Category Archives: Work

On the side, MamaBlogga works as a professional Internet marketing blogger. Occasionally, that spills over into my personal blog.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

I know it’s a little early

St. Patrick’s Day is probably my favorite pointless holiday of the year! There are two basic reasons for this—and neither of them are my rich Irish heritage. (Incidentally, I do have Irish heritage, but considering those people died in the US a century before I was born, I don’t really have a strong attachment to the culture from them.)

No, my real reasons are at least half ridiculous:

1.) When I was in college, I spent Thanksgivings with my aunt. Randomly one year when we got up silly early for Black Friday, we began speaking in an Irish accent. These things only make sense before 5 AM.

2.) My first novel, due out next year, features a character from Ireland. I just finished a round of edits on the sequel, which features even more characters from Ireland (6!), so I’m up to my neck in Irish accents and slang and culture. I’ve spent approximately 1,000,000 hours studying it ๐Ÿ˜‰ .

So to celebrate, I’m going to share a little “true” Irishness with you.

Eight Myths about Irish Culture and St. Patrick’s Day Dispelled—complete with tips on brushing up your Irish accent and how best to celebrate this weekend!

Irish Potato Candy—real!

Complete with recipe!

Irish Flag Apron—kinda kitschy, but real!

Complete with instructions—and it only cost me $5!

Photos all by me! Okay, and my husband.

Why I quit working

I was very lucky to be able to work at home up until just before Rachel, my third, was born. In some ways, it was the best of both worlds: I only had to put in a few hours a day, I helped with our expenses, I got the opportunity to exercise my mind and (kind of) associate with other adults (though I don’t know of blog comments “count,” especially with some of the ugly conflicts there that still bug me).

On the other hand, I almost never regret leaving the “workforce.” I liked my job and my boss, but I was spending waaay too much time on the computer. It hasn’t gotten all the way better, unfortunately, but I’m glad that I don’t have to be online for those hours a day anymore.

Over on the Power of Moms recently, I read an article about Telena Hall, who went from full-time WAHM to mostly SAHM. She still receives some resistance for her decision, but I think she has a great perspective on the working/nonworking debate:

I continue to work on a much smaller level and I still associate with the same women who were once my peers (and are now my superiors). They continue to encourage me to work more and move back into management. They often remind me of the money I can earn, or influence Iโ€™ll have in that position. I have to remind myself that I have the greatest influence over my children, and that one day they will grow up to influence the world. I came to realize that quantity time could not be replaced with quality time. My children needed BOTH.

There are many wonderful opportunities we can pursue as moms and as women. In stepping down from my position was I saying it is wrong for a woman to work? Not at all. It was simply a matter of dividing my time and prioritizing accordingly.

Telena concludes, quoting a church leader, “A woman need not sing all the verses of her song at the same time.” There are seasons in our lives, and after reviewing her priorities, she decided that this season was the time she needed to be with her young children, and maybe in another season, she might return to working—or not.

For me, it wasn’t a big change in my schedule to free up those hours—but it made a big difference in terms of my stress levels (for a while). I continue to struggle with some things I miss—like feeling valued, etc., which is kind of funny since I know my boss valued me, but we didn’t have to communicate all that often—but I know that putting my family first, above a nebulous, difficult to achieve and easy to lose “feeling,” is the best bet I can make right now.

What do you think? What are your priorities? How have you changed your schedule or life for them?

Photo by Sean Dreilinger

Contests & Crafts!

All right, let’s start this C-themed post off right: the winner of the Aquaphor is:



The second part of our C-themed post is also about a contest: the first three chapters + synopsis of Faรงade, my current fiction manuscript, were named as a finalist in the Crested Butte Writers’ Sandy Contest, Thriller/Suspense category! Woot!

Even better, I get a chance to revise my entry with the judges’ feedback this week. Then, along with the other four finalists’, my entry will be winging its way to the final judge: Sarah Knight, senior editor at Simon & Schuster.

