Letter from Summer Living

IMG_1056Dear Friends,

How has a month passed since my last confession? I mean since my last blog post.

I guess summer has been filled with the living of life. So much so, I haven’t had time (or energy) to write about the life I’m living or write, in general, really.

Anyway, this is just a quick “HELLO” … a wave from my corner of the world … a report (positive I hope) that I am still very much inhabiting the land of the living.

And I have lots to tell you about the busyness and bustle of my summer thus far. I have much to share about what’s coming. Of course, I also want to catch up with all of you, my peeps, and find out what’s new with you.

So thank you for sticking with me and waiting and checking for new stuff.

Let’s see … you’ll soon hear about:

  • Teaching an old dog new tricks … how I learned new things watching my dudes learn new things … Okay, I’m not an old dog but still.
  • Busting baby fever … we overcame an urge … it was tough and then easy *sighs*
  • Staycationing instead of vacationing … there are lots of perks.
  • Fighting my addiction to amazon.com daily and monthly deals and emailing recommendations to the world at large. Have I mentioned that I am losing the fight? I truly need an intervention.
  • Planning for the next writers’ conference I will attend. *smiles*
  • Writing my WIP and the crazy questions and comments I receive about when I’ll be done … which, at this rate, the word NEVER comes to mind.
  • Celebrating birthdays. *smiles again*
  • Working like a dog … I know another canine reference but I have been and there’s no end in sight.

These stories and any others that strike my fancy will come in combinations in the near future. Bits and pieces. Little Gail glimpses.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to my regularly scheduled living, already in progress …

Till next time, peace out,

~Gail

excuses! Excuses! EXCUSES!

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint  New Journals

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint
New Journals

This post has been simmering in the creative juices of my stewpot brain for weeks.

I’ve been unwilling to let it come to a boil and bemoan (yet again) my lack of writing. I know this is the writer’s journey. The cycle of highs and lows. Triumphs and defeats.

But I wonder should I keep talking about the journey? Especially when said journey is at a standstill?

Apparently, the answer is yes because here I am, telling you (yet again) that I have writer’s block. Or better yet, as Jerry Cleaver, author of my go to resource, Immediate Fiction, puts it: “Page Fright”.

Last time I talked about writing, it was on the heels of a recommendation to take a sabbatical. To which I publicly said no, only to traverse that path anyway …

Confession: It’s been months since I’ve opened Scrivener. It’s been weeks since I made a note in my journal relative to the novel in progress. It’s been days since I’ve thought about my characters and what’s going on in their lives. Truly, I am embarrassed at my lack of concern for them.

So you’re probably wondering what has me blocked this time. What’s the trigger for my “page fright”?

  • Excuses
  • Self-loathing
  • Emotions
  • Self-doubt
  • Oh yeah and did I mention?
  • Excuses

Tell me my creative friends … have you ever said any of these things:

I’m too tired …

It’s an excuse. I have the energy to stay up all hours of the night and day watching TV or surfing the web (especially for books on Amazon) or playing games on my iPhone. So I’ll take the hit for this one. It’s really just laziness on my part.

I’m too busy …

And I am. I’m a wife and mom who works outside of the home. Needless to say in the last six months my day job workload has more than tripled; leaving no room for anything else. Except maybe: baby blankets? Remember all my friends who are expecting or adopting? Wait. That’s another excuse. If I’m being honest it just means I procrastinate and writing is first thing to go.

I don’t have time …

Okay, is this the same as being too busy? Maybe. What I know is in a high time in my writer cycle I would say something like: “It’s about making time,” which is a truthful declaration. And I would. I just don’t know what to do in the low times like right now.

Writers should read widely … inside and outside their genre

So, I’ve immersed myself in books. Isn’t that what the Goodreads 2013 Challenge is for? I need to read more before I can write well. Reading a well written novel should teach me tips and tricks. Unfortunately, all the great writing I’ve been reading is discouraging me … paralyzing me. Plus all the bad writing I’ve been reading is discouraging me. This losing myself in other people’s stories instead of my own is a distraction.

Who am I kidding … Nobody’s going to want to read this

The word drivel comes to mind which is why good writing and bad writing is discouraging. It all depends on the day I peruse my darlings. Sometimes I find gold and it makes me smile. Other times, I lay my head on my desk and weep because only rewriting can fix it. Ever been here?

