Archive for March 2007

The Evolution of a ‘Ryter’

March 30, 2007

I have always been a voracious reader. I read everything I can get my hands on. I have also always been a writer. Fortunately I have had parents and teachers that supported this endeavor.

In third grade I wrote my first play. It was a story about a teacher with an unruly class. I wrote it, directed it and starred in it. Unfortunately I had a ‘cast’ of friends who decided to make up their own dialog as we performed. Not a good experience. In fourth grade I wrote a holiday play about Santa and his elves. This time I was a much sterner task master…er…control freak…um… director. Our play went off without a hitch. We performed it for our class and several younger classes as well. The only thing I remember is that we all fell on top of one another behind the piano (our ‘back stage’ area) in the Music Room at the end of the performance. Giggling, laughing and SO glad it was over. Fourth grade was also the year that I wrote my first melodramatic fiction story. It was a story about a little girl who had lost the use of her legs and became the poster child for the Easter Seal Society. It was entitled ‘Amy’s Legs’ and Mr. Dieck gave me an unofficial ‘A+’ for writing it. Again, the thing I remember most about that story was snitching a piece of green yarn from my mother’s knitting bag to hold the multitude of loose leaf pages together.

Fifth grade was devoted to book reports of every size, shape and length. Sixth grade was devoted to reading again. My Teacher was a stickler for the classics, Greek mythology and history. Mrs. Schultz was a 70ish traditionalist who was teaching for her very last year. She read aloud every single day. She read only Newberry Award winners (with the exception of ‘Boy of the Pyramids’ because we were studying Egypt at the time) and I can still name every book she read to us. Seventh grade was totally devoted to survival of the first year of jr. high. I do remember that we were introduced to journaling and that Mr. Pritchard was a little freaked that my entries read like magazine articles and book reviews instead of ‘personal recollections’. Always thinking outside of the box. Heh.

Just for ‘fun’ I was writing scripts for my favorite television shows. My friend, Linda Sue Nutt, was the first one I ever allowed to read those. She read them as fast as I could write them. My younger sister became a fan and favorite critic. She would read things as they were being written…chapters always out of order. It used to make her crazy. Still does. Once, about seven years ago, we decided to pass the time on a mutual family campout by creating a plot and group of characters, going off to our campers to write and then meeting later to compare. She finished her story in several pages. Mine had twice as many and was only the first chapter. Still working on that one!

In tenth grade I was a lonely only sophomore in a Journalism class and wrote copy for the high school year book. It was quite heady to have upperclassmen seek me out for captions for photos or pages of photos. My very first published poem is in that book. My ‘scripts’ were also circulating amongst the other kids in that class. My Journalism Teacher recommended me as the school reporter for the local newspaper. It was a job I held for the next two and a half years. In fact, my byline was a regular fixture in THREE local newspapers during that time. All for the ‘experience’, of course. On second thought, I think the Lakeland Tribune paid me a nominal fee for each ‘feature’ that I wrote. That paper became defunct when I was in college.

As a senior I was taking an ‘Exploratory English’ class. We basically met with the teacher and determined our own course of study. Since I was reading…alot… during the second marking period and didn’t have anything to turn in for a grade, I hastily finished a little ditty I had started writing for fun during the summer. It was a lengthy novel that evolved from an essay I had written for English the year before. The exercise in 11th grade had been to write a theme with a character – as unlike us a possible – in a situation we would never be caught in. I think the purpose of the exercise was for us to come to the realization that no matter what, our fictional characters always carry a bit of us. My essay was entitled ‘The Decision’ and the follow up novel was entitled ‘The Crystal Image’. It was about a girl and her family coming to terms with an illegitemate pregnancy, birth and subsequent return home with a child. A hot topic in the early 70’s. It was a smash….much to my dismay. My teacher loved it. My friends read it and loved it. It was entered in a short story contest for an out lying college. It was one of twelve stories selected from high school entries to be part of a short story symposium with invited published authors. The authors would be on campus for a week working with college students prior to our little symposium.

We spent a wonderful day on that Sienna Heights College campus. By we, I mean my mother, my grandmother, my ‘Literary Cheerleader’/English Teacher Sue Shipley, the other ‘winners’ and their various supporters. We met with an author in small groups of four. Our written pieces were critiqued. I was red faced and worried and so stressed by the time mine was picked up to be discussed. It was the last of the four in our group. I remember my head buzzing and my face burning….but this very distinquished, white turtle neck sweater/dark jacketed/stylishly graying/oh so handsome author (I wish I could remember his name!) picked up my submitted manuscript and said that he would absolutely love it if his students walked into a writing class with the kind of material he was holding in his hands. I remember that he began asking ME questions about how I developed my characters, how I decided my plot lines and chose my descriptive phrases. Not at all what he had done with the previous three stories. Yikes! It was a surprise only to me when I was declared the winner of a college scholarship for that story.

