Monthly Archives: October 2014

The wonder of playing pretend

As I prepare to host a houseful of giggly goblins at Little Miss Markey’s annual “Most Haunted in all Eterni-tea Tea Party Spooktacular” I find myself not able to ignore the fact that Halloween is THE holiday for writers. I’ve seen many blogs make reference to the sanity of writers. That’s right it isn’t exactly “normal” to hear the voices of characters in your head. I’ve always loved Halloween. The idea of pretending to be someone or something else was always appealing even more so than the idea of getting candy.

Little Miss Markey is still torn on what she’ll be this year. The good news is that she has a closet full of costumes so she can be one thing at her party, another at the community Boo Bash, something entirely different to trick-or-treat on Halloween and then something else again at the community Freight Night. I actually love her flexibility to change it up as we always encourage her creativity.

Decisions, decisions...

Decisions, decisions…

Back to my point though, I believe that Halloween may be the most creative friendly holiday and we should celebrate it for being that. Currently my daughter is gluing silly faces on paper pumpkins as we prepare for the real pumpkin carving tomorrow night. She tries on her costumes many times a day and acts out what they are and I can’t help but remember me doing the same thing. Now I play with characters in my mind and put their stories on paper.

I love being a mom and seeing my daughter play pretend throughout the day. Her imagination astonishes me but it’s not surprising seeing the books and puppets that clutter our house. We help her grow through books and acting so it should be no surprise how big of a deal Halloween is around our home.

Do you see a correlation between Halloween and writers? What are your favorite book-to-costume ensembles?

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Celebrating the holiday season abroad

From now until after New Years our house is décor central. The truth is that it will be a while before the house looks “normal.” Currently we’re in Halloween mode and then that will be replaced with Thanksgiving and then Christmas. I’ve always been one to decorate but now as an expat living in the Middle East I feel a greater sense of responsibility to decorate and celebrate all holidays from my home in a big way. Part of this feeling comes with the responsibility to share the same childhood experiences I loved with my daughter.

One big challenge to my plan to shower my daughter with holiday love is that when you live overseas it’s difficult to get some of the things that are so readily available back home. When you find such items you must snatch them up and expect to pay a hefty price. For example, I just returned from the store and bought the following items:

2 small to medium pumpkins- $75
1 large turkey- $100
Pumpkin pie cans- $15 each

I know you’re probably wondering why I got the turkey and pumpkin pie stuff now since we’re a month out from Thanksgiving. I got them because I saw them and I may not see them again before Thanksgiving. I needed to stock up and be ready for the upcoming holiday. And yes, the prices are VERY steep but other items are cheaper than in the States. At the end of the year I feel that I still come out ahead and I’ve created a memorable experience for my daughter, one that reminds my husband and I of home.

Ready to celebrate Halloween in Saudi!

Ready to celebrate Halloween in Saudi!

I also love incorporating things from where we live now into our holiday celebrations. You know, “when in Rome!” Our community is full of so many talented people that pull their creative abilities together for some really festive holiday craft fairs. When we do move back to the States we will come with some pretty awesome holiday décor!

However you celebrate it’s important to have fun with it no matter where you live. I love incorporating our heritage into how we do things while also being open to learning about the local culture. For me, these aspects are what makes living overseas such an experience and adventure.

Do you live away from the place you call “home?” How do you take this into account when celebrating holidays?

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To NaNo or not to NaNo

That really is a big question for many writers these days. November is National Novel Writing Month and it’s knocking at our door. After many have calmed from their post-Halloween sugar highs they find time to write a novel in one month. Now calm down – this doesn’t need to be a perfect, publication ready novel. It can be a sloppy rough draft and it most certainly will be. However, it’s fun to connect with other writers throughout the month, encourage each other and share your daily word counts.
NaNoWriMo
As a writer I treat every month as NaNoWriMo but I respect the process and meaning of the month and encourage others to participate. Sometimes you just need a little nudge. Everyone needs a push from time to time. That’s why I’m participating in NaNoWriMo this year because I need a push and I plan to use the support from the writing community during November to give me the motivation I need.

