Thursday, September 18, 2008


Sometimes I'm afraid to write. I lie huddled in fetal position on my bed, hoping that something very interesting will pop into my brain. I avoid the computer, even to read emails. I fear that I have already written any interesting thing that may ever come out of me. I fear that someone will realize that I was a much better writer when I was in college and wonder what happened to me. (I know what happened to me. I found something I love more than words. More than writing. Four somethings: Jana, Kate, Ellie and Matthew.)

But now that I have a book coming out, I know it will be easier to get another published. All that stands between me and a little advance check is sitting down to write. And some days I'm just too afraid to do it.

Confession: I have 4 books started. I am petrified by all of them. One has great characters. One has great voice. One has a plot (!) and one makes me laugh out loud when I read over what I've written. So why can't I just buck up and get one finished? Because I'm a chicken. I'm a little afraid that I'll get my stuff out there and reviewers will thrash it. (That will happen, I'm sure.) I'm afraid that people I love will think I'm a little petty or a little stupid or a little lame or a little childish or a little unimaginative.

But I need to get over it. Because there are good stories in here somewhere, and I am probably the only one who can get them out. Because there are girls and maybe boys who want intelligent, fun, clean stories to read, stories that will give them courage to do hard things. Because life is funny, if you learn to look at it the right way. And I'm pretty sure I can shed a light on that right way.

So get to work, me. Fear not. Be not afraid. Sit down and write. Just do it. Yeah. All that.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Happy Birthday to me!

Yesterday I turned 35. I'm a day and a half into it, and I have to say, so far it's great.

Let me just tell you this.... Having a birthday when your husband is out of town is a very good idea, giftwise.

We are not big gifters at our house. We love presents, but we love our budget even more. We don't give jewels or vacations or furniture or major electronics. But absentee guilt propelled serious present buying this year, comparatively speaking. Here is what I got for my birthday:

A new set of dishes, clean, white, and chipless--with serving pieces.
A hot-air popcorn popper (our wedding gift one died last week).
A Cuisinart countertop ice cream maker (no ice needed, done in 25 minutes).
Ben and Jerry's ice cream cookbook.
More phone calls and emails than I knew what to do with -- guilt had prompted Scott to mass email all my contacts (almost, Jana edited out a few of them) and he told them all to write or call or text. That was a riot.
I went out for lunch with Kristy, and she brought yummy-smelly lotions.
Bonnie brought the cutest dip bowl shaped like an avocado.
Robin brought chips and homemade salsa.
Michelle gave me a cute decoration.
Dad and Mimi and Grandma Wright took us (me and the kiddos) out to Shoots -- great Chinese in Riverwoods, plus early dessert with the sisters, plus a potted orange Gerber daisy.
Scott's parents hosted a family dinner of really good enchiladas and gave me cash (woohoo!).
Karen gave me chips and homemade salsa, apples and caramel dip, a chocolate sheet cake, and wants to bring in dinner later this week.
Elizabeth made luscious gooey chocolate cake loaves and brought a bouquet of gerber daisies.
Jen gave me a pedicure set and a plate of very rich brownies.
Lori gave me a tall candle in fall orange, green and yellow.
Wendy put together a gorgeous basket of apples and caramel.
Plus, tomorrow I'm going out to lunch again with several friends.
And plus again, I'm going out for lunch with different friends on Friday.

Holy cow! This is not normal.

And I love it!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Weather the Storm

So Scott left yesterday to be a StormChaser in Houston. He is ahead of Hurricane Ike by a day or two, because after the storm hits, it may be tricky to get in to coastal Texas. He's gone with a film crew to document the storm and it's effects, but mainly to film Humanitarian Service drops -- getting food donations and hygiene kits to the hungry and the dirty. (There will be some hungry and dirty by the beginning of next week, he's assured.)

The city of Galveston is almost entirely cleaned out. Not only are the people mostly gone, but there is very little left there in the way of bottled water, convenience food, and petrol.

I am not the worrying wife. If I were, life would be no fun at all. Scott is the kind of guy who will routinely, out of nowhere, gasp or bang a table and mutter "oh, no!" only to follow it up with ... nothing. He just lets off a little steam and moves on. When we were first married, I found myself -- blood pressure and pulse rising -- calling out, "What? What's wrong?" an awful lot. If he bothered to answer, it was mainly to tell me that he forgot something (nothing serious, like plane tickets or bill payments, but stuff like washing the car or sending a thank you note). So I have learned to curb my natural curiosity. If he wants to tell me what's bothering him, he will. Eventually.

