Hello, it’s the universe calling…

IMG_0191Sometimes when you send an S.O.S. out into the universe, the universe responds.

Yesterday I wrote a somewhat bitter post on self-reflection. Or maybe it was self-doubt. Either way, it left me feeling blue. When I finished it, I closed my computer and walked away from my desk to give myself a break.

As I reached for another cup of coffee, I heard my phone buzz. It was a text message from my teenage daughter:

Hey mama so we are in stress management class and we’re doing this happiness practice thing and we are supposed to thank somebody we are grateful for or who has had an impact on our life so mama thank you for always being there and keeping me from falling behind. I know that sometimes I seem ungrateful and tired and bratty but I really truly always appreciate everything you do. Thank you for being you.

I guess I’m getting it done after all. Although I might consider some discussion on the importance of punctuation.

My own worst enemy

IMG_0164Imaginary friend you say? Sure, I see her in the mirror every day. Had coffee with her just this morning. But I’m not sure I’d call her a friend. She’s a harsh critic.

“Looking a little gray,” she’ll say. “And worn out. You look like you could use a nap.”

“No time for a nap,” I snap back. “Too much to do.”

“You wouldn’t have so much to do if you were more organized. You were home half the day yesterday. What, exactly, did you accomplish?”

“Are you kidding? I did a ton. I raced off to an early morning meeting. Did the grocery shopping. Washed and folded three loads of laundry. I checked in on my pending projects. Spent two hours helping H. study for a test. Made dinner. Plus it was my day on the carpool. How is that nothing?”

“Well, it still looks like a cesspool around here. You didn’t get all that laundry put away, did you? And there’s more to do. It’s late October already. Have you thought about cleaning up the yard? Washing the windows? Having the furnace checked? The holidays will be here before you know it. Any plans there?”

I can feel my pulse quicken. My head start to pound. This chick is the worst.

“You said you’d get the house in order before this project kicks off. Clean off your desk. When are you going to do those things? You’re running out of time!”

“It’s not that bad,” I say, not really believing it.

“Well, I don’t see many items checked off that to-do list.”

Silence.

I wish I could see less of this friend. But if it weren’t for her, I’d be alone much of the time. What’s worse, isolation or constant reflection? Is there an in-between? A way to turn this nag into a motivating force? If there is, I can’t see it.

“Alright, I’m done here,” I say. “I’m headed to yoga class.”

“I’ll get my coat,” she says.

“Sorry, you can’t come,” I say, with, I admit, a great deal of satisfaction. “It’s the one place you aren’t welcome.”

I feel myself relax as I shut the door in her face, start the car, head down the driveway. But I know she’ll be there when I get back. Just hope she’s made some more coffee as she awaits my return.

This is a Daily Post #postaday piece. Read other posts here

 

Household Mysteries

IMG_0050Either one of my children has been channelling his inner Uri Geller using the power of the mind to transfigure spoons, or he is just bent on destruction. Sorry, bad pun.

And yes, I’m sure it’s a he. My daughter is devoted primarily to the destruction of electronic devices, also any overpriced clothing required for school activities.

I did not realize in my blissful, pre-child state how much damage children can cause. It’s a little like housing a troop of circus bears that have gotten into the fermented honey. They lurch around leaving debris and broken items in their wake. But they’re clever bears. They never admit to these petty crimes, nor will they turn on each other, a trait I’d admire if it weren’t counter to my best interest.

If I believed in such things as poltergeists and supernatural phenomena, I might be afraid. Very afraid. Much of this destruction could be interpreted as violent and threatening. Crushed iPhones. A rather large hole in my bedroom wall. Dirty footprints near the ceiling in the hallway. A hunting knife stuck in an oak tree in the yard. Were I a superstitious person, I’d be listening for the hushed, bodiless voice whispering, “GET OUT.”

But instead, I do what every parent does – persevere and repair the damage. Few of these crimes are heart-breaking, and little of the damage irreversible.

Although, come to think of it, when I glance at the pretty, little pine tree in our yard whose head was unceremoniously chopped off with a pruning shears I’m a little sad. That tree has decades of crooked, unsightly growth ahead of it and no foliage deserves that.

Feel free to vent – worst damage done to your home or property? And yes, damage to automobiles does count.

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!

ImageNo, we’re not Canadian. And it’s no longer Canadian Thanksgiving. But we’re celebrating anyway.

My family and childhood friends gather each October over a conveniently-timed school holiday to feast on turkey and all the trimmings. It’s a time-shift extraordinaire, designed to bring family together who would otherwise:

  • Be at home celebrating with the other side of the family.
  • Be stuck halfway to their destination in a freak, Thanksgiving week snow storm.
  • Spend 2-1/2 days traveling through a succession of airports for a 2-1/2 hour meal.
  • Head to Florida for the winter to escape all of the above.

It’s a great system, really. There is no pressure from the upcoming Holiday Shopping, er, Christmas season. No one is heading out, bellies bloated to get in their favorite 4 a.m. Black Friday line. And sometimes, the weather is so nice we’ve eaten outside. I can tell you, that does not happen around here in November.