Did I mention that I have a hearing loss? Before my graduation I allowed the people that love me talk me out of going to school for a writing degree. “Get something that you can support yourself with” they said. They were my family, my friends, my school counselor. “Be a teacher”, they said. “You can still write in the summer time.” Did I mention that I had also been involved in available child development avenues for high school; classroom helper at the nearest elementary school, student aide the high school day care/pre school center, vacation Bible school teacher, etc? Elementary Education appealed to me and that is where I directed myself. Writing became lost in the shuffle, except for my own enjoyment or for the professors that read my term papers and exam essay questions. When I graduated from college Elementary Education allowed me to put all of my extracurricular interests into play. I wrote for my students. I wrote for my lessons. I wrote…I wrote…I wrote.

Real life stepped in. Multiple jobs to pay bills while I searched for a full time job in education to ‘support’ myself. I investigated teaching in the Los Angeles area to be closer to the entertainment world that I longed to write for. Too far from family. I got married and busied myself with my husband, home and two stepdaughters. I busied myself with my classroom. I busied myself with community theater, as a make up person, set designer/painter, costume cooridinator, producer, assistant director and finally director. I wrote copy for programs and press releases. I wrote newsletters for various purposes. I still do that. I wrote plays for school drama clubs to perform. I busied myself with my own son and daughter and their activities and their lives. And still I wrote. Nothing big. Nothing anyone else really wanted to read. Nothing I was really comfortable having outsiders read. Until I discovered fan fictions.

I posted my first chapter of my first fan fiction on line during a school holiday vacation in January 2006. People responded with ‘reviews’. Well…that was fun, so I posted another chapter…and another and another. In the past fifteen months I have posted 15 different pieces with multiple chapters. Some are funny. Some are melodramatic. Some are just plain ‘fluff’. Some follow the course of the show they were written about. Some are ‘back stories’ – or histories – for characters that appealed to me…answering questions that I needed answers to. Fifteen pieces have generated 140,890 computer hits at one site alone. Some of the stories have been posted elsewhere and gotten even more ‘hits’. I have written several pieces for writing ‘challenges’ that have won their own little contests with readers’ votes. I write a lengthy, detailed recap of a weekly television show for a friend’s web site. I submit television reviews for another site and have my own little fan base. I have developed some very good friendships amongst my frequent reviewers. This writing has become a very ego building thing at a time when I really needed it.

This writing has also become an all consuming thing. I will never regret my life or my family. I will never regret what I have accomplished in my career. But given the fact that I am finding my all of my free time being sucked in to the time that I spend in front of my computer key board, I think I am always going to wonder what would have happened if I had followed my own originally charted path. I ran into my Literary Cheerleader/English Teacher, Sue Shipley, once about 12 years ago. We were at the grocery store. In the bread department. I was so proud to show off my husband and my too cute little son. She asked me what I was doing now and I still remember the disappointment in her eyes when I said that I was teaching first grade. She told me – again – that she was still holding out hope. That she knew I would make money as a writer some day. “I have always thought that you are able to write what people like to read,” she said. “That’s not an easy thing.”

Write what people like to read. Apparently I still can. I am working on it. Still trying lots of different kinds of writing. Still trying to find that muse that always seems to elude me. I find that I like manupulating characters that are already defined. I am too old to quit what I am doing for a living. With two soccer stars to support, I am too poor to go back to school. Yet, I am too young to totally belie what I enjoy doing the most. It’s a conundrum……but an evolving one.

Pax – on the subject of international adoption

March 28, 2007

Angelina and Brad have a new son. People Magazine says she is taking time for Pax to ‘gently bond’ with their family. For once I know exactly where a celebrity is coming from. We have been there and done that.

After years of fiddling around with infertility issues and tap dancing around the subject of adoption, my husband and I attended an international adoption ‘forum’ in which seven different adoption agencies took part. Domestic adoption didn’t appeal to my husband AT ALL. We had just spent the past year following the Baby Jessica story. Apparently we weren’t alone. Once the statement was made that parental rights are irrevocably severed once a child leaves it’s country of birth, there was an almost audible sigh from the hundred or so people present. That was fourteen years ago. We filled out the paperwork, did the leg work, signed the checks, talked with social workers, did more paperwork and seven months later, on June 29, 1994, we picked up our son from the international terminal at Detroit Metro Airport. He had flown 14 hours (including a significant layover in Tokyo) from Seoul, Korea. He was four months old, had a gorgeous head of stick straight hair and eyes that totally disappeared when he smiled…and he smiled alot. He was a good baby, a curious toddler, shy Kindergartener, creative elementary student and now an intelligent and kind middle schooler..most of the time.

