Archive for the 'Self-care' Category

Wound Care for the New Millennium

Monday, November 26th, 2012

Remember the advice we got growing up on how to take care of cuts–. dab some antibiotic ointment on it, bandage loosely, then leave it open to the air and let it alone to form a scab? Nope. This actually increases scarring.

For big cuts, like the set of stitches I got last week when I had a non-melanoma mole removed, here’s the modern protocol to heal faster and prevent scarring, which was news to me:

1. Keep the wound covered with a bandage until it heals. Change the bandage daily. You can let water or soapy water run over it, but don’t aggressively clean it.
2. When replacing the bandage, do cover the wound with a thin film of something like Aquaphor or Vaseline, to keep in moisture. Don’t use antibiotic ointments like Bacitracin and Neosporin. These can cause rashes and reactions. Avoid Target-brand bandages–they all contain antibiotic ointment.
3. Get the least adhesive bandage that will cover the wound and stay in place for a day. Tough and waterproof strips will irritate surrounding skin quickly. Paper tape to hold gauze in place sticks less well, but is far less irritating.
4. Avoid fish oil supplements. They’ve been shown to slow down healing.

And, for the record, this is a reminder that tanning beds, which I used often when I was young, are bad for you. Stop pretending they’re not. Real sun, in moderation and with sunscreen, if at all. The end.

Baby’s Got a Brand New Bag

Friday, September 21st, 2012

Or: Nerdishly Obsessing over Bicycling Backpacks

img_2529

My husband and I both love bags. We have scads of them. The thing about bags, as with bikes and so many other things, is that you don’t know what works and what doesn’t till you’ve been living with something for a while.

For some time now, I’ve been muddling along with my husband’s old broke-ass gigantic backpack. It was too big, missing a lining, black on the inside, and with a rolltop that I nearly always have to undo and redo because I’ve forgotten to put in or take out something. In other words, completely unacceptable.

Now that fall is here, I’m making longer jaunts on my bike as the boys are back in school. I felt a growing resolve for a new bag. And so my quest began, which ended with my purchase of a Banjo Brothers Metro Bag. Here’s how I came to that decision.

metro_pack

I wanted a flap closure, not a rolltop. The latter is better for absolute water proofing, which isn’t such an issue for me, since I’m mostly a fair-weather biker. Since I often forget to put things in and take things out of my bag, easy access is more important to me. Rolltops also tend to ride higher above the shoulders, so they can lessen visibility. Choosing flap rather than rolltop ruled out Trash bags, most Beard bags, Seal Lines, and the handsome Chrome Orlov.

I knew from the black pack I’d been using that a dark interior doesn’t work for me. I needed a light-colored interior to better see what’s inside. Bags with dark interiors I ruled out were Bailey Works (such great color choices!) and Mission Workshop.

metro_int

I also needed two side pockets. I like to carry my U-lock in my bag, for less rattly bang when I’m riding, and I don’t have a water bottle holder on my bike, so I like a 2nd pocket for the bottle and to stash my keys in. This ruled out the Beard Loiterer, as well as Chrome and Mission Workshop bags. The Timbuk2 Swig had only one pocket.

metro_ulock

metrowater_bottle

I also need a bunch of interior pockets for littler stuff like pens, wallet, book, etc:

metro_pockets

I’d tried using conventional backpacks without a chest strap, but they made my shoulders ache. The Banjo Brothers Metro has both a chest strap and one at the bottom for even more support.

metro_back

At the end of my search, I found one bag that had everything I wanted, and then some. The Banjo Brothers Metro in White had a light interior, double side pockets (though I wish they were a bit more deep), and a flap top. It was neither too big nor too small. The phone carrier on the strap, where I like it to be, is included, not an extra purchase. The interior has good organizational pockets. Bonuses: Banjo Brothers is a Twin Cities company, so local to me, and the bag was $74.99, significantly less than many of the other bags I looked at.

I’ll have to live with it for a while to see how it works out. Already I’ve noticed it rides higher on my shoulders than I’d like even though it’s not a rolltop. But everything else so far is good. I’m glad I waited a while to see what I wanted in a bag, rather than rushing into a relationship before I was ready.

