Tuesday, May 30, 2006
Do It, Baby.
Well, we had a cook-out that went well, even with the many littles splashing around in our new blow up pool. And all cleaning and cooking and shopping and running around like chickens with their heads cut off is over. The place is relatively presentable, despite the empty beer bottles still to be taken out to the curb.
Now back to my life. Now, back on my schedules and my to do lists. So un-romantic! But I'm such a creative right-brainer, that I really need to give myself some boxes and rules in order to feel like I am getting anywhere.
All this management of life stuff is a lot of work. For so many years I kind of just went with the flow. With the boy, I just can't do that, because I would just flow on out on a wave of baby food and stinky diapers and the never ending baby needs. Ahh.
Must be conscious about my own life and what I want from it.
Particularly since I am going to need to go back to work soon. I did get a lead on a job teaching English at a community college in the neighborhood. It's what I want to do. I think that the hours would work with what I need. I think the money is necessary. I think I would like to teach again. Will it all work out?
Well, I have to take the steps to make it work out. My resume is the first step. Sending it to the appropriate folks is the next. Who knows? I may have a job come September.
That really means I have to get my butt in gear around my novel. I really do want to write it-- to have it written-- to have it revised-- to have it published. I want all that. So how determined am I?
According to William James, "If you care enough for a result, you will most certainly attain it."
That doesn't mean just wishing for something like a genie is going to come down in a puff of smoke and nod their head for all you've ever wanted. It means determination, positive thinking, action, commitment.
Thursday, May 25, 2006
Inch by Inch
Yesterday I wrote three pages in my novel. Then I looked down and I had twelve pages total. How did I get to twelve pages? I had thought I wasn’t writing.
How? I’ll tell you. By plugging away. Even if it was only ten lines before Gabriel woke up from his nap. I switched off my internal editor and forced myself to sit down, to turn on the computer while simultaneously not connecting the internet. I had little sayings at the top of my page that I would keep referring to. Things like, “just write one word at a time,” or “allow yourself to write crap,” or “be a God—a nasty, manipulative, jealous god, and mess with your characters lives.” (Not sure how that last one works with the motivational speaker-ness of the first ones, but it’s up there, too.)
I know 12 pages isn’t a lot. I know there’s a whole bunch more to go. But it’s a start, and it was really hard to get to this start.
And the story also took a turn I was not expecting, just by following where the characters wanted to go. I love it when that happens. It’s also good, because where I had to go before that was dry and expositional. Yea for being up for the adventure.
Complications (or Sometimes I'm So Tired Everything Seems Very Hard)
Why should they succeed where I didn't? Is it talent? No. Intelligence? No. Contacts? Maybe. Support? Maybe. Really I think it's all about commitment and drive.
I think I could be successful if I put myself into whatever I wanted to do. I always have been before. Commit 100% and follow through. It really isn't that difficult.
I always have buts. I always complicate things, over think, get afraid, psych myself out.
Today, I was strolling in Central Park with the mommy crew, and we were passing the folks sitting out with their pencil portraits for sale, the ones who will draw you or your sweetheart or your child for eighty bucks.
A mommy friend said, "we should do that with the babies, get their portraits drawn."
I rolled my eyes and said, "They're expensive. I would never pay for that, I could do it myself." Which is true, I've done a lot of portraits, mostly self portraits in the last 20some years of my life.
And the mommy friend says, "So you don't think what you can do is worth the money?"
Shoot. Brand new friend, barely knows me at all, and she pegged me.
It all comes down to the money. I know I have talent. I know I can do things very few other people can do, maybe even no one else can do them, and yet, I don't feel, still after all these years of working on myself, I don't feel I am worth as much as other people. I don't feel as if what I can do is worth money.
And so, after decades of practicing my craft, or my crafts, I still hide them away in boxes and folders and drawers, only half heartedly trying to be published or shown or seen or heard. Never ask for money, and when I do, ask for less than I deserve. So everything I do remains, well, amateur.
