Monday, February 21, 2011

A Face to Face (Book) Conversation

This was my Facebook weekend. Watched The Social Network. I hope Mark Zuckerberg's ex-girlfriend friended him. I guess Eduardo had already friended him. Would he have un-friended him, I wonder?

Michael Scott on The Office once responded to the phrase "It's not personal. It's business" with something like, "Business is personal. It's the most personal thing in the world." I thought of that during the scenes between Zuckerberg and Eduardo Saverin in the movie.

It's just amazing the catch phrases people stake their happiness on.

By the same token, Eduardo didn't seem to have a very personal relationship with the business. Then again, he started out as the sole investor! That's pretty big right there. Well, I guess he ended up with a settlement, so his dad hopefully was proud.

Anyway, the next day, I went over to my mom's to add a profile pic and family pictures on her Facebook account. I could say something like, "Oh, no! My mom's on Facebook." Ha! Ha! Saturday Night Live. Except that I, too, am a mom. I have Facebook cousins who are only a couple years older than my son.

Idea for Zuckerberg: an option to "Cousin me" instead of just "Friend me." Friending family is great, but it would be fun to "Cousin someone" on Facebook. "Brother or Sister someone" on Facebook. Not only for relatives, but for people you grew up with or feel very close to or say, "What up, 'Cuz" or "Hey, bro" to.

I've been encouraging my mom to join Facebook for a long time because it's right up her alley. It's a "social" network. My mom is very social.

As her Facebook consultant/mentor, I suggested she add her maiden name to her account, so that high school friends could find her. When she told my dad, he immediately assumed it was her way of reaching out to former boyfriends. My mom said to put that in her info. "I'm interested in reaching out to former boyfriends." See? It's going to be fun to have my mom on Facebook.

My mom ordered pizza, and I had the opportunity to have a face-to-face conversation with J.J. People say nobody interacts face-to-face anymore because of things like Facebook, but J.J. and I do.

Me: (Daydreaming.)

J.J.: Do you want a hint?

Me: I'm sorry, did you ask me something?

J.J.: Here's a hint: pu pu pu. (In true lawyer fashion, J.J. never asks a question he doesn't know the answer to.)

Me: Pepsi?

J.J.: No. Pu pu pu. E e e.

Me: Pep talk?

J.J.: No.

Me: The best hint you could give me is to repeat the question.

J.J.: What is a flat meat?

Me: Oh. Pepperoni.

J.J.: Yes. What are some more flat meats?

Me: Besides pepperoni, Proscuto. Salami.

J.J.: What's salami?

Me: It's like pepperoni, only instead of being red, it's pink.

J.J.: (Giggling.) Is it only for girls?

Me: No, boys can eat salami. Do you think hamburger is a flat meat?

J.J.: Hamburger is a half flat meat.

Me: Okay. (Trying to think of the word "Braunschweiger.")

J.J.: (Losing interest)

End of conversation.

If you feel like your life has become too digital, I hope you enjoyed this window into what real conversations are all about. I can't believe I couldn't remember "Braunschweiger." Why didn't I just say liverwurst?

Saturday, February 05, 2011

"Like" That's All I Have to Say

Ahh...a comment.

It used to be something you said under your breath. If it was too bombastic for the person standing next to you, what were they going to do, tattle tell on you?

Now the comment is for all to see. I'm a shy commenter. Even when it comes to under-the-breath comments. I like people to think I'm a sweet person, not the smart aleck that I truly am. So unless you know me well, or have beer, you'll never hear me comment on much of anything.

Add the in-writing component to the equation and I'm paralyzed. Rather than spend an hour figuring out what to say, I just hit "like."

I mean, like everybody, I sometimes go overboard and say too much. But in general, I "like."

I wish I could "like" emails.

Often, I'll read an email and think, "I like the person who sent this email. I like this email. However, I have nothing to say. I wish I could just hit like. Or write, "Grin.""

I dislike emoticons (why do they look like Pacman?) but wouldn't object to writing out emotions. "Sly smile." "Wink." "Glaring at you. Just kidding. Sly smile."

While I'm reluctant to comment unless it's a complete no-brainer "Congrats!" "Good Luck" "What is wrong with you?" (not the last one) or I actually know what I'm talking about (picture books, sometimes,) I love other people's comments.

I like knowing what they think. I like sincere comments. I like smart aleck comments. I like questions. It goes without saying that I don't like mean comments, but those misinterpreted as mean are always interesting. I think this situation would straighten itself out if questionable comments were followed by, "I mean that in an immature, inappropriate way, not a mean way."

