Friday, August 31, 2007

In which I write a Pooh sort of entry

( this is a picture of Drew several years ago in one of the trees that are the view from my porch.)
I went to my thinking spot today, and I was plagued by mosquitoes.
There was nothing but bills in the mail.
And to top it off, a lovely gentleman at the park today commented on Jake's "large, hazel eyes." I knew they wouldn't stay blue.

You can't imagine how much better I am, though, at handling such a day than I used to be. First of all, after years of being told how miserable our attitudes can make other people feel, I finally realized that I care - so I try harder. Secondly, the thinking spot is still wonderful. I just caught it at an awkward moment; we all have them. My spot is my front porch, because from there I can see huge tall trees - which remind me of bigger, stronger things than my troubles - and Dave's house which is like a postcard of all that is sweet and wonderful in the world. It's "not a through street" - does that make sense to big city people? Not that any of them are reading this - but that simply means that it's really just one long block and then you have to turn right or left at one of the ends in order to get anywhere else. Well, that's not a simple way of explaining it, but my point is - it's very quiet, almost like a private drive. I feel like the world can't get me there unless they try very hard, and if they're trying that hard, then I probably want to be gotten anyway. It's a lovely street.

And finally, of course, there's the alive thing - in that, I'm glad I am. So I got through the day not just tolerably but still loving my porch and quite sure that the bills will get paid and absolutely certain that Jake's eyes are beautiful no matter what color you call them. And . . . at least it's not a Wednesday.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

a note on Thursdays

I think Thursdays are the week's birthday. I love Thursday like I love Halloween. It's not technically the best day maybe, but it's the last little moment before the best ones. And anticipation is almost always better than the actual thing you're anticipating. Thursday is Weekend-Eve, which makes me so happy. For me it really is Weekend Eve because my work week is Sunday through Thursday. I suppose by this theory, then, Wednesday should become my new Thursday, but - well - I mean come on, there is so little to love about Wednesday. I put a real picture up today. These are my happiest thoughts. They totally get me through Wednesdays.

But I was thinking especially about that youngest one, gleaming at us angelically through black and white. He wanders around me while I work through the day - spilling things, ripping things up, pulling my hands off the keyboard while I try to type, leaving fall risks every few feet from here to the living room, putting things in the VCR, wanting held when I'm busy, ignoring me when I remember he's the best thing on the planet - you know how it goes. Well, I was kissing the life out of his poor little cheek today just before I put him down for his nap, and I was very aware that perhaps he had me all giddy in that moment because he was about to go down for a nap. Anne Shirley in Anne of the Island once discovered a letter from her mother that said of Anne: I love her best when she's asleep, and better still when she's awake.

That completely ridiculous use of superlatives throws the reader off from the first sentence which proves my point. There is something about the fact that they eventually go to sleep. Evening comes, bath time finally ends, albeit with me soaking wet and exhausted, and then comes that wonderful happy snuggle with him the cleanest he will ever be from that moment until this time the next night, and he's giggly and busy and wonderful, but then he goes to bed.

I don't know what humans would do without sleep. I usually thank God profusely for that scientific phenomenon every time I finally sink into bed at night. But now that I have children I get it even more. I love them best then. Or maybe right before then - kind of like Thursday.

And of course - I mean, look at those faces - of course - it's better still when they're awake.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Or as Jamie would say, "There's a song that's inside of my soul . . ."

