Unlikely Things in Unlikely Places

Not my garden. Heck, a girl can dream can't she?

Not my garden.  A girl can dream can’t she?

There’s nothing more breathtaking than a garden created and kept with care.  I’m talking about gardens with flower beds overflowing with harmonious color, wandering pathways, and secret nooks that beg for someone to come and hide away with a good book.

My garden is still a work in progress.  The few flower beds I have spring up with weeds the second I’m not looking and are home to a bizarre variety of plants that have made their way to my home over the years.  It’s an eclectic mix of pinks and purples that isn’t entirely unappealing, but it has the potential to be so much more.

In comparison, my neighbor across the street has a gorgeous garden. I try not to let it ruin our friendship, but it’s hard not to be jealous.  I suppose if I had her life with no kids and working as a photographer, I might manage to get my flowerbeds in better condition as well. She was smart enough to move into a house that faces south which gives year round sun for the plants in front and shade for the patio in the back. The front of my house, on the other hand, is engulfed in shadow year round. While this makes for pleasant shade on summer afternoons and I can watch the kiddos play and not die of heat stroke, it also means that come winter our entryway turns into a solid sheet of ice.

Nature is a wild thing and my garden reminds of this fact every day.  There’s nothing like discovering a baseball bat sized zucchini hiding in the garden or a six-foot tall weed in a neglected corner. This spring we found yet another family of voles living in the grass.  If it’s not voles, it’s gophers, or wasps, or gutter birds.

Last week I found something entirely out-of-place.  Out near the front entryway in the shadow of the house I found a tomato plant hiding among my petunias.  I can’t fathom how it got there or how it was able to grow.  We grow tomatoes in a vegetable garden clear in the back of the backyard and even then we have to buy plants instead of starting seeds, the growing season is too short.

Hey, that's not a petunia!

Hey, that’s not a petunia!

I haven’t decided if I will let it stay there. Tomato plants don’t stay small for long and I’m sure someone will notice it doesn’t belong where it is.  I’m not saying that produce can’t be among the petunias, but tomatoes are a bit of a stretch.

 

A Weighty Issue

Writing is a sedentary activity.  Although there are several clever ways to make it less of one, the fact is most people do it while sitting. There are treadmill desks where writers can walk slowly while they tap away at the keys. There are standing desks where instead of sitting you stand which is supposed to be better for the core and all the supporting muscles, and then there are a variety of balls and other sitting things that are supposed to encourage movement.

I’ve tried the standing desk and found that I avoided working at the computer because of it. It made more parts of me hurt than simply sitting.  My back hurt, my feet hurt, my neck hurt, it wasn’t worth it, even if it was “healthier.”  I must have been doing it wrong.  Perhaps I should have tried it while wearing shoes.

I tried sitting on an exercise ball and liked it but mine was not large enough and a bit under inflated to boot so that when I sat on it my chin was level with the edge of the desk. Even if I had the right one and it was perfect I just know that my kids would steal it every chance they could and use it to bowl for their little brother.

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Ergonomic, yes. Too tempting for kids, heck yea.

The problem with needing to spend extra hours at a keyboard is that you don’t have those hours to do healthier things.  And if you’re any bit like me you also use that time to nibble.

Because of this I’ve found stray pounds being attracted to me little lost puppies.  The first few didn’t bother me, there were even kinda cute in a way. Well, not really. The problem started when they started inviting friends to come and hang out around my midsection.

Now, it’s time to declare war. I’m tired of finding that half my pants no longer fit and want my old belly back. This means sneaking in more activity and exercise during the day and watching calories.

Bring it on.

Tomorrow.

 

Oh, the Distractions!

A recent study came out comparing the quality of writing by people who were allowed to work uninterrupted vs. those where were interrupted every few minutes. It’s not surprising that those who were able to work without distractions did much better than those who were distracted.

I could have saved them a lot of money.

