Random Thoughts on the New Year

In the tradition of starting the way I wish to go on, I overslept by several hours this morning.  Then I hopped on the exercise bike* for a while and then showered.  I drank a glass of water and then had some coffee with milk.

This is all being placed under the heading of Taking Care of Myself, which is my theme of 2015.**  Even the milk.

There were several bright spots in 2014, including meeting a few dear friends face-to-face for the first time (Hi, Marion, Lyra, Laura, Lisa, Amy, Dee, and Luis—and also Sherry, because seeing you is always wonderful!), finishing the draft of a novel and receiving some terrific comments on some stories I’ve written in the past.

But those lovely moments were more the exception than the rule.  And I think, looking back, that this was mostly my fault.

I was anxious last year.  Worried and self-conscious and depressed and burnt out.  I experienced several disappointments and disappointed myself in the handling of them.

The biggest reason for this was that I kept holding myself to personal standards I could not possibly meet, and didn’t realize that my mistake wasn’t in failing those standards, but in holding myself to them in the first place.

How can I possibly care for myself when I’m too busy beating myself up?

So I’m going to try not to do that this year.

This year, I’m holding myself to different standards:

I’m going to sleep more without guilt

Sleep QWERTY

Who says sleeping is a waste of my time?

Behind too sleep deprived to function is a waste, too, right?

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 I’m going to read a little every day

Inside a Book

Why mess with an excellent track record?

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I’m going to write every day.

Jane Writes

And whatever I write and however much I write will be enough for that day.

Doesn’t mean I can’t improve on the previous day’s efforts.

Does mean I’m not allowed to beat myself up for “falling short”.

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I’m going to follow Anne Lamott’s anti-diet.

Stop and Eat the Dandelions

I’m throwing out my food journals and exercise journals and apps and scales*** and so on, and will be making my own decisions about what makes my body feel right.

As my nutritionist told me:
“If you need a calculator to tell you how much food you “deserve” to nourish yourself . . . something is wrong.”

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I’m going to get  up and move a little every day.

Bubble Wrap Dance

And whatever I do and however much I do it will be enough.

Because moving, like writing, is one of those things that gets better with practice.

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I’m going to be the best parent I can be for my children—
not for other people who might be watching.

Rock Star Parenting

I am only beholden to my kids to be a good parent, not to anyone else, strangers or relatives.

If I get it wrong—and this is where the impossible standards will rear their smug-ugly heads, I’m sure—we’ll sort it out in their therapy sessions, later.

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I’m going to be kind to others
but set my own limits.

Zap Sign

Not because I think there should be limits to kindness, but because it isn’t kind to carry people if you can teach them to walk, instead.

And kindness given out of obligation can slide into resentment pretty quickly.
And then into guilt about that resentment.
And then . . .  yeah.

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I will stop apologizing for not matching other people’s assumptions about me.

‘Snot my problem I’m not what you expected.

dorothy-parker-quote-i-shall-stay-the-way-i-am-because-i-do-not-give-a

And to be fair, I will stop assuming that I know what those assumptions are in the first place.

That one’s all on me.

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And the big one:

I will stop blaming myself for not getting all of this right all the time.

Broken cup

 Because that’s another impossible standard I can’t maintain.

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These aren’t resolutions, exactly, but I’m resolved to give them a try.

You?

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*This is a lie.  There is not enough grace in my body to hop onto anything, much less an exercise bike with a high, extra-wide seat (plan ahead, I always say) that has been wedged between two sold pieces of furniture.  I have to hop several time on one foot to get off the blessed thing without falling face first onto my printer, but that’s not grace, that’s gravity.

**The theme of 2014 was the Year of Health.  I bought and used the exercise bike and dragged myself to the dentist and the eye doctor—the latter just under the wire—and was informed that I have, as Jane gleefully put it “anti-diabetes” or “hypoglycemia” as my doctor and endocrinologist put it.  So now, I also have a nutritionist who is one of the cooler people I’ve ever met.

