Friday, April 18, 2014

A Woman in her Thirties Fails Miserably

I have a dirty secret:  I have a potty mouth.  A major one.  It is off-putting, annoying, and downright inappropriate at times.  I never let it bother me in my twenties, but now that I have kids and have to watch what I say because my daughter is in the repeat-repeat-repeat phase of life, it seems like I need to do something about it.

So... I gave up swearing for Lent.

If you know me outside of blogging, or have spoken to me in the last forty days, this probably comes as a shock to you.

'Uh... you get up swearing?  Because I'm pretty sure you dropped four f-bombs in our conversation just last week...'

Yeah.... about that...

Here it is, Good Friday, and I have yet again failed in the Lent department.   I have a million excuses.  I'm tired!  I'm busy!  I'm %^78in' trying!!

As I reflected on this today, on Good Friday, it hit me pretty clearly.  I wasn't really trying.  When a woman in her thirties tries, she succeeds.  And when she doesn't... she doesn't.  It really is that simple, isn't it?

So... sigh.  Another failed attempt at bettering myself this Lent.  There's always next year, right?  Always next year...

Friday, April 4, 2014

A Woman in her Thirties Accentuates the Positive

Well, the last two weeks of craziness are finally over.  I am now a bestselling author, my friends have come and gone, and life is carrying on as normal.

On Monday night, I read at an event here called Morningside After Dark, which is a super cool collection of musicians and writers showcasing their work.   The essay that I wrote is here, including pictures. I love that essay, and I loved reading it.

But there is a story behind it that I didn't share.  I wrote "The Watchtower" in the months after returning from China, during a time of life that was difficult.  I was down on China, down on my experience there, and, if I'm totally honest, was regretting staying as long as I did.  (To this day, when people ask about my time in China, I admit that I wish L and I would have come home after the second year, and not stayed a third.)

So the first version of "The Watchtower" was filled-- and I mean FILLED-- with snark.  Negativity.  Poo-pooness.  It was all true snark, mind you.  But what I noticed in re-reading it several years later was that the snark wasn't serving any purpose.  It was bogging the story down, like anchors hanging on the end of each paragraph.  

And when I removed it....

... I was left with the good stuff.  The positivity.  It is, after all, one of my favorite memories of China.  It was time to let go of the negative.

I couldn't help but remark on that when I sent the essay to a couple friends in China and Australia, people mentioned in the story and well aware of the "darker" side of that trip, and many other school trips we'd been on.  We'd been through a lot together, and even today it was so easy to focus on the negative.  But after I admitted that yes, I'd left some not-so great parts of the story out, and yes, I'd done so intentionally, I realized something greater.

Positivity is a choice I get to make every day.  Yes, it's snowing today (SNOWING! APRIL!) Yes, L has a new role coming, and yes, we're bracing ourselves for more travel.  Yes, I've got a whole lotta work to do if I want to sell enough books to break even.  And yes, when I got up to read "The Watchtower" on Monday, I was so nervous I choked on my first few sentences and was harder on myself about it than I care to admit.

Yes, to all of those negative, daunting things.

But someday, when I tell this story to my kids, my grandkids, anyone else who will listen.... I'll be leaving that stuff out.  Because I truly feel like life is not going to get better than this:

or this:

And a woman in her thirties chooses positive.  

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A Woman in Her Thirties Learns, Personally

So, it happened.  This weekend happened, and this book is shipping, and I wrote the words in it, and all the dreams and goals associated with that are now coming to fruition.

Logistically speaking, it couldn't have been more of a success.  I blogged about it here.  If you're book-minded, writer-minded, or launch-party minded, then that post is for you.

But I didn't just learn things from a logistical perspective.  This weekend, and all the days and weeks leading up to it, made me realize a lot personally, as well.  Here are five things publishing this book has taught me, not just about writing, but about life.

1. Believe in it.  ALL of it.

People throw adages like this all the time:  Believe in yourself!  Believe in your dreams!  But seriously-- what does that mean?  I've written my whole life.  I have pages and pages, books and books of writings by yours truly.  But when it came down to this book, the writing was the easy part.  I had to believe in the brand, the vision, the greater purpose.  I had to believe that the time I was spending on it and the energy I was putting into it was worth it.  That I could be proud of this book for the rest of my life.  It wasn't until those pieces were in place that I was able to move forward and really take the risk of publishing it.

