Monthly Archives: July 2013

It’s Not Selfish to Do What You Love

Mother and daughterA few weeks ago, I came across a tweet from @gaurav_sehdev that I liked enough to share:

Sometimes it is fine to focus on your own needs, even if it feels selfish.

Several people favorited that tweet. Women especially need to be reminded that it’s okay to put yourself first.

Caregiving is part of our identity as women, and that’s wonderful. We’re integral to the success of our families and the health of our communities. The trouble comes when we get into a mindset that our personal needs are secondary to those of others.

At certain times in our lives, caregiver is our most important role—when we have a new baby, or when a parent or spouse is seriously ill. But during our ordinary, day-to-day lives, we have to fight to make sure we don’t let other people’s needs overwhelm our own.

At the 2013 national conference of the Romance Writers of America, bestselling author Bella Andre was asked how she balances her family and career. Her answer (I’m paraphrasing) was both surprising and brilliant:

Balance is overrated. It’s just one more thing women are expected to do. Kids benefit from seeing mom do amazing things.

If your kids know at their core that you would lay down your life for them, then you’re a good mom. It doesn’t matter that laundry is piling up and you’ve ordered takeout every night this week because you’re on a deadline. Your kids still know you love them. Besides, you’re teaching them how to set priorities: Laundry becomes a priority when someone in the household has no clean underwear left. Up until that point, doing laundry is optional.

When your kids see you accomplish great things, they learn they can accomplish great things, too. When you become a slave to other people’s expectations, you teach your daughters to do the same.

If you’re an author, one way you care for your family is by writing and generating an income. If you’re not published yet, you’re undergoing an apprenticeship and creating a product so you can make money in the future.

Men don’t feel selfish when they’re providing for their families. Neither should you. Writing is an art, but it’s also a profession. Never feel guilty about the time and effort you put into your profession just because you happen to love what you do.

Do you ever fall into the trap of feeling guilty when you do something meaningful for yourself? How do you overcome it?

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Guilty Pleasures

Do you have a guilty pleasure? As for myself, naming only one may prove difficult. Or perhaps I could rationalize this one away and say there are NO guilty pleasures. I’m an adult. Everything is fair game. (So long as I’m calling my mother and paying attention to hubby and the kids, right?)

Ghirardelli chocolate - yum

Oh, but I do love fantasy play! Alright, my number one guilty pleasure…

Does flirting count?  It’s not chocolate cake (that I so desperately yearn for), but it is equally as fulfilling. I am a living breathing woman with needs and, eh-hem, ego. I am getting older, wider—er, I mean, wiser.  Yes, older and wiser is what I’m getting and when the bag boy at my local supermarket smiles bright and asks, “Are these your kids?”

As though he’s surprised that a woman of my youthful appearance could have produced elementary-aged children—upper elementary-aged children, to be exact. Well, it’s an easy mistake to make (a lie I’ll continue to tell myself) so I smile in reply and say, “Why yes, they are.”

“Wow…” he utters in shock.

Sweet child.  Of course he must be younger than he looks because if he had a lick of worldly sense about him, he would know that no woman in her right mind would take another person’s child to the grocery store, let alone two. Shoot—it’s not even wise to take your own kids to the store let alone someone else’s!

And to think I had grown older and wiser.  (Perhaps I have a few years to go before that particular feature kicks in.) Yes, well, can we get back to chocolate?  At least I’ve grown wise enough to distinguish between good chocolate and bad chocolate.  You know, as in:  I only eat dark chocolate. 

Okay, that’s a lie.  The best chocolate pudding cake is not made from dark chocolate but my ever so favorite milk chocolate with caramel between the layers, topped with milk chocolate frosting…

Speaking of frosting, I believe I’m plum out.  I think it’s time I head to the grocery store right now—without the kids.  Heaven knows they’ll want some of my cake if they see me buy it!  (Told you it wasn’t a good idea to shop with children.)  Now if you’ll excuse me, I think it’s time I practice my “innocent” look—before the kids and hubby get home. Of course, they’ll forgive me if I whip up some of these! My daughter, anyway. 🙂 Too cute!!

cupcake fun

How about you?  Any guilty pleasures you want to share?

The weather is fabulous, wish you were here

The other day, a friend and I were complaining about the unusually wet weather in Atlanta, and she asked me where the sun went.

