And on the Ninth Day, She Blogged.

If I have time to write a (belated) letter to Santa, then certainly I can summon the resources to write a formal apology to my followers for the unannounced nonblogathon I completed the week around Christmas. Those of you who read “Dear Santa” will understand that it was a busy time. But it’s not like I was in a coma or anything. I have been busy in the past and managed to blog. So what was different this time? (And no, I still  maintain that any lapse is NOT because I was watching back-to-back episodes of House, really. Netflix only allows me one DVD at a time and doesn’t stream the good doctor.)

But for the sake of clarity, let’s do a differential diagnosis:

Mental fatigue

Physical exhaustion

100 notable things occurring per hour

It’s a short list. Everything points to hyperinput in a weakened state, causing a crash in the system. I kept noticing things, and even grabbing scraps of paper and scribbling down quotes and observations. But there was so much. And at the end of the day, and at the beginning, so few resources to process it. What do I blog about? I would think each day. And then: What do I not blog about? And no one, even my mother, although she would refute it, really wants to read the unabridged version.

In the 2000 movie Wonder Boys, Michael Douglas plays a professor and acclaimed novelist who’s been writing his second book for years. It’s reached over a thousand pages. A student finds the unfinished behemoth in his desk, reads it, and says something to the effect of: “You always tell us that writing is about making choices. But…you didn’t make any.”

Blogging has taught me many things. Time management is not among them. But this is: that writing is about making choices. Writing’s not much different from cooking, or getting dressed in the morning for that matter: a little bit of this, and an awful lot of not that. A lot of the work is in deciding what to leave out.

This morning, on the last day of the year, the Midgets made purple hand prints on the New York Times after painting rocks. I insisted they wear smocks (two maternity tops that come to their ankles, worn backwards and tied around the waist). Gbot calls his smock a “Monet” because Mbot has told him that Monet always wore a smock to paint in. “He has a tiger smock. He got it at Chuckee Cheese’s. Mom, did you know that Monet started out as a talking billy goat?”

I did not. But I know that two months ago, Monet was really really small, and he was a really really old mouse named Googy. When I told Mrs. Pursell this during the parent-teacher conference, she smiled and brought out the photograph of the painter that she’d been showing the class. It was about 1 1/2″ inches high. We all agreed that Monet, if not a mouse, was at least really really old, and really really small.

When you remember this day, this year, what will you leave in? What will you leave out?

Dear Santa,

Dear Santa,

Thank you for coming to our house and all the other day. Thank you, on behalf of the Midgets, for the Krazy Kars and Mickey Mouse umbrellas and the foam swords. Thank you that they were not poisonous foam swords or sharp ones, because Gbot has taken ten or so bites out of each edge of his blade. Oh, and thanks for the froggie rain boots that have, although I know it seems like a physical impossibility, upped Gbot’s cuteness by a factor of 1,000. Thank you for leaving the Imperial Storm Trooper Gun at someone else’s house. Thank you. But I really wasn’t looking for a one-night stand.

Where were you the next morning, when I really could have used some help picking up the wrapping paper and boxes and ribbons, and maybe someone to keep the Midgets from climbing the tree to get to the candy canes while I was using the bathroom? Where were you the morning after that, when I had to pick up all over again because the Midgets, taking a break from their new toys, decided to decorate the living room? Where were you that evening when the kitchen counters were still piled high with baking sheets and mixing bowls? I did not see a second dishwasher under the tree. Or a laundress. Mbot is running out of Superhero underpants. I have noticed that you are not on any superhero underpants. I am beginning to understand why.

If this letter finds you–which it might not, because there might not be any postal service in your part of Bali, which is where I suspect you might be spending the months of January through November, living off your endorsements–please know that mothers everywhere simply wish that you would practice what you preach. Is it naughty or nice to disrupt entire lives for weeks ahead of time, then just drop in, fleeing the scene like a bad guy on CSI, leaving pandemonium behind you?

