Writing Tips

There is not a single writer’s group meeting I attend that I do not learn something, or at least get inspired or motivated.  I even got a blog post (this one) out of it, plus a possible regional short story idea.  I like to write regional, because as Allison Mackenzie stated (at least in the movie) in “Peyton Place”, there is nothing like opening up a newspaper where the names mean something to you.  There is a peculiar sort of delight when I open up a book and see Pensacola (my hometown) or Poplar Bluff (my birthplace) mentioned.

One of the neatest things I learned was that it is possible to “age appropriate” your writing.  Just as there aren’t any recommended ages listed on children’s books (which I think is done on purpose, to sell more books; I’m such a cynic, I know), I wasn’t aware there was a way to figure out how to determine at what age level my writing was.

For my second collection of children’s nursery rhymes, “Golden Forks and Silver Spoons” (“Golden Stars and Silver Linings” being the first), in the “Just-so Stories” section (a la Rudyard Kipling), I “graded” my poem, “How the Colon Became a Semicolon” (who doesn’t love semi-colons, the noncommittal things they are), and have realized that perhaps I wrote a book of children’s poetry rather than simplistic nursery rhymes.

Because I am a “For Dummies” kind of person (I am consulting the “Dummies” books, rather than my textbook, to help me slog through the college course known as Computer Concepts), I want to share how grading our work is accomplished, screenshot by screenshot (as I am a visual learner).

Basically, just follow the cursor.  In the fourth screenshot, just make sure “show readability statistics” is checked.

2 3 4 5 6 7 8

That is how I wish all computer programing books were laid out, because I would so get it.

Now, onto my list of writing tips (which have helped me).  The 5-minute freewriting challenge that was posed to us at the meeting was on what makes one a successful writer, and this is what I came up with.

  1. Write everyday.  (Stephen King writes at least 2000 words a day.)
  2. Don’t edit as you go.  (For a perfectionist like me, this is extremely hard, but I’ve gotten better, because I’ve found that once I get it on paper, it’s a snap to go back and clean it up.)
  3. Submit at least twice a month.  (I would say once a week, but I haven’t even reached this goal myself yet.  I try to count my blog posts as submitting/publishing).
  4. Become a proponent of lifelong learning.  No matter what your major is, there is inspiration for writing everywhere.  My Anatomy and Physiology class inspired a series of medical poetry.  My ethics (philosophy) class has just plain inspired me.
  5. Nurture your spiritual side.  Just one verse in the Bible can (and has, for me) inspired an entire poem, short story or novel.
  6. Become proficient in Microsoft Word.
  7. Stretch your writing muscles by writing in different lengths and genres.  (I’ve also written the same story in poem and short story form.  However, I have found that before writing a novel, decide whether to write in first-or third-person.)
  8. Share your writing, but also be willing to listen to others share theirs, and give sincere compliments and constructive criticism.
  9. Have another creative outlet, such as photography, crafting, etc.  Anything that gives you a break from the screen, but keeps you away from the television.
  10. Don’t watch too much TV, or at least be purposeful in what you watch.  Don’t just turn it on for the sake of turning it on.  I don’t channel surf.  When I turn the TV on, there is something specific I want to watch.
  11. Be persistent.  What one publisher may not take a shine to, another one might.  Just look at the rejection as another opportunity to make it better.
  12. Once you believe a piece is as good as you can make it, put it away for at least six weeks (Stephen King may say six months, I can’t remember), so you will look at it with fresh eyes.  However, if there is a deadline, give it your best and send it in.  This is where being a perfectionist can be a hindrance.
  13. Read!!!

 

 

Brave New Worldview: Unhappiness is a Right, Too

I do not know what it is to be bored.  However, when I do find something boring, I tend to daydream (or, as a writer would say, brainstorm), which makes it excruciatingly difficult to complete mind-numbing and tedious tasks, such as assignments for my computer concepts class (I don’t believe you can be bored to death, but I do believe you can be bored to tears).  I could really use that drug from “Limitless” (the movie with Bradley Cooper) during those times, but caffeine and a good tutor will have to suffice.

Of course, drugs are often the answer; sometimes, they’re the right answer, like when I had strep throat.  However, taking a drug to keep from feeling any sort of negative emotion doesn’t seem healthy, unless it is so severe, that it wipes out any positivity in one’s life.  I find my class boring because it is (to me).  I’m not sure if I need a drug to focus, because I have laser-like focus in my ethics/philosophy class.  I think I pretty much remember everything my professors says because it interests me.  Questions that can have more than one answer intrigue me, and of course, writing is part of the course.

