Friday, September 30, 2011

Mama Kat's Writing Workshop: WWVD?

Mama’s Losin’ It
            Today I’m linking up with Mama Kat’s Writer's Workshop. The prompt was a true piece of fantasy writing: “Make a list of ten things you would do if you didn’t have to work.” My first thought was—only ten? I could go on for days. So I decided to put one restriction on the list for myself. I’ve written a post of ten things I would do if I didn’t have to work, but our household income remained the same.

1.) I’d play hooky with my kids now and then. These days, time to myself is at a premium. All day, everyday I am with kids or customers. The only time I am alone is when I’m in the car waiting for the kids. I have become very stingy with my time alone. But if I wasn’t working, I would have more time and be more willing to ditch school for a day to go to the beach or take a walk in the woods with my little guys.

2.) I’m also play hooky with my husband. The only thing I have less of than time by myself, is time alone with Dan.

3.) I’d dust off the piano, get it tuned and learn to play it.

4.) I would take more time to cook. I’d try new recipes that take more than four ingredients. I’d take a break from the old standbys I make five nights a week.

5.) I would write and write and write.

6.) I’d comment on more blogs and respond to the comments on my own blog.

7.) I would train for a mini triathlon.

8.) I would spend school vacations as a tourist in my own backyard. I’d take my kids to Plimouth Plantation, The Museum of Science, and The House of Seven Gables. We’d visit Lexington Green and walk the Freedom Trail. In the summer we’d test the water at every beach on Cape Cod and Cape Ann.

9.) I’d be involved in more than one play a year and I’d go to see all of the plays my friends are in.

10.) I’d finish all the household projects I’ve begun like the porch curtains that still need to be hemmed and hung and the door that’s been primed but never painted. I’d clean out the garage and the basement. Oh, what a glamorous time I would have!   

            So that’s my list. What would you do if you didn’t have to work?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Turning it Around

            At the end of August I felt like I was the only mom blogger around who hadn’t written an ode to the end of summer. Owen fell and cracked his front tooth the same week James had hand surgery. He ended up needing a root canal. I felt like I spent the end of summer trying to make my kids comfortable during the day and heading off to work at night. I wanted to be taking my kids to the beach, gathering the last of the summer tomatoes, inviting friends over for barbeques, and taking walks to Dairy Queen. But between the unexpected medical and dental bills and needing to buy a new car, I had to work as many hours as my boss could give me. It didn’t leave much time or money for fun. August kicked my ass.
            Then September arrived I felt like I was the only blogger who hadn’t written a back to school post. I didn’t feel that feeling of lightness that comes with the freedom of having my house to myself. I knew the tango of getting the kids to two different schools on different sides of town and getting myself to work on time was a task that would take military precision. I knew cramming in homework and dinner before soccer and scouting would be painful. I put together a calendar and color-coded our activities, I made lunches in advance, washed, folded and put away every scrap of laundry in the house. I was too busy getting ready for back to school to write about it. I’m not going to lie. September also kicked my ass.
            Now September is drawing to a close. We’re settling into a manageable, yet far from perfect, routine. After getting sent home from school three times for uncontrollable coughing fits, we finally seem to have James’ allergies under control. We’re managing to juggle all of our activities. And I’ve learned it’s okay to say, “We can’t make it tonight” when it’s just too much.
            Our school system is closed for Rosh Hashanah so we have a four-day weekend. The boys and I slept a little later this morning. We’re going to go to the library and then drive to New Hampshire to go out to lunch with my parents. If the rain breaks, we’ll pick some apples and maybe a pumpkin. We’ll get to enjoy a little of what makes it wonderful to live in New England in the fall. By the time the boys go back to school on Monday it will be October. It won’t be any less busy than September. I don't celebrate Rosh Hashanah myself, but this seems like a really good time to welcome a new year and make a resolution. It's almost October, time for me to do the ass kicking.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Adam's Ad

This week's Write on Edge prompt was to write a personal ad for one of our characters. I loved doing this prompt. It was a great way to explore my character. I had to think about who he is and what he wants. I may do an ad for Michaela as well. 

