2015 Recap

 

2015 Dream

Achievement

2016 Plan

Publish another book Completed drafts of two new books and completed outline/began draft of third I am not going to rush the publication process. These books have lived with me a long time, we’ll get along as long as we need to until they’re ready to survive on their own.
“Do” two short stories a month (one drafted, one completed) One short story published & one award won! I removed this goal from my 2015 plan, and I’m not bringing it back. I like writing from prompts sometimes, and sometimes those become short stories. If it happens in 2016, great.
Draft two more novels Completed 2 and started a third! Rewrites for Home and Clouded, continue to work on Reality
Read at least 96 books Oh geez. This is one that I need a swift kick in the pants with. I’ve finished 20. 2 books a week is too many for me. So, I’m revising it down to 78 (1.5 per week.) Even with this, I’m 10 behind. But I’ll make it. Summer is coming.
Complete 12 new paintings Finished 4 paintings I’m incredibly proud of. With everything else I have going on, painting has fallen by the wayside. I’m okay with that. When I want to paint, I will. But I’m not going to force it.
Get Spiraling Forward Jewelry into 3-5 boutiques Sold Spiraling Forward at my favorite boutique for about six months. I won’t be making jewelry to sell, at least for the time being. However, I will continue to make it as I want it.
15-20 gym visits/month Averaged 15.5 for the year! Continuing. This is going to be a bit harder this year because we no longer have the accountability of an insurance credit for gym attendance. But my body craves it.
4+ yoga/Pilates classes/month Discovered the POWER of Hot Vinyasa, the grace of Slow Burn and the mindfulness of Yin Yoga. Continue attending at least three classes a month. I love it.
One vegetarian day/week Discovered ways I can make mushrooms so everyone in my family will eat them. Modified a favorite childhood recipe to be vegetarian. Lily’s favorite food is now “Salad.” Continue to focus on plant-based nutrition for my family while also offering meat occasionally from farms I trust. (Yay meat CSA!)
Speak at 2 conferences I spoke at UtopYA conference in July and did an Author Talk at Hennepin History Museum. I will continue to look for natural connections where I can teach, but I won’t be spending time actively seeking them out.
Continue to reduce clutter I’m really proud of the simplicity we’ve been able too create in our house. Removing. It’s not trackable, but we’ve been doing really good with it and I don’t need a monthly reminder.
1 artist date I didn’t do this most months I struggle with this, because I feel that it is important to refill my creative well, but for some reason I feel a lot of pressure around this goal.
Attend 2 book/writing events I let this one get away from me in the last few months of new job craziness. This is my artist date– going to events like this. I’m going to not focus on that and instead focus on making this happen.
1 real date with hubby Hooray for Parent’s Night Out! This is important

Do you take time to recap your year? What did you find? How does it effect your plans for 2016?

Happy New Year (I can still say that, right? It’s not too late, is it?)

It’s my first blog post of the year—and in several months. Those of you that are on my email list haven’t gotten anything either.

There’s been a lot of (good, but hard) changes here. The biggest is that I took a position in the Sales Operations Department of Capstone Publishers. I work with the Classroom team, supporting the creation and sales of some pretty amazing curriculum products. I’m really enjoying the job, but it’s been a big adjustment.

First, we had to get used to the fact that I now have to GET UP and GO to work every day, rather than getting up and starting to work immediately at the dining room table or kitchen counter. The days are now more structured, with more order and rhythm. It’s a rigidity that I am both happy about and struggling with.

Second, while my duties at NoiseTrade have shifted somewhat, I’m still running the Books platform (some very exciting things happening there), so it’s been an adventure to fit all of my duties there into my new schedule.

Finally, we weren’t happy with the options for after school programming for the kids this semester, so we have chosen to not put them in after school—which means, beginning next week, we’ll need to be adjusting our evening routine to ensure Chris gets enough work time (luckily, the kids are pretty self-sufficient at this point—both like to come home and unwind for an hour or so, so it won’t drastically reduce his productivity.)

