Multitasking Momma, Lay That Keyboard Down

Because so many people have Because a couple of people have Although no one has asked me, I’m going to reveal the secret of successful blog writing. I’m sure that there are many people who read my blog and wonder how I do it. How do I come up with weekly blog posts, brimming with humor and interesting tidbits and still manage to raise two kids and work at home? What is the secret of my success, if success is the word I want? I’ll tell you in one word: focus.

For instance, yesterday, I sat down to write a post about writing blog posts. Now, there were several things that could have gotten in my way, but I didn’t let them. Laundry, squabbling kids, rodents, illegible bills that may be overdue by the time they dry out, cats in shopping bags, possibly dead woodpeckers, and a lack of information about Hanta Virus – it was all ganging up on me, but I managed to put it aside and write a post. Well, I started to write a post. I’m going to finish it now.

To begin with, when I descended to my basement computer room, there was a definite pong of something other than the incense I use to inspire me. Eau de Souris Morte would be my guess. Sure enough, when I tracked the smell down to its source, I found a dead mouse lying under the sleeper couch that we use for guests. When I picked up the mouse with paper towels and threw it out into the woods behind the house, a thought occurred to me.

I believe it was Elisheva who mentioned Hanta Virus, so I washed my hands and boogied over to her blog. I couldn’t seem to find the entry on Hanta, but I did have a nice half hour reading her Thursday entry about auditory processing that, oddly enough, included the subject of mouse brains.Of course,  I had to take a quick look at her latest entry about New Mexico weather which features some beautiful photos that almost make me want to pack up and move out to the mountains.

I could have gone on reading all day, but of course I didn’t, because I needed to focus on writing a post for my blog. This post, as a matter of fact, which had started with a dead mouse but that wasn’t the focus of my post… Hmm, what WAS the focus of my post? Oh yes, I was writing about the secret to successful blog posts, which is focus. Women who blog, especially mothers who blog, often have trouble staying on track because of all the little domestic problems that crop up over the course of a day.

Laundry, for instance, is a never-ending chore in our house and I seem to be the one who does most of it. Of course, partly that’s because the washer and dryer are in the basement and that’s where I am when I’m writing. It’s not really that much of a hassle for me to throw a load of clothes into the washer before I turn on the computer. But what is a hassle is taking them out of the dryer, folding them and stacking them on shelves so that family members can retrieve them later. As I heard the dryer stop while I was typing the third paragraph of my blog post yesterday, I thought about whether it’s more annoying to get up in the middle of a thought or to wear wrinkled clothes. I don’t mind wrinkles, but Geekdaddy does have to interact with the public and his income mostly floats this boat, so I opted for the interruption.

When I got back to my desk, I noticed that there were little black particles on the rug under my chair. Further inspection revealed that they were mouse turds, which led my thoughts back to Hanta Virus again. I figured it would be a good idea to vacuum them just to be on the safe side, so I went upstairs and lugged the ancient Miele downstairs and plugged it in. It’s a really nice vacuum, with a long hose and wand that reaches all the way to the ceiling corners for cobweb removal, which is what I’d been vacuuming the last time I used it.

That’s why, when I vigorously attacked the mouse droppings, the excess wand that stretched out behind me hit my coffee cup on the desk, next to a pile of bills I was planning to sort and file for future payment. Unfortunately, I didn’t notice it until I turned off the vacuum, so the envelopes and the papers inside them were so saturated with coffee that I didn’t dare do any more than lay them next to the baseboard heater to dry.

Some people might have lost their focus right there and gotten involved in checking their records to make sure none of the bills were due right then, but I am not one of those people. I stayed firmly focused on whatever it was I was doing before the coffee spilled. Hmm, vacuuming? No, I wasn’t writing about vacuuming. I was writing about blogging. That’s right. And I’m still writing about it and will continue to write about it until I’m finished with this post. If it kills me.

Focus, is what separates professional writers from amateurs and what the heck was all that noise upstairs? Kids fighting was my guess, and I was right, so I went up and mediated and got them to keep it down so that I could write. The post was coming along nicely until there was a huge bang and Daughter came running downstairs to tell me that a woodpecker had hit the dining room window and was lying on the deck.

