Sunday, September 30, 2007

Working Squared

We fall asleep with a pile of laundry between us. A testament to the day's unfinished business. Most nights a six year old boy clambers over the pile, sometimes using it as his blanket and I wake up to find boy drool on my pillow and my son using my good work pants - the ones that don't cut me off in the middle and hang nice with their pleat - as his binkie.

My husband, Major Man, is softly snoring on the other side of the mountain of laundry. I can reach him with my fingers and sometimes fall asleep with my hand on his arm. I say snoring softly because we recently discovered those nose, uh, thingies that open the nasal passages.

So my hand can rest on his arm, instead of my toe or finger poking him in the side to Roll Over Already You Great Snoring Oaf.

I've been working a lot lately. My new-again job is in sales and my hours (which recently changed) are 7am - 3pm. Three days a week my husband stays home to take M to school and watch E for the rest of the day, until I return. Two afternoons a week, the sweet neighbour lady watches E until my return.

Upon my return I have a few minutes to download my email and check for emergencies in my inbox.

I know I've babbled about this before... so lets move on.

In theory, it looked like I'd have plenty of time to write in the afternoons. But instead my time feels strained, condensed and overflowing all at the same time. I feel that so many tasks are being left undone (the laundry being one of them) and so many balls are being dropped (a query? what is that?) that I feel suddenly like I'm only half a mom and half a writer...

Sure, I can almost read your comments already: just let the laundry go, don't worry about having a clean house, make more macaroni...

But I love my house in order; I just don't do it very well. I need to have clean work clothes; I just can't wash clothes worth a damn. I like feeding my kids healthy food; I just don't have the time to shop for it.

I'm re-reading To Hell with All That: Loving and Loathing Our Inner Housewife by Caitlin Flanagan. I quit reading it last time right around the same chapter I'm on now. The chapter where she starts talking about a nanny.

First of all, it would cost me about $2000 a month for a nanny... and then there would be the guilt. Oh, oh, oh the guilt of having someone else rock my babies to sleep. Someone else hugging their bumps better.

But then.... someone else doing the laundry. Someone else reminding me to pick up diapers before I reach in the bag and pull out the last one because Major Man apparently thinks that the Diaper Fairy brings them...

This time I kind of get it. Last time I was disgusted that Flanagan would think about hiring a nanny... I was bothered by her admissions that she was ok with someone else doing all the child raising. But reading it now, I see she wasn't ok with it at all.. she is ok with it now, which is easy to be when you've done something.

She just realized that something had to give. She wasn't going to do It All. She wasn't going to buy into the story that I have, that I can bake my own bread, work full time, write the rest of the time, be a good mom, have the laundry done, the shopping squared away and still get to Beavers and swimming and .... and .....

So I've been re-jigging the priorities. I may write a bit less, I no longer feel the burning desire to write anything and everything that gets offered to me.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Warning: Grumpiness Ahead

No one likes to read grumpy rants. I'm sure of it. But tonight I am irritated, grumpy and generally unbalanced.

It's been a long week at work. That's all I'm going to say about that.

I'm averaging 17 hour days between getting up and going to work, taking care of the kids, writing, studying and doing activities like the Beaver Walk this past week. By Friday, today, I'm pretty much done.

But I had a meeting to attend tonight. I sent a notice out to the members of my writing group, asking them to attend this Very Important Meeting. We were to plan the coming year. I wanted to know what they wanted, what types of meetings/speakers/locations... they pay to be a part of this national organization and they pay a chapter fee. I wanted to make it worth their while.

No one showed up. A possible attendance of almost 30... and no one showed.

Demoralized would be one word. Cranky another. I could even try mad on for a while. But the question begs to be asked: Why?

I really want this writing group to succeed. I really want to meet face-to-face with the writers, talk shop, learn, grow, develop. We've had some good meetings - web site copy, editorial panel, freelancing tips, marketing to editors - with very poor attendance.

