Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Writer's Block

Yes, I am actually going to attempt to write about writer's block. Good idea?.........I guess we'll find out. If at any point in the course of this blog, the phrase "all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" pops up, then you'll know I've officially pulled a Jack Nicholson, and I would strongly advise you to turn off your computer and run far away. At this moment, my mind is about like the white computer screen staring back at me...... a few scattered words and phrases, but no real concrete or compelling ideas. I wouldn't even attempt to write anything, but I have promised to make myself post something (crap or not) every week. Hopefully more ideas will be forthcoming. For today, I feel like Billy Crystal on "Throw Mama From the Train." If you have never seen this movie, you should go watch it now and then come back............seriously. Now, if you get nothing else from this blog, you have found out about and obscure funny movie you never knew you were missing. So, Billy Crystal plays a writer, and Danny DeVito plays, well, basically an idiot ( does he ever play anything else?). Billy Crystal's character has a chronic case of writer's block. Through almost the entire movie, he is hung up on the first sentence of his next novel: "The night was......" Now, most of us would just choose a word and move on. Any number of words would do just fine........cloudy, misty, damp, foreboding, clear...........But then we would not be thinking like writers. A writer knows that the first sentence can make or break an entire piece. And thus begins the constant battle of the writer to create something new, something original, fresh, something that has never been written before. To grab the audience and pull them into the new world coming to life on the page. This is a rather daunting task, especially when even writers like J.K. Rowling, who is in my opinion one of the most original and gifted writers of our day, is constantly being charged with plagiarism. Slightly discouraging, considering she has literally created an entire new world through the written word. I think writer's block increases ten fold once you have children. This is because all mothers have ADD. We find it impossible to keep our minds on one thing. For instance, the reason I am coming up with nothing to write about at the moment could be owing to the fact that the following items are currently occupying most of my mind's thinking space: my piano recital on Saturday, the fact that I still need to print programs for my piano recital on Saturday, Morgan's first soccer game, the mouse carcass in the backyard that I saw Pippin (my extremely naughty puppy- blogs about him are forthcoming) chewing on in the backyard earlier that I cannot seem to bring myself to go out and pick up, the fact that when Dirk comes home from a long day at work, the first thing I will probably ask him to do is go out and pick up a mouse carcass in the backyard, the fact that everyone else in my neighborhood seems to have mowed their lawn at least five times already, and my own lawn is completely out of control, and has also apparently become a haven for mice, the fact that I am going to have a new baby in FOUR WEEKS, that fact that I am going to be cut open to remove said baby in FOUR WEEKS..........and these are just a few of the thoughts. Sometimes it's hard to get to that magic writing place where I can let all of these other thoughts sort of float above me and zero in on one topic. But, I suppose bakers have their off days when the dough doesn't rise. Tiger has days when he just can't make that final putt. Filmmakers seem to have a lot of off days. This is the only explanation for movies like Mars Attack having ever been made ( I would NOT recommend watching that one and coming mind-numbing as this blog may be, I can promise you Mars Attack is worse- and someone actually was paid money to make it....). Ultimately, I think to be a professional writer, the safest route to go is to be a lyricist. I am always amazed when I look in a C.D. (who even has those anymore?) jacket and find the name of a lyricist under a song in which at least half of the lyrics were "la". I am willing to bet I would settle for a lot less per "la" then some of these "lyricists" are charging. And to write any kind of love song, all you have to do is lump a bunch of cliches together, and you have a hit........"The moon reflecting in your eyes like diamonds, ignites my soul, and suddenly the whole world comes alive........" Move over Sting- I totally missed my calling. Anyway- you get the point. Today is not such a good writing day, which, unfortunately for you, my dear readers, means it will not be such a good reading day. I hope you won't give up on me yet. I know there are more ideas rambling around somewhere in the recesses of my mind just waiting to be put into words. For now, maybe I'll go see about that mouse carcass........You never know what might spark a new idea.......

