Category Archives: My Life

Just like riding a bike?

There are a lot of things I used to love doing. I was fairly good at most sports: football, baseball, softball, basketball, volleyball. I learned to ski when I was quite young. I could snowboard (side note: today marks the 21st anniversary of when I tried to teach myself to snowboard, and broke both bones in my left arm. I got much better at snowboarding the next year.) I played clarinet, saxophone, french horn, tympani, learned passable piano, and I could sing. I did half marathons and triathlons, I painted. I built furniture.

Ask me to do any of these things right now, and I would, at best, hesitate. I might even decline to participate.

I was never amazing at any of these things, but there is a confidence that comes from doing, and I have lost that confidence.

I realized today that I’m starting to feel the same way about long-form writing. I know I *can* do it, but it’s been so long I’ve lost my confidence in being able to do it “right.” But does it matter if I do it right? Doesn’t it just matter that I do it at all?

There are many things on my list that I don’t miss much, but there are others that I do miss. What if I gave my permission to just “do” and not worry about “right”? How much more fun would life be if I didn’t turn everything into a competition. Isn’t that the whole idea behind 10,000 hours?

In the words of Macklemore:

This is dedication
A life lived for art is never a life wasted
Ten thousand

Ten thousand hours felt like ten thousand hands
Ten thousands hands, they carry me
Ten thousand hours felt like ten thousand hands
Ten thousands hands, they carry me

Now, now, now
This is my world, this is my arena
The TV told me something different I didn’t believe it
I stand here in front of you today all because of an idea
I could be who I wanted if I could see my potential
And I know that one day I’mma be him
Put the gloves on, sparring with my ego
Everyone’s greatest obstacle, I beat ’em
Celebrate that achievement

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 killed my 333 Wardrobe!

Photo by Emily May

Photo by Emily May

Okay, so, maybe not as dramatic as that. But I committed a cardinal sin. I broke the “You can only wear your workout clothing to workout” rule. And not just by waiting too long to take a shower and running to the store in my gym clothes.

I bought gym clothes to wear as “real” clothes.

There’s a really long story you can read about how and why this happened below if you want to, but what I really have been thinking about is how engrained impulse buying is in our culture, in my life, and how easy it is to fall back into. It’s like binge watching television, you have to actively shut it off. I have been actively not impulse buying clothes for three years now, ever since I learned that I owned 27 pairs of jeans and most of my co-workers owned 5 or less. It was like an addiction I had to break, and it was hard. (The super cute $10 dresses at Target didn’t help at all.)

This year, especially, I’ve been trying to be really conscious of what I buy not only for myself, but also for the kids. It needs to be high quality (relatively in the kids’ case), something that fits well and will for a while, and there needs to be a solid reason to need one more shirt or pants or whatever it is. It’s been going pretty darn well, actually, but it’s a struggle. Every day I have the option to buy something nice but not necessary.

I grew up in a small town, we didn’t get to go to the store more than once every week or two, if I didn’t buy what I wanted when I saw it I might well not get the chance again. But that’s not the case now, nor has it been for the last 17 years. I’ve lived in major metropolitan areas for the last 15, I can go to the store every day if I want (sometimes whether or not I want.) But this impulse to buy buy buy, whether the item is exactly what we need or not, is the reason we have such an abundance of self-storage garages (and television shows), closets bursting at the seams, and overflowing landfills.

Have any of you successfully shut off the buying impulse? How’d you do it?

 


 

The long story of how I got the shorts that I didn’t need:

First of all, in my defense:

  • It was hot. Like, hot for Minnesota, anyway.
  • I don’t own a single pair of shorts. They look terrible on my legs.
  • I was tired.
  • Even the “real” shorts I tried on looked terrible on my legs.
  • We were going camping.
  • The shorts I bought were so comfortable!
  • I was tired.
  • They were on sale for really, really cheap ($6.)

I bought two pairs of “capri leggings” from Gap Fit—a black pair and a blue pair— and I’ve been wearing them with t-shirts, calling it an outfit. I know I don’t look terrible, but I certainly don’t look great. I don’t wear them in public much, I don’t feel good about my body in them. They were not a good purchase for me (other than being so comfortable!)

