Carrie Maldonado – Author

I write books and blogs to inspire, encourage, and entertain!


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4 major differences in traveling with and without kids

As most of my readers know, next Tuesday, July 25th we will be having a release party for Grace Group, in my hometown of the heart, Yorba Linda, California. As much as it saddens me to be having this momentous event away from Dreamy and the kids, there is some consolation in enjoying TWO two-and-a-half hour plane rides, a bed, and a night’s sleep all to myself while I’m gone. Of course, figuring out how to lug 30 novels to Cali without paying for extra baggage will consume me for the next week. This trip is on the heels of an unexpectedly enjoyable family getaway to the Inland ‘Empire’ of Southern California just last week. (If you’ve never been to this part of the state, I’ll explain the quotes. It is a hot, nasty, hot, barren, hot, desert-like atmosphere, that is also very hot.) Overall, we had a wonderful time, but it was not without its struggles. Here is how I expect the two journeys to compare:

Prep time

Other than the aforementioned, ridiculously heavy, box o’ books, my prep time for the Grace Group launch will consist of me picking 2 outfits, 3 pairs of shoes and some workout clothes, stuffing them amidst the books, and making sure my kindle and laptop are charged.

Prep time for the family trip included multiple, cross-referenced lists of clothes, snacks, and kindle stories, copious loads of laundries, last minute trips to the grocery store because no one ever remembers baby wipes, resulting in five carry-on suitcases and two backpacks (for a three night stay).

Navigation

Now, I am not known for my navigational prowess, to say the least. Even with Siri, I usually get lost when on my own (as I did this last trip, trying to find the gym that was allegedly six minutes away). Bisky says this is because I always call Siri a dirt-bag so she doesn’t like me. I explain this is circular logic, but you get the point. When I travel by myself I become distracted taking advantage of all the quiet by phoning people who’ve given up on hearing from me and get lost. It’s kind of a joke amongst all my pre-kid friends.

Believe it of not, this is the ONE area of my life where I’ve gotten more organized with kids. It’s probably because of the laser focus required not to lose any offspring. I plan this down to a gnat’s hiney, including dressing the twins in the same bright color so I can track them visually more easily. Dreamy and I are short, well-oiled machines and we line up those kids in drill-sergeant like precision, and march them through the airport very efficiently. No, really. Except…

Unexpected Glitches

When I travel by myself, these aren’t a big deal. I am usually early because I can’t wait to get to quiet places like large, international airports, so that I can read in introverted glory. Gate change? Bah! Delay? Yay! Other people’s kids acting like tiny little a-holes? I am love and tolerance personified, and I expect when I travel next week for the launch, I’ll be so excited about it I will probably even offer to hold babies for tired mommies.

When I travel with the kids, every glitch, delay, and snafu is one more step towards the window of good behavior slamming closed and the complete chaos that will break out when that happens. Going to California last week, we narrowly averted disaster after walking 3,000 miles to the furtherst corners of the airport, only to find out the gate had changed to the original starting point. By this time, the novelty had worn off and the kids were not happy. Luckily, I am freaking brilliant, and got us a ride on the golf-cart thingies, which was one of the highlights of the trip.

Tantrums and Bad Behavior

I am reasonably sure that I will not engage in tantrums and bad behavior on my Grace Group road trip. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but I’ve done a lot of work here and I’ve got me pretty much under control.

The kids on the other hand, not so much. I won’t name names, but SOMEONE got so upset by having to eat their hamburger in the car that they worked themselves into a frenzy crying to go home to the point that the vomited. In the car. Did I mention it was hot? Same kid got mad at me when I wouldn’t let them touch the door leading to outside the airport (because an alarm would go off) so they took off at a dead sprint through the airport, while I had to pick up another kid under my arm chasing after them. I’m pretty sure I won’t do either of these things on my mini book tour.

