Tuesday, January 31, 2012

It Just Takes a Moment

Picking up my daughter, I watched the kids and parents streaming from the school, trailing jackets and backpacks and siblings and shoelaces. What I would really like to do is write something for them, I thought. Something that little ones can enjoy, that can provide a love for story and reading. I think maybe I read Cynthia Rylant once, talking about how rewarding it was to write a book that could help a kid learn to read, and even more, that could help him WANT to.

So on my way to the next school, I wrote a simple kid's picture book story, with rhyme and rhythm and counting and problem-solving. It's not the best story I've ever read, but it's far from the worst either.

On my way. Already on my way.


I just kinda like the sound of this song. I know if I put it here I'll remember it a year or so from now, when all the useful memory has been replaced by a newer song or book title or homework assignment.

Monday, January 30, 2012


That's one of the things I love about this blog.

Day to day, week to week, season to season, I come here and I write something. When I need this blog it is always here. It rarely changes, except for an occasional upgrade to its appearance to bring it into line with the season or my mood. My style stays the same; the content remains.

I find it very soothing.

I enjoy consistency. Stability. Enough routine in my days to be comfortably predictable. Enough variety to be amusing. My friend and I enjoyed a very nice if rushed lunch next to the stream by an outdoor cafe. She shared her latest crop of worries -- I thought of how much I value her as a friend. Truly my life has only improved since she entered it two years ago. In fact, I didn't tell her that and I should. I'll text her when I finish here to let her know just how very much I appreciate her. I wish her life were a bit easier, but I know she will find her path, as we all do given enough time.

It's Monday, so I'm at the outdoor cafe. I've realized that I've developed a routine through the week, certain places I go to work on certain days. No day is the same as the one before, but week by week, I have routine. I love it. I love that I have new work and old work, and maybe even a new creative project.

I awoke this morning thinking of the past. That's fairly common for me. I realized how very comfortable I felt in this morning, how much I was anticipating a day of mild work and mild pleasure. I lived through some very hard years. 2007, 2008 and 2009 were very often excruciating for me. But I did it. I made it through them. And in 2010, I turned everything around.

Now it is 2012. This year is an amazingly powerful year. The year of the Dragon. The year of much foretelling. I look forward to this year and the amazing things it can bring into all our lives. My friend, myself, and random strangers included.

Breathing in, I feel gratitude and anticipation.
Breathing out, I send joy into the world.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


and the Machine is a group that I enjoy. Mostly because one of my very best friends is named Florence and so I can't help but think of her.

No more dragging that horse around!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Calm Pervades

On the rare morning when I stay at home to work, my house is calm and peaceful. It is very quiet here - no tv, no music. Just my gentle tap-tap and the dogs in the yard and the wind making music in the chimes.

I actually rather like the complete lonely silence of it all. It is very, very soothing. Maybe if I had this isolation all the time I would find it a bit overwhelming. But as it is, I kind of enjoy the lonely solitude. It is a marked contrast to the rest of my time.

I am still enjoying the feeling of having my house and yard truly to myself. From October onward, we had house painters and then contractors at work in the back yard. The construction team was great - they were the sweetest guys I've ever met - but they worked on our project the way I work at grants -- show up for an hour or so, then off to something else. So I never knew during those months whether someone would be randomly showing up in my backyard. That encouraged me to stay out of the house a bit more, especially when I was trying to concentrate!

But they finished in the last week of the year, and my new office space is amazing!! Over the rest of this year, I hope to finish and decorate the interior bit by bit as we save the cash. The painter will come back to paint the walls, but I'm not quite ready to deal with him again just yet. Another bit of peace before he brings his anxious energy back here.

It's not easy for me to make myself stay home. I love to go out and about, and working with noise and bustle doesn't bother me. The only reason I'm here is that I had phone calls to make, and I don't like to do those out in public. So I guess I'll get on with them, and then later, reward myself with a trip to my favorite grocery store. And free coffee there too!! :)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sunday Ends

I've gotten a lot done this week.

But not that darn Verizon proposal. It is just hanging there, in cyberspace, taunting me.

