Follow your dreams, before it’s too late

Just today, I was having coffee with a friend of mine and we got onto the topic of just how important it is to do something you love. I mentioned that doing the ‘wrong’ thing, for me, led to chronic fatigue syndrome. And my life changed. Here is a piece I wrote for the Sydney Morning Herald in 2014 urging us all to try to find some space to do exactly what our soul calls us to do, before we’ve lost the chance.

xx

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It’s 6.45 am, our toddler is in the bath and my laptop is perched on a sliver of the kitchen bench because, frankly, it looks like we had an out-of-control party here last night. Meanwhile, the dogs are trotting muddy paws across the floor, and my husband is nuzzling my neck.

If I died right now, I would actually die all over again of shame, knowing that someone would find me in this disaster. But then I’d get over the fact that the cat is eating out of the cereal bowl and there’s the smell of something rotting in the air, and I’d only be sorry I hadn’t got more books out into the world.

Because that is my calling in life: to write. It’s a calling I almost missed while I was busy leading the wrong life in the corporate jungle. But I didn’t truly start to listen to what I had to do until I had chronic fatigue syndrome and couldn’t work any more. Until the eczema spread all over my face and I couldn’t ignore it when I looked in the mirror.

So many women have amazing creative skills and yearn to leave their “day job” in favour of this passion. There’s a sadness that can’t be healed because that passion, that thing they want to do more than anything else, is also the thing that will, ultimately, make them happy.

I used to be one of those women, leaving for work and getting home in the dark, marching in silence with the hundreds of other rats racing through the tunnels on our way to the towers of soul-destroying “real work”, numbing ourselves with earphones in an attempt to ignore the fact that our true selves, our innate creative selves, were dying inside.

Some women love that life and if that’s you, I’m happy for you, truly. But for me, that life nearly destroyed me.

Unlike a virus that knocks you down for a few weeks before you start to recover, chronic fatigue doesn’t just get better. It takes time, lots of time, with an unknown finish date. Time I didn’t have. I had bills. I was a freelancer. I was a single woman. I was stuck in a horrible cycle of knowing that I needed to invest money in myself to get better, but not being able to make money to do that.

I accrued enormous debts, treading water until I could earn more money, believing one day I’d wake up and be better and everything would be fine. Eventually, I had to accept that I might not get better, that this might be as good as it got. And if that was the case then I had to start living the life that brought me joy.

It was like that saying – people work hard all their life to be wealthy, then retire and have to spend their money to save the health they ruined by working hard. Except I was only 29.

I made tough choices and changed lots of habits, not least of which was learning to accept myself rather than striving for (imagined) perfection. I had to learn to lower the bar. Do less. Expect less. Earn less. Work less. And then I had to start doing more of what truly nurtured my body and soul, even if it was by taking just one tiny step at a time.

Western medicine said it couldn’t offer me much, except perhaps for cortisone, which I didn’t feel was right. I couldn’t afford the plethora of complementary medicines being pitched my way. But I had to keep eating, so that was where I started – with food. Organic farmers’ markets became the place where I began to, finally, invest in myself.

None of these changes happened overnight. You can’t steer a ship in the wrong direction for 30 years and then expect it to turn on a dime. It’s an ongoing process.

We’re always waiting for the perfect time. And we bargain with ourselves by saying we’ll just be happy when we’ve paid off the bills, finished that degree, got that promotion, had three kids, got a cleaner, got a new car … whatever. And yet we all know the truth: there is only the now. And you can’t be temporarily unhappy to be happy.

Deep down we know this, yet we find myriad ways to delay our dreams. We think creativity is something separate from life. But it is life, not something you do for an hour on a Saturday afternoon. We’re running ourselves into the ground with pie charts and timetables and life coaches trying to find the work-life balance when there is no such thing. There is only life. And you only have one of those.

I want everyone to have what I have now – a career that fulfils me and financially supports me. One that gives me energy, not takes it away. I know that seems rare. But it doesn’t have to be. You can have that too. I honestly believe that. You just need to start and keep going. Don’t worry about how long it will take you, because you’ll still be the same age whether you do it or not. Don’t wait for the perfect time because that time is here, right now, messy kitchen and all.

Why I Want to Write Children’s Books

Did you know I’m still an aspiring writer? Four books published and another scheduled for 2018 and I’m still in the same place as so many other writers out there: the beginning.

