Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Terry Pratchett Is Laughing All the Way to the Bank of Ankh-Morpork

There's not much of a backstory as to why I snapped up this book when it appeared on the Globe Book Editor's shelf; I adore British humor, and Terry Pratchet is one of the best.

December 20, 2007
In resonant 'Making Money,' author's wry wit is as good as gold

By Lylah M. Alphonse
Globe Staff

It's no secret that Terry Pratchett is funny. His novels are clever, wry, and insightful, and his fictional Discworld easily mirrors the real world on many levels. Until
recently, his books have remained an underground phenomenon in the United
States, but that changed with the release of "Thud!," which made its debut at
No. 4 on the New York Times bestseller list in 2005.

Now he's back with another book of political and social commentary disguised as satire. "Making Money" picks up where 2004's "Going Postal" left off. Our hero, Moist von Lipwig - former condemned prisoner, current head of the Ankh-Morpork Post Office, incorrigible con artist, and part-time thief - has revolutionized the mail system and turned stamps into a de-facto currency. Now, the city's tyrant, Lord Havelock Vetinari, wants him to rehabilitate the Royal Bank of Ankh-Morpork, which is in shambles. ... [More]

Monday, December 17, 2007

Work It, Mom! Interview with Naomi Dunford

Over at Work It, Mom!, I interviewed Canada-based small-business marketing guru Naomi Dunford, the mom of two who owns Itty Bitty Marketing and blogs at She shared nuggets of wisdom, including this tip:

Only follow advice from people who have the life you want, not from people
who have the life you have. They are not qualified to give you the advice you
need. You want to be Dooce? Talk to Dooce, not your sister-in-law.

Check out the rest of the Q&A, and take a look at her blog while you're at it. Be warned, though -- she admits that her language could maybe get her toddler kicked out of Montessori school someday. But her advice is priceless.

The 36-Hour Day: Holiday Daze

xmas-tree-2.jpgI hate to admit it, but lately I've had a hard time finding my Christmas spirit.

It's not that Scrooge has taken over. It's that all of the gift buying and present wrapping and package mailing just seems like that much more on my already-long to-do list.

I'm all about the planning -- I've had things planned out for months. Batches of homemade jams and chutneys and pickles were canned back when the weather was still warm. I've had other little gifts ready to go for weeks. I made candies yesterday -- can't really do candies too far in advance. My dining room has turned into Santa's workshop, with boxes and ribbons and cellophane bags ready to hold all the treats.

But instead of being good to go, I've ground to a halt.

This Christmas stuff... what, just a few weeks ago, was fun and festive, now seems an awful lot like work.

Like most working moms, when it comes to work, I'm full-up without adding anything related to the holidays.

Lest some crutch-wielding waif starts getting on my case, though (I'm looking at you, Tiny Tim), I've tried to jump-start my holiday motor.

On Saturday, before the latest Nor'Easter hit New England, I went out and bought The Tree, and my husband dragged the snow-covered fir inside and soon the whole house smelled fresh and piney. That was a boost.

Yesterday, while the snow flew and the winds raged outside, I candied orange peels and dipped them in chocolate while my youngest two kids raced around the kitchen like a couple of tiny, sugar-fueled banshees. There's nothing like loud, excited, happy children to make you remember what the holidays are about.

When it got dark, I strung the lights on The Tree, declared it officially Christmastime, and gained the undying admiration of my 3-year-old for creating a "twinkly tree" of our very own. She helped me decorate it, happily hanging everything on the same two branches. When we were done, we fished the bits of tinsel out of the 1-year-old's gaping maw, turned out the lights, turned up the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and admired our handiwork.

I never thought to hang all of the red ornaments in the same place before, but it looks kinda festive.

And, you know what? I think I feel a little Christmas spirit coming on.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The 36-Hour Day: The New Superhero?