If I could get others to cooperate, I would probably shift some other holidays around, too. Here’s what I’d do:

Celebrate the 4th of July in October. You can hold the fireworks at 8:00 p.m. and there are no mosquitoes to contend with.

Have Christmas coincide with Labor Day so I could do my Christmas shopping and my back-to-school shopping at the same time.

Always have obscure, national holidays fall on Mondays so we could have an embarrassment of three-day weekends. Oh, wait – we already do that.

That last one might seem obvious to some, but when you are a freelance writer, you are what’s called deadline-driven, that is to say, the weekdays and weekends often run into each other leading to the classic freelancer’s no-day weekend.

What about you? Have a holiday you’d like to shift? When would you hold it, and what is it called?

Time bank

0098OPThis morning’s Daily Post writing prompt asks what we would do if we had an extra hour. Well, I’ve got this one down. I’d do what I do every year when we “fall back” from Daylight Savings Time.

One October, we forgot to turn the clocks back. When I realized it, about halfway through the morning, I decided to wait. I figured I didn’t need the hour as I perused the Sunday paper and drank my coffee, but I was pretty sure I’d need it later in the day when the full impact of the week ahead, and my massive list of unfinished chores, started to hit me.

As is typical, I began to fall behind in the early afternoon. Laundry was piling up. There were dishes in the sink. None of the kids had their homework done. I hadn’t planned anything for dinner. I could feel my weekly Sunday panic starting to take hold.

So I set all the clocks back. Voilà! I was once again on schedule. Or at least closer to on schedule. And a new habit blossomed into being.

Even though I don’t accomplish a whole lot more in my extra hour, it gives me a great deal of satisfaction. I’m cheating, somehow, and that’s pretty thrilling for a “rules girl”. If I could, I’d do this about once a week. The bad news? I’d be years in the past by now. The good news? Some of those dated items in my wardrobe would look a whole lot less offensive.

We’re “falling back” in a few weeks. I’d strongly recommend you give it a try…

Pusillanimous

IMG_0054Today’s Daily Post writing prompt asks us to write about a time we used a word incorrectly. Well, I may not have done this much in real life, but I’ve done it in my dreams.

If you are a reader, you know I write a lot about dreams – anxiety dreams, dreams about my kids, dreams about a destination I never reach. I dream so much that sometimes I don’t even know whether I am awake or asleep.

And once, I dreamed all night long about the word pusillanimous, a word that does not sound at all like its meaning. Which I didn’t know until I looked it up in the morning.

In my dreams, I was using the word, others used the word – it had suddenly become the most common word on the face of the earth. And when I used it, I experienced the vaguely uncomfortable feeling one has when they use a word of whose meaning they are not quite certain.

By the way, it means, more or less, timid. I was really hoping for something more spectacular than that.

This episode is memorable for another reason. When I relayed it to a couple of close colleagues, I learned that pusillanimous fell into a category they called “Sarah Day words.” It seems said colleagues had coined this term to describe the not-so-widely known words I used in meetings that they had to look up afterwards in order to understand what I was trying to convey.

Huh. Well, I guess we all have to be known for something. Might as well be for others’ amusement around the water cooler.

Moon in the Morning

IMG_0597The day has launched itself in a typical fashion – a few schedule changes, an alarm clock not set. One child missed the bus, one didn’t have his homework done, the third misplaced something that doesn’t belong to him. It would be easy for me to fall into my typical everyone is out the door, what a relief, oh damn we’re out of coffee mood.

Missing the bus is a particularly painful circumstance. The drive to school requires more than the total time I usually have to shower, dress and get myself out the door.

For some reason, our high school was designed in a fashion that requires everyone to enter using a left turn. This is challenging by any account, but this is Minnesota so people wait patiently in the northbound lane until someone heading south stops all traffic in order to let them in. I kid you not. This waiting-and-pausing-traffic-unexpectedly is classic Minnesotan. Add to that the fact that a majority of the drivers entering the school are teenagers with varying degrees of driving skill and it makes for a traffic snarl worthy of a much larger city.

In addition, the drop-off area requires you to talk to a real person, a parking attendant, in order to pull in, drop your child and go. I wasn’t up for a chat with the nice young man since I was still in my pajamas. (Hey, I didn’t plan this errand, don’t judge.)

So I performed a parent cheat – dropped my daughter in an obscure area with the instruction, “Hike over to the front door. Have a nice day.”

As I maneuvered my way back out of this traffic jam, I could feel the day slipping away. It only takes one wrong move to start me down the slippery slope of slightly missed opportunities.

But as I headed west toward home, something caught my eye. The moon, round and full, features plainly visible, still hovering in the morning sky. Something about the way the daylight surrounded it seemed hopeful.

And then a bald eagle flew over my car. I’m sure it was a good sign.

Time to get my day on.

 

This is a Ready-Set-Done writing prompt from the Daily Post – ten minutes of free-writing. See other posts here.

Wolverine lasagna dinner

IMG_0311My sister mailed me a photo, back in the day when both photos and mail were an actual thing, of a delightful sign outside a school that read only “Wolverine Lasagna Dinner.”