So I've become the wife who doesn't worry. If he's home a little late, I almost never have visions of fiery car accidents or skid marks leading off the edge of a canyon cliff. If I don't hear from him for an entire work day, I just assume he's been busy, or has left his cell phone on the charger on his bedside table.

But today, tonight, or maybe tomorrow morning, a great big hurricane is supposed to ravage the place he's decided to spend the week. (I very calmly read him a Random History Moment about a very similar storm that thrashed Galveston in 1900, killing eight thousand residents. Thank goodness for tracking technology.) He is possibly in some danger. He's not concerned (except maybe for the hundreds of thousands of dollars of camera equipment that joined him in Houston) and so neither should I be. I told him over the phone last night that I would wait to worry until someone told me I should begin.

And then I asked him to make sure that someone would let me know when it was time to start worrying.

Monday, September 8, 2008

First Crush

I remember my first crush. I think I was always the girl who noticed boys but, being invisible, was rarely-to-never noticed back. My first crush certainly never noticed me back. Sometimes people say this only to discover, years later, that the beloved harbored secret reciprocal desires. Not so much with me. My first crush was Ritchie Cunningham. Opie Taylor was probably more of an age for me, but only the tall, mature, grinning and freckled Ritchie could start my heart.

Fonzie frankly never did it for me. I was always a little scared of him. The leathers, the greased hair, the motorcycle mania – he was too dangerous for this six-year-old. Besides, I think I always feared that he’d turn on my darling Ritchie and take him out.

The idea of Howard Cunningham as a father-in-law gave me heartburn. I despised his temper, if you can imagine. He was so quick to think the worst of my Ritchie, and so consistently grouchy that I worried how I’d fit into the household scheme. Marian I could handle. Any woman who wore an apron around the house had to be a kindred spirit – besides, there was always a table full of food and an open back door.

I knew Ritchie’s friends would adore me – probably to the extent that I’d cause some real friction between them. Ralph Malph would naturally desire me for his own, and I would spurn his advances. Generous Ritchie would choose to pity poor unlovable Ralph, and we would all remain friends with that undercurrent of unrequited love. With Potsie there would be a little more trouble. He and I would probably have a fling. It’s just unavoidable in a circle as tight as ours. But I would always come back to my Ritchie. He’d choose me over his friends in time; because we all have to grow up, you know.

The Cat Gives Me Hives

It’s not that I have a problem with Dr. Seuss. Really, I’m a huge fan. I can quote pages from dozens of his delightful books. I just have an issue with The Cat.

My husband adores The Cat. He is, as a man who (on principle) does not read, fluent in The Cat. The Cat is, as far as I am aware, my husband’s only Machiavellian indulgence. If you ask him to tell you the story of The Cat, he’ll cheerfully describe a boring day saved by a mysterious visitor full of harmless pranks and tricks who puts everything right in the end and makes the world delicious.

My take is different.

Very likely my view is clouded my motherhood. Maybe The Cat gives me hives as I look at it through Mommy eyes. I invite you inside my head to see it my way.

Mom runs an errand and leaves kids home bored. Bad weather prevents playing outside (remember playing outside?) and with a logical leap into the 21st century, maybe the power’s out, so no Wii. Suddenly a strange man appears and forcibly enters the home. Clearly uncomfortable, the kids try to get him to leave. He refuses and begins to systematically break all house rules, overriding each objection from both children and Conscience figure. Again with the go-now requests, this time brushed off by the arrival of more uninvited guests. Havoc ensues in every room. The chaos is at fever pitch when, oh, my! Mom’s coming home. Deftly (as though through years of practice) he erases all traces of his misdeeds and then (wait for it) convinces the kids to LIE ABOUT IT.

How any mother reads this story without a shudder, I cannot fathom. But despite the flood of more suitable and far more clever “learn-to-read” books now on the market, we continue to buy and at least some of us, to read “The Cat in the Hat” until we could achieve self-induced hypnosis or nirvana by simply chanting, “Look at me, look at me, look at me now! It’s fun to have fun, but you have to know how!”

As I type, my four-year-old stands at my elbow, waiting with the patience of a tiny Buddah, holding a stack of books. Spying the telltale blue binding, I can resist even the sigh that is building inside me. I know that within the next five minutes, I will be in my favorite place, indulging my favorite earthly pleasure that does not involve butter. With my boy in my lap, I will read each page of that story. I will read with expression, with drama. I will make him laugh, and he will lean his warm head back so his cheek brushes mine. He will hold my fingers until it’s time for him to turn a page, and I will wait with some semblance of patience to hear my favorite words at story time, “Thanks, Mommy.”