Tuesday, August 25, 2009

It Goes So Fast

Several weeks ago my children found newly hatched caterpillars on the underside of a milkweed leaf at a friend's house. They were tiny mites, one barely visible. The friend kindly tucked the leaves with the caterpillar nibs into a Panera cup for the girls to bring home.

Over the next few days and weeks we would watch them grow as they nibbled their way through those leaves. They and their Panera cup home took up residence on our kitchen counter where we could watch their progress. The tiny specks became little wormy caterpillars, became big striped caterpillars. We laughed to see them double in size in a day as they munched heartily on the milkweek leaves we fed them. And we gagged as the bottom of the cup filled with their droppings and had to be carefully dumped. Always, always, the younger one was just a bit smaller, just a day behind the other. And so as one went, we knew the other would also.

A week and a half ago, I came down in the morning to find a chrysalis where there once had been a caterpillar. And a few hours later his brother took up the hanging "J" form in the Panera cup. Pretty soon, he too had become a small greenish blob with a band of golden beads draped along the top like a necklace. We've held our breaths since then, carefully trying not to jostle the cup, as if doing so could break the hold of the chrysalis on the lid of the cup. Bah! How we doubted the tenacity of this things. They appeared so fragile. We'd watched one chrysalis die before in this stage. We wondered what would happen this time.

By Sunday evening one of them had become clear, so clear that we could see the orangish wings of the monarch butterfly inside. And then, yesterday morning, it became black. Certainly this is the end, I thought. And it was an end of sorts. By lunchtime it had become dried looking. I took the Uber-Princess to get groceries.

When we returned home, I carefully set the groceries on the counter so as not to disturb the Panera cup. What I saw made me gasp, first in horror. Then...in delight! That tiny dried black chrysalis had been replaced by a large, beautiful orange and black butterfly!! I watched as the splindly black legs curled and uncurled, grasping to hold onto the lid so that the butterfly could suspend itself to let its wings dry.

After school my children and I took the cup outside. I carefully held the lid aloft, now aware that the still-green chrysalis could handle some shifting and movement. The butterfly began to flutter in the cup. Carefully, I shook it out onto the ground. Immediately it felt the wind under its wings and began to fly. First slowly, near the ground, with a few shakey dips. And then quickly, oh too quickly, it soared up, up, up. My heart rose and then sank as our butterfly took off up over the roof of our house. So soon it was gone.

It's like that for us moms, isn't it? We hold these tiny things in our arms and watch them grow and change. We feed them and dispose of their waste. We marvel at how much they eat. And then one day while we're out for groceries, they emerge, beautiful and stunning. And we set them free to fly, thrilled and devastated at the same time.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Julie, Julia and Me

In an odd confluence of events that occurs, oh, about once every 3-5 years, a friend wanted to see a first-run movie that interested me on a night where I had nothing going on. So we went, along with two other friends. And can I say that it felt an awful lot like coming out of a cave after a long hibernation? We all blanched at the ticket price and gagged at the outrageous cost for popcorn and drinks. I'm a cheapie theatre buff who goes back for the free refills on my small popcorn that I'm sharing with my three children. This truly was a splurge. But it was worth it.

We saw Julie & Julia. I had read reviews of the book when it came out. Since I'm not a foodie, I had no desire to read it. But seeing the movie, I really related to Julie Powell. True story: she was a wanna-be writer, working as a secretary for the government resolving post 9-11 settlements. Cooking was her source of comfort. So her husband encouraged her to start a blog and she came up with the idea of cooking her way through Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Hence The Julie/Julia Project is born.

It was so funny to watch them set up her blog and then her early days of wondering whether anyone is actually reading. All of us bloggers can relate, no? Then our paths diverge. She gets fan mail from readers who send her food for her recipes (okay, so c'mon y'all - where's my fan mail? How about some craft supplies? JK!). Soon she's featured in the New York Times and gets dozens of phone calls from agents and publishers begging to sign her on for a book and later on that book becomes a movie (can you guess which one?). I'm sure that will all happen for me once everyone gets the clue that it's all about the fan mail and if you never send it, I'll never get that interview and all those contracts.

