Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Baby, Is It Cold Outside?

Orange, ripe for the picking in early December.
This time of year I obsess about the weather. It’s not so much that I want it to snow, which I do because, as a Texan, we long for those white holidays, where the entire state practically shuts down at the hint of snow, which inevitably turns into an ice mess. It’s for a wholly different reason: should I turn on the heater in the greenhouse? Four years ago, according to various Facebook friends sharing their memories for December 6, 2013, we had snow.

This year it’s been abnormally warm. I’m not gonna say “climate change,” but I’m seriously thinking climate change. We’ve hit record highs for November and December. Due to this odd weather, I’ve put off hauling my citrus trees, avocado tree, and other delicate plants I usually overwinter into the greenhouse. It’s not like we haven’t had chilly morning temperatures, but our mid-day to afternoon temps have been so high, having plants in the greenhouse would cook them. On a nice, balmy 57 degree day, the greenhouse temperature, even with a window cracked, can get up to 100 degrees if I don’t prop open the door and fully open the top and side windows.

So, due to our little late fall heatwaves, I have kept all those beautiful plants right out on the patio. I keep stalking the Weather Channel, though, just to see if I might possibly have to do an emergency clearing. So far, the scariest day coming up is this Thursday night/Friday morning, where for 14 hours straight the temperatures (at the airport, I’m sure) will be below 40. The high on Friday? 57 degrees.

I see this as a challenge- how long can I go before the plants need permanent winter shelter? Will it happen Thursday…I’m still debating that- if it happens, it’s going to happen tonight. The extended forecast has highs in the 60s and 70s through December 20th so far. I’m predicting we won't see a White Christmas in 2017.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Traveling Abroad Makes You Appreciate Home

Sacré-Cœur Basilica
I know I’ve written about it before, but I seriously practice introversion. I recently returned from a lovely vacation to Paris (part of the reason why I’ve been so absent from blogging!). It was beautiful and everything I thought it would be. The only problem I had was that I had to be around too many people to do it. I even planned the perfect, least touristy time to go- November. The crowds were in the usual places- museums, churches, airports- especially the airports.

While I completely fell in love with the city, I was never so happy as be back home. I am, at heart, a homebody. I truly enjoy being at my home…by myself. As we enter the holiday season (because I skipped my American Thanksgiving!), I am feeling more drawn to making my home the most cozy, inviting place to be, if only just for my family. I may go out to a holiday shindig once a week, but really, I just want to be home. It is time to nest in for the winter, read a good book, spend more time writing, plotting and planning online writing courses, and enjoy a random fire in my fireplace… even if winter in Texas means highs in the 70s!

Friday, October 27, 2017


This is not me. I feels like me, but it's not.
I’m still writing! It sounds strange for someone who calls herself a writer, teaches writing, and publishes writers to announce that writing is indeed happening, but it is and it makes me happy to say it. As I’ve said previously, I was worried that all of my creativity was being spent in other places, but it turns out, nope, I just needed a few moments where I wasn’t worrying about someone else’s writing to focus on mine. So, writing is happening. Completing writing... that’s another story.

Focus. That has been a loaded word for me lately. Yes, I've been writing, but…I haven’t been able to concentrate on any one particular story or essay for long periods of time. My mind wanders more than it used to. I was blaming my concentration problems previously on being overworked, overextending myself, or generally not taking time to rest. While to a certain extent this may play a role in my problem, I’ve recently discovered that it is possible that my lack of focus and concentration could be from the car accident a few months back. See, I’m still suffering from whiplash. I do have a follow-up appointment with my doctor next week to check the extent of the damage. I am hoping that there are therapeutic options to fixing it, but I am afraid that I may have spinal cord damage. Of course, I’ve been playing internet doctor and, based on my symptoms of constant mild headaches, tinnitus, and never-ending pain in my neck and shoulders, I have self-diagnosed to the point I am scared it may be worse than I originally thought. It’s called chronic whiplash. An inability to concentrate for long periods is also one of the symptoms. It makes me tired. I don’t want to do much once I’ve worked a full day. It’s hard for me to even think about socializing.

