Monday, January 31, 2011

Keep the ball rolling

I haven't had time to work on my WIP for several days. With the hours of editing I'm doing for my sister-in-law, I haven't even had time to think about my own novel, and I'm concerned that if I don't find time for it soon, I'll start to lose momentum. This all goes back to my previous lament that, no matter how early I get up or how late I go to bed, I just can't do everything that needs to be done in a day. It's such a hard beam to balance, this line between what has to be done and what I want to do. I feel like I'm spending my life trying to juggle everything, and most days I drop the pins.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

"Oink," the piggy said.

I just ate spaghetti for breakfast.

I didn't just eat it, though. I made it--as in it wasn't a leftover.

I feel like such a pig now. The diet starts tomorrow.


Saturday, January 29, 2011

Cinderella, Cinderella

Just as I thought, I wasn't able to get through my entire to-do list yesterday. It's all I can do to get the essentials done--the dishes, the laundry, feeding the kids, making dinner... It didn't help my mood when my husband "informed" me that I need to do more to take care of the boxes I have in storage in our basement. I wanted to cry when he said that--and I also wanted to yell, but I didn't want to get the cold shoulder from him all weekend. I didn't say anything, but I hope he read my feelings in my silence.

If he wants me to be able to do things other than the essentials, he needs to help me by giving me the time. He needs to take care of the kids. He needs to make dinner and scrub the kitchen floor. It's getting so I feel guilty if I'm not doing something for the family or house twenty-four hours a day. I can feel his metaphorical eyes on me right now as I type this, sure that he's hearing the click of the keys and silently berating me for not being down in the basement, rummaging through dusty boxes. I feel like there's never time for me to relax, yet he can sit at the kitchen table as he is now, leisurely reading the newspaper as he eats bowl after bowl of cereal. It's okay for him to take time for himself, though.  After all, he worked all week.


Friday, January 28, 2011

Guilt and Panic

I had a minor panic attack about my to-do list this morning. There's just so much to do, and the things I want to do keep getting pushed farther and farther down the list. My writing ends up coming last most days, mainly because I don't think my husband really supports me, and so when he's around, if I try to write, I feel guilty--like I'm not doing enough to "earn my keep." He's really not that bad, I guess, but our house is by no means spotless, and sometimes when he comes home from work I feel like he's looking around, checking to see what I've cleaned or straightened or put away. Those "inspections" are embarrassing--they make me feel more like an employee than a wife--and I'm sure that I'm falling short in his eyes. All of this just adds to the pressure I feel.

Today's to-do list, the source of all my panic, is long, and I know I won't complete it. I don't complete it most days, and I'm not sure what to do about that. I already try to prioritize, to do the most crucial things first. I can't sleep any less; I only get four or five hours a night now. I just don't know what to do to make it all work. I'm at a loss.

I guess that today I'm just going to try to take things one at a time and get through as much as I can. That means my writing will once again be last, though--and that makes me sad (and even a little angry).

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Back in the Dark Ages

Before I had children, I was a college English and journalism instructor. I left that job when my then-husband and I moved to another state. A couple of years later, after my divorce, I moved to yet another state and started working from home as a freelance editor. I enjoy editing, but unfortunately, after my second child was born, I no longer had the time to take on as much work. I miss it.

Recently, however, my sister-in-law asked me to take a look at a novel she's written, and I feel like I'm finally back in my element, the world of language and words, punctuation and grammar. I'm looking forward to hanging out my shingle again years from now when the kids are in school.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Series regular? Not a chance.

On another site, I wrote recently about the fact that as a mom, I feel like I'm no longer the star of my own life. Since I had children, I've worked mainly behind the scenes, most often putting my kids and husband first and myself and my interests second. All moms (and probably most dads as well) know how this is: before kids, when we wanted to do something spontaneous, like see a movie or drive off to another city and spend the night in some hotel, we could. It was easier making time for our own interests and pursuits, as we had no one to answer to but ourselves (and maybe our spouses). Now, however, it's impossible to be spontaneous or to even plan alone time without checking our children's schedules and scrambling to find a reliable babysitter. Things change once the baby comes home--there's no doubt about that.

