Monday, July 13, 2020

No Sand in my Shoes

Photo credit: Steve Hess
On Friday, I said goodbye to the screened-in porch at the beach, but I brought one more beach post 
home with me. :-)

Today is a perfect beach day but I'm spending it on the screened-in porch where everyone in Lower Delaware who's not family is way more than six feet away from me. What was a perfect porch morning is becoming a tad warm for my taste as the day wears on, but it's July. That's as it should be.

I love it out here, as long-time readers already know. And today, when I close my eyes and there are no cars on the road behind the condo, it's almost like I'm on the beach. I miss the sound of the ocean, but the rest of the elements are there -- a nice, warm breeze, the sounds of birds and a blue sky full of cottony clouds. 

I've never come to the shore in the summer and not gone onto the beach, but this summer, masking up and stressing over how far away the next closest non-blood relative was sitting didn't seem worth the effort. And, on days like today, when I sit on the porch and close my eyes, I have all of the benefits without oppressive heat or a single grain of sand. 

My husband goes to the beach early every morning, but I'm not a morning person, especially on vacation. By the time I'm ready to hit the sand, so is everyone else. This year, the beach was still pretty crowded well past 6:00 one evening, something I don't remember being the case in previous summers.

Although I know it sounds strange to say I went to the beach but never went on the beach, I have no regrets. We stayed twice as long as usual this year, and the trip was relaxing, just as a vacation ought to be.  I did a little bit of everything on my list at my own pace, doing what I wanted when I wanted, and I needed neither sun nor surf to accomplish that. 

The older I get, the more I appreciate the rhythm of days unspoiled by expectations and appointments, whether at home or away from home. (The not cooking part isn't too bad either). I care less about what other people think a vacation should be than I did when I was younger, and more about whether or not I have, by my own definition, made the most of my time away.

This trip, although colored by COVID, has been different, but we knew it would be. If anything, we felt lucky to be away, even if that meant foregoing some of our usual vacation pleasures. For my husband, a trip to the beach isn't complete unless it includes a trip to the actual beach. As for me, though I enjoy my days under the umbrella, all I really need is a screened-in porch.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Friday Feature: Toxic Positivity

I'm a big fan of positive psychology. I love the concept of expanding on what's right instead of focusing what's wrong. 

But the truth is, we need both. Life is not always rosy and sometimes we need to acknowledge the bad in order to get to the good. In other words, we really can have too much of a good thing. But, up until yesterday, I never knew there was a name for it.

Toxic positivity.

Toxic positivity is in evidence when we focus so insistently on the good that we fail to acknowledge any down side to a situation, or even to life itself. According to an article in the Huffington Post by Brittany Wong, toxic positivity is rising during the pandemic in which we find ourselves fueled, in part, by social media posts that tell us if we're not seeing time at home and social distancing as opportunities for self-improvement, then we're doing it wrong. 

But humans aren't machines, and failing to acknowledge sadness, loss and fear doesn't make those feelings go away, nor does sweeping them under the carpet with the broom of productivity or vacuuming them up with a positive attitude.

It's essential that we recognize that sadness and fear are a part of the human condition, something that no reputable positive psychologist would dispute. Productivity and positive attitudes can be tools in coping with those emotions if we use them to keep ourselves from descending into a dark place and taking up residence there, but they aren't a cure. And, when we use these tools to shove our feelings into a closet and lock them away, that's toxic. The feelings aren't gone; they're just locked behind a door waiting to accost us when we turn the knob and release them.

Life is complicated. We are complicated. We are good and bad, happy and sad, light and darkness. Our goal should be to acknowledge and come to terms with both sides of our complex selves and find a balance between them. Only then can we build the resilience that is necessary to hold on to mental health in a time that threatens to rob us of it. 

At least that's what I think.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Way Back Wednesday: Beach Pages

It's time to step away from the computer since I'm supposed to be on vacation, so I'm sharing this post from two years ago, in honor of the Beach Pages journal I forgot to pack for this trip.

On Monday night, I found my Beach Pages journal, right where I expected to: on the back wall at Browseabout Books in Rehoboth Beach. Yesterday morning, I cracked it open, ready to write. The imprint inside announced it was published by Peter Pauper Press, a family press founded on the mission of creating "fine books that sold at 'prices even a pauper could afford.'" I made a mental note to check out the publisher and put the date on the first page.

Beach Pages, such a simple idea in theory, proved a little more challenging in execution. I was breaking in my new book not on the beach, but on the screened-in porch, which seemed appropriate  in its own way, if devoid of direct beach inspiration. It was good, in a way, as this pretty new book from Peter Pauper Press was protected, on its first day at least, from ocean breezes that whip the pages around as I write and the sea spray that curls them.