***Except the food scale, because I use it to weigh ingredients from a couple of my British cookbooks.  And also letters.

Poetry Wednesday: Same Year, Different Century

I told myself that if I had a hangover today, I’d repost Auld Lang Synebut I don’t,* so I had to go rummaging instead.  so this post is a little late, but I have only myself to blame, so oh, well.

The first poetry post of a new year ought to be something special—a bittersweet look at the past, maybe, with a touch of hope for the future.

What I found was a 200-year-old poem that could have been written about our present, by a woman whom I suspect was eventually reincarnated as Dorothy Parker.

Mary Darby Robinson’s early life certainly should have generated enough cynicism for two (or more) snarky writers.

Mary Robinson 1871

Her father abandoned—but did not divorce—his wife and five children, and later closed down the girl’s school that was his family’s only means of support, apparently just because he could.  A young Mary ventured into acting, but was pushed by her mother into what seemed like an advantageous marriage to Thomas Robinson, a clerk of apparent means.

Unfortunately, Thomas had no advantages and no means, but plenty of mistresses and debts.  He was imprisoned for the latter soon after the birth of their first child, and while he was away, Mary wrote poetry.  Her verses caught the attention of Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire, who sponsored her first collection, aptly called Captivity.

After Thomas was released, Mary went into the theater again, and became very popular,especially with the Prince of Wales (later George IV), who promised her the moon if she would become his mistress and, more importantly, a large settlement when their affair ended.  After some thought, Mary left her husband in favor of His Highness, and became the toast of London for a few years, until the Prince dumped her and didn’t pay up.

Despite her sudden drop in society—and chronic ill-health—she refused to return to her old life, or to her husband.

She was rarely without male companionship—at least one of her affairs lasted more than a decade—but she never again depended financially on anyone but herself.  And she wrote —reams of poetry, as well as eight novels, several plays, and numerous essays, most of which examined the rights of women and found them shamefully inadequate.

Her sharp wit proved even more popular than her looks once had—a point that was not lost on her, by the way—and her admirers dubbed her “The English Sappho.”

I highly recommend Mary Robinson’s views on “Female Fashions for 1799″—Joan Rivers wishes she was that clever—but it’s the poem she wrote four years earlier that offers a bitingly honest slice of life that’s so disconcertingly familiar, it’s difficult to see the hope sprinkled throughout.

January, 1795

(Mary Robinson)

Pavement slipp’ry, people sneezing,
Lords in ermine, beggars freezing;
Titled gluttons dainties carving,
Genius in a garret starving.

Lofty mansions, warm and spacious;
Courtiers cringing and voracious;
Misers scarce the wretched heeding;
Gallant soldiers fighting, bleeding.

Wives who laugh at passive spouses;
Theatres, and meeting-houses;
Balls, where simp’ring misses languish;
Hospitals, and groans of anguish.

Arts and sciences bewailing;Timecrafter
Commerce drooping, credit failing;
Placemen mocking subjects loyal;
Separations, weddings royal.

Authors who can’t earn a dinner;
Many a subtle rogue a winner;
Fugitives for shelter seeking;
Misers hoarding, tradesmen breaking.

Taste and talents quite deserted;
All the laws of truth perverted;
Arrogance o’er merit soaring;
Merit silently deploring.

Ladies gambling night and morning;
Fools the works of genius scorning;
Ancient dames for girls mistaken,
Youthful damsels quite forsaken.

Some in luxury delighting;
More in talking than in fighting;
Lovers old, and beaux decrepid;
Lordlings empty and insipid.

Poets, painters, and musicians;
Lawyers, doctors, politicians:
Pamphlets, newspapers, and odes,
Seeking fame by diff’rent roads.

Gallant souls with empty purses;
Gen’rals only fit for nurses;
School-boys, smit with martial spirit,
Taking place of vet’ran merit.

