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Note To Self

22 Apr

 

I am participating in the Health Activist Writers Month Challenge, in which I publish a post every day for the month of April, based on health-related prompts.

April 22 – The things we forget: Visit http://thingsweforget.blogspot.com/ and make your own version of a short memo reminder. Where would you post it?

A few nights ago I was late getting home from work because of a delay on the subway. This meant that after a day that had already been long and frustrating, I had to compress the evening’s usual chores and and activities into a shorter amount of time. As soon as I got home, I started doing what I needed to do, without giving myself any time to unwind. I efficiently moved from task to task, supervising homework, getting the laundry on, preparing packed lunches for the following day, eating dinner that, thankfully, my husband had already made.

I was stressed about the time, trying to get everything done and still get to bed at a reasonable hour. When the kids were slow to put on their pyjamas, I was a little more brusque with them than I really needed to be. Later, after they were sleeping, I prepared the coffee machine for the morning, as I always do. While I was measuring out the coffee, I accidentally spilled a little bit of it on the kitchen counter.

And I totally lost it. That little bit of spilled coffee turned out to be the straw that broke the camel’s back on that particular day. I didn’t get mad and throw things, but I broke down crying. I sat down and put my head on my desk and just sobbed. For those few minutes that I lost control, the coffee represented the general disarray of my entire life.

When it was all over, I inevitably felt a little foolish. A meltdown over spilled coffee that took all of three seconds to clean up? What was that about?

The truth is that all of my concerns about that evening had been about inconsequential stuff. So what if I was half an hour late getting home? It wouldn’t have been the end of the world if the kids had been fifteen minutes late getting to bed. That load of laundry could have waited until the following day. I could have set up the coffee machine in the morning.

But instead, I allowed myself to get absolutely wound up over things that really didn’t matter. And when you consider all I have to deal with that does matter, that seems counter -productive. Very often I am so overwhelmed by my full-time-job-mom-of-two-with-special-needs-child existence that the slightest things can just feel like a major catastrophe to me.

Sometimes I need a reminder to pick my battles, and avoid getting stressed about things that, when it comes right down to it, have absolutely no bearing on the quality of my life. I need to learn how to let the little things go so I can devote more of my energy to the big things.

And I shouldn’t pet the sweaty stuff, because that’s just gross.

(Photo credit: Kirsten Doyle with a little help from http://wigflip.com/superstickies/)

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Getting It Write

15 Apr

I am participating in the Health Activist Writers Month Challenge, in which I publish a post every day for the month of April, based on health-related prompts.

April 15 – Writing with style: What’s your writing style? Do words just flow from your mind to your fingertips? Do you like handwriting first? Do you plan your posts? Title first or last? Where do you write best?

The fact that my older son’s childhood development is almost a carbon copy of my own leads me to believe that I am somewhere on the autism spectrum. I had the same speech delays, the same geekiness with numbers, and the same tendency to play by myself in spite of being in a room full of other kids.

To this day, I experience social anxiety, although I have learned how to mask it well enough for other people not to notice. I am not fond of social gatherings where I do not know at least one person very well. During times of stress or conflict I struggle to coherently express my thoughts verbally. Let’s not even get started on the telephone. I am downright terrified of the telephone.

My ineptitude and discomfort with the spoken word is what led me to the written word. Writing is marvelous. It gives me a voice. It provides an outlet for the creativity that I have, to my complete surprise, discovered within me, and it eliminates the problem I have with conversation, where my words frequently get lost between my brain and my mouth.

When I was in high school, I used to get somewhat disillusioned when my creative writing projects were marked down “for lack of structure”. We had it drummed into us that our stories had to have a beginning, a middle, and an end. We were supposed to rigidly plan our essays and then stick to the plan. If the ending did not clearly tie in to the beginning, that was the mark of a Bad Essay.

The problem was that this whole beginning-middle-ending thing didn’t work for me. I understood the theory, but I couldn’t make my mind work in such a linear pattern. As long as the stuff I wrote made an impact, and as long as my readers were engaged throughout, did it really matter? Whenever I tried to write in the prescribed way , the finished product came across as stilted and awkward, and just not me.

When I started this blog just over two years ago, I promised myself that I would remain true to my natural style. I try to make sure my writing flows, and that it’s easy on the eye. I have a goal to leave my audience with some kind of message, whether it’s an idea, a call to action, or an emotion. How I accomplish that depends on my subject matter and what my state of mind is like as I’m writing. Sometimes my posts do follow a traditional structure, and when that happens, it’s just because the topic lent itself to that.

