Thursday, November 30, 2017

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Monday, April 14, 2014

The Side-effects of Being Superwoman

First, let me be clear. I don’t consider myself a superwoman. Instead, I see myself as some crazy person who wants to live six lives at once and do them all perfectly. I want to have four careers, volunteer in my community, and be a stay-at-home mom.

Oh, and somewhere in there I want to have a perfectly manicured house and yard.

Impossible? Why yes, yes it is. But yet, we all know people who seem to live the dream. Who seem to do and have it all.

You know who I’m talking about. That mom in the line at the car pool pick up who is so together. Or the lady who always seems to get her haircut the same day you and doesn’t miss the opportunity to brag about her latest promotion all while starting her new venture into an eco-couture clothing line on the side. They’re superwomen and we wonder how they do it. Because we want that too. Okay, I want that too. (I won’t put words into your mouth.)

But we’re not seeing what happens behind closed doors. We don’t see the negative side effects which come from being superhuman: the occasional exhaustion, the balls dropped, or the people in our lives neglected in our own pursuits.

For me, thinking about this topic started when I began noticing the titles we give ourselves. In bios on websites and blogs, many are not content to say who they are and what’s important to them. Instead, some tout a laundry list of job titles and accomplishments they think give them credibility. Or at least define them. (For an example, see mine to the left. Yep, I’m very guilty of this too.)

I’m sure those of us who make these lists do it for various reasons. I do it to connect with people on some level, whether they also are interested in gardening or writing or something else I like to do. I want to feel that moment of “you get me!” and “I get you too!”

We all wear many hats, some define us, some describe our personalities, and some we should never believe are who we are but do anyway. Like a dead-end job we hate or the demeaning nickname our great-aunt gave us when we were six and too tired and hungry to behave ourselves properly.
We are only who we say we are—with action, voice, and deed.

I’ll keep using my 5 or 6 jobs to describe myself, but consider this my public reminder to acknowledge I am perfectly imperfect. I want figure out how to accept I am humanly incapable of expanding my day past 24 hours. I am aware some days I’ll get all 6 categories* crossed off on my to-do list and some days I’ll play on Pinterest for hours while I listen to podcasts. That’s okay. I’m still choosing to work towards my goals, still striving for the objectives most important to me. Some days I just work at a different pace than other days. 

Surely I’m not alone on this?

The truth is, from Agatha Christie to Zelda Fitzgerald, we all have the same amount of time in a day.

Sometimes we collapse from exhaustion, sometimes we’re a giant ball of active adrenaline.
And that’s okay. It’s not a side effect from being superhuman, rather one from putting too many irons in the fire at the same time.

I can choose to put less irons in the fire or refuse to become overwhelmed when I do put many in at once. This is where prioritization fits in and is something I’m not very good at doing.

But for me—and perhaps for some of you—it’s worth working towards!

Thoughts on balance and doing it all? Do you struggle with wanting to be superhuman as well?

* I have a really hard time prioritizing because everything feels valuable and worth my time. This is how I try to keep my vision on what matters most to me long-term: In my planner, I have six categories of items I want to get done that day: 1) devotional time—time to study my religion, 2) exercise—I try to devote at least 30 minutes a day, 3) writing time—at least two hours a day, 4) tasks for the day for work, 5) a way to serve another human being, and 6) spend time reading for pleasure. I check off what I do get done that day and if I get at least four categories done in a day, I consider it a successful day. It’s a routine I’ve been able to stick with the last couple of years. It may not work for you, but I felt it was worth mentioning here.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

C'est la vie

I’ve been away from here far too long. Life gets busy this time of year. For everybody, I'm sure. I started several blog posts but never got around to finishing any of them. But, hey—I tried.

Thanks to all your kind thoughts about my mother’s passing. Since March, I think I’ve deliberately kept busy to help ease her passing. Here are a few things I’ve been up to:

