school days, school days…

it’s not yet old hat
we’re getting used to it though
school is here to stay

I’ve been thinking a lot about the wee one being in school (duh). As the school year progresses, I’m more and more sure of our decision to send him to the neighborhood school.

We could have hand-picked an elementary school for him and petitioned to get him in. (Lots and lots of people do that here.) I had a couple I was looking at, especially one that’s known throughout town for having lots of children of artists and musicians and writers. But in the end, my husband and I decided we’d let the wee one give the neighborhood school a whirl.

It doesn’t have a bad reputation, but it doesn’t really have a reputation at all. It has average testing results, and white kids are the minority. Because it’s Title I, it has some special programs that we can take advantage of if we want, but I feel kind of guilty about that. I mean, if we needed to we could pay for after school activities. But they offer some really cool things for free (a cooking class, a dance class, a gardening thing) because they get a special grant from the district. I just hate the idea that we would take up a space someone else really needs, you know? That’s probably a silly thing to worry about, but I do.

Initially, I worried about the school not having the things that other highly-ranked, highly-talked-about schools have. But the wee one’s classroom is stocked with fabulous activities and at least 4 computers and it’s own little library. His teacher seems really great, and I love how diverse his class is. (I also love that there are only 16 kids.)

While I wait to pick him up in the afternoons, I get to eavesdrop on all the other parents. Yesterday, a Lebanese dad and a Jewish dad were swapping recipes and discussing the finer points of what Kosher means. An African-American dad and a Thai mom were taking turns flirting the wee-er one. An Hispanic mama and her 3-year-old boy were opining with me about the heat. (The little boy, by the way, is the cutest kid ever – every day I see him he runs up to me and says, "I love your baby,"  with this shy grin. I could eat him up.)

Off to the side was a mama in the most beautiful sari, and off to the other side was another mama, with a couple of incredible tattoos, pushing her sleeping toddler in a stroller. There’s the fake boob, skinny jean mama. There’s the daddy with his cell phone and his illegally parked beamer.

The diversity of this school is just incredible. And everyone I’ve met (with the exception of a couple of office staff) has been so sweet and kind and wonderful, parents included.

I feel like a jackass to be so blatant in my shock and amazement at the various races I’m surrounded by everyday. But remember, we just moved back to the city from the burbs where the wee-er one’s school would have been over 80% white.

In a day when school integration is still an issue, I feel proud to have my kiddo go to a school with such a diverse population. And I hope that just because it’s in the city, is majority minority, and doesn’t have 100% A+ A+ test scores that it can remain a good school.

That’s a sad thing to have to wish for, but it’s true. It’s a kickass little school so far and I hope it stays that way.

not much going on

blending together
days go by so slow, so fast
and they’re all the same

I was hoping to have a hilarious story to blog about today, but so far, nothing. The dog Houdini’d his way out of the backyard yesterday, but he promptly went and sat on the front porch, so that was good. But not hilarious.

I smashed my baby toe on the ottoman. Not hilarious.

I started reading Atonement by Ian McEwan and then I stopped. Not hilarious.

The wee-er one spat applesauce onto my glasses. Not hilarious.

And as far as everything else… well… I can’t do anything else because I’m stymied as far as writing goes. I thought I had this fantastic idea for a new book and I sent the first 55 pages to my agent. He was not impressed and I think his comments are right on target. My problem lately (well, forever) seems to be that writing dialogue is fun and easy, whereas developing a unique plot might as well require the ability to invent, create and detonate a fission bomb.

Part of the problem seems to be that I’ve been trying to map out my books before writing them. This gives me a rough idea of the beginning middle and end, but it has a horrible stalling effect. I need to stop doing it. I need to just write and see where the story takes me. That’s what I’ve typically done and it works very well. I end up having to do about 40,000 revisions and the end product is about as far from the original as possible, but the end product often doesn’t suck.

I guess I’ve been trying to shorten the cycle. Reasonably, you’d think that getting a good idea of your story and character before writing would help you write a better story. But for me it takes all of the fun and mystery out of it.

Typically, as I write, my characters tell me where the story goes. They do things that I would never have predicted or imagined. And so I’m forced to write down their antics, and the story just builds from there. I know this is how I work. I know it. And knowing this, I should also realize that showing people the first 55 pages of something isn’t a good idea, because the story isn’t alive yet. I’m still finding my way, figuring out who’s who and what they’re trying to do.

