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October 17, 2007


Queen of Carrots

When I grow up, I want to be
The keeper of a lighthouse on the last end of land
Where the mail comes in by plane once a month.
I would ride back with the mailman the second time he came.

I want to sing opera.
Except I don't like opera.

I want to own a little shop full of books half-buried in dust.
With the ladders that slide along the bookcases.

I would love to be a photographer
and walk ten miles for the right shot and wait three hours for the right light.
But then, I never take pictures.

Some days I want a job in a widget factory.
Making one little widget after another.
At the end of the day, I could count up my widgets, and say:
I made 37. It was a good day.

I'd like a little truck all full of tools in the back,
And I'd go around and clip people's hedges
And spread bark.
Fresh bark smells like crap.
I suppose you get used to the smell.

Most of the things I'd really like to do don't even exist anymore.
Like riding knight-errant through the forest, slaying dragons.
Or being a wheelwright, or a farrier.
What is a farrier, anyway?

Maybe I should try for the widget factory.
Or the bookstore.
Except I'd never make any money at it. I'd just sit in the back, reading my own books.


What do you want to be when you grow up?

“For homework tonight…” The class groaned. “Ladies and gentleman,” Mrs. Sellati continued, frowning down her nose at the 35 fourth graders in front of her. “For homework tonight you will write a 200 hundred word composition whose first sentence shall be ‘When I grow up, I want to be…’ you fill in the blank. You may discuss two possible professions in your composition but you must support your choice with good reasoning. Are there any questions?”
Nobody raised a hand but there was a lot of mumbling. Jack Taylor yelled out, “well, I want to be rich because life’s easier when you’re rich. That’s good reasoning, isn’t it? What 188 other words can I say?” Everyone laughed.
“Mr. Taylor,” Mrs. Sellati sniffed. “Being rich is not a profession nor is it a good reason to choose one. You must think.” She looked around unblinkingly at the class. “All of you. You must think: what is something that you would enjoy doing for eight hours a day, five or six days a week, perhaps fifty weeks a year, for 10, 20, 30 or 40 years of your life? What could you do that would allow you to make a living, support yourself and perhaps a family and wake up every day, happy you were going to work? Think children. Try to think of something you love to do now and how that might translate into a profession some day.” She paused, looking at the clock. “Are there any more questions?”
Little Miranda Tait raised her hand slightly above the desk.
“Miss Tait?
“Mrs. Sellati? When you were a little girl,” the boys snickered, “wh-what did you want to be when you grew up? I mean, did you always want to be a teacher?”
There was a hush in the room, as much for the shock of hearing Miranda Tait’s voice as Mrs. Sellati’s response.
“M-me?” Mrs. Sellati blustered. “This isn’t about me, Miss Tait,” she said, standing up straighter, if that were possible. “It’s about you.” The bell rang. “Two hundred words children.”
The class scurried out of the classroom, racing for their lockers, the doors, home.
Mrs. Sellati walked to the window and stood, arms crossed, watching the yellow-red leaves on the tree outside her window, some gently falling in the breeze. In her mind’s eye she saw a young ballerina pirouetting across a stage and leaping gently into the awaiting arms. She shook herself and turned to her desk. She had tests to grade.

Heather @ Desperately Seeking Sanity

I just found your blog... :) So hopefully, I've done this right, but after 12 minutes, this is what I came up with.

(And I wasn't sure if after I was done writing, I should go back and fix, so this is the unedited version.)

For the thousandth time, I looked at my oldest child, now almost 11, and asked him this question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

It’s a question I ask both of my children on a regular basis. I want to encourage them and to think and set goals. Like any parent, I want the best for my children.

And today was no different as he uttered his response. “I want to be a lumberjack,” he replied with a cheesy grin. Although the cheesy grin, as with most children, did not indicate that he was joking. In his mind, he really did want to be a lumberjack.

Last week he aspired to be a leaf sucker upper, the big garbage truck that comes around the neighborhood with a huge vacuum tube to collect the remnants of the change of season.

The week before? A ferry boar driver so that he could meet new people as they traveled back and forth to Mackinaw Island.

