The Power of Voice

The secret moms and writers know

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

How old were you the first time you heard your own voice? Did you cringe? 

I didn’t believe it was me. I thought that there was something wrong with the cassette tape (yup, I’m that old–and I recorded myself using a boombox. Children of the ’80s, rock on!). Then I briefly considered never talking again.

Problem is, I’m a born talker. I love talking with people, even strangers. I’ll also talk to my dogs, the cat, even the plants (scientists in the ’80s swore this was good for them–is that still true?). And now the universe is playing one of its karma games because it has given me a child who talks nonstop.

I love listening to what he has to say 99% of the time. The way his mind works is truly bizarre and fascinating, and I say that with all the love of a mother who has already received roses and sharing privileges on a Lego Wegman’s hauler for Mother’s Day. I want him to feel like he can talk to me about anything, and that I’m listening, and that what he has to say is valued. I really do.

But 1% of the time (okay, maybe 7.5% on certain days, like when I’m not feeling well, or have a deadline, or when all he wants to talk about is the relationships between Pokémon), I just need him to give me a few quiet minutes. That’s when I break out, “the Mom voice.” You know the one. It’s just slightly lower than Sigourney Weaver’s in the original Ghostbusters when she answers, “There is no Dana, only Zuul.” Except I’m saying, “Hey Bud, that’s interesting, but just give Mama a minute please.”

Ghostbusters – There Is No Dana, Only ZUUL

He’s a good kid (like I said, sharing rights on the Lego hauler he built himself), so the first 200 times I used that voice, he ran away, wide-eyed and o the brink of hyperventilation. Now, it’s like he doesn’t even hear “the Mom voice.” In fairness, he’s usually too busy talking to listen.

So I’ve had to up my game. Admittedly, the first couple of tries might have been a little over the top, judging by the tears. But I like to think I now have a solid repertoire of voices to inspire just the right reaction. There’s the cloyingly sweet Mom apology voice (“Sorry, kiddo, but I’m still in the video conference, so could you please stop talking”) to encourage quiet play in the home office while you’re working. The Zen-Mom countdown voice (“Make a good decision in three-two-one….”) to inspire the child to do what you want him/her to do. And the Kathy Bates Misery voice (“See what you made me do!”) to induce the child to leave your vicinity immediately.

As I was trying to determine which was the right voice to instill at least five minutes of silence after approximately 900 updates in 30 minutes on the status of the eggs in his Pocket Frogs nursery, I had an epiphany.

Continue reading “The Power of Voice”

Check Your Fear

Using positivity, compassion, and creativity to stay human during a pandemic

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

In the early days of the U.S. reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic, when the concepts of teleworking and schooling from home were still novel, I was amazed by the creative ways in which I saw communities coming together despite the requirements to stay six feet apart. As I wrote about for Homeschooling on the Hudson, I’ve been truly impressed by random acts of kindness neighbors have been practicing. Thanks to social media, the impacts of those actions are magnified, rippling through virtual communities, encouraging others to actions of their own. The creativity and kindness that spilled from human wellsprings across my physical and virtual communities has been nothing short of motivational. I hope you’ve experienced this too!

Now we’re a couple of weeks in, the sheen of our still-new pandemic routines is tarnished, worn by the strain of managing kids and careers, or sheered off by pink slips and bankruptcies. Trying to figure out a way ahead when the only thing in abundant supply is information gaps has the nation treading water. More and more people we know are struggling to keep their heads up – and the fact that there is no clear view of the shore has left many of us deeply afraid. 

Fear is a tricky emotion. We’re taught early that “there’s nothing to be afraid of.” Our kid fears are “only in our imaginations.” Fears are supposed to melt by the light of day and the opening of the closet. The strong among us are supposed to laugh in the face of fear, if they even perceive fear at all. But persistent fear can actually severely disrupt our health, as this 2017 article in the American Journal of Managed Care lays out. Fear and anxiety are also powerful wreckers of mental processing, according the University of Minnesota. 

https://blogs.chapman.edu/wilkinson/2018/10/16/americas-top-fears-2018/

Looking at the 2018 Chapman study on the most prevalent fears in America, it’s not surprising that the COVID pandemic has triggered so many of us: half of the top 10 fears most Americans share are currently at play. Plus, this pandemic impacts all of America in a way little has since the days of mutual assured destruction of the good ‘ole Cold War. Then we had a common enemy to rally against, a tangible foe whom we sought to out-produce, out-patriotism, and out-spend. Today, by contrast, we’re being told to hunker in our homes and await further instruction, which feels more like the nation’s longest duck and cover drill rather than progress. 

