A Glimpse Into the Future

The five year old (B) had his best girl friend (K) over for a play date yesterday afternoon. They are both silly personalities and I was already giggling from their ongoing conversations and negotiations when during lunch I witnessed this conversation:

K: What’s your favorite, favorite, favorite thing in the world?

B: I don’t know.

(Thinking)

B: I know who my favorite, favorite, favorite person in the world is.

Me/K: Who?

B: (Points at K, giant smile).

And now I understand every mother-in-law who looks at their daughter-in-law sideways. I was the boys’ first love. Now they are making room for others. I have years before I’m reassigned in their hearts, but it was humbling to see a glimpse into my future when someone else takes priority in their hearts.

For now, I’ll take my snuggles and my kisses and know that when they get hurt, I’m still the first person they want. One day that will change. And I’ll do my best to let go. Until then, I’m hanging on tight.

There’s a Hole in the Bucket

Yesterday evening, I went to wash my hands to start preparing our dinner. Only a small trickle of water sputtered out of the faucet, slowly dribbling into nothing. Apparently, our neighborhood’s water had been shut off to repair a water main break on the street. Bulldozers and trucks converged on the problem, city workers stood around and watched as a portion of the sidewalk was dug up, mud piled to the side, cracked concrete dumped into another truck until finally they had access to the problem. This morning, the mud is packed down where the sidewalk used to be, orange traffic cones and yellow caution tape square off the missing sidewalk and our water is flowing again.

I have been sitting here in this chair for an hour now managing to do many things other than write. I feel a great compulsion to be writing, that I should be writing, that the weekend excuses of kids and tasks and family fun are gone, that the quiet morning is here, ready to be seized, and yet all I am seized with is paralysis. My fingers typed and deleted many things. The work in progress stalled mid sentence since Friday, I am unable to complete whatever that thought is. And so I am here. Where typically the words flow. A thought takes root and blooms into something. Some kind of stream of consciousness thought that allows me to find the words and keep working.

Today? Even that’s empty. I have started (and abandoned) two posts already and now I’m here on this now semi-blank page and hoping this one sticks, but I just won’t know until I hit the publish button. Jury’s still out.

Like my faucet yesterday, there is nothing coming. As much as I twist and turn at the handles, there is only a small trickle easing its way through the pipes, an insufficient amount to fill the tub of creativity. Where is all that water? Where is my leak?

Honestly, the water feels lost in the mundane repetition of the rest of my life. There are some weeks when the chores take over. When the laundry and the weekly meal planning and grocery shopping and straightening become too much. When having to determine what to do with one more piece of paper or come up with one more healthy meal to make or pick up one more errant sock languishing in the hallway for who knows what reason seems to suddenly not be just tasks to accomplish but the only things I actually accomplish. I am the keeper of the things, the executor of the schedule, the organizer of the home. And somewhere, in all of that, I let too much of myself leak into the chores bucket. Too much leaked into the domesticity column. The chores haven’t increased. I do the same amount of housework and child care as any other week, but when I get this irritated about it, as opposed to simply realistic about things that need to get done in the care of our home and family, it’s because I’ve been ignoring other things. I’ve been ignoring self, perhaps, ignoring personal needs, yup. I’ve been letting the chores and the schedule dictate too much of the reward, which is frustrating when the reward is simply another week of paper pushing, grocery procurement and baseball carpool.

I think I need to shut off the water to make repairs. I need to reset the meter, allow for water to reach all my buckets. Even just typing this makes me feel lighter. I will take the pressure off and give myself an assignment to plan an outing this week that isn’t related to an existing commitment. Perhaps it will be to finally make it to yoga this week or work at a coffee shop between volunteering and carpool on Wednesday or maybe a more ambitious excursion to a museum or garden on Thursday when the little guy stays after school.

I let the creativity bucket leak and so the other buckets were too heavy. Before I am forced to do some serious repairs, I need to take a break, shut off the water and recalibrate. Then, I can carry all the buckets and let the water run free.

After all, I certainly don’t want to end up like Liza:

High Heeled Mama Reads: Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear

I have a habit of adding books to my list to read and promptly forgetting who recommended it or where I heard about it. I believe I stumbled upon Maisie Dobbs through some sort of NPR list somewhere. But who knows. What I do know is that i added it to my to read list and there it was, one day, available at my local library. The best part of reading like this is I typically forget why I’m interested in a book and trust if it made it to my list, I’ll enjoy it. It’s like a surprise when I crack open the book to find out what it’s about.

I am not typically a detective story reader, and this is most certainly a traditional detective story. What makes it different is that it’s a female detective. in England. In the 1920s. Already, I was intrigued. I like when a genre turns things on its head a bit. Our protagonist, Maisie, become a maid in Lady Compton’s home at the age of 14 to help out her father after her mother’s passing. Maisie is a decent maid but an even better scholar and is caught sneaking into the home’s extensive library late at night to study philosophy and languages and a myriad of subjects located on the shelves. Instead of punishing the girl, Lady Compton engages a friend to help Maisie along with her studies. A bit of a Henry Higgins without the condescension and later love. Maisie even makes it to Cambridge. The novel flashes back between Maisie’s past education and later stint as a nurse in World War I complete with mysterious love story and a present case that leads her to a mysterious enclave in the country called the Retreat for post war survivors. It becomes urgent that she solve this mystery before Lady Compton’s, her benefactress, son checks into the Retreat in a few weeks’ time. Through her adventure, she must learn to not only solve the case independently, but also come to terms with her own war experience.

