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Moving Day and Other Big News

17 Nov

Today is a big day in my little world. Today I am launching a new blog called Where Karen Goes. I am also launching a new book called Happiest Holidays. it isn’t live yet, but I’ll be posting on Where Karen Goes as soon as it is. It’s a lot to take in, and I’ve been overwhelmed more than once, but sometimes when the only thing that keeps you from drowning is swimming, you swim. It feels different this time, though, for both the blog and the book. When I launched my first blog I was terrified because I had no idea if anyone would care to read what I wrote or would like it. Fortunately some people did. The same holds true for the books. The first two felt like a piece of my soul was put on display, and I was petrified that people would hate it, but they didn’t. This time while based on my experience and learning over the past 25 years it is much less personal. I have loved writing all three books and sharing on the blog, but someone else bought the domain name for this blog, so if I am going to be the professional I aspire to be, it’s time to move on, and today’s the day. This will be my last post on this site. All new material will be on the new site that you can follow by clicking here. The site is still under construction, but it’s live and I can post there, so here we go.  It has been my pleasure to share with you, and I hope you’ll move with me. If not, I’ve enjoyed the ride, wish you well and hope we cross paths again sometime. As always, thanks for being you and have a great day.

I Wish Someone Would Pay Me

27 Oct

i-wish-someone-would-pay-me

Recently one of my favorite bloggers, Shalagh Hogan, wrote a piece about what she wished people would pay her for and I found it fun and fascinating. I replied with the following:

I wish people would pay me to travel.
I wish people would pay me to write books that help people live happier lives.
I wish people would pay me to tell them they are special and wonderful and important in this world.
I wish people would pay me to make them soup or cookies or cupcakes or anything that soothes their soul.
I wish people would pay me to read blogs and books and poetry and look at the art my friends create.
This could go on for a very long while. Thanks for sharing.

Right after reading this post, I also read a passage in Living Well, Spending Less by Ruth Soukup that talked about the sweet spot in your life where your talents and abilities meet your passion. I talk about the sweet spot of your home being that place that, once you get it under control, the rest of the house seems to follow. For those who haven’t found it yet, let me assure you it’s there, and when you do find it, it’s like magic.

The thing is I love doing everything I put on that list and that is wonderful. Even more wonderful is that I’m finding ways to get paid to do the things I love and will be unveiling some new, fun things in the very near future. The thing about a fantastic life is getting paid to do the things you would do for free anyway. I’ve written for free for years, so getting paid to write books is a joyful bonus. I’ve finished and uploaded the Happiest Holidays book, so I’m just waiting for the editor to look it over who also happens to be the graphic artist that will be designing the cover. I’m excited and nervous as I’ve been with each of the other books, but I have let go of the negative voice in my head that worries that it’s crap and no one will read it because even if that happens, life will go on.

I was so excited about my first book that I bought dozens of copies to give away, and very few of the spines were even cracked. The second book I spent lots of money to have help getting it to market and the promotion that was supposed to happen on its release date got messed up. I was supposed to have a google hangout that never happened, and I felt like I had failed miserably because the person I worked with is well known for helping her clients become best-selling authors. She believes I was one of those people, but no one thought to get a screen shot of that. So, I could call myself a failure if I choose to, and others have, but none of them have done what I did. The ones who criticize are not the ones who have written books and put themselves out there. They do not understand the work that goes into even a 100 page e-book. They haven’t been through the editing and layout process, not to mention the marketing. That seems to be where it all happens. If you market well, you can sell anything, even a crap book. If you market poorly, you can’t sell a masterpiece. It’s daunting and scary, and the process can bring you to your knees emotionally.

People you think are your supporters laugh behind your back, sometimes loud enough for you to hear. People write things about you that hurt. As if a writer doesn’t ask themselves 1,000 times, “who am I to think I can write a book?” Others seem to delight in asking that very same question, but here’s my take on the whole thing. With the first book, I was sure they were right. I thought I was nuts to write a book about parenting. Who was I to do such a thing when my own children weren’t completely grown? With my second book someone wrote something nasty comparing me with another author who is a wonderful, bestselling author who has well researched topics and degrees behind their name. It hurt, but it made me think about why I write the books I do because you see, I’ve found my sweet spot. I am a storyteller, but not necessarily of the fictional world. I’ve loved biographies since I was a child and read every single one of the ones in my elementary library. When I realized that, I also remembered some family members who had told me that when I was much younger that I could tell a great story. At the time, I thought they might have been teasing me, but I know now that I do tell a good story. Not only do I love telling them, but I also love to share them through the books I write and the blogs that I post. Often they’re my own story because that’s what I know best, and I hope all the things I learn will lighten someone else’s load, but that’s who I am and what I am, and I am liking that person more and more.

So, what do you wish someone would pay you to do? Are you doing it for free? Maybe you love cameras and wish you could get paid to take photos. Maybe you are creative and wish people would pay you for what you create. Maybe you can cook and wish people would pay you for your culinary skills. Guess what? They will if you figure out a way to make it happen. Have I been paid to write, cook and create? Yes, I have. Is it enough to make a living? Not yet, but as I’m learning about the creative industry, I’m finding more and more people who are. It’s exciting and fun and who knows where it will lead. Right now it’s leading me to create a new blog page that will bring several things I love to do under one umbrella. I’m excited about the possibilities, and I’m hoping to share it with you by this time next week. Until then, enjoy what’s left of October, and if you celebrate the day I wish you a Happy Halloween, and even though it’s already sneaking in, prepare yourself for the holiday onslaught to follow. As always, thanks for being you and have a great day!

Yes No and Maybe

20 Oct

10403387_10153084432873366_5861144938281823701_nEvery day we ask ourselves questions, and we give answers too. Some days you ask why in Heaven’s name did I do that? You answer, “Because you’re an idiot.” Some days you ask yourself if you’re stupid and you answer yes. Some days you ask if you can do anything right and you answer no. You can beat yourself up daily with the questions that you ask, and I was incredibly proficient at that when I was younger. Truth be told, I can still go down that road on occasion, especially when I’m stressed and under-slept and over-committed. Last week was definitely one of those weeks. I was feeling stressed because the book wasn’t finished. We were getting to bed late and because we were tired, we had a difficult time dragging ourselves off the couch. We had medical appointments, volunteer meetings and a little matter of making sure the family was eating every day. It seemed overwhelming and the creativity was sluggish at best. This week is different, all because of a few things we’re doing differently. This week we are more aware and making better conscious decisions.

