Thursday, February 20, 2014

Literally

Why did Rob Lowe leave Parks and Rec? I love Rob Lowe. I need to channel my inner Chris and smile a lot but I literally am going to start spinning in circles trying to get it all done. I'm only taking the 10 seconds here to type so I can remind myself that February is always like this except next February which I hope to god won't be like this because I'll be on sabbatical. I am emailing the administrative assistant about standard meeting times, the business manager about the lit mag's printing and budget, the area about standard meeting times, the writing program admin assist about GTAs, grading 4 essays, preparing to teach Mary Ruefle, Mary Ruefle, posting about reading series, finding the form for Ron Carlson, compiling the grant files, scheduling Bending Genre website, planning birthday shopping, figuring out when I can stop by the CSA, get Max, get to Zoe's science fair, pick up food for tomorrow's dinner and, wait, what am I teaching. Literally. I am not going to make it to Friday. Come scrape me off the classroom floor. Maybe I can sing Mary Ruefle Mary Ruefle to the class for two hours. She deserves a song in her honor.

Friday, January 17, 2014

What Happened to Today?

Oh my peaceful dreams of a peaceful dreamy life of dreaminess met the less dreamy world of reality called the first week of school.
Here was my list last Friday:

  • Laundry
  • Mail Certificate
  • Forms for Grant
  • Sarah
  • Walgreens
  • Dr. Wetzel
  • Stan
  • Ellen Meloy
  • Dishwasher 
  • Dog food
Here is my list for this Friday:
  • Sophie at The Normal School
  • Call John Rothfork
  • Book Flight to Denver
  • Fall Schedule--print and sign
  • Confirm with Chris Cokinos
  • Confirm withe Angie Chuant
  • Jesse's letter of Rec
  • Jane's class
  • Rooms for readings
  • Book orders for readings
  • Soft Skull
  • FCP Grant Insurance
  • Bending Genre Blog
  • Creative Nonfiction Proofs
  • Sonora Review Proofs
  • Poetry Out Loud w-9
  • Fix BBLearn
  • CNF w-9
  • Diana Gabaldon Address
  • Gifts for Tyla & Liam
  • AWP Reading
  • Thank you notes--Max's birthday, Dean, John and Ang
  • Thomas reading
  • Dalkey Archive
  • Menagerie
  • Wave
  • Laundry
  • Grocery Store
  • Walk
  • Confirm Ander
  • Confirm Aurelie
  • Write 
  • Make dinner
  • Fix remote control cars (ceded this fun fest to Erik)
  • Take important Facebook quiz
  • Max all day
  • Zoe half day. 
  • Take Zoe to piano lesson
I miss last Friday. I also think we should all take out grant insurance. Just in case. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Max a Chat

Max is a talker. Yesterday, at the Phoenix Zoo, he asked, “What did I talk about when I was three months old.”
I told him, “you weren’t talking yet, but a few months later, you started talking and you never quit.”
Erik said, “You wake up in the morning chatting and you don’t stop til bedtime. Sometimes, you fall asleep in the middle of the sentence.”
None of which he heard because he had already moved on, talking about the different ways his rock could fly up in the air and down in the air. “It’s an organized rock.”

Today, when I was working at home and he was flying his Star Wars jetfighter around and I asked him “Maxi, do you want a sandwich?”
He said, “You need to stop mean at me.”
“What did I do mean?”
“You talked to me while I was talking to you and you called me Maxi and I don’t like that because I was talking and you are mean at me.”
“What should I call you? Maxintosh? Maxallot? Maxalovebutt?”
“Max. Max is fine. And no talking.”

Yesterday, his grandma asked to take a picture. “Yes, you can take a picture of me. But just the back of my head. “

Upon finding Zoe and Max staring hard at the Walking Dead when the DVR reverted to the channel, AMC, I started running around the room, trying to turn the TV off, asking, why are you watching zombies? Max says, “WE WATCH ZOMBIES BECAUSE YOU WATCH ZOMBIES.” Parenting 101 reminder.

We went to Phoenix for the weekend, stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn. A fine hotel but nothing to write home about. Max says, “I want to go back to the hotel. Why did we leave? Someone will steal our spot.”

This morning, before sandwich, after cereal, during my English Muffin.
“Can I have some French Toast.”
“I don’t have any French Toast. This is an English Muffin.”
“I like French Toast. But English Toast is OK. Bring it to me in the TV Room. That’d be great.”

I spend most of my life looking for Lego Parts. It is a line on my CV. I’m pretty good at it. Today, I gave him a flashlight and said I had too much work and it’s too hard to find the tiny guys and their heads and legs and single Lego pieces.  I told him he had to look. He found the Star Wars guy’s Helmet under the couch. “Miss Mommy. Miss Mommy. I found it. It was SO easy. Why you think it’s so hard?”

