Thursday, February 26, 2009

My Newest Project

This is a special day for me, and I hope you’ll humor me by subjecting yourself to something else I’m writing. Last week I started a new blog and today is my launch date. It's also my birthday, but that's purely coincidence. :)
It’s completely fiction but based loosely on the long-distance relationship I have with my wonderful friend Jennifer. I’m excited to throw some of my creative stuff into the ring, and I hope you’ll enjoy it too.
I figured out a while ago that I am an author, not just a writer. Writers can get things out of their heads and onto paper or into the computer and feel great. Authors need the feedback from an audience to complete the process, and I live for feedback. I love the hurrays and I take seriously the constructive comments as well. It’s all part of the process for me, and it would mean a lot to me if you would take a little more time from your busy schedule. And hopefully laugh, too. Thanks so much for all your love and support.

Here it is: The Adventures of Gwen and Nancy!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Boy Toys

Last year, we had a sleepover party for Elliott's 9th birthday. This was the email and pictures I sent to the friends and relatives who were anxious to know if I survived:

So Elliott started asking for this sleepover about two weeks ago, and I envisioned 24 screaming monkeys tearing up my house. Only 8 were invited, just 6 could make it, and they were pretty civilized for 8-9 year old boys. They played Xbox and Playstation, ate pizza, and got out the dress-up gear to play fire and rescue. One boy would lay on the dining room floor and the others would crawl in, yelling emergency-sounding stuff, and drag him to safety. Glad I mopped.
I thought 11pm was a good time to put in a movie and have them pick a spot on the floor. They brushed their teeth with not a little grumbling and the expected amount of spitting and bathroom humor. Just as I thought things were going to quiet down, I hear one voice call out the summons that ensured no one would sleep: "Guys! Elliott's got more Legos than I've ever seen in my whole life!"
The unmistakable sound of a giant tub of Legos being dumped on the floor quickly followed: it’s a little like shaking a box of shattered light bulbs, and a little like hundreds of plastic nails being sprinkled on a metal floor. Unless you’ve heard it, you can’t quite understand but you never forget that sound. By 2:30 am they had quite a city started, and were trading each other cool items like a spaceman's backpack for a knight's helmet. By 4:15 everyone had their own "tricked out" vehicle, a horse and knight, and a variety of space ship parts. The battle for land rights (space to lay out their plastic lawn or landing strip) had settled down. At around 6 it was decided that the landing strips and horse pastures could be reorganized around the two boys who had succumbed to sleep with their vehicles stored protectively under their arms. And at 8:30, when I asked who wanted waffles and sausage, one small voice said, "I guess we have to clean all this up now, huh?"
Elliott very proudly told the guys that the Lego collection was a gift from his Uncle John, who "rocks out loud." John, you’re the hero of the party, dude. :)

It was apparently such a success that we are repeating it this year. This year, all the fourth grade boys were invited. Wish me luck. Or better yet, just shoot me now...

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Un-Sorority

In the last few weeks, courtesy of this amazing thing called the Internet, I’ve been bombarded by my past. Yes, it has been my choice to put my name out there, which is strange considering my self-confidence is at an all time low and I really have so many things taking up my time that the thought of keeping up with all these new ‘friends’ pushes the insanity button a little. But I think that the stages my children are going through have much more to do with it than anything in my own mind. I’m watching them establish friendships, have fights, rush to check caller ID when the phone rings and then fight over who gets to pick it up… I especially watch my daughter, and she’s approaching that point in her life where Queen Bees and Wannabes are established. I have been reflecting on my own life as I contemplate helping her navigate this social ocean. Will she glide through on a cruise ship or cling to a life raft? Will she have one or two friends, or will she have the sisters she’s always wanted?
I was on a life raft, but it was the one hanging on the side, still attached to the fancy cruise ship. I knew lots of kids in grade school and junior high, but I never belonged to a group. When I was young my family focused on the ways I was unique, special. I was the only grandchild on both sides of my family for several years. I remember Kindergarten being quite a shock – you mean I’m not the center of the universe? There are other kids in the world? And they play together… what is that? Can I just read a book, please? It’s very noisy here and I’m not in charge, so I would like to go home now.
Actually I wasn’t that smart or that confident. It was probably more like I sat at my desk and observed the chaos and had absolutely no idea how to jump in. Jumping in would be rude, and I might look silly, and they might not like me, and… and there lies the heart of the matter really. Not knowing how to jump in and make myself welcome, I singled myself out, and have been doing that ever since.
I had one friend at a time, sometimes two, but the girls I hung out with individually were not friends with each other. Carrie, Cindi, Christy, Heather, Angie– all extremely different people. I had something in common with each of them, though. Carrie was my intellectual friend, Cindi and Christy were my music friends, Heather was my little sister friend, and Angie was my alter ego – the super cool chick I wanted to be but didn’t have the right parents. The one time all of us got together was a birthday slumber party, and the only thing I remember about that night was splitting my knee open on the sidewalk when we decided to go jogging. In February. In Nebraska. High school wasn’t much better. I had music friends and boyfriends, but still no group. Didn’t find the group in college either – Rush was a bizarre exercise in futility since hair, makeup and current fashion have never been high priorities for me. I found myself standing alone near the fireplace at darn near every house I went to. Sigh. Residence hall life was okay, and I met some awesome people, but I never felt like I was part of the group there either.

