This could give “Pants on the Ground” a run for the money, don’t you think?

donutMonday was a school holiday. Yesterday it snowed, so they cancelled school. Today, there is still snow on the ground, so they cancelled school again. I’m not sure whose IQ is dropping faster, mine or the dude’s.

I grew up in Michigan. If we cancelled school every time we got a few inches of snow, we’d be home most of January.

Mr. Dude has been home as well. That’s a lot of togetherness. I love my family, but I only have eight hours of nice available to me each day. When it’s winter, six hours, tops, and that’s with meds, exercise and a glass of wine around 6:00 p.m.

My tank of niceness was running dry. Last night I was cooking dinner. Actually, I was cleaning up a day’s worth of dishes and mess from the kitchen so I could cook dinner, and I began to hum. Then I began to sing. It went something like this.

Oh how I hate to cook dinner.

Almost as much as snow.

And if you tell me you don’t like it,

Then I will tell you where to go.

Oh how I hate to cook dinner.

It’s my least favorite thing to do.

And since no one’s in here to help me,

I give you a hearty …

At this point my husband walked in. He refused to join me in the sing-a-long portion.

He reminded me how much fun it is to go to work every day. I get that. There used to be a Dunkin’ Donuts commercial that had a guy getting up early every morning with a sleepy “time to make the donuts.” Eventually, he saw himself coming and going. It’s what my husband and I said to each other when work got crazy. So I told him this was my “time to make the donuts” only more creative.

Over the years we have evolved into a traditional marital work split. It’s been beneficial all the way around. But am I less entitled to dislike my job just because I don’t get paid for it? When he gets up in the morning and says “time to make the donuts” I don’t say “suck it up, you have a family to feed, sugar daddy.”

He suggested streamlining our eating options, simplifying meals, maybe cooking ahead and freezing meals, or finding some cost-effective preprepared food options.

I pointed out the obvious. “Or you could cook dinner some nights.”

We’re working on that third verse together.

Words  by J. B. Everett

Photograph “Newest donut in town” by Steve Schroeder © 2007 via Creative Commons/Flickr

Welcome back to reality, break out the confetti

DSC_0002The Dude went back to school today. Last night he expressed his disappointment that his vacation was over. I did the understanding mother thing (yes, sweetie, it’s been so wonderful to have you around every day), and as soon as he left the room broke into my happy dance, complete with fireworks. He’s been home for two weeks. So has his father. Now we return to normal and I get my life back.

On the surface, it shouldn’t be so difficult to work with them here. They are both fairly self-sufficient. It’s amazing how much of my time their self-sufficiency can eat up.

Humans generate detritus. That’s just the way it is, whether it’s dirty dishes, glassware (would it kill you to use the same water glass twice?), Kleenex, shoes, socks, or those paper subscription cards that fall out of magazines when you read them, I can find any family member by tracking the trail of crap they leave in their wake. I’m sure Grimm got the idea to have Hansel and Gretel leave bread crumbs as their trail through the woods by watching his teenage son eat tortilla chips on the way from the kitchen to the basement.

Every household task takes twice as long to accomplish, because something else has to be cleared before the task can commence. To cook dinner, I have to clean the kitchen, to clean the kitchen, I have to do the dishes. To do the dishes, I have to unload the dishwasher. It’s the mom version of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.  And really, how many times can one woman explain that the plan for lunch is for them to go to the refrigerator, find something, and eat it?

I’m convinced that humans create thought detritus as well. Too many people thinking and talking in one space crowd out my ability to talk and think and write, like their words back up the system so mine can’t flow.  Next time my husband wonders why my manuscript isn’t finished, I’m going to his office and pace while talking on the cellphone and see how much he gets done. When I’m finished, I’ll ask about that lunch thing again.

Now that they are gone, I have no one to blame for my lack of productivity but myself. I suppose the same is true whether my family is here or not, but believing it’s someone else’s fault, rather than my lack of creativity or focus to be the root cause is more amenable to my psyche.

So to all of the mothers out there, welcome back to your life. I kept this post short. I know you have things to do.

Words by J. B. Everett

Photograph, “Trail of Bread Crumbs” by Kat Selvocki © 2011 Creative Commons (Flicker)

Note to Self

A yellow tag on my mirrorIMG_0476

      Pick up the dry cleaning

      Floss

      Stand up straight

       Call your mother

A paper scrap by the coffee machine

        Pay the phone bill

        Mind your p’s and q’s

        Don’t worry so much

        Buy more coffee

On the refrigerator, stuck under a magnet

          Don’t eat that

          Eat this instead

          Eat what you want

          Drink more water

An email on my computer

            Get off Email

            Close down Facebook

            Write

            Okay, maybe five minutes of Facebook

Scribbled on the palm of my hand

              Sing loud

             Laugh louder

             Love more

             Forgive, forget

             Remember the rest

             I left you a note

Dance more – lessons from Nelson Mandela

danceSometimes I don’t give the Dude enough credit. He’s smart, he’s funny and he’s kind. He’s also a teen, and like many teens, his world view tends to be a fairly small universe of which he is the unwavering center. This is the very definition of being a teen, so I don’t fault him for it. I just stand to the side and judge him from my position of mature superiority. That is the very definition of being a parent, at least from a teen’s point of view.