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

“Put all excuses aside and remember this: YOU are capable.” ~Zig Ziglar

I’m not good enough because writing is hard …

Haha … this is Who-Am-I-Kidding’s kissing cousin. Writing is hard despite my love for words and the thrill of a story. Thanks to I-Don’t-Have-Time and I’m-Too-Tired, the last thing I want to do is invest my time in learning “the craft” of writing. I know … another play at laziness.

I need to build a platform …

Do I really? I mean, yes, I get it. I do. But having a platform and nothing meaningful or substantial as in finished to give those who would join “my tribe” is just social media fun not platform building. Distraction at its finest, right? Tweet. Friend. Post. Like. Sigh.

What is the cure for the excuse-itis I am experiencing? I’ve self-diagnosed the symptoms:

  • Distraction?
  • Procrastination?
  • Laziness?
  • Stress?

Truth be told, all my excuses boil down to good old fashioned FEAR.

  • Fear of finishing.
  • Fear of not finishing.
  • Fear that it’ll be bad.
  • Fear that it’ll be great.
  • The list is endless.

We are just a couple of months away from my self-imposed August deadline. WIP started in August 2011. I can look in my journal and tell you the day I penned the idea. I gave myself a year for completing. Ambitious for a first time novelist. Then I extended it to August 2012 and again to August 2013.

It’s fast approaching and I have little to show for it. I should cut myself some slack. August 2014 anyone?

Some of the podcasts I listen to have recently referenced authors who worked on a book for 10, 20, 30+ years before finishing.

Again I wonder … what’s the cure for excuses? Especially when the first words to form are my handy little phrases … there seems to be a shortage of the words I crave most. You know …

  • Clever words
  • Witty words
  • Rambling words
  • Story picture words
  • Pithy words
  • Words with friends (oh wait … no … strike this one)

I should be making word soup in my stewpot brain … not excuses …

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint  New Ink

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint
New Ink

And yet during this unexpected hiatus I’ve found it easier to tell people who ask what I do: 

“I am a writer.”

And to respond to the question: “What do you write?” with “I write YA fiction.”

Now like the sign off from the podcast Writing Excuses: “This has been Writing Excuses. You’re out of excuses. Now go write.”

Today, I’ll take that advice. I’m off to write in my stacks of beautifully blank journals; fighting “page fright” with ink. But before I go, tell me:

What self-talk keeps you from your creative pursuits? What’s on your list that isn’t on mine? And most important, how do you combat the excuse mill?

Walking and Chewing Gum

My favorite but I'm giving it up.

My favorite but I’m giving it up.

My “drug” of choice is gum. My favorite is Extra Smooth Mint. I am addicted to the popping sound as I chew, chomp and munch the beautiful pale blue.

I remember when I was a little girl how jealous I was that other people could manipulate their Hubba Bubba or Bubblicious into that musical sound. So it became my mission to learn this marvelous skill. Which I did.

Then I was accused of horrible things like: looking like a cow chewing her cud. Presumably this is because my mouth never quite closed to conceal the pop-pop-pop.

You could have called me Violet Beauregarde from the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory story and movies. For me I think of the song the Oompa Loompa sang for Violet from the 1971 movie version; Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (see the clip here):

Oompa Loompa doom-pa-dee-do
I have another puzzle for you
Oompa Loompa doom-pa-da-dee
If you are wise, you’ll listen to me
Gum chewing’s fine when it’s once in a while
It stops you from smoking and brightens your smile
But it’s repulsive, revolting, and wrong
Chewing and chewing all day long
The way that a cow does
Oompa Loompa doom-pa-dee-da
Given good manners, you will go far
You will live in happiness too
Like the Oompa Loompa doom-pa-dee-do”

The teasing and tormenting continued for a long time and then I got tired of it. And one day I stopped. Quit chewing gum altogether; cold turkey.

But as with other addictions, there’s the chance of relapse. I fell of my wagon and started using again. You see, there isn’t a support group for this one. And I wasn’t starting over; I picked up where I left off. Smack, munch, pop. And it’s worse.

