help—part 1

Here’s the thing: when you need help, just ask. I know! Crazy simple.

Lately I have been doing that and let me tell you, I endorse it 100%. Why did it take me this long? Who knows, but don’t make my mistake. When someone says, “What can I do to help?” think of something.

Lately, my most consuming worry, the one that pushes its crummy little self to the front of the line, is HOW AM I GOING TO MARKET MY BOOK? I HAVE NO IDEA HOW TO MARKET A BOOK! This one really loves 3:00AM. A lot. Also yelling.

When I know how to do something, I possess endless energy and almost too much exuberance and enthusiasm. (I do know other words that don’t begin with E but these just really seem to work well together.) Conversely, when I do not know how to do something, I freeze. Then worry. Then freeze. Worry. Freeze. Worry. A nice tidy loop of crazy.

But sometimes, my subconscious (who is really very thoughtful most of the time) steps in and solves the problem. I woke up the other morning with the thought, “Just ask for help.” So I did! I sent a simple email to some of my writer friends asking for their most effective marketing practices and they were happy to share. I now have some great ideas and—dare I say it?!—a marketing plan! “Plan” might be an optimistic word, but I have something close to it. I slept well last night. As did my subconscious (I’m assuming).

The great thing about asking for help is that is makes you more inclined to offer help, which seems counterintuitive if you are busy enough to need to ask for help in the first place, but somehow it all balances out. And you get the warm-and-fuzzies, which are very lovely. Also, it’s good karma. Who can’t use a little good karma?

This weekend Steve (not his real name) asked for help in getting the large parts to our new swing set from a truck into the backyard. Parts far too large for my feeble upper-body strength. My brother-in-law and a good friend helped. Also my sister. She’s a lot stronger than I am. But I watched as I ate my breakfast and told them where it should go.

swing_set
swing_set

Here is the swing set. It's not done yet. Or it's the worst swing set ever. But, really, it's not done yet.

Oh, speaking of karma, I have a nice story for you. When we decided to get a swing set, we checked out some of the swing set offerings on Criagslist to see if there was anything good before we just went out and bought new. You know, frugality and reusing, reducing, recycling. Anyhow, I found this great one in a town—that shall remain unnamed—an hour away from us. I spoke to the owner who was moving and needed it removed ASAP. I told her we would be by on Saturday and she said to call her then for the address where to mail the check. Deal! We drove there and she was gone (which we expected) and so was the swing set (which we did not). I texted her to inquire (with utmost hopefulness and faith in humanity) had the swing set been moved to a place where I could retrieve it? No. She sold it to someone else and forgot to call me. That is bad karma. I wanted to send her a nasty text but that would have been bad karma. I wanted to wish bad karma upon her. But that also would have been bad karma. Bad karma begets bad karma. Just like helping begets helping.

(See how I bring these things full circle?)

In the end, as you have most likely deduced, we did find another swing set and the guy managed not to sell it to someone else before we got there. He was even extremely nice AND helped Steve (not his real name) to dismantle and load the parts. I like to think we met this great fortune because we sow good karma. And see? More helping!

Are you wondering why is this “part 1”? Because you never know when you’re going to need to ask for help ... again.

FRIENDLY REMINDER! The Mosquito Hours will be released for your reading pleasure in 2 weeks! Mark your calendars now! (You’re welcome.)

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My novel, The Mosquito Hours, will be released in early May! Wanna stay up-to-date on news about it as well as have my latest blog posts conveniently delivered to your inbox? Then subscribe to my newsletter! Click on it right up top there on the right. See how easy I made that for you? (You’re welcome.)

right now

Do you ever feel like you’re the only one looking for the lost socks? The only one who is even trying to find the lost socks even though you keep asking people where the socks might be? Are you beginning to suspect that you are the only one who cares about the lost socks? Lost socks make me nuts. Because who will find them if I do not? No one. Exactly. See what I mean? I’m the only one. Exactly.

I don’t like right now. In fact I really hate right now. I have pretty much hated right now since November. Too many people I love are sick. I cannot seem to balance out everything. I have a kid who has developed a fear of choking and for the last month has eaten nothing more solid than foods the consistency of yogurt. Nothing with texture. Or fiber. Or much nutrition ... Although he did eat a slice of cake the other day. Little known medical fact: it is impossible for a human child to choke on cake. (That is not actually a medical fact.)

It’s been a long, difficult, sad right now. Since November.

I woke up the other morning to more snow, frigid temperatures, van doors frozen shut. I was furious. And discouraged. And enraged. Oh, I was really mad. Because pretty much everything sucks right now. But I carried on. We hoofed it to homeschool co-op even though I was so cranky. (I mean, really freakin’ cranky.) But I sucked it up and put on a happy face. You know, because behaving in a socially acceptable manner is good modeling.

And then we had a really great time. I genuinely felt better.

Afterwards, we went to my friend’s house for our weekly kid-swap and she watched the kids while I got some work done (much-needed). I got a bunch of stuff figured out. Maybe it wasn’t perfect life balance, but it was some of it. As I worked I suddenly felt warmth on the back of my neck. I turned and looked out the window.

sun_is_out The sun had come out! The sun! And then when I got home, Steve (not his real name) pulled together supper and did the dishes so I could do yoga.

