Thursday, January 31, 2013

Planning, Planning

Both girls and I woke up groggy and achy today. Being dutiful, I got myself up and made all the meals and tried to wake everyone up in time for school. But they just weren't with it.

So I said forget it. I'm not in the mood for school either. If you feel half-sick, stay home and rest. Avoid that terrible (deadly) flu making the rounds. I don't even care right now about stupid grades and all that. I mean, they are smart girls so they learn no matter what we do.

So, we're home. Although I'm tired, I'm starting to feel slightly more cheerful. More hopeful. By the end of the night yesterday, I was wiped out exhausted. So tired I started crying with frustration. Then I stopped because it was too much work to cry. :)

So now I'm thinking about all this work that I put so much pressure onto myself about. I read some book review in the LA Times that made me think about writing. 150,000 words was cited as a goal length for a novel. Hmmm, I thought. Hmmm. Let's do a bit of math. Yeah. That's 500 words a day for 300 days. That's a novel in a year.

I write 500 words a day easy, just here. Now, I know a novel is VERY different. It has structural demands, plot, more to sustain -- all of that. But, still....

The ADD part of my brain is very intrigued. And you know what kind of novel I want to write. Nothing literary. Usually my writing is VERY literary. All symbolic and moody and just meaningful. But you know what I like to read? Engaging, well-written books about women like me. Books about easy events in life that can take my mind off of my own day for a bit. Books with relationships and mild drama, and food and friends and shopping. Shopaholic series books are my ideal fun reads.

I'm also still wanting to do the children's books. And maybe some freelance articles. And some nonprofit topic articles. Plus the grants. I'd like to do about 3 hours per day on grants. 1-2 hours on other writing. And then an active, completely different job. Something out in the world where I get to move around a lot and be a bit bossy and help others. Something that can segue into a full time position in three years when the girls hit high school. In time for me to be full-time employed before college payments begin.

Does that sound reasonable?

So I would have to plan my writing time, then mostly show up at the page. Designate one of those days a week for articles. Research job possibilities that I like. Keep building my steady grant business. Spend some time each week increasing my knowledge base there and making contacts. Maybe join some organizations and network a bit. Keep doing yoga three times per week. Keep doing mom stuff. And just blend it all together.

So... 5:30 - 6:30 am Writing
8:30 am - 11:30 am Grants
Noon - 4:00 pm Yoga and errands
4:00 - 6:00 pm Dinner and chores
6:00 - 8:00 pm Research, Networking, Business Building

Okay, that's the only schedule I come up with, over and over. It's dictated by the school day and my responsibilites. Maybe I could work two days per week, and extend the morning work schedule into Saturdays.

Goals -
Write 2 articles per month.
Write 2 children's stories per month.
Publish 5 children's stories within 3 years.
Write one novel per year.
Publish a novel within 4 years.
Write 5 grants per week/20 per month.
Earn base income.
Earn future income.
Find job in 2015. Work 25 years.
Save enough money to pay for two college educations in total.
Pay off house within 10 years.
Save for retirement.

The Unexpected Knock

Yesterday got better as it went on. I calmed down enough to write a decent email. I met a good friend for coffee. Even though we have only seen each other a few times in the last two years, we always feel close. We bonded during tough times in both our lives, and it's a lovely, robust friendship that we both enjoy. I picked up the girls and got them snacks. I did some laundry and called my parents to confirm our dinner plans. Then I dutifully got right to work.

There I was, at my screen, moving back and forth between several projects for different clients and trying to at least get some smaller tasks done in the few hours before I had to produce dinner when it happened.

A knock at the door.

A firm knock. Unexpected. I peered outside and saw a young teen. I thought she was selling something - we get that. But when I opened it, it was one of J's friends. Apparently, her cell phone has been missing since the sleepover. Her mother had driven her over - without even calling first - with orders that she was to search and find it.

Ookkaayy... uh.... come in?

 I couldn't say no. I mean a missing cell phone represents hundreds of dollars. And this is the last place she saw it. And J had mentioned it to me once or twice, but I thought she had looked in her room already. And that maybe her friend had already found it. So on one hand, I felt pretty terrible that it had already been 11 days and we hadn't looked for it very well.

On the other hand, it was completely inconvenient. Good manners dictated that I invite her mother in to help look. I mean, I couldn't really leave her in the car. We're not close friends, and have only met a few times, so I'm sure she felt pretty awkward too.

And then we started searching the entire house. Lifting couch cushions. Moving furniture. Peering into corners. I was forced to see all the areas where I've kind of been glossing past the deep cleaning, out of time constraints. At least the house was basically tidy. Thank God, there's nothing here that we're trying to hide!!

J's room is 14 year old extreme. You couldn't even see the floor. I had to take armfuls of clothing and general clutter out and into my room so that we could thoroughly search. I even had to strip down her bed and completely take it apart to check behind, around, and between the layers. The OCD part of my brain was freaking out. The whatever-part-of-her-brain that makes J feel safe with all her stuff right around her was freaking out. It took almost an hour and a half of searching. I got no work done. I didn't get dinner ready.

By the time, my parents arrived we were all in terrible moods, and J and I were sick of each other and actively squabbling. She told me I couldn't go back in her room. And I said that I wasn't in the mood and if she complained one more time, she didn't have to HAVE a room. I would throw all her stuff away, take over the room, and she could sleep in the family room. That's pretty drastic for me. Normally I'm Mr. Nice Guy, but she could tell from my tone I meant it.

It took another hour of cleaning to put her room back in order. NOT what I had planned for the evening.

Oh my God, do I try!!

At least her friend found her phone.

I Try, Oh My God, Do I Try

One of my older daughter's clever friends loves pop culture, and obscure comic stuff. Apparently she found a He-Man cartoon mash up with this song. So she walks around school, reeling it off at the slightest provocation. And now J has picked that up from her. So she does it at home. It's always funny since I can just picture her friend's overdramatic rendition.

Now I've doing it . Memes. They're everywhere!

This is exactly how I feel about school this week.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

It's nice. Right??

Okay, here's the email I finally drafted. Geez. School.