My heart still burns with the passion, frustration and disappointment of the unpublished writer. Why? Because I want to be a children’s author.

Right now, I have half a dozen picture book manuscripts ‘marinating’ in my hard drive, and one young readers’ (7-10 year old) 30,000-word chapter book bursting with promise to get out into the world.

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(Me with my pony Sparky, who stars as a character in my children’s writing.)

The reality of publishing is that is is difficult to cross that magic line and become “published”; and this is even more true for those of us who aspire to be children’s authors. Like so many of you out there, I too am writing, editing, sending out for review, submitting, following competitions and so on. It still doesn’t feel that long ago that I was in this position as a totally unpublished writer. The feelings are all too familiar!

It might be tempting for me to think, oh well, I already achieved the dream of being a published author and making a living from my writing, why bother chasing another one? Here’s why I am so passionate about making this dream come true.

  • Because reading as a child changed me fundamentally as a human being and made me the writer I am today.
  • Because I am a mother, and therefore I read hundreds of books to my son and I SEE him changing with every one we read.
  • And because I am a mother, it would be my greatest joy and honour to be able to cuddle up with him in bed and read to him a book that I wrote myself.
  • Because I want my son to be able to read Australian stories written by Australian authors.
  • Because in my heart I am an educator (and former English teacher), and being able to read and write is the number one skill a human being can have to empower her to change her life. And literacy begins in the laps of the parents who read to their children.
  • And finally, and probably most pressingly, because I have scores of stories and characters bumbling around in my head who are desperate to get out there into the world!

So here I am, an aspiring author, working away invisibly alongside so many other aspiring authors, wanting to write the best books I can possibly create to bring the greatest gifts to the world.

Write on!

 

The Darkness in the Centre

Spotlight has just won the 2016 Academy Awards Best Picture. And I can’t help but feel grateful for the fellowship of the audience’s embrace of this film,  which covers the exposure of the cover up of abuses in the Catholic Church.

Which leads me to my newest novel… and I want to say this.

Sometimes, a good chocolate will have a dark, bitter centre, but be wrapped in enough sweetness to make the whole thing rich and enjoyable and have you going back for more. This is how I like to think of The Beekeeper’s Secret.

Obviously, I can’t tell you what the secret is. But I do want to talk a bit about the dark centre of the story. And I’m just going to say it straight: The Beekeeper’s Secret contains themes of child sex abuse in the Catholic church.

I’ve been nervous about sharing this because I didn’t want to potentially alienate my many wonderful and loyal readers of The Tea Chest and The Chocolate Promise. Because this book is a little different.

But here’s my promise to you–I have addressed the themes of abuse very carefully, with tremendous sensitivity to my reader’s. The book doesn’t hit the abuse down the centre. Instead, what interests me most are questions like,

How do these ripples of abuse and betrayal of trust resonate outwards through families, over generations (to the secondary and tertiary victims)?

What options did the ‘good’ people have at that time, when they were silenced and bullied into cover up at every turn?

What happens if a ‘good’ person, takes matters into her own hands? Are her actions valid? And how does she live with them?

These are questions that drove the plot for The Beekeeper’s Secret.

There are no graphic scenes of abuse in this book.

“…it seems strange that such an easy to read book could deal with such a serious issue but it does it well… the focus on family, friends and forgiveness makes this story very readable and an enjoyable depiction of life in modern Australia” (Sasha, on ‘The Beekeeper’s Secret’, Goodreads review)

At the heart of this story is a family that has been broken by secrets from the past and the efforts of Tansy to uncover the truth and heal the invisible wounds that have kept her mother and estranged aunt, Maria (and ex Catholic nun), apart.

This is a story of redemption, reunion, reconciliation and forgiveness.

And it’s a story of the wonder of bees.

 

 

 

Juggling Motherhood with Being a Writer: You CAN do it!

The final proofed pages of my latest novel, on their way back to my publisher, complete with Random Toddler Attack
The final proofed pages of my latest novel, on their way back to my publisher, complete with Random Toddler Attack

Top Ten Tips for Being a Mama and Getting Your Writing Done!

I see so many interviews out there where a female writer is asked how she manages to write while also being a mother. And I’m not saying it hasn’t happened, but I’m yet to see or hear the same question asked of a male writer. Now, I could pose a lot of theories of why that is the case, but since it is a topic that doesn’t seem to go away, I thought I’d put my two cents in as well.