Last week we were getting to bed late. We watched too much TV, and most of it was stuff we didn’t even like that much. We were on the screen too much avoiding the things that would make our life better because it didn’t seem like fun. I could go on, but you get the picture. This week we changed just a few things and the results have been amazing. We have turned the TV off by 9pm every night, which means we have been to bed earlier. Let me tell you something; this girl functions much better on 7 hours of sleep per night than six or six and a half.

This weekend I volunteered ten hours on Saturday and nine hours on Sunday at something called Wordcamp. It was exhausting and thrilling and scary because although I’ve been blogging for a long time, I have recently decided that blogging and writing are what I would like to do for my profession, and I have so much to learn. I can be certain that I won’t be a developer who helps people set up websites and blogs, but there is still so much technology out there to help people who write for a living and the ones who are the most successful have found programs that help them every step of the way. It was overwhelming at times, but if you are thinking about blogging or want to set up a website, I highly recommend that you attend a Wordcamp weekend. They are only $20 per day and range from one to three days. The networking alone is worth more than that.

The biggest revelation for me came on the Monday morning after Wordcamp ended. It was an exhausting weekend. The house was not in the greatest of shape. My youngest had no school and had someone coming over late morning. In days past, I would have slept poorly, probably after staying late fretting and fussing about the house and at my family, and I would have awakened stressed because of all I thought I needed to do to prepare for the day, the week and the guest. Happily, I went to bed before 10pm because I was tired and my husband was even more tired from having to work all weekend as well. I slept like a baby, slept much longer than I normally do and actually began writing this post because I thought it was important information to share.

I’m calm. I’m ready to face the day and the week. I have goals I want to accomplish, including finishing the current holiday book and beginning to transcribe an interview for another book. Years past would have brought me to my knees for days from exhaustion, which would have been amplified by complaining that I was the only one who did anything around my house and feeling like a complete martyr. This time, I’ve caught up on my sleep and made a plan to eat healthy this week to recover from eating foods this weekend that aren’t the best for me. I may or may not accomplish all I hope to accomplish, but whatever I do accomplish will be because I choose to and not only do I choose to, I want to, and that was a huge revelation to me too. In the past, I’ve done the laundry because I felt like it had to be done. I’ve cleaned the floors and picked up around the house for the same reason. It’s also probably why I’ve struggled so much with making time to write and create. It didn’t have to be done. It was extra-curricular and since I wasn’t finishing the curricular parts of my life, how could I justify doing the extra? It was an unhealthy cycle to say the least.

Now I see things differently. I want to do the laundry, clean up the house and clear the decks because I can think clearer without those tasks hanging over my head. It removes the excuses to creating and makes me feel great in the process. Does it help that I could sleep in for an hour because my son didn’t have school? Yes it did, but knowing that with a little effort and focus, I can have the house and laundry whipped into shape enough to have a guest in the clean but far from perfect house and be able to write for a few hours is priceless to me. Someone asked me what kind of blog I have this weekend, and I struggled to describe what I share. Many people assume I’m a mom blogger because I learn from being a mom, but this weekend I think I’ve figured out that my blog is very much like my life. It’s eclectic and different. It’s a mix of lifestyle and spirituality with a little adhd thrown in because that is my life. It’s about learning to become a better version of myself and forgiving myself when I fall short of my own expectations. It’s about a woman who is traveling through life and hopes to travel more through the world as she shares the journey and its wonderful and sometimes not so wonderful revelations. I attempt to be honest and fairly transparent because that is who I am as a person. I have some private struggles I choose to keep private for my sake and the sake of those involved, but in general, I’m pretty much of an open book because I don’t know any other way to be. That has gotten me into some big trouble in my life, but is it enough that I want to change that about myself? No, it isn’t. I love my life, most days, and I love the people in it, even when I occasionally don’t like them, and I hope they feel the same way about me. Is it perfect? No, it isn’t. Is it ok for it to be imperfect? Yes and because I can accept my own imperfection I can celebrate that in other too. I’m forgiving and learning that others are too. I’m doing my best and know that others are too, and I am honored to share the journey with all who read my blog, and maybe that is the best part of it all for me; that we get to do this crazy thing called life together. By the way, the book should be finished this weekend.  Stay tuned for the updated publication date and possible book signings.  As always, thanks for being you and have a great day!

Little Changes and Better Results

22 Sep

Do you remember that I challenged everyone to choose their life this month instead of living by have to, need to, ought to or whatever “should” type phrase you use? Well, I did, and I had to remind myself of that today. Up until this morning, this week has been spectacular. I had been struggling with getting my writing accomplished because it seemed like there were so many more important things to accomplish or better said, I felt like I needed more hours in the day to accomplish them. This week I made a few small tweaks, and I mean small, and the days have been ridiculously more productive and easy. Want to know what those changes were? You may be disappointed by their simplicity.

The first tweak was getting fully dressed to shoes in the morning. Now, I don’t mean looking like I’m ready to conquer the world. I mean simply throwing on some workout clothes and gym shoes. It’s amazing how much more inspired to work I am when the slippers and robe are replaced with workout clothes. I can finish my morning routine in the morning. I have accomplished more by noon the past three days than I had by the end of the day for the past three weeks. I have even managed to take walks that were elusive and missing the past few weeks. The other thing I’ve done is avoid being online until I’ve finished everything I deem important for the day. This one is a bit more difficult for me because I have several groups and mentors online that have helped me so much in my journey toward a better life. I have a group that has helped me get a handle on my home. I have two that have helped me immensely with my writing, one local and one international. I have groups that help me spiritually and I have groups that help me with my parenting. While I know there is a mass of garbage in cyberland, I have found some amazingly positive places, and I love checking in on these I have come to care for deeply. The flip side of that joy, though, is spending more time online than I do offline and sometimes neglecting the things that bring me joy offline. This week I’ve found better balance because the tweaks have made better use of my natural energy flow.