There are some things in life I just love - the singing of the national anthem at a sporting event for one. I mean, isn't it amazing for an entire crowd of people to be that respectful toward one thing at the same time? Especially lately when our country is so polarized. (I don't have a label created yet for political commentary because it's probably never going to happen, so I won't expound). Anyway, the anthem moment, the way people in small towns wave at every passing vehicle as if to acknowledge we all belong somewhere, and - the reason I began the list at all today because it's the point to my post - catching someone singing in their car. I love that. I never really thought about it until one day when I was really soul-weighty. It was during my year with cancer when fear of the unknown and fear of leaving my children sort of hung underneath all other thoughts and kept them from floating. Then I saw someone singing in their car, and I realized like never before, now that is a person free of worry. I vaguely remembered that feeling, and I hoped I would get it again someday. I'm very, very aware now when I feel like singing in the car. Kind of like when I was nauseated for at least five months of my last pregnancy and I told my husband, "Do me a favor. Sometime well after the delivery [of this little monster, I implied but certainly did not mean], just casually ask me one day, 'How's your stomach feel?', because I know I will forget this moment. I will forget how awful this is. The nausea will fade slowly one meal, one day, one "what-dolt-called-this-morning-sickness" at a time, and I will completely take for granted the desire to eat and the thrill of not throwing up afterwards."
That's how I feel when I sing in the car now. It reminds me that sometimes in life I haven't felt so happy or so free, and what a wonderful thing that in this moment, I do. This picture is from a good movie soundtrack. It has nice singable songs in it. Dare You to Move by Switchfoot is one of the best sing-in-the-car songs . And there are nice pop/love songs on it and of course the teary, moving, kind of haunting Only Hope, also by Switchfoot but sung on the CD both by them and by Mandy Moore (in character as Jamie Sullivan, Moore explains to us on the DVD commentary for the movie). Anyway, I've felt like singing in the car lately. And I didn't take it for granted. Just like the fact that I wanted, ate, and did not regurgitate all my meals today, all day long. It's a beautiful thing.

Monday, August 27, 2007

with great power comes great responsibility, which kinda stinks for me

I think deep down we all assume as young women that something will magically transform us from people to moms as soon as we have children. It does happen actually. It comes in small defining moments starting with the first time you realize the little squirming bundle actually does belong to you and isn't just some cool parting gift they're sending you home with from the hospital. Some of the moments are pretty magic, and after eight years I have fully surrendered to one such super power. I used to get so annoyed when things were lost in the house, because it happened eighteen times a day. "Mom, where's my Batman?" "Mom, where's that ship I was flying?" "Mom, where's that [indescribable toy that apparently came from a restaurant or something and does some indescribable thing]" I will always answer with this: How could I possibly know that? You are the one who was playing with it. But when I can no longer ignore their exasperated, if completely unsystematic, searching, I finally put down what I was doing and join them. And almost without fail, there it is. I find it after about two tries. It's like I get a vision of the stupid thing and where exactly it has managed to lodge itself. My husband lost his work keys once and I just sat down and waited for the vision, and it came. I sat straight up, lifted the computer chair cushion, reached inside it's liner, and there were the keys. "How in the world did you do that?" my husband asked. Well: I'm Mom, SuperFinder. (I vaguely remembered Jake with some keys at some point that day in my peripheral vision, and I vaguely remembered his sticking his hand in the liner at another point in the day - I put them together and, wah-lah, the vision).

The thing is, I used to really fight it. Every time I found something I would think, "Darn it, I found another one. Now they'll never quit asking me where stuff is." So again and again, "How should I know . . . . etc, etc., and then, Oh here it is." Aargh. Well, I've surrendered to it now. I'm quite proud of it. Now when I find something I just brag, "It's like they call to me! I am the world's best finder! I had no idea what you were even talking about, and I found it! I'm so good at this, really, someone should pay me for it. I know, I know, what would you do without me? And thank you, I'm here all week."

Friday, August 24, 2007

My sister totally came through for me today. She arrived at my house with a stack of books. They include one that she feels every girl who grew up Christian ought to be able to say she has read (so I'm not sure why I haven't yet) some that will make me feel intellectual - you know, "Well I really enjoyed . . . .", and one because an author I admire says it is one of her favorite recent books. As soon as she handed them to me and told me all this, I added them to . . . the Nest. That's what Mom calls it. It's a trait I share with Dad - one Mom's had to deal with their entire married life. It's cool to realize you share something with your dad that sort of defines him for you - that is, if you like your dad - as I do. Dad loves to read, and when I picture him in his element, it's like a young Italian C.S. Lewis - (We are not even remotely Italian, but Dad's olive skin and dark hair just seem Italian to me) because he is surrounded by books - behind him on shelves, next to him on end tables, in front of him on a flat leather ottoman and open on his lap - or some more minimal combination of all that. He even has the reading glasses. It's very wonderful and Lewisy. The Nest is the stack of books and magazines he is currently reading, and it moves around with him from the bed to the living room to the office - so he can grab from it when the moments arise. My nest currently is in a big pink and lavendar gift bag from my birthday. It has two books I was working through that I now want to rush so I can move on to my sister's offerings, two InStyle magazines I haven't gotten around to yet, my journal, and a notebook in which I'm working on a novel - and by notebook I mean Mead - not Apple. I work on a computer eight hours a day for my paid gig, I can't bring myself to stay on it for the writing - not until revision time anyway. Although it's not the computer I tire of (that's a whole other post - my addiction to the computer). No, it's the chair and the home office. Those I just have to leave. So I'll gladly upgrade the Mead to an Apple when I can as I've finally outgrown the conviction that I can only be creative with paper and pen.
So anyway - The Nest is huge now, and I can't wait to get through it and then build it up again. That's one difference between Dad's nest and mine. He can remove a book from the nest and return it to the shelves if he feels he's read enough of it to get the gist. But once I've started a book I can't not finish it - even if I hate it. I rarely actually hate any book I pick up, but I have been bored by page 3 or apalled on page 27 on occasion. Still, I finish them every time. Well - there are a couple of exceptions. Those books take a break on the less portable nest - the little bookshelf by my bed. I still intend to finish them one day but, seriously, Billy Graham's autobiography is long.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