I know I sound like a bitchy ungrateful middle-class American mother, but I also know that I speak for all BUMCAMs when I say: next year, please, stay awhile. If you would only help me catch up in my life after Christmas, I promise you, you’ll get your own line of underpants.

Beseechingly,

Betsy

Hallelujah! (toot) Hallelujah!

I drove over an hour just before Christmas to hear Handel’s Messiah. I grew up listening to it on Christmas Eve after bedtime, as my parents brought our gifts down from the high loft in their bedroom and arranged them under the gargantuan bull-pine we’d carried in from some subarctic marsh or another. As a child I thought the nearly two-hour oratorio was one of the most beautiful pieces of music I’d ever heard. I was a young adult before I realized I could listen to it all year ’round. And I did.

The first time I saw the whole thing live was a frigid night in Washington, D.C. I was in my early twenties and didn’t own a car. I rode a Metro and then a bus and then walked for almost an hour, uphill, to get to National Cathedral. A stone pier separated me from most of the choir. I spent a lot of time worrying about how to get home without freezing. But the music sounded better than it did on my Walkman.

Flash forward to a rainy afternoon in east Phoenix, to a large and relatively new church designed, I believe, for acoustics. I was embarrassed at the tears that sprang to my eyes during the overture. It was almost unbearably beautiful. I’d been the last to arrive at the sold-out performance, and my seat was a padded folding chair against the back wall. In front of me, in the last pew, was a family of five, a mother, father, and three little boys whose ages must have ranged from two to six. The youngest fell asleep almost immediately on his father’s lap, then slept until nearly the end in his mother’s arms. When the hand-off took place, she stared into her son’s tranquil face for about twenty seconds, touched her lips to his forehead for another twenty. When the choir sang “For unto us, a child is born…Unto us, a son is given…,” the dad turned his head and gave his wife a conspiratorial grin, as if those lines had been written just for them.

They had been. My beliefs in the realm of spirituality run more to the Buddhist and Shinto end of the spectrum, and I tend to consider the idea of a god that thinks at all like a human to be not only arrogant but insulting (for the god) but I find it wonderful that the Christian story is couched in a tale of a holy infant. And of rebirth in the face of death. Humanity’s faults lie not in the infants, but in the men and women they become.The infant is mankind’s link to peace and hope and the everlasting. Our perpetual failure, as a species, to attain the first does not deter us from keeping the second or achieving the third.

My own body had to undergo the chemical metamorphosis triggered by giving birth in order for my brain to understand the holiness of the infant, the power of that holiness, and humanity’s need to worship it. Becoming a mother gave me a chemical connection to the power, to the glory–a mainline to the everlasting.

During the Hallelujah chorus, the six-year-old stood on the pew in front of me, bopping his head in time to the music just as I felt myself doing. In the pause between the second-to-last “hallelujah” and the last one, he let out a soft fart. Both hands grabbed the seat of his pants and he whipped his head around in alarm for the paternal reaction. His dad shot him a conspiratorial grin. He grinned self-consciously back.

So easily the sacred becomes the profane. The two shift and change places before our eyes; to remind us of the sacred that’s often as elusive as if it were writ in infrared, we tell a story. We sing a song.

Hallelujah!

It’s Just Like Suede!

Last year I bought a pair of soft leather baby shoes for a friend who had just given birth. Mbot and Gbot had gone through two pairs apiece of these shoes.

“Lola LOVES them,” raved my friend recently. “She won’t wear any other shoes.”

“I know,” I raved back. “They’re just like…they’re just like a second skin!”

“Um, they ARE a second skin,” she said.

And we laughed and laughed and laughed.

She’d been waiting ten years to say that. A decade ago, driving back together to my home from a spa vacation in the mountains of Idaho, we passed fields of cows, their sleek black hides gleaming in the autumn sun. “They’re so BEAUtiful,” exclaimed my city-slicker friend, practically tongue-tied. “They almost look like…like…like SUEDE!”