I am truly sitting here wondering if we could just drop out of school and learn from home. I don't know if that would work, logistically and interpersonally, but I do get SO tired of it and its neverending falderol!
Mrs. H-

Sorry about this morning - I didn't want to disrupt classroom activities. We've just been struggling a bit to get B to eat a good breakfast before she heads off to school. I can wake her up on time, and provide a hot breakfast for her, but ultimately she has to eat it. Today, as often, she avoided it and then brought it in the car and then didn't eat.

I just feel that on a daily basis she needs to have at least some food in her stomach to prepare her for the activities and learning of the day. I know when she doesn't eat enough, she complains of being tired, and not concentrating at school, and she's in a worse mood. I would have preferred that she take a few bites without having to leave class, but if I needed to remove her to have her realize how important nutrition is to her health and learning, I am willing to do that.

We will continue to try to address this at home, as well as get her more sleep time. I'm really sorry that it worked out that she missed out on the opening activities - she was very worried about being behind.

Just wanted to fill you in, and thank you for your support.

Ah... the Mornings... Land of Conflicts

I have a difficult relationship with our current school system. I really don't think it's working.

Had a little run in with my sixth-grader's teacher this morning. I'm thinking of emailing her, but I can tell that my tone is still too snippy. I'm still too frustrated and angry to be sincere.

Look, I know teaching is a hard job. I know that teachers are out there giving it their best and that they are up against a lot of daunting challenges day to day. But they just have so much power over our lives. More power than they realize, since the force of law is literally behind them, and since their judgments potentially have so much influence over any one child's future.

I just hate that. No institution should have that much power over an individual's life. So underneath the caring and the niceness and the good work of learning, that is the harsh fact that rubs me raw.

Basic problem is that B is tired in the morning. School starts too damn early. There's no viable reason why children need to be up and out and learning before 8:00 am. In my opinion, 10:00 am is much more reasonable. No matter how we try, it is impossible to get to bed in time for the ten or so hours of sleep that an adolescent requires.

So, in the morning, B won't eat. There's a hot breakfast sitting there, and she'll just pass it by. She's not hungry, and she's rushed. But, later, she is hungry. And then I'm sure she can't concentrate. I'm sure she gets headaches and hunger pangs. And not having the right energy at the right time can wreak havoc with her immune system, hormones, and mood. So it sets her off on a bad cycle, that perpetuates itself.

Today, I made her a poptart. Not the best food, but easy and appealing to eat. It was organic, at least, and chemical free. She refused to eat it at home, I brought it in the car, she didn't eat it there, I told her to take it with her and eat while she walked to class. She left it behind.

I parked the car, grabbed it, and followed her all the way to her classroom. Class was just starting. I told the teacher that she had been too tired to eat and asked if she could just eat very quickly right now. I mean, I just wanted her to take two or three bites. How long does that take? 15 seconds? a minute? Literally, one minute to create better health and learning. I asked if she could eat it there or if I had to take her home. And the teacher said, She can't eat in class. Just sticking to the rules without really evaluating the situation. Sort of horrified.

So, I took her out of class. And took her home.

B was mortified in front of all her classmates. She missed all the initial morning work and turning in assignments. She had to ride back home, pick up J, ride to J's school to drop her off, and ride back to school. I had to park again, walk her into the office, and clear her tardiness for a health-reason. Something that could have taken 30 seconds took 15 minutes.

But... she ate.

And I made my point about what really matters the most.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


Thank God.

It took hours and hours of searching, with cleverly defined parameters, but I have finally managed to find more than 100 likely funders for a client this year. That gives me about nine proposals or applications to prepare for them each month and should, hopefully, give me a secure base of work for them through 2013.

Cause that's my house payment right there!!

Awards Assembly

Just put in my mandatory appearance at January's student of the month assembly to clap and beam as B got a medal for being one of the school's ten Science Fair winners.

Both of my closest school-mom friends were there; one's daughter was student of the month, the other won Science Fair along with B. In fact. all five of the fifth and sixth grade winners were girls, which was interesting.

Here's something I noticed: you really can't seat a bunch of elementary school-moms in folding chairs lined up right next to each other. We just don't fit. It made for a very close and supportive bunch of parents as we sat leg to leg, side to side, and shoulder to shoulder, having to coordinate our clapping.

In the parking lot, some of my favorite moms got a bit rowdy as we agreed on what a hassle science fair projects are in general, and how very little the teachers comprehend just how much work goes into them. The real creativity comes out in trying to find an idea that works and in trying to get the stupid experiment done right. One mom had us in stitches with her tale of pulling data off the internet, and then trying to speed-dehydrate fruit enough to take photos before the project was due. They only had a few hours so they used the oven, foil, heat lamps and even a hair dryer. That's the real spirit of Science, right there!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Two Jokes

Nobody reads this blog to feel down. I know that my job here is to chirp and provide some stable structure. Something to depend on. So here's a couple of great jokes I've heard lately:

Dear Algebra: Please stop asking us to find your ex. She's not coming back....
And don't ask why.

The Past, the Present, and the Future walked into a bar...
It was tense.

I'm About to Edit

Sometimes I just need to write to say things, but I don't feel like I have to leave them just hanging out there in the world indefinately.

It's not really any of the world's business.

Just between me, the words, and the reader.

Nothing To Mope About

Really... nothing? Nothing, nothing, no thing, not a thing, nothing...

Alright then. I don't really have time to mope about.

I'm off to teach yoga, and see my friends, and my parents, and my other students.

And then I'll have to go somewhere cheerful and pretty and buy a coffee and bring this laptop with me. And write.

So, I'll feel pretty happy. And probably get some good work done.

Next up for me is planning what to start submitting. Then figuring out where.

And on the grant front, I've got 30 hours this week. Then I'll approach new nonprofits next month. And it wouldn't hurt to start a series of articles under my name published online either.


Oh well.

I knew that a request probably wouldn't yield much response. That's okay. Big picture, it's just me here. Just me, in myself, at my keys. Just me, deciding what to do next. Deciding how to feel. Deciding the course of several people's lives day by day, since for some reason they all think that I'm the one with the responsibility to handle it.

