Girls and Their Shoes

I’m the kind of parent that lets my kids dye their hair blue, watch R-rated movies, and walk to the library by themselves. Sometimes I think I’m just naturally a liberal parent and sometimes I think I’ve needed to become one because the children have signaled that’s what they need. Okay truth: Eleanor has signaled that’s what she needs. Magnolia will adapt a little better.

I live in a small town, so the kids have walked to school for K – 2. When Eleanor was in second grade, and I was student teaching at the local high school, we had a very snowy day. But not enough to cancel school. Just enough to make shoveling the driveway an occasion to curse the Hell out of it. I saw Eleanor about a block away, getting ready to cross the street (with the crossing guard, don’t worry) but, she turned back. I knew what had happened before she got to me. She’d forgotten her gym shoes. It was something like the fourth time in a row. I was right.

I decided that I needed to try correcting this behavior in a different manner. Reminding her wasn’t working. And I hate shoveling snow; I’m unreasonable that way, so I may have been doubly angry (Sorry, Eleanor). “Go to school without your shoes,” I said.

She was upset. She refused. I persisted. I won. I’m the parent. I watched her mope all the way back to school. She was going to be late, on top of being unprepared. It sucked. I felt awful for her. In the land of parenting Eleanor, though, this was a HUGE victory. Twenty minutes later, I finished shoveling the snow. I was now freezing in some regions of my body and sweaty in others. As I pulled out of the  driveway, I saw Eleanor walking back home. What the Hell?

“I need my shoes.”

“You walked out of school? We talked about this. You have to stay in school all day.” This was the second time she’d done this. The first time was her first day of school when we’d first moved here (Second semester of Kindergarten.) She’d gone to the wrong playground for recess with a class that wasn’t hers. When they all went in with their teacher and she realized she was alone, she walked home. Luckily I was there. That was out of confusion. This shoe thing was different.

“I need them.” she insisted.

“No.” I put her in the car and drove her to school without her shoes. “You know I go to work today. What if I weren’t home?”

“I was going to get them and go back!”

“Don’t talk to me like that.” I was so confused. I was pretty sure other second-graders didn’t walk home from school to get their shoes. Why did mine feel so free?

“Why can’t I get my shoes?”

“I want you to live with what happens when you don’t have them.”

I went to work. I dealt with high school freshman. It seemed easier. I started wondering, why DID I need her to go without her shoes? Were the consequences going to teach her to conform to school rules? Or improve her memory? If I set aside the weirdness of her walking home for them (Kind of a genius move, really), I wasn’t sure what I was teaching her. Was she being the stubborn one, or was I?

The next week on gym day, she forgot again.

My solution: a pair of shoes that stayed at school. To Hell with trying to make her follow the normal patterns. Sometimes you gotta work around what’s normal.

New Year New Adventure Part II

Sorry if you’re uninterested in Pittsburgh, but there’s more you should know about it. For instance, I found my dream house, or rather, dream condo. It’s in a church. On the South Side  (the artsy side) there is an old church that’s being renovated into condo units; it’s called Angel’s Arms, and the units are custom-designed per occupant. The view of the city is spectacular! This city is seriously like the San Francisco of the Midwest. I kind of can’t believe I’d never been there before.  Here is the church. There is the steeple……open the doors, and see the rich people! Or at least see how they live. Here is my dream fireplace.I think I’ll be like 180 when I can afford to live here, but this is the dream, people, if any benefactors want to step up. And while I’m on the subject of churches, feast your eyes on the cathedral of learning!

It’s a huge public place to sit and learn. This photo is of the entry. Go here to see more cool study rooms. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure I could craft a pretty damn fine young adult novel if this were my office. I can see why Pittsburgh is one of the most literate (8th in the nation) places to live. (Thanks, Berk.)

The other part of Pittsburgh that I dug very much is the The Strip. It’s market after market of fresh food from every ethnicity you can imagine. Too bad I don’t cook. But, in a tiny corner of an enormous warehouse on The Strip is a donut shop called Peace, Love, and Little Donuts. Ron, the baker, gave us his card and cell # in case we needed anything while we were there, or if we decided to move there. It’s damn tempting, people. Damn tempting! Those little donuts were as awesome as Ron!

So, what do we do? How do we rank the residency programs; it’s a dead heat for the top two choices, which I’m not supposed to name. But do you choose the #1 spot based on Residency Program strength or do you choose based on the city where you want to live for the next 3 or more years? What would you do?

New Year New Adventure

I am in a hotel. I think I’m one of the few people that really enjoys them. I love the sense of adventure of being away from home. Unlike my house, hotels aren’t messy. There are two TVs and a pool. Beyond that there’s a sense of unpredictability. For example, the guy at the front desk has purple hair. The person who had this room before us left a black hoodie here, which I intend to keep. We have complementary rice krispie treats and microwavable popcorn in our room. The view is unique: it includes a few of the bridges here in Pittsburgh as well as being able to see into an old folks home.

And hooray for eating out! Possibly it’s the best part of an adventure. Tonight we ate dinner at church. Literally. There’s a church here that’s been transformed into a pub called the Chruch Brew Works. Dude, we drank beer in church. And we didn’t pray either. How rebellious!

Some other things that I’ve discovered about Pittsburgh include:

1. This was Mr. Rogers neighborhood
2. There is a different neighborhood (or maybe just a shopping center) called GIANT EAGLES. (I didn’t see any, FYI.)
3. A GPS is useless here!  The roads are hopelessly confusing. How do you “turn right” when there are 2-6 choices?
4. Toll roads. Firstly, compliments to PA on the speediness of salt trucks. Snow barely has a chance to touch the roads before BAM! Salt! And secondly, “service plazas” are great. You walk in and it’s like, is this a mall food court or a rest stop???? Then, you have to choose between Panera and Starbucks???? Oh, the fancy pants driving is worth the price !

