Friday, February 23, 2018

Friday Feature: Projecting Positivity

This semester, I'm teaching a course in positive psychology. As you can imagine, it's a lot of fun. What's not to like about going to work and focusing on ways to make ourselves happier and to make life better? It also helps to have a class made up of students who want to be there and who, every class, raise excellent questions and insights.

Curious about what those life-improving things might be? Check out this quick read from Happify on "13 Proven Ways to Project Positive Energy."

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Not Writing is Not an Option

A few weeks ago, a couple of really wonderful writing opportunities crossed my path. Though I am optimistic by nature, I found myself working hard to squelch my usual optimism, fearful that getting too excited would set me up for disappointment.

I'm happy to report that optimism was, indeed, called for, and that there's reason for continued optimism as well. Needless to say, I will keep you posted.

But, in the meantime, I am cranky. As much as I love my day job, it is currently serving primarily as an obstacle to my writing time. I want to sequester myself and take the next steps on these projects, but the prime times of my days are already spoken for. And I worry that by the time I actually get time to sit down and put this all together, my enthusiasm will have waned and it will all feel like...


Which it is. Sometimes I forget that.

I shared this conundrum with a writer friend today, and she said (as she often does) that she thinks all writers feel this way and that, just maybe, that's the reason everyone doesn't write a book. Then I logged onto Facebook (yes, I see the irony) and found a discussion about this very thing.

Writing is a pursuit marked by cautious optimism. We need to be optimistic at the start of a project so we can believe in ourselves and our ideas, even as we pick them apart, doubt them and revise them. We need to exercise caution throughout the process: is this unique? is it needed? is there an audience? We need to resurrect the optimism as our enthusiasm wanes and the work grows difficult and we doubt that we know anything about anything at all.

And so we push forward, cautious optimism gently cradling our project as it is nurtured by creativity, held firm through stagnation and buffeted by life in general. We write when we feel like it and when we don't, garnering mixed results under both circumstances, slowly moving one step forward and two steps back, calling on that cautious optimism when we need tools like persistence and determination.

Writing is work, but it is work that those who write can't avoid. It overtakes us, stubbornly insisting that we share our words with the world, even if they go no further than our notebooks or our screens. When the work goes well, we are elated, but still not quite satisfied and when it goes badly, we question everything.

But still we work, pursuing ideas, shaping them, putting them on the page in what we hope is a coherent fashion, because we have no choice.

Day job or no day job, progress or no progress, we have to write. And until we can eke out the time, we plan.

And dream.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Time Changes Everything?

Wolfganggerth via Pixabay
My daughter was home for a whirlwind visit last weekend. Her trip included a rare Friday night dinner at home (my husband and I usually go out to dinner on Friday nights), an orchestra concert featuring Latin American music and a shopping trip 21st century style.

It was an interesting weekend.

She came home primarily for the concert, which she hoped would fulfill an attendance requirement for one of her classes. It started snowing about two hours before we were to leave; luckily, my husband came to the rescue. I wouldn't have missed the concert, but not worrying about the drive home enabled me to settle in and enjoy the whole experience a lot more.

I really didn't know what to expect. I'd been to orchestra concerts before and, once upon a time, I was in a few of them myself when I played violin (briefly and badly), but on Saturday, I recognized only a couple of the composers on the program. Snow aside, it turned out to be a nice evening -- one of those grown-up outings that slowly but surely become the norm as a child becomes a young adult.

Another benefit of having a young adult in the house is that she takes advantage of almost any opportunity to drive. She doesn't have a car at school and when she's away, I think she misses driving more than anything else (except perhaps her bed).

On Saturday afternoon, she did a Target run for us so of course I sent her off with a list.

Initially, the list was handwritten. But two items in, as I found myself describing precisely which hairspray and precisely which aluminum foil I wanted, I stopped writing, pulled out my phone and took pictures of the items in question. Before I knew it, a series of texted photos replaced the simple paper-and-pencil list with which I'd begun.

It's funny. As a mom, I'm very aware of how much my daughter has changed over time, but I sometimes lose track of how much she has changed me. I know that the combination of teaching young adults and having one of my own helps to keep me young (relatively speaking), and I sometimes wonder just how different I'd be without these consistent, usually positive influences. I know I'd explore less technology, know less about music (contemporary and otherwise) and have to make my own Target runs, but I wonder how many subtle things would be different as well.

Yesterday, as we drove her to the train station, I wasn't thinking about Target lists or orchestra concerts or the best way to create a grocery list. I was (once again) wishing we had just a little more time together, not for errands or even fun nights out, but just time together in the same space, for just a little while.

And no matter how much I change, I don't expect that I'll ever stop wishing for that.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Friday Feature: Pizza for Breakfast?

What do you eat for breakfast? Are you a cup of coffee and sugary treat person? A lover of a big, old-fashioned bacon-and-eggs start to the day? Or, do you prefer to skip breakfast entirely?

