Blog

Life between Lockdowns: Smart Kids, Tired Parents

I think all of us are familiar with the fresh challenges we face these days, because of the COVID crisis. One among them is parenting during lockdowns. I am home all day with a 5-year old and a 2-year old. While I’m incredibly grateful that I have a safe and comfortable space where I get to stay with my loved ones, I’m also inexplicably exhausted.

Cooking, cleaning, studying for my course, trying to complete a novel, laundry, dishes and above all, making sure the kids are safe, healthy, fed and, on top of it, entertained can be quite a task, and overwhelming at times. That being said, the kids also keep me sane in insane circumstances, which is the main reason why I’m crazy about the people who drive me crazy all day!

My 2-year old has just started talking, so her way of entertaining me (and giving me a heart attack in the process) is dancing, climbing the sofa, table, bed – basically, any elevated space at home, colouring the walls and getting toys to play with, every now and then. My 5-year old is a wordsmith like Mommy. He often comes up with these witty retorts that, to be honest, I never have the energy to counter.

A few nights back, the Mister and I were putting the kids to bed. After a few minutes of silence, out of the blue, my son says, “Mommy, remember that time, you said that thing that made me so sad. I think it was unfair.” I had no idea what he was talking about and he didn’t remember the episode either, but for the next twenty minutes, he talked about how it was my fault and how I made him sad by saying ‘that thing.’ My husband just smiled silently, reflecting on all the times I did this to him (confronting him months after something happened, when he was defenceless as he did not have any recollection of the incident) and starting to believe in karma again.

There are many such instances where he would call me or someone else during virtual learning out on something that has been said that doesn’t make sense to him. For instance, just the other day, he was told during the earth week that we shouldn’t waste food, so if we are given a piece of cake, we should eat it all even if we don’t feel like it. He immediately raised his hand and said but if we eat more than we want, we might fall sick and get a tummy ache. Similarly, when he was told that killing spiders is not good, and that we should be nice to every living creature, his response was to get a frog or a lizard as a pet, because they need bugs and spiders for food. That way, they would get food and we won’t be killing any living creature.

In circumstances outside of COVID-19 or lockdowns, I had enough energy to have a dialogue with him and explain things to him in detail, but now, I feel like I do not have the mental or physical strength to do that. Either way, I always try to make sure he gets the chance to express himself, at all times – to acknowledge his feelings, discuss his thoughts and never keep anything bottled up inside him. While, this mostly leads to entertainment and amusing responses to everyday situations, sometimes, it also exposes how vulnerable kids can be, and that even though they seem to be adjusting well to things, they are equally scared and anxious.

My son had a lot of meltdowns the first time his school moved to virtual learning. This time around, the episodes have significantly decreased. However, sometimes he would still cry and ask me when he can go back to school or see his friends again. Last night, as I was putting him to bed, he hugged me tightly and said, “Mommy, can you please make sure I’m always okay? Can you promise you will never let me go?” I wanted to ask him what made him ask these questions, but I decided it was more important for me to reassure him at that time, so I refrained from asking him any questions, and just tried my best to make him feel safe, protected and secure.

It also made me feel extremely sad for people who are facing the more serious repercussions of the COVID-19 crisis, especially in countries like India, which have been catastrophically affected in the recent past. If you’re in Canada and wish to help those in India fighting like never before to survive, please visit this article by Globalnews.ca for resources and links to organizations working to improve things in the country.

If you’re a parent in Canada, struggling with the challenges presented by the pandemic and restrictions following it, you may find these resources offered by Canada.ca quite useful. If you would like to share your experiences, please feel free to write to me or comment below. I know the importance of catharsis, and I truly believe that giving a vent to your frustration in no way means that you’re ungrateful for the things you have.

I hope you all stay safe and well, and are able to take care of yourself as much as your loved ones, in these difficult times. Visit my free downloads page. Here, you will find a couple of inspirational/motivational quotes available to download for free.

©️Pebble in the Ocean 2021

Blog

Unsolicited Advice…My Fear of Driving…And Why Words Matter

So, as I said in my last post, my husband had his first seizure two years back. At the time, we were extremely stressed and I was even more vulnerable than usual. I know a lot of people who hide these things from others for a variety of reasons. However, being the younger kid (I guess?), I always look for support from those around me. I tell everyone close to me if I’m going through a rough time, and look to them for support and for telling me that everything will be okay.

