Monday, September 28, 2015

The In-Between

I called my husband on my way home one evening to let him know where I was. 
“When will you be home,” he asked.
“In about 15 minutes, unless I get lost.”
“You don’t know where you are?”
“Of course I know where I am. I also know where I have to go. It’s the in-between that I’m not sure of.” 
The in-between. It means, “situated somewhere between two extremes or recognized categories.”
Recognized categories are easily definable: sick, well, happy, sad, etc. Of course, they don’t have to be emotions. They can be places: home, school or work. They can be events: birth, marriage or death. But whatever they are, they are clearly recognizable. Everyone knows them; there is no misunderstanding or insecurity.
But life isn’t only about the extremes or categories. Life is the in-between and the in-between is messy, a morass of feelings, emotions, insecurities and conflicting personalities that somehow have to be sorted, identified, managed and acknowledged. It’s difficult to figure out and can be interpreted many ways.
We recently celebrated our 20th anniversary. Our wedding day and our anniversary were easy to celebrate. But celebrating 20 years of the in-between—the “who’s going to wash the dishes” and the “how could you say that” and the “what should we do about this”—that’s the hard part and that’s what makes the marriage real.
I remember the days my children were born and the incredible emotions I felt at the time. Happiness at finally seeing them, amazement that I was going to be a mom, wonder that they were actually mine. But what truly makes me a mom is all the in-betweens—worrying about a fever or if I’m making the right decision; talking to them about their problems or their friends or their schoolwork; enforcing the rules and rewarding their special achievements and punishing their bad deeds; waiting up for them to arrive home safely and aching over their perceived slights.
Most of my time is spent in the in-between. It often colors my perspective and makes me wonder why I’m doing something, but it also is necessary for the extremes to exist. Just like you need sadness to appreciate happiness, you need the in-between in order to appreciate the highs and lows of the extremes and to add texture and dimension to life.

Monday, September 21, 2015


If you asked me what’s the most difficult part of writing, I wouldn’t say coming up with an idea, translating what’s in my brain onto the page or even getting words—any words—on the page. For me, at this moment, it’s boundaries.

I’m lucky enough to stay home and write full-time, or as full-time as I can manage with two kids. I love writing. It satisfies a deep need within me that nothing else can satisfy. When I don’t write, I actually get a physical reaction that can only be stopped by sitting in front of my computer and starting to write again. I sleep better when I write and I’m happier when I write. However, I can’t write all the time.

I have other things I have to do—I have a family, I have mundane chores, I have friends, I have other obligations—all of which prevent me from writing. The prevention isn’t a bad thing, and I’m not complaining. But it means I have to set up times to write and times to do other things, and that’s where my difficulty lies.

Back in July, I participated in a writing challenge, where I had to write 1,000 words a day. I did it for the discipline as well as for the progress it would allow me to make on a manuscript. When I know I have to get something done, I usually plan my day around doing that thing. It becomes a priority. But is writing really my priority when I need to get laundry done so we have clean clothes (nakedness is still frowned upon), or grocery shop so we can eat (seriously, every day people?)? Sometimes it is, but sometimes there are other priorities.

I typically try to get my writing done when my kids are at school, so that I can spend time with them when they’re home (they might not want it, but I do). But what happens to all the errands I also have to get done? Does that mean I leave those for when the kids are home? Or do I divide up my time during the day?

And what about weekends? This weekend, I decided I was taking a complete break from all writing and editing. I thought it would be good for me—it would clear my brain and allow me to focus on other things. It would also make me a better writer when I sat down again. I made it until 7:30 on Sunday evening and then I HAD to write again.

If you work in an office, the boundaries are preset. For the most part, not including the work you might bring home when necessary, you work THERE and you do everything else at HOME. Your brain focuses on work when you’re in the office, and on home when you’re home.

Mine can’t. Because the boundaries are fuzzy at best. Sometimes that’s a good thing—I can take advantage of extra time here or there to write when inspiration strikes or when everyone else is busy. But sometimes it means I’m not fully present when I need to be. It’s not my computer or phone that’s keeping me apart. It’s the need to write. Or the deadline that needs to be met. Or the 2,000 dependent clauses that need to be fixed (yes, that was a thing and OMG!).

I suspect that my self-imposed break this weekend was healthy and I should do it more often. I notice that my kids take my writing more seriously, and are hesitant to interrupt me when they see I’m writing (they no longer just assume I’m playing on my computer and interrupt at will). My husband always supports me when I’m writing (although I suspect the lack of food in the house is starting to get to him). So I probably need to practice boundary-making a little more seriously. Like any “muscle,” it needs to be exercised and used in order to work well.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All writing and no living makes this author write badly. And makes my family hungry. So, like everyone else, I just have to find the balance.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

School Supply Lists Are Evil

School supply lists are the bane of my existence. I’m totally on board with having to purchase our own supplies. I don’t mind that part, actually. What I do mind is:

Receiving the school supply lists in dribs and drabs during the first three weeks of school. Contrary to popular belief, I don’t love making daily trips to Staples.

Receiving the school supply lists after all the school supplies on said lists are sold out. Still haven’t figured out how my child is supposed to show up the next day with all the requested supplies. And don’t even get me started on how Staples can run out of notebooks.

Receiving the school supply lists after the school supply stores have ended their school supply sales. This is obviously an evil plot.

Teachers who refuse to put the item in their head onto the list, forcing me to be a mind reader. I can barely figure out what’s in my head, please don’t make me peek into yours.

Schools that have trained my kids for the past eight years to get exactly and only the specific supply, brand, color and size of the item they want, and then turn around and suddenly decide to allow students to get whatever they want. My child spins in circles in the aisles and vibrates with anxiety. Which makes me vibrate too.

I am convinced that these lists are created by teachers who don’t have any children of their own for whom to purchase school supplies, because if they did, our lists wouldn’t look like they do.

So, I have a suggestion: Staples should sell wine.