Monthly Archives: July 2010

In the clearing stands a boxer

Last week, you may recall, began with the thirty-fifth anniversary of my mother’s death, followed by my agent dumping me, then rounded out by another house falling through while the Train House came back into play.

So what I really didn’t need on Friday was the call from Zachary’s camp director telling me he had gotten into a fistfight.

Awesome.

“As a camp director, I have to tell you that we can’t have hitting at our camp.  As a mother, I have to tell you that he probably did the best thing he could have done for his self-esteem.”  The other kids were teasing him, Zach’s feelings got hurt, and then the fight started.

While at camp, Zach claimed he threw the first punch while the other child insisted he had done it.  By the time I picked him up, however, Zach decided that first the other child had sat on him, so Zach had, in turn, sat on the other child.  “Why didn’t you tell the counselors?” I asked.

“I couldn’t.  He was sitting on me.”  Can’t argue with that.

The good news is that my thirty-five pound almost-six-year-old can defend himself.  The bad news is that he gets in trouble for it.  Now, I don’t like to encourage fighting, so I tell him never to hit first.  When he does hit first, I bring down the wrath of an angry mama upon him.  However, I also tell him that if another kid physically attacks him, he should defend himself.  That is advice I stand by.  Never hit first, but always hit harder.  If everyone followed that coda, we’d have no more fighting.

The camp treats all physical fighting as equal.  I get why, really I do.  But I’m still not teaching my kid to sit there and get pounded until a counselor shows up to rescue him.

UFB

It’s possible there’s someone out there who is still actually interested in our housing saga.  If so, this is for you, with a little review to help your head stop spinning.

The seventh or eighth house we tried to buy was the Train House.  They said they would sell it to us, then stalled and procrastinated and never signed the damned documents till we gave up and said, “You know what – just forget it.”

We put in a bid on a house with great bones but in need of a good deal of work.  We’ll call that the House on the Hill.  We didn’t get that house, as there were three competing bids.

The next week, I went to look at the dregs of houses that were left.  “You know,” our agent told me, “the Train people still want to sell you their house.”  Second verse, same as the first.  We agreed, they agreed, they un-agreed and decided not to sell their house at all.

I picked myself up off the floor and went to look at the House With the Pool and Screwed up Bedrooms and the House of Tiny Kitchen.  Of course, it goes without saying that the House With the Pool people decided to take their house off the market that day.  It didn’t matter, because the House on the Hill people called to tell our agent that their other deal had fallen through and they would now sell us their house.

But, here in New Jersey, we aren’t under contract till our attorneys squeeze some ducats out of us, and since our lawyer took a day off, attorney review took a day longer than it should have, giving the House on the Hill people just enough time to get and accept an offer from someone else.

Twenty-ninth verse, same as the first.

That was Friday.  I was eating lunch with Lilah and J called.  “What I have to say to you is completely unbelievable,” he began.

“The train people want to sell us their house.”

“Well, actually, yes,” he said.

You see, he works in the same company as Train House Woman, and she had called him up to tell him that they are now this time really, honestly, cross-your-heart-and-hope-to-die ready to sell us their house.

Fool us once, shame on you.  Fool us thrice?

So, um, we’re back to the train house.  Our agent has their signatures, which means crap until we get into and out of attorney review, but we put some Super Glue on our lawyer’s seat, so hopefully he’ll be stuck there until he finishes getting us under contract.

Maybe this will go through.  If not, anyone have a guest room where we can crash?

Feel my withered roots begin to grow

In January, 2008, my husband flew from London – where we were living – to Los Angeles – where we were moving.  It was a house-hunting trip.  He was going to narrow down neighborhoods, visit preschools, and scope out cars, as we had sold ours before moving.  I trusted him because I had to – someone had to stay in London with the boys.  But he also knows me and my requirements, and I trusted that he would look for a walkable area with good air, a preschool that could serve our kids well, and a car with low gas mileage.

