My shout out to working moms, or moms who work, or pretty much every mom I know.

Freelance writing for a stay-at-home mom is a tough gig, let me tell you.  I’ve tried to keep my pinky-toe in the water for the last several years, and I have been blessed by some really understanding editors who are still eager to receive my work, even when it’s sporadic.  Lately I’ve been pretty busy with multiple assignments again, and I find myself daily having an inner battle of excitement (to be doing what I love) and frustration (because life with little kids doesn’t often go to plan).

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It’s been a good lesson in time management, patience and, above all, honesty with myself.  And here’s the deal – blogging (for me), isn’t really writing.  It’s not hard to punch out a bunch of paragraphs about my life on my own time and without anyone expecting perfection.  Blogging, for me, is a bit self-indulgent. It’s the result of a random spark of inspiration and a child’s coincidental nap time (like right now).

But, writing as a job is really hard work.  It takes constant practice, trial and error, and a rubbery thick skin, to maintain. Hoping to improve one’s writing is all that and an extra shot of dedication, plus having the time and headspace to pitch your stuff and get yourself out there.  Trying to write for the last six weeks has driven me to the edge of my own sanity, and I wasn’t even working on anything very difficult. Of course, my elation at being asked to write a few things was quickly snuffed by a toddler who stopped sleeping, a 5 year-old who was constipated, a husband who had to work longer hours, and a dog with skin allergies. Now nearing the end of this little run, I’m finally breathing again, but am also looking back and wondering if I should keep it up or just get a desk job? Regardless, I know my kids and I need more breaks from each other.  A lot more.

 So while I’m mulling all this over, I’d like to tip my hat to some other moms I know who are trying to do stuff they love while caring for families of (mostly) small children.  We are a long-suffering breed, ha ha, who try to find snip its of time to work when our significant others are home (evenings and weekends) or during those few blessed moments the wee ones are sleeping, in school, at a friends’ house, or with a babysitter.  While I fill that space with writing (or staring blankly at the screen), the ladies mentioned below use their time in other fascinating creative pursuits. (And I’d like to remind you, dear readers, that there are weddings, christenings, birthdays, holidays and all sorts of things coming up that serve as an awesome excuse to patronise one of these good women.  Keep that in mind, and keep reading!)

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Willpower.

I’m having a stand-off with a bag of salad in my refrigerator.

About a week ago, I finally got serious about going on a much-needed diet. I’ve been carrying an extra 10-15 pounds of baby-belly weight around the world with me, and I was running out of excuses. No more, “I have to keep junk around for the kids,” or “I’ll start after the holidays” or “It’s too hot/cold/rainy/snowy to exercise” or “crunchy vegetables make my dental work hurt.” Maybe it was my recent trip to Victoria’s Secret to redeem a  “free panty” coupon, when I found myself hijacked into trying on sports bras in the dressing room, a shop assistant coaching me to “jump up and down to test the support” while I was in there. Looking at myself, I rather felt like a squeezed balloon.

Whatever it was, I decided it was high time.

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I’m lucky, I know, I’m not as heavy as I could be. My habits aren’t appalling. There are certainly many, many, many people the world over who struggle with a bigger weight problem than I am currently addressing. But sometimes, it’s the lesser amounts of weight, on the more petite folks like myself, that is harder to lose. And, even after just a week, I already know these 15 pounds will be a lot harder to shed than even I expected. I sure wish I could put them in a bag and give them to Goodwill.

I’ve never been much of a dieter, aside from a stash of weight loss pills (now off the market) I used to take in high school to make my already thin body even thinner. My parents used to diet about twice a year, drinking shakes for breakfast and lunch like Tommy Lasorda, and I watched their weight go up and down with seasons and life changes and good and bad times. Even when I have needed to lose weight, I’ve always been on the sidelines, watching some wonder drug or machine or plan advertised on TV and think, “Man, if only it was that easy! Wouldn’t it be great if that really worked?” Because I’ve always known, deep down in my gooey chocolate core, that dieting would be much harder than that.

