Why I Stopped Writing

7 Jan

When I was much younger (you know, like 20), I knew deep in my heart that I was destined for something great. If not great, then really, really good. My confidence as a writer and editor was strong and possibly off-putting to others. It was only a matter of time before I would land a job at a large daily newspaper, or write a novel. You know, the novel I never started. (Rather, started 20 different versions of. If you have trouble staying focused on a storyline have I got a book for you!)

I graduated from college, then completed an internship at The Sacramento Bee as a copy editor. A hiring freeze in the industry meant none of the interns would be hired that year. I updated my resume and found a job as an administrative assistant. I wrote here and there, toyed with the idea of attending graduate school for creative writing, submitted my resume halfheartedly to companies seeking skilled copywriters. But I never really tried. Not with the dedication that I imagine real writers have.

Over the years, my dreams of success, fame and fortune drifted back and forth like seaweed at the shore.

I wanted it to be easy.

Nothing worth doing is easy, blah blah, etc.

Years and one child later, I created a blog. First it was just about my daughter. Then I wanted to show everyone the things I was working on at home, as the ultimate housewife who cooks! Bakes! Sews! Then I started reading a whole bunch of other blogs. These blogs had amazing photography. They had well-designed pages with sponsors and lots of readers. I wanted to make money from my blog too. And that’s when I made the leap and started seeing writing as a job instead of a hobby. Obligation instead of meditation.

Writing had become so…. boring. Something to be started with a sigh of resignation.

I avoid things that bore me. So I started to avoid writing.

It didn’t feed my soul. Checking page stats and earning pennies on an ad click didn’t fulfill me. I wasn’t making the world better. I wasn’t helping people do meaningful things with their lives. Monetary incentive was destroying my passion. And I believe that translates in the written word. I believe a reader can tell when a writer is passionate and when she is just counting the words.

I didn’t make any resolutions this year. I have hopes and dreams though.

I hope to rediscover my passion.

I dream that I will write something that touches just one person’s heart.

It is becoming clear to me that real “success” has nothing to do with money and everything to do with doing something that you love. Every day.

Not for money. But for the soul.


Holding On to Christmas

9 Dec

My memories of Christmas as a child are vivid and deep. I can close my eyes and feel the excitement welling up in my chest at the thought of Santa coming at night. I can hear the rich voices of our neighbors singing carols around our piano. I can feel popcorn and string between my fingers and the soft flannel of my Christmas Eve nightgown. I smell pine and I see my sister and me dancing on the driveway with boughs of noble fir in our hands. These memories, and Christmas itself, leave me feeling sentimental and sad at the same time. I always wanted it to last longer than just December.

This month, as every December before, seems impossible to hold on to. It is here but it is slipping through my fingers. There are so many things that seem to be shouting for our attention. Planning a birthday party – or two. Projects around the new house. This virus that put three out of four of us out of commission over Thanksgiving. The unexpected busyness of my HollowGlen shop. Stopping Jackson from eating whatever he finds on the floor. I keep reminding myself that we need to slow down. Enjoy this. Enjoy them – these two amazing, beautiful, funny, snuggly babies we have. Give them the same kind of vivid Christmas memories my parents gave me. Take them to see Santa Claus. Be in the moment and not planning ahead. See their smiles, feel their warm bodies, smell their hair, tell them they are loved a million times this month. Hear them laugh.

I wanted to come up with some deep, meaningful close to this post. But the baby is staring at me with a wide, open-mouthed grin. He is babbling and pushing one of our dining chairs around the room. He is honestly the cutest little boy I have ever seen. I am compelled to go give him a hug and a kiss and most likely squeeze him. Next post will hopefully be an update on what I’ve been working on for the shop.

Enjoy this time everyone. Make some memories.


31 Oct

It is the night before Halloween and we are moving in less than three days. Kaitlyn has a fever and Jackson is teething. I had to run into Target 15 minutes before closing to buy more candy since I have eaten a third of the Costco bag we bought earlier this week. I finally packed up the sewing machine and the iron. I am nervous and I feel it churning in my stomach.

