I have the great privilege of being my own boss, and mostly the master of my own time. With that freedom comes the danger of drifting along not really accomplishing anything. This was especially dangerous for me a few years ago when I was struggling with unrecognized depression. PJs all day is great every once in a while. Not every day for a year.
Thanks to a good doctor, a therapist, understanding family and friends, and a husband who is my best friend and basically, a saint, my depression is controlled. It doesn’t rule my life.
I am still a super introvert, but that is not the same as being frozen, exhausted, frustrated, guilty and hopeless.
One of the best things about getting healthy again is being able to enjoy planning for the future. I have always been a calendar keeper, a journal keeper and a list maker. Planning is very satisfying for me. Sometimes so satisfying that I use too much mental and emotional energy making the plan, and not enough actually doing the thing.
About a year ago, I discovered the Self Journal. It is a hardbound calendar, planner and goal-setting tool. Each journal covers 13 weeks, and the days and dates are blank, so you can start anytime. It includes goal-setting guides, weekly progress pages, and daily pages that are two facing pages. I use it as a combination calendar/planner, journal of what actually happened that day, and an art journal where I include drawings, photos and affirmations and quotes.
I am starting my fourth 13-week journal today. The first one was not very successful. It was more of an experiment in how to define my goals. I wasn’t the greatest at carrying through on the day-to-day plans. The second journal was better. I read books about goal-setting and learned to hone my goals to better fit the 13 week time period.
I use mind-mapping software to break large goals into parts, and even sometimes into tasks with specific deadlines. Some people do this simply with lists, or spreadsheets, but I enjoy the colorful visual of a mind map, with its bubbles and clouds and arrows. Whatever motivates, right?
My third journal was the most successful yet. I can look back and see exactly how close I came to completing my big three goals. (For the record, I was about 50%.) I’m not discouraged. I can look at the weekly pages and see where I strayed from my goals, and also what exactly got me sidetracked. I had very few “dead” pages, where I failed to plan, and later had no idea what I did that day.
Now, as I set my goals, I am reminding myself that I am planning what I can accomplish in 13 weeks, not in the next year, or in the rest of my life. I have settled on general categories for my three goals: Self-Care (diet, exercise, reading, hobbies, time with friends and family), Getting My Shit Together (cleaning, organizing, developing good daily habits, minimizing the “stuff” in our house and garage) and Helping (making the world a better place, activism, volunteering, donating, being a friend, supporting others.)
Blogging and other writing blurs the lines between all three goals, so that will be part of every day’s plan.
Promise not to judge me and I’ll show you a random page from my last Journal.
Here are some of the resources I have used so far:
Kodak Mini 2 Wireless Instant Photo Printer This prints photos from your phone. They are 2 x 3, and have peel and stick backs, so they fit in the Journal. The photos are very clear and sharp. The photos are expensive, so I use them sparingly to print pictures of family events and fun times, or occasionally a finished project I’m proud of.
November is the month for #bloglikecrazy, a blogging challenge created by the wonderful Javacia Harris Bowser. It is simply a commitment to publish a blog post every day during the month of November. For most of us, that is way harder than it sounds. There is a terrific network of support from Javacia and the members of See Jane Write, and of course, from the regular followers of my blog.
My problem with daily blogging is perfectionism. I want every post to be awesome, but honestly, I don’t have awesome things to say every day. My life is pretty small right now, and I like it like that. I don’t have an exciting career, my sons are grown, I’m not currently embroiled in local political controversy, so I worry that I will bore my readers to death.
Some folks criticize bloggers for being self-absorbed, and it is not completely undeserved. I would like to write impeccably researched posts about current events and history and feminism, but that is not what my blog is. My blog is deeply personal. My intention is to open myself up through my writing – to be honest and sincere, to commit memories to writing, to hopefully connect with readers, and above all else, to write well.
So, I accept the challenge to write and publish every day this month. Not every post will be a home run, but I hope that they make someone smile, or inspire someone to push themselves a little, or just to get through the day knowing that they are enough.
My mother was an English teacher in rural north-central Alabama. She taught at the same school in the same town her entire 30-plus year career which meant she taught two successive generations of Blount County teenagers.
She was an exceptional teacher, and she loved teaching and loved her students. Over the years, she taught every grade, but her favorites were the seventh graders. She thought they were the best combination of wild and sweet.