“Um,” I said, “They ARE suede.”

And we laughed and laughed and laughed.

A year ago, I send a professor in my MFA program an essay I’d written about me and my friend. It was mostly dialogue. It was hilarious. And poignant, and heartbreaking. And hilarious. My mentor, an accomplished poet/essayist/author, said, “It doesn’t work.”

“But why?” I asked, knowing she was right, but unable to understand.

“I’ve written things like this,” she told me. “About me and my girlfriends. And they’re wonderful. But what they really all just come down to is, ‘And then we laughed and laughed and laughed.'”

So it’s not good art. But it’s awfully good life. I’ll take it.

When’s the last time you laughed and laughed and laughed?

It Feels Like the First Time

because…it is the first time.

The other day I dripped food coloring into two chunks of homemade play dough (the only kind Gbot doesn’t eat) and gave the Midgets each a lump of green,  a lump of red, and a lump of white dough and a few cookie cutters. Very Italian or very Christmasy, depending on how you look at it. Shortly thereafter, I transcribed the following conversation as the Midgets sat across from one another at the table, Mbot rolling dough industriously between his palms, a feat of coordination only recently mastered:

“Now make a ball, Gbot.”

Pause.

“Now give it to me. That’s not a ball. That looks like a flat little pancake.”

Pause.

“There. Now it’s a ball.”

Mbot helping his brother? A “flat little pancake?”

People hear more impressive things every day. But most of what we hear sounds like the adults talking in Charlie Brown specials because we’ve heard it all before. That’s one reason reading is so delightful–we’re often reading something new. Poetry, especially, which offers the language in combinations most of us would never think to concoct make ourselves, alerts us to a world of endless surprise. In an odd twist of evolutionary biology, humans prefer predictability, spending all our lives in efforts to control our environment so we won’t be surprised, yet surprises are right up there in the list of things that make us feel most alive.

Surprise is a matter of course for those of us living with a toddler and what is now referred to as a “pre-k.” Although I hear the words “No,” “Why,” and “That’s mine,” more than I care to remember, each day, a significant percentage of what both Mbot and Gbot say, they have never said before. It’s the very first time. And so, “That looks like a flat little pancake” becomes poetry. As does Gbot’s contribution: “I make a poo-poo noise. Listen.”

Did you hear any poetry today?

The Oatmeal Eskimo

the chimney jesus ornament by orsobear. http://www.squidoo.com

I have failed at my goal to post every day, much less to write the blog from five to six each morning. Some of you may have noticed. I notice. On the days I’ve remained silent, it’s not because I’m watching back-to-back episodes of House. I’m adhering to the old adage, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Or the other one, “Shut up and listen. You might learn something.”

It’s also because Christmas is kind of a busy time of year. What with all the overachieving, trying to create a holiday worthy of the ones my mother created all through my childhood and adulthood, and still does.

Sadly, Christmas at my parents’ house will not be the same this year because, for the first time in nearly forty years, their tree will lack a grimacing, fur-trimmed Eskimo face made out of what we’ve all speculated is oatmeal, that my brother made in grade school. David’s wife must really love him, because she took it back to Japan last year after their Christmas visit. It’s either love or my mother paid her off.

Either way, I will miss the nasty old thing. The legacy has been passed on; now his children get to poke fun at him and move it surreptitiously to a branch on the back of the tree and wait to see how long it takes for someone to notice.

I didn’t mean for this post to turn into a story about ugly Christmas tree ornaments, especially when I started out saying that if I didn’t have something nice to say, I wouldn’t say anything at all. But my brother would be the first to agree that the oatmeal Eskimo is long on fiber but short on beauty.

What’s the ugliest thing on your tree, and why’s it there?

Picking Gbot

And I'd pick him again.

