My first radio interview

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I had an exciting first with a radio interview at our local PBS affiliate station on a daily 20-minute arts show. I’ve interviewed many people in my previous career as a journalist, but this was the first time I sat for an interview about me.

The studio was so comfortable. I was expecting a glassed-in booth where we both wore headphones (a la Frasier), but Erika Funke, ArtScene’s host, sat across from me at a table where we each had basic looking mics.

The biggest adjustment was realizing quickly that, on radio, you can’t say “mmm-hmm” or make any of the other noises that you do in everyday conversation. I have a habit (maybe being a northeasterner) of cutting people off before they finish sentences to agree or add my own thoughts. I am used to it because we all do it around here.

I quickly learned from watching Erika to be completely silent when it was her turn to talk, as she was for me. She wasn’t lacking expression, though… I felt like a musician in the presence of a conductor with all of her facial expressions and hand gestures conveying when she liked my train of thought. I could almost hear her shouting, “Yes! This is good! Keep going!”

Erika was a pro. She didn’t have any notes in front of her, but she asked many specific questions that showed she had done her prep work. I was really impressed with her clear diction. I started noticing every “t” I softened. (If you’re from Scranton, you know what I mean!)

She made the whole experience so comfortable, like we were having a regular get-to-know you conversation, except that one person was asking all of the questions. I talked about my influences in writing, my past careers, teaching, and my current novel-in-progress.

I’ve posted a link in case you’d like to listen to the interview. I say this was my “first radio interview” because I’m trusting there will be more in the future (thinking positive!).

Thanks for reading!

Grete

 

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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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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Problem solved…a form of gratitude

Sometimes when I’m feeling like there’s one setback after another, it helps to reflect on what has been repaired. I keep a little glass jar in my desk at work filled with colorful paper slips of “problems solved.”
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My students and I enjoy this poster that I replenish a few times a week. Anyone who has a need is invited to tear one off. At least once a week, I take one too, and I write the date and why I took that request on the back.
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Some of them are simple, like the day I forgot my cell phone at home and worried all day that my son would get sick at school and the nurse would try to call me and not be able to reach me. Some of them are more complicated and long-term and it’s not really clear when or how they’ll be answered. Just writing it down and releasing it to the universe eases my burden.
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I don’t have time to keep a journal, but writing helps me work through the things that weigh on my mind. My jar of patience, hope, healing, and more reminds me that even though there are always going to be new problems, many things I worried about are already in my past.

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 am I so encumbered?”

My son and his friends enjoy playing online games together, and the other day I overheard him ask, “Why am I so encumbered?” What he meant was he was weighed down by the items his character was carrying, but it struck me that I’ve been encumbered too, if not by physical objects, at least by the maintenance of myself, the people in my family, and our stuff.

I have constant running to-do lists, one for work and one for home, and I realized I rarely feel a sense of accomplishment on either of them because there’s always more to do. Now that the boys have constant homework and activities, it feels like life has gotten infinitely more complicated. They are big enough to help out around the house, and they do, but there are three people’s schedules running through my head at all times and most events have to be scheduled weeks in advance to happen.

I’m working out how to enjoy my days and savor them, despite all of the parts that make me tired and sometimes weigh me down. Even though I can’t stand the idea of looking at one more list, I had to make one to remind me of all the good little routines that pull me up like helium-filled balloons. Here’s mine and I’d love your suggestions too.

  1. Every morning, I look forward to my same breakfast (coffee and raisin bread toast with peanut butter) and reading a few chapters from the Bible. That is often my only quiet time in an entire day!
  2. At least one meal where I sit down with my boys. It’s usually dinner, but even if it’s breakfast or lunch, we talk and find out what’s going on with each other.
  3. Time with my loved ones to go for walks, work on a New York Times crossword, or watch a movie. These are a few of the moments where my mind isn’t running on hyperspeed.
  4. Going to sleep at night. Usually it’s more like passing out from exhaustion, but I treasure those few minutes where I’m warm under the covers. I love my bed.
  5. Listening to RadioLab podcasts on the way to and from work. This amazing show has opened my world to so many new ideas I would have missed in my myopic little world.