Since losing our youngest daughter I’ve struggled with my focus and need a push. There are many reasons on why people fall out of their routines. Solidifying a writing routine is a great reason to jump into NaNo. Here are some other great reasons on why NaNo is a great event to partake it.

1. Enjoy the support of the writing community
2. See that you are not alone in your writing journey
3. Show your family and friends that you are a serious writer
4. Get a pesky story and characters out of your head

And I’m sure the list could go on and on but these are always my top reasons for NaNoWriMo. I do agree that what we do becomes habit. In order to write an average sized novel in one month you’d have to write about 1,000 words a day. If you think about the novel in smaller chucks like that then it isn’t too overwhelming. But if you get into the habit of writing those 1,000 words a day why stop after NaNo? Use November to help launch a new and improved writing routine.

Are you participating in National Novel Writing Month? Why do you want to participate? How has participating in the past helped you define a better writing routine?

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Down with décor and up with creativity at kid parties

Okay, any mom out there can relate to this. Kid birthday parties have gotten OUT OF CONTROL! And there’s always high stakes for us moms. I’m not referring to the urge to compete with those “super moms” who seem to do everything right and then some. I only care what my daughter thinks. Now that Little Miss Markey is four she’s old enough to know if her party can compare with others or not. So rather than go all “crafty,” which is so not my thing I made her most recent birthday party creative in theme not décor.

Little Miss Markey loves dinosaurs so we had a dinosaur themed party in the local park. However, my daughter wanted to make a “statement” with her party. Following the tone of her t-shirt, “Dinosaurs- not just for boys” we made the party all pink and purple to bring the feminine aspect to a typical boy theme. Yes, finding girlie dinosaur plates is a pointless task so we went with solid pink colors.

Décor was simple – purple table clothes with balloon “packages” for centerpieces and a pink T-Rex for the piñata. We also had a pink triceratops cake. The true highlight of the party were the activities. Who doesn’t love a piñata but we created a “dinosaur fossil dig site.” Now here’s where you do have permission to laugh at me as long as you promise to here me out. We live in Saudi Arabia. The park had a sandpit under the playground and yet we bought sand and filled up a kiddie pool. Have you stopped laughing yet? I don’t like playground sand. You never know what’s in it: bugs, stray cat poop, etc. Also there’s the issue that the park is public so it would be hard to kick non-party kids out of our way. The kiddie pool was awesome and all the little junior paleontologists had a blast! And everyone left with at least two dinosaur “fossils.”

This was a fun party and yet I didn’t lose sleep over it. While my décor couldn’t compete with some that I’ve seen, it made up for it in an activity that the kids loved. Our party was the talk of the preschool drop off line yesterday so yes this is one proud momma!

Kids don’t talk about décor, they talk about what they did. If you’re not crafty like me draw on your other talents when planning a party. I’m creative in many other ways. I didn’t need to spend countless hours on Pinterest. I went to work creating a fun theme party for my daughter and she loved it.

What fun themed parties have you thrown for your kids? Do you think being a creative person (in my case; writer and dancer) helps you in this parenting area?

Little Miss Markey demonstrating the “fossil dig.”

Little Miss Markey demonstrating the “fossil dig.”

Don’t forget that my book “Caring for your Special Needs Dog” was recently re-released on Amazon for $2.99. A percentage of precedes go to help my local PAWS chapter.

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Writer’s Guide to Relaxation: Finding peace in the kitchen

If you’re a writer then you will relate to this – I struggle when it comes to clearing my mind. I always have story ideas, character arcs and plots swirling around and on top of that I also see choreography in my mind to every song I hear! Yes, that last part would be due to the dance instructor in me.

Sometimes my mind feels full of creative juices. I love to be creative but I juggle a lot of it. I’m currently in the final edits of my YA preparing it for submission, my recital season prep has begun and tomorrow is my daughter’s birthday party. In final preparations for the party I’m busy assembling my carefully planned dinosaur themed food while stressing that the decorations and party buckets I’ve made will make her happy on this fun day. Yep, this is a creative overload type of day. So how do I relax? First of all I find that there are many ways a person can relax. It isn’t just about rest; it’s about clearing your mind and finding peace amongst the busy.

