The Post Pregnancy Shopping Experience

I went clothes shopping recently and it was both an exciting and nerve wracking experience. It’s been almost two years since I’ve bought any non-maternity clothes. Now that our family is complete and I’ve lost the baby weight, we trekked across the Saudi/Bahrain causeway to spend the weekend near beaches and better malls.

While there are many advantages and fun experiences to living abroad, clothes shopping is not one of them. For one thing very few of the stores here are American brands. Don’t get me wrong, the stores are great but they are all European brands and sizes. I just got down the whole converting the exchange rate so you can imagine my fear of the size difference. While in some stores in the U.S. I am a consistent 4, I’m a consistent nothing in the sizing here and EVERYTHING must be tried on so shopping takes a long time.

A big plus here is that few people get out until lunchtime and after. This means that with some planning (and hey the kids have us up around 5am every morning anyway) we can cover a lot of shopping ground before the crowds grow.

While getting a mostly new wardrobe was exhausting it was thrilling considering it was so long overdo. Now to start figuring out what I’ll wear this summer at the RWA San Diego conference.

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Unproductive weekend retreats creates productivity

If you read my last post then you’ll know that my life the last few weeks has been as entertaining as a sitcom and not the good parts but the absurd, “so much #$@#$ can’t happen to one person at the same time” kind of entertaining. So this weekend my family is taking a much-deserved two-night getaway to Bahrain.

People often ask me about my life in Saudi Arabia and I don’t talk much about it on the blog because for the most part my life on a compound here is very normal. In many ways it’s an easier life than what I had in the States. On the compound there is no traffic. It takes me five minutes to get to my daughter’s school, the grocery store, my dance studio, etc. Of course I realize my life would be very different outside a westernized compound so it’s hard for me to really comment on the true Saudi living experience, but my experience is good. There are cons, the biggest is the distance from family but I’ve yet to live anywhere that doesn’t have it’s fair share of disadvantages.

An amazing advantage and treat we’ve found is the small country of Bahrain. It’s a short drive from where we live and has a much different feel to it than Saudi. Not better just different and a fun change of things when we want to take a quick trip. Being an island the beaches are great and the overall atmosphere feels like a vacation. So in a short drive and quick night or two stay we feel like we’ve really done something.

I can almost guarantee that next week I’ll be very productive because I’ve taken some time (however short it may be) to unwind and check out of my typical, never normal life.
And you don’t have to live driving distance from a foreign country to have a little, short trip. When I lived in Houston I would go to Galveston. When in Arkansas one day we just took out driving to better explore the areas around where we lived.

Taking a little break is fun and in the long run promotes great productivity; at least that is how it works for me! So while I’m watching the latest Disney movie, enjoying beach time and some retail therapy I’ll be looking forward to my productive week ahead. For now I’m off to enjoy a long holiday weekend in the Middle East.

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When you have your own “Terrible, Horrible, No Good Day” moment just keep #amwriting

You know that children’s book, “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Day?” Well for me it’s been that kind of few weeks. I’m sporting a stitched-up-split-lower-lip, 2 broken teeth and a nasty concussion. No I didn’t take up MMA training and I didn’t tame a grizzly. As much as I’d love to share some awesomely heroic story the truth is I pushed myself when I should have taken it easy. I suffer from chronic migraines and yes I finally have a good treatment plan to prevent most of them but I still get one from time to time. Two weeks ago I had one. I took medicine and powered through my long Monday night of 6 hours of dance classes. It’s recital season and very hard to cancel class. I came home and spent time with baby boy and then passed out. Luckily I wasn’t holding my son.

Lately I’ve either been spending my time at the neurologist or the dentist and after my upcoming root canals I should by then be on a first name basis with the staff of a clinic that until recently I only visited once a year. On top of all this I have a daughter undergoing tests to find out the cause of her hypoglycemia, a dog with reoccurring ear infections, scheduling drama over my dance recital and a slew of annoyances that seem to pop up each day. Annoyances like the cat knocking over a vase of flowers just as I’m about to leave the house, the dogs deciding a mud bath is a splendid idea again just before I need to be somewhere, etc. And then our bathroom flooded the entire downstairs creating a horrible mess! We’ve all had times like these but this has been my “are you kidding me?” time of times.

