Friday, September 17, 2010

The Hard Choice

Generally, the Matronly blog is light of heart and spirit. Uplifting, even.

But today she is somber. Yesterday, two events in her life collided. First, she attended a wake for the life partner of a beloved friend. The Matron didn't know the deceased well (who died instantly after suffering a sudden and unexpected heart attack) but loves the woman left behind. This was a vivid and visceral reminder that here is our future: soon, we will all be gone.

Second, she made and acted on a hard decision. Three or four months ago, the Matron was handed a book contract. An editor at a well-established publishing house (for academic and medical books -- don't think Random House) asked her to write a book on being an advocate for yourself and family in the medical system.

A book?!! Guaranteed publisher?! You bet!!

The Matron signed on, happily. By signing she means a bona fide contract.

But then she never started real work on the book. Sure, she toyed. She dabbled and dallied. Deliberated. But it became quickly clear that her heart was not in health care reform, insurance guidelines, and laws regarding patients' rights in 50 states (and don't forget Puerto Rico).

Time for the book--or the dalliance and drama-- was between 11 pm and 1 am. The quality of her already very busy life deteriorated. Much of her mental energy was spent worrying about a book she didn't care about or want to write. Within a couple of months she began also carrying the concerns of legal obligations: that contract!

After much soul searching ( really, what writer says no to a book?), yesterday, the Matron asked the publisher to release her from the contract -- which they did. With no legal obligations or backlash. Thank you!

For her entire life, the Matron has wanted to be a writer, to see lovely books with her name crowded on shelves in bookstores, and now, on web pages. But she learned a little something here. It is, without question, trite to say that life is short. But trite implies common knowledge, something that goes without saying. She was reminded of her own brevity yesterday as she held her sobbing friend and bid good-bye to a box of ashes. Dust to dust.

The series of events also reinforced one thing: chase the dream.

But a book on health care advocacy was not her dream.

Sure, she wants that crowded shelf, those readers. Yours truly isn't someone who writes for the pleasure of it (although it's pleasant) but to know that someone else is interacting with her work (thank you, blogger). But she also learned that good writing requires investment, passion, concern, care--and that it's time to focus on a project that incorporates all of these things instead of a project that feels like one more job.

So she said no to the book. She said good-bye to the beautiful life of her friend's partner, one of millions before him and millions ahead and fully appreciated that one day she would join him in being lost to history. And she turned toward where her spirit led her -- writing about life and raising the beloved children (who will also be gone one day)-- and said, yes.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Baby Steps

Yesterday, the Matron got very grumpy.

She was carrying her laptop, book bag, and purse while holding two heavy textbooks and water bottle and struggling to open a VERY heavy door at her college.

Heave, haul.

Thank goodness! Coming up immediately behind her was an able-bodied young man, clearly a student, who had nothing in his hands. Nothing! He was smart enough to put it all on his back.

And he stood directly behind the Matron waiting for her to get through the door, struggle and all, without extending his arm six inches to help (poor arm! so tired!). The thing that got her was that it clearly never occurred to him to help. He was texting while keeping an eye on the progress of the person blocking his door. Which would have been yours truly. Nearly drawing blood in her effort to open a door.

She finally stumbled through, dragging all of her stuff and nearly falling, cursing the kid who blithely walked in her wake.

Then she remembered.

Just that morning, as she was doing the same juggle--with all that same stuff on her way in instead of out-- an older woman (which is getting harder to come by these days) made a point of stopping to open not one, but two doors for her.

Thank you!

When she asked her secretary if there was mail, the secretary said: "Sure. But don't you worry about it. I'll bring it up to you."

The woman who orders textbooks for the bookstore gave her a call: "Mary? Did you know you ordered a hard copy of In Defense of Food for your students? The paperback is out and cheaper. I can switch that for you. We don't want your students paying more money than they need to, right?"

Thank you!

She was busy at her computer in her office when a colleague tapped at the door.

"Mary? Homemade brownies! Want one? I just made a pot of coffee, too. There are cups on the counter."

Earlier that morning when the alarm went off at 5:45?

John: "Mary -- you sleep in a little. I'll walk the dogs and get the kids started for school. Let's reset the alarm for 7:00."

Merrick gave her a bear hug before heading out the door to school with his father and yelled: "Thanks for the mac-n-cheese in my lunch, Mom. It's my favowite!"