Overall? It wasn’t as hard traveling with the kids as I thought it would be. They are capable of (if not always willing to) follow direction, they’re fun, and a lot of the time they’re delightful to be around. And I may be a bit biased, but they were very cute walking through the airport with their little suitcases. I will miss them next week for sure. Mostly.

There are so many fun holiday stories I’d like to share, but I think I’ll wait until I have the Grace Group tour under my belt. Unless something really interesting happens this week. You never know!

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this blog, please share the love, and let’s connect on Pinterest, Twitter, or Facebook!

PS I’ve written 10 tips on dealing with multiple (conflicting) priorities. If you’d like a free copy, just click here!

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What does Grace Group have to do with twins?

In case you’ve missed my 1,000 tweets, FB posts, videos, and Instagram updates this month, my novel Grace Group was released by eLectio Publishing mid June. Rewriting, talking about, thinking about, and posting about this book has consumed me in the last month, to the exclusion of many of my other endeavors (fortunately not the feeding and caring of my children, although poor Dreamy is another matter). Because I’ve become a little concerned about my non-human babies (i.e. my businesses), I did what I’ve learned to do in the last decade, which is to ask for help from people who know more than me.

That led to a meeting with Mindy, an amazing mentor, coach, and fellow writer last week to talk about my book and how it fits in with my writing goals in general. She gently (well, not that gently…that’s neither her nor my style) pointed out that my brand is confusing. If you look at my blog, it’s all about the trials and tribulations of parenting a very precocious preschooler and her twin brothers, and trying to balance that with two startup businesses and maintain anything resembling work life balance, peace of mind, and serenity. I love writing about this, (just like I loved writing about work life balance and corporate misery when I was doing that). I am working on a non-fiction book and even a website called Twin Life Hacks, to share the pain/love with other twin mamas about this crazy journey we’re all on.

So in the midst of ALL this, out pops Grace Group. In case you’re wondering, there are no twins in Grace Group. Yes, the main character Holly shares some characteristics with me, okay, maybe a lot, but all the other characters are made up. Not only are there are no twins in this book, there is only one kid, and he’s not related to my main character, who is not a mom. So what the heck, one might ask (or did, if one were a book coach) is the relation between my fiction and my blogs, who am I as an author, and WHAT am I trying to do with my writing anyway?

How should I know? I haven’t had a decent night’s sleep in five years!

Actually, she helped me immensely in defining what exactly I AM trying to do with my writing. I’ve been writing for free and for fun ever since I was a kid (much like Bisky, but that’s probably a story for another day). Even though my books and blogs are not on the same topic, they are absolutely related to my mission as a writer, which is to encourage, inspire, make people laugh, and let you know that you’re not alone. So big picture, it all relates.

But small picture..does Grace Group have ANYTHING to do with twins? Only this. I wrote Grace Group when I was pregnant with the boys. At first I called it Grief, Inc., then Grief Group, then Hope, Unlimited and finally Grace Group. This was over a period of three years, from before they were born until just after their third birthday. The title changes very much reflect my emotional state through the transition! Grace Group is not my first novel, it’s my fifth and I’ve realized that I’ve written a book through every major upheaval in my life (and through bad choices and above average anxiety and mood fluctuations, there have been a lot).

When I found out I was having twins, my first emotion was not joy. I have not always wanted twins…I haven’t always even wanted children! My reaction was shock, fear, horror, fear, extreme grief, fear, grudging acceptance, fear, joy, fear, joy, fear, joy, fear etc. Grace Group starts with Holly finding out she’s going to die in six months. It’s no coincidence that I was three month’s pregnant when I started this book (6 months…get it). I felt very much like life as I knew it was over (and it was, but not in a bad way after all). As Holly grew in acceptance and even excitement about what was to come in the next stage of her journey, so did I.