Like any forty-month-old, Mbot is ambivalent about his little brother’s existence. Although I have assured him that my heart is so big that both of them are in it at the same time, he sometimes asks me why we have Gbot. I have told him, in answer to his questions, that before they were born, he and Gbot were stars. And I looked up in the sky and looked at all the stars, and picked him and Gbot to make our family complete.

I guess I could tell him the truth, but I don’t want to burden him yet with the knowledge of vaginas.

A few nights ago, we were driving home from Grandma’s after dinner and, in spite of a moon just two nights past full, the stars were bright in the sky. Mbot studied them out the car window. “Mom, I’m glad you picked me, but I wish you hadn’t picked Gbot,” he told me.

I assured him that our family wouldn’t be a family and that we’d all have sad hearts without Gbot. I reminded him that Gbot thinks Mbot is the coolest, funniest guy around.

How old will he be when he figures out that you don’t get to pick your children, or your siblings, or your parents? Or your teeth or your legs or your heart, for that matter. Sometimes your friends, but not always.

I am not sure about astrology, but upon becoming a mother, I have better understood the ages-old tendency to turn to stars for answers. As a parent, I thank my lucky stars that the questions start out with a lower level of difficulty.

Harmony reigns when the stars align.

And you certainly don’t always get to pick which questions to answer, do you?

The Amazon Way: Adventures in Gift Wrapping

The Box of Shame

I went inside Amazon last week. That’s right: inside Santa’s distribution center and birthplace of the Kindle. Building 3.

The “ooh, ahh” factor was considerable. Approaching and entering Building #3, a behemoth windowless block longer than five football fields, was like what I imagine boarding the Millenium Falcon might be like if it landed just west of Phoenix off the I-10. Disappointingly, Harrison Ford didn’t greet me at the door. No one else did either. Don’t get me wrong–others were present, in the form of  two uniformed personnel behind an elevated desk and several others busily working the airport-like security exits, bag search windows, and full-body turnstile entries, but no one greeted me. No one acknowledged my appearance in any way. I looked down to see if I had turned invisible somewhere between my front door and theirs, but no, there at the bottom of me were the comfortable shoes I’d been instructed to wear, in the email from Mbot’s school PTO leader, who’d organized this fundraising event which involved a five-hour stint wrapping gifts. In exchange, Amazon would give 75 cents per gift to Montessori to buy more turkey basters or tweezers or paper for books about the biomes of the wetlands.

Volunteer wrapping gifts at Amazon. Not.

When I’d happily agreed to participate, I’d imagined a relaxing afternoon around a large conference table making friends with other mothers while we honed our folding and taping skills. I estimated that by the end of five hours, I’d wrap perhaps seventy gifts and have more friends. In my fantasy, we were all sipping mochas, too, but I realized even then that might be pushing it.

In reality, ten or eleven men and women, none of whom I recognized from Mbot’s school, stood in front of the metal detectors, looking as confused as I was. My wrapping fantasy flickered, like in The Matrix, when there’s a break in the continuum and you realize that what you thought is real might not be. They seemed to be shuffling one-by-one through a metal detector, and I followed the crowd, shuffling past a log book in which I listed the personal electronic devices on my person. No one had actually spoken to me yet, so the only way I knew to do this was to flip back a few pages to see what other people had written. I passed through the metal detector and stood with the others, who were finally communicating with one another, mostly to express how strange our gift wrapping experience had been so far, even though we hadn’t actually started wrapping gifts.

An enormous banner hung high across one wall reading: “No Running Allowed,” and all around us, employees were fast-walking across the concrete floor of the massive space, whose metal roof was slit with skylights and higher than a field goal kick, and whose east wall I could not even see, it was so far away. While I contemplated the wonders of contemporary engineering, a woman appeared and ushered those volunteers who had “done this before” out of sight into the indecipherable maze of the machine. Several minutes passed. Then a tall man arrived; he didn’t  introduce himself, just mumbled a few indecipherable words and passed out nondisclosure agreements. I dug for a pen and wondered if I was breaking any rules by leaning my agreement on a pallet of hardcover copies of some book I’d never heard of. I read both sides of the agreement and signed it. In doing so, I promised not to give away  any of Amazon’s secret processes.

