Kalley’s Machine Plus Cats had a whole bucket full of love poured on top of her interactive little head this past December. Our app was like a sweaty little kid in the backyard on a really hot summer day, and then Jinny Gudmundsen, Rob Ford, Jennie B and some wonderful person named Kirkus Reviews turned on the sprinkler.
Jinny Gudmundsen is the author of iPad Apps for Kids For Dummies, and the editor of the famous website Tech with Kids, which declared Kalley’s Machine one of the 20 Best Kids Apps of 2014!!! Jinny is a nationally recognized expert on Kids Tech, and writes on that subject for a little newspaper called USA Today, which you may never have heard of but which we were PRETTY STOKED to be mentioned in, people!
This is just one of the many kind things that the estimable Jinny Gudmundsen said about Kalley’s Machine: “Kalley’s Machine Plus Cats showcases a creative inventor who happens to be a young girl. It sends a powerful message to children–especially little girls–about thinking outside of the box to solve problems. By demonstrating ingenious engineering skills that would make Rube Goldberg proud, Kalley models outstanding problem-solving instincts and may motivate readers to draw similar machines. “
Well, and not only that. Jinny Gudmundsen also named Kalley’s Machine one of USA Today’s 10 Top Kids Apps of 2014! I already tried to make it clear to you people that Jinny knows way more about this stuff than you do, so if you’re about to say something like “well, what does she know? then just remember what I told you. She’s the expert, not you.
OK. Here’s a fun little exercise. Go get like five books off of your bookcase. I’m doing it, too. I will be right back.
Ok I’m back, and I only got two. Both of my books here have a list of people in the front few pages who have read them, and who said nice things about them. They’re called “reviewers”. Now take your books and look at the front of them. I bet one of those guys who reviewed your book is named “Kirkus”. And I bet that guy wrote the very most awesome stuff in that whole list, right? Well, that same guy Kirkus totally reviewed Kalley’s Machine and he gave it a STAR!!! Do you even have any idea what that means?! Have you ever even heard of a KIRKUS STAR?!! Probably not, because you never won one!! AND our new friend Kirkus (we here at Rocketwagon like to call him “Kirk” for short) also put us on this list he makes every year called Best Book Apps of 2014 !
Kalley’s Machine Plus Cats also won an mFWA Award. Don’t know what that is? I didn’t either. But my husband does. Jon says it’s pretty much the hugest honor you can get in the interactive agency world. And he’s flipping out about that one.
Kalley’s Machine is also a finalist for a ‘Cybils Award’, which aims to recognize children’s and young adult authors and illustrators whose work “combines the highest literary merit and popular appeal”. FOR SERIOUS!! Highest literary merit and popular appeal!! I am not making this stuff up!! You totally thought I was and you were SO WRONG!!
We have the mysterious “Jennie B” to thank for our Cybils nomination. We think we know who our secret benefactress is, but I do believe that I am supposed to keep my mouth shut about that and so I will.
So there you go, this is my update. And before you PM me so as to gently explain that “Kirkus” is not really that guy’s first name, I will just let you in on the little secret that I already know that. I think I may have been in the house too long recently.
Last night, I was lying in bed with Kalley and she picked up a Barbie book to read. I was shocked.
I usually only allow Barbie stories in our house if someone has a fever. Since no one is currently sick, it was an obvious smuggling job. In a moment of uncharacteristic generosity, I decided to overlook the breach of protocol and give Barbie a chance.
On the first page, Barbie is a shy girl who spends too much time reading and wishes she could be good at stuff like singing, dancing and being pretty. She decides she needs “magic” to attain all of her dreams. I saw where this was going. One page in, I flung Barbie across the room and said, “Enough!! Bring me Huck Finn!” Corbett happily obeyed.
I don’t read this book to them yet, but we look at the pictures and I tell them what’s going on. They love to hear about the boy whose drunk father locks him in a cabin that has no windows. To escape from this horrible father, Huck searches the cabin and finds an old rusty saw hidden under a rafter. He secretly works to cut a hole in wall, and is able to escape. He has to kill a wild pig and fake his own death so his awful father won’t try to find him. He gets away in a canoe, and ends up living in a cave! on an island! with a runaway slave named Jim. And it only gets better.
