Friday, April 15, 2005

Now that tax day is over, what's next for your money?

Ah, tax day is over. It feels like New Year's Day to me. I am not a financial whiz, and things like taxes stress me out, but I have made a commitment to educate myself about finances and entrepreneurship (after all, I have not just written a book, but also started my own business with

Now that April 15 is here, we can free up the financial part of our brains to look to the big next steps in life. For me, becoming a mother made me feel used to being in charge of things, and the idea of working for someone else became much less attractive. If you are itching to start your own business and are seeking inspiration and advice, I suggest you check out these three sources:

The Brain Brew radio show is an informative and entertaining weekly call-in show that airs on many public radio stations. If your station doesn't carry it, you can also listen through their website, or subscribe to the show through and download episodes to a CD or MP3 player. Providing inspiration and advice for revolutionary thinkers, Brain Brew will get your business brain whirring. I like to listen to Brain Brew on my iPod while I'm picking up the house at night. You can't do the dishes while you're taking MBA classes but you can listen to Brain Brew!

Do you want to start your own business but wonder how one person can do it on their own? Yale professor Bruce Judson has written a fantastic book called "Go It Alone--Do What You Do Best, Let Others Do The Rest." Judson lays out a plan that will allow you to leverage your personal expertise into a one-person business that is supported by "extreme outsourcing." By this he does not mean sending jobs overseas, but rather using technology and business services to do everything you don't want to yourself (accounting, payroll, web site support, etc.). His book lays out the details that teach readers how to start a business part-time, risking little money up front--the perfect opportunity for many parents.

I learned about Judson's book when I heard about it on Brain Brew. Thanks for another great resource, Doug and David!

Finally, if you feel like you've allowed your husband to take over thinking about finances, and realize that it's your responsibility too, visit the Women's Institute for Financial Education, They can help you get started!

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Who is Mojo Mom?

As I release "Mojo Mom: Nurturing Your Self While Raising a Family," I am in the fortunate position of being able to chart my own course as an author. I had the final word about the content and design of my book. And now I have the opportunity and challenge of determining the next step in the evolution of my Mojo Mom identity.

I have learned that I am not a parenting advice guru. I recently spoke to Mothers and More Silicon Valley and had a fantastic time talking about the challenges of motherhood, but I realized that I don't have the answers to all of the specific parenting challenges we face. I can't tell you how to get your baby to sleep through the night, but I can point you to a book that can help. (The Sleep Book for Tired Parents by Becky Huntley is my favorite.)

I am a feminist but I am not an academic feminist. As I've pored over books and discussions about feminist theory, I find that I am interested up to a point, but I don't intend to build a career on academic debate. I left that world once before when I was a neuroscientist and became a high school teacher. When I was in the Big Science pipeline, I felt that I was a generalist at heart who pigeonholed herself as a specialist, and I don't plan to rejoin that path.

I have learned a lot about what I would like to do as Mojo Mom. I love being a resource. A catalyst for new ideas. Maybe even a bit of a trickster, getting you to shake up your way of looking at the world and seeing it in a new way.

I am grounded in the real world and still optimistic. Wherever we are in life, whatever expectations have been smashed about where we thought we would be versus where we are now, I believe we need to accept where we are as a starting point, and move forward from there. My goal is to be a commentator and resource for living life at the intersection of feminism and reality.

These are first steps on a new path, and I'm excited to see where it takes me.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

If you can't ask for help....

Friday was an adventurous night out meeting Miriam Peskowitz, author of "The Truth Behind the Mommy Wars" at the Regulator Bookshop in Durham. Miriam led a thoughtful discussion among the whole group after reading from her book. Faulkner Fox, author of "Dispatches from a Not-So-Perfect Life," graciously invited us to her home to continue talking after the event was over.

At the bookstore, one comment came up that I've heard voiced by many different women: "I just can't bring myself to ask for help." I used to feel that way, too. I remember feeling like I had to do it all on my own, to prove that I could--but the longer I am a parent, the more I realize how important it is to move beyond this. NO ONE should have to do this job alone.

So here is my suggestion for all of us who find it really hard to ask for help: Start by offering help to friends and acquaintances and see what happens. You'll find out which friends you really connect with, and whom you'd feel comfortable inviting to become part of your family's life. As your friendships develop, asking for help in return should feel more natural.

As women we are socialized to care for others rather than asking for what we need. I realize that my suggestion to offer help is just a "work-around" to this problem, but I believe it could set many of us on a path that will lead to more cooperation.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Moms at the tipping point

Just as all of the trees in North Carolina burst into bloom on the same day, the idea of women identifying and dealing with the challenges of motherhood has suddenly reached the tipping point. In addition to "Perfect Madness" by Judith Warner, this spring as I have prepared to launch "Mojo Mom," I have seen several other books on motherhood springing up.

"The Truth Behind the Mommy Wars" by Miriam Peskowitz examines the supposed divide between stay-at-home Moms and working Moms and thankfully concludes that not only is there more cooperation than we're led to believe, but these categories are much more flexible that we hear about in the media. Check out her excellent blog, Playground Revolution.

I have the opportunity to hear her speak at a local bookstore tonight and I'm really looking forward to it. I have read the first chapter of her book and I feel like we're on the same wavelength.

Also coming out this spring are "Because I Said So: 33 Mothers Write About Children, Sex, Men, Aging, Faith, Race & themselves" an anthology by the editors of "Mothers Who Think;" and "It's My Pleasure: A Revolutionary Plan to free Yourself From Guilt, Find Your True Self, and Create the Life You Want" by mother-daughter team Maria and Maya Rodale.

I can't wait to read "It's My Pleasure" because it really sounds like it echoes one of my favorite themes from "Mojo Mom." That is, take good care of yourself and have fun because you are WORTH IT, not just because it will make you a better Mom (though I heartily believe it will do that, too).

Thursday, April 07, 2005

"High Water" mark of the week

When I published my middle-grade adventure novel High Water last spring, I learned a whole bunch about writing and producing a book. What took my by surprise was learning how difficult it was to promote a novel. While it was fantastic to finally have a finished novel, rather than a sad manuscript sitting alone in a drawer or invisibly stored on a hard drive, it was frustrating to find that my book didn't attract that much attention. (Welcome to the world of publishing! But that's another story....)

So it is really gratifying to occasionally get a reaction that makes all of the effort worth it. This afternoon a sixth-grader from my daughter's school came up to me and told me how much she liked my book, and she asked me to sign her well-worn copy. Every connection that I make with a reader makes me so glad I published the novel, even if the story only reaches a small audience.

Our school's sixth-grade class is going on a white-water rafting trip, echoing the setting of "High Water," which follows two seventh-grade girls who hate each other, but have to deal with each other when they get stranded in the wilderness together after getting left behind by their school group. I am hoping to get invited to come talk to the students before their trip, about writing and rafting--and how not to get lost! (I've been on a camping trip with 85 high-school freshmen, and believe me, anything is possible!)

You never know where your experiences will lead you. I really enjoyed rafting, and when I had to stop taking weekend trips to start focusing on writing my Ph. D. thesis, I channeled that pent-up wilderness energy into writing my novel as a break from my "official" academic work. Eleven years later, it's the novel that has stayed with me!