It's not my fault though. I wrote everything I could in draft form. Then I didn't have the right password to get into the actual application. Uploading into the actual form always requires little tweaks and edits.

So I'm done except for that, and I can't go any further until the client gives the password to my boss, and she gives it to me. Hopefully, tomorrow.

On a happy note, I got two new clients on last Thursday. Two. So yeah and I'll spend the rest of tomorrow working on their new stuff.

On an interesting note, I was just doing some demographic research for a different client's app. Turns out that there are about 29 million active military and veterans in the US, roughly 9% of the total population. Compare that to the whooping 65 million adults who have some sort of criminal record. That's right, 25% of our US population has a felony or misdemeanor in their past. And for many of them, it is a roadblock, albeit an often illegal one, to being hired or even considered for new job positions. Yikes.

Friday, January 20, 2012

An Answer Learned in Time

(Words that want to be something a bit more than just a blog post)

Here I am, halfway through the narrative arc that is the story of my own life, unfolding. And yet, the passage of a freight train can move me to tears.

Pushing poignancy before it, this massive conveyance rumbles into view. The motion of it, and the colors - the gold and ruby and turquoise of the cars stacked upon each other like blocks, like a gigantic child's playthings pushing across the land. The noise of it comes first, a low boom of apprehension, like that heard just before disaster falls, the warning of earthquakes, and traffic collisions, of bombing planes... and of freight trains, moving slowly, implacably across the land. Its archaic beauty steals my breath. It signifies a different era, an anachronism, an odd juxtaposition into the quiet grey peace of the dull day.

The flat-edged flatness is the note of Wil Wheaton's voice. He narrates the audio book that my husband is currently listening to. Ready, Player One is a dreary book, written in a style heavy in explication. Wil Wheaton's oddly level, deep voice does it justice, with his odd pronunciation of vowels, his way of lingering on the last word in the sentence, stretching it into an emphasis like the clanking sound of a brass gong hit awry. The word "howl" falls from his mouth as four separate sounds, the baritone of his voice going on and on, speaking into the silence of our early morning living room where I sit on my couch, too groggy to do much besides sip my tea and listen to the story by default.

Wil Wheaton troubles me. In Star Trek, he is so young, his dark eyes eager and intelligent, promising such possibilities. But when he appears across my screen in Big Bang Theory, he is a villain. Stocky, stodgy, padded by age. The change perturbs me. Where has the helpful, gifted boy gone? How has he disappeared into this new character? And into the character in the audio book, whose name I do not even catch because I am not listening that carefully.

In the meantime I know, Wil Wheaton did some technological stuff. He blogged, he tweeted. He drew so many followers that a unit of measurement - I think 500,000 followers- is named for him.

At least, that's what I think I know. Just those sparse facts, tiny intersection points of Wil Wheaton into my own life. Just enough to disturb me with the sense that something is not quite right here. Something is sad. Is it simply the passage of time? Is it simply that we all age, and change as we age? What bothers me so in Wil's deadpan delivery and the freight train's implacable passage?

A song promises me that the time of my life will be an answer learned in time. I think of time, of the way it spins the hands around on the beige-painted face of the Christmas clock poised upon my mantle, the red-clicking-forward of my alarm clock, now one number and with my next blink, another, always too quickly to be perceived except in retrospect. My mind casts itself back through my own arc, flipping the pages of the chapters I've lived so far. The rest of the book lies heavy in my hands, sealed and impenetrable. My mind casts forward into empty air, wondering how far the arc will carry me.

Wondering what comes next.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Work Resumes

I hate the Verizon proposal!! There, I said it. I hate it, I hate it, I hate it.

It is like a huge weight pressing down on my brain draining all the creativity and fun from my writing. And it really is due now. I've been struggling with it, and ignoring it, for way too long. I need to just get it done so that I am free to move on to my other assignments.

It is just so dull answering question after boring question, especially when I only have part of the information at hand, and I have to be a bit imaginative in my responses, but at the same time I have to be completely accurate and meassurable. Oh, and always show the organization in the best, most compelling light.

