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Working Mother: Working During Pregnancy

Tuesday, July 26, 2005
I'm featured in this Working Mother article on working during pregnancy:
"Even though you feel like you've got 'I'm Pregnant' tattooed across your forehead, you may not be as obvious as you think," says Ann Douglas, author of The Mother of All Pregnancy Books.

And speaking of tattoos, I learned on the weekend that there's apparently no risk in having an epidural administered through a tattoo! (A specialist in obstetrical pain relief from Harvard Medical School addressed this issue during his presentation on epidurals.) So now you know.

| posted by Ann D @ 4:28 PM

What I Learned on My Summer (Working) Vacation

Okay, that sounds like a Grade 7 homework assignment, but bear with me. I promise to make this a bit more interesting. (Or at least I'll try.) Here are 7 things I learned during my weekend trip to Washington for the DONA International Conference.

1. There is probably no limit to what I will pay for a certain brand of coffee. Like $4.40 USD for a Venti Bold. Highway robbery, but I paid.

2. You should read the shopping restrictions before you leave Canada, not after you've shopped. A moment of indiscretion with two leather purses (one in my favorite shade of green-yellow, one in the red that matches my SUV) pushed me over the top. I thought there was a 72 hour shopping value that fell between what you could spend in 48 hrs. and 7 days, but no such luck.

3. Not all border officials are green meanies. I had very nice, friendly people in both directions. They didn't even make me pay any duty for my over-shopping faux pas. They simply thanked me for my honesty. (That totally restored my faith in humanity, the universe, etc., after my recent run of bad luck -- proof that I was destined to buy those purses.)

4. Doulas are the most nurturing people on the planet. I felt like I was hanging out with a group of friends all weekend long. I had a blast! I also took some really informative workshops on making your birth plan work in the real world, the latest types of epidurals, factors that are driving rising c-section rates, and intimate partner violence during pregnancy.

5. Birth makes an amazing subject for a play. I had the opportunity to see Birth: The Play performed while I was in Washington. The play was both powerful and funny. (Think The Vagina Monologues, but with a birth experience thrown in!) If you have the chance to take in a performance, I highly recommend that you go. It was one of the highlights of my weekend.

6. This is the best "sleep music" I have ever come across in my life! I bought it while I was away because I needed something to drown out all the background noise at the hotel. I never got past the second track any night when I was listening to it. Travelers/insomniacs of the world, take note!

7. A quiet hotel room in another country is a great place to work. There are no distractions (unless you want to watch really bad TV). And there's an endless supply of coffee in the hotel lobby (well, as long as you can keep coming up with the $4.40 USD to keep financing your habit).

| posted by Ann D @ 10:35 AM

Planes, Computer Pains, and Alcohol

Thursday, July 21, 2005
I'm heading off to Washington, DC, this morning. I'm going to the Doulas of North America Conference. Should be very fun and I expect to learn a lot while I'm there, too. (A lot you are coming along for the ride, btw. I'm bringing a whack of sleep book questionnaires with me so that I can continue to write on the road.)

Anyway, Neil and I were hoping to spend some quality time together last night, but Mr. Gates had other plans for us, unfortunately. After Neil did a full backup of my computer system, something strange started to happen to Microsoft Office. It told me I didn't have permission to access any of my own Word documents. (Yes, the dreaded Error 10660 message. We got the problem fixed in the end, but only after about three hours of angst and one double vodka and OJ on my part.)

Anyway, I've been up since 5:00 AM and so far I'm none the worse for wear. However, I know from all my sleep book research that I will pay the price later in the day for only getting four hours of sleep last night (and alcohol-induced sleep, to boot). What was I thinking?

| posted by Ann D @ 6:34 AM

Three is the Loneliest Number

Wednesday, July 20, 2005
My office assistant just landed a full-time job, so it looks like I'm going to be losing her next month. My research assistant is already off on leave because of family issues. And my childcare provider is moving away at the end of the summer. I know that they say that everything happens in threes, but honestly....

| posted by Ann D @ 4:08 PM

No Moonlighting for Me

I'm at the stage in the book-writing process where other careers look exceptionally appealing.

