Saturday, September 29, 2012

Are You Crazy?

It doesn't bother me when people ask about our having a large family, but I've never quite known how to gracefully answer the question, "Are you Crazy?"  Mostly because I like being a bit flippant and saying, "A bit, yes."  It throws them off. 

But there is a real answer to that question because I understand what they are really asking.  They see the dollars, the size, the weight, the laundry, the homework, the schedule, the everything.  I don't blame them.  Absent the actual experience, I'd be scared too.  I learned about 4 children ago not to think about the loads or the work or to call it difficult, not because it wasn't the reality, but because calling it thus poisoned my spiritual well and made doing the labors involved in serving these people much harder.  So I tell myself, this is simply what is required.  It is baseline.  And whenever it gets to be too much, I know it is time to focus on individuals, rather than groups.  When I do this, I resee my own children as the ages they are, the stages they are, the individuals they are and I get stories. 

For example:

Two days ago I took my youngest son shoe shopping.  We were in desperate need of new tennies.  I'd been rather bland about it, picking out some solid blue with Velcro straps.  My 4 year old walked over to the display and pointed at the Spider Man and Iron Man sneakers.  The eyes of Spiderman light up.  You can guess what we wound up buying. 

Yesterday my third grader son proved that we made the right call in enrolling him in Cub Scouts. He wore his uniform for school picture.

This morning I brought donuts to my children since they would have to have a morning babysitting as my middle son had baseball and my husband was at work.  I'd thought that I ordered every one's favorite, including two plain glazed for the youngest two to eat.  When my 20 month old saw the other non plain options, she spiked her boring donut on the floor and reached out very definitively to select her own, a frosted vanilla pastry with sprinkles. 

My teen got asked to homecoming in the following fashion.  A boy ran up to her in the lobby of her high school.  "Do you want to go to homecoming with me? I'm a freshman. I'm 15."  She said yes.  He said "Great, see you there!" and left. She does not know his name. 

My kindergartner went to a birthday party today. She knew it started at 2:30. So at 1, she started staring at the clock.  "Change clock! When are you going to change? It changed Mommy! It now says 1:04.  Is it time now to go?"  This went on minute by minute until she was distracted by the need to wrap the present. 

I love these sorts of little stories that bubble up in the process of living.  I also love that they are all as unique and singular as the individuals in them.  Part of why we have all these stories is we have all these characters and the interplay and weaving of their thoughts and talents and interests and even their flaws make for the ebb, flow, drama and grace of raising a family.

They may be work. They may need a lot (and they do), but they also create a lot of memories. The labor is a service and all service is love. So the next time someone asks me, "Are you crazy trying to raise that many?" when they hear I have ten kids, I'm going to say, "I'd be crazy not to."  Then' I'll add, "but a touch a crazy helps too."

Friday, September 28, 2012

Who Will Stop it? (Sherry Rants again).

The other day a friend of mine was getting really down about politics.  I understood. 

Neither side seems serious about reducing the debt, the deficit or even curbing the slightest of abuses of Congress, jobs are still MIA, the housing crisis has all of the nation trapped in mortgage amber and the super increase in demand for government safety nets and use of them coupled with the increase in taxes across the board on all those who are not yet continues to make day to day living much more of a chore than it ought to be.  We used to breathe easier. 

Then, there are the unspoken problems like the systemic ethical, moral and constitutional flaws in the currently existing health care law, the erosion of liberties a 'la Patriot Act Part Deux, the Drone Wars, the massive increase in authority and oversight of the IRS, and the lack of safety of American people abroad if the government decides to look the other way or spread a convenient untruth when some diplomat has the poor taste to be assassinated during an election year. Fast and Furious has been neatly swept under a rug never to be mentioned again.  I also forgot to mention the Kill List.  Before anyone says "Hey! You're piling on Obama!" let me point out, Romney isn't mentioning these things either so either he wants to keep them going or he's gutless on this point and so they'll still exist.  Either way, I'm irritated.  It means these things that shouldn't be in a nation that values rule of law, the Constitution and due process, will be allowed to continue. (SSSHHHHHHHH, Not supposed to think that or criticize, just vote and be done with it).

That the polls that aren't rah rahing for one side indicate a mostly 50-50 call indicates the reason for the near passionless political life of those on either side who normally put up signs, get out the vote and debate their neighbors.  

But I told my friend, "As Catholics, we have to stay informed. As Catholics, we are compelled to be involved.  As Catholics, we have to act." In other words, we can't just rail (wrath undirected is the equivalent of being a troll in com boxes, it's stupid, unbecoming and doesn't persuade hearts, change minds or affect policy --it only leaves everyone else with a sour taste in their mouth when your name pops up).  We can't despair.  (That's quitting with a whimper. It also means whoever wins doesn't need to pay you any mind).  And Further, we can't give up. The fight to stop these abuses or have them investigated, repealed or addressed is not ended by a vote or an election.  The decision in November is merely an indicator of how steep the climb to win will be (excruciating or merely grueling).  The energy of before the election is nothing compared to what will be needed after, regardless. 

