May 30, 2009

Time off, time on

Weekends are special to me. Usually with Kurt home, I'm not on point with the girls, so I take a long shower, bother to shave my legs (WOW!), read a bit of a book or write some in relative peace. Even when we're all doing things together, the general atmosphere is relaxed. Two on two, life is just a bit easier.

Right now, Kurt's dad is visiting from out of town. He's looking for condos and might decide to move here (YAY!). I'm really happy to have him here, the girls are ecstatic, and we've been having a great visit-- fun conversations, fun dinners, silly kids showing off, etc.

But, by necessity, the boys are out this Saturday morning looking at condos with the realtor. Since two small kids running around strangers homes is probably not conducive to a good shopping experience, I'm hanging with the girls at home. It's fine, it's something I do all the time, but... sigh. I miss my Saturday a bit. Mostly, to be honest, my whining comes from the fact that I have to think of something for us to do, which is usually Kurt's raison d'etre on the weekends. Lazy lack of originality is what plagues me today.

But, on the bright side, I am showered and dressed (though not shaved, but who will ever know? Except y'all, I mean). It's a beautiful day and still cool in the morning. I shall venture out, bounce around the park and maybe (gulp!) take the girls to chik-fil-a for lunch. (note to self: probably should try to get them to eat more colorful foods than chicken and pasta).

The boys (aka Kurt and Otto, perhaps not boys in right, but since we ladies outnumber them this weekend, we'll call 'em what we want) will be back this afternoon and plan to make a delicious dinner-- something to do with eggplant and pasta, yum!

Tomorrow we've all got the day off: church, puttering and dinner with my family. And Kurt is home from work for the first few days next week, so we'll have plenty of time to let him plan our days. In retrospect, the weekend is just shunted forward a bit, not lost at all. Sounds perfect to me!

May 25, 2009

People Pleaser

In the writing class I'm taking, one question that keeps coming up is, "What are you afraid of when you write?". I'm not talking about the whole keep-your-back-to-the-wall-so-the-monsters-can't-creep-on-you-as-you-type scenario. (Seriously, though. Anyone who's seen even the most innocuous of suspense films knows leaving a door open behind you is just asking for trouble.)

The real fear for any non-fiction writer is writing about other people. Our lives do not exist in a vacuum. My memories, my experiences, the moments that have shaped me, hurt me and healed me, nearly all have other people involved. Whether it's peripheral or front-and-center, there's no real way to write without touching, to some extent, on other people's roles and actions.

While at first this may not seem like a big deal, you have to consider that not everyone, more likely no one, remembers any moment in the same way. Everyone owns, only, their singular perspective. That's their truth. So writing about something where other's truths overlap is tricky territory. For instance, awhile back, at my mom's request, I planned a big anniversary party for her and my step-dad. Long story short, the whole process was a disaster of miscommunication and incredible stress, which peaked for me when my mom told me very clearly that she had never asked me to do anything for the anniversary and it had all been my idea. Does it matter who was right? Not really-- we each believe our part and that's our own truth. It leads to two VERY different stories.

And right there, you have my biggest fear about writing. Even just mentioning the anniversary debacle gives me hives because I know my mom will read this. But if I want to be a writer, and I do, I have to assume that at some point lots of people I know could read lots of things I write that may not, perhaps even probably will not, mesh well with their own perspectives.

It's a balancing act. I don't want to offend but I still want to tell a story. I have learned to avoid direct personal references for the most part, though of course Kurt knows he's (almost) never off-limits. The key, I find, is to only write about how I felt, what I saw, what happened through MY eyes.

One example is from a while back when I reconciled with a very good friend. We met in a bookstore and I saw her before she saw me. If I wrote about the encounter as, "watching her ignoring me, tensely hoping I wouldn't show up and exuding anger", that'd be putting a whole lot of my drama into her head- a place where I have never been. (By the way, I just made all that shit up for flair- she was none of those things.) I'm comfortable with her reading that story because I tried to write about it as closely as I could from what I felt, saw, did and perceived.

