Stupid Fridays. At the end of stupid long weeks. I get so tired.
I tried to seal this blog off last night. Blogs are passé now. Everyone's on to Twitter. This blog isn't going to be my entre into the world of letters. It doesn't even provide very good service value to readers. Consequently readership has dropped over the years. So I sealed this off, thinking it would stay as my own personal journal.
But then I couldn't.
When I sat down to write today, I started feeling panicked. Like I wasn't going to be able to write, like I didn't have any connection to the real world. All the things I do every day, everywhere I go, does anyone even notice me? Does it even matter where I am? I smile at people; I make small talk; I buy things and sit at public tables. But that's not really being integrated into a social environment is it? That's not really being an inherent part. Not like it would be if I could afford to have a regular job and a promising career.
At least with this blog, I have the illusion that I might be communicating as part of a bigger picture. Providing a message to someone in Illinois, or the UK, or, surprisingly, Ukraine. Without that comforting illusion, what's the point of writing?
Plus I had to sign in to even see my blog. That freaked me out. What if I forget my password? I've had to change so many passwords recently due to spamming and hacking that that has happened to me. I've lost access to some of my accounts. So, since I feel anxious anyway, there didn't seem to be any point in adding to my suffering. After all, no one is reading this besides me anyway. So why seal it from no one? And if you have read this far, consider yourself a rare exception.
Okay. I really have to pull myself together and finish my story. Over and out.
I'm writing in a new bakery today. So far, I love it. It's big and pretty calm, but not deserted. The tables are comfy, I found an outlet, and the air conditioning is blasting cold which is a definite must in our continued string of 105 degree sweltering heat days.
I've knocked out two proposals and some emails so far. Next I really need to finish the story that's due in my writing class tomorrow as the final project. I have a good start and a great end; I just need to buckle down and get the middle going. I'm taking advantage of this space to warm up and get my tone flowing so that it doesn't sound forced by the deadline.
Last night I dreamed that I was hanging around with the Walton family and my good friend John Boy. We were just shootin the breeze, talking writing and siblings.
Then Adrian Monk appeared. He and I hit it off very well. We were having a great time together. Then I decided to worry about responsibility. Called a halt to the action -- yeah, like a dream pregnancy was really going to pose a big problem. Sheesh, it was a DREAM, after all -- and never got back to it because of interruption from all those little Waltons.
Not too different from my real life. You think I could do better with my unconscious mind.
With the staggered but steady start of the new academic year, a nasty virus is taking advantage of the fresh groupings of people to spread viciously through the population.
My husband picked it up at his school and brought it to both daughters, who now sadly have started the year by missing days of instruction within the first few weeks. My friend's husband picked it up at his site and gave it to their whole family. She was fresh back from Urgent Care with her youngest when I saw her at Back to School night yesterday. Everywhere I went on campus I heard teachers and families talking about being ill.
It's not even autumn. It's like 110 degrees out every day, and just miserable. It's not time for illness and tea and soup and blankets. What is going on??
At least, so far, I haven't come down with it besides a day of sniffles and headache. Good thing. With everyone counting on me, I can't afford to go down hard.
Kind of drifting today. Getting lots of stuff done I suppose. Just doesn't feel like it since I am moving slow from here to there. Barely got the girl off to school. Cleaned the house up well. Wrote down all of June's events for the family journal. Went to a couple of stores and managed to get out without buying anything, just took care of some returns to whittle down the credit card balances. They're almost zeroed out now.
I'm used to buying stuff without thinking about it too much, so this last few weeks have been a big change of pace for me.
All to go along with the new school year.
Will Smith says "If you stay ready, you don't have to get ready." That's my new motto. Trying to keep the house always tidy enough for the steady stream of visitors that the school week brings. Trying to keep meals prepped and ready to go. Trying to stay ready for work and opportunities.
I wrote a good ending for a story last night. I feel pretty solid with it. My task this week is to write the beginning and the middle. I think I know mostly where it's going to go, although there will probably be a few surprises along the way.
"Distance lends enchantment to the view."
- Mark Twain
A lovely woman from Bangladesh shared this quote with me at an Eid party last night. Everyone grouped in swirls of colors to eat delicious curries and joke raucously in Bangla. This morning, I facilitated a Board meeting for a Seventh Day Adventist nonprofit.
like Gertrude Stein today, walking and thinking my thoughts about writing.
Flipping through the stack of ideas and possibilities I hold in my head. Over the
last few years, I have had good ideas for several different writing projects
and novels. But when it comes down to executing my concepts, I just haven’t
found the enthusiasm to follow through. I find myself waiting until I find
something that I think will somehow help the world by becoming a part of it.
Otherwise, I am just contributing to a cacophony of noises. With the exception
of this blog, where I write whatever I like with the understanding that no one
else besides me is ever obligated to read it, I find that I have a deep desire
to contribute something of true value to others.
been thinking lately about desire, carnal and otherwise. All the passions that
motivate humans to be and feel and act as we do. Desires drive us, but they can
also obscure us from ourselves if we become caught in blindly pursuing them
without staying aware. Desire, motivation, ambition – those forces get me up in
the morning; they get me going through the day’s activities and work. But they
can also keep my attention only looking forward, on the future happiness to
come. And then I forget to look right and left, up and down, at the happinesses
all around me.
been going back through my stable of stories, looking over past work with an
eye to submitting it. But even though I love those stories and they spring from
various pivotal times in my life, I find little among them that I feel is of
real use to anyone else. They are a snapshot of my thoughts, but they do not
fill my need to send something into the world that can stand for me, something
of which I can say “this is what I offer you.” That is the writing idea that I
am still seeking. That is what I wish to work towards. I don’t think it will
necessarily reward me with money, although I am certainly not against that. And
I don’t think it will make me famous. Or give me 400,000 followers. Or put me
on Yahoo Shine. But I do think it will matter. When I write it, it will feel
worthy, and like it is beyond only my own selfish interests and experiences.
thoughts turned to my various friendships, past and present. I reflected on the
kinds of people that I have chosen to be my friends. Obviously, many of my
friends are those with overlapping Venn diagrams, people whose lives share
something with mine. Other mothers, other townspeople, other women of my age
and income. But my dearest friends, those who have meant the most to me for the
longest time in my life, are those who are also looking for something of
themselves. Those who are looking and seem likely to find what they seek.
Friends who have a certain youthful air, a hopefulness, an optimism, even
perhaps a bit of immaturity as if life hasn’t quite taught them yet all that
they need to learn. When I talk to them, I feel much younger than my actual
years. I feel as if almost anything in life is still possible ,and that if we
support and encourage each other, we will find out what possibility means. And
it will be good.
I know it's only August. But with the start of school and the cool mornings, it feels like Autumn. Soon it will be time to get out my earth-colored clothes and look for those signs of the harvest season. :)
Realizing that I have mild ADHD has been a revelation. It has made me so much more patient and encouraging with myself. Now, I better understand my preferred style of working and getting things done, and I have insight into my strengths and my weaknesses brought to me by my fast-but-distractible brain.
Work's good though. It's all good. The things I write for my classes are well-received and I feel a growing sense of competence and ease with writing. And work's nice and steady too. So that's truly all good.
In a radio interview today, a venture capitalist turned spiritual scholar was talking about humans who are considered great by others. He said that often they had created a certain sense of detachment from success. They had stopped pursuing money, fame, or other reward, and almost turned their backs on traditional success. And then it came knocking at the door anyway.
That intrigued me. I wondered in what ways I am holding onto my ideas of success. And in what ways I could let it go, and simply be in the process of the working.
With the school year off to a successful start, I am left making the transition back to my regular work routine. Right now, I'm actually in a bit of a rest-phase, a few days' limbo, as I wait for responses to my most recent questions and clients' directions for the next set of work assignments. So, oddly, just as everyone goes back to their busy days, my time has opened up. :) My daily yoga subbing is ended with the return of our studio's teachers from various vacations, and my writing slate is open.
So although I feel a bit guilty, I really do have some free time to just dabble here. (I've even been catching up on housework lately -- doing things like scrubbing floors and putting away laundry. Wow.)
I often reflect back to my past, and compare it to my present. In general, my life has gotten better and better as I've gotten older. I'm at a place where I am mostly contented with my experiences and the way I spend my time. I even realize that I really like the way my life goes on a day to day basis, especially how spoiled I am with self-determined time usage. Having time is a luxury akin to having lots of money, and perhaps is in an inverse relationship with having lots of money. :) I know that my only real concern right now is finances and earning enough money to provide for my children's future needs. Otherwise, things are great. And I can't even complain about that too much, because at least I am working steadily. And at two different jobs. So you know, it's pretty good.
