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Deck the Kitchen

Tuesday, November 30, 2004
The Christmas spirit has arrived at our house in the form of a seven-year-old with a roll of Scotch tape and a package of mini-lights. My kitchen cabinets are looking very festive as of this morning.

| posted by Ann D @ 9:00 AM

I Know It's Not Saturday Yet...

Monday, November 29, 2004
But there's no way I can wait until the weekend to tell you about this blog. T.O. Mama has launched MUBAR (Mothered Up Beyond All Recognition). Check it out!

| posted by Ann D @ 11:46 PM

My Messy Desk

Thought I'd start a new blog feature, which readers of this blog will either find fascinating or the most boring thing to hit the Kingdom of Blogdom since the beginning of blogging. I'm calling it "My Messy Desk" and basically I'm going to blog about some of the more noteworthy things that can be unearthed on my desk at any given time. Here goes:

  • An advance copy of Hot Mamas: The Ultimate Guide to Staying Sexy Throughout Your Pregnancy and the Months Beyond by Lou Paget. Lou's editors sent me a copy because I provided the following blurb, which appears on the back cover:

    "Feeling hot and bothered about how your pregnancy is going to affect your sex life? Lou Paget has written the ultimate go-to guide for moms-to-be who want to nurture their sex lives along with their growing bellies. Smart, sexy, and incredibly savvy, Hot Mamas feels like a cross between the hippest childbirth class you could ever hope to attend and your favorite episode of Sex and the City."
    - Ann Douglas, author, The Mother of All Pregnancy Books (U.S. edition)

  • A copy of the holiday issue of Living Spree, which features my parenting column and a holiday board game I wrote. (You'll find page two of the game here.)

  • A copy of the December issue of ePregnancy Magazine, which features a spotlight review of my book The Mother of All Pregnancy Organizers on page 112.

  • The raw materials needed to write the editorial copy for next year's Ontario Parks Guide. (Here's a link to the 2004 edition. (I wrote the material on pages 4 to 21 of last year's guide.)

  • A copy of the ASJA Monthly, a newsletter which I receive through my membership in the American Society of Journalists and Authors.

  • A Cat in the Hat coffee mug full of Starbucks Christmas blend coffee.

  • A painted flowerpot that kid number one made for me years ago, and that now serves as The Mother of All pen and pencil holders.

  • My new cool label-making toy. (I really didn't need this, but it was too cool to resist.)

  • Most useless item on my desk: A pair of sunglasses. The glare from my computer monitor isn't that bad, really.

  • The feel-good item on my desk: The cottage history book that my Dad co-wrote this summer. I'm so proud of him and Gwen for writing this book, and reading the book brings back so many wonderful memories of summers spent up at Go Home Lake.

  • Currently missing in action: A cellphone that I'm sure to be able to find once it rings.

Anyone else want to play? My don't you blog about what's on your desk and post the link in my comments section?

| posted by Ann D @ 10:25 AM

Britney on Motherhood

Saturday, November 27, 2004
I suppose Britney had her heart in the right place when she decided to devote this week's letter to her fans to offering a tribute to her mom. It's just the way the tribute came off that's, well, a little disturbing.

Britney describes what a great cook her mom was, but notes that "she wasn't a Stepford wife at all." Apparently, Britney's mom
"would go to church every week like everyone else, but she always looked sexy in her black dress and she was the one all the other women would gossip about. She would come home and put on her size 2 shorts and a bikini top to wash the car and get a tan at the same time, then come inside and manage to make the best chicken dumplings before going on a two mile run and then end the night by making the best chocolate shakes for us before we went to bed."

Britney then wraps up her message by offering a tribute to all the moms of the world and talking about her own plans for motherhood.

Thanks to jluster.org for the link to Britney's message.

| posted by Ann D @ 3:44 PM

So Many Blogs, So Little Time

I know, I know. You already have too many blogs to read. But here's the scoop on another dozen that definitely warrant a look. If you're too busy to check them out today, blogmark or bookmark my site and swing by again: I've added each of these blogs to the links section in my sidebar.

First, in the "More Addictive Than Coffee" category, you will find:

  • Blurbomat: a thoughtful and well-written blog written by Dooce's resident Prince Charming.

  • Here Eggy Eggy Eggy: a frank and funny blog that documents one woman's attempts to hit the reproductive jackpot.

  • Metro Dad: frank and funny posts by a daddy blogger with passionate views on life.

  • Mimi Smartypants: a wonderfully entertaining blog by a mamablogger who isn't afraid to tell it like it is.

  • Mothering Down the Bones: a blog that delivers on its claim to be "a celebration of the work of mothering, as well as one big, dusty complaint".

  • Ms. Conceived: an attractively designed blog which does a great job of capturing the slice-of-life stuff that goes along with being a mom.

  • Sherocious: a fun-to-read blog that provides "notes from the motherland".

  • The Blue Sloth: an attractive and well-written blog by a highly creative daddy blogger.

  • Three Kid Circus: an often hilarious blog which seeks to "[help] other parents feel superior, one blog entry at a time".

  • This Mom's Wonderland: a well written, beautifully designed "momoir".

In the "Author, Author" category of my links, you'll find a new link to Steven King's Speech from the 2003 National Book Awards -- a must-read for any writer, whether you're interested in the horror genre or not.

