28 February 2012

The Movie In My Mind

I scrolled through the Academy Awards broadcast today, stopping for the categories that interested me. I always watch the short film and documentary awards, because, for me, they represent the best of moviemaking--the sacrifice and perseverence, the passion and patience to fully realize one's dream. Plus, the winners come onstage and they look like real people. Sure, they're dressed for the occasion, but they have self-styled hair, and flesh that actually conceals their bones.

I was particularly enamored of the short film winners from Northern Ireland. The father, Terry George, was the director of "The Shore," and his daughter, Oorlagh George, the producer. She wore plaits across her crown, pinned up like my mother's childhood hair. The dad was so proud that now he didn't have to wait until his daughter's wedding to extol her talent. She rested her head on his shoulder and giggled before dedicating her award to her mother. It was a charming example of the love and commitment required to bring a film to life.

Filmmaking is a collaborative process, and the shared experience is unifying. When I was first married, I worked on an independent film that shot primarily on the weekends. I had a paying job as an assistant to a young director during the week, and then rolled into twelve hour weekend days shooting around Manhattan. I was the script supervisor and the occasional boom operator. None of the crew was paid, but I dreamed of making films, perhaps as a line producer, so I considered it my big break. The Captain was very supportive, considering the fact that we were newlyweds and rarely saw one another.

The shoot took many months, most of which were miserable. The director was odd, the food was lousy, the hours excessive. By the end I wanted to kill myself just to be released, but I had fallen in love with the crew. I couldn't abandon them. The final day of shooting was a mix of joy and sorrow--true satisfaction in our accomplishment, tempered by the realization that I was saying good-bye to almost everyone in the room.

Writing is a solitary process. My book is a movie in my head, but I am the only one producing it. There is no help with the lighting or the costumes, no script supervisor to remind me what day it is in the narrative. I am the lone filmmaker who must take the images and transcribe them with enough detail to help you see the movie as well. It is not like a normal job where you interact with co-workers every day, and get feedback on your performance. There are no office parties or scandals.

There is no crew.

But, as with the Irish filmmakers, there is fervor and dedication. And there is family. The Captain is still supportive. If I ask, my friends read what I've written and offer their opinions. And, miraculously, I've met a whole slew of encouraging readers who are willing to slog along with me, sharing the highs and lows of my life.

You are my crew, and I love you.

Now go do something that makes you happy.

22 February 2012

My Dream Date

I had a sex dream about Paul Rudd.

While I was in Florida, I read three romance novels: Natural Born Charmer and Nobody's Baby But Mine by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, and A Little Night Magic by Lucy March. Actually, Lucy's might be more of a paranormal romance-I get confused by all the sub-genres-but the central love story is the glue that holds it all together. When I wasn't reading romance, I was writing it, so I had love and sex on my brain.

Paul Rudd was the lucky recipient of all that yearning. I think that's hysterical. The main characters in SEP's novels are football players with piercing eyes and chiseled bodies, yet my brain chose an average-looking, nice Jewish boy from Jersey for some hanky-panky. Let me add that Zachary Levi was also, inexplicably, in my dream. There was no three-way. At least not with me. I don't know what Paul and Zach did on their own after I left.

There was also no real sex. Just a little kissing. This could be because I don't actually know what Paul Rudd's body looks like. Why couldn't I have thought about Ryan Gosling before I went to sleep? I'd have had no problem conjuring up those abs before I drizzled them with chocolate syrup and whipped cream. Yum. Unfortunately, I think Paul may be hairy, which could be why my brain derailed the ab-licking plan.

I'm fairly certain humor is the reason Mr. Rudd was at the receiving end of my lip lock. He's very, very funny, in a completely endearing way. He's completely non-threatening, which is probably why we remained fully clothed. He's not the ravaging type. Plus, I know he's married.

 Basically, I made out with my husband in my dream.

When the boys ask why the Captain and I started to date, I always tell them it was because he made me laugh. He never says anything, because his truthful answer is that I looked kind of wild, so he thought I'd be easy. But we're still together because it's fun.

It is both strange and satisfying to be with someone for so long. I can't believe we're this old, because most days I still feel like the twenty year-old who met him in the stinky, beer-soaked basement of the frat house. Minus the booze and the cigarettes. And apparently, our years together have been so  idyllic that I can't even fantasize about being with someone better. Although I could tease him about trading up for a younger model, because Paul was born a full five years, count 'em, FIVE years after me. Yes, my dream date is 42.

I really have to work on my cougar skills.

So, any good fantasies lately?

17 February 2012

A Postcard from the Porch

I am outside. The sky is blue but slightly overcast, and the gentle breeze is nudging the wind chime behind me. My body is confused and annoyed, because I have forced it into shorts a solid three months before it is ready. In a moment of Lin-sanity, I  have shucked my cardigan to better display my Knicks t-shirt. My hair continues to expand and curl in an attempt to store the unexpected humidity. The seabirds are calling.

