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When Being a Mom Isn’t Enough by The CrayonWrangler

In Guest Blog Posts, Writing & Motherhood on August 19, 2010 at 12:01 am

I had big dreams for myself.  Then I had kids.

For four years I believed that my dreams could not exist alongside motherhood.  I settled myself down to changing diapers and answering questions like, “Can God make a rock so big He can’t move it?” I began to feel out of touch with the rest of the adult society, being able to only discuss meal options for toddlers and bathroom schedules for potty training. I felt brain cells dying an agonizing death each time I sat down with the children to watch some animated character sing a song about “not biting your friends.”

My dreams for myself were now sitting in the bottom of a diaper pail.  Until I began an online journal about my three girls as a way of documenting their lives. I assumed that as those brain cells were dying, I better get it all written down.

Day after day I dutifully recorded the events of that day and began to take pictures to compliment the written words. One glorious day something amazing happened. I had a comment from a reader that said how much she enjoyed reading about our adventures and how it made her feel not so alone. She commented on a post where I was almost at my wit’s end with one of my daughters who had made artwork out of a dirty diaper. I began the next day with a mission to not only journal about our daily life, but to do it in a way that others could relate.

I began to use a more descriptive voice and took the time to take better pictures. Much like a pea thrown at the dinner table, it hit me. I was living my dream. My experiences with my girls and all the years I was putting behind the camera and computer to journal, my creativity was exploding. There are many days when being a mom is just too much. Too much noise, too much mess and too much personal space invaded. At the same time, being a mom sometimes is just not enough. Not enough times to fulfill dreams and not enough time to be the person you were before kids.

For a long time I felt guilty that my dreams were still so important that I mourned them. I felt that as a mom, I needed to let go of the dream of being a writer and photographer and be content just being around my kids. I have begun to see that by finding a way to continue living my dream, I am a better mom. There is no rule saying that you have to quit being who you are and who you wanted to be just because you became a mom. By continuing to strive for your goals keeps you in touch with who you are and gives you a chance for growth. You can come watch me live my dream by visiting me at www.thecrayonwrangler.com where I still talk about our daily adventures and learn to laugh at them along with you.

You can also follow me here.

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And Now I’m A Writer! by Anjanette Morton

In Guest Blog Posts on December 7, 2009 at 2:13 pm

Though I’d always had a secret passion for writing, I never imagined that I would someday make it my career. But as with many fabulous turns in life, once I decided to walk down this path, I received just the right feedback to let me move forward.

A few years ago, I left yet another soul-draining job. I was 29 and completely dissatisfied with the direction my so-called career was taking. Too often I let a misguided sense of obligation keep me in a role that I preformed well, but got no satisfaction from. This particular job saw me working for 2 owner/managers who spent most of their time pursuing their spiritual growth rather than growing their own business.

I decided to leave the job and spend time thinking about what approach I should take with my seemingly non-existent career aspirations. I actually preferred to work alone, with a general guideline and a specific deadline. And, for once, I wanted to do something that might use my creativity (before it was stomped to a definitive death).

When my husband and I also started to talk about possibly starting a family, an idea began to crystallize. I’d been shopping around fruitlessly for a book to give me some tips-and-tricks about what I could do to ready my body (and our life) before we began to start trying for a baby. I wanted something easy to read, not overly wordy or medical and with some practical ideas about exercise and nutrition. No matter where I looked, I just couldn’t find something to fit – everything on the market (and there wasn’t a lot) was either dated or completely intimidating. Complaining one night to my husband, he said “Well, then why don’t YOU write the book you’re looking for?”

And that was the start of my career in writing.

I spent the next several months doing research and slowly writing my book. I had a very specific idea about how I wanted the book to look and how it would help the readers. I got a variety of friends and acquaintances with different areas of expertise to read through the manuscript. I wanted all feedback, as many suggestions as possible – I truly wanted to reach the right balance between informative and accessible.