I liked Maisie and following her struggles to prove herself in a man’s world. The love story was intriguing, knowing that in present time her love was not a factor adding to the mystery of what happened. The story’s central mystery at the Retreat was a leap for me. It stemmed from her first investigation and was a tangent to that story. I felt a little bit like the author forced a bit of connection to get to this real mystery and it wasn’t as organic as I think it could have been. I also was frustrated at the end when a large part of the resolution of the mystery was told in long-form dialogue. I am a big fan of show don’t tell and felt no need for this exciting bit of action to be relegated to dialogued recap. But, I mentioned I’m not a huge detective story reader, and so that could be a device used often in this genre and I was put off by something that might be expected, desired or perfectly acceptable to other readers without my particular pet peeves.

Overall, I enjoyed the story and the characters. I would most certainly recommend this to anyone who enjoys detective stories, particularly series stories as there are, I believe, 11 Maisie Dobbs novels. If you enjoy Downton Abbey and that time period of England. you will probably also enjoy this book. I had an instant visual reference for this novel due to my Downton habit and the upstairs vs. downstairs debate rings through this novel as well.

I give this a solid 3.5 out of 5.

Are you a fan of detective stories? Are there any out there I should consider adding to my list for 2015?

Next up: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Spoiler alert: LOVED IT!

Under Pressure

Weeks when my writing time is limited due to other commitments or a surprise kid with a fever or a last minute call to help with the class field trip can be extremely frustrating. As much as I know I should simply time shift and perhaps write at night after the kids go to bed, I know that I am most productive when I’m in my space alone, in the quiet, forcing myself to sit in the chair and avoid as many distractions as possible. Nighttime is full of kids who need glasses of water, shoulders that are aching, dishwashers filling and rattling 60 year old pipes, husbands watching basketball games in nearby rooms. It just doesn’t work. So interruptions of the routine kind can often create quite an impact on how productive I am in any given week.

After a sick kid stayed home from school last Friday and this week has included unforeseen challenges to available quiet time, I was gifted with a play date today. A last minute, hey, does B want to come home with G today and we’ll drop him off around 2:30? Wahoo! Yes! Sign me up! That means after library duty that would have eaten up today’s writing time, I will still be left with a few hours to sit down and tackle whatever is next in the work in progress.

Except I had to pop by the grocery store. Then it was lunch time. And I was starving. And Moulin Rouge was on when I (mistake #245) turned on the TV. So I watched the last half of Moulin Rouge. And cried (because seriously, singing while dying from consumption will get me every time). Now it’s 2pm and my ball of energy will be home in a half an hour followed by his big brother at 3 and it’s gorgeous out so of course we’ll go outside, but all of that means the work in progress is neither progressing nor working.

I know this is pressure I put on myself. And sometimes that’s good and sometimes that’s bad. I created some deadlines at the start of the year to help me work towards my goal. Realistic deadlines. But deadlines nonetheless. I work better under pressure. Typically. So these deadlines were meant to inspire. And for the most part, they do. Unfortunately, the emotional pressure I put on myself is sometimes not as productive as the simple pressure of a long to do list where you don’t have any choice but to sit down and start crossing things off one by one.

But sometimes writing is more than writing. Of course, it’s not. The book doesn’t get written unless i put one word after another. But the writer’s soul, the font from which the words spring, needs filling every so often, too. And the physicality of a film’s visuals and score tell a story much differently than the descriptions I must think up as I sit my bum in a chair at a desk and bang away at keys to fill a keyboard behind the blinking line of that taunting cursor reminding me that I’m idle, that the letters are still, that the blank space in front is still blank. But sometimes you need to fill the well. With a movie. Or a book. Or a walk. Or a cup of coffee. Or permission to simply not work on the work in progress. And that’s when writing is more than writing.

Perhaps this is merely my attempt to justify my inability to focus on the work in progress today. Perhaps it’s truth. Perhaps it’s somewhere in the middle. All I do know is that I don’t feel guilty. Okay, maybe a little guilty. But I also feel released. Released from a bit of the pressure of the should be’s and can I’s, just for a moment. And in reality, I’m typing here. I’m writing. It might not be what I set out to do, but it’s not for nothing.

Tomorrow, my dear Scarletts, is another day and it will be a day when I can sit down again and grab the reigns of that cursor and see what I leave behind when I finish tap, tap, tapping away. The word count will continue to tick up. The chair will feel no less inviting. The pressure will no doubt begin to fill up. But it will be progress. And it will be work. And it will be one more day closer to meeting my goal.

There are two kinds of pressure – the kind that makes diamonds and the kind that explodes. I’m learning to love the first and release a bit of the second so that one day, I’m left with a work completed and not shards of failed dream.

Sick Days

The flushed cheeks. The heat radiating through his fine blonde hair. The watery eyes. The stuffy nose. The cough. The pitiful look.

The cuddles. The nuzzling. The need.

The tissues. The chicken noodle soup. The sniffles. The coloring. The screen time restrictions thrown out the window. The fever reducer. The nurses line.

The hand washing. The thermometer balancing. The fluid pushing.

The ignoring of the regular. The shelving of the responsibility. The forced rest. The enduring of the Thomas videos.

The snuggles. Oh, the sweet, overheated snuggles.

It’s humbling this power. The power to comfort. The power to make it better. The power to be whatever it is they need you to be – tissue fetcher, water bottle filler, chest pillow.

My heart aches for him. My arms encircle him. My lips test his forehead. My hands pour the medicine. My body provides the care. My soul offers the remedy.