Because that's all I have, right? The stuff in my head may not all be solid, but it's mine. I can't apologize or shy away from a story I want to tell just because someone else may not see it the same way. I can only do my best to be considerate and tread softly. That doesn't mean it's not scary, though. I've never been confrontational and sometimes telling a story can feel a lot like a throw-down.

But it's not, or at least it doesn't need to be. It's just a way for me to make sense of things. Since my life often feels jumbled and without sense at all, I suppose I need to get over the fear and put things together as best I know how. Hopefully, I can do that without stepping on any toes or pissing anyone off.

Yeah, right.

May 23, 2009

Falling off the edge of the world sure sounds nice sometimes

As a kid I used to sit inside stories while everyone else went out to play. Not so much inside writing stories, though I did that too, but inside the tales themselves.

I wasn't just reading-- coursing eyes over words, absorbing only a few in each line, just enough to grab the gist of it and move on. I was inside, living it, shaping my own life to fit. I remember vividly making friends with a tree in my father's apartment complex during a thunderstorm. I was so deeply entrenched in the adventures of the Pevensies that I really believed I could wile my way into Narnia, too. The most obvious way seemed to be through the good graces of the unappreciated denizens of our own world... and it really was a nice old tree. (I seem to remember it talking back to me, but perhaps that's something I should best keep to myself.)

Being ripped away from an absorbing book had almost a physical pain, leaving me sullen and graceless, bereft (though being a teenager helped with that part, too). I wanted back IN and when my book would end I'd find myself floundering. Where to go? What to do?

The answer, clearly, was to find another story to shelter me in it's world. Thank God for series'.

It's harder these days to find books that consume me so entirely as they did back then. I don't know if it's because the books I read aren't as good or if I'm simply not as capable of that absorbing suspension of disbelief. Part of the problem now, too, is that escaping so completely away just isn't feasible in my life anymore. Sure, I can get sucked in and read until 4 in the morning... but I still have to get up at 6. It's lovely to sit down for a bit while the girls nap, but with an ear out for them and a corner of my mind on the laundry, dishes and dinner, it's not quite so easy to sink into the dream.

Still, for all life's distractions and all my grown-up responsibilities and sensibilities, I'd really love to find two nearly mythical things: a perfect moment outside of time and inside a perfect book.

Any suggestions?

my horse ran away

The funny thing about routines is how easy they are to take for granted. For instance, I was so firmly ensconced in my exercise schedule that it never occurred to me that taking a day off here and there would do any harm.

Turns out that foundation was not so firm as I thought and now, neither is my belly. In the past month or so, due to the kids' illnesses, my excuses and ultimately laziness, I've missed more workouts than I've made. It's not a huge deal, and while I am now aching with the punishment of having to recover my strength, I know that I can and that I will. If nothing else, my humiliating lack of buff-ness at the gym with Kurt this morning has provided barrels of motivation.

It's not just little things like that, though. My writing has felt more and more like a chore and I've found myself grasping at every little excuse not to get it done. At this very moment a thunderstorm is rolling through and there's a little voice nagging me to turn off the computer in case of lightening- even though I'm using battery power.

It's cliche and whiny, I know, but starting something new is hard. It's hard and sometimes, lately, I just don't want to do it. There's an inherent comfort of sinking into basic household maintenance, setting my more challenging aspirations aside. When I clean the house, finish the laundry, do the shopping and plan out dinner, there is no real question as to my ability to succeed. The more I dip into this potential career of words, I encounter levels of complexity and resistance that I never even considered before. My own hesitancy is daunting all by itself. Add in all the other hurdles I need to jump... and I find dusting myself off and starting all over again to be more and more difficult.

