Dear Ocean State Job Lot: Keep your clutter

Dear Job Lot:

I don’t want to see you anymore.  This time I really mean it.  Last week was the last straw.  I wanted a spare set of sheets and you were close by. You are always there, waiting for my next lapse in judgement.  I ignored that still, small voice that told me don’t do it.   I wanted to give you another chance. There was one set of queen sheets and they were cheap, of course. You always are.  I made sure they were 300 thread count and I was  pleasantly surprised that they were.  This was more than I’d expected from You, given our history.

When I got home,  I washed the sheets and attempted to put them on my bed. They didn’t fit.  I did not even come close to getting the bottom sheet on the mattress.  Those sheets were a lie. So I went back to return them, and for the last time.  I am through with you. And no, I’m not just walking away quietly, either.  I’m annoyed enough with you to put my feelings on the internet. Clearly.

There’s a chance I would’ve gotten over the useless sheets if it weren’t for all your other flaws.  Like the empty bottle of nail polish, or the sunscreen that left me burned.  There’s a reason my husband nicknamed you The Land of Not Quite Right.  I should’ve been through with You after the chafing pans did not  quite fit into their holders, or certainly after the flour product I bought from You set off the only case of kitchen moths I’d ever had. And how about the yoga mat that reeked of chemicals?

But no, I went back for more.  Like the rug I wanted that was so inaccessible.   I knocked myself so hard in the ribs getting it out of Your metal holder that I had to sit down to catch my breath. Okay, maybe that one is not your fault. I could have asked for help.  I could have searched for a step ladder.  But I’m venting right now, so it’s all You.

A good price is worthless if the damn stuff doesn’t work.  You don’t tempt me anymore, not even a little.  Oh I know You have your cheap holiday stuff out now, rows and rows of it.  I know I might pay more elsewhere for some of your paper products or dish soap.  But I don’t care. I’m just not giving You any more chances.  Keep your clutter.  All of it.  I’m moving on for good.

Clearing space for National Novel Writing Month

November is National Novel Writing Month, otherwise known as NaNoWriMo.  Beginning on November 1st, some 30,000 participants from all over the world come together, if not physically then in spirit, each one to produce 50,000 words by midnight on November 30th. Writing groups and libraries open their doors days and evenings and sometimes even all night long, in support of NaNoWriMo.

Anticipation and excitement is the air right about now, amongst new and experienced writers alike.  Having a national event gives participants added structure – focused writing times, organized groups, a goal of 1600+ words per day on average to “win”. It also gives us permission- you’ve got to drop some other stuff in order to do this-it’s part of the plan! The go big or go home mentality keeps many writers tapping away at their keyboards for these thirty days.

Many writers prepare by creating a detailed outline of their intended novel. The idea is that by the end of the month, you will have completed a first draft. Having the outline ready allows you to jump right in to writing the book on November 1st. Rules are flexible though, since writing really is an individual activity. Several writers that I know of, myself included, are using the month to continue- and hopefully finish- the first draft of a work already in progress. I’m still writing the book I was writing last November, a literary memoir. I’ve been tapping out the words, day by day, but nothing tethers my attention to it like NaNoWriMo.

My preparations include simplifying everything I can in order to ensure the most productive month of writing that I can. The fact that I have an idea for my next book tugging at me is a reminder that I need to bring my current project to completion. Instead of completely suppressing my new book idea, I started a file of notes to refer to later. I refuse to give this much attention though, until my current project is complete. By nature I am not a multitasker and therefore focusing on two big projects at once is counterproductive.

So it is with a sense of urgency that I will be caught up on all pesky chores, and my surroundings will be organized. For me, the days leading up to NaNoWriMo mean cleaning out a closet, dusting my writing table, doing every last stitch of laundry; phone calls are returned and emails are answered. Shopping is done, plants are watered, and rugs are vacuumed. I’ve mentally scheduled in yoga classes and walking my dog. Habits that free up my creativity will be as important as food and water.

