Love, Spelled T.I.M.E: 2013 365 Challenge #171

Running through the Mirror Maze

Running through the Mirror Maze

I recently came across an article / blog post on Linkedin, by someone called Dave Kerpen, about the importance of balancing career progression with spending time with the children. It’s aimed at fathers but I think it’s relevant to any parent, working or not.

The article presents, in a lovely balanced way, the constant battle between spending time with our children and providing for them. As he so eloquently put it:

It’s all too easy to skip the family dinner in the name of helping to put dinner on the table.

Gardens of Surprise: keeping cool

Gardens of Surprise: keeping cool

It’s something we’ve had to deal with in the past, when hubbie’s work has taken him away at short notice, resulting in missed parents evenings or carol concerts, or when he travelled overseas regularly, leaving me to be a single parent for a week at a time.

It’s one of the reasons I didn’t go back to work after my first child was born. I worked as a contractor and my day could start at 6am and finish with me getting home at 9pm.

You can’t easily have two people working those hours and raise children, although I’m sure some people manage it.

Mummy, why does the lady have a big tummy?

Mummy, why does the lady have a big tummy?

When he worked from home, hubbie had the opposite dilemma: the kids got used to him being around for lunch and struggled with the idea that he was in the house but unavailable.

Then came the six months following the redundancy, when hubbie was home but desperately looking for work. And now it looks like he might have to commute further to get a new contract: missing bedtime most nights unless we keep the children up late.

I feel it too, when I’m buried in drafting or editing and it’s tough to raise my head above the parapet. Or I’m running a promotion and check Twitter far too often, until my son tells me to put the phone away.

Whatever job you do, or even if you don’t work but still have housework, laundry, cooking and all that jazz to deal with, finding a balance is hard.

Ready, steady, run!

Ready, steady, run!

The article had two particular lines that resonated with me. One was the article title: Your Career Highlights won’t be on Your Tombstone: your kids’ names will be. A bit black and white in a world of hues of grey (funny how I shy away from writing Shades of Grey these days!) but a useful reminder of what’s important.

The other line was a quotation from John Crudele:  “How do children spell LOVE? T-I-M-E.

My children spend more than two-thirds of their time at home with me, but they don’t always get my time. So today, when I picked them up from preschool, I took them to the Gardens of Surprise, a local attraction with water fountains and a sculpture garden. It was 26 degrees and humid outside and hot equals cross for me, so it was a gift for all of us.

Kiddies and the Giant Rabbit

Kiddies and the Giant Rabbit

For three hours we stomped on fountains, splashed through water walls, climbed trees, explored the woods for sculptures, visited the ice house, met a giant bunny and ate ice cream. It was fab.

At the end of the day I asked my daughter if it was nice to spend some lovely time with Mummy, and whether she felt like she’d had my attention for a few hours.

Her answer? “Not really, Mummy.”

Ah well, back to work then.

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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:

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“Kim, it’s Claire, how are you?”

“Hello, I wasn’t expecting to hear from you so soon. How’s the wrist?”

Claire looked at her bare arm, amazed that she had forgotten about it completely. It seemed months since her snowboarding incident, rather than just a week.

“It’s fine. I took the bandage off a couple of days ago. I haven’t exactly been straining it.”

“Where are you, then?”

“Kington, Herefordshire.”

“Where? Why? That’s practically Wales. I thought you were going to stay near the hostel for the wedding?”

Claire laughed. “I have to move hostel more or less every day, and there are only a handful round here. Besides, I can’t stay in Kington at the weekend, so I had to get to it and mark it off the list. Nice hostel, big red brick building, en-suite room.”

It was Kim’s turn to laugh. “You can take the girl out of the five-star resorts, but you can’t take a need for luxury out of the girl.”

“I’ll have you know I normally stay in a dorm.” She didn’t add that Carl and Julia challenged her expenses if she didn’t. “But this place is mostly small rooms and they happened to have a single free.” That was her excuse anyway.

“No need to defend yourself, I’d be staying en-suite every night if I could afford it.”

“Me too.” Claire heard the wistful tone in her voice. There was no romance sharing a bedroom with strangers. Not even Scottish ones. She flushed. That particular incident wouldn’t be shared with anyone.

“So, why are you calling? Mum has all the wedding planning under control. You just need to be there on the day, with whomever you manage to pick up as your plus-one.” She giggled.

Claire resisted the urge to tell her what happened when you shacked up with strangers in a hostel. An unwelcome image of the girl asleep on the floor flashed into her mind and she shoved it away.

“That’s why I’m phoning, actually.” She took a deep breath. “Michael called me yesterday.”

“Good God, what did he want? I thought you gave him the heave-ho months ago?” Kim kept her voice light, but Claire could hear the undercurrent of enquiry. They’d never discussed her break-up with Michael. It was too painful to revisit at the time, and other things had taken over since then.

“He wants to be my plus-one.”

“He what? The cheek of him! He hates me. And Jeff.”

“No, he doesn’t. You’re just very different, that’s all.” Claire winced at the memory of Michael meeting her best friend. They’d got on like dog and cat.

“You could say that. He’s an over-bearing, over-protective, old-fashioned, chauvinistic prig.”

Claire reeled at the litany of flaws. “Don’t hold back, Kim, you say what you really mean.” Her voice had a slight edge that was not lost on her friend.

“Are you defending him? Why did you dump him, if he’s so marvellous?”

