Thursday, December 8, 2016

I Did Another Embarrassing Thing

Something happened to me the other week.

I mean, to be fair, probably I should say, "I did something the other week."

But I didn't do the thing on purpose. It was just one of those things.

What happened was this: I was in a professional context. To be specific, I was in a Q & A with a candidate for our Middle School Director position. So, I was interviewing a guy that could be my new boss. I was trying to be impressive-like.

I had a question about the role of parents in our community. "Could you comment on the role of parents in our community?" I asked the candidate. Now that I'm thinking about it, I probably should have asked something more specific, but oh well. It's what happens next that I'm trying to tell you about:

Somehow while asking this question, I inadvertently depressed the home button on my iPhone. I pressed it for too long - long enough to summon Siri.

I don't talk to Siri that much. Mac programmed her to call me "Mac Likes to Eat Cheese." If I ask Siri what my name is, she says, "You're Kathleen, but you asked me to call you Mac Likes to Eat Cheese."


I had summoned Siri, but I had no question for her. I had a question for the candidate, which he began answering. Siri must have thought I was still talking to her, and she said really loudly - loud enough for the whole room to hear - "I didn't quite get that." And then she started to say something else while I fumbled frantically to silence her.

Of course, the whole room heard this. All of my colleagues heard it, and the candidate did too. The poor guy was just getting into his answer about parents as partners. People laughed and laughed, like guffawing. My co-workers really thought my Siri mishap was hilarious. I caught some wiping tears from their eyes.

Of course, I apologized profusely, and the poor contender continued his answer.


After the meeting, lots of people made fun of me for inviting Siri to the Q & A. My friend Adriana patted my arm in a conciliatory kind of way. "I feel like this is just the kind of thing that happens to you," she said.

It totally is, I'm sorry to say. Why am I so embarrassing?

Gratitude Buddies

Sometimes Getting Out of Sweatpants

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Theater Review: The Oldest Boy

theater review, jungle theater, sarah ruhl, motherhood

The true story of the evening is that I didn't even really want to go. I'd been running around all day - driving to hockey and doing school work and lots of other stuff.  I felt harried and stressed.

But, I was meeting a friend and I'd purchased the tickets.

And lucky for me, The Jungle Theater is a beautiful building with a small, intimate theater. My row had lots of leg room, and I didn't even have to stand when people wanted to get by. As soon as I sat, I was happy I rallied.

The play begins, and the main character is a woman who could have been me. A white mother in a large city, she sits on the stage, meditating. Her nose itches. She's wiggling. She opens her eyes, sees the audience, and turns the whole operation around. With her back to us, she tries again. There are little bursts from the baby monitor. The mother stands and sighs; she determines the waking to be a false alarm. She flops on the couch, picks up a book, and pulls a secret stash of potato chips from behind a cushion.

We laugh. The doorbell rings. It's monks. "Maybe you're looking for my husband?" the woman asks. Her husband is Tibetan. He's in exile. The family is Buddhist. The monks are looking for the husband, but then again they aren't - they're really looking for the couple's three year-old son, the oldest boy. Tenzin, the monks believe, is a reincarnated lama - a high teacher. The boy should be educated in a monastery in India. He won't live anymore with his mother and father. The mother balks. The father says, "You can't just be Buddhist when it's convenient."

That's basically just the first 30 minutes. The rest of the story prompts you to think about this: to what extent do our children belong to us? To what extent are they people of the world, apart from us?

And the play is also about love and trust, teachers and teaching.

At the end, as I wiped away tears, I thought to myself that The Oldest Boy is the best play I've ever seen. I actually think it is.

To be fair, It might not be the best play you've ever seen, but it was perfect for me at the exact time I saw it.

And here's something extraordinary that I almost forgot to mention: the boy in the play is a puppet. The role is played by the puppet and an adult actor. It totally works, and it's not distracting at all. The puppet has a luminous face, and the interplay between it and its actor is lovely and moving.

If you live in Minneapolis, I think you should go see this show before it closes next week. And then, you should tell me if you liked it.

Sense and Sensibility Review

After the Apple Review

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Film Review: The Diplomat

The Diplomat, David Holbrooke, Richard Holbrooke

I saw a movie last night called The Diplomat. It's a documentary about a real-life person named Richard Holbrooke. You might know Richard Holbrooke as the guy who brokered the Dayton Accords which ended the war in Bosnia in 1995. You might also know him as the Special Envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan under Secretary Clinton. Holbrooke tried to sell President Obama on his Afghanistan policy until the day he died. On that very day, he had an appointment with David Axelrod at the White House, but Axelrod wouldn't give him time in the Oval. Holbrooke and Obama didn't get along, as it turned out. That dynamic, as portrayed in the film, fascinated me.

Anyway, I saw this documentary at  a special screening. After I finished watching it, the director, David Holbrooke, answered questions about its making and talked about his subject, who was also his father. You can imagine that Richard Holbrooke might have been something of an absentee dad, what with all the State Department positions he held in the administrations of three different presidents.

Luckily, it seemed like David had mostly forgiven his dad for being gone a lot. At least, he totally understands that his dad was doing really important stuff while not at home. I was pleased to note that David seemed pretty well-adjusted.

Here's how The Diplomat impacted me:

  • I felt like I should know more about foreign affairs. I found some podcasts from the Council on Foreign Relations, so that ought to help.
  • It reaffirmed my commitment to education. Kids need to understand that big, complex problems can get solved, and that they can be part of those solutions.
  • It made me want to be a risk-taker. Yes, there are big decisions and tough choices, and not everyone is going to like you. But, being liked isn't the whole thing. Sometimes it's more about looking around, learning, rolling up your sleeves, and trying some things.
I highly recommend The Diplomat.  5 stars! You don't have to go to a special screening, but if there's one available, you probably should. It's always good to talk to the artist and understand what he was trying to accomplish. I like that.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

3 Things I Learned from NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo, #amwriting

I didn't even do real NaNoWriMo.  That's when people write 50,000 words in a month. Can you imagine? I did NaNoWriMo Lite, my own little version of the famous novel-writing challenge.

And, if I really hustle for the next two days - the last two days in November - I might make it to 20,000 words! That's a quarter of my project drafted in just a month. I've been working on the rest for 10 months, so clearly this is momentous! Celebrate!

I've learned some things along the way. Here they are:

1. Writing Begets Writing

When you're a new parent, they're always telling you - sleep begets sleep. Get that baby to sleep sometimes, and he'll sleep more times. It's an axiom we crushed in a death grip around here. And while it proved only partially true for the wackos we're raising, I really liked the premise. 

In the case of NaNo, it seems 100% true that writing some stuff makes it easier to write other stuff. 

Here's what I learned: If you've been writing every day, continuing to write every day appears the most logical, functional thing to do. It's less of a slog and more like a normal to-do list item. 

Call the dentist; then, write 800 words. Check it off.

2. Who Cares If It's Good?

I've learned this lesson so many times, but now I've learned it again. Revising is much easier than writing. So, just write something down. It doesn't matter if it sucks. 

You're going to change those paragraphs three or ten or sixteen times anyway. You'll revise them when you read them again in December. You'll revise again after your writing group weighs in. Your writing teacher will offer feedback, and you'll revise again. Later, if all goes well, an agent and then an editor will tell you what has to be fixed. And you'll revise.

You see how this goes. 

No matter what, no improvements can materialize unless the words are right there on the page. Get the story told. 

3. You Can't Do It If You Don't Try to Do It.

I've been using this as a motto since the summer. It's pretty much my motto of the year. Here's how it works: Maybe you won't end up finishing the  thing. Maybe you'll fail at it. But, for sure you can't do it if you don't give it a try. 

You can't get the job if you don't apply for it. You can't write a book if you don't try to write one.

NaNoWriMo gave me a great opportunity to just give it a shot - really focus for just a month. I'm super glad I did it. Maybe I'll do it again? Probably not next year. I'll still be revising this same project, I'm pretty sure. That's how books seem to be.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Sleepy; #stillwriting

#amwriting,Nanowrimo, word count

I hate to admit this, but it's true: I didn't write any words on Thanksgiving. I thought about writing, but between the Turkey Trot (lost to Shef by only 5.5 minutes over the 3.1 miles), the cleaning, the table settings, the playing with the nephews, the sticks of butter, and the dish-doing, I just didn't get to it.

Don't worry: I've already forgiven myself and written 5/8ths of my daily quota. Like last time I skipped writing, I'm not going to try to make up yesterday's words. That just won't work. It's time to live (and type) in the present.

Lucky for me, the topic this week in my online novel writing class is revision, so I don't have to spend much time on the lesson.  Because do you know who's not nearly ready for revision? 

It's me, duh. Who else could I be talking about?

I'm still on the step of writing as many words as possible in a short period of time without thinking about whether they're any good. Plot, people. Content. Maybe characters. That's step one-ish.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

#amwriting: Status Report

Nanowrimo, #amwriting, word count

There's only a week left in NaNoWriMo. How are things going? I mean, pretty well. I've averaged 611 words per day during the month of November. That's well over my original goal of 500 words per day, and right on track with my revised goal of writing an additional hundred words per day in a graduated schedule week-by-week. If all goes well, my daily average will rise to 667 words per day by November 30th.

My NaNo dashboard will helpfully calculate that for me. My only problem with the NaNo dashboard is that it won't let me establish my own goal. It automatically says every writer's goal is 50,000 words in November, which we've already agreed is impossible for me.

But, oh man, if I keep trucking along, I will have written almost 20,000 words in just the month! Wouldn't that be awesome?!

Here's a pitfall: I've been writing so much that there's not a lot of time for revision. I feel like I'm losing my sense of whether any given scene is particularly good. That's a little disorienting, but I do have checks that keep me sort of grounded. First, I have my writing group. I send them pages, and they tell me whether they're any good. They do tell the truth, which I know because they've told me before that pages need heavy revision. Also the second check:  I know I can go back later, read the pages and determine with fresh eyes how much revision they need on my own. I find I generally KNOW, but I don't always want to DO.

But forget about revision for the rest of November. Might as well get the story on paper now, while the train is in motion. 8 days left. Let's do this.

Mac revises in kindergarten writer's workshop

Revising the fitness/war metaphor

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Setbacks! Danger!

We all knew this NaNoWriMo project couldn't be all roses and gold medals, right? Well, on Thursday, I didn't make my word count. I wrote 439 words, and then my interim grade reports crowded in. 

I don't think my students, their parents, or my bosses would have understood if I told them I couldn't perform my regular duties because I was attending to a self-imposed daily writing deadline during the month of November.

And then yesterday... yesterday was breakneck with writer's workshops (for my students!) and whole-class discussions and a presentation by a bad-ass transgender parenting advocate and a birthday dinner for somebody I really like. Also the dog had diarrhea all over the attic, if you must know. 

Anyway, I didn't write anything.

I did send some edited pages to my writing group, and here's something hilarious. There's a little 200-word flashback scene in those pages that totally doesn't work. I knew it didn't work when I sent the pages, but I kept it in because if I didn't, my word count would go down. 

Things might be getting out of hand.

But that's okay. Today, I'm going to write something. I think this is the key: I'm not going to try to "make-up" the words I missed. I don't think I can do that. I think I should just restart that target bar and get today's job done.

I'll keep you posted.