Category Archives: Everyday Life

Coming Up For Air, or Finding Balance in 2017 Update

You’ll remember that I headed into 2017 hoping for a better experience than what I had going on at the end of 2016 (read the original post HERE if you missed it…) and armed with a plan to make it happen. Either I did a really good job of implementing the plan or I’m getting really good at juggling all the things in my life now. (Jury is still out on that one…) Things do feel better and I’m seeing positive results in my stress levels. I’m here to share some insights if you want all my secrets. Why are you reading my blog if it isn’t to get my secrets, right? *wink*

My powers of saying NO and delegating everything I can are becoming well-honed skills. This is still not always easy for me. I always wish I was doing the things that I am missing out on when I know others are enjoying them without me, thanks to my raging case of “FOMO” (Fear Of Missing Out). But practice makes everything easier. When I didn’t die after not participating in every author event that was available to me the last six months, I realized I could survive. I also realized that when a person is found with the right skills to hand off something successfully, they are an invaluable find. I have so many people around me who are rocking things that I’ve given them, and making my life easier in the process. If you’re one of these – you know who you are – thank you!

My efforts to break the constant draw of being connected to social media is still a daily struggle. However, limiting the times and ways I get notified of things on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter has been amazing. We all know I’m addicted so it isn’t like I’m not going to check in on social media whenever I have down time (like the end of the day, whenever I’m on public transit, at lunch, etc.) so I’m not missing things. The difference now is that I’m not distracted by notifications that pop up and interrupt whatever else I’m focused on. Seriously, if you are getting these kinds of notifications outside of the social media site itself you may not even realize how disruptive they are until you turn them off.

The best part of all of these efforts is the amount of writing I’m doing again – even while maintaining a 3.9 GPA and consistently hitting the President’s List at SNHU. I’ve written two short stories that I’m extremely proud of, POETRY that I’ve never been inspired to write but now do, and I’m working on my novel consistently. It’s funny how everything I do looks the same to observers – me, sitting in front of a laptop in various places around the house. Is she doing homework? Working on League business? Messing around on social media? I didn’t realize this until I was sharing with my hubby how great it was to be almost to the 70K mark on the novel and getting toward the ending. He was surprised to hear that I was even writing. His assumption that I was always swamped with coursework (or distracted by Facebook) was eye-opening. Nope, I’m doing ALL the things now that I have arranged my life for better effectiveness.

None of these things are new insights, I was already seeing some success by the time I originally blogged about them. What is fabulous to know is that now they are habits rather than merely new and promising. Sustainable behaviors are always more effective for long-term results. What steps are you taking to increase your success?


The End of an Era

As I settle into my new normal and take a minute to look around, many things are shifting. May was a monumental milestone.

Life as a dance mom with competition dancers is officially behind me. Big Sister is headed for high school and is leaving the competition dance studio behind her for dance company endeavors instead. While it’s been a solid decade of crazy schedules and running kids to and fro between home and the dance studio all year, extra practices in February and March, and weekends spent sitting in high school auditoriums or on bleachers in the gymnasium all day on Saturdays from March to May every year, it’s officially over. Baby Sister likes dance but loves the friends and socializing AT dance far more than the dancing itself. Every week it was a struggle to make her go to dance classes and it isn’t worth the time, energy or money to force it. She will take a dance class with her bestie for a very manageable hour a week and we will still have our evenings and weekends in the spring free. The one thing I won’t have to ever say again: “I can’t, we have dance”. I have mixed feelings about this. While it will certainly free up a lot of family time, I will miss the connections to the dance community and the family at our dance studio. We will replace this will family camping and other things we haven’t been able to do much of easily.

The passion Big Sister had for dance, Baby sister has for skiing. She begged her daddy to take her every weekend and even now, she was begging for skiing last weekend. Spring in Utah is a wondrous thing with the weather sunny and warm but snow still at the higher elevations and at least one ski resort still open. The girls are both fabulous skiers. Where it used to be mommy-daughter weekends around dance, now it will be daddy-daughter weekends on the ski slopes. It does my heart good to know they will have things they only do with their dad that will create memories to look back on well into adulthood.

Speaking of adulthood… Big Sister is headed to High school… and driving… and dating! How the hell am I old enough for that to be true? (yeah, yeah, I know I have friends who have kids that are already married and pumping out grand-babies… it doesn’t help me accept the new reality of my life!) My oldest has just over two years and then she herself will be an adult. Time is fleeting.

I’m officially in management at the corporate day job now. A step I said I wanted a year or so ago and one of the main motivators for finishing my degree. Now that I’m here, it’s a lot of work, which I knew about. What I hadn’t anticipated was how hard it would be to give up all the things I do really well to let others do them instead while I lead their efforts and create the overall strategy. It’s a pretty insane shift required in my psyche and I’m hoping I don’t royally fuck it up. I’ve got a couple of great employees so far and I’m sure I’ll figure it all out at some point. Because that’s how I roll.