Huck and Jim sometimes find rattlesnakes in their cave. And once Huck kills one, puts it in Jim’s bed to scare him, and the mate of the snake comes and curls around the dead snake’s body. So instead of just getting scared, Jim gets bit and almost dies. Little girls love this stuff.
Corbett and Kalley are delighted when I tell them about how the island floods and all the land animals crawl up into the trees and live there together. And how Huck and Jim paddle all over in their canoe and look up at bunnies and chipmunks and opossums all living in the once-high branches of trees. Now they want to live on a flooded island someday and I hope they do.
The girls and I talked about why Huck and Jim could only travel at night, about who Jim is running from, and what will happen to him if he is caught. We talked about why the paramount aspiration of his life is to someday be able to buy (“Mommy, did you say, ‘BUY’?!”) his family. I explained to my kids that Jim’s wife and children are PROPERTY that he hopes to PURCHASE. It’s good to lie in bed with your family and think about that for a moment. This story makes us imagine what it would be like to be OWNED.
We stayed on one particular picture last night. In it, Huck is sitting on the raft, slumped over. He looks dismal, bereft, sorry. The caption says, “It was fifteen minutes before I could work myself up to go and humble myself.” I put it in context for the girls.
I explained that Huck had played a trick on Jim and, in doing so, had insulted his true friend. Jim was hurt. And Huck knew that he had been wrong. If he had done something like that to Tom Sawyer, his white friend, he would have apologized immediately. But because Jim was black, Huck was utterly perplexed. To apologize to a black person would be to acknowledge that his feelings were just as real as a white person’s. And this was unlike anything that Huck had been taught all of his life. He sat on the raft, staring at the water, wondering how to reconcile his heart with his head. This new idea, that a black man may possibly feel as deeply as a white man, caused him to question the principles he had breathed in all of his life. He finally apologizes to Jim. This is huge. In doing so, he rejects the known path to righteousness and recklessly chooses a new standard of integrity.
Corbett, Kalley and I laid there in bed and wondered: how could white people think that black people didn’t have the same feelings? Corbett said, “It’s like they thought black people weren’t real PEOPLE.”
Lying in bed with my girls, I realized I was indebted to Mark Twain for bringing unvarnished truths into our bedtime conversation.
Barbie has been shipped off to the library from whence she came. We have no need for her “magic” and desolate ideals. Life is too short to waste time on the wrong stories.
Jon agreed to go to a parenting class with me for 14 weeks during the second hour of church. He did it mainly to get out of listening to the sermon. Not that he doesn’t like them. It’s just that he doesn’t like to talk, or listen to anyone else talk, until about 1PM every single day. Mornings just aren’t his jam.
Despite the fact that it began 2 hours before he officially wakes up, we loved that class. One week, the guy in the video told us that when our kids become teenagers, it is very likely that they will be incredibly insecure. Which means that as they begin to venture out into the world more and more on their own, they will wonder who they really are. They will feel vulnerable and anxious about every single thing and possibly run away to join a hippie commune in Oregon. He also said we probably all remembered feeling the same way when were their age. When the video was over, we split into groups.
One of the guys at our table clearly had something to say. You could tell by his face that he couldn’t wait to talk. I was relieved. We weren’t going to have any of this “well, should we start with the first question?” followed by awkward silence nonsense. We were jumping into the deep end without even feeling the water. I looked around at the other groups and knew they wished they were us. They wished they had that guy. In my head I said, “Sorry, Suckers,” and turned to hear what he had to say.
He said, “Could you all relate to feeling that way as teenagers? Insecure? Cause I can’t.”
Then he described his teen years for us. He had grown up on a farm, and he spent every day working with his dad. He was the oldest and the other 2 sons were more “bookish,” but he loved to work with his hands. So his dad entrusted him with the operation of the farm. He learned to use the equipment and was driving the tractor on errands when he was 14. His face lit up as he described what it was like to be his dad’s right-hand man.
He knew who he was. In the family, the town, the world. He was a Layne. There was an identity that went with the name. I am a Layne and this is what we do. He was dependable and capable, so his dad conferred on him some of the responsibilities that provided for his family. They had worked the same land for generations. He could look at the ground and know that his grandfather and great-grandfather had lived and worked in the same soil. That does something good to a person.