And, finally, in the "Life, etc." category of my links, you'll find And She Said: a beautifully designed and well-written blog that serves up interesting musings about life.

Hope you enjoy my latest batch of blog picks. Now I'm off to switch back into mother mode....

| posted by Ann D @ 2:14 AM

Lit Idol: Could it Be the Answer to Your NaNoWriMo Prayers?

Friday, November 26, 2004
If you've secretly harbored a desire to be a contestant on American Idol or Canadian Idol, but babies cry each time you burst into a lusty rendition of any Celine Dion song, perhaps you might consider an event that seems to be a natural for the bloggers of the world -- Lit Idol. The last Lit Idol winner -- Canadian Paul Cavanagh -- landed a book deal with HarperCollins and has three film studios vying for the rights to his book. So if you're only 10,000 words into your NaNoWriMo novel and you're wondering if you're actually going to get the last 40,000 words written in the next four days, here's an alternative plan: clean up the 10,000 words you've got and submit them to Lit Idol.

| posted by Ann D @ 9:46 AM

World of Mama Blogs

Thursday, November 25, 2004
Java Diva outted herself at dance at her kids' school, the DotMoms have given themselves a psychedelic new look, and Daria's baby has been sprung from the NICU. (Hurray!)

There's been a lot happening in the blogosphere.

| posted by Ann D @ 6:44 PM

Heading Downtown on the Highway to Hell with Jann Arden

Caught a bit of a CBC Radio interview with Jann Arden this afternoon. I love the way her personality shines through in radio interviews. She's not afraid to be herself at all. She told a very funny story about how she accidentally clogged Hilary Swank's toilet by trying to flush a j-cloth and revealed that the two songs she'd like to have played at her funeral are Downtown by Petula Clark and Highway to Hell by AC/DC. I'm glad I happened to be in the car at the right time this afternoon, with my radio tuned to the CBC. I would hate to have missed this interview!

| posted by Ann D @ 5:12 PM

Fiction as Pregnancy

I recently finished reading a very inspiring book about writing, Escaping into the Open: The Art of Writing True by Elizabeth Berg. Here's a quote from the book that really resonated with me, and that will likely be very meaningful for other mothers who write:
"I believe that fiction feeds on itself, grows like a pregnancy. The more you write, the more there is to draw upon; the more you say, the more there is to say....You do not run out of material by using all that's in you; rather, when you take everything that is available one day, it only makes room for new things to appear the next."

If you want to find out more about Elizabeth Berg, you might be interested in this interview at Bookmagazine.com and this author interview over at Barnesandnoble.com. (Check out the part about the re-titling of Berg's books. I always find it interesting to read about how some books lose their original titles during the editing process -- sometimes for better and sometimes for worse.)

| posted by Ann D @ 11:18 AM

Motherhood, Raw

Some of the most incredible writing about motherhood, pregnancy, infertility, and all the joy and pain that goes along with those experiences can be found online.

If you want to step foot on the reproductive rollercoaster, a visit to Chez Miscarriage will reminds you that pregnancy can be painfully elusive for some women. And a pitstop to a little pregnant will leave you with no doubt that any pregnant woman who has experienced reproductive difficulties in the past is going to be a permanent resident of Anxiety Avenue until Junior arrives safe and sound.

I came across a couple of other motherhood postings in the past few days that really rang true for me.

This post from City Mama serves as proof positive that there are moments when life with young children can push you to the breaking point.

And this essay from Mother Shock author Andi Buchanan has some important things to say about the secret lives of mothers.

I find that I tend to gravitate towards the really from-the-heart postings that sound like something one of my girlfriends might have fired off to me in an e-mail after a particularly rough day in the motherhood trenches. Of course, I also appreciate motherhood served up with a hefty side dish of humor -- the kind of thing that Dooce, Busy Mom, and the Housewife Chronicles do with such finesse.

Note: Don't forget to check out the links I've collected in my sidebar. You'll find all kinds of other fabulous blogs devoted to pregnancy and motherhood.

| posted by Ann D @ 12:36 AM

Working Mother's Survival Guide (a.k.a. Winning at Career Roulette)

Wednesday, November 24, 2004
This morning, I had the opportunity to be part of a work-life roundtable discussion sponsored by Work Life Harmony Enterprise, one of Canada's leading work-life consulting firms. The focus of this particular roundtable was "Women, Work-Life, and Well-Being: Personal and Professional Costs and Benefits of Career Choices." It was a totally inspiring session.

I thought I'd pass along my key points in case any of the women of the universe would like to carry on a virtual dialogue on this important topic. Here goes....

  • When I'm trying to decide which career opportunities to pursue at this stage in my life (as a mother with four children ages 7 through 16 and a busy career), I rely heavily on my gut instinct. If I am not inspired by a project, I think it is going to add to my stress level tremendously, or make my family life too chaotic, I generally choose to take a pass. I'm also likely to give a particular project the thumbs down if I don't feel that the people I am working with are as committed to producing a quality product as I am, or if they don't seem to share the same basic values as I do (e.g., integrity, justice, fairness, etc.) Money is not a sufficient motivator to convince me to take on a project that I am lukewarm about or to work with people with whom I am out of synch.

