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Goodbye to Summer

Wow! That went by fast. But it was a great summer.

The kids were home. That always makes me happy. Too happy maybe, since I wasn’t getting much done with all the wonderful distractions in the house. So I rented a tiny offsite office for two months. It was cheaper than office-ing at Starbucks (those drinks are way too tempting and can get expensive) and there were no calories to regret at the end of the writing day. I’m back home now, but I may do the same again next summer if the kids come home. Which I hope they will.

I also spent a week this summer on a writing retreat where I learned a lot about my creative self. One of the biggest lessons I learned is that I can be creative more hours a day IF I build in longish breaks for moderate exercise. For me, exercise not only prevents the tight hamstrings and sore fingers that haunt writers, it also allows the brain some down time and prevents burnout so that I don’t end up zombie-staring at the keyboard. Taking exercise breaks means I can sustain the creative process longer.

This summer Steve and I also celebrated our 26th wedding anniversary. On a blisteringly hot day we went to the ski shop to rig ourselves out for the snow vacation we’re planning this winter. Who’d have thought trying on parkas in 100+ degree weather could be such fun. Thanks for so many happy years, Sweetie. Laughing and cuddling through life with you is a blast.

So all in all it’s been a really good summer. But the kids are back at college now. Boots and sweaters are back on the store shelves and today the heat finally broke. We even got a little rain – Texas’s version of manna from heaven. I’ve thrown open the windows and I’ve been cleaning house and rearranging furniture all day. I may even go outside and wash the summer dust from the windows.

So Goodbye Summer. Welcome Autumn!

Starting Something New

I’m on pins and needles.

In my May post I listed all the things that were happening in May and said that when I got past those events (which were wonderful!) I’d have the rest of the summer to write and sip mint tea on the porch. Well…

It’s summer. I haven’t written in a week. There’s been no mint tea on the porch. As usual I’m running around putting out various domestic fires (nothing earth shaking but all important to someone in the moment) and what I need to do for me is getting lost.

So my choices are: continue to eat flies all day for the rest of the summer hoping I can eat my frog in autumn when kids return to school…OR BUG OUT! (pun intended).

Banking on “getting it all out of the way” in May so I’d be free to write this summer didn’t work. The spring stuff was simply replaced by new summer stuff. If I wait for the summer stuff to end and the autumn peace to arrive, the summer stuff may simply be replaced by new autumn stuff. Because that’s the way life works. Mine anyway.

Here you may be thinking: just grow a spine and say NO! to all the distractions. But here’s the thing. The word no comes easy as pie for me to everyone except my husband and children. I so love saying yes to them! I just can’t help myself. So I need to be someplace where, for a few hours a day, the only person present to say yes to is myself.

That’s why I’m on pins and needles. This morning I have an appointment I hope will change the course of my summer – maybe even my life. Sounds dramatic, doesn’t it?

At my husband’s urging, I have an appointment with a real estate agent who I hope is going to locate an inexpensive office for me to work in – far away from all the wonderful yet derailing distractions of my home. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Note to Self:

Never discuss religion or politics with your college-age children or there will be tears. Lots and lots of tears. And they will all be yours.

May already?

The first four months of 2014 have flown by and May seems set to do the same.

I’ll be attending the Don Maass and Les Edgerton workshops, DFWcon, my eldest son’s college graduation (yay!), celebrating several birthdays, moving the youngest out of her dorm and back home for the summer, sending her off to study in Germany, sending middle son off to Air Force ROTC Field Training, and that’s just the first half of the month. But it’s all happy stuff, so life is good.

In June DH and I are headed to Alabama for a few days and then the summer stretches before me full of lazy days of writing and sipping mint tea on the porch. At least that’s the plan. But my plans and real life don’t always parallel, so we’ll see.

Hope your May is Marvellous!!! And your summer is all you hope for!

Life Begins at Forty

As my mother and her siblings reached 40, they were fond of repeating the phrase “Life begins at 40”. It was from the title of a self-help book their parents (my grandparents) kept in the house while they were growing up.

