Obligatory New Year Post

At the end of the year it is the law of the land that you look back on what you have accomplished (or not) and then look forward and make unattainable goals for the new year.

I was going to say that I don't like to follow rules and refuse to do this. But the sad truth is I'm actually the worst kind of conformist - to my own rules. Therefore, I decree, I shalt ponder the year...

As this is primarily intended as a writing blog, I will focus on that.

What I accomplished in 2008:
1. Completed a two year long Children's Literature course.
2. Began writing this blog (and got a small number of readers).
3. Accepted to Journal Instructor Certification course.
4. Submitted two articles and two queries.
5. Had one article accepted.
6. "Hired" as a journal instructor.
7. Hired as a grantwriter (and do-everything-elser) by a non-profit.
8. (and this is the biggest achievement in my mind): Began thinking of and believing in myself as a Writer (yes, that's with a capital W).

What I hope to accomplish in 2009:
1. Make a writing schedule for myself that I stick to as if it were a work obligation ("no, I'm sorry I can't bake 24 dozen cupcakes for this afternoon, because, well, I don't bake, and I have to work.")
2. Write this blog at least once a week, preferably twice.
3. Continue "The Tale of Two Couples." (The telling of this story became hard for me, something I wasn't expecting. I have yet to figure out why... still too close to the heart??)
4. Take the time to read more blogs.
5. Write in my journal daily.
6. Read more of the magazines to which I would like to submit.
7. Write, write, write, submit, submit, submit...

Anyone want to be the "Ethel" to my "Lucy" (i.e. be my buddy and nag me to keep to my goals)? (I credit The Momstown's Guide to Getting it All for this idea, and I think it especially appropriate to me as I have the right name.)

OK, obligatory reflection and goal-setting done. Now I have to wish you all the obligatory good wishes and success for the coming year.

May there be:
A world-wide effort towards peace (starting with me and you)
Food for hungry stomachs
Hope for trembling hearts
Joy in tear-filled eyes
Fewer natural disasters and no human-made ones
Less hate and much, much more love.

And I send many good vibes to our new president...


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Just a quickie

No, not that kind (get your head out of the gutter).

No, this is just a quick, boastful post to say...


In Mama Says (this is the link to their blog, not the zine itself). My understanding is it is just a small Vermont publication, but I don't care. You have to start somewhere, right? and a homegrown zine in my own state is as good a start as any. It is an essay on talking to my children about God and religion. I can't wait to actually see my name in print.

And, on another happy note: It is official... I will be teaching a journal workshop at the end of February. I will be listed on the Writer's Center website with bio and everything (not that I have much of a bio).

I believe the life of my dreams is beginning to unfold. Ironically, it is happening at the same time as my day job, my dream job, is becoming a bit of a nightmare. It seems serendipity is poking in its nose making sure I am fulfilled and feeling appreciated at a time when I could be feeling far from it. And I have more proof of this.

Even though I am tired from work, battling children and housework, I have started singing again. Like Agnetha from Abba, I could sing almost before I could talk and I have been singing alone or in a group my whole adult life. My highest achievement was singing with the Vermont Symphony Orchestra chorus, which I had to leave when my unborn child insisted on sleeping on my lungs. Since then, I haven't sung much at all (which I will also blame on my children). But recently I joined a church choir that has an amazing reputation and an even greater repertoire. A few weeks ago after the performance of Messiah, the soloist approached me and hugged me because she, amazingly, remembered me from my VSO days (over 6 years ago). She told me she remembered I had a beautiful voice and was glad I was singing with Rip (the incredibly talented director of the church choir). I don't know where this will lead but I'll keep singing and wait to find out.

I tell you this, not to boast, but to prove my point: DO WHAT YOU LOVE... you WILL have success!

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1991 called

I think I have mentioned before that I am addicted to planners. Not a bad addiction when you consider the options. But I fear I am woefully out of date (pun intended).

