Saturday, March 26, 2005

Writing, and writing and writing, and -- well, you get the idea

So for quite some time now, I've had two books percolating, which I work on haphazardly, and then this children's story. Now I am actually doing some freelance grant consulting work (I can't say grant writing because my client hasn't actually asked me to do that), which is okay. More on this in a moment. And now my dear friend Coolia has approached me with ideas for not one but two television shows and wants me to be part of her writing team.


The "grant writing" meeting last Saturday went well, despite my arriving a bit late due to rain/last-minute car issues/Saturday afternoon traffic. I am being asked to edit a grant template and query letter, and to vet their list of prospective donors and provide recommendations on how to approach each one and how much money they should request from each. Since I have been in the fundraising business off and on for nearly ten years now (Holy shit!), this is no big deal to me, but the reaction of the committee was "Wow! This is great! You have no idea how much better this meeting was than our last meeting, we feel like we are finally getting somewhere, thank God you know what you're doing, we wish we could pay you for more than six hours of work, but clearly you are going to be able to work miracles in that paltry amount of time -- all hail Lisa the Magnificent!"

I think I mentioned already how I feel very odd when people look to me as the expert, but there you have it. Somehow I managed to gain their confidence, and for better or worse, access to some documents which indicated that they were willing to pay a consultant $15/hour more than they are paying me. I don't intend to use this against them, but I will be raising my rates to what is evidently market-value with any new clients I pick up after I'm through with this group. Especially since I just realized I have ten years experience in this bloody ridiculous field! They say time flies when you're having fun. My experience has been that time flies no matter what the hell you do, so you might as well enjoy yourself, right?

Hmmm...anyway, Coolia and I had dinner Monday night (sadly, she didn't drink this time, and also sadly, we didn't run into Ratboy) and she asked me what I thought about helping her write a sitcom. I know it is hellishly hard to write for TV, that if we write a pilot and it is picked up, the odds are against us that it will be successful, and that even if it is successful, the hours and the amount of work involved would break me like a twig. But nonetheless, I am on board, and so is our friend Xtal, and we are going to meet regularly and try and make this happen. Sweet William has a friend who writes for TV, so I am going to try and pick her brain about how we should get started.

Sleep. Sleep!

In other news, Viva and Sweet William both have colds and you know how much fun that is. I am so completely sleep-deprived that last night when Viva woke up at 11:30 (after we put her to bed at 7 and spiked her rice milk with Baby Tylenol-Cold to make her sleep), I melted down. Folks, it was not pretty. I put Viva in the bed with us and she started shrieking like I had laid her down on an anthill. I had just gotten back to sleep after passing out on the couch, being roused by Sweet Willie, and peeling my contact lenses out of my eyes. I had had enough.

I am not proud of this, but I'll be honest with you. I used the f-word, and I addressed it to my child. I said something to the effect of, "I can't take this, why won't you sleep, Viva, I am so fucking tired, I can't take this!" and stumbled out of the room, leaving Sweet William to deal with our little banshee. Unfortunately, he wasn't doing too much better, although at least he didn't cuss. I took a deep breath and went back in and calmed her down and of course we ended up back on the couch until 3-something-AM, when Willie woke me up by saying, "My poor wife!" He then put Viva back in the crib and I stumbled back to bed, where I lay awake for at least 30 minutes before going back to sleep.

But here's the best part, where you can see once again that I have The Best Husband Ever. Viva woke up at 6:30. Willie dressed her, put her in the car and went to the supermarket. When I got up at about 7:45, he was feeding her a smoothie and a scone. After a little huggy time on the couch, he then took her to the park and gave me the whole morning to myself! They didn't come home until nearly noon. We had lunch, put Viva down for her nap, and I gave myself a facial and a pedicure. Viva will be up shortly and you can be sure that she will see a completely rejuvenated Mama Bird. Squawk!

We are off tomorrow to Oceanside for Easter and all the accompanying madness. There will be ham, there will be roast beef, and evidently, there will be cheesecake. And three small children tearing about looking for eggs. Peace out.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Three posts in one day! I'm on fire!

