Sunday, January 31, 2016

A Story of Connection

Yesterday, I was out with my darling husband, buying him some jeans for the start of his new job on Monday. He hadn't had any new jeans in years, and even though his new work's dress code is casual, there's the "hey, these jeans fit well and are in the current denim color fashion scheme" kind of casual versus the "these jeans are in the shapeless and well-worn-but-not-in-a-good-way kind of look that's good for shoveling snow in." I opted for the first kind.

So we went to JCPenney, and he started trying on jeans. I was amazed that he could go in the dressing room and walk out in a pair not two minutes later. Rinse, repeat. We hadn't gone clothes shopping together for him in a few years, so not only was I having fun (because hey, checking my husband's jeans for fit should be fun), but I was also nearly giddy that it wasn't taking forever.

Normally, when I'm out buying jeans, it's for my rapidly growing teenage sons. Don't get me wrong, I adore my boys, but shopping with them--especially one in particular--is a nightmare. What took me and James an hour to do would have taken at least twice that time with one of the teens.

When we went back to the dressing room so James could try on some shirts, there was a tired-looking woman standing there. Her son called from his stall saying that she'd lied about the length of his pants or some such thing. He came out and was a little rude to her.

My instant reaction was that I hoped she'd say something to him about his tone. But she didn't, and he went back in there along with his brother, who'd made an appearance during the discussion about the pants.

When she was alone again, I felt like I should reach out to her. So I said something along the lines of, "Shopping with teenage boys is hard."

She looked at me and sighed. "I'm his (she either said Path or math, I don't know which) teacher. He and his siblings have been living with their grandparents, and his grandmother died this week. The funeral is on Monday and he has  nothing to wear, so I took him to buy some clothes."

"That's very kind of you," I said. "What grade is he in?"

She smiled slightly. "Seventh. I told his grandfather he needed clothes, and his grandpa said, 'I've already bought him lots of clothes.' Then the boy said, 'Yeah, Grandpa, in fifth grade!"

Her face fell, and her shoulders sagged. This woman had the weight of a whole family of children on her shoulders, and they weren't even hers. "They are very lucky to have you," I said.

She was silent for a few moments, then said, "Thank you," Her face softened, and she stood a little straighter. "The whole neighborhood block is helping. We're taking turns to make sure they're okay."

The boys came out of the dressing room, and she said, "Thank you" to me, then turned to the boys telling them what they needed to wear to church the next day and then what to do to prepare for the funeral.

Do I always smile and talk to everyone when I'm out? No. But when the thought comes that says connect with that person, I do. Because it usually means they really need a little dose of whatever it is I can give. And if they don't? Well, it's good for me to give it anyway, which isn't always easy, since I get social anxiety. But every time I've done it, that decision has been the exactly right thing to do.

This week's goals focus on getting through the week. Sadly, the sale of our house fell through, but we're so happy James has a job! This week I'll be finishing a client edit, getting my book back from my alpha reader husband and revising, getting one child ready for a school trip to California, and doing my best with pain management. I will be taking  my husband to and from work until we can get another car, so with all that driving (nearly a hundred miles a day during the week) I'm going to have to fit other things in where I can, and that means not much else besides the basics. If my back and hip will let me, it'll be three days of PiYo this week. But I may have to change that to plain flexibility yoga until the pain lessens. Or lying in my bed between driving, editing, writing, and trying to clean the house. Yet I am so, so thankful because my kids have a great school, and this new job is exactly what we needed! *happy dancing*

See you on the flip side.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Last Week of January: Cue "Eye of the Tiger"

First of all, "Eye of the Tiger" does not mean I'm running a marathon anywhere but in my computer chair with my heated cushion at my back. Now that we have that clear, well, this week kind of came awesomely out of nowhere. Not only did we accept an offer on our house in Missouri (which was the possible good news I alluded to last week), my husband got the official paperwork for his offer of employment, and he starts on February 1st. So much awesome in one week. So much desperately needed awesome. (I keep saying "awesome," but it so much is.)

