Monday Morning Post-Vacation Blahs

Yes, I have something worse than the Monday Morning Blues. A disease more distressing than Post-Vacation Lethargy. I have the “Blahs.”

Do you know what I mean?

The weather outside is gray and drizzly. Blah.

Piles of cat-scratchings mock me, clinging to my slippers when I walk anywhere near the dining room. Who cares?

Dishes are piled in the sink and my bullet journal schedule for the week is practically blank. Whatever.

Last night, I tried to convince my husband to call in sick so we could do something fun today. He laughed. (Although he agreed that he didn’t want to go to work today either.)

Working at home is a double-edged sword when I have the blahs. I mean, if I really don’t feel like it, I don’t have to head to the office. No one is staring at the empty desk wondering when I’ll show up.

But my mother taught me better than that.

It’s called self-discipline. And if it isn’t her voice chiding me about the filthy bathrooms and the piles on my desktop, it’s a drill sergeant blasting me with condemnation.

So even with the Monday Morning Post-Vacation Blahs, I’d better get myself in gear and go to work.

At least I can wear my new sweats. Ah, talk about comfy.

I can take breaks to crochet another granny square. Or play Words with Friends.

After all, I’ve only got to write the blog posts for the next two weeks. And I’ve come up with a fantastic idea for half of them.

Vacation is needful. It’s especially important for me to get away from home so I can inhale fresh adventures and map new settings. These are gold mines for future fiction tales.

Hemingway got a few things right. And this was one of them.

If I didn’t work as a substitute teacher, I could go days without ever leaving my house. I don’t count walking to the mailbox or picking up groceries as “living.” Sorry.

Many writers face the same sort of compulsion. To lock ourselves away with whatever we’re currently working on. Why bother even showering? No one’s going to see us.

And then the UPS guy rings the doorbell and waits for a signature.

It’s always best to plan for package delivery if nothing else.

I wonder what he thinks of the big smear of something above my left knee. He glances toward my hair and suddenly a platoon of itches marches through my unwashed hair.

Don’t scratch. Don’t scratch. Don’t scratch.

And then I return to my office and plunge back into my writing.

Did the doorbell ring? What time is it?

Apparently, I should be figuring out what to cook my husband for dinner. When he travels, I don’t have to deal with this problem.

As you can see, this post might have arrived a few hours later than usual. But it’s here.

The blahs didn’t win.

What constitutes the blahs to you?

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The Headaches of a Dream Come True

Rat-a-tat-ta-tat. The sound echoes from behind the closed patio doors clear at the opposite end of the house. A headache pulses in my temples. No dream comes without a few headaches.

Case in point: my dream patio

One day we were talking to a landscape designer who was giving us the brush-off. After all, we waited until the middle of his busy season to ask for a design and a quote.

A few weeks later, a designer is sitting at our dining room table talking about payment plans.

Because a nearly 600 square foot patio of paving stones doesn’t fit the under-$10,000 budget we had for the project. Because dreams are costly. But that’s a subject for another post.

A week went by with nothing. Then everything snowballed and the work crew was showing up the next day – a full week before the original start date.

The first thing to go is the old patio.

Just like our life, if we want to start a new career or new hobby or new healthy lifestyle, we have to get rid of the old. It’s not enough to keep the card-making supplies in the back of the closet now that you’re into quilting. As long as they’re there to fall back on, you’ll be tempted to quit on quilting if it gets too difficult.

The workers needed a jackhammer to break down the less-than-100-square-foot cement patio. And it took them nearly two full days to render it into pieces small enough to recycle as gravel bedding beneath our new stone.

That’s the noise you heard at the beginning of this post.

And it gave me a headache. It made concentrating on writing difficult.

Because anything worth having will involve some uncomfortable episodes.

Clearing out the old is a messy process too.

PatioRubble

Our outdoor cat shied away from the rubble when he came in for his food that night. The next morning, he waited atop one of the flat pieces to be let in for breakfast.

It’s great when we can recycle the old into the new, but most of the time it needs to be hauled off to the dump.

Second case in point: my dream of a writing contract (for a novel)

I’m still waiting to hear back from the publisher on the novel I submitted in May.