I derive my strength from my support system and I’m fortunate that I’m surrounded by the kindest, most caring of people (touchwood), who are always available for us. However, after my husband’s first seizure, I realized that outside of our support system, there were a lot of people ready with unsolicited advice that didn’t have anything to do with our concerns at the time.

Since then, I observed others’ and my own interactions with people, and I noticed that unsolicited advice is, more often than not, people’s (including me) spontaneous response to conversations about challenges. So, I have been trying my best, since then, to listen without interruptions to anyone sharing their worries with me, and respond to them with anything other than unsolicited advice. There have been slip-ups, yes, but I try to make up for them through follow-up conversations.

The main reason why unsolicited advice fails, according to me, is that it is based on the premise that others’ priorities are the same as ours. At the time of his first seizure, my husband was a commercial driver. So, our first concern was about the status of his job, since we knew his licence would be suspended after his seizure. Second, we were worried about the reason behind the seizure. We were still getting a lot of tests done, at that point, so we didn’t know if there was anything we needed to worry about. That being said, when some of our acquaintances found out about the seizure, their first worry was that I didn’t drive. They felt that this would add to my husband’s stress (one of the possible triggers for seizures) as we would have to walk to get groceries or take cabs for doctors’ appointments.

Although this unsolicited advice came from a good place (like all advice does), it was as thoughtless as the firefighter’s comment in my previous post. One, because it ignored our state of mind and all our concerns about the seizure. Two, because it made me feel like I was adding to my husband’s stress, which was even worse than the first.

Instead of giving advice, when someone is venting out their stress, we should let them get it all out of their system. Especially when someone has been through a challenging situation, we should quietly listen to them. When they’re done, we should probably say something like – ‘I’m sorry you have to go through this. Tell me what I can do to help.’ Some of the beautiful gestures shown by our loved ones after these episodes have been:

  • Coming over with food and watching our kids (not possible this time, due to Covid-19)
  • Leaving food, snacks and flowers outside our door (this year)
  • Getting groceries
  • Checking in on us from time to time
  • Helping out with hospital visits/stays

My husband had his third seizure earlier this month, and with the stress of Covid-19 and life, in general, a little sensitivity/kindness from people around goes a long way towards decreasing our stress and anxiety levels. I understand why driving seems so important, particularly in the current scenario, and I would love to learn how to drive…I have tried taking lessons twice, but perhaps because of a nasty accident we were in, when I was a child (I’m not completely sure why), I dread being behind the wheel. I know it is up to me to overcome my fear, and perhaps some day I will, but until I do, criticism from people hardly increases my drive to drive (sorry…word play runs through my veins). In fact, it bothered me so much that I wrote a poem about it, in typical writers’ fashion.

What are your thoughts about unsolicited advice? Do you think it is justified? Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation? Do let me know through comments or drop me a message here. Stay safe and well, everyone.

Here is my poem. It is a little dramatic, when you read it in context, but a poem is the perfect place for a little drama, don’t you think?

Behind the Wheel

They made me sit behind the wheel again.

“A woman must learn how to drive,”

they said, condescendingly,

“Learn how to be independent.”

I silently chuckled as they failed to comprehend

The inherent irony of their claims;

As they took me on a road I didn’t recognize,

To a destination I had no inkling of.

As I struggled to find my way

On the path they chose for me,

Their loud lamentations deafened my ears,

And their passionate protests clasped my mind.

“Women are such bad drivers,”

They derisively exclaimed,

“They have no sense of direction, I say!”

I listened to them silently,

Filled not with rage, but a surprising determination.

Oh, I will sit behind the wheel again;

I will learn how to drive.

I will learn how to drive when I’m guided

By the music of the clouds in the clear blue sky,

Not the jeers of my backseat drivers.

I will learn how to drive

When I choose my own path and destination,

Not when I have to follow another’s directions.

I will surely learn how to drive

When independence is a necessary link

In the chain of my existence,

Not a skill to be learned,

And definitely not a boon to be granted.

©️Pebble in the Ocean 2021

Blog

How I Prepare For an Interview

Before I begin, let me tell you that I have received three calls for interview since I created my online writing portfolio using WordPress. That being said, the competition is fierce. Two of the interviewers told me that they received hundreds of applications for the position, out of which around 20 were called for interviews and out of those 20, they would select one candidate to fill the position.