So I am an amateur and not a professional, not because of the quality of my work, but because of my hang-ups and the stories I tell about who I am.
Why is being a fully realized human being so complicated?
Monday, May 22, 2006
Driving at Night
I’ve been wondering lately if I need to have an outline before I start writing this story. I just don’t know where it’s going, really.
I have the set up, I have the main characters and a general idea about what might happen to them, but I don’t really know where I am going.
I should take my own advice and do an “interview” with my characters as an exercise. Exercses help us to understand the inner workings of our mind/story. I probably won’t though. I am resisting my own working.
Just think about how far we all could get if we took the energy we put into RESISTING our forward movement, and used it to actually move forward.
Besides, there’s that quote… “Writing a novel is like driving at night. You can only see a few feet ahead of you, but you can make the whole journey that way.”
Who the heck said that? Were they also trying to care for a baby at the same time? Probably not. I think it was a guy, and you know how that is. They have wives and such. I wish I had a wife to cook and clean and take care of the baby so I could get my writing done and be published and make some money.
Well. I think by writing about my difficulty and how to solve it, I’ve decided to just keep writing and not be so stressed out about not knowing where it is going. Word by word, baby.
Of course, since this is the stay at home mom kind of life, the baby just woke up from his nap and is crying for attention/lunch/mommy. Sigh.
Friday, May 19, 2006
Adventure Boy! and Super Mama
We were feeling a little stressed, Gabriel and I... Destructo Boy was starting to peek out of sweet baby boy, so it was time to go on a little adventure. Okay, fine, a walk-- but to Adventure Boy! that is the same thing. He gets so happy when Mama puts on her magic sunglasses and becomes Super Mama. He loves his adventures.
We just started by going to the store to get more (and yet more!) baby food for he who never stops eating. Then we ran into Gabriel's friend on the way home. Gabriel and Dinah sat in their strollers flirting and kicking. They were born on the same day, I love that. Me and her mom talked, too.
Then, after we parted ways, Adventure Boy! and I, Super Mama wandered down unfamiliar streets and stopped in two, count 'em, TWO galleries. Gabriel-- I mean Adventure Boy! likes art. Well, some of it. He's picky. (Go! Adventure Boy!) He is getting to be a very cultured super boy.
This was a good adventure for me, because it helped me remember that I was an artist, too. Haven't painted in ages. There was one point where I was showing a painting to Gab--Adventure Boy! and he was smiling at it, staring at it, and I asked, "would you like a new painting for your room?"
The guy in the gallery got excited and started showing me the list. I didn't have the heart to tell him I wasn't about to buy. And there were actually paintings that were WITHIN my budget. (And by that, I don't mean that I have lots of money stashed away somewhere, but that there were works on paper that were only 30$.) I just didn't like any of them enough to actually spend money on them. More was the refrain in my head, "I could do that." Luckily, Adventure Boy! with his keen sense of when an adventure has gotten tiresome, started fussing... and we got out of there lickety split.
Actually, I do want to paint Adventure Boy! a painting-- one of a roaring Lion. I got him a new picture book called "Little Gorilla" and his favoritest part of the book is the drawing of the lion roaring with his mouth wide open and all his teeth showing. He wouldn't even let me turn the page.
So adventures are a good thing. Adventure Boy! might lead Super Mama off on all sorts of journeys... who knows to where?
This is one of my favorite photos of Gabriel when we went to the Brooklyn Zoo. Babies love animals... here, they are loving fishies. I love my Thursday Adventures with my Playgroup. What would I have done without them?
Thursday, May 18, 2006
Public School and Art Museum
It wasn't breathtaking art-- not for me, anyway. Some of it was interesting, some of it was funny, some of it was thought provoking, but I didn't love most of it. And I really like modern art. There was this one exhibit where an Australian woman made "mind maps" embroidered on sheer cloth-- and I liked that a lot. It was very intricate, and a lot like the Aboriginal Dream Maps, which I love. Bad art reviewer who can't remember her name. Gabriel liked an exhibit of watercolors on paper... John Lurie, that was his name. They were very odd and art brutish. Strange animals and faces where G's favorite. He would keep turning back to certain pictures. Funny that, even at that young an age, they have preferences in art. There were also a lot of video installations, and I guess that's not my favorite medium... the babies seemed to like them, though. Especially when they could get out and crawl around on the glossy gallery floor.
