Heart Mothers

imageI found the title of my book!

Heart Mothers!

Heart mothers is a great way to describe the women I am interviewing because they truly are mothers from the heart. Many are raising children they did not birth.

Thank you to JudyAnn who first mentioned the term heart mother in a comment on one of my earlier blog posts. The words I have heard most often in listening to women’s stories over the last year has been heart and love.






The image above is a from a page created by me during one of Marilyn LoRusso’s Vision Book Art Workshops.

How do you stay focused on your writing?

humming birdDear Writers,

How do you stay focused on writing and not get distracted by all the shiny stuff? Today I woke up and told myself I was going to have a productive day. I was going to focus on writing and get this book organized! The current stage of my book is a “crappy first draft” of writing sprawl.

Instead of sitting down to write, I found myself logging on to Twitter, ‘just for a minute’ I told myself. Next thing I knew, 35 minutes had passed, I had clicked on a bunch of links, found a new program I wanted to try, was all over the place. I kept scrolling through my timeline, catching up on what all my friends were doing, and reading all the interesting posts they were linking to. Finally, one tweet caught my attention and reminded me I was planning to write today and not dawdle away my day on social media.

That tweet was from Tamara Holland. It read, “Belated huge heartfelt thanks to the wild-assed muse who visited BeanUpTheNoseArt last night & downloaded her stuff thru my fingers”. I almost responded with, “can you please send your muse my way when you are done with her?”.

Instead, I kept scrolling through my timeline getting sucked back in to Never-never land. That is when I saw a tweet from Success and Chocolate about a new program called TrapIt and was like, ‘Oh! I have to try that!’  Then the little voice in my head said, “Wait! Not another new program. Stay focused. Save it for later.”  As I was having this conversation in my head, I read another tweet from Tamara addressed to Success and Chocolate that said, “Uh-oh. Is this another place, like Instagram, that I should-but-should-not-go?”. That is when I put my phone down and began to write.

As difficult as it is for me to do this, I believe the best way to find my muse is to turn off all distractions and dedicate a certain amount of time each day to writing. No Internet! The only screen allowed is a Word document.

I am off to start organizing my crappy first draft and follow up with some of my interviewees!

What do you do to stay focused on your writing? How do you avoid the temptation of the internet and other shiny things?

PS. I still want to check out Trapit and will. 😉 @iPeggy the blogger behind Success and Chocolate is the expert on new cool programs. I guess for me it is all about finding balance and scheduling time to write.


The image above is a from a page created by me during one of Marilyn LoRusso’s Vision Book Art Workshops.

Time to update the dictionary

evil-stepmothers stepmother: a woman who has married one’s father after the death or divorce of one’s mother ~thefreedictionary.com

We need a new word! The word stepmother needs to be updated to be more inclusive of the actual role. We all know what kind of images the word stepmom conjures in our head. The problem is a stepmom used to be the woman who stepped in, in place of the mother when the mother had passed away. Nowadays stepmoms are not replacing but are usually co-parenting with the moms. Often this co-parenting is not a mutually agreed upon or wanted arrangement between to the 2 women. It is a situation thrust upon the original/birth mom by the father/ex-husband who has chosen to marry a new woman, inviting her in to his children’s lives without the consent of the birth mother at all.

As the birth mother you suddenly find yourself sharing the responsibilities and decisions made about your children with another woman. This can be a very frustrating and threatening position to be in.

As the stepmom, you suddenly find yourself caring for another woman’s children. You may even love these children like they are your own but the fact is, they are not. These kids have a mother, and they most likely will remind you of this on a regular basis. You may care for them, sacrifice for them and give everything to them but when mother’s day comes along you may not even get acknowledged.

It is a painful situation for both women. The birth mother may feel insecure that her kids won’t love her as much as they love the new stepmom who may be younger and hipper and charming the kids with new toys and clothes.

The problem with the word stepmom is the word no longer fits. You are not stepping in for the mother. You very likely may be stepping on the mother’s feelings and this is probably why the word stepmom still carries such a negative association.

Unfortunately, in all my research, I have not been able to come up with a new word. I met a woman today who refuses to use the word stepmom because of the rotten connotation associated with it but this unfortunately leaves her in a place of pain. There is no word to describe her relationship with these kids. No acknowledgment of all that she has done and does do for these kids that she loves.

Please help me think of  new word, a loving, positive one that could describe the actual role of a stepmom.

Thank you.

I need a title

Don’t judge a book by its cover or by its title, especially my book, since it doesn’t have a cover or a title yet.

My book needs a title and I need your help. Please! I originally planned to use the title Other Mothers but there are already a few books out there with very similar titles and there is a children’s clothing store with that name. I’m back to the drawing board and decided I would try a little crowd sourcing.