Surfacing

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

Greetings and Salutations, Friends and Readers! It’s been a while, no? Life’s been life-y lately, volunteering for an event at my kids’ school, applying to a writing contest/program, reading and struggling to understand Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, a case of double pink eye, plus the usual merry-go-round of family stuff like sports and piano and reading and writing and such.

I’m out of practice with blogging, but eager to get back in the saddle. I’ve got book reviews, a few anecdotes, maybe even some food posts, all banging like Athena in my head, trying to get out. I hope you’ll see some of that in the next few days, now that things have settled down a little bit. (Fingers crossed.)

Weighty Matters

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

I’ve been thinking about weight, lately. Sometime within the last weeks, something prompted me to write about it. Now I can’t remember what that was. Perhaps it will come to me as I write. But in any case, weight.

(Maybe it was watching the Oscars and thinking Angelina and Rose Byrne needed to eat more?)

In Tina Fey’s Bossypants, which I recommend, in the section “Remembrances of Being Very Very Skinny” she writes,

For a brief time at the turn of the century, I was very skinny.

Funny anecdotes ensue, then she finishes:

We should leave people alone about their weight. Being skinny for a while (provided you actually eat food and don’t take pills or smoke to get there) is a perfectly fine pastime. Everyone should try it once, like a super-short haircut or dating a white guy.

The next section, “Remembrances of Being a Little Bit Fat” starts

For a brief time at the end of that last century I was over-weight.

Funny anecdotes ensue, then she finishes:

We should leave people alone about their weight. Being chubby for a while (provided you don’t give yourself diabetes) is a natural phase of life and nothing to be ashamed of. Like puberty or slowly turning into a Republican.

The Tina Fey comments reminded me of something I’m pretty sure I read in O. Which is a better magazine than you might think if you just recoiled, and for better or worse, I’m the demographic. Anyhoo, an article about weight suggested charting your weight’s peaks and valleys over your life and noting how your life was at that time, and how your life probably isn’t at the same point it was when you were your skinniest, and may never get there again. If you read the sections in Bossypants, Tina Fey says pretty much the same thing with anecdotal evidence.

(Wait, maybe is was how I went to a party a couple weeks ago and got many compliments on how good I looked, and wondered if it was because I’d lost sudden weight after just coming off the stomach flu.)

So, in my life, in the middle of the 00’s, I was skinny. For pretty much the first time in my life. I went to a doctor because I had some bumps under my skin and she said, “Those are lymph nodes. Most people can’t feel them but you can because you’re so skinny.” I didn’t feel skinny. People would tell me that I was and I wouldn’t believe them. It was only years later, as I gave away the clothes I wore during that period (goodbye, size 6 Long N Lean jeans), or saw pictures of myself from that time, that I could acknowledge, yep, I was skinny.

At the time, my husband and were DINKs: double income, no kids. I went to a power yoga class about 3 times a week. We lived half a mile from our jobs, so we walked to work. I didn’t eat gluten, because a holistic chiropracter told me I shouldn’t, so I was extremely mindful of what I did eat.

(Maybe I was thinking about weight after I walked into the boys’ room in the morning to tell them to get dressed. I had on a shirt and underwear, but no pants. 6yo Guppy pointed at me and said, with delight in his voice, “Fat legs!”)

A funny thing was, around this time, I went to visit a friend of mine who had also lost a lot of weight. She looked lovely. Yet I thought she’d looked better before, and was reminded of one of my favorite scenes in Bridget Jones’ diary, when she finally loses the weight she obsesses over, puts on the LBD, goes and out and all her friends ask if she is ill. Maybe losing weight isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.

In the wake of Guppy’s birth, I became generally depressed and anxious. As my crack team of medical professionals tinkered with this and that solution, I first lost a bunch of weight then gained it back after a med switch. When we reversed the switch, I thought I’d lose the weight again, and said so to my doctor.

She laughed, not unkindly. “Welcome to 40, honey,” she said, with sympathy. And I’ve been pretty steady since then, back at the same point I was for a long time in my 30s. Rounder than I’d like, but within the bounds of health.

