Monthly Archives: June 2014

The summertime writing blues

For many writing moms the definition of summer doesn’t come with the heat but the lack of school and the decrease in children’s activities. Little Miss Markey (formerly known as Baby Markey until she informed me she is too big to be a baby) is accustomed to a great preschool and a slew of activities. Now except for one art class going on through June she has NOTHING!

My peaceful writing time is no filled with the sounds of “mommy watch me,” and “mommy look what I did.” I love having my daughter home but trying to find an outlet for all her energy, which I desperately want to bottle, can be a challenge and normally results in the dwindling of my daily word count. And keep in mind we live in Saudi Arabia; last week we hit 120 degrees so anything outside is a no go.

Little Miss Markey hard at work at a playgroup.

Little Miss Markey hard at work at a playgroup.

So what do fellow writing moms do? It may take time away from my work but I’m a huge fan of organized playgroups. This gets my daughter around her friends again and it also helps her to burn off some steam. While she still won’t nap after a playgroup she is more agreeable to have some quiet time that will allow me time to squeeze in some work.

I also went to the local office supply store and stocked up on paper and other supplies so that I can encourage Little Miss Markey to work on her own projects. This works sometimes and I like to think I’m building her a good work ethic. She also has a lot of craft projects and even though I’m an artist only in the forms of the written word and dance my house will soon look like an abstract art studio.

I even bought one of those HUGE cardboard playhouses from Toys R Us that she can color and decorate. At least here in Saudi a lot of the “indoor” summer toys are on sale as a way to encourage people to get their kids out of the sun. There are many ways to occupy kids in the summer and I’m sure many will allow moms to continue their writing, work, etc. I believe summertime tests our creativity more than ever as well as our nerves.

How are you structuring your child’s summer so they stay happy and safe while you try to stay sane and manage a sense of normalcy?

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Thoughts from a dance teacher turned dance mom

It’s recital season in my town and this year is a little different for me. I am a dance teacher and teaching dance and running dance recitals is what I do. However, this year I’ll also be a dance mom as my daughter will have her first dance recital. She is so excited and I’m so proud of her already after watching her dress rehearsal but seeing her on that stage has made me realize something profound. I don’t care if she dances or not.

Obviously I love dance. I like the community (though some moms get way out of hand) and I love the discipline and coordination development that comes with it. For me dance created confidence. When I quit dancing professionally I became a communications/public relations director and addressing clients and planning events was easy thanks to the confidence and discipline I learned from dance. However, the biggest thing I got out of being a dancer and still do is the great amount of joy and happiness that it gives me. That’s what I want the most for my daughter.

I want her to have something that she is not only talented at but also gets so much joy out of doing. I love the feeling I get when I’m on stage and nothing can beat it. I want her to experience such a feeling and if she doesn’t get that from dance then I hope she finds what can.

Little Miss Markey's first dress rehearsal!

Little Miss Markey’s first dress rehearsal!

So I will not be one of those moms standing on the side “backseat dancing” and yelling out instructions to their child. I will hug my daughter before she heads for the stage and tell her to smile and have fun. I will not criticize my daughter’s performance. I will ask her how she feels she did and that answer will say it all.

Now she was amazing at dress rehearsal and loved dressing up and getting on stage. I do think this dance teacher has her little dancer but I really mean what I’ve said (typed.) I want her to be passionate about something and love it. If that’s dance then that would make me very happy but this is her life and not mine. I’m living my life and I want her to love hers doing what makes her happy.

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Breaking down excuses and endless obligations to find purpose

In college I took a personality test. The results were not shocking. I’m an achiever who likes to feel significant. Yes, I love to do things and I love to do them well. As a result I tend to overbook and overwork myself, anything to avoid a moment of idle time.

Can't beat a good "Keep Calm" poster!

Can’t beat a good “Keep Calm” poster!

I’m a mother to an active preschooler and a wife who insists on my family sitting down each night to a home cooked meal made by yours truly. I’m the chauffeur and cheerleader for all my daughter’s activities: preschool, three dance classes, soccer, music, and art. I own, manage and instruct at my own dance studio, which I have created from the ground up here in Saudi Arabia. I am a speaker on time management for busy and working moms. I am an author to a non-fiction dog book and work tirelessly on my fiction projects. I am a seasoned freelance journalist always juggling projects of various time commitments. I’m also co-president for a community organization that focuses on planning and supporting children’s programming.

