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Meet Anne Marie Turner

The first thing Anne Marie will tell you is that there’s no such thing as balance. Balance is a myth, and reality is a series of constantly negotiated compromises. Life as a single mother sometimes means, look girls, deadline equals sandwiches. It also means taking it moment to moment, and seizing opportunities for connections where you can find them.

Talk to her about her work, and it’s clear she has an enormous sense of empathy for her clients. It’s important to her to get to the heart of what’s holding them back, discerning whether they’re ready to make changes, and if so, how big or small. After all, this is sensitive stuff: people are tied to their things. Being a professional organizer is part ship-shaper, part therapist.

The most satisfying part of her work? Seeing clients or students make real personal progress, with both mental and physical clutter. Relationships recover, forgotten vocations are unearthed, vacations are taken with money from garage sales! She’s seen the happy snowball effect of people in the throes of confronting big issues, and the positive energy that in turn spreads to the rest of her class. And she wants people to have the tools and the knowledge to do it again, later on, when they need a tune-up.

Anne Marie works closely with several other organizers who pair up as needed. Recently, they helped organize a section of Habitat for Humanity’s massive warehouse. One begins to see this as an integral theme that runs through her life: support, partnership. She mentions the neighbors she couldn’t live without and the sense of community and loyalty and care she draws from them. She relied on this network of support, and on others, when her parents died six months apart in 2000, both after lengthy illnesses. She hopes to eventually exhibit some of the 150 paintings her father, an artist, left behind -- legacies of his love for abstract art.

Underlying it all is Anne Marie's love of words. A pivotal moment came three years ago in a class she took -- a public reading of her work led to a stunned silence from her classmates. She realized how much she needed to return to her first love: writing. Leftover thoughts from her Michigan upbringing assured her that writing was a sure road to poverty, but now, notes are being taken, files are being collected, and a hybrid seed is in the works for a combination of musings on organizing and creative nonfiction.

We talked to Anne Marie recently. Here’s what she had to say about life and mothering:

Who inspired you when you were growing up and why?

All of my elementary school teachers - especially Diane Fenstemacher in second
grade because she introduced me to journalism. On a broader level, Mary Queen of Scots -- she was a firebrand who ascended to the Scottish throne so young, went through a very dramatic and challenging life, and in the end was removed from power. And American writer Mercy Otis Warren -- she was another feisty woman who had the good luck to be born into a family who could afford -- financially and socially -- to support her education. She had the further fortune to marry a man (James Warren) who encouraged her writing; and she became one of revolutionary America's finest satirists.

You are face to face with your ten-year-old self. You have one thing to say to her about her future, what do you say?

First, learn to relax. Focus on what you love and do that. Do the thing you
love and do it well no matter the obstacles that are placed in your path.

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The Countess Galleria / Sarah Higdon

What two notable people would you like to see handcuffed together for a

So many delightful, devilish combinations... where to start?

Martha Stewart and Cher; The Honorable Katherine Harris (Florida Secretary of State) and nearly anyone; actress Julia Roberts and former Red Cross Executive Director Elizabeth Dole (I'd like to see whose smile wears off first); Former Texas Governor Ann Richards and activist/actress Susan Sarandon (I'd like to be invited to that party!); Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura and White House Counsel Karen Hughes (I want to hear when the verbal velvet gloves come off! Can we say that?).

But the one I would really like to see and hear would be U.S. Congressman from Chicago, Jesse Jackson Jr., and U.S. Senator from Texas, Kay Bailey Hutchison. What a study in contrasts, and yet are both highly skilled negotiators and consummate politicians in the best sense of what each represents. I imagine they would talk about everything from personal politics to highly charged national issues to best barbecue.

What is the biggest contradiction you see mothers being faced with today?

You really cannot do all that you would like to do. You have to make choices to include and choices to let go.

What do you see as your biggest challenge in being the kind of mother you want to be?

To actually walk the walk after talking the talk -- modeling love and respect.
I hate it when I break down and yell.

What makes you most happy about the way you parent?

In the same way that I have a short fuse, I get over things very quickly.
I can forgive and I can say that I am sorry.

What do you wish you could automatically grant, like a fairy godmother, to all new mothers? To mothers during trying times?

Let me pull out my list.

As a single parent, there are certainly times when "a partner who will stand by you no matter what" comes to mind. But, I've learned that while this is a true blessing for those that have a partner, it is no cure-all.

Sleep. Numbers 1, 2, and 3 on my list. Sleep.

A support network of family, friends, and cooperative employers.

A list of good service providers -- doctors, dentists, plumbers, etc.

An extra set of keys.

A small, emergency stash of chocolate.

Patience and faith to know it will get better. What was it that poet Robert Frost said? "The best way out is always through."

Thanks, Anne Marie!

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more info:
Professional Organizing Services
Austin, Texas
V: 512-258-8468
FX: 512-258-3052

Sign up for Anne Marie Turner's FREE organizing class. Based on Julie Morgenstern's best selling book, Organizing From the Inside Out
at www.barnesandnobleuniversity.com 

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