Firstly, I want to be very clear in that I don’t think there is any difference between a working mother/writer and a mother who is also working as a teacher, nurse, psychologist, chemical engineer, astronaut, television host or cleaner. Right? It’s all a job or career and so we’re all faced with the same challenges. In fact, the ADVANTAGE of being a working writer and mother is that your time is infinitely MORE flexible. (That can also be a double-edged sword, but see below for that.)

So like all working mothers, working writers have to make choices about what is right for them and their career, their time, their family and their children. Nannies, daycare and grandparents are all considered, perhaps working part-time to allow for some sort of ‘balance’. Or, you might like to work full-time with full-time childcare. In my own case, we battled on with (expensive) in-home nannies for the first two years after our son was born (I got my literary agent five weeks after he was born… yikes!), and then he showed us he was ready to go to daycare two days a week. My dad and stepmother (luckily) adore him and they have him with them another day a week. So that gives me three days a week dedicated to writing. This works for all of us right now.

Before I had a child, I could write whenever I wanted to, for the most part. Now, I have to do it on my ‘working’ days. It’s not always easy but, again, any other job is the same. Some days we don’t want to go, right? But if you don’t show up, you don’t get paid. Sometimes I will work at night or on weekends, and every now and then I throw in a weekend away for a writing retreat to get some intensive uninterrupted time with my novel.

The tough stuff for me is when things happen on days that aren’t ‘writing days’: stuff like interviews, photo shoots, interstate travel, publicity events and commitments etc. Then the juggling does get tricky and this takes some whole family commitment to changing timetables and so on. And of course, often those other commitments DO happen on ‘writing days’ (because it is impossible to do a photo shoot with a toddler in his “Hulk” phase testing out his power by upending furniture), so that means that no writing actually happens and that puts pressure on the word count targets.

But I wouldn’t change any of it because I think I have the best job in the world for me.

I do know that the big pressures come when you are as-yet unpublished and are trying to work out how to work, and raise children, AND write a book. That’s tough. But still do-able. It takes a lot of compassion for yourself and belief in your need to write, as well as some creative thinking and support from your family. And it’s okay to ask for help, ya know?

Some tips:

  1. If you can, take back some time by hiring a cleaner to come for a few hours a week and spend every minute of that time writing. And if you have mama guilt about that, USE it to fuel your word count goal to prove to yourself how useful and productive you’re being. (As an aside, I don’t actually subscribe to this sort of fear-based motivation, but if you need to use it in the short term to get yourself moving then by all means DO IT!)
  2. If you can write in ten-minute or thirty-minutes snatches of time, I bow at your feet! If, like me, you’re not really like that, try to find at least ONE HOUR at a time (many writers do it at 4.30am or 9.30pm) and write like a demon for sixty minutes. Better yet, maybe it’s even more valuable to negotiate one whole weekend every month or two and just delve down deep into your book. You might get more done in that time than you would in six months of half-hour snatches.
  3. Writing brings with it incredible flexibility in terms of the time of day you can write and where you can write. This is awesome. Use that flexibility…
  4. …BUT! Be warned. This type of flexibility also means that when the child is sick and can’t go to daycare, when the car needs to go to the mechanic, when the plumber needs to come to the house etc. etc., it will likely be YOU that is asked to give up your writing time to deal with the domestic need. And, often, this happens because ‘your job’ isn’t ‘earning any money’ at that time while your partner’s job is. Oh, the mama guilt that goes with that! And look, the reality is that you do need to keep money coming into the house, right? But just be very aware of this trap. Learn to set boundaries and be patient with yourself as you learn to protect them and learn to claw back that time that you lost with the plumber on another day. Learn to negotiate. It can be tough; I get it. (Even now, as a published author whose income contributes considerably to our household, I still find it difficult.) But you need to do it.
  5. Work while disconnected. I use Freedom, a cheap, neat little program that BLOCKS THE INTERNET on my computer while I’m writing. What a difference it makes! We are too distracted and too distractible. If you’re on limited writing time than for goodness’ sake, suck the marrow out of every minute you have.
  6. Remember that you can plan a lot in your head while you’re playing with train sets and play dough. You can THINK about your book at any minute of the day.
  7. I think having a child actually makes me a better writer. It focuses my attention and time and forces me to move through procrastination and blocks much faster than I would do if I didn’t have the time ticking down to when I had to leave to pick him up from daycare. He is pure imagination and play and makes me laugh all the time and provides an incredible wealth of new experiences, emotions, ideas and material for books. And I swear that reading children’s books makes me a better writer. This is all valuable stuff for your career.
  8. Working on hard copy (writing by hand, or editing on paper) is much easier to do when you’ve got little people around than carrying your laptop around or locking yourself away in a room. Your supervision is still good, the little person won’t try and take over your laptop, you can hand over paper and pens so that you can ‘work together’, and the cup of juice that gets spilt won’t ruin your notebook like it will your laptop. You can always type up words later when you’re tired and don’t actually need too many brain cells simply to read and type, rather than create.
  9. Fatigue can be a problem. Oh boy, I get this. You need to train.
  10. Finally, it all comes down to this. If you want it enough, you’ll make it work. You can do it. You can. You absolutely can. You MORE than can. You can…. I promise.

