Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Simple Things in Life

Sometimes (especially lately) I feel as if I'm being pulled in too many different directions. I realize that multi-tasking is a part of life, but I kept feeling as if I was just going through the motions and not really giving all I had to all I needed to do. Raising two girls,  working 30-40 hours a week, writing and keeping a household running are just a few of the things I have to contend with. Since hiring a butler or spending a bunch of money on a tropical vacation aren't viable options for me at this point, I had been wondering what I could do to infuse a little bit of simplicity and relaxation into my life (and hopefully make me a better parent, a stronger writer and happier employee). The answer I came up with was refreshing and slightly educational (sh, don't tell the girls) - we made a visit to a little place called Brukner Nature Center. It has multiple hiking trails, a picnic area and a wonderful facility that is home to  different types of wild animals, many of which are on display. It also has a restored cabin that was built in 1804. The girls loved learning about the animals that are native to this part of Ohio. They were in awe while looking at the log cabin and how people lived their daily lives 200 years ago - without smart phones, without television and without Nintendo Wii's or Barbies. We walked along a trail and found shady spot with a bench that overlooked a pond. Then we just sat for a while and talked - about anything and everything that popped into their heads -and therefore out of their mouths since (like most children) they don't have filters and just say whatever comes to mind. We talked about Daddy being away for military training and how much we miss him. We talked about their upcoming birthdays. Then we just sat for a while and listened to the birds and the sounds of nature surrounding us, holding hands. It was one of the most beautiful and fun afternoons we've had for a long time. And finally, for a little while at least, I relaxed.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Using Fast Food and Bribery as Effective Parenting (and Writing) Tools

As a writer, I need to work in relative silence. As a parent, I never get that silence unless I'm up before the girls get up in the morning or after they go to bed at night. However, today after work the compulsion to write was distracting the hell out of me. I decided to bribe the girls into being quiet so I could get some much needed writing time in during daylight hours. Our normal Friday night fare is carryout pizza from one of the local pizza joints here in town - but since Laely had consumed pizza for lunch at school today and the previous day, I told the girls they could have McDonald's. (As many parents know, the mere mention of McDonald's causes young children to become giddy with happiness.) I made them promise to be quiet and play nicely for a while both before and after dinner - and if they started to get too unruly there would be CONSEQUENCES (that word said in the right tone can still stop them in their tracks, even if I'm not specific as to what those CONSEQUENCES are). However, things went very smoothly between the two of them as they played with their 2 bazillion Barbies and I was able to write well over 1000 words. One would think that would make me happy. But I realized (even while I was writing) that probably half the words were just crap. I was working on the backstory, which is important to any novel. However, I tend to overwrite and give too much backstory and that's exactly what I believe I did tonight. You'd think that since I am aware of this writing flaw that I would be able to correct it. But nope, that hasn't happened yet. And I know that re-writes and edits are part of the process and nothing is ever perfect in a first draft (that little fact was again pointed out to me tonight by a very wise fellow writer - thank you) - but I don't like not liking what I'm writing. Does that make any sense? Don't get me wrong, I'm glad I wrote tonight. And I know from experience that not every writing session is going to be peaches and cream. Maybe tonight's botched session was karma's way of telling me not to bribe my children with fast food? Hmmm. I don't know. I guess tomorrow I'll have to find something else to bribe them with so I can squeeze in an effective writing session before work (unless I get up at the ass-crack of dawn and that plan doesn't always work out). Any ideas?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Redneck and All

Well, I guess it's official. I'm a redneck. And not just because I live in a little town just north of Dayton, Ohio. (I think that's where alot of the pictures from PeopleofWalmart.com are taken - just saying.) Anyway, I am a redneck because I spent most of this glorious Sunday outside. And managed to get a sunburn on the back of my neck. The girls and I took a leisurely stroll in the early afternoon to go buy the Sunday paper - I needed to make sure the world was still turning after the much anticipated Rapture. Turns out it is, whew. Anyway one of the real reasons I wanted to get the paper is for the coupons. Yes, I admit it - I sat around last night and watched "Extreme Couponing" on TLC. How do those people get all that stuff for free? And do you think that maybe if they had jobs they might not have to waste all their time cutting coupons? Now don't get me wrong, I am a fan of coupons. But who needs to buy 96 bottles of mustard,  72 bottles of soda and 100 bottles of pain reliever in one shopping trip? (Not to mention the 50 sticks of deodorant and 36 boxes of cereal and a whole plethora of processed foods.) I think it's entirely possible that we will see some of these same people on "Hoarding -Buried Alive" some day.

Ok, enough with the tangents - here is the real reason I literally have a red neck - I finally got to finish planting my sunflower seeds. (Side note: sunflowers are my all time favorite flower.) But first I had to weed the area that I had designated for this endeavor. That meant getting on my hands and knees in the hot sun with a pair of gardening gloves (okay, two pair), digging in the dirt that was full of creepy crawlies. And just for the record - I don't like creepy crawlies and other things that live in the dirt. However, sometimes you have to dig in the dirt in order to cultivate something beautiful. Hmm....in many ways I guess gardening is kind of like life - it can be unpredictable and filled with creepy crawlies but the beauty of it is well worth the effort that is put into it - red neck and all.  

