Wednesday, November 25, 2009

On Mayhem: Reconnecting

Today I went to a funeral for the mother of a very good friend of mine. Granted, I've only hung out with my friend a few times since The Dude was born, because once he happened my lifestyle changed. (Okay, admittedly I had a rocky few months that first year, but I've cleaned up my act.) The last time Mark and I got together was a few months ago, when he and I went to Sole Mio and then the Nashville Symphony together, a fantastic night I promised him I would blog about and then never did.

Mark has always, always been very good to me. He's a prosperous attorney who divorced shortly after I met him. I was bartending at Ole Neighborhood, and he was ending a 20-something year marriage. He was single, I was single, and we had the same tastes. We were quite the "couple" about town for many years: we hit all the good parties, the benefits, the black-tie fundraisers. Eventually I started writing for The Wilson Post newspaper, still bartending on the weekends, so between the two of us we were invited to basically every event worth going to in the immediate area. It was fun, and one of the reasons why I don't think I "missed out" on anything when I had my son. I had that single lifestyle, the partying, the late nights, for years. Hell, I was nearly 27 years old when I had The Dude: I'd had my fun.

But Mark was there the day The Dude was born, beaming, proud and beatific and terrified right along with me. I don't have to see the photograph taken of him holding The Dude, so tiny and hidden in the blankets and born over a month early, to remember how Mark simply glowed with the knowledge of another little me in the world.

Then, as it does, life intervenes. I became more and more absorbed with work and writing, with guiding The Dude and everything that goes along with that, and Mark retreated from the community spotlight, redecorated his house, and sent two of his boys to college. There were the random text messages, pics exchanged via cell phones, but no real contact except when both of my grandparents died, and I barely remember that, steeped in a fog of grief and fear.

So, it takes a day like today, the funeral of his mother, to bring us back together. Mark held up well: his mother had been in hospice care for months, losing her third battle with cancer, so her passing was not a surprise, but I'm sure a bit of a relief that her long struggle and pain was over, and she could join her beloved husband, who left us a few years ago as well.

But it shouldn't take an event like this to reconnect friends. I sat in the hushed funeral parlor this morning, yellow sunlight streaming through purple and cream stained-glass windows, thinking of how awful it is that Mark's mother died three days before Thanksgiving, on the cusp of the holiday season. How Thanksgiving will never be the same for anyone in his family again.

Then I watched Mark and his family file into the sanctuary, light catching in a flash in his rimless glasses, glinting off the silver hoop in his oldest son's ear. And he sat with his ex-wife, who bent her head toward him and nodded, sniffling. Just two rows back, I looked at the lines of their bodies, how the boys' faces are shaped, the curve of their jawline, just like their mother's, how they all have Mark's gorgeous dark, slightly curly, hair. They sat together, tight, holding themselves and each other together.

That's when I realized that too often we concentrate on what we don't have, what we have lost, instead of what, and especially who, is nearest to us. We watch and wait and covet and need, instead of taking stock of those so close we can literally reach out and touch them.

I'm as guilty, if not more, than anyone of this. That's why this Thanksgiving will be so difficult for me: I know I need to finish the newsletter, and write the Wilson Living article, and at least attempt to work on the novel and Jordan's workshop, and I'm so obsessive and have a tendency to be single-minded when I'm set on something, it's going to take an effort of will to actually stop, calm down, and enjoy myself tomorrow. I will be scooping dressing and ladeling gravy while working on the InDesign spread in my head or worrying about magazine-worthy pictures that I need to make sure get to who needs them, by deadline.

I will not, without consciously trying, be in touch with those around me.

So, this is why I am giving myself permission to reconnect with myself - my non-working self - and with my family. There's no reason not to and too many reason to do it.

And, on Friday, when I'm shopping and stressing and wondering how in the world I'm going to make all this work, that's when I'll worry about deadlines.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

On Mayhem: Playing catch up

So, if you read my last blog you'll know that I have quite a few things on my plate for this month... which is already past halfway over. I cannot believe this. This in inconceivable. (Vizzini: HE DIDN'T FALL? INCONCEIVABLE. - Inigo Montoya: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.)

I refused to prioritize the tasks set up for myself this month because they are all very important to me for different reasons, but it looks like the Tennessee Writers Alliance newsletter is pulling ahead in the lead: is it taking more time and concentration, a more intense effort. It's a lot of work but a lot of fun, and I know that the end product is going to make my fellow TWA board members, as well as our members, proud, and hopefully show some writers who are not members of the TWA what an invaluable, warm, and important organization the TWA is, and they'll join. (

And then there's NaNo - National Novel Writing Month. Ah, NaNo, how you've plagued me. I started off strong - over 7,000 words in the first two days of November. Since then... well, as I've said, other things have crowded their way in. I recently when to a marathon write-in, which helped, but I am still woefully behind. But here's the deal: I know me. I know how I write. I will be hit with a wave, an undertow urge, if you will, to write that will hold me down, suck me under, and the words will flow from me (they may not be good words, but they will be words, and they will COUNT). But the old adage about writing being a muscle you must use or it will atrophy is true: my characters are hissing now behind my back instead of talking openly to me. They're keeping something from me. Hell, one character hasn't showed up at all: I haven't written one word about her. I'll get 2,000 words AT LEAST today. (checks clock. dammit.)

