Saturday, June 22, 2013

Big Time

Me, to Consort:

You know what I'd LOVE for my birthday?

CONSORT: (After a beat) I stand by my earlier statement about owning chickens.

(He has vowed that the day after poultry enter our lives outside of the fridge he will put a car on blocks in the front yard. I have no reason to believe this is a bluff.)

QUINN: We're in agreement; no chickens until after you're dead.

CONSORT: You've thought this through?

QUINN: Not the point. What I want for my birthday is for you to clean the office desk.

(Consort brightens.)

CONSORT: What a great idea! As a matter of fact-

QUINN: No, just the desk will be fine. Not the-

CONSORT: I'll do the entire office! I'll bring out the-

QUINN: Please not the-


God, I hate the BIG TABLE. The BT is a nine foot-long folding monstrosity which every year or so takes over the living room when Consort takes my request for a clean desk as a suggestion to perform the office-cleaning version of Sherman's March. I hate the big table so much that a more cynical woman would assume Consort counters my offer for desk-cleaning with BT  as a way of getting out of cleaning anything, ever. I can see that argument but, strange as it sounds, Consort loves the big systemic office cleaning; it appeals to some hunter/gatherer portion of his brain. In the beginning of the process, there is the cleaning; everything is removed from the office and piled on BT and a great wiping is wrought upon the office-land. This is when Consort performs his traditional ballads Why Do We Have So Many Pets and I Am Nauseated By All This Fur and I Shall Die of White-Lung Disease Brought on By Fur and Only the Vacuum Cleaner Truly Loves Me. The other mammals hide in the bedrooms, not the least because, honestly, the fur thing is kind of gross. Still doesn't make BT's presence any more sightly.

After the cleaning is the sorting; lo, the sorting and the considering. All pieces of paper, no matter how arcane, wadded-up or fly-speckled, must be considered. Some of them have meaning; some of them will have meaning; some had meaning a while ago. Nothing, however, is without meaning. You know that dry-cleaning reciept, the one sticky with jam found under the desk behind a hair beach-ball? The reciept you thought "Well, here's at least one thing I can throw away without Consort inspecting?" You FOOL. Under the jam, was a phone number. This is why BT is nine feet long; detritus takes room.

What there is not is the disposing-of. You'd be amazed at how little actually leaves. Oh, it gets looked at, and considered, and made note of, and sometimes it becomes part of a new pile optimistically labeled "I'm going to file these," but we're loyal around here; just because you're a five year-old memo from a defunct company doesn't mean we'll give up on you. If time does, in fact, travel in circles rather than a straight line, we're going to look awfully prescient at some point down the road, knowing the travel plans for Denver before anyone else.

When Big Table arrives, it settles in. It can take up to two weeks for every single item--dusted, considered, repiled-- to be moved back into the office. I ceremoniously take out the five or six sheets of paper declared null and void out to the trash. Consort follows me out, waving a fond farewell to these friends of his youth and then his eyes sharpen. "Wait, I need that," he mumbles, grabbing the parchment sheet from the top, squirreling it back into the office, where it awaits another visit to Big Table, another chance to be noticed next year.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

And Wouldn't It Be Nice to Live Together

I'm thrilled to say PET SOUNDS has been selling well. Since this book has been published to benefit living things who can't thank you themselves, I am thanking you on their behalf and will be putting up a few videos on the animals at Sante D'Or. Today, for my friend Michele, it's Porky the Guinea Pig, who came to us shabby and afraid and has become a magnificent specimen of Porkyness.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Geek in the Pink

The effervescent  Melissa Wiley interviewed me for her Geek Mom podcast. I am a better person for it. With any luck, your feelings about me won't change once you hear what my favorite candy is.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Pomp & Circumstance

A little back story: If you've read "The Year of Learning Dangerously," you have come across one of the shining lights of academic goodness of the kid's first year of homeschooling. I refer, of course, to her math tutor Miss Frizzell, the woman who taught Daughter that Geometry doesn't make all grown women cry. I owe her a debt so when she asked me to come speak at a graduation for her class, I didn't hesitate.

"Ooh, a commencement speech!" a friend marveled. "Someone's moving up in the world!"

Sure, someone is. But before you imagine me hurling platitudes across the Rose Bowl into numberless hordes of waiting ears, you should know this: this was a sixth-grade graduation; there were three students. They are wonderful girls, all of whom have some vague desire to write and I'm the closest thing Miss Frizzell has to Kurt Vonnegut, so off I went, and I had a wonderful time. I have to say I will speak to larger groups before the month is out, but I doubt any of them will offer me a friendship bracelet afterwards.

Here's what I said to them:

Good Shepherd and Miss Frizzell’s class are a great place to be from. Everyone knows you; you’ve started to figure out who are you (trust me, you’ll be doing that for a while); you’ve practiced being yourself on a small stage. From what I hear, you are all very good at being your own unique selves. Now it’s time to take that show to a bigger stage. You’re going to be terrific, incredible middle-schoolers. But before you go, I’m going to give you two pieces of advice. Feel free to ignore them; I have a 12 year-old, I’m used to being ignored.

1. Keep Working Hard.

I know Miss Frizzell well enough to say that this year you’ve done more, and better, work than you’ve ever done before. Good! Keep at it. Hard work leads to good grades, and proud grandparents, and mothers and fathers who don’t ground you, and these are all good things. But some day, even with all your hard work, you will get a grade you don’t like. You might, even with all your hard work, have one entire class which never really does make any sense to you. If you stay in the habit of working hard, you will be able to look at that grade which won’t be an A and think “It’s not what I would have wanted, but I did the best I can do,” which I promise you feels better than thinking “I didn’t try hard and I didn’t do well and I’m never going to know what I might have been able to achieve.”

2. Bad Stuff is Sometimes Good Stuff.

Here’s the thing about middle school; it’s intense. You’re going to feel all the feelings you’ve ever had, sometimes in just one lunch period. It’s not middle-school if you don’t. Most of those feelings will be pretty good; great, in fact. You’ll be happy more often than you’re unhappy. But, when you’re happy, you think things like “This is awesome pizza!” and “I love pizza!” and “Yeah! More pizza!” You already know most of the things you learn when you’re happy. But when something goes wrong, someone hurts your feelings, something which never bothered you before now really bugs you, you’re usually in new territory. Take that opportunity—and it is an opportunity -- to inhale, calm your mind just a bit and think “Okay, what can I do to try to make sure this situation never happens again?” The next few years are when you get to take every problem-solving skill you’ve ever been taught and test them out. If you’re problem is something like “I really hate Volleyball, and I seem to be very bad at it, and we’re doing it in PE for the next six weeks, whether I like it or not,” then I will make one more suggestion: write. I’ve gotten through most of the really embarrassing moments of my adult life (and there have been so many) by promising myself “Yes, Quinn, you look like an idiot now, but later this will make a really excellent story.”

I’ve made a career of it.

Good days don’t give you anecdotes. Lousy days make great stories and the best opportunities to figure out who you are. As I said before, you’re going to be doing that for a while. Like, the rest of your life. But don’t worry, Volleyball only lasts one semester.

Today is the first day of a new journey. Think of it like a camping trip, only you’re going to be walking around the world. What’s the most important part of camping? Preparation. You want to make sure you have everything you need before you set off. Let me assure you, Maya, Natalia, Arianna, you have everything you need. And those of us who are walking ahead of you can’t wait to see what kind of adventure you have. Congratulations, good luck and make us proud.