December 1, 2016

An Update and a Recommendation

The blog is FINALLY moving to another platform. More freedom, more perks, easier navigation, and it's all happening soon! So, if I'm offline for a little while, you'll know why. I'm not disappearing, I'm just... moving. And moving takes time. I have to unload boxes and boxes of notes and photos, my laptop, my stacks of books, a comfy chair, and my many notebooks. And all during the holidays! I may need to be resuscitated by the time I'm done.

While I'm away, I'd like to recommend an interesting and funny read. Talking as Fast as I Can is this month's book pick for all you Gilmore Girl fans and those just beginning to recognize the talent of Lauren Graham. This his her first work of non-fiction, and follows her novel, Someday, Someday Maybe. 

Read it! It's almost better than Friday night dinners!

P.S. You may also like What the Heck Does That Mean?, Delicious!, Old Habits Die Hard, and Worshipping at the Alter of Elizabeth Gilbert.  

November 29, 2016

Forgetfulness Is a State of Mind

This past weekend, as I was unpacking Christmas ornaments, I came upon a gift—a pen set—I had bought Kate more than a year and a half ago. I’m forever putting things away in secret places where I “won’t forget”. I searched the house again and again and could not find it for the life of me. I wondered if I had packed it in a box, threw it away(!), or never ordered it to begin with. I finally gave up and ordered another so she would have it Christmas morning.

But over a year later, there it sat. Tucked in a drawer with other Christmas decorations. Practically in plain sight. Mocking me.

I am forever forgetting where I placed my glasses (they’re often on my head) and who I told the latest family information—daughter number one or daughter number two? I’d wager I’ve repeated myself about 75% of the time. “Mom! You already told me this.” “Right, right. I need to tell your sister.” All perfectly normal, I’m told repeatedly by friends and family who have gone through the same bouts of forgetfulness. All perfectly normal, I’m told repeatedly by my doctor. After all, I’m of “that age”.

I pride myself in keeping my brain sharp. I read and write and want to know things. I can recite 70s song lyrics on a dime. Remember the exact measurements of a recipe I haven’t cooked in a while. Recall childhood memories that are more than four decades old. But sometimes, David will ask me if I remember something, and I’m at a complete loss.

I know this is all a trick. Some twisted karmic game someone is playing just to keep me on my toes.

I don’t think it’s very funny. Well, sometimes I do. Thankfully I can laugh at myself as I look in the mirror—my face a bit droopier, the crow’s feet more pronounced—and I laugh at the person in the mirror. “Still got my sense of humor.” Joy.

So, the next time I wander into a room and then stand there wondering why on earth I’ve gone into the room in the first place, or try to give a name to the doohickey I’m holding in my hand, I’ll remember this: 1) The second half of my life is supposed to be better than the first half. I’ll keep you posted. 2) I know more stuff, of course my floppy disk is full. (Oops, hard drive.) 3) I don’t have to remember everything. That’s what Google is for. 4) I can use cheat sheets—i.e. the notes app on my phone. 5) I’ll relish in selective memory by tossing out all the bad stuff. 6) And I’ll keep reading, writing, and learning as long as the information will stick.

That's all I can remember for now.

 P.S. You may also like Life in My 40s, Hormones!, and I'm Not Ready.

November 22, 2016

New Thanksgiving Traditions

A couple of weeks ago, my mother handed me a box filled with old photographs and a stack of letters written by my great grandfather. As she handed me each picture, she explained who was who as she told me stories whenever a certain photograph triggered a memory. I am the oldest, the keeper of family history, and I guess she thought it was time I had these last few bits. 

As soon as I could, I went through the box of letters and arranged them in chronological order. I randomly selected a letter and began to read it, and it just so happened it was about my father. My great grandfather wrote a letter to his sonmy grandfatheronce a month (sometimes more) for twenty years starting in 1958. At least the ones I have anyway. 

Throughout my childhood, I remember my father telling me stories about "Pop". How he traveled the country, loved adventure, and wrote a mean letter. I wondered if perhaps this was where my love of writing came from. Now I had some proof.

The first letter is dated March 12, 1958. He wrote about camping in an isolated canyon in the Laguna Mountains. The road in was only dirt, and with an impending storm already pelting the roadway with rain, he knew the narrow access road was not built to withstand heavy rains or mountain wash. "I didn't like the look of things, as the rain was coming steady and heavy, and everything was turning to slimy mud... So I warmed up the engine good and took off up that steep climb in one wild dash, with the car skidding and slating like a happy pup wagging its tail." 

What a gift to have been given, not only a piece of my family's history, but a chance to get to know someone I had only remembered meeting once in my life. Someone who shares the same love of words and storytelling. 

