Time management

Wheezin’ With the Season

Smudge Moon

Smudge Moon

It’s that time where I post about how crazy busy everything is, and how behind I am on getting ready for the holidays.

This year I’ve done absolutely nothing to get ready so far, but oddly enough I don’t feel stressed about it.  Each year we pare down a bit more in terms of the number of gifts purchased, amount of money spent, types and amount of cookies baked, amount of decorating done in the apartment and size of the tree. Because I’m not a shopper, I miss the biggest sales more years than not, and by the time my youngest was ten, I didn’t even pretend I would go anywhere on Black Friday, enough was available online.   And let’s be honest, hitting those big sales often means you end up buying more than intended, so financially it’s a wash, with more crap to figure out where to store on December 26th.

I am never spending three days making rolled gingerbread cookies again, whee!

I am never spending three days making rolled gingerbread cookies again, whee!

Art Child is disappointed because I told her I won’t be making any rolled (i.e.: fun holiday shapes) cookies this year.  I’m sorry she’s disappointed, but I’m glorying in my lack of guilt.  I’ll make some drop cookies, much less time and prep required, and they’ll be absolutely fine.  Instead of gingerbread cookies, I made a gingerbread bundt cake (used an oatmeal stout in it, freaking delicious!) so the apartment could at least smell like we’re getting in the spirit.  Because she’s sick (always at this time of year, it’s the one tradition that will apparently never be omitted) that little missing slice is all she’s eaten of the cake.  We won’t discuss how much I’ve eaten.

I probably should be feeling stressed about shopping by now, but I don’t.  The wish lists are small and mostly practical.  Nerd Child actually made a request (he’s the one who never asks for anything) so that completely removes the anxiety of trying to guess–knowing as I hand over my cash that I’m guessing wrong and spending too much–and we have to have him with us to make this purchase.  He won’t be back home until later this week, therefore there’s 0 reason to go fight the hordes on music row, 48th Street.  Not that there is a music row in New York anymore, most of the stores have folded or moved elsewhere, adding an element of maudlin “remember when” to the crowding.

If it weren’t for the fact that I once again forgot to factor in medical copays, I’d say we are going to be completely within budget.

If I can see this guy's rooftop decorations from my terrace, does that count as us being decorated?

Thank you, guy on the next street, for putting your decorations on your roof where we can see them even if you can’t.  

Wait, Come Back!

How does he manage to end the bottle of shampoo exactly when he's leaving?

How does he manage to end the bottle of shampoo exactly when he’s leaving?

Oh Summer, why do you always end so quickly?  Not quite over yet, but Nerd Child goes back to school tomorrow.  At this point I’ll be lucky to squeeze in one more beach day.  This is our ninth year of watching at least one of the boys pack for the beginning of the school year, and yet it never, ever gets easier. And this is a big year.  Art Child is going into high school, Nerd Child is in his last year of high school, and Man Child won’t be in school at all.  Almost three months past and still a huge thought, that my oldest is a college graduate.

Once August begins, posts from friends in other parts of the country begin creeping into my newsfeed, showing me back to school pictures and advertisements.  For the first week or so, I resent it–in New York we’re only halfway through.  But by the third week, I’m in countdown mode, insomnia increasing even as I remember soon enough sleeping late won’t be an option; knowing it’s only a matter of time before I’m frantically filling out paperwork, asking for the eighth time if he’s sure he packed enough shampoo to last him until Thanksgiving.   You’d think he was headed to Antarctica instead of New England, with no readily available drugstores.

I should be happy and excited for all of them.  Art Child is going to a school that seems like it will be a good fit for her, a small and welcoming community. Not an art school, but she can and will continue with her Saturday art classes. Man Child will be home for about a week, and then he’s off to Europe for several months, with a job and housing lined up.  Nerd Child is poised for an excellent year, and there’s no reason to think he won’t have at least a couple of great options for college once it’s all said and done.

Sure I’ll have a little more room when the amps clear out.