  • Just as I've had to learn to accept the fact that I'm an imperfect parent (see previous posts on this theme), I've also had to accept the fact that I'm an imperfect entrepreneur. The way I see it, making mistakes is part of the entrepreneurial rollercoaster ride. You make fewer mistakes in the world of business if you follow the non-risky route, but you also have a lot less fun, and your return on investment (both financial and emotional) tends to be reduced. Remember that old saying, "Nothing ventured, nothing gained"? I think that could be modified to say, "Little ventured, little gained," and the meaning would still hold true. There's also an added benefit to being an imperfect entrepreneur. When you admit that you've made a few mistakes along the way, you free other entrepreneurs up to talk about their own missteps, and a lot of information-sharing, problem-solving, and brainstorming can occur. The result? Everybody wins.

  • Put your support system in place. I don't know where I'd be without the support of my family, friends, writer-buddies, my mentor, and all the other people who are there for me when I'm going through the not-so-great-days of self-employment. (Well, actually I do know: I'd be lined up to fill up a job application form at the closest fast food joint.) I couldn't survive in the ranks of the self-employed without the support of my nearest and dearest, especially my husband.

  • Know what you want and know what you don't want in your career. Sometimes those painful experiences that we all have to live through can be tremendously valuable because they help you to figure out what's most important to you career-wise, something that allows you to map out the next phase of your career accordingly.

  • Surround yourself with people you genuinely respect. Life is too short to be forced to compromise your integrity, which is what happens if you end up working with people who don't share your key values.

  • Realize that your "balance equation" will change as your personal situation evolves. Now that my youngest child is seven, I have far more physical freedom that I've ever enjoyed in my entire 16 1/2 year motherhood career. On the other hand, the emotional demands of parenting three teens is far more challenging than I had anticipated. And my business seems to be going through a period of wild and unruly growth -- an adolescence of its own, so to speak. I guess that means I have four teenagers right now!

  • Design your life with added capacity and flexibility if you're a mother who works outside the home. You need to build back-up systems into your life and to factor extra time into your schedule. Otherwise, you'll be perpetually in catch-up mode and stressed to the max.

  • Starting your own business is not necessarily the ticket to balance nirvana. You have to be ruthless in defending your right to time off. Self-employment is different than corporate life, but it's not necessarily easier. It comes with its own unique set of joys and challenges.

So that's my take on making career choices, chasing after that elusive thing called balance, and juggling my two loves -- my family and my writing career. Now over to you....

| posted by Ann D @ 5:48 PM

Shelley Will Be Baking More Than Birthday Cakes Tonight

Tuesday, November 23, 2004
Shelley is one of the mommy bloggers featured in this clip over at NBC News. I don't see any mention of this in her blog. I wonder if she knows?

--- brief time lapse ---

Just called her. She didn't know, but now she does and she is definitely one very happy mommy blogger.

BTW -- I found out about the clip by reading Mindy's blog. Thanks for posting the link, Mindy.

| posted by Ann D @ 2:26 PM

They're Back....

According to a recent United Press International story, Toy Wishes Magazine is predicting hot sales of retro toys such as Barbie, Elmo, and the toy that once had parents duking it out in the toy store aisles: the Cabbage Patch Doll. The magazine's editors are predicting that two to three million Cabbage Patch dolls will be sold this holiday season.

If you'd like to get yourself psyched for the rebirth of the Cabbage Patch dolls, there's no better way to do it than by visiting Babyland General Hospital -- the place where all Cabbage Patch Dolls are "born" and a spot that RoadsideAmerica.com describes as "one of the scariest places in America."

| posted by Ann D @ 9:31 AM

My Excellent Toronto Adventure

Monday, November 22, 2004
Spent the day in Toronto taping an episode for Health on the Line with Avery Haines. The show -- which is scheduled to air during the week of December 13th -- focused on the joys and challenges of the early weeks of motherhood, one of my favourite topics. While I was on the set, I had the opportunity to meet some of the staff from the Ella Centre for Pregnancy and Parenting a fabulous oasis for moms and moms-to-be in Toronto.

I also had the chance to meet face-to-face with some of the folks that I'll be working with at Invest in Kids during the months ahead. (I was recently named to the organization's expert advisory group.) I was blown away by their passion for parenting and all the great things they have in the works. It's going to be great to have the opportunity to work with them.

I am still dying to have coffee with T.O. Mama and a few other Toronto folks. I'm also long overdue for a visit with my Mississauga Dad. Where does the time go?

| posted by Ann D @ 9:22 PM

Desperate Thoughts

Sunday, November 21, 2004
So how do I diplomatically convince Neil that he needs to stop watching the Grey Cup game at 9:00 pm so that I can catch this week's episode of Desperate Housewives?

He can find out what happens in the football game by reading tomorrow's sports section, right?

| posted by Ann D @ 9:10 PM

Stairway to Artland

Saturday, November 20, 2004
Just checked out the seven year old's art exhibit in the upstair's bathroom. His latest piece of art is really eye-catching. (It's a huge piece of cardboard -- about 1' x 5' -- painted in all kinds of vibrant colors and patterns.)