You see, I am a morning person, or at least I’ve become one. When I was younger I would have definitely said I was a night owl. I loved the late night when all was quiet. I felt like I could accomplish more at that time because everyone was out of my way, and on the very rare occasion that I have trouble sleeping, I still love the quiet of the middle of the night and the peace of hearing the rhythmic breathing of those I love most as they sleep. I have found, though, that I have that same energy in the morning when I’m well rested. Imagine that. In a few hours I can write, exercise and keep up with my home and shower and re-dress, but then the afternoon slump comes, and I feel almost powerless to get anything accomplished. Part of the tweaking this week has included making peace with that slump and reframing it as downtime to go through paperwork, run errands, go through emails and/or play online without guilt. The results have been glorious, and I’ve been so happy with the results, until this morning.

This morning I woke up with a feeling of dread because the next three days are extremely busy. I began feeling like I couldn’t do the things I should do because I have to be out of the house earlier than usual, and I began to feel the panic and self-judgment that usually comes along with that stress for me, but I remembered the challenge I had issued, and began to think about what I wanted to accomplish. I realize that tomorrow will depend on what I accomplish today, so I tabled the stress about the next two days for now. I realize that the house is good enough and a shortened morning routine is more than good enough. I know my morning walks have helped me clear my head and get focused on writing, so I chose to take one, although that was shortened too, and I also am choosing to write this blog post because I promised myself to do at least one per week, and I failed to do that last week. I let the overwhelm get to me, and I failed to post. Guess what? We all fail, but this week I chose to approach things differently. This week I chose to act rather than let the overwhelm win. It’s currently 9am in my part of the world, and I am nearly finished with everything I wanted to accomplish before I leave. The only thing left to do is shower, and I will do that as soon as I finish typing. I’m actually going to make it, and that feels so good.

What I’m doing may not change the world, but it does change my part of it for the better. It helps me be a better wife, mom, writer and human being. I helps me focus on how I can change and grow and become a better version of me, and really, isn’t that the best thing any of us can do? Yesterday, I stopped at the grocery store around 6:30pm. A woman still dressed in her business attire was pushing her screaming toddler through the store. The little man desperately wanted to walk, and you could tell the mom was trying to get through the store as quickly as she could. She had her son strapped into the seat of the cart, and he was angry. He screamed at the top of his lungs that he wanted to walk, and she patiently sat him down every time he tried to stand up, but you could see the stress on her face. You could also see the stress on other shoppers’ faces as they looked at her, some in recognition, some in judgment and some in pity, but no one spoke to her. One older man tried to talk with her son, but it didn’t help so he walked away, and at first, so did I. But the longer I listened, the more I remembered what it felt like to be that mom. I remember feeling so isolated and alone when you have a screaming child in a store and everyone is looking at you. I remember feeling like I was hanging on by a thread to my sanity and my patience, and I was trying to be a good parent and still get the damned shopping done, and perhaps I was just failing at all of it. So, I stopped, turned around and looked for that mom. I walked up to her with tears in my eyes and said to her that just in case no one told her today, she was doing a great job, and we both walked away feeling better.

Now I don’t know if anything I have done to improve my life gave me the opportunity to do that, but I do know this: Because I did those things, my home was in order and I had crossed off most of my list which gave me the opportunity to go to the grocery store to buy items, not that I needed, but that I chose to buy to make my mother in law a special treat for her 85th birthday today. Had this been last week or the few before, I probably wouldn’t have attempted it, but because of what I have done, I was there. Because of those changes, the holiday book is closer to being finished. Because of those things, I am sitting her typing and choosing to be at peace rather than worrying about the fact that I “should” be in the shower if I want to leave on time to get to where I choose to be going next. I’ve chosen better. My life is better and for those of you who are not in dire situations where you really and truly have no control over your, I double dog dare you to choose better for yourselves too. It may not change the world, but I bet it changes you for the better in more ways than you can imagine. As always, thanks for being you and have a great day.

The Happiness Rebellion

8 Sep

You would have to be living under a rock to be unaware of the craziness going on in the world. In the US, the election alone could send you screaming into the night. There are refugee crises around the globe. Human trafficking is everywhere. Drug use is rampant, especially heroin, the news says. The economy is in danger, as is our health and the list goes on and on. All of this could be and probably is true, but most of it has also been going on for centuries and yet, here we are, struggling with the same issues. What’s a girl to do in such circumstances? In my world, you stay relatively informed, which means getting most of my news online and checking sources outside of my country as well as within because sometimes you get a very different view. It means knowing that the issues exist, and it means doing what I can to help and letting go of the rest.

There are so many issues that one could give attention to. There are injustices and inequalities and poverty and need everywhere, which makes it very easy to be offended, angered and/or afraid, and many people are offended, angry and/or afraid. What if we choose differently? What if we choose to look for the opportunity to do and be good and to live in joy instead of surrendering to the ugly emotions? Don’t get me wrong. There are unpleasant images that will never leave my head from Columbine high school, from the September 11, 2001, from refugees that didn’t make it to Greece alive, but rather than let those images stop me from living, I use them as inspiration. I used Columbine high school to inspire me to become a better parent, to be more loving and patient as a parent, especially in the morning knowing that every time I said goodbye to my children, it could be the last time I see their faces. Am I perfect at it? Hardly, but I try. From 9/11 I’ve learned how important it is to understand those who are different from us. I don’t know as much as I would like to, but I’m working on it and will probably work on that one for the rest of my life. Finally, there is the refugee crisis, and while there are probably many ways I could be helping there, I am helping with issues in my own country with displaced people. Within a few hundred miles of where I live, tornados destroyed property and homes less than a month ago and a few hundred more miles away, the state of Louisiana has seen its worst flooding since Katrina. As I said, there is need everywhere. I help where I can and pray someone else steps up where I can’t. I don’t know if it’s enough, but the fact that my children wonder if we would ever be wealthy even if we won the lottery because I give so much away tells me I might be on the right track.

