Friday, February 19, 2010

My Failed Writer's Resolutions

How do I keep it all straight? He needs new shoes. And a suit. She needs me to come to school for her presentation today, his is on Wednesday. Meetings in March, money due, lunch forms, making lunch, clothes wash, the day to day drabble.

Oh  yeah, I forgot to write.

I set up this godawful New Year's Resolution this year that has just been onerous. Nothing invilving my weight since that's always stable. Nothing with exercise since I always exercise. So that's the good news: it's not anything normal. They were writer's resolutions and so, not having met them makes it much worse.

I'm supposed to submit my work to publications, at least three a month. I need to edit my manuscript and get it out to agents. I'm supposed to make some progress, not spend my life doing the same thing over and over again but expecting to become a writer with a book anyway.

Instead what do I do? I worry about my other blog. I read other peoples' blogs because, truly, they're amazing and fascinating and I've come to care for this community of writers that I somehow belong to. I comment on others' blogs because they make me think, because I want to show support and because I want to build support for my blog. Then I go to my blog and I respond to the comments people have left for me.

Oh my god, is this time consuming. I am dying from all this time it's taking up. I've never had something take up so much time before and yet, here they are, the most glorious community of women I've ever been in.

And all the while, my book sits, unpublished, in my computer.

Do you have any writer's resolutions?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Children of Implacable Will

It normally starts a few days before the weekend. One of my nephews will text Bar Mitzvahzilla, the message always the same: can you sleep over on Saturday night?

And then that's the end of my life and all my peace and tranquility for the week.

Once the invitation's been issued, Bar Mitzvahzilla goes through a complete transformation. He is single-minded, of implacable will, a heat-seeking missile with one target only: he must go to his cousins' house this weekend. This is for several reasons. There's the video game reason, there's the awesome violent movie reason, and there's the fact that in a household with no sensitive ten-year-old sister around who would be traumatized by three gigantic boys stalking her with knives clutched in their teeth, the boys can do anything they want to each other.

Husband and I look at each other wonderingly - why can't he be this driven about school work? As a matter of fact, if he wants an answer on whether he can go, we want an answer about whether he's brought up his grades. He brings us over to the computer, pulls up the school website and points proudly to math, which is a 79.3%. This is made up of an A on classwork, where he is watched like a hawk, and a D on homework, where he is on his own. The two scores average out, teetering at the edge of a B, something he's pretty proud of. Husband and I sigh but we say yes, he can go.

Then we start getting a little optimistic. After all, we're one kid down and one to go. We are almost Kid Free here. Bar Mitzvahzilla sleeping out, all we have to do is dump Daughter on one of our unwitting friends and we could - gulp - almost have a honeymoon night.

But not so fast there, fella.

Daughter is not going anywhere. She, too, has an implacable will and she's not budging an inch until she has to leave for college - and that's eight years away. She prefers her playdates at our house. There are no sleepovers, not her at her friends' houses or of them at ours - they are all perfectly matched chickens. Her best friend comes over for the evening.

So Bar Mitzvahzilla ends up across town at my sister's house. Husband and I? We go on a date with two ten-year-olds.

Do your children have implacable will? Are you getting the hints already of a will stronger than your own? Are you torn between admiring their inner tyrant and laying down the law?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Horse Power

We moved to Phoenix in 1973, when I was thirteen years old. Things were a little primitive around here. Of course, I had come from Chicago, where things were pretty urban. There were the dirt roads. There were the pick up trucks. And there were a lot of cowboys and horses, but not exactly how I had seen them in the movies. These cowboys lived in the houses around the school I went to and when it was time to go to school each day they'd ride their horses there. It was a little bit like living in a Western movie.

We also owned a scrubby acre in north Phoenix just like everyone else, with the back part given over to a bunch of tumbleweeds, the middle section holding the house and swimming pool, and the front being a vast expanse of rocks, which we called a lawn. However, since my family was filled with teenaged drivers, the empty part of our acre was also filled with something else: cars.

This area of our acre, generally crowding around the garage, looked a little like a used car lot. There was a 1969 Ford Town and Country station wagon, a 1970 Chevy Impala, an exploding gas tank Pinto station wagon, a bland, beige 1975 Chevy Nova, one sister’s orange Karmann Ghia, and our father’s 1970 Chevy Silverado Truck. All parked, all molding in the Arizona sun. My sisters would pick one each day to drive, guessing which one might work, which might take us the miles to school and then to our family produce market. It was an important decision. There were absolutely no service stations for miles.

Luckily my mother had one ace up her sleeve to rescue us from every situation: her AAA card. With it, she could get us towed off any roadway. And it was transferable to any member of her family, so during our teen years we almost ran AAA into bankruptcy with all of us breaking down all over Arizona in the various household cars, in our boyfriend’s cars, in Mom’s boyfriends’ cars, at least one a day all over town, the tow trucks’ flashing lights beating a path to wherever we were stuck.

Once towed, we never knew where to take the cars for repairs. It's not like we had any money. If only we'd had a horse. Normally they were just towed back home where they’d get deposited steaming, overheating, and clunking. Then we’d just let the cars simmer, let them lie fallow and stir in their own juices. We’d hope that maybe the cars would heal themselves. So they'd sit there dormant and stagnant, with us hoping that if we went back out there in a couple weeks, put the key in the ignition, they'd work. And the strange thing? Sometimes they did.

Before I ever knew how to drive, I knew how to open a radiator cap gingerly and put water in it to stop it from exploding or power steering fluid to stop it from groaning around corners. My first car after college graduation college was so broken that the driver's side door didn't open; when I went to job interviews I had to crawl out of the passenger's side in my suit, over the center console.

And even though it's been over twenty years since I had a really bad car, the legacy of being seen as trashy because my car was trashy has stayed with me. Each day when I go out to my car in the garage and I see it I'm filled with gratitude for what it's not. Let there be no mistaking it: I love you, Car.

Did you ever drive a car you dreaded to get in? An absolute embarassment? Are you still traumatized by the memories like me? Did any of your classmates ride horses to school like mine did?