Still here

Two days later, and I’m still recovering from the weekend.  Going to the NJRW Conference every year reminds me how much fun slumber parties were when I was a kid except we didn’t knit then.  Laura and I stayed up way too late, knitting and BSing until all hours.  Even on Saturday night, when I felt myself drooping and dragged my butt off to bed, we stayed up late talking just because it was fun and we don’t get to do it that often.  It was a great time and I hope we get to do it again next year, but she’ll have a gorgeous little 8 month old baby girl at home by then, so who knows what the future holds.

The whole conference was just fantastic.  We got there on Thursday to be at the 3-hour Jennifer Crusie workshop on Friday morning.  I don’t remember having breakfast, other than an apple and a white mocha at the hotel’s Starbucks, and honestly, I didn’t even notice.  I still have the blister on my finger from writing page after page of notes but it was all great stuff.  As Robin said, “I worship at her altar.”  Ditto here. 

What I learned in the workshops whacked me upside the head that my manuscript needs serious revisions.  When I went into the agent pitch session on Saturday morning, I had to confess that I thought I was ready…until I learned what I learned in the workshops.  What I thought was finished is back to being a work-in-progress, but I have a deadline of November 16th (also the GH deadline) so I’m on it like white on rice. 

We passed up the dessert/dance party on Saturday night.  Laura’s expecting so she couldn’t drink and it’s been nearly 2 weeks since I gave up candy/sweets, which I’m finding must be similar to giving up alcohol.  Hi, I’m Carla and I’m a chocoholic; it’s been 2 weeks since my last Snickers bar.  (“Hi, Carla!”)  I know so well that I could slip and eat just one and I’ll be back to where I started so I don’t tempt myself.  At lunch on Saturday I ate the slice of strawberry off the chocolate cake and that was all.  When the waiter came around to clear the tables, I showed Laura the plate and said, “Tell John I did this,” and then I handed the waiter the still-full plate.  I can’t believe I did it, and every now and then I heard in my head, “If you get hit by a truck tomorrow, are you going to wish you’d eaten that?” but I’m already seeing results in the way my pants fit, and my ring is a little looser than it was, so no, I’m not sorry I passed up the sinfully rich chocolate cake.  I’m still surprised I did it, though; I really didn’t think I could. 

I think karma rewarded me on Sunday, because we went to AC Moore before we left NJ and they had 2 skeins of Magic Stripes in the clearance rack.  Before you yawn, Magic Stripes was discontinued a year or so ago; the only place to find it now is eBay (and maybe Etsy; I haven’t looked there).  I grabbed 2 $8 skeins of self-striping sock yarn for $2 apiece.  Yay me!  Just when I thought I’d socked out…

So now life is back to where it was.  Several people there were sick, and I’m starting to feel a head cold coming on.  I think I can dodge it, particularly since I’ve eaten a tree’s worth of apples these past 2 weeks.  (The only sweets I allow myself are fruits.) 

But man, that was a great weekend.  For 3 solid days I wasn’t Mom or Honey or “I need this done”.  I was me.  I dressed myself as I saw fit, I ate what I chose to eat, and I went where I wanted to go, not where I needed to be.  It doesn’t happen all that often.  Women don’t always get to be who they are, because they have to be who the people in their lives need them to be.  It’s nothing to whine about; it’s just a fact of life.  But once in a while we really need to get away from our responsibilities and rediscover our true selves.  Even if I hadn’t learned as much as I did about writing, that alone was worth the price of admission. 

BTW, Laura taught a workshop on Building a Web Presence, and she pointed out that if you start a blog, a) it should be relevant (who wants to read a writing blog about knitting?) and b) if you post once a month, it’s not a blog, it’s a newsletter.  Oops; guilty on both counts.  I’ll try to keep this as relevant as possible, particularly since NaNoWriMo is coming up on Sunday and I’m really going to give it a shot, even though I’m (technically) halfway done with my now-WIP; I won’t be writing a book, I’ll be rewriting one.  But as long as the writing keeps going, life is good.

Remind me write tomorrow about the restaurant on Saturday night, and the waiter/bartender, Alejandro.  🙂

Full Circle

When I was in third grade, I took an aptitude test to see if I’d do well in band.  I passed and chose to learn clarinet, but only because there were no flutes left.  Somewhere in the basement is the clarinet my parents bought for me for $100.  I still have it. 

I played in the school band from  fourth grade through eighth grade.  It doesn’t sound like much on paper but it was five very big years of my life.  The band was a clique all its own.  We even had special classes.  When everyone else took wood shop or home ec, we took typing.  Several times, because it was the only thing we could fit in around our band practice schedule.  It worked out because now I can type 100 words per minute, and for a while there I considered a career as a typing teacher.  We actually had one teacher at IS 61 dedicated just to teaching typing.  These days, that just doesn’t happen, and besides, modern-day kids are practically born knowing how to type.  RIP, Mavis Beacon.