My "go to sleep by eleven p.m." goal kind of disappeared with the stress-induced insomnia. And writing has been difficult as a result, so my book still isn't quite done. But on Friday night I couldn't sleep because of not having it done, so after trying to sleep, I said to heck with it and got up at 1:30 and wrote until 4:00 a.m. It was worth it. Combined with the thousand I'd gotten earlier, I wrote a total of five thousand words. Then life happened yesterday, but I have the goal of finishing this manuscript tomorrow. After all, it's due to go to the editor in three weeks! Yikes! And I still need to get it out for betas. I hope they don't hate me that this one is going to be a rush job as well. 

I worked out three times this week, including making it through a workout I couldn't make it through the week before. Yeah, I had to stop and breathe a few times, but I did it. My right hip and lower back are hating me more than usual, but the rest of my body is starting to rebuild a little muscle. Feels nice. 

My major goal for this week? FINISH THE BOOK. Actually, that's my major goal for tomorrow. Then I have some client editing I need to work on, so anything else that gets done this week is gravy. And speaking of gravy, I need to make sure I'm on top of planned meals this week. Tomorrow I'm putting together a spaghetti sauce for the crockpot that will be full of veggies, so it can simmer all day while I'm working away on writing about werechickens. Oh, and I shall work out. So here are my very simple goals: 

1. FINISH THE BOOK. (It's in all caps again. Notice a theme here?)
2. FINISH THE BOOK. (Making sure you know how big of a goal this really is.)
3. Edit 
4. Exercise (at least three times I want to do five, but my body demands a rest some days, so I'm hoping for four. Three is a must.
5. Get sleep (Yes, I'm going to bed right after this. I even took a melatonin)
6. Catch up on scripture reading (our church is doing a challenge)
7. Self care. Meaning "Mom needs alone time or she's going to be a simmering kettle of hormonal doom." And hot baths to relax muscles. At least two this week. And reading. 
8. Watch one chick flick with daughter. It's one of the highlights of my week. Yay, Netflix! Last week we watched The Decoy Bride. We'd never heard of it. I might be the last person to know about it, so this could be old news for you. How surprising and fun to find this guy:

james david katie tennant lara

(David Tennant, in case you don't recognize him in that abominable jacket) and Kelly Macdonald, whom I'd never heard of before--I thought. But my daughter and I kept saying, "She sounds like Merida!" So I Googled, and lo and behold, she is the voice of Merida. And an adorable actress, to boot. 

And another awesome surprise was this guy: 

Image result for dylan moran decoy bride gif

Dylan Moran, whom I absolutely loved in Black Books. It's one of those rare shows I can watch over and over again. Very quotable. (Though there is an episode or two that's a bit naughty, so be warned. It is a show produced in the UK, after all.) If you're bored, here's the pilot episode of that series. I mean, who can resist a drunk Irishman who owns a bookshop and hates his customers? Also, there's a bit of an Easter egg in here. Do you recognize the actor who plays the doctor?


I'm also toying with the idea of doing an update now and then on video. We'll see. One thing at a time, right? Do you watch videos, or do you scroll down to read transcripts? I mainly read transcripts unless it's someone I know, then I do like to see them on video now and then. Especially if they're showing a cool thrift store find or something. Makes them feel more real to me, but only if they're under five minutes long. Three is preferable. But I am also in my late thirties, and I don't know what people like these days. I hide out in caves with no electricity, I'm such a dinosaur. (Kidding. KIDDING! I luvz the interwebz. Google is my bestest non-alive friend.) I'm totally in touch with the Internet crowd, yo! Even if my younger teen tells me people don't say things like "cool" anymore. According to him: "We have other words now, Mom." 

"Like what?"

"I don't know; we just do."

Argh. So please, enlighten me!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Blessings, Trials, and Werechickens



I have a lot on my mind this week, but it would take far too long to type it all out. Suffice it to say that I've felt the weight of our current trials a lot more. But there are a couple of great possibilities on the horizon, both of which I'll say more about when either or both become concrete.

I haven't been sleeping well. The insomnia that plagued me at this time last year when we were trying to move is back. I'm lucky if I get four hours a night. Wednesday night? I didn't sleep at all. But Thursday through Saturday I was blessed to have a wonderful friend and her children visiting from Washington, and their presence helped take my mind off of these difficult things for hours at a time. Not only that, but my dear friend asked me to let her help me fold my laundry (because we had baskets that had been in my laundry room for months) because she really loves folding clothes. So she helped me (read, folded most of it because I was so dazed), and we went through a lot of it and she ended up taking a bunch of outgrown clothing home for her adorable children. So this was a tender, tender mercy for me. And she didn't judge me at all for not having a perfectly clean house, or for keeping her up late because we had a birthday party for my second son on Friday. She is an angel, and I'm blessed to have her and her family as friends.