Given the circumstances, it’s understandable that people are starting to get snippy. Unfortunately, online forums are tempting outlets for many who feel empowered to type the sorts of comments they’d never make to another human face-to-face. Jesse Fox, Ph.D. explains in Psychology Today the variety of reasons underlying this behavior, including the spiral of silence theory, which essentially boils down to people who perceive themselves in the majority will bully those they perceive as in the minority. 

“The spiral of silence theory suggests that when people think they are in the majority in a certain setting, they will more freely express their opinion than those who see themselves as in the minority, and may fear social ostracism if they express an unpopular opinion.” 

Jesse Fox, Ph.D., Psychology Today 
Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash

Combine the deep-running fears and social distancing that are tied to COVID-19, and you’ve got a potentially toxic result for our online groups, which in some cases spill over into our geographic, communities. Those same forums where people were trying to support each other through these tough times are also now host to virtual finger-pointing and division. Unfortunately, as we all win from random acts of kindness, we all lose from virtual battles, which further people’s anxiety, fear, and sense of isolation. 

“Us versus Them” silos are fearful, closed, hurting and hurtful, paralyzing, negative, and ultimately extremely dangerous to the health -and ultimate survival….”

Duena Blomstrom, Forbes 

While I’m no social scientist, I’ve had some practical training in human psychology, and I’ve lived through my share of high-stress situations. My observations from these experiences are that when our fear is high, some people instinctually revert to an ‘us versus them’ mentality in an effort to order their universe and attempt to gain some control. ‘Them’ becomes the antithesis of all the good that ‘us’ seeks to preserve. By reducing our worldview to two camps, we remove space for middle ground, or creative problem-solving. There is no room for compassion, or for understanding that while ‘us’ suffers, ‘them’ may also be suffering. As Duena Blomstrom put in a Forbes article from 2019, “”Us versus Them” silos are fearful, closed, hurting and hurtful, paralyzing, negative, and ultimately extremely dangerous to the health -and ultimate survival….”

Continue reading “Check Your Fear”

Are You Thankful?

Honoring the heroes of the COVID-19 Pandemic

by Susan Silverman

I’m Grateful.

I’m grateful: to my child’s teachers in supplying daily, inventive ideas to keep her stimulated. Educators are invaluable to a developing child’s mind.

I’m grateful: to my client and bosses who reinforce that my health–and that of my family’s–is priority.

I’m grateful: to Essential Personnel like staff at grocery stores and pharmacies, letter carriers, and trash collectors who put their lives second to making sure we can all have previsions to live day to day.

I’m grateful: to my coworkers who check in with me daily to discuss issues of the day but more importantly to offer a laugh when we all need it.

I’m grateful: to Netflix, Disney+, YouTube, etc., for bringing more television programming than I ever knew possible. You are keeping my toddler immensely happy. (Although I would be happier if you would ban all videos of children playing with toys! Why is my kid so obsessed with that?!?!?!)

I’m grateful: to the news/media who are trying to uncover the truth and relay that information to the public. 

I’m grateful: to my state and local government leadership who recognize that they are the ones making the sometimes hard–but most definitely needed–decisions that effect my local community. 

Finally, I’m grateful: to everyone in the health field, from practitioners to data entry personnel, who are the front lines of this war. You are our heroes! You are those who we are looking to at this unknown and scary time. We–the citizens of the world–cannot survive without your knowledge, patience, care, understanding and expertise. 

Susan Silverman is a guest author on The Space Between who has written about the challenges of being a stay-at-home-mom overseas, and re-entering the workforce. Originally from upstate New York, Susan has bounced between the United Kingdom and Washington, DC for her studies and career, and is presently back in the DC metro area working as a consultant on global health engagement for the U.S. Department of Defense, where she’s been specifically assigned to a team dealing with the U.S. response to COVID-19. 