P.S. 1 is actually an old school building. I love those old school buildings. It get so nostalgic for I'm not sure what.
The other moms and I were also talking about the future of school for our kids. Yes, they're terribly young now, but there's a worry in NYC about preschool and good schools and finding our kids places in said schools.
One of the moms said she's not worried because the demand for better schools is really strong right now in our neighborhood, with the huge generation of kids coming up, but even if they don't manage to fix the schools by the time our kids are ready, she said with the talent in our mother's group, we could start our own school.
Why does that idea keep coming up in my life? For the last ten years, that idea has popped up again and again, even before I got my masters in Education. And it makes me excited. Even though I generally teach High School, and Gabriel is a long way off from that, I love the idea of starting a co-op school. Oh, alternative education, how you pull my heart. Oh, progressive education, I do miss you.
We were also talking about how, if we didn't have our group, we probably would not be doing so well about now. Our friends and communities have seemed to go their own ways, and so the mom's group has given us something new.
It's not just the one glass of white wine I had talking, is it? The one I sipped as we sat outside in the museum courtyard? Maybe some things are going right in this motherhood thing. Maybe life isn't quite over, and new opportunities are opening up.
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
I Have Dreams of Strumming the Guitar and Singing for the Children
I told S that I want to play guitar. He said, “really?” as if that was an interesting idea.
It came up because we were talking about the baby liking music, and that we were a musical family. I said we should have the baby play with the piano more. S plays piano, I don’t, and besides, our hand me down piano is WAY out of tune.
I told him I wanted to play and sing for the baby. I hope that sticks in his mind, and if he happens to come across a guitar for give-away or cheap, maybe he’ll pick it up for me.
I don’t need lessons. I don’t want to be a professional, here. I just need some “learn to play” books and some music. I’ve taken music classes before. I can even sight read a little bit.
I know this kind of takes me out of my resolution to not start anything new, to not try and learn a new genre, but I have ALWAYS loved the guitar, and wanted to learn to play since my sister got guitar lessons, and I got recorder lessons when I was eight. RECORDER lessons, I tell you. One of the times in my life when being the middle sibling has sucked.
I do sing, and I sing well. And I’ve always thought that being able to strum along on a guitar while I sing would be so lovely. Particularly now, while I’m coming into contact with so many children. Maybe I’ll even write my own songs. Years of scribbling poems should come in handy somewhere.
Besides, if G is going to be a rock star, we should start while he’s young. (I’m just kidding. Sort of.)
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
The Difficult Process of Applying Butt to Chair
I wrote half a page just now. While Gabriel napped. This is how it starts. Ofcourse, Gabriel slept for 2 hours, and I only wrote for the last 5 minutes of said nap. Nap entailed my procrastination, dressing, eating, blogging, even planting ornamental grass.
I forced myself to start writing even though I was scared, even though G was about to wake up. It just took me one hour and 55 minutes for the forcing to work.
That’s okay. It’s all part of the process. Now I have to run. It’s lunch time, and we need to go to playgroup.
What I Have Done So Far to Make My Deck an Attractive and Inviting Retreat Because there will Likely be No Vacation this Summer.
Planted morning glory seeds (blue and magenta), sunflower seeds, purple flower seeds.
Bought magenta petunias in hanging baskets.
Bought pink and coral begonias (Is it begonias? I can’t remember. Something like that.)
Brought out the big tree in a pot that winters inside.
Acquired a beach umbrella that I’m using in the table.
Acquired two lovely cedar folding chairs.
Acquired two lounge chairs with lovely cerulean covers.
