6 Tough Questions for Writers

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I write a lot about these two characters.

Have you heard of Authors.me? It’s a website for submissions where writers, agents, editors, publishers and new media can meet. I used it for the first time today and one of the first things I had to do was fill out a personal profile.

I started a new project yesterday that I’m really excited about. I’ll go more into depth about it at a later date. One of the agents I want to pitch my idea to, asks writers to submit their project through Authors.me website. It’s touted as “Your Story’s Future” and a “Smart, effective submissions and acquisitions management.”

I’m super energized about my new project, but filling out the profile surprised me. Here are some of the questions they asked:

Your writing is influenced by experience and personality. Tell your audience what you are made of.

Biography Write your bio as if you are a character in a book. Your life experiences are what make you and interesting person.

Writing Style Show some flare and tell us about your unique writing style.

What makes you special as a writer? More than just style, what makes you unique as a writer could be a lot of factors. Tell us.

Who or what inspires you to write? Show us you can not only inspire others, but that you can be inspired yourself.

What constitutes a great novel? There is no wrong answer, just something that moves you. Tell us.

What is your favorite part about the writing process?

I had fun with the first one–writing my bio as if I were a character in a book. (However I noticed a typo on their first question. Can you find it?) The most important things in my life, whether it’s people or events, became clear by answering this question. I recommend trying it yourself. The exercise asks you to limit the writing to 2000 characters or less. I managed to do that in less which was about 250 words. Even if you’re not a writer, it’s a fun exercise to try.

As for the second request, “Writing Style–Show some flare and tell us about your unique writing style,” I thought was a little strange. Am I supposed to show off or show some flare in my writing about my writing style? Can’t the people looking at my work get a “feel” for my style? I’m not much of a show off and I don’t know how to “flare” my writing about my writing. Plain weird. Also, the opening statement “Tell your audience what you are made of” seems a little over-the-top.

 

 

If you’ve used Author.me, I’d like to know what you think about it. Also, what do you think about these questions?

 

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Good News Four Weeks Out: Hey, It’s Not That Bad!

 

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This view makes it okay.

 

The breakthrough news one month after surgery is I can hobble around the house and I get to ditch the crutches or walker! This may not sound like a big deal, but truly it’s  major to me right now. Mostly, I’ve been icing and elevating my leg and my few trips out in the world have been to my amazing PT and doctor. I did manage two lunches out with my dad, daughter and dear friend. That’s two lunches in four weeks, mind you.

Not that my home isn’t a perfectly lovely place to be housebound. I feel blessed every morning looking out at the mountain, palm trees, sunshine and citrus trees. But for the past four weeks, I’ve been bouncing between my bed, sofa and chaise lounge by the pool. (Well, maybe not exactly bouncing.) It’s gotten so hot the past two weeks, that I can’t sit in our backyard after 9 a.m. so that’s taken away one-third of my world.

Without crutches, I can actually carry my book, phone, water bottle—or anything else for that matter! The first two weeks, I had to wait for someone to bring me what I wanted. Then, after much teasing and joking by my husband, he suggested I rig up a bag to hang around my neck or walker. I laughed at the thought, but it actually worked!

Now, I’m free as a bird–a bird without wings and one broken leg. The doctor said I still must use crutches if I leave the house. But, I can’t tell you how much I’m going to enjoy carrying items in my hands while I walk around the house!

 

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I can’t wait to get back in the pool!

Even better news, I asked if I could return to the city pool. I want to walk once again in the handicapped lane at the shallow end of the pool using the steps and hanging onto the edge. The doctor said, “YES!” Oh boy! I’m through the worst of this adventure, I can feel it in my bones.

 

What have I been doing laying around post surgery? Not much. I’ve struggled to write because my leg aches and gets stiff after sitting for 30 minutes. I’ve done a little, but not as much as I wish. I have been reading and discovered some great books.

Here are five books I’ve read since surgery that I highly recommend:

Ann Patchett:
Taft
The Magician’s Assistant

Liane Moriarty:
What Alice Forgot
Big, Little, Lies (thank you, Linda, for sharing!)
The Hypnotist’s Love Story

 

 

What good books have you read lately that I might enjoy?