There was a time in my life I was consumed with anger over the injustices of the world. I was infuriated at those who perpetrated the ugliness and for those who suffered, but at some point I realized that those feelings weren’t doing anyone any good, especially me. I understand that some people use those feelings to spur them on to great action in this world, and I applaud them for that. For myself, I’ve found that getting peaceful and even happy allows me to find better ways to contribute to this world in a positive way and create change. That may sound trite to some, and I admit I hesitated writing this blog because I know so many people think that happy people are uninformed, stupid and/or so privileged they just don’t understand. I’m sure there are situations I’ll never understand because they are unfathomable to me, but there are many more that I do understand, and just because I don’t discuss them doesn’t mean I don’t understand. Some things are meant to be private, at least for now, and they will stay that way. Instead, I’ll share why I decided to finally write this post. It’s because of two books I’m reading.

For the past few months, I’ve picked up the reading habit again, and I am so happy. Every weekday, I set a timer and read for at least fifteen minutes. I just finished a book about healing ADD. I read books about the supernatural, and I’m currently reading the books, Dying to Be Me by Anita Moorjani and Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. I usually read one or the other each day, but this morning, for some reason I felt compelled to read both. Now, if you read my blog regularly, you know I have a great love of the Divine. I believe there are messages from the Divine, if we are open to recognizing them, and I feel like I got a big one this morning. I was mulling over whether to share these ideas or not because philosophy of life can be a pretty sticky subject. I decided to read before putting hands to the keyboard, and I began reading Dying to Be Me. One line in particular stuck with me when Ms. Moorjani was talking about how much more powerful she is when she works with life rather than against it, and I feel like that line explains my life so well. I feel like so many people give their power away to others, not willingly or even consciously in some cases and then complain that that they have no control. I used to do that. I blamed my kids for my messy house, my inability to write like I would have liked and my inability to do anything about my weight, and I blamed my husband for his contributions to all of that too. You know what that did for me? It kept me stuck and kept me from taking responsibility for my life. Yes, when you have children in the house, there is more mess, but there are ways to get what you crave. Currently, my friend Shalagh Hogan from Shalavee.com is conducting a 30 day creativity challenge while raising an 11 and 3 year old. I’m not sure I could have managed that when any of mine were three, but it has become a priority for her, and she’s doing it. Because of people like this and someone long ago who issued a challenge to stop complaining for 30 days straight, I learned to begin to take responsibility for my own life and choose to live differently. It’s a very different vibe when you choose to do laundry, clean and cook than when you do it filled with martyrdom. It gets done faster and more efficiently, almost as if by magic.

Speaking of magic, here’s something else. I have loved being creative my entire life, and it was about ten years ago when I began to see creativity in places I never had before. I remember being at a Halloween party for one of my kids and during the craft one of the moms remarked that she didn’t have a creative bone in her body. I laughed because I knew this woman was an accountant, and I asked her if I brought my taxes to her if she could find ways for me to save money and get more back from the government in my refund. Of course she said yes, and I told her I thought that was wildly creative because I couldn’t even begin to imagine how to do that. The one thing I couldn’t reconcile in my own life though was how selfish I felt being creative instead of being employed. I felt like I should be contributing financially to our home, especially when money was tight, and I’m sure my husband would have been happy to have more money coming into the house, but he also gave me the freedom to be exactly who I needed to be. What that meant was that he was happy for me to use my creativity to learn to keep a house the way that worked for me rather than how everyone else did it. It allowed me to make healthy meals on a budget, and it allowed me to be creative with our finances. When I finally let go of the struggle of that, everything improved. I was finally able to get our house and our finances in order and even find time to write. That’s a big part of the message in Big Magic, giving yourself permission to live a creative life. For a while I got caught up in what I should be writing about and being careful not to offend people, and I truly never intend to offend anyone, but authenticity sometimes means you offend people because your truth may not be the same as theirs. It sucks when it happens, but it does happen, and even an apology doesn’t fix it sometimes.

So the question becomes. Do you live your life in full on creative mode or do you censor yourself? While I would love to write things that soothe everyone’s soul, I know that being authentic is my first order of business, and I find I like me much better when I live that way. The days seems to flow better, even the challenging ones, because I have the grace to give myself and others space to be who they need to be. I am much more loving and giving and productive on every level. I feel like I am truly living and truly happy and who doesn’t want to feel that? So, this month I’ve challenged everyone to choose their life rather than let themselves be bullied and pushed by life. We can’t control everything. Some days it feels as if we control nothing, but we can learn to control how we choose to respond and today, that makes me feel incredibly happy. I hope you’ll join in The September Choosing Challenge and find your own happiness revolution. If not, I hope you find authenticity whatever your path may be, and as always, thanks for being you and have a great day.

The September Choosing Challenge

1 Sep

Some days I know exactly what I want to write about. Some days I struggle a bit. Today I seem to have bits of several posts knocking around my head and on days like that I sit down at the keyboard and let the muse take me wherever it chooses. This week, we are starting with a meeting I attended on using a Pinterest account in connection with a blog. I have been blogging for several years without monetizing my blog, and I’ve wondered if I should take that step to “up my game”. Because I want to write for a living, it seems to make sense. Because I am more focused on the journey and knowledge than the income, I hesitate hugely.

Recently, I began reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. It is kicking my butt and making me laugh out loud. One of the big subjects lately in nearly every creative community I’m part of is fear and doubt, and everyone experiences it. Creatives wonder if anything we create is worthy, and we can become addicted to likes and shares and sales to validate our existence, but when we do, we lose the essence of what we create and sometimes shut down our creativity entirely. I’ve been praised for how I write and the fact that I’ve published two books, and I’ve been insulted and ridiculed for those same things. As a human being, the praise feels really good and the ridicule has been painful, but both have taught me a great life lesson; neither the praise nor the ridicule have anything to do with me. It is merely the result of how someone experiences my creation, and sometimes, it doesn’t even feel like my creation.

Have you ever experienced being “in the zone” or that an idea comes through you rather than from you? That’s what the creative process is like for me. Some idea pops into my brain, and I know I’m supposed to make it come to life with my particular set of talents and gifts. Sometimes I go back and read things I’ve written and thought, “Wow! That’s really good. I wish I’d thought of that.” Some people think I did, but I know that I was just the messenger, and I was blessed with the ability to put those thoughts into words. It can be quite the spiritual experience because sometimes I don’t want to write what I feel I am inspired to write. I don’t want to reveal things about myself that sound weird and strange, but I do want to better the craft, so I write most of it anyway. I feel like I am failing to explain it adequately because there are times I know exactly where the inspiration for a piece comes from, often it’s a current event in my life or the world, but sometimes, it just shows up and it feels like I can’t type fast enough to get the words on the page and I’m as much of an observer as a participant. Maybe it’s like when an actor gets so involved in a character or scene that they forget the camera crew is there. Maybe it’s like when someone is working on a hobby and they are so entranced by what they’re doing that they don’t even hear someone walk into the room. Maybe it’s like driving along in your car and your favorite song comes on and you’re singing your heart out only to look out your window and see the driver in the next car staring at you in a most amused way. *cough, cough* *dozens of times* It is empowering and makes you incredibly vulnerable at the same time, and it takes courage to do it.

