Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Way Back Wednesday: Are You Team E or Team T?

I had so much fun going through the archives last week, I thought I'd try it again, so I'm sharing another vintage post this week. 

Are you Team E or Team T?

When e-books first emerged onto the scene, many predicted they wouldn't last. No technology, no matter how wonderful, could replace the feel and smell of a beautiful, brand new book. E-books (E) might be a nice diversion, but they'd never overtake traditional (T) books.

To be honest, I was one of the skeptics, and, when it comes to certain books, I still am. I used to have rules -- non-fiction (e-book) vs. fiction (traditional book), books I'll end up donating (E) vs. books I want to keep (T), books I want to take to the beach or with me when I travel (E) vs. books that will stay home. I might dabble in e-books, but my heart belonged with Team T.

Over time, the rules got blurry. Non-fiction books I wanted to use for teaching needed to have paper pages I could highlight and write on, as well as page through in class. Novels were sometimes more fun if I could hold them in my hand; curling up with a book was just more fun than curling up with a Kindle. But, on more than one occasion, price won out over format or impatience swayed my decision. Having the book I wanted to read in my hands right away meant siding with Team E over Team T.

As an author, I feel strongly about making my books available in both formats because readers face many of the same dilemmas I do. Should I get a paperback I can get signed? Buy the e-book because it's 99¢ this week? Do I have a place to store something that will take up more space than a simple computer file?

In the end, as both author and reader, I've decided to go with a sentiment I've felt all along: the more books I have, the better.

And any format that makes that possible is fine with me.

Monday, June 24, 2019

24 Things

qimono via Pixabay
Today is one of those days I'm struggling to come up with a topic for this blog. While choosing a topic is often the hardest part of writing a blog post, I very rarely come up completely empty. Today, however....


So, I've decided to come up with a list of 24 random good things in my life. Why 24?

Because today is June 24.

So, here goes -- in no particular order -- with apologies to everyone/everything that occurs to me after  I post this.

  1. My daughter is home for the entire summer.
  2. I have pretty great group of students in my summer class.
  3. My husband rode along with me to run errands the other day so he could put gas in my car (so I didn't have to).
  4. My dad lives close by and we get to see him weekly, at least.
  5. I got/get to work with a pretty awesome team of people at Our Sunday Visitor Books.
  6. I have had five books published with four different publishers (2 with MarCo, 1 with Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, one self-published, one with OSV).
  7. Our house has central air conditioning. 
  8. I got to take a nap today.
  9. I am very, very close to finishing the third Marita, Angel, Charli book.
  10. I retired from one career I loved and ended up in another I love just as much and... 
  11. I actually get paid to write.
  12. I got to spend five days with my family in Ireland last spring and...
  13. I didn't need to medicate myself to get on the plane.
  14. I get to play cards once a month with a great group of former colleagues I still count as friends.
  15. Audible. Because I have a hard time making time to read, but I still have to drive places.
  16. I have friends I can count on.
  17. I have friends who are writers, at least one of whom is related to me.
  18. I have friends who make me laugh.
  19. 14, 16, 17 & 18 overlap :-)
  20. I have a young adult daughter I'd like hanging out with even if she weren't my kid.
  21. Although I'm an organizational work-in-progress, there are rooms in my house that no longer are.
  22. My husband isn't a picky eater, so it doesn't matter that I'm not the world's best (or most interested) cook.
  23. I've been married once, and for more than a quarter of a century...
  24. a man who cleans.

TanteTati via Pixabay

Random? Kinda. But it's good to take time every once in a while to step back and think about what's right in a world that can seem...not right.

Even if it doesn't make the most cohesive blog post. 

Friday, June 21, 2019

Friday Feature: Less Laundry

I got so excited about an entire day stretching out before me that I forgot to write this post! I was writing, though -- one of the first things I do when I have a day that's not cut into chunks by other responsibilities is a writing sprint. I set the timer for an hour and, when it went off, I was nearly finished an article that had been running around in my head, so I set the timer again and finished the article.

And now, here I am.