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Move Over Amelia Bedelia

First of all, for anyone who doesn't have a clue whom Amelia Bedelia is- You need to go to the local Growing up, she was always one of my favorites. She was the Lucille Ball of children's literature. I found her domestic faux pas hilarious. Now that I actually spend my days running a household, I find them, well, relatable. The thing about being a homemaker/mother is that there is really no prior training for the job. Talk about a learning curve. If any of you have wondered about my url name, domestic hazard, this post will hopefully explain the reasoning behind it. I know plenty of women who, at any given moment, look as though they could be appearing in a commercial for laundry detergent or Glade scented candles. There appears to be some sort of glowing aura surrounding them at all times. Their children are always happy. Their house is always sparkling and lemon-scented. There is always freshly baked bread on the counter, and often times some type of cookies or cake as well. You may not believe that these women actually exist. But I have seen them. I am not one of these women. I have a friend who can make almost anything out of a cardboard box and some toothpicks. I, on the other hand, could be given access to an entire room full of the best crafting supplies, and end up with something that looked like it had been made out of a cardboard box and some toothpicks. I have never been able to cut in a straight line ( I blame this on being completely right brained)- not cheese, not wrapping paper. The concept of scrapbooking completely eludes me; one, because it makes me feel like I am back in kindergarten, and two because there are so many widgets and cricuts and buttons and ribbons and.......well you get the picture........that my head starts to spin. I just sit there and stare vacantly. Unlike Amelia, I am actually fairly competent at cleaning, and my house is very organized ( I blame this on OCD). I have never, for example, put dust back onto the furniture ( one of my favorite A.B. domestic disasters) when asked to dust. However, I did once pour dishwashing soap, as opposed to dishwashing detergent, into the dishwasher. And it was a lot........enough to fill up the entire detergent tray. The result was very Amelia Bedeliaesque. It involved a kitchen full of bubbles and a lot of towels. The worst part?- It was in my parents' kitchen! I have also managed to give myself a black eye while canning apples.......I'll let your imagination run wild as to exactly how that one came about. But how many people do you know who inflict injury upon themselves while preserving fruit? So maybe I am a hazard to myself while inside my house, but what about outside? It turns out that when it comes to gardening, I am just a hazard to all other living things. I think plants have begun to wilt after I have merely looked at them. And when I try to "garden" ( I blame this on rare primal urges to be one with nature), I feel like one of those peasants on Monty Python and the Holy Grail, pointlessly digging for "filth". On all of these points I am sure Amelia (if only she were real, but alas.......) could commiserate with me. There is one level of domestic ineptitude, however, that even Amelia could not relate to me on. Baking. This is always Amelia's saving grace. She can completely destroy the Rogers' house, but all is forgotten the moment Mr. Rogers takes a bite of that lemon meringue pie. She also makes delectable cookies and cream puffs. And if you don't believe that all can be forgiven by a man with a cream puff in his hand, well then you have never lived with a man. Alas, I do not possess Amelia's rare ability to rectify my domestic mishaps through baked goods. Cooking I can handle. Cooking is much different. There is room for experimentation and variation. It is a very right brained task. Baking, however, requires exact measurements, and just the right "touch". I once baked a batch of bread. The recipe made two loaves. One loaf rose just as it was supposed to. The other did not. It was the same dough........cue Twilight Zone music. I can usually do semi-homemade baking; you know, if the recipe starts out with a boxed mix or some frozen dough. But baking from scratch......I may as well try to assemble a rocket and fly to the moon. I have plenty more anecdotes in my arsenal of self-deprecation, but you get the gist. Move over, Amelia Bedelia........there's a new domestic hazard in town. Aside from her ability to make heavenly pastries, Amelia did always possess one other saving quality. She had heart. She may have destroyed everything she touched, but she did it with her heart in the right place. This is a quality I would like to think I share with her. No matter how many things I blow up, flood, cut crookedly or wilt, I will never stop trying. That sort of sounds like a threat. Let's try again ( I love unedited writing). I hope that someday when my children are grown, that instead of the many batches of flat/ burnt/ abnormally large cookies that I made, they will remember all the times we sat around eating Oreos from the store and laughing so hard milk almost came out of our noses. Maybe they will not have a perfectly trimmed hedgerow to look back on when they remember their childhood home, but hopefully they will remember countless picnics at the park and trips to the zoo. The point is........I may never win any awards from Good Housekeeping, but my children will grow up knowing that I loved them enough to spend time with them, and to try, despite what could have been a crippling sense of failure, to make a nice home and life for them. Too bad Amelia Bedelia never had any children. I think she may have found her calling in motherhood.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

