Category Archives: This Time Last Year

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.


Bittersweet Priorities

It was exactly a year ago I was making official appearances at events like Steamfest and gearing up for Comic Con – approaching now in three weeks. Instead of being at Steamfest this weekend with many of my writing friends, I was fulfilling commitments to family and friends. It’s tempting to look at a small snapshot – this time last year vs. this year – and be sad that I’m missing out.

In the past year, I had another story published, became highly involved in the League of Utah Writers, and continued writing. I was promoted at my day job, returned to college and now have two competitive dancing daughters instead of one. But I’m not at Steamfest and I’m not scheduled as a special guest at Comic Con.

It is tempting to wallow in all the fun that I’m missing. Fear that my absence at these events this year will look to the public like I was some kind of flash in the pan that has already faded away. All very human nature reactions.

I’d be lying if I didn’t have moments of these kinds of fears.

board-928392_1920

However, I’m also a realist who is very good at pulling myself up by the boot strings (or putting on my big girl panties if you prefer that cliche over the other) whenever those moments creep up on me.

No, I was not a guest at Steamfest this weekend. No, I am not a scheduled guest at Comic Con this year.

BUT…

I AM almost done writing one kick ass novel – if I don’t say so myself. One that at least one acquisitions editor already wants to see when it’s finished. It isn’t my first novel, but it is the first I’m proud enough of to find an agent and a publisher for. This alone is epic.

I just successfully facilitated one of the premier events of the summer for the League of Utah Writers – an advanced workshop on querying that brought together professional agents and editors to give inside secrets to others like me ready to find homes for their work.

I am on the planning committee for the League of Utah Writers Fall Conference coming up next month. It will be a two-day conference unlike any the organization has put on before. Two full days of presentations from industry professionals with new and exciting content that no one has seen before in the Utah writing community.

My chapter of speculative fiction writers is still growing and folks who come to check us out seem to stick around. It’s a sign that we are offering all the things that I was looking for in a local community group several years ago, back when I was at the cusp of being published and needing to leave my solitary writer existence. This writer gig is a lonely life but it doesn’t have to be. I’m thrilled that, for some, our group is a beacon in the dark while on their own journey.

I’m going to attend Comic Con, helping represent both the League and our local chapter of the Horror Writers Association, but I have to pay my way in the door. So what. I’m also not obligated to dress up in cosplay which was never my thing to begin with.

My husband, who is not only supportive but exceedingly indulgent when it comes to all the time I take away from our family to make my dreams of being an author a reality, is also my voice of reason. Recently, while I was lamenting that I wasn’t going to be at all the events this year, he reminded me that I’ve been doing more important work that none of the rest of it would matter without: I’ve been writing. And I need to keep doing that more than I need to go to events.

The life of a writer is a mental exercise of self-motivation, full of more rejection than success. The drive to keep going when the odds are stacked as highly as they are against every one of us is enviable. If you have it, even a tiny inkling of it, it must be nurtured.

Instead of worrying or obsessing about all the differences that this weekend has over last year, I’m focusing on what my main goal is: novels with my name on the cover. As long as what I do every day, every week, puts me further down the path that leads there, then I’m doing the right things.

As bittersweet as it is, I know that not being at Steamfest or Comic Con doesn’t mean I’m not still doing the things that matter. Without having written books that people want to read, there’s no reason for me to be there anyway. So I’ll keep plugging along. My fear of missing out be damned!


Parenting Win, a Year Later

Remember last year when I admitted to being a mean mom?

In case you don’t, here’s an excerpt from the original post:

I’ve always been a mean mom. I believe that my kids need to know that there are consequences to their actions and that life isn’t fair. Otherwise, how will they grow to be well-adjusted adults? As a result, I have very well-behaved kids. I’m not always mean, but when the situation calls for it, I have no trouble rising to the occasion. I yell, I spank, I ground, I punish whenever necessary. But this week I’m having to do one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do under the ‘mean mom’ banner.

You can read the entire article HERE… In a nutshell, Big Sister had to take a year off from doing the thing she loves the most in life because she couldn’t keep her grades up.

Here we are, a year later. Time to register for dance team try-outs and assess if she is able to go back to her passion or has to hang up her dance shoes for good, or only wear them at home.