2.  Give.  THEN receive.

We live in a society where we associate 'giving' with writing large checks to large charities.  That is great, but that is not the only kind of giving out there.  You-- YOU, you lovely woman in her thirties-- have gifts to share.  Your time.  Your creativity.  Your kindness.  Your caring, non-judgemental friendship.  These are important, and they matter more than your tax-deductible donation.

But make no mistake-- giving helps you.  It creates your 'brand' and your image. By donating my time in the classroom, at book clubs, through guest blogging.... I have built my audience.  I have gotten many sales of the book through these 'donations'.  Give first, then receive.  It's a thing.

3.  I take my friends and family for granted.

It's going to be hard for me to write this without getting emotional.  When I stood at the book launch on Sunday and looked out at that crowd, 90% of it was friends.  Neighbors.  Friends of neighbors. Book club friends and mom's group friends.  I think one of the main reasons I didn't want to do a book launch was because somewhere deep inside of me I was afraid no one would come.  But there everyone was, standing room only.  And when I came home... flowers.  Bouquets and balloons and texts and emails from people who couldn't be there.  Not every woman in her thirties has such support, and I think I take it for granted every day.

4.  Haters gonna hate.  

I published independently, and am fully aware of the stigma attached to that.  I tried to avert my eyes when another blog post would come up about the 'sellout' indie writer, but it was hard.  But just as in everything in life...  positivity is a choice.  So is negativity.  Please, choose positive.  A much better use of your energy.  Haters can live in Hate-ville, but you don't have to.

5.  Define success unconventionally.

My goal is to 'break even' with this book.  I want to make back all the money we put into it.  Once that is done, my monetary goal will be complete.

But it is so much more than that.  I've already succeeded, and here's how.  When my mom got here, she had me sign FIVE books to her, her sister, brother, sister-in-law, and friends.  Her pride in me was overwhelming.

And even more.... this moment:

Anna, signing books with me.  Anna, holding my book (and stealing the show):

How much for these moments?  A billion dollars?  A trillion?  I wouldn't trade them for that much.  I've already succeeded; it's already done.  Now to enjoy the rest.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

When a Woman in her Thirties... Barfs

Well, it's happened.  You know how I've been alluding to all the crazy that's been going on the last year and a half or so?  We're at the apex.  The climax.  The pinnacle of crazy, this week.

I have been wanting to write about it here, but I just couldn't.  I don't do well in the moment of things-- I do well after, after a glass of wine, some sleep, and maybe a hot yoga session.  But there have been SO many moments of 'things' lately-- write-ups and two radio interviews (one went super well, and one not so much....) I could feel it all getting the better of me last night, as I tried to sleep.

I wanted to write about it... but it was all so jumbled that I just couldn't.

So I logged into my computer this morning and saw Project Underblog had published a piece I wrote awhile back.  (P.S. Do you subscribe to this blog?  Super encouraging and empowering.)  Anyway, I read it and thought, Thank God I wrote that! It's exactly how I feel and I'm far into crazy town to write  it now.

I titled it 'When Your Dream Comes True and then you Barf.'  I'm such an eloquent writer, aren't I?

But there is one thing missing-- a huge thank you to all of you for your calls and texts and emails and words of encouragement throughout all of this.  It is true, I want to barf.  But it is the best kind of barf.

And I have all of you to thank for it.

Monday, March 3, 2014

A Woman in her Thirties Has Got It. Really.

Any parent who shops with their children knows what I'm talking about: when you go to the store, you have a routine.  A sacred, unchangeable set of motions.  Parents with young children don't linger in aisles when they see friends.  They don't look at labels and compare prices.  They are in and out as fast as humanly possible because one does not tempt fate when one has a cart full of perishables and little ones.