Before I knew the madness that would be November, I signed up for an online workshop with the lovely and talented (and infinitely patient with me) Jordan Rosenfeld. I have not been able to dedicate myself and my time to that workshop as much as I wanted, and for that I am deeply regretful and disappointed. The fact that several of my writerly friends are also involved in the workshop and that I'm missing it, and them, and the forum discussions, irritates and irks me to no end. But I'm working on it. I'm working on it.

One bright spot is my article for Wilson Living Magazine. I'm really enjoying working on this one, since the subject matter is near and dear to my heart. I won't divulge too much information since I want our readers to be surprised and eager to pick up the next issue, but I will say it has to do with the West Wilson Arts Alliance, of which I'm a huge fan.

And speaking of the West Wilson Arts Alliance, while interviewing the head honcho for that article I brought up the idea of having a Writers Guild to go along with the Fine Arts Guild, the jazz ensemble, Cedar Creek Community Band, Encore Theatre, and Chorale Dynamics. A group that could meet to write together, critique our work, and eventually read our work at other WWAA events.

He said he'd actually been thinking about that and had me in mind to organize it. I struggled to keep my mouth from dropping open. I agreed, perhaps more enthusiastically than appropriate (which is my MO), and may have missed a bit of what he said next during my frenzied note-taking about how to organize a group of writers - or, perhaps, MORE than one group! So, now I get the fantastic opportunity of organizing writers groups... except I don't know anything about organizing writers groups. Fortunately, I learn quickly, adapt easily, and have the utmost passion for this project.

That said, if you are a writer interested in joining a new writers group - or know someone who fits that criteria - email me at

So, there I am. And all this, plus my actual day job (which I just love), and life with The Dude, the family, the... other. And the other? That's a whoooole different story.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

On Motherhood: Understanding and Acceptance

If you follow my blog and/or me on Facebook or Twitter (or, God forbid, you know me in person) you know that I have a lot on my plate for November: NaNoWriMo (in which my goal is to finish a 50,000 word draft of a novel in 30 days), writing for, editing, and publishing The Tennessee Writer, the quarterly newsletter for the Tennessee Writers Alliance, due online December 1, and my article submission for Wilson Living Magazine, the gorgeous glossy published right here in Lebanon, TN, deadline by the end of November. Oh, and there's also The Chronicle of Mt. Juliet, of which I am the managing editor.

So, needless to say, even though it is only (checks date) November 3, I've been rather busy lately. Between notes and prepping and emails (I'm also in charge of gathering advertisers and publicizing the newsletter and newspaper) I've been doing the only basest of chores before shutting myself into the office, staring at the computer for around six hours between 8 p.m. and whenever, trying to get work done.

My mother has helped, my family has helped (and will help - I also have a wedding next weekend in Cincinnati), but my son, tonight, made me feel not only guilty but that all the hard work I'm doing is well worth it, because I don't do it - well, not the bulk of it - for myself: I do it for him, for my family, so that they will not only be proud of me for my accomplishments but for what my work will reap (hopefully) for myself and them in the future. So that, someday, I'll be able to repay them, in some way, for supporting, loving, and helping me during these hectic, busy days.

Tonight, after I made a hurried supper of spaghetti and oil with tomatoes and herbs, The Dude curled up in my lap and, with a full tummy and a long day at school, promptly fell asleep in my lap before 8 p.m. I waited until a commercial during "So You Think You Can Dance," which we like to watch together, and ushered him to the bathroom to pee before going to bed. He's had a bit of a bed-wetting problem lately, which I refuse to blame myself and our busy schedule and instead chalk up to a "phase" of being a four year old little boy. I tried to tuck him into bed, but instead he insisted, rather vehemently, that he sleep on the couch, just outside the door to the study.

"Honey," I coaxed, "you'll be much more comfortable in the bed. Please."

"No," he pushed my hands away, toddling, weaving, up the hall to the den. "I want to sleep on the couch. Just please let me lay on the couch."

"Baby," I whispered, covering him with the softest red blanket we have, a gift from PaTom and Nana last Christmas. "Why? Just go to bed."

"No," he muttered, settling in. "You have to work tonight, and I wanna be right here on the couch close to you in case you need something. You hafta write the novel and newsletter so if you need something, like a popsicle or something, I'm here to get it. I'll be here."

I kissed him, lingering on the warm pulse of his temple. "Thank you."

He smiled, already nearly asleep. "Yeah, Mom. Go do your fing now." He tucked his hand beneath his chin, cupping his palm against itself, exactly the way that I sleep. "I love you. You're the best mommy in the whole world."

He says this to me at least ten times a day. And every single time is better than the one before.