Turns out not everything sucks.yoga_candle

(Not even close.)

One joy scatters a hundred griefs. Chinese proverb

Found that quote in my inbox later that same day. I subscribe to Real Simple daily thoughts or quotes or whatever the what-not they call them. Some days I swear they know what I need to hear. If it weren’t so helpful it would be creepy. So I guess that even though the joys don’t negate the troubles, they help. They provide a little balance. And for that, I will remember to be grateful.

more_socksIn the spirit of seeking joy, I think I’m going to join the rest of my family in their disregard for lost socks. There will always be more socks at Target. And if I go to Target, I will have to get a mocha at Starbucks, right? Joy. See? (You’re welcome.)

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My novel, The Mosquito Hours, will be released in early May! Wanna stay up-to-date on news about it as well as have my latest blog posts conveniently delivered to your inbox? Then subscribe to my newsletter! Click on it right up top there on the right. See how easy I made that for you? (You’re welcome.)

days like these

The other day was one of those days in a week that was one of those weeks. Steve (not his real name) came home and we ate supper and then I simply had to get out. Ever notice that sometimes in order to want to come home you have to leave for a while? Like peel-out-of-the-driveway leave? And kickin’ up gravel in a mini van is so totally cool, in case you’ve never had the pleasure. Once I had proceeded into the wild blue yonder and found nothing satisfying on the radio, I popped The Fresh Beat Band CD out of the player and shoved in the first thing I laid my hands on that was recorded with adults in mind. It happened to be Ten by Pearl Jam. I kept turning up—louder and louder. And louder. And—need I say?—louder. I could just feel the tension draining from me. The experience prompted this Facebook status update:

After a day like today (and a week like this one ... ) sometimes you need yoga. And other times it's Pearl Jam blasting in the mini van on the way to Market Basket. Today was the latter. God gave rock and roll to you ...

Life has grown a little too real as of late. I almost didn’t write a post this week because there seems to be gravity every direction I turn and I thought that anything I could possibly say would fall short or somehow trivialize reality. Surgeries and serious illnesses and a child who seems to have inherited his mama’s troubles with anxiety, manifesting in it’s own complex, convoluted pattern. People who are suddenly facing their mortality which cannot help but turn the head towards the fragility of life.

It’s a fragile thing, this life we lead ...
Pearl Jam

I love that line. I love that song. It is fragile. Not only our mortality, but the ways we perceive ourselves and others, our dreams, our hopes, the illusions we hold. Our hearts. The ways in which we hold each other mean everything. The way you hold the ones you love best (who are often those you take most for granted), the friendships that uphold you, the ways we hold our children. That might be most fragile one of all. The ways we hold the strangers with whom we share our communities, our countries, our planet. All delicate. Brittle glass, tender petals, thin skin. How do you hold these?

I’ve been thinking a lot about that.

By the way, don’t be fooled by the narrow glimpse into my life I provide here because I get it wrong all the time—shards of broken glass around my toes. But I try to hold tight to the moments I recognize the light.

candle-at-night

The other night when I had to leave home for a while in order to want to ever be there again, I figured I’d better go ahead and pick up a mocha at Starbucks. I really needed that mocha, let me tell you. The Starbucks kid informed me that they were out of mocha mix. My face must have reflected my dismay.

I said, “Oh, I really wanted one. I have had the hardest day.”

“How bad was it?” he said.

So bad.” That was the most I could muster.

“Okay,” he said. “I’ll open up tomorrow’s supply. Shhh ... “

“Really?” I said.

Then he made me a venti and only charged me for a tall. Never, ever underestimate small kindnesses. Ever.

So on a night I had to leave home for a while in order to want to ever be there again, I did go home and I looked at my sleeping children. I fell asleep holding my husband’s hand. I will remember to hold them carefully, I will remember to hold them carefully ... I recited to myself as I fell asleep.

I went home. And I was so happy to be there.

Visit the elders in the hospital, answer your friends’ calls even when you are busy, cook a supper for someone who needs a night off, let the guy take a left even when you have right of way, assume the best in people, look at your children when they are speaking to you, take out tomorrow’s mocha mix for a woman who’s had a hard day. Help each other remember to do these things because if one thing is for sure we are going to forget. It’s a fragile thing, this life we lead ...

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My novel, The Mosquito Hours, will be released in early May! Wanna stay up-to-date on news about it as well as have my latest blog posts conveniently delivered to your inbox? Then subscribe to my newsletter! Click on it right up top there on the right. See how easy I made that for you? (You’re welcome.)

the secret to having life balance!

Wanna know what it is? You can’t. Not know, that is. Have it. You can’t have it. You cannot have life balance. That is the secret. Not because you don’t need it, deserve it, or are not bright enough to achieve it. It simply does not exist!

Seriously. It doesn’t. I just figured this out. Today. And I must say I feel better. Relieved, even. It’s nothing I’m doing wrong that I can’t “get” this. It is simply not possible.

