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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Could folding your underwear change your life?

I’ve been on a quest for years now to manage my paper clutter, and while it’s getting better bit by bit, I still feel most of the time like I’m forgetting something or losing something in the copious notes, lists, and receipts that pile up like snow drifts on my dining room side table.

tidyingI recently read this revolutionary little book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, by Marie Kondo, in which the author advocates throwing out almost all of your papers. What?! I’ll give you more detail on this in my next blog post because papers come later in her multi-step process.

According to Kondo, who has made tidying her life’s work (this was the kid who was organizing drawers as a hobby), we should start with our clothing. I figured if she can help me with papers, I am wiling to go along with her system, even though I don’t consider my clothes a big organizational problem.

Here is a picture of my shirt drawer before:

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Everything was always folded and stacked. Sometimes the piles collapsed when I was digging through to find something, but overall, my clothes were unwrinkled and I figured manageable. Oh, was I wrong! When I finished her whole process, I had given away four garbage bags worth of clothing and folded everything I kept (except for skirts, dresses, and jackets) into little “packets.”

Here is my shirt drawer after:

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Now I can see everything in one glance without having to move or disturb anything I’m not pulling out to wear. This kind of folding doesn’t take any longer than regular folding. It takes a wee bit longer to get things in the drawer neatly, but her point is you need the speed more when you’re taking something out than when you’re putting it away.

I realized my papers look like the “before” drawer. Yes, they’re all in one place, but no, it is not easy to find what I need…compared to “after” drawer, it looks disheveled and depressing. It is much more enjoyable to choose an outfit from my drawers now.

I have also completed step two, which is books, another area of possessions that I don’t feel overly attached to. I’ve been thinking that I have such a hard time throwing out papers because writing is one of the key facets of me. If I throw out the history papers I wrote in college, or the travel brochures I designed at a job in my twenties, it’s like discarding a piece of my identity.

Stay tuned for my next blog… I’m planning a paper-purging party!

In the meantime, please let me know which of your possessions are hard for you to manage, and see my link for Marie Kondo’s book, which I highly recommend.

I hope your new year is off to a wonderful beginning!

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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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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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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Wanna be my (fitness) pal?

IMG_6107I’ve been reading Gretchen Rubin’s book The Happiness Project and finding it the kind of book that I am irresistibly drawn to writing in the margins. I think if I took amphetamines and lived in New York City, I could be a lot like Gretchen. I’m not saying she’s on drugs, just that she has waaaay more energy than I do.

What really got me was when she openly admitted she is a big fan of Benjamin Franklin’s daily virtues charts. Franklin measured himself daily on thirteen virtues that included sincerity, temperance, and humility. He gave himself a little dot on his chart for each day he felt he succeeded in each of his virtues.

Rubin wisely points out that we often talk about goals when we should be talking about resolutions. A resolution gives you a fresh start every day. A resolution is presumably something you want to continue doing for a long time, if not the rest of your life.

Charting your resolutions is a way of reinforcing them daily in your mind. You can’t push it to the back burner when you are looking at a chart every day and having that urge to be able to put a little check mark of accomplishment.

You’ve probably also seen studies mentioned in the media that say people who chart their food intake are more successful at losing weight and keeping it off than those who don’t. From my personal experience of years (I’m talking twenty-plus years!) of watching my weight, I can attest to the power of logging what you eat to keep it real.

Yesterday I ate a handful (okay, it was a couple servings) of jellybeans that someone at work had left out on the table. I logged in what I ate on MyFitnessPal and was horrified to realize I was over my calorie allotment for the day by about a thousand calories! Aghh! Without that reality check, I’d probably be telling myself that I’m eating just fine, nothing to worry about (even though I felt rather sick and shaky after all that sugar).

I have myfitnesspal (goodmorninggirl) and Fitbit and I’d love to be your pal if you’re looking for a buddy to work on your fitness goals. I’m hoping we can encourage each other. I’d also love to know what else you’re charting (or are Gretchen and I the only nut jobs who do this?).