I watched the movie 27 Dresses where the main character Jane, played by Katherine Heigl, is a perpetual bridesmaid and wedding planner for her friends. She scribbles all her bridesmaidenly tasks in a dayplanner, which, when left in a cab is the cause of much distress and missed appointments. I relate... I would sit on my rump, head cocked sideways staring at the floor not having a clue what to do next if I mislaid my planner. My daughter has a book about some creature who makes a list of what he has to do that day but when it blows away in a wind gust he is helpless. When his friend suggests they look for the list he refuses because that wasn't on his list of things to do. I'm not quite that bad but if I accomplish something that wasn't on my to-do list I will write it down just so I can experience the pleasure of checking it off - a far more healthy obessesive trait, I believe.

Anyway, back to the movie... when the love interest in the movie finds Jane's planner, making fun of her, he says something about 1990-something wanting its planner back. At the end of the movie when they are all kissy-kissy and she has thrown out her closet-full of dresses (and symbolically, her past), he gives her some electronic, very 21st century, planning gizmo.

Now, before watching this movie I had no feelings of inferiority surrounding my complete dedication to the paper and pen method of time-management. In fact, I wondered why these very-berry thingy-ma-jigs were so popular - what was the point? But suddenly, I am questioning my whole life and its so-called efficiency. Why exactly do I carry around a 5lb tome when I could have a slick, clicky thing that fits in my pocket... and it's a phone too! Now, there's true efficiency for ya.

But I don't have a blackberry, or even a strawberry for that matter, and I probably won't have for a very long time (well. maybe I will in 2038 when everyone else has their daily schedule implanted behind their eyelids).

But continue to plan I must.

So, it was with resignation I ordered a Franklin-Covey designed especially for busy mothers. But when it arrived, its pink and brown mommy-ness and unmarked pages laying flat and shiny waiting for my life to fill its lines, reminded me why I love them. Yes, it's heavy and not as fun or multi-taskerific as a handheld computer/phone/camera/music player/kitchen sink but until 2038 when my grandaughter's discarded device is passed on to me, my planner and I will continue to make plans the good old fashioned way.


As an addendum to this story - when I opened my new planner and inhaled its scent in true addict fashion, my husband, who in true male fashion hates gift shopping, says to me, you better wrap that thing up and put it under the tree, it might the only thing you get. I think I deserve a blackberry after that comment... or at least a new cuddly sweater.

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Just asking

Why is it...

1. After you spend 20 minutes stuffing your children into their five layers of winter clothing, hats, mittens, and boots, they stay outside for exactly 2.2 minutes? And then after peeling them back out of it all, leaving a puddle of melted snow and ice on the rug (in which you step in your socked feet), they ask to go back out?

2. Your husband unexpectedly brings home a cheesy, gooey, yummy, pepperoni-free (miracles can happen) pizza half an hour before you leave for a Christmas party that includes food for which you have already (over)paid?

3. Daughter could be playing with anything, let's say something as uninteresting as the can opener, and Son will scream that it is his, so you try to distract him with, say, a wooden spoon; dropping the can opener, Daughter will yell that no, the spoon is hers, making Son once again focus on the spoon; so, you give them both wooden spoons, which they immediately crack over each other's head?

4. A Christmas ornament that somehow did not make it into the storage box last January 6th and has been hanging around all year, its location known even through a move, is no where to be found when you put up the tree? And with 100% certainty you know it will magically reappear once the Christmas box is back in storage, thus starting the process all over again?

5. In the same mail as you receive a surprise Christmas check from your grandmother, you get a surprise bill for the exact same amount?

6. Son's colon decides to empty itself in the most pungent, leak-potential way after you have just wrestled him into a clean diaper, clothes, snowpants, jacket, and boots, and you are already running 10-minutes late?

7. Children sleep like the dead through 1/2 hour of an eee-eee-eeeing alarm clock on school mornings but are awake and bouncing at 6AM on the weekend?

