People who equate truth with fact are missing the point.

A Little of This, A Little of That, and My Inauspicious Writerly Beginnings

Holy ultra-serious blogeration, Batman!

Let’s take it down a notch or nine, shall we?

Because in spite of all the intensity I have expressed here recently, life is damn good right now.

“Damn good” is, of course, subjective. My damn good is not the same as yours (well, for a few of you it’s the same; you know who you are), but comparison is a road I avoid so let’s take a left turn and move on.

Carter is more stable than he has been in 18 months. He’s sleeping well most nights; we haven’t seen a genuine rage in quite awhile; even his anxiety has eased somewhat (and how happy am I that he can go to the bathroom alone again?). No way do I expect this to last. He’ll most likely fall apart tomorrow.

(That last bit was for the universe. Hello, Universe? Do not fuck with me. I am taking nothing for granted; I revel in every moment of health and happiness. There is no lesson I need to learn right now! I’m all learned up and humble so take a break! I will buy the scones and coffee and you can get some rest.)

Aaaand…(drum roll here) Carter went back to school last week! Life is better when Carter goes to school because he’s always calmer and happier when he’s busy. Also, I’m a much better mom when I’m not with him 24 hours a day. Really, I love that child from my hair to my toes, but he is intense.

Now that he’s in a year-round school, I love that Carter doesn’t lose as much ground over the long summer and there are more breaks during the year, all of a reasonable length. But what’s really awesome is driving him to school when the other moms in the neighborhood are looking down the barrel of four more weeks. I feel like I’m getting away with some kind of brilliant mom-crime.

In the midst of all this wonderfulness, this stability and sleeping at night and hours during the day during which I write in peace? There is room for me to think. I can feel my brain stretching out, relaxing, the cramps letting go. I have time for words, to use them to make sense of the world and myself.

Why yes, it is every bit as delightful as it sounds.

Spencer has been cleaning out our sun room (which, since we don’t use it much, has become a dumping ground for everything that doesn’t have a home of its own) and he found a Rubbermaid bin full of spiral notebooks. My old notebooks.

Let’s pause here for a moment. I’d like to suggest that, should one of your children discover a giant box full of your teenage angst poetry? You go hide before you commence with the reading and laughing. Otherwise, it’s quite likely that the child, and maybe some other children, and perhaps even your spouse, might take some of the notebooks and start reading. Then? The taunting and the mocking will commence. With gusto.

Under all that teenage angst poetry and faded scraps of paper (Most of which proclaimed my vast difference, and the immense difficulty of living in a world so devoted to conformity; ye gods, how was I to survive?) I found my fifth grade squiggle book.

I loved that squiggle book. I mean, loved it. I was hurt and upset that Mrs. Mills wouldn’t allow us to take the books home.

Pretty sure I was the only one.

squiggle book

Shakespeare, I was not, but I enjoyed writing words and knowing that someone would read them.

They worked like this: Mrs. Mills opened each student’s spiral notebook to a blank page and made a little squiggle. We drew a picture from that squiggle (I hated the picture part and rushed through it.) and then wrote a story or poem based on the picture.

I was an avid reader from the time I became truly literate early in second grade, but that squiggle book made me fall in love with writing down my own words.

It also gave me my first taste of real success. I wasn’t athletic or popular and although I was intelligent, I wasn’t much of a student. But the writing? My teacher and the other students loved it. Every time Mrs. Mills gave me a super-writer award or read one of my poems out loud in front of the class, I got half an inch taller. Once, Mrs. Mills read one of my poems aloud to the class and one of my classmates asked, “Did that get a super writer award?” When Mrs. Mills said no, a noisy murmur went up. She should get one. We want her to get the award! That’s a good poem!

I’m pretty sure I would have busted my buttons if I’d been wearing any. To this day, that’s one of the proudest moments of my life.

When the end-of-the-school year awards assembly came around, I shuffled off the cafeteria with everyone else, dreading an hour of boredom while people collected awards for perfect attendance, good citizenship (I was a well-behaved kid, but nowhere near friendly enough for awards that hinged on being nice to others.), and accomplishments made in PE.

