Keep going, even when you’re nervous

IMG_9222This is Rey. She stands guard by my laptop when I am writing. She stands for bravery to do things that make me nervous.

First, I had to assemble her. Legos are fun, but when I was a kid, they didn’t make me nervous. You got a box of assorted blocks and did whatever you wanted with them. Now they come in kits with booklets of directions. My logical brain loves to follow step-by-step assembly, but it’s also intimidating because I might screw up.

There are lots of things that make me nervous. I was too shy to order a soft pretzel at the mall when I was a kid, so my mom sent my younger brother who could barely reach the counter. I’ve come a long way since then, but a lot of phone calls and social interaction still get my heart beating fast. Just calling the doctor to make an appointment for a checkup feels like an accomplishment.

Sometimes my house makes me nervous. Can I take care of everything I need to do to keep it running smoothly? Parenting makes me nervous. The teenage years are about to hit and I hope I’m ready.

Writing makes me nervous. It’s my passion, but precisely because I love it so, I feel there’s more at stake. The job of a writer is to inform, entertain, or somehow connect with readers. In order to create true connection, a writer must be prepared to share her feelings, no easy feat for a private person like me. Even when you’re writing fiction, there has to be emotional truth in what you say. I worry that no one will like what I have to say, or worse yet, that they won’t care at all.

I think about what Rey would do. She would keep going, no matter what. 

 

 

If you enjoy reading my blog, please check out my first novel, Giving Myself Away, about a divorced mom making tough choices and a fresh start.

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When you don’t take your own advice

I was having a rotten day… running late, too much to do in not enough time, and feeling stressed and resentful. I consider myself a responsible person, but sometime during that morning, I lost a check that my employer had written out for me to deliver for an order.

I panicked, I dumped out the contents of my purse, and I complained to my coworkers, who were sympathetic and said, “It can happen to anyone.”

Yeah, but not to me, I was thinking.

Of course I agreed with them in theory that it could happen to anyone, and if it had happened to anyone else, I would have said the same thing. I would have told them to relax and it will probably turn up later, and even if it doesn’t, no big deal.

Later, I found out that one of my coworkers who was soothing me about the check just found out her godmother had died. That put things into perspective immediately. Not only was I acting silly about a little mistake, but I wasn’t being aware that other people around me are dealing with much worse a lot of the time.

I’m trying to catch myself in the act when I start putting myself down and treat myself the same way and with the same allowances for mistakes that I’d give anyone else. Sometimes I barely notice the negative self-talk; it’s like having a radio on in the background and only listening to what they’re saying now and then.

When I hear it now, I stop and ask myself “What would I tell my friend who made a mistake?” And I say to myself whatever I would have said to her.

P.S. Someone did find the missing check and put it in my work mailbox a few days later.

Have a great day and talk nicely when you’re talking to yourself!

Grete

[Image courtesy of public domain images on http://www.pixabay.com]

If you enjoy reading my blog, please check out my first novel, Giving Myself Away, about a divorced mom making tough choices and a fresh start.

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Chest wrinkles? Really? Saying no to women’s magazines

actress-1299250_1280Chest wrinkles did me in. I didn’t even know that was something I needed to worry about.

Every month I’d look forward to the latest issue of the women’s magazine I’ve been subscribing to for years, and each time I curled up to read through it, I’d put the magazine down an hour later feeling despondent.

I’m sure that’s not the effect the editors intended (although the cynical part of me knows that selling products is best accomplished by making you feel bad about something and then presenting a solution you can buy, and furthermore that these cheap subscribers’ rates only come because of the astronomical amount of products advertised in the magazine).

The letter from the editor every month talks about empowering women. There is always at least one article about how I can help girls and women in other parts of the world. They’ve even started sprinkling in a few models who are above single-digit sizes without calling attention to it. And this month I read a heartfelt essay by a woman in her 50s who says she feels more beautiful now than she ever did before in her life.

But yet… this was blended in with articles about preventing chest wrinkles by sleeping on my back (and I’m a side sleeper, so I must be doomed), doing exercises to tighten my butt while I’m filling the bathtub for the kids, and dozens and dozens of ads for makeup and skin creams and hair products and perfumes.

“Empowered” is the opposite of how I feel after reading all of this. I remember subscribing to a teen magazine when I was about 12 that published the height and weight of each of the models. I started feeling fat exactly then, because even though my BMI was normal, as you can guess, the girls in the magazine were so much thinner.