Am I going to let this keep me from writing? No, of course not. Will it slow me down? Probably. At least I’m still writing, as long as I remember where I was when I started staring off into space!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Last Book Launch of the Year= FINALLY WRITING!

My view from the publishers table, October 7, 2017

This last weekend Sleeping Panther Press held its last launch of the year, Heath Dollar’s Waylon County: Texas Stories. It was quite the party. I’m glad I don’t have to do any more launches for a few months. Prepping for them, then pulling them off wear me out. Now the process of marketing the books published over the last year so that money is actually made back! That starts this coming weekend with the Fort Worth BookFest, which is a new book festival right in Downtown Fort Worth.

I’ve been worried lately that my ability to write has gone away since I hadn’t made time for it in the past… year. This fear has made me anxious about sitting down to start. This anxiety has gotten stronger as I’ve racked my brain to decide exactly what I should start writing about. When I get my butt in the seat, I still draw a blank. This isn’t unusual, though, considering how focused I’ve been getting Sleeping Panther Press started and keeping the momentum going on my librarian job.

Luckily, yesterday during my lunch duty at the circulation desk, I started writing. It was just about what was going on in the library at the moment. This would absolutely appall most people, but is the everyday life of a modern high school library: kids eating lunch at the tables, browsing the shelves, working on homework off their laptops, printing off massive pages of work (yep, despite the fact they have laptops, they still have to print). When I saved the document at the end of the day, I found the folder with all of my writings- mostly frustrations- from my other library school experience, and it came to me-- I should write a book based on my time spent in a modern high school library! I’m not sure if I should just base it on what has happened, or if I should make it a memoir, but it would be the easiest

This was quite the revelation to me. I had always toyed with the idea of writing a book about my experiences, but I thought it would probably be after I retired so I wouldn’t have to face other educators who may possibly see themselves in the book. Of course, I reminded myself of my favorite quote from Anne Lamott, “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should’ve behaved better.” Yes. They should have.

Once I got home from work and went on a walk with mom, I had a solid idea about what I wanted to do with it. She had a few ideas as well, which include my teaching experiences, making it about my entire career as a reluctant educator. That may actually end up being the title, “The Reluctant Educator.”

So, that is what I’m going to start working on. The outline will begin today, as soon as I finish editing and posting this update. It is exciting to get the writing tingles in my fingertips. I can’t wait to get to it!

Monday, September 25, 2017


Last Tuesday was my birthday. 42. I’m just getting over a cold that struck me over a week ago. I’m happy that I was actually able to taste the sparkling Rosé I bought to celebrate my big day. It wasn’t the ideal way to celebrate my rotation around the sun, but it could have been worse. It seems that there are so many more horrible incidences- hurricanes, earthquakes, Trump tweets or speeches to the UN, North Korea. My little cold on my birthday is no big thing.

My little plan from my last post to uncomplicate my life ended up completely complicating my life. It seems that some people felt let down that I wouldn’t be helping them and their dreams of writing the great American novel. How I’m being selfish by not spending my time teaching them how to write better. I had to blow those people off. I choose to listen to those who called, texted and emailed their concerns for me. Their support of my decision. Their understanding that I would still be there for them, I just wasn’t taking anything new on. They understood this was not a selfish decision, but a smarter decision to help build my own craft by not adding the burden of more to my life. I am grateful for those people.

It also seems that this was just the right time to say no more. Everything that I thought would be winding down for me has ended up getting extended, or needing more attention than I had originally anticipated. That’s okay, though. I think I secretly expected that I wouldn’t be able to just move along in my little world immediately.

One great accomplishment this week has been the launch of Panther City Review 2017. There was a pretty major hiccup pointed out to me at the launch, where I couldn’t do anything about it but wait until I got home to see what went wrong, but otherwise, it went off without a hitch. Once it was all over and I got home, that major hiccup was found to not actually be my fault, but that of the printer, so while it was bad, it wasn’t because I screwed it up. And now it’s fixed! If you’d like to buy a copy of Panther City Review 2017, check out the link on the Sleeping Panther Press page right here (I even had time to put one of my own stories in it!).

