THE SUNSHINE AWARD: BLOGS THAT MAKE ME HAPPY

November 30, 2012 in Random Thoughts

On this, the last day of November, while the spirit of Thankfulness is still fresh in my mind, I’d like to spread a little Sunshine around to some people who have made a difference in my online life!

The Sunshine Award is given from bloggers to “bloggers who positively and creatively inspire others in the blogosphere.”

I was honored to receive it from the amazing Lara Britt at Writing Space,which seems fitting considering she blogs from Hawaii. She was the one who gave me my first guest posting opportunity, which is a huge deal when you’re a brand new blogger. Lara offers a virtual smorgasbord of interesting things on her blog: Memoir Mondays, Tourist Tuesdays…truly, there is something for everyone. Thank you so much Lara!

The Sunshine Award comes with some rules, but in the spirit of Thankfulness, I am going to waive those rules for these bloggers. Please just accept this lovely burst of Sunshine from me as a big Thank You for all you do, and enjoy!

1)    Mari L. McCarthy at Create Write Now

Mari offers a fantastic journaling site, complete with journaling prompts, tips, and workshops. I’ve done a couple of her workshops and I learn something new about myself and how I can better function in my life every single time. Plus, she’s so supportive! There’s nothing quite like having a cheerleader in your corner.

2)    Luisa Tanno
Luisa’s heading on her blog is “Find yourself. Express yourself. Be yourself.” Her blogs are like a little dose of meditation that makes me feel better (or moves me tears, like the blog about Mrs. Daniel. That one should have a warning label.). She also offers creative journaling workshops, like this one beginning this Monday, December 3, 2012: Gifts! A 7 Day Creative Journaling Workshop. She has great prompts for creative writing assignments that are so fun! Or challenging, depending on what it is. Who doesn’t like a fun challenge?  I’m signed up and I would love some company!

3)    Julia Tomiak at Diary of a Word Nerd

I love books, and I love blogs about books! Julia blogs about vocabulary through books. Not only do I broaden my vocabulary every time I read her blog, I get great book recommendations to add to my list.

Speaking of which, I just read Ultraviolet by R.J. Anderson, a Young Adult novel my son said was a Must Read. It was. The opening lines were these:

“Once upon a time there was a girl who was special. This is not her story. Unless you count the part where I killed her.”

Doesn’t that just come out and grab you? Alison is mentally ill and may have killed a girl, but she has no memory of it. She also has a condition called synesthesia, which means that the stimulation of one sensory pathway leads to an experience in another pathway. For example, Alison can taste lies and she sees letters as colors. It’s a fascinating insight into the condition, and a compelling mystery besides.

4) Khara House at Our Lost Jungle

The best way I can describe Khara’s blog is real. She’s a real person who makes no apologies for who she is, and I love that! Plus she’s funny, which is something I can always appreciate. She just posted a list of Affirming Songs : the songs that you listen to to lift you up. How great is that?

I have one to add to the list: Fix You by Coldplay. It’s haunting, and it’s all about someone standing by another, hoping to fix them. But when I listen to it, I like to imagine I’m there for myself, as in, Hey! I can fix me! I feel stronger knowing that I can solve my own problems rather than relying on someone else to rescue me.

5) Veronica Roth

I go to Veronica’s blog when I need a little beauty in my life. Not only is she a writer, she’s an artist, and her photography is stunning. Sometimes I’ll just sit and scroll through photograph after photograph in awe, amazed at the way she combines writing and art with a fluidity that appears as if it was always meant to be that way. Gorgeous!

 

Wishing you all a little Sunshine in these bleak November days!  Have no fear: the festive holiday season begins on December 1st, and I, for one, intend to be on a candy cane high for the next 25 days.

RISE OF THE GUARDIANS: THE TRUE MEANING OF CHRISTMAS

November 28, 2012 in Adventures in Parenting, Reflections on Pop Culture

I took my kids to see Rise of the Guardians in 3D over the Thanksgiving weekend, and I’m going to say something right up front: I have a crush on Jack Frost.

Who wouldn’t? He has white/platinum hair, gorgeous blue eyes, a great laugh, he’s kind to children and baby teeth (little hummingbird-like creatures of the Tooth Fairy Brigade), and he’d give his life to save  someone he loved. For those of you who have seen the movie or the trailers and are worried that he might be a little too young for me: don’t. His looks are deceiving. He’s over 300 years old.