I just finished Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin, all about strategies for creating habits. A few of the habits I want to cultivate/continue in 2016 are:

  • Daily journaling (including SOAP)
  • Logging my food
  • 12-15 gym visits a month
  • 3-4 yoga classes a month
  • Monthly date with Chris
  • Monthly game night with the kids
  • Monthly friend date
  • At least 3 walks a week with Picasso (but only if the air temp is above 0. I have my limits.)
  • Update blog regularly*
  • Print photos*
  • Send regular emails to subscribers*
  • Write*

*I’m learning from Better than Before that these are too vague, so I will, at some point, have an update for you with more of a plan for these areas. One of the things Gretchen talks about how sometimes it’s actually easier to do something every day rather than a few times a week, so I may try that for the blog. But I’m not ready to make that commitment yet.

Here’s what I’ve got coming up in the near future, in terms of blog posts:

  • 2015 Year in Review—I shared with you my goals, I’m also going to share the review
  • 2015 Year in Books—I didn’t meet my (slightly insane) reading goal, but I read a crap ton of books. I’m going to share what I liked the most.
  • “The Easy One”—a short essay I wrote was published by a literary/medical journal, and I received a “Best Prose” award. It’s basically my cancer story. I’m going to post it either here or on NoiseTrade for you to read.

There’s much more to say about what I’ve been processing these last few months, but it will come in time. Thank you for sharing this journey with me.

I thought it would get easier

Two years ago today, we had been back in Minneapolis for just exactly a month, and the Whole Foods Store I’d transferred here to help open was only, officially, four days old.

I already knew that I couldn’t stay at the store.

My job at Whole Foods in Franklin (the store on McEwan Drive, I still love them) had been a God-send. I was incredibly unhappy at my previous position, and WFM offered insurance, even for part-time employees. I was able to drop down, give Chris the freedom he needed to get his job done, help take care of the kids, and not be worried about the possibility of a medical bankruptcy if my cancer came back. And then it became so much more than I expected. I became a supervisor, I started looking into Whole Foods careers, it was awesome.

We got the opportunity to sell our house, something we’d been waiting years for, and I could transfer stores. I expected the amazingness of WFM to transfer with me.

The store here wasn’t bad, it was just different. I wasn’t used to the corporateness of the company, and I had a very hard time adjusting. Plus, Austin and Lily were not thriving in their new schools. When we got confirmation that we could buy health insurance through Obama Care (I could be a spokesperson for why Obama Care is really amazing) I put my notice in. I would be home more for the kids, and I would write. We pulled Austin out of the daycare that he didn’t like (and, quite honestly, I’m not sure how much they liked him) and switched Lily from a charter to our neighborhood school. I wrote a book, got accepted into the MFA program at Hamline, and, the next summer, wrote another book.

Tonight, I’m sitting in the cafe of a little restaurant, waiting to head over to hear the amazing Elizabeth Gilbert speak about creativity. I would have gone anyway, because I freaking love her, but I’m especially excited to hear her talk about this Big Magic. Because, quite honestly, right now, it doesn’t feel like magic.

I’ve taken a couple of freelance jobs (that I absolutely love) to help make ends meet, but they cut into my writing time. Today, I took the whole afternoon off as a type of extended “artist date.” My only goal was to do whatever I felt like doing.

All I wanted to do was write.

I’ve been writing, not counting this blog post, for about three hours.

I’ve written 2,000 words.

On a project I’ve been working on for 5 years.

I used to be able to do 2500 words an hour.

3 hours. 2,000 words.

I’m not trying to complain (although it is a little tempting.) Really, I’m just trying to put out there, before I go see Liz and she makes all right with the world– I’ve always thought creativity would get easier the longer I did it. That, eventually, the words would flow through my fingers, regardless of where I was or what I was doing. I would open the laptop and go.

