Wax Museum, Malala Y., and Cookies

The teachers at our local elementary school do this very cool thing. (Well, MOST teachers at elementary schools do very cool things. It’s part of their job requirement). BUT.

Our third graders do a wax museum. They choose a person to research, read a biography, and sort through the most interesting personal facts. Then the children dress up as their person and stay frozen. Parents get to come through and press a button to make the wax figure start his or her brief speech. It is beyond adorable. These kids have worked so hard, you can see it in the posters, the costumes, and especially when they give their speeches.

Evie decided to be Madame Curie and we looked through the book together. Did you know that she won two Nobel prizes? One in chemistry and one in physics. Did you know that the second year (1911) she won the Nobel prize she was also turned down for membership to the French Academy of Sciences because she was a woman? Did you know that she and her daughter Irene took their x-ray machines, attached them to vehicles’ batteries,  and drove these mobile x-ray units to the front lines of World War I and saved countless lives?


My other daughter, Sylvia, decided to be Malala Yousafzai, the young woman from Pakistan who wrote a blog for BBC Urdu about what was happening in the Swat Valley. The young woman who was shot by the Taliban because she wanted to go to school. The young woman who cannot return home because of more death threats.


Click to hear her own words: Malala’s speech

Sylvia was so inspired by this wax museum project that she asked me if we could do a bake sale to raise money to send a girl to school. I wasn’t sure. I mean, I’ve baked cookies before, but how would this work? Who would buy the cookies? How would we package them for sale?

The girls and I decided to do it. We offered chocolate chip cookies, peppermint cookies, hash mark peanut butter cookies, and peanut butter cookies with Hershey kisses in them. Our goal was to to raise $65, the approximate cost to sponsor a girl through http://www.malala.org.

We took pre-orders, enlisted my husband, baked all day Saturday, and Voila!

img_3122 img_3123

We’ve just about reached $100. I know it won’t change the world, but it’s the flapping of a butterfly’s wings moving from person to person. Both Madame Curie and Malala, women who fought so hard for what they believed in. The 3rd grade teachers in our elementary school. My daughters, willing to act on their feelings. And, hopefully, a young woman out there who will be able to attend school — knowing that strangers believed in her and her right to an education.

We wish you the best this holiday season! Take care of each other and let others take care of you!





Attempting to Critique Group My Teens

Happy Halloween!

Today means two things: 1) You should go and buy your copy of Pantheon Magazine, Hestia Issue right now so img_2942you can read some scary stories. My story “1416 DeForested Lane” is included and I’m honored to be in this issue.  Here’s the link: Amazon  And, if you enjoy it, please post a review. It helps the writers to get noticed by other readers and spreads the love.


2) I now officially have two teenagers. Count them. One. Two. And they are nuts. Absolutely crazy, but they are also the same. And that took some getting used to. My daughter is in high school, but I didn’t realize it until August when I drove her to the sports tryouts and the parents lined up court side and then the coach came and ushered us all out and thanked us, very nicely, for coming, and said she’d see us when tryouts were over. Then she shut the door to the gym. That’s when I took a deep breath and looked around and realized that zooming toward me were driving lessons and formal dances and college and BIG decisions. Like, the kind of decisions that were going to affect my daughter’s LIFE. It seemed a good time to go and get myself a coffee. And maybe ice cream.

She went to Homecoming with friends. I thought I had until Junior year? Nope.

She went to Homecoming with friends. I thought I had until Junior year? Nope.

Today is my son’s birthday. Yup, he’s a Halloween baby.


He turned thirteen. In some cultures he would be considered a man. I was telling my friend who also has a son about how I was having a conversation with my son, just talking about whatever, and he reached over and lifted me up. WHILE I WAS TALKING. He set me down like nothing had happened. My friend goes, “What? My son did that to me the other day, too.” So, maybe it’s a thing? Like, how adults are always like, “You’ve grown so much, you’ve gotten so big, blah blah.” Maybe teenagers are like, “I’m going to randomly pick you up and set you down again because now I can.” Maybe it was the trend that predated that throwing-a-bottle-in-the-air-and-landing-it-thing that is now happening EVERYWHERE.