Speaking of my own writing, well… Rome wasn’t built in a day and my ability to just jump into the fray and get to writing isn’t going to be immediate, either. I actually have two months of almost every weekend obligations to my business before I can really bare down and focus on what I need to do for myself. The great thing is, my mind is now open to the possibilities, which is always, always a great start.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Stepping Away

I have been trying for a while, but this weekend it really became apparent that I need to step away even more from obligations that no longer serve me. In doing this, I have decided not to continue to grow FortWorth Writer’s Boot Camp. I’ll still keep the critique groups that I already have going, as long as they are well attended. I’ll keep the coaching and tutoring clients that I currently have. Anything that anyone else is doing with the Boot Camp will continue. My involvement will slow.

Why have I decided this? Well, it’s simple: I’ve been spending so much of my brainpower trying to figure out ways to make the business work that I just didn’t take the time to think that maybe it just shouldn’t work. I started Fort Worth Writer’s Boot Camp as an income producer after I quit my previous librarian position. I wanted to have time to write and make a bit of money to pay the bills. Two months after opening shop, I accepted a position in another library where I was actually expected to be a librarian and not a professional test proctor. I have struggled to make the Boot Camp successful ever since. For me, it just isn’t working anymore. Other people have come up with great ideas of things I could do to grow the business, but really it all comes down to me spending more time working on something that I really do not have the passion for at the moment. Adding publishing to the mix has not helped with me having time to write. Instead, it has taken up my creative energy so that when I sit down to do my own writing, I can think of nothing but what needs to be done on the book I am prepping for publication at the moment.

Unfortunately, something had to give. I can no longer work at developing other writers and their talents. I need to work on my own. I also hope that, by taking this break from the Boot Camp, I will be able to legitimize my work with it. Afterall, how can I inspire others to write if I am not doing it myself?

I know that someday I’ll be able to resurrect the Boot Camp into everything it has the potential to be. The website will still be live, where I hope to blog about writing and share information about what is going on with Sleeping Panther Press. As I continue to trim back and make room for my own creativity, I encourage everyone to continue to follow their writing dreams, making them come true.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Be Zen

I’m starting a new practice this week: Be Zen. Perhaps this has come about because of my lack of a consistent yoga practice for the last seven months, but it has become necessary. I have a bad habit of not dealing with impromptu situations very well. I actually get visually and verbally annoyed with people who either ask common sensical questions or expect to drop in on me and do things RIGHT NOW. Since this is the start of a new school year, it’s the perfect time to initiate Be Zen, where I will find my Zen, then respond.

I acquaint this with the flight attendant instructions, “Put your oxygen mask on first, then assist your seat mate.” This means that whatever your plans are, they are not to be sidetracked by the needs of others. Put yourself first. Don't do it with a selfish "Me First" attitude, but just check in with what you need to do and see how you can then deal mentally what the other person is asking or saying.

I was put to the test right off the bat the first day of school when I entered the building. There was an adult waiting for me at the library door, making demands as soon as I approached. I listened. I held my tongue and didn’t get snarky. I told this adult that I needed to put down my purse and place my lunch in the fridge, but as soon as I settled those in place, I would help. I took care of my needs and still was able to help. Of course, this didn’t stop me from thinking the snarky things I wanted to say, but I didn’t project it out loud. 

I’ve been practicing Be Zen for a few days and, for the most part, I’ve been successful. There are times where I just really want to lay into someone for whatever reason, but then I just hold my breath, think, and the right response comes out.

To be honest, here, it’s a lot less stressful to not get irritated by people. Surprisingly, once I trigger my mind to Be Zen about something, it takes away minutes, and sometimes even hours, of steaming over a situation. I just don’t worry about it much anymore. It’s really amazing. Imagine what the world would be like if everyone did this.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Writers Block or Something Else?

