Never Enough Time

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"Whirlpool" by Shutinc - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

“Whirlpool” by Shutinc – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

l’m intrigued with Jane Friedman’s recent post about her work ethic, using the concept of privilege to explain her productivity. It made me question my own time management skills.

Balancing my personal life and my creative endeavors is a challenge for me, a losing battle much of the time. Often, I make it worse by focusing on what I’ve left undone instead of what I have accomplished. That’s when the rant in my head begins, the name calling on a continuous loop—an endless list of words that help me tear myself down when I haven’t done enough, giving my inner critic the power to make me believe I’m not good enough and never will be.

Many writer friends and I discuss this downward spiral that appears when things get in the way of our work, a bottomless pit that sucks us in and sabotages our work. We talk about ways to shift this destructive pattern. Is the answer trying to get more done? Or is it as simple as a change in our perspective?

How can I better manage my time for working on creative projects with my family responsibilities and social commitments? I have an enthusiasm that just won’t quit for any social project or event that comes my way. It has been a lifelong struggle for me to focus—to discern—to just say “NO!” to these activities that would sidetrack me away from my writing. As with Jane, I have tried any number of tricks and techniques using time management and organizational skills to stay on track. I’m still working on it. And life keeps getting in the way.

If I focus on my inability to get things done, it affects not only my mood, but also my productivity. What might happen if, instead, I focus on my successes? The glass half full argument. As a writer, I can view my own time, money, talent, creativity, clarity, passion and fortitude as scarce or abundant. Sometimes reality and perception is far apart.

The dictionary offers numerous words to argue for the negative point of view. On a bad day I can feel needy, deficient, poor, lacking, wanting, impoverished, indigent, destitute, a pauper. When resources are limited, they are meager, inadequate, insufficient, negligible, scant, exiguous, piddling, measly and paltry. I can see myself as defective, faulty, flawed, inferior, second-rate. It’s appalling. So many words to degrade myself.

In contrast, I can relish in my abundant, plentiful, profuse, copious, ample, rich, lavish, abounding, generous, bountiful, overflowing, prolific, teeming, plenteous, resources galore!

The point is, how I label myself can encourage and support my creative process or discourage my writing. If I become dishearten, I will scare off any hope of success. It really is up to me. My choice is to work daily to change my inner recordings, to let go of the former list in order to instill the latter.

So forgive the exuberance of my own verbosity—words my fourth grade teacher wrote out for me to read the next time my father used a fifty-cent word at the dinner table. He often bated me with an uncommon phrase and my curiosity pushed me to ask its meaning. Instead of simply answering the question, Dad would order me to leave the dinner table to fetch a dictionary (this was back in 1960), read the definition and use the word in a complete sentence. This happened on a regular basis.

Luckily, in spite of Dad’s pranks and my brothers’ teasing, I developed a passion for words. Even though Dad was tough on me, his innate ability to weave a new tale at every family gathering inspired me to write, and still does even though he died before I committed to writing as my life’s work. Memories of my family affects me in ways I didn’t understand until I began to write about them. So, thanks Dad for all the words. I’ll try to put them to good use.

As for finding time to write, I’m learning to be easy on myself when events like Christmas keep me from finding the quiet time I need to be productive. But I’m always working on my stories in my head and scouting out any opportunity to wrangle a few words into a meaningful piece, whether it be a poem, short story, new scene for one of my books, or a blog like this one.

If you’ve made it to the end of this somewhat long rant, maybe you will share a comment on how you manage your time in order to accomplish the things that are important to you.

 

Remembering my glamorous Mom on Mother’s Day

I wanted to be beautiful like Mom

I wanted to be beautiful like Mom. Even in a kiddie pool, she was glamourous.

In response to Maria Shriver’s question, “What gift did your mom give you?” I must answer, INTUITION and EMPATHY.

I lost my mom six years ago, but since I’ve been working on my memoir over the last four years, we’ve had daily conversations with her (no, I’m not crazy. I talk with the mom who lives in my head, along with all my other characters, real or imagined).

In my everyday life, I find myself saying words in ways she had said them, her voice coming from my lips.  She’s an integral part of my life, existing in my head and my heart, as well as in all the things around me that once belonged to her. I especially feel her radiance when I do things that would have made her proud, like becoming a writer in order to share my family’s adventures.

In addition to empathy, she taught me grace under fire and a confidence to respond to change and tragedy.  We had plenty of both, first with moving, (20 times that I remember by the time I graduated from high school) and then when we lost both my brothers (at ages 49 and 56).  Mom was the last to leave this world, lingering for years after a massive bleeding brain hemorrhage.  Even in her disabled state, with difficulty walking and talking, she made sure the kitchen was clean and the laundry was done.  She was a perfectionist when it came to having a beautiful home and stayed in her home until her last breath.

