Monday, 30 September 2013

31 Days to a Balanced Life

SAHM WAHM balanced life motherhood homemaking writing editing

Welcome to my 2013 31-day series!   Every day for the month of October, I will write on one topic.  In one month I'll write more posts than I did over the last five.  Last year, I chose my topic, 31 days of Real-Life Relationships, because that was something I felt I needed to work on at the time.  This year, my topic choice is my current biggest personal challenge.

I am a wife.  I am a mother.  I am a homemaker.  I am a friend.  I am a daughter and a sister.  I am a writer.  I am an editor.  I am a blogger. . .

I could add a few more things, but you get the picture.  That is a lot of balls to juggle!  And I haven't been very good at it for the past few years.  I am not aiming for perfection in every single area at every single moment. That would be too much stress!

Instead, I plan to work on improving my own self-discipline and organisation to prevent the chaos and cycles of procrastination and manic obsession that I've been creating for myself.  Additionally, I hope to give myself permission to temporarily and purposefully set down one or two of my tasks (laundry, anyone?) for a set period of time without self-imposed feelings of guilt.

To start with, I need to know myself better.  I already know that I don't work well with rigid schedules.  I can't plan my day down to the minute or I quickly rebel.  I have to make it easy to do what I need to do before I take some downtime.

Since returning from our road trip (vacations are great mile-markers to reset your routines), I've been slowly working on a few improvements.  For example, I regularly make the bed and wash the sheets.  The kids' rooms are tidier (and they help with that too!), and I have been regularly getting up before the kids for the first time since my daughter was born.  I make a general effort to clean something on Mondays.  I do all my errands on the same day of the week (usually Tuesdays), And because of this, I feel less guilty taking a full day to work (writing and editing, made possible by a bi-weekly child-care swap arrangement with a wonderful friend).

I hope you will enjoy reading along on my adventures.  Please don't hesitate to offer any advice you may have.


Sunday, 29 September 2013

"It has to be fun!" - Alberta Culture Days Writing Workshop with Janice MacDonald

I created an amateur detective today.  In Regency England, she is a young paid companion (or lady-in-waiting) to an elderly Lady who puts up with her gallivanting and sleuthing because it amuses her. (rather like Aunt Josephine Barry was amused by Anne.)  The entire situation was kind of playing off the beginning of my Beatrix and Oliver book, except this particular old lady is not as dreary and strict as Beatrix's employer.  Poor Beatrix.

I used to read mystery/detective books all the time, starting with the Mandie books and the Accidental Detectives, and branching off from there to Nancy Drew and beyond.  But since I grew up, I've never tried to write a mystery.  Honestly, I don't think I have the gift for puzzles.  All this came from a workshop I attended on Sunday morning.  After spending way too much time thinking about what to wear, I headed out in the rain to the St. Albert Library.  Alberta Culture Days is putting on some free events, and this mystery writing workshop was one of them.

Janice MacDonald is an entertaining speaker, treating the class of thirty or so as close friends.  It felt like a chat rather than a lecture.  I knew I would learn a lot, even though I don't ever see myself writing a straight formula-following mystery.  So I diligently took notes throughout the class.

But the best and biggest thing Janice said, from my point of view, was a little aside at the end of the class about how she writes.  She said, "My first time through a story is my best...It has to be fun", meaning she writes without an outline for the first draft because if she took the time to outline the story, she wouldn't be interested in it any more.  She would already know what happens.  Oh, I can so relate!  I tried once to write an incredibly detailed step-by-step outline using the cleverly-titled Snowflake method.  I haven't been able to finish a novel without an outline, so I thought I'd give it a try.  I had a great time outlining!  The story was fresh and new and I loved it!  I planned the story start to finish.  And then when it was time to sit down and write it—and it shouldn't have been hard since every single scene was listed for me so I knew where I was going for the first time ever—I couldn't write it.

Ok, so the first chapter went surprisingly well, but I suspect that's because my muse threw in something unplanned that blindsided me and made the stakes higher and the villain worse.  Once I got back to writing the scenes I'd planned, I was bored.  I know if I make myself sit down to write each scene, I could get through it.  But if I am bored writing it, there's no way I'll be able to hold a reader's attention.

So I am going to grab hold of Janice's words and make them my own.  It has to be fun!  I can't write if it's not fun.  Janice mentioned that she creates her outline as she writes the first draft, staying only 40 or so pages ahead of where she is in the writing.  She doesn't worry if there are holes in the plot, or if she adds things that need to be brought up earlier in the book.  She simply makes a note of it in her outline and moves on.  The second draft is the time to fix those things.  For so long I've been unable to stop myself from trying to write a brilliant first draft.  I need to stop that.  To give myself permission to write crap.  To make it fun again.

