Carrie Maldonado – Writer

Freelance writer, wordsmith, and novelist

It feels ironic, but when you have a goal greater than yourself and your own comfort, greater things happen. #businesscoach http://ow.ly/i/Cr3IA

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Happy New Year! I realize it’s been a while since my last article, so we have a lot of catching up to do, but suffice it to say that life’s never boring. In fact, there’s been so much going on that I’m still in the midst of my 2018 goal setting! I’m taking a big leap of faith this year and setting some goals based on my heart instead of just my head. Almost twenty years ago someone I worked with told me I needed to ‘let my giftings lead my way’. At the time I chalked him up as a wingnut who made up words like giftings and sounded like a fortune cookie, but darned if it isn’t starting to make some sense.

I wanted to write about this today because I have a feeling someone besides me needs to hear it. See, we all have a gift or two (or more). Mine happens to be the ability to put things into words gooder than some peoples do. This isn’t something I ever considered a gift, it was just something that comes really easily to me. I thought that this combined with the fact that I love to read it meant I should write books, and maybe that’s true, but there are a lot of other ways to use this gift as well. At every job I’ve ever had, I’ve been the company ‘wordsmith’ tasked with writing whatever needed to be written. I’ve also been doing peoples’ resumes forever (about fifteen years before it occurred to me to get certified in it and actually charge money for it!).  I’ve written people’s websites for them, eulogies, speeches, newsletters. You name it, I’ve written it, and because I love it and it’s easy, it just never occurred to me that it was what I was supposed to be doing professionally.

It might never have occurred to me, quite honestly. I’ve been able to keep my inner writer happy by blogging for several businesses, creating training, and ghost writing, but I really didn’t consider writing my ‘day job’ until the beginning of this year, when I was approached by several companies to do writing work. Although I like to consider myself a clever enough gal, sometimes life needs to hit me upside the head with a dead mackerel before I get the point, and in this case it took several paid corporate writing gigs to turn on the light bulb and say ‘hey, maybe you should let people know you do this, since there’s apparently a need for it’.

Well, you don’t need to tell ME more than a hundred times, so there you have it. For those who didn’t know, I do offer professional writing services in the corporate sectors and for individuals. For companies, this can take the shape of corporate mission/vision/values, handbooks, executive bios, newsletters, policies, memos, web content, ebooks or business books. For individuals, it’s often resumes, cover letters, social media profiles, wedding vows (yes, really), eulogies, speeches, and maybe even a novel or autobiography…the possibilities are endless.

It’s not a significant change in my life, since I’ve been doing this all along, but it is probably worth mentioning, since I kind of take it for granted.

But enough about me…what about you? I’d love to hear about something you are uniquely good at or enjoy doing that you have realized that not everyone can or wants to do. Please don’t be shy…I suspect you’ll be pleasantly surprised a the opportunities that arise once you claim your gift!

Again, Happy New Year! I look forward to regaling you with some truly hilarious predicaments I’ve managed to become entangled in recently.  Until then…

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!

Well hello there! I can’t help but notice a little something in the air, a bit of pine and cinnamon encroaching on the pumpkin-spiced everything. What do you know, Christmas time is here! I love this time of the year, but I didn’t always. There were about four years (in a row) where I was anxious, angry, and really lonely and during that time Christmas was the WORST. If you’ve ever gone through holidays when you’re lonely, or hurting, or anxious, or depressed, you know what I’m talking about. If that’s you today, my heart and prayers go out to you. What I found was that the more I could get out of myself and go be helpful somewhere, the less isolated and sad I became. The fact that it’s easier said than done doesn’t make it less true. And if it helps at all, during those dark years, I had no idea what was in store for me, which is glorious, unadulterated joy mixed with chaos.

Having three kids under the age of 6 is always kind of crazy, but Christmas amplifies everything so much! So much excitement and drama. Because we’re Christians, we do our best to make Christmas about Jesus, but that doesn’t mean that for little kids presents aren’t the main event. I don’t take my kids to the stores much, so they’re pretty sheltered when it comes to the sheer volume of STUFF there is out there for them to want. Well, they were. One trip to Target opened their eyes pretty darn quick.