Five years. We have lived here, on Hollowglen, for five years.

We moved here less than a month after getting married. We came home from our honeymoon in Mexico, stared at the tower of wedding presents like it was our very future in front of us, and said, “Now what?” So we moved. Newlyweds.

Then we had a baby. Well, not right away. But eventually, on Hollowglen, two became three. And then three became four. On Hollowglen we became a family.

We had birthdays, lots of them. We mourned deaths, and worried about cancers and the health of our loved ones. We watched Kaitlyn learn to crawl, then walk, then talk and run. She took her first steps here. My sister got married. We lost a baby. We brought Jackson home. We made friends – wonderful, amazing, dear friends. We all grew – up, out, inside.

There are fuzzy times and there are times I can recall so clearly. Like working on a puzzle with Ben in the wee hours after this past Christmas, my belly hitting the vertical blinds every time I tried to squeeze past him to find a piece. Jackson arrived three weeks later and I holed up with him in the bedroom, trying to figure out why nursing a second baby was so hard. Or bringing Kaitlyn home on Christmas day almost four years ago, and waking up every few hours to feed her and change her diaper and logging everything down because it seemed vitally important to know when she peed. Fourth of July walks to the bridge to watch the fireworks. The kids playing outside with their flashlights. Watching movies. Sick days. Just a normal family life, with our future in front of us.

So many, many memories.

Not all glamorous. There were the ants (OH! so many ants), the black widows, the mold, the asbestos. I spent a fair amount of time searching for a new place but could never find a good enough reason.

And then Ben was promoted, and transferred, and the days grew longer and longer, and we missed him. How we missed him. And I started to realize the importance of being together, no matter where we gathered.

Home is where we are. Not where we live. And I’m a mom. I can make a home anywhere.

So I will. Wednesday we will move, and I will unpack frantically, and put away the dishes, and our clothes, and their favorite toys, and we’ll slowly rebuild until we feel just as at home there as we do here.

And then we’ll stare at our new back yard, at the open space where our children can run, and play, and dig, and grow, and we’ll say, “Now what?” As if our very future was laid out in front of us.


We’re Moving! In More Ways Than One…

20 Oct

Among the wreckage of our very real, rapidly approaching move to a new home, you’ll see signs of a different sort of move. Stacks of fabric, piles of snaps and clasps and bobbins, sketches and patterns – something tells me these will be among the last to be packed when the movers show up in a little less than two weeks.

It has taken me a long time to take the first steps, but I finally opened my Etsy shop this week. I’ll be adding new items to HollowGlen weekly:

  • Children’s toys – I Spy bags, crayon wallets, preschool backpacks, pretend play
  • Wallets, wristlets, purses and pouches, checkbook covers and business card cases
  • Patterns
  • Great gift ideas for the holidays
  • And more!

My Domesticated Mama blog has moved here, also. That site will be up for a bit longer to make sure the transition is smooth but it won’t be updated after today.

To summarize, we’re moving. A lot!



Motor Works by Discovery Toys

16 Oct

I find it incredibly challenging to shop for kids, especially in the 3- to 5-year age bracket. I like to strike a balance between something that is fun for the kids (that they can get excited about) and something that won’t drive the parents insane. This is why whenever we are invited to a birthday party I find myself standing in front of a row of toys in the store completely unable to make a decision. I often leave empty-handed.

Enter Discovery Toys. I purchased a few several years back when my daughter was a baby, and I am impressed with how well they have stood up to her destructive creative play. No broken pieces, no fading. So when my friend’s son turned 4 this year we bought him Motor Works, a versatile toy for the budding mechanic.

Motor Works by Discovery Toys

Motor Works includes a sturdy toolbox, manual and electric screwdrivers, and the parts to build a motorcycle, plane, and race car. The bright colors are pleasing to kids without being garish, and it only requires two AA batteries (not included). My friend said Motor Works was an instant hit with her son!

I love the idea of parents sitting down with their children to build something. It seems like the longest lasting toys (in terms of years of active use) are the ones that inspire kids to create and build.