I frustrate myself because I don’t want to work this way. I want to plot and outline and create character studies. But when I do that I can’t actually write the book. The story seems finished before it even begins.

So now I’m stuck with 55 pages of… what? Somewhat entertaining dialogue? A story that’s playing out like a million other stories everyone has read? I don’t know. But I need to do something about it. Either trash it and start over, or keep barreling ahead and trusting my characters to sort everything out. Moping about it isn’t helping. Though the moping has made me take a step back and so I’ve started reading Christopher Moore’s A Dirty Job. It’s a great book – funny, weird, surprising – about a single dad raising his infant daughter and struggling under the pressure of finding out he’s just become a dude who has to retrieve souls from the dead and pass the souls off to other people who need them.

I need to go now and write without thinking. That’s the trick. I talk all the time without thinking first, you’d think writing that way would be easy.

har har.

a crisis of confidence

do too many things
"half-assed" begins to mean "best"
"best" has no meaning

When I was a kid I briefly had trouble learning to swim. I remember overhearing the swimming teacher tell my mom that if I could just increase my confidence I’d be great – maybe I could even learn to dive. But lack of confidence kept me doggie paddling in the shallow end.

There were days when I could banish the thoughts of being sucked down by the drain, or running out of energy while swimming half-way through the deep end. On those days I was a great swimmer – long arms, steady kicks, faster than a lot of the other kids.

But on the days when I worried about the drain, or when I didn’t want to swim over the piles of leaves on the bottom of the pool – that was when I swallowed gallons of water and worried about making it out of swim class alive.

What made my attitude so different? Why was I more confident on some days and so unsure on others? I don’t know. But I still have these crises of confidence. Only now it isn’t about swimming. It’s about parenting and writing. But I still have that fear of drowning, you know?

I’ve spent a lot of this morning worrying that I’m not doing anything particularly well. I worry that I have a kind of combo style of half-assed parenting and half-assed writing. I do a good enough of a job with both so that I’m not a complete failure, but I don’t do nearly as good of a job as I can or as I should.

Part of this is a perfectionist thing that I’ve been able to sort of ignore for a while. It seems to be coming after me again, though – a little devil sitting on my shoulder saying "you should rewrite that paragraph because it’s not as good as it can be" or "why are you watching TV when you should be upstairs cuddling with your son." (Perfectionist devils do not respect the fact that people need some downtime and that sometimes writing a crappy paragraph is the impetus you need to just keep the story going.)

So I feel vexed today. Vexed and befuddled and muddled and tired. I feel the water splashing at about the level of my nose and it’s either swim or flail. I’m not afraid of sinking. I won’t let myself do that. But flailing is not swimming confidently.

This is why I shouldn’t read interviews with famous Hollywood writers, talking about how their careers got started. This is why it’s unhealthy to second guess the choices I’ve made in my life. This is when someone should stop me from "what-if-ing." What if, after college, I’d gone out to LA to find an internship or become a PA. What if, instead of selling my soul to advertising for low pay and no respect, I’d sold my soul to ghost writing script treatments for low pay and no respect? What if I’d written a couple of spec scripts like I’d planned? How would things be different? Would I now be sitting in my fancy condo on the beach in California wishing I’d already started a family? Or would I be living in poverty, toiling away as a writer for some crap reality show on an off brand cable network?

I know that what I have here is very good. And I’m very, very fortunate to have what I have. But sometimes I feel like I’m not doing a very good job. I could do so much more. And I could do it better.

Then I remind myself to just shut up and stop whining already. There’s lunch to be fixed and an email to send and a book to finish. It’s not cool to paralyze yourself with what-ifs and you-can-do-that-betters. The sheer fact that you’re accomplishing anything at all is impressive.

On some days it doesn’t matter that you’re swimming across the deep end. It just matters that you’re swimming.

TV is the devil

wasting precious time
no work to be done today
I am a tycoon

What does one do when one finally gets their little one to take two decent sized naps in a day? One does not finish the book she promised to have to her agent in two weeks (three weeks ago). One does not continue writing past page 55 on the new book she is very, very excited about. One does not clean the kitchen, nor vacuum, nor pick crap up off the floor. One does not pay any attention to the dog, nor eat lunch.

Instead, one fights with crashing servers and becomes a TV tycoon – sweating over her $300 million budget and her prognostications concerning what crap TV people will fall in love with this season.

