Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Sick Days

Know what I loved about today?  This morning after breakfast, I cleared the dining room table with my husband and loaded the dishwasher. "What time do you need to leave this morning?" I asked.

"Around 10," he replied.

Henry came in and tugged on my pantleg, "ILK? ILK?!"

"No, buddy, you already had two cups."

"OHHHHHH, Nooooooooooo!" Henry slow-melted to the floor.

Lydia and Elvis watched cartoons in the living room until Elvis needed to go to school, and Brandon drove him to Park Street.  When he came back, I was still working on dishes in the kitchen, hair pulled back in a pony tail, still in pajamas.  We small-talked through work-related issues, our schedule for babysitting the next few days, whether to take Lydia to the doctor for whatever cold she woke up with, and what I planned to make for dinner.  After a while, Brandon took a shower and I started a load of laundry.

Brandon left around 10 as planned.  Lydia and I played rummy in between loads of laundry while Henry watched Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.  We picked Elvis up from pre-school and went to our pastor's house for a lunch meeting.  Lydia and Elvis watched a movie all afternoon while I made chicken soup and changed loads of laundry, never ending laundry.  When Henry woke up we went down into the basement and I watched Elvis and Henry play cars together while Lydia colored and I (wait for it) folded more laundry and read books for class.  Eventually we ate dinner, Elvis and Hank took baths, and the kids went to bed.  I'm writing this all now after indulging in an ice cream AND chocolate AND peanut butter sundae (so much for the Whole 30) and in the midst of loading the dishwasher and preparing to fold yet another load of laundry, occasionally checking Words with Friends for new games and my online discussion boards for new posts about my class.

I loved all of this.  I love that I didn't shower today (sorry, general public), that I spent the day with my sick daughter and toddler doing house-y stuff while also thinking about writing, reading essays, and watching my children be children.  I was present, if not always fully engaged.  I was home.

It ebbs and flows, this conflict between my desire to work full-time, which satisfies a drive to accomplish something and to contribute to a larger cause using the gifts and talents given to me, and the desire to quit and have days like this always, to simply be here when I'm needed instead of feeling torn between responsibilities of work and my sniffly daughter and traveling husband, and also the desire to sit down and write or read for class, which I am LOVING, by the way.  I have always enjoyed being a student, and being in the classroom again (albeit online) is a delight and feels a little indulgent, honestly.

If I could have the best of both worlds, I'd work 8:30-3 every day with a half-hour lunch, with the flexibility to work from home when necessary, and take a few weeks off each summer when my husband is also off.  I'd do exactly the same job or a slight variation of it, with the same enthusiasm and passion and excitement I have for my job now, with the added plus of not coordinating childcare every time my husband travels for work, simply doing the job from home that day.

Would that be so awful?  I'd be so less stressed all of the time!  Who invented the 40 hour work week anyway?  And wouldn't it be GREAT to have a relaxed morning, enough time to get the kids fed healthy breakfasts and carted off to school, maybe even (gasp) exercise or (whaaat?!) read through a devotional or passage of Scripture before the day gets rolling?

Enough whining.  I still love my job, in spite of its occasional burps and hiccups.  I'd just like a little more of my kids and a little less of my work.  That's all.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Whole 30 Day 1 Rerun

After the holidays and Brandon's crazy travel schedule ended, we decided it was time to revisit the Whole 30 program in order to reset our systems.  We've been keeping pretty close to Paleo (eliminating grains, added sweeteners, dairy, and legumes) and if you've been reading here long, you know how happy we've been with our overall health and well-being.  This round of Whole 30 isn't likely to be as dramatic or difficult as last year, but we are excited about it nonetheless.  It feels GOOD to exercise self-control and to reap the additional benefits of weight loss, more energy, and overall health.

If you're interested, check out Whole 9 Life - Whole 30 Program.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Next Big Thing

I've been tagged by my dear friend Marilyn Bousquin in the Next Big Thing, a blog chain letter of sorts to talk about what's happening in your writerly life and then to tag five other women writers to hear their stories.  I met Marilyn a few years ago through the Ashland University MFA Program.  She runs Writing Women's Lives, a mentorship program for women who want to write about real life.  She's working on a memoir called Searching for Salt.  I can't wait until this fine book finds a home!  I am so grateful for this woman's support and friendship.