I’d say I won’t find picks underfoot constantly, but that’d be a lie.  Those things multiply like Legos.

on the floor

on the floor

on the table....

on the table….

He should have begun packing this morning, but instead he headed downtown to the super sekrit, super awesome word-of-mouth-only luthier who made his guitar in order to get it adjusted.

Now he’s home, and should be packing. I should be yelling at him to pack. I should be reminding him to keep working on his application essays. But he’s playing, and I’m listening.


Get Thee Behind Me

From the Peace Fountain (artist, Greg Wyatt) in the Children's Sculpture Garden-St John the Divine

From the Peace Fountain (artist, Greg Wyatt) in the Children’s Sculpture Garden-St John the Divine

And take hope with you, while you’re at it.

Why yes, I do kind of feel like the above. I mean, he’s just one piece of a sculpture representing the conflict between good and evil, but there he is, upside down–defeated.

My temptation?  Still dreaming of literary offers, believing it could happen. The American way, right? Don’t give-up, never accept defeat, blah blah blah.  If you work hard enough, success will come your way.  Except when it doesn’t, in which case you accept defeat gracefully, shake your opponent’s hand, and try harder next time. Otherwise, you’re a loser–capital L. A quitter.  Here’s where it gets tricky: because the general advice is never give up, unless you have delusions of grandeur.  In which case take your pill, and sob quietly by yourself in the corner.

In order to pursue any art form though, you kind of need those delusions, just to try. Just to have the big brass ones to say yes, others will want to see me perform, read my words, view my paintings, my photos, even pay a dollar to do so. If you’re a follower here, you know I’m trying to figure out where my line is, how to shift my goals and what they could/should be shifted towards, how to accept defeat with grace.  A downward mobility of expectations, if you will.

Because it has to be time. I can tell, because when I went to the store the other day, the young woman behind the counter gave me a great big smile when I got to the register, and announced it was “senior day.” That’s right, 20% off all purchases for seniors.  Hmmm.  40,000 years old and countless miles? Check. Senior citizen?  Nope. I wasn’t offended, probably because of my experience writing fiction. I’ve put a lot of time into thinking about perspective, point of view, who would notice what and who would think what, to have characters ring true.  18-20 year old woman?  Not seeing a whole lot of difference between 40,000 and 65, especially when the woman standing in front of her has hair that’s more salt than pepper, no makeup, and bags that store a ten year sleep deficit under her eyes.  So no. I wasn’t shocked by her assumption.  Besides, 20% off toilet paper that’s 40% overpriced.  Thank you dear, now get off my lawn.

Then there was a thread running on the writer’s site, about critiquing–the value of, giving up, and several fun and generally silly derails.  Interesting to me (though the thread was slanted towards query crits, which are not my thing) since I’ve remained in that “What do I know?” state of mind.  So I asked those who’ve been at this a long time without tangible (and measurable by others outside the writing community) success, their thoughts on giving up, when it’s time, etc.  And am as confused and dissatisfied now as I was before the thread.  I still believe my writing is good enough. I just don’t believe it’s going to “happen.” I don’t see my writing as a hobby. My tank is a hobby. Cooking, for me, is a hobby.  Taking pictures, for me, is a hobby.  My words? Not a hobby.  See? Delusions.  And hubris.

One kind and smart friend wrote a thoughtful response.  A phrase that he used has stayed in the forefront of my mind. “There’s an opportunity cost for everything.” That’s reality.  My time, energy, and resources are finite. Because writing isn’t cooking dinner, or baking a dessert, all to be enjoyed by family and friends. Writing is hours and hours of solitary work, time when I withdraw from family and friends to pay attention to imaginary characters and lives that exist only in my own mind. Time when I don’t get the laundry done, walk an extra few dogs, cook a nice dinner, pay attention to Husband, or figure out what’s really going to be next for me in life. Please don’t misunderstand me when I say this, I’m not crying about how difficult it is to write.  It isn’t nothing, I don’t just sit down and vomit out 350 pages in two months and call it a novel–but it isn’t scrubbing public toilets or working in a coal mine, either.