Now I can't remember what was so damn important that I had to write about it.

I hate myself sometimes!

I wanted to update...oh, yeah. I have a meeting tomorrow (yes, on a Saturday) with a prospective client. Looks like I am actually getting my ass in gear to get back to work. Boo, hiss. I was so hoping they would cancel, too. It's with a committee of five people. I guess it will be all right, except that every time I have to do one of these, I always end up feeling like I am some kind of impostor, and that inevitably I am going to be de-cloaked. I get this queasy feeling whenever somebody says, "Well, you're the expert." I don't feel I am an expert on anything. What the hell do I know?

I do remember that I want to give props to my dentist, who is a freakin' comedian. We went to see him en famille on Tuesday, so Sweet William could get a cleaning and Viva could sit in the chair and get used to the idea of the dentist. I asked Dr. M how his kids were doing.

Dr. M: Oh, God -- trying to get out of the house -- I'm telling you -- this morning, it was the Leprechaun Trap.

Me/Sweet Willie: Huh? Whuh?

Dr. M: These kids, with their school projects, oh my God, I'm warning you. This is what's coming. And this morning they had to have a Leprechaun Trap for school, and the walls wouldn't stay on, and it was [mimics crying], wah-hah-hanh! And trying to get them into the car. Oh my God.

Freakin' hilarious! It took me a minute to figure out what on earth he was talking about (if you haven't already guessed, English is not his first language), but I am telling you, these school projects do scare me. I don't look forward to having to help Viva create a scale model of Mount Kilimanjaro or whatever the hell.

Oh God, that was a good laugh.

Molested by Seemingly Innocuous Animated Character

By the way, the other night, I gave Viva a bath. She has gotten back into taking baths, which I am kind of relieved about.

Anyhoo, I was cleaning out the bath tub after I had scooped her out of it and handed her over to Sweet William. I picked up all the tub toys and noticed that one sounded particularly splooshy, so I squeezed it to get the water out. And let me just tell you, this toy had developed a hole in a certain area. And, well, there's no nice way to put this: Boots the Monkey shot his wad on me. Like, right in my face!

I didn't think we had that type of relationship.

Woman Bites Dog

Why I Take Viva to a Park that's 2 Miles Away When We Live 2 Blocks from a Park

1. There are always at least three (presumably) homeless people sleeping in various places in my neighborhood park. It is just one block south of a main urban thoroughfare -- Sunset Blvd.

2. There are prostitutes of various genders and inclinations in the area. Which is fine and dandy, world's oldest profession and all that, but I would prefer that Viva not actually have to see any, I don't know, transaction, should we say?

3. I have witnessed what I believe is drug activity at the park. I think they call it possession and distribution. I have seen too many Law & Order episodes, clearly. But seriously, I have seen cars pull up, cash handed over, and a second person further down the block hand over the goods. By the way, this is about three blocks from the police station.

4. Sweet William has told me matter-of-factly numerous times not to go to "the Bum Park."

And yet, it is a lovely park. Nice big trees, park benches with little paths, and a playground area with sand and swings and climbing structures for little ones. It always looks pretty peaceful. I mean, the transients seem pretty pleased with it; it must be a pretty peaceful place to flop.

The other day, I piled Viva into the car and drove first to the post office, where I mailed my credit card payment, and then drove past the Bum Park on the way to the Nice Friendly Bum-Free park, where unicorns frolic and ice cream grows on trees. From the back seat:

Viva: I wanna go dere!
Me [hoping against hope]: Where, baby?
Viva: I wanna go dere! Dat park!
Me: Oh, baby, really? You wanna go to that park?
Viva: Yes!
Me: Oh, sweetie, but if we do that, we won't see your friends. Don't you want to see--
Viva [on edge of tears]: I wanna go dat park! [breaking down] I wanna go dat park...[sob sob sob]
Me [sigh, turning right]: Okay, honey. We'll give it a shot. It sure would make things easier...

So after I made a complete circle around the block, we parked, got out and walked into the park -- just behind a guy with two pitbulls. Red flag #1.

