Thursday, December 31, 2009

Just Another Bat-Shit Crazy Writer

Well, I’m back. You didn’t notice I was missing? Just read the posts written from Thanksgiving until the week before Christmas, especially this one. They were written by my evil twin. Between you and me, she needs to be institutionalized. Or at least heavily medicated.

I must admit that I am not one of those serene, surefooted writers, who ease their way through creative days with persistence and grace. No, I am the kind who hurtles along like an over-stimulated toddler on a new Christmas tricycle, obsessive to the point of compulsive, until suddenly the wheels come off and I careen into the ditch.

Self-doubt and anxiety catch up to me in a swirl of black cloud. I frantically swipe about for my creative self, desperately afraid that if I can’t find her instantly she’ll never come back. If I can’t keep the magic momentum moving, I’ll stagnate and never write another word worth the price of tomatoes. This fear builds. The harder I try, the more I can’t write anything. I become paralyzed. I don’t sleep. I don’t eat. I just quiver there, in the ditch.

It ain’t pretty.

It’s been this way forever. You’d think I’d get it by now. During the years I spent writing my first book, I thought that it was just the topic. Once I finished writing about my dead baby, this fear/ocd cycle would cease. Well, guess what? It’s been two years this May since I set my baby book on fire, and still I behave like the poster child for the bat-shit crazy writer.

At least I don’t write with a pint of whisky in my desk drawer. Or a pistol.

Being as it is New Year’s and all, I am going to make a resolution. Next time I get all bonkers, I am going to see it for what it is—indication that the well is temporarily dry, not something else bigger, like, say, my career and identity imploding in a spectacular, traumatizing, publicly-humiliating, soul-destroying end.

“Back away from the computer,” I will tell myself. “That’s it. Real slow. Put down the mouse. Back away.”

I’ve tried everything else, believe me. Nothing but time away from writing cures the frantic paralysis. I seem to require intermittent distance from a project in order to be able to see it again.

I can spend that time gripped in front of the computer, having a gigantic fear-cow but producing only the occasional lonely sentence. Or go to the movies with the chickens, man. Go to the mall. No one cares if you’re bat-shit crazy at the mall.

Anyway, I am back in the saddle now and feeling perfectly excited and capable of finishing my book. I only have three essays to finish for a solid first draft. Of course, now I also have a newsletter and six magazine articles to write.

No matter. As long as she sticks around, Madame OCD can do anything.

Monday, December 28, 2009

This Morning While I Was Blogging

Of course we all know it could have been much worse.

It's been four months this week since the snip-snip incident. The chickens are no longer getting double-takes at the grocery store.

In fact, if you don't look too closely, my babies look perfectly perfect once more.

Everytime Chicken Noodle asks for scissors these days, she quickly adds, "I won't cut my hair."

She seems to have learned something from this whole ordeal. Given the lovely blue on the arm of Little, it seems I haven't.

Oh well. I always feel better knowing I have one or two areas of self-improvement left to work on, don't you?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Santa Brings the Heat

Santa stopped by the chickens’ preschool the other day. Very kind of him to go out of his way like that. Just like Santa to make sure that even the 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. daycare kids whose parents don’t have time to go to the grocery store let alone the mall where Santa normally hangs got to see him this year.
But there he sat, alone in the corner. No kids anywhere near him, his cutie-pie elf, or his pile ‘o candy canes. It’s his season, but Santa looked a little forlorn.

A parent arrived to pick up his child. “Gavin doesn’t want to sit on Santa’s lap,” said a teacher apologetically.

“Oh, noooo,” said Gavin’s father, widening his eyes. “Santa brings the heat. Santa’s got power.” He waved his fingers around and quivered all over, as if Santa were Voldemort, or Idi Amin.

Chicken Little was terrified of Santa until this year (that’s her in the picture, three years ago). She needed a little coaxing the other night, but she hopped on his lap eventually. Probably helped that her baby sis walked right up to Santa and said, “Hi. I want a Rainbow Fairy for Christmas. Can I have a candy cane?”

That kid has no fear.

Some of us never get over our fear of Santa’s power. We cower at the sight of “December” on the calendar, require several dozen cocktails and a few sleeping pills to survive the holidays, and still emerge feeling like we’ve spent a month in a blender.

But isn’t Santa’s power a benevolent one? Sure, he’s kind of overwhelming in that big fuzzy suit. It’s a little freakish that you can’t see his face under all that cotton-ball facial hair. But I think Santa really wants to share his superhuman energy with us all. He doesn’t care how old we are. He does ask that we be nice instead of naughty. But then he’s like—here, take this pile of toys I just whipped up with my magic powers and be off with you. Go be happy. Live strong. Kick some holiday-blues booty. See you next year.

