Why I’ve been so productive.


The kids have gone back to school and my life has been consumed with craft.

Here’s the sweater I’m working on:

Top down, largely stockinette, little bit of interesting lace in the front–enough to keep me engaged, but not too tricky that I can’t watch Sons of Anarchy while I knit.

Here’s some stuff I’m making to sell:

These baby hats will get decorated with stars and ornaments and make me $20-$25 buck a pop.  Totally mindless, easy to finish one in a day, they make me feel excited to trade my skills for cash.

Finally, Amelia and I went yesterday to pick out curtain fabric for her room. Here it is:

I’m not a great sewer, but the great sewers I know say curtains are the easiest.  So that’ll be launching in the next few days.

As stunning as all this is, though, the truth is there is no creativity in this kind of productivity.  It’s just following directions, taking steps, reading and doing.  I feel like I’m just killing time waiting for my next great idea. And it’s been years (literally, as the last script I finished was an adaptation of a novel) since I had an idea I got excited about.

BUT—last night when I was awake from 4:20-5 a.m., the magic happened. An idea that I’ve had for months glued itself, in my head, to a story I sort of know that happened to someone I met once or twice. I’ve known the story for years, and like I said, the idea is not new, but neither of them on their own could make a play. Together, they are something.  Today I called one of the people involved in the story, which for the play will have happened before the curtain rises, and got some details. I bounced the joint ideas off of someone I trust, someone I knew wouldn’t bombard me with suggestions. He was kind enough to say, “My mind is just racing through all the different possibilities and directions this could go” without illuminatin a single one.

I can start writing tomorrow if I want, although I may wait a day or two to  see if the snowball can get any bigger just rolling around my brain.

This is the writer’s rush, and it’s the most exciting feeling.


Why you’re glad I’m not your mom.


“I hate the chart!!!!”

Okay, maybe the volume and emotion with which Cal actually said this do not merit four exclamation points, but to me, it felt like a letter opener being shoved in my ear.

How can you hate the chart? It’s color-coded, contains all pertinent information, and the spacing is so nice you would think I used an actual ruler instead of the cardboard from the back of a pad of graph paper.

“I’m only going to one school.”

Right! But isn’t it encouraging to see all these schools who would like you to come?

“Can we start crossing some off?”

Yes, we can.

But instead of actually, physically, blacking out rows of the chart (sigh of relief) we sat down and chose four schools that would be priority contacts for Cal. He is now responsible for keeping in touch with these four coaching staffs. He no longer feels obligated to return every call that comes in, which is a huge weight off of his shoulders, because the conversation with a coach from a school you are probably not going to attend is really scripted and not at all useful:

Do you have any questions about Joe Blow U? (Not really.) When can we get you down for a visit? (Probably not ever.) You can really put the ball in the basket! (Thanks, I work very hard at that.) I think you’re set up for a great senior season. (Me too. Thanks again and goodbye.)

He wanted to have his decision made by the time the season started, around Thanksgiving. That is seeming unlikely. But we aren’t adding every new school to the chart anymore. We’re screening the new ones before they get put on.  This will help keep him from feeling overwhelmed.

And maintain the integrity of the chart.

Why I’m pretty sure the world is ending.


A couple of posts back, I wrote about Barbara and her paying me slave wages (basically $3 a week, as it turns out) to knit for her.  To reiterate, this is not basic winter hat type knitting. These are complicated, cabled afghans.  While my embroidery skills, as I have admitted, are not top- notch, I was proud of the way the latest effort turned out:


Looked pretty good.  Looked better than the pattern picture, I thought.  Here’s a close up:

The offending cable remained, and there were certainly some embroidery spots that were less than spectacular. But overall it was lovely.

And yet, I didn’t want to deliver it.  I was not ready to have sweet Barbara hand me another kit and say, “Take a year, it doesn’t matter!” after having spent 8 months on this one, hauling it to hockey games and hotels, watching endless episodes of “Bones” while inching toward the finish line.

But I couldn’t keep it.