Mom and I looked more like sisters when I was 18.  This was taken on the day I graduated from Richwoods High School in Peoria, IL.

Mom and I looked more like sisters when I was 18. This was taken on the day I graduated from Richwoods High School in Peoria, IL.


My mom exuded beauty. She was often asked to walk the runway for charity fashion events.  Heads would turn in any room she entered, not only from her looks, but from her zest for life, an enthusiasm that she radiated.

Mom loved people. She loved to hear their stories.  Strangers would reveal their deepest secrets and be healed by her empathy and compassion.  She never judged nor said an ill word about anyone in all of her days.

Mom knew how to laugh and when she laughed, we all laughed with her.  She’d be goofy, not worrying about how she appeared as long as it made people happy.  I learned late in life that she was smarter than she let on. She once explained that it helped the men in her life feel important. She never needed to compete, always turning any spotlight on her toward their talents and ideas.

“I don’t have to express my opinion,” she would say. “I know what I believe and that’s all I need.  I don’t need anyone to agree with me.  They can have their opinion and I have mine.”

Scan 12

Mom didn’t age. She just grew more vibrant. We were mistaken for sisters even after she turned fifty.

Her courage surprised me. Mom was in her late fifties when she managed a large apartment complex in LA. At the request of  the police, she helped capture drug dealers, nonchalantly handing over packages that had arrived in the mail and landed on her desk with detectives waiting in the next room to make the arrest. Mom was thrilled to help put away anyone who might involve her college-student residents in their illicit drug business.  She was telling me the story of her latest caper while the two of us were having dinner out one night. Afterward, she and I were walking from my car toward the elevator in the secure garage under her apartment building when she saw a shadow of a man lurking in the back.  Without a thought for her own safety, she pushed me behind her and charged forward, yelling, “You’d better get out of here before I call the police.  This is MY PLACE and I won’t let you harm anyone.” My mouth dropped open as I saw the figure disappear out a back exit. I’d never seen my mother so fierce.  She became a mother bear protecting her cub.

She was the ultimate mother, willing to help any needy person she came across. But she always put her children first, especially her only daughter–me.  I was her pride and joy, she would say. I was glad she was able to attend both my college graduations, first in Fort Wayne, Indiana when I received my BA when I was thirty-seven, then again at UCLA for my MFA three years later.  A college education was something she was never given the opportunity to earn, working from the day she graduated high school.

She’d wanted to be an actress, but having children kept her from having the chance to appear on Broadway.  She did garnish a leading role in several amateur productions, but for me, Mom was aways playing the role of a lifetime. Life was her stage, and she was always at her best, dressed to the nines, perfect hair and makeup, full of humor and wisdom.

I feel her with me everyday, especially when I toss back my head in laughter, like she used to do. When I’m unsure of where life might be leading me, I trust in myself and in all the wisdom she bestowed on me, confident that everything will work out somehow, just like she always said it would.

 

2012 First Winter Storm

Note to Reader:  As I was just about to post this, we lost power.  For about a day and a half.  We couldn’t get the generator working, because the starter had an electrical short.  So it was a very cold night.  Anyway, shortly after that was Christmas and then New Year’s Eve and then I had my eye surgeries for cataracts–the first on January 2nd, the second three weeks later.  I have a post about that coming, but I thought I’d put this up first, even though it is already February 1st.  2013.  Who would have thought 2012 would pass so quickly.  Anyway, here’s the post from December 20th of last year.

It’s Thursday evening on the 20th of December.  The wind is blowing like a banshee out there.  Max my hundred pound German Shepherd is trying to climb into my lap, but settles with curling around my feet like a cat.  When the doorbell rings he turns into Cujo, my fierce protecter with bared teeth leaping at the door, but he’s afraid of the wind.

Tomorrow is the end of the Mayan Calendar.  I don’t believe it will be the end of the world, although the increase of assault weapons with the threat of a ban and the NRA made lead to the end of us all.  The thought of the tragedy in New Town makes me want to curl up in a ball in someone’s lap.

Greg always cheers me up.  We have a tree up but decided not to bother with outside lights this year.  We have so few visitors; I put them up to bring me cheer when the weather is cold and dark.  But this year, I decided the tree would have to do.

I completed 50,000 words in November for NaNoWriMo, my Young Adult Novel LITTLE GLASS HORSE more than half way finished.  With that much intense writing, there’s lots to catch up with.  It was my first effort at NaNo and I had a great supportive group who all completed their goal.  Yeah!!!

Greg really cheered me up at Christmas by helping me make Christmas cookies for family and friends.  He did all the decorations!  I always knew he was an artist!  I ate a few too many of the leftover cookies, but I’m still glad we made them because we got great reviews from all of you.  It’s nice to be appreciated.  It really is the little things in life that get you through.