Monthly Archives: September 2011

A Cool Change

A Cool Change.

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A Cool Change

Glove box with owner's manual.

Image via Wikipedia

This writing thing is fun…and a bit scary. It is scary to put your thoughts out there for all the world to see, to be scrutinized and critiqued, but you know what…I am 45, so screw it! It’s time to live dangerously. (I am such a rebel.)

“Forty is the old age of youth.  Fifty is the youth of old age.” French Proverb.

My Readers Digest Contest is still going, the contest goes until November 15 so please vote a few more times! Or…enter yourself.  You might get hooked like me. (If you vote for me, I’ll vote for you…)

http://apps.facebook.com/yourlifecontest/node/

(If you highlight this address, right-click, go to the site and go to Editor’s Picks, you should see my entry (Sunday Car Ride, Anne Sawan)

I actually just entered another competition put out by Writers Digest. This one is a story of 750 or less, and the topic is, “You are pulled over for speeding and when you open your glove compartment to get out your registration, something important falls out.”

http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/promptly/your-story-prompts/your-story-3

Pretty interesting, right? Could be a lot of things: a hotel receipt, a can of forgotten Spaghettios, a photo of someone, a report card, an overdue library book, that lost check you and your spouse fought over, your child’s pet hamster…anything…

Funny where writing takes you if you let it. Sometimes you start off thinking one thing and end up with a completely different story.  I sometimes feel like it controls me more than I control it.

This story is a bit different for me as I usually write children’s books, so we will see how it goes. I think it is good to challenge yourself once in a while. Change things up. Why not try your hand at it, let those creative juices flow, see where it leads you…

The Letter

The blue and white lights flashing in my eyes made me dizzy, and the starched grey pants pressed against my car door made me sick.

I held my breath, hoping he wouldn’t be able to smell the scent of alcohol. It had only been two, three, maybe three and a half or four glasses of wine.

“Registration please.”

I leaned over and opened the glove compartment,

Papers spilled out: old car registrations I had never thrown away, a few parking passes from the university, some gum wrappers.

I bent down, hoping to find a piece of forgotten gum to cover up the smell of the wine, and I saw it.

White with just a tinge of blue.

Bile began bubbling up in my throat.

The evidence of my cowardice.

The note I wrote to Jimmy.

We had met freshmen year in college. He sat behind me in chemistry class. I noticed him right away because he had this terribly annoying way of slurping his coffee, and because his big brown eyes made it all okay.

Fridays we went to Copperfields. The cigarette smoke was always thick and the place smelled like spilled beer and old sweat.  It was fall in Boston, if there was a Red Sox’s game the television would be on. I watched, I cheered. Jimmy grabbed me, sliding his hand behind my neck, and pulled me close.

Everything was changed in that one drunken moment in that small, smelly bar. After college we moved into a cramped basement apartment. Jimmy sailed through law school; I struggled to complete my doctorate.  Jimmy sat up with me as I typed away. He listened to me complain about my Goddamn professors and my useless research.  He wouldn’t let me quit, even when I cried. He would just shake his head, and quietly put the cups in the dishwater.

When my dissertation was completed, my cap and gown were on; he popped a bottle of champagne, got down on one knee, and asked me to be with him forever. I said yes.

We had sugar spun autumn leaves on our cream cheese frosted carrot cake and traveled to Africa for our honeymoon. We loved each other, we breathed in each other, we were each other.

I started my new position teaching at the university after we returned, becoming one of the hated professors I had complained about so bitterly. We bought a small house in the suburbs, Jimmy cut the grass, I painted the bathroom Seashell Blue, then Sienna Red, then back to Seashell Blue.  Jimmy wrapped his legs around mine one night and whispered, “Let’s have a baby.”

He pressed his knee into mine under the conference table.  I didn’t move.  His fingers touched mine in the elevator. I didn’t resist.  He held an umbrella over my head as we walked across campus. Then he asked me out for drink, after work. I knew what he meant; I saw it in his eyes. That’s how it began. Then came the stolen kisses in the hallway, afternoons in hidden places.  He urged me to say goodbye, to end it quickly, for Jimmy’s sake.