It turns out Grace Group has a lot to do with twins, after all. And coping. And dealing with major transitions in life. I find it impossible to pick and stick with just one way of doing anything, so I’m still working on fiction AND non-fiction. It makes it hard to categorize me as an author. As I’ve told Dreamy before…I’m an enigma wrapped in a mystery (like a burrito, he says). And, like a burrito, sometimes I’m a little spicy, and definitely not for everyone. So although I’ll try to have some kind of recognizable thread in my writing, it will be a very broad one of hope and encouragement, taking many different forms. If you’ve stayed along for the ride this far, thank you! Hopefully the best is yet to come!

On the subject of change, I’ve written 10 tips on dealing with multiple (conflicting) priorities. If you’d like a free copy, just click here!

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this blog, please share the love, and let’s connect on Pinterest, Twitter, or Facebook!


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Grace Group is coming to Yorba Linda!

I’ll be writing more about this later, but wanted to share the big news that I’ll be launching Grace Group in Yorba Linda, California. Although Penticton, British Columbia is where I grew up, Yorba Linda is like my second hometown. It’s where I met so many of the people pivotal in my life’s journey. I hope to see you guys there, even though it virtually ensures I’ll be ugly crying the whole time!


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Kids, life, and freedom!

Seeing as how it was just Canada Day, and tomorrow is Independence Day for the United States, freedom seems like a good topic. I’m thoroughly fed up with politics, though, so I’m staying away from political freedom, and am going to talk about it from another perspective; my kids, and my book (Grace Group).

It’s only been recently that my kids have been interested in freeing themselves from the yoke of my oppression, Bisky particularly, but the twins are following suit. They do still clearly look to me as their (sole) provider of affection, diaper changing, and sustenance if I’m within sight, but this dependency is gradually making way for some independent thought. Apparently, they are ready to make their own decisions regarding bath time, nutrition, sleep, and the cleaning of one’s room (or non-cleaning) and of course the always challenging wardrobe selection.

We live in a culture where freedom is sacrosanct, and we all pretty much believe we should have the freedom to make our own choices. This is actually a running theme in Grace Group (and a couple of my other novels). Free will means that we have the ability to choose what we will do and what we want in our life. Of course, this in no way absolves us of the consequences of our choices, whether it be legally, spiritually, or emotionally (as much as that would be nice). There is (currently) nothing preventing me from choosing to engage in any number of things that aren’t good for me, but this doesn’t mean I won’t get hurt by it eventually.

I’m not looking for controversy here, so let’s use potato chips as an example. There is nothing stopping me from eating a diet consisting of nothing but potato chips and ice cream. In fact, this pretty much sums up the last month of my pregnancy with the twins. I had the freedom to choose to do this. This freedom in no way prevented me from experiencing dehydration, bloating, weight gain, and overall less than optimal health as a result of my choices. But you know what? I’m an adult of reasonably sound mental faculties so in this culture, I am free to binge away to my heart’s content.

Ah, but what about my kids? They, too, have indicated that they’d prefer the chips and ice cream meal plan. Loudly. Repeatedly. Every. Darn. Day. There’s a school of parenting thought that says I should just give in to them and let them experience the consequences. If they want to leave the house without a jacket, let ‘em freeze. I agree with this wholeheartedly in theory, but as a Gen-X’er, I’m finding myself not unlike my age-peers who created a generation of folks who don’t do well with consequences and disappointment (even though my age peers generally made better life choices and got a 20-year head start on me in the procreation arena). I don’t want my kid to learn the hard way not to climb on the roof, or play with the stove, or drive the car when they’re 3. So there is this natural tendency in me to want them to learn anecdotally and not experientially.

And I am aware that no one in the history of ever has learned life lessons anecdotally, and my kids are no different. I can tell #StopThatAiden 100 times to stop teasing his siblings, but he never does until he experiences their retaliation – either physically, or through shunning. And I’m pretty sure Bisky is going to have to learn the hard way that getting mad and refusing to talk to people is an unacceptable way to negotiate differences of opinion because Lord knows reasoning doesn’t work.

