Wednesday, September 30, 2009

What "People" won't talk about

Today I heard that People won't be writing about Flow—they feel the subject matter's too "squeamish." Ok, I get that menstruation is not (yet) a topic that most people talk about over dinner, that we've got an uphill battle getting people to pay attention to the book, that we're fighting against thousands of years of imposed shame and stigma and patriarchal control . . . yes, I can rant and rave about that for a long time.

But squeamish? We're talking about a natural biological function that just about EVERY WOMAN, which constitutes most of their readers, goes through for 40 or so years. Personally, I was sick to my stomach at their coverage of Mackenzie Phillips confessing her ongoing affair with her father. I felt ill trying to explain to my kids the cover story about that poor girl who was kidnapped and spent 18 years living in her captor's backyard, giving birth to his children. Close up photos of John Travolta after his son's tragic death brought tears to my eyes—both for his pain but also for how disgusted I was that someone in mourning should be the center of a media frenzy. Which makes me feel more than slightly queasy at this blanket assessment of our society—we're far more comfortable reading/writing/talking about incest, eating disorders, drug abuse, death, rape, kidnapping, and adultery than we are about periods.


Day 3 from my iphone

I recently read an article about dissatisfaction with iPhones, or at least about how slow they are. Not the iPhone itself but online connections. YES. I didn't realize until after how this mind numbing slowness isn't supposed to be. Just opening this page to write on was endless. Which makes me realize how jaded and spoiled I've become. Not being able to blog instantaneously? Having to wait 45 seconds to read the times. Not having a map locating local coffee joints at the beach redraw fast enough? On my phone?!

I'm going to work on patience.

And day 3 is done.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

technology as a time waster

I'm not talking playing wii sports resort of Beatles Rockband, both of which are extremely popular right now. I'm talking pseudo work that makes me feel like I'm accomplishing something but when, in reality, I'm just wasting time.

Yesterday I spent hours redoing my twitter homepage. HOURS. You can see it at @elissastein. It's very pretty, mod, bright, happy but completely unnecessary. On that note, I customized my blog: First time editing html ever but again, who cares.

I'm off to tackle my best friend's Christmas card. Also not on my to-do list, but it'll make someone happy.

And day 2 is up!

Monday, September 28, 2009

day after day after day

Recently my yoga talked about a sadhana practice—committing to something for 40 straight days. Should you miss a day of whatever it is you're committed to, you have to go back to the beginning. Looking through my blog drafts, I apparently committed to blogging every day at least 7 times in the past month, often not getting through a paragraph before something took me away.

I actually just got up to make tea. Or really to make a concoction of apple cider vinegar, honey and hot water that's wonderful for sinus stuff. But at least this time I sat back down to write. I started this morning with a to-do list, checking it against my last to-do list and noticing I hadn't done most of the stuff on it. I often wish my life was more one-dimensional, as in not being splintered by so many un-related things. It's hard to focus entirely when disparate forces pull me all over the place (the timer just went off for my hot water).

I just sent out design invoices for the first time since July, which will make my zero balance bank account very happy. I've got to design a t-shirt collection for Iz's new middle school. By Friday. I've already missed the opportunity to have them printed in order to sell this week but, well, I don't have an excuse except I didn't get it done. And that's rare for me. I usually live in a state of borderline anxiety until my list is complete. I have to revamp Flow's website—I'm the only one taking care of this and it's time consuming. There's also a Flow blog and Flow twitter account that have fallen off the wagon. Next up, a new Flow film. Again, it's me finding the art, art directing and doing all production. It can take days of straight concentration, which I don't have right now. I'm listening to Iz's cough which now sounds like it's deep in her chest. She's already on antibiotics for a double ear infection. Last week someone was home sick almost every day. It's time for her meds. And to bake the banana chocolate chip muffin cookies she needs to take them with.

I was asked to write for a Chicken Soup for the Soul book—Thanks Dad. That's almost done but I know Jon will tear it to shreds when he reads it and I'll be doing it again, almost from scratch. And then there's the wonderful new fiction project that I'm working on. 7 chapters to work through.

Then I have things like:

• get to the picture library to return the art that was due a month ago
• buy long pants for Jack as he only has ones destroyed at the knees
• laundry (I can write that every day, it's the bane of my existence
• wrap presents for my best friend's birthday
• make chocolate covered strawberries (after I buy the chocolate and strawberries) to take to a break fast later
• yoga

And then Flow PR. That's supposed to be at the top of my list every day but often I have no time left to even think about it. I had said that 2 months out (and that would have been September 10th, that I'd do something to promote the book every day. Sigh).

Oh, and then there's the endless time I squander on twitter, facebook, emailing, and checking what's up in the world.

