March 30, 2009

distraction and deadlines and writing, oh my!

This class is kicking my butt. Not because I can't do it, (I can), but because I am now aware of how flaky and distracted I can be. On that note... gee, look, there's a book I haven't read in forever!

Focus, focus, now we must focus. I was never good at homework in college. Pretty much everything I ever did was completed on the fly in three hours the night before it was due. I'm just not good with the planning aspect of it all. Probably this is why I have so much trouble sticking to my "plan the weekly meals and shop once a week" commitment. To be clear, by 'commitment', I mean sad-attempt-on-bi-annual-basis.

I love my lifestyle routines but it has taken a LOT of time, effort and starting over to get them to stick. Like, a year, a lot. So having to buckle down for a six-week course with a weekly turn around on some pretty interesting, but challenging, projects is definitely squashing me.

Hopefully, I'll be like that cockroach in "Wall-E"; just keep bouncing up out of the ground every time I get rolled on or shot at, trundling along again on my merry way. Wish me luck and if (ha! if! as if I haven't already!) I don't write so much here in the next few weeks, you'll know why. I'm busy busy busy re-reading the Phantom Tollbooth (you know, for inspiration) while sitting in from of my computer with my draft article scornfully staring me down from the screen.

And, of course, there's laundry that needs to be done. Isn't there always? Ah, the procrastinator's eternal fall-back, how I love thee.

March 20, 2009

I'm at work

Two days a week, both my girls are in morning preschool (okay, I admit it's daycare, but it sounds better and makes me feel less guilty to say preschool). So, for about nine hours a week, I am on my own.

This is when I work. Yes, that's right, WORK. I know I am a stay-at-home mom, I know I don't get a paycheck. Saying "I'm working" still sounds bizarre and self-important to me at this point in my life, but the truth is that I have a schedule, I have deadlines, I have commitments- I have work to do.

All this responsibility is mostly of my own devising, at least at this point in my career. Career- now there's another word fraught with discomfort. The truth remains, though, that the work I do now is the foundation of my career in the future, post-preschoolers. In a few short years, both of my children will be in school for most of the day, leaving me free... to work.

What is it that I do during this time, what is this "work" that I call my own? Writing, of course. Always writing. When I am not blogging here, I am guest-blogging over at MA! Motherhood with Attitude. When I can't dredge up something for those more challenging essays, I indulge in updates about my children over at their site. I'm taking a freelance writing e-course with homework, research and, of course, more writing. Whether outlined by me or my instructor, I have goals and deadlines for all these projects.

In between these commitments, I journal, jot and scrawl on bits of paper. I read other people's work for inspiration and admiration. I spend time studying publications in my target market. I even, *gasp*, submit pieces from time to time.

I am a writer (eek!), and I work. I still feel uncomfortable, even embarrassed, to claim this lofty status. It's not something that everyone understands. Take, for instance, this recent conversation.

"Sorry, I can't get together today, I've got work to do."

"Really? What work? Can't the laundry wait?"


Reality, with ever increasing insistence, requires quite a bit of preparation for a new career. For most people, you can't just jump in at the top and expect any level of success. You have to work your way up, earning a level of recognition and respect. For now, my work is limited to study and practice, nine hours a week. Those nine hours, though, set the stage for a future when saying, "I'm working," doesn't elicit scepticism or embarrasment.

There is more to this life than being a small person's mom. They're growing up and I can, too. Knowing what I plan to do, what I want to do, gives me a head start. I might as well take this chance while I can.

On that note, I have to go. I have work to do.

March 13, 2009

"Just think positive!"

These three words are just about the most condescending, and even insulting, thing you can say to someone with depression or chronic anxiety. I mean no offense to those that have offered this advice, I know it's given with the best of intentions. Truth be told, I imagine it's difficult to think of anything to say to someone who's trying to work through feelings you just can't understand. When in doubt, most people reach for the cliche. Hell, I've done it myself- that's why it's called a cliche, right?

But the feelings this little gem of wisdom ignites within me go in two directions (and occasionally both ways at the same time. Those are fun days.). Sometimes, I feel flawed, desperate. That little nasty voice in my head says, "What's wrong with you, anyway? You're just doing this to yourself, snap out of it and move on! Lots of people have it so much worse and your drama here is SO SELFISH."