I never cared much for coloring in the lines when I was a kid either.  I would add my own pictures to the existing one, but I was happiest with just a blank sheet of paper.  I am a creator, but a discoverer, not so much.  I’d rather draw a skeleton than unearth one like an archaeologist.

I recently learned that it is okay (by an early childhood expert) to let kids be bored sometimes.  That’s when they learn to use their imagination and figure things out for themselves.  I always thought it was my duty as a parent to see that my child was never bored, and whenever my daughter would fuss, I’d run and try to distract her from her boredom (or what I assumed was boredom, as all her other needs were met).  Though I still set aside times for her to “learn through play, the Montessori way” with me as her teacher, I realize how valuable unstructured playtime is.  That was when I was most creative–when I was left to my own devices and imagination.

I’m not so sure about letting your child be unhappy (for there has to be a reason, whether it be they’re hungry, need changing, affection, etc.), but I do know that it would be exhausting to be happy all the time.  When I’m unhappy, sometimes I just want to be left alone to work it out; I don’t want anyone trying to cheer me up, because then I feel like I have to get happy, or I’m not being a good sport.  I don’t need a drug, I’m just experiencing a normal human emotion.

That said, I wrote an essay for my ethics class about this very thing (I didn’t choose the prompt, my professor did).  I don’t usually post my college papers online, but this tied in perfectly with my post.

Is the right to be unhappy a desirable right to exercise? Savage, of Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” quotes, “I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.” Is the right to be unhappy desirable only because it is a right?

Mr. Huxley goes on to write, “Actual happiness always looks pretty squalid in comparison with the overcompensations for misery. And, of course, stability isn’t nearly so spectacular as instability. And being contented has none of the glamour of a good fight against misfortune, none of the picturesqueness of a struggle with temptation, or a fatal overthrow by passion or doubt. Happiness is never grand.”

Science fiction often depicts the absence of sadness as an absence of happiness (for can one exist without the other?), in which at least a majority of the population have become mindless automatons. If one would ask rational human beings if they would prefer happiness over autonomy, most would choose the latter. Few want their happiness chosen for them, for what one person would consider a happy existence, another might not. Autonomy is considered essential to one’s happiness, even though having one’s autonomy intact might lead to decisions that lead to unhappiness.

According to the Declaration of Independence, everyone is free to pursue happiness (for few would choose to pursue unhappiness unless they’re a masochist), provided that one’s pursuit does not keep others from pursuing theirs.

The right to the pursuit of unhappiness should not be lauded, but the right to be unhappy should be. Many who have taken anti-depressants have tried to become happy, only to become worse off than they were before. They were trying to pursue a happiness that did not exist, except in their own mind. Drugs generally do not lessen the unhappiness, they just numb it.

Some couples are not happy unless they are unhappy.  They would not know what to do with themselves if they were happy, so they are happy in their unhappiness. 

Some creative individuals do not value their happiness as much as their art, which gives them fulfillment, which some would consider a lesser form of happiness.  They do not consider what they do as sacrifice, but rather as self-sacrifice.

The same goes for many Olympic athletes–children give up a happier life (free of hours of repetitious exercises) for a more rewarding one.

In “Brave New World”, the populace is put on a drug called soma, which sounds like today’s Prozac. Since it is against human nature to always be happy, is one ever happy if they go against their nature?

“Ask yourself whether you are happy, and you cease to be so,” the famous philosopher, John Stuart Mill, stated after recovering from a serious bout of depression. “Those only are happy who have their minds fixed on some object other than their own happiness…” 

Physician and philosopher John Locke distinguishes between “imaginary” happiness and “true happiness.”  Imaginary happiness can be seen as anything but happy, and yet, many humans will pursue it.  This segues into Robert Nozick’s philosophy that one is less happy if one’s experiences are lived through a filter of virtual reality, for the happiness gleaned from such a device would not be as good as a life of actuality.

George Sheehan, a physician and best-selling author of “Running & Being: The Total Experience” said that, “Happiness is different from pleasure. Happiness has something to do with struggling, enduring, and accomplishing.” 

The right to be unhappy just might be one of the many roads to happiness, and preserving it should be sacrosanct.

