I was charging my laptop yesterday when a storm came barreling in—loud bursts of thunder, streaks of lightening, followed by a dramatic downpour of rain. I quickly unplugged my computer to avoid the risk of it being surged.
I had been working on my book at the time and immediately thought “what would happen if I lost my book?” I have an old printed copy whose version is very outdated and other versions of my book have been saved to a cloud, but now that I’m in critical edit mode, keeping my book safe is imperative.
I would be a complete mess if I lost my book—all the hard work I’ve done so far? There are so many twists, turns, and important dialogue that recapturing all of it seems impossible. The thought of it made me want to cry.
That was my thinking at 3 p.m. Fast-forward to 4:15 p.m. and I see this:
This is historic Ellicott City, 15 minutes from my house. What you are seeing is a flash flood that took place yesterday—a similar flood decimated the same area just two years ago. The flood two years ago caused millions of dollars in damage and cost millions to clean and rebuild the area. Many businesses completely shut down, while others waited out the very lengthy rebuild-process hoping that their businesses could somehow stay afloat while their source of income was non-existent.
My girlfriends and I were there just the night before. We were saying how great it was that historic Ellicott City was able to rebuild. I was especially proud of my friend’s (Dave’s) business, The Wine Bin, whose beautiful store has become a landmark on Main Street. His shop hosts special doggy Yappy (happy) hours and outdoor movie nights; he gives so much of his time, money, and energy to charities and other businesses that people were there to give back. That is not to take away from the devastation and how hard it was for The Wine Bin or any of the restaurants, shops, and bars to re-open.
I couldn’t sleep last night. The flooding played out in my head repeatedly, along with the memory of Dave having to climb a tree to avoid being washed away or the sheer devastation that resulted. I was mad that better protection barriers were not built. I felt the pain, sadness, and anguish of the current business owners of historic Ellicott City. Again?!
It will take strength, commitment, and fortitude to rebuild–if they decide to rebuild. If so, what protection will these businesses have going forward?
There is one thing that reassures me—and that is the PEOPLE of Ellicott City; they are strong and resilient. They are creative, resourceful, and fighters. They are a community that supports their own and embraces newcomers. They are an inspiration to me! Through their example, I know that I could begin again and THEY WILL TOO (in whatever path they decide to take) because . . .
If you wish to make a DONATION to the Howard County Community Relief Fund, you can go to the Community Foundation of Howard County’s website at www.cfhoco.org, navigate to the Howard County Community Relief Fund tab, and click “Donate”, or you can mail a check payable to the Community Foundation of Howard County noting “Howard County Community Relief Fund” on the memo line.
I will be honest with you, talk of exercise used to make my whole body cringe. Exercise equated to pain, sweating, and reminders of just how out of shape I was. It also reminded me of all the times I started exercising, but then stopped.
My problem was (and still is) finding the TIME to exercise. I could (but won’t) give you a list of my excuses – and many are legit – of how I am too busy to exercise. Truth is, there are ways to fit exercise into your hectic life. You may need to make sacrifices (like sleeping in, my favorite!), but it is so worth it. You will discover a newfound sense of feeling accomplished, motivated, and stronger—physically and mentally!
Here are some tips that can make exercise more feasible: Read More
What does your typical eating day look like? Are you frustrated because you think you are watching what you eat or drink, but your scale and clothes are telling you otherwise?
Tracking calories is not fun, but the process can be so revealing. A typical day of eating (for someone not watching their weight) might consist of scrambled eggs and bacon for breakfast, cheeseburger and fries for lunch, tacos for dinner, and a bowl of ice cream for dessert. It’s not the healthiest of meals and the calorie count totals more than 1,800 calories. It is easy to rack up the calories without even knowing it. For example, the other day I had an Orange Crush, one of my favorite alcoholic drinks (I do live in Baltimore after all). I was shocked to find that one glass contains 325 calories—two glasses contain 650—half of my daily allotment. Holy cow!
Tracking calories is not all bad. What I learned is that there are simple diet changes that can have surprisingly awesome results. Try any or all of the following and see if your scale becomes your friend. Read More
You have the power to create the reality that you want for yourself. This is something that I’m starting (finally) to realize for myself. I am about to turn 50 years old and I am just now wising up. It’s something that happens when you turn 50 or about to turn 50. It is called: “I don’t have time for that” as the young folks say, and I am finally just realizing that I really don’t!