Like every teacher does, she had a million stories, some hilarious and some horrifying, about her students and their lives. No one who knew Mother has not heard the story about Rose and the homecoming confetti.
But that story was not my favorite. I always preferred The Lasagna Incident.
Mother was a talented seamstress, and she made all her own clothes. In the early 70’s, she had a very chic, white wrap-around skirt that she had made. A teacher wearing white to school was a pretty daring move, but I guess Mom though she could carry it off.
It happened that lasagna was served in the school lunchroom that day, and of course she accidentally dropped a big blob of it, full of bright orange grease, right in her lap. The thin little lunchroom napkins did nothing to protect her white skirt. Nothing was removing that stain, so she spent the rest of the day with a big orange Rorschach blot across the front of her thighs. By next class period, she had explained the blob about fifty times to curious 12 year olds. It became so tiresome and distracting that she finally took off her cardigan sweater and tied it around her waist like an apron, so that the spot was covered.
The last class period of the day, Mother was standing outside her open classroom door, waiting for the “late” bell to hurry the last stragglers into the classroom. One of the stragglers was a perennially late, bright-eyed little motor mouth named Joey.
Joey came tearing down the hall and skidded to a stop in front of Mother, words tumbling out of his mouth.
“Mrs. Patterson,” (in his native tongue it was pronounced Miz PAIR-sun) “Miz Pairsun, what happened?”
Mother sighed and launched into the explanation of the lasagna incident, lifting her cardigan apron to show Joey the stain. When she finished, she saw that Joey’s eyebrows were drawn together in puzzlement.
“Oh.” he said. “But, Miz Pairsun, I meant what happened to yer hair?”
I have a great title for a book. The ADHD Guide to Getting Your Sh*t Together (and throwing it out.)
I’m a really good housekeeper on the inside. Inside my mind, I mean. I absolutely love the idea of a comfortable, minimalist home where there is only what we need and use, and everything has its storage place, and everyone puts stuff away properly after they use it. I fantasize about hiring one of those “we take your junk” services, and a couple of strong men, and ruthlessly going through our house saying, “Take that, and that, and that, and that, and that…” and ending up with so much stuff just….gone. I don’t want to have to sort it, or have a garage sale, or haul it away myself, or sell it, or donate it, or see if one of the kids wants it. I just want it out of here.
But that is a fantasy because … I have slight hoarder tendencies. Not like newspaper to the ceiling, or anything. I have lots of stacks. Books I bought and don’t have room for on my shelves. Mail, both important and unimportant. LOTS of yarn. Three junk drawers in the kitchen. I am very territorial about my stacks. I have a general idea of what is in my stacks, and I get anxious if anyone moves them around.
I read Marie Kondo’sThe Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and I found it inspiring. I know people like to make fun of the spiritual aspect of it, but for those of us who have anxiety about letting go of things, it sort of helped. I would never take the time to address each and every item before letting it go, but there are some things that do require a little ritual to get that tiny extra push to get them out of the house. What I really found most useful about the book was Kondo’s different technique for purging. She advocates tidying by category of stuff, not by the room, or the drawer, or the closet. This appeals to my ADHD ability to hyperfocus (which is a negative term – I like to use the term super-engage). I can super-engage with purging one category of stuff without running into the constant problem of distraction (mostly).
For instance, if I start, in the traditional way, to clean out a junk drawer that has hundreds of items in it, I have to make a discard or keep decision about every item. That part is not hard, I am pretty ruthless. But then I have to make a “Where does it go?” decision about all the keeper items. If I find the stapler and the staples that fit it, I have to decide, “Does this really need to be here? I only staple something about twice a year. Wouldn’t this be better in a plastic box with the hole punch, and extra ink cartridges, and paper fasteners and large mailing envelopes? And where would I put that box? In the downstairs closet under the stairs! Oh, but there’s stuff in there already… .” And before you know it, I’m downstairs going through that closet and all the keeper stuff from the junk drawer is still spread out on the kitchen table. You see my issue.
I’m actually a good cleaner, once a room is uncluttered and everything is stored away. It’s that “putting everything away” part that kills the ride. That and the neurotic cat that hides for hours under the bed every time I vacuum.
Four days. Three total newbies in Manhattan. Here’s some of what we learned.