What seems, for some reason, to be even worse is that I have several non-members on my email list. Lots of them show up and despite the note that it's $5 a meeting for non-members... in a year only one has ever paid. And then they request topics or locations... and honestly? Tonight I just want to say "pay your membership fee and then we'll talk".

Because in my work/life balance... this is unbalancing me. Major Man works from about 3 pm to 9 pm most days. I asked him to come home early (5:30) so I could attend this meeting. And no one showed. So not only did I waste my time, I wasted his as well.

The opinions on why people don't show vary from "the time doesn't work for me" to "the topics don't interest me" to "I have XYZ to do". Really, I think that the problem is that here in our city there's too much money, too much opulence, too many opportunities. A few years of making no money, barely scraping by or having to compete for work might change things... it might make the writers a little more willing to liaise with other writers, seek comfort from their kind.

But it doesn't seem to be slowing down any time soon. People don't care. I'm starting not to care. I have my online group, they are enough.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

William Tell Overture for Moms

Check out the standing ovation she gets!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

'Scuse me... was I staring?

Like all great and wonderful parents, I signed my son up for Beavers hoping I'd be able to drop him off and escape for an hour a week. After I remembered that I had another child, I also remembered he's probably going to learn fun things like starting fires and how to read a map. Which means I won't be able to say "just a short trip" when we're driving across hell's half acre again. And I should hide the matches.

So it was with considerable trepidation that we made our way to the Beaver Hike so we could schlep around the local green space then congregate with 30 other kids around a little fire pit and try to roast wieners and marshmallows. Frankly I'm surprised no one got a flaming marshmallow in the eye. To make it even more exciting, the campsite was right on the edge of a 20 foot drop off into the creek. Fun!

Guess where the boys all wanted to sit. You guessed it, next to the drop off.

Truthfully (and I say truthfully because of course everything else here is a total lie) it was enjoyable. The fall foliage was beautiful, the air was just crisp enough to be invigorating, and the boys had a blast. A few leaders grumbled about the lack of organization, but I don't think a single boy complained. Funny, that.

The other parents provided great people viewing opportunities for me. Yes, I'm one of those people that thinks she's surreptitiously sneaking glances at others when in fact I'm probably standing there staring at them so hard that I'm starting to mimic their facial expressions. No lie (more lies!) I've caught myself doing that. But the parents are hilarious:

Former Girl Guide: spending her time saying things like "remember when we did this in Girl Guides" I find myself strangely attracted to her. No, not in THAT way but kind of like I wanted desperately to be liked by the cool girls in Girl Guides when I was Looser Mc-Looserton with one earring and a mop of messy red hair. Unfortunately I don't know any of the campfire songs she tries to start singing so I flunk out of the cool girl club. Again.

Skater Dude All Alone In Woodsmanville: With his bleached blond hair and the funky nest of hair JUST on the bottom of his chin (it kind of looks like a big brown cotton ball) he most decidedly does NOT fit in with the rest of the male leaders, most of whom are carrying axes and know how to use them. I half expected him to stand around the fire warming himself, turn to me and say "puff puff give dude".

Grandma and Grandpa Taking Over for Mom and Dad: Of course someone begged off of parental duties this evening and made grandma and grandpa go on the hike with the kids. I felt a little sorry for the kids, especially since grandpa risked a hip injury trying to climb down the bank to retrieve a marshmallow stick while everyone else stared, some checking their cell phone service to see if they could get a line out to 911 if they needed to.

Hitler Mom: overheard telling her son exactly how to play Red Light Green Light and telling him to listen carefully in Chinese Telephone. Missed the point completely I think.

By the end of the hike I was sufficiently plied with hot chocolate, perfectly toasted marshmallows and half a cold weiner and we headed home. Just in time because one second it was dusk and the next it was night time.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Why do you procrastinate?

I think that if you asked writers "do you procrastinate?" 99.8% would say yes. And the 0.2% would be either lying or ... well, we don't really want to think or talk about the rest because they are probably named King or Gabaldon or Clancy.