He came home from school unhappy. This is his general state of late. Junior year is kicking his butt. Above average is the new below average and he’s feeling overwhelmed by the intensity of competition and the amount of work school piles on his plate. It is also the height of contract negotiations for the MLB, a.k.a. the mercenary sock hop. The Dude believes that one should stay with your team forever, unless you suck, or play for someone other than the Red Sox.

He dumped his backpack on the floor like a sack of rocks, then slumped onto the couch, one arm dramatically thrown over his head. This is my cue that I am allowed to approach.

“Today was the worst.” I am wise enough to refrain from asking if it is truly worse than yesterday’s worst day ever. “I have two test tomorrow, Jacoby Ellsbury is going to the Yankees, and Nelson Mandela died.”

Back up. How did Nelson Mandela get tossed in there? The anti-apartheid movement was the backdrop of my college years. What did the Dude know of Madiba? “It is a sad day,” I said. “It’s amazing what one human can accomplish, and endure, within one lifetime.”

“Yeah,” the Dude agreed. “He was super chill.”

I couldn’t help but snicker a little. “Super chill?” I’d heard Mandela called many things. Super chill was a new one. When I graduated from college,  I took my world politics very seriously. Tiananmen, the Polish Revolution, the fall of the Wall, Live Aid–the 80’s and early 90’s were good for the politically idealistic. We didn’t say Lech Walesa was totes awesome.

“I saw this video where he was dancing. Just dancing. Like, I’m the greatest dude in the universe, and I’ve been in jail and everything, but right now I’m with all of these people and I’m gonna dance.” He might have even said “Imma dance.”

And I realized that even with all of my factual knowledge, the memory of events, and the ghost of youthful arrogance, the Dude grasped something elemental about the man.  Great men speak out, they move mountains and carve words of wisdom on our souls. But when the time comes, they also dance. After all, what is freedom if we don’t allow ourselves to be free?

I am lucky. I have never had to fight for basic rights. I can come to this blog each day and joke about how my husband doesn’t know how to put his dishes in the dishwasher. I have a dishwasher. Heck, I have dirty dishes. So today, I won’t complain.

Imma dance.

Words by J. B. Everett

Photograph “Dance” by Sameer Walzade © 2013 Creative Commons

 

Making a map to badassland

directionLast night I went to a party with a group of incredible women–intelligent, funny, warm and lovely all wrapped up with a big bow. After sharing books and cookies and numerous glasses of champagne, and before we said goodnight, our hostess asked us to share one word to set our intentions for the upcoming year.

There was a lot of calm and peace and joy and embracing life. Simplify, excite, adventure, exceed. All great words.

First thoughts are often our truest expressions. Inarticulate, perhaps, but unfiltered and unburdened by our concerns about expectations or perception or appropriateness.

My first thought was badass.

The book that I took home from the exchange was about facing our personal Goliath. I’m not a religious person, but I do think from time to time the universe gives us messages when we most need to hear them. This past year, I’ve been sort of an anti-badass, letting the giants stand in my way.

Some of them might have moved, had I asked them to. Some of them probably aren’t as big or as strong as I assume they are. Some of them are enormous and mean-tempered and eat writers for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

If I hope to be the David of my own life, I’m just going to have to get over it, pick up a rock and let it fly.

There is no map from here to badass. There are no concrete goals, or steps or landmarks. I can only ask myself “what would a badass do?” and take it from there. It is a journey that I’ll have to make one action at a time, to decide not to cower, or avoid, or defer, but to stand up and tell the world to bring it on, because dammit, I’m a badass.

You might want to duck.

Words by J. B. Everett

Photograph “Our Direction” by Brian Talbot © 2006 Creative Commons

Throw out 50 Thoughts #21 – Let me explain

coffee cupFor a woman who has her shit together, I’ve been doing a lot of explaining lately. I’m not talking about justification–where you know you’re probably not doing the right thing but you want to convince the world and yourself otherwise. I mean explaining as in, I know you don’t agree with my actions, but here’s why I can live with that.

When I say it that way, it sounds lovely. Empowering even. Why isn’t it?

Because it’s none of your business.

I know that sounds really harsh, and I don’t mean for it to, it’s just that I feel…oh wait, that’s another explanation.