For the past 4 years, I’ve made an art form out of making the most noise possible with a single stick of sugar free gum. I am so embarrassed to admit this, because I’ve been in denial most of this time. Blissful ignorance. I mean really, I’ve had moments where I’ve glimpsed the annoyance of others but didn’t care.

I wouldn’t admit or acknowledge that I had a problem. That this vice of mine was a habit that I again needed to shake.

The moment of clarity came two weeks ago as I watched my youngest perform in his class play: The Three Nanny Goats Gruff.

My husband couldn’t make the performance because of work so my oldest filmed it on his iPad. It was beautiful. All of the children sang, projecting their voices; said their lines; did the movements. But the piano wasn’t their only accompaniment.

When we played back the video there’s this consistent lip-smacking going on and it’s me (and my oldest but you would expect this of an 8 year old).

Oh My Goodness! 

Hello! My name is Gail, and I can’t chew gum without popping it to infuriate the general population. My behavior is reckless and disrespectful to all gum lovers.

My new vice? Sound free.

My new vice? Sound free.

There! I’ve taken the first step. I’ve admitted I have a problem. Now that I have evidence an intervention is not necessary. I will give up gum until I can better control the urge to make it come alive with unnatural sounds.

Walking and chewing gum at the same time is dangerous business. I choose safety. I will switch to mints so I can avoid stinky breath … I am a work in progress.

Some people in my life will be so grateful I’ve come to my senses.

As of the drafting of this post, I have been chewing gum free for 12 days. It’s not easy. I crave it. I miss it. This too shall pass.

What about you? Any irritating ~isms of your own? Feel free to share. 

Summer Reading 2013

The first Captain Underpants book.

The first Captain Underpants book. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The best gift my dudes gave me for Mother’s Day was cuddling up on the sofa at Grandma’s, cracking open the newest Big Nate book: Big Nate Flips Out.

It does my heart good that my dudes have reached the point where they’ll choose Momma reading to them at bedtime over anything else (including screen time).

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about what our reading plan will look like this summer. Last year we transitioned from reading picture books to chapter books; which was met with opposition. This year will be easier. I hope.

We’ve overcome the qualms of our oldest not wanting to read independently. As a matter of fact on our road trip to Grandma’s for Mother’s Day weekend, he spent two of the three hours’ drive reading. Woot!

And we’ve moved our youngest past sight words to reading with confidence. He’s good at sounding out words he doesn’t know. His teacher tells us: “Wow is he a reader.” Yay!

With less than four weeks left of school it’s that time again … and my list is already started thanks to soliciting titles from friends and family via Facebook.

The stories or series they fell in love with since summer 2012:

  • Captain Underpants – We’ve read all 10 and now have to wait for the next one to be published.
  • Sweetfarts – Anything with bodily functions appeal to 8 & 6 year old dudes. We’ll tackle books 2 & 3 in this series.
  • Big Nate – As I said we’ve just started the most current novel.
  • Roscoe Riley Rules – The first 5 books were a Christmas gift. There are more for us to finish.
  • George Brown Class Clown – Received 2 for Christmas. Again there are more to read which makes us happy.
  • Origami Yoda – We’ve only read book 1 (they were reluctant at first, now they’re hooked)

 

The books that fell short since last summer:

  • Geronimo Stilton – Surprisingly, they didn’t like the bright colors and font treatments as much as I did.
  • Magic Tree House – Our oldest loved them when his teacher read them to him in school but lost the love when I read them at home.

So here’s what’s on the horizon for summer 2013 (in addition to the different series we need to finish):

  • Jigsaw Jones Series
  • Chronicles of Narnia
  • Paddington Bear
  • My Father’s Dragon
  • The Cricket in Times Square
  • Because of Winn Dixie

For my youngest we will invest in the Pigeon books by Mo Willems. He loves the snarky and indignant pigeon. Plus he can read them on his own.

And, there are always more to come, like the books we stumble upon during bookstore visits.

For me … I have more 20 unread books on my Kindle to work through and the list is ever growing. I can’t help myself. I download at least one book a day.

Then, in a sneak attack mom move, I’ve told my oldest I will be reading the Secret Series by Pseudonymous Bosch; which I will because they sound like a load of fun; but I will buy physical copies just in case someone wants to dive in too.