My life is busy. I feel significant and like the achiever I am everyday. But am I working on the right projects? My big picture goal career wise is to be a successful author and to get all these fantasy stories in my head out onto bookshelves and electronic readers. Could some of my projects be in the way or even worse, serve as “excuses” to keep me away from my writing?

This has been a big question weighing on my mind lately. I’ve begun evaluating everything I do and asking myself the following questions:

1. How does this benefit my family?
2. How does this benefit my big picture goal?
3. Does this make me happy?
4. Why did I feel called to do this?

These four questions are helping me to maintain perspective and keep moving forward in my goals rather than stalling out using excuses.

Another thing I’ve begun doing, really sticking to my daily writing goals. Yes, that means nothing gets in the way and they come first. I even wake up earlier to help make this happen and before I go to bed I reread my writing from the day so it sticks in my head overnight and I recall it easily in the morning. I write early and first so that way when the day goes crazy, as it usually does, I know that at least I got that done.

From there I prioritize my goals and obligations always referring back to those four questions if I get stuck on something. If I can’t answer them then I develop an exit strategy and find a way out of a project. That’s right, I am no longer above saying the word “no.”

Recently I did a very difficult thing, I said no to being my daughter’s back stage mommy at her dance recital. As a dance teacher it’s so hard to watch other dance program productions. The Latin dance program here is very successful and well run but no matter what I know I’ll critique everything and go into work mode rather than be a good mommy. I recognize this. The best thing on that day for me to do is to sit in the audience and support my daughter.

See? I can say no! Though my multiple projects do take time away from my writing I find that doing multiple things helps me to be a better writer. I truly never have time or suffer from writer’s block. When I’m writing I’m like a typing ninja on a mission and the words flow from my head. Knowing I have a set time to do it helps me to focus and make the most of every second.

All the dancing I’m doing keeps me healthy, active and helps me feel accomplished. I may not have that book contract yet but everyday I can say I’m running a successful dance business. Other than that I do what I do for my family. To support them and make the community we live in better.

I am an achiever. I do busy well and thrive on a hectic schedule. It also makes me a better and more effective writer, as my time management skills never fail to kick those writing juices into gear.

Do you evaluate your projects? Are you secretly hiding behind excuses and obligations that is hindering your writing career? How do you prioritize and focus your goals.

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The mystery of Middle Eastern water AKA my shower dilemma

One of the most frequently asked questions I get about being an American living in Saudi Arabia is: how is the water? While it may seem like an odd question at first, it is very warranted. As for drinking water we drink bottled water or we actually have a Nestle water tower in our kitchen. Our sink has two faucets, one with raw water and one with sweet water. The raw water is unfiltered water with a ton of salt and minerals in it. This is for cleaning dishes, however I always do a quick rinse with the sweet water when washing any fine china or crystal. We use the sweet water for everything else aside from drinking. It is also fine to cook with such as boiling pasta.

Now let’s talk about showers. Taking a shower in my house is the biggest moment of my day where I miss America. It may sound dramatic but I’m telling you the truth. Our showers use raw water, remember that unfiltered stuff? It seems rough on your skin and it is. I didn’t use to be a lotion girl and now I feel like I swim in it. We do use filtered showerheads but they can only do so much. This is why I get so excited for weekends like the one tomorrow.

Yes our weekends are Friday and Saturday and tomorrow we are going on a one-night family trip to Bahrain. We love Bahrain. It is a 20-minute drive. We do have to go through the causeway to leave Saudi and enter Bahrain so we leave really early in the morning to avoid lines. Once we are there we stay at a hotel on the beach looking out over the Arabian Gulf. The hotel is connected to a mall so we can access some retail therapy and take our daughter to a movie. The food is amazing (though I find all food in the Middle East to be amazing) and a shower here is the real deal! That’s right, tomorrow I’ll be taking a very long shower and relishing in very clean water. How the hotels in Bahrain can master this quality of shower water and the compound I live on can’t is forever a big mystery for me.

Anyway, today I’m writing with purpose. I’m writing with a reward in mind. I’m writing to tick the time away until I get my perfect shower in Bahrain. Oh and the hotel even has those ceilings where the water just falls down on you like rain. Yep, I’m pretty excited and I know everyone is looking forward to a quick getaway.