Happy writing!

A Writer’s New Year Resolutions, 2015

New Year 2015 formed from sparking digits over black background** Is your new year’s writing resolution to go on a writing retreat? You can join me in October on the Sunshine Coast! **

Each year I set specific new year’s resolutions just for the writing corner of my life, so it’s once again time to do that. The thing I find interesting about these lists is that once I’ve written them down, I don’t think I look at them again until the end of the year when I wonder what I wrote and how far I went towards achieving them. But it’s always fascinating to me how much of them I do unconsciously throughout the year, just because I’ve listed them.

So, for 2014, I set three goals:

  1. Stay calm and have a cup of tea. (I think I did this pretty well for the most part, bobbing up and down on the waves of my first year in publication. There was stress, sure, but I actually have a written plan now for how to handle ‘the things that went wrong’ in 2014 so I feel more prepared to greet 2015.)
  2. Turn guilt into gratitude. (I got better at integrating the working mother stress as I went along and I feel much more settled now that my toddler is in a good early learning centre two days a week. Though I had to work through a lot of guilt to get there, both he and I look forward to those days so that makes everyone happy.)
  3. Protect the creative process. (Again, I think I got better at feeding my unicorn through the year, and my most recent efforts to do this include my weekly challenge of Creative Tuesday.)

I also said I’d throw in some writing room decorating, and I had a big breakthrough with that in 2014 and am still enjoying my new relationship to my room, actively thinking about nurturing it so that it can nurture me in return.

So, for 2015. Here goes:

taxing-solutionsI only have one resolution this year, and it’s a big one. It’s the one that scares me the most, that challenges my brain, and pushes me into spaces I don’t like to go.

Numbers.

Tax!!!!! GST. BAS. IAS.

Blech!! That’s how I feel about it now. But by the end of this year, I want to feel like, Pft, it’s nothing. More than that, it’s my friend.

The whole tax stuff around writing is huge, difficult stuff, especially if you are a Word Person. A non-number person. The very gifts that make you a good writers, well, they kind of let you down a bit with the whole number crunchy stuff.

I will write a whole post about tax and writing sometime this year to share with you what I’ve learned. But for now, let me summarise by saying that if you have another job where you’re earning a salary, and then you get a book deal, then you really need to get on top of this tax stuff because writing income can shoot you over into a new tax bracket and, trust me, that can leave you with a nasty tax surprise. Also, after they’ve cleaned you out of money to pay that nasty tax bill, then you’ll then be asked to pay tax in advance, almost straight away. And that might be scary as all hell too.

And of course the rub here is that if you earn money from royalties, YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW MUCH YOU WILL EARN!! It could be $10 or $10million. There’s a big bloody difference between those numbers.

I am going to enrol in a bookkeeping course. (My stomach actually plummeted as I wrote that.) I don’t ever want to feel disempowered about my numbers. I don’t want to have to rely on an accountant to tell me absolutely everything. (But, oh my, I still need an accountant.) I need to understand the basics; I need to HAVE THE LANGUAGE to even be able to TALK about money. And I need that before I can fill out crazy ATO forms.

And my accountant and I are going to check in each quarter and try to estimate the numbers as we go.

I’m thinking this will take me all year to get on top of this. And so, that is it. My one resolution. The very opposite of what you would think would be a ‘writing resolution’ and yet I have to do it because I have become afraid to earn money because I am afraid of tax bills. And that’s just ridiculous. That’s not a signal I want to send to the universe. So I am declaring it. This time next year, I’m going to feel confident about the money. I’m going to shout, ‘Bring on the book sales, people! I can handle it!’

