The Social Media Existential Balancing Angst of Flailing and Pondering and Sometimes Missing Stuff

A few weeks ago, I took a hiatus from social media thingies. It was refreshing. I had more time to do other stuff.

Here’s the thing, though – I missed out on stuff, too. Probably a lot of stuff. The silver lining is I’ll never know what stuff I missed out on.

I’d love to know how other people balance their stuff. For example, how much time does a writer mom of young children spend on Twitter and Facebook, on average? How does she manage social media and writing time? What about other busy people? How do they achieve balance (or something close to it)?

For awhile I tried popping in to Twitter and Facebook, with the idea I’d do just fifteen minutes a day. Fifteen minutes isn’t much, is it? But then I’d stay signed in, and check in again at a later point that same day, and suddenly I’d have spent thirty extra minutes doing, in effect, NOTHING (I think we’ve all had this experience). Or, if I asked a question on Twitter, someone would respond, and I’d want to respond to their response, and then I’d get a new follower and revisit the site just to follow them back (if they were deserving and not relentless self-promoters). And before I knew it, I’d have gained a follower but lost fifteen more writing minutes because there was a really cool conversation going on and I wanted to find out more.

What if I gave myself Twitter Tuesdays and Facebook Fridays? And I just check in on those days?

What if I just…stop?

Then there’s the “I’m a writer and so I must have an online presence” issue. A blog is probably enough. (But Twitter can be pretty fun.) (And Facebook is the only connection I have to certain friends, family, and colleagues, and it’s the gateway to some cool groups of people.)

I really don’t know what to do. I love writing. I also love participating in conversations online. I also love paying attention to my family. And there’s only so much time.

SUGGESTIONS WELCOME.

PS: the flying whale drawing has absolutely nothing to do with this post. I just drew it awhile (awhale?! hahahahaha) back and like it. That’s all. Really. Unless you want to work some cool psychoanalysis on it. In which case, do share!

Home Library Challenge

How many times have you looked at the books on your shelf and thought, I should really stop buying books until I read the ones I have? If you’re like me, you think this all the time. I’ve expanded it to include, “I should really stop borrowing stacks of books from the library until I read the ones I have,” because I keep those library scanners going.

We’ve got a fairly largeish built-in bookcase (thanks Dad), and I’ve limited the books to fiction, other than the highest shelf and the lowest shelf (assorted classics in matchy-match binding on top; cookbooks (shudder) and gardening and some college literature anthologies on the bottom). So, my challenge:

I WILL READ – OR ATTEMPT TO READ – ALL THE BOOKS ON THAT BOOKCASE.

Do I need a timeline? It’s a big bookcase. But I have read a lot of them…at least half, I think. Well, let’s just see how far I can get by the end of the year, shall we?

I’m not going to finish each one, because frankly, there’s quite a bit of Kerouac. Each book will get a chance, though, of fifty pages (and that’s being darn generous, I think, because nowadays I’ll happily set a book down if it doesn’t hook me in the first five).

I’m also not going to re-read books which I have already read.

I’m also not reading the same books twice just because we have two different copies and/or editions (hello Bloomsbury Harry Potters, nestled next to their Scholastic kin!).

Some parenting and other nonfiction books have been lazily added to the bookcase. These do not count toward the challenge. They are only there because I don’t feel like carting them down to the basement (to the nonfiction bookcase) while holding a heavy baby in one arm. That sounds a bit dangerous.

YES, to answer your incredulous question, I HAVE SEPARATED MY READING MATERIAL BY GENRE. It comes from working in a bookstore. Or maybe it comes from being me.

les livres!

On the Reading Horizon

Sort of unwittingly, I’ve accumulated a small mountain of books to read.

In no particular order. My brain doesn’t work orderly these days anyway.

