Monthly Archives: September 2014

Creating an inspirational workspace

My new workspace complete with a personal guard.

My new workspace complete with a personal guard.

Lately we’ve tackled some home makeover projects with one being my new office. I’m so excited about this and absolutely love my new workspace. This is where I live my dream of being a writer and dance teacher. I put a lot of work into my office and this has reminded me how important and how easy it is to create an inspirational and functional workspace.

I like to feel inspired. Who doesn’t? I’m inspired by my family, past success and stories. Most of what is on and around my workspace fall into those categories. I love to have pictures of my family and most importantly my precious little girl around me while I work. I also have a framed wedding invitation, a framed program from our youngest daughter’s memorial service and picture I took of the breathtaking water landscape in Cyprus. I have angel figurines and favorite quotes that also help me feel inspired.

Functionality and organization is important. So I like to try my best to combine that with inspiration. Oversized coffee mugs are a great way to store pens, markers and other small supplies. I have one “Sleeping Beauty” mug, which is my favorite Disney movie and a Katy Magazine mug, the magazine I wrote for over eight years.
Office 2
Bookends can also be helpful in organizing workspace shelves. I use bookends that make sense to me for what they are holding. I have one that says “Book” in blue. When in a public relations class in college I learned that blue is the universal color for success. I plan to have my books one day be a success and on the shelves of many readers. I have another bookend that is a green figure doing a lunge. Green is my favorite color and well lunges are always part of my dance workouts.

I’m even strategic about what pictures are by certain areas. For example I have a picture of my daughter at a baby book club when she was about ten months old by files associated with my books. I have her first recital picture framed by my dance folders.

There are many ways you can incorporate your interests, priorities and passions into your workspace. This will help you feel inspired and motivated in tackling your work goals. An organized and inspired workspace can also boost your productivity.

I know a common thing I hear in my lectures for Writing Moms is “I don’t have space for a workspace”. Well, I just moved my office into a closet. That’s right, I’m writing out of a closet in my daughter’s craft room. It’s always possible to create workspace. The size of what you are able to create will depend on your situation and space but if you really want a place to call your own for your work then you can always find a way. As a rule I never write at the kitchen table. That space is for family and my desk is for work. I believe it is important to keep family and work separated.

A hidden office.

A hidden office.

Are you inspired by your workspace? How can you create inspiration at your workspace? Have you managed to do this with little space? How did it boost your productivity?

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Finding productiveness in home makeovers

We’ve been in the same house since we moved to Saudi Arabia two years ago. We had the house painted right after we moved in but this weekend we are changing a few rooms. This is the last of this current home makeover phase – I’m so excited!! Sometimes a little change feels good.

Let it go and find your inner decorator!

Let it go and find your inner decorator!

Relocating my office in our home is part of this home makeover phase. Originally I had to move my office to make room for a baby nursery but then we lost our daughter seven months into the pregnancy. Still the office was in the process of being moved and I think I’m going to love this. So what happened to my old office? I turned it into a library of course!

Back on topic, though it feels good to make some changes and I’m feeling even more creative when I look at my office makeover in the works (I promise to post pictures soon.) I’ve kept one thing in mind while reworking my office—inspiration. I’ve asked myself what inspires me and I’ve kept that in mind when making all makeover decisions.

I believe it’s important to like where you work. I realize that we don’t always get to control where we work but we can influence the space through simple décor and pictures of quotes, etc.

The same is true in the home. Do you like your home? How does it inspire your daily tasks? These are important things to think about and I’ve learned that in many cases it’s the smallest decisions that can make the biggest impact in your ability to manage time and be productive.

Has a home makeover helped your productiveness?

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And my answer to boosting productivity is…

Okay so I’ve discussed my belief on this before but this weekend I was reminded how strongly I believe in this—fitness helps your overall productivity. After delivering our stillborn daughter I had to recover for six weeks just like any normal delivery. I played by the rules despite being anxious to be back on my elliptical machine and working full out in the dance studio. This weekend marked my return to our home gym. I even went up to the dance studio to have some space to leap and turn without running into furniture. And wow! It felt great (once I got past the soreness from being out of shape.)

