Paying Attention to Mama

I have been holding out on you. I have many photos I want to share under my Nature Watch tag. Many of them I took last spring when we went to Cloudland Canyon State Park on vacation. I just haven’t had time to post them, but I’m going to remedy that.

The photos on this page were taken at the front fountain at the state botanical garden. These are pitcher plants, which as you know, we’re very fond of.

The reason I’m making a point to renew my commitment to do Nature Watch posts is that lately, I have been in a sort of funk. Not a Whole Life Funk. I have a good life, which I love, and I have no right to complain about. But I’m having a What-Do-I-Want-To-Do-Professionally-Funk. Though I’m still writing and editing, I’m having a writer’s block. That probably doesn’t make sense, so I’ll explain. I feel there’s something I really want to work on, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. There’s something else I want to do besides writing the same ol’ columns, but I can’t quite figure it out. I am restricted by time, money, and well, I need to make money, so that’s a restriction too. I can’t just go back to journal-keeping and be happy with it. I also want something I can build upon once my children are grown.

So I’m wondering what I want to do. Write a book? Actually, I already started one, but I’m losing confidence in it. Does the world really need another book by a homeschooling mom telling about her experience which may or may not help the experience of other mothers with very different children? Sigh. Should I try writing a column for another venue? Should I try cracking into more freelance writer markets? I can’t decide what I want to spend my limited time doing. Because when I do decide, I put my 100% into it, so I want it to be worth it.

I am really stuck.

I was really feeling down about this, but today I realize that while I’ve been “stuck,” I’ve started taking the time to pay more attention to the things I really love. (I’m talking about things besides family-children-homeschooling.)

One of those things is nature. Even though I don’t have much time or the proper equipment, I can take some pretty nature photos, and I’m going to try to share my work when I find the time. On Twitter, I made a “nature” list, and I’m adding people there who do wildlife photography. Whenever my boys and I spot some wildlife, I’m going to tweet about it (I also keep a hand written journal) whether or not I have a photo. This is transforming how I use Twitter, and I’m enjoying it immensely. I am also promising to start posting my “Nature Watch” photos that I’ve been holding onto with good intentions these past few months. If you enjoy nature photography, you can also follow my photography blog. Doing these things also helps me when we don’t find the time to get out to the local parks and go hiking, especially during this unusually long rainy season we’re having.

I have never written about this before, but I’m also doing yoga regularly. I started about a year and a half ago, but it took awhile to commit to a regular practice. I love it. I want to keep learning about and doing yoga even though right now that means learning through books/online tutorials and doing a 15 minute (sometimes interrupted) practice 4-5 times a week.

I also want to learn how to use some software on my computer. This means taking the time to do some online tutorials. I have no idea when I’ll find the time for this, but it’s on my “list.”

I’m also paying attention to the fact that I have felt lonely for quite a while. It seems strange to say that when I have some great friends, and I have a husband and two boys I love being with and talking to. No, this kind of loneliness is for something else. I miss knowing people who are driven to create. Writers. Artists. Or even nature lovers who like to take long walks and muse about the mysteries of the universe. I used to facilitate writing groups. I used to having walking buddies, but they moved away. Others have very different life situations. It’s hard for me to make time for people when I can’t bring my children with me, and then find something to occupy them with. I don’t think I can remedy this problem until my kids are a little older, but it’s still there. At least recognizing it helps me with some goal setting.

I’m hoping nature, yoga and gaining some other skills will help unstick me and eventually lead me to new people I have other things in common with. What do you do when you feel stuck?

Robot Mom

The only photo of me taken on our vacation – taken on our first night in the condo by daddy with his tablet. (Because I’m usually taking all the photos.)

Note: This column was published in the Barrow Journal on May 21, 2014.

In the late 90s, I worked for US Airways at the Athens Ben Epps Airport. Truly, it was the best job I ever had for two reasons – the varied work suited me, and most importantly, I worked with some awesome people. It’s the only time I witnessed true teamwork despite working in offices where employers touted the term “teamwork” frequently.