DO spring for a cab for the trip to and from the airport. LaGuardia is a very nice airport, but only an expert could get you there. It is surrounded by a morass of construction and barricades and one-way narrow ramps and not that much helpful signage. I feel bad for the people who are there when the Rapture happens. They will be left behind because Jesus will not be able to find them. I was told it would cost about $40 for the ride into Midtown, and it was just about that, with moderate traffic.
DON’T be disturbed by all the horn blowing. They’re not mad, it’s just something they do, like geese honking as they fly from one lake to another. “Here I come! ::HONK:: This is my space! ::HONK:: Don’t come in it! ::HONK::”
DO walk, as much as you can. It’s free, and you get the hang of getting around so much more quickly. I took one pair of shoes; dark colored, supportive walking shoes. I wore them everywhere, even to the theater, and no one cared, and my feet felt great. There is definitely an etiquette to walking in Manhattan. Don’t make sudden stops, don’t walk three abreast, don’t weave around. Be alert at pedestrian crossings. Watch the locals. They are super efficient at getting around without being hit by cars.
DON’T eat McDonald’s, or Burger King, or Subway. I think that needs no elaboration. McDonald’s is for emergency bathroom stops. More on that later.
DO use Google and Google Maps, plus your own reconnaissance while you are walking around to find local places to eat that have character, and food you like at the right price. The choices are endless. Food is expensive, but it is part of the experience and you can save money by grabbing lunch at a pizza counter. They are everywhere, and the pizza is delicious. As for the ubiquitous food carts that serve hot dogs and pretzels and various meats on sticks – we didn’t, but I would not judge if you like that sort of thing. People obviously eat it and don’t die.
DON’T spend too much time in Times Square. Of course, you need to see it, but it is super touristy, super crowded, and over-stimulating. It was also the only place we ran into pushy panhandlers. There are guys who approach, loudly asking for “donations for the homeless.” Ignore. If you want to help someone in need, there are actual homeless men sitting huddled against walls on some of the side streets. Also, don’t accept anything that someone thrusts at you, even from the sweet little Buddhist monks. They expect money.
DO go up to the observation deck of the Empire State Building. I know some people say it is not worth the wait, but we went on a Thursday afternoon, and there was hardly any line at all. It is a beautiful building, and the views are amazing. It was cold and windy up there – take a jacket.
DON’T be intimidated by the Subway. That being said, DO study up a little before you go, and make sure you have a good app on your phone. The app I had was crappy and didn’t work at all, but Ben had a good one. Also, he had spent time in Paris and is used to a big, complicated subway system. We each bought a Metro Card and put about $10 on it a day, and only once ran out of fare before the day was over. The card machines are agents of Satan, but be patient. Also have some cash in small bills because they only give change in coins.
DO buy a CityPass online before you go. We bought the one that gave us access to any three attractions, out of a list of about 12. It saves you money, but just as important, lets you bypass the long line to buy tickets. We walked straight in to the 9/11 Museum on a Saturday morning, bypassing a huge line.
DON’T try to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge on a Saturday afternoon. It is a sea of humanity, plus part of it is taken up by souvenir stands – and we had to pee. This is where McDonald’s comes in. There are few public restrooms in Manhattan. Make sure you can locate a McDonald’s in case of emergency. Their sign says for customers only, but they never threw us out.
DO tour the United Nations. Buy tickets online before you go, and make sure you read up on security procedures. This was one of the most interesting things we did. I was so impressed with the knowledge of our lovely, multilingual guide. The artwork and sculptures in the UN are impressive, and the UN Bookstore is well worth a visit. There is a snack area and a public restroom in the building. Our tour was small, but they are equipped to take large school groups, too. You can get a tour in English, or in several other languages.
DON’T expect the bars to have college football on TV. We went to a lovely small restaurant for dinner on Saturday about the time the Alabama game was starting, and asked for a booth in the bar area. They had BOXING on all three TVs. Gary said, “What is wrong with these people?”
DO see at least part of Central Park, but also enjoy the smaller parks around the city. Central Park is amazing and lovely, but it is also the outdoor space for millions of people, and a good part of them are there on a nice Saturday. (Also, the Trump Tower is just as tacky as you would expect.) It was a little disconcerting that these places, particularly Central Park, are just like you see them in the movies, except with hoards of people. When Harry and Sally were strolling through Central Park on that fall afternoon, you only saw a few other people. In reality, on a nice fall afternoon, there are throngs.
