Friday, April 7, 2017

It's Never a Good Time, But Spring is Not the Best Time to Get Smashed

Because flowers make everything better, right?
For the past few years, March and April have been the busiest times of the year for me. I've usually been working on a weekend long literary festival set for the end of March (Wildcatter Exchange) and preparing the awards ceremony for the Texas Youth Creators Awards in April at the Texas Library Association Conference. This year Wildcatter has been postponed, so my only concern was prepping for TYCA. Boy, did I need all the time necessary for that. There have been numerous delays, errors, omissions, and do-overs on it. Thank goodness it is now pretty much on track and ready to head down to San Antonio in a week and a half- as soon as I get the ribbons and trophy next week! I am so glad this is my last year on this committee!

Spring is always a busy time around my house, as well. I love to have a good looking yard. I love flowers. I love working outdoors. All of this takes time, and when it's only me in the house, with the help of my mama, it takes all the spare time. It has this year, for sure.

So, two weeks ago I decided it was time for my mama to update her car. We went to the dealer, picked out a nice looking pre-owned 2015 Nissan Rogue. We drove it around for exactly a week before a man who couldn’t stop his big truck hauling heavy yard equipment blew through a very read light, striking the last foot and a half of the Rogue. Exactly a week. Now, two weeks after buying the “new to us” car, it has been declared totaled.

Mom and I are okay in the sense that we are not dead, we did not end up in the hospital, nor were we maimed. We are still very sore, though. I definitely have whiplash. I am unable to focus for any more than a minute or two on reading because my eyes just can’t remain focused for any longer than that. I’ve only just begun to feel like I can string words together to write. You know those tones they use to test your hearing? I have one of those on a constant loop at a very low volume in my ears. I hear that this eventually goes away, with time, muscle relaxers, therapy (possibly mental, as well as physical will be needed for both mom and I), and patience. I hope so, not just for my physical and mental well-being, but for my job, my house, my yard, and my business.

Working now to get back on track…

Monday, March 20, 2017

Spring Makes You Springy

Peach Blossom, Becker Vineyards, Stonewall, Texas
This last week was Spring Break for most Texas schools. It is always a time for me to get caught up on those things I find important: reading, writing, cleaning my yard up, straightening my house, doing piles of laundry, and maybe even taking a little day trip or two. This year was no exception. I actually really enjoyed not having to live by a particular schedule, but still having time to do what needed to be done to make my life easier to function this week.

I do find it interesting that I am more eager to get things done in the spring than in any time of the year. That whole “spring cleaning” thing is really true for me. I get more items recycled during the spring than I do any other season. It’s a letting go of what isn’t needed. A freedom from things.

This leads to another idea I’ve been ruminating over for a few months, probably since reading Paris Letters. I need to make my life more flexible. I need to only have what I really, really want to have and will use. Like most Americans, I have way too much stuff. Too many clothes, dishes, knick-knacks, books, furniture, etc. I definitely need to get rid of “stuff.”

My first foray into downsizing will be my books. I was looking among my personal book collection and seeing that I had many paperbacks and hardcover books that I just don’t need to keep around. I was excited to be reminded about a website that I once contemplated using called BookCrossing. Weeks ago I ordered labels to go onto books that I plan to “plant” around the city, or wherever I happen to be at the moment, such as the Texas Library AssociationConference in San Antonio at the end of April, and set them free to other people who will read them. I have so many books that I want to do this to. I may also put them in one of the “Free Little Library” boxes around everywhere. So many paperbacks to spread around! I should be receiving my labels in a few days. I’m pretty excited about this! I have a great stack of books ready to go.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

In the News: You Could Read 200 Books in the Time Spent on Social Media

I caught this article on Facebook the other day that said that, with the amount of time people spend on social media, they could have read 200 books in a year. I totally believe this. There are plenty of days in my past that I’ve had a time suck on Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest (not so much Twitter, though. I am not great at Twitter). This has been especially prevalent the past few months, since the election. I would obsess over every article coming out about the current administration.

