Thursday, October 25, 2012

On Becoming a Working Mom

After a long period of searching and applying, I finally found a job! Tomorrow I will be completing my second work week and it’s incredible how different my life is from just two weeks ago. To be honest, I was terrified of the transition from stay-at-home mom to working mom. I think it has gone a lot better than anticipated.
The first few days were rough. The kids cried and didn’t want me to leave. I felt like crying myself most of the time. However, by Friday of last week my daughter was already anxious to get rid of me and carry on with her day, yelling at me to: “Get out of the car, Mummy! Go to work!”
I miss the kids. I hate being away from them. Especially since it was never planned for me to go to work full time. But, as you know, sometimes life doesn’t care about what your plans were and things change. Right now, it is important for me to work full time and that is what I have to do.
A lot of mothers have told me that I shouldn’t be sad, that I was so lucky to have been able to stay home for as long as I did. While they are right and I have been incredibly fortunate, I am still entitled to my feelings and I am still allowed to express my sadness at being away from my children. I believe it is always important to acknowledge your emotions and deal with them in the best way possible, no matter what others may think.
Truthfully, being back at work does have its perks. This is the most alone time I have had in over three and a half years! I get to eat by myself, in peace, without little people screaming at me, wanting food off my plate, talking my ear off, etc. It’s incredible- I just sit in silence and eat. After my lunch, I usually go for a nice walk around the beautiful park down the road and it is so soothing to my soul. I get to listen to music all by myself. Or read a book. My breaks are like little vacations.

The park by my office

Suddenly I get to be around people who have nothing to do with my children, who are not even aware of their existence. They don’t see me as the mother of R and E- to them I’m just Vivien. It’s like I’ve been living in an alternate universe and have suddenly arrived back in the real world, where people talk about grown-up things rather than potty training and how to sneak vegetables into your child’s diet.
Of course, there are other things about being back at work that suck. Like having to actually work. And using communal bathrooms. Somehow I had this idea in my head that I would finally get to go to the bathroom in peace, without children commenting on what I’m doing, fighting each other to determine who gets to flush, etc. What I forgot about was that you’re never alone in the bathrooms at work. You’re in a stall next to other women and there is really not much privacy. It doesn’t help that the toilets in our office building creak as if they have reached their maximum weight capacity and are about to rip out of the wall.
I still can’t quite believe it: I’m a working mother now. Going from stay-at-home mom to working mom has been easier than I thought so far, but it still isn't easy. I’ll keep you posted…

Friday, October 19, 2012

Nurture Photography Fall Challenge - Orange/Warmth

After my first week back at work, I am exhausted and truly happy that it is the weekend. What better way to start it off than by joining Live and Love Out Loud and Bumbles & Light for their weekly photography challenge?
Unfortunately, after a high of 90°F here today, I can still say with certainty that fall has yet to arrive in Florida (if it ever actually does…) However, the Floridians are still trying to get in the autumn spirit by throwing together some pumpkins in a make-shift patch and hosting all kinds of other fun fall events.
I went hunting for the color orange. Honestly, with the heat still being almost at full strength every day, I wasn’t in the mood to capture much warmth. However, somehow I feel as though the color orange gives off so much warmth that it’s impossible not to have it shine through in the pictures.
Please click on any of the photos to enlargen.

Please join us:
Nurture Photography Autumn 2012 Photo Challenge

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

I Wanna Quit the Newspaper!

