February 19, 2019

Inside The Funk of February

So much...
When I have a low day (or days) that appears, seemingly, for no reason whatsoever (as in: nothing has happened, nothing is "wrong"), I have a really hard time accepting it as normal.

It is, you know. Normal. To have a blue mood every once in a while. To be "in a funk." I'm not talking about depression. I'm talking about a day or two, maybe a week, when you just feel...blah. Life has lost its shimmer and shine. Maybe you have lost your shimmer and shine, too...temporarily.

That's me today...okay, this week, really. And I feel equal parts mad about it and guilty for it.

I don't want to feel blue. It's dumb. There's no reason for it. Nothing is wrong beyond the fact that it's February in Pennsylvania. But "the funk" doesn't care what I want. The funk will be, if it chooses to be. The funk will have its way...and that makes me mad.

I also feel an undercurrent of guilt. What right do I have to be blue? I am a happy person living a good life. People who are going through hard things have the right to be blue.

What I'm supposed to feel like
I do not.

To a part of me, this rationale sounds as stupid as it is. You hear it, don't you? The insanity of that statement? But I'll be honest. Even when I write it here. Even when I want to make the point to you, and to myself, that it's okay; that it's normal to be blue sometimes. Even when I know exactly what my therapist would say about these guilty thoughts. (*whispers) I still think they're kinda true. If I'm honest, truly honest, underneath it all I don't believe that I have the right to be in a funk.

I mean, what the hell is wrong with me?

Truth is? Nothing. Nothing is wrong with me. It is perfectly normal to have blue moods and bad days and peaks and valleys in motivation and performance. This week I feel like an uninspired slug. I bet you have, too, at some point in the last few months...since it's part of the human experience. We are not energizer bunnies who keep going and going. We are humans. We need valleys between our peaks, ebbs between our flows, rest between our races.

Recovery time.

And so it is that if we don't naturally impose such breaks on ourselves, then our lives or our bodies will impose them upon us on our behalf. Enter: low energy, low mood-- THE FUNK. I'm pretty sure this corresponds to some dip or rise in hormones, or the lunar cycle, or the seasons, or circus rhythms, or something. I'm also pretty sure I ought to be accepting it and going with it.

Cocooning and letting it be. Riding the ebb and waiting peacefully for the return of the flow.

Instead, I grit my teeth and get annoyed, and yell at a few people in frustration, and then get all down on myself and how unproductive and uninspired I feel and how I'm doing nothing with all that I've been given, and I get all introspective about the meaning of life and the time I'm wasting, and...

You get the picture.

So, the other night, I dropped my daughter off at Girl Scouts and then headed over to Panera. I made them brew a fresh pot of decaf for me which I loaded up with cinnamon, and I revved up my laptop and started writing this.

Because what writers do, even when they don't feel like it, is write.

On the writing front, when I'm not feeling sullen and moody, I've been working on a short story class and Aaron Sorkin's Masterclass over the past two weeks. I'm also reading a shit ton. I'm assuming it's to escape my current mental undertow. I just figured out that I'm currently reading ten books. Because that's totally normal. (insert eye roll here) Here's the book lowdown:


Love. Book and Dog.
Current audiobooks: Michelle Obama's Becoming (almost done and love it), The Enchanted Glass (the kids and I are listening to it in the car and we're on the last disc; cute and fun), and The Confident Code for Girls (my daughter and I are listening to it in bed at night a few times a week).

Current hardcopy fiction: Sourdough or, Lois and Her Adventures in the Underground Market (just started; also, almost done; love it), Beneath a Scarlet Sky (just started), Heads of the Colored People (short stories), Poppy Mayberry (reading with my daughter), The Rules of Magic (shelved for the moment while I move through a stack of library books), and My Sister the Serial Killer (just finished).

Current hardcopy nonfiction: Save the Cat Writes a Novel (writing research), and The Opposite of Spoiled (a bookclub read...I'm not gonna lie, I'm skimming; money's not my fave topic).

No wonder I can't get anything done. All I do is read.