After two children, I’ve given up on aspiring to be as thin as a model, but the playing field now is wrinkles and uneven skin tone and gray hair. I’ve just recently come to terms with the fact that I’m getting little wrinkles above my knees and now I’m supposed to be on the lookout for chest wrinkles?

The worst part is, the magazine doesn’t promote aging gracefully, but fighting it hard with products and exercises (and even sleeping positions). Don’t I have enough in my life to be responsible for? Like raising my kids, working at my career, running my household?

The overall message I take away is that I could be doing much, much more to look good and show the world that I’ve got it all together.

 

I’ve decided that I am not reading this stuff anymore. I probably won’t know what clothes are trendy or how to conceal sagging eyelids, but I’m willing to trade that in for more time to read things that actually do make me feel empowered. I’ll have more time to read about being a kinder person, a better parent and teacher and writer.

Take care and please let me know your thoughts on women’s magazines!

Grete

[Image courtesy of public domain images on http://www.pixabay.com]

If you enjoy reading my blog, please check out my first novel, Giving Myself Away, about a divorced mom making tough choices and a fresh start.

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Thinking big: you can do it!

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My kids are at that age where they still believe anything is possible. When I tell my son to pick up his dirty laundry, he lets me know that he’ll have a butler someday to do the mundane household stuff. When I say I’d like to go to Disney World, my other son tells me he’ll buy the whole park for me. Inside I’m thinking “not likely,” but I play along.

The other day after telling me about the five-star restaurant he’s going to own, my son said, “Sometimes I think I’m thinking too big, but then I realized it’s good to think big.”

Indeed, it is. I lost my way somewhere into adulthood, scaling back my expectations to imagine what’s realistic rather than what’s possible. Now that I’m watching my kids navigate the many roads ahead, I’m inspired to go exploring again too.

For years, I held back a little bit here and there, thinking if I haven’t done this or that by now, I’m never going to. Now I’m jumping in to whatever I’m wishing for, trusting the universe to provide.

Last week, I went to a writers’ conference where they had pitch sessions with agents by appointment. I was pretty scared to talk to an agent because I might have to hear “no, thanks, I’m not interested in your book” in person rather than by email.

Somewhere along the way in the car, a thought popped into my head that I would just leave this up to God. If I’m meant to get an agent soon, I will. I immediately stopped worrying and started thinking big. Guess what… both agents said they were excited about my story idea and please send the manuscript!

My older son wants a laptop so much. He’s been bugging me for a few years now, but I’m holding off until he’s in 9th grade, when he’ll need to have one for school. I told him if I sell a million novels, I’ll buy him one before then. “Not likely,” he said. Ha! We’ll see.

What kind of big thinking do you do when you let your imagination wander like it did when you were a kid and you knew you could do anything, be anything, have anything?

Have a great day!

Grete

 

[Image courtesy of public domain images on http://www.pixabay.com]

If you enjoy reading my blog, please check out my first novel, Giving Myself Away, about a divorced mom making tough choices and a fresh start.

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Why you need to find your tribe

people-1230872_640When I started out in fiction writing, I got some misguided advice to stay away from other writers (they’re the competition and they don’t buy books). So I toiled away alone for a couple of years, often yearning for a learning community of people who love writing as much as I do.

A few months ago, I joined the Women’s Fiction Writers Association and it’s been exhilarating and amazing. I’m in a critique group with three other novelists and I’m overjoyed for how nitpicky they are.

When I listen to a symphony, I can enjoy the music, but since I’ve never played an instrument, I have very little to say other than “I like it.” Now I have the chance to work with writers who know the guts of a novel, its plot development, dialogue, character arcs, and themes. We can talk shop and know we’re not boring each other.

I realized that other writers are my friends and support network, not people to be avoided. It’s not like buying a car… readers buy dozens of books a year. And I’m a writer who buys books, especially in the same genre I’m writing. After all, I write what I like to read, and I never would have started writing if I didn’t first love reading.

Whatever your interests, there’s a group out there for you, whether in person or online, and it’s easier than ever to find them.

Please comment below and share your passion!

Have a wonderful day and take care,

Grete

[Image courtesy of public domain images on http://www.pixabay.com]

If you enjoy reading my blog, please check out my first novel, Giving Myself Away, about a divorced mom making tough choices and a fresh start.