(The most likely answer is that I was reacting to something I read on Sally McGraw’s excellent blog, Already Pretty, because last week was body image warrior week.)

I don’t own a scale. For a long time, I didn’t have a full-length mirror. I don’t obsess about my weight, yet there are still times when it bothers me, like when I have to hop up and down to get in a pair of newly washed jeans.

My point, and I do have one, is that it’s complicated, isn’t it? I wish I were without judgment, for myself and others, and while that judgment has softened over time, it’s not gone. Perhaps I can just aspire to Fey’s words: “We should just leave people alone about their weight” and include myself with that, then recognize when I fail, pick myself up and start over again, possibly a bit wiser. That’s life in general, though, isn’t it?

How to Layer Like a Minnesotan

Monday, November 21st, 2011

This is a reprint from the “spring” but became relevant again this week.

Preparing to Go Outside: The Order of Operations

First, determine the outside temperature. This system of layering will be too warm for above 20F, but below that should stand you in good stead.

Next, remember what your mother said: use the toilet.

If you wear eyeglasses, consider contacts, as they don’t steam up. I’m heading steadily into bifocal territory, though, so I rarely wear my contacts anymore. Steamed lenses are better than loss of close vision.

Apply moisturizer to face, neck and lips. Heck, everywhere. During the winter, I forego sunscreen to maximize what little vitamin D I can get from the sun.

In order, don:

1. Underwear (underpants, and bra if you wear one)
2. Undershirt (thermal or silk, longer length is best)
3. Long johns (thermal or silk). Pull waistband over bottom of undershirt. This will keep your lower back (or overbutt, as my 7yo calls it) from unwanted exposure.
4. Socks, long and thick. Pull tops over bottoms of long johns.
5. Shirt(s)
6. Pants, over bottom of shirt. Do NOT tuck overshirt into long johns.
7. Sweater
8. Snowpants
9. Boots, hat and scarf
10. Gloves/mittens. Gloves inside mittens is the warmest, but diminishes dexterity.
11. Coat. The lower the temp, the puffier and longer it should be, covering at least your butt and the top of your thighs.

This order of operations has you always pulling something over a previous layer, rather than tucking in a subsequent layer, which makes for a smoother line and means you don’t have to double back, for example if you accidentally put boots on before snow pants. Also check out Sal’s post at Already Pretty on Layering Without Lumps.

Stay warm. And remember, it’s only six months till spring.

The Answer to the Question…

Friday, September 30th, 2011

Many, many people asked “what are you going to do with yourself when Guppy starts full-day kindergarten?”

As if filling the time would be a problem.

FYI, all those people who told me to enjoy their baby- and childhoods because it goes so fast? My experience is spending actual time with babies and children can be tedious. The kid-free peace and quiet? THAT flies by.

I’m doing freelance writing now for three different places, so filling the time isn’t even confined to housewifery. And Oprah and bon-bons were never on the table.

I started this week with the desire to get back on my bike and get strong. After a couple recent physical setbacks, including a strained back the past few weeks (I grow old, I grow old…), I’ve fallen off my never very consistent exercise horse. When I get winded carrying the laundry upstairs, I figure it’s time to get moving, literally.

Monday I biked to meet a friend for lunch at a restaurant I’d long been wanting to try. In spite of bike map and smart phone, got lost, was late, but made it eventually. Total ride, 20+ miles.

Tuesday I met friends for coffee and breakfast at one of my favorite spots. Total ride, 10 miles, plus 2 more later in the day when I biked to and from yoga.

Wednesday, I thought I would rest till I saw the weather. Being Minnesotan now means seizing the weather when it’s good. I didn’t have anything in the fridge for lunch. Decided to bike to the falls and an eatery I’d never tried. In spite of smart phone and map, got a little lost. Total ride, 20+ miles.