We went to the playground, at the far end of the park, furthest away from the gate. In fact, there is a gate at that end, but it is locked. I guess because if you are on the playground and need to make a quick getaway, you can't. Maybe this is helpful to the cops in some way, but it sure wasn't helpful to me. We said hello to the family that was already at the playground. They said nothing in return. We shared the climbing structure in relative silence, since although Viva kept smiling and saying "hi" every now and then, the kids did not return her greeting. Red flag #1 1/2.

We went on the swings, with me keeping an eye on the dogs, who were off the leash and chasing a huge stick, at times grappling with each other and snarling. Their owner was sort of keeping an eye on them, I guess, but then he got a cell phone call, which must have been very important. Too important to pay attention to his dogs and/or maybe put them on a leash, as many signs posted throughout the park demanded that he do. Viva and I had sat down on a park bench and she was eating a blueberry cereal bar, and all of a sudden these two dogs went thundering through the playground, chasing each other and snarling, right where we had been crossing the sand mere minutes before. Now, I don't know about you, but I have been bitten by a dog before. A dog that was not rabid, that was a family pet, that I did not provoke in any way. And, you know what? Fuck that. I picked Viva up and beat it the hell out of there.

Viva's friends were happy to see her.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Sharing and Caring

Today, we were at the park and Viva was playing with this little girl, Cate, who is almost 3. Cate was very nicely building sand castles and then telling Viva she could wreck them. Viva was thrilled in a shy kind of way; every time Cate would say even one word to her, she would glance at me with this look of such surprised pleasure that it made me fall to pieces.

Cate and I were also talking quite a bit, mainly because her mom was preoccupied with her brother, who might be about 6 months old. At one point, Cate said: "You can come swim in our pool."

"Really?" I said. "That's very nice of you to offer." Cate beamed.

"Don't get too excited," her mom said. "It's just a little blow-up pool in the backyard."

To me, that's the best kind.

It made me feel a little better about our park experience today, because Viva also likes to play with a little girl named Zoe, and when she approached her today and said "Wanna play?" Zoe frowned and said no. And then she ran across the playground chasing some other kid (who later knocked her down and punched her. Not that that was karma or anything). Viva looked at me like, "Huh?"

I admit to feeling a little bad, because Viva is shy and I have been encouraging her to be more pro-active about playing with other kids. But that's life, I guess. You win some, you lose some.

Oh my God, now I'm depressed!

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Friends! How many of us have them?

Remember that song? I believe it was Nate Dogg, yes? With help from Snoop and Warren G? Ahh...

Anyhoo, I seem to be inundated these days with invitations to social activities. My friend Coolia and I are meeting for dinner next week, and I have to say that the last time we went out, it was quite hilarious. Not that we didn't get deep and share our problems, because we are very close friends and that's what we do. But we had just sat down for dinner in this lowkey West Hollywood eaterie when we accosted by our friend who shall henceforth be called Ratboy. If you know my circle of friends, you will know who Ratboy is. And if you don't, well, he doesn't resemble a rat at all, but he is quite mischievous and full of manic energy, so maybe that's where the name comes from. I would put his real name except that he is gay and closeted to his family and his real name is rather unusual. (And no, it's not Anwar, like that guy on American Idol. Not that I watch that show.)

At any rate, Ratboy was there for a blind date with some guy he met on He hung out with us for a while, then went to the bar and found his date. Now Coolia and I had already ordered wine, which is unusual for us (not so much for me, but she rarely drinks, so I rarely drink when I'm with her. We are usually just so psyched to be together that drinking would be superfluous), but as we were tucking into our repast, pomegranate margaritas arrived, courtesy of (who?) Ratboy. We both got pretty snookered. As a result, when Ratboy's date ended and he came back to sit with us and tell us how horrible it was ("He sent me a picture that was 20 fucking years old!" "He was drunk when I got here!"), it was hilarious in that way that only experiences seen through a boozy haze can be. And since I run into Ratboy one out of every three times that I step into West Hollywood, I'm hoping he will arrive in another such chance outing (pardon the phrase) the next time we get together.

