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Monday, July 23, 2012

Because I can!!

I'm at the airport waiting for my flight... I read my flight time wrong so I arranged to be here earlier than I'd originally planned. Which is fine by me. Better to be early than late. Since I got up so ridiculously early and ate breakfast early, I was starving by 10:35. In case you were wondering, breakfast cut off at the airport is 10:30. So I had to have lunch.

You know what the great thing about traveling without your kids is? I can eat whatever I want. So I had shrimp stir fry with steamed veggies (kudos to Panda Express for letting people have steamed veggies instead of rice). Here's the great part: I didn't have to share my shrimp with my kids, and I didn't have to eat the carrots.

I hate cooked carrots. I mean, I really hate them. If someone makes them for me, I'll eat them to be polite, and I put them in stews and with roasts because they give the juice a better flavor. But the carrots themselves? ICK! However, to be a good example to my kids, I always eat a few. Oddly enough, I love raw carrots, so go figure.

So today, in my joyous celebration of getting away, I did not eat the carrots in the stir fry. Is it weird that I feel incredibly joyful at not eating the carrots?

I think that sometimes we do stuff like eat the carrots because we know they're good for us, and everyone expects us to do it, but really, we hate carrots. Now, I'm a big believer in pushing through and doing something you don't want to anyway because it's the right thing to do. But every once and a while, it's also great to be able to take a step back and do what you want to do because you can!

So today, I proclaim it to be "don't eat your carrots if you don't want to" day! What's something that you do and don't want to do and can take a small break from?

Friday, July 20, 2012

Facing today's tragedy

I woke up thinking it was a morning like any other, but as soon as I turned on the computer, I knew it wasn't. Friends and family who know I'm in Denver wanted to make sure I was okay. I am. And thankfully, everyone I know and love is too. But there are so many families who aren't. My heart hurt so badly that everything else inside me felt numb.

My plan for the day originally was to meet my peeps at the Tattered Cover for our Friday write-out. But, since I have so much to get done before RWA, I was going to actually work on job-related stuff. My brain couldn't put together the information I needed for work, but I also knew that I shouldn't stay home alone in my bubble where I'd be too tempted to watch news that would only break my heart more.

I went to the Tattered Cover and met my friends, Michele and Robbie, two amazing women. If you don't follow them or read their blogs, you should, because their blessings in my life are what inspire me to try to bless others.

When I got there, Robbie looked at me and said, "You okay?" I knew what she meant, what she was really asking. Usually the three of us have a million words for each other, but all I said was, "Yup. You?" Robbie replied with her own yes, and then I looked at Michele. "You?" "Yes."  We each started to share a thought, but none of us could complete it. Robbie finally said something about how, when she needs a pick me up, she listens to a particular song by Chris Brown. I don't remember what it was called, but Robbie pulled it up on her computer, gave me an earbud, we listened. As Robbie bopped up and down in her seat, I felt this strange disconnect of listening to club music in a bookstore to deal with tragedy.

"Why aren't your feet tapping," Robbie asked me in a bossy but loving voice.

"I'm not really a feet tapping kind of person."

Both Robbie and Michele ribbed me a little for not tapping my feet, so I tried it. It wasn't bad. I might tap my feet a little more often.

The picture I remember from today is not of the shooter, or even of the victims. It is of my friend Robbie, who jiggled and did her best dance moves while sitting in her seat... I wish I had a video of it, because even though I'm sure Robbie wouldn't think it a flattering picture of herself, for me, it was the most beautiful expression of joy I've ever seen. Her blog is called Joy Dance, and if you could have seen her dancing in her seat in front of her laptop with an earbud in her ear, you would understand why.

All too soon, she took my earbud, and because Michele had a deadline, we all got to work. There is something about the communal clacking of keys that pushes a person to write harder, writer faster. Instead of the job, I worked on my book. I wrote and I wrote and I wrote. It probably wasn't very good, but I don't care. When I took a break to refill my tea, all I could think about was the shooting and how so many dreams were shattered. What would they have given for one more day, one more chance? I wasn't going to dishonor them by wasting a moment not pursuing mine.

