Where does all the time go?

Gravel warning.

I don’t usually do this, but I’m going to link you to someone else’s post today. I prefer to write my own posts and not re-post or direct readers to someone else’s words. Originality counts with me. Even if it’s gravel.

I’m at a tough time in my life right now here in the middle lane with aging parents to worry about and young adult children to worry about. There’s nothing new in that statement.

In the past I used to be able to grasp hold of time and spin through it to create something or be productive in some way. These days my time just seems to slip through my fingers and at the end of the day not one of the things on my mental, and now written, to-do list are finished.

Part of the problem is age and energy. When I was in my 20s I could shop for new shoes, go to the grocery, clean my entire apartment, prepare dinner for a friend and go out dancing all in a day. There were some days when I amazed myself at my productivity. Now I amaze myself at my lack of it.

Prioritization, structure and discipline, I thought. Of all the ways I could be spending my time and all the things I could be doing, which ones are the most important to me? How much time a day should I devote to them? Make it happen. So I thought, I’ll spend three-four hours on my writing activities which would include blogging, editing my manuscript, writing a book proposal, scanning photos for the book, researching agents and sending out query letters, and learning about self-publishing. That’s quite a lot for a three-hour time period, but I don’t have to accomplish everything in one day.

Then I could spend one hour on gardening, two hours on house work which would include any homemaking activities such as grocery-shopping, meal preparation, laundry, regular cleaning and spring cleaning. I like to do spring cleaning. It gives me a chance to re-order my life and I feel freer when the closets have been organized and the windows are sparkling.

That still leaves a large number of hours a day for personal hygiene, meals, phone calls to family members, general shopping, projects like photo albums, exercise (this one should be scheduled) and general loafing around.

It worked pretty well on Monday. I blogged, read blogs, finished incorporating the edits into my manuscript, gardened for about a half hour, and spent a couple of hours tackling the storage room in the basement that hasn’t recovered from our initial move here 18 months ago.

Tuesday was  a crash and burn. I blogged when I first got up, then I had a meeting in the morning at Panera that lasted about two hours. (I could count that as writing time.) Since I was already there and it was close to lunch time I called Mark who joined me there and we ate, that killed about another hour. I couldn’t garden because my back hurt from the previous day’s work and anyway it was cold outside. I continued to work in the basement for a short while. I didn’t work on my manuscript at all. I’m not really sure what happened with the rest of the day.

Today I was planning to visit my parents, so all bets are off, but Arthur spent the night coughing and gagging and is not eating well, so I may have to reschedule my parents for tomorrow and take Arthur to the vet today. Maybe I can try to get half the house-cleaning done instead. I used to have a cleaning service before we moved, but gave it up because they didn’t travel as far out as we moved. I’ve been dragging my feet because I don’t want to have to find someone new. Besides, I should be able to do it myself.

I have no control over my life.

If you know exactly what I mean, you can read some helpful ideas at a blog I follow by a clever and interesting woman from Holland: Figments of a Dutchess.

I hope you have a happy and productive day.

Fifty-four years of words

Family photo 1957
1957 - Jerry A. Smith, Mary K. Smith (holding me), Carol and Kathy

I’m fifty four years old today—that’s more than half a century and in all likelihood, more than half my life.

I’ve had to learn a lot of new words in those 54 years. When I was young we didn’t have computers, laptops, e-mails, google, Amazon.com, anything.com, cell-phones, smart phones, iPhones, iPads, iPods. We didn’t have microwaves, VHS, cds, blue-rays, DVR, Nintendo, X-Box, PlayStation or Wii. Blackberries were a fruit. If we wanted to travel, we found our way with a paper map that unfolded into an awkward size  and interrupted the view of the driver and was impossible to return to its original nicely folded shape. We didn’t have google-maps or GPS. Our books were made of paper—no kindles, no nooks.

We didn’t worry about recycling, energy-efficiency, global warming, hybrid cars, political correctness, dirty bombs, terrorists.

In those fifty-four years there are also words that have gone into retirement—vinyl records, 78s, 33s, 45s, cassette player, eight-track-tape (I actually never really heard that one much before), and my most valuable possession as a teenager—transistor radio, to mention a few.

Fifty four years. There are a lot of new and very special people in my life—Mark, Michael, Matthew, Anna, Mark Joseph, Gretchen, and Luke—a grandchild. Pure joy.