I am in Florida!

The Captain cashed in his mileage and sent me to Mom. Today we are driving across the state to visit my sister Kate and her family for the weekend. My sister Erin was supposed to join us there, but she's battling an upper respiratory virus and had to cancel. We're all sad, because I love when I can see all my women at once.

But I'm here, and Mom looks good, and I'm reading! Left to my own devices I will finish a book a day, but I had to take a break, because I only brought three. I'm almost done with Natural Born Charmer, the Susan Elizabeth Phillips novel I started on the plane. I love it. I want to be Susan Elizabeth Phillips when I grow up. Okay, I really want to be her by my second novel, but I bet even SHE wasn't that good by her second novel. Realistic goals, Megan.

I am now going to use my non-reading time to write. O, the hardship.

I am in Florida!

14 February 2012

What's My Worth?

I wrote this post for the Bettyverse, and it is published there today. I printed it here as well, because today is Valentine's Day and I think it's worth examining how we love and value ourselves. Plus it saved me from having to write something else.

I got a job. One that pays me money. Two weeks ago I started watching Four's friend, Ethan, in the afternoon. He and Four go to school together, and they ride the same van home. His mom was looking for someone reliable to watch him for a few hours, so I applied for the job. As in, "Well, I'm here anyway, so why doesn't he just stay with us?" I really know how to talk up my skill set, don't I?

So far, it seems to be working. When the boys get home, they come to the kitchen for a snack and homework. Ethan is not my child, so he listens to me. His behavior has a beneficial trickle-down effect on Four (unlike Reaganomics), who protests but works anyway. Somehow, despite the chatty distractedness, the homework gets done and we go get Five at his bus stop. Then they all play together, often with no video game involvement whatsoever! Wonders never cease.

Today, the Captain cheerfully reminded me it is my payday. My salary is modest, because my work hours are few. But when I converted my wages to a monthly paycheck, I realized I can now pay my van loan, as well as put gas in the tank! I felt like Thomas the Tank Engine: very useful, indeed.

My reaction got me thinking about how I value myself. Oh sure, intellectually I know that being a stay-at-home mom is one of the most demanding and labor intensive jobs on the market. It requires the stamina of a spawning salmon, coupled with the nerves and speed of a gunslinger. One has to really want to do it, with no fear of the potential body count.

So why do I hesitate when people ask what I do?

This isn't a post about feminism, but it bears mentioning that our society today expects women to have careers. This is an awesome paradigm shift from only one generation ago, when no one would have looked sideways at my mother for being a "housewife." Three and I were in the doctor’s office, and I was reading the opening paragraph of an article in New York Magazine about the genesis of Ms. Magazine:

In the years leading up to the birth of Ms., women had trouble getting a credit card without a man’s signature, had few legal rights when it came to divorce or reproduction, and were expected to aspire solely to marriage and motherhood. Job listings were segregated (“Help wanted, male”). There was no Title IX (banning sex discrimination in federally funded athletic programs); no battered-women’s shelters, rape-crisis centers, and no terms such as sexual harassment and domestic violence.

I shared it with him, because he has never known that world. So, maybe this discussion is about feminism. Or at least equal rights. I believe feminism allows for women to make their own life choices, but sometimes I don’t think I’m modeling equal opportunity in my home. If my sons see me solely as a homemaker, will that be how they define the role of women? Probably not, because they see so many other women in their lives“working.”

Or, maybe this is about self-image. I’m smart. I have a college degree. And some days I think I’ve wasted it. Mind you, I don’t think I’m bad at my mother job; I just think I should have put my brain to use out in the world. Which is why writing makes me happy. Well, not always, because writing is hard, but in a way that challenges me, without the back talk of motherhood. Of course, when I tell people I’m a writer I feel like an impostor because I’m not published. Jesus, I’m tired.

Last week the Captain told me he'd read that a stay-at-home mom is worth $96,000 a year. This morning I went on Salary.com and punched in the particulars of my job description (not many hours as a chef, but lots as a psychologist!) and was pleased to discover that my yearly wages would amount to $133,389.

It made me feel better. Even though I know it shouldn't matter.

How do you value yourself?

13 February 2012

Grade School Grifter

I've mentioned before that Five likes to visit his school store. The problem is that it's only open one day a month, which means I have to write it in my date book or suffer his wrath for denying him the chance to purchase small plastic monsters and cool erasers. As much as I appreciate the constant fodder for "How I Failed Five Today," I can live without his withering looks, so I have accurately recorded all the remaining business hours.

