Time Travel – Dinosaurs Not Needed

Over spring break, my daughter went to Broadway on a field trip, my husband took my son fishing on the coast, and I stayed home. I got the best deal of them all.

It’s been fifteen years since I’ve been alone in my own home. I’m talking overnight-alone. What wonder, what joy, what freedom. No interruptions. Let me repeat, no interruptions. All of you who share a house know the beauty of this gift. It reminded me of the days when I was single. No one to care for. No one to take into consideration. Dinner consisted of Grape Nuts.

It was a lovely trip back in time. Not a place I’d want to stay, but so enjoyable for a few days. This got me thinking. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there were time travel? I’m not talking about hanging out with Abraham Lincoln or telling off the guy that broke your heart. Just a day to go back for a taste of something special.

  • Nursing my baby in the middle of the night. Hearing his contented sigh when he was done.
  • Falling in love with my husband, feeling my chest explode with joy when he walked into the room.
  • Sailing with my best friend in high school, talking about boys and all the adventures that were ahead of us.
  • Living the life with my husband when we were DINKs and could be as spontaneous as we wanted.

But alas, there is no time travel. Just memories and photos that make up what we have now. And despite the lack of privacy and single income, the kids that claim we’ve ruined their lives, and the challenges a couple faces in twenty-some years of marriage, the here and now is pretty damn good.

Now if I could only convince my family that Grape Nuts is the best dinner ever.

 

 

Look Out, They’re Coming

And I couldn’t be happier. I’m talking about future writers. I was working in a third-grade class today. They were reading a story, and the teacher stopped and asked the class to describe how the author was showing, not telling. No Way! We buy books and attend courses to learn this stuff. Third-graders are taking it in along with their multiplication facts and reading comprehension.

Now some of you younger ones may be thinking, “Poor old thing. They’ve been teaching that for years.” Maybe. I just know in 1974, in Decatur, Illinois, we were learning about subjects and predicates. I think Haiku was as creative as we got. Today, classroom walls are covered with laminated “bubbles” that describe point of view, tense, alliteration, symbolism, and on and on. Writing journals are as common as glue sticks and scissors.

And folks, it’s starting way before third. Kids are publishing books in first grade. The subject matter is often “What I Did This Summer,” but they storyboard, write a draft, go through revisions with an editor (their teacher) and then publish, which means they put their story in a construction paper jacket and get to color the pages. The best part—they get to read it to the class.

Now that’s not to say everyone will be a writer. It’s just like reading, some kids love it, others don’t. The lovers of the word are the ones that fill up four pages in their writing journals when they were only required to write one. They’re the ones that ask, “When I get my work done, can I write in my journal?”

Then there are those who haven’t yet discovered the magic of writing. They’re the ones that moan when I tell them to get out their journals. They come up to me repeatedly and ask if they have to fill the whole page. So on those occasions, like any good sub, I pull something out of my hat.

“Okay class, you and your family just moved into an old house. On the first night, you hear a strange sound coming from the basement. You sneak downstairs and walk to the basement door. Now what do you do?” I hear the “oohs” and “cools” and know there’s hope. My little writers sweep their pencils across the page. Even the students who were whining just minutes before lift their pencils and put them to the paper. Ah, success.

A few minutes later, a girl raises her hand and tells me she’s done. I walk over to read what she’s written. The page is empty except for one line:

“I would go back to bed.”

Oh well, the world will always need accountants.

“I Shouldn’t Do This”

The thought thundered in my head last Saturday. I was with my kids at PetSmart. Yeah, that’s a red flag right there.

We were selecting a gerbil (small rat) and a miniature hamster (cute hat pin). My internal chant wouldn’t stop, but I continued moving forward, helping the kids pick out treats and bedding and wheels and cages and food and every other thing PetSmart can get out of you to support a creature that most people kill with a fifty-cent trap.

So why did I ignore the wise voice? I was trapped. This summer, my kids put together a power point and presented all the reasons why they should get the aforementioned rodents. They spoke of their desire to take on more responsibilities, promising to pay for the “pets” and take care of all their needs. Loved their persuasive skills, especially the sucking up that occurred immediately before and after.

My husband and I talked it over. It wasn’t totally out of the question. After all, it would be good for the kids to care for a living creature. We told them we’d consider it (translated: “I-doubt-it-but-I-don’t-want-to-hear-your-whining.”) The kids continued their pitch. They even completed the financial report I requested, showing how they could afford not just the pets, but all the other necessities. Even though it looked as if it might take months of saving, they were fired up. Crap! Now what? They had to prove they could handle school and their current chores for a five-week period. Surely, they’d forget by then.

My plan was working. The idea would come up every now and then, but neither had made an effort to save the money. Then their birthdays came, and their generous grandmother sent them nice, hefty checks. No more stalling, it was time to deliver.

So as we checked out at PetSmart, I decided to bury my voice of warning. I peeked at my son’s hamster with its long, black tail, and Michael Jackson’s “Ben” started playing in my head. Didn’t the rat kill someone in that movie?

 

“Have a Good Time!”

