Sharpen Your Knives

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Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

We had some snow here in NJ. My area got hit with about a foot. Maybe eight inches. I didn’t check and I didn’t bring out my ruler. I will tell you however much it was the shoveling wore me out. I tried to focus on the blessings like I’m healthy enough to shovel and I live in a house as opposed to a cardboard box. It’s the first snow storm in March since 1993. 

All that snow means the school closes. Two teens home. And the Coffee King certainly can’t drive to work and we share an office at home. Let’s not forget the noodgy dog. So, trying to get writing done with many distractions isn’t easy.

I’ve blogged about this before, but after about fifteen interruptions and it wasn’t even lunch time I had to take matters into my hands. I had to carve out some time to write.

First, I texted my good friend and writer buddy K.M Fawcett. (Her books are awesome. Check her out.) K.M. and I go to a local Starbucks at least twice a week for uninterrupted writing time. My text said something like, “I CAN’T GET ANY WRITING DONE.” It’s hard to get your mojo going every time someone sidetracks you. She gave me some good advice. Set a timer. Tell the characters in your house no interruptions while the timer is on.

Then I remembered! My red hat!!!  It had been years since I needed that hat. When the Noodges were little and I would try to write they’d interrupt me constantly. My desk was out in the open so I couldn’t shut a door. I instituted the red hat. When I wore the hat they weren’t allowed to talk to me. Unless blood or vomit was involved. I promised to always give them warning before I wore the hat and they could ask me as many questions as they wanted before the hat went on which was very important to Noodge 1. He can’t wait to have his questions answered. He’s still like that at almost seventeen. (I can’t believe that same little boy is almost 17!)

Yesterday, the hat made a revival. I took a picture of myself wearing the hat, and sent it to my family scattered around the house with instructions. I’d wear the hat with a timer going for 20 minutes. Please don’t interrupt me unless blood is involved. (They’re big enough to throw up in a toilet now.) It works.

Finding time to write isn’t easy. We all have lives that work around our writing. Unless you’re Stephen King whose writing can work around his life. Our families don’t always understand that we’re actually working even if all we’re doing is staring at the computer, but our hands aren’t moving. Every time our train of thought gets broken we have to start over and hope to capture the fizzle we’re trying so hard to get on the page. Writing isn’t like doing accounting or sewing.

I don’t blame them for not understanding. In fact, I’m a culprit in the interruptions. I often stop what I’m doing, no matter what it is, to help my kids or walk the dog or talk to CK. The hat creates a nice visual. (I just got interrupted while writing this. I’m not wearing the hat and Noodge 1 can’t find his sweatpants. See?)

The timer is good because they know how long you won’t be available. And anything can wait twenty minutes, can’t it?

Knives are sharpened. The hat is on now. The timer is next. It’s another snow day and plenty of writing to do.

Any questions?

 

How Long Should A Christmas Tree Stay Up?

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My Christmas Tree before January 13. 

My Christmas tree is still up. I’m a slacker. I hate that it’s the middle of January and it’s still in the window. At least it’s naked. I did take down the kids’ tree in the family room, the stockings, and the Hanukkah decorations. But that tree in the living room, facing the road? That bothers me. In fact, every time I pass it, I think, if you were on top of your game that tree would be down. 

I know people whose tree has been down since December 31st. I heard that’s a tradition in Texas. Is that true? Anyway, here in New Jersey, I do know people whose tree is down, put away, and forgotten for another ten months. Why can’t I be this person?

I could say, “I’m busy. I work, have two teens I have to drive everywhere, laundry, blah, blah, blah.” There are plenty of reasons for me to justify why that tree is still up. I mean, maybe I want to hang Valentine’s Day cupids on it. Or I could hide Easter eggs in it. But all the reasons in the world don’t stop me from thinking I should have that tree down by now. I mean, what am I waiting for really? Couldn’t I get up from my desk right now and pull that tree apart and shove it into the bag? I could, but then I wouldn’t be talking with you and it’s almost lunch time. I have to eat every two hours like an infant so I’d have to wait at least until after lunch and then I have to pick Noodge 2 up at the end of the school day for her first activity so I can’t start then. There’s always tomorrow when everyone is home and maybe someone taller than I am could help me.

And the tree still stands.

I don’t waste any time putting the tree up. Every Thanksgiving weekend. So why can’t I make the time to take it down? Not as much fun? The holiday let down? Both. There is so much anticipation as the holidays approach. The festivities, the lights, the presents, time with friends and family. Then after what’s left? Cold and dark January nights. The weeks after Christmas are so anticlimactic. I told myself the tree is pretty and I can sit with a cup of tea gazing over at it as if something magical would appear through its branches while Nat King Cole croons in the background.

I think I’ve been sipping the egg nog punch again.

I can procrastinate with the best of them and I work best with a deadline. I can even impose my own deadlines on myself and meet them. How’s that for anal retentive? So, why is the tree still up? What does that say about me? Failure to meet objectives.  I wouldn’t be getting a raise if I was at my old job. I’ll tell you that.

If I was a young adult, would the inability to finish taking down the tree be a failure to launch from the holidays into the dregs of ordinary life?

I could dare myself to keep the tree up all year.