[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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Hope for the discouraged

FullSizeRender (3)I will admit that I’ve been kind of discouraged with myself lately. Why can’t I have more energy, more patience, more gratefulness for all of the blessings in my life? Picking on yourself never leads to anything good, nor does comparing yourself to others. I look in the mirror and say “You could do better.”

You know what? It’s true. I could do better, but instead of putting it like that, I’d like to say “I am better today.” Not better like a competition that I have to work at, but better because I’ve lived and learned for one more day.

Before I say anything to myself, I ask whether it’s something I’d say to someone I love. I certainly wouldn’t tell a friend,

“You can’t balance everything.”

“Why are you so lazy?”

“Other people can do this; why can’t you?”

Those are the kinds of things I would never even think about someone else, so why was it okay to talk to myself that way? I’m learning to think of myself as a kind and supportive friend to a younger woman who needs my help. She needs encouragement and a pep talk and sometimes a little time off from all of her responsibilities. I let her know she is strong and she can keep going, even when she thinks it’s impossible, and that she is better today, just for being herself.

What do you need to hear from yourself today?

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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Sending positive intentions to others (aka prayers)

praying-614374_1280My older son often has difficulty falling asleep.  I think it’s safe to say we’ve all had those nights where rumination and worry interrupt a good night’s rest. My advice to him? “Think of every person you’ve ever met and say a prayer for them.” That should take a while. It was a more intellectual version of counting sheep, and hopefully, a way to help others.

He said it helped him, and for me it sparked a new habit. Every night before I go to sleep I take a few minutes to pray for whoever is on my mind. That almost always includes my family and loved ones, but sometimes people I haven’t seen in years pop into my head too, even people I don’t even know.

For example, one time a man in his early twenties outside a movie theater approached me to ask for money. He was clearly a drug addict and looked so defeated and unhealthy. I was afraid, but I gave him a few dollars. He said thank you and walked away. I prayed for him then, knowing the money would probably go toward drugs rather than food. This was years ago, and yet I still pray for him regularly. I wonder what happened to him and I’ll never know, but I wanted so badly for him to feel loved. I could see he didn’t love himself and probably believed no one else did either.

I’ve dabbled with the idea of creating a prayer list because I’m an organized sort of person who loves to write things down (like everything I eat, every day). There are many prayer list apps our there if you’re interested. I thought about using one of them, but something about an app that reminds you to pray takes away the mystery for me. I am afraid it would become rote instead of the heartfelt spontaneous prayers I make now.

Some of the apps even have boxes you can check off when prayers are answered. My children’s Sunday school teacher reminds them that ALL prayers are answered. It’s just that sometimes the answer is “not yet” or even “no.” One of the mysteries of faith is accepting that very bad things happen to good people. We can choose to believe the universe is random or that all things have meaning, but either way, we’re not yet ready to understand fully. You don’t see the result of some prayers for a long time or ever in some cases. Did all my prayers for the drug-addicted man who approached me in a parking lot help him in any way? I’d like to think so, but I’ll never be able to check off a box definitively.

Prayer has the power to bring you out of yourself and deeper into yourself at the same time. When you’re praying for others, you’re setting your ego aside. You’re pulling yourself out of “poor me” mode. Nothing snaps me out of a bad mood faster than remembering all the people who have gone through much worse than I could ever imagine. But you are also allowed (and encouraged) to ask for yourself. Just knowing it’s not all on me to fix anyone else or myself gives me a sense of peace. I am putting forth the effort, but I’m not working alone.

Whether you believe in prayer or not, I’m sure you can acknowledge that wishing someone well, even if they don’t know you are doing so, just might change their lives for the better. I’ll be praying for you.

[Image courtesy of Gadini at 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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Traveling way outside my comfort zone

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“East or west, home is best.” This is a phrase I grew up hearing my father say often, especially when he got back from another international business trip. It’s something I say to myself nearly every time I pull into my driveway.