I find my peace on my elliptical machine with my iPod and in the kitchen. I did squeeze in my workout and now I’m prepping a good family dinner. Since I’m already going to be in the kitchen most of the day I figured that this is a good time to test out a more complicated and longer recipe. For my recent birthday my brother-in-law gave me a tagine pot. Living in the Middle East it’s easy to find high quality spices for most of these recipes so I’ve been itching to try it out. A new cooking gadget is to me like a favorite toy on Christmas day. So as my arms work until they’re numb in cutting dinosaur-shaped bread I’m also keeping an eye on a chicken tagine stew brewing in my new pot. Just this idea of trying something new and smelling the yummy aroma coming from the diffuser in the cone is so fun and to me—relaxing.

End result? Not much to save. Yummy :-)

End result? Not much to save. Yummy 🙂

I love to be creative in the kitchen. It also gives me a great feeling of accomplishment when I can provide healthy and exciting meals for my family. Even on nights I’m working at the studio I still manage to have a home cooked meal in the kitchen. So while I’ve been working in the kitchen for the last several hours with several more ahead of me, it hit me. The kitchen is my therapy when I’m feeling over-booked and I have too much creativity and ideas swirling in my head. I need to clear my mind and focus on the cooking—the simple and relaxing task of chopping veggies and mixing spices.

It’s being able to open your eyes and discover what helps you clear your mind that will help you relax and find productivity when you need it.

What do you do to clear your mind and find peace?

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I wish my dog didn’t have seizures but…

I love this dog in all his goofiness and even when he is ill.

I love this dog in all his goofiness and even when he is ill.

I wish my dog didn’t have seizures but as life often shows us, we don’t always get what we wish for. However, having a special needs dog has shaped our family. I’m not saying we wouldn’t be caring, nice people if it wasn’t for Oscar’s epilepsy but I do feel that living with an epileptic dog greatly contributes to my daughter’s growth as a caring and concerned young girl.

The other day at Little Miss Markey’s gymnastics class a little girl fell. My daughter rushed to her side quicker than the teacher and was there assisting the student making sure she was okay. When the other kids stayed back mine rushed to help. Of course she would though; she was born to a family where she often witnesses her dog fall over in seizures and she sees her father and I caring for him. Now of course we train her to stay away from our eighty-pound dog during a seizure but in many instances she is there talking him through it and to love on him afterwards.

She doesn’t know a life other than caring for someone she loves that is ill. She also was there to help me care for our rabbit after she had to have her leg amputated when it was severely broken in the move to Saudi. Little Miss Markey is a born caretaker because she’s been exposed to it her whole life.

“Caring for your Special Needs Dog” shows people hope in light of a beloved dog getting some bad news. See how these families made caring for their dog work for them.

“Caring for your Special Needs Dog” shows people hope in light of a beloved dog getting some bad news. See how these families made caring for their dog work for them.

Now I hope your pets don’t develop any life-long medical ailments. I don’t wish that on anyone but if you do get an unfavorable diagnosis don’t just look at the bad. There’s truth to the saying, “where there’s a will, there’s a way.” There are many ways to easily care for a special needs dog. Often though they are caring for you and your family even more than you put into them. When we lost our youngest daughter two months ago I don’t think I would have made it through the ordeal without the constant love from our dog Oscar. Pets are just wonderful.

In my book, “Caring for your Special Needs Dog” I share many stories of people with dogs suffering from various conditions. In all cases though they make it work and the dogs are valued family members. Yes, be concerned over an undesirable diagnosis but don’t always think of the worst. Think of how you and your family can grow from this. Think of how much your dog means to you and how life would be different without them. You can make this work.

I wish my dog didn’t have seizures but then I see my daughter and how she treats others and I have to give some of that credit to Oscar. He’s shown her compassion in how he acts towards her but also in how she’s grown up seeing us care for him. She sees how grateful Oscar is to us and how in turn he showers us in his love and support when we need it most.

Do you have a special needs dog? How have they impacted your life?