The fact is... writers have the tendancy to procrastinate. They say it's a fear of... a) success, b) failure or c) both. I'd love to say I don't procrastinate, but I do. It's really a control thing for me. I think it is kind of like how I used to keep my room as a teenager: messy. I wanted my area to be just the way I wanted it. I didn't want to clean it until I wanted to clean it. I would not clean it a minute sooner than I wanted to clean it despite admonishments from my mother.

Psychology Today has a great article about why we procrastinate.

A few points really stood out for me as particularly writerly:

Procrastinators tell lies to themselves. Such as, "I'll feel more like doing this tomorrow." Or "I work best under pressure." But in fact they do not get the urge the next day or work best under pressure. In addition, they protect their sense of self by saying "this isn't important." Another big lie procrastinators indulge is that time pressure makes them more creative. Unfortunately they do not turn out to be more creative; they only feel that way. They squander their resources avoiding.

Isn't that the truth... how many times have you gone to start an article and thought "oh tomorrow I'll feel like writing, I just need more sleep/food/coffee" or "the kids are here, I'll get my hubby to watch them tomorrow and write the whole thing in an hour". And then we spend that golden hour drinking a latte and checking our email.

Which brings me to...

Procrastinators actively look for distractions, particularly ones that don't take a lot of commitment on their part. Checking e-mail is almost perfect for this purpose. They distract themselves as a way of regulating their emotions such as fear of failure.

As writing mothers we have this one down pat. I mean how EXCITING is laundry when you don't want to write. I've done crazy things like scrub my fridge or clean the toilet when a particularly vexing article is tapping its virtual fingers on my computer screen.

The article goes on to identify three types of procrastinators:
1. Arousal types, or thrill-seekers, who wait to the last minute for the euphoric rush.

2.Avoiders, who may be avoiding fear of failure or even fear of success, but in either case are very concerned with what others think of them; they would rather have others think they lack effort than ability.

3.Decisional procrastinators, who cannot make a decision. Not making a decision absolves procrastinators of responsibility for the outcome of events.

Which type are you? I really think that I am number two. I think that there's a hybrid of number two... we writing mothers want to make sure that everyone (editors included) think we are Really Busy. When in fact there's more busy-ness going on to avoid writing an article.

What do you think?

Friday, September 21, 2007

I'm Rubber. You're Glue.

Because I was recently asked if "having a husband, a child, and a freelance career" would be a "conflict" with my job....

I bring you Mir's perfect and wonderful Woulda Coulda Shoulda said responses...

My most favorite:

Oh, so that’s something you can do on the side while you’re being a mom!

A) Yes, it’s not really a career so much as something I fit in between sewing matching clothes for my kids.
B) Yes, nothing can be as fulfilling as doing everything for little people who claim I’m the meanest person on the planet, but writing does fill that little hole in my heart.
C) Actually, mothering is something I do on the side while I write. What?
D) I have never seen these children before in my life.
E) Yes, I plan to choose my next career around my pet goldfish. Got any ideas?

And Mir made a point in the comments... the snark isn't really for the people who are genuinely curious about what you do... more for those people who see the conversation as a chance to try and make you feel small.

But as we all know... no one can make you feel anything.

An Aside.

I met a woman recently who thought suprisingly like me... in weird ways too. Like the sign in the office bathroom that makes us NUTS:
Flush ONLY toilet paper down the toilet.

So, um... where should I pee then?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Spreading Light

There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.
- Edith Wharton

I don't really think that anyone can truly be the candle. I think probably the candle is God and the mirror is what we are supposed to be... us humans, trying mightily to reflect God's light.

Or some trying not so mightily.

In the workplace it can be hard to be a Christian without offending others. I admit, sometimes I settle for just appearing to be a good person. But I want people to know I'm a Christian. For one, I want them to hold me to a higher standard. I don't believe that just being a good person is good enough. I want them to know that my God expects more.