Last night, I read through all the "Help Wanted Ads" in the local newspaper -- something I only do about once or twice a year.

Unfortunately, there wasn't a single job I was even remotely qualified for -- not even telephone soliciting. (I don't think I'd cope well with sticking to someone else's badly written telemarketing script. I'd be tempted to ad lib, sweeten the deal, or otherwise get myself in a whole lot of trouble fast.)

So I guess I'd better keep my day job.

| posted by Ann D @ 12:18 PM

Out of the Mouths of Beginner Readers

My seven year old was greatly offended by the instant oatmeal that showed up in the cereal cupboard this week. He misread "reduced sugar" as "recycled sugar."

"Why would they sell anything with recycled sugar to children?" he remarked in disgust.

Yuck indeed.

| posted by Ann D @ 10:57 AM

Teen Scene

Monday, July 18, 2005
Just consider how tough it must have been to put up with the attitude dished out by 1930s teens:

The superiority complex prevents many adolescents from listening carefully while their mothers and fathers address them, and from answering intelligently and truthfully questions put to them. Sometimes they omit the word 'Mother' or 'Father' from 'Yes, Mother,' 'No, Mother,' 'Yes, Father,' 'No, Father.'

No one can be admitted to the Fellowship of the Well-bred who is rude or patronizing to parents or to older people. Boys and girls are judged very severely by their attitude to their elders.

Source: Etiquette, Jr. quoted at Miss Abigail.

| posted by Ann D @ 10:41 PM

Oh Yeah: Now They Tell Me!

And to think I've been writing books the hard way all these years. If only I had a PC, I could download this software and let my computer do the writing for me. Besides, the name of the software is kind of catchy, don't you think? (They've got their target market figured out for sure.)

| posted by Ann D @ 10:23 PM

Had to Get This Off My Chest

Sometimes the local newspaper has an interesting way of phrasing things. While the rest of the world got some version of this story over the weekend, noting that most women are wearing the wrong bra size, the photo caption in our paper noted that most women are wearing the wrong bra.

So now I have a really powerful mental image of something going very wrong in the women's changeroom at the local gym: each woman reaching into the wrong gym bag, putting on whatever bra she ends up with, and going merrily on her way....

| posted by Ann D @ 9:04 AM

This is Your Brain on Whole Grains....

It was one of those snipets of dialogue that would have sounded fake if it had shown up in a sitcom or on the pages of a novel.

Kid #2: "Hey Mom. This whole-grain bread is really good. Could you just buy this stuff from now on?"

Kid #3: "Yeah, we don't like white bread any more. We just want you to buy this stuff. Besides it's better for us."

I can't decide whether to be euphoric or worried. Are aliens controlling two of my teens' brains?

| posted by Ann D @ 8:55 AM

BlogHer Conference

Saturday, July 16, 2005
I sure wish I was one of the women going to BlogHer. What a fabulous dialogue they're going to have. I found out about the conference from Jenn (a.k.a. "Java Diva"), who is going to be there, along with other prominent "BlogHers," including dooce, finslippy, and Suburban Bliss. You can find a full list of the attendees on the BlogHer website.

Over on her site, Lisa Stone (a.k.a. "Surfette") does a great job of defining the term BlogHer:
My own addicted, late-night clicking has taught me that BlogHers are women with book deals, who write for newspapers and magazines as noted columnists, who shoot TV shows based on their bestsellers, who are decorated television journalists and all-around media industry strategists.

And that's the short list. Turns out that dozens of us attending BlogHer on July 30 are blogging our professional lives as writers. Whether we are trained journalists or published authors or industry specialists who write for our living, many of us are using blogs to break news and deliver information and data.