I had actually been doing really well all year with the control over impulse clothing buys, but I definitely see how I fall down this rabbit hole:

My favorite jeans died. When I went to replace them, I found the company (again, Gap) had changed the design of them significantly, so I ended up with a different style. They were on sale, along with a bunch of other stuff. There is a serious lack of nice shirts in my closet, but there was nothing I really loved, so I refrained. Then, while taking the kids to mall for shoes, I went into this store I’d been wanting to check out for a while, found and fell in love with a shirt on clearance: by one get one for $1 clearance. But, the kids were done and I didn’t have time to look for another piece, so I left with nothing. That shirt haunted me though, it was perfect: so comfortable, so flattering, so casual yet dressy…so I went back to the mall a few nights later sans kids. I spent over an hour looking through the store’s clearance (and trying on many, many items) before I finally found what I was looking for. I got two great shirts for a great price. But the jeans and the trying on had sparked the bug, and I was tired of wearing jeans when it was hot out, so I started looking for shorts. The whole think-before-you buy barrier was down, especially because I already had to make a trip back to the mall because I didn’t buy the first time. So I just did it. I bought them.

I’m going to give myself a pass on this, say lesson learned, and relegate these to the “lounge wear” category.

Writing is hard

Photo by Ouadio

Photo by Ouadio

It really is. Not the actual act of sitting down and typing or scribbling words onto the page/screen. But the confidence that what I’m doing matters, at all, in the grand scheme of things. Taking the few hours in the morning to try to craft a story that won’t leave me alone (I dream about this thing) but also won’t come out in any cohesive way is hard.

I’m procrastinating writing right now, in fact, by writing this blog post about how hard it is to write.

I woke up in the middle of the night and realized what my problem was. I have three stories going at the same time right now, two in editing and one in drafting. I’m trying my darnedest to work on all three, but I end up not really getting much of anything done. I’ve been reading a lot of books about story structure, and I want to make sure I really get it right in these stories. One of them is the book that I really feel like is going to be the “best thing” I’ve ever written. I am in love with the story and the characters and I want to make sure my limitations don’t prevent it from serving the readers in the same way its served me. So I paused it. I’m doing a lot of reading and taking notes. Another, I’ve had “done” for a while, but knew it was missing something. I’ve spent the last two hours revamping the overall story structure, ripping my scenes apart, moving them around, and marking them to be rewritten. I’m at the three-quarter mark in the new outline and am terrified I still don’t have it right.

I haven’t gotten nearly as much writing done as I wanted to this summer. Part of it was that I gave myself a pass to spending more time with the kids. But the bigger part of it is: Writing is Hard. It’s harder than my day-job (which deals with people a lot of the time and is certainly no cake-walk). It’s harder, a lot of the time, than dealing with my kids, who are finally at the age that they’re entertaining themselves and each other without me. It’s harder, obviously, than writing this blog post. It’s just plain hard.

I’m not stopping, not by any means. But I just wanted to put this out there, in case anyone else is going through something similar. It’s easy to feel like we’re alone in this struggling-to-make-art thing because we rarely do it with or around other people. So I just want to publicly declare: This is hard.

But I’m going to keep doing it.

Sometimes I want a flip-phone

When the iPhone 6 came out and all of the cell carriers “removed the discount” they had been offering on smart phone lines, I seriously looked at getting a flip phone. With the change in structure of the cell bill, we had the choice of either buying our phones outright and then having to wait 2 years to get a new phone and pay a higher data charge (but still having the option to sell the phone when we got a new one) or signing up for what amounts to a payment plan where we lease the phones and can get a new one in a shorter period of time (we chose 18 months) and keep the discounted data charge. (We looked at every major carrier, the only one we could have done anything cheaper on was Sprint, but it doesn’t have a reliable network here.)

Our phones end up, essentially, costing the full $700 no matter which way we go. That is INSANE. I don’t need a $700 phone. I’m not solving world hunger here, I’m just writing. I’ve got a computer and iPad and I can use those to get on the internet. I don’t need to be that hyper connected. In fact, I don’t want to be that hyperconnected. I’m tired of feeling tethered to email and facebook and twitter and work. I wanted freedom.

I decided to get a simple flip phone. I would use it for *gasp* calls and texts and that was it. Great idea, right?

Nope. It was MORE expensive to go the low-tech route (over time) than to just get the new iPhone and all it’s bells and whistles (including the GPS that I desperately need.) So I got it. And I love it, it’s a great phone. But I still feel tethered. Attached. Dare I say, addicted?

It’s not all bad. Having a smart phone has allowed me to work a weird schedule this summer and keep up with everything I need to do while the kids play at the playground or the pool or the library. I’m immensely thankful I can stick a tiny computer in my back pocket and not have to haul my laptop everywhere. But I still feel like there needs to be a happier medium that I haven’t yet found.

