When Thea suggested I write a piece on planning for summer, similar to this one from last year, I was all for it until I sat down to write it and realized I had no idea what I was going to do with the kids this summer…
I want to write, I want them to have fun, and I still don’t
want them to experience “summer slump”: the backward slide in academic gains
from the previous school year. It’s important to me that they spend enough time
using their brains over the summer so August back-to-school isn’t too painful.
Things have changed, though. When they were younger, I had weekly themes and
math manipulatives and stacks of picture books…I was in my element! Now that
they are older, what does avoiding the summer slide look like? Here’s my first
attempt at figuring that out.
Yes, our library has an awesome summer reading program, but my youngest was the only one “into” it last year. The other guys read a lot, they just weren’t eager to sticker-chart their reading. I need a fresh take on reading this summer. I’m thinking I’ll have them give reviews for the books they read on video and then send the videos to their cousins or friends (just over my phone). They love making videos and it will be a way to .incorporate technology that doesn’t involve a game controller…because they can’t have screens until 4pm in the summer. Yes, there’s always initial resistance to this rule, but after a few days they get on board with it and they find other things to do during the day. We’ll probably have a weekly trip to the library to keep a fresh selection of books, too.
For previous summers they all had a spiral notebook “journal” that they had to write in before they were allowed to go cause trouble in the neighborhood. Just like with the technology rule, there was always an initial protest, but after a few days, it became part of the routine. I have to make a change this summer, though. Camps start at 8am or 9am and we’re busy grabbing sports equipment and yelling at each other…there’s not really time for journaling before we have to be on the road. I think I’m going to move writing time to right before they’re allowed to do tech. Yes, one last hurdle before brain rot! I’m sure there will be protests, and perhaps rioting, but I bet they’ll write in order to play their favorite video games.
Today we’re welcoming Diana Calvo to The Space Between! We have focused on mental health with a few of our previous guest bloggers, and we come back to this important topic today. Diana is a life transition coach and co-author of Amazon International Bestseller “Expect Miracles“. You can read her full bio here. In her article, she shares thoughts on healing ourselves and a technique parents can use to identify their own triggers. Diana also happens to be Julie’s friend since third grade. Yes, she has stories! We hope you enjoy her insights below…
The New York Times published an article about teaching mindfulness at school, as
one method for dealing with mental health issues in children. The article got
me thinking about children and mental health, and more specifically, my own
mental health as a child. I can’t help but wonder how having access to
mindfulness teachings might have changed the course of my life.
at school is one thing, but what excites me more for the future of children’s
mental health is the idea of a parent dealing with her own mental health
issues, and appropriately discussing her experience with her children. Breaking
the cycle, in other words. If a parent is also willing to explore his
spirituality – whatever that might look like – and share that experience with
his children, we’ve now identified the most impactful formula there is for
leaving our children a world that is better than the one we were born into.
Mental health plus spirituality is a powerful force for healing.
not a parent, but I am a child of parents with mental health issues, and I know
from my own experience how devastating my mother’s narcissism and my father’s
personality were on my own emotional development and mental health. Before I
began my own journey of healing, I spent a lifetime – 40+ years – in a state of
suffering related to the subconscious choices I made, and beliefs I adopted,
while I was in their care. A combination of psychology and spirituality has
been my personal path to liberation from this trauma. Today I’m deeply
interested in the alleviation of suffering, and that’s why the mental health of
children, and their parents, is of interest to me.
One time, in the context of a healing circle, I had the privilege of witnessing the mother of a newborn baby girl expose some of her fears about parenting. A lot was happening with the baby that the mother didn’t understand. She believed she needed to have all the answers, and then felt inadequate when she didn’t. A discussion followed: What if the baby didn’t really need a mother who had all the answers? What if the baby would benefit more from having a mother who was willing to sit beside her own fear, rather than run from it? What kind of woman would this little girl grow up to be if she was exposed to an adult who was skilled at coping with uncertainty?
