Starting in mid-November, our calendars and hearts are chockablock full: Thanksgiving, three family birthdays, gingerbread houses, baking, gift choosing and wrapping and giving, advent calendars, endless treats, homemade gifts, projects, school plays, parties, family visits--and that's on top of our normal, weekly activity.
Among all the holiday activities, the Book Angels Program is my favorite.
When we lived in Illinois, we trekked to Anderson's Bookshop every December. Their Book Angel Program invited patrons to buy books for local children in need, and we loved choosing books that other children might love.
When we moved to Seattle, our local bookshop, Secret Garden Books' holiday giving program was defunct. Christy McDanold, the shop owner, and her staff no longer had sufficient time to run the program.
But I did. Last year, we reinstated the program and provided books for 84 children in our community.
This year, three local schools provided children's names and book preferences. (As you might imagine, I keep a spreadsheet!) My girls chose their angels first, and spent a while poring over bookshelves, finding the perfect titles. My parents and sister were in town when I hung the angels, so this was a family affair.
We wrapped our books to display in store, and hung 117 paper angels throughout the shop.
We invited patrons to choose books, and then the magic happened.
People in our neighborhood opened their hearts and wallets to provide books for children in need. Many customers bought multiple books for their chosen children. All told, people gave more than twelve dozen books to local children.
We had piles and piles of books! My dear friend, Kristina Cerise, accepted pizza and beer as payment for helping wrap all those gifts. (Kristina blogs--often hilariously--about motherhood here.)
Nine days before Christmas, I delivered those precious parcels to an elementary school, a middle school, and a K-8.
I wore a Santa hat and blasted Christmas music as I drove around NW Seattle (but was totally calm and hatless inside schools, I swear.) My heart was full to bursting; delivery day was my favorite day of the year.
My family's emphasis on charitable giving and literacy dovetail perfectly in this program. I love helping people in my community, and I love bringing people to books. I hope children enjoy the books they receive. I hope their holidays are a little brighter.
And I hope to do it all again in eleven months.
*Photo credit: Me. It's all me. You can tell, because they're not very artful! I wish I had a photographer's eye.
To be fair, this was my most logical child. My dear 2010 said, "I wish tomorrow were my birthday."
First off, kudos to my four-year-old for using the conditional sense. Second, I tried to logic her out of it. It did not go well.
"It wouldn't really be fair if you had two birthdays, would it?" See what I did? I appealed to her sense of fairness and love for her sisters.
Irritated, she explained that didn't want two, she just wanted hers to be tomorrow.
I tried more logic.
"But if tomorrow were your birthday, my Love, you would be devastated when your actual birthday rolled around and it wasn't your birthday anymore."
My angry girl explained that she wanted to skip right to her birthday.
"You know, Love, if we skipped right to your birthday, we would SKIP your grandmother's birthday, and Genevieve's and Felix's, and Suzy Lou's, too."
She knew, but she wanted cake and presents.
I sensed whining on the horizon, but I had her!
"Love, we're not ready for your party. I haven't baked a cake or bought any presents. There are no decorations or anything."
Tears. I had made her cry. She knew, but it would be cool if her birthday were tomorrow.
I finally got it.
"You're right, 2010! That would be cool!"
And off she went to play, blissed out with her cool idea.
For five seconds, it looked like we would be living in Chicago when we returned from New Zealand. During that brief moment, I researched Chicago's public schools and neighborhoods. There was a map.
I did the same thing when we decided to move to Seattle, and I don't mind the extra work. Having a plan--even one that will change before we enact it--settles my brain. Most of the Chicago details have spilled out of my brain already, but if you want to know about Seattle public (elementary) schools and neighborhoods from someone who's researched them to the Nth degree, I'm your girl.
Our new house has a fancypants washer/dryer combination. They talk to each other.
So, when I open the dryer, its screen lights up and wakes up the washer’s screen for a chat. They’re supposed to be communicating about the type and amount of clothing that’s moving from the washer to the dryer. “Be careful! They’re delicates.”
I think that’s crap. The washer is probably saying, “Can you believe she forgot this load overnight? It smells very slightly of mildew.” Or, “She overloaded again. You’re going to bust a nut tumbling this set.” Or, “Holy crap, does she wash a lot of small pink stuff.”
It’s not my fault. I have three girls. Society makes them wear pink. And tells them to change their clothes multiple times each day. None of us can change.
But the machines needn't taunt me about it.
A woman who read my last manuscript said, “I had no idea you were an artist!” Over my vociferous objections, she reiterated, “You’re an artist.”
I am not an artist.
I am a writer. In my world, an artist paints or sculpts or creates beauty with his hands. Writing is a skill--perhaps a talent--but not an art. Not for me.
