Friday, July 13, 2018

Friday Feature: Should You Kiss Your Digital Diet Goodbye?

How many times a day do you check your phone? E-mail? Social media? Here in the U.S., we check our phones close to 50 times a day -- and that statistic comes from combining age groups. In addition, 90% of employees admit to checking social media at work.

Is eliminating social media the only option?

Not so fast. In his Inc. piece, "Will Deleting Social Media Make You More Productive?" Larry Alton looks at the pros and cons of this drastic measure. While few of us would be surprised by the potential pros (better sleep, better mental health, more time), it's easy to overlook the cons, particularly on a day where we feel particularly tethered to our devices. And, for many of us, stepping away completely isn't an option.

Before you read this piece, take a moment to consider your own habits. Who's in control -- you or your device? Keeping that information and your personal media habits in mind can help you read more objectively and determine a course of action (ditch it all? take one small step? do nothing?) that's a good fit for you in our media-dependent culture. While I'm pretty good at staying off electronics during meals and denying my apps the pleasure of notifying me every time something happens, I'm not so good at shutting electronics down at a reasonable hour.

One thing that Alton makes clear in this piece is that our use of social media isn't merely a bad habit. Because social media has benefits as well as drawbacks, the key here, as with so many other things, is to make sure social media serves us and not the other way around.

So, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to show my phone who's boss.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Me and My Satellite Office

StartupStockPhotos via Pixabay
Honestly, sometimes preparing to write off-site is like packing for a trip. Computer? Check. Charger? Check. Music and earbuds? Check. Mouse? Check. Folder/notes? Check.

By the time I finish packing my bag to leave the house, I probably could've written the equivalent of a page. Double that by the time I unpack all those goodies at Starbucks, or wherever else I've designated as my satellite office for the day.

Given all of the time and trouble involved, why not just stay home? Sometimes, I just need a change of scenery. Being in the same place for too long can put me into a rut, both physically and creatively, so much so that the words don't flow -- or show up at all. I try moving from room to room, working in my office, or the family room or at the dining room table, especially when no one is home, and some days this works.

But other days, home brings distractions, even when no one else is there. When I'm staring at my computer, drawing a blank, all of the household chores I've neglected suddenly look fascinating. Whether it's dishes, laundry or At times, this is a good thing. Last night, for example, I was trying to force myself through a writing sprint when I hit a wall. More than half of my time had ticked away, so I knew I could finish, but I seemed to be reading the same paragraph over and over, still dissatisfied with its contents. Staying put seemed to be the responsible thing to do, but it wasn't the productive thing to do.

I needed to move.

I went upstairs, changed the sheets on the bed then got back to work.

Huh. Whaddaya know? That paragraph wasn't so bad after all.

Does it work, this switching of tasks and locations? Sometimes. If the break is short and defined (I'm going to spend ten minutes doing this particular thing), it can be just what I need to wake up the muse. If the place I go to get work done is quiet and I don't run into anyone I know, I can get a lot done. One of the reasons I often go to my local Starbucks to work is that I've learned its rhythms. There are certain times of day when I'm unlikely to find a table and/or enough peace and quiet to get anything accomplished, but if I hit a quiet time, running away from home with my laptop and accoutrements is a good strategy. I've written entire sections of novels as well as numerous blogs at Starbucks some days while on other days, I've gotten absolutely nothing accomplished.

When the timing and planning work out, the change of scenery and the escape from the distractions that call out to me make packing my stuff and taking my chances worth the time and effort required. Fueled by movement, the muse and a dose of caffeine, my characters and I can expend our energies tackling the conflict on the page instead of the distractions outside the story.

mohamed hassan via Pixabay

Monday, July 9, 2018

Merry Christmas in July!

For the past two years, I've hosted a Christmas in July Facebook party. It was a fun way to interact with new people, introduce Marita, Angel, Charli and company and dig a little deeper into who they are and what makes them tick. As an added bonus, I made the Kindle copy of Chasing a Second Chance (the sequel to Casting the First Stone, which takes place in the weeks leading up to Christmas) free on July 25.

This year, I'm trying something different. For the next sixteen days, I'll be counting down to Christmas in July on Facebook and Twitter. Each day will bring a new message, game/survey, information about the characters and/or teasers for book 3, which is (still) in the works (and still untitled!)

Then, on July 25, I'll give away a goodie bag to someone who's been engaging with my posts. In addition, the Kindle copy of Chasing a Second Chance will once again be free from midnight PDT on July 25 to midnight PDT on July 26. If you have some ideas for what you'd like to see in that goodie bag (that I'm still putting together), leave me a comment below this post. All ideas are welcome, but the actual contents of the prize will be at the discretion of the goodie bag maker :-)

How will this work? To enter to win the giveaway goodie bag, follow me on Facebook and/or on Twitter (@L2Hess) or engage with any #ChristmasinJuly post. To engage, like or comment on any #ChristmasinJuly post on Facebook, and/or retweet it or reply to it on  Twitter. You can only follow me once, but each engagement or retweet of a #ChristmasinJuly post counts as an entry. Not sure if you're looking at an eligible post? Look for the graphic above and/or #ChristmasinJuly at the end of the post. Enter once or enter a lot -- the more you enter, the better your chances! And, even if you don't win, you can always collect a free copy of Chasing a Second Chance on July 25. Read it already? Consider gifting it to a friend. (It's free, after all!)

Since Bets is Marita's #1 partner in crime, it seemed only right to have her kick off day #1.
Bets has stood by Marita, no matter the escapade (although Bets is usually the escapade instigator!) Check out 6 Questions from the Porch Swing for Marita’s BFF to find out more about Bets.