~

I’ll be honest.  If I had to give up my creativity and imagination to be happy all the time, I’d say no thank you.

One of the best quotes I’ve heard on happiness I read in my textbook.  “Happiness is like a butterfly; the more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder.”  –Henry David Thoreau

Famous Lady Desserts

Originally posted on Shrine of Dreams:

Sometimes great dishes are named after the chefs who create them, like Caesar Salad, or the place where they are served, like Waldorf salad, but often they are named for people that the chef wants to impress or who impress the chef. Desserts are often named after women because sugar-and-spice and all that sexist stuff, but who can object to these sweet treats?

Peach Melba:

The great chef Escoffier created this dessert for his friend Nellie Melba, the Australian opera singer. Nellie loved ice cream but feared that the frozen dessert would damage her vocal cords. Escoffier added peaches to insulate the effect so that Dame Melba could eat ice cream without fear. The first Peach Melba was served in a huge block of ice carved in the shape of a swan to commemorate Dame Melba’s performance in Wagner’s Lohengrin. The raspberry sauce was added in version 2.o.

Nellie seems to…

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Our Time

I’d written this awhile back for “Chicken Soup for the Soul”.  I’d written it in response to the popular saying (by many of the Christian persuasion, of which I am) that everything happens for a reason, which I do not believe.  Sometimes things just happen.  And in those instances, we can choose to find meaning in what happened, or make something meaningful come out of the experience. 

Taking an ethics/philosophy class has made me think a little more deeply about abstract things, but that’s what higher learning is supposed to do–make you think, not tell you what to think or how to think. 

Now here is my story, though few stories are truly ours, and ours alone to tell.  Sometimes, we just happen to be the messengers.

Stained glass window

It was 1981, the year of my birth, when my parents were robbed at gunpoint. They were managers of a cinema in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, and two men they fired had broken in. The whole episode must’ve had an effect on me in utero, for as a baby, whenever a light was turned on, I’d hold up my hands like I was part of a stick-up.

I literally dodged the bullet on that one.

When we were living in Rota, Spain, I contracted spinal meningitis at the age of six, losing all hearing in my left ear. When my mother was told by the doctor that most children die within 24 hours without treatment (I’d had it for three days before being diagnosed), I realize how lucky I was, and I wonder why me, instead of why not me? That is a question to which I haven’t sought an answer, thinking perhaps someday, the answer will come to me.

It wouldn’t be until years later that another medical miracle would occur in my family.

It was in February, a few years ago now, that my dad got real sick.

The first hospital he went to, he was told to go home and take a Motrin. He did so, but he only got worse.

He then went to our family doctor, who saw how ill he was. She called an ambulance for him, and he was taken to a second hospital. They kept him for a couple of days, then released him in a wheelchair, too weak to walk on his own, because they needed the bed.

My brother and I had a conversation with him during his stay that he doesn’t recall (which we found eerie), though he did remember a black minister coming to his room and telling him he was going to be all right.

A nurse, who showed up at our house the next day to check on him, told us to take him back to the hospital immediately. So we called another ambulance, where he was taken to yet a different hospital. Dad was diagnosed with pneumonia and a lung infection, including a blood clot on his lung. For five days, he was put into an induced coma in ICU.

Had that nurse not come, Dad would’ve surely died.

Dad’s near-death experience changed our lives in profound, and not so profound ways. He told our family dentist that he knew he was better because we were all mean to him again. My mom, dealing with the stress of not having enough money coming in, quit smoking just like that, and hasn’t smoked a cigarette since. I do believe we all become closer when these things happen, but then the awe and wonder that we have lived to love another day fades and life goes on again.

One can only guess why some things happen. I wanted to go into the military, but my handicap prevented that. Why did my dad have to get so sick, when it wasn’t his time to go? Maybe his getting sick, which led my mom to quit smoking prevented her from getting lung cancer in the future. Maybe my not getting into the Navy kept me from dying too soon.

We will never know.

I’m not one of those people who believes everything happens for a reason, but I do believe we can either find something good to come out of the chaotic events in our lives, or make something good come from them.

Relaxing at the Park on a Thursday Afternoon

Park bench

A getabout town always refreshes me, and improves my mood and performance for the remains of the day.  It was a sunny, but cool day in Northwest Florida, and I wasn’t going to waste it.

