Sunday, February 24, 2019

Crunching Time

The silence shattering sound of the beeping alarm awakens me to a new day. I put my feet on the cold tile floor and head to the kitchen. I have an hour to get three kids to school. Sounds easy enough, right? I tell myself the same thing every morning until one kid forgets to do their math homework and another kid doesn't like the lunch I've made and the third kid wants me to read them every Pinkalicious book ever written while she eats breakfast at a painfully slow pace.

When the kids are finally dropped off at school, I can begin the job of tidying and editing my drafts. Let me start by saying that I have two full-time jobs; I'm a mother and a writer. I'm paid for neither. In fact, both jobs are quite expensive to maintain. But I love them and find ways to afford them and have no plans on giving either of them up, yet. (husband cringes here)

My morning is spent alternating between these two careers, depending on what is more pressing at the time. Then when my kids come home I become a fulltime mother, and when my kids go to bed I become a writer. I switch back and forth, sometimes by the hour.

I have days where my drafts are delayed because a child is at home feeling sick. There are times when edits must be made and the children are told to play quietly by themselves. Parents feel free to laugh here, you know why.

There are twenty-four hours in a day. That should be plenty of time to get everything done, right? Let's break it down and see:

  • Seven of those hours are spent sleeping, hopefully.
  • Ten of those hours are spent working, also hopefully.
  • Two hours are spent commuting to work or taxiing your children to activities, no hope here. 
  • Two hours cleaning and cooking, unfortunately.
  • One to three hours for homework, if we are lucky, lately not so.
  • An hour and a half for exercise (I'm including, changing and showering in that time period)
  • One hour dealing with fights and tantrums (add more if your child is below the age of five or over five)
  • Fifty minutes of petting a needy cat, letting him in and out of the house and other pet-related activities.

Here is a pie chart to illustrate.
As I see it, I'm slightly over the allotted time a day gives me, and that's when things go according to plan. I haven't even included Facebook or binge-watching Netflix or grocery shopping, which can take a full day in Israel. The time crunch is real. Let's look at some ways to double up.

Mornings: Tell children to fight or have a tantrum while on the way to school. They mostly forget about the issues by the time you pick them up. Binge watch while commuting if you go by train. Comment on Facebook while you wait in line at the grocery store. Clean while cooking, but not in a counterproductive way. Set a timer and go tackle cleaning a bedroom while those dishes are simmering, but don't let them burn. Can't help you with exercise. I've tried to crunch the time as much as possible. But unless you take out changing or showering, it's going to more or less always be the same. Pets, you have to walk the dog and the cat has to be petted; no time-saving ideas there. Work is a great time for sleeping (depending on the job); approach with caution. And sleep. Well, if you're anything like me the ability to keep calm and have patience is in direct correlation to how much sleep I get. The less sleep, the more yelling. Deep breathing helps too, which is why exercise shouldn't escape your list, although it is usually the first to go in the time crunch.

These are the ways I manage my time. But nobody is perfect. Some things don't get done and that's okay, my family really doesn't need a new fancy meal every day of the week. Yay for leftovers!  I'd love to hear about how you manage your time. Feel free to comment below.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Good News on a Bad Day

Good news is always good unless it's a bad day, in which case it becomes great news. Some of the worst days I've ever had ended with good news. On the day that I failed a major math test, one which had studied hours for, I found out I was accepted to my first choice university. On the worst date of my life, so bad that I swore off dating- my (now) husband called to ask me out.  And on the day when I felt like giving up on writing, I won a flash fiction writing contest.

Earlier that same week I had received a bad review of my completed manuscript from a beta reader. She called my writing "unpolished" and "dull." I was ready to throw the entire book in the garbage. The two years I'd spent writing, what I thought was my best work, appeared to not even achieve adequate results. I figured I may as well stop while I'm behind. Then I saw a post for a flash fiction writing contest on a Facebook group I belong to, The Fabulists, run by Julie Gray. My mind screamed at me that I can't write and I should just move on. I entered anyway figuring I have nothing more to lose. And then, I won.

That's not the only time good news had found me on a bad day. I received not one, but three rejection letters for my manuscript on the same day that I also received a notification that a short story I wrote was going to be published in an international Jewish Magazine. The story that I had written was on a day where I felt like I was the worst mother in the world because of a fight I had with my daughter. I told myself,  the only good to come out of the fight with my daughter is the lesson I learned. So I put the story in writing to share the experience of that day with others. It turned out the editors of the magazine I submitted it to thought it was a story worth sharing too.

