Losing mommywithacape.com

Monday, April 7, 2014

According to the e-mails I keep getting from Google Admin I will be losing my domain name, mommywithacape.com, any day now. 

I’ve spend a good 4 hours trying to figure out how to auto-renew the domain name but alas, it has not worked.  It might have something to do with the fact that when I registered the name I didn’t set up an admin page with google or if I did I have no idea how to get back into it.  I’ve tried every conceivable way to get this fixed but I’m now making peace with not having the easy “.com” domain name.

My blog will not go away, it will just be a little harder to type in because of the “blogspot.com” at the end.  So you’ll still be able to find me at “mommywithacape.blogspot.com.”  

Also, I wanted to share that I’ve been working on an idea for a novel....my new hobby, coming up with novel ideas.  
this one is about two (or three) women in their 40s that contemplate the second half of their lives.  They’re old friends and come together to help one of them deal with a tragedy and through the process realize that they need to address their own struggles in order to move onto the second half of their life with some joy and clarity.

Daydreaming and reading about writing

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

One of my favorite hobbies these days is just reading about writing.  I can do it for hours and hours.  The actual writing has been pretty slow.  I’ve done a little bit here and there but nothing substantial.  But even though I haven’t written that much lately, I still think of it as my hidden passion and something that will bloom fully one day.

In the meantime, I daydream and read.  Take a look at this great advice about writing a  novel...

How to Start a Novel:
The Willingness to be the Best and the Worst
By Albyn Leah Hall
Writing fiction is like allowing yourself to be the ugliest person in the room and the most beautiful person at the same time. The "beautiful" you swans into the party, garnering admiration, presuming that everyone else will be interested in what you have to say-- aboutanything. The "ugly" you would prefer to cower in the kitchen, scoffing leftovers in the dark.

It's a schizoid existence. The part of you that is dying to be heard is chronically at odds with the part of you that fears exposure, rejection, or being just plain bad, which brings me to my next point. In order to write a novel, you must be willing to be bad. This is especially true in the first draft; it is, arguably, what the first draft is for. (Or, in keeping with the analogy, in order to be beautiful, you must be ugly first.)

There is no easy way to do this. Every writer has his or her own way of wrestling with the demons, and I can't tell you how to wrestle with yours. However, I can suggest some techniques that I use when starting a novel; simple strategies that help to free me from my inhibitions and create a space for the work to emerge.

1) When you begin a novel, rather than thinking you must write for, say, a minimum of four to six hours a day, try to write for only one hour maximum. This means you may write for no more than one hour! Most of us harbor an image of the tortured writer; the pacing, hair-pulling novelist locked up in a chicken shed while the world spins without him. And yet, while writing inevitably entails some pain and struggle, the stereotype of the suffering, workaholic writer is your enemy. The first draft is when you must pull something out of nothing: words from the ether, or from your unconscious. If you impose a tough regime upon it before it has had a chance to breathe, you will stifle it. If, rather, you write in bite-sized pieces, tantalizing yourself with just a little each day, then eventually you will want to write more, and take delicious pleasure in breaking your own rule. (However, while you don't have to write much each day, it is important to write every day, including Sunday; even if that means just a quick scribble before brushing your teeth-- you've still observed the rule.)

Lest you think this sounds frivolous-- a hobbyist approach to writing-- I must confess that there was a time when I thought the same thing. I didn't understand why I couldn't write for hours, or even, sometimes, minutes; why I spent most of my time staring at my computer screen longing to be anywhere but there. It was a severe blow to my sense of identity; I was a writer who could not write! When a friend suggested the hour max rule, I tried it with reluctance. A year later, I had written my first novel.

In later drafts, you will probably want to write for longer. This is great, so long as you bear in mind that good writing doesn't always come from abundance. I can think of many days in which I have produced far more inspired writing after one hour than on other days when I wrote for six.