There is sense of urgency that kicks in the year that you are turning 50. It’s as if you understand that all the BS – the excuses that you allowed yourself – are futile and the BS is now inconsequential.
Now is Your Time to Shine!
There is also a certain freedom that comes with the realization that what you are IS enough! All those struggles and trials that you experienced in your 20s and 30s only contribute to the greatness that you are today. Those times not only taught you valuable lessons, but also created lasting memories.
Kindness is Your Friend
I also believe that your heart does shine through. I am one that struggles with self-confidence. The older I get, the more I wish I appreciated my youth. I look at old photos and think, “wow, I looked great.” How come I didn’t see the greatness of me then, at that time, in my youth?! Now I am left to appreciate me NOW with wrinkles, a lacking metabolism, and grey hair. I so want to smack the youngsters complaining about their looks and say, “APPRECIATE what you are.”
But with age, comes wisdom . . . eventually. Sort of.
With age, I realize that a bright smile does miraculous things for your looks and that others are attracted to your energy, compassion, and joy. Those are the things that inspire and bring about youth. Youth IS subjective.
And Kindness? Well that DOES go along way. I have come to realize that everyone is looking to be understood and loved. With age, comes a more open heart. An open heart that is more receiving and accepting, at least that is what my older age entails. Give joy, inspire, and be a light for the younger generation. Maybe that is what getting older is all about. I would like to think it is.
For me . . . It IS my time to shine!
I feel the words brewing, percolating, bubbling inside my head. They are there in limbo. Waiting for the muse to take them to their fate. I am inspired, but only in thought.
In my mind’s eye, I can see a masterpiece, a celebration of creativity. I feel the way the words touch and move others, if only in my intent. I long to have the words jump off the pages into the hearts of my readers. I’ve been moved by the works of others; may my words also have that same effect.
The above is an old blog posting, yet I felt compelled to share again. This, to me, is the epitome of the creative process.
My writing comes in spurts–sometimes I can become so engrossed in my writing that time seems to slip away. Other times, writing becomes a chore with each word a struggle.
However, my admiration of others’ creativity is never waning. I admire their ability to CREATE, DO, MAKE MAGIC HAPPEN. Their work seems effortless.
How do you channel the CONSISTENCY? For me, it is finding the time.
Writing can often be difficult. It requires the right combination of concentration and free-form thinking—the perfect oxymoron.
My best writing seems to come when I PLUNGE IN and JUST WRITE—not worrying about grammar, plausibility, or even what others think. Allowing the words to be dictated by my heart.
I, by nature, am a shy person. Or, at least I was as a young girl. This shyness often contradicted my adventurous side that loved trying new things and taking risks.
My parents couldn’t believe it when their shy little girl declared that she wanted to be an actress—only I didn’t use the word “actress”; I said that I wanted to be “a star”. I subjected my family to plays written and acted out by my best friend and me. A personal favorite was called “Dead Flowers” which illustrated (by dance) the evolution of flowers, with their death in the winter and new blooms in the spring. (Oscar-worthy for sure.)
I pursued acting throughout school (even briefly in college), but eventually changed my vocational direction. My acting days, however, were not in vain. They taught me some very valuable lessons—lessons that have helped me push past my fear.
BECAUSE FEAR CAN BE PARALYZING. I know this for fact. I struggle with fear (think anxiety on steroids), but you know what? EVERYONE has fear at some point in his or her life. It is how we handle the fear that matters.
Let’s start with the basics. . . my mom would always tell me that FEAR stands for False Evidence Appearing Real. Remember those shadows that would creep across your room at night when you were little? I do! I was convinced that those shadows were monsters or ghosts. Fear consumed me, keeping me awake. My False Evidence were the shadows, which in hindsight, were actually produced by the headlights of passing cars. There were no ghosts, even though they Appeared Real.
My stint in acting involved small parts (and sometimes larger parts) in elementary, high school, and college plays. Looking back, there is one thing that I always remember. . . the FEAR. This fear would be especially dominant when I was waiting in the wings, about to head on stage.