It had me at hello

I stumbled onto a book being released in September of this year that is a memoir based on one woman's search for all things Austen and how it affected her faith. Um, canNOT wait for that. I've been tempted to go down that road myself - you know, instead of trying to write great, original fiction I could just write fiction (or nonfiction) completely based on the fiction I already love. So I really want to read and see how this woman approached it. But that's a side note - the actual point is that I hate to admit it, but I'm one of those people who probably did not really discover Austen until the movie Sense and Sensibility. I liked Emma possibly even more than that one, and that's when I started in on the books. Shamefully, I did not read Pride and Prejudice until, well, I can't even believe how much of my life lacked the sheer felicity of reading that book. So here is what I'm wondering, what other treasures am I missing? What other books are out there that could fill out my I-will-love-these-books-forever repertoire?

It's a literary fact so well-known that it's completely lame to even mention it, but all of these books have the best first lines. The moment I read them, I am there. And, that's right, I'm also one of those people. I read my favorite books often. A book I only want to read once is not a book to me. It's more like a really long one of those B movies that I rented once and of which I can no longer even remember the plot. I'm such a snob that way. I know lots of people just want to read a book once and move on. Their tastes are surely more eclectic than mine in that way. But anyway, I like my books to be friends, and I want them to befriend me from the very first line.

And here's the punchline for today. If you've only seen the movie of this one, you are missing out on one of the most entertaining reads of all time. "The year that Buttercup was born, the most beautiful woman in the world was a French scullery maid named Annette." Read the rest. You'll love it.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

In which I review a movie from my cabinet at home

I've been thinking about the Truman Show today. I love that movie. I take it waaaay too seriously, which I have to assume was kind of the point. I mean, surely, you don't write lines like, "People accept the reality with which they are presented," unless you intend to be deep - don't you think? If you haven't seen it - briefly - Truman was adopted at birth and raised in a world created by a television studio. He thinks he's living his life, but everyone else around him is just acting, and his decisions are subtly made for him by the producers. The concept completely fascinates me and, frankly, I've been there. I've made decisions that were really kind-of sort-of made for me. I've lived life in a fog sometimes, refusing to see what was real and what was ridiculous.

The scene I keep thinking about today is the one where Truman is pouring his heart and fears out to his "best friend". And the whole time the best friend is placing, removing, and re-placing the same six candy bars into a vending machine because he doesn't actually do that for a living. I don't know why - it's just making me smile today. And I need the smile, because on the inside I'm actually Truman getting out of the boat and hitting the wall that's painted to look like the sky. It's awful when you realize life is happening to you instead of your actually living it. I've been here before. And I eventually get a breakthrough. Because it's almost all perspective. It's waking up and looking around from an objective point of view to see which things are real and which things are just for television. So to speak. I guess normal people would just say, "I'm reexamining my priorities." But where is the drama in that?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Is it 3 o'clock yet?

A beautiful skit once taught me: Our children can never possibly love us as much as we love them. It is amazing that with my dramatic emotions I can believe that statement but not be devastated by it. You have to admit it's true. I don't know any love on earth greater than the one I feel for my children. I have massive love for my parents and somehow even more for my husband. But the love I feel for those little creatures that were born from me - it hurts, it's so big. I'm thinking about it today because it's the first day of school. Which suddenly means something entirely different than it did when I was the one traipsing off with the new school supplies, clutching my lunch money. It was a cool adventure then. A happy return to a smorgas board of familiar friends plus new books and teachers and desk assignments. I loved it. It was the perfect fresh start after a perfect, lazy summer. But today I'm the mom. And I'm thinking about the day when I was a little girl and my three siblings and I came skipping home from the first day of school in our squeaky new shoes, stuffed full of news from the day, and Mom was sitting on the porch waiting for us. She spread her arms almost as wide as the porch itself and swept us into her arms, and I swear there were tears in her eyes. You know what she said then? "You're a sight for sore eyes."