Another thing that usually happens when I'm home all day is laundry. See how optimistically I wrote that? Laundry happens. It washes itself, leaps from the washer to the dryer from whence it folds/hangs itself up and puts itself away.

I wish.

Our family is small so our load is light -- relatively speaking anyway. (Sorry for all the puns). Still, it would be nice if all the time I spent on laundry could be spent on writing sprints instead.

And, based on this article in Fast Company, I'm not alone in wanting to lighten the load. Though I've often thought about the amount of water, electricity and detergent we use (because we pay for those things), I haven't given much thought to the impact washing-at-will has on the environment. I am definitely all for considering laundry "superfluous," particularly in the interest of preserving the planet. And, as a middle-aged woman who is hot more often than she is cold, I'm definitely interested in clothing that doesn't trap sweat.

Intrigued? So was I. Check out Elizabeth Segran's article -- maybe side-by-side with your water bill -- and imagine the possibilities.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Way Back Wednesday: Doing the Impossible

For some strange reason, I decided that teaching a summer class while launching a book was do-able. While it's not completely impossible, it does present challenges and, some days, the to-do list is longer than the day itself.

Today is one of those days, so I hope you'll forgive me for reposting one of my favorites -- a post from two summers ago that seems very apt today.

See you Friday with a new feature. :-)

Several months ago, I picked up a notepad in the dollar bins at Target. Small, green and chunky, it's emblazoned with the heading, "DO THE IMPOSSIBLE."

Initially, I took this as a challenge, deriving great satisfaction from checking off the items I wrote on its black lines. Some to-do items were easy, some were challenging and few, by themselves, were impossible. Taken together, although the items on the list seemed a bit over the top some days, I took pride in conquering it.

Lately, though, I've begun to look at the heading as a warning. Why would anyone want to do the impossible on a daily basis? Isn't that unnecessarily stressful, not to mention exhausting?

For as long as I can remember, I've prided myself on finding solutions to perplexing problems (provided they're not math problems -- I know my limits) and not shying away from a challenge. As as a school counselor, I was the solver. As a mom, I'm the finder and fixer. As a Christian, I believe nothing is impossible with God.

But does God really want us to single-handedly accomplish the impossible on a regular basis? And when we do, is it really one person's accomplishment?

When I worked as a school counselor, I was always part of a team. One person's strengths enhanced another person's weaknesses and, as a unit, we did incredible things for kids on a pretty regular basis. More and more, I find myself wondering if that's how we're supposed to approach life.

I'm not looking to lower my standards, mind you -- just keep my perfectionism in check. And I love my little notepad, but I wonder if I should look at its heading more as a cautionary tale than a daily challenge. When things feel impossible, my green notepad is a great place to write them down and, perhaps, a great way to remind myself that if it feels impossible, perhaps I shouldn't try to do it all at once. Life hands us enough challenges, after all. Why make doing the impossible one of them?

Don't get me wrong. I'm not giving up on chasing my dreams, nor am I planning to run from challenges; my genes and my Jersey roots are a fearsome combination that make challenge-chasing a way of life.

But maybe it's time to insert a little wisdom into the equation. To strive for a little balance. (See, Mr. Avery, I was listening in algebra class!) I don't have to tackle every impossible task. In fact, in order to ensure that I have the energy to chase the challenges that matter, the ones that don't mean as much need to fall away. The dreams and and the goals, no matter how impossible they may seem, need to stay on the list, but the rest of it -- the "shoulds" and the "he said/she said" items -- need to be crossed off the list. Or at least relegated to the bottom.

Anyone who buys a notepad that says, "DO THE IMPOSSIBLE" is pretty much a dream chaser. But life is too short to chase dreams that don't matter.

And it's definitely too short to do so all alone.

Monday, June 17, 2019

It's HERE! (Part 2)

Special thanks to Barb Szyszkiewicz for creating this visual
Today began like any other Monday. I was awake-ish before the alarm, but stayed in bed until my preset snooze alarms had gone off. I got up, did some stretches and created my weekly calendar/to-do, thinking today's list might be a tad optimistic, but figuring I could nudge a few things forward if I needed to. Then, I went off to teach my summer class.