2) Write your first draft in longhand. This doesn't mean you have to write the entire draft this way, but write each chapter or section by hand before transferring it to the computer. The computer tends to make us feel that we must be excellent immediately. We are daunted by the pristine white space before us, which we think we must fill with something polished and literary. Writing by hand, ideally in some tatty old notebook, gives you permission to be messy and primitive. (The notebook is also far more portable. If you're sick of your four walls, shake up your routine; write in cafes, parks, trains. Occasionally, the noise of the natural world can help rather than hinder, a welcome relief from the more punitive voices of your own head.)

It isn't until my second or maybe third draft that I do what I tastefully call "mining the vomit for gold," transferring the work to computer, and in the process, honing the quality of the writing itself. But for now, it's a mess, and if it isn't, it should be. Scrawl and scribble; spew it out. This is as true for work that is autobiographical as it is for work that isn't remotely autobiographical; as true for comedy as an epic period novel. Like good dreams and bad dreams, it all comes from the same place. If you give yourself time to dwell there, "literature" will follow when it is good and ready.

3) Stay away from the phone, Internet, and e-mails until you have written for the day. In keeping with this, it is a good idea to write early, not only because you will be less distracted by the clutter of the day, but because you will be closer to your unconscious mind and dream state. Even if you write for only fifteen minutes, the quality of your attention will be much, much better if you have not yet filled your head with other people and the many things you have to do. Even something as prosaic as shopping for lunch or having the car fixed can throw you off completely. You'll be amazed by how difficult it feels at first, removed from your social "fixes." This is a sobering reminder of just how addicted we are to these things, and how often we use them to procrastinate! (Yet it is also a liberating, if humbling, experience to realize that our friends, colleagues, and household chores can usually hang on without us for a little longer.)

4) When you start a novel, do not worry about having a great story. The search for the "great story" is, in my view, overrated. I speak only partly in jest when I say that there are roughly half a dozen stories in the world and most books are variations upon them. The story is only as interesting as the person who is telling it. If you have a strong voice, the reader will follow it through anything. You can write a wonderful book which, on the surface, simply describes a party (think of Mrs. Dalloway, or The Dead) or a dreadful book about a prison break or espionage. When people ask how I worked out the story for my latest novel, The Rhythm of the Road, I reply that I didn't, to start with. I found Josephine, my young heroine, and she told me the story. How did I find Josephine? One night, I was watching a documentary about a middle-aged housewife who stalks a young priest, convinced that he shares her obsession. I wondered what it would take for a person to become so delusional that she is driven to behave this way. Josephine, a teenage truck driver's daughter, has little in common with this woman, but the first glimmer was ignited on that evening, by my own curiosity. Like giving birth, I conceived her, but she seemed to develop in her own right. She did so partly through my research (I'm a great believer in research, which will also help to develop the story), but also from a place within myself, a place that could empathize with a young girl so lonely that she must conjure a fantasy relationship to fill the void. In the end, it seemed to be she who was introducing me to her lonely Irish father, to the hitchhiker who becomes the object of her attention, and so on. When I could finally see how the book was unraveling, I did sit down and work out an outline for the entire story. But I could not do this until I had Josephine's voice. So remember that a story can begin in all sorts of ways, no matter how prosaic: with a question, with the way a piece of music makes you feel, with a joke, a dream, a memory, a three minute conversation you overhear in a bus. You can find an entire universe in a single moment.

Of course, I am only one writer and this is only one set of tools. Yet whether or not they work for you, I believe that the underlying philosophy applies to all writers of fiction; to write anything good, you must first be willing to take the ugly, messy, chaotic self out into the light, take it for a run, let it tell you where to go. One of the greatest compliments ever paid to me as a writer was "you must feel pretty good about yourself to let yourself feel this bad." And yet, the funny thing is that once I do allow myself to feel "this bad," it doesn't feel too bad at all. At the very least, I've gotten a novel or two out of it.

Copyright � 2006 Albyn Leah Hall

Albyn Leah Hall is the author of two novels: The Rhythm of the Road (published by St. Martin's Press, January 2007 ; $24.95US/$31.00CAN; 0-312-35944-6) and Deliria, (published by Serpent's Tail, 1994.) She is also a screenwriter; her screenplay, The Rose of Tralee, is currently in development. Albyn's childhood was divided between New York and Los Angeles, but she has spent most of her adult life in London, where she works as both a writer and a psychotherapist.

