Summer has officially begun

Hello, friends! Are you enjoying the summer? I am…when I’m not working hard at indoor extracurricular activities — like writing. Yes, writing! (What, you thought I was talking about something more fun?)

I’ve been out of touch because I’ve been pounding the keys these last few weeks. Have I been crafting Pulitzer Prize-winning stories? A new novel? Screenplays exposing the destruction of the environment by corporations, secret/not secret government survellience programs, or the vain and nonsensical trend of celebrities making up stupid baby names just because they can?

No.

No.

And…no.

Actually I wrote a 900+ word essay about dating — yes, dating and meeting my husband — to submit for publication in an anthology (about dating) with about the same speed as I can muster to read a book. That is, not fast, about 30 words per night. Let’s just say that, despite the light subject matter, I’m a little rusty at the whole writing thing. The good news is that I finished and submitted it and can go back to working during my lunch hour rather than trying to squeeze in other things…at least until I start drafting my children’s book. Wahaha.

On an entirely unrelated note, I have managed to get out in the evenings for walks with the family or bike riding. A few days ago Joe and I rode along the North Shore of Pittsburgh. All was well until I looked behind us and saw that the crystal blue sky had become a very, very ominous shade of gray. We were nowhere near our cars, so we rode harder to try and beat the storm. At one point we passed a guy walking on the path, who shouted melodramatically to me, “The storm is coming!” I shouted back, “I KNOOWWWW!” and pedaled even faster. It was like I was biking for my life with that annoying music from the Wizard of Oz playing in my head.

 

In the end we arrived at our cars, hooked the bikes up on the bike rack, and moved his truck and my car under a bridge safe and sound. Joe said he’d never seen me bike so fast. Maybe I need to add severe weather simulation to my exercise regimen?

Spring fever

When I re-started blogging in January I decided I wouldn’t put pressure on myself to post at any specific frequency. My goal is to post once a week and, for the most part, I’ve been able to do that. I’d also like to write compelling, funny, relevant and/or thought-provoking posts, but who am I kidding? This is a personal blog about my midlife mayhem (a fine reality TV show title)! I think up ideas all the time, but some are just downright inane when compared to what’s happening in the world today.

But I suspect you don’t you come here expecting hard news and careful introspection, so here’s a round-up of my last two weeks:

Garage sale madness continued, then not.

Remember the mega sale in April? No? Well, I do and not just because I’m scarred for life from the experience of hauling in and hauling out, storing and sorting family wares for 2 years. They talk about house remodeling sending people to the brink of divorce? Prepping for a garage sale comes close to that. Anyway, I’ll always remember the sale because we made $500 for us and another $100 that went back to family members. Woohoo! Last weekend we decided to try and unload even more at a local “Junk in Your Trunk” sale. These are like flea markets and popular in the UK (called “car boot sales”). We made another $75 and then donated the remaining items to Goodwill. I don’t have the stomach to do this each year — and I hope we never have that much stuff again — but it boosted our vacation fund AND helped to clean out my mother-in-law’s and our house. Bonus: Our neighbors can stop thinking we’re the Clampets moving stuff in and out of our house all the time.

Oh, mother.

Oh, brother. I’ve wanted to write about recent experiences with my mother and mother-in-law – after all, part of my return to blogging was to connect with other members of the “sandwich generation” – but it’s just not my place to write about it in detail. Suffice it to say, I’m worried about each of them and, if I’m being honest with myself, about how their decisions are impacting or will impact my life. Welcome, guilt-ridden Sandwich Member! I’ll leave this topic for now, but will share more later. This weighs on my mind.

I am writing, then not, then I am, then not, then…

Decided I need to buckle down on this. (Again. And again.) After all, now that I’m focusing back on what’s in front of me and no longer busting my ass looking for “other opportunities” I can devote energy to what I enjoy, including writing. I spent time last week writing a query/pitch to collaborate on a book with an independent publisher. I’ve also drafted an essay to submit for an anthology. I, of course, think I’m wonderfully qualified for both of these opportunities. Others may not, but you have to be in it to win it. P.S. Notes, ideas, images for my novel continue to bounce around in my head. I’m hoping they’ll make it to paper this summer. Which brings me to…

Ready for summer “vacation” more than the kids.

Like T-Rex, I’m burned out from the school year and have been suffering from spring fever. This week we spent three long nights at wonderful-but-long school concerts and events – did I mention they were long? We’re finishing up taekwondo lessons next week before taking a break for the summer. (The kids protested at first, but I think they’re so pooped out now they don’t mind.) I’m so ready for summer: we’ll go biking, swim, relax, run around camp…

Oh, wait, I still have to go to work every day! Well, I’m still looking forward to the all that fun crammed into evening hours before 9 p.m. and weekends. Yep, can’t wait for that relaxing, “unscheduled” time.

How about you?

Motherhood is not a roller coaster

Here’s a little essay I wrote about Mother’s Day. It appears online, along with many others, at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Happy Mother’s Day to all you moms — I hope you can take a few moments today to enjoy the ride!

People say motherhood is like riding a roller coaster, but I  think of it as visiting the whole amusement park.

It’s true that we moms experience our share of heart-pounding thrills, those  moments when exhilaration and panic meet. They include a child’s many “firsts”:  His first steps. The first time she performs a solo onstage. The day you know they will leave you to go off to college or to live their own lives.

Raising kids makes us moms want to scream, too – but not in the hands-waving,  “I’m having fun” way! (More like the Edvard Munch way!) From the time my kids  were infants I’ve grit my teeth through stages I thought would never end, only  to be surprised when a “good” stage of childhood ended far too soon…usually  just as I had it figured out. I’m lucky, though. My frustrations have been over  things like tantrums and missed homework assignments; maybe a few outbursts over  my lack of time and sleep. Many moms deal with far worse.