I so get that today. I'm sitting here on my porch - at my computer actually - just about to cry at the mere idiocy that I even have a first grader and a second grader. I'm picturing their eager faces in the line at school as I left them this morning. I have myself tied to the computer chair so that I don't drive up to the school and give John his lunch money that must have fallen out in the car this morning - it won't be a big deal, and I shouldn't leave work for it, but every time I imagine his face when he realizes he's lost it, I can barely stay put without tearing out of here like there's a bomb threat at the school. And I'm picturing 3 o'clock when they are finally released through the school doors into my arms. And I won't care that they don't cry. I won't care that they didn't even think of me as they faced their new adventure. But I'll empathize with my mother like never before, because, oh my Lord, will they be a sight for sore eyes.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Today I saw a butterfly on the subway . . .

Since Becoming Jane wasn't in my town, I watched it somewhere else. I only saw teeny bits and pieces of it because my toddler wasn't interested. I saw just enough of it, though, that I do want to see the rest. And my mother and sisters told me how it ended since we were all at the same showing. We found it more difficult to suspend our disbelief while watching a fictional portrayal of Austen's real life than we do when we watch the movies based on the fiction she wrote. It felt like a lesser version of everything I love in her fiction. The chubby, overbearing mothers in Austen's fiction are comically lovable. This version of her real mother was mostly sad; she was so desperate for Jane to escape poverty. The balls were less poetic, the romance less appropriate, and the happy ending much harder earned. And even then, it was a lesser happiness. But it fascinated me. As someone who wants to be a writer, I enjoyed watching Anne Hathaway act as one. And although I know it was a made-up version of something that might have happened to Austen, I believed the general concept - that our real lives are less neatly tied than the stories we will create. And that shown without the poetic descriptors writers love, real life would look rather like a bland imitation of good fiction. Which of course is what I love about writing. When it's worded well, it's prettier. Even the most mundane of events. And then they are captured that way forever.
We all often find our lives mirroring something we saw or read in movies or books (a la Kathleen Kelly and the butterfly on the subway in You've Got Mail - oh my goodness, that movie has great lines). But it really truly is the other way around. Life just looks better when captured in an art form. It's why I write in journals. One for myself, one for each of my children. They're like a scrapbook without the cutting and the gluing. Those 5-year-old birthday parties are such a chore (we don't even do them, frankly), but how wonderfully poetic they look on a scrapbook page surrounded with interesting borders or in a slide show set to music about how quickly children grow. It's the same with journaling. It just captures the moment and seals it as a beautiful thing. It makes life stand still and mean something.

Friday, August 17, 2007

When is this movie coming to my town?!

You know what I love about a good Austen movie? The silences. I love those parts where they sit around a table, or a sitting room, and all you can hear is the occasional clinking of silverware. In most Austen scenes you can also hear the less than graceful smacking of one of the comedic characters as they eat. There is so much said in those silences. I love it. I love it in books too - I've said it's all about the character for me. I like to enjoy the characters enough that I can sit in silence with them. I like to see the room in which they sit and know perhaps why the pillows rest where they do and how long that painting has hung above the couch. I like to hear clocks ticking, whether there are birds or late-summer locusts outside the windows. Does the room smell like it was just cleaned? Or like it never needs to be cleaned at all? I know a writer is supposed to leave quite a bit to the reader's imagination but I think personal descriptives are sorely lost in modern books. Maybe it lacks literary intelligence but I don't mind if you tell me exactly what a person looks like the moment they are introduced. In fact, you might as well, because if you dare to throw in frizzy hair or a chipped tooth in some later scene, you might really lose me.

If it were up to me, modern books would still begin with Once upon a time. In that first paragraph I want to be placed not just into a scene, but into a life. Hopefully, then, somewhere in the middle, I can sit at a table with the characters and thoroughly enjoy the silence (and the clinking silverware and the smacking gums).

