Tuesday, May 20, 2008

On Writing

A member of my family tells me (and she shall remain nameless) that she doesn't like my blogs that air my dirty laundry. "How can you say such personal things for the whole world to read?" she asks. Her definition of dirty laundry and mine are not remotely in the same universe.

In response to this family member, I tell her that there are only about 5 people who read my blog and that doesn't constitute the whole world. Then I tell her that compared to some blogs, I barely scratch the tiniest surface of "personal." So I wrote that I gained tons of weight when pregnant in a previous blog. That's a fact that stares me down on a daily basis. It's obvious. Believe me, I'd change the reflection if I had the dedication.

But today I need to write about writing. Writing is hard. I'm feeling that writing for publication is high near impossible. Reach for the stars, people say. Live your dreams. At the rate I'm going, I'll reach my dream when I'm 70, with not many years left to enjoy it. Published authors will tell aspiring authors that if they don't enjoy the writing process then the end result isn't worth it. But is the process supposed to take most of your life and nearly all your emotional energy? And what if in my aged state I have to read my published novel with a magnifying glass? I guess I wouldn't be the first.

The problem is this: I don't know if I'm willing to dedicate that much energy to maybe realize a goal later in life. On the other hand, something could happen next year and I'd be so glad I held on. Patience has never been one of my virtues. How I wish it were. I think how so many things would have turned out a little bit better. In other words I want the prize without working up too much of a sweat.

Yes, I got a rejection letter today. It was formal and polite, the way rejection letters are. It did mention the name of my novel, so I knew that it wasn't a form letter. It was nice to see someone else write the name of my novel instead of me. That means it exists; it lives. I gave it life. Do I continue to try to keep it alive?

Here is why novel writing may not be a suitable fit for me. Writing is a solitary job. I am not a solitary person. Writing demands the ability to pick yourself up and try again. And again. And again. I tend to want to stay on the ground when I'm down. Writing requires sacrifice of personal life and time with loved ones. I don't know if I could bear to neglect my family as it would fill me with enormous guilt, or if they could bear to be neglected. Even if it meant I was living my dream.

Here's why novel writing is a suitable fit for me. When I am writing I sometimes feel as if I am flying through the sky without a hint of fatigue. When I write something it is permanent. Nothing can take it away from me, short of a major computer catasrophe. I want to do something for others that has brought me such incredible pleasure and happiness in my life--write something that is worthy for someone to read.

So I will blog my little heart out, and feel a surge of satisfaction everytime I click on the publish button.

If only book publishing were so simple.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Throwing a Frisbee in Class

really by Nathan Hawkins, written for the Hawkins Herald, our family newsletter. Only typed by his mother, Ellen.

Throwing a Frisbee in Class

I always get in trouble in inside recess. I don't mean to, but you have all this energy and ther is nothing to do inside. So one day on inside recess a kid in my class named Jake brought a football into class. And people started playing do I joined in.

I new I shouldn't of but it's so temting. And on my first throw I threw the football and it hit a girl in the head. Right then I knew I was in big trouble. So I went to the bathroom. Our teacher (Ms. Wells) wasn't in the classroom but I knew I would be in big trouble because we have the worst tattletales in our class. So I knew I was dead meat.

I spent along time in the bathroom but I knew once people told our teacher would send out a search party to find me. We always had search parties when someone was out of the classroom. And when we were in trouble you had someone come with you and make sure you don't run away. Any way I decided to go back to class. And sure enough she was arranging a search party. And I had to pull my card.

And Alex the kid who told on me came with me to the first grade to make sure I didn't run away when I got to first grade. I had to right a letter to the girl I hit with the football. It went something like this:I'm sorry I hit you with the football. It was an accident. I hope you feel better. From Nathan.

And the other time I got in trouble I was throwing a frisbee and I had to write a 1 page essary on why throwing a frisbee in class is unexeptable. I think I've learned my lesson.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Why it is Inappropriate to Throw Frisbees in the Classroom


by Nathan Hawkins, fourth grader

I am writing this paper (in cursive) because I was throwing Frisbees in the classroom at lunch recess.

You see, it was pouring rain outside and the principal said it was an inside day. I hate inside days because then I have to sit quietly at my desk instead of play basketball, football, soccer, ultimate Frisbee, four square and kick ball outside. Just because it was raining I don 't know why we can't play outside. It's just a little water. And the problem is that I just have all this energy, and it is torture for me to sit still when I could be running around.

I only have to write a one-page essay. Scott, Brandon and Jeremy have to write a two-page essay because they threw it five minutes more than me and I only threw it three times. After I threw the Frisbee three times I sat down at my desk and read The Battle of the Labyrinth because I knew I would get in trouble from our substitute Mrs. Felberg. I am trying to finish this book because all my friends are jealous that I have it and want to read it after me. My Dad bought it for me in hardback because he's trying to get me to read instead of play sports and break my ankle again and not play game cube all the time.

So this is why it is inappropriate to throw Frisbees in the classroom.