I'm always thinking lots about relationships and how people get along with each other. That whole area of being human fascinates me. I'm a natural giver and a natural carer, so I've learned to value relationships in my life above all else. They are the literal riches of a life well-lived.
I think often of my friends, current and past. I have close friends, and further friends, and a few special friends who I don't speak with often (or at all) but who are still close to my heart. I hope they are all okay.
With my number of friends. I never really feel lonely, even when I have the luxury of being all alone, because their warmth, and their unique personalities are always with me, whether we have lunch dates during the week or live states away from each other. In friendships based on lasting factors -- mutual respect, shared interests, affection, trust -- feelings of warmth and caring transcend even time and space. As it should be.
The start of this school year is equal parts exhilarating and terrifying. Exhilarating because my daughters are both at new schools, moving on to the next significant stage of their lives. I dropped the "little" one off for her first day of seventh grade and watched her shoulder her backpack and navigate across the street, eager to tackle the year and make new friends. I watched my older girl disappear between the big steel bars that gate her new high school, dwarfed by the immense concrete buildings of the place, yet strangely fitting in on this new campus.
It's terrifying for the exact same reasons as above. The girls are growing up; they aren't babies any longer, or toddlers, or children. They are people in their own right and just a hop, skip, and a jump away from their own cars, jobs, apartments, and lives. Eek.
We've done well with them I know, and they will do well. I have confidence. And I am eager to see who they will become.
But, there I sit in my car, watching my daughters walk certainly further and further away, and I return to this screen, and my own life, waiting here, which I am still in the middle of crafting.
When you have a family, this is especially noticeable. Before I'd even had time to reflect properly on the end of the school year and the feeling of leaving behind elementary school forever, summer was upon us.
Before we've even had time to feel that summer started properly, it is already over. Oh my. It seems that the days keep passing more and more quickly as we stay busy with so much to do. I know that I've worked quite a bit this summer, especially teaching yoga where I have subbed in for other teachers almost half the days last month and this one. Having that steady work commitment made the time pass quickly.
I never did have those long leisurely hours that I thought I could fill with writing. Remember that daily schedule I had so carefully worked out?: ) I just never got a good chance to put it into practice. Each day seemed to be already filled with its own activities and obligations.
Still, it has been an incredibly peaceful time, with a lot of contentment in our family. Even if it never did quite materialize into glorious hot days at the beach and pool, or out exploring exotic cities, there have certainly been worse summers.
Now it's August 1, which is technically summer for a long while yet. But for our family, the routines and demands of the school year are back upon us.
We had to put Phoebe to sleep on Saturday, July 20.
AS the day wore on, she became more and more ill. She struggled to breathe and she wouldn't eat or drink anything, not even water syringed into her mouth.
She spent her whole last day, here at home with us, being held and cuddled. For a while, she slept in her cage and I noticed that her friend Riley was curled up with her, letting Phoebe use her as a pillow. I really didn't want to let her go, but I could see that it was time, and her life here was done.
I was very, very sad. We all cried. It's been a sad time without her cheerful presence in our home.
My beloved rat Phoebe is very ill. I don't think that she can get better.
She's been to the vet five times in the last two months with respiratory infections, and he is afraid that she has lung cancer. There's not much else we can do for her at this point. I'm hoping that she can let go of life on her own, in a fairly peaceful way, here in the safety of her home, with her companions around her. She hates the trips to the vet, and she suffers from the stress of it.
I know it sounds weird to people who have never had a pet rat. But she has been the most wonderful pet companion. She has such a sweet, curious, loving personality. I've only had her one short year, but I am as attached to her as I have ever been to any animal. I'd say that my best pet ever was my adorable, goofy, big ol' German Shepherd/Hound mutt who we had for 12 years. And then Phoebe is right there with him.
I've been crying on and off for the last month. But I know that I've done everything we can, and that at just over two years old, she is simply aged for such a small, fast-paced animal. I'm waiting to see how the rest of today goes...
After a lot of wavering back and forth, I'm in another online writing class. I looked at gaining more skills in some other ways: in person options and some workshops and some stuff through Writers Digest. It all looked intriguing. But I like the freedom of setting my own pace across each week.
I also considered continuing to pass on formal instruction and just doing my own thing. But too often my own thing gets busy with activities other than fiction writing. A structured class is the way to go for boosting production.
So the first lesson is in. Now I'm going to have to write something on topic for it. Yay?
It's been an unusual summer so far. While the days have been peaceful and enjoyable, I haven't had that certain summer feeling. You know the one. Where the air is heavy and hot and the whole lazy day stretches before you full of open hours. Almost boring in its possibility and languor.
But this summer, I've worked most days. I've done a lot of yoga subbing, and I've done a good bit of grant writing. And lately, my thoughts have really turned back to the other aspects of my writing career. My beloved pet rat has had three serious bouts of illness in the last three months. So far, she's responded to medication and is fine. But her age is becoming apparent. That's made me feel the ticking of the clock. I wanted to write a whole series of children's stories about her, and I've hardly started.
Also, I had another story published recently. In a small literary journal, but I'm still quite proud of it. But I haven't really made a fuss or even touted it, and perhaps I should.
So I'm in a mood to enjoy the rest of these summer days - carpe diem style- and to enter late summer and autumn in a prime mood to work. With more focus and direction.
I've been in a great mood lately, very healthy and contented. I've also had lots of pleasant news. Most of my friends seem to be doing better than they have in years. No more crises or issues, just pleasant lives. Last night, I saw an amazing documentary that a good friend helped produce. I am soooo proud of him!
I hope these good times last for a while. It's nice to be happy and productive.
A few years ago, we were attending church faithfully. The pastor invited me to study more closely with him, in weekly sessions.
We met in his nice conference room, green walled with a big window and blond oval table. "I want to know more about Marie," he explained with a warm smile. "I'm curious. What do you think about all day?"
My answer was blunt. "Surviving. I think about surviving."
The harsh truth of that surprised even me. I hadn't realized before that moment just how much energy I devoted each day merely to making the day work, to making it through safely, to keeping my life as I knew it continuing.
Now years later, I realize something new. I am no longer surviving. No longer do I spend time or energy on just getting by. Over the years, protective habits and philosophies have become so ingrained that they are automatic, operating smoothly to keep life humming along.
Instead of just surviving, I am thriving.
Instead of anxiety, I feel joy, contentment, ambition, desire. I celebrate my past and I look forward to my future.
I may not be writing much, but I have been sitting at my keyboard for hours, trying.
I try to put the words together well. Some thoughts flash through my mind. I become certain, that somewhere, at a different computer, Susan Straight sits writing. I imagine her prose with a flush of admiring envy. I imagine what she would say of mine and cringe inwardly. Unacceptable. Clumsy. Dull.
Sigh. I'm sure that whatever she is writing right now is much more interesting. Fiction, with conflict and character. Or a first person essay. Filled with voice and telling detail from her life, carefully plucked like red fruit from a backyard tree.
I could be wrong of course. She might be working away on something utterly pedestrian. A course syllabus or a dull departmental memo. A convoluted academic article.
But I like to think that, somewhere in Riverside, SS is typing away. If she can do it, I can too. maybe I can even write something I would be willing to show her.
I am using this return to a familiar hotel to duck out of the vacation for a bit. Instead, I have sought refuge in the dark, slightly cooler lobby. I perch in a red velvet chair, surrounded by mirrors and bits of glittering crystal, and tap out a bit of income while the family swims in the sun.
The trip, while warm, has been a success. A birthday celebrated. A summer taken mid-swing.
And I, I return to some discipline and respect for my gift of words.
So, recently my email account got "borrowed" to send all my contacts weird links. What a hassle, huh? After I let my colleagues know about this, and that I had fixed it, I got an email from a sweet, older man. He said the same thing had happened to him, but he had no idea what to do. He wondered if I could tell him what I did.
After I emailed him back, I thought that this information might be useful to others as well. Thus I'll post it here, and hope that your own security is quickly restored.
I noticed my account was wrong when I had 18 emails telling me that MailerDaemon failed to deliver. Deliver emails I never sent. What the what? Oh uh.
The first thing I did is go to Google and type My Yahoo Mail got Hacked into its search bar. Then I read a variety of the question/answers and articles I found describing what to do in this situation.
Next, I went back to my email and accessed Account Info found under the Hi,Yourname sign in icon. Under Account Info, I selected Contact Info and checked to make sure that no one had added an unauthorized phone number or email contact that they could use to monitor my account activity. They hadn't so that reassured me. If they had, I would have deleted those.
I also searched under Choose How Yahoo Contacts You and made sure that none of my contact info had been changed.