Anyway, I’m no parenting expert, but I figured I’d take what I’ve learned in my writing critique group and see if there’s a parallel.

  1. In Critique Group it’s less about “fixing” someone’s writing than asking questions so they can see their way to the answer. Same with teens (although so much harder). I no longer get to be in control. I have to step back, offer guidance, and also listen while my child gets to a right answer. Sometimes it won’t be the answer I was thinking. Sometimes it will be worse because NO COMMON SENSE, but sometimes it will be BETTER and then I get to be proud.
  2. Have food. And beverages. In critique group we all stop and get our treats before we start working. With teens, this is beyond important. You will seriously not even believe how much my son eats. I double recipes for NORMAL around here. These articles are like “just double and put the extra in the freezer for a day when you’re rushed.” SHUT UP, non-teenager parent person. THERE ARE NO LEFTOVERS. And, if food is not available, there will be tantrums or tears or both. I promise.
  3. Realize that we will have off days. My critique partners and I have given apologies, accepted apologies, and are the stronger for it. This is how I need to be with my teens. My teens are hormonal. I don’t always communicate what’s in my head. There are going to be bruised feelings, but we will get through it with as much grace as we can.
  4. Commitment. Our critique group has met once a month for two years. We show up for our work and we show up for each other. Even when we know what we’ve submitted isn’t the best. Or it’s two pages instead of ten. We show up. That’s what family is. That’s what relationships are. That’s the work. I’m going to show up for my teens.


That’s all I’ve got for now. Except a HUGE shout out to middle school teachers. You guys are amaze-balls.




The summer of lightning strikes, car accidents, and angry yogis.

You guys…I just can’t even. This summer was, well it was like you’ve got a barbell across your shoulders and you felt pretty good that morning so you put a decent amount of weight on there, but you didn’t fully load it because you wanted some margin. Some “what if” because you don’t know what the instructor has planned and if there are those crazy pulses or some such you don’t want to be panting by the end of the set. You don’t want an injury, you’re just trying to get healthy. And then life starts putting more weight on without your asking for it. A little bit at a time, and you try to smile, even laugh, but you’re struggling to hold your form and more of those stupid round weights keep coming and you can’t breathe and you’re shaking and your joints are bulging like a cartoon and that isn’t healthy. At this point, you’re not even listening to the class, you’re completely focused on getting out from under this weight and you’re able to nudge some of the little ones off, but it isn’t enough and you allow the bar to fall to the mat, even as you feel that you’ve tweaked your back and your heart might explode and this isn’t the good “burn” after a class, this is the clanging of metal plates rolling away from you.

Yeah, that’s what this summer was like. I won’t go into too much detail because that’s boring, but I want to list here so I don’t forget. I also want to explain to anyone who wonders where we’ve been or why I’ve been “flaky” about returning emails or phone calls.

On the last day of school my husband broke his arm playing ice hockey. The puck flew at him and hit above the wrist right where the protective glove ends. Cracked the ulna right through. For three weeks he suffered through the pain with his cast on. At the next doctor’s visit, the x-ray showed the bone was way out of alignment. Because it wasn’t healing correctly, he’d have to have surgery so they could re-break it and put him in a new cast. The surgery was days before our family vacation.

Last month our house was struck by lightning. Yes, our surge protection was consistent with the code in our county. However, lightning is a powerful thing and it wanted to travel along our gas lines and frazzle whatever it wanted. So it did.

img_2807 <——  This did not happen to anyone in our household, but when the lightning struck blue sparks flew out of an appliance on the wall, there was a sound like glass hitting a counter, and the hair on my arms stood on end. Immediately we knew there was a gas leak — we could smell it. If nothing else, we’ve learned that we should have gotten out of the house immediately instead of waiting for the service person. He came in, smelled the gas, and walked right back out. For a month we’ve been working with contractors because, in all, there were six gas leaks. Drywall was ripped from three rooms to follow the pipes, another manifold was put in, etc.

Our babysitter had an accident in our truck with my four kids in the car. She was fine, the kids were fine, the truck was fine. The other guy’s car. Well. Everyone likes a new bumper, right?

While this was going on, my husband and I had a trip to France planned. Our friend was getting married and we’d booked the hotel nine months before. Until the very last minute we weren’t sure if we’d be able to leave — we couldn’t leave the country and our kids in the house if the plumber couldn’t find the last gas leak!