Otherwise, it's been a really, really nice weekend. Lots of socializing for the girls. We had a little get together, went to an extra gymnastics session. Saturday, all four of us spent the entire day in our pajamas, just reading and writing and watching TV and didn't get dressed until nightfall. Today, after I taught my yoga - which had new students- my mom joined us and we went to lunch and saw The Artist. Which my girls said was dull, but we adults admired and enjoyed.

Now I am dutifully sitting at my screen, and chiseling away at the 33 questions before me.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Old Habits Die Hard

(Ha. I mistyped the title at first. Typed "Old Habits Diet Hard". Probably cause I was just reading my friends' blogs and they are all talking about food, dieting, weight loss for the new year. I suppose old habits may diet hard as well, huh?)

So this blog is just a habit for me. Sometimes I leave it alone; other times I type every day or even more times during the day. It seems to go along with how much determination I am putting into my work life. When I am more relaxed, or occupied with other parts of my life, then I am not so present here.

But when I am trying to be creative or to push myself to produce intellectual products, then I find that this space warms me up. It is my stretch, my limbering exercise. Is is also my distraction and my procrastination, so I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with it. But I think I am too harsh on myself sometimes. When I relax and go with the flow then I produce more overall.

More overalls. That would be helpful to farmers. Just a whiff of whimsy there.

I have a very nice daily/weekly schedule for the new year. In general, I make schedules for myself and then completely ignore them. But I think this one is different. It mirrors the things I am already doing in day to day life. In fact, if anything, it helps me put everything I do into writing so that I can see it all and make it fit in together. I do try to do so much that I often feel like I am dropping things from my days.

My schedule doubles my work time. It gives me regular exercise and makes sure I get to yoga classes to nurture my body and my soul. It has plenty of time built in for the errands I love to run, for caring for the girls, and even for shopping. It's a choppy schedule, cutting each day into two hour chunks, but that is how I tend to live my life. Whether that is by necessity because there are so many things to cram into each day, or whether that is my preference because I have a short attention span and quickly get restless, I am not sure. Probably a bit of both, and probably they have each reinforced the other. I know that when I am anxious, I cope better if I keep moving from task to task, circling around enough to get most things done in a timely way. And I've always worked in a hectic, choppy way, first as a waitress, then as a teacher, with lots of activity and decision-making and physical motion. I don't think I'm cut out for a straight office routine or desk job. Probably why I've never had one.

So it's a good schedule and I'm excited to have it. Even printed a copy and posted it on the fridge. That way I can just look at it and see where I'm supposed to be and what I'm supposed to be doing at any given time. And I think as long as I show up at my computer and make an effort during my "work" blocks of time, even if I do occasionally veer into blogland, or even worse, the dreaded wasteland of Yahoo! articles (they never say anything important, have you ever noticed that? And at their worst they are idle gossip about people I have never met and will never meet!!!), as long as I put in the time at the keyboard, then over time the Work will come.

And a new habit will be born.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

And the Next Day...

Thursday, but my second day of work.

The routine worked so far. At least last night was calm and all life tasks that needed to occur did. I was up by 5:30 this morning, unusual for me, and at my computer before 6:00 am. S joined me, reading his daily blogs. The girls got up early too, and we all had hot crescent rolls for breakfast. There was the usual last minute rush for the door - this time a bout of hair drying and straightening went right down to the wire - but both kids hit their campuses just as the bell was ringing. Whoosh. Down to the last minute, but safe.

Now it's 8:30am and I am diligently back at my computer again. I have my choice this morning. I can make introduction calls to funders or I can work on the next application due. I don't know if I feel quite back into my flow enough to come across well on the phone. I need to be all energetic and knowledgeable about organization details for that. Tomorrow might be a better bet.

( Ack. I just accidentally deleted a whole paragraph here. I hate it when I do that while typing in blogger. And there's no undo button. Sigh. Let's see if I can remember it.)

So, the application it is. Usually that's a good, manageable amount of work and a nice way to ease into my business mindset. But this application is daunting. It's for Verizon Foundation and it's 19 pages long. Downloading it yesterday, it just kept going and going and going. I didn't even read the questions yet, just saved it to my drive. Calm down, Marie, I tell myself. Just take it bit by bit. Question after question.