Which brings me to my writing. It’s so hard to write when life happens but it’s a fact that all writers must face. Life happens and that’s a good thing even when you have a time when you want to curl up in a ball and SCREAM. Times like these are frustrating but also, at least for me motivating. After a long day of dental appointments and dance classes yesterday it would have been easy to just not have time to write. It would have been nice to have more time to relax and settle in for the night. However, once I got my butt in the chair and started to write I found that I wrote past the time I had promised to do so. That often happens, I just get going and the thoughts flow. It’s therapeutic, relaxing and extremely motivating. After a day like that I was able to string together not just a coherent thought but also a pretty good fictional scene! Then after feeling like I rose up over my bad day I was able to have 45 minutes to cuddle on the couch with my dogs and catch up on a TV show.

Having a bad day, week, or longer? Just keep writing…..

Having a bad day, week, or longer? Just keep writing…..

It was the perfect end to a hectic and rough day. I always hate to use the term “bad day” because those should be reserved for times of health crisis or when something is going on with my children. Luckily they are well and happy and it’s important to always keep that in perspective.

So when life seems so rough that your life could rival a sitcom I recommend to not cut writing (or any goal you desire) out of your daily plans. To stop writing was tempting. That would have been easier but then I’d just add another thing to my list to complain about. Control what you can control and keep up the #amwriting!

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Hooray for Leo and tired artists everywhere!

Artists don’t become artists overnight. I hate the phrase, “overnight sensation” because it’s a lie. I remember when people were amazed at the talents of Christoph Waltz in “Inglorious Bastards.” When he won the Oscar many referred to him as an “overnight success.” The actor who’d been acting since his teens and staring in German westerns since the 70’s laughed. He credited his success to persistence saying, “That it was worthwhile sticking it through. That it was worthwhile to develop it.” I’m sure today Leonardo DiCaprio is saying something similar.

Way to go Leo! For years we’ve watched his talent grow in roles wondering when he would have his time to shine. For me he didn’t take home the coveted Oscar for his role in “The Revenant.” While the role was deserving and impressive I think of his win as being an applause to his amazing career to date.

Congratulations to Leonardo DiCaprio and hardworking artists everywhere! Credit: Getty Images

Congratulations to Leonardo DiCaprio and hardworking artists everywhere! Credit: Getty Images

It takes a special kind of person to be an artist. Most things we do go unnoticed and unappreciated. Few of us get recognized in the grandiose way that Leo did but it’s a life that suites many. I’ve been writing since I was a little girl. While I’m published in non-fiction and have over 5,000 freelance articles to my name I’ve been working towards publication in fiction for over five years now. I’m also a dancer who choreographs two shows a year and runs a successful dance studio in the Middle East.

Art is what I do and I do feel lonely and unappreciated in what I do except for times of motivation like today that came from Leonardo DiCaprio’s win. He’s worked long and hard and can easily demonstrate the attributes of an artist: someone who is persistent in their craft and obviously has a passion and drive for it. In his attempts for acting’s highest honor he never stopped taking risks and going after challenging roles. He gives everything he does his 100% effort and even in the light of rejections he handles himself with poise and class.

Today is a day that all artists, no matter how hard they work with little appreciation, should stop and acknowledge our fellow artist Leonardo DiCaprio. He is proof that time and hard work do payoff. Now with that in mind, back to work on this WIP ☺ Happy writing, dancing or whatever form of art you passionately do.

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The Great Bunny Rescue

Today marks the fourth anniversary of one of my greatest adventures and accomplishments. When we briefly lived in Arkansas our dog, Oscar brought to my attention that our backyard had become home to a rabbit nest. There were three precious, adorable, and wild bunnies taking up residency on our property. I never saw the mother but I read that she was most likely around and the best thing to do for the bunnies were to let them be. So we did our best to ignore the cuteness until one day…

Diamond and Jedi at 2 months old. Such furry cuteness!

Diamond and Jedi at 2 months old. Such furry cuteness!