1. Cause you could hit somebody and hurt them. I should have learned this lesson. Last December I accidentally hit Jessica in the head with the football on an inside day and Ms. Wells pulled all my cards and I had to do a whole bunch of stuff like go see the principal. I went to see the principal but she wasn't there. Whew!

2. Cause someone might be trying to read and that would disturb them.

3. Cause it is against school rules and we should obey school rules.

This is now almost one page. I am sorry that I didn't obey. And if I tell my Mom about this paper she's gonna blog it across the whole world. But if I don't tell her about it she will find out anyway cause she's the Duty Guard and she walked in the classroom and saw me throwing the Frisbee.

She will think it's great blog material. I think this is totally humiliating.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Full (OF IT) Professor

I'm going to have a lot of fun with this post today. I hope I can honor my husband's significant achievement without becoming too irreverent.

My dear huband is now a full professor. He isn't half full or partially full or associate full or assistant full, he is a totally FULL PROFESSOR. This means he is full to the brim, fully loaded, full of vast stores of information about human rights and international relations that the average joe will never know. This means he can speak in another language at academic gatherings with other people who are equally FULL, and where I just smile and look cute when his colleagues ask me what I got my Phd in.

"I got my PHd in human reproduction," I'd tell them. "My specialty is conceiving on the first try with a sub specialty in always being overdue during the most sweltering summers and with a sub-sub specialty on gaining enormous amounts of weight with a sub-sub-sub specialty on being incredibly hormonal and irritable during the whole thing."

Before I got smart I used to tell them about my lowly bacehelor's degree, because I wanted them to know I could do something other than get pregnant multiple times. I wanted them to know that my brains worked as well as my ovaries. Or that they were at least in the running.

But then I realized that to these academicians, a bachelor's degree is akin to graduating from kindergarten. So now I just smile and talk about the family, and they pretend to care a little, and then they go back to speaking their unique language with those who can understand them.

They call it "talking shop." I call it "pontificating." At these gatherings, academics are totally FULL of many obnoxious words. When they talk about their specialty, their voices change. They become loud and forceful, and they use words that you can't even find on dictionary.com because they are so specialized to their own specialty within the specialized specialty within the discipline.

"What language is he speaking?" I whispered to Darren at one of these gatherings.

Pedagogcial epistomology," he responded.

"Fascinating," I nodded.


"OK, I think I'd like to go back to our hotel room and watch Sesame Street if that's OK with you."

I've learned to tune Darren out when he starts using this academic tone, but I'm good at tuning out his other tones too. I especially like to tune out the tone he uses when he's angry that the kids have left their stuff all over the house. Or the tone he uses when I thinks I should be doing something other than reading the paper and sipping tea. Or the tone he uses when he is reviewing our finances. Actually I can't hear this tone because I'm usually half way to Target by the time he assesses the damage. When I get back, he's usually cooled down.

The official letter he received from the university president said, "Congratulations on this significant accomplishment. We appreciate your devoted service and trust that you will continue to develop not only your capacities as a teacher and scholar but also your contributions to the mission of the university."

But what I really wanted to know was how much of a raise he was going to get. The letter didn't mention that important detail. Did this mean I could get my new countertops, or that things would stay about the same? I flashed forward 30 years or so, and imagined myself with the Comet and a sponge, scrubbing those pesky stains off the white formica countertops. I had totally white hair and the skin on the back of my arm shook as I scrubbed in my granny apron.

"Been scrubbing these countertops since 1998 now, Darren," I'd say. "Now it's 2038."

"It's good for you, dear," he replies. "Good exercise."

"Got burcitis in my shoulder from scrubbing these counters."

"Counterops are a lot of money."

"So's burcitis. Countertops would have been much cheaper in 2008."

"It doesn't matter now. We're nearly dead anyway."

"Guess so." scrub scrub scrub.

OK, that was irreverent. But I just couldn't resist.

In all seriousness, I am so glad I married someone with such an incredible ability to accomplish. I am very proud of him. Congratulations on being making it to FULL.

What's the next hurdle? Spilling over?

Monday, May 5, 2008

A Sweet Shopping Trip

Most shopping trips aren't sweet, or even fun or enjoyable for that matter. Most include mundane things like food and gas and dry cleaning or buying a diet coke. Today I had a very sweet shopping trip, though, with my youngest daughter, Leah.

When I picked up Leah from school she reminded me that I PROMISED her I'd take her shopping for her best friend's birthday. I really didn't have the time. But you know those promises. I don't want her to think I can't ever be trusted. She already knows that I sometimes can't be trusted to take her places I said I would. So I acquiesed. Leah wanted to go to Target or Shopko or someplace like that to buy a gift for Camryn, her red-headed pal.

My mind raced for a different alternative. I couldn't bear to go into Target one more time this week. You usually have to drag me into Shopko. Then I thought of this darling antique store, very close, very convenient. I knew Leah could find the perfect treasure for Camyrn there.