My Uncle Charlie, one of the youngest of the seven siblings, was a great joker. Every time one of his brothers or sisters would say, “Life begins at 40”, he would laugh and say, “Yeah, and ends at 41”. The year Uncle Charlie turned forty-one he died of a heart attack.

He was much loved and is dearly missed.

As a child, I remember being struck by the fact that it was almost as if he’d incited his own death by repeating that phrase so often, even though it was just in jest. Perhaps for that reason, I’ve always paid attention to what I tell myself about myself and my life. I try to be careful not to put my attention on negatives, but to keep it focused to the best of my ability on positives.

And yet despite practicing this positive self talk since I was about ten years old, there are still times when I catch myself saying all the wrong things about myself to myself and I must correct course.

What about you? Is there self talk you do that could use a little editing?

Eating Frogs

Mark Twain famously said that if it was your job to eat a frog, then it was best to do it first thing in the morning.

Motivational speaker, Brian Tracy, published a book titled Eat That Frog! in which he recommends doing your most vital and difficult task first each morning.

My father felt the best way to “eat a frog” was to cut it into bite-size pieces and then eat a couple of buzzing flies first to build momentum. Since he was a man who accomplished a lot, I can testify that the fly-fly-FROG method worked well for him. But my father was clear that in the end you had to ignore most of the buzzing flies and just eat the frog.

I admit I find it difficult to force myself to eat the frog first each morning. Like my father I find munching a fly or two does help me build momentum. Unfortunately, I’m easily distracted by buzzing flies. So if I’m not careful, I can reach the end of the day with the frog still on my plate.

What about you? Do you eat the frog first? Or do you need a fly appetizer to build the momentum to eat the frog?

Best Present Ever Again

Last year my kids each gave me five hours of labor for Christmas. I used it to clean the attic and designate the four corners: one for each of the three children and one for camping equipment. This revolutionized my life.

As an empty-nester I want to maintain my kids’ rooms so that they feel at home when they return from college for breaks and holidays. Yet I also crave living lean, clean, and clutter-free. By designating an attic corner for each child, I was able to put the things they didn’t want or need right now but might someday in their corner. There it waits, out of sight, until they feel inclined to retrieve it. Their rooms are still decorated with some of their stuff. They’re just not stuffed with all of their stuff. And we’re all happy with the result.

But attics are catch-alls. Things seldom used tend to retire there. I was determined this great deed once done would not be undone. Those four corners would remain dedicated to their purposes. So how did I ensure the attic would not become a jumbled catchall?

It was surprisingly easy.

There is a shady bit of space in my backyard across a shallow dry creek bed. It once hosted the kids’ sandbox. College kids don’t need sandboxes so my husband and kids (more of those 5 gift hours!) built me a storage barn there next to the playhouse. They even installed a bridge and motion activated lamp post.

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(Sorry the picture is fuzzy. That blur on the bridge is my dog, Flash.)

Inside heavy steel racks, the sort bakers use to cool large baking sheets, line the walls. The shelves are adjusted to the proper height to hold large lidded Rubbermaid tubs that contain all the holiday decorations and other useful miscellaneous that used to be thrown in a gallimaufry in the attic. It’s now easy to see what I have, and simple and pleasant to retrieve it when needed.

As a bonus I left a couple of shelves empty. When the kids came home this past year for summer break or dropped their stuff off on their way to study-abroad sessions, it went neatly onto these shelves rather than cluttering up the house. When they returned to college, they simply fetched it again. They didn’t have to hunt for anything and I didn’t have to deal with it while they were away. We were all happy.

So those five hours of labor gifts for Christmas 2012 continue to be wonderful.

But if the kids gave me FIVE hours of labor last year and ended up cleaning an attic and building a barn, what did they give me for Christmas 2013? THREE hours of labor. That’s what happens when you send them to college. They get smarter. Darn!

What was your best present ever?

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