It’s been a year, almost to the day, since I decided to return to school and finish my degree. Before I even realized it, I’ve got almost a year of classes under my belt. While it feels like I just started and am still adjusting, it’s also flying by. When I look at all the classes that I have completed and the ever-shortening list of ones I have left before I’m done, it doesn’t seem so overwhelming.

I’ve been focusing so much on school that I’ve had very little time for writing my own creative works. Don’t get me wrong, I’m doing plenty of writing each week, it just isn’t in the form of my own stories. I’m still hovering at about two-thirds done with my latest novel and have written several short stories so far this year, but I would have had more to show for a year of writing if I hadn’t also been working on my degree. The good news is, this term I have writing courses instead of literature and science courses and general ed is behind me, which is fantastic. I know I’m becoming a better writer because of the courses I’m taking. Catch-22 right there. Because I don’t have a ton of time on top of the priorities I am currently chasing, I have taken somewhat of a hiatus from doing author events this year. It is proving to be both a good thing and a sad thing. My fear of missing out on adventures and experiences that others in my local writing community are doing rears its ugly head at every turn. But when I stop and think about how much my focus can remain on my writing because of it, I admit it is a good choice. I’m getting really good about saying no to things. Practice makes perfect, apparently.

As I close the chapter of dance mom insanity and look ahead to all the things I’ve still got going on that fill every day to the brim, my heart is happy. I’m living a full life, a life I love, and squeezing every ounce of fulfillment from each day. I lost a co-worker this past week to a sudden illness and it was a sobering reminder that every day could be our last, much like it could have been mine once not so long ago. I’m grateful I’m still here to enjoy this thing I call life.


Advice and perspective from my younger self

One of the best things about Facebook is the “On This Day” feature. This week, my memories included a bit of irony from a previous post two years ago. I was deep in the throws of a serious pity party about how much time I hadn’t gotten that week to write while I was deep in the first draft stage of my latest novel. I gave myself the permission to be too busy that week of life getting in the way, sharing the epiphany that every week is not the same and sometimes you aren’t productive. And it’s okay.

Today I look back and laugh at how silly I was and what I thought the picture of “busy” was back then. That was before I was in leadership in the League of Utah Writers. Before I planned large conferences for hundreds of people in my spare time. Before I had returned to school full time. Before I had two kids on a dance team. Before I was a manager at the day job. Before I had an hour commute each way to work every day…

The lesson is the same now as it was then, just the perspective has shifted. If I could go back in time to those blissful days full of all the time in the world to write if I didn’t have anything else scheduled I would be hard pressed to turn it down. But when I’m being honest with myself, I have a much fuller life now thanks to all the things I have added in the past couple of years and I likely wouldn’t change a thing.

Doing all the things is also much easier with a solid support system. I’ve added a level of insanity while I finish my degree but I have traded away the cooking, grocery shopping, laundry and house cleaning to others in order to do it. Most of that now falls on my children and my ever-indulgent and uber-supportive husband who is my biggest fan cheering me on while he takes up the slack. Today, I remind everyone who’s watching that you never know what you’re capable of until you stretch yourself to the furthest limits in pursuit of your dreams. Just protect yourself from burnout and maintain balance in all things. Once that’s achieved, you’re unstoppable.


Finding Better Balance in 2017

The Universe has a way of sending me exactly what I need, when I need it. As I wrapped up 2016, I reflected on the year. While I had stayed on top of all the things I’d said yes to (and then some that I inherited out of familial duty) with most of my sanity intact, I hadn’t accomplished as much as I wanted to or had set out to do. Keeping up isn’t always the same thing as being effective, I found.

Confession time: I had a really rough January.

I spent the last half of 2016 teetering at the edge of losing all the things I was juggling just trying to stay on top of everything. I volunteered enough hours in my several roles within the League of Utah Writers that I won a really prestigious award (when I’ve officially been awarded it, I’ll share details!) but I hadn’t completed the novel I’d been on track to finish when the year started.

I still haven’t.

A lot of this is because I decided (almost on a whim) to return to college to finish my degree. However, that wasn’t the only reason if I was being completely honest with myself. In the darkest moments of January I actually resented my shiny prestigious award. It represented concrete evidence of over 500 hours that I’d given to people besides me and my writing.

I spent 2016 doing things that were amazing. Don’t get me wrong. But much of it was at the expense of my own dreams and goals. I had done it all, except what made me happy and what meant the most.

Here’s where the Universe comes in. I follow a blogger and fellow writer who is a productivity expert. She supplies me with my yearly statistics and writing progress tracker and I’m in an online writing group she started. I don’t know her personally but she changed my life by writing about her own similar struggles last year. When I read her blog post reflecting about it, I realized just how ineffective I’d been last year at the things that really mattered to me.

I got to take a turn with my friends receiving, rather than giving, support and talked through a ton of these things with Hubby. Hard as it is to hear “I told you so”, he HAD been telling me this was where I was headed all year long. I just hadn’t believed him, thinking I had it in the bag and could handle whatever life threw at me. I was wrong.