I just wish he hadn't dragged it, paint-side down, up the carpeted stairs, en route to the exhibit hall.

| posted by Ann D @ 7:26 PM

Writing Fuel, Cheating Thoughts, Getting Out of Town, Budding Artists

Some random thoughts for a Saturday afternoon:

1. I've noticed that I'm able to think much more clearly and creatively when I'm outside of my office. Does this mean I'm going to have to have to do like Jennifer Weiner and start writing in coffee shops on a regular basis? Given that I'm currently hooked on Starbucks Anniversary Blend coffee, this could prove to be a very expensive proposition. But if all those cups of coffee increase my creative output, surely my coffee habit would be considered tax deductible.

2. I'm seriously thinking about, gulp, breaking up with Blogger. It's not that I don't appreciate everything that Blogger has done for me to help me get my start in the world of blogging. It's just that I've been seriously lusting after Typepad lately. (I know. It's so terribly wrong!) And this post over at Mom and Pop Culture made me wonder if I should be trying a little harder on the design front. On the other hand, if I have to try too hard on the design front, blogging will become too much work and I won't have time to do it at all. Talk about The Mother of All Dilemmas.

3. My trip to New Hampshire earlier in the week convinced me that I need to get out of town on a regular basis. When you work from home, you never really get away from work, so if you're dealing with a challenging situation on the career front, as I have been for the past few months, it is literally with you 24/7. Getting out of town gave me a fresh perspective on the situation and renewed energy to pour into other new projects that I am truly passionate about. It feels good to be feeling really calm and quietly happy again.

4. My husband Neil is eagerly counting down the number of days until the start of the Victoria Day weekend in May -- the official kick-off to cottaging season here in Canada. (You can usually get started a few weeks earlier if you keep an eye on the weather and you feel confident that you're not going to get a late-spring frost that cracks your water-pump or something, but there's nothing like a three-day holiday weekend to make things official.) Anyway, if anyone else is watching the clock, Neil tells me there are now just 184 days left until the Friday of the Victoria Day long weekend -- just a little over six months.

5. My seven-year-old just told me that he has taken one of the bathrooms out of service because it is full of wet paintings. Last week's genre of choice was photocopier art. I had to ask him not to include unsold book proposals as part of his photocopier art. He was including them along with photocopies of other found objects from around my office -- business cards, paper clips, envelopes, etc.

| posted by Ann D @ 4:06 PM

Kath and Kim

Friday, November 19, 2004
I'm addicted a new tv show called Kath and Kim. It's a wacky show about Kath, a 40-something mother who is engaged to be married to the strangest new-age guy who has ever hit the airwaves, and Kath's whiney 20-something daughter Kim, who is separated from her husband of two months. They live next door to this hilarious woman named Sharon who occasionally serves as the voice of reason in a totally insane world. The show is from Australia, so half the fun is listening to those gorgeous Australian accents and savoring that dry Australian sense of humor. Hopefully, the show is airing in your area so you can tune in. (In Canada, the show airs on Thursday nights on Showcase, right after The Trailer Park Boys.)

| posted by Ann D @ 12:50 PM

Babies and Books (A Familiar Reprise)

Thursday, November 18, 2004
I had a rare opportunity to immerse myself in babies and books while I was in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

First, the baby report. I was invited to speak on the topic of Babies and Beyond to a very enthusiastic group of moms, dads, and grandmas-to-be at Portsmouth Regional Hospital. The hospital gave everyone who attended the lecture a free copy of my latest book The Mother of All Pregnancy Organizers, so I had the great pleasure of signing copies for everyone in attendance. I even got to sign a few copies for keener grandparents who are going to be giving copies of the book to daughters and daughters-in-law who are not yet pregnant. This could lead to some rather surprised faces as gifts are unwapped this holiday season, don't you think?

Now, on to books. This trip was also very much about books. Because I didn't have a working Internet connection, I found myself with more time for reading than I usually have, and more time for reflecting on the types of books that I want to write next. It seemed like the universe really wanted me to be mulling this stuff over. The folks at the hospital and at the Sise Inn where I was staying recommended a very cool restaurant called The Library Restaurant. When I walked through the front doors of the restaurant, I found myself dining in a four-star restaurant that featured wall to ceiling books. (Subtle, universe!)

| posted by Ann D @ 9:13 PM

Home Again

I couldn't get the wireless Internet connection at my hotel to work with my old laptop, so I ended up being offline the whole time I was on the road. At first I was frustrated, but then I decided to make the most of the situation by reading two fabulous books about writing: Escaping into the Open: The Art of Writing True by Elizabeth Berg and The Forest for the Trees: An Editor's Advice to Writers by Betsy Lerner. (I'm not quite finished Betsy Lerner's book yet, but what I've read so far is amazing.)

I also took advantage of the opportunity to go shopping in Downtown Portsmouth, where I stumbled across a black purse with bright green polka dots that matches my favorite green jacket. (The name of the shop was called Serendipity, so I took that as a sign I was meant to buy the purse.)

I have a million things to do to catch up on the homefront, but I'll post more later.

| posted by Ann D @ 5:07 PM

Leaving on a Jet Plane

Tuesday, November 16, 2004
I'm about to head to the airport to fly to Portmouth, New Hampshire, where I'll be participating in this lecture series. I'm really excited about going to New Hampshire -- just kind of nervous about flying down on one of those tiny commuter planes that seem to shake, rattle, and roll during every inch of the trip. I'll be much more relaxed when the plane touches town at the other end -- although I'll then have to start thinking about the trip back.