My husband and I went to Books-A-Million for a lookaround (my term for “window shopping”) with our daughter, who pretty much goes wherever we go, or stays at home with one of us.  Somehow, I think this is very important.

Walking into a bookstore is like a walking into a literary paradise–instead of a plethora of colors like the Crayola 64-pack, it’s 26 letters, all in different orders, not one the same.  Books, to me, are “unique and wonderfully created”.  Standing in the midst of it all, I realize how little time I have to read, how few books I have truly read.  I scarce can take it all in.

I use my husband’s cameraphone to take pictures of the covers of all the books I want to buy for less than half the price at Amazon, as I will never remember them.  I have quite a faulty memory–perhaps that is why I write,  why I take so many pictures.  I don’t ever want to forget how I felt when Hannah was born, how she looked when she first came out, or her incredible laugh that is contagious.  I want her to know someday what she cannot remember now.

Hannah got her first ride on a rocking horse today, and as I gaze around it, I see it is endless what we can learn, what we can teach.  The wheels of imagination are already turning, and I have to catch myself, to remind myself to enjoy this moment with her, as she is now.  There will be plenty of time to teach her how to make friendship bracelets.

We pass by the Dr. Seuss section while I think how I’d love to have my own section like that someday, but I ask myself, is Sarah Richards too plain, not memorable enough?  Should it be Dr. Something, like Dr. Yess (as opposed to Dr. No)?

We stop for coffee on the way to the park.  Sometimes I swing on the swings, but I was a bit of a grown-up today, finding myself telling my husband about rare genetic and mental disorders.  (Being a health major, I like to share my knowledge.)

We always put Hannah on the baby swing, her face away from the sun, and I was suddenly struck by the sun.  She was silhouetted, and I thought how this was a perfect day (reminding me of that Richard Paul Evans novel) encapsulated into one moment–a snapshot.  We try to cherish it, but we blink, and the moment has passed.

We’d passed by a man on the way to the swings, completely covered in a hoodie and sweatpants, his face indistinct, just sitting on a bench.  A little breeze came while Hannah was in motion, and then when I looked back, he was gone.

I do not trust men sitting alone in parks, seemingly disengaged from the scene before him.

So in thought was I over this, I thought nothing of the man behind me, near the tower of ropes.  I caught my husband staring at him, this man wearing sunglasses, who seemed removed from the scene, but watching the kids, another man a little ways back, looking at his cell phone.  The man in the glasses wasn’t interacting with the kids, and we wondered if any of them even belonged to him. When I turned to face him, I realized my perception was my reality.  I grew up watching crime shows with my mom, and I still catch a yet unseen episode of “Law and Order:  SVU” whenever I can.  I am always aware, always on alert.

The park was as bright as noonday, and yet, there was a darkness, like charcoal dust that still hung in the air.  Even though I might be happier not always seeing the dark side of things, I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I remember years ago, Oprah talked about “the gift of fear”, and how fear is good, because it protects us.

There was a time I thought I didn’t want kids, because I knew from then on, I would no longer ever be free from worry.  Now I know that the peace of mind I have sacrificed is worth it, because she is.  I knew when I found out I was going to become a mother, life was never going to be the same.  It wouldn’t be quite as tidy, that sometimes, I would have to stop in the middle of what I was doing to tend to her.  A part of me feared I would be too selfish, but I find myself sacrificing time and money I would have otherwise spent on myself, simply because I want to.

One doesn’t change themselves because they become a mother, they are changed because they become a mother.  At least that was how it was with me.  I like to say that one never truly understands how much their parents loved them till they have a child of their own.

 

Snapshots: A Life, One Line at a Time

I wrote this poem for a rhymezone (online rhyming dictionary) poetry contest (it’s a free contest, and those are like the Holy Grail), the theme being “Understanding”.  I’m not sure if I chose the right title, but I’m going with it.  I thought “Parenthood, Understood” might be too literal, so I went with “Snapshots”, as in flashbacks.

It’s autobiographical, and mostly unrhymed.  Perhaps that was why it flowed so easily through my fingertips.

It’s a bit long, but writing it brought to mind of something June Cleaver said to the Beav.  When he was trying to write about his dad, to make him seem more interesting, June said that instead of writing about what his father did, to write about how he felt about him.  That scene when the Beaver is reading his essay to Ward, still makes me misty-eyed.

Though my dad was a SAHM (stay-at-home dad), this poem is about my mom, too.