“I can’t, I can’t, I can’t,” I would say to myself. My hands would sweat, my heart would pound fiercely. It was panicky fear and it would grab a hold of me so tightly. It took everything out of me to push myself out onto the stage.
How did I do it? I would picture myself NOT going out on stage. I would visualize the awkwardness that would transpire with fellow actors having to deal with my absence. I would see the play being ruined. I would then counter that with the old adage “The Show Must Go On” and convince myself that in order for the show to go on, I had to go on.
It was an internal dialogue, similar to many that I still have whenever I am faced with something causing my anxiety to skyrocket. Whenever I have those waiting-in-the-wing moments, I ask myself, “What will happen if I don’t?” And you know what? That image is always more frightening.
Another question to ask yourself is: What is the worst thing that will happen if you DO try? Hmmm…let’s see. You may embarrass yourself, you may do something wrong, you may even be fired (gulp – I know, harsh). BUT. . . with every one of those scenarios chances are that they’re all much better options than giving into fear. Take the firing scenario and picture yourself giving into the fear and not trying. Chances are you would still be fired for not trying. Again, the outcomes are always worse when you give into fear.
Acting in simple terms is faking a persona. It requires taking on a role. You’ve probably heard the phrase: “Fake it until you make it.” I exercise that phrase A LOT (and I mean A LOT). There are so many times when I feel afraid, like a fraud, or as if I don’t know what I am doing.
Those are the times when I JUST DO IT, taking a deep breath and jumping in. I do fake it with a lot of stumbling and mistakes along the way, but eventually I make it. And faking and making it with mistakes is so much better than not trying at all. So go for it and FAKE IT UNTIL YOU MAKE IT.
None of the above is easy, especially when fear is wreaking havoc on your brain and body. That is when DEEP BREATHS are necessary. Whenever you feel the all-consuming anxiety, close your eyes and take deep breaths. Breath slowly in and exhale out.
Meditation is such a great tool to help with this. And for those who have never meditated or think they can’t do it, let me say this: I am not an expert. I am not even sure I do it correctly.
My meditation involves allowing myself to sit in a quiet space, where I relax, listen to and focus on my breathing, and try to rid myself of any thoughts (and that is tough for someone like me with an over-active brain). Even if you don’t think you are doing it correctly, trust me, the quiet and relaxed time will refocus your energy into a mindset that can conquer fear.
Whenever I am working through my fear, preparing myself for what (SCARY?) thing lies ahead, I repeat my mantra silently in my head. My mantra is a Bible verse (you can find what works for you. Trusting God is definitely what works and helps me!). My verse is:
I totally believe in its truth. Regardless of your religious beliefs (or non beliefs), a mantra is helpful to push you forward.
In Gone with the Wind, the characters Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara try to drive a horse-drawn carriage through a battle area that is engulfed with flames. The horse becomes frightened and refuses to move forward. In other words, the horse gives in to his FEAR. What does Rhett do? He covers the horse’s face with a blanket so that he cannot see the flames. The flames are still there, but because the horse cannot SEE the flames, he moves forward.
Use this analogy with your own goals and keep your blinders on. SEE yourself achieving your goals and stay focused on that final outcome. Do not look around. . .BLINDERS!
My last step for overcoming fear is this. . . JUMP! That’s right. As Nike would say, “Just Do It.” Such insight in three little words.
Do not waste more time thinking about the “what ifs” and do not allow yourself to be controlled by your excuses.
Bright Light Living is about my a-ha moment. Sometimes you can hear or see something repeatedly, but it just doesn’t register – I mean truly register – until you are ready to receive its true, impactful meaning . . .
I am a middle child who lived a middle-class type of life. My mother raised me to be content and thankful for what I had. She would say, “there will always be people who have more than you, but there will always be people who have less than you. Be thankful for what you have.” I took that to heart. I was thankful.
I was average in a lot of things, but not exceptional in anything. I made the National Honor Society, played sports, was a cheerleader, was in school plays, and had friends. Somehow I always seemed to “make” whatever I tried out for. But, I was never the Most of anything. I was not Valedictorian (or even close), not Most Popular (or even close), not Best Looking (or even close), not a sports MVP (or even close). . .you get it, I was a great all-around (average) person. I took that to heart. I accepted my status.