“Do you want to watch George and the giant thumb?”
“What is that, fee fie foe? No. Let’s watch the one about maple syrup. That’d be great.”

After I asked him if he liked being a monkey: “Yes. I haven’t seen giraffes in a long time.”

Max talks in all caps a lot. There is little he has no opinion about. He has been talking for three years straight. Now that he’s four, he sometimes lets me or Erik or Zoe get a word in edgewise. Sometimes not. Sometimes, if anyone else tries to talk, he says, “but I was talking.” And we say, “No kidding.” But he doesn’t hear us because he’s already talking about something else.
My ears have been filled with the sounds of Max for four years now. When he’s not here or he’s asleep, the silence is deep. If he’s taking a nap, sometimes I want to go and wake him up. We could chat about Transformers and why they’re not always cars or Star Wars and why they wear helmets or giraffes and how tall tall tall tall tall they are. Or I could get some work done.
Oh wait. Never mind. Here he is.
“We can talk about the nap later. Let’s play this book again.”

He’s in his room, saying “tick tock tick tock. OK. Time to go.” The audience? Not always necessary but no matter how much work I have to do (semester. Begins today.) I can’t stop myself from following his voice to find out what he’s talking about, even if it’s just English Muffin expectations.
When I found him, I said, "You need to take a nap."
He said, "I can't. I'm missing you."
And that is how four year olds nap. By talking the whole time. 



Thursday, January 09, 2014

4 is old--redux

Max just turned 4. His ways remind me of Zoe's ways although he has his own ways too. Still, this is what I wrote when Zoe turned 4.

Almost Z's Birthday

4 is old. 4 is like totally back-off, unless, of course, I need you to sit in the back seat with me. 4 is I can crack an egg and scramble it but, for some reason, I need your help getting me a tissue. 4 is I can't wear these shoes, or these shoes, or these shoes. Where are my shoes? 4 is that exact number of clothes changes per day. 4 is why doesn't dad like yellow flowers to which dad says he just doesn't like the yellow-flowered invasive butter bush to which she turns and asks me, why doesn't dad like yellow flowers? 4 is bracelets and necklaces. 4 is Frosted Mini wheats and salmon but no strawberry juice on my carrot. 4 is lost bracelets and lost necklaces. 4 is I want to go outside. 4 is it's too hot. 4 is I want to sit in the other room. 4 is may I have some more milk please. 4 is swimming lessons and gymnastics. 4 is I want to give you one more hug and one more kiss. 4 is why do I have two toothbrushes downstairs? Two. Toothbrushes. 4 is which peach is ready for me. 4 is don't sing that song it gets stuck in my head. 4 is feeding Cleo a scoop of dog food, tapping on the food in the bowl and saying, I like to keep it organized. 4 is me saying, Z sometimes you drive me crazy, and 4 says, Sometimes YOU drive me crazy. 4 wonders why in the song "On Top of Spaghetti,” is there cheese on the spaghetti? 4 agrees knowingly when I answer, "It's Parmesan." 4 asks, Why does the meatball roll right out the door? Was the door wide open? 4 tells me she likes to move it, move it. 4 is saying to me, you shouldn't have dropped it. 4 is singing songs about getting up, getting dressed, eating breakfast, driving in the car. 4 is getting everyone a napkin. 4 is wanting to go to Fratelli's for pizza every day. 4 is thinking it's hilarious to hold up 3 fingers and say, no this is 4. If only it were so 4, because 4, 4 is old.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Lament