Let's play!

Friday, July 6, 2018

Friday Feature: A Roadmap for Couples in Retirement

Six years ago, I retired. I was 51 years old, my daughter was just entering high school and my husband was still working full time.

It was an adjustment, especially since my first year was a limbo year. Retiring at 51 meant exiting my primary profession, but it didn't mean leaving the work force entirely. Since I hadn't stepped out of one job and into another, however, I had a lot of figuring out to do and, suddenly, plenty of time in which to do that. For a while, my husband and my daughter maintained their schedules while I tried to carve out a new one for myself and to figure out who I was now that I'd left my career behind.

These days, I'm firmly ensconced in my second career and very happy where I am. At some point, though, I will retire for real and so will my husband. My daughter, now a college student, will be on her own, making us empty nesters for real. It will be transition time again.

In her Next Avenue article, "An Emotional Playbook for Couples in Retirement," Joan Fischer acknowledges the challenges of this transition, and offers some suggestions for navigating it. Sure, it's supposed to be a time to relax and have fun, free from the entanglements of a work life, but it's also an entirely new way of life. Schedules change. Priorities change. We change.

Fischer's article is worth a read for empty nesters, too. It's so easy to assume we should just know how to do this and that it all should be fun and games as our responsibilities fade away and we have time for ourselves. But, as Fischer says, "Most of us don’t blithely stumble into marriage or childbirth, perhaps because those transitions carry so many obvious red flags."

If we prepare financially for these transitions, why not prepare emotionally too? Acknowledging the enormity of the change is the first step, and Fischer's practical suggestions offer guidance in navigating the new terrain.

What are you looking forward to in retirement? Why not take some steps in that direction now?

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Darkness and Light

The other night, my daughter sent me photos of fireworks she'd attended. They were beautiful, and fun to watch, but when the music came on behind one of the displays, I had to turn the volume down. The song?

Proud to Be an American.

Right now, I'm not proud to be an American. I'm horrified by what our country has become, by what so many think is okay to say, to do, to profess. 

And I'm afraid of what lies ahead. 

Since I have no words of wisdom or inspiration on this particular 4th of July, I'd like to offer up a patriotic song of my own, one that seeks the only kind of assistance I think can turn things around. 

God bless America
Land that I love

Stand beside her 
And guide her
Through the night with the light from above.*

As for me, I'm going to try to take my inspiration from those fireworks, and do my best to be a light in the darkness, whether by spreading optimism or information. 

And, like the fireworks I have no intention of doing it quietly.

Happy Fourth of July. Let's make our country a place we all want to celebrate.

*Lyrics: Irving Berlin

Monday, July 2, 2018

Revisiting Professor Petrillo

As my summer class draws to a close, I'm discovering that the end-of-semester crunch isn't unique to fall and spring semesters...nor is the sense of being "done" that arises just before the class officially ends. The last two Mondays, it has been challenging to get my students to rise to the occasion.

My motivation, too, is slipping and, today, I did a great job of upping my play ratio, but not such a great job of getting to everything on my list. So, tonight, as I post this with less than an hour left in Monday, I'm sharing a prior post. This one first appeared in November 2017.

It has taken me a while to determine my professor persona. I went in as a stock character -- who I thought a professor ought to be -- and it took me a few semesters to settle into the role. Now, I am comfortable (for the most part) with the role I play and the expectations I set.

Then this morning, I made a connection. I'm Sophia Petrillo.

Okay, so Sophia wasn't an instructor and I'm not 80-something. But, picture it -- a college classroom somewhere nearby. An instructor who's feisty. Honest. Possessed of an adventurous spirit and aware of her age, but unwilling to let it slow her down. Passionate about the people and things who matter to her, and the first one to tell them when they're resting on their laurels, but also willing to lend an ear (and some humorous advice) when the need arises.

Wouldn't you sign up for her class?

Sure, Sophia's a little over the top; she is a television character, after all. But, when it comes to personality traits, she possesses quite a few that are worth emulating. And this morning, my concern for an underperforming student was what led me in Sophia's direction.

As an actual instructor, I might need to dial back the Sophia humor and use a more deft touch with those in need of a nudge in the right direction, but a small dose of both of those traits can go a long way when it comes to establishing connections with students and pointing them in the right direction. Sophia was passion, wisdom and tough love packed into a compact package.

My students could do a lot worse.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Friday Feature: Need a Little Inspiration?

I have a love-hate relationship with the news. I keep watching it and taking it in through various other media, like Facebook and Twitter, because I feel as though I should be an informed citizen.

But, much of the time, I hate what I'm seeing and hearing. And the price that I pay for being informed is sometimes too high. Fear. Anger. Lingering messages from unlikely sources.

I had something else chosen for my Friday Feature this week, but this morning, I just felt the need to go a different way, so I kept looking. When I stumbled onto the "10 Most Inspiring College Commencement Speeches," I knew I'd hit my mark.

I'll be honest. I haven't watched them all, so I can't attest to their degrees of inspiration. But I determined that even a little inspiration had to be a good thing, and so I'm posting this anyway, in the hope that at least one will inspire. If it turns out they don't deliver on their promise, we can always do what I should perhaps do with the news more often.

Turn it off and turn to something else.

Along those lines, I will offer an alternative -- and this one I've tested. If you haven't yet seen James Corden's Carpool Karaoke with Sir Paul McCartney, take a look.

It definitely got my day off to the right start.

Have a great weekend.