Monday, February 24, 2014

It's Not Working

I’m guilty.  Not long ago, I was able to care for three babies younger than two years old and chase after their active big brother who was seven.  Crazy times meant that I learned to multi-task.  The simplest outing required some pre-planning using imagery techniques to help prepare  the sequence of events necessary to pull off a trip to the lake, a visit to the doctor or a dash into the grocery store.   I  worked full time out of the house.  ran a bed and breakfast with my husband, and cooked, cleaned and chased kids.  My feat rivaled super-human possibilities. Multi-tasking became a required survival strategy.  

As the children grew older and more independent, multi-tasking allowed me to still do more in less time.  I often misplaced my keys, non-food items ended up in the deep freeze and  frantic, desperate phone calls were regularly made to my mother.  Fortunately, she was well trained in soothing stress. anxiety and cooed gently, “Some days are like that.”  This implied that she too had her moments, but I was never really sure her life was ever as crazy as mine was at the time.

Now that I am older and maybe a little wiser, I fall victim to multi-tasking. At times, I forget that I have finished eating and look for the last few forkfuls on my plate.  My keys still regularly disappear and are often found in a pocket that I have checked numerous times. I am a well-practiced multi-tasker who finds it hard to break out of it.  You see I catch myself racing, thinking about dinner when I am reading a book or remembering I have to pick up one of my kids for an appointment while I am at Hannaford shopping for dinner.  I race here and I race there.  Luckily,   I never forget to use polite words, although I don’t always take the time to make eye contact and smile.  Fumbling with the receipt and credit card  as I fight for a order in my overflowing purse, I am out the sliding doors ready for the next few moments.  I’m already in the car and racing to my next event.

Anyone else forget to breathe?  Yes, I am embarrassed and yes I am guilty.  Practicing mindfulness and moving about in this world with intention is what may save us all.  It takes only a minute to connect with another human through eye contact and a genuine smile.  Our urgency for getting it all in is doing all of us a disservice. The benefits of multi-tasking are over-rated.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Measure of Love

Presently we are in amidst a whirl of birthdays in the family.  Yesterday my twin daughters turned 24, in four days my youngest 6’3” son cranks up to age 16 and his brother mid-month turns 17.  It makes me reminisce...

Carefully I turned down the thin, white bobby socks-edges trimmed in lace. I twisted my body sideways one way and then the other  buckling my patent leather shoes.  With a Kleenex and a glob of Vaseline they glistened. My mother encouraged rigorous buffing until I could just make out a wavy distorted image of myself.  It was my 9th birthday. My dress for the day had to be just right.  The grass saturated with snow melt recovering from the fury of winter was a brown mustard like color.  My bare legs pretended that spring was near.  I remember how cold I was early that morning my legs peppered in goose bumps.  I kept warmer and distracted  while jumping rope with my friends on the asphalt covered playground. The soles of my shiny shoes scraped the tar with every jump as I was careful not to scuff my toes and ruin the shine. “My bonnie lies over the ocean, My bonnie lies over the sea…”  

It was my birthday. And instead of the usual crisp $5.00 bill from my grandmother, she hired a friend to piece together a doll for me.  It’s embroidered face round while the body, arms and legs were strung together small twists of cloth yo-yo’s.  Somehow the notion of my grandmother orchestrating a birthday surprise for me with her friend, May Ryan somehow sealed the fact that I was loved. It is funny that out of all my childhood birthdays this one I remember vividly.  I am not sure why because I am not driven by materialism now nor was I particularly struck with it as a child, but that day was different. Every Irish Catholic girl on the playground wished her birthday were on this day.   I jumped out of the arching rope and tucked my green blouse into my wool skirt. Everyone wore green on St. Patrick’s Day. I felt loved and extra-special.

As an adult,  I do not measure love through gifts, yet I recognize my wealth through other means. Particularly, this time I year as I mark another birthday I mix gratitude with a tad of
melancholy for the culmination of all my relationships feed me all the love that I need. Yes, I still feel loved and extra-special.  I just hope I have passed this gift onto my children as well.  For they are all loved.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Realizing Potential

This post  may appear to be all about writers and the challenges that they meet, yet it conceivably  appeal to any individual who is trying to capitalize on their full potential whether they be an athlete, a mechanic, a fashion designer or a doctor.  Love what you do and work at it. (I am not sure why the formatting is off and I cannot seem to fix it.  I hope the short lines will not detract from the message.)

I have an inferiority complex that may very well destroy me. My perception of myself changes
daily depending upon how firmly my feet land on the floor as I get out of bed. And with that, I rise
as an over analyzer, forever questioning myself and the world about me. Good mother? Bad
mother? Spiritual being? Imposter? Writer or not?

A few months ago, life happened and I stopped writing and ceased posting to my blog after nine
months of daily writing and posting. Just like that. I stopped. I became consumed in nursing my
son to health after major surgery and supporting another as he transitioned to another state, far
away from us for the first time in ten years. Kids are resilient, I think it was me that did all the
shuffling and adjusting.

One month turned to two months. I became restless, edgy and a bit frightened. Would I ever be
able to regain my stance as a writer and a blogger? Is writing a phase that holds no passion or
gusto in my life? Who the hell am I and what do I really want in life?