Another friend has been checking up on me and listening to me prattle on about things I need to get off my chest. It's been hard to let that go to someone who is not James, especially because I always fear I will overburden someone else. But this friend is one I feel safe with. And when I've been on the verge of tears and with a heavy heart for a long time, she lets me know that it's all right to spill my guts. She listens. She doesn't judge me. And she lifts me up with her friendship, love, and prayer. She is a balm to my soul, and I am so grateful for her.

James mentioned early in the week that he thought we should go to the temple. (I'm a member of the LDS church, and we have temples we also go to where we serve and worship.) I felt that prompting as well, so we planned to go Saturday night. I've been praying for strength and help, and I've been doing my best to exercise faith and look to the Lord, in spite of not feeling very comforted these days. But if faith was easy, then there would be no test, right? So I've been praying and looking to the Lord, but still feeling very burdened. Then, a couple of days ago, an experience was brought back to my mind. One I had in early December, where I was given a strong message that Heavenly Father would bring to pass something wonderful. I won't give details, since it's personal, but suffice it to say that I was shown in a way that I could not argue nor deny that God is aware of me. And the memory of that experience was brought back to me, and I didn't know how or when this would happen. We're about down to the wire. We need a miracle. And yet, God asks me to trust Him. I would be a fool not to.

Last night, James and I went to the Payson Temple.


Picture from lds.org


It's glorious and feels like home. I expected to be comforted a good deal like I always am when I attend the temple, but even with my remembering that experience in December, my heart was still heavy. I haven't been well physically, and all this has taken its toll. I sat there, in the temple with my sweetheart, and had to keep from crying. I pray, I do my best, I exercise faith, and I still fall short. But I'm not giving up on Him, because ultimately, I know He will not give up on me. And over the weekend, and especially this afternoon we had some news that may result in the lightening of some of those burdens.

This is already getting long, so as far as my goals go, I'm overall pleased with how they went last week. (Exercised three times and was sore after that for three days!) I did not get my draft finished, as I had an emergency edit for a client (another blessing), I had headaches at the beginning of the week, and with the insomnia, I got really behind. So this week, I need to rest as much as I can between trying to build my physical body back. Because it's not happy with me. So my major goals this week are to slowly go through a bit in my youngest son's room, finish writing my draft, exercise, and rest as much as I can. I have to do the exercise to help my blood sugar and strengthen my core muscles to help stabilize the spondylolisthesis (slipped vertebrae). The exercise takes so much out of me that recovery is longer than it should be. So it's a balance, but I have to do it in order to help my body work as it should. I hate admitting that I need to make myself rest, because it makes me feel weak. But I have to. It feels like the years have just worn me down to the point where my body doesn't want to recover. I feel selfish that I need to do this. But when some of these trials are lifted, I'll be able to afford some therapies and things that will help with pain management and recovery.

The good news is that my middle grade, Captain Schnozzlebeard and the Curse of the Werechickens, is sitting around 17,600 words. I draft light (I pad the manuscript with words while revising), so I'm aiming to finish around 25k - 28k with space for revisions, so it'll end up about 30k - 35k when finished. And I'm going to need beta readers for this middle grade in about a week, if I can manage it, and will need it back within a week to two weeks so I can meet my publisher's deadline. So if you're a fan of ridiculous middle grade fiction, and especially if you've read the first one (though this one will stand alone, so that's not wholly necessary), please let me know if you're interesting in beta reading.

It's well past midnight, so I'd better go try to get some sleep. I think I'll need to take a melatonin. But I'm hoping to have some very, very good news by tomorrow or Tuesday, so if I can't sleep because of that, well, at least the kids don't have school tomorrow. I get to sleep in. And when I think about sleeping in, I always hear my dad's voice, from back when we used to complain about not getting to sleep in more as teenagers: "You always get to sleep in. We never make you sleep outside." I love my dad. :)

Goodnight, world. See you later. I have a lot on my mind, but I have Heavenly Father in my corner. I need to keep remembering that.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Happy New Week

I set a lot of goals last week. Let's take a look at how it went:

Getting to bed by 11 pm. Most nights I got into bed during the eleven o'clock hour. Some of those nights I lay awake, not able to fall asleep because of my brain spinning, spinning, spinning with information or new story ideas. Strategy for this week - melatonin so I can fall asleep easier as I adjust. 