Her boss thanked her for her positive attitude and organizational zeal.

In one of her classes, a student asked if the class (on Gender and Women Studies) could be ramped up from 3 to 15 credits.

He said: "I could be here all day. Wow. Thanks for knowing this s@#$ and explaining in a real kinda way. Sort of amazing." This from a young man who is now learning feminist and GLBT theory because this class was the only one open during his schedule. Convert!

When she dropped her quarters while getting a Diet Coke (ssshh, yes, evil chemicals), not one but two students scrambled to retrieve the coins.

The big one? When at the gas station and the pump malfunctioned -- spewing gas all over in a non-stop steady stream spouting from the pump and gas tank instead of clicking off when the tank was full -- the man behind her nearly shoved her aside and said: "That's dangerous! Let me take care of it."

Guess who was soaked in gas at the end of the incident? Not her. Guess who incorrectly inserted the nozzle into the tank? Hmmmmm. . . . .

So to the young man texting instead of opening the door? Thank you. Made her realize all the great good things people do in small ways (and big ways, as being a potential human torch seems not insignificant), all the time, every day.

Monday, September 13, 2010

(Bad) Stage Mother

The Matron and her family stumbled through a blurred weekend of family visits, lessons, shopping, various crises, homework, housecleaning and unexpected dinner guests.

Two of the latter - both Saturday and Sunday nights.


Scarlett invites her friend over for the evening and asks, "Can her Mom come too?" They live one house away and the Matron loves the mom.

Matron: "Of course!"

Official impromptu dinner party. This is after a much larger, planned, hours-long dinner party the night before from which the Matron still has a slight headache.


The Matron, who was till hoping to grade some papers and otherwise ditter away at work, spent four hours at the Mall of America--a toxic stadium which she visits once every four years -- with Scarlett, another (way cool) mom and a friend shopping for dresses for The Iveys, the Twin Cities version of the Oscars. Both girls are going as they are part of that crew.

Then there was a THREE HOUR CALLBACK for the lead in a local holiday production. The director kept sending away children and the Matron will admit she prayed a wee little prayer for her daughter to fall so she could leave the dingy, wi-fi-less waiting room. Instead, Scarlett was one of the last two girls standing. For three hours. They'll hear within a week.

This would be seven hours devoted to one child on a single day. Check that billing roster. Unsustainable.

Suddenly, the Matronly phone rings its little jig in the dingy waiting room.

Grandma Mary: "Are we still on for a big family dinner?"

Yours truly had no awareness, no brain cell or memory scan of said dinner. But, this was the grandmother who is moving across the country in a month.

She said: "Sure! Should we say six?"

Did she mention that they also had dinner guests on Friday and Saturday? This is all by the way of saying things were frenetic, weekend-wise.

So Monday, the Matron happily bid farewell to her brood and settled in for work (with a very strong cup of coffee after the midnight Mad Men fest). First, she thought it wise to check the family calendar, just in case.

The family calendar nearly knocked her over.

Guess who had an audition for a lead role in a Disney movie at 2:30 p.m, but who was also in school until that time without being reminded (and perhaps no memory of said audition) that she needed to be picked up early? Guess who didn't bring her script, contacts, or anything else (like appropriate clothing) to school because everybody forgot the audition? Guess who also was selected by the movie's casting agent as one of a handful of girls with the 'perfect look' for the role and was informed that this wasn't the typical 'needle in a haystack' audition but a narrow pack? Guess whose agent would probably die a thousand deaths if this child didn't show up? And finally, guess which child would never forgive her mother for forgetting an audition for a lead role in a Disney film.

Can we say that again? The Matron FORGOT about an audition for a lead role in a Disney film.

The only good thing is that now the Matron knows she can hustle. She packed up contacts, clothes, hair brush, script, resume and head shot. Called the school.

Matron: "I am really sorry but I forgot to tell my daughter that I need to pick her up at 1:30 today for an appointment."

School Secretary: "That's fine! We'll track her down and get her to the office. Doctor appointment?"

Matron: "Movie audition."

Little laugh. School Secretary: "Dentist or pediatrician?"

Matron: "Dentist."

But she got that child to the audition. Early. And it went well (which sort of means nothing but she's boasting about her crisis chops here, people).