Five Random Thoughts on a Sunday Morning

Normally when I count off a five things posting, I try to stay on a theme of some sort.  Lately my life has been random enough it seems to be becoming a theme of it’s own.  My head seems to be swimming around too many things lately, it’s hard to make sense of any of it.

 

1) My husband comes home this week.

After six weeks apart, the light at the end of the tunnel is here.  As it always does, time has flown by, and by the end of the week our family will be complete again.  As happy as my daughters and I are, I think the biggest reaction will actually end up coming from the dog.  She went through a depression the first couple of weeks he was gone, and has gone nuts looking for him every time she hears his voice on the computer.  I’m not sure anything I do will be able to compete with the excitement she will show when she sees him again.

The only bad side of my husband coming home is my lack of anniversary gift for him.  Last week we hit our 13th wedding anniversary.  Since he has been gone, I haven’t been too worried about getting anything together for him.  Now that he is coming home, it is a mad dash to get things finished.

2) Being sick sucks.

I know, this should be obvious, but sometimes it still needs to be said.  After a few weeks of misery, I was finally able to be diagnosed with a lovely stomach infection I am certain no one really wants to hear about.  Unfortunately, the medicine I need has to be shipped from the states, leaving me miserable for a few more weeks (hopefully less than that) and getting to start an exceptionally restrictive diet in order to keep things from getting worse.  I know I have been really sick before, and possible more uncomfortable, but I have to say that this time is the worst.  Why?  Because it is in the present.  This is the sick I am currently dealing with, and as always, that makes it the worst one ever.

3) I’m beginning to wonder if I will ever finish all of the stories I have going.

This is one I feel like I shouldn’t complain about.  When I started the year, I had a goal to finish the three open novels I already had.  I wasn’t necessarily planning on having them be perfect and ready to publish, though I wouldn’t mind that.  Mostly I was looking for good drafts.  Since then I have outlined 7 more stories, and written basic synopsis of 5 others.  That gives me a total of 15 unfinished stories. Even counting the fact that some of them may turn out to be horrible ideas that go no where, it’s hard to complain about having too many ideas when I know there are people out there who would love to have more story thoughts.

As I am a slow writer (something I have mentioned before) I am working to find ways to be more efficient.  I am writing more chapter outlines than I ever have before, which seems to be helping me keep track of where I am going.  I’m also working on revising my daily writing goals.  I used to write based on time; if I knew I would have three hours available, I would write for three hours.  It never seemed to matter how much I got done, and sometimes those three hours would be squandered away on other things such as checking laundry and refilling my tea.  Last week I tried making a goal of 2000 words for Friday.  During the hour I had available that afternoon I only hit 1100.  Having a word goal brought me back later, and after my children went to bed, I sat down and pounded out another 1100 words, putting me over my daily goal.  Maybe I happen to be the kind of writer who needs a numerical goal like that to succeed; it is definitely worth exploring more.

4) Gardening was much easier last year.

Last winter I was cold and miserable in the snow.  This year, I was relieved that we didn’t have as much cold weather as the year before.  Unfortunately, that also meant the garden was ripe for overgrowing with weeds.  Combining that with the difference of being in school now versus out last year and I can’t seem to find much time to get everything together.  I’ve been pushing through, mostly due to my deep love of fresh vegetables.  After four hours yesterday I was proud to have 6 zucchini and 6  yellow squash plants added to my garden  as well as weed treatments on my zucchini patch, my corn patch, and my daughters sunflower patch.  Now, I just have to wait until the yummy starts coming.  With all the trouble it has been this year, they better be amazing vegetables.

5) I’m really happy I found Tone it Up.

When someone mentioned Tone it Up to me a couple months ago, I figured it would be yet another program I started and never really finished.  However, having 10-20 minute toning exercises show up on my phone everyday has been easy to fit in.  Even being sick, most of their stuff is things I can do, though occasionally I have to modify.  I’m really enjoying the program, and I am hoping that when I am better, I can keep going even stronger.  It is amazing what finding the right health program for you can do to your motivation.

Just as a small reminder, I am not paid by Tone it Up.  I simply found a program I like, and am choosing to share the name with you.  If anyone decides to join up with them, you can put my name, Shannon Bradford, as a reference, but it won’t do anything for me that I know of.  Not everything is for everyone, this thing just happens to be what makes me happy right now.

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Five Things About Writing New Stories

I love creating fiction, at least as much as I love reading fiction.

Sometimes I feel as though I have a thousand ideas, many of them feeling fully formed and perfect, while others are little more than a vague notion I still need to think about.  I love almost everything about the creation of a story, from idea to finished manuscript, but it is definitely a process.  Creating a story is much like having a child.