I can spin a tale and turn a phrase. At times I’m witty or hilarious (note: rare on the hilarity) I have a LOT to say and several manuscripts in the queue waiting to speak. Yes, I have thousands of notes, dozens of plot outlines and spreadsheets bulging with details, but I can’t really make art.
Last week, 2008 had many questions about the uterus. Here is what I drew:
On the left is a child’s body with a uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes. On the right is a woman’s body (see the hips?) with a tiny baby that will grow and grow. Obviously the picture is not to scale.
I swear to you, that was my best effort. As I said: not an artist. I will stick to words.
Last week, my brilliant and creative friend Heather hosted space camp for a slew of preschoolers and their toddler siblings.
After we had launched rockets, experimented with dry ice, compared moon dust to Mars dust and eaten planetary pizzas, the children ran amok in the yard searching for asteroids we had hidden.
Lounging across from my spouse, I realized there were nine little girls rushing through the grass and trying to climb trees. No boys.
Among my book club ladies, we have 11 children, two of whom are boys.
My best friends have girls. Between 1977, me, and our sisters, we have only girls.
This baffles me. Who is having the boys, and where are they? Research suggests the ratio hovers at 1:1, but that certainly is not the case in my life. (And yes, Dear 1977, I know “data” is not the plural form of “anecdote.” I remain baffled.)
Are there pockets of your life where all the children are male?
I grew up in a family where sloppiness was shunned, untidy clothing was frowned upon and laziness was damned. To this day, I cringe if I suspect my activities are slothful.
Cue 1977, who was raised in a calm house where tranquility reigned and naps were revered. When we lived in the city and visited for dinner, 1977 sometimes spent an hour of those visits napping. Or reading. Or otherwise not engaging his parents in conversation. His presence was enough.
Now, in my late 30s, I finally realize that things will get done.
Or they won’t.
But pushing through exhaustion isn’t doing my (second trimester) body any favors. I never received my plaque for productivity, though surely I earned it.
These days, when 2010 naps, I nap right along with her. And I feel refreshed. And I feel less beaten down by the person we’re now referring to as 2013. And this manuscript is still plugging along, so everything is fine.
Last week, I had the girls to myself while 1977 attended a conference in Minneapolis.
Single mothers, I don’t know how you do it. I am in awe of you.
Every night, I was in bed as soon as 2008 stopped peeping, and every morning, I grumbled when 2010 woke me at sometime around 5 a.m.
There were no blog posts. I may have seen my browser every day, but there was no Facebook and no Twitter. I did not pick up a book.
Who the hell was that? Morning to night, these children devoured my creative energy.
Now that 1977 is back and I’m deep into Sandel’s newest book, I wonder how I shut down my entire being for an entire week. And, I confess, I am dreading a repeat performance in two weeks, when 1977 heads to Utah. Following his return, we will be chaining him to a wall in the basement and offering three meals a day a la the three ladies in 9-to-5.
And, single moms, I know how you do it. It’s like any other aspect of parenting: you just DO, because you have no choice. But my hat’s off to you.
Make time now or make time later; you still have to do it.
No one has enough time. No one. About two years ago, when 2010 was born and I realized my free time was virtually nil, I took stock of my life and the many requirements of being an adult.
I started consistently making time for writing, because that’s what I wanted to do. Most of my time belongs to family, but I still make time for writing every day.
My house is perpetually cluttered (clean, yes, but cluttered with toys and kidstuff) because I choose to write during nap time instead of tidying the toys.
My back yard resembles a jungle. If I can be outside, I’m playing with my children or teaching them to garden.
I go to the salon when Brandi-not-her-real-name can fit me in at the last minute.
So, I make time for the important things, and figure everything else will fall in line, or it won’t. I’m not sure how this happened. In my 20s, I thought I was a superwoman with infinite energy and impeccable time management who could conquer the world in a weekend. Now, I am a mother, and I am a writer. I can’t make any more time to wear a cape.
You will wake in Balasana at 2 a.m.
Commonly called child’s pose, Balasana is a yoga position in which the body is face-down, knees tucked to chest in a modified fetal position. It is supposed to be restful.
Our family is anything but restful these days. 2010 is waking three or more times in the night for songs and love and rocking and ME. Her little nest is on the floor at present, so as I sang her ten billion songs last night, I curled on the floor in Balasana and rested my head next to hers.
It was not restful. I woke some time later, very uncomfortable and very cold. I’m a yogi, but I am too old to sleep like that. My whole body aches this morning, and I can’t wait to go to bed.
Mind your age, folks.
I blog rarely, because I'm busy writing books. When I do blog, I focus on writing, friendship, family, and books. Because my family's best nicknames are private, I use their birth years for shorthand: