Saturday, March 26, 2011

March Mishigas

There is some speculation brewing that I cheated while filling out my NCAA college basketball brackets for the ____ Law Firm pool. Of course, there wouldn't be any such speculation if I was not completely crushing the hoop dreams of the partners, associates, their family and friends. Although I am not currently in the lead, I am dunking past the competition with the most potential points.

I am gearing up with my black socks, black sneakers, baggy shorts, and Fab Five swagger. And I am ready to cut down the net.

But, before I do, I would like to put the rumors to rest. Carol, please stop losing sleep. I did not cheat. It would not have even been possible for me to cheat. I spent a total of 10 seconds choosing my picks online. (How can I be so sure that I used only 10 seconds to make my choices? Because 10 seconds is the allotted interval in which I get anything done in my life that does not directly concern my 2 year old son. I go to the bathroom in 10 seconds, wash my hair in 10 seconds, and when that 11th second ticks, I have a toy car driving up my leg - or the shower door - whichever it may be. Time is up.)

And, if I were so inclined to cheat, trust me, I would have entered a pool with a much higher prize than the mere $140 offered by the ______ Law Firm (I'm not giving them free press here).

Although $140 is obviously chump change, I have a totally different perspective on the possibility of a payout should I win. I am going to collect that $140 as partial severance which the firm failed to pay me when they set me loose on "eternity leave" some time ago.

And, it is going to be quite a shanda.

Mark my words. Next year, there will be new rules requiring that ____ Law Firm pool applicants be actual law firm employees or direct blood relatives. The partners will completely ban ex-employees, such as me, in a manner as ruthless as the deletion of our names from the Firm Phone List without any mention of our departures.

But for now, I'm going to enjoy my road to the Final Four and beyond. Carol and all of you others, watch out, I'm coming for you!

I may not be a college basketball savant. But I am the brain behind the brackets. (I use the term "brain" loosely, as my total final game score prediction exceeded 200 points, which caused my husband to scold me that I was thinking NBA, not NCAA!)

However, now that I find myself closing in on victory, it's clearly my time. Pay me my severance and then sever me from all future pools.

I can accept those terms, Your Honor.

Friday, March 11, 2011

A Spark

I have been a writer ever since I penned a story in 2nd grade about my uncle being hatched from an egg which was left by aliens on my grandmom's doorstep. I was seven then and everyone in my family raved about what an imaginative yet accurate portrait I had painted.

It wasn't until my senior year at the University of Michigan that I actually took a creative writing class. I hoped it would force me to write the stories that were already swirling around my head.

My professor, Gabrielle, was a 30ish grad student and a super talented writer uninterested in coddling her students. She was serious about the need for learning the mechanics of writing, but also open to breaking the rules once you understood what the rules were.

When I sat down with her in a private conference to review my work, she said of my short story, "This is something. This is really something."

I was stunned.

"There's a big writers' contest coming up and I want you to enter this," she continued. "You need to go home and polish it, because the deadline's next week."

I raced through the Diag with a grin from ear to ear. It was a legitimate stamp of approval. I had never considered submitting my work anywhere up until that point.

But, a week later, I did just that. And, although I did not win a coveted Hopwood Award, it didn't matter. I was thinking in a whole new way.

The last week of class, Gabrielle invited me to come hear her read from her manuscript in front of a large audience of her grad school peers and professors. Hers was a remarkable tale which documented everything from her lesbian relationship to her part-time job as a stripper at a blue collar joint on the outskirts of Ann Arbor. I was floored.

After graduation, I wondered what had become of Gabrielle. Then, I heard through the grapevine that she opened a restaurant, Prune, in the East Village to rave reviews. Next, she was writing a column for the New York Times Food and Wine Section. Then, shockingly, she married a man and started a family. And, finally, recently, her memoir, Blood, Bones, and Butter: the Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef, at last, debuted.

I have been waiting for this memoir since I heard her early musings in Ann Arbor in 1997. Gabrielle is wildly talented and her tale is worth your time so I hope you check it out.

I thank Gabrielle Hamilton for being the first objective reader to say to me, "This is something." And, I thank her for showing me the vast possibilities.

I don't think I'll be opening a restaurant in this lifetime, but who knows about the rest.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Merry Go 'Round

One month ago, my son didn't want to ride the merry go 'round. He wasn't feeling well on that particular day.

"Mommy, carry you," he kept saying, pulling at my leg. I held him while standing for the duration of the carousel ride, not an easy feat.

But, the other day, he was fired up about the merry go 'round back at the Please Touch Museum. He told me he was ready to ride his own horse.

I placed him up high on the painted wooden saddle and fastened the seat belt. His big brown eyes looked up at the top of the carousel, at the painted horses next to him, and rested, smiling at me. The merry music began blaring from the speakers and we were set in motion. I held onto him so he wouldn't be startled by the start of the ride, but he was fine.

He rode up and down, holding onto the pool, laughing aloud. This was his first time on the merry go' round all by himself.

I thought about a family friend, "Drew," who was deathly afraid of merry go' rounds until he was nearly 9 years old. "Stacy, please take him and show him it's not scary," my dad urged me once at the Ocean City Boardwalk. I was about 10 years old.

I hopped onto the horse next to Drew, who was a ghostly shade, and rode backwards, switched directions mid-ride, stood up on the horse, then reached precariously off the ride to grab a golden ring. Drew laughed and laughed and was no longer afraid. "Now, you have to teach him to ride a jet ski!" my dad laughed as we climbed off the ride. "His mom is afraid of EVERYTHING - and she has made HIM scared of everything too," my dad whispered to me as we strolled along the boardwalk. She later died of cancer and I often hoped Drew was not shaken back into the mindset of fearing the ride.

My little boy squeals with joy as the colors fly by, the music peaks with intensity. I watch his face with such pride.

The past few weeks have been far from a merry go 'round for our extended family. It's been a terrible roller coaster ride, with death-defying turns and no end in sight. Our beautiful two year old niece is in the front seat, her health hanging in the balance. While her incredible parents cling onto her with unyielding strength and love, we've all been along for the ride. We all want her back on a more serene ride. And, thankfully, in recent days, there are glimmers that our niece has her sights set on the merry go 'round once again.

My little boy brings me back to this ride, here and now. He says to me, "Dah so fun, Mommy!" The merry go 'round spins around and around, he rides his horse up and down, the colors spin by in a dizzying dance, the music rises and falls. I lift his little hand and kiss it. "Yes, love, the merry go 'round is the best!"

Thursday, March 3, 2011

License and Registration, Sir . . .

Here's a snapshot:

Me, skipping out of the toy store carrying my best boy.
My best boy carrying a new green Thomas the Train named Alfie.
A teenage clerk trying to keep our pace, carrying a shiny new tricycle.

We pass by school children in uniforms and it hits me that in a few years, he will be THAT age. No longer THIS age, where he's debating which he will drive first: the train or the trike.

"Happy birthday, buddy boy."

"How 'bout da' scooter too?" he asks. "Scooter" could have been "backhoe," "gondola," "bulldozer" or a dozen others. He is a transportation savant and often has dreams about driving the ice cream truck.

"Maybe when you're bigger, okay? Today, we're going to ride your new tricycle!"

"Good idea, Mommy!"

Enjoy the ride, baby boy . . .