People like to compare motherhood to riding a roller coaster, but a roller  coaster can’t convey the bumper-car silliness of watching your son goof around  in the backyard with his buddies. Or the lazy-river-calm of rocking your baby in  the middle of night. Or feeling like you’ve won the biggest prize in the world  when you see your teenager show extra kindness toward a classmate who’s a little  different or, unexpectedly, toward you.

I’m amazed at how much I’ve learned as a mom and yet how little I know  sometimes. Motherhood has its highs and lows, but it isn’t a closed, predictable  loop. With every sight, every sound, every ride, every day, I discover something  new about my children and myself.

[Now, doesn’t that make you want to visit Kennywood or your favorite park?!]

Back to picking me

I admit I’m a little late in joining the Seth Godin fan club. I haven’t read any of his books (yet) and only recently subscribed to his blog. I don’t know what took me so long because I love his posts — they’re short, thoughtful, inspirational, common sense, no nonsense, relevant. Two of his recent posts struck a chord with me:

Getting picked (need to versus want to) and its follow-up, But I don’t want to do that, I want to do this.

Why?

I’ve finally accepted after 18 months of “exploring opportunities” outside of my industry that it’s time to stop. I’ve spent a lot-lot-lot of time and effort in my search and find myself in almost the same place as when I started:  working at the same place, in the same industry, as I have for a long-long-long time. However, I say “almost the same” for a few reasons.

I proved to myself I still have marketable skills. (Of course, I wanted to believe this, but after being somewhere so long it’s hard to know for sure.) I also nearly perfected my resume (when is anything ever “perfect”?) and, more importantly, my story, my pitch — what I bring to the table, what I want and what I need at this stage of my career and life, what motivates me, who I am. This is a great exercise for anyone to do, by the way. My story generated enough interest to get interviews and even to be chosen for the final group of candidates in a couple of cases. Maybe in a different job market it would have made the sale. This time, it didn’t.

I am in no way comparing my experience to anyone who is unemployed; there’s a big difference, as Seth would point out, in needing to, not just wanting to, find a new job. (I also don’t write this all boo-hoo because, all things considered, mine is a rather bourgeois problem to have.) So why am I writing this and how does it relate to Seth Godin?

If you need to give yourself a pep talk about changing the course of your career, like I did, or being recognized for your artistic talents, or turning your hobby into a business, or wanting to find a new relationship, or understanding your place in this world, consider…

“…If you’re frustrated that you’re not getting picked, one plan is to up your game, to hustle harder, to figure out how to hone a pitch and push, push, push. But in the era of picking yourself, it seems to me that you’re better off finding a path that doesn’t require you get picked in order to succeed.”

“I know you worked hard on paying your dues, on building your skills and in being next. We all know that. But that doesn’t mean that the picking system is going to work when you need it to.”

“…If you want to devote your work and your efforts to getting picked, that’s your choice, and more power to you. But I think it’s dangerous to start with the assumption that you have no choice.”

Anyone who knows me knows I’m persistent and believe in making choices and putting yourself out there — just read my dating tales in One-Woman Show !! I also believe that God/the universe/lady luck/whoever-and-whatever-you-believe-in and timing play a key role in the outcome and might be trying to tell you something.

It’s time to explore different kinds of opportunities — where I am currently and how I can design the next stage of my career there, in outside creative pursuits, and who knows what else. It’s kind of a relief, really. It’s kind of nice to get back to picking me.

Read Seth’s blog!!

Just do it already!

Here’s a great piece from The Onion about following your passion…or not.

Because when you get right down to it, everyone has dreams, and you deserve the chance—hell, you owe it to yourself—to pursue those dreams when you only have enough energy to change out of your work clothes and make yourself a half-assed dinner before passing out.

Yep, that’s about it.

Have a great weekend — and, hey, it’s okay to just sit around and watch basketball!

Eat Pray Love…Write

I recently finished reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love memoir. Overall, I enjoyed the book and it got me thinking about many things:  where I would go if I had a year (a YEAR!!) to travel,  how I changed and grew through the experience of  divorce, the role of prayer and spirituality in my life, what kind of pasta to make for dinner… and writing — my need/desire/dread of writing my second novel.

I’ve been formulating a story for at least a year now; these characters are making noise in my head. I’ve mentally written the opening scene. Yesterday I got out my trusty pad of yellow-lined paper to begin making notes.

The signs are all there that I must do this. Now, I just need to do it and, boy, it’s gonna be a lot of work.

From Gilbert:

Thoughts on Writing

“One day, when I was agonizing over how utterly bad my writing felt, I realized: “That’s actually not my problem.” The point I realized was this – I never promised the universe that I would write brilliantly; I only promised the universe that I would write.”

“Writing is not like dancing or modeling; it’s not something where – if you missed it by age 19 – you’re finished. It’s never too late. Your writing will only get better as you get older and wiser. If you write something beautiful and important, and the right person somehow discovers it, they will clear room for you on the bookshelves of the world – at any age. At least try.”

Writing is just a thing. It is a lovely thing, mind you, and it personally means the entire world to me, but I still recognize that it is just a thing. It is a thing that you can choose to pursue with your life because it excites you, or because you have a flair for it, or because it seems more rewarding than toiling away in an office. Sometimes it even works. Not always, but sometimes

“There’s a wonderful old Italian joke about a poor man who goes to church every day and prays before the statue of a great saint, begging, ‘Dear saint–please, please, please…give me the grace to win the lottery.’ This lament goes on for months. Finally the exasperated statue comes to life, looks down at the begging man and says in weary disgust, ‘My son –please, please, please…buy a ticket.” – Eat, Pray, Love