  • Keeping the Castle, by Patrice Kindl. For everyone out there who is sad Jane Austen has finished writing books because they would like more Jane Austen-type stories, maybe with some extra, laugh-out-loud funny bits, this book is for YOU. I just finished it, and while it didn’t grab me immediately, the wacky names and endearingly humorous-but-naive main character kept me going.
  • Gidget, by Frederick Kohner. This one’s for research. Have yet to crack it open.
  • The History of Surfing, by Matt Warshaw. If this gigantic book did not cost $50 and take up so much space, I’d just buy it and save the poor people at the library the trouble of transfering it back and forth for me. It weighs about as much as a truck or a nine-month-old baby. I reserve it from another library branch, take it to my car with the library’s dolly (kidding), take it home, then read through the first quarter or so, and renew, renew, renew until it’s time to turn it in again. Such fascinating information! Such glorious photographs! Such a weighty tome!
  • Odd Girl Out, by Rachel Simmons. This book is has invaluable insights into girl bullying, or, as Simmons calls it, “relational aggression” among girls, plus a chapter on cyber bullying and another section on “sexting,” both of which scared the pants off me (but not in a sext-y way, get it? UGH).
  • Orchards, by Holly Thompson. I was talking with Helene Dunbar about novels in verse and she recommended this one. It’s about a half-Japanese, half-Jewish girl who spends a summer with family in Japan after the suicide of one of her classmates. (And girl bullying is involved! The connections! Amazing!) (Also, finished Orchards just before posting this. It was marvelous.)
  • Surf Mules, by G. Neri. More research. YA male POV. Didn’t grab me in the first few pages, but I’m going to give it a chance.
  • Through the Ever Night, by Veronica Rossi. I cannot wait for this one! With all the others in my queue, this one will be dessert.
  • Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline, by Becky A. Bailey. Recommended by PB Rippey. Looks very good. Like so many on this list, I want to read it NOW.
  • Invincible Summer, by Hannah Moskowitz. Another recommendation by Helene. YA male POV. Looks angsty, but in a good way.
  • Stick, by Andrew Smith. I finally had to tell Helene to cease and desist on the book recommendations, because my bookcase runneth over. Well, I haven’t told her that yet, but if she makes any more recommendations, we’ve got a full house. NO VACANCY.
  • The Good Braider, by Terry Farish. Another YA novel-in-verse, and historical, and I’m kind of afraid to read it because it deals with some heavy issues (heavier than teen suicide tackled in Orchards, above? Mayhap – part of it is about the main character’s journey from war-torn Sudan…”exploding shells” mentioned in the inside flap. I’m nervous).
  • Scratching the Horizon: A Surfing Life, by Izzy Paskowitz with Daniel Paisner. I hope to be pleasantly surprised by this one. The one surfer autobiography I’ve looked through so far was incredibly disappointing.
  • Girl in the Curl: A Century of Women in Surfing, by Andrea Gabbard. This one’s going to be really good, I can tell just from flipping through it. The organization isn’t exactly clear to me yet, but the photos and brief bio information about some of the surfers is priceless.

If you have book recommendations for me, I thank you so much but this is not the time! I should be finished with these sometime in February, so we’ll talk then.

And I mean February 2014.

(Also, yes, that’s Maverick’s tiny hand disrupting my beautiful display of books in the featured image above.)

Reflections on Little House on the Prairie

Housework: Ma Ingalls did a LOT of work. Just reading about all the work she did makes me feel exhausted. And it’s like, who cares if their dresses were clean and pressed? Nobody is there to see them. Me, I think I’m exerting huge effort to put on a pair of wrinkled cargo pants to make my way to Target (see below re: Target), and there’s Ma wringing things out in the creek by hand, and then IRONING it afterward?! I mean, I applaud her determination to look nice, but it’s sort of akin to…I don’t know. I have no comparison to make here – it’s too crazy for me.

Racism and Prejudice: As impressed (and bewildered) as I was with Ma’s cleaning and cooking, I didn’t like her attitude toward the Indians. Yes, she was a product of her times, but not everyone was so jerk-faced about them. What I most appreciated was Laura’s innocent questions such as, “Isn’t this the Indians’ land? Aren’t they sad to have to move?” but those questions were silenced (see below re: never speaking at the table). Pa didn’t seem nearly as judgmental as Ma did, and I’m wondering if it came down to fear. Ma was really really afraid of the Indians, and Pa had a more balanced view?

The Family Dinner: The part about how kids aren’t supposed to speak at the table, unless they are spoken to? Made me nine shades of nostalgic for something I’ve never experienced, because most dinners I can’t get a word in edgewise to Homes. Ma and Pa could shut Laura up with three words: “Laura, that’s all.” And she’d stop. How did they do it?

Material Goods: Mary and Laura were SO THRILLED at getting their own tin cups…and that’s the sort of thing I’d pick up at Target without even a thought. Not to mention the occasional random art supplies like construction paper or notebooks or markers or stickers…. Imagine how thrilled they’d be!

