Wednesday, January 26, 2011

What the heck?

So where did I go? I start blogging, y'all start to get a little interested and then...just like that, I disappear. It's not that I don't want to blog. I frigging love blogging. I'll blog all day long. I'll blog till the cows come home. It's just that here are the things I'm working on that require my writing time and attention:

1. A tv spec with my tv-writing husband
2. A pitch with said husband
3. Revisions of a novel I wrote in 2003-2004 then put in a drawer in order to focus on having a baby, raising a baby, going back to grad school, working as a therapist, stuff like that.
4. A screenplay. I know, I know, who in L.A. isn't? I don't care. I'm writing one. It may suck, it may rock. I don't care.
5. Several grants for our charter school, including one for an intergenerational e-penpal project that we are launching.
6. Other assorted first chapters of novels or outlines for scripts that I jot down as they come into my brain so I don't forget them.

And of course I'm still full-time momming. Oh, and I'm beyond obsessed with the word game apps on my IPhone. It's messed up how ofte I gaze longingly at my new IPhone, picturing the infinite bank of NY Times crosswords or the Tetris-like game with letters instead of shapes that requires quick spelling - oh how I love quick spelling. I justify my obsession by citing all the studies that show that as people age word games and crosswords prevent memory decline. And I'm about to 40, people, in case I haven't driven that home!

I realize as I glance over the list above, it reads as if I'm somehow blaming you - the fabulous reader, without whom I'm just shouting into the void - for how busy I am. I am not. I am actually thanking you. It has been the act of blogging, coupled with the responses I get from you all - sharing your stories, commenting on mine, giving me feedback - that has catapulted me back into the world of writing. I've never not written, but for years it was grad school papers followed by mental health assessments, therapy notes, grants for non-profits and schools, and long, late-night emails to far-flung friends. It was still writing and, like all acts of writing, filled a part of me that aches to be filled. Not kidding. Not being dramatic. Writing is my meds. If I don't get some sort of writing in during the day, I'm much crankier, insecure, and even borderline depressed.

It was that John Tesh-inspired late-night Maryland hotel room blogging tear that brought writing back to the center of my life (along with my family. Always have to make that clear out of concern that you'll visualize me as some Sylvia Plath / Virginia Woolf mash-up who can't focus on anything but the page. When I'm in it I'm in it. When I close it, I'm full-on mom.)

Since Mid-December, I have re-committed to writing with such gusto - partnering with my husband on these T.V. projects, working up the courage to open that rusty old desk drawer and pull out that rusty old novel, basically throwing my hat back into the proverbial ring. I don't blog much, but only because the 3-4 hours a day I have for writing gets eaten up so quickly by baby steps on all these other projects. Like right now, I have to dive back into the intergenerational grant thingy which is due at the end of the week. Ack. But I just wanted to write a quick post of gratitude. It is this blog, you readers, and my incredible writing group that meets in an incredible wine bar (causing our husbands to call it a drinking group at which we sometimes write) that got my chops going again. So, thank you.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Banana Duck

My daughter's toy camera has this feature when you can put silly graphics on photos. So she took a picture of some bananas on our counter, affixed a duck beak, then tweaked the coloring in IPhoto and came up with Pop Art - she made it all by herself. She's six years old! It's stuff like that that makes me smile big as a banana duck. I can't get over how awesome this is. I know I'm her mom, so I'm probably overzealous, but look at the composition! The humor! The artistry! Okay, moving on from Banana Duck.

One of my first posts, and the one that I've heard the most feedback about, dealt with our family's attempt to get pregnant... the difficulty we had and the struggle we went through to come to acceptance about what our family looks like. Since I wrote that post, I have heard amazing stories. Moms and dads at school give me hugs and tell me their stories. One of Sadie's best friend's dads shared with me the other day that it took 15 years for them to get pregnant. Fifteen years! Now they have two little girls. It took my grandparents nine years to get pregnant with my dad, back in the 1920s-30s, before there were fertility options, before rampant adoption from China. When I told that to my ob/gyn, the first time we were trying, she said, "Nine years and they were still having sex?" To which I replied, "Well, they didn't have kids."