Thursday, I realized we were almost out of espresso beans. In spite of debilitating wind, decided to bike to a fancy bike and coffee shop. Once there I ogled fancy bike gear (could EASILY have spent $500 just on clothes, gloves and a bag) and enjoyed an expert cappuccino and chocolate chip cookie. Started home. About halfway there wondered what the noise was. Had a flat. Walked to a nearby transit station, missed the train, wondered if I should ask anyone of the biking folk around if they could help me change it (I did have a spare tube). Saw a friend! He would be late to work if he helped me change it, but a bike shop was only a few blocks away. Went there, got the tube replaced, got a lesson so maybe I can change my next flat myself, then finally got home. Total ride, 20+ miles.

While I’m exercising, I’m also riding to high-calorie destinations, so this is not a weight loss regimen. However, now that I’ve begun, I figure I should keep going. I always thought what I would do when Guppy started school was write more. Turns out, for now, at least till the weather changes (heh, probably next week) it’s biking.

And so, I’m off on my bike to meet a friend at a bakery I’ve long wanted to visit, then maybe hang out downtown to check out the food truck vista.

Ta.

Where to Begin?

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

I am woefully out of the writing and blogging habit. The boys have been in school for almost a month now, and only now do I begin to see glimmers of what a balanced routine at home might look like. I keep getting waylaid by the housewifery. I’ve learned to live with ever-increasing levels of dirt and clutter in order to maximize time for reading and writing, but the bill has come due now that I’m home while the kids are at school.

And this mess is so big
And so deep and so tall
[I] can not pick it up.
There is no way at all! (Cat in the Hat)

I don’t do well with a lack of structure, and I tend to treat deadlines as starting points. Time to change. Create structure, albeit one that bends. Respect deadlines. Read, write, rest, exercise, clean, organize, cook, eat. It’s not complicated unless I insist on making it so.

End of Summer

Sunday, August 28th, 2011

Summer doesn’t officially end till mid-September, but my older, Drake, starts 2nd grade tomorrow, and Guppy starts kindergarten on Wednesday, so today was really it for the season.

It’s been a long crazy summer with several car and home repairs, a family trip, some health issues that have been addressed, swim lessons, soccer, day camp and I’m sure there was more in there. Nothing serious.

Here’s what I thought I’d do this summer: get to the bottom of the mending pile. Clean the whole house at least once. Stop the thistles in the backyard. Read about half again as many books as I did. Catch up with friends. Ride my bike a lot.

Didn’t happen. I darned a few socks. Cleaned a little here and there. Read some books, saw some movies, hung out with friends and rode the bike, though not nearly as much as I’d hoped. I did my best, and will try to let go of all the rest that didn’t happen.

I’m not sure how to make next summer less crazy than this one. Do less stuff isn’t necessarily the answer. Unless I kept my boys occupied, they fought. And one or both ended up crying. Not fun for anyone. There’s got to be something between exhaustion and pugilism, right?

La, La, La, La, Losing My Mind…

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

Sung to the tune of Sesame Streets “The L Song” which is covered by Barenaked Ladies on a CD we have, For the Kids.

Woo. Is anyone else out there feeling that burn of metaphorical friction as we’re whipped through the busy-ness that is high summer? I think the earth is telling us to work, work, work, even if we’re not working the earth.

Swim lessons, day camp, laundry, doctor appts, calls to return, mold in the basement, earwigs, ants, lunches to pack, car in the shop (AGAIN), vegetables to cook before they go bad, weeds to pull, land line not working…

Breathe. And do the next thing. And try not to lose my mind. That is all.

The Downsides of Diets

Saturday, June 4th, 2011

From “Food Crazy” by Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl at Experience Life:

when Ancel Keys analyzed his study subjects, he concluded that these effects were simply that of human physiology: If you feed someone 1,500 calories a day, his mental health will be jeopardized; he’ll exhibit strange, obsessive behaviors; and he’ll end up fatter than he was before he started. It’s just science.

We all know the right things to do: make better food choices (eat more whole, unprocessed foods), exercise more and sit less. Simple, but NOT easy for this coffee/carb/writer gal.

Biking in the City

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

My husband sent me a link, which he saw at Boing Boing that they got from Making Light to Sustainable Cities on “The Real Reason Why Bicycles are the Key to Better Cities“:

image from Boing Boing

image from Boing Boing

The bicycle doesn’t need to be sold. It’s economical, it’s fun, it’s sexy, and just about everyone already has one hiding somewhere in their garage.

