Thursday, March 25, 2010

Not Your Story To Tell

Whose story is it anyway? As a writer, the world is my oyster. As a wife and mother, not so much. What I say impacts the people I love. Even if it's not about them per se.
I heard Amy Bloom, perhaps my favorite author, read last week. She said when she sits to write, she pretends no one else exists in the world. (The World!)And I think you can tell. She writes nervy, nuanced pieces about seemingly real, often sexual, always emotional-- people. Perhaps that is why she writes mostly fiction. So she has the freedom to honor the depths of her imagination. However, as any fiction writer can tell you; people always assume the story has kernels of the truth. Whether that is true or not (I'm going with not) to explore the layers of unconventional humanity takes courage.
Let's dig deeper.
Hypothetical situation. You're a woman. You have a lot of interests. You love your husband. Your kids. Art. The city where you live. People watching. The drama and sentimentality of an imperfect healthcare bill. Hip hop. Romantic comedies.
You were never the kind of mother who fretted over a tumble at the playground. Sometimes you don't get your kids flu shots-- not out of calculation, but apathy and disorganization.
You're a go with the flow mom.
You don't know when the geometry test is, or exactly what day spring break ends.
But you do know your kid's best friends, favorite character on their favorite show, the last time they cried and why. You know their quirks. What will piss them off. Or make them laugh. Or both. You are involved, but respect their independence. Their privacy. The value of them being bored. Even, of lying.
And then one day, your first born is mugged.
He calls you right after it happens. He's made it to his destination (You didn't really want him to go, but you didn't want him to miss out either, so you said yes.) He tells you he just got his phone taken. He's with his friends now. There were two guys. Bigger than him. One asked the time, the other grabbed him from behind. He's fine now, but you can tell, if his friends weren't around, he would cry. He doesn't want you to over react. Or scream. Or cry, which is exactly what you want to do. But he wants you to make him feel safe again. He doesn't say this; but you know.
You remember many things at once. You remember about pushing him into this world. How hard it was. How your very kind midwife, doula, best friend, husband, all looked at you and said, you can do it. He's coming. I see him. One more time. And you loved their voices. You needed their voices to help you help this baby be born. Until the moment he was. And they got him to you and you held him, still bloody and you said, shhhhhhh, because you knew more than you had ever known anything, that this baby needed silence. Shhhh, you said it again. And then you moved in to say something to him, but really, you just felt his cheek on yours. You didn't speak aloud, but you told him, he was okay. You were there. And he was.
You remember the time he was pushed at the playground. A bigger two year old didn't follow the routine: wait on line, climb up the ladder, slide down the slide. This deviant pushed his way up and past him, and your boy looked at you in utter confusion. What is going on, your boy seemed to ask. He knew the routine was Wait on line, climb ladder, slide down; so why this chaos? Using little words for your big boy-- you explained the world to him. But the damage was done. There is disorder.

Your boy is on the phone, waiting for you to tell him what to do. You hear his friends being silly in the background. You want to kill them. How can they have happiness in their voices when you know that your boy has just been scared.
Go to your friend's house you tell him. Call me from there.
You call your husband. You are prepared to tell the woman who answered the phone that it is an emergency, but you don't need to, he picks up right away.
XXX has been mugged you say. You answer his questions. You tell your scared/logical husband where your son is. You formulate a plan. Then you sob, my baby's been mugged.
I'm coming home your husband says. You are glad.
Parents whose children have died come to mind. Children with cancer, abducted children, victims of car crashes, overdoses, pedophilia war-- all swim in your mind. You feel for the first time in a very real way: that love hurts too much. It's unbearable, you think: this not being able to protect your baby.
Your husband makes it home in record time. While driving to get your boy, he cancels phones, fights with companies about policies. He does what he does--tries to fix things. You both know; very little can be fixed.
You thank God. You really, really thank God, the whole time not wanting to bring too much attention to how fucking lucky you are. You beg God not to let cancer, abduction, car crashes, overdoses, pedophilia and war come anywhere near your litter.
You even pray for the boys who mugged your baby. If they had hurt him; you would not have done this. But you are grateful. Things could have been so much worse.
You knock on the door. You want your kid. You are surprised his friends are not all talking about what has happened. In fact, they are watching TV. Eating pizza. Boys are not like girls, you think.
In the elevator, he doesn't want to talk. You think this is because he doesn't want to cry.
You can tell he is frightened, still. This makes you want to hurt someone. He is as tall as you, but you want to envelope him. Make him hold on. Make him not let go.
You do stupid things. You buy him a new phone. You should take him to the police; but you don't until the next day.
You balance your need to swoop in and process, with his need to watch Japanese animation and separate.
You notice he doesn't eat much for dinner.
You fail to notice, neither do you.
The night takes care of itself. You talk to your mother. You take a bath. Your husband and you keep looking at each other; feeling lucky and nauseous at the same time.
Your son keeps coming in to make contact. Talk a little. Then not talk anymore.
You want to tell everyone you know. In time, you do.
You notice some people speak about the economy. Others, self defense. You feel foolish that your kid has an expensive phone. Annoyed when someone mentions an old study about criminals all picking the same photos of an easy mark. You hope no one tells your kid about this.
You don't want him to take side streets. Or go out alone. Or go out at all.
But you know this would not be good for him, so you make him meet his friends. You make him go out without you.
You know, as you've never really known before: you are powerless.
Because you are an artist, a writer, an extrovert; you want to share your experience.
Because you are a mother; you know this is not your story to tell.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Playing With the Big Boys

