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.

cropped-givingmyselfawaycover.jpg

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.

cropped-givingmyselfawaycover.jpgAmazon button

 

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.

cropped-givingmyselfawaycover.jpgAmazon button

 

 

Thinking big: you can do it!

girl-918686_1920

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.

cropped-givingmyselfawaycover.jpgAmazon button

 

 

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.

cropped-givingmyselfawaycover.jpgAmazon button

 

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.

cropped-givingmyselfawaycover.jpgAmazon button

 

 

 

 

 

 

I just shredded years of my life

I am on a relentless quest to get rid of the paper clutter that’s bogging me down. Last March, I took an entire day to sort all of my papers and create a new, simplified filing system. I’m happy to say that nearly a year later, it’s still working. You can read about it here. And the six-month update is here.

IMG_6485

tidyingNow that I’m keeping up with new papers coming into the house, phase two is eliminating all of the old clutter I let accumulate over the past twenty-five years. I recently read and really enjoyed this revolutionary little book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, by Marie Kondo. I followed her advice to take care of clothing and books before moving on to paper clutter. I had success with this, which you can read about here.

One of the keys to her system is putting all of the items you’re sorting into one room so you can evaluate it all at once. This way, you know how much you’re dealing with. Then when you finish your sorting and discarding, you keep all of that item in one place. I had papers in four rooms of my house. Here’s what I started with when I put everything together, although you can’t see all of it because of a filing cabinet and a few stacked boxes:

IMG_8006

At first I felt completely overwhelmed by the task ahead, but Kondo’s advice is to tackle a category all at once rather than a little bit at a time for a more emotionally satisfying experience and to prevent relapse. I treated myself to a large coffee and pretended it was a party (as you can imagine, this took some imagination).

The next step with paper clutter is to separate non-sentimental papers from those that you consider sentimental. This was the part that really gave me difficulty. Besides old bills and receipts and other nonessential paperwork, she recommends getting rid of all lecture notes. I have most of the papers I’ve written since high school, along with notebooks, syllabi, and other evidence of my education. They shouldn’t be sentimental; I’ve never looked at them again, so obviously they’ve long outstayed their usefulness. But it seems anything I’ve ever written is sentimental because “writer” is the essence of me and it feels like I’m throwing away a part of myself.

The task went faster when I put these items into my sentimental pile and instead moved on to boxes like this:

IMG_8011

Shredding ten years’ worth of phone and electric bills was oddly satisfying (except in that fact that my local recycling center doesn’t take shredded paper.

When I was all finished (I think about six hours later), this is what left my house:

IMG_8019

Unfortunately, this is what’s left for sentimental items:

IMG_8032

About half of that is my kids’ stuff, and the rest is letters, history papers, old calendars, greeting cards, workout logs, and other miscellaneous stuff I never look at. I will save the next installment of my clutter journey to explore why these items are so hard to part with.

I highly recommend Kondo’s book. Check it out and please let me know what are the toughest material possessions for you to manage.

Thanks for reading and take care,

Grete

 

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.

cropped-givingmyselfawaycover.jpgAmazon button

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How (not) to handle stress

 

I was going to write about healthy ways to handle stress until I realized that I covered this topic a few months ago (it’s obviously on my mind), so I decided this time I’ll write what NOT to do because I’m an expert on that!