At the workshop, I also had the pleasure of meeting two other writers. Billie Milholland, whose blue hair I recognised from her recent book signing, and Deepti Babu, who is also a freelance editor like me, as well as a scientist (not at all like me!).  That's one of the best things about workshops, classes, and conferences.  A writer, by nature a loner (just like a reluctant amateur detective), can temporarily bask in community, and talk animatedly about writing in a way that loved ones just can't handle more than once in a while.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

An Attempt at Bohemian...whatever that is. (What I Wore)


I dressed out of my comfort zone on Sunday.  First, I wore a long skirt for the first time in...oh, about eight years (except for a pink bridesmaid's dress, and one awful eighties-inspired halloween costume).  Being raised among conservative homeschoolers who thought a prairie-style jumper was the height of fashion, I can't help but feel homeschooled and/or frumpy when I wear something long.  Ridiculous, I know!  A couple of years ago, I really wanted a chevron-striped maxi-skirt from the Gap, but aside from the price, I passed it by simply because I was afraid to look frumpy.

On Saturday we went shopping at Value Village, and this skirt was the only thing that caught my eye amid all the other mid-to-late-90s skirts that I probably owned at one time.

Second, I wore it at my natural waist.  I have a kind of short torso, so I've always felt it necessary to cheat and wear longer shirts or lower waistlines.  But when I was putting this outfit on, I somehow liked the tucked-in look better, especially with the subtle black belt instead of the wide hip-slung brown belt I intended to wear.  At church I felt a little uncomfortable next to the classy professional-looking church dresses  worn by those around me.  But not nearly as much as I would have even a couple of years ago.  As weird as it seems to my husband to post pictures of myself in every new outfit, these "What I Wore" posts have really boosted my confidence.

Shirt: Old Navy
Skirt: Esprit via Value Village
Shoes: Aldo (I love real leather!)
Belt: H&M
Earrings and beaded bracelets: Gift from a friend
Metal circle bracelet: From a going-out-of-business boutique in Merrickville, ON.
Photos by my long-suffering but skeptical husband, who likes to be creative with the camera angle.


The 4-year-old model is wearing clothes from the Gap (thanks to a Christmas gift card) and refused to look at the camera, making this shot look like something out of the Sears Catalog.



The long-suffering and skeptical man himself.  This photo was taken by the 4-year-old.

pleated poppy

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Farewell Summer


On Monday, it was +30 degrees Celsius (about 85-90 Fahrenheit, I think...?)  Way too hot for me.  Two days later, my daughter complained that she didn't have a good day at school because I didn't dress her warmly enough for the 13 degree temperature.  Oops.  So today she chose to wear a toque, neck-warmer, and gloves to school along with her fall jacket.   We've certainly had an abrupt end to summer.  And I couldn't be happier.  Except that I really should finish off the outdoor painting I need to do.  The front porch is done, but the trim around the garage door, along with the back railing are both in desperate need of fresh paint.

In the meantime, I'm thinking about baking pumpkin pies and muffins and ginger cookies, sniffing fall-scented candles at the stores (I love this White Pumpkin candle from Indigo), and even thinking ahead to Christmas decorating and shopping.  I love it!  Farewell Summer!



The geese are gathering.  They'll leave us soon.


All photos from the Labour Day weekend.  And yes, I know I will be just as excited for spring.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Bootcamp: The day I didn't die (though I was sure I would)

Before bootcamp...freaking out
I've made no secret of the fact that I can't run. Other moms who didn't follow the common postpartum exercise recommendation will know exactly the reason why. This reason (or excuse) was proven valid every single time I have tried to run in the past four years. 

Except for a one year off-and-on run of doing the Game On! Diet and aquasize with friends, I've become more and more of a couch potato since my now-4-year-old was born. It has gotten to the point that I can't, in spite of good intentions each morning, make myself do any kind of exercise. Not even yoga or tabatas, which I enjoy. 

So when my husband told me that he wanted to sign up for a boot camp class held in our neighbourhood, I begged him to sign me up too.  Of course we can't be in the same class without having to find a babysitter every single week, so I'm in the Monday class, and he goes on Thursday. I am both social and competitive, so I exercise best in a class. 

I had my first class tonight. Naively, I wasn't expecting to have to run.  But of course it was the first thing we did!  I picked someone randomly to keep pace with...who ended up being the slowest person, so it was lucky for me that I picked him. Usually, my competitive nature puts me right in the middle of the pack and I use all my energy too soon. 

Actually, suppressing my competitive side was the hardest non-physical. thing of the class.  I HATED being the last one to finish the sprinting. I HATED not being able to do all the push ups (my arms felt like they would splinter into a million pieces if I did even one more. And there was no way I was going to do girly push-ups!) 

But afterward, although unsure whether any of my limbs would even hold my weight, I feel wonderful. I know that I will be hyperbolically complaining about sore muscles for the rest of the week (or more likely, for the next eleven weeks), but right now, I am amazed at what I just did. 

I ran!!! Without that particular issue I was worried about causing any embarrassment. In fact, it didn't happen at all.  I did burpees!  Slowly, but I did them. I did full squats!  With no pain from my crooked kneecaps. I did more push-ups in one day than I have ever done before., in spite of not finishing. About 50, I think. I'll just ignore the fact that for the last few sets, I was only moving about an inch. 

After Bootcamp...weak, but exhilarated.