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.

Update

In case you’re interested, here’s the response the mama in question
(see post below) received from the Round Rock Premium Outlet Mall.

It is… uninspiring:

Thanks for calling today.  It was a pleasure to speak with you this afternoon. 

As we discussed, Round Rock Premium Outlets, and our company in general, welcome breastfeeding mothers to our centers all the time.   We ask only that the breastfeeding be done in a tasteful/discreet manner.   

To my knowledge, we have never previously excluded anyone who was breastfeeding from one of our centers.

We hope that you and your son will feel comfortable returning to Round
Rock Premium Outlets soon.

Sincerely,

Michele Rothstein
Senior Vice President, Marketing
Chelsea Property Group
A SIMON Company

I mean, at least it’s polite and non-accusatory, but compare it to this (a similar incident that happened at a Round Rock Express game a little over a year ago).

Dave Fendrick with the Round Rock Express really just got it. He was embarrassed by what had happened and he went into full-on proactive "let’s make this right" action.

I don’t think Michele Rothstein gets it. It feels like this was one more more pain in her ass to get checked off of her Franklin planner to-do list yesterday. I could be wrong, but it feels like there should be more to that note.

********* UPDATE **********

An update to the update…. There will be a nurse-in at the Round Rock Outlet mall, by (or possibly in) the Disney Store, at 10:30 am this Sunday. Grab your boobies, grab a baby and come see if you can rile up some Segway drivin’ security folk.

Dear Round Rock Premium Outlet Mall (and Disney Store) Asshats,

Imagine, if you will, that you are hungry. You are so hungry, in fact, tears well up in your eyes. Your Filet O’ Fish sits mere millimeters from your face and yet – YET – you are not allowed to eat it. You can smell it, oh can you smell it. You can feel its warmth caress your chubby cheeks. The anticipation of the softness of its bun makes your mouth water and your hands rub together anxiously. You begin to squirm because the Filet O’ Fish is not going away. It’s right there, right in your face. And you are very, very hungry.

Finally, the Filet O’ Fish is made available to you. You take a luxurious bite. It is exquisite, and then, even as you’re chewing, the sandwich is ripped away from you. As it hangs again, millimeters from your face, someone tells you it’s a liability to let you eat your sandwich there, even if you do it privately, away from other people. You think, "well that’s horseshit," but you’re starving, so you forgo the fight and go sit on a faraway bench outside to finish your lunch.

Once outside, you take a seat and lustily bury your face into your lunch. As you’re munching, eyes rolling in delight, you see… what? Gob from Arrested Development? A man on a Segway hums up to you, steam coming from his ears.

"You must take your lunch to the bathroom," he fumes. "You must finish it there. There will be no sandwich eating in public."

"COME ON," you protest, trying to get in his good graces by giving a dead-on impression of Gob at his most obfuscated. "I’m hungry, and this is a public place!"

"It is a private place," the Gob-ish "security" man counters, even though you are both outside and not in a living room. He dismounts his phallic idiot-mobile. "You must do that," and here he gestures at you in a way that shows he’s disgusted by you and your sandwich, "in the bathroom."

You refuse. There is a standoff. Ultimately, not feeling up for a fight with a certifiable asshat, you put away your partially eaten meal and leave the premises. You don’t understand why you’ve been discriminated against. There are other people eating their lunches while sitting on benches and they have not been bothered by Segway-driving possibly fictional TV characters. You look around for the Candid Cameras. There are none. You look for Ashton Kutcher, he’s nowhere to be seen. You are stumped.

Resigned, you take your sandwich, finish it in the car and go home. You do not buy anything on your trip, and you tell all your friends who enjoy sandwiches to stay away from the Round Rock Premium Outlets.

OK. That story above? It sounds ridiculous doesn’t it? Positively moronic. And yet, substitute Filet O’ Fish sandwiches with breastfeeding and the scene is tiresomely familiar.

Not only was a woman harassed by a Segway-driving security guard as she she tried to nurse her four-month-old (discreetly, on a bench outside) at the Round Rock Premium Outlet Mall, said security guard had been called by the manager of  – wait for it – the Disney Store after the mama had asked if she could nurse her child privately in a dressing room for a few minutes. The Disney store manager informed her it was a liability to allow a mama to breastfeed her child privately in the store.

Why would that be a liability, Disney Store Manager? Could the mama’s breast fall off causing someone to trip? Could an overactive letdown accidentally shoot a stream of milk into an electrical socket and cause a blackout? Maybe the baby might burp really loudly, the burp would then be mistaken for a terroristic threat, and the whole store would be blown to smithereens by a renegade SWAT team of misguided vigilantes?

Not allowing a mother to privately nurse her baby in your store is top notch assholery, but calling Segway-driving security on her once she’s left the store? COME ON. It makes me laugh at the sheer preposterousness. A mother feeding her baby is a security risk how exactly? She will scare away other mothers? Doubt it. Her breasts will somehow escape her shirt and cause a car accident amongst lecherous passers-by? Probably not.

It doesn’t make any sense. It is, in fact, stupid that this happened. Actually, it’s all of those words we learn when we discuss discrimination – ignorant, degrading, embarrassing, litigious.

Oop. Did I say litigious? Well, why would that be? Oh, maybe because discriminating against breastfeeding mothers is against the law in Texas. Best read up on your statutes, dumbasses. And after that, an apology would be nice. Not just to the mama you humiliated and the baby you tried to starve, but to everyone else.

Apologize for not living in the 21st century. Apologize for your twisted views that breasts are only sex objects. Apologize for demanding someone eat their lunch in a restroom. Apologize for marring the sanctity of the Segway name.

And most of all?

Apologize for your idiocy. Because, damn.

COME ON, Round Rock Premium Outlets and Disney Store Manager. COME ON.

Sincerely,
Kari
concerned mother

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."