It was the one we call Mrs. Meep, mate to Mr. Meep, the mid-size woodpecker and she was lying there with her eyes open and her head at a very odd angle. I was sure she was dead, but daughter begged me to give her a chance to recover, so I did. That’s why only half my mind was on my blog post as I typed several sentences about how to retain your focus on your writing no matter what’s going on in your environment. They were very pithy and helpful and I wish I could show them to you, but Daughter came downstairs crying her eyes out, which took my attention off my writing and I unwittingly deleted several paragraphs.

That’s why I had to start all over today, but it’s probably all to the good, because Geekdaddy is home due to one of the blizzards we have here in Maine, just to give us a change from blackflies, mud season and hurricanes, so he’s able to deal with anything that threatens to interrupt my thought processes and what the heck was that?

I don’t believe it, Son’s ancient but amazingly playful cat has managed to get her head stuck through the opening of a plastic shopping bag and is whizzing around the basement meowing. Son is thundering around after her, which is not likely to work, because he can’t fit under oil tanks and treadmills and behind laundry appliances and she can, even with a bag stuck around her neck.

However, I will let him handle it and keep on with my writing even though I can also hear Daughter yowling upstairs and Geekdaddy attempting to reason with her. I’ll just do a quick check to make sure nothing serious is happening and get myself another cup of coffee at the same time.

Good thing I checked, because – proving my brother’s old saying, “If it happens once, it’ll happen again” – Daughter had somehow managed to get her head through the sleeve of her t-shirt and was semi-hysterical and unable to follow Geekdaddy’s somewhat scientific instructions for getting out. That and the huge pair of scissors he was holding had her in a tizzy and I can’t say I blame her.

I soothed her down, got her out and helped her make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to calm her nerves and then went downstairs and continued to write, because I was not about to lose my focus now that my post was almost finished. And now, I guess it is finished. It’s not exactly the post I had intended to write, but I think you get the gist of what I’m trying to convey here.

If you want to be a successful blogger, you have to put your craft first. As you can see from this post, without focus, your writing career will be just another daydream and not a stepping stone to your goal. So, follow my example. Stay focused and stay on track and you’ll soon be churning out posts like crazy, unless mice, cats, birds, kids, lethal viruses, coffee, laundry and life gets in your way. Or you could go live in a cave and become a hermit and it’d be nice and peaceful for writing, except that you wouldn’t have anything to write about.


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Talkin’ Turkey

wild turkey

Wild Turkey

As my daughter so aptly put it this morning when she looked at the thermometer, “It’s not even up to none degrees!” Well, to be honest, it’s all of 3 degrees out there now, but with the wind – and there always is one on our hill – it feels like fifteen below. This is why I was not amused when Jetta, the Black Lab, decided that turkey chasing was a fine thing to do on a brisk morning like this.

We live on sixty acres of woods and fields, on top of a hill in Maine.Our “driveway” is a little over a half mile of “discontinued” town road. The road isn’t discontinued, mind you, it’s just the maintenance on it that’s been discontinued by the town, so we plow it and grade it and throw a little dirt on it when we have the money. Well, Geekdaddy plows it and Son and I throw sand on it. I drive, Son sits in the back of the truck and shovels sand onto the worst potholes. This passes for entertainment in Maine, especially in mud season.

We have around thirty wild turkeys who hang around our dooryard in the winter. They’re all huge and can fly up into the top of a tree in a heartbeat – an amazing sight no matter how many times I see it. They taunt the cats, who know better than to tackle one, but the three wannabe lions lie there, twitching their tails and hoping that one of the birds will suddenly keel over at their feet.

Today, only one turkey showed up and it was limping and holding one foot up, as if it was injured. It was much too cold for the cats to go out, but the dog had to go, so I let her out the sliding door to the deck. With a loud “woof”, she was off, in hot pursuit of the poor injured turkey, which still managed to stay ahead of her by half-running and half-flying.

I charged out the door, visions of game wardens filling my head, and sped off after both of them. Up the driveway we ran, until the turkey flew up into an oak tree and the dog stopped and wagged her tail and looked at me as if to say, “Wow! Wasn’t that fun? What should we chase next?”

It was then that I realized that I was still in my t-shirt and sleep pants and I also realized that a long line of snowmobiles was approaching, which meant that I had to grab the dog, who hates the noisy things and would dearly love to catch one. There must have been twenty of them. I mean, who are all these slackers, riding around on snowmobiles on a Monday morning? Don’t they have jobs? Are they all independently wealthy or something?