Yes, me. Wrong.

Mark your calendars. This might not happen again for eighty years, folks!

What I realized from all of this is that my personal productivity was suffering because I was not focusing on the right things. I was doing everything believing I was being successful and effective and in reality I was neither. I started taking stock of things I did and evaluating if they were the right things to be spending my time and energy on based upon whether doing them would bring me happiness or achieve my own goals. When I approached things from this place, it was much easier to say no to things without my FOMO (fear of missing out) rearing up.

I spent February implementing changes and am in a much better place because of it. Here’s a rundown of the subtle changes I made that had the most impact.

FACEBOOK LAST

I moved Facebook (and all the other social media I do) last in order of things I do each day. I thought I was already doing this since I usually set aside specific time every day for that. The small change I made was to stop getting notifications that popped up when I would get a new message or someone would interact with me online. I was getting them so I would know if something pressing came up that I could handle easily. These things I thought kept me on top of things were actually Unscheduled Interruptions. Once I eliminated them, it was easy to see how much. I still can see the total number of notifications as a passive thing if I happen to glance at my phone over the course of the day. But not knowing the details of what I’m missing gives me the freedom to “do” my social media on my own time after the things that matter most are done. I do this even for email – which surprised me. But, the idea of keeping up on email and being reactive to requests doesn’t support the reality of getting the right things done. Let’s face it, email was created as a way to communicate without the need for instant response.

SHORT STORY A MONTH

I knew when I enrolled in school that my writing time would be cut in half at best and I was right. I lost steam on the novel and found it harder to pick up seamlessly when I only had stolen moments to write. But I still have stories in me and I’m much happier when I’m writing. So I committed to what’s left of my writing group to write a story a month with specific deadlines. We’ve only been at it for a month but January was successful. By the end of the year, I’ll have at least twelve drafted stories that I can have at my disposal when that perfect opportunity presents itself without stressing about how I’ll find the time. Making my writing the first thing I do when I have free time has kept the focus on my own creativity.

DELEGATION

This one is a tough one for me. But it’s been a year with my fellow leaders within the League and I’ve discovered others who are just as anal and committed to getting things done as I am. Knowing what each of their strengths (and weaknesses) are and who has what specific skills has allowed me to trust more and more things to others. I also get to be in charge of building a team to split up the work of putting on conferences and it’s going extremely well. Much more so than where I was a month ago when I was ready to quit completely so I could spend all my free time on my own writing. Bottom line, I love the work I get to do to help others achieve their dreams and find opportunities within the writing community to grow. I wouldn’t trade it but I’ve also found a way to make it work better within the boundaries of my life.

Spending time on what is really important to me and focusing my efforts on activities that drive my goals, not just crossing off things on a list, has made a huge difference for me. The key for me is mindfulness about what each thing I’m doing and how it is contributing to those things that matter most to me.

Shout out to Jamie Raintree, without whom this journey out of my dark place would have taken forever! Here’s to a fantastic and productive 2017.


Lessons Learned: The Adult College Life, Overachiever Version

If you’ve been with me on this journey of mine for any amount of time, you know I pride myself in being an overachiever. I’ve always been driven and when I find something I want, I make it happen. I don’t know how, it’s just the way I’m wired.

A current glimpse of the large things I’m juggling include full time job where I daily get handed new processes to develop from nothing, motherhood/parenting/spouse duties otherwise known as adulting, full time college, League of Utah Writers chapter president and state board duties including developing a new position for conference committee chairman, finishing my current novel. This is my baseline as I like to think of it.

I’m halfway through my second term of college – the one big thing that I’ve added and arguably the biggest thing I’ve taken on in a while. Terms are 9 weeks long, with one class at a time considered part time, two classes full time. The first term I eased in with a single class – English Composition I. It took a few weeks to figure out how to adjust my schedule and allow enough study time to complete the assignments on time but the material was easy-peasy. Because it was writing. By midterms I was feeling like a pro and I sailed through the rest of the term.

Arguably this probably gave me a false sense of how “easy” it was going to be to transition to full time the next term.

Second term (the one I’m currently in the middle of) I took the planned leap and committed to full time. Honestly I don’t know if I can maintain this load, but I also don’t want to have to deal with school for longer than I have to so I’m sucking it up and dealing with the insanity in order to get it done as quickly as possible. What did my counselor and I determine would be the best options for me? The only things left in my first year requirements, of course. What were these two classes? English Composition II – how hard could it be given how easy the first one was – and Applied Finite Mathmatics – the one and only required math class I have.

You can see how I was lulled into a false sense of how easy this term was going to be, can’t you? What I have found is that it is NOTHING like I thought it would be. My second English Comp class is a research paper – which doubled how long it takes to do every assignment compared to last term. And math? Math that was touted as the easiest option for me is like having to learn a foreign language. And has lectures that doubled the amount of time I had anticipated I would need for each week.