Holding our officials accountable has become something not done unless the political class sees a profit in it.  Over the past few years a pattern has emerged:

     If it:
     hurts others on your side in the election, you get sacked,
     doesn't seem to matter because it's not an election year for your side, yawn and move on, nothing to see here,
     hurts your opponents even if it's nothing, there will be one indignant person who gets on camera to give a speech amounting to "Never in my whole life have I been more scandalized and this person should not simply be forced to resign but stand outside on the mall in the rain wearing a sign "I STINK and DESERVE TO BE SPIT UPON BY GOD AND MAN) before being tarred, feathered, audited and thrown in jail indefinitely."  Then they'll be quietly dismissed with their golden parachute and become part of the speaking head circuit.

If I sound jaded, cynical and agitated, it's all true. Mostly because I fail at those three things, not wanting to being wrathful, not wanting to despair and not wanting to quit and say "I'll take my toys and go home." 

We have to fix the home we have.  We have to call every senator and every representative and demand they pass a budget, demand they pass budgets every day, don't let the Congress go home for recess until they fulfill their congressional constitutionally defined duties.  Zero out every salary of every elected official and every pension of every elected official until they do their actual job.  Pay all of what is lost to the debt. They can live as those who are jobless if they aren't going to do their job. Every agency that doesn't file its taxes, every employee that does not file taxes, fired.  Fired. Fired. Fired.  Every one of them.  Every single one.

 We ought to call the press and tell them that they need to cover the red and the blue with equal zeal and curiosity rather than pure disdain and absolute adulation based on political affiliation.  You want to know why your circulation is dying? Because you only sing to yourselves and congratulate yourselves on how beautiful you sound.  Edit and vet yourselves.  Be brave enough to speak the truth and document it with facts from reliable sources. Vet your sources better than high school students are currently demanded to do. I know there are exceptions, but they are not the rule.

We ought to cry out at our President and those who aspire to the office, "GROW UP! Do the job! Stop offering what you don't have and demonizing those who disagree. You've burned your last straw man. We are real. Our problems are real and we have real disagreements about how to solve them and we're not stupid. Stop hyperventilating at each other and demanding we do the same."  If you want the job, you better have a plan and it better be more than it will just take time or wait and see.  Despite our constant distractedness, we can follow along.  We are a nation of common sense and honor, we deserve better.  Our leaders ought to be able to get along with others better than we expect our children to in school.  They also ought to be held accountable for failures that aren't merely gaps in communication or the inability to tell a story or build the narrative.  We all know the difference between failing to present a compelling case for a good plan and failing to present a good case period. 

Failing that, failing us by failing in their duties in favor of a party or in favor of donors or in favor of amassing power, we as the citizens of this country should tell all of you who hold positions we pay for, positions we've entrusted you with, positions designated to be honors for leadership, we fire you today. We shall not be part of this experiment anymore.  It is failing because you have failed.  You have failed us. You have been wretched poor stewards of our past, our present and our posterity. You have failed the future of this country by your votes in the present.  Your grades are not incomplete anymore. They are "F's." 

I still am hopeful that our nation can right itself, that we can grow the economy, bring down the debt and the deficit, improve our existing services and rid a lot of the waste and repeal those laws that threaten the fabric of our nation's core values.   I am hopeful because our country is bigger than either party or any president.  But it will become harder as laws and practices that erode our liberties codify and become accepted as simply part of life.  (See abortion if you need a perfect example).

At some point, if we do not stop, if we do not demand that our government limit itself, the government shall be all and we shall cease to be a free people.  We cannot be free if our every action is now monitored and sanctioned or disapproved. We cannot be free if we must always be "careful" about our thoughts and words.  We shall become serfs of the elected. If the government can dictate the limits of our faith, what stops the government from deciding our limits need to be still greater?  At what point does the government become a secular caliphate?  We the huddled masses yearning to be free will know that our security depends on surrendering not only that freedom, but that yearning.  This is not an R or a D problem. It isn't a case of who started it. It's a case of WHO WILL STOP IT?  Because if no one does, we as a nation will cease to be the great promise to the world we once were and our children will grow up not understanding what they've lost.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Reasons for Being on The View as vs. Anywhere Else

10) Eye Candy is as Eye Candy does.

9) Letterman didn't give the bump I expected.

8) They won't ask the hard questions Univision does.

7) Lecturing the UN...that's easy. Talking to UN leaders where they get to have a say and might disagree...

6) Biden and his wife were scheduled but that could have been awkward.

5) Lost a bet with Hillary.

4) Wanted advice from Guinan. (It always worked for Picard).

3) It's boring to listening to Jay Carney twist in the wind every day.

2) Chris Matthews is starting to creep me out.

1) That phone in the White House keeps ringing every night at 3 a.m. How's a person supposed to get a decent night's sleep?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Mom is Many Things, Not a Scout

I have tried three times before to be a supportive mother in the arena of scouting. 

And by good, I mean I tracked down a person to sew on the patches the first go around. 

When my first daughter expressed no interest, I breathed a sigh of relief. 