It felt great to be active again but the best part was seeing the transformation in my writing. I see a huge difference in my writing productiveness and quality on days when I have also had a great workout. I’ve seen my writing come back day by day since my time in the hospital but this weekend it’s like everything snapped into place for me.

My home gym complete with an elliptical machine and inversion table. :-)

My home gym complete with an elliptical machine and inversion table. 🙂

Of course you don’t need to go through a bad time to need fitness to help you find your focus but I’m willing to bet a good workout could solve your plotting or character motivation problems. Even writing this blog post is easier for me to do after a workout.

Now it may sound like I’m being preachy or acting like a poster child for fitness but I do believe in how it helps my work. I also combine my love for music with my love for fitness. For me, that is a perfect combination to create effective and productive time.

When I’m on my elliptical machine with my iPod my characters come to life in my head. I may not physically be writing but it is during this time that I get some of my greatest revelations.

Do you use fitness to boost your writing and overall productiveness?

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Adults need “playtime” too

Princess hot tub time

Princess hot tub time

I love watching my daughter play in her playroom. She is so imaginative and creative with her toys. Just this morning she made a swimming pool out of a Tupperware bowl and her toys enjoyed a pool party. Really it certainly seemed like a hopping party with many Barbies, Disney Princesses, Spiderman, My Little Ponies and more all enjoying the fun. I love seeing how creative she is and I love giving her time to be just that—creative.

While she is still in many activities I do think it’s important to allow her to have time to do nothing but to create her own fun in the magical realm of her playroom. I was telling another mom this the other day and I realized something. When do I get time to play and be creative? My time is very much dictated by doing things for my family and work. My work consists of writing/editing my current book and preparing lesson plans/choreography for my dance classes. I rarely have time to play and allow my creativity to just be free.

So this is why I’m going to start writing a little each morning on nothing that I’m supposed to be working on. This will be my “free time” to let my creativity soar and just play.

It’s so easy to get caught up in life and to forget to be creative. Just as it is important for kids to have unstructured time to play it is also important for us adults to make the same time for ourselves. When is the last time you have played and had unstructured time to be creative?

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Making time to recharge and find a new normal

So I’ve been talking about finding a new normal lately. This has been the theme of my life recently. While it’s been helpful for me to find a new normal through gaining control of the cleanliness and order of our house, following strict to-do lists and reevaluating my goals I also think a little pampering never hurts.

Sometimes we just need to stop and recharge. By the time you are reading this my husband and I will be off for a weekend trip to Bahrain (Saudi’s neighboring nation) where we will enjoy a spa, amazing food, beach time and catch up on some non-kiddy movies. The time is right to go, it has been over a month since we lost our youngest daughter. We needed time to regroup as a family and cope. Now feeling more settled into our new family fall schedule it’s time to relax a little and spend time with just my husband. Don’t worry about Little Miss Markey, she’s got a fun weekend of plans with her Granddaddy.

Making time to recharge is important no matter how big or small the situation may be that is making you need to relax a little. I recently experienced this on a less tragic note. We had a family vacation to Cyprus back in July. It was amazing and the perfect place to feel recharged. For that trip our goals were to refocus on family and feel strong and connected before we welcomed our youngest daughter into the world. I never would have thought that soon we would be planning a memorial service for our stillborn daughter rather than juggling life with a newborn. Still that trip was important. We were relaxed and strong going into a horrible situation. I don’t think it’s ever good to feel run down and weak and that is how I was feeling before Cyprus. It was a little overwhelming juggling all that I do and then to think of adding a baby. After Cyprus I felt refreshed and felt like taking on all the problems in the world. I didn’t have to solve world peace but I did take on handling my own grief coupled with helping my family and preschool-aged daughter to also cope with our loss.

