the dreaded PTA mom

Missing the adrenaline surprised me. Exhaustion set in for sure; I have never slept so hard as after the event.

But the next day as I thought about getting back to my normal life, all the things I normally love to do when I am not in charge of decorations for a circus-themed silent auction fundraiser (like write and spend time with my family), I realized I was going to miss the adrenaline that has kept me company during the last week.

I have never had such a role in one of the school’s main events. Quite frankly, I have stayed away from them. I am not a big “task” person. I prefer people.

And to be perfectly honest and risk offending people, the image I have in my head of a typical “PTA Mom” is not glowing. And that’s putting it mildly.

So for six years, I managed to avoid it entirely. I signed up for membership every year to show support for the school, but then helped in the classroom while avoiding eye contact with any one who might ask me to do something for or with the PTA.

But after enough years of avoiding the madness, I gave in.

One of my dear friends was chairing this event, so of course I volunteered for things I otherwise would have graciously dodged. And to be honest again, not all of it was easy or enjoyable.

But while I cannot stand the image in my head of PTA, the idea of coming along side schools to help them financially when they are being hit particularly hard right now is something I believe in strongly.

And that belief kept me going. Which was super helpful because getting different personalities together to work with each other toward a common goal can be…….tricky…….from time to time. We can all make each other crazy.

But that’s how we learn.

So now I am back to those things that connect me to my life and keep me grounded…….dishes, laundry, and toilet scrubbing as well as lingering snuggly hugs, intentional eye contact, and tender bedtime rituals.

And I love it, even though the adrenaline that comes along with being crazy together when planning a big event leaves a bit of a hole. I suppose that just makes me realize how valuable it was to engage in the process of working with others for a greater good. 

the second tissue

I have never been so mortified in all my life as when she handed me the second tissue. It was bad enough that she pulled them out to give me the first one.

The advanced reading appointments at the writers conference were only ten minutes long. You pay a large sum of money for those meager ten minutes. And I used part of mine in tears in front of a seasoned agent needing not just one tissue, but two.

In all fairness, I didn’t start crying until after the critique part was over. I handled all of that quite well and was not even tempted to cry. She had some of the best feedback I got from any of the three appointments and I was grateful.

I knew before I sat down that the writing I had turned in was crappy when compared to industry standards. I thought it was decent when I wrote it (otherwise would I have paid professionals to tell me what they thought?), but when I reviewed it before my first appointment suddenly I saw a wealth of things I was previously blind to.

So I knew what I was getting into and beat her to the punch on much of what she had to say while the rest of it I took in hungry and dry-eyed, eagerly writing down each point in my notes. I said thank you and started to get up and she said we have more time and I did pay for this, did I have any other questions for her?

I told her I did before I came in here but I couldn’t think of any of them now and I rested my weight back into the chair, not sure where to go from there. Then she asked me about my kids. I started to tell her their ages and instantly knew I was not going to make it through the sentence.

No fair! I was prepared to remain professional, but now you have just asked me about my kids and my kids connect me to my heart and what with the run in with the pole last night and my dreams of getting a book contract smashed to smithereens my heart is a bit tender right now! Crying in front of an agent is terribly unprofessional but you asked me a non-professional question and now I am crying and you are handing me tissues!

To make matters worse, she was kind to me. If she had just been awkward or mean I could have reeled in the tears and pulled it together. But she kept being nice to me, offering what seemed like genuine care thus making a safe environment for me to continue to lose it. “What else do you do when you are not with your kids? What do you do for a break to get away from them for a while?”

Lady, you are not helping. I write that’s what I do. And I think we have adequately covered that topic. I mumbled something about pictures for the blog and then the bell rang announcing our time was up. Praise the Lord.

I didn’t have to sign up for those critiques. And if I hadn’t, the conference probably wouldn’t have been so painful. But it would have been a lot less valuable too. I would have stayed in my dream world, happy and safe……and wondering “what if?”. I took a chance. I put myself out there. And for now, that is the win. Even if it came with the second tissue.

trying to breathe

My girlfriend and her mom came over this morning. We engaged in the beautiful ritual of figuring out what to wear. They were there to help me with my wardrobe for the writers conference.

We got it all figured out and then I got Zachary down for his nap and then I had a moment to breathe. And think. And freak out. Just a little.

So in the quiet I started talking to God.

Okay Lord, please calm me down. Remind me that I am valuable because you love me, not because of what I may or may not achieve as a writer.

And Lord? Phil was so so so graciously supportive of this conference and we paid a lot of money for me to go. And we don’t have a lot of money right now. I feel like if I don’t come back with an agent interested in me that we wasted that money. That I was a bad investment. And we can’t afford bad investments right now.

Then I got a text from a friend.

She said she was praying for me and then she said words I needed to hear. Be yourself. Breathe. Somehow those words brought me back to the ground; out of the tornado of pressure and nerves I created. I realized I did what I often do. I made the conference an either/or experience.

Either I would be a success or I would be a total failure.

But life is so much more of a both/and experience. There will probably be some successes and some failures along the way of me working my way into the writing world. This conference included.

Take tonight for example. I succeeded in being one of the friendliest, easiest people to meet at the social gathering tonight. (I know, so shocking for those of you who know me – insert sarcasm.) There were quite a few other writers I succeeded in helping feel more at ease. Meeting people is petrifying for some people. I am not one of them.

At the end, I gave my card to one of the agents I will have a one-on-one appointment with tomorrow. To be honest, he is my top pick. But when I gave him my card, he looked at me a little funny. Uh-oh. Did I just faux paux?

And then, as I read over the writing I sent in for review at tomorrow’s appointments (that I hope to have these people love and want more of) I already see some ways that I could have made it more appealing. Suck.

But because of my friend’s text, I am remembering that life is more of the both/and. And Phil loves me and thinks I am worth the investment of this conference even if I come back without an agent who loves me. And I can be myself. And I can breathe. And I am loved by God.