INTERVIEW WITH MARI L. MCCARTHY, THE JOURNALING THERAPY SPECIALIST

May 30, 2012 in Adventures in Re-Discovering Myself, Interviews


I am excited to present my interview with Mari L. McCarthy!

Mari L. McCarthy is The Journaling Therapy Specialist, founder of CreateWriteNow, home of the Journaling for the Self of It™ community.  Mari offers guidance, counseling and encouragement to writerthrough her many journaling eBooks, her Journaling Challenges and in private Journaling Jumpstart consultations. She lives in an oceanfront home south of Boston where she raises roses and consciousness.

1)    How did you get started journaling?

In 1998, I had a Multiple Sclerosis (MS) flare-up and I lost most of my body’s right side feeling and function. My other MS episodes were short lived (4- 6 weeks) but I sensed that this was a biggie and that I had to find a procedure (I was an experienced left- brainer) to teach myself how to write with my left hand. Doing research, I came across Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way and started doing Morning Pages: 3 handwritten stream-of-consciousness pages of writing first thing each morning. Not only was it physical therapy, it was psychotherapy and a pathway to my spirit and my soul.

2)    What do you gain out of your journaling today?

I gain creative ideas for problem solving, goal setting, adjusting my attitudes, and changing my internal and external behavior. My journaling helps me discover more about myself and improve my relationship with Me.  It helps me be a better writer. It’s right here beside me helping me do the best job I can in writing answers to your questions!

3)    How can journaling bring about positive changes in your life?

By putting pen to page every day, Journaling helps us work through and discard all the erroneous, negative, overly self-critical messages that we’ve been carrying around in our bodies since childhood. Through journaling, we reconnect with our true Self; rediscover our power, intelligence, beauty, and all the talents we came into this world with. We work on converting our self-sabotaging thoughts and feelings into self-loving behaviors. We become more confident in communicating our wants and achieving successful outcomes in dealing with others.

4)    How can journaling help a writer become better at their craft?

Journaling helps a writer personally and professionally. It helps writers determine the causes of writer’s block, page fright, inner critic activities and other writer diseases so they can get to their pages easily and on time. It’s great for helping writer’s determine and stick to their own writing style and process. Our Journal is our 24/7 Writing Coach. In Journaling routinely, we are sending a message to the universe about our needs so that the universe can provide us with resources to meet our writing project deadlines.

5)    What’s the best way to start a journaling routine?

Whatever way feels best to you. Journaling is about feelings, self-expression, creativity and imagination not about thinking (or over thinking which we are so good at!). My best suggestion is to grab or buy a comfortable pen and notebook (I use Bic ultimates pens and Staples one subject notebooks) and ask your Journal a question like, “What’s the best way for me to start my journaling routine?”  or “How do I start?” or whatever words feel right to you. Then write, write, write, fast.  You might find your answers at our website on the How to Start a Journal page or at our Personal Journal Blog by entering a phrase in the search box there.

6)    How much journaling is enough to see results?

The key to seeing results is not quantity but continuity: daily journal writing at the same place at the same time.  It gives a message to your being that Journaling is part of your daily health routine as natural and normal as brushing your teeth.

7)    What advice would you give to an aspiring author? An established author?

Use your journal to help you with your writing arts and crafts challenges. At our website, authors can download a Free Cure Writer’s Block with Your Journal eBook.

8)    What other creative outlets do you enjoy?

Singing. Through journaling, I rediscovered my passion for music and that I always wanted to sing. Within weeks of writing down my singing goal, I read about a local music school that accepted adult students. The first time I appeared on stage, it was better than heaven. I’m currently preparing my first solo concert coming up in June.

You can hear our company song, “All the Time” here.

9)    What’s next in your life?

I’m working (with my Journal of course) on updating my website which will now be known as CreateWriteNow:  The Journaling Center.  I’m creating some new eBooks and journaling challenges. My personal priority is working with my Journal on overcoming my physical challenges and achieving optimal health.

10)  What’s your favorite dessert?

Anything dark, dark, dark chocolate, with mud pie topping my list.

Thank you, Mari! I enjoyed this very much and am looking forward to doing more journaling with you in the September 27 Day Journaling Challenge!

Visit Mari at CreateWriteNow. If anyone does one of her journaling challenges, I’d love to hear about it! Read about my experience with her Start Journaling and Change Your Life In Seven Days here.

MARI L. MCCARTHY’S 7-DAY JOURNALING CHALLENGE: HOW DID I DO?

May 28, 2012 in Adventures in Re-Discovering Myself

 

In March of this year, WOW Women on Writing posted an interview with Mari L. McCarthy, a journaling expert.

I don’t journal. It was a requirement in junior high, although knowing my English teacher was going to read every word limited what I wrote. I carried the habit over to my teenage years, and with no one looking over my shoulder, I let my feelings loose. It was fine until the day I went back and read some of the things I had written—oh my goodness! The hopes, dreams, rampant insecurities and romantic musings of a teenage girl should not see the light of day. I couldn’t destroy my journal fast enough, and to this day, I’m thankful I did.

