Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Refresh and Rejuvenate with a Non-cation

I haven't been home in three years.

By home, I mean sitting at the kitchen table drinking my mom's coffee and eating what she cooks. Her food. I haven't been in her house, under her roof, being taken care of like a daughter should be now and then.

It's only our fault. The long, long drive with two little girls has been daunting enough to scare me from making the long trip the last two years. The budget never seems to accomodate a vacation. There's not enough time between board meetings, committee meetings, kid meetings, adult meetings, work meetings ... meetings, meetings, meetings!

The excuses are long, drawn out and unnecessary. The point is there hasn't been a real vacation in three years. The kind that takes you away, wisks you away, sails you away, floats you away.

And there won't be any again this year thanks to unemployment hitting our family. There's oddly no time now. I'm not sure how that works?

Nonetheless, we don't really need to go on a vacation. Of course, it would be nice. It would be really nice. But, when you live like today is your vacation, vacations aren't really needed. That's just been my motto.

And while the to-do list always outweighs many things, it never overpowers the living in our family. We haven't done a long stretch away but we do things to celebrate living and life and this world around us almost daily -- at the very least, weekly.

Vacations are meant to rejuvenate, refresh and enliven us again to what is our Ordinary life.

But, I love Ordinary very much. I love baking, and doing art projects and just swimming in the pool that we are blessed to have in our backyard. I love just doing nothing but snuggling on the couch with my family. And movie nights with popcorn and blankets and pillows.

So, while we won't be going away for vacation in August, as planned, I do intend to take some days off and seriously pretend that I am on vacation. Here's how:

Staycation: From lazy mornings and easy breakfasts to lounging by the pool, the best part of vacation is doing very little. I mean so little it is almost boring -- almost.

Re-discover the simple things: Hot tea and cookies for an afternoon snack. Wine over a meal. Fluffed up pillows. (A friend of mine even bought all white bedding once for their staycation). I'm freezing things like scones, granola and pancakes so that we can just heat up and enjoy.

Read: Read a travel book. Read about faraway places. Dream a lot. Maybe even devour a beach read by the pool.

Head to the water: Even if it's a day on the local lake being around water is relaxing. I plan to indulge a bit.

Do little cooking: I cook nearly every meal we ever eat -- from scratch. It's crazy but I love it. But, even I admit that it can burn a person out and that a week spared of throwing together big, fresh, local meals is dreamy. Dreamy, I tell you. I will do very little cooking.

Only clean the serious messes: Assuming the house is clean when you start -- and that you have to clean it when it's over -- a week is not too long to just let it all go. Really, it isn't. (right?)

Watch the stars and the sky: This is one of those subtle, life-changing moments that I'm oddly just sleeping through because, well, I do too many things and I'm tired. But I want to be outside, drinking a glass of wine and just relishing my smallness to this great wonder of the Earth.

More ways to vacation while not vacationing may come to me ... like find a quiet corner and just write all day ... but for now I just know that it's a pretty good plan. How about you? Do you have any ways to enjoy a stay-home-when-you-really-want-to-get-away for vacation, vacation?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Ordinary picnic turns magical

I can't stand to do things the same way every day. Each week, I try hard to find small, loving ways to incorporate fun and creativity into our days. I'm always coming up with something.

Today, we created a living room picnic that, as soon as we sat down, became a Poetry Picnic. This is one or two steps up from a regular picnic.

It all began at our church service, which featured poetry from many poets. And, since it was too hot to go outside and we forgot one important thing at home, we decided to go home and have a picnic rather than head to a local park (which was the original plan.)

For me, this was a magical experience -- and I love turning ordinary days into magic.

Here's what you need to do this at your house soon. And, I encourage you to do it very soon.

  • Picnic fare. We always choose sandwiches because our girls like them and will eat them without fail -- important for a picnic. Always adding in fresh fruit like cherries, often yogurt and treats like potato chips and cookies that our regular meals rarely include.
  • Soft blanket. It's important to sit on the ground and lay around like lazy people for a picnic. Tables just aren't the same.
  • Fine drinks. A lovely strawberry lemonade would be great. But, in our world, juice boxes fit the crowd nicely.
  • Stacks of poetry books. If you don't have these readily at hand you can easily go to the library and get a couple anthologies out. We have many volumes of poetry so I just grabbed them all and sat leafing through them, picking the ones we liked best and that fit the moment.
  • Read aloud. Have everyone pick a favorite and read it. Then, if the spirit moves you as it does us, create your own poem. Songs are just poems to music, too, so if you have a living room picnic, you can put on a CD of your favorite songs and listen to that as well.