Photo by helloyou, stock.xchng

I generally can’t say ‘no’ to anything. I’ve been really trying to work on it, but I still suck badly. So when someone knocked on our door a few weeks ago and asked if we could please buy a weekend newspaper subscription for eight weeks at an incredibly low price of only $10, which would help him attend college and ultimately lead to a better life, there was no possible way I could refuse.
Fast forward to last week. I receive a letter from the newspaper, including an invoice for the renewal of our subscription. Huh??? I didn’t renew it. I don’t even want the bloody newspaper! After reading the letter carefully, I find fine print that informs me of their convenient automatic renewal service. If we don’t want the paper anymore, all we have to do is call their special cancellation hotline.
Beads of sweat start forming as I panic at the thought of speaking to the cancellation professionals. I immediately start remembering one of my favorite episodes of Friends- The One with the Ballroom Dancing- in which Chandler is trying to quit the gym. I wanna quit the newspaper!!!
I call the number and start speaking to a very friendly woman. When she hears of my wish to cancel the subscription, she sounds terribly upset, as if I have hurt her feelings, and says: “I’m so sorry to hear that! Is there anything we could do to change your mind?” All I can think is I wanna quit the newspaper; I wanna quit the newspaper. “No, thank you, we really don’t read the paper.”
Of course, this woman is a pro. She’s a lioness going straight for my sucker-esque throat: “You know, you could change your subscription to only receive the Sunday paper. That way, you still receive all the wonderful coupons that can save you hundreds of dollars every week.” I wanna quit the newspaper; I wanna quit the newspaper. “No, thank you. Really, we aren’t able to use any of the coupons, so it’s just not worth it.” She gives it her best shot yet: “You know, this is the lowest offer we’ve ever had for our customers and I doubt we’ll have such a great price again. You wouldn’t want to miss such an opportunity.” I’m thinking: She’s right. What an awesome price! And really, I should be reading the paper. I picture myself at an imaginarily quiet house without interruptions in which I leasurely read the whole Sunday paper after having had a nice sleep in. No, wait- that’s not how my life is. Children jump on me and animals want to be fed and the house is a disaster and anyway, the local paper is really not a good publication. I WANNA QUIT THE NEWSPAPER!!! Out loud, I say: “I know it’s a wonderful offer, but it would really be a waste at this time.”
That’s it. She gives up! I’ve done it. I have managed to quit the newspaper. I am so proud of myself for staying strong and following through. That will really come in handy the next time I have to cancel my subscription after not being able to say ‘no’…

Monday, October 15, 2012

A Week Without Facebook

If you know me, then you know that I am a complete and utter Facebook addict. I can’t help myself- I just love reading about others and feeling like I have someone other than my kids to communicate with. The only problem is that my addiction was starting to take on ridiculous proportions and I found myself checking my page every 15 minutes all day long. Not so cool. Especially since the companionship I was looking for was usually nowhere to be found.
Therefore, I bravely decided to go cold-turkey and disable my Facebook account for a week. One week without Facebook. I could have just logged off, but I know I would have cheated and secretly snuck a peek now and again.
It was rough. The first day felt really lonely and I didn’t quite know what to do with myself (sad, huh?) However, the week proved to be extremely productive. Here are some of the things that happened:
·         I got featured on BlogHer. Ok, this is not something I actively did, but it was still cool. And it was also horrible because I REALLY wanted to share the link on Facebook to get some support, but I stayed strong.
·         I looked at my iPhone a lot, wondering what other purposes it might possibly serve.
·         I hung out with my friend and watched Jersey Shore while eating gluten free cookies. It was fantastic!
·         I read half of a very interesting book.
·         I read up on things I have been trying to avoid, such as SEO, etc. and freelance work.
·         I was offered a job on Thursday, then another on Friday, and had to decide between the two. Tomorrow is my first day at my new job. I have to work 40 hours per week and leave the kids at home with daddy. It’s breaking my heart, but until we win the lottery (which is rather unlikely as we do not play) I have to bring in some extra $$$. At least until I start earning the big bucks writing.
·         I went out for a wonderful dinner with my fabulous friend- just the two of us.
·         I talked to almost all of my friends in Europe, which felt great.
·         I took part in the Nurture Photography Fall Challenge.
·         I completed week eight of couch to 5k, which meant walking 5 minutes, then jogging 28 minutes, then walking 5 minutes.
·         I gathered some writing ideas and creative ideas and just overall let my brain do its weird thing.

There you have it. I missed Facebook a lot, but I also feel that being away helped me to refocus and be more creative.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Nurture Photography Fall Challenge - Yellow/Light

This is the second week Live and Love Out Loud and Bumbles & Light  are hosting their Nurture Photography Fall Challenge.
It’s wonderful to have a challenge to think about and work on throughout the week. It just gives the creative process a bit more of a direction and ideas can flow more easily (at least that is the case for me)
This week’s challenge was yellow/light, which presented many opportunities here in Florida where summer is almost still in full strength. I had lots of yellow flowers to choose from and with the amount of sunshine we still get every day, it was easy to find very strong light. As I have mentioned before, I do miss a real fall. However, I am glad to be able to take autumn pictures that capture a different world from what people generally associate with the season.
Please click on any picture to enlargen.