I would be in the company of intellects and feel inferior, remaining quiet because I didn’t feel as if I had anything of value to contribute. I would hear stories of my friends who were making more money or had more prestigious jobs and I would remind myself, “it’s okay, I am not in it for the money. I like what I do.”
My parents passed down to me many of their great qualities; I consider myself a good (average) mix of both of them. My father was an engineer for NASA who received his doctorate from George Washington (and Va. Tech for undergrad—Go Hokies!—sorry, had to give that plug). He passed to me his strategic thinking and organizational skills. If only he passed to me his exceptional brain. My mother was a top sales leader in Mary Kay; she is now also a well-respected vision coach. She exudes positivity and charisma; people are and were always drawn to her. She passed along to me her positivity, creativity, and belief in goodness. If only she passed to me her charisma. I always felt as if I paled in her shadow.
That is my early story. We all have one. A story of what shapes our belief systems and perceptions of who we are and what we think the world has to offer. Our early stories are often what sets our perimeters and establishes our limitations—our self-imposed limitations. For me, it was the limitation that I was good enough to feel like a fraud, so therefore I was never great enough. My perimeters dictated that I should always try things, but only with small expectations of true, ultimate, exceptional success. I expected average success.
“This little light of mine,
I’m going to let it shine.
This little light of mine,
I’m going to let it shine.”
I had two favorite songs from my early Sunday school days. The first: “We Are One in the Spirit” and the second: “This Little Light of Mine.”
Both songs also shaped my belief system and influenced who I wanted to be. I wanted to be an example. I believed in being kind to everyone so that they could see God’s love through me. I would let myself shine in that regard. I would shine in goodness . . .but not greatness.
Fast-forward to present day. I am driving to work and “This Little Light of Mine” for some reason popped into my head. I started singing it. I then reached for a notebook given to me by my mother. The book opened up to a famous quote (my mother had pasted inside). I had always liked the quote and thought I understood it until . . .
I had the A-ha moment. It took both reminders of light to come to me TOGETHER for it to finally hit me over the head: God does not want us playing small or average. He wants us to SHINE BRIGHT. He wants to be confident, full of belief and hope; He wants us to live without fear or limitations. He wants us to SOAR.
The quote is Marianna Williamson’s “Our Deepest Fear.” It is an affirmation that we should be living BRIGHT, which also gives others permission to do the same.
Do you remember when stereograms (like the one above) were really popular? Stereograms are photos containing hidden 3D images that reveal themselves when the viewer focuses his/her eyes in a certain way. I remember going to the mall and seeing photos of stereograms like the one above for sale.
I would stare and stare and try to have the hidden, 3D image come forward. It took me a while to get the hang of it, but once I did, the easier it became. I figured out the technique.
I would have to relax my eyes and almost get into a trance-like state. Anytime that I tried to force the image to appear, the less likely I was able to see it. It was a matter truly letting go and relaxing.
Why am I writing about stereograms? Because it is the best analogy that I can use to describe my writing process. For me, I have to just get into the zone by relaxing my eyes and thought-process. The more I try to force my writing, the less successful I am to have words come.
This relaxation is extremely difficult to do when I am caught up in the hectic schedule of my life. I am literally a sponge and take in so much from my environment such as frantic and nervous energy. My brain can feel like it’s in overload and if I don’t give myself a chance to decompress, I feel as if I am in a constant nervous state of chaos. And well, you can bet that writing is the last thing that I am able to do.
I write this to emphasize the need to STEP AWAY and FIND TIME TO RELAX with deep breaths that release the stressors of the day. This is not an easy thing to do when you find time is limited. I am a victim of this. With work, my long commute, the boys’ crazy sports schedules, we are always on the go.
I am having to ask myself: “What can I do differently? How can I fit in this much-needed relaxation?” Click here to read more on this.
If you are looking to tap into your creativity–whether that is writing, painting, designing, or building something–find time to relax. Truly LET GO and surrender yourself to what you are trying to create.
