Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

Kristen Lamb — Photo

Posts Tagged: parenting

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I confess. I am normally uptight, controlling and neurotic but after the recent death of my grandmother who raised me? Where I might have been a five seven twelve, I was suddenly a fifty (on a scale of ten). I felt flung to the winds and adrift. I was out of control and that is not a feeling I enjoy.

Monday, I was really tired so I wasn’t up to taking Spawn to summer camp where he normally goes for a few hours so Mommy can work.

And so it begins….

Kids have a really honest and refreshing way of getting right to the point.

For instance. Recently we went out to dinner at a nice Mediterranean restaurant. I stand up and Spawn (Age 6) suddenly looks up at me aghast as if he is seeing me for the first time and loudly proclaims.

“Mommy! Your boobs are HUGE!”

Thanks kid, just thanks.

And the table of men nearby had to be scraped off the floor laughing.

Unlike friends and family, kids don’t sugar coat anything and we are wise to listen. Additionally beyond what children say, it is what they DO that can give us the most to learn.

Back to being too lazy to take Spawn to camp. I am busy uploading my guest post and trying to dig out of the mountain of emails that were left unchecked while I lay in bed for a week.

My left eye already had a permanent twitch from the piles of laundry to do, the stacks of dishes and all the work that lay ahead. I was super busy self-flagellating about how I was such a royal jerk for not getting edits back to students yet and how I was a selfish jerk for taking a week and a half to get my head on straight after my grandmother’s death.

Selfish Kristen! Horrible Kristen!

Spawn? What better time to decide to build a FORT? And right next to where Mommy is working so she can enjoy it!

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Okay.

At this point in time I was all right. Writing professionally is akin to being a war correspondent, especially for anyone with small kids and pets. No big deal. I am cool. I got this. I survived the Blueberry Yogurt Fiasco of 2014 and the Projectile Vomit Debacle of 2015. I’ve blogged while sustaining heavy NERF fire.

I totally got this.

Spawn THEN decides he is lonely in his fort and wants Johnny Cat in there with him.

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At first he is wrestling with the cat (over my computer—where else?). I stop and say…

“You cannot force a cat to go anywhere. Let me get you a cat trap (pictured above). Set this baby inside and you will have a cat in less than 3 minutes.” Proof I am a genius (pictured below).

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Enter….Johnny Cat.

I keep writing and this fort just starts to grow…

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And grow….

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And OH DEAR GOD IT IS THE BORG!

RESISTANCE IS FUTILE. YOU WILL BE ASSIMILATED….

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By noon I am pretty much pushed out of my work area because I didn’t want to be assimilated along with two nursing pillows, Thanksgiving pumpkin decorations and pretty much every worldly possession Spawn has.

My OCD is going wild by now (actually my CDO because why is this NOT in alphabetical order as it should be?).

SO ME!
SO ME!

I’ve always been transparent with you guys because I want you to know that you are not alone. Most of us struggle. We beat ourselves up that we are not good enough that we should be trying harder, that we should be doing more. When we do write, we are our own worst critics and can edit the magic right out of a story with our insecurity.

Every level has its insecurities and challenges. When we are new, we feel guilty for writing because we aren’t yet “real” writers and so we are totally selfish jerks for writing because it isn’t as if we are published *rolls eyes*.

But how do we ever become successfully published unless we write a BOOK? Then once we do publish the pressure only grows. Now we need more books and this book didn’t do as well as that book and OH GOD! I HIT #1…but can I ever do it again? Am I a one-hit wonder?

Am I Tarzan Boy Writer?

I have a bad habit of setting myself up to fail no matter what I do. If I spend a day cleaning the house, then I suck because I didn’t get any writing done. If I write, then I am a terrible housekeeper. If I hire a cleaning service, then I am being wasteful with money.

Hey I warned y’all I was a neurotic in the beginning 😛 .

Then Spawn comes along with this fort. My first instincts are to beat myself up because the house is a mess. But the sheer joy he is having building this thing is infectious. I am a fixer and a problem solver (I.e. the Cat Traps) and have no idea how my own mother didn’t murder me as a child.

When I was four I got a Spirograph for Christmas and two packages of typing paper—regular and legal size. So what did I do? I created art and went door to door selling. Five cents for the regular, ten cents for the legal and a dollar for the stack and a promise to never bother you again until the next time.

And in all the stress of being an adult I’d forgotten this. This thing called fun. Fun is not neat and tidy. Fun is chaotic. No fun IS chaos.

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As the Spawn Fort was growing I just kept telling myself that he only is a little boy once. In a few years he will be off with friends and Mommy may no longer be his best friend and I will miss the Tinker Toys underfoot. I will miss the mess. I will crave this chaos.

GAME ON!

Spawn Fort 1.0 was a structural disaster (because I refused to butt in) and was reclaimed by nature overnight. Spawn was distressed, but fortunately, Mommy was an expert fort builder in her day and after he asked for my help?

I bring you….

Spawn Fort 2.0—A.K.A. SUPER FORT

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Super Fort is three times the size with a nice padded sleeping area and several storage lockers (under chairs) for NERF weapons. It has two “secret” entrances and more head room. Additionally, one cannot have intruders thinking they can just pillage whatever they like from your fort while you are away, so Spawn Fort 2.0 is equipped with a state of the art Storm Trooper Security System. It won’t hit anyone so you don’t have to worry about being sued, but the warning shots will at least scare them away.

Want to see a little boy explode with joy? Show him how to build a proper fort and think to guard it with a Storm Trooper.

