Cleaning + Writing = Happy Writer Mommy

Last week’s experiment turned out to be a success: doing cleaning with Daniel instead of putting him down for a naptime right away works a whole lot better than coming home, putting him down for a nap, then trying to write right away.

When Daniel and I get home, the first thing I do is put on music to clean to. Before, when I brought Daniel from school, we would immediately go into Quiet Time. So after I told Daniel to lie down, I had to sneak around and keep the apartment quiet. Not conducive for cleaning. I like to play loud music. It gets me into a cleaning mood. Now that I have Daniel with me as I clean, it’s not that big a deal. Last week, I played Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child podcasts, and Daniel got into the swing of cleaning along with me…

…Which showed me an unexpected benefit of all this: I’m teaching my son to clean. Before, he would sit before the TV while I’ll be doing the cleaning thing (then again, that was back when we were trying to sell the house in Roselle. Oy…still makes my head hurt thinking of it). Now, I give him small tasks to do. For instance, I let him set a timer for how much time we spend cleaning a room (5 minutes, thanks to FlyLady). I let him run and pick up stuff off the floor to see how fast he can do it. The kid is even cleaning his room now. To be honest, I’m pretty impressed by how much he wants to help. I know in a couple of years, it will be like “Maaaaaa….why do I have to clean noooooowwwww?” So I’m guessing I need to lay in all the groundwork I can.

It usually takes us roughly 30 minutes to get the apartment straightened out, then we do the whole Quiet Time routine of reading a story and putting on soft music to listen to. Then, I can concentrate on my writing, which, at that point, I’m ready to do.

I don’t feel like I’m wasting time anymore. I don’t feel like I need to rush to clean the kitchen before cooking. Overall, it makes for a very happy writer mommy.

A quick update on my latest projects: reading the 1st draft of Willow has finally taken off. I’ve been doing a readthrough of two chapters per week so far. Last week was really nice because I was able to combine two chapters into one, which will hopefully cut down on the word count some. I just need to remind myself that all I’m doing is reading through the story and making notes on what to edit. I’ve been tempted to start editing right there, and I don’t want to do that. Read first, edit later.

I’m also part of a MegaRecap for the Agony Booth. This is where a bunch of writers review a movie 15 minutes per writer. I’m not going to reveal here what we’re reviewing, but let me just say that after this movie, I will never watch a SUV commercial the same way again. (Oyyyy….) Stay tuned for when that gets released.

Now if you excuse me, it’s been a very, very busy weekend. I’m going to bed.

Doing the Clean/Write Juggle (or how to be a part-time writer and a part-time worker mom and still have clean dishes to eat on…)

I’ve just realized that it’s been a long time since I wrote any personal posts.

Not that my life hasn’t been quiet. Far from it. Ever since we’ve moved to Madison, I’ve been getting involved in a lot of things, personal and work-wise. It’s funny–a year ago, then only things taking up my calendar was Mommy and Me stuff: playgroup, MOPS, the occasional get-together with another family. Of course, being here, we’ve been getting to know people, catching up with old friends, making new ones, that it feels like we’ve been doing things nonstop. Which isn’t the case, but you know…

Okay, the real reason I’m writing this is to whine about my apartment being dirty.

I can’t clean it. I just can’t. Not for the lack of trying…well, okay maybe it is for the lack of trying. But it feels like ever since we moved here our apartment’s been junky. I mean really junky. Junk on the table and floor and bed junky.

Part of the problem is that there’s so little space. Our house back in Roselle wasn’t the paragon of purity, but at least it was easy to spread the mess around (or maybe I’m beginning to candy-coat our memories of the place there). Here, make a mess, and pretty soon, we’re stumbling and tripping over it, or pushing it to the side so we can eat, or dumping it in baskets so we can sleep. There’s no place to put all the piles.

Another problem is I’m procrastinating on it. Back in Roselle, I had all the time in the world to clean, because I was a stay-at-home mom. I set a schedule for myself: clean in the mornings, write in the afternoons, cook in the evening. Granted, that didn’t mean that the house still didn’t look Martha-Stewart perfect, but at least I had plenty of time to clean, have fun with Daniel and write. It was easy and fun to juggle.

