Sunday, September 21, 2014

YEAR THREE

Tomorrow, the Sweet Pea will be three years old!

I have wept over that off and on for the last two weeks, mostly thanks to friends sending me sad poems on Facebook about how there will soon be a last time that I hold her hand, lift her to carry her on my hip, etc. So here's where I give a rather tearful finger to those friends.

There have been so many changes, so much growth this year. Guess who has grown up so much?

Me. I have. Diva.  Yep, that's right.


As much as I have watched my toddler grow into a little girl with emphatic opinions who will take any excuse to dance or dip her food in ketchup, I have seen a transformation in myself. Not to go all Frozen on you, but there are so many times I've found myself able to let it go.  It shows in my teaching...I let kids stand at their desks or curl up beneath them, no longer concerned if they can sit in a chair for the arbitrary reason that we're expected to do so.

Today was a crucial moment in letting it go. Last year this time, I was gearing up to have forty plus people come to my house for my daughter's party. I was crying in my mother's kitchen because the Pinterest-approved technique for transferring the sunshine from Tangled onto my daughter's homemade cake had failed and I couldn't fix it. I can't decorate cakes, people. At. All. About once a year I get a bizarre delusion that it can't be that hard. It is. It is that hard and I suck at it. I stressed myself out and ruined the entire day for myself and partly for SP as well because I needed it to be perfect because...I needed the approval. I wanted everyone to be impressed with how I do it All and so beautifully.

Today, to celebrate her birthday since I'm working tomorrow, we curled up under our favorite blanket (thank you, Karen) and watched an episode of the Smurfs from the 80s. We played dolls. We sang and danced. I lettered a birthday sign on poster board and then let her draw all over it with markers. I blew up balloons. She learned how to use the hand mixer while we made her little cake.

Next weekend we'll go to the park with a pan of homemade cupcakes and the family can see her there. I'm not shutting my poodles in a room for three hours and making my house sparkling clean at the expense of my sanity. It just ain't worth it, y'all.

So here's what she's taught me this year: Live in the moment. The moment may not last very long.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Dimmer Switch

The blog's not exactly dark right now, just deprioritized.

I'm spending time working, writing my diva ass off, and weeping intermittently over my Sweet Pea's impending third birthday. It's an emotional crisis of mammoth proportions for me because MY BABY. (insert machine gun sobs here).

The DH is looking for work, sort of. Trying is the word he used and if I had a dollar for every time he has said he's TRYING I would not need to worry about selling metaphorical toilet paper because I could retire to Cabo and live in comfort.

It's been good for me as a writer because it's increased my confidence and made me bolder in seeking out work actively. I considered it a hobby for so long that it's groovy to think I get paid to do it sometimes.

The bad side is, well, bigger than the bright side but I still realize there is one so that's progress of a sort, I suppose.

That being said, I'll be around, just less until there are positive developments that clear up enough time for me to, say, shower on a daily basis much less blog.

Wishing for a brighter September ahead.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Selling Toilet Paper

For a really long time, I was stuck on the idea that my writing was Art with a capital A, that I was a dilettante author for the love of wordsmithing. That I was neither a real writer nor a hack for hire, but an Artist. For this reason alone, I'm convinced I was unable to find an agent for my novel after repeated efforts. I just wasn't willing to revise the damn thing until it had sufficient plot events to merit its length. I'm still too attached to it, so it shall remain in my hard drive languishing.

However, for those who haven't heard, my husband got fired last week. We are now a one income household and that is, alas, a teacher's salary. Consequently, I've redoubled my freelancing efforts and I've discovered a few things that resulted in an attitude adjustment:

1.  Outlines help.  I'm a pantser by nature but clients like to know what to expect. For example, I ran out of plot on a novella and threw in an unexpected pregnancy just to sustain momentum with stagnant characters. The client was not thrilled by the surprise. It wasn't the event itself but its suddenness. So I outline. It gives me a map to work from and comforts the client.

2.  It's not art, it's a commodity. It's work for hire. My analogy now is selling toilet paper. As in: I had a client who hired me, worshipped my dialogue and my efficiency, then bitched when I turned in a 23000 word novella instead of 25K. I thought it was perfect or nearly perfect as it was and didn't need filler to clutter it up. I was all insulted because my capital-A Art wasn't being respected when, in point of fact, he was right.

Like, let's say you ordered a hundred rolls of toilet paper.
Your supplier sends you only 97 rolls.
You contact them and demand the other three rolls you ordered and paid for.
No, your supplier says, the 97 rolls he sent you are fluffy and superior with surprisingly good tensile strength. You don't actually NEED 100 rolls. Ninety-seven is better.
You demand your 3 rolls, convinced you're being cheated.
Supplier points out that, no, in fact the package looks much nicer without being crowded in with those extra rolls.
You refuse to pay until given the promised toilet paper.
Supplier gets huffy but supplies toilet paper as contracted, but in a begrudging manner. Like, say, a diva.

