Monday, December 5, 2016

Feeling Festive



We’re all deer souls around here. Finally got our tree up. 

Youngest sprinted the end of a local Santa’s Run this past weekend. She was Blitzen

Sneaking peeks in the backyard, hoping to spy our resident Vixen (we really do have a female fox in the neighborhood). 

Oldest has been rehearsing for a special Christmas performance at a professional hockey game. She’s a solid Dancer

Middle child still crushin’ on Bieber. Ha, what a Prancer

Some Christmas presents have been purchased. I’m all Cupid like that. Some mailed. Dasher on the fly. 

Making lists and checking them twice. Another Prancer in da house. 

And someday . . . someday our kitchen renovation will be complete. Then we’ll go nuts with Comet.

Whew. All Donner.

But do you recall . . . 



Monday, November 28, 2016

Onward. Upward. Through.


One of my mom’s closest friends passed away this past weekend. As I digested this tragic news, I got
to thinking about my time here. And then, without warning, the hard questions infiltrated . . . as they have a habit of doing in moments like this.

I asked myself if I’m living fully.

Am I allowing fear to stop me from pursuing a dream?

Have I grown numb to living life on autopilot?

Am I putting relationships first?

Why do I keep fighting against thoughts that I know aren’t based in truth?

How much time have I wasted clinging to shame, regret, jealousy, and anger?

What’s stopping me?

And that’s where the questions slammed into a roadblock. What isn’t stopping me feels like a more fitting question to ask. Excuses. Past mistakes. Broken relationships. Bruises and scars. Fear of failure. The weight of other’s anger. Distractions. Insecurity and doubt. Mind traps—lies I’ve chosen to believe.

Futile.

There are castles to see, waters to sail, books to be written, girls to raise, a husband to dance with, a dog to walk, family and friends to embrace, people to inspire. There’s a whole world out there for me to engage with.

I have so much more life to live. I’d rather fight through the mire, than sit idly by.

It’s worth it to ask the hard questions in order to squeeze the most out of this short time we’re allotted here.


Onward. Upward. Through.

Monday, November 21, 2016

8 Tips to Help You Thrive through the Holidays


If you’re like me you want to do more than simply survive the holidays. You want to make special
memories and meet the New Year with energy and zeal for life. Most of us know, however, the holidays can suck the life out of us if we’re not mindful and intentional.

I’m offering a few tips that have helped me thrive through this particular busy season in the past. Maybe they’ll help you too.

Identify Your Safe People

Ah. The splendor of family together. Great Uncle Ben with his inappropriate jokes. Or Cousin Sandra who spends the entire Thanksgiving meal talking about how poorly turkeys are treated. Then, of course there are the real doozies. Dad with his hypercritical opinion about your new boyfriend or your sister-in-law with her passive aggressive way of telling you she hates you (eh-hem, your haircut). Ah . . . family. Gotta love ‘em. That may be so, it really helps to know who (whether in the family circle or not) you can consider your “safe” people. Friends or that super close sister you can call up or huddle together with as they remind us we can do this, only twenty-four more hours. Safe people are the ones you trust. They uplift and encourage. You don’t feel like you have to walk on eggshells around them or cringe whenever they open their mouths.

Once you figure out who at least one safe person is in your life, thank them, then let them know you might be reaching out over the holidays.

Move Your Body

Nothing simmers my stress level quite like a long walk (even in the cold). Get outside. Participate in a spontaneous dance party. Get your lungs pumping and your arms flailing. Check out how Cousin Sandra does the whip and ney ney.

How You Treat Others Stays with Them Longer than the Gifts You Give

The Fitbit will break. Those gorgeous dishes you’ve admired for months will all be chipped in three years. The snow blower will be given to a neighbor when you learn you’re moving to Dallas. Gifts are fun to give and get, but no gift will ever compare to consistent and selfless love. Memories of kindness live on forever.

Lower Your Expectations

Whenever I say this I realize it sounds pessimistic. My intention is coming from the exact opposite place. When we go into a situation expecting everything to go perfectly our hope is quickly dashed at the slightest insult or disappointment. However, if we go in knowing there will be moments of awkwardness and pangs of discomfort, we may find we’re pleasantly surprised at the end of the day.

