What’s Keeping You Busy?


My question of the day is: What’s keeping you busy?

Like most weeks, my calendar is pretty full. But, it’s mostly full of blessings.

Sure, there’s some stuff I’d like to erase from my “To Do” list, a few things I’m not looking forward to dealing with, but I strive really hard to remind myself that those not-so-fun To Do’s will only serve to make the really fun things that much better.

So, I thought it would be fun to take a look at our calendars and share a little about what we find filling them up.

With mine, you’ll find that I tend to spend a lot of time with my family,

my girlfriends,

socializing with friends,

and exercising (this one needs to get on my calendar more often).

There’s also rarely a week that goes by when I’m not attending some type of volunteer event or meeting.

But I also try to remember, amidst the hustle and bustle of my life, take care of myself.

Time to regroup, listen to my thoughts, enjoy a good book.

Which is why I try to add a little quiet or alone time to my calendar.
time for what makes you happy
Some weeks I’m better at this than others.

And at the end of the day, when I’m snuggling under my blankets in bed, after racing along checking things off my To Do list, I really hope I don’t forget this mantra:
love urself

So, what’s filling up your calendar this week? Something fun you wanna share? Something important you’d like us to think good thoughts about for you?

I hope you have time to stop by and share!

Writing beach retreat.

So for years now, Emily & I have gone on writing retreats to the beach. Usually 3 or 4 days where we sneak away from our regular daily lives and hole ourselves away to focus on nothing but writing. We’re here now with our 4 kids and we’ll play and chat and write and the kids will have a blast. But it hasn’t always been like this. Once upon a time there were 4 of us that would come, us and 2 other writers and that’s what I want to talk about today.

When we started these retreats, we were fortunate that one of us had a lovely beach house we could use and it made our twice yearly trips (usually February and September) even more of a treat. For the brief stint I lived in Tennessee, it made things more difficult as I would see family when I went to Texas and there simply wasn’t time to carve out for those writing retreats. But one  November we decided it was time for another one so I flew into Austin and together we piled into the minivan (this time with a very pregnant Emily and a rather chatty toddler) and we hit the road for the five plus hour drive down to Bolivar peninsula. We had these traditions with these trips, we’d usually stop at Chili’s in Houston and then make our way to Galveston where we’d load onto the ferry that would take us over to the smaller strip of land that housed the beautiful Crystal Beach.

I suspect that many of you might not have heard of Crystal Beach or Bolivar peninsula unless you remember Hurricane Ike, the one that hit shortly after Katrina. Ike’s damage didn’t get quite the media attention that Katrina did – Bolivar is obviously not as populated as New Orleans, but still many people lost their lives and even more lost their homes.

It wasn’t just writing retreats though that mark my memories of this blue house on stilts, it was a family vacation spot a few times, a place where I went with several friends for just a weekend away at the beach.

Before the storm, you could see rows and rows of houses, these are the pictures of the aftermath of Ike, you can see how nearly everything was leveled. Now I only lost a place where I have memories, I didn’t lose property or land or belongings or loved ones, and I can only imagine how those people will begin to put their lives back together.

I’m one of those beach people. You know, how some people prefer the mountains – The Professor is one of those, but me, I’m all about the beach. The waves, the sand in my toes and the sun warming my face. I can sit there and watch that water for hours. Or walk along the shore and pick up shimmering pieces of sea glass. It is a refuge for me, the one place on earth that fills my soul more than any other.

Changing beach locations is not the only way our retreats are different. As I mentioned before, now we have kids in tow, whereas when we started, we were both kid-free. Not only that but our dear friend, the one who owned the beach house that we lost now has late-stage Alzheimer’s. Our trips are different, but we still write and recharge and laugh and enjoy a few days away from our “normal” lives. But I miss those early retreats, I miss that blue house and I miss our dear friend.

Guest Post: My Annual Sanity-Saving Scrapbooking Vacation

The PBKMoms are pleased to welcome Amy Moss and her sanity-saving vacation tips!

It started so innocently, like most life-changing, amazing ideas do.

