Wednesday, July 23, 2014

When Life goes, “Ha ha, you doofus…”

A few months shy of my 40th birthday and about two years into my second career as an author, I was feeling pretty contented with life. I’d published seven books, won several literary awards, and book sales were happily trucking along. It’s no secret though that I’ve been thinking about pursuing a MFA (Masters of Fine Arts) and devoting more time to the study of the art of writing, so naturally, when I saw a link to the top ten schools for creative writers, I had to click on it.
Johns Hopkins University - Gilman Hall
The list was like a smack to the face. Sitting pretty at number THREE of the top ten schools was the Johns Hopkins University. I WENT to the Johns Hopkins University for my undergraduate education. Heck, I remember walking past Gilman Hall and looking (condescendingly) at those Writing Seminar majors sitting and smoking on the front steps of the building. They were pale-skinned and dressed in black like vampires wannabes. I don’t know if they were deliberately playing up the not-quite-so-starving artist hype (you’ll have to look at the tuition costs at Hopkins to realize that there’s no room for the “starving” sort of anything as you’ll need a hefty bank account or a heck of a lot of scholarships to be at Hopkins) but they sure looked cool compared to me–the nerdy Biology and Philosophy major. Still, I told myself then, writing wouldn’t pay and my future was going to be ever so much more financially secure when I graduated.

But now, looking back, man, what wouldn’t I have given to be one of those vampire wannabes in front of Gilman Hall (minus the smoking which is bad for your lungs.) I had been interested in writing long before I went to college. I could have been there in the basement of Gilman Hall, learning from illustrious writers, including Chaim Potok, the author of one of my favorite books of all time, The Chosen. I had, in fact, attempted to sign up for Potok’s class, but was summarily dismissed. Writing Seminars majors received prioritized placement in Writing Seminars classes, and with a vaunted guest lecturer like Potok, an outsider like me stood no chance of enrolling in that class.
Looking back, I wonder if I’d taken one of those Writing Seminar classes, would I have realized where my heart really lay? Would I have switched majors? Would I have written more, written sooner, been published sooner? I couldn’t help feeling that Life was looking at me from the pages of the article about the top ten schools for creative writing, pointing a finger, and laughing, “Ha ha, you doofus…”

It’s rather discouraging to be a few months shy of forty and wondering if you’d taken the wrong path in life.

Follow Your Brain

And then, I saw this picture on Facebook that made me chuckle and think that maybe I hadn’t screwed up after all. My choice of majors eventually led me to graduate business school, and my MBA landed me a job with the Boston Consulting Group. Better yet, I met my husband while we were both pursuing our MBAs at the University of Virginia, and I would not have traded HIM for anything, not even status as a New York Times bestselling author. My qualifications and work experiences have provided me with a full-time job I truly enjoy, which pays for all of life’s necessities and a large chunk of non-necessities for myself, my husband, and our three children, AND has given me the time and financial freedom to pursue a second (and concurrent) career as an author.

If I missed out on important writing skills as a non-Writing Seminars major, I have certainly picked them up over the past two years, possibly even more effectively than I might have if I were in college. (I considered myself a fairly conscientious student, but even so, I was only at Chapter 5 of Plato’s Republic when the professor was discussing Chapter 10…) Necessity is the mother of invention, and it is also the mother of learning. In the past two years, I did not just learn about how to write well. I learned how to edit a book. I learned how to publish a book. I learned how to market a book.
So, to Life, all I have to say is, “The only time you can make me feel like a doofus is if I never take the path at all. I’m on that writing path now, and I don’t even feel like I had to take the path less traveled. I managed to find a way to walk both paths at the same time. I’ve been abundantly blessed.”

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Dear God, I don't mean to be critical but...

Dear God,

My food source (who calls itself "Mommy") got up after hours of cuddling me and walked away (citing something about a "bathroom") without so much as a "by your leave."

Naturally, I screamed bloody murder over the sixty-second abandonment.

I really don't mean to be critical but I firmly believe you made a design flaw when you gave my food sources legs.

Yours sincerely, Ken (2.5 weeks old)

Friday, January 31, 2014

Baby's Definitive Guide to Driving Mommy Crazy...Feeding in public

1. Wait until Mommy takes you into a public place. Score more points the more public it is.

2. Smack your lips greedily. Root anything and everything you see, including the stroller. Score extra points for sticking your entire fist in your mouth. Act as if you haven't eaten in twenty-four hours even though Mommy just fed you thirty minutes ago.