He said, “You should read it to us because we like mysteries.” Right! The idea of it being something for me and not for him has piqued his interest. Oh the reverse psychology!

I didn’t offer it to him because his primary response to my book recommendations is rejection. We’ll see if he makes it to reading these.

LOTS of options. A good book is only a click away for us. And amazon.com has a summer reading adventure map. Plus you don’t know where to begin they have recommendations by age group (including adult) for summer reading.

Happy Reading! What’s on your book list? What will you read this summer? What will your little people read?

Previous the Jotter’s Joint reading posts:

https://thejottersjoint.com/2012/05/10/summer-reading/

https://thejottersjoint.com/2013/03/25/reading-for-screen-time/

https://thejottersjoint.com/2012/07/23/unplugged-turned-off-and-tuned-out/

https://thejottersjoint.com/2012/06/05/joint-venture-summer-reading-tips-from-raymond-bean-award-winning-author/

https://thejottersjoint.com/2013/04/04/how-to-commit-identity-theft-without-breaking-the-law/

Photo image from Zemanta via WordPress.com

Postcard: Just a Glimpse of Canada

Postcards I purchased at the Duty Free.

Postcards I purchased at the Duty Free.

Thursday morning dawned sunny and warm; and found me packed and headed into the unknown in more ways than one. I experienced both trepidation and hope for what was to come.

My first unknown: What did I get myself into?

I was recently asked to serve on a board for a Non-Government Organization called World Renew. Before being asked to volunteer my time in this capacity, I didn’t know anything about the organization. After much consideration and a little research I agreed to participate, acting in faith.

My Second unknown: Where am I going?

The board’s annual meeting was being held in Schomberg, Ontario, just outside of Toronto. Thus, my first ever trip across international borders: Canada.

I didn’t know much about the country but the name conjured images of a red and white flag, maple syrup and Mounties. Now I have to say that my mental picture of Mounties is of Dudley Do Right of Rocky & Bullwinkle Show fame. Not, I am sure, what Mounties are really like. Sorry my Canadian friends for my ignorance.

More postcards

More postcards

O Canada!
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.
With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!
From far and wide,
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

I must say that like traveling for work all of my time was scheduled so I didn’t see much of the place I visited. Despite the limited sight seeing … this is my adventure.

We drove the 7 or so hours north in beautiful weather; watching new spring green roll by, interrupted occasionally by bodies of dark shiny water. The thrum of the tires was peaceful in the midst of the getting-to-know-you chatter.

Tucked in the seats of a 15 passenger van with 6 strangers, the forced companionship is taxing for the introvert in me. But, by the end of the trip I was grateful to get to know everyone.

We stopped and ate lunch at Mr. Sub. It was delicious. My soda pop was served in the can instead fountain style which was an oddity for me. And I never made it to Tim Horton’s.

Then we cruised through the city on the way to the Cedar Glen YMCA where we stayed. I noticed that the houses were so close together compared to the sprawling neighborhoods you see in the U.S. So close, in fact, it looked like you could reach out one open window and knock on the window of the next brick clad structure. And they were HUGE at least to me. One of my traveling companions labeled these Canadian subdivisions: McMansions.

Keychains I gave the dudes.

Keychains I gave the dudes.

My apologies because I forgot about roaming and didn’t take a regular camera so I don’t have any pictures from the trip, but it was beautiful. As a side note this meant I was disconnected in a way I’m not used to.

I digress … back to the unknowns. I still feel like I know little of Canada but feel like I know more about World Renew and what they do.

My reading list in addition to all I heard and saw:

  • When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor and Yourself by Brian Fikkert & Steve Corbett
  • Serving with Eyes Wide Open: Doing Short-Term Missions with Cultural Intelligence by David A. Livermore
  • Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help (And How to Reverse It) by Robert D. Lupton

I left feeling overwhelmed with information and the passion of the individuals I met. Their zeal overshadowed mine. I felt like an “undecided: or “undeclared” college major; student still seeking.

I wrote these words in my journal the second and last night: “I am perpetually the reluctant volunteer. I don’t have a cause. I don’t sign up. I don’t get involved. But that doesn’t mean I don’t care. What does it mean? I need to find my place within the issues and advocate for those around me.”

