Subtraction

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I had almost two weeks off over Christmas.  It was amazing.  I had time to relax.  I got to put the kids to bed at night, lingering over books and singing silly songs.  I let them stay up late to go sledding or watch Christmas cartoons with me.  I tidied.  I crafted.  I had a bubble bath before curling up in bed with a book or my journal.

The past few weeks haven’t been like that at all.  I hesitate to call them “normal”, between my surgery, weeks of sickness for Nathan, Topher, and Ellie, and my sister’s visit with her six kids – but I suppose all that craziness is normal at this stage of life!

I’m also back to work.  I usually work five days a week – sometimes six.   I enjoy working.  I like my job, I like being able to contribute financially – but lately I feel worn out.  Like I’m doing too much, juggling too many balls.

Lately I find myself unable to sleep at night because my mind won’t shut off.  I find myself thinking about a time before – back when things were more simple, back when I had all the time in the world.  I hate being so busy.  I can’t hear myself, never mind God.  I wonder if it’s just the phase of life … But this is not the life that I want, and I don’t know how much longer I can keep going at this whirlwind pace.

WHEN THINGS DON’T ADD UP, START SUBTRACTING.

I saw that on Pinterest and I can’t get it out of my head.  But what can I subtract?

* * * *

A few months ago I wrote a “Working From Home Tips & Tricks” post focussing on setting goals and setting limits.  I left it up for about two days before I deleted it – not because anything I said was wrong, but because I didn’t feel I should be sharing a post about the importance of balance in your work/home life when it wasn’t something I was actually living out.

I have two jobs:

1.  I own my own transcription company and work part-time as a contractor, transcribing medical documents.   I typically work five evenings a week, from 6-10 p.m. – but that varies, depending on how busy it is.  Some weeks I might work two days a week, some weeks I might not work at all.  Since October, though, I’ve been working at least six days a week most weeks due to staff changes and hiring freezes.  I appreciate the money – we’re so close to being able to buy a house! – but it’s mind numbing.  And exhausting.  And I feel like I barely see my husband, even if he is in the same room, because I’m always working in the evenings.

2.  I’m a freelance writer.  I wish writing paid more because this is the job that fuels me!  I write as time permits, which hasn’t been much lately, what with my other job being so busy.  I’m actually relieved that my transcription job might soon be ending, since the main office I contract for is switching to voice recognition software.  Sure, it’ll be a huge hit financially – but I’ll have time to write more, and that makes me excited!

* * * *

Because I feel called to write.  My thoughts are so scrambled right now, but I feel like writing – sharing stories – is my way to connect with others.   I’m not entirely sure how, exactly, to do that, but I’m sure if I can find the time to breathe, relax, LISTEN – I’ll figure it out.

Getting Gutsy

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For me, 2014 was the year of the written word.

It’s the year I started writing in earnest:   I wrote articles on rain rot, hoof abscesses, blanketing, biosecurity, dentition, cribbing and Newfoundland ponies.  I wrote personal essays on motherhood, courage, faith, perseverance, and identity.  I made it a priority to write regular letters to my mother, grandmother and sister on the other side of the country.   I wrote love letters to my husband.  I wrote in my journal, I wrote on my blog.

But the most gutsy writing I did all year happened on January 3, 2014, after weeks of careful contemplation:

“Please accept my resignation effective immediately. As you know, I had my second child in March and I have decided that I will not be returning to work after my maternity leave.

Thank you for the opportunities for professional and personal development that you have provided me during the past six years. I have enjoyed working for the Board and appreciate the support provided me during my time with the company.

Sincerely,

Holly B.”

* * * *

I thought about quitting my job at least once a day every day beginning on May 14, 2010.

That’s the day my son was born.  I knew I wanted to stay at home with him – I didn’t want to miss his first word, his first step, his first anything  – but quitting my job wasn’t an option.  I had student loans, my husband had a car loan, and we had a mortgage.

So we arranged childcare, and I went back to work.

My daughter was born almost three years later, on March 12, 2013.  I thought by that point I would be happy – or at least settled! – in my role as a working mom, but after two years, it still wasn’t where I wanted to be.  As the days turned into weeks and the weeks turned into months, I knew without a doubt that I wanted to stay home with my children at the end of my maternity leave.

My  husband and I crunched the numbers.  We budgeted, we saved, we paid off our loans – and on January 3, 2014 I submitted my formal resignation letter.

It was terrifying.

I went from having a comfortable office job with a very good salary to working from home, struggling to balance my time between tea parties with teddy bears and writing enough articles to buy the english cucumber for their tiny sandwiches.

Some days I felt like a bad mom – usually on the days when I was trying to be a stay at home mom and a work at home mom at the exact same time.   I learned to set office hours for myself, but office hours are nearly impossible to enforce when your “office” is simply a desk in the corner of the kitchen!

And some days I felt like a bad wife.  When you work for yourself, your work is never, ever, ever, ever, ever done.   I always feel like there’s something else I should be doing – another interview I should be setting up, another article I should be pitching.  On the rare evenings my husband and I were both home and he wanted to do something relaxing  like watch a movie or a TV show, more often than not I turned him down because I felt like I had to work.

A year later I  still struggle to find that balance between my role as a wife and mother and my role as a writer.  Some days involve very little sleep and an awful lot of hustle!

