Thursday, August 30, 2007

A Writer's Notebook

Tomorrow I am taking my son to choose his writer's notebook. It was on the list of school supplies with a note that it should not be purchased until after school started.

I was lucky enough to be in the classroom during one of the discussions of what a writer's notebook is. The class read the book A Writer's Notebook by Ralph Fletcher and discussed what they wanted from a writer's notebook and how they could use it. As a class, they developed a list and finally sent home word that it was time to find the perfect writer's notebook.

This is tremendously exciting for me. I have already scoped out notebooks in Barnes & Noble, The Happy Bookseller, Staples & Target. There is one in Barnes & Noble that I think he might like --- it is yellow with stylized red dragons. If he doesn't like it, we'll keep looking. This is a major undertaking, like a first bra or a wedding dress, neither one of which I will never have to purchase for my sons (I don't suppose.)

I have several notebooks myself, and also buy new ones just because. There is one huge faux leather volume that had lots of potential, but got set aside in the bustle of moving to a new house. I had envisioned a journal supplemented with stories, photos, recipes, drawings, pressed flowers and other souvenirs. I can see it bulging with feathers and clippings between beautifully written vignettes and memories. A memory journal to pass to my children.

Most of my journals are more mundane. They are spiral notebooks purchased at the grocery store. They start: "I now weigh ____ lbs. This time I REALLY AM GOING TO LOSE WEIGHT." The earlier and later ones go on, I really can't put up with my mother one more minute, which of course, was not true. The very early ones had a list of everyone, real and imagined, I was in love with. Some have poems, some have bits of stories I planned to write. Some include stories I did write. But few lasted more than a few pages before they were put aside and forgotten.

Maybe I'll pull out my faux leather memory book and start my own "writer's notebook" as Mark begins his. Maybe I'll write things I want to think about later. Things I will end up writing about here or in a more private e-mail. Things that may grow feathers and fly away.

Won't that be fun? Mother and son writing notebooks. I am sooo excited!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

What's love got to do with it?

Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It is not rude, it is not self-seeking.
It is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.
I Corinthians 13:4-8

A truism.

How many times have I heard this in a wedding ceremony? How many times have I said Paul is really not my favorite apostle. And yet, these are true important words representing true important ideas, not just for romantic couples but for friends and families as well.

I have been thinking about the nature of love. Love. Not obsession. Not approval. Not affection. True, unconditional love.

I love my children, my husband, my extended family, and my friends in a way that will never end, no matter what they do. (Don't take that as a challenge, please. I'm being a little rhetorical here.) I may not be happy with some choices, but I love the people. I respect them and their right to make their choices even if they are different than mine. I probably wouldn't like them so much if they didn't make their own choices. But I would still love them.

Another truism?

I thought so. But recently I have been shocked to find that some people don't love that way. When someone does something they don't like, they withdraw love. I shake my head and furrow my brow. How can they do that? Was it really love? Don't you have to love your children, your siblings?

I'm not talking about tough love. Your child is on crack and refuses to seek help and you stop giving him cash and letting him steal your silver to sell for more crack. That is great. I'm all for that, but even then you still love your child and you do something excruciatingly hard on yourself --- allow him to suffer, even go to jail --- because you love him too much to help him kill himself.

I'm talking about your child doing something different from what you hoped he would do --- going to art school or not getting married --- and you saying, you won't do what I say so I don't love you any more. I wash my hands of you. Who does that?

Yesterday, my husband received an e-mail from his sister stating that she couldn't say anything nice about his family and would withdraw from contact. She said she hadn't commented before (untrue) because she knew we wouldn't listen (true).

And she is right, of course. Her advice was neither solicited nor welcome. One of the things of which she disapproves is a beautiful boy named Gabe who was born less than two weeks ago, "out of wedlock" as they used to say. How could we possibly entertain that notion? What would we do to try to please her?

Gabe is the latest in a long line of sins my sons and I have committed against her supposedly libertarian sensibilities. I knew she didn't approve of us, but I didn't realize it was such a strain for her to keep her opinions to herself. I rarely tell people what I think of them, even if they ask. I don't find it to be a strain at all.

I think I have said too much. I feel a dam bulging with all of the irritations and petty grievences (she gave my son his first haircut without asking because she thought it was too long and didn't even save me a curl), and I don't think I should let it out. I am civilized, remember.

And when she says "I don't have any influence on your children at all," I smile in the same vague way I do when someone offers to sell me insurance. "No, should you?"

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

And Here We Are

A blog. Like a new journal. Full of possibilities. Full of hope. Full of potential... pitfalls.

Am I going to use this to express great thoughts, or at least amusing thoughts? Am I going to write this opening entry and forget about it for a few months? Am I going to begin great conversations about important (or at least amusing) things? Am I going to use this as one more excuse to avoid the long long long to do list?

What am I going to do with this blog? I'll probably whine. I don't do that IRL and so I vent on paper, or keyboard, or whatever. When I say I don't whine in real life, I mean, I have a very low tolerance for whining in others and I hold myself to those standards as well. There is something about the pitch of a whine. Maybe I'm part bat and it sets off a radar that makes me want to hone in on the whiner and bite him or her.

My children don't whine. They do other things that I probably shouldn't mention, but they do NOT whine. It was one of the few parenting skills I was able to master consistently, probably because of my bat-like intolerance for the noise. When they'd whine at me, I'd look at them with a pained, sympathetic grimace and say, "You seem really upset, but I can't understand a word you are saying." After awhile I just had to give them a confused smile and point at my ear.

A good friend of mine looked at a whining high school freshman and said, "Put a little bass in your voice, son." The young man immediately stood up straighter and repeated his request in a Barry White voice. My friend still said no, but he didn't bite him.

Part of teaching Not Whining is teaching children that "please" is not literally a magic word. Conversation:
Child: May I have a cookie?
Me: No.
Child: Please.
Me: I like your manners. No.
I'd like to say it ends there, but children sometimes think that please is a magic word as long as you say it with just the right inflection (thanks a lot Harry Potter) and so they try it over and over again until they get it right or I bite them.

And so, at the risk of being bitten, I may whine in this blog. But I hope I do it in an interesting, important (at least amusing) way. Or not. Where is my To Do list?