I kept glancing over at Jon, knowing that he was glad I made him get up early. This was exactly what we’ve been thinking lately with our own family. I shouldn’t say exactly. Not the farm part. We would totally starve. But we had started thinking we should try to work together. And not just work together pulling weeds in the yard or doing the household chores. ‘Work together’ as in create a family business. With our kids.
Here’s the thing. We aren’t those people that can handle having a lot going on. Jon and I both are easily overwhelmed. Maybe it all comes down to a desire to simplify our lives. To pay the bills by doing something that we already do anyway. All four of us love stories and love to draw. Jon has the ability to take our words and drawings and make them into an interactive story. And he is teaching us how to do it, too.
It is our hope that our kids will grow up knowing what it means to be an Alexander. We hope that along with knowing that they are beloved, talented, “fearfully and wonderfully made”, they will think of themselves as capable creatives. We are trying to instill that identity in them by involving them in the process by which their ideas (the good ones anyway), through hard work and discipline, are turned into something awesome. Something that people may even want to pay for. That’s what we have tried to do with Kalley’s Machine, (our first interactive story). We still don’t know if anyone will buy it. This whole thing is still in the “experiment” phase.
We are operating under the theory that children who grow up knowing that they play a vital role in their family will go out into the world knowing that they will also be immensely significant there – kind of like what the guy in our class said. He wasn’t insecure out in the world, because he had learned at home that he was important.
That guy’s dad taught him to drive a combine when he was 9 years-old. We don’t have a combine, but Jon scooted over in his computer chair so our 6 and 7 year-olds could climb up and learn how to draw in Adobe Ideas. Recently, I asked Corbett to do some concept sketches of a character for our next app, and she gave it to me all separated – the body of the person separated from the limbs. Exactly what you do if you’ve learned to animate with different layers. Jon was thrilled.
One time, the girls sat us down in the kitchen and told us to watch a play that they had made up. We did, and it was terrible. We told them how awful it was and why it was so boring. We didn’t even care one bit about their main character, and they had introduced way too many side plots. We assured them that no one would ever, in a million zillion years want to see that play, and then we got out our giant whiteboard. Together we drew out a storyboard for a really good play, with a main character that we all cared about. And we had a blast.
This is our family’s version of plowing a field together. Feeding chickens. Whatever the heck else you do on a farm.
I just want to do whatever I can to avoid that hippie commune in Oregon. Actually, I don’t think the video guy ever said exactly that. I think I made that part up in my head. The one other thing that wasn’t exactly true about what I just wrote now was the part about how I looked around at all the other people in the class, the ones that weren’t in our group, and called them ‘Suckers’. Nobody does that, who would do that? In a class?! At church?! No way. I absolutely did not do that. I just kind of wish I had.
I can look at Corbett in the rearview mirror and tell when she is re-playing a playground conversation in her head. I make her tell me what she’s thinking because no one ever made me do that. When she’s nervous, I try to expose her fears and tell her the truth. When she wonders who she is, I remind her. But O my GOSH. I did none of that today.
It started when I was utterly unable to understand why she didn’t want to jump out of bed and happily join me in my ten laps around the block. It was 45 degrees, no humidity. I couldn’t fathom how my daughter, my tiny self, wouldn’t want to run in that. After a block or so, I realized that maybe she was just hungry, since she had just woken up and not eaten, so I sat her on the porch with a granola bar and told her I would keep running and be back for her in 4 and a half minutes. Five minutes later, I felt like I was trying to run while pulling one of those toy ducks with big floppy, rubbery feet. She was lagging, her shoes were going FLOP FLOP FLOP on the sidewalk and I was like, “Corbett, what’s up with the feet?” We had a hasty lesson about stride. I was annoyed. No patient, persistent compassion. No mother’s intuition about what was happening on a deeper level. I didn’t care. I wanted her to run.
The day went on like this. I was impatient with Corbett while cleaning the house, making plans with friends, talking about what to do for Father’s day. I was frustrated with her indecision, her daydreaming, her inability to remember what I asked her to do, her lack of desire to run. (That last one was purely selfish, probably.) She got meek and I got mad. Finally, I went downstairs to talk to Jon about it.