So I've stopped being the star. This isn't The Dana Show, and I'm no longer a series regular. Does this bother me? I'd be dishonest if I said that it didn't, at least sometimes. Being a mom means being unselfish with our time--but of course that doesn't mean that we shouldn't strive to find a little time for ourselves too.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Wherefore art thou, Words?

Why is it that when I have the time to write, the words just won't come? Most days, as the kids are screaming and fighting and calling for Mommy, it's all I can do to shut off my writer's brain and switch it over to Mommy mode. But this morning, while my husband is at work and the kids are still tucked into their beds, a time when I should be able to create, the words are staying stubbornly lodged in my brain. I despise this feeling of knowing what I want to write but being unable to write it. But it's still early, and I'm hoping the day will get better.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Whip that WIP!

I had a breakthrough on my current novel last night. I managed to get over the bit of a block I'd been having and outline most of the major plot points. I'm excited about the direction the story is taking; it's a book I would want to read, and that makes me happy. I still have a long way to go, but I'm getting there, and last night's success has renewed my confidence and given me the encouragement I need to continue working on this project.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

"My mama!"

Yesterday, as I was sitting on the floor, leaning against the wall and watching my husband shave, my eighteen-month-old daughter ran over to me, threw her arms around my neck, and said, "My mama!" An answering yell and the sound of feet running on a hardwood floor followed, and my three-year-old son appeared, pushed his sister out of the way, hugged me, and exclaimed, "No. My mama!" They proceeded to "fight" over me like that for quite a while, and their little squabble reminded me of growing up with my sister and how we would always scream "my commercial" anytime an ad appeared on television during Saturday morning cartoons. The object is different, of course, but the passionate cry is the same: She's (or It's) mine!

I love how much my kids love me right now. I'm their world, and they trust me and depend on me to take care of them. I don't feel at all deserving of their love most days; sometimes I'll think, "Oh, you poor kids, having to grow up with a mother like me." But they love me, in spite of the times when I'm crabby and yell about insignificant things. They love me even though I make them do things they don't always like, such as eating their vegetables and going to bed on time. They love me the same as I love them,  unconditionally, in spite of my many failures. They're my children! And they're everything to me.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Dana in the City (well, sort of...)

For a long time--years, probably--I've had this fantasy about being a writer in New York City, working in front of the window of my brownstone à la  Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I think I have the idea that real writers work only in the "greatest city in the world," which my rational self knows is completely irrational. Still, New York is a writer's ultimate dream, and I would love to be there now, soaking in the creativity of all the writers around me. One of my neighbors once told me that he moved to New York  in the sixties to pursue his own dream of becoming a writer. He went because he wanted to be in the presence of others who shared his aspiration. Maybe that's what I'm looking for as well--that common thread that ties people of similar interests together. The few times I've been to New York, I've gone to coffee shops to write, and being surrounded by like-minded creative people was an amazing experience. But it's that romantic vision of the writer in New York that continues to draw me...

I don't think I'll be moving to New York anytime soon, but I do continue to write, sitting here in my small home, staring at the wall in front of me as I work each day. It's not the romantic life I'd envisioned--I'm not Carrie Bradshaw by any stretch--but so far it's working for me.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The guilt trip

I'm writing this post in the computer room and feeling guilty for not being in the living room, playing cars with my son.

Yesterday I felt guilty for washing dishes and cleaning up the kitchen instead of reading books to the kids.

After the kids are in bed each night, I feel guilty for writing instead of spending time with my husband.

And when I write, I feel guilty for working on projects other than my novel...

This is my life: all guilt, all the time. I can't get away from it. No matter what I'm doing--particularly if I'm doing something that happens to be for me, like writing--I feel like there's something more important that I should be working on instead. One day, my life stopped being my sole focus, and that was the day Guilt came to stay.  He might have arrived when my husband and I married, but most likely, he was birthed with the kids. Regardless, I don't think he's always wrong in his assessments: I know that my priorities are skewed sometimes. But figuring out how to live for myself and for others? Well, that's the hard part.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Who am I?

