So, the thing is… I am thankful.


I’m writing a book.


This month, I mean.  I’m writing a new book this month.


It’s a small book—just 50,000 words-- and it’s part of a national effort organized by this little non-profit in Oakland, California.  ( ) Some 22,000 people from around the globe are all united trying to do this one thing.


This one really insane thing. 


And even though I’m really behind at only about 6,700 words, I still think I can do it.  I like my story and I have a good idea where it’s going and there are forums where you can moan when things aren’t going well.  The director sends out weekly pep talks and the way he writes… well, it’s really the whole reason I’m doing this.


To quote from the web site: “Art for art's sake does wonderful things to you. It makes you laugh. It makes you cry. It makes you want to take naps and go places wearing funny pants. Doing something just for the hell of it is a wonderful antidote to all the chores and "must-dos" of daily life. Writing a novel in a month is both exhilarating and stupid, and we would all do well to invite a little more spontaneous stupidity into our lives.”


I am so THERE.  (Especially about taking naps.)


So, this novel writing has had some wonderful repercussions already.  For one thing, my typing has gotten better.  It’s not great but it IS better.  Some of my fingers actually hit the right keys now, which eliminates a lot of re-writing.  Not that there won’t be a lot of that starting in December but still.


The second thing is that it’s given me freedom to think like a writer ALL DAY LONG.  Okay, so this is both good and bad.  Because I’ve discovered that the problem with living in my head is that it means that I can’t also live safely in my body.  I walked into a wall clock and sustained a nice head wound.  I’m actually kind of proud of it—like when I was training for a triathlon and crashed my bike and imbedded the sprocket into my leg.  I didn't wash those grease marks off for a long time. (I don't often volunteer the fact that it happened in my own driveway.)  Anyway, I stared at that clock like I’d never seen it before.  See, isn’t that just so…WRITERLY?  And then there was the time that I was just driving along, on my way to pick up Jane from preschool and I thought, “You know, I’ve always wanted to name a dog ‘Harriet.’”  I have no idea where that came from but I’m putting it down to The Muse.  (Because otherwise I might need The Medication.) 


On the down side, I can't seem to find words for daily conversations.  Apparently, I am using all my words in this book.  However, my children have been very accommodating about finishing my sentences for me.  Of course, now that I think about it, a lot of the sentences that Jane finishes have the phrase, ‘and you can have some chocolate’ in them.  By the end of the month, I guess I'll be reduced to pointing to things and just grunting but by then, hopefully we’ll be OUT of chocolate.


Another good thing about writing a novel in a month is that it has made me more spontaneous in other areas of my life.  This week, I cooked a full Thanksgiving dinner for my visiting mother-in-law.  She couldn’t be here for Thanksgiving so we had a Thanksgiving dinner just for her.  Isn’t that a fun thing?  Isn’t that just so eccentric and WRITERLY? 


Anyway, the point of this column is to tell you that there won’t be another one until December.  But by then, see, I should be able to knock out a column every three days or so!  Which would be a good thing since this has been a bad year for me with regard to writer’s block.


I was sort of sad about not writing some deep and meaningful Thanksgiving column this year, though.  It’s my favorite holiday and I think we should all embrace the concept of it every day.  Just to be thankful, you know, because we are blessed and it’s good to remember that.  I can usually write a tear jerker about Thanksgiving.


However, since I’ll be so close to my deadline by the time Thanksgiving rolls around, I’ll tell you a little Thanksgiving story from this past Sunday night. Basically, I cooked an entire Thanksgiving dinner.  So, then, just as everything was about ready, some other relatives who happened to be in town wanted to come over and see my girls.  Okay, I thought, I could probably do some kind of loaves and fishes thing, right?  So, now add in the fact that we were TRYING to take a holiday picture, which I thought would be hilarious because three of us were all dressed up and Jane is still in her Pajama Phase and refuses to wear anything else.  (She's the Hugh Hefner of the Toddler World.)  The guests arrived just as we're trying to corral the Tiny to sit in front of the fireplace--only this is TEXAS and we were all starting to SWEAT.  (You can just imagine the caption: “Merry Christmas from Hell.  Love, The Coopers.”)


Before I forget, Ana is working on a project entitled “A Slug’s Life” for school.  So, the day of our Mock Thanksgiving, we had to find pictures of slugs on the Internet and print them out on the color printer.  Ana cut them out, lovingly pasted them to sheets of paper, put a few more bug stickers on them and then went around the neighborhood, leaving them in the mailboxes of her friends.  (Her dad said, "Wow, I hope they didn't think those were death threats.") 


Anyway, she handed them out before Thanksgiving to our relatives, too, who were quite nonplussed, especially because she's very reserved (we have banished the word “shy” from our house) and couldn't tell them why she was working on this project.  Imagine sitting at your nephew's house, watching the three-year-old lick food off the floor and being handed a full-color picture of a slug, completely out of context, by the five-year-old.  The guests left (before dinner, I can’t imagine why) and we all sat down and for some reason the spelling bee started. 


Ana: “Mom, can you spell ‘aardvark?’”


Jane: “Mom can you spell ‘candle?’”


Ana: "Mom, can you spell ‘eyeownomou’?  That's the word for eyes, eyebrows, nose and mouth."


Dang, I didn't know there'd be made-up words or I’d have prepared harder. Remind me not to play Scrabble with THIS group.


So, then we went around the room and each of us named the thing for which we are most thankful.  (Me: "I'm thankful that I have a sense of humor."  Jane: "I'm thankful for Ring Around the Rosy.")


It came Ana's turn.  She looked at each of us in turn, completely unhurried, and then she smiled this loving and joyful smile and said, "I am grateful that I have a family."


I cried.


Happy Thanksgiving.  May you, too, be reminded in the most glorious way of how lucky you are.



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(c) Barbara Cooper 2003


Barbara Cooper is the mother of Ana (5) and Hurricane Jane (3).  She lives in Austin, Texas and she’ll sleep in December.