Dad

Snapshots

The night you brought me home,
I cannot remember.

The day you gave me my first bath,
I remember only what you told me—
that I held my breath till I turned purple,
and then you splashed me (gently) in the face,
startling me.

The day I took my first steps,
you cheered me on,
like you’d never seen it done.
I know, for I’ve seen the pictures.

The day I got sick and almost passed away,
when I wanted nothing more than apple juice
and a ride around in a wheelchair
with my redheaded Cabbage Patch named Michelle on my lap.
I remember that.

You told me Dad was there, with me,
as you were outside the door,
for you could not bear to hear my screams as they gave me a spinal tap.

I’m glad I don’t remember the pain,
only frayed fragments in golden hues—
the good things that remained.

I remember Kelly Morgan, my brother, was born around then,
and how I wished he’d been a girl.

The hearing on my left side was gone, and I,
not understanding that my world could have become a silent one.

I was not afraid as you were,
for I knew not enough to be afraid.

I remember when you took me to the private school with the clean walls,
and the playground with the skyscraping, spiral slide that was a terrifying vortex;
the school where all the teachers wore dresses and
where our hands had to be folded at our desks during quiet time,
the sound of the principal’s heels echoing down the hall.

Every morning, Dad would take me to Delchamps,
for a chocolate milk and a brownie for breakfast,
because eggs made me gag and he always burned the bacon.

I remember the days you picked me up from the public school,
so I wouldn’t have to sit on the smelly schoolbus,
horrid in the humid, Floridian clime,
kids scrawling with their fingers on the grimy windows,
windows covered with condensation,
making the glass appear frosted,
the inside like a giant snow globe,
the weak sunlight filtering in,
hazy like snow.

I remember the green vinyl seats were sticky in the heat,
the muddied dirt tracked in the aisles, catching in the grooves—
the long space imbued with a damp, earthy smell,
like mold, and clothes that had been washed and left too long.

I didn’t want to sit with the boy with the perpetual comb,
I didn’t want to sit with Melinda Sue,
I wanted to sit with you.

I remember all the times you took me to the bookstore in the mall,
always wanting the newest Babysitters Club book.

You instilled in me a love for reading,
for you read to me all the nursery rhymes—
stories of birds flying out of pies
and children living out of shoes.

Whenever you’d read to me, “Little Boy Blue”,
and you’d get to the part where he’d cry,
I’d beg you to stop reading,
with a tear in my eye.

I remember you wouldn’t let me watch “Married with Children”,
but instilled within me a love for old movies and glamour long gone,
of country music that sounded like country.
I discovered ABBA on my own,
but I wouldn’t have had it any other way,
for many of those things you showed me,
I love still today.

You introduced me to Pollyanna and Shirley Temple,
Candyland and Rainbow Brite,
with some Strawberry Shortcake on the side.
You laughed with me at Bullwinkle, let me love Lucy,
and watch Nickelodeon, back when it was good.

I never had a dollhouse,
but neither did I go without.
The fewer things I wanted, but could not have,
the more my imagination grew.
I appreciate that now,
as I could not then.

Plain white paper became snowflakes,
snowing confetti on the floor,
so the living room became a wonderland.
I was like Elsa, before Elsa came to be.

Then there were the endless guessing games,
games that drove Mom crazy,
and all the times you helped me with school projects
that didn’t make any sense to me,
some not even to you.

I remember all the summers you drove me up to Poplar Bluff,
to let me stay with my grandparents and be near extended family,
so that I could experience what you once had.

I don’t remember all the burned meals you served me,
but I know they sustained me.
I don’t remember every time you took me to a friend’s,
but I remember how friends were hard enough to make.
I don’t remember all the times I made you angry,
but it was never enough to strike,
and that wasn’t because I wasn’t so bad,
it was because you were so good.

I remember my high school graduation,
but I more remember you taking me to Mr. Manatee’s restaurant downtown,
now gone after Hurricane Ivan,
just ashes a-blowing in the wind.

I remember the day you came to my wedding,
even though I cannot remember your face,
for so focused was I on Brian,
thinking that life would never be the same,
for it marked the day it was time to put away childish things.

I remember you coming to the hospital when Hannah Beth was born,
but it was just my husband I wanted in the delivery room—
so many different kinds of love in one room,
it was like everything wonderful and happening all at once.

