I just put myself out there again

22 Sep

So my favorite agent/webinar teacher/author (Paula Balzer) is giving another webinar tomorrow. It’s about writing memoir, finding voice, building platform, and it includes a critique of my query letter and the first 3 pages of my manuscript.

The webinar is tomorrow from 11:00-12:30, but I won’t be able to join in until 11:45 because of my Bible study. Fortunately I’ll have access to the full thing after the fact, but at least I’ll get to hear about half of it live. The cool/freaky part about this is that she’s going to critique some of the submissions during the class. All of the submissions will get feedback via e-mail within 60 days, but what if mine is one of the ones she singles out in the webinar? What if she says that my memoir has a fatal flaw and can’t be fixed?

What will I do then?

Actually, it might be nice to be done with this manuscript. It’s been at the forefront of the writer part of my brain since 2007. 4+ years is a long time. I’ve been carrying around insecurities, dreams, hopes, wishes, and fears all connected to this manuscript. That’s a heavy load. Even when I wasn’t actively working on it, I was thinking about it. It was always there.

Hey – here’s a thought: what if I put my first few pages on here? Just for grins…

Ok. You convinced me. Here goes.


186 Days: The Marvelous Adventures of the Fabulous Nolens


Ok, here’s the deal. I know people don’t read prefaces or introductions. But I need to give you some information before you start reading about the marvelous adventures. Otherwise, things won’t make much sense at the beginning. You could skip this part – that’s fine by me – but I feel obliged to put this here for your benefit. Kind of like when those people on radio advertisements start talking really fast just before the end of the ad because there’s legal junk they’re obligated to spit out before the ad’s over. But my stuff isn’t legalese. It’s back story.

My husband Steve is a computational physicist. He works for Los Alamos National Lab in New Mexico. That’s where we live. There’s a sister lab in England called Aldermaston Weapons Establishment. The two labs often collaborate, so when AWE requested a computational physicist for six months, Steve volunteered.

He called me from work with the news. “Do you think we can do this? I mean, do you think you can do this with the kids? You’re going to be the one dealing with them over there every day.”

I don’t remember my exact words, but they were somewhere along the lines of, “Pishaw – how different could it be? Of course I want to go!” Plus, I was getting one of those elusive once-in-a-lifetime experiences that never seem to happen to me. Except for this.

A friend suggested that we keep a blog to keep family and friends updated while we were gone. When I started the blog, I didn’t put in all this background stuff you’re reading, because everyone reading the blog already knew it.

Just a few more things, then you can dive in.

1 – When I chose the name for the blog, The Marvelous Adventures of the Fabulous Nolens, I was being sarcastic. I just imagined our life over there would be identical to our life over here (not at all interesting or exciting), and the superfluous adjectives added to the irony.

2 – Our kids were 5 (C), 2 ½ (A), and 5 months old (J) when we boarded the plane heading for London.

3 – My mom came with us. I wanted man-on-man coverage to get the kids over there. She stayed with us for a couple of weeks before she headed back home.

As promised, no earth-shattering revelations here, but now you’re in-the-know.

Tuesday, June 20

The Beginning of the Marvelous Journey – Albuquerque to Dallas

Mom and I finally got all the clothes packed to get us through six months, three seasons, and the kids’ growth spurts, and Steve loaded it all into the rental minivan.

To underscore Steve’s prowess at packing stuff into a vehicle, here’s a bit of math for you: a minivan typically has 15 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row of seats, while a large suitcase is roughly 6 cubic feet. We had 10 suitcases, 7 carry-on bags, 3 car seats, 2 umbrella strollers, a backpack for carrying a child, 2 preschoolers, 1 infant, 1 grandmother, and 2 parents. I can’t believe it all fit.

At the airport, we probably looked like a clown car act as we unloaded. We piled bag after bag next to the sky hop’s podium, with the car seats precariously perched like mountain goats on top of it all.

You know when you get in the check-in line at the airport and see Those People in line in front of you? They probably have more than one child, they definitely have the maximum number of pieces of luggage allowed, and all of them seem to be talking at once? We were Those People. If I hadn’t been too busy trying to keep track of everyone, I might’ve felt bad for the people in line behind us.

Checking in was one of two moments at the airport I was dreading that day. I get nervous checking in for regular flights, but this was my first international flight with kids and I was the one responsible for making sure we got to this point with everything we needed for the next half year. As I put each suitcase on the scale, the knot in my stomach clenched a tad bit tighter for fear that bag would be over the weight limit. To my amazement, only one bag was too heavy, and we were charged a nominal fee for it.

My nerves weren’t calmed after we checked in, though. The biggest hurdle was still ahead of us: security. We emptied strollers of children and belongings, collapsed the strollers, herded kids, put bags on the x-ray conveyer belt, and removed shoes. Then I had to carry the baby through the metal detector in front of me with straightened arms. My arms, not hers.

We sat on the other side of the metal detectors putting ourselves back together watching unencumbered travelers heading down the concourse to their gates. What felt like an eternity later, but was probably only five minutes, we were reassembled and ready to go.

At our gate, we snacked on peanut butter crackers and apple juice until our flight to Dallas was called. All three kids were great on the flight. C and A played with pipe cleaners for quite a while and J slept.

It took forever to get off the plane, but when we finally we deplaned, the kids, Mom, and I lunched at McDonald’s, while Steve decided to get a last taste of home and went to the barbecue restaurant a little way down the terminal. On his way there, he passed a guy that he said looked just like Emmet Smith, former football player for the Dallas Cowboys. When he got to the barbecue place, he overheard a couple of employees talking about how Emmet Smith just picked up some food to go. Hmmm – McDonald’s with children versus NFL star sighting? Yeah, he won that round.

I’m going to take a break now. J needs some attention.



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