After my fourth edit, I wrote my book proposal (a virtual necessity if you are writing non-fiction) and began to approach literary agents to test out the interest in my concept. I was amazed that I actually got positive feedback from my query letter from greater than 20% of the agents I approached. However, the overwhelming message was that my lack of previous publishing experience (and the fact that I wasn’t a doctor) would hold the manuscript back. So I decided to ask my trusted doctor if she would co-author the work – vetting all of the recommendations and adding any medical info she thought should be included. Lucky for me, she was impressed enough with what I’d created to jump on board.

Fast forward a few months and one overseas move later and my project had stalled. I was busy with a baby and had let my query process take a back seat. I didn’t have the funds to self-publish, so that wasn’t an option, but it also seemed unlikely that a major publishing house would be willing to take a chance with a (purposefully) shorter manuscript. I then remembered that an old friend of the family had recommended a publisher who was a mix between a traditional and a vanity press. I went to their website and completed their online query form. The next day they requested a full copy of the manuscript and within a week I had a contract in front of me. While it wasn’t my top publishing house choice, it would mean that my book would be available for purchase in hard copy and I’d be receiving royalties for all sales.

Since my book was published I have done some (not nearly enough) marketing for it and have more recently branched out to do paid articles for various local magazines and web sites. I started my own blog this last year with hopes to expand the site to include video blogging and perhaps contribute to various other blogs and online magazines. Like anyone who has done the hard yards with their manuscript, I look forward to getting the time to do a full edit and update with fresh eyes, more experience…and possibly another book or two under my belt.

You can find Anjanette online at Writergrrl on the Loose… or follow her on Twitter.

Progression of a Writing Mom…by Micrimas

In Guest Blog Posts on November 20, 2009 at 12:23 am

I spent most of my life chasing my dream as a writer but tangentially.

I was forced to get a business degree by my company at first. I got one in PR and Marketing, just because it defied what I actually did for work (I worked in Customer Service for a Fortune 50 company as a project specialist). Defiance of the odds is a hallmark of my life.

If you work for a company that has tuition rembursement (for which I will be forever grateful, my company put me through two degrees and part of a 3rd) they usually make you get a degree in whatever field you are in. So I got a business degree but majored in something I actually kind of liked.

I am really creative but can’t stand b-school classes. I never, ever used what I learned. Except the Marketing and PR stuff, but that was when I left the company!

I relocated down south and maintained my Project Specialist title, except my job morphed from this boring, numbers crunching woman, to a fun, numbers crunching woman who got to evolve from crunching numbers to corporate training. There I created training modules from scratch to teach the managers and their staff how to read cost center reports as well as fixed property reports, so they could make sure their cost center’s bottom line was all good. I did this for every business sector, even though I was working in the Aerospace, Defense, Electronics and Government sector. ADEG for short.

My quirky and outgoing personality caught on and soon my manager had me rolling constantly. I traveled and helped the company’s bottom line in a unique way. I got very interested in getting my teaching degree. So my manager (who was female and my biggest influence and also my biggest cheerleader) allowed me once again to defy the norm. I got a teaching degree but it was in Teaching English as a Second Language.

My degree at that point was meant for me to leave the company and travel the world. Either for the Peace Corps or the Foreign Service.

What ultimately happened is, I started teaching refugee adults during a practicum. The men ( I hate to say this but it is true ) liked the blonde hair and could not focus so therefore, I asked the director of the agency I was volunteering for if I could work with kids.

I’ve always loved kids and have lost quite a few. So I was teaching, and childless, and unmarried, and older.

She pointed me to this agency in DC that worked with children who were emancipated minors from war-decimated countries. I got checked out security-wise and my career in mentoring and teaching UNHCR sponsored refugee children began.

It hasn’t finished.

I’ve never stopped.

During that course I met and married (within a 3 week timeframe) my DH. He is a foreigner from an island in the Ionian Sea of Greece. We met through the personals and boom. Married.

We celebrate nearly 2 decades of marriage next week. As parents of 20 month old fraternal twin boys.

And still, I write. I write my blog and writer for others’ blogs. Mostly about motherhood, music and miracles. My kids, and my life are miracles.