Six years later we filled out more paperwork, did more leg work, signed more checks, talked with more social workers and traveled to Russia to complete the adoption of a five year old daughter. She was in an orphanage in Kyzyl, Tuva. This meant an overseas flight to Moscow, a five hour plane flight to Abakan and a six hour drive through the Sayan Mountains in a cab with a driver that did not speak English. We spent 17 days in Russia. We ‘gently bonded’ with her in a hotel in Kyzyl for five days. During that time she screamed in the shower, cried whenever Papa had to leave, ate one piece of fruit after another, learned the ABC song, how to count to 10 and to sing ‘Rock A Bye Baby.’ In Moscow she laughed in the bathtub, went on her first shopping spree, ate her first McDonald’s french fry and charmed the visa guy at the embassy.

The ‘gentle bonding’ continued at home. She followed her brother around and made him absolutely miserable for a while by copying his every move. Her second week home we took her on a Halloween candy binging trick or treating campout for the weekend with our camping club. Two weeks later we took her to the wedding and reception when my husband’s oldest daughter got married. Two weeks later we were on the road to South Carolina to spend Thanksgiving with extended family. Poor kid. Her intial thoughts of America were probably that life was just one party after another!

She picked up verbal language fairly quickly. There was a period of about a week when she was very frustrated that she could understand our English and didn’t understand why we couldn’t interpret her Russian quickly enough. She finally stopped using Russian all together. That made me sad. She bonded very quickly with her preschool/day care buddies inspite of the language differences. Daycare was probably more familiar than home life to her. That made me sad.

But today she is a bright, funny, happy fifth grader. She is a Girl Scout. SHe likes life in the ‘fast lane’ – rollerblades, skateboards, sledding, her bike, horses – anything that gives her speed. She reads, struggles with Math, loves to write stories and has every boy in her class wrapped around her little finger. She is their ‘bud’…someone to play football with, to kick a soccer ball with, to share a joke with. I would have to say that she has ‘gently bonded’ very well.

So, here’s to Pax….and Angelina and Brad and Maddox and Zahara and Shiloh. May your family be as happy and as ‘gently bonded’ as mine.

Mr. Kindergarten Husband

March 14, 2007

I am a Kindergarten Teacher. When I say that, most people look at me with new eyes. ‘Aww. You must have fun every day,’ they say. When I was engaged, my husband thought I had the best job in the whole world. All I did was ‘play’ all day. Heh. Then reality struck. He got out of bed one morning – shortly after our wedding almost 18 years ago – with a huge strip of laminating film stuck to his back as I had been cutting things out while watching television the night before. It was the beginning of the end. He had to deal with a life partner who fielded telephone calls from ‘helicopter parents’ who would ring at any given time of day or night. He saw school supplies and needed items slipped into our shopping cart on a regular basis. There were trips to the book outlet and a guilt analysis of receipts to tell him ‘how much I saved’. There were trips to the pharmacy and the doctor for meds to cover the cold/flu/pink eye that was raging through the school and which I would inevitably catch. There were stacks of oatmeal boxes and shoe boxes and egg cartons and magazines that piled in the dining room waiting to be used for ‘something good’. There were highly stressed ‘report card marking weekends’ that surely became his version of hell on earth. There were the impromptu conversations and ‘conferences’ that arose whenever we ran into a parent from school at the store or the library or the movies. There were the conscriptions to play Santa/clowns/ Mr. Dressup during school events and Kindergarten special occasions. There were constant rereadings of favorite books as I needed practice to get the reading just right. Heh. I think he had Chicka Chicka Boom Boom memorized before I did! There were trips to the hardware, trips to the lumber yard, trips to the Teacher Store…..never complaining….always repeated until a project was ‘just right’. He would cut boat shapes for the transportation project, build a classroom loft, drill holes in popsicle sticks for the Christmas projects, hunt for the perfect candy bars for our end of the year awards ceremony (Snickers for the one with the best laugh, Bit-O-Honeys for the sweet one, etc.), carry things in and out of school, etc. etc. etc. etc.

Sometimes I take it all for granted. Too much. I appreciate it all. But I never appreciated it more than I did last night.