“I had my reasons. He’s not as bad as you think, you know. You brought out the worst in him. You and Jeff, all over each other in the bar. He’s more reserved, that’s all.” Certain memories flickered in her mind. “Well, in public anyway.”

“You’re still in love with him, aren’t you?” The accusation stung for its veracity.

“No! No, but I don’t want to be the single bird at your wedding. He’d only come as a friend. It would be good. Give us closure.”

Kim snorted down the phone, but didn’t say anything. There was a strained pause, and then they both spoke at once.

“I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be harsh–”

“I don’t have to bring him, it’s your wedding–”

They laughed and apologised. After a minute of, “After you,” “No, After you,” they resumed their conversation.

“Bring him, Claire. You don’t know many of my friends and if it allows you to move on, find someone more suited to you, then that’s a good thing.”

Claire smiled at the barely-hidden barb. “Okay, I will. He can make himself useful, pouring drinks or ushering people around.”

“Cleaning up vomit, looking after the drunks.”

“Kim!”

“Sorry.” She laughed, and changed to subject to the tricky question of red roses versus lilies.

*

As she hung up the phone, Claire replayed the conversation in her mind. She knew that Kim wasn’t Michael’s greatest fan, but the vehemence of her dislike surprised her.

Is Michael all those things? She didn’t remember him that way. He’d been a gentleman, in every sense of the word. Gentle, kind, thoughtful. Sure he opened doors and booked restaurants, but that didn’t make him old-fashioned, just unusual. Compared with her previous boyfriends it had been wonderful. And of course there were other things he excelled at. She blushed and forced the thought away.

That’s history now. He wants something I can’t give him. The weekend will be good; we can part as friends and move on.

Claire gazed unfocussed at the bright yellow walls of the hostel lounge and let her mind drift, ignoring the sense of anticipation building in her tummy.

***

Pinteresting

Amanda Martin's Pinterest board for Pictures of LoveI’m always late.

I was late getting the kids to nursery this morning. We were late to a Christening yesterday, although, thankfully, so were the baby’s parents. I am always sliding into the chair at the doctors or the dentist hoping that they, too, are running late.

The thing I am usually proud of being late for is getting on a band wagon.

Who wants to jump on a band-wagon too quickly? 

Sometimes it’s because it’s a band wagon and I don’t want to climb on until rush hour has past and it’s a bit less noisy and smelly : I didn’t read any Harry Potter until the third book was out. I only saw Avatar last month and I’m resisting the urge to see what all the fuss is about with Fifty Shades of Grey.

Sometimes I’m late on a band wagon because I’m stupid. I don’t think something will work for me or I don’t see the point. Like Twitter and Pinterest. Now I’m still there with Twitter: I have an account and tweet occasionally (see, I know the terminology, just about) but I can’t get into it. I think maybe you need to be able to see it all the time on your phone or computer to make sense of it. My technology isn’t there yet. It leaves me feeling like the person arriving late at a party, who comes in mid-conversation and doesn’t understand the punch-line to a joke because they didn’t hear the beginning.

Pinterest though, now that’s a different matter. I originally dismissed Pinterest as not useful or relevant to me, although I enjoyed seeing my friends’ posts; links to lovely crafty things that I might have the time one day to do with my children. I hope. Then I read an article, sent to me by LinkedIn, about how photographs can help people engage with your brand. I don’t have a brand, but I am about to self-publish my first novel. So I thought I’d better see what Pinterest was all about.

And oh my how much do I love it?

I love photos anyway, photography being a former attempted-career. And I have always had scrapbooks for my novels (usually on my laptop but sometimes actual physical cut and paste ones.) For my first novel, Finding Lucy (currently unfinished because I inconveniently went into labour before completing the first draft) I have a giant scrapbook of pictures of the main characters, taken from stock photo sites. There are also biographies, timelines, star signs, pictures of their houses including floor plans for ease of writing scenes. It is my treasured possession.

I haven’t done a scrapbook for Pictures of Love, my current WIP, because if I get scissors or selotape out now, the kids are on me like ants on jam. So I have a file on my computer, full of photographs I took when I went to London to visit my locations in Fleet St, Earl’s Court and so on, as well as headshots of people I have found that look like my characters do in my head.

And now I can pin all those pictures in one place and carry it around with me anywhere I can get internet access. I can share it with my friends, show my beta readers what I think my characters look like and see if they agree.

I can put pictures on a site without worrying about copyright, as everything is sourced. [Update: it turns out this isn’t enough to stop you worrying about copyright. Since writing this post I have deleted most of the content from my Pinterest boards for fear of infringing someone’s copyright. I may be over-reacting, but better to be safe than sorry. You can read about someone who has learned this the hard way here and here (comment #76).]

And because everything is sourced I erase another problem – file location. For some of the images in my scrapbooks I wasn’t organised enough to keep internet URLs.

Idiot.

I have spent the last two days trying to track down all the images online (sorry family). And thankfully I have found most of them. My husband is not so lucky. I designed a fab (if I say so myself) front cover for his children’s novel Max and Shady, and got a copy printed for Christmas a couple of years ago. Only now he wants to publish it online and we can’t use the cover because we can’t find the image in order to purchase usage rights.

So Pinterest I thank you: for keeping me in tune with the zeitgeist, for giving me something fun to do while watching Euro 2012 (not that I need to worry about that so much now) and most of all for keeping me organised.

If you want to check out my Pinterest boards, to see what my sexy leading men (and women) look like, you can find them here.

Have you used Pinterest to plan out your novels or create your universes? How has it worked for you?