Why Women Will Own the World’s Wealth

imagesWomen are a powerful group–and despite what certain bloggers say–that includes those who marry and raise kids. Today, women control almost 3/4 of America’s wealth, about $19 trillion from inherited and earned assets. Women are gathering assets by working, marrying and inheriting.

The question that needs to be asked is–not whether you stay at home, or follow your dreams to a high powered career–but can you handle being in control of the world’s wealth?

In the 1960s, my Dad drove a black VW Beetle to work — our only car. Mom shared coffee with neighborhood moms after the kids walked to school. Later, Mom cleaned house and hung our laundry outside to dry. Our clothes and sheets smelled delicious, like a spring breeze. My Dad handled the checkbook, banking, and the business.

Many women from Mom’s generation have zero financial experience when they find themselves suddenly alone. It can happen to younger women, too. Take my close friend whose husband died of a stroke. She found herself a single mom at 47. She had never paid a bill, didn’t know how to write a check, or which bank they used. Her husband had been a day-trader in commodities. During the months it took her to unravel the mysteries of their finances, she and her daughter could have been completely wiped out by not knowing where or what they were invested in.

On the flip side, many women are very financially savvy and they make the investment decisions early on. I know a doctor’s wife who handles their medical office bookkeeping and has taken extensive courses in investing. Her husband is the one that doesn’t have a clue about banking or investing.

We need to face the fact that we will be in charge of our finances — if not now, then in the future. How prepared and knowledgeable are you? Do you have any idea how much money you need to send your children to college? Even though it may seem like an eternity away, do you know how much money you need to retire comfortably?

Close your eyes, take a deep breath and picture your life twenty years from today. Do you want to travel, spend time with your family, or read a book on the beach? Write down what your perfect retirement looks like. This is the first step in taking charge of your financial future.

Don’t be afraid by how much you don’t know. Start with what you do know and what you desire. To learn more you can read a financial article daily, meet with an advisor, and be an active participant in your financial life. Remember, we women will end of up with the wealth. Let’s be prepared.

Moms Feel the Heat From Family in “Mom Shaming” Study

18 years ago.

As a mother, I’ve been critiqued and criticized and apparently so have a majority of other moms. According to C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health from the University of Michigan, 60% of moms with young kids have faced criticism and mostly from their own moms and other family members. That’s what hurts. I believe your family should have your back. But, when they criticize your kids or how you’re raising them, it really hurts. It’s not easily forgotten or forgiven. Even though comments are offered with the best intentions, we tend to take what family members say much deeper than from a busybody stranger.

According to WRDW TV in Augusta, GA:

The survey, conducted between February and June, found that six out of 10 mothers with kids ages five and younger felt they received some sort of criticism about how they parented their children. But what’s surprising is so many of those critiques come from the people they feel closest too – their own family members.

A recent survey by the C.S. Mott Children’s Poll on Children’s Health (CPCH) and the University of Michigan surveyed moms across the country with kids ages five and younger 60% felt criticized by members of their own family. Discipline was the most common topic of criticism, followed by what mothers were feeding their kids, how much sleep they were getting, how much time they spent outside and how much time was spent on electronics.

The survey found that generational differences between grandparents and newer parents were some of the biggest reasons behind critiques, followed by issues between mothers and their in-laws.

 

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My kids and friends exploring tide pools.

 

An article from Live Science called “60% of Moms Have Been Mom-Shamed” had this to say:

The survey found that 61 percent of moms of young kids said they’d been shamed for their parenting at some point. Twenty-three percent said they’d gotten criticism from three or more different sources. Family was a greater source of criticism than strangers, friends or social media commenters. Only 12 percent of respondents reported being criticized by other mothers in public, while 14 percent reported getting criticism from friends and 8 percent reported hearing criticism from a health care provider. Just 7 percent reported receiving criticism from people online.