Anyway, band was a big deal then.  We learned the basics with Miss Forsell in fourth grade and Mr. DeTaranto in fifth.  In middle school (aka Intermediate School) we had Mr. Laurenzano, a giant of a man with a booming voice that could span the Grand Canyon.  He scared the crap out of me.  There were actually two bands in middle school; there was concert band (us) and orchestra, which was for the kids who couldn’t cut concert band.  Think “Glee” with instruments.  And we were cool.  To this day I can see Willy Hakim on trumpet, Andrew Terjesen and Dawn Farley on trombone, Robert Powell and William Harding on drums.  There were some flute players too but I never quite got over getting shut out of that and I resented them with all my middle-school fury.  Heck, I had the fingers for it.  I could’ve been great at it. 

There were so many clarinets that we had 3 levels:  first row, second row, and third row.  I was third row, along with Rosemary Moser (my BFF) and Lisa Copeland.  I’ll confess right now, I wasn’t that good at it.  When I practiced at home–and trust me, my mother drilled it into me; I think it had something to do with the $100 they spent on the clarinet which, at the time, was a huge chunk of change–our dog, Shirley, would hide on the back porch and wail in pain for her poor ears.  Our poor neighbors couldn’t get away from it; they got misery in stereo.  I hit “clunkers” all the time in practice.  Play a woodwind instrument and you’ll know that ear-bleeding screech when the air doesn’t quite go in the right way.  I also hit clunkers in practice at school, but I tried my heart out.  

The best times were the concerts.  We’d all get dressed up, and we’d be scared out of our shoes that we’d screw up but we took our places anyway, read the sheet music, followed along when it was someone else’s turn, waited for our chance to play.  Man, we could wail.  We played some tough stuff, too.  Much as I love my son’s school, I’ve heard their middle school band; they struggle to play basic songs, and half the time the beat machine plays more than they do.  Us, we tackled the disco version of “Star Wars”.  We played pop music from our era, not our grandparents’.  But the best of all was Rocky. 

The movie came out in the middle 70’s, when we were in school.  I have no idea how Mr. L got the sheet music but he got it, and we played the sh*t out of it, let me tell you.  To this day, when the movie starts and that music cranks up, I get chills from my scalp to my toes, and my eyes well with tears because that, my friends, was one of the greatest moments in my life, when I belonged to something really, really good.  That was my Glory Days.  The staccato trumpets, the pounding drums, the fire and energy of putting everything we had into making that auditorium ROCK. 

And dammit, we did it. 

Eventually Mr. L realized I wasn’t cutting it and I got moved down to orchestra.  (There was that minor discipline incident where I put cork grease on Lisa Copeland’s chair.)  I hated every minute of orchestra.  We played lame classical music that meant nothing to me, and the teacher was as far opposite of Mr. L as any human being could be.  He was soft-spoken and low on discipline; he couldn’t get the orchestra organized if he used a bull whip, and it showed when we played.  I don’t even remember playing with them onstage.  I think I did, but if I could’ve played clarinet with a paper bag over my head, I would’ve done it.  At that point, I couldn’t get out of middle school fast enough.

I’m 42 and a mom of teenagers now, as you know.  Last night on the drive home from Variety, Alex and I fiddled with my iPod, and I remembered I have my “old” one.  It won’t update any more; it’s got corrupted software or something.  (Use the word “software” to me when I was a band geek and I would’ve given you the same blank look I gave most adults.)  But I figured maybe Alex would want to listen to it; there’s a playlist with songs I know he likes.  He was more than happy to take it, but what surprised me is that of the 900+ songs on it, he found a song on there that really caught his attention.  Last night, before I made him go to bed, he was playing “Gonna Fly Now” from the Rocky soundtrack.  The same song we played in band with the staccato trumpets and the thundering drums and the hard, sharp beats at the end that still raise the hairs on the back of my neck.  The song that still makes me remember how perfect life was when I was 12 and playing clarinet and belonging to something really, really good. 

The funny thing is that he’s playing that song all the time now.  He really likes it.  He even sings it.  I guess he gets that from me.

PS, I’m sitting in the dining room with the windows open as I type this.  It’s a gorgeous early fall evening, and the Eagles, our high school football team, are playing just a few blocks away.  The band is rocking on with “Rock & Roll Part 2”.  I guess they scored.  The Eagles’ band isn’t half bad.  🙂

This sounds a little like us , but this was the one that still gives me chills.  (It was a Rocky Medley we played.)  We had French horns and everything.  We didn’t use violins; our clarinet section played instead of violins, and We.  Were. Good.