This post first appeared in the comments section of Lisa Belkin's New York Times parenting blog- Motherlode.
Thanks Lisa for continuing this conversation. I, like some have already said, was surprised to hear that you didn't think the article disparaged women, though your point that the Conference Organizers calling themselves--Bloggy Bootcamp didn't cultivate an aura of legitimacy—is well taken. (My sister-in-law raised this on my blog, as well.)(Sorry Cinnabar) ( … though I will forgo the link.)
I would like to speak to the topic of the Women’s Movement.
A million years ago, I was a Women's Studies major. I began to view our culture through a lens that considered access to power, and noticed time and again, that which is associated with women is devalued. One lesson learned from that time was this: what goes on in one woman's home, office, courtroom and vagina is not only her private experience, but one that could (and should) be spoken about in order to transform, i.e the personal is political.
Sadly, what is associated with women, in this case, mothers who blog (about many things, including mothering) is chided and trivialized. “Heed the speaker’s advice, and you, too, might get 28,549 views of your tutu-making tutorial!” I suspect most young women, if given the choice between being associated with the successful blogger Mendelsohn refers to, or the NY Times reporter who mocks the tuto scholar, I’m guessing many would go with Mendelsohn.
I think the blogosphere is our modern day consciousness raising opportunity. And as more women have success in this dot com (if you will) then perhaps one day, we’ll make it to the business section; which is no better or more important than the style section. Except, you know, it’s where the big boys play.

Monday, March 15, 2010

At Least They're Consistent

In case you missed it, The New York Times covered a technology and networking conference in the Sunday paper. Only surprise, surprise ... it disparaged wealthy, white women. (And was covered in the Style section as opposed to, business, technology, Metropolitan, blah, blah, blah. Read it for yourself.

Below is my post reprinted from Lisa Belkin's blog, motherlode.

The tone of Jennifer Mendelsohn’s article was patronizing and trivializing. With regards to wealthy white women, this is what I have come to expect from the NYTimes. It is socially acceptable to disparage this group, particularly mothers. Mendelsohn even made one blogger’s feat of accruing 28,549 hits sound moronic. I’m not sure why these women – both the successful bloggers and those hoping to become so, are so worthy of our disdain, but Ms. Mendelsohn (and the editor who came up with the headline) have done a great job at making a networking conference that teaches ways to make money by using modern technology sound like something to be avoided and/or ashamed of. No surprise there.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Universal Truths of Facebook

The time suck gateway to hell that is FACEBOOK.
I am relatively new to FACEBOOK. Somehow or another, my name was listed a year or two ago, and I’d occasionally get (and ignore) friendship requests, but until two weeks ago, I was not an active participant. No friends. No posts. No profile. Like ten minutes after perfume has been sprayed, I was there, but not really.
Then a magical thing happened. I accepted my son's request. I figured if I'm lucky enough to have a thirteen year old who still deems me worthy, I ought to jump on that shit.
Anyhoo, accepting his request triggered the FACEBOOK lords to notify my mother ... and poof, I accepted her request. I guess I figured if I'm lucky enough to have an over sixty five year old mother who still deems me worthy, I ought to jump on that shit as well.
And so it began.
In sharing my concern that time spent on FACEBOOK might be spent more productively (revisions people, revisions.) I’ve heard from several sources, that this is a passing stage, and in fact, in time- will level out. This I find heartening. Perhaps I am not unique and there are universal truths or stages most FACEBOOK devotees go through.
Phase 1: Shock and Awe
The sudden awareness that this is where everyone has been hiding; honing witty banter, catching up on scrabble games and comparative analyses of which woman from Grease you most identify with. (Rizzo, must I spell everything out.)
Onslaught of intruding thoughts including but not limited to a friend’s son’s birthday party or a former colleague’s extraordinary luck in scoring those Michael Bouble seats. Can facilitate increased communication with old pals, however, such contact may require answering inquires about your mother’s recent Mah Jong game and how her jello mold came out. (She won; was nonplussed about the mold.)
Digression: There was a popular joke that circled the playgroup pack called the Toddler Credo. It went something like this: If I want it, it's mine. If you have it, and I want it, it's mine. If I ever touched it, it's mine.
You get the picture.
Phase 2: The search for ‘friends’
If I ever slept with you, I'll search. If I wanted to sleep with you, I'll search. If I almost slept with you, I'll search. If you once told fellow eleventh graders that we did it, I'll search.
This is a very informative and time consuming task. Interestingly, this compulsion can strike when least expected. (It’s going to be a great day, they’re playing Layla on the radio. I love this song. Didn’t ol’ what’s his face like Clapton? Or was it Neil Young. I wonder what ol’ what’s his face is up to? … wait a minute, when I get home, I can search.)
Which brings us to Phase 3
The ability to check FACEBOOK updates and posts via handheld device. (Not to be confused with another handheld device.)*
Phase 4
Consider the possibility that any of these fond, faint memories have searched for me.