We headed into the Planted Earth, an old house converted into a charming antique store. Leah was enchanted with the wall to wall stuff. I was enchanted with how enchanted she was. She walked in the door and looked around and smiled. There was so much to look at! There were no aisles, no rattling shopping carts, no loud speakers, no glaring lights. Instead there were displays grouped according to themes that were lovely to look at. Aprons, watches, match boxes, plates, books, watering cans, just to name a few. A tightly manicured poodle (live!) was watching us from the corner.

First we looked at some jewelry, then some plants, then some sea shells. Leah gently turned them over in her hand, trying to find some perfect ones for her friend. She was calm and thoughtful. She was quiet and reflective. She looked so sweet and beautiful sitting there, trying to make a choice. I loved her immensely at that moment.

She got two clam shells, and two spiral shells. We found a purse display that had a hot-pink snap open style purse, the kind my Aunt Hazie used to carry around (except hers were always brown and huge, it seemed). Leah had found her gift. And to top it off, it could be a receptacle for the precious shells!

She was delighted to find that there was an entire floor upstairs that we had not discovered. She took my hand and we trotted upstairs to discover more wall to wall treasure. Her eyes darted from item to item. So much cool stuff.

I was delighted to spend 30 minutes shopping with my daughter who is growing up way too fast. I wished there were more hours to peruse antique stores with her. I was surprised at her maturity when I said I didn't want to go but that we needed to take her sister somewhere. I was grateful I had exposed her to something unique, something that just might stand out among the countless trips to the "regular stores."

She brought the purse home and found a gift bag and tissue. She put some lip gloss and two miniture bottles of nail polish she'd picked out last week next to the shells. She snapped the purse shut, and then opened it up to look at it again.

She remembered the miniature watering can we'd also bought for her own doll, Jessie. "Jessie just loves to water things, Mom," she told me.

"I hope Camryn likes my present, Mom," she said, a bit worried. And I worried a bit, too, since you never know if a seven-year old will appreciate an unconventional gift.

"She's going to love it because you picked it out so carefully for her, Leah, " I told her. How could she not?

Friday, May 2, 2008

Five Flagrant Fouls

I love the way those words sounds together--five, flagrant fouls. That's what we estimate was committed against Nathan's soccer team at the game on Tuesday night. The ref was a ditzty 15-year old who had actually babysat for many of the kids on the OTHER team, so there was no chance she was going to listen to us when we started yelling because our boys were getting hurt. The more we yelled, the more she ignored the fouls. So we lost, 0-1, the first game in the tournament. We would have won if could have taken those penalty kicks.

At last night's game it was about 20 degrees with the wind chill down in Soccer Siberia. May 1st! Can't believe we're still freezing to death this late in the season. We were bundled up like we were about to embark on an Arctic Expedition, but we still froze. That wind knows no mercy. It looked like we were about to pull this one out, when the other team scored about a minute before the end of the game. So we tied 1-1. Most disappointing since we let Nathan come out of the goalie box and play forward (injured ankle, remember). He actually got the ball down there about three times and tried to score at least two of them. Then they just couldn't keep the ball down there and it was too late. Oh, well, we have another chance tomorrow to redeem ourselves. It better be warmer!

Sorry I am so rough in reporting sports. I don't know all the appropriate, cool terms to use when explaining what happened. Just ask Darren. Once, 20 years ago, when I was editing some sports stories for the Daily Utah Chronicle at the University of Utah, I changed a whole bunch of sports lingo that I thought sounded strange, and thus botched the stories. "But that's how you do it in sports!" the sports editor yelled at me. "Don't you read sports?" No. Never had.

The sports writers wouldn't speak to me for a week, and Darren, as editor in chief, had to DOCK his wife's pay for a day for committing those flagrant fouls upon the sports stories. When you're making $20 a day, that's a huge deal. He had to prove that he wasn't showing FAVORATISM toward his wife. Needless to say, I didn't speak to Darren for a few days either, and I slammed his office door so hard it nearly shattered the glass on the way out. It is a story we laugh about now. Well, not really.

Moral of the story: Never work with your husband. Never edit sports stories if you don't know a thing about sports.

Twenty years down the road: Have never worked with him in a busines setting since. Yeah, I'll work with him in the garden or in the house, but that's about it. Have never applied for any sports editing jobs.

BTW, we, as parents were very positive and supportive and did not yell once at the ref at last night's game. It helps to have a decent ref, though, and he was very polished. Jumping up and down and cheering helped to keep us from getting frostbite. GO RAPTORS! My voice is hoarse. I think I'm liking basketball as a sport option for Nathan. It's never cold. It's one of the only few sports where you'll never be cold watching.

OK, Sammie wants to learn how to play lacrosse. Anyone have any lacrosse sticks out there she could borrow to give it a try? Anyone know of any lacrosse teams or leagues? Wait a minute, isn't this another sport that is played OUTSIDE? Maybe I don't want her to come across a lacrosse stick. Hmmmm.

Have a great day, all.