Sep 26, 2010

The Craziest Thing

I can pinpoint the moment I decided I wanted to write a book. It was almost two years ago now, I was sitting on the couch in my living room and had just finished reading a really crappy novel that, for reasons I couldn’t (and still can’t) comprehend, had sold hundreds of thousands of copies.

“What a piece of crap!” I announced to my husband as I finished the last page. He patiently tore his eyes away from the Canucks game on TV with only a slight sigh (this, my friends, is true love) and he settled in to listen to the obvious rant I was about to embark on.

I have always been a passionate and over-enthusiastic reader, and I feel personally offended when books don’t live up to my expectations. Hubbie was aware of this – he knew what was coming but still listened attentively.

“Seriously, how did this get published? Who reads this stuff?” I demanded.

Hubbie raised an eyebrow but was wise enough not to comment. After seven years together, he’d learned that if he wanted to get back to the hockey game before the next power play, it would be best to keep quiet, nod in agreement and only let his eyes stray back to the TV when I wasn’t looking.

“I mean, even I could do better. I could write a book way better than this!” I declared, tossing said-book onto the glass coffee table and missing. I glared at the book as it was obviously such a piece of junk that it wouldn’t even make a good projectile (this, of course, had nothing to do with my lack or coordination or athletic ability).

And what does my other and at times (ok, a lot of the time) better-half say?

“Then do it.”

His eyes went back to the TV but I didn’t object because I knew he was right – I should do it. Hubbie had no idea what he’d started.

Why not? I thought. I loved reading, I loved writing. I used to begin writing novels all the time when I was a teenager but back then I didn’t have the focus or the drive to get past the first fifty pages (I was too busy smoking cigarettes and falling in love). I’d written many a lengthy, University paper since then; my vocabulary, life experience and confidence had all improved since those confused teenaged days… so why not?

And so I began to write.

A year and a bit later I have completed two, full length novels (currently I’m nearing completion of my third and have a killer idea for my fourth). The first book never really took off – it was my first attempt at writing a novel and it was written largely for my own enjoyment; I never really expected that one to get published. But the second… this one I’d invested a lot more time and emotion into. This one I had hopes for but after the first few rejection letters came in (positive but still “no’s” – remember the “shit sandwich”? LINK) my optimism began to fade.

I still loved writing but I was starting to realize there was something missing from the experience for me. What was it? What do you call that thing….? Oh right – an audience. No one was reading my work except for me and though I was thoroughly enjoying writing and was frequently impressed by my own brilliance (I know, I’m ridiculously egotistical in the privacy of my own home) – it wasn’t enough. And that’s when this blog was born.

Anyone remember my first post, Exposing Myself (LINK)?. I was so nervous to share my writing with anyone, even the limited audience I imagined that might view my blog. I did it though and I’m so glad I did. Now I barely think twice before hitting the “PUBLISH” button, even knowing that somewhere around 100 people (and counting!) are now viewing my blog every week. To you blog veterans, these numbers might not seem so impressive but to me it’s HUGE. It still blows my mind that people are interested in and entertained by what I have to say. The people I’ve met through my blog, the contacts and connections I’ve made and the recognition I’m starting to gain are priceless.

And now the craziest thing has happened – I’m getting published!

The second novel I wrote (which is currently titled “Amber Frost” but fondly referred to as “Book #2” in my house) will be made available to the ebook world through ireadiwrite Publishing (LINK) some time later this year. I hope you’ll understand what a huge understatement it is to say that I’m a little bit excited and kinda proud. Just a little bit.

I’ll be keeping you all updated as things move along but for now I’d just to say a quick thanks to all the wonderful people who read my blog each week, to my amazing family and friends who inspire me, and to my incredible husband who may at times be a “man of few words” but when he does speak, you’d be stupid not to listen. Thanks for letting me interrupt your hockey games honey, and sorry for all the nights I’ve made you watch “Glee” and “Gossip Girl” (no apologies for “Dating in the Dark” – you know you love that crap as much as I do).

Thanks everyone! Your support means the world to me.

And on that note… GO CANUCKS!


Sep 19, 2010

The Mad Skills of a Workin' Gal

After a year and a half of being a stay-at-home-mom and toying around with the idea (ok, dream) of being a professional writer, it is time to go back to the “real” world. The real world has some pro’s like paydays, for example. The real world has a few con’s too though – schedules, commutes, packed lunches and alarm clocks, workplace expectations that involve dressing in something other than yoga pants and styling my hair by some other method than a hair-tie. The real world kinda sucks.

For the past year, I have mostly avoided the subject of returning to work, assuring myself that one of my books would get picked up and published before I’d ever have to really consider things like job postings and daycare applications. I even timed my last round of queries and submissions so that I would receive my acceptances and have enough time to choose a publishing company to represent me before needing to commit to return to work, therefore avoiding an encounter with the “real” world entirely… sometimes I am so good at lying to myself.

