Sunday, December 28, 2008

Suburb Of Ember

Last week, I had one of those Significant Moments that was so significant it justified capital letters. I'd received a package in the mail, something which almost inevitably cheers me up. It was from the British publisher of Life As We Knew It and The Dead And The Gone. I gleefully opened the box, and discovered that I'd been sent a silver framed certificate of Highly Commendedhood from the Sheffiield Children's Book Award.

Google had been kind enough to tell me LAWKI had been highly commended, but I certainly wasn't expecting a pretty certificate in an engraved silver frame. So you'd think I'd be happy. Well, I was, but I was also a tad resentful. Where will I put it? How fast will it tarnish? When I downsized a few years back, I'd gotten rid of all my silver, and I can't say I've missed it. Grump grump growl grump grump.

And that (or a few hours later) was when I had my epiphany. I'd been thinking about my new year's resolution. I love new year's resolutions, and one of the great pleasures I get out of being Jewish is I can make them twice a year. I have mixed results (I'm still struggling with not taking the Lord's name in vain), but I love the idea of self-improvement. I'm a liberal. I always think things can get better.

I looked at the lovely silver frame with the even more lovely certificate, and I thought about responsibilities. I have my share of them. I have a book to write. I have professional obligations. I have an engraved silver frame. I have a 97 year old mother, who needs groceries every single week. And I have an extraordinary ability to whine. Even as a young child, it was much commented on (never favorably).

So I made my new year's resolution. Starting in 2009, I will embrace responsibility, a phrase which can be squooshed into the word Ember (which, by the way, is an excellent name for a cat, in case you're looking for one). I have a book to write because it's been my desire to write a sequel to LAWKI since before I finished the first draft. I've wanted to know what became of Miranda, and now I have the opportunity to find out, and to find out about Alex, and the delicious security of knowing other people want to find out also. I have professional obligations because for the first time in decades, people are actually interested in me and my writing, and are kind enough to let me know. I have an engraved silver frame because my book came in second out of who knows how many books published this past year in the UK. I have to buy groceries for my 97 year old mother because I'm fortunate enough to have a 97 year old mother, who still has her brain cells, and whose company I adore. So why the heck am I whining?

For those of you without 97 year old mothers, I have an analogy. Let's say you have a dog and the dog needs to go out and it's raining. You don't want to take the dog for a walk, because you don't want to get wet. Perhaps you whine (well, I would). But then Ember kicks in. You have the responsibility for walking the dog, because you have a dog. A dog that jumps up and down when you come home, and sits on your lap, and gives you big slurppy kisses. If you don't have a dog, but your husband behaves in a similar way, well then take him out for a walk. With or without Ember, you'll get rained on, but at least you'll remember how lucky you are to have that responsibility.

So that's my personal betterment plan for the upcoming year. I don't anticipate a hundred percent success rate, because I really do love to whine. But I've found a prominent place for my silver framed certificate, and I've told my mother to make up a shopping list. I'm up to date on my emails and every morning I think about B3, so that when I'm ready to start work, on Jan. 5, I really will be ready.

Bring on the new year. I've got everything, except silver polish, that I'm going to need!


Vivian said...

Congratulations on your engraved silver framed certificate!

And wishing you a wonderful New Year!

Anonymous said...

Happy New Year!

Anonymous Santa Fe

Anonymous said...

May I use the title, "Suburb of Ember?" It is the exact title I need.

PS Ya know, you could let the frame tarnish, it will add a nice patina -- or use toothpaste. Congratulations on both frame and Freda.

And, probably breaking some kind of copyright laws, this strip by Charles Schulz on New Year's Resolutions:

Charlie Brown to Lucy: "You're going to be proud of me, Lucy...I've decided that this next year is going to be my year of decision!

This is a list of things in my life that I'm going to correct...I'm going to be a better person!"

Lucy: "Not me...I'm going to spend this whole year regretting the past..It's the only way, Charlie Brown..

I'm going to cry over spilt milk, and sigh over lost loves..It's a lot easier..It's too hard to improve..I tried it once...It drove me crazy..

"Forget the Future" is my mottoe..regret the past! Oh, how I regret the past!

Why did I do this? Why did I do that? Why? I regret it all!

Oh, What regrets! What remorse! What anguish! What..."

(Thank you Mr. Schulz).

Walter Slezak

Anonymous said...

Make that,

Walter Slezak

Susan Beth Pfeffer said...

Hello and New Year's greetings to Vivian, Anonymous Santa Fe, and Anonymous Walter Slezak-

My silver framed certificate really does look nice. Thank you, AWS, for the toothpaste suggestion, since I doubt I'll buy silver polish just for the one thing.

I intend to embrace my responsibilities but that doesn't mean I'll ever warm up to silver polish!

Anonymous said...

Slezak correction. "Motto" not "Mottoe."

One would say, "Oh, I stubbed mah toe," whereas, a "motto" is something else entirely.

Mrs. Corbett said...

When you came to see my students, I saw nothing but Ember from you! You were tireless, non-demanding, and I sensed no whines verbal or non.
Students have told me since that before you came they had no idea an author visit could be such a great experience.
You are awesome!

M.W. said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Susan Beth Pfeffer said...

Hi Mrs. Corbett and happy new year!

It was pretty easy to be non-whining, etc. when the students are so well prepared and interesting and the staff is so friendly and inviting. Not to mention a complete Thanksgiving feast and a boxful of chewies waiting for me at the hotel.

I'm glad to learn the students had as much fun as I did (although they didn't get the box of chewies!).