8. Children begin the I-really-need-a-nap-whine three hours earlier than usual on the very morning you were psyched up to go Christmas shopping, leaving you adrift and in denial that you could use the time to finish cleaning the kitchen (and so you write a pointless blog instead)?

Just asking...

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The Sob Fest

Two days ago I had a sob fest. Ya know, the kind that hits a woman once in a while when every day life becomes so overwhelming and so unfair that the pressure building since the last meltdown finally blows open the gates. The kind that makes your husband want to run for cover until his calm wife who usually handles everything with goddess-like power returns.

Now, before I rant on about my so-called hard life, I must throw in a disclaimer. I work at a non-profit in a town that has its unfair share of drug addicts, homeless people, and teen mothers. I spent most of Thursday morning sorting out coats and snowsuits that were to be given away to those who don't even have the ability to clothe their children (or themselves) adequately for winter's brutal hand. I receive phone calls asking where a mother can get diapers because she doesn't have the $10 to buy a pack. I see children down in our childcare center who are dirty, disheveled, ramen-noodled, and most likely not walking at 18 months due to a mother who drank in her pregnancy.

I, therefore, write this post with the knowledge that I am fortunate, very very fortunate and blessed to even have a house that needs cleaning, to have enough money for the groceries that need buying, and to have the healthy children who can demand food and receive it.

Until 3 months ago, I was leisurely (haha) at home with my children, grocery shopping whenever we ran out of even just one item, putting away laundry while watching Project Runway, and making nutritious meals for when my husband came home. We all sat around the table together and discussed our day. When I had a few hours alone, due to naps and/or preschool, I was either writing or working on my journal instructor certification.

Of course, it wasn't remotely that easy. Life is hard as a stay-at-home mom but I have to say that life as a working mom is HELL.

I have already bemoaned this fact in this post but now I have to add the stresses of work itself. I work 24 hours a week; six hours a day for four days. I do not have enough time to do everything that gets thrown at me in that time. And I can't work overtime; I have to leave at 3:30 on the dot to get my son from daycare and my daughter off the bus. My job is starting to keep me awake at night. Three grants due by the time we close down for two weeks for Christmas... I don't know how I will ever pull it off. I try not to care quite so much, but I don't handle failing so well.

So, that's one part of the sob. Another: Groceries.

Over the summer I devised a wonderful system where I got a healthy menu together for the week and using a pre-printed shopping list I found on the internet, I would get all the ingredients I would need for the whole week. I didn't have to think about food (I hate cooking) and it made my husband happy to be greeted at the door with a steaming hot plate of sauteed tofu (I'm not kidding, I actually converted him!) But those days are gone. There is ZERO time to grocery shop. If you recall my grocery-shopping tale, you'll know why I can no longer shop with my children. And definitely not after school. Little Lady practically falls off the bus and onto the couch with only enough energy left to whine for a snack. And Tater Tot no longer appreciates the fun of sitting high in the front of the cart when he knows the potential of running full-speed through the aisles with mom hot on his tail. He has recently discovered his spoiled brat cry which he only employs in public; the one that goes, "IIIIEEEEEEEEE WAAAAAA CAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANDYEEEEEEE!'

No, grocery shopping needs to be done on the weekend using the buddy-system (Buddy=Daddy)immediately following a long nap (mine). Which means we frequently run out of meals - not food, meals. There is always a can of something starchy and sodium-filled in the back of the cupboard, but the greens don't hold up quite so well in the back of the fridge. The kids don't care, but I do, and it makes me feel that I am failing in one of my duties - filling my family with nutritious fodder. And so I sobbed about that.

And then there's the never-ending housework. I, who loves a well put-together house, does not appreciate the overflowing baskets of laundry on the chair and the randomly tossed toys that have replaced the perfectly placed, beautifully tasteful antiques. Sob, sob, sob.