After I got my ESL degree… I moved on to a writing degree. My manager pushed it through by it being a technical writing/editing degree however, I took a boatload of fiction and screenwriting classes. Didn’t much like screenwriting. Too formulaic and limiting. Loved fiction and poetry and I use my blog to play with others’ work and showcase theirs, and mine.

I also learned I had renal cell carcinoma. My dream job… working for an 8a, minority owned business dedicated to helping grassroots and nonprofits, a branch of the UNHCR… believe it or not (nicely dovetailed with my mentoring work) — the Bureau of Humanitarian Response — had to be put on hold.

 I struggled for 10 years… fighting cancer, illness, near death, and lots of trauma. That trauma included losing an adoptive son, and having to stay at home as a mom. Because of the issues that were created by my cancer and the aftermath. Spinal injury during surgery and a host of other bad stuff that sometimes happens when you have had a lot of surgery.

Then I became a mom.

And I started blogging. That was 2 years ago. I love it.

 During the time I was sick, I dedicated myself to gratis grantwriting work. I had done it before for a cat rescue, where we had adopted our cat. I was grantwriting for nonprofits, gratis.

It gave me excellent experience.

When the boys were born, I stopped because I have twins and basically no time except at 5am before the boys wake up or when they are napping. Like now.

I don’t know how Dominique does it — with her child at her feet and juggling multiple websites and blogs… writing a novel in a month! I give her kudos… and am handing off this blog entry to her after weeks of illness (whatever the kids get, I ultimately get, my immune system is fragile from the cancer).

 So I am handing off my entry, Profession of a Writing Mom, to D — because you all can take a lesson from me.

 I fell into every single writing job and ultimately, my paid and gratis career as a writer. I have basically moved from one segment of the writing spectrum to the next. I’ve loved the diversity and pray that someday, I will be writing again for the government once we move back to DC. When the kids are in school. I have a standing job offer working for DHS documenting meetings and disseminating info, when the boys are in school. One of my friends is a high level, hiring GS18 and she is holding a job for me, if I choose. She’s been there for me… knows about all my health issues.

Our sons are 2 days apart in age. She gave birth to her son, and our Traditional Surrogate gave birth to my fraternal twin sons… two days apart. Ours came first and then her boy. I am frequently in the DC area and the children play well together. She knows I have a unique writing style and hopes that I will work with her. I hope so too, if my health stabilizes. I am homeschooling the kids right now but at some point they will be in Pre-school and then I hope to return to the workforce and get paid… for their college funds.

A diverse spectrum of writing always stands you in good stead. I say, as a writer practicing for decades, just roll with what falls into your lap and don’t limit yourself to one thing. Because diversity is where you become employed much easier. I have copyediting, copywriting, grantwriting, corporate training modules, number crunching/budgeting (falls under grantwriting), technical editing/writing, and teaching module skills under my belt.

There are probably more but I have to roll off, take a shower before the boys wake up, and feed them lunch.

By the way… I am nearly 48 years old. And still marketable after having left the workforce for quite a while (the paid workforce). Because of my health and now, being a mom. I love to blog about my kids and my life… It is my passion. Dominique has been featured a few times on my blog. I have guest bloggers and love to hear what they have to say.

My fingers fly and life rolls on. Life as a mom, and a writer. You all know writers are born. Not made. You cannot “train” a writer. It is bubbling in the blood, fingers aching to explode on the keyboard.

I wouldn’t have it any other way. Being able to blog gives me the ultimate experience in my creative state. Marrying my love of photography, poetry and writing is the best.

Thanks for reading and I hope you young writers take heed. I’ve made it work for decades now, as a writer. By opening my heart and mind to all possibility vs. limiting my creative state and focusing on one area of the spectrum.

Half of a Duo, Raising a Duo

Ceiling Tile #56 by Melyssa of MrsBlogAlot.com

In Guest Blog Posts on October 13, 2009 at 4:15 pm

While taking a break during some necessary sit-ups, I let my eyes wander up and glaze over with the late afternoon sun streaming through my living room.

Ceiling Tile #15 had me dreaming of lottery winnings and easy living. Ah, #15… such an easy Tile.