All this gave me a level of stress the first week that I’m sure you can imagine. I thought I knew but I didn’t know and it took a couple of weeks to adjust – again – to what my expectations were compared to the reality that I had.

Which is when my inability to say no came back to bite me in the ass. Hard.

Ten months ago – long before I ever dreamed I’d be back in college – I said yes to something and then promptly forgot about it since it was a future project. Plenty of time to think about it later. In other words, perfect storm perfectly set up.

Week three of this, my first full-time term, corresponded to the deadline of this project I’d committed to last year. In a week of school insanity, I had to also read 500 pages of writing to judge the submissions most worthy, in my opinion, to be included in an anthology. In fairness, I had two weeks to complete this reading but I burned the first week suffering from my annual fall-allergies-feels-like-a-cold sickness that had me completely unproductive.

I got through it but not without missing many of my deadlines. Two of my assignments were late and I blew the deadline for my selections to the editor by almost a week. But I got it all done. I had many a meltdown and felt completely overwhelmed on too many occasions that week, but I got it done. My children and husband survived, barely, despite the raging stress-ball of crazy that the uber-sleep deprived version of me turned into.

Lesson learned: don’t put off thinking of the future projects that are looming when you’re operating this close to the upper limit of capacity every day. I’m now pouring over my memory banks for other time bombs of “yes, I can do that and I’ll think about the ‘how’ later” that might be waiting for me up ahead.

For now, I’m afloat, and optimistic that I really can do all of this, even though – for the first time ever – I wake up in the morning and wonder if I’ve bitten off more than I am capable of this time. Stay tuned for updates!

 


Messing with my brainwaves… literally

Some may call me melodramatic. I’ve been known to earn the title on occasion, it’s true. But this is not one of those times. I recently lost my way because of a silly app with enough real science behind it to be at least slightly dangerous.

I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start from the beginning…

Hubby is the world’s lightest sleeper and has a white noise machine. When he was working night shift, it was an essential part of his sleep routine including piping it in through headphones while he slept in order to drown out the daytime noises. Now that he and I sleep at the same time again, at NIGHT, when the rest of the world is also quiet, he hasn’t been using it.

Months ago a friend gushed about this app she uses to train her brain for all sorts of things, raving about how effective she found it. At the time, I filed it away thinking I don’t need such things since my brain is a healthy one.

A few weeks ago, Hubby was complaining that he wasn’t getting great sleep, constantly waking up at the slightest sound, then having a hard time getting back to sleep. A synapse fired, remembering my friend and her miracle app. I went searching for it in true troubleshooting/problem solver style.

A day later, app successfully identified and downloaded, I shared it with Hubby and we came up with a compromise in white noises we could both sleep with. What I didn’t tell him about was the feature of adding a “brainwave” frequency underlying the white noise. I was kind of skeptical about it but thought what the hell. I picked the deep sleep brainwave thinking it couldn’t hurt and would certainly help Hubby if it worked.

light-567757_1280

I slept like shit that night. My sleep tracker confirmed it.

Which I thought was weird since I usually sleep like the dead.  It couldn’t be the white noise since that had never bothered me before when Hubby had used it. Which meant it was the brainwave frequency nonsense which was supposed to make me sleep better.

Hubby, of course, reported a much better night sleep-also pointing to the same conclusion that there was something to the brainwaves. So, I picked a different frequency – this one for lucid dreaming – and tried again the next night, hoping that frequency would benefit us both.

I slept better but it wasn’t my intense void of recharging where I lay my head down, close my eyes, go to sleep and never wake up until the alarm goes off. No, that night was full of crazy dreams that left me feeling like I’d run around all night either avoiding people trying to kill me or searching out those avoiding me. More evidence that there was some truth to the frequency effects.

Luckily, Hubby didn’t like that one either.

Then I found the magical frequency labeled stress relief. No crazy dreams, no restless sleep, just a nice night waking refreshed. For both of us. Bonus.

That was about a month ago.

Fast forward to last weekend when I became fully self aware of a disturbing development. I didn’t feel like myself and hadn’t for at least a week, probably longer if I was being truthful. Nights of mindless television – ME, watching television! – instead of writing. No drive for anything beyond the bare minimum every day and none of my signature zeal, joy or living out loud. I could barely muster enough “give a shit” to shower on the weekends. I had stopped looking forward to exciting events.

I was not myself.

I’d been quietly chewing on these developments for about a week, deep down worrying I’d developed some kind of depression. (It would serve me right if I had since I quietly gloat that I’m immune to such things whenever my close friends who suffer with such challenges are going through their rough patches.)

I was shopping with my daughters and randomly stated to my oldest that I hadn’t been feeling like myself. She instantly had a theory on why. (Immediate troubleshooting! I’m so proud.) It was her who zeroed in rather quickly that it could be the brainwave app messing with me. Why did she suspect this and why was she so adamant? Because she’d had similar issues where she didn’t feel the same after listening to the brainwave frequencies-something she did while awake rather than asleep.