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

One Week and Counting

Wow, I can't believe it's been a week since John left for training. In some ways it seems like forever since he's been gone and in other ways it feels as if he just left yesterday. During the first 48 hours we had some limited contact via text before they took his phone and he was allowed to make a brief phone call to us on Sunday but overall communication has been severely limited. Strangely enough, I'm okay with that. Yes, I do miss him. And I'm looking forward to taking the girls on a roadtrip in July to see him. But I think the next few months will be used for self-reflection and a certain amount of solitude. Its not like I don't have plenty to keep me busy - the girls, writing, work, my friends. I've already made progress on my novel and signed up with one of the companies that used to net me alot of freelance work. Do I miss the daily interaction with the significant other in my life? Of course. After all, we never have gone more than 5 days without speaking since we started dating in 2002. And yes, I know that by him joining the military means there is the potential for us to go months or even longer without communicating. But I am taking one day at a time and putting on foot in front of the other while looking ahead - which is all anyone can do no matter where they are or who they're with.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Making Decisions and Following Dreams

This past week has been both busy and bittersweet - mainly because John left on Wednesday for military training. Unbeknownst to me (at least until about 6 months ago), he had been harboring a long-time dream of being in the military. It was something that he thought about doing when he graduated from college over a dozen years ago, but never followed through with. But times they are a'changing, so last fall he started talking to a recruiter. He then dutifully jumped through all the hoops to join the National Guard and is now part of our country's armed forces. Bizarre as that may seem - especially to people that have known him during the past 10+ years, he seems happy with his decision. (Although I don't know how happy he really is going to be about getting up at 4:30 in the morning to do PT and competing with guys that are half his age, that just sounds hellish to me - then again, we already know I'm not a morning person. For the record, neither is he but the military doesn't give you much choice in the matter.) He probably won't be home until October because he is doing his basic training then going straight to AIT.

I've had alot of emotions in regards to him leaving for the military ranging from fear to pride. However, I believe he is doing the right thing for himself and therefore for our family. Will I miss him during the next 5+ months? The answer to that question is a resounding yes. Is his absence going to be difficult on myself and our children? Yes. But can I fault him for following his dreams? No - and his life-changing decision to do so has yet again made me realize that it is never too late to follow your dreams.  You have the ability to set your sights on what you want and then take the necessary steps in order to achieve your goals.  So many people just talk about what they want to do with their lives but never really take the steps to follow through with what they SAY they want. And there's no doubt that following your dreams can be difficult. But isn't it worth it? Aren't you worth it?

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Obsess Much? Maybe....And That Might Not Be A Bad Thing

I'm the type of person that tends to obsess about things just a teensy bit. (Ask any of my friends - they can certainly attest to this personality flaw). But is this trait actually a flaw? Sometimes, I just don't think so. As a parent, I constantly think (obsess) about the safety and happiness of my two children. As a woman, I often think about my health/appearance and how to improve it (or just keep the status quo as gravity keeps doing its job). And as a writer, I am constantly thinking about how to improve my techniques, finding time to write on a regular basis and (gasp) get published. I often think about writing while I'm at work and have had more than a few epiphanies in regards to my novel as I have been standing behind my bar bantering with my patrons. In fact, one of my short stories was inspired by a single comment made by someone sitting at my bar one day.

Do I wish I had more time to devote to my writng rather than just obsessing about it? You betcha. My main project now is to finish the novel I started writing last year. At the beginning of April, I vowed to write 1000 words a day. Lofty? Yes. Impossible? No. Did I follow through with it? Again, the answer is no. BUT I did make some great headway that I'm very proud of.  As I stated in my last post, I have a cleaning schedule. (Don't laugh - it works for me damnit.) So it only makes sense to have a writing schedule. I work around 30 + hours a week and I'm a full time mom, plus I have a needy cat named Max. As I looked over my calendar, I realized the best time for me to work on my novel is early in the morning BEFORE the girls get up and we start our respective days. I have always maintained that I am not a morning person. However, I have found that getting up at the ass crack of dawn to a quiet house really is kind of invigorating  (after I've had some coffee, of course). And as any parent (and most writers) know - sacrifices must be made and sometimes we just need to get out of our own way in order to accomplish what we want in life.

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Messiness of Life

I have always written. From the time I was young, I journaled almost obsessively. When I was 8 years old and I thought my parents were treating me unfairly, I journaled what was happening so when I was an adult with my own children I wouldn't make the same mistakes I perceived them as making. Precocious and egotistical - maybe. But I was 8 years old. I have also always been an avid reader. In fact, there are times in my life that reading books and writing about life have proven to be more of a support to me than almost anything (or anyone) else. I have found that I'm better able to deal with the messiness of life if I write it down.

Having said all that - I don't like messes. Before I sit down to write, my house must be relatively uncluttered and clean. I have a cleaning schedule that I try to adhere to every day. Unfortunately for me, I also have the cold from Hell. This cold (and my work schedule and taking care of my girls) has severely depleted my energy levels. So right now, there are dishes in the sink (yes I do have a dishwasher, but there are still things I need to wash by hand) and laundry on my bed that needs folded. The kitchen needs mopped and the carpet needs swept. But here I am, starting a blog. Why? I think it's because I feel pulled to write. I feel as if my writing must be put on the same level of importance that I place on taking care of myself and my children. My writing is a part of me - and I need to take care of my needs every day as well to truly be at my  best as a mother, etc - so why shouldn't I take care of my writing every day? Does this mean that my house will go to hell in a handbasket while I work on my novel and/or other writing projects? No, probably not. But the cold from Hell has reminded me to slow down and take care of ME - which means the damn dishes can just sit there another day. And hopefully I'll remember to turn on the dishwasher before I go to bed tonight so we have clean dishes and utensils for tomorrow.