The majority of my writing time happens when there are small people in the house. Despite their best intentions and all my efforts to keep them entertained with projects and games, they still come to me every few minutes.  Even when they don’t come to me I have to keep my ears open and listening for sounds of destruction or distress.

Needless to say, I’m a distracted writer.  It is very rare when I have the house to myself, so rare in fact that it takes time to adjust.  The silence is jarring. I continue to listen for problems to be solved, even though there is no one home. This time is vital to work through difficult scenes that require focus, but no matter how much it doesn’t make sense, part of me feels there is something wrong.

It gets worse.  Even without the kids around there will always be email, Facebook, Pandora, and Pinterest just one click away.  While I do turn notifications off, the temptation is always there, especially if I’m working on something that’s hard.  A small break can easily turn into a dive into the rabbit hole of social media that can last anywhere between 5 minutes to the rest of the evening.

Is removing distractions a good idea? Yes.

Is it possible? Yes, but it’s tough.

Now let’s go see what’s on Facebook… 🙂

A Case of Too Much Fun

When school got out the week before last I didn’t imagine that we would end up doing something big nearly everyday. Somehow between family, friends, and the 4th of July holiday, we’ve been to the water park twice, the dinosaur museum, camped in the backyard, had a sleepover, gone to lots of playgrounds, watched a parade and a firework show, and attended a luau.

It’s been exhausting.

I can’t deny that the kids have had a great time. We don’t normally do as many fun outings in the course of a week.  All that fun comes at a cost. As much as they deny it, I can tell that they are getting pretty tired as well.  Late nights and long days will wear anyone down , and kids have shorter fuses. Yesterday my youngest had a meltdown at church. He was mad at everything and we couldn’t figure out what he wanted.  I ended up having to take him from his class. After he had a snack, he curled up in my arms and fell right asleep. He has never done this before. In fact, the only way I’ve managed to get him to nap for the past 5 months is taking him on a car ride.

As parents we’ve had to deal with the other dark side of too much fun.  If my youngest gets too tired during the day or takes too long of nap then he wakes up in the middle of the night and it takes anywhere between 10 minutes to over an hour to get him back to sleep. We’re already getting less sleep because of everything going on, losing that much more is the proverbial kick to the head.

As for me, I’ve tried to set up that holy grail of a summer routine that allows for both fun and work. Late nights paired with trying to wake before the kiddos has caused all sorts of issues with my sleep rhythm and now it feels like I’m waking up half zombie.

It’s the beginning of another week. My shoulder aches from hauling around my youngest and my head is already throbbing.  Thank heavens at least for today we don’t have anything big planned!

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The Truth about Happiness

Butterfly_BeautyHappiness is a state of mind, not a goal or a destination.  It isn’t something that can be earned or bought and it isn’t something reserved for special people. It is meant for everyone and indeed everyone can find it, if they take the time to look.

For years I’ve struggled with finding my happiness. Whenever a difficulty, whether great or small, presents itself, it takes center stage in my emotional life, stealing the spotlight and making it impossible to focus on anything else.  I would keep telling myself, “When I get past this challenge, then I can be happy.”  Then another challenge would come to take its place.

When I wasn’t sleeping because of babies I’d tell myself how much better life would be when they slept through the night.  When it was too hot or cold to escape outside I’d tell myself how much nicer things would be in a few months.  When I was lonely and needed a friend I would sit and be sad and lonely hoping for someone to show up on my doorstep, or worse try to find a sense of belonging by lurking on Facebook.

The butterfly of happiness won’t land on people who keep brushing it away.  It is a delicate creature and seeks only those who it can trust not to harm it.  It doesn’t care about financial situations, personal problems, skin color, or body weight; all it wants is a safe place to land.

Want to get your happy on?

  • Watch the documentary “Happy” – available on Netflix
  • Go feed the ducks
  • Call a friend just to say “Hi”
  • Spend time reading for pleasure
  • Watch a favorite movie with someone you like spending time with
  • Take a class about something you’ve wanted to learn more about
  • Do something nice for a stranger
  • Keep a gratitude journal
  • Take time to be thankful
  • Seek out the good in your current situation
  • Give an honest compliment
  • Spend more time with real people than you do with your phone
  • Listen (and dance!) to your favorite music

Whatever you do, have fun doing it!