What is life balance? I think it’s something different for each person seeking it. Which is another reason why it can’t be pinned down. There could never be a single formula. For me, it means having all areas of my life—homemaking, homeschooling, fiction writing, blog writing, business—organized and executed with precision, control, and harmony. Planned and carried out smoothly. I don’t even mean “perfectly”—I mean somewhat efficiently. But real life never allows this. The little—and big—fires always creep in.

Of course.

clock3

Ever lose a library book? We do all the time. (Note: It’s always a kids’ library book.) It’s the kind of thing that makes me lose my shizzle. It’s a time eater—looking for lost library books is a time-consuming monster. It is made more maddening because it is utterly unnecessary—if only they would simply put the books back in the designated library book basket it would never even happen! But noooooooooooooo. So then I must rant and rave about the lost library book. I mean, I don’t get mean or holler at them. But I do that annoying mom sing-song voice of reproach. You know the one. “If we could just put the the book back where it belongs, then this wouldn’t happen. I make a special place for all our stuff but everyone just drops everything wherever they want. And why are your markers all over the floor? And your Lego? This is how things get lost. Or broken. Or lost and broken. Or broken and lost. Bleh bleh bleh...” It goes on longer but I don’t want to give you a brain bleed imagining what it sounds like. You already know if you have a mother and were ever a kid. Or are a mother. (If you are innocent of this practice, I will personally sculpt a statue of you and lay flowers at its feet every Mother's Day.) As of now, I have not yet found that book. And, no, I have not stopped sing-songing. I’m trying. I swear. (Not really ... But I know I should and that’s the first step.)

library_basket

The freakin' designated library book basket.

This sort of thing makes me nuts because I DO NOT HAVE TIME TO LOOK FOR FREAKIN’ LIBRARY BOOKS! Yes, I am yelling. (Sorry.)

clock2

Time is such a pain in the tush. (That’s Portuguese for “butt.”) There is never enough time to get everything done. Even when you try to plan it out, those little—and big—fires always creep in to screw up everything. Of course. In spite of planning, I never achieve everything in a day that I hope to. And I don’t generally over-plan—I truly do not. I try to keep the plans/to-dos moderate and draw on experience to set goals I have an actual chance of accomplishing. And even with this mindfulness, achieving the daily goals remains a challenge. Which returns me to the topic at hand which is life balance and the fact that you will never have it. Not until you are elderly and then you will probably feel like you have nothing to do. So what are we supposed to do about this?

I don’t have an answer but I do have an idea! Want to hear it? It’s kind of brilliant.

Reframe.

Just change your attitude. Yeah, I know—easier said than done. But it works. I know that I cannot plan effectively because there are simply too many variables and too many individuals with their own ideas of how time will be spent. For instance, sometimes a person simply must cry for 20 minutes about a paper cut whilst recovering in my lap. And any plans I made don’t matter an iota. Sometimes things like this happen several times a day. And no one can actually get out the door when Mom wants them to so that we can say on track. There is always one more drawing that MUST BE FINISHED or socks to be put on and someone is always starving and then everyone realizes that they are starving as well. Also, something is always lost. Always. Do you get where I’m going with this? So I adjust my attitude. I reframe.

clock1

On Sunday, I decided to sleep in a little which ended up being 9:00am (WHAT?!) and then I needed to make breakfast and clean up the kitchen and get supper going in the slow cooker. Then I wanted to visit Mem at the nursing home and Dad in the hospital (yes, he is back in there ... ergh ... but on the mend, so no worries), all of which took up a ton of my day. Yet, meanwhile, I imagine hours and hours of unfettered time unfurling wherein I can accomplish oodles and oodles of work. There has been no day like this since I have birthed these children that would indicate that such a day is likely. Except when they are not here. Except they are pretty much always here. Why do I think it will happen today? I am unnecessarily frustrating myself. Instead, maybe I could work in the time I do have available to me and adjust the tasks as needed. And most importantly, accept reality for what it is.

I know when the kids are grown and the elders have passed that I am never going to regret one moment I spent with them. So to lament “lost” time is the true waste of time.

This is a work in progress, people. I share my good ideas and then I fumble around attempting (and often failing) to execute them. It’s about trying. Although Yoda says do or do not, there is no try. Hmmmm ...

found_book

This kid just found the book! It was in the couch, although I could have sworn I checked there ... several times. She suddenly remembered her brother was reading it to them the other day. I shall sleep well this night.

turning toward a fresh new year

I have been so very scattered since Thanksgiving. Between the Holidays and my dad’s health crisis, I have been vacillating between feeling completely overwhelmed and a super-hyped emotional state. Every now and then I feel calm. Mostly when I am unconscious. To make it all just a little more interesting, my kids got a stomach bug in the middle of everything which they graciously passed along to me. And I felt kind of lousy for more than a week. Not wicked lousy; just lousy enough.

Seriously?

I know Christmas is a week away, but Yes, I DID begin writing this post a week before Christmas. Yes, it IS January 10th.

Seriously.

easy_chair

I hardly left this here easy chair for a week. It was Pep's and it's not pretty,
but holy dear La-Z-Boy is it comfy!