Our finances really need to improve. This weekend I started encouraging my husband to take up gambling as a hobby. I wasn't kidding. He's pretty good at poker, and plays online all the time. So I said, Why don't you take a set amount of money and see if you can create income? Sort of a side job.

That's how much we need to create alternate revenue streams.

This morning I was thinking of a quote I like by Ray Bradbury. About how when you sit down to write your story, it is just you there. You are the one who determines everything, regardless of what other people think. It's like that in life too. What I do is up to me:

"All you umpires, back to the bleachers. Referees, hit the showers.
It’s my game. I pitch, I hit, I catch. I run the bases.
At sunset I’ve won or lost.
At sunrise, I’m out again, giving it the old try.

And no one can help me. Not even you."

- Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451, Coda


Here's the thing with the ADD...

Often I feel like I want to be doing two or three things at the same time. So I'll be working on one project, but want to be doing another. Or writing a story but want to blog. Even sometimes when I watch tv, I want to watch two shows... at the same time.

But then not at the SAME time as I wouldn't enjoy either one. Actually I generally don't like that kind of cluttery noise.

So that's a bit distracting. I'm trying to concentrate on one thing, and thoughts of another keep cropping up.

Do you ever feel that perhaps you are not the most competent person to be left to manage all the details of life? I do sometimes. Sometimes I walk from room to room of my house and I am reminded of various tasks - laundry, bills, work, writing, getting my daughters more organized - and I just feel overwhelmed. Like really somebody besides me should be in charge of these things. You know? :)

At least I have good friends. I'm actually really looking forward to teaching yoga today. And just now a friend called to say she's coming to class, and she's bringing another friend with her. So that will be nice. And another friend wanted to meet for coffee. But she can't do it after yoga, so we'll meet later this week. So that's at least two coffee dates I already have lined up.

Yeah. I'm not lonely. The only challenge is trying to stay focused enough to get what I need to get done, done.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

God's Words

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

This verse was on a poster on the wall of the plain and chilly room where I spent my morning. The room was in a shabby church, in the poorer part of town. In fact, the area was so poor that there were no wi-fi signals present at all, not even secured ones.

So why was I there?

I'd been asked to fill in as secretary at the board meeting of a religious nonprofit. I served for a few years on their board, when my family was more involved with structured religion, and today the normal secretary couldn't be there. So I was happy to donate a few hours of my time and capture minutes for them. I liked the cause at the time - prison ministry, something that I believe serves a real need for people suffering through incarceration. Even at the time, I didn't care much what the doctrine being ministered was. I felt that it would help those who needed it, and those it didn't speak to could find something else. But when I moved away from the church, and became more of a generalist, more encompassing in my beliefs, I didn't feel comfortable remaining on the board.

If I was going to devote myself to any spiritual prison ministry now, it would probably be to bring yoga behind bars. That's what I believe in the most, in my own life. Yoga is commune with God, no words required.

Still though, I liked the verse on the wall enough to note it down. I've certainly felt that way myself at times in my life.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Give Me An Inch

I loved this song in high school, aand I still love it now. It might have a cheesy 80s sound  but

it's got a good message.

Back to My Natural State

A very mellow Saturday. I slept in and stocked up on sleep, then met a few friends for coffee and chat. Back at home, the family was mellow. They didn't want to go anywhere in particular. So much for my hopes for the coast and the mall. It had stopped raining, but it was still grey and cloudy enough that I didn't mind hanging out at home.

But first, I had to go take care of a matter of personal grooming. I wanted my fake nails OFF. I subjected my hands to acrylic tips two weeks ago, as a bridesmaid criteria for the wedding. The French manicure was lovely. My nails were long and glossy. And oddly false. They felt like the plastic they were, and clicked disconcertingly when I typed. Plus they kept hitting the wrong keys and making me mess up my texts. They were three times as thick as my usual nails. And after a few weeks, they were starting to peel a bit around the edges and feel sort of itchy. So I gave the shop more money to take them away.

That was the most uncomfortable process I've ever had done in a salon. It involved rounds of soaking my hands in pure acetone - which I hope doesn't make my skin peel - and then having the layers of plastic actually buzz-filed off the surface of my real nail. The acrylic started to melt and stick to my fingertips. Bits of filings flew through the air, so much so that I closed my eyes to protect my vision. The kicker was when the manicurist had to use a new plastic nail to pry the fake ones off the top of mine. It felt soooo odd.

At the end, my nails looked terrible. They are ragged and thin. Their surfaces are all scratched and marred. I came home and soaked in oil and then buffed and buffed. But now they can grow back.

And at least they are all mine. Ahhh, functional nails again.

Friday, January 25, 2013

A Grey Friday Morning While My Dog Whines to Come Inside

I'm in an off mood today.

But I can't afford to just give in to it.

For one thing, there's a steady drizzle from a grey sky. Normally, I'd love that, but I have to drive 60 miles today and I'm hoping the freeways won't be a slog. Also, both were late for school due to the full schedule of the week and the weather. In fact, B is still sleeping which means I have to take her late, with an excuse, and so my mom drop-off duties aren't really done yet. So I don't feel clear to move on to work.

I'm heading out to the nonprofit for probably the last time today. There's a potluck to commemorate its upcoming closure. I don't even know if I'll know any of the people who attend, but I feel I have to go say goodbye. So that promises to be a few hours of being forced to re-visit the past. Driving the route, remembering the memories. All that jazz.

I'm not that sad. My sadness has occured over time and bit by bit, so it's pretty worn through. This feels like something inevitable that calls to be accepted. But it certainly isn't vitalizing either, so I'm not exactly bubbling over with joy and enthusiasm just this minute.

Plus I still have so much work to do that I just haven't been able to get through. I spent almost three hours yesterday preparing and eating dinner with my parents, and then another three hours helping my older one through her homework. It never stops, the load of schoolwork for her to get through. I hope she, and I, will make it through high school okay. Meanwhile, my own professional responsibilities pile up. I really am stuck between trying to make the money we need to survive, and providing the physical support my family needs day-to-day. I can't be in two places at once, even as I did sit at the table last night, laptop in front of me, searching funders, while trying to chat with my parents and answer J's questions. Splitting my attention like that is tiring too.