Dear co-worker: know that I pray for you. I pray for your strength and for mine. I pray that we heal and you find a light inside yourself that you can't help but reflect.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Why is it...

... that when I started working full time outside the home again I didn't give up all my other duties like laundry, grocery shopping, breadmaking, cleaning?

... that the number of shoes that a six year old boy needs at the start of school/indoor soccer/Beavers is n+1 where n= the amount he currently has?

... that I can access the NFL, CFL, NHL and MBA sites from my work computer, but I'm blocked if I want to read something at

... that the relationship between energy I have and work I have to do is completely flippin' inverse?

... that my wind-down time involves sweeping, baking, sewing badges on a Beaver uniform and blogging while Love of My Life's involves Watching Monday Night Football?

... that I can bring on a heat wave by being pregnant and bring on a cold snap by buying shoes with peeky toes because they were on sale? (And cute as heck!)

... that when I'm waiting to hear back from The Big NY Publisher, the hands on the clock move backwards?

(Cross-posted at Mama Needs A Book Contract)

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Velveteen House

I came across an article today that really spoke to me. Here's a peek:

I recently took my first trip to Africa. One pre-dawn morning I decided to
stop trying to fight my body clock and got up early. As I sat by our hotel
window, I could see a shacklike house across the street, and its family
stirring. My first feelings were of sadness. The house contained no more than a
couple of rooms. There were piles of junk in every corner of their small ten-by-ten, bare-dirt yard. But as I continued to watch, my perspective changed. There were definite causes for sadness that trip, but this was not one of them.

As I watched the woman of the house, I realized what I was calling "junk" were their useful belongings. In the course of an hour, I saw the woman make good use of most of the tools in her yard—building a fire to prepare a meal for her family and tending to a small garden. The more I watched, the more I saw her care for her home and use her things well. Theirs was a "Velveteen House," where everything was well-used and full of purpose. In contrast, our culture creates "a house to look at" that covers the house in which we really live. For years I had towels that were not to be used, canisters lining shelves that held nothing, books that were purchased for the color of their cover, and most troubling, a guest room with no guests.

Read on...

I have been guilty in the past of wanting too much. I want 'things' for my house to try and make it a better home for my family. I want nicer pictures on the wall and more books for the bookshelf.

In reality, we need nothing more to make our home a warmer, friendlier, happier home. We just need to increase the love. So I've put a buying embargo on our house. We don't buy any more things unless it's something we can't cope without. If it's replacing something broken that can't be fixed, that's ok. But if it's just prettier or nicer than what we already have, I don't buy it. Surprisingly (or maybe not) this has stopped me from buying a lot of 'stuff'.

Notebooks and pens, books and daytimers, new coffee mugs and cutlery. When I'm at the store they seem the perfect things to complete my life... then I come home and see my cupboard bursting with mugs and my pen jar crammed full of pens that work just fine and I'm actually thankful that I have shown restraint.

This also makes my frugal and money-smart husband happy. Always a good thing!

Finishing Up With Harry

Last night I finished reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

I cried through the last 100 pages or so. Even having to stop at one point because I couldn't SEE the pages. Chapter 33 was especially hard because the very thing I wanted and wished and hoped to see happen since book one ... happened.

Now THAT is a series.

Part of my infatuation has been that I read all seven books in about seven weeks. I have even started having Harry Potter dreams since I read every night before bed. He's kept me up until almost midnight some nights. And I get up at 5 am, so that's saying something!

I have decided that I love series books. I adore series books. The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon and the Harry Potter series are my most favourite. There's something about being on a long journey with someone. You feel like you are going through the experience with them. The good authors can ask you to suspend your belief for a moment and climb into their world. The good authors know their world so completely that they immerse you in the characters' lives flawlessly.

I don't know what I could possibly read next. I may take a reading break.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

I Have Broken the Flux Capacitor

At this moment in my life I believe I am operating at full capacity. I don't think I have room for one more thing. Perhaps that's why Jordan Sadler's article, An Open Letter to My Son's PTA really struck a chord with me.