Under Sign In and Security, I clicked View Your Recent Sign In Activity. There I could see lots of California browser access hits from me, and two from India. So I knew the time and day they had accessed my account which was about five minutes before emails started going out from it. Now I'm checking that about twice per day to make sure that there is no more unauthorized access from odd places, which there has not been.
That makes me feel like they got in, sent emails, got blocked by Yahoo, and moved on. I noticed that Yahoo had increased security measures on my account, making me enter captchas for each email I wanted to send right after the hacking. So I felt like Yahoo had also noticed the spamming and restricted access.
I mentally reviewed all the data I have ever sent from this account. None of it included SS numbers or credit card/banking info, so I wasn't too worried about them accessing that. I also have different passwords for all of my other online activity so even if they had my password they couldn't get into any other accounts.
I noticed that India accessed my account through a Yahoo Partner Application. I'm not even sure what that is, probably Yahoo calendar or instant messaging, etc. Since I only use my account as boring old email and I mostly use a laptop, never a smartphone, I didn't need access to anything else. So I went into Manage App & Website Connections. I deleted the connections for Yahoo Partner Applications and Mobile Devices. I hope that stopped the hole right there.
Finally, I changed my current password to an even stronger one made up of random words that make sense to me with numbers and capitals interspersed. So far, it seems to have solved the problem and my account is working fine.
And below is a link that I promise is NOT spam that will take you to a funny but very useful math web-comic strip that shows how computers hack passwords and how to make a very strong but easy to remember one.
This is a very interesting development by the Universe.
No sooner did I decide that I wanted to teach again, and that I would start pursuing paths to find my way back to this occupation, then two exciting things happened.
One - a large sum of money unexpectedly came my way. I think we will be able to buy that larger, newer car we so badly need.
Two - my email got hacked. While I was innocently eating my picnic sandwiches yesterday, someone in India was sending out emails in my name. But why do I say that is an "exciting" thing??
Well, first, I think I solved the problem. It looks like a one time "borrowing" of my contacts, so I'm not too worried about the issue with my email persisting. But it's exciting because it has put my name back out there for everybody I have ever known or emailed. Talk about your forced networking. All of my friends and all of my business contacts are thinking about me now, at least a little bit.
And, it put all of those people back into my mind too. So, friends and contacts who I haven't been in touch with for a long, long while are suddenly back on my radar. My follow up emails give me an opportunity to renew bonds and check in with their lives. That can't hurt anything.
So I guess good or bad is all how you see it.
It is a very familiar experience for me to decide that I will pursue a course of action, and then find energy, people, or money helpful to that goal entering my life shortly after. I guess everything is connected after all! :)
I don't know exactly how yet - or where. But I will.
I'm thinking adult education working with those who want to earn their GED. I have a heart for that kind of work. Regardless, I will start to find the path. I have some ideas of how to get there and we will see. If the path opens before me then I know that is the right way to go.
In the meanwhile, I have yet again confirmed that my current occupation is perfect for me right now. Whenever I take career aptitude tests or the like, I score super high in being an entrepreneur and writing. So there you go.
Overall I am very happy in my life. I've reached an age and a stage where I feel contentment and gratitude every day in most aspects. But I'd still like to find a more satisfying career.
We saw the film "The Internship" tonight. Silly and funny, it did not at all make me want to rush out to Google to find my new vocation. Even as colorful and fun as the "campus" looks, I know that that type of work is not for me. But what then?
The story of two forty-somethings looking for their place in today's world was one I could totally relate to. Before, I was a teacher and in many ways, parts of me still are. I've had lots of dreams lately where I return to the classroom, positive dreams of being hired to fill an empty slot or finding myself back in the academic world. This tells me that my unconscious is hard at work on this question.
But in the real world, I don't think I hanker to go back to that system. I loved it when I was there, but that ended when it did, and I don't know that I can ever go back. So... do I try to apply those teaching skills to something else in the future? But to what? College instructor is an obvious suggestion, but, again, I don't know if that's a system I can embrace. And yet, I need something a bit beyond this writing, something that meshes my hours at the keyboard with the opportunity to spend hours interacting with people. Preferably for a living wage and with some stability.
I want a people-job, not an office/desk/computer job. What do people need? What could I offer to them?
I've been rereading Bridget Jone's Diary. I am finding it more whiny and less funny than I did when I first read it about 12 years ago. I guess I am older and wiser.
Still, she has a catchy, breezy voice. In the manner of a true British heroine, I am busy convincing myself that the only thing that possibly makes sense right now is if I were to finish off the lovely slice of white raspberry cake I bought earlier. I was going to take some home to the girls. But if I just eat it here, I will not have to carry the bag with the box in it all the way back to the car (two blocks). My hands will be freer, and I can walk faster.
Yes, that is a better plan. I will sensibly eat the rest of the cake. :)
The last few weeks have been incredibly full. They have been great weeks - lots of good life stuff going on. School ended and all things homework stopped. But the busyness of April blurred right into May's many events. The end of school dropped into our anniversary weekend, and then a vacation to San Diego.
Now, a new week is here. We can just relax a bit and find our new pace. I am actually very excited about this summer. I plan to be more productive than lazy. I have a daily schedule that I will start tomorrow ( I know. That sounds like a putting-it-off excuse! But tomorrow's the first open day.) And a rough weekly schedule. And weeks and weeks to practice it all in.
6 am Wake up (even if tired!)
Write immediately - fiction/articles/and other fun stuff
7 am Bike Ride and Yoga
7:30 am Breakfast and Newspaper
8:30 am Work Writing (interspersed with tidying to move around periodically)
11:00 am Cleaning time (one room/area per day)
11:30 am Day's Activity or Project
See? So every day I write for fun. I write for profit. I exercise. And I clean. All the hard stuff's done before the day even gets going! And the rest of the hours are mine to fill as I will.
Ack. Here's how my writing process works for my grants.
First I find at least an hour of time. If I don't have that, I don't even try. (Which may be a fatal error.)
I log on to my computer. I check in on my various email accounts. Usually there's nothing much of importance there. Sometimes there are schedule details about teaching/subbing yoga or some client comments or directions. I go through the "junk" account that I use for buying stuff and check as many of the "incredible" Groupon/Living Social deals as I have patience for, deciding whether or not to buy anything. (Usually, it's not.) I dump all my spam. Sometimes I tidy up older email, deleting or assigning to the proper folder.
I get distracted by Yahoo articles during this process, especially when I log between accounts. I read somewhere between one and 15 completely useless articles. I shake it off and try to concentrate. Next I usually go to my lists of work pending. I go over them. I remember the last grants I wrote. I open up whatever I am currently working on and skim what I have so far. Usually, I get bored/discouraged. I open up my timecards and check how many hours of work I have completed versus how many days are left in the month. I do math for a while and estimate how many hours I need to work during remainder of month to make minimum amount of money needed to stay alive. I alternate between discouraged fatalism that I will not make that minimum and cheer-up optimistic pep talks that I can do it!
I go back to grant in progress and write for a while. Maybe one sentence, maybe a few solid paragraphs. Sometimes I research facts needed for further writing. At some point, I get distracted. I decide to check my blog. I read my last entries, which always interest me and usually make me feel happier. Sometimes I check on other blogs to see what else is going on in world. I begin to think of my recent life events. A blog post topic comes to mind. I open my new post and begin writing. I post to my blog.
I go back to the grant in progress. Now I am warmed up, organized and ready to work!!
Sadly, usually by this point one or more hours have passed by, and my time for writing is up. I pack up computer and go to grocery store/Target/other errand/to pick up beloved child from school. If it's a good day, I repeat this whole process again at home in the evening. It's usually not. Usually I clean up, make a snack, do a play date, make dinner, supervise homework, watch TV and go to bed.
And that is my writing process.
Sometimes I get all the way to warmed up and then continue writing. That is when the magic happens. A good hour or two of solid writing. Progress in a proposal. Then I know that I do have skill and I am good at what I do. My clients seem to think so, and so do funders.
I guess it's just a question of keeping on with it all. And maybe only checking my email at the end of the work day. :)
Hello, blog. Yay, yay. My patchwork quilt collection of my thoughts and days.
From time to time, I read good writing/business advice, and I consider discontinuing this space. But then I remember how much of my self is scattered across these posts. And I think of what good energy is here in these words and photos, and what an amassment of raw material. And then I know that this is my journaling, and these are my observations.
Take them for what you will.
Even though May is only slipping out this evening, already the summer will begin for us. After two increasingly hectic months, all school has come to an end. We attended a promotion yesterday and another this morning.
Now my older daughter is asleep - exhausted - and the younger daughter and her dad are hard at work trying to tie a hammock up in the back yard. Nothing says summertime like being able to lie down in a nice hammock!
Oh yeah. Did I tell you that I've decided to be younger?