But then! What’s this? The two fifth grade teachers, standing in front of 50 almost-pubescent kids who couldn’t have smelled very nice, announced a Writer of the Year Award. I sat up straight. Could it be? Would it be me? Would I finally be the one to take home a trophy? A ribbon? A certificate? I imagined my dad’s face when I told him, saw my mom smiling at my accomplishment. Oh! I wanted that! I held my breath and waited, waited, waited for them to announce that…

Stephen Sanchez had won the Writer of the Year award.

Yes, that’s his real name, though it might be Steven. That was 30 years ago and I remember everything, even the expression on Stephen’s face as he walked down the center aisle to get his trophy and certificate.

If I had won that trophy and certificate? The certificate would be in a frame on the wall and the trophy would sit right next to my computer.

Seriously.

Reading through my old book (the wire is rusted and the pages are yellowing) is a treat. I remember feeling then, as I learned to write stories, that my brain was stretching out, relaxing. Ā I found that when I wrote words down, put them in lines, I could make sense of the world and myself.

Happy happy sighs to be at home in myself now.

Universe? I am not testing you. Have another scone.

(Psssst…there’s this fun thing I want to do with my friend, and it’s silly and it will make me laugh. And you know how very important laughter is to me, right? So pop on over here and click the thumbs up next to my comment.)

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28 comments to A Little of This, A Little of That, and My Inauspicious Writerly Beginnings

  • Yeah for school and sleep and alone time in the bathroom!!

    I can’t wait to meet flat Adrienne — CLICK THE LINK PEOPLE http://www.themarthaproject.com/2010/07/28/come-to-blogher-with-me-sorta-contest

    • Even with my 2nd place finish? I will be going. You and Jen can sing to me and the video will make me happy happy happy!

      Carly Simon herself will be jealous of the lovely amusingness of it all!

  • I voted. And then left an extra comment in hopes that will count for another vote.

    In other news, I’m so happy that you’re happy. You SO deserve happiness and brain stretching. Your childhood writing stories made me smile.

  • i’m so sorry you lost to stupid stephan (which is SO pretentious). what’s wrong with steven or even just plain old steve? anyway…i’m so glad you’re having a good day!

  • yay for good days. seriously. this post made me smile. well except for when the douche, stephen beat you out for the writing award. then i gave his name the stink eye.

  • Laura

    Yay that things are going well!!!! I love your disclaimer to the universe. šŸ™‚

  • Yeah for the stars aligning and you getting some time! I can’t believe that Stephen won, I say that it was rigged. He probably needed a wee push from the teachers. Maybe he was the most improved writer of the year, yup that had to be it!

  • YAY for things going well and you getting a little break. I hope it lasts much longer than you anticipate.

  • valerie

    Your introduction to squiggles at such an early age has me smitten with jealousy, as it wasn’t until my junior year of college (during a very boring class) that a friend and I started passing a notebook back and forth to fill with our constant “squiggling”. I can only imagine how much cooler I could be if I had just started squiggling earlier in life…no wonder you’re kick-a! šŸ™‚

    • Oh, yeah, my friends and I did the same thing. Sort of. But with words. One of us would write a sentence to start the story, then each person would add another sentence. I still have some of those (very weird) stories in an old coffee can somewhere.

  • i don’t know what’s going on with my blog that it keeps rejecting your comments. sorry. maybe you should copy it before submitting so you can just paste if it doesn’t go through.

    anyway, i can SO relate to this post. i too was never popular or sporty or super smart. but i was always the “good writer”. in 10th grade i ruled the creative writing class. i had the teacher pawning over me. and the students were always jealous because most of them were seniors and my work was usually the example for what the teacher wanted them to do. lol.

    as for the comment you left on my blog, the book is actually by bruce d. perry called the boy who was raised as a dog. it’s pretty good but gets a little repetitive in the middle.

    thanks for the compliments. most of the time i feel pretty incompetent when it comes to raising Taz but every once in a while i look back and give myself some credit. i’ve been thinking recently about videotaping my life. my husband wants to put cameras in every room and record everything to DVD. as daunting as that sounds (yikes, your every mistake on camera) it is tempting to have proof.