Phase 5 (Can occur in conjunction with all previous phases)
Evaluate profile photo from every angle. Consider wrinkle ratio and whether that parka makes me look fat (I'm a size four people, swear.)
Phase 6
Wake in middle of the night and resist urge to post recurring dream about terrorists and/or the majesty of a night sweat.
Phase 7
Write blog about FACEBOOK.
And finally, Phase 8
Assess pros and cons of twitter.

*Please note, under no circumstances am I interested -or have ever been interested- in making contact with any of these folks, either real or imagined. I am a happily married woman. **
**How’d that sound honey?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

I'm Far Too Busy to Write

I have a cold, which means I can't write today. Plus, I heard Sarah Blake read last night (The Postmistress, Amy Einhorn Books) and she's a much better writer than me, so I think today, I'll sit this one out.
Also, my babysitter is off until Thrusday and even though my bunnies are at school for another hour, I should probably pace myself, what with the cold and all.
Besides, these revisions are complicated. There are pages and pages to sort through, and my desk is kind of cluttered which makes the whole matter tremendously complicated.
Not to mention I haven't seen my dentist in a while, and the other day, when I ate something cold (or was it hot??)I felt this subtle pain, which makes me think, today just might be the day I should look up said dentist's phone number so that should I want to schedule an appointment tomorrow (or the day after) I'll be way ahead of the game.
And let's not forget the fish. I've never made this kind of white fish before and all day my head has been spinning with olive oil and lemon vs. egg and bread crumbs. With these pressing matters, can you blame me? Can you?
And finally, let me point out that I am still recovering from the Oscars. Not only did I get to bed far too late Sunday night, but every year, (as certain as Joan Rivers nastiness and George Clooney looking self important and serious) I have had to talk myself off the artistic ledge. (She wrote a screenplay? Why haven't you written a screenplay? Tomorrow Missy, you should wake up bright and early and write a screenplay?)
So there you have it.
Busy, busy, busy.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Happiness Once Removed

There was a great line in the show Men of a Certain Age. Forgive me if I butcher it, but it goes something like this:
Happiness comes when you have something to do
something to love and
something to hope for.
I 'do' a lot of things.
I 'love' a lot of people, (and I love to do a lot of things, so I figure that puts me way ahead of the game)
But right now, I'd like to focus on the something to hope for part.
My debut novel will be out in Fall 2011, assuming I actually make those revisions. But for the sake of argument, let's say I do. And poof, my book winds up on a shelf at a store (yes, virtual counts) near you.
Then what?
While I wrote the thing, I was brimming with hope.
Hope to finish it. Hope to find an agent. Hope to master the revisions said agent suggested. Then hope upped the ante. Hope for a real live publisher to buy it. Which led to hope that I'd master the revisions said live publisher suggested.
And now that each of those hopes have been fulfilled, I'm left waiting for the big pie-in-the-sky hope that most authors dream of.
That someone actually buys the thing.
And by someone, I mean, lots of someones. Like, enough someones that I earn out that advance. Enough someones that the professionals invested in this project say, yee haw, I knew this book was a winner. Enough someones that bookstores sell out, need to reorder, advertise my book in their window.
Hell, enough someones that my book lands on the bedside stand of some fictional TV character. Like that Law and Order Detective, Mariska something. You know, the one who was conceived when her father raped her mother. Or maybe the blond wife on Modern Family. No, no, the girlfriend of Ray Romano's character on Men of A Certain Age.
You see my problem? For me, hope is crazy's cousin.
But not to worry.
Happiness just might be once removed.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Who am I? Who I am.

