Saturday, February 28, 2009

Eight hour day

Hey, I just worked for 8 hours solid. That's new!

Well, I work hard almost all the time...but this time it was work in the traditional sense, not in the Mama homemaker sense.


Worker bee writer girl

Today I am hard at work on the Hunts Point book. I'm making progress, and I've had some flow today - though I can feel my brain frying at this time, because I've been at it since about 9am and haven't taken a break.

I am a writer. I will write. Contributing to my family's bottom line is excellent, too...

In any case, I digress.

I've spent some time looking at the early history of Hunts Point, which of course begins with the local Native American tribes. The tribe that owned the land of Hunts Point was the Sammamish, which was then more or less assimilated into the Duwamish tribe as white settlers swept in and claimed ownership of the land that the United States Government granted them.

It's an awfully sad story, and one that has been told before.

What I wasn't expecting, as I played historian, was this passage:
Some Duwamishes did settle on the Muckleshoot [reservation]. In 1893 a large group, avoiding confinement, gathered on Ballast Island in Seattle after whites had burned them out of their homes in west Seattle.
A Guide to the Indian Tribes of the Pacific Northwest, Robert H. Ruby and John A. Brown, University of Oklahoma Press, c. 1992, p. 72

I love West Seattle. I love my home here. I am white.

I had nothing to do with the burnings mentioned, but as I read that passage, I felt deeply ashamed.

I do not understand the world we live in.

I am humbled by this passage, somehow. I am determined to live my life in a way somehow absolutely opposite of that passage.

No, the guilt does not belong to me - I wasn't born, and my ancestors weren't even involved (in that year, some were in Germany, and some were in England, and some were in Canada) in the remotest way to that passage.

I think that my shame is for the human race, that we allow such things to happen.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Cough cough

Ahem. Ka kakaka.

That is the sound of me clearing my throat and coughing. Bah humbug. The cold that hit Tessa a couple weeks ago went to Ryan, and now it's solidly in me. Yuck.

We woke up to snow, so Tessa got to sleep in a bit before heading to school, as there was a two hour delayed start. I can't believe how much snow we've had this year! It feels crazy.

I have spent half the morning coughing, and the other half of the morning I've been working on getting a better rate on our mortgage. I think that we've settled on a lender, and we are really happy with the prospect of saving $200 per month. That is a lot of money! Especially, when you consider that it's "free" money - aside from a few hours of phone calls and paperwork, we will save $200/month for the next thirty years. (Actually, once we're debt free, we'd like to apply that to principle on the loan and pay off our house sooner, but that's just a dream right now.) If your house is above water (worth more than you paid for it) and you haven't examined refinancing in a while, this is a great time to refinance. I can't believe how low rates are; when we bought our house we thought we had a great rate, but it's much better now.

Speaking of our house, I'm trying to make our house nicer and nicer by getting rid of things. I'm reading about small houses, simplicity, living with less, and all kinds of related topics, with the goal of reducing the clutter around us and living with those things that are beautiful and useful, while getting rid of the rest.

For me, this becomes a bit of spiritual cleansing, as much as it is a physical cleaning. I can't work well in a cluttered space; I swear that I don't sleep as well with a basket of laundry in the room as I do in a tidy room. I'm going room by room and trying to organize drawers, clothes, closets, countertops, books, and bins. We figured out a good paperwork system (so far so good!), and we got the office into good working space with freed workspaces....and I'm really trying just to live my best life by doing these small tasks. This doesn't come easily to me, and I'm realizing that I'm more of a packrat than I previously thought. Still, uncluttered shelves soothe me more than having them overflowing with I'm working on it.

My head is cluttered with the fogginess of not feeling well, so I'll end there. I'll be fine....just no fun for the moment.


It is a winter wonderland outside - it snowed last night! There is an inch or so of snow everywhere, and school is delayed by two hours. I'm glad; Tessa was coughing last night and she was restless (which means that I was, too, as we can hear her from our room) and she's still sleeping now.

And I feel crummy as well - a slightly upset stomach and a scratchy throat and cough. Wah, wah, wah. We have plans to have a couple friends over for dinner (chicken curry) and then Michele, Lori and I are doing our regular writing group afterwards...I want to be "up" for that. Here's hoping that the morning scratchies don't get worse.

Yesterday, in addition to working on the Hunts Point book (momentum!), I started getting information about taking advantage of lower interest rates for our mortgage. It looks like we can refinance and save about $200 per month - wow! That is, essentially, free money and we're pretty excited about it. Our get-out-of-debt plan will go faster with an extra $200, and when we're out of debt we can apply an extra $200 to the principle of the loan and pay off the mortgage that much faster.

If anyone has a mortgage guy that the recommend, now's the time to send me info, because we hope to move forward in the next few days. We have a quote from our current lender that looks pretty good, but we're comparison shopping.

And many thanks to my Mom & Dad for a lovely dinner with them at their home last night....

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Impulse shopping update

On a recent post about frugality, I noted that I had impulsively put some tortillas in my cart that were not on my grocery list. Tortillas are cheap, and it's a small problem, not a big one, but I wanted to update on it.

We didn't need tortillas. I didn't have a plan for using them.

Today I'm throwing them in the garbage (okay, the worm bin) as they are stale and unusable; we never even opened the package to eat one.

The few dollars that were spent on tortillas were not the end of the world. Still, there is a lesson. I don't want to be wasteful, and I ended up being wasteful with these. I wasted money, and I wasted a resource (the tortillas themselves, and the plastic bag that they came in).

Maybe by blogging this, next time I'm at the grocery store and see something that I don't need and don't have a plan to use, I will remember the tortillas thrown in the garbage, and I'll make a wiser decision.