Invite a motorist for a bike ride through your city and you’ll be cycling with an urbanist by the end of the day. Even the most eloquent of lectures about livable cities and sustainable design can’t compete with the experience from atop a bicycle saddle.

“These cars are going way too fast,” they may mutter beneath their breath.

“How are we supposed to get across the highway?”

“Wow, look at that cathedral! I didn’t know that was there.”

“I didn’t realize there were so many vacant lots in this part of town.”

“Hey, let’s stop at this cafe for a drink.”

Suddenly livability isn’t an abstract concept, it’s an experience.

Ridin’ My Bike

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

I tried to convince 5yo Guppy and 7yo Drake to go on a bike ride last night. They wanted to watch Phineas and Ferb, so I took my bike out on my own, and went 9.9 miles, if Google is to be believed.

A few weeks ago I traded in my big unwieldy though cute cruiser for a zippier rebuilt Schwinn single speed. It was a lovely early evening, sunny and not too cool. I saw a heart-shaped puddle on the trail:

heart

I’d never listen to a music player while biking, because I wouldn’t feel safe. But my mental playlist popped up Perfect Day by Iggy Pop, Just a Ride by Jem, and Ramblin Man by the Allman Brothers. I have a funny subconscious.

Two-Minute Mothers Day Post

Monday, May 9th, 2011

First, of all, I hope you took time to honor all the mothers in your life. If you live in the US, where it was Mothers Day, or not.

Second, I hope you took time to honor all others who get short shrift this day: those who couldn’t be mothers, those who were but aren’t, those who chose and choose not to be in spite of tremendous societal pressure, single dads, dad-dad families, and anyone else this day. There are many ways to mother, and those whose title it is don’t even always do a good job at it, so we should honor ALL.

Third of all, I’m now up to 4 minutes, and haven’t even written about the lovely day I had yesterday: eggs Florentine and my favorite draft root beer for brunch, browsed at 2 shops full of pretty, shiny things, and got a necklace and earrings. Got a double of passionfruit sorbet and chocolate/amaretto ice cream at my favorite shop, then a macchiato at a new coffee shop, then a nap, then played catch with 7yo Drake and practiced 2-wheeling on his bike with Guppy. Read my book. Went to bed.

I am so, so fortunate and I wish love to you all.

New Old Bike

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

Last weekend I traded in my big yellow Sun Cruiser for a used Schwinn Sprint I’ve named Pepper. I live atop a big hill, and getting a lighter, more wieldy bike made sense now that I’ve established a riding habit. I’m sore from the new saddle, as the old was was wide and cushy, but I will persevere.

new_bike

The 5/7 Split

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

Four years ago, when Guppy was one, my doctors, therapist and I were trying to manage what turned out to be more than a run-of-the-mill post-partum depression. Instead, a long-standing seam of depression and anxiety had been opened up by the seismic shift of having a second child. As we worked through what was needed for treatment, I was told again and again by friends, doctors and counselors: it gets better. Especially around the time they’re five and seven. Many also admitted to me that they hadn’t enjoyed parenting very small children, and it was only as time passed that they settled into their role as parents.

Four years ago, four years seemed a very long time to wait till things got better. And the time, for me, has not chirpily flown. It has passed, one day at a time. Slower with diapers, bloody noses, fevers, screaming, and each extra syllable added to Mom!” Faster with cuddles, reading aloud and hand-holding. Fastest of all in quiet moments to myself, like the one I’m in now. But it has passed. My boys are now five and seven, and I’m here to testify: it _is_ better.

It’s no coincidence that the shift takes place when the younger is five. They can do many things themselves, especially going to the bathroom, and don’t need constant supervision. They’re able to reason, and play with others. They’ve got some impulse control. And being in school (my younger will start kindergarten this fall; we don’t know yet whether he’ll be in full or half day class) means they get more peer interaction, and I get more quiet time. For this introvert, quiet time on my own is critical to balance and well being.