It’s a constant battle (for me) of deciding whether to let them face my admittedly mild consequences for crappy behavior, or to let big bad life dish it out. I suppose the older they get, the more I’ll let life take over, even though it’s tough. It certainly gives me a renewed appreciation for our spiritual journey. If you subscribe to the belief that there is an omnipotent, loving being who has a vested interest in our well-being and character development (and I do), and if you’ve ever had a three-year-old raging at you because you won’t let him eat candy and crayons for breakfast (and I do), you can get an inkling of what dealing with humans must be like for God.

But I WANT to date that bad boy, or blow off college, or smoke this, eat that, drink this other thing…it’s my life…it’s MY RIGHT!! Been there, done that, and then I’ve also been the one to cry ‘it’s not faaaiiiirrrrr…why is life so haaaaaaarrrrrd? Why does everything happen to meeeeee?’ Just like my toddlers! And I imagine the answer we adults get (if we’re willing to listen) is just the same as what we say to our kids. ‘Look, I told you the rules, I told you what would happen, and you wouldn’t listen. Now do you want to try it my way?’ And honestly, much of the time I say ‘No, I don’t agree with those rules. That’s not how I’d do it if I were in charge, so I’m going to follow different rules. I have the right. It’s MY life.’ Which is true, I do have the freedom to choose. But the consequences remain the same. Don’t you just hate that? I know my kids do.

So as we celebrate our freedom tomorrow, I’ll certainly be thinking about using that freedom wisely, to choose not just what I want, but what’s best for me long term. And I hopefully will be teaching my kids the same (even while letting them eat popsicles all day long, because it is a holiday after all).

Happy Canada Day, and Happy Independence Day!

 

 


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Summer fun, body image, and ‘just wearing the suit’

Body image is such a THING now…whether you have a good one, a bad one, or couldn’t care less about it one way or another, you can’t avoid the topic (unless you avoid social media altogether, which might not be a bad thing). I completely, wholeheartedly believe in positive body image and detest any form of haters or shamers, having been ‘fat shamed’ for most of my formative years by bullies. (PS…Bullies, I hope you all have dead-end jobs, endless bad hair days, unruly children, and unreliable cars. Yes, I mean YOU Stacy and Debby). I love it when I read articles about just wearing the suit and especially love when people overcome their body image concerns and DO wear the suit. And you know what? I think you all look beautiful! I want to be you.

This is such a complicated, emotionally charged issue that’s been front and center for me since having a daughter. I first remember being ashamed of my body around sixth grade. That’s when I tried to be on the volleyball team, and the team shorts didn’t fit me. The humiliation of the teacher trying to find a bigger pair makes my face heat up until this day. I remember very clearly looking down at my thighs, wishing there was a magic knife that could just cut all the fat off. I definitely felt inferior.

Because I’m nearly ancient, we’re talking about the early eighties when I was young so there wasn’t ANYBODY telling young girls it was okay to just be healthy, and fit, and that not everyone was going to be a ‘perfect size 6’ like Elizabeth and Jessica from Sweet Valley High (who incidentally would probably now be thought of as ‘brave’ to show up at SVH pool parties in their suits. Or have they re-written the series so now the wonder twins are ‘perfect size 2s’?) Quite the opposite. The only time non-skinny people were pictured in the books I read was when they heroically deprived themselves of food they liked, ran around the school track (when no one was watching of course) and finally gained the love and acceptance that had (rightfully) been denied them previously. I knew, not thought but knew, that I would only be allowed to be happy once I got down to a media-approved size and weight (which was 105-120 pounds, a weight I haven’t been since I was about 11).

For most of my life I’ve experienced the approach of summer with impending dread. Not only would I have to wear shorts, exposing my wobbly (or woggly, as #noBen says) thighs for all to see, but possibly even bathing suits. One time, pre-Dreamy, I remember having a first date with Stalker Gary, whom I’d met on match dot com, and because he was an inappropriate weirdo he wanted to know what I liked and disliked most about myself. I forget what I said I liked, but clearly remember that the feature I disliked most was my body. ‘Your whole body?’ he asked in a bewildered tone, but underlying that was a quiet glee…probably because he was sure he’d found the perfect victim. Fortunately for me, despite thinking my body was my worst feature, I had enough self-worth to ignore Stalker Gary’s (many) calls until he finally went away.