ANYWAY, onward!  My Next Big Thing is two things, both in early, early draft form.  I just started the MFA program at Ashland in nonfiction. I'm working toward a collection of essays oriented around family and relationships.  I'm toying with the idea shared by Jerald Walker of taking the essays and rewriting the collection as memoir, but first I need to have a collection of essays instead of a handful of pieces.  My goal is to have a polished collection by the time I am done with the MFA program. 

The other Big Thing I'm working on when the mood hits me is assembling another collection of poems.  Since this is a little closer to completion in that the stuff is actually written, I'll answer the questions for it. 

What is the title of your book?The operating title is, "My Big Cheesy Book of Poems about My Kids and Winter and Light. And Gardening, Again." Catchy, right? I've also thought about "The Fullness of Things," which might be a little bit more realistic. But anyone who can read would know right away what my book is about with the first title.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? big cheesy book of poems about my kids and winter and light. and gardening, again.  :)  But really, the poems in the collection are playful, bright, mini-celebrations of life through the natural, familial, and spiritual worlds in which I spin.  The collection is more...feminine than my first, which felt more gritty and relational in a father-daughter kind of way, whereas this collection includes many more mother-daughter poems and poems of femininity.  I think.

What genre does your book fall under?

Where did the idea come from for the book?Since Pruning Burning Bushes came out, I've been looking at all of the new poems I have and the poems that didn't make it into the first book, and the trend I saw most was this need, this desire, to examine the world for its glory and its shine, even in the shadows.  Once this thought lodged in my mind, the poems I've generated since then have been in the same vein.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?Most of the poems in the binder-clip right now were written in 2012, with a dozen or so pieces that came into being in earlier years.  It'll take me a while to settle on any kind of order and then to weed out the not-as-good filler poems and replace them with better ones.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?I think this collection is primarily inspired by my daughter, Lydia, who radiates delight in all things, but it is also fueled by my relationship with my mom. 

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?I haven't decided whether I want to try to win a contest to publish this book, to send it to other publishers for consideration, or to return to Wipf and Stock right away with a new manuscript.  Since my other book just came out in 2012, I'm not sure what steps to take with this next collection.  I'm not in a hurry to get another book out, but I also have enough poems that I am in l-o-v-e with that it'd be fun to see them all communing together.

What other works would you compare this book to within your genre?
Hmmm.  I'd like to think I'm striving for similar goals as what Brian Doyle does in his work, even though this is a collection of poems and not essays.  Although I'm not writing a lot of formal poems at the moment, I'd also say my poems rub elbows with Rhina Espaillat.  And I also hope to achieve the accessibility and tight, lyrical quality of Todd Boss's work.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
It'd be so fun to have a movie of poems!  I think Meg Ryan and Julia Roberts, but only because they are my favorite favorite actresses.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?I hope that the collection of poems will tell a story.  I love storytelling, and I want each poem to speak to each other and then carry the reader through a fire-ring kind of narrative about the "fullness of things."

As part of this post, I get to tag other authors who I think will be the Next Big Thing. Sooo, without further ado:

Grace Curtis: author of a chapbook, The Surly Bonds of Earth

Callie Feyen: mama blogger and MFA student

Joan Hanna: author of Threads, a new chapbook from Finishing Line Press

Jayna Murphy: mama blogger who says she "keeps pretending she can write," but seriously, she's a writer and she just needs to get over it. :)

Leslie Nielsen: recent MFA graduate

I realized as I made this list that I know lots of gals that I think are the Next Big Thing, but many of them aren't blogging (or they were already tagged in this fun game)!  What is that all about?!  Tania Runyan, Ginny Taylor, Jen Kindbom, Valerie Due, Jen Ochstein, and on and on, I'm looking at you!  Stop doing "serious writing" and start blathering on a blog like the rest of us!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

2013 Resolutions: Walk Instead of Run

First of all, Mom's surgery was successful and she's beginning to recover.  I'm so grateful she's okay and appreciative of the prayers for her.  I had a hard time fighting back the "what if's" that come along with a parent getting sick or going for a major surgery.  It was such a relief to hear from the doctor last Wednesday that the surgery went perfect.  What a way to begin 2013.

Like most people around the country, I've been reflecting on last year and looking ahead at 2013.  I made a list of goals for 2012, and while I didn't meet all of them, I shot toward most of them, and it was exciting and satisfying to look back on what I set out to accomplish throughout the year.  I am a list maker.  I love lists.  I like to add stuff to my lists so that I can check the stuff off.