1)Birth

When the idea first comes to you, you are so excited and proud.  You instantly know this will be the best thing you ever did.  It is brilliant, and you are clearly the most creative person on the planet.  There are so many things to do to get ready, and bring this idea into a fully functioning story.  In spite of the morning sickness, the nerves, and the fears, you know this will be fantastic.

2)Growth

You are making your plans, and adding a little to your story every day.  Sometimes it is a chapter or two of writing, other days it is a few notes on the outline.  It is, at times, hard to know how your baby is doing, and you need to give it a check up to make sure it is growing healthy and strong.  Of course there are days when you know you could keep this as your baby forever, and other days you wish it had grown up already.  In spite of it all, you are amazed at how much your one little idea has changed.

3)Potty Training

Just as with a child or a small animal, sometimes the poo ends up in the wrong place.  There will be days of messes all over the pages of your precious manuscript.  Other days will be filled with long hours of focused energy, trying to keep your pages clean as you flush the waste away.  It can be a difficult process for some stories, making you jealous of the stories that seemed to be clean over night.  In the end, it doesn’t matter how long it takes, as long as you end up clean.

4)The Teenage Years

Considering your story is only made of your own words, it should be difficult for it to talk back to you.  But somehow, it does.  The characters can be unlikeable, the plot full of holes, and have the whole idea suddenly stinks.  You’re not sure how this happened, as the story you were raising used to be such a polite, clever, and delightful child.  Now suddenly you are certain it has been doing drugs in the basement because that is the only explanation for how it is turning out.   Before long, you don’t know what to do with it anymore.  You still love it, but you’re not sure you like it much and you know you cannot continue to live with it this way.  You cry, you fight, you threaten to send it to a severe editing session and cut it down to size.  No matter what you do, nothing feels like it will ever get better.

5)Moving Out

Eventually your story outgrows its awkward, rebellious stage.  The wonderful idea you once had has returned, a fully complete manuscript, ready to enter your personal publishing process.  Maybe it has a contract to a major publishing house, maybe it is still looking for an agent.  Maybe your story has decided to strike out on its own for the world of self-publishing, or even enter a contest.  This story is now ready for the world, and ready to make you proud.

Of course, not all stories move out.  Some simply move into your basement.  Sure they call it their own apartment, and talk about how they need to find themselves, but you both know they have no ambitions anymore.  They may have started out with so much potential, but now they can’t even get a job pulling in readers on a blog.  Best case scenario has this novel in a writing workshop, demonstrating all of the things a writer shouldn’t do, and working to scare other stories into a good life of being published.  As much as you know you should throw it out, you can’t quite get rid of it.  It is still your baby, and you are still hoping for the day it grows up and becomes a novel.

Five Things About Mothers

 

It’s mother’s day, so I’m sure you don’t need to wonder about today’s inspiration.

I am fortunate enough to be able to celebrate this day from two angles; as the mother of two beautiful girls, and as the daughter of one of the most amazing mothers on the planet.

Everyone knows mothers have a difficult and important job.  It is one of the reasons we often feel as though we are failing miserably in our efforts.  But somehow, the best mothers always pull through, and power through the difficult times.

1) Your mother went through the trouble of getting you.

I was going to mention pregnancy and childbirth specifically, but let’s be honest that is not the only way to become a mother.  I have seen women go through painful procedures to try and get pregnant, and women working hard through the process of adoption.  I have seen women who picked up raising a child for the ex-wife who threatened their life, and woman who took the place of beloved family members who they had recently lost. I had it easy, with two relatively simple pregnancies and fairly straight forwards births.  But I am one of the lucky ones.  How you become a mother isn’t important, it’s only important to do the best you can for your child.

2) All mothers are a little different.

When I woke up this morning, I had a picture sent to me from my mother waiting on my phone.

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My mother is a unique person who teaches me things on a regular basis.  Including how to embarrass my children.  You know, to make them stronger.  She is not like any other mother out there, and for that I am eternally grateful. 

3) No one loves like a mother.

I have made mistakes in my life.  Many of them.  But I have been fortunate enough to be able to come to my mother after each mistake and know that I am loved, I am forgiven, and I am accepted.  There is nothing in this world that is as amazing as knowing I will always have a place to call home.  It doesn’t matter what I have done, or why I am there, she will take me in and guide me through.

4) Mothers mess up sometimes, and that is alright.

There are times when I feel like the worst mother there is.  Sometimes it is simple, such as putting on a cartoon for my child so they will give me some peace and quiet to do what I want to do.  Other times it is snapping and yelling at my child, not because what they have done is so horrible, but just because I am having a rough day.  These are the moments where I feel horrible, as though no one does a worse job than me.  I know others have done worse things than I have, and I know I may one day do something much worse.  And that is okay; one day children will realize their mothers are human, and that will help to give them the strength to do this job when it is their turn.

5) My mother is the best one there is.

