Monday, December 28, 2009

30 ComMINUTEments

Making and keeping goals is very important to me. And when this time of year rolls around, I become a bit introspective. Did I meet my goals? Did I try? What is new for me this year?
Sometimes my goals are unrealistic. (Like "win the lottery without buying a ticket". Kidding! Sort of.) Sometimes life throws me a monkey wrench and I have to change my goals/priorities (um... can we say new baby?!).
This year I think I know exactly what my life needs. They are not big changes, just little moments everyday that will help me move slowly to where I want to be. This year I'm committing myself to spending 30 minutes a day on things that matter to me--namely, 30 minutes on writing, 30 minutes on editing/revising, 30 minutes on spiritual growth/reflection, and 30 minutes on physical exercise. This only accounts for 2 hours of my day, something totally doable during the kids' naps. If I have time, of course I'll do more of whichever area I want, but I'm not going to beat myself up if I can't get more done. Like I used to do. (Again, I'm still working on that balance thing.)
So you tell me, what are you committing to for 2010? How did you do this year?

Saturday, December 26, 2009

My Grown Up Christmas Wish

In November my husband was in New York for business and stopped by Tiffany's to window shop with a couple colleagues. When he came home, I teased him a bit about going in and not buying me a thing. Now, if you know me, you know that I'm not much of a jewelry person and would never spend money on such things. (Give me a fancy tent instead! Or feed a family in need!)


But still I teased my husband, not meaning anything by it. He is fun to tease, after all. It's one of the reasons I married him.
Yesterday there was this little package under my tree. He decided I needed something from Tiffanys.com after not seeing anything that "looked like me" in the store. What do you say to such a thoughtful husband?
This:
"You mean you jogged around Central Park and didn't bring me back an agent?"
So, Steve, thanks for the pretty little earrings but next time you're in NY, can you get a book contract for me? I promise that many of those will "look like me".

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Merry Christmas and a Winner!


I couldn't figure out how to post the random list so you'll just have to trust me that I DID use a random method. And the winner is...


da Jones!

So Tiffany, I'll be sending you a $25 gift card via email. Merry Christmas, my friend!

As to the rest of you, thanks for stopping by and participating. Now you can go ahead and unfriend me. (Ha, ha!)

And as for the rest of the week, I'll be signing off for the holidays. I'm still not able to get out of bed from my surgery so the little energy I have will be dedicated to my kids and finishing Christmas preparations.

MERRY CHRISTMAS, HAPPY HOLIDAYS, HAPPY NEW YEAR and all that jazz!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Life Is Beautiful: Giveaway



Last year around this time I wrote a pretentious and self-indulgent post about how excited I was for the new year, how I thought something good would happen for me in 2009. Well, it did! In so, so, so many ways this year I have been blessed.
Here are just a few:
1. A new baby! That sweet little four month old of mine was a VERY unexpected blessing. I was nervous about having another, after both my son and I experienced health problems last delivery. Everything worked out this time. If you've followed this blog before, you'll know that I had to have shots and it was a little bit rocky, but she came--healthy, beautiful, and more wonderful than any of us could wish for.
2. Two other awesome kids. They have learned, grown, and beautified my life with wondrous abandon this year. And having their dad around has not been too shabby either. Where would I be without them? In a very selfish existence.
3. Old friends! New friends! I've made so many great friends. Thanks to all of you.
4. I've had several requests on a manuscript! I've grown so much as a writer this year. And seeing personalized advice and encouragement has been rewarding. I still don't have an agent, but that is not something I can control. I can only keep writing and keep revising. I still have to hear back from a couple, by the by.
5. While others in this world have not had enough, we have! And more than enough. Because we have been blessed, we have been able to pay it forward this Christmas and I'm so grateful for that.
There are many things I am grateful for, but these are just a few.
AND in the spirit of gratitude, I'd like to offer one person a $25 Amazon gift card. All you have to do is become a follower of this blog, if you are not already. On Tuesday, December 22nd, I'll randomly pick the winner. I have a minor surgery scheduled on Monday, so it might not be until Tuesday night that I get the results up. But I WILL get them up.
Your chances of winning are good, since my readership is small, so please try for it! I want to give something away! Besides, you can always unfollow later. (Ha, ha.)
(By the way, I did find that great pizza recipe this year. Thanks to Marcella Hazan. But if anyone else has a killer one, I'll take theirs too! And the photo? One of my favorite places in summer: Silverton, CO.)