I interrupted his work. Told him that we really need to figure out how to train some of the meekness out of this girl. Seriously, Jon. Maybe I need to sign her up for something. He smiled. He loves that little weirdo.
He never wanted to have kids and was devastated when we found out we were going to. He said he thought a lot of people have kids just because they can’t think of anything better to do, and he could think of plenty of things. Over that first year, I watched his despair turn into acceptance, followed by mild occasional interest. At some point along the way, around the ten or eleven month mark, he surrendered. He sent up the white flag and settled forever into that fierce enchantment that is a father’s love.
And today he did that thing that I think I always do. He reminded me of who she is. He knows. He has deliberately considered her identity because he is fervently devoted to her. He has intentionally examined her disposition, identified her genius, and recognized her fragility.
He reminded me that her indecision was partially because she was considering how everyone involved would feel about what she chose, that her daydreaming was probably because she was making up a poem or drawing a picture in her head, her inability to remember what I asked her to do was related to the daydreaming, and the running was because it was morning, and because running is just silly anyway. His face lit up when he was talking about her. He thinks she’s amazing. By the time I walked back up the stairs I was delighted with her again.
I am glad he’s her Dad. Understatement of the century. Happy Father’s Day, Jon. Sorry it’s late.
Jon often reminds me that one of the goals of our company is that we tell stories that we need to hear. He wrote a series of short stories about “Kamikaze Cat” and “Careful Kitten” a few years ago, just to help me realize the futility of my overprotective instincts when our girls were babies and I was constantly sure that they would die any minute. In the stories, Careful Kitten (who was always afraid, and so did everything cautiously) usually ended up homeless or in the hospital. I got the point.
Several years ago, I made up a story (or rather a character) that I and my adorable patient (I was a nurse) needed to hear. I will call my fourth grade patient James.
James needed a nurse to go with him to school, and part of my job was to go to his house in the morning and help him get ready for the bus. Every SINGLE day, this is what I said:
“James, it’s time to do your exercises”. “James, please put on your clothes.” “James, why don’t you have your shoes on?” “James, it’s time to brush your teeth” “James, the care plan says that you’re supposed to put some vaseline on your lips at 8am and 3pm, so we really need to do that now. ” “James, it’s time for your albuterol” “Now it’s time for CPT” “James, can you please give me a finger to put the pulse ox on?” ” James I need to listen to your lungs.”
I mean, really. James and I were worn out. He was tired of hearing me tell him what to do, and I was tired of telling him. And then we met Professor Tingleteeth.
I can’t remember exactly how it happened, but one day I realized that James’ toothbrush was actually a very small person who just happened to stand with his arms very stiffly down to his sides, and whose hair, which was white, persisted in standing straight out the back of his head, no matter what he did to try to flatten it down. He was about 7 inches tall, and he lived in the medicine cabinet. He was often mistaken for a toothbrush, which made him very angry. He was actually a professor of Philosophy at the community college, and he was just renting the space in the cabinet until he could afford a place of his own. I quickly learned that the Professor, despite his size, absolutely loved being in charge. He relished the opportunity to tell James what to do. And so I let him. It was wonderful for all of us. I was no longer responsible for making James’ life miserable, and James thought it was amusing and interesting to be taking orders from a tiny person who looked like his toothbrush.
The Professor eventually introduced me and James to 5 of his business associates (I would call them his friends, but I am not sure that he would agree. He was usually too disgruntled about being mistaken for a toothbrush to be very friendly with anyone.) The five “business associates” were Harold, Elaine, Jerome, Nancy and Martha. They were invisible, and they lived on my shoulder, which meant that they could go with us to school. The Professor had to be at the college all day, so was of course only there to help in the morning. The five associates were reluctant to be in charge of James, so they really served as friendly advisors, (we called them ‘The Committee’) whom I would consult if a question arose throughout the day. Harold, who almost always fell asleep right after breakfast, was rarely much help, but was still nice to have around. When he was awake, he was full of hilarious stories from his Navy days.
