Ice, Ice, Baby

Standard

Image  My preschool-aged daughter has a recurring nightmare that she tells our family about every so often. It goes like this (in her words): “I got on the bus and I was riding somewhere, then I went to get off the bus and (my cousin) Jerome whispers, “ice”. And I said, “Ice?, and he yells, “ICE!!” and I said “ewhhh! and then I woke up.”

This is the winter of the recurring snow/ice/sleet nightmare. 

It reminds me of my little girl’s nightmare, but worse. 

Because the nightmare I’m talking about is snow, ice, and sleet messing with my goals in a practical sense.

To give you some background, every week since the beginning of the year, I’ve made a goal to stay on the Paleo lifestyle, track all my food on Lose It, and exercise at least six days a week. No, this wasn’t as much a New Year’s resolution as something that I just knew I needed and wanted to do.

But a funny thing is happening on my trip through the winter of 2014. The snow and ice and sleet and below freezing weather arriving day after day is driving me to stay in my Mama Bear Cave, unless forced to work. So, you guessed it, no exercising, no Paleo, no trips to the gym or the dance studio (WAHHH!!), and my enjoying eating everything associated with starchy carby goodness.

Why is this happening, really?

Well, I live in Pennsylvania, but I truly think I am allergic to the cold. I tend to run away from any situation that would require me to be cold for an extended period of time, and that includes changing into workout gear within the cold concrete walls of the Planet Fitness changing room. I’d rather sleep on a nail bed than try to jog through snow and ice. And (ahem) I like cuddling with my husband under the covers during the pitch black early morning hours.

I’m sharing all of this because it is a perfect example of how to let roadblocks get in the way of your goals. When it became cold and icy, I didn’t regroup and try to do everything I could to keep to my goals. I let the things I hated (snow, dark, ice. the cold Planet Fitness changing room) become my excuses for not acting like someone who wanted to be fit.

Ice, ice, baby. Too cold too cold.

Then yesterday I read this article: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/prescriptions-life/201310/lacking-motivation-and-inspiration-5-secrets-get-unstuck when I figured out that my get up and go had got up and went. Specifically, this article reminded me of what I learned last year right before I lost 6 pounds and started an upward climb at my job. Want to know what that is?

DO THE WORK!!!

What it means is that, ice or no ice, I have to stop thinking and musing and shivering, shove my Nikes on my feet and get moving. The motivation will come later. It means that I need to get onto Hulu or DailyBurn or some online program and turn my mild-mannered living room into a Cross Fit gym for 45 minutes a day if the weather has me housebound. It means I have to want fitness more than I want to cuddle with the supreme cuddle master known as my husband.

Sometimes it also means…

  • Writing instead of reading blog articles.
  • Cutting off the television, putting on the Focus@Will music and writing chapters in my new novel.
  • Calling to check on my friends instead of letting another day pass before talking to them.
  • And on and on and on…

So, my friends, what is ICE in your life? What’s getting in your way RIGHT NOW? And if you think real hard about it, how will you kick the ice to the side and just do the work?

Fitting It All In

Standard
Time management

Time management

As a mother, wife, writer, teacher, friend, team member, business owner, and dance fitness enthusiast, I’m learning that it’s hard to fit it all in.

Sometimes I just don’t.

Sometimes it means accepting that I just won’t be able to do everything that I want to do, even if the activity is worthwhile.

Sometimes it means being mature enough to handle my own frustration. And with maturity comes understanding. As much as I would like to say yes to every single great opportunity or invitation, I can’t.

I just can’t.

And during those times when I have to say no, I have allow myself some grace.

Grace does not mean trying as hard as I can to fit it all in. I’ve also learned that it does not mean forcing myself to say yes to events, invitations, and opportunities just to please someone or make everybody happy.

Grace means being thankful for the God that I serve and grateful I am still alive to live, to love, and to serve.

Gollum and Lessons on Wanting

Standard
I wants it!

I wants it!

The ring. Ahhh…the ring.

I think that J.R.R. Tolkien was not just a great writer. He was a genius.

His character, Gollum in “The Lord of the Rings”, was probably the greatest example in all literature about what truly happens to our character when we spend our lives chasing something that we want. It’s not pretty. Gollum wasn’t pretty. In the end, he was a completely degraded person. Strangely, he didn’t seem to mind, because as long as he was alive, and as long as there was the ring to find, hold, and even kill for, he had a purpose. His purpose didn’t include a decent life, love, or other people. He only chased the ring.

I WANTS IT!

Last week I wrote a blog post about how I was not willing to be preyed upon by vanity publishing companies trying to get me to pay them to publish my book.

Would you think I was crazy if I told you that I almost went for it? Yes, for a moment there, I thought only about the thrill of being able to tell my Mom and sister what month the book would be out. I wanted their approval. I wanted my Mom to see my name in print. I just WANTED IT.

