Look To the Western Sky

A blog about single life as a parent & the dreams of a writer by Margo L. Dill

Author: luvboxerdogs (page 1 of 4)

MOPS 28 Day Truth Challenge Days 22 to 28

Well, it has taken me more than 28 days, but I am finally finished with the MOPS 28 Day Truth Challenge, and I have to say–I’m proud to have finished! So let’s get on with it.

Day 22: Banishing Ghosts: What is the best smell in the whole world? What is a nostalgic smell for you?

Answer: I really like the smell of Bath and Body Works Eucalyptus Spearmint Soap. I have no idea why. I did work there for a while one Christmas season, and that was a particularly fun and joyful Christmas season. It also used to be in the bathroom of a close friend of mine. It makes me feel calm. As for a nostalgic smell–I like the smell of leaves burning, which reminds me of my first couple years of teaching when I lived in a small town, and you could burn leaves there. It also reminds me of fall, which is a great time of year.

Day 23: Campfires and Confessionals: When did you last push the boundaries of your comfort zone?

Answer:  The first thing that comes to mind is dating. So I guess that is what’s out of my comfort zone–but actually I don’t think it is anymore. It was, it definitely was. But I am lucky to have met someone very nice who is also understanding and seems to get me. So in going with it and going outside of my comfort zone–all actually paid off, which I think happens often when we step outside our comfort zones. I hardly ever hear anyone say: I stepped outside my comfort zone and it was terrible.

Day 24: Hearing God: What distracts you most from being present in  your life?

Answer: My thoughts about what we should be doing or that I’m not doing enough or what could I be doing better or what’s going to happen next? My thoughts keep me from being in the present–and I’ve noticed a couple of times, my phone–or the social media on my phone also distracts me.

Day 25: Forget-Me-Knots: Tell someone five things you love most about them and then hug them for longer than is comfortable. 

Answer: I will have to do this in person–not for the blog. 🙂

Day 26: A Dazzling Unfolding: Write down three things you want to become an expert in.

Answer: Well, I would like to become an expert in. . .practical parenting (you’ll see why in a minute), living within a budget, and living a balanced life (with exercise and healthy eating).

Day 27: The North Star: Describe a reoccurring dream you’ve had. What do you think it is trying to tell you? 

Answer: The most frightening, reoccurring dream that I have ever had is one where I am driving on a Bascule bridge , and just as I get to the middle, it raises up and my car starts to slide down. I have also had a reoccurring dream where I’m sitting on the side of a river, at a cafe, and I watch an airplane crash into a bridge. So I must have something with bridges.  I think these bridge dreams speak for times in my life when I have been crossing over to a new place or going on a new life journey, whether it’s my age, my job, my relationship status, adulthood–and I have had some trouble with change, so the difficulties with the bridges in the dream could symbolize that.

Day 28: Good Things Run Wild–One Big Thing

My one big thing is two big things: I am taking Katie on the little spring break trip to Kansas City AND I am going to start focusing more on writing posts about Practical Moms. 🙂 I don’t have that clearly fleshed out, but I’ve decided to just start on it instead of waiting–because I generally work better that way!

 

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MOPS 28 Day Truth Challenge Days 14 to 21

Well, even the best laid plans go awry …. If you read my last post, you obviously did not ever read a singular post about a love letter to my own body (as I had planned), and I am going to blame it on the fact that I was 1. Already behind 2. my mom went to the hospital twice last week. She fell on Sunday night, into her bathtub from a standing up position out of her bathtub, and so she has some bruised ribs–and a few other issues. Anyway, she’s been there now four days, and so this entire week has not quite gone as planned. This is the life of the sandwich generation. (If you haven’t read my previous MOPS TRUTH posts, you can find the links in the sidebar!)

But I have been thinking about my ONE BIG THING–and I might actually have two or three big things! 1. My little spring break trip with my daughter  2. Starting a new segment on this blog called Practical Moms Unite  3. a 5K (actually work up to it this summer)  okay, on to the truth challenge. . .

Day 14: Sensuality and Our Skin: Write a love letter to your body.