I hate that voice. Seriously, shut up already and GET A REAL JOB OUTSIDE MY HEAD.

The other side of the coin is NOT self-directed: sarcasm rules. "Oh, gee, why didn't I think of that? All this time I've been sitting here with knots in my stomach when I should have just gone to my happy place! Visualize sunshine and cuddle bunnies! Wheee- all better, thanks!"

Last night I went to a class at my church and witnessed a listening expert in action. With cool maneuvering, she neither offers advice nor minimizes the situation. She also doesn't agree or disagree- her island has no opinion. She is a loving, sympathetic Switzerland in human form. (By the way, yes, I know Switzerland is not an island. Just go with it.)

That is the key and, I'm sure, a skill that comes only from long experience. As a leader in our church, this woman is often faced with the concerns, troubles and opinions of others. They are looking for comfort and a place to safely speak more than any kind of validation. She can, in the same day, listen with equanimity to a person's heartache over catcalls as she went into Planned Parenthood and hours later to someone else's outraged disgust at the woman she saw entering the clinic while she was protesting outside. Her opinion is her own, but she does not deny your response to a situation. It's real for you.

There is no fixing other people. "Just be positive!" is the ultimate minimizer, implying a level of control that simply does not exist. My mind, my gut, that bitter little voice, have an instinctive response outside of any attempt I make to "turn that frown upside down".

It takes me more time to process life. Maybe it's messy, but that doesn't make it any less valid nor does it mean that I'll never come to terms with a situation. My way through just doesn't look like yours. Telling me just not to feel that way is akin to me saying, "Oh, come on. You just need to focus on something else and your migraine will go away. You're making it happen with your lie-in-the-dark-and-puke attitude."

I appreciate the love behind the advice, I do. That's what keeps me from screaming, "Keep your happy bunnies out of my living room!". If you want to help and really feel like you have to say something? Take a tip from my friend at church. We may both live on islands and they probably look the same from the outside, but you can't see what beasts hide in my trees. So don't tell me to just hang on the beach with a pina colada and soak in the view. If I have a fortified shelter set up and the night makes me nervous- I have my reasons, whether you see them or not.

March 06, 2009

This is my desk

I have been saving this picture for a glorious Before and After post. The ragged dorm-room chic of it all was supposed to be completely eclipsed by my Shiny New Big Girl Work Space.

But I am not getting a new desk- not right now, anyway. Times being what they are, it seems a little indulgent to go out and buy a fancy office set-up for, let's admit it, a stay-at-home mom whose work consists mainly of blogging and Facebook. (Yes, Facebook is work. Building my mafia takes time, y'all!)

The new desk, the dream of the new desk, is really just vanity. I'd convinced myself that the real origin of my writer's block is my inadequate workspace and lack of privacy. If I could just have a professional office, I could be professional, organized and productive. It's the chicken-or-the-egg argument of time management.

But a desk does not a writer make. By letting my mismatched furniture off the hook, I can now focus on the reality of trying to put words together again. Really, it doesn't matter where I work, only that I do it. And let's face it, some of my best writing has been born in the local coffee shop, so where's the point of a credenza in that?

It's not really for writing that I wanted my desk. Writing was my excuse. Take a closer look at that picture. Closely encroaching the prison-style (if only it were electrified) fencing, you'll see a large purple tent. To the right is a plastic dresser full of crafts with a pile of coloring books and construction paper nearby. That small enclosed square-footage is my island in a sea of baby dolls, picture books and stuffed animals. It is the only place in our entire, rather large, house that I can call distinctly my own. The children are not allowed to enter- though this rule does not keep them from throwing themselves against the fence with barbaric screams when I am inside. (Picture the Jurassic Park scene where the velociraptors are testing their enclosure for weak spots.)

This brings up the question, too: Is the fence to keep them out or me in? A little of both, I think. I really want a place to go where they can't get me. They've learned to give me at least a little bit of a break when I'm in my cage before they start Whining Workshop. And they've learned, without a doubt, NOT to throw toys inside. Don't taunt the tiger, my friends.