My friend Karen is a Discovery Toys consultant. If you’re interested in purchasing Discovery Toys, please visit her website at www.discoverytoyslink.com/karenchao. For a limited time Karen is offering a 10 percent discount to my readers! Be sure to place your order by e-mailing Karen at DiscoveryToysKaren@gmail.com and mentioning Domesticated Mama. Orders placed through the Discovery Toys website directly will not qualify for the discount.

I did not receive any compensation to write this post. I just think Discovery Toys (and especially Motor Works) are pretty awesome.

What I’ve Been Up To…

29 May

I wanted a lighter-weight diaper bag because I kept hitting random people in the grocery store checkout with my 5-pound glazed Petunia Picklebottom backpack…
Diaper bag sewing

Pleated diaper bag

This door leads from our kitchen to our laundry room. It’s always open so the cats can use the litter box, but the visual clutter from the shelves of cleaning supplies and kitchen storage was driving me crazy. This curtain helps hide it. It’s a twin sheet from Target, hemmed and hung on a tension rod. The tie-back matches our cafe kitchen curtains.
Kitchen curtain in doorway

My friend recently graduated so I whipped up this handy business card case. Now I want one! Not that I have business cards.
Sewing business card case

Sewing business card case

I’ve been taking the kids for long walks lately to help my daughter run off some steam. The other day we saw a crow on our walk and started talking about what a crow’s nest might look like, what color the eggs would be, etc. So after nap we sat down and painted a crow’s nest. We didn’t have any black paint; brown crows look a little less… uhhh…. greasy? anyway. I painted the crows, tree trunk and cloud; my 3-year-old did the rest.
Preschool art

The eggs hatched…
Preschool art

That’s all for now. Hope you are enjoying your Memorial Day weekend!

Saving Money by Not Spending It

19 May

Looking for tips on how to save money? I’ve got a great one:

Don’t spend it.

This is also probably one of the hardest money-saving tips to put into action. I know I suffer from want-itis often. Our 3-year-old daughter? Yeah, she’s got it too. You just try to make it out of Target without a meltdown in the toy aisle. I dare you!

In the coming weeks I’ll write more about the methods I have used to manage our household finances so we could be a single-income family in Southern California. But for now, let’s keep it simple: Don’t buy stuff. Extraneous stuff. Stuff you don’t need. Stuff that will fill up your house with clutter. Stuff you will step on six times a day while walking from your living room to your kitchen. Stuff that replaces other stuff that still works perfectly well. Stuff like beautiful purses and a fourth pair of flip-flops and vintage-looking seagrass baskets with quaint little chalkboard labels on them that are just so adorable and would perfectly store all of those Little Tikes train tracks you picked up at a garage sale a few weeks ago… Yeah, that kind of stuff.

Like most families, we are not saving as much money as we should be. One way that I am going to begin combating that is by depositing money into our savings account whenever I am seriously considering buying something that is not necessary. Example: My 4-month-old baby loves this toy by Lamaze, Jacques the Peacock. At least, I think he does. As much as a 4-month-old can love a toy. He drools on it. And his eyes get bigger when he sees it. I hear it crinkling in his car seat when we are driving somewhere. That’s good enough for me! Anyway, Lamaze makes other toys, like this Mortimer the Moose. I think it’s adorable. And look at those reviews! I am a sucker for good reviews, let me tell you. I don’t buy anything that doesn’t have more than four stars on Amazon.

I realized that as cute (and well-reviewed) as I think Mortimer is, he isn’t necessary. So instead of buying him, I turned around and transferred that amount of money into our savings account.

Actually, I rounded up. Mortimer is $12.69, and I took $15 from our checking and moved it into savings.

It’s not much. But once money is in our savings, we tend to leave it alone and let it grow. I’m hoping I can turn this into a new habit. Maybe you would like to give it a try?

If there is something you want to buy, resist. Take the amount of money you would have spent on a frivolous item and deposit it into your savings account instead. Whatever method you choose to track your finances, leave a little memo there for the record. Mine will say, “In honor of Mortimer.”

What will you resist buying this month?