Some of us need to work full time. Some of us even need to work more than full time. For the past year and a bit I've been revelling in my abilities to work from home while raising my kids. You could say that I might even have been smug about it. I tried hard not to be. After all, I'd been a full time working single mother for a while so I knew that we all do the best we can at the time.

But even last year as I wrote my book and I juggled a full slate of columns and articles, I squeezed in a piddly four or five volunteer mornings in the Kindergarten classroom. The teachers were very accomodating and let me bring my daughter in while I volunteered. But it became apparent that we were more of a distraction than anything.

And I tried to get to the PTA meetings, I did. But, um, they coincided with my Thursday night off. And I love my Thursday night TV line up, it's my night to relax and veg and maybe even drink a beer glass of wine while hanging out with my husband.

And I admit, that activity had priority over listening to moms with pet projects complain about the lack of funding for security cameras/rubber bits for the playground/paint for walls... It seemed that there was already a clique of moms who had either raised their kids next door to each other, had their kids on the same team or volunteered at the same preschool. I did not fit in.

I tried. But I couldn't get revved up about their projects. I asked questions about why they were necessary or why we needed to paint the library wall two months before the end of school when a) the walls are covered in posters and b) the unionized maintenance staff will get around to it one of these years.

Anyways. I thought maybe I'd get involved this year.

But now I have n+1 projects on my plate where n = the maximum amount I should have and remain sane.

I now work from 6 am to 2 pm and let me tell you... me going around and saying I had "better hours" is somewhat of a pipe dream. Sure it's nice to leave the office at 2pm... but it's not so nice to leave the house at 5:45 am. They say I'll adjust.

I have one proposal sitting at four publishers. I have a query into my current publisher and I'm waiting to find out if they want a detailed proposal or an outline.

I have an article due on the 12th.

I also fly away for four days on the 12th.

I got sucked into going to a golf tournament for work on Monday. Forgetting that it's been four years since I've golfed...

I just begun my Pampered Chef training.

I am late in sending out my eNewsletter.

My juggling act is wobbly. My hold on sanity is tenuous. My veneer is cracking. I may be at maximum velocity, Captain.

(Cross posted at Mama Needs A Book Contract)

Monday, September 03, 2007

And now... for something controversial...

I have a daughter. Thankfully she's one and not a teenager, or even close to it. (Though she does put on some spectacular teenager-worthy tantrums!) So I currently don't have to worry about the HPV vaccine.

That doesn't stop me from thinking about it though. I worry because it seems to have been pushed through so fast. It went from "available" to "we think it should be compulsory" pretty darn quick.

Like the mother of many girls, I hope my daughter makes good choices when it comes to matters of the heart (or, let's face it, of other body parts too) and I do intend to promote abstinance. But I speak very openly about sex and other topics with my kids because I don't want them to learn stories from their friends. I will also discuss methods of birth control and what they protect against (besides babies).

I don't see the HPV vaccine as something that undermines abstinance. I just see it as a vaccine that we don't know a lot about. I hope that in ten years that we haven't learned that it was really something horrible. I have family members who have been harmed by medications that doctors promoted as safe... until problems cropped up years later.

But reading this article brought something home for me:
Dr. Foley says she'd never fault someone who vetoes the vaccine because of her
trust in her child's lifestyle choices, but she adds, "Given the number of circumstances we cannot control in our children's lives, I think the vaccine is a good idea." Some choose to vaccinate, even if their child has pledged chastity until marriage and monogamy afterwards, because of what they can't guarantee:

That their child won't be forced into a sexual situation.
That their child's marriage will be lifelong and mutually monogamous.
That their daughter won't be sexually active.

Can I guarantee those things? Can I protect my daughter from ever being assaulted? Gosh, I wish I could say yes... but I have to face reality. Can I guarantee that my daughter's marraige will be lifelong and mutually monagamous? I pray for it... but I cannot guarantee it.

What do you think?