Perhaps my disappointment again this time around comes from the fact that my youngest, since the age of 3, has wanted to be a NICU nurse. She eats, sleeps, and dreams of the day that she will finish nursing school and be able to walk in to the hospital and work with “these size babies” as she holds up Pampers that the NICU babies wear.

Perhaps I want him to answer with doctor or lawyer or even president, and when he doesn’t, I’m hurt that he doesn’t see the potential that he has in his life. He does see what I see and doesn’t think that he has the ability to be something amazing one day. It comes back to expectations are premeditated resentments and when I don’t get the answers I expect, I am resentful. Resentful of what is always what I ask myself and the answer that I keep coming up with is that I’m resentful of myself; that I can’t give him the confidence; that I can’t do it for him.

So each week, I continue to work with him, talk with him, and encourage him to seek out people and ask them what they do for a living, in hopes that he’ll set higher goals for himself.

The reality of it is, if he is leaf sucker upper, he’s going to be a great one. The reality of it is, I can only do what I can do and that’s support him and show him what’s out there and love him. The reality of it is that he’s going to leave this house in 7ish years and hopefully do what the Lord has called him to do.

And I? I will be proud of him. I will love him no matter what he chooses to do with his life and I’ll be the first one to call him to come and get my leaves.

Lisa R.

“That is totally disgusting, gross and morbid,” cried the first and last friend I ever revealed my life long ambition to.

I guess I didn’t expect him to understand. In his mind, all there was to it was death and gore and guts. But to me, it was the preservation of a beautiful life. It was a chance to extend its time on earth where it could be appreciated and admired indefinitely. That is why taxidermy always seemed to me like a noble profession and my true calling.

When I was growing up an uncle of mine had a stuffed owl on his mantle. It was a gorgeous creature with intricate rows of perfectly aligned feathers, a majestically curved beak and long bumpy talons that I would run my finger over again and again, mesmerized by its texture. I loved to visit that uncle and stand in his smoky, paneled living room, starring up at the owl over the brick fireplace and imagine what it might be like if he suddenly spread his wings and flew around the room.

My interest in taxidermy only grew exponentially the day my fifth grade class went to the Museum of Natural History for the first time. No one had prepared me for the Mammal Halls with their magical dioramas of the most magnificent creatures I’d ever seen. The Ackley Hall of African Mammals took my breath away, brought me near to tears and became, in later years, my sanctuary. And Carl Ackley, who created the ground breaking techniques that allowed a herd of elephants to stand poised for a stampeed in the middle of Manhattan, became my hero. I returned to the museum and to those rooms time and time again to stare into the expressive, plastic eyes of its inhabitants.

I believe that it’s my love for the beautiful creatures of this earth that drives me to want to preserve them. In my hands they will not age, they will not decay, they will be not devoured by a predator or returned to the cold earth. They will be held in esteem and be honored. My choice may not be a popular one, but the work of people such as myself has enriched and educated thousands over the years. The online course that I’m taking promises to teach me everything I need to know and in time I hope to stand among my heroes as an innovator, a preservationist and an artist.

Jessica (aka. Rose)

I'm a total newbie here, but I've been lurking for a few weeks and I wanted to jump in. I hope that's ok!


I'm only 31, still a baby right? And that's a good thing, because I still have so many plans for when I grow up. I sit here on the couch nursing my youngest child and I wonder... What do I want to be when I grow up?

As I child when people asked, I just answered that I wanted to be happy when I grew up. Oh, and I wanted to be a mommy. That was it. A happy mommy. And now I am. A happy mommy that is, not a grown-up. (I'm not am I? Because that, that would be sad, and remember, we said that I was happy.)

So, having fulfilled my childhood dreams at the ripe old age of 31, I find myself needing a brand new plan. So, what do I want to do when I grow up?

The easy cop-out is to say that now that I've reached my goal I'm going to sit back and watch my children reach theirs. But, did I mention I'm only 31? That's an awful long time to be sitting around watching others play. No, I need a new plan. A plan that's all about me and what I want. So what do I want? What will make sure that I stay happy? Well, that's actually easy.

I want to write.

OK. Wait. If the question is about the future, I guess the answer should be in the future tense too. So; in the future, I want to write.