This is out of my comfort zone:

  • Traveling out of the country
  • Joining a board for which I am ill equipped
  • Signing up for a cause that I haven’t given much thought

This is something I will grow into.

As unknowns become known, I continue to wonder: What did I get myself into? Yet, I remain hopeful. Likewise: Where am I going, has become metaphorical instead of literal. I am on a journey. Trepidation lingers. And I pray that I serve well and that the world will be made better with the work I do here.

What moments in life caught you by surprise and found you going down a path you didn’t expect? 

Hello World! One Year Later …

WordPress

WordPress (Photo credit: Adriano Gasparri)

Happy Blog-o-versary to me … One year ago I started blogging after three months of prep time.

I spent almost three years debating: should I or shouldn’t I? Once I decided I should then, came the other hard part:

  • Choosing a blog name
  • Picking a theme
  • Determining a publishing schedule (ha)
  • Writing posts (just in case inspiration didn’t hit on schedule)

I remember reading all the information WordPress had for new bloggers. And there were a few suggestions or statements that stuck with me.

  1. Blog often
  2. Like and comment frequently
  3. Make it a year and you’ll have staying power

It’s been an evolution and not the revolution I expected. Some how I anticipated that I would “arrive”, but understand now, it’s a journey.

Walk on the Edge

Walk on the Edge (Photo credit: Lel4nd)

Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.” ~Mary Anne Radmacher

And it’s on this journey that I’ve found a supportive community … I’d like to say thank you to all the writers, creators, artists, innovator, and dreamers. You’ve made this year worth every moment. Thanks for each “like” and comment and follow. Thanks for reading and sharing. Thank you for letting me be a part of your journey and engaging me in conversation.

Although it’s been everything I hoped and nothing I expected all at the same time … maybe this next year holds the best!

Happy New Year … Anniversary … Birthday …

Images from Zemanta via WordPress

Postcard: Wichita, Kansas – There’s No Place Like Home

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

Early last week, as I prepped for my weekend business trip, the tune “Kansas City” from The Jacksons: An American Dream TV mini-series played in my mind. It played till I realized I wasn’t head to Kansas City but to Wichita. My mistake…

Of course, when I remembered where I was headed, it made me think of Dorothy and Toto. It made me think of the quest for home and the journey to courage, wisdom, and heart.

If you’re in need of another Jackson reference, consider The Wiz movie adaptation of The Wizard of Oz. Then just ease on down the road.

Or maybe, you want a different literary reference all together. In which case I have this one for you: The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverley Cleary which my dudes and I just finished reading before my trip.

In the story our protagonist, Ralph Mouse, gets trapped under a water glass by two school teachers (kindergarten and second grade). They debate whether or not they should take him back to Wichita, Kansas with them to sit in a cage on the windowsill of their respective classrooms.

Regardless of the reference that says: “Wichita” to you, I have to say it’s not a place I enjoy visiting, at least not usually. I’ve been both for business and personal reasons. The city doesn’t appear to have a lot to offer.

It doesn’t help that my work trips are short with specific constraints. I mainly see the inside of a conference center. The only view of the city and its tourism happen through the window of a moving vehicle.

We stayed at the Drury Place which had all the charm of centuries gone by with the modern amenities of our techie society.

My favorite thing was the fact that there was a mail chute or tube system that ran to every floor. In its heyday the letters would fall to a black cast iron box in the lobby with the words: US Postal Service painted in gold. It was sealed but it reminded me of my love of handwritten letters. I wish I’d taken some pictures.

The hotel offered a program called: Kickback. Essentially an appetizer buffet that you could make into your evening meal: hotdogs, pasta, baked potatoes, and other snackable items like nachos. Also, included were three alcoholic beverages. A nice way to thank guests for choosing their hotel I’d say.

The beauty of my job is that each event gathers large groups of people together. A Petri dish, if you will, of human behavior. A writer’s dream. And this trip was no different. The people of Wichita, both guests and staff, were friendly and warm with ready smiles.

And I met a couple of characters along the way:

The chef who said he needed a hug and a kiss on the mouth (really?) in order for us to continue enjoying the freshly popped corn. (Part of Kickback which means it’s complementary.) Needless to say I offered the hug but I don’t kiss on the first date.