TV Big Shot.

I’m going to kick your ass with all the horrible, yet highly rated shows I pick.

SchadenfredueTV is where it’s at, baby. "We’re not laughing at you, we’re laughing because of you."

a new word!

shissues /shih-shoos/ noun

1. The new name for Kleenex after your 5-year-old tries to use them in lieu of toilet paper. ex: I was going to blow my nose until I realized the box on the sink was actually full of shissues, and thus needed biohazard tape and an alarm system.

2.  A dog’s mental block, causing him to only shit on carpet or grass that is cut so low it might as well be carpet. Also, the mental block must include the fact that to shit on the grass requires the dog being leashed, as he will not shit in the backyard, no matter how short the grass is. ex: My dog’s shissues really keep the backyard looking nice. The carpet on the other hand….

The Emmy’s!

liveblog in haiku
could rattled brain handle that
oh, probably not

I was thinking about trying to liveblog in haiku, but then I thought, "Holy shit, it’s going to be hard enough to stay awake to do this. Adding to that actual brain use… well, I don’t know about that."

So it’s about time to start. My ranch flavored chips are right here. My Cinnamon buns ice cream is over there. And my humility and shame are both out the window.

7:00 – And they’re starting off with Family Guy. Not a way to endear yourselves to me, Emmy.

7:03 – Ryan Seacrest is wearing a patent leather tie – or maybe it’s made of licorice. Or maybe it’s made out of all the tiny black hearts of the executives at Fox.

7:07 – And we’re working on a little bit of a delay because the wee-er one keeps turning the TV off and I have to keep pausing the TiVo so as not to miss ONE SECOND of this scintillating Seacrest monologue.

7:09 – WTF was that? you can’t make fun of Frasier on TV? Why the dead air? I guess one of the cameramen’s wee-er ones turned off his mic.

7:12 – Oh, Ray Romano. Your jokes about married sex are so orginal and hilarious. On Opposite Day.

7:13 – Jeremy Piven
your endearing scruffiness
makes you a winner

7:15 – TAKE THAT, SHAT.

7:17 – Terry O’Quinn is married to a beautiful giantess. I wonder if maybe she tossed him over her shoulder and waded through the Pacific to get to the awards show?

7:19 – The baby is upstairs now, so I no longer have to dodge flying binoculars, tiny pinchy fingers and very, very bad behavior (like turning off the TV while mommy tried to liveblog). Man. Kids are so pesky when you’re trying to ignore them.

7:21 – We’re celebrating women actors and their "talents." I wish my "talents" looked like most of theirs. Alas.

7:23 – I used to watch Conchata Ferrell when she was on the first ER, a half-hour comedy with… who? Who was that guy? That’s right, TV fans… George Clooney!

7:25 – Joy is all choked up
the real Joy would kick her ass
and then play quarters

7:27 – I haven’t seen any of these minseries or TV movies but I think Thomas Hayden Church won because he’s channeling Peter O’Toole with his crazy collar and low brow.

7:32 – I wonder if Leo has a salon in Austin. I don’t want straight hair, and yet, the poodledoo doesn’t work either. Also, my hair is turning gray and falling out. Tresemme Leo, where are yoooooouuuuuu?

7:34 – I bet Leo uses Tresemme on Conan’s hair.

7:37 – Hi-jul just cursed on TV! And also she must have just stopped by on her way to her wedding. And her mom has no sense of humor. Well, that was a crappy haiku.

7:44 – Oh those variety show writer montages are so funny. Like waaay funnier than what I’m doing here. Maybe that’s why I’m not a writer for a TV show.

7:49 – Uh-oh. The wee-er one is back. And she’s turned the TV off and run away with the TiVo remote. Now she’s heaved the remote onto the kitchen floor and little black pieces have scattered into the dog food. Shit. I may be liveblogging the wee-er one for the rest of the night instead of the Emmy’s.

7:52 – Wouldn’t it be funny if people talked like Xtina sings? "I wooo-uh-uh-uh-uuuudd lai-ai-ai-aike a cuh-uh-upofcoffeee"

7:56 – sweet Robert Duvall
I’ve loved you since Cole Trickle
but your speech bores me

7:59 – for better or worse, the remote is not broken

8:06 – That quick scene of all those Emmy’s that you see just before they show the nominees – does anyone else think that looks like a scary robot spine?