Since so much of my marketing for my businesses and my own personal writing comes from being on social media, I feel like I have to start limiting myself to just a few minutes a day for both business and pleasure. I spend so much of my day with Facebook just open in the background. I actually just stopped to close it. It’s going to be about time management. Less time reading useless stuff, more time reading literature and writing. This is easier said than done.

I spent the last week practicing this. I was extremely busy at work and with my business, but I used my spare time that I would normally just surf Facebook by reading a book. I finished a 256-page book in 4 days without just sitting down and reading for hours at a time. It was in about 10 to 20 minute increments probably ten to twelve times a day. I will admit, it was an Agatha Christie book (Cat Among the Pigeons), so it was a quick read anyway, but I was surprised at how quickly I did get through it.

Now, if only I could convince myself to write this way! I must work this into the mix, for sure.

So, here’s the goal: Less Social Media, More Books!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Taking the Wayback Machine to...2008.

When I first started blogging, way back in 2008, I wrote mainly under the name of “The Green Texan.” It was mostly a sustainability blog, where I wrote about gardening, using less energy, recycling, and more. I actually combined all of my blogs under one umbrella when I started blogging under my own name last year.

I still have those “green” tendencies, however. I just haven’t written about them so much. I think I was following the wave of blogs that I was reading back in the late 2000s. Those were the days people worried about their carbon footprint, toxins in their makeup and hair products, and growing gardens in their backyards. It was pre-Obama and just at the end of the Dubya administration. We weren’t sure where we were going as a society, but we were going to do everything we could to hold on to hope that it would get better. I think the progress of the Obama administration kind of took out the spark in that movement. Either that, or it was the hipster takeover. I’m not sure. It seems that the bloggers I was following, with names like “The Crunchy Chicken” and “Green as a Thistle,” were handing out the ideal way to live a simpler life, with less consumption. This was also about the time when I started following a little cooking blog called The Pioneer Woman, before everyone knew that this was Ree Drummond, before the show and way before Walmart! This was the age of the Mom Blogger. I didn’t know that’s what it was called at first, but I always envied all the time that they seemed to have to churn out blog posts every day. I think the only one of the bloggers I followed that was similar in age and singledom than I would have been “Green as a Thistle,” and she was Canadian! 

All of these lady bloggers really gave me the inspiration to develop my own blogging chops. I wasn’t very consistent, but I definitely wanted to share my abilities with the world. We were all so passionate about doing everything we could to save the planet. What happened to that passion? Was is squashed with the advent of Portlandia? Certainly the more hipster, hippie-dippie trends took over. To be honest, I did try some crazy things in the name of using less non-renewable resources. An old-fashioned clothesline? Yep, until it broke. It took me a while to decide I just needed to put it out on the curb for the scrap man. I also bought a bicycle. One that I rarely ride because there is nowhere in my neighborhood that is safe enough to ride a bike without getting ran over.

That year or so that I did that part of my blogging life was one of my more productive writing times. I think it was a creative distraction for me while I finished my Master of Library Science. I was also in a new job that did not have me nearly as busy as I had hoped to be. Also, this was before I discovered Facebook. I can look at my blogging history and see exactly where everything started going downhill for my blogging. I think social media did that for a lot of bloggers. The blog forced me to experiment with my writing and a different way of living. Facebook kind of insulated me into another world. I am hoping to get back to this world I used to be a part of. Not just the writing, but living a sustainable life, with a simply sophisticated twist.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Intentions Derailed: I Survived Flumageddon 2017

The past two weeks have been a bit of a drag. I had fully intended to begin blogging both on the Fort Worth Writer’s Boot Camp page as well as this one. Flu A said there was no way that was going to happen. I didn’t know I had the flu for a good three days, and by then it was too late to do much about it except take Theraflu and sleep. Which is what I did. Thirty hours’ worth in three days.

I’m still suffering from some congestion, but the temperature broke last Friday. I’ve had severe lack of energy since then. It’s been difficult to motivate myself to do my regular day to day work at school, let alone anything extra. 