There you go. A poetry picnic. Nothing fancy but definitely jazzes up a Sunday lunch.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Fire Up Your Muse: A Writing Retreat

Fire Up Your Muse

Let's face it. The demands of life are non-stop no matter what season you are in, no matter what phase of life you face. Your to-do lists outnumber your word counts. You are constantly wondering when -- maybe next week, next month, next year? -- things will finally settle enough, calm down enough to give you some much-needed time to tackle that creative project.

You've thought it a million times -- if you just had one day, a single day -- to focus on that one thing you love so much, expressing yourself on paper with real, wonderful, fabulous WORDS.

Life is short. You love to write. You have always wanted to dabble in writing. You're curious about how to start writing for the first time. Maybe you never stopped writing and the journals -- oh the journals -- are piling up on your nightstand.

I know. I feel the same exact way.

You are invited to retreat into the wilderness and write all day.

Saturday, Oct. 1st

Glen Rock, Pennsylvania

10 A.M. to 2:30 p.m.

(directions available upon registration)

This writing retreat is just for YOU. This is your time, your undivided attention to yourself and your mind. Your time to just be in one place for just one day, where time seems to almost stand still for a few precious hours.

Best of all, we toss out all those rules about grammar and spelling and punctuation that have you paralyzed to move your pen or pencil. Rules, schmules. They are nothing to us.

Fire Up Your Muse is designed to spark your creativity and expression. If you are someone who has a lot to say but often keep it stored in some dark corner of your mind, this retreat is for you. This is for you if you are trying to write for the first time in a long time.

Fire Up Your Muse will literally and figuratively set fire to those mental demons and loser critics that have been holding you back from finishing or starting a project. It will then fill you back up with positive energy that will stir your creative juices -- so that you can move onward and upward. You will leave inspired. I promise.

Fire Up Your Muse will give back some of that lost time you've been trying to find. Four hours, in fact. We'll even retreat into some yoga poses designed to get the mind relaxed.

Fire Up Your Muse will offer you time to write and work on your own project while uncovering some new ones that you never new you had inside your heart.

Fire Up Your Muse will help you learn to work through writer's blocks and press onward to face new, bigger dreams.

Fire Up Your Muse will show you how to shove fear aside and write in your authentic voice all while and turning writing into a daily (or weekly) practice.

You are a writer. Yes, you, sunshine.

Join me for this wonderFULL day.

Registration information:

Just $45.

Register on the lefthand sidebar

Then do a little happy dance

because you did this for YOURSELF.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Finding my way

I've been resistant to a lot lately. Wondering if I'm wasting my personal time on things much bigger than me, much greater than me. "I can't do it," I heard myself say. "I don't have to do it," I said. "I don't want to do it," I said, almost in a temper tantrum.

Not without some anger, I pushed through and took some risks -- leading my first writing retreat, for instance. It was easy to tell myself why would anyone listen to me?

I resist what I fear.

Danielle LaPorte's piece on resisting success spoke wisely to my soul not long ago.

I have been struggling with for time with figuring out what my personal brand really, truly is going to be. I have many dreams. I am a renassiance soul, to the core. I have many interests and talents. I have many facets to my personality. I always feel close ... almost within reach of what my inner authentic power is and then, just like that, it slips through my fingertips and I'm left standing watching a cloud of dust dissolve into thin air.

I've had this feeling for some time now. A couple years. Long enough to know that it's constantly nagging at me. What am I supposed to be doing? Where do I belong?

It's funny, I can so easily coach others into figuring out what THEY should be doing with their lives but, for myself, this is a hard exercise. The list of ideas are too long. My brain is always all over the place. I want, often, what I cannot even dream of at this time due to a job and children.

Will I ever, ever figure out this mystery? Or, is the mystery the real honest picture? I'm a puzzle piece that just doesn't fit into the bigger picture? Not in a sad way but in a happy, this-is-me way?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Who doesn't love free things?