Thursday, August 16, 2007

I was putting some books I enjoy on my profile today, which got me thinking about books I like and why I like them. One of my favorite authors is L.M. Montgomery. I would never tell this to someone in publishing or someone in higher education or, say, print it on a blog for all the world to see (wait a minute . . . ). But anyway, she is. The reason I like her is because she wrote books that I want to live with for a while and read again and again. They're wholesome, a characteristic not necessarily considered a merit by true literary types, but I thoroughly enjoy a book in which I am not likely to turn the page and find myself in the middle of a crime scene or an illicit, adulterous affair. One of her characters, Emily, wrote a book once that was published, and a critic said it was, "A story that will not corrupt its readers." Even Emily's elderly family members in the book recognized the comment as less than favorable, and I have always wondered if some critic said that about one of Montgomery's books at one time. There is so much in the world to corrupt us already, plenty on the news to scare us, plenty in our daily lives to cloud us. Don't we want books at least sometimes that show us the best of life instead of the worst? Evidently I do - the books in my profile will prove it. There aren't many modern ones there. Although I grew up, my library never did. I'm trying to branch out but finding so far that I don't like the grownups very much. Maybe I haven't tried hard enough. Maybe, even though I switch toothpastes every time I go to the store and practically live for new things (see previous post), maybe when it comes to reading, I just can't change.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Because Mom always told me I was special, and I believed her

I love new things. And somehow the little new things make me even happier than the big ones. I mean a new house would be so cool right now. But this new thing - my new phone - can fit, you know, in my purse. I can carry it everywhere. I won't be haunted by the fear that God is going to let it burn to the ground because I love it too much and therefore "have an idol" (I know, oh my goodness, don't even get me started on my strange ideas about God's feelings toward my love of material things). And I got it in this very cool deep red shade because now every time I pull it out I will think of new lip gloss, or that beautiful red purse I got with Christmas money one year or those burgundy platform sandals that my husband hated and my sister said I looked like a Barbie doll in, and I can therefore persist in thinking that I am a deliberate nonconformist and that I pull it off beautifully - when the truth is of course that my predictable reaching for noncomfority is the epitomy of conforming - that's why they make the red phone. But I'm getting it anyway. I am completely clothed and accesorized by 23-year-old advertising writers, and I don't care. I'll never remember that when I'm using my phone. I love new things.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

"Kinda deep for [an eleventh post], don'tcha think?"

We went canoeing on the river this weekend. I'm not an outdoorsy type, but I kind of loved it. I tried to be snobby about it in my head. I mean, it's not the most glamorous vacation. It's no ocean in California. It's not a house in the Hamptons. It's a river. And a canoe. And 2-dollar water shoes from Wal-Mart so you can walk on the rocks in the river. But it was amazing. It was peaceful for one thing. It can be kind of a party river on Fridays and Saturdays we hear, but we went on Sunday and for the first half of the day we did not see another living soul. The water is clear and very cool. There are huge Missouri bluffs all around and the trees that grow on them seem to be pressed so tightly against each other that you could walk across their leafy tops. I tried to think about my work troubles. I tried to think about how much I'd like to see my book published. I tried to worry and fret and feel blue about the unfinished things in my home, my mind - our lives. Couldn't be done. None of those things even seemed to exist anymore.

I tried to be snobby about river people too. During the second leg of the trip, they seemed to appear out of the trees themselves, half-dressed and toting diapered toddlers and intertubes full of beer. But there wasn't much to be snobby about. It was sweet in an old-fashioned, "we made what fun we could afford" sort of way as young families and groups of teenagers streamed out of the terrible heat into the crisp, cool water that sometimes rippled as if to shake off any filth.

I'm trying to write my first novel, and I so want to write Missouri well, because I figure if I can't make what I know best enjoyable to read than I certainly couldn't make Paris or New York City seem alive. Canoeing down the Current River inspired me to press on. We have things to love here too. Any life can look beautiful if you show it's layers. Even thirty minutes after dragging our canoe on the the final sand bar (i.e., beach-like area covered with river rock), when I suddenly became aware that I had been jumping into a river all day and the filth couldn't possibly have all washed away with the rippling - even then, I was trying to push away the thoughts I had been reaching for only eight hours before. I was smiling about the boy standing on the bluff who was so excited when we let him jump from it and splash us as we passed in our canoe. I was thinking of the ice-cold spring that comes from the cave we can no longer explore and how amazing the earth really is. I mostly just wanted back in that canoe, on the river, watching the bluffs. It was simpler there, and I miss it.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Dear son, you may not remember me . . .

