Sunday, October 14, 2012

I Am Not Mary Poppins

Though, I do own quite a few umbrellas. But for some reason, I never seem to have one on me when the rain hits. And I’m terribly afraid of heights, so you won’t find me dancing on freakishly pitched rooftops with my neighborhood chimney sweeps anytime soon. And if you've ever heard me sing… well, enough is enough. We are just not going to go there.

I bring up this obvious point because the contents of this blog are not suited, or written, for young children. For those adults who don’t like distasteful bluntness or inappropriately placed humor, this blog is probably not for you either. I have a feeling Mary Poppins would not have approved of this blog one bit. Bummer, since I am a huge Poppins and Julie Andrews fan.

As most of you know, I write picture books for young children. Because of my profession as a children’s book author, people assume I am super sweet and appropriate ALL THE TIME. And I am, with kids*. But when I sit at my blog and unload the not-so sweet elements of my life, I am going to write truthfully. I’m sorry if that makes you uncomfortable. It makes me feel better. When I’m done unloading, I go back to my family and children’s book manuscripts and play nice. Sometimes I even pretend to be Mary Poppins - or at least a shabbily dressed version of her that completely lacks the ability to get kids to clean up after themselves.

So, I’ve decided to continue not censoring when I blog. When I censor, I get stuck. And it never makes me feel better. I do promise to sugarcoat things a bit with my awesomely inappropriate humor. To quote Miss Poppins herself, “just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.” Enjoy, and a special thanks to those of you who appreciate both versions of me.

* At least I try to be child-appropriate. Thank goodness for editors. I remember once I submitted a manuscript about a kid being followed by pigs and I wrote something like, "I don't know why the pigs keep following me, maybe it's the bacon I eat for breakfast." I received an e-mail back from my editor explaining some of the reasons the manuscript wasn't working for her. Here is her official response to that particular line: "Do you have a theory for why they’re following him? (I don’t think it’s because of the bacon he eats for breakfast, as mentioned on page 2. In fact, several readers were quite put off by this. And I don’t think they’re even vegetarians! Perhaps this line is a bit too much for some readers?)

It's never a good sign when your horrified editor's response is even funnier than the manuscript.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Dog Did Not Eat My Blog

Dear Blog:
It has been a while. I have so much to tell you. First, I must give you my excuse for leaving you so rudely and suddenly, without even saying goodbye. There are lots of cool excuses out there that people use to explain long absences and missing work. I can’t lie. The dog did not eat my blog. Though, I am sure she would have loved to gnaw at the corners of my now nonfunctioning MacBook. My computer died last January. I am using my teenage daughter’s NONMAC computer to write this. But that is not my excuse.

My mother-in-law is dead. I stopped blogging because after eleven-and-a-half years of taking care of a dying woman - she actually died. Things got pretty crazy near the end. The last year was extremely challenging. The last two weeks… well, I don’t think I will ever recover from that. How is it that you never hear about post-traumatic stress disorder for people that have watched someone close to them slowly, painfully die? She died exactly one year ago last Sunday, at home, while under the care of family and hospice. One whole year ago. I guess it is time for me to pull it together and start my life for real this time.

Before I move on, I must tell you the story about my only experience with (human) death and the afterlife. One of the ways I coped with hanging out with a dying woman for many, many, years was through humor. I confess, I made inappropriate jokes about every mental lapse (mine and hers), nasty body function, and rude hospital employee. So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that forty-eight hours before she died, as she struggled to stand and clutched the wall gasping for breath, I made my belly button talk. The stress of death can make some people a little chubby. While my mother-in-law wasted away, I had put on a few pounds. So, I pulled up my shirt and squeezed the fat around my belly button and had it speak to my mother-in-law directly. (My belly button has a high-pitched annoyingly cheerful voice, if you are wondering.) It said, “Do I look fat?”

For someone who could barely catch her breath, my mother-in-law did a great job laughing. She actually almost collapsed to the floor. Dying people make great audiences. But that is not my story.

Lonna (her name), died early on a Friday morning. Her daughter was in the next room sleeping. We were taking shifts and for once I got lucky. We had been speculating for years over who would be the one to find her dead. Since I was the primary care provider, and I tend to have shitty luck, I just assumed it would be me. It wasn’t. (I am saying this in a sing-song happy voice, by the way). So, I got the call from my sister-in-law that morning and after dropping the kids off at school, I joined her at the bedside of my dead mother-in-law. I want to say she looked peaceful. Isn’t that what they always say? But Lonna did not look peaceful. If you ask me, she didn’t look all that thrilled to be dead. There was a bit of a, “Shit, that really sucked” look about the mouth. But we were deeply grateful she wasn’t suffering any longer.

We spent the morning picking out the outfit she was to be buried in. There was a small debate about the necessity of underpants. I started making inappropriate underpants jokes that I will not repeat. Then I heard her laugh. From behind me I HEARD MY MOTHER-IN-LAW LAUGH. It was not spooky at all, it was normal. The timing was perfect. The sound of her laughter was totally accurate and of normal volume. It became clearly obvious to me what was going on. We fucked up, she was not dead.

Wrong. We checked, she was for-sure dead. My sister-in-law didn’t even hear her laugh. Ghostly stuff usually freaks me out. Not this time. It seemed normal. As I move forward from this experience, and finally get on with my own life, I do take comfort in knowing that after everything I went through, and no matter how many people I just offended, at least the dead person thought I was funny.