How did this very painful lesson turn out? I’m happy to report that she will be at try-outs this year. Not only that, I am the proud owner of a sticker proclaiming to all, from my bumper, that my child is on the Honor Roll. The Honor Roll. She’d have been on High Honor Roll last term but for one B+. Incredible, really.

Had you told me a year ago that I’d be the parent of a teenager who was on the Honor Roll while I was grappling with imposing one of the harshest punishments in the history of parenting, I would have laughed and said you were crazy. Instead, it is life that is crazy with all the surprises and unforeseen possibilities that await us. Don’t give up, fellow mean mommies – success is possible!

 


This Time Last Year

Occasionally I wax reminiscent and look back through my blog posts. Even less frequently I find coincidences that are worth mentioning in a blog post. Rarely do the planets and stars all align to create a new post such as this one. This time last year (give or take a couple of days) I blogged about how “Fine” no longer applied. Here’s a quote to recap:

 But now I’m back to having more questions than there are answers. Plus more poking and prodding and testing trying to figure out exactly what IS going on with me. Can you say “high deductible met by April”? Say it with me…

Needless to say, I cling desperately to my weekly yoga sessions to reset my psyche. That overworked psyche that is trying her hardest to keep her chin up. The alternative is wallowing in self pity and self-induced panic about what the future holds which I’ve caught myself doing – very unlike me. I don’t feel like myself, I don’t look like myself, and some days I have little desire to be myself in this current unhealthy stage of the game. I’ve grown weary of all this crap and would kill for feeling good with all my energy back. It is a daily struggle to lift myself up and keep myself going. And my family is imploding because the force at the center that keeps it all a smoothly oiled machine is falling apart. But, it is what it is and at least I didn’t die. (That’s my mantra lately.) While it sucks right now and I’m not fine, I have high hopes that I will be soon.

You can read the whole post HERE. It was a dark time when I had more questions than answers and I was just learning that there was more insanity going on with my health. I hadn’t even gotten my diagnosis yet.

Here’s where the planets aligned…

This week, I sat in the exact same exam room as I sat the day I found out that literally I’d almost died. This time it was for my yearly physical with my doctor who has become what I think soldiers who face danger together become to each other. The same room. What are the odds? I could barely contain my joy as I recounted the remission details and what I’d been up to with my nephrologist since I’d seen him last. We laughed and at times sat in wonder as the facts I was sharing of this “nutty year” sank in.

I thought it was just going to be a happy day, had been looking forward to it all week in fact, until the part where he left so I could change into the snazzy gown for the exam part of the visit. I sat there alone waiting for him to return, in the same spot in the same gown as that first fateful day when I waited for an EKG and embarked on the scariest twenty four hours of my life to date. I also thought about all that I was going through a year ago when I thought I had put the pulmonary embolism and craziness behind me to find out everything was still frightening and unknown. Just like the first time I sat there, I was overcome with emotion. I know they were tears of relief and joy – the kind I still have in abundance whenever I think about how quickly I recovered – but they were still tears and they were streaming down my face when he returned with his medical assistant in tow. I blubbered like an idiot about how I didn’t think I’d thanked him enough for saving my life. He got emotional too while he tried to listen to me trying to compose myself enough to take deep breaths for him.

I’m sure the MA thought we were both off our rockers. Can’t blame her, she is new and not one of the regulars who still know me by sight, even after all this time. Then we were joking and laughing like old friends trying not to be awkward while avoiding admitting we’d just cried together during a routine physical. I left knowing I’m on the final stretch of this insanity that started what seems like forever ago, yet was only seventeen months ago.

This time last year I was also attempting to participate in CampNaNo to write my second novel. It didn’t happen with everything else going on then which overshadowed my writing. But I still wrote that novel in November and I’m now editing it in hopes of publication someday – despite what else life threw at me. Because I’m not a quitter. But more importantly because almost dying gave me a greater perspective of what making each day count really means.

I’m still not sure I know how to be this happy. One thing is for certain, I’m glad I’m still here to figure it out. And I’m not wasting a single day because I know tomorrow is not guaranteed.What were you doing a year ago? And what are you doing to make every day count?