We're off on a float trip for a few days, and my 1-1/2-year-old is going to stay with my parents. It's amazing how much I can already miss the same child who makes me throw my hands up in despair every time he spills milk all over the floor or unfolds the clean laundry. Besides missing him - I'm afraid. I'm like Paul and Jamie on that episode of Mad About You when they were going to take separate planes so that Mabel would not end up completely parentless if one of the planes should wreck. I don't like that the whole family is going to be in the same little car racing down the highway risking life and limb while poor little Jake waits at home. What if we have an accident and leave him forever? And do I realize that what I'm actually saying is that I'd rather we die together than live apart? I went away for a weekend once without my husband or sons and literally wrote them a goodbye letter in my journal, just in case. I'm very dramatic that way. And just like that time, my fear feels very, very real. I told my husband it doesn't feel like an irrational fear, it feels like a premonition - and then I cited the time mentioned above when I wrote the goodbye letter. "Right. So did anything happen, though?" he said all calmly and rationally and completely lacking in drama. "No," I admitted. So I'm totally fine now. I'm not the least bit afraid. Ce la ve, right? Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go write in Jake's journal.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

I love Paris in the spriiiing-tiiiiimmme

Ratatouille did a wonderful thing for my family. No, I'm afraid it did not stir my cooking urges. Still pretty much just do that 'cuz I have to. Nope, better than that. It gave me an ally for Paris. As in, I dream of being there someday, and now I have a partner in crime. Unfortunately rather than my husband with whom I would most like to visit Paris, it's my 7-year-old. Almost 8. He's a teensy bit obsessed. You remember what it's like when you're a kid and you start to connect one thing to another, like when your parents listened to solid gold Saturday night and you recognized all your favorite commercials? He's like that with Paris now. Whenever it's mentioned on anything, "Ooh, I want to go to Paris! I heard they have great food there." We just kind of ignore the fact that the same movie that told us Paris has great food (as if we didn't know that) also implied that it's quite possible our food will be prepared by literal street rats.

And while I'm on the subject, did you see No Reservations? (Katherine Zeta-Jones . . . that one guy whose in lots of stuff, but I can't remember his name . . . .) This movie also glamorized life from a restaurant kitchen which fascinated me because it made me feel I was getting a peek behind the scenes in Hollywood - I mean, you just know some writer or producer somewhere made a comment about writing a screenplay in which the location was a restaurant kitchen, and some other producer was, like, at the next table or in the next stall - or possibly even at the same table! - only one of them works with animation and the other one works with modern day Grace Kellys. I think about these things because, frankly, I wish I'd been at the third table and could have gotten my name in for that role as the New York chef who gets to wear those coats and the chic little page-boy caps . . . . Ahhh. That's a long way from Ratatouille, but it all ties in if you followed me.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

I am a superstar, 4 real

According to my Yahoo homepage today, the little baby in Australia can't be named 4real, so the parents are going to officially name him Superman but call him 4real. Which reminded me of an episode of The View I saw once which reminded me of the fact that I am totally a celebrity undiscovered. I'll try and get ya there - One day a long time ago the ladies were talking about celebrities naming their children ridiculous - I mean, really beautiful and special - names. Joy Behar said they were celebrities in the first place because they were narcissistic and craved attention, so it would follow that they would try and give their children that same edge by having strange names. I totally agree. And the reason I agree is because I am one of them, just not so much. I have a unique name too, Serenity. And oh my goodness I love the fact that people remember you from second grade or from that day they met you at the park when you were eight. I asked a question of a famous author in one of those kid literary day classes (what are they called?) and he mentioned me in the next class. I know this because the acquaintances in that next class knew he must have been talking about me and told me later. I can pretty much count on a comment whenever I introduce myself. And here's the thing, I enjoy this. And if I could pass it on to my own children . . .well, it's too late for that. Because I married a man who I think has the most wonderful name on the planet, but so did the majority of America for about 20 years running, and he too prefers the solid, manly names. He might have let me go unique for a girl, but our boys are going to know right where they stand in the naming polls for several decades and when they stand in front of a key chain display, their name will definitely be there. So anyway, I kinda sympathize with the Australian couple except, well, it's not so cool that they used their newborn to get their own 15 minutes of fame is it? A unique name is one thing, then the focus stays on the person. But a name that gets the government involved because it simply isn't legal? For the rest of his life, rather than, "that's a cool name", that kid is definitely going to get questions about his parents. That may be taking our narcissism one generation too far.