As soon as we got to the hotel I connected to wifi and had a bunch of angry emails from my yogis — the substitute had gone to the wrong place and they wanted their yoga class! Not much I could do from Avignon except apologize.

In France we traveled on the high speed train between Paris and Avignon. We flew over the ocean. We even rode with our friend Stein as driver and that might have been the most dangerous of all! Through all of this we had no problem. Then, during the morning commute after we arrived home, my husband was rear-ended. He was hit so hard that the water in his cup flew up and hit his windshield and he was pushed into the car ahead of him. Our car looked like an accordion. Insurance has equations and such they use to figure out what to do, so the car is going to be fixed. Even though I’m not sure how many original parts it will have. We will have to call it the Franken-car.


Last week everything was double or triple booked. Here’s a picture of our family calendar. Please note this is ONLY children’s activities. It was my week to drive for cross-country, football practice, soccer practice. Both my husband and I gave blood for the American Red cross drive and we both worked. This does not include last week’s visit from the plumber, the electrician to reground the manifold, and the visit from the county inspector to check all the work. Drum roll, please. WE PASSED. On Friday of last week he inspected everything and it was over.

img_2812 img_2816

My husband went to the orthopedic surgeon — his arm looks great! He’s allowed to now remove his cast for periods of time and resume a light workout.

We got a message that our car is on track to be finished by the beginning of October.

Now that we’ve had the home inspection, we can have a team come in to repair the drywall and then paint it.

I’ve been struggling with the yoga class schedule because I’m down a teacher, but Wednesday I’m interviewing someone new who might be perfect.

So I was feeling good on Friday. It had been rough, but we were going to make it. The end was in sight. And then as our babysitter was driving my son to his football game, a buck jumped out and hit the truck. They are fine. Our truck? Not so much. And, I wanted to hit my head against a wall. Here we go again.

We’re switching seasons, summer melting into autumn. I hope this was the last thing. I wish I could make this funnier or include some of the good things (because there were some wonderful parts of our summer), but I’m tired. I’m tired of being double and triple booked. In yoga we say to limit our commitments so we can enjoy life, not just rush from one thing to the next. But, I can’t say no to lightning. I can’t say no to car accidents.

What I can do, is realize that any of these things could have been so much worse. Our house did not catch on fire despite the gas leaks. Three car accidents this summer, and everyone involved was able to walk away. Even the stupid buck. My husband and I are trying to model for our children what it means to keep putting one foot in front of the other. And who knows? Maybe I’ll get a story out of this lightning strike.




Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday to me! To celebrate, I offer you flash fiction. This piece was accepted by a publication, but then the publication ran out of funds. So, rather than submit elsewhere, I’ll share with you.

The prompt from my AFCG buddies was “blockage.” Enjoy!

The Great Blockage

Helen later recalled it was her neighbor Tim who had the idea. Trash collection was only once a week and that wasn’t enough. The community’s cans overflowed. Wind swept through the street and the cans fell over like toy soldiers, plastic bags sprawling out of the openings like drunkards passed out in a doorway. Large birds would swoop down and tear at the bags with determination. Stray papers and egg shells, broken cups and worn out toys would scatter every which way. No one wanted to pick up the debris, the nasty little crumbs of each other’s lives.

Then, during a community picnic over the summer, Tim suggested they make their own trash pit. A grass-covered slope near the cul-de-sac would be the perfect spot. A common area intended as an emergency water overflow hold, the slope was already bowl-shaped. Delighted, the community citizens couldn’t wait. They grabbed the nearest trash of chicken bones, paper plates, red cups, and popped balloons from a children’s relay and lined up in a parade to march to the common area. One little girl, not to be left out, ripped off her Barbie’s head and then joined the parade, waving the body and head in separate hands.

Without being told the community members knew what to do. They stood along the rim of the bowl and, one by one, threw their trash into their new pit. It worked. Nothing blew out or scattered in the street.

“What about the birds,” asked Helen.

“I’ll get a net from the store. Spread it across,” said Tony, a man who lived across the street and two houses down.

