Monday, 18 February 2013

Trying to get it all under control

Yeah, I said "ALL". Because I'm crazy like that.

Every once in awhile, I get this insane idea that with the right organizational tools, the right plan, the right schedule, the right commitment, I can finally figure out how to stay on top of my blogs, keep up with my freelance work, keep the house clean, make delicious healthy creative dinners that never cost more than $10 for the whole family, organize and use my coupons to get tons of stuff for nearly free, be mom to my daugher, spend time with my husband, go to services and Bible class every week, do some kind of hike or other outdoor event every weekend, and still have time for my yoga and pilates classes, journal writing, reading and watching an occasional TV show.

Oh and did I mention, keep some semblance of sanity? Because, yeah, I'm crazy like that.

When I write it all down like that, I can see the insanity. But even then, a part of me thinks it's still possible. Or at least more possible than my daily reality suggests. Because the real, daily me is always running at full speed but still leaving half of that list in the "To be done" column by the time I crash around midnight (or one or two or...)

And I wake up, behind on my blog, opting for a quick but not cheap dinner plan, watching my coupons expire unused, floors in need of cleaning and article deadlines looming, all the while dreading the rush of the approaching (or current) weekend which only seems to double or triple my exhaustion and "behindedness" (my new you like that one?)

Why do we women do this?  Because I know it's not just me. I know there are many heads nodding as you read, recognizing your own never-ending list and that feeling that if you just found the right method, it would all fall into place.

I remember years ago reading an article by a woman who was trying to do just that, with a new planner. She kept adding time onto her morning, by scheduling her wake-up time earlier and earlier, to squeeze in things like exercise or meditation or writing. And at the same time, she kept pushing back her planned bed time, so she would be able to get a jump-start on the next day by laying out clothes, setting the table for breakfast or carving out some time to read. But when she put the two pieces together, she realized that her new "schedule" would have had her getting up before she went to bed.

I laughed, but only because I understood. I could see myself making that same discovery. I've bought the planners. I've created the "Command Center" in the house with white boards and bulletin boards and calendars. I've created online calendars and printed and posted calendars and put calendars on my phone that are shared with my husband and daughter's phones. But still, the list never gets done.

And yet, even with years of momhood experience, and stories that point out the futility, I keep trying. So the real question is, how do I stop? How do WE stop? Because all I can think of is heading out to buy a new and bigger calendar.

Do you have a solution? A tool that really does work? Or a technique that lets you step back from the insanity, and manage it somehow?

Can you share, please? Otherwise, I know I'll be downloading yet another planning tool by midnight.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

What a "clean room" means to a teenager

The Before...
We just had yet another round about the room. But this time, I didn't yell or even get mad.  I was too busy laughing.

Why? Because the absurdity of what a teen can call a "clean" room just hit me. Maybe it's because I haven't been sleeping well, and I'm punchy. But it was all too funny to do anything but laugh..

For those of you new to this parent thing, you might not understand. Let me put it in simple terms. Two year olds make a mess. Teenagers give F4 tornadoes a run for their money. 

And then they "clean" it up. And that's where the real fun starts. We had that particular breed of fun just tonight. But I was laughing to hard to haul out the camera, so use your imagination. Here goes...

According to the alternate-reality world of teenager-hood, a clean room may include:

  • Five assorted glasses, cups and mugs
  • Three plates and two bowls
  • My favourite tea pot, the one I said must never, ever, ever, under any circumstances go further than the dining room  (because it was a wedding present and cost more that I could ever possibly justify spending for a tea pot!) 
  • Three pairs of shoes in the hall just outside of the door
  • Two belts on the same hall floor
  • A floor under the bed which was home to a half dozen power cords and headphones, several food  wrappers, an apple core and at least two magazines. 
  • A pile of "I don't know what to do with this" stuff that covers about a 2' x 2' square of carpet
  • A dresser top that I know is there only because I can remember what it looks like from when we moved in.
  • Ditto the bedside table top
  • Ditto the desk top
  • An unmade bed piled with at least half of the blankets, quilts and pillows we own (she likes to make a "nest" to sleep in...oh, wait. She got that trait from me. Never mind...)
I walked in, because she wanted me to see the "clean room". My husband, who had beaten me to the punch, was laying on the floor, laughing. I could not help but joining in. So we giggled. And my daughter giggled. And her friend, who was "helping" her clean, giggled. 

And when we finished laughing, she put on the two belts, and two of the pairs of shoes that had been in the hall (one pair on feet, one on hands), then picked up the long-since outgrown little girl purse from the dresser and announced she was ready to go to Wendy's for a Frosty. as a reward for cleaning her room. 

So.....Dishes removed, space under the bed cleared and vacuumed and the desk somewhat exposed, my husband took the girls to Wendy's for those Frostys

Yeah, according to the "Great and Powerful Oz", or "The Book of Really Good Parenting" (which I am sure exists, but I never did find a copy), we are bad parents.  We should have refused to play along until the room was genuinely clean. We should have used it as an object lesson for responsibility and natural consequences and all the other things the people who have read that "Really Good Parenting" book do. 