Look! It's Aaron Sorkin.
As a part of the short story class I'm taking, I'm working on writing two short stories, both of which need first drafts finished for this week. And I'm reading through all of the course materials and doing all of the smaller assignments. And I'm listening to Aaron Sorkin talk about screenwriting-- not because I want to write screenplays, but because he writes amazing dialogue (if you don't believe me, watch The West Wing). Plus I am attempting to put together a simple website, but I'm not really sure how to juggle time spent working on that versus time spent on classes and time spent on my novel. So, it languishes.

All of which means I have not been working on my novel revisions.

I am the poster child for Procrastiproductiveness!

Being procrastiproductive means you are super productive and get lots of stuff done, but never the stuff you really, really need to be doing. That is me. Even now, I'm getting a blog post written, which is great. But I'm actually here at Panera at 6:53pm to write a short story.

And, let's be honest, that novel's not going to revise itself.

Sigh. Again.

Me. Funk City. Population: 1.
Also, love these headphones.
And we circle back around to the moody blues. (No, not the band.) Funk City? (Eek.)

So here's what we're gonna do right now. We're gonna extend some grace to ourselves...which is to say, I'm going to extend some grace to myself. Just as I would to a dear friend. I would not berate my friend for her lack of...whatever. I would tell her she's amazing. I would tell her to stick with it, but take it easy on herself. I would tell her she is worthy no matter what she does or doesn't do. I would tell her that she is loved, just as she is.

I am amazing. I am worthy. I am loved. Just like my dear friends. Just like you.

Let's try to ride the waves of life with a little more comfort and ease. Relax into the valleys with as much grace as we climb those peaks. It's okay to feel a little blue. It's normal to have off days. Give yourself a break, even when the funk cannot be explained beyond: It's February.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

Until next time, remember: You are amazing. You are worthy. You are loved.


February 7, 2019

Take a Class

From an art class I took last summer. This ended up being the background for all the mini-paintings I did this fall.
Today I'm here to urge you to take a class.

I know you're super busy. I know there are already too many things crammed into your day. I know you've got work and home and kids and spouse and workouts and family and friends and general life stuff all vying for your attention and time. And the last thing you want to do is add something else into the mix.

But I don't care.

I still think you should take a class.

I don't really care what kind of class you take. It can be one that gets you further in your career. It can be one that introduces you to a new hobby. It can be one that you've always wanted to take. It can help you learn a new sport. (Tennis, anyone?) It can be online. It can be through your community rec center. It can be at a local college.

What and where it is doesn't really matter all that much, as long as it's something you're interested in. What matters is that you do something new, you learn something new, you try something new, and you get, at least a little bit, uncomfortable.

Why do I think you need to get uncomfortable?

Because that's where all the good things happen.

Margaret Atwood's Masterclass
I began challenging myself to take classes a few years ago. I call it Continuing Ed (aka My Life Masterclass). This year I'm taking actual Masterclasses through Masterclass.com. I started in the fall and will continue throughout the year. At the moment I'm taking only writing-related classes, but when I've exhausted those, I plan to take other classes that interest me...on cooking and wine appreciation and photography and...whatever else strikes my fancy. I'm also currently taking a month-long short story writing class through Pennwriters, a Pennsylvania writers organization I joined last year. And, I've been attending writers' conferences and workshops whenever I can (at least two in the past year).

My daughter taking a
sewing class
I've also been taking various art classes, both online and in person. And, I've been watching art-making videos on Youtube-- Youtube is a great resource for free learning!! Sometime this year I hope to take a sewing class at JoAnn's so I can finally learn how to use the sewing machine my mother got me two years ago...so I can repair all the holes that magically appear in all of our clothes all of the time. (What's with that???)

But I'm not here to tell you about my classes. I'm here to encourage you to find your own.

Taking a class does wonders for your life satisfaction and self esteem. Even if you're busy and you have to wedge it in between twenty other things. Taking a class will challenge your brain. It may make you feel stupid and slow at the beginning, but that feeling won't last. Eventually you'll get better/grasp the material/get absorbed in the topic or the process and you'll start to feel alive. And then, when it's done, you'll feel a sense of accomplishment.