Don't get me wrong. In many ways I actually like my age. I've worked hard to get to 44 years and my life has taken some fascinating twists and turns along the way that I wouldn't give up. I've been shaped and formed and enriched.
But, I found myself getting anxious about getting older. Particularly about the idea of hitting ages that seemed like deadlines to me. Like it was okay to mess around and be unsure about my life if I was still in my 30s and 40s but by my 50s I should have all these things ironed out. And I need more time than that.
I also caught myself buying into a mythology that my body needed to age and it was okay because I was "getting older." Which I am, indeed, and which is partially a reality. But which is partially determined by perception and then the effort (or lack of effort) that perception creates.
I just didn't want to excuse sitting around on the couch, not trying to succeed in publishing, or not finding another career (or two) with my decades ahead.
So... I moved back the clock. I am now 34. I am vibrant and in the middle of my youth. I have ideas and energy and goals. I am anticipating a great second act when my kids are mostly grown. And I have 30 more years to settle into my careers and prepare for retirement and hit all my goals.
I want to live to at least 95, so I need to keep putting in the work now while I am still so young.
How about you? Do you love the age you are? Or would you pick a different age if you could? How would that change the way you do things and the way you feel about your life? :)
I decided this last week. Two days ago, I got carded to buy alcohol in a grocery store. The cashier was insistent I show my ID and didn't believe my age. Yay!! See how well the mind can adapt to new realities?
What a glorious morning! It's the first time I've really felt that way in weeks and weeks. While mostly the last few months have been pleasant, and they certainly have not been horrible, they have been so very busy that I haven't felt too much of anything except pressure.
While I actively try to remember to feel and appreciate each moment as it comes, I know I've been tired and a bit numb of late. but, now, I feel so much better.
As usual, and as I knew it would, the passage of time has eased us through most of our responsibilities and brought more peace to our family. Specifically, I feel joyous that my eighth grader's school is almost done. She has her last full day of classes today; after this the school will be on an adapted schedule for final exams only.
All day yesterday and late into the night, she worked with my assistance to finish up missing and late work and to complete a HUGE project for science that came at the very end (thanks Science teacher.) I know he was trying to be cool by giving the students a super easy ABC of Science book to create. Just definitions and drawings. Problem is that he made it worth 33% of the grade for the entire semester. And my daughter's ADHD has exploded lately, leaving her with the concentration span of about 15 seconds of work at a time. So instead of lifting her grade up, the project had the potential to drop her from the A+ she's had all year to a B- in one swoop. Probably the teacher would not have done that - he is pretty cool and savvy. But she didn't want to take chances. So she spent hours yesterday finishing this late booklet.
Then we brushed up on math and moved on to a packet about The Outsiders that she had mostly completed but which someone threw away during a room cleaning months ago (probably her sister, by accident, but we're not sure which of us lost it.) I sat down with her to just at least get 2 or 3 of the 10 pages done so she could get even 10 points out of the 100. But we just kept going through the questions and the journal writes. She knew the book's plot and characters inside and out -- it's just staying focused and motivated on the writing that stalls her. It went so fast that we wound up going through all 10 pages - her dictating the answers and me typing. One hundred percent her words because I don't remember much about The Outsiders at all. So now she should get at least 50 points for that and cement that A in that class.
I want her to get all A's. I do, I admit it. I struggle with letting go of that attachment to results. But at least I see that she truly does know the material. Especially in Algebra and Science which she loves. In the long run, that probably will lead to more success in life than any certain GPA will. And the older she gets, the more she will develop strategies for coping with and turning the fast, impulsive, reward-focused brain to her advantage.
Thankfully, the younger daughter is knocking the grades out of the ball park. As sixth grade ends, she has straight A's week after week. Elementary school is a bit different but she is still doing super well. So that is a blessing and she only requires maintenance supervision instead of intervention.
I think this is the busiest end of year that we are ever going to have. With both girls wrapping up their grade level and moving to another school next year, there are so many end-of-year events and activities. We have had band concerts and art shows, awards ceremonies, orientations, and special events. We've been at school or at an evening event almost every day for the last two weeks, and will be next week as well. No wonder it's been hard to get anything else done!!
But now, blessed day. The homework is done. The projects are over. Most events are behind us -- only a few loom ahead. And I can hear the bird song and feel the dappled sunshine.
And I can imagine having my own space in my brain again, to fill with my own thoughts and my own work, instead of running around worrying about everyone else's. : )
Another week has dawned upon us. Because next Monday is Memorial Day and a holiday, this is the LAST Monday of the school year. Whoo Hoo! I hustled my two offspring out the door and onto state-sponsored campuses in time, and threw picking up a friend's child due to some car troubles into the morning-commute mix.
This week is going to be much better than the last few -- I already feel it. Plus I'm determined to make it that way. I'm focusing on the positive and the productive. And the hopeful.
See, I'm already at my keyboard, even before my next job starts!
With only two weeks left of school, this is the last week with any resemblance of normalcy in schedule. And even that is toyed with by a band concert, an evening orientation, and a daytime sports event that we'll need to attend. Next week -- promotion ceremonies and closure!!
I have a nice schedule in mind for summer. I'm a notorious late-sleeper if given the opportunity, but this year I want to be up and out for the lovely part of the mornings. So my daily routine will be something like this:
6 am - Wake up and Start Writing Fun Stuff/Stories
7 am - Bike Ride/Walk and Yoga
730 am - Leisurely Breakfast
900 am - Grant Work (Study/Project Time for Girls)
1100 am - Tidy/Clean House
Noon - Leave for Day's Activity
Out all day or
300 pm - Movies/Journaling/Naptime
530 pm - Evening Activity
8 pm - More Grant Work
11 pm - Bedtime
No driving, no drop offs, no lunches, no homework!! :)
What are your Summer Plans? Do you plan your time? How does Summer impact your work schedule?
Leave your comment below and I'll publish the best.
I've been thinking a lot lately about our summer plans. We don't have any grand schemes for travel or fun, but it will be nice to have a break from external structure.
It's a great opportunity to define for myself what matters to me and how I want to spend my time. Top priority on my agenda is more writing and more variety in writing. I've already created a rough schedule for each day to get me working more across the genres.
I'm also looking forward to exercising a great deal more. Without the need to follow the school bells, I can work out when I want and write when I want. And still have plenty of time to hang out and have fun with the family. I'll also be teaching more yoga classes as I fill in for vacationing coworkers.
There aren't too many things that the girls have to do this summer. I want them to brush up a bit on their typing and writing skills; beyond that they are solid with their academics and their activities. No big household projects are on the horizon either. Looks like we've settled most of those in the last two years. And no refinancing - Yay! - or other big revisions of the finances. Whew. That's still a relief.
We'll have more time off this summer than we've had in years and years - since before the girls started school. Usually a big block of "free" time freaks me out. But this time I cannot wait. I already have so many fun things to fill the time up, and plenty of just drifting and napping, too!
To really get our money situation into the black, I want to up my earnings significantly. Or bring in random money - that works too! I plan to have $55,000 more by the end of this year. That means I just need a way to make $15,000 every month this summer. I'm open to ideas right now. I also don't mind waiting a bit for the money to come through to me, just as long as I do the work part of it while I have more time. :)
The obvious answer is more writing projects. Putting more out there. Maybe I can do something around the ADHD - that's useful to a lot of people. Hmmm.
I don't really like cleaning our bathrooms. In fact, I almost hate it.
It's not the cleaning itself that bothers me. I rather enjoy the physical work that goes into making my home look nice. Rather, it's the self-talk that I hear whenever I clean the bathroom. For some reason, I am super critical about how a "clean" bathroom should look. I want it shiny and sparkly. And perfect.
So as soon as I start to wipe, in my mind I'm already telling myself that I'm not going to get it right. I'm going to leave streaks on the mirrors. There are going to be water drops that won't wipe off the faucets, and grime or mineral deposits that cling around the edges of the sink. The floor won't be completely dust-free. And so forth.
Now you could hear all those directions and judgments as a challenge, I suppose, and then use that as the standard of excellence that you strive to attain. But for me, it doesn't work like that. As soon as I pick up the Windex and start hearing that stream of commentary, I just get completely discouraged. Drained of energy and hopeless. Like why even try?
So I don't much like cleaning the bathrooms.
But it has to be done at some point, or they keep getting dirtier and dirtier. So usually I just grit my teeth and force myself through it.
But, today, today, I remembered a quote that I had read. Today I told myself, Look, you are doing the best you can. Just do it.
I give you permission to just do a Good Job.
And I realized that that was exactly the key. I don't need perfection. I don't need superlative results. I simply need to complete a good job and keep the bathroom sanitary and livable.
"The Perfect is the Enemy of the Good. Don't let the Good Pass You By."