I've been working on this surprise for all of you for a while. I love things that I can print from the big wide world of the Internet. Printables, as they are called, just speak to my inner list-maker and pile-maker.

This first printable is just that -- a first, a first in what I hope will be many more to come. I love the idea of creating and sharing art with the world.

Please sign up for my newsletter and receive your free printable within one day of signing up. It's that simple.

Now, bigger things to discuss ... what are you doing to live creatively this holiday weekend? I'm sitting and doing a lot of nothing. And reading. Basically, just being very gentle with myself after a very long and busy period of time. It's time to let go and relax. That means lots of writing ideas are flowing, too!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Celebrating and Gratitude

I'm so grateful for so many things in this life -- this one precious life. I love the way the cool breeze hits my face first thing in the morning on an early walk. I love how each bird sings its own song, a mixture of peace and warning all at once. I love how people, all people, are so quirky and fun and annoying.

I love that we have so much to love in such time of disarray. I love the smell of warm, fresh coffee. I love how the kitchen floor is squeaky clean thanks to my husband. I love how little girls giggle late into the night and rise early excited for a regular Monday. I love how blueberry zucchini bread tastes so buttery and creamy, not at all like any other bread I've eaten.

I love how the days zip by but we still take time to celebrate, putting a single candle inside whatever we can -- a fig newton, a bowl of ice cream, a homemade chocolate truffle.

I love the feeling of walking far, so far away, that your cares just have to melt away because the phone, the computer, people are too far to touch. I love running, the feeling of my heart pounding in my chest -- a feeling new to me as I haven't much cared for running in the past. I love that feeling of adrenaline, of feeling powerful.

I love sitting outside and watching nothing and meditating on nothing and feeling peaceful when the to-do list is longer than a mile. I love crossing off that to-do list and feeling like I've accomplished something every single day. I love that today is the first day of summer camp and that when I told them they jumped up and down and squealed, clearly having no idea of what to expect. I love that they will learn the value of making new friends today and all week. I love that we're all here together, feeling so much love.

I love writing every morning, letting the thoughts flow and flow and flow without error, without perfection, without fear.

There's not enough hours in the day to prepare for what is to come so we have to just wait, let it happen how it will happen. It is what it is. We can't control this destiny anymore than we can control the children. But I do know it will be OK. We will be fine.

Today I will send love out into the world, as I have been trying to do. I will do my job to the best of my ability and we will see how it goes. I will take care of people and make sure that they are happy. That's really all that I can do. I have plenty to be happy about and I am filled with love for my life and my family.

That is really all that I have to do right now is love and trust. Love and Trust. Love and Trust. Love. And. Trust.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Success slips through her fingers

All of my life, like many others, I have been chasing one dream after another. Each goal being a single step closer to that ultimate reality of success -- that feeling of finally making it. And yet, after each goal is realized, it's never enough. More is needed. More is desired. More power is wanted. More money. More respect. More. More. More.

Recently, I began reading, "The Gift of an Ordinary Day," by Katrina Kenison. At first I wasn't sure I wanted to keep reading it as it's mostly about raising adolescents and teenagers and considering that my daughters are only now starting school, I didn't think it would be relevant to my life. Only a few pages in, however, I did start to see some of the issues we'll have to encounter years from now and that the book, really, is almost a glimpse into the future. Kenison talks a great deal in the first couple chapters about success and what we expect that to mean for our children. Is getting the best grades on test what it means to be successful? I'm not sure, yet, as I know we have a lot to learn yet but I know for sure that I wasn't the best test taker. My grades were often low. I was easily distracted by more important things like being with my girlfriends and cheerleading and any other social event around. Perhaps I needed that since I was an only child and social interaction was lacking in my life at home.

By reading this book now, I'm given a great opportunity to set the stage for my girls, and the way they shape what being successful is about. It's not about having the most money but having enough money to enjoy life. It's not about climbing the corporate ladder but knowing how to balance doing a great job at work and having enough time to enjoy this One Great Life that we've been given. It's not about rising to the top, it's about feeling really good about where you are at any given moment -- like right now.