There is a lot I can say about my mother.  The story of raising eight children by herself, of always being there when we needed her, of returning to school to get her degree, and of somehow always keeping things together even if she would rather fall apart.  I could talk about her creativity, her giving nature, or her amazingly warped sense of humor.  I know many people think their mother is the best there is, but it’s only because they were not lucky enough to experience life with my mother.

 

Happy Mother’s Day everyone!

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Five Things About My Weekend

I’m torn today. I have limited time to write a post. I don’t want to leave the blog blank, because I hate when Bloggers just ignore their posts because they have other things to do. I know other things are important, but us readers miss you when you are gone.
Of course, I don’t want to put a substandard post simply to fill space. That is insulting to the people who give me their time to read the things I write. You read my rambling nonsense as well as listen to my fears and deep thoughts (okay, sometimes they are about as deep as a puddles, but it’s all in your perspective). To give you a post that is incredibly poorly written is bad form.

I have decided to compromise. I will write a mediumly well written post telling all about why I am too busy to write more. Is that still rude?

1)I spent Saturday babysitting.

I don’t normally do any babysitting. In spite of the fact that I used to be a preschool teacher, I haven’t done babysitting since high school. However when a friend of mine’s husband wants to take her to a concert an hour away for her birthday, and realizes he needs someone to watch their daughter overnight, a daughter who happens to be best friends with my younger daughter, how can I refuse? My daughter got to have a fun sleepover, and I was able to help out a friend, win-win.
Unfortunately, when you spend hours chatting as the parents come to pick up instead of finishing a paper for school, it can make your weekend slowly disappear without you noticing as you rush to make up the homework time.

2)I feel like Mulan.

Yesterday morning, my daughters, the friend, and I went out into my large backyard to shoot arrows. They are the nice dull ones for practice, and I usually keep it short intentionally. This time they asked me to start by shooting one long shot. I complied, but accidently shot my arrow into a group of large pine trees. I keep hearing the training line from Mulan, “Retrieve the arrow.” Unfortunately, I can’t see it to know which tree it is in, and I am 90% sure most of them do not have strong enough branches to support me even if I had climbed a tree in the last 15 years.
However, I can’t stop thinking about getting my arrow back. It is becoming an obsession.

3)My daughter wants to go shopping.

Spending most of yesterday talking instead of cleaning or doing homework means I have a lot left to do today. Unfortunately, my older daughter had already asked if we could go shopping today. I could tell her no, I’m too busy. I could go shopping on any other day of the week without the kids; but I can’t have her try on pants unless she is with me. I made her a promise to attempt to get new pants, and now I can’t put it off, no matter how busy I let myself get today.
It’s not her fault I couldn’t shut up yesterday.

4)I’m doing laundry at home!

Yes, my washer was finally fixed. After two months of debating the problem, the military finally gave me a new one. I wish they had done that a while ago, but I will take what I can get.

5)I want a nap.

I am so busy, I feel so swamped, I just want to lie down and sleep until it is all over. On top of it all, I never sleep well when my husband isn’t here, so I haven’t had a good nights sleep in a couple weeks. I know I won’t have time, but I am dangling the prospect of a nap much like the proverbial carrot on a stick. Maybe if I move quickly I can squeeze it in, just a 20 minute power nap. I’ll even take a five minute ‘only resting my eyes.’

Well, I have to get back to it now! Tell me, how is your weekend going?

Five Things About Spring Break

I used to love spring break as a kid.  It was more exciting than winter break (since I prefer sunshine) but not quite as exciting as summer break.  Mostly, it was a chance to lounge about, reading books or having sleepovers with friends.  As soon as I was old enough to work, it was a chance to pick up a few extra hours.  Now, staying at home with my kiddos, it is a combination of time spent with them, and time trying desperately not to fall behind on my own working.

Spring break can be a magical time, when it works out for you.

 

1. Spring Break Trips.

As a kid, my mother was either in school or teaching at a school, meaning we had the same breaks.  We never took exotic trips, but a week at Grandma’s house, or a trip to visit my older brothers was always fun.

By the time I was old enough for a drunken spring break trip, I had a 2, almost 3 year old daughter.  (By old enough, I mean 21, the legal drinking age in America, not the legal drinking age in most of the rest of the world, or the screw this age used by most America students.)  Even if I had wanted to, there was no way I would be leaving my child in order to be drunk and vomiting on a beach somewhere.  It’s just not me.

Instead, our family has mostly used Spring break as staycation times, with maybe a few day trips thrown in.  Don’t get me wrong, I love to travel.  I also however, hate crowds.  Traveling to most places during spring break means fighting the massive groups of people, some not caring if they ever move, others pushing desperately to make it somewhere on time, and everyone sweaty and sticky.  No thank you, I’ll travel at another time.

 

2. Spring Cleaning.

When we stay at home it is easier to notice how messy a house can be.  It gets even worse when everyone is in the house, all day.  As much as the kids hate it, an occasional deep cleaning of the house is necessary.

