Friday, March 4, 2011
My daughter is selling Girl Scout cookies. It has only been 4 days and she is already over $100.00 in sales. There are a bunch of people we have not even approached yet, but I still find myself humbled that so many people are willing to help my daughter. These are not strangers. Only friends and family. And there are so many more of them than I feel like I have when I picture my circle in my mind.
I remember feeling similar on the day of my wedding rehearsal. I was overwhelmed to look at the sea of faces. People who had travelled--some far, some close--and given up their time for an evening with us. People who were there to do nothing but celebrate the union of myself and my husband. People completely void of agendas. It was a warm, embracing cloud of respect, support and love. And I remember it bringing tears to my eyes.
But when I am down (and we all get down from time to time) that cloud seems to vanish and it is as if those moments never existed. Evil builds a wall--a wall designed to block my vision and encourage self-pity. It wants to entrap me. It wants to isolate me. It wants to make me feel alone and helpless and hopeless.
And sometimes is does.
It throws me to the bottom of a deep, cavernous hole.
Sometimes I cry and lash out. I push away those that love me most. I hold grudges and scream to the skies. And on my worst days I curse myself--tear myself down and lynch my own spirit.
But then...the Light has a way of working its own way through the crack, doesn't it? Slowly, cautiously, the Light flows around the locks and bars and shields you place around your heart. It floods into the hole, at first blinding us and gradually, warming us, surrounding us in calm and clarity.
And we are once again enlightened.
When you feel like you are alone--like there is no one you can talk to, no one that would understand what you are going through--I encourage you to make a list of those who do little things for you everyday. Grand gestures are wonderful, but the little things are what keeps the world running. And before you even realize it, you will see the Light is working to keep you happy and whole every day, in every moment and with every breath you take.
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
As you know, I have been on a journey with the goal of having more harmony and unity in my life.
The exact opposite has been going on recently.
We have had family illnesses, doctor's appointments, disappointments, medical emergencies, feline distress, arguments, hurt feelings, tears, fears, and a lot of worry. All of these things giving me a perfect excuse to put off my goals for another day and host a series of pity parties instead. Have I ever mentioned how utterly exhausting having these parties are? My mind is scrambled. My soul is exhausted.
I have been told on a couple of occasions recently that I need to find at least 30-45 minutes PER DAY to pamper myself. The closest I come to this is car line. I get there early on purpose. I grab a good book, turn on the Symphony channel on the radio and just get some quiet in my day. It is actually a 40 minute respite. But never seems long enough.
It is in those moments I am glad I only teach part time. I feel like I am constantly on the go. Stay at home moms rarely stay at home. Maybe when the children are babies and staying home is easier than taking the whole house with you to the grocery store. But when they are school age, your time does not magically multiply. I thought I would get bored. I worried I would just sit around all day. Now I wish I could.
But then I also wonder, if I worked full time, would I let something go? Would I feel as much pressure to be all and do all? Would I feel obliged to volunteer for everything that came along? Would I feel the push to keep the house clean and the dinner cooked? Or would I surrender a bit more? I doubt it. I am sure I would have an even bigger Superwoman complex than I do now.
When will we cease to run away from the things that make us whole? If, as a human being, you need to maintenance your mind by having a few moments to do whatever it is that makes you who you are, then why do we deny ourselves. Why do we withhold to the point of cruelty? Our teeth need daily brushing to stay clean. Our bodies need nutritious meals to stay strong. Our skin requires daily cleansing to stay healthy. Would we deny ourselves any of these? Would we cease drinking until we died of dehydration? Would we forgo movement until our muscles atrophied and hearts gave out? Does our mind not need exercise and therapy for clarity?
Our bodies have innate needs, most of which we meet on a daily basis. Maybe we don't eat the right things or go to a gym, but for the most part, we keep our bodies moving and living. But our minds we fail to pamper. We take it for granted. I think that when we are feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, it is a cry from our mind to slow down. Someone hit your internal warning button and you need to pay attention.
My button has been pushed. And I am trying to pay attention. I just need to find the time. (that's sarcasm, by the way)
Are you hearing the warning bell sound?