Answer: Dear Body: This is not easy to do. 1. I’m not great about professing my love 2. Over the years, you and I have had a tumultuous relationship. But I am committed to doing this challenge, so a letter I will write. . .after all these years, I actually do love HOW TALL YOU ARE. You provide me with many benefits that I now hold dear. You have given me long legs to run bigger strides and to look nice with dresses. In my 40s, if I gain 5 pounds around the holidays, it’s not so easy to tell because there are a lot of places in my long body to hide these pounds. I can see above a crowd. There are men who love tall women. (Who knew?) So, I love being tall, and I thank you, body, every day for getting me where I need to be and for healing and allowing me to live this life I am. Love, Margo

Day 15: Feminine Power: When is the last time you did something for the first time? 

Answer: Last week, I went to a bar in St. Louis and listened to some jazz music, and I have never done this before. I know–that sounds crazy and not like a big deal since I have lived here off and on all my life. But it’s on my mind because I actually said to U., “I have never been down here before” , and I called myself a virgin. 🙂 He said: Well I don’t know if we need to use that term. LOL

everything turned out fine

Day 16: Hospitable Hearts: When  were you changed by someone’s kindness?

Answer: I have to go back to the NICU with this question. I didn’t even know what to ask for when KT was in the NICU. But people did things anyway, without being asked, and I have to say that this is something these people taught me that I try to do today. They sent gift cards for restaurants near the NICU, in case her dad and I needed to get out of there for a while. They took days off of work to come sit with me. They made meals for my parents and for us at my parents’ house when we got home. They sent notes about their time in the NICU and how it all worked out. Not to mention the nurses, doctors, Ronald McDonald House volunteers, and March of Dimes staff members–we were showered with kindness. I have been lucky enough to have the kindest people in my life since then also, and it has taught me how the simplest gesture really can mean so much during a difficult time.

Day 17: More than meets the eye: Has your first impression of anyone ever been terribly wrong? Were you pleasantly surprised or disappointed?

Answer: This is a difficult question for me to answer because I tend to see the good in most people until it is too late. But since I am an optimist, I’m going to focus on the pleasantly surprised part of this question. I think the answer to this then would be my MOPS group–isn’t that funny? But it’s not because of them–it’s because of me. My first impression was this is a tight-knit group that I will never want to become a part of–I’m just doing this for KT, so she has something to do apart from me, every other week. HA! What a joke. These women are some of my best friends, once I opened up and became involved (that’s the key), and now I don’t know what I would do without them!

Day 18: Power of Story: What is one of your biggest regrets? What do you need to forgive yourself for?

Answer: I can never answer this question. And I will tell you why. If I did anything differently than how I did it, I would not have KT. I would not be a writer. I would not have my wonderful friends and family. I would never have met U. So, I am glad I did everything I have ever done because it has made me the person that I am today.  I am pretty happy with her. Sure, sometimes, I will say things like: I should not have majored in English. I should have known better. etc. But really, the only thing I regret or need to forgive myself for is when I have a bad day and I waste time on things that are not important OR allow myself to become negative OR get caught up in the pettiness of social media, drama and gossip.

Day 19: Eyes and Calling: What is the motto for this era of your life?

Answer: I have this hanging on my wall, thanks to MOPS: Sometimes, I have to remind myself that I don’t have to do what everyone else is doing. And today, I’m going to add something to that: or what everyone THINKS I should be doing!

Day 20: Live Like Music: Is there a song that always takes you back to a specific time?

Answer: Is there a song that doesn’t? 🙂 I currently have a two-year free subscription to Sirius XM and I love it! I love the 70s on 7, 80s on 8, and 90s on 9! But if I’m going to think of one specific song that has meant something to me recently, I think I’ll pick: “The Fight Song” by Rachel Platten. If you watch the video below and listen to the lyrics, it will be pretty obvious why this song has meaning to me these past couple years, and it will always take me back to the summer of 2015:

 

Day 21: Failing Gloriously: What are you afraid of? If you weren’t afraid of these things, how would your life be different?