So will I stress when one of my girls gets a low grade or gets into trouble for having a little fun? I can't say for sure but what I do know is that they will be just fine no matter what and they haven't even started school. They will be just fine. I know this because they are happy, healthy children who like to know about the world around them and ask questions. If they grow up to be seekers and explorers who love to learn new things, I think that's pretty much perfection. If they grow up to be happy adults with lots of girlfriends around them, that's pretty ideal. If they grow up to travel the world and try new things, that's pretty fantastic. If they grow up to know what they like and do not like and aren't afraid to admit those details to anyone that's pretty wonderful. If they grow up and can speak their mind and not feel fear, that's pretty damn good. If they are passionate and kind -- oh so very kind -- that's pretty much all I can ask. If they grow up to have any of these traits, that's success to me.

They willl certainly have their own ideas about what it means to be successful and that's OK, too. We may differ on a few points and I will have to respect their choices and opinions. We, as their parents, have a big job to prepare them for the future that awaits them. I don't think a few dozen Straight As is the answer, though that certainly does help get one into college.

It feels good to think about what success is as I am struggling with that definition myself. It feels good for their sake and my own -- someone who has pretty high expectations of herself and what it means to be successful. I've come a long way to learn all of these great things about life and what it means to fully live, authentically, without fear and worry. Well, a little bit anyway. I still live with a little fear and worry, especially now, but particuarly right now it's timely to consider what we really need in life. Is it more money? Is it the best job? Or is it a happy family life and a happy household. Is it doing fun things and enjoying life to the fullest before we die? I think so. I really honestly think so. It's not going to be easy to pass this message along to our daughters, who already have pressures in their minds about things like the way their hair should be or what outfit to wear.

It's not going to be easy raising two very different girls to live authentically.

But I think I'm up for the challenge.

Photo Credit: Elma

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Fun Injection

When was the last time you just let loose? You know, got up and danced for no reason, to no music?

My BFF from high school finally joined Facebook and, already, I feel that shimmer of that girl I used to be coming through in our posts and private messages. No one -- NO ONE -- knows me like she does. We have been apart for 11 years, since I moved away, and yet it takes about one sentence to bring us right back to where we left off. Nothing changes between us and yet we've changed a whole lot.

Language, inside jokes, cut-downs ... all in good fun, of course.

It makes me want to write about high school. Finally, perhaps? OK, maybe not. That might be too scary.

Actually, what would be scary is writing about middle school. Now, that's a drama I don't ever need to relive.

This fun injection, of sorts, has been a breath of fresh air at a time when things need to be lightened up.

This is when writing comes easily, when the heart is feeling light and happy and soaring to new heights.

It's not easy to work all day and then take care of children and still fit writing in so finding the Fun Factor is essential. We have to make writing fun, even when we aren't sure we can muster the energy to hit the keys or grab the pen -- or even the paintbrush. Creating is hard work but it's the most fulfilling work, for sure.

What's your fun factor? What makes you smile so easily? What silly thing could you curl up and write about right now? Please share in the comments and I might use your prompt for future writing exercises.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Writing -- and life -- is about balance

By now, most people have heard that my husband lost his job. His position, along with the rest of the staff, was eliminated. Rather than cry a river, we're making the best of a crummy situation and getting resourceful. For now, we are OK.

For now.

It's so easy to get comfortable, to sink into a life that is familiar, like an old pair of sweats, and never want to leave. To think of change is to unravel. Our backs go up and we start to get defensive of that life that we grew to love so dearly.

In my last writing course, Fearless Writing, I talked a lot about taking risks, doing things differently and trying new things when all along I was doing the same thing every day as I do now. Sure, I take more risks than most but the big picture stuff, it all remains wrapped around me like a cozy blanket.

I don't want to sit on just any cushion in life. I like this one, the one that is perfectly molded to fit my body, thank you very much. I can no longer question why my daughters both are so attached to their little bear blankets that they've had since infancy. Of course they still need those. Of course.

And yet my cushion has been sucked out from underneath of me and we're having to adapt to the changes to the life we were so desperately clinging on to with no inclination it would change. The changes of routine and cushy bank accounts and getting used to a New Normal are upon us.

So much of this lesson has to do with writing. It's not easy to write when things are really good. It's always easier to let the tears flow and drip down onto the page. But that's not what a writer should do. A writer has to return to the page day after day for the good and for the bad. It's only in between all of that when we start to see ourselves and our writing for what it truly is in the balance.