Rise of the Guardians is about a threat in the form of Pitch Black, who would love nothing more than to have the children of the world have horrible nightmares and cease to believe in anything but fear and darkness.

Of course he must be fought, and who better than Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and Sandman, or the Big Four? But Pitch is too powerful; they need help. They need a new guardian. They need…Jack Frost.

Unfortunately, Jack Frost has no idea what his purpose his, let alone why the Man in the Moon chose him to be a guardian.

It’s a perfect tale for the Christmas season, filled with themes of believing in yourself and others, working together to fight a common evil, and celebrating the children of the world as our future.

My favorite moment came when Santa (a hearty Russian named North with a “Naughty” and “Nice” tattoo on each forearm) said something along the lines of: “We are too busy bringing joy to children to actually play with…children.”

 

North, I feel the same way.

As the busy holiday season launches, I find myself frequently without my kids. Shopping for Christmas presents without them is a necessity; so is wrapping them. They could help me with my holiday baking, and they are the ones I call when I need the sugar cookies frosted, but otherwise I prefer to bake alone. I can’t claim to be any less messy than they are, but I am quicker.

While I’m spending all my time trying to make the holiday season a joyous one for my children, am I possibly missing the whole point?

Shouldn’t I be spending more time being with them?

This year, my Christmas theme is simplicity. I’m still going to make cookies, but instead of making fifteen different kinds, I’m going to limit myself to…well, I don’t know yet. They’re all so good! Nevertheless, I’m going to cross some off the list.

I also like to make gifts for the holidays. I’ve made quilts, blankets, fused glass ornaments, card and tag assortments: you name it, I’ve made it. It’s fun, but it also takes an enormous amount of time. This year I’m not making anything (well, maybe just one tiny thing!). I’m going with gift cards instead: simple, far less time-consuming, and probably a lot more useful.

I’m looking forward to a December that is a little more relaxed but no less joyous. Thank you, Rise of the Guardians, for reminding me of what the Christmas season really is about.

BLACK FRIDAY/CYBER MONDAY

November 26, 2012 in Random Thoughts

Wake up early, before dawn,

Well before the coffee’s on.

Pack an apple for a snack,

Take my plan for the attack.

 

Fliers marking deals galore

If I can get there well before

My fellow warriors who use force

With shopping carts and no remorse.

 

Black Friday: shopping calls,

Outlet stores and crowded malls,

Coupons clipped, hair in cap,

Won’t come home ‘til I need a nap.

 

Plow through racks, can’t find the size,

Blue or white? I can’t surmise.

What exactly do they want?

The time has come for a croissant.

 

Fortified, back on the quest,

Approach the shelves much less stressed.

Leisurely browse, take my time

Forget the kids; this gift’s mine.

 

Load the car, there’s no more room,

Time to head for home soon.

Buyer’s remorse rears its head,

Check receipts with growing dread.

 

All is well; they take returns.

Easy fix; no fatal burns.

Am I done? Not nearly so.

Still an entire month to go.

 

But Cyber Monday is alive and well

With online deals; I’ll sit a spell

On the couch in my pj’s

Hunting for the latest craze

 

For cheap; for isn’t that the goal

Of this frenzied shopping hole

That I’ve dug myself into

And vowed to follow it through?

 

I’ll keep going ‘til I’m done!

Happy Shopping everyone!

A ONCE-IN-A-LIFETIME THANKSGIVING

November 21, 2012 in Adventures in Parenting

I love New York City. I was first introduced to it when my sister attended school there. I couldn’t believe it: the neon lights in Times Square, the skyscrapers, the sheer number of yellow taxis, the crowds, the spectacle on Broadway…New York was alive! And big!

It has always been on the list to take my kids to New York, but I simply couldn’t fathom the logistics of trying to nurse an infant on the subway or change a dirty diaper in any bathroom in Manhattan. As they got older, I had other concerns: the long plane ride, toddlers that didn’t want to hold hands and thought nothing of dashing out into the street, nap schedules to maintain or suffer the consequences, and those ever-popular meltdowns in the middle of public places for no apparent reason.