And then there was the cabbie who insisted on calling me baby, like we were a couple. Ha … we skipped right to terms of endearment? Yes, as I said, friendly people.

Side note: my experience taught me, if you go to Wichita, rent a car. Cab service is practically obsolete. (You have to call ahead by at least an hour.)

The weather was windy yet sunny and warm. A far cry from the snow and sleet my family had to contend with while I was away. And bonus … no tornados.

Saving grace of this trip: Redrock Canyon Grill.

Service was impressive. Watching the servers was like watching a well timed dance performance. As wait staff glided in and out, maneuvering around one another to clear plates and drop off refills and ask what we needed. It didn’t matter that they weren’t our server, if it needed to be done and they were near by, they handled it. I’ve never experienced anything like it.

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

And the food? AMAZING. We had the Shrimp Cargot to start (I didn’t get a picture); followed by salad with a signature sweet ranch dressing (so delicious); then the main dish of steak and redskin mashed potatoes (oh the mash with green onions and garlic … yum); and of course the end of the meal … a dessert called Something Chocolate (truly divine).

If you ever make it to Wichita, this place has to be on your list. Warning … go early because this is the spot. People were wrapped around the bar, spilling out of the waiting area and teeming around outside by the open fire pit.

Thanks to the memorable dining experience (I now need to lose a few more pounds); and the friendly people, Wichita has climbed a few ticks up my list of places to visit.

But despite all of this, I have to agree with Dorothy: “There’s no place like home.” And for me home isn’t Wichita but at least now I would look forward to going back.

What place has surprised you and ended up on your favorites list? If you’ve been to Wichita and have suggestions of places to see or go, let me know because I’ll be headed back at some point for work.

Oh For Crying Out Loud

A toddler girl crying

A toddler girl crying (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Have you ever had the sudden urge to cry? You know, the moment when you’re on the verge of tears and you can’t explain why.

It feels like your “meditating in a mosh-pit” of emotion (I’m borrowing the phrase from a podcast I listen to)?

Life is going on around you. Things are going well. You’ve had some triumphs and successes. You and your family are healthy. You can make ends meet. There’s no eminent danger or worry. Friends are clamoring for your attention and you’re in demand. You look good and your clothes fit.

Life is GOOD.

So why aren’t you happy? Ever been here?

I have, more times than I care to admit. I’ve found myself standing at the crying crossroads; standing there shaking my head and at a loss for words. And my family tiptoes past me as they go on about their business trying to figure out what’s wrong.

My friend and I were talking about this phenomenon this week. She was fighting back emotion. She couldn’t identify what was bothering her. And immediately I was there with her; ready to sit in the uncertain place with her.

Later, it reminded me of a scene in the Matrix (which is one of my favorite movies) where Agent Smith is interrogating Morpheus. He says: 

Did you know that the first Matrix was designed to be a perfect human world? Where none suffered, where everyone would be happy? It was a disaster. No one would accept the program. Entire crops were lost. Some believed we lacked the programming language to describe your perfect world. But I believe that, as a species, human beings define their reality through suffering and misery. The perfect world was a dream that your primitive cerebrum kept trying to wake up from. Which is why the Matrix was redesigned to this: the peak of your civilization.

I guess in some ways it’s true that in the absence of hard times our minds make us weary. And we start looking for the “wrong” or the “bad” that’s sure to come. Utopia scares us. We don’t believe it’s real. We create some of our own trouble.

The end of 2012 found me in this very state … maybe it was the weather or maybe I was depressed. Or it could have been that I was overwhelmed at times … no matter what I couldn’t quite put my finger on the reason for my desire to cry. It was a hard thing to keep in check.

I was living with a constricted throat and watery eyes, blinking fast. Choking back what would surely overflow to drown me and anyone else close by …

And Saturday morning, to my surprise, I woke with that familiar feeling again. I thought I’d passed it.

Fortunately, this time I was able to name my waterworks rabble-rousers: anxiety … a sense of failure … a sense of letting people down.

Why?

All because Spring Break was coming to a close and I hadn’t helped my son with his homework.

Crazy? I know.

I spent the week waffling between “we’ll do it today” and “let’s wait till tomorrow”. Now vs. Later. Ultimately I procrastinated … This is not the lesson I want to teach my son.