I could never live in tornado alley again and that would be fine by me. I hate those scary storms and one night we got hit hard. This particular storm was heavier in rain than twisters and quickly our yard was flooding. I ran out to check on the bunnies. One was stuck in the nest, her back legs were stuck in mud and she was reaching her head up in order to breath. Her screams were haunting and the other two were sitting just outside the nest looking on helplessly. I know all my internet research on the topic of raising bunnies indicated that it could not be done. I read stories of trained professionals failing at rescuing wild bunnies and if I couldn’t find a way to rehabilitate them for the wild, domesticating them would be next to impossible. At that moment I had to choose and I chose to give them a chance. Sure failure was likely but I refused to sit by and let them die when I was there and able to intervene. So I grabbed kitchen gloves, because who wants rabies and these were wild animals, and a large Tupperware bowl. I quickly grabbed the first two with no problem and then closed my eyes, prayed and hoped for the best as I yanked the other one out of the mud. She slipped out with ease but was nonresponsive by the time I got her inside. They were all freezing so I wrapped them in warm towels from the dryer and sat them in a box before heading out in the store to the nearest farm and hardware store to get supplies.

When I returned with a heating lamp, kitten replacement milk and syringes (because any bottle was too big) I was happy to find three living bunnies. There the real work began. For weeks I fed them every 3 hours and took care of them. They became 20 times more time consuming than my human baby. One bunny, Artemis didn’t make it. Her system rejected the replacement milk. I knew going in that this was a likely outcome but was thrilled when I reached the point when it was obvious that the other two bunnies were in the clear. Then the big question was, what to do with the bunnies. The vet practice I took them to said that they were too domesticated to ever return to the wild. To be honest though, after over 6 weeks of caring for them I had no intention of giving Jedi and Diamond away. They were litter box trained and responded to their names. I was blown away at how much personality and individuality these little bunnies had.

So that is the story of our Diamond and Jedi. In 4 years they have lived a lot. They’ve gone through multiple road trips and two moves, one of which was to Saudi Arabia. They have been with us through the loss of a child and the birth of another. They are proud big sisters to two rambunctious puppies and a cat who they would prefer to disown. Life for these once nearly drowned bunnies is golden.

While I am NOT a rabbit person, I am totally into my bunny girls. I do feel the need to point out that rabbits are a lot of work and require a lot of maintenance. They are sweet and adorable but please do not buy someone a bunny for Easter. Also, what the experts say are true. It is best to leave a wild bunny alone. In my case I felt I had no choice and I was willing to accept the sleepless nights and countless hours of caring for them. Even then I consider the success of my bunnies to be mostly pure luck. I would strongly caution anyone who wanted to take on such a project.

So whenever I’m feeling down about my writing or overwhelmed at all I have to do I go love on my bunnies. They are the truest testament to persistence and endurance. I know that I can do whatever I set my mind to. I was told raising the bunnies was impossible. Don’t tell my little furry girls that!

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Waiting room writing: The best kept secret of the writing mom

Being a mom takes crazy schedule to a whole new level. Seriously, I just thought I was busy when I worked in NYC PR. However, the more I think about my days the more I recognize that I waste so much time. Think about it, being a mom is like being an ADHD track star. You run really fast and then stop, you run again feeling as if you’ll break yesterday’s records and then you stop, you race off to the next agenda item and then you stop, and that goes on and on. I feel like I’m constantly running but between the busy there is a large amount of still time.

I find time when stuck in the car pool lines. I find time when sitting in a hallway of a gymnastics class or dance class. Time is always available in my day it just takes the effort to identify it and take advantage of it.

While I know I can get so much done in such hidden moments the temptation to relax is always HUGE. So I find it easier to work if I make it easy. I always have pages to edit printed out and in my purse. I find it easier to grab physical paper when I have a moment than to look at a computer/iPad screen. Plus for me, editing needs to be active. Plus for me, editing needs to be active. By active I mean I cover my pages with color-coded highlights and notes.

Doctor offices are also a great site for writing and editing. When going to the doctor everyone spends more time waiting in the waiting room than seeing the doctor. So rather than reading generic magazines, I read my page edits.