I stopped at the mall on the way home. There were cards for everything: cards for births, for deaths, for marriages, and anniversaries, holiday cards, leaving work cards, broken legs cards…but no, “I am going to break your heart” cards.  No cards to say, “Goodbye, I am a cheater. I am a coward. I need to go…”

I bought a card with a teal and gold peacock spread across the front, wordless inside.

I filled it with the empty language of “I am sorry,” “I don’t know what happened,” “You deserve better.”  I slipped it into the white with a blue tinge envelope.  I would put the card on the table for him to see.

I pulled up to the house. There was a police car parked outside and an officer standing on the newly painted front porch.

I slipped the card into my glove compartment.

“Mrs. Cummings?” he said, stepping carelessly onto the lawn my husband had fertilized and watered so lovingly the day before.

“I am sorry Ma’am. There has been an accident. Your husband… his car… off the road…So sorry.”

The policeman came back to the car, handed me my registration.

“I am letting you go with a warning.  Watch the speed please.”

I sat there trembling, the taste of cheap wine rising in my throat and I began to vomit.

Local author competes in Reader’s Digest

Local author competes in Reader’s Digest.

Local Author Competes In Reader’s Digest
BY SARAH COPPINGER
• Wed, Sep 21, 2011
How do you sum up a childhood memory in 150 words or less? Like this:
I remember a hot, crowded, wood paneled station wagon. The windows cranked all the way down to let in a desperately needed cool breeze. No car seats or seat belts, just kids piled together. Legs jumbled upon arms, across stomachs. A lucky few in the way back, facing out, making faces at the cars behind us. Bologna sandwiches, lemonade, mixed with the smell of diesel. Mom and Dad in the front. The AM radio playing the Bruins-Canadians game. The newspaper spread across Mom’s lap, her black hair tucked neatly back. A few bags of just-picked apples from the orchard safely stashed between the seats, promises of apple pie, cake, and muffins. Dad pulling off suddenly to a roadside ice cream stand, “Who wants a cone? Only chocolate or vanilla, none of those fancy flavors.” Bodies unwinding. Heads poking up. Doors opened, we tumbled out. That is what I remember.
Anne Cavanaugh Sawan of Medfield has made it as a finalist for this piece in a Reader’s Digest short story contest named “Your Life Contest,” and was even chosen as an Editor’s Pick for this story, “Sunday Car Ride.” The winner of the contest will receive $25,000 as well as have their story published in Reader’s Digest.
“Less is more sometimes,” Sawan said of the word constraint in the contest to not exceed 150 words. “I thought, oh my God, what can I write? I went back and edited and edited…”
As a mother of five and a child of 12 (yes, you read it, 12), Sawan’s inspiration derives from family living and her childhood experiences. With kids constantly milling around, Sawan wakes up early to steal alone time and write out her thoughts on her blog, as well as for established publications. Sawan has published pieces in Adoptive Families Magazine this past August as well as Adoption Today Magazine (she adopted her youngest child, Eliza from Lebanon).
Sawan began her blog, agsawan.wordpress.com, after a publicist encouraged her to start posting, with the hope that the posts would one day turn into a book. Writing mainly for an audience of friends and family members, Sawan hopes to gain more readers with more recognition from contests such as the Your Life Contest. In order to win, Sawan must garner a heavy load of Facebook votes and win the utmost appreciation of the editors as their top pick. Having this objective eye in the competition adds an edge that Sawan hopes to earn.
“To have someone actually say, ‘this is good,’” Sawan explained, holds much more weight than “just your friends and family voting for you.”
Passionate about her children, the 45-year-old child psychologist still enjoys reading children’s books and hopes to write her own some day.
“There’s this great book out there called The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant. It’s one of my favorites…it’s kind of similar to what I wrote…it’s a big mess of a family,” she said, laughing.
All of Sawan’s writing can be viewed on her blog at agsawan.wordpress.com. You can vote for her piece on the Reader’s Digest’s Facebook website at the Your Life Contest page.

— Hometown Weekly Staff

Gym Class Heroes

I started up my tennis lessons again last week. I never even held a tennis racket in my hands until two years ago when a couple of friends asked me if I wanted to join them for a “Tennis for Dummies” class (that is not really what the sports club called it, I just thought the title seemed appropriate).

I had recently left my job and had some free time so I thought, Why not? If Serena Williams can do it, how hard can it be? Right?

(Have you seen that girl’s muscles? I am still waiting to get arms like that.)