Friday, December 11, 2009

Friday Five #4


Yeah...
Totally didn't get the post up I wanted to yesterday. Here's for a snowy weekend to blog (aka procrastinate cleaning my house)!
In the meantime, I give you Friday's Five Things On My Mind. (But since that's not very catchy, I'll just say Friday Five.)
1. I had a really cool story idea yesterday. So excited about this one. Then again, I'm always excited about a new idea. It's KEEPING that excitement all the way through that I struggle with.
2. It really annoys me how I forget type words when get going. I think because I'm slow typer. So sorry to anyone who has to read my digital hen scratch. I'm getting better... slowly.
3. My children are growing in leaps and bounds and this week I just want to squish their beautiful little selves down so that they stop. Stop, I say. The baby is now rolling over and experimenting with solids. The toddler comes up with the funniest ways to try and get into adult conversations, like, "So, Mom, what's your favowite coloh?" And the first grader has a loose tooth--her first! Apparently she told her teacher so many times that he finally said, "Yep, you told me about that. Five times ago." Gotta love the patience of elementary school teachers!
4. Christmas is almost here! Christmas is almost here! All I've left to do is send out packages to family far away and I'm done, baby. We made national news with all our snow. It's not that snow is out of the ordinary, it's just that it was all at once, within a few hours. Everywhere around us looks beautiful and Christmassy. That means I'm itching to go sledding and snowmobiling.
5. I'm continuing to do revisions on Courtesy and Patience. It's been awhile since I've revisited it and now I can see many spots where I can up the tension and pacing (thanks to Mary Kole's generous critique from the contest I won). I want to give this story the perfection it deserves. It's been on the desk of seven agents and all have passed. That's telling me something, I think (i.e. close, but not quite).
So there's Five Things On My Mind This Week. What's on your mind(s)?

Monday, December 7, 2009

Eats and Treats

Merry Christmas!
I love, Love, LOVE this time of year. The snow is falling outside and the kiddos are singing the carols with me. And watching the shows... giving me peace and quiet.
I'm an eternal kid at Christmas.
Today my Christmas thoughts are on stockings. Last year I spent a bunch of money on oddities for all the stockings, few of which actually got eaten/used. THIS year I've decided to spring for everyone's favorite things.
And my favorite things are also the things I leave at my desk and eat and drink as I write.
They are few in calories, great at sucking that stuck thought right out of my brain, and are South Beach Diet approved! Love 'em. (But only the individually wrapped ones in bag form, not roll form. Weird that they taste so different, really...)
Yep, plain old almonds are great snacks and help you ignore hunger while are still good, pure protein to help you LOSE weight. I'll be putting almonds in my stocking, yessiree.
This stuff just tastes awesome, though it's nothing more than chickory and a couple other herbs.
I have a bad habit of collecting water bottles. That's because I never find the exact ones I like. This year I found them!
Of course, I also will spring for other family member's favorites, like plain hershey's chocolate for the kids and these little beauties for the husband. But this year I'm determined not to let things go to waste.
So... what are YOUR favorite writing/desk/office treats? OR what treats do you want Santa to put in your stocking (by treats I mean food, not, you know... a whole shopping center).
....
Also, I'm going to really try and start posting better now that the baby is letting me. I plan on having something up every Thursday and Monday, so check back then!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Balance of Time

Balance. Time Management. Hmmm… this is a post long in the making. And a making that’s been out the window since I had my third child almost four months ago. Because these days I often feel like I’m on a roller coaster ride with no safety strap. (Either that or I’m spinning my wheels to stand still--it’s Choose Your Own Metaphor Day so take your pick). I WISH I could say I’ve a set schedule. I WISH I could say I’ve got my head on straight, but I can’t. Instead I’ll say how much I love my family and how they make my world go around. And they do in a very real sense because THEY set my schedule.

And as much as I’m enjoying my last baby, I also look forward to the days when the dust will settle (See? CYO Metaphor Day) from the baby chaos and I’ll find writing, exercising, and mothering routines again. A balance. A HAPPY balance.