Continuing our effort to spotlight parents who are also pursing creative endeavors, this week we’re talking to Amanda Russell, a poet whose debut chapbook, BARREN YEARS, is coming out in June. Amandais a native East Texan who has been writing poetry for over 15 years. Currently, she lives in New York’s Hudson Valley with her husband and two children.
Congratulations on the upcoming publication of your first chapbook BARREN YEARS from Finishing Line Press. How long did you work on this collection of poetry?
The earliest poem in this collection is “Sonogram (16 weeks).” It was written in 2010. I started to envision this bundle of poems in 2012 when I wrote the poem “Barren Years.” I have been working on this collection since then, so for six years.
How are you feeling about seeing it finally in print?
Ecstatic! To be a writer has been my dream as long as I can remember.
What inspired this collection?
This collection started coming together when I worked in a writing lab as a tutor. I had just graduated, gotten married, worked at Barnes & Noble. I had been struggling to find my path and then my spiritual father challenged me to make it a practice, to write every day. That was the start of what I began calling my “writing experiment.” On the way home from work I would stop at the grocery store – it had a really cool back patio – and I liked the feel of it, so I would stop there and keep my pen moving for 20 minutes. Several things came from that practice, including many of the poems in the book. Sometimes I’d just be writing “I have nothing to say, nothing to say, nothing to say,” and I wasn’t writing with any specific goal other than to write. But sometimes I’d have a topic. I continued it for three years, and then I’ve been off and on with it since my first child was born. And whenever I start writing again after a dry spell, that’s the method I go back to.
BARREN YEARS covers a span of about five years of my life. The writing started out as just my own personal processing of these events. The most obvious event covered in Barren Years is miscarriage. I was 22, newly married, and pregnant with twins when it happened. I was completely devastated. I had never felt such a deep sense of grief, guilt, and loss. It caught me by surprise and I had no idea what do with it. I kept thinking I should be able to snap out of it. But I couldn’t.
According to the Mayo Clinic, miscarriage effects up to 20 percent of known pregnancies. That percentage goes up as women age. Common convention that I heard regularly after my miscarriage was that it impacts 1 in 4 women. Had you heard these statistics before your personal experience? What do you think of this information now?
I had no idea about the statistics. I felt so alone, and didn’t even have the words to talk to anyone about what had happened to me. I didn’t know if other people had experienced this same thing, this same guilt. In fact, I came across the same data in a middle of the night internet search after the miscarriage. The first time I read it, I remember being shocked. And since then, I have been friends with many women who have also experienced miscarriage. Now I just wonder, why it is that the topic is not discussed more openly? Why do we isolate ourselves and suffer alone?
How did you feel as you were going through the miscarriage and the time after? What sort of support were you able to draw on to help you through this tough time?
As I was going through the miscarriage, I was drawing immediate support from my husband, as well as other members of my family – especially my mom and mother-in-law. But it was hard because I found myself unable to talk about it. I started sleeping with a Care Bear every night. I often carried it around the house when my husband was at work. I cried a lot. It took me quite some time to realize I was grieving and therefore needed to be patient with myself. I wanted to snap out of it, but couldn’t. I realized I needed something to take care of, so my dear friend, Linda, taught me gardening. Taking care of my plants, together with writing and many long talks with some of my spiritual guides helped me through. It took me a good five years to begin feeling like myself again.
Many women struggle with feelings of guilt on top of their grief, feeling they must have done something ‘wrong,’ when, in fact, most miscarriages are the result of a chromosomal abnormality that occurs early in the pregnancy and is in no way preventable. The fact that it’s often a taboo topic means, however, that women struggle with these difficult emotions in isolation. What was your experience like? Was guilt a part of it?
The hardest thing for me was the lack of explanation and the helplessness of not being able to reverse it. I also felt a sort of distrust in my own body – how could this have happened without my consent? This was not my intention.
During the pregnancy I had a very hard time adjusting to all the changes that occur in the body – low energy levels, suddenly not liking things I’d loved – like apples – the changing shape of my body. I felt judged by people who had advised me to get on birth control before getting married when I desired a more natural approach to life. So, yes – the guilt. Was I not happy enough about being pregnant? Maybe I should’ve taken birth control? Maybe I would not have been a good mother? If only I had done….
