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Accepting rejection and eating the cookie crumbles

I was trying to corral the kids into the kitchen for lunch when I heard the shuffle of heavy feet and the clank of metal on my front porch. I glanced out the front door window in time to see my mailman already trudging back down my walkway to his truck. A large manila envelope jutted conspicuously from my box.

I paid it little mind. There were kids ignoring me and grilled cheese burning; the yellow already darkening into a nice crisp brown that no one would eat but me. Removing it, I slid another slice of cheese onto a fresh piece of bread and placed it in the toaster. I had already used the skillet to make eggs this morning; there would be no buttery pan-fried grilled cheese until I did the dishes.

As I absently peeled and sliced apples, placing the scoffed at skin in my mouth, I wondered about the package. Had I ordered something from the Gap? Amazon? I couldn’t remember. I did order cookies, but that came in a box from UPS. What could it…

Oh.

It was what I had been waiting for, for over a month. Only, I knew before even opening it that it wouldn’t be what I had hoped. The envelope was too thick. In fact, if it had been good news there wouldn’t be an envelope shoved in my mailbox at all. It would be a phone call.

I finished making the kids’ lunch; ignoring their whiny pleas for more milk and attention and anxiously retrieved the package. It held the weight of hundreds of pages of devotion and hard work, of many late nights and early mornings blissfully obsessed.

Normally, I’d leave the envelope on the dining room table and stare it down for a few hours; building up the negativity in my head, making it real, understanding it, while still somehow holding out the hope in my heart that it wasn’t true. That it was in fact just protocol to return a manuscript along with a glowing letter of acceptance.

Impulsively, I ripped open the package. Then, breathing deeply, I gave myself a minute to process.

It was exactly as I expected. Rejection.

I had a flashback of my younger self in the exact same position. Different house, less wrinkles, eyes wider, but yes, me, holding another heavy yellow envelope to the same unfortunate end.

I sighed with disappointment, and then sucked it in and up.

“Anyone want more grilled cheese?” I asked, returning to my real life; the noisy kitchen, the dishes in the sink. Who needs legitimacy and acceptance? Who needs dreams realized? I was needed right here and right now.

Three animated little faces completely ignored me.

“Um, boys?

I watched them chewing their sandwiches, talking over one another, my youngest practically standing on his chair in his inability to contain his energy. It was like I didn’t even exist.

It was too much.

“Who wants cookies?” I blurted out suddenly and all three faces snapped to attention.

“Cookies!” They chanted merrily and my youngest ran over to hug around my legs. My other boys joined in and soon we were one clump of bodies jumping gleefully.

Finally, I was feeling some love.

And it was a good thing because I was about to cry.

rejected2

In his eyes*

Wake up. Wake up! His brain yells through the sleepy fog that hangs low and heavy on his consciousness. He tries to lift his eyes but really he is just too weary. Somewhere faraway, a phone is ringing. Now it’s become a fire engine roaring down the street. And now it’s an alarm. The fire is in front of him.

It’s jarring but he’s a spectator even in his own dream. He’s not spurred into motion. He simply watches the house burn down around him, sensing the urgency but unable to rouse himself.

Slowly panic engulfs like the flames, but still he remains stagnant, knowing he’s about to die, but too paralyzed to do anything about it. He is a prisoner of his broken body and his over-medicated brain. His heart hammers against his chest.

Deep inside his head, he knows that he no longer lives in a house.  The small detail reminds him that he is still sleeping. The screaming alarm is once again the phone.

The call is from his daughter. He can envision her face right now, cradling the phone on the other side of the world, 45 minutes away, children flanking her on all ends – frustrated, annoyed, disappointed, but not surprised. It’s far from the first time he hasn’t been able to get to the phone, even for a wakeup call he asked for; one that he needs to make a doctor appointment he has already rescheduled three times.

She is a good girl, his daughter. He sees her as child; the long dark pig tails, the green eyes that match his own, or at least used to when his own eyes were less muddied; the ready smile reserved just for him. He has failed that little girl who he promised in her crib to protect from harm. He never expected that he would be the one hurting her.