I'm going to write those phrases on 3X5 cards and post them on the bathroom mirrors to remind myself. In all of life, and especially my writing, I need to remember to just do a good job. And then move on.
For some reason, yesterday I had a weird feeling about my tires. I checked all of them last week, and I checked them again yesterday. I didn't see anything wrong. When I left yoga, I didn't feel anything different in the drive of my car. Still when I stopped for lunch, I glanced at them again.
And when I got back in the car to head home, I thought, Gee, I hope they're okay. It is so meltingly hot. I would hate to have a blowout here on the freeway, hurtling along at 70 mph next to this concrete divider. In all this traffic. I hope I get home alive.
I picked up daughter 1 and came home. I looked at them again. Maybe the driver's front tire seemed a bit low so I planned to get some air in it later. I picked up daughter 2 and dropped off her friend. Two blocks from our house, we went through a dip in the road and I heard a weird noise. Immediately after I noticed the car felt slushy to turn. We got home and sure enough - Blow Out!!
The tire was completely flat and shredding apart.
I couldn't believe my good luck. After all that freeway travel and high speed driving, it fell apart right in front of my house practically. Within an hour, AAA had come out and put on the spare, and my husband took it down to the shop for a replacement. The tires are only one year old, but all the town driving I do kills them really fast.
I am so, so, so, so happy that it didn't explode while I was driving. Or leave me stranded somewhere far from the girls. It was the best tire loss that could have happened!!
I'm going through a creative slump lately. I have plenty of work to do -- I just don't feel very motivated to do it.
Everything seems dull and ordinary, like just running through the cycles of the same tasks again and again. Just blah. I guess maybe I'm a bit depressed. I sort of feel like that in all of life. Nothing's really wrong. In fact, I almost think things are going too well. There's no challenge or drama. Just the same ole stuff day after day. Make people food. Make them get up. Take them to school on time or late. Hustle around to errands. Eat somewhere. Be out. Try to write. Hustle home. Pick up kids. Do homework/housework/play dates/dinner. More homework. TV. Maybe exercise. Get to bed probably too late. Get up and do it again.
It doesn't help that the last few weekends have been busy and committed so there hasn't really been a break. Mother's Day was nice, but it was tiring. It's really about what my mother and my mother-in-law will enjoy. And the fathers. I would choose something entirely different for my own day to celebrate me. My daughters try really hard though and I appreciate that. They are great and, besides being a lot of work which they really can't help, are really great kids. They are even fun to be around - rare for teens.
It's a countdown to summer and then a whole bunch of time is going to open up. I have a hunch that I will fee entirely differently if I simply get two good full nights' worth of sleep in a row!
I think I'm going to look for a job. I love writing grants, but I miss having coworkers and a work place. I would like enough of a job that I get to go somewhere, see people, and do cool stuff, but not so much of a work commitment that I feel overwhelmed or can't take care of my family.
I have been thinking that being a bit less available would probably be a good push to my oldest daughter to grow up a bit more and be more responsible. Right now she knows that she can rely on me quite a lot.
I love doing my grants, but really I can do very well with that career in only part time hours. I have plenty of time to do something else too. And I think it would build up my energy a bit more. Sometimes now I sort of feel like I am just drifting along, from child care chore to child care chore.
I already found a good opportunity. I just need to think it over and decide if it is what I really want.
I just spent 30 minutes looking at ocean scenes from Google. Even looking at photos of water is shown to be soothing and calming to the brain.
Then I flipped through some of the photo albums I have stored in my hard drive. Aaahhh. We have certainly had a lot of fun together. 2010 was a really good year. The girls were old enough to travel well, but they look so little compared to now! They were so cute when we went places, with these elaborate outfits and poses. B was still carrying stuffed animals and dolls sometimes. I can tell what month it is by what city I see in the background, in the vacation spots and events we attend year after year.
Okay, my life is very good. I'll try to breathe and be happy. :)
Although things in my life are going very well lately, it seems like I have so much anxiety the last few days.
I think it's just a result of being overtired. Perhaps even low on some of my brain chemical stores from pushing myself all the time. The school projects just keep coming and the pace is relentless. Just day after day of having to get up and out the door.
If I could get to bed much, much earlier, I could adjust and catch up on my sleep. But I can't. There is just too much to take care of every evening. So I feel like we are always just that little bit behind.
And I know that I am not getting enough exercise either. That is such a mood lifter, but it's the first thing I let go of if my day gets too filled up. Ack.
I sooooooo do nnnnnooooootttttt like our school system. I just don't. I feel terrible saying that. After all the years I invested in it and was a big cheerleader for it. But I feel like it is trying to pigeon hole kids into spaces they cannot fit. It forces everyone to be alike, and roughs them up if they can't be, Agggghhh. My kids are doing really, really well. But it comes at a price of constant effort.
Part of almost every day last month was spent helping my eighth grader compose rough drafts for a huge Civil War Journal project that was due yesterday. You would think that after that 20 hours or so of labor that she would have been done.
But, no, finalizing the project and putting all the artifacts together took almost the entire weekend! Everything had to look "authentic." That meant me running out to the craft store to buy leather swatches and cords so that she could bind her journal in them. With all the editing we did Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, way more than I ever wanted to know about the Civil War was emblazoned in my mind. I couldn't close my eyes without dates and state names like Virginia and Pennsylvania dancing before me.
She had a field trip yesterday, so today I helped her transport her project to school for presentation. She had a huge leather hat box, filled with actual antiques my parents loaned her from their business. It must have weighed 50 pounds!
Somehow, this project got away from both of us and went WAY over the top. I'm glad that she's finally done. I'm sure she did well, but I'll be glad just to have some time free to do other types of writing!!
Wow. It has been one long busy week in the working mom writer juggle that is my life! A good one, very good. So much nice family time and tons of good work assignments too.
You can tell it's been a bit hectic by the fact that it's 9:20 pm on Friday, and I am "relaxing" and "kicking off the weekend" by standing in my kitchen laptop searching for new funders WHILE I watch our evening TV shows. Ahh, the bliss?
Anyway, I did have one nice break in my evening. I got to send back an email with my newest author bio. To accompany the STORY THAT I AM HAVING PUBLISHED SOON! Yes, I know it's happened before, but it is still exciting to me. I sent it in, and they took it. Yay. Soon my words will be out there in another format.
And the bio was fun to write. A bit whimsical, and absolutely a break from looking for health care funding. :)
It looks like I finally have some of the space that I have been longing for. How fun, how delightful, to have a space just for me and my words. I've been in such a good, good mood lately that I can't help but see this as a bonus of writing freedom.
With the turn of the year from spring towards summer, I feel invigorated and hopeful. Things in my life have been going really, really well - the hassles of school will continue to fade away as the year draws to a close, my daughters and I seem to have negotiated a peaceful co-existence where we enjoy each other's company. My husband and I have peace as well as fun and passion. So much so, that I don't really talk about my relationship very much these days except to mention to my friends that we are just fine, same as always, when they pause in the middle of discussing their own issues to ask.
Work is good and steady and there's no stressful fundraiser looming on the end of month horizon. That's a big change from the last decade! I'm even starting to feel that if I listed out my dream writing projects, I might actually make time to get into them, and make some headway over the long vacation!
And I'm feeling just really healthy and attractive, enjoying being in this skin and who I am, even if I'm not perfect and there are areas I would definitely like to improve. It just seems like improvements will only make things better! :)
I texted a friend yesterday and said we must get together this week -- it has been too long!
The only time slot we had in common was yesterday evening. So even though I've still got a full docket of writing, sunset found me at a table for two on the patio, watching the almost-full moon rise in the distance.
What I didn't know when I invited my friend is that she has been having trouble with her boyfriend again this week after a long period of calm. We really haven't had much time to catch up lately since we both work so much.
As she filled me in on all the latest twists and turns, at one point, she went back to one of her fears.
"You know I'm getting older," she said. "I just don't want to wind up alone, without anybody. After all, my birthday's coming fast and I'm about to hit my 47th year."
"Actually," I said, "it's 48th."
"You're turning 47, right? That makes THIS your 47th year. Your next birthday starts your 48th. You know, just to be accurate..." My voice trailed off as I realized perhaps this wasn't the most helpful observation on my part.
But she had already buried her face in her hands. "Oh, great," she said. "48th, then. I am starting my 48th year..."
We burst into delighted peals of the bitter, black laughter of aging female friends.
Well, I'm at my office again. Got one proposal done. Working on the next. Solved a technical problem I had accessing the next application on the website. Blah blah. Business as usual for a Tuesday.