DON’T grieve over the things you don’t have time to see. You can never see it all. Enjoy the things you do see, and especially enjoy the little unexpected treasures you happen upon by accident, like a neighborhood street fair in the South Seaport neighborhood, and a delicious and cheap hot food bar in the Amish Grocery.
DO visit the main branch of the New York Public Library . See the lions, and watch the men playing backgammon and chess in the park. Do have your bags open when you go in, because the security lady is TERRIFYING. Once you make it past her, if you aren’t too traumatized, you can go upstairs and wander through the amazing reading rooms. Note that there are areas for gawkers, like us, and areas for the actual library users. Try not to disturb. See how many movie and TV references you can make (Ghostbusters, The Day After Tomorrow, Carrie and Mr. Big’s wedding that didn’t happen.)
Also DO spend time in Bryant Park, which is essentially the back yard of the Library. It is lovely. I read that in the 80’s it was referred to as Needle Park because of the crime and drug use that happened there, but there is no trace of that now. If you are interested in historical public spaces, read about Bryant Park. It is old. George Washington’s troops camped there during the Revolutionary War. It was a potter’s field for a time, until the city undertook to exhume and move the remains elsewhere. It was, for many years, surrounded by an iron fence and tall hedges, and was therefore a dangerous area where things could happen unseen. When the park was renovated, it was excavated down to be more nearly at street level, and the fence and hedges were removed. That, combined with movable park furniture that visitors could arrange as they liked, transformed it into a place where people felt safe to gather and spend time.
DON’T try to get your picture taken with the Charging Bull and the Fearless Girl in the Financial District. Seriously, there were a million people on that tiny sliver of pavement between two streets. We stood across the street and stared in amazement. You know the Biblical story of Moses coming back with the Ten Commandments and finding the people worshiping a golden calf? I’m just saying.
DO see the 9/11 Memorial pools. I was never all that impressed with the design, until I saw it in person. It is really beautiful and moving, and the symbolism is so clear. The names of all those lost in the attack are around the edge, and they aren’t just engraved into the stone, they are pierced through it, so that you can look right through the letters and see the water underneath. The water flows over the edge between hundreds (thousands?) of evenly spaced stone projections that are reminiscent of the outside of the towers. I got the impression of individual lives merging into a great fall of water that travels downward and then flows toward the center, where it falls again, into a place we can’t see. It is moving. We went to see the pools twice. The Museum itself is another post.
There is so much more I could say, but I’ll end here by saying that New York is amazing. I can’t wait to go back. I found New Yorkers to be nice and polite. They hold doors, they give up their seats on the subway to old folks, and they are very efficient in getting around and very aware of personal space.
I will note that I saw more penises in New York than on any other trip – two – One onstage at the theater, and one in Central Park. The one in Central Park was my fault for choosing to sit on a bench that happened to have a direct sight line into the open door of the very busy men’s restroom. Don’t do that.
***I wrote this post before the attack on citizens that happened in lower Manhattan on Halloween. My heart goes out to the victims and their families, and also to the witnesses and first responders who were forced to face the incomprehensible yesterday. I love you, New York.
How long is appropriate to follow your sons’ exes on social media?
Don’t judge me! I’m not stalking. Just occasionally a picture or comment shows up on my feed. And I’m only talking about the serious relationships; the ones who were in our lives for a significant time. They did not become daughters-in-law, but I was absolutely sizing them up for the role, as one does.
Now, certainly, when they marry someone else, yes, I get that.
But what about before that? In my defense, I have no daughters, and these young women are my window into Millennial Woman World. Besides, my boys have good taste! These women are funny and intelligent, and their views on life are interesting.
So, what say you, moms? What’s the “don’t get creepy” cut-off?
Apparently, the allotted time for shock, sadness, mourning, anger and fear has expired and my Facebook timeline is starting to fill with “likes” and “shares” of assorted Trump-supporting asshats who are eager to explain to all us elitists why Hillary lost and why we should get over it.
Well, the strangest thing happened while I was debating whether to unfriend or just block the gloaters. I got Over It.
I don’t mean I’m not still deeply pissed off, worried, and aghast at what America has done. But I’m not wasting another single minute of my time reading about what percentage of what demographic in what state went for Hillary or Trump and why. The freaking Ku Klux Klan spread fliers around neighborhoods near me on election night. The KKK. In Birmingham, Alabama. In 2016. The most evil hate groups feel emboldened by the election of this unqualified, narcissistic, sexually deviant braggart. This is not the way I thought my country would be at this point in my life. I thought the battle for basic human rights for all people would be over. I thought constitutional rights won at the Supreme Court level would stay won. When I was twelve years old, I saw a man walk on the moon, sent there and brought home again by brilliant men and women using slide rules. I thought by the time my children were grown, we would, at the very least, have figured out how to get clean drinking water to children all over the world, but we can’t even do it for America.