I should grow the fuck up, accept that in the eyes of a young girl I’m a senior, on a crowded train I’m now offered a seat by a well mannered young man about half the time and I appreciate it.  When I was a little girl, I was certain my real mommy was a princess who would show up to rescue me from the evils of sitting at the table until I finished my dinner, and I would grow up to be Laura Ingalls Wilder–except I’d live in a beach house, instead of the prairie. I gave up the princess fantasy long ago, and the 80 gallon saltwater tank that holds center stage in my living room is my beach house. Maybe it’s time to truly accept and be okay with the fact that people won’t be reading my words for generations to come. Except, of course, for what I have posted and will continue to post on the blog, because the interwebs R 4evr.

Piss and Vinegar

English: Vinegar & Olive Oil

English: Vinegar & Olive Oil (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mrs Fringe and guilt go together like oil and vinegar.  Sure you have to do all that mixing, blending, emulsifying to get them to unite, but once you do they make sense.  Unlike this analogy, but I’m under the weather and Flower Child is home sick today, so that’s the best I can do.  Besides, I’m a big fan of vinegar, have no less than seven  different kinds in the fridge at all times.

And I just had a little mishap on the terrace.  I keep a big jug of plain white vinegar for cleaning the reef tank equipment, very effective, inexpensive, doesn’t harm the critters–NOT that anyone should add vinegar to their tanks, reef or otherwise, but it doesn’t leave behind crazy levels of nitrites, nitrates or other nasties reefers don’t want measurable amounts of in our reefs.  I got a huge bottle at one of those big box stores for people who like to purchase 72 rolls of toilet paper at once, and left it on the terrace.  Because it’s big.  And I have a small apartment.  Well guess what?  Vinegar freezes.  And then it expands, and then the plastic bottle leaks, and then the terrace reeks of vinegar.  Maybe it will keep the pigeons away.

What was I talking about?  Guilt.  My most recent guilt episode is one that’s old and familiar, the guilt of slow writing.  Everyone has their process, I know this.  Some people write faster than others.  Know it.  But you know when you’re already feeling low, and then you read just the right thing to make you feel like shit?  And then you look for more things to read to make you feel worse because what the hell, you’ve been stuck and not making progress on the WIP, plenty of time to read about other people’s mind boggling daily word counts.  They are productive.  They don’t make excuses.  They are working on their 87th draft of their 120,000 word manuscript–pared down from 210,000–while I continue to watch the word counter at the bottom of my page stay at exactly the same number.  Which is still too far off from my 70,000 word goal of my first draft.  They are disciplined, they write, they earn money, they raise children, they work out, they save the fucking whales and feed croutons to the pigeons in order to soak up the excess vinegar.

Well I was stuck.  And I pondered.  And then I was more stuck.  And then I pissed and moaned and whined.  And then I stopped reading about the fabulously prolific and closed the open Astonishing file and said I’m taking a break until I’m not.   And then I found myself pondering again.  Yesterday I was able to unstick myself, wrote a little.

This morning I was cruising the writer’s forum and saw this link.  Hallelujah, I have found my people at last!  My perfect critique partners.  Ok, it’s true that all except one are dead, but doesn’t that sound like my pace?  Bed, grave, is there really that much of a difference? Just my speed.  Lying down is my favorite! and is there anything more secure than being in your own bed?

Couple in Bed

Couple in Bed (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was inspired, wrote more than a little today but not anything another slow writer would boggle at.  Not in bed, in my corner on the couch, where I always write.  Half lying, half sitting, laptop on my lap.

Come to think of it, I got a new ottoman last week .  Maybe the next time I’m stuck, I can try writing from the other end of the couch.

Perfect height, on clearance!

Perfect height, on clearance!