You'll learn something new. You'll broaden your horizons. You will grow. And that is, after all, at least part of why we're here. To learn and grow. We are not here to stagnate. We are not here to be lulled by the sameness of every day. We are not here to live the unchallenged life.

So challenge yourself.

Book Club feet, from our annual
holiday sock exchange
And while we're at it, I also think you should join a club. (Extracurriculars, Yay!) Find a running club or a book club or a dinner club or a golf league or a slow-pitch softball team. Again, it doesn't matter what it is. But it does matter that it's something you enjoy and it gets you together with other people. It matters that it gets you interested in doing things to relax and unwind other than watching TV or surfing Facebook (or, if you're me, Instagram (#instaaddict))...or playing video games (I'm looking at you, husbands).

Take up running or tennis or fly fishing. Start painting or baking or gardening. Volunteer at a local animal shelter or soup kitchen or library. Take the classes to get SCUBA certified or CPR certified or teaching certified. Learn to knit or throw a pot or fix an engine.
From a Bonsai class my
husband and I took last fall

And, if you can, do it with a group.

Meet new people. Make new friends. Converse with people outside your comfort zone, whatever that zone may be. Do something you've never done before. Do something that makes you nervous. Do something that you "would never do."

Push. Stretch. Reach.

Reach for something further away than your own doorstep. Challenge yourself with something new. That is where growth lives.

Until next time, TAKE A CLASS. (You knew that was coming ;-)


January 17, 2019

2019 Goals: Continue, Return to, More of...

I always spend time at the beginning of each year thinking about the year ahead of me. I have this notebook in which I've been writing thoughts and dreams and goals and ideas for years. I pull this notebook out and I look at it. I flip through the pages and soak in all of the aspiration and energy that radiates off the paper. It's like taking a bath in optimist soup! Then I focus in on what I wrote last year.

What was I brainstorming about? What was I trying to do? And what of that did I accomplish?

When I've done all of that, I usually start brainstorming around the new year. In the past I've even come up with a theme for the new year and centered my goals around that theme.

But this year was a little different.

First of all, now that writing has become more of a job than a hobby for me, I create two separate lists: one of writing goals and one of life goals. Like anyone with a career, you're likely to have work goals and personal goals. For me, those two worlds used to overlap more. Now, writing is such a focus of mine that it needs its own list.

But, what struck me when I looked at my goals for last year, is that I found I had actually accomplished a lot of what I set out to do. My daily life was taking the shape--most of the time--that I had been seeking for years. That was so exciting to realize! I felt like I had really made some genuine progress. But I also found that some things that I had done well at the beginning of 2018 and fallen off more than I would like by the year's end. And, I found some goals I hadn't really made much headway on at all.

I closed my notebook and walked away to give it all some time to stew. And what I ended up with were a few short lists on a scratch pad--lists that came quite easily-- that captured my goals for 2019. And the lists were grouped differently from how I'd done it before.

First I listed things that I wanted to CONTINUE. These are the things that I had accomplished last year and wanted to carry on into the new year. This list gives a nod to all that I accomplished in 2018, and recognizes that it will take work to keep those things up. Here's what landed on that list:

- Writing
- Daily meditation
- Art Play
- Blogging
- Reading
- Sleeping well

The next list captured the things that I was doing well at the beginning of 2018 (or maybe it was back in 2017!), but somehow lost track of as the year went on. These are things that I want to get back on track with in 2019. They are my RETURN TOs. That list looked like this:

Return to...
- Daily workouts
- Healthy eating
- Journalling/Gratitude practice
- Walking the dog
- Stretching
- Vitamins and supplements
- Hubby-time

Then came the list of new things. This is the stuff that I want MORE OF in my life than I have had in recent years. It's the stuff that I've never done but want to do...or learn. This is the hardest list for me to keep contained. Because once I get started brainstorming all the things I want to do and learn, it's really easy for me to get carried away. So I tried to keep this list reasonable. I left things off like, learning to play the guitar, deciding that I would put that on next years list. This is where I ended up:

More of...
- Travel and adventure
- Baking
- Being outside
- Cooking intuitively (without a recipe)
- Learning to sew/knit/quilt/crochet...something in that area
- Friend-time
- Family-time

When I got to this point I felt there was one category missing. Something that felt more like a project list. You know, all those one-off things that you want to do but never seem to find the time to do? A great example of this is organizing photos/making photo albums. This has been on my list for, like, five years. And I have yet to do it. BUT, I still want to...really, I do. So, it goes on this list:

Things to do...
- Clean out and organize
- Donations
- Cooking class with the kids
- Make photo books (see?!?!)
- Learn Scrivener
- Read more writing books
- Make a vision board
- Take local trips
- Do January DM Resolution Reboot (this is underway, btw)

When I was done with all of this list making I found that I really liked this "categoried" approach. I even liked it enough to want to share it with all of you.

When I went back over my writing goals, I discovered that that list could be divided into these "Continue, Return to, More of, Things to do" categories, too. Things like: "Continue taking Masterclass writing classes," and "Return to journal writing," and "More of short story writing."

But, I'll tell you, I keep track of my writing goals on a monthly calendar and I have a lot more structure around my process and progress there (as most folks would do, with any job).

So now that I have my 2019 goals in place, and I've started down the path of achieving them, I want to make sure that I check in on those goals...that I don't forget today's New Year energy and passion behind them. So I keep them out where I can see them. And I look at them daily. And I hold myself accountable. Or, at least, I try to.

Because that's how we go after dreams. We pursue them, day in and day out. And we keep our eye on the prize. I feel comfortable saying that I've transformed my daily life over the last few years. The things I used to only wish for, are now a part of my reality. That's what goals can do.

So ask yourself this: What do I want to CONTINUE this year? What do I want to RETURN TO? What do I want MORE OF? And, What are some one-off projects I really want TO DO?

Until next time, here are some words to motivate you as you tackle your 2019 goals:

You are powerful.
You are wise.
You are free.
You are fierce.
You radiate love.
You shine.


January 7, 2019

December Art Play and Words of Wisdom for 2019

This is my art mat beneath a window on the floor in the corner of my dining room. It's not pretty. It's a mess. I love it here.

If you follow me on Instagram @bookwormanista (and if you don't, you should: instagram.com/bookwormanista), then you already know that I had a lot of fun playing on my art mat in the month of December. I took the month off from writing, as a recovery period after winning Nanowrimo2018 and finishing the first draft of a new novel. I tend to let things go in December. I didn't so much succumb to the insanity as I did when the kids were younger, but things are crazy and there is much ado, so I just try to roll with it. Rolling with it meant decompressing on my art mat and discovering a new process for myself. Which was super cool.

A few months back I took a one day art class with a local artist whose art I admire. It was supposed to be a group class but others cancelled last minute and it ended up being just the two of us. Which turned out to be great. I learned a lot and came home with a large, 22x30, piece of art I'd created on this lovely, thick paper. The piece, still taped to the cardboard "worktop" I'd used at the class, sat leaning against the wall in my workspace (aka the dining room) doing nothing. Until December.

I pulled it out and started painting over it in small sections. I realized that essentially what I had created in that rainy Saturday art class many months ago, was a background...a first layer. I had covered the white space-- like the first draft of a novel-- and now I needed to revise and edit that first layer into art. Not gallery wall art, but little pieces of inspiration...little nuggets that spoke to my heart. 

Each time I sat down at the 22x30 sheet of "first draft," I decided what I wanted to paint and then I'd search the large sheet for just the right spot. I'd paint, and then I'd tear that little section off of the larger sheet. Each piece I painted in one day. Usually in less than an hour. A little half hour window of time, placed delicately between other things, for creation and play.

Create. Rest. Repeat. Until all I had left were a couple of small scraps...that I will likely paint on this week. 

I loved this process so much that I just ordered two, 22x30 sheets of the same thick, luxurious paper so I can again create first draft backgrounds and then parse them into little painted feelings. 