Rearranged the furniture so there are “conversation areas”, like in a house.
Tossed winter refuse.
Cleaned the gutters (not me, Sean did that.)
Cleaned up the plant table.
Bought a blow up wading pool for Gabriel to splash around in.
Bought a red and white checked vinyl table cloth… which, unfortunately, does not seem to go with the developing color scheme of cerulean, and magenta with splashes of yellow and other brights. Red is pretty much the only color that DOESN’T go.
What I Still Have to Do:
Buy a new vinyl table cloth—one in cerulean and magenta—also acceptable are pink, coral, green. I suppose the classiest would actually be white. Hmm. Do I want to go classy or cheerful? Well, it will all depend on what kind of vinyl table cloths they have at The Gem Store… my neighborhood discount store.
Transfer a few more inside plants outside to the garden. The question is, how much do I want to strip my Studio/sun room of greenery? I can see trees outside the window, so there is that already.
Buy a few more plants for the deck, both flowers and greenery.
Buy new soil.
Plant the ornamental grass—because who knows how long it will take to grow.
Rearrange furniture, because it’s not quite right.
Buy a floor covering so Gabriel can do some well-supervised crawling and hanging around outside.
Blow up the inflatable pool and fill with water when the weather gets nice.
Keep fresh limes in stock so I can make margaritas and sit out there after the baby goes to sleep.
Buy a juicer—because making margaritas with fresh lime squeezed by hand is too labor intensive to be relaxing.
Host get togethers out there—small or large, it’s all good.
And most important…
Develop the habit of going out there when Gabriel has gone to sleep, and taking my laptop, so I can write my novel while drinking my margaritas and sitting in my lounge chair amongst all the beautiful flowers.
Monday, May 15, 2006
Me not very smart
I stole this goal from a Sudoku book I bought. Frankly, I’m doing Sudoku now because I can’t stand being so stupid anymore. This whole mom brain thing is no joke. Between the hormones, the baby talk, limited adult contact and the lack of sleep, my brain feels like it’s shriveling up in my head.
I want to be able to watch a serious movie again—shoot, even a silly movie in one sitting would be an improvement. I want to remember people’s names. I want to stop using “thingy” and “whatchamacallit” in common conversation. I want to be able to concentrate on an idea and take it further into what it could mean or where it could go.
I used to be smart. I’d like to be smart again.
Now that I’ve gotten myself a planner, I feel like I’ve taken a step towards being more productive in my life.
Aside from my lovely ToDo lists (which, to be honest, I have been slacking on) there is a place to plan projects. There is, of course, a calendar, so I can keep track of appointments, deadlines, time bound goals, etc. I can store my receipts. I can keep lists of websites or books or magazines or whatever I need for research.
It’s almost as if I shouldn’t consider myself a stay at home mom, but a work at home mom, one who is a writer, but simply hasn’t made any money at it—yet.
It’s almost as if it is a first step in taking my life as seriously as I might a job. I do have a tendency to wander around with out purpose, nowadays. I mean, my “purpose” is to take care of the baby, so as long as I’m doing that, I can do anything I want, go anywhere. The problem is, none of what I “want” to do seems all that important or pressing, and it isn’t. I often stand on street corners, looking down the street this way, and then that way, wondering which direction I should go.
Is that a metaphor for life, or what?
Sunday, May 14, 2006
Gabriel is more than ten months old, and I still do a double take sometimes, and say, who's a mom? me? Sorry, you have the wrong chica.
But oh, wait. Yes I am. M-O-T-H-E-R.
I'm not quite sure why it stuns me so much to be a mother. I mean, I've wanted to have children since I was 15. We planned to have kids. I had nine months before Gabriel arrived to get used to it, and ten months after, to boot. Yet still, it surprises me.
I think it's because I spent so many years as such an independent, internally motivated person. It was always about what I needed to do for my life, my development, my art, my work. And now, well... hi, it's about sweet potato mash and diapers and nap schedules.