My out-of-town travel curse has already struck, by the way. Anyone who follows my posts over at Mamasink.com knows that things have a tendency to fall apart on the homefront whenever I hop on a plane. I had a call from one of my kids' teachers last night and I haven't even left for the airport yet. And people wonder why I refuse to see Cheaper by the Dozen.

| posted by Ann D @ 8:43 AM

Late Breaking Blog

Sunday, November 14, 2004
I've got one more blog to add to this week's roundup: Daria's Life -- a site maintained by mom who is eagerly awaiting the arrival of baby number four. The site is well designed and the posts are creative and fun. Check it out!

| posted by Ann D @ 10:02 PM

Happy Writer Moment

I am having a really productive afternoon of writing (despite the, um, occasional interruptions to blog!) The words are flowing, my ideas are coming together really well, and I am feeling really happy about writing. I have not been having a lot of "happy writer" moments lately because I've been experiencing a lot of career-related stress, so it feels great to have the words dancing off my fingers and on to the page. I also have The Coolest Idea Ever for a book -- an idea I can't wait to get down on paper, which I will do just as soon as I finish my magazine article and my speech.

Actually, I cheated and started to draft the book proposal and the table of contents for the book while I was supposed to be working on my magazine article. I sure hope my editor doesn't read my blog because the article is a bit overdue and she was kind and gracious enough to give me a week-long extension. Anyway, just in case you are reading my blog, Very Nice Editor, I really have been working hard on my magazine article. I just took a brief break (a) to blog; (b) to draft part of that book proposal. Now I'm getting back to work -- right after I hit the coffee pot.

| posted by Ann D @ 5:44 PM

The Mamas Are Talking Writers' Retreats

We're talking writers' retreats over at Mamasink.com -- specifically why getting away from it all can help to jumpstart your creativity and get the words flowing out of your head and on to the page. Come on over and join in the conversation.

| posted by Ann D @ 3:23 PM

The New Math

I thought I'd read somewhere that 50 was the new 40, which would mean that 40 is the new 30. So given that I am 40 (or the new 30) why did my seven year old accuse me of being old this morning? I can only assume that he's not been monitoring the aging (or non-aging) issue in the media appropriately.

Here's how the incident in question played out.

Seven year old: "You have really soft hands. I thought old people had rough hands."
Me: "The reason I have soft hands is because I am not old."
Seven year old (with incredulous look): "But you are old."

Interesting way to start my day.

| posted by Ann D @ 12:41 PM

Violence Against Women

Toronto Star columnist Jennifer Wells has a thought-provoking column in today's paper that talks about some new initiatives Amnesty International and the Canadian Labour Congress are taking to combat violence against women. Definitely worth a read, especially as the 15th anniversary of December 6th approaches.

| posted by Ann D @ 9:22 AM

More Fuel for Your Blogging Addiction

Saturday, November 13, 2004
In my never-ending quest to help you to get you addicted to as many blogs as I am, I have added yet more links to my sidebar. Here's the lowdown on some of the new blogging treasure you will unearth today if you go digging in parenting link land:

  • Busy Mom
  • (an extremely well written blog by a mom who is every bit as funny as she is busy);
  • Dooce
  • (a brave and gutsy blog by a blogger (now a mama) who actually lost her job because of the controversial contents of her blog);
  • F-Bomb
  • (a lively and well-written blog by a first-time father-to-be);
  • Hula Doula
  • (lively reflections on life by a doula-to-be); and
  • The Zero Boss
  • (intelligent musings on fatherhood, writing, and the universe in general by a highly prolific and influential daddy blogger).

But wait! Not all of this week's blog picks have to do with parenting (although you could be forgiven for thinking so). I also came across a few other blogs that I've sprinkled into some of my other links categories:

  • Fat Lil Wytch
  • (a very funky art blog);
  • Do You Have That In My Size?
  • (a blog by someone who describes herself as "nothing special" but who is clearly something special indeed);
  • Some-Girl.org
  • (a blog written by a very talented blogger who is herself an essay in contradictions);
  • Stupid Beautiful Lies
  • (a fascinating pop culture and sometimes political romp by a Canadian musician).

So, there you go. That should fuel your blog addiction for a while. Enjoy!

| posted by Ann D @ 8:57 PM

The Gospel According to Janis

Friday, November 12, 2004
Spotted these empowering words over at The New Homemaker:
Don't compromise yourself. You are all you've got.
— Janis Joplin

| posted by Ann D @ 9:47 PM

Julie's Mama Manifesto

The ever-eloquent Julie of a little pregnant has issued a "mama manifesto" -- a written promise to her unborn child that spells out all the things she will and will not do as a mother. The great thing about blogging this is that Julie can always come back and selectively edit her entries if she decides that she is going to go back on one or more of her declarations: for example, if she decides she really is going to feed her child Lunchables in a fit of desperation (e.g., it's the only thing available in the hospital vending machine when she's camped out with her kid in the emergency ward waiting room one night at dinner-time!) If there's one thing I've learned during my own 16 1/2 years in the mommy trenches, it's that there's no hard and fast rule for anything. Still, Julie's rules are terrific and they're definitely worth a read -- at least in the opinion of this card-carrying Julie fan.