In many ways, my life resembles the little girl dreams I had for myself. I am married to a man I adore (though trust me,sometimes I fucking hate him) and we have a gaggle of healthy kids with big personalities. There's drama, excitement, love, laughter and passion. And that's before breakfast. We have enough money that anything somewhat reasonable is within our reach (the occasional Prada bag; no ponies) and even some unreasonable things (the occasional Prada bag, unlimited pony rides).
We live in my childhood fantasy place-- New York City. And I know how to do things like pick out a fine Brie or give directions to tourists.
But don't misunderstand. Even though I always wanted these things for myself, none do I take for granted. And in fact, none feel altogether natural. That is, there is always a part of myself sitting on my shoulder saying, how 'bout that? You know how to pick out cheese. Way to go girlfriend. You did it.
But there is one character trait I never imagined I'd master. In fact, it wasn't even in my realm of aspiration, and frankly, I am somewhat stunned that it seems to be sticking around a while. You see at first, I thought it was fleeting. Like when I was a teenager and borrowed a friend's stonewashed jeans. I looked cool for the sixteen hours I wore them that weekend, but alas, I had to give them back and go home and attempt geometry homework.
But this. This has become me, and I doubt anyone from my whole life would've ever thunk it.
And it is this: I can spend many hours completely self contained and alone. And not even New York City kind of alone where you're surrounded by people and constant stimulation. I mean alone-alone. The kind where you're in a house, in (what feels like to me)the middle of no activity. The TV stays off and except for every third hour or so, so does the music. As described in yesterday's post, there is some talking to myself, but that's as much for entertainment as anything else.
What I do do during all this alone time and silence is-- create. Starting several years ago (four? five?) I began to paint in earnest. And a bit after that ... write. This drive to make art (easy now naysayer bitches who trashed my work in the Times comment section)has changed me. I am completely immersed. Entirely self sufficient. To borrow a cliche', the experience feeds my soul.
And finding this part of myself and having the privilege and ability to pursue it ... for this I am grateful.
And more than a little surprised.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Revision Update in live time

Greetings ol' Blog Followers (Davetta, Sarah, Mom)
Live update from Isolators Island (I.I. mateys)
I've begun to talk to myself. It started off slowly with things like, wow it sure is cold in here and, dang I look old; but I fear last night, there was a turn for scary. I found myself muttering from room to room, why did I even write this novel? And- I'll tell that editor lady she can do her own damn revisions. I even started referring to myself in third person. Look at ol' Ms Thing. Thinks she has what it takes to write a novel. Have you notice how old she looks?
You know, garden variety fear.

But alas, today is a new day. Anything is possible. I'm well rested. I've had my eggs and coffee. I downed a few Tylenol (Perhaps I'm too well rested and a tad late on the caffeine uptake). Regardless: I'm good to go.
But first I'll check facebook.
Then I'll move on to some whiteheads that beckon me.
Oh hell, I owe my loyal blog followers an update, don't I?

You know, it occurs to me that blogging, literary feats such as my patient novel, the lure of the mirror where I am free to ponder whether my eyelashes are thinning ... these are all the same thing. Mind achingly essential while utterly meaningless.

And then Ms Thing was ready.

Monday, March 1, 2010

So kiss me and smile for me ...

I am about to do an extraordinary thing. I am going away for a few days to work on my revisions. If you are a mother of a brood as I am, you know, this is a miracle. Now, let it be said, one child is going on a school trip, which given our family dynamic, makes my leaving a possibility. Between my husband and our wonderful Saint (I mean sitter) they should be fine. Feel free to drop off casseroles or wipe their faces should you see them in the school yard (or on the street ...)
Here is my prediction:
1. They will be on time for school and the truth will be revealed. I suck at getting anywhere on time.
2. All bedtimes will be at least 1.5 hours later.
3. Someone will forget to brush her teeth.
4. Someone will lose a beloved possession.
5. Someone will fall asleep on the couch while webkinz mans the fort.
6. Someone will blow off his homework and do whatever it is he does on facebook.

In order to write this essential post, I instructed a family member to check the food in the oven once the buzzer goes off. If it's hot, I said slowly, remove it. If it's not, cook it some more and reset the timer. I am not lying when I say, the buzzer went off and that someone yelled to a family member, go ask her what we're supposed to do when the buzzer goes off. I yelled up to them, if it's hot, remove it. The reply, you wonder? HOW DO I KNOW IF IT's HOT?
And there you have it.