Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Making A Masterpiece

Inspired by Van Gogh's "Starry Night" over the weekend, I've been wondering if we writers can paint our craft.

Can we add texture--thin in places, sparse in others--evoking an idea, a question, a feeling?
Can we make the story shine--the blues, the golds--in contrasting, then in blended elements?
Can we combine techniques that have been used before us, adding our own layer to the depth?
Will each detail, like brush strokes, add to the whole concept?
Can we reach wide appeal, but speak intimately to our reader? And when she finishes the last word, will she be breathless?
Will our work be remembered?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

My friends! My friends!

Tell me of your holiday!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Is Over...And Just Beginning

Our Christmas was teeny. There was an advent calendar, some stockings, and the "tree" was a five-inch-tall manzanita twig stuck in a vase and draped with ribbons. I spent around $30 on each kid: an owl wallet stuffed with local coffee cards for Daney, a duffel bag with fishing lures in it for Dominic, and a fire fighter Lego bin with a Star Wars action figure for Rees.

My aunt Mary had sent the kids lovely things: books, music, Legoes, hiking boots.

After everything was all opened, we went on a walk and played games.

That was Tuesday. So Christmas is over.


Tonight we'll be at my dad's near Sacramento. And the family party there, well, it's hard to describe.

All I can say is that I spent more on the feathers for it than on the gifts I bought for my babies.

Stay tuned.

And have yourself the most joyful holiday!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Turtles in his Turnouts

At his annual fire fighter Christmas party this weekend, my good man won himself Fire Fighter of the Year! As Dave's chief spoke of his humility, his capability, his teamwork, Dave's knees shook under the table, and he turned all white. He's the kind who doesn't like to be in the spotlight, but was honored to receive this award that's voted on by all the guys in his district.

Throughout the sparkly, sugar-cookie night, many of Dave's fire brothers re-told their liveliest, silliest, bravest times with him. And a certain theme kept popping up: how my 6-foot-6, college athlete of a hunk had a soft spot for animals.

Of course, over the last decade, Dave's saved his share of cats from trees.

But there have also been the endangered white tigers that Dave stayed up all night to protect from a wildland fire, the old chihuahua whose smile twisted sideways when Dave scratched his back after a flue fire, the horses stuck in fences, in ditches.

A couple of summers ago, during a fire that burned 200 acres, a prize black rooster attacked Dave's legs, pecking at his big boots. And somehow, as he battled the flames, Dave refrained from kicking the rooster into the next county.

But nothing shows my man's heart like the turtles he shoved into the pockets of his turnouts as blazes raged around their pond. He let them crawl in the cab of the engine until the flames were out, then gathered them up again and put them back. And that, to me, is one heck of a hero.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Between What Rocks and A Soft Place -- Part I

I'm applying for two fellowships: to examine the history and nature of American consumerism at Bard Graduate College in New York City this July, and to the University of Hawaii for an interdisciplinary curriculum approach to integrating Southeast Asian cultures.

I mean, I think I'm applying. I'm collecting letters of recommendation, working with my department head to refine my scope of study. Dave even took off the whole month of July from the fire department, and in my dreams, my family comes out to wherever I am for the last couple weeks and flies me home.

But while I'm forming the research questions--How have the effects of material culture shaped the American class system, and how it has been/will be emulated globally? versus How have the collaboration and conflict of Southeast Asian cultures influenced/been influenced by America?--I'm watching Dominic color a map of the Great Lakes, and I'm asking a different question.

Should I even go?

My boy is thirteen, growing up every single day. What if I miss something really great when I'm gone? What if I miss something terrible?

Is this a selfish thing, going away to study, to stretch? Does it make me a bad mom? Or is it an opportunity I have to try to take? To show my kids that learning is important? Will I be better mom because of it?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Staying In

The best thing that's happened to me in weeks and weeks happened last night at 8.

I dyed my hair. Purple.

Purple was not the color on the box. That color was brown, natural, back-to-basics brown.

But the thirsty blonde highlights soaked up all the purple, and now my head looks like a grape Popsicle.

It's an easy fix, the Loreal hotline says: wash my hair twice a day until the purple fades away.

But I can't go out. Not like this.

So I've made a nice shepard's pie to take to the fire department. I've vacuumed, and wrapped Christmas gifts. I've sat in my room, thinking about how I need to be a more patient mom, about what I might bring to my dad's on Christmas, about how grateful I am to have a hardworking, kind, bright agent like Holly. About how beautifully Dominic's map of America is turning out. About how I'll revise my writing curriculum for winter. About what I might write next. About how I will finish Ape House today, and start Hunger Games tomorrow.

I've sat in my room with my purple head, and I've thought and breathed and cried because of how much I've missed that.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

That's My Boy

When Rees' homework went missing between home and school on Tuesday, he chose to re-do it.

We walked into his classroom together the next day, and with a trembling lip, he looked up at his teacher and asked, "I wondered if you would accept this extra work to make up for the homework I (supposedly) lost?"

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Big Wow!

It's over, this first term of the year, and my students wrote the best research papers, got the best grades I've seen in my teaching career.

Part of this is because of a program my community college is piloting: high school graduates with a 3.5 or higher GPA will have 75% of their tuition paid the first year, 100% the second.

So, the valedictorian from South Medford High School was one of my students, adding to the diversity of a college with 25% Hispanic students, ESL and GED programs, workforce training, first-generation college attendees, drug and alcohol recoverees, ranchers, second-career seekers, two-year degree earners, four-year degree hopefuls, unemployed.

She and her fellow Rogue Ambassadors brought a confidence to the classroom. Lively discussion flowed freely and respectfully, papers were structured and clear, speeches were poised and purposeful.

The class is hard, and (from what I've heard), I'm a tougher teacher. But this term, I entered more As into the computer system than ever before, and we celebrated with donuts and Diet Dr. Pepper and a silly class picture.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Solution

Yes, the Best Kids In The World have been absolutely terrible for going on three weeks now.

There's greed, fussing, fighting, eye-rolling, foot-stomping, under-breath-muttering, enormous mess.

So there's also been a lot of Dave and my sending the kids to their rooms, a lot of having them do jobs together, a lot of crying (from all of us).

This morning, I opened up a book Christy had given me a while ago: Mama Zen. I opened it up to a random page, and read: "Want your kids to be good? Then be good."

I almost cried (some more). It's so simple--being good--but I think I've forgotten that.

Today is a new page, though. A new opportunity. I will try. I will try to be good.