  1. Planted warm weather plants in my hoop house. They are growing fast and well! My hope is I’ll be able to feed my family (and then some) for the whole year. (I’m trying to be as much of a locavore as possible.)
  2. I went to Paris for a week! Steve had a conference and I tagged along. It felt like a second honeymoon. I wouldn’t have picked Paris as a destination, but I absolutely fell in love with France and all things French. It was such an amazing, healing time for me.
  3. And back to gardening… I’m landscaping the front with my own designs and also extending the winter garden to double its size. I have piles all over the yard of my projects and none of them complete. C’est la vie.
  4. Book news: I’m editing two books at once. One feels like a very clean draft. One I’ve been sitting on for years now but I think it’s almost ready to go to the agent who asked for it. Fingers crossed!
  5. I’ve been trying new ways of cooking—now that I’ve become such a local foodie, I’m trying many new recipes to be able to eat with the seasons. The kids are hating it but Steve’s on board.
  6. I planned a week-long summer adventure camp for my nieces, nephews, and my own children. Eight kids under 10 staying in my tiny house. Ten if you count the neighbor kids, who were over most of the time. It was exhausting, but I hope they all had a good time. They sure are cute kiddos.
  7. Annnnd… back to gardening: I helped start a community garden. It’s finally picking up momentum. We have four raised beds full of lovely violets and veggies. Then several rows with pumpkins, squash, beans, and corn. I’ve helped classes from the elementary plant and water, but now with school out, it will mean more maintenance until the kids are back in classes.
  8. I’ve started offering women’s classes on Thursday evenings at the fire station’s community building. So far there isn’t a great turn out but I’m hoping soon I can build a village of support for the women in our community. Classes include a book group, a writing group, a back to basics class, and a night to just bring a project/craft of your choice to work on and socialize.

That’s what’s new with me. What’s new with you? I have been so out of the loop! Xo

Monday, March 18, 2013

Experience Makes Better Writers

So, my mom passed away on March 4th. Many of you know about her courageous fight against cancer. Hers was very aggressive and we knew there would be a dark night when she wouldn’t win.

One is never prepared to lose their mother. Especially if you have good one like mine. My mom was one of the best. We spoke on the phone nearly every day, she was the person I went to for advice and she was my best friend (next to my husband). I wasn’t the only one whose life she touched. Hundreds of people braved a big snow storm to attend her funeral. The place was packed because she was well loved in the community. And the funeral turned out just the way she wanted it. It felt perfect, despite the snow.

Those last few days of her life were hard. She was in extreme pain and nothing could assuage it. It was hard to watch, hard to know how to help her. Yet she stayed the lovely person she always was, so patient with us and the confusion clouding her mind. I slept on the floor beside her hospice bed those last few nights. Somehow I knew she would have wanted that. My sister, dad, and I took turns ensuring she had her medications up until the last, just in case she had pain she could not communicate to us. And then the night she slipped away, her breathing grew less labored until it stopped completely. When the room grew still during the early morning hours past midnight, I didn’t need to touch her body to know her spirit had left it. The most beautiful part about my mother was gone to places the pain could not follow.

Losing a mother is a defining point in a person’s life. Perhaps that is why many children’s books and movies kill off the moms—it’s the ultimate moment of no-return. The hero(ine) must move on from that point forward. The hero’s journey fits perfectly with the event.

When my mom was first diagnosed, I started a book about a daughter whose father was dying of cancer and he asked her to go on his bucket list vacation for him. She does, but begrudgingly. I dove into the book almost flippant with the thought of her losing her dad. Now I have a profound understanding of how hard that really would be for my character. She would not act as nonchalant as I had made her.

All our life experiences make us better writers and better voices for the human condition. Especially those pivotal moments in our lives like I’m going through. Pivotal moments are sometimes the happiest—like a wedding day, the day we land our dream job, or the day we find true love—but usually they are the saddest or most trying. As hard as it is, I’ve learned the trying moments are the ones especially we should write through. It is when we understand each others' hearts and can relate to one another the best.

In my non-fiction story of my mom’s bucket list vacation, we had a happy ending. She had always wanted to see the fall colors in the New England area--and the lighthouses. She was able to make that trip with me. She and I have memories of being together in Maine that will last forever. 

I love you, Mom. I always will.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Tagged: The Next Big Thing

Hello! Myrna Foster tagged me last month for the cool meme, The Next Big Thing, where we writers share a little bit about a book we've written. Here are my 10 answers:

photo credit:

What is your working title of your book? Jedda Hitler: Traitor to the Party
Where did the idea come from for the book? My subconscious in those lovely early morning hours between sleep and awake :o)
What genre does your book fall under? Young Adult
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? A teenage version of Angelina Jolie for Jedda (only because Jedda reminds me of Lara Croft)
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? Raised, groomed, and kept apart, Jedda Hitler was her grandfather’s personal project to prove that even a small girl could be turned into a killing machine.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? Agency… hopefully
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? Over a year. It wasn’t a book that came out of my head easily. I struggled for the right voice.