Then there's YouTube.

I like to click on the videos while I'm working for background music. But often I can't resist watching the footage, and of course reading the comments.

Old country songs are some of my favorites. Likewise, comments on old country songs are usually pretty good.

On Highway Man, for instance, somebody commented, "Why do the other singers have to work normal jobs, like building dams and being a carpenter, and Johnny Cash gets to fly a freaking starship across the sky?"

Someone responded, "Because he's Johnny Frickin' Cash. That's why."

And the prior responder was like, "Ha Ha ur right."

See, we can have nice, civil arguments like this. Even in America.

Have you heard the song "Alone Again (Naturally)"? It's the saddest song ever. The guy gets left at the altar and decides to jump from a tower. Plus, his dad dies. His mom is devastated. And then she dies, too. Finally, the guy loses his faith in God.

So a lady wrote in the comments: "It always brings me such joy to hear this song."

My comment was, "Jeez, lady, I'm glad the worst day of Gilbert O'Sullivan's life brought such a smile to your face."

I didn't write that. She sounded like a nice lady. A true optimist! But I did say it under my breath, to Justin. Just like in the old days!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Merry Christmas, Penguins!

Christmas vacation...the kids may be out of school, but me? I'm learning a lot. Being home all day with the boys always brings me closer to understanding the young male mind, and subjects like:

Who Lives at the South Pole

J.J.: The only people who live at the South Pole are scientists and penguins.

Me: Would we call penguins "people"?

J.J. Well, they stand up.

Here, I thought he would go with the tuxedo defense. But he hit me with a left hook: They stand up, don't they? Congratulations, son. You just welcomed bears, meercats, and chickens to the human race.

How to Win at Wrestling

Richie and Johnny wrestling.

Johnny (suddenly): No! No! Nooooooo!

Richie: Ha! I farted...and it's still going!

Game over.

What I truly learned from this is that eight-year-old boys think of farts as capable of "going" somewhere. Like they're wearing little sneakers or something.

How to Smooth Things over with Santa

Johnny's letter to Santa final paragraph (after I told him that you can't write a list of demands and call it a letter): How are you? Is it cold there? This year, I'll try to get you cookies, not pears. Love Johnny

Ouch! Did we leave pears last year?

How to Find a Monkey Loophole

Richie's letter to Santa: Dear Santa, Thank you for the presents last year. I hope you doing well. This is what I want for Christmas: a monkey. It has to be a nice monkey. Hi. How are you? Love, Richie.(See--not a list of demands.)

My letter to Santa: Dear Santa, Is there such a thing as a "nice" monkey? I mean some are nice to your face, but deep down? Just a few months ago, a monkey (okay it was a chimpanzee) got loose in Kansas City, and behaved so poorly (chasing people onto their roof and flipping them off) that he came very close to getting sent to Monkey Island. True story. Hi. How are you. Love, Bridget

Anyway, Merry Christmas to you and yours. I hope you get cookies not pears (and not monkeys!) And in the New Year, may you stand tall like a penguin, win all your wrestling matches, and never run out of gas.

Furious No More

While we were getting ready for Mass/Baby Jesus' birthday party on Sunday, J.J. called in: "Mom, Furious is squeeping." (sleeping)

You never want to hear those words as the mother of a pet owner. Fish "sleep" belly up. Guinnea Pigs "sleep" on their side.

When Richie came over to see his "sleeping" Guinnea pig, he announced what I already knew. Furious was dead.

While Richie was given Furious as a birthday present, and fed her and cleaned her cage, J.J. was the one who played with Furious. He planned a birthday party for Furious in November and had the idea to put carrot slices and lettuce in cupcake paper. J.J. built her houses with his blocks and read her books. He claimed that she starred in Home Alone 3 as a pet rat.

On the other hand, J.J. blamed his farts on Furious, occassionally lost her under the T.V. console, and, well, sometimes didn't have the best grip on her.

Justin and I secretly wondered if Furious saw J.J. as a friend, a father, or an insane dictator. In the end, I think Furious saw J.J. as a little boy. Because of him, she had an exciting life. Of course, I'm not a Guinnea pig mind reader. But I say this because she let him hold her without scratching, and didn't run into the corner when he came to her cage, which she did before she got to know him.

And J.J. loved Furious.

The saddest part of the whole thing came between the birthday party for Jesus, which Justin left early to dig a hole in the frozen ground, and the funeral, when we laid Furious to rest with a carrot.