Adam's Personal Ad

SWM mid-30’s seeks SF mid-30’s

Who am I? A small business owner who left the corporate world to work for myself doing something I love. I make a good living and I can lift heavy things and fix almost anything that breaks. I don’t believe in Valentine’s Day. If I care about you, you’ll know it every day, not just on February 14th. I tell the truth and I don’t play games. I watch the Patriots, the Bruins and the Celtics, but I don’t mind missing a game occasionally if there is something else to do. I support the Red Sox because I believe in rooting for the home team, but baseball bores me to death. Yes, I’ve been hurt before. I figure if you make it past 30 without picking up a little baggage, you’ve been living under a rock.

Who are you? Blond, brunette, or red head it doesn’t really matter. I look at the way a woman carries herself. There is nothing sexier than a woman who looks like she doesn’t care if anyone is looking at her. If you spent a couple of hours getting ready for our first date, you’ve wasted your time. I bet you were prettier before you blew the curls out of your hair and put that stuff on your face. If you’re tired of guys who check their Blackberries during dinner, don’t give up their seats for pregnant ladies on the train, cancel dates at the last minute, or are afraid to get their hands dirty give me a call.

You can read more of Adam's story here:

Monday, September 19, 2011

RemebeRED: Curtain Call

For this week’s memoir prompt, we’re going to let narrative take a backseat. Choose a moment from your personal history and mine it for sensory detail. Describe it to us in rich, evocative details. Let us breath the air, hear the heartbeat, the songs, feel the fabric and the touch of that moment.

Curtain Call
           It is so dark I’m afraid I’ll fall into the orchestra pit. Someone shines a flashlight from the wings to help me find center stage. My arms are covered in goose bumps and my skimpy costume is itchy where the netting is stitched to the satin. My heart is pounding like it does when I take a math test or when I go down a hill too fast on my bike.
            The lights come up and warm me. I can see the stage now—I am exactly where I’m supposed to be. The audience is still in darkness so I cannot see their faces, only the shapes of the people in the first row. My family is out there somewhere but I can’t tell where. I remind myself to smile.
            The music begins. It’s much louder than when I dance in my living room. I move to the rhythm as I’ve done a thousand times at home—standing on my toes and stretching out my arms. My racing heart begins to slow as I dance. I don’t have to force myself to smile any more. I have never felt so happy as I do at this moment. I don’t care any more that the costume is itchy. It’s black and shiny and trimmed with red sequins and white feathers.
            Too soon the song is over. The invisible audience claps. I love the sound. I curtsy deeply over the dusty stage and run into the wings. I am seven years old and this is my first curtain call.  

I'm sure any seven-year-old girl these days would consider this a very odd song choice for a dance recital. But it was "Creative Movement" class in the 70's and I loved it.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Tough Mama