I don't have any answers about the tragedy. I have no idea why it happened or what greater purpose or meaning might be in all of this. But I do know how precious and fragile a person's dreams are, and that in a moment, they can be taken away. Each moment is precious. I am so honored to have two incredible friends who were exactly what I needed. We had no words for today, but together we pressed forward in the direction of our dreams.

Conference Preparation

Are you going to a writer's conference? I attend 2-3 per year, and I'm leaving for the Romance Writers of America conference on Monday. Which has me in a conference flurry making sure I have everything ready to go. When I was a conference newbie (and still sometimes today), I always worried about what I needed to do to prepare for the conference. Since I'm actively getting ready for one now, I thought I'd share my conference preparation checklist.

Things to pack:

  • Clothes... do not forget accompaniments like socks and underwear. This seems obvious, but I did forget to pack underwear once.

  • Fancy clothes. Does the conference have any fancy dress events? I'm going to two this year. Again, speaking from experience, make sure you try on said fancy clothes and accompaniments before packing. Your prom dress from 20 years ago probably no longer fits.

  • Shoes. I am not a shoe person, but I typically bring 4-5 pair. Dress shoes, casual shoes, fancy shoes, and a very comfy spare in case the cute shoes you had to have turn out to be blister makers.

  • Toiletries and makeup. I keep a toiletry bag permanently packed since I travel so much. BUT... on my last trip, I realized (too late!) that the bottles I refill were not refilled. So make sure you refill yours. I just bought a bunch of new ones for 99 cents each at Target.

  • Vitamins and medications. Especially if you are on a medication, make sure you pack extra. As for vitamins, if you occasionally take anything for extra energy, bring it! You'll need it. Trust me. :)

  • Cords for all electronic devices. Why they can't make one standard cord to fit all, I don't know. But check and double check that you've got a way to charge everything. My friend Camy also brings a power strip. I haven't gone that far, though I admit to borrowing hers.

  • Snacky stuff. Some conferences have scheduled meals as part of the conference, others have meals on your own. I've suffered through enough plates of  "what the heck is this" to know that I will not be well-fed. Plus, I tend to be too busy to actually sit down for most meals. Since a girl still needs to eat, I bring snacks. This year I have protein bars, individual serving packs of almonds, and some protein powder (hopefully I can find something to put it in). This is also handy for the plane.

  • Jewelry. I'm not a jewelry person, but I've known a number of people over the years who freak out over forgetting theirs, so I'm adding it to the list.

  • Pajamas. Partially because at this conference, our team is hosting a PJ party, but also because I've had the horrifying moment of having a roommate say, "uh, I forgot my pajamas."

  • Comfy clothes/exercise clothes. Okay, so I only end up using my exercise clothes on about 25% of my trips. But it's actually kind of weird how bonding of an experience it is to work out with your fellow conference goers. As for comfy clothes, there will be times when you want to go relax and not be in business wear.

  • Bathing suit. Maybe you're not a hot tub/swimming pool person. But I really love to go sit by the pool for a couple of hours to chill. And sometimes, it's so nice to relax in the hot tub after a long day. Other times, I'm too busy to enjoy it.

  • Copies of all your travel information. Companies lose reservations. But if you have a printout to show them, then they can figure it out much easier than trying to read your scribbled confirmation number.

  • Knitting supplies. I like to knit. If I don't get to knit on the plane, I get cranky. I also find that knitting helps me concentrate in meetings. So there is nothing worse than finishing a project on a trip with no backup. Even if it's just an extra skein of yarn to start a scarf, at least I have something to keep from going crazy.

  • Cash, cards, and ID. When you're eating out with a number of people, not all restaurants will split the check. So having cash makes it easier for you to pay your share. I also have my insurance card and AAA card. The insurance is just in case, and I've never used it. But sometimes I get extra discounts with my AAA card.


Things I do to prepare the homefront:

  • I have kids, which means I need to make arrangements for them. Since I'm the primary caregiver, I cannot assume that my husband will remember everything they need. So I put together a schedule and make a list. This trip, the kids are going to daycamp while he works, so I am printing out the schedule and information for that as well.