I’m under no illusion that things will be rainbow and sunshine from here on. Other parents also say that while some things get easier as they grow, others get harder. But I feel much better equipped to handle the current challenges than I did the old ones. So add my voice to the chorus. When the youngest is about five, it gets easier. I’m glad we’ve all hung in there to find this was true.

“Reducing One’s Virtual Itinerary”

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

My friend M, who blogs at Mental Multivitamin, has been a resource and inspiration in my own quest to make (and take) time for things like reading, writing and balance. In her latest post on making time, she gave new emphasis to something she’s suggested before:


Ruthlessly trim your virtual itinerary.

In other words, enough with the boards, the endless email checking, the social networking tools, the blogs, and the like. Visit sites that provide you with information, insight, and/or inspiration. And then? Get off the computer and…

Read. Think. Learn.

I’ve long struggled with an overlong virtual itinerary. For a long time I read too many blogs, and had too many on my list of Google feeds. (Yes, those TED videos are awesome, but having them pile up in my feed list was discouraging and unhelpful.) Even when I weeded those, I’d keep checking email, because apparently every new email sends a little jolt of pleasure to my brain. Then Facebook came along, and I could read what other friends were doing and comment back and forth. Also, I could play Scrabble with my sister, which was a nice way to keep in touch as we live far apart. I signed up for Good Reads. I’m spending lots of time in front of my screen, but little of that doing the writing I must do on the computer.

It’s past time to trim my virtual itinerary, but I know myself well enough not to make vague, sweeping declarations of intent. I know my attempt will be one of trial and error, progression and regression, as was this mother’s in “I took my kids offline.” in The Guardian.

Here’s my current experiment. I have a timer on my watch set for 20 minutes. I try to remember to start it when I get online. Failing that (which is not infrequent) I start it when I remember. When it goes off, I save my work, hibernate my machine, and go do something else: switch out the laundry. Make lunch. Do a few yoga poses. Read a chapter in my book. I tried this yesterday and today, and have been much more productive, while still finding time to blog, read feeds, and email. I think this could be a way toward balance and away from wanking about if I can make it a habit.

Making Time, Again

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

In recent entries about the answer to “where do you find the time?” (here, from McSweeny’s, and a holiday version, in which I can’t believe I forgot to write: Don’t send cards, especially if all you’re doing to do is send pre-made cards with your signatures.) I noted my favorite Lee Smith quote about women writers. I was remiss in not mentioning my friend M who blogs at Mental Multivitamin, who has also influenced me, both in my attitude toward taking time, as well as in helping me teach myself what I value enough to take time for, like reading, writing, and, as she calls it, the life of the auto-didact.

If you struggle with finding time to read and write, or if you find yourself wrapped up in shoulds to the exclusions of things that nurture your self, be it emotional, intellectual, physical or spiritual, then this entry, and the links within it might help.

From “Where Do You Find the Time“:

I make time for the things without which I could not live — my family, my work, and my studies. And then I make time for the things among all the rest that will enliven my sense of self; and, of course, this has and always will include involvement with my community. But — and this is essential — it will be on my terms, not someone else’s

Making Time: Holiday Edition

Tuesday, December 28th, 2010

I’ve written before about about making time, and leaving things undone like cleaning and laundry so that reading and writing are priorities. I find myself especially taxed, every holiday season. The weather encourages me to stay in, hunker down and hibernate, yet the merry-go-round of events gets bigger all the time. Here, as I cram in a blog post, are a few ways I’ve found time over the holidays.

1. Fake tree.
2. Low expectations
3. Didn’t decorate the outside of house
4. Gift bags
5. Say no, especially if “should” and “want” conflict.
6. Read
7. Write

Overall, I’ve been mulling a mantra for a while now that I think I want to commit to: Do one fewer thing.

Try it. Delete something off the list, undone. Sweep it off the mental shelf it’s on. Just _don’t_ do it. Create a little breathing space. Then, breathe.

Finding Time

Saturday, December 18th, 2010

I get asked this often. Where do you get the time to read? to write? to go to yoga class or bicycling?

This is a humorous, yet pretty accurate answer, from Jessica Francis Kane, at McSweeney’s, via The Morning News. The more I read it, the more I kinda love it.