I don’t normally post mid-week, but unusual circumstances call for unusual measures. And anything that will help lift our spirits, I’m 100% for, so thank you, Susan, for helping us to focus on the positive at this difficult time. And thank you too, for the work that you’re doing to help our nation overcome the challenges of COVID-19!

–Thea

Creating Creativity

How to keep your well from running dry

Photo by Alice Dietrich on Unsplash

As a writer, and a person whose drawing skills maxed out at stick figures (not the cool, funny kind), when someone mentions creativity I immediately start thinking of stories. 

‘What would happen if a leprechaun moved to New York City? Or maybe if a shape shifter came to Earth and could only learn by experiencing what it’s like to be each item in a food chain? Or better yet, let’s combine the two…. NOW we’re getting out of the box!’

If I push myself, I might perhaps consider story structure, and how to creatively approach my leprechaun/shape shifter encounter in way that isn’t just omniscient retelling. 

‘What if the narrator is a jellyfish that can only think in watery thought bubbles in the present tense because it has no temporal lobe? Only it turns out to be an unreliable narrator because it is actually another shape shifter who is dreaming about the future….’

And if I’m feeling very avant garde, I might noodle over poetry and the intersection between structure and prose and story. 

‘…And that jellyfish only thinks in iambic pentameter….’

But then my brain short circuits and I revert to my usual thought patterns, which boil down to how do I get this story out of my brain and onto the virtual paper? 

Did you catch that? My creative efforts fall into ‘usual thought patterns’. That’s just fancy speak for a rut.  

How creative can you be if you’re in a mental rut????  

https://www.reddit.com/r/perfectloops/comments/3i88qw/stuck_in_a_rut/

(Especially if you don’t even realize that you’re in a rut in the first place.)

Enter Embrace Your Weird by Felicia Day – the perfect brain de-rutter. Day’s unique, quirky, upbeat approach to creation pushes you to reexamine various forms of creativity (in addition to yourself and why it is that you tend toward certain creative outlets). One second she’s challenging you to list all the creative endeavors you’ve ever tried –and  then BAM! She demonstrates how being creative in one sphere can unlock creative bursts in other areas – like a giant creative snowball. By the time I was done with her book, I was ready to get back to glass blowing, knitting, and singing. And I could already feel the current of creativity flowing back toward story creation. (The stick figures, though, are still what they are.) 

Another great way to challenge your brain tracks? Get out of your space, physically and mentally. In case you doubt my commitment to this method, I headed to Cleveland to volunteer at an outdoor performance arts festival in February. Yup. Because few thing demand creativity like trying to entice people out of their warm homes to attend a festival in the dead of a lakeside winter. Yet, Brite Winter has become hugely popular over the last decade. It’s gone from an all-volunteer effort cooked up by a couple of community-minded Case Western grad students (my awesome friend Emily Hornack and her awesome friend Jimmy Harris) to a registered charity with a full-time staff; from a three-band, 600-person event to a 40-musical artist, 20,000-person event. (So if you live in the greater Ohio area and haven’t been yet, yes, you ARE in fact missing out.)

Continue reading “Creating Creativity”

The Busy Mom’s Guide to Helpful Writing Resources

Photo by Alexander Dummer on Unsplash

You’ve got an idea that you want to get on paper. Or you know that you always wanted to try writing, but you’re not quite sure where to begin. Maybe you’ve eeked out a draft of something and now you’re trying to figure out what to do with it, but you don’t have the time because your own personal army of small humans, and let’s be honest, probably at least one big human as well, demand so much time – not to mention pets, day jobs, side hustles, etc. What’s a busy mom/would-be writer to do?

Relaxed Basketball Wives GIF By VH1

First, take a breath.

You are not alone. There are so many of us out there, in fact, that social media is clogged with voices. But I don’t need to tell you that. In fact, it’s all a bit overwhelming, amiright? I hear you. I was a skeptic venturing into the virtual world of writerly things, but after a few years scoping it out, there are a few valuable and invaluable resources I return to time and again. 