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A story about a Beast

If you follow this blog then you know how crazy I am about my dog Oscar. He often inspires my writing and dancing and is the perfect personal assistant. Many of you may also recall the heroic rescue and rehabilitation story of my bunnies, Diamond and Jedi. It seems sad but true that my one non-dramatic furry child is always left out of my stories and blog mentions. I’m changing that today; Beast is a wonderful cat with many non-cat traits that brings us endless laughter.

A little background on Beast, he is only a year and a half and the youngest of all our pets. Beast was found by a friend of ours hanging out in a Saudi dumpster with his mother and littermates. He was estimated to be about 2 weeks old when he was rescued from a life of trash. Soon an email was distributed to the community we live in and I fell in love with the picture of a little blonde boy. During this same time our daughter started asking for a cat. Now you must know that I am not a cat person. I prefer dogs but due to a persistent little girl and a very cute kitten I caved.

Is it bath time yet mommy?

Is it bath time yet mommy?

First of all you may like to know how the little guy got his name. Well, this is Little Miss Markey’s cat and she is the “beauty” and he is the “Beast.” You can probably guess which Disney movie she was into when Beast joined our family! I was initially a little worried about how he would adjust to life at our house. Oscar, our eighty-pound dog can be a little intimidating and Little Miss Markey is very loud but our little Beast surprised us all. After only a few hours of hanging out under the master bed and taking in the sounds and smells of the house Beast embarked into his new life with no fear and held nothing back. This little guy goes where the action is. If our daughter and her friends are having a tea party then he is there sitting in front of his own tea cup. If big brother Oscar wants to play tug of war then the seven-pound cat tries his best to keep up. And perhaps the strangest of all—Beast is the cleanest living thing in our house. That’s right. Anytime someone showers or bathes he is there to join in. This cat loves water and playing in soap bubbles! My nightly bubble bath may be his favorite time of the day.

At night Beast doesn’t roam around the house like most cats do. When it’s bedtime he curls up at the foot of our bed with Oscar. The two unlikely best buddies sleep leaning against each other all night until the morning alarm goes off. Beast is extremely caring as well. If you follow my blog then you know that Oscar has severe epilepsy. I would believe that most cats would run away from a very large dog when he has a seizure – not Beast. He runs to his brother and tries to help him. In fact whenever Oscar has a seizure my priorities are: 1. Make sure Little Miss Markey is out of the way 2. Clear Oscar’s path of any sharp or dangerous objects 3. Remove Beast from Oscar so that the cat doesn’t get squashed.

Beast and Oscar messing up the bed.

Beast and Oscar messing up the bed.

This is truly one remarkable and sweet little guy we have and I’m so thankful that we got him. So while Beast isn’t my normal “child” who causes drama and gains blog and social media attention I wanted people to know about him. He is a wonderful, unusual (in all the best ways) cat and we are blessed to have him.

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The inspiration behind “Caring for your Special Needs Dog”

If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time then you know I’m absolutely in love with my dog, Oscar. This oh so sweet 80-pound boy is always at my side and is as loyal as they come. I know that Oscar is loved and has a wonderful life and he deserves that because he unfortunately goes through a lot. Our Oscar was diagnosed with severe epilepsy just after his first birthday. The past five years has been a journey defined by medication, tests but most of all love. I’ll always remember the time a vet said, “Oscar is lucky.” I thought how could our poor boy be lucky but then the vet explained that most families would have given up on Oscar. For us that was never an option.

That was the moment when I decided that I wanted to help other dogs diagnosed with special needs. I went to great lengths to find the best treatments, affordable care and ways to help Oscar have a great life AND for him to continue to be a great asset to our family.
"Caring for your Special Needs Dog"
I have many passions in life:

1. My family
2. Writing
3. Dance

So it was easy to see I could combine at least two of these. I used my freelance journalism experience to interview other families who have dogs with various life-long ailments. Together with my experiences with Oscar and their experiences with their dogs I was able to create a book that could help families find solutions and give not just their dog(s) a great life but also find many benefits to living with a special needs dog.

“Caring for your Special Needs Dog” was my first published book and a project that is near and dear to my heart. This week it’s been re-released on Amazon as a self published project. A percentage of proceeds go to my local PAWS chapter, a service organization for animals.

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