I'm so looking forward to the writing retreat that I'm hosting so that we can walk in the balance together.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Like a grumpy bear -- it's time to wake up

It has been a long, sloggy, wet Spring. And I feel much like a grumpy, hungry bear right now. A bear in need of nourishment and sunlight and energy to run and play, again.

This is exactly why I am hosting a writing retreat on a friend's very tranquil, very majestic farm. It's not a working farm but a lot of acres of rolling hills, intense beauty and nature all around.

That's how I get my energy, that's how I get filled up inside. Being outside, staring up at the sky and then writing it all down so fast -- as if it will slip away from memory if I do not.

We need creative nourishment almost as much as we need food and yet so many just ignore that little facet of their being. That same being who goes without a break, without something wonderful to cling on to ... will just slumber on, trod on, drag on watching the clock and crossing off their to-do list.

Do they dare to step outside and let their feet touch the dew-drenched grass? Do they stop and just lounge on the hammock or are they busy mopping and sweeping the floors? Do they ever just sit and do nothing, nothing at all?

Well, writing is on my to-do list every day and while I may not get to it every single day, I sure do want to try. And, believe it or not, we have more time than we think to write or paint or do any other Art we wish to do. This retreat will point that out in a few different head-bonking ways.

Please join me in Waking Up. Please join me in dragging ourselves out of spring and springing forth into summer. Please join me to write all day in the wonders of nature.


Wake Up! A one-day writing retreat:

Forget the coffee. Wake up to the life that is already happening all around you. Pay attention. Let go. Be free. This one-day retreat on a farm in Glen Rock will help you discover 12 writing tools you can use anywhere, anytime in order to live a more mindful, creative life.

We often, as artists, think we don’t have much time to write or create. And yet, so much of art and creating is about noticing -- noticing the way the morni
ng breeze hlps the curtains dance to the songbirds outside. Noticing a stranger’s wrinkled smile. Noticing a loved one’s broken heart. Art is what happens when we’re too busy to pay attention. This retreat will help discover a life worth writing about – every day.

Who should register? Writers. Wannabe writers. Artists. Creative souls. Anyone. You. Your friends. A beginner. Advanced writers. Painters.

Anyone can write just for one day!

June 25th – 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Cost: $45 Seating is limited! Sign up on the left-hand sidebar.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A reflection on five years

Five years seems like a little bit of time to be a mother. Only five. Just five. And yet there is so much wisdom about people, humanity, growing up, raising kids, and life hidden between my ears now after just five years. Enough wisdom to guide me through most obstacles with ease.

It's impossible to give that wisdom -- just pass it like a bowl of mashed potatoes at the dinner table -- to another new mom. We can tell her that sleep deprivation sucks, which is does, but she won't understand what we mean until she is in month five and the baby wakes her up three times in one night again and she had really just started into a rhythm and now her whole day is off and that will set her whole week off. It's really hard to describe that feeling unless you've been there.

We can tell her that it gets harder when they aren't an infant but she won't believe us and why should she because all that crying -- all that crying! -- is such a difficult thing to get over. And yet they will say they hate you, and they will have a hard time with a friend at school that will break your heart, and they will be left out or left behind and your every muscle will tighten with the pain of it all.

But, lo and behold, our girls now sleep through the night. Just not every night. Because there are trips to the bathroom, bad dreams, lost bears, mixed up sheets, and the ever-so-scary illnesses.

And, they are over little squabbles in a matter of seconds not minutes unlike me, who has only realized recently that I have a really interesting relationship with ATTACHMENT. I'm practicing detachment, actually, and will write more about that later.

It's easy now, though. It's easy to tell my girls now that it's OK and move on. It's easy to comfort them now. They just need the comfort of a little help (gosh, don't we all?).

My big lesson right now at five years is not about motherhood at all. It's about peoplehood and how amazingly beautiful they are with all their flaws and ridiculousness. It's about lessons every day about how to manage being around certain ones (yes, even my children) and about taming the gremlins that some of them carry around with them like little monkeys each day.

I don't meditate every day but I do every week. I don't practice Zen every hour but I do practice it every day.

It's enough for me right now. It's all enough.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Practice of Now

In the midst of the darkness of being so alone caring for our twin infants, light came by way of a book: "Momma Zen: Walking the Crooked Path of Motherhood."