One of the things that I’ve been told by mentors and read in articles is that networking will boost every aspect of your writing career. As someone who has been out of the workforce for over two decades, that is some scary stuff, but I decided to bite the bullet and do it anyway. While I’ve maintained my safe and grounded connection to my online creativity salon, I also joined a writer’s accountability group. I’ve attended Meetups for bloggers in my area. I am volunteering with our local Wordcamp. I’m meeting so many new people and learning so many things, and at first it was intimidating and overwhelming because these people seem to know so much, but I am slowly learning that I do too. One of the most important things I know is what feels right and what feels contrived for me. I am learning that I would rather write with integrity than act without it. I learn something helpful from nearly every meeting about how I want to proceed and how I don’t. I have so many ideas for collaborations with people and ways to help one another be successful, and I can hardly wait to get moving on them, but first, I have a book to finish, and as much as it scares me, I’ve committed to having the manuscript finished by next week, and I’m spending time each day making progress and doing my best to have fun with it, because here’s the best thing I’ve learned or better said, remembered on this third trip to publishing; having fun matters.

When I stress over deadlines or what to write, I don’t write. I will find anything else to do to distract me from the task at hand. When I’m stepping out of my comfort zone and having fun, magic happens and things begin to line up and come together in ways I can hardly believe, so I’ve begun making that part of the focus of my day. Here is one of those places I hesitate to share because I know how people feel about affirmations and those who use them, but I’ve been asked how I stay so positive, and affirmations are truly one of the ways I do that. I have three that I’m using right now and I write them down every day. Here they are:
We have great fun living our very best lives and get better at it every day.
Our kind, loving and fun filled family supports everyone, especially each other, in positive, uplifting and empowering ways.
We recognize and rejoice in our constant miracles and blessings and eagerly welcome more.
Yep, I write and read those every morning before I dive into my day. Are they corny? Perhaps they are. Do they help? Yes, they do because they give me a direction and focus for my day. Am I feeling uncomfortable with sharing this very personal part of my life? Yes, I am, so why am I sharing it? I am sharing because this is one of the most powerful things I learned about changing my life. Words matter, especially the ones we repeatedly say to ourselves and say out loud. Changing your words will change your life. Recently, someone posted about getting the words “should”, “need”, “have to” and a few others out of their vocabulary and replacing them with the word “choose”. I was so excited for her because I have done that exercise in my own life, and it will change everything if you do it, so I am challenging you to do just that. Remove those words as well as “ought to” from your vocabulary and replace them with “choose” and if you really want to up the ante, add the word happily or joyfully in front of choose and you’ll really begin to look at your life differently.
Just thought I would share, that with that last paragraph, I finally understand what I am supposed to be writing about today. It’s a thrill and makes me laugh because writing so often takes me places I never imagined going, but this month I’ll join you and make sure that I’m choosing my best possible life every day. I hope you’ll join in and let me know how it goes. As always, thanks for being you and have a great day.

An Inadequate Mom

18 Aug

There is nothing like the first day of the school year to make you feel inadequate. I see pictures of everyone’s children as they wait for the bus or car pools or are ready to drive off to their first day, and as much as I love them, they make my heart hurt because I have never been that mom. Not once have I ever been prepared enough to have my boys line up and give me their best smile as they head into a new year. We have had a special breakfast here and there. We’ve occasionally had our lunches pre-packed. We’ve had years when I’ve not been hurrying them out of the house so we can beat the rush of the drop off line, but never have we been so ready that we have taken pictures, and sometimes it makes me feel like an inadequate mom.

The first day of school is also when I realize we didn’t have the summer I hoped for. We didn’t have fun every day. We didn’t engage as much as I would have liked. We didn’t travel together like we love to do, and that makes me sad. On the other hand, my oldest son will finish college after this semester without any college loans and my middle will have finished a year and a half without debt as well. My youngest had his best year so far in school last year, which gives me hope for this year. We’re planning a wedding for my oldest and not only do I love his fiancée, but I also love her family. I also happen to like my other sons’ girlfriends as well, and nothing makes me happier than having them all in my home, laughing and having fun. I wish it would happen more often, but I’ll take what I can get. This week, they all go back to school except my oldest son’s fiancée. She is working full time and is also helping me with my next book about the holidays, which I hope to have published in about 45 days. Will we make it? I don’t know, but I’m giving it my best. I am so proud of these young people, and I feel privileged to be part of their journeys. Do they make me crazy sometimes? Of course they do, but all in all, they are an amazing blessing, and I am incredibly grateful for each and every one of them, and maybe that’s why the first day of school is so difficult; I’m going to miss them so much.