I’ve celebrated Christmas as an agnostic, an atheist, and a Christian, and definitely enjoy it the most as a Christian. The internet being a degenerate wasteland of petty bickering, I’ve seen all sorts of responses to Christmas from both sides of the fence: ranging from demanding people NOT say ‘Merry Christmas’ to demanding a total refrain from any commercial revelry. My thought is that if you choose to celebrate a Christian holiday, don’t get mad when people talk about Jesus. If your biggest gripe against Christians is that you perceive us as overly judgmental and intolerant (as I once did), ask yourself how you are different if you get all hostile and nasty when someone does say the ‘MC’ phrase to you. If you are Christian, don’t try to ban people from your holiday because they don’t know Jesus – I’m pretty sure He wouldn’t approve of that tactic.

Anyway, we do buy presents, and we do the Santa thing to an extent, although we try to make him a bit player and not the main event. For example, Christmas Eve, we bake a birthday cake for Jesus and leave a piece out for Santa. Living in the world and all, the kids do hear that Santa has a naughty and nice list. Rather than try to control their behavior by invoking the guy in the suit or his creepy elf (sorry not sorry), I just tell the kids that to be on the good list, you have to be good all the time and they’re (obviously) not so they’re on the bad list (it’s not as mean as it sounds…really…I tell them no one’s good all the time, so to be fair, no one could actually be on the good list unless Santa grades on a curve.) Fortunately, their buddy Jesus will take the fall for them and He’ll tell Santa to put them on the good list.

I’m not sure how long this will even be a thing. Bisky came home yesterday and told me that a classmate of hers doesn’t believe in Santa. She was laughing at how silly he was, but I suspect she’ll be celebrating the ‘spirit’ of Santa by next year.

This all was swirling around last year and Bisky started asking a lot of questions about Christmas, so I wrote her a story. My intent was for this to become a Christmas tradition. She loved it, and some of the analogies have helped me to deal with her as her character forms and she starts wrestling with her own and others’ good and bad behavior. I wanted to tell the story of grace (God’s grace, that is) in a way a kid could understand. I did have a couple pastors verify it to make sure I wasn’t being inadvertently heretical (I hate when that happens, don’t you?)

In my original story, I had a lot of pictures that I downloaded from Google Images. When I had the idea of making this story more widely available this became problematic. I am too lazy to track down all the pictures and find the credits, and too cheap to pay for the rights if I need to, and too unlucky to get away with not doing either. My solution was to leave big empty spaces where you and your child can draw your own pictures. It will either be really awesome or really awkward. If your kids are like mine it will be a huge hit. I guess we’ll see.

I do really like this story, and I also really like people who read my blog, so I’m making my little book available to you for free! You just need to click here to get access. I hope you enjoy it. Do let me know! I’ll hopefully squeeze in one more blog before Christmas. We’re going to go see ‘Santa’ on Monday so I’ll have at least a few stories to share!

Merry Christmas and God bless you every one!

 

Well readers, it’s been a while. I haven’t posted in a few weeks and have a lot to catch you up on, including but not limited to dealing with anxiety/depression around the holidays, chasing dreams, tapping out, and where have all the socks gone? However, today we’re going to talk about gingerbread. See, I’m a sucker for holiday traditions. I love the repetition, which is funny because I have probably instigated more change in my life than anyone I know (other than Dreamy). All the same, I am comforted by routines and some of my happiest childhood memories revolve around some of the things we did year after year.

Ironically, most of the things I remember happily weren’t particularly happy at at the time…like putting up the Christmas broomstick with coat hanger branches while the lights NEVER worked and my sister and I fighting and getting yelled at for fighting while we were waiting…or getting yelled at for fighting with my sister while making UBake Christmas ornaments, or cookies. Or getting in trouble for fighting about who gets to put the presents in the stockings Christmas Eve…The point being that if you do something over and over enough times, you’ll eventually convince yourself it was wonderful and have happy memories about it. It has totally worked for me (seriously, I do remember these things fondly, and we laugh about them all the time now that we’re grown up and hardly ever get yelled at for fighting anymore). I’m really hoping it works for my kids too, because so far, ‘tis the season to yell at them while they fight as I try to make happy memories, DARN IT!!

Because I have 3.5-year-old twin boys and a 5-going-on-14-year-old-girl, who have been arguing about EVERYTHING, it seemed like as good a time as any to start an ambitious holiday tradition of making our own gingerbread house from scratch and decorating it. For the last several years, I’ve bought a pre-made house from the grocery store and decorated it with Bisky but this year no one is putting #NoBen in the corner and #StopThatAiden will not be denied an opportunity to do what his beloved lord and master (Big Sis) is doing. I’ll be honest, the initial driver behind the whole ‘do-it-completely-ourselves’ thing was cost. Three pre-made ginger homes would be upwards of $30, which just seems dumb, so I combed the halls of Pinterest and found what I was looking for; a step by step tutorial on how to bake and assemble a gingerbread house.