What Matters in Life

Monday, December 2, 2013

I thought this piece was so good.  It’s called 6 Harsh Truths That Will Make You a Better Person.  I don’t agree with everything he says in the piece but a lot of it is so spot on and inspiring.  No matter what kind of person you think you are, it’s the actual doing of things that matters.  This applies to everything in life, whether it’s attaining material things, finding love, being a good friend, or helping others.  It’s the doing it that matters.
Here’s a small excerpt that relates to writing that I thought was so funny and true:
"Being in the business I'm in, I know dozens of aspiring writers. They think of themselves as writers, they introduce themselves as writers at parties, they know that deep inside, they have the heart of a writer. The only thing they're missing is that minor final step, where they actually fucking write things.
But really, does that matter? Is "writing things" all that important when deciding who is and who is not truly a "writer"?
For the love of God, yes.
I've known "writers" who produced less content than what's on this woman's grocery list.
See, there's a common defense to everything I've said so far, and to every critical voice in your life. It's the thing your ego is saying to you in order to prevent you from having to do the hard work of improving: "I know I'm a good person on the inside." It may also be phrased as "I know who I am" or "I just have to be me."
Don't get me wrong; who you are inside is everything -- the guy who built a house for his family from scratch did it because of who he was inside. Every bad thing you've ever done has started with a bad impulse, some thought ricocheting around inside your skull until you had to act on it. And every good thing you've done is the same -- "who you are inside" is the metaphorical dirt from which your fruit grows."

New Direction (not the boy band)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Forgive my absence.  I’m working on a book idea.  I’ve put aside my writing about friendship and am now looking at writing a novel that will incorporate my love of friendship and its complexity with some other realities of life like family, love, tragedy and redemption.  Will keep you posted.

The Hardest Word

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

You said or did something to hurt your friend. Maybe you were snarky at the bus stop, or standoffish at a school event or dismissive of her idea when she was just trying to help.
Whatever it was, you know you were wrong and the fact that you had had a crappy day is no excuse.
Now you’re stuck with yourself and your guilt. And you don’t know what to do.
You want to call her and say, I’m so sorry. I was an idiot and shouldn’t have done that. I value your friendship. Please forgive me.
But you’re scared. You’re scared that once you admit that you were being childish and thoughtless she will see that you’re flawed and will think less of you.
You also don’t want to apologize because you know it will be uncomfortable. And not just for you but for her too. You’ll have to tell her that you know that your stupid comment or behavior had the power to hurt her. And that makes you both vulnerable. And that’s something you don’t want to deal with.
So you start convincing yourself that it was no big deal.
That she probably didn’t even notice your comment, or your cold shoulder, or your reaction to her advice.
And even if she did notice, you think, she probably didn’t even care. She knows you love her. She’ll likely just chalk it up to you having had a bad day or being distracted.
Yes, of course. She’s totally fine. It would be silly to apologize for something so small. You can’t believe you even considered it.
Just to be on the safe side though, you’ll be extra attentive and kind next time you see her. And that will definitely make up for your minor transgression.
Phew! Glad that’s over. Now you can go back to feeling good.
But lurking deep in your heart you know that you’re being a coward.
And even though you’ve shoved the guilty feeling into a place where you don’t see it, every once in a while it will pop up and wash over you.
And the next time you do something unintentionally hurtful, and there will be a next time because there always is, you’ll make the same excuses not to say anything and assume your friendship is fine.
But each small action or lack of action chips away at your friendship and one day that friendship will not be as close or as strong because you didn’t do the work to take care of it.
So instead of doing the easy cowardly thing, do the hard thing. Go over to her house and say, I’m not sure if you noticed that I was being a bit cold or that I reacted badly to your advice but I wanted to tell you that I’m sorry. I know I was inconsiderate and if I hurt you, even unintentionally, I apologize. You’re a great friend and I am so happy to have you in my life.
Your friend might be surprised by your apology and your sentiments and say that she didn’t even notice your infraction. Or she might instantly comfort you by saying that you didn’t need to apologize.
But no matter what she says to comfort you or make the situation easy for both of you, inside her heart she will appreciate your apology. And she will love you more for caring enough about her and your friendship to take that step.
And you will have done the right thing for a friendship you treasure.