Answer: I am most afraid of putting myself out there and failing. It has been a fear for so long, AND I STILL have failed so many times; and I am finally realizing that this is true. SO…I’m done being scared. I try to be true to myself now with consideration for people that I love. I am trying to STOP worrying about all the bad things that could happen and just live. I am trying to recognize what is in my control and what is not. If I would have stopped being afraid of all my worries years ago, who knows what my life would look like now? I would probably have taken more chances at the very least.

Whew!

Come on–you blog reader–take a look at one of these questions, and answer it in the comments below. (Or if you are here from Facebook, answer me there if you like that better!)

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MOPS 28-Day Truth Challenge Days 11 to 13

I’m back with the MOPS 28-Day Challenge. . .I’m going to do Day 14 in its own post because it is about writing a love letter to your body. I’m going to try not to make this a bigger challenge than I have to. We’ll see. . .but here are days 11 to 13 from the MOPS challenge.

Day 11: Sabbath Like a Sunrise: What do you feel most grateful for? Make a list

Answer: Katie, my parents, current male person in my life :), my friends, technology, flexibility with work, my dog, my job, my house, my car, my writing, freedom, love, and a life full of opportunity.

Day 12: Time in the Light: What do you look forward to when you wake up in the morning? 

Answer: Well, that depends on the day. Honestly. How do you answer this question for every single day? For example today, I looked forward to getting to blog for WOW!, seeing my friends at happy hour, and going shopping with a gift card at J. Crew.  Tomorrow, I will look forward to the fact it is FRIDAY.  On Saturday, I will look forward to getting Katie back (she’s with her dad today/tomorrow) and the beautiful weather we are going to have, as well as the fun trivia night for LHS Strolling Strings. So maybe the answer to this question is. . .I look forward to my life every day in spite of the fact that sometimes I feel overwhelmed or I don’t enjoy every single thing about every single day.

Day 13: What is your favorite color and what does it symbolize for you?

Answer: My favorite color is yellow. It is bright, sunny, cheerful. I also like green–reminds me of plants and spring and nature. It turns out, my high school colors (where did you go to high school?) were green and gold (LHS! RAH!); but that’s not why I like those two colors and that’s not what they symbolize for me. They symbolize happiness, brightness, nurturing, outside, spring/summer, beautiful weather, refreshment. . .According to this website: http://www.bourncreative.com/meaning-of-the-color-yellow/  , yellow means:

Yellow, the color of sunshine, hope, and happiness, has conflicting associations. On one hand yellow stands for freshness, happiness, positivity, clarity, energy, optimism, enlightenment, remembrance, intellect, honor, loyalty, and joy, but on the other, it represents cowardice and deceit. A dull or dingy yellow may represent caution, sickness, and jealousy.

Studies show that the meaning of the color yellow can be warmth, cheerfulness, increased mental activity, increased muscle energy. The color yellow helps activate the memory, encourage communication, enhance vision, build confidence, and stimulate the nervous system.

And according to the same website, green means:

Green, the color of life, renewal, nature, and energy, is associated with meanings of growth, harmony, freshness, safety, fertility, and environment. Green is also traditionally associated with money, finances, banking, ambition, greed, jealousy, and wall street.

The color green has healing power and is understood to be the most restful and relaxing color for the human eye to view. Green can help enhance vision, stability and endurance. Green takes up more space in the spectrum visible to the human eye and it is the dominant color in the natural. It is a natural choice in interior design as an ideal background or backdrop because we as humans are so used to seeing it everywhere.

I probably don’t have to tell you that for both of these, I am looking at the positive traits; but it’s always good to think about whether or not your love for these colors has anything to do with the not-so-positive side. . .

What is your favorite color and why?

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MOPS 28-Day-Truth Challenge Days 6 to 10

I’m doing the MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) 28-day challenge. This is day 6 to 10 (because I’m behind and trying to catch up). To read my first post about this challenge and the answers to questions 1 to 5, please click here.

Here is Day 6 to 10:

Day 6: Creating a Legacy: Okay, I can’t do Day 6 on here–because it is actually something you have to say to someone. And I don’t want to say it to that someone on a public blog. . .so. . .moving on

Day 7: Birthing Something New: What is something that is being birthed in you right now? 