Here's what I added to Lisa's comment thread.

I want to write about new topics and to pursue more experimental types of writing because of what I've learned and experienced through blogging, the people I've met, and the ideas we've exchanged. Blogging has changed who I am as a writer and a person. It's been the coolest thing!

| posted by Ann D @ 3:28 PM

Online Scrabble!!!

I'm not even allowing myself to go here until after my book deadline has come and gone. But if any of you want to play online Scrabble in August, I'm your gal!

| posted by Ann D @ 3:00 PM

Author University: Cracking the Good Writing Day Code

I've been writing for a couple of hours and am making good progress. It's one of those mornings when the words are flowing well. I wonder if this is because there's no cream in the house and I'm drinking my coffee black. Hmmmm....

Just as professional athletes like to look for ways to deconstruct "the magic" that led to a particularly good game, sometimes we writers like to figure out what made the words flow better on one day as opposed to another. Was it the coffee? The music that was playing in the background? The mix of family members who were/were not home? The relative humidity? The amount of light streaming into the office? The number of times the phone did/didn't ring? Exactly what is the formula for a good writing day?

I know it isn't

(I tried that formula one day and it was a "zero words" writing day.)

I'll keep trying to crack the code.

| posted by Ann D @ 10:37 AM

Book Blitz

Friday, July 15, 2005
This is book blitz weekend. Neil's taken the three youngest kids up north so that I can try to get a lot of uninterrupted book writing done. (I don't think my editor wants my book to be submitted in sentence fragments. Experimental writing is more common in the world of fiction as opposed to non-fiction.)

The problem is that I'm obsessing about ten million things.

The fact that I've losing my childcare provider at the end of next month. The fact that I really need to find another part-time office assistant, but I don't have time to look for an office assistant (a Catch 22, if there ever was one).

The fact that Neil is going through a crazy/busy time at work at the same time that I'm trying to write my book.

The fact that my deadline is approaching more quickly than I want it to.

All of these thoughts are not making it easy to focus on the writing process, which is supposed to be blissful and zen-like, right? (NOT!)

I think I will do what I always do at times like this:

(1) practice my labor breathing
(2) focus on what I can do to get the words flowing again right now (without worrying about all the words that have yet to be written.

I can

(a) open the most fascinating research materials and type in more notes in point form
(b) write the paragraphs that start flowing naturally and see where that takes me
(c) read more of the amazing questionnaires from the parent panel and start typing in some of their answers.
(d) remind myself that writing a book is not a life and death matter. It will get written. I have done this before. (27 times before.) I have done far more difficult things before.

  • I have given birth.

  • I have survived the deaths of people I love.

  • I have lost weight.

  • I have re-gained most of that weight.

  • I have lost some of that weight again.

  • (Repeat the last three lines until you get tired of this. Warning: it gets tedious fast!)

  • I have gone clothing shopping with teenagers.

  • I have learned how to file every conceivable type of Canadian corporate government tax remittance.

  • I have been civil to people I don't particularly like.

  • I have cleaned toddler vomit out of my hair.

  • I have fought long and hard to get fair terms on book contracts.

  • I have read literature that was good for me.

  • I have taught four children how to share.

  • I have learned how to be patient with people who interrupt me when I'm reading.

  • I have stumbled across the bodies of dead mice and notified other family members that disposal is required.

  • I have admitted that I was wrong (even if I was positive I wasn't!)

So how hard can it be to finish writing a book?

Just because

  • it's summer

  • I have four kids at home

  • there are endless interruptions from all fronts

  • the book deadline clock is ticking like a time bomb?


I meant to finish this on a positive note.

I think I'd better go swing by The Wish Jar Journal to get seriously inspired. I'll be back soon.

| posted by Ann D @ 5:58 PM

It's Potty Time!