But here was a journaling expert offering a challenge: “Start Journaling And Change Your Life In 7 Days.” Huh.

I was, and still am, in the market for a change in my life as I try to tease out the threads of myself that used to exist before I became a mother and braid them in with the motherhood threads. I’m trying to find a new direction in which to steer myself in a what-do-I-want-to-do-when-I-grow up kind of way. I definitely have things I need to turn around. Mari L. McCarthy was promising all that change in only 7 days?

I signed up, if for no other reason than Day 1 including making a collage. Any adventure that involves an art project is right up my alley. We were to collage a motivational image for journaling. I cut out pictures from magazines and printed pictures off the internet. I cut and pasted images, book covers, and inspirational phrases that spoke to me about writing. I pasted on random pictures that have no meaning other than I love how they look. Finally, I stuck on a giant orange M&M because, well, I wanted to eat it. Already I loved my journaling challenge!

Then came Day 2: Journal for 20 minutes about anything you want. That shouldn’t have been too hard. I’m rarely at a loss for something to ramble on about. Except…could I have picked a worse week to start journaling? I have 3 kids, one in half-day kindergarten, and it was the week before Spring Break. Every possible school volunteering event that I’m involved in came down that week, plus I needed to pack for our trip and tie up all the loose ends involved in being gone for 10 days. On top of that, it was baseball season, which meant every afternoon was taken up with shuttling kids to and from practices and watching two-and-a-half-hour plus games. I had no time to journal. I barely had time to feed my kids dinner. How on earth was I going to do this?

Honestly, was I going to quit on Day 2?

No way! I wanted to change my life, and if journaling 20 minutes every day for 7 days was the ticket, then that was what I was going to do. I picked up my warm-colored spiral journaling notebook I bought for the challenge, set the timer, and wrote for 20 minutes and not one second more. Every day for the following 5 days, regardless of how jam-packed my schedule was or how exhausted I was, I wrote for 20 minutes. One day, I wrote about how much I still had to accomplish before leaving on our trip. Another day I wrote about a couple of characters I was working on and tried to pinpoint their personalities a bit more. I spent 20 minutes discussing my tendency to use adverbs like I do grated cheese on a plate of nachos: sprinkle liberally over every spare surface area of tortilla chip I can find. I then practiced rewriting sentences without adverbs but with the same emotional punch.

On Day 7, after finishing my last 20-minute journaling session, I closed my notebook, sat back and reflected: did my life change in 7 days?

I haven’t journaled consistently since, but I have used journaling to work through some plot points and character issues. There is something freeing about sitting down with a piece of paper that no one is ever going to read and posing the question: “Ok, Character X, what is your deal? I want you to have personality Traits A, B, and C. So why do you keep insisting on displaying trait Y? Do you want to be Y? Because if so, then Trait B has got to go…or does it? Can you be a contradiction?” That kind of musing in the written form has been a valuable tool I have taken away from the journaling challenge. I now know I can use journaling to work out my writing conundrums instead of stewing about it in my own head for days.

I’ve also learned that no matter how busy I am, I can make time to write, even if it is only for 20 minutes. That’s a life-changing piece of knowledge right there. If something is important enough, I can and I will carve out pockets of time to achieve it.

I may not become a consistent, life-long journaler, but I am happy I took the challenge. I have gained another tool in my box of tricks for getting through life successfully, and I won’t hesitate about pulling it out to use again.

  • If you are interested, Mari is offering another “Start Journaling and Change Your Life in 7 Days” challenge beginning on June 4th.
  •  She also offers a 27-day Journaling Challenge in September. What could I learn about myself if I journaled every day for 27 days? Hmmm….. This one I might have to do. Anyone want to do it with me?
  •  In fact, check out here entire schedule of journaling challenges here.

Click here for my Interview with Mari L. McCarthy, founder of CreateWriteNow!


THE LAW OF GIVING: DEEPAK CHOPRA AND THE LEIBSTER BLOG & THE VERSATILE BLOGGER AWARDS

May 25, 2012 in Adventures in Re-Discovering Myself, Book Reviews

I recently read Deepak Chopra’s The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, a slim, New Age-y instruction manual on how to make your dreams come true.

I come from a science background, so my initial tendency is to say “It sounds fun, but it’s probably not true.” However, at this point in my life, I could stand to have a dream or two come true and I am not feeling particularly picky at how it comes to pass. I checked out the book from the library and read it. When the due date came around, I returned the book, hopped on to Amazon.com and ordered my own copy.

Why?

Because the book works! Albeit in an eerily voodoo-ish kind of way, as in The X-Files meets your Fairy Godmother.

Take Chapter 2: The Law of Giving:

“Wherever I go, and whoever I encounter, I will bring them a gift.”

Everyone? I immediately started thinking about Target and coupons, but the premise is much simpler than that. A compliment, a blessing, even a silent wish of happiness for someone counts as a gift. And those are free!