I wanted to get to 20 hours this week. I think I have 11 more to do. That means working through the weekend I guess.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

For the Editing/Revision That Comes Next

"Picture book pacing is a combination of text on the page, text-free pages, punctuation, page turns, timing and breathing."

From -
And now: a great guest column from picture book writer Jean Reidy, and her thoughts on the Top 10 Picture Book Takeaways from the Rocky Mountain SCBWI Conference. The panel she’s writing about was led by kids book editor Allyn Johnston and kids book illustrator Marla Frazee.


A Healthful Life

This small local cafe has changed its name again. I haven't been here in a few months. Truthfully the internet is too slow to make this the best work location. I'm not known as the most patient of workers. Now I know that's because the ADD makes me want to shift my attention too quickly.

It pays off in other ways though, so I'll just live with it. (The ADD, not the slow internet. That's just annoying.)

I do like this cafe. It's pretty and it's in a great location. I like the view from the huge windows, especially on a cloudy day like today with drizzle threatening to arrive any minute. It's only a few minutes from yoga, so it's convenient to drag myself over here after class while I'm still in my yoga-stupor of relaxation and release and probably shouldn't be driving on the freeway yet. :)

Today the cafe is crowded. I'm surprised. I only got a table because some nice older gentlemen left as I walked in. There's almost too much of a hum in the air, and it's a bit stuffy in here. Uh oh. Could I be getting used to working in silent isolation? The horror! How will I make my next set of friends if I only linger in my own kitchen?

I can't decide if my writing spurt here is an uptick in my productivity or pure procrastination. If I'm not going to find funders, I should at least work on a story or two. Or find markets for the ones I have in my files. But it's easier just to stay here, word by word, and my brain craves the easiest and fastest reward.

I did find a new vein of funders I'll need to mine today. I counted them up and I'm still looking for about 45 more for 2013. So I've got to get a bit more creative and find new pools to tap. (mixed metaphors - oh well).

I didn't work at all yesterday but that wasn't my fault. My whole day got focused around medical care. My older daughter has a crazy rash at the nape of her neck. I took one look at it and called the doctor. That scared her a bit. I almost never take anyone for medical treatment. My standard line is, "give it time, your body can fix it." But this spot looked weird and beyond my experience.

Turns out that it's nummular eczema. Which is pretty much fancy Latin for "circle of itchy, red skin." So I spent the rest of the day researching that, its causes, which no one knows, and its treatments -- steroids in conventional medicine, dietary changes in the alternate world. There's some good evidence that the anti-inflammatory effects of Oolong tea are good for all kinds of persistent eczemas. So next I'll pop off to the store and get some. I did not know this, but Oolong is between black and green teas in processing level. Like all tea, it's super good for you. Might help with weight loss, blood sugar levels, healthy heart, and preventing ovarian cancer. As well as skin reactions. And it doesn't have any side effects beyond the impact of the caffeine. In my opinion, EVERYONE should be drinking tea every single day. As well as about two cups of coffee. There's just tons of benefits to the brewed botanical ingredients. Plus it's yummy and soothing.

My sister-in-law called. I filled her in on J, and she said that she has persistent eczema on her hands. So I told her about the tea. But right away she said, "Oh, I CAN'T drink caffiene." I suggested she might want to try to build up some tolerance, see benefits listed above. But I learned long ago that most people don't actually want any help with their problems. They've worked hard to get those problems, and they want to keep them. You're just supposed to listen and sympathize. It's sort of disheartening but we seem to be getting to the age now where everyone I know except our family is developing ongoing medical issues.

Anyway J will be fine. I'm sure the tea will help. Probiotics and active yogurt are good for all kinds of immune issues too. I try to eat yogurt every day as well, although I'm not as good at that. J's doctor is dreamy-gorgeous and so smart and kind. We all kind of couldn't believe how long it had been since she had been seen. He had to look it up on the computer records, and turns out it was a year and a half. I haven't been to the doctor in more than a year, and B probably hasn't been for two years or more. We just don't get very sick that often. All J's vitals are great though, so I think we're doing fine. I guess I should get a physical this spring just to check -- it's been almost three years since I did that intensive testing for the kidney-thing.

So, yeah. I guess I'll find some funders now.


I've been netflixing this crazy British series called The Book Group. I love just listening to the accents while I work. I tried watching it with the girls but then we hit the whole series of F-words in that first episode, and I dived for the remote, while realizing that those Brits will put ANYTHING on their tvs! So it's not family-friendly, but it's a great, amusing background when I'm alone at home. Kind of a high class soap with books as the structure.

A character just read this out:

. . . Ah, poems amount to so little when you write them too early in your life. You ought to wait and gather sense and sweetness for a whole lifetime, and a long one if possible, and then, at the very end, you might perhaps be able to write ten good lines. For poems are not, as people think, simply emotions (one has emotions early enough)—they are experiences.

[From “The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge” in The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke, edited and translated by Stephen Mitchell (Vintage International, 1989)]

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


I got the sad news this week that the nonprofit where I entered this field, and that I've been associated with for so many years, will close its local office at the end of the month.

Each year, this organization holds a huge auction fundraiser in June, and for the last six years of my life, I've spent the months from January through June organizing it and dealing with many volunteers, committees, local businesses, and details. Last summer, it was clear that the national headquarters of the organization no longer supported this fundraiser. In fact, they actively discouraged it, and so it got put on hiatus for this year.

I have to say that it's been somewhat of a relief for me, actually. On one hand, I've deeply enjoyed my work on this event, and it pays well. On the other hand, it really does occupy a lot of my mind and time for six months. I was sort of eager to see what new things might move in to fill the space that I'll now have in my life this spring. I've done that fundraiser really well, and it's nice to try out new things instead.

But, now, just this weekend, I get this sad news. Not even officially, but just trickling to me through the grapevine. I'm surprised and I'm not. I had already realized that just about every person I had ever cared about through this organization had already moved on to other things. A few moved, some were transferred. Most were cruelly laid off as the org kept cutting back and cutting back. The unexpected dismissal of the former Executive Director, a beloved and all around excellent guy, last spring was especially shocking. And now this.