I wasn’t intending on doing it this weekend, but after I mentioned to Bisky what I was thinking it immediately became a promise, and we didn’t have anything else to do, so I headed off to the store to get molasses and gumdrops. Below is me excitedly about to go in and spend $10 on a few things to decorate with. Next, is me after spending WAY MORE than $10 because I should not be allowed to shop ever.

The next step was cutting out the templates to make the house. This is so not my thing, I’m much more a wing-it kind of gal, but after making 12 cups of flour worth of gingerbread, I’ll be you-know-what’d if I waste it by not following all the instructions. So I constructed all my little cutouts out of nice sturdy paper (so as to avoid a similar debacle as experienced with the pumpkin-carving stencils).

Making the gingerbread required boiling molasses and sugar over the stove, which brought back traumatic memories of spilling scorching hot ‘never fail fudge’ on my arms and feet as a girl (making fudge is another tradition I remember happily, second degree burns non-withstanding), so I made sure the children stood well away from the stove. Which distressed them.

There was a scary minute when I thought the flour would never incorporate, but using all of my considerable muscle, I kneaded it all to the right consistency and Dreamy helped me roll it into the pans. It came out much thicker than I expected, which is probably good. We are much more at a sturdy cottage stage of our gingerbread architecture (and life) than elegant and refined. I cut out the pieces while warm, and eagerly awaited construction time, while all three kids whined “can we decorate, can we decorate, can we decorate, can we decorate” over and over in between fighting over who would sit where when we DID decorate, and I yelled at them to stop fighting (aww, memories being made already).

Then I had to ‘glue’ the pieces together to make the house. This is the part that everyone warned me about. The house part was okay, but I think I did something wrong because there was a 2-inch gap when I put the roof on. Then the walls started to buckle. We pressed in though, spackling where we could and using soup cans to bolster the wall. I told the kids we couldn’t decorate until the next day, which made #NoBen apoplectic, but had to be done.

The next day the ‘glue’ really had firmed up to cement-like consistency, and it appeared that our little edifice was going to stand. I carefully divvied up all the licorice, and candy canes, and gum drops so nobody would have to SHARE, and after a brief but intense argument about who would sit where, I set them loose.

I can honestly say, the experience wildly exceeded my expectations. All I was really hoping for was that they’d get to put some M&M’s on the thing before it collapsed, but we got through the whole thing and everyone was pretty pleased with the results.

And after we finished, Bisky asked if we could also please get a ‘store-bought’ house because that’s the ‘real’ tradition.

Ingrate.

What are your holiday traditions?

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In the spirit of November, and Thanksgiving (at least in the US…Canada is way ahead of the curve here), here’s why to choose gratitude.

Today when I went to make coffee, the vanilla coffee that I like so much was not where I left it. I spent a good three minutes looking for it before I found it on the other counter, where Dreamy had put it while cleaning up after dinner. Before I found it, I was convinced that he had lost it, thrown it away, or taken it to the gym NOT EVEN CARING that this is my (now) favorite kind of coffee (as of yesterday). Now I don’t know about you, but my inner child is usually a spoiled little brat who always wants her way and has temper tantrums when this doesn’t happen.

Fortunately, I have learned (actually, I’ve been taught by women wiser than me) that when I behave badly, I’m usually wrong and even if I’m not wrong I will feel like crap if I’m a jerk. And I will also need to make amends if I am to have any serenity, and it’s easier to be nice than to make amends. I laughed at myself as I went through this experience today because I would have responded much differently to this situation in the last 10, 5, and even 3 years. Here are the texts I would have sent after not finding the coffee after 2 minutes during different stages of my life and understanding of gratitude:

30-year-old me: ‘I can’t believe you took the coffee to the gym. Could you at least have ASKED if I liked that kind, or do you only care about yourself?’ (note, I was not married to Dreamy when I was 30. He was lucky enough not to have to experience THIS version of me…for the most part).

35-year-old me: ‘Would you mind bringing back the coffee? Vanilla is my favorite.’ ahem. I also would have been very proud of myself for not responding like the above.

40-year-old me: ‘Did you take the coffee to work with you?’ – said neutrally just so I would know if I should stop looking for it.

43-year-old me: Decides to wait before texting to see if there’s any other coffee at home because coffee’s coffee.

45-year-old me: That is so cool he cleaned up even though he was gone all weekend.

WOOHOO!! I seriously felt like I hit an elevated plane of existence, even though I’m well aware that I’m just being an adult and will not be receiving a hero badge for  not being a jerk.

