Look To the Western Sky

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

Tag: Advice (page 1 of 2)

4 Tips For Kids’ Birthday Parties (Practical Parenting)

KT turned 7 yesterday, so it has been a week of celebrating, including a kids’ birthday party. She has been planning her birthday party since January, changing her mind constantly on theme and activities. To be honest, I didn’t listen too carefully to what she was saying because I know this about her–she often changes her mind, as kids that age do, because their world is changing: they finish one grade, go through their summer, and start school again with different friends, interests, and favorites. Also, let’s be totally honest here, I don’t love kids’ birthday parties. Last week’s party was a result of love for my daughter and a wish to give her what she wanted for her birthday, creating a positive memory she will have for a lifetime.

So, we came up with a theme after doing an Internet search for popular birthday party ideas and themes. We decided on a pet adoption party–no worries, I’m not totally crazy–the pets were not real. Whose parents would have sent their kids to a REAL pet adoption party? KT’s friends each adopted a small, adorable, brightly colored stuffed dog, which I found on Amazon here.

When you read the following tips below, remember, I try to be practical. I was trying to do this party on a budget. I don’t have a huge house, and I don’t love to throw birthday parties. (You’re wondering if the kids even got to have fun, aren’t you? 🙂 )

Here are the 4 tips:

  1.  Kids’ birthday party invitations are ridiculous. You receive 8 to 10 invitations in a pack, and they are small and expensive. So, this year, I ordered a set of 36 dog notecards for $9.99 and used Word to create what goes on the inside of the invitation. I copied that information four times on one page and printed it. Katie and I cut out the four squares of info per page and glued them in each notecard to create the invitation. In my opinion, these were cuter and easier to read than most party invitations, and of course, way cheaper than $4 to $5 for only 8 to 10 invitations.
  2. Who to invite? This is always a challenge with KT’s school friends. We have family friends with kids whom we definitely invite. But what about her school friends? Because I don’t have a huge house and because her birthday is in late October (so who knows what the weather will be), we have decided each year to invite only the girls from her class. It’s important to be inclusive, but you can’t invite so many kids that there will be no room for them to have fun, and you won’t be able to afford the treats!
  3. My friend gave me some of the best advice: “Basic stuff is what kids like most. Play. Pinatas. Balloons.” She also said, “The important thing is that KT has fun and enjoys her party.” This told me–get into the mindset of my child. I didn’t need fancy activities or decorations or even snacks. For activities, KT and I planned some cute things to do with the dogs: fill out an adoption certificate, which I printed free from some website; dog houses, which were paper bags that kids decorated with markers; and collars/leashes, which we made out of pipe cleaners. We did an obstacle course with the dogs, decorated a cookie (not dog themed at all), and played pass the hot doggie (potato) to “Who Let the Dogs Out?” It took about 10 minutes to come up with all of this, and the kids had fun–even though it was INSIDE (Did I mention the weather was awful that day?). We sang happy birthday, ate cake and treats, and  opened presents.  I tried to make the treats kid-friendly and not too sugary (besides the cookie, cake, and ice cream, of course): grapes, pretzels, cheese sticks, crackers, Gogurt.  After all of this, the two hours (which is PLENTY LONG) was almost up, so kids did a little balloon play until parents came.
  4. You must ask for help. As a single parent and only child with elderly parents, I had to ask for help. KT’s godmother and her daughters who usually help were going to be out of town, so I asked some of my best friends, who have kids, and my cousins to help me, and they did. I definitely could NOT have done the party without them. I had 5 adult helpers, with 3 that I had specific jobs for, and I needed this many, especially because…you guessed it…we could not be outside. I had some snacks and adult beverages for them and thanked them profusely during the party and after.

KT had an amazing time, and I’m happy that I could throw this party for her. It’s fun to see her classmates and little friends with her, and all in all, the party was a success. If you have tips that have worked for you, please let us know in the comments. Let’s help each other throw practical, fun parties for our kids!

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Packed Lunch Pleasers: Creating a Balanced Lunchbox

contributed article

During a day at school, your child has a lot of work to do and concepts to focus on. From the time they spend learning new things and soaking up information, to their fun on the playground with their friends, they’re constantly working and burning energy. This makes the food they eat incredibly important, and it’s something you may want to consider when packing your child’s lunch. To help you out with this, let’s explore some of the elements, which should be included in any balanced lunchbox. 