Monday, August 6, 2007

My summer of reading

Last year I went to a writer's conference and finally had all the inspiration I needed to keep working on a book I had started writing and actually finish it. This year I went to the same conference. My memoir was already written and this time I left inspired to read. When you are a writer who doesn't yet actually write - that is, your head is full of ideas and your computer is full have half-begun chapters and stories and articles, then the question you will absolutely get asked at these things is, "What do you want to write?" And when you aren't quite sure of the answer to that you will be asked, "Well, what do you like to read?" Well, it's not so much that I didn't know the answer to that question - it's that I was too embarassed to confess that I would still rather read Anne of Green Gables than about any other book ever, except maybe its sequels. If I wanted to sound slightly more intellectual I could say Jane Austen (as in, everything she ever wrote? Not really - mostly just the three that became movies I like). So after this conference I knew for certain, I had to increase my library.

I feel I've failed miserably though. My answer to the question, "What do you want to write?" is still, "Um . . .well kind of . . .you know, like . . . ." I plan to keep reading. :-)

But in my head I know exactly what I want to write: I want to write characters and stories that people want to live with the way I can live with Anne. I like a good mystery and the extremely plot-driven stories. But when I reach for a favorite, it's almost all about the character for me. I want to enjoy watching them move, hearing them think, seeing them discover the world around them and their place in it. I love reading from Austen's era - the dresses! The food! The fact that they spent all day every day visiting each other! Love it. But I don't want to write about her era. Then it's historical fiction. Is there any way to make the feel of a good pair of blue jeans as appealing as pale green organza with ruffles at the shoulder and a flounce in the back? And more to the point: Is there any way to put all of that in a genre? I'm thinking "coming of age". At least, I'm definitely going to say that instead of "Um, well, you know . . . ."

Sunday, August 5, 2007

thoughts on the bread and the cup

I was never a big fan of communion. That little plastic cup and the tiny bite of bread - it did nothing for me. In fact, I found it oddly embarrasing or something. I mean, the symbolism really is kind of hard to understand, don't you think? At the church I grew up in my disconnect to the symbolism was sort of overwhelmed by the dramatic way in which we took part. No sitting in the chairs, passing the brass trays around and drinking in one fluid motion for us. We walked around to each other, broke off pieces of the bread and traded them, prayed with each other, and hugged for sometimes two full minutes per friend. I didn't really have to think about my actual consumption of the juice and bread because I could focus on the one-another part instead.

As I grew up, so did my faith. It has had huge ups and downs. After each major season of doubting I usually had a breakthrough of some sort in which I yet again knew that I knew I would believe in Him forever and that I was glad He had saved me. After enough of those, I was completely sold on the concept. My doubts these days may be about Christianity or how exactly to walk it out, but they're never about Him. So communion is now one of my favorite things. It really changed for me one day when I was visiting a big church. We only knew two families in the whole place, and we were in a city we were unfamiliar with. This church does the communal cup and you dip your bite of bread into the cup as the preacher tells you "This is the body of Christ given for you and the blood of Christ shed for you . . .". As I watched so many strangers form lines and stream to that cup, I cried and cried. I suddenly got it. Well, maybe not it. I certainly couldn't preach a sermon on why exactly Jesus wants us to pretend we are eating His flesh. But I connected to the concept. Because the people in the room were all so different from each other. I knew almost none of them. But when it came to that cup, we were one. We all had that in common - the belief that Jesus was somebody, that He means something, and that we're better off because of Him. Because of that moment, I now greatly prefer the communal thing - (I've never been much of a germaphobe). But even the little plastic cups mean something to me now. It doesn't matter how we do it. I just love the fact that it's done.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

It's in the stars, or the planets or something

Yesterday my fortune cookie (wow, I eat out a lot) said, "Your hidden creative talents are about to be revealed." And it really was my fortune cookie. I didn't wait until mine and the boys' were all open and then pick the happiest one. Of course, this means it's completely true.