Now that I look back, I realize that the work suited me because I’m not cut out for sitting in an office in front of a computer for eight hours. At the airport I got to work with people, work inside and outside, do physical work, and work on the computer. There were slow times between flights, and there were intense times while checking people in for the flight, loading their bags on the plane, running the security check point, and marshaling the plane in and out of its parking spot. Many times there were only two of us working, and since it was a small airport most of the passengers thought they could arrive five minutes before takeoff. (That wasn’t helpful.)

Once a passenger asked me, “Do you fly the airplane too?”

“Only in emergencies.” I joked.

My co-workers and I worked well together because everyone did exactly what was needed of them in any given moment. None of us favored one task over another, so we jumped in wherever we were needed. The only exception to this was our manager, and though that may sound like a criticism, I actually liked her. She was a nice woman, but when she was there she disrupted the flow of our work for various reasons. Later I learned the only reason she took the job as manager was because there was no else to do it, and she gladly gave it up when someone else wanted it.

The reason I’m telling this story is because I have a vivid memory of one day when a flight was cancelled, and twenty passengers stood before us in a panic because they were going to miss their connection in Charlotte, NC. One of my co-workers and I worked so smoothly and quickly helping each passenger in line that we deflated any quick-tempered passengers.

What I remember about that moment is my manager standing near us and exclaiming, “Look at them! They’re like robots!” It was always hard for her to understand how we could remain so unflustered during those stressful moments.

Now all these years later that memory keeps resurfacing because once again, I find myself in a situation that requires varied tasks. I get to work with awesome people, get outside, do physical work, and part of the day, I’m on my computer. But it’s even better because I get to do creative work and continually learn new things too.

The bad part is that I never get a day off, and I’m so busy going from task to another that I rarely get a chance to rest. I never get to cross everything off my to do list either. Indeed, this is the life of a mother, especially a homeschooling mom, and a freelance writer, and it’s not lost on me that sometimes I must look like a robot. That is, focused, hurried and unsmiling.

I’m trying to remember to smile more. I want my outward appearance to match how I’m feeling inside. I want my kids to know that I love my job, and I love them. Even when I’m tired, there’s nowhere I’d rather be but right here.

I have so many good memories from my time working at the small airport. I could write a book about all the characters I met there, and all the laughter and smiles. Did I appreciate it while I worked there? I think so, but I know there were days that it was just a job.

My current job is anything but “just a job,” so I hope I can remember that each moment is a memory in the making.

An Interview on Days With The Grays

If you’d like to learn more about me and my creative work, you can head over to Days With The Grays where I participated in a Creative Mothers interview. All the interviews in that series are inspiring to read! I hope you’ll read them and then find the creative spark within yourself. You can do it!!

Thank you, Megan, for letting me participate. Click here to read the interview.

 

Sound Bites

Note: This column was published in the Barrow Journal on February 27, 2014.

“I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.” – Ernest Hemingway

In the mornings I’m lucky if I wake up to a quiet house. Usually it’s the galloping of the dogs’ paws on the floors as the canines leap up at the slightest sound of movement from my husband. They follow him into the kitchen, eagerly waiting their breakfast.

Other mornings I may wake up hearing one of my boys calling me from their bed or the seven-year-old’s footsteps as he runs down the hall and jumps into bed with me. Sometimes I hear a bird singing outside my window. Every once in a while, I wake up and hear nothing, and I savor the quiet.

Today at the park I heard snatches of my children’s conversations with their friends. One boy was explaining to my four-year-old that they would pretend they were dinosaurs and chase each other. They were trying to decide which dinosaur they would be, and my four-year-old wanted to be an Argentinosaurus. “Okay,” said the other boy, “you chase me then.”

“Actually,” my son said in his four-year-old and still sometimes hard to understand speech, “the Argentinosaurus wasn’t very fast.” I smiled at his good attempt at trying to pronounce Argentinosaurus, and I told the other boy’s mother how the word “actually” has become very popular in our house lately. She said it was gaining momentum in her house too.