 

3. Spring Reading.

I am a proud book nerd, always have been.  Spring break usually brings a lovely change from the normal school required reading list.  Sure, there might be something I needed to catch up on, but, usually it was a week of reading whatever I wanted.  When that reading could be done outside in the sunshine, all the better.

 

4. Spring Cooking

There is something about the slightly warmer weather that makes you want to eat differently.  The warm soups are no longer satisfying and begin to make you feel heavy.  Instead you long for fresh fruits, vegetables, cold drinks, and maybe a little ice cream.  Spring break is a great time to hit the markets, buy the fresh food, and enjoy the light feeling of summer and sunshine a little early.

 

5. Spring Renewal

There is a reason we love spring.  It’s not just because we are tired of the cold of winter.  It’s not just because we want an excuse to take a vacation and relax.  It is the hope spring brings to us.  So many people make new years resolutions, and break them shortly after.  Spring is a chance to start again.  The plants and animals are waking up, showing us how to get new life after the cold and depressing winter.  The world is new again, and we can be too.

 

Spring break has been a delicate balance this year.  I know I spent more time on what the kids wanted, and not enough on my work or even on house cleaning.  As our two weeks draws to a close, I am a little sad to send the kids back, dreading the week of playing catch up, but looking forward to not just getting back to normal, but getting back to somewhere great.

Five Things About Family Traditions

Family traditions are part of what make you who you are. It’s the things that are important to you, and the celebrations that mean the most to you. This is one of the reasons why it can be so hard getting married and blending your family with someone else’s.
It’s easy to forget that not everyone has the same traditions. Naturally when you get married, you begin new traditions with your spouse knowing that everything your family did was right, and everything their family did was wrong. In spite of that, some concessions have to be made.
1) Out with the old
Some traditions are lost, completely gone. I used to love Easter ham, and dying eggs. However my husband does not like ham, and I’m the only one in my family who eats hard boiled eggs. I used to go to church every Easter (well technically every Sunday) and that has also changed.
There are some things you let of reluctantly. Other things you are happy to be done with. It’s sad to me that my daughters have never dyed Easter eggs. However as my husband does not ask that I go to church with him ever, including holidays, I make the concession and don’t push holiday traditions he dislikes.
2) In with the new
Some of the traditions that have been affected by my husband have involved removal of traditions. Others don’t yet require adjustment on my part, but I know it will in the future. My husband’s family has large gatherings for many holidays. I don’t do well with large gatherings, even when it is family. I know it’s strange. I come from a large family, but I don’t do well with people. Someday we will be in the same country as our families, and we will make arrangements, at least occasionally to be there for these big gatherings.
3) Working hard
Keeping up with traditions is hard work. There are preparations to make, shopping to do, cooking, and cleaning. It can be exhausting, especially when it is primarily your job to keep things going. Maybe it’s this way with everyone, but somehow in my house all of the traditions fall on me no matter whose family it started in.  I might argue that his traditions are not my problem, but realistically, I’m too tired from getting the traditions going.
4) Keeping secrets
I loved Santa as a child. And the Easter Bunny, the tooth fairy, leprechauns, everything. I loved it. However, as a parent I hate it. I’ve been sneaking around trying to buy things without the kids seeing for years now and I am done. I try to find places to hide them that is both inconspicuous and easy for me to get to. You want to make it fun, surprising, and special, but also not so important it destroys their world when they find out it was just for fun. We do them, because I want my kids to have the memories I have, but sometimes I wish desperately for my kids to know the truth. I think my twelve year old knows its not real, but she doesn’t ask. I think she is afraid that as soon as she admits she knows, the fun is over. If she asks she will learn the truth of my family tradition; I got both an Easter basket and stocking until I was eighteen years old and moved out.  Just because you know it was a lie, doesn’t mean the tradition has to die.
Of course, some of the secrets we choose to leave to other families. We do not, and will not do that elf on the shelf crap. I teach my kids if a toy starts moving on its own it is possessed; you salt and burn the toy and douse the site with holy water. If it persists, no matter what religion you are, you call a priest. We don’t do risk that demon nonsense in my house.

5) They’re still worth it.
After all the work, all the stress, the sleepless nights getting things ready for the next day, the smile on your child’s face makes you willing to do it all again the next holiday.

 

For all of you who were deeply curious, I am proud to say I survived Lent!  The lack of chocolate was touch and go for a bit this last week, but I pushed through.  I suppose for full disclosure, I had two slips; once I accidently bought a bottle of mocha coffee instead of vanilla and didn’t notice until halfway through, and two days ago I had a pinch off my daughter’s white chocolate covered waffle in Antwerp, just to taste it.  Tomorrow I think I’ll start a add in follow up, but I will write more on that later.  Today, my kids are waking up.

