Anyone who knows me knows I’ve been plagued my whole life with homesickness. It started in grade school when I’d go to sleepovers and slumber parties, and each time I was excited and thought I’d make it the whole night, but by 10pm I was in tears calling my mom and dad to come and pick me up.
I did it on trips. I flew from Florida to Atlanta for an incredible three-week trip to see family friends. They’d planned the whole three weeks with everything a kid could possibly want to do… and the first night I was begging my parents to put me on the first flight back home (which they did… for a pretty penny). It’s continued till adulthood… I tough it out now and stay put, but when I travel solo, my poor husband gets at least one panicked call per trip where I’m feeling anxious and lonely and overwhelmed.
Homesickness is the worst feeling ever. It’s like having an actual heartache… and being nauseous. It can be such a scary sensation, and unfortunately it’s clouded a lot of really nice trips.
I’ve always wondered why I get homesick. Sometimes I wonder if it would have been beneficial to go to sleep away camp as a kid. Maybe I need to drink more when I travel alone (lol).
But the one thing I do know: I keep doing it over and over again.
Even though I do get homesick almost every single time I go away by myself, I keep making solo travel plans. I accept the press trips because I know I’ll never have the opportunity to experience a destination the way you do on a pampered best-of-the-best press trip (and I love writing about travel and having my photos published). I book trips down to Florida to visit my old stomping grounds because it’s so important to me to try and keep in touch with the amazing friends I had growing up.
And I want to show my 1 1/2 year old son that you can’t let your fears rule your life. Yes, I get homesick and have yet to figure out how to fend it off completely, but I don’t let it hold me back from experiencing travel.
Have you ever experienced homesickness? How did you get past it?
One day I’ll get around to these projects and recipes. But in the meantime, let’s just drool a little… (and then go to Pinterest to follow me… I’m a chronic evening Pinner while I sit and chronically watch “Orange Is the New Black”…
I’m obsessed with square stone pavers this summer.
I had gazpacho recently on a press trip and I’m determined to master a cold soup recipe.
Clever and simple and a must-do for my bathroom drawer.
So fun for a backyard party.
I’ve been on a major Popsicle kick this season, and we often have these three fruits in the our house, so I’ve gotta try these.
Can you learn to be a good writer?
The short answer is, no.
I mean, sure, you can teach the mechanics of writing (punctuation, spelling, grammar), but does a mistake-free text make it good?
I’ve always felt that we’re born with inherent gifts. Some of us have a real creative eye and are good at the arts, while others have a technical way of thinking so they’re able to build and fix things. I know people with an ear for music and eye for good taste. And then there’s those athletically-inclined folks who pick up any piece of sporting equipment and just rock it from the get go.
You can learn how to play guitar but you might not be a great musician. A coach can give you the rules and teach you the object of a game, but you won’t necessarily be a natural athlete.
These talents are something you’re born with… you then learn the rules of your trade to hone your skills. But you need a skill set to start with. And you’ve either got it, or you don’t.
What do you think? Do you think someone can learn to be an artist? A singer? An all-star football player?
Activities for 1-year-olds
I am always on a quest to keep my little one busy. At first I thought he definitely had a touch of ADD because he’d play with something for 30 seconds, toss it aside, and move on. Then my friends (mockingly) reassured me that he did not have ADD… he was 1. A 1-year-old will not necessarily sit for any length of time with any given object.
I researched and I combed through the cobwebs in my mind to bring back my teenage days of babysitting twins and toddlers and keeping them happy and content. I found that there were a number of things that my bean would sit and do for a little bit, buying me time to prep dinner or vacuum, that were simple enough to find or make. Pinterest was a big help too (you all know how I love my Pinterest!). So if you’re looking for some great activities for 1-year-olds, maybe these will help.
- Sidewalk chalk. Sidewalk chalk outside in clothes that you don’t care about (because, despite the vibrant colours of Crayola washable sidewalk chalk, it is not washable). My little guy loved it and started with our long walkway and the driveway, and then we moved on to the dark brown fence around our backyard, a few trees, and finally the wood porch steps. It washes off with a spray of the hose or a quick rainshower. And sidewalk chalk pieces are thick and stumpy so it’s easy for his little hands to grasp them.
- Musical instruments. We have an awesome set that includes a tambourine, maracas, and bells that fits into a plastic drum, but I also made my son a few makeshift instruments out of tight-fitting Tupperware containers and different fillers, including dried lentils, chickpeas, and coins. He loves trying them all out (but you’ve gotta be able to stand a lot of noise).
- A box. Yep, we bought the bean a new carseat and it came in this massive box, which he proceeded to play in for weeks. His 8-year-old cousin even decked it to look like a house. My husband cut out a window, and in and out he would go, each and every day, until I basically got sick of the unsightly dented box with scabs of dried food taking over my living room.
