Sunday, October 28, 2007

Art school dropout

Don't think I've ever told the whole real story of how I came to be a writer. I'll start today. This could take a while.

I entered Furman University in South Carolina as an art major. After just a semester, though, I realized that the school was not the right fit for me. (The cafeteria was segregated, for a start.) I transfered to a community college for the remainder of the year because I had missed the deadlines to transfer to any of the other schools I was interested in.

My big hope was to go to the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), but I applied to several other schools "just in case." The acceptances came in quickly-- Pratt, Parsons, I don't even remember where else. I took a trip into the city by myself one day to see how it felt, though, and a man followed me from the subway to Parsons. I ended up hiding in a bathroom for at least an hour until he left. Decided the city was not the place for me. So I eagerly awaited the response from RISD. I watched the school video, reread the brochures, and plotted how great my life was going to be when I painted my way through Rhode Island.

Then I got the rejection. The only rejection I had ever received from a college, and it had to be that one. I was devastated. My little sister and her best friend even made a sign that they stuck on my door that said something like, "RISD is dumb! They don't know what they're missing! You are sooo good at art!" It was super-sweet.

Anyway, then, like the reasonable person I am, I went to a psychic, who told me I was going to school in Boston. Considering I had not applied to any schools in Boston, I left chiding myself for wasting $20.

The following morning, my dad's cousin, an artist, called out of nowhere to say, "Has Jen considered Boston University?"

That was all it took for me. My best friend and I drove to Boston pronto, and I knew I was in the right place. I transfered as an art major, and had to go to the department chairman with my portfolio to determine if my freshmen credits would count.

He gave me a condescending smirk as he looked through my portfolio, and told me that, no, I would not receive any credit. I'd have to start all over with the intro classes. I was disappointed because the message was clear: my work wasn't good enough. I felt like I was being left back. Well, I sort of was.

On the very first day of classes, I watched in amusement as a young man drew himself a bracelet "tattoo" in Sharpie marker while we waited outside the building for the professor to arrive. We struck up conversation and ended up deciding to go shopping for art supplies together that night. He became my closest friend right away.

Which was rather unfortunate for me, seeing as he was far and away the best artist in our class.

See, I stood next to him every day, and as I drew my not-quite-right noses and painted my slightly distorted apples, he made masterpieces effortlessly in half the time.

It did eventually occur to me that maybe I wasn't very good after all. So at the end of the year, I approached the toughest professor. He liked me, and he knew I was serious about working at my craft, and I figured he'd give it to me straight.

"Am I good enough?" I asked. "Tell it like it is. Can I make a living at this?"

I don't remember his words at this point, but I remember what he did NOT say. He did not say, "Don't quit! You are fantastic! The world will be losing a great talent!" It was more like, "Well, a lot of people discover they're not really cut out for this, and you don't have to consider it a failure if you decide..."


A bit deflated (of course I was hoping he'd tell me my fantasticness was waiting just around the corner), but glad for the truth, I switched majors. I switched to advertising mostly because I figured I could still use my art training, but in graphic design rather than fine art. As part of the advertising major, though, we all had to take some writing courses.

And that's where I met the professor who sexually harrassed me and made me a writer.

Tune in next post for part II.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Crazy 8s and Random 8s

Just noticed Christine also tagged me for Crazy 8s. I accept. :)

8 things I'm passionate about
1. Being a mom
2. Chocolate chip cookies and milk
3. Disability issues, specifically Down syndrome
4. Music with excellent lyrics-- try Counting Crows and Indigo Girls
5. Musical theatre, in all its forms
6. Children's books
7. Fighting injustice, defending underdogs
8. Homemade things

8 things I want to do before I die
1. Have more children
2. Make more crafts
3. Take vacations, pretty much anywhere
4. Go to more Renaissance Faires
5. Learn to cook
6. Get smarter
7. See scammers put out of business
8. Get back to the theatre in some capacity... maybe backstage

8 things I say often
1. I love you
2. You are the sweetest baby in the whole world
3. Are we out of milk?
4. I have to go to the post office
5. People are weird
6. Have you seen my shoes?
7. Awesome
8. I have to get some work done

8 books I've recently read
1. All the Available Light
2. Marilyn Monroe
3. Marilyn Among Friends
4. The Last Days of Marilyn Monroe
5. Norma Jean
6. Marilyn Monroe: Private and Undisclosed
7. The Marilyn Encyclopedia
...what? I'm writing a Marilyn Monroe book! ;)
8. What to Expect: The First Year

8 songs I could listen to over and over
1. Yesterday
2. Anna Begins
3. Galileo
4. Time After Time
5. Kid Inside
6. Home
7. The Wind
8. Never Tear Us Apart

8 things that attract me to my best friends
1. Down-to-earthness
2. Sense of humor
3. Kindness
4. Loyalty
5. Intelligence
6. Lack of drama
7. Honesty
8. Non-judgmental attitude

8 people I think should do Crazy 8s
1. Sara
2. Lori
3. Cynthia
4. Amy
5. Manic Mom
6. Dawno
7. Misti
8. Astonwest

Ooh, and Misti also tagged me for Random 8s-- 8 random things that people may not know about me. OK.

1. I'm 5'4".
2. Most people tell me I don't have any particular accent, though I do seem to absorb other people's accents when I'm talking to them.
3. I can't sleep without socks on. If you ever want to wake me up, take one of my socks off. It drives me batty.
4. I'm a great hula hooper. I've won contests.
5. I somehow stopped biting my nails, by accident, after being a lifelong nail biter.
6. I am allergic to rain. I'm not kidding. When it's about to rain, I get very stupid and feel like I'm going to faint.
7. I was voted "Most Cheerful" in 6th grade, and "Most Corrupting" in college.
8. I just participated in a 9-wipe diaper change. Nine wipes. Pity me.