The stories are wonderful, heartbreaking, inspiring. And now, I sit here distracted from the "comedy pass" I have to do on a kids' show my husband and I are writing, from editing the novel I put in a drawer for seven years and have finally pulled out, from applying for grants so our sweet little charter school doesn't go under... I'm distracted because one of my best friends finally had a baby and he's in intensive care after being born with severe lung issues. I'm now gathering stories about survival. A mutual friend - total strong mountain man - told me he was born premature, in NIC-U for two months while his lungs developed. Another friend tells me that her daughter was born with the cord around her neck and wasn't breathing for her first moments. Now she's a healthy, bright first grader. These are the stories I'm collecting today. When you put together the fertility struggles and the pregnancy complications and the crazy birth feels like a miracle that any of us are even here.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Positivity, dammit dammit dammit. Who dat?

When a military psychologist went on a shooting spree in Fort Hood last year, the principal at my daughter's last school had a moment of silence at the assembly, after explaining that it was for the "men and women who were fighting for our country who were killed by gunshot wounds..." I wanted to punch him in the nose. Sadie was in kindergarten and she looked over at me - thankfully I was there for some award presentation or fundraising something before I headed downtown to work - and I threw her the most comforting, loving look I could. I waited for her to ask about it later but didn't bring it up when she didn't. I did speak to the principal, reminded him that not all parents choose to leave television news spewing around the house or talk about developmentally inappropriate subjects in front of their children. I threw out my Marriage and Family Therapist credential, my master's in psychology, to impress upon him that five year olds don't need to be hearing about massive shooting sprees. They can't process that kind of rage and violence. I can't process that kind of rage and violence. And I'm about to be 40. That may have been the day I decided to search for a new school. A school where the people in charge really take care of our children, consider them their children, consider them precious. I believe we have found those people and that school.

When I was teaching first grade in South Central in 2001 - yep, that's right, I done a lot of things - I woke up, as did the nation, to the 9/11 news. I didn't have a child yet, and if I had I suppose I would've had to figure out a very simple, clear way to explain the mass mourning, the national fear, my own tears. I wonder how I would've done it. What I would not have done - and what many of the parents of the children in my class had done - was leave the television on, burning those terrifying images into the brains of six year olds. How do they process that? How do any of us?

Yesterday as we watched the football play-offs at a new friend's house and Sadie took photos of their cool 5-year-old boy shoot baskets in his toy hoop, and we ate Po'boys and cole slaw and tried to comfort the pregnant, hardcore New Orleans fan mom with soothing words and a thimble of wine, I kept feeling like something was terribly wrong. Some lunatic shot 12 people in Arizona and we were watching football. Practically speaking, there was nothing we could be doing from L.A. to help the congresswoman fight for her life. I prayed or sent good energy or whatever version of that I do. We comforted each other at halftime in veiled words so our precocious children wouldn't tune in. But what could we do?

What I struggled with yesterday, and this morning when I lay in bed, my heart pounding, my body aching, and my brain saying - Get out of bed! - to no avail (though obviously it eventually worked - I've made it as far as my living room) is how to do this. How do you watch a football game with friends and laugh at the commercial for an upcoming Owen Wilson movie when a congresswoman is in surgery because she was shot in the head with a semi-automatic weapon? A congresswoman whose nutball teaparty challenger urged supporters to bring M-16s to his campaign rallies and who Sarah Palin depicted with a target over her and encouraged people to "target"? Seriously, that is what s going on. People are being directed to destroy people who don't agree with them. And we're still fighting two wars that no one talks about and people are losing jobs and the ozone layer is disintegrating (is that the right word? Not sure) while congress passes legislation banning science... And now, this blog has officially become Bummer, Dammit.