Basically, it’s the law of putting out into this great world that which you would like to receive.

Sounds hokey, doesn’t it?

I thought the same thing. But honestly, what did I have to lose?

One morning, I had an encounter with a middle-aged woman who was entering my information into her computer for a registration process. Except, she wasn’t merely entering my information; she was lasering it in with a speed I didn’t know was possible. Her short, wide fingers flitted across the keyboard, landing here and there with a precision and agility that was mesmerizing. I’m fairly certain that as I stood there watching her, my jaw dropped open in awe.

Being shy, I don’t normally talk to strangers any more than I can help it, but I had just finished Chapter 2 and Deepak Chopra’s words were ringing in my ears. I closed my jaw, stepped out of my box and said “Wow! You type really fast!” Not my most eloquent sentence; nevertheless, this woman’s reaction to it was priceless. She blushed and giggled like a schoolgirl!

We parted ways, both of us smiling broadly. I had made her day, but her reaction had made mine. Boy, that Deepak Chopra really knows what he’s talking about, I thought.

Little did I know.

Not two minutes later, I encountered another woman at the checkout counter. In the midst of me sliding my debit card through the machine and entering my PIN number, the cashier said “That’s a really pretty ring!”

I lifted my head and stared at her. Did she just…give me a compliment? After I just gave one to someone else?

Deepak Chopra, you are peddling some powerful mojo, my friend.

This has happened to me more than once. In fact, I’d venture to say that since I reconfigured my thinking to say something positive whenever I think of it, I have received more compliments than I ever have in my life. It’s nice, but the surprised look of pleasure on the recipient’s face when I give them an honest compliment is the real gift. They blossom right before my eyes, with a spreading smile and a light turning on in their eyes. I imagine that long after I’ve left, their good feeling lasts, and if they, awash in their feeling of light, turn around and pass the compliment on to someone else…well, look what I’ve started!

Recently, I have been honored to be on the receiving end of 2 amazing compliments: The Liebster Blog Award nomination (read more about that here ) and the Versatile Blogger Award, given to me by the fabulous Melanie Marttila at Writerly Goodness. If you’re in the mood for some true romance, read her poem why i sometimes don’t even bother.

Now it is my turn, and my pleasure, to send these 2 compliments back out into the world!

For the Liebster Blog Award, the rules are as follows:

1)    Thank the one who nominated you by linking back. (Done here.)

2)    Nominate five blogs with less than 200 followers.

3)    Let your nominees know by leaving a comment on their sites.

4)    Add the award image to your site.

 

My Liebster Blog Award Nominees are:

1)    Sara Vinas’ Cracker Jack Poet: A poetic snack–short, usually sweet, nutty, with a surprise inside.

2)    Mel Walsh Jones’ Mel’s Madness, Who Needs Fiction?: Among many other interesting musings, she has great movie reviews.

3)    Lynn Daue’s Meals My Kids Don’t Like: I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who slaves over a hot stove for a delicious meal my kids won’t eat.

4)    Misky’s Misk Cooks: Beautifully photographed food and their recipes…how could you go wrong?

5)    Ivy’s Unscripted Life : A control freak that has given up control: my inspiration.

 

For the Versatile Blogger Award, the rules are as follows:

1)    Thank the person who gave you this award.

2)    Include a link to their blog.

3)    Next, select 15 blogs/bloggers that you’ve recently discovered or follow regularly.

4)    Nominate those 15 bloggers for the Versatile Blogger Award.

5)    Finally, tell the person who nominated you 7 things about yourself.

 

My Versatile Blogger Award Nominees are:

1)    Dana Dampier’s Crazy, Poetic Life: A poet, a fellow stay-at-home mom trying to find herself…what’s not to love?

2) Michelle Reynoso’s My Writing Life: Writing and books, books and writing, it’s all interesting here.

3)    Kristi Carver’s Colorado Girl Writes : Aspiring author; Blueberry Fanatic; Creative Maven; Wine Enthusiast; Kitchen Dilettante; Constant Reader; Music Maniac; Animal Lover; Intuitive Psychologist; Registered Nurse; Wife and Mother.

4)    Veronica Roth’s Blog: Writing and art come together here.

5)    Jeannine Everett’s Moby Joe Café: If you never need to feel inspired, this is the place to go.

6)    Jennifer Chow’s Blog, where she describes herself in this lovely way:

I once visited a fortune cookie factory in San Francisco Chinatown. Peering through the window, I saw the woman folding my favorite childhood treat. She twisted the hot dough with deft fingers, each filled with a special message. Like a fortune cookie, I’m twisted into dual selves, my Asian-American nature. This blog serves my words and my culture in a written delicacy.

7)    Kelly Williamson’s This is Mental…Seriously: Writing about a difficult situation in a beautifully honest way.

8)    Sopphey Vance’s Sopphey Says: With blog titles like “My Iron Supplements Are Photogenic”, this is a quintessential example of a Versatile Blogger!