This has not been my case. The book I’m working on now, the one I’ve been working on for SO LONG, feels SO IMPORTANT to me. I’ve read half a dozen books just to try to learn how to make this one right. This is like the twenty fourth draft, and, with it, I started over. It’s not from scratch, because I know these characters like they’re real people, but I started with a blank document. I have the outline I created from the last finished draft with the scenes that need to happen highlighted and the others crossed out. When I get really stuck, I look to see about where I am in the story and make sure I haven’t missed anything essential. But, in general, I’m writing this cold turkey.

But there’s something about this draft that feels different. Yes, it’s taking F.O.R.E.V.E.R., and I’m breaking every rule of “writing fast” and IT IS HARD EVERY SINGLE DAY, but I think, I hope, I pray, that what I’m creating is what I’ve been writing around for the last five years. That rather than skirting the perimeter, this time, I’m going to go straight through the middle.

Only time, a lot of it, apparently, will tell.

Book of the Week: The Signature of All Things

Book of the Week for September 27 – October 3

The Signature of All Things

signature_page_03

Why it’s interesting:

This is going to be blasphemous, but I’m going to say it anyway. I am not, in general, a fan of “Classics.” Quite honestly, I find them a bit long and boring. I’ve never read Great Expectations (I gave up on the audiobook when it felt like nothing was happening for days on end), I haven’t read anything from Jane Austin that I found particularly amazing (Pride and Prejudice was, for me, just okay) and I was slightly relieved when Anna Karenina was hit by the train (until I realized it was suicide, because that felt to me like the author gave up on finding resolution.) But I love me some Liz Gilbert, and the prose in this book was just so gorgeous when she read from it at the reading I was at last fall, so I thought I’d give it a try. The audio version.

I LOVED it. It is long. And sometimes tedious, but in the best “this is life” kind of way. I was so sad when it was over.

It makes me want to try those old classics again…maybe I just needed to grow up?

The blurb:
A glorious, sweeping novel of desire, ambition, and the thirst for knowledge, from the # 1 New York Times bestselling author of Eat, Pray, Love and Committed.

In The Signature of All Things, Elizabeth Gilbert returns to fiction, inserting her inimitable voice into an enthralling story of love, adventure and discovery. Spanning much of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the novel follows the fortunes of the extraordinary Whittaker family as led by the enterprising Henry Whittaker—a poor-born Englishman who makes a great fortune in the South American quinine trade, eventually becoming the richest man in Philadelphia. Born in 1800, Henry’s brilliant daughter, Alma (who inherits both her father’s money and his mind), ultimately becomes a botanist of considerable gifts herself. As Alma’s research takes her deeper into the mysteries of evolution, she falls in love with a man named Ambrose Pike who makes incomparable paintings of orchids and who draws her in the exact opposite direction—into the realm of the spiritual, the divine, and the magical. Alma is a clear-minded scientist; Ambrose a utopian artist—but what unites this unlikely couple is a desperate need to understand the workings of this world and the mechanisms behind all life.

Exquisitely researched and told at a galloping pace, The Signature of All Things soars across the globe—from London to Peru to Philadelphia to Tahiti to Amsterdam, and beyond. Along the way, the story is peopled with unforgettable characters: missionaries, abolitionists, adventurers, astronomers, sea captains, geniuses, and the quite mad. But most memorable of all, it is the story of Alma Whittaker, who—born in the Age of Enlightenment, but living well into the Industrial Revolution—bears witness to that extraordinary moment in human history when all the old assumptions about science, religion, commerce, and class were exploding into dangerous new ideas. Written in the bold, questing spirit of that singular time, Gilbert’s wise, deep, and spellbinding tale is certain to capture the hearts and minds of readers.

What are you reading right now?

Book of the Week: Brooklyn Burning

After taking the summer off, then having a false start this fall (that first week of school I was Super Woman) I’m finally into a good rhythm and will be cranking out Book of the Week selections on a regular basis. Thanks for your patience through the change of seasons! I’ve got a ton of material to share, and with the recent cancelation of both Netflix and Hulu, will be adding to it quickly!