The guilt was definitely there, and it was huge. And for me, at least, it lingered on until over the years I pieced together my innocence and worked through my grief.
That is such a powerful phrase “pieced together my innocence.” Can you elaborate on that and tell us how you did it?
I had so much guilt. I had so many questions. Did I do something wrong? And no one had any answers. But over the years, the pieces of information came together really slowly, and finally I was able to see the picture in retrospect and I was able to come to internalize that my intentions were always good and the miscarriage wasn’t my fault. There was not anything inherently bad inside of me. But I had to do a lot of self-work to get to know myself better. I had to do a lot of work to know that the miscarriage was not my fault.
We’re excited to share this interview with Christina Tucker Wise! Julie met Christina through Pitch Wars in 2017 when they were both mentees. Pitch Wars is a mentoring program where published/agented authors are matched with writers to help prepare the writers for an agent showcase. Christina’s novel, EYE OF GODS, is coming out later this year! Christina is also a documentary writer, producer, and a mom of two. You can read her full bio here.
In our effort to spotlight people who are parenting and pursuing creative endeavors, we thought you’d enjoy reading some background on Christina’s projects and how she manages her time. She also shares a bit about a new card game, Blinders, that she and her husband created for anyone who loves wine. Win! They will also start their own streaming service this summer which will feature both educational and entertaining videos on food and wine. They’ll be starting their own streaming service this summer and will feature both educational and entertaining videos on food and wine. Thanks for taking time for an interview, Christina!
You have a broad range of experiences in creative fields. What’s your background and how did it lead to your creative projects?
I went to school for Broadcast Journalism with the intention to be
a reporter but found a passion for crafting the stories behind the camera. I
started out my career in live sports, then moved over to celebrity news and
covering red carpets for TV Guide Network. There I got to try many formats of
television from hour-long specials, to quick news hits, to live TV. I realized
I liked longer forms and really getting into the background of a subject.
That’s also where I gained the confidence to write. I had a wonderful mentor
who now writes for Ryan Seacrest. While that was my day job, in the evenings my
husband and I made “Somm”, a documentary that follows four guys trying to become
Master Sommeliers of wine.
The same year our documentary came out, 2013, another company
bought TV Guide and they let me go. At the time we had a 10-month-old baby. So
I decided if I was going to work and be away from her, I wanted to do things I
really loved, which was documentaries and writing.
You and your husband, Jason, have written and produced documentaries together including Wait for Your Laugh, SOMM, and SOMM 3 What does your creative collaboration look like?
First, Jason and I both work together to come up with our initial
concept for any film. Then he goes out and films with our subjects and half of
what we envisioned changes completely. We have two girls and really want to
keep some stability at home so he’s on set 100% of the time and I only make it
when it’s a really important shoot or it’s daytime hours in Los Angeles where
we live. Then I take whatever happened on set and write a script, then we both
hash through the material in the edit bay until we get a cut we like.
Wait for Your Laugh, a documentary of the life and entertainment career of Rose Marie, received numerous positive reviews and won the Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature at Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival. Do you have a favorite memory of working with Rose Marie?
This project was one of my favorite stories to tell. I’m a sucker for a good love story and her and her husband Bobby had a really sweet one that ended too soon. So I gravitated toward that aspect while my husband liked all of her mob connections. During the three-year process, we became very close with her and often would go visit just to see her, not for any work reason. She gave great life advice and told us not to stress about the little things we often do stress about. When I was pregnant with my second daughter, we went over and told her and said the baby’s due in September. She shook her head and said, “Nope, that baby will come in August. She’ll be an August baby like me.” Sure enough, she came almost a month early in August. We named her Madeline Marie in honor or Rose Marie.
Rose Marie was able to share a lot of memorabilia with you. How did that help with your writing? Did anything surprise you?
I miss the working world. Plain and simple. Sure, being a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM) has been rewarding: I’ve been able to witness my child evolve on a daily basis. But since my first day of maternity leave, I have missed—no, I think the word is ached—for the professional world. That was two-plus years ago. I have been out of the professional game for that long and I’m freaked out that no employer in my field will want me. Why? Because research by the Center for Talent Innovation shows that only 73% of highly qualified women who wanted to return to work were able to do so, and just 40% of those landed a regular full-time job.