Many times, I will change direction midway through a post. I will allow my train of thought to drive my writing. In that sense, my blog posts are often a true reflection of how I think. They are a glimpse into the part of my soul that’s open for public viewing. I may struggle from time to time to come up with the first sentence, but usually, once I achieve that, I’m off and running. I don’t always go to where I had intended. My destination can be a surprise even to me.

The journey is always a lot of fun too.

(Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kharlamovaa/6016780468/. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.)

A Day In The Life

11 Apr

I am participating in the Health Activist Writers Month Challenge, in which I publish a post every day for the month of April, based on health-related prompts.

April 11 – Theme song: Imagine your health focus or blog is getting its own theme song. What would the lyrics be? What type of music would it be played to?

I confess that I had no idea what to do with this prompt. My writing skills do not extend to the lyrics of songs. That is my husband’s arena. Therefore, for today, I decided to use one of the bonus prompts:

Daily schedule: Write a list of your daily routine from the moment you wake up until the moment you go to bed. Be honest!

alarmclock

5:00  I wake up to the sound of the alarm on my phone. More often than not, I am on the futon in my living room with a small kid pressed up on either side of me (although it must be said that the small kids are getting less small by the day). Because I’m wedged in between my kids, I can’t simply grab my phone and throw it against the wall like I want to. It takes effort to extricate an arm. Often, as I’m reaching for the phone, I knock it off the table, and then I have to get out of bed – a supreme effort indeed – to pick it up and turn off the alarm.

5:15 I turn on my computer to check my email. I am dressed in my running clothes and I am waiting for the coffee to finish brewing. While I’m reading my emails my younger son wakes up. I get him a cup of milk and start preparing to leave, knowing that I will be delayed by my son’s constant chatter.

5:25  I kiss my older son goodbye. He is asleep, but he will know if I’ve left without kissing him goodbye. I field a gazillion questions from my younger son and eventually manage to escape. I sprint to the bus stop and make it with seconds to spare.

6:30  I arrive at work and head straight for the corporate gym in the bowels of the building. I dump my stuff in a locker, fill up my water bottle, and head out for a run. I’m still groggy and sleepy, but the first kilometre or so takes care of that.

8:00  I get to my desk, all showered and feeling good from my run. I drop my bag on my chair and go straight back out for coffee and a bite to eat. I bring it back to my desk and work until noon.

12:00 Lunch-time! I curse about having once again left my carefully prepared lunch in my fridge at home. I gather up my notebook computer, buy a random salad somewhere, and sit in the common room writing words.

12:30  Back to the grindstone.

2:45 Arrival of my mid-afternoon energy crash. I go out for coffee, and while I stand in the queue I stare at the display of donuts and cookies wondering if it would be OK for me to have one. By the time I get to the front of the line I’m so undecided that I don’t get anything except the coffee. Which is a good thing.

4:00  I pack up, log off, say my goodbyes to my co-workers and leave. I go to the subway station and position myself on the platform just where I think the train doors will end up. More chance of getting a seat that way.

5:30  I arrive home, lamenting the fact that once again, I did not get a seat on either the subway or the bus. I walk home from the bus stop, and stop to check the mailbox on the way home. I do so much stuff over the Internet these days that I hardly get any actual mail.

5:35  The husband and children, who get home before I do, have been standing at the living room window watching for my arrival. The husband opens the front door to release the kids, who run towards me in that joyous, unrestrained way that only children are capable of. I dump my bags, drop to my knees, and open my arms. My boys come hurtling into my arms and almost knock me backwards with the force of their love.  My cup overfloweth with happiness.

6:00 The kids were fed their dinner before I got home, and now the husband and I are cooking up something for ourselves. I enjoy the companionship as we chop vegetables together and chat about our days. I reflect on how fortunate I am to have a husband who supports me in my writing and my running, who accepts me for all of my weird little quirks, and who is the best dad ever.

7:00  Dinner has been cooked and eaten. I clean up the kitchen but don’t start the dishwasher – not yet. My older son, the one with autism, has a lot of angst where the dishwasher is concerned. I have only just gotten to the point where I can unpack and reload it without him completely melting down. Actually running it would be asking for trouble. Best to wait until he is asleep.