So Spawn is happy and then he kinda freaks out that it isn’t finished. We forgot the cat traps!

Me: Honey, Super Fort IS a cat trap…

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To date every stitch of furniture including a lamp/table has been assimilated into Super Fort….which now sports a Hot Wheels racetrack that leads to the fireplace and I am strangely okay with that. One of my writer friends said it best in a Facebook comment….

One day…all the forts built by childhood will be but dust in a memory. Your reaction is the only way that memory is fairy dust.

 ~ Michael Gray

And he was right. The grandmother who raised me, the one I lost? All that is left of her is the fairy dust of blanket forts and coloring books and a million Barbie shoes and I miss her very, very much.

In the end? Embrace fun. Embrace some chaos and for the love of all that is chocolate cut yourself some slack and lighten the hell up! (So y’all know, I am yelling that at myself).

What are your thoughts? Are you a control freak too? Are you too hard on yourself? Do you set yourself up to fail no matter what? Do you maybe need to create some fairy dust?

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of JULY, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

Check out NEW classes below! 

Upcoming Classes

All W.A.N.A. classes are on-line and all you need is an internet connection. Recordings are included in the class price.

We are doing ANOTHER round of Battle of the First Pages!!! August 5th

The first time we did this we had some tech issues doing this new format and we’ve since worked those out, but for now I am still keeping the price low ($25) until we get this streamlined to my tastes.

LIMITED SEATS. This is an open workshop where each person will submit his or her first page of the manuscript for critique. I will read the page aloud and “gong” where I would have stopped reading and explain why. This is an interactive workshop designed to see what works or what doesn’t. Are you ready to test your page in the fire?

Hooking the Reader—Your First Five Pages August 12th

The first five pages are the most essential part of the novel, your single most powerful selling tool. It’s how you will hook agents, editors and readers. This class will cover the most common blunders and also teach you how to hook hard and hook early. This class is 90 minutes long, 60 minutes of instruction and 30 minutes for Q&A.

Your First Five Pages Gold Level

This includes the webinar and a detailed critique your first five pages.

Your First Five Pages Platinum Level

This includes the webinar and a detailed critique of your first twenty pages.

Bullies & Baddies—Understanding the Antagonist August 19th

All fiction must have a core antagonist. The antagonist is the reason for the story problem, but the term “antagonist” can be highly confusing. Without a proper grasp of how to use antagonists, the plot can become a wandering nightmare for the author and the reader.

This class will help you understand how to create solid story problems (even those writing literary fiction) and then give you the skills to layer conflict internally and externally.

Bullies & Baddies—Understanding the Antagonist Gold

This is a personal workshop to make sure you have a clear story problem. And, if you don’t? I’ll help you create one and tell the story you want to tell. This is done by phone/virtual classroom and by appointment. Expect to block off at least a couple hours.

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook

 

Image via Hyperbole and a Half
Image via Hyperbole and a Half

It has been a weird couple of months. We had our family business move and then Spawn (my 5 year old) was REALLY ill back in March. Ill to the point of a middle of the night ER visit. Hubby and I didn’t sleep for over a month. And now, I am trying to get back in the groove and I just don’t want to.

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I don’t want to be a grownup. I want to color and make a blanket fort. And YES I feel guilty for being a horrible wife and a bad mother.

On some level, I believe all women struggle with guilt, and, when we become mothers, I think the condition only worsens. I was a very different person before I married and had my son. I was always dressed impeccably, had my hair done once a month, and never missed a pedicure or manicure. I knew I’d worked very hard and believed I’d earned these simple indulgences.

In short, I thought like a man.

Trust me when I say my husband does not feel guilty about relaxing in front of the TV when there is a sink full of dirty dishes. Rare is the man who puts aside getting himself dressed until he’s fully satisfied his toddler’s clothes all match. Most of the time, my husband isn’t even bothered if the Spawn’s clothes even fit. And that is an awesome talent and I’m jealous because I know I am being neurotic.

Just an aside…

I have NO idea how my husband does this. I regularly cull through The Spawn’s clothes and pull out what is out of season or no longer fits. When I would delegate “dressing The Spawn” to Hubby, he somehow managed to dress our toddler in the ONE 18 mo shirt I missed and swim trunks…for church. I love my husband, and have THE BEST husband in the world, but seriously????

Mommy! I'm ready for picture day!
Mommy! I’m ready for Sunday school!

Believe me when I say that “clothes not fitting/matching” DOES NOT BOTHER A MAN. Neither do a handful of other things…

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When Mommy makes dinner….
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When Daddy makes dinner…

Anyway…

***By the way, Men. I am NOT picking on you at all. I am seriously, seriously envious. Your focus is the kid having some FUN, not worrying is his outfit is trendy and that the other dads might “judge” you.

I recall, years ago, being a bit judgy when I’d see some frazzled mom, her hair (much in need of a dye job) pulled back in a scrunchee. I’d think, Good grief. Yoga pants and stained t-shirt? Does this woman even TRY? Her kids aren’t even wearing clothes that match. Tsk, tsk, tsk.

Be careful how you judge, and, as my mother warns…NEVER WONDER.

I Deserved It

I look back at the way I used to judge struggling moms and I now know that I deserve this. I recall thinking, She’s married. Why doesn’t she just get her husband to dress the kids while she does something with THAT HAIR?

Now I know. I didn’t listen to Mom.

I wondered.

NOW I know that this mom probably did delegate. She probably managed to get her hair in a scrunchee just as she caught sight of her husband dressing their kids for church in their bathing trunks and part of their Halloween costumes. This mom then likely stopped doing her hair to intervene and at least get the kids in regular clothes.

