Recently I was at an event where I was asked the dreaded question, “where are you working?” I hastily answered with the enthusiasm of a child who just received his favorite toy, “nowhere!” That answer usually elicits more questions through which people are inspired by my bold decision to quit my day job for the last time to passionately pursue a career as a writer. However, this time I was met with somber eyes of sympathy. Before I could restore this person’s spirit with my long account of my arrival to this place, he dashed away as I blurted the words, “I have two kids…” Years ago, my first boss in the entertainment industry gave me the book, “The One Minute Manager” because, well, my garrulousness began to drain him. Obviously, no less than two decades later, I had still not managed to spiel in one minute. However, i don’t know that a more concise answer would have mattered because, at the end of the day, I do not have a job. At least I don’t have the type of job that pays. I am constantly working. I am pre-production on my short film. I am always writing song lyrics and poetry. I write short stories. I write tv and film treatments that morph into scripts. I am working on a project with my ex-boss. I am working on a project with my friend. I am raising two children. I am running a household. I am working. But there is no “where” to my work because it is at my kitchen table, or a coffee shop or in the laundry room at 3:00 in the morning. I am not working at a job. I am working toward a career but it’s not the sort of thing I have mastered an explanation for in 1 minute. I am reminded of this when my mother-in-law periodically asks me, “have you found a job yet?” She loves to tell the story of how my father-in-law asked her, weeks after the birth of their son, “when are you going to work?” She proudly tells me of how she interviewed and found a job that day. She continued to work at jobs, close to home, so that she could still fulfill the duties of wife and mom. This job-wife-mom life continued until her retirement and her marriage lasted until my father-in-law passed away. It is the life that many women in her generation mastered with such grace and strength. So there was no bafflement when after I told her I was not looking for a “job” she did the sing song “o—kay—.” She just has no idea what it is like to have a special needs child or what is like to be an artist with a special needs child. There are not many places I could “work” that would understand I have to take off so many days to go to our son’s school or that I need to meet with a development executive because he or she just may like my project. I tried managing all of that and missed an opportunity– a day of doing punch up on a friend’s pilot. I couldn’t do it because I had already taken off too many days to assist our son. Nine-to-five work does not allow the same sort of accommodations that careers do. As a worker, you can’t show up with your child and your nanny one day. You can’t request a modified schedule. And most jobs don’t even allow you to leave in time to pick up your children from school. I spoke to a mom today who stressed herself into illness, attempting to pick up her children on time from daycare every day. This situation could be alleviated with a part-time nanny but many jobs we moms take barely cover the cost of transportation and daycare. A nanny is financially out of the question. So, the real answer at the end of the day is, I really can’t afford to just “work.”
A great deal has happened since my last blog entry. What started as a place for me to vent about the challenges of motherhood transformed into a document of my journey toward pursuing my creative endeavors. It became an incongruous summary of my life that was as inconsistent as my career. I recently decided to apply the same sort of structure that has been successful in aiding our son with his struggles to me. Rather than being led by my emotional state, all of my writing should be driven by purpose and deadlines and that includes this blog. So, this is another beginning for me. As this is the mediocre mom blog, the focus will be on making things easier for other moms out there who feel very mediocre. These musings will include successes I’ve had with my children, referrals to helpful websites and reviews products I’ve tried. I can’t promise that this information will be weekly (after all, I am still an artist) but it will definitely come at a more consistent rate. I aspire to provide my very important followers with something both entertaining and helpful. I hope you will enjoy this new and clear direction.