When my second daughter became a daisy, I mooched off the den mothers mercilessly.  Curiously, both families left the school, and with their departure, so ended scouting.

My next son and I declared our mutual indifference.

My next daughter ached to be a daisy but the only way that would happen is if there were a troop master. Was I interested?  I admit, I used pregnancy as an excuse.  It works for most people.  They were annoyed when I tried it. 

Now, we have come to the sixth child. He has patiently put up with being put off on this decision for two cub scout years.  He's smart.  He's done his homework.  My next two daughters can do Daisies at the same time on the same day. Three doing an activity for the price of one errand.  He knows this is a weakness I have.  Plus he's good in school. Plus he does his homework. Plus he pointed out, it's his only outside activity.  (Like I said, he's good). 

Dinner ran a bit late so we were driving to a 7:00 meeting at 7:30. "That's okay Mom, it's on time for us..." my son offered. Oooff.  Ow...must speed up vehicle, defy time stream, eliminate need of son to explain away me. 

So we went to the meeting and I filled out the application. The form said check all that apply and I was doing fine checking no...no...no...when it came to camp chaperon, field trip guide, assistant troop leader...until I got to this one:

I will be a supportive active Cub Scout parent.

"Define Active?" I asked. 
"It means you'll get him to meetings, encourage his participation, aid in his getting badges, be sure he's properly attired."  a veteran scout mother told me.
"How properly?"  I wanted to know, vowing to simply send the shirt to the dry cleaner's every week after the meeting.

Thinking about the obligations and being truthful, I hesitated.  I don't remember this from the first go around.  I'm guessing, they remember last time and are taking steps to make sure my son doesn't have to say, "That's okay...it's you."  come time to be awarded badges.

However, proof that change does not occur overnight no matter what the contract says, tonight was also Daisies....I forgot. 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Drop the Nets


Where does anyone have the time for all of this?  

I know I have ten kids but I don't see anyone who isn't overtaxed, overworked and overwhelmed by all of modern living.  I was in a restaurant yesterday (car was being fixed ergo we ate to kill time) and a older woman walked by me.  Glancing around at all the people multi-tasking through their lunch, she said knowingly glancing down at my two toddlers seated and eating their macaroni and cheese, "This whole world is stressful. It's all hard." 

How to disagree with a woman I don't know the name of when I understood the stress that could be felt permeating the place where people were supposed to be taking a break and enjoying the pleasure of eating and company.  She didn't wait for a response but I wondered if part of the edge is the expectation that we should always be using every moment productively, that we have instant messages and emails and access leaves us less patient with actual people. 

The walk back to get the car, it was hard not to notice that even walking has become a task that requires additional activity, as people talked on their phones, tapped on their machines or listened to podcasts.  We are rapidly willingly becoming Borg, always connected, always electronically monitored, always keeping score, keeping track, surrendering minutes, hours, days of our life to things that are seemingly infinite and yet limited, and invisible and yet permanent, intimate, discoverable and unloving.  Her statement kept resonating with me...what was the answer to her query.  It wasn't to my mind to be found in politics or better organization or even dutiful hard work.  The stress that she spoke of was something more like the air we now breathe.  We know it is polluted. We do not know how to stop breathing it or how to make it otherwise.

I say this because yesterday, I got to come up for air, for real air, for 16 minutes.  My son plays baseball and  has Friday practice.  It's about a mile and a half from our home so I drop him off and come back.  I left a bit early for pick up and snuck into the 24/7 adoration chapel at our neighborhood Catholic church.  For a crowded small room (16 people), it was more quiet and peaceful than a lunch time restaurant with taupe and teal coloring and Enya type music.  The presence of the Holy filled more than good food. 

Admittedly, I felt like the nosiest soul in the room as I struggled to quiet my nonstop distracted brain, even route prayer being deliberate, felt like an attempt to somehow change the purpose of coming, which was to be in the presence rather than to tell God anything. The sacred is what we need, which explains why the world so little values any hint of a reminder of it, quiet, stillness, fullness, community, miracles, prayer, or innocence.   Everything else fell away for a few moments, and then I snapped back into lockstep with the time and the world, my phone alarm went off but I was honestly looking to check it before it went off, because I am an undisciplined soul and worried that I was not where I needed to be.   The Martha took over and I whisked back into the parking lot and off to the pick up spot for my son.  

Could you not stay?  The spirit is willing, the flesh weak.  I did not stay.  Like a dieter who buys candy or a person on a budget who goes on a shopping binge, I know what my soul needs, I distract myself from that best choice with lots of glittering alternatives, all important, all flashing, all mattering.  I do need to fix dinner. I do need to help with homework and housework and manage all these people's schedules.   But sometimes the duty of it can be rather like a child holding her breath in hopes of getting things to work out her way.   It is time to stop trying that method of affecting the world.  There should be time for this, I should be able to give a bit more and not treat God or His presence like something to squeeze in or occasionally indulge in, like writing, waiting for inspiration to leads to less writing, so also, waiting for the Spirit to push me is akin to demanding God fix it for me, that my free will be taken out of the equation.  This need to micromanage my life and my world is something to surrender, to freely give away for an hour. 

