I'm actually irritated when I'm missing one of my shows or I don't want to start a writing project because a SHOW IS ON IN FIVE MINUTES. Sometimes I just push back my project (aka procrastinate) or I try to do both at the same time (never effective).

But now? Now I can put my vice on hold! And it's like a carrot! Finish work and watch shows guilt-free!

Newest gadget for every writer: PVR. (I think it's called TiVo in the States.)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Dealing with Loss

How do you deal with loss? Isn't that a question without an answer? I think so.

Last weekend we lost a friend.

At work today - and all week - so many people are sad. Some are angry that he's gone.

Some hardly knew him. Some knew him for over a decade. Some were in the inner circle. Some hung about the outer rim.

I posted his obituary to Facebook tonight, wondering as I did if those who were closer to him might get offended. All day we have been preparing for his visitation tonight and sometimes I felt so wrong planning who I was going to carpool with or who was going with whom - it felt like planning a social event. I wanted to make it stop. Make us not have to check in with each other (time? your car or mine? how do you get there?) in the same way we'd plan a party or a night out.

But I realized that everyone has their own way of dealing. Just read his guestbook. Some are private, and close their office doors and honour him the way they know how, by doing their jobs well. Some talk about it, make jokes and remember how much fun he inspired. Some are silent, not revealing their emotion at all.

I'm choosing to talk about him. I'm choosing to tell people who didn't know Jim Haigh that he was important and special. You didn't know him? You missed out, buddy.

You missed his laugh, that I hear so loud in my head that I think I could actually open my mouth and it would come out. You missed a passion for his job that was the fuel for a small, just $100 million, empire. You missed watching him talk about "the business" and get so excited that he'd rock forward on the balls of his feet like he was going to launch himself into the crowd. You missed him pacing at the back of the room during the National Sales meetings, listening intently. You missed the empty coffee pots he'd leave that would make you shake your fist and call down the hall "this is how I know you're in the building, Jim! Empty coffee pots!" You missed dimples. You missed inside jokes and goblets of wine. You missed vision. You missed a mentor. You missed a friend.

You missed Jim.

And so do I.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Power of Words

On Monday I learned:

People make choices we may never understand - we still love them.

When there is true pain it can block out everything.

We can never know when the words we say to someone may be the last time we speak.

Strong people may not be so.

Crying is never a sign of weakness.

A wish for what you might have said to make a difference can be turned into action: say what you mean today to those you love.

Some friends you choose, some choose you and sometimes you get lumped in and learn to love each other.

There is never any need to compare pain with one another.

Some people leave - but they never leave us.


Words have always been my strength. I rely on them and they always come through for me. But this week I learned that the words I hold in will lose their power. It does no good to think thoughts about someone's well-being and not express them. We often fear that we'll be seen as inappropriate or nosey. We worry if things are our business. We through about the words "how are you?" without even an expectation of a real answer.

Words, whether written or spoken, matter. They matter almost as much as touch. Almost as much as a hug. God, I hope that you gave me this gift of words for a better purpose. I promise that I will no longer keep that gift inside. I've used words to make money, to put food on the table, for my own selfish desires.

But what about blessing others? What about glorifying God? What about changing lives . . . or even the possibility of changing lives? What about delivering comfort? What about lifting spirits? What about telling someone that they matter?

I will do better.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


There's a great group of writing mothers that you might of heard about: The Writing Mothers. Lately, the list has been quiet. Which I'm convinced is because *I* have been quiet, except that would be giving myself a few more powers than I have (the sum is currently zero in the power department). But a very good discussion was sparked today and it seems like there are a few others out there who are also feeling frustratingly quiet.

I recently finished book #2, which will be released before book #1, so technically it will be my first book. Anyhoo...

This book was much harder to write than the first one (book one, which will be book two) because it had more technical info in it. There were certain topics that I knew, but I didn't know them to the depth which I needed to know them. Ya follow? For example, we all know that too much CO2 being released into the air is bad, right? But can you explain (with humor, wit and clarity please!) how much is too much? How many ppm is really bad and how many ppm is super-duper bad? Why is methane worse than CO2 and what's the difference between the concentrations and potency in our atmosphere?

So there was learning involved. And did I mention it was about 85,000 words?

The sheer size of it terrified me. But I did it. I finished.

And immediately I felt like I didn't want to write again for a year. I wanted to be just a mother, hanging out with my kids in the evening instead of rushing to the computer after I'd put them to bed. I wanted to catch up on all the shows I'd PVR'd without feeling guilty. And why did I feel guilty? Because every moment I wasn't writing, I knew I should be. Every moment I was writing, I felt like I should be with my kids. Every moment at my Day Job I felt like I should be either writing or with my kids, knowing that whichever I would choose I'd still go back to feeling guilty about not doing the other one.

What kind of craziness is this that I am afflicted with?!

Since I finished the book and finished the edits, I haven't written much. I've hardly blogged, I hardly email. I had one column due (yesterday) and I finished that (yesterday). But still I have been feeling like much less of a writer than I am used to. Because each time I sat down at the computer, I felt a certain amount of panic at what I had to accomplish. You don't know how many blog posts I started and then deleted because I'd get a paragraph in and think "this is stupid".

I think part of it was going through the edit process. My editor for this last book was wonderful. There were a lot of great comments on the manuscript that helped me to see where I needed to fix it and where I could improve. But as wonderful as the edits were, there's still that niggling voice that says "look at all the mistakes you made!" and my inner perfectionist comes out to perch upon my shoulder and make insinuating eyebrows at me.

So I started to not really want to write, I started to avoid it. Sure, I had things I wanted to write, but I didn't HAVE to - like blog posts. I started to let that procrastination habit creep back in. Then something happened. My friend Karen passed away and a package that I'd made up for her was still sitting, unsent at my office. I had procrastinated my way into a place I'd never been before, I actually missed a deadline (absolutely no pun intended on that one, though it would probably have made Karen smile) that I couldn't recover from.

Part of me just wanted to NOT do anything. If I didn't commit to anything, I would have no deadlines to miss. I embraced my inner slacker. Don't try so you don't miss anything.

But guess what? That's not me. I'm a driven person. I like to DO things. I like to take on scary projects that find me over my head. I think that it might even be the way God created me - willing to take a step or two on faith rather than leaning on my own understanding (or rationale). Willing to say "sure, I can do that" when I'm not sure if I can or not.

So here I am, Heather Cook, a reformed slacker. It was a dark moment, a quick foray into the unknown world of slackerdom. But I'm back.