You may have a perfect shower everyday or not have easy driving distance away from a quick escape. I encourage you to find something to reward yourself with. Even the simplest pleasures can be the best rewards for reaching a writing goal or just making it through a hard week.

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The world of mommy politics with a writer’s eye

Okay moms out there, this blog is for you or any parent who is involved in your child’s activities. It’s hard work physically and emotionally. You get a bunch of adults together who should all share the common interest of the kids’ well-being in mind and wow you’ve got the recipe for drama! As a mom to an active preschooler, a dance teacher and a leader of a children’s programming group in my community I deal with such drama more frequently than sororities can gossip.

It’s weeks like this where I find such beautiful peace in my writing. Of course there is drama and conflict among my pages but at least I control it and I usually know where it’s going. My fictional drama has purpose and a goal while I often wonder if any real world drama maintains any purposeful goals.

Summer is almost here and I know you're thinking what I'm thinking! In times of stress focus on the positive like pretty beaches.

Summer is almost here and I know you’re thinking what I’m thinking! In times of stress focus on the positive like pretty beaches.

This is also a good reminder of how real life experiences can help our writing. Just look at rejection. Sure everything can be a “growing moment” but there is nothing fun about rejection whether it’s from an agent or involved drama within an organization. It can be easy to get our feelings bent out of shape but the real thing to focus on is moving forward. If we sit and stew over a problem it won’t get solved and we’ll continue to feel down. However, if we move on and focus on the goal at hand then we’re eventually going to get it.

Currently there seems to be some power struggles in an organization I’m in. I’m sure we’ve all been there at some point. My strategy: keep moving forward and do what I believe is right. Then how can I feel bad about anything? The same goes for my writing. No matter what kind of week or day I have I keep writing and writing the story that I can stand by.

At the end of the day all we can do is what we feel is the best work that we can do. If I’m happy with myself then that should be good enough. Of course it’s not. I like praise and recognition. Who doesn’t but really what good does that do? How does that help anything be it social or writing? It doesn’t. So give yourself a pat on the back and just keep doing what you’re doing. Eventually someone will notice your hard work!

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Tales of a sniffly, snotty-nosed writer

Let’s just say it’s a good thing that you are reading this and not listening to my barely existent voice attempt to squeak out something seemingly coherent. Yep, I’m sick. It’s nothing serious just a horrible, classic head cold that has been plaguing me since the middle of last week. My daughter was kind enough to share it with me and unfortunately it seems to be bothering me a lot longer than it bothered miss-nothing-not-even-a-cold-can-slow-down-my-energy.

Notice the leaning tower of tissues and an empty water glass that I must refill. Sniff!

Notice the leaning tower of tissues and an empty water glass that I must refill. Sniff!

So since the middle of last week I’ve been trudging through my to-do lists battling against a growing pile of tissue. We all know that being sick inevitably slows our productivity. As I return to the land of the living I’m now faced with the overwhelming task of playing catch up. I must get caught up and ahead on blog posts, catch up on freelance articles, revise/edit my YA and monitor enrollment for my upcoming dance class sessions. Thank goodness dance classes are on a break right now and I don’t have to teach. So the big question is: what “to do” I tackle first?

After staring at my goal list (I don’t work from a to-do list but rather a goal list) I’ve come to a few conclusions.

1. How much of this stuff is truly necessary?
2. My priorities are all wrong.
3. I want to take care of the goals I’m most excited about.
4. I want to check off the quick and easy things first so I can feel somewhat accomplished.

I bet this is really how I truly feel about my list even when I’m not analyzing it and trying to find an excuse not to start. I think that these are easy things to feel about what we do and we should take such thoughts into consideration.

Am I wasting time on some things? Do I need to reevaluate my priorities? It’s easy to get done the easy things but should those be the first I tackle? And who doesn’t want to work on what excites them? All honest ways to look at any list. So maybe we should listen to our sick and drugged up minds every now and then? Maybe it’s good to take a step or at least a scoot of your rolling desk chair back and look at things objectively.

Anyway, I’m sure I’m rambling. Yep, still sick here and trying to resume real life because I hate taking days off. I did find this small revelation enlightening and wondered if anyone else has experienced something similar.

Please share your experiences below in a comment and let the discussion begin! Hey maybe such ideas makes being sick every once and a while worth it? Yep, I’m going to go with a big “NO” on that but it is good to look at where we are and where we’re going even if we’re feeling fabulous!

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