So I joined and let me tell you, I stunk! Terrible! But it was fun and pretty much we all stunk together, so it was okay.  Fast-forward to now, I am probably just a hair above stinking, so my teacher told me to try the next level up class (I think she is like Mrs. Puff on SpongeBob and I am the sponge/student she is trying to get rid of).

That is where I was last week.  I felt unsure of myself, really wanted to skip the whole thing, pretend I was ill or had something glamorous like tennis elbow, but I forced myself to go and during the warm up… it became pretty obvious who the Uber players were and who the not-so Uber players were going to be. Guess where I fell…

After the warm up, the instructors told us to pair up a with a partner to begin the real playing, and then it happened …

A flashback to those gym classes of so long ago…

Picking teams, picking partners, the shifting of feet, sideways glances, praying you aren’t picked last, or hoping you aren’t paired with so and so…UGH!!

Suffice it to say, I made it through. I was sweating like a pig, and couldn’t move my arms the next day (Come on Serena arms!) but it was fun, and sorry Uber players, like Arnold and Charlie Sheen, I will be back.

That recent experience really made me think, and was a good reminder for me as a parent, as to what it is like to be put in a situation where you don’t feel ready or comfortable. How it feels not to know other people in the group. To have to try and prove yourself even if you know you aren’t as good as the others. How it feels not to be picked first. Or maybe even at all….it pretty much sucks.

My oldest son George is a natural athlete. I am not trying to brag, I am just stating a strength of his.  Since he was in the womb he has been athletic. I remember him kicking and shooting hoops in- utero and I was like, “What the hell is going on in there!”  My stomach constantly looked like some weird scene from Alien, and I swear I saw a Nike sign tattooed across my stretched skin. He walked at nine months, and ran at nine months, one day. I wanted to get a helmet for his head because was so small with his big baby head careening into everything.

Finally he was old enough for organized sports, and had a place to put all that energy. Thank God! And he loves it.  Sports is his niche. Maybe not everyones niche, but definitely his.

He does well, he tries hard, he dedicates himself, but there are times like anyone when he fails…and he gets down on himself.

I wrote the story below, The Baseball Game, after I heard him say how much he stunk at something when he didn’t make a team he was vying for. After I wrote it, I read it to my youngest son, Teddy.

He said, “I like it, and I get it. Georgie is George and Andy is me, isn’t he mom?”

No pulling the wool over that kid’s eyes.

I wrote this story for my oldest son, and for the kids that love sports. Those that put their heart and soul into each game. Those that cheer when they win and cry when they lose.  I also wrote it for those kids who don’t always do well in sports, or who really just don’t have an interest in them. I know those kids too. I get it. And it hurts when you are picked last or not at all.

 The Baseball Game

George was the biggest kid in fifth grade at Highland Elementary, and the fastest and the strongest, and the coolest.

And no one thought he was cooler more than Andy.

Andy was the smallest, the slowest, the weakest and definitely not the coolest kid in fifth grade at Highland Elementary.

Everything George did was cool.

He never cried, never. Not even when he stapled his hand in art class. He just waved his hand in the air with the big staple sticking out and everyone cheered, except Mrs. Pritchard who looked like she was going to faint.

Andy poked himself in the eye with his pencil by mistake once. He cried and Mrs. Pritchard fainted.

George landed a triple flip off the high bars at recess and everyone cheered, except for Mrs. Pritchard who turned really pale and had to go sit in the shade with an ice pack on her head.

Andy tried to hang upside down on the low bar for ten seconds, but he fell off after eight seconds, busted his nose, chipped a tooth and scraped his knee. Mrs. Pritchard fainted.

George always wore his baseball hat backwards and his pants real low, just like the teenagers at the high school.  Andy tried to wear his pants low once but they just slipped off in the middle of gym class and everyone laughed at his Captain Fantastic underwear.

And George always hit home runs in baseball.  Always.

Andy… didn’t.

At the end of the school year it was a tradition for the Highland Fifth Graders to play the Harris School Fifth graders.  The winning school got bragging rights for a whole year. Harris School had won five years in a row.  That was a lot of bragging to listen too.

But, this year everyone just knew Highland was going to win, after all they had George.

Game day came. Highland School filled the bleachers to the right, Harris School filled the bleachers to the left.

“Batter up!” Yelled Mrs. Pritchard, the umpire.