Furious was still in her cage, and J.J. stood there alone. "Furious, why did you have to die?" he asked. "Why did you have to die, Furious?"

He was really waiting for an answer.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Is Thanksgiving a Hobby or a Job for You?

I come from a family of eaters. I mean, we can pack it away. I hope this doesn't offend anybody, but I consider Thanksgiving to be amateur hour for some of my fellow eaters.

It was all over Facebook today: I'm still full! I have a food hangover! The tryptophan is making me sleepy. What are they--pilgrims? They're acting like this was their first Thanksgiving.

I wish some of these newbies could have seen my dad last night. He is a professional Thanksgiving eater in every sense of the word. While my cousin Brett was leading the family in prayer (by asking our family of 30 to go around and say something we're thankful for) my dad claimed that the public display of thankfulness was "making him nervous" and that he was "under a lot of pressure."

Two seconds later, he was seen standing over the stove, eating turkey by the fistfull, grease dripping off his chin.

Me, I thank God I learned from the best. You won't see me complain about eating seconds, as though it's a chore. "(Sigh.) I'm so full, but I have to eat a little more potatoes." It is a privilege to eat a little more potatoes!

At our house, the leftovers--even the tossed salad--are already gone. So if any of you hobbyists are turkeyed out, please feel free to send some our way.

Or perhaps you, yourself, are a professional holiday eater. Here are some qualifications:

1. Before hitting the food line, you have a game plan, prioritizing some foods over others.

2. Mid-meal, you don't complain about being full. It is a welcome part of the job.

3. Afterwards, you thank the cooks profusely. Maybe your aunt Carol doesn't want to bring the green bean casserole--the one with the cream of mushroom soup--for the 12th year in a row. Maybe she wanted to make a fancy asparagus dish. But a little gratitude goes a long way.

4. You eagerly discuss the next holiday meal on a full stomach. "Well, it was fun polishing off that turkey. Who's making the chicken tetrazzini for Christmas?"

If three or more of these describe you, congrats. You're a pro. But sorry, your leftovers are probably gone. Well, there's always Christmas!

Now, I have to go lay down. Admittedly, the tryptophan is making me a little sleepy.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

365 Days in a (Five) Year (Timespan)

This is my 365th post. If you've read this from the beginning, you know my plan was to write a post every single day. Nearly five years later, here we are. Five years flying by in a single earth-go-round-the-sun? Yeah, that sounds about right.

And yet, so much has changed since then. My plan was to be a professional humor columnist. A fitting goal because, in hindsight, it is so humorous. Business plan: be Erma Bombeck. Um, somebody already had that business plan. It would be like saying, "My business plan is to start Facebook." You can't out-Facebook Facebook. And if you did, you would have to be extremely Facebookish. And I'm just not.

But something even better happened. I became a children's book writer.

I used to watch people go on business trips and form business friendships and wheel and deal, and I admired it, but I thought, "That's not for me."

Well, guess what? I'm planning my first ever business trip, and I can't wait. I'm networking with colleagues, and I love it. I'm even attempting to wheel and deal, which if you know me, you probably think I'm on a unicycle dealing cards, but I'm not. I'm actually trying to be a mover and shaker in my field. (Still not on the unicycle.) I know that I'll fall flat (not from a unicycle) in this endeavor many times because it's not really my nature. But I have to try because I love this job, and I want to be successful in it.

This all came about back when Johnny was in his young scientist phase and all we read was nonfiction. I decided to write a nonfiction book. That book, What to Expect When You're Expecting Larvae: a Guide for Insect Parents (and Curious Children) comes out this Spring.

Which leads me to the next thing I didn't expect: my young scientist is now in his young football player phase. He has a fantasy team and trash talks and everything. (A situation that has gotten entirely out of hand, by the way, though I did like Richie's zinger: "You have gas but you're in last place." By "gas" he meant, well, you know. But he never got the chance to post it because he doesn't know how to use the computer.

Anyway, Johnny doesn't read as much nonfiction now. He reads Goosebumps.

But Richie is in his young Abraham Lincoln phase, so we still get to read lots of nonfiction picture books. Also, baseball offers a treasure trove of nonfiction books. (Why are so many writers also baseball fans? I'm sure there is a poetic answer out there somewhere.)

J.J. loves sweet picture books, with ducks and what-not, which were also some of my favorites growing up. Maybe I'll write a sweet picture book some day. Perhaps it will actually be made of sugar. Sounds like a new business plan is showing it's diamond-studded face...