But that’s silly because I’ve been published for years and she’s already seen my name in print. Just not on the cover of a book in her local Barnes and Noble.

BUT I WANTS IT!

And I do. But I what I have discovered, is that I’m not willing to get it at all costs. If you’ve seen “The Lord of the Rings”, you know that Gollum actually killed his friend for the ring. He also tried to kill a few Hobbits. In the end, even as the ring was about to be destroyed, he gnawed off a Hobbit’s finger just to get the ring.

Really? Seriously? All that for a dangerous ring that caused darkness in your heart and made you want to hurt anything that would try to take it away?’

A ring was never worth turning dark inside.

For me, I know that, as much as I want to get this book out of my door and onto a book store shelf, there are some key things I refuse to do:

  • Fill the book with all kinds of tawdry tidbits just to get it sold
  • Associate with book publishers that peddle that type of stuff
  • Write a several thousand dollar check just to have someone’s imprint on the manuscript

Desire is one thing. Desperation is another. Gollum taught me that.

Besides, I wouldn’t want to die for my dream.

I especially wouldn’t want to bite off a finger then fall into a pit of fiery lava.

I’m sure my Remi hair weave would burn up in the process and I paid good money for that hair.

Dear reader, what do you desire? What are you willing to sacrifice? What are you UNWILLING to sacrifice?

Illusion, Coma, Pimp and Circumstance

Standard
preditors are out there...

Writers beware, predators are out there…

You can thank the artist currently known as Prince for that really cool title. It’s a song on his Musicology CD.

How can I say this? Er. Um. About a month ago I somehow wound up having several conversations with a woman who tried to pimp me.

First of all, I’m not a prostitute. I am a writer. What do I write? In a word, everything. Newsletters for my family. Newspaper columns for my church. Articles for magazines. Short stories. Blog posts. Technical manuals. Online help. Feature description documents. White papers. Specifications. And oh yeah, I also write fiction.

Fiction is my passion. I wrote a novel. Then I rewrote it, rewrote it again, pushed for two sets of critiques, had a focus group go through it, then primped, prepped, and polished that bad boy in preparation for publication. (Say that five times fast!)

Here comes the illusion…

During the birth cycle of the aforementioned novel, I thought a lot about my book contract. At the time I was dead set against self-publishing. I was sure I could shop the novel around and eventually a publishing house would say, “Hey, this is great, here’s your contract, and what would you like to see on the cover?” For two years, I held on to that dream. I submitted to publishing houses. I submitted to agents. I sat and read the book over and over again looking for sloppiness and bad grammar. All the while, I held on to the illusion that traditional publishing was right around the corner. Whoo hoo! Wowee! Yep, my dreams were big. I even envisioned Cuba Gooding, Jr. playing the lead male role after I sold the film rights.

Here comes the coma…

I got the call last month. Yes, THAT CALL! It came from a publishing house I had researched briefly through Google before submitting my manuscript to them. So, one day, I was reading through specifications at my day job, getting ready to draft another online help topic, when SUSIE REPRESENTATIVE called my cell phone. The number on the screen was long distance, so I didn’t answer it. The caller left a message, so about ten minutes later, I left my cubicle for a break and listened to the message. It was just like in my fantasy. Skyscrapers and everythang! Susie Representative said, and I SWEAR I am not making this up, “Hi! We received your submission. We were pretty impressed with it. Please call us back as soon as possible. We would really like to get you into the 2014 publication lineup.” I walked around my office building in a daze for five minutes. Total coma! I think I even drooled a bit.

Here comes the pimp…

I sat down in an empty break area in my office building and called Susie back. We had a wonderful chat for about ten minutes. She told me all about how their editing team works almost exclusively with new authors. She said she loved my story and she was excited for the chance to work with me. She said the company invests a great deal in their authors, and that they do the cover work, editing, marketing plan, and even commercials. I was smitten. She sounded like a fine lady. Immediately I envisioned myself flying out to the midwest to meet her, and that we would form a wonderful nurturing author/editor relationship. I think I wanted to marry her after she told me that she was sending me contract and the information about the company in an email to me that afternoon.

That afternoon when I got home, I grabbed a big cup of hot tea, opened my email and prepared to read through the documents. Everything was there just like Susie said. Still in a daze, I opened the one that said CONTRACT first. It explained everything from copyrights to ownership – standard publishing stuff. Nothing truly stood out until I read one page that said I was expected to pay $XXXX dollars when I returned the contract. Pay? Pay! Wait a minute! Was this a vanity press or subsidy press? I went back and read my other materials. No, the documents clearly said traditional publisher.