I was sitting around a dining room table with my four close girlfriends.  Two years prior we had all taken up scrapbooking as a hobby.  This is not a story about scrapbooking; so if you are not into scrapbooking, don’t worry. In place of scrapbooking you can insert knitting, crocheting, needlepointing, cross-stitching, quilting or any other favorite craft.  We’d found a hour or two here and there on rare weekends to get together, drink wine and try to put pictures of our children into scrapbooks.  Scrapbooking is a great hobby because it is a shopper’s dream.  There is always something new to buy – sparkly jewels, Mickey Mouse die cuts, just the right shade of black paper (It does not exist.) and on and on.  I have more scrapbooking supplies than I will use in my lifetime, but still I buy that new Victorian Halloween paper that would be perfect for my imaginary fall layout.

Anyway, it was not for a lack of supplies that led to the great revelation, but rather an over-abundance of them.  We had so many neat scrapbooking toys that it made it hard to get together.  Even with Creative Memories rolling luggage bags, it was a hassle to pack it all up.  We’d complained about this problem at several crops.  Then enlightenment hit – What if we went away for the weekend and scrapped?

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Wait a minute! Could we go somewhere away from the kids, away from the husbands, away from the jobs, away from the cleaning, cooking, laundry, playdates, swim teams, etc.??  This idea was pretty unheard of outside of bachelorette parties to Vegas or New Orleans.  Our voices dropped to whispers, lest anyone hear of our novel scheme.  The more we talked, the more we loved the idea, and so we made a list of requirements:

  1. Location must be within driving distance – shorter the better.
  2. We each need our own room – Ladies, after college you are too old to share a room.
  3. We need a place with a large space to all sit together.
  4. We need a TV, DVD player and sturdy blender.

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The plan was born: Friday through Sunday in a rented house on the beach in Galveston, Texas.  Just us girls – all together with no responsibilities (and, as it turns out, a lot of tequila) for three whole days!  After our first weekend together we knew that we had something unique and precious.  Something we were determined to do again… regularly…  and our annual scrapbooking weekend was born!

Unlike other girls-only vacations there is no running around to see antiques or museums or going out to restaurants or bars.   And no shopping.  No need to worry about what to wear or wanting to go home because you are tired when everyone else wants to party.  With this vacation there is no schedule!  You get up when you want to.  You go to bed when you want to.  Hell, you even get to take a nap if you feel like it!  You also don’t need to worry about what to bring.  Pajamas, t-shirts and yoga pants are pretty much all you need.  No one to see you.  Your girlfriends don’t care that your hair is in a scrunchie and you are wearing old Eeyore pjs.

blog pic two

Remember there is no schedule here and you have nowhere to be.  So cocktails start whenever you want them.  It is a safe drinking environment because there is no driving.  Your girlfriends are watching out for you with Advil and water.  So have that mimosa with breakfast and smile!

This is the time to watch all those chick flick movies that your husband and kids don’t want to see.  So pull out the Notebook and the tissues!  Haven’t seen the first season of Downtown Abbey – you can watch the whole thing this weekend!  Want to watch Gone with the Wind again – all four hours of it – with enough vodka you can do it.  I also recommend a PBS mini-series, any Jane Austen movie and missed seasons of Glee.   

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 Now is the time to indulge in the food you love.  Never have you seen a grocery cart so full of delicious and unhealthy junk.  Oreos, five different kids of cheese, salami, BBQ potato chips, peanut M&Ms, etc.  You name the junk food and we eat it guilt-free.  This is vacation and the calories don’t count.  We take turns cooking dinner or we decide to just eat olives and cookies.

However, the best part about these scrapbooking weekends is being with friends that are family.  We talk.  A lot.  About everything.  Life’s scary challenges have been tackled with laughter, tears and loving support (plus a little drunken dancing).  If I have a problem, I know these girls will be there with at least three possible answers and a shoulder to lay my weary head on.  Their experience with home and business matters is invaluable and this weekend gives us the opportunity to swap stories and best practices.  It is a safe place to bare our souls…. and we get a little scrapbooking done too.

In short, this is a wonderful stay-cation away from home with your best girlfriends doing a hobby you love.  This relaxing time is the best weekend any over-stressed mom could have.  I hope you can plan your trip soon!

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Amy Moss is Corporate Securities and M&A partner at Haynes and Boone, LLP in Houston, Texas.  She is the proud mom of two amazing kids, Z-Girl who is finishing up third grade and Z-Boy who starts kindergarten in the fall.  She is lucky to be married to Z-Husband, whose idea it was to pick names for the children that start with Z.