I refuse to make myself feel guilty for not having accomplished my goals for the past two weeks. I was sick. It happens to everyone. I can’t stress about this. I just have to do what I can do when I can do it. The best thing for me to have done for my creative process was to do exactly what I did: rest. If I had attempted to write during that time, it is entirely possible I would have screwed up, creating a more embarrassing mess than just not doing anything. This is an important lesson for me. I used to push through sickness, working myself to an even worse state than I would have been had I rested. I would end up being sick for a month or longer, never allowing my body to slow down to heal itself.

Please remember to take care of yourselves when you get sick. It may seem like the noble thing to do to just force yourself through it, but it is damaging, not only for your health, but also for your work. Plus, you don’t want to be “the one” to spread a contagious virus! 

Stay well, and when you aren’t, allow yourself to stop.

Monday, February 6, 2017

With Rest, You Can Do the Rest!

Last week I set the time and place for the February Writers Hangout. I always have it scheduled from 6-8pm, mostly because it’s a Happy Hour type of event, but also because I’m an early-to-bed kind of gal. It’s not unusual for me to be bathed, in my pjs, and pulling the sheets up over my head by 9:30pm. A lady had asked that I move the event time to be from 7-9pm. Um…nope. It may be more convenient for you, but that’s just too close to my bedtime.

Sleep is so, so important to my creative process. I just don’t function well if I haven’t had a good nights’ rest. This morning I awoke at 4am to a splitting headache. I only had 5 hours sleep. My day today may not be that productive after lunch, not just because I’m feeling badly still, but because I didn’t have enough rest. I did get up and journal…eventually…but not right when I woke up.

I find on days I go to bed late, as in after 10pm, that I just can’t possibly wake up by 5:30am to get my morning pages in. I will wake at 6:30am and only have time to get ready and a bite to eat before heading off to work at 7:20. I then end up doing them at work. That cuts into much of my worktime where I need to be active and creative for my job, but also keeps me from really concentrating on what I’m doing. I have constant interruptions with my day job as a librarian. Sounds weird, but it’s true. I’m not complaining as it’s part of what I do and its expected of me, but it’s not contusive to creative writing. I lose my train of thought entirely too easily and it takes me forever to get back on track once I remember where I stopped.

Rest. It is so important. Not just to your health, but to your creative juices. Some writers can write until the wee hours of the morning, others have to go to bed early and get up before sunrise to get anything accomplished. I am that before sunrise lady. Don’t get upset if I don’t come to your event or if I have to tuck out early on a weeknight. It’s not that I don’t want to be there, having all the fun with the fun people. It’s that I must go to sleep!

Friday, February 3, 2017

Juggling When You Don’t Juggle Well…

I get asked all the time, “How do you do it all?” I am a full-time librarian, committee chair for the Texas Library Association, owner of several small businesses (the Boot Camp and Sleeping Panther Press), volunteer, and writer. Um…I don’t do any of it well. My brain is scattered. I am thinking of so many different things at one time that I can’t remember where I was on a project if I’m interrupted. I never really have any downtime because I am constantly thinking about what I could be doing instead, along with getting up and working on something around my house, if I happen to be home. It is so overwhelming.

One of my promises that I made to myself at the beginning of this year was that I would slow down. I would streamline so much of what I do so that I will have more time to actually relax. It helps that I have the wonderful opportunity to move my writing sessions and critique groups to TheLast Word Bookstore. I am no longer saddled down with an office or expensive rent to keep up with. That will also free me up to work on possible online classes. I think this is the exact opposite of what most people do- online classes to in person workshops. I think that is the direction I’m moving towards.

Yesterday I officially resigned from my Texas Library Association committee chairwomanship with the President-Elect. My term will end following the 2017 Conference. This is a great relief for me. I am still going to push for my district to participate, but I no longer want the months’ long dedication and worry this position was creating right in the middle of everything else I have coming due, including submissions for Panther City Review 2017.