  • The Main Course

The main course of their lunch is the most important of all. This part of their meal not only needs to satisfy their nutritional requirements, but also has to be good enough for them to eat all of it. Sandwiches are a typical choice here, as they are easy to make healthy, while also including various food groups. Besides sandwiches, though, you could think about some pasta or rice dishes, which can be served cold without causing any complaints. Your child needs protein, fiber, and vitamins to make it through their afternoon, and this course can help with all three.

  • Some Additional Snacks

Of course, you’ll probably want to put more than just one item in their lunchbox. Along with the main course, most parents will also include some snacks in their kids’ meal. Chips are a very common choice, here. But, in reality, these aren’t the best for a child at school. Instead, crackers, vegetables, and other healthy snacks can take their place. It’s best to make sure that nothing in their lunch is too heavy on their stomachs. Otherwise, they could struggle to move around after lunch or stay awake in the classroom.

  • Something Sweet

Most lunchboxes will also include a sweet item or two, giving your children the chance to take on some instant energy. The way that you deliver this sort of treat is incredibly important to consider. Too much of the wrong sugars can lead to hyperactivity in children, and this is not what you want during their school day. To avoid this, fruits, yogurts, and other healthy sweets can be used, replacing chocolate bars and candy. Most kids will be happy to munch down on these kinds of treats. It’s just a matter of making the change, even if you have to think outside of the box to do it.

  • Drinks

Finally, it’s time to think about the drinks you send your child to school with. While they’re learning, they will need to remain hydrated to keep concentration levels up. To make this easier, fruit water and diluted drinks can be used as a healthy alternative to fruit juices and sodas. Not only will this help your children in the quest to stay hydrated, but it will also keep them happy, and they don’t have to cost a fortune.

Hopefully, this post will inspire you to try some new things in your children’s lunchboxes. Of course, the food they eat can impact your child’s education if he or she has trouble concentrating because of hunger or lack of nutrition. So, it’s worth creating a healthy lunch for your child! What have you found that works for your child’s lunch? 

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Build a Brighter You

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Do you ever feel like you’re losing your confidence? Perhaps you have days where nothing seems to be going right; and no matter what you try, you just can’t seem to build up your mood. Well, the good news is that everyone has days like this at one point or another. The better news is that there are lots of ways to build back up your confidence and feel better about yourself.

Shop ‘Til You Drop

If shopping for outfits or accessories builds up your confidence, this doesn’t make you superficial. It makes you completely normal. There’s something about putting on a gorgeous new dress or a stunning piece of jewelry that immediately refreshes confidence. If you’re not one for traipsing around town, diving in and out of stores on the high street, you’ll be pleased to know there are plenty of places online to shop for what you’re looking for. According to sites like http://yourdiamondguru.com/reviews/james-allen/, James Allen is a great option for buying dazzling, deluxe jewelry that will make you glisten and sparkle. It just depends on the type of budget you’re working with.

You might think that to buy a beautiful outfit or a new selection of jewelry, you need to be going somewhere or attending a party, but you don’t. Dressing up on a day that you’re staying in can be just what you need to build up your confidence and self-esteem.

Night Out

Of course, that doesn’t mean that a night out on the town won’t help. It certainly could, and it doesn’t matter whether you’re married or single. If you’re single, you can head out and have fun with your friends. If it leads to something, great. If not, who cares? You’ll have a blast anyway. If you’re married, you can still head out for a night with the girls and make sure you don’t get too out of control. Even just getting a few looks across the bar from a tall, dark, handsome stranger can be enough to build up your self esteem. Or alternatively, you can head out with your partner and make sure you spend some time building up the foundations of the relationship.

Smile A Little More

Did you know that by smiling you actually make yourself just a little happier? You can learn more about that on http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/smiling-happy.htm.  If you are smiling, you let other people know you’re happy, which leads to positive interactions. Of course, it’s not always easy to grin when you’re feeling blue, but it could help you lead to a brighter day.