I’m not talking about my husband, or my son, or my closest dearest friends. I’m referring to those who feel it’s their job to judge how the rest of us live. They are quick with the “If I were you’s” and the “Well I would never’s” and “You should really’s.”

I spent a considerable amount of time in a conversation this weekend that went around and around in circles. You know when someone gets a bee in their bonnet? That argument or statement that they just can’t let go of? It happens because someone doesn’t feel heard, so they say it again and again. I knew that’s what was happening, but I kept explaining rather than saying “I understand that would like me to feel x, but I don’t.” Instead, I tried to convince them, and they tried to convince me, and neither of us was willing to budge.

The reality was that neither of us needed to. What I did or didn’t feel about the situation had absolutely no impact on them whatsoever and visa versa.

A friend led me to a wonderful epiphany a couple of years ago. I was complaining about someone else’s actions, and she said “Is this your problem to solve?” The answer was no. Most of the time, the answer is no. My problem is my jealousy, or insecurity or my fear of judgement.

I’m doing the best that I can. I assume that you are as well. I’m sure from time to time, however, I look at your choices and think, “Wow, that’s really effed up.”

And it’s none of my business. Please don’t spend twenty minutes explaining why you’ve done what you’ve done, unless I’ve asked you for advice about my own situation. If I’m thinking “that’s really effed up,” I probably haven’t.

We come to our decisions and choices from a base of experience that is wholly our own. We can walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, but we can’t possibly experience it the same way unless we’ve walked the previous 1000 as well. Like most people, I strive for acceptance, and part of that is living within acceptable societal norms. The thing is, while I’m stressing over being judged, my family (myself included) is about as far outside the norm as the Cleavers. In fact, as families go, I’d say we’re a good, solid B+.

Instead, take the 20 minutes and tell me what’s been going on with you. Any cool projects you’re working on? Read a good book recently?  If you want to assuage your guilt, buy me coffee instead. In your case, better make it a grande.

Words by J. B. Everett

Photograph : “Coffee Cup” by cuorhome © 2005 Creative Commons

Throw Out 50 Thoughts #19 – I’m tapped out

cliff diverA year ago, I was a very busy woman. My life was out of control. I had two blogs where I posted daily, and had started guest writing for another. I was editing a novel, had some short stories coming out, and was doing a live reading of one of my works at a local author’s event. I was taking violin lessons from a master teacher, playing in two orchestras, plus a chamber group, which meant practicing four hours a day. I spent two hours a day at the gym. I was physically exhausted.

At the same time, my imagination was supercharged. I loved the feeling of being lost in a story, drunk on words, having characters whispering in my ear. I had so much to say, I was afraid I would explode if I left the keyboard.

Still, I had a family life to tend to, so I cut back. I took a break from lessons and from chamber music, and dropped out of one orchestra. I moved this blog to three times a week. I decided that one hour at the gym each day would be sufficient, and I cut down on my social commitments. I had more time to write, some breathing space.

And the words disappeared.

I wasn’t too concerned. I had been so stressed, stretched like taffy over so many activities. I’d depleted my reserves. After a rest, surely my writing would snap back. One year later, I’m still writing, but it feels like work.

I was afraid that maybe, I was tapped out. I contemplated giving up.

My former boss and mentor used to ask me why I thought so small (my words, not his). I told him that working with him was like driving beyond my headlights. One day, I’d follow him right off the cliff face into the ocean. He didn’t say “that won’t happen” or “you can always stop in time.” He said, “Come with me. The water is warm.” The look on his face said, “Jeannine, this is life, and you’re missing it!” He’s a very successful man, but not infallible. If he crashes on the rocks, he gets back up and says “That was fun. Let’s do it again.”

Maybe I’m not tapped out. Maybe I’m trapped.

When a plant becomes root-bound, you have to put it in a bigger pot. Sometimes you have to break it apart, or score the roots to trigger them to grow.

I’m turning off the internal editor. I’m speaking through characters with world views opposite to my own. I want to scare myself a little by acknowledging the dark corners of my imagination. The beauty of writing is that I don’t have to actually do what I write, nor do I have to share those words with other people if I don’t want to. I can use language that would singe my vocal chords. I can bend reality. I can hug tigers and banish cars.

Not only do I feel energized, I feel…free. I’ve written 15,000 words this weekend, and my only enemy was the clock. And somewhere lurking within those words is the glimmer of my next novel. While I wouldn’t go back to the pace I was keeping last year, I know that if I sit in a box, I only hear the echoes of what I’ve already said.

They say do something every day that scares you. I think they have a point. Come on in. The water’s warm.

Photograph “Cliff Diver : Acapulco” by Alejandro de la Cruz © 2009 Creative Commons