Tag Archives: health

Office Hours

My last couple of weeks have been quite a ride.

Last week was spring break. All four of my ducklings were home, and it was raining. A lot. Almost all week. And it was the first week that I tried to be diligent about maintaining some semblance of work discipline. I set office hours, expectations, and rules, and I gave the ducklings chores, tasks, and ideas for how to spend their free time.

Surprisingly, it worked. Mostly. Wednesday was mostly a day off, but otherwise, I managed to get in quite a bit of work time. I got my professional website up and running, I reconnected with a lot of old business contacts, and I did a lot of prospecting. At the end of the week, I was feeling pretty good about the general direction of my freelancing efforts.

And then, this week hit.

Two of my ducklings are still home–they get a two-week break. Fortunately, they’re the older two, so they entertain themselves pretty well.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I prepared for this week very well.

I don’t know what happened. Monday was spent mostly catching up on AHG duties, so I had very little opportunity to do any prospecting or writing. Tuesday morning I went to my Bible study, but then the rest of the day seemed to just . . . fade away? I don’t know. I couldn’t get on track the rest of the day. Yesterday, I took Hermione to the mall, partially because I promised I would at some point on her break and partially because we both needed some new clothes. All of the kids do, so I will likely need to spend more time shopping either today or tomorrow. But then today, I have to get groceries, or we’ll soon be eating dessicated raisins and stale Saltines for supper. Actually, I think we’re even out of Saltines.

So when I do the math for this week, it’s pretty dismal. Not a whole lot of time for work, and yet, there was really very little play involved, either. It was a whole lot of time sucked away from my week.

I think that I did myself a disservice by not planning my week very well ahead of time. Last week, I had a plan, and I executed it. This week, I *thought* I had a plan, but I didn’t. I didn’t prepare well for the week, and I let the week control me.

I’m thinking about how to make things better next week. I am really committed to maintaining balance and sanity this time around, and there are certain things that just have to be done to make that happen. One thing is that I need to be diligent about maintaining office hours. With summer quickly approaching (meaning all four ducklings underfoot for three months), I absolutely have to get into some habits now in order to make the summer bearable.

But there are also, inevitably, personal appointments and events that end up stuck in the middle of those working hours. Like my weekly Bible study–I’m coming to really look forward to that time, which I did not expect, and I am counting on that time to help keep me healthy and balanced. I won’t give that up.

And then there are the things that just seem to slip into the working hours because I don’t pay attention. I really must get up earlier and read my Bible before my office hours begin. And grocery shopping and errands–I’m terrible about getting those things done on weekends. I have to start getting groceries and running errands on weekends or in the evening. Some things just have to be in the middle of the work day, like doctor appointments and orthodontist check ups, so I guess maybe when those come up, I will have to take each one individually.

The real trouble here is that I feel a bit resentful that work has come along and interrupted my very lovely and settled and comfortable life as a stay-at-home-mom of tweens and teens. I was really enjoying my leisure–being able to read, knit, visit with friends, do a little shopping, run my errands when the kids were at school. Now, though, the reality of work is jolting me awake, and I can’t keep letting that other life slip in and steal it back. I have to start wrapping my head around this “work-at-home mom” thing again.

It’s a lot easier said than done.

This week is shot. Groceries and errands and getting my children out of highwaters and holey socks and ratty T-shirts is going to see me through the end of Friday. And I do have a couple of appointments scheduled for next week, so I’ll have to manage around those.

But I think that I will have to create a much better plan of attack for next week’s time. Work is going to have to take precedence over everything else between 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. on weekdays. The flipside to that is that I have promised my kids I will be done at 3:00 p.m. every day. After 3:00, I belong to the family and the house. If I do anything else that’s work- or writing-related, I’ll have to do it after they go to bed.

For today, we need milk, eggs, bread, and cheese. Those dessicated raisins are starting to look too good.

Till next we meet . . .