Take Some Time With Your Favorite Person

Of course, this is all about you, so why not take a trip, take a drive or even just sit and relax in your home by yourself? A little me time may be just what you need to build back up your confidence because it allows you to get in touch with yourself and find out what’s bothering you. Ask yourself: what’s going wrong and how can you fix it? Whether you’re climbing a mountain or heading on a spa day, you might just come home feeling refreshed and ready to be a brighter better you.

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Keeping Your Sense of Self When You’re a Mother and Wife

contributed article

It’s fair to say, as women, we have drawn the short straw in many respects, and there’s no doubt we have it tough at times. Along with growing, carrying and giving birth to our babies, in most cases, we’re their primary caregiver, too. And as wonderful and special as this is, it does mean that everything else in our lives can be twice as hard as we’re fitting it around our children. One thing many women struggle with after having kids is losing their sense of self or identity. You’re no longer just you, you’re a mother. Your new name is “mom,” and your new role is of a parent and sometimes wife. But just because you are these roles (and as enjoyable as they are), it doesn’t mean you have to totally lose the person you once were. Keeping your own identity is important; here are a few ways you can go about it.

 

Take Care of Your Appearance

As a busy parent, the way you look often falls to the bottom of the list of priorities. In the morning, it’s probably all about getting your little one up and washed, fed and dressed. But you don’t have to give up on yourself entirely, and actually making a small effort with your appearance is one of the best things you can do for your self-esteem. Perfect a super quick makeup routine- some foundation, bronzer, and a sweep of mascara will instantly make you look your best without being too done up. Every now and again, visit the hairdresser. Have a style cut, which is easy to maintain and quick to do in the morning. The trick is to work with your natural texture, for example, instead of shoving it into a ponytail. If your hair is already straight, run it over with the straighteners for just a minute or two. This will make it look tidier, get rid of any frizz or fluffiness, and allow it to sit better. If your hair is curly, you could scrunch through with some mousse; it won’t take long, but you’ll feel much better being well presented. You probably have your comfy “mom uniform” that you wear to run errands and get stuff done around the house; but a few changes here could make all the difference, too. Instead of a tracksuit, for example, a pair of leggings with a jersey skater dress and a long cardigan would look cute but be just as comfortable. If you run into anyone you know or catch sight of yourself in the mirror, you’re likely to be far more confident, too.

Exercise

Keeping fit is useful when you have energetic children to look after! It will allow you to play with them far more easily and generally keep up. You probably don’t have all the time in the world to hit the gym five days a week, but there’s plenty you can do. Go on a power walk with the pram, or take a ball or frisbee to the park and run around with your kids. Instead of driving shorter distances, walk them instead, and go on family bike rides. You’ll maintain your figure and the endorphins will make you feel good.

Maintain a Social Life

You might have hung up your dancing shoes long ago, and a night out with friends these days might not be to a nightclub or bar like it once was. But keeping friends is so important; find activities that you all like to do now that you’re mothers and wives. Whether it’s play dates with the kids, brunch on a weekend, or an afternoon tea, keeping those connections there is so important. There are of course other ways to keep in contact with friends too; you could use a postcard app to send any funny or sweet pictures as a postcard right to their house. You could talk on the phone, video call, or of course, use social media. But having that support and friendship group around you will help you keep a grasp of your own identity.

Go Back To Work

One way you can keep and maintain your identity is through your job or career. As a parent you might not necessarily want to go back full time, when you have children to look after. If that’s the case, how about part time? You could even start a home business or do some freelance stuff online. Either way, maintaining your career interests is a good way to go, and bringing money into the home will make you feel good.

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Cutting The Cost of Parenthood

contributed post

From the moment you first find out you’re pregnant and that initial flush of joy fades, all moms-to-be find themselves asking the same question, “How am I EVER going to be able to afford this?” The good news is that nobody’s ever ready for the trials (and joys) of parenthood; and while of course some expectant parents are financially better off than others, it’s worth remembering that parents of all kinds of incomes have been getting by for as long as the human race has been around. That said, there’s no denying that a child can put pressure on your domestic finances. With the average cost of raising a child to the age of 17 approaching $240,000 , it’s enough to make any parent-in-waiting balk.