Colin Robinson in the New York Times laments the ever-diminishing role of the book review. Newpapers have cut their reviews sections. The NYT Book Review is a third as large as what it was in the 70's. The big publishers are only publishing known quantities. The mid-list is going the way of the "middle class," he says. It's true. It's sad. But his argument is pretty hard on small presses and the more grassroots forms of book-reviewing like Goodreads and Amazon Reviews.
"The growth of these sites has been phenomenal. Shortly after its purchase by Amazon in the spring of last year, Goodreads announced it had 20 million users. Whether this is an amelioration or a reflection of an increasingly atomized culture is a question that can be filed in the same drawer as Facebook friending or dating on Match.com. Certainly the range of collective knowledge in pools of this size is incontestable. But it derives from self-selecting volunteers whose authority is hard to gauge. And though the overall network is vast, recommendations are generally exchanged within tight circles of friends. This results in another typical Internet characteristic: the “mirroring” of existing tastes at the expense of discovering anything new."
In "whose authority is hard to gauge," revolution lies. Yes, readership per book is small, atomized, and often a tight circle of friends. My book was read mostly by a tight-circle of friends. But there are at least 18 people who read my book that I don't know. Maybe more, if you count the people who bought it at readings their teachers made them attend. So what if there's no mid-list? It is not the same as the collapse of the middle-class. So what if many of these books are read only in creative writing programs? Creative writing programs are growing. Students read. Students then go on to write essays and poems and stories published in lit mags that few read but some do. Admittedly, writing and reviewing don't fully supply full time salaries writers and reviewers, but how many did they support before? How many mid-list writers were living on their mid-level advances? Can the production of more art ever be a bad thing? Isn't it great that "self-selecting volunteers" for no money write short reviews of books? Isn't it great people have tight circles of friends who will read their books? We are not big list. Not JK Rowlings or even Margaret Atwood. Or mid-list. We are just writers writing. You can't read it all, but could you ever? I remember going to Powell's in Portland and pulling book after book off the shelf. I'd buy most of them. Return half of them unread. You read what you can. Some of it's good. Most of it's worth your time, even if it's not great. Sometimes, it freaks me out, the idea that everyone in the world is writing. How will we all read it all? We won't. We'll read this and that and write a short review or read a short review and maybe we'll make one new friend, thanks to our review, that will read our book later. Our friends' tastes don't always mirror our own and, if we write more, and make new friends, our tastes will broaden.
I get the lament. The old ways are dying. I have dreams of the old ways. But the fact that there are presses out there, making books for little or no money, that there are writers out there, writing for little or no money, that there are reviewers out there reviewing for little or no money makes me think writing and reading are alive and that it's a bit of an economic revolution itself. When you do something for no money, no one owns what you do.

One

I have a lot of ideas for a blog post which makes it so that I do not actually blog. Perhaps I can pile all the ideas into one long entry? That sounds efficient and unreadable. Bonus for both!

I said on Facebook that my New Year's Resolution is to try not to feel bad nor to make others feel bad. This is a tricky one because if I took only the first part of the resolution, I would be a jerk and if I took only the second part, I'd be a sucker. Let's back up a little and I think the parameters of the resolution will make more sense.

November was rough. Students wanted to talk to me about classroom dynamics. My birthday didn't really happen. I got some big rejections for essay stuff. .Classes I was trying to get the admin to pay for aren't being paid for, contracts from the admin not forthcoming, I was a finalist but not the winner of the National Poetry Series, not really thinking I'm much of a poet anyway. But mainly, I hurt someone's feelings by writing a micro essay about them. It was meant to be a testament to this person's awesomeness but they felt it was too revealing. I felt horrible for hurting this person's feelings. The kind of horrible from which you think you will never recover. I remember running down the road thinking, I will always feel this badly. And, I still do, if I think about it. I hate to hurt people's feelings. I feel so bad for my mom! My god. I write essays about her all the time and she grins and bears it. My mom is awesome.

So I felt horrible. But also lingering in the back of my mind was that I always feel kind of like this. That I'm always in trouble, or late, or behind, or not cooking enough, or not commenting enough on student's work, or not applying enough, or not playing on the floor with the kids enough, or not inviting my friends over enough, or getting enough presents for birthdays, or not getting my hair cut enough, or spending too much money and time at the grocery store, or not chairing my committees enough, or getting grants enough.

So stop. I said. This is dumb. You can't go around feeling badly all the time. You do enough. You get grants. You have essays and poems coming out. You have nice editors who email you. You pick up your kids every day and play with them on the floor most days. The committee doesn't care. The grocery store doesn't care. No one cares if you just serve pasta for dinner (Ew. I care. Maybe just cheese and apples.)

So I'm trying. It's innate, in me, to worry--worry about enough and what other's need and think. But now that I've been to what felt like the very bottom of feeling bad, I know that I don't want to feel like that, especially as constant background noise. So screw it. I'm not doing it anymore. Sorry. I can't go to drinks. No, you can't do one more activity, Zoe. No, I'm not going to three stores to find the cheapest sesame oil.

However, I also need to not make others feel bad. To the big bad: If I'm less stressed out, I'll be more careful. I won't feel this panicked need to send out submissions all the time before they're totally edited. But most importantly, I won't make others feel bad because I feel bad. By always trying to do everything, more and more, I put expectations on people, mostly Erik, but others too, that they should always try to do everything too and they feel badly when they don't worry as much about pasta versus apples as I. By not worrying so much about whether I buy the $4.99 Method dishwashing soap or the $2.99 Dawn, or wondering if I'm commenting enough on student essays (which I am--according to evals), I will not be adding to the background noise of bad-feeling. Also, by just saying "no" to requests I really don't want to do, I'll have more time to do the things I want to. There may be some making-people-feel-bad in that way but I have been to the pit of making-people-feel-bad. My not being on your committee is not that feeling. My not meeting your for lunch or coffee is not that. My Lego-in-every-room-of-the-house is not that. It's a short dip into the well of regret and then back out again.

