Saturday, November 17, 2012

There are sacrifices and then there are sacrifices.

Ten years ago, I was an incubator/builder/snazzy dresser.
For the last three years, I've been away for my daughter's birthday. I never thought much of it. Work is work. I work hard. My work feeds us. I pretended like it was all fine and I'd simply celebrate her birthday with her when I got back. We'd Skype and I'd sing to her. I'd be on camera for the opening of presents sometimes, but usually I was off doing things at the conference I usually attend this time of year.

That conference, the ALAN Workshop, is a very important conference to me. I've never had my time solo on the main stage but I hope one day to have ten minutes up there to tell the audience of English teachers, librarians, professors/teacher trainers and fellow advocates what they mean to me. Which would be: a lot. They mean a hell of a lot to me. Many of them know Mr. King is in college to be an English teacher himself, and they know that I have dedicated much of my life to literacy, whether as a literacy tutor, a tutor trainer or a library advocate. I have been a paying member of ALAN since I knew ALAN existed. We share a passion. What's better than that?
ALAN 2011 w/ Sara Zarr.

The conference is a reunion. I feel I am with family there. We are friends. There are fellow authors and advocates who share the same passion. It is awesome. We hug and laugh and it's that one time of year I can see these friends in person, and more importantly, add something to their fantastic conference.

I always said that if I couldn't attend the ALAN Workshop as an author, I'd attend as a member. That's how great the conference is. But this year, the conference is in Las Vegas, which is a long way from home. And if you know me, then you know I am a non-consumerist, modest, frugal country girl so...Las Vegas is a little like kryptonite for me.
But I still hoped I'd go.
And then I found out I wouldn't be going, which was a bummer but...

Photo cred: the kid
...I realized I'd be home for my daughter's 10th birthday.

And in that realization I realized that missing her birthdays for the last three years broke my heart a little because a mom should be with her kid on a kid's birthday when they're little. And she was probably too young to see it like I'd seen it--just a work thing. Mommy has to go on a plane and go somewhere big deal.
It was a big deal.
It was her birthday.

There are sacrifices we make for this career. Quite a few, in fact. And here's the thing about sacrifices. If you make them enough, people forget to notice that you're making them...which leads to a lack of respect. For you. For your family. For your time. For what you do. For what you offer. For what you've given. But MOST importantly, if you sacrifice too much, YOU will overlook what's important to YOU because if you're anything like me, you will want to work as hard as you can to succeed and to get the message of advocacy out there. And you can forget things's nice to have your mom around on your birthday when you're 7, 8 and 9.

As much as I'd like to give a speech on some stage in Vegas about Ask the Passengers and acceptance and love and how contemporary literature and Socrates can help teach tolerance in high schools, which was the plan a year ago, I'm glad I'll be staying home today, making a proper red velvet cake for my kid, throwing a family party tomorrow and then being here to hug her on the day she turns ten.

That's us and Ben Franklin. 
I feel like I let my priorities get mixed up there for a year or two. Or maybe, I had to and now I can come back to what's really important. What's better than sharing a passion for adolescent literacy and literature? Um. Being lucky enough to have a healthy, happy, funny, goofy, loving, beautiful family.

Anyway, soon Mr. King will be a member of ALAN and the Workshop will be a King family affair, which will make it even more special. My book family and my blood family all laughing and being together. Maybe one day I can get the ALAN audience to sing "Happy Birthday" to my kid. I bet she'd love that.

Credit to: Beth Kephart for inspiring me to write something personal on my blog. She does it so well.


Maya said...

Happy birthday to your daughter!

And I can vouch for the power of your panels, since I always feel better about myself as a person and as a writer after talking to you so kudos!! It's always a pleasure seeing you, and reading your books.

(By the way, I'm working on adding ants to one of my tattoos in homage to Everybody Sees the Ants :3)

- Maya

Beth Kephart said...

In my humble world, my humble thinking, this is the most important post you've written. Because, A.S., it all moves so fast, crushingly fast. You have two of the cutest girls I've ever seen. They've got your intelligence and spunk. And this weekend they have you, and they will not forget it. xo b

Lisa Schroeder said...

Happy 10th birthday!!! Mmmm, red velvet cake!

I love this. I bet we've all had times when we let our priorities get mixed up a little. I know I have. Of course, sometimes, we don't have a choice, but sometimes we do.

When I'm struggling to find balance, I often remind myself something Sara Zarr once said in an interview: A book is a miraculous, wonderful thing. But it's also just a book.

I've never been to NCTE or ALAN. I'd love to go. Hopefully someday!

Mandee J said...

I didn't think it was possible for me to love you more...but now I do.

I love your love of literacy, of writing, of teaching, of the beauty in the world, of kindness, of justice, and of family! <3 Happy Birthday to the kiddo.

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday to your chicklet! Love this Billy Collins poem contemplating the first decade... Please forgive if the linebreaks didn't translate:

On Turning Ten

The whole idea of it makes me feel
like I'm coming down with something,
something worse than any stomach ache
or the headaches I get from reading in bad light--
a kind of measles of the spirit,
a mumps of the psyche,
a disfiguring chicken pox of the soul.

