Write.

“Writer’s write.” That’s what the poet said, anyway. I was there to judge him, but that poem made me judge myself a little bit. It’s been 2 weeks since that poem earned a “10” from me, but it has been haunting me ever since. So I’m writing. It’s been in my head for a few days, and now on the computer screen.

I had an opportunity to BE a writer. A local blog was accepting new contributors and an old friend urged me to apply. I wrote one of the 2 required samples, because I don’t have anything more recent than grad school papers. Different audience. The process of writing that first piece was fun, thrilling almost. Until it became daunting and the inner editor kicked into overdrive.

I scouted some of the other essays on the blog. (Mistake?) I realized I was in a room of mothers that I had little in common with. I started to re-think. I know the blog was looking to not be so suburban mommy, but I didn’t feel up to breaking the mold. I’m a little exhausted from that role, frankly.

And then I told an urban mommy friend, and she said WE should start a blog. It clicked. My days hunched in front of a computer looking for any kind of mama contact and finding the HipMamas flashed before my eyes. I have held on to those books for at least 13 years. They are cherished.

It isn’t so dangerous to be a different kind of mama anymore. It used to feel pretty subversive. And pretty lonely. Until i started writing to the women on the other side of the screen. Slowly, we started to meet through the phone or in person. Some I’ve never met in person, but 13 years later our words still flow between us.

I need to harness that energy when I am writing. Because I AM a writer. Doesn’t this prove it?

Save the Earth

I’ve been doing a lot of worrying lately. Mostly about the state of the world and our environment. You know, nothing big. And as I’ve thought about it more, I’m pretty sure I’ve been worrying about it in one form or another for the past….23 years? I have some vague memory of walking between our house and my grandfather’s truck barn and arguing with my father about the existence of a hole in the ozone layer. I couldn’t have been older than 14 at the time and was in way over my head, but  I was convinced! And outraged! And my dad didn’t buy it. I still don’t know if he buys it.

I’m still buying it. I also grew up with enough of the Bible in my childhood (memorizing multiple verses on a weekly basis) to be able to draw some scary comparisons to the Book of Revelations and some shit that is going down around us now. Okay, please don’t stop reading. I’m not about to get super crazy, but I do think that the Bible serves as a guide when not taken completely at its word. I do believe in God, but not the scary God everyone talks about. I think God and Mother Nature are in this together, and we should be listening to both of them in balance.

I think we’ve done a pretty horrible job taking care of this awesome gift of a planet to live on. I think the signs that we’ve gone too far are all around us. I’m scared by how many people don’t seem to be listening. This is what gives me anxiety and what I think I have to really work on in my own life. How can I be part of the solution and not continue to be part of the problem? We do little things. We drive fuel-efficient cars, we recycle and compost. We buy local food as much as possible. We buy local as much as possible. We use natural products and I make as many of our cleaning products as I can.

We have a rain barrel that isn’t set up. I have a plan in the works to plant some of my own food and am getting involved in making that happen around my son’s school as well. We need to use less electricity. I dream/lust/fantasize about solar panels on my house.

It all feels like not enough. In those moments I go back to those words in the back of my mind that pushed me into social work:  if you don’t start, it will never happen. I’m just a drop in the bucket, but ripple effects can be powerful. Movements start small.

Becoming Present. One busy mom at a time.

Didn’t do any writing this weekend due to crazy  busy huge event at my little one’s school. There was a lot of stress on some of the various committees, but i was working with a pretty laidback group that weren’t caught up in everything being perfect. My husband’s band got to play the event, which I think he was pretty stressed out about. They were awesome, as I knew they would be, and he really enjoyed the feedback he got from the community. He’s a quiet one, and people don’t know him well so I think this was nice for him.

I read an article this morning about things women do to, I can’t remember, basically check out and ignore themselves. Of course I had to read it, because I know I’m pretty good at doing that when things get rushed or stressful. It is far easier for me to focus on what is swirling around me then within. I have 2 kids at very different life stages, a husband, a job, a volunteer job that is like a part time job, and the list could go on from there. I was pretty good at putting things neatly away and out of the picture that I didn’t want to deal with, but of course that shit always catches up to you. I can’t afford for it to catch up with me the way it did back then.

