Thursday, May 29, 2008

Hero Worship gets you Nowhere

Some people have more talent in their Underwood-worn little pinkies than I have in my whole fevered form. If you don't know, the above photo is of Harlan Ellison, and he's my favorite author. He's twisted, he's cranky, and he's brilliant. He doesn't play it safe; he thinks that writers who do are hacks.

This sits in sharp contrast to the smooth marketing speak that I was exposed to at the last writers' conference I went to. I don't know if the presenters meant to portray the writing profession as a slick, form over substance exercise in polite public masturbation, but now that I think of it, I think Harlan Ellison would disapprove.

I don't know what he would think, of course. I would be way to terrified to ask him. He's actually friendly with my cousin, but I would possibly literally pee my pants if I met him. I certainly wouldn't want to talk about my writing, but I would love to hear him talk about his.

All I know is that the climate in the "publishing business" makes me pretty ill. I got, for a dizzy, vertiginous moment, a perspective on just how many people write, or aspire to write fiction, and just how few of them will publish. The reasons for why they don't publish vary as often as the capricious moods of a public that would rather watch "American Idol" than read a book most of the time.

I totally fear being a hack. I don't want to play it safe. I'm trying to get fired up to work on my newest idea, and I'm bitterly ashamed how easily I get sidetracked. Being a new parent has robbed me of my sleep, as well as whatever free time I used to write that last deformed manuscript that feels beyond the reach of reform as it is. I'm exhausted, and to be honest I am feeling a little sorry for myself.

I think I need to go back and re-read some of my favorite Harlan Ellison and re-focus on the kinds of stories that make me want to write in the first place. Those civilized hotel convention lunches with their well-intentioned keynote speakers are not going to cut it, I'm afraid. I need to reach out and find the dangerous, bleeding edge of what I am willing to say and then lean on it hard. It needs to hurt more to not write; I need to be able to soothe myself with climbing word counts more than the opiate feed coming out of the "glass teat". I need to stop whimpering and really suffer if I stop creating things, even if they are malformed and not marketable. I need make cranky work for me.

I really hope I can meet Harlan Ellison one of these days. But more than that, I'd like to have the frame of mind that would make me at least an entertaining dinner guest for him. No, fuck that. I'd like to actually be able to enjoy meeting him and not be thinking that I sound insipid. I'd actually like to have a good time and not give a crap what he thinks of me. I'd like to feel that way about a lot of people.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Could you suffer in silence, please?

I have secrets now. I guess everybody does. Only these secrets are ones I would rather unburden myself about, but can't because of confidentiality constraints. But if I had no scruples at all and felt like risking my entire life's destruction, I could tell some tales, boy howdy.

Right now there are hundreds of thousands of children in Foster Care in the U.S. I don't have current figures, and almost don't want to look them up. It is just too grim. What I do know is that the courts are set up so strange that navigating the issues that Little A has just about make me insane, and we are far from being done with it.

With all the kids that are in foster care, there is a really desperate need for more foster parents to care for them. But would I ever recommend that a friend do this? Probably not. Not unless I was really mad at that friend and wanted to see them suffer. There is no court advocate for foster parents' interests. If you are lucky, your goals and the county's coincide. Right now that seems to be the case with us, but that could always change and we could be asked to do things we would rather not do.

I have heard horror stories about foster parents being abused or their opinions discounted outright. Who would sign up for that? It almost has to be a calling, and many of the people I have met have had some kind of faith community that supported then during the rough patches. Alas, I don't really have that, but it would be handy to think that God has a plan on days when it seems that the earthly forces at work are confused and delayed and at cross-purposes.

I tried to guard my heart, but I'm totally attached to this little kid. It took about an hour and I was already sunk. She really deserves no less, but it makes it so much harder for me to maintain my professional demeanor and face the still viable possibility that she could be reunified with her family of origin. That is supposed to be a good thing, and can be if the family can get it together. Currently that is not her legal plan, but that could change pretty easily.