And you wonder why I’m freaked out about not finding a job?!?! I’m already starting with people perceiving me negatively. Or even worse, not even perceiving me at all.
As much as I’m aching to go back to the working world, I am filled with dread. No matter what I read about companies touting their reputations of wanting to hire SAHMs, or others who took a break from the professional world, I firmly believe this is a crock of bologna. A Harvard Business Journal articlebacks up my gut feeling. In a study that kept popping up all over the internet, Kate Weisshaar, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill found that, “The results show just how heavily parents reentering the workforce are penalized for their career gap: 15.3% of the employed mothers, 9.7% of the unemployed mothers, and 4.9% of the stay-at-home mothers received a callback.”
But even more telling, Weisshaar
found that people viewed both unemployed applicants and stay-at-home applicants as less capable than continuously employed applicants, perhaps thinking their skills had become rustier while they were not working. Respondents viewed stay-at-home parents as less reliable, less deserving of a job, and — the biggest penalty — less committed to work, compared with unemployed applicants.
Weisshaar, “Stay-at-Home Moms Are Half as Likely to Get a Job Interview as Moms Who Got Laid Off.” Harvard Business Review, 22 Feb 2018.
Gap on your resume: So, do I include this two-plus year gap on my resume or not? The jury is split on this one. Some suggest a “functional” resume format, which allows individuals to play up skills and downplay dates and gaps, `a la this Monster.com article. However, others recommend against this as hiring managers may perceive it as “hiding something.” Others advocate listing the time as SAHM on your resume, complete with skills – like multitasking, budgeting, operating under pressure – that comes with full-time parenting, but some hiring managers strongly recommend against this, even demeaning it as ‘cutsie.’ For myself, I’ve decided not to include the gap or even mention parenting on my resume. Rather, in cover letters and interviews I will highlight:
Our family’s decision to live overseas, with all its benefits
Regular engagement with former contacts
That I continued to read up on developments in my field
Volunteer work I’ve done
Know your strengths:I recently had the opportunity to sit down with two of my favorite mentors/bosses, or as I prefer to call them, “she-ros”, to discuss strategies. They both said that I need to know my strengths so I know what to play up in networking and interviews; and as former supervisors, they are the perfect ones to point out my strengths. They held up a mirror that allowed me to better appreciate what I would be good at, which will help me in my search. By asking the question, they also helped me prepare for a favorite interview question: “What are your strengths?” Best of all, former bosses who understand your strengths make for great references.
Network, Network, Network: During these years away, I regularly emailed my former colleagues, clients and contacts. It was just to keep me in the minds of these people, kind of like me waving a loud “Hi! Remember me?!?!?!” In many of these emails I remind people that I’ll be coming back in the summer of 2019 and will be job hunting. If you haven’t networked or kept in contact with people, start with friends and family members. Let them know you are looking—be as specific as possible regarding what you are looking for. See who they know.
In addition, I updated my LinkedIn profile regularly to show contacts, recruiters, and potential employers that I am still actively tracking the field. If you aren’t familiar with LinkedIn, think of it of a 21st century Rolodex (and if you don’t know what a Rolodex is, hit up Dr. Google). I include articles that are of interest to others in my field and regularly comment on other contacts’ postings. I want them to know I’m still here and have value to add.
While writing this I stumbled upon The Mom Project. Its tag line, “we’re committed to helping women remain active in the workforce in every stage in their journey,” is a LinkedIn-esque website for Fortune 500 companies and women who want to work for them. What a great idea! Time to create a profile.
A Job is a Job: One of my she-ros reminded me that she took an interim job at a retail store after leaving a job without having a new one lined up. She had a very difficult time finding a job that was fit for her, as she is a top brass in her field. For us Type As, that’s a hard one on the ego. But, she said it was one of the best times she had. She successfully balanced part-time work and job hunting/networking. And, money is money; every little bit helps. Especially if you’re facing the chicken/egg conundrum of exorbitant child-care costs.