C, D, P, M and K – can’t wait till scrapbooking weekend in September!

The Negotiation

One thing I wasn’t prepared for as a new parent is the negotiation that has to happen with my husband when one or the other of us wants to do something alone–i.e., girls’ night, band rehearsal, football games, and so on. We started out just telling one another, “Wednesday I have rehearsal” and “Monday I have book club” and “Saturday I’m going to the game.”

But both of us are so busy, we would forget the other had plans. What? You’re going to be gone all day Saturday? Huh? I needed to be home from work early tonight? So we got a calendar and began writing our scheduled events on it (at least I did–my husband still surprises me once in a while).


The calendar works great, until we both have an event on the same day. Recently, there was a Wednesday evening that required quite a bit of negotiation. On Sunday, my husband told me he was meeting with the guys in Sunday school to plan curriculum. Now, if you don’t go to Sunday school, you may not know that “plan curriculum” is code for drink a few beers and watch the game. Usually church events trump others, but I had already told him I had a Christmas party that same night with the neighborhood mother’s group.

What to do? I tried finding a babysitter, but I didn’t try very hard. I had told him first. My event had precedence. But his was a church event, which traditionally had precedence. I had a gift bought for the white elephant exchange. He had told everyone he’d be there. I’d RSVPed on an actual Evite. The argument–I mean, negotiation–went on and on. Finally, I ended up going and he stayed home. I’m not sure that was really the fair decision, but it’s the one we made.

How do you negotiate these sorts of situations?

Shana Galen, Multitasker Mama
I’m Shana Galen, AKA Multitasker Mama (and aren’t we all?). I’m a wife, mom to a two-year-old daughter I call Baby Galen. My parenting motto is, “Keep moving. Don’t pass out. Don’t throw up.” Or maybe that’s my fitness motto? www.shanagalen.com

Girls Night Out

Every other month or so, a group of the guys in our neighborhood get together for Poker Night. I’m not 100% sure how it goes down, but I think someone picks a date, designates someone as host (they take turns) and send out an email. Sometimes we girls find out about it ahead of time, such as when a bunch of us are talking and someone else mentions it; sometimes the discovery happens on the target day (or night!) itself, when our guy mentions they’ll be heading out after dinner, and sometimes it’s not until after the fact. Usually these are the times that our guy can’t make it. (To be fair, I’m sure there are also times, or at least was a time, when I learned about the night well in advance.)

And you know, I think it’s a great idea. I love it when the guys get together, and I’m always bursting with curiosity the next morning. I try not to blast my husband with questions the second he rolls out of bed, because Poker Night usually rolls into the early morning hours, and beer is involved.  So I wait awhile before I start my interrogation. Usually, it goes something like this:

Me:             “So who all was there?”

Him:          [Sips his coffee] “Pretty much all the regulars.”

Me:             “So how’s [Insert’s Guy Name] doing? I heard he had the flu.”

Him:          “The flu? I guess that’s why he wasn’t there.”

Me:             “Well, how did [Insert Guy’s Name] house look? I’m dying to see the new painting.”

Him:          “They painted?”

Me:            [Sigh]  “Well, what about [Insert Guy’s Name]…are they still trying to have a baby?”

Him:         [Insert Are You Crazy Look]  “We don’t talk about that.”

Me:            [Banging head] “Well, did [Insert Guy’s Name] seem okay? I feel so bad about his mom.”

Him:         “What about his mom?”

Me:             [Growl]  “So what did everyone think about the break-in down the street?”

Him:         [Frowns] “It never came up.”


Him:         [shrugs] “We played poker. I totally schooled [Insert Guy’s Name].”

So they don’t talk. They play cards, with real money. They throw back a few beers. They compete. Someone wins, and someone loses. They go home. I guess it’s a guy thing, right?

With time, the girls in my neighborhood have decided to get in on the action, except we go about things a little differently. For us, the biggest challenge seems to be selecting a date. Whereas the guys pick one and run with it, for us, we come up with a few dates and discuss them via email. Rarely can anyone commit via the first round of emails. We have to check family calendars. We have to see if our guy is going to be in town and come home on time, to check if one of the kids has a sporting event or a party, to make sure we’re not having out of town company or some other commitment. And you know what?  That in and of itself, the very fact that no one can commit without checking with everyone else in the family, is one of the biggest reasons why Girls Night Out is so important. As women, as mothers, our families typically revolve around us. We’re the glue. We’re the cruise director, the drill sergeant. When we step back, time either freezes or collapses. It’s really quite fascinating.

