Running on Empty: 2013 365 Challenge #232

I want to do more of this...

I want to do more of this …

I read a great parenting post this morning, on the inspirational Orange Rhino blog, about Parenting on Empty. Not run down or depleted reserves but down deep, nothing left, red light empty. The author described the effects of running on empty:

Running on empty means I am shorter, snappier, moodier, grumpier, everything “-er” except calmer, friendlier, and happier.

It struck a chord. I’m not there yet (well, actually, looking at the above list of adjectives, I probably am!) but my fuel warning light is on.

With the extra work of editing Baby Blues, on top of the daily blog and social media (not to mention childcare and household duties!), I’m feeling stretched to my limits. I go to bed exhausted, I wake up exhausted, I cry over the smallest things (like getting locked out of my iTunes account and losing an hour’s editing time trying to fix it) and my children have stared using, “I’m just tired,” as their excuse for everything, I wonder where they learned that?

I can’t take a complete break, because of the daily blog challenge, but I think I can cut it down a bit. I’m forty pages from finishing this draft of Baby Blues and, even though the proofread has forced me to line edit at a level I haven’t done before and has revealed weaknesses in the novel I would dearly love to fix, I’m going to let it go. If I don’t I’ll either burn out or I will never finish it. Come what may, when I reach page 230 I will format for kindle and Create Space and hit approve.

... and less of this

… and less of this

So, I’ve marked September as my month off. With my daughter starting school oh so gradually and my son on a new schedule at preschool I won’t get much writing time.

I intend to continue with Claire, but I suspect the top half of my blog might diminish. I’m thinking of opening it to short (500-700 words), relevant, guest posts: if anyone is interested drop me a line.

I may also dig out some old poems and stories, maybe even some paintings, and give them an airing, get some feedback. It might work. It might not. All I know is I need to spend my dog walking time on Claire. So, this is a head’s up.

Hopefully October will be business as usual, although my sister is over from the States for two weeks, so maybe not! I ask for your patience! I’m off to the petrol station to fill up.


Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog: 


Claire looked at the man opposite her, and searched her brain for a topic of conversation. A week’s travelling had told her precisely nothing about him apart from his name. She couldn’t guess his age or occupation and only assumed London was his city of origin by his accent.

She glanced down at the menu, then turned her gaze across the road to the lake. The water had shone like blue silk when they first reached the restaurant, but storm clouds had piled overhead since their arrival, and now the surface was as leaden as the sky above. Claire shivered and pulled on her cardigan, glad of the activity.

The menu might as well have been written in Greek for all she could focus on it. Neal’s proximity pulled at her gut and set her nerves tingling. She’d never met someone with so much animal magnetism. If asked, she would have said the phrase was only for romance novels of a certain ilk.

Topics of conversation drifted into her head only to be dismissed. Opening lines such as, “So, how do you like New Zealand,” or “Where do you call home,” or even, “What activity are you doing tomorrow?” sounded too lame to be uttered. Opting to leave the opener to him, given that he had driven forward all their other encounters, Claire turned her attention back to the menu and searched for something easy to eat in public.

At last their meals were ordered – Neal had chosen the most expensive dishes on the menu – and they were left with the task of making small talk. Claire sipped at her gin and tonic and watched Neal with an indifferent expression. This was his bet, let him earn his dinner.

“So, Claire, how do you like New Zealand?”

Claire sniggered at Neal’s question and he frowned.

“What’s so funny?”

“That was going to be my opening gambit but I assumed you’d have some sarcastic response at its lack of originality.”

“It’s as good a place to start as any.” His face glowered darker than the storm clouds and Claire worried she had offended him. His reaction seemed out of character compared with the Neal she thought she knew.

“I like New Zealand very much,” she responded with as much sincerity as she could manage. “It’s a beautiful country, the weather is mostly gorgeous and the locals friendly.”

“Why, thank you.”

His response made her choke on her drink. After coughing for several moments, she furrowed her brow. “You’re a local?”

“That’s right. I’m on a VIP. Didn’t you know?”

“Well, no. From the accent I assumed you were a fellow Brit on holiday.”