Vague? Yes. For sure. But I don't know what I want to write, or where, or even how for that matter. I just want to write.

I have visions of novels and book tours and fame. I have visions of smart well written articles published in national magazines. I have visions of children's books read lovingly to rapt faces all snug in their pajamas ready for bed.

I don't know which vision, if any, will be mine to live. I don't think it really matters as long as I grow up to do something which involves my passion; the word. (Oh how corny that sounds... but it's sadly true.)

It's not much of a life plan, but isn't it better than just watching my children grow up and be happy?

Gwendolen Gross

Queen of Carrots--I couldn't reply to this right away, but just so you know how I reacted: my mouth dropped open, I gasped, and then I sand a Hallelujah. This poem is almost perfect. If you were in my poetry workshop and this wasn't brand-new and you wanted real critique I'd give you some small tuning ideas--like take out any extra words you can (ie: "end" in the second ling, and possible both "Excepts"), but meanwhile this is the kind of whole-birthed delight that can make us all sing! Thank you!

dct--GREAT frame. Great dialogue and nice beats. IF you wanted more critique, I'd ask you to reveal what she looks like--original language, particular quirks (physical or otherwise--ie: she worried a brittle strand of recently browned hair between her thumb and middle finger, like she had since she was three) to humanize Mrs Sellati and make her more specific, original--also, is she thinking about what to cook for dinner when she first waits for them to write? Worndering whether she left wet clothes in the dryer to moulder? Thinking about the dirty catbox? Just ideas, dear dct, because you're wonderful!

More comments to come, all!

Gwendolen Gross

Dear Heather--to answer your first question: either is fine, but generally, this is a writing practice workshop, so we don't expect perfection and polish, just fresh words. Now: lumberjack! I love it! I also love the honesty of this entry--the simple truth that even though we profess to wanting our children to choose whatever profession makes them happiest, we have our own dreams about their futures--plans, biases formed before they were zygotes. WELCOME, and come back soon!

Lisa R
I love it, the thin dark humor that challenges us to disagree. I'd love to see a scene in the M of NH--or more detailed description of the animals. This is a great start! Always such a pleasure to read your work!

Gwendolen Gross

Jessica/Rose Welcome! SO glad you jumped in (yep--it's dandy--read the very first post if you'd like a bit more, but you don't have to). I love your post--the tone, the questioning, THE question (why I wrote THE OTHER MOTHER) of how the post-modern monther with choices (no guilt intended--we make enough of that on our own) should live her life. I say your (assumed fictional) character should go for it--dive right in to writing (write!), keeping in mind that the passion and process are much more rewarding than the business bit (no slight to my beloved editor and agent)--


"When I'm grown up, I wanna be a racecar driver. I wanna get into one of them cars an' go really fast. Fast as lightin'."

Grabbing my matchbox racecars, I run to the blue track my mom and dad got me for Christmas. Even though we put it together right, we still needed to use tape to make sure there were no spaces in between the tracks. Every time one of the cars hit it, it fell off the track...it was really cool, but it made my dad upset because most of his cars were crashing.

"Really? A racecar driver? Oh, my that's dangerous!! Is there anything else you might want to be?"

I look at my grandma and shrug my shoulders, pushing the button on the controller trying to get my car to go around the track faster.

"My dad says that racecar drivers can get hurt if they crash their cars. So, sometimes I'm not sure if that's what I really want to be. I didn't like it so much when I fell off my bike and scraped my knee. My mom put a band-aid on it and I kinda cried."

Scratching my nose, I tried to think about what I'd be if it wasn't a racecar driver. A doctor? I thought that might be fun, giving people shots and makin' them cry. Then I thought about being a teacher, but then I remembered I didn't like school. Making my car go faster, it ended up falling off the track and I pretended it was me. It looked like it would hurt a lot more than falling off a bike.

"I don't know. Maybe..." I shrugged again and told her that the cookies smelled good.