Knowing what I was serving for dinner the night before. I did pretty well on this, actually. I think I did that for every night except the weekend. 

Cleaning my son's room and getting the laundry room done? Nope. 

Getting four thousand words a day? Nope. But I did get seven thousand overall. Bumps in the road last week and getting sick for a couple of days really affected my production with everything. 

Exercise three times? See previous. Sick headaches don't lend themselves to exercise when it hurts to walk around. But I did do it once. 

So this means I should throw up my hands and be upset? Hardly. Positives: 

I actually did get writing done this week. I spent time outlining on one day instead of getting manuscript words, and that helped me get the seven thousand words in four days. I did research. (Did you know we didn't start saying "sideswipe" until the 1900s? That eliminated an island name for my manuscript. Don't worry. I found another.) On Wednesday, I went back to bed in the morning, which enabled me to get through the rest of the day, but eliminated writing time. This week, I plan on finishing the first draft and getting it to my alpha reader. 

I did, in fact, get into my bed when it was eleven o' something most nights, even if I couldn't sleep. I haven't been doing too well, still exhausted, but it's a combo of pain and being drained from the past few years of stress, though I think I'm coping well overall, considering. A month at the sea would probably help a lot.

Image result for picture of the sea free

Doesn't just looking at that picture feel good? Aaaah.


Kind of planning dinner? YES. That was very helpful. 

Son's room? It's okay it didn't get done. I'm going to work on it a bit every day this week between writing.

Laundry? I did my own last night and made sure my teens did theirs. And made sure my youngest got all his school clothes washed. WIN!

Get alone time every day? Yes. Did that even if it was in my office writing. I took some time to read, and that helped the anxiety overall during the week. Watch a movie and knit? Didn't happen. But I'm going to do that tomorrow with my daughter.

So, see? I could decide I failed and feel bad about myself. Or I can take the week for what it was (and I know I was very ambitious) and feel good about what I got accomplished. So, for this week? 

Continue reading scriptures at least a bit every day and remember to pray in the morning. (I did well with this last week.) Continue loosely planning dinner the day before. Finish my manuscript. Get alone time every day. Organize my son's room. And even though I hate doing the same thing over and over, I'm starting PiYo again tomorrow. It's the only exercise that I seem to be able to do without ending up in lots of pain after the muscle soreness goes away (due to the spondylolisthesis in my back and resulting arthritis and strain on my muscles), and I'm desperate. Since July, I've gained twenty pounds back of the over seventy I'd lost because of going on insulin, and I'm very unhappy about that. Seems like when I'm on meds, I can only lose by combining exercise with healthy eating; the healthy eating alone doesn't do as much as it should, and I think that's because of how the insulin reacts with my body, so we'll see. I've had a doctor suspect I'm type 1.5, so that may be why my body struggles with it more than I think it should. 

Anyway, this is getting long, but I'm glad to be blogging again. I'm glad to be setting goals and practicing being gentle with myself for not having the ability to be superhuman. There are a lot of personal things and personal family things that make up my week, the same as anyone else has, so what makes a list appear doable on the surface may need to be adjusted when reality hits. 

Two things happened today that I want to share. First, we had an excellent meeting with a combined Relief Society and Priesthood (men and women in our church), as well as the teenagers. We had an amazing instructor, a man who worked for the Church Educational System for thirty-five years. He said something that will stick with me for a long time. "The righteous are sinners who are trying. The wicked are sinners who are trying not to get caught." I found this very reassuring, because I am always striving to be better, and I feel all too often that I fall short. 

The other thing that happened was when my youngest got a nosebleed in church, and I escorted him out and sat with him on the couch until it stopped. He leaned his head against me and rubbed my tummy. Then he sat up and asked, "Mom, where is your waist?"