See, I don’t know a lot, and I forget most of what I do know,  but one thing I believe to be true is that you can walk through life as an entitled jerk or happy and serene in the exact same set of circumstances. I have been on both sides of that coin and can tell you that even when I’m 100% RIGHT in my stance, choosing the entitled angry position has never brought so much as half a smidgen of peace.

People who are entitled feel like they’re owed something. They have a set of ‘shoulds’ in their mind. People SHOULD behave in a certain way. They SHOULD get this if they did that. The world is full of people who will be more than happy to remind us of our shoulds. I love the commercials that were playing day and night in California a few years back. They went something along the lines of “Did you spend an exorbitant amount of money on a house you can’t afford and now you are behind in your mortgage payments? You DESERVE to have a mortgage you can afford.” Or “You DESERVE a diamond bracelet for your birthday” or “You DESERVE to…” you get the idea.

Having expectations about what should be results in either two things. You get what you expected, and are satisfied (but not overly happy because it’s just what you expected) or you do NOT get what you expected so you are frustrated and resentful. Because of this, I work really hard at not having expectations, and life is a lot more fun.

And you know how not to be an entitled jerk?

Gratitude

Do you know it is impossible to be entitled and grateful at the same time? Think about it. If I expect my hunky husband to do the dishes every night and he does them, I’m just ‘meh’. If he does them and I think ‘how nice, he did the dishes. I’m so grateful’, I feel happy. If someone comes and tells me, ‘well, he SHOULD do the dishes. You DESERVE to have him do the dishes since you cooked. He SHOULD mop the floor too and NOT move your coffee’ then while this may be true it will also be true that I will experience much less happiness in my marriage.

We all have the power to magnify whatever we’re looking at, and we get to choose whether we look at the good or the bad. Funny thing though, is we also tend to attract the same attention back as we give. If I helpfully find all the things Dreamy is doing wrong when he cleans and helps out, he will probably not turn to me and say “Thank you so much for helping me do better. You’re the best. I love providing you opportunities to coach and instruct me because you’re so good at it”. Nope. In fact, he may even become tempted to point out the few areas where I am less than perfect. And the cycle begins.

No one was ever nagged into a happier and more loving relationship, and an attitude of gratitude goes a lot farther to create the life you want to be living than a critical eye and a sense of entitlement. I’ve been using marriage, but it works in every relationship and every circumstances – cross my heart.

I definitely need to be intentional about this, as it is still not my default nature. For example:

Entitled: Arghh…#NoBen is calling out for me at 3:15 am again. What does he want now?

Grateful: I’m glad #NoBen has the security of knowing I will be there if he calls.

Entitled: You want another story? When am I going to get five minutes to myself?

Grateful: They’re not always going to want to spend time with me, so I’m going to enjoy this while it lasts

Entitled: Why is that cashier going so slow and making comments about every single item?!!

Grateful: That’s nice that she’s taking the time to be friendly.

Entitled: Why are those people in front of me walking SO SLOWLY

There is no positive response to this one. Those people are evil and should not be allowed out in public. Possibly I will feel differently about this in five more years.

Do you have any times you could have been mean but instead were grateful and what happened? I’d love to hear about it!

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!

As the mother of a five-going-on-fifteen-year-old girl, I am acutely sensitive to the world that my daughter is inheriting and what that world wants to tell her about being a girl. To put this in some context, I should probably mention that I’m currently co-writing a book about the power of belief and our mindsets. The gist of it is that what we tell our subconscious about ourselves dictates our experiences in life. What are we telling our daughters about being girls and women?

The other day my daughter told me that her friend’s mom said that girls can do boy things and boys can do girl things and did I think that was true? I told her I did not think it was true because I didn’t think there were girl things or boy things. I told her there are just things, and that if a girl plays hockey, or dolls, or likes science, or cooking, or wants to be an astronaut then if a girl is the one doing them they are girl things and if a boy is the one doing them then they are boy things. She’s too young to really understand this, but I told her that the people who want there to be labels on what is a girl thing and what is a boy thing end up getting themselves and everyone else very confused about boys, girls, boy things, and girl things.

I believe this, and most of the people I associate with believe this with one significant exception…girl drama.

When I say girl drama, you all know what it means, don’t you? It means teaming up and then turning on one another. It means not sharing friends. It means making fun of people who are different. It means being ultra-competitive with other girls. It means hurting other people’s souls with our words. It means having a best friend to the exclusion of anyone else, and then suddenly being enemies with that same person. We even have a term for it – frenemies, and we laugh about it when we see our daughters as young as three and four having ‘renemies. We see all this and we nod and say ‘that’s just a girl thing’.