This year's theme was and is, Be Still and Know I am Here.  I am still struggling with even the first two words.  How can one know the Sacred if one is too busy to hear/listen/see, how can one know the Holy if one is wilfully blind?  How can one Know God if God comes last on the list if He even makes the list?  

I sat there mulling over where all this thinking took me, and the humorist said, "See, this is why you don't sit down and think, because it always leads to more.  And it's true.  You can't love God and not then be tugged to do more, to seek to love more, to give more.  You either don't/won't love, or you can't not give.   Surrender Sherry.  

How does anyone have time for this?  How do we stop crowding every second with everything but the sacred?  We have to Will it.  We have to drop the nets and go. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Blog Lessons

This blog has been in circulation since 2007.  While there are certainly silly pieces aplenty and rants, there are also memories logged into cyberspace that shall remain as long as this blog exists.

So what have I learned blogging for the past 5 years?

1. Pay attention.  There are stories everywhere if you're not napping and even more when you actually do sleep, but those are usually messy.

2.  Much more happens than I remember. (See #1).

3. Time flies so we must be having fun.

4.  Do it now!  What you don't get to today will either be forgotten tomorrow or be much much worse. (That napping thing). 

5. Spell check and proof reading are nothing compared to my mom. 

6.  Remember what you wrote because someone will say something and I will think, "Huh?" 

7. Nothing cures looking for a compliment like a spambot response.  "Hello, I think you raise a really good point in a very interesting way.  Maybe you'ld like to see my thoughts on the matter."

8.  It's all in the eyes of the beholder.  I sweat over a piece, crickets.  I slap something up and there are skads of comments.  Be detatached or stop already, if you're in it for the ego...stop now or recognize the quiet you will experience is a necesary humbling for your soul.

9.  There is no prologue.  No one backreads a blog. (not even the author)  It's now and forward or nothing.  Also, everyday is someone's first date with your writing, so make it look spiffy. 

10.  There is a difference between fearless and foolhardy.  Write with courage, but guard the hearts and hearth of the home because while humor always contains a grain of truth, it should also be laced with forgiveness/mercy.  

That being said,  I now present a touch of our home life.   Monday was my son's 4th birthday and we have this little slice of his life from opening presents. 

video

Lastly, I'm very grateful to have a means of documenting my family's life because I stink at scrapbooks.  Happy Birthday Paul!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

There's a Reason Hidden Spots stay Hidden

I've been using Flylady to help take control of my home. You're supposed to look for hot spots and start to gradually take them on.  I'd come to recognize I had a hidden hot spot that needed an intervention, my son's room.

At first glance, the room looked good.  Then I opened the hidden door and promptly felt the teeth of despair. This would take much longer than 15 minutes (suggested amount of time given to spot clean).  I took it upon myself to begin cleaning out my son's closet.  Five minutes in, I knew it was a grave mistake to have started this project.  There were legos everywhere, cards, homework assignments from 4th grade.  We moved here after he started high school.  

Now there has always been a standing rule that any money found while cleaning goes to the cleanee.  I found a few English coins, some Monopoly dollars and some pennies.  I felt ripped off.  

Never one to wallow in self pity, I tried self medication.  Alas, five trash bags later, even Lindt Emergency Buy Milk Chocolate proved insufficient to the task.  

It is impressive to see how much has been hidden in one small section of one room.  It begs the question of whether if one doesn't know the laws of physics, the laws actually apply. One of my sons came through and snatched up a game boy. Soon there was a collective of dumpster diving children all dressed for bed sifting through the stuff for hidden treasures.   There were stickers and baseball cards and an orc mask that my 5 and 6 year old thought was wonderful. They spent the next fifteen minutes scaring each other. It made bedtime hard.

An hour later, I called it a day.  Much was left undone.  It will need at least another day of labor and probably the rest of the candy I'd supposedly purchased for a friend's birthday.  And tomorrow, I will tackle the playpen that has become the holding place for all toys after 7 pm.  I may need something stronger than chocolate. 

And the next hidden spot in plain sight that I'm not seeing, I'm volunteering to continue not seeing.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Knowing the Signs*

It begins in the morning, sometimes before one even gets out of bed. Where others are reaching for their I-pad or kindle or in Luddite cases, turning on the television or radio, this person is different.  This person is addicted. This person needs help. This person starts praying (that's right) praying before feet hit the floor. 

Sure you're thinking, it's just a ritual. It's just route stuff.  And that admittedly is how it starts.  A Hail Mary here.  A prayer card there. But it escalates. Each prayer pushes the person towards more prayer such that variety becomes a necessity.  The addicted person now has a player's deck worth of special novenas, prayers for intentions and a whole host of saints.  They've got a rosary stashed in the car and a prayer table and start arranging the schedule to go to adoration or even a second mass during the week.  Their addiction is now interrupting the day.  It has become routine. Sure they're multi-tasking, saying a decade while folding laundry, reading the scripture while on the treadmill or listening to a Catholic radio host while running errands, but it's 24-7. 