Anna has always been a good shopper, but Aaron not-so-much.  (He gets it from his dad. No, wait.  He gets it from me.)  Either way, going to Target is a no-nonsense adventure for us.  First stop:  the bakery for a cookie:

These cookies buy me approximately 19 minutes of shopping time.  Thankfully, I know the P-ville Target like the back of my hand, so 19 minutes is do-able.  In and out.  No messing around.  

But no matter how hard I plan, or how quickly I shop, there is something that happens in the check out line.  I blame the conveyer belt-- it's just too tempting a toy to play with.  Checking out at Target is usually a not-so-fun experience.

And today... well, today was super-not-so-fun.

Now, I'm no expert when it comes to parenting.  But I do know a couple of things that work for me, and I know the kind of parent I want to be.  I also do a lot of yoga.  What I'm saying is that crying and whining don't work on this woman in her thirties.  I don't want my kids to think that the louder they cry the more likely I am to give them their way.  So today, when they both started breaking down in the checkout line, I offered them a quick consolation ("I understand you want to get down, but you have to wait just a few more minutes"), and then I continued on with the business at hand.  (That is where the yoga breathing comes in.)

The point is.... I had it.  I knew they were crying, I knew why, and I was okay with my way of dealing with it.  My silence was not a precursor to me breaking down in sobs of my own or going postal on anyone in the building.  My silence was chosen, and I was fine.  My kids were going to be fine.  EVERYONE WAS GOING TO BE FINE.

Here are three things that happened that made it not fine:

1. The check out lady stopped checking and started story telling.

"I remember one time, my girls really didn't want to go for a walk, and...."  She lost me there.  She was trying to make me feel better-- that she had kids too so she understood. But the only thing I wanted at that moment was for her to check me out faster, so we could get out faster.  

2.  The woman behind me made sure I knew she had it worse.

"Try doing that with three of 'em!"  She said.  Gee, thanks.  I didn't know we were in a competition.  You win- your life is harder than mine.  Ugh.

3.  The woman TWO AISLES OVER shouted at me.

"We've all been there!"  Thank you, very much.  I know that.  I don't look at my crying children and think they are any different from any other children that have walked the planet.  I know she was trying to help, but all she did was make more of a scene.  Because SHE SHOUTED AT ME.

I was pretty frazzled when we got home, and it wasn't even because of the experience. I couldn't figure out if I was overreacting or not.  I am usually very considerate of people's meanings... and most people mean well.  These women certainly did.  But they still shook me, and now I know why:

They made me question what I was doing.  They made me second guess my judgement as a parent.  They embarrassed me.  

I had it... didn't I?

I have this.... don't I?

The answer, obviously, is yes.  Of course I do.  I KNOW THAT.  What rocked me wasn't their well-meaning 'help'.  It was the idea that maybe I should have been more unnerved than I was.  That a mom like me needs constant reminders that she's not alone.

And those reminders are nice.... sometimes.  But sometimes, it's okay to look at a woman in her thirties, see her breathing (in through the nose and out through the nose) and think.....

Would you look at that?  She's got it.  

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A Woman in her Thirties Gets Back in the Saddle


So things are crazy. CRAZY.  All good, but all crazy.  

First off, the weather.  Can we please talk about this winter of pure brutality?  It is a sad day when I look forward to snow, because AT LEAST IT'S NOT 30 BELOW.  Crazy.

Second off, the book.

Have you seen my new cover??

So amazing I can barely stand it.  And not to mention the book launch, coming up on March 23rd.  Here's the flyer:

And if you click here you will see me on the Magers and Quinn website... as an event.  Me.  An event. So cool.  And terrifying.  

As part of the book launch insanity, I'm going to local schools and talking to kids about writing and publishing.  Tuesday morning, just like all those amazing working moms I know, I got up, got the kids off to their morning places, and headed off to school, to teach.

Let me say this:  In over three years of being a stay at home mom, I have not regretted it.  Don't get me wrong, there have been hard days.  Days where I've missed my classroom, missed the joy my career brought me, missed my very own paycheck.  But I haven't regretted staying home.  

Got it, kids?  No regrets.