These findings could reflect the fact that new moms likely interact more frequently with family members than with online trolls, or that moms might be more sensitive to criticism coming from family members whom they expect to be supportive, C.S. Mott researchers wrote in a report accompanying the findings.

The report, called “Mom Shaming or Constructive Criticism? Perspectives of Mothers,” has interesting findings:

The targets of criticism reported in the Mott Poll reflect differences in cultural norms of parenting. Discipline, the most commonly criticized parenting topic, is rife with opposing views, such as spanking vs time-outs, or strict adherence to rules vs allowing space for the child to explore. Further conflict can arise when those criticizing have unrealistic expectations for a toddler or preschooler, while the mother feels she has a better understanding of her own child’s abilities. Family visits can create unique challenges, as the child’s usual routine is disrupted to accommodate travel and special events; mothers who believe their child’s behavior is impacted by the family visit may be particularly irritated by family criticism of her discipline choices.

Mothers also report being criticized about breast- vs bottle-feeding and sleep. These are just two topics where national guidelines have shifted in recent years, such that parenting norms of older family members may not reflect the current best practices.

The report can be downloaded here.

 

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Me and my kids.

I believe most of us think we’re doing a pretty good job parenting. It’s easy to be critical of others, but keep in mind that every kid and family is different. What works for your child may not work at all for another. Or, what works today for your kid might not tomorrow.

 

Now that my kids are no longer young, but are young adults, we’ve talked about what they think of my parenting style. What’s funny is that we have entirely different perspectives. I view my style as laid back and I wouldn’t get ruffled. I let my kids explore without too much interference. My kids perceive me as super strict and hovering. Probably the reality is somewhere in-between.

Were you ever criticized by a family member for your parenting? How did it make you feel? Also, do you view yourself as a permissive parent or overly strict? Do you parent the way your mom did?

 

I Couldn’t Wait for the Kids to Come Home

imagesI was looking forward to Thanksgiving weekend so much! I couldn’t wait to have both my kids home, together. I cleaned their rooms, washed their sheets, polished their furniture.

I shopped for turkey, stuffing, potatoes and all the trimmings. I baked a pumpkin pie. I was so excited and the days dragged until the day before Thanksgiving finally arrived. First, my son came in at ten at night. He looked great! I fell asleep before the midnight flight that carried my daughter.

Thanksgiving day was a blast. I cooked a delicious dinner. We had grandpa over and after we ate, we laughed and talked as we walked around the neighborhood. My kids were in a great mood, and I loved being with them.IMG_2814

But, by Friday, I found myself constantly picking and cleaning up after them. I carried dishes and glasses from the kids’ bedrooms into the kitchen. The sink always had dishes stacked in it, no matter how often I loaded the dishwasher. My once lonely washing machine had a constant load.

I got tired. Wow! This taking care of family is a lot harder than I had remembered.

images-4My kids were busy. Not with me. My son had tons of reading and a paper to write. My daughter had homework to do also, but she was off every minute to visit friends.

My husband and I sat together, alone in the house.

I kind of felt like the cat. Olive is my daughter’s kitty. Olive was so excited to have her person home, she went on a wild spree of hunting, bringing in birds to my daughter’s bedroom. She even left her a bird in her suitcase. When Olive wasn’t hunting she was glued to my daughter’s side — when my daughter was home.

The weekend ended, the kids left. I sighed. My first Thanksgiving after three months of an empty nest was not what I expected. I am thankful for my family. But, I learned that it’s also nice to not have the day-to-day responsibility of cleaning and caring for kids.

And once again, Olive is content to hang out with me.IMG_6037

To Diet or Not to Diet — That is the Question

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When I was in college, my best friend and I went on crazy eating binges and diets. We actually put soy sauce on iceberg lettuce and called it a meal. We made shakes with nothing but ice, lettuce and sweet-n-low. Then we’d end the night eating a bag of Toll House semi-sweet chocolate morsels and undo our day of starvation.

imgres-1All that craziness never resulted in losing weight. It wasn’t until I got hit by truck — as a pedestrian crossing a street — that I had common sense knocked into my head.