Let Go Quickly

Piggybacking off the last point, those insults and disappointments are likely to come. We’re all flawed humans with a lot on our plates and even more on our minds. We come in to family settings with fears, and secrets, jealousies, and a lot of history dragged behind us in sacks far bigger than Santa’s pack. This is true for all of us. The more we encounter one another with this sense of understanding and grace, the quicker we might be able to let the little things go.

Brainstorm Non-Explosive Topics

I dare you look up after the Thanksgiving prayer and ask everyone who they voted for. Or you could light an explosive in the middle of the table if that’s easier. Be mindful that certain topics are bound to set certain individuals off. Remember those Santa packs of fear and secrets we all dragged in? Think about who you’re with and what’s likely to slit a huge tear down the fabric of those packs. You shouldn’t feel like you need to steer clear of real conversation, only consider refraining from topics that really should come with warning labels.

Shorten Your To-Do List

Some years I’ve sent Christmas cards. Others I haven’t. No apologies or explanations. I get to what I get to. I assume the same for others and try not to get offended easily. We’re all slammed. Fight stress by deciding right now that you’ll cut three or four things off your usual to-do list. You’ll notice it won’t kill anyone and it may even save you a little of your sanity in the process.

Take Time Alone to Reflect

I’m about to tell you something that might shock you. I’m an introvert. Yep, it’s true. I’m also a learned-extrovert. But my real energy and restoration comes from time alone, moments spent in reflection, writing at my computer, and prayer. This is how I come back to myself when I’m peopled out. The holidays are a prime time to get peopled out fast. Safeguard your propensity to stress by stealing a few minutes away by yourself. To think. To plan. To remind yourself there are only twenty-four hours left with these crazy people. ;-) Who knows . . . they might be hiding out in the bathroom saying the exact same thing.


Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 14, 2016

A Nod to Eleanor Roosevelt



I’ve spent the past week talking to people, listening, and seeking to understand. Still working on that last one. I’ve been searching for words. Powerful ones, ones that will make a difference. I find myself fumbling at the start of this week. I’ve decided to post the following quotes, thankful that Eleanor Roosevelt tapped into her passion, harnessed her wisdom, and used her voice.

Consider, applaud, and reflect upon each meaning and the implications as you take on the week.

“If anyone were to ask me what I want out of life I would say—the opportunity for doing something useful, for in no other way, I am convinced, can true happiness be attained.”

“You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”

“I could never be content to take my place by the fireside and simply look on. Life was meant to be lived, and curiosity must be kept alive. One must never, for whatever reason, turn his back on life.”

 “Character building begins in our infancy and continues until death.”

“People grow through experience if they meet life honestly and courageously. This is how character is built.”

“One's philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes. In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.”

“There is not human being from whom we cannot learn something if we are interested enough to dig deep.”


“With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts.”

Monday, November 7, 2016

5 Ways to Tell if Your Main Character is Trying to Deceive You


It’s imperative to be simpatico with your main character. As authors, we are granted the privilege of crawling around inside our character’s minds, exploring their motives, their greatest fears—we are rulers of their world. It’s key to note that you don’t always have to agree with your main character or like what they’re doing, but you must be able to tap into the deepest recesses of their thoughts and experiences.

For the sake of this article, I’m going to sidestep the entire chicken/egg argument, you know, characters actually explorations of the inner conscience of authors, etc. Thatll only serve to confuse us. Instead, imagine your main character as someone in your life. Suddenly there are signs of friction. There’s been a disruption. You can tell—they are working to deceive you.

Now what?

Well, it’s important our characters trust us. Because if they don’t trust us as we write them in the everyday depictions, what will happen when we put them through grand torture and test their stamina to the breaking point?

Characters cannot be allowed to go rogue on us. If they’re showing signs of deception, it’s important to sniff them out so we, as authors, can snuff it out quick.

5 Signs Your MC is Attempting to Deceive You

She’s Acting out of Character

Your main character loves to take twenty minutes showers, then walk out the door and give a fiver to the homeless woman on the corner. This has been the routine every day for five years.
Not today. Today he rolls out of bed and hits the pavement without showering. He doesn’t skip a beat, walking right past the homeless woman.