After a flurry of emails, sometimes spanning a few days, a night is selected…a night usually quite far into the future, and Girls Night Out is on.  And really, how great does that sound, Girls Night Out? Immediately images of laughter and Magic Mike come to mind. It’s pretty darn alluring J

Anyway. We finally get our night scheduled, and as we rip ourselves from our homes and our families, from dirty dity dishes and laundry, school projects and deadlines, the most amazing things happens. Time falls away, and we once again return to how it was in the beginning, before kids and husbands, back when it was just us and our girlfriends, gathering at someone’s house for a slumber party, when we’d stay up all night doing each other’s hair, watching scary movies, talking about boys, and the occasional Urban Legend detour involving Bloody Mary and Light as a Feather.

Okay, so we don’t do each other’s hair anymore, and we don’t watch scary movies, but we do talk. A lot. We talk about work and our families, about stuff going on with our kids and our parents, about problems and opportunities, about the neighborhood and our community. About something we heard on the news, on the playground. About what book we’re reading or what movie we just saw (or want to see.)  About an upcoming doctor appointment. About what stresses us, scares us. Terrifies us. The walls come down. We quit trying to be strong, invincible. We quit trying to be the glue that never cracks. We talk, and we laugh, and sometimes we cry. And when the tears come, so do the looks of understanding, and the hugs, and suddenly we’re not alone anymore. We’re not the fulcrum point of our families, but a friend among friends, a woman among other women. They get it. They know. They understand. They’re living parallel lives, and together like that, we all feel stronger somehow, because we know we’re not alone. We know the road we’re on is well traveled.

Consider these research-based facts:

  • Women with strong female-based networks live longer than those without them.
  • In fact, women without these social networks (support systems, safety nets) risk health issues equivalent to being overweight or a smoker.
  • As opposed to fight or flight, women undergoing stress actually seek out others for companionship and support.
  • The UCLA School of Medicine actually found that when in the company of girlfriends, a woman’s production of the oxytocin, the feel-good hormone, actually increases.

All this is significantly more sobering when you consider how increasingly isolated so many of us are. According to a sociologist at Duke University, Lynn Smith-Loving, friendships are actually the decline, a devastating consequence of the fast-paced lives more and more of us live.

If you’ve never seen the one-man show Defending the Caveman, you need to. It’s a classic, and it’s spot on. If you have, you know what I’m talking about.


It’s funny. There’s a bunko group in our neighborhood, and for years they’ve been inviting me, and I’ve politely turned them down. I’m not sure why. I think it’s because I don’t really know what bunko is, much less how to play. But finally last month one of my super sweet neighbors grinned and said…”We don’t actually PLAY bunko. That’s just what it’s called.”  Oh?  Really? So I went. And she was right. We didn’t play bunko. We gathered first in the hostess’s kitchen, where we indulged in chips and guacamole and other yummy offerings. Then we gathered around the kitchen table, with wine and laughter and stories about kids, families, school, vacations, you name it. No bunko, just camaraderie, and a whole lot of awesome.

Apparently calling the evening Bunko Night draws a firmer parallel to Poker Night, even though nothing could be further from the truth J  But regardless of what you call it, Girls Night Out, Bunko Night, Mom’s Night On The Town, I’ve come to realize that time with friends is like one big group hug, like an endless warm bubble bath. Remember this commercial:


And yeah, while I was looking up that commercial, I ran across this one, too.


It’s kinda of the opposite end of the spectrum, but it counts, too. It matters. Because it conveys the same message, the woman who does it all.  You. Me. Us. And THAT woman deserves a break…she deserves a group hug and a bubble bath, she deserves a night without anyone spilling milk or asking her to wipe their butt. She deserves to laugh and cut up and be silly. She deserves a girls’ night out. It’s not selfish. It’s not silly. It’s VITAL…and fun 🙂  I think that’s why I’m so excited about my Silpada jewelry party coming up next week: girlfriends, jewelry, and wine. I can hardly wait!