At the heart of it, my urge to cry was because I feel like a bad mom (which I’m not).

The flip side of the story … we had a great week together as a family. My dudes were able to rest and enjoy it. And the assignment isn’t due until April 15. So there is still plenty of time.

I’m over it. The moment is gone. I no longer feel like crying.

Now if I can just be still long enough to enjoy this and not reject the idea that life can be fine and problem-free sometimes …

The best advice I can offer my friend (and myself) is this: Sometimes you just need a good cry.

Am I right?

Let it out. And then we can look at what’s causing it and decide what to do next.

If you’re facing the crying crossroads I wish you peace. Be encouraged. Know that you’re not alone and that it will pass.

Blessings and Happy Spring!

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How to Commit Identity Theft without Breaking the Law

Alachia GoodReads

Alachia GoodReads (Photo credit: alachia)I don’t usually do “how to” blog posts … but thought this was a worthy topic.

 

I don’t usually do “how to” blog posts … but thought this was a worthy topic.

It’s simple really. I do it all the time … this identity theft thing … but never thought much about it.

Have you ever considered it? That’s a rhetorical question, so please don’t answer out loud.

I will attempt to share my steps with you as an experiment to determine if it’s really as simple as I think it is.

Step 1 – Go to the bookstore or library
Step 2 – Select a book
Step 3 – Purchase or check out selected book
Step 4 – Go home
Step 5 – Get comfortable
Step 6 – Start reading
Step 7 – Lose yourself in the story

When you lose yourself in a story you are “experience taking”. You put on the life of the protagonist or main character. You get to feel what they feel; see what they see; and live through what they live through. For a brief moment in time you are that person.

As a reader, I love that moment when I’m whisked away to another time and place. I get to be someone else without the risk of committing a crime.

As a writer, it’s my dream that someone would connect so deeply with my characters. It’s my desire to create worlds that people will want to inhabit; stories where people never want them to end. That’s my writer’s utopia.

Sorry if you feel misled by the title but this really is the only way I know to steal someone’s identity. Writers actually would encourage you to do so … so I guess it’s not theft at all.

I was listening to a podcast called The Psych Files when this came to me. The title of the episode (#190) was Why Do You Get So Absorbed in that Book (or Movie)?

The host, Michael Britt, talked about a study that was done to determine what causes us to be engrossed in stories we read and watch. The first half of the podcast was most interesting to me but the second half he unpacks the study (a little too technical for me).

He explained the idea of “experience taking” and how being caught up in someone else’s story allows us to test our social identities or try things we wouldn’t otherwise try.

It was very reassuring. It validated one of the reasons #whyiwrite (check out other writers’ reasons for writing on twitter). Also, it reinforced one of the reasons I read: escapism. I love putting on someone else’s life.

Along with this podcast prompting, blogger buddy, Jordana East posted some thoughts on book selection … Which lead me to think about how I choose titles and make decisions about what to read, whether or not I should ditch books mid-read. Be sure to check out her “won’t read” list. 

How do I select an identity to assume (a book to read)?

  • I tend to gravitate towards books written by women. I don’t know why. In recent years I’ve been broadening my scope to include male authors. I guess I used to think that I couldn’t relate to things a man would write. Thankfully I’ve matured.
  • Likewise I tend to choose books with female protagonists. Probably for the same reason as above.
  • My #bookconfession (again check out this hashtag on twitter) is that I worry about cost per page. It started out when I was poorer in life, when I worked full time in my early 20s but survived by eating a lot of Raman noodles while barely making rent. It seemed to matter more how I spent my entertainment dollars. But I am still grappling this thought process and as a writer I am mortified that this exists within me. My budget is bigger now and I love hardcover books so I want to pay what a writer is worth. Surprisingly when it comes to buying books for the dudes this never enters my mind. Anyway … I am working on it.
  • I typically enjoy books with a “meet cute” element. One of my favorite “experience taking” moments. So you are likely to see romance or chick lit titles on my Goodreads page.
  • I like books that appeal to young readers. So I ask the young people in my life what they are reading and get to see them be excited about immersing themselves in a good book. Which is also why I probably like and write YA fiction.