Answer: This is simple! I want to write a non-fiction book of some kind–I just have to decide which topic or topics I want to cover. I have been thinking about a writing book and also a parenting book. Or a humorous parenting book–or even practical parenting/humor. Or a book about being a mom and divorced. I feel right now the possibilities are endless, and I am using this blog and my WOW! posts to see which topics seem to resonate with readers the most.

Day 8: Confidence Over Conformity: What does your name mean? Hit up Google to discover the attributes spoken to you via your given name.

Answer: Apparently, Margo means Pearl. So, I decided to look up pearl. Merriam-Webster said pearl means:

  1. a :  a dense variously colored and usually lustrous concretion formed of concentric layers of mother-of-pearl as an abnormal growth within the shell of some mollusks and used as a gemb :  mother-of-pearl

  2. 2:  one that is very choice or precious

  3. 3:  something resembling a pearl intrinsically or physically

  4. 4:  a nearly neutral slightly bluish medium gray

Let’s go with definition 2, since that’s the one that could apply to a human being also.  Hopefully, I am precious to my friends, family, and daughter. Or even a gem. 🙂 I do truly believe that all human beings are precious, and individuality is something to be treasured, just like a pearl. So. . .what have you learned here  today? Basically Margo means pearl, but you can just call me Margo.

Day 9: Breathing in the Light: Talk about a time when someone shined a light into your dark place. A time when someone encouraged you when you really needed it. 

Answer: I think I might have mentioned on here before that the absolute worst day of my life was October 31, 2010, when my 5-day-old daughter had to be transferred by ambulance to a children’s hospital in St. Louis City. (She had been in the NICU in the county at the hospital where I gave birth, and doctors decided due to medical testing that she needed to be at the better hospital.) I never knew fear like this before. I remember being with my mom, who was sitting next to me while I pumped with tears streaming down my face and saying, “If anything happens to her, I will not survive this.”

Luckily, nothing happened, and as you have seen in other posts, she is doing wonderfully today. But, that was a very dark day.

Once we were at the new children’s hospital, around 9pm, I was in her private room, and a doctor is talking over my screaming/turning red 5-day-old preemie to explain to her father and I all the testing she needed, why, and what it all meant.

I turned to him and said, “I can’t focus on what you are saying while my baby is screaming. We need to help her first.” (I’m not sure I said it this nicely or coherently. I might have just said, “You have to stop.”)

Then this wonderfully skilled and kind nurse ran in and put her hands on my baby’s head, applying pressure like you need to with a preemie (which I eventually learned) and stopped her crying; so the doctor, who looked absolutely taken aback when I said he had to stop talking until my baby stopped screaming, could finish all the testing talk.

And the nurses, during our entire 30-day stay were terrific, from teaching us how to bathe her, to making sure I was able to breast feed, to answering my phone calls every night at 3am–those NICU nurses are some of the most amazing people on this planet, who encouraged me and shone a light during a very stressful and dark time.

Day 10: Timeless Delight: Do you laugh or frown more? When is the last time you really lost track of time? 

Answer: I definitely laugh more; and more than ever before, I am learning to laugh more, to appreciate life, to feel happiness and be in the moment. This is a learning process, but I feel that I am further along on this journey than I have been. The last time I really lost track of time. . .I need to think about this because I am just not sure. . .I hate to say this, but I am so schedule oriented–so that I can “fit everything in.” I’m going to come back and revise this answer. . .after I have some time to think about it. (Blame game: I am writing this post very late at night, so I will blame my poor response on the fact I need to go to bed. . .)

What about you? Try looking up your name or telling us about a time someone shone a light in your darkness in the comments below. . .

 

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MOPS 28-Day-Truth Challenge Days 1 to 5

I am in MOPS–Mothers of Preschoolers, and I recommend if you are a stay-at-home mom or part-time working mom of children under 1st grade, FIND YOURSELF A GROUP NOW. These women have become some of my best friends and have been with me through thick and thin. Through the divorce and surgeries, they have helped me with Katie, provided support with cards and messages, organized two meal trains, and paid for lawn service for an entire spring/summer/fall. I don’t need to explain more, right? I love them! But that’s not what this post is about.