Fortune cookies like me though. I once had a Chinese dish at Country Kitchen and a fortune cookie came with it. That Sunday the preacher had talked about how much we should want Jesus to return, and I had just been talking about it with Dad - how I knew I should feel that way, but I really wanted to get married first and do big things, and I don't know - whatever arrogant dreams I was so sure of at the time. Right after this, I opened the cookie. It was EMPTY. No fortune at all. Apparently they have a sense of humor too . . .

Yesterday was my birthday. Now I'm not just 30, I'm 30-something. My mother told me she prayed for me that morning and thought about how many of my dreams have come true. All day I felt full of that same emotion. My boys made me smile all day and laugh even more than usual - I kept feeling overwhelmed by the sheer amount of good-looking that I'm surrounded with all day, I mean these boys are seriously cute. And my husband and I love each other with all the intensity of a ten-year marriage yet still like each other as much as we did in 5th grade. I get so antsy about my job and my wish to be a writer (a la the post a couple days ago), and then I get so put out with myself for it - because all the important things are already intact. So yesterday the realization of those things far outweighed thoughts of the unfinished ones. Hopefully it will last at least as long as the birthday cake.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Fountain drinks, words, and being real

Here's a question - how long does a fountain machine for soda have to be before several people can stand there and pour their drinks at once? I mean, technically just two levers would be enough for two people right? So why do I feel the need to wait for the person in front of me when he is the only one standing at a line with, like, 10 levers? I think it was the way he was standing. He was using a lever smack dab in the middle of the machine and - I don't know - his posture or something. It was like he had both arms out to his sides strongly suggesting he needed the entire space in order to pour his Dr. P. So I waited.

At a previous restaurant today I overheard my 5-year-old son say something extremely shocking and inappropriate. I scolded him a couple of times and then scolded his older brother for good measure too. But I'm also planning to whip out the ol' Psalm 19 speech. It's one of my favorite scriptures - Ps. 19:14, May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight (I love this part), O Lord, my Rock, and my Redeemer.

I always prided myself on being real, the one who would ask the question everyone else was thinking. The one who never even considered hiding my emotions no matter how unpleasant they were. I still believe in being real. But several years ago, I started thinking about that scripture a lot and I started praying - Couldn't my reality just not be so annoying? Maybe rather than being fake to the person no one could stand - maybe I could actually find some reason to truly appreciate them. Maybe instead of giving in to the dark cloud that is my crappy mood when I'm hot and/or hungry and/or exhausted - maybe I could find a happy thought, hang on for dear life, and speak to people from that place. So I still strive for honesty, reality, whatever you want to call it. But I also keep trying to make the reality something worth showing - you know, the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart . . . .

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Day jobs are undesirable

I met a real live movie producer this year at a writer's conference. He passed out folders full of information about his website for submitting screenplays, and it included a pin that said, "Day jobs suck." I wore it on my belt loop that whole next week. Under my shirt because I didn't really want my children to pick up that little phrase. I grew up in circles that did not approve of that vernacular. And my dad abhors it, which has stayed with me as well. From that same "circle" I met a family once who had replaced the slang with the word "undesirable". Over cyber space it probably just sounds like a lame attempt at censoring , but in person, and considering their sense of humor as a family, it was just very funny and memorable for me. So I adopted it. Unfortunately I've noticed that when most things are undesirable, to use that phrase just does not match my feelings on the matter. The shorter version is much more fitting to the mood. Still, I think it's a pretty good word for day jobs. Because I don't really want to shout or cuss about my day job. I really really want to be grateful for it. But, alas, I am so not. I don't want a day job. I want a job that I love. And at this point I'm in a very stuck sort of place in which I don't know what to do about it all.

I work from home. Currently my youngest is not yet 2. I love working from home. I love that I have a little structure and routine, that I can contribute to our finances, and that we don't have to sell a kidney for the cost of childcare. But eight hours on the computer typing medical reports while my toddler manages with much less attention than I would like to give him - it's taking a toll. I'm not enjoying it. So what's a girl to do? In my free time (that's such a funny imaginary sort of phrase) I am trying to become a published writer. Good luck with that, I am certain you're thinking. But because of that little goal, I can't bring myself to job hunt for yet another Day Job. Is it possible there is a day job out there that isn't just a day job for me? And if not, is trading in one day job for another really going to accomplish anything ? I just don't know what to do. I'm leaning towards the grateful chant, "I'm grateful for my job, I'm grateful for not paying childcare, I'm grateful to be home . . . ." and just - you know - getting over myself. The big question is, Can I do it?