You tell me it is too early to be looking back,
but that is because you have forgotten
the perfect simplicity of being one
and the beautiful complexity introduced by two.
But I can lie on my bed and remember every digit.
At four I was an Arabian wizard.
I could make myself invisible
by drinking a glass of milk a certain way.
At seven I was a soldier, at nine a prince.

But now I am mostly at the window
watching the late afternoon light.
Back then it never fell so solemnly
against the side of my tree house,
and my bicycle never leaned against the garage
as it does today,
all the dark blue speed drained out of it.

This is the beginning of sadness, I say to myself,
as I walk through the universe in my sneakers.
It is time to say good-bye to my imaginary friends,
time to turn the first big number.

It seems only yesterday I used to believe
there was nothing under my skin but light.
If you cut me I could shine.
But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life,
I skin my knees. I bleed.

Anonymous said...

It's so hard to balance the professional and the personal, but maybe even more so when work really *is* so personal. When the work stuff that brings home the bacon so to speak holds almost everything you value as a human being, it must be superhard to draw that line. But it's so so important to actually have that line, I think. If not only to ground you again, because otherwise you might literally drown. As a mom myself with a 4-year-old kid I know how conflicting it is to even do things for yourself - even if you have convinced yourself that it's for the 'greater good' - when you haven't done (or can't do)them for your kid. Because that's your kid, you know? It's your kid.

It's really weird that you wrote this post today, because today I've sort of been doing the opposite... I have been 'fake planning' which sessions I'd be doing at at the NCTE convention in Las Vegas all day. Obviously I'm not there...duh, not American and all that, a whole ocean away. But, I've made a very conscious plan to one day take my own kid and Mr Cat there too. Vague plans, hardly unattainable, because it would mean getting 'professional permission' to miss school, but what career opportunities, but what great way to 'compare notes', to see and meet other teachers with the same passion, but - and this is the argument I like the most - what an experience it would be for not just me, but my kid? She'd be seeing a whole different world, literally!

Anyway, great great post! And happy birthday to your daughter! Tell her she's awesome! The cat said so!

Sara J. Henry said...

Love this. Hugs to Kidlet 1 and Kidlet 2.

A.S. King said...

Thank you so much for all the kind words.

Anon--DUDE. That poem had me bawling while I made lunch. Geez. GEEZ. Awesome piece.

The best part? She has off on Monday and I'm thinking of taking her somewhere awesome just her and me.


YA Bibliophile said...

You are wonderful and I've loved seeing you at ALAN. I also couldn't go this year and was bummed out so I appreciate this post extra much ;) You're family is beautiful and I can't wait until ALAN is a family affair for you! Enjoy the day with your daughter. Those one on one days when you can just be together are so special. Thanks for posting this!

Elfarran said...

I'm not at ALAN this year either--scene of the crime where we met--YAY--so I feel you. I WILL be there next year. But hurray for your daughter's birthday and Monday plans--and next year is Boston--so, how about a family train trip? Awesome city with lots of Irish, I'm told.

Love and hugs and Happy Birthday!!

K. M. Walton said...

Wish your precious daughter a happy birthday for me. Like I told her when I met her, she is one lucky girl to have such a cool mom. Such a thoughtful gnarly radiator of love mom.

Kristen Pelfrey said...

Sings *mother-daughter day mother-daughter day*, cries a little, is grateful, sends love.

Eric Devine said...

My daughters are 5 and almost 8. That "almost" is key. Next week we celebrate. I cannot imagine the pain of being away from either of them on their birthdays. We do 'em big in the Devine house, so along with the emotional turmoil, I would have to face the wrath--and possibly blade--of my wife.

But I equally understand the need to sacrifice. This parenting thing, there are no clear-cut instructions. We muddle through and if we care, do our best. I wish your daughter a happy birthday and your family the opportunity to hear that song from the chorus at ALAN. Enjoy.


Unknown said...

I bet this birthday will be the one she remembers when she's old and gray. By the way, in my family we celebrate half-birthdays too. Just throwing that out there as one more option. Happy 10th birthday, mini-King!

Sara Z. said...

Amen amen amen amen hallelujah amen.

I'm in Vegas right now. It's fun and important for all the reasons you cite. Also Vegas is rough, yeah. I'm feeling oversaturated and more like a bloated spoiled American than usual. One thing that has been great about the last few months of my life is that I'm not really living like that Author Sara Zarr person. I'm living my regular life, and also writing and the related stuff. I'm much happier. Anyway, much love.

CJ Omololu said...

Love this -this is just where I am now! Every year I go to the SCBWI conference at Asilomar to hang with my friends, recharge and get to see awesome speakers. Many years I've missed my son's birthday morning or birthday dinner, but this year I'm not going because it would mean missing his entire 13th birthday and I just couldn't do that. My oldest is almost 16 and it's going so fast, I can't believe in just a couple of years he'll be gone. There will be plenty of time to go when they're old enough to want to party with their friends instead of hang out with me. I'll miss hanging out with Daniel Handler, but I'll get to see my son become a teenager. Yay for priorities.

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday to a very special King. Much Love going out to you. Sharing this day with another one of my special girls. Miss you. xxoo