Initially, this is kind of exciting. He’s leading you somewhere, you think. Could be.
Or this could also be a perfect example of how something is up with him. He’s veered off script and it will be obvious to readers. As most authors know, there has to be a reason for this—a motive.
If your main character has suddenly begun to do all kinds of things atypical for him, such as making uncharacteristic life-changing decisions, it could be that something exhilarating is about to happen.

Or it could be that he’s trying to deceive you.

She Won’t Reveal Her Secrets

This tends to be my first indicator something has gone askew with one of my characters. Everyone has secrets. One of the number one goals of an author is to excavate a character’s life and past until you strike gold. Secret gold.

Consider it a flashing red sign when she begins hiding her insecurities and regrets.

There will be days your characters stubbornly refuse to open up. That’s not what I’m referring to here. At some point, you’ll break through that. Here I’m referring to when your main character gets purposefully illusory. You get the sneering stare, the eyes that slink to slits. She dares you to crack her impenetrable core. You take on the challenge, prepared for work, but she’s not only running away from you, she’s figured out a way to turn into a ghost, disappearing entirely.

Time to take matters into your own hands.

You Catch Him in a Lie

I’m not talking about when he lies to others in the book. That’s nothing. Those type of lies occur all the time, sometimes they even beef up the plot nicely. No, he’s lying to you.

This could manifest simply. One day he winces the second an Adam Levine song comes on the radio, then he switches it off. His face contorts into a disgusted grimace. He loves Adam Levine. You had to listen to him prattle on for hours about how he met him when he was eleven, how his entire life changed that day.

What’s going on here? He either lied to you when he gushed about how much he admires Adam or he’s lying now. Could he have changed, you ask. Could something else be bothering him? Sure, but you can see that’s not what’s happening. You know him that well. The extent of his repulsion is evident. He shivered, as though the music was infecting him. There are no other triggers to blame.
Time to dissect what’s really going on.

He Keeps Making Excuses

Rationalization 101. He knows you know. He’s seen how you squinted at the page when you reread the part about the odd decision he just made. Not only is it out of character, but now you find that he’s turned back into a twelve-year-old. He’s blaming his past. He’s saying he doesn’t feel well. He’s not owning anything—not a single thing. He ping-pongs between rationalizing his strange behavior and deflecting (hmm…sounds a bit like the recent debates).

Bet you anything he’s hiding something. Time to check closets and peek under beds. This character is covering up. For the sake of your novel, whip off those covers.

She’s Coercing the Entire Cast of Characters to Turn on You

A bully can’t stand to be alone in their cruelty. So what do they do? They recruit others. And if she, for any reason, has decided she wants out of this book, you may very well witness her recruiting other characters to bail on you. Bailing can come in many forms. They might all decide to fall flat on the page simultaneously. Or, if she’s effective in her convincing, your characters might muddle together and play a characterization game of Mr. Potato Head, switching traits as readily as passing food around at Thanksgiving dinner. Stomp out the rebellion. Get to the source. Figure out why she’s being such a bully and be clear about who’s who. And remember what my good friend Bono says about the bastards grinding you down—don’t let them.


Whew. And you were probably thinking there was already enough to concern yourself with when it comes to writing a novel. Who knew you had to worry about your characters trying to deceive you? Well, *wink wink* is it really your main character doing these things to disrupt the plot—or is it you?

 Had to bring that chicken/egg thing back in somehow. ;-)

Monday, October 31, 2016

41 of My Favorite Things


It’s my birthday. I’m a whopping forty-one today. To celebrate, I thought it’d be fun to share a list of things that make me go hmmm, in the best of ways. I’m breaking my favorite things into four categories for your reading pleasure. Cheers and thanks for reading!

In Nature
Peonies in full bloom.
The fox that frequently visits my backyard.
Ocean, lakes, streams, any and all bodies of water.
The sound of wind in the trees—anything to do with trees, changing foliage, flowering leaves, the buds when they return, forests and an isolated tree in an open field. Even the sound of birds in the trees. (Like how I just snuck about seven in one?)
Mountain views.
Lightning slashing through a black sky.
A canopy of stars overhead.
The after-rain smell of the earth.
Sunrises and sunsets that won’t let you look away.

