Thursday, March 27, 2014

Heavy on My Mind

My three cats at an open window
An open window signals a change-for-the-good in the weather. Who can resist the chance to peek outside?

My thoughts are scattered this week. Yours, too? Here a few of the things weighing on my mind:

1.     When the Malaysia prime minister declared new data showed missing flight MH370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean, I yelled, “No-o-o” at the television screen. I’d hoped the plane would be found on a remote tarmac, the passengers sweaty and annoyed by their detour, but safe. I wasn’t alone in my magical thinking; my friend Fio had hoped for a similar, happy ending.

  1. Soon, Younger Daughter embarks on an 18-month journey that will take her to Canada, South Korea, and Norway. The opportunity’s fantastic, and I’m thrilled for her. I’m also going to miss her like crazy, and the missing part didn’t sink in until a month ago. Magical thinking, that trickster, had me focused on the positive right up until my girl ended her apartment lease and bought her plane tickets. Thank God for Skype.

  1. April 15, Tax Day in the U.S. looms, and I still have numbers to hunt and gather. A friend suggested I work one hour a day on taxes until I finish my share. “Set a timer,” she said. “At the end of the hour, stop, and pick up where you left off tomorrow.” The method works, but I won’t relax until the job’s done.

  1. Two months ago, Hubs and I bought a house in the Texas Hill Country.  Right now, we’re using it as a weekend place. On our last visit, the garage-door opener didn’t work. We figured the battery was dead. Then, we found a puddle of water under the refrigerator. Hmmm, the refrigerator’s contents were warm. We tried to turn on a light. Nothing. Hubs checked the breaker box, but it seemed fine. He called the electric company, and a nice person there asked him to check the electric meter. Hubs couldn’t locate a meter because someone had stolen it. Did you know it’s possible to pry and electric meter out of its housing, move it to another location, hook it to a power line, and run a fridge and lights? The electric company sent out a crew to install a new meter and track the location of the old one. CSI-Hill Country! The power company will deny future service to the miscreant, levy a fine, and there’s the specter of electric-shock treatments.  Meanwhile, while I’m happy to have a new meter, I'm braced for the surprises my next Hill Country visit will bring.

What weighs on your mind?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

No Fear

 Change is hard even when it’s as welcome as spring in the Northern Hemisphere.

Robins may not be bobbing where you live, but they’re on their way.  In anticipation of their arrival, I offer links to three posts that help writers and others shake off the winter doldrums and renew enthusiasm for our work.

From agent Victoria Marini comes the reminder writers don’t need the right gel pen, a room of one’s own, or appreciation from others to write. Her post speaks to anyone who ever mistook a cunning file system and colored Post-it notes for the key to unlocking creativity. Here’s a small part of her message:

There will be days where you do not feel like a writer, where you do not feel taken seriously. 

Write anyway.”
Travel-memoir writer Torre DeRoche overcame a big fear thanks to a little dog.  

Are you wondering what fear has to do with writing? I’m no psychologist, but if we want to write but aren’t, I’ll bet it's fear that holds us back.

At The Author Chronicles, Kerry Gans gets specific about the kind of fear that freezes writers. She distills fear of success and fear of failure to one giant bugaboo: fear of change. 

As humans, we crave consistency. Change always brings elements of the unknown, and people fear what they don’t know or don’t understand. Change is scary–it requires adaptation, flexibility, and courage. Once we’ve reached a level plateau, climbing to another level requires hard work and taking risks–and I, for one, am not a risk-taker. Change is hard.”
Gans is right when she says change is hard. It does, however, bring rewards, some of which aren’t obvious at first glance. Last week, I moaned about the switch to Daylight Savings time. This week, I’m grateful the sky is bright until almost seven p.m.
Have you ever thought your success hinged on the right organization system? Are signs of spring evident in your neck of the woods?

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Breakfasts of Champions

Daylight Savings Time—setting the clock ahead an hour--has turned me into a Hobbit.  Every day this week, I’ve made like Bilbo Baggins and consumed a second breakfast at eleven a.m. Mind you, eleven a.m. is the new ten, so my hunger's a mystery. Does eating the first breakfast in full darkness not count?

While others complained about the lost hour of sleep last Sunday and the drive to work in total darkness Monday morning, I fantasized about afternoon snacks. Hey, anyone who eats breakfast before noon is hungry again by three.

Don’t worry; I haven’t lost perspective. I know my peckishness, unlike true hunger, is a trifle—a first-world and Middle-earth problem.

How about you? Are you a friend or foe of Daylight Savings Time? Where do you stand on second breakfasts?

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Mixed Messages

Ice in Houston? Mother Nature sends mixed messages, too
I’ve sent mixed messages to my grown children. Why, then, am I startled when I get them back?

On a recent out-of-town trip, my husband and I and our daughters stayed in a hotel that offered a free breakfast. As Hubs and I finished our morning coffee, I asked him to phone our daughters’ room and remind them breakfast was being served just off the lobby.

He shook his head. “If they were in their twenties, I might remind them to eat breakfast, but they’re in their thirties. I’m not going to tell them to eat.”

Put that way, I saw my ridiculousness. My only excuse is that I look at my grown girls and see them as the adults they are and as their five-, ten-, and fifteen-year-old selves. I bite my tongue to keep from urging them to put on hats, keep their cars’ gas tanks half full, and wear sunscreen. (Okay, most of the time I bite my tongue. I’ve been known to ask if they’re warm enough, cool enough, or need a snack.)

You might expect a mother like me to be sentimental and treasure her grown kids’ softball trophies, Girl Scout uniforms, and stuffed animals. You’d be wrong. Once my daughters moved out, I reclaimed the house and only kept things of theirs I could repurpose to suit my needs.

When a recent cold snap hit Houston, my husband was traveling for business. He texted me to wrap the house’s exposed pipes—again. I’d already wrapped them in foam and duct tape and then looped toweling over the foam. “I’ll take care of it,” I said.

I looked around the garage and grabbed an old sleeping bag—the kind little kids take to slumber parties. I draped that around the outdoor spigot, tucked it around the piping, and stopped just short of telling it a bedtime story. For good measure, I shifted the garbage can so that it served as a windbreak. Done!
Slumber bag wrapped around spigot
A couple of days later, I left town, and Older Daughter came over to check the house, feed pets, and take out the trash. Wouldn’t you know the slumber bag I grabbed in haste belonged to her? She thought I’d thrown it out, and her feelings were hurt. “Why is my Beauty and the Beast sleeping bag in the trash?” she texted.

Uh oh.

Guilt sank its claws into me. It didn’t matter that my daughter hasn’t slept in that slumber bag for at least two decades. “It isn’t in the trash. It’s next to the trashcans. I used it to wrap the pipes,“ I texted back.

“You’re not throwing it away?”

“No.” I didn’t have the heart to tell her I usually use it to cover tropical plants during freezes.

“That’s okay then,” she texted back.

Whew. I resolved to wash the thing and move it into deep storage. That is, unless I could get rid of it for once and for all. “Would you like to take it home with you?”

“I don’t have room for it.”

Shoot. I’m stuck with Beauty and the Beast forever.  “Okay, then.”

If I treat a thirty-year-old like a five-year-old, I can’t be surprised she clings to a blankie. Although, come to think of it, she didn’t cling. She accepted the slumber bag’s use as a pipe protector but wants to think it will always be in the family home, waiting for her next visit.

I guess I can live with that.

What about you? Have you sent mixed messages that turned around and bit you?  If a hotel offers a free breakfast, is it a must-have or do you pass?