It’s weird just typing that.

So, I’m off to re-polish my entry!

One more big announcement: along with my mother and three sisters, I’ve started a craft blog! So, if you’re into knitting, quilting, scrapbooking, sewing, baking, home decorating or otherwise creating, please check out Wayward Girls’ Crafts! Check out our giveaways all this week!

And, to wrap up: C is for Cookie. That’s good enough for me.

Do you have any good news to share?

Photo by Jason Meredith

We interrupt this blog for an announcement

Originally posted at my writing blog

I don’t make a secret of it—I hate writing contests. And this is because I have never gotten useful (or even non-contradictory!) advice from them. That may be a reflection on the organization sponsoring the contests I’ve entered, of course, because after my first contest through another organization, I’m quickly beginning to change my mind.

This last weekend, I went to a writing conference. Despite my past experiences and with more than a little trepidation (and very low expectations), I entered the conference’s first chapter contest a month ago. I was really hoping to place, of course, but I didn’t expect to do well.

Nevertheless, every time I happened to see the Saturday lunch hour in the conference schedule (“First chapter contest winners announced”), my hearing dulled, my heart pounded and my stomach shriveled. Just thinking about that day put me through the first stages of a panic attack.

(This made planning my conference schedule very stressful ๐Ÿ˜‰ .)

Finally, lunch rolled around. About halfway through, the conference coordinator got up, and the pulled up the PowerPoint that would announce the winners on the two 20′ screens in the hall. To all 450 attendees.

They received almost 200 entries. They printed over 900 critiques which would be returned to each entrant after lunch. And then they started on the winners. I almost hoped they’d start with my category, just so I could have my disappointment and work to move on. But no—first came third place, non fiction: title, author. Second place. First place.

They moved on to General Fiction. And another category. And another.

And then my category, Mystery/Suspense. Third place. Not me. Hey, maybe this wasn’t so bad.

Second place. Not me. Oh. There was no way I took first place—so I had my answer. It wasn’t me. That’s okay, I know how much these things are the luck of the draw—get one judge who doesn’t love your chapter and you’re hosed. And not everybody loves everything I’ll ever write. That’s okay.

Seriously, this felt like the longest pause of the ceremonies. Despite my best efforts at consoling myself, I could hear the contest coordinator’s voice saying the title of my story over and over again.

Stop, I told myself. Don’t torment yourself.

“First place, Mystery/Suspense: Saints and Spies.” This time it wasn’t in my head. “By Jordan McCollum.”

So that little announcement is why we’re not starting a new series today. Tomorrow for sure.

This came at a time I really needed it. Many thanks to all those who helped me prepare the chapter. Thanks for a great conference, to all those who worked so hard to put it on. I also want to congratulate so many of my friends who also placed!

You can read an excerpt of my winning chapter ๐Ÿ˜€ !

A contributing member of society

gilbert_keith_chesterton2We’re often told raising our children isn’t enough: we should be “productive.” We should have “real jobs.” Strangers ask us to justify raising our children when we’ve obtained higher learning. We should “contribute to society.” I promised you a rant on how nothing contributes more to society than raising children will, but lovely guest blogger G.K. Chesterton (at right) has taken that up for me.

He was way ahead of his time, you know. I mean, the man died seventy years ago, and he had the foresight to write this post for me. Okay, okay, so really this is just a long quotation. Emphasis, images and paragraphs breaks added.

Woman is generally shut up in a house with a human being at the time when he asks all the questions that there are, and some that there aren’t. It would be odd if she retained any of the narrowness of a specialist.

Now if anyone says that this duty of general enlightenment (even when freed from modern rules and hours, and exercised more spontaneously by a more protected person) is in itself too exacting and oppressive, I can understand the view. I can only answer that our race has thought it worth while to cast this burden on women in order to keep common-sense in the world.