Can I tell you how happy I was when December 26th arrived? That makes me sound a bit Scrooge-y and I swear I wasn’t. We had a lovely Christmas—we busted Dad out of the rehab for the day and everyone had a great time. We didn’t travel anywhere this year and I never got out of my yoga pants and Grinch thermal shirt all day. But when the 26th arrived we sank into that wonderful in-between time of the year. You know that in-between time: the insanity of the Season is over and the new year (when you need to get your shizzle together) is still a week away. Steve (not his real name) was home from work all week and I let everything go. I cleaned when I felt like it (not much, that is), we ate leftovers and meals I had previously cooked and frozen, I sat in the easy chair and read books. Read books! (I had to say that twice, it was just that delicious.) It’s pretty much the only time of year (aside from our beach vacation) when I just stop. It is so good.

And I bought a new planner!

planner1

Oh, the joy and bliss and excitement a new planner bestows!

I have tried for many a-year to create the perfect planner—one that suits all my needs. I have tried spiral-bound ready-made planners, small-sized planners, homemade planners, but nothing quite worked. They were either too spirally, too limiting, too small, or too homemade. I wanted something in which I could add pages when the mood struck me and replace pages if I messed up (messy don’t work for me); something biggish wherein I could stash this and that with a spot for everything—the calendar, the daily planner, blog post brainstorming, writing idea note-taking, journaling, meal-planning. Then I found this! I love the free printables on this website and have been using them for quite a while. When I saw this, I suspected it might be the planner of my dreams!

planner2

It lives in a pretty 3-ring binder I bought at Target and I have pockets and folders and dividers! Oh, how I love my planner! It’s going to change everything and I will be 100% organized and nothing ever will go wrong and I will never be frustrated or feel like I am running endlessly on a hamster wheel strewn with dirty laundry! I will be perfect.

(Not really.)

Seriously, though, I needed this planner, people. When I think about it, I have been scattered for nearly a year. Making the decision to sell our house, getting it ready for market, the stress and tremendously (and surprisingly) time-consuming process of selling, moving, getting used to a new home. I simply needed to take control of SOMETHING. And this planner is a good start. I can schedule tasks rather than maintain an unwieldy and overwhelming to-do list, I can plan out homeschool and use the space to keep track of their progress and our activities. Everything is here in this one spot—meal plans, the family calendar, to-do tasks, and daily plans.

Organization is a lovely start to this new year, but the most important thing I am working on for 2014 is balance. I know we have all heard that word a trillion times with a trillion ways to achieve it. I’m not even going to try to fool you—I do not have the answer. But I am starting by trying to honor my needs. What does that mean for me? Honoring the fact that I am an introvert who needs time to decompress and renew my energy stores every day. That means making time for yoga. It also means honoring the fact that I need my evenings to rejuvenate. That is NOT the time to try to write, which is something I have been trying to force forever. I try and then get nothing substantial accomplished because I can’t really focus, then I feel badly that I am “not getting enough done,” and in the process I’m not only beating myself up but also not taking the time I need to refill the energy coffers.

No more!

How to remedy this? Get up earlier! I have been writing from 6:00 to 8:00am and then my evenings are free for whatever I want to do. Sometimes that means reading, sometimes a nice episode of Masters of Sex (OOOOH if you have Showtime, this is such a compelling show!), or organizing my planner. Or it can mean writing—if I want to. I am so much happier because I simply tuned in to what I needed. And I’m finding that I am spending quality, mindful time with Steve (not his real name) in the evening because I’m not trying to “get enough done” and staying up way past his early bedtime.

And I definitely feel more content! Is that what “balance” feels like?

I wish you much happiness in this new year! What are YOU doing to find balance in 2014?

and no one asked me for juice even once

2013-04-20 14.24.43 If you had to name the one thing that your kids do that makes you most likely to want to rip your own face off, what would it be? For me, it’s the daily morning whine for juice. And I have never once denied these people juice! Why fuss when there is no history of deprivation? I really, truly, deeply-in-my-bones despise juice.

(Or maybe it’s the whining. Maybe the whining about juice. I was never big on juice and now I don’t even like the word “juice” anymore. It’s just all of it. Mystery solved.)

2013-04-20 19.42.04

My sister and I do a get-away every spring, just the two of us. It’s our Mother's Day gift to ourselves. No one makes me laugh as much as she does. Especially at stuff no one else understands or thinks is funny. The laughing often happens in places where hysterical laughter is either relatively uncommon (Home Depot) or entirely frowned-upon (a wake). But we’re never embarrassed which I think makes us completely normal. Or not. Who really knows. (And let it be known that we’ve never actually lost our composure at a wake, just always share the lurking potential of laughing inappropriately. That being said, we probably shouldn’t go to wakes together. Which is difficult to avoid when you’re in the same family...)

2013-04-20 15.42.44

Anyway, every May, we rent a beach cottage for a weekend together and this is our favorite place—this beach, this town, this cottage.

Every year, we each bring along heavily stuffed bags of lofty goals. And yoga mats. (We’ve never once unrolled them.) It seems that 48 hours away from our little guys simply cannot be squandered and must be utilized fully. Those 48 hours swell in my mind as I imagine the multitude of tasks I will be able to accomplish in all that free time.

To realize the unimportance of time is the gate to wisdom. Bertrand Russell

2013-04-20 14.09.18

But then the sun is always shining and the sky so blue and the ocean calls, the sand fine under our feet.