Don’t get me wrong – I like my job; most days I would even go so far as to say I love it.  I get paid fairly, the hours I work are great, my coworkers are fantastic and the actual “work” itself ranges from challenging to rewarding to just plain fun which are all good things a mon avis (quietly groans at how pretentious French can sometimes sound). I don’t actually mind going back to work that much; sometimes it’s just fun to complain. Who doesn’t love the sound of their own voice? But since I have gone back to work, there is one challenge I’ve faced that, in all seriousness, has caused me some stress and anxiety - transitioning from stay-at-home-mom to working-mom. I’m finding myself in a very different role than what I’ve become used to and it’s taking some adjustment.

I hate to admit to this weakness but on my first day back at work, I was definitely feeling out of my element. Schools were so much noisier and busier than I remembered (especially in the first week of the school year), the kids were bigger and not as cute as they were in my memories, the buildings were more crowded and easier to get lost in. I totally felt like I’d lost my edge.

I began to doubt myself. I felt like I’d grown “rusty” from my year “off” (as if that year of maternity/parental leave was anything remotely comparable to a vacation). I wondered how my new mom-skills would translate into the workplace and began to realize that there would be no opportunity to demonstrate my mad laundry-skills, or my ability to soothe a crying baby while sautéing onions, or how I could pick up my son’s toys with one foot while balancing him on the other hip and using my remaining free limb to hold the phone so I could finish scheduling his next Doctor’s checkup (seriously – I can do that). There was no place for these skills (no matter how freakin’ fantastic they are) on a resume… or was there?

And that’s when I realized just how valuable and translatable my mom-skills are.

The past year and a half of leave has (in many ways) been like a boot camp of intensive mommy-training led by the unforgiving, unyielding and determined force of my beautiful baby boy. He has been my drill-sergeant and he has taught me well. My sweet little son has taught me to multi-task on a whole new level. I am more organized than I (or my mother) had ever thought possible. My thinking is broader as I have been trained to constantly think-ahead and plan for every possible scenario. My natural instincts of empathy, intuition and even my ability to understand and interpret non-verbal communication have reached a whole new level. And, as specifically relates to my field of work, my understanding of basic child development milestones, my patience, my nurturing skills and even my speedy and efficient diapering abilities have become incomparable. Full of myself much? I know. But honestly, when it comes to mom-skills, I have become a freakin’, unstoppable machine and I’m a little bit proud (why not?).

Which brings me to a point I have made before and will continue making time and time again because it is so very true. Being a Mom (or a Dad for that matter) is one of the hardest and most amazing jobs I, or anyone else, will ever do. Being a parent changes your whole life, every single aspect of it, in the most positive way. It brings some changes that you expect and about a million that you don’t but it affects absolutely everything you do. It has changed my outlook on life, my philosophies, my priorities, my skills and my abilities – even my sense of humor. I feel like my son is preparing me not just to support and care for him for the next 17 years of his life but to face the rest of my life also. I am more than ready to face the “real” world, it turns out I never actually left it.

So while I won’t be picking up any toys in the classroom with my feet any time soon and I can’t imagine singing all the verses of “Baby Beluga” at a staff meeting is going to impress anyone (though you never know!) I am still returning to work as a more capable and more highly-skilled employee. My employers have my son to thank. He likes bananas and things that make loud noises – he’ll be waiting for the gift basket.


Sep 12, 2010

The Goodness

*There's nothing particularly funny about this post but I think it's an interesting topic and since it's been stuck in my thoughts all week, I feel I must discuss.  I promise you something more light-hearted next week that will make you laugh - I'll try my best to even make you pee a bit. But in the meantime, I give you this to think about...

What is your definition of a “good” person? I think we’d all use a lot of the same words to describe the good people in our lives: loyal, caring, kind, generous, etc. Now think about yourself; what qualities do you possess that make you good? You must think that in some ways you are a good person – I’m sure everyone does. We can always justify our actions somehow to convince ourselves that we made the “right” choice or did the “right” thing, that our motivations weren’t selfish and that we were thinking of others. But are we really just lying to ourselves?

Recently I’ve been thinking about whether or not I am really a good person – and I’m not sure if I am. I can say without a doubt that I’m a good mother and I try to be a good friend, wife, employee, etc. but am I a good person? I don’t know. I’m not presenting this question so that you can rush to reassure me that I am indeed good – this is not an attempt to fish for compliments because I’m not really sure if you’re a good person either.  Ha, didn't see that coming, did you?  Anyway, let me explain:

I’ve come to decide that it is our actions and what motivates these actions that measure a person’s “goodness”. I think the selfish, vain, petty people have the same potential for goodness that the caring, generous, loyal people do. Having said this, what have I really done that makes me “good”? What motivates my actions? How often will I do something just because it feels good, and right, and for no other reason?

If I really am a good person, shouldn’t I be out donating all my free time and money to charities and volunteer organizations? Shouldn’t I be focusing my efforts on making the world that we live in a better place and solving global issues? And shouldn’t I be doing all of this quietly, with no expectation or desire to be acknowledged or rewarded for my generosity and dedication? Isn’t that what the truly “good” people do?