Book of the Week for September 20-26

Brooklyn Burning by Steve Brenzenoff

BrooklynBurning_C

Why it’s interesting:

Full disclosure, Steve is my neighbor and our kids play together. But this book is one of the best YA books I’ve read in years. The main character is gender neutral, which seems, on the surface, like it could be a stumbling block for the reader to really become attached, but that wasn’t my experience at all. From a reader perspective, I loved Kid and became completely immersed in the story. From a writer perspective, this was one of those books that I finished and went “Holy crap. How’d he do that?” I’ll definitely read it again.

The blurb:

When you’re sixteen and no one understands who you are, sometimes the only choice left is to run. If you’re lucky, you find a place that accepts you, no questions asked. And if you’re really lucky, that place has a drum set, a place to practice, and a place to sleep. For Kid, the streets of Greenpoint, Brooklyn, are that place. Over the course of two scorching summers, Kid falls hopelessly in love and then loses nearly everything and everyone worth caring about. But as summer draws to a close, Kid finally finds someone who can last beyond the sunset.

Have you ever read a book with a gender neutral (or gender fluid) main character? Did it make you change the way you think? What are you reading right now?

“They’re speaking our languages, describing God’s mighty works!”

I am writing this with the caveat that, while I technically have a minor in Biblical Studies from the time I spent at a Christian College, it wasn’t on my diploma when I graduated. I spent a lot of time leading Bible studies and doing small group sermons once upon a time. I don’t do that anymore.

The church I attend, Jacobs Well, has this really doable Bible study program called SOAP. I started SOAPing this summer, stopped, and recently started again. SOAP stands for Select, Observe, Apply, and Pray. Yesterday’s reading was Acts 2:1-14.

Before I say this, let me just preface (once more) with: I understand that you shouldn’t take any section of the Bible completely out of context. I don’t feel like I’m doing that here, as I have studied the Bible extensively, and while I’m going to talk about a specific passage, I’m not disregarding the rest of the Bible in any way, shape, or form.

The verse I selected was:

“They’re speaking our languages, describing God’s mighty works!”

This was my observation: Do our churches speak in a language people can understand these days?

I’m going to say, in general, no. We don’t. The King James English isn’t often used anymore, and the words may be words everyone knows, but they’re so often spoken in a way that’s completely un-relatable for people who don’t already follow Jesus. The flip side is, when we do use relatable language, it’s not often done to describe God’s mighty works.

Even though it’s not always our intention (sometimes I think it absolutely is) we, as Christians, like to use language that separates us from the world. Language like that isn’t welcoming new people to the church. When a service starts with Father God Jehovah, we exalt your might name. Descend your holy fire on us this morning. it may feel good for the faithful in the room, but how do you think it feels to the person who didn’t grow up in church? (I’ll tell you: to them, it feels, at best, weird, at worst, like you’re crazy or scary. You want Jehovah’s witnesses to burn the church down?) That might be an extreme example, but I don’t think it’s that far out in left field. I have visited A LOT of churches and something along those lines happens at the beginning of most Evangelical/Pentecostal services.

 

There’s a lot of ways to take this wrong. I’m not saying we shouldn’t pray out loud in church. We absolutely should. But maybe in a way that someone who hasn’t drank the Kool-Aid yet can maybe understand, and maybe even want to try at home.

I’m not saying if If flowery, formal language is how you connect with God, there’s no place for it. There is. You can pray that way privately, or with the small group of believers you meet with each week.

I’m just saying: maybe we need to think more about what our language sounds like to the ears of the listeners rather than to our own ears.

The apostles didn’t continue to speak their own languages and get mad when the Jews didn’t understand what they were saying. God gave them the ability to speak in the language of the people they were trying to speak to, to describe His mighty works in language they would understand. I think he’s given us that ability to. We just need to use it.