The good news is that the cost of parenthood can largely be ameliorated by a combination of ingenuity, thrift, invention, and common sense. While the default setting for many new parents is always “worry”, cutting financial costs is one of the many ways in which moms and dads can make life easier for themselves. Here are some tips to help you get started:

Never replace when you can repair

We live in a culture of disposability, where the pervasive logic is that when something breaks, it should be replaced rather than repaired. This is a shame because with a wealth of knowledge available to new parents through digital means, you can learn to fix just about anything from torn clothes to broken toys. While kids grow out of clothes quickly, you can learn to make alterations that can significantly expand their lifetime, and it’s worth looking into different types of embroidery machines. At a younger age, when kids grow emotionally attached to their clothes yet haven’t learned to be fashion snobs, this is particularly useful.

Plan your meals and batch cook

Whether you’re a parent or not, one of the surest ways to waste money is over-reliance on takeout and restaurants. Sure, everyone loves a treat after a hard day’s work, but a home cooked meal can rival anything bought at a restaurant at a tiny fraction of the cost. You can make a family night in just as special with candles and music without paying ludicrous restaurant prices.

You can also make substantial savings at the supermarket by shopping smart and avoiding impulse purchases. You can plan your week’s meals and shop accordingly, plus save time and effort by cooking in batches and making a bolognese or curry sauce, chili, or lasagna that will last the family for several meals. Reducing meat and dairy and upping the veggies will ensure that your weekly shop lasts longer, too.

Get creative with vacations

Family vacations are often perceived as way more expensive than they need to be. A great family vacation requires only three things; fun, family, and love. Everything else is bells and whistles. Taking a road trip not only saves on expensive flights, but allows your family much more freedom and control over your vacation, reducing the risk of stress and things that can go wrong.

Mom and son photo at the top of the post found here

 

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Parents: Taking Time For Yourself

I just returned from a three-night, four-day girls’ trip to Breckenridge, CO. We had a lot of fun, from sightseeing on Mt. Evans to dog sledding with a golf cart, from Oktoberfest to a winery with an incredible view–we laughed and relaxed; and each one of us took time for ourselves. We are all moms. Some of us are single; some of us are married. I am the only one with a young child; one mom has a special needs son, and others have teenagers, college students, and young adults. All of us have busy lives and jobs, but we made it happen. We took the time for ourselves.

The dog sled adventure

I’m not going to tell you it was easy or without guilt. I had a bit of guilt before I left about how I was taking this trip as a single parent, and two of the nights were my nights with my daughter. The guilt grew worse when KT had a meltdown on the phone with me the second night; and when I called her from the airport on my way home, she was teary eyed and wanted me home right now. My mom’s commentary on how miserable KT was also didn’t help. Grandmas hate to see their grandchildren teary-eyed.

I’m still glad I did it, though; but for a while, I doubted myself. Luckily, my friends are amazing.

One said: You have to let her figure out how to navigate life without you always there. You have to prepare her for the tough stuff. If you don’t, and life gets tough, she will have no idea what to do. (How about that for a smart, great friend?)

Another said: Everybody has to refuel. Everyone does it. There’s nothing wrong with taking care of yourself, mentally and physically, so you are stronger and better for your daughter. (Exactly!)

And there was a handsome police officer…

I mean–this is free advice I got, and I am now sharing it with you. 🙂

KT and I both survived, and the next day when we were together, it was even more special. We appreciated each other more. We hugged a lot, and we told each other how much we loved and missed each other. That is very special and just an extra bonus of going on a fun trip with my friends and also having a beautiful daughter!

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Getting Rid of the Anger Caused by Ego (Guest Post)

When KJ wrote to me and asked if I was interested in the guest post below, I had been (and still am) thinking a lot about happiness and about how my beliefs and attitudes affect my day-to-day happiness. I posted a link to this article, “10 Ways You Are Making Your Life Harder Than It Has To Be” on my Editor 911 Facebook page.  In this article, many of the “ways” we make ourselves less happy and give ourselves a harder life concern our ego, as KJ discusses below, such as ascribing intent when none was actually present, making ourselves a star in our own movie, and having unrealistic and uncommunicated expectations (I had an a-ha moment at that one!).