I had forgotten about Professor Tingleteeth. One day, a few weeks ago, I was reading an article about this couple in California who is making interactive Ipad stories, and it mentioned that one of their characters is a “quirky” little person called “Mr. Cupcake”. It was as if the word “quirky” was the alarm on a bedside clock in my mind. When that alarm went off, Professor Tingleteeth sat up (very stiffly, of course) in bed.
Now that he’s back, I’ve spent some time imagining how the Professor would react to some of my current daily perplexities. James is all grown up now. But what would the Professor think about Kalley’s system of vigilante justice, or Corbett’s inexplicable fear of animatronic dinosaurs?
Last week was the end of school, and both of my girls were SO sad to leave their teachers for the summer. This inspires a story in my mind where a mom has to be somewhere in the morning, so Professor Tingleteeth is the one at home, getting the kids ready for the last day of school. It cracks me up to think about what words of wisdom a tiny disgruntled Philosophy Professor might expound to two tearful little girls as he pats their heads and sends them off to the bus.
I think I may need to hear that story, too.
I was taking a tour of Over The Rhine when the guide stopped us in front of a nondescript building. And when I say “nondescript,” I mean I can’t even remember what it looked like. It was just another neglected relic in that sadly forgotten part of our city. What I remember was what he said.
He told us that the Buffalo Bill Show had performed right at this spot. My mouth dropped open. I just stared and couldn’t believe my luck. NO WAY. I shoved my sister and said something like “I bet you don’t even know how awesome that is! ” She may have shoved me back and even if she did, I wouldn’t have noticed. I was lost in delighted reverie. I didn’t want to move.
To think that this decrepit fossil of a structure was on the site of the greatest Wild West Show in the world was nothing less than shocking and delightful at the exact same time. I imagined Annie Oakley herself, beautiful, petite, and dignified as she always was, gracefully nodding to her husband Frank as he set up her target. She would bring the gun to her shoulder, hardly even take a moment to aim, then BANG!! She never missed.
For those of you who, like my sister, have no idea how awesome Annie Oakley was, a bit of history:
Annie was 5 years old when her father got caught in a blizzard and died. Her mother couldn’t feed all of the children after that, so Annie had to go live with a family who abused her. Eventually she ran away from them by hopping on a train and found her way back home. But her mother still couldn’t feed her. So Annie took her father’s gun, went into the woods and taught herself to shoot. Bullets were too expensive to waste, so she never missed. She not only fed her family, she sold the game she shot and paid off the family farm. Her prowess earned her a reputation as the best shot in the county.
One day, a famous traveling marksman was in Cincinnati and heard about this shooter from Darke county. He decided to challenge this person to a contest, not knowing that he had just challenged a 15 year old girl. When she beat him, he fell in love with her. The make-believe Catniss Everdean has nothing on the real-life Annie Oakley.
If that tour guide hadn’t told me about what had happened in that place 130 years ago, I would have just walked on by. I wouldn’t have even looked twice. It’s practically tragic. And it happens all the time. But not on the Antiques Roadshow.
One time this lady brought in this statue to the Roadshow. It was her Grandma’s, I think. It was about 2 feet tall and halfway between a lion and a dragon. It’s mouth was wide open, showing all of it’s teeth, like it was saying “Ahhh” because it had a sore throat or was at the dentist. If my grandma had ever given me a statue like that, I would have shipped it off to Goodwill as soon as I had room in my car. I would have dropped it off and thanked that guy so many times for taking it off of my hands.
So the lady puts Ugly Dragon Guy up on the table, so Expert Man can tell her what he thinks of it. I’m at home mumbling, “I bet there’s a Goodwill dropoff center on the way home, lady,” into my ice cream. And then the Expert Man starts to talk. And he can barely get the words out because he is about to cry. And here’s the thing that just about knocked me and my ice cream off the couch: he didn’t start to cry because he thought it was so awful . He thought it was beautiful. He had never seen one as beautiful as this.
He turned it around gently, pointing out the inconspicuous details that revealed the remarkable skill of the artist. He knew when, where and why it had been sculpted. He understood what the image meant , both to the person who had created it, and the people for whom it was created. He was an Expert because he knew the story. And he cried because he loved the story.
And then he tells her it’s worth 250 thousand dollars. And I just dropped it off at Goodwill. Dangit.
