Talking with Your Kids About Work

June 12th, 2013  / Author: becky

When I applied for a Maastricht-based job in November, Matthew asked Katherine, “How would you feel about Mommy getting a job and going to an office to work full time?” (I’ve freelanced and worked part time since she was a few months old, but I haven’t had a big-time-commitment office job since before having kids.)

K thought about it for a minute and said, “That would be good. Then we could buy more food. I’m hungry.”

Turns out she was going through a growth spurt. Also turns out that I had accidentally linked job=food in her mind.

Many times I had told her and Joshua, “Isn’t it great that Daddy works so hard so we can buy groceries and live in this house?” I was trying to explain to them that food and housing cost money, and Daddy earns the bulk of our income, and we should be grateful for everything we have and the hard work it takes to get it.

I didn’t intend to communicate that the only reason we work is to eat. That’s certainly ONE of the reasons. But it’s not the only one.

I work because I love dealing with written content. I like organizing it, improving it, and creating it. I feel satisfaction when I produce (through writing and/or editing) an excellent piece of written work. I like helping people. I like assisting organizations I believe in. Marketing helps businesses, non-proifts, and even churches.

I want our kids to know that we work hard to provide for them and take care of them and also that we work because we enjoy using our talents. I want to help them develop their talents and learn how to use them as well. I want them to find work that they love doing and that makes the world a better place.

What are some phrases I could use to talk about work with my kids in a more holistic way?

Photo by Elisabeth Garrett; Easter 2013.

When You’re Uncertain About Life

June 11th, 2013  / Author: becky

…it’s hard to write about it. Because what do you say? “I have no idea what I’m doing right now.” That’s not very interesting, but it is comforting, because probably a lot of other people feel the same way.

When Penelope Trunk wrote in April that she was having a hard time writing about her life because she didn’t want to face her life, she identified for me what I was feeling too. She made me feel not-alone by sharing her uncertainty, so I’ll pass that along to you. Life has been very uncertain for the past few months, but it’s sorting out now. If you’re having trouble facing your life right now, I hope things sort out for you as well. And in the meantime, watch Doctor Who.

It was also Penelope Trunk who said to try a lot of things in your 20s even if you make mistakes. I tried a lot of things in my 20s, and I made mistakes, and it paid off, because now in my 30s (just celebrated my 32nd birthday!) I’ve narrowed down what I’m good at and what I want to do.

I’ve wanted to be a women’s magazine editor since I was 24. I have an old journal somewhere with my notes on the magazine I wanted to start. That was back when print journalism was still a thing… It took me 8 years, but I’m finally doing it. After two years of planning, I’m almost ready to launch an online magazine focused on women’s mental and emotional health. (Still fixing bugs on the website—should be able to promote it by this weekend.) Since I wrote those original notes, I’ve had three kids, four jobs, and an emotional breakdown, and all of those things are contributing to making the magazine even better.

And if you’re wondering how to find the time to launch a magazine while working from home with three kids, see the photo? I made site edits on Saturday while sitting on the stairs by the laundry room to keep the loads going, and letting Estel play with my toes occupied her for a solid 15-20 minutes.

As I’ve narrowed down my focus to the things only I can do, it’s helped me cut uncertainty out of my life. So I feel ready to write about it again.

Becoming A Master Parent – My Post at The Mom Season

March 29th, 2013  / Author: becky

You know what I’m really good at? Mothering a newborn.

You know what I’m not at all good at? Mothering a 6-year-old.

This is because I have mothered three newborns and only one 6-year-old (and I’ve only been doing that for a few months).

When my first child, Katherine, was born, I wasn’t great at taking care of her. I was unsure and clumsy. I was awkward as I tried to hold and feed her. I meticulously researched every option for every decision and then still second-guessed myself. I didn’t know what to do with her all day…after feeding, bathing, and changing, it was only mid-morning, and the day loomed ahead of us, teeming with question marks.

Read the rest of Becoming A Master Parent at The Mom Season, Dani Byham’s blog.

How to Build a Part-Time Career While Raising Kids

March 27th, 2013  / Author: becky

If you want to work in a field where you have talent and interest, but you also want to have children and be very involved in raising them, plan ahead for a career that will allow you to work part-time. Here are some suggestions for charting that kind of career path along with the story of how I’ve made it work for me.