Though they own the building, and this is the most efficient and productive location in the entire nation, the org is finishing it. It is a bit to adjust to. Even though I didn't have the time anymore to make it part of my regular routine, I had always hoped to go back and volunteer there one day. I even thought I could get the girls involved in their teens. Now it will just be gone. Another empty space, with only my vivid memory holding it intact.

I have so many good memories of walking through that door. Stopping by everyone's desk to chat a bit, catching up on the news, and settling down to be productive while surrounded by kind and interesting people. Getting bored working on the computer, engaging the office manager in small talk. Working with the books to get things right. Giving tours and training new volunteers. I represented the org many times at conferences and for development purposes. It's where I got the start to my new life.

In some ways, I am fine with its end, just as I am with the fundraiser's demise. It has already served its purpose for me. I enjoyed my work there while I was there, and I benefitted greatly from it. I met many friends and I learned a new trade.That chapter of my life is closed now, behind me, and this physical closure only makes that more clear.

But I'm still sorry for the loss and for the sake of the people who are currently more involved, especially those who will no doubt now lose their jobs. At least, my job is here. And now.

Chance Meetings that are Predictable

I ran into Heather yesterday. Right before we met, I knew that we probably would.

I had been to a really good yoga practice at the studio I like now. Honestly, I do enough yoga teaching these days that it's sort of a blessed relief to just be able to practice at my own pace, not having to think of anyone else, and not having to TALK at all. I LOVE practicing in my own silence. During my classes, I'm pretty good at narrating the way through the poses, I use this sort of stream of consciousness description for my students, without talking too much. But still, sometimes I long to be quiet and just be in the poses. And that's exactly what I get to do when I'm just one of the students.

Heather closed her studio in 2010. It left this huge void in my life, a big loss of a place that to me was purely spiritual and safe. To this day, I never practice without moving back into that dim, soothing spot in my memory, linking the past and the present in a gap through time's fabric.

Anyway, yesterday, I stopped at a sandwich place to grab some to-go lunch. I go there occasionally but hadn't been for months. I remembered that one time I bumped into Heather there. And that's when I knew I'd see her again.

Sure enough, as I was walking out the door, she came in. We gave big smiles and hugged. She's always busy, but it's nice to see her. I'm thinking of going back to her in 2013 and doing some life coaching-hypnosis work. I hesitate only because of the money/time commitment, but I think I should take advantage of the resource she offers while she is still available. I've learned in life that things have a way of changing unexpectedly. : ) (See previous post above, which actually will now be written after this one. So that's weird, huh? For you, the reader, the time line of blog posts flips. And, yes, I know I could set the display differently. But it's kinda cool. Bow ties are cool! too. I've been watching a lot of the new Dr. Who. Incarnation 11 has a bow tie.)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Project Starts

I was a bit behind with my blog entries. So I allowed myself the time to catch up a bit before I lose the topics I wanted to capture here, in this chronicle of my days.

Now I'm trying to convince my ADHD brain that it really would enjoy moving right into work. I have more funder research to do, I suppose, before I go on to writing the next program description. Doesn't that sound fun? Yes. Yes, it does.

I like working. I really do. It's peaceful and satisfying. And I get paid.

I had a long client conference Friday, and we've devised a lovely work plan and strategy for the whole year. That's stable and motivating.

Also I was playing with Phoebe last night. I know I haven't written much about her for a while, but she's still adorable. She's aging fast though, which is a bit sad. But she's having a lovely life with a super large cage and loving rat friends and tons of yummy treats every day. And I try to let them out and play on most days. Anyway, my little niece and nephew (along with their parents) are coming for a long weekend next month. And I'm thinking that it would be so fun to have a whole bunch of Phoebe stories written that I could sit down and read to them. I think we'll be babysitting quite a lot. They're the perfect ages for a target market audience focus group. : ) So that's a bit of a deadline on that.

Oh, and I have a possible name. What do you think of Emma Robin? Emma Robin, lovely children's writer. I know it's a bit British, but that is my cultural heritage, so I think that's okay. I really feel that I want one writing name for "literary" fiction and another for the kiddies. Is that silly?

Now I know that because of the ADHD, I'll start lots of projects but not finish them. Still though, starting more stuff does give me good odds on at least completing a few! :)

May at least some of our projects get finished. With great success!

Winning Entry

Not to be all about the older daughter, either.

B had quite an accomplishment in her own right last week.

After all those hours spent creating her Science Fair Project, it actually WON. It was one of only ten chosen among the hundreds at her school as the best. That means that she now continues on to compete against sixth to eighth graders at the District level.

We didn't even want to win. We only did the project because it was required by her teacher and will be a big chunk of her science grade for semester two. Of course, it was interesting, and B did her best work. She's actually won quite a lot when I think about it. We've devotedly put our best into Science Fair Projects since first grade. Actually B might have started in kindergarten.?

I know she won in first grade (that was the year that J got third in third grade too), and then in third grade (when J also won in fifth) and now in sixth grade. So that's like she's winning and moving to the next level half the time. One of her best friends won too, as their family is also quite competitive with the fair, and they put a lot of time and effort in. Between our two families, we've gone up to the district level a lot. Their older daughter even went on to the Regional competition one year. Like I said, geeky friends too.

I guess those hours of planning, experimenting and work do pay off. I know that I'm super proud of B, especially since the project hypothesis was all her own idea.

The Sleepover

It's a lovely Tuesday morning. After the holiday yesterday, it's a nice feeling to move back into the structured week. This is the first week in such a long time where it feels truly open. I have no deadlines or special events looming, just a nice series of work-related tasks and simple daily errands.

The last celebration of the long holiday season was the official party for J's 14th birthday, which took place on Saturday. She wanted to have a sleepover with her good friends, and, being a crazy person, I agreed. I was thinking that it would be quick and easy and not cost more than pizzas and cake. No venues to book, no themes, or detailed games to work out, no prizes to buy. Just a group of girls watching DVDs and eating.

Do you have ANY idea how much noise a group of 14 year old girls can make? They talked nonstop. They laughed, they giggled, they yelled. They shrieked. They burst into spontaneous, at-the-top-of-their-lungs songs. Even during the movies, there was nonstop commentary and sharing of opinions.