So this Thanksgiving, once the dishes have been cleared away and the last of the pie has been dished out, I will open up the box and begin to read. I will share as many letters as people want to hear and then savor the rest throughout the season. 

I will give thanks for the people at the table, those who are not, and all who have come before us.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

P.S. You may also enjoy...

My Thanksgiving Menu
The Thankful Tree
Thanksgiving Leftovers
Always Remember

November 15, 2016

The Ups and Downs of the Empty Nest

This past weekend, the girls were home early. Bags were dropped, clothes needed cleaning, and the dishwasher was full.

In the beginning, when this whole empty nest thing started, I was more than happy to resume my role as doting mother. I made them nutritious dinners. I made sure their sheets were freshly laundered each weekend they were home. After all, the whole reason they came home so often was to balance their world of tests and deadlines, stress and decision making, with a place they felt nurtured and refreshed. And I was more than happy to oblige.

But, when the house was silent once again, I began to refocus my energy.

At first, David and I were warriors. We tackled project after project in record time. I was back to my ruthless cleaning rituals. And I started to create a new schedule—one that worked for both my business and my new personal life.

Then I started to slow down and look around. We don’t get a lot of alone time when the girls are home. And there is always something that needs our attention and there always will be. Free weekends became dedicated to catching up on forgotten books, working on a left-over project, or lolling on the sofa watching a movie together.

Once the girls were home again, it was all about them.

The back and forth was a bit unnerving at first. I got rattled when they weren’t home and again when they were. It would take me a good day on either end to switch gears.

Now I’m learning to balance the in between. When they are home, I don’t worry about a tidy house or cooking each night. When they head back to school, I appreciated the time I had with them and simply get back to work. I rediscovered alone time. Time to be present with myself that I thought I would never embrace again as I had done years ago. I reconnected with an old friend and tackled an important project I longed to accomplish.

This is a huge improvement from a few years ago. If you remember, I was coming unhinged at the thought of them leaving. The contradictory emotions, from sorrow to relief, loss to exhilaration, has touched us all in one way or another. But we keep on moving forward. As everyone does.

The relationships I have with my children as adults have been more rewarding than I could have imagined. Getting to know them as they learn and grow and change, is an amazing experience. I take joy in knowing that the give and take and ups and downs are an inevitable not-so-scary-after-all part of the process.

There’s still plenty of parenting to do—it’s a never-ending job—but I’m up for the challenge. And for that, I am eternally grateful.

P.S. You may also like I'm Not Ready, Mean Girls, and It's Been Quite a Week.

November 7, 2016

I'm Not a Fan of Daylight Savings Time

I should be happy that we gained an hour of time this past weekend, but what I really am is exhausted. And every year, it's the same thing. 

It was bad enough that I was already starting to settle on my couch by 7:00, the yawning already starting at 6:00. But now I'll have to forgo my late afternoon walks unless I wear a headlamp, not to mention getting in line in time for the early bird special. 

Are we really decreasing energy use, saving lives, or reducing crime rates? The jury is still out. There are naysayers and supporters on both sides. There's even a petition in congress titled, "Please stop messing with our schedules". 

I concur.

The US adopted DST during World War I to save fuel, not to give farmers an extra hour of daylight as most of us were taught back in the olden days. Now the reason it will never go away is that it's simply good for business. When the clocks spring forward, retailers benefit from that extra hour. And that, as they say, is that. Fine. But why can't we ignore the whole fall back cycle? I don't think anyone would argue that getting a little extra sleep in the morning because the suns not up yet is a good thing. 

So thank you Big Business for waking me at 4:00, all bleary-eyed and not quite so ready for my day. And we all can thank them for our sour moods, tired bodies, messed up schedules and sleep patterns. Take heart. I've read it will work itself out in the next two weeks as our bodies adjust. Until then (and until we spring forward once again), it's extremely important that we still get outside whenever we can and find the sun. Keep your regular sleep schedule. Drive safely. Turn on all the lights in the house. And most importantly, stay active. 

And it never hurts to keep your sense of humor. (And check out these pins.)

P.S. You may also like Hormones!, It's the Quiet Ones You Have to Look Out For, and Stress and Anxiety Triggers.  

Photo by Timo Newton-Syms

November 1, 2016

Can You Write a Novel In a Month?

It's November 1st. And that means, it's National Novel Writing Month! NaNoWriMo began in 1999 to encourage writers to get it on the page. From November 1st until 11:59 on November 30th, your goal is to write a 50,000-word novel. 

The beauty behind this approach is that you are given a start date (now), an end date, and encouragement from the many participants who jump right in, as well as Pep Talks from published authors. And that's what you need to do. Jump. Don't think about it. Forget spelling and grammar for just a little while. Simply write your story each and every day. 

