Friday, October 25, 2013

Honey, I'm Writing a Novel OR Not Now! Mommy's Writing!

Dear Husband,

Your writer wife stayed at home with the kids while you were away, so there are a few things you should know.

That is not a pile of horse dung on the porch. It is clay which the youngest dug out of the garden. She's drying it and planning to dye it bright colors and sell it to the neighboring children as playdoh.  Her dress is probably permanently brown now, but I wrote 700 words while she made her first solid entrepreneurial venture. Oh, I should get her out of the bath now. I think it's been two hours.

The broken glassware in the garbage happened when I tried to walk through the big fight scene using our children and the dog as stand-ins for my characters.  The dog does not follow directions well, but we do think it's possible for Leonel to throw Patricia forward in a slingshot motion like they did in that roller derby movie. Next time, though, we're going to set up more pillows.  The bruises will heal quickly, I'm sure.

The smell is because Dr Liu went on this 1200 word rant against the establishment while I was cooking a frozen pizza. Apparently my villain talks louder than the timer on our oven, but not louder than the smoke alarm. I still fed us though.  Both girls seemed pleased with peanut butter spoons and popcorn. The big girl even cooked the popcorn. She didn't trust me to listen for the slow down of popping kernels. I don't blame her.

There was a phone call,  I think. But I didn't answer it.  It wasn't a publisher on the Caller ID, so I figured it couldn't have been that important.  If it was about the car, I'm sure they'll call back.

Oh, you're home! I missed you. Could you put the kids to bed? Yes, they're still up. What do you mean, it's 10:30? Why is the dog sticky? Okay, okay . . . just a few more pages. I love you, too.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Greasers and Socs

There are two kinds of people in this world: Greasers and Socs. Which one are you?

The terms come from S.E. Hinton's novel The Outsiders. It's a classic of young adult fiction and if you haven't read it, shame on you! There's a movie, too, which I have fondness for in spite of the fact that Tom Cruise is in it.

It's a story of two gangs: The Greasers and the Socs.

Socs take their name from "socials." They are children of privilege with letterman jackets, nice cars, and an overinflated sense of self importance. They are definitely the bad guys. Hinton's sympathies (and the readers') are solidly with the Greasers.

Greasers have it rough. They don't have "good" parents or even any parents at all. Their lives are impacted by need, violence, neglect, and substance abuse. They meet with societal censure for their clothing and homes. They are from the wrong side of the tracks.

It might be a very simple world view, but I think all of us are either Greasers or Socs. Once we are adults, it's more about your life attitude than your socio-economic-status, but the designations hold. Let's talk for just a few minutes and I'll tell if you are one of us or one of them.

Socs have money. They have always had money. They don't know what it's like not to have money, and they don't have sympathy for money problems. If you grew up poor, it's less likely that you will ever be a soc. Because they don't know what it's like not to have something you need, Socs don't appreciate what they have. The worst of them don't even know what it's like not to have something you merely want. Having all the things they want doesn't make them generous. In fact, it makes them hoard what they have, trying to collect more and more and not caring that they have more than they need while others struggle to meet their basic needs. As adults, they drive BMWs too fast and cut off other drivers. They shove in line. They think the rules don't apply to them. They worry about me and mine first at all times.

I'm a Greaser. Compared to some of my childhood friends, I grew up privileged. But I still know what it's like to have to wait for things I need and not be able to get things I want. I've seen ebb and flow in income and know that sometimes you have to look at the long game. You have to sacrifice in one area to do what is needed in another. Because I couldn't and can't have whatever I want when I want it, I have learned to prioritize needs and wants and to appreciate the things I have. I try to help others. Us Greasers are in this together. We support one another.

“That's why people don't ever think to blame the Socs and are always ready to jump on us. We look hoody and they look decent. It could be just the other way around - half of the hoods I know are pretty decent guys underneath all that grease, and from what I've heard, a lot of Socs are just cold-blooded mean - but people usually go by looks.”
S.E. Hinton, The Outsiders 

For this reason, parents, I argue against raising Socs. Even if you have the income to do it, you don't do your children any favors by raising them with a sense of entitlement and self-importance. It's a dangerous road, slick with oils and without enough guardrails. It's easy to veer off the path into questionable morality and then into outright illegal and immoral acts. Socs can go a long time without getting caught, the cost to the soul notwithstanding, but when the consequences catch up to them, it's spectacular. There are washed out mug shots and corpses littering the ground.

We all want our children to do well, but there's a difference between handing your children everything and giving them the life skills they need. Greaser children have empathy. They know that it's important to work hard and do well for themselves, but they also know that their needs might not be the most important needs in the room at any given moment. They understand that resources are limited and that they should go to those in deepest need first. They try to solve problems themselves, and are patient about waiting for help when it is needed.

I'd rather teach a room full of Greasers than a room full of Socs. Soc children will constantly call for my attention over things it is entirely possible to solve for oneself. They want the validation of my attention, even when they are snatching it from another child who needs it more. Greaser children will try to help each other first. Only after they've exhausted their options will they ask for help. When they get help, they remember to say thank you for it.