2013-04-20 14.25.09

We relished the quiet and the freedom and got nothing done but some pleasure reading and (of course) a nearly endless stream of uninterrupted conversation. Thai food and several movies from start to finish. Many long walks on the beach. This year we made a list of home improvements she wants to tackle at her house, then we went to Home Depot to find some pretty paint chips.

2013-04-20 18.49.02

Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time. Marthe Troly-Curtin

It was so delightfully indulgent to watch the time pass slowly and amply. Especially since I usually think of time as my nemesis. A thing of which there is never enough, that passes much too quickly, that gets devoured by the demands of home and children. And this is my biggest problem with the shape of time: it constantly evades me.

It’s being here now that’s important. There’s no past and there’s no future. Time is a very misleading thing. All there is ever, is the now. We can gain experience from the past, but we can’t relive it; and we can hope for the future, but we don’t know if there is one. George Harrison

But I know that all we can do is keep on with the business of life and the work of our hearts and make friends with the idea of time—even we never figure it all out.

(We won’t.)

As happens every year, the sisters’ weekend was over too soon. Inevitably, the following weekend as we washed clothes, made snacks and got back to business each in our own homes, one of us texted the other (we were too busy to make a phone call), “Wish I were doing this weekend what I was doing last weekend!”

2013-04-21 12.23.28

Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.
Mother Teresa

But we know our work is good and grounding and important. Work of the heart. It was another wonderful sisters’ weekend and now my sister and I possess more lovely shared memories. And she never once asked me for juice and she was really well-behaved in Home Depot. (At least as far as I’m concerned which most likely shouldn’t be trusted. Either way, she did not ask me for juice. Which is real love.)

2013-04-21 11.28.55

There is no one with whom I’d rather waste time. I consider myself very lucky to have someone with whom time spent is never wasted.

it’s not an 80’s metal video, people—it’s a baptism

red_shoes2

My new red sparkly shoes. They glitter like Dorothy's!

When did it happen that women’s dress shoes started being produced only with heels that topple out at 6 inches?

Seriously.

I attended a baptism this weekend, with the honor of being made godmother to my friend’s son. And I needed some freakin’ shoes to go with the pretty dress Steve gave me for Christmas. The dress is navy with white polka dots and totally adorable.

I simply wanted a basic black pump with a normal sized heel. 6” heels are not so much in order when you are in the moment of becoming a godmother. I’m neither a prude nor a particularly good Catholic, but when you’re in church, you gotta at least look like a godmother and not Tawny Kitaen in a Whitesnake video. (Yes, I did just watch every Whitesnake video available on youtube. Once you start, it’s hard to stop.) Also, I seriously doubt I could walk in those things without looking like a badly produced CGI character. Jar Jar Binks comes to mind.

I did find some cute red pumps and they looked even cuter than black would have. But they were the one pair of shoes I found that did not render me the tallest person in the room. Apparently I am grossly out of the loop on current fashion trends. If you could see what I normally wear—plain long-sleeve shirts, yoga pants and cardigan sweaters—you would most likely not be surprised.

red_shoes1

Don’t my sparkly red shoes look pretty with the the socks I happen to have on today? You can’t tell, but I’m wearing a plain long-sleeve shirt, yoga pants and a cardigan sweater. But these shoes do dress things up. Think I’ll go roll around on the hood of the car.

Anyway, my kids had a stomach bug about a 6 weeks ago and then sort of a weird mini-nausea experience the week before last. Didn’t result in barf, just a barfish-feeling. Enough to entirely freak out one of my little girls. It’s been 10 days and she is still carrying around the barf bucket, to which she refers as “the frow-up bucket.” She keeps it close and insists on a towel in her bed at night. She is eating as much as ever—where this little 40 pound kid puts it, I do not know—and is clearly a-okay, yet the bucket persists. She is also suddenly preoccupied with the idea of death. The other night after all the bedtime stories and songs and hijinks and ensuing parental threats of what might befall if they didn’t just GO TO SLEEP, she called me up to inquire, “When am I gonna die?”

Seriously? snow_lily2_2_26

The ever-present bucket.

I recently read Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting Through the Storm by Thich Nhat Hanh. I am well-acquainted with fear myself, most often referred to as “worry” by us grown-ups. The book talked a lot about not fighting fear, but rather embracing it tenderly. When you rail against it, it only gains power. Thich Nhat Hanh—a Buddhist monk—also reminds us to be mindful and present. This is hard work—harder than almost anything, really. At least for me.

Right now, there is a black void of time sort of stretching out in front of me. A long stretch of the unknown. I can picture my life in July—by then we most likely will have moved and I can see us at the beach. Often. (We really like the beach.) But it’s only early March and we have this house to sell and my husband’s employment situation is in flux and therefore our income and I’m not exactly sure when we’ll move or even how I will get everything done that needs to get done in order to place the house on the market and so many things—big and little—are just entirely uncertain right now. It’s all very dark and I can’t even wedge a narrow beam of light in there to get a glimpse of what I might expect. Being present is difficult.