The answer I came up with was astounding: I had eliminated all of my stress and there was nothing left to drive me toward achieving anything or pushing myself. We were sitting in a restaurant. I immediately pulled out my app and tried to solve the problem.

What other frequency could I use to get back some of my drive (aka stress of all things!)? I found one labeled Intense Focus and dialed it up. I kid you not, five minutes later I was already feeling better and was not in the funk I’d been wallowing in for weeks.

That night we listened to the Intense Focus wavelength all night.

Miracle of miracles, I woke up the next day and all of the funk and weirdness was gone. I woke right up, no lethargy. I was jumping from one thing to the next, juggling all the things I usually do with my signature gusto. My brain was sharp, no longer under a dark cloud.

Which means that now I’m paranoid of every one of these brainwave frequencies and what it means for us as a society. What if every single person was being altered with a mere frequency pulse of sound? If it could derail me-the overachiever extraordinaire-no one is immune! Okay, melodrama aside, it is a tad worrisome that the science behind this technology is observable and that the effects are not always beneficial.

We’ve stopped using the brainwaves part of the app at night.

I’ll leave the worrying to others and look at this on a positive note. I have discovered the real secret ingredient that makes my life work and I’ll never try to eliminate it again! I love you, my stress, for without you I am nothing!


Testing the Overachiever to the Max

For years I’ve prided myself in being an overachiever. Made it part of my life’s motto. Labeled myself as “Writer, Runner, Overachiever” when I first started writing as a professional. Many things have changed in the past years. Running has been replaced with yoga for a time while I healed. My corporate day job takes fifty hours a week instead of forty now. But I’m still an overachiever. It’s always been hard for me to say no to things if I think I can commit the time required. I could always give up something frivolous, like television and eight hours of sleep every night, to add something I wanted to do. Now, with my responsibilities to the League of Utah Writers I’ve been pushed to the maximum. There is nothing else to give up.

Which is why returning to college this fall to finish my degree is probably not the smartest thing I’ve ever done. I’m doing it anyway. I’m now a sophomore at Southern New Hampshire University thanks to my transfer credits from my first two years of college back in the nineties.

SNHU

Why the hell would I do something this insane?

Because after twenty five years as a working professional I’ve finally hit the ceiling of promotion potential without a college degree. Some may say, ‘who cares, you’ve got a great job now, why worry?’ Except I have a development plan that includes promotion into management. Something I can’t do without a degree. So, here I go – back to college at age forty four.

The best part, and what makes any of this feasible in my mind, I’m getting an English degree in Creative Writing.  I’m old enough to know exactly what I want to do when I grow up this time around. While my degree will benefit me in my corporate job (a piece of paper is a piece of paper), it benefits me just as much as a writer. I get to work on writing projects as part of my coursework, which means the next two to three years will be enjoyable on top of all the added stress. Tackling school without having to completely give up my writing is a righteous bonus in my book.

Classes start mid-August. Which is now my deadline to finish drafting my novel so I can get it out to editors and querying it before I have to figure out how to be a college student. Luckily for me, I found a program I can do online while everyone else is sleeping so it won’t take too much adjustment. Wish me luck. Here’s hoping my years of overachieving has prepared me for this ultimate test of my skills.

If any of you reading this are still in school, let this be a lesson to finish your college education when you’re young. Trying to go back later is a mighty pain in the ass and it never gets any cheaper!


Staying Focused Through Temptation

Sticking with the long vision – and hard work – of completing my current novel (the one I hope to be my debut novel) has become more challenging than I anticipated. Especially with the lure of a writing contest.

I knew the minute I heard about this contest that I would be extremely tempted to pause and crank out a short story. After all, I’m really good at them now! That little voice in my head started whispering, beckoning, tempting me with the potential of another publishing credential. That voice is good at getting into my psyche, but I resisted. I vowed not to stop work on this novel until the first draft was finished.

Yes, vowed, I did. (Insert Yoda voice of course!)

This oh-so-tempting writing contest is put on annually by The League of Utah Writers. As a chapter president in the League, it’s my job to promote it among my chapter members. Turns out, I’m so good at motivation, I sucked myself right into distraction.

I told myself that I had two pieces I’d already written which I could enter without having to change anything about my current work plan. I committed to the chapter coordinator that I had a short story (the horror story that I had under contract with a publisher last year who flaked out without ever publishing it, and a personal essay I’d been trying to find a home for but know nothing about that particular market). That’s easy, right? Two things, already done, ready to go.

Back to the very efficiently run chapter that I lead… the one focused on supporting our members in getting critique and feedback to help polish and perfect the entries before the deadline. Yes, because we are that magnanimous and truly care about the success of each other. But also because we threw down the proverbial gauntlet with the chapter who consistently wins most of the prizes and we wanted to make sure we had the best possible outcomes.

