Warning: Take the Month Off

IMG_0291Yesterday, the Daily Post writing prompt asked us to invent an astrological sign for ourselves. While I was too upside down and backwards to do that piece, I’m pulling myself out of the depths for today’s post: The actual horoscope for October, written in retrospect. Retrospect I can do.

October Horoscope

During this month, the pieces of your carefully constructed reality will fly up in the air and come down again in a different order. You’ll want to move forward, but you won’t know where anything is.

The people closest to you will suddenly seem to have lost their minds. They will make decisions you don’t understand and can’t prevent. People will exit and enter your life at a dizzying rate, leaving an impact far beyond what is reasonable or predictable. Things that felt solid will dissolve under your feet. Things that seemed moveable will remain so solid you cannot budge them.

And although you are entering a period of extreme unrest, all you will want to do is rest. You will find yourself resting as items on your to-do list pile up around you.

Make no mistake – this energy is taking you somewhere, you just don’t know where. Big change is coming. It has to. You’ve felt its approach for a long time now, but you haven’t been ready to face it. Well, get ready. You can’t stop change.

The temptation will be to close your eyes, open them up when it’s all over, and see where you’ve landed, like Dorothy in the tornado, headed off to Oz. If that’s the tack you take, just be ready, when you open your eyes, for your surroundings to look completely different. And to, somehow, find your way back home.

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

 

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…

Asleep or awake?

IMG_0351Last night I dreamed I had insomnia, all night long. (Well, that’s not entirely true – I did have one dream in which I showed up somewhere wearing only half my clothing, but I think that’s for another post. I’m embarrassed even thinking about it.)

Anyhoo, I woke up wondering if I had actually had insomnia, or whether I, in fact, just dreamed about it. Was I waking up all night and, in a half-asleep stupor, ascribing my insomnia to a dream state? The details of the dream aren’t clear enough for me to separate the conscious from the unconscious. And I am a little groggy this morning, but it’s nothing out of the ordinary.

I may find out, later today, when an actual lack of sleep catches up with me and I doze off into my food over a planned lunch with a friend. Or fail to string any coherent words together when my kids arrive home from school. But, honestly, that’s not all that out of the ordinary either.

It’s not unlike some other early morning thoughts I’ve had, of the guilty variety. If you do something in a dream that you would not normally do, are you acting out a real impulse, or is it just, like many passing thoughts, completely impossible?

And if someone does something to you in a dream, are they guilty or innocent? I’ve started many days angry with my spouse or children for something they inflicted on me in a dream. I know that’s not rational, but it is what it is.

I can’t quite make this out, so I pose the question to you, readers: If you’re dreaming about insomnia are you awake or are you asleep?

This is a Daily Post writing prompt – ten minutes of writing, no more, no less. Which explains why it leaves a little something to be desired.

Twice as much or twice as long?

IMG_0590Because I am a small, aging woman, it falls upon me to do a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to the chores around the house. (See why here.) Thus it was I found myself power washing the deck on a beautiful afternoon in a last-gasp attempt to refinish it before the snow flies.

In some Minnesota households, this is like a hobby. You spend the period from May to October scanning the weather forecast for three nice, warm, consecutive days. When the planets align, you put your plan into action:

  • Day #1: Power wash deck
  • Day #2: Let it dry thoroughly and prep it for stain
  • Day #3: Watch unexpected storm cover deck with dirt and debris
  • Repeat

You get the idea. If you’re lucky, you finish the project in time to host an outdoor party that requires only a light jacket, and not a parka.

My companion in this task is a well with a pump that pre-dates the Mad Men era. The pump’s a plucky old gal whose primary attribute (providing free outdoor water) outweighs the fact that she’s a little arthritic, and requires frequent breaks to recharge herself.

When you’re lazily watering a garden plot this is no obstacle. The water trickles to a halt, you pull a few weeds, and when it hisses back on you continue. But it’s not so tolerable when you’re washing a large deck whose condition I’ve likened in previous posts to a shipwreck that someone pulled up from the bottom of a freshwater lake and deposited on our lawn, barnacles and all.  While some around these parts are fanatical about keeping a clean deck, I’m pretty sure ours hasn’t been washed since our youngest was still eating his Cheerios in front of Elmo’s World (he’s 10).

So this large, filthy endeavor was made worse by my unreliable partner. The old gal would work diligently for a few minutes, then stop to catch her breath, and after a brief set-down, would get going again. (Lest there be confusion, the old gal in this instance is the pump, not me.)

I tried to make the most of the interruptions. I made myself a snack. I had a cup of coffee. I had another cup of coffee. But how much coffee does one really need? I’m not a patient person, and wasting all this time was getting on my nerves. The caffeine was not helpful.

So I decided to do what any reasonable person would do when faced with too many chores and too few nice days – weed in between washing. My garden’s a disaster, and the weeds, at this point, were mocking my efforts, so I decided to dispose of a few of the little suckers just to make myself feel better.

And so it went. Power wash for 2-3 minutes. Hear water sputter off. Set hose down. Descend deck stairs. Weed for 5 minutes. Hear water sputter back on. Climb deck stairs. Restart washer. Continue ad nauseum.