So I invite you to read the short post, written by KJ,  full of examples, which will have you thinking about your own behavior and thoughts on anger and happiness and how you can control so much of it.

Immediate Reduction in Ego
(c) KJ Hannah Greenberg

Soothing anger is one reason folks overeat. So if the behavior of eating to sooth is to be abated, then anger has to be snuffed out. The other day, someone shared an amazing thought with me…anger is about ego.

Normal folks get indignant about all sorts of things: being passed over for a job, not getting invited to a party, receiving fewer hugs from a child than anticipated, flipping an omelet only to find lunch land on the floor, and so on. Our hurts, real and imagined, come in all sorts of kinds and types. Too often, we react to those actual or seeming injustices with the feeling of having been wronged.

Yet, truly, those scrambled eggs mixed with vegetables had no moral compass. Likewise, invitations get lost in the mail. What’s more, it’s possible, believe it or not, that the person promoted, “in our stead,” actually better deserved the position.

Regardless of whether the hurts we think we endure are intentional or accidental, good for our fiber or disastrous, it behooves us not to own them. If we can be just a tad less conscious of ourselves, we can experience less anger. If we can experience less anger, we can reach less to food or to other substances for “compensation.”

In my own life, I reflect that it did not really matter that a certain university turned me down for a position; I would not have invested (and BH succeeded) in creative writing, otherwise. It did not matter that a certain caterer served spoiled food at a party where I was a guest; the celebration, which was NOT about me, was as wonderful as it might have been had fresh comestibles decked the tables.

It does not matter than one of my children wears a rainbow of nail polish colors. What other folks think of me, in general, and of my parenting, more specifically, is palpably less important than is my interpersonal communication with that child. It’s up to me, as the mom, to bolster her.

Why should I care that a bus driver slammed close his door just as I was in a position, in the queue, to board the vehicle? My ease was not more important than was the comfort and safety of the hundred or so others folks who had already boarded.

It doesn’t really matter that a lady pushed me to reach in front of me to grab the last pair of discounted socks. It’s not for me to determine the ultimate destiny of a store’s merchandise.

KJ Hannah Greenberg © Yiftach Paltrowitz, 2010

In short, when I reduce my self-importance, it naturally follows that I reduce my anger. That’s quite a project. Fortunately, at present, there’s a lot for me to work with.

KJ Hannah Greenberg’s whimsical writing buds in pastures where gelatinous wildebeests roam and beneath the soil where fey hedgehogs play. She’s been nominated four times for the Pushcart Prize in Literature, and once for The Best of the Net. Hannah’s essay collections are: Dreams are for Coloring Books: Midlife Marvels (Seashell Books, 2017), Word Citizen: Uncommon Thoughts on Writing, Motherhood & Life in Jerusalem (Tailwinds Press, 2015), Jerusalem Sunrise (Imago Press, 2015), Oblivious to the Obvious: Wishfully Mindful Parenting (French Creek Press, 2010), and Conversations on Communication Ethics (Praeger, 1991). In the next few months, look for others of her essay collections; Tosh: Select Trash and Bosh of Creative Writing (Crooked Cat Books), Simple Gratitudes (Propertius Press), and Rhetorical Candy (Seashell Books).  http://www.kjhannahgreenberg. net/

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The Thing About Change and Not Giving Up

Most of us want to change something in our lives–whether we want to be more patient with our kids, not engage with someone abusive in our lives, lose weight, exercise and sleep more, or clean and organize our lives. And we expect these things to happen immediately, and I don’t know about you–but I am very hard on myself when I have a “relapse.”

This past spring, I was in a 6-week book study course called Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions by Lysa TerKeurst. Lysa has a great sense of humor and shares all the ways she still can sometimes come unglued–and she is the one leading us in trying to do better! This is why I liked her and her book. It was realistic and practical. The best thing I learned in this course was imperfect progress.

Imperfect progress is what most of us make when we are trying to change. We take three steps forward, and then we take a step back (sometimes a giant leap backwards unfortunately), and this backwards step is the turning point. This moment is when you decide if you are going to make imperfect progress and get back on your plan to the life you want (diet/training program/break from a bad relationship), or you are going to give up with the negative thinking of: What’s the point anyway?