Sports players often say that they are “in the zone,” which is another way of describing this creative process. Create while being in the zone. Let go and allow the momentum to flow. And it WILL!
Where you able to see the airplane in the stereogram above? Were you able to relax and not strain your eyes? If so, then practice this technique with your own creative project.
On this brisk New Year’s Eve morning (who am I kidding, it’s downright freezing), I thought I would post something I wrote five years ago. . .
One morning (in my attempt to write daily), I decided that I was just going to sit down and write, not worrying about grammar, style, or even subject matter. Without even thinking (it was as if someone was writing FOR ME), I typed the following:
This posting inspired me to bundle up (think Ralphie’s little brother in The Christmas Story) and go for a WALK. Not just any walk, I think I am going to walk with my eyes and heart open. Taking my own advice, I plan to fill my lungs with optimism and breath in the day!
The new year is fast-approaching. (Granted with the Christmas holiday, I find that I don’t know what day of the week it is, which is a great feeling!)
Give or take a day or two, the New Year is upon us. And you know what that means?! It’s time for those good ol’ New Year’s Resolutions!
You are probably reading this with skepticism, thinking: “Here’s another one of those postings about making resolutions that are usually broken within a month.”
Rest-assured that is NOT what this is about. I will not be writing about resolutions; instead, I will be sharing ONE QUESTION that I recently asked myself.
I have asked myself other questions, such as WHAT DO I WANT — WHAT GOALS DO I REALLY WANT TO ACHIEVE?
That IS important after all.
For me, I want to be healthy (tone, fit, and weighing less) AND I want to finish not one, but two writing projects this year (my sequel and a screen play). Eventually, I want to be able to quit my job (although I do love it, just not the commute) and earn a profitable living from my writing.
When I express this desire, I can see the doubt of those I’ve told. Making a living from writing and being a successful author is — statistically — difficult to achieve.
[Good thing, I was never a fan of statistics.]
Working full-time does make my goals much harder to achieve. Which was the reality I was facing when THE QUESTION popped into my head. It came to me one morning so prominently (as if someone else literally was asking me the question). And that was when the light bulb went off!
HOW BAD DO YOU WANT IT?
It was that one simple question that called-out all my excuses.
“I really want it,” I heard myself answer.
“But, but. . .I am sooooo tired in the morning,”
Hmmm, how bad DID I want it? I visualized what I wanted—I saw myself skinny and tone. I pictured myself promoting my best-selling book(s). I saw myself fulfilled, happy, and content with my life.
THAT QUESTION wasn’t going to let me escape the harsh reality (aka, my epiphany): Was I willing to do what it took?
I know that I will have to give up things—I may need to write instead of going out with friends. I need to resist that dessert, exercise, and track my calories. I need to not watch television but instead work on my book. My excuses are legit, but they are also what’s going to prevent me from achieving what I want. THAT QUESTION (THE QUESTION) allows me to be honest–truly honest–with myself.
It has been a while since I’ve worked on my blog. Life got hectic and I allowed excuses to dominate. Looking back, I realized it was actually fear that was dominating. After months of consistent writing and posting, I had put on the brakes. This was right around the time that I had announced to my friends and everyone in my contact lists that I had a blog. I mean, isn’t that the point of a blog? To have people read it.
I think unconsciously I was embarrassed. I could hear the criticism and laughter, if only in my imagination. Writing a blog seemed so self-indulgent—who was I to deem myself an expert? What made me think that I had something of interest that others wanted to hear?
I listened to (and gave into) those negative inner-voices. In other words, I got psyched out!
The lull in my writing did not make me happy. In fact, it downright depressed me. Writing always made me happy; it was fulfilling. It was what I always considered “my thing,” and so to get away from it made me feel a little lost.
A few months back, I did pick back up writing the sequel to my book. In fact, I am halfway (about 25,000 words) in. It is a process. Writing, in general, is a process. Patience is a must. Persistency is a requirement. There is so much to be learned—and so much that I have learned already.
I decided that I needed to change the rules if I was going to continue with my blog. Instead of concerning myself with Google analytics, Pinterest marketing, user views, and ad clicks, I would concentrate on THE WRITING.