| posted by Ann D @ 12:24 PM

Mars and Venus Get Stressed at Work

A University of Michigan researcher has found that work-related worries can have a major impact on the home front, particularly for working moms. Nancy Rothbard, an assistant professor of management, has found that women who are dealing with problems at work are less able to connect with their families. "This is a tough reality for women," Rothbard said in a recent interview with the Wharton Alumni Magazine. "If they aren't happy in their work, they are often less able to be involved and focused at home." Apparently, working dads don't experience the problem to quite the same degree. According to Rothbart, they're able to "segment" their work and home lives and "function well" both at home and at work.

| posted by Ann D @ 8:28 AM

A Bouncing Baby Business

Thursday, November 11, 2004
An article in the January 2005 issue of The Journal of Business Venturing uses a business metaphor I can totally relate to: new business enterprise as offspring. The article -- A Tale of Passion: New Insights into Entrepreneurship from a Parenthood Metaphor by Melissa S. Cardon, Patrick Saparito, Brett P. Matherne, and Carolyn Davis -- compares the various stages of business startup to the various stages of parenthood. It's a really interesting theory and one that makes a lot of sense, particularly when you consider the intense time commitment when your business is in its "infancy" and the unruly growth phase that can occur when a business reaches "adolescence." And then, of course, there's the pride and joy you feel as you watch your "child" grow. This article will be of particular interest to any entrepreneurs who also happen to be parents, but the "business as baby" metaphor makes solid business sense period.

| posted by Ann D @ 8:20 PM

A New Addition to the Endangered Species List: The Freelance Writer

When you read articles that describe experiences like this and you hear about contracts like this, you have to wonder if we should be making a new addition to the endangered species list: the freelance writer.

| posted by Ann D @ 12:27 PM

The Ingredients for a Really Good Parenting Website?

Tuesday, November 09, 2004
As regular readers of this blog know, I am working behind the scenes to develop the parent area of a website that will launch in conjunction with a new show for preschoolers. I want to make the parent area to be really fun and useful and to avoid the things that annoy parents most about other parenting websites. I'd love to have your input, so if you'd like to climb on your soapbox for a moment and have your say, the soapbox is yours for the taking. Here are a few of my comments, just to get you thinking.

Horrible stuff I won't be including:
- Preachy advice
- Advertorial content (e.g., articles that are really ads in disguise)
- Pop-ups that highjack your browser
- Too much super-cutesy kid stuff

Good stuff I will be including:
- Opportunities for parents to interact with one another
- Genuinely useful content
- Unique content (as opposed to the same stuff you find on every website
- Objective, well researched, well written articles

Do you think I'm on the right track?

| posted by Ann D @ 8:21 PM

The Joy of Imperfection

My blog is still new enough that it's still a big thrill to me when other people blog about me. (I know. I seriously need to get a life.) So it made my day when T.O. Mama told me she'd posted about me in her blog today. I got a kick out of what she said about the difference between Ann the person and Ann the brand -- e.g., how I blog about my struggles as a writer, a mother, etc. I put that stuff into my books, too, because the last thing I want people to think is that I think I have all the answers. I hate parenting books that come across that way. I mean I've yet to meet a perfect child or a perfect parent, so who has the right to write parenting books that promise to have some super-secret magic formula for raising perfect kids? They always sound about as believable to me as the sea monkey ads in the back of comic books.

| posted by Ann D @ 4:04 PM

Campaign for Real Beauty

This is easily my favorite ad campaign of 2004. And every woman I know is talking about it, so Dove is getting lots of bang for its marketing buck. I'd love to see them do a youth-oriented version of the campaign that encourages teenage girls to question the idea that they have to dress like Britney or ooze sexuality like Christina -- that it's okay to just dare to be themselves. That's a message Julie and I try to get across in our book, of course, but I'd love to see Dove's very clever ad campaign spun out in that direction. It's hard being a teenage girl today.

| posted by Ann D @ 9:05 AM

Life's Little Surprise Packages

Monday, November 08, 2004
I found a lovely surprise in my mailbox this evening -- a copy of Living Juicy by Sark. The book was sent to me by my friend L.

This is L.'s typical modus operandi. Not only does she have the knack for picking out exactly the right gift: she has a knack for sending it along at just the right time -- on a day when my to do list is starting to take on a life of its own, my office looks like it has been ransacked, kid X won't stop picking fights with kid Y, and winter is starting to set in. (Just in case anyone else is keeping track, there are 196 days left until the start of the Victoria Day long weekend. I'm thinking it's too early to say, "Woo hoo.")

I hope you are similarly blessed by having an "L" or two in your life -- someone who is on the other end of the phone when you're having The Mother of All Less Than Wonderful Mondays, who spoils you terribly (even when you tell her she shouldn't), and who makes you feel like Queen of the Universe (even if you actually feel more like the Bride of Frankenstein!)

I've actually got a whole bunch of "L."'s in my life. Of course, they're not all named "L." That would get a bit confusing -- and ridiculous. I wish I could find the words to pay adequate tribute to my friends -- or the blog space to list all of their names. All I can say is that you know who you are (or at least I hope you know who you are!) and you rock my world in the most positive of ways. Thanks for being there for me on the days when I'm on top of the world and on the days when I need you to pour me coffee (or wine) -- or just to listen to me whine. :-)

Here's to my friends....