Do internships (work for free while you can)
Your high school and young adult years are great times to work somewhere for free. If you’re living with your parents in high school and your expenses are covered, work for free in a field you’re interested in while you don’t have to worry about rent. I wrote for my hometown newspaper in their teen section during high school, and I got crazy-valuable experience (and no paycheck).

In college, while my living expenses were covered with scholarships, tuition payments, and loans, I worked for the school newspaper (for which I did receive a small scholarship) and did an internship with the honors program newsletter for credit. That means I paid for that experience, but if I hadn’t been worried about college credit, I could have just volunteered and done the same work. I also did another internship in marketing at the company that planned to hire me when I graduated. I paid for credit for that work too, but the company paid me hourly, so it worked out okay.

If your parents are able to help you pay for college, consider asking them to instead help you cover your basic living expenses while you work a job or do an internship in your field. It’ll be cheaper than college, you’ll learn more, and you’ll be much more likely to get a paying job when you’re done.

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Guest Posting at Sarah Kovac’s Blog: Mothering Through Depression

March 22nd, 2013  / Author: becky

Today I have a guest post up over at Sarah’s blog. She writes about doing life and parenting with a physical disability, so I wrote about parenting through mental health problems, specifically depression. Here’s a preview:

The blackout shades on the windows mostly kept the sun at bay, and the dry Cheerios I set on the table mostly kept my two- and four-year-old kids at bay. I slunk back under the heavy comforter, head on the wet pillow, and returned to the weight of sleep. Today I wouldn’t end my life, but I would try as hard as I could to pretend I didn’t exist.

Even now, three years later, I blush as I confess this to you.

I am so ashamed at what a terrible mother I was, what a terrible wife, what a terrible housekeeper. I had no idea what was wrong with me, only that I was failing at everything in my life. Previously a strong and capable professional, I was losing clients because I couldn’t bring myself to call them back. Formerly an energetic new mom, I could barely feed and clothe my children.

You can read the post over on her site: Parenting During Depression.

Feeding the Hungry and Caring for the Sick (In My Own Home)

March 19th, 2013  / Author: becky

The view from my laptop: Sick baby sleeping on me while I write.

Sometimes you read a little something that washes over your soul with a wave of freedom, that blows into your heart a gust of spring air.

I stumbled on a comment on a very old blog post from Jennifer Fulwiler, now of Conversion Diary, back when she wrote on The Reluctant Atheist. Jennifer and her husband felt like they were called to do “more” in the world to help people but couldn’t figure out how. Her commenter said:

“For husband and wife, the admonish[ion] of Christ to feed the hungry, care for the sick, and clothe the naked starts right there with your spouse and kids. There’s plenty of opportunity to care for the sick while comforting a spouse or child whose being ravaged by the flu. There’s plenty of opportunity to feed the hungry just by bringing your babe to the breast to nurse. There’s plenty of opportunity to cloth[e] the naked by providing for spouse and childrens material needs.”

That freed me when I read it a few months ago, and it frees me as I read it again today. We have been sick for something like three weeks…I lose track, because it’s been such a long blur. Viruses and flus and coughs and colds have swarmed around and through our family as we’ve swapped diseases with each other and the rest of Maastricht.

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Writing a Book with a Toddler at Home

March 15th, 2013  / Author: becky

I mentioned my friend Sarah Kovac to you last week in my post How Hustle Can Get You a Book Deal. Here’s the promised guest post from her about how she managed to get that book written while taking care of her son. Sarah’s second baby is due around the same time as her book releases, so I hope she’ll write another post in the future about how to handle a book launch with a preschooler and a newborn!

I’ve never been the ambitious type. Growing up with a severe physical disability (called Arthrogryposis), I learned quickly to accept my lot in life and be happy with what I had–most days, anyway.

This laid-back philosophy, combined with my aversion to schedules, caused me to feel right at home in the college journalism department. I’d been writing for fun all my life, but my desk as Opinions Editor was where I learned to be creative on demand, write poorly/revise later, and meet a deadline. I dropped out just before my senior year to focus on being a new mom, but writing was in my blood. I couldn’t stop. During 3 a.m. nursing sessions, I sat on the floor, babe in my arms, laptop at my toes. (Yes, I type with my toes.)