When I got home, there was a package on the front porch. I made a mental note to grab it, then went inside to eat the soup I'd picked up on the way home. After lunch, I went out to get the package, expecting it to be for my husband, as I hadn't ordered anything, at least not that I could remember.

But the box was for me. And it was on the heavy side.

And it was from my publisher.

My books!!

There are few things in life more exciting than opening a box that contains the culmination of years  of effort, and this box didn't disappoint. Though I'd looked at the cover, posted the cover, created additional posts that incorporated the cover, etc. over and over in the past few months, there's something even better about finally seeing it up close and holding it in my hand. Flipping through the pages is ever so much better than skimming through a PDF. And that new book smell? The best.

Know Thyself is now a reality. No more writing, no more edits. It's a done deal. There will be celebrating and parties and signings and, in the midst of it all, there will be more writing, beginning even before the festivities end. The next project is, with any luck, right around the corner.

My daughter was kind enough to videotape the unboxing, which you can find here.

Not bad for an otherwise unremarkable Monday.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Friday Feature: The Joy of Books

Last weekend, I got very excited over a seemingly small thing.

I finished a book.

I read a lot, but I rarely sit down and curl up with a book, and this time was no different. The book I finished was Michelle Obama's Becoming (which I highly recommend) and I had listened to it, sentence-by-sentence, chapter-by-chapter, in the car.

Mind you, I don't really spend that much time in the car. It takes me seven minutes or less to get to work (when there's no construction) and most of my other driving is around town. Still, when I read an article last year about how to read more books, I decided to put the suggestion of listening to audiobooks to work. I'd downloaded Audible last summer so I could listen to books on the beach. Why not try adding a little reading to my commute?

I'm really glad I did. Listening to Becoming, as read by the author, only enhanced my experience. Listening to it a little at a time allowed me to savor it as well.

But back to reading a lot, but not sitting down with a book. It wasn't until I read this article in the Harvard Business Review that I actually credited myself with reading a lot. I absolutely fall into the "consuming more information...than we ever have before" category, reading not only the e-mails and social media tidbits author Neil Pasricha cited, but online articles as well. 

That's still reading.

Yet, I don't make time for books. 

A funny thing happened when my audibook habit collided with Pasricha's article. My appetite for reading actual books was whetted. 

I have no intention of quitting my audiobook habit. Currently, I'm cycling among Billy Crystal's Still Foolin' 'Em, Brené Brown's Dare to Lead and Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, depending upon my mood and my destination. In addition, I've turned my attention back to several of the bookmarked books on my physical bookshelf, determined to hit the finish line with those as well. One didn't make the cut and is now destined for the library donation box, but two others are in regular rotation again. 

For writers, when "free" time appears, finding the reading/writing balance can be a challenge, but it's a challenge I'm ready, willing and able to rise to. 

What are you reading?

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Let's (Not) Go to the Tape

It's here! Know Thyself is now in stock at OSV

Last week at this time, I was agonizing over a video presentation. This week, I'm just a few days away from an actual presentation

The latter makes me much less nervous. I've always assumed it's a matter of familiarity -- as an educator, I'm much more accustomed to speaking in front of a live audience. In addition, I hate how I look on video. I probably look the same in real life, but I can't see myself, so I don't think about it. I only think about sharing the content.

Then yesterday, I was listening to Brené Brown's Dare to Lead. In her "Note from Brené" at the beginning of the book, she talks about the give-and-take of presentations and how she chooses to focus on the people in front of her.

Suddenly, it all made sense.

While a video is me staring back at myself, talking to an imaginary audience and trying to figure out where to look so I'm making eye contact with an invisible viewer, a presentation is interactive. It feels more like an actual conversation. Sure, I'm nervous at the outset, but as I talk and get actual feedback from those in the room with me, it gets easier. Even if the audience is quiet or reserved, there's a sense of actual human contact.

Geralt via Pixabay
So, this Saturday, I'll endeavor to not only engage my audience, but also engage with them. While this isn't new to me, the understanding of why I prefer going live to going to the tape is. And, with any luck, the next time I go to the tape instead of going live, perhaps I'll have a few new lessons to make the process easier.