----{virtual toast!}----

| posted by Ann D @ 7:43 PM

Royalty Rate Redux

I just stumbled across a website that does a phenomenal job of explaining what you need to watch out for when you're negotiating royalty terms on your next book contract. (You'd think that with 27 books to my credit that I would know this stuff inside out, but I've never had anyone explain the ins and outs of royalties as well as Ivan Hoffman, the creator of this particular website.) Once you're finished reading over Mr. Hoffman's very helpful advice on royalty terms, you'll also want to check out what he has to say about standard literacy agency agreements. Very helpful advice all around!

| posted by Ann D @ 5:19 PM

Why Every Author Needs a Blog

Sunday, November 07, 2004
I'm still a relative newcomer to the world of blogging, but the more I blog, the more convinced I become that every author would benefit from having a blog. Here's why.

1. Blogging allows authors to carry on an ongoing dialogue with their readers. It's kind of like having a virtual booksigning that goes on 365 days a year. I love hearing from people who have read my books, and who have benefitted from them in some way -- or who want to offer me feedback on how I can improve on the next editions of my books. Hosting a blog allows me to build that kind of rapport with my readers.

2. Blogging allows authors to promote their existing and forthcoming titles as well as any speaking engagements, book signings, and other author events. Because people read my blog on an ongoing basis, it's easy for me to spread the word about any new books I have coming out, or anything else I think might be of interest to my readers.

3. Blogging allows authors to write about issues that they are passionate about. Your blog is your soapbox. You don't have to try to convince a magazine or newspaper editor about the newsworthiness of a particular issue or try to pass through a particular publication's political correctness filter. You simply put your fingers on the keyboard and blog away. I love that!

4. Blogging allows authors to connect with other authors. Authors can play a powerful role in marketing one another's books.
It's all about working cooperately rather than competitively. Novelist MJ Rose is a master at this game. If you're not already reading her blog, you should be.

Some authors give blogs a firm thumbs down because they think it will be very time consuming to maintain a blog, or because they worry about the possibility of having someone steal the contents of their blogs. Here's are my thoughts on those two points.

Blogging time commitment: Yes, there is a time commitment involved in maintaining a blog, but it doesn't have to be onerous. If you've only got 5 minutes a day or a week to devote to your blog, then that's all you put into it. When you consider all the hugely time-wasting activities that fall under the job description of author (e.g., the book signing that only blood relatives bother to attend; the detailed author questionnaire that gets filed in the publicity department's filing cabinet, but that never actually gets acted upon!), I think you'll find that your return on investment for blogging is a whole lot more impressive.

Possibility of copyright infringement: There's always the possibility that someone will rip off your stuff. You face that risk with your written work, too. Someone could scan in pages of your books and upload them to their website or e-mail them to their best friend. (Hey, chances are someone already has!) I think the benefits of maintaining an author blog outweight the risks of having someone rip off your stuff. I really enjoy maintaining this blog because it allows me to connect with other writers, my readers, family members (Hi Dad!), friends, and others who happen to stumble across my blog.

So if you're an author and you're weighing the pros and cons of blogging, I'd urge you to take the plunge. I did six months ago, and blogging has become part of my (almost) daily routine.

| posted by Ann D @ 2:01 PM

Why Resiliency is a Writer's Best Friend

Saturday, November 06, 2004
I don't think you can have a successful career as a freelance writer or author without being incredibly resilient. Bad stuff happens -- a lot. There are rejection letters, clients who forget to pay you (or who go out of business without paying you), tough business deals to negotiate -- and that's just for starters. If you don't have the ability to bounce back from the bad stuff, you're through. So what gets you through the tough stuff? Total passion for what you do, a powerful network of other authors and freelance writers, people who read your stuff and write you letters to say that your books who have made a huge difference in their lives, a desire to make the world a better place through your writing, and an unwavering sense of faith in the universe. (Okay, so your faith in the universe gets battered around at time, or lost in your minivan for days at a time, but most of the time it's there when you need it.)

Anyway, that's what I have to say about resilience and the freelance/creative life. For now. I am off to pour myself my first cup of coffee of the day. (Blogging before coffee can't be good for you.) But I'd really like to hear from the rest of you writers: what gets you through those particularly hellish days as a writer? (And I know you have them.) How do you resist the urge to fling your computer over the back fence and/or to apply for a job at McDonalds? Do tell....

| posted by Ann D @ 12:31 PM

A Side Order of Inspiration

If you'd like a side-order of inspiration to go with your morning coffee and bagel, you might want to check out these amazing quotes from Conal Elliott's website. If you check out this page, you will see that he has created an online treasury of words to live by:

"Playing it safe is the riskiest choice we can ever make."
- Sarah Ban Breathnach

"Most people are paralyzed by fear. Overcome it and you take charge of your life and your world."
- Mark Victor Hansen

"Be brave enough to live life creatively. The creative is the place where no one else has ever been. You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. You can't get there by bus, only by hard work and risk and by not quite knowing what you're doing. What you'll discover will be wonderful. What you'll discover will be yourself."
- Alan Alda

| posted by Ann D @ 11:19 AM

How to Find Your Way Off Anxiety Avenue

I think I'm finally feeling at peace with that difficult decision I had to make a while back. Earlier this week, I realized that things are going to be okay, no matter which way things ultimately end up turning out. Up until then, I'd been stuck in worst case scenario mode.