I like my office. It is the outdoor patio of a café. There's a big wooden table, which sometimes I share with others, but today I have it blissfully to myself. At about four feet by eight feet, it's a great work desk. I'm under a tan canvas awning that creates the illusion of a square room around me. But outside the four pillars there is an expanse of sky and tree, with the blue and the birds. Bugs buzz by and the breeze moves the flowers and strawberries. A group of older people share coffee and chat at another table, providing the illusion of co-workers.
To take a break between my bursts of concentration on my grants, I like to doodle around on the internet. Today, I was researching the best jobs for those with ADHD. Unsurprisingly, lots of us either choose high-intensity jobs (doctor, firefighter, teacher) or become entrepreneurs. We do best with a high interest environment and some flexibility in our days. We don't like sameness in the physical environment or repetitive tasks. We do like clear deadlines and expectations to help provide structure. So I guess I'm in a good place for me.
The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books this weekend was a revelation. Not so much the event itself -- I have seen books by the table and authors by the panel many times before in the festival's 18 year run-- as the route taken to and from the day.
With traffic almost at a standstill as we tried to merge onto the 10 freeway, I decided to chance it with a city street route. Even plodding along through the byways and stopping at each intersection seemed more interesting than just idling on the freeway. And boy was it fascinating!
The area south of the 10 and east of the 110 offered us an education. I felt almost like a visitor in a different country, so different were the industrial buildings and tiny squat, stucco apartments from my own town. We drove past graying, fading warehouses; we drove past a huge Farmer John complex painted in a disturbingly cheery palette of blues and greens, hokey countryside scenes featuring fat pigs by the dozen, and showing hillbilly farmers in an odd juxtaposition of charm and menace.
The obvious poverty of the area shocked and appalled me. Even though I know that neighborhoods like this exist, still, driving past in the comfort of my car, and comparing my own home to the tiny, yardless ones all about me, made me very aware of the inequity of our economic system.
And yet, everywhere, human ingenuity and perseverance was on display. The people in the poor areas were every bit as busy living their daily lives as people anywhere else in the world. We passed an area with lots of foot traffic, grandmothers and uncles and whole families headed out to the Metro station or along the sidewalks. Sprouting up like mushrooms were tiny stalls selling whatever someone might buy. One entrepreneur had turned a shed into a small drugstore, with tables filled with deodorant and shampoo, diapers and household goods. Some sellers operated out of push carts; others had dragged a TV tray or two out of the house. Candy, flowers, hair ornaments, clothes -- anything you could think of was on sale in the small space between the road and the thick iron fences that held postage-stamp front yards away from the street.
For a block or so, each neighborhood had a certain flavor, a certain tone or feeling. Then just yards along the boulevard, that would subtly change. As the car moved along, the income level would go up or down. The ethnicity of the people by the homes would shift. And that juxtaposition, that dialing in of a neighborhood station only to fade into static and then become a different radio spot entirely continued every time we turned onto a new Los Angeles street.
Before the day was over, we had driven through some of the poorest areas of California all the way to the tony, wide-avenued, manicured-median wealth of Beverly Hills. I noticed that the drivers were much nicer near USC than they were in their rich streets in their rich cars. We ate at a sidewalk café and heard more than 20 irate honks within less than an hour, plus witnessed five near misses. In a hurry, and acting as if the world should yield to them, the BMW's and Mercedes swerved and swooped, squealing tires and yelling with their hands or horns. Back in the dusty, grim, iron fenced world, old and ragged cars had made their way slowly and deliberately along, careful not to cause an accident that no one could afford to deal with.
In every area, we visited we found the same thing in different ways. An odd juxtaposition of Charm and Menace.
I keep thinking that I will write all the great story and book ideas floating around in my mind when I get some time. You know, when life slows down a bit. When I have a glorious chunk of space.
So, yeah, right. Are you thinking the same thing I am?
That's never going to happen, is it? Life is never going to slow down. I am rarely going to find a luscious two or three (or more) hour block of "free" time in the middle of my days. So I'm never going to write all that stuff.
As long as I keep waiting.
So now, I'm doing what successful writers often do. I am writing in the tiny chunks of time around all the other tasks. In the ten or fifteen minute windows of waiting or transition. In the gaps of all the busy.
Just like they suggest in the London Underground, I will need to "Mind the Gap!"
By looking for those spaces and filling them with words that are fun for me, I can make my life better, and get more writing done as well!
The day is stunningly lovely. After four or five days of deep gray overcast and mist, today the sun is bright as diamonds in the sky. A cold, dry wind has swept in from the desert, taking away all the wisps of moisture and scrubbing the sky clean-blue. With the chill and the blow, it feels like November. As I go about my errands, I feel like I should be Christmas shopping.
My brain is happy because I have found a very nice new café to work at. And it's even close to my errands of the day, cutting down on my useless parking and transit time and leaving my some open space to play a bit with these words.
I hope you get everything you want out of this day. I hope all of my friends - and those yet to be friends - get happiness, security, achievement, and love - everything they could wish for.
Here's what I love about writing -- there's this amazing quality of connection that comes through in the act of writing or reading words. Read someone's words, and you hear part of their voice; you sense their breath, and part of what they are becomes part of what you are.
In writing, the illusion that we are all separated weakens and the feeling of understanding one another springs forward. I know that I love it when I read something with which I am in perfect sympathy, something that makes me say YES, nodding along as the writer captures a moment, an experience or a feeling I've had also.
I particularly like employing the second person in my writing -- there's this warm, personal quality that comes through in the words "you" and "your", a direct address that acknowledges the presence of the other, who is also a part of my own self. And the "you" applies to anyone; any reader who chooses to read my words becomes the "you" of my address. I love that!
So when my daughter asked me to go late to her first period today, I surprised her by just saying yes easily, and not giving her a big lecture/hassle about being two minutes late.
With all the sad news of the day, I didn't mind the chance to spend a bit more time with her, and to make her feel treasured.
We spent the extra time working on her history project. She has to become a Civil War soldier and write journal entries and letters about the major battles. It was interesting -- we had to do quite a bit of research just to create a realistic identity. Although the teacher wants all the students to be male soldiers, my daughter has decided to be a female, masquerading as male. Smithsonian.com alleges that there were at least 400 documented cases of just-such female soldiers in the war. Apparently the pay was about triple what a poor girl could make as a maid or laundress, some of the few jobs available.
I am so intrigued by these Civil War-era details that I'm wondering if I could write them up into a simple children's book. It makes me angry when the stories of real and diverse people become lost under a broad but incorrect narrative.
I don't know what to say or think about the tragedy in Boston. Such sadness and loss just leaves me pretty much speechless. So sad for those affected, and protective of those I know and love, which I think is a natural, instinctive reaction.
I do know this -- I do not believe that the world is becoming a worse place. I think that the world is pretty much as it has always been, that we have always had aggression within the human experience as well as senseless violence and tragic loss. In fact, I generally am of the opinion, that the world, as a whole, is getting better. We are safer and better off now than at any point throughout our history. Sadly, that overall picture isn't very helpful to individuals suffering through pain and devastation. I think all we can do is try to help however we can, even if it is mainly through prayer and loving intention.
It is painful when our illusion of security and permanence is ripped away, especially so needlessly and unexpectedly. For a long while, I've had a metaphor that I use in my own life to remind me not to take the day-to-day for granted. Because none of us will last forever. We are all just rabbits, going about our business. But somewhere, up there in the sky, is a hawk. And you never know when it will fall on you. In the meantime, be sure to enjoy the sunshine, the sweet grass, and the other bunnies.
The schedule is out for the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books 2013, happening 10 days from now at USC. I found some panels I want to attend and authors I'd like to meet, or hear speak again.
From the list of attending authors (here) there are great links to each author's website. Here's my new goal: From now until the festival, I want to click through to each and every author's site and browse their work and background. I know a lot of them, but some are completely new. Maybe I'll find out something I didn't know, or maybe I'll discover some new voices to follow.
I already found out that Francesca Lia Block offers online writing workshops. Cool.
For most of the years of my offsprings' childhoods, I have kept running "family journals" that depict high points, challenges, and the stuff of daily life that often gets forgotten if not recorded. I don't write everything; I only try to document the days most likely to become memories, and also the chance comments or interests or new skills that we wouldn't remember accurately. These journals have been immensely useful. Often when we discuss some past event or activity, we will look back to the journal and find out exactly the date or details. For example, we know every Halloween costume and every birthday party theme, as well as when the girls learned to bike, throw, skate, whistle, and so on.
In theory, these are family journals, and anyone is welcome to write or draw in them. We also paste cool stuff in, almost like a scrapbook. But in reality, I am the keeper of the journal and I am the only one who writes in them regularly.
Add a lot of times, sadly, I don't even do that.