Five Things About Military Life

April is the month of the military child.

I’m not necessarily fond of the whole idea of celebrating something for a month as it usually means it is ignored the rest of the year, but my daughter has enjoyed having something special everyday for the last week of school.

Halfway through the week she came home, and in a voice that could only have come from a surprised six year old, asked first if I knew she was a military child, and second why I had never told her. It had never occured to her that she had any association with the military.

I guess I’m not surprised she didn’t think about it. The military is a part of our lives as much as any other job; my husband goes to work, he takes business trips, and occasionally we move for his work. It is what it is. We don’t spend everyday celebrating our role as a military family, partly because it is not always something to celebrate. Some of our life is good and some of it is bad, just like everyone else.

1) Moving

Not everyone has to move for their work. Most people can live quite happily in one town, never even considering moving to the next town over for work. Military families routinely pick up and leave, switching states or even countries at someone else’s whim. Some thrive on the change, needing to leave everything behind every few years. Others hate moving and dread the day they will be told it’s time to go again.

For me, I fall somewhere in between. I hate to move, but I do look forward to the changes. I grew up in a small town; it wasn’t a bad place, but for me it was suffocating. I didn’t know what life was going to bring, but I knew it wasn’t going to bring me anything I wanted there. I was happy to have a way out, just as I am happy to have a way out when our bases go sour now. However, moving sucks. We go for months essentially being homeless. We have to look for a new house, a new house that usually does not fit all of our old furniture. Even if it fits inside, it was purchased for a different set up. I know some people are happy to buy everything completely new every few years, but not me. I like me stuff; that is why it is mine.

2) Separation

Military families talk about separation and deployment a lot. I have been very fortunate to have a husband who rarely is gone for more than a couple of months at a time. Even when he is gone, we do alright. The girls have gotten used to the idea that while daddy is gone, he will come back. For me, it’s almost like a marriage break; we love each other, but time apart can help us remember why. It’s not the same for everyone, but for us it is just another part of the job.

For me the hard part of separation is not from my husband. No, for me it is the separation from everyone else. I have lived in a separate country from my family for the past decade. I had to say goodbye to a brother I had barely seen in five years. There is constant guilt for the time away, guilt I can’t ever seem to let go of completely. I want to be there, but I want to be with my husband as well. I had to choose, and I don’t regret the choice. But I still feel guilty about it.

3) Travel

The military has sent my family to live in some pretty great places. We are lucky enough to be completely immersed in a new culture and learning about a place we might never have been if we hadn’t been told to move here. Additionally we get to travel to all of the other places nearby. Sure, I live in Belgium, but I get to see all of Europe.

The travel is not always something we all get to do. The most exotic locations visited by my family were done by my husband alone. When we lived in Okinawa I told him I wanted to visit Tokyo, Thailand, and Austrailia. The military sent him to all three of those places, and more, while I stayed at home working with the kids. I don’t want to be bitter or angry, but I was the one who desperately wanted to go ride elephants. Seeing the amazing pictures of my husband living my dream without me was not the same.

4) Benefits

Let’s be honest. Joining the military is a lot like any other job. At a certain point, it is about the money and benefits. Sure there is the adventure and duty and patriotism; these are all good things, and do factor into why a person joins the military life. No matter how much else is out there, at the end of the day we need to make a living. And here is a secret you may not know.

Military pay sucks.

Unless you are an officer, you will barely make enough to get by and you will most likely qualify for all sorts of government assistance programs. It is what it is. The only way many military members survive is through the benefits. Base housing takes out the need to pay rent and utilities, and medical care is mostly covered. The rest is up to the military member.

The benefits are great, right up until they are not. It doesn’t matter what the benefits were when you signed your contract. Terms of service are allowed to change at any time. You don’t like it, leave. Good luck getting a job that pays well enough on the outside, as not all military skills are easily transferred to civilian jobs. Naturally, some do; for those that do, they pay well enough it was probably a smart financial move.

5) Security

The military provides a security service to both our country and others. How you feel about the actions don’t always matter because you still get the benefit of this protection. In the past, the military has provided job security for those enlisted. Usually it would take a fairly heinous act to get kicked out, meaning you were in until you decided to be out.

Again, there was job security until there wasn’t. Cutting back on military numbers will save the government money, but will also put more people out of jobs. It’s great for those who are volunteering to take an early out, but for those who are needed to fill the numbers left, you can only hope they are prepared for civilian life.

All of the good of military life comes with a dose of bad. It’s not because the military life is inherently bad, it is just because it is life. There will always be the ups and downs.

I don’t identify myself first and foremost as a military wife.

It’s not because I feel the bad outweighs the good. I don’t identify myself as a military wife because that is only a small part of who I am. We’ve been with the military for many years, and might be for many more. But one day it will be time for retirement. We will walk away from this military life and be done. All of the good will be gone, as will all of the bad.