He pushes the thought away. It wounds and he needs not to think about it. Right now, he needs to focus his energy to wake up, to answer the ringing phone, to make his appointment.

With monumental effort, he forces himself to open his eyes. Through blurred vision he takes in the vials of medication scattered on the table, the clutter of boxes overloaded with books and papers, the slop of food on the floor from a 4am binge on cereal and ice cream that he barely remembers. A few pills lie there as well. He momentarily wonders if they are medications he never took, or extras that dropped after taking something he shouldn’t have. His heart quickens.

The ringing stops.

Disgusted by his failure but filled with relief, his eyes droop back down.

She will never again look at him the way she did once upon a time ago when he was a hero.

A tear slides down the side his face. He was a hero, strong and beautiful. Ah. I remember you, he recalls wistfully, drifting off; his mouth lifting in a small grin.

Go to sleep. Go to sleep. His brain now commands and all pain fades into unconsciousness.

Once again he has found peace.

Strong and beautiful

Strong and beautiful


My grandma may be dead but she’s still inspiring

I’m sitting here waiting for inspiration to hit me. I’m ready inspiration, come and get me. But no, the only thing here with me is my cat, rubbing his head annoyingly against the top of the screen. I give him a little shove, but clearly, he doesn’t get it and pads even closer to me, intent on laying his body across my keyboard. As if I didn’t have enough obstacles.

Uh, move it buddy.

Seriously?

I’m struggling to come up with meaningful thoughts to put out there; a moment that resonates, that tugs at the heart stings with a twang, a story with a moral that makes you really think about life, or the real coup, being able to give you a good laugh, the kind that can change your mood for just a second.

Instead I just sit here, staring at the screen until I’m almost looking through it, waiting for one of those cool 3-D images to pop out at me. START TYPING. THINK, DAMN IT. YOU CAN DO IT.

I’ve been feeling so numb lately, and not just because of the Raynaud’s that turns my feet and  fingers white and cold as a cup of milk. Could it be winter blues? Or, is this the next stage of my mid-life crisis? I went from feeling a little sexy to a little bit conflicted, and now feeling a little dead? It happened so fast I didn’t even find an appropriate outfit to wear to the funeral. But I guess the old gym pants will do. It’s how I lived, and I’m nothing if not consistent.

But now I’m just being dramatic. And I can tell already, my mother is hating this essay. Don’t worry, mom, it’s just a moment. This too shall pass, as my dead grandmother used to say. She’s looking at me now from a picture across the room; her head thrown back in joy, even with the shower cap on her head which she must have forgotten she was wearing when my husband snapped the picture, because there is no way she would be caught dead in a picture with a shower cap. Ah, the irony.

Gone two years now, she looks radiant, even in the cap, with me by her side and my three boys lined up like beautiful, dutiful progeny; the future, captured in the present which is now the past.

I miss her. I do. Even thinking it now brings that drippy sentimentality to my eyes making them leak at the edges. Looking around, I see some of her treasures glittering: a ceramic dog that was her mother’s, an ugly turn-of-the-century figurine couple mid step, pretty, useless little tea cups on display. There are other things, but that’s all they are. Things. And who needs them really, except that they were hers.

The real gift she left me was living long enough to have a real presence in my life. To make a difference in who I was and am. To have a voice so strong, I can still hear her throaty rasp so clearly…

“Get your head out of your arse and stop this nonsense!”

I smile. Already I feel warmer.

She’s got me thinking.

Going with the glamour hat over the shower cap. You're welcome, Grandma.

Going with the glamour hat over the shower cap. You’re welcome, Grandma.

Writing Wrongs

For my whole life, writing  has been part of who I am.

I wrote poetry in my youth; yearning, emotional verses mostly about boys, but also about my feelings. Genius like,

Why
only troubled souls become writers.
Laughter.
Those who can’t deal with the real.
Deep, despondent hermits
Why didn’t my mother like me
Why didn’t my father listen
Laughter.
One face
two face
my kidney on my face
my heart in my fingers
Laughter.
All the world’s a stage
so put on a happy face.

