Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Sprint Plus One

For two years now, I've been trying to sprint with Ramona each day. It's been a fabulous addition to my writing life, with the unexpected benefit of nurturing connections with other writers who are doing the same, and the very much anticipated benefit of squeezing more writing into a full schedule.

My sprints aren't as dedicated as Ramona's -- I'm not a morning person, so the early birds who sprint at 7AM have finished their sprints before I've even started mine. But, I check in late, after I've finished my hour, happy to be part of the group, and motivated by the thread that I know is there even if I haven't yet arrived.

In addition, I'm more loyal in the summer. During the school year, sprints sometimes get edged out by class planning and teaching, both of which require a portion of the same creative energy that I give to my writing. I'm working on finding my balance, but some days the sprints win and other days, it's the classroom stuff.

After spending the weekend at Pennwriters and being reminded that other writers clock their progress, so to speak, in terms of words, not time, I decided that maybe I needed to update my plan. I love my sprints and the sprint crew, so I'm not ready to jump ship.

Still, there are days that I write, but don't "count" my writing as a sprint because of the way I've defined the sprint itself. Blogs, for example, have never been a part of my sprint time, despite the fact that they make up a substantial chunk of my writing time.

After some deliberation, I've decided to combine my sprints with my previous word count system. I used to keep track of words written each day, but once I started sprinting, word counts fell by the wayside. Over at Organizing by STYLE, I'm constantly talking about celebrating small steps and tracking progress, no matter how small, yet, here at home, I was completely dismissing progress that occurred on an almost daily basis. Silly at best and self-defeating at worst, it constituted a flaw in my plan.

So, as so often happens after Pennwriters weekend, I have a new plan. Sprint? Absolutely. Word count? Yep, that too. After all, when a person writes five blogs a week, she ought to "count" them, right?

It's about time to practice what I preach.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Go Forth

After a busy weekend with one foot in the Pennwriters conference and one foot at home (a brief return for photo opps and prom send-off), I feel a bit jumbled this morning. Last week was the hectic lead-up to prom and this week, starting off with deceptive calm, is graduation week. It feels like the start of summer vacation, but important commitments (a final for my daughter, a podcast for me and the impending emotional ceremony on Thursday) say otherwise. Voices from Pennwriters echo in my head, sharing everything from wisdom to criticism to the joyful friendships born of common ground. I want to write about them, but, so far, lack the focus to do so, consumed as I am by all that lies ahead of me this week.

Lying in bed this morning, trying to sort through it all, I opened my email -- delaying the start of the day a bit further -- and found a surprising inspiration in the Morning Offering I subscribe to:
"Go forth and set the world on fire." (St. Ignatius of Loyola)
While I'm certain that St. Ignatius meant it in a spiritual sense, the quote gave me a sense of clarity (not to mention the impetus to actually get out of bed and go forth).

Each of us sets the world on fire in his or her own way. Some days, it's a tiny spark, other days a raging blaze, and occasionally, it's wet matches, but each of us possesses the ability to go forth and set the world ablaze with whatever passion and talent we possess. And on those "wet matches" days, it's important to keep in mind that blazes of glory might still lie ahead, even if we can't even imagine them, let alone see them. And some days, our small sparks are fire starters for the ones we love.

Whatever it means to the rest of us, St. Ignatius's quote is a pretty good way to kick off graduation week. Wishing you a week full of happy sparks.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Friday Feature: So, Busy is Good?
 I'm retired. Sort of. I joke that I retired, but it didn't take, and my friends shake their heads and laughingly comment that I'm busier now than I was when I worked full time.

Officially worked full time, that is. Now, teaching part time, writing part time, publicizing my books and doing the wife/mom thing, I probably work even more hours than I did then. Although I definitely could stand to improve the work/life balance some days, I'm not complaining. I'm busy doing things I love doing.

As it turns out, being busy might just be a good thing, especially for people my age. Whether it's the myriad learning opportunities, the constant exposure to a variety of new ideas or something else entirely, a Texas study shows a positive correlation between busyness and cognitive functioning for people in their fifties -- at least the people in their fifties who participated in the study.

Most days, this person in her fifties feels more busy than smart, but thanks to that study, I like my odds.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Mom Time

Photo: Pixabay
This weekend, I am attempting to have my cake and eat it, too. It's the annual Pennwriters Conference, which I love, but for which I am woefully unprepared. Sure, I've been mentally planning this trip for weeks, but as far as the actual, physical planning? Not so much.

See, this year, the conference coincides with my daughter's last week of high school ever. I thought I'd have a lovely buffer zone between the end of my semester last week and the conference, which starts Friday, but that has not been how things have worked out.