By the time I pulled out of easy street, I was vacationing on Tile #23 in a beach town very much south of here where foot massages were the island’s specialty. Tile # 31 reminded me that I have another three sets to go. Shut up #31.

Tile traveling can be very relaxing. Drifting, dreaming, floating, moving lazily from tile to tile…and then bam!

Along came Tile #56.

It hit me like a floor tile! Why didn’t I think of this before? Shouldn’t I get moving on this right away? Is this a dream? Should someone wake me?

Here she goes again #37 muttered.

I had a vision. A vision of my dream job coming to daytime (no it wasn’t massage therapy). I tried to capture the full sight of my vision before the illusion escaped back into the ceiling tile grooves.

If I can do what I truly love on whatever Tile I was on, would that not constitute as a real life dream job? Well then why can’t I? Why should I settle for just a paycheck when my passion comes from the payout of writing?

Writing my in- the-closet true love for as long as I could remember.

Couldn’t I write anywhere? About anything? With NO dress code? Could I finally come out and physically produce more than a secret inner pleasure from each piece that I create? Could I actually cultivate my own desired lifestyle by my own head and hand?

Uh, Tile # 45 reminds me that I still have a mortgage and that little thing called electricity that I have grown so accustomed to.

But #56 was having none of it! She was on a roll! Look at her go slamming #45 down with her lofty optimism. Why can’t I start now? Not quit what aids in the eating process but just start? Somewhere! Anywhere!

What do I have to lose if nothing comes of it? What do I have to gain?

Tile # 76 called me an idiot.

I closed my eyes and did another crunch set. Satisfied 31?

Not until your ass stops looking like a potato sack in jeans, he countered.

Each exhale on the way up brought me back to the #56 Dream Tile. I just wasn’t ready to let it go that easily.

But I kept getting these annoying and unwanted popcorn signals in my head.

Remember the time she threw her back out trying to imitate a move on So You Think You Can Dance, sneered #37?

She can’t carry the Ralph Kramden/Fred Flintstone spirit forever, # 44 added snidely

How many times can a person re-invent herself anyway? # 12 wanted to know

Hey! She can do anything she wants to! #56 cheered (was that my mother up there?).

I think that #47 and #12 were going to get into it at any moment as they debated heatedly on this latest dream being the direct result of a lack of sex.

And who will want to read her stuff? An unnumbered thought shot out.

Keep breathing. Okay, eight more crunches and let’s add eight butt lifts while I’m already down here (it’s not just about lifting my spirits these days #31 not-so-kindly reminded me once more).

My hopes refused to be doused. Let’s at least do some research on how I can get started before giving up. If nothing else #56 is practical.

If I can’t put in ten hours a day on my forever-in-progress-novel then why not start with a short blog here and there? An article? A guest post?

Can’t get paid for blogging! #12 rudely announced.

Why not? #56 and I wondered.

O.K., so maybe it won’t be the lottery winnings that Tile #15 was hoping for but getting paid something for doing what I love would be worth it. A personal win if not monetary gain!

That’s right! #56 atta-girled me.

Um, Hello!!!!!…. Realistic Police up here…are you kidding me? #37 screamed down.

I was just about to take a shoe and smash it up #37’s square ass when Tile #25 yelled that he was hungry…oh that was my son.

I gave the Be-Right-There call to the wild and remained flat and unmoving for just a few seconds more. I had to pull my thoughts together.

Other than my labored breathing, there was complete silence in the room and surprisingly from the above ceiling gallery.

I braced myself for the continuing negative onslaught.

Nothing came.

Hmmm….. I guess it is all me now.

I squatted, and rose slowly allowing the positive attitude of ceiling Tile #56 to fill me as I let my head be the last to come up. I took a final cool down moment and came up with a powerful and well resolved exhale.

I was ready.

It felt good to get out of my own way for a minute. I can and will do it.

The result of my efforts may never get to the front page for all to monitor and witness but it will definitely make front-page headlines in my world.

Take that #37!

Better Late Than Never: On Writing and Motherhood Guest Blog Post by micrimas

In Guest Blog Posts on September 16, 2009 at 9:22 pm

Better late than never. Titus Livius, History Roman author & historian (59 BC – 17 AD) As a writer I always give props and accreditation. Plagiarism is the worst form of theft, because you are stealing intellectual, not concrete, property.