This year, MOPS has a 28-day challenge to do either a TRUTH OR DARE each day, and then work toward a BIG THING. I’m still not sure what my BIG THING will be. I thought running a 5K, but I’m not sure training for that in February is the best idea; so I’m still on the fence with my BIG THING. But I am going to do this challenge; and like everything, I am behind.  This post is for days 1 to 5. On Monday, days 6 to 10 will post. Then I will hopefully post 11 to 14 on Tuesday ,and will be caught up along with knowing more what my BIG THING might be. I also have been mulling around going on a short trip with Katie, so maybe my BIG THING will be actually taking the plunge and planning it during spring break. So far, I’ve just talked about it.

So let’s get to it:

Day 1: Swell Seasons: In what ways do you feel out of control in your life?

Answer: In what ways, don’t I? Ha! I think the biggest ways I feel out of control in my life are the demands of single parenting and my time management and amount of daily energy. It all boils down to priorities. Since I have a full-time job and a child and relationships with other human beings, then I need to prioritize what is important to me and what goals I want to accomplish on a daily basis. If I don’t and I waste a lot of time on something like arguing politics on Facebook, I feel out of sync, out of control, because time is precious. More and more, I realize how little of it I actually have.  And how I want to be choosy where and with who I spend it. It’s all about balance, and I still struggle with that on a daily basis.

Day 2: Blessings in the Night: What is your favorite thing that has happened in the dark?

Answer: That’s a loaded question, huh? I really had to think about this one because I am much more of a morning/afternoon/early evening person, than a night-time owl; and so I decided to just look back over this past year, and be very literal about this question. My favorite thing that happens on a regular basis in the dark is my 6-year-old daughter’s night time routine, complete with reading (and now sometimes she is reading to me!) and snuggling. I always tell her it is my favorite part of the day, and I am being serious. It is peaceful and sweet and calming–so much so that I often fall asleep myself. . .oops!

Day 3: Becoming Our Mothers: What are two things you hope your kids will talk about as adults when they describe their memories of you?

Answer: I want her to talk about how much fun we had on a daily basis, using our imaginations (the stuffed animals all have voices and talk a lot; my fingers are actually tickle bugs;  the gremlins come if we don’t get dressed by 9am) and how in our home, there was a lot of singing, dancing, and laughing. I also hope she remembers the little life lessons I am trying to teach her, such as being kind, entertaining yourself, not always thinking of yourself, work before play, and remembering to say I love you to people you love.

Day 4:  Sister Courage: What do you value most in a friend? Are you that kind of friend?

Answer: I value kindness the most in a friend. I want someone with a kind heart and a positive attitude. They don’t have to always be up, of course, and I am willing to listen to anyone about anything; but I hope that when they are looking at the world, they are doing it with kindness and optimism because that definitely wears off on me. I think I am pretty kind and optimistic. Sometimes, with some friends, I can be more opinionated than others, and I probably need to do a bit more active listening.

Day 5: Dear Fifteen: What do you need to give yourself permission to feel? What hurts are waiting to be seen and healed?

Answer: This is going to sound crazy, but I need to give myself permission to feel happiness. I will not feel guilty because I also feel happy. I know it sounds crazy, but I think divorce or any really hard life struggle does this to you. It is almost like you are scared to feel happiness because you’re always waiting for the next terrible thing to happen. I have worked through a lot of hurt over my adult life, so I don’t feel like I have any deep, buried issues that are waiting to come out. They have all been pouring out and now I am looking to find peace.
Feel free to answer any of these questions in the comments! 🙂 You don’t have to be a MOPS member to do so. . .

 

 

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Peace is the Word

You know you’re singing this blog post title to the tune of Grease’s theme song: “Grease is the word. . .Peace is the word.”

Okay, I’m weird I know, and I may just get weirder when I relax this year because my word for 2017 is PEACE.