Okay, enough of that. Here's my point. I can't do the "positivity" thing with blinders on. I will never be one of those women with the creepy frozen smiles insisting that "everything is great, for goodness sakes! Chin up! Turn that frown upside down!" Oh, I'll turn that frown... I will never be one of those parents who watches her daughter fall down and scrape her knee on the playground and tries to plug the crying by saying, "You're okay." I want to turn to those parents and say, "Um, clearly she's not okay, what with the tears and all." I understand the desire to decrease the panic, but come on, people, we can admit that falling down hurts. We can admit that things aren't looking so hot, environmentally speaking, that scientists aren't just being negative nellies when they point out that frogs are showing up all around the world with seriously weird genital structures. We can acknowledge that hermaphrodite frogs aren't a good sign.

The whole point of me writing about positivity is that being positive and enthusiastic and optimistic is not my natural stance. I would even go so far as to say that in this day and age, it's not a natural stance for anyone. It's pretty easy to be pessimistic. One of my favorite cynic friends told me about a study that showed that in a survey of people who identified as optimists and pessimists, the pessimists' world views were actually much more realistic than the optimists'. If you see the world as it actually is right now, it quite naturally leads to pessimism. Ergo...and stick with me on this one...a positive stance becomes a radical choice; a constructive, conscious decision to push against the natural flow, since the only thing I feel clear about is that following that negative flow will drown us. Maybe we are ultimately meant to drown, but I'm not going without a fight.

By making a choice to paddle against the malaise I feel when I ponder the insane consumerism, the de-prioritization of public education, the increasing racism and xenophobia, the industrial military complex...(Oh, I could do this all day), I'm deciding to fight. And the only way I know how to fight at my age, in my life, with my family, is to do small, everyday good things. I'm not going to leave my husband and daughter to go camp outside of the White House, but I can help build a great public school. I'm not going to live in a village in Chiapas and make sure the Mexican army isn't intimidating villagers (like I did in the early 90s), but I can write about what I believe, help build up someone else who's having a crap day, hug my daughter so hard she says, "Mom, please." I can show up for people the best I can. And I can love. Nineteen-year-old me - living with radicals in Nicaragua, marching on Washington against the first Gulf War, wearing a "F#&$^@ The New World Order" bumper sticker on my leather motorcycle jacket - just threw up a little in her mouth. Oh well.

When the next Travis Bickle (Google it, under-40 and over-60 readers) nutball goes out there on a shooting spree, I can't stop him. But I can try to shove as much love and empathy into this world as he shoots hate and destruction. I don't have a semi-automatic love machine (that sounds dirty), but I'll do my best. Positivity Dammit, out.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Still here...

This image has nothing to do with this post, but I just felt a desire to uplaod this adorable picture of two of my oldest dearest friends in front of a Bruce Springsteen photography exhibit in New York. It makes me so happy, I want to share it with the world. Between the Jersey friends and the Jersey icon, it reminds me of why I'm proud to be from Jersey. That's right, I said it. Jersey girl. Proud.

I felt a need to spend ten minutes on this blog to say that I'm still here dammit! And becoming more positive every day. The holidays were wonderful. I literally vacationed from everything (except family and friends). I barely checked my email. I barely received any email. I certainly didn't write, though I read a ton, sat in hottubs, played in snow, slept in, saw friends, drank a little too much, watched movies and a sketch comedy show, took bike rides, hung out at a great new playground near our house (which is so crowded, it's as if an entire neighborhood of toddlers was standing poised and ready, flew through the gate the second it was unlocked).

Now Sadie's back to school and I'm in the weeds. Deadlines, grant applications, school stuff,'s nice to be working. In an hour I head over to Sadie's school to teach the 1st grade "breathing and stretching" class. I think we'll do a story with poses. "A little girl walked through the trees..." (they all jump into tree pose) "and came upon a giant dog" (down dog) "and a beautiful, strong warrior" (warrior 1, 2, 3). You get the gist. They always want to do "machines" too, which is an activity I remember from early acting and movement classes. Everything can be recycled, everything is new to someone.