Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Seduction Begins Again

It starts early in the heart of winter. Those gardening catalogs make their way from the mail box to the night stand beside my bed.

The photographs are beguiling- lilac trees bursting with luscious flowers, rudbeckia, lavender, butterfly bushes as big as trees... Then the seed catalogs promise me hearty heirloom varieties that my southern great-great grandmother might have grown in her vegetable bed. I start making lists of seeds to purchase, even for vegetables I'm not fond of like broccoli and eggplant. I can't resist the copy.

I start searching around for my gardening books and start mentally planning my beds. I gaze out at the snow covered yard and think, "Yes, this will be the year I clear more land for gardening." It seems so easy from inside the house to contemplate growing, digging, watering, fertilizing, and weeding. It's all so rational and orderly while the ground is too cold to consider doing anything with.

Then the snow melts, the grass is beige and still sleeping but the robins and grackles return. I begin fantasizing about creating rooms in my yard. Over there will be the the reading area; here will be a children's garden and maze, that's where I'll start the orchard, this will be our entertaining area, my wine grapes will grow there. I start hoarding magazines that promise to transform my yard into a garden oasis in under $100.

Now the grass is green my butterfly bushes are coming to life, the forsythia is almost neon against the brown brush and I am deep in the seduction now. I look out the windows and I'm confronted by the possibilities all around me. I ache to rush out to my favorite gardening spot and grow my way into the poor house. (Sure we may not have money to buy food but damn my garden looks good.)

Every year spring entices me this way until summer slaps me into reality with blood, sweat, tears and mosquitoes. Intellectually I know this. I understand it would take a crew of over 3500 (like the workmen who tamed Central Park) to bring my nature fantasy to life but I don't care. I'm rushing in head-first because, this will be the year it happens.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

It's Opposite Day

So in the midst of that confused mental state between waking a sleeping, I had a vision.

Well... perhaps I might have still been sleeping since my guinea pig Costanza was talking to me... but that's no matter it still makes sense in a backwards kind of logic. You may need to hold on to something to follow the thought patterns here.

So while conversing with Costanza, this image of George Costanza from Seinfeld pops into my waking consciousness. (Background info here: All of my guinea pigs are named after Seinfeld characters.) There's George sitting in the diner with Jerry bemoaning his pitiful life. And Jerry tells him he should do the opposite of what he would normally do.


It's a true Yoda moment.

George starts doing the opposite of what he would normally do. He winds up leaving the diner with a beautiful woman, lands a job with the Yankees, and gets his own apartment.

In the haze of early morning light, I wake up. I will become Costanza (the Seinfeld character, not the guinea pig. I will do the opposite of what I normally do (procrastinate) and (procrastinate even more). I won't complain. I'll balance between chores and playing. I'll write. Hell, I'll even shave my legs.

Today will be a grand experiment. If it works, you'll see me sitting on the couch on "The View" plugging my wildly successful self-help book, "What I Learned from George Costanza) while carrying Costanza is my designer guinea pig carrying bag by Chanel. I'll become a celebrity and cast-worthy enough for "Dancing With the Stars."

I'll tweeting updates throughout the day.

Friday, April 8, 2011

In Celebration of Here and Now

I interviewed a young woman today for an article. We were chatting after the interview and she was asking me if it was difficult being a student at 43 and managing school work, ambition, and children. My answer: Yes and No.

Yes. It's incredibly challenging trying to get the amount of time in that I need to study. It's a struggle, as I've written about extensively, to find the time to write. And it's no easy task to be involved in the lives of my three children who are at very different places in their development.

But no, it's not more difficult.

I can remember when I was in college straight out of high school. My friends and I complained bitterly about our work loads, schedules and trying to find enough time to fit everything in. There were so many directions to go in life that it could be bewildering.

At 43 I wouldn't even contemplate returning to the nebulous period of my late teens and early twenties. It's not that I have all the answers now. Well actually that's not true. I may have the answers but questions keep changing on me.

I enjoy school more now than I did then because I have so many areas of my life where I have to be grounded in reality. I have to go food shopping. I have to pay bills. I have be up early to make certain my kids get to school on time. The list can go on and on. Now many of these haves are wants also. I love being the first person to greet my children in the morning. Even though my older ones are completely capable of getting themselves out and fed in the morning. I still want to be there for them.

Returning to school has been a purely selfish act for me. I can still be a writer without a degree. School gives me the chance to, and I know this is going to sound like a cliche but here it is, SOAR. I can allow myself the room to expand my thinking in a way I would have no room for in my day-to-day world. I still have deadlines and exams but that's a small part of my experience of being a student.

At the heart of her question, this young woman wanted to know if I had any regrets about being back at school with the demands of family. Sure I hate missing out on lectures and readings but the reality is that my experiences since I graduated from high school give me an edge on many of my collegiate peers. This experience strengthens my writing, giving me a deep well of emotions and situations I can call up at any time.

Would I go back in time if I could, choose a different path? Heck no! The Here and Now is wondrously flawed and far too exciting.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Fiction versus Non-Fiction Brain

I seem to be unable to pick a side.

This semester, I wanted to focus on non-fiction writing but as hard as I try I am filled daily with incredible story ideas. The kinds of ideas that have had me almost driving off the road. (I go into this trance-like state when I'm seized with a hum-dinger of a story.)

I have numerous deadlines. I'm trying to get my right brain to kick into gear but the left brain is asserting its dominance. While I should be emailing, researching, and making phone calls, I'm crafting sentences, reaching into the subconscious of my characters, and inhabiting another land.

Maybe this is my brain's way of telling me it can't handle creative writing and journalism at the same time. Or maybe I'm just procrastinating. What do you think?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Lazy Kind of Sunday

The past couple of days have been full of tension and stress. I've been trying to find some way of balancing the demands of family, school, life and writing.

Yesterday I felt as though my head were going to explode as I spent the day running from one errand to the next only to come home to race from one chore to the next. I wrote about one page at while my son was at soccer training. I spent the whole rest of the day with the next sentence hovering over my head like a comic book dialog balloon. By the time I was able to stop last night I was too tired to put two words together let alone a whole sentence.

I swore I would wake early this morning and set to work finishing this short story. The alarm went off at 5am and I rolled over and went back to sleep. My sons came up to the bedroom at 7am, climbed into my bed and we all went back to sleep for another two hours.

I started to feel that familiar knot of disappointment and frustration but instead of carrying it around, I tossed it aside. I took a shower and then went out to get breakfast for everyone instead of worrying about what to fix. And miraculously, I'm still feeling light and airy.

I took care of some chores and now I'm sitting down to get a little writing done. If only I could bottle this feeling of euphoria and keep it with me always.