So my point to all of this? Take time to recharge. I know taking a nice trip is not always an option. Settle for an easy weekend getaway like we are doing this weekend or schedule yourself a staycation. Take time to sit back, relax, read a good book, etc. Make it a point to have a few days where you aren’t trying to do it all. Just do nothing. Your writing, work and life will feel better because of it.

Take a trip to recharge and take a picture to use as a reminder of what that moment felt like. Here’s Aphrodite’s Rock in Cyprus.

Take a trip to recharge and take a picture to use as a reminder of what that moment felt like. Here’s Aphrodite’s Rock in Cyprus.

Sending a special shout-out and virtual Happy Birthday hugs to my AMAZING virtual assistant, Karianne. This gal makes living in the Middle East bearable for someone who’s business often relies on U.S. time zones when this Texas girl living in the Middle East is fast asleep ☺ She’s my second set of eyes and my “second me” in the States. Happy Birthday Karianne!

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Discovering normal through order

So lately I’ve been working on finding new focus and a new “normal.” I think most people can relate to reaching a rut in their career and/or personal life. Sometimes a major life event can cause this or many times we don’t need an excuse. Life happens and sometimes we lose focus and can no longer hold on to what was our normal. We must find a new normal. I’m currently living through this now; since I lost my youngest baby girl my life has felt very mumble-jumbled. I’m working to clear the clutter and open a path to a clear head and a new normal.

In order to clear clutter you must get organized and yes, I’m talking literally here. In those days and weeks when I couldn’t seem to focus on the most mundane tasks I took to organizing. I knew that my writing and dance business would never get back in order if I didn’t have some kind of organization to my organized chaos. You don’t have to put much thought into getting organized. For me I turned on some good music and just dove in. Now I’m writing to you from a neatly organized office and it feels GREAT!

Cut your clutter to find order. Look a clean coffee table!

Cut your clutter to find order. Look a clean coffee table!

I’m a control freak. I admit it and I’m not ashamed. However, we can’t control everything. If I could we’d still have our youngest daughter. I am not a neat person; if you come to my house I promise that you will find that everything is not in perfect order. I discovered that an easy way to feel like I’m in control was to organize and clean. I may not be all-powerful but I can control what my house looks like and how well organized I am. Creating an environment of order helped me greatly when I was ready to return to work. It also made me feel better about the month I had to take off from everything. I needed time to reevaluate my life and establish new distinct goals.

It’s true I’ve found peace and my new normal through order. Again, I am not a neat person so the fact that I’m now advocating that people should clean is downright hysterical but for me this has been helpful. If you are feeling stuck and cluttered in your mind maybe you should consider a day of finding order. Putting your normal to-do list aside and get organized. Just don’t over-think it, put on some great music and dive in. I am hoping that you too can find a new, more productive and fulfilling normal through finding order.

Have you found this tactic to work for you? Has finding order helped you to discover a new productive level?

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What is “normal?”

Webster Dictionary has two definitions for the word normal.
1. Mentally and physically healthy. Well according to doctors I am that. Yay! I’m normal but then I hear voices in my head making me feel compelled to write stories and I can’t hear a song without seeing/feeling the dance movements that go with it. We’re artists. Are we really ever normal and really who wants to be that?WhatIsNormal

2. Usual or ordinary: not strange. Who wants to be simply ordinary? To me, normal is finding a common rhythm. It’s an established routine that I try to follow whether it is scheduled activities or my actual outlook and view of things. At our house it is normal for me to juggle my writing, dancing, and the family schedule. Keeping up with my four year old daughter’s schedule is sometimes a full time job in itself! Trying to find a balance is my normal. This is my life—juggling and balancing the many hats I wear and I love it.