It’s fun to hear how children will learn a new word and then play with it often as if they are trying to get to know it better.

While we were at the park we walked down to the shoals, and the kids played near the water. Running water in a creek or river is my favorite sound in the world. I could sit beside a river all day and just listen, but kids don’t let me sit for long. We were walking down the trail, and I was too busy keeping an eye on the boys who were running far ahead of us to listen to the wildlife.

I was happy to hear them talking, chattering and laughing as they asserted their independence and tried to get away from their mamas. I did catch the loud sound of a frog croaking from somewhere in the marsh.

On the way home from the park, I wanted to listen to the news on the radio, but my boys kept interrupting the broadcast. Some days I make a point of turning off the radio and just listening to my son chatter about his observations or ask his complicated and often-times unanswerable questions.

“If we walked just one atom at a time, would it take a year for us to walk a foot?” He laughs at himself and I shake my head. I hope he’ll grow up and learn the answer for himself and then tell it to me.

Sometimes in the evenings while my boys are watching T.V. my husband will call me to his office to watch his latest find on YouTube. He listens to music to relax, and he’ll listen to anything from classical to folk to pop music.  One of his favorite things to do is watch YouTube videos of auditions from the British X Factor talent show.

It’s not something you would ever find me doing on my own, but I’ll sit with him and soon be sucked into the inspiring stories of these talented young people who are finally being discovered. We’ll listen to their best songs and then watch whatever other talented musicians he may have found.

If it weren’t for my husband, I would be completely cut off from pop culture and sometimes even the latest news. That’s what happens when you keep turning off the radio to hear your kids chatter. But their young voices are only here for a brief period of time, and as much as I would like to listen to the news or even my own thoughts, I know I won’t regret spending a little time listening to them.

What have you heard lately?

Then There Were Two: Essays on Motherhood, Chapter 1

Please bear with me as I write about my e-book one last time. (Promise.)

First of all, I’d like to thank everyone who has bought my book and sent me kind messages about it. I’m so glad you liked it. Here are a few of the comments I’ve received:

“Shelli, I LOVED IT! You write so beautifully.”

“We so need more supportive, non-judgmental, type of reading out there and your book really helps fill that void for new(ish) moms.”

“Pabis doesn’t offer advice, instead she shares her experiences, her expectations, and her surprises along her motherhood journey, as though over coffee. But, she does more than this–she inspires us to truly savor the moments with our little ones.”

Remember that you can give Kindle books as gifts. There is a little box under the “Buy Now” box that says, “Give as a Gift.” All you need is the recipients e-mail address. You get to pick a delivery date too. They don’t need a Kindle to read the book either.

Below I’d like to offer you the Table of Contents and first chapter to give you a flavor of the book.  I hope you’ll buy it. But if not, that’s okay too. I deeply appreciate that you read my blog.

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Then There Were Two: Essays on Motherhood

Table of Contents

Introduction
Remembering Summers Past
Preparing for a Newborn
What I Least Expected
Watching Two Brothers Bond
Every Mother’s Experience Is Different
My Attempts to Juggle Two Children
Adventures in Potty Training
There Is No Consensus on How to Raise a Child
Autumn Brings Back Memories
The Bad Mommy Syndrome
Good Habits Are Hard to Keep When You Have Children
A Trip to the Mall
Winter Habits
Creating New Family Traditions
The Aquarium
Finding Meaning in the Daily Grind
Our Journey to the Zoo and Back
How Children Changed Me
Time Moves Too Fast with Children
The Joys of Parenthood
I’ve Reached Autumn

Remembering Summers Past

It doesn’t feel that long ago that I spent the summer evenings sitting on a porch swing at a little old mill house I rented in Athens, Georgia.  I lived a stone’s throw from the train tracks, and when a train would sit idle on the track, I could feel its ticks and hums as if it were alive and breathing on my neck. Back then, the sound of the train never bothered me.