So on our way to finish shopping for school supplies, my three kids and I swung by Barbara’s house.  She answered the door. She was delighted to see me. She adored the blanket. She asked after me, she asked after the kids and our summer and how everyone was feeling about getting back to school, and then she handed me . . . nothing. I got out of there with no new project. I stepped out of the door and my kids, seeing me empty-handed, began fist-pumping out of the open car windows. It was a great, great moment.

I have one more commissioned project to finish, a baby hat, that will take three days and earn me 20% of what the blanket did. I’m still not quite sure she’s not bringing me something. I’m waiting for it to appear on my porch, but as each day passes, I’m breathing easier. Get me to mid-September, and I’ll feel real good.


Why you wish I was your mom.


Deciding where to go to college is scary. In my (played one year of grade school hoops) mind, I thought it would be less scary if you were an athlete, but I was wrong. As an athlete who wants to keep playing, you’re obligated to consider every school who contacts you. If you’re not a DI lock, it’s really daunting.

But if I’m your mom, you get an awesome chart:

And you are super, super grateful. Because it took hours. And it has all of the pertinent information regarding most of the schools who have contacted you. And you can reference it at any time.

It’s Chart 2.0, just so you know. The first chart was good, but as we proceeded, it became clear that the information contained on the chart was not the most relevant information. The second draft is most assuredly an improvement.  And there are blank spaces. For all the schools who are still going to call. Let’s go.

Why I won’t tink it.


I knit. Not as obsessively as I once did, but every single day for sure. For a few years a few years back, I sold some of what I made at various venues: fairs, home shows, etc. Now I have a few signature items I sell, such as this fabulous Christmas Tree Hat:

But since my focus is writing, and knitting is supposed to be a hobby, I really like to knit for me and mine. Mostly for me.

Enter Barbara.  I taught Barbara to crochet about 7 years ago in a class I taught at the Park District. She’s a sweet woman. I guess she’s about 73 now. Her eyes and arthritis have been detrimental to her yarnwork over the years, and shortly after the class ended, she contacted me to help her out with a blanket. That’s a lie. She didn’t need help, really, she wanted to pay me to knit the blanket for her.  I felt bad, I said okay. She paid me around a hundred bucks, which sounds great–getting paid to do your hobby, relax, whatever–but we all need to take a step back and acknowledge that knitting is slow, and it takes about 50 hours to knit an afghan.  I made more than $2 an hour at my first minimum wage job (telemarketing for Allstate Insurance, before headsets, before auto-dial, running a ruler down the phone book and asking people if they’d like a free quote on their auto insurance–all fine and good until someone thought I was offering a free COAT and got super excited) and that was under the table in 1987. But I finished it. I did. And it was lovely. I don’t have a picture of it, so just believe me.  I delivered it to Barbara and she was thrilled.  She told me that she had given each of her grandkids a blanket upon their high school graduations and was unable to knit that much anymore and was really pleased that this grandkid would get a blanket. Much to my surprise, she pulled out ANOTHER BLANKET KIT. Really?  Turns out there was another grandkid–the last one. Of course, I did it. And guess what, when I delivered it, she gave me another kit. And after that one, another.  This one was complicated. She paid me more than usual. And it turned out pretty damn beautiful. Proof:

When I dropped this one off, she wasn’t home. Her son was there and took it, and I went on with my day, running some errands, and generally TCB. When I got home, she was PARKED IN FRONT OF MY HOUSE, with another kit, of course.  She said she couldn’t possibly give the one I had just dropped off away, it was too beautiful and she had to have it for her own.  She gave me a year to finish the next one.  And I am doing it.

Does she think I need the money? Does she think it takes 5 or 6 hours to do? Does she think I wouldn’t possibly have anything to knit if it wasn’t for her? I DON’T KNOW. But she’s too adorable and old to refuse. One of these days, I’m going to be working on one of her blankets and find out she died. I’ll finish it, but I’ll know there will not be another one waiting, and that will be a sweet relief.

