Friday, October 20, 2017

Friday Feature: Time to Waste Some Time

The first year after I retired, I had nothing but time. My schedule, for the first time in my adult life, was of my own making.

A year later, I started teaching again and, in what now seems like the blink of an eye, my hours filled rapidly. Because I enjoy what I do, work quickly -- and frequently -- bled into the evenings and weekends.

Although I'm getting better at reclaiming evenings and weekends, I still struggle sometimes with the sense that I should be doing something more useful with my time.

In her blog in Success, Megan Nicole O'Neal reassures me that I'm not alone. She didn't write it just for me of course, but for all the adults who feel we need to milk every minute of every day.

Maybe, just maybe, we don't. Or, as O'Neal puts it, "...even the most determined flame can’t survive without oxygen."

Remember to waste a little time, for your own good. And, if you see me, remind me to practice what I preach.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

One Thought Leads to Another

Geralt via Pixabay
My poor writing projects just can't catch a break. This week was fall break, and I had two days completely free of teaching responsibilities. (Well, there were those papers I had to grade, but the stack wasn't deep enough to prohibit writing). In addition, my critique group meets tonight, and last week was so busy that I actually missed a blog post completely for the first time...well, ever. So, you'd think I'd get up Monday morning raring to write, or maybe even get a head start over the weekend, right?


I kinda did. I went to see my dad over the early part of the weekend, and actually got some writing done there since he goes to bed earlier than I do. I finished the first draft of a piece that was due Sunday and started Monday's blog post. On Sunday, I finished the article.

But then on Monday morning, I woke up with course stuff running through my head -- mostly the  booklist that was due today.

And that was all it took. My half hour (an hour at the most!) at the computer tracking down articles morphed into a morning hopping from one article to another, posting things on my course pages, planning things for the week ahead....

In short? Not writing.

Part of me feels guilty, but most of me feels blessed. Yes, I know how ridiculous it sounds. But how many people do you know who have not just one, but two jobs they love so much they're all-consuming?

Granted, this is a double-edged sword. But it's also a pretty good life.

Tracking down those articles was fun and the fantastic luxury of hopping from one thing to another without having to stop to do something else was exhilarating. And even though my characters were off somewhere tapping their feet and drumming their nails wondering if I was ever going to show up, the work I was doing benefits them as much as it benefits me.

Writers who live full lives are better able to create rich lives for their characters. And writers who check the things off the lists created by their day jobs, not to mention their friends and families, are better able to give their characters the attention they so richly deserve when they (the writers) finally sit down to write.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it -- at least as long as this wild and crazy life works for me.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Thanks, Mom

Last weekend, I went to visit my dad. It was the beginning of my fall break and so, for the first time since Labor Day, I could actually make an overnight visit and just hang out instead of making a quick day trip. We shared a meal at his favorite diner and just hung out watching TV and chatting on Friday night. It was quiet and comfortable, and I was glad I was there.

After he went to bed (long before my night owl bedtime arrived), I pulled out my laptop to work on a piece due this week. It had been a long week and I was drawing a big blank. I pulled out the rough draft I'd started, and discovered I had no interest in finishing it.

So I went into the living room for a little Momspiration.

It was kind of silly because I'd spent the evening sitting in my mom's chair in the TV room, but for a number of reasons (including the furniture I was sitting on), the living room feels like the Mom Zone.
I pulled out my list of potential topics and chose one that inspired me a bit more than my initial draft.

And the words came.

Maybe it was me, maybe it was her, maybe it was the two of us together. Maybe it was the furniture. Whatever it was, I created a decent first draft in under half an hour.

Yeah. It was her. Sitting with me, having my back, and having faith that, deadline or no deadline, I had this. Just like always.

Thanks, Mom. I miss you, but clearly, I still know where to find you when I need you.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Friday Feature: Who Betrayed Anne Frank?

My husband and daughter are the history buffs at my house. We make a pretty impressive Trivial Pursuit team, with them tackling history and geography, me tackling arts and literature and entertainment and a shared attack on science and nature. In the genus edition, sports is up for grabs, as most of the questions predate our family expert (my daughter).

Periodically, though, nearly all of these categories come together in one news story. Though I'm not a history buff, I've been intrigued by Anne Frank's story from the time I read it when I was about the age of the author. This story in Smithsonian magazine, which brings twenty-first technology to the resolution of a seven decades old mystery (who betrayed the Frank family), is like Agatha Christie (another author I was reading The Diary of a Young Girl) meets NCIS.

Can we really use a bank of data so immense no human could sort through it in a lifetime to solve a World War II mystery? I have no idea, but I find the concept as intriguing as Anne Frank herself.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Which Character Are You?

I make no secret of the fact that my characters run the show. They have ideas and opinions, and most of my cool plot twists arise from what-ifs that they inspire. 

Three years ago, I created a short, unscientific quiz to help readers figure out which character from Casting the First Stone and Chasing a Second Chance they're most like. I came across it today, and thought I'd share it again for those who hadn't seen it the first time.

As for me, I already know there's a little bit of me in all of my characters. As an author, it's unavoidable.

Have fun!

Choose the answer for each question that’s most like you, then scroll down to see who you are!