And then there's my writing, journalling, and coursework. By the time the kids are finally bathed and ensconced in their beds, I, following my daughter's lead of a few hours earlier, crawl to the couch and whine. It is at this time that I pay the bills, check email, and maybe write this blog. Beyond that I'm useless, completely useless.

By the time Friday rolls around - which I scheduled off from work in order to write and study - my to-do list is longer than the day itself. They are so full of errands, chiropractor appointments, and housework I don't even have a chance to get to my favorite coffee shop for a sip of latte. Major sob.

I'm not even going to mention Christmas. Any woman knows the insanity of Christmas. We know there would not even be Christmas if it was not for us. No pressure.

Finally, I think my body is giving up on me. My back is always stiff, my sinuses are perpetually stuffed, and my lungs are sore. Sob, sob, cough, cough, sob.

This stress is unhealthy and something's gotta give.

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And the universe shifted into place

I am a few hours short of becoming a Certified Journal to the Self Workshop Instructor (through The Center for Journal Therapy). I will have business cards, a brochure, a website (hopefully) and a whole new career ahead of me (again, hopefully). I am very excited by this prospect.

Let me tell you how this all began.

I have been writing a journal forever, well, for the last 24 years anyway. 12 years ago my sister gave me Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way and I took to Morning Pages like a new religion (well, for me and my newly heathen ways, it was a religion and a good one too). A few years later I was given (once again by my very insightful and great gift-giving sister) A Voice of Her Own by Marlene A. Schiwy. Two amazing books which, as I can see now, were stepping stones in the journey towards my future life.

When we moved to Mississippi as I mentioned in this post and this one that I was driven to do something creative. I was a new stay-at-home mother in a new world (because Mississippi is not on the same planet as Vermont) and I was determined to stay sane, stay productive, stay me, and stay off soap operas. Actually, I wanted to be more Me than I ever had been before. Since age 22 I had been a 9-5er who aspired to something more, but who used her job as a convenient excuse not to do a damn thing about it. "If only I had the time... the energy... the turret... the right pen... o, then I'd be a REAL writer, an artist, a SOMETHING... whine, whine, whine."

In downtown Hattiesburg, MS there is a tiny bagel cafe on the corner of an old building that shakes as the trains pass within feet of its doors two or three times a day. In this shabby, comfortable anachronism with the handsome model-turned-bagel baker behind the counter, I dreamed up and pursued an idea for a journal workshop for women. While Little Lady was at the local church pre-school for her 3 hours of much-needed social interaction I would read and plan, plan and write.

I taught one four-evening course at the local bookstore to a tiny group of women. It was well received and I was well pumped-up. My plan was to slighty revise the curriculum according to the feedback from the group and offer another workshop. So much for plans. I was taking a writing course, I was having another baby, and I was moving back to Vermont.

However, in my efforts to revise the workshop and open it to men, I had come across a book by Kathleen Adams, and consequently discovered The Center for Journal Therapy. Yada yada yada...

OK, so now I have a certification under my belt (or will, shortly) and now need somewhere to teach. In this post I told about a writer's symposium I attended. It was there I met a lovely, inspirational author and workshop leader named Joni B. Cole. Now, once upon a time, shy me would NEVER have 1) attended a writing workshop where I might have to share my drivel and possibly confirm my suspicions that I was not, and will never be a Writer, or 2) casually chat with an author as if I had some god-given right to do so - Lord, no! But that was old me. Before I had met my good friends Confidence and Serendipity.

It turns out that Joni lives in a town about an hour from my home, the very town to which my sister (ya know, the one who seems to have had an on-going, yet unwitting influence on my creative life thus far) has just, as in last month, moved (from the other side of the continent). So what? you say. Just wait...

Joni operates the Writer's Center in that town (the one an hour away where my sister - who has a spare bedroom and a willingness to babysit her niece and nephew) and she wants to talk to me about offering... drumroll, please... a Journal Workshop...

Yada, yada, ya-serendipity.

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