Honest men who can’t get places,
Knaves who shew unblushing faces;
Ruin hasten’d, peace retarded;
Candor spurn’d, and art rewarded.

But it’s in there.

And it’s in us, too.

What are we going to do with it?

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*It’s a decent post, though, if I do say so—and I still mean every word about how wonderful you people are for still tuning in every Wednesday and letting me know that I’m not just rambling on to the sound of crickets.  So feel free to sub that one for this one, as a sober brain doesn’t mean it’s working right, especially after a three-hour marathon of the first Rin Tin Tin serial the previous night—best not to ask—and being woken by children who didn’t have the common decency to let sleep deprived adults lie-in.

Brand New Day — Brand New Look

For those of you who might still be feeling New Year’s Eve, yeah, this is Earful of Cider—I decided to freshen the place up a little.

After two and a half years, I just wasn’t feeling the Greyzed barbwire grunge thing any more.   Though I think I’ll keep my Avatar—I’m still partial to my playing card.

This theme is called Bold Life—I’m hoping it’ll work as a sort of foreshadowing for the rest of the year.

To that end, I have a couple plans that I’ve been putting into place the last couple of weeks.

I have a budget in place and have taken a pledge to use only my debit card except at the gas station.

I’ve also made up a list of steps I’m taking to improve my general health—my weekday curfew was the first and that’s gone pretty well so far.  Regularizing my treadmill usage is next—to that end, the first thing I did this morning * was take a walk.  For now, every other day seems like a possible minimal goal.**

Super Sunny Reads

I’m planning on spending more time with the kids doing non-electronic stuff, too.  We started this weekend, with a small, local comic book convention.  The kids weren’t sure they wanted to go, but they ended up wanted to stay.  And, I might add, shatter my budget into oblivion.  Can’t say I blame them—I had to leave a whole box of Tank Girl behind, which was tough enough without finding a motherload of Maxx the next row over.^

We also started what could become a new family hobby, courtesy of Lyra, who is smart enough to use pre-colored baking clay instead of white clay and acrylic paint,  so she doesn’t have to scrub purple streaks out of her kids’ new pants.

But we all had a good time anyway, and I ended up with a little dragon*** named Grinkie, whose color scheme was the only option or full coverage of the beastie. Still, she has a kind of amateur middle-school fingerprinted rustic charm:

Grinkie2     Grinkie

The writing goes without saying, though I’m planning to put some of the lessons I learned from Pigeon to use on the next project.  I’m keeping a Project Bible for one thing, and making chapter goals for another.  I’m trying something new in the way of genre, as well—we’ll see if it’s just a palate-cleanser or something good.  Either way, my imagination is sparking—so many possibilities!

So . . . What do you think of the new theme?  And how late did your day start?

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* Okay, the third thing, because I can’t tolerate more than five minutes of awake time without brushing my teeth—and the first thing I did should go, forgive the pun, without saying.

**Note to self:  budget socks.  And a heavier sweatshirt hoodie—the garage is flippin’ freezing.

***Not a camel, an alligator, an afghan hound, or a dinosaur, which should have been obvious before her horns went on.  I’m just saying.

^Yes, I discovered comics in the early ’90s.  Why do you ask?

The last official (if belated) post of 2011

I spent the day with Sunny, as we both had today off. I rarely get to do this—it was fun.

She woke up well after I dropped Jane off at school* and we watched a little Nick Jr. and had dry Cheerios and pretended to be turtles with the laundry hampers I was supposed to use for the three loads I had to finish or risk several of us going to work or school naked tomorrow.**

After lunch at Sunny’s favorite restaurant—they have dinosaur chicken nuggets, waffle fries, and a decent adult menu, too—we watched Disney’s Princess and the Frog, by which I mean she watched it while I watched something completely different on my laptop with headphones.***

We spent the rest of the afternoon “flopping on the bed,” which is a game—half aerobics, half pro-wrestling—that she invented back when she was younger and it didn’t hurt so much for her to bounce on the mattress and land an elbow drop to Mommy’s spleen, but she’s far more susceptible to psychological tickle-fingers , so it all evens out.  We also gave the cat a brushing and zapped pinkies with the static.