Every single furshluggener one of them waved and smiled through their face shields, as they passed about three feet in front of me. There I stood, my thin flannel pants flapping around my legs, my teeth chattering and my fingers growing numb on the dog’s collar.By the time the last one in line kicked snow over the tops of my duckboots, I was so cold that I lost my grip on Jetta’s collar and didn’t even care.

She didn’t chase them though. No, instead, she ran back toward the house, dug around in the six foot high snowbank that Geekdaddy had plowed up for the kids to play in, and came up with a tennis ball. She shook her head at me, playfully, and then tossed the ball into the snow and dove in after it, until only her tail and hindquarters were showing.

To my credit, I didn’t bury her the rest of the way, although the snow shovel was right there and I was tempted. Frostbite and damage to my Rosacea prone skin aside, no harm had been done. Well, except that I’m going to be wondering which of the townspeople I meet in the next few days saw me standing out there in my nightclothes.

I love our dog, but this is the last time I try to keep her from chasing a turkey. Next time, I’ll do the sensible thing and just get out the roasting pan and preheat the oven to 375.

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Going With the Flow

My ever helpful friend emailed me to tell me that she spotted several mistakes in one of my recent posts. I told her that I hadn’t proofread the article too thoroughly and had written it all in one piece.

“But what were you thinking?” she asked. “To mispell three words in one paragraph?”

“I wasn’t thinking,” I replied, “I was just writing.”

I won’t sully your ears with her response to that or what I said after I hung up the phone. I realize that what I said sounds pretty dim, but I stand by it. Sometimes, when I’m writing, I don’t have to put any effort into thinking. The words just seem to flow from my head down to my fingers to the keyboard and onto the screen, as if the blank page is pulling them from my mind.

I assume that this is the same “state of grace” that my kids get into when their art is going well. I know that, like me, when my son is sketching or my daughter is drawing or sculpting with clay, they don’t hear people talking to them. And when I do get their attention, they turn to me with that drowned look in their eyes, as if they’re having to come back from a long way to answer me. It always makes me wish I hadn’t interrupted them, because I hate it when someone derails me when I’m on a writing roll.

It isn’t only writing that brings on this oneness with the universe sorta thing. I’ve felt it while reading and while sitting on the deck looking at the moon through clouds. Good music is very likely to make me feel this way, which is why driving and listening to music probably should be illegal. I counteract it by dancing in my seat, which keeps me aware of what’s happening on the road in front of me and so what if my daughter thinks I look stupid. As any fool can see, stupidity is not against the law, while insurance companies and police officers frown on crashing your car. (Of course, you can’t insure yourself against stupidity, which is a shame, because most of us would collect at some point. But I digress.)

Like driving while listening to music, knitting while listening to music is an activity that often brings on this feeling. I’ll be sitting there knitting on a cold winter’s night, listening to Tom Paxton or Phil Ochs (folk songs seem to go along with knitting wool socks, don’t you think?), a cup of tea beside me and the pellet stove creating warm white noise, when I’ll come to and realize that I’ve gotten a little carried away while in the groove, and my ankle sock has morphed into a garden hose cover. (I’m sure this never happens to the Yarn Harlot, but she’s a special case.

Although I know people who get into this state of mind with housework and other tasks that don’t take a lot of mental effort, housework doesn’t do it for me. It’s just time wasted when I could have been doing something I enjoy, like gardening. I don’t know how many times I’ve gone out to deadhead the peonies and come to an hour later and half a mile down in the meadow, picking daisies and marking wildflowers to transplant. Or I’ll go out to pick a few strawberries for dessert for supper and come in to find that the kids have already eaten, had ice cream, loaded the dishwasher and have gone off to their separate pursuits, so the berries end up on our cereal at breakfast the next morning. I’m very unreliable off the leash and out in the yard.

Of course, sometimes, I sit down to write and the feeling just isn’t there. Worse yet, sometimes the blank page seems to be resisting my every effort to push out some words and make them stick to it. I come up with a couple of sentences and type them in with effort (this is when with turns into wiht and I don’t notice that there there are double words to too), but they’re no good, so I backspace and start again and then again, until I realize that it’s just not going to happen.

And this, Gentle Reader, is why I sometimes post twice a week, sometimes three times a month and sometimes only manage to come up with one meager post in a fortnight. It’s also why some of my posts are long. Some are short. Some are funny and some are serious. I rant. I (attempt to) regale. I write like the gadfly I am – interested in everything and everyone and about as selective as a toddler in a candy store. It all depends on whether the words are flowing.

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