I heard about this thing called “Schrödinger's cat.” I am no physicist—but I watch reruns of The Big Bang Theory from time to time and they talked about Schrödinger's cat on an episode I watched the other day. In a nutshell—with my very shaky understanding of physics—Schrödinger's cat refers to a thought experiment in which you imagine a live cat in a closed box. Now, there is a vial of poison (or something like that) in the box with the cat and at some unknown point in time the poison will have been released, or not. So, until you open the box, you can presume that the cat is both alive and dead since you have no knowledge of whether or not the poison vial is intact or broken. (At least this is what I gleaned from Sheldon’s explanation.)

So, here’s what I think. Life is like Schrödinger's cat. Could be one thing, could be another. Sometimes there is darkness and sometimes there is light and you simply put one foot in front of the other, you breathe in the moment (thank you for the wisdom, Thich Nhat Hanh), you dream your dreams and you smile at your fear.

My little girl and I are going to make it—we’ll navigate our own black corridors. I’ll help her out, since that’s what mamas do, and we’ll travel with the bucket for as long as we must. We all need our talismans, our lucky charms, that which brings magic to our lives. Maybe I’ll wear my red sparkly shoes, dare to dream, and hope those dreams really do come true. (Click, click.)

Hey, so if you haven’t yet had a chance to read any of the short story I have been serializing, I would love it if you did and appreciate your opinion. Here’s what has published so far:

“A Cool Dry Place”—part 1 “A Cool Dry Place”—part 2

Many thanks to you for coming here!

how much is enough?

Steve and I spent the last 3 days stripping and refinishing floors, painting walls, cleaning out the garage, prepping molding for fresh paint. The kids were at my parents’ (thanks, Mom and Dad!) or we would have achieved exactly 2% of that stuff.

basement_moving_boxes As I de-clutter my house in preparation for selling it, this pile of boxed stuff keeps growing higher and spreading wider along one wall of my basement. It is all the stuff that is too “personal” (framed photos and kids’ art) and clutter-some (most decorations) to keep out. And boxes and boxes of books. Oh, and random weirdness like binoculars and tiny camera tripods. It makes me wonder how much we need some of this stuff if we’re living happily without it. I do not mean the books and photos of my kids. I mean the tiny tripod. (Why do we have that?) It leaves me wondering what do we really need? Not want, like or possess “just in case”—need. I am thinking about sufficiency versus excess.

How much is enough?

I am a contributing blogger at Lifeables.com—I write on a variety of parenting topics from reclaiming the Green Hour to battling cabin fever, spending quality time with your kids to creating meaningful Thanksgivings and Christmases to taming the plethora of toys in your house. (I am much better behaved over there than I am here.) I write about all the things you can do with your kids to make their lives richer. However, I do not explicitly claim to accomplish all those things about which I write. I do my best.

Do you ever wonder if you’re really doing your best? I do.

I guess it might be more accurate to say that I wonder if I am doing enough. Because how much is enough?

busy_kids1 I jokingly referred to myself as the “boring mom” to a friend today. We are kind of a homebody family—we stick close to the hacienda. We keep our activities simple and our schedule loose. I love the freedom we enjoy and that we sometimes stay in our jammies until bedtime. (Then we change into clean ones.) I love that we sometimes cuddle together on the couch for half the morning reading or creating together. That a big afternoon out is the woods or the playground or our own neighborhood. I believe in simplicity. My kids are happy. They are almost always busy with activities they choose themselves. I rarely hear the word “bored” from their mouths. But here is the plague of this homeschooling mom—while I firmly believe that there is no curriculum or list of activities that can possibly encompass all that there is to know, and there is no set amount of time or specific age by which to learn a particular skill, that allowing my kids the freedom to do the things they want to do each day is the best thing to encourage a love of learning, that play should be the biggest part of what they do right now, that my job is to answer their questions and find new materials to incite their curiosity and interest, I still can’t help but wonder—how much is enough?

And yet maybe simply asking that question is a start—is enough upon which to build. Maybe keeping it simple and authentic is enough. While I want more for my kids than what is merely sufficient, I want to be aware of what feels like excess.

busy_kids2 It’s a delicate balancing act and there is no blueprint. You gotta do it from your heart and your gut. And you know what? I can do that. We can do that.

Oh, one last (unrelated to the current topic) thing: I said I was going to post my short story series on Fridays, but I changed my mind and it will be Thursdays. Someone told me that the best days to blog are Tuesdays and Thursdays and who am I to question the collective unconscious whims of the masses? That would be just plain crazy.

(And my unique crazy is far more interesting!)

things about which i just found out AND meet my monkey!

Spotify. What!?

How awesome is Spotify? I could waste endless amounts of time with this. Most likely I will. I tend to discover things 500 years after everyone else has. For all I know, there are people out there getting around with jet packs or in fold-up cars or actually using Jedi mind tricks effectively—right now. Like I’ll bet there’s a whole information superhighway out there. I’m sure I’ll soon find out if it’s happened. (Or maybe I just invented something awesome! I’ll call it “cyberspace”!) But holy crap-a-doodle-doo, I could waste a lot of time on Spotify. And what about Pinterest?! How cool is Pinterest? I totally did not get the point of it and then one day I suddenly totally did and now I am wondering how I ever got by without it.