A traditional publisher? Who asks for money up front? My antenna immediately went up and I decided to ask some of my writing group people about NONAME PUBLISHING. Three fellow authors assured me that they were known predators, out to get my money and not edit or market my book properly. Hmm. I called Susie again to talk to her about this, and she verbally assured me that they were indeed a traditional publisher. But that I would have to send them a check along with my contract.

Mind you, in all of this, the company only had a sample of my book. What was the dead giveaway that they might have only been after my money? Something so simple you could blink and miss it? They never asked  me to send the rest of the manuscript.

Yes sirree, if it looks like a preditor, and sounds like a preditor, and asks for your money, honey…it’s a pimp.

Here comes the circumstance…

I had spent a number of months trying for a publisher. So, it was actually difficult for me to call NONAME PUBLISHING and tell them that I was declining going forward with their contract offer. But call I did. A day later I got a call from another person at the company, asking me to reconsider. I declined again.

I may have a dream. But a dream is a dream. Not desperation.

So now, my circumstances are the same as before. I’ll spend maybe only the remainder of the year submitting before I take a turn at the self-publishing route. I trust God. Maybe that’s what He was guiding me toward all along. But one thing is for sure…

know I’m not meant to be preyed upon.

The One Thing I Was Missing

Standard

doh

Although I try not to allow my weight to define me, in different periods of my life, particularly during or after a stressful event. my weight bugs me. When it really gets to me, I change my life drastically in order to drop pounds. I drop weight. I go back to regular life. Then the whole thing starts all over again.

Until, sigh, I turned 40.

At 40, my excess poundage decided it was going to stay, bring some cool buddies for the ride, and chug back a few cups of cocoa. All while hanging around my stomach, hips, and thighs.

Nothing, and I mean nothing got me to lose weight. I’d exercise regularly and I stayed the same. I tried being a vegan for a month. No good. Running a few miles a week. Nope. P90X. Puh-lease. Training for a triathlon (which I did by the way, don’t let the curves fool ya). Nothing.

I’d done everything…but..ahem…track my food. Let me first say that I’ve never been a food journal or calorie counting type of person. Even though I pride myself on being a little anal about just about everything, I didn’t warrant my food intake as being something I’d want to write down. Not to be crude, but I figure, if I don’t keep charts on what goes out, why should I keep a chart on what goes in. All I really needed to do was make sure I ate nutritious food, drank plenty of water, and kept my curvy body out of McDonalds. Right?

Wrong!

So back to how I found the one thing I was missing. I was writing and listening to a Michael Hyatt podcast (Google him – he’s good to know if you are a writer or entrepreneur), when I heard him mention that he and his wife Gail were having tremendous weight loss success with an app called Lose It. I stopped what I was doing and downloaded the Lose It app.

NOTE: This obvious endorsement of a product is not funded in any way by the product company. If it were, I’d post a picture of myself with two thumbs up while dancing a jig and tossing around stacks of cash (otherwise known as “making it rain”)

So, I got my bad self on Lose It. For a month I l entered everything I ate and stuck to having only a certain amount of calories per day according to the Lose It recommendation. I set a goal of losing a pound and a half a week.

The first week I lost a pound and a half.

The second week I lost two pounds.

By the end of the month, I’d shaved off nearly 6 and a half pounds.

Now, keep in mind, I’d already been exercising (weights, dance classes, running, walking, elliptical, everything except Yoga because I don’t dig twisting myself into pretzel shapes). I’d also committed to eating in a Paleo lifestyle (no grains, no dairy, tons of veggies, and BACON). But none of that worked to help me lose weight until I used Lose It.

Lose It showed me I was missing the true cost of the food I was eating. Finally, I had something that visually let me see how many calories were in my food. I quickly learned that, with a 1350 calorie budget, I wasn’t willing to spend 600 on a breakfast sandwich or 1020 calories on an Applebees platter. Not if I wanted to drop 50 pounds in 8 months.

That’s it. One thing. Counting the cost. That was all.

So now I’m dropping the pounds. And while that doesn’t solve every problem in my life, it does get me back into my skinny jeans!

What goals do you have, dear reader? Have you been pushing yourself toward a goal and success has been elusive? Do you think you might be missing just one thing? How do you think you will feel when you discover your missing link.

On (Not) Doing It All, OR, I Am Not Every Woman and It is Not All In Me

Standard

ImageI’ve finally come to terms with the fact that I am way too impressionable sometimes. Especially when I read about people or I meet folks who seem to have the ability to do it all.

I read Essence magazine each month. As a matter of fact, I’ve had a subscription to the periodical every year since I was about fifteen (that’s a lot of reading). Anyway, Essence often profiles the lives of extraordinary women. The entertainers. The doctors. The educators. The Pulitzer Prize winners. The supermoms. The philanthropists. Women who give their all and do their all every day (typically in a public arena), and seem to do it perfectly.