At least there's no deadline that I'm up against. In fact, the application period doesn't even open until Monday, and then goes all year. I'll probably just do bits of it at a time - as long as I can stand - and intersperse it with other work. And, tomorrow, you know, I have all those phone calls to look forward to. Yay?

Still though, at least it's work. Keeps me busy, gives me something to focus my brain around, and, best of all, provides a nice bit of pay. Better than nothing, that's for sure. It still doesn't feel exactly like a "real" job, but I do enjoy having the flexibility to my schedule to be available for the girls. Plus now I'm just lazy. I'm used to running my own days as I like. I think I'd have a real struggle fitting back in with the demands of a work day. Maybe later on, I think. Once the girls go to college, then I'll have a lot more time and then it would probably be fun and appealing to be back to a job with regular hours and a place to be and co-workers and all of that. I figure I have the next five years or so to figure out what I might be good at doing, and who would want me to do that for them.

I have the next year to really grow my grant writing business, and the next five or so years to bring in income from that. If I am going to write anything publishable -- stories, a novel, nonfiction -- I probably should do that during this time period as well. I'd like to earn enough to hit our savings goals and to keep myself occupied. Otherwise, I just want to continue enjoying life as it is, as I have been doing.

It makes me a bit sad to see the girls growing so fast. There are so many stages that they have already left behind them, forever. I'll never have little babies again, or chubby-legged toddlers, or those early elementary years. I'm already having pangs realizing that soon I'll leave behind the elementary school that has been a daily part of our lives for the better part of a decade. I'll have no reason to walk the campus, or greet all the teachers by name and wish them a good morning. Ah, that's the nature of life, huh? Things just keep changing, and what is in the past gets left behind.

Whenever I feel this way, I console myself with the knowledge that at least I have been there. I mean, I've really been involved and present in my daughters' lives. I was deeply blessed not to have to be gone to work, and so I have dropped them off each day, and picked them up, and hosted the playdates, and helped with homework, and made the house nice, and cooked their meals and taken them on surprise shopping trips or lunches or for ice cream or to play in the park. We've done all those fabulous things as a family, and I am so deeply grateful and feel so very lucky that I have been able to be with my family for all of that.

Just yesterday, B gave me a big hug. She said, "I'm happy to see you every day after school. Thank you so much for not making me ever go to day care." She sees her friends do that and they don't like it. Being at home, with your own stuff and your own family, is so much better.

Half of my friends are divorced. I've seen how hard that makes their lives. And what I notice most is how much time they lose with their kids. Their children are gone half the time, and they miss out on doing all of the daily stuff with them.

You know, it's funny how fast time goes. I feel mostly the same, so it slips by me unnoticed. But I distinctly remember the first time I thought of freelancing. That was eight years ago, in early 2004. EIGHT years!! To paraphrase Hugh Grant, I don't know what the f**k I've been doing with my time, actually! I've already been running this business since 2008. That's four years, and I still feel like I am barely getting going.

I remember seeing a counselor five years ago, during a tumultuous time in my life. She wanted me to focus on the future and make some plans and goals. And I just couldn't. I couldn't at all tell her what I wanted life to look like in five years. And, now, that memory makes me laugh. Because I never did manage to sit down and make a five year plan. And now those five years have gone by, and here I am! Even without a vision, the time still passed. Probably the reason I couldn't imagine my life is because it is so very much the same as it was. Except for all of us aging, it has hardly changed at all. The day-to-day is almost identical, and the changes have been for the better. The girls growing so well. My business taking off. Becoming a yoga teacher. And I have so many wonderful memories of all the fabulous things our family has done together.

When I think back over the last five years, that's mostly what I feel. So happy and so grateful that things went as well as they did. So glad to be able to be glad. Proud of the work I've done and the people I've tried to help. Proud of my family and my rich, warm circle of friends. And just filled with happy, engaging memories of the places we've gone together and the things we've done. Our life has been a succession of fun (sometimes forced on everyone, I'll admit). Beach trips. San Diego. Museums. Shopping. Restaurants. Book Festivals and Science Fairs and Yoga classes. Parties at our house and parties at friends' homes. Eating foreign foods and listening to foreign tongues. Yeah, it's been a really, really good five years. Even without a plan!

