Thursday, January 28, 2016

I’d Do Almost Anything Else

As I sit here staring at a blank screen sloooooooowly filling with words, I’d like to own up to something.

My bathroom, the one I share with my husband, is filthy and needs to be cleaned.

The kids were just off school for four days due to the several feet of snow (OMG save me) we received in a massive winter storm and I asked them to clean their rooms and their own filthy shared bathroom.  Which they did.  Because my kids know that if they don’t do what I ask, things happen which make them cry fat tears of sorrow and shame.

I'm exaggerating, of course.  This doesn’t really happen that much anymore.  What I do is follow them around with bathroom cleaner and rags, scream-singing my own version of Barney’s clean-up song until they comply.

Sorrow and shame are optional and totally on them.

As a rule, cleaning bathrooms isn’t my most reviled household chore.  I hate vacuuming much worse, followed by kitchen duty and sweeping / mopping hard floors.  Bathrooms are usually small rooms, and in ten or fifteen minutes they can be refreshed.

But our bathroom is big.  Every surface needs a scrub, and to be clear, our bathroom consists of one large room and a smaller throne room that houses a toilet.  That’s two rooms, math whizzes.

Two rooms full of sinks, a shower, a large tub, and the throne room – that’s a lot of crusty bathroom area to clean up, people.  Whoever decided that the masters of the home need a huge master bathroom needs a junk punch.

But ahmagahhhhhhhhhh it needs to be disinfected like yesterday.

And I’d rather do anything but clean it.  Like the following:

1. Write a blog post about not cleaning the bathroom what is my life.

2. Watch a thirty minute YouTube video.  If you know me, you know that I have a hard rule against watching online videos if they are over one minute long and aren’t funny or cute or involve someone falling down or possibly being injured.  Educate yourself.  It’s not porn, jeez.  Settle down.

3. Order new window blinds to replace the broken ones in our house, and then after placing the order realize I forgot one because everyone knows that ordering blinds is almost as mind numbing as cleaning the bathroom; you’re bound to make a mistake.  It’s actually worse, because when you receive the blinds you have to install them, and you know you’re going to do it wrong and what would be a 30-minute job for normal people will take you half the day.  You’re terrible at home improvement!

4. Doodle.  I got an A in doodling, which is the mark of a true genius in every fantasy world.

5. Apply eye makeup.  There’s an inch of crud on the bathroom counter, but at least I’m wearing mascara.  But no lipstick!  ::runs off to apply lipstick::

6. Pretend that houseplants need pruning and prune houseplants.  Prune one a little too much.  Throw out over-pruned houseplant.  Rearrange houseplants.

7. Think to myself: I would do almost anything instead of clean my bathroom.  Think of a million other things you’d rather do than clean a bathroom, because that job’s for suckers, and this blog post is terrible.  Congratulations.  You’re at the end. 

Eh, it’s not that bad. I'm pretty busy - it can go another week.


This post inspired by:

Mama Kat's Writing Workshop

Prompt #3: List 7 things you would rather do than clean your bathroom.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Lost: Mojo

January is almost over, and I still haven’t gotten my groove back.

There are many reasons why. 

We took a quick vacation right after the holidays, and despite my plan that the trip would recharge my will to keep living after the build up and let down of the season, it served only to throw me off. 

The kids have so much going on after school every day and on the weekends, and the cancellations / scheduling / rescheduling are unrelenting.   I’m spending half my time reshuffling the calendar and trying to work out logistics again, and the other half wondering why anyone bothers with a schedule at all.  A set routine is a pipe dream, a distant memory.

I have had a cold for almost two weeks; the amount of mucus that flows from a body is staggering.  A groove is difficult to get back when you’re sitting around with tissues stuffed into your nostrils.

Last, and highest on the list: I have loads of free time and I’m using it to procrastinate. 

The house is dirty and someone hit my car in a parking lot and I haven’t yet had it looked at and oh, hey, there’s three feet of snow on the ground.  Our garbage can is under there somewhere.  You know, tomorrow is another day.  I’ll find it then.

Priorities.  I am having trouble with them.

There are no projects on the horizon, just daily things.  Nothing pressing, nothing of high importance.  Just the normal chugging of normal life.  The 24-hour stuff.  Nothing big, nothing small.  Just – normal.