A vein popped in my forehead as I typed that.

Say_What

The editor whose been my go-between with the publisher sent word that the publisher hasn’t even opened my manuscript. It’s on the top of the slush pile, though. The first order of business come August will be reading the manuscript so she can give me an answer.

Oh, it’s already August you say? Well then I should hear any day now.

My heart hurts as it expects a “no.” My head pounds out all sorts of platitudes that make my skull feel like a too-tight screw.

In a few weeks, I’ll post pictures of my dream patio (minus the fire pit, water feature, and lighted gardens which will come later). The days of taking ibuprofen and hiding out far from the patio doors won’t even be remembered.

Because a dream attained is worth the pain.

What dream is giving you headaches right now? Take a moment to imagine yourself on the pinnacle of attaining it. What do you see?

Expectations that build character

Washington had oodles of Character
Washington had oodles of Character

Some readers might have given up on my series regarding expectations for young people. After all, it seems like a diatribe against education, government or parenting. Aren’t their some expectations we should have for our children?

Duh. Lack of appropriate expectations has damaged our youth as much as unrealistic expectations. Maybe even more.

We all need a standard set before us – a model to follow. For generations, parents modeled standards for their children. In more recent years, I see parents willingly submitting this duty (really an honor) to government and educators.

This is one of the biggest problems in our society. Whether parents want to be the role model for their children or not, they are being watched. Many children will follow their parents’ example without consciously deciding to do it.

So, it’s past time for parents to step up. If you had a child, you have some responsibilities to that child. Uncle Sam isn’t responsible to teach your child anything. (Do you really want the political system of the day deciding what your child needs to know?) Your neighborhood school should be teaching reading, writing and mathematics, but we all know there is so much more to life than those things.

Let’s take a moment to reflect on four areas where we should have solid expectations for our young people: work, responsibility, accountability and respect.  These areas (and I would personally add values, but I won’t open that can of worms) can guarantee young people develop admirable character.

A Work Ethic

You don’t have to tell me; work is a four-letter word. Many people try to avoid it as much as possible and it’s beginning to show in our younger generation.

A simple homework assignment that might take 15 minutes is too much work for many kids. Rather than researching a topic, they will Google an already completed paper on the subject and turn it in as their own work. Gaming, texting, social media hangouts and pursuit of other interests monopolizes their free time.

What happened to a list of daily chores? I know, kids scream “child abuse” and so parents back off. Who wants a confrontation with a mouthy teenager anyway? Not any sane person.

The solution is to give kids chores at a young age. I’m not recommending child labor. A four-year old can pick up their own toys and dirty clothes, though. If a kid is old enough to go to school, he can make his bed. Setting the table, unloading and loading the dishwasher, cleaning the toilet and washing dishes are other chores that can be completed by anyone at least seven years old.

Will they do an excellent job? Not if you don’t teach them the right way to do it. This doesn’t involve yelling at them to rewash the dishes if you find a dirty spot. It means the parent stands beside them demonstrating how to do the chore correctly.

I think one chore per day is plenty for younger kids. By the time they’re teenagers, they think they should be free to do what they want. Sure, once they finish a list that involves a few more chores. And their homework.

After all, who’s going to do their dishes when they’re adults? You? It’s in everybody’s best interest for them to learn how to do basic housework.

How do we earn money? By working. Sure, it might be sitting at a desk or driving a truck, but whatever your job, you must be industrious. The harder you work, the more valued you are to your employer (or should be – another rant altogether here).

Responsibility

Finger pointing abounds. This is because no one wants to accept responsibility when things go wrong.

It’s a major flaw in “free” society. Every person needs to carry their weight. Imagine society as a huge wheel and every person is a spoke. Break a few off, and the wheel is too weak to work properly.

How do you teach your child to be responsible? You give them a set of chores and forfeit their rights to do anything else until they’ve done them. And done them to a satisfactory standard.

Lack of responsibility hurts everyone around you. It makes a person undependable and disloyal. Who will trust them with the smallest task if they are irresponsible?

Schools are designed to build this trait into children. What a student is responsible for increases as they age. In kindergarten, they’re responsible for putting their coat and backpack in the correct cubby. By middle school, they’re responsible for that and turning in their homework when it’s due.