Where Do You Find the Time?

It’s occasionally been found in speeding taxis and Paris hotel rooms. Alpine meadows and mourning doves are rich in it, though can be hard to find. Forget about fountains and rainbows, they’re myths. Rarely it falls from geese flying north. Sometimes sunlight on water contains trace amounts. Check in the attic and under the peonies, but it moves fast and is hard to catch. Now and then it has been stolen from babies sleeping on airplanes. From girls reading in parks. From headlines and editorials. If you never take a water aerobics class, you’ll have more time than some. Give up all hope, and you might get a little more. Say no. Smile. Read. Read even when you should be sleeping. That time counts double. I-95 is a gold mine, though you’ll have to fight others for the time found there. Take the bus. Follow the river. Don’t be afraid to be late. Read poetry. Poetry gives time back, but most people don’t know it. Never watch television. Movies are fine. Documentaries are better. Sometimes, read novels in translation. Just consider it. Don’t remodel your kitchen. Don’t remodel anything. Don’t even think about it! Hire a babysitter, or not. Make do. Let your spouse help. Stay calm. Go to New York. Leave New York. Again, never take a water aerobics class. Don’t get a dog. Decorate minimally, including holidays. Maintain no position on Halloween costumes or children’s birthday parties. Use gift bags. Shop rarely. Spot clean. Keep a notebook. Copy. Borrow. Mimic. Steal. Never offer to be class parent. Volunteer elsewhere, if you must. Do not scrapbook. Avoid cooking. Bake once in a while. Rewrite, repeat. Listen to music. Have a drink.

If you do all this, one day you might find a package on your doorstep. Open it carefully. Inside will be time, tied in bundles of a thousand, smelling of jasmine. Congratulations! It’s all yours. Now hide it well.

Finding Time to Write

Saturday, December 11th, 2010

One of my favorite quotes about writing is one I’ve posted before, but it bears repeating, if only for myself, though I bet for many other of my readers, by Lee Smith, for an interview she did at Indiebound:

My advice for young women writers is just do it. Don’t wait for some ideal point in your life when you will finally have “time to write.” No sane person ever has time to write. Don’t clean the bathroom, don’t paint the hall. Write. Claim your time. And remember that a writer is a person who is writing, not a person who is publishing. If you are serious about it, you will realize early on that (particularly if you expect to have children) you can’t take on a high-power career in addition to writing. You probably can’t be a surgeon, and have children, and “write on the side.” (On the other hand, you could marry a surgeon, thereby solving the whole problem.)

I have learned to live with levels of dirt, mess and laundry that I previously would not have tolerated. Writing is on my Maslow’s list of basic needs somewhere after sleeping, eating and reading. I do use the TV as a babysitter. As I write this, my boys are playing Gran Turismo on the Playstation downstairs. But isn’t that fair? I’m having screen time, so are they. Yeah, I’d like to restrict them to an hour a day. Most days I do. But how can I do that when I don’t restrict myself to that, and wouldn’t want to, or even think I should?

I have been writing for years. I’ve been published in other places beside this blog. This year, for the first time, I began to be paid for some writing. I am a writer. And writing with kids is hard. They’re smart. They recognize they’re not getting my attention, and clamor more for it till they get it, for better or worse. A friend of mine had her 3yo throw her laptop on the ground. So I find ways to squeeze it in. While they’re watching movies. Playing outside. My husband and I trade off chunks of time with them so the other of us can work. I trade playdates with other moms on a regular, scheduled basis so I get chunks of time to work; I work better in chunks than in slivers.

I write. I keep writing. Writing begets more writing. It’s a habit, just like exercise. It IS exercise. I’ve put fiction on hold till my 4yo Guppy is in school full time. That may be Fall 2011, or if he only gets into half-day kindergarten, it may not be till September 2012. And for all those platitude-spouting people who say the time goes so fast? I don’t find that’s the case; September 2011, and definitely 2012, feel a long way off. The only time I find going fast is the quiet time apart from kids when I take time to read and write. I love my kids and spending time with them. I am fortunate enough to be a stay-at-home mom by choice. But I also love spending time by myself. And writing.