Putting myself first today

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The lawn needs to be mowed, I have half a story left to finish for the project I am helping my local library with but this morning I am making time for myself. I have just finished a long 14-day stretch at work without a day off and put in sixty-seven hours last week. It’s time for me.

Those chores will be done later today but this morning I am doing something I haven’t given myself time to do for the last four years – I’m going golfing. I’m leaving my responsibilities behind and letting myself enjoy the morning with a very dear friend. Life is too short to sweat the small stuff and having a cleanly mowed lawn is infinitesimal in the grand scheme of my happiness today.

Today is not about having time, it is about making time. Too many moments have passed me by because I put something or someone else first. Today is about me being selfish and I’m okay with that. I’m going to get dressed in my new golf shirt, shine my clubs and chase a little white ball around a freshly manicured lawn that would put mine to shame. I can only hope I remember how to hit the damn thing.  Fore!

 

 

Show, don’t tell

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I was introduced to the phrase “show, don’t tell” by a woman who runs a small publishing company in Arkansas. After she read the first three chapters of my novel, she gave me some extremely helpful advice. I have since edited those first chapters and am moving forward with much more knowledge about writing.

What she said to me made complete sense. In the first chapter, one of my lines ended with “the impending nightfall felt menacing”. It did not occur to me to show the reader how the night was achieving that menacing quality rather than just tell them. I was guilty of some rookie writing mistakes and rather than telling me my writing needed work, she showed me how to make it better.

This same phrase introduced itself to another realm of my existence, proving three words can pack a powerful punch. When new people join your work team, there are bound to be some adjustments, not only for the new employee but for the long-term team members as well. And when that new employee steps into a managerial role, some toes are going to be stepped on and some noses will be out of joint.

Once the employees aired their grievances, it was agreed that the new employee would show the team how his new ideas could improve the existing way of doing things instead of just telling them how he wanted things done. By showing them and not simply telling them, not only will he have his new ideas implemented but everyone will get involved and the team will become stronger.

Crash test dummies

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Time has a wonderful way of changing our perception of certain points in our lives.  I ran into a person yesterday and just the slight glimpse of that person reminded me of a decision that was basically made for me many years ago, but it was a decision I should have been wise enough to make myself.

I was a participant in a friendship I knew was toxic.  So many of the things this friend did should have been glaring beacons that the road we were headed down was hazardous.  We had navigated the small bumps along the way but, when the test car picked up speed towards the wall, I should have hit the brakes.  Instead, the car ricocheted along the track towards its inevitable end.  Thankfully, this third-party I saw yesterday unknowingly shoved me out of the car just before it hit the wall.  Although this gesture was not made with any concern for me, it nonetheless saved me from years of invisible pain.

Somewhere during our friendship, I had taken a back seat.  I had ignored my inner voices and let the reckless driving continue while I did nothing to stop it.  When I did finally speak up, the third-party had accused me of being unfair and told me my actions were very disappointing.  The only thing that was disappointing was the fact that I had not spoken up sooner. Narcissism aside, some of the things I bore witness to could be a plot in a soap opera.  The lies were just the beginning.  There were threats, blackmail, an exchange of money and flagrant manipulation.  It was incomprehensible.

The fact that my friend seemed unconcerned about the atrocious behavior and the third-party seemed to condone it through their ignorance and unwillingness to hear the truth was enough to make me appreciate the fact that they pushed me out of that relationship.  The betrayal had caused enough of a divide in our friendship that I was able to stand on one side of the chasm that divided our relationship and truly see what was on the other side.

Every so often, circumstances make me look backwards into that void.  Life has marched on for the three of us, some lives have been looked upon more favorably than others, but we all still bear our own scars of that crash test car.

 

 

 

Even crime is organized

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“Organizing isn’t about perfection.  It’s about efficiency, reducing stress and clutter, saving time and money, and improving your overall quality of life.” ~ Christina Scalise

I am a self-professed control freak when it comes to events in my life.  I love planning, I love having lists and I love being organized.  I’m an Aries, what can I say?