Tim’s wife seemed uncertain. “But I don’t want anyone to see our pit.”

Several of the community members nodded.
“Trees,” suggested Helen. “We can plant trees along the rim.”

And so it was decided. Helen priced trees at the store and brought back numbers to the group. After much debate, hands reached into pockets and purses and an amount was collected to purchase a net and one tree. Helen was disappointed. She’d imagined an impressive ring of oaks or birches with their silvery bark. With the community’s money, she’d only be able to buy a regular old redbud.

Although disappointed, Helen took her task seriously and purchased the tree, marked down because it was fall. One of the neighbors dug a hole on the rim and then, with Helen’s help, broke up the root ball and settled the tree into place. Helen watered the redbud to get it established. They’d need the tree’s branches to provide privacy because the pile of trash had continued to grow.

All through the winter the people of the community brought their soup cans and take out containers, drink bottles and worn out shoes. In the spring the tree extended its branches. Leaves unfurled. Buds appeared. Helen had done a good job of watering it. And then, when it was time, the flowers budded. Whispers spread through the community and everyone came to see. The flowers were doll’s heads, a wadded up test with a red “F”, and little Jimmy’s half-eaten hot dog from a month before.

Nervous laughter moved through the crowd.

“Its roots grew down into the pit,” said Tim. “The tree is sucking up our trash.”

No one had a solution, but the problem went away. Or, it became less important. The “flowers” eventually withered and fell back down into the pit. And, if there were uncomfortable moments such as when the tree bloomed the credit report of the Smiths, most of the trash was indistinguishable, one family from another.

And then the flowers stopped. The last tennis shoe on the end of the highest branch fell off and into the pit. The tree’s trunk began to grow, to bulge. The children claimed they could hear gurgling sounds such as one would hear in a father’s belly after a big meal.

The community called in a tree doctor. He came with a stethoscope and listened with a grave expression. He shook his head and said there was nothing he could do.

A month passed and a smell emanated from the deformed tree, a rotting, putrid smell. And then the bark split open and a thick black goo oozed down the trunk.

“It’s got a blockage,” said Helen. “It tried to suck up something too big.”

The tree began to shake.

The people gathered around to watch the shaking tree, the oozing tree, the tree that smelled like gangrene. And then a rumbling began in the ground, working its grinding way up the trunk, forcing its way until a black volcano erupted, blowing off the top branches.

“A tire,” said Tim. He seemed rooted to the spot. His hands were clenched in fists. “It tried to suck up a tire.”

“Run,” yelled Helen.

Black droplets of partially digested rubber rained down. The community members ducked and ran, trying to get away from the exploding tree, but with the blockage gone, more kept coming: dirty diapers, mail order catalogues, raked leaves, and sour milk cartons.

Most people had taken shelter in Tim’s house because it was nearest to the common area. They stared at the community in amazement. All the trash, everything so carefully held down by the net had been sucked up by the tree’s roots and made its way out of the redbud’s ruined top. Trash, thick and wet, littered the yards, the pools, the streets. The tree, finished, lay split in half on the rim of the pit.

“I bought it half-price,” said Helen in amazement.

“This is your fault,” said Tim. “Can’t buy a half-price tree and expect it to do the job of a full-priced one.”

Tony, from two houses down, finished the bag of chips he’d been eating while watching the show. Crumbling the bag into a ball, he tossed it into the trash.

Walk for Wishes

On Sunday my family and I will be participating in the Walk for Wishes. We’ll get to the Baltimore zoo around 8 or so and after the walk we’ll check out the animals. Evie especially wants to see the penguins. The older kids are excited to miss church, but sometimes church isn’t in church, you know? Sometimes church is about serving others and that’s what the Make-A-Wish foundation is all about: granting wishes for kids who have a life-threatening illness or condition.

Our story is personal. Evelyn was diagnosed with leukemia when she was 2 1/2 years old.  After the initial “emergency” status of the situation descended to “high alert”, the social worker at the hospital helped us fill out the paperwork for a wish. The Wish ambassadors came to our house to meet Evelyn and the family. When asked, Evelyn went with the age appropriate response and said she wanted to meet the Disney princesses. The Wish people were ready to get us packed, but my husband and I were too tired to think about going anywhere. There was the logistics of traveling with a family of 6, Evie was right in the middle of treatment and had a complicated chemo and surgery schedule. She had to have regular surgery to inject chemo directly into the spinal fluid. And, there was the ever present danger of her compromised immune system. She could spike a fever and we’d be too far from our hospital where everyone knew what size needle to access her port-a-cath and how to take care of a pediatric oncology patient. How to take care of our precious daughter.