Usually it was quiet on that street.  My neighbor’s old hound dog would limp into my yard and perk up when he saw my kitten swatting at bugs and chasing squirrels up the pecan tree. I was single, and I felt I was living as close as I could to the good things I read about in my favorite Southern literature, but most especially, to the stories I heard my grandmothers tell me when I was young.

I loved the slow pace, the humidity, the old houses, and the green veil of mature trees that shrouded the homes in that old neighborhood. Having grown up in Las Vegas where everything was new and glamorous, the South felt romantic to me. The history and my heritage made me feel like I’d come back to my roots.

Besides reminding me of the South’s unsavory history, my husband will tell me that I was lonely in that house and that I hated my job. There’s nothing like marriage to give you a new perspective.

I was lonely at times. I had finally reached an age when I felt ready to move into another era. I had gone to school, traveled, worked various jobs, but my biggest dream of becoming a writer never came true. I lacked the focus and discipline, and I didn’t know anybody in the writing business. I was a dreamer who had run out of options. Or so I thought.

But I was never lonely when I sat on that porch, notebook in hand. I have always been fond of alone time, something that is scarce for a mother, and I will always love a rainy summer afternoon in Georgia. When I’m at my most harried and stressed as a mother and wife, it’s the wide porch swing and shade of a pecan tree that I long for.

***

In the heat of August, though three years apart, both my boys were born. Their birthdays are only one week apart. Luck of the draw.

Now summers are bittersweet occasions celebrating milestones and remembering the fleeting moments of holding a newborn in my arms. Summer licks its lips as I tell again and again the story of how daddy drove me to the hospital, and I was already ten centimeters dilated. I remember how the nurses poured into my room and swirled into action like waters over a broken dam. I tell my eldest son how I’ll never forget the look on the redheaded nurse’s face when I asked her for my epidural. She shook her head in slow motion. “It won’t help you now, honey.”

I tell my younger son how he kept me waiting until the eleventh hour.  On his due date, I took my husband, son, and mother-in-law on a long walk through the woods at the botanical garden. My husband kept saying it was unsafe for me to be so far from the car in my condition. If that’s what it takes, I thought, but I wasn’t worried. It felt great to be moving along a stream that had known me when I was new to this area. I showed my son my favorite place to sit down and watch the silky water reflect the green canopy and moving circles of light.

***

Last night my eldest son and I were reading a children’s library book about summer, and it asked us what sounds we associated with it?  After we read the book, we got out of bed and went over to the window, opened it and looked out into the nearly black summer night.  It was unusually quiet, but as we strained our ears, we could hear the crickets in the woods.  A bird began to sing.  I told my son to breathe deeply, and I asked him if he could smell the musty air.  Then we peered into the trees and spied some lightning bugs.

Just maybe I’ll pass on some of my romantic ideals to my son.

Click here to find my book on Amazon.

In the E-book Business

Note: This column was published in the Barrow Journal on November 20, 2013.

After working several months on my first e-book, I’m proud to say I have finally published it. Then There Were Two: Essays on Motherhood is a book of essays adapted from my first columns with the Barrow Journal, written before and after my second son was born. So it’s about a mother adjusting to life with an infant and toddler as well as musings on nature and family issues. It also has some of my photography from that time.

I’ve published it in the Amazon Kindle Bookstore, though I hope to offer it through other venues in the future. One of the reasons I published it in the Kindle Bookstore first is because these books can be read on every device, including iPads, Androids, and a regular computer using the Kindle app. It can also be sent to anyone as a gift, and all you need is the name and e-mail address of the person you’re sending it to.

There was a time many years ago that I would not have considered self-publishing a book. I wanted to write fiction and get published with a respectable publisher, but after trying for a few years and attending several writing conferences, I learned that the publishing business has more to do with making money, which is understandable – otherwise the publishers couldn’t stay in business.  But I also learned that if I persevered and eventually got published, that did not guarantee I could afford to live on writing alone.