            Monday I took my fourth trip to Children’s Hospital in Boston with my son James. It was time to take his cast off. He had surgery three weeks ago to repair some damage he did to his hand a few years ago. We’ve had a few challenging moments with his right hand in a cast but he has adapted remarkably well. He has learned to use his left hand to eat, write, and of course play video games. I can’t imagine an adult coping this well without his or her dominant hand for this long. He rarely complained about pain or itchiness and managed to do almost everything he would normally do. The biggest challenge was trying to keep him from going full-speed and damaging himself again. Or damaging someone else—that cast made a pretty effective weapon.
            I love Children’s Hospital. Fear and sadness could so easily take over a hospital for children—there are so many kids with really serious conditions. But every kid is treated like a regular kid. No one stares at the little girl who has obviously lost her hair to chemo. No one makes a fuss over the boy with visible scars on his face. Everything is normal there. Maybe the definition of normal becomes much broader when you’re dealing with sick kids.
When adults at Children’s engaged James in a conversation they would ask him about his age, his grade, whether he liked Sponge Bob or if he liked sports. Everywhere else we go people ask him about his cast. The closest anyone at Children’s came was when they asked if blue was his favorite color—since his cast, his shirt, and his stuffed monkey are all blue. I’m not faulting folks for asking. They’re curious and concerned about seeing a little boy in a cast and James doesn’t seem to mind. But I would imagine that someone whose child had some visible long-term condition would get really tired of explaining it to strangers.
            Yesterday afternoon I was helping James do exercises the occupational therapist prescribed for him. It’s painful and slow. But if he wants to regain full motion in his finger it has to be done. He catches his breath as he bends each joint and holds it down for ten seconds. He gets a little teary eyed. “Don’t hold your breath Buddy,” I tell him, remembering the things I know from years of yoga. “Take a deep breath when we bend your finger.” We move through the three joints twice. “Do you want to just do two more and take a break?” I ask him.
“How many do we have to do?”
            “No. Let’s just do it.”
            It hurts but he keeps going. He knows there are times he can play me with his sad eyes and pouty lips. This time he knows I can’t let him stop. Giving him a break is all I can offer. Without the exercises his finger won’t be any better than it was before the surgery. James knows I can’t give in. He gets it and he’s willing to work through the discomfort to get better. I am so impressed with his determination.
            A part of me wants to let him stop. That part of me that nursed him countless times at 3am, the part that crawls into his bed when he has a bad dream, the part that has read Good-night Moon hundreds of times, the part that has sung “Sweet Baby James” thousands of times. That part of me wants to tell him it’s okay to stop and make him a cup of hot chocolate instead. The Tough Mama inside me has to tell that part of me to go sit in a corner while I do my job. The tough Mama (or Papa) is the part of our parenting brain that makes our kids get vaccinated, eat his vegetables and take nasty tasting medicine. It is the same part that makes him do his homework when he’s had a tough day or takes away privileges when he’s done something wrong. I hate being Tough Mama. But I know I have to be her sometimes.
            James hurt his fingers six years ago. Just his fingers. They’re going to get better but it’s going to take some work. When I helped him with his therapy I was thinking about all the parents of patients at Children’s Hospital—the parents whose kids are dealing with problems much larger than a couple of fingers. The Tough Mama part of them must be huge. I don’t know how they do it. I know the short answer is, “What choice do I have?”  But still, you do it. You tell the sweet-nurturing part of yourself to go find something else to do while you do what you have to do to make your baby well. I tip my hat to you Tough Mamas and Papas out there. You have my eternal respect and nightly prayers.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Loss and Hope