I admit to a certain amount of jealousy when it comes to Kurt's oasis of a music studio down in the far reaches of the basement. It's quiet there. When he closes the door, he can't hear a whisper of a shrieking banshee (me) taking on the ravaging hordes (them). No one goes into his studio, no one moves anything or touches anything or even really LOOKS at anything in there. It's the definition of privacy. And I want it, dammit, I do! (I'm not ruining my marriage with this outpouring, by the way. Kurt is well aware of my envy.)

What I have to be honest with myself about, though, is that when I want privacy and escape, I usually need to LEAVE THE HOUSE SO HELP ME GOD. I spend most of the hours of my days and nights inside these beige walls. The location of the walls, whether in a private studio or a scraped-together corner of the playroom, doesn't really matter. When the time comes for a break, I have to take a break and in that event, I'd probably be leaving behind my fancy desk anyway.

So, for inspiration I will not be looking to a new office but instead to a new perspective. Another one, that is. Isn't it funny how often these new perspectives seem to be necessary? Someday, perhaps after my new outlook has been invested in new projects when result in new income, I'll splurge for that ultimate vanity plate: A shiny new office. For now, my functional, albeit besieged, little work space will just have to do. Before and After.

March 04, 2009

Sick week, part deux

Gross. seriously. There really isn't much more to it beyond that.

Oh, and also, isn't it amazing how children have such a grasp of dramatic timing and aim when it comes to projectile vomiting?

March 03, 2009

TV is the devil

It's not even 9 A.M. yet and my kids have already watched HOURS of TV today. Now, please understand, this is not a normal occurrence. We're usually pretty skimpy with screen time around here. But when the going gets tough... the tough turn on the tube.

I don't like TV for kids or most of what's on for adults these days, either. I think the majority of it is inane and brain rotting. Even the educational shows drive me nuts after five or six repetitions. The background noise of constant TV chatter distracts us all and makes it harder to concentrate on anything else going on, like flexing of imaginations. I love those new commercials with Alec Baldwin where he says he's an alien implementing a subversive campaign to turn our brains to tasty mush for a snack. If it's true, Alec, come on over. My kids brains are particularly tender just now. What a treat!

You see, despite my distaste, I also cannot deny the usefulness of the television when it comes to kids. Need half an hour to finish the dishes? Bam! Thank you, WordWorld. Everyone screaming and hitting each other? Voila! Instant sibling rivalry diffusion via the Disney Channel. It's easy and it's free, what more could you ask?

Quite a lot, of course. I think kids should play, make up stories, hide their toys, read books and argue over who gets to be the best princess. When possible, I want them to run- through the house, up and down the stairs, around the cul-de-sac dragging a kite that's only hope of flying involves magic fairy dust. My girls do all these things and, in my opinion, do them quite well.

So why are they vegetating to "Lady and the Tramp" right now? Because I am sick. Silvia is sick. Anna, wanting to be included, is pretending to be sick. I was up all night with a screaming toddler, spent the early morning hours folded up on the couch pouring cold Pedialyte down her throat and checking to see if her 103 degree fever had broken. We've spent the past three days, not to put too fine a point on it, changing ferocious diapers every 20 minutes or so.

I am tired and my bones ache and I have a fever, too. I want to go to bed. But there are two little girls sitting in my living room, one of whom regularly bursts into feverish tears. It's just not going to happen. I'd take them out for a change of scene, but probably no one would appreciate our company just now. Enter the Disney universe and the magic of PBS, stage left. Silvia may be sick, but she's now distracted. Anna is so tuned in, she's barely aware on my existence which, to my selfish delight, keeps her demands to a minimum. Me? I'm sitting. I'm sipping ginger tea to settle my stomach, counting down the hours to my next dose of Advil and debating calling the pediatrician.

(Which is a whole different story, by the way. If I call, they'll always say to bring her in right away. I'll arrive ever hopeful and 90% of the time, the doctor will tell me to let her rest and give her fluids, which I'm already doing. Thank you for taking my money, sir. But, there's the off chance that she's got an ear infection which will only get worse over time, so... no wonder my head hurts.)

TV is the devil, but today is just a little bit of hell. It goes with the scenery.