I’ve already written on my blog, Half a Duo, Raising a Duo about perseverence being my middle name. That is the case with my writing career as well as in my becoming a mother.

From a young age I aspired to be a writer but having no support or direction with regard to my education as I grew up (stellar grades and all, but with no support and direction, where do you turn?) I did the best that I could.

I put myself through college, working days full time, a part time night job, and, attending business classes (that I hated with a passion, but because I worked for a then Fortune-50 company, they would only pay for a business degree. I rebelled by making my business degree one in PR and Marketing, which they found acceptable even though I worked in finance….)

The 20 year plan? That was me. Up until I left my company (I worked for this company forever, enough to get a pension and give them total props for paying for my most excellent education), the business degree moved forward to a teaching degree.

I was able to get a teaching degree because by then my job had evolved to a corporate trainer and I was writing then. Technical writing of sorts, creating slide shows and training modules to train executives and others how to evaluate cost center reports and various financial reports for their cost centers.

At this time, I met my DH. Within 3 weeks, we met, and eloped. The story of my elopement was and is hysterical to this day. When I was younger, a lot of older ladies, when I queried them on how they knew their DH’s were “the one”, they would just look at me hard and say “you just KNOW”. Until I met the DH, I was clueless. I THOUGHT I knew but then when I met HIM, I totally KNEW.

So we eloped and I went to work, right after eloping, in my wedding dress and all. With the flowers my manager had given me still in my arms and the penny in my shoe that my co-workers threw at me the day before the elopement.

My DH is from overseas and while we weren’t driven by the Green Card to marry, I was a total “Runaway Bride” which is why we eloped. Asked by many, weddings cancelled at nearly the last minute. That was me. Terrified of marriage. But the deed was done. YEAH!

Age 29, finishing up my teaching degree and writing in a technical kind of way. But I yearned for more. The opportunity came for me to actually get LAID OFF from my company, and because I worked there for so incredibly long, the benefits would still be paid, the pension too, AND, a “layoff package” which would enable me and the DH (who had by then a somewhat decent job and I could focus on slamming out the writing degree) to live somewhat comfortably. All this and my manager, who was my biggest cheerleader, pushed through one semester of my writing degree before I got “the package” and I was golden.

I left my beloved company and launched into school and my writing/editing degree. At this point, it truly was basically the almost 20 year plan. I vowed that I would give myself a break, and not work, just fixate on writing.

That was busted down after a semester. I was so used to being overworked and overloaded… I found a writing job pretty much right away.

That job, thanks to the student placement office and my experience as a corporate trainer writing training modules etc, was the start of my writing career.

I loved it, very much. At this point I was 33 years old.

I’d found “what I wanted to be when I grew up.” Finally, at 33. And it is never too late, for in some of my graduate writing classes, were students in their 60s, so never give up your dream!

Married… the DH climbing the corporate ladder himself. Disaster struck for me 3 years into my dream job. The dream job had me talking to people on the front lines of nonprofits, grassroots and non-government organizations worldwide. Writing diplomatic cables. Creating documents that impacted the world and was given to Congress, the President and world changers who wanted to support causes overseas. I had to leave my beloved career behind to fight cancer. I fought like I’d never fought before and suffered tremendously both physically and emotionally.

So what happened?

Well, the cancer created a lot of change for me. At the time I left work, it was impossible for me to just sit at home. I’ve never been a sit at home type of person. I had been volunteering for a cat rescue that is a non-profit, nationally known. I started grantwriting for that rescue. And thus, my gratis career as a grantwriter for non-profits began.

I’d given the DH a timeline for motherhood just as the cancer was discovered. I was totally infertile, and he knew it when me married me. My backstory is unusual, in that, when I was 19, I was pregnant with fraternal twin girls and nearly died, late term, at work, losing them. I lost my fertility on the same day. So the DH knew what he was getting into when he met and married me. No kids, adoption, or surrogacy. Those were the options.