Please leave a comment below with title suggestions. If I pick your title, I will give you credit in the book and will offer you a complimentary copy of the book when it is done.

Thank you!



We Are All Other Mothers

flowerIt took me this long to figure out that we are all other mothers. We all have a story, even those of us who look like the perfect “normal” traditional mothers.

This book is not going to be a celebration of the bliss of motherhood. That would be a fiction book. This book is about finding and creating connections between women and other mothers.

When I was a young mother I used to think all of those other moms knew what they were doing, like they were mother experts or something. I was so insecure and ashamed. My kids went to an expensive private school where many of the parents had big, fancy houses and drove big, fancy cars and were a lot older than me. Many of them had Master’s degrees or PhD’s. I was in my 20’s, most of the other mothers were in their 40’s and 50’s. We lived in a fixer upper “small” by comparison house and worked hard to pay our Bay Area bills. I worried they all judged me because I was so young (and I looked even younger than I was). I was terribly embarrassed of my used faded blue Nissan Sentra. I was embarrassed of my job as a chiropractic assistant.  I spent so much of my time worrying about what the other mothers thought of me I never took the time to inquire how they were doing. I just assumed their lives were perfect and they were doing everything right.

At a parent party I attended awhile back, I realized that all mothers just want to be liked and accepted like the rest of us. Everybody is busy, everybody is doing the best they can, and everybody feels inadequate at times. What we all really want is to be accepted and acknowledged. Everybody is going through some kind of challenge and in reality they probably are not spending much time worrying about what the other mothers are doing. If anything, they are probably thinking the other mother’s are doing a way better job than they are at parenting.

At this party, I learned one mom was dealing with the loss of her own mother. Another was dealing with a father-in-law suffering from dementia. One was dealing with her older son who was struggling with addiction; another was dealing with an abusive husband. One was a teenage mom, who is now 36 with an 18 year old, doing the best she can. Another was in the middle of a nasty divorce. And one wasn’t actually a mom, she was a friend of the mom and was helping out. She told me since she didn’t have her own kids she liked to play auntie.

If we’d all stop worrying about what the other mothers think of us and instead focused on getting to know each other this whole parenting thing might be a bit easier.

Oh, Yes I Can!

“Oh, Yes I Can!” is my new motto for 2013 and this is my new blog dedicated to the book I am going to finish writing! This is my year of saying yes to opportunity. I will be using this space to write about parenting and all things related to other mothers.

yes I can

This image is a page created by me during one of Marilyn LoRusso’s Vision Book Art Workshops.

Calling all Other Mothers

Are you an other mother?

If so, I want to hear your story!

I’m currently in the process of writing a book about other mothers. Title is still yet to be determined but the subject is other mothers. Wondering what an other mother is? Read my past blog post here.

I am learning there are all sorts of women who feel like other mothers.

I am interested in hearing and writing about your stories. Your story can be kept completely confidential or I can give you credit, whatever you are most comfortable with.

If you have a story to share or know someone who does please send them my way.

Here are some suggestions of other mothers I’m interested in interviewing but I’m also open to ones I may not have mentioned below:

women who:

  • chose not to have children
  • were not able to have children
  • were surrogate moms
  • had abortions or miscarriages
  • adopted children
  • fostered children
  • were/are teen moms
  • are moms of teen moms
  • divorced moms
  • single moms
  • lesbian/bi moms
  • immigrant moms
  • are disabled moms
  • are moms of disabled children
  • have children with mental illness
  • seem like typical moms but don’t feel like they fit in
  • are aunts, grandmas & others raising children who are not their own
  • are in the military
  • have husbands in the military or prison
  • feel too young, old, poor, fat, ugly, etc
  • are other mothers
  • YOU – I want to hear your story

Please email me at sally@sallyaroundthebay.com to share your story or share your story with all of us in a comment below.

Thank you!

Taking charge of myself

A few months ago I took on the insane project of writing a book. This is not an easy task. Being a writer is not romantic. It’s hard work.

I got stuck.

Instead of giving up, I hired a writing coach. She is awesome. She is also the author and photographer over here at the Mt. Tam 365 blog. My coach gave me some assignments to help get things flowing again. One of the assignments was to read Anne Lamott’s book called Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. Following their instructions I have started to let my writing flow more by writing my “shitty first draft” what Anne Lamott calls your first draft. To write like no one is reading. That is what I have been doing and my writing has been flowing.

I’ve also been spending some time reflecting on why my writing has taken so long to flow, as in 41 years. I’ve always wanted to write but I never really put myself out there until I started this blog. Below is one of the reasons I never made it as a writer, take a close look at the certificate I was awarded from the UC Irvine Newspaper, the NewU.