Because approaching National Novel Writing Month requires more than a book idea. What it asks of writers is to clear up space, both physically and psychologically. It demands that our creativity take center stage in our lives, if only for thirty days. I am always amazed and impressed with people who successfully tackle this month on top of a very busy schedule. They inspire me to be a more disciplined writer, which is a stretch for someone who requires so much space that I can get writer’s block just from the sound of someone else chewing.

Here’s to November. I look forward to the inspiration, the camaraderie and hopefully, finally, the finished draft. I am excited to complete this project I’ve birthed, and launch it out into the world, however difficult that particular launching road may be. Like an adult child who hasn’t left home, my current book needs a little push and National Novel Writing Month can do just that. So I’m returning my library books, sweeping my floor and generally getting things in order. Like so many others who will begin investing extra time in their writing on the first of November, I’ve invited in the muse and the spirit of the month to come through all open doors and empty spaces. Bring it on, November. The writers are ready.


A few very simple eats:


Tomato with mozzarella cheese & olive oil


wouldn’t be complete without this fresh basil -in-a-jar from our daughter, owner of the Purple Canvas


A favorite of my husband’s, smoked salmon on a bagel with cream cheese, and tabouli


Snack in a jar: yogurt, chia seeds, blueberries and walnuts


Or put the snack through a blender


A dessert I found on Pinterest and just couldn’t resist making: lemon meringue pie in a jar

Dear New Moms: Keep it simple

  If ever there was a time to in your life to simplify, this is it! You are embarking on a wonderful, sacred journey that could potentially bury you alive – in stuff, activities, chores and so much else. So much else.  As a mom with three grown kids, and plenty of hindsight, here are my simplifying tips to take or leave as you see fit:


#1 The stuff: 

* Every gadget known to man and mommy is on the market, and you simply do not need them all. Not even close. In addition, every toy, including the huge plastic ones that take over your living room are for sale. Your child does not need all of these. Fewer toys means using more imagination. Instead of accumulating too much stuff, just let them play with what’s there. Better yet, play with them once in a while. Not always, but sometimes.

#2 The activities:

*Consider all activities carefully; the amount of enjoyment has to outweigh the resources it consumes. I remember reading an article many years ago – I think it was called ‘chasing mommy’ or something like that. The author wrote about how her mom was constantly running around, from morning ‘til night. The busyness was well intended. Many of the activities were meant to benefit the child, such as leading her Girl Scout troop and volunteering at her school. But what the author really wanted was just to have her mother’s undivided attention at home for a little while each day. It’s often in the quiet moments, the unstructured time, the extra minutes lingered while saying goodnight that a child will speak what’s on her mind or in her heart. This time is precious, but there has to be room for it.

*Mommy and Me classes are clever ideas, and if you choose to attend one of these to be in the company of the other moms, then enjoy! But at least be conscious of the fact that you do not need to enroll in a class and pay money to roll your child across your belly, or clap in unison.

*Choose birthday and holiday celebrations, and other events carefully because often what you do once will be expected again and again. Do you want to bake 200 cookies every year or throw the party that leaves everyone overstimulated and cranky? Or allow weekly sleepovers for your tween or even allow the sleepover habit at all? More than likely, these choices are going to be yours to make, so wear your leadership hat mindfully and consistently. Do what brings all of you joy, and nothing more.

#3 The resources:

*When you’re deciding how many kids to have, consider your resources carefully. Children require time, energy, patience and money.  With each new child, those resources get divided again. If you and your partner don’t have plenty of all of these, at least make sure you have a huge amount of one of them.

*Speaking of money, you will often hear people say kids are so expensive and there is some truth to that. But it’s not always as expensive as some people make it out to be. Your baby doesn’t need the nursery set up from Ethan Allen. Nor does she need designer clothes, trips to Disney, or the most expensive college education available. Planning and saving is smart, but the most important resources your child will get from you are free.