With no family around, my husband working long, long hours out of town and no mom friends, I was lost. It was a dark place. (I have videos to prove it wasn't as dark as I remember it, though.) In fact, I can look back and see now how justified my feelings were with so little support.

In fact, I wrote a lot about it in the blogosphere.

But, Karen Maezen Miller's book, which was given to me by one of my freelance editors, brought light to my soul with her simple ways of turning being a mother into a Zen practice. That practice continues today as I just let go to Trust. She is my friend, old Trust. She tells me to sit back with a bucket of popcorn and wait for the answers.

What makes Karen so good for mothers is that she often confesses to this being a difficult practice to do -- and she's a Zen Priest!

I often think, Okay, if Karen sometimes gets angry and she's a priest, than I can't be that terrible of a person. Walk away, decompress ... return later, calmed.

I've always been honest. Maybe too honest. The jury's still out on that one. I'm starting to claim my honesty as a source of beauty. Sometimes, my honesty is the only thing refreshing in the room, frankly.

And, part of that honesty has been saying that being a mother is the most difficult job of my life. It's hard work being a parent and if we're not trying to help mothers and fathers in the village, we'll continue to have troubles.

A lot of the reason parenting is difficult is because I make it so. I worry a lot. I am a control freak. I like things the way I like them. So ... in other words ... I have issues.

But, most of the time -- not all of the time -- I take Karen's wisdom mixed with my own version of Buddhism and Zen and Spirituality and Faith and I try not to screw things up by letting things like a big pile of the most fine, powdery silver glitter sprinkled all over the dining room floor bother me. I just really enjoy the Now a lot better when the rooms are clutter-free and the floors are clear of debris and that the air going into my lungs isn't filled with silvery glitter. That's just me, though.

I met Maezen online four years ago when I did a random search of her book and found that she had started a little blog! I was literally jumping up and down when I found that. I've watched that little blog turn into a household name for many of my smart, fantastic blog (and now Twitter) friends even as I've taken a big backseat role in the blogosphere. I still love it so!

And for four years, I've wanted to meet Maezen and give her the big hug that she deserves for helping this one mom -- and many, many more, I'm sure -- find comfort in the everyday of motherhood. I also want to thank her for these valuable lessons that are getting me through difficult times in my career as well. In fact, I'm a better person over all because of this Zen message she spreads.

I'm happy to report that this Saturday, I will finally get to meet her in Washington, D.C. and give her the thanks she deserves for being the other honest woman in the room. I'll have all copies of my books and I'll be ready to listen to her lesson in person. Because I need it now just as ever.

And I have a feeling I always will ...

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Sit-and-Do-Nothing Rule

This post is inspired by a comment left on my last blog post about how to truly savor downtime and not feel guilty about it:

"Thanks for this! I found it from Tara Gentile's tweet, and I like it. My question is, how do you feel about your downtime? I've had an issue lately where everytime I have a little downtime, I end up feeling guilty for not doing something productive during that time--and yet, I'm still always yearning for that time to myself! It's such a destructive process. It would help if I had accomplished all the to do's before I have my downtime by scheduling all tasks like you suggested."

It is so. very. hard.

And, at times, I still suffer from that guilty vibe as well.

But, mostly, I have been able to really sit-and-do-nothing for a few minutes a day -- which hoenstly, in my world, is usually writing a list, doodling, writing, reading an inspiring book or meditating.


I see you twiddling your thumbs right now. I see the sweat from anxiety forming on your upper lip. I see your leg starting to twitch.

I learned the sit-and-do-nothing technique with little kids. The well-intended advice is always "nap when they nap" ... but I always felt there was too much to do, or at worst, I couldn't actually sleep.

So I implemented -- on the rare occassion -- the sit-and-do-nothing task. Close your eyes. Think about nothing but the sounds in the room. Breathe. Let your mind wander. Wander some more. Wonder.

This is a tool I use more frequently now when I am overwhelmed with too much to do or too many things I want to do.

Let's say I have a half hour and I have an hour's worth of work to do -- in other words, a typical half hour of my life. In fact, I often feel like a squirrel in the middle of the road -- you know when they can't decide what side of the road to run to -- the one they were aiming for or the one they just left? So, I instituted the sit-and do-nothing rule. Sit and do nothing not even watch TV, not even surf the Internets, not even talk to a person. Sit and do nothing and, like magic fairy dust falling on your shoulders, the answer: it always comes.