J M

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A Trip to the Feed Store

I love feed stores.

Somewhere, deep down in my psyche or my heart or my spirit, there’s a latent farm woman trying to get out.

I blogged a couple of weeks ago about trying new things, and because of weather and schedules, we haven’t had much opportunity to pursue the things I mentioned in that blog.

But this weekend, we’ve made some progress toward our modest goals. For one thing, my uncle offered us a free rabbit hutch and a chicken coop, so it would appear that we’ll be able to start our chicken experiment this year rather than next. I had considered waiting because we have so many other things lined up for this year, but as the coop is the biggest piece of getting chickens, it shouldn’t be tough to go ahead and start now. We’re only allowed three adult hens, according to the city, so we won’t have enough hens to really provide eggs for the whole family (we eat a lot of eggs). But this will be a good way to learn about chickens.

My husband also made some progress toward his rabbit breeding experiment–he purchased our first breeding rabbit:

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Her eyes are weird because they’re pink. They don’t show up well in photos. I tried a few times, and this was the best I could get. She seems to have a good disposition. It’s our hope that she’ll be a good mama; several rabbit breeders have said that rabbit meat tastes best when the mama is relaxed and the babies are happy. Makes sense.

We had to go to the local farm and feed store to get the rabbit. Our house is right on the edge of rural nursery and farm country, and there are two or three feed stores within a few minutes of our house. They all look basically the same–there’s some kind of retail space, a warehouse/loading dock, and maybe some kind of small livestock area. From the gravel or crudely paved parking lot, one walks up the steps onto a wide concrete covered porch, where shelves of feed and racks of seedlings are on display.

And of course, it’s a time-honored tradition to jump off the porch when the family is ready to leave. Miss Lucy quickly eschewed the steps into the parking lot and announced that she would jump. Well, of course. I can’t tell you how many times I jumped from that exact same spot.

Walking into a feed store gets all of my dormant farming genes buzzing. The smell–leather, sawdust, feed, chicks–is better than fresh coffee, better than baking bread. It’s a combination of sensory input that conjures memories–buying chicks every spring with Grandma M, stumbling upon a box of free puppies or kittens brought in by a local farmer, picking up some kind of halter or rope or feed for one of the various critters we had when I was a kid. The people inside haven’t changed much, either–more hobbyists now, fewer career farmers, but the same kind of salt-of-the-earth folk. And the one hallmark of spring is still there:

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Chicks!

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I love ’em. I’m not a huge fan of adult chickens, but chicks? Bring ’em on! I love ’em before they  get their feathers, when they’re all downy and warm and soft and they have those sweet little cheeps and peeps and you can hold one in your hands and rub its sweet fluffiness against your cheek . . .

When I say I’m a baby freak, I mean I’m a cross-species baby freak. I just love babies.

The garden plans will have to wait till we get a little bit of dry weather and a free afternoon to work in the yard. And the chicks will have to wait until we get the coop from my uncle. But getting the rabbit and taking a trip to the feed store got me a little more excited about this foray into self-sufficiency.

I think I’ll have to take more trips to the feed store just to keep myself excited about all of this. It does wonders for my soul.

 

The Only Writing Advice I Can Give

I have never wanted this blog to be about writing. I set out, in fact, to specifically NOT write about writing. I wanted to write about everything else. My last blog was about writing. I even wrote a weekly column about writing for another website. I seemed to have no problem giving people advice about writing (as if I had any clue about anything to do with . . . anything).

I hereby rescind all of my writing advice. Should you ever find any of it, print it and burn it.

I had a very long talk with a lovely friend yesterday–a friend who understands this virus called “writing.” We shared our frustrations and fears, our fictional loves and our big dreams. But we also talked about our kids, our husbands, our childhoods, our hobbies, our shared faith, and a host of other things. And I realized that the thing that carried the conversation was not the writing. It was the connection.

