Thursday, January 31, 2013


A year ago today, my friends and family threw me an epic surprise party for my birthday. Many of my most favorite people ever were there and I felt totally spoiled.  Our friend, R, is co-owner of the amazing Essencia Artisian Bakery back home. R made an amazing tiramisu that my family called "crack cake." Yeah. It was that good.  

I think a lot of extra effort when into the party because we all knew our family would be on a plane to Myanmar soon after. The evening was special + in fact, one of the best days of my entire life.

Today has been lovely, too. I woke up to my daughter giving me a cute little book and The Husband giving me two new beautiful writing notebooks. (I always can use notebooks!) While getting F ready for school, she reached into the fridge and then told me to close my eyes. She handed me one of her little gold coin chocolates and told me "Happy Birthday." It was very sweet.

Later, I was able to Skype with one of my besties in the USA for about 30 minutes before I left for Yangon's International Irradwady Literary Festival that started today. There, I got to listen to some wonderful poets read their work from the contemporary Myanmar poetry anthology, Bones Will Crow.  There were surprise meet-ups with a few friends. I made a date with myself for lunch and am now sitting at 50th Street Cafe in Yangon eating super yummy samosas and having a coffee while enjoying their wifi.

Not a bad day.

Tonight, The Husband arranged dinner out, so that should be fun and I'm looking forward to it.

Happy February 1st. Happy Imbolc. Happy Friday!!

Hope you all have a fabulous weekend!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013




I'm a freelancer and I'm feeling overwhelmed.

This makes me absolutely certain I'm not cut-out for the big, corporate, high-flying, uber-busy-all-the-time world.

I've usually had jobs in places that were fairly laid back, but with the needed jolts of busy-ness here and there. I haven't had jobs where people run around, frantic, super stressed, shoulders arched and eyes buzzing in caffeine frenzies.   Well, actually, that's not entirely true.

Nowadays, I work from home, waking up at about 6:37am, and going to bed around 1am. I spend 10+ hours working. Most of my work is online so I don't have too many distractions unless I get sucked into Facebook...and, well, that certainly happens.

As a freelancer, I take on the projects I want. I'm fairly in control of my own schedule and I thrive on the flexibility that gives me.

The problem is I've recently put a lot on my own plate. And as mentioned above, I'm not one that gets off on being super busy all the time.

Over the last several months, I've carved out several different projects to work on. Some of them are big. Some of them are not. Many take up a lot of time.

I'm realizing I need to come up with a system, a systematic approach, to reach my goals while still taking care of myself and getting the rest I need so I don't continue to feel overwhelmed.

See, this weekend, I had a bit of a meltdown. Just a bit of one. Maybe a tantrum, really.

I was tired. Really tired. My body had been giving me all sorts of red flags to slooooow down. There was the migraine. And, well, the fatigue. And then there's that nasty Mycoplasma Infection our family had over the holidays that could still be holding on by a small thread. There's the elevated blood pressure, too.

All of these things I've pretty much been ignoring. I've been too excited to give in. Though tired, I've been on a roll and I didn't want to stop. Or slow down. I have too many plans - plans that make me happy and excited - to consider slowing down.

During my tantrum, I wasn't - er - very nice to The Husband and owed him an apology. After telling him I was just "so tired," he told me I needed to start having fun, not work on the weekends, and realize most of the deadlines and pressure I put on myself is self-imposed.

He's right, of course; but I still am not sure how to make time for the fun when I have the self-imposed deadlines on purpose so that I can reach my Big Dreams and Big Goals.

Then I got sick that night. Flu. Food poisoning. I'm not sure which. From the early hours of Sunday morning until mid-day today, I've been mostly in bed. I can hold food down now. That's good. And I have more energy.

I said I was tired and needed to sleep, and then had no choice but to do that. I did work a bit, too. From bed. But just bursts here and there.

Enter: guilt. I feel guilty that it takes awhile to reply to emails sometimes and that I'm behind on the two e-courses I'm taking. I feel guilty that there are a few people I haven't been responsive to at all, which is unlike me. I feel guilty that I can see a slippery slope is starting to emerge. (If you're one of the people I haven't replied to yet, I'm sorry!!) 

Though I'm realizing I need to figure out ways to take better care of myself AND better care of my schedule, I'd be curious to know what works for you.