And then there were two

Teenagers in the house, that is.  Today is Alex’s 13th birthday.  I console myself at the thought that my youngest child is now 13 years old by remembering when Ryan graduated from elementary school and my mom put her arm around me and told everyone, “My baby’s going to be 40 next year.”  Yeah, that made me feel SO good when I was just 3 months past my 39th birthday. 

But now my baby is turning 13.  I remember where I was 13 years ago, pissed and upset that my OB called for another induction.  I wanted to go naturally, like all those cute movies and TV shows, but I never got the chance.  I also hadn’t found out if it was a boy or a girl.  I’d hoped for a girl but, well…at this point I guess it’s okay.  I wouldn’t know what to do with a girl anyway.  Our house is all Pokemon and Nerf and scooters.  Barbie?  Who’s Barbie?

Bringing Alex into the world was fun.  The anesthesiologist knew what he was doing and my epidural worked JUST fine, thank you.  (FYI to expectant moms out there:  they don’t give awards for delivering without drugs, so take the epidural; you can thank me later.)  Ryan’s didn’t, so I was pleasantly surprised this time.  You could’ve jammed a fork in my leg and I wouldn’t have noticed.  I sat on the phone, chatting with friends, like nothing else was going on.  At one point the OB came in and told me I was having a contraction.  That was a surprise to me. 

Midway through, the nurse told me the “baby is in distress”.  I had no idea what was going on, but I was told to lie on my left side and they gave me oxygen.  I’ll probably never know if that had any impact on Alex. 

Things settled out, and I turned the Yankee game on TV.  They were playing the Texas Rangers and my OB came in to watch with me.  They were behind by 3 runs, bottom of the 9th, two men on, two out, with Bernie Williams at the plate.  I told my OB, “If he hits a home run, I’m naming this kid Bernie.”  I don’t think of Alex as Bernie, but I ought to.  I owe Bernie for that homer that night.  (I took Alex to a Yankees/Phillies game one night, and Bernie patrolled right field, right in front of us.  I tried to tell Alex the story but he didn’t understand, nor did it make sense to him why I cried when all the Yankee fans around chanted, “Bernie!  Bernie!  Bernie!” 

The game went into extra innings but around 10:45 someone noticed that I was fully dilated.  Again, I had no idea.  My OB scrubbed up, telling me, “How long did you push the last time?”  “Two hours,” I told him.  “You know how long you’re going to push this time?” he asked.  “No,” I said.  “Five minutes.”

After the prep work was over, Alex arrived at exactly 11:00 p.m. on October 2nd, just one hour shy of his due date.  I’ll never forgot when Alex’s head arrived, and the OB told me, “Put your hands here,” and I did what he told me.  I felt warm, soft, slimy…something, I wasn’t quite sure, but he guided my hands under Alex’s arms, and I got to be the one to pull him the rest of the way out.  He landed on my chest and we met each other face to face for the first time.  He was so small…and so vocal.  The kid had lungs on him, even then.  The nurse wrapped him in towels and I asked what it was, and they told me, “It’s a boy!”  The nurse asked, “What’re you naming him?” and I proudly said, “Alexander!” 

He was such a good baby.  Compared to Ryan, who was very clingy and demanding, Alex just LOVED his morning bath and being wrapped up in his favorite blanket, which I still have today; a green and yellow afghan I crocheted in Coordinates yarn.  (Holy cow, that stuff is like silk after you wash it.)  I’d give him his breakfast, wrap him up, put him in the carriage we used for a crib, and go get myself something to eat.  By the time I came back to the living room, he was sound asleep.  I often wonder if I should’ve noticed his autism earlier, considering how he much preferred being clean to being dirty.  Probably even then, his sensory issues told him he didn’t like the feel of ick on his skin. 

But now he’s a teenager and I have to remind him to take a shower and brush his teeth and put his scooter away.  He’s taller than I am and he has a deep voice and before too long, I’m going to have to teach him about shaving.  Oy.

He’s SO excited about today.  October is his favorite month because on one end there’s his birthday, and on the other end there’s Halloween.  Christmas isn’t far away, either.  He still gets excited about this stuff, but hey, he’s still a kid.  I can’t even pretend anymore, though, that he’s my baby.  I can’t mentally see him as that tiny little gooey ball, squirming around on my chest 13 years ago today.  There are pictures to prove it, but he’s a teen now.  He’s very close to being a young man. 

He’s not getting married any time soon, but this song just says it all. 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ALEX!!!!