Crazy Talk: What would’ve happened to them if Pa died? I mean, that’s a huge risk they’re undertaking, going off into the unsettled prairie, and as capable as Ma wields her spider-cooker thingie, I don’t think she’s quite up for chopping down and hauling lumber, and building cabin-sized things (like cabins). I guess I’m not enough of an adventurer to be a pioneer, but it’s hard to sympathize with them when they’re endangering not only themselves but their very young daughters by venturing into the great yonder. There are snakes and wolves and things, and all kinds of other dangers!

Do It All Over Again: And then, after all that work making that sweet little cabin with the Ridiculously Symbolic and Special china doll on the mantel, they had to abandon the cabin and venture off again to start over. All that work. I need a nap now.

One More Thing: No, I don’t know what is up with all the gopher drawingss. I can’t seem to stop.

Why I’m Not Writing a Blog Post Today

1. I ate two donuts, drank a chocolate milk, and the sugar crash has left me a little lacking in energy, motivation, focus, and so on.

2. My new work-in-progress is far too engrossing. I’m working with a road map (a few index cards with scenes listed on them), but I keep getting surprised by the characters and where they’re taking the story. I’d forgotten how much fun a new draft can be.

3. I started Veronica Rossi’s book, Under the Never Sky, and it’s SO good. I didn’t want to put it down to do my writing this morning, but now that I’ve reached my five-page goal, I’m just itching to pick the book back up again.

4. Other than these few things, I don’t have anything to say, really.

5. And finally, after five days of nagging Z to get ready for school in the mornings, and hours spent reading and writing my own words, I’m kinda sick of my own voice, ya know? Both the speaking voice AND the writing voice. So I’m going to stop. Here.

The Love Shack

This post is long overdue. You see, friends, I have been working on a Secret Project of Joy (in addition to conspiring to send my daughter away to military camp, aka Preschool). My Secret Project of Joy is transforming our garage guest room, the “Love Shack” as we like to call it, into a place I can actually work.

The first step was covering up the orange paint.

I am anything but a designer. Like most people, I enjoy being surrounded by beauty. When I get tired of standing in front of the mirror, I am left to find beauty in my environment. Husband and I picked out this great tile to go in the Love Shack, a terra cotta with blue designs on it (click here to see it up close). (By the way, I don’t recommend this tile unless you enjoy scraping bar codes off the floor. Some genius decided to put the bar codes on the TOP of each tile. As we are a lazy/busy family, there are still tiles with bar codes on them. In fact, the only ones without bar codes are a gift of my mother’s hard work. Thanks, Mom.)

As I was saying…I tried to match the terra cotta tile. And do an accent wall. Thankfully, I can’t find any photos of the old Love Shack, because although people were nice enough about it, it was Ugly. A few months ago I went out there to write, and as I sat on the bed, looking around (not writing), I couldn’t help but notice the pleasing sandy color I’d chosen was orange. Orange!

So on Mother’s Day, I painted the heck out of those walls, to a nice soft Informal Ivory. Now it’s Very Boring, which is better than orange, and I can always kick up the color a bit with the trim. And paint some poems on the walls, maybe some birds and stars. It’s MY ROOM. Yeah, guests sometimes sleep in it, so I don’t want to put anything disturbing on the walls, like these prints we got to enjoy when staying in a hotel room in Nasca, Peru:

Sweet dreams!

Don't let the bed bugs (er, horses) bite!

We weren’t sure which one we liked more, but we think the execution scene really sets the mood for peaceful slumber.

It’s clean and cozy, there’s a full bathroom, and even better: I can get work done in there. I’ve got lots of plans for the room, and the only challenge to my writing will be that I need to sit still and write, not putter about fixing up the place. In the meantime, it’s  a workable writer’s studio. I like to call it my “sink paceuary” (taken from “peace sanctuary” when I was doing the Hypnobirthing CD – don’t laugh).

Finally moved my story board from the bedroom wall to the Love Shack.

“All I could do was to offer you an opinion upon one minor point — a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction,” Virginia Woolf so famously said. Actually, I’d forgotten about the money part until I looked it up, and I now wish I had left the quote to memory. Anyway. I at least have the room of my own. It’s enough.

ETA: I was inspired to write about the Love Shack after doing Erin Bow’s interview. Her fantastic digs (located in a pole dancing studio!) make the Love Shack look tame by comparison.