Big Girl Pants

Last night I put on my Big Girl Pants, as in summoned my courage and put on my brave face.

Pitch-a-Palooza was in Chico last night.


Pitch-a-palooza.  An event sort of like American Idol for books.  Here’s how it works.  Writers step up to the mic and give a 60 second pitch about their book to a panel of qualified and highly knowledgeable professionals.  The panelists critique the pitch, pointing out what you did well and giving gentle suggestions on what to add or take away from your pitch to make it really sing.  At the end of the night a winner is declared and the winner gets a face to face meeting with an agent.

As I drove to Chico, I considered several things to pitch and narrowed it down to a novel.  Or a collection of poems.  Or a children’s book.  No, a novel, definitely a novel.  Maybe.  I rehearsed my pitch over and over again, talking to myself like a crazy person all alone in my car.  I shaved off words and cut out blather until I had it down to a succinct 40 seconds.

I felt confident that I had a good shot at the prize. In fact, I was sure I’d be declared the winner.  I was sure that after hearing my brilliant pitch Nicholas Sparks and Marisa de los Santos would suddenly burst out of the audience and fight over me, each of them begging to introduce me to their agents right that second.  (Don’t ask me why Nicholas Sparks was in my reverie.  I don’t usually read his books.  But apparently in my delusions, his opinion is very important.)

I pulled up to the venue half an hour before the start and it was already filling up.  I signed up to pitch and climbed over a row of people, accidentally sticking my tush in some poor man’s face before I plopped down in one of the only empty seats.  Around me people chattered nervously about their pitches.  Some clutched excerpts in their hands.  Others awkwardly edged through the crowd with complete storyboards.

I sat with nothing in my hands, just my words nervously knocking around in my head.

And then the event began.  There were too many people signed up.  So, 20 names would be chosen at random to pitch.  Person after person stood up to pitch.  Some were great, some were awful, all were applauded for being brave enough to put their idea out there.  I listened and learned and made tweaks to my pitch based on the panelists suggestions.

After nineteen people, the panel announced they would hear one final pitch.  My heart pounded in my ears.  I knit my sweaty fingers together.  They called the last name.

It wasn’t mine.

How were Nicholas Sparks and Marisa de los Santos supposed to fight over me now?

I was disappointed, but strangely rejuvenated.  I’d learned a ton about the book industry, learned about how to make my pitches better.  And I’d sat in a room full of fellow writers.  In the grand scheme of things, it was quite a night.

Back at home, I changed into my pajamas and sat down for a minute.  I was proud that I’d tossed my hat in the ring, content that I’d been brave enough to sign up.  And when I woke up this morning, I decided that I’m going to wear my Big Girl Pants more often.

Thankful Thursday #7

This week I’m thankful for…

  • the beautiful notebook a friend made for me.
  • the little boy in my classroom who was so excited about a card I’d put in his mailbox that he hugged my leg extra tight
  • Ruby Bridges for inspiring my kids to be brave
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. for giving me goosebumps every time I hear his speech
  • sheets fresh from the dryer
  • cold Saturday mornings perfect for writing in bed
  • my Words With Friends friends
  • frigid bike rides followed by scalding hot showers
  • one of my little girls, who on finding out we were getting yet another new student, said “We are the luckiest class-we always get new friends!”,  I’ve welcomed three new kids into our class within a week.  I’m going to try hard to have the same perspective as the little girl and think about how lucky I am to spend time with these new little ones.
  • the little girl in my class who, after writing pages and pages of a story, proclaimed, “Mrs. McCauley, I wrote lots of Golden Lines.”  Yes you did, little one, yes you did.
  • Terry, always Terry.

The Red Boat

Saturday afternoon I pulled on my tights and arm warmers and all sorts of other layers that would keep me warm on such a frigid day.  As I got dressed, my nerves bounced around like rubber bands being fired in my stomach, plinking off the insides of my ribcage.

It was the day of my first bike ride of the year.

I love riding The Rocket, but there is just something about the first ride of the year that makes me all a jitter.  Maybe it’s that a new cycling season is so ripe with possibility.  Or maybe it’s the fact that I haven’t ridden outside in a couple of months and I’m afraid I’ve forgotten how to clip in and out of my pedals and I’m convinced I’m going to crash.  At least once.  Yeah, that’s probably it.

The night before, I pumped up my tires and took a minute to get re-acquainted with The Rocket.  I checked her brakes, shifted and listened for any new squeaks.  After a couple of neglected months, she had good reason to whine, but no, she is a bike who holds her tongue, a lady who thinks before she speaks.

I gave her the once over, eyeing the little chips and scratches on her frame, each one a battle scar, proof that we have been places, that we’ve seen the world together.  I ran my hands over her, making sure all her parts were in working order.  She was in prime condition.

Saturday was frigid.  I think at one point the temperature got up to a balmy 39 degrees.  My friend, Laura, and I cruised down to the river trail.  We chatted and pedaled, our breath puffing around us as we rode on the mostly empty trail.  There are a ton of newly paved sections and I was excited to try out a nice, steady climb.

We turned onto the new part of the trail and a creek to our left burbled down toward the river as we pushed up the hill.  We were quiet, only a word or two popping between us.  I’d like to say our conversation lulled because we wanted to enjoy the sounds of nature, but the truth of the matter is after a couple of months off the bike, I had to choose between talking and breathing.

One of the best parts of cycling is that I never know what I’m going to see, every ride is a surprise.  And as we turned a corner, there it was.

A beautiful, old, red boat.