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What makes you happy? Share in the comments!

The Techno War

For those thinking that this was going to be an awesome piece of fiction possibly with an urban sci-fi twist, sorry.  We’ve had an ongoing battle here at the house, real play with real toys vs. techno play with computers and other devices.  For a while we were doing well. There was a good balance between the two and it seemed that everyone was fairly happy.

That was before the discovery of Minecraft – the Legos of the software world.

I haven’t played it enough to grasp the appeal, but apparently it has enough flexibility for the player to make it whatever kind of game he wants.  It has the power to keep my eight-year old anchored in front of the computer for hours and when he’s not playing it’s the only thing he’ll talk about.

It’s not that I mind too much that he loves the game.  I grew up playing everything from Super Mario to Tetris, often for hours at a time.  Sometimes I still do.  What does drive me crazy is the fighting between siblings that the games have caused.  When he’s playing on the computer then his sister doesn’t have anyone to play with and she does everything in her power to get his attention which drives him (and everyone else) nuts.  Then the screaming and fighting begins.

So this weekend we short circuited the whole problem.  Instead of moping around the house, hubby found a hike that was family friendly and packed us all up and left all the kids devices behind.

We had a great time, no one fought, the surroundings were beautiful, it was a win-win for everyone.

Back at home there will always be the techno war, it’s inevitable.  There will always have to be limits and monitoring on computer and other device usage. I will have to be the bad guy telling them when it’s time to stop.  As they grow older this will only grow harder.

It gives me hope that our whole family can do something as simple as walk around a lake and find a happiness that isn’t found anywhere else.  Here’s to planning our next hike!

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Happy Father’s Day

Today we are celebrating two things at the blog – my 100th post and Father’s day.  While the 100th post is a great milestone to commemorate, today I’m going to focus on my dearest daddy.

Dad,

This life has been a wild ride hasn’t it? You tried your best to make me ready for it, providing everything from music, dance, and sports lessons, to reading Dale Carnegie at us over the dinner table.  As much as I carried on then, it planted the seed to want to read it and many other books for myself later.

There are so many things that you’ve given me over the years.  You’ve always been an example of hard work, heading off in a shirt and tie everyday to a job that was at times stressful and unrewarding.  Between you and mom I’ve developed that drive to work as well.

We spent lots of time practicing music together, and some of my fondest memories with you are playing side by side in quartets and ensembles.  It is because of you that I still want to learn enough piano to accompany simple songs.  One day I will. I still have all those lessons tucked away, waiting to be used. When life eases up a bit I want to find a group to play with once again.

I remember driving along and you quizzing us on the names of trees and flowers, hawthorn, maple, tulip, Bougainvillea. You still lecture me on the proper way to plant a dahlia every year without fail. I just hope that you don’t check my flower bed too closely this year – two of your bulbs didn’t come up as hoped.

Last but not least you’ve given me the confidence to hold my head high and take charge when needs be. There were so many times when we traveled that you would find friends that you recognized from functions you organized or attended. One day, I would like to have friends around the world as well.

Love you forever Dad!

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The Love/Hate Relationship with Summer

summer_kids_swimmingSummer vacation is just around the corner and while I’m looking forward to slower mornings and less structure, there’s a part of me that is starting to panic.  With year round schooling we have had several mini breaks throughout the year so it shouldn’t be a big deal, right? Well, no – but it is anyway.

Summer break is longer and for some reason there are higher expectations to fill it with a variety of fun and educational activities.  All of those activities take planning and guidance and endless driving around the city.

It’s not that I mind, I like the activities as much as my kids, and sometimes more.  What’s making me sweat is that unless I make a conscious daily effort, the chances of me making some real progress on my book during summer break, are slim.

