Archive for April 2012

Sleepless

I’m not sleeping much. I keep waking to a sharp clarity at 4am or thereabouts. It’s a non-specific kind of clarity. Not the kind that brings answers, but rather the kind that makes the room feel brighter than can be explained away as moonlight. I turn away from the window. I put my hands over my eyes, but the light isn’t really the problem.

I try to fight it, knowing it will have a price later- yet more of the same brain haze I’ve been grappling with for the last three years. I keep waiting for the fog to lift, but it hasn’t yet.

I can’t explain it. The months leading up to Tariku’s adoption were nearly as sleepless as the ones that followed it, yet I remember them as being fantastically inventive and engaged. Maybe the most alive I’ve ever felt creatively. Since returning from Africa, I search too long for words. I find it hard to follow anything but the most linear narrative. I can’t remember names of favorite books, of friends’ spouses I’ve met time and time again. It’s unlike me.

Somehow, these recent early mornings have been as close as I’ve come to reclaiming something recognizable of my brain function. 4am is too early to go for a run. Too quiet to start banging dishes around. Too precious to start in with the emails. So I make some tea, go to the upstairs den, open the shutters that face east and I read as the sky shifts from black to cobalt. A few days ago I moved the coffee table and I unfolded Anne Carson’s Nox along the carpet. Yesterday, I sunk into Bolaño’s Tres. Maybe it’s the unchallenged quality of that particular early morning solitude, but it seems I’ve found a brief window during which I have my attention back. Of course, the pendulum swings the other direction and I pay for it with bleary afternoons. For now, I’ll take it.

Nerd Prom

Authors’ kids took over the green room this weekend at the LA Times Festival of Books. Here’s T-Bone with Claire Bidwell Smith’s Vera and Samantha Dunn’s Ben. They’re starting a band, which is way more sensible than a literary journal.

There was a party on Saturday night at the Main Library downtown. Scott and I made a date night out of it and went for oysters at The Water Grill on the way. In front of the Biltmore Hotel, we passed a bunch of kids on the way to their prom. The girls swished by us in sequined mermaid skirts, teetering on their heels and hanging on the arms of rented tuxes. It occurred to me that the Book Festival is like a grown-up nerd prom, with less slow dancing and more panel discussions.

It’s kind of nice of the world to give me a second chance at this prom thing. I’m doing much better this time around. Here I am at the awards ceremony with Rachel Resnick, Janet Fitch, Elissa Schappell and Carolyn Kellog.

It’s heartening for an author to spend a couple of days in this swirl of enthusiasm for books. I felt grateful for the chance to mingle with readers and colleagues.

And for the last dance of the nerd prom, I got to see Amanda Fletcher, my mentee from the PEN Center Emerging Voices fellowship, kick so much ass at her reading at the Hotel Cafe that I got a little tear of pride in my eye. Watch out for her. She’s about to conquer the world. Or at least make homecoming queen.

I Swear, I Didn’t Teach Him That

Check out my fucking awesome post about swearing (mine and his), up now at TODAY Moms.

Leave comments and all that. Really filthy ones.

Rammstein Auditions

Tariku is gunning to be the first African-American toddler member of the German metal band Rammstein. Check out the part in which he’s actually singing the lyrics. His first favorite song is “Island in the Sun” but his second favorite is “Du hast.”

If this doesn’t give you a giggle, you seriously need to consider upping your dosage.

Writing from What’s Missing

A handful of times in my life, I’ve read a book that seemed to already exist somewhere behind my eyes. Reading these books gave me a feeling of recognition so exquisite that it’s not overstating the case to say they saved my life. Oranges are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson was one of those books for me. As was Salinger’s Nine Stories, Cisneros’ House on Mango Street, Denis Johnson’s Jesus’ Son, Mary Gaitskill’s short stories and certain poems by Rilke and Dickinson. But truthfully, I read most of these soul-altering works in my early teens. I encounter books that change my life much less often now. Perhaps there’s just more of a life to change- it takes a stronger force.

I just finished Jeanette Winterson’s new memoir, Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal, and I wouldn’t exactly say it changed my life, so much as I felt like it was my life. As an adoptee and a writer, there were sentences in her memoir I was pretty sure I wasn’t reading on the page, but on my heart itself.

She talks about the wound being close to the gift. I live it. I count on it.

