The Writing Process Blog Tour

A few weeks ago, Michelle, the writer behind Balancing Jane (a blog you should read if you aren’t already) who I was fortunate to meet at BlogHer13 and see again at BlogHer14, invited me to participate in “The Writing Process Blog Tour.”

It’s a bit like “tag” for bloggers: one blogger answers a series of questions about her (or his) writing process and then passes the questions onto another blogger. The idea is to provide a glimpse inside a writer’s process to, I hope, aid us all in thinking about writing just a bit differently.

Such an invitation is flattering (thank you, Michelle!) but also intimidating, considering the company. Here we go…

typewriterWhat are you working on?
A priority for me is Red Shutters, of course. How I do keep this blog fresh and interesting? How do I stay inspired in my writing? How do I make sure my stories are shared in such a way that they resonate with my readers? How should I engage with my readers in way that’s sustainable and authentic for me and for them? (As you can see, I spend a lot of time asking big questions.)

Another priority—a new one—is getting my writing featured in other places. Having my blog is empowering: I can write about anything, anytime. It’s all mine. Yet, even though I am part of blogging networks, writing on my own blog can feel isolating at times, so I’m starting down the freelance road. Last month, I submitted my first piece to a very well received website; I haven’t heard anything yet, which I’m interpreting as a rejection. That’s disappointing, of course, but it’s round one. I have more ideas ahead.

I am well aware that freelancing is tough business, though, so I’m starting slow and taking writing classes to improve my craft. I’m exercising the writing muscle, if you will. Plus, by taking classes, I hope to connect with other writers, editors, and a larger community of people who care about words. I’m working on getting better, a goal I sense is never-ending.

How does your work differ from others in its genre?
This question stopped me. The simplest answer is that my work differs because it’s my voice, my experience. While others may have similar experiences, no one else walks through each day in my 7.5 size Dansko clogs. That difference is critical, and it’s why people read blogs – because of a connection with someone and that person’s perspective. And, I’d like to think that mine is a worthy perspective to share.

Why do you write what you do?
When I was in high school I wrote a bi-weekly column for a local newspaper. The work was unpaid and barely edited (which showed sometimes), but it was exhilarating to have a platform to express myself. As a result of that experience, I considered journalism as a career and tried my hand at public relations for a bit. I ended up in education and public health (which I am quite happy about), and I’ve always made sure I had a writing component in every job I’ve had. It’s a part of my career in which I have found a lot of satisfaction. The challenge, of course, is that writing for work doesn’t fulfill a need inside of me; it addresses someone else’s agenda. That’s why Red Shutters exists. And, on Red Shutters, I write about what I’m thinking about and struggling with. For me, that’s often parenting, work-life juggling, and the fun stuff of life, such as home, books, and travel. I’ve received positive feedback from readers (and not just my mom!), with people telling how much my words have resonated with them. That means so much. It’s why I keep at it.

How does your writing process work?
My writing process is one part inspiration, one part procrastination, and one part getting it done. Then, editing. And more editing. And reading the piece aloud. And walking away from it for a while. Maybe even starting over from scratch. More editing and go.

Inspiration, or a feeling of connection to the subject of my writing, is key for me. Whenever I have forced the writing, it hasn’t worked. In those cases, I’ve struggled, stumbled, and generally been miserable. I trust myself enough now to have faith in my ability to find my rhythm in a piece. And I, much to my surprise, have found patience for the words.

Now, I’m passing the “passing the baton” to three bloggers whose writing I very much enjoy: Phyllis of Napkin Hoarder, Sarah of This Here Now, and Melissa of A Wide Line. I look forward to reading what they have to say!

Photo credit: Lívia Cristina via photopin cc

Stress Management

The rush of the first weeks of back-to-school has been replaced with frenectism and STRESS. As a result, I have moved into a waking-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night phase, wide awake at 3 AM, worrying about things—everything. Work. Soccer practice. Cub Scouts. My son’s birthday. Doctors’ appointments. Dance lessons. Piano lessons. And more. Other nights, I can’t fall asleep; instead, I make to do lists and review, in my mind, my calendar for the next day. It’s making me miserable.

stressSo, in an effort to get my stress under control, on my 45-minute commute home from work today, I made a list of the stress management techniques that help me get the worrying in check. Since giving up sleep to get everything done isn’t a sustainable option (I’ve thought about it), I need more strategies and fewer wrinkles between my eyes. With some brainstorming, I came up with five stress management techniques for busy people—moms, dads, and everyone else:

  1. Exercise – No surprise here, right? But this one always trips me up. I make getting exercise A BIG DEAL. I make it COMPLICATED. I always imagine it includes a cute outfit, a great spot in yoga class, and lots of time. I’ve learned the past few weeks that it doesn’t have to be any of those things. I’ve started the Couch to the 5K app—it paces you on a run, moving you from sitting on the couch to running in a 5k in just a few weeks, and I have learned that 30 minutes a day can change everything! I put on my woefully ugly running shorts and beat-up sneakers, and I’m off. And, I feel really good when I’m done.
  1. Music – I’ve discovered an all 80s channel on the radio, and it has changed my mornings. On the drive to work, I belt out Billy Idol, the Bangles, and Michael Jackson in the privacy of my own car. I am sure I look like a fool to the people driving by me, but I am having a wonderful time. You cannot sing along to “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go” and not laugh. Or at least not remember yourself at 14 singing that song, all braces and bad perm, and laugh. Or so I have heard.
  1. Reading – When I don’t read before bed, I cannot easily fall asleep. I have learned that the hard way. No matter what, I make time for 20 minutes of calm reading. It signals to my never-stop-moving mind that it’s time to let go. Alas, 20 minutes isn’t enough when the book is addictive (like Outlander, the book I just started that I will return to as soon as this blog post is finished).
  1. Baking – This is the one stress management technique that’s fattening. I love to bake. I like to try new muffin recipes, make cookies to hide in my kids’ lunches, and create treats for my husband to sneak before bed (so you see why exercise was #1, right?). Baking is so satisfying; I love following the steps and the promise of something yummy at the end. The key is to not eat the batter, of course.
  1. Redecorating – When I can’t fall asleep, I redecorate, in my mind, homes I have visited. Mine, my mom’s, friends. Likely every house I have ever been to (except one). There’s something relaxing about imagining new paint colors and furnishings, and, since I know how expensive such endeavors can be in real life, I’m free, in those minutes before sleep does appear, to be creative. Blue ceilings, violet bathrooms, and new bathroom tile. My house has been through the most extensive renovation in my head. Now, if only I can talk my husband into some of those late-night ideas…

Just writing this post makes me feel better. Perhaps that’s #6: writing.

What about you? What’s your go-to stress management tip?


Photo credit: Finsec via photopin cc

My Working Motherhood Interview

logoLast week, I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Dr. Portia Jackson, founder and host of Working Motherhood, an online resource for working moms that offers a “daily source of inspiration and encouragement.” Working Motherhood features 30 minute interviews of women from all different backgrounds, professions, and stages of life, exploring the journey of motherhood, the balance of career and family, and moments of challenge and success.

I’ve never been interviewed like this before, and I’ll admit to being nervous (okay, more than a little nervous), but talking with Dr. Jackson was like speaking with good friend so I was quickly put at ease. The interview provided me with a chance to reflect upon on my journey as a working mom these past seven years, and I found myself surprised a bit by all I had to say (though having something to say has rarely been a problem for me!) and pleased that, even though life often feels so frenetic, I’ve managed to find my way through, incorporating my own lessons learned and maybe even being a little bit better today than I was yesterday (or at least I hope so!).

My interview is now online on the Working Motherhood site; you can find it here. (It’s also on iTunes.) Come visit me on Working Motherhood, and listen to my story. And, since I’ve not yet been able to work up the courage to listen to the interview myself, please tell me what you think in the comments!

5 Tips for Going to the Brimfield Antiques and Collectibles Show

About two weeks ago, I crossed another item off my bucket list: I went to the Brimfield Antiques and Collectibles Show.

When I was kid, my family occasionally went to a flea market near our home, and I remember those trips with fondness. The challenge of finding a parking space, the discovery of just the perfect item, and the people-watching all made the experience memorable. I knew that Brimfield—which is so much more than a flea market—would be quite a trip.

With thousands of dealers selling everything from pristine (and expensive) antiques to items you probably saw in your Grandma’s kitchen to, well, even some junk, Brimfield is a popular destination to collectors who love to hunt and seek. I managed to talk my husband into a weekend away at a bed and breakfast as the hook to get us to Brimfield, so our adventure could be combined with some long overdue couple time. I’ll be honest that Brimfield was not his first choice of activities, but he was an incredibly good sport about—even when the heat of the day reached the high 80s with significant humidity.