When I was 20 years old I transferred from the local community college to UC Irvine to get my bachelors degree in Social Ecology. This was a big deal for me.

Instead of living in the dorms I found a super cool beach rental on Balboa Island which I shared with 3 other roommates. It was actually cheaper than living in a dorm. The problem was, 2 of my roommates were guys and within weeks of moving in I fell for one of them. ‘If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one your with’ is the song that comes to mind when I think of this relationship. I’ll save that story for another day. What I found myself in at the age of 20 was a relationship on fast forward. We were already living together before our first date, so much for my young, carefree, college years.

Looking back this was not the best move for my own autonomy and self growth. Suddenly I was in a very grown up relationship. My thriving successful self started to disappear behind this new boyfriend. I became his support, you know the saying “behind every successful man is a great woman” well I was THAT woman. I kid you not, I won that award from UC Irvine’s official Newspaper as “the most tolerant NewU girlfriend” while he won awards for writing. You know what really sucks about this is I am the one who wanted to write for the newspaper!

When I was still feeling like I could conquer the world in the beginning days of UCI, I was the brave one who went up to the newspaper office all by myself and said I wanted to write a story. I wanted to be a journalist. The editor welcomed me and gave me my 1st assignment which was to write about the Greek sorority system at UCI. I was excited about my story. I came home and told new boyfriend. He immediately wanted to work for the newspaper too and we talked about how we could be journalist together. The next day I took him to the NewU office and introduced him to the editor. They hit it off. Boyfriend got assigned a story writing about the treatment of the gardeners at UCI. He spoke Spanish so he had an ‘in’ with the workers.

I am not sure what happened over the next few weeks but his story became bigger than life and mine felt meaningless and stupid. I started feeling inadequate next to him and decided there was only room for one journalist in our household and that would be him. I couldn’t compete. I just faded away and never wrote my story. I also never showed my face at the NewU office for awhile out of shame. I finally had to when boyfriend got offered a staff position there, I had to be brave and show my face and apologize to the editor for being such a flake. I was too embarrassed to explain what had happened and why I had not written the story. At this point I was also too ashamed to ask for another chance even though I so badly wanted to write for the paper and have my voice heard.

By the way, boyfriend’s story ran on the front page of the paper and went on to win awards. He got so in to his work at the NewU he ended up having to work late there on Friday nights. His old car broke down and did not run so he was depending on me and the bus system to get him around. The buses did not run late on Friday nights so I became his chauffeur. In usual Sally fashion I worked my life around his and put his needs first. He has gone on to write numerous features and articles for national magazines and last I checked has published two successful books.

I am not telling you this story to blame boyfriend for my lack of success. It’s more a realization that it is finally time to put myself first. This has been the biggest challenge for me in writing, finding time to write, putting my writing before everyone else’s needs is harder than the actual writing. I’m going to hang this certificate on the wall as a reminder to focus on myself and my writing because I really don’t need any more best supporting wife/girlfriend/stepmom/friend awards. I’m going for the Emmy in life!

I figured independence day was an appropriate day to write this post. Happy 4th!


Marin Moms

What is a Marin Mom?

A mom who lives in Marin.

What is the first thing you think of when you hear/read the words “Marin Mom”?

I asked myself this question and here was my honest answer:

Marin Mom is an unofficial term used in the Bay Area to describe a stay at home, hip, good looking, often blonde, fit, yoga going, organic eating, SUV driving, volunteering, soccer mom usually married to a wealthy guy. At least that is the stereotype that conjures in my mind when I hear “Marin Mom”

In researching stereotypes for my book I asked this same question on Facebook and Twitter and got some interesting responses confirming I am not the only one forming stereotypes. Here is what others had to say about Marin Moms:

  • Ladies who lunch
  • Lululemon and big black SUVs
  • Money and multiple yoga classes each day
  • SUVs (heard this one multiple times)
  • Frequently distracted drivers
  • Competition – being a mom seems like a competitive sport around here
  • driving too much for their kids, not teaching them manners
  • entitled
  • Hot
  • MILF
  • Lululemon
  • Sitting around drinking coffee in yoga gear, bit intense, while either their kids are bouncing around or sitting quietly to attention while she explains how to spell croissant in yiddish and mandarin.
  • I think about me walking into La Boulange with friends and having a “Marin Mom” stop me and ask if I would bring an addition Latte to her table because a friend was joining her. When I told her I didn’t work there, no apologies.
  • athletic, non-working, rich, svu driver, usually blonde mom
  • Marin Moms: full time moms whose partners bring home the bacon. Totally dedicated to kid’s health and happiness.
  • Run around in lululemon yoga outfits and shop at Whole Foods about 5 x a week. Like wine.
  • A mom that lives in Marin.
  • Marin Mom…SUV
  • A fine bunch of women!
  • Crazy suv’s trying to kill you, over protective and ruled by their kids, well off
  • First thought was Brooks Bro. shirts, shimmering blondey-silver hair, capable, then jumped to Boho. Flower Show came to mind
  • I think of amazing women who make me want to cry when I see how cool and interesting their kids turned out to be and firmly hope I can do as good a job as they did. Of course, I only know two Marin Moms, so I’m probably a statistical outlier. 🙂
  • Aware, intelligent, active, loving, creative

