This I Believe: It is a contest

So, after more editing, I swallowed hard and send my “This I Believe” essay off to NPR. Apparently, I feel like I am ready for some rejection on a national scale.

When you send in you essay they send you back an email saying that it was received successfully. The funny thing is, in the letter they tell you that it isn’t a contest and that every essay they receive is wonderful and worthwhile and will be included on their searchable database… only after it isn’t chosen to be recorded for broadcast. In fact, they tell you that you can tell when the review process is over by searching for your essay on their website. If you find it there, and you haven’t hear from their office yet, you are wonderful in the “not good enough to be picked for recording” way.

Lucky you.

Starting eight weeks from Sunday, or probably sooner, I will be searching obsessively for, and wholeheartedly expecting to find, my essay there, because I am special… in just that way.

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Summer is almost over. Thank god, or whomever.

I am not a summer person. It is too hot and there is far too much outside activity expected from me. I love the fall and the spring when the temperature outside is in the reasonable range and you can wear sweaters and there are all sorts of reasons to sit too close to interesting people with whom you really should not be sharing personal space.

As for the highlights of the summer: I got an Honorable Mention in a fiction writer’s contest. It was, in fact, the first writing contest I have entered since elementary school and so it was a big thrill to me to get any recognition. At some point, after the little booklet with all the winner’s stories was printed, they had a public reading in Ames. I couldn’t decide if I should go or not, mostly because once the booklet was published I reread my entry and realized just what shit it was and was sure that everyone else had realized it too, or worse, that they would figure it out as I was standing on a stage reading it aloud.

In the end I went, but refused to let anyone I know go with me. I walked into the venue all alone and looked out at the tables filled with proud family members and friends and felt a little silly, but I really couldn’t bear the though that my humiliation might be forever written in the memories of people I would have to see again, no matter how nice it might have been to have them bask in my possible accomplishment.

I carry all sorts low self-esteem baggage around with me where ever I go. My own fears of not being good enough and any off-hand comment that was ever made about me that somehow made it’s way to my ears, swirl around in my head taking up room that I really need for other things, like remembering to pay the cable bill on time.

For instance, once, a million years ago, someone I cared about very much said that I was worse than a three-year-old that we knew at the time, that I talked too much and that I was in the way a lot. I wished at the time that I could just carry around a disclaimer of some sort. Something like:

I know that I am annoying and I talk too much, but it’s just that you are so smart and wonderful I like you so much. What looks to you like too much talking on my part is really me screaming inside, “Please like me! I need you to see that I am worth something!” I am just trying to sell myself to you, clearly not in quality, but perhaps in quantity. I really do wish I were smarter or more interesting, but this is all I have. Oh, and you’re going to say awful things about me later could you just do it quietly and far away so that I can’t overhear, because otherwise I will just wear it around like some terrible backwards pair of rose colored glasses years after you have gone.

Anyway, I did go to the reading and I did read and it went well. The audience laughed in all the right places and people said lovely, supportive things to me after the show. In fact, no one singled me out as a hack and a fake. A sweet woman (and a published writer!) even asked me to join her writer’s group.

Since then, I was hired to write a weekly freelance article for our little local newspaper, which is going well. People actually stop me on the street to tell me they like it and so far the people that hate it either haven’t crossed paths with me or else are much less vocal. Either way, I’m happy. Plus, there is a paycheck involved. That means that I have a paid job as a writer! I could, theoretically, tell people that I write. Can you imagine such a thing?

Still, the voices linger… so I guess I could, theoretically, also tell people that I am crazy.

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What the girls have been up to

Well, here it is August. The summer has seemed at times to drag along so slowly here in this house.

You literally cannot win with these children these days. Emily, who still will not wipe herself after going to the bathroom, hates to wash her hands after using the toilet, using the aforementioned lack of touching as an excuse. Still, in our house there is a “cross the threshold, wash your hands” policy. So, about ten times a day, after wiping wet and soiled parts that do not belong to me, there is the inevitable argument about hand washing. For the most part I tell her to do it and we drop it there, but sometimes, for no particular reason she fights on, and some of those times, just because I cannot possibly be so invested in each and every detail in this house I tell her to forget and just go on. Then, like some sort of spy Eric has embedded in the family, she tells me that Daddy ALWAYS makes her wash her hands, and so, really, shouldn’t she do it?

Plus, it has been so hot and muggy and just plain awful outside that the days just seem to drag on endlessly. But even as I write that I look up and suddenly it is August. School is going to start in two weeks and soon fall will be here and then, maybe, I can breathe again.In the meantime we have had a lovely summer full of short trips and tons of time with family and friends. There have been no Make-A-Wish type events. We have filled the days with swimming, a few whole-family naps, just about every frozen treat known to man, and lots and lots of yummy sweet corn, butter running down our chins in little rivers. There has been very little illness and no injuries, so really, what more could we ask for.

The girls are funny and beautiful, smart and so creative. I am happy beyond words that children seem to turn out so well from pure dumb luck on my part. For those who have been harassing me about updating this site (you know who you are) here are some snapshots of them playing in our “back yard” which at our house is located on the side of the house. Enjoy!

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