Bad days happen to everyone, no one can escape hard times. I still have days where I feel like there is a wall between me and the publishing world. Sometimes my prose doesn't flow and adverbs populate the pages instead. Sometimes my kids think they live in a barn, and no amount of cleaning can turn their sties into habitable rooms. Sometimes my learning disability gets the best of me. Sometimes I watch YouTube videos by authors who tell me I'm doing it all wrong. And then I receive a notification that my Blog reached over one hundred views and that my story is being reprinted in another magazine. Then I wonder what I was so worried about in the first place.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Are you a Writer?

Many people often ask me, how do I know I'm a writer? The answer is simple. You write.  Wait, you say, many people write and they are not writers. Actually, they are. What they are not, is published.

This is a topic I have grappled with since I wrote my first manuscript. What makes me a writer? Or more importantly, what makes me worth reading? I went looking for answers on the internet. I found ways to structure my novel and how to make my dialogue snap. I found articles advising me to switch my adverbs promptly to verbs and to leave cliches on the shelf; to vary my sentence structure and leave out generic phrases such as could, maybe, and whatever. My writing contained all these infractions and more. So I began to ask myself, am I a real writer?
As they say, when you go looking for trouble, you'll find it. I found many websites written by accomplished authors on what exactly makes a writer good at their craft. One had me take a quiz. If I scored less then twenty percent, that meant that I wasn't a real writer.  I scored in the tenth percentile. Then another website was an angry rant from an author who no longer wanted to see "dribble" from want-to-be writers on his shelves. He had a list of twelve descriptions that make a manuscript not worth reading... or writing.  As you can guess, I was his top choice of authors whose work he would send straight to the trash.

I was devastated.  I love writing, it gives me purpose, fulfillment and more joy than any past time I could replace it with. But who was I kidding? The great sages of the internet had spoken. I was not qualified to be a writer. Old doubts of stupidity and worthlessness awoke in my mind and I gave into them. I placed my laptop in a corner and focused on any task that could keep me away from writing.  But stories and ideas kept swirling and forming in my head.  Finally, I couldn't fight the urge to write any longer.  I pulled down my laptop and began to write again. I knew that some might consider my work "dribble." I knew that my words didn't flow like cream from a carton.  Yet, I found I had to share my words with a page, even if I'm the only one who reads them.

That's when I discovered that I am a writer.  A person who can't keep their words inside. One day my words may be bound together in a book and I hope others will get to read what I have written.  Until then, I won't go looking for validation. I'm a writer simply because that is what I do. I write.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

The Cat That Came to Dinner

Sometimes you choose your pets and sometimes they choose you. Rosmand chose us. We were eating Friday night dinner when an orange cat scratched at our door. We ignored him and kept eating. He came again the next Friday night and the Friday after that.

A few weeks later my youngest daughter held a tea party on our back porch. The guest list included her dolls, stuffed animals and the orange cat. He sat right on the stool next to her, purring and sniffing the "tea" she would hold up to his mouth.

At the time my daughter didn't say much. She had a language delay caused by hearing loss. My husband and I engaged her in as much conversation as possible, but she would resist. Most of our conversations were one-sided, we spoke, she listened and then ran away.  Yet at this tea party, she was full of things to say. "Kitty... tea? Kitty... nice? Kitty...stay."

Rosmand has been a mixed blessing. He is cute, orange, furry, not always cuddly, and sometimes bites.  But he does attend tea parties, dinners and other occasions where food is served. He joins me for writing sessions and walks with my family on the way to synagogue on Saturday.  My daughter still has lots to say to him and he purs and listens.

Pets become family. Rosmand has become a full-fledged member of ours. He teaches kindness and responsibility. The children fill his water bowl and leave him their leftover chicken scraps. In the winter, I find him tucked into my eldest daughters bed with blankets. The girls have learned to respect his boundaries and heed his signals to stop petting him when he asks.  I never asked for Rosmand, but I'm sure glad he came and scratched at our door.

*I'd love to hear your pet stories. Feel free to comment and add pictures of your favorite furry friends.