But the effects of constantly talking to God and the saints don't end with simply keeping the mind and heart occupied, it starts to interfere with other things like watching sit-coms, listening to politics or surfing the net.  Even Facebook status is affected.  Soon, the poor soul is so obsessed, they lapse into the Divine Mercy Chaplet automatically at 3 o'clock and they don't even need a brochure.   They integrate God into every facet of their lives such that it is inescapable.

But you can intervene.  You can help.  You can talk politics with them or food or sports. Anything but feeding their obsession with God.  It might work.  And if it doesn't and you've tried every worldly thing you could think of, you could always...just say a prayer for them. 

*Inspired by The Crescat, a fellow Catholic blogger who specializes in hifreakin' hilarity and satire, but who is taking a break from blogging. Enjoy your sabbatical. We'll keep the internet warm for you.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Stop Already! Or At Least, Let Them Eat Cake.

I have had children in the school system for 15 years.  In that time, I have watched academic creep. What was for third and fourth graders, is now taught in second, what was first grade is now expected of kindergarten.  What my children do in high school, I remember struggling to master in college or opting to avoid all together.

At the same time, the schools go merrily on discussing how our kids should 1) volunteer 2) get 8 hours of rest 3) exercise 4) read for recreation 5) join at least three clubs or 1 club and do a sport and have a social life that includes at least 5 friends and regular-get-togethers.  They should also feel free to let the teacher know they couldn't finish an assignment if they needed to rest but know ahead of time, they'll probably be penalized for not turning it in on time.  They also are informed that high school is a time to try out new interests, but if you do poorly, know that this will affect college applications and there's no mercy for mess ups.  It's goofy. Apparently, if you are not carpe the hell Diem out of every moment, you're flunking parenting and childhood. 

I protest.  I was a teen. I remember being stupid.  I remember not getting 3/4ths of what I was supposed to do.  I remember listening to the same record over and over again, playing video games until my quarters were all gone and having nothing to do.   I remember being bored.  We have become a society that does not value rest or down time or non online time.  Every moment is caffinated and stimulated and saturated with live stream and twittering and email and wi-fi. 

As the parent, I wrestled with the desire to tell her to blow it off.  Honestly. I wanted her to just relax about it and go to bed.

This was not a case of a girl being irresponsible, this was a girl who had done homework over the weekend to get ahead and now was working on new assignments that arrived this week. She took a 30 minute break but was still working at midnight only to receive email notification that two of the assignments were no longer due the next day even though they'd been assigned as due.  So she lost sleep and time to work that was no longer immediately necessary and had the unfortunate situation of still having work that was due which she had not yet done as it was supposed to take only a few minutes of time.   I know because I got to hear this rant last night when the strung out teen couldn't find a paper she was supposed to correct.  She'd done the work, it had been graded, she'd made two small errors but the paper was missing.

It was physics. 

Rather than allow me to send an email explaining the mishap, she redid the entire thing.  She explained, "Yeah, maybe I lost it but that won't mean I won't be penalized."  I understood she was partially correct, there is a tyranny of policy that sometimes seems to trump common sense and sensibilities. And while I thought her teacher would probably be reasonable, she didn't feel she could take the chance. She also explained she wouldn't be able to sleep knowing it wasn't done.   

Being incompetent in physics, I did the only thing I could do, I brought her cakes and milk. 

It made me wonder how and why there hadn't been push back against this demand to make children master what we did not, to demand they know more than we ever did, sooner than we did.  I know why. Part of it is ego manifested in vicarious pseudo virtue competitive parenting.  You know what I mean, "my kid is an honor student who takes physics and is on the highly selective competitive team of whatever that wins and is better than all those other...blah blah blah."  Part of it is the desire of school systems to win that battle on the district level.  Our children are foreign policy experts, Olympians, multi-jointed multi lingual TED talk worthy thinkers with steve jobsian inventiveness and oratory skills that put the founding fathers to shame.  They can assemble a plane from a bicycle just like MacGyver and have memorized Pi out to the 1,000 number (9).  Next year, we're making them expand it to 2000, but with a calculator and by hand.     

As a society, we keep demanding more without  ever pausing to consider what we might be losing in the process of demanding that kids act as something other than kids.  It started with the death of recess and shortening of lunch, the professionalization of parenting and extra curriculum activities, the banning of sweets and treats and firm denial of the reality that there is always a bell curve in every class.  We've decided as professionals and a people, the definition of success is the highest standard deviation.  In statistics, these numbers are supposed to be thrown out and not applied towards one's generalizations that might come from the data.  The question becomes, when college students have to produce Ph.D. work, what will the doctoral students do?  I don't know about you but I'll cry foul when I can't adequately assist with Kindergarten homework.  The authorities will probably declare me unfit and make me return to preschool at that point though. 