Next thing I know, four people had read my non-fiction piece and given me feedback. I’ve never written creative non-fiction before and it turns out that piece was nowhere near ready. So I rewrote it using the valuable critique I had gotten from my chapter group.

It was that easy… to get sucked into distraction.

So easy, in fact, that an entire week went by without having written a single word on my novel. Something I can’t afford during the first draft. If I lose momentum, take myself out of the story, the world I’m capturing on the page starts to fade at the edges. Starts to come apart at the seams so it’s no longer coherent in my mind.

I found myself staring at my project not quite knowing where it was heading or where my mind had been going the last time I’d written. Luckily I’ve trained myself to think like a business person and not a creative person who, left to my own devices, would continue to flit through projects with no solid plan.

I took action…

When asked where I was with my second re-write of my contest entry, I said it was on hold. I know it might only take me a couple of weeks to get it done. I know it would be worth every minute and that I would grow as a writer. (Because everything I write grows me as a writer.) But the truth is, I need to be focused on the plans that I’ve made – like a business plan. I said as much and the response was swiftly accepted with no judgement. It was anticlimactic and I felt great after.

Difficult as it sometimes is, I am the boss when it comes to my writing and I’ve said that priority number one is getting this novel drafted. Stick with it I must – no matter how difficult that is.


All Is Quiet, Or Is It?

I realized that if you’re following me solely on my website that it’s been fairly quiet the last few weeks. You might assume that means not much is happening, picture me lounging on the couch, sipping an adult beverage. Eating bon bons. If only that were true!

The lull in updates and commentary here indicates a far different situation. Once again, I might or might not have embarked on more than I can keep up with. How is this possible? I was just as involved with a writing organization last year as I am now with my new President gig. My day job isn’t any more demanding than last year. My husband doesn’t work nights anymore so with him here at night to take some of the load I should be ahead of the game. I learned how to say No! So what the hell is going on?

SCSteamfest-ARGH

I forgot one giant detail. I didn’t have to do the Dance Mom thing with Big Sister last year. It was bliss which I did not appreciate and now is gone. Welcome back twelve to eighteen HOUR days, every weekend, sitting on bleachers in high school gymnasiums. I could write during that time. Except I’ll have a six year old in tow, who wants to follow in her sister’s footsteps next year, and will have to be entertained. I still hold out hope I can get some extra writing in over the next two months of dance season, even if it means shoving an electronic device in her line of vision to accomplish it.

I have a deadline – self imposed but still a deadline – to get my novel drafted by May. Not only because I want to pitch it to a publisher – a hand-picked publisher via an inside track with one of their editors – who will be a World Horror Con. Which is a big enough reason alone. But, I also need to go back to school and finish my degree so it doesn’t hinder me with the day job anymore. I know I can’t write and be a college student at the same time. I assume it will only take me six months to finish my degree. In that time I could be shopping the novel around for a home. Querying doesn’t take as many hours, right? Wishful thinking? Perhaps. Call me a dreamer.

I haven’t fully committed to the school thing and logistics are far from being worked out on both the scheduling and the financial fronts but it keeps coming up. I think it’s the Universe pushing me into action. To test my theory, or so I tell myself when I wonder why I didn’t say no to this one, I enrolled in a month-long workshop with three classes a week AND homework this month. No, I did not know it was that intense when I enrolled (on a whim of course).  It’s a fabulous workshop taught by a very successful author about the art of revision. The knowledge will not be wasted and I’ll know if I am capable of adding the school insanity if I survive the month and keep up with everything else in life. I’ll let you know how that goes.

If I’m quiet here, know it isn’t because I don’t have anything going on. It’s because I have too much going on and I’m working hard to get a novel out for those of you who keep clamoring for more, more, more. (Something I only ever dreamed of.) In the meantime, if you’ve picked up a copy of “It Came From the Great Salt Lake” and liked my story, I’d love it if you left a review so other people could stumble across it, too.

Thanks as always for sharing this journey with me!


The new Madam President, and why I couldn’t say no

You may recall that I was recently relishing my efforts at saying No. Celebrating them even. What I have learned about myself with that exercise is that busy is a choice. Just like stress and joy are equally choices. The lesson I really needed to learn was not to always say no but rather to prioritize the things that I choose to say yes to, so my busy life is still a fulfilling one.

I’m getting ahead of myself…

I’ve been in a bit of a writing funk for the last month. It isn’t anything new for writers, including me. We all suffer from crippling self-doubt. I thought I only needed to worry about it rearing its head when I was submitting completed works for possible acceptance by editors and publishers. This time it happened at the beginning of a new project. This novel is more complex than anything I’ve ever attempted and it’s also flowing out of me easier than any of the novels I’ve written before. The logical part of me says that’s because I’ve done the hard work of learning how to write novels. Duh. But my heart, where my self-doubt lives, whispers that I’m not ready to have the hopes that I have for this one. That it won’t be any good when it’s done.