Finally, last year, I looked at my kids and realized they were old enough for the Big Apple! If we were going to do it, we were going to do it right: we were going to be there for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

We stayed in a hotel along the parade route, and were up before dawn to make sure my (short) kids would have an unobstructed view. Yes, it was a long and very cold wait, but we were in New York City, baby!  The crowds lined the sidewalks as far as you could see: at first 2 rows deep, then four, then ten… There were more people than you could ever imagine. Then the whispers began:

“I see something!”

“Is it starting?”

“I think something’s coming!”

Let me just say this: The TV screen does not do justice to the majesty of the Macy’s Day parade balloons. They are so huge they block out the sun as they pass by. The bands, the dancing, the horses, the over-the-top costumes, the sunny-side-up eggs riding bicycles…we couldn’t peel our eyes away. If that weren’t enough, we saw celebrities! CeeLo Green, Neil Diamond, Mary J. Blige, Scotty from American Idol, and there were even a couple of kids from the Disney Channel that my kids knew, so we all got a chance to see someone famous.

It was magnificent.

So was the rest of our trip. There is just so much to see and do, and I feel like I gave my kids a leg up on pop culture. Now, when something from New York shows up on TV or in a movie, my kids can say “I’ve been there!” or “We saw that!”

This year, we are staying home for Thanksgiving, but my heart will be in New York City. We will watch the Macy’s Day parade on TV, and remember how it was when we got the chance to see it live.

I am thankful for the memories we made on that trip, and I aim to get us back there again someday.

Wishing you all a peaceful Thanksgiving Day spent surrounded by the love of family and friends!

THE ODD COMMENT ATTRACTOR: PART 2

November 19, 2012 in Random Thoughts

Today I am continuing to share some of the, well, let’s just call them “odd” remarks people have made to me that I have no clue how to interpret. I began this discussion here.

ODD COMMENT #3:

I ran into a girlfriend I hadn’t seen in awhile. I was delighted to see her, and she greeted me with a big smile and a warm hug and said “You look like you’ve just run a marathon!”

Let me state for the record that I was not dressed in workout attire. I was showered and had even blow-dried my hair.

I have seen women cross the finish line after running a grueling 26.2-mile race and they do not look good. Their hair is matted down with sweat, their shirts are glued to their bodies with sweat, their faces are flushed, their eyes are haunted, and they don’t walk normally afterwards—it’s more of a weaving, hobbling gait.

Is that what she thought I looked like?

I think of that comment often, usually right before I leave the house, and when I think of it, I make a point to check my appearance in the mirror…just in case.

ODD COMMENT #4

One day in the dead of winter, I planted myself beneath one basketball hoop so I could catch some action shots of my son bringing up the ball and taking a shot. I brought out the big guns: the long lens and the monopod. I might have looked professional with all that high-tech equipment, but I was going casual that day: faded jeans and a black-and-white striped shirt: simple and clean.

At the end of the game, my girlfriend came up to me. “Hi! We were all just talking about you!”

I stared at her in surprise. “You were?”

“Yes. We decided that you look like a college student.”

Okkaayy. What does that mean?

a)     I looked young. (As a forty-mmmmfff year old woman, all I can say about this is: Hooray!)

b)    I acted young. (Hmm.)

c)     I was dressed too young for my age. (Mothers aren’t allowed to wear faded jeans and striped shirts?)

I have no idea what prompted my fellow moms to come to this conclusion, but unlike the “marathon” comment, I have decided to take this one as a compliment, even if it is in my own mind.

ODD ENTIRE CONVERSATION:

I’m always a little stressed going through airport security. I feel like I’m in trouble before I even pass over my driver’s license.

We have to be quick so as not to hold up the line, incurring dirty looks from the people late for their flight behind us. I have to constantly rope my children back in line and facing forward. I have to look the worker in the eye lest he think I have something to hide.

One day, as I passed over my driver’s license, the kind elderly gentleman, probably to put me at ease because I was so obviously stressed, pointed out the brilliantly purple airplane parked on the tarmac behind him.

“Wow!” I said. (Which could also be classified as an odd comment.)