3. Begin with a whine. Work your way up to a full blown OMG-My-Cruel-Mother-Is-Starving-Me scream.

4. Be careful not to grin when an embarrassed Mommy picks you up and adjusts her dress to feed you in public.

5. Do NOT take the exposed nipple directly into your mouth. Sniff it to make sure the right Mommy is offering you her breast. (Just in case, you never know.)

6. Lick around the nipple. We all know that dry nipples are not as fun as wet nipples.

7. Take the nipple into your mouth for a taste test. Roll it between your tongue. Swirl it in your mouth. Spit it out. (All good wine tasters do this, so why not a baby?)

8. Repeat steps 5 through 7 at least three times while Mommy pleads with you to start nursing.

9. By now, the stimulation should have caused Mommy's breast to let down. Milk should be dripping. If not, repeat steps 5 through 7.

10. Take a quick peek. Score points if Mommy's face is red with embarrassment. Score extra points if people are quietly chuckling with amusement.

11. Give the breast a final critical sniff. Put your mouth close to it, but do not latch on (since that was never the point of this exercise anyway.)

12. Close your eyes.

13. Snore.

Friday, January 17, 2014

To my unborn son...

We need to have a serious discussion about timing, or in your case, the complete lack thereof.

First, you're not due until January 25th, and you have ignored my subliminal messages of arriving on January 22nd so that you can help your father remember his parents birthday...

Next, it is incredibly rude to trigger mild contractions through the day when I'm awake, only to escalate it at 9 p.m. when I'm about to go to bed.

Now it's 3:06 am and sleep is impossible.

Your timing sucks. Looking forward to seeing you later today though.

Kisses and cuddles,

Your mom.

p.s. I still love you, but we are going to work on timing for the next several decades of your life.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Good intentions thwarted by an absence of bad habits...

If the title of this blog post sounds ironic, that's because it is.

I recently subscribed to a monthly publication of the Magic School Bus, which provides parents and children with fun science experiments that they can do together at home. The kit provides some of the harder-to-find tools, whereas the families are expected to come up with the more common items.

I was so excited to receive my first copy of the Magic School Bus. I opened it, and the very first thing it needed and expected the family to provide toward an experiment was...

a two-liter soda bottle.

Seriously? We haven't had a two-liter soda bottle in our house for YEARS. Soda isn't good for anyone--adults or kids--and my husband and I have tried hard to keep our children from heading down the path of sugar and carbonation addiction that leads to cavities galore.

And now the science experiment is asking for a two-liter soda bottle. GAH!

Yes, we'll improvise and find something else to use in its stead, but really, it's the first time I've ever seen a good intention thwarted by an absence of bad habits...

Monday, January 6, 2014

I just got conned by a four-year old...

My younger son comes to me with a winsome smile on his face. It's the smile he uses when he wants to play a game. "Leave the room, mommy."

I ask, "Where do you want me to go?"

"Just leave for one minute."

Okay, so it's an obscure game he's made up. Fine, I get up from my chair and leave the room for a few minutes. He doesn't follow. Some game. Whatever. I go back to my seat and continue working.

About a half hour later, my husband asks. "Where are the electronics?"

"On the brown shelf by my desk."

He looks. "They're not there. Did he take them?"

I look at him. My jaw drops.

No freaking way. Did my sweet, honest, and innocent child lure me away from my desk so that he could take the neat pile of Kindles and iPads from the shelf next to my desk? 

We search the house. The kids are not in the obvious places--not in their bedroom, their playroom, the kitchen, the living room, or the dining room.

The door of the rarely used guest room is closed. My husband opens the door. A flurry of activity takes place inside as two children scramble to hide. Electronics are concealed. "I don't have a Kindle," the younger child insists, holding up both hands. He is leaning against the bathroom counter, the Kindle pressed up against his back.

I am so amazed by his slick ingenuity that I don't even scold him. He gets a hug and a kiss (I know, I need to work on more appropriate punishments) though we do confiscate (and hide) the electronics this time.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

How much did you miss mommy? "ZERO PERCENT."

Yesterday, my elder son (7 years old) returned from his first overnight hunting trip with his father. In theory, they were supposed to go hunt hogs. In reality, it was a nature walk since no hogs were to be found. They did all the other camping things though, like set up a tent, hang out around a campfire, etc, and all in the midst of a freezing winter (well, it was fifty degrees, which in Florida, counts as a freezing winter.)

My son comes back, bright-eyed, and relates with relish how there were NO toilets. (Yes, darling, I know there are no toilets, which is why mommy, who is obviously sane, is not out there with you all...)

The real test, however, of how much fun he had is this question, "How much did you miss mommy?"

His immediate answer, accompanied by a flashing grin, "ZERO percent."

Yup, he had fun out there. :-)