The tall man led us westward for over a minute until we finally reached a wall, with a door in it that led into an office, where we were instructed to leave our personal items. We could keep our phones, but were admonished that talking on a cell phone and gift wrapping were not to be done simultaneously. Then we were led–again, for well over a minute–back out into the main space and into a maze of high aisles of segmented, numbered, metal shelves that continued into infinity. Each held items of all description and groups of people moved with carts among them and among clusters of low-tech machinery, tables, ramps, etc. The main impression was of movement, constant and everywhere.

Our small, confused group finally came to a halt across from loading bay #126, where a small, businesslike and perpetually moving person introduced herself as Dolores, and proceeded to briskly and impressively demonstrate The Amazon Way of gift wrapping. There’s a way to wrap a Kindle, a way to wrap a CD, a way to wrap Boxed Items, a way to wrap books, and a way to wrap Large, Unwieldy Gifts (LUGs). So as not to disclose nondisclosable details, I will just note here that The Amazon Way involves neither a conference table nor mochas nor paper, scissors, or small plastic rolls of Scotch tape. 

Dolores endeared herself to us right away, possibly because she was the only person yet who had made eye contact, smiled, and had a name. Was this a deliberate strategy employed by Amazon? Were we meant to feel intimidated and unwelcome by all but our immediate superior so that we’d pledge undying loyalty to her? After all, without Dolores, none of us would be able to find a restroom, much less our personal belongings or the way out.

Each volunteer found a station for him or herself, checked for the appropriate tools, and went to work. I was again reminded of The Matrix, where Keanu Reeves’ real body was plugged into a giant power plant. My station was beside two stations shared by heavily pregnant best friends, the only others, I’d learned, who were also wrapping for Mbot’s school. We three formed the end of the line.

For those of you considering such a diversion yourselves, I can reveal the most important secret without breaching my nondisclosure contract, and it is this: position yourself at the station as close to the front of the line as possible, so you can pick and choose what to wrap before undesirable, difficult, time-consuming items get rolled down to you. One woman, obviously a veteran, was up at the front hand-picking the Kindles. The Kindle, and I hope I’m not disclosing any nondisclosable details here, arrives via conveyor belt at your station accompanied by its own custum wrapping box with a pre-taped ribbon. If you get to exclusively wrap Kindles for five hours, your school will be able to buy enough paper for a million books about the biomes of the wetlands.

Standing beside a perpetually moving conveyor belt, I magined myself taking a wrong step and ending up in one of the giant blue bags designated for LUGs or taped with no more than three pieces of tape into a box and sent to Scottsdale. Perhaps with a card like one I affixed to a beribboned something-or-other, labeled, “Merry Christmas Fartpants and Sophia.” Maybe at the end of the day  (but when do the days end, inside Amazon, at this time of year, when employees work eleven-hour shifts around the clock?) some uniformed security personnel might blearily notice that a volunteer had entered, carrying a personal computer and a cell phone, and never left. He’d assume I was still at my wrapping station. By the time the shift, and the next, rolled around, the narrow line containing my name and descriptions of my personal electronic devices would become lost under new pages of new volunteers and their personal electronic devices. I would only be discovered, lifeless but not yet bloated, thanks to Amazon Prime, the next day by Fartpants and Sophia. They’d never be really the same again.

I watched my step, and met the challenge of a thirty pound La Crueset dutch oven that trundled down the conveyor belt. But the Lady Gaga coffee table book almost bankrupted Montessori. In an interesting paradox, while the Kindle is the easiest item to wrap at Amazon, home of the web-order book, an old-fashioned book is the most difficult. Old-fashioned books come in all those inconveniently different sizes, and have all those pokey, pointy corners. Eight of them, to be exact, each one ready to tear a carefully folded pre-cut sheet of wrapping paper, sometimes again and again.