There are a lot of things I need to change. And I am the textbook definition of imperfect progress, but here’s what I realized about myself and my progress after a brief encounter with a difficult person: I am finally starting to realize when I’m falling into the trap of what I usually say when faced with confrontation and also what I usually do. I also noticed I don’t have the same feelings or reactions as I did even if my behavior is the same, and  I am thinking about what to do differently next time.

Do you realize how big this is? It’s big. It’s big because before this year, an encounter with a difficult person like this would have left me for hours or maybe even an entire day upset and blaming myself, wondering why I am the way I am, and a lot of other terribly self-pitying behavior.

How about you? Did you cheat on your diet? Don’t beat yourself up! Did you eat healthy for five days before that? Then focus on those five days because you are making imperfect progress. Did you yell at your kids instead of using love and logic? Okay, you might have been tired or hungry, and next time you will realize that and won’t yell.

This is the thing about change–don’t give up. We all deserve the life we want. 

By the way, I’m currently having an Editor 911 sale and a writing coaching sale. Here are the details: Now through June 30, 2017, I am running a sale on my Editor 911 and writing coaching services. Regular price for a content edit OR proofread is $3.00 a page (250-275 words).SALE price $2.25 a page.FULL edit  (content and proofreading) regular price $5.00 a page, sale price $4.00 a page. If you pay your total bill upfront with Paypal, receive a 10 % discount on top of the sale price. If you don’t have a project ready, but want me to work on it this summer or fall, you can pay a $100 deposit before June 30 to keep the sale price and use it anytime.

For writing coaching, regular price is $25 for 30 min. or $40 for 60 min. If you pay beforeJune 30, 2017, you can get a package deal and use the minutes however you want (including splitting it with a friend)! SALE package price is…300 minutes for $150 (savings of $50). You don’t have to use these minutes this summer; but you must purchase them by 6/30/2017. Writing coaching can be used to complete projects, define goals, discuss plot, etc. and in person (if you live within 15 miles of Margo) or by phone or Skype.

EMAIL ME FOR DETAILS: margolynndill (at) gmail.com

 

 

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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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Creative Visualization for Writers by Nina Amir (Review)

Nina Amir, the author of How to Blog a Book, has a new release out titled, Creative Visualization for Writers: An Interactive Guide for Bringing Your Book Ideas and Your Writing Career to Life . In this interactive book, writers will find over 100 exercises designed to get your creative juices flowing, move beyond writer’s block (if you have it), and stretch your mind. In other words, this is a book that gives you permission to be a little eccentric, weird, over the top and encourages you to be more creative than maybe you have ever been in your life. It’s a book we writers have been looking for because we have already read many of the fantastic books about the writing craft–how to construct sentences, when to begin a novel, and what to use instead of adverbs. 🙂

So how is this book set up? There’s a short foreward from Dinty W. Moore, and then an introduction from Nina, where she exclaims, “Become a visionary,” and explains how the brain works, including a diagram of the left and right brain–most of us know that creative people spend a lot of time in the right side of their brain. Nina says that in this book the exercises help you to use both sides of your brain. Basically she’s encouraging you to get out of the limits we all seem to set for ourselves when we say: I can’t or I’m too busy or I’m stuck. What writer doesn’t need something like this book in their lives?

After the intro, she gets into the exercises. You will want to buy a print copy of this workbook, in my opinion, because the pages are full of questions and activities; space is provided for you to write down your answers and ideas. There are even writing-themed coloring pages (I know some of you are going to get this book just because of that!) and affirmation pages, where you can write down how you are a successful author or how you promote your work well. She quotes Muhammad  Ali, who said, ““It’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.”

The exercises are grouped into themes: Self-Exploration, Vision, Goals, Creativity, and Focus. Here are a couple snapshots of them:

nina-page-1 nina-page-2 nina-page-3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although I read through this book quickly for this review and only did a few of the exercises, I can not wait to start at the very beginning and take my time with every single exercise–it’s one of my New Year’s goals, although I’m beginning it now. My writing life has not been in the forefront for a while, due to all the stuff I’ve written about on this blog, and so I can’t wait to stretch my mind and find my creative self again.

If you want to join me, you can buy the book here.

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