I laughed and laughed and laughed. I'm glad that was my reaction instead of crying. I showed him where my waist was, and he wanted to know why I was laughing. I think this is the first time I've used this response with any of my children, but I didn't think he would get it, so I told him he'd understand why when he was an adult.

I'm ready to take this week on. What are your goals, if you have any? Join me in being realistic and preparing to adjust where needed. 

May the force be ever in your favor. And it's bound to be a good week, starting off with Mr. Cucumberbasket.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

The Beginning of New Habits

I'm sitting here, in my new office, with both a sinking feeling in my stomach and elation at the fresh new year stretching out before me. A year filled with lots of possibility, as well as a year in which anything could happen. And the anxiety I deal with on a daily basis tries to fill in the empty space with a lot of awful possibilities, but I'm pushing that back. Taking the year by the horns and all that.

2015 was filled with Big Things such as moving a thousand miles from home, having two out of four children diagnosed with autism (which was not a surprise, but still a rather Big Thing), job loss, health problems, husband gone most of the summer, going from a fully homeschooling family to a one-fourth homeschooling family, having two books published, etc, etc. Full of incredibly good things for my family and incredibly hard things. And lots and lots of blessings, because I don't see how we would have (and are still) getting through this without God's help and the love and support of those around us. Because we wouldn't be doing that well without it.

Last year is a book I'm glad to close. And I've been struggling with even more anxiety lately, so today I decided to take some time to sit down and write out my goals for the year. They seem like a lot, but if one of these things aren't functioning, everything tips out of balance. Sort of like in the movie Inside Out, where all the islands start crumbling and crashing down. Exactly like that. I've been pondering about how to do this for weeks, and have done some praying about it, and I think I finally have my answer.

I wrote on Facebook the other day about wanting to be more authentic. That was going to be my motto for 2016. But when I went to write it down on my sparkly notebook I'm finally using for its intended purpose, I kept wanting to say "Be Genuine" instead. So taking some inspiration from President Dieter F. Uchtdorf's talk "It Works Wonderfully!" I have as my motto: "Simplify. Work. Be Genuine."

"Simplify" seems easy enough. But there are so many areas of my life that need attention. Probably the biggest is my family life, because if I'm not in a good place physically, mentally, and spiritually, my entire family suffers. With my teen boys both having autism, and a strong possibility other children may as well, I like to quote Strongbad: "No two people are not on fire." Someone always needs water thrown on them, or to be snuffed out. (Goodness, that sounds ominous.)


(No, people being on fire isn't typically humorous. See the following video for context. My sister Karen introduced me to Strongbad and homestarrunner.com back when my children were small, so blame her.)


If you're still with me after that, suffice it to say that I needed to make a plan to help balance myself and the family. So that involves several areas: mental, physical, and spiritual health; writing, family, home organization, creativity, and social needs. I think that's all, but to check for sure I'd have to go up two short flights of stairs, and once I do that, I'm going to bed. So this will have to work for tonight.  

The plan is to focus on overall goals for the year, evaluate monthly, and plan weekly. And a combination of all three. So for this week, I'm working on the most simple, but most vital things.

1. I'm blogging once a week on Sundays now. It's a good thing for me to do to refocus every week, and while I might not have the cute stories I used to when all my kids were really small, I'll write what I feel I need to or want to. It's part of Be Genuine.

2. Alone time every day. My mental health desperately needs it. I used to look on it as a luxury, but I learned the hard way last year that my mental health isn't a luxury. If I don't take care of myself, it's a bad, bad thing. And no one else can do that but me. 

3. This is getting long, so I'm putting the rest of the list here: floss daily, pray in the morning (I forget in the mornings a lot), exercise at least three times this week, read at least a little scriptures daily, know what I'm making for dinner at least the night before (tomorrow it's beans and rice and chickpea curry, because my husband hates curry but loves beans and rice), watch a movie and knit, clean up my youngest's room and sort it, and write 4k each day to finish the rough draft of Captain Schnozzlebeard and the Curse of the Werechickens so I can get it going before its deadline (releasing March 29th!,) and get to bed by eleven p.m. on weeknights. This seems like an awful lot for the week, but it's the barest amount that can get done without sending everything into a tizzy. So wish me luck. Some of these things sound like a lot, but they don't take much time. 

See you next Sunday, and I wish you the best of luck with whatever goals (if you've made any) you're working on this year.