“Before their supper they require
A dragon field of yellow fire
To light and toast them in the gloom
So much for old earth’s ashen doom.”
Robert Fitzgerald, “Lightness in Autumn” from Spring Shade: Poems 1931-1970

Please join us:

Sunday, October 7, 2012

You Don't Have to Harden Your Heart

I am such a softy. I cry watching sad movies, I cry reading sad news, I cry when I hear a sad song. Sometimes I cry when I look at my beautiful children because they make me so happy. I’m also terrible at hiding my feelings. People can read my mood like a book. I don’t carry my heart on my sleeve, I wear it smack in the middle of my face with spotlights illuminating it.
 When my daughter started going to a mother’s morning out program almost two years ago, I couldn’t stand it. I felt guilty and everything about leaving my baby girl with someone else felt wrong. People told me I would have to harden my heart, that having children meant you had to toughen up and not get too soft about them.
I’m so glad I didn’t listen. You can say whatever you want, but I am not going to harden my heart. I am going to continue feeling my feelings without any type of filter. Quite to the contrary, I am hoping in the future to trust my feelings more than I ever have.
Honestly, I think this is one of the world’s biggest problems- the lack of feeling. If we all let ourselves feel the compassion, empathy, and love we have inside of us, how much better life would be for everyone. If we didn’t expect people from childhood on to be able to ‘control’ their emotions, maybe more people would be interested in fixing the problems we have in this world.
I want to yell at people ‘Don’t look away anymore! Acknowledge your feelings and act upon them!’ We should all listen to our hearts more and change the things that make us and others unhappy. Feel your feelings and acknowledge them- we were given our inner voice for a reason.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Nurture Photography Fall Challenge - Green

As I’ve mentioned before, I love fall! Too bad we moved somewhere where there doesn’t seem to be such a season… I know many of you envy us, but I would really love to have some cooler weather (it’s still 90°F every day), crisp air, and some fall colors.
However, when I read about the Nurture Photography fall challenge that Live and Love Out Loud  and Bumbles & Light are hosting, I still got excited about participating. When I saw today’s theme, which is ‘green’, I actually felt lucky to be in Florida where all the plants are still in full summer mode and luscious green can be found all around.
Here are the shots I came up with today - I hope you like them (please click on any picture to enlarge):

A dewdrop on spring-like flowers

Life in our birth bath

Birdbath growth (my kids play in it, which makes me want to vomit...)

A paler green

R loves to collect 'nuts'

A green 'nut'

My favorite picture. Actually kind of proud of this one.

If you like photography, please join the challenge and share your pictures. I’d love to see what fall looks like in your part of the world!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Candy Corn Bark

It’s fall!!! Well, not really in Florida, but I can certainly pretend because it’s my favorite season. Fall means beautiful colors, cooler weather, cozy evenings (again, I’m pretending…), Halloween, Thanksgiving, pumpkin patches, and so many more wonderful things. And, of course, candy corn.

When my friend Beth posted a recipe for Candy Corn Bark, I just had to try it. I had a feeling that the color combination would be lovely and it did not disappoint. Moreover, it turned out to be absolutely delicious! It’s a great treat to keep at home for the whole family to enjoy, but it’s pretty enough to give away to friends, etc. as little gifts. AND it’s super easy to make.

The ingredients:
24 oz vanilla-flavored candy coating, chopped
2 cups broken, thin pretzel sticks (I used gluten free thin pretzels instead)
2 ½ cups candy corn
You will also need cooking spray and waxed paper.
The instructions:
·         Spray a 15x10x1 Inch pan with cooking spray. Line with waxed paper.
·         In a large microwave safe bowl, microwave the candy coating on high for 1 minute 15 seconds. Stir. Continue microwaving and stirring in 15 second intervals until completely melted and smooth.
·         Stir in pretzel pieces and 2 cups of the candy corn.
·         Spread mixture evenly in the pan.

·         Sprinkle remaining ½ cup of candy corn evenly over the top; press in lightly.
·         Let stand one hour or until completely cooled and set. (After it had cooled, I had to stick it in the fridge because it is so warm in our house that it was still a little melty)
·         Break into irregular 2 to 3 Inch pieces (or whatever shape you want) and store at room temperature (or in the fridge if your house is really warm)

That’s it. Isn’t that amazingly simple? You should really give it a try. My whole family is addicted.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Monthly Writing Challenge 2/12: A Feminist Fairytale

Megan Douthitt's submission:

Feminist Fairytale - Cinderella

I assume we’re all familiar with Cinderella...overworked and underappreciated by her evil stepmother and stepsisters, surprisingly cheerful, soft spot for rodents. Instead of retelling the entire tale, let’s jump to the end for a reimagined, less gag-inducing version.