Yep, I wrote that, decades ago. I know you’re amazed by my depth, right? Can’t you just feel the kidney on your face? Bahaha!

Sadly for the world of poetry, I moved on to  sexy, fun novels with a bit a danger and mystery. Think Sydney Sheldon mixed with Danielle Steele. In one, the main character was stunning and incredibly smart with a striking, yet highly glorified, resemblance to the person who wrote her. I took those rejections quite personally.

For my short, undistinguished yet entertaining career, I worked as an advertising copywriter selling glamorous commodities like moisturizer and headache medicine. But the children took me away from all that, and now I work for me, my name is Ice Scream Mama.*

Sorry, Charlie. Got carried away there. (Extra scoops if you picked up the reference.)

Anyway, after having lost all ambition related to something other than a solid night’s sleep and a making it out of the house without pancake in my hair, I finally rediscovered myself with this blog. Blog. What does blog stand for anyway? Big Love Or Go? Bring Lots Of Goodies?  Beings Letting Out Garbage? Ideas, anyone?

Now what was I talking about? Hmm. Give me a minute. Right. The blog. I love it. There’s pressure, there’s feedback, there’s structure and networking. There’s satisfaction, and it feels good.

I still have a brain! Hallelujah!!

So when two (Double yay!) of my essays were chosen for the most recent Life Well Blogged book, rainbow sprinkles filled my sky. I could barely control my excitement when I pulled it up on my Kindle.

There it was! An essay by me!

Wait, that’s not me. Crap. My name is spelled wrong. Wrong! I’m finally in print and it’s not me!!

yep, not my name

yep, not my name

I tried to have it fixed, of course, but was told that it probably couldn’t be corrected on Kindle. Still, they assured me that it was correct in the print version.

By the time my copy arrived, I was foaming at the mouth and practically ripped the envelope open with my teeth. Ohhh. It looked nice. I pet the cover lovingly.

life well blogged

Quickly, I flipped around and found one of my essays, “If you stop trying to touch my books, I’ll give you a cookie.” One of my favorite essay titles. Wait!

BOOBS!! BOOBS!!

BOOBS!! BOOBS!!

Books? What?!

It’s supposed to be BOOBS!!

Crap again!!

I quickly flipped to my other essay, “Daddy, what’s a boner?” This was the one on Kindle that had my name spelled incorrectly. Here it was fine.  So, we were one for one going into the ‘About the Authors’ section.  And my name is… correct! I start to read. “Alisa is a SAHM to three boys, wife to Mr. Baseball and daughter of a sad man.” Yes! “When not burning cupcakes or schlepping kids, she can be found hiding in her closet with a tub of ice cream.” Yes!“I promise you’ll be back for seconds.” Wait… I think something was missing there. “She is a married mother of one.” No! NO! NO!

life well blogged booboo

Where did that come from? That doesn’t even make sense.  Sigh.

The puff of publication pride  sufficiently deflated, all I can say is, it’s still better than having a kidney on my face.

Tragic, really.

Tragic, really.

*Reference from the opening of Charlie’s Angels, of course.

Push me!

“Push me!” Julius yells and with a weary sigh, like he’s asking me to work heavy machinery, I lift my ass off the bench and make my way over to the swings.

He waits patiently while I trudge my 30 pound bag that I shouldn’t even have brought out of the car, but for some unconscious reason always feel compelled to keep with me, even though the car is parked 20 feet away. I always think, but what if I have a moment and can read my book? Or what if we need a water bottle or a snack? Or what if I get a brilliant thought and need my pad and a pen? And wipes – you always need wipes. Okay, the back-up Kindle, the 10 pounds of change and the bag of coupons and receipts might not be necessary, but I can’t go organizing right now, can I?

My arm sighs as I drop the bulky bag in the wood chips, ensuring I will find a few of them later ensnared in my hair ties and tissues. “You don’t need me to push you. You know how to push yourself.” I say, and give his little butt a shove.