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DIY IVs and Dreadlocks


Glucose (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Flower Child has been sick for four days now, koalaed to me since Sunday morning.  Life with a medical needs kiddo is…interesting.  It’s never just a sniffle.  Forget about secondary sinus infections, we see things like seizures.  And pleurisy–which is extra special, because she doesn’t cough, so that type of diagnosis is always a sucker punch delivered in a crowded ER at 2AM.   So, I’ve been working on trying to keep her hydrated and home.  She dehydrates quickly, hence my not so funny when you live it DIY IV joke.  Pedialyte and lollypops.  Same as a glucose drip, no?  I’m hopeful at the moment, today has been better than the last few days, fever sticking to low grade so far, and she ate a little bit.  Just heard from the nurse at the pediatrician’s office, results from the flu swab are back, and it isn’t the flu.

Are you kidding me?  This isn’t even the flu?  Just one of several viruses making the rounds right now.  For my Flower Child, a virus that would make another child sick for a few days leaves her scary laid out for much longer.  It isn’t like I actually need to sleep or anything.  Really, an hour or two is more than enough. What’s that?  You want to know why I go through 5 espressos and 12 cups of tea each day?

Since today has been better, and I know not to make any assumptions for tomorrow, I figured it was an opportunity to hack through wash her hair.

Dreadlocks machen. Mit Hilfe eines Hundehaarkamms

Dreadlocks machen. Mit Hilfe eines Hundehaarkamms (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rapunzel long hair and extended periods of time in bed adds up to dreadlocks, forget Goldilocks.  I just spent over an hour detangling her hair. >>that photo is not Flower Child, just illustrating her hair.

Who wants to guess how much writing I’ve gotten done?  *insert cynical laugh here*  There went my 1000 words a day streak.  Though I have kept going, with a much lower word count.  I wake up every morning convinced I should be able to be more productive.  I go to bed each night chastising myself for a paltry word count.  I’m not losing two hours a day doing drop off and pick up, she’s certainly not chatting or wanting anything other than to be next to me, but this hyper-vigilant watching and listening is exhausting.  Very hard to immerse yourself in fantasy land when you’ve got a little person burning, shaking, and whimpering next to you.  So I’m on a break from the romance, working on a new short.  Progress is slow, and it’s an angry piece (shocked?) but I like how it’s taking shape.

I could write for 30 minutes or so now until I go dog walk, but I think I’m going to escape to my happy place instead.  It’s almost beach season, isn’t it?

Bora Bora

Bora Bora (Photo credit: Benoit Mahe)

I Hate You! But I Need You.

Sun en face

Sun en face (Photo credit: Forsetius)

Early morning.  I have a complicated relationship with my alarm clock–not so affectionately known as the egg–and sunrise.  I am not an early riser by nature, but I’ve learned to be.  Much as I love my bed, I am not and never was someone who could jump out of it and be out the door in twenty minutes.  I need my coffee, I need to sit in peace before I start the day.  And then I need more coffee.

This trait is  one of very few things about my life and myself that hasn’t changed with time and circumstance.

When I was younger and lived by myself, I was one of those people who needed two alarm clocks; one by the bed, and one across the room that would ring after I had hit the snooze on the one by the bed three or four times.  Between years long issues with insomnia and a work schedule that was very inconsistent,  I needed both of them.  Let me just say, the ability to sleep through multiple alarms combined with being neurotically prompt can make for some very unpleasant mornings.

During the week, I get up between 5 and 5:30AM.  Weekends, it depends how stressful the week has been.  The more stress, the more I stick to the weekday schedule, even if the laptop tells me it’s Sunday.

old alarm clock

old alarm clock (Photo credit: K. Yasuhara)

Husband thinks I’m crazy, because technically, I could get another hour to an hour and a half of sleep each day.  (To be fair, there are many reasons Husband thinks I’m nuts, but I’m comfortable writing about this one).  I need time to myself, by myself.  Does this make me a selfish person?  Maybe it does, but I still need it.  Am I bleary eyed and exhausted long before I can go to bed each night?  Yup, but I’d rather have the time alone than the extra sleep.  Trust me, I’d be a whole lot crazier without this time.

Added bonus, the jackhammers haven’t started that early in the day.  You know, the background music of the city that never ever ends.