Before I give up all the goods on the resources I’d like you to know I am not being endorsed by, or receiving any benefit from, any of these sites or organizations. I may be a member, and I’m recommending them because they have provided me with tools that have helped me grow as a writer. With that out of the way, you should also consider that I tend toward sites that help develop my: 

  • Skills as a novelist or blogger
  • Publishing industry knowledge
  • Writing community

Take a moment to articulate in your mind what your writing goals are, both longer term and next steps. If our interests tend to align, then read on and consider if these resources can help you in your writer’s journey. 

GIF By Golden Globes

NaNoWriMo. This is the one that got me to knuckle down and prove I could write a novel. November is their big month, but they have events all year round these days, and lots of good support for writers of all levels. It’s great for skills and community, and for anyone who’s ever wondered if they have what it takes to vomit up 50,000 words (or more) in a semi-coherent format. 

Writer’s Digest is another resource that’s helpful to writers at any stage of development, and regardless of whether you’re working on a non-fiction proposal, poetry, or flash fiction. It’s the one magazine subscription I actually make time to read, plus the organization offers contests, conferences, and online trainings. 

SavvyAuthors is where I go for skill-building training programs. Last year they offered a fantastic mentoring program. They also have a blog, which will accept articles from guest authors, and periodic pitchfests that have helped me identify, and connect with, new agents.

Pitch Wars is another amazing blend of skill- and community building, with the opportunity to win mentorship and then get noticed by top industry agents. Even if you’re not yet ready to enter into the fray, it’s worth checking their website periodically to see what you can learn from others novelist hopefuls. You can also follow #pitchwars on Twitter to further enhance your community.

Speaking of Twitter, if you’re a writer, ignore this social media platform at your own peril! Not only are there vibrant and supportive writing communities out there (#writingcommunity, #writers, #writerslife, #amwriting, #writing) there are agents, tweeting about what they want and don’t want, and when they’re going to be ready for something fresh. There are editors, eager to help you develop your idea, style, or help you fine tune your MS. #Pitchwars is just one of a number of pitch contests – where you tweet 280 characters about your book and agents or editors might request your submission – instantly moving your work out of the slush pile and into an inbox. Even if you aren’t ready to pitch yet, watching #pitmad (or any of several genre specific pitchfests) is a way to see what is out there in your genre, what gets agent attention, and what doesn’t. You can track agents you’re interested in to see what they like during these events, which may help you down the road. 

For those of you more interested in blogging, or building a base of published articles or short stories, check out the Medium Partnership program. Not only does Medium publish a number of articles on writing designed to help you hone your craft, it also offers the opportunity to get published and potentially make some money. Publications for writers include The Writing Cooperative, Writer Mom, and Epilogue. @EpilogueMedium and #writingcooperative are both also active on Twitter, and both Writer Mom and Writing Cooperative have amazingly supportive Facebook groups. 

There are, of course, dozens of other websites and other online resources dedicated to helping you achieve your writerly dreams. So if the few I’ve highlighted here aren’t working for you, just hit the internet search engine of your choice and you’ll likely be amazed at all that pops up. The important thing is to know that you aren’t in this alone. There are so many of us out there, the majority of whom are eager to help you on your journey and to cheer you along the way. The other thing to keep in mind: this is a journey, not a sprint. So take your time. Explore a little bit, get comfortable, and then explore a little bit more. Take it at your pace, and enjoy finding your tribe. 

Happy February!

Cleveland is gray for the entire month of Febuary, so I have to trick myself into staying happy.

Send vitamin D!

Kidding.

Sort of.

This is my last official blog post. What?! It’s true. As I alluded to in my previous post on setting intentions, 2019 was unkind. Sure, there was lots of great stuff – like an amazing trip to visit my brother in Hawaii. Aloha! But, our world was rocked in other ways, and I’m going to take a step back to steady our little ship a bit.

It has been an awesome two years! I’ve had the chance to work with Thea – a great friend and incredible critique buddy. She’s really the brains and discipline behind this show. I never would have ventured into the world of blogging without her encouragement. I never would have stuck with it without her natural drive forward. I’m so grateful to her for this experience.

Thanks to all of YOU who read my ramblings and rants. I hope some were entertaining or helpful. Thank you for leaving comments and likes. It always feels good to know you aren’t posting into emptiness! Thank you for subscribing to our newsletter – we do a little dance with each new subscription. A special thank you to those of you who gave me blog topic ideas at the bus stop – you know who you are!