It hasn’t been easy – yet I’m the happiest that I have ever been.

And I think that’s what being gutsy is all about.   It means taking the steps you need to take to live the life that you want to live – even if it is hard.

Or terrifying.

It means letting your faith be bigger than your fear. 

 

Getting gutsy is all about stepping outside your comfort zone to reach your goals and live a life that makes you truly happy. This post is my entry for Jessica Lawlor’s Get Gutsy Essay Contest. To get involved and share your own gutsy story, check out this post for contest details and download a free copy of the inspiring Get Gutsy ebook.

Wrestling With a Dream

I woke up in a cold sweat last night.

I dreamt that I had sent an e-mail to the entire congregation of our church – and had included a link to my blog in my signature.

It took a few minutes for the panic to subside.

It’s okay … It was just a dream … It didn’t really happen …. 

Whew. 

But I still couldn’t fall asleep.

Why the panic?

* * * * *

I’ve been blogging since before blogging was a “thing”.  Back then we called it a “weblog” and you typed your entries in your index.html file and uploaded it manually every single time you wanted to update.

I blogged to have a voice.  I was a quiet kid growing up in a small town.  Everybody knew who I was and there were certain expectations that came with my last name.   I don’t know that I had anything to say, really, apart from the usual teenage angst and stories about boys I was too afraid to talk to – but writing was therapeutic.  It helped me figure out who I was and who I wanted to be.

Then, when I was in university, my sisters stumbled upon my blog.

Again, it was before blogging was really a “thing” – before everybody and their dog had a blog – and of course my sisters thought I was crazy to share so much of my life on the internet.  My oldest sister was paranoid and my middle sister was downright mean.  She actually called me “Holly.Com” for awhile (and by awhile, I mean more than two years!)

I didn’t have my own computer when I moved out west and I didn’t have much money so I let the domain and hosting lapse.

I was tired of being Holly.Com …

But I missed blogging more.

So I bought back my domain and started writing in this space again.

* * * * *

Writing has always been an intensely personal thing for me, which is odd given the fact that I’m a blogger.  I have no issue sharing my deepest thoughts with strangers but I shudder at the thought of someone I know stumbling across my little corner of the internet.

And I have no idea why.

I have a handful of offline friends who read my blog.  Granted, it’s an Ellie-sized handful, but still.  They’ve been nothing but kind, nothing but supportive – but I’m still afraid.

I think it’s because I’m more open in this space than I am in real life.

I share what I’m thinking, what I’m feeling, what I’m learning.

And there’s no time for that in real life.

* * * * *

I want to be brave with my writing.

I want to be open, I want to be honest, and I want to be vulnerable.  I want to encourage and inspire others …

But most of all I just want to be brave.

When Mom Is a Writer

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When I was in high school, my mom wrote a book about parenting.  I was proud of her – I thought it was great that she was a writer!

Then the book was published, and I realized that every chapter contained an anecdote about my sisters and me.  She was nice enough to change our names, but I grew up in a small town so everyone who read it knew exactly who she was writing about.

It’s not such a big deal now but when I was in high school, I really didn’t want everyone in my class to know that when I was three I would only go potty when I was wearing my cowboy boots or that I had an imaginary horse until I was eleven!  (My parents  should have fulfilled my request for a real one much sooner than that!)

Lately I’ve been wondering if I share too much in this space.  I’ve been blogging for a long time – I actually started my first blog when I was in junior high.  It’s always been my way to document life.  The teenage angst years, struggling with my faith, falling in (and out) of love with the boy I thought was perfect, moving across the country to start over.   When Topher was born it only seemed natural that I document his life too, and then Ellie’s.

But things are different now.  Topher starts school in the fall, and I don’t want to broadcast his life all over the internet anymore.  (Maybe I’ll just broadcast it all over Twitter? Hmm …)  I’m still debating whether or not Ellie is fair game!

So things may be changing a little bit around here.  Less writing about my kids and more writing about me:  My thoughts, my faith, my life, my story.

I hope you’re willing to stick around while I figure it out!

And yes, I did just share a picture of myself on the potty on my blog.  I was rocking some sweet boots!

I Blame the Internet.

journal

I haven’t been writing lately.

I blame the internet.

When I sit down to write I almost always end up on a rabbit trail where I  discover a blog post or article on the exact topic I was planning to write about, presented in such a creative way and written so well that I automatically think “I could never do that!”

So I don’t write.

And when I do write, I find myself caught in the list of dos and don’ts.  If you’ve blogging for any length of time, I’m sure you know what I mean: Formula writing.  Post this often. On these topics.  Don’t talk about this.  Learn to take pictures like this.  

Sometimes I feel like the internet destroys my creativity.

So I’ve taken a step back and made my world smaller.   I’ve deleted some blogs from my Feedly account and become much more selective about who I do add to my reader.  And Twitter.  And Facebook …

I’ve started writing more in my paper journal, where I can scribble and scratch out and draw loops and arrows and squiggles to my heart’s content.

And it’s been refreshing.

I don’t spend an hour on the computer getting frustrated. I write what I want to write until it’s the way I want it, then I close my book and that’s it.  No thoughts about comments or readership or who I might offend.

It’s been nice to get back to the basics.

The beginning.

The writing.