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Danielle Donaldson blogs here. What I'm reading now. What I'm writing now. My various thoughts about romance novels, publishing and writing at large and the sexy stuff that comes to mind! 

Filtering by Category: Personal

Why "Don't Give Up!" Is a Total Crock of Crap

Danielle Donaldson

I'm an eternal optimist...when it comes to other people. I really do believe that people are trying their best, doing great jobs, and everyone is just killing it in their own special ways. Unfortunately, I cannot seem to extend that same grace and compassion towards myself. It's something that I'm working on. I need to work on being my own best friend. I need to tell myself the same things that I would tell my best friend or even a stranger on the street. Trust me, I'm working on it.  

Lately, my almost 9 month old son refuses to breastfeed. Part of it is always being on the go and he'd rather cruise around the room playing than sit down and nurse quietly for a few minutes. Part of it is that he's eating more solid foods and my supply has lowered. Part of it is his teeth which has made nursing a little cringe-worthy since he's been using me as a human chew toy. The other night, while I was trying to wrestle him into a bedtime nursing session, he bit me. He broke the skin. It wasn't pretty. Because of the injury, I've been pumping to try and keep my supply but it's pitiful and frustrating and puts me on the verge of tears. 

Now, if my friend came up to me and told me this, I would rub her on the back and gently say that she's tried her best. And as long as her baby is happy and healthy, she is doing a great job. I would pour her a hot cup of coffee and talk it out. Because this is happening to myself, my internal dialogue resembles more of a Miss Trunchbull than a Miss Honey. (Matilda reference, what's up?!)  

"Just try something different" 

"Don't give up"  

"Try again."  

"Your baby needs you."  

"This is natural, dammit!"  

"Don't give up! Never give up, Never surrender!!!"  

Giving up isn't a failure. Surrending to the circumstances that life has given you is sometimes the smartest move. When we stress the importance of persistence over the value of self-preservation, we end up with dude-bros who don't know when to stop texting, when end up with mothers crying at their desks because they forget to turn on the crockpot, when end up with children who vomit because their science fair project didn't work out. If it's your book that is sagging in the middle, if it's a crappy relationship, if it's a day that just won't stop kicking your ass, it's okay. Put it down. If it's not servicing you any longer, put it down. It will be there for another time. It's going to be okay. 

Sometimes, we need to acknowledge our limitations. It's okay to feel defeated, maybe even cry a little, and then gather ourselves together and try again tomorrow or maybe just try something differently.  

Buck up, kiddo. Tomorrow is a new day. Tomorrow is a new chance.  

I'm not a stranger to struggle. I'm not one to look at a challenge and back down. I got married at 19. I hopped in a uHaul and drove 3000 miles away with my new husband. Once upon a time, I had a full school schedule, a full-time job and an internship. I had two babies without epidurals. I have enough confidence in myself that I know I can do a lot. I also know that I'm not a "quitter." 

But, I'm human. I only have some much mind space, emotional space, physical capabilities.  

So, today I'm licking my wounds, pouring a giant glass of wine and reminding myself that I always have tomorrow.  

So, self. Listen here: Be kind to yourself. Be your own best friend.  

 

Guilt: Because....Everything

Danielle Donaldson

I'm a mother to two small, rowdy, active boys. One is 4 years old, the other is almost 9 months old. I'm running around from son up to son down, everyday. I'm lucky enough to be able to stay home full-time with my children. I try my best with them. I get them to school on time. They have clean clothes and are fed. By all accounts, they are happy and healthy. So, what do I have to feel guilty about? I'm so glad you asked.

When I birthed my first child, I was also gifted with the heavy burden of a giant ol' suitcase full of guilt. 

Some things that I currently feel guilty for:  

- Not working out of the home and providing financially for my family  

- Thinking about working out of the home and taking time away from my children

- Wanting to spend any time away from my children

- That my mental health suffers if I spend all my time with my children

- The fact that my son eats peanut butter approximately 8 times a day

- The baby might have tried to eat dog food the other day

- The baby refused to nurse

- The baby bit me while I was trying to nurse him  

- I don't take my children out of the house enough  

- I don't give my children enough time to play at the house  

- I hover too much  

- I don't hover enough  

- I am too stern  

- I am too soft

- I am not emotionally available to both of them simultaneously all the time

- But they'll never learn to be independent

- They eat processed foods which will give them cancer probably

- But fruits and vegetables are sprayed with pesticides that will give them cancer

- If they don't wear sunscreen, their skin will burn and they will get cancer

- But sunscreen gives them cancer   

I could go on. I mostly feel guilty for almost every. Single. Decision I make every single day in regards to my children. I feel like I'm doing too much and not enough at the same time. I could be doing something differently, or more, or better. And I feel like I'm constantly screwing them up. Like this one thing will be the thing that they tell their therapist in 20 years about me. "Yeah, one time, my mom said she would leave me at Target if I didn't hurry up and it totally freaked me out and now I'm constantly worried about abandonment in my relationships." Or "One time, my mom was on the phone and yelled at me to calm down and stop screaming like a banshee and that really made me feel like my voice doesn't need to be heard." Or "my mom let me eat tortilla chips and peanut butter because that's all I would eat for the entire 4th year of my life and that's why I have cancer." 