The questionnaire

(photo credit)

Routine and planning make me comfortable.  I like to know what to expect and I appreciate having my day flow in a way that can only come from planning.  I go so far as to arrange my grocery list according to the layout of the aisles so my shopping is not a haphazard trip, circling the store multiple times to find the items I need.  It is a coordinated dance through the maelstrom of people frantically running from aisle to aisle, having given no forethought to the layout of the store.

While I admit I am not a big fan of surprises, I do appreciate a little spontaneity.  It is a welcome change from the comfort of my structure but I could never be a “fly by the seat of my pants” kind of girl.  I like setting aside time for certain tasks and find that I accomplish much more when I stick to a regimented timetable.

I have mellowed over the years and am not as systematic as I used to be.  I was once accused of planning a spontaneous event and, although I thought I covered it well, I was guilty as charged.  I’ve learned to let go of the reigns as I have matured and enjoy the moments of the unexpected.  But I will never give up my lists.

What about you? Are you a planner or do you prefer spontaneity?

Listen to those who have been there

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Knowledge is power, this is a universal truth, and over the last few days this truth has made itself extremely evident.

I have been immersing myself into a world that is new to me and there is a huge learning curve as well as many veins of information that branch out from that curve.  To gain as much knowledge as I can, I have been spending a great deal of time travelling down those arteries of wisdom and storing as many nuggets of information as I can into the recesses of my brain.

Every author I have spoken to about getting published has said the same thing – it’s really all about luck and timing.  I have no reason not to believe them because they’ve been there.  They have pounded the same pavement on which I now find myself so they know this route much better than I could ever claim to know.  I have been spending a great deal of time learning about different literary agents, what they like and what they don’t like, and only adding those agents who may be a good fit for my book.  I have been spending much more time on Twitter as that seems to be a more popular social media site for those in the writing world and last week I was introduced to the hashtag #PitMad.

PitMad is a pitch party where authors have 280 characters to describe their unpublished manuscript.  If an agent likes your tweet, you have the green light to send them a query based on their submission guidelines.  I tweeted my first pitch and sat back, hoping for the best.  But then I wanted to know all I could know about PitMad.  It turns out, you can send a maximum of three pitches for the same book, so I carefully constructed a second tweet and sent it out into cyberspace.  When I checked back a while later, my second tweet had a beloved heart below it.  An agent liked my tweet!  I had the go-ahead to send a query and I did that as quickly as I could so my story was still fresh in her mind.

Luck and timing magically combined and, when I got home from work that day, there was an email from the same agent requesting to read my full manuscript.  I’m not under any illusion that her interest in my book is going to mean that she is going to take me on as a client.  I am quite grounded in reality.  I am, however, under the illusion that her requesting my full manuscript means that my writing has enough merit to make her want to see where I take the story and THAT is a huge step for a new author.

I follow “LitRejections” on Twitter and they post very encouraging tweets to help authors keep writing and survive rejection.  This tweet is the one that got under my skin and keeps me going ~ “Rejection of your writing will not break your spirits. You are going to do this. You will not quit. You WILL be successful.

The Bridge Day

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March 8th had never previously had a profound effect on my life.  It had always been a day like any other.  But four years ago, that day marked the separation between the calendar date that my mother and my father passed away.  Although the losses were separated by almost 8 years, the fact did not go unrecognized that the dates of their individual passing almost overlapped.  March 7th was the fourth anniversary of my mom’s passing and March 9th will be the twelfth anniversary of losing my dad.

Time is a funny thing.  Had those moments not occurred within less than 48 hours of each other, eight years later, that single day on the calendar would go by inconspicuously.  It would still be a day like any other.

arch bridge

But today has become a bridge – a connection that holds the memories of both my mom and my dad in a splendid moment of happiness between the two saddest days of our lives.

Today is the day when their laughter is heard and the thoughts of their smiles are etched in our memories.  Those moments shine above the heartbreak of their losses.  Today is the day that will hold us in its embrace, allowing us to live in the contentment of how wonderful life was when they were both still with us.  And today is the day that we can stand on top of that bridge and not feel the pain of loss on either side.

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