“Oh, that’s nothing. You would not believe the kinds of planes we get here. All different colors! Last week we had a bunch of Fed Ex planes coming through.”

“Oh!” The kids were restless.

“And one day there was a bright yellow plane bigger than that purple one!”

“Oh.” The people in line behind me were getting restless.

“Oh, yes. We get all kinds of planes coming through here. From Hawaii, Japan, Europe, all kinds of overseas flights land here.”

“Umm, great.” I took a step forward, nudging my children in front of me. And he turned around! He turned away from the masses of angry people in a hurry to get to their flights just to talk to me about airplanes.

“We get some small planes too, but the big ones are the exciting ones.”

I kept walking, casting inane “Ummms” and “Ohs” over my shoulder and he kept talking! I wanted to shout: “It’s not my fault the line’s not moving!”

When we finally made our way through security, my kids asked “Why did he want to talk to you so much?”

“Because elderly men love me,” I told them.

And that, dear readers, is a topic for another post.

THE ODD COMMENT ATTRACTOR: PART 1

November 16, 2012 in Random Thoughts

People say odd things to me. I don’t know why.

Being shy, maybe there’s a space I leave open that the other person feels an overwhelming need to fill with something—anything—and so they’ll blurt out thoughts that in retrospect, they probably should have kept in their own heads.

Maybe I simply put people at ease and they feel comfortable telling me their most intimate thoughts—even if it is something unflattering about me.

Or maybe I am an odd person and people enjoy pointing that fact out to me.

Regardless, I have been on the receiving end of some pretty strange remarks.

ODD COMMENT #1:

One day in college, I was having lunch with two of my girlfriends. One was my very dear friend who looks enough like me that everyone calls us twins. She is also an odd-comment-attractor. We keep in touch to this day so we can share and puzzle over what seemingly normal people say to us.

The other girl, well, I’m not exactly sure why she was there. Whatever the reason, I realized that she was staring at me.

“What?”

“Nothing.” Her gaze shifted to my friend and she proceeded to stare at her.

“What are you doing?” my twin asked.

“You two have the same eyelids.”

How does one respond to a comment like that? “Um, gee, thanks?”

Why was she staring at our eyelids in the first place? They’re eyelids. They are not our most prominent or interesting facial feature. If someone were to do a study of eyelid characteristics, I bet a lot of people have similar-looking eyelids. How different can they be?

ODD COMMENT #2:

I was on my way into the grocery store when I witnessed one of the bagging clerks drop to her knees and then fall all the way to the asphalt in the middle of the parking lot. There was no precipitating event that I could see: she just collapsed. Naturally, no one else was around.

I wasn’t sure what to do: A) Run inside and get help and risk having this poor woman be run over by a car, or B) Drag her unconscious body to the side and risk both giving her road rash and receiving a lawsuit for moving her when I wasn’t supposed to. I opted for Choice A. I dashed into the store shouting “Help! Help!” A store manager quickly came to my aid and I explained what had happened.

He was remarkably unconcerned. “She does that sometimes.”

She does that sometimes? Your employee is passed out in the parking lot about to be hit by a car and that’s all you can say? Maybe it’s just me, but if you have an employee who occasionally collapses into unconsciousness, perhaps she should not be placed on grocery cart retrieval duty in a dangerous parking lot. Perhaps she should be working inside the store where if she does collapse, there are bright lights, telephones, and people around to assist her.

But wait…there’s more! The Odd Comment Attractor: Part 2

DO MY KIDS HAVE IT TOO EASY? OLD YELLER: A BOOK REVIEW

November 14, 2012 in Adventures in Parenting, Book Reviews

I don’t know how I managed to make it to the ripe old age of forty-mmmfff without ever having read the classic Old Yeller by Fred Gipson, but there it is.

After reading Garth Stein’s The Art of Racing in the Rain (read my review here), I’ve been on a dog-story kick. I’m currently in the middle of Marley and Me by John Grogan, and I’m way overdue for a re-read of Wilson Rawl’s Where the Red Fern Grows (I may even read it aloud to my kids!), so it seemed like a natural time to slide Old Yeller into the mix.

It’s a slim book, and Fred Gipson doesn’t waste any time throwing you right into another era: the untamed Texas frontier back in a time where fathers were gone from their homes for months on cattle drives, leaving their 14-year-old sons in charge of the homestead.