    Upon arriving at the ball, Cinderella descended the grand staircase into the ballroom, where she was greeted by the backsides of hundreds of other eligible maidens all vying for the attention of the prince. Well, they can have him, she thought. I’m finally out of that dreadful house and preening for the attention of a pompous, soft-handed royal is not my idea of fun.
    As she skirted the edges of the ballroom, she noticed a group of young men off to the side, openly staring at the maidens and choosing which of the prince’s cast-offs to approach. Barbaric ritual, she inwardly muttered.
    Finally, she spotted the man she was seeking. He was short, rotund, balding, and stank of stale wine. He was an unforgettable man, to be sure.
    “Excuse me, sir. I believe we’ve met.”
    The Grand Duke was so astonished at being approached by a lovely young lady that it took him a few minutes to place her.
“One and the same, Duke.”
“My goodness, I don’t believe I’ve seen you since your father’s funeral, years ago. What a lovely surprise. You know, as I was leaving the graveyard that day, your stepmother told me of your decision to stay with your aunt overseas. What brings you back?”
    “Well, sir, my stepmother lied. Actually, I am here tonight under extremely lucky circumstances after my stepmother made it quite impossible for me to attend otherwise. I never went overseas; I’ve been here all along, forced to act as servant to my stepmother and her wretched daughters. To be honest, I have been essentially enslaved and haven’t left that awful house in years.”
    “My dear, how dreadful! What can I do to help?”
    “There are two things I’d like to ask of you, if it isn’t too much trouble. I have written a letter to the magistrate requesting an opportunity to present my case and lay claim to my rightful inheritance. I would like you deliver it for me, and I would also ask that you bear witness to my identity as my stepmother has destroyed my personal documents,” said Cinderella.
    “Why, those requests won’t be any trouble at all, dear. But, really, you needn't go to all that trouble. My wife and I would be happy to offer you our home. That is, until you find a husband. Now that you’ll be back in society, I’m sure it won’t be long at all until some lad takes you to wife!”
    “If it is all the same to you sir, I’d like to proceed with the magistrate. I have sorely missed my independence these past few years, so I have no intention of marrying any time soon. In fact, I have one thing to thank my stepmother for, believe it or not. I have become quite an accomplished seamstress trying to meet her insatiable desire for new gowns, and I’ve found that I quite enjoy the work.”
    “A seamstress? You must be joking, Cinderella!”
    “I assure you, Duke, I am not. I intend to use my inheritance to set up my own shop. Should I decide to marry, it will be to a man who is comfortable with an entrepreneur as a wife. I simply cannot imagine going back to a life of vanity, idleness, and tedium after experiencing the satisfaction of accomplishing something each day. Though I thank you very much for your kind offer, all the same.”
    The Grand Duke was surprised, but rather impressed with his old friend’s daughter. He had never met a girl quite like her before, and it was a refreshing change from the simpering gossip-parrots his son paraded around town.
    The clock began to strike midnight and Cinderella realized her time at the ball was ending. She quickly handed the Grand Duke her letter for the magistrate, thanked him, and dashed for the stairs. In her haste to return to return to her carriage, she lost a glass slipper on the staircase, but paid it no mind as she fully expected it to disappear along with the beautiful gown, just as her fairy godmother said they would.
    Cinderella returned home full of excitement for her future. She finally had a way to fulfill her dreams, and she was going to achieve them on her own. She settled back into her servant routine with a new spring in her step, knowing that it was only a matter of days until the Grand Duke would arrive to escort her to the magistrate for her appointment. I cannot wait to see the look on Stepmother’s face when I walk out the front door, she thought.
    It turned out that she was wrong about the glass slipper. Though the rest of the magic vanished at the last stroke of midnight, the glass slipper remained, and Cinderella cherished it as a reminder of the night she chose her own path.  

Carrie Gaiuque's submission:

                Once upon a time, there were three little girl pigs. Now these three little pigs were tormented by a Big Bad Wolf. Every day the Big Bad Wolf would come and huff, and puff and try to blow their self-esteem down. He would wolf whistle as they walked by and make derogatory comments. The three little pigs decided to defend themselves against the attacks of the Big Bad Wolf.
                The first little piggy hadn’t been taught by her mother to believe in herself, and instead she saw everyone around her trying to gain the attention of the Big Bad Wolf to try to make themselves feel pretty. The first little piggy made herself a dress of straw colored material which was very revealing and left nothing to the imagination. As she walked by the Big Bad Wolf, he huffed and he puffed and he whistled and hooted, and blew down her self-esteem. The first little piggy ran home crying.
                The second little piggy had been taught by her mother that you must prove your worth to others, and so the second little piggy believed she had to win awards to make herself feel smart. She made a car of sticks, which was a unique material and very eco-conscious and entered her design into the science fair. As she drove by the Big Bad Wolf, he huffed and he puffed and he called her design crap, and he blew down her self-esteem. The second little piggy ran home crying.
                Now the third little piggy had been taught by her mother that she was important and special, but that her actions toward others are what truly made her a good person. So the third little piggy built a community center out of brick where everyone could gather to do service for others or meet as groups and build their confidence. The Big Bad Wolf walked by and he huffed and he puffed, he whistled and hooted, and he called everything crap. But no one heard him inside and the little piggies never went home crying again.