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How to be a true fan

IMG_8180Whatever your passion is, show your support

If you know me, you’ll look at the photo above and ask “Why is she wearing a Carolina Panthers jersey?” or better yet, “Why is she wearing any jersey?” That’s because I grew up in a non-sports-watching family and I borrowed this for a Super Bowl party during which I wasn’t really rooting for the Panthers because I don’t know anything about them.

That’s when I realized I need to be a better fan to the people and groups I do root for. My biggest passion, aside from my family, is great women’s fiction. This year I joined the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, a group founded by women’s fiction writers to offer support to their fellow authors. Within the WFWA, I also joined a critique group with three other writers and we’re anxiously awaiting critiques on the first pages we sent each other a few weeks ago.

I’ve resparked my reading list and I decided I’m going to write an email to each author I’ve read to thank her for putting her story out there for the rest of us to enjoy. And for the books I really love, I will post reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. These are the things that keep writers going, and since I know that, I am going to send all the positive energy into the universe for other writers to show them how much they mean to me.

I just finished reading a book I really enjoyed, so I looked up the author on Goodreads, wrote her a message, and heard back from her the next day. We have unprecedented access through social media to the people we admire, so why not let them know how much we appreciate their work? I also wrote a review for her book on Amazon…I don’t know about you, but I don’t buy anything without checking the reviews first.

I would encourage you to think about what passions keep you going and how you can nourish and sustain the people who add joy to your life. I’d love your comments on how you’ll bring this to fruition.

P.S. If you’re a fellow writer or an avid reader, please check out this excellent blog by Cathy Day called “Literary Citizenship.” She goes into more detail about how we can support writers and books.

 

If you enjoy reading my blog, please check out my first novel, Giving Myself Away, about a divorced mom making tough choices and a fresh start.

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Kids and homework: Backing off is best

IMG_8237(I promise I was only hovering to take this picture!)

A recent study has been released that says helicopter parenting, especially in schoolwork, might backfire when it comes to promoting student success. You might think the most involved parents have the best students, but it’s not necessarily the case. Kids who never have to create their own task list and prioritize their assignments don’t develop the skills to do so. Kids who aren’t used to being held accountable don’t learn responsibility. Our best intentions in helping our kids stay on track can fall short.

I’ve been teaching for ten years now, and I have a few cases every year of students whose families I am begging to get more involved. The main thing I ask is that they give their children the time and routine to sit down each night and do their homework.

The issue I see far more commonly is parents taking over their kids’ school lives. I’ve had parents drive to school to drop off a paper that was forgotten at home. I’ve had kids whose parents make them flashcards or fill out maps instead of telling their children to do their own work. And worst of all, I’ve had parents berate me for punishing kids who cheated because it was “too harsh” to give them a failing grade on an assignment.

Being a parent and watching your kid struggle is heartbreaking; believe me, I get it. There are so many times I want to step in and somehow fix a situation, but I know that doing so is not helping my children in the long run. I have a special advantage as a teacher of seeing kids at all stages of development and this long view helps me realize that calling another parent to try to get a copy of a workbook page my fifth grader forgot at school is not going to help him pack his homework properly at school tomorrow because there was no consequence today.

These are the suggestions I offer at parent-teacher night (this is advice for kids in middle school and high school, not very young children):

  1. Make sure kids have a time and a place to do homework each day. Even if there’s no written homework, tell your children they will sit down for a few minutes to study new material. The routine is important, just like you need for any good habits in your own life.
  2. Don’t “rescue” them when they screw up. Trust me that forgetting a homework assignment provides a learning opportunity of small consequence that may prevent a much larger mishap later.
  3. If your child has a problem with a teacher, please encourage your child to talk to the teacher. I always tell my students to talk to me directly first. If that doesn’t solve the problem, their parents can talk to me. If it’s still not resolved, they should go to my boss.
  4. If your child is overwhelmed, take out an index card. Tell him to write down everything he has to do. Then number the list from soonest due date to farthest out. If there’s a lot to do at once, alternate between fifteen minutes of a “hard” activity with longer periods of easier work.
  5. Let your child know you love her just as much even when she goofs up. When parents try to prevent their children from making mistakes, it can make them fearful to try anything outside their comfort zone. It stifles creativity and bravery.

I do my best to think like a teacher rather than a mom when it comes to my kids and their homework. That doesn’t mean we never have nights of frustration and tears, but I do hope that keeping professional objectivity will pay off in the long run.

As always, please let me know what you think by commenting, and thank you for reading!

 

 

If you enjoy reading my blog, please check out my first novel, Giving Myself Away, about a divorced mom making tough choices and a fresh start.

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