I’m letting it all slide.  Because it’s dumb stuff and nobody cares about whether or not it gets done, and life will keep chugging along even if these things are left undone.  I used to care more about these things.

Is this what people mean when they say “I’m bored” ?  Because I never thought I’d be.  I’m not one of those people who need constant entertainment.  I can spend a week inside and not feel as if I have nothing to do.  There is always something to do.  I can rip up a carpet, paint a room, purge unwanted items, clean the fridge, organize closets.  There is no way I could find nothing to do.

But all those things – eh, they can wait. 

I’ve got this big book about Paris to read.  The kids are off school today – first snow day of the year – and they keep producing laundry.  I’ll do that, and eventually I will also make dinner, return a phone call, watch more TV.

 My mojo has stalled.  I’m unfocused, lackadaisical, who cares-ish about things.  The machine is running well enough without my superpowers, which I’ve learned really aren’t so super after all.  It’s easy to lie low when you’re feeling a little blurry around the edges, a little slower than usual and everyone else around.

Eventually I’ll get back into the swing of things – I always do.  There is comfort in knowing yourself this well.  But for now, I’m just sort of – being here.  Doing laundry.  Getting over this cold.  Procrastinating.

Keeping an eye out for my mojo to return.  It's here, somewhere.


Thursday, January 21, 2016

A Lifetime. A Minute.

Five years ago, this was me:

With a handsome dance partner

I have mixed feelings about pictures of myself in the recent past. They remind me of how much older I’ve become.  Everything’s a little slower, a little lower.  I’m weaker physically.  Just a little bit.

No matter that I was up until 2 am with a sick child the other night, which throws everything off.  Plus, I’m coming off of a terrible week-long cold.  My eyes sport shadows they didn’t in recent years.  My body has shifted and shrunk, yet in some places it has thickened.  It seems the years have multiplied.  Moreover, my mind is settling, a sobering fact on its own.  I don’t actually mind that part too much.  I feel better about my place in the world.

People talk all the time about how old they are, how old they feel.  “I’m too old for this,” they say.  I used to dismiss this line of thinking.  How dare they say that!  Buck up and live your life, for goodness’ sake.  You only have one life.  You want to live it as an old person?  How drab.  How sad.

“I’m old enough to know better not to walk outside in the freezing cold,” I heard myself say to my neighbor the other day.  It was 15 degrees outside.  We’ve walked together every weekday morning for several years now, barring vacations, illness, and heavy precipitation.  Five years ago I might have tried to convince my friend to join me in chancing ice and snow on the sidewalks; now a wind gust or two sends me back to the warmth of my slippers and coffee.

Five years ago.

A lifetime.  A minute.

I was in the thick of Mommy-ing, our kids 9 and 7.  It was just a few years ago, but pictures and videos suggest otherwise.  It was a lifetime ago.  Ballet and Christmas pageants and Little League, orchestrating playdates and helping to choose clothes and tie shoes and practice spelling words and figure out math problems.  Packing lunches and drying tears and refereeing fights and clean up those toys now and let's have a dance party in the living room.  Five years ago there were bedtime stories at 8:30.

Five years ago I was running out the door for Moms Nights Out, my girlfriend squealing her tires in the driveway as we sped away shrieking into the night.  Five years ago a friend whose children were in college said to me “When they leave, it all ends amazingly.”  I nodded, but couldn’t understand.  I didn't care; I needed to get out once in a while.

If I could, I would grab my five years ago self by the arm and say “Sit next to me; closer, now.  I want to show you something.  I want to tell you something.”  And I’d show my five years ago self the following picture:

That’s me, today.  Tired because I was up until 2 am the night before with a sick preteen who doesn’t need Mommy to give her medicine and to fill up the vaporizer anymore; instead, she needs Mom to teach her how to take care of herself when she gets a cold. 

Me, with the short haircut that I wanted back then but had been too afraid of cutting it again after the haircut debacle of ’02.  And ’03, if we’re keeping track. 

Me with no makeup, sitting in an office chair because my life contains more planning and logistics and less cleaning and picking up after.  More sitting but less angst about it.  More aches and pains, but also less late nights “doing” after the kids go to bed.  More early nights and mornings and less feeling out of place for preferring them.  More real conversations, uninterrupted.  More knowing what healthy relationships look like.  More knowing how to achieve them.