When he came back from the trip, he was filling me in as we stood in the kitchen of our little London rental while our two boys watched television.

“Santa Monica has good air, but it’s pricey.  Plus, it can get touristy in the summer.”

“OK, what about Brentwood?”

“Brentwood is nice, but I don’t think you’re going to like it.”

“I think I need to take a pregnancy test in a few days.”

Without missing a beat, without so much as catching his breath, despite the fact that we had always planned on two children, he replied, “Well, then we aren’t getting a Prius.”

***

Six months earlier, he had looked at my body and commented, “You know, from the waist up, you’re thinner than you’ve ever been.”

***

Yesterday, I came downstairs to work while my husband was still sleeping.  I read my email and then worked for an hour.  Lilah woke up and I went up to shower with her in the room while J came down to feed Zach.  As I closed the bathroom door, I said, “My agent dumped me.”

I wasn’t interested in hearing his sympathy yesterday morning, but by mid-afternoon, I was ready to talk.  I called him.  “I don’t think it’s time for me to look for a job,” I said.  “What we’re doing is working.  I’m not making a lot of money, but I’m here for the kids.”

“I think that’s right,” he replied.  “Whether or not you sell the book, you are publishing.”

“But it’s going to mean we keep making the sacrifices we’re making, with you doing a lot of childcare and housework so that I have time to write.  You have to be sure you really want this, because it means you have to keep supporting my writing even though we’re not getting much money out of it.”

“I understand that,” he said.  “But since we’re not hiring any extra childcare for it, any money you do bring in is bonus.  If you were in a job, most of the money would go to childcare, anyway”

Sometimes, the man steps in it, but when it counts, he knows exactly what to say.

You’ll need to click over to see the video, but it’s worth it.

Fuck

I’m up early and I ought to be doing my work.  I have writing group tonight and so I am supposed to be reading the pieces.  But I can’t.  I can’t focus, which for me is unusual.  I am so focused.  I have been so focused for so long.

You see, all this hard work – all the split shifts when I get up at 5 to work so that my husband can leave for work at 7:30, all the working through naptime and while the kids clamor for my attention – it is all to attain a “platform.”  A platform is what an author needs to sell a book.  So, I’m selling articles that take me 20 hours to write for $100 because they are in high profile publications.  And I’m busting my ass looking for subjects and ignoring the garden and not reading blogs all because my agent has been telling me for two years that the only way she can sell the book is if I establish a platform.  Which is what I am doing.

But this morning I cannot concentrate.  Because this morning she replied to my email – the one with the list of publications I have scraped and struggled and gotten into.  And she’s letting me go.

After all the work we did together on the book, she has to let me go.  It’s just too hard for an independent agent to sell a book right now unless the author has been published in Vanity Fair.

So, later today I will interview experts for the article I’m writing and I will attend writing group and I will take Benjamin to get his sticker chart reward.

But right now, I just can’t focus.

Edited two hours later to add:

I’m not sure why I am taking this so hard.  Usually, setbacks just make me work harder.  I’ve worked so hard and wanted so badly to be an author.  I’ve tried to take things in stride, to remember it’s a tough market, to believe in myself.  Today, I am trying to decide where the line is between optimist, determined artist, and just plain fool.  And whether I crossed that line long ago.

Mirror, mirror

It may surprise some of you that mine has not joined the chorus of voices condemning BP.  The oil company has all the makings of a great villain – large corporation, terrible safety track record, environmental disaster.  The urge to paint an evil black moustache on the whole damned company is almost irresistible.

Yet, I have resisted.  Sure, I think BP fucked up.  And lord knows the oil spill is horrific.  I get why people are pissed at BP.

I just don’t think BP is the only culprit here.

While we’re at it, I know it’s fun to attack Obama from the left and the right, but that is futile at best and erroneous at worst.  Hell, I’m not even entirely sure we should be shaking our fists at George W. Bush, Sarah Palin, and the “Drill, baby, drill” chorus.