In fact, I prefer Greasers to the point that I have to watch my bias in my interactions with others, keep myself from assuming you're a Soc on the inside based on the appearance of your outside. I have a basic mistrust of people who are too pretty, especially pretty in a polished, practiced way. It makes me wonder about your priorities. If your surface is too smooth, I doubt you have depth.

“It seemed funny that the sunset she saw from her patio and the one I saw from the back steps was the same one. Maybe the two worlds we lived in weren’t so different. We saw the same sunset.”
S.E. Hinton, The Outsiders

One of the themes in the novel was the idea that we all watch the same sunset. It's another version of the old saw about all living under the same sky.  It's a nice idea. But I wonder about its truth. Maybe I'm just getting cynical as I get old, but I truly wonder if the Socs of this world really do see the same sunset I do. If we view it and interpret it so differently, is it really still the same sunset?

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Friday Mom-a-Thon

Friday has gotten complicated around here. 

The Mom is exhausted from a week of mom-ing and teaching and would like to sit on the couch and stare at the fireplace (with or without a fire in it; it doesn't matter--just so no one asks for anything). 

The Teen wants to go out and is full of wonderful excited energy, but she isn't old enough to drive herself yet (and, thank G-d, neither are her friends). 

The Munchkin shouldn't be allowed to stay up past 8:00--it tends to ruin Saturday if she does. 

The Hubby has traffic goblins to fight and often can't get home at any sort of reasonable time, especially not if stops are need to buy stuff (as often happens).

The end result is a singular athletic event we call the Mom-a-thon.

The athlete in this event is not particularly athletic. She is heavier than she'd like to be and dressed in Mom-jeans and a teacher-geek tee-shirt (because we're allowed on Fridays). It's not as stylish as a sleek uni-tard emblazoned with the flag of my country, but we're all better off if I don't wear such things. Really.

The warm-up is a lovely espresso drink from my local market.  This may not seem like the kind of thing an athlete ought to do to warm up for an extended race, but it's surprisingly effective, better than yoga. It's my reward for having survived the work week. There's one particular gal who usually makes it.  She's wonderful. Besides making great coffee, she knows us (the Teen goes with me) and asks about little things we tell her.  I'm sure she doesn't get paid enough for how much better she makes my day. 

If my brain is firing on enough cylinders, I remember to get cash back when I check out. I'll need it for the Teen's Friday night expenses and Saturday morning guitar lesson. If not, it becomes one more thing to handle between 4:00 and 6:00.

Then, the first event starts: The Kiss and Go Lane. The Kiss and Go Lane should probably be called the "Harried Parents Hurl Your Tweens from the Car Lane." It's almost as dangerous as driving in a grocery parking lot right after work.  There are clear patterns the cars are supposed to follow, but they don't. You never know if the person in front of you is going to stop suddenly, turn in a random direction, or fail to stop when they should. The hubby handles the Kiss and Go Lane for the Munchkin. The Teen goes to the same school I teach at, so we're trying to get around the Kiss and Go Lane to get to the teacher parking. Luckily, espresso helps my reflexes.  We survive and even score extra points for landing our favorite parking place: nearest the exit.

Friday at our school is club day. Thanks to the warm-up of a double-shot latte, I am able to pull off thirty minutes of theater games.  Bonus points because the kids seemed sad when we ran out of time.

The third event is broken into three rounds. I'm an elective teacher, which means I teach all three grade levels at my middle school.  My rounds are called "eighth grade," "seventh grade," and "sixth grade."  This is extra challenging because the energy level of the kids goes up across my day in direct inverse to my own energy levels.

There's a dance tonight, the first one of the school year, so my sixth grade students, for whom this is their first ever middle school dance, are practically vibrating when they arrive in my room.  Teaching sixth graders under these conditions is akin to throwing a threadbare saddle with a broken buckle across the back of a rabid rhinoceros and trying to ride it. I live through it, but feel somewhat beaten and bloodied. On the way out, several kids remember to say thank you and wish me a good weekend. I am buoyed.

The fourth event is the after school run-around. This is a juggling act combined with one of those puzzles where you have to get things across the river without letting the lions eat the lambs. I get an assist in that the teen can be left at home unsupervised.  Still, it was five stops between leaving school and arriving at home. Everyone is eating dinner by 6:00, so the judges award me an extra star.

The traffic goblins are winning tonight, so the Munchkin goes with me to deliver the Teen and her friends to the place with the music and the laughter. We stay for a little while, but I have to get her home before she turns into a goblin herself, so back into the car we go. 

Another hour later, a clean and sweet smelling Munchkin is tucked into bed, only half an hour late. Half points, since bedtime was missed. We'll find out tomorrow how bad that is.  The Hubby has defeated the traffic goblins at last and is left at home to watch over sleeping Munchkin while I go back to the place with the music and the laughter to retrieve the Teen.

I like the place they have chosen tonight. It has wi-fi, coffee, and live music, but I can sit far enough away from it that I can still hear myself think. I write while I wait for hugs goodbye. I try not to get the heebie-jeebies (or at least not let them show externally), when the Boyfriend kisses the Teen goodnight.

On the way home, in the quiet of the car. The Teen thanks me. She says she feels lucky to have a mom who will go to this kind of trouble for her. Some of her others friends aren't so fortunate. That folks is game-set-match. Mom won this Friday Mom-a-Thon. And there are seven days to prepare for the next one!