Thursday, February 28, 2008

Sick Puppy!

I gotta fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell!

Or, to be more pedestrian, I have had nonstop colds/flu/cough since November. I just can't get well no matter what I do. It has given my whole life that "walking in sand" feeling. I have taken so much cold medicine and cough syrup that my body just feels totally beat up. Did anybody get the number of the guy who beat me with that cricket bat?

I was sick sorta like this last year; for a long period of time I just couldn't breathe without coughing. But I wasn't a parent then, and I could just take time off work and rest. I can't do that now. Because A is a foster child still, we get a subsidy to assist us with child care cost. This has allowed us to have her in a great daycare that we really like.

One of the rules of the subsidy, however, is that if I have to stay home sick, A has to be home with me. The one thing that is a major no-no is for me to send her to day care and then go home and go back to bed. I can understand why they would make a rule like that, because people would totally abuse it. But I am so damn ill, I just about cried when I had to force myself to work today. Because let's face it, I will get more rest forcing myself to work than trying to relax at home with an almost 3 year old running around.

And with this subsidy, We only get 15 discretionary days per year to cover holidays and sick days. I think we have used nine of them already due to illness and having to take A to all the appointments she needs. It's nuts.

So I need more cowbell. Lord knows NyQuil isn't helping. Whimper

Monday, February 25, 2008

Best Poem from the first week

No time for love, Doctor Jones

Third row seat, hand in popcorn

Soda stalled halfway to lips in the straw

I glimpse you for the first time

Girl giggles stall as I draw my first womanly breath.

Dusty fedora for warding off poison darts

Sweaty handled bullwhip at the ready

Clutch that golden idol

And run, run right to me.

Too young to have ever dared to taste

The “now and later” sticky lips

Of the boys in my 7th grade class

But I wanted to do something with you.

Stirring and squirming in my seat

I never noticed that feeling before.

In breathless wonder did I hang

The edge of my seat barely held me.

Later I would crest the wave

And later I would reach the beach

But never like that, there in the dark

Not even with top men working on it.

(c) Stacie Ferrante


Friday, February 22, 2008

Lost weekend in San Francisco

I know I said I was going to write about this earlier in the week, but a profound bout of the flu has taken the smart ass right out of me. Since I really seem to like the list format, here are my impressions of the San Francisco Writers' Conference that I attended last weekend and my quasi-adventures in the City.

1. I want to give San Francisco the best oral of its life. Always good to start with a bang, eh? What can I say? I wouldn't go to a writers' conference if it was in Topeka or Columbus. When I got into my hotel (the Mark Hopkins, yay!) the first thing I did was shuck off my luggage and walk down to get a latte. There is just something about the San Francisco mojo. I was gripped by the strong urge to fall to the ground and kiss the sidewalk. Although I honor the other places I have lived in my life as needed steps in my journey, San Francisco will always be my special favorite, and the only city where I really feel in my element. I spent as much time as I could eschewing cab rides in favor of treacherously steep walks, even while sweating with fever. There is just something in the foggy air there that makes me pregnant with libidinous creativity. I just wanted to make out with strangers. Not that I would do it, but I had the big love for my fellow man.

2. I need better luggage. Staying in a REALLY nice hotel will really make you notice how banged up your luggage has become. I would never have noticed that my bag isn't all that great by taking it to my mother's house. Tucked on the luggage stand in the closet of my hotel room, it stood out. I'm not at all label conscious, but now I salivate over fantastic suitcases as if they were traveler porn.

3. 40 poems in 40 days. Since I didn't have a manuscript that was in any shape to pitch to agents, I took classes that focused more on craft. That is where the 40 days of poetry came from. I'm trying to pry open my creative psyche after slamming it shut in the fall. It is going okay so far. It is interesting to see the kind of poetry I write when I am not in the mood. I wrote one about Britney Spears on the first day. *shudder*

4. I'm still not the "cool" kid. I still don't have a clue how to pick a table when I go to lunch with hundreds of other people. It felt really awkward in a way that didn't really get better when I added alcohol. Add to that the Mercury Retrograde (more below), and I was really below par on my communication skills. I did meet some amazing writers. I really hope I will get to read their books one day. I also met some people even more misanthropic than myself.

5. Mercury Retrogrades suck ass. If my newspaper horoscope says I'm likely to get hit by a falling piano, I wouldn't let that stop me from leaving the house. But I believe in Mercury Retrogrades. The idea is that Mercury is the planet that rules communication, so when it retrogrades, wires invariably get crossed if not outright short-circuited. I have never had so many social plans go up in smoke. As a result, I had some good phone conversations, but trying to see my friends face-to-face was just impossible.

6. I wasn't my usual gregarious self due to the flu. There were long stretches where I didn't want to talk to anyone, so I sat in the back of my classes and sucked cough drops. I felt all funny and self-conscious, and to be honest, rather sorry for myself. Then I was feeling self-conscious about my "rejected writer" thing, because I worried that other people would worry that it was catching. Putting it mildly, I was better off sweating it out in my lavish marble bathtub than reading at the open mics. I read anyway, and got nice (and useful) feedback. At least I think it was nice, I was coughing too hard to hear most of it.