What’s the solution? Drag it out onto the porch as an offering of a new housing development for squirrels and chipmunks? I could spray paint the branch tips white and pretend it snowed inside. Maybe if I act like it is already down others will start to believe me. I could make them think they’ve been sipping the egg nog punch too.

I’ll try not to pass judgement on myself. I’ll be kinder to those who suffer from the same condition: Tree Removal Procrastination. (TRP) I could start a support group. Save lives. Save the world!

The tree still stands. At least for another day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Choose Your Time Wisely & The Hat Trick

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Photo courtesy of Ankakay at Flikr Creative Commons

 

Everyone I know never has enough time to get to everything they want and usually the things that get ignored are exercising, health, and passions. I hear this a lot. “I’ll write that book when the kids go to college or when I turn 50.” “I don’t have time to exercise after a full day at work and running the kids around.” It’s hard to find the time.

We all get twenty-four hours in a day. No one gets extra time. (And if you’ve figured out how to get more than 24 hours let us know.) It’s how you choose to spend that time that matters. Yes, it’s a choice. You can choose to sit on the couch and watch your favorite television show or you can choose during the commercials to drop on the floor and do twenty push-ups. You can choose to go for a walk around the neighborhood or you can choose to eat the ice cream. You can choose to start writing that book or you can do the laundry. I can’t tell you how many people tell me they don’t have time to read. But I bet you money, if they got off that computer, stop playing Candy Crush, scrolling through Facebook, or staying away from Amazon there would be more time to read.

I know how hard it is to “find the time.” When I decided I was going to take my writing seriously, learn my craft and write a novel, my children were toddlers who didn’t nap and I was the primary care giver. The Coffee King had recently started his own business. He worked all day making sure he was successful enough to support all four of us. He used the only computer we had. That meant, if I was going to write I had to get up before the kids did at 6 a.m. I woke at 5 and wrote by hand.

I thought when the kids were old enough to understand, “Mommy, is going to do some work now” they’d know they couldn’t come looking for me for a while. How wrong I was. So, I employed the red baseball hat trick. I told them, when I was wearing the red baseball hat they weren’t allowed to talk to me unless there was blood or vomit involved. I promised to warn them before I put the hat on so they could ask all the questions they had (and they always had questions) but no talking to me until I took the hat off. It worked. But it was a choice to carve out the time.

Even now that they are teens I choose to say, “I’m working now.” Or I stop what I’m doing and pay attention to them. I choose to work out instead of taking a nap because exercise keeps me nice. Sometimes I choose the cookie and not the fruit. Or I choose to return a call to Person A instead of Person B.

But at the end of the day I’ve chosen how to spend my time. And you can too.

I like lists and calendars. I mark out my whole week on a calendar. I pencil in the things I can’t get out of. Like going to the bus stop or doctor’s appointments or making dinner. Then I see how much white space is left and then I pencil in the other stuff. Sometimes I have to choose exercise over writing. I don’t like that choice because I want to be able to do both in a day, but I choose. Or I choose not to meet a friend for lunch so I can write and exercise. That’s how I carve out my time.

I’m always looking for ways to improve. But I’ve published three books in three years, I exercise pretty regularly, I keep a somewhat neat house, and I’ve been known to volunteer. In no way am I perfect, far from it, but you can trust me when I say you have a choice on how you spend your time.

So, tell me. How do you spend your time? How would you do it differently? What’s the one big dream you want to go after if you only had the time? Namaste

 

Sorry Doesn’t Clean the Floor

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Do you know what’s bad about being an OCD clean freak? I can clean everything better than most. There are few who can rival my cleanliness one of them is my mother. That woman can clean. Did I ever tell you about the time she cleaned 40 year-old dirt out of grooves in a counter top? She’s impressive, but I digress.

Accidents happen. We knock over a two liter bottle of Coke onto the floor. We splash tomato soup, we spill coffee. We don’t do any of this on purpose. We didn’t set out to dump the juice just to see what would happen. But just because we didn’t mean to do it doesn’t mean the mess can be ignored. Someone has to clean it up and that someone is usually me.

When a glass goes over and it’s contents race across the kitchen table headed for the space where the center leaf meets the table top my wonderful, amazing family stares at it like a car accident in process. This only leads to the soda seeping though the seams and splashing on the floor. Experience keeps me calm in a cleaning crisis, so I’m the one who jumps up and dives in; paper towel at the ready. When the shock from the spilling accident wears off my guilty  loving, caring family member punctuates my wiping the floor on my hands and knees with, “Sorry.”

And they are. They truly are. They didn’t mean to pull me from my place at the table I just plopped down into after making a dinner I didn’t want to cook. You know I hate cooking. They didn’t mean to drag me away from my writing so I could clean up the juice they spilled. They really are sorry. I know how much they love me, appreciate how much I do for them, value my place in our fantastic family.

Yeah, well…

Sorry doesn’t clean the floor.

 

P.S. I’m launching a newsletter about my books, current and future works, and appearances along with fun activities for my younger readers. In November, there’s a holiday giveaway contest you won’t want to miss out on. I would love for you to sign up. All you have to do is click the newsletter image in the left side bar of the blog. You’ll be asked for your name and email address. Simple! No one will solicit you (and if they do you tell me and I’ll beat them up with a cannoli) and I promise the newsletter will only show up in your inbox 4 times a year. Thank you!!