I don’t like extra effort when I can avoid it.  It’s a personality flaw that one day I’ll get under control.  I always look for the easiest way to get from start to finish.  If the laundry needs folding, I’ll often wait until the kids are at school so I can listen to my favorite podcasts undisturbed while I work.  I could just as easily do it while they are scrambling around me, but why?

It’s the same with writing, although the need for focus is greater, where I wait until the kids are at school and the youngest is sleeping before I even bother to start. If it weren’t for my deadlines I would do the same for blogging.  I write this as my middle child is arguing with me about the fact that she has to get dressed before she can go outside.  Distracting? Heck yeah.  I might be strange and a bit lazy but I do have standards.

All this means is that it’s time to do some serious plotting and planning on the best and hopefully most economical way for everyone, myself included, to have a phenomenal summer.

 

 

 

 

Perfectionism Strikes Again!

You’d think that I would have learned by now that Monday morning isn’t the best time to brainstorm ideas for a new post.  I’ve started three separate posts over the course of the morning, all of which will take more time than my self imposed deadline.  One needs a picture that I will have to go out and get, one needs a lot more fleshing out before it even begins to make sense, and one’s a rant that will probably never see the light of day but felt great writing and getting out of my system.

Which leaves us here with a post about why I’m not writing a better post. It’s like the Inception of blog posts.

Perfectionism is helpful is many ways, it pushes us to strive towards something better and greater than we have already done and teaches us more than we would if we choose to stay at our current level.

However, perfectionism can be very harmful as well.  I know of many authors who have a terrific book they’ve written but continue to edit and rewrite it because they are seeking a level of perfection that doesn’t exist.  I might be one of them… There comes a point when you have to admit to yourself when something is good enough to be released into the world.

Perfectionism also stalls creativity and action.  If we continually fear to do something because we know we can’t do it perfectly, then we will never start, or if we do start we will move forward at a crawl fearing that we might misstep along the way.  When this happens we stop enjoying working on the project because of the continual feeling that we might be doing something wrong.

Good news – pencils have erasers, there is a backspace button, almost everything cleans up with a little soap, and ouchies (both emotional and physical) will get better.

In the words of Yoda, “Do or do not, there is no try.”

Or Flylady, “Progress, not perfection.”

George_Orwell_human_perfection***

What do you stall about doing because you fear you won’t do it right?

 

Daily Prompt – Worldly Encounters

Today’s Daily Post Prompt asks bloggers about what book, movie, or song they would recommend to a friendly visiting extraterrestrial that explains what humans are all about. While I hesitate to speak on behalf of humanity, heaven knows what might happen should I choose incorrectly, I’ll have a go.

My recommendation: Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings

lotr

While this seems an odd choice, allow me to explain myself.  To understand human nature, we must explore humanity in all it’s fullness.  In the Lord of the Rings we have characters that iconify different types of people.  There’s the reluctant and noble Aragorn, the arrogant Boromir, the megalomaniac Saruman, the humble and naïve Frodo, the manipulating Wormtongue, and the wise Wizard Gandalf to name a few.

Their quest is one that humanity has fought since time began, the epic battle of good verses evil.  Frodo and his fellowship are charged with destroying the One Ring, a tool of great power that is linked to the dark lord Sauron.  In their efforts to do so they encounter resistance that takes many forms.  Armies march against them, their own turn upon them, friends die, and they fall into states of hopelessness, fear, and reluctance.  Against the odds they continue time after time to sacrifice and sweat and bleed toward their goal.

The writing contains passages that encapsulate vistas of both breathtaking beauty, and astounding ugliness.  If anyone has managed to expound on the majesty of an impressive view, it’s Tolkien.  He also manages to capture our love/hate relationship with technology and industrialization.

People might argue that a fantasy novel can’t be used to explain humanity, but they haven’t considered that it is human nature to dream and imagine impossible realities.  Leaving out this fact would be to forget the most vital part of what it means to be human, which is to exercise our creative powers to make both the new and the wonderful.