So here they are...my feelings from December:

The first one I painted was inspired by a piece by Lori Portka. She does amazing, inspirational, soothing art. This one was my Christmas wish....Make a wish 4 peace. And it's one of my favorites that I created. This is the one that inspired me to keep going. 

This one was inspired by an illustration I saw...somewhere. It's a mini, country winter painting. Go where your heart takes you...for me, in December, my heart has always taken me home.

This one is another favorite. It was inspired by a children's illustration I saw on Instagram. It's a different, more rudimentary, childish style and I loved painting this way. This one said to me, Always take the scenic route.
A cute little snowman. 'Tis the season, and all that. This is super simple and rather childish and literal, but it's a reminder to me to remember to play. Especially during the kids' winter break from school, when I need to put aside my to dos from time to time and just play...with them and on my own. This is what art is for me...playtime.
This was inspired by a photo of my niece during her semester abroad. I have the pleasure of watching both of my nieces do things I never did when I was their age-- being brave explorers of the world and themselves. It's fun to be on the sidelines of their lives, cheering them on. Be fearless, independent and original...that's what I think of when I think of my niece. What's funny about this painting is that I redid the face about a hundred times and never got it quite right. I never knew, until I painted this, that my niece looks like Joni Mitchell. At least when I paint her she does. (I've looked at love from both sides now...favorite Joni Mitchell song, now running through my head.)
This was inspired by a photo of my other niece. Somehow I managed to capture her enough in this that I can recognize her in it, but it doesn't come close to showing how beautiful she is. She inspires me. She is somehow full of joy even though she also struggles with her own stuff. And this pic just said to me: be you, bravely. P.S. She's hugging a giant giraffe pillow.
We got a holiday post card from something banal, like, our insurance company, with this cozy picture of a mug and cookie and I just liked it. It made me think of warm cookies in the winter and how important it is to fall in love with as many things as possible...all the things...big and little. Just. Fall. In. Love.
I llama u. My daughter is in love with llamas and alpacas right now and I saw this photo of three alpacas with Santa hats on and had to paint it...thinking of her, of course. My kids remind me to have an open heart...these stinkin' cute alpacas make me think of that, too.
I saw this gorgeous photo of a little A-frame cabin nestled in the woods with twinkle lights strung from the house to the trees. Seeing a home cuddled by nature this way reminded me that we must live gently upon this earth.
I actually did the owl in January, but, whatever. It was inspired by a book cover. I don't even know what the book was, but I liked it's gilded cover. Plus I love owls. The message was inspired by the new year: Choose to shine
The last one wasn't done on my art mat or on the paper I used for all of the others. This one was done in my art book on New Year's Eve while hanging out with my family in Florida. It's a pensive deer. Thoughtful. Graceful. And a bit skittish. Kinda like me closing out the old year and entering into the new one.

So there you have it. December Art Play. What I lack in ability I make up for in love. When you look back over all of these simple, little paintings I hope you see what went into all of them...peace. That is what their creation brought me...tiny spaces of peace. It is such a gift. So I close out 2018 and step into 2019 in this floaty place of peace...and play...and inspiration.

Your words of wisdom as you step into 2019:

make a wish. go where your heart takes you. always take the scenic route. remember to play. be fearless, independent and original. be you, bravely. fall in love with as many things as possible. have an open heart. live gently upon this earth. choose to shine.

Until next time, find your play space and play, play, play.


December 19, 2018

Note to Self

Over the years I have become a master in the art of notes. I make notes to myself in my phone, on sticky notes, in my calendar, on long lists, in writing notebooks and planning notebooks, and in my head. I leave notes for my kids in their lunch boxes. I write notes in cards and emails and text messages to my family and friends. I send reminder notes and favor notes and random thoughts to my husband when he's at work.

I have note pads and note books and note apps galore. Lots of places and spaces to make notes to myself. Do this. Do that. Don't forget this. Remember that. And I love them. They give me a certain sense of security. They assuage my anxiety. Or, at least I thought they did. I mean, they did...until they didn't.

Somewhere along the line my note making went from being a helpful habit to being something more akin to an addiction. But, as far as I know, there's no twelve step program for note making. So, I'm on my own with this one.