Bring on 2015.

Top Ten Tips: The Writer (and Mother) as an Athlete

Written on my fridge right now. Remind yourself--you are an athlete!
Written on my fridge right now. Remind yourself–you are an athlete!

I have often been heard to say that I feel like I’m running a marathon every day. And I hear a lot of other mothers say it too. What can we do? Here are some thoughts.

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I am an unashamed ‘Swiftie’ (that is, a fan of Taylor Swift), and I once heard her say how much time she spent at the gym. Now, I’ve been to a Taylor Swift concert and trust me that entire performance is more than any gym work out could be. Why on earth did she need to go to the gym as well? I asked this of my husband, who is a physiotherapist.

‘It’s a huge misconception,’ he said. ‘I see it a lot in guys who work in labouring jobs. They think that because they’re active all day that they don’t need to do any more exercise. But what they don’t understand it that to work continuously at their optimum performance, they actually need to be fitter and stronger than what they are required to do.’

Big. Lightbulb. Moment.

To get through everything in my life I need to think of myself as an endurance athlete.

A green smoothie I made with a stick blender - banana, flaxseeds, spinach leaves, fresh mint, parsley
A green smoothie I made with a stick blender – banana, flaxseeds, spinach leaves, fresh mint, parsley

It’s not okay to be just fit enough to do our jobs. We have to be MORE fit so we can do it easily AND have energy left over to play with our kids and have quality time with our spouses and make awesome food and maybe even play and have fun.

‘Writer’ and ‘athlete’ don’t normally conjure up similarities. In fact, most writers I know complain about how sedentary their job is and how much weight they’ve gained and how unfit they’ve become. It’s not even just that we’re sitting at a computer for many hours a day, as many people do who work in an office. It’s also that we don’t have to leave the house, so there’s a serious decrease in all the incidental exercise you get if you have to walk to and from a bus or a train, or escape outside the building for a walk during your lunch hour, or have to walk from one side of the building to the other to talk to a co-worker. I noticed this dramatically when I gave up work that required me to leave the house. My weight bloomed, almost overnight.

After writing for thirteen years through full-time jobs, part-time jobs, and even unemployment, I finally got my agent just five weeks after my son was born, and three book contracts very soon after. Suddenly, I had to juggle first-time new motherhood with serious contractual requirements, severe sleep deprivation, renovating a house and moving, and living in the country and driving obscene hours in the car with a newborn. I coped, but only just. And with a lot of coffee and chocolate.

I’ve come to understand that if I’m going to have longevity in the game of being an author, and be energetically and emotionally present for my child, husband, family and so on, AND look after my self, my animals, house, friends and all of that, then I have to think of myself as an athlete. I need to train regularly — and yes, I do mean with physical activity. I need to fuel my body with the best resources possible: protein, vitamins, juices, power smoothies, organics, fresh produce. I need to put energy IN in order to get energy OUT.

It’s so simple, isn’t it? And yet it’s so easy to overlook. And the more tired we are, the easier it is to reach for coffee and a bowl of cereal for dinner rather than juicing vegetables and cooking energy-enhancing foods. It becomes a vicious cycle, one that’s very hard to break.

This is still a work in progress for me, but I’ve been steadily improving for the past couple of months. And here are my Top Ten Tips for what’s worked for me. Maybe some of them will help you too.