You would think that by this point I’m a morning person, but I’m not.  I do like sitting on the balcony and watching the sky get pink as the sun rises.

Are you a morning person? Night person?  My favorite shift to work was a swing shift, either 4-midnight five days a week or noon-10 four days a week.  What about yourself hasn’t changed, through marital status, careers, parental status, etc?

I’d like to tell you I use this time to pray or meditate or contemplate the meaning of life, or even bond with the dogs, but I don’t.  I use it to just sit quietly, make and drink my coffee, zone out, and enjoy the peace.  I stare into the tank and watch for the pink streaked wrasse to wake up–he starts cruising, hunting for pods between the corals as soon as the sky lightens.  Sometimes I surf Facebook, but I don’t post at that hour.  I used to use that time to write, but it’s never successful as a long term writing plan, because then I’m missing that me time.  It is the only time of day when I can, somewhat consistently, get the living room to myself.  Five people on different schedules and a small space, you have to be creative.

And willing to sacrifice sleep.

Live on coffee and flowers

Live on coffee and flowers (Photo credit: thomasheylen)


Telephone operators, 1952

Telephone operators, 1952 (Photo credit: Seattle Municipal Archives)

Time heals all wounds, time is money, time is the longest distance between two places, time is a great teacher, but unfortunately it kills all its pupils.  Huh. Google quotes about time, and the pages go on and on.  Everyone has something to say about time. Don’t waste it! Use it wisely! It’s relative!  It’s a nebulous concept, distorting our already biased perceptions.

I’ve been poking around the writers’ forum.  The other day, I tripped over my old username, which I hadn’t been able to remember when I rejoined, so I had created  a new one.  In keeping with the interests of procrastination, once I found it I ran a search for posts by the old name. The internetz, no such thing as gone for good.

Found a thread discussing looking for an agent, I had posted about receiving a request for a “full” based on a partial manuscript sent, the following day I posted about having received a request for a partial based on pages sent with a query.  If you’re reading and you aren’t a writer of fiction, let me tell you, that’s a wild with joy and nerves skip around the apartment until you notice the kids are in a frightened huddle in the corner worthy couple of days.  Another member posted on the thread saying I was someone to watch.  Quite a compliment.  The funny part?  Not only don’t I remember posting any of that, I don’t remember the compliment, or the happy dance I’m sure I stomped out for at least a week.

If I had come across the post in some other way without noticing the username, I would have stopped and studied the signature, following any links to see if this person was now published, with a novel(s) available on the market.  Talk about a disconnect.

I don’t wish I could go back to that time period, there were many other crappy things happening in my life that I don’t care to relive.  Hey, you don’t achieve this trajectory of downward mobility if you’re skipping through the daisies each day.  But I do wish I could sift the sands of that time period, find the grains that represent the writing me, and just put those grains in my pockets, so when I’m frustrated I could touch them, roll them between my fingers and against my cheek, to remind myself of the possibilities.

Lakota storyteller: painting.

Lakota storyteller: painting. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



On the High Wire

high wire 1

high wire 1 (Photo credit: _gee_)

That’s Mrs Fringe.  You can wave, but I won’t wave back, or I’ll surely lose my balance before I’m at the halfway point.

I’m just going to ramble on a bit this evening.  Every time I sat down to post today, the phone rang or Flower Child needed help, so whatever ideas I had for a coherent post are gone.  I am sending out apologies to my fellow bloggers.  Adding a daily fiction writing block to my schedule, in addition to blogging and those other couple of things I do has me working hard on my time management skills, and I need to catch up on what everyone else has been doing.

I’ve felt like I’m up on a high wire for quite a while now, but with my new commitment to, umm…what was that again?  Oh yeah, me.  And writing…it’s a little different, because I’m trying to add in a bit of style and stay upright, not just hanging on with my pinkies.  I think starting to blog was me opening my eyes.  I’ve yet to look down.  In case you’re wondering, standing up feels great, but it’s a whole lot harder than keeping my act limited to not letting go.