The game began. It was hot. It was sticky. It was awesome. Strikes, home runs, kids sliding in, kids getting out.

Finally it was the bottom of the ninth inning. Two outs, bases loaded, Highland was down by one.

George walked to the plate.

“Georgie, Georgie!” The whole school cheered.

This was it! They were sure to win now! The crowd roared with excitement.

George readied his bat, and tilted his head. The pitcher wound up, and…

ZOOM!

“Strike one!” Called Mrs. Pritchard.

WHOOSH!

“Ball!” Called Mrs. Pritchard.

WHIZZZ!

George swung!

“STIR-IKE!” Yelled the umpire, adjusting her face cage.

George shook his head, gripped the bat tighter, glared at the pitcher, and took a deep breath.

The pitcher wound up again and,

SHUMMMM!

George swung! He swung hard! He swung fast!

CRACK!

Straight to centerfield!  That ball was going, going….

The center fielder from Harris School began to run. He ran!  He ran fast, his glove stretching out, out, reaching, reaching and… PLOP!

The ball landed right in his glove.

“You’re out!” Mrs. Pritchard managed to yell, right before she fainted from surprise.

A loud cheer rose from the left side of the field. Harris School had won… again!

The Highland fifth graders all sat in silence.

Was it possible? Did it really happen? They had lost? George was out?

George sat with his head in hands as all the students silently filed past.  Everyone left. Everyone that is, except for Andy.

Andy scooted down from the stands and sat quietly next to George.

“I stink,” muttered George, shaking his head.

Andy scooted closer and sniffed, “No you don’t,” he said.

“No, I mean I stink. I stink in baseball! I stink! I stink at everything!” said George, a tear slipping down his cheek.

“Wow, that sure is a lot to stink at,” said Andy.

He thought for a moment.

“You don’t stink at everything.”

“You’re really good at stapling your body parts.”

“You’re really good at scaring Mrs. Pritchard.”

“And you’re really good at chewing with your mouth open.”

“I do that?” asked George.

“Sure, everyday at lunch,” said Andy.

“Is it gross?” asked George.

“Yeah, sort of, but in a really fascinating, disgusting, cool sort of way,” said Andy.

They sat together for a while.

“Want me to teach you how to play baseball?” said George.

“No thanks, I already asked that kid from the other team to teach me tomorrow,” said Andy. “But you could help me launch my sonic rocket to the moon.”

George smiled.

“Sure, why not,” He said.

He reached over and turned Andy’s hat around backwards. “Know what, you’re pretty cool.”

“And you know what,” said Andy, turning his hat back around and wrinkling his nose.  “You do stink a little.”

Zoku is not a gym class

Okay I know this is not a product review blog but I just wanted to share with you three new gadgets that I LOVE!! (Given my recent dismal foray into the world of expressing my housekeeping opinions on Facebook, you may or may not want to follow my advice here.) And just so you know my sister actually laughed at me for purchasing two of these items, and I swear I heard her snickering as she drove away after I told her about the third. I won’t tell you which sister, she knows who she is…

(These items are mainly geared towards families with school age children, so if you do not want to continue reading that‘s fine, just quietly click on the “Like” button before you go on your way… )

The first is my new ultra fast popsicle maker I got this summer. I got mine at William Sonoma but I know you can find it other places. This Zoku pop maker is fantastic! It makes ice pops in under 10 minutes so no more sitting around all day with the kids asking you when the pops are going to be done. Just make sure you follow the easy directions, and don’t fill the containers to high or you’ll never get the suckers out.  There is a book to go along with it, and other pieces you can purchase to make fancy-pants popsicles…I don’t do this.

My only complaint is I wish the unit were bigger. You can only make three pops at a time. If you are listening, Zoku, I need at least five. Thanks.

The second item is a new hairbrush called a Knot Genie. I found this on Zulilly but you can go to knotgenie.com and purchase one. I don’t know how they do it, but this brush is unbelievable! It is like magic! My youngest daughter has had this unforgiving knot on the back of her head since infancy.  I have conditioned, sprayed, brushed and combed… all to no avail. (She now has full-blown PTSD and runs whenever she sees a brush.) This creepy, messy, snarky, behind-the head hair monster always comes right back, which is sort of weird because the rest of her hair is straight and silky.