I’m trying to figure out a way to become more present with myself (and my family be extension) without setting up a situation where I feel guilt for not attaining whatever perfection I’m looking for. (I think seeking perfection/being a perfectionist was mentioned in the article). I’m looking for something attainable and, dare I say it, measurable. I think I picked a couple of good exercises in being more present and not driving myself crazy trying in the process. The first I am already doing, and that is writing regularly. See what I did there? Set myself up for some success from the get go. Go me!

The other exercise is scarier, but probably the most necessary. I figure if I go for 2 things at a time, one of which I’m already being successful at, then I can get a little more serious in the other. So what is it? The smartphone. Yeah, been circling around that one for awhile. It got its own number on the list, so I took that as a sign. Deactivating Facebook for awhile was a start, but I do really miss some of the people I only get to communicate with there because they live halfway around the world.

So how to get the smartphone usage under control? This may be a series of posts. I use it A LOT for work. I spend a lot of time at my office, but not always at my desk. If I leave my cellphone at my desk for 15 minutes and come back to missed calls, sometimes people freak out. This is also a symptom of over-reactive colleagues, but alas, there it is. I’ve done some things lately to reduce the number of texts my staff sends me in a day, but some of it is internal too.

I juggle a lot of things, as mentioned before, but I’m not terribly disciplined. In theory, having all my email accounts and what not on my phone means I can stay on top of things at all times. It usually ends up meaning I start email conversations that I don’t have time in the moment to continue, and then I forget to come back to them. I’m pretty sure this is leading to me needing to structure my day in a way that I schedule time to check various accounts, but man am I resistant to scheduling. Hmm. Although I can see this as a positive use for my phone. It can sit in my bag and act as an alarm, while removing the temptation to constantly check nonsense things throughout the day.

Okay, I need to go get coffee and the rest of my day started, but I can definitely see a path here, more clearly then I did when I sat down 20 minutes ago.

New routines

We have a functioning kitchen sink again, and for a relatively painless visit from the plumber. Balance seems a little more restored to the universe. Coffee isn’t a struggle, which is really the most important thing.

I’m trying a slightly different writing routing this morning, likely not visible to the untrained eye. But I’m all about routine so it’s kind of a big deal to me. The changes are: 1. not using the timer for a hard and fast 15 minute rule 2. I started my coffee, then started writing, and will probably take a break when my coffee is ready and come back to writing. Insignificant? Maybe, but writing is like a professional sport to me. I have some superstition about what might make me more successful in this endeavor. I also tend to get really into my routines and then they can feel a bit like a box, so I’m trying to dive into writing with a handful of routines or options to fall back on.

Not sure if I mentioned it in my last post, or if it had even happened yet, but I spend a large part of Wednesday night at an ER with my oldest son. We thought he might have appendicitis, but thankfully he doesn’t. Now I’m left trying to figure out why he has been sick enough to miss multiple days of school, at least 3 times since the new year started. While he isn’t exactly striving for perfect attendance at all times, he does seriously dislike missing school, and he has been in some serious pain when he has been sick. Thankfully we left the ER with the name of a specialist and copies of his CT scan and other tests. The medical establishment in general intimidates the hell out of me.

I’d like to say TGIF in a big way today, and I really feel it, but this is a super busy weekend for me, so I don’t know that the rest I’m craving is going to be on the agenda. We have our big fundraiser for my little one’s school this weekend. My husband’s band is playing which I am really excited about because I don’t get to see them play often enough for my liking. It should be a fund event, but it is taking the hard work of the entire school, so everyone is a bit stressed at this point. I don’t have a really big central role in the event, but my committee is supposed to just show up and make sure stuff is happening. I kind of like to operate that way, behind the scenes getting shit done.

Okay, maybe I’m seeing the benefit of the timer now. I don’t have a great concept of how long I’ve been writing, and I don’t just want to stop if I run out of things to write. I like the idea of having to push through and write some crap down to see what is on the other side. I may try to work some writing prompts of some kind into this. Memories of writing workshop with my middle schoolers, which also feels like a million years ago. Sometimes it is nice to have more direction than the halfbaked ideas in my head to get some words on paper.

I’ve been thinking about signing up for a writing workshop with a local writer’s group, but that feels a little more “primetime” than I think I want to be. If I could find one with some anonymity that might make me feel better and more like I’m easing in. Maybe one online? That could work. Hmm, makes me think about an old website dedicate to mamas creating art and there was a venue for writing and critiques. Maybe I’m going to have to go search for that one. Hmm. 