We are all so convinced that girl drama is a thing that I think it doesn’t even show up on our radar if boys do it, and if we ever do notice it we probably chalk it up to a one-off. Those of us who were more often the victims than the perpetrators may work to instill kindness and resiliency in our own daughters, but it’s still understood that this IS JUST HOW GIRLS ARE.

By accepting girl drama, we are planting in our daughters’ subconscious two malignant thoughts. First, that there really ARE ‘girl things’ and ‘boy things’ and second that this sociopathic behavior is acceptable…or at least unavoidable. Why? Why do we do this?

I have a lot of theories but who knows? And I don’t know that it matters. I will not successfully convince the whole world to change any more than I can convince people not to drive like jerks or walk slowly in front of me. I can try to teach  my daughter that strong girls don’t take sides or be mean, and I can hope she’s not bullied or, worse, is a bully. Unfortunately, as long as we all tacitly agree that girl drama is a thing, it will be. I used to say, and  know a lot of women who still say that they don’t like women, or would rather be friends with men because of girl drama.

Which is too bad. My most supportive relationships today are with other women. I’ve got friends in my life now who have saved my ass when it was falling off. They are loving, and tough, and don’t take crap from anyone. These women tell the truth, and want the truth in return. They have my back and I have theirs and if my whole world fell apart, I would call them and they’d be there for me, and vice versa. This is what strong women do. Yet we are all raised to think this is the exception, and the norm is that women are a bunch of self-obsessed narcissists intent on stealing each others’ clothes, jobs, and men. We grow up thinking other women are bitchy, catty, controlling, back-stabbing witches. Why? Because we’re told from kindergarten that’s how girls are and we don’t find out until we’re all grown up and able to think for ourselves that it’s not that way. If we ever do.

I wouldn’t do without my women friends today for anything, but I would have had these relationships in my life a lot sooner if I wouldn’t have been groomed to believe in girl drama.

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What about you? How does ‘girl drama’ affect you?

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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Okay, let’s have some fun!

A couple days ago I posted on Facebook my desire to collect my friends’ best and worst end results of pumpkin carving. At first it was motivated by the fact that I think Pinterest fails are hysterical. Maybe it’s because most of our projects end up in that category that I have a fondness. But then I saw some posts of some pumpkins that are like works of ART, so even though they don’t make me laugh, they are aspirational – as in, something to aspire to. Someday. Maybe.

So I will get us started:

Here are our best efforts – from completely kid designed up to stencil fail.

The 3 eyed monstrosity was G’s creation. Because she’s five, she knows everything about everything. She drew this on the pumpkin with markers. It is a girl pumpkin. The drawing had glasses, long hair, and eyelashes. I wasn’t going to touch that tantrum-in-the-making with a ten-foot pole, so I let Dreamy carve it while I scuttled off like the coward I am. He, being a man, took her at face value and carved what she SAID she wanted, not what she actually did want (you’d never know he’s been married for over thirty years total with this blatant lack of girl-whispering ability). It was deemed unacceptable – for obvious reasons.

IMG_2506#noben  just wanted a mad pumpkin. You can’t see in the pic but somehow it got lopsided so if not propped up it rolls away like something from the Evil Dead. He’s very happy with it and takes his responsibility of propping it up with a toothbrush, crayon, or spoon VERY seriously.

IMG_2503Aiden’s happy pumpkin was a stencil gone wrong. I don’t usually follow instructions but I did here and it was a you-know-what-show. The paper instantly turned to pulp so I ended up winging it. A far cry from the enticing artwork pictured on the front of the package. I’m hoping there are some pics of ones that actually worked out for comparison.

IMG_2501The one on the porch is G’s second attempt. She was so thoroughly disgusted that Tony failed to execute her vision that I let her have another try. It’s not our first time at this rodeo, so we always have a backup pumpkin, even though it’s probably bad parenting to accommodate rampant perfectionism. I call this one pumpkin surprise because it was rotten and filled with pumpkin-puke. I never knew this could happen. She drew this herself and I was so irritated with her attitude I kept the crooked things crooked. So of course she loves it!

For this to be fun, I need to hear from you! Post your worst – and your best, with the stories. This is not a contest. No voting, but you may particularly love a special pumpkin. And although I’m usually against the participation trophy in this instance we are all winners simply by not severing our fingers! Yay Mom (and Dad)!

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