I’m super excited to have decided on this as my theme for the year, and I can only hope that it leads to a wonderfully amazing and peaceful year. What do I mean exactly that my “word of the year” is PEACE?

It definitely does not mean that I’m already peaceful, or of course, I would not have to choose this as my word. I need to work on bringing peace to my life. I need to get rid of activities that do not bring me peace and come into less contact with people who are toxic and chaotic. I want to spend time meditating, napping, reading, and sitting in the sun. I want to exercise because that gives me a relaxing feeling when I’m finished. I want to have less schedule and more fun with my daughter. I want to nurture relationships, especially ones that bring me happiness, joy, and you guessed it, peace.

Divorce is anything but peaceful. It is the exact opposite of my word of the year. Divorce when children are involved is even worse because this person whom you cannot get along with is STILL in your life; and together, you are trying to parent your child, whom you love more than life itself. How could that ever be peaceful? I have lived in chaos for a long time. SO really, peace is just an extension of my word from 2016, organization. Clutter does not bring peace. Organization does (for me).

What I’ve decided this year is that even if a relationship cannot be 100 percent peaceful, I can react to it peacefully. I don’t have to engage. I can have mutual respect even if it is not returned. I can put my daughter first and focus on what is best for her.

I also need to STOP second guessing myself and being so hard on myself. We all do this–it’s common for women, but I think men are just as bad. We are our own worst critic–that is a true, true statement. So I want to learn to stop criticizing myself so much, and find peace with my decisions and life path.

There are a lot of things in this word I cannot control, including and most especially any other human being on this planet. The U.S. right now does not bring me peace. The world does not bring me peace. So what will I do about these situations? I will commit to responding peacefully and trying very hard to NOT be quick to judge or harsh with my words.

How do you find peace?

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Word of the Year (Part One)

A couple years ago, my writing friend, Sarah, told us about a New Year’s resolution-type thing called: ONE WORD. I wrote about it pretty extensively on WOW!’s blog last year, where I explained my word of the year for 2016 would be Organization; and I wasn’t making any specific resolutions or goals because my life was chaotic and changing, and I didn’t think I could stick to anything too specific. This One Word theme really worked for me. I did get more organized in 2016. Here are some ways:

  • Cleaned out several closets and drawers and donated loads of stuff to charity
  • Got all of my retirement money from teaching and my new job in order with my financial adviser
  • Created this blog for writing and a separate one for Editor 911 (although still in progress)
  • Realized Katie and I need to follow a nightly routine MOST nights in order to have a successful week
  • Followed through on a system to remember to take my medicine (hormones from hysterectomy, which need to be taken twice a day)

I’m sure there are more, but for now, that gives you an idea of how one word helped me in many areas of my life. I also managed to buy a new car and set up my insurance payment and car payment to pay automatically out of my bank account. I count all of this as organization. Because I did have some female health issues this year, I lost huge chunks of time, and so I am keeping Organization for 2017 AND adding one more word. I am still contemplating 2017’s additional word and plan to decide next week. The ones I am thinking about are. . .

  • Peace
  • Practical
  • Boundaries

I probably need all 3! 🙂

I’m hoping some of you reading this post will share a word or two of the year that you would like to consider. Just because you write it down HERE does not mean that you HAVE to do this word of the year. But it might get people thinking about words they could adopt. Also if you are explaining yourself when typing a comment, it may make you think about your hopes and dreams for 2017.

 

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5 Things I Learned About Living in 2016

1. Life is a work in progress. I’m the kind of person who wants to fix everything right now. This is an impossible and exhausting way to live for two reasons. First, the only person I can control is myself; therefore, if the thing in my life that’s wrong involves another person, I can only do so much to fix the problem. Secondly there are only so many hours in the day, and part of those must be spent taking care of essential needs: since I am a parent, I must provide a home, food, and care for my daughter as well as myself. So a good portion of my time goes toward this. Therefore, the other things I want to do in my life take a backseat sometimes, and that is okay and normal. Everything does not have to happen RIGHT NOW.