I love the idea that we are surrounded by stories. A lot of them are bad. We don’t need to hear those. And we shouldn’t tell them. But the ones that are good – the ones that make you stop on the sidewalk and punch your sister – you should tell. And if an ugly dragon statue makes you cry, you should tell somebody why.
I was desperately trying to get my kids out the door of a friend’s house the other day. We were all having so much fun, but I had to get home to attempt some “social marketing.” Just as we were about to leave, I took out my phone and my friend asked if she and her kids could see Kalley’s Machine, our family’s first interactive story. Well, Ok, I guess.
Watching people react to Kalley’s Machine, for me, is very similar to watching them look at our family photo in the church directory a few years ago. When the church decided to do a photo directory, Jon happened to be in his “wads of cash” phase, where he held up money in every SINGLE picture that anyone took of him. Normally, he just posed with whatever cash he had in his pockets. Picture a white guy trying to look gangsta by holding up two dollars, while posing with a bride and groom. It was like that. All the time. But given the opportunity of an Olan Mills church photo shoot, he stopped at the bank to get ninety singles and a ten to wrap around them (because it was ‘all about the Hamiltons’). The bewildered lady taking our picture had to ask him several times to move the cash out of the baby’s face.
Later, when the church directory was published, there was quite a range of reactions to the “A” section: awkward silence, concern (“Um, Carrie, why is Jon is holding up money in your church picture?”), mild amusement, and occasionally, delight. We really just did it to make something mundane a little more colorful. But it also had the interesting side effect of tuning us in to kindred spirits who shared our opinion that church directory photos are a wonderfully unexplored medium for self-expression.
We’ve been trying to rethink our priorities as a family the last few years. And in light of those priorities, we’re experimenting with our lifestyle to see if we can shape it more instead of letting it shape us. RocketWagon is part of that experiment. We want to make meaningful stuff and spend more time together. We want our kids to learn some real-world artistic and business skills by being involved, even at their young ages.
However, experiments fail. We may find out sometime in the near future that we have spent an exorbitant amount of time, not on a financially viable business, but on a hobby. We love the idea of paying the bills by selling something that we have made together, but we may end up rudely awakened from that dream. Sometimes we wonder if the reason we don’t see many other people doing this is that it simply doesn’t work. Sometimes we wonder what on earth we are doing. And it’s a little scary.
That’s why it was so refreshing the other day when I pulled out my phone, showed it to my friend, and didn’t even have to explain. She got it. Her face lit up. I didn’t have to tell her why this little interactive story is part of a bigger dream. She understood because she has a similar dreams. We may be crazy. But it’s good to know that we are not alone.
It makes me wonder what her church directory picture looks like.
One of my jobs in our new little family story company is social marketing. I am totally owning this.
I had lunch at Kalley’s school today. I sat next to Abby, and Kalley sat next to her, then Hadley. On the other side of me was Emma, and next to her was Lauren. Everyone who wasn’t sitting there totally wished they were.
I was like, “Hey Kalley, I just showed your machine to your teacher she thought it was SOOO cool.”
And Abby was like “WHAT!!!!!!”
And I was like, “Kalley tell her what.”
And Kalley was like, “Well I was listening to a song and this idea popped to my head and it was bashers and stuff and then other stuff so I drew it down and showed it to my dad.”
And Abby was like, “Mrs. Alexander I don’t know what she’s SAYING!!!!!!”
And I was like, “Let me explain. Kalley drew a picture of a machine that makes food and showed it to her dad and we all made it into a story for the iPad that you can play with and it is really awesome and fun.”
And all four of these girls were like, “CAN WE SEE IT NOW!!!!!”
And I was like, “NO. It’s not done.”
And then some other girls at ANOTHER table were like, “What are you talking about!!”
And I said, “Kalley made a machine and we made it into an app!”
And they were like, “WE WANT TO SEE IT CAN WE SEE IT NOW!”
And I said, “NO! Its not done!”
And I said, “We are working on sound effects. Kalley show them some of the sound effects for your machine.” And Kalley whistled and said, “POP POP” and they all cracked up.
And Abby had to jump out of her seat to say this: “But what does it LOOK LIKE when it is on the PHONE!!!”
