260/365: The Case of the Bathing Bunny

IMG_1413The photo does not do justice.

I turned my back for one minute while the bath was filling, and Iris chucked him in. I guess if she loves the bath so much, there’s no reason her favorite stuffed animal wouldn’t also be a fan. It kind of looked like a crime scene, to be honest, his little stuffed body floating face down in the water. I wrung him out, but we’ll see. It’s so humid I may need to toss him in the dryer to keep his stuffing from molding before it actually gets dry.

The perp, meanwhile, was caught on security cam at a nearby ATM…

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259/365: Sigh

IMG_1406 copyThe irises in the front yard are blooming, Iris’s fever is mostly over, we celebrated Little Man’s day of viability (only 16 weeks to go!), Carl filmed a music video for a client, I hit my word count goal for May, and then I made a grave mistake:

I tried to write a post about cultural female narratives vs. actual experience and motherhood and crap, which obviously takes longer than splashing up a few pictures and anecdotes about the Cute Ones. Also kind of fun for the mulling part of my brain, possibly explaining why I was only half done when Iris woke up from her nap and since she’s been running 100-101 fever for the last couple of days she wasn’t exactly chipper on the post side.

So now I have a half finished draft of a post I’m not sure will ever get finished because I’m due to start chapter 4 today and I really don’t want to mess with something that’s going so well.

Seems like no matter what speed you live at, life is always too busy. I mean, I was eating cookies and watching Mad Men in bed with Iris at eleven in the morning yesterday, so it’s not like my life is lived at breakneck speed, but STILL.

Sustained concentration is tough, yo.

Which is why today you just get flowers. Gorgeous, shameless, vivacious flowers. Happy Thursday, everybody.

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252/365: Books!

IMG_1382 copyDeep sigh.

Iris is in bed, and Carl is zipping home from a 3 day conference in Chicago. Besides a cold picked up at a McDonald’s playland and a surprising lack of sleep (turns out neither of us sleep well without Carl in the house), I think Iris and I have done pretty well for ourselves.

I snapped the photo at top while waiting in the drive through at Tim Horton’s this morning. Iris is finally starting to get into books, and it’s so fun to glance in the rear-view mirror and see her studiously pointing out interesting objects and turning pages. We celebrated her new interest by buying a Sense and Sensibility board book (all about opposites, naturally) and one of those lift-the-flap-and-find-the-puppy books. She likes the puppy book better, but I sneak in the S & S one too.

She also requests Goodnight Moon every night before bed. We used to read a random book off the shelf, but she seems to like Goodnight Moon best.

I had been hoping to have a really great 3 days of writing in the evenings while Carl was gone, but the best laid plans have a way of turning to crap. Or whatever Burns said. As I said before, Iris kind of went bonkers at bed time the first two nights, so by the time she was finally asleep I was mostly past the creative window and in the compulsively-eating-watermelon-while-staring-at-the-wall free fall. Fortunately, Carl is kind of awesome and booked our babysitter for the last evening so I could get out and have some time to myself. Writing doesn’t cure everything, but it’s good for pretty much all of my usual complaints.

I feel fantastic.

Also fantastic: coming home to a freshly bathed toddler in pjs, eager to snuggle, ready for sleep. I don’t know what heaven smells like, but Johnson’s baby shampoo is my best guess.

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Numbers

 

Well, I’ve done it again. I’ve gotten sucked into the pointless numerical games that seem to go with creative writing in general. I started writing seriously again on my redraft about three weeks ago and was for the most part just trying to take advantage of the opportunities I had and not worry too much about word count or deadlines…

Which worked so well that I was nearly at the 50-page mark yesterday and suddenly all of the calculating, shifty gears in my brain are turning, and I’m pulling up the computer’s calculator function so I can see how many words I would need to write every month in order to have the draft done by September; how many words every week; how many words every day.

800. The magic number is 800. If I wrote 800 words, 5 days a week, I would have a complete novel draft by September.

For about an hour, this was the best news I’d had all week. I hadn’t really thought it was possible to get a draft done before the baby came. I was just trying to see how far I’d get. Anyway, this ceased being great news when Iris went down for her nap at a weird time, so I only got 500 words written during her nap, and then she went manic at bedtime and wouldn’t sleep until 45 minutes past her usual time, so my time and energy were both a bit lacking and anyway I only logged about 700 words total that day.

Fine. 700 isn’t that bad.

Until TODAY, when I sat down to write during her nap and realized that I’d written a character out of a chapter where I needed him, and the dinner conversation in chapter two isn’t detailed enough to carry the weight I need it to for later development. Fine. Those aren’t complicated fixes, but it takes some rereading and a little finessing and suddenly my two hours are up and, while both problems are nicely resolved, I’m only 200 words in the black.

Also, and possibly more alarming, I’m not really 100% what happens in the next chapter because one of its major objectives, as my notes inform me, is to “develop characters X and Y,” and that’s not exactly a roadmap for success.

This is why numbers suck.

Instead of feeling great about having 50 pages roughed in, now I’m dealing with all this anxiety about whether or not I’ll stay on schedule (I won’t) so I can have a completed draft by September (yeah, I won’t). I read about lots of authors who use word counts and page numbers to stay accountable in the writing process. Victor Hugo is said to have written 5,000 words every working day. Stephen King says he aims for 2,000. And, Graham Greene allegedly wrote exactly 500, stopping mid-sentence if necessary. I mean, I am all about that process—it’s tidy, and you always know where you stand—but that is so not happening for me. And it never has. I’ve written 4 novels at this point (it’s ok, I’m so not bragging. None of them were sellable), and I’ve never stuck with a writing schedule for more than a few weeks.