Like many people, I had my first cold pizza breakfast when I was in college. Now, however, even when there's cold pizza in the fridge, it's rare that I actually consider it a breakfast option.

So, imagine my surprise when I came across an article saying that the occasional slice of cold pizza might be a good breakfast option and, in fact, it might be a better choice than a bowl of cereal.

Curious? Check it out for yourself here.

And pass the pepperoni.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Valentine's Day Freebies!

Kindle edition is free today!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Because I love my readers, I've got two freebies today. The first is Marita's take on the night she met Jim. The second is a free book: in honor of Valentine's Day, Chasing a Second Chance is free on  Kindle today.

Want some more outtakes and insights? Check out the night that Angel met Jim and Angel hugs her sweetheart. Or, take a quick quiz to see which Casting the First Stone/Chasing a Second Chance character you are.

Now, here's Marita. Happy Valentine's Day from me, Marita and the rest of the gang!

The night I met Jim started out like any other adventure with Bets. The two of us were experts at going where the boys were, but that night was first time Bets suggested that we go somewhere different -- somewhere with college boys. I was nervous, but excited. Honestly, I was just as bored with high school boys as Bets was but, without her, I wouldn't have had the nerve to go to that party.

We got there pretty early -- rookie mistake -- and I picked Jim out right away. He looked like a model out of those preppy catalogs some of my classmates liked and to say he was tall, dark and handsome was not an overstatement. I don't think of him that way now -- his personality has done more to decrease his attractiveness in my eyes than age ever could. If I'm honest, his looks get better with age, but I will forever see him through the gray-tinted lens of disillusionment. Even back then, I never saw him the way I suspect Angel does. He was cute and all, but he was never my knight in shining armor. He was just a guy.

He noticed us right away -- it was pretty hard not to notice two high school girls in a half-empty frat house. He got us drinks and introduced us to his roommate who, as it turned out, could match Bets smart comment for smart comment. When they went downstairs to play pool, Jim and I went to his room. Bets won $50 playing pool and made out with the fraternity president. Jim and I hung out in his room all night and I got pregnant with Charli.

By the time Bets and I left, the guys were playing beer pong and were pretty uninterested in us. On the way home, Bets and I talked about the night -- about how we'd expected it to be different from the usual high school parties, only it wasn't. We figured we'd never see those guys again, and neither of us was disappointed about that.

If only.

Monday, February 12, 2018

10 Things You Probably Already Know About Me

Rafixx via Pixabay
Today is one of those Mondays. It started with rain, but morphed to sunshine. My overbooked schedule righted itself in a win-win fashion. The guest speaker in my class this morning left me feeling upbeat about myself, my students and the work I do, leading me to bounce off campus, delighted with the life I have. 

Yeah, I know. I'm nauseating -- or fun to be around, depending on your perspective. And, while I've tossed a few blog post ideas around this morning, no one topic stuck, so today, I'm going with a list post that reflects where I am on this now-sunny Monday. If you're a long-time reader, few of these will come as a surprise -- and you might even have a few observations of your own to add in the comments (please do). 

So, here's me. 
  1. I love my job. Sure, I complain sometimes about the details but, big picture, I love working with young adults and daily, I meet young people who shatter the notion of a lazy, entitled younger generation.
  2. I am an optimist. Most days, #1 fuels this.
  3. I appreciate excellence and have little patience for people who don't do the work.
  4. I love creating characters, whether for the stage or the page.
  5. I live for a flexible work schedule. I've done the traditional work day, and this is much, much better, but I also work more hours now than when I did the typical work week.
  6. Becoming a mom is the best thing that ever happened to me.
  7. I have a love-hate relationship with technology. When it works, it's a fabulous tool, but I'm always not-so-secretly afraid something will go wrong and I will look foolish. (It's happened).
  8. I love to learn new things. These days, you're more likely to find me reading (and writing) non-fiction than novels.
  9.  I am grateful beyond words for the life I have. Yes, bad things have happened and no, I haven't simply ignored them. But, I know that neither good nor bad will feel that way every moment of every day. I know what I'm good at and I'm willing to work hard. And, I have a husband whose job provides health insurance.
  10. No matter where I am or where I live, I will always, always be a Jersey girl.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Friday Feature: Paper Planners

Earlier this week, I wrote about my goal setting session and yesterday, I was all excited about my latest foray into technology. Although I get excited when the tech works in my favor, I am, at heart, a paper and pencil girl. I have five planners, and not a single one of them is electronic.

I know it's old school, but I also know I'm not alone. And, in case I need proof, this piece by Kristin Wong in none other than The New York Times cites not only people who agree with me, but also their reasons for doing so.

Similar to the book/Kindle argument, this one has passionate proponents on both sides. With which side do you align?