The Genius Bar Made Me Cry

Today, for the second time ever, I got bad service at Apple’s Genius Bar. And, for the second time, I cried about it.

Here’s the thing, though: I don’t cry easily. I’ve been treated poorly by customer service people before, and I never cry about it. But I’m batting 1000 with the Apple Store. A bad experience = tears.

So now I’m thinking about how I respond to customer service. Why do I react so strongly to Apple? Is it because I have such high standards for the Apple Store that it’s harder to stomach when it’s not good?  Have I grown so used to being treated badly other places that it just doesn’t bother me as much?

I think it’s a bit of both, and it’s sad. Both that I hold the Apple Store to such high standards (seriously, people mess up. It sucks, but tears? Come on!) but also that I have such low standards in other situations that this would have urked me, but I wouldn’t have been that mad about it.

In case you’re not familiar, the Genius Bar is really not a bar at all anymore, but a group of Apple employees that are there simply to help you with your products. They trouble shoot, do little maintenance things, and handhold. All for the low low price of nothing. Zilch. Even if your machine is out of warranty and four years old (in computer years, that’s like 150) they’ll help you out. Even if you’re still rocking the original iPod. If it can be fixed, they’ll do their darnedest to make it happen.

Except when they don’t.

The first time I cried at the Genius Bar was in Nashville. Austin was two weeks old (he’d spent the first week in the NICU, so he’d only been home for a week) and I had to start working again. Remotely, but still, I had to be available to serve my clients. And the monitor of my Macbook laptop had died for the second time. The computer was still under warranty. When the screen died the first time they told me if it happened again the computer would need to be replaced. That day, though, I was told the computer needed to be sent in for repair that could take up to two weeks.

The man went in the back, I put my head down on the counter and cried. (To be fair, it was mostly because I was exhausted and stressed about going back to work, and not so much about the computer.) When he saw me, he said, “Be right back” and came back with a new machine that he kindly swapped out. It was kind of like crying to get out of a ticket, except I didn’t do it on purpose, I was just genuinely sad.

Today it was much less dramatic. Last week I took my computer to the Genius Bar because it was shutting itself off (super fun) and the only solution was to wipe it. Rather than being able to restore from a backup, I had to manually rebuild it because there was no way to tell what program had been causing the problems. Then I could pull the few things I needed (Microsoft Office and My Documents) from my backup disk. Except today, when I plugged in my backup disk, it wouldn’t let me pull anything, so I made an appointment and headed to the store.

I’m not going to go into everything that happened, because, honestly, it’s boring and doesn’t matter. The gist is, they were short handed, someone who didn’t know what he was doing told me to do something (and, because I was at The Genius Bar, I listened) and it caused my computer to be wiped clean again. So now I’m looking forward to an evening of re-setting up my computer from scratch, again. (There’s no backup of the new system because I was afraid to overwrite old backups.) I don’t think the person that “helped” me was purposefully rude or condescending, but he was. He was the keeper of the schedule, and he had the actual Geniuses skip me. He told me, in so many words, to suck it up and re-buy Office because “it’s not that expensive.” And through it all, he never once apologized.

I talked to the manager, but there’s really nothing that can be done. I don’t want the poor guy fired or anything. There’s no fee to be refunded, there’s nothing they can do to make the setup faster. I came home, and started working on setting up the new computer. Then something came up for work, and the idea of trying to find all my passwords and get into what I needed to  do was too much. I started crying.

 

Learning to deal with it

I just sat down at Starbucks with my decaf coffee and was about to begin writing in my journal, but decided to share this on here instead.

I’ve written quite a bit here about my wardrobe issues — namely, going from a bazillion clothes to an almost-capusle wardrobe. It took a lot of work, and, truly, some feelings of withdrawal,  to learn just because the jeans fit doesn’t mean I need them and yes, the dress is cute, but I don’t need it and many other lessons about not buying just to buy. I still get the Gap and Old Navy emails because, let’s face it, the four people in my house do need clothes, so it’s good to know when things are on sale. But I no longer open every. single. one. and check to see what new items have been added to the clearance section of stores.