Yeah. No pressure here.
In retrospect, that little bit about the publisher in the front of the journal didn't make the task of filling blank pages any easier. The inspiration that had drifted in on the waves at the beach drifted back out again, intimidated by pretty covers and publisher names the where-is-this-going/what do you mean where-is-this-going-I-thought-we-were-just-having-fun duality that stymies many a relationship. What was I supposed to write about? Was this really a "good use of my time"? Was it okay to just be casual about this lovely book when it had the potential to be so much more?

But, by the end of my hour, I'd broken the book in and established a sense of what I want these pages to be. Reminding myself that the only rule was to "just write," I stumbled a few times, then found my stride.

Just like any other kind of writing.

Along the way, I discovered there's a process at work, even in Beach Pages. I use this word a lot when I write about organization, emphasizing that any progress is just that -- progress. Committing to an hour for my Beach Pages meant that there would likely be warm-up time, productive time and staring-into-space time. Sticking to the hour through the warm-up time and the staring-into-space time was the only thing that would get me to the productive time.

Just like any other kind of writing.

Quangpraha via Pixabay
Process popped up in another way, too -- as a verb. After burrowing into my writing tunnel, I need some time, when I emerge, to think about what it all means. When I closed the book today, my mind was still spinning, so I set a timer for five minutes and closed my eyes, just concentrating on my breathing and letting thoughts come and go (thank you, Headspace). The most insistent thoughts -- summaries, really -- warranted opening my eyes and jotting them down and suddenly I'd created a brief summary of contents.

Huh. That wasn't part of the plan. But apparently it's part of the process.

Can't wait to see what tomorrow brings.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Something New

I often spend some time over the summer playing with my blog design, adding and subtracting things. Yesterday, I did just that and I wanted to call your attention to the new addition.

On my Facebook writer page, I feature the opening to two of my books (more to come!), and so I've added a "Listen Here" tab to the top of this page so you can find those videos if you're interested.

Happy listening! 

Monday, July 6, 2020

6 Things Keeping Me Busy

annca via Pixabay
This year, we had the luxury of two weeks at the beach. COVID put a crimp in our plans, but we opted to go anyway, socially distancing from a condo at the beach instead of from our home in Pennsylvania. Trips outside the condo complex have been mostly limited to procuring supplies and, as of the beginning of week two, I've yet to make it to the beach, but it has been one of the most relaxing vacations I can remember.

I packed for a staycation, and have been quietly filling my days, with little desire to leave the screened-in porch that is my happy place (at least until I opt for air conditioning midday).

What on earth am I doing?
  1. Reading. I packed my Kindle, some magazines, and one hardcover book I intend to finish before returning home. And there's always stuff to read online.
  2. Revising. I am in the home stretch for incorporating my copy editor (a.k.a. my sister)'s comments into the third Marita/Angel/Charli book, bringing it one step closer to actual publication.
  3. Blogging. Though it's sometimes a challenge to remember what day it is, I'm sticking to my usual blogging schedule. 
  4. Sketchnoting. I started playing with this before leaving for vacation, and made sure to pack my journal and my markers. In addition, I'm using the techniques to plot out new ideas and cull the key ideas of books -- actual sketchnoting!
  5. Inbox reduction. This fell by the wayside (I am on vacation, after all!) but when I checked after only a few days of not doing it and realized how many hundreds of emails I had to get rid of just to get to my previous baseline, I quickly decided to get back on top of things. 
  6. Brushing up on my French skills online. In addition to finding fun sketchnoting videos in my work inbox, I also found Duolingo and am having a great time sharpening long-dormant skills. I briefly tried Spanish, and may go back to it, but, for now, I'm sticking with the language I love best. 
One thing I'm doing less of than usual is writing. I brought my notebooks along but haven't made much headway. I feel a twinge of guilt about this from time to time but, as long as I'm working on my revisions, I'm keeping writing in the mix.

One other thing I'm not doing? Cooking.

And I feel nothing akin to a twinge of guilt about that.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Friday Feature: A Serialized (Free) Read from Barnes and Noble

I love it when something old is made new again. Though I'm too young to have experienced serialized books, I have heard of them and so, when I read that Barnes and Noble was offering serialized reads for free on its Nook app, I jumped right in.

To be honest, my Nook app doesn't get much attention. It's unfair, really, since it has a nice, clean interface and offers a wide variety of e-books which, when purchased, can help to keep an actual brick-and-mortar bookstore in business.

But this idea had me seeking out my long-neglected Nook app. This month's feature is a mystery: A Death at Eastwick by L. C. Warman. I've read two of the six chapters that have been released as of this writing, and I'm looking forward to reading more.

I kind of like the idea of reading in installments but, even more, I like this new twist on an old favorite. It had exactly the effect (I suspect) Barnes and Noble wanted it to have: I re-discovered my Nook app and found new-to-me features that I'm looking forward to exploring. And, as far as the author is concerned,  since A Death at Eastwick is the first in a series, perhaps readers will go on to buy the other books.

Well-played, Barnes and Noble. And thanks for the free read. :-)