Reflection

Clarity is the space between an object and its mirror.

I took this picture while camping with my older son last weekend.  The reflection of the trees upon the water mesmerized me, so I ducked away from photographing boys fishing to capture a few shoreline shots.

Reflection.

That word pretty much defines this past week for me.  A week ago, I acknowledged that I can’t get everything done and something had to change. This week was all about giving an honest look at deficiencies in my life.  Here are some things I want to do more:

  • Nurture my relationship with God by spending at least 15 minutes a day reading scripture or devotionals – without distractions;
  • Work on my novel expanding Ellie’s story (which I posted here as a series of Trifecta challenge entries, beginning in May 2012);
  • Make better food choices (after the 5-pound tub of Toll House chocolate chip cookie dough I bought “for the kids” is gone :));
  • Exercise more (which should help get rid of the 22 extra pounds that have found me over the last year);
  • Get at least seven hours of sleep each night;
  • Stress less about what I’m not getting done; and
  • Celebrate family time- especially when life is at its busiest.

I do realize that many of these things require time.  It figures.  I’m all out of time.  Since I can’t have more than 24 hours in my day, I know I’ll have to cut back in other areas.  (My first thought was to eliminate housekeeping, but sadly, those 30 minutes a week won’t get me very far!)

It’s obvious my time management needs some fine tuning, but now that I have goals in front of me, it should be easier to examine.  Should is the key word.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.  (Matthew 11:28-30)

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Failure: Succeeding In The Opposite Direction

This is the time of year when many folks begin to think of ways to improve their lives when January 1st rolls around.  Many resolutions are made, and then broken before midnight February arrives.  I don’t make resolutions – especially for exercise or diet (been there, not done that.)

Can't see where we're going while looking over our shoulder

I do think it’s healthy to examine the year gone by to make sure we are moving in the right direction.  If not, this is a great time to reorient our life map and chart out a new course.  Reorienting can be done any day of the year, but for those motivated by the freshness of a different year, it can spark revived purpose.

What is not particularly useful is rehashing all the perceived failures of the past year.  (I say ‘perceived failures’ because our failures are often not failures at all…they are valuable experiences that just didn’t lead us in the direction we planned to go.)

Zeroing in on every face-plant only increases the likelihood that emptiness will be drowned in copious amounts of alcohol.  I’ve seen the aftermath of New Year’s binge drinkers and they are a miserable bunch.  I guess dehydrating your brain until it feels like it is being beaten by four thugs in a dark alley doesn’t foster human decency.

Of course I’ve had my share of perceived failures in 2011; I’ve had goals I never reached and dreams that weren’t fulfilled.  But I choose to focus on what I have done rather than what I haven’t.  I’ll use writing as an example, since that’s why I started this blog (even though it now blurs into other areas of my life.)

In 2011, I didn’t complete my second novel as I had hoped.  In fact, I haven’t written a single word of it, but I’m not discouraged.  On the contrary, I’m thrilled creativity hasn’t robbed me and dumped me beside the road on this writing journey.  And 2011 has been a journey….I have:

  • Read 22 novels
  • Written 7 short stories
  • Completed character development short stories for 3 of my novel characters
  • Written 13 poems (links to poetry and short stories are on my Random Writing page)
  • Written about 160 blog posts
  • Read and commented on I-don’t-know-how-many blog posts
  • And…here’s the big one:  I’ve ‘met’ so many interesting blog friends that my writing journey doesn’t feel like the solitary trek that some writers bemoan.  I’m having so much fun!  Thank you 🙂

As I already mentioned, I don’t make resolutions…but I do set goals.  My one goal for next year is simple:  I will feed my spiritual self by setting aside fifteen minutes each evening to read a devotional page or scripture.  Life is about balance, and that is the one area where I am deficient.

My relationship with God is the glue that bonds me as a wife, mother, friend, writer, employee, leader, and compassionate human being. Sometimes I feel like parts of me threaten to peel away, but I want my life to be held tighter than crazy glue between fingertips.

Um, not that I have experienced this, or anything…

How do you approach the New Year – with a bottle of Tequila and 100 of your closest acquaintances, or with quiet reflection and a good night’s sleep?

When Blanket Tents Were Magical & Windows Were The Moon

It’s no secret that a child’s imagination and ability to indulge in fantasy worlds are often superior to that of a jaded grown-up’s.  Yesterday, I got the opportunity to flex my creativity in a last-ditch effort to salvage my sanity, which was fading fast.

While working from home, my children fought CONSTANTLY from the moment my older son got home from his half-day at school.  “Mommy, <older son> hit me!” followed by, “Well, he annoyed me!”  Soon after trailed by, “Mooooommmmmm (spoken in two syllables) <younger son> took my toy!” then answered by whining, “He wouldn’t let me play, and I wanted to!”

It would be four hours until my husband got home.  I had to transport my mind somewhere else before I lost it forever.  I closed my eyes and remembered my younger son’s morning playtime.  Hunkered down with his stuffed kitty (aptly named, “Kitty”) in his magical tent made of chairs and blankets, they devised a plan to fight off a bear that waited outside.  He typed stuff in his computer (Lite Brite) by the light of the moon (window above our door.)  Finally, he and Kitty came out and after a fierce fight, they defeated the bear.

Kitty resting after a tough fight

I opened my eyes and felt a hint of a smile on my face.  I breathed deeply and exhaled slowly, allowing the calm to flow through me.  I got back to work, only to be interrupted ten minutes later with the tell-tale signs of sibling discord (screaming, whining, arguing, sounds of scuffling, and then crying).  Time for plan B.

