Friday, March 29, 2013

A Vacation from my Kids (All of them, at school, and at home!)

I'm taking a vacation from mothering this week. The oldest is off to visit the bio-Dad (we were married once, "bio-Dad" is a teasing nickname I use for him).  The hubby has a full week at work. I have SPRING BREAK (has to be written in capital letters).  That left only the smaller monkey, and I've just paid for camp. All day camp. Well worth the money, even given that my paycheck just got smaller again.

It's only five days, but I'm so excited just at the thought of having all this time to myself. I'll only be a mom for a few hours a day, and only to one kid, who still goes to bed early. I'll leave the house at weird times, alone, and listen to music (or an audiobook) that I choose. I'll watch television and movies full of sex, violence and swearing.  I'll read something that doesn't rhyme . . .and I'll read it silently, to myself, while drinking tea.

Many of my students and colleagues were planning trips and adventures. But, not me, I'm planning to kick everyone else out and stay home. For those who know me and my wandering feet, it's probably a giant surprise that I don't want to go anywhere.  But, I'm putting the break back in Spring Break, because, honestly, I'm feeling pretty broken.  That's what happens when life steps on you too much.

I've got a great healing plan though, and it won't change my insurance rates. I'm going to sleep enough, exercise a little and write a lot. Yeah, baby. Heaven.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Staying Alive!

Well, I made it. Spring Break. (read with flat intonation . . .woo-hoo). I can't wait to . ..zzzzzzzzzzzzz

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Fantasies of Wealth

I've been daydreaming a lot about being wealthy lately.  In my daydreams, I am Nora Charles (from the Thin Man movies), off adventuring with my husband.  Maybe I win the lottery, or sue someone for damages and win. Maybe I was just inherited Daddy's money (in the daydream, I have a wealthy father instead of my more ordinary hardworking and well-enough-off-because-of-that father).  It doesn't matter where the money comes from, but in my daydream I have it.

Having money doesn't change much in my daydream. I still live in my house, though I have now expanded it to add the game room and writing garret.  I don't have servants, but someone does come by and do the yard work and I have someone who makes sure my bills gets paid and the errands I don't feel like handling get done.  I still teach, but for limited gigs that I select with students who all want to be there. I still cook, but I get to try all the cool expensive stuff whenever I want.  I travel. I travel a lot.  I buy tickets for people and take them with me. I give gifts to anyone I want, when I want to.

The main thing my daydream money does for me is give me time.  Days like today make me crave free time like addicts must crave their next hit.

If my day were my own today, I would have slept late, then taken my husband to breakfast (the girls would still have school).  After a leisurely breakfast (probably at Elmo's in Carrboro), we'd walk and talk.  T would leave me alone and I'd go write for a little while, leaving him to do his thing for a while.  We'll discreetly show you the ceiling and not talk about the afternoon. I'd read a book while I wait for the girls to come home from school.

Tonight is T's gaming night, so the girls and I would have eaten Halibut (we eat fish when T's not home) and then some kind of fancy s'more cake dessert that I made up. I wouldn't be tired and irritable from my workday, so I'd spoil both girls with attention. I'd let M teach me to apply eye makeup and try to paint N's fingernails while she reads me a comic book.We'd laugh together.

Then it would be bedtime. Since I'm Nora Charles, I'd put on something silky and beautiful, just to sleep in.  I probably wouldn't stay up that late, because I still want to take the girls to school myself, but I'd be free to if I wanted to.

Hmmm . . .maybe I'd best get back to my novel.  It probably won't make me rich, but I bet it would pay for a trip somewhere.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

In sickness and in Health

Contemporary family life is a lot of balancing (hence the name of my blog: Balancing Act). Me time. We time. Focused time with each child. All of us time. Out with friends time. It's a near constant trading of favors, trying to make sure everyone's needs and desires are met often enough so that no one is stretched too thin. 

It's a lot of work, even when we're all well. 

The Sweetman has been sick these past few days. A week before that I was sick. A week before that the eldest daughter was sick. Boy has it been a month! Even as I take a moment to kvetch about it, I know that I am fortunate, because none of these illnesses were life-threatening or longer than a week in duration. But, still, it's been challenging.

Since Sweetman is ill, this weekend it fell upon me. All of it. Whatever it happened to be.  Grocery shopping, dog walking, child cleaning, taxi driving, birthday partying, meal preparing, laundry doing, errand running, dish-washing, on and on and on.

It was tough, but I made it. And Sweetman is on the mend. (He felt good enough today to be restless and feel a little bored.) So, only three days later, I can see the light at the end of this particular tunnel.

So, I think, how do single parents do this? When the light at the end of the tunnel is fifteen more years away (when the kid goes to college).  I was a single parent for two years. And I had incredible support from my mother and father. And it was still damnably difficult. So, to the women and men I know who do this alone, often without the easy support that I found, I say, Wow. You guys are amazing.

I feel blinded by gratitude for my husband, my sister, my brother-in-law, my father, my mother, my mother-in-law, friends.  Sometimes, it's too much for one person. Thank G-d I have all of you. And here's hoping for the "in health" side of those wedding vows. Soon, please.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Beware the Ides of March

March is a well named month, I think. It's the month where I have to keep putting one foot in front of the other like a good soldier and slog through the underbrush and quicksand, through increasingly hostile territory.  We march even though we are tired and sick at heart.  We march even though our feet hurt and there's no time to see a podiatrist. All in hopes of making it to that clear beautiful week we in the education game call Spring Break.

Someday, when I am appointed Queen on High, I am scrapping the school calendar as it stands and writing something that supports family life (for students and teachers), respects the amount of preparation time it takes to do this job well, and follows a pace it's possible to keep up without sacrificing your physical and mental health. When I do this, I fully expect to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, because of all the violence that is neatly sidestepped by making us all less frustrated and more successful.

Until then, I'm reading Tim O'Brien again and thinking about the things I carry . . .and which ones I can put down for a while.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Keeping Writing Going: 250 words at time

The +Flash Fiction Project work I've done in January and February has been a lot of fun, but is it really helping me with my big writing project? I'm not sure.

I have this great general concept for a novel: a very fun what-if question. I've had a great time meeting my characters, but I feel like I'm plodding along now. Plot is my weak point, I guess.  This particular idea, at least, came with the general concept and characters followed easily enough, but I'm struggling with forward momentum for the story.

So, I dove into all those short pieces thinking I might find inspiration.  So far, not so much. The pieces were fun in and of themselves, but they don't seem to be feeding my novel.

But I did hit upon another idea that might help. The Magic Spreadsheet! Have you heard about this, writing friends?   It's a simple idea: you commit to write 250 words a day on your project.  You track this commitment on a spreadsheet which awards you points for consistency.  

What convinced me to try it was that 250 is such a reasonable expectation, even with my life.   After all, 250 words is not that much. This blog post is already 206 words.  Finding time for 250 words doesn't seem daunting. Not like finding time for 60,000 words (a generally accepted minimum length for a novel).  250 words can be written in the morning between my cup of tea and time to wake the kids, or while standing up in the kitchen while supper is baking or simmering. 250 words can slide out while I'm procrastinating on the next day's lesson plans.

But, if I do it--if I write 250 words a day, I'll have my 60,000 in 240 days--less than a year!  It took me four years to write my first novel . .. and it's not ready for publication. It still needs a heavy rewrite. Four years to eek a first draft out of the corners of my life and scraps of energy I could steal from all my other demands. It's exciting to think about having that many words in less than one year.

I tried this last month. And got sick. Stupidly, delirious with fever sick. So, I failed in February. But March! March is going to be my month. 250 words down.  59, 750 to go.