- Bubbles. You can get all kinds of wands and blowers, and even different types of bubbles (ever see the coloured or unbreakable ones?!). My busy 1-year-old was walking everywhere and loved the challenge of chasing the bubbles. We also worked on blowing the bubbles (which kept him busy but did periodically end up in his mouth).
- Stickers. They’re a pain because they will end up stuck to everything, and you’ll definitely have to supervise to ensure stickers are not eaten, but they’re great for motor skills (holding them, putting them on things, figuring out how to get that one darn Mickey Mouse to unstick from your thumb) and can also be a fun learning game if they’re themed stickers (animals, nature, etc.)
- A dress-up doll. My exploratory son was obsessed with buttons and zippers – he loved trying to figure them out on other people’s clothes. So I started by dressing his teddy in his clothes – I used overalls with suspenders, a shirt with buttons, a hoodie with a zipper, socks and little shoes. Then Nana found him this great little pirate who has a zillion things on his outfit to play and learn from.
It always takes me back…
Ever get a waft of a certain scent in the air and suddenly you’re carried back to a different place and time? I’m a huge sensory person… a certain smell or song or taste of something can instantly bring me to my file of memories where I can recall different facets from my life.
When I use Revlon Outrageous shampoo, I’m a teenager in high school, showering in what is finally my own bathroom, listening to my “best of” Madonna tape (Like A Prayer is vibrating off the walls while I tap my feet in the foamy warm water of Outrageous bubbles). This shampoo is the perfect way to soothe my dry hair that’s been coated in waaay too much Sun-In and lemon juice.
When I hear the Jason Mraz song “I’m Yours,” I’m carried back to my wedding day, when my cousin and our best friend surprised us by singing this to us at our reception. My new hubby and I stood at the head of the dance floor, belting out the words as I swayed side to side in my long pretty dress surrounded by each and every person that meant the most to us. Pretty magical.
When I eat blueberry Eggos slathered in butter and Aunt Jemima maple syrup I find myself sitting in our family room in the pale blue light of the early morning, my brother next to me, noshing on breakfast before school and watching “Saved by the Bell” for the umpteenth time. The syrup is cold (we kept it in the fridge) but the fluffy waffle is warm and much-too-sweet with the copious amounts of syrup. It’s the type of rush that keeps you going all day long at school.
Or when I eat Sun-Maid raisin toast, I like to burn it a bit, just like the old Italian man used to do at the cafe in the office building where I worked years ago at a home decor magazine. I couldn’t resist the smell of the cinnamon in the mornings when I’d go in to get my coffee, and I became accustomed to the slightly charred taste and the overabundance of margarine he’d spread between the two slices of toast. This breakie was the perfect way to warm my insides on a frigid Montreal morning.
When I smell a wood-burning fire, I’m in my favourite place in the world: Up North at our family country house. We’re gathered in the living room where the grown-ups are playfully arguing over a game of Pictionary and my brother and I are gorging on these tart two-toned lollipops that we’d get in a small brown paper bag at the corner store, comparing to see who had more left. A fire is crackling and popping in the wood stove, the windows are covered in a thin film of ice, and the Star Wars pillow I’m lying on is somehow the softest pillow I’ve ever had.
Lessons moms should teach their sons
I always thought I’d have a daughter… I dunno why – maybe just some internal knowledge of being a girl made me naturally presume a daughter would come first. But I had a son, and I love being a mommy to a little boy. He’s such a boy’s boy, making “vroom” sounds when he plays with his dump trucks in the dirt, making a mess of anything and everything he can get his hands on (which, by the way, are always caked with crud). I love everything about little boys.
If I’d had a little girl the general life lessons were obvious to me: how to be a lady and have manners, have to be a headstrong woman in a man’s world, when to be sassy and when to be reserved. But a mama has to teach a whole different set of rules to her little guy. Here I am, the most influential woman in his life, and I feel like it’s up to me to instill certain values that only I, as mommy, can do. Such as…
Chivalry. It’s not dead… not yet. And call me old fashioned but I think it’s respectful for men to hold doors for women and pull out their chairs. Daddy can teach the bean the mechanics of chivalry but only mommy can really show him how it makes a lady feel.
To be gentle. Once you’re a mom you understand a mother’s touch. I don’t know if it’s a magical bond we develop when we carry them in our tummies but a mother’s touch is loving and kind and soothing, and I’m always trying to show my rambunctious boy to be gentle with our pup, his baby cousin, and even certain belongings, like his paper books.
