Category Archives: Everyday Life

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.”


Baby steps to achieving goals

My health has settled down a bit lately – still in remission from kidney disease, manageable medications with minimal side effects, still working on clearing my lungs of the last of the blood clots that are holding on for dear life. Most days, life is good and I almost forget that I have a chronic illness that will never be cured. But there is this one reminder that, by stark contrast, shows me daily how my fitness has suffered in light of these struggles. I can’t run a mile anymore, let alone thirteen of them. Hell, it’s hard to walk briskly for long periods of time right now. It is frustrating to look back on where I was – running Ragnars and half marathons and averaging twenty miles a week – and compare it with where I am now.

I know everything is relative. I do. I acknowledge every day that I get to live is a day I may not have had at one point and I’m happy. But that’s on a very basic level rooted in survival. I’m talking about the stuff of living.

How did I get here? On a viscous cycle of cause and effect. I survived the pulmonary embolism because I was a runner and had excellent lung and cardiac capacity. But once I couldn’t run, I lost that all very quickly. Now that I’m in remission, I’m carrying around extra weight – both from the water retention associated with kidneys that don’t work all that perfectly and the lack of running I’ve been capable of for the past year. Because I haven’t been able to run, my cardio and lung capacity has dwindled to where I can barely walk a quarter mile quickly before I’m sucking wind and my chest and lungs hurt from the blood clots.

Not going to lie, this cycle has had me frustrated and down the past few months. Which does not help motivate me to change anything about it.

This week I decided it was time to stop living in the past and lamenting all that I’ve lost in the fitness aspect of my life. Sure I have to start from the beginning as if none of the hard work I put in to get where I was at the peak of my game ever happened, but that’s not the end of the world. I know I can do it because I’ve done it before. There are different hurdles this time around. I have two kids who are active with extra curricular activities, my job is insane, I’m writing like never before and I’m older (and have a kidney disease) with dwindling energy and endurance. I could wallow at how hard all that makes it to work out on a consistent basis or I can get creative.

Today showed me the possibilities of the creative path with several baby steps toward new habits. I still practice yoga twice a week – most weeks – and I’ve committed to challenging myself more to get out of my comfort zone. I am still sore from my practice two days ago so that has proven a positive step. At work, where I used to work out religiously for an hour in the afternoons, I barely have time for a lunch break that doesn’t involve grabbing food and snarfing it down at my desk while I multitask sometimes multiple meetings. Today my counterpart and I ended up having a meeting on the treadmills. It wasn’t planned that way, but we decided to go for a quick break and ended up brainstorming issues while we walked. In the end, it was a meeting rather than a break and I still got to be active. She pushed me to staying on the treadmill for twenty minutes – her minimum. From now on, I’ll suggest a treadmill meeting any time possible. After work, Baby Sister had her tennis lesson where, instead of sitting on the grass with her BFF’s mom chatting for an hour, we both brought our rackets and played tennis in an adjoining court. Both of us used to play but hadn’t held a racket for years – almost twenty for me. We sucked but by the end of the hour we were successfully returning. She played competitively, me recreationally. She got her skills back quickly – including a serve. Mine will take some time but my body is remembering how it feels to play and how fun it was.

I felt energized and fulfilled at the end of the day. It hadn’t taken any effort to increase my activity level almost double (as measured by my fitness tracker in the form of daily steps). The momentum of taking small steps toward a goal, however lofty, should not be taken for granted.


Kids, unscripted

I took a couple of weeks off from everything for a family vacation in paradise. Trying to get back into the swing of things after a Hawaiian vacation that ended in a nasty cold has been challenging. Yesterday, I saw something fun going around in Facebook land and thought it would be an entertaining glimpse into my life. My children did not disappoint…

Instructions were this: WITHOUT any prompting, ask your child these questions and write down EXACTLY what they say. It is a great way to find out what they really think. I asked both of them alone so they couldn’t be influenced by the other person’s answers. It was funny what they got right, what they had no clue about and what they were completely wrong about. Enjoy!