Even though I’ve been a single parent for the past several years, I’ve never in that time taken my kids anywhere overnight by myself. I don’t really enjoy traveling, flying, or going to new places. This spring and summer, I decided that had to change.

My kids and I just got home from a one-night trip to western Pennsylvania (about four hours away), to places we’d never been before. My older son developed a fascination with Fallingwater, a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house. He set a picture of it as our computer desktop background and asked me every few months about going.

Wow, was it worth it! We had a great time. My older son said the tour was even better than he had expected and my younger son (the one I’ve now and then accused of taking all his blessings for granted) thanked me many times for our trip and how much fun it was.

I will confess that I naturally have a lot of anxiety and the main way I keep it at bay is through routine. Get up at the same time every day, have the same breakfast every day, follow a to-do list I wrote the night before every day… what may sound boring to you is comfort to me.

Most people would be shocked to hear that I’m anxious because I come across as easygoing and carefree a lot of the time. That’s because I happen to be fortunate enough to have a lot of control over what I do when (a major indicator of human happiness). Only those who know me well see the cracks at the seams when we eat dinner two hours later than I expected or had plans to go somewhere that get changed last minute.

I am not a go-with-the-flow type of person, so taking a last minute trip to somewhere I’ve never been before, finding a hotel online, and driving across the state with some handwritten directions scrawled on a scrap of paper were definitely pushing my boundaries. To one of my world-traveling coworkers, I equated it with her going to Russia.

It got me thinking, what else can I do to keep growing and experiencing new things? What do you do, large and small, to get out of your comfort zone and into the great big world? I’d love your ideas! (Please don’t suggest varying my breakfast, ’cause that ain’t happening.)

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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The most rewarding things in life are not the ones that come easy

ID-100129086The other day, my sons and I were talking about what we would wish for if it would come true instantly. I wished I could sing well. My older son said he wished that whatever he wanted to be good at, he’d be able to do it perfectly right away. You think you’re fooling the genie by wishing for all the wishes you want, but you know it’s going to have to backfire somehow.

 

I said I wished I could sing well because singing is something I’d like to do, but it’s not essential to who I am. Don’t go suggesting I take vocal lessons (I might be pitch deaf for all I know) because I don’t have the drive to practice and put in the hours it would take to improve my singing, even if it were possible. It’s just one of those things that’d be nice, ya know?

 

But writing… that’s super important to me. For most of my life, I told myself that if I could be anything, it would be a writer. There were times I tried to bury that, or work around the edges – proofreading, copy editing, teaching other people to write – because it seemed so precious to me that I was afraid of messing up and losing my only big dream.

 

Why wouldn’t I wish that I could immediately be really good at writing and a big success? Because it would take all the fun out of it. Sometimes writing is really stressful and overwhelming. Sometimes I get discouraged and say, I should give up; this is going nowhere. But some little kernel inside me makes me keep going, no matter what, because when I’m writing and it’s going well, it’s one of the best feelings there is. Experts call it the flow state – where time stops and you are in the moment enjoying yourself. It’s not easy to get into that flow state, but the hours of frustration for those few unexpected moments of flow are SO worth it.

 

I am happy to say that I just finished the manuscript for my second book yesterday. It was more than a year in the making, a few pages at a time. I texted a few people, jumped around, told everyone else I saw for the rest of the day, and then I got back to writing.

 

I don’t want the joy of learning to write taken away. I want to savor each hard-won success as it comes. I want to climb my way up that mountain, scrabbling over every rock, losing my footing a few times, but still holding on tight, until I get to the top. The top is still shrouded in clouds right now. I don’t even know what’s up there yet. Will this be the breakthrough bestseller I’ve been dreaming of all my life? Will it be a movie someday? I sure hope so, but no matter what happens, I’m going to keep writing.

Whatever your secret wish is, I hope it comes true for you, but not instantly. I wish it comes true in the way that makes you say “all the hard work and all the time I hoped and waited was worth it.”

[Image courtesy of Photokanok at http://www.freedigitalphotos.net]

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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