But, here I sit, waiting to be struck by lightening so I won't have to move on to my waiting homework. But at least I'm here, right? I haven't really given up... I'm just hoping the horse that threw me will make it's way back on it's own. I can kind of see it in the distance, but the damn thing seems to be loitering in the vicinity of an apple tree. I suppose I'll have to chase it down soon, but for the moment, I think I'm going to let the dust settle and just sit here for a bit, right where I fell.

How's that for inspirational?

May 05, 2009

hello, sunrise... it's me!

I remember in high school getting up at 5:30 A.M. every morning. The bus came at 6:40 and classes started at (precisely) 7:04. Why 5:30? My brothers would roll out of bed at 6:30, snag a bowl of cereal and eat it on the street corner. For years, my mom would walk down there every few days to reclaim her dishes.

But for me, that was just impossible. It had to be 5:30, so I could shower and fix my hair and change my clothes a few times and do my best 15-year-old make up art. Then I had to finish my homework. I need that extra hour to get pretty and fresh.

I am sitting here with soaking wet hair, a bare face and mostly clean gym clothes. This is some quantifiable motivation- drag my ass out of bed at 6? You better believe I am not going to waste time getting cute for the boys on the bus. HELL NO.

Still, some things are too deeply ingrained to let go... I am still doing my homework on the run.

May 04, 2009

sad conclusion

I love my sleep, especially my mornings. The slow waking up, dreamily turning to cuddle with Kurt, waiting for my eyes to open all of their own volition- it's lovely. I'm just not a hustle-and-bustle morning person.

But I also just don't have extra time to do what I need to do. When the girls are at school, I end up running around rotating laundry, cleaning the kitchen, buying groceries with kid-free luxury. With leftover time, I work out and then, with the last chunk I can scrounge, I work. But that's not enough time when it comes to writing. I am discovering more and more, there's more to writing than just sitting down and sorting through words. There is, sigh, organization. Filing, tracking submissions, follow-up, phone calls, research and, let's not forget, screen-staring in absolute frustration.

I squeeze in a few hours on the weekends, I pull in a few hours at night during the week, but I need MORE TIME. And so, I have reached a sad, sad conclusion. I must bid my slow sleepy mornings adieu.

It's not like I get to laze about in the A.M. as it is. Anna invades our room with giggles and squirms between 6:45 and 7 and we're all up by 7:15, usually with quick morning ablutions already behind us. Then I get the girls up and decent (or generally tidy-ish) while Kurt gets breakfast, we enjoy a coffee and cereal, brush teeth and, poof!, everyone's out the door. Tuesday and Thursday are easier, since the girls and I don't have to poof until about 9, but it's still not what I'd call sleeping in.

But I still need time, an extra hour or so that I don't have to steal from an otherwise full, though not jam-packed, day. So, starting this week, my alarm will be set for 6 A.M. Or, more precisely, ten 'til 6 so that I have a few bleary moments to pry open my eyes, kiss my blissfully sleeping husband and stumble into workout clothes. I know eventually, in theory, it'll become easier to wake up ahead of the crew, but for the moment... damn, I'm so not thrilled.

I need that hour. I can get up before I take the girls to school and get exercise out of the way which will leave a free spot in the morning to stare at my screen in frustration. On non-school days, I can write and file and research (and don't forget the frustrated staring) in peace and quiet before the playroom explodes at precisely 7:45 A.M.

If I could just settle for staying a housewife and stay-at-home mom for the time being, I'd be able to "sleep in" (on a side note, there was a time in my life when sleeping in meant waking up at nearly noon, but that is gone and dust). I have to say, with all honesty, that this decision to get up only an hour earlier has called all this "freelance writer" nonsense into serious doubt.

But onward and upward, right? Let's hope this is a sacrifice I can stick to, or otherwise it's going to take me a LOT longer to find my sea legs in this business. My comfort and support is many-fold, though. I have a new desk, a husband who is thrilled for me, I blossoming belief in my own ability, a treadmill in the basement and something else which, at the present, is more important than all of those combined.

A fabulous, magical and nearly instant coffee machine. Keurig, I heart you.