Being “in charge” back then meant something significantly different than it does now.

Travis’ day is mind-boggling. He totes a rifle with him everywhere he goes to protect his mama and little brother from wild animals, Indians (as they were called back then), and any other unwelcome creature that may stumble onto their land. He also uses it to catch dinner, and when he catches his game, he’s the one that works the meat, removing the hide and entrails and hanging the venison up to dry.

My 12-year-old son can make buttered toast all by himself.

Travis also takes care of the crop of corn, keeps his little brother from swimming naked in their drinking water, and re-makes an entire fence after a couple of roan bulls crash through it in the midst of their battle. Seriously.

This 14-year-old boy whips out his axe, fells a couple of trees, splits the trunks into narrower widths of wood, and builds a fence…all in a day’s work.

And he didn’t complain! He didn’t whine or cry or shout “I hate you!” to his parents for making him do such a difficult job. It needed to be done, so he did it…simple as that.

He also takes on the big job of marking and castrating their pigs: dangerous, bloody work that had me sick to my stomach just imagining it.  He ties himself to a low-lying branch while Old Yeller directs the pigs in his direction. When a pig gets close enough, Travis ropes and marks it:

“First I folded his right ear and sliced out a three-cornered gap in the top side, a mark that we called an overbit. Then, from the under side of his left ear, I slashed off a long strip that ran clear to the point. That is what we called an underslope.”

Um…gross.

Travis is out doing that all by himself and I won’t let my kids slice their own bagel. (Although in my defense, I did hear that at one time, bagel-cutting incidents made up the highest percentage of trips to the ER.)

Then Travis gets injured: he takes a wild hog tusk to his leg and it slices him to the bone. He ties it up with a piece of fabric he cut from his shirt, and walks miles back home.

That Travis is one tough kid.

I know how Travis learned to do all that stuff at such a young age: they didn’t have cars. He didn’t waste hours of his day in the back seat of a car stuck in traffic on the way to soccer practice, or going along for the ride to pick up his brother from basketball practice because he was too young to be left home alone.

As far as I could tell, Travis also didn’t have school. Nowhere in that book did it mention attending a rickety one-room schoolhouse where kids ranging in age from five to sixteen were all taught together. Homework wasn’t a part of his life at all.

Travis was busy, but my kids are busy too. They’re just busy doing different things.

Nevertheless, I wonder if I’m doing my kids a disservice by not giving them more to do. I don’t know that they need to go out and start marking wild hogs necessarily, but some more responsibility around the house would be nice.

Now if only I could  find some room in their schedules to fit in these new responsibilities.

HOMELAND

November 12, 2012 in Reflections on Pop Culture

I have a new favorite TV show: Homeland on Showtime.

It’s a cat-and-mouse espionage thriller currently in Season 2. (I just finished watching Season 1 through Netflix.) Carrie Mathison, played by the fantastic Claire Danes, is a CIA agent convinced that returning Marine Sergeant POW Nicholas Brody (played by the equally fabulous—and British!— Damian Lewis) has been turned by Al-Qaeda during his eight-year imprisonment and is now threatening the safety of the United States and its citizens.

Every episode is tense and whip-smart, and even though the show is operating on a long-term arc, every episode seems to end with a surprise “Whoa! I did not see that coming.” twist.

It’s well-acted, as this year’s Best Drama, Best Actor, and Best Actress Emmy wins can attest to, and well written. It won the Outstanding Writing For A Drama Series Emmy for the Pilot episode.

Each character has their own agenda, and it may or may not be the one you think, so I have to wonder: when someone speaks, is it a lie or are they telling the truth?

Carrie lies all the time: about the questionably legal surveillance techniques she engages in, about the medications she’s taking to control her bipolar disorder, and about the fact that she and Brody, her suspected terrorist, spent an illicit weekend together. She even lies to herself, as I suspect she has fallen in love with the man who threatens her country.

Brody lies a lot too, which makes it all the more shocking when he occasionally tells the truth. It’s also shocking how flawless his American accent is.

There are a lot of issues at play here—marriage, infidelity, friendship, betrayal, politics, homeland security, parenting, treason, mental illness—and what I notice is that some of these characters work incredibly hard to keep their citizens safe, often to the detriment of their own happiness and well-being.