So, I have been giving a great deal of thought to my writing plans for 2013. I am hesitant to call these plans “goals” because goals are way to pressure-y. Plans on the other hand are malleable. Pleasantly jelly-like. Then instead of failing to meet your goals you adjust your plans. See how that works? (And, no—semantics is not a cop-out.)

I had everything sorted out regarding the publication plans for my novel, The Mosquito Hours. I mean pretty well sorted out—the bones of a plan. (I won’t bore you with the details. That’s what Steve is for.) So, I had these lovely plans beginning to coalesce, merge, jellify. Then I decided to enter a big novel writing contest (more on this as it unfolds—if it does indeed unfold) which sort of threw all my plans to chaos. And last night I stayed up until midnight to enter this contest at exactly the moment they began to accept entrants even though I was so wicked tired and I made the mistake of really reading the contest rules and it was rather confusing and I think I may have agreed to something unspeakable and then if I win I have to go to Seattle and that will involve, presumably, a ride in a plane and I don’t like that and do I even want a book contract in the first place and should I keep editing The Mosquito Hours or move on to one of my other novels-in-progress and this goes on but I will stop now just at the point before your ears start to bleed.

(You’re welcome.)

There is a concept in Buddhism known as monkey mind. Here I present an excerpt from Taming the Monkey Mind by Thubden Chodron (1995):

The monkey mind is a term sometimes used by the Buddha to describe the agitated, easily distracted and incessantly moving behaviour of ordinary human consciousness... Once he observed: “Just as a monkey swinging through the trees grabs one branch and lets it go only to seize another, so too, that which is called thought, mind or consciousness arises and disappears continually both day and night...” Anyone who has spent even a little time observing his own mind and then watched a troop of monkeys will have to admit that this comparison is an accurate and not very flattering one.

monkey1 Meet my monkey, dear reader! Isn’t she cute? (She’s not cute.)

After my monkey started going berserk last night, I couldn’t settle down. (Really? you say. I totally know you’re being sarcastic.) That stupid monkey tore back and forth around the joint and roosted in the rafters to throw poop down on any reasonable and calm thoughts that might happen to make their way through my vibrating gray matter. I finally fell asleep but had this terrifying dream that I was in a treehouse and was inexplicably filled with dread and doom and my husband had to wake me because I guess I was whimpering. Then I dreamed that I was lost and couldn’t get home and there was some really urgent reason why I needed to get home. Then some kid woke me by climbing into bed and kicking me repeatedly. Then I dreamed I was making out with this really cute boy. That wasn’t so bad. Then some other kid woke me. But that time I didn’t dream anything. And then my son woke me at 7:00 to ask me if I was awake.

I feel better today. My monkey is definitely tamer while the sun shines. The Buddha said to work towards deer mind. “Deer are particularly gentle creatures and always remain alert and aware no matter what they are doing.” So, I will work on my edits, take one moment at a time, see what unfolds and calmly and mindfully respond to whatever it might be. And cultivate deer mind.

monkey2 And occasionally, when the monkey gets to flinging poop, I will retreat into Spotify. It’s happy in there and very sedate. And you can make playlists of songs from the '90s when you were 20 and hot and one called “old timey mellow mix” with artists like Gerry Rafferty and Seals and Crofts.

Don’t worry. I’ll find what sustains me. We all will.

You've been as constant as a Northern Star The brightest light that shines

why are multi-vitamins so enormous?

Seriously. They can put a monkey in space but they can’t manufacture a multi-vitamin that is smaller than an infant’s fist? (I know they put that monkey in space a really long time ago, but I’m not as updated on scientific breakthroughs as I probably should be, even though my husband has a subscription to Wired.)

She’s five. But do you see what I’m talking about?

I can’t swallow pills.

Not entirely accurate—I can swallow them eventually. Here’s how I do it: Put pill in mouth. Take sip of water. Decide it is too much water. Spit some into sink. Decide it’s not enough water—take a micro-sip. Breathe as I try to psyche myself up to swallow pill. Cringe as it begins to dissolve in my mouth. Try like hell to swallow it, repeatedly holding up index finger—just hold on—at anyone who attempts to speak to me. (Quite often the phone rings right about now.) Finally manage to swallow the chalky, bitter, vitamin-y sludge. Swig down giant gulp of water. Breathe heavily as though I’ve just run a 5k. I do all this in the kitchen. (I’m never kidding when I talk about all the time I spend in here.)

This is more than you wanted to know about me, yes?

I’m getting to a point—I mean it.

So, I have been back-sliding lately. I do really well for short periods of time keeping everything in perspective, but then I always seem to slide back into worrying about all of it. All of the stuff I am trying to keep going. (Please assure me that I’m not alone in this.) I need to write more. I need to get that freelance career really rolling rather than limping along. I need to figure out once-a-month cooking. I need to read all those parenting books. I need to make sure I am doing enough with the kids. We are “unschoolers” which means we homeschool without a curriculum. The concept being that the kids are allowed the freedom to pursue their interests and play and create as much as they want, having faith that they are learning. The end result is days that are filled with activity that does not necessarily look anything like “learning.” And as the parent, I’m supposed to be totally cool with that, because I have faith that kids learn on their own time-table and this will all be for their benefit in the end. I don’t know how many of you can relate to this precisely, but I think you can probably find something comparable.

