Monthly Archives: January 2016

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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My tale of two puppies and how they help me write

Here I am pregnant with my son and with my daughter, Little Miss Markey and Princess Belle and Chewbacca. Note: I can no longer hold these puppies!

Here I am pregnant with my son and with my daughter, Little Miss Markey and Princess Belle and Chewbacca. Note: I can no longer hold these puppies!

Even though the last year was a really bad one to say the least, some good did happen. If you followed me before my hiatus then you know how much I love my pets. In fact, Oscar my dog inspired my first published book, “Caring For Your Special Needs Dog.” A little back story first – we have Oscar, who my husband and I got in graduate school. When he was a year old he was diagnosed with severe epilepsy and it’s been a struggle ever since. Then Oscar found two bunnies only about 2 weeks old drowning in an Arkansas flood. I rescued them with intentions of reintroducing them to the wild but they became totally spoiled and domesticated before we could do so. Next came Beast, a Siamese mix cat whose picture I fell in love with here in Saudi. I’ve never had a cat and let’s just say he’s spoiled me for the species in the future.

So our “inn” is very full but I obviously love pets and dogs are my favorite. A puppy is hard to get here so when our friends said they were going to breed their Labradors I instantly said we were in. Life went on as we all waited for the dogs to be at a healthy age to breed and in the meantime we lost our second daughter. Life was hard and the thought of a puppy in the future made the whole family smile on those hard days.

I saw the ultrasound when we confirmed the mommy dog was expecting. It was amazing especially since at that point I also was expecting again. We waited and then one night my friend called me, pup one had been delivered. We rushed over and witnessed the next 6 puppies being born. It was AMAZING!! Of all the puppies there was one girl, the yellow lab our daughter had prayed for- Princess Belle was born!

Over the next few weeks my daughter and I went to help care for the puppies several times a day. We loved them all but then they had such wonderful parents, how could we not? I fell for a large, chocolate boy who we named Chewbacca. At final decision week we learned that we would be able to get the pair of them and then we began training two Labrador puppies, Princess Belle (yes, she goes by her full name as Little Miss Markey demands) and Chewbacca. They are a challenge but pure joy!

Now some of you may think I’m insane but this is the BEST DECISION I’VE MADE FOR MY WRITING. That’s right, while some people may find peace in painting or sewing or [Fill in the blank] I find peace in my furry babies. When I get stuck on a scene or feel overwhelmed in my daily goal list, I turn to a furry baby to hug and seek support. I love seeing their personalities interact and how they grow differently even under exact circumstances. These babies help me despite the time they do take up.

So what (even if it seems crazy) do you turn to for help through hard times or to just make your day a little happier?

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Evolving to put the puzzle pieces of my life together

When I taught my “Writing Moms (and Dads too)” workshops I always preached that our writing styles and tactics change throughout the years. Currently I’m being reminded of this! I started teaching that workshop when I was a contracted freelance writer and working on my own work while caring for a baby. That baby is now five and I have another baby plus a booming dance business. As the times change, so must how we write.

I’ve always thought of my daily routine as a puzzle. I have so many pieces (things to get done) and all I have to do is make them fit all together. Life puzzles may sound easy but when actually assembling those pieces you may want to pull your hair out at times. I think that’s a good analogy but really making everything fit together is even more of a challenge when certain things must be done in order. For example, my writing goals fit in around the dance choreography that’s being taught that day and caring for my children. Luckily, my daughter is in kindergarten all day but they come home for lunch. So while I have a list of morning items to complete I know that my son’s late morning bottle needs to be given to him before my daughter gets off the bus. I also learned that by giving him a long tummy time before a big bottle then he’ll sleep through our lunch and I can still get a good hour and half of writing done before he wakes up. I’ve learned that by giving my dogs a morning walk and playtime that they will then sleep most of the mid-late morning so I can work.

It’s all about finding balance and currently my whole process is evolving as I include my son in my daily routine. I will say though that I’m spoiled – he is such a good baby!!!

While having a new baby certainly warrants an evolution in how I write and more importantly when, a shift in focus or any other change is reason enough to sit back and evaluate what works and what no longer works. I use to get the bulk of my writing done first thing in the morning. I would get up, quickly stretch, get dressed (I would shower later) and dive into writing. By lunch I would have met my writing goal and that was with playtime breaks with my daughter. Then I had all afternoon to revise what I’d written and take care of non-writing items on my daily goal list.

This plan, while it was a good one, no longer works for me. Once my daughter is up at 6am it’s a crazy rush of reviewing homework, breakfast and getting ready for school. So my son has to be less dependent during this time. I know I need to have him fed, changed and ready to be content to lie in a play gym and self entertain. So getting a lot of writing done in the early morning hours isn’t as doable unless I keep pushing my wake up time earlier and earlier. So now the bulk of my writing happens in that quiet moment once my daughter has left and my son is still napping.

Understanding the need to evolve and let go of the old plans is essential. I can personally testify to the importance of this! I kept trying to follow my old routine and felt like a failure everyday when it never went the way I wanted it to. Once I started experimenting with a new writing plan and moving forward to something new then I felt awakened and happy. I knew I could make this work and the tension from my shoulders vanished even if I didn’t get a lot of work done. The important thing was that I knew I would get a lot of work done in the future. I could make this work.

Again, this is what has worked and is working for me. The important thing to know is that every writer is different. Where we are all the same is that we change. Life changes us and therefore we must look to see if what we’re doing is working. If not, don’t be afraid to change and evolve. Trust me, it can feel GREAT!!!