It’s sad to know that there are a lot of good writers out there who will never be published because their work isn’t “marketable.” Maybe a writer doesn’t have thousands of readers, but if they are competent and appeal to hundreds, why shouldn’t they self-publish?

As a blogger, I see many writers like me trying their hand at e-books, so at the urging of my husband, I thought, “Why not?” I have nothing to lose.

The process has been a lot of fun too. I went through my early columns and decided I had enough to make a book that would appeal to mothers. Like any writer, I’m my own worst critic, so I edited, polished and rewrote some of it. Then I picked some photographs that I thought went with the essays.

It amazes me that anybody can sign up for an account on Amazon and publish a book in minutes (though it goes through a preview process that takes up to 24 hours before it goes live). Many writers have been given a chance to publish their books this way, and many of them have been a success at it.

Those who think they can write but cannot may be weeded out by poor sales and rankings. Poorly edited, formatted or otherwise sloppy work won’t get very far either. Of course, I’ve learned it takes a lot more than a well-written book to catch the attention of buyers.

I needed the perfect cover, perfect blurb, and then I have to market my book so that people will learn about it and buy it. None of that is easy, but I’m writing only partly because I want to make money.  I’m also writing because I love to write and share experiences with others. So I’m putting it out there, and I’ll see what happens.

I have plans for more e-books. I want to write a handbook for busy parents on how to tell stories to their children for teaching, entertaining and imparting wisdom. After all, children respond better to stories than to lectures!

Also on my ideas list are some e-books on our homeschooling journey by grade, particularly focusing on our blend of using some curriculum along with child-led, project-based learning.

I have other ideas too, but before I commit to them, I better get these written!

If you know a mother who might like a book about the joys and misadventures of handling young children, please take a look at my promo page. You can also search my name on Amazon.com. It makes a perfect Christmas gift for busy mothers because the essays are short and can be read during baby’s nap or feeding session!

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One more note: If you do buy my book, THANK YOU. I hope you like it. 

E-book: Then There Were Two

I’m extremely excited to announce that I have published my very first e-book, Then There Were Two: Essays on Motherhood. 

The essays in Then There Were Two embrace the joys, worries and misadventures a mother can have after welcoming her second baby into the world.  From missing the simple routine of caring for just one child to navigating a day at the mall, Shelli Bond Pabis writes in an easy-going manner of one mother speaking to another. Sometimes lyrical and sometimes matter-of-fact, she assures her readers that there’s no consensus on how to raise a child. Her photography adds a beautiful dimension to the book with quiet moments, details of nature and the action of life with children. Mothers will identify with these essays, laugh, cry, and feel satisfied as Pabis surprises herself by finding contentment in the creative job of being a mother. They’ll find themselves wanting to ramble around in their own yards with their children, picking up acorns and listening to the sounds of crickets.

This little book of essays and photography is very special to me not only because it’s my first book but because it contains special memories from a time when I had one small boy and a brand new infant. I began writing my newspaper column for the Barrow Journal two months before my second son was born, and many of these essays are adaptions of those early columns. Most of them have not appeared on this blog, though a few of them have.

The book is about a mother learning how to adapt to life with two children, but you’ll also find musings on nature, family issues, daily life and more.

From the introduction:

I don’t offer much advice; I only hope any new mother who reads it will know she’s not alone. After all, no matter what your experience, you are doing the most important job in the world ~ carrying on this gift of life.

I hope you’ll buy the book, and I really hope that you will like the book. If you do, I would greatly appreciate your help by offering your good reviews and spreading the word about my book on your social media outlets.  Thank you so, so much.

View it on Amazon U.S.

Also on Amazon U.K. , Amazon Canada and Amazon Australia

Currently it is available only in digital format through Amazon.com. See this page for free Kindle apps available for every device and computer out there: Free Kindle Reading Apps

Stay tuned to receive news about my future e-books on how to start a storytelling ritual in your family, homeschooling preschool thru kindergarten and more!