This doesn’t mean parents have no part in teaching this trait. Believe me, people in education can tell the parents who have let this slide.

Accountability

Another reason for all the finger pointing in our society is the lack of accountability. Being held accountable will make someone more responsible. After all, if they can do a half-hearted job on their chores and still head to the movies and a sleepover with friends, what’s the big deal?

As my kids aged, I trusted them to be accountable. “Mom, can I go to my bro’s house?”  My response: “Is your homework done? I see you didn’t sweep the kitchen yet.” After the kitchen is swept, the inquiry is issued again. “If your homework is done.”

This bit my youngest son in the hinder parts his freshman year of high school. I expected him to do his homework, study, turn things in on time. When I went to the spring conference and talked to his Spanish teacher (he had an F) and his art teacher (he had a D), his life got pretty ugly.

The thing about accountability is that the parent needs to be the party kids answer to about whether they’re meeting their responsibilities. I realized that my son had lied about his homework (actually he turned in much of it but it was subpar work).  Outside of school and church activities, his social life ended. Oh, and you can bet that included access to computer games and the internet.

Unfortunately, he didn’t get the Spanish grade up. He reaped the consequences. Grounded from technology for the summer (that was his big thing) and he had to retake the class in order to get the credit for his college applications.

People must be held accountable because there are consequences for actions and inaction. Yep, there’s plenty of whining about “life’s not fair” but the reality is, we need to learn to deal with it. Being accountable is a good start.

Respect

Biggest for last. Lack of respect in young people disturbs me. It isn’t just their disrespect toward adults. Many don’t respect property or even themselves.

Image from startnetworkingtoday.com

“You respect me and I’ll respect you.” I actually had an 8th grade student say this to me once. My reply was, “Who starts? You or me?”

The truth is respect must be mutual. One reason kids are disrespectful to adults is because they hear their parents dissing authority. No surprise when these kids turn and rail on those same parents. Remember: our kids are watching us. We are teaching them – for better or worse.

I happily respect everyone I meet. When they scorn me, I turn the other cheek. I’m an adult. I was taught to hold my tongue by a pop on the mouth when I didn’t. My husband forbade me to do this with our children.

It made teaching them when they misspoke more difficult. Nothing gets our attention more quickly than pain. Arguments and power struggles wore on me. Eventually, I won and my son’s learned I would always win. Even if we had to wait until dad got home.

Have I left any important expectations off this list? Did I misrepresent any of these items? Let’s discuss it.

Cleaning House

"These are so gross. This needs to be done annually." Thanks for volunteering, son!
“These are so gross. This needs to be done annually.” Thanks for volunteering, son!

Some people call it Spring cleaning. My mother said we were “deep cleaning,” but by any other name washing walls (and cabinets) is still work.

And we all agree with Garfield that “work is a four-letter word.”

I’m fortunate to have two strong and tall sons. They still had to climb up on a chair to reach the top shelves of the kitchen cabinets. I ask you: does it make sense to have a shelf you cannot reach? What should you store on such a shelf?

I had my son retrieve a collection of cookie and candy tins I have been collecting over the past many Christmas seasons. I wanted to keep them so I could bake cookies and give them as gifts. Needless to say, a few went in the garage sale box, one went in the garbage bag and the others went back on that impossible-to-reach top shelf.

We had a process for cleaning the kitchen cabinets. I pulled the stuff out and set in on the countertop. This way, I could move the items for sale to the garage sale box and dump the junk in the garbage bag.

Behind me, my oldest son used regular soap and water and a rag to wipe the inside of the cupboards. After he dried them, I placed the “kept” items back inside. My youngest son used the bucket of Murphy’s Oil Soap and water to wipe down the outside of the lovely maple cabinets.

I ask you: who did the most work? Especially since I also cleaned, wiped out and organized the bank of drawers by the stove and the other drawers that hold all the silverware and utensils.

Who do you think complained and had to be compelled to continue working? Yeah, the same one who volunteered for what he believed would be the easiest of the jobs.

Silly boy. He forgot that I’m the “mean mother.” I made him do the inside and out of the freestanding pantry. It is, after all, wood on all sides.