The Wish people told us firmly that we needed to use the Wish. That we needed a break. That everything was set — we would spent Evelyn’s fourth birthday in Disney. The Wish people didn’t forget Evie’s twin sister either. Evelyn was always the special guest, but Sylvia was taken care of too. We all were. And, the Wish people were right. That week away as a family showed us how run down we’d gotten, how grim and plodding. We returned to Maryland refreshed, full of energy, and ready to fight again. We also had a ton of pictures and an invaluable family experience with all six of us.

We went from this:

Evie after port replacement (due to infection)

Evie after port replacement (due to infection)

To this:

DSC03026And this: DSC03157And this:DSC02926


I hate fundraising — asking friends and neighbors and strangers for money — but this is important. Make-A-Wish isn’t about going on an imaginably fun trip, it’s about being taken care of by a network of volunteers who understand that each moment counts. We were fortunate enough to be taken care of and we’d like to pass that along to other families, the ones coming behind us who are just now finding out about their own health crisis, about their own beloved child.

Please consider donating $5 or $10. The walk is this Saturday. If you care to donate, here’s the link:




Too much stimulation

Today is the first day of spring break and I’m already going nuts.

Despite the fact that every school day I’m dragging kids out of bed, threatening everything that can be threatened if they miss the bus, today they are up. One child has gotten into the cookies and is eating them as she reads in bed. (a no-no in our house. CRUMBS, PEOPLE). The radio is blaring from a bedroom with no one in it. The twins are on my bed, jumping on me because they want their iPads. One twin is okay with waiting until later in the day, but the other has a meltdown complete with kicking legs and screaming and I look at the clock and just wonder why. The puppy wags his tail. He’s ready for his morning walk.

The computer is on downstairs and I yell, “No technology until after breakfast, please.” The answer: “We’re reading on the computer.”

Breakfast. Somehow I started the tradition of every snow day and first day of any break we have blueberry pancakes, and eggs or sausage or something else that requires actual cooking. So, I could bust these out by myself pretty quickly, but no. Supposed to be a teachable moment so I let her do the measuring and the stirring and I bite my lip when there is mix all over the counter and floor and she over-stirred the blueberries so that the mix is purple and little deflated blueberry balloon skins are all that’s left.

The oldest girl comes down and flops on the couch, turning on tv. And, now I’m annoyed because I can’t leave the kitchen, but I can’t seem to win against technology. And, I want my kids to go outside and like build a tree fort or something, but without my needing to supervise and without them using their father’s tools and messing anything up. Can’t they learn a foreign language or how to type? But, that would require my finding the program on the computer. And so I don’t say anything except to call the youngest when it’s time to flip the pancakes.

The laundry is going today too because, despite being spring break, there are buckets of dirty clothes. And I ask, is everything REALLY dirty? Even this shirt that I see is still folded? Did you really wear it? Yes, Mom. Three cherubic smiles. (The boy is still in bed. I don’t ask if his clothes are dirty. They are.)

And I start the dishwasher too, but have to stack the breakfast dishes in the sink, syrupy and sticky because there is too much. Too much of everything.

I dump the egg shells in the flower pots outside, tiny bit of composting, and later I see the puppy eating them. Mental note: Take the dog for another walk because who knows what that will do to his tummy.

My agent has sent me notes about the synopsis I need to get done. The kids want to know if they can watch a movie. I suggest they ride bikes. They want to know if they can play DS. I tell them they need to take the puppy for another walk. He’s going nuts because he normally has daily playdates with our neighbor’s dogs. They are all besties. The three of them run and jump over each other and do ridiculous acrobatics and then puppy comes back in and sleeps. But, the humans are on vacation and I texted the dogsitter to find out when the dogs would come outside, but don’t have a time yet.

This is him watching for his friends.