I just read a headline on Twitter, and it grabbed my attention. I haven’t even read the article, because the headline alone was inspiration enough. It said, “Welcome to the Fight.”
If I offend you with what I am about to say, and you feel you can’t talk to me, that would make me sad. But this needs to be said: please do not quote Franklin Graham or Mike Huckabee or James Dobson or other privileged, politically connected and influential white Christian men to me. They are hypocrites. Yes, exactly the kind Jesus cautioned us not to be. They are “seen by men.” They hold influence and power, and they have their reward. I don’t want to hear from them about Jesus’ plan for this country. They excused horrible speech and actions so that their tribe could win the election. Now they want to tell us that this was God’s will? Nope. I’m not listening to that rubbish.
What I am doing is joining the fight. I will stand with all whose freedoms are threatened by Donald Trump and the GOP. I will stand with women, the disabled, people of color, people of ALL religions, athiests, agnostics, LGBTQIA people, indigenous people, undocumented people, children, artists, prisoners, the homeless, care-givers, teachers and all who are marginalized and treated as “lesser than” by the patriarchy.
To those of you who were just elected to office here in Hoover, Alabama, your actions in the first council meeting made me wary, but I will stand with you. I will have your back while you do the right thing. I will go through fire with you to recognize and serve those who are most in need in our city. I will push you toward transparency, because I understand transparency is hard.
I will call out bs and anything that smells like bs. And I will shout the word of your successes from the hilltops.
I am joining the fight that I expect to last the rest of my life. It is the fight to do whatever I can to bring peace, create greater equality, ease suffering, and leave a livable world for the next generations.
Bigotry, authoritarianism, oppression, patriarchy, you’re on notice. I. Am. Over. It. I am putting on the full armor of a pissed off woman warrior. There may be more tears in the future, in fact, it is very likely. But not today.
I am the checkboxes of life: daughter, sister, college graduate, wife, mother, friend. I am a Honda and a modest surburban house. I am PTO, Band Boosters, college dorm rooms and first apartments. I am the empty nest.
I am high cholesterol, and ten or so extra pounds. I am Sertraline for depression, and Clonopin for anxiety.
I am the sixties and seventies. I am a farm in north Alabama. I am a tiny rock schoolhouse and an old yellow bus. I am tomatoes and okra. I am a long line of schoolteachers and others who treasured books and poetry. I am ghost stories and family tales. I am the Johnsons of north Alabama, decended from England and genetically eccentric.
I am Bible school and Sunday School. I am Jesus Loves the Little Children and Just As I Am. I am white patent leather Mary Janes, Easter dresses and baked ham. I am baptism by immersion and I am disillusionment.
Because my mother often quoted, “There, but for the grace of God, go I,” I am compassion. Because I always had enough, but saw children every day who didn’t, I am gratitude.
Because bad things sometimes happen to children, I am childhood sexual abuse. I am years of guilt and repression. I am therapy and healing.
I am words, but not math; perfectionism, but mad disorganization; good food, but bad cooking. I am cats, not dogs; chocolate, never coconut, and always, always libraries and book stores.
I am 59 years of houses, apartments, neighborhoods, friends, events, weddings, wars, babies, car repairs, tornadoes, Presidents. I am a young mind.
I am sometimes fear, but more often optimism. I am Liz.
Writing creates a certain connection with the world that I often can’t attain in person. Even with my closest friends and family, there are still some walls that remain. Maybe this is a personal failing of mine, but I keep certain beliefs and desires and dreams behind the wall because they are too tender to hand over to others – especially the others who I love and respect the most.
When I write, and publish my writing on my blog, I tear down the wall and become my most honest, authentic self. I often have a moment of anxiety before I click that “Publish” button, because I am putting my heart out there, defenseless, to those who know me well, family members, those who know me only by reputation, and also strangers.
I blog because there is a certain exhilaration in writing and publishing on honest, heartfelt topics. Love me, hate me, be indifferent – this is who I am. When I write, I have the freedom to be real. This is why I want to “Blog Like Crazy.”