I don't think they ever slept. I collapsed about 1 am. Every time I woke up after that to check on them, they were just sort of roaming up and down the hall, giggling. My hunsband slept blissfully through it all.

My daughter has a great group of close friends. I don't even know how this has happened really. She's actually sort of popular. She knows way more people than I ever did in elementary or middle school. And so she counts about six or seven girls as truly close friends. That's as many as I've achieved in adulthood. They're an energetic, geeky bunch. They all do well in school. And they LOVE pop culture, especially comic books and movies. They go around quoting comic book heroes to each other, and bits of funny things that they find on YouTube. J's always been quick at memorizing, so she'll recite entire comedic routines back to me, editing out the cuss words as she's no fool, often when it's supposed to be her bedtime and she's trying to distract me and stall. And she's funny too. She's got good delivery and timing. So her whole group of friends is like that. The most popular item of clothing among them is superhero-look shirts with actual capes attached. J has Wonder Woman, Robin, Supergirl, and Batman. Maybe more.

This has led to a few interesting days this year, where she comes out of her room, dressed to go out, and she is basically wearing an entire costume. Once she pairs one of those caped shirts with a short skirt, red tights, boots and, yes, even wrist cuffs, she looks as if she's in costume and heading to a party. I've actually been embarrassed to be seen with her in public, and I try to ignore the stares as we walk into stores or Starbucks. I just remind myself that teenagers need to be outrageous to create a strong self-identity, and that she could be dying her hair black or cutting it all off, or wanting tattoos. Or something even worse. So I guess superhero emulation is fairly wholesome.


I do not even know how it is possible that J is 14. She is such a ... person now. She's as tall as me. And gorgeous (I think). She's got about a yard of this dense, curly, bright blond billowy hair that only adds drama to her look. She's brilliant and funny, and does well in school (under close supervision). She's a geek who goes to Knowledge Bowl competitions and loves science. And somehow she still has all these friends. Looking at her makes me feel that I've done quite a bit right.

So that's how on Saturday, we wound up with six 14 year olds, and three 11 year olds (the little sisters, for good measure) in our care for almost 24 hours straight. I was never ever so happy to get my house back in order and to have nothing but peace and quiet fill the mostly empty rooms. Even now, it is still lovely to be here alone with everything tidy. And no teen movies blaring.

I don't believe I'm quite ready for the years ahead...

Friday, January 18, 2013

Work Choices

Okay, it is Friday, the second work week of the year... and I am finally at work.

Actually made a plan, and have a conference call in an hour, and from there will have 40 more hours of work for January for this client. Plus have split the rest of the applications up evenly by deadline throughout 2013, so that should be more organized. We're developing and describing a new program for 2013 that I think will draw funding too.

Then next two weeks should be more open for working so I can cultivate some new clients. I even hope to start an active submission cycle for my other writings. All good.

Should I publish my children's stuff under the same name as my fiction writing? Or should I use one name for adult fiction and a different one for children's? It's a tough call, that one. I think the children's stuff is more likely to get picked up, and be better known. I've already decided to do my grant work and nonfiction writing related to nonprofit issues under my real name so that will be my professional identity. Is it too confusing to have a nonfiction/work name, a fiction name, and a children's name? That does sound like a lot...

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Bits and Pieces of the Week

Went to the revised Science Fair at my daughter's school today to celebrate her hard work and take the requisite "I'm your doting Mom" photos of her next to her display board. Her friends too. They're a good group, and we've been incredibly lucky to have such close friendships with supportive families.
This week has still been really busy. Science project on Monday, ortho appointment Tuesday, Wednesday was a minimum day - although I did get a good bit done, and actually WROTE a whole picture book story!-, today was Science Fair, plus I subbed a yoga class for a sick teacher at noon. So I've pretty much been running all week. I'm looking forward to a good night's sleep and a calm, even boring, weekend. Sounds nice right now.
Tomorrow I have a conference with a client. I'm a week behind on a plan I needed to do for them. And I'm still procrastinating on it. Bleah. Don't I get excused since I've been such a good and devoted parent? I even made soup for dinner. I suppose it depends if I hope to get paid again or not, huh?
I've been thinking a lot about ADHD. Noticing how it affects my older daughter and how it affects me. At least now I understand why her homework has always taken her hours and hours to complete. I'm surprised I didn't figure it out before honestly. I think her good memory and intelligence has always masked the symptoms to some degree. For me too. So I was reading about homework and study tips for those with ADHD, trying to figure out ways she can improve her concentration and speed. But then I got bored, so I decided to blog. True story. I told my daughter and she started to laugh about my own ADHD-specialness.
Good night and wishing only happiness and plenty of dopamine to all.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


Around my other tasks, I watched a documentary today about being Happy. Ironically, it was sort of depressing, because some of the examples they used of people bouncing back from adversity werea bit grueling to sit through.

I took away a few points that intrigued me. Dopamime is a major part of feeling happy. Most people have a certain amount of dopamine receptors in their brains, and as they hit their teens, that number begins to decline. But possibly that works on a "use it or lose it" basis, similar to exercising the physical body. So practicing happiness increases the ability to feel happy. In fact, physical exercise may help preserve the ability to feel happy as well, by increasing brain function.

Also, adversity makes many people actually feel happier than they did before. That's true for me, I know.

And once basic needs are met, even great increases in money only increase happiness slightly or not at all. Instead happiness is about family, friends, and social connections.

I liked what one guy said about helping others: "My life is a loan from God. I want to pay it back, with interest."

Ending with Science

And with a big sigh of relief, I think that all of the most difficult tasks may be done. At least for a short respite, I hope.

After the domination of last week by birthday and wedding preparations, only one last assignment remained. The anticipated... the dreaded... Science Fair Project.

For one more year, I have dutifully and lovingly sat by the side of my child and spent hours together creating, researching, enacting and analyzing an experiment that utilizes the scientific method. This is my eighth year in a row of completing this painstaking process, and, I so dearly hope, my last one for a while!! Hopefully this wraps up the need to help create a three-section project board until I get grandchildren. If the girls want to keep pursuing scientific study in their future years, they are on their own.