            Earlier in the week I sat down to write a blog post to honor the tenth anniversary of 9/11. I started out by writing my memories of that day. Not surprisingly, I was a puddle of tears before I even got to the part about seeing the plane hit the second tower on live television. There are so many tiny memories about that day burned into my brain—walking past a woman in Boston wearing the exact same suit that morning, the flawless blue sky, trying to make a cell phone call, driving to Walgreen’s that night just to get away from the television that I couldn’t bring myself to shut off. But my memories of that day are pretty unremarkable compared with so many others. If I can’t get my commonplace recollections out of my head, what is stuck in the heads of the people who experienced 9/11 in a much more direct way?
            Instead I want to talk about a realization I came to a little later on that week. At the time, my husband’s parents owned a small piece of land on a pond in Maine. We drove up there the following weekend to camp. I can’t remember if we had planned on going before the attacks or if we just needed some fresh air and quiet after that week.
            I had turned thirty a couple of weeks before. Thirty was going to be just fine for me. I was going to spend the first six months pregnant and give birth to my first child in January. That didn’t happen. I miscarried at almost eleven weeks in July. When my thirtieth birthday came in August it was a little tougher because of that.
            Dan and I lay on the ground looking up at the star-filled September sky, we talked a little about the miscarriage. For the first time, our loss seemed smaller. “Do you still want to have children?” he asked me.
            I can understand people not wanting to bring a child into the world when terrible things happen. You can choose to despair or you can choose hope. My answer that night was an immediate and certain yes. There was so much sadness and fear and anger in the world that week, but there were glimmers of light as well. There were heroes born that day—first responders and ordinary folks who stood up to hijackers. There were also millions of people who did whatever they could to try to make some small difference. They wrote checks for relief efforts, donated blood, and held hands with strangers to pray.
            The people who stand up and do the right thing in their own way out number the bad guys. They don’t get their pictures on the front page of the papers. They won’t make the six o’clock news. But they make a difference. If we want to make the world a better place, if we want to out number the bad guys, a great place to start is by raising children who do the right thing.
            The following summer, I watched the Boston Pops Fourth of July concert from my hospital room with my new son. The maternity ward was packed that weekend. Apparently Dan and I weren’t the only one who chose hope over despair. Owen is nine years old now. He’s strong and healthy and knows right from wrong. He knows you don’t take something that doesn’t belong to you. He knows it isn’t okay to hurt someone. He knows if you do hurt someone you tell them you’re sorry. He knows to stand up for himself and his little brother. When we talk about the events of September 11th 2001, I tell him about the heroes as well as the villains.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Write on Edge: Requiem

 This week's Write on Edge assignment was to write about jeans, "We all have a relationship with jeans. They can make us feel a range of emotions, and this week we asked you to write a piece in which jeans figured prominently." I cheated a little with this assignment. Last winter I wrote a piece about the tragic loss of my favorite pair of jeans and I've revised it slightly for this assignment.

Requiem in Pacis Ventus Jeans

One snowy day last winter I had just come in from shoveling snow. I was in my room peeling off the layers of sodden, snow-covered clothes. I tossed my jeans into the hamper and saw a worn patch on the upper thigh. Upon further inspection I realized it wasn’t simply a worn spot. It was a hole—actually two holes—in my favorite pair of jeans. The first thought that ran through my head was, “Was this hole here when I wore these to work earlier in the week?” I quickly dismissed the thought. I was wearing long underwear for snow shoveling, but I don’t need it at work. Surely I would have noticed a draft if the holes had been there then. Right? Right?
After dismissing the possibility that I had given my customers and coworkers a little show, my second thought was, “Why these jeans? Why my favorite jeans?” These are the jeans that are just the right shade of blue, snug enough to look good but not so tight they’re uncomfortable. My favorite thing about them? Pocket flaps. I love pocket flaps—they disguise the fact that I have no butt whatsoever. Seriously. When I go to the gym I spend a lot of time trying to get something going on back there. I’m the only one at the Y trying to work my ass on.
I dislike jean shopping the way most women dislike bathing suit shopping. I don’t worry about bathing suits. When I’m at the beach I spend most of my time chasing my boys, building sandcastles and catching minnows. I don’t worry if I look sexy or not. Besides, I am so pale my skin is nearly blue—a beach bunny I ain’t. My requirements for a bathing suit are pretty simple. It has to be comfortable, good quality and provide enough coverage so I can sunscreen all exposed skin without help from anyone else. I usually order them from Land’s End. They actually sell bathing suits with pockets. Sexy? No. Practical? Yes.
Jeans, I wear nearly every day. I have to wear them for work and they are the most versatile garments for the stay at home mom side of my life. For a while I did try wearing nicer clothes like khakis and button down shirts when I picked up the kids. But adding extra ironing to my routine wasn’t good for my health. Besides, smeared cookie washes out of denim much easier than out of poplin. I tried wearing yoga pants like so many stay at home moms do, but it wasn’t me. I wear workout clothes when I work out and then I shower and put on jeans. Besides, yoga pants are not flattering on the buttless.
Of course, I know why my jeans wore out. They are were (sniff!) my favorite so I wore them all the time so they didn’t last as long as my less wonderful jeans. You may be asking yourself, why if these jeans were so marvelous, didn’t you buy more than one pair Vickie? Well, I tried. In fact, I bought a pair of jeans that looked just like them and had the same name. But the manufacturer changed the design somewhat. They still have the same pocket flap and they are the same shade of blue, but they are cut in such a way that they are unmistakably mom jeans. I’m a mom and I drive a minivan (a beige minivan at that!) but I refuse to wear mom jeans*. I do have some pride.