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The week in the hospital made me realize how lucky I was to be alive. I was so thrilled when I could stand up and take a few steps with a walker — and go to the bathroom. That was so much more important to me than the goal of being five pounds lighter. Strangely, after I healed and returned to normal mobility — about six months later — I never had to diet again. I just ate what I wanted and liked. It was mostly seafood. I would choose a second helping of Dungeness crab or Ahi Sashimi over a piece of cake.

imgresBut, then something changed. Welcome to getting older. Weight has crept up on me the last couple years. I exercise every single day, yet ten to 15 pounds seemed to attach itself to my middle. (I guess that’s why they call it “Middle-Aged?”)

images-4I asked some friends that are also middle-aged — who look terrific — what their secret was. They told me about a high protein, low carb diet. I decided to try it, since my kids are off to college and I no longer have to feed two always hungry swimmers.

Five days later, I’m four pounds smaller. But, I am seriously craving a big bowl of spaghetti with meat sauce. And potato salad. 

Check back with me to see if I continue to diet — or not to diet.

Do you have any secrets to staying fit after 50?

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Tips on How to Eat Uber Hot Chili Peppers and Other Fun Adventures of an Empty Nester

The dolphin statue in Puerto Vallarta by Bud Bottoms. It's a twin statue to the one on Stearn's Wharf in Santa Barbara.

The dolphin statue in Puerto Vallarta by Bud Bottoms. It’s a twin statue to the one at Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara.

We were on vacation in Puerto Vallarta — enjoying “empty nesting” that I first wrote about  here.  We went to a brunch at a luxurious gringo resort — complete with every type of food imaginable — waffle and omelet stations, a taco bar, sushi, every type of seafood and protein known to man, plus gorgeous arrays of fruits and salads.

I was being so good, trying to stick to a high protein, low carb plate — salmon, pork, a taste of sushi. And then I saw roasted Serrano chilis near the elaborate Mexican dishes. It wouldn’t hurt to just have a taste, would it? I plunked the single chili onto my plate next to the scrambled eggs.

Serrano Pepper

Serrano Pepper

Later, sitting at the table with my husband, friends, and a person we had just met, I cut off a small bite of the chili. POW! YIKES! Help me, Jesus! How could I sit still, be polite and nod and smile?

My eyes watered, I shifted up and down in my seat and I thought I was crawling out of my skin. I was ready to jump on the table and do a happy dance!

That was the all time hottest chili. Ever. So much for the high protein low carb diet — I began stuffing my mouth with bread, tortillas, chips — anything to get the soaring heat to die.

Peppers

Peppers

The next evening at dinner, I listened to one of our friends tell a story about when he was in college and ate his first jalapeño. He was told that the secret was to keep the chili from getting any air. So right from the jar, he slipped the jalapeño into his mouth and closed his lips tight. Then he chewed and was blasted with unbelievable heat. He said the guy who told him “the secret way to eat chilis” laughed so hard that he’s probably still laughing today — 40 years later.

Now that I’m away from the freshly roasted peppers, I looked up a few things about chilis. First, serrano chilis are typically eaten raw and have a bright and biting flavor that is notably hotter than the jalapeño pepper. No kidding!

The Scoville Scale

The Scoville Scale

There is a thing called the Scoville Scale that measures the spicy heat of the pepper! Who knew? 

What makes a chili hot? The answer is capsaicin. What is that you ask? 

“Capsaicin (/kæpˈs.ɨsɪn/; 8-methylNvanillyl-6-nonenamide) is an active component of chili peppers, which are plants belonging to the genus Capsicum. It is an irritant for mammals, including humans, and produces a sensation of burning in any tissue with which it comes into contact.” — from Wikipedia.Chilito_verde

If you ever have the horribly uncomfortable occasion of biting into a super hot chili — milk and dairy is the answer. I did not know this. Do not drink water, tea or coffee. Try milk, yogurt or cheese to cut the heat. The next best thing is bread, rice or pasta.

Besides the great food and hot peppers, what did I enjoy about Puerto Vallarta? Try this!

View of beach in Puerto Vallarta.

View of beach in Puerto Vallarta.