So I covered car pools, kids activities, and doctor offices. I’m sure there are other examples of hidden wait time we should be taking advantage from. The important thing is identifying them and setting up a plan to quickly take advantage. While great moments of down time are around us knowing how to use them to their fullest takes planning and skill. The trick is to know how you work best and go with that. I mentioned how I prefer to hold physical pages. You may want to hold that electronic device. As long as you are taking advantage of the time and using the tactic that is best for you then it’ll be a success.

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Celebrating the American Super Bowl and other events abroad

Someone once asked me if living overseas diminishes my patriotism and that of my family. My answer was and still is that I feel more American and patriotic living overseas than I did sometimes when I lived in the land of the free. We live in Saudi Arabia because it is where my husband has a great job that he loves. We were initially attracted to this job because of the adventure of living abroad. I love that my kids are able to travel to foreign lands and are aware of so many cultures at such a young age. We love living overseas but of course, it has its share of cons.

Living overseas means that we miss out on a lot on the traditional American holidays and events. I remember being a child going to Super Bowl parties, loving the great food and voting on the commercials. My kids don’t get that experience just like they don’t get to see the shopping malls littered with Christmas décor or the latest seasonal attire. While that may sound depressing it actually forces us to celebrate each holiday/event in a more authentic and true manner.

Think about it – most holidays have meaning beyond the décor and festive events. Take last nights Super Bowl for example, yes the latest Budweiser commercial and the halftime show are fun but the purpose of the event should be honoring the hard work of the athletes. Of course I will Youtube the commercials and show but watching the game here puts the focus on the game and nothing else. While the game is televised the halftime show and commercials are not. Can you just imagine a beer commercial airing in a dry country? Take away the icing and you can still enjoy and maybe appreciate the cake even more.

Super Bowl makes me feel even more American where I live. While many nationalities in our community celebrate Christian holidays such as Christmas, only the Americans care about the Super Bowl. It’s our special bond in a land of football (hey I mean soccer) and rugby.

Now with the end of American football season we gear up for Valentine’s Day, I mean “Friendship Day.” Similar to Halloween Saudi Arabia celebrates the holiday but all that is different is the name. For “Friendship Day” we give cards and candy to our family and friends. The cards often feature red hearts and roses are marked up in the flower shops.

Whatever something is called we go all out. The house is already covered with hearts and my daughter’s party schedule is exhausting. Just like we did for Christmas, I find it so important to celebrate American holidays to the fullest while we live overseas. The fact that this country isn’t helping me just makes me do it myself. Relying on the aid of society to help my children celebrate holidays/events is not an option for us. So when we celebrate “American things” then we really focus on meaning, purpose and family. This brings us closer and takes away all that holiday clutter that often time is unnecessary.

Oh and Lady Gaga was spectacular singing the National Anthem. Truly amazing and made this American expat feel very patriotic and proud to be from a nation with such pride and tradition as the Super Bowl.

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Your baby may be your best critique partner

I’m currently swimming in pages as I’m hard at work revising my WIP; it’s a YA paranormal (and no it doesn’t involve vampires.) I wrote this story a while back but now I’m revising while taking care of my 4-month-old son. I also have a 5-year-old daughter but I’m constantly amazed at how much I forgot about being a parent to a baby. For the purposes of this blog I’m only going to keep my findings to how my baby impacts my writing. I’m sure there’s a slew of amazing parenting blogs to check out. As far as my writing goes my baby has made a most positive impact.

No I’m not crazy. Babies are time consuming. However, babies are also a great sounding board. I’ve just finished reading through my entire WIP and there is this one crucial part towards the beginning that just doesn’t seem right to me. It’s a dialogue sequence and it seems forced yet the info is important. I know people preach about how great it is to read aloud but this has never worked for me. I’ve tried it and I either get distracted or feel stupid. I think I like to read how I normally read, which is playing the scene out in my head. However, now I have the perfect listener who doesn’t interrupt me and smiles at everything I say! Yep, babies are awesome.