What are some strategies that you use to help you break-down your goals and get them done. What if you're working on multiple projects at a time?

Friday, January 25, 2013

Taking Criticism

Hello you and helloooooo weekend!
So, I’m wonderinghow do you take constructive criticism? 

Do you see it as an opportunity for growth? Do you feel like it's a personal attack on you? Or does your experience land you somewhere in between?

One of my weaknesses has always been my sensitivity to criticism, whether constructive or not. I'm sure my brothers and parents would agree. 

When I was about nine, I sat on the living room floor listening to my dad and older brother read personality characteristics of Aquariuses. I'm an Aquarius.  The book mentioned Aquariuses were quirky, sensitive, and well, different..."drumming to their own beat." 

My dad and brother laughed (I thought hysterically) and I felt embarrassed, angry.  I reacted in a sensitive way - whining and threatening to leave the room - further supporting the description, causing more laughter.

I'm creeping up to 40 years old and I remember the incident clearly.  Obviously, I'm a bit sensitive.  I've known it's something I've needed to work on.  Even my Myers-Briggs personality test results (INFP) points it out; according to The Personality Page, INFPs:
  • May be extremely sensitve to any kind of criticism
  • May perceive criticism where none was intended

Things are changing for me, though.  I'm becoming tougher and better able to accept feedback that I'd normally find difficult to receive.  

There are a few things I've done over the last several months to help:
  • Joined a writing group in Yangon. We give each other supportive, but constructive, feedback.

  • Sought professional critiques from an author and literary agent on a children's picture book manuscript I wrote. You can read how that turned out here

  •  Sought feedback on the same manuscript from multiple friends, peers, writers, artists, and family members. (Eek!)

These are situations I've avoided in the past. I was too scared.  What if someone didn't like my writing? What if they thought I was crap?  Well, I pushed myself through those fears and I've been proud of that.  Still, I've known I have more pushing to do. 

I chose the words ignite and glow to guide me this year instead of resorting to New Year resolutions. (More here and here.)

Part of igniting means growing a self-confidence that is deeply rooted. Unshakeable. Unmovable.  Not so easy for this girl.

Growing that confidence from the bottom up, from the heart out, will bring many benefits, including not being super sensitive to positive, constructive feedback/criticism.

So, it's been interesting that over the last few weeks, I've felt a shift.  A change. I've been more bold, more brave putting myself in positions where I could get slapped down fast and hard.  I've:

  • Submitted my poetry to four literary magazines.
  • Given that children's picture book manuscript to a big NY editor at a big publishing house. 
  •  I've asked people for support when I was scared about the second bullet point.

The results? 

Well, one of the literary magazines got back to me the following day...which was super fast. I was told the poems I submitted weren't what they were "seeking for inclusion" in their magazine.  BUT!  I was also told they enjoyed my voice and highlighted a particular poem they liked. They wrote,  "We very much look forward to reading more from you in the future and encourage you to try us again."

In the past, I would've only focused on the submission "rejection." I would've felt sad and doubted myself.  

You know what?  I didn't. I felt grateful and happy and proud. I didn't view it as a rejection. I focused only on the fact they liked my poetic voice and that they asked me to submit in the future. That's a compliment. That's encouragement. That's super good news!

I had a similar experience with the NY editor from the big publishing house. She read my manuscript, which is miraculous in and of itself. If you know much about children's lit, you know it's painstakingly difficult - almost impossible - to get an editor to read your manuscript. This editor was generous. Not only did she read my manuscript, she made comments on it, then met with me in person to discuss.  (That is a BIG DEAL.)

Her feedback was thoughtful, not rushed. She asked a series of poignant questions to help me get more clear. She didn't slap me down. She didn't say it was great, either.  The story wasn't strong enough for her to take it further without further work.

Did that break my heart? NO! Instead, I thought, "I've got some work to do!" 

Not once did I feel myself flush or think awful things like, "See, you're a crap writer. You can't do this. Why are you wasting your time?!" The disappearance of that voice was new.

It didn't show its ugly little face. I was able to listen with an open heart. After all, I asked for the feedback. I wanted to know if I was barking up the wrong tree trying to get a picture book published. 