I don’t know. What I do know is this – I can do more, I can do better and I think it’s time to start. I’m challenging myself, and you, to show how good of a person you are. Start small but make a start. We need time to ourselves, we need time with our friends and families and time to relax, but it only takes a little time to make a difference. Find that time and use it. Let your actions speak for you and find an answer to that tricky question – what makes me “good”? Ah... sounding a bit too much like an infomercial motivational speaker now.  I get carried away sometimes.  Regardless, I think you got my point or at least I hope so.

On a brighter note, I think we all have the potential to be good, and I think we all are good at times.  I'm sure we all love someone who we think is "good" and that person inspires us and helps to bring out our own "goodness".  I think we are all that "good" person in someone else's life too and without knowing it, we inspire others.  I also think that even if we do so unaware, we can still make our world a better place through our small everyday choices and actions.  Imagine how much you could do though if you tried, if you really tried, to be "good".


Sep 7, 2010

Sometimes I Wonder About Myself

Did my mother make as many mistakes as I did and do? Do my friends? Do people just not want to talk about the stupid and embarrassing things they have done? I guess we’re all afraid of looking dumb or irresponsible but we all make mistakes sometimes, don’t we?

Over the past year and a bit, I have come to realize that parenting, like so many other things, is a trial and error process that you won’t necessarily get right the first time. I’m starting to wonder now about the “eldest children” out there that I know, aka. the parenting guinea pigs. Forget 'middle-child syndrome'!

But seriously, I think I am doing a pretty good job raising my Little Man but like I said, it’s harder than it looks. And though I’d like to blame lack of sleep and changing hormones and all those fabulous excuses, my child sleeps through the night and is nearly 1 ½ so I’ve got nothing. Guess I’ll just have to admit that sometimes, I’m just not that perfect - sometimes.

Here are just some of the things that make me question my ability to ‘parent:

I have literally spoken the phrase: “No, this is Mummy’s chocolate and I don’t have to share.” I have also tried to sneak chocolate past the Little Man . You don’t even have to say it – I know.

Similarly, I have seriously considered raising my child to believe that he is allergic to chocolate. I’d love to say this would be for his benefit but really…

When I have run out of things to entertain my son (if we’re stuck waiting somewhere) I have let him play with such non-Daddy-approved “toys” from my purse as lip gloss, tampons and make up.

Instead of nursery rhymes, since my son was a newborn I have been singing songs like “All the Single Babies” (Beyonce), “Shake, Shake, Shake – Don’t Shake the Baby” (Shake Your Booty) and “Push it” (Salt n’ Peppa – usually when he’s pooping).

I laugh when my son farts. I know this only encourages him but he looks so surprised and then cheeky… how do you not laugh?

Whenever the Little Man sees an empty beer can he runs to pick it up. He will either pretend to drink from it and then go “ahhhh” or he will take it straight to his Daddy. We have no idea where he picked up these habits.

I may have once forgotten to properly close the backdoor to my car after buckling my son in. I was pulling out of my spot in the Walmart parking lot and the door flew open – the Little Man laughed and started waving at the shocked people he could now clearly see. I stopped and closed the door. It may have actually happened twice.

Whenever the Little Man hears a loud truck, he points and yells, “Daddy!” When we’re in a parking lot, I find myself repeating over and over, “No, that’s not your Daddy. No, he’s not your Daddy either. Nope, not baby’s Daddy, try again.” I love it when the guys driving the big trucks have their windows down though and hear him. That “deer-in-headlights” look is priceless. It’s even funnier if there’s a girl sitting next to them. The Little Man will usually smile and wave like he really does recognize them too.

It’s bad enough that the Little Man already recognizes a Tim Horton’s (the source of the occasional cookie ) and claps his hands and points from the backseat of a car going 90 km/hr, but it’s even worse that the girls in the Tim Horton’s drive thru by my house know not just me but also my son by name!

I bought the Little Man his own little baseball bat. I don’t know what I was thinking with that one. Our cat still hasn’t forgiven me.

And finally, I’m wondering whether I really should be saying things to my son like:

- “No, we don’t hit Daddy. Only Mummy can do that.”

- “Get the cat!”
(He runs after it screaming. It’s pretty funny until he does it to other people’s cats.)

- Daddy – “What does Mummy say?”, Little Man – “Mooo!”
(My husband thought that was a pretty clever thing to teach him.)

- “Ouch! Mother Ducker!”
(If he repeats that one at daycare, I think I’m still going to look pretty bad.)

- “Look – there goes Big Fat Baby!”
(Baby who lives down the street whose name I always forget. This has the potential to be quite embarrassing once the Little Man can talk more.)

- “Pick it up quickly, it’s still good. Five second rule… Ten second rule… Thirty second rule… Here, let me get that for you.”

- “Baby, be careful! Don’t go near the Evil Bunny!”
(My sister-in-law bought me this as a joke. I suppose I shouldn’t perpetuate the idea that the bunny isevil. I’ll include a picture so then you’ll have a better idea of what I’m talking about. Actually, in this case, it might be an example of good parenting – you decide!)