Actually, this mother likely would have even had her child’s clothes all matching, but she forgot to move the clothes from the washer to the dryer. Why did she forget? Because she heard the crash from her toddler unsuccessfully trying to scale the cat’s scratching post. And, by the time she stopped the bleeding, she’d long forgotten about the clothes…and this is why she is in yoga pants and the kids are still wearing their Halloween costumes…in MARCH!!! So just back the hell off!

Look at ME!
Mommy! Look at what I did!

The Guilt

I never feel like I am doing enough. Though I practically live in an apron, I can’t seem to ever feel caught up. My house isn’t clean enough, and I don’t read for an hour a day to my child and teach him Italian and art appreciation.

Then we have the magazines full of starlets posing in bikinis three days after they give birth. Despite the fact that I do 6-8 hours of grueling Brazilian Jiu Jitsu per week and eat gluten-free, dairy-free, almost carb-free, I still can’t even wear my pregnancy pants. At a size ten, it is easy to feel like a lazy slacker because I’m not a size 0.

When did 0 become a SIZE?

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I need to get the gym more *scribbles on list.*

Regular Guilt is Bad Enough

Okay, I admit that I need to work on the guilt thing. I should be able to wear makeup without thinking that those 15 minutes would be better served sorting the recycling.

Crap! I threw away that jelly jar in the REGULAR trash. I’m destroying the planet! Worse, I am teaching The Spawn that it is OKAY TO DESTROY THE PLANET!

Most women (okay, maybe just me) already feel like we are not doing enough. If we have a choice of a day at a spa or a day baking for the church or school, donating stuff from the garage to the needy, or volunteering to shuttle Great-Great-Great-Aunt Thelma who’s 97 to CVS for discount butt cream, you can count on us for the cheapest butt cream in town.

Walmart will price match.

The JUDGEMENT

The world is a REALLY different place. I know men face their own unique challenges, but I don’t think they experience near the same amount of parent-shaming.

Now that Spawn is five, I feel at such a loss. We have a little boy who lives across the street who is a year older. When I was a kid, if there had been another kid within bike-riding distance, we would have been BFFs.

But, no. They aren’t.

Me: Hey, can your kiddo come over and play? I got Spawn some new NERF zombie guns.

Other Mom: Sure! Wait, my kid has tutoring and then guitar lessons and then we go to karate. But the free hour before he attends Kid Yoga he needs to study his French vocabulary words. We’re getting him ready for Child Entrepreneur Camp where he will learn to build a business. Oh, and ride horses. He’s going with his friends Jackson, Madson, Grayson and Harrison. They met at Kid Chef School making allergen-free puff pastries…

Me: Nice. Um, does your boy like to roller-skate? 

Other Mom: He knows how to, but hockey lessons don’t start for a few months. Been using his off time to catch up on my reading. I’ve been reading all these books on alternative educational theories. Have you read that last one by Dr. Snooty Pants who never had a kid but feels comfortable judging? Why Your Child Will Kill You in Your Sleep for the Insurance Money if You Don’t Stimulate Enough Creativity?

It’s a best-seller. We read it in my book club.

Me: I missed that one.

Other Mom: It is so fascinating. We love all the exercises in the companion workbook. Rebirthing is extra fun if you make the blankets together. I can send you the pin on Pinterest…

Kill. Me. Now.

And this is why Spawn calls me his best friend. I am the one who hikes with him and plays video games and goes to martial arts with him.

Sorry, Spawn. All the other kids were booked, but I think I can call their agent…

BFFs
BFFs

Can I Donate My Kidneys? I Have One Extra

I feel like a SUPER terrible mother. This HAPPENED. My mom came over and was helping me clean after Stomach Bug from Hell.

Mom: Why can’t he go outside and play? It’s a beautiful day.

Me: He can’t unless we sit outside with him and we need to be in here cleaning.

Mom: Huh? Why can’t he just go outside and play?

Me: Um, CPS?

I kid you not, we had a woman in the area who was out front with her 5 year-old and ran inside to get the phone. In the 5 minutes she was gone a “Good Samaritan” called CPS on her for neglect. And this is happening more and more often. Of course, I don’t like calling these folks “Good Samaritans” because a Good Samaritan would just have kept a helpful eye on the kid while frazzled mom ran inside to get the phone.

And these are the SAME people who will also call me a bad mom because Spawn is being exposed to way too much time with electronics. That unless I am running my kid to every activity available and scheduling every second of his waking life for “educational opportunities” I am a jerk.

If I pay thousands of dollars for “Educational Software” I’m a great mom. But, if I teach my kid to play XBox and his reading is advanced because of his love for Transformers, I’m negligent. Does anyone else spot the crazy here?

Yes, my Kirby is an educational toy…. :P
Yes, my Kirby is an educational toy…. 😛

And this is a long way of saying that there is a LOT of pressure on parents these days. Look at all it entails!

When I was a kid, we were thrown outside after Sesame Street to PLAY. We made ramps out of every discarded piece of trash on the curb. I had a tetanus shot every YEAR. My mom’s idea of “fun and educational opportunities” involved teaching me the multiple uses for lemon oil and a deck brush.

Want to learn about nature? Let’s go pull weeds.

I’m unsure how this helicopter parenting is healthy for our kids. How it is healthy for us parents. Are we parents or entertainment directors? How will our kids fare when they have to be adults and the world isn’t interested in entertaining them every waking second?