It's only about me during nap times, and at night, once he's gone to bed. And usually, by then I just crash.
Well, yesterday, I got myself a planner-- the old fashioned kind, on paper, with binder rings and a loop to hold my pen. I want to make sure that my old life hasn't finished with bringing forth a new life.
When I was still pregnant and distressed over my lack of ability to create, worried about whether or not I would be able to create once the baby came back, another woman told me, "don't worry, it comes back."
This is where I am now. Nurturing my creativity, while nurturing the baby, I am nurturing me.
Friday, May 12, 2006
Back to My Current LIfe
It was great to see my friend, but I definitely realized how my life had changed. I used to just go along with whatever was on the agenda... like a piece of driftwood on the tide, I'd go wherever I was taken. Not so, anylonger.
No parties in the next town. No late night bar hopping. No stops for Italian food, nor for Nathan's hotdogs on Coney Island. I said "no" to multiple adventures. It's just not realistic anymore. Do I really want to haul around an overtired baby to stranger's houses, missing naps and meals and all sorts of things? I don't. I want our long and painful car ride back to Brooklyn to end. I want to corral all the random baby stuff-- shoes, pacifiers, toys, yogurt cups-- and sit down on my own couch, watch tv, and let him sleep in his own bed.
Yes, I have become an old lady mom. Or maybe not an old lady mom, maybe just a mom to a little baby. Normal, perfectly normal.
And I didn't give up every adventure on my trip. We stopped at a bar in Amangansett, had chowder at a dock side restaurant with a smoky pot bellied stove, stuffed mooses on the walls, and a curmudgeonly bartender who will shout you out with a bullhorn if you talk on your cell phone. Gabriel and I wandered the near deserted town of Montauk, looking for coffee and whatever we could find. Gabriel met the ocean and the beach for the first time-- if it had been warmer, we would've spent more time there. And when Gabriel went to sleep, my friend and I had some long missed girl talk (since she moved to Costa Rica months ago.)
So a nice vacation, but much different from what it would have been in my previous life. Now back to the homefront, and all the projects I am growing now-- from raising Gabriel, to writing a novel, to decorating the house and deck, to keeping my relationship with Sean strong... all those projects that are my life.
Tuesday, May 09, 2006
No More Traveling Light
But it's ending. My friend is selling her little house. It was a great place, but it was a drain on them financially and psychically-- always worried that the sea would come in and the dune would collapse and the whole thing would just be swept out into the ocean. They got a nice deal, not great, but nice, and it's time for them to move on. Sigh. I will miss it.
But then again, that time in my life is over, too. I no longer travel light. Where once I could have tossed my swimsuit in a bag and hopped on the train out to the end of Long Island, now I must plan and schedule, scrounge up a car seat, stuff three bags and fold up the stroller, pack the diapers and baby food, figure out what he needs for the weather and then double that. I've got to figure in his naps and nursing and lunch times. I'm certainly not thinking about what I'm going to wear when I go out to bars. It's not an issue anymore.
It's a whole new life, now. Time to dive into the depth and weight of my life now. Sure, it's not fancy free and footloose like it used to be. It's something else entirely. I'm still figuring out what exactly it is, though.
Friday, May 05, 2006
Three Whole Pages
I actually started my novel. By that I mean I started to write the story, as opposed to ideas about the story.
I started it by telling myself it was okay to write crap. Not just okay, but necessary. Everytime I cringed at the awfulness of what I was putting on the page, I shook it off, said, “that’s okay,” and kept going. Word by word, sentence by sentence. It was painful, but still I did it, and then afterwards, I felt better about myself. Even “good”.
I wrote three pages of dialogue, description, action and exposition. Wow. I forgot I knew that. The components of a story. I used to teach creative writing to teenagers, and you have to break things down to the elements when you teach kids. Adults need that too, sometimes. It helps to pinpoint what things are made of, because then you can consciously craft your work, and not just go on instinct.