I refused the no kids option. But had to put the cancer behind me. Well behind me, because, well… being a responsible adult, having taught and mentored children for many years, I knew the right thing to do was to wait. Wait until my health and the residual effects of my many surgeries stabilized.

After a few years we decided to pursue surrogacy and looked into it. Every option basically was an option we did not want to face. Anonymous egg donation? My sister refused to donate eggs. So therefore, that was our only option. Back when I was in my 30s, Traditional Surrogacy was basically taboo due to the Whitehead case. It was never an option.

Because of my medical history — it was extremely important for us to connect with someone either via Open Adoption or Traditional Surrogacy. But our parenthood dream was once again put on hold. For a few more years, as I had to caregive my mother through brain cancer, and my DH’s father died of lung cancer. Slowly I lost my entire family except my sisters, over a years’ timespan. It was devastating.

I was still writing for nonprofits as a grantwriter and searching for grants from home, for a few children’s charities. I never stopped this work until I became a mother. There are many nonprofits out there who are desperate for people to help them win the very few grants out there to be had to keep moving forward, helping kids. When one of my groups won a grant, the feeling was indescribable. One grant helped the kids learn about good eating and health… one grant fixed the roof of the building. These small things made a huge difference.

I got the all clear from my docs to become a mom. The DH and I had systematically queried every single doctor that had treated me. Every one of them said “go for it”. By this time, more than 5 years had passed, which is basically the “safety zone” for cancer. I felt confident and capable that I could more than carry out my duties as a mom.

It took forever. Because of my fears of Traditional Surrogacy, I asked the DH if we could try adopting. It was heartwrenching, when we strongly connected with a wonderful couple who lived somewhat nearby, for an open adoption, and our potentially adoptive son died at birth of an inoperable heart defect. I felt like the world was caving in. I fell in love with this little boy and his family, and bonded with his mother, over sonos and getting together and phone calls. Devastating. A third child, lost to me.

We finally decided to move forward with surrogacy and connected with a woman who felt like she could handle an open Traditional Surrogacy arrangement and her family. It took many months to achieve conception. At that point, I had stopped writing and devoted all my time focusing on the conception part (which was clinical) and driving back and forth between visits to her and her family to doctor appointments and to bond with the family, as we had hoped for a lifetime, open connection post-birth.

I started a blog but in the middle of the 2nd trimester I stopped. Our surrogate became difficult and I felt like I only wanted to write the most positive of things on the blog. The fear of losing my twin sons (by then we knew she was carrying my husband’s twin sons, my boys N and A) overwhelmed me and I lost the muse. I could not document the journey at all for fear of losing a 4th and 5th child.

The fear was very real.

I won’t get into details but suffice it to say, I finally gained the courage to pick myself back up and start documenting their and my lives via my blog, when they were 14 months old.

Waking up at the crack of dawn, 5am, just to write… inspiring others, documenting the boys’ and my life, listening to music that inspires me and using that as a springboard for the next blog entry, seeing an inspirational phrase or a biblical verse that catches my eye and the night before the next entry, I usually start pulling it together in my head.

I remember when I was very sick, my surgeon told me, “You ought to write a book, to help patients learn to advocate for themselves, because you have so much experience, having had such difficulties with your health.” I snorted. He was serious.

For me, this is THE single most rewarding and fulfilling task. At the age of 47, I am the mother of toddler fraternal twin sons. Not replacements for the lost fraternal twin girls that passed when I was 19. They are my destiny, and God placed our surrogate and her family in our path, for me to be parenting these boys and writing about our lives.

It’s a unique and unusual situation. One that is not for the faint of heart… but my heart is made of steel, the core soft like magma, the external battered like an ancient shield, with the blows life had handed me.

I’ve become old and wise. And writing. The muse is strong and powerful within. I will never stop writing. I will never again lose the courage. My boys will see the love that shines behind the words, the pride, the travails I’ve had to deal with since before their birth. How determined this woman was, to become a mother. How much heartache and suffering she has been through and how every breath they, and I, take, is treasured and measured with gratitude so overwhelming, there aren’t words to describe the feeling.