Baby Sister, 5

  1. What is something Mom always says to you? Um… that I’m cute
  2. What makes mom happy? Um…when she is sick I always hug her and make her feel better
  3. What makes mom sad? Um.. I don’t know
  4. How does your mom make you laugh? Tickling me!
  5. What was your mom like as a child? I don’t know
  6. How old is your mom? 43?
  7. What is her favorite thing to do? Um… I don’t know
  8. How tall is your mom? I don’t know
  9. What does your mom do when you’re not around? Work
  10. If your mom becomes famous, what will it be for? For your kid
  11. What is your mom really good at? Yoga
  12. What is your mom not very good at? Um… watering trees
  13. What does your mom do for a job? Writer
  14. What is your mom’s favorite food? Bananas
  15. What makes you proud of your mom? When she does stuff I want her to do
  16. If your mom were a character, who would she be? Um.. Snow White or Ariel
  17. What do you and your mom do together? Um… go to the park?
  18. How are you and your mom the same? We have the same skin
  19. How are you and your mom different? We have different hair!
  20. How do you know your mom loves you? Because she always tells me!
  21. What does your mom like most about your dad? They married (giggles)
  22. Where is your mom’s favorite place to go? I don’t know – where is your favorite place to go?
  23. How old was your mom when she had you? I don’t know!

Big Sister, 13

1. What is something Mom always says to you? Clean your room
2. What makes mom happy? Getting good grades
3. What makes mom sad? Not getting good grades (chuckle)
4. How does your mom make you laugh? Telling me I’m a stinker bear
5. What was your mom like as a child? Um… aggressive.
6. How old is your mom? 43
7. What is her favorite thing to do? Write
8. How tall is your mom? 5’ 3”
9. What does your mom do when you’re not around? Write
10. If your mom becomes famous, what will it be for? Writing
11. What is your mom really good at? Writing
12. What is your mom not very good at? Um.. dancing
13. What does your mom do for a job? Works in IT
14. What is your mom’s favorite food? Pasta
15. What makes you proud of your mom? That she believes in me
16. If your mom were a character, who would she be? Ariel
17. What do you and your mom do together? Sing in the car
18. How are you and your mom the same? We both have thick hair
19. How are you and your mom different? Hmm… hmmm… how are we different. (taps chin) We are different because I got to dance when I was younger and she didn’t.
20. How do you know your mom loves you? She tells me every day.
21. What does your mom like most about your dad? His attitude
22. Where is your mom’s favorite place to go? Hawaii
23. How old was your mom when she had you? 30

So while Big Sister accurately knew my day job, Baby Sister only knows the job she sees me doing at home. I asked them why they both thought I would be Ariel because that surprised me. Big Sister said it was because I was determined, Baby Sister said it was because I had red hair. I guess they are both right. Surprising moments included when Big Sister knew that I was aggressive as a child and that I had always wanted to dance when I was younger. She must have been paying attention a lot more often than I think. I think it is a personal victory that I have embraced celebrating my age number ticking up every year when they both knew exactly how old I am. I have no idea why Baby Sister thinks I’m not any good at watering trees but I love that to her “I don’t know” is a valid answer to any question. I hope she never loses that. Very favorite answer from both of them? Knowing that they both know how much I love them because I tell them. Every. Day. On tap as we head into summer? More trips to the park and singing in the car together.


Ebb and Flow of Life

This week has been soul-sucking busy! Ideal storms collided between needing to update content for training I facilitate and responsibilities for developing and implementing a new process at work. The result? Zero writing time. I could lament, but this is the reality of being an adult with responsibilities. I can’t lie though… I did lament, especially when my late-night writing time was spent catching up on the day-job when all I wanted to do was write. The truth is, there are some weeks that life doesn’t lend itself to being a productive writer. Sometimes it’s the day job, sometimes it’s being a mom with active kids, sometimes it’s just that my hair and lash appointments ended up in the same week because I wasn’t thinking big picture when I found an open spot on my calendar a month ago. I won’t always be this busy, a fact I had to remind myself of in order to get through the week.

I wanted to pout and be mad when I couldn’t go to the park yesterday with Hubby and the kids because I was working. Instead, I poured an adult beverage in protest and kept working. My life feels crazier than normal, but I realized I’m doing a lot more that has to be crammed into the same available hours in a week. My fault alone that I can’t relax on the weekends like I used to, refueling and recovering before doing it all again the next week. I could give up my volunteer work with The United Authors Association, but I believe in their vision so deeply that I can’t bring myself to do it. I could quit my day job, but how would we pay the bills? I could stop writing, but how would I stay sane? I’m only happy when I have that creative outlet, and this whole new level of insanity is because I decided I wanted to write professionally instead of just a hobby.