My submission:


Picture by Dydydada, stock.xchng

Once upon a time, there was a married couple who wished with all their hearts that they may be blessed with a baby. They hoped and prayed and after many years the wife finally became pregnant. She often looked out of their window into the adjacent garden because it was full of the most beautiful flowers, herbs, and vegetables. One day she started developing a strong craving for the Rapuzel lettuce that grew next door.
But the garden belonged to a very powerful witch. She was renowned for her might and feared the world over. The witch treasured her garden, which was surrounded by a very high wall to protect it from unwanted guests.
The wife’s longing for the Rapunzel became so strong that she stopped eating everything else and slowly started withering away. One evening, the husband noticed how pale and sickly his wife looked. He asked: “My dear, is everything alright? You look terrible! Is there anything I can do?” The wife replied: “Oh, I have such a terrible desire to eat the witch’s Rapunzel. It is keeping me from eating anything else and has been occupying my thoughts for weeks.” The husband thought for a while, then replied: “I hate to see you so ill. I will get you some of the Rapunzel tonight.”
The husband waited until night had fallen and dressed himself in black clothing, so that he would not be seen. Just as he was about to climb out of their window into the garden, the wife caught sight of what he was doing. “What on earth are you doing?” she exclaimed. The husband explained his plan to sneak into the garden and steal some of the witch’s Rapunzel. Though the wife greatly feared the mighty witch, she also had a high respect of her neighbor. She said: “My dearest husband, I am so happy that you love me so much that you would steal for me. However, I would never forgive myself for such a crime and must ask you to please abort your plan.” The husband was relieved, yet worried about his wife, and asked: “But darling, how else will you eat the Rapunzel your body so desperately wants? I am worried for you and our baby.” The wife replied: “Do not worry, my dear. I will find a way.”
The following day, the wife gathered all her courage and knocked on the witch’s door. Though they had been neighbors for over a decade, they had never spoken to each other. The witch opened the door with a surprised look on her face: “Yes, may I help you?” The wife smiled and said: “I am so sorry to bother you. I am your next door neighbor, Emily. My husband Joshua and I are expecting a baby. Unfortunately, I have been fighting a terrible pregnancy craving for your beautiful Rapunzel lettuce. Would it be at all possible for me to have some, please? I understand if you say ‘no’, but I had to ask.” The witch, who was about the same age as the wife, stood in silence for a minute. Finally, she replied: “It is so nice to meet you, Emily. I have had terrible trouble with people stealing from my garden. I am so glad you came to ask instead of just taking- I swore that the next person I caught would be very sorry indeed! Won’t you come in?”
The witch and Emily sat together and chatted for a long time. Being a very wise and knowledgeable woman, the witch suspected that Emily’s craving was triggered by a mineral deficiency. Before the wife returned home, the witch mixed her a potion to restore the mineral balance in her pregnant body and picked her enough Rapunzel to last her at least a week.
The cravings soon subsided and Emily had a joy filled pregnancy. She visited her neighbor daily and they became good friends. The witch had always longed for a real friend and was so happy to have someone to talk to.
When the wife went into labor, the husband finally overcame his fear and ran next door to get the witch. He hoped that she would be able to assist them during the birth of their baby. The witch was a great help and the couple had a wonderful birth experience. Emily gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, whom they named Rapunzel in honor of the wonderful friendship that had grown thanks to the craving for lettuce. The witch became Rapunzel’s godmother and protected her with all that she had. Rapunzel learned many wonderful things from her godmother and grew into a confident, empowered young woman.
And they all lived happily ever after.
The End.

Please link up at the bottom with your take on 'a feminist fairytale'.

Next month's
Writing Challenge topic will be: the prettiest thing. Please send submissions to by 11/01/2012 or link up at the beginning of next month.