Just like the other times I’ve asked them to help clean the house, I provided lunch. They picked out the pizza they wanted. I told them to order cheese stuffed breadsticks, too, if they wanted them.

Washing walls and cabinets ranks right up there with scrubbing toilets and cleaning grout with a toothbrush. I understand their reluctance toward participating in these tasks. And I was graciously thankful that they were here to help me with it. I would have had to spend an entire day on the project, but the three of us could finish in three hours.

I’m clearing off the counters and making it look sparkly and shiny. My husband will get his camera out and take pictures for the online scrapbook we’ll use when we attempt to sell our home.

Hopefully, prospective buyers won’t be too shocked to see the cluttered version when they arrive in person. It’s hard to keep all the junk off the counter when people keep mailing more every day.

What’s your least favorite cleaning task? Do you have a cleaning horror story to share?

Graduation Day

High school graduation - 2009
High school graduation – 2009

June 15 at 10:00 am, the commencement ceremony begins at Oregon Institute of Technology in Klamath Falls. The stadium teems with parents, grandparents and friends.

I have a tissue (or four) ready.

My oldest son sits on the field below us. Since I didn’t attend my graduation ceremony (traveling to New Hampshire wasn’t as important as going to Germany), I’m living vicariously through him once more.

Even while the speaker gives motivational and inspirational advice, I know Tanner is thinking ahead. The younger we are, the less we live in the moment.

After an interminable amount of time and a seemingly endless list of names, he shakes the President’s hand and grasps his diploma (not really; they pick those up later, but symbolically he got that certificate). His four-year journey through higher education is ending.

Now real life begins.

A Jedi has Self-Discipline

From the Yoda of my writing life (Kristen Lamb), this little Obi Wan reads many fine blog posts.

Yesterday, I was inspired to share her post with those of you who read my blog. Why? It was motivational. It was wise.

If you lack self-discipline, you are not alone. Kristen talks about how to buy some on eBay. Uh, no, that doesn’t sound right.

She quoted Robert Greene as saying “our society’s almost developed a general disdain for plain and simple hard work.” Amen, sister! If you spent even one hour at the middle school (where I no longer work), it would be plain to you that young people have adopted this disdain with fervency they show for little else in life (except maybe texting).

I hope you enjoy Kristen’s blog post. Check out her book We Are Not Alone, as well as the writer’s social network she designed, WANA Tribe.

I love Kristen. As soon as I learn as much about The Force (writing) as she can teach me, I’m going to be able to wield a light saber with the best of them.

Job versus Career

I’d rather be a failure at something I love than a success at something I hate. – George Burns

Image from afterspm.com

I spent five years after my youngest son was born at home, my career was raising the two precious souls I had borne into this world. Before that, I had several jobs, but none of them were as essential to the well-being of another person as motherhood.

Now as I stand at the crossroads of another season in my life, I’m wondering if I will quit my job in order to get another one. Or is it time in my life for a new career, since my sons are adults?

What’s the difference between a job and a career? Is there one?

Merriam-Webster defines a job as “a piece of work; especially: a small miscellaneous piece of work undertaken on order at a stated rate.”

According to this definition, if I wrote an article for a website and they paid me $20, that would be a job. Is what I’m doing at the school a job? I am working for a specified rate of pay, doing the tasks outlined in a job description.

The dictionary says a career is “a profession for which one trains and which is undertaken as a permanent calling.” If I felt my work as an instructional assistant was my “calling” then it would be a career.

In my mind, something temporary is a job and something permanent is a career. The dictionary seems to endorse this perspective.

In that case, I’m quitting my job at the school to pursue a career in writing.

That sounds so grand and glorious.

I might undertake some freelance writing jobs to further my overall career, but I’ll be seeking a career as a novelist. If I never publish, does that mean I never had a writing career?

Do you see why I’m often confused by this topic? I’m finding it difficult to explain to my coworkers what I’ll be doing once I quit my “regular employment.” If I’m not reaping a steady income, most people don’t see writing as a career move.

The dictionary says a career is a “profession” but it says nothing about monetary compensation; on the other hand, money is specifically mentioned in the description of a job. What do my readers think of this topic? Can I have a writing career if no one is paying me?