8:08 – Five magic Chinese girls are the reason why Robert Duvall is back on stage. I don’t understand either, but I’d share a beer with him while he explained it to me.

8:11 – Leslie Caron has always reminded me of a vampire.

8:15 – suck it sopranos
you bullies beat the cylons
shouldn’t be surprised

Well, at least we got to hear the words "Battlestar Galactica" at some point during this broadcast.

8:23 – We may have talked about this before, but for real, Jon Stewart is my TV boyfriend.

8:26 – Also for real? This is the most boring Emmy awards show ever. Except for that part where the dude next to Tony Bennett just thanked Target. I thank Target, too – for siphoning every penny out of my wallet, and for me loving every minute of it.

8:29 – The egg sacs hanging from Marcia Cross’ ears are flapping to and fro as she looks for Judy Davis. If I was in the Starter Wife, I might hide, too. Well, unless I was Gigi Edgely, formerly Chiana on Farscape. Then I’d be all, "Look at me, assholes! I’m a great actress even when I’m not covered in gray make-up!"

8:32 – Maybe this broadcast is so incredibly slow and boring because it’s being brought to us by Cadillac. We all know that, despite what the commercials say, Cadillacs only go 35 mph, with one blinker perpetually flashing, as the car weaves languidly from lane to lane.

8:35 – and speaking of commercials, what does Verizon have against vowels?

8:36 – Yay girls! Boo mermaid dresses!

8:39 – Also boo? Bugs flying up my nose. Stupid gnats in the house.

8:41 – God forbid anyone wanting to netflix the Sopranos without having the entire show spoiled first. Though I guess even if you’ve seen the whole show, this little montage would spoil it for you, too. I can sort of get behind the irony, but I kind of don’t think whoever it was that planned this thought of it as ironic.

8:46 – Holy shit, Audi!
41 grand for a car
guess we’ll just get squished

8:55 – maybe louis black should’ve hosted the show. or maybe he should have his own network.

8:59 – I’d like to see the desks of the writers who win. I’d also like to see them in the clothes they wear when they write. Is that weird?

9:04 – Masi Oka is just so adorable. His geeky aura is hott.

9:06 – but maybe that’s because of global warming.

9:09 – Tony Bennett beats Jon Stewart. Well, at least I get to hear about how intelligent Target is.

9:13 – Oh man, Elaine Stritch is funny. I don’t care if she’s drunk.

9:17 – In The Office versus 30 Rock writing smackdown, The Office takes it. I can’t be too disappointed, though, because this speech is frickin hilarious and subtle and awkward and I love it.

9:28 – tiny wee Kanye
Napolean complex much?
at least you’re not Brit

9:33 – that was a terrible haiku. I’m running out of steam. And, also, my computer smells like armpits and is making a rattling noise. I think it might be catching on fire.

9:37 – private jet sandwich
best first haiku line ever
thanks, mr. colbert

9:40 – Sally Field is on the smack, she is. But her sentences are complete and her cheeks are apple-y, so I can dig her memorized speech.

9:43 – Why do they keep censoring people? Can we figure out what Ray Romano’s Frasier joke and Sally Field’s acceptance speech have in common?

9:51 – so. many. commercials.

9:53 – America Ferrera is pretty great, but where’s the love for my girl crush? And why don’t they ever cut to Tina Fey in the audience? Maybe she’s trapped in an elevator. That’s what would happen to me if I ever made it to the Emmy’s.

9:55 – It’s a tie between Ian McShane and Edward James Olmos for Best Actor in a Dramatic Series! Just kidding. Stupid James Spader just won. Again.

9:59 – Anti-aging foam
not fancy Top Chef dish or
semen metaphor

Maybe that’s why I have wrinkly eyes. I don’t cover my face with Olay foam.

10:02 – HOLY SHIT! 30 Rock wins!

10:04 – I just wet my pants a little bit.

10:08 – I would sell a leg or a kidney to be able to sit quietly and chew my fingernails amongst the 30 Rock writers.

10:10 – sopranos takes it. I should write a haiku about this, but I don’t really care. 30 Rock won! Suck it, gangsters!

10:13 – It’s over, Token Conservative. You can wake up to go to bed now.

10:14 – Thanks to everyone who read this, the longest, least exciting post in the history of liveblogging. Your sadism love for TV is perhaps greater than my own.

Aaaaaaannnnd scene.