Over the last few months I've started trying to curb my note-making addiction-- the writing and rewriting of to dos and ideas and whatnot. When I have the urge to write something down or make a note in my phone, I stop and ask myself, Do I really need to write this down? Is it already written down somewhere else? Is this something I'll remember to do on my own? 

Appointments I write down. Reminders for things related to the kids' activities or school, I write down. But most of the other stuff, if I'm honest, I probably don't need to write down. And I certainly don't need to have it noted in my phone and in my calendar and on a sticky note.

I'm so worried about letting something fall through the cracks, that I write it all down so that everything gets covered. But, guess what? Things still fall through the cracks. And it often doesn't make me feel better to write it down, it just makes me think about all the things there are to do. So, I'm trying to stop.

You would not believe how hard it is to stop making lists.

It's, like, crazy hard. Harder than stopping snacking in the evening. Harder than getting back into an exercise routine after time off. Harder than...well, you get the picture.

Then I heard this song called Note to Self by Ben Rector, and it made me look at my notes to myself in a different way. What if I used them to remind me of the important things instead of the seemingly urgent things? (You know, use my powers for good rather than evil.)

The song starts off with things you might find on a typical to do list:
- Clean the living room.
- Fold the laundry.
- Exercise.

But then it moves to a different kind of to do list:
- Don't worry so much.
- Think of other people more.
- Keep choosing your significant other.
- Call your mother.

This inspired me to consider a new goal for 2019. To only write notes to myself like this...
- Remember to stop and look around.
- Breathe.
- Go for a walk in the fresh air.
- Call a friend.
- Do one thing at a time.
- Savor each bite.
- Give more.
- Tell yourself your beautiful.
- Smile.
- Cuddle with the kids.

I'm trying to start this now, but it's hard for me. Tis the season for waking up with a to do list running through my brain. But each day I try again. And again. And again.

To change the meaning of making a Note to Self...consider that goal number one for 2019.

Until next time, make a note to yourself that has nothing to do with your seemingly never-ending to do list. And then follow through on it.

P.S. Here's a link to Ben Rector's song, in case you want to hear it yourself: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kdjmie7KPrU

December 5, 2018

Holiday Stress and Anxiety

Oh my Lord, it's December, people!

The month when my brain goes a mile a minute during all of the minutes. The season when I am forever remembering that I've forgotten something. (How is it even possible to be constantly in a state of both forgetting and remembering??? It's like having my feet in two different dimensions at the same time. In one version of reality I am remembering everything--Yay; in the another version I am forgetting everything--Boo. (I hope there's a third reality where I'm just napping and reading and drinking coffee.)

Fifteen minutes ago, I checked out twice at Target because the first time I forgot a gift card-- the gift card that was my main purpose for going to Target in the first place...and this was my third trip to Target in the last seven days. (insert eye roll here-- Target you are a blessing and a curse.)

But my brain did not just short circuit on December 1st, oh no. That happened on November 24th...

We visited my in-laws for Thanksgiving this year and had The. Best. Time! We visited with both of my husbands parents, had Thanksgiving dinner and a lovely evening at his cousins, and then had an awesome night of fun at his brother's house. I even got to have lunch with my dear friend, Kristen (who has known me for over thirty years and still likes me!), which I only get to do once a year and it's my favorite! I was even managing to keep up with my Nano word count. It. Was. Great.

Until it wasn't.

It happened Saturday night. We were set to tackle the 8+ hour drive home Sunday morning when, out of nowhere, my daughter got sick...followed by my husband just a few hours later. It was terrible. Mainly it was terrible for them (obviously), but somehow it became terrible for me, too.

I didn't get sick--not with the stomach bug, at least. (Thank you, Sweet Jesus.) But somewhere in the mix of caring for my sickies and waiting to get hit by it myself, my anxiety ramped up and had an absolute field day with me.

My stomach was a mess. I felt run down and worn out. I was exhausted. And yet, I was keyed up. I was in a constant state of "I just have to get everything done before this hits me." I rushed around like a maniac, while some part of my brain spun in a never-ending cycle of questioning all body sensations and wondering if "that was it...am I about to get it?"