The mix of items for sale was fascinating. We stumbled upon a vendor selling tables, chairs, and umbrellas from German biergartens, which would have been perfect for a small porch. We saw more Pyrex than I ever thought existed. We spied relics of carousels, ocean buoys, and vintage clothes. We saw classic toys, art prints, and Bakelite. Furniture, light fixtures, and even bicycles. The list really is endless!

The scale of Brimfield can be overwhelming; the dealers are spread along a mile of Route 20, positioned in show venues that are commonly called “fields.” (The show started, literally, in a farmer’s field in 1959.) There is also a food court, numerous (addictive) lemonade stands, and other food stalls, ensuring that you can eat while you shop.

While my husband and I went with a list in hand to help us stay focused (which I recommend), we instead brought home a mix of things we uncovered as we walked up and down the crowded aisles. The most we spent on any one piece was $40.

Here’s what came home in our car:

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Noodles and Company Giveaway!

noodlesandcompanygiveawayLast month, I had the pleasure of attending a special tasting at Noodles & Company, a new entrant to the food business in the Boston area. This “bloggers only” event, held at the new Noodles & Company in Burlington, featured a chance to try a number of the restaurant chain’s delicious dishes, including Bangkok Curry, seasonal soups, and a so-yummy-I-wanted-to-hide-it-in-my-purse-and-take-it-home Pesto Cavatappi.

Noodles & Company’s menu offers an extensive number of—you guessed it!—noodle dishes from pasta with butter (for the toddler set) to the aforementioned (gluten free!) Bangkok Curry. They also feature flatbreads, sandwiches, and salads, with a menu that changes seasonally. I am planning to take my kids to Noodles & Company soon, and I suspect my daughter will love their Wisconsin Mac & Cheese. My son will go for their Spaghetti & Meatballs, while I’ll try the Japanese Pan Noodles.

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I’m on today!

Where am I today, dear readers?

clever toy storage

I’m over on the Idea Lounge! Check out my post, “Clever Toy Storage Idea,” where I share tips on organizing those pesky kid’s toys. It’s my first post for Wayfair as part of its Homemakers program so please give me some love!

An Unexpected Wedding Anniversary

The traditional gifts for a ninth wedding anniversary are pottery and willow. This week, when my husband and I celebrated our ninth anniversary, we went a different route: stitches and an emergency room visit.

Our anniversary started off like any other day: kisses goodbye to the kids, hectic commutes, and busy hours at work. We were supposed to meet up in the evening for a delicious dinner at the famed Hamersley’s Bistro, a terrific Boston restaurant that’s long been on my bucket list. The reservation was especially important because Hamersley’s is closing next month. We really wanted to get there before its lights went off for good and anniversary celebration was a perfect reason to trek its location in the South End.

There I was, at the office, trying to get a few things done before my husband arrived when the following text came in:

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4 Things I’m Doing Differently This School Year

4thingsEarlier this week, my kids started at their after school program. They attend four days a week from the end of the school day at 3:15 PM to 6:00 PM when my husband or I pick them up. It’s a long day for the two of them but they love it.  When I arrived home from work the other night, they were already in their pajamas, bubbling over about their adventures of their day, playing soccer with friends and getting used to the new routine of after school.

I was happy to see them so joyful about school and after school, and it got me thinking about how I could make those good feelings last throughout the school year. I came up with four ideas:

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Three Tips to Rock the Lunchbox and a Giveaway!

School has been underway for a week, and already I’ve heard one of the more dreaded sentences in the English language: “Mom, I didn’t like what you packed for lunch today.”

My children, R and G, are good eaters, but lunchtime can be challenge. They don’t have long to eat lunch during the school day (only about 20 minutes), and their friends distract them with chances to talk and be silly. Therefore, what I pack in their lunchboxes has to grab their attention—while also being healthy.

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The Paint Bar

Last week, I was fortunate to spend an evening at The Paint Bar, along fellow blogger, Cheryl of Busy Since Birth. We were invited to attend one of The Paint Bar’s fun three-hour, instructor-led painting sessions, and it was a terrific way to spend an evening with a friend.

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