For this one, I'm tagging Linda, Michele, GlassQuill, and Rebecca.

What was your favorite birthday?

Christine over at the blog From Dates to Diapers is having a birthday bash this week, and as is the nature of cool people, giving other people presents for her birthday.

One of the ways to win is to respond to her blog prompts, and I'm going to take her up on this one-- an unforgettable birthday surprise.

I was in college. My roommate had a thing about birthdays-- she always wanted to make sure that no one was forgotten on their birthdays, even if they were people on the floor who we didn't know very well. I thought that was a special thing about her. Can't remember now whether or not she actually bought everyone little presents... I think it was just a card, but still. Most of the people on our floor were freshmen, away from home for the first time, and knowing someone remembered your birthday is a good thing.


I had a favorite a cappella band at school. I'm kind of an a cappella junkie, if you must know. But The Dear Abbeys were the ones I actually followed around like a proper little groupie. (But I never threw undergarments on stage, honest.)

On my birthday in my junior year, my roommate convinced me that a good friend of ours was having his artwork exhibited in one of the buildings on campus, so we all traipsed over to see. To get to this supposed gallery exhibit, we had to walk through a performance hall where the Dear Abbeys were rehearsing. I said something like, "Oh, no, we can't disrupt them." They said there was no other way to get to the room, so we tried to walk through very, very quietly.

When the singers broke out in "Happy Birthday," it still took me a minute to realize that this had been arranged for me. A private concert! I don't think I could have been happier had it been, say, Sting. It was a real rush and a real honor.

I think all my favorite gifts have been ones of effort and time, more than money. There's something so nice about knowing you have the kinds of friends who are paying attention, who understand exactly what it is that could make you feel wonderful.

So... you're up next. Got a favorite birthday surprise?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Reflections on pumping

Well, here we are at 7 months, and I'm still a "full-time pumper," meaning that I use a breast pump every 3 hours. I had planned on doing it for 6 months, and to be honest, thought that was rather heroic. But then I joined an online group called "PumpMoms," and the first couple of messages I read were sobering: there were two messages from moms who had been exclusive pumpers for a year, and were writing to say they were finally calling it quits.

Damn. A year.

Well, if they could do it... I felt wimpy for stopping at 6 months. The APA recommends breastmilk for a year, so these women were determined to provide it. It was like coasting along at the end of a race, only to have someone pass you and tell you they're going to run the race again.

A personal challenge. Or peer pressure, depending on how you look at it. Either way, I decided I would try to make it to a year, too.

I can't pretend that it's fun, though. I've pumped in the oddest places-- including in the middle of a McDonald's, when the manager refused to let me into any private space at a rest stop. The car's cigarette lighter didn't work, so I was unable to use my adapter, and I was on a 5-hour trip. I had no choice but to stop somewhere to "hook up," so I seriously found myself plugging in at a crowded McDonald's with a blanket covering whatever I could. People still could see what I was up to, though.

I've also pumped at a funeral, in other people's houses, in the car...

Sometimes I feel frustrated because of my low supply-- it's really quite sad now. I just pumped for 16 minutes and got an ounce and a half. I understand that most normal women would take that as the sign that it's time to give up, but I think, "That's an ounce and a half more than she'd get if I didn't do it."

She eats solids three times a day, and usually 1-2 formula bottles, depending on how much I was able to pump that day.

The thing that gets conflicting, though, is that I want time to move faster so I can be done with pumping... but I want time to stand still so my daughter doesn't grow up too fast. Every time I catch myself counting down the days until 12 months, I have that moment of, "No! Don't even wish that!" I'm already nostalgic for her newborn days. It's already all going way too fast.

She has four teeth. Two on bottom, two on top.

She crawls up steps.

She's cruising. (Walking, holding onto furniture.)

It's all so exciting, and I wish I could make it last much longer.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Recycled notebooks

For just about every book I've written, I've kept a large looseleaf notebook filled with notes, correspondence, photocopied medical studies, etc. If I kept all these notebooks on my shelves, though, they'd crowd me out of my office eventually-- so I reuse them. I have two big ones (1 1/2 inch ring binders) and two smaller ones that I keep swapping out when it's time for a new book.

It's always a strange feeling, though, tossing out the old. Each of those notebooks represents several months of my life. But when I look through them, I realize I'm done-- there's no need to hold on to a hundred newspaper articles about bullying when the book is already in bookstores. So I throw the notebook contents in the recycling bin and put a new label on the spine of the notebook... but it's still hard to do.

Only once did I regret it, and that was my Celine notebook. I still know which one it was. I replaced it with notes for another book, but every time I look at it, I think, "That's my Celine book. That's the green binder I lugged around to Vegas, the one I carried with me through the casinos and shows and hotels. The one I read and reread in the hotel hallway at 5 in the morning so I wouldn't wake anyone." I tried to distance myself from it and pretend it was just another job and that it was time to move on just the same as I always do, but I was faking it. That was an experience.

Maybe this next book will be, too. If so, I promise to let myself keep the notebook in tact for sentimental reasons.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Monday, October 01, 2007

I had a dream of Sarina's first words

and they were, "I have to go to work."

I asked her to repeat it in the dream, and she did: "I haf-ta go to work." I was so excited that she was talking, and so sad that that's what she was saying. I knew it meant that she had heard me say that too many times.

Sometimes my dreams are really on the nose.