Monday, May 30, 2011

Happy Memorial Day!

I don't have a family member who is a soldier, nor do I have a real close friend who is in the service right now, yet every time I watch one of these videos, I sob.  I ball like a baby.  Seeing that mother greet her son, or the little girl crying when she unexpectedly realizes that her very own hero is standing in the room with her is at once heartbreaking, yet poignant and beautiful.  The mother in me completely relates to the emotion from both the perspective of a mother (because I am one) and a daughter (because I have four).  

Watching videos like these reminds me of another experience in my life.  There is an army base established right on the outskirts of our town.  Last year, troops came home by the busload.  Hoards of people stood out on sidewalks waving flags, holding their hands to their hearts, and saluting these men and women who sacrificed so that we (and the rest of America for that matter) could stand on those sidewalks and wave our flags.

It was incredible, momentous even, and in that very instance, I felt so proud to be an American - so proud that we have men and women who are willing to sacrifice their very lives.  Not only are they willing to literally give up their life at any moment to a rogue bomb, or gunfire, but they are also willing to give up moments of their life that are truly fleeting.  Some of these men and women have babies and then boom, they are gone for a year or more.  They lose some of the most precious moments of parenthood because they love their country.

The day those men and women came home loaded on buses, I cried too.  How could I not?  All those soldiers, all their sacrifices, and all our love for a country where freedoms and privileges abound.  If you haven't already, take a moment and remember what's been forfeited for you.

Thank you, to the servicemen and women for giving up so much of their lives for us!  Happy Memorial Day.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

"The Author To Her Book" by Anne Bradstreet

THOU ill-form’d offspring of my feeble brain,
Who after birth did’st by my side remain,
Till snatch from thence by friends, less wise than true
Who thee abroad, expos’d to publick view,
Made thee in rags, halting to th’ press to trudge,
Where errors were not lessened (all may judg).
At thy return my blushing was not small,
My rambling brat (in print) should mother call,
I cast thee by as one unfit for light,
Thy Visage was so irksome in my sight;
Yet being mine own, at length affection would
Thy blemishes amend, of so I could:
I wash’d thy face, but more defects I saw,
And rubbing off a spot, still made a flaw.
I stretcht thy joints to make thee even feet,
Yet still thou run’st more hobbling then is meet;
In better dress to trim thee was my mind,
But nought save home-spun Cloth, i’th’ house I find.
In this array, 'mongst Vulgars mayst thou roam,
In Criticks hands, beware thou dost not come;
And take thy way where yet thou art not known,
If for thy Father askt, say, thou hadst none:
And for thy Mother, she alas is poor,
Which cas’d her thus to send thee out of door.  

                                                                     ~Anne Bradstreet (1612-1672)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Parenting and Writing: Five Tips to Help Get More Writing In

"Mommy, I'm bored. Will you play with me?"
"Mamma, I'm thirsty."
"Mom, can we go shopping?"
"WHAAA," which translates into something like, "My diaper is dirty, Mommy!  Come change it NOW!"

Do any of these sound familiar to you?  Maybe your title is actually Daddy, Nanna, Auntie or Uncle.  Regardless, if you're here, chances are you're a writer, too.  It's these very questions and those like them that sometimes make it challenging to work at home and be a parent at the same time.

As a writer and mother of four children I usually get one of two perspectives from friends and family.  The first is, "Well, you are a stay-at-home-mom so you have lots of time to do the things you enjoy."  Hmm...No comment.

Yet other more perceptive people may ask, "Wow!  You have four children!  How do you find the time to write and keep up with everything in your life?"  Unless I'm in one of those incredibly rare moments in my life where I feel I've got it together, I reply by saying that I really don't keep up with everything.  There is always something that suffers, and that for me it's choosing what is ok to let go for that day.

Despite that, there are some things I try to do to help me stay as productive as possible.  The following are five tips that enable me keep it together enough to make me feel as though I've accomplished something good for my day.   

(1)  Prepare your children for their day and for what you need to get done.  If they're dressed and ready for their day, fed, and they've even had some one-on-one time with you reading a story or playing with some toys, then they're more likely to allow you to spend a few minutes on your writing.  Usually my girls understand when I tell them "Mommy's going to spend some special time with you, but then I need to work for a little while."  Most of the time they are content with that because they know what to expect, and their physical and emotional needs have been satisfied for a while.

(2)  Make lists and stick with them.  Are you familiar with the "handy dandy notebook" that Steve or Joe use on Blues Clues?  Well, I have one of those, but instead of writing down clues, I make lists.  I work far more efficiently on everything in my life if I have a list going of what I need to accomplish.  That list includes house related chores, errands, appointments, and all things writing related.

The list motivates and focuses me, but there's one critical element regarding list-making that keeps it useful: I don't put too many things on it at once.  I keep it simple and limit the number of things to do to five or six items.  Once I cross everything off, then and only then do I add more.  I find that if I put too much on at one time, it's counter-productive and overwhelming.

(3)  Utilize nap time as efficiently as possible.  I don't mean your nap (although a quick 20 minute nap can rejuvenate the most exhausted of caretakers), but rather your kiddo's nap.   I know that my writing time is extremely limited.  This is not the time to be checking up on my friends on Facebook, reading email forwards, or surfing the web (unless it's writing related).  Instead, try to decide what the priority is for the day and then focus a specified amount of time working on that project.  It is wonderful how much you can get done in a focused period of time. 