So that's the end of the story. Now I'm a picture book writer and my kids are all well-adjusted and never fall apart, as don't I. Also we're now rich and are only living a lower-middle class lifestyle to be ironic.

Just kidding. As long as there are problems (and there always will be,) as long as there are vulnerabilities and sore subjects and sweet little moments. Nay, as long as laughter rings through the billboard lined streets of Waldo, I'll continue to write this blog. Unless I forget to or am too busy, to quote Shrek.

Happy year-or-so anniversary, and thank you for reading this blog!

P.S. If you like picture books (or if you used to--I think that covers everyone) be sure to "like" my Facebook page. Fun news, reviews--often in pastel hues--regarding kids books.!/pages/Author-Bridget-Heos/116576161735613

Tell your friends, too! (See. Wheeling. Dealing.)

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Halloween from Hell

What began as a Friday "jump-start" to Halloween ended on Saturday morning with me staring at a red splot on our school roster and wondering if it was real or fake blood.

First: Teacher conferences. Always an emotional roller coaster, for me at least. When Justin gets the recap from me, he finds them humorous. I do tend to be melodramatic, which I guess can be interpreted as funny. In my heart, it's not funny at all.

Not that I have bad kids. Actually, one got a really good report. I won't name names. But the other got sent to his room, thinking he was grounded from Halloween.

I did not plant that seed in his head. Getting grounded from Halloween would require something more than potty talk and general goofballery. By now you've probably guessed who got a bad report, but I'm still not naming names.

So I grounded him from T.V. Next stop: J.J.'s Halloween parade at school. Precious as always. Then: two birthday parties. One was Richie's friend's party.

And the bloodbath began. (Sort of.)

Richie's friend's uncle was there from out of town and he had a very unusual camera. I'm drawn to unusual objects like a parrot (plus am in the market for a camera) so I was staring at it. Richie's friend's dad introduced us.

Now, I was raised to believe a firm handshake and direct eye contact still mean something in this world. The problem with that is if the person has a huge bandage on his thumb, you don't see you squeeze the hell out of it. And there was the camera distraction.

So I gave the uncle a firm handshake, and he was like, "Ahhhhhhh" and leaned back and shook like he was being electrocuted.

My first thought was that it was a Halloween joke. I thought, what a hilarious prank, especially when you're in from out of town and meeting a complete stranger. (Put that in my back pocket for when I'm traveling.) But then I found out it was a real bandage and he had hurt himself pretty badly the day before. There were ambulances involved. Airplanes. Police. I'm not kidding here.

I felt horrible. Flash forward to an hour later. I'm rushing to get our trunk ready for Trunk or Treat: Our theme: Day of the Dead Grade School Students. Announcement: "1. Report cards go home today. 2. You're all dead."

I was cutting out a cardboard skeleton with a razor knife and thought, "Man, karma. I bet you anything I cut myself."

And I did! I sliced the heck out of my thumb. But the show had to go on. So I wrapped it in a cloth and kept decorating the trunk. It took longer than I thought, plus our furnace had broken.

So Justin came home and was toying with trivialities (fixing the furnace) when I had a trunk to decorate!

Trunk complete, I went to the kitchen and started making grilled cheese. At that point, the kids descended on the kitchen, needing faces painted and wrestling, and sitting on the cabinetry so the doors were going to break off, and my thumb was still bleeding like holy heck.

"Justin!!! Can you make Johnny up to be a zombie???!!! Please!!!" I mean what was so important that he couldn't paint a zombie face? Heat? And I kicked everybody out of the kitchen.

So I became that mom. The one whose trunk looks cute at the expense of her family. Meanwhile, Justin painted Johnny's face white, his eyes black, and added fake blood. Richie put on his zombie costume, which involved a werewolf mask (What? Werewolves can be zombies.)

We made it to Trunk or Treat on time and I won a major award. Which you've probably guessed made me feel pretty lousy after the meltdown. I went up alone to receive it; the boys were running around with their friends.

Eventually, Justin took J.J. home, who'd missed his nap earlier. I stayed with the older boys to talk. Justin says I'm always the last to leave anyplace because I talk and talk.

Well, cars left and I was still talking, this time to the cleanup crew. In my defense it related to our school chess club; a dramatic chapter of my life that I'm trying to bring to a happy ending. Meanwhile, Johnny went up to dunk a ball on a basketball hoop. He hung on the rim, and the whole thing came crashing down on him. He let go and fell right on his face on the blacktop. He laid there for a minute and I ran over, along with some other moms and dads.