7. I got a new idea. In order to write this next idea, I need to compile some expertise or understanding of the works of Dante (the Divine Comedy) and firefighters. I think firefighters might be hard to write well about, since portrayals of them in movies tend to lack depth. But it occurred to me on the drive home that my protagonist (a man this time!) needs to have that for a job. I also need to watch the Showtime series "Dead Like Me" and a few pre-biblical references to make sure I'm not re-treading someone else's idea.

8. I got a new book. Writing the Breakout Novel by Don Maass. I heard this guy speak and had to run downstairs to buy his book on the spot. I was not alone in doing so. I also bought the companion workbook. I really feel that I need to work on the craft of writing in a more disciplined way. I want to dig deeper and get better at this. This guy's talk was what triggered my new idea. I may work on the other things I have on the back burner, but I want to see what I can do starting from scratch with a new perspective. I almost feel like I need to start with short stories before I work up to novel level again.

9. Dim Sum rules. Can't get it in Reno. I walked into Chinatown and found the place with zero white people in it and ordered up some bliss in dumpling form. The patrons and staff were all looking at me like I'd lost my way. My server asked me if I wanted a fork, and even though I said no thanks, she brought me one anyway. I refused to use it. Everyone was starting without trying to look like it to see if I would pick the fork up. No dice. It might have been the only fork the restaurant had, like in a glass case in the back on the wall. The sign next to it saying "In case of Caucasian, break glass."

10. I saw my old lover's apartment.
By some strange twist of fate, my mother is renting an apartment (for a short term) in the apartment complex where Iceberg lived when I was dating him, about 14 years ago. It gave me strange flashbacks. Not long ago I could have called him and had a laugh about it, but we have had a falling out. Therefore the memory infusion was as annoying as having a splinter under your fingernail.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

40 Poems in 40 days

I just got back from the 2008 San Francisco Writers' Conference. I plan to put up a full update of it tomorrow, but for now I am throwing down a gauntlet.

For lots of reasons, but chiefly to take my poetry more seriously, I intend to write 40 poems in the next 40 days. The theory is that it will help me be more artistically observant of the world around me. I'll post some of the best ones and we can deconstruct them or revise them. Or just make fun of how facile I can be when I am writing on a deadline.

I'm starting tomorrow, 2-18-08. Anybody else want to try it?

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Define Success

What the heck is success, anyway? If I look at my life from one angle, I feel like I am doing great. Tip things to the side a little and I topple off the mountain and find myself wallowing at the nadir of the achievement scale.

If you look at the American Dream, it is all about getting enough money to say "fuck you" to your boss or your ex or whomever you would like to bid permanent goodbye to, so long as you are so rich that they regret ever holding your down.

An alternate to the pile of cash is the smokin' hot ass. If you get the big makeover so that your old lovers all kick themselves for dumping you, then you have got something pretty special.

I'm not rich, but things are a little better than they were. I'm not hot and young and skinny, but I am not without my charms in the looks department. I do have some good things. Since I did a whole post on what I need, why not do one on the things I have?

1. Friends. I have lost a few, or had to redefine a few in the last couple of years. But I have very good friends whom I adore. I am wealthy in the friends arena.

2. Family. I have a big family that is really supportive and interested in my new little girl. Not everyone in my family is easy to get along with, but I run with a pretty fierce pack. They taught me how to roar.

3. Husband. We are nearing our 13th anniversary. Tony is still my best friend, and he is one hell of a good dad. We have a funny little romance after all these years.

4. Job. Oh man, do I ever bitch about my job. But the honest truth is that I have been there a while and I have a lot of vacation time on the books, even after taking almost a month off when A moved in.

5. A little girl to love. A rocks my socks. I adore her completely. We have our challenges, but she's a tough little kid. I want good things for her, and I may be uniquely suited to teach her to survive what's ahead.

6. A brain. I might not be the smartest person I know, but I do pretty well. I need to keep going with school, because getting good grades helps my self-image.

7. Strength. I persevere. That's my thing. Even if some things make me panic at first, I can usually suck it up and press on. How British of me.

8. Artistic. I'm a little wobbly on this one right now. But writing helps me be who I am.

Considering where I came from and some of the things I have been through in my life, these are some pretty damn good things. I'm trying to define my success by my functionality as much as anything else. That I am not a raving lunatic drooling into my strait-jacket is going to have to be good enough some days. There are other ways, mentioned above, that I would like to succeed. I'd love to be bikini-ready and lolling about on a pile of Benjamins. Wouldn't anyone? I might have to settle for, you know, mostly sane.

Comparing myself to other people will just bring me down. I'm lucky my friends are motivated and talented and brilliant, because it keeps me striving. But as much as I would like to have the body of one and the brains of another, I'm not a franken-girl. I am me, exactly the way I am supposed to be. Some days that is pretty good stuff.

Friday, February 8, 2008

What I need

As a 39 year old new mother, it is pretty safe to say that I have special needs. Combining new parent insomnia with peri-menopausal symptoms and graying hair would be enough to drive anyone batty. Trying to smear differrent creams on my nascent crow's feet and potty training a recalcitrant toddler just don't go together. How am I supposed to conduct my midlife crisis properly under these conditions?

People who care about my already delicate mental health keep asking me what I need. Other than a pile of cash and about 6 more hours of waking life and 12 more hours of sleep, I never know what to say. So here is my semi-serious list of things I need. Some are practical and some are more existential.

1. Dinner. I know as a former chef, everyone thinks I have the nightly dinner thing all wrapped up. Not so. I need a freezer full of casseroles or recipes of stuff to put into my crockpot or something. What A needs right now is me spending time with her, not me shooing her out of the kitchen so I can prepare some gourmet thing she probably won't eat anyway.

2. A cocktail. Or more specifically, the stars-in-alignment situation where I have a babysitter and friends that want to go out on the same night. I'd also like to have that cocktail in a bar that is not choked with smoke. Gah. Reno is so backwards on the chain-smoking bar thing. It is so gross.

3. A time turner. Yeah, I know they are only in the Potterverse, but I just want time to read a dang novel in peace. Or write one. Or whatever. Other Potter-related things I need: A spell that can give me shiny, bouncy hair.

4. A clean house. I just can't seem to get anywhere close to pre-child levels of housekeeping. I try, but again, A needs my attention more than the dust bunnies do.

5. A fine romance. Tony who? My poor husband I are still adjusting to the lack of privacy/lack of babysitters/lack of conversations that don't involve toddler issues. I miss him.

6. A massage. Or ten massages.

7. A jogging stroller or bike trailer that will convey my almost 40 pound kid. I always wondered why people don't just let their kids walk. Then I tried to cross a mall parking lot with mine, and it took forever! I don't need a stroller for the mall, but I need to get some fresh air and exercise. I can't burn calories at the rate that A can stroll, even if she runs beside me.

8. Cognitive Therapy. This is to control the negative self talk that makes me feel like a failure even though I do all the things I do. I need a therapist like that guy in the Metellica movie "Some Kind of Monster", only without the Cosby sweaters and vampiric hanging-on. Realistically, cognitve therapy costs about $85 an hour, not counting babysitting.

9. A room of my own. Or whatever it was that Virginia Woolfe says I need to be a writer of any small measure of success. I need to get in a groove so that I can still write things other than this blog. I'm mostly talking to myself here anyway. Hello? (listens for echo)

10. A good tailor. Seriously. Tony needs some pants hemmed and I just plain suck at sewing.


Saturday, February 2, 2008

The Cheerful Chapeau


I had a pretty crappy day Friday, so crappy in fact that I don't even want to go into my feelings about it to write it down.

One of the things I had to do was take A for a visit with her bio-dad, which means that I have an hour to myself downtown. I walked to my favorite coffee house, the one where that cute boy flirted with me. I think the cute boy has moved on, because I haven't seen him on subsequent visits.

It was bitterly cold outside, so even though it didn't match my coat, I was wearing a pink fleece beanie hat sort of like the one pictured above, but with little embroidered snowflakes on it.

Another scruffy-looking, blue eyed, dark haired boy was working that day. This place seems to employ a number of them. I ordered the usual, a medium sugar-free hazelnut latte.

He asked me how my day was going, and I was having such a bad one that I was prepared to lie and say I was doing great, because telling the truth, even a little, would have caused me to leak from the eyes in public. He then smiled at me and said "You must be having a great day. What else could you do with such a great hat?"

I had to smile. There I was, feeling about as low as I could be, and some angelic person came along to lift me up just a little. I wouldn't be shocked if I never see that kid again. It was almost like he was placed in my path to keep me from feeling morose when I needed all the strength I could muster. I'm always grateful when that happens, because to me it means that I still have the power to see spiritual forces at work in my life.

When I was done with my coffee I walked back to the county office to pick up A. Her father chose to get confrontational with me and said some hostile and emotionally blackmailing things. I managed to draw myself to my full height (5'3") and held my ground without resorting to saying all the things I was thinking. He is still almost a full foot taller than me, and has a criminal record that includes violence, but I set my jaw and showed him that I wasn't the marshmallow that he thought I was. I doubt it made an impression, but I guess I needed to do that for my own good. Being afraid of him will get me nowhere, and it doesn't help me assist A in sorting out her feelings about him later in life.

After I reported his inappropriate conduct to A's caseworker, I felt pretty shaky and upset, but I jammed that cheerful chapeau on my head and pressed on. I'm always going to have a fondness for that hat now. It has angel-attracting properties.