Gabe looking for Gracie

And then the doorbell rings and I realize I’m still in my pjs and my older daughter brings in a package from Fed ex or whatever. I go upstairs to get dressed. And I’m trying to decide if I can make it to critique group tonight. I haven’t been in so long, but I haven’t worked on the story I wanted to work on and I have something else, but it’s handwritten and I’d have to type it up. On the other hand, the babysitter is arranged and I don’t want to cancel on her and my husband won’t be home until late anyway and the coach is picking up the boy for lacrosse practice…and I’m thinking all these things when I hear a man’s voice. In my house.

And one of my kids wanders into my bathroom where I’m half-dressed and I say, “Is there someone here?” Which is stupid, BECAUSE I CAN HEAR THAT SOMEONE IS HERE. And the kid says, “Yeah. The bug guy is spraying.”

Which I kind of hate anyway because I don’t like chemicals all around, and I hate strangers showing up at my door. Especially when I’m not dressed. I throw on the rest of my clothes and hurry outside, but the bug guy is gone. So, the one place we need sprayed is the door in the basement because we get these huge black spiders that lurk in doorways and the bug guy didn’t spray the one spot we needed. And I’m pissed and rushed and the kids tell me that they are done playing Polly Pockets and want to know if it’s time for lunch.

And I tell them no and run to the internet to type these words so I can get my head on straight and figure out what is going on. Not just with the day because nothing really terrible has happened, but I’m frazzled and feel karate chopped.

And, here it is. Too much stimulation. I’m an introvert. I like calm and even silence. I like to drift in my thoughts thinking of story lines or images. And now I feel defensive, attacked. Crazy to make all these demands STOP.

And, I’m tired of feeling guilty. Like every break or holiday from school is supposed to be an opportunity for Pinterest. Why do I have to defend my need and my desire to work on my dream (the synopsis for my novel and a story for tonight’s meeting)? But, I do. My kids work me constantly. The boy literally spent thirty minutes last night quizzing me on his favorite things to show that I don’t spend enough time with him.


Him: You don’t even know my favorite color.

Me: Orange.


Me: Dark Blue.

Him: (huffy breath) Well, you don’t even know my favorite….

The girls are manipulative.

Me: Go play something real with your Monster High girls or your shopkins. Make up a story and act it out with the characters.

Them: Why DON’T you WANT to play WITH us?

Me: I do. But I have to work.

Them: So you don’t love us. We understand. (Slumped shoulders and eyes that slide away)

Me: We just made breakfast together.

Twin 1: No, you just did that with Twin 2.

Me: Okay, you can help me make lunch.

Twin 1: You always want me to work!


And now it’s lunch time. Hope you’re enjoying your spring break!


Running Out of Gas

When I was 16 years old I had to share a “lemon” with my older sister. My kids didn’t know what a “lemon” was when I mentioned this the other day and I tried to explain how horrible an olive green station wagon with faux wood panels was…especially to a new driver in the throes of teenagedom where one doesn’t want to stand out. My parents thought it quite a joke. They bought a key ring with a picture of a lemon. In case we didn’t get it, my sister and I, the word “Lemon” was written underneath the picture. Thanks.

(BTW, my middle-aged sister worked her butt off at McDonald’s and bought herself this teeny-tiny adorable car that she jetted around in, driving with concentration, her visor at the correct angle to account for her curled and hairsprayed bangs)

I digress. The point is, I hated this car. And, I didn’t have a lot of money. So, I’d put whatever money I had into the gas tank, drive it around, and then turn it over to my older sister. She did the same to me until one day I was driving and pushing the gas pedal and yet, somehow, slowing down. The cars passed by on my left. I assume the drivers gave me a quizzical look as I grabbed the wheel more tightly and began rocking my body, trying to get that car to move forward.

It went slower. I pulled over to the side. The gas needle was very clearly on E. I got out, left the keys in the car (who would steal it?), and walked to my friend’s house. From there I walked home. My older sister wanted the car, demanded to know where it was. I told her. “Over on Route 22. You can’t miss it.”

What I remember is that sensation of pushing the pedal, but slowing down. The actual action of running out of gas. My character Rachel experiences this. She’s given everything she has in trying to save her son. She’s asked to give more and she does until she physically collapses, the voices around her sound muffled, her vision is blurry, and she collapses.