9)    Lynn Daue’s Rhymes With Tao: Funny and poignant…a great combination.

10) Rebecca Barray’s Becca’s Blog Another stay-at-home mom who writes, is funny, and always has a positive thing to say.

11) Bonnie Vesely’s Right Livelihood, JustVentures Coaching: Coaching you to a better life, she leads by example.

12) Claudine Jaboro Fiction, Family and Science: I believe her title says it all!

13) Julia Tomiak’s Diary of a Word Nerd: Words, books, reading recommendations…this is my kind of hangout!

14) Elissa Lauren Field’s Blog: Great insights about writing.

15) Melanie Cole’s The Writing Life With Melanie Cole: Five Sentence Fiction Fridays are a favorite of mine!

 

And… the 7 Things About Myself Are:

1)    I was born on 10-7 and for some reason whenever I look at the clock during the 10:00 hour, am or pm, it eerily says 10:07 more times than can be considered a coincidence.

2)    My two favorite holidays by far are Halloween and Christmas.

3)    My three sons, the beginning, middle, and ending of stories, the rule of thirds in art…I think there is something magical about the number 3.

4)    My favorite movie is Sense and Sensibility.

5)    Maybe because I’m a Libra and am governed by the scales, I have an unusually low tolerance for unfairness.

6)    My head is grounded in science, but my heart lives in the clouds.

7)    I enjoy teaching art to my elementary school kids and am really going to miss it when they move on to junior high.

 

Now I am off to spread compliments and silent wishes of happiness wherever I go!

Have a great Memorial Day Weekend!

I AM A CONVENTIONAL SNOB: A BOOK REVIEW OF EATS, SHOOTS & LEAVES

May 23, 2012 in Book Reviews, Random Thoughts


I am a conventional snob.

I happen to like appropriately placed punctuation, proper capitalization, and correct spelling and grammar. Why? Because then I can understand what the author is trying to say.

Is it really that big of a deal, you might ask, to have every single word spelled correctly? And capital letters—honestly, you might exclaim—it’s the same letter, only smaller! You mean to tell me you can’t read that?

No, I can’t, and neither can anyone else. If you don’t believe me, stop by a kindergarten or first grade classroom and try to decipher what those blossoming writers have written. Of course there will be letter reversals, but there are bigger problems than that going on.

My youngest son copied this sentence from the board during his kindergarten class. Every single word is there, and they are all spelled correctly. So, what does it say?

It’s hard to tell, because there are no spaces between the words, which means there is no way to know where one word stops and another begins.

There is also no punctuation, which serves a similar purpose: letting you know when one sentence ends and the other begins. But that is only the beginning of what punctuation can do.

For Lynne Truss, author of Eats, Shoots & Leaves, nothing is more important than punctuation, as exemplified by her subtitle “The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation.” She explains that “punctuation marks are the traffic signals of language: they tell us to slow down, notice this, take a detour, and stop.” In fact, punctuation, used correctly, defines the meaning of what you’re reading. Consider the difference between these 2 sentences she shows in her book:

“A woman, without her man, is nothing.”

“A woman: without her, man is nothing.”

The words are the same in both; only the punctuation changes. And yet, what a huge difference in meaning!

Wait a second, I can hear you say, you read an entire book about punctuation? Wasn’t it boring?

Not in the least, for Lynne Truss infuses this topic with sentences like these:

“But blow me, if there aren’t differences of opinion.”

and

“I will happily admit I hadn’t heard of [Aldus Manutius the Elder] until about a year ago, but am now absolutely kicking myself that I never volunteered to have his babies.”

This about the man who invented italic typeface and printed the first semi-colon. Truss is nothing if not passionate about her punctuation.

You didn’t think it could be done, did you? Neither did I, but Lynne Truss has done it. She has meticulously researched the history and the correct usage of punctuation and has presented it in an engaging way, regaling the reader with stories like this:

“[James] Thurber was once asked by a correspondent: “Why did you have a comma in the sentence, ‘After dinner, the men went into the living-room’?” And his answer was probably one of the loveliest things ever said about punctuation. “This particular comma,” Thurber explained, “was Ross’s way of giving the men time to push back their chairs and stand up.”

Would you ever have guessed that punctuation could be so poetic? Or powerful:

“Punctuation developed slowly and cautiously not because it wasn’t considered important, but, on the contrary, because it was such intensely powerful ju-ju.”

or exuberant:

“…the exclamation mark is the big attention-deficit brother who gets over-excited and breaks things and laughs too loudly.”

or firm:

“…the semicolon is indispensable in another capacity: when it performs the duties of a kind of Special Policeman in the event of comma fights.”

or fanatical:

In a quote from American writer Paul Robinson: “The semicolon has become so hateful to me,” he says in all seriousness, “that I feel almost morally compromised when I use it.”