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The Wind Cries Mary(ann)

The last time I saw Jamie Cullum in concert was October 2006, at The Murat Egyptian Room in Indianapolis.  It was mere days before I was to meet Frank, and I was definitely in a bit of a funk. It had not been a kind year, in love terms, and the lead up to the Heartland Film Festival was always stressful. But I was beyond thrilled to be seeing Jamie play, for it was him and the tenuous balance of youthful angst and timeless romance his music evoked that I had come to depend on for salving my bruised heart.

Jamie at the Egyptian Room in 2006

Jamie at the Egyptian Room in 2006

I still remember that night vividly.  It was a smallish concert of a couple hundred people at most, and many of whom were not very familiar with the British pop/jazz singer/pianist. I remember elbowing my way to the front of the stage, since it was a standing concert, only to be bullied back a row by big grouchy bald men with telephoto lenses on their expensive cameras.  “I’m only 5’1″,” I complained, but they wouldn’t budge.

When Jamie came on, he was sipping a Guinness, energetic, friendly, ready to give us all a show we wouldn’t soon forget.  He sang all my favorites, all the melodies and words I knew off by heart, and he threw in surprises and stories and jam sessions besides.  He talked about our city, and how we should support great little music shops like LUNA. I was frustrated with much of the drunken audience, though, and blushed, crimson with embarrassment, when someone yelled up at the stage, “Welcome to American, motherf*cker!” Or, perhaps worse still, when the crowd sang along with his tender reminiscent song, “Photograph,” only to change the line “…from her mum” to “…from her MOM!”  It was as if the ignorant American twenty somethings needed to loudly correct his pronunciation just to prove an inane point.  But never mind.  I was not among them.   Continue reading

Food Focus

Just so you know, in the last couple weeks, my siblings and I have been working to launch a new, all food-related blog.  I may continue to post recipes and such from time to time on here, but for the most part, I will be saving them up for this new venture. Meanwhile, I will continue to use this more personal space to post about family, home (be it Ireland or Cali), hobbies, etc.

Hope to see you over there! :)

Food from the Wandering Four
(A new blog by siblings Bonnie, Caroline, Maryann and David)

Laggardly Pursuits

10929232_10153049229242915_2305852825431911778_nI am, for all intents and purposes, an introvert.

I like people, and I’d like to say I make a good friend, but it’s hard for me to make the first move.  One exception to this introversion is when I am the one in control of the situation, i.e. if I am the host, charged with introducing people to each other, making others feel comfortable in a situation, etc. I think I’m good at that. But in a way, it takes the focus off me.  I don’t like having the attention on me. (Funny, because I’m pretty brave about talking about myself on a public blog space! Ha!) But, even as a kid, I loved having a birthday party, but hated the part where I had to open presents or blow out the candles.  It’s even more acute now.  “Dear God, please don’t let them sing the Happy Birthday song to me,” I think to myself.  “I never know where to look.”

So.  I’m in a new town.  And everyone here is a stranger.

This morning I went to the 10:30 a.m. service at a local church, only to find out that this particular Sunday was a “fifth Sunday,” where there was only a 9:15 a.m. service followed by a hearty potluck.  I stood outside in the lovely sunlit courtyard, awkward, shifting my weight, trying to figure out what to do.  There was a sign directing “visitors” to a basket of name tags, only there weren’t any left.  No matter, I hate name tags.  I hate showing everyone that I’m new, that I don’t know how things are done yet, that I don’t fit in.  I circled the courtyard, hesitating outside the fellowship hall, wishing inwardly that I would meet a friendly face.  If only my old friend Porter from back in Indianapolis was a verger here.  I tried not to tear up.  It’s kind of been a rough weekend. I didn’t go in. I resolved to try again next week.

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Old Souls, Kindred Spirits and the Kindness of Others

"Tree" by Frank Kelly

“Tree” by Frank Kelly

Season’s Greetings to you all!

It truly has been a crazy year.

We were literally incapacitated by snow and cold for the first part of the year.  It seemed like every time I started up the car to drive the white-knuckled 5 minutes to work, Katy Perry’s “Perfect Storm” was playing on the radio.  And I wasn’t amused.  But we made it through.