Speaking of which, JotForm is my new favorite website that I will be using for Panther City Review 2017. It is integrated with Dropbox and Stripe (my 3rd party credit card processor), so if it works the way it says it will, this is the game changer that I’ve been looking for over the last few months. I’m actually excited about opening up submissions in a few days. That’s so much better than the dread I was feeling last week. It’s all ready to go!

This is an exciting time in my life. I do feel like I’m getting it together, even if I’ve had to cut certain activities out of my life. I hope that everything really works the way that I hope. I need to be able to have time to write. That’s really what all of this is supposed to do, right? My creative energy needs to continue to flow in that direction.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

New Year…New Year’s Resolutions?

It’s 2017. Of course, everyone knows this. The New Year. Many people have already broken those resolutions they carefully curated at 5pm on December 31, 2016. Me? Well, I began several years ago not worrying about resolutions. I did decide this year that my main mission for the year would be to take my life back and start Day 1.

So, what does this whole thing mean, “Taking my life back?” For me it means that I will do what I need to do to become me again. I will say “yes” to the parts of my life that will bring me joy and contentment. I will say “no” to all of those activities that take away from my life mission.

Taking Back My Life Plan:
1.       I will up my game on yoga and Nia, not necessarily to lose weight, although it does work wonders on that when I actually go, but to get that mindset that I had back when I was consistently going. As hokey as it sounds, becoming more centered. Balanced. I miss the more spiritual me that was around in Spring 2014, before I quit my job, started a business, got another job, started dating, then breaking up with a guy I really liked. I want to be that introspective woman who knew who she was and was actually writing. I credit yoga and Nia for those.
2.       Saying “no” to people and organizations that will pull my time away from my main work: my writing, the library, Fort Worth Writer’s Boot Camp, Sleeping Panther Press, my home, and reading. Of course, I will make time for the occasional social outing, but I will not join more organizations. I just don’t have enough hours in the day to accomplish more, even if the group is something I know I’m going to love! I’ll offer my services, though, which won’t require me to attend multiple meetings.
3.       Make time for writing and reading. My business office has relocated to my home and all of my writing sessions and critique groups are now meeting at The Last Word Bookstore. This is a saving grace for me since I was constantly worried that I wouldn’t have access to the spaces I reserved at my office location. It also means that I will have more time to relax. Strange enough, I have a hard time concentrating on writing if I have something else nagging on my brain.
4.       Build my businesses. Both businesses are finally making money and may end the year in the black! Yay! Now I just need to continue the momentum. I think the Boot Camp may be having a boost thanks to New Year’s Resolutions time, but I’ll take it where I can get it! Sleeping Panther Press is just starting out, but I need to focus on getting the next book out and Panther City Review 2017.
5.       I will take better care of my home. I am just not happy living in a messy place, so I will work to make it a livable environment.
6.       Learn French. Duolingo, the free language learning app, was my friend for a few months, helping me get ready for that trip to France I plan on taking…eventually. My use of the app dropped off around Thanksgiving. I still haven’t picked it back up, but I will! I need my French lessons!
7.       I will do my best to be in bed before 10pm. I must. I function better writing and get more done at 5am than I do at 5pm, so going to bed before 10pm will ensure that I get plenty of rest.
8.       Eating better. Cooking at home. This will be good for my health and pocketbook!
9.       Pay off debt. Maybe not all of it, but a huge chunk. When I started my business, I had no idea how much debt I’d end up getting in. I really had no clue how this was going to affect my personal debt. I can knock it out, especially if I don’t spend like a maniac!
10.   Enjoy my life. I only have one. Take time to relax. Breathe. Don’t stress or obsess over things I haven’t done. Just do them, then enjoy the time I have left.

Taking back my life. It’s easier than it sounds. I already do many of these items, I just need to be more consistent. That must be the word of the year for me: Consistency. Narrow down or eliminate anything that does not fit into these items. I hope to be able to lead a simpler, more fulfilled life.