My daughter finished her work. She chatted happily over her snack, buoyed by the little something and the knowledge she'd finished.  She said it was a good thing I'd shown up, or she was prepared to break out a journal and start writing how she hated the world and everyone because it was just so hard.  But the little dessert, that was enough to take the edge off of everything. 

I learned something they don't teach you in any grade.  Midnight snacks and milk even cure the ills of physics and high school. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

To Those Who Came over from Mark Shea...

Welcome.  I think the post he meant to link to was this one. Rock Paper Scissors Lizard Spock.

 But stay, pull up a chair, introduce yourself.  I'll try to amuse.  And Thanks for coming! --Sherry

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Can I See Your Writer's Liscence?

Yes. There's a problem officer.

As followers of this blog know, I have a book I've worked on for five years.  What I can tell you now that I've written the darn thing is I did everything wrong except to keep going until the end.  Writing a book without an outline (which is what I did), is like sitting down in a car and thinking you can drive on the Autobahn because you've played Mario Go-Kart against your kids and sometimes won after falling into the mushroom pit only twice in a five lap race. 

There are subplot dead ends all over the place. The thing needs a hair cut, a styling and a wash and blow dry with a flat iron. It is my beautiful Frankenstein.  It's alive.   It shouldn't hold together but it does, and it is my creation so I love it.   But it's a wet hot mess that needs work work work.  

When I start to pull at things, there is a domino effect. I write this and it means this needs work and this needs to be addressed and you forgot that, such that I wonder, should I even touch this?  People who know nothing about remodeling but try to "do it yourself" discover that the first step to remodeling is to be willing to tear something down or take something away.   I find when I DIY, there are nails sticking out that shouldn't, holes that weren't there before and eventually, I need to call a professional. Who did I think I was kidding and why am I here driving myself crazy?  It reminds me of 8th grade when I ran a race and I'd gone through three laps of the thing. Everyone else had finished and I lay down.  I didn't quit but I sure thought about it for a few minutes while I caught my breath and wondered why I ever started running in the first place.  What was so important?

I read my book and truthfully, I both want to finish and lay down.   I want to tell everyone I wrote it...and I'm not sure I want anyone to read it.  It is the neurosis that plagues every writer.  We know bad writing. We know good writing. We know there are flashes of both in our work.  We also know the most critical thing is to not be afraid of what we've written or what needs to be rewritten.

Most writers do not like rewriting. It means we are redoing.  It's much more fun to create new worlds and new words.  So we stall. I read on the process of editing. I read a secondary source for the next book. I write about editing. I make copies of the book in hard back so I can edit but call that part of "the process" of editing. I talk about editing. I call others to talk about editing. I buy colored post-its for editing and a special pen, then I lose them and the kids play with them until they don't exist. Darn I have to get more BEFORE I can edit.  Maybe I should wait for my editor to make suggestions.

In short I do everything I can think of without editing.  I work on the next book and pretend I'm not making the same errors of rushing in to write it rather than thinking it through, stubbornly believing because I'm more experienced, I'll not make the same errors.  Rather, it is more likely I'll make the same errors but be convinced I'm not in error, like the way I have to get lost to get to my kid's basketball practice court because I got lost the first time and the second because this is the way I came and that looks familiar, such that going the wrong way has become an ingrained part of getting there intuitively.

Right now, I could be editing.  You know what I'm thinking about doing?  Going downstairs to play Mario Go-Kart.  

Officer, "Would you care to sit down in the chair? There's a warrant for your editing and I've been instructed to take you to your computer."  

Hopefully I'll make parole for good behavior.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

What it Means

Can you play with me?

It was a bad time. It was dinner. Dinner was late. Dinner I knew was going to be unpopular.  Dinner I was forcing through despite multiple telegraphed messages that this meal would be poorly attended and have much commentary. I thought the fuss was unreasonable, but apparently tater tots are not a substitute for french fries, just as surely as Cauliflower is not acceptable as bleached broccoli.  I said no and rather sharply.  Her eyes got big.  Then I realized what I'd done and said yes. 

For the next ten minutes, I wound up being a camel that walked on all fours and got tied up outside the bathroom so I wouldn't be stolen or go somewhere.  No one was upset that the meal was delayed, even the ones that liked it. However she did have the camel pick up shoes and toys and lunch bags as I journeyed across the living room desert with a caravan of children desiring their time on their mother's back.  The hitching post at the loo was apparently requirement of the game, as mother dromedaries are apt to wander off but it did mean they got their hands washed before we ate.

Literally and figuratively, motherhood is opting to be a bactrian beast of burden tied up outside of the bathroom.  There is no glamor and your back needs to be strong.  

I opted to nix bath times for the younger set as we were still running behind schedule.  Thinking I'd just found 25 minutes, the next requests came flying in to take it back. 

Can you read to me tonight? My son has scrambled to find his chapter book.

Believe me, the first thought in my head was ugh. No. Boo. Go to bed.  But I can't do it. I can't bring myself to say no to the big puppy eyes begging, when I know, soon, those same eyes will barely tolerate my presence.

Reading to one cascades into reading to several. It is inevitable.  So "That's Not My Puppy, Snoozers, Lilly's Big Day and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" chapter one run their course before I can finally bid them good night and farewell and sleep tight.  