On Becoming an Official Soccer Mom

I am not exactly sure why the term "soccer mom" is so widely used. We rarely hear about "karate mom" or "baseball mom", or "wrestling mom", or even "football mom", although I know a lot more of these. Yet, when the term is used, we all probably conjure up the same mental image; you know, the woman wearing "mom jeans", a sweatshirt and sneakers, a perpetual ponytail in her hair. She typically drives a minivan or some sort of large SUV (almost always with some type of bumper sticker about her children), always has Wonder Bread in the house, and likes to make a lot of casseroles involving various types of condensed soups. I have to admit, I was already on my way to becoming the stereotypical all-American mom. I've got the perpetual ponytail down to an art. I actually dry my hair maybe one or two days out of seven. The minivan came a few years ago, and I have made my fair share of casseroles utilizing cream of chicken soup as a main ingredient. When I took Morgan to her first official soccer practice yesterday, I was not exactly wearing mom jeans.......they were maternity jeans........which probably actually trump mom jeans......they are "going to be a mom again" jeans. So, I guess I've got that one down too. I was, however, wearing a stylish trench coat and some tortoise shell shades. All right, all right, I know the denial needs to end. Time to face the music. I am a soccer mom. No way around it now. On top of all the other details, I now actually have a child that plays soccer! So, why should this make me feel depressed? Maybe because of the way society tells moms we should be these days. Though there has been a trend recently of praising stay-at-home motherhood, there is still an underlying message that "just" being a stay-at-home mom is not enough. We now must run successful online businesses, or do some sort of other work from home to be considered valuable members of society. Never mind that we already fulfill the job of a nurse, a teacher, a maid, a cook, a waitress, a taxi service, a counselor, and a dry cleaner. Apparently this is not enough. People seem to think that the 1950's image of the stay-at-home mom is preposterous; she had to iron in high heals and make everything from scratch. Now, we just have to make everything "green" and "organic" and donate the plethora of spare time we are apparently suppose to have after nursing, teaching, cleaning, cooking, waiting tables, taxiing, counseling, and doing five loads of laundry a day, to our other job, or to some type of volunteer work. I believe it is very important to teach future generations to take care of our planet. I don't mean to minimize this. I also believe in helping others and in raising children who will grow up to do the same. I also firmly believe when our children are grown, that they will probably not remember that mom was wearing frumpy, out of style jeans, or (heck- let's be realistic) pajamas when they came home from school most days. They will hopefully simply remember that mom was there. I must add that I have the utmost respect for all of the moms I know who work outside the home. You have two full time jobs, and I honestly don't know how you do it. Maybe someday I will be compelled to join you. As for now, I am grateful to be blessed enough to have a job that centers around the two (soon to be three) people I love the most. However, I think the only way to fully cleanse myself of the shame of the soccer mom stigma may be to break down and get that bumper sticker.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

On Being a Writer Who Doesn't Write

"What do you want to be when you grow up?" If we all had a dime for every time we were asked that question while growing up, what we would probably now be is incredibely wealthy. Until I was about seven years old I was firmly set on the idea of being a circus clown when I grew up. Seriously. I thought it was the perfect gig- you got to wear a goofy costume and makeup and make people laugh, and probably got all the free cotton candy you wanted. I then went through a brief period of wanting to be a vet. Then I started the fourth grade. I was in the T.A.G. program, and I had one teacher for math and science (Mrs. Cook) and one for English and History (Mrs. Strickland). Mrs. Strickland taught us about great writers, in fourth grade!! I was in the same program in fifth grade. This is when I discovered poetry. We did all sorts of writing excercises. One I distinctly remember was taking the work of a famous poet, say William Blake, and modeling a poem after their style. I couldn't get enough. I entered our school's "Young Author" competition and won first prize for poetry. My circus clown days were over. I was going to be a writer. In sixth grade, I had an English teacher named Mrs. Oliver who would read my poetry out loud to the class. She made me feel like I could do anything. Clear up through high school, teachers would read my work aloud as an example of good writing. I was on my way. Then came college, with it's blitz-krieg of "constructive criticism." I had a Children's Lit teacher who flat out told us that none of us would ever become published writers because it was too competitive a field. And this is what mystifies me. As parents and teachers, we are supposed to insitll in children a sense that they can do anything they put their minds to. Then, the minute they step out of the safe haven of home and high school, and into the "real world", this positive reinforcement comes to a screeching halt. But, what is to be done about this? Should we administer small doses of harsh reality to our children throughout their lives, so that when the veil of childhood idealism is ripped from their eyes they won't be crushed? Or do we just help them understand the very important difference between "doing something" and "being something." For example; I am a writer. In my heart of hearts that is what I am and what I always have been. I have never even attempted to write anything publishable. I am far too much of a people pleaser for that. To be a "real" writer you have to be willing to play a never ending game of whack-a-mole, and you get to be the mole. I don't want to be the mole. I am also a mother, and this, fotunately is also what I do. And, despite the sometimes chaotic atmosphere of being a stay-at-home mom, I love what I do. But, very rarley do people get payed to "be" what they actually are. My husband is a banker. But this is not who he is. This is a job he does to pay the bills. I think maybe we should start asking our children what they want to "be" when they grow up and what they want to "do" when they grow up as two distinct questions. When I think of my dreams for my children, I realize I don't really care what they "do", as long as they are truly happy. They could end up doing the job of a garbage man or a janitor. What is more important to me is that they grow up to be caring, compassionate people who desire to make a positive difference in this world. As for me, I will continue to write my 15- minute unedited tirade each week as some sort of outlet for the writer in me. Maybe one day I will become brave enough to be the mole. And hey, if this whole writing thing never pans out, there's always clown college.