    • Oh, yes. I read Perry’s book, too. I can’t keep them all straight!

      I think the cameras are a great idea. Some of those doctors clearly need some real proof that you’re not…what? I can’t even imagine what they might think you’re doing. I mean, really, parenting has to be spectacularly bad to cause behaviors like Taz’s. Or like Carter’s. Ordinary “bad” does not cause stuff like this!

  • I was never popular in the sense of everyone liking me. Everyone DID know me, however, because I was loud and bossy and opinionated. And, most of the time, right.

    Annnnyywayy…where I was going with that was that when I was setting up my classroom this past week, I found a copy of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnets from the Portuguese tucked away in my desk. And tucked inside that copy of that book (which was a copy I purchased in high school because I was young, and stupid, and thought the Browning’s story was SOOO ROMANTIC) I found poems I wrote in high school.

    OMG! The melodrama! I laughed until I cried. Poetry? Poetry was something I just didn’t get right.

    • Oh, I know! My poetry is so purple, I blush sometimes just reading it! Thank God I didn’t show it to others because I’d probably want to crawl in a hole at the memory of that.

      And yes; loud, bossy, and opinionated. That about sums me up.

  • YAY for your happiness and your stretching and your TIME.

    You deserve all of those things.

    And I voted for you, of course I voted for you!

    You promised me cleavage!

  • Amy Smith

    There is no lesson I need to learn right now! Iā€™m all learned up and humble so take a break! I will buy the scones and coffee and you can get some rest.<—I. LOVE. THIS. !!

    Also, I videotaped my daughter having several rage episodes, to show the doctors EXACTLY what I meant when I described what was going on.

    It really helped me when:

    Doctors would see my daughter in a downtime during appointments. This was while she was seemingly calm and distracted. Distracted by shiney, sparkley things that temporarily caught her attention. They looked at me like I was CRAZY bitch mom when I would tell them that I could not handle her behavior and that something WAS WRONG with her.

    I would ask them to watch the video (this was in the days of VHS) and then they would have their mouths hanging open in shock.

    I was schooled often by these first few years of doctors. I was told "You need to do timeout correctly." "She is performing for the camera" –if that one was true then WE WOULD OF MADE MILLIONS IN HOLLYWOOD. Seriously, what three year old screams and pulls out her hair to perform?

    This is getting too long, sorry.

    The way I finally got a doctor to listen to me, is when I went to a seminar for "Parents with Difficult Children". The doctor who spoke described a "rage episode" and I almost fell out of my chair because it was describing what we were going through almost daily.

    I begged him to see my daughter. BEGGED HIM. He did, thank GOD.

    Also I did have a pediatrician who saw my daughter in the middle of a rage episode in her office. She looked at me and said "Your daughter is emotionally disturbed." This was at age 2. I was totally offended by her words. Not ready to accept the truth, I still belived there was some other answer.

    Wow sorry for the hijack, trying to say videotaping the behavior was very helpful and validating to me.

    I hope the universe allows you to stretch as much as you need right now. Just know that all your hard work means more than you realize. When you look back on Carter's life you will feel serene in knowing that you stood up, went to bat, and advocated for him at every turn.

    In order to work that hard as a parent, you have to have those times to recharge–

    Amy

    • It breaks my heart, how I hear the same story again and again and again…loving parents show up for help and get blamed. We are so caught in a behavioral model that even doctors have a hard time viewing mental illness as mental illness!

      I have seen that “this mom is a complete wacko!” look in more doctors than I care to remember. I made as many references to my three older (typically developing) kids as I could manage, just to establish my credentials. Even so, the look.

      I’m so glad you finally found a doctor who “got it.” I’m so glad that Carter now has great providers, too.

      And yes, time to recharge is essential. Some days, parenting Carter is like herding cats while under sniper fire!

  • AmyLynn

    By the way…just found your link to the blogroll. I am slow, sheesh. But wanted to say love it—

    AmyLynn

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