I have thought a lot about what has changed in my life since I put my writing away last year. My house is still a mess. My kids still fight. I still get immersed in projects. I’m still insanely busy. What has changed?

On the surface, not much.

Internally? I’ve re-centered my spirit around what’s important–my God and my family.

And in the process of re-centering myself, God has given me back my writing.

If my kids get too obsessed with a video game, I’ll take the video game away to break the habit. Like a good parent, God pried my writing out of my clenched fists and put other things in my open hands–His Word, mostly. And then when He had lovingly applied a balm to palms that were shredded from obsessive clenching, He very kindly placed my writing back on my hands.

So I had a conversation with my friend yesterday, and it made me think–what writing advice would I give now?

The only writing advice I am qualified to give.

Don’t write. Breathe. No one can work on one thing all day, every day, for hours a day. I know the writing world is filled with stories of men and women who crank out hundreds of thousands of words every year and sell millions of books, but they aren’t you. They are often products of a publishing world on meth–a world that has to continue to crank out product like a soda bottling plant, churning words off an assembly line because it will die if it doesn’t. Remember, sharks die if they quit swimming, and publishing is full of sharks. Allow yourself time to NOT write.

Cross train. Runners who strength train run faster. Writers who creatively cross train write better. I have no empirical evidence of this–it’s just a theory based on my own recent experience. When I allow myself time to sew and knit, I find myself more inclined to pursue my writing endeavors. I find I enjoy them more and have a greater sense of satisfaction with the product of my writing sessions. Whether other people will agree is not the point. If you aren’t writing for yourself, there’s no reason to write.

Remember your audience. It’s you. Or in my case, it’s God. But that’s me. The point is that your audience isn’t “out there” so much as internal. I suppose this is sort of the “don’t write for the market” advice, but the problem with that advice is that it’s still focused on the market. Focus on the audience. And the most important audience, the one who has to live with it all, is you.

Redefine success. This is something my friend Laurel has gently convicted me of. Success is not defined by book sales or titles published or stellar reviews. I am convinced–after being rather chewed up and spit out by the world of writing and publishing–that those measures of success are a result of marketing and publishing efforts, not writing efforts. Success as a writer is something else. Did you tell the story you wanted to tell as well as you could tell it? Then you are a success. You are a storyteller. Define success in that context.

Only take responsibility for you. You are responsible for the story. That’s it. You can’t control reviews or sales, and anyone who tells you otherwise is lying. There are as many theories on how to sell books as there are writers, and all of them still have one problem: they depend on the consumer for success. And as much as Don Draper would like to think he can control the consumer, he can’t. The world of advertising and marketing is littered with the mangled bodies of failed campaigns. We only hear about the successes. So, dear friend, write the best story you can write. That’s all you can do.

Feed your soul. And your body, and your mind, and your heart. Close the Word document and look away. Nurture your faith. Hug your kids. Go out with your spouse. Read. Take a walk. Listen to the rain. Sing. Talk to a friend. Teach something. Go target shooting. Exercise. You are not just a writer. You are a whole person. Spend time acting like a whole person.

Write. If you are a writer, you know it. You have to write. It’s a virus that withers us from within unless we feed it. So feed it. Just . . . control its diet.

That’s it. No grammar, structure, or story advice. No marketing, publishing, self-publishing words of wisdom. Share your work or don’t share it–I’m not one to tell you whether it’s “worth sharing” or not. I know what I like to read, and there are plenty of novels that I think are utter trash. But that’s my responsibility as a reader.

Your responsibility, dear writer, is to write.

Till next we meet . . .

J M

Indulgence

I have been wildly indulgent twice in the last week.

Last Tuesday, I took my best friend out for lunch and a pedicure to celebrate the anniversary of her birth. I have not had a professional pedicure in . . . at least 18 months, I think. It was heaven. My feet are ready for spring now.