I don’t place my worth on importance on something that is temporary. When we are done, I will not be any less simply because I am no longer with the military. I will still be me, still married to the same man with the same kids. The good and the bad will pass, and we will still be here.

How could I possibly dwell on something that is just a brief moment in my life?

Five Things About Gardening

I am writing this post from the laundromat.  Again.  I am beginning to think the laundromat is taking over my life.  It’s not just the driving there, or the waiting, or the frequently broken washers, or the other people folding their underwear.  My need to go to the laundromat is cutting into my time and ability to do other activities as well.  I have two sets of running clothes.  I mean, there are other odds and ends, but only two full sets of comfortable and functional running clothes.  Normally, that is fine, but when those two sets have to last a week, it’s not enough.  I get two runs the two days after I do laundry, then I wait.  Any activity that needs special laundry consideration is currently on hold.  Right now the one that is bothering me the most is my garden.

For eight years, in Okinawa I tried to have a garden.  I didn’t want much, just a couple of potted tomato plants.  I love fresh tomatoes.  Sadly, I could never make it work.  Maybe it was too hot, maybe I just did it wrong.  Why doesn’t matter anymore.  When we found our house here in Belgium, I was thrilled to see there already was a dedicated garden spot and a greenhouse in my yard.  I spent months digging, fertilizing, weeding and planting, just a little every few days so I could have my garden.  I was rewarded with fresh tomatoes, artichokes, zucchini, corn, pumpkins, broccoli, and more lettuce than I knew what to do with.  And this year, I get to do it again.

Unfortunately, digging in the dirt naturally gets your clothes dirty.  Without a working washer, those filthy muddy clothes then sit there, gross, sweaty, and slowly accepting stains, until you can drive it to the laundromat.  I’m trying to hold out until my washer is fixed, but the truth is, I’m running out of time to get things moving.  We’re getting 70 degree days here now, and soon my hours of garden prep will be done in the heat.  Not a plan I wanted to go for.  Until I can get moving, here are five things about gardening.

1. Fresh vegetables

This is the main reason I like having my own garden.  I love the fresh vegetables all summer.  There is a different taste to fresh vegetables.  You can think I’m crazy, but it’s true. Fresh vegetable just taste different.  They taste better.  It’s as though the vegetable knows how hard you worked to get it and is thanking you for it.  Not only do you save money and eat healthy, you know exactly what is in your food.

2. Sunshine

I like being hot.  It’s not just that I hate to be cold (which I do); I actually really enjoy being hot.  I like feeling warm enough you can feel each individual drop of sweat trail down your body.  There is an awareness you have of your body when you are hot.  Your skin is warm enough to almost tingle at the slightest touch.  The heat of the sun lets you know you are alive.  I used to get my sunshine fix at the beach.  Without a close by beach, I have to get my fix somewhere else.

3. Time to think

There is something soothing about repetitive work.  You continue to repeat the same motions, the same actions, over and over again.  You don’t need to think about what you are doing, you just keep moving.  This is when I work out plot points, or run dialogue through my head.  When a story is sticky, some nice, physical labor works great to unstick it.

4. Lessons

Last year my younger daughter worked in the garden a lot with me.  She wasn’t in school, so she helped to pick the seeds, plant the seeds, weed, and harvest.  She was so proud of being able to help.  More than just her pride, was her sense of ownership over her garden.  These were HER vegetables.  She made these with her own hands.  She learned how plants grow by making some plants grow.  She saw what needed to be done, helped in all the hard work.  She learned a little of how much work goes into putting food on her plate.  That is the kind of lesson that teaches gratitude for everything you have.

5. Pride

I’m not talking about the cute pride of accomplishment my daughter had last year, I am talking about full on hipster pride.  Oh, you eat processed vegetables?  Mine come from a local organic garden.  There are never any pesticides or those icky GMOs in MY garden.  I mean, this is as close as I get to being cool.  I kind of have to go for it.

I suppose pretty soon I’ll have to suck it up and start on the hard work to get my garden ready, instead of using the washer as an excuse.  But for now, I’ll just wait on another load.

Five Things About the Laundromat

My schedule this last week has been a little off.  My washer decided to start playing dead about three weeks ago, and so far I have gone through two repairman visits only to determine the problem is most likely something to do with the water and the pipes in the laundry room.  This means I am now waiting on a new repairman to come and fix everything.  My landlord was kind enough to stop by and check on me.  That is kind of her thing.  She made certain to have our phone number in case she needs anything, but she never calls, she just stops by.  (There is almost a complete guarantee that she will arrive on my doorstep if I am in my scraggiest sweats with a messy house.)  This policy of stopping by announced extends to repairmen she sends over.  There is never any warning, just a knock on the door and the expectation that I can stay while they do their business.  The final effect of this is I have no idea when this plumber will arrive or how long I will be without a washer.