Here, I work in the mornings, so my cleaning schedule is shot. I have a time window of roughly 4 hours to write and/or clean. I thought that would be easy to handle: bring him home, read him a story, clean write until 5pm, then cook. Except after I put Daniel down, I get sleepy, so I take a nap. A 15-minute nap quickly turns to an hour. Suddenly, it’s 2:30p, and I haven’t done anything. So I get up to clean, but then Daniel, who’s been puttering around his room for about an hour or so, chooses that moment to fall asleep. And seeing that I write better when he’s asleep than not, I figure, well, don’t want to waste his nap; might as well start writing now while I get a chance. So I write, and I get into a good groove, and next think I know it’s 5:30pm. I’ve written a good deal, but the house is still a mess, and I still got to cook, and crickets are coming out of our windows and…

Well, you catch my drift.

I did try to reverse it. Tried to write after I put Daniel down, but I found that I mainly waste that time surfing and checking email. I don’t get down to serious writing until at least 3pm…so logically the time after I put Daniel down should be when I clean, but it doesn’t happen.

This isn’t working.

As I’m sitting here writing this, a thought occurs to me. If Daniel’s not falling asleep until two or even three o’clock, why am I putting him down at one?

I assumed it would be the most logical thing to do. After all, it’s right after he eats lunch. I usually pick him up just as the other kids in his class are going down for their naps. I figured that would be a decent time for him to go down too. But usually, we walk home, and by the time, he’s keyed up from the walk, so it takes a long while for him to settle down.

What if, instead of putting him down immediately, I wait an hour, use that time to clean, and then put him down around 2pm? It would be more in line in how we used to do his naps–I usually waited until 2pm then. I’d be able to make more noise if he’s awake. I can even have him helping me; doesn’t hurt to start instilling cleaning habits now. And with him up and running about, I won’t be tempted to take a nap right away. Even if I did take a nap at 2, that should still give me a couple more hours to write at 3, when I’m in my writing groove.

That might work.

‘Course, this is all speculation. I’ll have to try it out and see. But I hope it does work. If I have a decent clean space by the time I write, I feel better, which means I write better, which means I don’t have to rush about to cook, which means that I’m happier overall.

Now if I can get my hubby to do the dishes every once in a while, I got it made.

Free Your Mind! Throw it all Away!

Yesterday, I did something that I never thought I would do.

I threw my unfinished cross-stitch away.

It was a tree that I’ve been working on since I married my hubbie back in ’98. The one I had planned to cross-stitch the Serenity Prayer: Lord, grant me the serenity to accept things I cannot change, the courage to change things I can, and the wisdom to tell the difference. Well, I started working on it, and somehow, over the years, the stitches I counted didn’t match what was on the pattern. Slowly, my Serenity tree was mutating into a tree one would find in Dante’s hell.

I wouldn’t give up, though. I was determined to finish it, to at least make it “seem” like the picture. But as Daniel came into the picture, I brought out the cross-stitch less and less, until it simply sat there in the craft bin in my closet, pouting. Whenever I brought it out into the light on rare occasions, its jagged lines stared dolefully back at me. Why won’t you finish me? I’m leafless! Put some leaves on me! I’m cold and wolves are out to get me…

Pretty soon, I kept it buried so I wouldn’t hear its accusations.

In our quest now to purge everything in our house before we move to Madison, I unearthed the thing after it spent several years at the bottom of my craft bin. The canvas backing has turned a dull gray. The pattern I’ve worked from has split apart, and the floss is now hopelessly tangled into Medusa knots. I brought my cross-stitch out into the light, and I swear it hissed at me. And that was when I made the realization:

1) I cannot change the fact that I don’t have time to cross stitch anymore.
2) I can do something about it this cross-stitch though. I just need the courage to do it.
3) Wisdom is telling me to dump this in the trash.

So that is what I did.

It’s liberating. Suddenly, the guilt of not working on a craft is off my shoulders. I think I’m standing up a little straighter. My craft bin looks lighter too. All my knitting stuff looks so nice now that it no longer is sharing a cramped space. And I didn’t get rid of all my cross-stitch stuff. There’s a few patterns I kept which is nicely filed away in a drawer. I think there will come a time when I will do it again. Now is just not the time.

Tossing out things that you don’t need or use anymore. For some reason it felt…disturbingly…good.

Hmm. I wonder what else I can toss out of my life to make it lighter?