  1. Spending too much money. One of my biggest stress triggers is loneliness. I know there will be days I will be spending the whole. day. alone. It is healthy to head out and about to be among people in a public place, but it’s not a good idea to go on a shopping spree for cleaning products or office supplies (my two favorite binges besides food – see below). Coming home with stuff I don’t need only triggers financial stress and clutter stress. It would be a much better use of my time to grab my laptop and get some writing done at a café, filling my need for both creativity and human interaction. Fortunately, over-shopping is a rare problem because after all the grocery shopping I need to do, there’s hardly ever time or money left to buy more whiteout and Post-it notes. Sometimes, it feels therapeutic to seek out the very corners of a big store just to see what’s there instead of buying anything. I think of it more like a museum than a store. Hongo Killer, anyone?
  2. Eating too much of the wrong foods. Something about stress makes me reach for crackers. And then chocolate. I want them both, and in that order. The Pepperidge Farm Milano cookie bag says I deserve a cookie. But I think I deserve them all after a bad day. While being lonely makes me go shopping, being angry makes me eat like the Cookie Monster. They’re gone so fast I don’t savor or enjoy them, and I’m left with a stomachache. This is the worst kind of stress for me, because instead of dealing with my emotions productively, I end up stuffing them down with food. I feel much better on the days I sit down and write in my notebook to process those unpleasant feelings.
  3. Yelling at people. Being late is the trigger for this. Usually one of the first things people would say about me (and probably assume, since I’m both a mom and a teacher) is that I’m very patient. Easygoing. Mild-mannered. My kids would tell you otherwise on the days we are running late for anything. I am half-German and I swear there is a clock built into me. The trains must run on time. But when I yell, I end up with a headache and a guilty conscience. And surprisingly, it doesn’t help anyone to be more on time when I lose it. The cure for this is getting more prepared the night before. One of my resolutions for 2016 is to put my clothes out the night before for work instead of staring at the closet in the morning, or worse yet, trying on four things before anything feels right.
  4. Excessive Netflix. Having too much to do usually sets off this very counterproductive reaction to stress. Instead of starting the task, I shut down, crawl into bed, and watch mindless entertainment until I fall asleep. It would be much better to get at least the essential tasks done and then reward myself with some time to relax when I could enjoy it.

Well, that’s it for my true confessions this week. How many vices do you think one person can have? How about making me feel better and letting me know I’m not alone on unproductive reactions to stress?

Take care and enjoy the many blessings left in 2015!

Grete

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.

cropped-givingmyselfawaycover.jpgAmazon button

 

 

 

 

Planning on paper vs. electronically

Paper-Clip-Cluster-1By mid-December, I’m already reviewing the past year and preparing for the next one. Perhaps it’s because my birthday also falls at the end of the year, but for me, January is always a time of review and change.

I’m still searching for that perfect organization method that allows me to feel like I’m prioritizing correctly, remembering everything that needs to get done (laundry, dishes, groceries, paying bills), and keeping track of what I want to do (printing and framing photos, decluttering, finishing my needlepoint project I started over the summer, and much, much more).

For now, I’ve settled on a hybrid of putting every appointment and regular event into my iPhone calendar  and writing tasks on paper, divided into daily and long-term.

Some examples:

  • As soon as I make an appointment, it goes in my calendar. I don’t even let doctors give me the appointment cards because I don’t want the clutter.
  • If I need to bring something to an event, I add it to the appointment (“bring gift”.)
  • Recurring things I need to nag my kids about go in the calendar. (“Bring gym clothes.”)

I have two to-do lists: One is a little lined Post-it note pad with room for only ten items. That’s where I write (the night before) up to ten things I need to do the next day.

The other list is on regular sized paper that I keep in a manila folder of Goals. There are actually a few lists in this folder because some need to be done soon, but not tomorrow (like “get annual inspection for car”) and some are the more wishful thinking variety (like “clean the garage”).

Whenever I have space on my small to-do list (and an abundance of energy), I put one or two items from the big list onto the small list.

Every evening, I review my iPhone calendar and my paper to-do list for the next day. I look at them again in the morning. Obsessive-compulsive? Maybe. But it also puts my mind at ease that I’m not forgetting anything (and because of this system, I rarely do.)

My lcoach and friend, Cathy Colangelo, has developed a 2016 planner/calendar and her coach, Sage Grayson, gave me the idea for this post with her blog tour on planning. Please check out their offerings and feel free to comment here with your own planning ideas. I’m always looking for improvement and I learn something new every time I read a blog or a book on planning.

Take care and enjoy the many blessings left in 2015!

Grete

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.

cropped-givingmyselfawaycover.jpgAmazon button

 

 

 

 

 

Cathy calendar

Cathy’s 2016 “Year of Clarity” Coloring Calendar

 

I’m participating in the Edited Year Blog Party! The 2016 Edited Year Planners are your secret weapons for staying on target with your goals, appointments, projects, and to-dos in a fun and systematic way. Click here to get your planners.

2016-Edited-Year-Planners-collage-7781

 

 

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.”
IMG_7580
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.
IMG_7578
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.
IMG_7575
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.

cropped-givingmyselfawaycover.jpgAmazon button