So I’ve read the advice, I’ve got a plan, and still I am terrified about this search. The statistics are against me getting a job, in my field, at my level, at my salary grade. It drives me insane to know that in the 21st century we are still having to address the penalties of balancing motherhood with the professional world. So, dear reader, wish me luck! I will keep you updated of my search and any other tips I come across.
I am amazed by, and thankful for, Susan’s article on the biases parents face when they try to re-enter the workforce. Even as I am grief-stricken to learn how much bias is still out there. Even as I wonder, why haven’t more boutique career placement services, organizations like The Mom Project but keyed to geographical or functional economies, popped up to serve the market of women with amazing skills seeking to bring those skills back to the workplace? Good luck, Susan – and keep us informed! And to the rest of you, if you’ve made the leap back into a career and want to share your story, or if you see interesting data about the back-to-work challenges SAHPs face, or if you know of groups seeking to address this gut-punch bias, please, please share it with us! Share the links in the comments here, or stick the articles to our Facebook page.
Thank you, Susan, for all of your research. I know it sounds cutesy, but man, it would be great to explain to prospective employers how your multi-tasking abilities improved whilst shopping at Target with toddlers – how you got everything on the list, kept screaming tots amused with dollar bin finds, and managed to have a 30 second conversation with another mom in passing. The next sales meeting with President Cranky Pants will be a walk in the park! My friends who have returned to the workforce after stepping away to raise kids for a while have had a broad range of experiences with getting back in. Some of them more discouraging than others. But, parenthood has shown us how resilient and creative we are – and I look forward to hearing more about your experience, Susan. You’re gonna be someone’s she-ro!
Can you believe it’s been a year already since our little community began to coalesce? And WHAT a year! We’ve pondered issues of identity, mental health, advocacy, and intentionality. We’ve strategized on how to manage technology’s impact on our kids, set up a successful summer camp schedule, and achieve your writing/revision goals. We’ve celebrated the seasons and shared tips for surviving the holidays. We’ve been buoyed by guest bloggers and touched by hearing from you about the issues that impact your lives.
The common thread that strings our articles together has been our desire to support and grow a community of individuals busy raising kids while at the same time trying to find time and space for creativity. This year, we’d really like to grow the community aspect of this endeavor. We value each and every comment we receive on our website. You have no idea how much happy dance goes on every time one of you writes us a comment there. (Want proof? Write a comment, particularly a comment telling us what you want to see more of from the Space Between in 2019, and Thea will video a happy dance and post it back – use #proof in your comment to get the dance.)
We get that some folks just don’t feel comfortable posting to a blog space. We also understand that social media is much more in your face daily than our little site. We know because social media is also way more in our faces than our little site. “If you can’t beat ‘em…” as the old saying goes. So you’ll find that we’re upping our Facebook activity. Perhaps you noticed even in the last week that we’ve been posting a number of articles that relate to Julie’s latest post on implementing your words for 2019. We would be delighted – we would do more happy dances – if you would join our Facebook community (if you haven’t already) and post your thoughts on the articles we’re sticking to that wall. In fact, consider our locker your locker, and feel free to stick up articles that you’ve found, or questions/tips/funny memes (Thea particularly loves a good meme) on the site. We want it to be a community site. Our intention for 2019 is to take the Space Between from a website designed to support you to a community where we support each other.
You might also notice we’re shifting from publishing a new article on the website every week to every other week. We’re taking it down a notch while we focus on community engagement. You’ll still find guest bloggers (there’s a great one coming up at the end of January!). You’ll still find advice and insights and musings. Tell us what you want (see happy dance promise above) – either on the Facebook page or here on the website – and we’ll do our level best to serve it up.
Thanks for helping us grow and connect in 2018! Here’s to continuing our journey together in 2019!
Have you forgotten about your word and all those good intentions?
(It’s January 6th already, I understand.)
Here are a few tips on how to keep your word alive all year.
1. Post it. Duh. We’ve been over this, but it bears repeating. Post it where you can see it. Got a vision board? Post it on top of the board. Or, you could make a new vision board for the year. Check out our Pinterest board for some ideas on that.