The problem with raising small humans is that there are no real-life progress reports. You don't know if you did a good job until they are adults and they don't end up on the Dr. Phil show complaining about you.  

Nobody cares that you made it through the 4th tantrum of the day without throwing a plate against the wall. Nobody cares that you managed to get to the grocery store with both children AND all the food you were supposed to buy. Nobody cares that you managed to get them bed at the same time before 9pm. Nobody cares but your children. They care. You are their world. You are the mentor, the guiding light, the beacon of adulthood. 

That's why we feel guilty. We feel guilty because our children deserve the best. They deserve for us to be operating at 100%. And when we inevitably fall short of perfection, we feel that guilt wash over us, because we love our children so much. 

So that guilt? The feeling in your gut as you lay down and sigh at the end of day is a good sign. It means you're doing your best and you still want more for your children and your family.

It means you're doing an awesome job. 

 

The Beginner's Guide to Self-Care

Danielle Donaldson

The Importance of Self-Care  

Self-care is the act of taking care of one's self. It's refilling the creative well. It's recharging your spiritual, emotional, creative, physical batteries. For some, it means staying home and not talking to people. For others, they need social interaction with others to feel recharged. It's about the balance in life from taking care of other people, fulfilling our responsibilities as constructive members of society and doing the day-to-day activities that keep our lives going smoothly. 

As a writer, I find incredibly important to take care of myself or I have nothing to put onto the page. As a mother and a wife, I find that if I get burnt out, I'm less patient, less compassionate, less able to give myself to another human being.  

Part of the safety briefing on an airplane says that if you are traveling with a child, that you must put on your air-mask first, because if you don't, you will pass out from oxygen deprivation and not be able to help anyone. Self-care is exactly that. It is making sure that you don't pass out from oxygen deprivation or emotional exhaustion or spiritual burnout.  

For the month of September, I will be exploring the importance of self-care and giving some examples of it.  

Examples of Self-Care

If you are an introvert, you might enjoy activities that are quiet and done on your own. 

  • Sipping some tea on the front porch  
  • Listening to a podcast in the bathtub
  • An afternoon run with your favorite playlist
  • Putting together a puzzle 

If you are an extrovert, you may enjoy activities out with other people.  

  • Spending time with family
  • Happy Hour with co-workers
  • Camping with friends
  • Trivia Night at the pub

Goals of Self-Care

    The main goal of self-care is to make you feel better. It's basically the human version of unplugging a router and plugging it back in.  

What are you favorite forms of self-care? What refills your creative well?

5 Reasons Why Being Married Young is Great

Danielle Donaldson

 

This past weekend we were on a rare kid-free weekend away. We sat to have brunch in a relatively quiet restaurant with not a kid in sight. We people watched and drank hot coffee. While basking in the rare glory, I watched a table of young women (late twenties/early thirties) beside us. They were celebrating a friend's new engagement. They all looked hip and fresh faced. Their nails were neatly polished and they all seemed like they were sleeping for a solid six hours every night. For a moment, I wondered what their lives must be like. They were just getting engaged, many sported bright diamonds on their left hands. Some were talking about promotions and new apartments and considering adopting a puppy but fearful about the responsibility. For a moment, I wondered what I would do if my life looked like theirs. I wondered if I would be happy. Would I have a career? Would I look like I walked out of a J.Crew catalog? Would I spend my money on farmer's market bouquets and bi-monthly blow outs? To be fair, my life will never looked like theirs and I'm happy that it won't. 

My husband and I met when we were 15 years old. Spanish class. He was a Sophomore. I was a Junior. It was like something out of a YA novel. Things weren't easy. There were a few rough months of a "break" when I went to college, but we hung tough. We made it through high school, my undergrad years, his years of military service to today.

We had our first date in December 2004 (My age: 16. His age: 15). We got married in July 2008 (Both 19). We had our first son in August 2012 (Both 23). And our second in January 2016 (Both 27).