In the mean time, I get to spend some quality time at the Laundromat.  There aren’t very many in the area I live, but I choose to drive twice as far to find one that costs a third of the price and has a couple of American stores nearby.  (I know the American stores thing may be weird, but if you live in a country away from your native land for any period of time, there are certain things you miss and will go out of your way to find again.)  This forty-five minute drive, combined with the minimum 90 minutes of washing clothes means I am looking at 4-5 hours of my day dealing with laundry instead of my normal routine of switching loads around as I do other, more entertaining things.  There can be some advantages, however overall I am not a fan of spending my time airing my dirty laundry in public.

Here are five things from my recent (and as yet continuing) time at the Laundromat.

 

1. Quiet Time

When I plan my time at the Laundromat, I always make sure to bring something to do.  I will have some time in between putting the first load in the washer to taking the last load out of the dryer.  Depending on how much I have and how many people are there, that time can be anywhere from 90 minutes to three hours.  This time must be spent doing something.  I always bring a book, sometimes I bring homework, occasionally I will bring a notebook for story notes.  I never bring my laptop, as I know I will not get any actual writing done, no matter how much I need to get through.  I always have the good intentions to use the things I bring, however I rarely do.  Mostly this is due to the interesting people.

2. Interesting People

It never seems to fail me.  I want to ignore everyone else at the Laundromat and read my book, but there is always one person who just wants to talk.  I can’t help it.   My mother taught me to be polite, which occasionally means having conversations with people when I would rather put my headphones in and ignore them.  Sometimes the people are nice and fun.  Sometimes they are looking for help and information in an area that is new for them.  Sometimes they are just plain rude and I curse my mother for teaching me to be the better person and not tell them exactly where they can stick their opinions.  Sometimes it takes an extreme amount of self control to resist the impulse to start a cat fight in the Laundromat.  I’m pretty sure I was close to biting a piece of my tongue off when another mother began her tirade on public education and how she is just as good of a teacher for her children because you can completely base a homeschool curriculum on Pintrest.  (This is a sore spot.  My mother is a teacher, and I am currently working on my Masters of Education.  I like Pintrest.  I think teachers both post and use some great stuff on Pintrest.  I do not think looking at Pintrest and saying “Hey that’s cool!” is the same as planning age appropriate learning objectives.  Indicating it is the exact same thing is disrespectful to all of the teachers who work so hard to plan and carryout lesson plans all year.)

3. Tighty Whiteys

We all wear underwear.  Well, most of us anyway.  It’s not a secret, and it is not shameful.  However, it is incredibly awkward to have a random guy talking to you while he is folding his stained tighty whiteys.  Where do you look?  I can’t look at the underwear, because then I am staring at his underwear.  I can’t look at my own underwear, because then he might start looking there too.  I can’t make eye contact, because then I am staring into his eyes as he plays with his underwear.  Please.  Either stuff your underwear in the bottom of your basket for later, or pause the conversation.

4. Washer Hogs

Some places have very strict policies about how many washers you can use at a time, or how you should deal with items that are left behind.  Our last base maintained a two washer at a time policy.  You could break the policy if things weren’t busy, but you ran the risk of being kicked out if business picked up and you were using too many washers.  Here, there does not seem to be any hard and fast rule, so I try to use common sense and manners.  If no one is there, I use no more than half the washers at a time (it’s a small place, so it’s not that many.)  This means if someone else comes in, they can get started also.  It might mean I take a little longer to run a second batch of loads, but I feel like a better person.  Others do not seem to have that belief and will boldly say they don’t care, they got there first.  It makes me feel like the kid who was a little to slow to the swing set all over again; I’m watching, waiting for a turn, knowing I might be there for a while.  Please people, if you are planning on using every washer, at least go early in the morning, or late at night.  Don’t go during the peak business hours of the day.

5. Forgotten Socks

I kind of love the forgotten items at the Laundromat, mostly because they are never mine.  Sometimes it is the sad and lonely sock, sitting on the washer, wondering if anyone will ever come back.  Other times, it is a full load of laundry, sitting in a washer, unclaimed by it’s owner.  Last week it was a large blue and brown comforter, sitting in a basket.  It is very rare to solve the mystery of the lost laundry, but sometimes you find out to whom it belongs.  I was fortunate enough to see the owner of said blanket come and claim it last week, and let me tell you, I was excited to know the truth.  Someone who worked next door had been washing their bedding while they worked, and had had a family emergency forcing them to abandon their items.  Two days later (when I was there) they came back to claim it.  It was such a minor thing, but I felt like Sherlock Holmes solving a murder.  It made my boring, laundry washing day.