Running through the day, I can see where the missteps were, where I could have done something to lift this one or hugged that one rather than make suggestions on how to cope with something, but for the moment, the story aloud saves everything.  It is something I hope they take with them when they leave this house, that they remember being read to, being introduced to wonderful worlds and more wonderful words.   That and I've filed away in my head, next time the question comes, "Will you play with me?" the answer needs to be an immediate enthusiastic and unequivocal yes, I thought you'd never ask. Dinner, and everything else, can wait. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Rock Paper Scissors Lizard Spock

Most election years, I watch both conventions.  I hear some good speeches, but I was also pay attention to what is not said. Part of the purpose of a convention is to introduce the party/person to the people. Both conventions are first and foremost, giant commercial parties for the faithful.  Here's how they usually go regardless of your party affiliation:

 Here's our candidate, rah rah rah.  Good to people, good to animals, good to rocks.  Good to air. Good for everybody. Good. Good. Good. Good. Goody goodness type good. Good good goodness with a puppy and apple pie. Good. Good. Good.  Oh and we're cool too.  Our side rocks.  It rocks. ROCKS!  Did you see that we ROCK? Rock on!  Rock! Yeah! 

That other side..Evil. Pure evil. Impure evil. Evil with impurity on the side. Impure evil with pure evil on the side. Evil. Evil. Evil. Evil. Evil evilness and villainy, villainy and evil evilness.  They are so evil, they run with scissors. We saw it.  We can't stop it, but you can. Stop their evil scissor running or wallow in freakish misery forever if they win, worrying about your eyes or skin being hurt by those evil people with scissors.

We have a solution. Our solution is so obvious and simple a caveman could do it, but those evil cavemen on the other side, they've been stymieing our leadership forever.   They fear our brilliance.  They fear you.  They'd fear you even more if you recognize our brilliance.  We're brilliant.  We're brilliant, we're brilliant and we're good for you (Like fruits and vegetables and other foods in sensible portions only moreso).  Join now and you can be brilliant too.  It's contagious, just like voting for the other side makes you an evil caveman.  You don't want to be an evil caveman so you should join us and be an independent thinker like all of us. Then you too will be brilliant and good. (Don't forget good).  Brilliant and good and like fruits and vegetables only moreso. And we have a plan.  We can't show you the plan because then the evil stupid cavemen would steal it and use it in an evil stupid way, but we have a plan.

Also, we'll give you things because, we're good and brilliant and brilliantly good. The other side won't give you things because again, they're stupid and evil and selfish.  Or, we'll solve all the problems the selfish evil stupid people created and punish the stupid evil selfish people because then they'll either learn they should be brilliant and good like us, or continue to be punished on top of being selfish and evil and stupid.  

And, after millions and maybe billions of dollars are spent telling us this on tv and radio and computer and in magazines and papers and countless hours are lost that could be used to actually address the issues of unemployment, taxes, health care, the huge expansion of government powers to include not only the Patriot act but unmanned drones over our own country, voters will still be left with a great puzzle.   Not who are these guys but why is it always the same two options, Godzilla or Mothra?  The problem is, no matter which monster wins, it's the people that have to clean up the mess.

And like those Godzilla movies, there's always another one, there's always another election, so there's always another battle of the titans to illustrate to the destroyed city that we are not players in this arena, we're at best innocent bystanders who get to scream at the sidelines as cars are smashed and buildings crushed.  Both parties have huge planks in their eyes, and the media goes around screaming about the voter's splinters and how those splinters are affecting their judgement and their vision.

I won't say that there isn't a dime's worth of difference between the two parties or that anyone's vote doesn't matter, only that I'd wish at some point, we could get beyond what feels like a bad movie or at best, a fight between high school nerds over which sci-fiction is the best; the type of Internet arguments about who is better, Old or New, Starwars or Star Trek, Kirk or Spock that go on forever and mean nothing!

I'd like for our country to get out of adolescence or at least middle school about politics.  Don't just tell me how wonderful you are.  Tell me what you are going to do and how and then why.  Show your work.  Let me see what your plan is. Trust that if it is a good plan, I'll back you.  If it is a bad plan, I'll tell you.   If there isn't a plan at all, I'll be annoyed at you.  If you lie about the plan, I will be more than annoyed.  I'll be angry.

And when the little people in the b-movies get angry and organized, even the big monsters lose.



Saturday, September 1, 2012

Laughing at Icarus

If the President falls from the sky in this election, the media will have no one to blame but themselves for making him into a messiah, conveniently forgetting what humanity did historically to the only one who actually could make that claim and not be engaged in pure hubris. It didn't help that the President bought into the image and let the illuminated images, Greek columns, halos and Light worker comments stand without comment. He didn't check the nonsense at the door. He spoke it himself to the crowds.