Writing exercise. Minus coffee.

Our sinks are backed up half of the house. The half of the house where the cooking and coffee making happen. The coffee making. Please keep this in mind for the remainder of the post as I’m pretty sure it will be even more rambly and disjointed than the previous.

I don’t even have a topic formed to write about, and it looks like I might have missed yesterday so here is where we put the writing exercises to the test and just write through the blankness.

Yesterday was my 5th wedding anniversary. It was the 8th anniversary of having met my husband. So it was a good day. The clogged sinks meant we had to pack up the kids and head to dinner. Even the surly teenager didn’t really have a choice, and he went along with far less grumbling than usual. It was not a particularly special dinner. We were all pretty tired and really hungry and we picked a spot that was more popular than we were expecting. We had minimal meltdowns from the little one thanks to a playground well within view of our table.

I’m learning to really appreciate those really kind of boring moments in life. We weren’t all engaged in some fascinating conversation, we all tend to retreat into ourselves a little bit after work and school. The past couple/three years have shown me that people can be gone in the blink of an eye and you just have to enjoy the moments. That may also be one of the benefits I’m seeing in my experiment of leaving Facebook. That tendency of mine to retreat after a long day would lead me to Facebook which would somehow take even more of my energy. I was missing a lot of moments. I know there will always be moments missed, but if I can make a small change to help me experience more of them fully I’m going to do it. Maybe this is my belated Lenten sacrifice. I started a couple of weeks late, but I’m not sure the exact timing is the most important thing in the long run.

Hoo boy, I am realizing how much I love my coffee as a tool for getting my brain jumpstarted. As I’m writing I’m also trying to figure out which hose in the yard would be less of a pain in the ass to get to for rinsing out my moka pot and a coffee mug. I’m feeling quite pleased at finding a solution, but I also have to weigh it against the early direct exposure to oak pollen that has been somewhat debilitating me for the last few days. I’m starting to think I need to get some surgical or whatever they are masks for walking from my house to my car for the next month. I wonder if those work at all.

My brain really is that tired. Good grief this is going to be a long morning if I can’t figure the coffee thing out. I’m taking the boys to school this morning so there is an opportunity for getting some decent (not Starbucks) coffee on the way to work, but I’m a little concerned about completing all the steps that need to happen between now and then without the coffee. The allergies vs the need for caffeine is a pretty difficult decision right now, but I think the answer is clear. Plus, I know coffee grounds are good for plants in some way or another so I’ll also be feeding my plants.

This entry is really not feeling fit for publishing to the general public, but I have to think about why I”m doing this. I’m writing for myself as a path to writing for other people. This feels like the ultimate exercise in not giving a hoot about what other people think, but it feels even more dangerous in a way. Not dangerous in terms of safety, but maybe in terms of psyche.

 

Clutter

I took a weekend break from writing and it did not feel like I was cheating or letting anyone (namely myself) down. I think it is because I did other things that felt as productive, if not moreso, than writing. That is, I got out and saw people. Several people. Some with my family and some just myself. So while I’ve most definitely been experiencing Facebook withdrawals, I’m doing what I set out to do when I deactivated and that is a good thing. Helps me power through without it. I’m still undecided on if the deactivation is permanent, as I do think I am missing a lot of information from friends, but I definitely need to rethink how I interact with it if/when I do go back.

I had a really lovely weekend of seeing friends and family. I did some things that were much needed for my soul, and I did some lounging around the house. Something I spend most of some part of my weekends doing and which is a recurring theme/concern/issue/obsession with me is clutter. To know me is to love my clutter. Or at least be aware of it. There are stories dating back to my early childhood (and a nickname of “Gallina” to go with them) about my inability to keep my bedroom floor clear. This extends far beyond my bedroom floor all the way to my desk at work. I know my boss and some co-workers cringe when they look at my desk, but somehow I manage to get shit done.

I’ve vastly improved over the years, but it is a constant struggle nonetheless. I recently took part in a challenge in cutting my wardrobe down to a small, predetermined number. I’m still working that out and hovering around the number 50 (I’m stuck on the shoe part, not gonna lie). What the process did for me, though, was get me to really look at my clothes and box up the vast majority of the clothes. They sat in bins for a couple months and this weekend I sorted them out to be sold or donated. I have LOTS of clothes to sell. Since I was on a roll I also attacked my car, which I live in during the week running from home to work to my volunteer job to home….and some errands in between. My little one and I cleaned it out and went to the car wash down the road to vacuum it out.