Continue reading “Happy February!”

Go for it!

What you’ll look like doing #NaNoWriMo 2019

Welcome to November! Just as Julie returns to sporting themes periodically, I seem destined to return to NaNoWriMo around this time every year (see Ready, Steady, NaNo or Eeking out time to write). If you’re not participating in NaNo 2019, don’t x this article out! While NaNo was what got my gears turning, this article is aimed at anyone who’s been wanting to do something creative and new, but hasn’t…yet. To those of you who find yourself thinking, “I’d love to try, but…”, keep reading. 

First, a brief aside; I promise it will all come together by the end. I LOVE NaNoWriMo (in case you hadn’t already figured that out). This is my 7th year participating, though, if I’m being honest, two of those years were total flops. Maybe this year will be a flop too – it’s too early to tell. So, the question is why do I love NaNo so much, especially if I can never be certain if I’m going to be a “winner”? 

It’s because NaNoWriMo is one of those opportunities in life that is ALL win. 

Let me explain. 

Outcome A: You work really hard and you find out that your story only has 40,000 words to it (not the 50K required to ‘win’). YOU WROTE A STORY! A WHOLE STORY! (Ok, at least two-thirds of a story.) That’s amazing! You’ve just birthed art into the world and you’ve exposed a part of your deep dark consciousness to the light. How can that be anything but a win?

Outcome B: You have the best of intentions, but life is overwhelming and you only manage to write 5,000 words of a story that you know is going to be a blockbuster one day, if only you had the time to write it. FANTASTIC! You’ve tapped into that inner muse, the genius of the universe, and as a result you WILL come back to this addictive idea another time. November is a weird month, sandwiched between back to school frenzy and holiday insanity. My kid doesn’t have a single full week of school this entire month. It is NOT the ideal writing month, from my perspective. So give yourself credit for unearthing an award winning idea and allow yourself to be excited about getting back to it in January, February, July, or whenever it is that YOU can make time for it. 

Outcome C:  You write 10,000 words of something that feels totally frivolous. You’re writing in a genre you never thought you’d write in, that maybe you don’t even read in, and you have no idea what you’re doing or where you’re going with it. It has no place to occupy on your short-list of professional goals. WHAT A GIFT!! You just learned something new about yourself. Or maybe you knew, but you’d forgotten and allowing this part to have a little time in the sun feels like a reconnection with yourself. Maybe your brain needed to do something different in order to be able to knuckle back down to the hard tasks you demand of it all the other hours in the day. Whatever the reason, take a moment to honor how it felt, and to reflect that perhaps not every minute of your day needs to be task oriented.

Continue reading “Go for it!”

Sideline Headaches

Photo by Sandro Schuh on Unsplash

When I finished the rough draft for this post, I went to look for other posts I’ve written on youth sports and realized I’ve already written three. Here, here, and here. I considered pivoting and writing about one of the many painful plot points in a writer’s journey, but decided I would feel better if I got this off my chest. So here’s the original rant for your reading pleasure. I’ll save the agony of writing for the next post.

Fall soccer season is almost over and I couldn’t be happier. I need a break. Not from the non-stop driving to practices, the lost uniforms, or the chronic misplacement of water bottles. Nope. What I need a break from is some of the “fans.” Some of the people who are hanging out on the sidelines with me – mostly parents and grandparents – from both teams. It’s their constant shouting at children from our camping chairs that has me wanting to bring a roll of duct tape to the games and use it with reckless abandon. Here are the two things I heard coming out of grown adults’ mouths most often this season:

  1. “That was your ball, Joe!”

This is usually yelled after some poor kid made a mistake or just got beat to the ball by an opponent. Um, Joe knows it was his ball. He’s quite aware that the other kid beat him to it or kicked it away from him…but I’m sure he’s sooooo happy to have his parent pointing it out to him in front of his teammates and the people/strangers on the sidelines. In the middle of the freaking game. Great thinking.

  • “You gotta get there faster, Tom!”

I love this one because it usually comes from a parent or grandparent who couldn’t run up and down the field one time without having a cardiac event. Tom’s well aware he got beat. Having an adult shout at him about it is definitely going to make him faster next time. (Insert eye roll.)