Best of all, when I look ahead, I do see some future goals. I see my children grown up. I see my work paying off, taking me to our financial goals of security and stability. And I see S and me, with time to enjoy each other, with time to explore our interests and travel and just, very slowly, grow older. I don't need to be famous. I don't need to be rich. I just need to feel like my family is happy, that I have been kind to people, that I have made the world a bit better, and that I have been awake along the journey to appreciate the beauty and wonder of it all.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Oh My

Even though it is already the eleventh day of the year, this is truly my first working day of 2012. It's been so long since I had a routine, I don't even remember what my "normal" schedule is anymore!!

That's okay though. I'm the eternal optimist, always pushing for things to improve, so I see January as an excellent time to re-vamp my work schedule, set new daily and monthly goals for myself, start all fresh, and more along those lines.

I have a junk notebook that I keep in my car, wedged into the space between the seat and the console. I use it for lists, random thoughts, general paper needs that I have while driving. It's been there for more than two years, and I flipped through it yesterday. If I had a dime for every time I have written new goals in there, or, my favorite obsession, re-worked our budget and our future financial goals, well, gee, I'd have a lot more money than I 've actually saved towards those goals. :)

Makes me laugh at myself, but even when I know I'm doing the same things over and over, I just let myself do them. It helps my brain focus and reduces anxiety. I'm too set in my personality to change something that is so much a part of how I organize myself, even if it is a bit of a time waster.

Speaking of organizing and new starts, January is a natural time for tidying things up. After the chaos of Christmas, there's always a lot of clearing away and re-ordering of storage space to find room for new gifts. The decorations all have to be packed away; everything has to be cleaned and polished. January is a perfect time for this, so one of my goals for the month is to just keep cleaning up one small area every day. Emptying drawers, donating old clothes, that sort of thing.

January is a beautiful month. The days are short and gray, the trees stand stark without their leaves, thrusting sculpture into the sky. It's a ragged, rugged time of austere beauty. The comfort comes from the absence of light and warmth and softness. January calls us to those places in ourselves that are most barren but still lovely.

With that in mind, I've been considering letting go. Where do I want to focus my limited amounts of energy during this next year? My 24 hours per day of Time? What matters most? What will take me where I want to wind up? In January, I consider stopping this blog. I consider starting a journal that is just my own. I consider starting a new blog, with my new pen name. Or perhaps abandoning the idea of a pen name altogether. If I want to write and publish, I probably need a pseudonym just to distinguish my work from already published writers with my same name. But pseudonyms are complicated in themselves, more so for me, and perhaps it's not worth the hassle. And really do I even want to write? Is it even realistic for me to write and publish, now, with the amount of time I can give it, at my age? Am I perhaps already too old and too far down the stream of life events for the type of writing I would do?

I don't have answers yet, only lots of questions. What I know is that I cannot do everything I think of, and that if I focus, I probably can achieve the goals I set. I know that my business offers more opportunity than writing and that perhaps I should focus there. At least for the next few years. At least until the girls grow up and are independent. I have a teenager now. A gorgeous young lady, as tall as me, but much prettier, and she'll need money for college in just a few short years, and then her sister after her. That's a pretty sobering thought.

I have clients and a sort-of boss who count on me for regular work. I have a friend who wants to join me in business by this summer. And I have two growing girls who count on me to fill their every need, and whose needs are only going to continue to grow exponentially during the next eight years. And I feel myself getting older. I'm getting more settled, starting to look beyond the time when I will be so needed and engaged with being a mother, and imagining a calmer life with more room for personal growth and enjoyment with my husband. Just two adults again. I'd like that second half of life to be fulfilling and stable.

And I feel like all of those hopes and dreams, all that I wish for, it starts here. In January.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

We collect so many things along the way, don't we? It's hard to know what to keep and what to let slip through our fingers.