Saturday, February 5, 2011
I know I did.
The first story I remember writing was a short story called "The Flower." It was about two flowers who were best friends, but are separated one day when one of the flowers gets picked. But there was a happy ending when the next day the second flower was picked and was reunited with her best friend in a flower vase display. I typed it up on a typewriter, illustrated the pages and bound the book with yarn. My first book. I was six.
My favorite part of elementary school was the weekly treat of creative writing. We would be called into the hall one by one to visit with a typist in a small supply closet. She would give us a writing prompt and she would then type our response on paper. We got to color the page and display our stories in the hall. I LOVED this more than anything else at school.
By the time I was in 4th grade I wrote book reports on the likes of Agatha Christie. I remember submitting a diorama based on her book "The ABC Murders" in which I laid out one of my "dead" Barbies to reenact the murder scene. Most kids chose books like "Where the Red Fern Grows" or "Little House on the Prairie." I didn't mind being different back then.
In 5th grade I was discovering the lure of the world. The librarian would save me copies of the New York Times. I loved seeing how life was in another part of the country. About this time my paternal grandfather started gifting me subscriptions to Reader's Digest. He did this until I graduated, feeling that there was a great deal to learn from the magazine. He was right. Lots of things were reader submitted. Jokes, personal accounts. This is the first time I tried submitting something for publication. I never heard back on my knock knock joke.
At some point, my mother showed up with a huge box of National Geographic. The pictures and stories were fascinating, beautiful, haunting, and sometimes gory. But I marveled at the world I had yet to discover. Someday, I told myself, I would go to these places and see them for myself. I just had to make it out of the countryside of East Tennessee. Away from all of the green. I convinced myself I hated the color and longed for a life in the city. Someplace gray I told myself. That was where the real action was--the real stories.
I wrote poetry. I won a handful of small local contests. I was published in a national anthology. At first I was excited. Then I started telling myself they let anyone with half a brain into those things. This is when I started selling myself short.
In high school I enjoyed writing essays. I found I was really very good at it. I was faster than everyone else and always got 100s. In 11th grade I was moved to Advanced English. Until then I was considered mediocre as a student. Finally something I excelled at. But I was scared. I had nightmares about the first day of school. I felt like a farce. I was a C/D student going into an advanced level class. This is when I started pretending I was something I was not.
By the time we got to term papers, I wrote a few papers for other students. They had picked up on my speed and insecurity to fit in. But I didn't mind, really. It didn't matter what I was writing about as long as I got to write. One kid even paid me 15 bucks for a short 2 page essay--which was a really good deal to me since I could knock that out in 30 minutes or less.
About this time I decided to try and submit poetry to a few magazines. I received across the board rejections. My practical mind knew this was to be expected. My pride took it as a hard hit. I just let it feed into my feelings of inferiority.
I took a creative writing class senior year that really re-lit the bug. I even won the award that year for Creative Writing Student of the Year. I was picked by the teacher who I had made curse in class one day. We were arguing over a subjective question and I backed her into a corner. I thought she hated me, but I think she admired my passion.
In college I majored in Creative Writing. I took classes with other writers for the first time in my life. And even though I made A's and got tons of compliments from others, I felt insignificant next to their prose. I let the negativity seep in more than ever. I never submitted the works they suggested.
At this time I was madly in love. My life was completely revolving around my boyfriend. All I wanted to do was marry him and write. I gave up on my idea of moving to NYC and writing for a major print publication in lieu of staying close to him. He felt we needed stability, good paying jobs and security before we got married. His practicality perfectly balanced my idealism. And I decided to have a back up plan. Of course, my goal was to write. I could do that on the side. Surely, I could find a job with my English degree. It was generic enough. But as a back up I could always teach. I actually started thinking about teaching in high school. I admired my English teachers, but older kids scared me. The younger the better. So I majored in Child and Family Studies thinking that this was a good plan B.