More me time.  All the me time.

That’s me in five years.  More content, serene.  Older.  Wiser.

I’m not sure that my five years ago self would understand.  Sometimes a person needs to experience it for themselves.

Five years of life is a lot of years of change.  It shows in every way on our bodies and in our hearts.  So much happens in five years.  Children grow into the people they will become; loved ones grow older and some are gone; cherished relationships end and new ones begin.  Bodies shift, shrink, and thicken; as eyes and hearing fade, emotions and feelings stretch and lengthen.  Minds settle into patterns of thinking.  In many ways we weaken, but in others, we are so much stronger.

As soon as you look up, five years are gone.  Everything you know today will end amazingly. 

A lifetime.  A minute.


This post inspired by:

Mama Kat's Writing Workshop

Prompt #5: If you could have given yourself a snapshot five years ago of what your life is like now, what would the picture be of and how do you think you would have felt about it?

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Books I Read In 2015

What’s that, you say?  All the 2015 posts should be done by now?  It’s two weeks into 2016 and I’m a little late, you say?  Pish posh.  Our Christmas tree is still up, so settle down, Mindy.

* * *

I used to be a reader, reading books by the stack.  I often spent whole days reading.

Then I had children, and this habit diminished.  Then I started writing regularly, and took to reading magazines and blogs, and it diminished even further.  Then I slaved through one too many difficult and boring books, and oh, look, a book.  Can I set my drink on that?

Then came 2015.

My kids were rarely reading for fun anymore, instead complaining about the boring books they were forced to read for school, having to complete stupid writing prompts about them and taking stressful quizzes about the subject matter to prove they read. 

I couldn’t take it anymore.  Reading is anything but boring, stupid, and stressful.  It is interesting, emotional, exciting, an escape, and yes, educational.  I wanted to teach my kids this, and more importantly, remind myself.  So I announced to no one in particular that I would read two books a month in 2015, for a total of 24 books.

And I did.

And then I read eleven more.

Look.  I’m no genius.  I’m not even a fast reader.  I often re-read whole chapters because I don’t pay attention.  Thirty-five books may not seem like many books to the average well-read person.  No matter.  I’m just a person who wants to read more, and I did, and I feel… well, accomplished.

Did my reading more immediately influence my children to read more?  Not really.  They still hate to read.  But I can’t help but feel as if the acts of reading in their presence and talking about the books I read and passing on the books I read and telling them about the books I think they’ll like is influencing them, somehow.  This is how the legacy stuff happens: obscurely, unevenly, slooooooowly.

And when they got new books for Christmas, they peered inside the covers instead of drop-kicking them across the room.  Which is a good start.

So let’s get to it – the list of books I read in 2015.

* * *

1. Yes, Please – Amy Poehler
2. Cold Mountain – Charles Frazier
3. The Reluctant Fundamentalist – Mohsin Hamid

I started out strong in January.  Amy Poehler’s memoir was a gift in more ways than one, and solidified my adoration of her and also the belief that we should be best friends.

4. That’s Paris: An Anthology of Life, Love and Sarcasm in the City of Light – Vicki Lesage, Ed.
5. Ghost No More – CeeCee James
6. Unanswered Prayers – Cassie Sperling

All books from authors I know or have connections through blogging. Stories about living in Paris, a memoir of surviving unimaginable childhood abuse, and an inspirational story of loss and love.

7. Outlander – Diana Gabaldon

Outlander is no joke, people.  This first book of the popular series is major.  It took me literally all month to read this book.  It’s also literally one billion pages long.  We also got hooked on the series on Starz, which my husband refers to as “That Time-Travel Show With The Sex.”  “Let’s watch this together.  You read these books, right?  Isn’t there a lot of sex in them?  I bet the show has a lot of sex – it is on Starz.  There’s sex in this, right?  The book has sex in it, right?” 

Sometimes all you have to do is listen to a person for thirty seconds to figure out what they’re all about.

Sigh.  Is that all there is? 

*Note:  There’s not that much sex in Outlander.  The book or the show.  Jeez.

8. Dragonfly in Amber – Diana Gabaldon
9. Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls – David Sedaris

After the second Outlander book I was over lengthy and detailed historical novels about time travel and not that much sex, really.  So I read David Sedaris’ latest for some light laughs, also to get up-to-date on his material since we would be seeing him live that month.  I wrote about my experience meeting him here.