Then there were the shifts over to Julia Child's story. One word: fascinating. Meryl Streep gave a great performance. I mean, to hear her was to hear Julia Child all over again. And I found myself nodding and laughing through the interactions with publishers and editors. Particularly the scene where she furtively opens a letter from the publisher, wondering whether it will be good news or bad. Yes! That's how it goes! No one ever opens those letters or emails without a bit of hesitation and trepidation. What if it's a rejection? Is it too much to hope it's not? I'm pretty sure I was the only one in the theater that sat there shaking their head at how totally true that scene was. I've been there. Hopefully I'll be there again someday. That is how it is! Oh, except I'm not sure if my husband would jump up and down and shout for joy with me if I ever actually get one of those good letters again. He usually just gives me a "that's nice" and let's me do the jumping up and down by myself. But I do jump. And I think most writers do.

So the evening really was one of those once-in-a-long-time events (except for an eventful attempt to go to Starbucks, which you can read about here). A fun time out with friends, no child on my lap for a movie that I actually wanted to see and wasn't watching for the sake of my children or husband. A nice way to end "Back to School Week".

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

School is Back, Back, Back!

Maybe that's why I'm feeling like things are all scattered and needing to be put back. So first things first, I'm getting the kids put back. Back on schedule. And back in school. The Uber-Princess is still here with me for another day, so I'm not actually alone until the other two get back. But once kindergarten starts, then it's really time to get back on track. Hopefully in the meantime, somebody's got my back. Because it just feels like I've got back to back chores to complete around here. Between supplying the children for school and getting some room occupants swapped, I've been breaking my back to get stuff done. But let me back up a moment: this is "Back to School" week for us. So hopefully this whole scheduling thing will come back to me soon.

In the spirit of the whole back to school thing, check out what Christina Katz is doing on her Writer Mama blog next month:
"For the third year in a row, The Writer Mama, Christina Katz, is giving away thirty books in thirty days. All you have to do to participate is answer the question that Christina will pose daily. One lucky winner will win each day. There is no limit to how many times you can enter. The drawing is for U.S. residents. You don’t have to be a mom, but of course, the event is created with moms in mind, so please tell all the writer mamas you know! See ya in September at http://thewritermama.wordpress.com."

She's even posted a list of books for week one here. So if you're a writer, check it out. Or even if you're just a mama, that's reason enough too.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Setting Up Shop

This week teachers in our town have begun setting up the classrooms for the new school year that starts next week. But they're not the only ones getting space ready. I've been at work on my space too, getting ready for the school year.

I own my own business. It's small, very small. Just big enough to fit into the life of a mom of young kids. But it's primed to grow. The Uber-Princess starts kindergarten this year. That frees up a few more hours for business. It also means that next year she'll be in school full time. That will free up a bunch more hours for business. And I want to be ready for that.

Getting serious about an at-home business can seem like an oxymoron. I mean, what other kind of work has you switching between taking calls from clients to supervising a sibling squabble within moments? It's tempting to call the business a hobby and just leave it at that. But it's not and I won't. I'm calling it a great arrangement for an at-home mom.

That still leaves the issue of work space. I have an "office". And when I'm in there with the door shut (and a cute door hanger dangling from the knob at my children's insistence), I'm "at work". My children know not to bother me except under extreme circumstances when I'm there. Yet my office is also my husband's den. It's filled with bookshelves and more books than can fit them. His guitars fill nearly half the closet and boxes of old "stuff" litter the floor. The five drawer filing cabinet has been stuffed so full over the past few years that it can take no more.

This is my office. In the interest of getting serious about work, I've been seriously setting up shop. We cleared out space in the file cabinet for my business files (I now have a whole twelve inches of the five drawers to call my own). I'm evicting clutter from my desktop (slowly, oh so slowly it goes). And I hope that we can clear the floor too. Thankfully I don't have visitors to my office over the age of ten. But I think I deserve a presentable space. That's why I'm starting early. Hopefully by the time school starts next year I'll actually have it.

When it comes to having space for business though, what really matters is the mental and emotional space that you give it. Up until now I've made do with a portable file box and a laptop. This year I'm upgrading to the file cabinet and perhaps some desk space. Neither is what makes me a successful at-home business owner. It's more about how I view and approach my business. And that's what works for me. For more Works for Me Wednesday goodness, check out other posts here.

If you're a work-at-home mom, you should check out a great book I've been reading. It's called Making Work at Home Work by Mary Byers. It's a very practical book written by a successful author and speaker who also has been extremely influential in my own career.