Later, she was kind enough to tell me I was a good writer and the invited me to submit the story (re-worked) or other manuscripts/writing to her directly in the future. 

That, my friends, is...uh...amazing

It's also amazing I have not felt sorry for myself or overly sensitive or thought that I am no good. In fact, I've felt the opposite. 

In fact, it felt validating. It felt like I was legit.  A working writer.  (Crazy, I know.)  Who knew?!  

What about you? What are strategies you use to help take-in constructive criticism?

Sunday, January 20, 2013

New Happenings!

Hi everyone!

I hope you’re having a lovely day. 

There are some exciting new things happening over here that I’d like to share with you.  

  • You may know that I’m a freelance writer. I created a special tab (here) listing the writing services I offer and some of my areas of expertise, which includes working a whopping 20 years with non-profits. (Oh, man. I’m getting old!)

  • I’m creating a newsletter you’ll be able to subscribe to; and when you do, I’ll have free goodies to offer! I’ll let you know when it’s up and running. I’m working with a fab graphic designer getting those yummy treats ready for you. It’s going to be great!

  • I have a big project I’m working on for all of you. I’m keeping it under wraps for now, but I think it’s going to be cool: especially for all of you thinking of moving to Myanmar! That’s all I’m going to say for now!

  • Last, but definitely not least, is that I’ve had the honor of an article I've written being published in the Myanmar Times on Sunday. It’s been really great seeing the piece in the first spread of the travel supplement. If it gets published on their website, I will post a link so you can read it. It’s almost the exact article written here, but more in depth and less bloggy. 

I've had lots of love from you over on my Facebook page and I'm so grateful. I'm learning that when you have people who believe in you, believe in your dreams and your capabilities, you can start believing more in yourself, too.  You get braver. Step outside your comfort zone a bit more. Put yourself out there. It's scary, but good. So thank you for all the love!

I’d love to hear your news.  What great, new things are you working on?

Thursday, January 17, 2013


All Rights Reserved.

Sometimes it helps to sit back and take stock of all the little things we're grateful for, or the things that speak to us during the day. Or the week. I think this can be especially helpful when things are busy, hectic and we're on the edge of overwhelm. 

Yesterday, I stumbled across this Mary Oliver poem called "The Place I Want to Get Back To." As synchronicity would have it, I found it just a few hours after a friend and I had been talking about gratitude.  The last few stanzas say:

For twenty years
                 I have gone every day to the same woods,
                    not waiting, exactly, just lingering.
                         Such gifts, bestowed,
                                can't be repeated.

                  If you want to talk about this
                      come to visit. I live in the house
                           near the corner, which I have named

Things that touched my heart this week:

  • My daughter drawing a beautiful photo of her and I with a larger-than-life flower between us. On the back, she wrote, "I love you, Mom."  Later that day, I had a meeting with the writing group. As I got out of the car at the venue, F stopped me and said, "Mom, you have that picture I drew you, right?  If you get lonely, or you miss me, then just look at the picture."  
  • After asking the company driver some important things expats should know about Myanmar culture, he began listing off every Buddhist festival. His English isn't the best, and my Myanmar is nearly non-existent (I know, I'm bad), and he wasn't really asnwering the question I asked; however, the next day when I saw him, he handed me a piece of paper with every month of the year and each corresponding Buddhist festival for that month. In English. In beautiful penmanship.  Despite misunderstanding each other, it was clear how important it was that we take an interest in Myanmar.
  • Spending time with one of the most prolific children's books writers in the world and her lovely, funny daughter.  They traveled from the United States to generously share their experiences, knowledge, and skills with students ages 4-18. I was in awe all week and am deeply grateful to have had the opportunity to watch and listen. Though the lessons were aimed at children, any adult would've learned a tremendous amount. I did. I am also touched and grateful that my daughter - at just six years old - is fortunate enough to attend a school that puts on a special event like this.  She has no idea how lucky she is.
  • The generosity and thoughtfulness of friends.  Many times this week, my friends - in Yangon and abroad - showed up for me in these ways: coffee; making charts + lists; listening; reading; writing; reminding me they're there for me; being my cheerleaders; giving hugs; making big plans. I am blessed with beautiful, kind-hearted, loving friends.

So, what touched your heart this week?   What are you grateful for?