Then the scariest night of my life happened on Easter, when a man broke in to our house while Frank was at work and I was alone with the kids.  I will never, ever, as long as I live, forget the complete terror I felt when I opened the door to Evelyn’s bedroom at 11 p.m. and saw him crouching in the shadows.  Never.  But we survived.  We got out.  We’re safe.  And not a day too soon, it seems, because a man was shot and killed on our former front lawn less than a month after we’d left.

We worked, we worried, we dreamed.  We decided to go, and go we did.  I got sick, and we had to sit in limbo a while. Then Frank had a job prospect, and we used the last of our savings to help him show he was serious, and ultimately, get that job.  So we moved, we settled in, and now, finally, our heads are slowly not spinning any more.

Writing this now, I am still amazed at what we have, and the difference even a year has made.  Where a year ago I would have been puttering around the house alone at this time, while Frank was bundled up working in a grocery distribution centre, we are together, and relaxed, warm and happy.  He is drawing on the couch – when was the last time I saw him draw? The kids are sharing a room, and fast asleep.  We are safe.  We are together.

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Cupertino

It’s the 6th of December and I’m walking the dog in a T-shirt, skirt and flip flops. It’s been a lovely, lazy Saturday morning so far, the right kind of day for pancakes and coffee and warm sunlight streaming in the windows.

We live in a beautiful apartment community just a few minutes’ walk from Frank’s Apple office building.  It’s quiet, green, full of families and impeccably clean.  I pass the one lone smoker as he has his morning cigarette on the outskirts of our group of buildings.  He smiles and goes back to his phone.  Though it’s a pet-friendly community, Georgie is one of only a handful of dogs here, much to the delight of the children when we pass the play areas.  As I walk her around, she stops to sniff at Redwoods and many other trees I don’t know.  Some have fluffy little pink flowers that fall like snow.

Pink Blossoms

Ha. Snow.  You know I’m a snow-loving gal.  And I will always prefer a white Christmas to a green one… but this year is going to be pretty special, nonetheless.

We’re just getting started with the holiday merriment in our house – we only moved in two weeks ago, after all. The nativity set is out, as are the Christmas books, CDs and movies.  The kids are eagerly opening their advent calendars each morning and Evelyn writes letters of reminder to Santa several times a week. Her personal elf, “Robbie,” keeps a watchful eye on her from different spots every day.  We have a mantlepiece this year, and even a real gas fireplace.

Watching "The Late Late Toy Show" from Ireland in our new living room.

Watching “The Late Late Toy Show” from Ireland in our new living room.

I love how homey our apartment feels already, how “us” it is.  Even though the last few years have been tough, this place in which we now live is proof that we’ve been blessed, and our lives have improved dramatically.  In Drogheda, we made do with what we had.  In Indianapolis, we lived with what we could afford.  Here, in Cupertino, we have finally gotten to pick some things we really like.  Within reason! We got a wonderful sectional couch at a used furniture place, a beautiful rug from Home Depot’s online Black Friday sale, a master bed and mattress from Ikea, two new lovely matching lamps from Goodwill, and two matching bookshelves by the side of the road for free! It’s still a work in progress, but it’s a place I like coming home to. It feels safe, and that is huge for me. The kids and Frank are more relaxed, too.  Georgie doesn’t have a big yard to run in, but I think she’s pretty happy anyway because she gets to go on walks at least twice a day now.

I still don’t know much about our area, which is the South Bay part of San Francisco.  I can find my way around a bit better these days, though I still get lost in Apple’s Infinite Loop, ha ha! It’s a very expensive place to live, but the people are pretty “normal,” especially in our apartment community.  It’s very international, with more places to shop for Indian, Middle Eastern and Asian cuisine than any other specialties.  There’s lots of traffic and there are lots of people everywhere… but we’re not far from the beach, and the mountains, and some stunning natural woods.  There are parks everywhere. I like it a lot.  I may even love it, before too much longer. :) Continue reading