7:30  Bathtime for the kids. George goes in first, because he really doesn’t like being in a tubful of water. I soap him down and then, amid panicky cries of protest, I wash his hair. Like many autistics, he has a big problem with having his hair washed. James dives for cover, only emerging when George is safely out of the tub and in his pyjamas. James’ bath-time is a splash-fest. I have to keep a towel handy for myself, and I’m not even in the water.

8:30  The kids go to bed. George has done his homework (and got it right) in about three seconds flat. Bedtime milk has been consumed, stories have been read, hugs and kisses have been administered. I wait until George is asleep and then turn on the dishwasher. I make lunches for the following day and ensure that everyone has clean clothes to wear. I sit down at my computer and do whatever admin needs to be done.

9:30  My day’s work is done and now it’s time to reward myself. I pour a glass of wine, send my daily email to my mom, and waste time on Facebook. I complete and schedule any unfinished blog posts and start one or two new ones. Sometimes I abandon Facebook in favour of a nice soak in the tub. There’s something very decadent about sitting in a bubble bath with a book and a glass of wine.

10:00 I have a cup of tea with the husband and sigh dramatically as he channel-surfs. Why do men do this? Just as I’m getting into whatever happens to be on the channel gets changed.

10:30  I suddenly remember some crucial email or piece of admin that absolutely cannot wait until the following day. I turn on my laptop again to take care of it.

11:00 I fall into bed in a state of exhaustion, and fall into a fitful sleep that will, at least once, be interrupted by one of the kids needing something. Sometimes, I wake up to find one of them beside me. And I’m completely fine with that.

(Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/szift/3196084839. This photo has a creative commons attribution license.)

Blog Beginnings: A Funny Guy Made Me Do It

17 Mar

Tim "Red Barren" Carter, who gave me the idea for my blog

Two years ago today, my blog was born. When I wrote my first post, I didn’t really give much thought to where it would all lead me. I wouldn’t have even started the blog if I hadn’t been pushed into it.

Here’s what happened:

Over a decade ago, a super-cool dude by the name of Bruce started a super-cool ezine called Really Good Quotes, and I was one of the original subscribers. In the early days of the ezine, Bruce did everything himself: the research, the writing, the sourcing of quotes, and the compilation of the issues. Five days a week he did this.

After a while, Bruce realized that it would be nice to have a life, so he cut back from five days a week to three, and he started enlisting help. He recruited a couple of writers and asked me to be the editor. And so it became my responsibility to collect everyone’s submissions and format them into something resembling a respectable ezine. When I’d been doing this for about a year, Bruce offered me my own column. I handed off the editing responsibilities to a guy named Cliff, who does it far better than I did (and writes an awesome column to boot), and I started focusing my attention on writing.

Through this whole process, I became friends with the other writers on the ezine. We were a close-knit little group from the start and our friendships started to extend beyond the bounds of Really Good Quotes. One of my fellow writers – a guy who, sadly, is no longer with us – was called Tim. Tim had a heart the size of Texas and he was an amazingly funny guy. He was also a technogeek, so in addition to being a friend, he became my unofficial tech support person.

It was Tim who got me into writing outside of Really Good Quotes. My older son’s autism diagnosis came when I was in the midst of post-partum depression, and I felt myself buckling under the weight of everything. Tim contacted me during this dreadful time and told me that perhaps I needed an additional forum for my writing.  He offered me a space on his website where I could write whenever I wanted. There was no requirement to post, there was no pressure and no expectation. I simply had a place to go when I needed to vent.

One day more than a year later, Tim told me I needed to spread my wings. He wasn’t booting me off his site, and in fact he wanted me to stay and continue posting, but he felt that my writing was good enough to warrant a wider audience. He encouraged me to sign up with one of the well-known blogging platforms that came complete with a large community of bloggers. At first I was resistant to the idea. It sounded like more hard work than I was in the mood for.

Tim’s idea would turn out to be a bug that, once planted in my mind, kept nagging at me. After a couple of months, I thought, What the hell? I signed up, and here I am, celebrating my blog’s second birthday.

Many things have happened since then, both in my blog and in the broader context of my life. I have seen all kinds of growth in my kids, I have watched my son beat out all of the doctor’s predictions, and I have done some growing up myself. I have run all kinds of races and beat my own personal best times. I have voted for the first time as a Canadian citizen, I have tied the knot with my long-time partner and I have taken on extra responsibilities at work.