But, here's a day one post. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I get to day two.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

more on motherhood

Maureen Down wrote a piece the other day in the Times that resonated so strongly I can't stop thinking about it: "Blue is the New Black." She talked about how women are getting unhappier as they get older, that mothers are less happy than women without children, that the struggle to balance parenting, housework, relationships, work, career . . . all the hats we wear, the balls we juggle, split us off in so many directions, we can never get it together and just have fun. Ok, that last bit was my take on the situation but just thinking about it is bringing tears to my eyes.

I've lost track of the last time I've come first, when a need of mine took precedence over everyone else's. Or how about this, I can't remember the last time someone resolved a conflict that wasn't me. Takes care of sick kids? Me. Makes sure homework is done, paperwork is processed, people get to where they need to be on time? Me.Same old same old. If I don't do it, who will.

I comfort the one in pain. I listen when no one else will. I'm woken up in the middle of the night with bad dreams and runny noses and screams. I'm the one who soothes and nurtures. Who forces medicine down throats. Who makes doctors appointments, talks to teachers, volunteers at school. I'm the one who doesn't eat dinner. Who works at 5 in the morning because there's no time during the day. Who has to listen to football games when I have less than zero interest in what the Giants do this year. Who hosts all holidays. Who has parents sleep on my couch even though we have plenty of other relatives nearby. Who makes plans that everyone complains about. I absorb everyone else's anger angst frustration anxiety fear at themselves school work relationships.

But who is there to take any of the burden off me? I think that's the dilemma and pain Maureen Down was talking about. Or at least that's my take on it. No one has my back. And nothing's going to get easier.

Monday, September 21, 2009

the rock and a hard place trap

Sigh. My 8 year old is coughing nonstop, wrapped up under blankets in my bed, running a fever which I've only officially discovered as our thermometer went missing yesterday. My mother is heating up lasagna (laden with meat) for breakfast, before she heads back home to Florida. My husband always runs late in the morning so my daughter was hysterical about being late to middle school which is way across town and requires public transportation. Somehow his being late and her panicking is all my fault. As they got into the elevator, he said my anxiety bordered on abuse, as my stepfather walked by. Nice touch. There were 3 sobbing phone calls from the bus and a couple of curse laden texts all lobbed at me. Meanwhile, I was trying to get medicine down the little one's throat and help him neti pot so he could breathe.

This is after having my parents in my living room since Friday afternoon. 14 people for dinner—I did all the cooking. Large scale homework assignments with my older one. Increasing snot from my younger one who woke up at 2 in the morning the night before last, screaming, because his nose was so bad. By last night, after 10 people sat around having dinner, as I scraped off the dishes, put away the 15 glasses my mother used for club soda, fought my way through piles of books, suitcases, extra pillows and the extra large garbage bag full of bubble wrap my brother brought over for the kids to play with, organized backpacks for school, got kids bathed, read to and into bed, all I could dream of was the quiet and calm of Monday, when everyone headed out and I could settle in, regain my composure (and sanity to be honest) and get some work done.

But no. Jack is full scale sick so we're home all day. My parents don't head out to the airport until 12:30, so I have exceedingly lovely houseguests who make it impossible for me to ignore them and settle in at my computer. I love having them visit, but 2 bedroom apartments are just hard when there's no where to go. I ended up crying on my bathroom floor at least twice, just to relieve the tension. Not to mention that I finally have to face the fact that my mom isn't well and she's not doing anything to help herself get better. Last week she told me she needs a hip replacement. That, on top of both knees and necessary foot surgery. That, along with diabetes, reflux and a host of other things I can't keep track of. She can't handle any of it until she loses weight, but with lasagna for breakfast, that's not happening soon. I told her yesterday, after keeping my mouth shut for years, that if she doesn't start taking care of herself, we can't come down to visit. What I got in return was a tirade about what a bad mother I am (that caused one of the bathroom sobfests).

I try so hard. All the time. I am responsible for so many people. Sometimes I wonder what would happen if I disappeared for a few days—how would anything get done? But, I can't. So I get yelled at, taken for granted, insulted, overwhelmed. I have to sign again. Life as a mother.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Motel Hell

OK, "Motel Hell" is a bit strong for this place but it was a catchier title than "Motel That Gives Me a Sinus Headache" or "Motel with Creepy Black Marks on the Bathtub Floor." Not everything about this place is terrible—the beach is 20 feet away. Walk up a flight of stairs from the parking lot, cross the boardwalk, and you hit the dunes. And right outside your room is a deck (carpeted in electric blue astroturf strewn with beige and brown patio furniture) and you can stare out at the ocean, the clouds moving across the sky, the rides lit up at the far end of the boardwalk. While soaking in the scenery you can also listen to the screaming toddler who doesn't want to do something (I can't quite figure out what). The 5-year-old with the electronic sword that makes swooshing noises every time he slices the air, which he starts doing at 6:30 in the morning. Or the girl who pounded on our door, unnecessarily loudly at 7 today, until her mother came by, minutes later, to apologize saying she had the wrong room.