About People
When someone laughs so hard quirky sounds explode from their mouth.
The raised veins on an old lady’s hands.
My role as a wife and a mother, the day in and day out commitment to my family, watching them grow, experiencing my own growth.
People who still hold doors open for others, who wave at their neighbors, who ask you how you’re doing and wait for an answer . . . those people.
Cheeks pinking while playing in the snow, seeing and feeling this even as my fingers go numb.
Small acts of bravery, humility, and heroism. Big acts of the same.
Those who appreciate differences, value conversation, and strive for connectedness over divisiveness.
When people let loose on the dance floor without a care in the world who is watching them.
Those who reach out and take risks when they’re scared, hurt, unsure, or feeling vulnerable.

Products
Birchbox – Great products. Have lined up with this company for years. Love that two women started it.
Farmgirl Flowers – Have never used, but I’m obsessed with the idea. And the flowers are stunning!
Bobbi Brown makeup – Have used in recent, aging years. A huge fan. Subtle, the way I love wearing makeup.
Dove – Sometimes buy. Sometimes don’t. I’m a huge advocate of their message to women and girls.
Biolage – Works for this shampoo snob.
Soma – It does certain figures good . . . like mine. ;-)
Shutterfly – Good products. Great deals. I keep coming back.
Ghirardelli chocolate – Never have had a bite I haven’t enjoyed.
Swan Creek Candle Co. – Summer Rain scent rocks my world.
Daisy by Marc Jacobs – My signature scent.

Randomness
Best thing to believe in: God, His faithfulness and character.
Best stupid thing I frequently say: Crap.
Best new TV show:  This Is Us.
Best hobby: Refinishing furniture.
Best addictive site: Pinterest.
Best endorphin charger: Running.
Best name in Hollywood: Benedict Cumberbatch.
Best non-sexual feeling: Having my hair washed.
Best sense of understanding why I’m here: When I write.
Best rush: Galloping on a horse, speeding in a boat, driving with the windows down.
Best slightly rebellious decision: Listening to music louder than the recommended level and busting out into song or dance or moving across country to be with my fiancé.
Best high: The excited feeling I get when I’m about to start a book I’ve been waiting to read.
Best sign-off: Cheers!


Monday, October 24, 2016

The Only Thing that Matters


“Once again the only thing that mattered was the work, except now he realized that the work was
him.”
Noah Hawley, BEFORE THE FALL

The joy gets lost. There are dark seasons, seasons when you forget why you’ve invested so much time and effort into a calling that seldom produces the results you hope for. Before you think I’ve gone all doom and gloom on you, I’ll say there is an alternate perspective. It’s not easy to embrace. In fact, it’s only when you’ve endured the broken, humble seasons that you discover if you have it in you to rise up and take hold of this more hopeful view.

I’m referring to life as a writer, but highs and lows are experienced in any artistic profession. It’s dangerous when you begin to build in your mind a sharp expectation of how things should be. That’s what happened in the book I’m reading, BEFORE THE FALL. This painter named Scott clung to certain ideas of how it was supposed to look for him when he hit thirty, then forty, finding himself increasingly disappointed his career didn’t pan out the way he’d envisioned. And when he fell short, the love for his craft was compromised until ultimately his craft was compromised. The joy got lost. It wasn’t until Scott was reminded of another passion he had as a boy that his love of painting reignited. Not the search for approval, awards, or accolades. The life-giving pull toward his calling.

There is no separating yourself from the things you make, he thought.”

Yes, we create distance when it comes time for reviews or when we move on to a new project, but the fueling discovery that Scott lands on is that we are the real works in progress.

If we’re growing and challenging ourselves and becoming more in touch with humankind while we craft, well then isn’t that the point?

Does the end product not matter then? Of course it matters. But I happen to believe we reach the best results when we fling off all expectations, when we unabashedly throw ourselves into our art, when woulds and coulds and should haves are ash under our feet.


Our greatest potential shows up only when we become aware that we are the real work being created.