How to chose a non-traditional writer’s life and be ok with it…

standard September 10, 2013 4 responses

A while back I read a book called Chapter After Chapter, by Heather Sellers. So much about that book inspired me to keep pushing through the chaos and actually write the book that was in my head and my heart. Much about that book also frustrated me to no end.

In one chapter, the author, a writing teacher, urged the reader/wannabe writer to give up everything that wasn’t about the writing. No more book club, no more volunteering at the church soup kitchen, no more going out with friends after work or at lunch. Basically, she said, the writing has to be your everything and if you’re not willing to give up everything else, then maybe you’re not really meant to be a writer.

I hated that premise back then and I still hate it today. When I read that chapter I decided to just ignore that tidbit and get on with my writer’s life as it was – living my life to the fullest and writing when I could.

I still live like that.

True, I don’t get a ton of writing done (see: piss-poor posting schedule on this here blog). True, it’s taken me many, many years to get to the point where I can say my book is being published in January. True, my next book might well take just as long to make it to the public eye.

So be it.  I have a book club I love. Friends who lift me up and fill my heart with joy. Well adjusted children who are happy at school. And a thriving relationship with my husband. (The house is still a mess. I do have some priorities.)

But every so often, I hear a little voice in the back of my head that whispers “You should be writing now instead of doing this. You don’t really need to take on another project…” Then the guilt comes.

Yesterday another mom at school, successfully published author of many books, asked me how my new book was coming along. I cringed and had to answer truthfully that, since our last chat two weeks ago, I’d been caught up in a maelstrom of volunteer committee prep for the school year.

“Oh,” she said with a little shrug. “That’s funny. I chose to put my writing before all the volunteering stuff. I guess I’ll be in the classroom when I’m done with my book.”

There wasn’t an ounce of judgement in her voice. It was pure observation. But I walked away feeling awed by her dedication to her craft. She was putting the writing first and everything else second. And, if ever there was a case of the proof being in the pudding, she’s working on her eighth book, while I’ve barely finished the first third of the first draft of my second book.

I walked my kids to the car listening to them chatter about their day and pondering how the exchange had made me feel. I’d spent the whole morning and a good chunk of the afternoon working on volunteer stuff and if I was honest ab out it I was feeling pretty darn good about myself. The program I had worked on is one I truly believe in and one I’m proud to be spearheading at school.

Turns out, I didn’t feel any guilt about not having written anything yet that day.

We drove home and I made the kids and their play date friends some snacks and then I sat down at my computer… to do a little more volunteer work. I hesitated for a minute and thought about the writing again. And then I thought about the kids.

This year I’m going to be the “party mom” in both of their classrooms and I’m going to be a lead on the Project Cornerstone team (a YMCA lead anti bullying and self esteem building program). I’m pretty sure I’ll get involved with the book fair in some capacity or another. And, while I’m at it, I agreed to run local mother’s group again.

Yes, it’s a lot of volunteer work, no doubt about it. Add to that the hours that I have to spend on work for clients and it leaves precious little time to work out let alone write.

But I think I’m OK with that.

My kids are going to be “little” for a really, relatively speaking, short amount of time. In our district parents are only invited into the classroom to volunteer through 6th grade. After that, there’s very little cause to even be on campus much. Soon enough everyone will be in middle school and I’ll find that my volunteer opportunities are few and far between.

Sure, I could spend the next 6 years holed up in my office, keyboard under my fingers, computer screen in front of my face, cranking out novel after novel. I bet I could have a nice little collection of books on my shelf before Little L starts 7th grade if I did that.

But I don’t think that’s how I want to live my life.

There are mom writers who write every moment they can, who spend their days living and breathing their stories. In many ways I envy their focus and their drive. But I don’t believe that that’s the only way to be a successful writer.

When I was a kid I dreamed of the day I’d be a mom. I didn’t decide I also wanted to be a writer until after I had C. I know I’ll be writing for the rest of my life. There’s going to be plenty of time to eventually devote hours on end to my craft. And while I know I’ll also be a mom for the rest of my life, my role as leading player in my children’s lives isn’t a forever thing. I’m very conscious of this.

Last year I shared with you how Disney urged us all to remember that we only get 18 summers. I’m trying to remember that I only get 6 years. In the grand scheme of things, that’s really nothing.

So for now, I’ll volunteer as much as I can, be as engaged as possible, and write when I can. I’ll journal, blog, write and store up all the stories I gather as I live my life to the fullest rather than just observing everyone else live theirs. It’s not how every writer works and it’s definitely not the quick path to success, but it’s the right path for me and my family and I’m more than happy to live with that.

School Rules – What would you chose?

standard December 2, 2011 7 responses

It’s no secret that I’m struggling this week. There are so many balls in the air that I don’t know which to catch first and frankly, I’m sorely tempted to let them all crash to the floor while I go off to Hawaii for a quick jaunt in the surf. Instead though, I’ll sit here, sipping a Gingerbread Latte, dunking my donut and I’ll rally. It’s what I do best.

Since, beyond arranging for childcare and entertainment for the kids, I can’t actively do anything about the fact that my husband is having surgery next week, I’m noodling the school issue.

Let me ask you a question. Below I’m posting two sets of school rules. You tell me which one makes you want to go learn. Maybe it’ll help everyone understand why I’m struggling so much with what to do with the kids next year.