After our delightful lunch, I stopped by the yarn shop for a bit of browsing, then picked up The Ducklings from school and took them to the library. The family took advantage of a free evening by enjoying a home-cooked meal (an all-too-rare occurrence of late) and a family movie night. I knitted, I had a little helping of Bailey’s Irish Cream, and I enjoyed some conversation with my husband, and I slept in peace.

I did not clean. I did not do any volunteer work. I did not fret about unfinished house projects. I just simply decided that they could wait until tomorrow.

And they did. The dishes, the toilets, the laundry, the work, the projects–they were all there on Wednesday morning, waiting to be dealt with.

The difference was–I was ready. I’d indulged my soul with friendship and family and books and crafts and story and good food, and I felt rested and ready to face everything again. And this was a good thing indeed, because from Wednesday through Sunday, my life was once again insanely busy. Busy with good things, mind you–dinner with my in-laws, our long family hike, church, Bible study with middle schoolers–but busy.

Which brings me to yesterday.

Tiger and Lucy did not have school yesterday. They were supposed to have a dental appointment, but it was canceled. I took Boy Scout and Hermione to school, finished some Cub Scout homework with Tiger, made sure Lucy did her daily reading, and then . . .

I indulged in my art.

For most of the day.

Even into the night.

And it was heaven.

I have been profoundly hesitant to indulge in anything related to my art over the last many months. I have resisted it to the point of tears–angry tears, frustrated tears, grieving tears. I have refused to open the floodgates, fearing that any indulgence–even a small one–might just reawaken that need, that desire, that wish to succeed at the business side of the art once again. I have ignored the creative urge within myself because it seemed pointless–because I have convinced myself that my art is worthless if it is not shared by anyone else, because I have determined never to share it with anyone again, because I have repeated to myself a thousand times that what I create is not worth sharing, anyway, and why bother if it only takes time from the family?

But I could not hold back the floodgates yesterday.

I did not clean. I did not do any volunteer work. I did not fret about unfinished house projects. I just simply decided that they could wait until tomorrow.

And here they all are, waiting to be confronted.

My art did no more harm than did my indulgence in a pedicure, lunch, yarn shopping, and movie night. My children were still fed and clothed all day yesterday. Everyone ended up where he or she needed to be at appropriate times. Homework was finished. No one really seemed to care that I had indulged. In fact, only Lucy (my unbelievably observant child) and Mr. P even noticed.

So the question is, do I feel better for it today? Am I a happier person for indulging? Did my indulgence have any lasting significance?

Answers: Yes, yes, and I don’t know.

What I created yesterday is not a finished product. The question now is–do I return to it? Do I take the time to change it if I do not intend to ever share it with anyone? Is there a point in making something as nearly perfect as possible if I am the only one who will ever see it?

I don’t know.

What I do know is this: I created, and I created with abandon–without caring what anyone else thought of the product, without worrying about criticism and business and marketing and promotion.

I simply created for the joy of creation.

We are, after all, made in God’s image, and He is the ultimate Creator. Should it be any shock that we need to create?

I need to create, and I need to create for the joy of it. As I told Mr. P, if I keep it inside me, it poisons me. I have to let it out, even if no one else ever knows.

And for a moment–for one day out of a week or a month of weeks or how long it takes for me to return to my art–I created. I indulged.

My soul is fed.

Till next we meet . . .

J M

In Search of Friends

Well, hello, Internet.

As you may have surmised (if, indeed, you are paying attention to my presence or absence), I’ve been busy these last couple of weeks. Also as you may have surmised, most of my busy-ness has been due to various Scouting-related activities. Mr. P has been traveling a bit as well, which leaves me to be the All-Around Scout Mom Extraordinaire. Don’t misunderstand–I’m not complaining, exactly. Mr. P’s job is a huge blessing to us, and he actually doesn’t travel much. It’s just that busy seasons like this often leave me with a niggling feeling that I’ve probably forgotten something, missed an obligation or two, or unintentionally offended someone in my haste to perform some other necessary and required bit of . . . something related to Scouting, most likely.