The store was open last Wednesday, so I put three dollars in his lunch box and reminded him to go shopping.  When he got off the bus--let me just interject to say it takes Five a solid minute to say good-bye to his homies before disembarking. Then he likes to stand at the curb, wave some hook-em horns and headbang like a rock god as the bus drives away, all while I yell, "Get in the van, Five!--I asked what he'd purchased that day.

"Oh, I got three monsters, but I traded them to some kid for two of his Skylanders."

"Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure" is a new video game. Players have figurines they place on a "Portal of Power" which activates the figurine in the game. It's a brilliant money-making scheme. Toys 'R Us can't keep them in stock.

"What?!" I said, "Who traded you two Skylanders, Five? They're worth ten dollars each!"

"Some kid Jose. He said he doesn't want them anymore. But he really wanted my monsters."

If I was Jose's mom, I would not be happy when he came home and showed me the three cheap monsters he traded for twenty dollars worth of video game figures.

"What grade is Jose in?"


"Is he in your class?"

"No, I see him at lunch."

"Okay. Tomorrow you're going to bring back the Skylanders. It's not a fair trade, Five."

"But he doesn't want them anymore, Mom!"

"That may be true, Five, but I'm pretty sure his parents don't want him trading his expensive toys for cheap school store monsters. You have to bring them tomorrow, and ask if he wants them back."

"Okay," he mumbled.

These situations throw me for a loop. Over the years, we've told the boys not to bet their friends. However, when  you do (it's fairly inevitable), you can't squelch. A man's word is his honor. Likewise, if you trade your toy to your friend, you can't ask for it back in two days. Think before you act.  If someone offers you a trade, be fair; don't take advantage. Do the right thing.

These concepts may be difficult to understand in second grade, so I didn't immediately conclude that Five was a scam artist. But I have my suspicions. The next day he came home and told me his friend Tony was going to give him some Skylanders for his early birthday present. His birthday is in September.

My little grifter is working the long con.

08 February 2012

OK, You--Go!

I was standing in the kitchen last night when my phone buzzed with a text message from Two.

 "Come downstairs."

Yes, my children routinely task entire satellites in lieu of walking upstairs to talk with me. I used to yell at them, but then I realized I'm spending about $200.00 a month on our cellphones, so I own part of that satellite.

I worried about the terse nature of Two's communique. Was he injured, and could only crawl to his phone to bravely tap a plea on his touchscreen? Worse, was there a giant cave cricket that had him pinned and unable to safely exit his bedroom? More likely, would I find him pummeled and bloodied by a brother who finally snapped as a result of too many ping-pong losses?

Nope. He wanted to show me a video.

This is how Two bonds with me, so I will usually stand still for the required four minutes of viewing. I'm so happy I did! The video is worth watching for the marvelous engineering, but I was also struck by the lyrics.

I've been waiting for months, waiting for years,
waiting for you to change./
Aw, but there ain't much that's dumber, there ain't much that's dumber,

than pinning your hopes on a change in another./
And I, yeah I still need you, but what good's that gonna do?/
Needing is one thing, and getting, getting's another.

So I been sitting around, wasting my time,
wondering what you been doing./
Aw, and it ain't real forgiving, it ain't real forgiving
sitting here picturing someone else living./
And I, yeah I still need you, but what good's that gonna do?
Needing is one thing, and getting, getting's another.

I've been hoping for months, hoping for years,

hoping I might forget./
Aw, but it don't get much dumber, it don't get much dumber
than trying to forget a girl when you love her./
And I, yeah I still need you, but what good's that gonna do?/
Needing is one thing, and getting, getting's another.

When? When? Why not now? Why not me? Why not me?

One of the things I learned early on in Narcotics Anonymous is that I can only change myself. That doesn't mean I can't share my feelings, or tell someone they've hurt me. But I shouldn't do that if my only motivation is to get them to change; most likely they will not. I need to express myself because it will release me from the chains that bind me--anger, resentment, bitterness.

If you can fully embrace this idea, it eliminates a lot of frustration. Of course, it's really difficult to do on a regular basis, and especially with the people we know best, like family. But the alternative is sitting around, wasting time, picturing someone else living.

I've been trying to actively visualize what I want, so I can accomplish my goals. It's easy to get distracted. Needing is one thing, but getting--getting's another.

What do you need, to help you get what you want?

07 February 2012

Survivor: Penis Island

The report cards are in, and the results are what we expected. Two's grades suck.

That said, we began our Year of Vigilance with only three weeks left in the quarter, so we knew there was little chance of saving his neck. We can only improve. Nothing but good times ahead!


Two and I were sitting together at the kitchen table while he stared off into space, procrastinating did his geometry homework. I was thumbing through Chemistry For Dummies, trying to understand moles and stoichiometry. Not for my own pleasure, but rather so I can avoid paying for a chemistry tutor. Four and Five were in the other room playing Skylanders, a video game. Four likes to immerse himself in his games, performing all the parts. He is the most physically and vocally active couch potato I know. In order to create an environment more conducive to Two's  frittering/daydreaming homework completion, I told Four he would have to end his game in ten minutes and go play with Five.

"No!" he yelled back.

Two threw down his pencil and stared at me.

"That! That total dismissive tone drives me crazy! When I have kids, they're not going to talk to me that way, or I'm just going to hit them!"

Bwaaahahaha!! Oh, how my side hurt from my internal laughter!

With just the hint of a grin, I said,  "So Dad should beat you for your bad grades? Would violence sufficiently motivate you?"

"No, Mom, because I'm too old now. When I have my kids, I'm going to start early, and make sure they know the rules."

"Okay, now that you know the new rules for school, how about I just take away your phone and your computer? Would that work?"

"No, it would just make me angry, and then I wouldn't work anyway."

"Huh. How about you concentrate on not failing your classes, and I'll worry about your brothers."

"Yeah, okay. But you let them get away with so much."

This from the "Screw you, Mom!" guy. Did I hit him when he yelled that at me? No, because he's a sixteen year-old boy, and I knew he was going through a difficult time. Did I tell him we had to stop being mean to each other? Yes. Did I remind Four of the same thing? Yes. Will this be the last time either one of them is disrespectful to me? No. Have I ever hit them? Yes. Did it change anything? Nope.

I can't wait for Two to have a baby. Well, certainly I can wait another ten years. No need to rush things for the sake of the argument. (Remember where you put the condoms, Two!) More to the point, I can't wait for Two to have a teenager. All the righteous conviction he feels right now, the clarity of his beliefs--all that gets muddied in the trenches of parenthood, until it's just a fight for survival.

I'm going to remind Two of this conversation every time he slacks off, or doesn't immediately do what I ask.  He's given me the perfect ammunition.

Outwit, outplay, outlast.

06 February 2012

They Might Be Giants (Fans)

We are Giants fans, and we are happy!

We always host a Super Bowl party. This year I said I wasn't going to, because we had another party planned for Saturday night. But the Giants made it to the big game, so we had to participate in some shindiggery!

As any sports fan knows, the outcome of any game is determined by the collective positive energy bandied about the country by the faithful few. Therefore, we have a few tried and true customs that we employed throughout the play-off season.

1. Team apparel is necessary. Also, if you previously wore a jersey and the Giants won, you must wear that jersey again and again until the Giants lose. The Captain wore his NFC Champions t-shirt from four years ago, even though he had a new one. He figured if he needed to change the karma of the game, he could change his shirt at halftime. I wore a Knicks t-shirt and black cardigan because it is the only New York-affiliated team apparel I own, and I wasn't about to change my lucky outfit at this stage in the game.

2. Change is bad. At the beginning of the game, the younger boys were in the other room playing a Pokemon game. After halftime, my nephew came in to watch. We soon banished him, because his presence was the obvious reason the Giants were losing. Likewise, when the fourth quarter rolled around, we made my M.I.L come back into the room, and shifted everyone back to their original seats.

"Mom," said the Captain, " I don't care if you have to pee, you're going to sit right there until the end of the game! We'll get you some Depends! Now, Three get back on the floor!"

We didn't let Four and Five come in until the celebration. We're not fooling around, people.

3. Knowing how to cross your toes is key. At the beginning of every drive, the Captain grabbed my hand, and I crossed my toes and available fingers. My brother-in-law cannot do this, which is why I think he lacks my faithful conviction.

4. Friends are allowed to watch the game, but only if they are rooting for the Giants or against the opposing team. Two's friends Charlie and Connor are Jets fans. Charlie was required to attend, because he'd been at our house for the play-offs. Connor got an invite because everyone knows that a true Jets fan hates the Patriots. At one point I implored them to "focus your anti-Brady venom!" Listen, I'm not perfect. We do not ever wish for a player to be injured. Just to get sacked.

5. Hot wings must be present. On the day of the first play-off game, Three insisted we stop on the way home from CCD and buy hot wings. Two and I bitched about how Three was going to make us late for kick-off, but we got the wings. The guys ate them, pausing only to exhale deeply in an attempt to cool their mouths, or chew a Tums tablet. The Giants won. We've had hot wings ever since, as a token offering to the football gods.

My father was the director of security for Giants Stadium when it was built. He managed to secure two season tickets at that time. I haven't attended many games over the years, although the Captain and my brother-in-law go to the home opener every year. The old stadium was torn down last year, and a part of my father went with it. We can no longer physically touch the place where my he sat to watch his team, but a part of him lives on when we sit and scream, fingers and toes crossed, superstitious and silly, together.