Thursday, June 24, 2010


I have been doing a whole lot of nothing for the past few days, and I don't even feel guilty about it. Well, maybe not nothing.

I've been cleaning up the house and baking and planning for Christopher's graduation party, potting plants and planting squash and tomatoes, and building a fire pit in the back yard. So I have been doing stuff, but not the usual, frantic grading of papers and running around that I normally do. I have to say it's wonderful. I finally got to the library, the dentist, and the post office, and I might even have figured out the opening of the novel that has been daunting me for almost a year now. This is the same one that I wrote the opening two pages 17 times (an actual, counted number) I'm pretty sure I'm sticking to this opening. And I wrote notes on an MG I'm halfway through.

I like vacancy. Even though, by many people standards, this is a nut house with the half dozen animals, the kids and their friends, graduation, packing for the college summer program, and all the rest, there is nothing I actually HAVE to do for the next few days. I guess nothing for me is deciding when I do tasks and not feeling that ever present clock.

I also think down time is essential for writing. I manage to think about writing for short times during the school year, but usually when I'm driving to work, or buying broccoli at the green grocer. It sort of goes like this:

Character is...why is she so...what's that word? The kids would say emo, but she wouldn't. Maybe I could sneak that organic cabbage into the soup - would Philip detect it? Oh no, there's that PTA woman and she's coming toward me. Thank God, she turned. Did she see me? That character needs a name. Something with no snootiness, no Ashleys or Courtneys. Did Emma hand in that permission slip? Maybe an old fashioned name. Oh great, here comes the PTA mom headed right toward me and I think she just recognized me. Laura? Except I think of the Glass Menagerie with that name...bok choy? that's not as pronounced a taste as cabbage....

Once his party is over on Friday, and he's safely at the college summer program that begins on Saturday, I'll have even more nothing. At least for about three weeks or so. Then things start to pick up again around here.

Probably the best thing that's come out of the past few days is that I realized how much I like writing, and how I would be perfectly content to spend all of my time with my hair in a messy pony tail,working on novels. I used to think I needed to go out, to connect with other people, to have a job that forced me to find the mascara tube and shave my legs. Now, I'm thinking more along the Emily Dickinson framework of having a room and some ideas.

Of course the danger of Dickinson's way is that I would wind up spending too much time talking to the cats and probably develop some vague form of agoraphobia about going to the grocery store.

But I think that's okay. I'd rather suffer a little agoraphobia than not have my novel completed. I'm looking at the next few weeks as kind of a rough draft for how I want to shape my life, and I think the first thing I am going to do is make some cuts in a few areas I thought were essential. This time has taught me that what's essential is having time to do "nothing" ---

Monday, June 14, 2010

New Seasons

The second prom is now over and done with and Christopher and I discovered a new species here in South Jersey. It's possible that this species inhabits more high schools, but since his first prom was just attended by us saying goodbye, it was a relatively calm process. No new species.

The second prom introduced us to the group goodbye, and the new species of person: a prom mom. The first picture here is not actually one of those moms, and yes, it's exaggerated, but the overall look, the general impression of that overly accessorized personality is pretty much representative of the prom mom. Maybe shows like Jerseylicious and The Jersey Shore have made this species more normalized so they came out, especially at an occasion like the group goodbye at the senior prom. Since this was not his high school, I didn't know anyone, but after a few minutes, I realized that I had seen them briefly on those idle, rich housewife shows.

They loved the limo: it was one of those superstretch ones that could house a small village. When it drove up and swallowed the kids, it seemed really apropos. I waved to Christopher. He was sitting there in tux number two with his eyes very, very wide. Of course, it could have been optical distress from the glare of the many sequins and sparkles on the dresses which looked something like this:

Tiaras are really, really big in these parts. So are gloves and boas. Wow.

Anyway, once the proms are over and I'm on line buying graduation decorations, it can mean only one thing: summer is nearly here! And that means plans. Tomorrow is my last day of work for six weeks. Now, a friend of mine pointed out that taking care of a house, keeping track of and feeding three kids and half a dozen animals and finishing two novels is not exactly "off" - but in my world, no lesson plans and no students is off. I usually ask my students to have three writing goals a semester, so here are my three summer goals:
1. to finish YA book and MG book (in other words, butt in chair time)
2. to have a yard people can walk through without checking themselves for ticks
3. it's possible that, after nearly four years of living here, I actually might buy curtains. Well, I HAVE bought curtains, ones that looked like they would fit. You really do have to measure first. So it's possible that we will have more than KMart blinds on our windows.
 You can bet those prom moms had some pretty amazing curtains.
So what are your goals for the summer?

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Prom Personalities

We survived the prom, and I purposely chose the collective pronoun because not having gone to my own prom, I had no idea how many details went into those few hours of fun. I began having wedding preparation flashbacks.
But  here he is, minutes before the limo arrived. Doesn't he look de-lighted at his mom taking his picture?

He's slightly happier here. At least he looked up from his texting (if you look closely, you can see his phone in his hand) at his little sister who was taking his picture.

Much happier here - picture taking is almost over at this point and very, very soon, he will make his escape.

After they left, Emma informed me that she wanted a pink limo and went into incredible detail about her future dress, hairstyle and shoes. Oh, the shoes -- orchids (real ones) appliqued on satin.

Philip, on the other hand, began looking at the credit card receipts. He informed me that for less than the cost of the prom, he could go to a water park, order pepperoni pizza every night for ten nights, get a bunch of songs on I Tunes and buy some new sneakers. "It's like you have to spend time with the people from school and pay for it."

I told him that even though the prom was being held in a hotel near Atlantic City, the teachers from school were chaperoning.

"There are teachers there? What? Chaperoning? Are you kidding me? Why would anyone ever spend all that money to go be with them. I just want the cash instead of the prom. The teachers probably don't even pay to go."

To say Philip and Christopher are different kids is to say there is water in the ocean. But the first prom is over.

What I didn't tell Philip is that Christopher is going to hers on Saturday. Yup, two proms in eight days. It's like arranging one last, giant play date.