I wasn't pleased that B's teacher dropped this all in our laps. They did zero work towards this at school, and she only sent home the assignment and info two days before Christmas vacation started. That meant that literally all our time was spoken for until Sunday. Sunday, we spent four hours on it and got all the experimental data. I still can't believe that we convinced 20 total strangers at Starbucks to sample different cups of chocolate pudding! Ah, desperation...

Then yesterday, B had a small cold so she stayed home and we did the rest of the write ups and analysis. We put in almost 10 more hours!!!

The results are kind of cool. The question was "Does the color of the food container affect the taste of the food?"  Short answer is YES. Subjects ate identical pudding out of different colored cups, but thought they were tasting something different each time. They rated each sample 1-5 for bitterness, sourness, sweetness, saltiness, and umami. And every person perceived differences between the sample. It's a cool bit of research, and we have a lot of data that could be analyzed in even more ways than we did yesterday.

But we did enough to get the assignment done, and that was the goal.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Wedding Weekend!

The wedding is over! Hurray! Hurray! I finally realized my lifelong dream of being a bridesmaid. It was a beautiful wedding, mostly because my friend and her fiance were so thrilled to have found each other and to be marrying in their mid-forties, after such a long time of looking and loneliness. That part of the story has a lovely, fairy tale quality of hope.

The actual preparation for the wedding turned out to be so much work. I just didn't see that part coming at all! I am deeply relieved to be done with all of that responsibility. I really felt a deep obligation to do my very best to make my friend's day special.

After hours and hours of grooming appointments, I was finally in my car on Saturday, headed to the big moment. And I just thought, Wow, this really isn't that fun at all. I will say that the appointments paid off. I felt the most prepped and primped that I had ever achieved in my entire life. I was even more styled than for my own wedding! My hair turned out to be gorgeous and my stylist even created lasting curls.

The actual wedding was freezing cold. Unfortunately, we had a cold snap with temperatures in the 40s, so the outdoor courtyard setting with strapless dresses meant that we all shivered through the ceremony. The bride's arms were speckled with goosebumps. Notice that the picture is taken right in front of the lobby fire, where we all huddled to thaw out!!

After some food and many cups of coffee, we warmed up enough to get into the dancing. My girls especially enjoyed that part, and our family tried to keep the party going by staying out on the dance floor as much as possible. Most of the other guests weren't into the dancing, maybe because they were all above 35 years old, or maybe because they were also cold and tired. But the bride and groom were radiant. I hope they'll have a very happy, long life together.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Friday Lull

J's birthday this week turned out really well. It sort of sucks to have your birthday in January, coming right behind the whole holiday season. Usually people aren't in much of a mood to celebrate.

So we've learned with our daughter to push the social celebration of her birthday back at least a week and usually two, towards the end of the month when people have recovered their social momentum a bit. This year she opted for a sleepover with friends. While I'll sacrifice sleep that night, at least it's cheap and easy to plan.

Her real birthday is usually just a family thing. We had fun though. One night we went to an amusement park and out to dinner. The next night we did dinner with our family and the grandparents, with the cake, candles and presents.

This morning, my alarm went off and I simply could not wake up. I was exhausted. I hit the snooze four times and finally gave up. I dragged myself out of bed, mumbled at the daughters that they could sleep in a bit and I would take them to school late, then fell right back into bed. Now we're all awake and m e l l ow. We took a vote and decided to skip school for the day. I don't want them to get overtired and then get sick, especially with that flu going around. I know tonight and tomorrow are going to be busy and late because of the wedding.

Plus my younger daughter could use the time to work on her science fair project. It's worth HALF of their science grade for the semester, is due on Monday, and the teacher has given them zero prep time or input except for handing out the packet of guidelines. She hasn't even cut back on their homework. You can tell that her own kids are still too young and she's never done a science fair project of her own yet. They normally take between 10 - 20 hours of labor, depending on what the experiment is. So we'll work on that a bit today and then all day Sunday. Yay??

Now though, I have to go pick up my altered dress, which I just pray will fit and look fine, otherwise I have a disaster on my hands. Then because my nails all broke last week, I have to get fake ones put on. Just more time and money. I don't even like fake nails. But seriously, my nails look the worst they have in yearsso I have to make the effort for the bride's photos. I think it's the cold, dry weather.

I was supposed to finish a planning project for a client this week. He wanted to phone conference today. Even though I know it's not very responsible, I was so glad when I finally checked my email this am, and he was pushing it off to next week! Yay - a reprieve for the procrastinator!! And I can't even feel that bad about it, because I really have been doing my very best to fit everything in all week. One more flock of birds will be done by tonight, another huge one by tomorrow, and then a few more by Sunday.

I am really looking forward to Monday, where the week should begin to be "normal" and I just have school and work (and yoga) , with no special occasions!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

A Busy Return to the Schedule

The first step is a doozy...

This week back to school and work has been quite packed! We're celebrating our older daughter's birthday with a few evening events. Last night we took her and her sis to a small theme park where they had the run of the place.

Then my friend's wedding is this weekend. So every day has brought a new series of wedding-based errands. I had no idea how much stuff I was going to have to buy to get my appearance ready! I just didn't think it through. Not just the dress but little stuff like hairspray and hair clips and eye shadow and new foundation. It's been this long list of details. I will be SO GLAD to see the wedding over, both to celebrate with my friend and to be done with all this!!

Then there's the normal homework load, plus all the housework back on my shoulders now that everyone else is gone so much. Got the tires rotated yesterday and bought rat chow. Just all the little stuff. I have to say that I think next week will be much, much easier!

Bit by bit. Bird by bird, I keep saying to myself. Just do the next item on the list.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


Found a box of matches printed with this during a recent trip to San Diego.
Now it sits on my mantle so it reminds me every time I see it:

"Every moment of light and dark is a miracle."

 - Walt Whitman

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Credit Anne Lamott

Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird...

Tuesday and Work Routines

Good morning!

So, it's Tuesday. Everyone's back to school with a routine that's worked well so far, and I am left to get on with my "real" work life.