I imagine it won't be perfect. I already feel a little bad I said no to a student. And I am behind on texts and emails. And I got a rejection from the Believer in less than 3 hours. Bad feelings abound but if I endeavor not to be an idiot, instead of endeavor to do everything I can think of to prevent bad outcomes ever, and if I shrug off the glancing bad feeling, I will at least be resolved.


Monday, November 04, 2013

Zombies and Change

I like Halloween. It used to be my favorite holiday. Now, it's more complicated what with the  having to do more than go to someone's house with a bottle of wine and call it an October. Now, the party is last on the list. Now, I think of costumes for the kids in September. Now, I time the ordering of pizza so we can do both the downtown and the trick-or-treating. Flagstaff has an awesome downtown Halloween with a scary house and games and booths in the square. Everyone dresses up. Even the grown ups. This year, I had to teach until 5:30. We got out a little early (my students took pity on my kids and talked very fast). I went downtown with my wings and my Give a Hoot, Don't Pollute slogan.
My wings were too big. I kept stabbing people in the eye.  I gave up on trying to follow Max and Zoe through downtown, left them to Erik and their grandparents and went to pick up pizzas. Our friends were meeting us at the grandparents' house for pizza (and wine. Don't feel too sorry for me) and then to trick-or-treat in their neighborhood where the candy is plentiful and the sidewalks extant.
I did not make it to the Halloween party at my friend's house. I have mostly reconciled myself to the idea that Halloween is for kids. There once was a little Halloween. Now there is a lot. Maybe too much. Cleo the dog ate half of Max's candy. Zoe, zombie-bride, was a little too scary. And a bit nonchalant about her scariness.

Speaking of zombies. Once upon a time I could not watch the Walking Dead. I had seen the I Am Legend and the dog scene.  I had a nightmare every time I saw a zombie on TV. But then, after the Boston AWP, I sat on a seat behind and to the left of someone watching the Walking Dead. I could see the show clearly across the aisle. He must have watched 7 episodes, from the series' beginning. I had watched the first episode with Erik, which was when I quit the Walking Dead. The mother coming up to the door, looking through the peep hole, was the source of the most recent zombie nightmare. But with the sound off, the zombies looked pretty unscary. When I got home, there was a Walking Dead marathon. I caught up.
Now I watch it every week. I watched it last night. I still have nightmares, or, rather, dreams. They're not so scary. Zombies biting my knees. A cure for zombie-ism. Zombies lining up to get a shot, complaining about the sting. I try not to think about the show before I go to sleep but I have questions. What do the zombies represent? Xenophobia? Contagion? Racism? Republicans? My mother-in-law suggested immortality. Also, do you always turn into a zombie if the zombies eat you? Like, if they eat all your entrails, do you have enough "stuffing" to walk around? How come most of the zombies seem whole? Do zombies have any memory? They can smell alive people? What about covering themselves in blood, like Rick did. Would that work? I liked the World War Z solution to the zombie problem. What solution will the Walking Dead people have? Maybe the swine flu will save them.
We keep talking about getting rid of cable but then we'd have to wait to see all the Walking Dead and that seems like an unlikely patience. But I changed my mind about zombies like I changed my mind about must-go-to Halloween parties. Maybe I can do it again.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Crushed

I'm trying to run longer distances. Still slow, but long. I have longish trail I routinely run. It's kind of fun, especially in the snow in shorts so I never get too over-hot. October is hard, for reasons I think I understand. It's the last hope of warmth until April, the last fully orange and yellow landscape, the last month before my birthday, the month my dad died. Bad news falls hard in October so when I saw the big tree lying across the trail, I looked hard for something dead, crushed underneath it. Nobody died but the word "crushed" stayed with me. Fall is crushing.
I had already seen a bone in the trail--some large animal's--probably an elk's. Cleaned to the white, scattered by what I thought I wanted to see. But if I saw what I wanted, well, that would be a great surprise but then I would also be maybe dead. I kept looking behind me for mountain lions. There were none. Both crush and relief.
Then I saw a deer arm hanging from a tree. A foreleg, I guess, in animal parlance. How did a deer get his leg hung in a tree. Maybe poachers. Maybe regular hunters, but I don't think you're supposed to clean your deer by hanging it from a tree. Maybe the deer was doing something weird. Jumping over a falling tree, getting tripped in another. Maybe he was trying to outrun a mountain lion but realized deer can't climb trees.
It was eerie but not gross. How animals die in the woods I don't really know but between that hanging hoof, that scattered femur, and that trail-crushing tree, I had a new plan, or at least something to think about surprise and routine and the inevitably of November and how we make it through October every year, even mostly with surprisingly good things to say about it.