However, sometimes the “normal” changes, like I experienced this summer with the loss of our youngest daughter. Yes, she never made it home from the hospital but she was already factored very much into our routine and signs of her are still around the house. We’ve had to cope, adjust and find a new “normal.” While I’m feeling like participating in life again it’s hard to dive back into the old normal because I’ve changed. Grief changes you. I’m still doing what I normally do; I write, I teach dance and I care for and mange my family’s schedule. I spend time with family and friends but I don’t feel normal.

So I’m working on finding a new “normal” for me. The good news is that I don’t believe in normal, not by Webster’s definition. I don’t want to be ordinary – I want to be extraordinary. I’m working on that and finding I feel closer to my new “normal” everyday.

 

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Finding new focus

Life happens and bad things happen to good people. We’ve learned that first hand this summer as we lost our youngest daughter. Our world was turned upside down and shaken more than James Bond shook his martinis. But you don’t have to experience a death in the family or another tragic event to have your focus shaken. Anything can shake our focus. No matter how big or small the reason, losing your focus can be devastating to your writing and your life overall.

So how does one recover focus? Well, I’m not going to profess to be an expert but I can tell you how I’m personally tackling this topic and how I feel it is working for me.

Don’t fight it. When my focus left the building I took time off. The amount of time you need to take off will probably depend on what you are going through. I took over a month off from blogging and three weeks off from writing all together. It’s only depressing to try something and fail so I chose not to try until I could focus on the task and I could be successful. Even when I started writing again I did so in small chunks. I was realistic and saved my ambition for when I felt like I could handle it.

I also became hooked on lists. Now I’ve always been a fan of to-do lists or rather as I call them, goal lists. I always have a list going with two columns: to-do and completed. This way I not only see what I need to do but also my accomplishments. After I lost my focus I took this concept to a new level. While before I followed my list now I was even more dependent on it. I wrote down EVERYTHING. No matter how simple or mundane the task seemed, I included it on my list as a way to help me stay on task. I found this to be very effective and really owe the technique credit to my returning to some sense of efficiency.

While it’s been hard for me to do this next step, it has helped me in the past to get over a productive hurtle. Get up and work out! Yes, fitness is the best way to clear a cluttered or unfocused mind. So is getting out and finding some fresh air, though this is difficult to do in Saudi this time of year due to the extreme heat.

Another thing that has helped me tremendously is making a diligent effort to get motivated. I actually subscribed to a daily motivational quote app and I write each day’s quote on a board in our kitchen. This way I’m sure to see it throughout the day.

Motivational quotes like this one help me focus.

Motivational quotes like this one help me focus.

Stuff happens to us that shatters focus and efficiency. Maybe nothing in particular happened you just needed a break to refocus. Whatever the reason, these are some techniques I’ve used to find my new focus. What have you done to find focus?

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Keep Calm and Dance On (especially when teaching your own child)

If you follow this blog then you know that I wear many hats. I’m a mother, a wife, a writer, an animal lover and also a dancer. I taught dance in the States and then took some time to focus on family but like writing, dance is an art I’m passionate about. I feel even more passionate to spread the art of dance to the community where I live in the Middle East. A lot of these kids move here from other countries and use to take dance. They want to keep it up. I also have students who are able to experience dance for the first time through my classes.

It makes me very happy to offer this to my community and it is a wonderful way to get me moving, keep up my dance (as best as someone in their 30’s can do. Let’s face it I’m not like I was in high school) and clear my head from writing. For me both writing and dancing are therapeutic and one stimulates my creative flow for the other.Keep Calm Dance 25

Today starts the 3-4 year old tap/jazz class. This class is going to pose a greater challenge for me this year. My own daughter will be in the class. Yes, I believe that teaching your own child is difficult. We’ve been practicing around the house and so far she just keeps saying stuff like:

“Mommy you’re doing it wrong let me show you.”

“Mommy you’re a mommy not a teacher.”

“Mommy the kids will be so happy to see me dance. I’m the star!”