“Well, one out of two ’aint bad. I am a Brit, as you put it, but I’ve been over here for four or five years now. I used to work for Magic.”

The waiter brought their starters; goats cheese for her, some form of seafood chowder for him. It was the most expensive starter. Now she knew he was a bus driver, rather than a GP or a City Trader, it made more sense.

“And now you work for Kiwi? Isn’t a bit of a busman’s holiday – literally – to come round on the tour?”

“Officially I’m here to learn the new route, although I know it already. I get to travel for free and I know people at every stop. It’s more like an extended family trip.” He forked a steaming heap of fish into his mouth and Claire looked away while he devoured it.

Before his mouth was entirely empty, he continued. “And there’s usually something to add a piquancy to the trip.” He raised his eyebrows in the way that normally sent her heart jumping. It didn’t have its usual effect.

A memory drifted into Claire’s mind from her conversation with Mitch, back in the UK. As well as having a rude name for the ‘other’ bus tour, he’d mentioned an acronym to watch out for, something to make sure she didn’t become. It had been a friendly warning and she had laughed it off. He’d said “Don’t be a DAF”. When she’d asked what it meant, he’d responded, “Driver’s Available …” and had winked suggestively. No need to ask what the F stood for.

She watched Neal, as he finished his starter with a look of smug self-satisfaction on his face, and she understood. Her appeal, over that of the youngsters, was presumably an ability to buy dinner. He must have seen her iPad, phone, clothing, and figured she was loaded.

That would be nice.

Just buying her flights and bus pass had maxed-out her credit card. Paying for extras like the expensive tours, the pricey meals, was eating into her current account faster than she felt comfortable with. Mitch’s throwaway remark that she could get work in a backpacker’s bar was looking like less and less of a joke.

Something clicked as the thoughts ran through her mind, one after another.

I don’t want to be a DAF. I don’t even want to finish dinner.

Coming to a sudden decision, Claire stood up and dropped her napkin on the table.

“Thank you for your company, Neal, and for the compliment, but I don’t want to be your DAF or your little piquancy on this freebie jolly. Nice to have met you.”

Taking a bundle of dollars from her purse, Claire dropped them on the table and left the restaurant, taking the wonderful image of Neal, slack-jawed and lost for words, with her.


26 thoughts on “Running on Empty: 2013 365 Challenge #232

      • I just got some junk mail through from an adult-only holiday company with lovely pictures of couples walking hand in hand without a buggy or baby bag in sight. That’s plain mean! The only time I had a night away from my kids was the night in hospital before my second was born! Hehe

      • Hahaha, my husband and I went on a 3 day vacation to Boracay last year and it was great! Only that I was worried about the kids all the time and missed them a lot (They were with my mom). Turned out I was worried for nothing, they were okay all the time. That was the only couples vacation we ever had since we had kids.
        Why don’t you go and get that treat? 😉

      • Think my kids will need to be a few years older (like twenty) before my mum would have them for more than an hour! It would be wasted on us anyway as hubbie and I would just sleeeeeeep! 🙂

  1. We really are hard on ourselves sometimes, aren’t we. Most of the time I think it is a good thing, but sometimes we need to cut ourselves a little slack, we are not super heroes. I think you have done very well in living up to your own standards and expectations. I also think that you need to take a break, cut back a little, and enjoy life and your kids. I think I could use more of that, too…

    • My husband calls it ‘turning the engine down’ after a Formula 1 racing term. I turned the engine down today, chucking the kids in the front garden to make ‘salad’ from weeds while I read my book. A great day was had by all! 🙂
      The biggest problem I have is I WANT to do all my writing projects. I confess I’m not so enthusiastic about the parenting, which makes me feel terribly guilty. Such is the life of a working Mum I guess, whatever job we have!

      • I get in trouble with my wife all the time because I want to write when I get home, not play with the kids. But, kind of like writing, when you sit down and let them play with you, that is when it is the most fun. If you are simply forcing yourself to play with them, it feels like a chore.

        But, at the same time, pushing for writing on top of all the other projects, work, things, I got to do sometimes seems too much. Its a hard game to play, and an even harder game to keep your balance at.