2. Listen more. Speak less. I’m still working on this one. But I realized this about myself this year, with help from a very good friend–I often jump to conclusions and speak my mind before I have all the facts. I am working on my listening skills and taking a deep breath before spurting out the wrong thing.

3. Give people a chance. After divorce, most people will tell you it is hard to trust. No matter how bad the marriage was or who initiated the divorce, you were a part of a couple for a while (sometimes a long while) and now you are out on your own. While dating, I have learned that most people in a similar situation as myself are decent and also just trying to live their lives. This kind of fits with number two above, but I need to learn to not jump to conclusions and trust people until they give me a reason not to.

4. Being a parent is hard. Give myself a break. I miss my daughter terribly when she is away from me; but sometimes when she is with me, I don’t feel like I have time to think or process anything, and I am often exhausted. I worry about her constantly, and I am sometimes impatient. This seems to be similar to many other parents I know (single and married); and when I start to feel like “you are doing a terrible job–you should have done A, B, C,” I’m learning to take a deep breath and give myself a break. I love her more than anything, and I spend a good portion of my life being her mom. Every once in a while, I’m going to mess up and it’s okay.

5. Balance is key. To be the best person I can, I have to sleep, eat healthy, exercise, have fun with my daughter, read, write, work, have fun with my friends, and spend time with my parents. The key is to stay balanced. Don’t let any one area take all the time away from another. This is super hard, and again a work in progress; but I am doing better–especially the sleep. Do you know how important sleep is? 🙂

So what have you learned in 2016?

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The Greatest Gift . . . for Writers (Guest Post by Karen Kulinski)

I’ve known Karen many years, through SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) , and then I was lucky enough that she submitted her wonderful manuscript, Rescuing Ivy, to me when I was working as an editor for High Hill Press. If you need a book for children ages 9 to 12, Rescuing Ivy is amazing–it’s about two kids who attempt to rescue a circus elephant from near death when she is wrongly accused of killing a man. Here is a guest post from Karen and a little more about her book, along with a link to Amazon, where you can order it. Perfect for kids who love to read or teachers for grades 3 through 6. 

The Greatest Gift . . . for Writers

by

Karen Kulinski

During the holidays, people with writer friends buy them things like books, workshops, maybe even a session with a writing coach.  Fine gifts all, but the best gifts a writer gets, to paraphrase the Grinch, “come without ribbons, packages and tags.”

The best gifts are ideas.

Of course, the above-mentioned books, workshops and writing coaches often help our minds produce these ideas. I know because over the years I’ve been gifted with writing ideas, many involving my new middle-grade novel, Rescuing Ivy. 

While searching for information on cabooses 13 years ago for the railroad museum for which I am curator, I came upon a horrific incident where they hung a circus elephant in a railyard in 1916.  I tried writing about it, but couldn’t. Unbeknownst to me, however, my mind was working on it because five years later, I was gifted with the idea for Ivy, which ends much happier for the elephant.

In the two years I did research for the book, I discovered fascinating information that my mind turned into ideas for the book.  Among them, a couple of plot points, a major human character, and a quirky little chicken named Fayree.

Recently, my mind has been working overtime providing ideas.  In March, I had a book contract canceled the day before I did a school visit.  Needless to say, I was pretty down on writing at that point, but at the end of the first presentation, a student asked what book I was working on now. I wanted to say, “I don’t want to think about writing, let alone try to do some right now.”  Instead, I found myself talking about a ghost book I worked on unsuccessfully for years, and the students got really excited about the story’s premise.  I was asked the same question after the second presentation, and mentioning the ghost book got the same results.

As I drove away from that school, I knew I had to work on that novel again.   A couple of weeks later, I got an idea for a new beginning to the story that made a radical difference in my main character that no one liked before.  My friend and beta read said, “It was like the character had an attitude adjustment.”

This past week — in the midst of all the crazy activities preparing for the holidays — I sat down and wrote a picture book that I’ve been trying to write for two decades.  I had consulted with a writing coach about the book earlier in the month, and told her that I wouldn’t be able to get to revising the story until after Christmas. Obviously, my mind had other ideas.  Really good ideas, it turns out, because my agent loves the book, saying, “It’s terrific.”