So right now I’m taking a few deep breaths and trying to go back to the mantra that does work for me: take advantage of the opportunities you have.

Trying to take advantage of opportunities I don’t have is kind of insane, and yet I literally have to remind myself not to do it. Like, for example, while standing next to Iris’s crib for 20 minutes because she’s having an insecure night and can’t fall asleep without me standing there with a hand on her belly. Thinking about my word count makes me crazy at times like that. Being able to say yeah, this isn’t really a good writing opportunity makes it a lot easier to let go.

In my housecleaning rotation list, I have a note that says: everything is opportunity. It’s one of those optimistic zen things (I’m pretty sure that’s an oxymoron, but whatever) you see on calendars and crap that means absolutely nothing until it suddenly means something to you. I’m not saying I’m good at this (hence: a written note to self), but it’s something that I find hugely helpful when I have the patience to remember it at all. Everything is opportunity; the trick is to identify what kind of opportunity it might be.

I’m in a really busy, 2-year marathon of baby days right now. I don’t have a lot of writing opportunities, but I do have some. And I have a MILLION great baby-time/bonding/learning/character-growing/contemplating life opportunities, but that’s a whole different post. Sometimes I feel a little badly that so much of my mental strategy as an adult seems to be about learning to manage and manipulate my thinking in order to keep from triggering anxiety or negativity and stay happy and productive. Then again, maybe it’s just being a grown up. Hard to say.

Either way, that’s where I’ve been lately: writing.

146/365: Ambition

IMG_1283Sometimes we bite off more than we can chew. After an extremely successful and productive day yesterday, I thought to myself: woot. We are awesome. All we need to do is cut out the morning nap (makes her afternoon nap too late and unpredictable), and we are all set for permanent residence in Awesomeville.

Oh, and I am drinking too much caffeine. I should probably stop that.

Promptly at 9:00am, with Carl out the door to work and me just thinking to start one of the ambitious household projects with which I was going to interest Iris SO MUCH she would forget about nap time, Iris started to fuss. She was not interested in cleaning out the front closet to prepare for a fresh coat of paint, and frankly I wasn’t either. I was EXHAUSTED. Who knew that life without caffeine was so tiring?

New plan: we would snuggle on the couch. Maybe I would read a book while she regained her good humor. After all, not every day can be full of accomplishment.

We were both asleep in ten minutes.

45 minutes later, I woke up to Iris starting to do her pre-waking squirms. Well, not too bad, I thought. At least it was a short nap, early in the day. And I feel human again, which is nice. Iris stretched out her legs—eyes still closed, of course—and started to climb off the couch. That’s as far as she got.

It’s almost 11:30, and she’s still asleep.

As for me, I am amending my parental insight folder. In place of yesterday’s memo, we are filing one that simply reads: COFFEE WITHOUT SHAME, FOREVER.

If I don’t see the Big Nap coming, it’s half over before I even get the laptop open (to say nothing of keeping my eyes open). In other words: coffee is a vital crew member of this team. We will not be firing coffee. We will be keeping coffee, writing our novel, and renewing peace with the fact that I still haven’t figured out how to predict or influence Iris’s nap times all that much.

COFFEE WITHOUT SHAME, friends.

FOREVER.

 

143/365: Color

IMG_1261For Mother’s Day Carl and Iris got me—among other things—a new cosmetics case and a gift card to fill it up. Bliss.

I realize that this could translate badly in some relationships, and I would probably not be super enthused about receiving a diet book as a gift ever. But when life gets a bit more challenging it forces you to be more picky about your priorities. I am, for example, a pretty good mom these days. I spend a lot of one-on-one time with Iris and put a lot of thought into making plans for our little man’s arrival. I work hard to give Iris a routine, to involve her in the fun stuff and stick with her in the not-so-fun stuff. I read articles about childhood development in my spare time. I am interested in everything about this parent-child relationship.

I’m persistent about writing too. I take Iris’s naps and early bedtimes and Carl’s evenings out to piece together a growing word count. I care about it, and I work hard to carve out the time to make it happen.

I like the whole process of home creation. I spend time every day cooking, gardening, doing home care projects, washing dishes, sorting laundry. I like the smell of almond cookies in the oven and lemon-scenting cleaning products. I won’t lie: our house isn’t spotless by a long stretch. But it matters to us. Home in all its manifestations makes us happy, so we work at it.

There are other things I care about, obviously, but you understand where I’m going with this. When life gets busy, one of the easiest things for me to let go of is the extra-mile beauty ritual. I’m not talking about the basics. I shower. I shave. I even get around to plucking my eyebrows most weeks. But the polish on my toes starts to chip. I don’t blow dry my hair much (honestly? ever). The skin on my elbows and heels starts to get rough. It doesn’t bother me to go out in public without makeup because, really, why should it? The double standard of male/female beauty annoys the crap out of me, but I swear I don’t have a sour grapes attitude in general. I admire women who are put together, who manage to have children and find time to put on mascara. I like looking at fashion magazines. I am sort of fascinated by make up in general and am always putting things like “master the smoky eye” on my annual goals list. (I have never mastered the smoky eye).

But, to me, it’s always an extra. It’s a last hired, first fired kind of thing, and that’s what made the gift so perfect this year. Extra is exactly what a gift should be.

I didn’t pick out a lot of make up to be honest. I’m realistic enough to know that about as far as I’ll get in the next 12 months is lipgloss, mascara, and tinted moisturizer. But I did buy some really thick, really fabulous cream for my elbows and heels. I bought better quality lip balms and showerish things. Things I’ll use. I also bought a punchy orange-red for my summertime toes.

And this evening after I got Iris to bed, I even used it.

Pretty fabulous.