It wasn't until this morning, however, that I started to understand why I was suddenly feeling so much more at peace with my decision. So what made things click for me? I stumbled upon a quote in this really great book that my friend LeeAnne gave me years ago. The quote is from the philosopher Bertrand Russell:
"When some misfortune threatens, consider seriously and deliberately what is the very worst that could possibly happen. Having looked this possible misfortune in the fact, give yourself sound reasons for thinking that after all it would be no such terrible disaster: Such reasons always exist, since at the worst nothing that happens to oneself has any cosmic importance. When you have looked for some time steadily at the worst possibility and have said to yourself with real convinction, 'Well, after all, that would not matter so very much,' you will find that your worry diminishes to a quite extraordinary extent. It may be necessary to repeat the process a few times, but in the end if you have shirked nothing in facing the worst possible issue, you will find that your worry disappears altogether and is replaced by a kind of exhilaration."

Who knew that being able to creatively brainstorm all the worst case scenarios could help you to find your way down Anxiety Avenue and to a more peaceful place? Pretty cool, eh?

| posted by Ann D @ 9:49 AM

Sarah Harmer Rocks -- and So Does Jeremy Fisher!

Friday, November 05, 2004
I had the thrill of hearing Sarah Harmer play in Peterborough this evening. I have been a huge fan of hers for years, and had the privilege of interviewing her for my book Canuck Chicks and Maple Leaf Mamas a few years back, but this was the first opportunity I'd had to see Sarah in concert.

Sarah's performance was fabulous from start to finish. Sarah played all of my favourite songs, and brought me to tears with her renditions of both "Dandelions in Bullet Holes" and "You Were Here." Sarah was clearly in an introspective mood, letting the audience know that this her beloved cat had passed away earlier in the week, and that that was weighing heavily on her mind -- that and the election results from south of the border. But that didn't stop her from telling funny stories throughout the evening and from concluding with a hilarious song about living well and having your debts wiped out when you die. (I guess your bank records don't go with you.) She gave the audience two encores, and for that she earned a much-deserved standing ovation. She also promised Peterborough that she'd be back, and we'll be holding her to that promise!

Something else you need to know: Sarah introduced Peterborough to the music of another very talented artist, Jeremy Fisher, who opened for her at tonight's concert. One of Jeremy's songs, "Fall for Anything," is a powerful song about standing up for what you truly believe in. It's already become one of my new favourite songs. I loved the way that Jeremy improvised, joked, and generally made do when he broke a guitar string midway through his act, playing 5-string versions of many of his 6-string songs. Talk about grace under pressure.

Anyway, it was a truly memorable concert -- one I'll be thinking about for a very long time. Thank you, Sarah and Jeremy, for including Peterborough on your list of tour dates. You are both class acts in the truest sense of the word.

| posted by Ann D @ 12:47 AM

Bad Luck, Good Luck

Thursday, November 04, 2004
Bad Luck:
1. I locked myself out of the house when I was leaving to pick up my son after school.
2. I did not have my coat with me because it was locked in the minivan in my driveway.

Good Luck:
1. I had my cell phone with me, so I was able to call my husband to ask him to pick up my son for me.
2. I had also forgotten to lock one of the other doors of the house. (It took me 5 minutes of standing in the cold and the rain, shivering, to figure this part out!)
3. Because I didn't have to do the after-school pickup, I ended up with more time to work on an article that is due today, but still not finished.

Final score for this semi-traumatic episode: Bad: 2, Good: 3.

This means that the universe is kind of on my side today, don't you think?

| posted by Ann D @ 4:54 PM

Baby Love

Wednesday, November 03, 2004
Heather of Dooce has written one of the loveliest letters to a baby that I have ever read. It gives a whole new meaning to that expression "read it and weep."

| posted by Ann D @ 10:56 PM

Virtual Parenting -- The Sequel

Monday, November 01, 2004
This morning, I spoke to members of a Grade 11 parenting class at Crestwood Secondary School in Peterborough. I talked about "The Truth About Parenting" and then answered questions about my writing career. I certainly picked the right day to visit this class -- the day when the infant simulator doll (a.k.a. "fake baby") was going to be handed out for the first time. (Everyone in the class gets a chance to take care of the baby for two or three days during the remainder of the semester.) Well, these students were as excited as real-life expectant parents, wondering when they were going to "deliver," whether they were going to have a boy or a girl, etc. Thanks very much to teacher Carol Lemm and her very cool class for inviting me to be part of the fun.

| posted by Ann D @ 3:21 PM

National Novel Writing Month

national novel writing month icon
I've decided to throw caution to the wind by participating in that rather insane event known as National Novel Writing Month. I have been being stalked by crazy fictional characters all year, so I figure I may as well give this novel-writing thing my best shot -- preferrably in the company of other half-crazed first-time novelists. They say you should write about what you know, so I'm going to write a novel about a mother who is also a writer. I don't know whether it's going to fall into the humor or horror genres. Stay tuned!

| posted by Ann D @ 10:54 AM