Andrea Gordon's article in today's Toronto Star has a lot of sensible things to say about the insanity that is toilet training. You can read about my own tales from the potty training trenches (with kid number one) and hear my take on the potty training industry that's emerged to sell lots and lots of (often useless) gear to diaper-weary moms and dads.

| posted by Ann D @ 4:48 PM

Forget Mary Poppins, I Need an Alice Nelson

Our childcare provider gave us notice last night that she's moving away right before school starts. She's going to be really hard to replace because (1) she's wonderful; and (2) she pinchhits when I'm away on book tours and she's able to cope equally well with an arts-and-crafts obsessed seven-year-old, a thirteen-year-old who wants to become a chef; a fifteen-year-old who is addicted to anything computer-related; and a seventeen-year-old teenaged girl who loves punk rock, pet rats, and anything offbeat or unusual.

I think I need a new age Alice Nelson -- someone who can pinch in on the homefront as needed and who can use a spreadsheet to keep the home office running smoothly. I don't know if I'm talking about a Person Friday or a Personal Assistant or a Fairy Godmother, or all of the above, but I have that awful suffocating Mother Doom feeling today.

| posted by Ann D @ 11:35 AM

Good Luck or Bad Luck?

Thursday, July 14, 2005
It the frame on your mirror breaks but the mirror is completely unharmed, is that good luck or bad luck? (I figure it's got to be extraordinarily good luck -- a sign that the universe is looking out for you, but, of course, I've got seven years of bad luck on the line here.)

| posted by Ann D @ 11:04 AM

In Good Company

Tuesday, July 12, 2005
Check this out. I'm mentioned in the current issue of Women in the Lead's Leaders of Change newsletter. Pretty cool!

| posted by Ann D @ 8:53 PM

Blogging for Books

I'm really looking forward to reading the responses to this month's Blogging for Books contest. I'm this month's guest author. Jay and Kim will be sending me links to the top seven entries this weekend and then I'll be faced with the difficult task of choosing the top three entries. (Wish me luck! You know how bad I am at sticking to the allotted number of prizes.)

| posted by Ann D @ 12:03 PM

Coming Out of the Closet

Last night, I decided I had no choice but to empty some clothes out of my bedroom closet. I think it's been at least a year since I did this and I could no longer squish all my clothes in the closet at the same time if, by some miracle, I happened to be all caught up on the laundry. So I went on a glorious closet cleaning frenzy inspired in part by my friend Katherine Gibson's book Unclutter Your Life. I managed to gather up two large bags of clothing, which I dropped off at a local charity this morning. And I found a couple of really cool outfits that I had forgotten I even owned, including the jean skirt that I'm wearing this morning.

And here's the coolest part: I thought the jean skirt was going to be too tight to wear because it's in a smaller size than what's fit me for a while, but I was able to put it on with ease. I've been losing weight for a while, but it's one thing to see the numbers going down on the scale. It's quite another thing to see the zipper going up on a skirt. Yeah, me!

| posted by Ann D @ 10:48 AM

Scrabble Genius in the Making

The other morning, I noticed that my seven year old had been reading The Scrabble Dictionary while I was in the shower. He must be getting ready to drop some truly killer words into the next Scrabble game against his siblings. (Of course, at this point, all of those words will start with "A." He isn't very far through the dictionary yet.)

| posted by Ann D @ 8:50 AM

Where I Caught the Cottage Bug

I spent much of last fall and winter working on an article on cottage history books. The article -- "History in the Making" -- is in the July/August issue of Cottage Life. It features an interview with my Dad, who talks about what he learned about writing a cottage history book while co-authoring Reflections: The Story of Go Home Lake.

| posted by Ann D @ 8:32 AM

The Trailer Park Cottagers

Friday, July 08, 2005
Reading about Marla's recent experiences at the wedding she'll never forget made me realize I have never introduced you guys to The Trailer Park Cottagers.