But when we finally made it home and everyone got better, I didn't. I continued to spin. Physically and mentally. Spin. Spin. Spin.

Here's what's funny: I didn't even realize it was the anxiety. (I know, sad. You'd think I'd spot it quickly by now, but I've proven to have a blind spot for this.) It wasn't until my husband said something to me, that maybe this was my anxiety, that I had the light bulb moment.

Fuuuuuuuuuuuuck. The anxiety.

Do you have that moment when your period surprises you one day and then you're like, oh, right, that's why I was insane a few days ago!? This was kind of like that. After-the-fact clarity.

And that's also when I remembered that I'd given up almost all self-care during this time, too. No mediation. No exercise. Very little quiet, downtime. So I launched back into routine, full force. And I started to feel better. And now I'm hyper-aware and watching that little rascal, anxiety, extra closely. Every time it rears its ugly head, I tackle it with breathing and calming, happy thoughts and tell it to hit the road.

Now, I'm back to regular holiday stress. My friend Julie sent me this meme the other day:

Speak the truth, meme. Preach.

Here's the truth of December 2018 for me so far:

My house is partially decorated-- partially decorated with Christmas decorations and partially decorated with giant storage bins. (We're still not done, much to my chagrin.) I got a bunch of Panera gift cards while my daughter was at Girl Scouts Sunday night and was all high-fiving myself only to realize after I got home that I'd forgotten someone. Same with Target gift cards--ordered them during the 10% off day, and forgot one. I have not given one thought to Christmas cookies or food for when all the guests descend beginning next week. It's possible that my poor mother will have to grocery shop for and cook the food she eats while at my house. Send her condolences, please.

I currently have a hate-hate relationship with the grocery store, despite reminding myself endlessly how lucky I am to have a grocery that provides most of what I need, and to have the money to buy the food. I am the posterchild for first world problems and totally need to get over myself. But still, that fucking grocery store! Ugh!

I am randomly ordering gifts online. All the time. Like, just at random. No plan, really. Who knows if I'm getting not enough or too many. What if I'm ordering everything for one kid and nothing for the other? It could happen. And I haven't even looked at Christmas cards yet, let alone created and ordered them-- though I have thought about them once or twice. I haven't even thought about the family calendar I make every year. It may be Happy Valentine's Day-- here's your calendar-- hope you didn't need to know any dates in the month of January!

And don't even get me started on the attitude in my house right now! Where's the Christmas spirit? I can tell you where it isn't-- in my house!! My husband is massively stressed and overwhelmed at work and not sleeping, and there's nothing I can do to help except hug him a lot. Both kids are completely wack-a-doo. Angry and yelling. Bursting into tears. Not feeling well. Bouncing off the walls. Fighting over everything! Absolutely nothing is fair, according to them. Not. A. Thing.

I'm trying to hold it all together, people. I'm really trying. I'm chipper and chirpy as much as I can be, when I'm not completely run down from racing all over town and all over the house trying, trying, trying. I'm singing the Christmas songs and noticing the beautiful sky and thanking the universe for all the good and all the love. I'm snuggling with the kid warm from bed and giggling with the kid over some pillow talk when she's supposed to already be asleep.

And it turns out I'm just living the life.

As always, doing the best I can and learning the lessons over and over. And I'm getting a little bit better at it every year. And I try to remember that, and give myself a little credit. As my friend Julie said, It's okay to be stressed this time of year. Give yourself permission to let it be as it is. But don't stay there. Think the good thoughts too. Have the wine and the cookie. Look at the pretty lights. Smile at the person on the street. Listen to your kids' giggles. Hug your stressed-out spouse. Read a cozy book. Treat yourself tenderly. Send the loving kindness out into the world.

Send the loving kindness to yourself.

Until next time, ride the holiday roller coaster with as much lightness of being as you can muster, and I'll see you on the other side. xo

Happy Holidays and Namaste, friend.