Torn wrapping paper is not The Amazon Way. 

Neither is using more than three pieces of tape per gift. Nor is crinkling. Nor is unevenness or crookedness of paper, ribbon, or card. Nor is the blue ribbon with the green paper. Or the blue paper with the beige ribbon. But when in doubt, use beige. “Beige goes with everything,” says Dolores. She and Burberry know.

As the two pregnant ladies and I toiled, giggling over each other’s mediocre wrapping skills and high-fiving our triumphs, Dolores appeared among us, one hand raised high above her head. In it was a gift–one that had been tracked via a nondisclosable computer code to our row. The package looked like something Mbot might have wrapped. Its gold paper was crumpled at one end, which was affixed by three large pieces of tape.

“The Box of Shame,” I intoned under my breath. The pregnant ladies and I turned shamelessly to find out who might claim it. We speculated not quite quietly that it was surely one of the women handpicking the Kindles. That those women needed the Kindles because they had no genuine wrapping skills. No one fessed up, and Dolores picked someone, at random, although I don’t think completely at random–Dolores was on the ball–and gave a lecture and (another) wrapping demonstration as the rest of us not-so-guffawed ungraciously.

Twenty minutes later, quality control arrived again, in the form of Dolores holding another gift high in the air–this time, a small, blue-wrapped box. I squinted to see what was wrong: Aha! the tag had been applied sideways. Again, the Montessori mothers denied responsibility with smirks of superiority. Half an hour went by. I wrapped a felt pocketbook-making kit, a history of war, and a block of suet.

Dolores appeared a third time, now shaking her head and threatening us. In her upheld hand was another gold package–this one with a large tear on the side. Even worse: the tear had been taped! Not only was the responsible party a shitty wrapper, but she was trying to get away with it!  I started kind of feeling sorry for this person who apparently was genuinely really, really, bad at wrapping presents. Give ’em the Kindles, the pregnant ladies and I agreed. With those genes, their kid would need the private education more than mine.

After three full hours of wrapping, and quite a bit of standing around because the gift volume was down that afternoon, we were told we could go. There simply wasn’t enough work for all of us. I counted thirty tags to add to the Montessori pile. In three hours, I’d made $22.50.

The pregnant ladies had chosen to stay an extra half hour, so I was chaperoned to the turnstiles alone, where my chaperone disappeared, but no one could tell me how or where to retrieve my personal belongings. My chaperone had to be called back to lead me there. With personal belongings in hand at last, I then proceeded to bungle the exit procedure. I made every mistake in the book, and the uninformed security personnel let me. First I tried to push through the turnstile instead of going through the X-ray. They let me almost get through without giving them my bag. And then my cell phone. And then I was directed to turn on my cell phone so they could ascertain t wasn’t hot off the shelves. I am sure they didn’t let me make every mistake in the book for their own amusement–I think they’d just forgotten that anyone alive might not know The Amazon Way.

As I drove home on the interstate just before rush hour, I thought about The Amazon Way. Amazon had charged anywhere from $3.99 (for a Kindle) to $5.99 (for a LUG) for every item we wrapped. I did the math. On the average, this left Amazon not only with the $4.24 per gift after Montessori’s take (minus supplies and cost of conveyor belt), but also with whatever it was saving by not actually hiring people to gift wrap. Meanwhile, I’d made $22.50 for Mbot’s school. I hope it goes to buy more paper to make more books illustrating biomes of places, maybe other than the wetlands.

“There are the plants that reach and reach high and high to the sun,” Mbot had said when he brought home the first book.

“There are plants that stay down under,” he told me when he brought home the second book.

“Wetlands are stinky!” he announced when he brought home the third book.

I will keep them forever. It’s my way.

What’s yours?