I feel much of this Parent-Shaming/Mom-Shaming is consumerism gone crazy. Shame me because I am not a Size 0 and I buy diet stuff and gym memberships. Shame me because my house isn’t a photo spread out of Good Housekeeping and I hire a cleaning service. Shame me that I am not being a good enough MOM and sell me all kinds of apps, games, camps and activities because OMG! My child might get…BORED.

What do you guys think? Has the Mom-Shaming/Parent-Shaming gotten out of control? Do you run non-stop and never feel like you measure up? Do you have days you simply don’t know where to begin because you feel like a failure at everything? Have you drank the Kool-Aid? Any tips to detox from it?

Guys, do you get Parent-Shaming or Dad-Shaming? I’m curious to know what your experiences are.

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of APRIL, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook

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PLEEEEAAASE. Just ONE enchilada. I will love you FOREVER!

One thing I’ve learned is that happiness is a fleeting shadow. Contentment and gratitude are all that last. When circumstances dictate how we feel? Just accept that life is going to feel as if we are strapped to Hell’s Tilt-A-Whirl.

Because cats will never puke on tile instead of carpet, cars break, sinks leak, pipes bust, bills come, illness happens, kids act up, family WILL make us nuts, work will suck, some people will NEVER learn not to CC ALL in an e-mail, and the news will always be filled with the worst examples of “humanity.” EVERY network will spew doom, gloom, division, hate and hopelessness.

On the other side of that?

We also live in a society that tells us everything should be a highlight reel, that everyone ELSE is living a highlight reel, when truth is? That’s a lie. Most of life is Behind the Scenes and ugly and sticky and coated in cat fur and cracker crumbs.

I make it a point to begin every day with an attitude of gratitude. I think it is important, especially these days where it seems like every commercial tells us we aren’t thin enough, rich enough, successful enough, happy enough. We always need more “stuff” to be enough.

Stuff your Stuffies with MORE STUFF! Order now and we will sent you two FREE Stuffies to stuff EVEN MORE stuff!

I wrote a blog ages ago about focusing on success, that we tend to drift where the eyes focus. Race car drivers learn that if you want to cross the finish line, never ever take your eyes off the goal line. Look at the wall and you will hit the wall. I believe everything is that way. If we focus on where we are lacking, what others appear to have that we want? We run the danger of being deeply ungrateful, and that can be an extraordinarily defeating way to live.

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Lately, I’ve had a hard reality to face. I’ve always been very healthy and exercise was a part our lives. Then, in late August, I came down with Shingles. It’s been three months of non-stop nerve pain and exhaustion. Since I can’t move a lot, I can’t work out, thus I can’t pass a mirror without cringing. I’m also an author and a small business owner and it feels like everything is going to seed before my eyes.

But? I have a malady that will eventually heal.

I have a wonderful little boy who is HIGH ENERGY. My author friend J.E. Fishman writes a thriller series about Bomb Techs. Highly recommended, btw.

ANYWAY….

As part of J.E.’s book promotion, he sent me a gift. Stress balls that look like little bombs with a fuse. This means every time I go to the bathroom, Spawn flings open the door and lobs a grenade and shouts “FIRE IN THE HOLE!” seconds before a stress ball dings off my head….then he runs away laughing.

It was seriously funny the first 7,651 times.

But shouldn’t it be funny EVERY time? Am I taking enough time to ENJOY this little boy who will grow up all too soon? There are the dishes, the laundry, the dusting, but am I ENJOYING the home I have? I love serving writers, blogging, teaching, but am I taking a moment to ENJOY all of you? I have the world’s best husband. I make it a point that, when he gets home from work, a fresh, hot meal is made and his clean pajamas and towel are laid out next to the shower, but am I ENJOYING him?

My legs went to sleep an hour ago...
My legs went to sleep an hour ago…

Am I truly giving thanks?

I don’t know about you, but I know this is an area I can ALWAYS come up higher. Grateful people are happy people.

Thanksgiving seems to be the middle child of holidays. Halloween is fun and glitzy and exciting. Christmas is cute and we adore it and look forward to seeing it…and oh yeah, there’s Thanksgiving. Hey, do we even have decorations for that? Christmas is this magical time, and we often hear how we need to keep Christmas in our hearts all year long. Well, that is a great idea, but we would be wise to keep Thanksgiving there too.

We have all kinds of ways to be thankful and many things to be grateful for that we might not even notice. The next time you go to complain, I challenge you to think of the blessing that inconvenience really is. I do this myself when I hear complaints and grumblings coming out of my mouth. I’ll show you what I mean…

I am thankful for the searing nerve pain in my leg, because I still have a leg. It wasn’t blown off by an IED or amputated because of diabetes.

I am thankful for all the laundry I have to do, because it means I have clothes to wear.

I am thankful for the dishes that need washing, because it means I didn’t go hungry.

I am thankful for my BAZILLION food allergies, because it means my family eats very healthy.

I am thankful for the ENORMOUS electric bill, because it means my home has lights and heat.

I am thankful for the sheets that need to be changed, because it means I own a bed.

I am thankful for all the reading I have to do, because it means I’m literate.

I am thankful for the car that needs all new tires because it means I don’t have to walk miles and miles to get what I need.

I am thankful for that parking space waaaaayyyy out in the back, because it means I don’t have to park in a handicapped space. I can walk.

I am thankful for the garage that needs to be cleaned out, because it means I am blessed with plenty.

I am thankful for the chores to be done, because it means I have mom who loves me enough to travel to see me.

I am thankful for the litter-box that needs cleaning and the dog blankets that need washing because it means I have pets who love me unconditionally.