I had one of those school day moments that brought a lump to my throat…. something that hasn’t happened often of late. Our bus walkers were late. Four Kindy Kiddos were still waiting to be taken to the very confusing bus dismissal area. I asked if they thought they could make it on their own. It was time for them to try it. They would be doing it alone as first graders next year. Big eyes in hooded jackets with backpacks as big as their five year old bodies, they nodded their heads. Hold hands and stick together, I told them and walked them to the back exit door. I stood and looked out in to the sunny spring afternoon and watched as Jamie and Michael and Melinda and Evan* bounced up the sidewalk in two twosomes, holding hands and chatting amiably as they headed for their buses. Little birds out of the nest and they didn’t even know it. The lump started then. How sweet to be privy to the beginnings of independence all wrapped up in security and innocence. Who to tell about this picture? Teachers see this kind of thing every single day. Sometimes it’s gets old when it comes from someone else.

The picture stayed in my head and the lump in my throat as I cleaned up my room and put things out for the next school day. It stayed as I drove home and listened to the middle school and fifth grade doings from my own children. It stayed as I made spaghetti for dinner. It stayed until we were in the car and headed for another soccer practice.

In the quiet of the car – a new novelty with two new handheld computer games in tow – we talked about our day. I described the picture of my four little birds and their venture out into the big old ‘world’ on their own and the lump in my throat threatened to spill over. I looked over at my Mr. Kindergarten Husband and he was smiling the smile of one who absolutely understood. Yes….I do take it for granted sometimes.

*Names were changed to respect the privacy of my students.

And The Little Girls Cried….

March 10, 2007

Last weekend my family had the privilege of accompanying our daughter to another city in another state for the National Indoor Soccer Championships. My daughter is eleven years old. They came in second for the regionals that were played in their home facility so this was a much bigger deal. The excitement of the weekend was definitely staying in a hotel for two whole nights and eating in restaurants and swimming in the pool. I thought it was wonderful that they were so very far removed from the whole competition aspect of the event. They were there because they love to play soccer. Twelve little girls with lanky legs and bobbing pony tails. Well…my daughter lacks the lanky legs as yet….and several have hair too short for ponys. One had just gotten back from a cruise vacation so she was tanned and braided and beaded to the max. Fashion aside they were excited to see one another in another city in another state.

In our room there was an argument over who slept in the rollaway and who slept on the little love seat. Mom and Dad got the bed. That was a given. We are the paying customers here. The tv was tuned to something we all wanted to watch – for once – and the snack box filled with apples and bananas and oranges and granola bars and cheese crackers was fair game.

The first game was at nearly noon on Saturday. It was a 5-0 win. The second game was six hours later. It was a 9-1 win. What a delight to see our daughter ecstatically taken out of her usual position as goalie and put in a s a forward. She no sooner hit the field than she was tearing toward the opposite net and scored a goal. Our cheering section roared. Yeah…we are moms and dads and brothers and sisters and we are pretty loud. Heh. VERY loud. Out for a team dinner. A little too expensive and way too late. Back to the hotel. Showers. Another ‘who gets the rollaway bed argument’. Once again, Mom and Dad get the big bed. It’s a given. Early game on Sunday.

It was early. Too early for soccer but our lanky legged champions were up for it. A little tougher this time. A 5-2 win. We were headed for the finals. Hotel check out is 1 pm. The game is at 3:30. What to do in between? Wal-Mart calls these out of town shoppers.

Division winners. Champions. Pumped and hyped and ready for the finals. Faces painted like warriors of old. WAZA! Skull printed bandanas on their heads. Smiles and grins and determined glares. Forty minutes later…..sunken hearts. A 5-4 loss. Tears on cheeks and plastic smiles. Still we cheered. Heh. We were loud! Moms and dads and brothers and sisters stomped their feet and whistled and yelled and clapped till our palms were red and hurting. And the little girls cried. Tears streaked their faces and their eyes were hurting as they ran to the barrier in front of the bleachers as their coach instructed them to do. Plastic smiles. Medals given. Red ribbons. Finalists.

Quiet ride home from another city in another state. Reassurance that they had done their best and that was all they could do. Reminders that we had still had fun. The hotel…the restaurants… the pool…..the new friends from other teams. And while my non-lanky legged champion slept in the back seat I wondered if this was the right thing to do. Is soccer really worth the red ribbons and the medals and the tears and the plastic smiles? We have logged a lot of miles for practices…for games….for ‘perfect shoe’ searches. We have paid alot of money for clinics and camps and coaches and ‘perfect shoes.’ Really, really worth it?

The very next day we were back at the soccer facility. Our champions were scheduled for a regular season’s game. One day back. Twenty four hours from that moment of loss. One day and one night away from the tears and the plastic smiles.

They were bouncing. They were giggling. They were running and kicking and dribbling and striking for the pure and simple joy of it. As I watched the smile on my daughter’s face…..the steely determination in her eyes as she guarded her goal…..I knew the answer. Yeah. It’s worth it.