I grew frustrated. And my glutes were getting a little sore. The work was taking twice as long as it should have. But then, again, I was doing two tasks simultaneously. So maybe it was taking half the time. Or maybe I was doing twice as much work in the same time. Or maybe none of this was true.

It made my head hurt.

So I gave up the reasonable person’s plan, and instead opted for what an unreasonable person would do. I decided to blog about washing the deck in my downtime. In fits and starts. 2 to 3 minutes at a time. All afternoon.

Anything for a little time to write.

My post has a virus, uh…

detritusWent viral. Viral-ish. And it’s strangely demotivating. Plus Andre is getting on my nerves. He’s my…well, you’ll just have to read on to see.

It’s been two months since I innocently published a post that had the same title as a porn video. My first notice was a little like spiking a fever – a sudden realization that I had way more traffic than usual something was just, well, off.

After my initial panic, I decided to laugh, enjoy the traffic, and wait for it to die down.

But it never did.

In the days following my post, my traffic doubled. Then it doubled again. Now, it’s running about five times what it was in the days P2PR (Prior to Porn Reference). Sounds great, right? But I’ve no illusions that these visitors are all reading. P2PR, I could see from my metrics that most people who stopped by read two or three posts each visit. Now they just hit and run. It really dampens my urge to write.

“Ignore your metrics,” my sage blogging buddy, Cristina at Filling My Prayer Closet, advised. But I can’t. I’m a numbers girl. It’s sort of like telling me not to cough. *coughs* See, I coughed right there, just thinking about it!

I’m even getting to know this traffic a little. It’s highly skewed toward international visitors, many from former Eastern bloc countries. I know when they visit, what days and what times. Weekends are a big draw.

I even know some of them think they’ve landed on the right page because they click on the picture associated with the post. (Yes, they click on the image looking for the video. Sigh. Those former Soviet countries apparently aren’t churning out the rocket scientists they used to.)

While I can’t shake the vision of a room full of frat boys huddled around a screen trying to access a get-ready-for-the-weekend video, and their utter disappointment when they instead find someone who looks like their mom staring out at them, I’ve developed a profile of who I think my average porn-seeking visitor is, and how he differs from the traffic I’m accustomed to.

Being a marketer, I like to think in terms of reader profiles. Yes, I know reader profiles are gross generalizations. But given the chance, we marketers prefer to deal in gross generalizations.

Here is the profile I’ve developed for my average reader three months ago:
She’s a mom we’ll call Jenny. Jenny is a professional woman who used to work full-time, but left her job to stay home with her kids, age 4, 7, and 9. Jenny is smart. Jenny is witty. She blogs. She struggles to find balance in her everyday life. She is into fitness and nutrition. She likes to commiserate with me, and is glad to read a humorous take on parenting now and then. I like Jenny.

Here is the profile I’ve developed for my average visitor now:
We’ll call him Andre. Andre lives in (your Eastern European country of choice.) He is a computer programmer. When he needs a break, he doesn’t get up from his computer and wander down the hall – he surfs porn. And when he finds a great video, he tells all his friends who, unlike Andre, do not have the liberty to surf during the day. They search sometime between Friday morning and Sunday evening, hitting my blog by accident, and not at all amused to find a humorous take on parenting. Unlike Jenny, I don’t like Andre. I think I dated him once, and I learned my lesson.

Dealing with Andre has given me a massive case of writer’s block/torpor/disinterest. He doesn’t care what I write. He isn’t even going to read it. Unfortunately, writing is like exercise. You have to keep at it or you lose the muscle. I feel like I’m starting to develop the not-writing version of a beer gut. I’m not sure what that would look like, but I’m guessing “b”.

I’m even starting to resent Andre. On a slowish traffic day, I find myself angry at him for NOT showing up. “What’s your problem?” I hear myself mutter, “Video porn not good enough for you anymore?”

So I need to move beyond my dinner with Andre. Get back on the horse. Turn over a new leaf. Get my blogging groove back. (Ugh, see what I mean? I can’t write without using cliches.) It’s time to elevate the conversation a little. I even have my next post prepped. It’s called Road Kill.

Yes, well, that’s how bad it’s gotten. Obviously, my recovery isn’t going to happen overnight.

A remembrance

IMG_0021A flower, bending in the wind, turns her face to the sun.

Today the blogging community honors Tina Downey of Life is Good. Tina, who was an instrumental part of the Blogging A to Z April Challenge, passed away on August 27th.

Because Tina loved sunflowers, the A to Z team is hosting a tribute today, Sunflowers for Tina, to fill the blog world with flowers in her honor. We were asked to buy or plant and photograph a sunflower, but as I traveled the city this past week, I noticed there are sunflowers everywhere right now, in full, beautiful bloom. They look bright, and restless. They’re blooming together, filling otherwise dull, browning spaces with color. You can’t help but be drawn to them.

I chose one, growing wild near my home, to share.

Rest in peace, Tina. We’ll miss you.