I am thankful for Johnny Cat who I have to shoo off counters and who breaks EVERYTHING, because he nearly died and now he’s back, healthy enough to wreak havoc (refer to above pic).

I am thankful for the split ends and six inches of roots I have, because it means I haven’t lost all my hair to chemo.

I am thankful for the Christmas cards I need to send, because they could as easily be funeral announcements.

I am thankful for the traffic snarls that catch me, because the body the firemen pulled out of the fatality accident could have been me.

I am thankful for the persistent leak in my sink, because it means that I have a home.

I am thankful for all the Christmas shopping I have to do, because it means I’m not alone.

I am thankful for my fluffy body because it could be emaciated and waiting on a food relief truck.

I am thankful for the son who would make a nest in my bra if he could (especially when I am WRITING), because it means I have a son who dearly loves me.

I am thankful that I sometimes have doubts and confusion about my future and my purpose when I think of the lives cut short before they ever had a future.

I am thankful for my freedom and the amazing men and women who put their lives on the line to protect it.

I am definitely thankful for all of you who bless me on this blog by giving me your time. Time is the most precious commodity we have and we never seem to have enough, but all of you are so generous to me. You share the very thing we all need more of….TIME. Thus, I’m immensely grateful you guys give to freely to me. I’m WAY thankful for my amazing WANA community. You guys are the bright spot to each and every day in my world and the world around you. It is such an honor and privilege to serve you.

And for a laugh and even a little food for thought, I LOVE this video…

What are you guys thankful for? Maybe things that vex you, but when viewed another way are unseen blessings. I’d like to hear your comments (which I am super especially thankful to get, by the way). Do you feel Thanksgiving kinda gets steamrolled? Do we need to learn to be more grateful as a culture? Is consumerism taking the place of genuine joy? What things do you do to make sure you remain grateful!

I LOVE hearing from you!

****

Yeah, yeah, I just griped about consumer culture, but writers need to eat too. Feel free to ignore and scroll down, but I DID write a book and it IS very helpful 😉 . Happy Thanksgiving!

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook

The Dork Side
Image courtesy of The Dork Side

I was a BORN entrepreneur, and blessedly was a child of the 70s and 80s. I always had a business from the time I was four. My first venture? Selling my “art.” I got a Spirograph for Christmas and two types of paper, regular and legal. I’d spend hours crafting my original designs and then set out door-to-door (after cartoons and Sesame Street ended). Legal-size art was .15, regular was .5. Or you could buy all I’d made and I’d promise to go away for $1.

You KNOW you had one...
You KNOW you had one…

Once little brother came along, this increased my workforce. We washed cars, weeded gardens, trimmed hedges, picked up dog poop and at the end of the day, I’d split all we’d made 50/50. Our most profitable venture involved hoeing up crabgrass for $5 a bag. There is a LOT of crabgrass in SW Fort Worth. Was pitiless work in triple-digit heat, but everyone eagerly paid up.

I knew my market. Our neighborhood was working poor or elderly and we offered excellent work for a fair price. My mother and grandfather had taught us how to slay crabgrass properly by the time we were tall enough to hold a yard tool. Get those babies at the ROOTS. First rain will even the holes. Beautiful yard will soon ensue.

My little brother and I were also the precursor to the ATM. Mom and Dad knew we were always flush with cash. It wasn’t uncommon for us to have $50-$100 or more. Back then the banks were open three hours a day at the worst time, so if my parents needed quick cash? We were there…for a small service fee.

Family is family, but business is business.

What makes this extraordinary, is my little brother was legally blind. God help the kids who picked on him. They had ME to contend with (only I could call him a dork). I remember him being 5 and crying when he got his first glasses. He didn’t know trees had leaves.

I was a tough boss, though. You can feel the crabgrass. GET IT!

Everything is possible. Though Little Bro attended the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind in St. Augustine, Florida, blessedly, his vision drastically improved once he hit adulthood (so did optics/lenses). Now he’s the owner-CEO of his own successful company (and a devoted father, husband and involved in his City Council). In college, even though his vision was corrected, he volunteered countless hours translating books into braille and became fluent in ASL.

My first business partner...
My first “dorky” business partner…
Today's C.E.O.
Today’s “only slightly-less-dorky” C.E.O.

The Elementary Enigma

Okay, back to 1980 when I began grade school. I recall being baffled the day I entered the class and there were stacks of these cardboard boxes with a handle. We were all required to take at least one, sell all the contents then turn in all money to “support the school.” Problem was, no one in the educational system knew about a SWOT analysis.

Strengths—Cute kid selling candy.

Weakness—Over-saturation of cute kids concentrated in the same geographical area selling an unwanted/unnecessary product for an obviously inflated price. Our market was working poor. Yes, they’d pay $5 for some kid to hoe up crabgrass for two hours, but $3 for a candy bar that cost less than $1?

And then there was the repeated lecture about how they paid property taxes to support schools and shouldn’t have to buy candy, stale popcorn balls, yada yada yada.

Sigh.

Opportunities—Make teacher happy. Yeah, probably not. Sunburn? Mace? Potential abduction? Okay, I had nothing.

Threats—Other than the blatantly obvious over-saturated market, there were the roving packs of feral Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and Brownies to contend with. Highly territorial and taught how to tie knots and set fires. And people waited all year for Girl Scout cookies. They were/are like the crack of the “kids selling stuff world.”

Customer: $20 for Thin Mints???? *twitches and scratches arms* *eyes VCR and tempted to rewire it*  All I have is $19. PLEASE. I can get you the $1 on payday! You gotta help me out, Kid.