On this day, Veteran’s Day, I want to extend my most heartfelt thanks to everyone who has ever worked to keep America safe.

To anyone who has ever served on our soil or abroad, behind a desk or behind enemy lines, undercover or out in broad daylight, with a team or alone, on the attack or on the defensive, as a free soldier or a prisoner of war: I thank you.

To my own personal champions of freedom, some still among us and some not, I thank you.

You have sacrificed a lot for the welfare of our country and its citizens, and I thank you.

STAY-AT-HOME MOMS VS WORKING MOMS: CAN’T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG?

November 9, 2012 in Adventures in Parenting

 

I love Oprah’s magazine. It is filled with all sorts of articles intended to make me a better person. There are articles on better health, thinking more highly of yourself, fabulous finds that make your life easier, prettier, or more enjoyable, recipes, financial, medical, and mental health advice from Suze Orman, Dr. Oz, and Dr. Phil…so much to feel good about in that magazine!

Until the day I read a letter from a reader in Dr. Phil’s advice column in the November 2012 issue. She wrote:

I live in a close-knit, well-to-do community. All the mothers are very active in their children’s schools: They’re fundraising, leading the PTA, and planning events. I’m active in my children’s lives but not in all the “Hey, look at me” ways these women are. I’m feeling a lot of pressure to participate, but I simply don’t want to be involved. And unlike most women in my town, I have a full-time, high-pressure job. I don’t have the option to live the leisurely life of yoga classes, hair appointments (Is she saying she never gets her hair cut?), and community activities; I have to work to keep my family afloat. These women are gossiping about me, and I don’t really care to be around them. But I do feel that it’s important to maintain civility. How can I better manage these relationships?”

As a stay-at-home mom, this letter really got me heated. I felt attacked, belittled, and unvalued.

Luckily, those feelings didn’t last long because Dr. Phil’s response began with “You’re stereotyping these women-which is basically what you accuse them of doing to you. Stop generalizing! Stay-at-home moms do not just sit around eating bonbons and getting their nails done.”

Thank you Dr. Phil!

In this same issue, Oprah interviewed both Barack and Michelle Obama and Mitt and Ann Romney. They all said in very clear language that parenting was the hardest job there is, and yet it is the most important one.

I could not agree more.

Whether us moms stay at home or work outside the home, we all love our kids and want the best for them. The older I get, the more I’ve come to realize that it takes a village to raise these children.

Working moms can’t do it all.

Stay-at-home moms can’t either.

Wouldn’t it be great if all of us moms could work together?

To all you working moms otherwise occupied during the school day and to those stay-at-home moms busy picking up younger kids from preschool, or nursing infants, or that simply want an hour to do something for yourself, don’t worry! I’ve got you covered. I’ll volunteer in the school for you. I’ll teach your child a cool art technique or help them become a better reader. It’s my turn. How many years did other moms do this for my kids when I had infants and toddlers to care for at home?

You can take tomorrow by driving my kid in the soccer carpool. Or sending in supplies for the classroom party. Or helping me out after work when my printer breaks and my son needs to print out his assignment that’s due the next day.

Whether we work outside the home or not, we all have something valuable to offer our kids. Together, what great things can we accomplish? Just imagine what these future leaders of America will be able to achieve with the foundation we lay for them!

 

HOW A STAY-AT-HOME MOM CAN GET THINGS DONE

November 7, 2012 in Adventures in Re-Discovering Myself

Participating in NaNoWriMo is forcing me to be efficient. I have committed to writing 1,667 words every day for 30 days, which is approximately 1,500 more words than I usually write. If that weren’t enough, I have chosen to do this on top of my regularly scheduled activities. There is no sabbatical for me, no tropical writer’s retreat with no phones or internet access so I have nothing to do but type feverishly with no distractions.

I know what you’re thinking: my kids leave for school at 8:30am and are back at 3:00pm. What’s the big deal? In that amount of time, I should be able to write for a couple of hours, do a load of laundry, and still have time to paint the outside of the house, right?