To the client, it ain't art. It's toilet paper. It's something to use or repackage and sell. It's like printer ink or coffee filters...they order a certain amount and that's what they expect and there is no ephemeral standard of writing till the story is told. It's work for hire.

Or to use my old chestnut from Jerry Maguire, it's not show friends; it's show business.


Believe it or not, this has been good for me to learn.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Fish Sticks!

Diva's not dead, y'all. I just have 21 kiddos new in class this week who have to learn to be functional second graders.


Here are some snippets that have set me smiling, shaking my head or giggling so far:

Joey:  Have  we been in school three days?
Diva: No, just two. Tomorrow's three.
Joey: Can we ever get a day off? Please?



Grading papers and putting them in mailbox sorter, I keep wondering who the heck Lanie is since I have three papers with that name. It takes me a while to realize I have a  little boy who's got some pretty bad reversals going on in his letter formation and they're actually his papers.


Tom:  You want us to sit ON our desks? Are you serious?
Diva: Yes.
Tom:  This is the best day of my life. This is better than holiday world!


Diva:  Okay, touch your toes and drop to downward dog.
Kim:  We did this yesterday.
Diva:  You're doing it every day. It's good. It stretches you out and gets your blood flowing.
Kim: That's BAD for you. If blood rushes to your head, it kills you.
Diva:  No. It does not. It wakes up your brain.
Kim:  It could kill me!
Diva:  I promise it won't kill you.
Kim:  What if it does?



Diva:  Donnie, put away your art supplies.
Donnie:  It's not art supplies, it's the box they came in.
Diva (smiling tensely):  Ok. Then put away the box you're playing with.
Donnie: I'm not playing with it. I'm looking at it.
Diva:  Put it away if you want to keep it.
Donnie: Where do you want me to put it? (challenging)
Diva:  In your desk (wishing wholeheartedly that 'in your mouth' was an acceptable answer)

************
So far, they're incredibly sweet (okay, maybe Donnie is perhaps the rudest child I have ever met in my life but I can deal) and we're having a great time.

They love sitting on the crate bench. I do it like this:  If your name starts with an A, sit on the bench. or If you're wearing flip flops, sit on the bench or if your name ends with N sit on the bench.  It's a fun sorting activity that gets them to sit with different fish sticks.

Every day this week I've read them a traditional folktale from our new Mary Engelbreit book and then a variation thereof. Tuesday I did Goldilocks versus Somebody and the Three Blairs. Wednesday was the 3 Little Pigs versus The True Story of the Three Little Pigs and yesterday was Little Red Riding Hood (reading Lon Po Po today). We talk about them, break it down and compare and contrast using a venn diagram at the board and it brings out a discussion of the conventions of fiction in general.  It's been pretty fun.

I've used ten frames with skittles and unifix cubes this week. Hand to God, I have never used a unifix cube before this week. I had to borrow some. The kids love it. We're doing even and odd numbers and pairing them off. i call it, check to see if everyone has a buddy for the bus...they match the cubes into pairs and see if there's an odd man out. I've got two kids who didn't get it and we're doing remediation this morning. Math is so different now. It's out of my comfort zone but I am learning right alongside those fish sticks.

Smooches,
Diva

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Mad Scientist

The creative perspective of a storyteller is useful in parenting, I've found.

I was making soup and left the Pea with an episode of Curious George on the iPad and a strawberry yogurt which she feeds to herself reliably with minimal mess. I checked on her repeatedly and her actions were constructive and on point.

Then I cleaned up the kitchen, peeped in on her and found my SP painting her entire left leg from ankle to diaper elaborately with strawberry yogurt.

In her defense, I never told her explicitly NOT to paint herself with yogurt. She didn't get any yogurt on any surface except her actual leg. By definition, she was being fairly tidy about the whole business.

Instead of shrieking NO WE DON'T DO THAT, as was my initial instinct, i asked her to stop, took the spoon and handed her baby wipes to clean off her own leg.

 I'm thinking perhaps this is the influence of the Amazing Spiderman comics that DH reads to her. She's seen all those crafty villains and has decided to become a mad scientist herself. She was, when I interrupted, testing the emollient properties of yogurt in a clinical trial (note the unpainted left leg as control group). She may have been developing a new beauty product or skin treatment. She may have been trying to replicate Rhino's hide..she loves Rhino. So I may have damaged her results in my ignorance of the hypothesis.

At this impressionable age it might have been best in retrospect to either limit her exposure to comics or yogurt. She runs around making pshew pshew sounds pretending to shoot webs at people and poodles. Now she's misapplying her dairy products. Can a life of crime be far behind?