A month into a university course on writing and mentoring writers, I still sputter and write with
many false starts. The online community has not motivated me to consistently create. Right
now the writing mentor, needs inspiration. So, I turn to a classic collection of essays on writing,
that is Bradbury’s Zen†in†the†Art†of†Writing†(1996.) Desperately, I seek a lasting fire that will burn
away all doubts. Tall order? Yes.

Bradbury reminds that a writer needs to love the work. Passion, love and fun fuel the flame. So I
question: Do I hold passion in my writing life? The answer is not always. Will the passion, love
and fun come with the discipline that is necessary to write volume daily? Am I destined to write
short little posts and sometimes a few verses of poetry? Does fear hold me back from my
potential? Bradbury suggests, “Writing at least a 1,000 words daily.” (p.15) My lack of discipline
is evident in my failed attempts to maintain weight loss, exercise and write everyday. Is that a
fair comparison? I think so. Writing does sustain me. It feeds my creative self and gives me a
voice. Do I have it in me to care for myself my physical, emotional and creative self? That is a
hard one. I struggle as I busy myself taking care of others. But Bradbury, the mentor states, “To
fail is to give up.” (p.146) I cannot give up. Most importantly he notes, “(Writing) reminds us that
we are alive and that it is a gift and a privilege, not a right.” (p. xii) I mustn’t screw it up.

One technique that worked for Bradbury was to simply start the day with a list of nouns that
came to mind. From this he chose one and wrote at length. He seemed to have an incredible
memory, but mine is shaky at best. I wonder if this unearthing of memories came from the
discipline of writing volume each day? He discovered while questioning his worth, “...thinking
myself bankrupt, ignorant, unnoticing, I wind up with….plays, essays, poems, and a novel…I was
rich and didn’t know it. We all are rich and ignore the buried fact of accumulated wisdom.” He
adds, “We never sit anything out.” (p. 120) Further, “Quickness is truth. The faster you blurt, the
more swiftly you write, the more honest you are.” (p.13) Bradbury believes that, “eventually
quantity will make for quality.” (p. 144)

To feed the muse, Bradbury emphasizes that, “...we must have always been hungry about life.”
There is that passion, that love that zest that will feed the writer. Can I sustain a hunger a
passion? I think so. Synthesizing the wisdom that Bradbury shares with what I have come to
discover about myself is that the key to my writing life is to continue to keep a Gratitude Journal.
This is a repository of snippets of tastes, sights, sounds and memories in my life that may
otherwise go unnoticed. I am simply recording my passion, my hunger for my life, my world. It
is when I go about my day with my eyes opened to the blessings that I have in my life, that I can
notice the hunger I have for my story, my unique take on the world. Bradbury outlines the
importance of: WORK (daily volume writing, subsequent drafting), RELAXATION (trusting the
creative flow) and DON’T THINK (just do, write swiftly, blurt thoughts onto the page.)

Interestingly, Bradbury grew as a writer throughout his career with the help of many mentors. He
makes mention all through the book about how particular publishers, editors and others helped to
shape the future of his writing life by recognizing the potentiality in Bradbury in ways other than
how he defined himself. For instance, he never saw himself as a playwright, but became one
with encouragement from another. No matter how seasoned a writer you are, it is nearly
impossible to venture forth without the clear vision of another. Everyone must move about this
world with mentors.

“It is a wise writer who knows his own subconscious...not only knows it but lets it speak of the
world as it and it alone has sensed it and shaped it to its own truth.” (p. 152) Do I have the

courage to feed my truth? Time will tell.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014


The longest stretches of time that I spend alone on a regular basis happen to be in the car driving to and from work.  The trip extends  fifteen minutes tops.  When I really think about it the  allure of solitary silence does not last long.  I am uncertain that I could do it.  Having raised eight children, currently I am surrounded by teenagers.  Mostly teenage boys and their friends who have  suddenly sprouted chin growth.  Those same boys gaggle loudly much like girls do, but they would never admit it.  The youngest in the house, a girl is in perpetual motion,planning  and compartmentalizing our lives into tidy little drawers and cabinets.  There is always a house full. Right now, that is how I like it. Soon activity will shift and my husband and I will have to adjust.  It is best to prepare, to try on silence for short periods of time, pulling and prodding until there is comfort- much like wearing that first training bra.  It took some getting use to.  Regardless, going solo for more than minutes at a time agitates, unearthing a certain degree of discontent.

I know that this silence and contentment with myself is key to my well being.  Is it really the silence or is it that fact that I don't know what to do with myself after so many years of mothering and caring for others?  I must be prepared.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Winter Wait

We are in wait.  Tonight words march across my i-phone screen warning of severe winter weather ahead.  Again.  This is how it has been of late.   The snow is piled high.  As a kid, this was the norm. Storm after storm the white stuff piled up.   We didn’t know what to do with it.  Four kids armed with four shovels moved the snow from the driveway carting it to the middle of the front yard.  Shoveling was an all day and all night affair as the team of four trudged out every few hours to keep up. After all, we do live in Maine.
Now we have one shovel in the family.  My husband is the keeper of all the snow removal equipment. He likes it that way.  I am grateful for the truck with a plow hitched to move a volume of snow.  Thankfully, Jerry takes care of our long, long drive.  More stuff is on the way, but I am not bothered.  Instead, I know how fortunate I am to be warmed by the wood fire as I prepare to settle in for the evening with a good book.  Life is good with one shovel and one motivated willing husband. I am grateful.