And I said, “It looks like Kalley and a cat.”
And Lauren said, “My dad is ALLERGIC to CATS!!!”
And Emma said, “My dad is allergic to CATS AND DOGS!!!!”
And Lauren said, “My dad runs 10 miles in ONE DAY!!!”
And Emma said, “My dad ran the PIG race!!”
And Lauren said, “My dad did TOO!!!!”
And I said, “I DID TOO! That pig race is pretty hard! Because of the hills! So your dads must be really AWESOME runners!!”
And then we all just sat there, finishing our peanut butter and jelly and feeling happy about how their dads are awesome runners and how Abby’s mom is about to have a baby and about how Kalley’s machine is so awesome. And then we played Duck Duck Goose on the playground.
And as I walked away, sweaty, to my car, I thought, “I am totally rocking this social marketing thing.” And I came home and told Jon, and he said it was only really social marketing if I posted about it here.
Lately I have heard myself saying to my daughter, ‘It’s not what you say, it’s what you do that matters.” There are lots of opportunities for me to say this. Her bed. Her homework. Her dinner plate. When I notice that the bed is still not made, the conversation goes something like this:
Me: “Corbett, your bed is not made.”
Corbett: “I’m sorry Mommy.”
Me: “You said you were going to do it”
Corbett: “I forgot.”
Me: “It doesn’t mean anything if you just say that you are going to do it, it’s what you DO that matters”
And as I am saying the words, they are coming right back to my own heart. Parenthood is awesome for that. I realize again that I am in many ways, like Corbett, all talk. I say all kinds of stuff, then I don’t do it. There are countless examples. Here is one.
In my twenties, I worked as a nurse, and once I figured out how much I hated it, I would say things like “After I get married and have kids, I am going to stay home with them and write and illustrate children’s stories.” I pictured myself in the second or third floor of a big old home surrounded by trees, my desk next to a window where I would work and occasionally gaze outside for inspiration while my children happily played on the floor behind me. Fifteen years later, this has not occurred.
I did get married and I did have kids, and not once did I sit at a desk and write while my kids played. It was seriously all I could do to keep them alive for the WHOLE DAY and make dinner. Thankfully, I was able to do that successfully enough for several years. My girls are still alive and spend the day in 1st and 2nd grade.
And now my husband has come up with this crazy idea: Let’s use this time to write and illustrate children’s stories together. Wait, what?
Before I met Jon, the first thing I heard about him was that he had built his own Olympic Torch and had gone downtown to run with it 5 minutes ahead of the guy who was carrying the real torch to the Olympics. I loved him immediately. My friends and I agreed that it sounded like something I would do. We were all desperately wrong.
I would never have done it. I may have had the idea, and if I did, I would have talked about it, would have imagined the crowd’s reaction, would have told all of my friends and anyone I met in the grocery store about it. I would have said “that would be so awesome, ha!” But that would have been the end. I would not have:
- Taken newspaper with picture of Torch to Home Depot to buy parts to build my own.
- Constructed Torch in Parents’ garage.
- Chosen appropriate outfit for Torch Run (T-shirt that says ‘Mexico’ ).
- Prepared get-away vehicle for in case things go badly.
- Gone to downtown Cincinnati on the day of the run, and, finally,
- Run, while shouting “Happy Olympics” to the crowd.
This of course, is exactly what Jon did.
So here’s the thing. Maybe I should be more careful about what I profess to want to do. If I had never said I wanted to do this, I would feel fine about being reluctant to write stories now. But I think that the issue is not whether or not I want to do it. The truth is that I am just plain terrified of failing. Maybe it all comes down to what we fear.
But the stakes are much higher than they were in my nursing days. I have two little girls watching me. Girls who I want to be brave. And all of a sudden, bowing to my fears has a new cost that it never had before.
So now, our whole family has a new Torch. It’s called RocketWagon. It’s a little company where we make stories and games together (hopefully for profit). And we are going to run down the street with it together. (Warmest thanks to those of you who have already started cheering).
I am being offered an opportunity to become a person who does what she said she would do. And since these girls are following my lead, Corbett may end up being the kind of person who makes her bed. Even better.