But life has a tenacious way of interjecting itself into my plans. (I’ll bet you can say the same...) I generally plan activities for the kids 3 months at a time (this is the print-out I use): projects and science experiments, cooking together, outings. Because even though we don’t use a curriculum, I want to provide an enriched environment conducive to learning. But it seems like half the time my stinkin’ plans fall apart. The house needs to be cleaned or someone gets sick or unexpected stuff comes up or breakfast and getting dressed seem to take all morning or they just aren’t all that interested in what I am attempting to do. And then—only to make life that much more interesting—the pot boils over on the just-cleaned stovetop. Right? It’s challenging to meet the deadlines and keep up on reading the books that will make it all easier, make it all make sense, make it all work once and for all.

That’s just about the exact moment I feel like I am failing. Again.

But in spite of it all, things are getting accomplished. Why do I always focus on what’s not getting done?

I have this vision of the perfect life I could be leading wherein all elements are just so—if I could only plan and execute it. But the truth is that even if my life had only one aspect—instead of many—I guarantee that one thing would not be perfect.

So I ask: are the kids happy? Are they laughing (a lot)? Are they well-fed? Is the house basically sanitized? Do we have peace? Am I slowly but surely moving my career forward? Do I have clean underwear most days?

YES!

It’s like swallowing that enormous pill. It might take a few false starts and a lot of effort, but in the end it will always get (imperfectly) done. And on the good days, I know that this is enough.

full-body YES!

I wasn’t going to do NaNoWriMo this year. I’ve have repeated this avowal all year long because I knew I wanted to be working on this blog and freelance projects and editing already-written novels and my other commitments. And showering. That being said, I just signed up again. Like, moments ago. (I figure I’ll cut back on showering. And definitely shaving. I mean, what are pants for anyhow? Right? Right? Are you with me?)

So, I’m gonna do it for the 4th year in a row. Why? I am nuts.

Speaking of which, it’s Halloween this week and we have watched It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown about 47 times in the last few weeks. I adore Peanuts holiday shows. Probably too much. (And yet in my heart I know there is no too much when it comes to Peanuts holiday shows.)

(Our jack-o-lantern and his yucky black moldy stuff.)

Happy Halloween! Now back to the topic.

What is the topic? Finding life balance. And I am about to tell you exactly what that is: a big freakin’ joke. I’m just kidding.

(No, I’m not.)

I threw an enormous fit recently. Luckily the kids were at my parents’ house and not present to hear the litany of swears and witness the throwing of objects. Here’s what happened: the thingy on the toilet that makes water not spray all over the bathroom blew and the toilet began spraying water all over the bathroom. (It was clean water, so there’s that for a small blessings and all that crap...) To me it was more than water spraying all over the bathroom—it was another mess to clean up, another thing to fix, another thing keeping me from writing.

(This freakin’ thing. Please disregard the ugly ‘80s tile we have yet to sledgehammer.)

I have maintained a mantra over the last couple of years: “I can’t get all this done!”

And alternatively: “There is no way to get all this done.”

With the addendum: “I’m so tired.”

Well, recently I realized something: I can’t get all this done. There is no way to get all this done. Also, I’m so tired. It occurred to me that if there is no way to get all this done and that very fact has been amply confirmed, why do I keep trying? The very problem is in the statement itself.

“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” Albert Eistein

My sister has a friend who recently experienced the death of a close friend. And it made her reconsider her priorities. She said to my sister, “Unless it’s a full-body yes, then it’s a no.” Now that is a mantra by which to live.

I have applied some of that sentiment to my life in trying to approach balance. As it appears “there is no way to get all this done,” and there is nothing I can or am willing to cut entirely, the logical thing to do was identify and pare back each component and do some realistic goal setting. Err on the side of small, well-spaced objectives and if more gets accomplished, call it gravy. (Warning: this rarely happens.)

And I gave a lot of thought to media, which spins completely out-of-control really quickly. The inbox to my Gmail account was one of the things that felt unmanageable to me. And if that’s not a luxury problem, I don’t know what is. But first-world guilt aside, I did rein it in and I will share my tactics with you. I think it’s important to seriously regulate your information upload. Don’t subscribe to every blog (but do subscribe to this one), RSS feed, Facebook page—don’t live in fear of missing something “crucial.” Seek info when you need it. It’s called the Google. Use it. I went all brutal on my blog subscriptions and unsubscribed like crazy, using the full-body yes method. Where I could, I switched to Facebook or Twitter feeds. I am not a fan of RSS, but if you happen to be, that’s another way to go. With the info coming via these streams, you can so much more easily pick and choose. Now my email inbox is pretty much exclusively business. I l also try to designate a finite amount of time each day to view my media streams. The bottom line: if it doesn’t add value to my life, I cut it.

I try to apply this full-body yes sentiment to the little and the big things in life. It’s a no-fail in-your-bones kind of thing. It’s an approach toward balance.

So maybe I am nuts to do NaNo, but when I questioned it, it was a full-body yes. I’m gonna trust it.