I am sure there are other ~isms that lead to the identities will take on.

Anyway, a long post to ultimately say:

Goodreads Avatar

Goodreads Avatar (Photo credit: minifig)

GETTING CAUGHT UP IN A GOOD STORY IS LIKE COMMITTING IDENTITY THEFT.

This has been a public service announcement for literacy … read more … it could keep you out of jail … unless you choose a book on the topic.

What stories are on your list? What identities will you try on this week? Who are your favorite authors when it comes to creating great lives to steal? 

Images from Zemanta care of WordPress.

Reading for Screen Time

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

We’ve entered a new phase of parenting. My husband and I have decided that screen time isn’t free. We are instituting a minute for minute trade off. For every minute our dudes read, write or craft, they get a minute of screen time.

Some of you are thinking, “Duh, of course”. Others are thinking, “Novel idea,” kind of like we were when some friends mentioned it.

It wasn’t a difficult decision to make. But, it’s hard to practice. As I write this post it hasn’t even been 24 hours since we communicated and introduced the change to our dudes. I already want to give in.

My dudes are mourning the loss of what has been freely given. It’s always been available to them. No questions asked. They’ve never had to earn it. This is a shift they weren’t expecting.

How did we end up here?

You may recall a post I did this summer: Unplugged, Turned Off and Tuned Out. And unplug we did. Less gadget time helped. I am sad to report that it’s creeped back up to unnecessary levels because we keep getting busier and busier. My hubby and I accept responsibility for this. It’s our fault not our dudes.

We’ve noticed increased tiredness; aggressive behavior and language; and their brotherly friendship is deteriorating. Sometimes their interactions end in a physically volatile manner.

They’ve forgotten about respect and acceptance and love. Oh yeah and did I mention respect. Not just for one another but for themselves. This can not continue to happen.

What’s their response?

8 Year Old Reads© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

8 Year Old Reads
© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

My oldest dude is mopey and mad. My youngest isn’t happy but spent 10 minutes this morning reading when they would usually watch TV. He’s on the path; already earned his first screen time. It may be harder at the end of the day for him. We’ll see.

Needless to say they are very angry. I’ve already heard the “B” word out of their little mouths. No. Not that one. This one: “I’m bored and I don’t have anything to read.”

Tragic right?

In my day, TV shows and movies weren’t so accessible. I mean you had to wait a whole week for the next episode. Now you can wait a day and see it on Hulu. And if you missed episodes you had to watch the reruns in the summer. Now you can wait for the next season to start and see the previous one on Netflix.

Oh and don’t forget the beauty of DVR. My kids have the luxury of instant gratification. It’s way too easy for them to watch what they want when they want; which can be a challenge for parents.

We were sent outside to play and couldn’t come back till the streetlights came on. We didn’t have all this fancy gadgetry. We didn’t have VHS till I was in high school. We didn’t have a computer in my childhood home. DVDs didn’t exist nor did the Internet or Apps. We had what we had and we were happy.

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

We didn’t get to buy books, we went to the library. My boys have their own personal libraries and are running out of room on their bookshelves. We had chores that we didn’t get paid for, it was how we contributed to the household. Our little guys get an allowance for their contributions i.e. cleaning up and folding laundry.

I digress. Our boys have so many advantages.

The oldest is struggling the most. He said, as I dropped him off at school, “I hate reading and writing now.”

I truly hope this isn’t the case. It isn’t the desired effect.

Our goal isn’t to make them perceive reading as a punishment. Rather we want screen time to be perceived as a privilege and not a right. That it is a level of reward or an added benefit. For me reading is its own reward and I want my boys to think the same way.

Maybe there’s another approach and we haven’t come across it yet.

Of course, as parents, we receive the right to gift screen time to our boys on occasion but it’s not the rule of thumb. I know that there will be modifications along the way. In the end I anticipate that their moods will improve.

6 Year Old Reads© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

6 Year Old Reads
© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

For those of you thinking that it may not be the type of content they experience or the amount of it … we did a week long trial limiting their screen time and the content. We saw positive change.

So here we go. It’s time for drastic measures. Wish us luck … send up a prayer … We purchased new reads!

Parents, what have you done to balance out screen time in the lives of your little people?