You might not think it’s beautiful, but on a day when the sky was a gunmetal swath above the gray river, and the air was wrapped in fog, the red boat was a stunning punch of color in an otherwise subdued landscape.  I yanked off my gloves and willed my frozen fingers to work the camera.

A boat, a beautiful, red boat.  In the prime of its life, it could have held 30 men, maybe carried them down the creek into the river.  And here it was landlocked on the side of the trail.  I wish I knew the story of the boat, but there wasn’t anything or anyone around to offer an explanation.  I slipped my gloves back on and tucked my camera in my jersey pocket.  I thought about that boat for the rest of the ride, inventing a history for it, keeping my mind busy while my legs turned the cranks.

The temperature dropped and a drizzle covered my glasses in a sheet of mist.  We hurried back to our cars, willing our legs to spin faster as our fingers and toes ached with cold.

Back at home, I stood in the shower, letting the scalding hot water needle my skin.  I piled on layers of clothes and slurped hot tomato soup under a blanket, but no matter what I did, I couldn’t shake the cold from my bones, couldn’t keep the goosebumps at bay.

I like to think the goosebumps on my skin that day weren’t a result of winter’s icy grip.  No, I think they were the result of standing tiptoe on the edge of a new cycling season, holding my breath knowing adventures full of unexpected beauty are just around the corner.

Day in a Sentence Release: The Beauty We Love

Finally, finally Day In A Sentence release day is here!  What a joy to gather sentences about the beauty you love.  I savored each one as I tucked it away for today.

Before I release your words, I’ve got to tell you about lanterns.  Yes, lanterns.

During Chinese New Year the city of Pingxi, Taiwan hosts the Heavenly Lantern Festival, where thousands upon thousands of paper lanterns are released into the night sky.

Throughout history, paper lanterns have been used for many purposes including to send messages over enemy lines in times of war.

But the lanterns released on the night of the festival serve a much different purpose.  Each lantern is scribed with prayers, prayers to be carried to God, that He might answer them and bestow His favor.

My heart thrills at the thought of writing and releasing prayers.

As I sit here reading your sentences one last time, I can’t help but think of the lanterns.  I’m hopeful that by releasing our words, the beauty we wrote about will appear in abundance this new year.

Here are this week’s sentences (Apologies to Amanda C., Kim K. and Deborah C. for not including a hyperlink because I lost your site addresses in the process of pasting the sentences.):

“This has been a difficult week in our household – transitioning back into routine after two weeks home with Mom and Dad, really took a toll on our toddlers. This week’s DIAS helped remind me that they are the beauties we love, and must be our priority pupils, because being teachers parents is what we do.” -Amanda C.

‘”Don’t start reading… let the beauty we love be what we do…” Tomorrow I promise to wake up and grab my guitar and play into the day.”  –Bonnie K.

“I can’t take credit for ‘You’ve got to be a friend to have a friend,’ but there is beauty in maintaining old and forging new friendships; I reached out to a new friend today.” –Amiable Amiable

“Poetry is the beauty I love and this week it came to me wrapped in the secure arms of my husband, in the sweet tang of blackberries, and in the light of the elusive winter sun.” -Alicia M.

“I love to sit and draw funny, silly cartoons. Some have suns and others have moons. Some are gaffes but most do get a few laughs.” –Carl D.

“The beauty I love is often found through the lens of my camera. Today I captured the lustrous pink of the setting sun reflected in the river, filtered through the barren branches of winter trees.” –Lynn J.

“The beauty of nature fills my heart; it overflows and shines out in love to others.” –Heidi R.

“I woke to the frosty foggy morning, with salutations to the sun that I knew to still be in the sky, only slightly hidden away… as sometimes my joy may be.”  -Kim K.

“I dig in the dirt of my soul, of my garden, the black half moons beneath my fingernails reminding: hard work purifies spirit & body; and my tears became the rain for the seed of hope I planted today.” –cr8df8

“I was watching snowflakes fall as I walked my dog early in the morning the other day — in the hours before the neighborhood arose — and the quiet of the moment was so powerful and so beautiful, I wanted to wrap it up my scarf and take it with me for the day.” –Kevin H.

“In those lush pre-dawn hours, when, in between, my being remembers that the path of attraction knows the way, without haste to get lost in busy-ness, though good work may be true, without need for company, though that could be the sun’s reflection, too, but mostly in trust remembering to release into the beauty of love.” –Joseph M.

“We can behold beauty, but it cannot be held so today I attempted to pass it along, through the comforting warmth of a kind smile and a reassuring touch, the uplifting joy of a shared giggle, the simulated grace of letting go.”-Hippie C.

“The beauty that I have come to love is the every day imperfection of those we love, which in its flawed unraveling, reveals the soul.” -Deborah C.

Now that we’ve set our words free, watch this clip of the Heavenly Lantern Festival and then add it to your list of things to do before you die.  Oh and be sure to join this week’s Day in a Sentence over here.

Thankful Thursday #6

This week I’m thankful for…

  • catching snowflakes on my tongue
  • the way Terry jumped over furniture just to get to me and kiss me at midnight on New Year’s Eve
  • my friend, Abby, who found my ring after I accidentally flung it out the car window-oops!
  • fresh pineapple
  • game night with friends
  • sack lunches in the sunshine
  • avocados
  • walking my neighborhood at night when the stars are out
  • having lots of my “fat clothes” taken in and giving the rest of them away
  • time with my students after such a long break
  • Terry cooking me vanilla pancakes
  • time to write poetry
  • my nephew who needed just one more hug and kiss before I left