*Full disclosure. Since this piece was written I have traded in my beige minivan for a slightly less mommyish car. It’s an SUV in a color I like to call faded denim.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Motorcycle

This is my very first time linking up with Mama Kat’s Writing Workshop. The prompt? Write a post about a childhood memory as if you’re in that moment again…from the perspective of yourself as that child.

The Motorcycle

            My name is Vickie and I’m nine-years-old. My family is camping in Yellowstone National Park in our motorhome. It’s really beautiful here. My brothers love to go fishing and hiking. I like it too, but one of my favorite things is gettng to ride my bike to the camp store. I never get ride my bike to stores at home. The streets are too busy and the stores are too far away. But here in the campground, there isn’t as much traffic so my parents let me ride my bike to the camp store. Today I have money to buy some candy.
            Mum doesn’t let us eat much junk food so it takes me a long time to pick out what I want. I pay fifty cents for a package of Peanut M&M’s. It’s only a quarter at the grocery store at home. Stuff costs more here. I eat the candy outside before I get on my bike.    On the ride home a car comes up behind me so I steer my bike closer to the side. It’s sandy there and my bike slips. I feel the tires start to slide into the ditch. I hit my breaks too hard and fall off the bike face first. There is sand in my teeth and my chin is bleeding. I am crying. There is no one around. I stand up and try to get my bike back up to the the road.
            A motorcycle stops by the side of the road. The riders take their helmets off. The man has wild black hair and a thick beard. My dad has a beard too but he trims it all the time. It’s nice and neat. The lady has straight blond hair—it’s even longer than Marcia Brady’s hair. I wish my hair was like that, but it’s curly and brown.
            “Are you okay, Honey?” She asked me.
            I am a little hurt but mostly scared. I learned at school not to talk to strangers but I don’t want to be rude so I nod my head.
            “Can you walk?” She asks.
            Again, I nod. They seem nice. I don’t think they are going to hurt me. I’ve never met anyone with a motorcycle before.
            “Do you know the number of your campsite?” She asks me.
            “Yes,” I tell her. “We’re at site C5.” My parents always make sure I know the number before I go for a ride.
            “We’ll take you back there.”
            “Thank you.”
            I start to walk my bike up the road. “Want me to walk the bike back for you?”
            “That’s okay,” I said. I was embarrassed by the cut on my chin and I feel a little shy. I feel better leaning on the bike.
            “Are you sure?” The man asks. “I could give you a ride on the motorcycle and my wife could walk your bike for you.”
            I shake my head. I’m sure my parents would kill me if I accepted a ride from a stranger—especially on a motorcycle.
            He rides very slowly and she walks along side me until we reach my family’s campsite. My dad shakes the man’s hand and my mom takes me inside the motor home to clean my cut and wash out my mouth. There is a very small chip on one of my front teeth and the scrape on my chin looks like a beard. I can’t stop crying.
            My dad comes inside the motor home to check on me. “Are you okay Sweetheart?” he asks.
            I nod but the tears keep coming.
            “The cut isn’t too bad, but her front tooth is a little chipped.” My mother tells him.
            “Is that the problem?” He asks me. “Does your tooth hurt?”
            I shake my head. The chip feels a little weird, but it really doesn’t hurt.
            “Then what’s the problem? Why won’t you stop crying?"
            “Because I really wanted to ride on the motorcycle!”