Monstery Underpants

It was a cold, rainy day that started out with monstery underpants. (Not to be confused with Montessori underpants, which would sing a song called The Family of the Sun, do turkey basting works, and make small books illustrating the biomes of the wetlands.) Monstery underpants are worn on the head before breakfast at a jaunty angle, summoning to mind a beret. Wearing them may, like wearing any other uniform, cause bonding between brothers. Mbot announced that he was going to protect Gbot from a “monstery movie.”

“Gbot, I”ll always be here to help,” he offered. “I will cover up your eyes when danger comes.”  And during the monstery movie this evening, which was in fact just the trailer for Megamind, while Gbot watched unfazed from the sofa, Mbot peeked out from the kitchen, where he was hiding because he gets scared easily and sometimes has bad dreams, long enough to see the girl blow the spider into Megamind’s face. He thought that was hilarious. “That is what I’ll do to all my bad dream members!” he announced.

Earlier, Gbot “wanted only pancakes” for dinner, but he yiked his new shark raincoat. (His “y” does the work of an “l” and often a “w.”) The coat was supposed to be a Christmas present, but I called it into early service because today’s unending drizzle represents probably a tenth of Maricopa County’s annual rainfall. We may not need it again for a long time.

And this afternoon after traipsing with the Midgets through the drizzle into the library, I paid $8.60 in overdue fees. “Did you know that this book was due November 7?” asked the librarian in disbelief.

Like I didn’t know.

I’d already renewed it twice and still wasn’t past page thirty. As the raincoated Midgets were squirming behind me on their bottoms on the new library carpet, having earned their positions by being monstery, I had trouble believing her disbelief.

Oh, and this morning, we also startled a giant spider out of the soggy leaves by the gutter. “I love you all the way out to the sewer gutter,” Mbot told me at bedtime, in a personalized version of Sam McBratney and Anita Jeram’s Guess How Much I Love You.

And so another day goes by. I have no insights. But I noticed these things. And I would never have remembered that last one if I hadn’t just written it down. Sometimes, just remembering is enough.

Do you write? What does it startle out of the soggy leaves of your day?

The Editing Life: A Few of My Favorite Sings

Today I spent a couple of hours doing edits on a book manuscript of a young woman’s search for…for lots of things but not things–things more in the sense of how Mbot says it; not yet able to form the voiceless dental fricative, his “things” come out “sings.”

She is looking for sings–things that will sing within her. She is an artist and a searcher and she wants to give. But what she’s got to give–a quirky, hilarious, bittersweet take on the world, a need to meditate, to reflect–is a tough sell in a society that more values the ability to answer a phone or write code or invent a new drug or sell something or enforce the rules of a bureaucracy.  Artists and meditators need apply only if they can appeal to a large enough cash platform or look smashing in their yoga pants. There are of course many exceptions, but not enough. She is teetering at the tip of a population pyramid, like the one the USDA came up with, no doubt in close cooperation with the Grains Council of America. She is Fats, Oils, and Sweets, all rolled into one. I’ll have me some of that.

I am lucky, because I can get me some of that, I get paid for it, and I get to stick my big fat opinions into the text during the creative process. I’ve always been a sucker for process. I’d rather have the line-drawn studies for a painting on my wall than the finished product; my favorite part of The Guru’s ship model-building is when the hull planks haven’t yet been set in place over the curving poetry of ribs. I love seeing how artists’ work develops over years and decades. In fact, I am so enamored of process that it somewhat retards my ability to complete my own sings. And you only have a chance of getting paid for sings–the payment, society’s validation of your worth–when you turn them into things.

Engaging in the process of the work of another –when I really believe in that person’s work–is exhilarating, partly because I get to be part of their process, but also because it makes it suddenly easy to think about my own work in a different way, in a distanced, critical mode. There is a lover vs. working girl metaphor I could use here, but my parents are reading this, so I’ll restrain myself. And I’ve already indulged in enough metaphors for one post.

Time for more dessert.

What are your favorite sings?