The blanket I am knitting for her now is not unlike the last: the color of manila paper with lovely embroidery (semi-lovely, my embroidery skills are B-), and lots of crazy cables and patterns.  Here it is, in progress:

So it’s coming along, I am 7 skeins in, and I notice a mistake. A bad mistake. One that can’t be corrected without undoing about 10 hours’ work. I worked a C4F instead of a C4B, which, if you are not a knitter, means that I twisted the cable the wrong way:

I laid it out and looked at it a bunch of times, and now my eyes go right to it. I tried to get mad at whoever might have been distracting me at the time I worked that row, but it could just as easily have been Buffy the Vampire Slayer as one of my kids. And I’d never get mad at Buffy.

When knitters undo work to fix a mistake, they call it “tinking,” because “tink” is “knit” spelled backwards.  I’m not doing that. I’m not fixing it. It’s too hard, it’s too much time, there are too many other things I’d rather be doing. But I feel a twinge of guilt. I feel the itch in my brain that all knitters feel when they are debating this very issue. Some of the guilt stems from the fact that I think Barbara will never notice, and that makes me think I’m taking advantage of an elderly woman. I don’t want to do that. But I don’t want to knit for her anymore either. So there will be no tinking. Moving forward and finishing, and handing it in as is.

She won’t see it. She’ll just hand me another kit, and another hundred bucks.

Why have I been gone so long?


This can’t happen again.  A lot has been going on, but I shouldn’t not write about it, because the best time to write is when everything is happening.

My show had its three performances.  The last one was the best, with the warmest, largest and most responsive crowd.  One super important person in the house that afternoon was an artistic director of an EQUITY theatre in Chicago, invited by my director, who has since expressed a more-than-passing interest in the play.  The work, therefore, continues!  It’s way more exciting than daunting.  I have such a wonderful director. It’s like, I got the play to a certain point, and she is moving it to the next phase by working with actors and me. It’s encouraging and humbling to have another person so invested in my story.

The last audience also contained a huge number of family, including my father and my husband, both of whom saw it only that one time.  I should say here that the play is a fictionalized version of something that happened in my neighborhood, when everyone learned something about a particular person, and attitudes and opinions changed radically.  Writing the play was my way of processing the events that had taken place after the news broke.  My poor dad was profoundly disturbed.  I think he, like me, never wants his kids to worry about anything, or have to DEAL with anything. But here it was, on stage, being performed by a really competent cast–my worries, my troubles, my thing to DEAL with. I wonder if he’ll see it again if it gets picked up.

Other things that happened: a community production of “Legally Blonde,” for which I was the assistant director and prop person, went up.  I was proud of what we ended up putting on the stage, and the audiences seemed to enjoy it very much, but I had hoped for more joy in the process.  I’m a process person–a writer, a knitter–all the joy is in that making, not in the “having made.”  There was a lot of hand-wringing on this one, a lot of being angry with friends who weren’t keeping up their ends of the deal. Who wants to create like that? Ergh.

Finally, we kicked off our summer theatre kids’ production of “Fame,” nicknamed “Lame,” for the removal of anything remotely spicy. On Thursday, however, a six year old brought it to our attention that “Page six has ‘shit’ on it.” Not the substance, the printed word–so, some cross-outs are in order.

It is my intention to write more focused entries, and not recaps and summaries. There. I’ve put it in writing.

Why breakfast and physics don’t mix.


Friday, 7 a.m., a conversation between me, my son Deck (15) and my son Cal (17)

Someone drops a spoon.

Cal: It’s weird to think that, when two objects collide, they come off each other with equal momentum.

Me: What?

Deck: When that spoon just hit the table–they came away from the impact with equal momentum.

Me: But the table didn’t move. It has four legs. It was still.

Boys laugh.

Cal: Not equal speed, Mom. Momentum. Momentum is conserved.

Deck: Mom, you have to think about everything happening in a vaccuum.

Cal: Yeah, a vaccuum.

Me: Well, I don’t spend a lot of time with vaccuums . . . we have mostly hardwood.

Dead silence.

Me: That’s a little housekeeping humor for you right there.

Dead silence.

Me: FML.