As Lynne Truss says: “If there is one lesson to be learned from this book, it is that there is never a dull moment in the world of punctuation.” There’s never a dull moment in her book either.

This is not your average dry tome on your average dry subject. Lynne Truss’s book is both funny and informative and, well, British, so from here on out, I’ll be punctuating with a British accent.

It’s good to know that I’m not alone in my stickler ways. I have found a like-minded soul in Lynne Truss, although I’m quite content to never have offered to have Aldus Manutius the Elder’s babies. I will happily go forth with her rules of punctuation firmly embedded in my mind, particularly her last, little known rule on correct comma usage:

“…don’t use commas like a stupid person.”

MONDAY, MONDAY

May 21, 2012 in Quizzes

 

Mondays are my favorite day of the week.

They didn’t used to be. I, like so many school-age children, used to think Saturdays were the best: no school, no commitments, just hours of uninterrupted playtime stretching before me. I still like Saturdays quite a bit, although now they’re not commitment free by any means. Baseball, soccer, and basketball games rule this day, and with all 3 of my boys playing, Saturdays tend to be chaotic—in a good way! It is my pleasure to watch every minute of their games, even if it is while standing in the pouring rain.

When I got to college, my favorite day was Friday. Something about waking up on a Friday morning knowing that I had almost made it through another tough week brought the extra jolt of energy I needed to plow through the day ahead. Anticipation was high too: the reward of Friday and Saturday night activities loomed large in my mind. To this day, no matter how long the week has been, I usually find myself with an extra burst of energy on Fridays.

Now, though, my favorite day of the week is Monday. I’ve had the weekend to catch up on some rest, both physically and mentally, so when the alarm clock sounds on Monday morning, I am ready to go. My energy level is high, my list of things to do is long, and the day is filled with nothing but potential.

I power through Mondays, knocking out tasks from my “to do” list leftover from the last week, catching up on laundry and emails, beginning new projects that require a lot of time and energy—I can’t be stopped! Productivity is my middle name on Mondays, and it feels wonderful. I can go to sleep Monday night exhausted but happy, knowing that I’ve accomplished a lot in a mere 17 hours of wakefulness.

It’s an unusual day to be enamored with, for sure. My favorite day of the week is the one in which I do the most work? Might there be something wrong with me?

On a whim, I checked to see what day of the week I was born on: it was a Monday. Coincidence?

Or does it stand to reason that, knowing myself as I do, if I had to face the arduous task of being squeezed mercilessly through a birth canal, I would tackle that task on a Monday?

I found a couple of websites that claimed to attach personality traits to the day of the week you were born on. Well, I was all about that! Read a bunch of questionably-scientific folklore about people born on a particular day of the week and believe it to be true? Count me in!

According to Avalon Numerology:

“Silver charms, especially crescents, will bring you luck if you were born on a Monday. You are likely to have an active imagination, and people find you attractive.”

I like silver, and I definitely have an active imagination. I’m not sure if people find me attractive, but it sounds nice!

This information from Clickastro.com sounds pretty good too:

“The person born [on Monday] will be soft, calm, and truth-loving and have a good personality and strong convictions.”

I could get behind that, even if I’ve never been calm in my life.

I had a lot of (nonproductive) fun seeking out a possible answer of why I like Mondays, but the bottom line is, I just do. Mondays represent a clean slate, opportunities for change and growth, and the spark of new resolve for me. If the week wears me down and I lose sight of what I’m trying to accomplish, I can count on the fact that there’s always another Monday waiting for me on the other side of the weekend to get me back on track.

I’d love to know: What is your favorite day of the week? Does it coincide with the day you were born?

I AM A MYSTERY

May 18, 2012 in Adventures in Re-Discovering Myself

Today’s blog is inspired by the fabulous Sopphey at Sopphey Says: On Impression and a sentence she wrote on her post Z-Zeuxippe.

Different people see me in different lights.

If you’re a good friend, you probably think I’m funny, helpful, outgoing, and creative. And for the most part, I am.

If you’re a stranger, you will most likely categorize me as aloof or cliquey because I won’t talk to you. What you’re seeing is the part of me that is shy.

If you’re a fellow gymmate, you might think of me as anti-social because I come in, hop on the cardio machine the furthest away from everyone else, and don’t talk to a soul. That’s the side of me that needs to be alone to solve my problems, real or imagined, and to let my mind wander wherever it needs to go. If I don’t get that time to myself, I will go crazy, and trust me when I say you don’t want to be around to see that.

After a sleepless night, you will find me quiet and cranky, and may wonder if I need an antidepressant.

If you ever have the misfortune to witness what happens when I’m experiencing a low-blood sugar moment, you will want to run for your life. This facet of me, by the way, is not my fault. (Thanks, Grandma.)

A cold, rainy Sunday afternoon may find me curled up in my pajamas under a warm, fuzzy blanket with a good book and the energy level of a sloth. The next day I could be dressed in a nice blouse and cute ankle-high boots in front of a classroom of 6th graders teaching them about art with exuberance and humor.

