Running, running, running, running, running …

It was cool and raining.
Water seeped through my windbreaker and dripped from the rim of my hat as I ran down Main Street in our little town last night.
In the darkness, it was a bit like trail running.
I jumped around puddles that I didn’t see until I was upon them, I leaped over broken chunks of sidewalk. I strained to balance as I slipped on wet leaves. While passing under a street light, I glanced at the Garmin watch my husband had lent me.
I’d run almost 3 miles and I hadn’t even thought about running.
I had been lost in thought and in the challenge of keeping my footing.
I was running like I used to run more than five years ago before I became pregnant with the twins.
My body was straining, but my mind was free of it.
I had finally regained enough fitness to disconnect the physical from the mental.
I fell in love again … with running.
I am heavier than I was in my marathoning days and I certainly won’t be setting personal records in 5Ks any time soon. My pace was slow, more of a jog than a run. But I felt it again — that release that hooked the first time back in my teenage years.
I’ve regained that part of me.
I am back.
I am really back.

Who needs money, right?

For the second time in a year, I let guilt over the lack of a steady paycheck get to me.
It’s not like I’ve been lazy. I’ve written one novel and I’m nearly done with another. I’ve published a few short stories and I’ve started freelancing again.
Oh yeah, and then there are those four kids who need my love and attention.
But my novel hasn’t sold yet, I got paid for only one of those short stories and I can handle only one or two freelance assignments a month while still working on my fiction. The twins are in school 16 hours a week and the older kids go full-time.
I wanted to make a greater financial contribution.
I wanted validation.
The first time I felt this way, I took a job moderating for a national online moms forum. It was great in the beginning. I was on the site often anyway, so why not get paid for it, I figured. I was the lead moderator only two shifts a week and simply had to help out during other times.
What I had not realized was that good moderators must be fully immersed, especially with this particular site, where the moms could get down and dirty, mean and nasty often. I was cooking dinners with my laptop on the counter, trying to ignore the personal attacks that came my way whenever I intervened.
The hours were long. The pay wasn’t great and my stress levels were high.
Worse, I had no time to write.
I finally gave it up after a few months.
That was in the spring.
I’d forgotten the lessons I’d learned this December when a magazine/publisher I write for asked whether I’d be interested in social networking. I jumped at the chance, but I should have exercised restraint. I should have sat down and thought.
The job is a good one for someone who is interested in a career in social networking or who simply wants to earn a few bucks. It involves creating and posting nearly 50 tweets a day on 14 different blogs. Easily done with tools like hootsuite.com.
But doing it right, especially in the beginning, took me away from everything else.
Within a week, I realize that the job was far more involved than I had first believed. If I continued, in the limited work time that I have, everything else would have to end.
Little or no freelancing.
No fiction.
Less time for my kids.
I gave notice today, but said I’d hang in there until they find someone else.
I hope that next time this type of opportunity comes up, I think a little harder and I look back on what I’ve written here because I need to remember a few things:
I am not a moderator.
I am not a professional social networker.
I am not worthless simply because I don’t produce a steady flow of cash.
None of things describe me.
I am a writer.
I am sometimes a teacher.
I am a mother and a wife, who needs to balance all those things to be there when the people she loves need her.
That’s what I am.
And that’s perfectly valid.

Everybody’s dancing but me

This is the week of the happy dance in the Cincinnati area.
School starts Aug. 24 in our district. Some schools started last week. Others start this week.
Parents all over the region are clicking their heels high in the air.
They are doing jigs, popping their joints, sliding gracefully across the kitchen floor.
Not me.
I haven’t even bought school supplies yet.
I’ll be dancing away Sept. 9 when my twins start preschool. I adore those little guys and they are a blast, but I get nothing done when they are around. They will go for only four hours a day, two days a week.
We’ll all benefit from that.
But I’m finding it hard to let the older kids go this year.
I’ll be honest.
I have great kids.
My oldest son is nine and my daughter will be eight this month.
Eightty percent of the time, they get along beautifully. They are each other’s best friend. When they do argue, it’s never because one was intentionally cruel to the other.
They don’t do that kind of thing.
And they are really smart: book smart and people smart.
I can talk to them about grown-up stuff and they understand. I can explain the impact of their own behaviors and they understand. They are sensitive and empathetic, so much so that I often have to remind myself that they are children.
And when they are gone, I miss them.
Two weeks ago, they went to Pennsylvania for seven days with my husband for their grandfather’s funeral. I’d never been away from them for so long before and I quickly came to appreciate how much they help me around the house and with the twins.
Yes, they have their moments.
Sometimes, they are so whiny I just want to scream.
Sometimes they decide to do “experiments” and they destroy my kitchen.
Sometimes they find every reason possible to avoid going to bed and when 9 o’clock turns into 11 o’clock, I’m ready to tear my hair out.
But there is one other thing that tips the scale in their favor, no matter what else my older kids might do:
When their friends ask them what I do, they don’t say, “She makes us dinner.” They don’t say, “She drives us to school.” They don’t say, “She cleans the house, takes care of the twins or does the dishes.”
They say, “My mom writes books.”
My mom writes books.
That’s what they say.
Nope.
I just can’t feel the rhythm of that happy dance.

Writing

Originally posted Nov. 8, 2008

I am a mom.
I am a wife.
I am a stepmother, a daughter, a daughter-in-law, a sister, a sister-in-law, a niece, a cousin, an aunt, a great aunt, a friend. I’m sure I am even an enemy to a select few.
But no matter who I am to others, I am always a writer.
It is as a writer that I see the world even when I am too steeped in laundry and dishes to reach for a pencil and paper or to tap away on my laptop.
There was a time when I didn’t believe that, when I didn’t believe that writers perceived things all that differently than others and I didn’t believe in myself. Even during my years as a full-time journalist.
But I was over-thinking, and isn’t that what writing is all about?
Writing is about thinking. It’s about perception, analysis and vision. It’s a constant craving to understand the complexities of the world and of human nature and to convey that understanding through written words in a way that excites, energizes and entertains.
When I finally understood and accepted the distraction of that craving and the strength of that lure, when I finally caved in and called myself a writer, other things became clear to me and I began to accept them as well:
That’s why my house is a mess.
That’s why the walls need painting.
That’s why I have no garden and the flowers by the mailbox always die prematurely.
That’s why my older kids roll their eyes when I try to explain the dynamics of their friendships and the various points of view in their arguments.
That’s why my toddler twins grin, cackle and run when they see my laptop.
That’s why I can’t bake a decent cake, knit Christmas gifts, wrap a present with style or learn the art of scrapbooking.
That’s why I don’t get enough sleep.
So I’m sorry PTO.I’m sorry Dr. Sears, Martha Stewart, Suze Orman.
My house is a mess, my desk is a mess, my bills are a mess and I don’t dress well.
It’s not my fault.
I’m a writer.
I write to think; I think to write.