Monday night was the Academic Awards Ceremony, an event so perfume-laden that it rendered me hacking and sofa-bound for a substantial portion of the afternoon yesterday (thanks so much to all who bathed in their fragrance of choice). This put me behind in my preparation for tonight's critique group meeting, not to mention today's blogs, and before I knew it, one day's list was morphing into the next day's and the leftovers were taking over the schedule.

And the schedule itself was a challenge to begin with. The plan was to spend Friday at the conference, drive home Saturday afternoon to be here in time for prom pictures, drive back Saturday night and finish out the conference on Sunday.

Still the plan. Except, as I mentioned before, the leftovers are chasing me. Graduation announcements. Clothing for said ceremony and for the beach trip that follows. Party prep.

It will all get done. Little by little, step by step and in spite of the best-laid plans. It always does, which is why, by this time tomorrow, I will have switched gears. It'll be later than I'd hoped, but it will happen.

I'm going to Pennwriters.

And when I return, I'll need to wade out of the river of denial and approach the graduation that lies on its shores.
But meanwhile, I'm going to Pennwriters.

Monday, May 16, 2016

News to Share!

Because today, the first day of summer break, is not going at all according to plan (maybe it's the fall weather??), I'm posting some news today and returning to my regularly scheduled posts on Wednesday.

I'm very excited to be a part of this project, and can only imagine what Lisa and Sarah went through wrangling more than 80 contributors! I had a lot of fun writing my contributions.

If you scroll down below the cover, you can read what Lisa Hendey, one of the book's editors, has to say about this resource, and find links that will allow you to pre-order it.

Catholic Mom's Prayer Companion

The Catholic Mom's Prayer Companion

For more than fifteen years, the award-winning website has been a trusted source for sound, practical, and spiritual guidance. In their new book, Lisa M. Hendey and Sarah A. Reinhard bring together more than eighty moms, dads, and trusted spiritual companions to provide fresh, uplifting meditations for every day of the year. 

You can pre-order the book from:

Whether or not you decide to order a copy, I hope you'll check it out!

See you Wednesday.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Friday Freebie: The Cost of Not Waiting

Photo: Ashley Schweitzer via Minimography
Last Friday night, my husband and I were discussing ways to reduce our utility bills. Little did we know the answer was much closer at hand than we realized.

The next morning, I came across this piece in the New York Times about just how much the convenience of the immediate power-up we've come to expect from our electronics costs not just us, but the planet.

It was enough to make me go unplug my laptop.

How about you? What will you unplug today?

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Baby Steps and Semantics

On Saturday, I corralled my daughter and made/re-scheduled all of her necessary appointments for the next two weeks (leading up to prom and graduation). With the exception of one appointment where we needed to await a return call, I was able to check those things off my list.

Then, while waiting for laundry, I tackled some piles in the basement, creating a really nice feeling of accomplishment -- at least until I realized it was late afternoon and no writing had taken place.

Monday kicked off my first class-free week (with the exception of a final I'm administering tomorrow) of the summer. Because I didn't have any class preparation to do, I forced myself to do an errand I'd been putting off before making my daily trip to Starbucks. Along the way, I took care of another overdue task -- one that had hung in limbo while I considered possible solutions. That evening, I sorted and cleared some of the paper clutter on the counter in my office. Excited by my progress, I wrote all of these accomplishments on my calendar, hatching a new plan that involved tackling one overdue task each day.

Yesterday? I wrote, had lunch with a friend I hadn't seen in almost a year, graded papers, made dinner, chipped away at the non-creative bits that are part of writing and blog maintenance and took care of things like dinner and laundry. In other words, a normal day, with no bonus tasks.

After I first berated myself, then considered redefining "overdue" (did that lunch "count"?) and finally thought about giving up and chalking Saturday and Monday up to sheer exuberance, I decided I was being silly.

Even as I wrote those tasks on the calendar on Monday, I worried that days would slip by without progress on my new goal. And do you know what that's called?


Any progress toward a goal is good news, whether that progress is step-by-step or in fits and starts. Saturday and Monday lit a fire under me, reminding me that small steps can lead to the desire to do more. I know this is true when it comes to saving money and writing and class planning, and I even write about it (often!) when it comes to organization.

Yet, as soon as I backslide, I forget this.

So...onward. Since I'm a writer and I know that finding the word that captures precisely what I want to say is important, I am going to redefine "overdue." Now that I think about it, the phrase "something I've been meaning to do" more accurately describes the lingering tasks I'm thinking of, without begging the question of how long it has to have been on the list to qualify as "overdue." And now that I mention it, I know exactly what that task du jour is going to be today.

How about you? What have you been meaning to do? Is today the day?