May we see an intro? Sure:
Grandfather would never have allowed such incompetence in his army. But what grandfather thought is no longer my concern.
Saving myself is all that matters.
We are in an underground factory with only one entrance. My jail cell is a locker shower somewhere deep at its center. They hit me over the head with a rifle butt and brought me here unconscious. Then they used the pipes to tie me to the wall. I sit on the wet floor with my back against them now.
My jailer is a Brown Shirt, Nazi paramilitary. But he does not fit the part. Where once discipline was religion, there is nothing left but a fading uniform, paunchy eyes, and a sagging belly. He disgusts me.
At ease, he slouches against the tiled wall. As if this is a social call instead of an interrogation. He would not be so calm if he knew how loose his men tied my wrists.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? I don’t say it often because it’s too pretentious, but to myself I think of it as Hunger Games with history. Also, I'm reading Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein right now and there are quite a few similarities.

Who or what inspired you to write this book? While I was in high school, my mom went to college. She was a history major and wrote her thesis on Stalin and Hitler. Since then, I have had a fascination with that era and how those countries survived such demonic dictators.

What else about your book might pique the reader's interest? I didn’t know there were German resistance movements after WW II ended. As I started research on this book, I found several books on these small groups. These groups were so fascinating that they became a major element of the story. (They even had a steam locomotive for roving headquarters! Try looking up the Krista. Too cool....)

Include the link of who tagged you: Mydear friend Myrna Foster
Great writers you’ll want to visit and hear their answers:
Any one is welcome to join in, though. Here are the rules:

Rules of The Next Big Thing:

*Use this format for your post
*Answer the ten questions about your current WIP (work in progress)
*Tag five other writers/bloggers and add their links so we can hop over and meet them.

Ten Interview Questions for the Next Big Thing:

What is your working title of your book?
Where did the idea come from for the book?
What genre does your book fall under?
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? May we see an intro?
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?

Include the link of who tagged you and this explanation for the people you have tagged. Be sure to line up your five people in advance.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Pygmalion Phenomenon: Bringing Out the Best Within

Thank you for all your kind words last post. Some of them made me blush. But your kindness warms my heart. They made me think of a book I’m reading, psychotherapist Piero Ferrucci’s The Power of Kindness, where he talks about the Pygmalion Phenomenon. (It’s a great read—I highly recommend it!)

This is when someone believes you are a certain way and because of their belief in you, you become that way. (See the My Fair Lady connection?) If a person thinks we are beautiful and elegant and tell us so, we begin to have the confidence and grace of a beauty. The same is true if we think we are athletic, smart, or etc. Suddenly, we are improving in those areas. 

Ferrucci tells a story about how when he was giving a lecture to a large group of people, a friend pointed out an individual and said he was very funny and could tell good jokes. Later, when Ferrucci had an opportunity to talk to the man he thought his friend pointed out, he said, “I hear you are very funny and tell great jokes.” The man, who was in the corner, quiet and by himself, looked at him in wonder and surprise. But all throughout Ferrucci’s lecture, he cracked jokes and brought a lot of fun to the night. Only later, when Ferrucci met back up with his friend, did he find out the mistake: his friend had pointed to a different person—not that quiet man in the corner. By the sheer attention given, Ferrucci had given the other man the confidence to express a side of him others in the room had never seen.

I love this story. First, because it illustrates the power each one of has in influencing others for good. And second, because we all have latent characteristics that can be enhanced by association with another. With effort and the right tutelage, our potential is really limitless.

Our weaknesses and our unexpressed characters can become strengths when we believe in each other.
It reminds me of another quote I tell my kids:

What does it have to do with writing? You guessed it: give yourself and your writing friends that positive confirmation to do the things they may be thought beyond them. 

I’ve just read two great manuscripts by two lovely friends. This isn’t the first time I’ve critiqued for them. These friends and I have come a long way together in our writing paths—but to see how much their self-editing skills have blossomed holds me in awe of them. They are destined for great writing dreams come true and I’m so happy for them. It’s like watching Audrey Hepburn walk into Henry Higgin’s house and look Rex Harrison in the eye. Only this time she kicks him and gives him the what-for. All in a lady-like way, of course. She’s that good.

Friday, January 11, 2013

2013: Leave Your Expectations at the Door

New Year’s Day came and went and I didn’t get the post out I intended. Truthfully, it sounded pretentious. It was a list of all the things I accomplished in 2012. There were quite a few failures on there too, but I make the list every year because it helps my perfectionist self recognize that I am making progress on my goals and in the creation of myself. This year the list felt like it should be for my eyes only.