After a bad day, you might find me pale and small, feeling so hopeless that you worry I might not make it out of my house again…ever.

The next day, I might power through a difficult task with a strength you didn’t know I had in me.

The fact of the matter is, I am made up of a lot of different components, and even I haven’t discovered them all yet. As Sopphey says: “I am as much a mystery to you as I am a mystery to me.” I think that sums up who I am, and who we all are, beautifully.

I don’t mind having all these contradictory pieces, although I do like some more than others. What does bother me is when someone says “You don’t seem like yourself today.” Up until reading Sopphey’s quote, that comment used to throw me for a loop. I’m not me? Well, that’s just great. I can’t even be myself successfully! What did I screw up? Am I too happy? Too introspective? Too tense? Which component of me do I need to adjust so you will think I’m myself again? And if I change it, am I going to throw off the next person I meet because they will be expecting something different?

Now I’m going to try facing that comment differently.

The fact of the matter is that whatever you’re seeing is me. It just may be a part of me you’re not used to seeing. Heck, it could be a part of me I’m not used to seeing! Maybe it’s a good piece, or maybe it’s one of those pieces that isn’t so great but I lost the receipt and can never return it. Or maybe what you’re seeing is a small slice of my Grandma’s ghost that I can’t seem to exorcise no matter how hard I try.

Thank you, Sopphey, for reminding me that I don’t have to fit into a neat little box. I can be “on” when I’m teaching, or quiet at home; I can be outgoing with close friends or shy with strangers; I can be so chatty no one can get a word in edgewise one minute and not want to talk to anyone the next…

As long as I’m being myself, in all my different facets, it’s enough.

MNINB APRIL 2012 PLATFORM BUILDING CHALLENGE

May 16, 2012 in On Writing

I’m tentative when it comes to technology.

Let me rephrase that: I don’t do technology. At all.

I’m the person who tells her son to pick up his iThing because I can’t keep iPods, iPads, and iTouches straight. I’m the one whose friends come up to her and say “Did you see that hilarious picture on…oh, that’s right. You don’t do Facebook.” When my cell phone went on the blink, the technical support guy suggested I try placing my sim card in another working cellular phone device. After getting directions on what/where the sim card was and how to properly insert it elsewhere, he said he’d call me on that phone as a test. When I expressed concern that he didn’t know my friend’s phone number, he laughed….at me! Apparently, the phone number goes where the sim card goes. Who knew?

Up until April 1, 2012, I felt confident with 2 technological things: email and surfing the internet.

Along came My Name Is Not Bob’s (MNINB) April Platform Building Challenge. Robert Lee Brewer’s premise seemed simple enough: in a mere 30 days, you too could be the proud owner of an author platform! According to the experts, this a requirement if you ever hope to be a published author. When he posted the idea for this challenge, I sat up and listened. And then I said no.

I was planning on starting a blog and I did need a platform, but April 1st was smack dab in the middle of my Hawaiian vacation. Did I really want to stop lounging on the beach to do some work? Not so much.

But Robert did say each day would be a “simple” task. Even on vacation, I might be able to handle something simple. How long could it take? 5 minutes? 10 minutes max?

Day 1 was easy: Who am I? A pale Seattleite in desperate need of some Vitamin D. Beach, here I come!

Day 2 was easy: What are my goals? For the short term, they are get a tan, rest, and drink tropical cocktails.

Day 3 came and Robert threw me into the deep end of the pool with some chum and a few bloodthirsty great white sharks: Get a Facebook account.

What? What? I don’t do Facebook! I’ve heard stories about Facebook. People plant carrots in a virtual garden and tag/poke their friends. I wasn’t sure what either of those meant. On Robert’s blog. I scrolled through comment after comment of my fellow challengers saying things like “Easy! I already have Facebook!” Obviously, when Robert said simple, he meant simple for people who hadn’t been living under a non-technological rock.

Day 4: Get a Twitter account. What? What?

Clearly, Not Bob was trying to destroy me.

So began my month-long foray into the technology of social media and it wasn’t easy.

I read “The Twitter Handbook” to learn about tweeting, re-tweets, hashtags, and lists.

I watched “Welcome!” videos to learn about GooglePlus and spent hours at the Help Centers of LinkedIn and Hootsuite. I used every detective skill in my arsenal to track down information on how to get Timeline for Facebook, only to discover that they will give it to you when they feel good and ready, and not a second before.

In other words, I started from scratch, finally coming to the table where the rest of society has been feasting for years.

Do I like all this social media wizardry? Surprisingly, I love Twitter. Who knew that someone who can ramble on endlessly would be so enamored with snippets of thoughts packed into 140 characters or less? I am also becoming cautiously fond of Facebook. But the one thing above all that I have enjoyed is the friendships I have made with my fellow challengers.

Interestingly, we all have our baggage. It took me almost the full 30 days to work up the courage to take the plunge into Facebook, something that almost everyone else had before this challenge even started.  Others balked at Pinterest, something I’m dying to spend more time on. Regardless of our fears, we are all right there in it to urge each other on.