So, I feel happy that despite a five-year gap on my resume, I made it to the interview stage, but I can never be too confident I would get the job. Still, you have to give your best to every opportunity you get, right? Here are a few things I do to prepare for an interview.

Personal Prep

My first task on the night before an interview is to put my kids to bed and clean my toddler’s artwork in crayon off at least one wall. This wall would make my background since most interviews are virtual these days. Since crayon is hard to get off, there are always a few spots left. I cover those up with scrolls from my Etsy shop. I always choose the brown or black and white ones, because I don’t want my background to be too colourful and distracting. If you don’t like anything on my Etsy shop (aren’t my marketing skills smooth? *wink wink), just type a quote or phrase on MS Word with a thin border, take a black and white print on an A4 sheet and tape that to the wall – if you are in a similar situation. It’s funny how I just presumed everyone has crayon-stained walls, isn’t it?

Next morning, right before the interview, I clean up my eyebrows – Toronto has been in lockdown way too long, so don’t blame me. I apply foundation to the dark circles around my eyes – #mommyoftwo! And I just work on my overall presentation. It is so important for me to dress up for virtual interviews, as one it gives me confidence and two – well, it just gives me confidence. So, I wear formals, apply light makeup, tidy up my hair, just little stuff like that. Just before my last interview, I even wore a mask! I’m so used to wearing it every time I dress up – it was hilarious. Thankfully, I remembered to remove it before the meeting started.

Professional Prep

Professionally, there are lots of things that I do, to prepare for an interview.

  1. I always check the meeting link before the meeting. Check and install any app that you need for the interview beforehand. This will avoid last-minute panic and delays.
  2. I always read the job description and jot down any examples from my previous experience that would make me succeed in the role that I have applied for. Since I apply to so many jobs every day, it also helps me recall which one I’m interviewing for and answer questions accordingly.
  3. I prepare a brief “about me” highlighting all relevant skills and experiences in under two minutes. I even practise it in front of the mirror a few times.
  4. I always research the company, visit their website, social media profiles, etc. This gives me an idea about what the company culture and values are, and gauge my own expectations with respect to those. I was recently called for an interview for a digital marketing role. I researched current trends and practices on Google and went through the company website, in detail. I found certain areas of improvement and wrote them down. On the morning of the interview, I received an email that they already found the perfect match and were cancelling the interview. I was quite disappointed, but I just emailed them and thanked them for letting me know. I wished the hired candidate luck and gave them the suggestions I had written down about their website as bullet points. They emailed me that evening saying they would like to schedule that interview again to listen to what I had to say. They had already hired someone, so obviously I wasn’t even hoping to get the job anymore, but it was nice to see that my point of view meant something and created an impression.
  5. I go through my resume thoroughly. Sometimes, I forget roles that I filled long back, where I may have developed skills necessary for this particular role. So, this is an important step for me as it is a kind of a revision of my experience.
  6. All the interviews that I have been in, these last few weeks, have posited these questions to me – Why do you want to work in our organization?
    What are your expectations from this role?
    What is your process like?
    I had never thought about these questions to be honest. I was just looking for a job that matched my skill set and experience. I never thought about why I want to join that particular company or what I expected to get from the role, other than more experience and a steady pay. So, research about the role and company come in handy when I am trying to answer these questions. It gives me a fair idea of what is out there and what my expectations are, and if the two can go hand in hand.
  7. After an interview, I always thank the interviewer via email. I keep the message short and sweet and if they need me to complete a task or an exercise (most writing roles require that), I submit it promptly, before the end of day, if possible. With my mommy brain at work, all the time, I don’t want to let it slip out of my mind and miss deadlines (unfortunately, that has happened, too).

If you are applying for copywriting jobs, there are a lot of free courses out there that can help you stay up to date with current trends and best practices and show employers you’re proactive in upgrading your skills and knowledge.

How do you prepare for an interview? Let me know through comments or my contact page. Good luck!