This blog is for me first. (I know, this is COUNTER to what all bloggers tell you!)
This blog is my journey and investigation of the creative process. Only then, will I feel that my words will have merit, authenticity, and resonate truth with others.
My mother purchased as a birthday present to me a Master Class with Judy Blume. For those familiar with my first book, you may know that Judy Blume greatly influenced my writing. The class has just started and I am so, so excited about participating! I will share some of my insights (but not divulge her teachings)—I anticipate learning so much!
Writing’s most important success factor is simply WRITING. Write even when you don’t know what to write. Write even when you feel like what your writing is pure rubbish. Just Write!
My husband always jokes that he never wins the lottery. “Seriously why can’t I just win the lottery?” he will jokingly say followed by his punch line: “Maybe because I never play.”
You laugh, but there is a lesson to be found in those words. . . if you don’t put in the effort then how do you expect results?!
You can’t receive rejection or praise if you do not START. You can’t fail if you never begin. And then once you start, CONTINUE.
I love listening to interviews of those who I admire, especially writers. They are so motivating and inspiring. The common ingredient to their success is that they did not give up. They stress this! They talk about their persistence—through writer’s block, self-doubt, massive edits, and rejection. In fact, I don’t think there is one successful writer out there that didn’t receive rejection.
Life does not come with a guide book. It is filled with choices and the need to make decisions. Should you take that new job offer? Is the person you’re dating really right for you? Should you move into that new house?
Don’t you wish someone could just TELL YOU EXACTLY what you were supposed to do with your life? Those darn choices are never sure things—what happens if you make the wrong decision? It could all go terribly wrong . . . right?
The good news is that most things can be fixed or changed. You be may be stumbling along doing things that later seem like a complete waste of time. You may be kicking yourself thinking: “I should have known better.” But trying things, experimenting, and assessing your results are all a part of life. Life is about learning. This learning is what LEADS you to the RIGHT PATH.
This blog for example. . . I had a vision for my blog and had to do a lot of reading, learning, and researching to get it up and running. I checked out other bloggers, struggled to understand the ins and outs of WordPress, activated social media, and took (still taking) a blogging course. One of the biggest challenges was figuring out how to structure the site. I needed to determine the categories, blog postings, and overall theme—who was my audience and what knowledge did I want to provide?
After a lot of mind-wrestling, observation, and careful planning, I created what I thought was a good site. There was just one thing: it never felt quite, quite right (sort of right, but not exactly). It might have been right for other bloggers, but it wasn’t right for ME.
Does it FIT YOU?
Years ago, I learned the hard way about things not fitting. After my then-boyfriend broke up with me, I was devastated. Of course I resorted to self-pity and the “what is wrong with me” whines. Fortunately, I had a good friend who gave me some sound advice. I can’t say that I liked it at the time—it was too logical for my liking—but I do remember it to this day. She said: “Nothing is wrong with you. You wanted what he couldn’t give you and vice-versa. It doesn’t make either of you wrong, just not a good fit.”
And that is the thing: sometimes we take job offers, stay in relationships, or make decisions that are not a good fit FOR US. They may be right for others, but not you.
ONLY YOU know what is best for you. The secret is LISTENING to your heart, your gut.
With my blog site, I had to STEP AWAY from it. I used my vacation to reflect in quiet. Vacation was the optimal time to detach myself from the craziness of life and really FEEL/LISTEN to my heart. I was able to ask myself, “What really motivates and excites me?”
And with clarity, I was able to ascertain that fiction writing was my love. Writing the sequel to my book (and other books later) is what brings me joy.
I am also INSPIRED by something else: THE CREATIVE PROCESS. It became clear to me that the creative process—looking at solutions, creating, inventing—is something that truly fascinates me. It became clear to me that I needed to incorporate that into my blog. I explain more about this creative process on my site (I hope that you will click here to learn more).
Yes, I made decisions.
Yes, I took action.
Yes, I learned things along the way.
Yes, I stopped to listen to my heart.
Yes, I changed directions
None of my efforts, however, were for naught.
It was this decision, this clarity that gave me a newfound release—I was stressing over the site way too much. Now however, it just feels right. Like a good fit.