I love the air at the beach right now, slightly cool, salty with a mellow breeze. But our room doesn't have windows that open. It's like living in a ziploc bag. We can't open the shades either, as people are constantly walking back and forth past our room. Regardless of what it's like outside, our room is a stagnant, dark cave. We've got 4 people, 2 beds, and french fries from the boardwalk Entenmann's donuts, bottles of gatorade, purple cotton candy, slightly damp beach towels, rinsed out bathing suits, books, trashy magazines, countless half drunken bottles of Poland Springs water, Model Magic, and 15 trolls strewn over every available surface (I think I slept with a People magazine and 2 troll dolls. Our room comes with a "dressing room" which is really a closet with a pole, 4 hangers and a mini-fridge and microwave. The fridge is housing Jack's meds plus the giant bowl of pre-cut watermelon I insisted on picking up at Acme. It's hard to find fruits or vegetables when you're living on boardwalk fare. Onion rings don't count.

It feels like Sponge Bob is on ALL THE TIME, punctuated with short pauses for iCarly (which I like) or Drake and Josh (which I don't). Oh, and the penguins from Madagascar. Their theme music makes my heart pound. The great part of all our other beach vacations (when we rent a house and have time and space to stretch out and relax) is that we have time and space to stretch out and relax. We've been coming to Ocean City for 9 years and always rent a variation on the same house. Second floor of a 2-story, walk into the living room/dining room/kitchen with an island, deck off the front. Up 4 stairs to 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and a washer/dryer halfway down the hall. This year, after a bat mitzvah road trip to NC was derailed due to a sick kid, we decided to come back for a few days before school, to soak up some sun, play that last round of mini-golf, and ride the bumper cars until we ran out of tickets. None of that's happened so far.

It's hard to motivate out of our stagnant cave. The lure of the boardwalk is less so when it's only steps away but the parts you actually want to go to are more than a mile hike to the other end. When you can't see the sky, who cares what it's like outside. And at this point I can't walk 10 minutes for my peanut butter and chocolate with chocolate sprinkles custard cones. That's its own tragedy.

We have one more night. One more night that I won't be able to sleep for more than an hour at a time, on a squeeky bed, breathing recycled dry air, needing to spray saline up my nose and drinking gallons of water so I have to wake up and pee yet again. One more day of whining kids who are used to vacation space and freedom. 24 more hours of walking on the almost soggy floor in our room, not quite carpet, not quite astroturf, just some slightly spongy material that's mildewed.

I want to go home. I want someone to come rescue me and say we don't have to stay, that we can forfeit the money for the 3rd night and leave. And I realize the person to do that is me. I can make that decision. I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

It's HERE!!!

I just got my very first, right-off-the-press, still-can-smell-the-ink-on-the-paper-copy of Flow.

Before I go any further, I have to restate that with the enthusiasm I felt: I GOT MY FIRST COPY OF FLOW!!!!!!! WOOHOO!!!!

Ok, back to the story . . . copies weren't due to the warehouse until October and I didn't give much thought to seeing it before. So when my editor called on Monday saying she had four advance copies on her desk and was sending one over, I was shocked. Shocked and nervous. After two plus years working on it (15 years since I first had the idea) and the mayhem and craziness that seemed inherent to the project, would I be happy? Could it possibly live up to what I was hoping/dreaming/wishing it would be?

My editor was so excited for me to see it she offered to bring her copy over, should the messenger not arrive. But, as we were heading out to a late afternoon yoga class (Jon had taken the day off work) a messenger was handing the package to my doorman. My heart started pounding and I couldn't quite open up the envelope. As we heading up Sixth Avenue, I slowly opened the flap, reached in, and felt a hard, solid, substantial book. As I pulled it out, the spot varnish (shiny bits) of the cover caught the afternoon sun and the calendar and Petty girl glistened. My heart ached. It was suddenly so real.

We started skimming through pages, knocking into people, hugging on the street, tears standing out in my eyes. It all came together into something sleek, smart, stunning, important. The art popped off the pages (and I scanned just about every piece). The story flowed (can't help that) from ad to ad, sidebar to callout, chapter opener to the heavily illustrated menstrual timeline.

Regardless of what happens next, my sense of pride and accomplishment is overwhelming. I've never worked so hard on a project or been so thrilled with the final outcome. Last night Jack (8) and I were talking about my writing career, about what happens when books aren't a huge success. He said, "Nothing is a failure. Everything is a success that you put out into the world." Exactly.