I’ll start with a brief review of a sun screen that I grabbed at the recent natural healthcare expo (@expowest). According to the website, the event brought together “over 67,000 industry members, more than 2,600 exhibiting companies and the most first-time exhibitors in the event’s history. From food and beverage to supplements and beauty to household and pet products, the event provided a window into the many categories driving the growth of the global natural products industry.” The first of the product samples I have tried is Suntegrity. You can find information on the product and where it’s distributed, https://www.suntegrityskincare.com/ and you can follow them @suntegrity. I have extremely sensitive skin and I’m also African-American female in her 40’s. So, it is rare that a tinted anything will look good on my skin. I was extremely skeptical about trying the product. But I put my reservations aside, pumped it out of its convenient dispenser and applied. What started as a chalky film morphed into a smooth blanket of color that subtly covered my skin while providing a nice balance of moisture. I was pleasantly surprised and have experienced no negative reaction (which is abnormal for me). The true test was when I arrived at an appointment and was told I looked “great.” While I will attribute a portion of that compliment to the brush of silver eye shadow gently applied to my lids, I know that suntegrity deserves a lion’s share of the credit. I’ve attached a selfie so you can see just how well the product blended. The color I used was deep bronze. It was definitely a great find.
I hope you enjoy the new direction of the blog. Stay posted for more on what I’m up to as a mom, comic and writer. Follow me @lamediocremommy.
The expression, “throw in the towel,” is derived from boxing. After a boxer has suffered an unrecoverable beating and his corner wants to the fight to stop, the towel is thrown in to indicate concession. In that scenario, the gesture is equal to admitting defeat. But throwing in the towel in some circumstances is not a declaration of defeat but rather an admission that a chapter needs to be closed. This is the case with our son’s current school. I was invited to listen in on a meeting with the charter representative this morning. Parents were randomly summoned to express their views on the school. It was purely by accident that I even ended up in the meeting since there was no formal announcement sent out. I was speaking with the mother of one of our son’s best friends when another parent saw her, grabbed her by the arm and insisted she go to the library. “The charter people are here,” the mom said with a mash of enthusiasm and anger in her voice. The two moms motioned for me to come as well. So, I did. I was met with other disgruntled parents, each of them with different stories of frustration. The charter representative, a reserved woman who was composed yet stern, typed as parents (mostly mothers) spoke. She tried to get everyone to dampen their elevated emotions but she was unsuccessful. These are our children we are speaking about. These are our prized possessions. If they have been wronged, we involuntarily go into attack mode. The school Principal periodically buzzed in to remind parents about the incoming kindergarten presentation she was conducting in the nearby auditorium. Reluctantly, a couple of parents walked out of the “charter people” meeting and walked into the auditorium. I made my points succinctly, a rarity for me, and I left as well. I communicated that the teachers needed more training, better communication and that the Principal had a culture at her school that was not conducive to best educational practices. When I walked out of the door, I knew undoubtedly that our son would not be returning to that school under any circumstances. If they institute any changes, even with the new Principal that starts sometime at the end of this year, the changes won’t take place soon enough to turn things around for our son. In other words, when it comes to this school, I have thrown in the allegorical towel. Last night, I went over paperwork for the magnet school into which our son has been accepted and I felt calm. I know it won’t be without its own flaws and challenges but I already feel a sense of relief, knowing that in the fall our son will be starting a new and more fulfilling chapter of his life. I also threw in the towel on my tv spec yesterday. I realized that I wrote my first traditional tv spec in years, right from the heart. But I hadn’t delved deeper into the series and its established structure. So, I was up until 2:00 a.m. this morning, going beat by beat through an episode of the series for which I am writing my spec. Starting from scratch on my spec will also present its own challenges, but it isn’t necessarily the easier road that gets us to the goal. Sometimes, in order to get to the end we want, we have to be willing to throw in the towel.