My clothes. That’s as far as the lesson had gone. Until recently.

My computer, a 2011 Macbook Air that I love, except for the minuscule hard drive, has been acting up. My trackpad sometimes works just fine, sometimes it acts like an invisible person has taken control. My cursor moves and clicks randomly, completely by itself. It’s awesome. Not really. At the Genius Bar, they cleaned it out for me and told me I can send the computer in to get it fixed for about $300.

Our bathroom faucets recently stopped shutting off. Sometimes they drip, sometimes they trickle, sometimes they full-on run. When we called the plumber, we found out that “all new pipes” in our house meant “all new except the one in the tub. To fix our faucets, we have to have the piping replaced. To do that, the tile, vintage 1950s or 60s blue ceramic that we actually kind of love, has to be ripped out. Another wall of the shower has severe water damage—last year tiles started falling off, but we were able to put them back up and re-grout around them, plus the window has a rotting wood frame (yes, a wood framed window inside the shower)— so if we’re ripping one wall out, we might as well rip the other two out too and get it redone correctly.

I’ve been going to yoga at our gym a few times a week. One of my favorite classes is Hot Vinyasa, even though it’s truly one of the hardest workouts I’ve ever done (if it was two hours long, I might even say it is harder than the triathlons I did) and, because she loves or hates us, our teacher usually picks one terrible pose to hold for an insane amount of time toward the end of class. Vinyasa means movement, so this hold is to help us get our breathing and heart rate back under control, but also, as she often says, for us to “deal with it.” Whatever comes up, during the plank or chair or warrior, (for me, it’s often sweat and shaking and limps falling asleep and muscles giving up) we need to deal with it. “If you fall out, get back up.” “You can do anything for five breaths. And five more.” I freaking hate it. But when it’s done, it’s ahhhmazing.

There’s a lot of things I want, but I don’t need. A new computer would be great. A fully renovated bathroom…that would be awesome. A walk-in closet full of clothes that I love and make me look amazing. New pots and pans. A kitchenaid mixer. Brand new bikes for my kids, and rollerblades and gymnastics classes and every lego set ever made and, for Chris, the new Star Wars Droid. But none of that is what I really need.

We’ve never carried interest-bearing debt other than our mortgage, car loan and student loans. We budget carefully, do our best to stick to it, and figure stuff out. We “deal with it.” Right now, that means buying an external mouse for my computer, and getting our shower, but not the rest of the bathroom, fixed. It’s teaching our kids to appreciate what they have (if anyone has advice about this, I’d love to hear it) and save their money for what they want. It’s learning what we need, and realizing the rest might be inconvenient, but it’s not going to kill us. It’s learning to lean into the discomfort and deal with it. Because, sometimes, we learn things when we’re most uncomfortable.

It’s hard to do in our society. We see something like a billion marketing images each day. It’s easy to feel like everyone else has what they want and I’m stuck with this. I’m lucky to have friends that have chosen to live this way also- not monastic by any means, but considering what we need, considering what we can afford. In learning to deal with it, to learn what we really need and what we just maybe kind of want, we also get the opportunity to see other ways we can serve and be of use to other people.

This is what I’m thinking about this Tuesday morning. I know it was a bit ramble-y.

Book of the Week: Fangirl

Book of the Week for August 24 – August 31

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

FanGirl
Hey Guys! Book of the Week is back from it’s summer hiatus! I’m starting with my author-of-the-summer, Rainbow Rowell. I read three of her books this summer and devoured each and every one. She captures feelings in her writing so amazingly well (Eleanor and Park was my introduction to her, you can read about that here.)

The blurb:

In Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, Cath is a Simon Snow fan. Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan, but for Cath, being a fan is her life–and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.
Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words . . . And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?

Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

 

What are you reading right now?