We’re going camping next month and the spot we got doesn’t have electricity. There will be no way to charge anything other than in the car. I’m both looking forward to and am terrified of the disconnection. It’s only 2 days. I’m worried both that it’s too long, there will be too much to catch up on when I’m back “on the grid” but, also, that it’s too short. I won’t be finished with the withdrawal symptoms yet, so the hit I’m going to get when I plug it back in on the drive home will only make the attachment (addiction) worse.

How about you? Anyone out there feel the same way? Is there a medium ground between a landline and the computer in my pocket (or on your wrist?)

You know those people…?

The ones that keep up with their blogs and have posts scheduled months in advance and are reliable?

Yeah, in case you haven’t noticed, I’m not one of those people.

And it’s not anything like laziness, or lack of topic ideas. It’s more like lack of time and the fear that if I use the limited time I do have to write writing this that means that I won’t be writing books.

It’s a hard spot to be in.

There was a panel about this very topic at AWP, but it was presented very badly and I didn’t get anything out of it. But the question of whether we, as writers, are maybe allotted a certain number of words a day, and we have to be economical with them, not spend them on things like blogs and social media, but rather on our Work-In-Progress…the idea has some merit.

But it’s also a scary thought. Are words, the words that are flowing through me, really that scarce? Is it maybe that it’s easier to post 144 characters than actually sit down here and pound out a meaningful article? And, also, the fear that no one is reading this anyway, so maybe it really is a waste of time?

I think, for me, it’s a general feeling of scarcitiy around my writing. A feeling that has no basis in anything but fear. A feeling I’m working hard to get rid of.

I’m a:

  • wife
  • mother
  • daughter
  • sister
  • friend
  • author
  • employee
  • contractor
  • business owner
  • business executive
  • finance department
  • chef
  • chauffeur
  • lifeguard
  • editer
  • designer
  • the list goes on and on…

All of these things to different people, different organizations. But being a good one or two of them doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m automatically neglecting the others. I’m trying to remind myself of that, every day. I can’t do everything at once, but I can do it all in turn.

I’m going to make a shift with this blog. I’ve tried to keep it semi-professional in the past, to make it a place to learn about me as a person, but mostly about my writing and jewelry. I’m giving up on that. I’m not going to worry so much about what I should be blogging anymore, and be more honest about where I’m at in life. I thought about trying to start another blog with something about wishing for a flip-phone in it’s name (I wanted another F word that meant wishing, but never came up with one) to talk about how tempted I am to trash the iPhone and all of the connectivity and return to having just a phone that people had to call me on. I’m going to write more about stuff like that.

I’m still going to tell you about my books and the stuff going on with the Ruby Slippers investigation. It’s just going to get a lot more personal.

I hope that’s okay.

Goals Check-in — May

priest-darth-vader(Does anyone else combine church and Star Wars in their minds today?)

“May the fourth be with you.”

“And also with you.”

“Let us rise and pass the fourth.”

That’s not really what I’m blogging about today, though. It’s time to check in on my goals.

The thing about writing a bunch of goals at the beginning of the year is that it’s like predicting the future. And I’m not so good at that.

I’ve fallen behind on almost all of my goals this year, but I’m actually not upset about it. In general. There are a few that I need to get cracking on. So, below, I’ve got my original Dream, my progress, and, if necessary, a revised plan. Because I do think the goals are necessary and they help me make day-to-day decisions and prioritize. But I don’t think they should be a source of stress, and if I still to the original ones, I will be stressed, I’ll put out less-than-stellar work, and completely miss the point of goals in the first place.

Removing goal as it can’t be tracked.