The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association posted an interesting devotion today, in which Billy Graham discusses the idea that it's impossible for us to truly know who we are. He says that it's human nature for us to imitate our heroes and people we admire, so we take bits and pieces from each of them and end up creating a persona that really isn't genuine. He concludes by saying that each of us is actually three people: "There is the person you think you are. There is the person others think you are. There is the person God knows you are and can be through Christ." I found this devotion very thought-provoking, since I know that as a mom, I tend to be very hard on myself, and I know that the person I think I am is probably much more flawed than the person my friend sees when she looks at me. To know that I can be something more through Christ is reassuring.

Here's the link if you're interested in reading the devotion: Billy Graham's Daily Devotion.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Waiter, I need more coffee here

I need to start getting more sleep; these five-hour nights are killing me. If someone could please tell me how to fit a full day of mothering and writing and cleaning and errand-running and wife-ing and reading into fewer than nineteen hours, I would be most appreciative. Thank you.

Ugh. I've got to get more sleep.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Still plotting away...

I'm still working on my novel. I'm trying to do this one a bit differently in that I'm creating an extensive outline before I begin to write. So far, the work has been going pretty slowly. I'm finding that it's hard for me to come up with the level of detail I think an outline of this type should contain. I'm not normally by any means a pantser; I can't just sit down with a vague idea and turn it into a cohesive novel with little or no planning first. I'm a plotter; I need to have a plan. I like to know where my main character is going and how she's going to get there. I like to understand the relationships between the characters and how those relationships will affect the storytelling. My usual method of planning is to write notes about each of the main plot points, scraps of dialogue, scene ideas--that sort of thing. Then I take all of these haphazardly written notes and try to create a story out of them. It's not a perfect method, but for the most part, it's worked for me in the past.

For the last several months, though, I've been taking an online novel writing course, and the instructor advocates detailed outlines as a way of avoiding the stubborn plot holes and snags that sometimes occur when the writer hasn't considered his novel idea as carefully as he should have. What I'm learning, though, is that I get stifled by being "forced" to come up with too many details before I've begun the actual work of writing. Normally, as I'm writing a novel, I get into a zone, and the words just flow; scenes I hadn't even known were needed suddenly appear on my screen. I start with my idea and my rudimentary plan, and then words and ideas just seem to evolve. It's really a magical experience. I'm finding it harder to let my imagination take over within the confines of a detailed outline, however. I think I'll try working out a few more scenes as the instructor asked, but if I find that doing so is continuing to stifle my creativity, I'll go back to my own tried-and-true style.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Oh, for a pair of pants

My eighteen-month-old has gotten to the stage that I've heard about but never had the "pleasure" of experiencing for myself: she has discovered that she'd rather be free than fettered and has found great joy in taking off her pants and diaper and then running through the house, giggling, egged on, I'm sure, by her brother, who screams and tattles on her.  It's happened three times so far today, and a couple of days ago, she undressed while in her crib, then fell asleep and woke up screaming and lying in a puddle. I don't know. Maybe it's time to get the duct tape out?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Do they all plot against me?

I'm having one of those go, go, go days where I work and work and seem to get nothing done. I'd planned on writing today. I need to make some headway on my novel outline, but so far, I haven't been able to do much more than think about it. We had church, followed by a pancake breakfast. Then I had to work on getting the butter stains out of my daughter's outfit, definitely a task I hadn't planned on doing today--or ever, really. I tried writing after that, but it just seemed like one thing or another kept taking me away from the computer: my baby's cry, my son's plea for more milk, my own tiredness (I really need to start getting more than four or five hours of sleep a night)...

My daughter is napping now, though, and my son is playing quietly. I've had my afternoon coffee and am feeling slightly more alert. I'm posting this blog entry in the few minutes I have before dinner. It's something, and I feel better now that I've gotten some words down today. When I don't write, I feel incomplete; I need to write. I'm hoping that I can do more after dinner. Fingers crossed.

**I wrote this almost three hours before I was finally able to post it. That just shows the kind of day it's been. And even though dinner was over two hours ago, I still haven't gotten to the novel...