My latest post is up at The 36-Hour Day over at Work It, Mom! While poking around on the Internet for information about working moms and stress, I stumbled upon an interesting new product: The Super Mom doll. Here's an excerpt:

On the one hand: Can I tell you how hilarious this is? Check out the accessories! Two heads, so you can switch from calm to frazzled in a blink of an eye! An adorable baby that’s half angel, half monster! A briefcase stuffed with work and toys! An extra-long To-Do list! A bag full of groceries! And it even comes in your choice of skin color, proving that no single ethnicity has a lock on the working mother. I don’t see the working-mom guilt there in the blister-pack, but you could probably download some.

On the other hand: It’s depressing how scarily accurate this action figure is. Take a look at what it doesn’t come with: A “satisfied” head. A “well-rested” head. Designer clothes. Manolos. Fistfuls of money. A stack of take-out menus. An understanding boss and/or a life partner and/or a housekeeper and/or a nanny (maybe those dolls are sold separately?). ... [More]

Read the rest at The 36-Hour Day, and check out Work It, Mom!, while you're there!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Two New Articles at Work It, Mom!

One of the things I do at Work It, Mom! now that I'm their Managing Editor is write a few articles for the site each week. Sometimes they're under my name, sometimes they're attributed to the Work It, Mom! Team. This week, there are two...

The first is an article about ways to get work done while your little kids are underfoot:

With the holidays fast approaching, many of us are trying to figure out how to get a little extra work done ahead of time. It's not often possible to wait until the babes are in bed. So how to keep those kids occupied while you work?... [More]
The second is about how you can donate to charity during the holidays without spending any extra cash:

We’re always looking for ways to get more for our money -- a great sale here, a price match there. But what if we could give as well as get at the same time, and without any (or with hardly any) extra effort? Yes, it’s possible! Here are a few ways to try... [More]
Surf on over to Work It, Mom! and peruse the great collection of articles they've got over there. They're divided into topics including Business, Career, Parenting, and more, and there's something for everyone -- even if you're not a working mother!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Tug-of-War: Me vs. myself

There's more to work/life balance than just work and life. For me, it's also about guilt and expectations.

When I became pregnant with my youngest daughter, there was this mysterious thing I had to contend with, something that I hadn’t encountered when I became a step mom: Maternity leave. I was going to be away from the office for about five months. It had been 23 years since I’d had that much time off all at once. What was I going to do with myself?

I had grand plans: I’d finish painting all the bedrooms. I’d write at least one freelance story a week. I’d edit all of the recipes from my mom’s old restaurant into a great cookbook. Heck, cookbooks seemed easy — maybe I’d write two!

The reality? Thirty-six hours of labor followed by an emergency C-section and a fragile-looking 5-pound infant with enormous eyes who loved to nurse all the time. No cookbook. No painting. And, let’s face it, with a new baby in the house… no time. The house was a mess, and I felt guilty about not being a good enough stay-at-home-mom. I longed to be at work and feel productive again.

I went back to work when she was 5-1/2 months old. And then I felt guilty for not being at home with my baby. I also felt relieved to be able to talk to another adult about something other than children. And then guilty, again, for feeling relieved. I was happy to back at work, and horribly upset that I had to take a lower-on-the-totem-pole position within my company in order to be able to work better hours.

I felt like I was playing tug-of-war.

That work-life balance so many people are searching for? For me, it’s not just about work and life. It’s also about guilt and expectations. It’s about deciding which to-do list — the one for the office or the one for home — gets to be the bigger priority on any given day. About what level of “I need to do more,” is acceptable when weighed against “I need a break.”

For working mothers, the stress level is high and, for most of us, much of the pressure is also self-imposed. I know it is with me. Sure, there are plenty of people adding to my to-do list, but the guilt about not getting enough done is coming mostly from within. As are the outrageous expectations about what I should be able to do.

I was playing tug-of-war – with myself.

I haven’t solved this inner crisis — not by a long shot. But I have gotten better at cutting myself some slack. After all, if I’m the one applying the pressure, then I’m also the one who can tell myself to back off.

What pressures are you putting on yourself?