Dream

Progress as of May 4, 2015

Revised Plan

Publish another book Waiting on grant application to continue work on Home. Clouded has been through beta readers and needs a ton of work. The Cast is currently being drafted. No revision. Will continue to work on all three books.
“Do” two short stories a month (one drafted, one completed) No new progress Removing this goal entirely. I am not interested in short stories and working on them takes time away from working on projects that I both enjoy more and am better at. More power to the short story writers of the world. I will admire you, but I am not one of you.
Publish at least four short stories see above Remove
Draft two more novels 1 done, 1 in progress No revision necessary. Unless I decide to add a third.
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 3 done, will do another this week and get back on course No update. Just motivation.
Get Spiraling Forward Jewelry into 3-5 boutiques You can now buy Spiraling Forward at Doodle Bird! Remove goal. I am shifting focus away from the jewelry completely. I don’t have time to focus on it, and I’d rather just make stuff I want to wear when I want to wear it.
Have/be in an art show No progress other than painting I’m not removing this, but I don’t feel like it’s an important goal at this time and I’m not focusing on it.
15-20 gym visits/month Averaging 15.25! Not changing goal, but changing execution. I’m counting bike rides of 6+ miles or walking/running 2.5+ miles. The goal is fitness, not time inside.
4+ yoga/Pilates classes/month Hit I’ve been hitting 2-3 a week, so no revision necessary.
One vegetarian day/week It’s happening, although maybe not all day. It might be lunch one day and dinner another. Changing to 3 vegetarian meals per week.
Speak at 2 conferences 1 Scheduled. This isn’t a focus for me, I’m removing it.
Continue to reduce clutter This goal is not written in a measurable way, but I’d say it’s going well. 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 Didn’t happen in April No revision, it’s important and I need to make it a priority.
Attend 2 book/writing events 3 days of AWP! Keep as is.
1 real date with hubby Hooray for Parent’s Night Out! I’ve been thinking about revising to two, but we’re having a hard time getting sitters.
1 art event Nope Removing. This is something I would love to do, but I don’t think is necessary to track.

How about you? Are you still working on your yearly goals? Have you had to make any revisions?

A life update

Hey Guys,

I haven’t done much of a life update lately, so I thought I’d do one today.

We got our March snowstorm on Sunday night.

2015-03-23 06.51.34

The kids had a great snowball fight before school yesterday.

I have this disorder, where if I’m making soup, I can’t make just one at a time. And my kitchen gets trashed.

2015-03-21 17.58.142015-03-21 17.50.37

My kids’ favorite place is the library. That makes me very happy.

2015-03-21 09.39.40

I’ve started juicing again. Not a full juice fast, but one green juice a day. It’s heavenly.

2015-03-21 08.30.17

Last week and the week before, I participated in the Right Brain Business Summit. I’ve signed up for this group every year since it started (this was the fifth year) and never watched any of the videos. This year, I went ahead and upgraded so I can watch the videos whenever, and I’m so glad I did. It’s been so inspiring. This was my big take-away from SARK’s video last Friday:

2015-03-20 12.58.40

And, finally, I’ve been painting a lot more this year. I’ve got a new series I’m working on, and this is my favorite so far.

2015-03-03 19.54.25

March Goals Check-in

2015-01-023How are your New Year’s Resolutions/Goals going?

I’m not going to do a full recap like I did last month, I’m saving that for my newsletter this month. (What? You don’t get my newsletter? Put your email in that fun little box on the right. I send out updates once a month and promise not to SPAM you (or sell your info, ever) but I do sometimes send out fun news about giveaways (and goals!) that I don’t post here.) But I will say, overall, February was NOT as productive as January. By a long shot.

Here’s a few things I struggled with in February and my plan to fix them in March:

Reading: I did not meet my goals for most reading categories. So, I’ll be watching less TV (darn West Wing!) and reading more.

Writing: I’m not where I want to be with my current work in progress. The re-write is much more extensive than I expected it to be, and it’s taking forever. Plus, I’ve let life circumstances make it harder to get stuff done. So I’m putting a new focus on it this month. Which goes along with reading—the more I read, the better and faster I write. Funny how that works.

Completing my planner each day: This really fell off in the middle of the month, when the circumstances that kept me from being really productive with my writing were in full swing. I revised them again last night and have completed my plan for March. However, something happened in printing and only half of the month printed, but that’s okay. I am thinking of changing the size and doing the days as half sheets rather than whole pages. That’ll take some work in InDesign, so by the middle of the month I should have them ready to go. Anyone out there using Passion Planne, Erin Condren or Kimberly Wilson? I’d love to hear how it’s going for you (still trying to decide if doing it myself is worth it. So far, I am pretty happy with it.)

I will say, with all of this, though:

Tracking my progress each month, while sometimes frustrating, is really motivating.

I’m seeing exactly where I’m letting things get away from me, and, once I stop beating myself up about it, I’m proud of my ability to quickly course correct.

How about you? Are you tracking your progress? What exciting developments are happening in your life?

Fun summer necklaces

I’ve been in a chunky jewelry phase lately, which is funny since I used to only where really simple plain stuff. My current taste is reflected in what I’ve been making, including these beauties listed today:

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Chunky Green Square Stone Necklace

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Layered silver chain necklace with flat mother-of-pearl beads

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Double strand natural mother of pearl diamond beads necklace