But we didn't. We laughed and we bought Frostys

But you know what? I don't care what I should have done. It was worth it for the giggles she gave us. And that's more precious than all the spotlessly clean rooms in the universe.

Friday, 15 February 2013

What you say about social media is NOT what your kids hear

Let me start out by saying that is not yet another post about the dangers of social media profiles, and the world of paedophiles lurking out there waiting to scoop up the names, locations and pictures. That message has come through loud and clear. Got it.

Nope, this is about trying to get kids (and especially teens) to understand that NOTHING goes away online. That the "Delete" button is really just an archive or a "don't show this here now to me" button.

And that colleges and universities are using that information (including what you THOUGHT you deleted) to decide who get in and who gets scholarships.

And employers, legally or not, are using it to decide who gets hired and who gets the boot. And did I mention that it NEVER, EVER, EVER goes away???

So here's how it goes. I calmly tell my kids and their friends that they shouldn't post anything online they wouldn't want their grandmother, teachers, future boss or someday boyfriend, girlfriend, husband or wife reading. Or looking at. Or listening to. (Yeah, dangling participles galore...I can just hear my English degree adviser now!)

They look at me with sympathy. Poor mom has drunk the Kool-Aid. Doesn't get the world of Tumblr or Facebook. Never mind that online content marketing is my profession. Doesn't matter.

And so they post. And they upload.  Nothing truly awful. Nothing criminal or mean. Just stuff that to an admissions committee faced with 200 completely qualified students and one more slot could mean they come across as a slacker or uncomnmited or that person who's going to penny in the other students on the dorm floor. So they get the dreaded thin letter and someone else gets the welcome packet.

I know that the screaming-until-your-face-turns-blue or lecturing until your tongue is sprained won't get the message across. But ignoring it isn't an option.

So I'm asking you...what if anything has worked for you?  What message, what tool, what piece of information worked?

In the meantime, here's a message for future employers and college admissions boards everywhere. Kids say and do stupid stuff. By definition. Because they are kids. So could you please do everyone a favor and just look away a bit more? Scale back the peeking in where you're not invited. It's kind of like reading your sister's diary...none of your business and probably mostly made up.

Because behind the weird videos and talk about putting a cow on the high school princpals roof, they're good kids.  And odds are they would be good students and good employees.

Oh, and one more thing.  That prank you never figured out when I was at UF? That was me. The early-admissions, squeeky clean honors student. Just sayin'

Thursday, 31 January 2013

Where's my infinity pool?

My mind works in weird ways, especially when I'm way overtired from three nights of not sleeping well (can someone explain to me why the very same dog who sleeps curled in a tiny ball in the living room finds it necessary to stretch out and take up as much space as possible if I let her sleep in our bed?  I mean, seriously!)

Anyhow, yesterday I flipped on the TV and there was this commercial for an addiction recovery center. And it was gorgeous. Women relaxing in fluffy spa robes, yoga classes by the beach, a man looking fit and tranquil resting at the edge of an infinity pool. And according to the spokesman, the whole experience is covered by most insurance plans.

And I had to wonder....where is MY infinity pool? Where is my beach-front yoga class? And why can't I get insurance to pay for any of that?

No, I am not an addict. In fact, I never have been. I don't even drink. Never tried drugs. (My mom did a great job of scaring me out of even experimenting with those -- thank you, Mom!)  But that shouldn't be a barrier to an insurance-paid  fluffy white spa robe of my own, should it?

Now don't get me wrong. I am not belitting the horror of addiction. Or the trials people go through in trying to get and stay clean and sober. I have friends and family members who have been down that path, and I have seen what they have been through. And I'm eternally grateful I did not face those issues.

But in all fairness, shouldn't there be a reward for exhausted moms and dads who stayed addiction-free?  An insurance-covered retreat if you make it to say, 35 or 40 without ever having a chemical addiction? Call it a medical pat on the back for managing to make it through the teen years, college, work, marriage, sleepless nights with babies, school aged kids and moody teens of our own (and for some of us, through in divorce, single parenthood and remarriage, too) , without becoming addicted.

Because, when you think about it, that is a pretty major accomplishment! So I think a completely free week or two at a beach-front spa is the least we could get in return. So do you think we could get this passed by Congress?

Let's get one of those petitions going on Facebook for a mandate to all insurance companies to give unaddicted moms and dads something to look forward to after they face all of life head on. With a fluffy spa robe and an infinity pool of their very own. With three nights of bad sleep and a moody teen at home, it sounds awfully good to me.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Blessing bags for the homeless

Image from Joy's Hope
I was surfing around Pinterest, looking for ideas for our Faerie House for the festival at Zilker Park, when I came across a picture entitled "Blessing Bags".  I had to click in to see what that was about, and then click again to reach the blog post.

What I found was a post from KWAV (Kids with a Vision) about creating these blessing bags to give to the homeless. Homelessness is HUGE here in Austin, Texas, so I was immediately interested.

I've heard people talking about putting some snacks in bags, but this went further. As you can see in the picture, these included soap and Tynenol, toothpaste and deoderant, as well as some food.  It shouldn't feel revolutionary to me...I've done personal care bags for a couple of projects. But somehow, I didn't connect the dots. And I've worked with projects to provide food to homeless and in-need people for years.

Food + personal care items + some change + a bag = something to keep in the car to hand out.

The timing is perfect....

Last night, we were downtown for a walk with a group. My daughter and I stopped to admire a dog who was walking with two young guys -- one maybe in his late teens, one maybe about 20 or so. After petting the pup, the younger guy asked if we had some change we could spare for "a couple of street kids." My daughter apologized that she didn't...and he immediately responded.  "Don't apologize! You talked to us, like we were real people.  That matters a lot."  I wanted to cry. "Like we were real people."?  As though they were less than that??

I dug two one dollar bills out of my purse, and handed them to the younger guy.  He immediately gave one to his friend. They said thank you, and we said good-night and walked on.

After our stroll, we headed back to the car, and passed the same two young men. "Thank you so much again", the man said. "For everything."  My husband, who hadn't been with us earlier, asked why he had thanked us.

I explained.

"All that for a dollar," he asked?


All that for a dollar. And some friendly conversation with a couple of strangers.

How nice it would have been to have had a bag to hand them, with some snacks, some personal care things, and maybe one of those silver space blankets to ward off the chill. How nice it would be, when I stop to hand someone a few quarters at a stop light, to be able to add a bag to my gift.

So thank you, Pinterest...and KWAV, for inspiring me. I have some bags to make. (Want to make your own?  Here's my list of ideas!)

PS...The post where the picture came from suggested putting religious materials like tracts ot Bibles in the bags.  I am a very spiritual person, but I have a huge problem with mixing religion and basic needs like food and soap, so I won't be doing that. Just sayin'....

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Seven words for 2013

2013 image
While I was working on some ad content for a client, I came across the website for one of their clients. The site was called Wall Words. I've seen companies like this before, selling precut and custom vinyl words to put on walls in your house or business. 

Like most of them, they had words for holidays, quotes for kids rooms, and inspirational messages for all occasions. But then I saw it. 

"Choose 7 Strong Inspirational Words" it said. And there was a long list to pick from. Single words. 

And instantly I knew that this was going to be the basis for my New Year's project.

I usually do a vision board for the New Year...and I probably will this year, too. But the idea of distilling all of my hopes and wishes and plans for the coming year into 7 words...that was new. And that spoke to me.

I've had enough of mission statements and goals and steps toward goals. I'm exhausted at the prospect of yet another year of writing pages and pages of answers to "insightful" questions or "thought-provoking prompts."

But 7 words?  THAT I can handle.

So I started.

I miss my friends and family back home in Florida, but I am at a loss when it comes to keeping those relationships strong. This summer, I renewed my relationship with my father, but he lives far away, and I don't know how to overcome the years of silence and build on what we started. I haven't found friends here in Texas, and that means I'm usually lonely.

So what one word fits all of these? CONNECTION. I long for connection. I need it, crave it, want it, and hope to figure out how to build it. It's not on their list...but it's the first word on my list.

Next, I have been struggling to find a way to build my freelance business. I was a student, then a grad student, then an at-home mom, and then I became a single mom with a full time job.  Then a better full time job. But with the move to Austin, those corporate positions vanished, and I found myself competing with the just-out-of-college people who are willing to work for pennies.

I have no idea how to find clients and build my base. So from all of that, my next word is FOCUS. I need to focus on learning how to find people who need what I do. And then focus on letting them know how I can help. Again, not on their list -- thank goodness there's a custom option!

The next few did come from the Wall Words list.  SERENITY. I definitely need more of that. Along with the interior peace and quiet that go with it. TRUST comes next. I have some big issues with trust, and although I've improved, there are still miles to go. HEART is another one. I need to pay more attention to heart, and less to the voices in my mind that keep showing me all the reasons I can't do what I want to do, or why it's impractical or who might not approve.

The sixth word on my list is ADVENTURE. I want to be more willing to go after take those leaps of faith, to push fear aside more often and just go for it.

My final word is a short one...the shortest of the seven as a matter of fact. But it's the biggest one for me to confront. HEAL. I need to allow myself to heal. Learn to heal. Heal from the loss of my mom, and the unfinished business that was left behind with her passing. I need to heal from seeing the worst of the past in people in my life now.

So those are my goals and plans for 2013. Just seven little words.


Do you have seven words? I would love to hear your words...and your story. Leave me a link with your seven word plan for 2013. (As always, PG, please.)