Good for the earth, good for my body, good for my wallet. That's what we're aiming for!

Tessa and reading

I'm not sure if I've updated on Tessa in a while, so here goes.

We have read to Tessa every day of her life since birth, pretty much. Reading is an important part of our family life, and we have stacks of books all over the house to prove it. Ryan and I both read in bed at night before going to sleep on most nights; Tessa gets bedtime stories every single night. We go to the library about once a week, and we have accounts at the used bookstores in West Seattle for trading in our old books and getting new ones.

Books are important to all three of us.

However, after kindergarten started, Tessa suddenly shut down her desire to read. She loved being read to as much as ever, and still gravitated towards books in her quiet times when she wanted a little space or down time, but she absolutely refused to read a single word at home. Slightly panicked, I called her teacher, and we had some long talks about adjustment to kindergarten, perfectionism (Tessa suffers a bit from this, unfortunately), brain development schedules, etc. We made a deal to lay off Tessa about reading at home, and to have her continue in kindergarten reading at her own pace.

She dropped down a level in her reading group.

My heart sunk a little (okay, a lot). I want to school to come easily to her - hey, life is easier if school is fun - and though I leave it to her to decide what is most important in her life, I really really want her to be a reader; it's a value that Ryan and I share and want to pass along.

She dug in her heels and refused to identify any words at all. Not even the ones we knew she knew.

More calls to the teacher. More reassurances. More sinking feelings.

Well, last week we went to the library and I picked out a couple of level 1 readers for her (as I always do) so that if she CHOSE to read, she'd have access to new material that might interest her. I would like to shout THANK YOU to the author of "Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa." It will come as no surprise that this is a book about a girl and her horse.

And Tessa started reading.

And she read until we had to tell her that she absolutely MUST stop so that she could go to sleep at night.

She made us promise to wake her up early so that she could read in the morning before school.

She started dancing and saying, "I love reading! I used to hate it, but now I love it!"

Joy, joy, joy!

Tessa has to labor over words; she has a good sized fistful of sight words, but she has to read each sound aloud and then try to put it together - a laborious process - to figure out each word. But she's doing it! She's really getting it! And what's more, suddenly she's enjoying it. She's realizing that she can learn about horses in her own way if she reads her own books; she's realizing that she can unlock all kinds of secrets if she can read.


I don't care if she's a straight A student (though, with a mother's pride, I suspect that she might become one). I don't care if she's the best reader in her class (she's not, by a long shot). I don't care about any of it....I just want her to love reading, and to find success at school.

Her teacher is pleased with her work, she's doing everything at grade level, and yesterday she brought home some written work that made me smile. Spelled out phonetically, she had written "We went to a wedding and it was fun and the food was good." It looked like "We wint to a wdin and it wz fn and the fud wz gd." I couldn't be more proud of my girl - she did all that on her own, and previous sentences she's written have had maybe 3-4 words instead of 10+. She's trying, and with her trying, I know she will find success.



I am struggling to find balance.

Who isn't? If you're out there, and you're all perfectly balanced, I would like to talk to you and find out your secrets. Actually, pretty much everyone I know might be interested in talking to you and learning your secrets, because I think that most of us are struggling.

I'm struggling to balance:
- Alone time vs. family time vs. friend time
- Work vs. life
- Structure with Tessa vs. free play
- Healthy, delicious meals without a life spent in the kitchen
- Being frugal without being a skinflint
- Working out without making it the only thing I do for myself
- Having a clean house vs spending all my time cleaning

You get the picture. It is a constant struggle to put all of the pieces of the puzzle together in a way that makes sense.

I'm working on the Hunts Point book, and I am way, way behind on the project. It is important to me to do this project, and to do it well, but then I have volunteering, and friends in need of support, and grocery shopping, and yard work, and visitors, and fatigue, and physical therapy, and spending quality time with Tessa, and laundry and......well, let's just say it's a long, long list.

My friend Lori tells me that the secret of successful writers is butt glue. (I owe Tessa a quarter every time I say "butt." "Mommy, we say 'bottom' because it's more polite!" Yes, we do. Except when we're talking about butt glue. That's fifty cents now.) It's just a matter of carving out time and DOING IT.

That's what I'm doing now. I am going to make this happen.

First step: consistent schedule. So, I'm announcing that I am no longer available to do anything between 9am and 3pm on Mondays or Wednesdays, as those are my Hunts Point days. (The only exception will be for Tessa's early dismissal on some Wednesdays....can't have the six year old waiting on a bench for Mom for two hours.) I am making this a priority, announcing it to the world, and changing my calendar around to accommodate it. It's a priority because I'm making writing a priority, because I have a commitment to my employer, and because the money I earn will benefit my family greatly.

On Mondays and Wednesdays I will not do laundry, return calls, meet friends for lunch, go grocery shopping, etc. I am pretending that I'm locked away in an office building somewhere, unavailable because I'm in meetings. I'm still available to do other work on the other days of the week, of course, so hopefully this will be the balance I seek. I volunteer in Tessa's class on Thursdays, I have covenant group on Tuesdays and sometimes lunch with Grandma and Mom on Tuesdays. There will be enough hours for laundry etc. I will make this work.

I'm still trying to balance all of the other stuff. I will make it work. Working on it is the only way, and I won't reach instant solutions but I will find solutions.


PS Ryan and I did a project to get our office in shape to make working more palatable. The book has a lot of paperwork, so I don't want to haul it all to coffee shops etc., and need to work from home. We moved things around, painted a wall, set up our bill paying etc. in the secretary upstairs, so that I can take over the downstairs office. It's got great light, a decent desk, etc., so now that it's all decluttered I don't have any excuses about having nowhere to work.