They are amazing.

They are an inspiration.

They are not me.

A little while back I finished writing a novel and pitched it for sale, cared for three kids and a very sweet husband, trained and lost seven pounds, changed my diet, started a blog, worked as a contract writer and designer for a medical solutions company, guested on three other blogs, volunteered to serve on an executive board of a social organization, wrote a newsletter and helped promote and do recruitment for another social organization, served as Editor-in-Chief for my church news magazine, helped design said news magazine, coordinated a beta reading group for the first printing of aforementioned novel, helped critique a slew of other novels for different writers, planned a very nice surprise birthday party (which had so many glitches that I have now officially declared myself out of the party planning business), and a partridge and a pear tree :-)

The result? Most everything turned out fine. Me? I didn’t. By the end of the year I was a disorganized, burned out, grumpy, mean witch. I was depressed. I had attitude problems with everyone who demanded something from me (including my own kids).

Yeah. Um, I wasn’t a happy camper.

Those women who do it all – I really don’t know how they do it. My hat is off to them. But I hope someone takes me out back and threatens to shoot me before I ever overextend myself like I did last year.

This year, I am scaling back. My life is going to be simple. God is first. My family is second. After them, I need to care for myself (body, mind, spirit) and tend to my writing career. If I do anything else after that, it will be because the Lord specifically guided me to do so.

To quote a popular novel title, I don’t know how she (a super woman) does it. All I know is what works for me and helps me to be a better person. What works for me is to do less, but to do what I do well.

I am not every woman. It is not all in me. But I do know what is in me, and I’m going to use that to the best of my ability every single day.

On Wisdom and Will

Standard

Image

During an average week, I listen to about 5-10 sermons and talks by various pastors, teachers, and fellow Christians. I listen passively, as I do chores, or drive to work, or as I’m writing.

Lately, I notice that I gravitate towards talks on wisdom, personal will, and God’s will. I’m not quite sure why. In my gut, its just because God is my father, and I really only want to do what He wants me to do in life. And well, some of seeking God’s will comes from my desire to stop chasing rainbows.
I’m over 40 now. I’ve discovered quite a few things:
  • I’m with my life partner. For better or for worse, I’m on this journey with him until one of us dies or God calls one of us home, which ever comes first.
  • I will never have the long lean build that I’ve coveted for more than twenty years. I can be healthy. I can be fit. I can climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. I will still possess curves that can stop traffic if I don’t exercise some modesty.
  • I won’t ever be as famous as Jay-Z or as beautiful as Beyonce’. That’s their journey.
  • I probably won’t ever write characters as well as Terry McMillan, be as prolific as Stephen King, or have a TED talk as funny as Seth Godin’s. God bless them. I can appreciate their work and be ME.
  • I might could maybe possibly dance on stage with Prince. If I play my cards right and pay enough to get into the Purple Circle Club. That dream is still achievable, gosh darn it.
But the point of the matter is this…with age comes a certain type of wisdom and knowledge about self. Wisdom can help me to make good decisions. Knowledge of self helps me know what direction might be right for ME.
Let me get to the point of this blog post. For a full year I’ve prayed to see God’s will for my writing. At first, I thought it meant I’d be discovered through a contest. Well, I missed the boat for the contest. I had put my hope in an agent that I had a great conversation with at a conference. I submitted my material. The agent (very gracefully and nicely, I will add), let me know that we will not work together. I set out in June to lose 40 pounds. It is September. I’ve lost 5 pounds.
But, I somehow know that is all in God’s plan. Why? Because I’m still here and I’m developing perseverance. And wait…that IS one of the things that I am SUPPOSED to develop, right. That’s right up there with peace, faith, and love.
Back to the reason why I mentioned the sermons. I heard a great analogy from Pastor Tim Keller (Redeemer Church) , and it’s applicable to my journey right now. He (I’m summarizing here), said, “As a four year old child, you go to father and ask him if you can go outside and play. And he’ll tell you something like, no, maybe you should stay around the house because we are going to have dinner soon. Now, as a 20 year old at college, if you call your father and say, hey Dad, can I go outside in the quad and play soccer, he might say ‘whats the matter with you?’ You know your workload and schedule. Use some wisdom’.”
God will never micromanage us.
For a long time I wanted to know if I should get an agent, or custom publish, or self-publish, or WHERE should I go with this complete work of fiction.
God’s answer to me?
Well, where do you want to go? You know what you can handle. You know what you can invest in. You know how soon you want to publish. Go on and do what you want. I will be with you. Make a decision.
I pose that question to you today? What do you want to do? Where do you want to go? What can you handle? Go on. Do it. He will be with you…