Monday, December 15, 2008

Every night, just after I've tucked my daughter Sadie into bed, just after I've given the final squeeze, kiss, butterfly kiss and super-secret-finger-wave, she waits about ten minutes and then she reappears.  She has to pee, of course.  She needs my company.  I follow her into our bathroom and lean against the edge of the sink while she gets herself settled.  Tonight she told me that Celina likes to sit on the toilet a little while after she pees so that the drips will stop dripping.  Celina is Sadie's stuffed frog.  Celina often has some good advice.  Sadie took her time measuring out exactly four squares of tissue and then rolled the word "tissue" around, eventually morphing is into the word "tush."  This, of course, made her laugh hysterically because what, at the age of 4, can be more funny than a butt?  

My son, Theo, too likes my company in the bathroom.  We've had some of our best conversations while he is on the pot.  In our house, we have only the one bathroom which makes for some intense dancing in the hallway on occasion.  It's a rare homecoming that isn't accompanied by a race up our front stairs and a mad dash to secure a spot on the toilet.  At some point during my shower, an ill placed knee will send an armada of plastic boats clattering into the tub.  In the lingering fog that follows, my husband shaves, I dry my hair and the kids sit on the counter and draw shapes in the steamed mirror.  It's a tight fit and one that often seems just shy of unbearable.  When, oh, when will we have any privacy?

Soon, perhaps.  We've put an offer on a house.  A house with more than one bathroom.  Already, I miss the crowd.  I wonder where I will have those conversations?  How will I manage to shower without the company of rubber turtles, and Playmobil pirates?  A small house means we're all piled on top of each other, we know everything that's going on with everyone.  For better and worse.  I like knowing these things, but I have begun to realize that even at the ages of four and six, my children will want a bit more space.  Theo's begun to knock on the bathroom door before he enters, instead of flying through like a cannon ball.  Six months ago, he'd pull off all his clothes and run naked through our yard with reckless abandon, but by midsummer, he was asking for his swim suit.  Sadie builds complicated Lego castles or sets her table for a tea party with Celina.  Theo heads out into the yard to toss and catch a ball again and again and again.  When they are thirsty, they go to the cupboard and get a glass and fill it with water.  This is as it should be.  We all need our own space. We need privacy to figure out who we are and what we want. 

In this possible new house is a small room, too small to be much of anything, really, but big enough for a desk and a chair.  I've got my eye on that room, that tiny one that overlooks the back yard.  It's a good private spot right in the center of the house where I can still be found.

Friday, December 12, 2008

"Say your prayers and you die..."  Hearing these words from the mouth of my six year old son, Theo, was tonight's last straw.  There isn't always a last straw, most of the time we make it all the way through the whole bedtime ritual without nearing even the end of the straw line, but then there are the nights that build with a quiet intensity from dinner onward.  Tonight was that kind of night.  The kind of night where each bite of soup was the end result of an extended and excruciating bargaining process, and the road to the pajama drawer was paved with a thousand distractions.  Tonight, at my daughter, Sadie's request, I dressed her toy frog, Celina, for bed in a two piece powder blue track suit.  Once I'd wriggled the furry green flippers into the little sleeves and straightened the hoodie, I was informed that "Celina hates that outfit.  She hates it.  She would never wear that to bed and she needs to be changed."  Sadie, in striped leggings, her bare belly a sweet reminder of her babyhood, rummaged through the doll clothes while Theo pulled on his pull-up (yep, he's six, but a damned fine sleeper) and peed right into it.  I tried to remain upbeat and non-judgmental while reminding him that if you're peeing in your sleep, it's a "pull-up" but if you're peeing and you're awake, it's a "diaper."  He shrugged it off and went down the hall to clean up.  I have to say, that even in the middle of things, I appreciate his nonchalance.  

Finally, everyone was in pajamas and cuddled on my lap in the big red chair for books.  This is often my favorite part because I love a good story.  Also, once a theatre major, always a theatre major and so I have to admit it's nice to let my inner thespian run if only over the pages of "Go Dog, Go."  Tonight's selection, however, was a double dud.  No stories, just a counting book and a Spanish words board book.  I counted thirty oddly drawn monsters and rolled all the Rs in words taking us from La Cochina to El Bano and beyond and the kids listened.  The selective power of the child's ear is amazing to me.  They sit rapt while I count "two whiskers, three warts, four lumps..." but try to tell them how the moon rises or ask them to stop banging the wooden hammer against the French doors and I might as well be speaking another language.  