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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Smart advice from a successful woman

blog isaacscherylbooneLast week, I wrote about the importance of sharing our setbacks and challenges with other women, and this week I’d like to add to that one very successful woman’s advice to high school students.

Cheryl Boone Isaacs, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (best known for the Oscars!) spoke to a student audience where I am a teacher, but I found her words encouraging and inspiring for people of any age.

The film industry is a daunting one to break into, but Boone Isaacs decided her passion for movies made all the hard work worthwhile. She started at entry level, but she gave every job her all, telling students the best way to make headway in a new career is to make yourself indispensable.

A lot of top executives make it sound like they were destined for greatness on one long trajectory of success, but I appreciated Boone Isaacs’ honesty in stating that she flitted from job to job until her mid-twenties because she didn’t know what she wanted to do.

“Every experience matters, the bad ones as well as the good ones,” she said. “The bad makes you appreciate the good and realize what you don’t want.” Nothing you’ve done has been a waste because it is all essential in creating the person you are today.

She also openly stated that she still struggles with maintaining a positive outlook, saying that her first instinct is to tell herself why something won’t work before rewriting her mental script to a more positive message. I find this tremendously reassuring: If someone who has gained this level of career success has her doubts, it makes it seem normal for me too.

She told students that even though she is asked all the time about barriers in her field based on race or gender, the biggest issue is the obstacles we create ourselves.

“People put up their own barriers, such as ‘I’m not good enough’ or ‘I’m not smart enough,’ but the barriers that you create, just know that you can also take them down,” she said.

My favorite quote in her hour with us was “Why not me?” No matter what you are dreaming of doing, instead of thinking how audacious it is to imagine yourself achieving your most far-off goals, say, “Why not me?”

Photo credit: http://www.oscars.org/about/board-of-governors

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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Peace be with you

“Peace be with you.” These are words I have spoken countless times over many years – only on Sundays around 11 a.m., of course – but it wasn’t until very recently that I began to reflect upon what that phrase means.

The new pastor of our church wrote a greeting in our monthly newsletter suggesting we add something to our daily practices during the season of Lent, rather than taking something away. Her bulleted list included many activities that would be easy for families to do together, so my children and I considered the ideas and voted to share the peace every day in our own home.

I wrote “Peace be with you” on an index card with a black Sharpie and taped it to our alarm clock so that we wouldn’t forget this new daily ritual. Each night before bed, I look my boys in the eye, hold their faces, and say “Peace be with you” and smile as I hear them say it back to me. Then they face each other and do the same. This is the most touching part, because how often really would you see two boys, brothers no less, offering each other peace and hugging?

Sometimes at church, the passing of the peace seems rushed and devoid of meaning. It’s a race to shake the hands of everyone in the pews ahead of and behind us, and I’m often wondering, “Do my hands feel cold?” “Am I smiling enough?” “Did I already shake her hand?”

At the same time, this is one of my favorite parts of our Sunday church service. I would feel funny in my daily life to go about wishing peace to people, but it’s totally normal and expected at church. I’m already considered kind of out-there for being a vegan; I don’t need “hippie” added to my labels. But if I could wish my fellow humans anything in this world, it would be peace – peace within and peace without, a sense of being loved and comforted and blessed that fills each person until it overflows and radiates outward and lights up all of humankind so that we can trust each other and wish each other well.

Expressions of peace are common to many religions – they are the heart, really, of our relationship with whatever form of God we believe in – but even those without religious affiliation can appreciate peace. I’m hoping to work up the nerve to sometimes say “Peace be with you” rather than “What’s up” or even “Have a great day” to those I meet in my daily travels. And I vow to really mean it when I say those words each night to my sons, and to all of the people I greet and shake hands with on Sunday mornings.

 

Photo credit: stock photo by markuso at http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

 

Please check out my first novel, Giving Myself Away. Divorced mom Adrienne gets pregnant after fooling around with a lonely mortician. He wants to marry her and raise the baby together, but she has other ideas. 

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