I still don’t have a group – I have the two friends I’ve had since high school (Jennifer) and college (Sandy), and I have some mom friends through school and scouts. At church there are several amazing women I consider friends. I go out for dinner or coffee once a month with a small group, but I don’t get together with them any other time. My mom didn’t have a group – I don’t recall her ever going out for a girl’s night or hanging out with more than one close friend at a time. Is my daughter destined for that too? Am I worrying waaaaay too much about something that is absolutely no big deal? Probably. But here’s why I think it’s important to worry about it at least a little.

A lot of my friends have their own groups – it seems like every time I stop by one friend’s house, the same women are there, baking cookies or scrapbooking or just hanging out drinking coffee. I have not been invited to one of these gatherings officially, but they wouldn’t kick me out if I had time to stay. I just don’t seem to have time to stay.
I did have an encounter one time that left my confidence dented. I had stopped in at a friend’s house to drop off some hand-me-downs. Her group was all there, and I didn’t plan on staying but she offered me Diet Coke and the kids had started playing so I sat down. One of the other moms made a comment and it caught my attention, so I asked her to explain. She stared at me for a full minute in the silence of the room and then snorted and said, “Oh, I shouldn’t have said that. I forgot you were here.”
My friend apologized profusely as she walked me out to my car, saying it was really no big deal, they just didn’t want rumors to get started, etc. etc. Whatever. It was a swift kick-in-the-gut reminder that I’m not part of that group, and probably never will be. The control freak in me wanted desperately to know what was going on, but the other parts of my brain just couldn’t care. I wasn’t really crazy about these women anyway, so it just didn’t matter what they spent their time and energy gossiping about.
But it still kinda bugs me that I don’t have a group at all. I want the camaraderie, the feeling of inclusion, that feeling of being known and liked anyway. I want that for my daughter as she grows up. I want her to have several people she can count on to love her and care about her and help her through the tough times ahead. I want her to enjoy the company of lots of people simultaneously because there’s safety in those groups. Two girls can easily get separated by a boy or a disagreement. One girl is… well, alone. And sometimes lonely. Abby is still young enough to have plenty of friends and not care too much about who’s in and who’s out. But that will come soon. And there’s protection in the pack.

I don’t wish for her to be a Queen Bee unless she’s the queen of being super nice to everyone. (I never quite mastered that skill; sarcasm is fantastically funny but doesn’t win popularity contests. I’m better at sarcasm than almost anything else, and I try to play to my strengths.) I just want her to be happy and comfortable and popular for the right reasons. She’s sweet and caring and considerate and funny, and I want her have a bunch of BFF’s that she can pal around with, who love her for those things.

I made fun of the varsity cheerleaders one day in Science class. They were all heading down the hall for a pep rally and I blurted out, “Let’s observe the herd in its natural habitat.” Everyone laughed, but it was a comment made out of jealousy, really. Not that I wanted to be a cheerleader, I just wanted the group. And now that’s what I want for Abby. Good news – she looks adorable in a cheerleader’s uniform. Even better, she cares more about the girls she’s cheerleading with than the cute uniform.