Yep, I do have a diva child with control issues. So we will see how today goes. I may be following this post up with a post explaining how I lost all sanity teaching my child!

It’ll be a big week in our house as fall activities begin for not just my dance studio but all my daughter’s groups too (gymnastics, Latin dance and soccer). Summer is officially over and preschool starts next week. Let the good times roll! This family needs the routine to resume and start our new “normal.”

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Writing through losing a child

“I’m not seeing a heart beat.” Those are words I’ll never forget. A week before we’d returned from a fabulous and memorable three-week family trip to Cyprus. For me it was not just a time to enjoy my husband and daughter but also a time to reflect and refocus on my writing career. Lately I had been feeling torn in many directions and I needed to stop, relax and take time to celebrate my Little Miss Markey’s fourth birthday and our 7th wedding anniversary. At the time I was six months pregnant and wanted to give our daughter a wonderful family of three trip before becoming a family of four. That dream—becoming a family of four never was meant to be. A week after leaving paradise our youngest daughter, Aliena passed away.

Notice the hidden heart at Aliena’s memorial service balloon release.

Notice the hidden heart at Aliena’s memorial service balloon release.

It’s been an unthinkable month of ups and downs. Her service was beautiful. The hardest part has been helping Little Miss Markey, our four-year-old daughter cope with the loss. She was so excited about being a big sister and to a little sister nonetheless. She believed she was like Elsa and her sister would be like Anna. Yes, we are still very much a “Frozen” household. After including her in all our plans for Aliena and building up the idea of a baby we had to tell her the unthinkable. I never expected a four-year-old to break down over something that we, as adults, could barely understand.

This is why I’ve been inactive. This is why I’ve been socially quiet. I lost a daughter who I had loved feeling her “parties” inside me. I remember friends celebrating when I was 12 weeks pregnant saying I was in the clear. No one is ever in the clear. We lost Aliena, named after the amazing character in Ken Follet’s “Pillars of the Earth” at 24 weeks. I was over halfway to holding my little girl. I did hold her after the delivery but she was still. She did have her sister’s nose and my impossible to fit narrow feet.

Life at our house is returning to a new “normal.” We were well on our way to preparing for our new arrival. My office had just been moved and we were clearing my old office and preparing it to become a nursery. Now we’ve spent the last few weeks turning it into a library for us all to enjoy as a family. I quickly grew tired of the dread I felt anytime I passed that room. So how does a writer/avid reader make something happy? Yes, aren’t books always the answer?

But despite the sadness and this hollow feeling I try to shake I’m reminded of the power of writing. It takes me back to my very essence. I’m expressive, a communicator, an artist. Whether I’m writing a blog post, a book or choreographing and dancing for one of my classes – I am expressive. All artists are and it’s incredibly healing.

I wish I would be writing this telling you I’d been inactive because we were busy celebrating our daughter’s healthy arrival but sadly that is not the case. Life happens. Bad things happen and it’s up to us to pick up the pieces and find healing in whatever way gives us peace.

So this blog is back. Now that my focus has come out of a fog I’m back to writing and cranking out big daily word counts and it’s really good material too. We lost a child but this doesn’t define my family or me. Now that reality has set in and I’ve found my peace I’m determined to work harder than ever. Losing a child or anyone close to you shoots you with a devastating wake-up call. Life is precious. Of course this is something we should know but reminders sneak up and can hit you in the gut.

I lost my daughter. I mourn for the dreams I had for her. All the ideas I formed in my mind of things we would do or things she would do with her older sister. These dreams died with her but my ideas, the stories I tell my daughter and stories I had planned to share with Aliena are very much alive.

So, as always I write for my love of this expression, this art but I also write for her—a baby who didn’t get the chance to share her ideas. We all have ideas worth sharing. Are you really working hard enough to get your ideas out there? How has a tragedy pushed your writing? Have you experienced the healing of finding your place with a keyboard or pen?

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