The funny part about school starting back up is that I’m so much more productive. When I sat down to write this post at 10am, I had finished my housework for the day, decluttered some paperwork, figured out how to fix my fitbit because it wouldn’t talk to my account, and I had taken a shower. It has been months since I’ve been that productive and part of me loves that. That part of me realizes how good routines can be for me and how much easier it will be to finish the book now that everyone is getting back to their school routine, even if I’ll miss them while they’re gone. That part of me feels like a ninja mom for having my dishwasher unloaded, laundry done and home tidied up before 10am. That part of me feels renewed and ready to tackle the day and all of the unfinished projects, especially the book that will make way for bigger and better things. The other part of me that adores my children and is so very aware of the precious little time I have with them as “mine” is mourning the end of this less than perfect summer and the opportunities we may have missed to be together, to travel and to savor every moment. Some days I think I’m going crazy being so happy and so sad at the same time, but as I talk to other parents, especially moms, I know that so many feel the same. I’ve never wished that my children would stop growing because I lost one that will never grow up and gave birth to one that needs medical intervention to grow. I’ve found joy in every age, although I admit age 3 and ages 9-11 with each of my boys was more than I thought I could handle some days. I love who my boys are, most days, and feel honored to be their mom, but that doesn’t mean that all the days are easy. In fact, some days still take every ounce of maturity I have not to have a complete meltdown, and occasionally I fail. I was on my way there this morning when the fitbit wouldn’t work, we forgot to start the dishwasher last night, I didn’t feel prepared this morning, and I felt like I had fallen short as a mom this summer. As I was putting the load of laundry in the washer this morning, I could feel the downward spiral coming; that spiral that would mean nothing would get done and I would spend the day on the couch feeling upset and depressed and like a failure, and I stopped. I closed my eyes. I took a few deep breaths, and I called on the Divine to help me and then chuckled over what I probably looked like, worshipping at the altar of the washer. I walked upstairs and apologized to my husband and admitted I was feeling inadequate as a mother and a human being. He assured me I wasn’t, and the tide began to turn. I helped my youngest get out the door on time. I silently thanked my husband, who was waiting in the car, for driving our son to school so I didn’t have to. I silently prayed that this would be a great year for my son, for me and the rest of our family, and I dove into the day with much more gratitude. I know this year won’t be perfect, but that really isn’t the point. The point is that while I am amazed that some moms are able to get first day pictures of their kids, some do not. Some moms do other things like make a great breakfast, write letters to their kids or maybe just thank the Divine that they got their kids out the door with clothes and shoes on. Some moms are also teachers, and I cannot imagine what the first day is like for them. I’m betting that even those moms with the great first day pictures feel inadequate some days because none of us is on point every day. So, today I tip my hat to those who do the first day of school well and offer a virtual hug to those who find themselves feeling inadequate. We’re all in this together and doing our best, whatever our best may be. Wishing you all a happy school year, rest of the year or whatever kind of happy you need. Thanks for being you and have a great day!

May I Have This Dance?

2 Jul

Recently, I attended the wedding of my best friend’s son. I’m not sure where else this might happen, but in our part of the country, there is a moment in most receptions that the DJ or singer for the band asks for all married couples to come to the dance floor for a dance. During the dance, the couples are asked to leave the floor depending upon how long they’ve been married. Of course, the newlyweds are the first to vacate the floor, and then the rest of the couples are called out at various intervals. At this particular wedding, the dance floor was filled with married couples. A few couples left at 5, 10, 15 and 20 years, but when my husband and I left the dance floor when they called for everyone under 25 years to leave, over half of the couples were still left. Several left after 30, 35, 40 and 45 years were called, but there were still four couples left after 50 years. The final couple, who also happened to be the grandparents of the groom, has been married 58 years.

I couldn’t help but think what great role models for marriage this young couple has. Then I thought about all the people in this world who don’t have role models like this. I happen to be one of them. My parents said they loved each other, but they didn’t get along. I was born 10 months after my parents married, and I never remember feeling like they were a happy couple. Yes, they had their happy moments, but I never felt like theirs was a marriage that I wanted to emulate. Unfortunately, I did. My first marriage was very much like my parents’ marriage. We could never quite sync up. I felt abused and like I could never be good enough. It wasn’t until I was told I was no longer attractive at 5 ft. 7 in. and 140 pounds that I realized my marriage was in trouble. A week later, after I had lost seven pounds, my then husband commented how good a friend of mine looked because she looked like she had lost weight. I was devastated. I had done the very thing he’d asked me to do, and he didn’t even notice. That was when I knew my marriage was over, and although it might sound like a small thing, it was the culmination of too many small things over several years, and it was time for me to move on. I knew I would never be good enough no matter what I did. It took some weeks of counseling to work up the courage to leave, but I did it. I tell this story because I married again, and it has been wonderful for 23 years. I know what it is to be in the wrong marriage, and I fault no one for walking away from an unhealthy relationship, but to be at a wedding with that many people still married after all that time seemed extraordinary to me. I don’t know all of their stories, but I do know the stories of the grandparents who were the last ones dancing. I know they are older than they look, which is amazing to me because I know they were children in Eastern Europe during World War II. I know their stories, and although they are not mine to tell, I will share that no child should have to live through what either of them did. The most incredible fact, though, is that they have lived a beautiful life since. They raised three boys. They have traveled, and they still volunteer. They are such an inspiration to me, and I find it difficult to complain about my own life whenever I think of them as children.

In some way, they are the reason I am sitting at the keyboard today because this could be a week of self-pity. This week we found out our son needs surgery. For most it would be no big deal, but this is a person for whom a broken bone or needing stitches or even getting the flu can be life threatening. It adds stress, but life is always filled with choices. I could sit on the couch eating chips and/or ice cream while I think about how unfair life is, or I could do something productive that will help me feel better at the end of the day. I chose the latter. I started with calling in an accident claim because someone hit my son’s car this weekend. The good news is that no one was in the car when it was hit and the person who hit him came to the door to tell me. It is inconvenient, but it will be fairly simple to fix and then we can move on with minimal inconvenience. There is so much I could be doing, like every other person I know. I could work in the yard. I could clean the house. I could do laundry, but instead I am sitting at the keyboard because it helps me think and helps me clear my head.

Lately, I have been facing some of the emotional demons that come with setting new goals. I know some people don’t set them because they don’t want to be disappointed. I know some people find it difficult to get started; some find it difficult to follow through, and some get so scared of both failing and succeeding that they shut down from the overwhelm. I’ve experienced every single one of these, but I’ve learned with each goal, that the journey is always worth it. It can be harrowing some days and blissful on others. I’ve found that when we align with our highest purpose, life seems to open up in ways we never expected. It doesn’t mean that we don’t have challenges, but the challenges don’t derail you as much. You realize that no one became successful without some challenges. Nearly everyone knows about someone who overcame great obstacles to be successful. The list is endless; Oprah Winfrey, J.K. Rowling, Jim Carrey, Steve Jobs and the list goes on. Now, I don’t aspire to have the kind of fame any of those people have, but I do want to make a significant impact with my life. Parenting is one of the ways I’ve made a contribution, and I truly want to help others make that same type of contribution as well. I also want to keep writing books and teaching courses, so I have to keep growing and writing and learning so that I can help others. It’s scary to keep stepping out of my comfort zone, and some days it’s downright frustrating, but those steps out of the comfort zone are helping me to become the person I aspire to be, although I mess it up frequently.