Well, he wanted none of that. He was like, "I'm fine. I'm fine." and walked to the car. In fact, he was so adament that he was fine that I was worried. Plus, with his face painted, he looked pale (his face was painted white) and it was hard to see the injury.

A mom told me what to look for in terms of a concussion. We went home and washed his face. Then he watched a movie with some friends and I kept checking him and waking him up in the night.

The next day, he had a black eye and his arm hurt, but he was okay. I looked up the event organizer's number to call and let her know Johnny was okay, and that's when I saw the drop of blood. Fake? Real from my thumb? Real from Johnny's face? We'll never know.

It could have been worse, but this Thanksgiving, I will thank God it's not Halloween. And next Halloween, I'm going to duct tape an orange streamer to the trunk and call it a day.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Is Life All About Logistics?

I haven't posted since summer because of...logistics.

Two weeks before school started, I found out that J.J.'s school day had been moved back an entire hour! That complicated things because I teach a few classes at the end of the school day. My chorus became, "I'm trying to work out the logistics."

You know when Jon Stewart of The Daily Show does a montage of a silly story that the news media is absolutely obsessed with? Like the Obama girls' lunch menu. Well, if I had been in the background of various people's home videos, that's what it would have looked like:

At the block party: "I found out just two weeks before messes up all the logistics."

At the soccer game: "Had I known earlier, I would have rearranged my whole the logistics are in a tailspin."

In the school parking lot: "I'm thinking of sending him to first grade an entire year earlier...just for the sake of logistics."

Well, it ended up my mom and a friend are helping me with the situation until next semester, at which point I'll have rearranged my whole schedule. (As all moms know, it takes longer than two weeks to rearrange your whole work schedule.)

But logistics had already become my buzz word.

"How is school going?" another mom would ask me.

"Just trying to work out the logistics," I'd say.

I started to think about work in terms of logistics, too. When the recession hit, my marketing work dropped off. But my children's book business picked up. Well, now the recession has hit school library books because funding is down. That has hurt my work-for-hire business. Work-for-hire is great because a publisher commissions you to write the book and pays you a couple months later, as opposed to you writing it, and then taking up to two years to sell it.

People would ask how work was going.

"Great--just figuring out the logistics of the economy."

I'd never used the word "logistics" in my life, and now it was all I ever talked about.

Was life all about logistics?

I even thought of seeing friends in terms of logistics. If I worked out with one of my friends in the morning, I could see her twice a week...but I had to get back to make breakfast--another logistical nightmare.

Not that I didn't see the folly of my thinking. I told my sister-in-law that if this is how I reacted to a scheduling change, God forbid I would ever have a real problem. And yet, that didn't stop me from talking about logistics!

Then my friend and I went to a Spin class. Now, I never expected to have a revelation during spin class. I hadn't even ridden a bike since childhood, at which point I fell off it onto my head, got lost for two or three hours, and had the whole neighborhood looking for me. This was in high school, by the way. So I was just hoping not to fall off the stationary bike.

Well, the teacher started giving us a pep talk. "You guys are here working out while everybody else is asleep. You're going to have a great day."

And I thought, you know, instead of thinking about the "logistics" of our day every morning, I should give the boys a little pep talk.

"Look at you boys, wearing your white shirts and ties for Mass day. People better climb on board because you're going places."

Then the spin instructor put on a song about how we should all get out of our heads and get into our hearts.

And that's when it hit me. Life is not all about logistics unless you make it that way. Life is about taking time for each other. Granted, I have to get the kids to and from school, but I don't have to think about it constantly. Instead, I should focus on asking them how the school year is going for them. (You know, getting the juicy gossip.)

And while I do have to find a way to make a living as a children's book writer, that doesn't have to be about logistics, either. I love kids' books and writing kids' books. I also love the people in this business. If I keep enjoying all that, it will lead to new connections. In fact, it already has. I have a lead on a second editor who may hire me for work-for-hire books, and I'm starting to market my picture book, which will hopefully be a good business, too.

And marketing something you love is really fun. Not that I know what I'm doing. I started a Facebook page called Author Bridget Heos. I thought it would be dorky if on my regular Facebook page I started only talking about picture books. (Or maybe I could only talk about logistics!) So on top of already asking people to be my friend, I was now also asking them to "like me," too. Also, I appeared to have changed my first name to "Author" and middle name to "Bridget" which isn't dorky at all.

When faced with a choice of two dorky things, why do I always choose the dorkiest? Meanwhile, there is probably some cool choice out there which doesn't even occur to me.

Anyway, that's why I haven't blogged since this summer. Logistics. And then Illogistics.