(4)  Multi-task, multi-task, multi-task.  When I work on house chores, I try always to be as efficient as possible.  My children are young, so tubby time still requires my presence.  This is when I try to quick clean the bathroom.  It's amazing how quickly I can get the sink, mirrors, and toilet cleaned as they sit, splash, and play in the tub.  While dinner is cooking, I fold and put away laundry or vacuum the floors.  Ask yourself what you can easily slip in while you have something else going.

(5)  Get your children involved in housework.  This is actually one of my favorites.  It took me a long time to realize that I can't do everything on my own and that it's ok to have my children help.  I'm not depriving them of playtime by having them work.  I'm instilling a good work ethic, teaching them how to do things they otherwise would not know how to do, and helping them to understand how families work together to get things done.  If I'm not doing all the chores by myself, then I can spend that much more time on my writing.

There are lots of solutions to managing our families and the other responsibilities we have in life.  What do you struggle with and what have you found that works?  

Monday, May 16, 2011

Stuffing it All In!

Pardon my absence over the last week.  I've been out walking, taking bubble baths and buying new stuff!  Obviously, I've been seeking some inspiration!  Just kidding.  Actually, I've been super busy with life.  Some of you saw and commented on pictures of my daughter as she went off to dance the night away at her first prom.  Believe me, that brought a couple tears to my eyes.

Other than that, there's been the typical illnesses that seem to always linger in my house, and as for me, I have a couple confessions to make.  First of all, I've been stricken with addiction - a gardening addiction, that is!  Last week's stretch of gorgeous weather had me out digging in the dirt and planting the very perennials that will reward my toil with beauty for years to come.

As for writing, that's the other confession.  Obviously, I wasn't here posting, nor did I work on my book or any of my other self-assigned writing projects.  I did, however, work on a project for a client, so at least that's something, but since it's not pressing I didn't complete it yet.  Naughty me!!!

So the personal struggle now is to not be too hard on myself.  During times like these - periods where I am less productive with my writing -  I try to remember that I am still a mother of young children and they must, and always do come first.  I try to be patient with myself and my goals (and believe me that's hard to do sometimes) while keeping in mind that these little ones won't be little forever.  Before long, they will all be in school and I'll have more time to focus on writing.

In the meantime, I continue to challenge myself to do all  the things in my life that I enjoy: parenting, writing, gardening, drawing, knitting, yoga/pilates and the list goes on and on.  I guess that's what living life is about, isn't it?  It's about stuffing every little thing into your day that you possibly can and enjoying it to the max.  It's living life with abandon, but not abandoning the things we are passionate about.   

So here I am writing again, refocusing myself without beating myself up over the things I didn't get done.  If I keep at it, I'll get where I want and need to be in time. 

What about you, do any of you ever get sidetracked with life?  Are you stuffing it all in and keeping focused?  How do you do it?

Monday, May 02, 2011

Renew Your Writing Inspiration with These Simple Tips

Some people would argue that there's no such thing as writer's block.  I guess I agree with that.  A lot of times, it's mind over matter - it's the sitting down and doing it that's difficult.  But I know without a doubt, there are times when my own writing feels a bit stifled and inspiration isn't exactly right around the corner.  The blessing for writers, and creators of all artistic forms, is that taking action in fun ways will help reapply a fresh approach to your creative spirit.

Get out of the house

Last week, I went on a field trip.  My husband took two of our children, Danielle took the baby, and I went to the library.  For two-and-a-half hours, I worked diligently, and uninterruptedly developing a magazine article idea, and then even managed a significant amount of time on my book.  It was wonderful.  No sippy cups to fill, diapers to change or sibling disagreements to mediate.  Did somebody say Heaven?

Seriously though, sometimes inspiration comes in the form of a break from the norm.  For parents who stay at home, it can be hard to juggle everything - housework, parenting, and everything else in our lives - and try to write too.  It's overwhelming at times and coming up with fresh ideas amidst all of that is hard to do.  Getting out of the house isn't always an option for everyone, but when the opportunity strikes take advantage.  One or two getaways a week can do wonders for your muse. 

Re-inspire by doing something enjoyable

Do something you enjoy to reawaken your creative spirit.  It doesn't have to be writing related.  Go for a walk and take note of the fresh green foliage bursting from buds in trees.  Feel the wind blowing gently on your face.  Listen to the spring birds singing.  Watch them flitting about as they prepare nests for future babies.  Use all of your senses like a child would.  Enjoy the experience.   

If that doesn't get the juices flowing for you, do something else that gets your mind off of life's worries - the things that really block inspiration.  Draw up a warm bubble bath, light a few of your favorite scented candles, and grab up that magazine that came in the mail three weeks ago (or three months ago). Treat yourself to a freebie spa in your own home.

Whatever you enjoy that's deeply relaxing, give it a try.  You work hard and you deserve it.  You'd be amazed what a few moments of quiet doing something you enjoy can do to stir up new ideas.  

Buy yourself something new

For me, there's nothing quite as motivating as buying new exercise clothes to get me to go for a run.  It's the same thing with writing.  Having new stuff to use - sticky notes, pens, or a pretty journal - inspires me to write something new.  If you're on a tight budget, don't worry.  These items can be found at affordable prices at your local Dollar Store, and if it ends up being enough inspiration to land you an assignment, it might just be worth it.   

Remember that all writers have periods of great creativity and those that are not quite as productive.  It's ok.  When the less industrious times come, take an active approach.  Follow these suggestions or come up with your own to get yourself back on track.

What are some of your best tips for renewing your writing inspiration?