I still see you so often,
for you live just down the road.
I am so glad you get to know Hannah.
I know now I love her in a way you love me,
and you love her in the way your parents’ did.

The times I was away and didn’t call and you worried…
I’m sorry I didn’t understand your anger then.

No, I never knew how much you loved me,
till I became a parent myself.
But wait, that isn’t right…I knew all along–
the only difference now is that I understand.

Mom

Travel Tips (for those who don’t travel much)

downtown pb

My husband, daughter, parents and I just took a Christmastide trip to Poplar Bluff, Missouri, to visit our extended family–some of whom we hadn’t seen in over ten years.

P.B. is about 600 miles from Pensacola, and the thought of being cooped up in a car for twelve hours has always discouraged me, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more content.  Though I can spend hours reading, unless there is absolutely nothing out there, I can spend hours just watching the scenery.

It was an interesting ride, what with my mother yelling at my father most of the way (my dad calls her “high-octane”), but he is quite a skitzy driver who freaks out whenever he’s trying to make a turn and someone is behind him.

I say, I learned quite a lot about what NOT to do concerning travel.

  1. If you have a baby and are making hotel (or motel) reservations, always inquire about the availability of a crib.  Even if they say one is available, pack up the playyard just in case.  Three out of the three places we stayed in (two there, two along the way) did not have a crib.  We had to use our suitcase.
  2. It is NEVER worth getting up early for the continental breakfast.  In America, they are all !@#$.  The only decent (and by decent, I mean delicious) continental breakfast I’ve ever had was at a Ramada Inn in Saskatchewan.  It was a breakfast buffet with actual meat and fresh squeezed tangerine juice.  It’s been over ten years since I ate there, and I still remember it.  It was that good.
  3. Check the hotel room before checking it, and don’t forget to check the bathroom.
  4. Don’t bother bringing a cooler filled with sandwiches (no matter how great they are).  Everyone will prefer a hot meal at a fast food joint.  However, a cooler filled with beverages (especially water) is a good idea.  And don’t bother with a coffee thermos.  You can’t get away from a McDonald’s.
  5. Try not to eat at places you can eat at at home.  Make the most of where you are.  I (along with my parents) was quite upset when Spencer’s Barbecue (a local joint in P.B.) was taken over by some sport’s bar, so we went to Dexter Queen (Dexter is a smaller town just outside P.B.).  One of the major differences between Missouri barbecue and barbecue down South is that they put dry slaw/cabbage on the sandwich, which is delicious.
  6. Get an early start.  It’s no use getting to your hotel room at one in the morning and having to leave at eleven.  You need time to unwind after driving or wishing you were driving.
  7. Don’t forget to bring a book.  Being the cherry-picking Luddite I am, I’ve fought against e-books for years, but I’ve finally found a love for them as you can read them in the dark.
  8. If you don’t own a portable music device and will be borrowing someone else’s, test-try the earbuds.  My husband’s felt like tampons shoved in my ears.  Quite uncomfortable.
  9. Rent a car.  Don’t put all that wear and tear on your own car.
  10. Rent a big enough car.  Better yet, rent a minivan.
  11. Try to have as many drivers as possible.  My parents (because my husband and I didn’t have a credit card) were the only ones who could drive the rental.  I don’t get it, because it seems the more drivers there are, the better rested each driver will be.  It’s way too easy to go on auto-pilot.  However, most places will charge you for a third driver and so on.
  12. Don’t forget the camera and bring all the cell phones (just in case the battery dies in one).  Best thing about bringing your own camera is that you don’t have to worry about being tagged in a “fat pic” in a Facebook status.
  13. Don’t forget to put the DO NOT DISTURB sign on your door.
  14. Maximize your stops.  Whenever you stop for gas, use the restroom.  When you stop for food, use the restroom.  Whether you have to go or not.
  15. Eat a big breakfast before you go.  You will last longer.
  16. Bring a pillow.  I ended up balling up my sweater, which worked, but left behind more hair than a long-haired cat.  My husband said when we brought it back home, he’d take it out and shoot it.  I just put it in it’s cage, er, drawer, upon returning.
  17. Don’t take advantage of the computer facilities.  It feels SO much more like a vacation when you don’t.
  18. And if you have a baby, don’t forget to bring the paccie, blankie and favorite stuffed animal.  Keep snacks and a bottle and/or sippy cup up front.  Keep baby as comfortable as possible.  Comfy baby=sane parents.