Think it can't be done? Here are 18 published novels written during NaNoWriMo.

The Beautiful Land by Alan Averill
Alan's novel was started during NaNoWriMo. "I think writers just don’t trust themselves enough to realize that first drafts are often much closer to completion than they know, I’d guess that at least 80% of the first draft is in the final draft." 

Wool by Hugh Howey
After writing the novel during NaNoWriMo, Howey originally self-published his novel. It became a New York Times bestseller, was republished by Simon and Schuster, and the film rights were picked up by Ridley Scott. "NaNoWriMo has been the greatest thing to happen to me as a writer."

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Almost 121,000 words in length, this book was written over three seperate NaNoWriMo sessions proving you don't have to do it all in one sitting if you don't want to. Morgenstern tells us to "Take risks" and "Let yourself be surprised."

Like Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
Despite a few serious setbacks, Gruen forged on. "We can do this," she promises. "However far behind you are, take comfort in knowing that there is somebody else out there in the same boat, and look for that next fun scene. And then the next. And if that doesn’t work, set someone on fire. In your book, of course."

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Rowell was already a published author before she tried her hand at NaNoWriMo. In fact, she was a bit skeptical about the process. "It seemd like something that amateur writers would do. Or young writers. People who needed to be tricked into finishing their books. I'd already written two books by October 2011, and sold them to publishers, and I couldn't imagine writing either of them--or anything good--in a month." She went on to say, "Normally I start each writing session by rewriting whatever I wrote in my last session. With Fangirl... I picked up where I left off and kept moving. I never looked back." Good advice indeed!

Cinder, Scarlet and Cress by Marissa Meyer
The first three books in the Luna Chronicles (Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress) all started life as NaNoWriMo novels. Actually, they were all drafted out during a single NaNoWriMo." Yep. You read that correctly. All THREE books were written during ONE November session. So if you're perhaps "both geek and chronic overachiever.", as Meyer has stated, you could have a best-selling series in you!

Here are several more...

Persistance of Memory by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes
Take the Reins by Jessica Burkhart
Livvie Owen Lived Here by Sarah Doolay
Losing Faith by Denise Jaden
The Compound by Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen
The Hungry Season by T. Greenwood
Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen by Donna Gephart
The God Patent by Ransom Stephens
The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
Don't Let Me Go by J.H. Trimble

And like most of the authors will tell you, you need a break from writing every now and then. Whenever a writer isn't writing, she/he is reading. This months book pick is A Jane Austen Education. For all of you Janites out there, here is the perfect companion to your collection. And for all you naysayers, this is the book that will make sense of all those "pretty stories". A must-read either way. 

P.S. You may also like Updated Classics, The Anatomy of a Writer, and  10 Things to do in November

October 27, 2016

Life Lessons in My 40s

Victor Hugo called 40 “the old age of youth”. Conventional wisdom tells you that you’re still reasonably young, just a bit more seasoned than you used to be. As you transition into your 40s, you’re moving into the second act—and there are no more dress rehearsals. To me, once you’ve reached your 40s, it means freedom!

During this decade, you realize you’ve actually managed to learn and grow a bit, often without knowing it. And even though some of the things I’ve learned will no doubt seem rather laughable when I hit my 50s, I’ll take what I can get.

I am at an age where I finally worry less (could care less) about what people think and feel. Not that I’m callous about other people’s feelings, just the opposite, actually—I feel more deeply. But I’m confident in my own convictions. I am clear about other people’s motives. I’m no longer afraid to try and fail, or let others try to strike me down (or worse, revel in kicking me while I’m down), I just get back up again. I am content, carefree, and in control.

And I don’t feel the need to be someone I’m not. This quote says it all: “More about you is universal than not universal. My unscientific assessment is that we are 95 percent cohort, 5 percent unique. Knowing this is a bit of a disappointment, and a bit of a relief.” (Writer, Pamela Drucker.)

By your 40s, you don’t want to be with the cool people; you want to be with your people. High school was so long ago. You learn who the important people are in your life. And for me, it’s family. They will always be the ones I want to hang out with. The ones who get me.

I’ve realized that no matter what happens, it’s not the end of the world. It’s taken me a very long time to embrace this notion, but it’s true. Life is messy. And I’m so over trying to make everything not so messy. I now want to take risks, let the chips fall where they may, jump before I look, and embrace every precious moment.