P.S. For those who are wondering, I did win Nanowrimo 2018! I finished the 50,000+ word first draft of a new contemporary middle grade novel called, The Witchdoctor. And now I'm excited to get back to revising last year's Nano book. Yay! I'll update you more on the writing soon!

October 17, 2018

What I've Been Listening To: Audio Non-Fiction that's Totally Worth Your Time

I've been obsessively listening to audiobooks lately. I have multiple books running on my phone through Audible, plus library books running through Hoopla, AND the kids and I are listening to (and loving) The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens audiobook in the car. Not only am I listening to new books, but I'm also relistening to one of my favorite "pump me up" books, You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero, pretty much any few moments I get. I actually just paused an audiobook so that I could write this blog post.

I'm still reading hardcopy, hold-in-my-hand books too, never fear (currently: The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer; just finished: Obsidio (The Iluminae Files book 3...see earlier blog post on that trilogy) and Crazy Rich Asians (which I did not love)). BUT, it's audiobooks that hold my passion and attention right now. I'm not entirely sure why...the ease? the fact that I can listen while I drive or fold laundry or walk the dog? am I just "into" nonfiction right now? IDK. Regardless of the reason, I'm listening voraciously and I've got some recommendations for you. So let's dig in.

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren: I just finished this one yesterday and I really loved it. It's this fascinating mix between memoir and geobiology class--which doesn't necessarily sound awesome, but it is. Hope Jahren is a geochemist and geobiologist, a research scientist and university professor. Her book tells the story of her life and her life as a scientist and how those two things intermingle. It is emotional and beautifully written. She reads the audio herself with a dry monotone that fits her writing personality (but that can be, at times, a little sleep-inducing...so I had to take breaks; I typically listen in 30 minute intervals anyway, though). Though I loved her story, my favorite "character", by far, was her research partner, Bill-- and their sibling-esque relationship. (He has THE BEST lines! I want to meet him in person after reading this book--and Jahren delivers his dry wit perfectly!) I learned stuff about nature and people. And I think I look at both a bit differently now.

Hunger: A Memoir of My Body by Roxane Gay: For me, this was an eye-opening, and surprisingly relatable book; and an important read. This is Roxane's memoir of being an obese person in a society that openly mocks obese people. She tells her story of being a slim young girl and the things that happened in her life that lead to her obesity. She shares all the feelings and thoughts that come with navigating our world when your fat. And it's heart-wrenching, at times. And it's massively eye-opening. And, as someone who's never been more than 10-15 lbs overweight, it was shocking to me how much I related to her. How similar I felt. And then, how shameful I felt for thoughts I've had about obese people in the past. Roxane Gay reads the audio and there is something so powerful about hearing her words from her own mouth. If you've ever looked at someone and judged them without knowing a thing about them, other than the surface you can see, you should read this book.

The Blue Zones of Happiness by Dan Buettner: This book made me think about the way my environment, and how I choose to react to it, impacts my happiness. It made me look at and reevaluate the effort I make (or don't make); the thoughts and perspectives I cling to; and where and how I choose to live; and how that all effects my happiness. And it inspired me to try something different and make some changes. It can be a bit dry in parts, but I learned a lot and got some great perspective. It's an excellent book to have playing in the background while you do other things.

The Art of Possibility by Rosamund and Benjamin Zander: This is another "make you think differently" kind of book. It's pretty short and sweet. And it's chocked full of great new ways to look at the challenges in your life. Pretty inspiring.

Loving What Is by Byron Katie: If you really want to blow your mind and challenge the way you think about EVERYTHING, then this is the book for you. I listened to it after someone else I admire recommended it. At first, I thought I'd made a big mistake in buying this one. But I listened on and ended up fascinated by Katie's perspective. The book could have been shortened as there's some unnecessary repetition, but the lessons in this book are amazing and potentially life-altering, if you choose to implement them. Pretty fascinating.

Up next: Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover (for book club), Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell, and The Confidence Code for Girls by Clair Shipman and Katty Kay.

Have any audiobooks you'd highly recommend? Let me me know in the comments!

Until next time, happy reading (listening)!