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We are "young" parents. We are "young" married people. Most of our parent friends are ten or fifteen years older than us. When we celebrate our 20 year wedding anniversary, we will only be 39 years old. We were are 32, we will have been dating for more than half our lives.  

Here's a note: Marriage is not for everyone. I frequently encourage my friends to take their time. There is no hurry. I have been known to yell "Don't do it!"  At passing groups of bachelorette parties. There are valid and valuable relationships beyond heterosexual monogamous marriages. This is just our story and what works for us. 

Here are some great things about being married young. 

1) We Grew Together

People are growing and changing every day. We did that side-by-side. Those awkward haircuts (him), those years of experimenting with blue eyeshadow (me), the growing pains of learning how to budget or pay bills or grocery shop or cook meatloaf, we've done it all together. We've learned how to draw boundaries and ask for what we need and take care of ourselves together. We've been each other's benchmarks and cheerleaders and teammates. 

2) Safe Place to Land

Inevitably, life knocks you on your ass. You bounce a check. You forget to turn off the car lights and kill the battery. You burn the turkey. You get fired. There's car accidents and broken legs and loss of family members and miscarriages and falling on your face. But, we have each other. We are a team, partners in life. When crappy things happen, we can cling to each other, talk it out and make a plan while holding hands. I know that he is in my corner and I am always in his. That safe place to land makes us more likely to take measured risks and we know that, at the end of the day, someone will still love us and cheer for us. 

3) My Golden Years Will be So Kickass

When my oldest child is 18, I will be 41. (Right? I don't know. Math is hard.) Doesn't matter. I'll still have plenty of good years ahead of me. We can send our kids into the world and take Caribbean cruises and enjoy the empty nest while we still have the energy to make the most of it. I joke that 35 will be a killer year for me. I'll finally figure out my personal style and I'll be done with having kids so my body will no longer be wrecked by child bearing and breastfeeding. Our kids will be old enough to babysit our friend's kids. When our friends are wiping asses and vetting babysitters, we will be like "Peace losers! We're going to the movies!"  

4) There's No Secrets  

I don't have to explain to him why I hate Burger King with the fiery passion of a thousand suns. He remembers the time I got food poisoning. He doesn't have to explain his affinity for whiskey because I was there the first time he tried it. We were both there at high school graduations and that amazing pub in San Diego and the first snow in Northern Virginia. We have a long line of shared history. We understand the deeper workings of each others' minds because we were there as they were formed. The scattered history of our family trees, the strained tension or dramas or good times were experienced by the both of us. Much can go unspoken between us. He gets me. I get him. 

5) Best Friends Forever  

I'm not disillusioned. Life isn't perfect. Relationships are work, but I'm happy to say that we have more fun than work. We genuinely enjoy each other. I confide in him. He leans on me. He knows exactly how to make me laugh and I know exactly how to make his eyes roll. Love is wanting the other person to be happy. We truly want that for each other. At the end of the day, my happiness comes from his and vice versa. I am lucky to have him and I hope he is lucky to have me. 

Nothing is perfect. I have seen a lot of things recently that discourage young people from entering long term relationships so I wanted to show the other side of it. 

Being Busy and Creativity

Danielle Donaldson

I've been busy. My older son's 4th birthday was this past week and so I've been running around trying to make sure he had a memorable birthday on top of all the normal madness including my son having a huge reaction to a bug bite on his forehead, him having a fever and describing a headache as his brain feeling "wobbly," and the normal everyday home stuff that needs to be completed. Because my energies and attention was drawn in a million other directions, I wasn't able to focus on my writing as much as I wanted to. That doesn't mean that I wasn't thinking about my stories, but it means that I was tapped out and I couldn't be creative. 

 

I am a big believer in the idea that you only have so much space in your life. I don't mean it in the way that you have a overflowing closet and should probably stop stalking the clearance section in Target's Women's clothing kind of way. Okay, imagine that you have a series of buckets. Each bucket can only hold so much stuff. Each bucket has a label: Emotional energy, brain space, physical energy, creativity, family, self, etc. They are fuel markers. You can take brain space fuel and pour it into your creativity bucket, but then you have less brain space fuel for emotional care or family time or physical energy. Life is about finding the balance everyday of where you "spend" your fuel. 

 

Last week, most of my fuel went into the family and life buckets. That's fine. My creativity bucket is still hanging around, ready for its turn. I hope this week can be a creativity week. Most importantly, I'm not going to hypothetically beat myself up about my lack of creative output last week. I'm going to accept my limitations and move forward. Maybe this is a sign of growing up.