©️ Pebble in the Ocean 2021

Blog, Poetry

What I Mean When I say I’m a Writer by Birth

So, if you’ve read my bio, you know I’ve been writing since the age of 5. What exactly does that mean, though? Did I scribble a few words on the page? Or was it an actual poem? See for yourself:

A Rough Translation of the Poem I wrote at Age 5

I wrote these lines in Hindi on the last page of my notebook. I remember this distinctly. I’m still amazed I didn’t use rhyme for this, but it was probably because it seemed too hard at that age. The poem went something like this:

Once upon a time, in a village,

There was a king, who was like a step-king (Cinderella was my favourite story, at the time).

He was extravagant, but did not share anything with his people.

One day, the king died.

All his soldiers cried for him. (Deep and moving, don’t you think? My thoughts were always on the negative side, I guess.)

The queen said, “I should die, too.

My husband is no more, so I don’t have

Any purpose in life anymore.” (Hmmm, Patriarchal much!?)

Smile

This one is in English. I wrote it when I was in Grade 6. It is more positive, kid-friendly and…it rhymes!

A smile is something lovely,

It is indeed very cute,

It is as sweet as someone

Playing on a flute. (I was BIG on rhyme at the time, did I mention that?)

It looks very good

On children’s face,

When they have an adventure

To some exciting place. (I was big on adventure, too, it seems.)

Smile, smile, smile, (I still love repetition – excellent device)

It is a lovely word.

It is present on children’s face

All over the world. (how marvellous!)

Work of Life

I wrote this in Grade 8. It is in English, too, and it rhymes. This and Smile were published in a local newspaper- big achievement for me.

Mother says, Study all the time,

Book of math or book of rhyme,

Brother says, What’s the time?

Brother, Brother 2 o’clock.

Sister says, Give grains to cock!
(It seems like I just let my imagination run wild on this one. I have no brother and we had no poultry in the house, except what was in the fridge, so I have no idea what I’m talking about here. My mother was always asking me to study, though, so that part is accurate.)

Father says, Polish my shoes. (Papa used to polish my shoes, at this age, so imagination at work again.)

Food is ready for the goose. (Nope, no goose either.)

Mother, Father, Husband, Wife,

This is the only work of life. (My priorities were always set, I guess. Also, is it really deep or am I just conceited?)

The Carefree River

I wrote this one in middle school, too, but it was in Hindi. This is a rough translation.

I am a carefree river,

I flow and flow all day long,

Morning or evening,

Day or night.

Even when I see a beautiful sight,

I can’t stop to admire it.

I see everything, I absorb everything,

Then, I go and find my destination

In the deep blue ocean.

I narrate everything I’ve seen on the way to him.

He tries to make me understand,

That my life is nothing more than

Flowing endlessly. (When my family read this one, they knew I was going to be a writer.)

I love that my parents always encouraged me to realize and work on developing my passion for writing. They always took me to book fairs, got me pens, notebooks, cute stationery – to indulge in my love for writing. We were always reading literature, discussing it – and that really helped me grow as a writer and as a person. I’m proud of my journey and I’m proud of the role my family has played in that journey.

Would you like to tell me about your journey? Comment below or contact me through my Contact page. You can find prints of my poems on my Etsy shop, and a few downloads on the Free Downloads page.

Blog

My Online Writing Portfolio – Ta Da

So, I created my online writing portfolio on my free WordPress website. Now, what do I add to it.

The Home Page

On the Home page, I added a brief writing bio with keywords related to the kinds of writing I have done. This is what it looks like.

The Home Page

I kept it simple. I just included the highlights of my writing experience and my specialties. I spent a lot of time thinking about whether I should include a photo or not. In the end, I decided to create a free, simple logo on Canva instead, with a tagline. I don’t know if it is standard practice or not. I don’t even know if this is desirable for attracting the employer’s attention. I just felt more comfortable with it, and I felt it was another way to show my creativity, so I did it this way. That being said, I have seen a lot of writers who have included their photo as part of their brand building.

I also kept my Contact page hidden. Although I did it by accident – I didn’t realize I needed to customize my menu after adding a page – I chose to keep it this way as it seemed to keep the focus on my portfolio. That is also the reason why I did not add any stock images to this website. I wanted my words to be the centre of attention. Now, let’s move on to the portfolio.

Writing Examples
I have been writing since the age of five, and I’m a published author of works across forms and styles. While I found it easy to include examples of poetry, articles, research papers, and other forms of creative and academic writing – with publication details – I didn’t feel so confident about linking website copy that I wrote for customers, especially since I wrote it as part of an agency, and most websites have undergone revisions since I wrote them. Moreover, most of these websites had “All rights reserved” at the bottom of the page, so I was apprehensive about including those, as well. 