Usually, the answer is to make dinner and never even get to the rest of the list ... but I digress.

Sit and do nothing. That's it. It really is that simple.

Man, the best ideas come to me in those moments.

And I'm a much more relaxed crazy person after a sit-and-do-nothing. Still crazy. Still nutso. Still trying to do more than I can do in a single bound. But a little tiny bit saner.

Peace to you and your sit-and-do-nothing state.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Time is abundant

There's this idea among human beings that I used to employ myself.

If only I had more time, I could do ... X Y Z.

More time and I could write my novel. More time and I could edit my short story. More time and I could find that unique job I've always wanted.

I've been waiting around for more time all my life.

Last year, when I finally finished my novel after 10 years, I learned the most valuable lesson in my life. Time is abundant. Even for busy working moms like myself. We can do this. We can make dreams a reality.

Sometimes it means saying no and I've had to do that in some heartbreakingly hard ways this week, too. Sometimes, it means saying yes.

This year, in nothing short of good New Year's Resolution-style, I made a commitment to something, well, someone.


I vowed to fit things in that I've just never had the time for in the past. Writing is one. Exercise is another. Downtime is the last.

How though? How can I, in a single day or week, work 40-Plus hours, be a great mother of twin girls, remain as a volunteer in my community and still be a writer and a wife and someone who cares and takes care of her body? How is that humanely possible?

Until two weeks ago, I lived under this immense assumption that it wasn't possible and, lo and behold, it didn't have to be possible. By even considering doing all of these things in a single day, I was crazy. I held my own expectations up in the clouds.

And then I had a wee bit of an epiphany. What if? What if I can do it? What if I can be all of these things in a single week?

I thought it over and journaled about it and experimented with some ideas. And then it occurred to me. I didn't have to do it all each day. I just needed a schedule.

I set out to fit it all in Monday through Friday. I work out/do yoga three mornings at 5 a.m. and I write/edit two mornings. I also add a little writing and editing in at night after the girls are asleep and that's also when I get some much-needed downtime to do nothing. And, my reward for doing all of this during the work week? I get to do whatever I want on Saturdays and Sundays. The result is much less stress. No more wondering when it will happen. No more wondering how it will happen. No more trying to squeeze it in during valuable weekend family time (unless I want to).

I'm not sure why this never came to me before or why I made fitting it all in so complicated.

But now that I'm so regimented, I truly believe that time is abundant. But I have to get up and say yes, yes this is going to happen today. Or it doesn't happen.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

2011: A Year of Re-Reading

I covet books like people. Books have been and may always be my trophy lover. I display the best, the brightest, the ones that profoundly and amusingly changed me proudly on bookshelves. I dust them. And rearrange them. And breeze through their pages now and again with awe and admiration.

But I never re-read them.


Until now. This year, I have decided is my year. A year to re-read. A year to go back to the basics and seriously consider these books that have led me on a passion for writing novels. I want to study these favorites in a way only I can now: As someone who has written a novel.

We have all said it and heard a million times -- to be a writer, you must first read. A lot. Well, I have read a lot. But that doesn't mean that I'm always retaining some of the reasons why these books are so great.

Let me be clear. I am not reading the BBC lists or the NBC lists or even the Nobel lists.

I am reading my list. These books that I am re-reading have stayed with me since Page One. Some have moved across state lines and into and out of up to a half dozen or more places I've called home. One has been with me since middle school.

These are not just any books. These are 12 books that led me to write my own. These are the ones that inspired me along the years in my own relationships. They are the books that light me up.

I've decided to do this in four parts. Each week, I will write about a different aspect of these books from a writer's standpoint (setting, narration, character arc and plot).

I'm pretty excited to take on this project. And while it's not 365 books or even 52 books -- and while this is not an exhaustive list of books that I have loved or been awed by -- I am sure that I will learn a lot about writing and reading on this journey. I plan to share a lot with my readers as well!

I am not sure why I never re-read books. Perhaps because the idea of knowing the ending makes it hard to keep my interest. That's why this will be a fun project. I'm reading just for the wisdom I can glean as a writer, as a novelist, as someone who hopes to have one of those shiny, beautiful trophies of her own.