Girl Scout: Okay, this time. But the price is now $25 and I want Barbie clothes.

Customer: DEAL!

Girl Scout: I know where you live.

Customer: *nods and shambles off with cookies tucked under coat*

The worst part of it is I was no stranger to working my tail off, but I at least was able to tangibly enjoy the fruit of my labors…with CASH. None of this existential “support your school” crap, a school that I had determined by Age 5 was a front for fascism.

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The Band Candy Bandit

As I grew older, new threats appeared, namely the little brother who’d once been such a loyal business partner. I was in the band and required to sell ridiculously priced Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (again for some nebulous end). Apparently the siren’s song of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups was stronger than sibling loyalty. He couldn’t see them, but his sense of smell was greatly enhanced O_o.

Mom and I woke to an 8-year-old passed out in a sugar coma, surrounded by brown and orange wrappers.

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My poor single mother somehow scratched together the $100 to give to the school, though I felt they should have just locked little bro up and solved ALL our problems. He did the crime and could pay the time…and I’d no longer have to contend with him hiding my art supplies in the field behind out house just to tick me off.

Brave New Parenting

These days, sending your kids off to knock on strangers’ doors all alone isn’t nearly as acceptable. Thus, every storefront becomes a trap of “sad face” where you don’t dare make eye contact. I mumble something about food allergies and skirt past feeling like a jerk.

When Hubby was at a corporate job, every office worker had a kid selling something through their dealer (the poor parent who probably still suffers peanut cluster flashbacks). One year, we had so many Girl Scout cookies I banned Hubby from answering the door. He was helpless in the face of a cute kid. Between everything bought from family, the office and our front door? We were staring down the barrel of a second mortgage.

Kiddopreneurs

I will say that I love supporting kids. I buy what I can, even if I am deathly allergic. I remember being in that position and how hard it was. What I really love are the authentic small business owners. One day, I opened the door and three little girls stood there. They were selling magnets they’d made themselves.

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This one was my favorite. I have three 🙂

I noticed the tiniest of the girls (she was elf-small) hid behind the others and I coaxed her out. She was missing an arm. Fumbling, she said they’d started their business to make money for extras their parents couldn’t afford. She couldn’t pull weeds or mow yards, but she could help make and sell magnets. She’d hidden because she didn’t want me to see her missing arm.

I bought their entire inventory.

And I’d have done that anyway. It had nothing to do with the one girl’s appearance. She’d done everything she could to support her sales team and NOT use her “disability” for sympathy sales.

I was so genuinely impressed with their hard work. They’d done their research. These were beautiful magnets that cost next to nothing. We all need pretty magnets. Magnets aren’t fattening and there is little competition. I wanted to support these future business owners the way my neighbors coughed up change for my silly Spirograph “art.”

Their grandmother was waiting in the car and I strolled out to praise her, and who was the CFO sitting in the back seat? Big brother. I donated an additional $30 as an angel investment. Big brother (11) ran the numbers and kept track of sales. My heart still flutters when I think of this story.

The Special Circumstances

I love kids. I’d adopt all of them if I could. It’s why I love that I’m called the W.A.N.A. Mama, because I can be den mother for countless writers. Also, we’re more than writers. We are people and many of us are parents. We have struggles and sickness and setbacks, but the cool news is we have each other.

And yes, I have something to sell. I almost never do this even for myself beyond a blip at the bottom about my book or upcoming classes. You’ve been warned, but I think this “sale” is a tad extraordinary.

Last Friday on Facebook, one of the WANAs was terribly discouraged. Her son has Down Syndrome and the school has tasked the kids/parents with selling ninja cookie cutters. His mom, Leona (a WANA) only asked if I could buy some cookie cutters. I was the one who offered to blog and talk to you guys.

I KNOW many of the writers in my community have special needs kids or grandkids and it is one of the toughest jobs in the world. We applaud you for your love and all your tireless work. This is the least I can do, beyond buying cookie cutters when I never bake 😀 .

Leona sent me this note after I offered to help:

Isaac is five years old with Down Syndrome. He’s recently moved to new school as we were able to get out of bad living situation. He’s doing beautifully. The new school provides many specialized services, like speech, resource rooms for extra tutoring, etc., and not just for the special ed kids.

It’s a good district. Unlike the old schools that acted as if I’d murdered their grandmother when asking for help or asking why something had happened this way or that, they are friendly, helpful, and happy to serve you and your children to getting a better education. All three of my kids have done so well in the new schools. They’re all happier, less depressed, and more focused, so I really appreciate your help in this.

The money is for the Gilbert Elementary PTA. They put on barbeques, and other family oriented things for the children and families to do things. They do a great job. The parents are relaxed and don’t look stressed, the teachers are helpful. I believe they play an integral part to keeping the community relations happily together with the schools goals. 

I appreciate you doing this as it will help Isaac garner some recognition, which though he won’t completely understand the whys of it, he will be happy with the positive attention. I’ve included a picture of him playing at the park before his back to school hair cut (BELOW)…

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How can you help? Maybe buy some cookie cutters or share this blog or the information below with those in desperate need of ninja cookie cutters 😀 .

To support #TeamIssac go to the Cherrydale Farm site and enter the following information:

Student Name: Isaac Bushman
State: Washington
School: Gilbert Elementary PTA
Group code (It will automatically fill in, but just in case): FRGILYW

And then if you hit continue, you can shop and Isaac will get credit.

Thank you for being here and for your support even if it is a comment or a share. Love and potential are limitless.