Writing Samples
Now, since the job was for a copywriting role, I did not want to leave out my website content in my portfolio. So, this is what I did. I just wrote the practices I follow while writing different pages of a multi-page website, and created sample content for imaginary businesses instead. I specifically chose the industry that the company I’m interested in belongs to, and drafted a page for them. I haven’t heard back from them, so I don’t know if it will work, but it seemed better than nothing, right? I’ll let you know if and when I hear from them, so stay tuned.

As you can see, for the website pages, I chose to create samples rather than choose existing examples. I included best practices as I could think of them and created a paragraph based on those, using industry-specific highlights. Luckily, I had just created this website, too, so I picked some of the content from my own website.

Website/Portfolio
However, I did not use my own website as my portfolio as I wanted to keep the two separate. If you think it is appropriate and works for you, you can just create one website for your blogs and your portfolio, too.

As I said in an earlier post, this is the first time I have created a writing portfolio online, so if you feel like I have left something out or if you feel like I could have done something differently, please feel free to reach out. Also, if you would need a writer for your upcoming project, contact me and we can discuss the details. Browse through the rest of my website for digital prints or for free downloads.

See you later!

©️ Pebble in the Ocean 2021

Blog

How I Used WordPress to Create an Online Writing Portfolio

So, I have been applying for a lot of copywriting jobs lately, and everywhere they asked me for a link to a portfolio, which I never bothered to make. Last week, I came across a job I was really excited about, so when they asked me for a portfolio, I just took the leap.

The process of creating a website for portfolio is pretty simple, and I really don’t know why I kept putting it off.

First, login or sign up at wordpress.com.

After choosing to create a website, you have to choose a name for your website. Based on that name, you will get domain name choices, like these:

I chose the free one, because I just wanted some space online to save my writing samples and examples, whose link I can share with employers. Then, I was asked to select a plan. I again chose the free one.

After that, I chose a theme. I wanted a basic layout, nothing too fancy, so I chose the simplest one I could find and just changed the content to add text and remove images.

I just picked a font pairing and then, I was directed to the page which I could customize and launch my site.

It looked something like this.

Once I was done, I just pressed the launch button and my portfolio was good to go.

Then, I just added a Portfolio page and a hidden Contact page (I provided a link for it at the Home page), but I wanted all the attention to be on my portfolio. I made my portfolio page the page to which posts will be added and I just kept adding the examples or samples of the different kinds of content as new posts.

Every time you add a new page, you have to go to Customize under Design section of the sidebar, and change the menu to include the new page. Until I did this, I was not able to see my page on the live website, even in the menu. This is how I kept my contact page hidden, too. I did not customize my menu to include it.

I will share my portfolio in another post. Please feel free to contact me if you need any more information about this, or if you feel like I have missed something out.

Need writing, editing or proofreading services? Connect with me to discuss your project.

Check out my posters on writing, available as free downloads on this website.

©️ Pebble in the Ocean 2021

Uncategorized

How to Make Your Own Font with Calligraphr

Recently, I made my own font with Calligraphr. I don’t remember being so excited about anything else in the recent past. The fact that it was so easy made it even more fun. Here are the steps you need to follow to make your font on Calligraphr. If you do, please share an image of your font with me. I’d love to see how it turned out. Just one tip: try to make your letters lean not spread out like mine. I would have liked my font to be just a little more fine than it is now. Other than that, it is quite what I wanted it to be.

  1. Go to the Calligraphr website.
  2. Sign up for free.
  3. Confirm your email.
  4. Download and print a template of your choice.
  5. Write on the template with a black felt pen (recommended). I used Paper Mate Flair Medium. I use it for all my hand lettering tasks.
  6. Scan it to your device.
  7. Upload it on Calligraphr.
  8. Build your font.
  9. Click on the .ttf format and install it on your computer to use it with MS Word.
  10. Your font is ready to use.

The instructions on the website are remarkably easy to follow, and the whole process didn’t even take me a full hour. I was quite happy with the results and even made a few handwriting practice sheets. Message me if you’d like to receive free copies of the practice sheets. I’d love to share them with you and get your feedback on them.

©️ Pebble in the Ocean 2021