So apparently all those articles about how your environment is a reflection of your mind (or vice versa) have some truth to them. I just feel clearer when I’m driving in my car now. I wouldn’t say my bedroom is clear of clutter (i still have to sell the darn clothes), but I see a path to less clutter. This is something I want to celebrate but it also feels bittersweet. I have really been pretty self-critical of my ability to keep a clean house. Other people have also been very critical over my ability to keep a clean house. I’ve spent time analyzing why I can’t seem to tackle this monster. I know that in some ways this is a reflection of how my brain operates. I have struggled with this sometimes haphazard way my thought process seems to operate and I know the wake of clutter I leave behind is a manifestation of that. But what? What do you do about that?

In all honesty, I’ve as much made it a goal to find a way to harness that brain activity into something that will help me be succesful. My current career choice is proof that that can work. It seems to be in my personal life that I struggle more. Having the support of my husband, and a iron-clad deal that he cleans the kitchen and I maintain the laundry, has helped a lot in maintaining my sanity. We try to know our boundaries and ask each other for help when we hit them. I’m not as good at delegating work to my kids who could most definitely have more responsibility around the house. I am making a sincere effort to “edit” down my personal belongings, but I have to be gentle with myself there.

Writing exercise Day….4?

Last night as I was getting ready for bed, my generally surly teenager brought me a poem. It is an acrostic (?) poem spelling out “Mother”. It was a belated birthday gift and it totally made me cry. He has been writing me these poems since he was a little boy. I believe some teacher along the way taught it as a nice and simple Mother’s Day gift in early elementary, but for whatever reason it has stuck with him. I have the poems stashed away in little spots and I’m thinking now I need to gather them up and put them together in a book. 

I’m thinking more and more about the lovely things I have, the art and poems and pictures of my kids that bring me such joy. Maybe that is why I’ve been on such a tear to purge my house of crap. And there is certainly a lot of that as all 4 of us living under this roof have minor to moderate hoarding tendencies. I’m pretty sure that, along with writing, getting my home in order is the other big project of the summer. 

I keep trying to plan small projects to this end over the weekends, but our schedules do not work in a way that my husband and I are both in that mode to work around the house on the same day. Our weekends overlap by only one day, and it makes things difficult. So I’m trying to figure out really manageable tiny projects to tackle on my own throughout the remaining weekends of the school year, and once vacation hits I should be in a better place to make the larger projects happen. 

And of course there are the house things that desperately NEED to get done. We may be needing a new roof, we definitely need tile work done in the boys bathroom, at least 2 new windows, some repairs to our ancient wood floor, and much more. I’m also dreaming of setting up a greywater collection system off of our washing machine, but with the space we have I don’t know how feasible it is. Oh and gutters, the neverending landscaping dilemma, painting. Okay now I may be freaking myself out a bit. Not all of those are projects we can do, but we have to organize and pay for them and that in itself is plenty daunting. 

I’m hitting a wall this morning in writing. I remember years ago when I was attempting to work through The Artist’s Way and you had to write pages, I can’t remember the parameters, but they were daily pages, and you had to write through the blank brain. Write about how you had nothing to write about if that was what was happening. It always seemed silly, but I think I”m finally looking for that now. There is my meditation.

My brain jumps around  a lot. If you have ever been in a meeting with me you know this well. I’m long suspected that I have ADD, not sure if it is adult onset or was just manageable enough as a kid, but I see it. Fortunately I’m in a field in which I am presented with many strategies for getting me through tedious meetings without too much distress. I can doodle, and I did that to get me through grad school. I occasionally remember to take a small container of playdo to meetings which can also serve to keep my hands busy. Mainly I come back to doodling my shapes. I think if I were to be able to go look at homework from high school you would see the same form of doodles. And just words. Whatever word struck my fancy from a lecture would be written repeatedly in various fonts around the edges of my page. I imagine this is relatively common, but as a teenager it was one of those things that added to the feeling that I might be a bit of a freak. It is only until recently that I’m really starting to accept that we are ALL a little bit of a freak. Some of us hide it better, some of us accept it more, some of us can’t help but let the freak flag fly high and bright. I’ve always felt more comfortable among this last category. The ones that hide it well have always made me incredibly nervous.

Interrupted by waking kiddo.