1. Family….

a) is everything. 
b) is no more important than any other group of people.  
c) can be really annoying at times. 
d) is a group of people for whom you are responsible.
e) is fine as long as the people in it don’t try to run your life. 

2. Friends….

a) are the next-best thing to family
b) are the family you choose for yourself. 
c) don’t always understand you even though they try. 
d) are useful at times. 
e) are the ones you can really count on.

3. Church…

a) is a place where friends, family and faith come together. 
b) has no place in my life.
c) can be cool. 
d) is required on Sundays. 
e) isn’t all bad.


4. Babies…

a) are a gift from heaven.
b) are way too much work. 
c) mess everything up. 
d) make everyone happy. 
e) turn into teenagers.

5. Christmas....

a) is first and foremost a celebration of our Savior's birth
b) equals celebration! 
c) used to be my favorite holiday 
d) should be a vacation day for everyone.
e) means decorating and cookies and wrapping presents. 

Scroll down for scoring.....

How’d you score?

Mostly A’s? You’re Angel. Marriage, family and traditional values are the backbone of your life, and you’ll do whatever’s necessary to stand up for what’s right, especially when it involves someone you love.

Mostly B’s? You’re Bets. Boyfriends and fun are important, but friends are essential. You’re loyal to those you love, which may or may not include your family, and you’ve seen enough to be wary of both church and tradition. There’s a reason they call marriage an institution, after all. 

Mostly C’s? You’re Charli. Level-headed, but still emotional, you often feel torn between your head and your heart. You don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but you don’t like people pushing you around, either. You often wish life wasn’t so complicated.

Mostly D’s? You’re Jim. There’s right and there’s wrong and there’s rarely any in-between. You’re loyal to the people you love, but practical enough to know they’re imperfect and can complicate your life if you let them. You do what you have to do, knowing it won’t always make you popular. And you’re okay with that.

Mostly E’s? You’re Marita. Feisty and fiercely protective, you know what your priorities are, even if you get them confused sometimes. The traditions you grew up with are still rooted in your heart, but you have no qualms about following a different path if you think it will lead you in a better direction.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Miss Her More

When both of her kids stayed in Pennsylvania after attending college there, my mom adjusted. She fell into a routine of not seeing us, remaining connected via phone calls and visits. The former were at least as frequent as they'd been when we were in college, the latter less so. Still, we stayed close, chatting often about both trivia and events of significance. Last fall, we talked a lot about the impending election and, though I miss my mom tremendously, I'm glad she's not here to see the aftermath.

But I digress.

It was the visits that got her. She always said she was fine with us being away until we came to visit and then, when we left, she missed us all over again.

I thought I got it then, but I really get it now.

On Friday, I was so excited about my daughter coming home for the weekend that I posted my Friday Feature on the wrong blog (at least that's the excuse I'm using). When I picked her up at the train station, it took all of twenty seconds for everything to feel as though she'd never left, and then, almost as quickly, it was time for her to leave again. A seasoned traveler now, she said her goodbyes in the parking lot before walking off into the station to board the train.

Today, the house is very quiet. That's not entirely bad, as Mondays are a work-at-home day for me for much of the day and I concentrate better in the absence of distractions. Still, there's a difference between quiet and occupied and quiet and unoccupied. Even though I've grown accustomed to the latter and have even built my schedule around it, I'd trade it for the former any time, even if only for a weekend.

We'll see her again at Thanksgiving, and I'm already looking forward to it. We texted back and forth this morning -- a luxury that makes this whole away at college thing easier than it ever was for my parents -- re-establishing the empty nest at home/young adult at school dynamic.

All of this begs a question: if I could change things and have her closer to home, or living here full-time, would I?

I would not.

idamkilde via Pixabay
I'm proud of the person she is becoming, and grateful to have a child with whom I truly want to spend time. I love it when she's home, but when she's not it's because she is doing exactly what we raised her to do: spreading her wings, becoming her own person, relying on us when she wants to instead of because she has to. She has done her job; she has entertained us, challenged us and rounded out our family. Now, it's time for her to leave us to our own devices, trusting that we'll be just fine and our empty nest will always have plenty of room for her.

And, as you can probably guess, she is safe in that assumption.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Saturday Special: My Misplaced Friday Feature

Here's one way to know you might be just a tad distracted or overextended: you write a blog post and put it up on the wrong blog! This post appeared in a timely fashion yesterday...on my Organizing by STYLE blog!

I blame it on Mom excitement. Knowing my daughter was coming home for the weekend, I planned out my Friday schedule to include all the usual stuff and all the necessary preparations. Clearly my focus was split.

I don't blame it on age or stupidity or ineptitude for a variety of reasons...but for the most important one, read on!

Do you talk to yourself? As it turns out, that might not be a bad thing. Founder and CEO of WordSmithRapport Karima Mariama-Arthur cites self-talk as one of the "5 Things You Need for a Successful Mindset."

Not just any self-talk, though. Mariama-Arthur echoes the sentiments of therapists everywhere when she encourages readers to make that self-talk positive, as its accumulation contributes to our sense of who we are. The conversations we have with ourselves -- internally and externally -- lay the foundation for so much more than day-to-day decisions; they can set us on the path to achieving the things that matter.

What will you tell yourself today?