But I've got to admit... Tuesday was awesome.  Now keep in mind that Aaron was up pretty much the entire night before.  (A full blown ear infection, I found out yesterday.)  So I had the moment I know many working moms have all the time, the moment when your alarm goes off, you haven't slept, and you have to be 'on' all day, so you make the coffee super strong and put extra makeup under your eyes.  

And yet, Tuesday was still awesome.  It started out when I found this in my old teacher bag:

From a kid who caused me many headaches in my last year in the classroom.  I was totally energized.

So I spoke to this group of creative writers and... well... it was even better than I thought it would be.  First of all, it was one period. (Imagine, teachers!)  We had a great conversation, where I didn't have to discipline or take role or deal with paperwork.  And then I left, without a single paper to grade.  It was all the fun parts of teaching, and none of the not-fun parts.   

I was on a high all day after my talk-- still am.  It was more than just the great kids and great discussion we had.  It was the fact that, somewhere deep inside of me, I had allowed myself to do what I'd been warned against when I quit my job:  I'd allowed myself to identify only as 'mom'.  I love being mom-- LOVE.  But sometimes a woman in her thirties needs to be reminded her worth professionally, too.  I didn't realize how much I'd missed it all this time.  

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

A Woman in her Thirties Escapes

This post is dedicated to L, who not only watched both kids all weekend, he did it without complaint.  Which is nice and all, but you know what really sealed the deal for me?  Coming home to a clean house.  Well, played, L.  And thank you. 

Something amazing happened this last weekend.

(That's the wing of an airplane, in case you were wondering.)

I escaped.  A whole weekend in Las Vegas, without husband or kids.   Just me, my girls, and this girl:

(Britney Spears, in case you were wondering.)

I had been looking forward to this trip for a long time.  Am I a huge fan of Vegas? Nah, not really.  Am I huge fan of Britney?  Meh, she's okay.  What I am a fan of is cheap flights, cheap hotels, and amazing food.  Oh, and my friends.  I'm a big fan of my friends.  So Vegas, it was.

Instead of recapping the entire trip, I'm going to leave you with what a woman in her thirties learns about herself when she is away from her babies.  Or at least what this woman in her thirties learned:

1.  I'm old.

Don't get me wrong- 35 is not old.  But in terms of sleep deprivation, footwear, and unwillingness to stay up past midnight, then yes.  I am most definitely old.  

(The cat shirt distracts from the loose-fitting leggings and sensible boots.  This was Britney night, and I was in bed by 11:45.)

2.  I really like food.

I've never considered myself a foodie, but eating at the places we did made me realize that food is really great, and I should eat less boring stuff and more awesome stuff like this:

(Oysters, clams, mussels, crab, and lobster from Bouchon.)

(The single greatest lunch I've ever eaten, period.  From Nobu.)

3.  I need to chill more.

I had a full six hours to myself on Friday before my friends showed up.  You know what I did during that time?   I relaxed by the pool:

Relaxed in the relaxation room at the Palazzo:
(Those are my feet, and that is me looking up at the wave pool reflected on the ceiling.)

And relaxed with some restorative yoga.  Relaxation needs to play a more important role in the life of a woman in her thirties. Amen.

4.  I'm a sap.

The first tears I shed during the trip involved the book I'm reading. (Yes, on the plane, and yes, the woman next to me asked what was wrong. Shut up, haters.)  The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd is simply wonderful, that's all I'll say.  

Aaaaand....I missed my babies.  A lot.  Like a whole lot.  L kept posting pictures of them on our photo stream, and each time I pulled one up I would get all sentimental.  It's the curse of motherhood, isn't it?  You long for your time away, then you long for your time home with them.  Sigh.  

I had a wonderful weekend.  I love my friends so much.  I love that we have known each other so long, and that no matter where we go or what we do, my most favorite times with them always involve sitting around, drinking our drinks of choice and making fun of K.  Or H.  Definitely one of those two.  I love that they know me so well, and love me despite all my dorkiness.

But of course this trip was different.   I loved, loved coming home.  Anna's first words Monday morning were, 'Momma, I'm so glad you're back.'  And Buddy, well, he might not have the words, but I think he was pretty happy to see me, too.

I didn't gamble a penny in Vegas, but after a weekend away I gained a new perspective of just how lucky I am in this life.