Then the next post felt a little unsettling. It was a list of all the good hopes I have for 2013. If I am honest, there are a lot of things I’m fearful about in the upcoming year instead of hopeful. It’s kind of contrary to my generally cheerful personality, but there it is. First and foremost, my mother will not make it past the year. The aggressive cancer she has been fighting so valiantly for the last four years has finally taken over. It’s hard for me to think of life without her. It’s hard for me to think of my kid’s lives without her. She is only 55.

Yet it is impossible to stay completely sad for long. Happy, bright events continue to overwhelm my sense of love I have for this world. I have many things to look forward to and blessings far beyond those I deserve. I’m sure my mom would want me to see life this way too. That’s why this year I’m concentrating my efforts on keeping my heart open. There is too much good out there to let it shut down with sadness.

I have a word-theme picked out for every month. January is SAVOR. I plan on savoring my time with my mother, with my children, with my writing, and with all of my surroundings. Savoring is a way for me to keep my heart open to all the good available to me.

So really that is it. No goals and accomplishments are listed here this year. I have left my expectations for the future at the door. I am simply going to savor the good while I face the bad with faith and courage. Life isn’t easy, but the hard parts make us stronger and help us enjoy the sweet parts that much more.

Here’s to 2013. Whatever it may bring.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Benefits of Transitions

Last post, I promised I would share my second technique that helps me maintain productivity. The first was giving myself small (or relatively small) rewards. But the second, is creating transition rituals to signal my brain it’s time to write. I call them Signal Rituals. Go figure. :o)

It’s a fact that our minds have to switch their mental gears to function optimally. One of the best ways you can help your brain do that is to create patterns in your life that identify a change from one activity to the next. For example, a lot of writers I know play a game of Words with Friends or jump on their email or facebook or blog then rev up to write.

That doesn’t work for me. I could stay for hours once there. (I have limited will power).

So I use glasses of water. I know when I fill a little cup of water up and drink it dry, it’s time to get my brain in the game of writing. I also use water drinking to signal time to exercise, time to get-the-kids-ready-for-school rush, and for my daily devotional time. Other rituals I use are: lighting a candle or other special lighting (like a lamp), music for the writing mood, spray on a good smell or put an oil in a diffuser, or breathing exercises.

It really doesn’t matter what you do as long as it’s consistent and quickly accomplished.

After all, we use transitions with scenes in our stories, wouldn’t it make sense to use transitions for the scenes in our lives? :o)

Merry Christmas to you all!!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Benefits of Small Rewards

Eep! I’ve gone a whole month again without posting. Of course, this time it was because I participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNo), have had SEVERAL flu bugs attack me and my kids, and then my parents came for Thanksgiving, which became strictly family time (a good thing).

Enough with the excuses, though, I want to talk about NaNo. Yes, I did it! I won! And best of all, I finished a book I wanted to finish two and a half years ago. As another major positive, I established a daily writing habit I’m happy to have back in my life. The win-wins of NaNo!

I read somewhere that only about 14% of the people who sign up for NaNo actually finish it. That’s extremely low but hey—it’s an extreme ambition to write 50,000 words in one month. Most of us have lives beyond the keypad.

In light of that low statistic, I wanted to share two things that helped me see my goal through because they can apply to any goal-setting endeavor. The first was giving myself small (or relatively small) rewards. Second, I created transition rituals to signal my writing time. Today, I’m going to talk about rewarding only. Next post I’ll talk about signal rituals.

Some rewards I used or thought about using for daily or hourly milestones:
Soaking in a bath or hot tub
Spritzing a favorite smell (trust me—this is a sense that is far too ignored. A good smell can lift your soul out of any dungeon.)
Listening to a favorite song
Taking a short nap
Permitting myself to make random lists or free journal writing (I love making lists)
Volunteering time in my son’s class
Mind wandering for a few minutes (For some people, a 5 minute break for every 25 minutes of focused work helps. It’s called the Pomodoro Technique.)
Checking facebook/email/twitter etc. for a few minutes
Engaging in some breathing exercises
Lighting a candle
Sitting on the patio to soak up the sun rays
Sipping a cup of tea or a Pellegrino soda.

For big milestones, I did things like:
Go on a dinner date with my spouse
Go to lunch with my friends
Go to the movies
Go shopping without the kids
Go to a favorite hiking spot
Reorganize a pantry/cupboard or space I that was bothering me
Redecorate my desk
Buy a new essential oil and use it

You would need to think up your own rewards, but giving yourself a little pleasure is a huge benefit. It pushes productivity and it doesn’t have to be just one more thing to spend money on if you are creative.

As I was preparing this post, I came across this great article in Psychology Today about how little rewards can boost our enthusiasm about a task. A good read!