Thank you, Robert, for dreaming up the idea for this challenge in the first place, and thank you, my fellow challengers, for going on this journey with me.

I’ll catch you all on Twitter and Facebook!

FOR ME, MOTHER’S DAY IS WITH THE KIDS

May 14, 2012 in Adventures in Parenting

 

As a child, regardless of your age, Mother’s Day is about celebrating your own mother, which I do along with everyone else. But as a mother, how do you celebrate your day?

I have friends who leave the house from sunup to sundown, spending the day at the spa or shopping or meeting girlfriends for lunch or doing whatever it is that thrills them because they don’t get a chance to do it any other day of the year. What a great way to spend Mother’s Day!

I have other friends whose husbands take the kids out of the house for the day so they can have the house to themselves. They’ll take a blissfully uninterrupted nap or work in the garden or read a good book or settle in on the couch with a box of chocolates or do whatever else thrills them because they don’t get a chance to do it any other day of the year. Another wonderful way to spend Mother’s Day!

For me, Mother’s Day is about celebrating my kids, for they are the ones that made me a mother.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m no saint. I’m not about to spend my Mother’s Day carting my kids to miniature golf and Target so they can pick out a toy. Mother’s Day is, after all, still about me! We did the things I wanted to do, like go out to a nice brunch that I didn’t have to cook or clean up after and making an excursion to my favorite crafting store to pick out a toy…I mean, important artistic tool or supply.

The point is, I wanted to do these things with my kids.

Maybe some of this came from my own mother. When Mother’s Day dawned, we’d bring her breakfast in bed and give her our handmade cards and school-made presents. She’d exclaim over them of course, but then she’d reach under the bed and pull out two little gifts for my sister and I. What was this? She’s giving us presents on Mother’s Day? I always thought that was a pretty cool thing to do.

I don’t buy my kids gifts, but I also didn’t have a problem spending my special afternoon playing Hot Lava Monster with them at the playground. I was fine spending my evening snuggled up with my three boys reading a bedtime story like we do every night, and I certainly did not mind at all when my middle son came up to me out of the blue, gave me a hug, and when I told him I loved him, he said “Me too.”

It’s those little moments that made my Mother’s Day everything I expected and more.

Don’t worry: my spa time is coming. My time of being out of the house doing the things I enjoy is on its way, and that chocolate box definitely has my name written all over it. Just…not on Mother’s Day. For me, Mother’s Day is with the kids.

How did you spend your special Mother’s Day?

WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE: A LEGACY

May 11, 2012 in Reflections on Pop Culture

I love teaching art through children’s literature. Something magical happens when kids see a classic picture book that their parents have read to them a thousand times come to life on a piece of paper. As the kids add black chalk pastel fur to their Splat the Cats or collage textured paper to create Very Hungry Caterpillars, you can see their minds start putting the puzzle pieces together. They begin to realize that these books and the pictures within didn’t just come to be. They had to be imagined, planned, drawn, and colored. Take it a step further, and a spark of possibility ignites: “Hey!” they think, “Maybe I can do this too!” In fact, they are already doing it.

Of all the lessons I teach about the masters of children’s literature, my favorite is the one where the kids create their own wild things based on Maurice Sendak’s Where The Wild Things Are.

When I read the book aloud in class, I instruct the kids to pay careful attention to the wild things. As we listen to them roar their terrible roars and gnash their terrible teeth, we observe pointy or square-shaped teeth housed in smiles, frowns, or fierce-looking scowls. When they roll their terrible eyes, we see that they are all big and yellow. When they show their terrible claws, we all take note: our wild things must have claws! We study the patterns Maurice Sendak used to bring his wild things to life: short, repeated lines create fur, loops of w’s connected together make scales. And we study their feet: clawed feet, webbed feet, human-looking bare feet. By the end of the story, the children are experts at what wild things are.

The time has come for them to dream up their own.

I teach this lesson in the 1st grade, and you would be amazed at the details they come up with. Some follow the master, coloring a wild thing that looks remarkably similar to one they saw in the book, even though as soon as I finish reading it, I close it and put it away. I stand back in awe, watching as they remember all those beautiful details from our study of his illustrations.

Some children dream up details that I would never think of in a million years. I stand back in awe, watching their creativity take flight.

Not only is this lesson a favorite of mine, it’s a favorite of the kids’ too. Their eyes are lit up during the entire hour. They too, have been weaned on Where The Wild Things Are, and to have the chance to transform from passive listener to active illustrator seems to resonate deep within their hearts. They are, to a one, enraptured with this lesson.

I wonder sometimes if I shouldn’t send Maurice Sendak a photograph of their fabulous Wild Things. What would he think of them? Would he laugh out loud at some of the expressions on their faces? Would he be flattered? Honored? Would he sit back in awe at some of the ideas the kids had?