 

Thus when he showed himself to be merely mortal, to enjoy the luxury of the job, made gaffes or bad decisions, the fall from grace one had to know would be more perilous. Granted, when you make your whole campaign of ideas center on the cult of personality and mercilessly castigate through willing sycophants anyone who disagrees as the embodiment of all evil past and present, it will take time for resistance to such a myth to be shattered but if it should, the fall will be hard. 

 

The speech with the chair was hailed in part because a whole people have been lectured for nearly 4 years to NEVER criticize or laugh at this President. Perhaps some laughed harder than the bit deserved. I thought it was clunky but did like when he would get to the punch lines. I did laugh. The news was not that an old Hollywood person stood on the GOP platform, but that American people laughed at their leader, on that floor and in their homes watching.

 

Up until 2008, this was nothing we didn't do on a regular basis. We laughed at our politicians because we could, even if we agreed with their politics. People laughed at Chevy Chase playing Ford, at Tina Fey as Palin, we laughed hard at all the skits by stars who pretended to be the Presidents. We laughed and it wasn't because they were cruel or lacked understanding of the political arguments being made, but because that was one of the powers of being an American. We can laugh at our government for its abuses, its failures, its overreach, its underservice, for all the ways in which it does not live up to the ideals upon which it was founded. We can laugh at our leaders and not go to jail for that bit of mirth.

 

Eastwood broke the 4th wall of Politics in our current age, daring to publicly satirize the sitting President. Merely doing that was an act of open rebellion against the daily propaganda, the political correctness Nazis, the overzealous rage of those who have declared this leader of the free world to be something beyond what he is, a politician who won elected office.  They have also declared dissent the equivalent of moral treason, at best the result of innocent ignorance, at worst, proof of hearts of pure darkness.

 

We cannot survive as a representative republic if we cannot tolerate even the gentlest of mocks without declaring the source of disagreement something by its nature evil. It means the side that wins takes itself too seriously and engages in an almost puritanical wrath of self justification in all policy and procedures. Being able to laugh at ourselves, at our government, at our leaders is a sign of our humility about our nature and our fallibility. We have ideals. We fail to live up to them...often. We fly higher than our wax wings will allow.

 

Most of us wake up and are friends with people regardless of how they vote. Most of us could see that there was much to criticize regardless of what political party holds the majority.  Most of us know the President and the political parties are neither the enemy nor the devil.  Most of us also presume or would hope, that those who disagree with our own politics, would give us the same benefit of the doubt. The absence of humor directed at one side of the argument made the discussion much harder. Humor/satire makes those pointed barbs that sharpen the debate. Comedy illustrates the absurdities that otherwise might go unnoticed if all we do is rah rah rah for our own side. It makes the truth about our condition, our government, our leaders, our reality, more tolerable to bear.

 

With the birth of blogs, YouTube, face book, twitter and cell phone cameras, we have become a nation with nearly instant access to every human moment possible in both ordinary and political life. What will allow us to survive this brave new world of being constantly reminded of each other’s humanity is twofold: the grace of humility (to recognize the humanity in those we see or read about on the internet or news) and the grace of forgiveness. It isn't enough that we see the reality that the people revealed to be stupid in thirty seconds of film from an I-phone, but that we forgive them their moments of sloth, crudity, anger, lust, wrath, shortsighteness, stupidity or what have you. In politics, there is a dearth of both humility and forgiveness, resulting in the take no prisoner’s rancor that frequently passes for policy debate in the public square. We have fake apologies, fake acknowledgements of wrong doing, but what we never see, is public fake forgiveness, or even rarer, public acceptance/forgiveness of actual wrongs.  If  a public figure caught doing something inappropriate is taken to task, as part of reformation of the individual’s character, the wrong is spun and whittled until it is a virtue or a survival mechanism or a sign of evolved awareness of nuanced realities. (See when President Clinton lied under oath and article after article discussed the necessity of lying for good mental health, or President Bush signed the first deal running up our deficit and bailing out the banks and article after article about debt being good). 

We don't have to forgive what isn't wrong. We don't have to reflect or change if we can instead pretend what we did required that others reflect and change their minds about what is wrong.  I am talking about being given the grace of forgiveness the same way we now exercise the public gift of scorn (through com boxes and snarks and barbs and sharings of moments of extreeme humaness).  We are otherwise in danger of becoming a nation of gossips, of emotional wolves who prowl the internet for our next pack like opportunity to pounce and rend.   We must recognize how there but for the grace of God, could be us. 

 

Next week, I fully expect the DNC to fire back with both barrels. I will hope that if I laugh at something, I will admit it was funny. Further, I hope that here is the beginning of the restoring of good faith in our nation, the kind that exists between neighbors, between friends, between most Americans; the presumption that humor is not meant in malice, political allegiance does not require a rubber stamp agreement with all policy, and obedience to one's political ideology or President is not a moral imperative or sign of intellectual strength or weakness. It simply is a free choice which each American has the right to make and unmake as the situation warrants. 

 

And hopefully, some day we can look back at the madness and silliness of politics in this age and laugh. 

 

Leaving a comment is a form of free tipping. But this lets me purchase diet coke and chocolate.

If you sneak my work, No Chocolate for You!