To feel his emotions. Yes, there are times when I don’t coddle him despite his whiny pantleg-pulling antics, but when he falls down, I let him have his moment of crying and mommy-cuddles. I’ll always encourage him to express what he’s feeling. I think, quite often, dads might shy away from that (being vulnerable with their son), especially as their sons get older. And while it’s important for boys (and girls) to be strong and control their emotions, I’ll never stifle my son’s tribulations, no matter how trivial they might seem to me.
I want to know… are there any moms of sons who feel a certain responsibility to teach them particular life lessons?
My Facebook friends
I’ve written about my infinite love for Facebook. And anyone who is on my Facebook list also knows I am on Facebook a lot. I’ll blame part of it on the fact that I spent half my life living in the States so have half my life’s worth of people to stay in touch with. Plus my parents and other family live far away and love seeing pics of my 1-year-old bean Cameron.
I’ll admit it… I’m nosey. I like seeing who is doing what. I’m chatty. I like interacting with everyone, especially since I work from home and the only person I speak to all day is a kid who thinks it’s funny when I cluck like a chicken.
But I also love Facebook because I have a network of people who share their posts and ideas and photos, and because of that they inspire me. They interest me. They entertain me. They inform me.
There’s the “raw organic eater” who shows me that it is possible to eat this way, to be creative with food and reap in the benefits.
There’s the “super mom” who somehow manages to raise multiple kids (who look clean and happy) while still making her own mayonnaise and yogurt… from scratch. And has kids who will eat it.
There’s the doctors, who keep me up-to-date on research and blow me away by their dedication to their jobs; the romantic husbands, who aren’t embarrassed to express their admiration for their wives and appear corny and sappy (and get my other half in trouble all the time); the drama queens, who are always in the middle of breakup with a boyfriend or girlfriend and air all their grievances on the net (much to my amusement… blush!); the Hollywood hopefuls who have talent and determination; the political junkies who live in DC and make me feel intellectually stunted; and the big-city socialites who at least show me what the latest fashions are (since they’re nothing close to my maternity sweatpants, which I still can’t give up because they’re so comfy) and let me live vicariously through their big-city lives.
It’s quite the clique. My own little e-circus. And I love it.
Unblock writer’s block
Writer’s block… my fellow writers, we’ve all had that dreaded moment where the words won’t come when they did so effortlessly before.
That blank page.
The little blinking cursor.
And if you’re on a deadline, the jinx that is writer’s block tightens its grip even more.
So what should you do?
First off, get up. Move away from the pen or keyboard. Make a sandwich. Clean the bathroom. Pour a stiff drink. By sitting in wordless paralysis you’re only putting more strain on your brain. Take a break.
Do an outline. Rather than attempt complete sentences, work out a quick bullet-point-style outline of the main things you want to get across and then fill in the blanks afterward. The key here is to finish the outline once you start it. Don’t write out two or three points and start filling in point 1… finish till point 10 (if that’s how many you need to complete the piece).
Here’s another exercise: just write the first adjectives that come to your mind about your given topic. So, if you’re writing about trends in home decor, you might jot down “avant-garde good looks,” “contemporary style,” “forward-thinking trends.” These few words could help inspire the rest of the writing to flow. It’s kinda like Mad Libs (which are also very fun).
A final piece of advice: Don’t panic. When writer’s block sets in, so does paranoia. You start to question your knowledge of punctuation (“is that comma overkill?”), you think there can’t possibly be a synonym for “colour,” and you start to doubt your decision to become a professional writer in the first place (and reconsider the idea of going into marine biology to train dolphins… ugh, which I also can’t do after seeing “Black Fish…” OK, onto option 3… queen of Candy Land).
Writer’s block infects every writer at some point… but we all get through it.
The antidote: words. Just keeping finding words. And the right ones will find their way to you…
Seeing the world through HIS eyes
So Cameron is officially a toddler, “toddling” around like a little Frankenstein here, there and everywhere. But nothing is more fun than watching him explore new places.
There’s still a significant amount of snow out there, but we’ve done a few actual walks down the street. It takes about 20 minutes to go three house lengths because his curiosity is insatiable – he has to pick up dead leaves, touch the bare prickly bushes, check out the sewer where he hears the rushing water, watch the bird, watch the car, watch the airplane, pick up another leaf… and so on.
I also love taking him to the mall and letting him wander – he has to stagger up and press his clammy little hands against every window display, he stops to give people eating ice cream his best pathetic “Can I have some?” face, he looks up at the passing old people and shows them his pumpkin teeth, he loves the jewelry stores (and all the sparkly stuff), the benches, the potted plants.
This summer is going to be so much fun. I can’t wait to see everything through his eyes.
Some Easter prettiness I’ve discovered on Pinterest…