Just dropped my fourteen-year-old at the airport. She’s off to southern California to spend a week with her aunt who will no doubt spoil her rotten. She’s been excited for three weeks. Today, I put an end to all that.

In my story, “Sail Away,” my heroine is a worrywart who stresses about everything that could possibly happen to her children. I thought I’d based the character on my mother. Seems my lead may be a little closer to home.

I told my daughter all the usuals: stay in the terminal; don’t use the stairs; if you get lost, go to a ticketing agent. But then I couldn’t stop. Kind of like Twizzlers. If I taste just one, I have to eat the whole package.

My primary focus – abduction. Now the airport is probably the safest place as far as protected boundaries, but there are exits. I told my daughter that if anyone should stick something in her side and tell her to not make a sound, she should scream “Bomb!” I figure in an airport, that would grab the most attention. (If someone accidently bumps into her, and DFW is locked down for the day, please forgive me.)

Then I went on to explain why she’d have a better chance of surviving a gun or knife wound than being taken away in a car to a distant location. As fear replaced the excitement in her eyes, I realized I might have gone too far, so I switched back to “Happy Mom.” I took a picture of her, much like the first day of school. After all, this was her first solo flight without the assistance of an airline rep. I didn’t mention it would be good to have a picture of her in what she was last wearing if we had to do an Amber Alert.

In the security line, I made a point to focus on all the fun she’d have. When we parted, I left a happy girl. She looked so grown-up with her beautiful smile, long, blonde hair and way too perfect body. I couldn’t help but call out:

“If anyone offers to show you the cockpit, slap his face and run away.”

“To Dream The Impossible Dream”

From time to time (weekly), I get overwhelmed with everything I need and want to accomplish. After a day of depression and a bag of Doritos, I usually pull myself up and create a plan that will fix EVERYTHING. A plan that will right all wrongs in my life, my family’s, maybe even the world.

 This week’s plan is my best ever. I’ll accomplish the following every day:

  • Three hours writing my manuscript
  • One hour working on other aspects of writing (I guess you’re expected to blog more than once per month)
  • One hour studying the craft of writing (I’ll read every book on the subject)
  • One hour exercising
  • Two hours taking care of the house

 If I get up at 7:30 and ignore my children, I can get all of this done by 3:30, and then put on my “World’s Best Wife and Mother” hat and make Carol Brady look like a crack whore.

It’s important to set goals, but I have a problem with the perfectionist that lives deep in my psyche. (Of course, if you saw my kitchen floor, you could argue she’s dead.) God bless her. She’s full of good intentions, but inevitably she leads me down the path of failure. It’s the all or nothing concept that gets me every time.

Exhibit A: My Weight Watchers experience. Wanted to lose five pounds. Should’ve just started walking daily, but no, I was going to do it the right way. First day, no problem, stuck to my 20-some points. Next day by 10 am, I’d consumed half my points for the day, and I was still starving. Did I give myself a break and say, “Hey, let’s ease into this. Give yourself some extra points today.” No. I pulled out my son’s birthday cake and went to town. After all, if you can’t do it right, why even bother? Two-hundred and fifty-seven points later, I accepted the Weight Watchers thing wasn’t for me.

So how’s it going with this week’s plan? I slept until 8:30. The whole day’s ruined.

Accepting Your God-Given Talents

Or Lack Thereof

Welcome to my blog. Do you like it? I hope so, because it cost A LOT. No, not in currency, but in the aging process. In thirty-six hours, this baby took about four years off my life.

A few days ago, I started what was supposed to be the easy process of developing a blog/website. WordPress has a user-friendly guide. Fellow writers were generous with answers to my questions. A nice man in the Philippines even gave me permission to use his photos. (Not the pinecone.) Yet it still turned out to be one of the most agonizing experiences of recent months. I’m not even sure I can explain why, but maybe the following will shed some light on my emotional state during the process:

  • I consumed ¾ of a rum cake in under two hours.
  • I channeled a vicious beast that knew every foul word ever created by man.
  • I progressed from cursing to whining, then crying, then retching.
  • I considered taking the codeine that’s been in my medicine cabinet since my C-section eleven years ago.
  • My husband called my mother for advice.

What could cause this? Maybe it’s the fact that it took me four attempts to set up a standard “Contact Me” page or that I ended up with seven “Bio” pages when I thought I’d only created one. Perhaps it’s not knowing what CSS is, and not really wanting to find out. Whatever the reason, the nightmare taught me a great truth:

Web design is not my God-given talent.

Now don’t say, “Oh, she just doesn’t want to work at it.” I’m not afraid of work. All talents must be honed, and that’s not accomplished overnight. I’m a writer. It’s a continual learning process. There are days when the magic flows through my fingers, and then there are the times when I struggle with one paragraph. But when I step away from my efforts, I feel a great sense of accomplishment. I’m fired up. I don’t feel like I’ve just escaped a Turkish prison (see web design).

We’ve all been blessed with talents. Embrace yours. Use every one of them. Then hire someone to handle the rest. And don’t feel guilty about it. Look at it this way – you’re encouraging their growth and helping the economy.

 

Copyright © 2011 Chris Campillo. All Rights Reserved.