I typed everything and nothing. Every obscure memory that made my life unique; every hurtful look and awkward conversation and victorious moment. Everything. Fragments, half-thoughts, ramblings, all laid out in a hurry before my newborn started to fuss or drift back to sleep. I wrote about 7,000 words… and then I ran out of steam, in typical Sarah fashion.

I gave up on my little file of thoughts, and a year of baby wipes and giggles and sleep-deprivation passed. Then suddenly my world began to spin faster. I uploaded a video of how I change diapers with my feet, and two days later, my story was headline news on

Organizations started inviting me to share my story as a guest speaker, and I won a blogging contest that sent me to North Carolina for a speakers/writers conference called She Speaks. I mistakenly signed up for the chance to pitch my book proposal (which didn’t exist) to a for-real literary agent. When I realized my mistake, the conference was just two weeks away. I had never seen a book proposal in my life. Of the three suggested sample chapters I needed to present, I had exactly zero.

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A Pilot’s Guide to Not Having Wrong Opinions

March 14th, 2013  / Author: becky

This is a guest post from my brother, Daniel Castle, in response to my post What To Do When You’re Afraid of Being Wrong. Daniel is a pilot, and is therefore never wrong. What’s awesome about Daniel (besides the being a pilot thing) is that he bucked traditional wisdom about majoring in Engineering or some such at the Air Force Academy and majored in English, because he loves writing as much as flying. I think this is a great example of specialization…anyone can pilot a tanker*, but how many tanker-pilot-humor-writers do you know?

*That’s not true.

TL;DR Version: Be awesome. Awesome people don’t have wrong opinions.

My husband, Matthew, thinks his brother-in-law Daniel is always right.

1. Be a pilot. And insert that fact into any and all conversations (especially when there are strong opinions present). This simple fact will end all arguments and make you the automatic winner. Everyone knows you don’t argue with a pilot because you can’t win*. If you’re a pilot, you can also use your civilian airline captain’s voice, which is like a Darth Vader stranglehold trump card against any contrary opinions. “KSHCK, Goooooooooood morning, ladies and gentlemen, this is your eeeeeeeerm captain speaking. You are wrong, KSHCK.” Coincidentally, this brings me to my next point.

What To Do When You’re Afraid of Being Wrong

March 12th, 2013  / Author: becky

I’ve narrowed my topic, found my niche, and tapped into my passion … and now I’m terrified to write about it, because what if I’m wrong?

I want to write about being a dreamer while you’re a mom, about using your skills both at home AND at work, or as a volunteer. Making a difference in both the small world of your kids’ lives AND in the great big world outside your door. I know it’s possible to do both, because I’ve done it for the six years I’ve been a mom. I am delighted with the career I’ve built, part-time, while raising children who also delight me.


But what if I’m wrong?

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How Hustle Can Get You A Book Deal

February 28th, 2013  / Author: becky

My friend Sarah Kovac has her first book, In Capable Arms, coming out this fall!

Sometimes I see authors releasing first books, and I wonder how much luck or the right connections had to do with the publishing deal. Having been privileged to watch Sarah’s story develop since we met in high school, I can tell you that her success is due to a lot of hustle on her part.

Sarah’s book is about dealing with AMC, which makes her arms mostly unusable, so she performs many daily tasks with her feet. Her journey to publication began in 2010 when she saw CNN requesting iReport stories from parents with disabilities. She had studied journalism at school, but was scared to report about herself. After wrestling with insecurity over her appearance, she decided, “My arms are my arms, whether I like them or not, and hiding them is just ridiculous. They’re attached. They’re not going to go away. And if my story can encourage somebody, then I’m going to tell it, even if it makes me uncomfortable.”

So she created a short video of herself doing daily parenting tasks, like diapering and feeding her then-8-month-old son — with her feet. She uploaded the report before she could second-guess herself.

The next day, she checked the news on CNN, and found herself on the home page! This quickly led to interview requests from local media outlets.

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