I personally could use some heat right about now—literally and figuratively. I want to be like Chicken Little, to walk right up to Santa (metaphorically) and tell him exactly what I want. I want to soak up Santa’s mojo.

“Santa,” I’ll say, “I’d like to harness your incredible power to finish this book with strength and finesse. I’d also like a trip to Hawaii. Five days spent with family this week without anyone snapping at each other or bursting into tears would be nice, too.

Right on, Santa. Thanks for spreading the heat. You ‘da man. And a big shout-out to the missus, eh?”

Thursday, December 17, 2009

All Aboard the Perspective Express

Should you find yourself in an anxiety-ridden funk like the one *someone* (ahem) has been in as of late, take these specific steps to immediately remedy the situation.

Take a road trip. Two cars, three adults, five children aged five and under, 24 hours, 400 miles and many salty snack foods should suffice. Weather: freezing rain/snowstorm. Destination: North Pole, via the Polar Express.

The driver of Car #1 should get pulled over within the first 60 miles. Reason: swerving. After determining that a) she is not driving her minivan ass-over-teakettle drunk at 1 p.m with four kids in the back b) driver of Car #2 (pulled up on side of road behind this spectacle) does not have our back as homey drug dealer/arms carrier c) no children will remain sleeping on this journey, Sheriff lets Car #1 go and leaves the scene, never noticing the expired tags on Car #2.

Crawl into the minivan back-40 to deliver juice boxes, crackers, raisins and fruit leather to wee darlings approx. two dozen times. Hit head on drop-down video player every time. Start being referred to as the flight attendant, subject to cracks like “Passenger in seat 3B, your freshly roasted peanuts are on the way, as soon as the flight attendant is back from her gin-and-tonic break.”

Delight in the appreciative noises of Child #4, who mutters at regular intervals, "You're stupid, Mommy."

Upon arrival in train station destination city, get lost and drive around for 15 minutes.

At restaurant prior to train departure, Child #2 crashes head into table and splits it open, bringing you *this close* to spending the evening in the ER instead of the North Pole as promised.

Ride Train to North Pole! Children laugh and dance and play and scale the seats! Santa comes aboard and hands out hundreds of small, noisy bells! Grown-ups wish for schnapps in their hot chocolate! Average people sing very loudly! Train ride never seems to end!

Send sister a text that reads “Still on train. People are singing carols. Have been kidnapped and sent to North Hell.”

Children’s eyes grow wide and awestruck at the sight of the lights of North Pole, making you feel all mushy inside about your newly updated “Mother of the Year” status.

Upon arrival in overnight destination city, get lost and drive around for 15 minutes.

Carry five blissfully sleeping children to bed. Purr over their adorableness. Stay up until midnight drinking wine and eating cheese and talking about life.

Leave children in bed. Sleep on floor. It's the least you can do.

Get up at 5 a.m. and blink blearily into your coffee while witnessing five slightly less adorable children run laps and scream at the top of their lungs.

On way out of town, get lost and drive around for 15 minutes.

At first potty stop, Child #1 steps in dog poop and then gallops all over every surface of car interior.

Come *this close* to running out of gas.

Respond to children’s endless whining pleas to flight attendant for juice boxes and bunny crackers by making up a handy list of mommy whines. (wheedling tone) “Where’s my chardonnay? I want a spa treatment. I need some beignets right now.”

Laugh so hard you cry at least six times.

Soak up the utterly joyful insanity only children can bring to your life.

Arrive home punch-drunk and cross-eyed, but happy as shit.

Remember that what matters isn’t choosing the perfect title for your book or squeezing just one more brilliant essay out of yourself before Tuesday. What matters is a) getting out in the world and doing the occasional completely cockamamie thing b) good friends c) oodles and oodles of love.

Friday, December 11, 2009


Yesterday, Chicken Noodle got a flu shot. Afterwards, I took both chickens out for ice cream. We sat together in a booth in a very quiet restaurant, relaxing for the first time in a frantic day. After a moment my mind started to churn with all of the things I still needed to accomplish, one of which was to choose a gift for my book club members, as the one I planned had fallen through a couple of hours before.

“Hey, what should I get the aunties for Christmas?” I am perpetually surprised that my kids are suddenly at an age when I can put questions like these to them, and actually get semi-useful answers. Here were their suggestions:

A basketball
A Bend Brewing Co. tee-shirt
A turtle sticker
A merry-go-round
An igloo

At this point, Chicken Little bumped Chicken Noodle’s arm, some ice cream spilled on Noodle’s new dress and she punched Little in the arm.