#4 The work:

*Don’t waste your time or energy in debate over who has it harder, or better, working moms or stay-at -home moms. There’s just no right or wrong answer. Besides, some moms work part time. What category do we place them in? Everyone is doing what they feel is necessary or best in their given situation, which can change over the course of motherhood. I think the bottom line is, generally, a happy mom has the best chance at having happy kids. So make it your job to be happy. Keeping it simple where you can is bound to make that easier.

Twitter is like the ocean

I was feeling so good about time management and simplicity yesterday. Though I skipped my usual morning writing routine, I easily freed up the time later.  In lieu of shopping for the gift I needed to buy, I simply ordered it online. Instead of driving the twenty minutes to and from yoga class, I opted to do my own routine by the deck door where the backyard foliage was visible and a soft breeze reached my mat. Then, rather than convincing my husband we needed to dine out because our groceries had dwindled, I found the last yellow squash in the fridge, roasted it with onion and garlic and diced tomato, and paired that with a box of gluten-free pasta lurking in the back of the pantry. It was quick and good.

All of this simplicity left me with plenty of writing time. I was on top of things. But then I did what all good procrastinators do.

I joined twitter.

I wasn’t planning to, at least not right then.  But it just happened. All the other writers are doing it, right? What if it is useful to me. What if I need it?

So I started off following Stephen King and the Dalai Lama.

Then I added a news feed for those days when the news eludes me.  Now I am up to the minute on the Ebola outbreak, and with an airline pilot husband who could be sent to Africa any day, this is really quite good for keeping anxieties high. Thank you, Twitter.

One hundred thirty-five thousand new twitter users sign up each day. Yesterday I became one of them. Twitter is like the ocean.  Once you are in the sea of tweets, you can easily feel very, very small. Because Twitter is huge. Over six hundred million people huge.

2014-09-19 11.06.11I’ve already tweeted one of my own published articles, and I also re tweeted an article from the Huffington Post about the benefits of meditation. But I imagine people mostly don’t go to Twitter for whole articles. They go for tweets.  I  can hardly imagine that I’ll ever have just one line to say that is worth someone else reading. I mean 140 characters is just a thought, a micro-thought, really. A blip in brain activity. Most of my micro thoughts are probably best kept to myself.

But no worries about being out of control and bogging people down with my  tweets, because I have just five followers so far. And one of them is the BostonCelticsForever, which is funny because I don’t even watch basketball. Or any sports. Ever.

But I signed up for Twellow (apparently the supporting cousin of Twitter) which allows me to join categories of interest and also add my own account for others to find.  So it could turn out, eventually, to be an interesting thing, if not particularly necessary  for me right now.

Fifty-eight million tweets per day in this sea of twittering. Approximately nine thousand tweets per second.  And here’s how many words I got written on my book yesterday:


Today, I’m retreating from twitter. I hope the Celtics don’t miss me too much.


Tiny Houses

large__4051897717I am more than a tiny bit intrigued with tiny houses these days.  I probably wouldn’t want to live in one unless I was alone, because I might feel claustrophobic, but I just cannot get over the cute factor.  Tiny house. Bungalow-to-go. They are innovative, efficient, and creative.  Talk about having to maximize your space! And pare down to the necessities! They are so…tiny. So perfect and pine (I love pine). You can have your house custom made, then placed where you please, integrated into your surroundings.  Oh please. Could they get any cuter? large__4051899679large__8368833392large__4052641358images

This company will deliver your ready-made-house to you, or help you build it:

And here’s a Tiny House blog:

Lessons I’ve Learned: Boston Mamas

I am delighted to have this piece published on Boston Mamas blog where it has received many shares.  It was originally much longer, and included details of my daughters’ later years of education, from middle school on, but I revised it to a third of the length. I am now working on an essay about my revision, to be published shortly in Grub Daily.