Mucha Inspired Mural, O'Brian's Pub- Ouray, Colorado
 I had such grand plans for this summer: Publishing others books, finishing my screenplay, journaling everyday, blogging at least once a week. What have I succeeded in? Publishing Deer Dancer, getting Panther City Review mostly ready, and…a bunch of yard, house, and business work done. It’s not like I’ve been lazing around, watching Netflix the whole day, sipping coffee in my pajamas all summer. I’ve really been busy, which seems to have taken some of my creative motivation and thought processes and used them elsewhere. The stories just haven’t been there. I used to think that this was major writers block, but now I think it’s just being overloaded with the “other” which takes up the mental space that would normally be reserved for creativity.

I have one week left of my summer. I’m spending that time visiting with my Dad in Colorado. It’s not hot here. I don’t have a ton of other work to do. For the last five days I’ve been here, I’ve actually journaled every single day. I’ve gotten back to doing my French lessons (thank you, Duolingo!). Most importantly, I’ve actually started thinking of stories that have nothing to do with “what’s next on my checklist?” I’m not sure how much will come of it, but I think, in this last week of summer, I’ve finally relaxed.

So, what do I plan on doing with this burst of creativity? I will dream. I will relax and take it in. I will write. I will read.

Next week, when I’m back to work, I will do my best to keep it all going. Even if this means I’m back to getting up at 5am and going to bed by 9:30pm.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Relax and Rejuvenate…Then Get Your Derrière Moving!

Mama and MoFo in the early evening glow!
The past month since my last entry has been the busiest that I’ve had in a long time. Perhaps it’s just the closing down of school for the summer, but it was a non-stop wall of insanity to climb every day. I was so, so glad to see that last day hit and complete a very good school year. While school has been out a little over two weeks, I am just now getting down to business with my book plan.

It was a bit hectic the first week out- lots of outdoor prep, moving plants from my mother’s yard to mine, cleaning up, mowing and such. I was also finalizing the manuscript formatting for the first novel published by Sleeping Panther Press- Deer Dancer by Richard J. Gonzales. It was quite an exciting time, but smack dab in the middle of it, I got a cold, or possibly just a severe allergy attack, probably brought on by sticking my head in the middle of the flowering bushes I was moving around!

Luckily, all of that was taken care of just in time to find out that the only local, independent bookstore in a good distance from my house, as well as the one that I did all of Fort Worth Writer’s Boot Camp business through, was closing. Such a sad time for all involved, including the owner, Paul, who realized his dream of opening a bookstore only a year ago. This was such a great store and I did my best to get the word out about it every chance I got. It is also sad for the many local writers who may not get carried in stores like Barnes and Noble. It legitimized their writing to be able to say, “Oh, you can pick up a copy at The Last Word.” Definitely the Bummer of Summer.

This was just all in the first week!

The second week was less stressful, to say the least. My mama and I did our annual camping trip to Lake Mineral Wells State Park with MoFo, the camper with the incredibly apt name because something seems to almost always go wrong with it- from the first day we got it! Even though I brought my laptop to do “work,” I didn’t do it. I was there to relax, enjoy some time away from home, and to give my brain a rest from the 1,000 miles a minute it usually runs. I went on long walks with my pup, Henry. I took hours long afternoon naps. We ate out for lunch- yeah, sounds like a strange thing to do camping, but the state park is less than a mile outside of the town of Mineral Wells and there’s this great little place that is so cheap and so good! I went kayaking for the first time (love it!), for which I learned the most important lesson of applying sunscreen: really, really slather it on your legs! I’m still feeling the burn. Ouch! Most importantly, I journaled every morning and read every day at different times of the day. A book. For fun. I’m almost half way through it. The evening talks, though, by candlelight and the glow of the LED stars we hang with every camp we make, were moments I will always cherish with my mama.

I also spent much time on this trip daydreaming. Thinking of how I want to do things differently around my home. Deciding how I want to spend the rest of the summer. Most of it will be working on publishing books and the 2017 Panther City Review. A good deal of it will be spent reading, though. Writing my own stuff. Not being unproductive. I will rest, but I will make the most of not being at work! Oh, and find another place for Fort Worth Writer's Boot Camp. That is a priority.