I graduated and went on the great job search. Ends up English degrees over qualify you for jobs like Travel Agent or Administrative Assistant. They under qualify you for state level jobs in anything but teaching. And they are great for newspaper jobs like proofreading or part time writing. But with student loans and rent to pay, I could not survive on 7 bucks an hour. After a lot of depression and tears, I went back to plan B. I would teach.
I went on to get a Master's in teaching because that was the fastest route at this point. In the mean time, I married my love. He started working full time and I focused on student teaching. I cried all the way through it. I hated every moment. I knew then I did not want to teach full time.
I stopped writing. The ideas continued to flow, but I could not bring myself to believe in my dream anymore. I had to focus on the practical side. And teaching did allow me to use my creativity. Especially with younger children. So, I taught preschool. Within ayear, I was having some sort of break down and quit. I was miserable.
I took a job for the local library. I was finally back in the world of literature. I started thinking about writing again. I let my heart open back up to the possibility. I worked with people who loved books and were extremely well read. But I had shut off the part of my mind long ago and was feeling a bit stunted. So, I played along as well as I could, but still feeling like a total impostor. The old voices of doubt started whispering in my ear again when something else happened. I fell in love all over again.
With my son.
Is it a Kleenex commercial that says having a baby changes everything? Boy, they weren't kidding. I could not leave this sweet baby. He needed me and I needed him. So, I quit to stay home. But needing ways to make money, I looked for online work. I found it. Tutoring at home. Back to education I trudged. And I kept that job for 7 years. I worked my way up to supervisor and I really loved the contributions I made there. I got to write every day. There was nothing creative going on and the writing was purely technical in nature, but I was writing. Just like high school. It didn't matter what I wrote as long as my brain was thinking.
Another child came. More bills. More responsibilities. I continued teaching, moving back to preschool. I have found teaching to be much less cumbersome once I became a parent. I really needed to experience that change before I could appreciate children fully.
So teaching has become my way to pay the bills. And I do like it. Now I can embrace it. In the past, it felt like that was what I did as the result of failing in writing. But I slowly started allowing writing to creep back into my life through the past couple of years. The first thing I did was start this blog. I dared myself to move. Baby steps, long pauses, but I did move.
Second, I applied and was accepted for a job writing articles for an online company. The work is again, technical, and I primarily write about education, but I am getting myself used to the editorial process. My old enemy, Self Doubt, loves to use critique against me. And that was one of my major stumbling blocks over the years. With time and maturity, I am learning how to accept judgement. How to use it for self help instead of self destruction.
Once these paths began to reopen and I was willing to accept the challenge, I found myself inspired to reach my ultimate goal. To write a novel. I have worked on my book, Thaw, for over a year and a half. Most of the time, the words flowed out of me automatically. Other times, I was blocked and struggled to write one sentence. But I stuck with it and finished my manuscript this past December. I was so happy, I cried. It was my moment to say, "I told you I could do it." And then I got a visit from my old enemy.
I started researching literary agents. And then I came across the technical specifications for novels. Until a book is oer 45,000 words, it is not considered a novel. Mine was around 43,000. Simply a novella. I failed. Again. And Self Doubt really stuck it to me. He wanted me to feel the full impact. How dare I try to achieve something so lofty. So unpractical. You stupid, worthless fool.
I sat for a month and had a pity party. Self Doubt was fantastic host, as usual. And then, I just decided enough was enough. What was holding me back? 2,000 words? I just plucked 43,000 words out of my mind and I was going to stop because I was 5% short? I was already 95% of the way there!
In the past two weeks I have belted it out. I have over 45,000 words in my manuscript now. It may be a short, easy read, but it is a novel, my friends. A true novel.
I told you I could do it.
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
My second area of improvement is physical. I want to loose about 20 pounds before the end of March. If I will do that remains to be seen, but more on that in another post.
My third area for concentration is more than body health...it is mental health. An overall sweep of my agendas, my esteem, my strength, my direction.