      • I’m very fortunate that hubbie is out of work at the moment (odd as that sounds) so we’re taking it in turns to mind the kids and give them our attention. I do struggle, although now they’re nearly 3 and 5 it is easier to interact without getting bored!

      • Mine are 3 and 18 months. The youngest is just now starting to say words. Sometimes it seems like I have to move the stars in order to get us all doing something that is fun and that doesn’t favor one over the other.

        Still, hard to find that balance when I work full time. They are only little for so long, though, and that is what the weekends are for. Well, except to drive my wife around shopping and tons of other stuff that usually I’d rather not do…

      • 🙂 I am a good wife (ahem) because I hate shopping! I usually take the kids out at the weekend so hubbie can work on his car, although I do get a lie in while he watches TV with them!

      • My wife pushes for spending a significant amount of time with her family and relatives. It is a good thing, but sometimes it tends to be one of the biggest time voids.

        For example, every time they say, “We’re going to watch a movie.” We go over to watch it at their place (we all live on the same plot of land: we’re trailer trash). Well, my father-in-law never turns the volume up loud enough to hear above the kids that always scream and fight the whole time. The request to “turn up the volume” results in a one-tick reaction. The end result is that I just spent 90 minutes attempting to watch a movie that I missed most of. Their definition of fun doesn’t always match mine. I don’t think they see how much fun it is to sit in front of a computer all day writing a book.

        Most of the time, though, my wife understands that my cup of tea is not spending every weekend with her family.

      • Ironically my hubbie finds it more relaxing at my Mum’s house than I do. He chills on the sofa while I fret about the kids not breaking anything or driving grandma potty!

      • Driving her potty. Never hear that one before, must be British, though I catch its meaning. Around my house it would suggest that one has been literally driven to the potty: the restroom. Wouldn’t help, though, my kids follow me in there. I keep telling my wife, we need locking doors…

      • Yes, driving her bat-shit crazy (is that the US equivalent?)
        No parent gets to pee alone. Except my husband who drops a towel behind the door to stop it opening (you can’t have locks with kids, too open to abuse!)

      • Bat-shit crazy is pretty crazy. I love entomology, I wonder how they derived the phrase.

        One of my favorite little phrases is that I can’t speak proper English because I’m not from Britain. 🙂

      • My favourite is ‘mad as a box of frogs’.

        It’s hard, as a writer, to remember how much of your ‘normal’ every day language is incomprehensible to half the english (small e, just for you!) speaking world..!

      • Never heard that one either. “Mad as a hatter”, heard that one and know how it came about.

        Idioms and trivial differences galore. I couldn’t imagine being a translator between two different languages, especially one that translates books. Ack!

        Traveled and travelled, is one of my favorites, and English teacher’s love to rake student’s over the coals for it.

        It is interesting just to watch how many idioms you use without thinking about it.

      • Ah don’t start me on the spelling, I never know which is UK and which is US. Thankfully my proofreader seems to have caught most of my errors, but it’s hard on the blog when my Word dictionary is UK but the WordPress one is US… Anyway, my post won’t write itself so I best get on to it before I turn into a pumpkin!

      • Thanks for chatting, though I’m sure there are better devices for doing so!

        Oh, while I’m thinking about it, do you have an email? If you are interested, I can send you my critique and typo findings on “Two-Hundred Steps Home”. I’ve wandered away from it, but I intend to go back and read. Just got sidetracked.

      • Yes, I’ll send you an email. I’ve enjoyed the chat, although as you say maybe comments on my blog wasn’t the best place! Critique always welcome (as long as you remember it’s a first draft novel! Haha)

  2. Making sure our batteries are continually filled is so important, but so hard. I actually had to make a list of things I could do that filled me up because when things get crazy I can’t even see the way out of the tunnel. Hang in there!

    • Thanks Jodi. Unfortunately the things I know ‘fill me up’ – being by myself, hiking to the top of hills, curling up to read a book for twelve hours without stopping, are all a little elusive at the moment! I’m going to try and find local equivalents. For example today I mostly ignored the kids while I re-read Emma. Not the greatest parenting but a nice break!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s