10. Coming Home – Rosamunde Pilcher
11. The Art of Hearing Heartbeats – Jan-Philipp Sendker
12. Uganda Be Kidding Me – Chelsea Handler
13. Going off Script: How I Survived a Crazy Childhood, Cancer, and Clooney's 32 On-Screen Rejections – Giuliana Rancic

In May I read Coming Home for the fifth (sixth? tenth?) time, and LOL’d while reading Chelsea Handler’s latest collection of outrageous stories.  And before you judge me for my reading material this month, let me tell you that Giuliana’s book was a pleasant surprise.

14. Open Boxes: The Gift of Living a Full and Connected Life – Christine Organ

I did a review on Christine Organ’s book about connecting all the compartments of our lives instead of keeping them separate.  The review is here.

15. The Marriage Plot – Jeffrey Eugenides
16. Telex From Cuba – Rachel Kushner
17. Suite Française – Irène Némirovsky
18. We Were Liars – E. Lockhart

All really good books.  Suite Française was super depressing and haunting, The Marriage Plot academic, Telex From Cuba an interesting depiction of life in Cuba before Americans were driven out, and We Were Liars made my head explode.  I read that one in 24 hours. 

19. Cambridge – Susanna Kaysen
20. The Cat’s Table – Michael Ondaatje
21. NW – Zadie Smith
22. Eleanor & Park – Rainbow Rowell

Also a good group of books.  I have to say that out of the books I read this month, Eleanor & Park was my least favorite – I mean, it is young adult, so maybe that’s why.  I just found it… tiresome.  I recommend NW, though it’s not about the Pacific Northwest, which made me feel like a big dummy by the time I figured it out.

23. Fangirl – Rainbow Rowell
24. The Good Neighbor – A.J. Banner
25. Are You Happy Now? – Richard Babcock
26. Five Little Peppers and How They Grew – Margaret Sidney
27. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Brontë
28. A Hopeful Heart – Amy Clipston

Kids went back to school, and I was on a tear.  After blowing my wad on Amazon, I turned to some free books on my Kindle.  The Good Neighbor was a quick mystery that I enjoyed (I don’t usually read any mysteries) and Jane Eyre was read along with my son for a school unit because yes, I’m *that* mom.  My favorite, though, was Five Little Peppers, a book that I’ve had in my possession since I was seven and never opened until now.

29. Anne of Green Gables – L.M. Montgomery
30. Anne of Avonlea – L.M. Montgomery
31. Life and Other Near-Death Experiences – Camille Pagán

Can you believe I never read Anne of Green Gables before now?  I devoured two of the series, having loaded the entire collection onto my Kindle a couple of years ago.  What was really difficult about reading Anne in this way was that I read two out of 12 Anne books and 142 short stories, and my Kindle says that I’m only 14% of the way through it all.  And that sort of makes me want to put my head down and cry quietly for a little bit.

32. Fairyland: A Memoir of My Father – Alysia Abbott
33. Where’d You Go, Bernadette? – Maria Semple

Fairyland won my heart this month, a book that I’d been wanting to read for a while.  A memoir about being raised in San Francisco by a single gay father during the time of my own childhood, I was amazed and intrigued by our vast differences in upbringing as well as devastated by her first-hand experience of the 1980s AIDS crisis in that part of our country.

34. Beautiful Ruins – Jess Walter
35. The Burned Bridges of Ward, Nebraska – Eileen Curtright

Maybe it was the holiday season busy-ness, or the fact that these books weren’t mind-blowing nor written by outrageous comedians who make me pee in my pants laugh on the regular, but I was underwhelmed by this pair of free Kindle books.  Ah, well.  Deck the halls and all that jazz.

* * *

So there you have it – my books for 2015.  I originally didn’t make a goal for 2016, because I don’t like to set myself up for failure, but I sort of feel like I should.  My friend Katie of Sluiter Nation set a goal for 40 books, so maybe I’ll do the same.   She also already wrote her Books of 2015 post, because she’s on the ball and not L-A-M-E like me.  I sort of feel like I’m copying her, but no matter; she’s an English teacher, so she knows that copying other people’s work is cool if it’s referenced correctly. 

What are you going to read this year?  Anything?  Let me know!