So then I wind up just listing down the memories, and recording them later. And sometimes I even get behind on that. That's where I am now. The last entry I made in our current Family Journal is dated November 17, 2012. We were on vacation in Arroyo Grande. This week, I finally sat down, and with the aid of my calendar and finance notebook, reconstructed the events of the last five months. Now I just need to write the entries over the next few weeks.
Here's one thing I realized. Since January, we have been very busy. Lots has happened, from wedding to birthdays to a friend's cancer scare. In March, we were even more busy. It was just nonstop from day to day. No wonder it feels like time is going so fast.
No wonder I feel so tired sometimes! A lot is going on!
I've noticed that Life is naturally made up of highs and dips. You go through some good times; then you go through some tough times. If you hold on, it always changes around.
Right now is a bit tough with my teen. But just a bit. Of all the problems she could have, having trouble waking up early and getting going is not the worst. It's mostly just growing pains for her, adjusting to her continually changing self.
I just finished doing a lot of work on tight deadlines. Today, I looked around and realized that, with the start of a new month, my work list is almost empty right now. And nothing's on deadline. It feels weird. Sort of too easy and spacious. I know that I should enjoy the lull because soon enough work will come in to fill my time back up.
I was just going over some statistics for a client. As part of our work plan for this year, I analyzed 2012. We actually submitted less proposals than I would have estimated. HOWEVER, it turns out that 33% of what we submitted was actually funded. That's even higher than I thought!
We actually brought in half of all funds that we asked for. So this year, we're going to increase our grant activity ten-fold. Our goal is to generate ten times as many funds as we ever have. But we also have a solid plan with 100 funders to approach. I think we can hit our goal. Especially since they have a great new program in development that I think funders will really like.
And, added bonus, that means it's entirely reasonable for me to work ten times the amount of hours for them, AND to bill for ten times the income myself this year. Yay. It's a win all around!! :)
I'm just giving myself a virtual pat on the back here. I had actually considered this client as a hard-to-fund prospect because of the narrow nature of their mission. I'm shocked to see a 33% success rate in black-and-white! I guess that means I'm doing pretty well at writing for them!: )
Wow, it was really a fabulous vacation! Just having those two weeks where the pace and tempo of everything changed was exactly the break my family needed. Without a lot of external pressures, we were able to relax and have fun together. Turns out that both girls are wonderful people, and that we all like each other a lot. Our baseline setting is to be pretty amiable.
That's nice to know for when the stress starts to ratchet up again.
For spring, I'm more focused on keeping the stressors in perspective and keeping a warm, positive feeling in our family.
We didn't even do anything terribly exciting. Most of the time, we just hung around the house, or saw friends. But it was fabulous. Just the feeling of sleeping in and being contented was soooo nice.
I got tons of work done too. Turns out that the schedule that worked great for me was to sleep in till mid-morning then do whatever during the day. Then in the evenings, I'd sit in the family room with my family watching TV, and I would do my research or typing for three to five hours, staying up until around midnight. Even though I was a bit tired, I was relaxed because it was evening.
Now though I can't do that any more. To get up by 6:30 am for school, I have to be in bed by 9:00 or so, and I have to make sure the homework gets done in the evening hours. Oh well.
Only two short months, and then summer vacation starts!!
Once you've been involved with someone romantically, can you ever truly be friends with them again? I like to think that you can; it's what I've always believed. It just makes sense to me that once you've cared for someone, then it should be fairly easy to keep caring for them, at least enough to create some sort of friendship.
But maybe that's a bit naive and idealistic on my part.
Maybe once you've been in love with someone, you've experienced such a deep attachment, that it would be hard to ever really let go of that. So, you would constantly be having thoughts and opinions based on the bond that you had before. Or maybe the only way to transform that habit is through the process of practicing a new habit, of indeed practicing a satisfying friendship.
I mean, that must be how successfully divorced couples do it. The ones who become friends and partners must practice a new habit, while the ones who cling to the old relationship mire in bitterness and acrimony.
I'm giving my brain a change up and writing at one of my favorite locales. I've still got quite a few proposals for this week and even a deadline tonight, but I'm sick of sitting at the kitchen table, so I thought I might get more done if I was out somewhere.
It is amazing here.
The late afternoon sun is beaming through the tree branches. A bit ago, everything was gold and backlit with shiny edges. Tiny gnats flying around looked like stars dancing in the air. Now It's shifting to silver and deep greens. The air is growing cooler, and the light is slipping away imperceptably. A green throated hummingbird flits between lemon blossoms. The happy fountain to my left burbles and bubbles, and I revel in being all alone in this wondrous space.
This wondrous space with a sturdy table and bench and amazing free wi-fi. It truly is perfect.
Ever since I read Sophie Kinsella's book I've Got Your Number, I feel rude and churlish if I don't end my text messages with either a smile emoticon or hugges-and-kisses xoxoxo's. I never would have thought of it before the main character scolded someone for not using them. Now I almost always use them for my family, at least. It's like my signature sign off.
My daughter read the book - she's a huge fan, just like me - so she does it too! And the other one picked it up from us. We're very warm in my family. : )
Even though it's "vacation" time, I am hard at work, typing away. I wanted to play some music to distract the restless part of my brain that always prowls around when I am working.
I listened to the beautiful "Sweet Disposition" by The Temper Trap and then I wanted to hear this song I know I posted on my blog. But I couldn't remember the artist or the title. Or what the song was about. Or the lyrics or tune. I just know I liked it a lot and it's catchy. I thought it was by a group called Sunsplashed Day in the Truck or Sunspot Truck. Something like that.
Searching my blog yielded nothing. Well, searching for "truck" did pull up a funny anecdote I wrote one day in CBTL, so that made me laugh. I tried googling but came up with zero. So finally I just went through my post titles and found it in February.
Turns out is Silversun Pickups. Lazy Eye. Oh well, I was close.
Having the past week of vacation has been soothing and relaxing. We've done fun things but tried not to be too scheduled.
The minute vacation started, literally the first Friday night, I radically altered my sleep schedule. I don't know if I'm choosing my own natural pace or just matching my rhythm to J's, but I'm staying up til midnight and sleeping until at least 9:00 or 10:00 am. It's such a relief to wake up when I want to! And not to have to constantly nag at other people about where to be.
I find myself writing in the evenings now, getting going around 6:00 or 7:00 pm and working past 11:00. I don't know if I would keep this schedue forever. Given a few more unstructured weeks like this, I might prefer to shift back towards being awake earlier in the mornings. But I am enjoying it for now!
Last week, we had one of J's friends stay with us for three days. It was weird always having an extra kid or so around, like our family suddenly expanded. But she fit right in. In fact, we had others of their friends over each day as well, so there would usually be somewhere between three and six girls hanging out in our living room. Can I just say how very, very grateful I am that they are a group of girls and not boys?? I think that would be a whole different story! But I like the girls, and they like me, so we had lots of fun together.
Thursday I took four of them to the mall and that was just a blast. I let them do whatever they wanted while I just trailed around after them. For a long time, they tried on fancy prom dresses together and giggled and I was free to do my own shopping and periodically check on them. Then we spent a lovely hour or so in Sephora - a magical place of make up - while they sampled nail polishes and I bought birthday presents. Now, I am not at all interested in trying to "fit in" with this group. They are young, and I am the adult. But it did bring back memoreis of my own teen years when my friends and I used to go to the same mall. Now is so, so much better!!
Now, I have my own sense of style. My hair always looks good. I'm not looking for a boyfriend, Thank God. And I have a job, a car, and a credit card. Much more fun in every way! We had a good time together doing our girl-fashion-shopping thing. Having them around made vacation fun for the girls and fun for me too. And S didn't seem to mind. (Although he did decline to join in on the mall trip.)
This weekend was about my friends. We joined my group in San Diego and had a nice get together with my French friend and her group. It was nice to hear French again, and sit around snacking and drinking wine. It's everything I ever dreamed of all those years when I was learning French word by painstaking word. Suddenly, one of the women decided we should go to the beach for sunset. So we all leapt into our cars and went. We were eight adults and ten kids, trailing along the beach, digging in the sand, the kids turning cartwheels, the adults grouping up to chat in French and English -- just meadering along and watching the view. What a perfect day!
Hope your days are good as well -- relaxing and giving you all the stress-free sleep you want!
I finally started a new blog. This one is in my own name. My real, full name. With everything difficult finally moving behind me, I wanted a chance to put my own message out. To see my own words under my own name and feel proud about it.
My thinking is that after a few years of regular posting, I will have completely reclaimed this identity for my own self and own purposes. Instead of pulling up the past, a search will pull up my musings and meaderings on a subject that is an integral part of my life now. A neutral/positive message that I create myself.
It is indeed possible to create or re-create one's self. It all begins with the energy of intention.