As we all know, there is a grain of truth in stereotypes so yes these answers probably will give you a good idea of what your first impression of Marin Moms might be if you were to drop in on Marin from somewhere else knowing nothing about Marin. But the longer I live here in Marin the more I love the people of Marin. As you get to know each person on an individual level the stereotypes seem to fade away and Marin is full of some wonderful, caring people.

By the way, if you are a Marin Mom or happen to be visiting Marin, here is a great Website with TONS of fun things to do in Marin County… Marin Mommies!

What is the first thing you think of when you hear the words “Marin Mom”?

Other Mothers

Mother’s Day is coming up. This is a tough one for me. Not as a daughter but as a mother. It is a day that I am reminded of how society often disregards the other mothers of the world. I am one of those other mothers.

The number 1 question every woman is asked is, “Do you have children?” You might think this is a simple yes or no answer; it is not. Many women “have” children but did not actually “have” them. It is a complicated question to answer. Some women struggle with how much of an answer to give, I know I did.

I raised 3 children. I changed their diapers, wiped their snotty noses, made their lunches, consoled their hurt feelings, drove the carpool, gave up my own dream of going to graduate school, stayed home from work with sick kids, lost my hair during their teenage years and many nights of sleep. I laughed, cried, enjoyed, loved and hated parenting. But, when someone asks me if I have children and I say yes, I feel like I am not telling the whole truth. I do have children, I have 3 but I did not birth these children, my partner did and we have raised them together with her ex-husband and his wife. If I tell people the whole story their response is often “oh, you are not the real mom.” Being labeled “not the real mom” made it so I was not allowed to ever complain about parenting or my kids because if I did other mothers would say, “it’s different when it is your kid, or you wouldn’t understand since they are not actually your kids”.

These comments from others often shut me down, hurt me and made me wonder if it was okay to say yes I have kids. These comments also isolated me from the “Mom’s club” I wanted and needed so badly to be in. The Mom’s club is any group of moms that becomes friends because of their kids, moms at the park, moms who have kids in the same class, etc. They hang out together while their kids are doing  activities and provide support to each other, share their trials and tribulations of raising kids and learn from each other. I felt so alone as a mother. I felt ashamed wondering what the other mothers thought of me. I was young, I was a lesbian and I was the cause for my partner’s (the real mother) divorce. Looking back now that my kids are young adults I realize those worries of what the other mothers thought of me were all created in my own head. I never even gave a chance to those other mothers to get to know me. The few that I did allow in throughout the parenting years are some of my best friends now.

I wish I wouldn’t have wasted so much of my mommy years wondering if I was good enough and realized that the fact that I was raising someone else’s kids was BETTER than good enough. I was sacrificing and doing things for those little snotty nosed people that usually only a “real” mother would do. I should NOT have been ashamed, I should have been celebrated. But a mother’s job doesn’t usually come with a lot of praise, I understand this.

The more I have talked with women, the more I have learned that this feeling like an ”other mother” is a common feeling. Even the traditional type of mom often feels like she doesn’t fit in; she’s too young, too old, too fat, too poor, not cool enough, works, doesn’t work, whatever it is, she feels she doesn’t fit in and she isolates herself from the other mothers.

Being in my position, the other mom, not the “REAL” mom and not even the step-mom pretty much makes me the invisible mom when it comes to acknowledgement from society and community support.

I have an idea for a book I want to write about other mothers. I want to interview all the other mothers out there and share their stories. I imagine there are all sorts of women who could identify with being an other mother: lesbian moms, step-moms, adoptive moms, foster moms, divorced moms, single moms, teen moms, immigrant moms, aunts, grandmas and other relatives raising children that are not their own, moms whose husbands are in prison or the military, women who chose not to be moms or were not able to be and fathers who have  taken on the more traditional mommy role are all people whom I’d like to interview and hear their stories. I’m sure there other ‘other mother’s who I  have failed to mention here as well. I’ve been tossing this book idea around in my head for a while but now I’ve decided I am going to do it. If you are interested in sharing your story with me and being a part of this book please contact me to arrange for an interview.


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