One of the things I did not do in 2012 is run a marathon.  At least not physically.  On this side of 2012, I feel like I ran a marathon.  A lot happened in our family in 2012, and right now I'm feeling particularly worn out by all of the activity, good and bad.

In 2013, I think my number one resolution is to walk instead of run.  I am tired of running all of the time.  There has to be a way to slow down.  I am so good at busy, so good at "entering a busy season," that stopping or just braking for a minute seems impossible.  Of course, I am already defeating myself in this area, since next Monday I will start classes toward my master's.  hahahahaha

I'd like to make a list of things not to accomplish in 2013.  Like, don't accomplish anything.  Be content.  Take care of yourself.  Breathe once in a while.  BUT, since that's anti-'merican, here's my list of things to do in 2013:

  • Maintain sanity
  • Pray and give thanks daily for this life
  • Remember the promises given by God in the Bible and remind my family about them regularly
  • Continue preparing healthy meals for my family
  • Complete the assigned coursework for my MFA, turn in work I can be proud of, and write toward a book-length manuscript of essays
  • Go out with my husband once every two weeks
  • Play with my kids; do something special with Elvis and Lydia alone once a quarter
  • Expand the garden
  • Go on vacation, anywhere
  • Continue to chisel away at debt
  • Blog every other week
BW and I will celebrate ten years of marriage this year.  We are aiming to be out of debt by early 2014 so that we can quickly get back into debt by going to Italy.  ;)  We're both great spenders and lousy savers.  This is an area we'll need to really hone in on if we want to make it happen.  

I left off physical exercise although I do hope to still do some of that some of the time.  Typically exercise and writing take turns in my life - if I'm exercising I'm not writing and if I'm writing I'm not exercising.  

I have a feeling that the MFA will knock me down and bully me with its reading list and writing requirements.  I tend to be prolific but on my own time, not on a schedule, so we'll see how that goes.  No time.  No time.  No time.  Where's my live-in maid?  Where's my butler? 

I should add "keep up with the house" to this list, but come on. Something's gotta give here.  Gratefully, my husband recognizes my general suckage at household chores and granted permission to hire someone to do the deep cleaning for me once a month or so.  This is a huge relief because when Saturday comes, there are few things I feel worse about than cleaning all day instead of spending time with the kids after I've spent all week working.

I should also add "keep up with the laundry" to the list.  That's one thing you just can't neglect, especially with five people living in the house.  Brandon is a huge help in this area, too, unlike some husbands, who delegate all household chores to their spouses because that's "women's work."  Brandon is a champion chore-sharer.

As much as I hate baskets of laundry sitting around the house, laundry has about eight too many steps.  First you have to collect it from the multiple hampers and carry it down to the basement. Then you have to sort it.  Then you have to wash it.  Then you have to wash it again because it sat too long in the washer after you forgot to switch loads.  Then you have to dry it.  Then you have to turn the dryer on fluff cycle because everything sat too long and got all wrinkly.  Then you have to fold it.  Then you have to sort it into appropriate stacks for each family member. Then you have to move it to the appropriate bedroom and nag the children about putting their clothes away.  Then you have to throw your arms up into the air and huff and puff about how they haven't put their clothes away or they've jammed them in and messed them all up.  Then you have to pull everything out of the drawers and refold it and put it all back in the appropriate drawers.  And then, after all of that hard work, they pull them out, wear them, and put them back into the hamper.

Know what I could handle?  Wash. Dry. Fold.  That's it.  Someone else can deal with the rest.

What are you resolving to do, or not to do, in 2013?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

On the Eve of My Mother's Surgery

It's the first day of 2013, and tomorrow my mom will have one of her kidneys removed.  We've been waiting for a surgery date for over three weeks and it's been four weeks since they discovered masses on her kidney, but the reality of the surgery taking place has seemed far away and unreal.  My mom takes vitamins. She exercises. She eats healthy foods. She takes care of herself. She's fifty.

Plenty of people have lost a kidney and continue to live healthy lives after their recovery, but every time I think about tomorrow a weight settles on my chest that pushes tears up into my eyes.  I am afraid.  I know I shouldn't be afraid.  

So instead I'm watching My Big Fat Greek Wedding, one of our favorite movies, and waiting for I peel the potatoes.  Tula, why you want to leave me????  Boont.  boodt?  Bun-d-t!  Ohhhh!  Is a cake!  There's a hole in this cake.

Oi.  I love my mom.