"Our lives are not as limited as we think they are; the world is a wonderfully weird place; consensual reality is significantly flawed; no institution can be trusted, but love does work; all things are possible; and we all could be happy and fulfilled if we only had the guts to be truly free and the wisdom to shrink our egos and quit taking ourselves so damn seriously."
We used to practice this in yoga teacher training. It seems ridiculously silly, but singing it through a few times really does make you feel better. More hopeful and whole, and less worried about life.
(Tune of Momma's Little Baby)
Every single cell in my body is happy
Every single cell in my body is glad
I'm so glad
I'm so glad
Every single cell in my body is glad...
We really are made up of an astonishing number of cells, which for the most part, work together in an amazing perfection of cosmic beauty. We shouldn't take that intrinsic, esoteric beauty for granted. Inside lies more freedom, space, peace and love than we even imagine. Truly.
I got to teach two yoga classes this morning. Back to back.
I am thoroughly relaxed and stretched out.
I had a bit of a hiccup with the CD player, but I solved it by staying calm. When it wouldn't play, I tried what I could. Then I stopped and got the class going. When I had a pause in the istruction, I took a breath and tried again. When it didn't work, I accepted that there would be no music for class this day.
Then I thought to try to universal solution to electronic problems. I turned it off, waited five minutes, and turned it back on. Success! The lilting notes of joy filled the room.
This day is so peaceful without the time pressure of school! I'm going to write a bit, then have my parents over for dinner. Then write more.
Ooh. And I keep having good ideas for the possible novel. Hmm.
Oh my. It is the very first day of vacation -- just a Saturday really -- and I already feel like a whole new person. I slept a blissful, uninterrupted sleep and actually dreamed my dreams that free my mind from some of its problems. I had a slow late morning and now I've slipped away from my family. Because I need to work at least four hours each day these next two weeks, it seemed logical to leave them lounging at home and come out to a cafe where I feel more of a "work context." I'll have plenty of time to write at home as well, but I know that I need the different environments to keep from getting bored.
(I still get bored. And restless. But that's just the damn ADD. I try to simply cope with it as much as I can.)
It's working great so far! Yesterday I had a blank page devoted to describing a program I've been writing about for four years. I wanted to take it down to nothing and start from scratch. Today, I just finished 1000 words of good depiction. Just a bit more, and I can call that template done.
And... AND... I am still churning around that flip idea I threw out yesterday. I really could write a novel based on this blog. I've got over four years worth of material and ideas right here in front of me, which would easily turn into fiction. I've got experience with both memoir and fiction techniques. AND I certainly have some conflicts which could hook a reader. (Nothing like a bit of conflict to keep the plot going midway through. What will happen next? A fiery showdown? Another chance meeting? Nothing at all ever again? Only time will tell.)
I went back and picked a random date just to see what I was writing about in the past. I also thought it might be fun to look for correlations. This is from February 6, 2012:
“All the best stories in the world are but one story in reality,
the story of escape.
It is the only thing which interests us all and at all times,
how to escape.”
– Arthur Christopher Benson (1862-1925)
I just slept 12 hours straight. I didn't have to wake up for anything.
I had the most lovely dreams. Very calm and friendly. I kept dreaming about hanging out with old friends and boyfriends, chatting and getting re-aquainted. In my dreams, everyone looked good and was getting happier. My subconcious must be fairly benevolent. : )
Now I'm awake, and slowly going about the day. I probably still will empty the dishwasher -- it's a habit too engrained to break, and, since I am hungry too, I will cook a hot breakfast for the lot of them out of pure loving generosity. But that's it. No yelling at anyone to get dressed! No driving anywhere before my eyes can even focus!
In fact, I've got a bit of writing to do on this lovely Saturday.
I'm doing my normal Friday activities. I tidied. I went to a cafe and wrote while drinking coffee. I made some progress. Especially considering I started from scratch with a blank page.
I stopped in time to go to the Farmer's Market. I bought produce and snacky-stuff for some friends coming over tonight. It just wasn't fun. I feel bleah. Bored, and tired. Wanting to be left alone by the people around me. Not at all like my usual self. Perhaps it's the weather. We vaulted from cold rain straight to brassy heat in the high 90s. It feels like Spring just got skipped. Perhaps it's just accumulated fatigue.
All I know is I drove past three yard sales, and I just didn't care. I didn't even want to buy anything. That's not like me at all!!
I didn't even enjoy grocery shopping. And usually that's my favorite.
While driving, I was thinking about writing. Imagine having a sense of the aesthetics of the written word. Imagine noticing whether a sentence is elegant or clunky, whether it sings or stumbles, whether it is lithe or wordy. Imagine having to have that on your mind. Like there's not enough other stuff in life to keep us occupied! Caring about writing -- "it's a blessing... and a curse..."
Both of my daughters got to their respective schools before the bell rang today. Both.
I think it's a new record. It may be the first time we've had correct attendence in two weeks. Or maybe three. Or possibly longer.
All I know is we've been getting mean calls from J's school threatening her with discipline if she is absent any more. But since this is the last day of the quarter, the attendence tally will start fresh in April. Whew. We made it right to the line.
(Stop laughing at me. This is really, actually very hard. You know I've never been that great with time just on my own, and now I have to move other people around based on time. I don't even like Time. I only partly believe in it. Time knows it, too.)
I'm tired, but I'm looking forward to catching up on sleep during the blessed, blessed respite of vacation.
I've got tons and tons of work to look forward to as well. So much that it almost feels a bit daunting. I've been in the habit of procrastinating but now I'm having to sit my writer brain down and have a bit of stern talk with it. Just get started. Pick one thing and write one page. You know, that sort of thing.
I do have 25 proposals to do between now and the end of the month. Realistically, I doubt I'll get to all of them, but I can carry some forward into April. It does feel wonderful to have guaranteed work. I sat down yesterday and split the first parts I need to do into manageable chunks. My job today is to write a new program description backed up by whatever research I need to do. I think I can get that done. Then tomorrow a description of the other program. Then on to a new need statement. And so on.
Once I get some new generic parts written, I'll put them together into the tailored proposals. It should turn out really well, but right now I'm at the super-fun/terrifying blank page part.
Here's the thing: It's a really, really good job. I try to remember to appreciate it.
(Like my Monk allusions? We just finished back to back watching all eight seasons. It took us a few months, and now I'm sort of lost without my friend Monk showing up in the living room every evening. He's such a nice guy, and a very interesting character. )
I've had a lovely morning. Spent those extra hours with my daughter since she missed first period again. At this point, I'm just being calm. Making the most of the time. We sat down together and went through her social studies chapters on The Civil War. At least she's bright and learns quickly. Just one more day --ONE MORE DAY!! -- and then vacation starts and we get to FINALLY sleep in a bit.
Then I went to a nice yoga class. And now I'm here. Typing away. Actually getting my work week going. I told you that I decided to give up on Mondays and Tuesdays and just start the week on Wednesdays or even Thursdays and then work straight through the weekend. I decided that I actually have more time and energy available on Fridays - Sundays since there is no drop off/pick up or homework to hassle with.
I counted. Yesterday I had to be at a specific place at a specific time to drop off or pick up TEN times between 7:30 am and 3:00 pm. That's right. That is more than once per hour. So now I don't even stress the writing.
Bad news is that I have enough other stuff to do all the time that I think I could probably procrastinate my writing indefinitely and never run out of other things that need my attention. So at some point, I do just have to sit down and get it going, even when the homework and laundry isn't done.
And I know that this is my bad for trying to work in a public setting but geez these ladies near me are bugging me. Thank God they finally just got up and left. I'm in a nice little patio and since all the other tables were full, I said they could share my large one. But I've never seen people shift around in their seats and pound/lean on/lean away from/lean back on a table SOOOO much. My computer keeps dancing around like a jumping bead. I can ignore their conversation, but please, please just hold still. But I know. If I wanted stillness and isolation, I could just stay at home. So I shouldn't complain.:)
Speaking of complaints... I keep asking questions. And I keep getting zero answers. It sort of makes my head hurt. In the absence of a response, I tend to create my own story. And here's the thing. My own narratives tend to be pretty nice. In the stories I tell myself, people are basically happy. They have some sense of resolution and meaning. They aren't just consumed by aching angry bitterness. But I just had the experience of finding out that real life ISN'T like the story I had. The real life guy actually seemed pretty darn angry. To the point where I'm checking my back when I'm out in town now, keeping my eye out for a sea-green Corolla. In fact, a friend honked at me when I walked out of yoga and I just froze in caution.
At least it's nice to be free. I do keep realizing how nice it is not to feel warded away from basic life. I'm enjoying being in the parks again, especially with the nicer weather. Anyway, best to all on this sunny Thursday.