Girl Crush

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Girl crushes are not just for girls anymore. Grown women with families, jobs and full lives can also have crushes. What’s a grown-up girl crush you ask? Well, it’s when you make a new friend that you find instantly engaging and captivating and you want in your life. It could be anything about her that makes her special or different. Maybe it's her great sense of humor, her overwhelming kindness, or her sharp mind that impresses you. Whatever it is, she’s wowed you and the more time you spend with her, the more you like her.
Everything she says is funny and everything she does is great. And by some miracle, this perfect friend feels the same way Mark Darcy felt about Bridget Jones – she likes you just as you are. And like Bridget, you find yourself flustered and flattered that this special person finds you charming with all your quirks and eccentricities.
For a couple of fabulous weeks or months, you're living in a goofy daze where you have this great new friend that can do no wrong.
But like all crushes, it eventually ends. There comes a point when something she does or says wakes you from your girl crush slumber and makes you realize that she's just human and has faults and problems like everyone else. And suddenly the bubble bursts and the crush ends.
From here, one of two things happen. Either you develop a deeper more meaningful friendship based on an understanding of who she really is or you realize that you actually don’t have that much in common and the friendship slowly fizzles.
No matter which way the crush goes, however, it’s usually worth it. You either get a good friend out it or a few weeks or months of fun distractions from your regular grown-up life.

The Mommy Mafia

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Friday nights in America's suburbs are the nights of mommy happy hours. It's not the kind you remember from your twenties where you meet friends after work at the local bar. No, it's a lot more interesting than that.

There are neighborhood politics, gossip and tricky social ins-and-outs that need to be navigated through to participate. There are babies and toddlers, there are tasty adult drinks, and there are the inevitable alpha moms (and dads) that are the stars of the evening.

Usually, there is a "lead" mom that runs the show.  She is typically a stay-at-home mom who is highly educated and had a high-powered job in her previous life and who now channels all those leadership skills and intellectual prowess into creating a powerful neighborhood mommy mafia.

Within each mafia infested neighborhood, there are three groups of moms: (1) the moms that are totally out of the loop and know nothing about the mafia (don't worry, that doesn't make you a bad person...you're either just new to the neighborhood or have a life of your own); (2) the moms that are in the mommy mafia (don't worry, that doesn't make you a bad person either...you just either have a need to rule the world or are one of those really likable people that others want to be around); or (3) you know about the mommy mafia but you've either chosen not to join them or you've tried but been rejected (ouch...that hurts!).

Just to be clear, there's nothing actually wrong with the mafia moms.  Some of them are truly lovely and interesting women who, if you met at the park or a kid’s birthday party, you would hit it off with instantly (you may even develop a great friendship with one of them not knowing that she’s in the mommy mafia).  But together these moms have a certain influence and cachet in the neighborhood.

They decide who gets to participate in the happy hours and who does not. The ones that are deemed worthy of that social benefit are sent an invitation (oh, please let it be me!) and the ones that are not deemed worthy are accidentally or not so accidentally left off the list (oops).  In this type of situation, being totally out of the loop is a blessing. You don't even know that you've been rejected!

So what is a girl to do? You move into a new neighborhood.  You think, wow, this place looks ideal to raise a family...it's going to be all roses and pony rides from here. And then you realize that you need to make some interesting choices, a lot like the choices you made in high school.  Who to hang out with? What to do on a Friday night?

The good news is that you're not in high school anymore (thank God!).  You can choose not to let those neighborhood workings bother you and to create your own happiness in whatever shape you want.  Whether it's having one good friend that you see occasionally or a hundred friends that you party with every weekend or anything in between.

It doesn't matter what you choose, as long as you don't take it too seriously. So this Friday night, grab a good friend (or ten) and have a delicious cocktail!

With a pounding heart and trembling fingers, I just submitted this piece to the Huffington Post “Blog Team” for consideration.  Apparently they get thousands of submissions a week so this is a real long shot but I’m trying to be braver and take chances.