There are too many people who are permanently gone from my life—Grandpa Smith, Grandma Smith, Grandpa Lemmons, Grandma Lemmons, Uncle Jim, Uncle Mike, Aunt Nancy, Aunt Mary, Great Aunt Agnes, Dad Grote, Annie.

A lot happens in fifty four years.

Thank you Mom and Dad for giving me this life, for taking care of me before I could take care of myself and for teaching me how to live well.

I may live another 20, 30, or if I take after my Grandma Lemmons, 40 more years. But if I died tomorrow, I would have had a good life. I’m lucky, or as my friends, who I never see anymore, down at Our Daily Bread would say—I’m blessed.

So, to mangle a quote from a woman who once lost her head,

“Let us eat cake.”

Not a photo from Italy

Rant warning.

I feel like Rip frappin’ Van Winkle.

In 1979 I graduated with a Chemical Engineering degree and started my short-lived career at Procter and Gamble. Three years later Michael was born and I left work never to return.

One year turned to five, then 10. One child turned to four. Ten years turned to 15—our youngest son Joe was only 6 and Michael required a ride to his high school a distance from our house. Fifteen years turned to 20. I went back to school part time for an English degree. 20 years turned to nearly 30.

When I first started at P&G we didn’t have computers in our offices. My desk was well-stocked with yellow lined paper tablets and pens. My bi-weekly reports were hand written and typed up by a shared administrative assistant.

When I left P&G in 1982, four or five of us shared one desktop computer in our lab office. We used it mostly as a database for our experimental results. We didn’t have e-mail. We had inter-departmental mail delivered in large gold reusable envelopes. We had telephones. And we had our feet.

Fast forward 29 years. I wake up from my domestic dream-sleep and venture out into the world. I have a compelling story I want to tell. My sister with severe brain damage has died and I want to tell her story. I want to give her a legacy. Through wakeful nights and cases of tissues, I type her story.

I buy books on how to get published, “Get an agent,” “How to write a book proposal,” “Author 101.”

“You need a platform,” they all say.

What the heck is a platform?

I start a blog. I send out notifications to my friends and family in my e-mail address book. I post it on my Facebook page, largely populated by high school friends, that my friend Marty encouraged me to start a few years ago. (If we older folks don’t help each other and pull each other along we are all going to be left behind.)

My kids sometimes help me keep up-to-date—introducing me to Netflix, insisting on texting, suggesting Angry Birds and Plants vs. Zombies games.

I ask my mom if she’s been reading my blog. She hasn’t. “How can I expect other people to read my blog when my own mom won’t?” I say. This comment is far more effective at igniting her anger than inspiring her interest. “I don’t like the computer,” she says.

My mom is 77 years old. She has lived most of her life without the need of a computer. She doesn’t see the need for one now. And it confuses her to try to learn it. She can’t keep up. I understand how she feels. She is used to waiting for information. She has no need for minute-by-minute updates on what her favorite actor or politician is doing. She likes hearing people’s voices over the telephone.

I generate a shortcut for my blog page and leave it on her computer desktop. I know I still have two loyal readers in my husband Mark and sister Carol.

“You need to have over a thousand followers,” the books say.

I join several Writer’s Digest online communities about writing, publishing, blogging. “You need to follow twitter to find out what the publishers and agents are saying.”

I sign up for a Twitter account. I start following the big publishing houses: Random House, A. A. Knopf, Simon Schuster—like I have even the remotest of chances of ever doing business with one of them.

Many of the tweets contain symbols. I feel like I am reading shorthand. I have no idea what the symbols mean. I will google it later.

I am notified by e-mail that I now have six followers on Twitter. I panic.

All I want to do is tell my sister Annie’s story. I think it is a good story. I think it is an inspiring story. It is the only legacy she will have.

I’m willing to try to do what it takes. I’m willing to try to build a platform whatever that looks like. I am willing to do it for Annie.

I wonder how many 50, 60 even 70-year-olds are out there with really good stories that we’ll never read because they simply haven’t been able to keep up.

When I started this post-a-day-2011 challenge I told myself I would post whatever was in my head when I woke up in the morning. And if my head was empty, as is sometimes the undeniable case, I would simply slap up a photo from our trip to Italy.

I’ll bet you’re looking forward to seeing some of those photos.


Procter and Gamble on Reed Hartman Highway 1979
My shared brick-walled office located beside a lab
You charged in, past my desk, to speak with Wayne
I thought, “Finally, another new-hire is here.”

Wildwood off of Rt. 4 in Fairfield 1979
My apartment furnished with hand-me-downs and a brand new sofa-bed
You rang the doorbell, bearing a single red rose, promptly at 7:00
I thought, “He’s the one I’ve been waiting for.”