Here’s a passage I love that relates to adoption:

The baby explodes into an unknown world that is only knowable through some kind of story — of course that is how we all live, it’s the narrative of our lives, but adoption drops you into the story after it has started. It’s like reading a book with the first few pages missing. It’s like arriving after curtain up. The feeling that something is missing never, ever leaves you, and it can’t, and it shouldn’t, because something is missing.

That isn’t of its nature negative. The missing part, the missing past, can be an opening, not a void. It can be an entry as well as an exit. It is the fossil record, the imprint of another life, and although you can never have that life, your fingers trace the space where it might have been, and your fingers learn a kind of Braille.

Gorgeous.

New Podcast! And a Giveaway…

My friend Melinda Hill and I started a podcast! We’ve been working hard to get Eat My Podcast off the ground and it’s been an absolute blast. Our first guest is the smoking hot, totally fascinating Thomas Jane, of Hung fame. Give us a listen. You can stream or download from the website now and we’ll be up on iTunes soon.

I’m gonna do a giveaway of…anything you want. You can have a signed copy of any book or audiobook of mine, including foreign editions. Dying to read Some Girls in Swedish? Now’s your chance. Just do one of these things then come back here and leave a comment telling me you did and I’ll enter your name in the drawing:

1. Follow us on Twitter @eatmypodcast.
2. Like us on FB.
3. Listen to us!
4. Subscribe on iTunes.

Here’s what we’re about (from our website):

Eat My Podcast is a scream of a podcast hosted by comedian Melinda Hill and bestselling author Jillian Lauren. Known for dishing about unusual personal experiences with truly original voices, these two brainy babes explore what their superstar guests wanted to be when they grew up and how that’s panned out for them. Eat My Podcast is an insightful journey into the defining experiences of the little people who became the big people we love today. And if you don’t like it, you can eat it.

A Lot Like Spring

Happy Easter or Passover or pagan fertility rites or whatever you got up to this weekend. I demonstrated my poor assimilation skills by not knowing that you dye the eggs on Saturday rather than Sunday (sue me- I only just got the Christmas tree thing down). So we settled for chocolate in plastic eggs, which is totally better anyway because of the chocolate part.

I still feel kind of guilty every time I tell T some big lie- like the Easter Bunny. But lie I did:

Oh gosh, you just missed him. He hopped through here so fast….

All the popular parents were doing it.

It was nice to spend the gorgeous day with family and a few friends. T did really well. He wanted so badly to be with the other kids that he managed to go a whole day without hitting or biting. He definitely paid the price for all that self control and unspooled into an hour-long screaming meltdown once we got back to the house, but that was to be expected. I sat with him until he exhausted himself. At least he didn’t throw up this time. Any holiday without barf is a successful holiday.

Sundress weather and flowers all over the hillside and the first figs on our trees. It’s officially spring.

Big Loud Hope

My memories of the public school system are…not so great. One thing that comes to mind is my battle with my junior high school principal about the clothes I insisted on wearing, which were generally dyed, bleached, cut up, sewn back together, deconstructed and reconstructed. The principal kept sending me home for being “distracting to the other students.” In response to which, I distributed pamphlets (that I wrote) about freedom of expression. My sweet but NOT rebellious mother nearly died of embarrassment. She cut my clothes to pieces with a scissor one night.

So it comes as no surprise that I approached my dealings with L.A. Unified School District with trepidation. I dreaded the paperwork, the headache, the bureaucracy. I dread “the man.”

But my back was against the wall. T had been kicked out of three private preschools within two days of starting them. Over the past couple of years, it’s become clear to us that T has special needs socially and emotionally. The private preschool programs that are equipped to address his needs are at best an hour drive from here. So, I bit the bullet, made the phone calls, filled out the paperwork and got him assessed by the school district.

Last week, Scott and I went into a meeting with the director of services, a psychologist, a special ed teacher and an occupational therapist. We walked out of the meeting with an IEP – an Individualized Education Program. Tariku is set to start public preschool next week. In our corner we’ll have a behavioral support team, an occupational therapist and a teacher who is familiar with and prepared to address his needs.

The education professionals we’ve encountered throughout this process have far exceeded my hopes. I believe they really care what happens to T. We sat in that meeting with them for nearly two hours and I felt heard and validated. I cried when I thanked them all at the end.

On this parenting journey I get to learn again and again that my assumptions are so often wrong. Half the time, I’m making decisions based on fears that have their origins in my own childhood. That childhood is long gone. While I believe that its wounds deserve to be acknowledged, I don’t want to live from a place of hurt. I want to live from a place of hope.

Tariku starts preschool again next week. I’m going to go ahead and be hopeful about it.

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