I channeled my inner drill-sergeant and got them moving.  In no time, they were picking up toys (“Anything left on the floor will be given away!”), cleaning bathrooms (“That toothpaste better be scrubbed off the cabinet!”), and dusting tabletops (“Whoever has the dirtiest cloth wins!”)  Meanwhile, I released my pent-up frustration into vacuuming the floors.  Back and forth I went over the carpet and tile until the frown lines creasing my forehead smoothed out and my frustration didn’t feel like it would burst through my skin.  By the time we were done, all of us were too tired to argue.  Peace at last.

On occasion, I have mourned the loss of my childhood imagination but, on this day, my goal-driven adult creativity ruled.  And with that, my sanity will live to be tested see another day.

Have a magical weekend!

Which would you rather have:  a child’s fantasy-driven imagination, or an adult’s goal-driven creativity? 

Monday Convinced Me To Swear Off Writing Goals

Today is Monday.  I try not to have animosity toward Monday, but it’s hard to remain on friendly terms when I see it as a party crasher.  On Saturday and Sunday, I get to sleep in until 7:00AM; then Monday comes and demands that I wake up at 5:10AM.  It insists that I get the kids moving and out of the house by 6:30 so I can make it to work by 7:30.  I work for eight hours, even though I’d rather be writing, then rush home for a quick bite before taking my oldest to his Monday night class.  Sometimes I write for the hour and a half I’m there.  Other times I read a book, or if I’m really not focused, I eavesdrop (in the name of characterization, of course).  Tonight, I did a little of everything.

When I get home, I make sure to kiss my little one goodnight, or he will find me.  By 8:00PM, my older child climbs in bed.  Finally–just me, my computer and my writing.  I’m behind on my goal for completing my second novel, but in my mind, I can still pull it out just like I did my term papers in college. 

I reread the last pages I wrote the previous night to see if they are coherent.  Since I write at night, I can come up with some weird stuff; I almost think my writing would be more cohesive if I wrote as an early morning drunk.  (Not going to test that theory, though).  I fix the pages where they make sense and continue the story.

Soon, I hear little feet slapping on the tile.  I hold my breath because it’s only a matter of time until he finds me.  I hear my bedroom door open and slam shut; then more feet on tile. 

“Mommy?” he calls from the doorway of my living room (which is my office).

Almost every night my little one gets out of bed for something or another.  I try to guess what it is tonight…is there a cat under his bed?  Sully or Mike behind the closet door?  He can’t sleep because his pajama shirt doesn’t match the bottoms?  Could it be he forgot to take Kitty (his stuffed tiger) to bed?  Or maybe he wants to ask me again if he can take his bear backpack to school tomorrow, even though he already asked twice. 

“Mommy,” he says quietly because he knows he should be asleep by now.

“What, dear?”  I ask calmly.

He stands just a foot away from me, looking at me with his big blue eyes. “There’s a string on my bed and it won’t let me sleep.” 

Okay, this is a new one; and I never would have guessed it in ten million years.  I step away from my laptop and follow him to his room.  I find it ironic that he’s half-skipping while my feet drag in a heavy shuffle on the tile.

“Show it to me,” I say as he bounces into bed. 

He digs out the corner of the sheet and sure enough – there’s a string about an inch long dangling from the seam.  It doesn’t look threatening to me and I still can’t imagine how this string could possibly keep him awake, but I don’t ask because he’d probably go into a long, animated story.

If sewing skills were a measure of intelligence, I’d be labeled as a very dim bulb.  But I know enough to notice that if I clip this offending thread, the stitching would unravel all the way down the side of the sheet.  With the precision of a surgeon with fat fingers, I loop the string several times and manage to tie a few knots in the same area.  I then snip the excess string, leaving only about ¼ of an inch after my knots.

“Well, this string won’t be bothering you anymore,” I proclaim as I pull his Cars blanket over him and tuck the corner of the sheet under just in case he tries a closer inspection of my not-so-handy work.

He doesn’t argue with the stub of a string left hanging and seems satisfied that I taught the string a lesson.

I get back to my writing, but my dialog is total garbage.  The scene is boring.  I’m ready to write, but the writing isn’t ready to happen.  It’s getting late; I’m frustrated and banging my head against the wall (metaphorically speaking…I wouldn’t actually do that because it hurts…and the noise would likely bring little one out to check on me).

It’s like my life is a Marine training obstacle course; I’m crawling through mud pits, climbing up walls, swinging on ropes, dragging a hundred pounds of I-don’t-know-what behind me with the drill sergeant (my deadlines) berating me and screaming in my head, “MOVE IT, LAZY!  POOR EXCUSE FOR A WRITER; CAN’T EVEN DO 8 PAGES A WEEK!  IF YOU CAN’T DO IT NOW, YOU’LL NEVER MEET A REAL DEADLINE!  CRYING? CRYING IS FOR BABIES! SUCK IT UP!”

My crazy life isn’t going to let up anytime soon (my day job pays the bills and my family isn’t going anywhere; I’m indefinitely on call for kitty finding, monster chasing, pajama finding and string clipping).  So, my solution is to fire the drill sergeant; that yelling in my head was so annoying anyway.  Here are my new goals: 

(1)     Write something every night, even if it’s just the grocery list. 

(2)    Do the best I can; my novel will get done when it gets done.

If I ever do get a literary agent, I may have to grovel for the drill sergeant to come back, but I’ll cross that bridge when I get there  🙂