Yes, I mess up. I let days go by without writing or working on any of the other creative endeavors I’ve started. I get frustrated with myself or my family members, and sometimes I react badly rather than respond like the calm, cool and collected person I aspire to be. Some days the undone housework calls louder than the creativity, and sometimes the events of life do the same. This weekend, though, I realized that I have 100 days until my next book launch. It is a schedule that can change a bit, but there is so much to do between now and then. I’m working with a team of amazing people, but most of the work has to come from me. I recently joined a writer’s accountability group, and I’m excited to learn from them. I belong to a private creativity salon, and I am delighted and inspired by them daily. I have goals and dreams beyond anything I could have dreamed when I was younger, but I also have moments that stop me in my tracks, and I am reminded that this journey we call life is rarely a straight line. It is filled with hills and valleys and twists and turns and just when we think we’ve got it figured out, it feels like someone changes the rules. So what’s a girl to do? Well, today I’m putting one foot in front of the other and choosing to do what will make me feel better at the end of the day. I’m choosing to work my way through a to-do list that will make life better. I also put the kettle on and had a lovely cup of tea. It didn’t fix everything, but some days you just do the best you can. Right now doing my best means taking extra care to eat healthier, walk daily and get adequate sleep so that I can write most days and still keep up with the rest of my life. Our tentative date to launch a book about having an easier holiday season is October 4th. I’ll be starting a Facebook group for that soon with a working title of Happiest Holidays with a countdown and lots of extras along the way. Next Thursday, I’m due to debut my online course called Mom Mastery. It’s a four week course designed to help moms create a more peaceful and stress free life, so there’s much to do, and I’m loving life as much as possible while I am helping others to do the same. It’s a life I love and one I wouldn’t trade for anything. I hope you’ll come along and join in the fun wherever it suits you, and if none of it does, I hope you’ll continue to hang out with me here. If you know my life, you know it’s rarely boring, and my motto is almost always, the more the merrier. For those in the US, have a spectacular holiday weekend. For those in other parts of the world, I still wish you a wonderful weekend. It just won’t be quite as long as ours. As always, thanks for being you and have a great day.

Letting Go of Expectations

4 May

13139360_1215188035166506_7683767955186777276_n[1]If you’ve been following me for any amount of time, you know how I love a good spiritual kick in the pants. Today I got it over and over, and I finally surrender to the message. The first thing I read this morning was a beautiful blog post by my friend Shalagh who talked about things being personal, until we took ourselves out of the equation. Kick number one and you can read her post by clicking here: http://shalavee.com/its-all-personal-until-it-isnt/. Then I read a blog post about how we distract ourselves and talk ourselves out of dreams, but there was a bigger message for me. I got a huge aha moment when I realized I was putting enormous amounts of pressure on myself to re-coup all of the money that I invested into learning how to launch this book and create my upcoming course in a single day. I’ve used that money over the course of a couple of months, and as I told one of my coaches, I am so far out of my comfort zone that I can’t even see it anymore. I realized this morning that I need to take a breath and let the Divine do its thing while I do mine, and it was this post that helped me get there: http://bemorewithless.com/dream/ . It’s time for me to grow and be willing to talk about the information I am sharing. It’s not about me. It’s about the information. In this case, it’s about moms and mothering and honoring those who do it well, including the ones you might never think of. Kick number two and it came with a bonus kick that the Divine’s timing is perfect, even if mine isn’t. Duh!

So the next few days, I will be dropping by and/or stopping to thank several people in my life. I am hoping to take a few pictures and share their stories but even if I don’t, I want them to feel appreciated. These are women who may or may not mother their own children, but they mother others. I’ll be at our local Children’s hospital today to thank the check in staff, some I’ve known for over 15 years, and to thank some of the nurses and clerical staff. Each has played a role in helping my son stay healthy and that’s why I wrote Everyday Heroes of Motherhood, why I am creating the course Mom Mastery and am co-hosting #LoveLetterstoMoms day on Friday. Today I’ll get a jump on it, but I hope you’ll find someone or maybe even several women to thank for all they do over the next few days, especially those who may not be recognized otherwise. Post it on social media and let’s start an avalanche of appreciation. Also, because of these two posts I’m asking you to jump on Amazon on Friday and purchase Everyday Heroes of Motherhood and hopefully you’ll be even more inspired when you finish reading it. Thanks as always for taking the time to read what I share. Thank you for being you and have a great day.

When Life Calls

7 Apr

follow_your_dreamsSome years just seem to float by. You’re in what I call cruising mode. Life is pretty routine and that can be a great thing. I had those years when my boys were younger. We were doing the sports thing and the music thing and having a wonderful time being a family. Since 2012, life has been different. Life has involved lots of change and that can be a pretty great thing too. In 2012, my oldest son graduated from high school and began his college journey. Because he attends The Ohio State University, we have been treated to watching a Big Ten conference championship live in Indianapolis. We have spent New Year’s in New Orleans to watch the first playoff game in NCAA college football history live. My middle son graduated high school and began his college career, and my youngest son has started high school, gotten his first job and will be driving soon. My husband has traveled for business all over the country, including a six month stint in Dallas when he could only come home for two days every other week; nothing like a military wife but difficult nonetheless. I’ve spent most of that time keeping everything running smoothly at home, and I’ve loved most of it. No job was ever as fulfilling for me as being a wife and mom. I know that isn’t the case for everyone, but it has been for me. Even the thought of having a job was stressful, until recently.