Saturday, January 15, 2011

An exhausted writer with a cell phone

Just as I was about to fall asleep last night, I felt inspired to write, so with no paper available, I grabbed my cell phone and wrote everything in an e-mail to myself. When I read the words this morning, I was surprised by them. The tone and the style were so different from what I normally write. Even the content didn't seem like my own--it didn't feel like it came from me, yet I remember writing it. It's strange. I'm not sure what I'll do with these words. I don't know if they belong in the novel I'm currently working on, coming from the mouth of a character that I don't know as well as I thought I did. Perhaps they're meant to be part of an essay or even a blog post. I need to think about this for a while.

I found the whole experience so strange: being pulled from that place between not quite awake and almost asleep, writing words that seem in their tone and possibly even in their intent to be someone else's.  I feel they're important somehow; I just need to discover where they belong. Last night's writing was almost a surreal experience. It's funny how the mind works...

Friday, January 14, 2011

The pony is having an identity crisis?

I've been thinking about this one off and on since Christmas morning. Santa brought my eighteen-month-old daughter a pink rocking horse. It talks and sings when you press its ears, and it's really very adorable. But there's something strange about it too. When this cute little PINK pony sings, a very masculine declares, "I'm a pretty pony..."

I don't know. Maybe I'm the only one who finds this funny--and possibly a little disturbing. I wonder what the creators had in mind when they were testing voices for this horse. Who knows? Maybe they were going for the humor. If so, they succeeded. I laugh every time one of the kids plays with this toy.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Not enough hours in the day...

I've been riding on a bit of a high these past few days because of the small writing successes I've had. (I had another feature today at SMITH Magazine!) However, today I've also been bogged down by all that I need to do and never seem to have time for: the Christmas decorations that still need to be put in storage, the boxes of books I need to sort through, the papers that need to be filed, the closets that need to be cleaned...  The list goes on (and on). I'm sure I'm not the only mom out there whose to-do list seems to stretch out to infinity.

However--and this is a pep talk not only for me but for all moms--the fact of the matter is that there simply aren't enough hours in the day to do everything. We have to choose. We can care for our kids, cook dinner, do laundry, run errands, and clean the kitchen, or we can care for our kids, cook dinner, vacuum, wash clothes, and mop the bathroom floor. But the point is we can't do everything in one day, and I think the best thing we can do when we feel burdened and even paralyzed by all the tasks before us is to remind ourselves of what's really important--family. After all, what matters most, spending time with our loved ones or having a spotless floor? I find that if I take care of my family first, I somehow find the time to do the things that need to be done each day. And all those other things, those tasks that I never seem to have time for, the ones that hang over my head? Well, I've decided that they'll get done when they get done, and I need to stop stressing about things that I can't do immediately. They'll wait.

So tonight I'm going to spend time with my family instead of sorting papers. I'm going to take a little time to write and recharge once the kids are in bed. And I'm going to stop worrying about the things in life that really don't matter all that much. Who cares if the boxes of Christmas ornaments are still piled on our bedroom floor? They'll get put away eventually. But those little children that helped me put those ornaments on the tree? They need me now--and they have me.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

More good writing news!

One of my six-word memoirs was chosen as Six-Word Memoir of the Day at SMITH Magazine! Wow!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Mommy Milestone

Tomorrow I'll be taking my son to register for preschool, and all day I've been feeling mixed emotions. I know he's ready to go--he talks about it constantly--but I'm not sure I'm ready for him to go. In fact, my husband and I had originally signed him up to attend this year. We had paid the deposit and filled out all the required forms, but at the last minute, I decided I wanted to keep him home for another year. Three seemed so young--too young to be in school and away from me. Four was far away. It's here now, though. He'll be four next month, and in September, I'll be dropping him off at the preschool two days a week. Tomorrow's paperwork will be the start of it all.

I'm proud of my little boy. He's excited for school, and I want him to have that experience. But I already know that tomorrow will be a bittersweet day for me.

Monday, January 10, 2011

But it wasn't all bad...