I’ve noticed through the years that how I feel in my body has a very low correlation to how it actually looks. At my most socially acceptable ‘thin’ weight, I ‘felt huge’ most of the time. I’d turn sideways to get through spaces that had more than enough clearance for my relatively narrow hips. Conversely, after having the twins, there have been times when I’ve felt fan-dam-tastic until I stepped on the scale and realized that according to that, I was mistaken. I couldn’t look good, and certainly had no right to feel okay about myself. But that’s old thinking that on a non-hormonal day I can override and be happy anyway; not needing to deprive myself of fun, love, or food because of how I think I look that’s probably inaccurate anyway. The key to serenity is to stay off the stupid scale in the first place!

Today I have a much better perspective about my body, but probably what helped the most was having one baby and then twins. That, more than anything, gave me a whole new appreciation for everything about my body. When Bisky was born, I was determined not to pass on the fat-phobia and self-loathing that had ruined the first half of my life. From birth, I’d tell her that her body was the perfect container for her. I’ve been diligent about not calling myself fat, and we avoid using it as a negative term. This has had unintended consequences, since she doesn’t understand that describing someone as fat is possibly hurtful to them. This has been a bit confusing to try to explain, so if she’s ever done it to you, rest assured there’s no judgment attached and that she is only five and not right about everything no matter what she tells you.

Because Dreamy and I own a gym, to help people get fit and appreciate themselves exactly the way they are (one of our mottoes is Real People, Real Bodies), because of my own issues, and most of all because I have a daughter, I have more than a passing interest in how the media talks about women. I am thrilled beyond measure that the unrealistic expectations of women are being called out for the bullying they are. Women are taking their power back and wearing whatever the heck they want, whatever the heck the scale says. Our culture as a whole is being forced to acknowledge that women (and men) come in all shapes and sizes, that there are different ways of being beautiful, and that it’s flat out ridiculous to expect everyone to look the same.

I love reading articles about wearing the bathing suit, because what it means is not letting your insecurities deny you the simple right to enjoy your life. There have been way too many things I’ve not done because I’ve worried about how I might look doing them. I do have to admit though, that when I see a ‘plus-size’ model being celebrated for having the audacity to be out of the house in public in a bathing suit, and she’s a size 10 at most, that it still causes me a tinge of angst.

I recently took a drastic step in my own body image recovery when I bought some summer clothes. For the first time in my adult life, I didn’t buy the smallest size I could squeeze into. Instead, I bought the size that fit properly and was most comfortable. I felt so liberated, and love being able to move freely, with no uncomfortable marks pressed into my flesh at the end of the day.

I get the just wear the suit movement. I get that it’s a shame to miss out on summer fun because you don’t like how you look, and I KNOW my kids don’t care what I look like, they just want me to play with them (at least for now). But I don’t know that just wearing the suit is a one size fits all solution (so to speak). I don’t know that I would ever like strangers seeing my butt cheeks even if they were the size and firmness of apples. I can run and play and swim equally well in shorts, and they are the perfect summer solution for me.

But now, ironically and perversely, I feel like I’m letting the movement down by NOT wearing the suit. Like I have a duty as a non-perfect forty-something to WEAR the suit, even if I don’t WANT to wear the suit. Like I’m somehow judging you for wearing the suit by not wearing the suit. So if you see me wearing the shorts and not the suit, please don’t shame me. Don’t tell me I look great and ‘should’ wear the suit, or that I should poke a finger in the eye of the haters by wearing it no matter what they say. To quote my offspring…I don’t wanna!

So there you have it. Much, MUCH love to you suit wearers! I’m with you sisters…in my shorts.

What’s YOUR go-to summer fun wear?