I LOVE hearing from you!

Did your school force you to sell overpriced stuff? Did you dread the tins of popcorn? Do you have kids and groan when they come home with candy bars? Is your office crammed with desperate parents trying to offload candles, greeting cards and chocolate? Yeah, sorry to add more peer pressure (ok, not really). Are you a tad shocked you weren’t held captive by that creepy neighbor with the van, but knocked on his door anyway because you had to make your quota?

To prove it and show my love, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner for a a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

All comments today are in a separate contest so less competition and a much greater chance of winning :D.

Moi with the AWESOME Chuck Wendig...
Moi with the AWESOME Chuck Wendig…

Since homeschooling The Spawn, life has shifted dramatically as I struggle along this uncharted learning curve. For instance, it is a gorgeous summer this year. I’ve lived in Texas most of my life and never witnessed weather so balmy and beautiful. This morning, I step out to let the dog go bark at every thought scuttling through her brain (instead of going pee) and it’s oddly quiet. No kids. No squeals of riding bikes or rollerskating or plundering trash piles for construction materials for some ramp or fort or weapon.

When a Kid Could Be a Kid

When I was Spawn’s age, the second cartoons were over, we’d have been out the door for the entire day…willingly. Even though it was always triple-digit heat. Weather like THIS? We might have skipped the cartoons.

Okay, we’d have watched the good ones and not hung on for the crappy kiddie shows.

I’ve started to pay more attention now that I have my son home all day. The other mothers? Working moms have kids in daycare full-time. But even the Stay-At-Home Moms befuddle me. It’s as if they’re the Carnival Cruise Activity Director all summer. They take the kid(s) to the gym to play two hours, then gym camp, then swimming lessons, then karate, then multiple play dates across the city then church camp and voice lessons and Sylvan….

My head is spinning.

And so much of it is college-prep stuff. Like, preschool isn’t just playing and learning lessons like “hitting and eating glue is bad for one’s social life.” PRE-K is preparation for “real school”, which is part of why Spawn was fired. His imagination was far less valuable than reading retention. HE IS FOUR.

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Every other game out there is “educational.” Summer is no longer even summer. We used to have THREE MONTHS off to simply be kids and play. Now? There are learning centers lurking on every corner chanting things like, “You wouldn’t want your kids to be behind, would you? You aren’t a BAD parent. Not YOU….”

In the early 80s, my mom could keep a clean home, cook all our meals, cultivate a beautiful garden and sew our clothes because my tail was outside and I had little brother in tow as soon as he was close-enough-for-government-work potty trained. My mom spent time with us, but not every waking moment. We played our guts out every day after school for hours and solidly for three months a year. Sure, after vacation, we had to catch up some in September, but I still graduated college with honors and so did Little Bro.

In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the literacy rates were higher back then.

What Happened to PLAY?

Play comes naturally to humans. Just watch the glee on a baby’s face when he discovers OMG I HAVE TOES! THEY FIT IN MY MOUTH!

I recall all the things I used to do as a child for FUN—write, read, draw, color, roller-skate, dance, play make-believe, do cartwheels. And I’d just bust out dancing or doing the splits anywhere and it was okay. I was a kid.

I’m no longer allowed back in Home Depot *hangs head*

EPIC WIN!
EPIC WIN!

I really was kicked out of a Toys ‘R Us one time for racing through the store aisles on a Hoppity Hop.

Remember ME?
Remember ME?

My art and writing were all encouraged until I hit about the age of ten. Then I needed to start being serious. I had adults asking me where I wanted to go to college, what I wanted to do with my life when I grew up. Teachers asking me this.

Of course, me being me, I said I wanted to be a rich man’s wife. And Mom was promptly called up to school. Sarcasm wasn’t appreciated then either.

But WTH? I was TEN and that was a dumb question. Most adults still don’t know what THEY want to be when they grow up an yet they put that off of a kid? And there is an “acceptable” answer. When I said I wanted to be a writer, that was cute.

Now what was I going to do to earn money?

As we grow older, play is demonized, called trivial and labeled foolish and unnecessary. Yet, studies in neuroscience have demonstrated that play, “leads to brain plasticity, adaptability, and creativity…Nothing fires up the brain like play.” ~Stuart Brown, Play is More than Fun, TED Talk.

I’m reading a cool new book called, Essentialism—The Disciplined Pursuit of Less (and am learning a lot about what I’ve been doing wrong or even right).

The word school is derived from the Greek word schole, meaning “leisure.” Yet, our modern school system, born in the Industrial Revolution, has removed much of the leisure—and much of the pleasure—out of learning. ~Author Greg McKeown, Essentialism, page 84.

We’ve talked about this on my blog before, how our public schools were designed for the main purpose of training future  factory workers. The Industrial Revolution was all about efficiency and mass production. Educational institutions patterned much of their structure from the military. As McKeown points out, we even see military vocabulary in our workplace. In the trenches. On the front lines. Even the word company is a military term for a military unit (McKeown, page 85).

A Changing World

So here we have this school structure that is designed to produce a force for manufacturing when most manufacturing has largely been outsourced to developing countries. If we are to have any economic future, it will come from fields requiring imagination—computers, programming, art, writing, design, etc.

Yet, most of the school activities that foster imagination are the first on the cutting block—art, music, drama, band, recess. We even have new schools being built with no playgrounds.

Even when there is play, it seems it is never just for the sake of play. Kids are learning piano or playing football not because it is fun, but because “they could one day use that to pay for COLLEGE.”