But when people begin to talk about this domestic duty as not merely difficult but trivial and dreary, I simply give up the question. To be Queen Elizabeth within a definite area, deciding sales, banquets, labors and holidays; to be Whiteley within a certain area, teaching morals, manners, theology, and hygiene; I can understand how this might exhaust the mind, but I cannot imagine how it could narrow it.

globeHow can it be a large career to tell other people’s children about the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one’s own children about the Universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone? No; a woman’s function is laborious, because it is gigantic, not because it is minute.

G. K. Chesterton, What’s Wrong with the World, p 118-119

Thanks, G.K.! (Note that this is taken slightly out of context, but seriously, it’s a lot better this way. Don’t bother reading the stuff that comes before or after it; it’s not quite so “enlightened.”)

In other news, I’d like to note that I was one of five winners of literary agent Nathan Bransford’s guest blogging contest, and my guest post will go live on his blog next week ๐Ÿ˜€ .

Photo credits: question mark—Svilen Mushkatov; globe—Sanja Gjenero

Building a heritage

Once upon a time, I was part of something great. Though I knew it was important at the time, looking back as I recently had the chance to do, I realize even more what a unique and important opportunity I had now that it’s gone.

For two years while I was in college, I was a teaching assistant for a 100-level required GE course. Now, for most courses, TAs mostly grade papers and do other grunt work. While we did that in this course, we also had the opportunity to actually teach as well: under the direction of the professor, we taught the third hour of the course each week. (The course was structured with two hours of 1000-student lectures on Mondays and Wednesdays, and the students’ third hour was in a 30-student “lab,” of which I taught 3 to 4 each week.)

But teaching was not the thing that made this job so important. It was the course that we taught. The course, as far as we know, is unlike any other college course. It was called American Heritage and the material was, basically, a touch of political science, the history of the creation of and the evolution of Constitution, and the basic economics and the economic founding principles in the US.

But the course material doesn’t begin to express what was so important about this course. It wasn’t about “America first” or “America best”; it was about the efforts that real people made to create a unique beginning for a country.

From the beginning of time, civilization has struggled between two extremes—tyranny and the control and stability that it brings, and anarchy and the overriding freedom (and insecurity) that it brings. The cycle between these forms of governing ourselves is called the Human Predicament.

Many societies have made an effort to escape the human predicament, but most solutions have devolved into the same vicious cycle. During the formative years of this country, there was no guarantee that this country would be any different.

With great concerted effort, the founders of this country established what they hoped would be a good start, the framework and guidelines that could provide both stability and freedom for the people. It was a great experiment, really, since this form of government hadn’t been tried in quite this way before.

And, so far, it’s held up pretty well. Almost 220 years later, we’ve only required 27 official additions, changes or clarifications to that framework. A lot of the changes to the system have become matters of tradition rather than codification.

It’s so easy to look back at history and think that the way it happened was inevitable. But there really isn’t anything that guaranteed that this country would succeed other than the determined study and efforts and compromises.

And there’s no guarantee that it will continue to succeed in escaping tyranny and anarchy without the determined study and efforts of our citizens today.

I helped with that. I taught hundreds of college freshmen (mostly) about this—about our heritage and our responsibility to this country. Not all of them, and probably very few of them, fully caught this spirit at the time, but if and when they do, they will have the understanding of the country’s founding principles that should best be able to guide them in how to lead the country today.

I had the opportunity to remember this experience and these principles recently as dozens of professors, teaching assistants and administrative staff for this course gathered to honor the two founding professors of the course at their retirement. It was a very emotional experience, having worked with one of the professors, and having to realize just how important what we did was—and that I’ll probably never be involved in that again.

But I can hope that I’ll be able to feel this way about raising my own children. It’s probably not something you can appreciate fully at the time. It is a lot of work. It is a lot of effort. And after months and months of the same lessons, the same principles, still they just don’t get it.

But one day they will get it. One day what I’ve done here, like what I did there, will make a difference.

Happy Fourth of July!