Five Things About Vacation

This last week my daughters were out of school for Carnival; a full week home with Mom.  Not wanting to squander this opportunity, we planned a little vacation to Disneyland in Paris. As it is only a four hour drive for us, we could not possibly pass on the chance to take the kids for their first Disney trip while they are still young enough to be excited.  So we packed up the car, and took three days and two nights to go nuts at the park.  There was much fun to be had, including the thrill my younger daughter had from having Snow White call her a princess, and getting Mickey and Minnie to sign her cast, and the joy of my older daughter meeting Alice and learning to enjoy her first ride (it only took three times on Pirates of the Caribbean for her to decide she wasn’t going to die on the small dips).

For me vacation is a time to recharge as completely as I ever do.  I try to stick to a very firm policy of no work during family time, unless it is absolutely necessary.  That means no writing, no drafting, no querying, no blogging, and only minimal homework, if it cannot be done early or is due before we will return.  It usually means there is a mad dash to get things done before I leave, however I usually return ready to work again.  For example, this last week I was rushing to get another edit done on my manuscript.  I am currently sending out queries for this novel, however I have a hard time completely calling it done.  As I send out my letters I try to be conscious of any improvements I can make; when sending out sample chapters, if they are not working I need to keep working on them.  While I didn’t get completely through again, I am anxious to get back to work having had three days to clear my head.  I have found these small trips, just a weekend where I intentionally do not think about my writing makes the story become clear again.  Simply put I regain my focus.

As I return to reality, which unfortunately included almost 30 pages of writing to be done for school, here are five things about taking a vacation.

1) Packing

I hate packing.  When leaving the house for any extended period of time, it is definitely a requirement, but I don’t have to like it.  First I drag the suitcases up from the basement, then search my closet for the clothing that I am going to be locked into wearing for a period of time, no matter what happens.  I have to hope these clothes fit the weather for wherever we are going, that they are comfortable enough to survive an active trip, and of course that I don’t forget anything important, such as contact fluid or underwear.  Then, after a short period of time, you have to pack it all back up to come home.  Packing when driving somewhere is marginally better, as you don’t have to worry as much about everything fitting into your suitcase, as long as it fits in the car. 

Unpacking isn’t any better.  Your vacation is over, and yet the clean up is still sitting there.  Mocking you.  It’s a horrible way to bookend your vacation.

2) Travel

Growing up, there were a lot of us.  I have six brothers and one sister, so getting anywhere was not an easy proposition.  Flying was not financially reasonable, so we drove everywhere.  At the time, I didn’t mind it.  Now, having flown occasionally for other trips, I don’t enjoy the drive as much as I used to.  It’s nice to know you can pull over if people need to use the rest room, or just to stretch.  Of course when flying the plane doesn’t need to stop for those things, you just keep moving.  Whatever your choice of travel method, sometimes the journey is almost as much fun as the destination.  When driving, my husband and I talk.  A lot.  Probably more than we do when we’re at home.  It is easy to forget why we love each other sometimes, and then we get in the car and I fall in love all over again.

3) Planning

I plan vacation as if I am going into war.  It’s not just the hotel, travel, and activity tickets.  I know what I want to accomplish before I get there and usually have a plan of attack.  When we went to Dublin, I knew I wanted to see the Trinity College Library,  and the Jameson Distillery.  Going to Inverness, I knew I wanted to find Nessie, hear some bagpipers, and admire how sexy a man looks in a kilt.  For Disneyland, we needed to meet a princess, find Alice, buy me mugs, and ride as many of the rides as possible.  Twice.  Sometimes the plans are vague and leave a lot of wiggle room, which I like having so that I can add in the things I didn’t know I had to do.  But I can’t let go of my plan completely.  Having my plan makes sure I don’t leave and instantly regret something I didn’t do.

4) Moving

I always pack running clothes when I do on vacation, but I rarely use them.  Most often, my running around involves walking everywhere we go.  And I mean everywhere.  I hate driving in the city, particularly a city I don’t know.  So when we travel, we drive or fly into the city, park the car and do not return until we are going home.  Some places we walk everywhere, as we did in Dublin.  Other times, we combine walking with the metro, as we did in Paris and London.  No matter where we are, or exactly how we are traveling, we move constantly.  Everyday we return to our hotel room, tired and sore from the constant movement.  And strangely enough, we all love it.

5) Recovering

After the vacation, you are supposed to be relaxed and calm, having recovered whatever sense of normalcy you were missing.  I’m not sure who does that, but it has never been me.  I come back from vacation just as stressed as I was before I left as I attempt to return to life.  There is laundry to wash, souvenirs to put away, a sad puppy who missed her family, homework to catch up on, and writing that needs to be done.  The joke of needing a vacation to get over the last vacation is not entirely true; I need to vacation to recover from the return home.

 

Unfortunately, I am still recovering from my return home.  I wanted to dive right back into my blogging, writing, cleaning, and homework schedule, however I am still a little behind.  Hopefully, I can finish my recovery this week and not miss any more writing days.