2. Brainstorm what you want this word to look like in your life. There’s a reason it resonated with you, right? We can use the word “restore” as an example. How are you going to translate that word? Do you have goals around that word? Maybe one thing you want to restore is your physical fitness. What do you want the end goal to be? Exercising 4 times a week? Running a 5K? Doing your first triathalon? And maybe you want to “restore” connections with old friends. You can apply your word to lots of areas. Once you figure out the goal or why you are drawn to this word, you can break it down to baby steps over the year. Which leads me to #3…
3. It’s time to map your word over the year 2019. STOP! Here’s where you have to acknowledge that this may, in fact, all blow up in your face. You can make all these awesome plans and then life happens. Unforeseen circumstances can take your year in a direction you never expected or wanted. SO, don’t stress this part. Keep it loose, knowing life is full of surprises. Here goes…
“More” is a lure. It’s the tantalizing bait always catching the eye. For me, it’s not so much about stuff as it is about all the things I want to do. There’s just so much great experience to be gained, in so many different flavors. Creative. Athletic. Musical. Social. Natural. Service-oriented. Friendship-based. Family-centered. If each event or activity is like a scoop of ice cream, then sign me up for the triple banana split! Not only is it sure to be yummy, but by opting for ALL of it, I don’t have to go through the painful process of choosing.
Never mind that I really can’t eat a triple banana split. Never mind that even trying is sure to lead to other forms of discomfort.
One of several books I’m reading right now (see, I can’t even limit my reading selection to a single scoop) is The Book of Joy by Douglas Abrams. In it, the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu share their thoughts on how to lead a joyful existence. Unsurprisingly, both mention gratitude for what we have as being a key factor in lasting joy. Recognizing when we have “enough” is the trick here. Abrams writes,
“Yet scientists have found that the more we experience any pleasure, the more we become numb to its effects and take its pleasures for granted. The first bowl of ice cream is sublime, the second bowl tasty, and the third causes indigestion.”
I’ve got life experience to back up Abrams’ metaphor. My first job back in high school was at the local ice cream shop. The owner, bless her, allowed us to liberally sample the products free of charge. I can therefore attest, there is a point where “more” – even just one bite – tips over into “too much.” (Sorry, Lorna – and thank you for this and many more valuable life lessons!)
Sometimes the effect of this indulgence is as temporary as indigestion, but sometimes too much can turn you off of something completely. I rarely eat ice cream to this day – and it’s got to be a pretty special flavor to pique my interest.
For me, the sweet hook of “more” has always been the potential missed opportunity. My brain paints visions of the joy an activity could bring in the nanoseconds it takes to contemplate whether to take my child to visit Eggbert the talking Christmas Egg, or if I should set my alarm to get up early to meditate. The thought of my child smiling with the surprise of holiday magic, or of myself, calm and centered at the start of the day – how could I possibly miss these opportunities to better our lives?
The talented Rajani LaRocca‘s debut middle grade novel, MIDSUMMER’S MAYHEM, will be available on June 4, 2019. She was able to reveal the cover art for her book this week and it’s awesome! (As you can see.) Rajani subscribes to The Space Between and we just HAD to share. It’s beautiful! You can read about her novel here. You can also check out a great blog post she wrote for #MGBookVillage about being a writer AND a doctor here. Pre-order your copy of MIDSUMMER’S MAYHEM at any of the links below!
And now back to your regularly scheduled blog post…
2019: What’s Your Word?
I know we’re all in holiday survival mode right now and the last thing on the radar is 2019, but I thought I’d throw this out there for you to tuck away in the non-holiday recesses of your mind. Also, I need a break from the writing, and then the immediate losing, of holiday to-do lists. So, this topic is the perfect distraction for me.
If you haven’t heard of choosing your word for the year, I’ll give you a brief overview: After much soul searching and evaluation of your current life trajectory, you pick a word that will be like a battle cry as you race into the new year. A battle cry that encourages you and reminds you of your goals. It’s just that simple and just that difficult.