Picture this. The Lake where we cottage has about 12 cottages on it. Most weekends, only about three or four cottagers are up, and it's extremely quiet. You may hear one or two boats crossing the Lake on an entire weekend, and the only time you ever hear kids fighting are when our family is up at the Lake. (We're so proud.)

Anyway, last summer, some new people built a cottage up the road from the Lake. We're talking hard-drinking, hard-partying, pit-bull owning, fire-wood stealing cottagers who are capable of inventing swear words that could put The Trailer Park Boys to shame.

We've watched them boat out to other cottager's swimming docks to lather up with soap and shampoo.

We've seen them enjoy heavy-duty makeout sessions in the middle of the Lake.

We've watched them go canoeing with motorcycle helmets on their heads.

We've watched them try to tow an inflatable boat behind their boat. (They only succeeded in ripping the handles off the inflatable boat.)

We watched them discover after the fact that their Honda Civic wasn't strong enough to pull their boat and trailer out of the water. (The kids learned lots of new swear words that day.)

I think it would be really funny to send the Trailer Park Cottagers on an exchange trip to Muskoka so that they could shake things up a little over there. I think they'd make quite the impression.

| posted by Ann D @ 11:32 AM

Finding Your Bearings After The Death of A Baby

Tuesday, July 05, 2005
I just came across Karla's powerful essay about her struggle to find her bearings after the death of her newborn daughter Ava. It's entitled The Geology of Karla. It's not an easy read, but it's an inspiring read -- an essay you'll never forget.

| posted by Ann D @ 4:16 PM

The Party That Should Have Been

We should have been hosting a gala birthday bash today, helping my Mom to celebrate her 65th birthday.

Instead, those of us who loved her will each find our own way to pause and remember her, 2 1/2 years after her death from lung cancer.

We love and miss you, Mom.

| posted by Ann D @ 2:57 PM

Normal Again

Or as normal as things get around here. :-)

As you can see, Blogger final posted a fix that works for me. Yippee!

| posted by Ann D @ 8:49 AM

A Very "Nobel" Cause

Monday, July 04, 2005
This is a very blogworthy initiative, wouldn't you agree?

| posted by Ann D @ 5:46 PM

Happy 4th of July

....to my American buddies.

I hope you're having a fabulous day, and that you're able to take time to stop and smell the fireworks this evening!

| posted by Ann D @ 4:16 PM

iCan't Believe It!

I have been checking out the free downloadable Podcast content over at the iTunes Music Store. I feel like a kid in a candy store. I have already downloaded some stuff from the CBC, and now I'm checking out the world of NPR. I passed on the Tom Cruise interview with one of the morning radio stations. Didn't think I needed any more insanity in my life. All I can say is Oh. My. Lord. My iPod is going to explode.

| posted by Ann D @ 4:10 PM

Happy Canada Day....

Friday, July 01, 2005
...to all my favourite Canuck Chicks and Maple Leaf Mamas. (Yes, I'm spelling "favourite" with a "u" because it's Canada Day.) :-)

(If you're American, come back on Monday and I'll wish you a Happy 4th of July.)

Here are five Great Canadian ways to celebrate Canada Day.

1. Listen to some great Canadian music. Might I suggest that you tune into Alanis (unless you're mad at her because of the Starbucks snafu), Sarah M., Sarah H., Joni, Ron, Neil, and the Barenaked Ladies.

2. Enjoy some Great Canadian Beverages and try this trivia quiz from the CBC website.

3. Hit the great outdoors. Ideally, get thee to a beach, a forest, a lake, a stream, or some other place where you can drink in the wonders of the Canadian wilderness. I never feel more Canadian than when I'm away from it all ("it" being the the city and the regular grind).

4. Listen to CBC radio while you enjoy a Great Canadian barbecue or read (or write) the Great Canadian Novel.

5. Enjoy this blast from the past, courtesy of the CBC archives, and see what it was like to be a Canadian mom in generations past.

| posted by Ann D @ 11:57 AM