“I know I don’t need you to push me.” He says, exasperated. He’s only five and already I’m the mom who doesn’t get it. “l want you to!”

My child is a genius, I think, and absent-mindedly propel him to the sky. He knows what he wants.

Which started me thinking – always dangerous – what do I want?

What do I want? Such a simple question, and yet so difficult for me to answer.

To redo my kitchen? Yes, but I misplaced the plans that we had made up, and without them seemed to have lost the incentive as well.

To lose 5lbs? Sure, but not if it means giving up ice cream, or wine, or sushi lunches or any of the little extras that I absolutely deserve.

To get a book deal, an agent, or to be paid for the essays that I so lovingly write? Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. But what am I really doing to accomplish any of those things? Not much. And, by not much, I mean nothing.

When am I going to start going after what I want, instead of waiting for it to just fall into my hands? When I am going to find the motivation within me to accomplish the things I want? When am I going to stop taking the easy way out and work harder? When am I going to want it enough to go and get it?

“Higher!”  Julius orders, and I send him flying to the stars.

He might want the push, but it turns out, I’m the one who needs one.

swing mom

 

My Writing Process. But first, I Need to Flip the Laundry.

I’ve been meaning to write this essay about how I write my essays. You know, the ‘process’. All writers have their own individual approach to writing. Some just sit down and bang it out. Some bang and then sit down and write. We all have our own way. No judgment.

So I had the idea, but I couldn’t figure out how to best structure it. I mulled it over a bit, and then put it on the back burner. A few days later, I picked it back up and tossed it around. Then I did what I usually do at this point, which is, to continue dragging my feet, literally, and go for a run.

Often, I come up with a lot of my ideas while running. With nothing but time to kill, it’s the perfect opportunity to brainstorm. So I plod along plotting my stories, constructing brilliant first lines and clever turns of phrase.

When I mercifully stagger back to my door, I head straight for my dining room chair, aka my work seat, where, with sweat dripping on the keypad, I quickly get down my thoughts, before they are incinerated by my awesome calorie burn. After this initial burst, I go up for a shower, and let my ideas stew in the hot water for at least 10 solid steaming minutes.

Back at the computer, the screen and I stare each other down. Where am I going with this idea? I wonder. Will this work? I write another sentence or two, then feel an overwhelming urge to check my emails. When I come up with nothing, I move on to Facebook and Twitter.

Back to the essay. I re-read. Delete a line and rewrite. Add another line. I sit back and assess. It’s not bad.

I feel the urge for a snack.

No. I need to focus. Write another line. Hmm… should I get some frozen yogurt? Or maybe an apple with peanut butter? Focus! Soup?

I can’t stand it. I’ll be right back.

I go for chocolate and peanut butter yogurt with a medley of toppings. I’m making cones and dipping them as I type. I’m in such a happy, satisfied place. I write a few more lines.

Oh, I’m in the groove now and knock out a whole paragraph. It’s good. Woo. I’m exhausted, I need a break.

Check email.

Check Facebook.

Check Twitter.

Make a phone call.

Go back and re-read what I’ve written. Decent open. Entertaining middle. Tweak. Tweak.

Get up for more sprinkles. What? I need more sprinkles. It’s part of my process.

Just a few more lines and I’m done.

I’m antsy. I need to pee.

I’m almost finished. So close. Tweak. Tweak. Twitter.

I just need the right ending.

Check email.

Re-read.

Make another cone.

Oh, I’ve got it!

Check Facebook.

It’s perfect.

Hang on. I’ll be right back…

Busy, busy, busy.

Quiet. I’m working.

Bedtime Story = Nightmare for Mommy

Bedtime Story = Nightmare for Mommy

Once upon a time, there was a mommy of three boys, Tyler, Michael and Julius. Every day the mommy happily wrote all sorts of stories on her computer, and every night the same thing happened.

“Mommy! Tell us a story!” The three little boys would plead.