My fitness tracker keeps telling me I haven’t met my sleep goal. As if I didn’t know! I haven’t sat on my couch in over a week and I’m grateful that I require my children to help with housework or it might never get done. But this is the life I’ve created and it makes me happy (when I’m not pouting). The human tendency might be to wallow in the fact that I couldn’t write this week, let another week slip past without it, and easily get out of the daily writing habit. Instead, I stole some editing time between classes when I was guest presenting at Big Sister’s school Friday. Because half an hour of writing this week was better than nothing. Life goes on, ebbing and flowing, regardless of how we react and deal with it. Here’s hoping next week is better!

What are you doing today to live the life you love?


Priorities – the evolution of time management

I realized that, as much as I am online lately, I have been strangely silent on social media the past few months. It wasn’t on purpose and I wondered how it had happened. When and where did my habits shift? I’m an analyst by nature, and by trade, so it made sense to do so. Self reflection and checking in on what I’m doing to make course corrections in my life path are pretty second-nature to me these days.

So what did I find?

I’m busier than ever before – as a mother and a wife, being a writer, at my corporate job, as a volunteer – and have had to further prioritize everything in my life. This is a trend that started years ago and continues to evolve.

The first thing to go was television. It grew from an “ah-ha!” moment when I heard another author answer a question about how he found time to write with a snarky comment about figuring out what was more important: writing or watching television. These days when people ask “did you see…” I always say no. Thanks to the wonders of Netflix and OnDemand programming, I do watch a little television; mostly the shows Hubby has vetted and deemed extraordinary, but it takes me a year to watch a couple of seasons. The time I got back from my life by giving up regular television viewing is staggering.

Last year I had to change my habits during football season. I’m a huge fan – NFL and college. I’m one of those women who is watching the game even if Hubby isn’t home. (Thank you, Dad, brothers and grandpa!) But gone are the fall Saturdays where I lounge on the couch snuggled with hubby watching our favorite college teams, and the Sundays of NFL games. Not to mention Monday Night Football. And yes, sadly, even Thursday Night Football. The games are still on and Hubby still interrupts with “you’ve gotta see this!” while he’s rewinding live television. But, now I’m usually multitasking in front of my word processor and look up only occasionally for a replay. It was my last hold-out of regular television viewing, and justified in my mind because it is a relatively short season each year. The time I got back from giving it up last year was the difference between having time to finish a novel or not. I’m currently revising that novel.

My social media habits have undergone similar evolution, also influenced by writing. First, I’ve had to change my criteria for engaging with ‘friends’ online. Now that I’m out there in the public eye, people I don’t know seek me out. I’ve had to throw out my cardinal rule: if I don’t know you well enough to say hello if we run into each other at the store, we aren’t close enough to be online friends. Knowing that casual acquaintances are seeing my updates unconsciously influences what I choose to share. Next, I’m heavily involved with professional organizations centered around writing and publishing. Using Facebook to interact with these groups has become my main use of the app. I’m online – a lot – but in secret groups where only those who also belong get to see what I’m up to. My brain didn’t translate that the type of activity I’m engaging in was different and failed to allocate an increase of resources to compensate. Frankly, I just don’t have that kind of time anymore. Well, and my corporate job started blocking Gmail and Facebook, eliminating my ability to multitask in small increments of two to three minutes over the course of the day.

Recently I read an article related to how much effort authors should invest in engaging with social media to sell their books. It was well written and had me thinking about all the effort anyone trying to sell a product gives to social media – and how much time it can suck from what is really important. What if we all just used these sites to connect with real people and create meaningful relationships? What if Twitter was really a feed about what’s going on with life and not a constant barrage of people trying to sell me something? It has become so much noise, no one listens anymore. What if all the time we spent online were better suited somewhere else doing things more essential to our happiness? I know I’ve been more productive since my habits have changed even subtly so I’m sticking with the trend.