A two-bedroom apartment in Camelot off of Rt. 4 1980
Our wedding gifts covered the dining table
You cleaned the frost off my windshield in the early morning
I felt warm, loved and protected

3416 Ferncroft Dr. Cincinnati Ohio 1982
Michael was born, then later Matthew, and Anna
You walked our babies through the house at night when they cried
I thought, “What a good father you are.”

1269 Hickory Lake Dr.  1991
Joe was born in the large stately brick home — more than I ever expected
Your administrative assistant called to say your ambulance arrived
I thought, “It isn’t worth it.”

5882 Countryhills Dr. 2008
Your father died
You bought a new suit
I held you while you cried.

5843 Woodthrush Ln 2011
The bedrooms are all empty
You say you’re really going to retire this time
I wonder, “Where do we go from here?”


Copyright © 2011 by Christine M. Grote

Midlife crisis ­— or bloom where you’re transplanted

If I live to the age of 90, optimistic but not unheard of, I have already passed my midlife, or halfway point of 45, by at least eight and soon to be nine years. Whatever turbulence the infamous transition through midlife was going to cause should be behind me and I should be cruising in a slow-paced, self-accepting, creative, contented and fulfilled life.

But if I don’t start calculating my midlife point until I reached adulthood, which to make the numbers simple we’ll say is at the age of 20, and if I live to be 90, I am right smack in the middle of my midlife.

I know the math can be challenging, but feel free to use a pencil and paper, or you can just trust me.

Since I’m not feeling settled-down, contented and fulfilled, I did a google search.

Don’t you just love the internet? In days gone by to obtain this information I would have had to wrap my muffler around my neck, pull on my snow boots and trudge, shivering out to the car to drive to a library, periodically swiping the fogged up windshield with a Taco Bell napkin I located on the floor of the passenger seat until the snail-paced heater and defroster kicked into gear.  At the library I would have to stand in a puddle of dirty water as the gray snow sludge melted from my boots, and search through the card catalog file, which might take quite a while depending how clever I was at searching for the right words and whether I could read the worn-off labels on the little wooden drawers or not. (I have to admit; there was something charming about those wooden chests full of little labeled wooden drawers.) Does anybody know what I am rambling on about?

Back to the point. Sitting in the warmth and comfort of my study, watching the light snowfall drift down outside the window, my internet search for midlife crisis led me to some interesting information about not only midlife (http://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/guide/midlife-crisis-opportunity) but also human development which I am sharing, in part, with you below.

“Erik Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development is one of the best-known theories of personality in psychology. Much like Sigmund Freud, Erikson believed that personality develops in a series of stages.” http://psychology.about.com/od/theoriesofpersonality/a/psychosocial.htm

The following are excerpts from Erikson’s Psychosocial Stages Summary Chart found here: http://psychology.about.com/library/bl_psychosocial_summary.htm

“Infancy (birth to 18 months): . . .Children develop a sense of trust when caregivers provide reliability, care, and affection. A lack of this will lead to mistrust.

Early Childhood (2 to 3 years): . . . Children need to develop a sense of personal control over physical skills and a sense of independence. Success leads to feelings of autonomy, failure results in feelings of shame and doubt.

Preschool (3 to 5 years): . . . Children need to begin asserting control and power over the environment. Success in this stage leads to a sense of purpose. Children who try to exert too much power experience disapproval, resulting in a sense of guilt.

School Age (6 to 11 years): . . .Children need to cope with new social and academic demands. Success leads to a sense of competence, while failure results in feelings of inferiority.

Adolescence (12 to 18 years): . . .Teens need to develop a sense of self and personal identity. Success leads to an ability to stay true to yourself, while failure leads to role confusion and a weak sense of self.

Yound Adulthood (19 to 40 years): . . .Young adults need to form intimate, loving relationships with other people. Success leads to strong relationships, while failure results in loneliness and isolation.

Middle Adulthood (40 to 65 years): . . .Adults need to create or nurture things that will outlast them, often by having children or creating a positive change that benefits other people. Success leads to feelings of usefulness and accomplishment, while failure results in shallow involvement in the world.

Maturity (65 to death) . . .Older adults need to look back on life and feel a sense of fulfillment. Success at this stage leads to feelings of wisdom, while failure results in regret, bitterness, and despair.”

Whatever stage of life you find yourself in, I wish you success.

Bushes growing through the red rock of Sedona Arizona - 2002