As my youngest son began high school, I had more time on my hands. I thought I might be ready to do what so many of the women I knew had done and get a job to help with college costs, but nothing sparked my interest. Some people might say, just pick something, but at my age, I know myself well. I get bored easily with jobs that don’t interest me. I’ve taken jobs hoping I could work my way into other positions, and it never ended well. After learning about my son’s ADHD, I understand why things happened the way they did, but I didn’t want to get a job only to change jobs every two to three years for the rest of my life. I knew with the empty nest coming soon, I wanted to do something, but I was struggling with which way to go. I always admired women who could apply for a job as an administrative assistant, teacher’s aide, food service worker or retail worker and be happy doing that for years and years. I’ve done most of those jobs, and after a year or two, I wanted to tear my hair out. The routine of it was maddening. I wanted variety, and those jobs, although every day was different, didn’t do it for me. For a long time I thought something was truly wrong with me. Why couldn’t I just be like everyone else? That thought makes me chuckle now because raising my children has taught me something very meaningful about people. Everyone has different needs, and those needs are neither good nor bad, they just are. Some people thrive with constant routine. It gives them a sense of power and purpose to be able to count on their days being basically the same. Other people need variety and differing levels of excitement, and we need all of those people in this world.

The people who thrive on routine keep the world in order. The people who thrive on variety keep the world growing and changing. Both are necessary for our survival. The routine people keep the variety people grounded, and the variety people inspire the routine lovers to grow. I admire the routine people and have even adopted a few routines of my own, but at heart, I’m in the variety camp. If I could pay someone to do the routine things for me, I would. I have a friend who is incredibly wealthy and the only thing of hers I have ever coveted is the woman she pays to come to her home every day and keep it in order. Someday, I plan to pay someone to do that for me, although, having to create routines of my own has been a great learning experience. For me, the idea of a routine used to bring out the rebel in me. I didn’t want to do the boring cleaning, laundry and dishes. I didn’t see the point until I visited a few houses where those things didn’t get done and I realized I did not want to live that way either. Some people watch an episode of Hoarders and think their house looks ok. I watch an episode of Hoarders and want to get rid of everything. The key is balance, and I’ve found a way to do that. I spend a minimum of 15 minutes each day on house upkeep and more time when I have it to keep our home in order so I can move on to other, more fun things for me to do. Errands are not a problem for me. They get me out among people and that always makes me happy, but routines come first or they won’t get done. If I have to be out early, that isn’t a problem anymore because I can miss a day or two without anyone noticing, but daily attention is a beautiful thing because it frees me to have a life. It may not work for everyone, but it certainly works for me. It means no marathon cleaning days on Saturday or Sunday. It means I can have family time without guilt about all the things I “should” be doing. It took a while to get here, but here is a great place, and it set me up to answer the Divine calling I believe is the direction I’m headed next.

Anyone who knows me well, knows I write every day. I have published one book. I blog. I journal, and recently, I have written another manuscript that I will be sending to my business coach later today. I hesitated to write that I had a coach helping me because it sounded pretentious at first, but here’s what I’ve learned about experts and coaches. I self-published my first book. I took a course that helped me with the writing and organization of the book and it was fantastic. I could have invested more money in the process and paid professionals to edit my manuscript, create my book cover and help me market the end product. I chose to do it myself which took much longer because I didn’t have most of the skill sets needed to do it quickly. I made less money and less of an impact because I didn’t understand current marketing and how to bring a book to market successfully. I’m still proud of what I accomplished and still love that first book, but this time I’m paying the professionals to do the things they do well. I feel like part of a team, and I feel like the team is invested in my success. For a writer, that is new and often unusual. We are used to doing things on our own, sometimes feeling adrift from humanity. It’s a life some embrace but not me. I like this team effort, and I’m excited to see this book come to life. The tentative launch date is May 5th, just in time for Mother’s Day and since this book is a love letter to many of the mothers I’ve known, that suits me just fine.

I’ve also answered another Divine call on my life, and that one is proving to be more challenging. I have wanted to be a speaker for a long time. I know, most people are terrified of speaking in front of people. I find it energizing. I want to encourage women, particularly stressed and overwhelmed moms and help them live the life of their dreams. I’ve been doing that for many years, and it is the best way to live. Recently, I was given the opportunity to participate in a course that will help me design a system to help those moms. The course will help me put the knowledge I have in a cohesive format that can help others. What could be better than that, right? Well, here’s what I know about trying new things. It can be scary, and I admit that working with yet another coach and creating this system is stretching me in ways I hadn’t imagined. I am having to dig deep, but I’m also learning that so many of the people in the course have the same fears and resistance I do. So many of us grew up being told what we couldn’t do rather than being encouraged to see what we could. Now, in our 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond, we are breaking out of old patterns to follow our dreams. The support is incredible and the attendees are helpful and amazing, but I was still feeling afraid to charge for what I had been giving away for free for so long. I was wondering why anyone would pay for me to teach them this until one woman asked a beautiful question. She asked if I believed in my content, and I do. Everything I talk about has changed my life for the better, and she suggested that I let my faith in the content be my guide and merely allow myself to be the delivery system. Have you ever had a moment when everything becomes radically clear and it feels like the Universe is speaking directly to you? I had that moment, and every time I feel like I’m headed back to that place of fear and resistance, I remember that revelation and I hang onto it as tightly as I can. I’m behind on the course, but it doesn’t matter. I’m not as seasoned as some of the other participants, but that means nothing. I’m relatively unknown, but who cares? I believe in the content because I know how powerful it can be, and I am also beginning to embrace the idea that the Divine doesn’t call the qualified. The Divine qualifies the called.

I am being called, and it is a huge adventure, but it is also a call to walk my talk. I’m using my time better. I’m making every day count. I wake up each day ready for the new and exciting things I’m going to learn. I’m living every day fully, and I am falling into bed delightfully exhausted every night. It gets scary now and then, but there’s a team to help me out when I don’t know how to proceed with the book or the course. There’s a tribe or two online that will help me out when my confidence is low, and there is a family inside my four walls when I need some extra love. Finally, there is the Divine team that fuels all of them and me, and I am most grateful for that Divine call, guidance and love. Being a wife and mother has been the most amazingly beautiful journey I could have asked for, and now I’m being called to help others have the same experience. It feels huge some days, and I’m not sure I’m up to it, but I keep moving forward. I keep answering the call, and occasionally, I call back and ask for help, sometimes really big help, and it always comes because that’s the other thing I figured out. Not only does life call on you to step it up, but that conversation is not one sided. Call back and ask for the help. Ask for what you need. Believe the Divine can and will give it to you and then be willing to receive. Change your mind and change your life. What an amazing idea, and it works! I hope you’ll try it. I hope you get everything you desire, and I hope you make the world a better place because of it. As always, thanks for being you and have a great day.

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