At the very least, tell me what free Kindle books you’ve read that are worth the time.  Please, help me make better choices in life.  There are children to influence here.


Monday, January 4, 2016


“Mom, do you make New Year resolutions?”

I paused.  Resolutions are not easy for me.  Enough Januarys have gone by to know that something I promised myself on January first is likely to be forgotten by the fifth. 

This is the kind of question that kids ask parents in order to glean knowledge and learn about life, whether they know it or not, and I would have to form a real answer beyond the “HA!  No way!  Resolutions are for suckers!” jokey one that was on the tip of my tongue.

Because I am a parent, and parents need to teach while being honest and avoid steering children down a path of apathy, entitlement, and laziness, which I would imagine a knee-jerk response like this one would do, and so I measured my words.

“Not really.  But I like the idea of starting out a new year on a clean slate, and I sort of try to do things right and well, which includes taking care of myself, and not procrastinate, and get my work done instead of leaving things unfinished.”  I thought of my ongoing to-do list, last dated October 27th, and the cupboard door that I still have to replace.  And make an appointment for the car to be fixed.  And another year has gone by and I still need to clean up the household filing system that I vowed to do last year.

Resolutions are for suckers.

* * *

The past two years I picked a word to guide me through the year.  It’s the new resolution, picking a word as a personal theme for the year instead of making promises that are too easy to break.  You let this word infiltrate your psyche, and adopt it as sort of a personal mantra.  If your word is focus, it reminds you to stay on task instead of being so scattered all the time.  If your word is love then you have sex a lot.  Or stop kicking puppies.  I don’t know.  Every person does her word in her own way.

My experience is that it works.

A couple of years ago I picked the word Reach and applied it to my blog and that year for my blog was the biggest one yet.  I submitted and was published everywhere and made loads of new blogger friends and people read my blog like nobody’s business, and I went to a writing conference and met Phil Donahue and felt like a rock star.

Last year I picked Pray and I prayed like a mother.  Like I hadn’t prayed before.  I felt centered and zen and like a cool customer all year long.  Pray was a good word for my heart, mind, and soul.  And Pray was a good word for 2015, which was a crappy year.  I had plenty to pray about.

The weird thing about having a theme word is that I don’t even try to make it work in my life.  I write the word on a post-it and stick it on my wall and voila! it happens.

This year I picked Let Go.  I know – it’s two words.  In the past this little detail might have offended my sensibilities.  But not this year.  This year, I am letting things go that don’t matter.

Like the fact that my kids never make their beds.  Or put their towels in the hamper.  Or open their blinds or put their laundry away.  My kids are slobs I guess.  For the most part, I’ve let go a lot of things already.  Age brings a natural sense of this.  But having this word in my arsenal this year also means that I am going to practice letting go the things that plague me.

Like hanging onto old things that are no longer meaningful.  Feeling badly that I can’t do more for someone.  The guilt that I feel when I say “no” to something just because I don't want to do it. Taking too long to write a thank you card.  Feeling awkward and weird after I say something awkward and weird.  Not fixing the cupboard door or the filing system.  The feeling of failure I have when my kids become double booked for activities during the two hours a week that they have to be somewhere and they miss something because FOR SOME REASON EVERY ACTIVITY IS SCHEDULED AT THE SAME TIME EVERY SINGLE WEEK FOREVER OMG ARE YOU SERIOUS IS THIS A JOKE

I am going to practice letting it all go.

Practicing my word takes very little effort.  But it works.  Maybe the act of writing the word down and making it somewhat permanent is enough to make a groove in my soft head.   Maybe that it lurks just out of my line of vision but is mos def in the periphery for hours a day is enough for me to act upon it subconsciously.

Who knows what’s going on here.  I’m letting go the fact that I don’t know.  Life is full of things I can’t explain.  I’m old enough to be okay with that.  I’m going to unfurl my fists and splay my fingers wide, and feel the air dance through my fingers.

Happy 2016.


*This post was in no way sponsored by Disney's epic animated masterpiece Frozen or its theme song Let It Go, which is an amazing song. I consider myself #blessed by having older children when this movie came out, which means that Let It Go is a favorite song of mine instead of one that makes me scream in agony when hearing it for the zillionth time.  It's a great song, people. I'm humming it right now.  And so are you.  You're welcome.