When I was younger, I used to read the obituaries every day. In fact, one of the reasons I stopped subscribing to the paper was because this daily ritual, the study of the dead, was depressing and self deprecating. I read each stranger's life story, taking in the details. Teachers, deacons, preachers, doctors, police officers, entrepreneurs, wives, sisters, mothers. They were loved, celebrated, lauded. Then there were others who had no family to speak of, no prestigious career. It would simply say a name and a location for burial. Those bothered me the most. Because they always forced me to think, "What will my obituary read like?"
I have to say overall, I am pleased with my life. More than pleased...proud. I am proud to say I am an educator and a writer. I am a caring mother and loving wife. I am a volunteer and advocate. I am, simply, me. But there is something else. Something more that is missing.
As if I am not busy enough as it is. I write. I teach preschool. I run a home sales business. I volunteer for school. I am about to start a Girl Scout Troop and battle the masses in the great cookie sale. I am even considering a run for PTO, which I think may be more intense than a bid for US President. But still, I long for something more. A cohesiveness. A harmony. Not just in this particular area but in all the three goals for 2011. (And yes, notice I said GOALS, not resolutions. A goal is something that may actually still be here in 3 months time. If I called these resolutions, I have officially set in motion the kiss of death. No, a goal is much more attainable and realistic.) I need my body, my mind and my home to work as a group. Not struggle against one another for my attention. I need to work with the ebb and flow, not swim against it. I want to breathe.
My plan? This blog, for one, will make me self-accountable. Number two, aiming high. I don't give myself nearly enough credit. I am a capable woman. I manage to take on all of these projects, but continuously feel like I fail at them. Have I actually fallen short on even one? No. In my mind I suck. The reality: I am pretty darn cool. I may not be top of my class, homecoming queen, first one asked to join the team cool, but I hold my own. And when the chips are down, I don't run away.
So here goes nothing. Time to be courageous. My immediate goals? Organizing a Ladies Expo for my direct sales business. Keeping this blog up to date. And finally, adding those last 241 words to my novel and submitting it to a literary agent. Without the fear of rejection. Sure, I am going to inevitably be turned down, but I can resubmit. Sure, I may not get a single new customer from the Expo, but at least I tried something. And I may not have one single person read this post. But who cares? It's not about your reaction to me. It's about my reaction to myself. About finding my own strength. My own harmony. And mixing that will all areas of my life. Until my cup runneth over.
What are your goals for 2011. Resolutions are not allowed...
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
I have spent the last year working on myself and my career goals. There are three things in life that I enjoy doing and I am doing all of them right now. I love writing, teaching and interior design. I currently have jobs in all three areas. Life is good.
But, there is a yearning in my soul for more. (Isn't there always?) I have more goals to make, more achievements to reach for. And I want to use this--my brought from the dead blog--to document my journey.
One of my tasks for this year is organization and streamlining. I already started by purging and reorganizing my pantry.
Isn't she lovely? At least for a dark, small hole in the wall?
And in the aftermath of the toy bomb otherwise known as Christmas, I found myself literally collapsing under a mountain of Legos. The Boy has an extensive collection of Legos thanks to Jolly Old St. Nick and his friendly family of elves. And he has very limited space in which to put them. Every time I passed his room, my throat welled up. I found breathing difficult. I wanted to gouge out my eyeballs. It. Was. Painful.
When I could no longer handle the chaos, I started digging my way out of the mess. One brick at a time. Here is what I had to work with.
Oh, woe is me! In his defense, the white storage unit is new and was just hanging out in the middle of the room until I was ready to get serious, but still. Woe. Is. Me.
There was dust.
Like toys actually behind the baseboard.
But a few nails, a spray cleaner and 5 hours later, I arrived to this!
The storage unit is from Ikea and holds different sets of Legos (Star Wars, Atlantis, Pirates, Hero Factory, etc) I installed a bar which I hung six blue cups from and organized the bricks by color into those. I installed 2 shelves to hold completed projects and protect them from The Girl. And the pocket holder nailed to the wall holds all of the instruction books for the kits.
I moved the bed to the adjoining wall. This freed up the longer wall for a dedicated Lego area. The Boy loves the idea of spying on people through the window while still laying in bed.
Finally, I can breathe.
More projects to come!