"I just pulled a batch out of the oven...you want one?" My grandma said, putting a huge place of chocolate chip cookies on the kitchen table. She makes the best cookies ever, so dropping the controller; I run into the kitchen and sit down at the table. I grabbed the biggest cookie and dunked it into a big glass of milk. I shoved it into my mouth before it broke apart and fell to the bottom of the glass. I hate that. I gotta stick my fingers in there and then I get yelled at for making a mess.

"You make the best cookies, Grandma." I said, watching as she mixed her cookie dough. Then I thought about what I wanted to be.

"Can I be you?" I said, and then laugh.

"What's so funny?"

Still giggling, I tell my grandma she looks funny with flour on her nose. I
laugh more as she tries to wipe it off and ends up getting more on it.

She wrinkles her nose and crosses her eyes and says, “Is it gone?”

“Grandma!” I yelled, when she puts flour on my nose and then yankes one of my ponytails.

"You want to be me, huh?” She said as she wiped my nose clean, giving me a kiss on my forehead.

“Yup.” I said. 'My Grandma is the best' I think to myself.

“Kathy, you are 5 years old…when you grow up, you can be whatever your little heart desires."

Smiling, I grabbed another cookie off the plate, looking at it before I dip it again into the milk.

"Maybe I'll be a cookie eater when I grow up. Do they gots cookie eaters?"

Jessica (aka. Rose)

Hi Gwendolen,
Thanks for the feedback! I'll be joining you more often now!

Gwendolen Gross

Gabrielle--I do like this little snippet--how brief and dart-like her attention span! Have you done much writing from a child's point of view? I open this question to all of you:
What makes a child's point of view successful (in writing) (and we're not critiquing Gabrielle here, just discussing...)I also like that I assumed it was a boy for the first few lines. Thanks for starting with a dialogue!!

And Jessica/Rose. hooray!

Nancy T

I was expecting my friend Anne to come by and work on the plans for the school fundraiser. When the doorbell rand by five year old, Georgia bounded up the stairs to greet whoever was at the door with me. Anne and her daughter Irene were standing there.

The girls settled in on the porch. As Anne and I sat down at the kitchen table to work. We could hear the two girls chatting away. They were talking about school, what they liked what they didn't like, TV shows and what they thought they might do over summer vacation.

Georgia picked up her dolls and handed one to Irene. She explained that her dolls were named Eddie and Sue. Eddie was a mom...like her mom. The other doll was Sue. She was a doctor. Eddie was telling Dr. Sue all about her cold and asking what she should do for it. When she was done, Georgia looked up at Irene and told her she wanted to be a doctor when she grew up. Georgia then asked Irene what she wanted to be.

Irene, wasn't sure. She liked all kinds of things. The one thing she knew was that she wanted to travel and see the world.

There was a long silence. Anne and I stopped working as we waited to hear what would be said next. Georgia deep in thought with her nose crinkled up and eyebrows knitted together then spoke. I don't understand. How can you see the world if you are blind?

Gwendolen Gross

Nancy T--fascinating start of something. I think you could make a choice about point of view here if you wanted to keep writing--the mothers observe, yet they're not so much characters as the kids are. You could write omniscently, or close third person instead of first person from the mother's pov, and it might be interesting to show us the blindness without telling. But I'm not critiquing, just thinking ahead. It's a lovely idea and such a tender thing, that time between children, their lack of bias--THANK YOU for sharing it!

Danee Jo

Delight in the now
Is what my heart speaks

Live in every moment
Is what my mind shrieks

What is to become
Is what's asked of me

Wishing that I knew
Is all I can say

Questioning my soul
Is what I do daily

What will I be
What is the next chaper

Questions, questions, questions
No answers for me

Maybe one day
My eyes will open to see

Gwendolen Gross

Welcome Danee Jo, and thanks for adding to the poetry corner! It would be great (if you wanted to write more on the topic) to hear some of the specific questions. Good stuff! Glad to have you here!

B. Muse

What do you want to be when you grow up? To BE. BE. As if you are what you do. It's a dangerous question because it pins me down and it requires commitment. The real deal. And this just isn't me. I want to throw myself into this option this week and that option the next. I'm a chef; I'm a writer; I'm a minister; I'm a musician; I'm an athlete. The unfortunate problem is that one week hardly pays a thing.

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