Flounders and Sonnets

This week, we are hearkening back to my youth. High school to be precise. Hard to believe now, but I was an odd little teenager. Granted, I think most teenagers are weird. But I was a little weirder, I think, than an average teenager. Nerdy and quiet, but quirky. Certainly weirder than my brother, who mooned everyone. So that’s why, when a teacher complains of a kid being weird, I always ask, “Weird, weird? Or just quirky?”

I mean, for one assignment, I was supposed to make a gingerbread house. But mine collapsed (probably because of my baking abilities, or lack thereof), so I made a ginger fish. I originally intended for the fish to look like Rainbow Fish (aw, sweet), but instead he looked kind of like Elton John (um, weird. But seriously, if Elton John were a flounder, he’d look like my fish). So I gave him giant rhinestone glasses, named him Freddie, and wrote a story about my fish’s musical talents. In German. And entered it and my fish into the gingerbread house competition, and put it one of the displays. (Strangely, I was disqualified)

For another assignment (same year, even), a friend of mine and I decided to collaborate on writing sonnets (from The Passionate Shepherd and The Maid’s Reply to the Shepherd). She wrote one, I wrote the other. It was actually a clever idea. I meant it to be silly, but as soon as my English teacher started reading it (aloud to the class, though I don’t recall why), I realized how very, very dirty the whole thing sounded. My cheeks flaming, I thought desperately to myself:

“Oh. God. I did not just write a sonnet about… masturbation.”

And then, more desperately, “Please, please, please, don’t let them get it.”

My classmates, for what was probably the first time all year, fell completely silent. I wanted to hide beneath my desk. Soon, one head turned in my direction. Then another.  Someone giggled. Soon, the entire class was howling with laughter.

I wanted to die.

Instead, I may have gotten some grudging respect from my peers after that. I was pretty quiet then–I was too shy to even order at McDonald’s. Yet when they heard that poem, thinking I had intended to write on such a subject, suddenly I was more than the quiet kid who sat in the back of the room and hid behind all that hair.

I was the quiet kid who hid behind all the hair, president of German Club, and the girl who wrote about spanking the monkey.

Is it a wonder I write romance novels now?



Astronauts Don’t Pinch Their Friends

Chewey: “I want to be an astronaut when I grow up.”

Me: “Astronauts don’t pinch their friends. So  you’ll need to stop that.”

Chewey: “Why can’t I pinch?”

Me: “Because NASA won’t send an astronaut up to meet the aliens if he’s going to pinch them. If you pinch a martian, you’ll start a war.” (I know)

Chewey: “But I want to start a war. Then I can shoot them.”

Hard to argue with that logic.

Me: “Uh, we don’t want to start a war with the Martians. NASA–the boss of all the astronauts–wouldn’t like that. The Martians, uh, have cool toys.”

Chewey: “What kind of toys?”

Me: “Robots.”

Because it all leads back to robots. That’s why we have robot insurance, right?

Chewey: “Can I go outside and lick snow?”

Me: “Sure, buddy.”

And seriously, that’s exactly what he did. He knows his colors in four different languages at not even four, but his big entertainment? Licking snow.

I may be in trouble.


Insanity in Small Doses

Yes, I am still alive. I promise.

But between the book, the newsletter, the kids, the full-time job, and life, the blog has had to take a backseat to my sanity.

I’m trying to help myself understand that a certain amount of insanity is healthy–not just OK, but actually healthy. For instance, the craziness of raising kids keeps me young (except on those days that are so exhausting I go to bed feeling like I’m a thousand years old). The chaos of work keeps my mind active. The insanity of thinking I should write romance novels is a creative outlet. Even when I’m editing–or getting rejected–the book(s) are something I’m proud of, and am happy I’ve done.

But in larger doses, insanity is just that–insanity. I go through fits and starts with my self-imposed deadlines and ultimatums. I MUST make sure that the kids are in swimming lessons. I MUST be the soccer coach (this, despite the fact that I don’t know the first thing about soccer, other than “You kick the ball into the net.” Thankfully, that’s enough for five-year olds). I MUST be a good mother and make sure my children have the self-esteem I never did. I MUST be the best speech pathologist for the kids at work.

So when I encounter someone who says to me, “Oh, you work for the school district. Must be nice, working 9-3,” I want to scream. 8-5, with a half hour for lunch, that’s what I work. And don’t forget the paperwork on weekends. It infuriates me that my work is seen as so superfluous to the functioning of society that our governor wants me to take between a 5-10% pay cut.

Why am I working so hard, then?

And outside of work, I MUST write the church newsletter, despite the fact that I hate doing it, because if I don’t, the typos, misspellings, and grammatical errors will make me want to hurl. And once that’s done, I’ll write the book(s). After all, I MUST get the edits done so I can send the queries and partials out to the agents who have requested them. So I stay up until 2 or 3 in the morning trying to meet a deadline that doesn’t really exist.

I MUST clean the house. I MUST make healthy dinners (sadly, frozen pizza doesn’t seem to make the cut). I MUST make sure everyone eats their vegetables, exercises for 20 minutes a day (I know, it’s on the low side), and gets outside for a portion of their day.

Despite all these things I MUST do, here’s what my life is actually like. The house is a mess. Chaos reigns supreme. I get snotty emails about the newsletter, and then my husband gets thanked for doing it. People yell at me at work, and I can’t, for the life of me, figure out why. My son has taken to pinching people at daycare because, in his words, he finds them “annoying.” So I do up behavior charts for him, write him social stories, and take away the TV. And fret that I’m awful at the one thing I wanted to succeed at more than I wanted anything in my life.

I worry that not only am I not a “good” mother, but not even a “good enough” mother. Because that’s all I’m shooting for now. Good enough. My goals aren’t lofty–I just want the kids to make it through high school without setting the house on fire.

Only right now, I’m starting to think it’s too bad they don’t have one of those pre-tax savings accounts for bail money.

I’m kidding.

Sort of.

So I’m going to make an attempt to minimize the chaos.

Insanity in small doses.