But a stay-at-home mom’s days just aren’t like that. At least, mine aren’t. They aren’t wonderful 6 ½ hour blocks of time for me to flomp down on the couch and take a nap whenever I feel like it. What I get are mini blocks of time. I have an hour before I have to volunteer in one son’s class, and then 30 minutes before I have to get to the gym for my twice-weekly weight-lifting class. Then I have to shower quickly to make it on time for volunteering in my other son’s class, and somehow or another I still have to fit in doing the breakfast dishes, laundry, picking up all the soggy sweatshirts and stinky socks that the kids have strewn all over the house, cleaning, and paying bills. Notice I haven’t even mentioned time to cook or eat, run errands, respond to emails, or write.

Come 3:00pm, “me” time flies right out the window. That’s when I turn into a homework tutor/fight mediator/boo-boo comforter/chauffeur/lost athletic equipment finder/spelling test quizzer/short order cook/storyteller/lullaby singer. Nothing, and I mean nothing gets accomplished after 3:00pm.

So, how am I going to do all this and write too?

I have a plan, and it has occurred to me that I can use this plan to get things done around the house even after NaNoWriMo is finished. Who knows? With the time I save by being ultra-efficient, I might even be able to paint the outside of the house! (Just kidding! But I bet I could squeeze in a nap here and there.)

1)    Dress for success.

I heard on the radio that one of the ways people get more done is to dress for the office. Studies have shown that Casual Fridays are the last efficient work day because dressing down seems to equate with working less.

It’s true for me too. Wearing cozy sweats somehow gives me permission to nod off, watch TV, or get sucked into an urgent, useless internet search for the names of the different parts of a stethoscope.

On the days I have a lot to do (especially if one of those things includes seeing other people), I dress nicely, even if I don’t leave the house at all. And I get more done!

2)    Get out of the house.

It’s easy to get distracted at home. Phones ring, emails come in, there are reruns of Everybody Loves Raymond to watch, dirty floors not to vacuum because I’m reading a magazine instead, and when I’m really desperate, I can always take a call from a telemarketer. (You’d be surprised how efficient I can be at wasting time.)

Since I can’t afford to do that now, on the rare days I have a block of a couple of hours’ time, my laptop and I have been going to the library. It’s quiet, if you don’t count the screaming children in the children’s section or the couple behind me shuffling a deck of cards. (Who goes to the library to play cards?) I bring my iPod for blocking out sound, open my laptop, and I write. The best part is, if I need to do some research, I have an entire library at my disposal!

3)    Stay home.

On those days when I have teensy blocks of time, I can park myself at my computer for 30 minutes of writing, hop on to the next event, return home, sneak in 20 minutes or so after tossing some clothes in the wash, and then I can work out the next scene while I vacuum the upstairs. It’s not ideal, but on those piecemeal kind of days, it’s the only thing I can do.

4)    Turn off the TV.

I make the kids turn off the TV when they’re doing their homework because they don’t pay any attention to what they’re doing. I am the same way. When I write, the TV’s off. In fact, when I’m doing anything, I’m much more efficient when the TV’s off. Unless…

5)    Turn on the TV.

If I’m doing a tedious, mind-numbingly boring task, then turning on the TV is a lifesaver! I catch up on my recorded shows while I fold laundry or get ready for an art project in my son’s class by taping a piece of watercolor paper to a board, one for each of the 25 students.

6)    Set the timer.

When the kids were small, I found housework overwhelming. There was so much to be done I hardly knew where to begin. One day, I decided to time myself as I washed the hardwood floors on my hands and knees. It took me 30 minutes. 30 minutes? Cleaning the entire house was unimaginable, but I could carve out 30 minutes once a week to do a very thorough scrub of those floors.

Now, when I know I’m only home for half an hour but want to cross something off my list, I can either clean the hardwood floors or all three bathrooms. (My standard of “clean” is not very high.) If I only have 10 minutes, it’s the perfect amount of time to wipe down the kitchen counters and table and empty the dishwasher. 5 minutes? Sort through the pile of papers and mail that accumulates on my counter.

I have a household chore that can fit into virtually any time increment!

7)    Sleep!

Otherwise, all those great tips I’ve listed above? They won’t work. At all. I get really cranky when I don’t sleep, and cranky people are known for their inefficiency.

What tips do you have for being more efficient?