School 1, where C has been for two years now. As posted in each classroom. 

School 2. One of the school options for Little L’s Kindergarten.

1. Treat others and their property with kindness and respect
2. Take care of school property and treat campus with respect
3. Use playground and school equipment the way it was intended to be used
4. Do not use abusive language, gestures or physical aggression
5. Do not throw sand, stones, dirt, tanbark, pebbles or rocks
6. No personal toys, sports equipment, cards or electronic devices are allowed at school
7. Bicycles, scooters, skateboards and rollerblades must be stored off school grounds or in the bike storage area. No riding in the hallways.
8. No gum allowed on campus
9. Do NOT leave campus unless signed out by a parent/guardian in the office
10. No student, or unauthorized adult shall be in the! classrooms, library or multi-purpose room without supervision or !permission.
11. Report problems at school to an adult. Students who witness problems and fail to report them are just as responsible as those who caused the problem.

~~~~~~~~~~

The end result is going to be the same: respectful kids in a safe environment. It’s just that the first set of rules are… I dunno… more friendly? Easier to want to follow?

If you’re anything like me after the third NO in the second set of rules your eyes glazed over and you started skimming.

If you’re like most people you felt inspired by the first set of rules. They’re rules that apply all life long, which is the premise of the school. They teach the kids lessons that will be valuable their entire lives.

It’s a tough conundrum. Environment #1 is a private school meaning the kids don’t grow their neighborhood community through school. Environment #2 is a public school, so we’d grow our local community, but lose on the school environment we love so much.

What would you do in our case? Which would you pick? (For the sake of argument, assume both schools rank similarly as far as academics go, the distinction lies in the realm of emotional education.)

Birthday Party Math

standard November 19, 2010 2 responses

C has 10 children in her class and a number of other friends in after care.

Little L has 14 children in her daycare and 23 children in her class at preschool.

Add all those up and you have 47+ children. Add in our personal friends who have children and we could potentially be attending one or more birthday parties per weekend.

For the sake of the math, assuming we wouldn’t be invited to each and every party, let’s say that’s a potential 50 parties per year.

I try to keep birthday present purchases to anything between $10 or $15. Which, if my math is correct, means I could potentially be spending over $500 on birthday presents each year.

Now I know my kids love their friends. And I know it’s important to be involved in the school communities. But between school, daycare, and work we don’t see each other a whole bunch during the week. When the weekend rolls around I don’t want to rush to Target to grab a gift and then rush to a birthday party every day.

So it might make me unpopular with the kids and with some of the parents, but this year I’m making the executive decision to be extremely selective with the parties we RSVP yes to. If the child is a close friend or a family member we’ll go. If we’re very close or friendly with the parents we’ll go. For all others we’ll reply early with a polite “no thank you.”

It took me years to learn that I didn’t have to say yes to everything. Maybe this will be an early way to teach my daughters that they can opt out of social events if they want. Social repercussions be dammed. Family and sanity first. Social obligations second. That’s how I’m rolling this year.

A Disruptive Little Cat

standard October 4, 2010 3 responses

Our cat passed away almost three years ago after M and I made the incredibly painful decision to end his suffering. Ever since that day we’ve resisted the urge to get a new cat.

Well, M resisted the urge and all my pleading. Between the wonder baby who never slept, work, the toddler, more work, and everything else, we didn’t have it in us to take on one more responsibility. Once Little L started sleeping and I took control of my professional life, we got complacent and still didn’t open our hearts and our home to another cat.

It was just easier to not have someone else to care for. We could head to the beach for the weekend on a last minute whim. We could stay out all day without feeling guilty or worrying about a hungry pet. We could go away for two weeks in the winter without worrying about finding a cat sitter.

Then, a month ago, on her birthday, a good friend called me and asked me to take in a cat.

“He’s… just… special. And if you don’t take him he’s going to the pound.”

I didn’t agree right away. I just agreed to come see him. And somehow M didn’t say no either. Which is how we found ourselves sitting on the floor of our friends’ bathroom, with a kitten on our laps. A kitten who never hissed, never acted scared, just acted like he had always known us.

An hour later we were driving home, delirious children and mewing kitten in the back.

He is special. There’s no doubt. Little L manhandles him, loves him, hits him, tries to strangle him, loves on him some more. He never fights back. C plays with him endlessly and he never stops rallying. He plays catch. As in, we throw a ball and he runs to get it, catches it, and brings it back, and does it again and again and again, until we lose the ball. He cuddles, but doesn’t mind sleeping alone. He’s housebroken and not a picky eater. And he’s just a good cat. A sweet, lovely, good cat.

And it’s amazing how disruptive such a sweet little thing can be.

It’s impossible to know if Little L has been coughing on and off since we got him because she keeps getting sick, or if she keeps getting sick because she’s somewhat allergic to the cat. Ditto for me. M is definitely allergic and just stays away from him. But the real disruption has been in the middle of the night. When Little L is sick her sleep patterns revert to her old habits – up every couple hours coughing, needing water, needing a diaper, needing a hug. Whenever she wakes up, he wakes up. And when he wakes up he meows, which wakes up the girls even more.

I haven’t slept well in two weeks and it’s making me crabby. Really crabby. Crabby enough to think that cuteness and sweetness aren’t enough to guarantee you a home in my house.

No matter how cute you are.