I will never know, for that opportunity has passed along with him. However, the opportunity for future generations to read his words, to marvel at his art, to imagine their own Wild Things in the way that only they can do will be passed along still, from generation to generation. Next year, when my youngest son is a first-grader, it will be my pleasure to teach him and his classmates how to imagine their own wild things, and I know I will sitting back in awe once again of the talent of Maurice Sendak and the inspiration he lights a fire to in the minds of his readers.

WHAT THE HECK IS BLOGGING? AN INSTRUCTION MANUAL (aka DEAR MOM AND DAD)

May 9, 2012 in On Writing

Prior to this year, the extent of my blogging knowledge came from two art blogs I discovered during a Google search for new art ideas to teach my elementary school kids.

When I started envisioning my own blog, I delved into the blogging world a little deeper, learning all I could from existing blogs with large followings. Somehow, either through osmosis or from spending countless hours drifting from blog to blog, following every link like a trail of breadcrumbs, I found I could talk somewhat confidently about blogging…but only to people who knew less than I did.

When it came time to launch my own blog, I came face-to-face with my own pre-blogging self in the form of several family members and friends. My invitation to check out my blog, which I had worked so hard on, was met with the sound of crickets.

“Oh? A…blog? Huh.”

“What am I supposed to do with it?”

“Do I have to buy something?”

“Do I just…read it?”

For those of you who are brand new to the blogging world and/or are trying desperately to understand what the heck I’m doing with my time, this blog’s for you!

What is a blog?

A blog is short for a “web log”, which is a personal diary or journal where you can document your thoughts, ideas, and even your daily existence on the internet for everyone to see. Each specific entry in the blog is called a “post.”

Why would anyone want to have a blog?

Because it’s fun!

What do people blog about?

People blog about everything! Martha Stewart and other famous people blog about what they ate for breakfast because their fans are fascinated by anything they do…although with Martha, you can bet there will be a recipe attached. Mindy Kaling, TV actress and writer, inexplicably blogs about fashion. (Why? See above answer.)

Writers blog about writing, readers blog about books, artists blog about art, chefs blog about food, and online businesses blog about what they can offer you. You name it, and you can find  a blog about it.

Why should I read anyone’s blog?

Because it’s fun!

Not enough of an incentive? How about this:

What if you’re a new mom with an infant who won’t sleep through the night. Wouldn’t it be nice to connect with someone going through the exact same thing who wrote about it on their blog for you to find at 3:00am? Maybe this particular blogger has a sense of humor and makes you laugh through your tears as they share tips for surviving this phase of child development. As you skim through the comments left by other readers of this blog, you realize you are not alone!

Blogs can provide any number of things, such as:

  • Information
  • Ideas
  • Inspiration
  • Humor
  • Entertainment

but the main thing they provide is a sense of connection with other people that share your interests.

So I just…read the blog?

Sure, read the blog, but then leave a comment! I had been reading my art blogs for years before I learned that I was committing a major faux pas by never leaving a comment. If I don’t leave a comment, how will the blog author know how much I love their blog? As a blogger, leaving your innermost thoughts on the internet is tough. Having no comment left on your lonely post is even worse.

What do I say in the Comment section?

Lots of things!

  • Share a similar experience: “When you said that wonderfully insightful thing, it reminded me of when I said this equally insightful thing.”
  • Tell me how it made you feel: “I laughed out loud!” or “This brought tears to my eyes.”
  • It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just something that lets the author know someone was there: “Hi.”

Isn’t it scary being out there on the internet?

Surprisingly, the blogosphere is full of wonderful people! I am so lucky to have met such supportive and friendly fellow bloggers. They are so supportive and friendly that I have been nominated for the Liebster Blog Award 3 lovely times just for starting my blog!

How do I find blogs I might like?

You’ve come to the right place! As a Liebster Blog Award recipient, it will be my pleasure to pass on the award to some fantastic blogs in the near future. But to get you started, check out these blogs of the 3 fabulous people who nominated me for the Liebster Award:

Dana’s Crazy, Poetic Life

Dana is a stay-at-home mom of three boys (like me!)  who is trying to find her place in this world (like me!), except she does it through beautiful poetry. If you’re a writer who has ever battled self-doubts, her poem Writer’s Angst is a must read.

Michelle Reynoso’s My Writing Life

Michelle is a writer and photographer, and has combined the two into an eBook entitled “Do You?” which has just been nominated for a Global EBook award!

Sara Vinas’ Cracker Jack Poet:

“A poetic snack–short, usually sweet, nutty, with a surprise inside,” is a great description of her blog. If you’re a runner, or ever wanted to be one, her poem Running with the Wind will make you feel like you had a workout without even leaving your computer.

I finished reading your post. Now what do I do?

Now you can click on the button that says “Comments” and leave a comment! You’re also more than welcome to sign up for an email subscription that will deliver my new posts right into your email. You can find the sign up link on the upper right hand side of this post. And then…go forth and explore the blogosphere!