Thinking back over the span of my careers, I'd say the ADHD has worked in my favor until recently. In fact, I probably can barely be technically diagnosed with it, as one of the DSM criteria is that the traits have to impede function in two or more areas, and for me, they really haven't. I simply went into very active, very decision-dense jobs - first waitressing and then teaching - where the extra activity of my brain was never even noticable. I mean, when you're in charge of 30 teens, you sort of have to be able to switch your attention from thing to thing many times per minute!

These last few years have been tougher. Sometimes the writing goes really well for me, and other times I struggle to start. Well, now at least I understand why! So, for 2013, I'm experimenting with having a more fixed work schedule. Just like all people in regular jobs are forced to have. I'll be at my desk, usually at home, from 8:30 - 11:30 every morning. If I get the habit of really focusing and accomplishing my grant work for at least that much time every day, it will be a consistent improvement and I have no doubt that it will lead to steady opportunities and dependable income. Once I adapt to that, then I'll add the fiction writing time along with it.

And the rest of the time I'll keep managing the household and being the mom which easily fills the days anyway. I'm sure that right now, with an 11 year old and an almost 14 year old, are probably the most occupied and demanding days of my entire life. So, I'm just relaxing into the demands as best I can, knowing that soon enough the girls will be a different stage, and then my days will open up again.

Eventually I would probably like a full time job, with advancement, and a work place and co-workers. And a salary! But now I know that it will have to be something interesting, varied and engaging for me to succeed. In the meantime, I really enjoy this life of caring for my family, writing from home, and being free to run here and there during the day as the whim strikes me. Lucky, huh?

Monday, January 7, 2013


This line really stuck with me recently: If you view the world as a benevolent place, your rapid-fire, reflexive response in a situation is more likely to spread that benevolence further.

It's from an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times written by Robert M. Sapolsky and titled Human - for Better or Worse. Read the whole text here.

"It's obviously hard to answer the question of what primordial humans were like, since we can't go back in time and study them. But another way of getting at this issue is to study people who must act in a primordial manner, having to make instant gut decisions. Do we tend to become more or less noble than usual when we must act on rapid intuition?

Light is shed on this in a recent study by David Rand and colleagues at Harvard, published in the prestigious journal Science, and the research is tragically relevant. The authors recruited volunteers to play one of those economic games in which individuals in a group are each given some hypothetical money; each person must decide whether to be cooperative and benefit the entire group, or to act selfishly and receive greater individual gain. A key part of the experiment was that the scientists altered how much time subjects had to decide whether to cooperate. And that made a difference. When people had to make a rapid decision based on their gut, levels of cooperation rose; give them time to reflect on the wisdom of their actions, and the opposite occurred.

Testing a new set of volunteers, the authors also manipulated how much respect subjects had for intuitive decision-making. Just before participating in the economics game, people had to either write a paragraph about a time that it had paid off to make a decision based on intuition rather than reflection, or a paragraph about a time when reflection turned out to be the best way to go. Bias people toward valuing quick, intuitive decision-making, and they acted more for the common good in the subsequent game. In contrast, bias people in the reflective direction, and "looking out for No. 1" comes more to the forefront — something the authors termed "calculated greed."

Naturally, not everyone behaved identically in response to these experimental manipulations. Where might differences come from? The authors asked participants a simple question: On a scale of 1 to 10, how much can you trust people whom you interact with in your daily life? And the more trusting subjects were, the more quick, intuitive thinking pushed them in the direction of cooperation. If you view the world as a benevolent place, your rapid-fire, reflexive response in a situation is more likely to spread that benevolence further.

Neuroscience has generated a trendy new subfield called "neuroeconomics," which examines how the brain makes economic decisions. The field's punch line is that we are not remotely the gleaming, logical machines of rationality that most economists proclaim; instead, we make decisions amid the swirl of our best and worst emotions. Neuroeconomics, in turn, has spawned the sub-subfield of "the neuroscience of moral judgment." Scientists such as Jonathan Haidt of New York University have shown that we frequently feel rather than think our way to moral judgments; in general, the more affective parts of our brains generate quick, intuitive, moral decisions ("I can't tell you why, but that is wrong, wrong, wrong"), while the more cognitive parts play catch-up milliseconds to years later to come up with logical rationales for our gut intuitions. Thus, it is obviously important to understand what leads intuitive decisions in the direction of acting for the common good."

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Having Best Days Lately!

Next week will resume my more structured work schedule, and, with it, a more regular use of this blog as a tool and a motivator, and even at times, a companion on my journey through my days.

It's been a good vacation season, very busy and unstructured, and I am ready for the discipline and order of January and a new year and a fresh start. All of that!

This year feels like the freshest start in quite a while, for me, and I hope for my readers as well. This year so far when I find myself feeling down or doubting my ability to achieve I shake it off and remember that THAT was the past, but this is all new and fresh! I can make it whatever I most want to.  (Yay-optimism!)

So I have some goals in mind, intentions, resolutions, whatever you want to call them. I'll sit down soon and put them into written form. There's real magic in doing that. And it's fun too.

I'm starting the year with an interesting new facet of my identity. At the age of 44 I have just realized that I have mild to moderate ADHD! It seems ridiculous, but it fits my work habits and life history very well. So that's been interesting over the last few weeks, as I test out the validity of this new concept, and try to incorporate it into a picture of my identity. In many ways, it feels like such a relief.

One of my biggest struggles for years now has been wondering why I can't get more work done and why I'm not more consistent. But often sitting down to write feels overwhelming to me. I had chalked it up to lingering anxiety from my experiences. Now, though, I see that it predates all of that, and in fact, was probably a factor in everything I've ever done. In fact, ADHD is considered to be primarily a Behavioral Inhibition Disorder, which describes a lot of my life. There's always been a certain impulsivity to my decision-making that doesn't fit with the structured, organized parts of myself.

I've always managed it fairly well, so with this extra bit of insight, I think I'll be able to adapt my work routines even further and feel more confident and at ease in my career. It is certainly a much more agreeable identity than the one I've just shed!! :)

Anyway, I'll try to get back to the story of this discovery process. For now, it's a special day. It's Saturday, the first one of the New Year. It's a whole new year unfolding, fresh and full of possibility. I hope it's a great day for all. I know it will be for me, just like the line of days to follow it!