“Holland,” I told her, and it’s true. It’s like Mother Nature decided to switch things up this year, whisking our sun across the ocean to dry out Northern Europe and sending their low, leaden skies to dump torrential rains all over Georgia. Vampires get more sun than I’ve seen this past month, and I found myself wishing I were there instead of here, homesick for a place that’s no longer my home.

Strand-014-500x375There are so many things I miss about the Netherlands, especially when the weather is balmy like it is now. Lazy days on North Sea beaches. Biking through fields of flowers. Amsterdam and cafes and canals and french fries with mayonnaise. Friends and family.

Before I moved to Holland all those years ago, I never really gave much thought to the fact that I’m an American. My nationality was as much a part of me as my curls and hazel eyes. And then suddenly there I was, in a country where I knew exactly one person. I was a foreigner, an outsider, an expat. Ugh! It didn’t take me long to detest the word expat. Am I less of an American patriot just because I moved to a foreign country? I daresay anyone who has  ever been in an expat’s shoes will tell you the experience only heightens their feelings of nationalism.

But after more than a decade in the Netherlands, I’m part Dutch, too. Some of my favorite places on earth are in the Netherlands. Some of my favorite memories happened there. Some of my favorite people still live there. It took a long time and an enormous effort to put down roots, but then suddenly, without my even noticing, they took hold and became firmly entrenched. There to stay, even if I’m not.

Even though at this very moment, I wish I were.

Celebrate Good Times

ID-10055114

from freedigitalphotos.net

Yesterday we celebrated my younger daughter’s 8th birthday. There was cake and singing, presents, a little family, a casual playdate, and one happy little girl.

In a few weeks we’ll be celebrating summer—and the near return of school—with a long weekend away. We’re going to visit a family place that evokes fun and relaxation in the heat of summer and the cool of nostalgia.

Every day, whether I take a conscious moment to or not—sometimes it’s just a pulling undercurrent—I celebrate my having successfully started a new, better life after divorce, finding independence and finding me, inner peace and clarity, gratitude, potential, happiness in the now (even when some days are tough) and faith in the future. It’s kind of a big deal.

There are “big deals” all around, you know. Ways to find or make joy and give thanks, if we’re prepared to recognize them.

So, give this a moment’s thought. What makes you joyful and fills you with appreciation?

Will you share with us what it is you’d like to celebrate today? Big or small, let’s DO IT together!

eabl_at_nestWhen I was making my bed yesterday, I kept hearing something like a branch hitting one of the windows–only there was no wind and no branch for that matter. Living in our house, stuff like that isn’t unusual, but since it was cleansed for good several months ago, my first thought was “They’re back.” So I ignored the noise and kept at it, but the noise kept at it too. I’d just finished arranging too many pillows on the bed when I gave up and looked at the window to see the culprit–an adult male blue bird.

My good friend and fellow author Anna Lee Huber (and fabulous 2013 RITA nominee in two categories) and I commiserate sometimes about how crazy this whole debut author thing is. One minute you’re soaring and the next minute you’ve looked at last week’s sales on Amazon’s Author Central and you’re plummeting to the ground.Then you’ll get another good review or an email or Facebook post from a happy reader, schedule a couple of book club appearances, or look at those darned sales again when you swore you wouldn’t and WALLAH! They’re up again. It’s hard to stay on an even keel in real life as it is, but throw in the complications and joys that come from a foray into creating and selling imaginary worlds and it’s next to impossible.

I stood there watching this tenacious little fellow I was sure was trying to tell me something, and then it hit me. The metaphor isn’t about me. The poor bird had nearly wracked himself silly trying to make his point and it wasn’t about luck or happiness.The point is that he keeps trying.

This past weekend, I had the privilege of attending the Romance Writers of America conference in Atlanta with 2000 other writers. Granted, I’m a women’s fiction author, but I enjoy the romance genre for a lot of reasons, but for the most part, I read for a satisfying ending. Not necessarily a guaranteed happily ever after, but an ending that reminds me ultimately all is well with the world or everything will eventually be well.

I think that persistent little blue bird was meant to remind you and me that whether you’re selling books in the marketplace or trying to sell your first novel to a traditional publisher, the only way any of us will find a satisfying ending is to keep fluttering our wings and believe that one day the window will open.

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