So when you’re telling people what you’d like for Christmas or your birthday, be sure to whisper, “Please, mind, I’d love a writing idea or two.”

You never know what will come next!

Bio: Karen Kulinski’s life has been filled with family, trains, and writing. A railroad man’s daughter, she is curator of a railroad museum in Northwest Indiana, and is an active member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators. Karen’s passion for trains and love of history flavors many of her books, including her new middle-grade historical novel, RESCUING IVY, from High Hill Press.  The mother of four sons, Karen lives in Griffith, Indiana, with husband, Alan, and two spoiled dogs.

Rescuing Ivy: Readers will quickly turn the pages of this tautly-plotted, heart-grabbing 1916 adventure story, caught up in young Danna’s plight to save her beloved — and innocent — circus elephant, Ivy, from being hung for killing a man. This book forays into a time when hoboes rode the rails, which add to the action as well as the intrigue. An excellent read-aloud, bolstered by pages of vintage circus photos and an extensive “Author Notes”. You can buy it on Amazon here.

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Put the Parenting Magazines Down and Step Away Carefully

One day, my friend Julie said, “Have you seen the latest issue of (Insert some wonderful parenting magazine here) and their suggestions for back-to-school lunches?”

The funny thing is I had seen that article–I think it must have been a free issue sent to many houses, and I remember thinking: Do people really make these types of entrees for their child’s school lunch? Coconut and raisin pita roll up?  Almond butter and banana sandwich on 12-grain bread? Homemade minestrone soup? And do children eat these dishes? Where have I gone wrong?

Julie brought me back to reality. “My children basically eat cheese and crackers. Or their potato chips.”

Yes, now you are speaking my language.

I’m not sure who writes parenting magazine articles. Their bios state they are a parent of 12 or triplets, or they have adopted children from several different countries around the world, but I’m not sure if I believe them. Or maybe their bios are the only true part of the entire page, because really, who lives their lives like the parents in parenting magazines?

Let’s take a couple of headlines for example:

25 Ways to Make the Holidays Special 

First, no headline of any parenting magazine should ever have more than 5 tips for anything, and even 5 is semi-overwhelming. Do you really need to read a magazine article about how to make the holidays special? Aren’t they special all on their own? Isn’t it magical as a kid to think of the big guy in a red suit coming down the chimney, eating your homemade chocolate chip cookies and drinking your milk, and leaving you presents that you asked for? It’s also special that your entire family gets together and eats a meal, and maybe even plays a game instead of watching Netflix. Driving around and looking at Christmas lights or watching a Christmas movie snuggled under a blanket is special! Trust me. You don’t need a magazine article to tell you how to make this magical time of the year magical. You can figure this out all on  your own with the same things your mom did for you BEFORE there were articles like this at your fingertips or pinned to your Pinterest board.

Is Your Child Getting Enough Sleep?

Please don’t read an article like this. If you are clicking on this article to see if your child is getting enough sleep, then the answer is probably that your child is not getting enough sleep. Enough said.

How to Play with Your Child

I am all for articles that might introduce new games or even craft ideas (if they are easy) for you and your child. But do you really need an article that tells you HOW to play with your child at an age-appropriate level? No, you really don’t. It will just stress you out. You will be ridden with anxiety after reading this article and wonder constantly if you are playing with your child correctly and stimulating him or her enough to become smart enough to get into the best preschool. And don’t worry, there are articles galore (10 Ways to Tell if Your Preschool is On the Cutting Edge) to help you stress out about this, too.

SO what should you read?

I really feel like Mommy blogs, such as The Tribe Magazine  or Scary Mommy , are much more realistic and helpful. Some of you may be shaking your head. But just like Pinterest and sometimes the Facebook fantasy world we all portray are too much for me, I can’t believe that people live their everyday lives like these writers for parenting magazines portray. I can’t believe that people need articles telling them 12 ways to diaper their child or 13 toys that help your baby reach super intelligence.

So please, do yourself a favor (and the rest of us, too). Step slowly away from the parenting magazines and love your child because you are the only one who knows how to do that the best.

 

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