Amid the meltdowns and tantrums today, I did receive a bit of good news: one of my six-word memoirs was featured at SMITH Magazine. I'm proud of this accomplishment. The year is off to a great start!

Who needs the time-out today? Oh, yeah. I do.

Today has been one of those I-suck-as-a-mother days. These days seem to be happening all too frequently lately, most of them falling on Mondays, which shouldn't be too surprising, I guess, since Mondays usually signify my first day back as a full-time mom. (I take part-time mom status over the weekends when the husband is home all day.)

Anyway, I let the noise and the whining and the fighting and the "I wants" and the "She hit mes" get to me today, until I finally lost my temper and yelled, thereby rendering all of my "Don't yells" and "Be polites" null and void. Oh, well. Good thing the kids don't know the word "hypocrite" yet, huh? Seriously, I do get discouraged on days like today. I'm a perfectionist, and I really want to be a good mom, so when I have days like this, I really beat myself up. I guess, though, that I just need to chalk it up to a bad day and promise myself when I wake up tomorrow that I'll try harder and do better.

But a little chocolate and a time-out might make me feel better in the meantime. :)

Sunday, January 9, 2011

I should have joined the circus

Like all moms, I can do more than one thing at a time. In my experience, dads can't do this; they can only concentrate on one thing--their heads explode if they try to do anything else. Recently, my husband was putting batteries in one of the kids' toys. He was removing the old batteries when I came into the room and asked him if he wanted spaghetti or lasagna for dinner. He didn't answer, so I asked him again, and that's when I was treated to the eye roll, the one thing he does that drives me absolutely insane. "Can't you see I'm doing something here? Wait a second," he said, and I waited while he changed the batteries, screwed on the cover, and passed the toy to our son. Only then did I get an answer: "Spaghetti." See? One thing at a time.

Now I don't know if all husbands are exactly like mine, but enough of my friends have told me similar stories that I tend to believe my husband is the rule rather than the exception. We moms, on the other hand, have to do fifteen things at once in order to get everything done. We just don't have time to complete one task before starting the next. The other day, I was feeding the kids their lunch while calling for a doctor's appointment, putting laundry in the washer, sweeping the kitchen, eating my own lunch, planning the next week's meals, and writing the store list. We multitask. It's how we survive.

A few days ago, my kids and I had just gotten home from running some errands, and I sent my oldest, who's three, to the bathroom while I took the baby's coat off. (I still call her the baby, even though she'll be one and a half tomorrow.) Afterward, I went upstairs to change my clothes, then went back to the kitchen to wash my hands so that I could make lunch. As soon as I began running the water, my three-year-old was yelling that he pooped and the baby was standing next to me asking for "boom-boom." (This is how she tells me that she wants to nurse. Cute, huh?) Anyway, I thought my head would explode because of all the directions I was being pulled, everyone wanting something from me at once and me with a splitting headache, a rumbling stomach, and a desperate need to eat. Of course I rallied like we moms always do and got everyone taken care of and lunch made. I wonder, though, how my husband would have handled the situation. Kind of makes me laugh to think about it...

So I juggle things--my time, my energy, pieces of my mind. We all do, which makes me think that all moms would make great circus performers! Besides our families, we have other balls in the air too, like attempting to achieve our personal dreams--as I said in my first post, mine is writing--and we have to work hard to balance our "Mom" role with the other things we want to accomplish in life. But we can do it. We're Moms.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Hi, I'm Dana. How are you?

Why is the first post in a new blog always so awkward? I feel like I'm at one of my husband's work parties, standing in a corner in a roomful of strangers, smiling like an idiot until someone finally notices I'm there. So let me be the one to break the ice. I'm Dana, a mother of two and an aspiring (cross your fingers, please) writer. I enjoy reading, white wine, long walks on the -- oops. Wait. Wrong site. Seriously, all of us mommies have stories to tell, and I hope you'll join me here in my little corner of the Internet, where I'll brag about my kids (okay, not all of the time), complain about my husband (well, maybe not always!), and muse about making my two worlds--Mommy and Writer--mesh.