Enter a new opportunity born from the efforts of my idol and mentor.

Remember last year when the writing organization I’d been serving on the board of was dissolved? It left a void in my life. A void I looked at as a positive one where I had exponentially more time to write. Looking back, though, it also left a void of collaboration and support from associating with others who understand the life of being a writer that I’d come to cherish.

So, when a new chapter of a well-established writing organization was born, I couldn’t say no to being the President. I led my first meeting this week where we hoped there would be the requisite five members to form a chapter. There were twenty people in attendance. Twenty! From a couple of weeks of word of mouth and social media efforts. It felt like I’d been born to stand there and lead a collaborative discussion to organize the workings of the group. The online membership has almost doubled after everyone shared how excited they are for the new group, which humbles me beyond words. (We all know I’m not that humble to begin with!)

I felt replenished from spending time with fellow writers, discussing the craft and learning from one another the intricacies of the craft. As a result, my writing has also flourished in the days since, and my self-doubt has retreated back to the nether reaches of my heart, until it’s time to submit this project and find it a home so readers can have it.

My life will be busy on an epic scale once again. But this time I chose it wisely and know the benefits will be worth it.


Learning to Say No: The Aftermath

It isn’t often I do a follow-up post but this one is much warranted. Back in August, I decided it was time to start saying No to things. If you didn’t catch the original post, you can find it HERE. (Go ahead, go read it. You’ll want the background so you’re caught up with my epiphany.)

It was a crazy time where I’d said yes so much I had boxed myself in with no free time. Every night of the week – every week – was jam packed. More often than not, I wasn’t at home with my family. I was feeling the pressure. More acutely my family was feeling the strain, even while rooting for my success. In a somewhat rare moment of clarity I stepped back and took stock. I prioritized my obligations. I started saying No.

No Smoking Sign

What lessons did I learn? First and foremost was the reality that I either have time to volunteer in a writing organization or write, but not both. It is somewhat of a catch twenty-two for me. So many opportunities came from my time organizing and leading but in the end my writing had suffered. In a chain of events outside of my control, the organization was dissolved and I found myself with an extra chunk of time back. A chunk that I hadn’t realized was as big as it had become.

My production of words on the page exploded. Writing was fun again instead of something I was always too tired for and forcing myself to do. I finished revisions and sold another story with all that free time. I still belong to several writing organizations and I attend meetings somewhat regularly but I’ve stopped volunteering for leadership roles that require more than that. Even when others have asked me to step forward, I’ve graciously refused. In the long run, the time writing will pay off far more than the satisfaction of leadership. Especially when you can never please all the people all the time. Of course my inner overachiever is still struggling with this – especially when I have been approached – but I’m holding strongly to this stance for the time being.

It feels good to protect my precious writing time.

What about all the time spent away from my family? My day job has added a travel requirement to support system conversions over the next twelve to eighteen months. The hours I spend at the office every week has increased as well. I spent two weeks away from home in late October and it was much easier on the entire family because I’d been spending more time with them in the months leading up to it. It was still hard. In retrospect it would have been far more difficult if I hadn’t made changes beforehand.

I realize that my children are growing faster than I can keep up with and I’ll never have this time with them again. My oldest is four years away from college and adulthood. My baby is in Kindergarten and learning to read. At this rate, I’ll blink and she’ll be dating. Earlier this week Baby Sister begged me to come home early so we could decorate the Christmas tree. When I found myself with an afternoon free of meetings, I did it. I’ll never forget her screams of joy when I walked in or her cries of “you came home early”. I tried not to dwell on the fact that her shock and joy were more of an indication of how often I’m not able to do that and embraced the happiness of those stolen couple of hours together. No, the time away from my family I’d been spending doing things like Rock Opera rehearsals and Board Meetings that, while they gave me great personal satisfaction and exposure to opportunities and potential fans, wasn’t worth the time away from my family.

One of my closest friends shared an epiphany she had recently after she funneled a lot of energy and money into an endeavor that didn’t yield her the results she was after. Her words have stuck with me. Paraphrased, she said she was done acting like she was further down the path than where she really was. I likened it to my tendency of trying to fit in with, and do all the same things (like be on panels at writing conferences) that all my more successful writing friends are doing. It’s easy to compare yourself to others and feel bad that you don’t have all the same successes. One of my best writing buddies had three books release this year from three different publishers. I finally asked him how many novels he had finished and how long he’d been writing. His response: twelve completed novels over ten years. It was then that I knew that I hadn’t put in the same effort so it was ludicrous to expect the same kind of success. Instead, I need to do the work and hope I find similar success when I get caught up to where he is on the path.

I’m working on my third novel. One that feels different. Important maybe. A story so compelling and unique I hope it would stand out from the crowd. Something that’s never happened before is also happening: the characters won’t let me rest until I’ve told their story. I like to think that I cleared out the clutter of my life enough to find this particular tale. I only hope I can do it – and the characters who sprung fully-formed into my head – the justice it deserves.