I am also quite pleased to report that my sister and I are friends again. We got together on Monday and took our two-year-olds to the park (okay, Viva is not quite two, but almost. Almost!) and out to lunch. My nephew is the cutest thing on the planet! He kept hugging and kissing us all day. I missed him. Oh yeah, and I missed my sister, too. No, seriously.

I have also spent a lot of time on the phone with my friend Brianna lately, since we are both in the same boat -- i.e., trying to organize children's birthday parties without even the smallest clue of how to do so. Her daughter's birthday was this past Monday (Happy 1st, Maddie!), so her agony is over, for this year, at least. Sweet William and I have decided, by the way, that this year we are doing a family-only party at home. Viva is too small and too high-strung to deal with all the people we would have to invite if we had the party off-site. But we are getting together with Brianna and friends this weekend. Yay!

I am in an "I love everyone" kind of mood today, and I don't know why. I hope you all love everyone, too. No, seriously.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Writing? Not. Slacking off? Yes.

I hate my book right now. It needs something and I don't know what. Let me stop and clarify: the novel I was working on last year (the political satire, hereafter known as P.S.) is on hold because it requires a lot more time and effort than I can give it. Because it is a political satire, I created a completely different world and political system to set it in. And just as I'd get down to the story and start writing a scene between characters, there'd always be these logistics to be worked out or research to be done to be sure things were making sense. In the meantime, the deadline to be finished (set by me, and coinciding with me having to go back to work/Viva going to preschool) loomed ever closer. I realized I was very far off from finishing and I don't want to do a half-assed job. It is a really cool story and I feel privileged to have even had the idea occur to me. Speak to me of the evils of perfectionism some other time.

So a few months ago, I decided to put P.S. on the back burner and resurrect this contemporary love story that I had written about twenty pages of a few years ago. I figured it would take less time to write and that it would ultimately be more sellable. Sweet William says I should just churn out a "Waiting to Exhale/Disappearing Acts" type of book and then I won't have to go back to work (yes, he fully expects my first book to be a bestseller. He has more confidence in me than I do in myself). So I have been working on it when Viva sleeps (which is not enough, by the by: she has recently violently rejected the concept of Nap and must be coaxed into it through a long and elaborate process that leaves me exhausted), and while I love the characters, I'm not loving the turns the story has taken. I'm trying to re-design the basic story arc -- I know my two lead characters have to break up at some point, just as I know they will get back together ultimately. But it's what breaks them up that I'm getting stuck on, and what happens in between, and how long the separation is. I get bogged down and then I'm not liking it. What the hell, writing is work, right? I wanted to use my brain, yes? (Does it mean anything that when I was just typing the word "brain" it came out at first "barin"? Am I reading too much into this? Is my brain barren?)

Then I was at a kids' birthday party yesterday (Happy 6th, Gavin!), and one of my friends asked how the book was going. I told her it wasn't going very well at all, partly because of Viva's sleep issues and partly because I had to fire my babysitter.* So then I got to talking to my friend's mom, who was telling me I should switch to children's books because there's always a market for them and they're even quicker to write. Here is where we get ironic (apologies, Alanis Morrisette): I have already written a children's book. I have even illustrated parts of it. I wrote it for Viva while I was pregnant with her. It took me about half an hour to write it. Have I done anything with it? I think you know.

* I promise I will explain at some point why I fired Maria. There is just too much else going on.

So I can beat myself up for not working on this stuff, and then I can look at why. We have a ridiculous amount of family drama going on (from both sides), I am trying to plan Viva's birthday party, I am trying to toilet train Viva, I am trying to work out*, I am trying to keep our apartment clean, our larder well-stocked, and our child clean, clothed, shod and fed.

* Sweet William purchased a scale this weekend. It is clearly the work of the devil. My weight fluctuated a full four pounds yesterday (I think I weighed myself at least four separate times; hopefuly the novelty will wear off soon). Surely this means the scale is defective?

The bottom line is that I can't do everything. No, it's true. But don't tell anyone.