In the meantime, I have to love her like I will never lose her. I'm not brave or noble. I love her fiercely. I have never had so much of my future on the line. If we lose her we go back to being childless, which seems impossible now that we have integrated her laughter, her tears, and even her laundry into our lives. Even picturing her bedroom empty for more than ten seconds makes me physically ill.

In any case, my life is being forever altered on a daily basis, and I have to keep my mouth shut about it. The petty little details and things that annoy me and even the things that make all of this worth it are all under the table. I hope I can talk about it openly someday, because holding it in sometimes really hurts. I worry, and in the vacuum of my own head, the echo chamber gets a little out of hand.

So, should you be a foster parent? May is Foster Parent Awareness month. I can't answer whether anyone else should do this. All I know is that as long as we are all contractually obligated to do whatever we do in silent forbearance, the media makes up whatever they want. All people hear are the horror stories about "those kind" of foster parents. You know the ones: they grab headlines for further abusing the delicate lives in their care. They eat steak and give the kids hot dogs. The dress the kids poorly. They end up representing all of us, because the good foster parents are the silent ones. We are the invisible parents (or ersatz babysitters on the bad days) that care for some wonderful kids whose parents have made some less-than-beneficial choices.

I'm a foster parent, and this isn't my story. My story is in the details, in the small gestures, in the way Little A feels about me when I give her reasons to trust me. Trust me, it is a pretty good story sometimes. Maybe someday, if she still has me in her life, she can tell you. I can only hope in the meantime that I am giving her the means to tell it with a measure of pride.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Gay marriage ban overturned in California

There are lots of stories all over the AP wire today about the ins and outs of the decision that came down today in California. I'm not even going to attempt political discourse on this topic, but just want to say that I'm pleased. At least for now. Conservatives are bound to get all whipped into a frenzy over this, perhaps especially closeted gay Republicans like Larry Craig. There is already a voter-led ban headed for the November ballot that could undo today's ruling. We are sure to hear more about this issue going into the presidential race, too.
I mean, we really need to worry about gays and lesbians wanting to form their own family units SO much more than the war or the economy, right? I mean come on, if we are in Great Depression 2.0, and you can't afford to buy bread, are you gonna care if Adam and Steve are making honest men out of each other? Or will you donate your sugar rations so they can have a proper cake, and maybe the'll save you a slice? We need more things to celebrate, in my opinion, and fewer things to lament.
I'm already married (to a dude! how retro of me!), but I wish I had a cute girlfriend to celebrate today with. Life is complicated enough without having the whole world hate you just because you love someone they don't approve of. Marriage is hard, too. If same-gender folks want to jump into the lifetime committment game, why not let them have all the benefits and burdens that entails?
People get all exercised about "the children" in these scenarios. Honestly, kids just need love and stability. I sincerely doubt they care who they get it from.
I can think of a few straight marriages that do more damage to the "institution" of marriage than any of my gay friends ever could. I don't need to name names, but let's just say that when K-Fed is the more responsible parent, the world is already topsy-turvy.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Hope in tiny seed form

In a fit of what can only be called optimism, I sowed a few pots of mixed flower seeds for my container garden. Now, I don't have much time for gardening, and it shows by how lame my yard looks, but I really hope I get some flowers out of this.
And it occured to me that it was the first time in a while that I really just hoped for something. I spend so much time trying to be realisic about my life that I don't allow much time for simply hoping for the best.
I'll post photos if I get anything. Damn this desert! If I still lived in Ohio, they would be sure to sprout, but it isn't worth living there for just that.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

I'm ok, you're imaginary

In a funny way, I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of Little A's first imaginary friend. I want to have that in common with her. When I was a little girl, my mother tells me that I was often deep in conversation with mine, but that she now cannot remember what his name was. I don't even know if she knew he was male, but that is my sense of it.

The most imaginative play A engages in is when she gets into conversations on her play cell phone. They sound like very businesslike exchanges. When will she invite that person over to play? I'll even make the tea cookies.