I’m sure there are still lessons to be learned in the world of saying no. But so far I’m loving the rewards!


Learning to Say No

I believe I’ve found the next lesson the Universe is trying to force feed me.

I cannot do everything as I have always done. My days feel shorter, my nights more jam packed with activities and commitments, and I’m consistently bombarded with new offers and new projects. My first reaction is to say yes immediately, then figure out how to fit whatever it is into my project plan that somehow, amid all the chaos, resembles a satisfying life.

I’m impulsive that way. I always have been.

Here’s the reality: The project plan is full. Constraints cannot be overcome by throwing more money or resources at them. There are no more resources in reserve. Unless someone has invented a time machine that automatically doubles the hours available to me every day. In which case, I haven’t heard the news yet.

Which means I have to start prioritizing, balancing all the things I want to do and would love to do with realistic expectations of what I am capable of doing without losing my marbles.

Is my volunteer work within a professional writing organization paying the right dividends to justify the time spent away from my actual writing?

Is my time away from my family pursuing my writing career being spent in worthwhile ways?

Was I completely insane when I thought I could have a full time job, be a wife and mother and be a professional author on top of it all?

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: I wish I had a crystal ball!

I don’t know the answers, I do know that summer has been hectic. I’ve got a couple of short stories to show for all the insanity but the novel is still not finished. Time to ramp up the efforts and get rigid with my time. ‘I can sleep when I’m dead’ has become my mantra.

It’s time to learn how to say No.

The closer I whittle the things that make up my life down to the things that matter most, the harder it is to cut away without damaging the gems underneath. At the end of the day, I’m left with knowing that just because I’m capable of doing anything I set out to do, that doesn’t mean everything I attempt will make me happy. Sometimes it’s too hard to fit it into what I’m already doing and the right answer in that moment will be No. No matter how cool it sounds, or how fun I imagine it will be.

In related news… watch for upcoming announcements about the next big thing I’ve got cooking and currently taking most of my free time. Hint: it’s happening at Salt Lake Comic Con.


Living vs. Surviving

Survival is one of those instinctual things. Most people find a way to do it every day without thinking about it. Some are more resilient than others and some take more effort to grab at the bootstraps before pulling themselves up by them. My most recent epiphany is that there is a difference between living and merely surviving day to day. Sometimes, you don’t realize you’ve slipped into survival mode and assume you’re still in the land of the living.

For safety reasons, I’ve been intentionally quiet in the public domain about how for years Hubby has worked a night shift job. Eight years, in fact. The first four years it was only every other month, which made it seem far less invasive on our everyday living arrangements. Shift work being what it is, we’d get completely fed up with being ships crossing twice a day to hand off parenting responsibilities. Usually right about that time he’d rotate and get a month of reprieve on the day shift. Four years ago, when the economy took a downward plunge for the entire country, his company had layoffs. We felt lucky – even grateful – at the time. Even though he had the least seniority, they chose to keep him on. But part of that meant there wasn’t an extra day shift to switch off the schedule with and he had to be on dedicated night shift. Six PM to six AM, four days a week.

We had a baby, but we had an amazing nanny with a flexible schedule which made it easy to roll with the punches. We had an older kid with a full dance card, pun intended, but we could still manage. I took on the role of single parent during the week and was grateful that Daddy was home all afternoon for quality one-on-one time with the kids after he woke up. We all had to figure out how to be extremely quiet inside the house at all hours of the day because “Daddy is sleeping”. As the years wore on, slowly our nerves started fraying. We didn’t notice, it was just how life was. And one day we knew it would get better. It had to.

vector-of-a-cartoon-sleepy-man-sitting-with-coffee-outlined-coloring-page-by-ron-leishman-19953

We combated the separation of schedules by setting aside one night a week devoted, without fail, to family night. Vacations became about reconnecting with each other rather than just relaxing and seeing new places. Night shift and the accompanied sleep deprivation ate away at all the normalcy of life as we knew it. Did you know there are studies about nurses who work the night shift that prove it takes years off of your life? As you might expect, the stress of attempting to maintain a normal life started to eat away at both of us. One day, I realized this wasn’t a life we were living but one we were merely surviving; and immediately started planning for a way out.

Planning, after all, is what I do.

Those plans have paid off with a switch to day shift and a new job. The results were immediate in the level of happiness and relief that washed over the entire family. Having Daddy home at night, instead of kissing him goodbye just as Mommy got home from work, is so much better for the girls. Getting to sleep at the same time all week long without one of us either having to stay up super late or go to bed super early is a novelty I didn’t realize I’d taken so for granted before. A full night of sleep, at night, when the rest of the world is asleep, and your body is programmed to do it, makes a huge difference for health and happiness that I wouldn’t have believed if I hadn’t seen it for myself.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of surviving instead of living. Even me, the girl who is so focused on making every day count, found myself there. Another cautionary tale about how important it is to stop once in a while and take stock of your life. In the words of Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it.”