As far as my writing goes, I still write for Really Good Quotes. I am also a writer and scheduling editor for World Moms Blog and I participate regularly in the Indie Ink writing challenges. I have been invited to participate in the Health Activists Writers Month Challenge which runs in April. I have been voted as one of the Top 25 Canadian Mom Blogs. And very soon, my website will be going through an overhaul. I am excited at the prospect of launching a new look to showcase my writing.

I feel like I am entering a whole new phase and I cannot wait to see where it brings me.

Happy 2nd birthday, blog!

(Photo used with the kind permission of Kristen Carter)

January Goals: Laying The Foundation

9 Jan

launchpadSo, now that I have started 2012 off with a week of inspiration from guest bloggers, it is time for me to solidify my own goals for this year. In short, this year is going to be about me. That does not mean that I will ignore my children, refuse to cook dinner for my family, and let everyone go around in dirty clothes. It simply means that I will do a better job of taking care of myself.

Since becoming a mother, I have put the needs of my family first. Which is fine – the truth is that ultimately, everything I do is for my kids. The problem is that I have been taking care of everyone else at the expense of myself. This has led to me being overwhelmed, exhausted, and in many instances, frustrated and unhappy. In a way, I have allowed the essence of me to get lost, to be buried underneath all of the layers of responsibility that I have imposed upon myself.

And so, this year, I am going to find some balance. I am going to pursue some dreams that have been in the horizon of my mind for some time. I believe that being more balanced, less tired, and more in tune with myself will benefit everyone around me.

In 2012, I am aiming to make great strides in my running. With the help of my friend and coach Phaedra Kennedy, I am going to break 2:10:00 in my Run for Autism in October. I am going to make inroads in the world of writing. And come hell or high water, I am going to develop a positive relationship with food that allows me to build good nutritional habits. The old pattern of alternating binge eating with starving myself is going to come to an end. Sometimes I’m thin, sometimes I’m fat, sometimes I’m in between. I’m tired of the yo-yo, and it makes clothes shopping impossible.

My focus in January will be to lay the groundwork for success. This is my plan:

  • I will realign my sleeping habits to go to bed earlier, so I can wake up early in the mornings to run without feeling like I’ve been hit by a Mack truck. When I start my training program on January 30th, I will be used to getting up at five in the morning. My body will have already made that adjustment.
  • I will learn how to do the strength training exercises that Phaedra gave me, so I can incorporate them in my training program right off the bat.
  • I have ordered my Precision Nutrition kit (thanks, Phaedra, for the tip). When it arrives, I will not just dive into it like an overexcited puppy. I will take the time to look over it properly, learn how to use it, and plan appropriately.
  • I will contact a web designer about revamping my site to incorporate both my blog and a general writing component. That will make it easier for me to market myself as a freelance writer.
  • Since I already have a day job, I will start to use my commutes for writing. That’s exactly why Santa brought me this nifty little ’puter that I am writing this post on.

By the end of this month, I will have built myself a launch pad, and I will be able to spend the rest of the year in pursuit of my goals.

Hop on, it’s going to be a wild ride!

Good News In Troubled Times

28 Feb

This morning I received a very nice email. I knew it would be a nice email because it had the word “Congratulations!” in the subject line. Complete with the exclamation point. It is reasonable to assume that an email with a “Congratulations” and a “!” in the subject line won’t be about anything bad.

The email was to inform me that my bid for a writing job had been accepted. In other words, someone read my portfolio (comprised largely of articles from this blog), liked what they saw, and now wants to pay me to write an article for them. Not only did I win the bid, I beat out sixteen other people. And here’s the kicker. It’s the first bid I placed. EVER!

At a time when my self-confidence and my self-esteem are both at a low ebb, this is welcome news indeed.

I have been going through some rough times lately. Not falling-off-a-cliff rough, but falling-down-and-spraining-an-ankle rough. I will get through it – I have handled a lot worse than this and survived. But at this moment in time, while the bad burny stuff is happening, my nerves are shot and my digestive system is in flitters.

The idea that someone thinks that I have something of value to offer is like a soothing balm to a deeply troubled soul. It’s like a vitamin pill for that weakened self-esteem.

The fact that this is a job I can definitely handle, and do very well at, is like an energy boost for the self-confidence that has been flagging.

Maybe this will be just the thing I’ve been needing to get back on my feet and climb over the obstacles that are in my way.

At the very least, it will give me the strength to take a few baby-steps forward.