I wonder what will be next in this incremental evolution in focusing my efforts toward productivity and efficiently in all the areas that I’ve deemed matter most in my life. Or have I reached my full capacity with all the things I’m doing now? Last weekend I was at a family gathering with my siblings and their families. During the reminiscent viewing of a movie we used to watch with our mom – over and over – I found myself reaching for my laptop to work on a certification test I have coming up. Is this just my nature now, to evaluate what the best use of my time is in every moment? Time will only tell. For now, my time management has evolved to a great place where I can commit to saying ‘yes’ to unsolicited invitations to submit stories to publishers. Life is good but only if you make it that way!

 


Back on the roller coaster – why my kidneys can kiss my a$$

It was December 2014 and I was looking forward to getting off all of my medications after a year of remission under my belt. I gleefully said goodbye to immuno-suppression drugs mid January and hoped never to look back. But the Universe is a nasty bitch and it appears I do not get my wish. Within two weeks my symptoms returned and I had to start back on maintenance drugs. Drugs which I have had to increase the dose of already hoping it works. Today my doctor laid the ground work for the potential of going back on immuno-suppression if the higher dose doesn’t keep things at bay.

I know it could be so much worse. I could be looking at chemotherapy (which she still has on the back burner just waiting for me, I fear!). I could be in renal failure looking for a transplant or facing dialysis. Instead, I’m taking a drug that has only one side effect of lowered blood pressure and won’t damage anything if I take it forever. But I’m back to living with the roller coaster of sodium restrictions, fluid restrictions (bye bye proper hydration, it felt amazing while it lasted!) and daily water weight insanity where I gain a pound a day of water until my clothes don’t fit and then take damaging diuretics for a couple of days and start the cycle all over again. I love roller coasters but this one I could do without, thanks.

People, do not take your kidneys for granted. While I’d like to tell mine to kiss my ass on a daily basis, I really would be happy if they just worked the right way every day. Can’t we all just get along inside this body of mine? It’s been two years since I’ve eaten meat (well, there was that one indulgence, but it was only a bite!), I’m a pseudo vegan who just eats cheese and butter occasionally, and I don’t eat eggs or shellfish except on extremely rare occasions. Why is that not enough? Because I’d probably have nothing to bitch about if everything worked fine, right? I can’t imagine the shape I’d be in if I wasn’t willing to go to such extremes to take care of my body the best way possible. And I can’t help but be envious of others in my gene pool who couldn’t care less about what they eat or drink and still have perfect numbers in their blood work. You know who you are. And yes, I secretly loathe you for your perfectly working kidneys that I’d give almost anything for.

If you need me, I’ll probably be asking a million questions at every meal that I don’t prepare myself to insure I’m meeting with all my dietary restrictions, or doing yoga so I don’t lose what’s left of my mind. Oh, and writing. I’ll still be writing!


Collision of Worlds

For years I’ve been a writer. A solitary writer alone in my house, celebrating NaNoWriMo wins with my family and handful of writing buddies. Last month, that all changed. Now I’m published, with everything surreal that comes with that: an author profile on Amazon, a Goodreads author page, books to sell on my website. Nothing prepared me for the strange meshing of my previously separate worlds that this has created.

A few weeks ago I attended a training class for my corporate job. First order of business was to introduce ourselves, share our role in the company and something interesting about ourselves. There’s nothing I think about more right now than having my first published work out so I didn’t think twice in saying “I’m a published author.” Comments ensued, even a question on what I write from the the instructor. Moments later we’d moved on to the next participant and whatever his interesting thing was. Two hours later during our first break, a stranger I’d never met made a literary reference to one of my micro-fiction stories. It caught me so off guard I almost didn’t get it. Almost. Since stories are tiny pieces of a writer’s soul, I picked up on the reference quickly. He had Google’d my name, found my website, and read my stuff. It was interesting enough he wanted to ask me about it. It still gives me a rush.

Just as surreal was signing my name to a hard copy of my first book; both the signing and the fact that folks wanted me to do it. I never imagined this feeling but here I am experiencing it. I got a limited number of copies from the first edition print run and I already sold all of them. Not just to my family, probably the most surprising fact of all.

I am a writer in all phases of my life now. Not just when I’m at home or away from my daytime job. What a world I’ve stumbled into where I get to discover all the things I didn’t know I didn’t know. I’m loving every minute of it!