Many of the greatest human innovations have been birthed from leisure and play. Shakespeare played constantly with iambic pentameter. DaVinci was known to be a flake who’d run off chasing butterflies or tinkering with machines instead of finishing his paid “job.” Newton uncovered the Law of Gravity while resting.

Our most successful companies—Google, Pixar, Apple—encourage play and rest. So why then do we have SO many companies who measure keystrokes and phone calls and enslave employees to metrics?

And while we are doing everything possible to kill imagination and play and vilify vacations and rest, we simultaneously wonder why we’re losing our edge?

The Power of Play

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Play has all these great benefits to the brain. Why? One big reason is play is AMAZING at reducing stress. When we’re stressed, our body defaults to reptile brain. It’s impossible to use higher thinking centers because the brain is in survival mode.

Yet, instead of doing some cartwheels, we chug energy drinks and coffee and work later into the night to “catch up.” We sacrifice sleep and play first. Then, we’re foggy-headed and disorganized. So we drink some more caffeine because naps are anathema and play is a pariah.

And the cycle continues…

We’ve created this culture that prides itself on getting no sleep and taking no time off. Even our words reflect our values.

I LOVE cleaning house, because I make everything a game and always have. I set timers and see if I can clean ALL the dishes before the buzzer goes off. I dance with the mop. I “race” Spawn picking up toys.

But we call them “chores” and wonder why everyone groans. We go to the gym to “work out” then are befuddled why we resist. I do Brazilian Jui-Jitsu because it’s FUN. I used to wrestle and play-fight as a kid. I’m not at a dojo to eventually make money competing in the MMA. It’s simply…FUN. Maybe one day I’ll get a black belt, more likely I’ll get a black eye.

But will I have STORIES to TELL!

Writing, Social Media and Blogging, Oh, MY!

I wrote this book to help writers…but mostly so I cloud finally be a CYBORG.
I wrote this book to help writers…but mostly so I could finally be a CYBORG.

Often, when we decide to become writers there is a LOT of social push-back. We don’t have a “real” job. Why? Because we actually have FUN. Is this what makes others itch with envy? When I created the WANA methods for blogging and social media, the goal wasn’t to sell books or measure algorithms. WANA is simple. HAVE FUN and others will be drawn to you. You will ENJOY it, so you’re more likely to DO it. Others gravitate toward the light so be the light.

Blogging? Have fun! Invite others in. That’s it. No gadgets, plans, gizmos or algorithms.

Facebook is FUN (maybe it’s why people get all snooty about it). Social media is recess for adults. It’s Show-And-Tell. “Hey, check out this cake I baked!” We share jokes and funny memes and smile and laugh…a lot.

Oh, but how is this directly impacting your book sales initiative? Are you targeting the right demographic to gain click throughs and meaningfully drive the curve of boring-as-hell?

No idea. And don’t care.

Play is anything we do for no gain other than we enjoy it. Is this why we have such a hard time being writers? Why are we swayed from fun to factory so easily? Everyone assumes the second we’re writing a novel, our goal is to become a NYTBSA. WHY? Can’t we just write something for the sake of fun? Maybe put it up for sale because we want to share our art project? Why do we need to monetize everything?

Children are investments, adults are assets and the elderly are losses and there is something terribly, horribly wrong with that.

The Play Challenge

Do ONE Thing Silly Per Day

This morning, I stepped outside to the cool soft grass and…did cartwheels. I’d forgotten how fun those things were. They added nothing tangibly to my word count and my laundry was still here when I returned, but cartwheels were strangely…liberating. Since Spawn has been home, I’ve been doing a lot of silly things. Chasing zombies with NERF guns, clearing rooms. Swimming. Tickle-fighting. And I was fretting over all this “wasted time.”

Pthththththt to that.

Last night we watched Mega Shark Versus Mecha Shark. Why? Because it is FUN. It’s so bad it is AWESOME.

Pay Attention to Words

I’m going to stop using the phrase “working out.” Makes me stressed. Maybe call it “recess”? We ran and ran as kids and didn’t need to slot time to do it. We jumped rope and walked everywhere and not one of us counted how many calories we’d burned before we could stop.

Seek PLAY and FUN

This is NOT goofing off. It’s good for you, so watch. I guarantee you the next minute and fifteen seconds will improve your day dramatically….

I am actively working to seek rest and fun. It’s good for the imagination. Go write a story you have no intention of marketing. See if you can combine things that don’t go together. Put a cup full of genres in one jar and nouns in another then draw—sci-fi, knitting, nuclear device. Whatever. Go color, do a cartwheel, play a video game. It IS work. Workaholics aren’t challenged by working more, they are truly challenged working less.

What are your thoughts?

Do you think our culture has gotten a collective stick up its hind end? Are you vexed that kids don’t get enough play? Are you annoyed that everything has to be “educational” or “college prep” and that we seem do frown on anything that doesn’t make “business sense”? Have you had a hard time playing, napping, having fun? Do you feel guilty that you should do more, but the list never stops? Do you find that your creativity improves after rest and fun?

Have you worked fun into your life? Are you guarding your fun and recreation and rest? Do you get pushback? Do you MISS having THREE MONTHS OFF with nothing to do but PLAY? What would you do if given that opportunity as an adult?

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of JULY, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE here’s my newest social media book, Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World is NOW AVAILABLE. Only $6.99.

I have a new class series GOING PRO—Craft, Business and Brand. Take one or all three for a discount. Also use WANA15 for $15 off. Each class discusses the CORE ESSENTIALS. What is the essence of great writing? What is the heart of a brand/social media? What are the basics of publishing when so many options are available?