I assume, like most people, that this school sported a wolverine for a mascot, and was hosting a fundraising dinner to which they hoped all would come. But for years, I’ve harbored a secret wish that it was really a dinner at which wolverine was served. Why? Well, I guess I’m a little nuts.

Since my children are now in that stage of their educations known as “the fundraising years” I find myself returning to thoughts of that sign now and then, and thinking about the school announcement that might have accompanied it.

Dear Wolverine parents,

As you know, we’ve been working quite diligently to ensure that our nationally-ranked soil-judging team can attend the state finals in Springfield this April. To support our team, we’re hosting a dinner, but we need your help!

In order to make our dinner a success we need the following supplies. Please contribute if you can!

28 flats of bottled water

50 boxes gluten-free lasagna noodles

17 gallons organic, no-salt-added tomato sauce

4 grain-fed Wolverines, skinned and diced

100 pounds part-skim mozzarella

Mid-sized Sterilite container of iceberg lettuce

2 gallons fat-free salad dressing

Please drop all items in the teachers’ lounge next Thursday between 2:45 and 3:10 p.m. There is no refrigeration available, so please do not drop items early!

Yes, I know this post is a little unappetizing but at least I didn’t write about my other favorite school sign – the Crucifixion Summer Fun Fest.

This is a Daily Post writing prompt. You can read other “sign” posts here…

They’ve blinded me with science

IMG_0594And failed me in geometry, history, technology – you name it. My kids, that is.

Children are curious creatures, and mine are no exception. On a fairly regular basis, I emerge from sleep only to be hit with a question that has been burning in one of their little brains all night. I like to call this phenomenon the Unanswerable Question of the Day.

I know some of these have answers based in scientific theory or historical fact, but frankly, before I’ve had my first cup of coffee (or two), they make my eyes bug out.

So, dear readers, how would you answer the following?

  1. If you were a dragon, and you had a mouthful of water, how many noodles do you think you could cook in there?
  2. Would fire float in space?
  3. Did William Tell ever accidentally kill someone when he was shooting an apple off their head?
  4. What would have been better to own in the 1600’s – a weapons store, a farm equipment store, or a grocery store?
  5. Could the cat have kittens if we hadn’t had her sockets removed?
  6. When the Spartans rowed into battle, did the rowers also fight, or did they just row?
  7. What happens if you’re a T-Rex, and you want a baby T-Rex, but you accidentally poop out a caveman?
  8. Do trees feel pain?

Thus my problem. I don’t even know if William Tell was a real person, and I’m more than a little distressed at the idea that trees might feel pain.

Sigh. Time for that next cup of coffee.

 

A day of housework and productivity: a non-sequitur

IMG_0240At least for me. In my world, housework is like traveling to a destination I never reach.

With the nice, fall weather we’ve been having, I threw my energy into some large outdoor chores. A huge sense of accomplishment was achieved. (Yes, I realize that is passive voice. I did it for effect.)

But when I ventured back indoors, I was shocked to discover that the house did not stay neat and tidy without me. The laundry room alone looked like it could qualify for superfund status. So I took a day “off” to get my house back in shape.

Which was a mistake. I can’t clean up my house in a day. Or even a week. Although in my work life I can focus on a puzzling problem, or stay on task for hours to meet a deadline, I cannot do this in my house. I am constantly distracted and wholly ineffective.

Here’s an example of what I mean:

  1. I start to tidy up the bedrooms and realize that it’s time to change the bedding.
  2. I strip the beds, and reason that since cold weather is on the way, I should take the opportunity to put on the heated mattress covers.
  3. While I’m swapping the mattress covers, I decide to vacuum the mattresses, which requires me to haul a vacuum up a flight of stairs.
  4. And, of course, I have to wash the mattress covers I removed which requires hauling them all down a flight of stairs.
  5. I figure as long as I am washing the mattress covers, I should wash the comforters.

And so on. I end up with room after room of bedding in varying degrees of cleanliness on every surface. And then it’s 3:00 and my children start to arrive from school. If my house isn’t picked up by the time those others get home, I can forget it.

Here’s another example:

  1. Halfway through cleaning the kitchen, I realize I don’t have anything planned for dinner.
  2. I glance in the refrigerator and notice there are several items that are, ahem, a little past the due date.
  3. I clear the refrigerator of less-desirable items which makes it evident I need to wipe the shelves.
  4. I wipe the shelves, restow everything, and realize there is nothing in the refrigerator suitable for dinner.
  5. I check the freezer and notice there are several items that I can no longer identify.
  6. I clear the freezer, which makes it evident there is nothing in there for dinner either.
  7. I go to the store.

And really, I never get my kitchen tidied up. Ever. There is too much stuff that goes on in there, like homework and eating, also sometimes cooking.

Clearly, this is not where my skill lies. My ability to see beyond the problem at hand, to follow a thread and see where it takes me, helps me in my professional life. But it’s not worth a moldy kidney bean the rest of the time.

Who knew work could be such a refuge.