Although instinct is good, too. It can get you very far. And dependinig upon your purpose in your art, it may be all you need.
Ofcourse, instinct or craft, the only way to get anything done is to just do it, despite all the things getting in your away. Apply butt to chair and create.
Thursday, May 04, 2006
We walked through the park-- long walk-- but stopped at the lake to see the geese and ducks. Much fun, then got to the zoo proper. The babies were hysterical when they got to the huge fish tank. They all lined up in front of the glass, standing on the ledge, hands and faces pressed up to the tank, watching the big ole fish and turtles swim past. Very cute.
Gabriel liked the bunny, and the meerkats, and the otters-- basically anything that reminded him of his kitty-girlfriend, I think. But he ADORED the alpaca. It was in the "barn", kind of a petting zoo, and the alpacas had just been sheared for the summer. They had these long stringy necks and their heads were big, and still fuzzy. They came right up to the babies, looking to be fed, I think. Gabriel loved them. Reached out for alpaca nose, got licked. He stood on the stall door and giggled hysterically. Then, when it was time to move on to the next animal, wouldn't let go of the door. Hung on, leaning over, laughing and staring at the alpaca. Then, the goats nibbled his toes and the cow ignored him.
So much fun. Then we walked back through the park, took the subway home. Now I'm pooped, and Gabriel's sleeping.
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
Thanks For Sharing
But then I remember. This is normal. This is expected. This is part of the process, this anxiety that nothing will come, this fear that what comes will be crap, this terror that I will be exposed. Normal, all normal.
So, what if, instead of turning away from the fear and hiding in the sand of busywork, I face it? What if I listen to the fear? I’m not saying I should let it win. I’m not going to agree with the fear. Instead, I will listen to the fear, and I will say, “Yes, fear, I hear you. Thank you for sharing, but I have to go work now.”
Simple as that, “I hear you, but I have work to do.”
Tuesday, May 02, 2006
I have been stopped, lately. I’m writing in my journal and my blog, but not my novel. I’m just stopped. I wouldn’t call it blocked, exactly—that’s not a nice word, it’s almost like not writing becomes an illness, and I don’t need an “illness” as an excuse for not writing.
Honestly, I think I’ve been stopped in my writing because I am too close to making it real. I was fine with writing when I was just planning. Taking notes, asking questions, doing character sketches… all that was going along fine. It came to a screeching halt as soon as I got to the point of actually starting to write the STORY.
So, face it. Face my reluctance.
You have no idea where my head just went. Suddenly, Oprah was riveting. I thought I heard Gabriel stirring. I looked at my studio and started planning how to baby proof it. I noticed my lips were chapped. I started thinking about a class I took years ago. I noticed that my clothes smell like baby puke and I should probably go do something about it—
All to get away from writing—and thinking about removing the blocks to writing.
The truth is, I shouldn’t even expend this energy on thinking about why I can’t write and what is getting in my way. I should just go write.
First one word, then the next, then the next, until it makes a sentence. Then add another sentence, another, another—that’s how writing happens. That’s how stories get written.
Monday, May 01, 2006
What's the Story, Morning Glory?
Yesterday, I planted Teddy Bear Sunflowers in a huge pot. That's for Gabriel. The package said they were fuzzy and wonderful to touch. So Gabriel will be able to pet a hundred fuzzy suns.
I am a neophyte gardener. And certainly have never grown anything from seeds, except for maybe those beans you grew in milk cartons for kindergarten.
Last year, I completely ignored my deck and all my container gardens. I was busy growing a little booboo in my belly-- and it wasn't near as romantic as it sounds. It was hard and exhausting work, and I had no energy for flowers.
But that's done with. Now he's on the outside. And there's less time to do all that other stuff, like gardening, or writing, or painting, or washing the dishes-- but there is more energy. I just have to learn how to plan it all out and keep it up. Figure out some sort of routine or schedule to keep everybody fed and clean and watered and inspired enough to grow up tall and strong and beautiful. Flowers, baby, stories.