I said, “Hey, don’t hit your sister or I will take away your ice cream.”

Noodle pointed out that she’d already eaten it all. This might have been the end of the matter, but Noodle wanted to go deeper. Where had her ice cream gone? Might I still be able to take it away?

After considering the matter, Noodle speculated, “You would have to knock my head off and suck the ice cream out of my blood.”

These, I admitted, were not measures I was prepared to take.

Noodle said, “’Cuz you love me all the way to Bluto?”

I said, “’Cuz I love you all the way to Bluto.”

Perhaps in lieu of an igloo or basketball, I could simply give my book club members some ice cream and tell them I love them all the way to Bluto. It would be true, and I have a feeling they might prefer ice cream over a merry-go-round. Could be wrong about that, though.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Missing: Life Force. Please Return. Reward: Chestnuts Roasted on an Open Fire

This whole book thing is sucking the life force out of me.

I know, I know. It’s what I’ve always wanted and I should be able to find the joy in it and by complaining I sound like a big fat whiner and nobody likes a whiner.

Captain Daddy and I got mired in a teeny, weeny Marital Moment about this the other night. Here’s what I said, roughly, over a beer at the local pub:

The bottomless soul-searching necessary to unearth the history and truth that will make these essays good is like letting 100 angry leeches feast on me from the inside out.

Sacrificing organic creation for “sit down and create something beautiful about Topic X—now GO!” is like the Bataan Death March for the fragile artistic soul.

When I sit down to write, it hurts. Metaphorically, but also physically. Like someone is taking bites out of my head.

Half of what I write is complete crap anyway and ends up in the file on my computer I named “shitcan”.

At the end of the day I want to slip into a coma and sleep for like 17 million hours.

When the chickens run past me screaming naked with peanut butter smeared on their bodies and hitting each other with sharp objects all I can manage is to stare at them blankly as if they are a bad television show that I would turn off if only I could muster the energy to locate the remote.

And I am feeling, well, just a little bit done. As in DONE. But I can’t be DONE, because I am not done. And there’s something to be said for showing up and persevering, but sometimes maybe there is wisdom in knowing that one is just DONE.

At which point, Captain Daddy gave me a rather bored look which implied that he’s heard this all before, and perhaps I was overreacting just a tiny bit, as well as maybe whining in that particularly irritating “my pain is bigger than your pain will ever be” melodramatic self-pitying shortsighted way.

And he mentioned gently that part about this being my long-lusted-after dream. And that lots of things in life are hard work, especially things that are worthwhile.

Which made me pout.

But I know he’s right. (Don’t tell him, because he’ll just do that “I was right” happy dance and I’ll have to throw spitballs at him made of tinsel.)

Do you think I just need a break, and beautiful things will bubble back up to the surface? Or is my coma permanent? Yesterday I took a rest by addressing 125 Christmas cards and holiday shopping for three hours in a 14-degree snowstorm, but the answer to this question did not become immediately apparent.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Joe Has Something to Say to My Friends

Captain Daddy and I recently watched the original documentary “Woodstock”, made in 1970 one year after the illustrious event itself. I was born that year. Even though my parents weren’t hippies, watching the film explained them, their generation, and the last forty years in some interesting ways.

At turns appalling and deep, “Woodstock” turned out to be a strange catalyst to introspection for me, a sort of underlining tool for the years of my life thus-far and the coming-of-age essays I am writing for my book.

In any case, the film is an experience not to be missed. It promises a “living vicariously through one’s television” sort of evening. It made Captain Daddy shake his head repeatedly and say, “I was born thirteen years too late.” It made me think that if I’d been born thirteen years earlier, I’d have gotten into a whole lot more trouble than I already managed to do.

Many an unforgettable performance is on display here. Jimi and Janis do their thing, the latter in a quite fascinating state of intoxication and each just a year away from tragic death.

But my favorite performance by far—the one that you’ve truly not lived until you’ve seen—is Joe Cocker singing “A Little Help From My Friends.” I, personally, was rendered speechless. And those back-up singers! Wow. Watch the whole thing. He’s just getting warmed up in the beginning.

I send Joe out now as a little Thank You to all of my friends and family who have seen me through many ups and downs in the last decade, particularly in terms of my writing. Sometimes your love has been tough, but I know in my heart that underneath it all you’ve been as enthusiastic as Joe. I appreciate each of you immensely.