Because we don’t get to blame other people until we examine our own deeds.

We have created an insatiable demand for oil.  We drive when we could walk.  We eschew public transportation because our cars are under our control and we really don’t want to have to wait for the bus.

We demand ripe blueberries in December.  Here’s a news flash: I live in New Jersey.  I don’t get to eat fresh blueberries in December.  That’s just the way it goes.  Any berries I might buy in the grocery store were flown in from another continent using a tank full of petroleum.

We think nothing of importing wine and food and goods and jet around.  Most of us aren’t complete numbskulls and don’t leave our SUVs idling for 45 minutes while picking up our kindergarteners, but I know at least one person who does.  I’m thinking of sending her a bill for her share in the oil spill.

We are to blame here.  Until I can say I live a life free of oil – and even Sara can’t do that – I don’t get to point fingers here.  You can if you want to, but I am treating this as a call to further reduce my dependence on oil.  The less oil I demand, the less need there is for drilling.  It’s that simple.

Now, since it is the summer, I’m going to go eat a fresh blueberry muffin.

Thirty-five years

If you read my post on Saturday, you know that today is the 35th anniversary of my mother’s death.  She died a few weeks before she turned 35, so she has now been dead longer than she was alive.

She missed half a lifetime.

She got the part where she grew up and went to school and got married (to an asshole) and had children.  But she missed the part where they grew up and went to school and got married (to nice men) and had children.

“How do you memorialize that anniversary?” a friend asked.

Well, I took Benjamin to camp at the Y this morning without having to yell at him (OK, just once, but it was a tiny reprimand because he was dropping sofa cushions on his sister).  On the way there, he called out over the music, “Mommy!”

“Yes, Benjamin?”

“I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

“Mommy?”

“Yes, Benjamin?”

“I still love you.”

“I still love you, too.”

I brought him into his group rather than doing curbside drop-off, as his sister had swimming right after drop-off.  He kissed me goodbye then scampered to his friends.  Then I took Lilah to the pool, which is her natural habitat.

I held her in the water while she squeezed out the plastic fishie, laughing with delight at the spray it shot out.  I tossed her in the air, held her while she kicked, and giggled with her.

I spent the morning in the moment.  That’s how I memorialized the anniversary.

Now, go.  Go squeeze a plastic fishie with someone you love.

Here we go loopdy loo

So, it was an hour before I was supposed to go see the Tiny Kitchen House followed by the House With the Pool and Fucked Up Bedrooms.  I got a call from my real estate agent, Elizabeth, the most patient and supportive woman in New Jersey.

“I just got a text from the agent for the Great House That Needs Work,” she said.  Well, not exactly like that.  She actually said the address, but I’m not giving addresses here because someday we may actually get one of the houses and then everyone would know my address and could come stalk me.

“Oh?”

“It looks like the other buyers are falling through and she wants to know if you’re still interested.”

Neither Elizabeth nor I knew exactly what that meant, so we went ahead and saw the other two houses, after she had texted the agent for the Great House That Needs Work to say that, hell yes, we were still interested.  We spent a looooong time looking at those two houses, and I left with no better idea of what I wanted than I had before I went in.

No matter – that evening the owners of the Great House decided they would accept our offer, as the other had fallen through.

So, they’ve signed it.  We’ve signed it.  In New Jersey, that means we are under attorney review, which is a fancy way of saying we blow a few hundred bucks on each side in lawyer’s fees before we are officially under contract.

The sellers have disclosed knob and tube wiring, which they are fixing in advance of the sale.  They have also disclosed an underground oil tank, which we are paying to have them remove prior to closing.  So, two big hurdles are already checked off.

Who knows?  We may actually get to closing on this house.  It has to happen someday, right?

I just wouldn’t go shopping for our housewarming present yet if I were you.