In any event, I’ve been busy.

I wanted to come back to an idea I alluded to a couple of weeks ago when I enumerated my personal health goals in my post “Unplugged“:

Improve my emotional health by evaluating relationships, improving them where I can and eliminating those that are no longer beneficial to either party.

I’ve been doing some soul-searching about friendships–past, current, and future. I have long had the suspicion that some of my entrenched friendships may no longer be beneficial to me. I don’t want it to sound like I am only friends with people who provide me with something, but sometimes, friendships come to a point where they are no longer beneficial to either party and someone needs to drop back or out. I think it’s fair to say I’ve found two main groups of people in my life who no longer build me up:

The friends I had in my old work life. While I do keep in touch with a few people from that life, most of them were gone when I left that world. That was a painful loss, I have to admit. I went from having a fairly intimate circle of acquaintances who all had much in common to having a huge hole in my world with no one to fill it. But for the most part, those people belong to a life I am no longer a part of and will never be part of again. They belong in my past as fond memories, but to attempt real, lasting friendships with most of them would likely bring only frustration, confusion, and perhaps even pain. Sometimes, it’s best to just say goodbye.

The “girlfriends” I formerly called my closest friends. I think the final moment for me was during our annual weekend gathering last autumn. I realized that not only are we rehashing the same old stories and falling into all of the same old patterns every time we all get together, but that those stories and patterns are simply no longer beneficial to me–or more likely to any of us. While I’m in a position of weakness–which I am, and that’s hard for me to admit–being with a group of weak people who shore each other up with that unique brand of “girlfriend” self-esteem wherein none of us can do any wrong is not a healthy place to be. At least for the moment, it’s best to let those relationships lie fallow. Perhaps the soil just needs a season or two to rest.

This leaves me with a rather slender friend file, I have to admit.

This is not really a problem for me, usually. I do not make friends easily. I am not a good social initiator. I chalk most of these social failings up to my generally introverted nature. I am simply programmed to be a hermit and would be perfectly happy living in a cave on Mt. Everest with nary a visitor except the occasional sherpa.

But the reality is that I live in a world where I’m not only expected to be social, but I am probably doing myself a disservice by resisting socialization.

Another hard thing to admit.

The reality is that when I count my friends–real friends, people who don’t have to associate with me because of blood or marriage or volunteer obligations or school circumstances–I can probably only count about five true friends. Mr. P is obviously at the top of the list, and there is my long-time best girlfriend who will probably remain at the top of the list until we are both very old and very covered in cat hair and wool from our knitting projects. I also have about three or four Internet acquaintances who know a lot of things about my life and whom I would count as friends should we ever meet in real life. Beyond that?

The pickin’s, as they say, are slim.

So the quandary becomes . . . Do I need more friends? I think that, yes, perhaps, I just may.

I find myself pining for conversation lately–conversation that doesn’t revisit all of the same old territory, that doesn’t devolve into a litany of complaint, that isn’t centered around children and home. I find myself wishing for the kind of intellectual stimulation that only comes from a well-earned and shared trust, a give-and-take of information and wisdom and experience. And I don’t want to sound like Mr. P and my other few friends are falling down on the job–they aren’t. But I think I would enjoy broadening the circle a bit.

So where does one go to find new friends? The first thoughts immediately jump to items of common ground–church, literature, knitting, and the like. I am hesitant to look for new friends at church for a variety of reasons–some of which I have shared here, some of which are, for the moment, private. That leaves books and knitting, for the moment, anyway. And since knitting often includes my best friend already . . .

It is, perhaps, time to find a book club. Or a literature class, or some other place where a person with some fair amount of bookish intellect can enjoy pursuing a too-long-neglected passion.

Now, as to when I might fit said pursuit into my schedule . . . That’s another issue entirely.

More investigation is needed.

Till next we meet . . .

J M