At any rate, you're probably wondering what got me to the last straw.  I'm wondering that too because now that they are asleep and breathing softly down the hall, I miss them.  
"Say your prayers and you die..." Theo shouted.  And I, in my best authoritarian Mom voice said, "That is inappropriate."  He's flinging action movie jargon my way and all I can come back with is a bit of flustered librarian speak.  It's troubling to hear this kind of strange threatening language come out of my boy and as much as I know he's testing out the power of these words, it's hard not to become hurt and worried.  Violence is out there and its power is undeniable.  It is my job to accept this and help my son find the way through it to peace.   

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

It's been a week since my last (first) post and though I've been thinking about writing almost constantly, I haven't actually written.  I spent the entirety of last Wednesday and Thursday at a workshop taught by Lynda Barry.  Based on her amazing and beautiful book, What it Is, the workshop was basically all writing -- moving my hand across sheet after sheet after sheet of loose leaf paper.  When I wasn't writing, I was making spirals on the page, circling and circling and circling my pen until I'd almost hypnotized myself.  Every exercise started with a list.  Number your page from one to ten.  Now think of ten walks you have taken, ten friends you have had, ten things you think of when you hear the word "lie."  We list quickly, stopping perhaps to worry out a name or a detail, not pausing too long and if the pause grows too uncomfortable, we return to the soothing spiral, or write the ABCs, anything at all to keep the pen in motion, the brain fluid and flexible, like water rolling over rocks.  Next, we take the list and pick one thing.  Think of that thing. Where are you?  What's in front of you? Behind? To the right? To the left?  What's further in front, further behind and so on and so on... By the time I began eight minutes of writing, I knew where I was in the world.  After eight minutes, Lynda would ask for readers.  In order to give the reader our ultimate respect, to leave them alone with their words, we bowed our head over our notebooks and drew spirals.  I heard the words of dozens of people, but I did not see their faces.  I heard their stories, but because I was not aloud to speak, these stories came at me in a different way.  I listened instead of thinking of something wonderful to say.  While we read, Lynda would crouch at our feet, listening, and when we were finished, she'd pop up and say, "Good, good!"  That's it.  That's all.  No questions about where the story was going, no requests for more information, no dissection of metaphor, symbol and simile.  Just "GOOD!"  

I am about to begin work on another draft of my memoir.  After a sending out to our first round of publishers and getting a pile of loving and enthusiastic rejections, I'm setting out to cut forty pages.  Before Lynda's class, I was a little daunted by this.  A little dejected by the rejection despite all the warm feelings. Now, though, I feel ready.  Lynda described the arc of the story as "having something, losing something and finding it again."  I had my father, I lost him to Alzheimer's and then I found him again in me.  When I think of my manuscript, I can think of at least forty pages that have absolutely nothing to do with that story.  I am ready to work.  "Good!  Good!"

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The blog begins...

So, I was sitting around a small kitchen table today with a couple of fellow writers.  We get together every month or so to read our work aloud and jaw about books we've read and people we've met.  We talk about our amazing kids (among them a tall ship sailor, a couple of soccer players, a boy who'd like to be a mailman...) and then we go back to talking about writing.  And it's amazing.  Three hours fly by, soup gets eaten, words are read and I am back in my car with book recommendations, support, encouragement and an assignment: start a blog.  Do it even if you don't show it to everyone (or even anyone.) Do it so that you write everyday.  

Though I consider myself a writer, I don't write everyday.  I don't know how to go about it as a "job," even though it's the only job I really think I'm qualified to do.  My husband says that since I've finished a book (yet to be published) I am doing okay so far.  But this book took 8 years on and off to complete while simultaneously having and raising two kids and I'd like to think that as the kids grow, so too, can my productivity.  But how?  What does this practice look like?  

My yoga practice, such as it is, needs to take place in the company of others.  I look forward to a class where I can be there to steady the legs of the person next to me, where I can reach a hand toward the sky and know that all around me others reach as well.  It means something to me to know that I am not alone.  

So these monthly gatherings around a kitchen table, a bowl of soup, a plate of muffins -- these gatherings are a way of group practice.  As I write these words, I can almost see, out of the corner of my eye, other fingers moving across other keyboards.  Writing every day.  At least here.  At least a little.  I am in good company.