Okay, I have to sneak in one short story here.  My son Teddy heard me talking about Eliza’s “snarl” one day and he started to laugh.

“Stop it Mom!”

“Stop what?” I said

“Stop saying, “snarl.”  That is not a word. You just made it up.”

“No I didn’t!”

“Yes you did! Snarl! It sounds like some sort of monster or troll from one of your stories.”

(This kid is good! JK Rowling has nothing on this imagination! )

So then I had to look it up…maybe I was making up this word… but no, I found it right there in the dictionary.

Snarled: tangled, confused, jumbled.

Yup, sounds like the back of Eliza’s head alright (and the inside of mine).

Anyway, the Knot Genie is excellent! Defeats the snarls, gets out the knots and wins the Quidditch match!

The last thing is my new Packit Lunchboxes (packit.com).  What a fantastic idea, finally!!  These lunch boxes come with essentially three ice packs sewn into the sides on the lunch box. Your kid’s food stays cooler and fresher. When it is empty it folds down flat. At the end of the day, wipe them down and stick them in the freezer for tomorrow! Wah-la!

One small change they should consider however is to put a small zippered pocket on the front so you could stick some milk money in there. (But not evil chocolate milk because that is banned in Massachusetts!) I am sure that will be next year’s model so I can buy some more, oh and it needs some Disney Princesses sprinkled over the front.

And finally, I did just purchase the most amazing slow cooker at my favorite William Sonoma the other day, the Cuisinart Multi Cooker. This thing browns, sautés, roasts, steams and slow cooks, all in one pot, so your pot roast will taste fantastic… I haven’t actually taken it out of the box yet, ( To tell you the truth it sort of scares me) but I have high hopes. I will let you know how it goes. And clean up is a snap it probably only takes a half a paper towel to clean up any spills! (That’s for my Facebook friends!)

Any products you use that you would like to share? I am always looking to spend my money on something for my sister to laugh at!

Readers Digest Contest. http://apps.facebook.com/yourlifecontest/node/2182

Hey Guys! Readers Digest is having a contest titled, Your Life, The Reader’s Digest Version.  You have to write  a little blurb about a moment in  your life in 150 words or less.  I entered a few pieces and one made it to Editor’s Picks! Which is sort of exciting for me! If you could go to the site on your facebook page, and vote for my story that would be great!  Thanks so much for all your support and friendship. It really means a lot. Anne

http://apps.facebook.com/yourlifecontest/node/

If you highlight this address, right-click, go to the site and go to Editor’s Picks, you should see my entry (Sunday Car Ride, Anne Sawan). A copy of it is below. Thanks again!

“Sunday Car Ride”

I remember a hot, crowded, wood-paneled station wagon. The windows cranked all the way down to let in a desperately needed cool breeze. No car seats or seat belts, just kids piled together. Legs jumbled upon arms, across stomachs. A lucky few in the way back, facing out, making faces at the cars behind us. Bologna sandwiches, lemonade, mixed with the smell of diesel. Mom and Dad in the front. The AM radio playing the Bruins-Canadians  game. The newspaper spread across Mom’s lap, her black hair tucked neatly back. A few bags of just-picked apples from the orchard safely stashed between the seats, promises of apple pie, cake, and muffins. Dad pulling off suddenly to a roadside ice cream stand, “Who wants a cone? Only chocolate or vanilla, none of those fancy flavors.” Bodies unwinding. Heads poking up. Doors opened, we tumbled out. That is what I remember.
…And here’s another. Not an Editor’s Pick (yet), but I like it just the same. Vote for this too if you want !

“Middle School”

I remember watching Creature Double Feature on Saturday mornings, making Ken and Barbie kiss in the dream house, and piling as many pink and blue babies as we could into the plastic cars in the game of LIFE. I remember making chocolate fudge in your mother’s kitchen, sleeping bags zipped together down the basement, staying up all night as we listened to the Monkees, sneaking to watch Love American Style, whispering about all the cute boys we were going to date until your dad hollered, “Go to sleep, for Christ Sake!” I remember giggling over our first bras and crying together when we got our first periods. I remember going to Woolworths to buy bubblegum flavored Bonnie Bell lip-gloss, and the sweet smell of the Love’s Baby Soft we would spray on our wrists. I remember the hollow feeling in my stomach when you left me for new, better friends.