Yesterday, I jotted down thoughts instead of trying to attack my spec re-write head on. It was an early out of school day for our son so, after running a couple of errands, it was time to pick him up. That’s when the creativity comes in. Now that he’s not in afterschool care, it is our job to entertain the children from the afternoon until they go to bed. Since I have removed media from the home, this is not always an easy task. Taking a moment to scribe an email is just enough time for one of the children to take a chair, pull it to the counter where my purse is located, abscond with aforementioned purse and raid it for goods (mainly, the many packs and flavors of sugarless gum I hoard). Kid #1 has shown kid #2 how to hide the contraband in her Disney play oven. Little did I know, they would repeat the offense the very next morning with more prowess and precision. But yesterday, they got caught in the act, moments after I hit send on an email. I do have a babysitter, who helps with homework sometimes. She arrived as I was jetting off to get some of our son’s paperwork for his new school. Our son is in kindergarten and his new school this fall will be the 3rd school that he will attend. Why? Because I am not a perfect parent. I thought that moving to a better neighborhood would assure a better school experience. Who knows what our home school near our humble abode in Van Nuys would have rendered? His current home school in the comfy hills of the valley, near a beautiful golf course, has dampened his desire to learn at best. He now has a cheerleading team of myself, his dad, his grandmother, his tutor and the college student who babysits sometimes to encourage him and assuage the damage caused by his current teachers. I do not have a perfect kid. I realize that. Even I have been known to raise my voice here and there using the words, “Stop it! Now! Come here! I said come here! Put your sister down! There goes your college fund, buddy!” But I have never told him he couldn’t do anything, he didn’t belong anywhere or that he wasn’t brilliant. The boy has been coming up with song lyrics since he was four. He’s difficult. I’m difficult. We are not perfect. Therefore, the words I write, the jokes I tell, will never be perfect. Somehow I have convinced myself for several years that everything I put on the page must be. Therefore, I thought it best not to write scripts at all. When people would see me over the past decade and ask, “what have you been up to? You still writing?” I always responded, “yes.” That’s because I never have actually stopped writing. I just stopped writing scripts. I write song lyrics. I write poems. I write short stories that I never bother to re-write or fix. So, yeah, I’m still writing. But now that I have truly realized my writing will never be perfect, I am writing more consistently. Hearing stories about and seeing for myself in others, the fearless kid I used to be, has shown the person I have become. It has taught me that some things should not be left behind as we grow older. Fearlessness is one of those things. In a few months, I will send out my writing to some agents. I will, hopefully, write with a mentor. And I will not care that my writing is not perfect. Rather, I will focus on the honesty of it. I focus on the distinct voice in it. What I have to say has value and in the end it only matters that I continue to do it. This is what I will teach my son one day. The expectation is not that you do it perfectly but that you do it (and by doing it I do not mean forming and band of thieves with your sister and stealing your mother’s gum). Don’t wait until it’s perfect or it will never be done.
This is the 10th installation of my blog because these blogs, like my life, have been all over the place. This is the last of them – lamediocremommy. I settled on the name because just plain old mediocre mom was already taken. This blog will be my primary and will have a specific focus – the life of a 40-something new mom starting a new career. The journey will begin with today’s entry fondly titled, “the start of the timeline.” The blog will be a countdown from today’s date to January 1, 2014, when I will have to start looking for a “day job” if nothing has changed for me in the pursuit of my creative endeavors. This blog will document my trials and triumphs in raising a special needs son while chasing the dream of being employed as a writer. I have learned a lot on the journey so far and I believe some helpful tips, based on my failures and successes will inspire other parents who are pulled in hundreds of directions for hundreds of reasons. In the past few weeks, I have learned about everything from due process with regard to a school district to shrinking down a 7-minute set to 5 minutes, in my head, on my way to the stage. I have a supportive husband who has no idea what I do (and therefore sometimes seems unsupportive), I have a live-in grandnanny who cares for our 2 year-old (but who is counting the days until I go back to work of some sort and she goes back home) and I have my extraordinary son who inspires me every day to think outside of the box. I plan to keep an editorial calendar that will keep me on task and I will cover everything from my experience with the almost didn’t happen IEP to supplements and dietary changes I am trying. This is an honest account of my life that I hope will be funny, informative and inspiring. Thanks for following!