 


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Surviving the abundant life

Launching my novel Grace Group, has caused me to jump completely out of my comfort zone into a space of total vulnerability and faith…a lot like motherhood, now that I think about it…

If you know me or are connected with me in the slightest way (or ever were), you are probably aware that Grace Group was released last week. I’m the kind of person who loves goals. I always am working on goals, and I achieve a good amount of them. This is not always a good thing, as it puts me at great risk for busy-ness (to draw a biblical analogy, I can definitely be a Martha and not a Mary) which can sap my joy and leave me feeling guilty and anxious if I’m not working on ‘something’. Add to this an almost superstitious compulsion to finish my ‘work’ before I play (i.e. relax) and I can definitely be accused of being wound a bit too tight.

This has placed me in an interesting (read uncomfortable) position when it comes to my writing and my parenting, while also maintaining a consulting practice. First and foremost because it means my work is NEVER done and never will be. I figured out a long time ago that if I didn’t schedule in play before I got everything done, I’d never leave my desk, see my kids, or go to the indoor playground (actually, that part I wouldn’t mind so much). In short, work-life balance isn’t so much balance as deciding on a minute-by-minute basis what I’m NOT going to do right now in favor of the more important stuff.

I don’t want to discount the stress that men feel, but there are men bloggers who can write about that, so I’m going to focus on us women and just say what the HECK have we done to ourselves? Isn’t there some curse that says may you get what you ask for? If there’s not there probably should be. I know I say, and feel, like my kids are my biggest priority, and yet there are big chunks of my time where I’m pursuing other interests. I’ve read all the things out there congratulating me for taking my ‘me time’, and reassuring me that my kids will be way better off if I do my own thing because….I don’t remember the reasons. Maybe that’s true, but all I know is Every. Single. Time I come down from my office, they all run up to me, faces lit up asking “Mommy! Are you done with your work?” and if I say yes, they cheer and clap like a visiting celebrity has arrived. If I say no, they sometimes cry, and it breaks my heart.

On our worst days, I have a hard time being patient when I’ve got all three of them all day. Whether it’s the fighting, or all three wanting my undivided attention all the time, sometimes I feel completely depleted, impatient and snappy. On those days, I honestly believe that they’d be better off if I did work full time and only saw them on weekends. If you’re like me, the day to day noise can get completely overwhelming. Sometimes the anxiety is stifling. When that happens, I usually try to meditate and pray for clarity and comfort. I’ll be honest…sometimes I feel like I’m just crying out in the wilderness, and no one hears me – and that’s a scary place. But inevitably, comfort comes. Often it sneaks up on me, and suddenly I’ll realize that it’s all okay. That I can do this. That I’m not wrecking my kids by trying to be an author, and have a business. What a relief when it comes.

Sometimes it’s the little things that can remind us we’re doing better than we think. In the case of the Grace Group pandemonium, for me, it’s Bisky’s book (All about God). See, she decided since I wrote a book, she would too. Hers is better, though, because it has pictures. Like me, she is also producing little videos on ‘her’ phone talking about her book. She wants me to put them on Facebook, and I had to explain that kids shouldn’t really post on FB because of tricky people. Part of her motivation is a highly developed competitive streak, where she wants to excel at anything that is getting attention around here. But she also wants to be like me, and she also really loves God. And that tells me I must be doing something right.

I have no words of wisdom on balance. Nothing. I’ve been flying by the seat of my pants for three years, questioning almost every decision I make, but I do know a couple things that are true for me, at least. I know that it’s almost always the right choice to choose relationships. I know that 30 minutes taken to play has never ruined any of the other stuff. And somehow, through none of my own doing, I know that when I choose the ‘right’ things, even though it might mean losing out on some sort of material gain, that the material has a way of showing up when I most need it.

So for now, my priorities will remain playing with the kids (but not at the indoor playground that kills my soul), talking about Grace Group, taking care of my awesome clients and of course hanging out with Dreamy. In varying proportions.

How do you ‘balance’ yourself?