The mommy never knew what to do. She would fake a coughing fit or excuse herself to go potty. She distracted (anyone want chocolate?) and demurred. She pleaded exhaustion or a headache. She simply couldn’t tell anyone the truth. She was a terrible storyteller. “Howard!” She would call to her husband. “The boys want a story.” So Howard would trudge into the room with a contrived, heavy sigh, “Another story?”

Tyler, Michael and Julius would nod feverishly, and Howard would pluck a tale from the trees or out of the sky or from a lifetime ago. A man completely incapable of reading a book or communicating a feeling could somehow spin a yarn with a cast of characters, intriguing and funny, getting themselves into all sorts of mischief. He even managed to end with some kind of moral.

Night after night, his stories entranced the boys, their mouths hanging open, glee in their eyes. The mommy listened, equally impressed. How did he do it? She wondered. It made her all the more insecure.

Generally, by the time Howard was finished, all that was required of her was some back tickling and kisses. Easy stuff she loved. But some nights, not often, but some nights, the children would persist in hearing one of her tales. They pitied her and gave her prompts to work with, “Tell us about when you were little?” Tyler would ask. But the mommy had blocked out most of her childhood and could not recall or imagine any of the funny antics that Howard could. “Tell us about a cat, a lizard and a fly?” Julius suggested.

“A cat, lizard and fly…” She pondered a moment. She had it! “There was an old lady who swallowed a cat.” She looked around at their eager faces. “She swallowed the cat to catch the lizard…” Their faces dropped.

“Mom!” They interrupted her, mid brainstorm. “That’s a nursery rhyme,” Michael scolded. “Not a story.”

Defeated.

“I don’t know boys. I have a headache.”

They shook their heads, not accepting it for a minute.

“I’m tired.”

They were enjoying the game and shook their heads again smiling.

“Who wants a drink?”

“No!”

“A snack?”

“NO!”

“Can I read you a story?”

“NO!” They happily shouted.

Wait! What’s that?” The mommy put a hand to her ear. “It’s the phone. Sorry, boys.”

“The phone isn’t ringing!” Tyler said.

“Come on.” Michael demanded. “Just do it!”

“Okay fine.” She finally conceded. “But it’s going to stink.”

“We don’t care.” Tyler encouraged.

“Okay. Here goes…” But nothing would come. “Uh…”

Eye squinting. Deep thinking. Nothing.

“Mom!” They stared at her. Her brain hurt. The pressure was too much.

“Okay, okay.” She began. There once was a mommy of three boys… uh, let’s call them Myler, Jichael and Zulius.”

At that, the boys giggled and the mommy perked a bit. “And this mommy just couldn’t think of a bed time story.”

“Oh no!” The boys said simultaneously.

“Wait. It’s good. So, she pretended to have a headache. The mommy held her head. Ow. Ow. Owwwwwwww.”

They giggled some more.

“And then she pretended to be so tired. YAWN!”

She fell over on the bed. “Zzzzzzzzz!”

“Mommy” Julius said, “Wake up!”

“Oh sorry. Okay, then she decided they needed snacks so she left to go get them apple slices.” She zoomed from the room. “Huffing and puffing, she put the apples on the bed. Then she decided they needed drinks. She ran down to get water.”

Giggles followed her out.

“Huffing and puffing, balancing three cups of water, she tried to be funny. But she was so tired coming back up that she walked right into the wall. The water spilled all over her. She was now wet. Oh man!”

The boys cracked up.

“So of course she had to run back down to get more water. Out the mommy ran, down the stairs and up with three new cups, but when she got back up the floor was still slippery and she fell, water cups flying in the air. She lay on the floor.”

Hysterical laughter filled the room.

Howard walked past, and offered a hand to help her up. “Show off.” He smirked.

She was soaked and may have broken a hip, but the boys were still laughing.

“Okay boys. Time for bed.”

“You didn’t finish!” They protested.

“Oh sorry.” She said as she tucked them in. “Then the mommy had to be taken to the doctor and the boys had to clean up the floor. They got so tired from working, they fell asleep.”

“That was a good story mommy.”

She smiled and kissed their happy, sleepy faces. “Good night, babies. I love you.”

The End.

Done.

Done.