Has this ever happened to you in real life? It’s happened to me twice in the past month. Yes, I know, that doesn’t speak well to my learning my lesson. I was always stubborn. But, I also struggle with being a people-pleaser. I WANT people to like me even though I rationally know that my desire is INSANE. I say “yes” to too many things.

Teaching an adult Sunday School from Lent to Easter.

Parent helper for the Elementary Science Club for five weeks.

Teaching seven fitness classes a week.

Running a household with six people: laundry, lunch packing, dinner making, homework checking, projects, grocery shopping, shoe shopping, gathering too small clothes for AmVets, buying little gifts from the “Valentine Dove” (yeah…that’s a different story).

Classroom mom.

Supporting my son’s basketball obsession — playing both rec and travel and against the walls of my house — and driving my twins to gymnastics, and keeping track of my daughter’s horseback riding lessons.

Walking the puppy in the freezing cold and rain because he is potty trained and we AREN’T going to regress.

AND I WAS REVISING MY NOVEL WITH A DEADLINE. You know, my personal dream that I’ve been chasing for years.

I was running out of gas, pushing as hard as I could, cutting out anything that wasn’t directly related to work. There was no time for friends (oh, and I gave up Facebook for lent so I didn’t even have that pleasure), no time for reading, no time to enjoy my kids, no time for myself. No time!

And then I was done. I smacked into depression and I no longer had a choice. I had to cut back. That is, I could only do the bare minimum to function. My husband noticed. “You’re such a drag,” he said. My son noticed, “Where’s your sense of humor?” My twins noticed, “Mommy needs a massage!”

But no one stopped me from running out of gas. I was mad — everyone was willing to take from me, but no one was ready to take care of me. I was mad at other parents. Why doesn’t someone else step up and do something about starting middle and high schools later? Why aren’t there more volunteers at church so I don’t always feel like I have to “step up”? Why can’t the kids make themselves an after school snack without completely destroying the kitchen?

Here’s the thing. We’re all responsible for ourselves. Yes, it’s nice when we have a partner or parent or friend who is tuned in enough to advise “slow down” or who will make a nice dinner or give a gift to “fill the tank.” But, we have to take responsibility and not get so low in the first place.

I started doing little things. My husband watched the other kids so I could take my oldest daughter to the nail salon. She got a mani, I got a pedi. It sounds silly and frivolous, but it made a difference. I was doing something because it was fun.

Here’s a list I’m making for the next time I get out of balance, start giving faster than I’m filling. I will take care of myself with:

  1. Real food. When I’m stressed and running from task to task, my eating habits drop. Solution: Turn to veggies and hummus, crock pot recipes, and fresh fruit.
  2. Exercise. My job is to exercise right now. But, in hindsight I should have called in a sub for help and let myself rest.
  3. Sleep. I don’t think I’m the only one to try to get more done in a day by staying awake for longer, but it will catch up to you. Lack of sleep makes you feel hungrier, less able to focus, and more emotional.
  4. Less caffeine. Again, I don’t think I’m alone in drinking coffee to make myself move faster. Same thing. I need rest, not more fake energy that leaves me feeling unable to focus, dissatisfied and impatient.
  5. Physical. I just rescheduled my dentist appointment from December.
  6. Mental. It sounds crazy, but even when you are revising, read a book. I fell in love with books and piling up “to be read” when I finished my “work” was actually harming me. I wasn’t getting the stimulation to my brain and imagination.
  7. Social. Yeah. I had coffee with my across-the-street neighbor this week. First time we’ve done more than wave since December. Yes, she’s a busy mom and artist (photographer) and I’m a busy mom and artist (writer), but we have to make time. Relationships are important.
  8. Family. Spending time with your family that isn’t the “business” of life. My niece came by. She’s on her spring break. It made me so happy to talk to her and then watch her with my kids. Cousins rock.
  9. Look at pictures of adorable animals.  St. Pattys Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
  10. Fun. This is probably the hardest for me. My husband too. We both work hard and push aside activities that are “only” fun.

Do you have any ideas for ways to fill your tank so that you don’t “run out of gas?” Would love to read about them in the comments below.