As they say, with age comes wisdom. Here's what I believe I've learned so far. 
  • Listen to your body. It’s wiser than you know. I’ve taken care of myself two times in my life: when I was pregnant and once the children were almost grown. I wished I had listened more closely in between those times.
  • The time is now. Regret nothing. If you have a hidden talent, or you’ve purposely held back who you truly are, you must come clean. Say it out loud, write it down, own it. Being a Late Bloomer does not mean you have missed the boat.
  • Learn from everything. And don’t rush the process of moving through obstacles. You’ll get where you need to, in time. Trust in this. I know it's hard.
  • Breathe. Live in the moment as this is all we have. This is a lesson I still need help with from time to time, but I am more conscience of it.
  • There is no free lunch. Be prepared to work your ass off to achieve any type of success. And remember, success is a relative term.
  • I have thankfully always known that family comes first. I will never regret the time I’ve spent with my children, but I can tell you exactly what I’ve missed when I wasn’t with them.
  • Give. Whatever and however you can. No judgements. No rules.
  • I’ve never been a big fan of change, but change has pushed me through many doors I thought I’d never open.
  • Haters gonna hate. Their words can hurt us, haunt us, and play with our insecurities. They make us question, doubt, and perhaps quit. That’s their intent. Do not let it stop you from trusting your instincts and following your heart. 

And finally: Laugh more and complain less. Laugh lines never looked more beautiful. 

October 24, 2016

A Dream Within a Dream

Just because I no longer decorate for a living, doesn't mean I've stopped decorating. And the holidays are the perfect time for me to have a little fun and scratch that creative itch. As with Halloween's past, I have pulled together whatever I can find in my home to come up with something fun, spooky, and (to some) a few over the top bits and bobs. Can you figure out what this year's theme is? Hint: The title of the post is a clue. "All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream."

He is hard at work researching new material for his latest prose. Days and nights are spent pouring over books of the masters before him. How will he top his best work? Perhaps the intricacies of the human bone might unearth a bit of inspiration. The mysteries of the body enrapture his mind, muddled only by the glass of whiskey he keeps close by. A detective novel may be in the making... Have I given away too much?

His most famous work is a constant reminder of his success, ode partially to Dickens chatty and intensely amusing bird he'd met on more than one occasion. His tales of mystery and macabre keep him sane. Or do they? Be still my beating heart!

Edgar Allen Poe was a writer, poet, and literary critique who dabbled on the dark side of the mind. The Raven and The Tell-Tale Heart are probably his two best known works.

Inspired by the seasonand my love of booksI created a library table in Mr. Poe's honor. And as I wrote earlier, I rework my decorations and found objects throughout my home each and every Halloween. See the details here.

P.S. You may also like Mummy's Dinner Invitation and Haunting the House.

October 21, 2016

Morning Rituals

I was never a morning person, until I was. If you think you may be turning into a morning person, too, here are some ways to make the best of it. 

As I've gotten older, my internal clock has been reset. I find myself waking long before the alarm clock, even when I wish I could get in a few extra winks. Now that I know what I know, I actually prefer it. The house is quiet and I'm able to get a lot done before everyone else in the house is awake. In fact, the start to a great day is to wake earlier than you need to. The peace and quiet you experience just before the sun has risen gives you the opportunity to just be. 

There is no caffeine involved in my morning routine. I drink water, and if I'm lucky, a glass of lemon water to help detox my system and rehydrate my body. I really feel the key to healthy living is drinking lots of water. Give it a week and see how much better you feel. 

Then it's time for a stretch. Stretching your body wakes up your muscles. You don't have to do anything overstimulating, just a few easy yoga poses or simply raise your arms over your head, arch your back, and gracefully swoop down to the floor for a few minutes each day. If you're so inclined, you can start a morning exercise routine as well. Not only will this wake you up, you can check it off your list. I start to wind down sometime around 4:00, so it's imperative that I get exercise in before noon on most days and before the excuses begin. 

Listen to music or read. This is your time to do whatever makes your soul sing. Choose carefully. Some days you might want something light and relaxing, while other days you'll want to find something more upbeat and inspiring to jumpstart the day.

I need to eat breakfast. You need to eat breakfast. It really is the most important meal of the day. I suggest something with protein and lots of vitamins. Low-fat yogurt and a banana always works for me, but I also need a few carbs. Remember, you're fueling your body after a long fast.

Before you begin the rest of your day, take a few moments and close your eyes. Sit, relax, even meditate if you so choose. 

Now I plan. Out comes the list. Decide what you want to accomplish that day and do it. If your to-do list is anything like mine, you'll want to break it down into manageable chunks. Choose three things that can get done, and do them. Cross off three more things the next day and so on. We can all manage three.

Whether you're headed for work, or it's a Saturday and you have nothing better to do, this new morning routine will make you feel better. Introducing healthy habits, even in the smallest of ways, leads to a happier (healthier) you. 

P. S. You may also like Hormones!, Emotional Release, and Stress and Anxiety Triggers.