So, this is only day one and I’m really liking this little city so far. Whether I want to move here or not, I’m not sure. So, go easy on me, Indiana friends.

Jody’s Reading Report Card 2009

This year was a great reading year for me! I read 29 books!  I get an A+ because that’s more than two per month, which for me is a huge accomplishment, because as you probably know, I work full time, write, have a family, blah blah blah. Someday I’m going to be a YA author. So, I thought I’d break down my reading habits for the year and just see what kind of useless but fascinating info came out of it.

Books By the Numbers

Total books read in 2009: 29
Total books read that were considered YA: 27
Books by female authors: 21
Books by male authors: 8
Author’s first book: 16
Author’s first book, debuting 2009: 14
Books I read because I liked Author’s previous work: 3
Authors I found that I will read future books: 14
Books I read that my agent represented: 3
Books I started, but didn’t finish: 1

Books By the Substance

Favorite Character: Ed, from I Am The Messenger, by Markus Zusak
Funniest Book: Busted, Confessions of An Accidental Player, by Antony John
Tear Jerker-est: If I Stay, by Gayle Foreman
The one I didn’t expect to Love, but WOW did I!: Ash, by Melinda Lo
Best Suspense: Candor, by Pam Bachorz (also the one I’d like to see become a movie)
Best Romance: Twenty Boy Summer, by Sarah Ockler
Best Book Cover: Hush, Hush, by Becca Fitzpatrick and Audrey Wait!, by Robin Benway
Best Title: Into The Wild Nerd Yonder, by Julie Halpern
Book with the most heart: Mudville, by Kurtis Scaletta
Most unique writing style: How To Steal A Car, by Pete Hautman

What about you all?  Anyone want to share some of their stats?

It’s Sorta Been Like Potty-Training In the Desert

Our family has this story about potty-training in the desert. I just ran across the photo, but as much as I embarrass myself on Sundays, I figured I better spare sweet little Magnolia the trauma of posting the using-the-plastic-pink-potty-on-the-side-of-the-highway picture. I’ll just tell the story instead.

So, from previous posts you know that Josh I and moved out to the Bay Area, immediately had the kids, and he worked a very promising start-up company. It failed.  It’s difficult to capture the impact an experience like that has on a new adults, freshly educated and feeling pretty goddamned idealistic, yet exhausted from the oh-my-god-it’s-so-hard-to-raise-these-kids. Basically, we were crushed. But this is not a hopeless blog post.

We’d packed what we could in the car, shipped the rest, and were on our way back across the country to the Midwest. The drive was mostly desert–or maybe it just seemed that way. The kids were whiny. The adults were depressed. At one point I looked up a billboard that read, 1000 Square Feet of YOUR AD right here!

“Josh,” I said. “That billboard is bigger than our apartment was.”

“Ha! Figures.”

Later, Magnolia said she had to go potty. I was happy she’d mentioned it; she was still new at it. But there was  nowhere to stop. NOWHERE except the side of the highway. I pulled the little pink potty out of the trunk and set it on the side of the road while dust swarmed us and semis surged past us with a force that left the car rocking. And there I was, crouched down, clapping and smiling, using my most mommiest voice, “Yay! You went pee pee in the potty!”

Was this my life? Reeeeeally?

Shortly after we’d gotten situated in our new home, Josh and I had an important conversation in which we both had confessions to make. I didn’t want to only be a parent anymore. He had never wanted to work in software. What resulted was that he would go to Medical School and I would become a teacher.

The past four years have been about this transition and new beginning, and in many ways it’s still felt a little like potty-training in the desert. I would decide that teaching was not my real career interest, and begin to write and get piles of rejection on top of working a 40-hour-a-week office job. Josh would  endure sleepless nights, dying patients, on top of rigorous academics. The kids would begin their own lives filled with struggling through music lessons, learning the joy of reading, navigating the confusion of friendships gone bad.

And finally, now, we are so close to the transition years blooming into actual careers and at least slightly more settled lives. I can hardly wait for 2010. The potty-training is almost over. Thank you to both our sets of parents who continued to cheer our family on as we make our way to…the big potty? Oooh, do we get M&M’s for this?  I’ll take mine in mint.

Who Would Play You In A Movie? (5)

I haven’t played this game in a while. I’ve cast Josh and his other siblings: Kari and Heidi.  I better complete this portion of the casting. For Josh’s older Brother, Erik, I’m casting Jeff Daniels. There’s a softness in his temperament that resembles Erik’s. And I like how Jeff Daniels plays kindness with a bit of quirkiness.

Fun Fact: Jeff Daniels grew up in Chelsea, Michigan, where I currently live. Still does, sort of sometimes I think. Raised his kids here and whatnot. (Married his high school sweetheart so I’ve heard. You can tell I’m VERY informed.) When I was new in town, I had an entire conversation with his (exquisite) wife at the local market about soup and how to treat a burn. I was wearing my pajama top and no bra. Then Jeff held the door open for me on my way out. Only then did I realize who I was talking to. It’s not that interesting of a story, but it’s my brush with stardom. And I’m easily starstruck. Also this incident sparked an idea for a novel that’s been brewing over the years (which I promise will be a WAY more interesting story). That always happens at the weirdest moments. But anyhoo, here is a side-by-side of Erik and Jeff: