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Jaws XXIV - Dude, paddle faster!  This does not look like a stress-free tropical vacation! by Blurry Lenses.

No man needs a vacation so much as the person who has just had one.  ~Elbert Hubbard

Well said, Elbert.  Not sure who Elbert Hubbard is/was but he nailed it with that one.  I tried to stay up on emails and pay attention to kids’ sports schedule changes and school parties/activities while I was on vacation.  However, when looking out at the ocean and seeing whales breech or listening to the waves crash in the background didn’t help the focus factor. 

Bills need to be paid (didn’t I just do that before I left? WTH?) and kids’ sports schedules are out of control.  The clutter of mail and random articles (you know, grocery receipt, chapstick, kid’s flashlight, one lonely battery, etc.) that seem to grow from my countertop need to be put away. Sprinkle in a few birthday parties and book club planning! ARGHHHH!  Calgon, take me away!

The good and bad of it is that all I want to do is get back to my writing.  The good is that I am glad that I feel the pull to write (I was a little nervous on vacation that I could blow it off so easily).  I hardly wrote on vacation.  I figured a six-hour connection from Phoenix to Hawaii would give ample time.  Between self-berating for leaving the video camera case under the seat on the last plane to getting sucked into watching the worst movie ever (the roller derby one with Drew Barrymore), before we knew it, time to land!

The bad is that  the other” junk” needs to be dealt with first.  Reading Snail mail/emails,  paying bills, cleaning up the clutter, grocery shopping, etc. are the things that I HAVE to do.  Writing is what I WANT to do.   

I lugged my laptop hoping to sneak in some blogging and continue on my WIP.  I brought along my favorite writing book to inspire me (The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maass).   The pull of the ocean and beach chair were just too strong.  So now I sit at my computer, trying to get back into the swing of things.  The only problem is that while on my relaxing vacation, my characters and some of the plot lines changed on me.  It creates a whole new problem because now do I go back and rewrite the scenes completely or do I just finish the first draft as is and make the changes with the 2nd draft?  Again, ARRGGHHHH!

While I am thinking about all of this the guilt of not doing what I should  be doing is grinding on me.   My kids are watching.  Not literally starting at me.  But they see what I do and  they will mimic.  If I blow off the important stuff to do the stuff I want, how is that any better than my kids wanting to play outside when their rooms aren’t clean yet?  Then my husband will have more ammo when I complain about the kids not doing their chores!  Being a role model stinks sometimes! 

I have done a little bit of my writing this morning while 10 yr old (home with sinus infection) and preschooler watch a movie.  Hopefully, they have been distracted.  Now on to my other items on to-do list.  Yucko.  But I have to be a role model because it is my job.  The cruddy part of the job, but my job nonetheless. (I am pumping myself up here.  You know like an athlete in a pre-game warmup.)  Get out there girl!  You can do it! (Okay, enough, I get it.)

Any other stressed out writer mamas out there?  Do you write before the kids get up?  Do you write during the day and ignore household duties until later?   I would love to hear from you!

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Well, I think Spring is here.  I hear the sounds of birds outside my window in the morning, the sun is shining longer, and I am getting restless.   I am itching to be outside, getting some fresh air, and feeling the sun on my face.  Ahh, I can almost feel the sunburn now.  But I have a lot of work to do first.

The term “Spring cleaning” usually refers to the massive overhaul of household and garage, discarding the unwanted and unused.  However, I need it to go a little deeper than that.  Okay, fine.  A hell of a lot deeper.   My physical surroundings definitely need the cleaning, don’t get me wrong.  We have a storage area under the stairs as well as an unfinished room in our basement designated for kids.  It looks like Target, Toys R Us and Hobby Lobby all exploded in a 20 x 20 area.  It isn’t pretty.  Cupboards need to be reorganized, pantry is in shambles, carpets need to be cleaned, yada, yada, yada.

But I have a bigger task than that.  Since I have started writing a manuscript, hoping one day be published, I feel like I am a multiple personality, bipolar, dementia patient waiting to happen.  One minute I am Mom, the next I am reading one of the six novels I have on my nightstand (or under my bed, in my gym bag, stashed in my car console), then writing on my manuscript, all the while completely neglecting my email and updating the family activity calendar.  Did I mention that I have three kids?  Oh, yeah.  Pretty sure I am neglecting them as well.  The list goes on.  I might do a load of laundry, fix a meal, then back to reading a book about writing.  Then I’ll jot story notes down in a journal, redo my pathetic outline (which is why I really don’t do outlines-I am changing it every two minutes), then hop up to take a shower.  In between this are trips to the grocery store, gym, school, kids’ practices/games, swimming lessons, and God knows what else. 

I feel like I am drowning.  Hmmm…wonder why?

Big news flash to self!

I have no schedule.  I head to the gym sometime in the morning.  I eat when I can.  I shower when I can.  I clean, barely.  I read at night before bed, staying up until ridiculous hours or while waiting  for kids in the car line, or even doing cardio at the gym.   I write in snippets.  Half an hour here and half an hour there.  Sometimes I write after the kids go to bed but then I am neglecting my “just us” time with my husband.

Sounds like I should be accomplishing a lot since I am doing a lot but the only thing I seem to achieve is the elevated stress levels that only a current Toyota CEO could understand.  Enough stress that I am grinding my teeth at night; grinding so hard that my fillings are breaking off and I have horrible headaches in the morning.  It all sounds so stupid because I am a stay home mom, for God’s sakes.   I KNOW my husband thinks I have the life of Riley (not sure who Riley is but must have had it good for the phrase to stick around for so long) and for the most part I do.  I have brought all of this stress on myself because of the chaos I have created.  If I am going to survive writing a book that actually makes sense and won’t burst into flames at first review, I need to get my stuff together. 

What I have gathered from successful writing mothers, is that  relentless organization, meticulous time management, and strong self-discipline are where it is at if you are going to really make it to a great final manuscript.  That is where I need to  be.  However, it seems like that is as within reach as world peace at the moment.  But I am determined to make a go of it.  If not, you might see me on the national news as the next “mom gone crazy” (think shaved head Britney Spears kind of crazy).

I hope Spring also gives you a renewed spirit as well as a swift kick in the butt.  Think of it as God’s way of saying “Get off your ass!” in the nicest way possible.

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As I mentioned in my little bio page, I live in La La Land.  Pretty sure you have heard of the term. But this la la land is an actual place.  It is in Johnson County, Kansas.  More specifically, the Blue Valley school district. 

We have great schools, great youth sports programs, affordable housing, and easy access to a little big city, Kansas City.  A lot of people around here say “oooh, you live in Johnson County” when I tell them where I live, like I live in the Beverly Hills of Kansas City or something.   If that is the case, there must be a trailer park in Beverly Hills that I haven’t heard about yet.  I haven’t lived many places, only 4 cities to be precise, and the ones I have weren’t affluent, just REAL. 

Let me back up a little and tell you about my childhood community so you can understand why I am frustrated living here as a parent, trying to raise three happy, healthy, and grounded children. 

I grew up in a community of roughly 10, 000 residents that varied in socioeconomic status to a certain degree as well as a race, just a little bit.  The richest person in town was a practicing lawyer as well as owner of a local trucking company.  There was a section of town where the “rich people” lived  and your family was considered loaded if your house was over 2,500 square feet and had a 2 car garage.  The kids that had it good were the ones with basketball hoops in their driveways and finished basements.  We actually had a finished basement via my father and one of his friends that was in the construction business.   We felt we were on the cusp of greatness!  

Back to the point, life was simple back then.  We walked to school (11 blocks), we ate what our parents fixed for dinner or we didn’t eat, and we played outside CONSTANTLY.  The only things I couldn’t have done without were my bike and my books.  They were crucial to my freedom as well as my social life.  I didn’t have a phone in my room (the equivalency of cell phones for preteens now), no t.v., and no computer (were they even invented yet?).  My books were my escape from a not so happy home life.  I loved to transport myself through the stories I read.  I lived a different life in my imagination.  That was all I needed.  That was 1980ish.

In 2010, in the suburb I live in now, most kids would consider those poverty-like conditions.  Unbearable.  Horrific.  Cruel even.   I want to yell at them and tell them to get a grip!  When my husband and I moved here twelve years ago, I expected the area to be a little more metropolitan than where we had lived before, another Midwest little big town.  C’mon, let’s face it-we are still smack dab in the middle of the Midwest.   Uhh, wrong.

Yes, we picked to live here.  It is just that I think most of the way people see things here is skewed.   The kids around here wouldn’t know “the real world” if they ran it over with their BMW’s.  (It might be their parents’ but it doesn’t matter.  It is still an effing BMW!)  I am not sure if it has always been like this since I didn’t grow up here.  However, since I have kids that are now at an age where their friends are beginning to influence them more, I am fully aware of the rampant dysfunctional parenting styles I see around here.

 My oldest child is in 4th grade and some of the children have cell phones already.   A couple of the kids had them last year even. Who in the hell are they calling?  I understand if they are walking home from school and need to have a way to reach someone in an emergency.  If there were kids walking a mile to get home, I get that.  None of the kids have to walk more than 4 or 5 blocks, at the most.   At this age, we are with our kids 99% of the time, minus school time, and when we aren’t there, they are with a friend and THEIR parents.  Okay, maybe the cell phone was free and the parents don’t have any major cost associated with it.  That isn’t my point.  It isn’t necessary!!  Cell phones are needed for communication when access to a home telephone is not available.  You know that thing that plugs into the wall and transmits voice.  Novel idea, eh?

I know that cell phones aren’t just for talking anymore.  Hell, I have an iPhone and talking is probably the function I do the least.  However, I am also an adult that pays for it.  It is my organizer, GPS, yellow pages, newspaper, etc. all rolled into one.  When I was a teenager, my parents finally gave in and got my sister and I phones for our rooms.   I think I was fifteen, close to sixteen when this monumental event happened.   This wasn’t a cool cordless phone or even a cute Garfield one that opened and closed his eyes when you picked up the receiver.  But I didn’t care.  It was a phone!!! My mom sprung for call waiting when she realized how much time we spent holed up in our rooms talking to our friends and how many calls she was missing as her sisters and friends kept telling her how our phone always seemed to be busy.  Pretty sure these days around here, having a phone in a teenagers’ room isn’t a request seen often.  Probably not even on the radar screen.   Now, cell phones replace that one and if they get to text, ooh, that is like if got an extra phone line for call waiting in my day.  Jackpot!

My next pet peeve is ALL THE CRAP kids have around here.  It borders on obscene.  Let me explain why it bothers me so much.  It isn’t necessarily the stuff but at how young the kids are when they get it.  Motorized scooter at age 6. I have seen first hand kids that are 7 and getting the Razor motorized dirt rockets.   The appropriate age the manufacturer gives is 13+!   What?!  Again, go back with me in time.  In my elementary school days, the fastest things I had were my bike and my roller skates.  All propelled by my power.   You might as well give the kids now a couple of Twinkies as he or she zooms down the street just to make sure they don’t burn any calories steering.  And these are the same parents that are puzzled when their kid complains at soccer practice about having to run, or kick the ball, or just… stand there.  I have seen it first hand.  Drives me up a wall.   Just heard about my neighbor giving their daughter an iTouch and she is 9.   I have another neighbor that put flat screens in all of their kids rooms, ages 9, 7, and 5.   The thing that kills me is not the kids asking for all of this crap.  It is the parents that give it to them! 

Flat screen t.v. for your room? Sure, son!  Wouldn’t want you to have to be down here spending quality time with the family.   ITouch? Sure, honey!  Wouldn’t want you to have to read a silly old book when you play, play, play on your cool gadget that you are either going to lose or step on and crack within the week.  Cell phone with unlimited texting?  Sure, darling!   Wouldn’t want you to have to walk five feet and get tired having to use the vintage house phone.   The more they whine, the more they get.  It is unbelievable.

THIS is why I call where I live la la land.  These children are going to grow up even lazier than they are now and expect the world to hand them everything.  The work ethic is atrocious and they are just elementary school aged kids.  Wait until they get to middle school and the dramatics and mood swings kick in.   Ugh! 

The sad thing in all of this is that I am the minority.  Rarely do I find another person that hasn’t already done these things for their kids or hasn’t talked about doing them.   I just want my kids to have  strong core values and have a few close friends that share them as well.  My job as a parent is to teach them humility, love, compassion, empathy, manners, and too many other values to list.  I only get one shot at this and I am desperately trying to not screw it up.  This is why I love the Midwest.  Most people are simple and down to earth.  What you see is what you get kind of people.  Life is about the relationships you have with others and becoming the best person you can be.  Not how much crap you can accumulate.  A ton of people around here attend these massive congregation churches we have and I see “I love Jesus” plastered on their Facebook bulletin boards.  Then, they turn around and have every brand name clothing item from Nordstrom (as if they would shop anywhere else) and buy their kids everything under the sun. 

Maybe I am seeking reassurance that there ARE others out there trying to teach their kids the same things I am.  I pray there are and that I am not too stuck in my old school ways to realize that this is just the way things are now.  I wish parents here would comprehend that saying “no” to them now will give them so much more later on in life e.g.  appreciation, gratitude, and a strong work ethic.  

“Just Say No” is no longer just a drug campaign slogan; it is also a Parenting 101 class.  See you there !

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