  • Design a daily checklist of everything you feel you need to (or want to) do to help your body. Most of the time, I get so lost in the work I’m doing that I truly and simply forget to take my vitamins, get on the cross trainer, do my physiotherapy exercises, make a fresh juice, defrost something from the freezer. Checklist. Get one. Leave it on the bench in the kitchen and tick it off over the course of the day. Write down everything you eat. You’ll start to see patterns and it helps keep you on track.
  • You don’t need an expensive juicer! You can do almost anything with a stick blender. I was feeling blocked about juicing because we didn’t have a juicer (cheap or expensive) and have no cupboard space or bench space to have one. Then I worked out that you can do almost anything with a stick a blender. Throw ingredients in and whiz. Simple. The only things it will struggle with are really hard vegetables, like beetroot or carrot. BUT, if you want them, grate them first and throw them in. Simple.
  • Protein for breakfast. Salmon, eggs, protein smoothies (as supplements, not as replacements), steak, baked beans, mushrooms. Get your high quality protein in early in the day (rather than at the end). It reduces sugar cravings and keeps you going longer.
  • Grow some leafy greens. Seriously, spinach, kale and chard are SO simple to grow (I’m growing them in styrofoam boxes), so cheap and quick to sow from seed, and so fabulous to pick fresh and throw into a juice or smoothie for some LIVING food that is packed full of vitamins and energy boosting goodness. IMG_3178
  • Start the day with a fruit bowl. In our house, as I know is true of many others, we have resistance to eating fruit unless it is chopped up. So we now start the day with a fruit bowl of freshly chopped fruit. We take turns at making it in the morning while the other person is generally tending to our toddler. Your fruit is done for the day and it is yum yum yummy. (We also like to top the fruit with extras like chia seeds, flaxseeds or goji berries — you can buy in advance and store in jars or paper bags and throw them on).
  • Exercise. 20 minutes. Any time, any where. Every day. There is always something you can do. Personally, I am challenged with multiple (and complicated) rheumatic conditions, I’m always carrying at least one severe injury at any given time (which usually lasts a good six months or more) and have to be so careful about how I exercise. But I married a physio. And what I discovered was that it is a (good) physiotherapist’s job (and calling in life) to find a way for you to move. And they will. Example, if I lift even 1kg weights, I sprain my wrists. So, my husband bought me strap on ankle weights and strapped them around my forearms so no load goes through the joint. Presto. Problem solved. Find yourself a GOOD physio (because, like all things, they aren’t all created equal).
  • Stop drinking coffee. Oh boy, this can be hard. I never really drank coffee until I had a baby. (True story: My husband had never had a coffee in his life until we walked into the hospital to have our baby and he decided that it was going to take a while so perhaps he should start. It took him the next two years to give up.) After I had Flynn, I was shattered, in every way. Coffee became the only thing that would keep me safe on the roads and even vaguely able to do my job. But by the time Flynn was two years old, I realised that I couldn’t keep drinking coffee. It stimulated my adrenals and gave me a false sense of energy when really it was just draining me even more. Now, my rule is that if I think I need coffee, I will make a chai. And if I still feel like having coffee after the chai, then I’m allowed to have one. But I never do.
  • Spirulina / Power Greens. When all else fails, throw a teaspoon of high-density greens in powdered form into a juice. You’d be amazed.
  • Vitamin B. You burn lots of vitamin B when you’re stressed. Make sure you’ve got enough, are getting enough, or supplement with enough. Iron. Same goes there. I’d fallen into a false sense of safety with iron. I used to have to take it all the time but I thought things had changed. Wrong. I didn’t even have a clue until a GP randomly tested for it and phoned to tell me it was below the line. Wow. What a difference to your life iron will make.
  • Dark chocolate! Oh yes indeed! Dark chocolate is good, good, good for you. It’s a power food, people. Eat it. (But it has to be dark! I can eat up to 85% cocoa quite comfortably, but if you’re just beginning, try something around 40 or 50% and build up.)

The Creative Life Balancing Act

Bubbalicious 'helping' me
Bubbalicious ‘helping’ me

This is my library research assistant, the adorable Bubbalicious.

It’s often said that writing is a child-friendly career. True. But I’m not sure children are a writer-friendly addition 🙂

This is an interesting year for me as I work to find a new way of writing. A new timetable. A new head space. A totally new process. Listening to my body in a whole new way.

It’s taken me a long time to accept that I might need some help. But my Hubbalicious has been consistently working towards finding ways to support my career (and meet my next book deadline) while we maintain our wish to be hands-on, full-time parents. One thing we’ve realised is that I do need sustained, uninterrupted writing time. And that might mean I have to leave the house for a weekend every couple of months to get that. As well, I need at least three or four hours straight in a day to really get into my work.

So today is a new day. After much resistance (maternal angst, guilt, working-mother research assistant2_anxiety), I have embraced the addition of my lovely friend, Katrina, who lives locally and who has known Little Man his whole life. (And is also the greatest aunty to our dogs and cats when we’re away.) Everyone in this family loves Katrina. And today she’ll be joining us three days a week, for four hours a day, at home to help look after our Little Man and allow me some space to work. And I’m okay with that. Finally.

Really. Right now, I’m in my office while the sound of Katrina’s voice and squeaking toys from the other end of the house lets me know my bubba man is okay. Not just okay; he’s having fun. And that’s okay because I just need to remind myself to breathe and know there’ll be more times a plenty when I get to have my little research assistant back again.