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Where to start?

In my last post I outlined my goals for 2016:

  1. Get back into writing and finally finish two of my projects before RWA this summer.
  2. Waste less food/time by preparing meals ahead of time.

Now here’s the BIG question…where to start? Sadly due to life I had to take time off from writing but I missed it each day. Now I’m back and while exciting I must admit I’m a little nervous and overwhelmed. So, where do I start? All I can discuss in this blog is what I’m doing. I’m not lecturing or offering advice because I’m of no authority to do so but I’m hoping I’m not alone and I’m hoping others reading this will chime in on the discussion.Jan 13 - Where to Start

I’ve decided to take advice from Julie Andrews and “start at the very beginning.” Yes, the Sound of Music is often played at our house and this does sound like a great place to start. With my “Mommy New Year” this week I’ve started reading/revising a chapter a day of my current WIP. For starters this is a great way for me to review the story and I’m quickly falling in love again. It’s a wonderful feeling when I can sit back and actually be amazed at what I’ve done even if it was a while ago.

To force myself to recommit to my writing I’m:
1.) Taking an online class, “New Year, New You” with Laurie Schnebly Campbell; one of my favorite teachers.
2.) I’m rereading one of my favorite writing books “Warrior Writer: From Writer to Published Author” by Bob Mayer.
3.) I’m sticking to my daily goal of reading a chapter of my WIP a day. Sometimes this means I’m pulling a later night to get through it but hey, I’m a mom to a new baby so sleep isn’t really part of my life now anyway.
4.) I’m limiting my social media intake to just my favorites, the people who really inspire me like Kristen Lamb’s blog.

These are my four tactics to getting back to my writing and I’m willing to reevaluate them based on how I see I’m doing. I use to preach about the importance of flexibility in my “Writing Moms (and Dads too)” lectures/workshops. Now it’s time to listen to my own advice and be a student to many of my own principles.

Have you had to take a writing break? How did you get back into your groove? Please share in a comment or let’s chat @NatalieCMarkey.

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Happy Mommy New Year

Happy New Year!!!! Yes, I realize it may seem like I’m a little behind BUT in a big way (well to many of us) I’m just in time. January 1 would be a wonderful day to start fresh and dive into my New Year goals if it wasn’t for the fact that it’s a holiday, in fact everyday has been a “holiday” for me since December 17- when my daughter started winter break. Tomorrow she goes back to school and we all resume a normal routine. So tomorrow, that first school day in 2016 marks my New Year and is my official start date to my New Year goals.

Happy Mommy New Year!!!

So you may have been wondering if I got lost in my part of the desert (I live in Saudi if you’re new to this blog) or if I gave up on blogging? The answer is no and well…pretty close. A little backstory- I use to credit myself at being pretty good at focusing and juggling many irons in the fire. I even lectured on the topic on “Writing Moms (and Dads!).” I have over 5,000 published articles to my credit, a non-fiction book and a dance studio that I own and direct in the Middle East. I accomplished most of this while raising my daughter and a growing sum of adorable furry babies (their stories deserve a separate blog post.) Basically my life was pretty wonderful. Then I delivered our second daughter, stillborn at 27 weeks in my pregnancy. This hit me hard, as I’m sure it has anyone who has experienced such an ordeal. All focus flew out the window. Dance was easier to work on as it was physical and got me to move. By the time I was able to sit and write again without zoning out I found out I was expecting again, this time with a little boy. For a little over 7 months stress and worry took over again and out went my ability to focus and write. I delivered a healthy yet premature baby boy at 33 weeks. He is now a little over 3 months old and just perfect.

During this extreme stress rollercoaster I came close to giving up on writing especially when my lack of focus only caused me more stress. However, when I stopped to take a step back that is when I realized how much I love writing and how much I wanted it back. So while this time of no progress at first left me feeling extremely frustrated it did prove something very important- I love to write and I missed it.

2014 was Hell, 2015 gave me a baby boy and now 2016 is going to be the year of me. I’m not in anyway insinuating that I’m going to ignore my family. I love my family and they come first. However, now my family is complete, even the furry ones for now. My personal life feels right and settled. It’s time to get “me” back and focus on my goals. I am a writer. A part of that died when I lost my daughter and I intend to get it back this year.

So my 2016 goals are:

  1. Get back into writing and finally finish two of my projects before RWA this summer.
  2. Waste less food/time by preparing meals ahead of time.
My babies, Little Miss Markey and the new Baby Markey!

My babies, Little Miss Markey and the new Baby Markey!

As I return to blogging I plan to continue to write about my interests: Writing, dance (yep I like being creative,) family, pets, being an American in the Middle East, and whatever comes to my mind. I will give updates on my writing progress and will be happy to share any great meals that were easy to prepare ahead.

Life changes. Mine certainly has but for the first time in a long time I can say that I am happy. The only area of my life that I’m not happy in is my writing and this year I plan to change that.

Time changes our lives even if a tragedy doesn’t. This is something I mentioned in all my lectures. Now I’m experiencing it and it’s time for me, as I told many students, to reevaluate my process and find out what time management/techniques work for me now in 2016.

As my renewed journey of writing continues I have a question for anyone reading this. What process or techniques have you used when trying to get back into something? How did you find your “groove” again when you thought you lost it?

Happy to be blogging again and I’m wishing you all a very Happy “Mommy” New Year! 🙂

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