What are we thinking?! Do we think this sort of public correcting or chastising in the middle of a game is going to motivate our kid? It’s not! They aren’t going to want to play anymore if we suck the fun out of the game…because this is supposed to be fun, right?

Continue reading “Sideline Headaches”

Begin. Again.

“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” – Henry Ford

I’ve got a note on the wall in the shower (if you haven’t discovered Aqua Notes, you’re missing out – they will change your life) that reads: 

If you’ve been reading our blog for a while, you’ll know that September was not my month for writerly achievements. It was, in fact, the month I wanted to take a sledgehammer to my laptop, delete all my files from the cloud, and otherwise burn it all down. Which isn’t really my style, generally speaking. Luckily, the phase passed after a few days of self-pity. Then it was time to begin again. To start over. To redefine the way I approached the things that were draining me. 

But where? What should I do differently to ensure I didn’t end up back at the nuclear option?

The act of writing the note was my start.

1 page

1 pound

1 stretch

Begin

It was an exhortation to myself to get moving. It was a new set of goals, and maybe most importantly, it was a reminder to break my goals down into small, achievable pieces.

The idea of setting achievable goals in order to create a cycle of successes isn’t a new one. In fact, it might be THE lesson life has been attempting to teach me in 2019. As usual, though, I’m a slow learner. Despite having encountered this notion in several formats this year, I keep setting goals that lead to frustration. I couldn’t figure out how to reconceptualize the goal-setting process.

Frustrated Head GIF by swerk - Find & Share on GIPHY

Then I had one of those fortuitous visits with a couple I love dearly who have recently achieved dramatic, healthy weight loss.  I’m not exaggerating when I say that they’ve, together, lost as much as I weigh. It’s amazing. And so inspiring. Especially for someone who has stubbornly hung on to the last 10 pounds of baby weight accumulated over six years ago.  I asked my friends how they did it, expecting guidance on apps used, food systems implemented, etc. My mind was blown by the simplicity of my friend’s response. She said that she had never had much success trying to lose 10 pounds or 20 pounds, so she decided to lose ONE pound. And then she did it again. And again. And again. It was a success she repeated so often that it became habit. 

THIS is the lesson the universe has been trying to teach me! One pound. I can lose one pound. Even if it is one pound of die-hard, stick to your hips baby weight. I can totally do one.

Continue reading “Begin. Again.”

On Raising a Writer

Photo by David Pennington on Unsplash

If you love to write, it’s natural that you want (and maybe expect) your kids to love writing. Totally misguided, but natural. I think I’ve raised all three of my boys the same way when it comes to reading and writing, but there have been drastically different results. Because they are their own persons with their own interests and gifts. The nerve, right? Anyway, I still stand by some of the techniques below because they’ve helped each of the boys, albeit in different ways. So, if you’re looking for some help with your reluctant writer or you want to encourage your budding Stephen King, check these out…

  1. Read.

Yes, the same advice that was given to you when you first expressed an interest in becoming a writer. Read. Everything. For kids, that translates into reading aloud often and exploring different genres with them. One of my kiddos didn’t read independently until age seven. As we encouraged him to learn his stinking sight words, we continued reading aloud every night. We took books on CD in the car and made sure he had a little CD player so he could listen to them on his own, too. By fostering the love of story, you can expose them to the parts of a story, dialogue, and characters. All things that are good foundation for when they are writing themselves.

We recently started picking up PlayAways at our library and they love them! Check to see if your library carries them!

2. Take Dictation

I let all three kids dictate stories to me when they were too young to write. You can fold some paper in half and – to everyone’s delight – get out the stapler. The most exotic of all office supplies. Or you can buy some of these. Whatever works. As they told me their story, I would stop them now and then to ask a question with great interest. What happened next?  Was anyone with the mechanical robot bunny? How did that make the monster feel? It becomes a bit of a conversation. You’re getting more details and helping to build their story. In our case, it helped if I didn’t censor much. They felt free to be as imaginative as they wanted.  So, there were lots of farting, mechanical robot bunny defeating the three-headed monster stories.

Continue reading “On Raising a Writer”