One of the reasons I write is because of my children. I love stories and I have wonderful stories in my head so I write for my children. I write upper middle grade and YA so currently these stories aren’t being read by my kindergartener or my 4-month-old but one day they will be. For now though I can read to my baby and at the very least it will help me get this dialogue section to flow. Now reading to a 5 year old I do NOT recommend. After every sentence I hear, “why?” Yes that may be a valid question and a question that can often help our writing but a YA character’s motivations are clearly out of the comprehension of a kindergartener so this only brings me frustration.

Do you read to your baby? Does it help you?

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Where did January go?

And it’s February. Seriously? Are we ready for this? I always love January and how full of excitement it is as we tackle our New Year’s resolutions. February can often seem like a let down but evaluate where you are so far in 2016 as I do the same.

My 2016 goals are:
1. Get back to writing and finish/send my two WIP.
2. Eat cleaner and more efficiently.
3. Learn something new.

No I have not finished my two WIP’s or sent them off but it’s only February. I have read through and identified some trouble areas I need to fix and mapped out a plan on a calendar to make this happen. While reading my work I realized that wow, I’m pretty good. This gave me the motivational boost I needed to really tackle this goal.

As part of my writing goals I had also planned to blog twice a week. Last week showed me the need to forgive myself when that can’t happen. One of the many difficulties of living where I do is that the internet isn’t always reliable. However, I will say while my social media goals didn’t happen last week I can say I got a lot accomplished on my WIP. This taught me to look to what I can do and control when a goal becomes unreachable due to circumstances I can’t control.

Number 2 is off to a good start as well despite the fact that my oh-so organized grocery lists are often hard to find here in the Middle East. It’s difficult to make a list when you never know what will be at the store! I have saved loads of time and money in prepping “dump dinners” in advance on the weekends. This essentially helps me with both my first and second goals of the year.

Feb 1 - Where did January goI’ve already blogged some about my number 3. I’ve started tennis lessons and it’s so much fun. Seriously how could hitting something (and it’s acceptable to do so) not be an effective stress reliever?

While yes the first of February may be a wake up call to get going on those New Year’s goals it’s also important to take a deep breath and look at what you’ve done. We have 11 more months to get this right!

How are you doing with your New Year’s goals? Feeling overwhelmed? Try to look at it month by month. This outlook helps me!

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Something new…

In addition to my New Year’s goals of getting back to writing and eating cleaner/more efficiently I’m also setting out to learn something new. Yes, even with my busy schedule and a newborn I’ve really had this urge to shake things up a little and branch out. So this month I’ve started to play tennis. Why tennis? Well I like the outfits. Yep I’m that girl!

Let me back things up a bit. I’ve never played a sport that involves a ball in my entire life. I’ve never hit a ball or held a tennis racket, baseball bat, lacrosse stick, etc. in my ENTIRE LIFE. I do dance close to 30 hours a week and run a dance studio so I do consider myself to be in good shape but for me, you can’t get much more “new” than this.

I must say though (and I hope my partner feels the same) that I’m not the big laugh that I thought I would be. Apparently I have an awesome back swing and great footwork. tennis picWhile yes this is taking time away from writing or revising I will say I’m feeling empowered and find that when I am before my computer my writing flows better than it did before tennis. Maybe it’s the added exercise or rather a different kind of exercise or maybe it’s that feeling of setting out to do something and feeling accomplished when you’ve done it.

A warning though, when you try a new physical activity you will discover muscles you never knew you had. That’s right. I take pride in how many dance stretches I do a day to be able to attempt to keep up with my younger and super flexible students but OMG the left side of my butt HURTS! If you’re looking to get your butt (literarily your derriere) in shape then take up tennis because I am feeling the burn. Maybe this is the kick in the butt I needed to get myself into my chair and at my keyboard.

I think it’s fun and empowering to try something new. I love my job as a dance instructor and a writer. Both professions keep me busy and then I add an active family to that, well…life is never boring. However, it’s a nice reminder that we are never too old to take up a new hobby and take a chance on something new. It’s exciting, nerve-wracking and takes us out of our comfort zone but I LIKE IT!

When have you tried something new and what was it? Did you stick with it?

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