Vwoop.  That’s the sound of another safety net being whisked away.  Man Child leaves on Monday morning to start an internship.  I’ve been trying to get as much done as possible this weekend while I’ve still got him here.  Groceries, dry goods, and the best pizza in the neighborhood, because they don’t deliver.  Shocking, isn’t it?  A NY pizza place that doesn’t deliver.  I’d be fine if the guys on the next block with the tasteless, rubbery cheese pizza didn’t deliver.  Protip: If you come to visit and want really good NY pizza, go to Brooklyn.

I did have an excellent adventure yesterday morning.  Can you guess?Can You Guess?

How about now?

How about now?

Grand Central Station.  I haven’t been there in eons, but I went yesterday, and had the pleasure of meeting Caitlin Kelly, of the Broadside Blog. For the record, she is every bit as smart, sophisticated, and lovely in person as she seems to be on her blog.  I had a blast.  We got to know each other a bit, and spent a while talking about writing, ideas, life, and careers.  I walked away feeling energized.  Yup, Mrs Fringe being a grown up woman.

Flower Child was home sick from school, but Man Child was able to postpone his plans and babysit.  Thank you! Even the rain held off, so I was able to wear my favorite boots.  Why are my favorite winter boots suede?  Because they’re awesome, I can’t believe you needed to ask.

I miss that too brief period in my life when I was actively involved with writers groups, attending conferences and taking myself seriously in a way that resulted in a lot of fun. Hence my high wire routine.  It’s definitely harder than it once was (hell, getting up from the floor is harder than it once was), but I’m doing it.

Wake Up!…Your Early Morning Call

Kate Bush - Hounds Of Love

Kate Bush – Hounds Of Love (Photo credit: Piano Piano!)

A little Kate Bush playing on the iPod in an attempt to prod myself along.  Not sure what today’s sin is, but it feels appropriate to have that background voice proclaiming “guilty, guilty, guilty!”

I’m about 5 hours late for my usual blogging time.  On a good day, I have 1 to 1 and 1/2 hours to myself before anyone else wakes up. My most productive time of day since I had children, though I’m not a morning person by nature.

English: Alarm clock Polski: Budzik

English: Alarm clock Polski: Budzik (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s my time to work out, check my (non-Mrs Fringe) Facebook acct, read and answer emails, and now blog.  Hmm, either I’m over-scheduled for that time slot, or there’s something very wrong with my time management skills cause I haven’t been getting half of those things done since Man Child and Nerd Child left, and Flower Child began school.

It used to be two hours of focused time, but Flower Child’s new school is further away than the old one, so we need to leave the house earlier.  For those who don’t live in NY, getting kiddos off to school is different than most of the rest of the country (if you’re an at home mom, different again if you’re getting yourself off to a paying job no matter where you are).  Yes, we NY mamas also get up, get the kids up and fed, make lunch, meds for the med needs kiddo (s), and all that other fun morning trauma, but we have to get ourselves dressed, no waving to the school bus driver in our pj’s. Somewhere in here I also walk the beasts.

A man and his son dancing to the band in Times...

A man and his son dancing to the band in Times Square station (Photo credit: wwward0)

Then walk to the train, down and down the subway steps, catch the train, ride a few stops, up and up the train steps, walk from the train to the school, and then get ourselves home; to be repeated at pick up time. Most days, I’m grateful my days of carrying a stroller up and down those steps are over.  When Flower Child isn’t well and needs assistance, I’m wishing I still had it.

This morning I went grocery shopping after dropping her off (Trader Joe’s is my best friend). Husband even came to pick me up, so a morning that started off behind schedule picked up nicely. Started cooking the Doggie Gumbo for the week, unloading the groceries, and the phone rang. Mother in Law needed Husband to help her get Father in Law to the ER.

Just another morning in Fringe World.  I really need to work on my schedule, but for now, I’m going to put Jig of Life on for the 8th time, and dance around the empty apartment.

“I put this moment…………………here.”

Steel Drowned

Steel Drowned (Photo credit: NeoGaboX)