Not a bad way to spend our last hours of holiday freedom.

And then her Daddy came home and I was immediately abandoned.  I  dragged my squashed spleen over to my laptop, breathed for a bit and thought about 2011 for a while—you know, for the sake of Auld Lang Syne, and also because I remembered I needed a blog post.^

This was one hell of a year, y’all, for all kinds of reasons.

I started to list ’em out, but I already have a blog archive, off to the left there, and a decent search engine.  It’s pretty much all there, and I’ve left bits and pieces of the rest on most of your blogs as well.

So I’m going to spare you all that and skip to the end (you’re welcome).

There have been moments of upset and one patch of depression, sure, but the lows weren’t as low as they might have been—and the highs?  They soared.

And the main reason for this?  You all.

Those of you who comment, those who just land and like, those of you who send me e-mails and poems and bracelets and oh, mercy, the videos.

Those of you who have taken the time over the past twelve months to tell me (or show me) that I’m not wasting mine.

Thank you so much.  And thanks in advance for 2012—it’s going to be a blast.

epic win photos - Superhero Cookies WIN

Have a virtual hero cookie—you deserve it!  And don’t forget to tell me which one you chose!

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*It started snowing halfway there and she suddenly realized she didn’t have mittens or a hat. So I handed over the gloves she gave me for Christmas (the cirrrrcle of liiiiife) and my second favorite red felted cloche hat. All came back, although the jet pin on the hat had mysteriously transferred itself to Jane’s jacket during the course of the day.

**And baby, it’s suddenly waaaay too cold outside for that.  I have no idea what’s going on with the weather (as if I ever have a clue)  It was 50F on Sunday—my husband took the kids out the hit baseballs at the park—and here it is 22 out, with a thin coating of indifferent snowflakes.  No wonder my sinuses are vibrating like tympani.

*** Yes.  This different, second season division.  And all I have to say about this at the moment is SQUEE.  I repeat, with all due dignity, SQUEE.  And to the person who made it possible, thank you again for saving everyone from the terror of my Brando impression.

^I swear I’m going to think it’s Monday all week.  Heaven help me if I have to date something without the magic of autofill . . .

An Auspicious Beginning . . .

There’s always this mystical newness about the first day of January, as if whatever is done on this day sets the tone for the rest of the year.

The first thing I did in 2011 was clean up after one of my children, who was gently woken at midnight and led to her bedroom, where she kissed us, turned toward her bed, and threw up what turned out to be about a quarter of a vast amount New Year’s Eve snacks.*  The other three-quarters were deposited right in front of the commode in the bathroom, because the poor kid was asleep on her feet and probably couldn’t remember why she was there until it was over.

We mopped up, tucked her in with the pukepot,** and my husband went to bed while I stayed up and thrashed out a $#%#@ scene that i’ve been fighting with for the better part of a week before crashing for seven hours.

Awakened by the dulcet tones of my children who were having a hairbrush fight in the bathroom, I stumbled to the kitchen, had breakfast with the kids, painted forty tiny nails in purple mood-polish, started dinner,and read over the $#%#@ scene.  Which needs work.

I’ve also written this post.

And now I’m going to take a shower, have lunch, and put the Christmas tree away.

There may be a nap, later.  Or more $#%#@ scene.

Rock on, 2011!

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* I blame the Marx Brother’s marathon.   The adults were go engrossed that we didn’t notice how much of the summer sausage, ginger cookies, and caramel dreamlets had been consumed until we cleared up.

**We have a dented, medium-handled pot that is both receptacle and comfort for anyone with an oogy tummy and which—I stress—is used for nothing else.  I highly recommend having one on hand, whether you have children or not.