In the meantime, I’m here to share some tips I’ve picked up over the years for making the time in your day balanced. Now a huge caveat, these are things I’ve LEARNED from other people, not necessarily things I PRACTICE. I hope they help you as much as they help me:



1. Get up early.

Try for a decent amount of sleep, but get up for those people-free, productive hours of the morning. My mother is a pro at this. (Then again, I think she's half-robot and doesn't need as much sleep as the rest of us.) I get more done in the wee hours of the morning rather than those sleepy afternoons after lunch. If you're a night owl reverse this routine and use the time when everyone else is in bed to get some things done. Don't be tempted to turn those great late night shows on and waste value productive time.


And if you have trouble getting up in the morning at your established time, try these suggestions:


Don't lay around in bed and smash the alarm for awhile. One trick is to set an alarm on a coffee pot. Since I don't drink coffee, I learned from someone (forget who) to first thing when you wake up, think about something (anything!) you are excited about that day. It perks you right up. I often think about where I am in a story I'm writing. I get so excited that my brain wakes up. If all else fails, hide your alarm. Or ask your bedmate to kick you out. With a metal bat. (Kidding!)


2. Get ready for the day all at once.

Shower and dress all the way down to your shoes. You are ready for anything then and that is an energizing feeling. (Plus it really does save time not having to make several trips to the bathroom mirror or your dresser.)


3. Take projects with you everywhere.

We spend a lot of time in our lives waiting. Take your work with you—the hairdresser, the bus stop, the Doctor’s office, etc. Having said that though, don’t neglect others with you at the expense of reading/writing just one more scene. Whatever you are doing, be in the moment. If you are reading to your child, enjoy the moment, don’t think about the dishes. It’s one of the many things I love about yoga—it teaches you to be "present". (Unfortunately, I'm still working at this one, though. I incessantly go down my mental to-do list at the expense of the now.)

4. Make dinners easy on yourself.

I’m an admitted food snob, so I’ll not tell you order McDonald’s every night. Instead, pull out that crockpot or roaster and modify your favorite recipes. Great meals can be set in a slow cooker earlier in the day. Not only do you have a meal ready when you’re ready, but the clean up is easier. One pot! You can also make extra and freeze half for really busy days.

5. Exercise and Eat Right

Anyone who exercises will tell you that they have more energy, get more done, and feel better when they squeeze in exercise. It’s not easy to do, most days I fail, but even 20 minutes every other day can make a difference. Also eating right helps. We’re only beginning to understand how much diet affects us, regarding how we feel. Listen to your body, it will help you make wise choices in eating. (And no, I didn’t say listen to your CHOCOLATE voice. LOL. Cassie....)

6. Don’t be afraid to throw out the time wasters.

Track your activities for a week and see what you spend most of your time doing. Be prepared to trim the fat in your life and take out what is not important to you (say, too much Facebook/blogging time. Hee, hee!) and put in what is, like writing or playing checkers with your child. Time is more precious than money and oddly enough, we are all given the same amount in a day. Make the most of yours.

7. Think about tomorrow today.

It helps me to sleep better when I’ve written down the game plan for the next day. That way I’m not up at night trying to remember what it was that was too important to forget. Keep a notebook by your bed. Make your list (I’m a HUGE lister!), write it down, and then let it go.

8. Along with letting go, let go of the day while you are at it.

Take a moment each night before bed to breathe, relax, and let go. Yoga and Tai Chi are great for this, but there are other ways. I use this time to recharge my spiritual battery. Again, I don’t always have time to do this extensively since the new baby, but I DO have 60 seconds to breathe. I make the most of those 60 seconds.

9. Set achievable goals and work towards them.

Challenge yourself, but be realistic. Then once you reach your goal, reward yourself fittingly. You know the saying, let the punishment fit the crime? Well also let the reward fit the achievement. An added benefit of goal-setting is that your children see you doing this and nothing teaches better than example.

10. Take baby steps.

Sometimes you can’t clean the house, write a chapter, go to the gym, paint the house, work at a job, help with the homework, make a gourmet meal, and whatever-else-I-forgot-to-mention all in a day. But you can do a little of a lot of them. Pick and choose what you can and save the rest for another day.

What I haven't said here is that what should impact balance more than anything is priority. In the end, what is really important? I may not remember the days my house was clean (or not) or that the six-year old's hair was perfect for picture day, but I DO want to remember how it felt to kiss that squishy newborn's cheek, hug a child's tears away, or write a scene that makes my adrenaline pump. Those are the things that are important to me and if I wish to achieve the proper balance, those will be foremost in my time use.

Other places to look for time managements helps: www.flylady.com; mindtools.com; and getmoredone.com