  • Laundry. Not only do I want clothes for the trip, but I want my family to have everything they need.

  • Grocery shopping. I stock up on anything I need for my trip, but I also buy easy to prepare meals for my family. Word of caution: I have prepared lots of freezer meals that don't get eaten. Don't feel bad if you find out that they ate nothing you bought. They are probably using this as an opportunity to gorge themselves on the junk food you don't usually let them have. This used to bug me, but now I let it be their reward for letting me go.

  • Provide everyone with copies of my travel information.


Things I do to prepare professionally:

  • Business cards. I am the idiot who forgets to bring them, or if I do bring them, they are always in my hotel room. This year, I am going to do everything in my power to remember to bring them AND carry them with me. I've missed out on so many good connections because I didn't have a card.

  • Putting together my pitch or blurb. I have it written out (and printed out) to refer to in case I forget, but I work really hard at trying to memorize it. Many (but not all) conferences frown on you handing editors or agents a piece of paper to take with them. Find out the etiquette of this ahead of time and plan accordingly. If you do bring a one-sheet or other paper, make sure it has a professional and neat appearance.

  • Getting my schedule together ahead of time. I prefer to have it printed out. I have a thin three ring binder with page protectors that I use to organize all of my information. I just slip my printouts into the page protectors and go. It's so convenient to pull out my binder and have my schedule laid out. I also keep a copy of my reservation information, confirmations, and tickets there. Basically, every piece of paper related to my trip is in this binder.

  • Make arrangements to meet up with professional contacts and friends. Conferences are so busy, and I've found that if you don't intentionally make the time, you may not get to spend time with everyone you were hoping to see.

  • Knowing what I want out of the conference. I heard the advice that you should go with a goal you want to accomplish from being at the conference. This goal should not be signing the contract with your dream editor or agent. That doesn't happen at conferences, so don't set yourself up for failure. In case you were wondering, my goal for this conference is to re-discover my joy.


Have you been to a writer's conference? What do you do to prepare? I'd especially love to hear any tips I may have left off.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The joy of having something in common

I've always been a bit strange. Sorry to disillusion anyone who thinks I might be normal. One of my personality quirks is that I am not a morning person. I can remember being on a getaway with some girlfriends and I heard one whisper to another, "what is wrong with Danica? I can't believe she slept so late."  Over the years, I've had a number of well-meaning people try to turn me into a morning person. They barely escape with their lives intact fail. But there's still this overwhelming sense of wondering why I can't be like everyone else, and get up at the crack of dawn.

Then last night, when we picked up the princess from a friend's house, we got to talking to her mom. Now I've heard her mention not being a morning person, but when we were talking, she started mentioning things about not being a morning person that made me realize that I am not as crazy as everyone thinks. I loved her description of coming up swinging when her hubby woke her up early in their relationship. I had a similar moment in my marriage... my hubby is still not recovered from the trauma. The best part was that hubby was there, listening to her describe her morning aversions, and she could have been talking about me.

Knowing that I wasn't alone in one of my big personality quirks brought me strength and joy. There isn't anything wrong with me. Sometimes when we are surrounded by people not like us, we start buying into the doubt and wondering... Am I just different, or am I wrong? I think it's a good question to ask at times, because there are times when we are doing something that is wrong.

None of us are exactly alike, but when we find that we have something in common with someone else, we realize that we aren't as alone as we think. It's also good for those around us who don't have those personality quirks to understand that just because we aren't like them doesn't mean we're wrong.

One of my missions in sharing so much of my life is that I hope there will be times when you have that aha! moment and realize that you are not crazy or weird. Well, you may be. But you know what? That's okay. I'm crazy and weird and... wonderful! So are you. Maybe you're a raging psycho morning person. That's okay. I respect that. Maybe you're like me, and if anyone bothers you before 9 or 10 am, they quickly learn to fear for their lives. That's okay too. Well, maybe not the homicide part. I understand that's wrong, no matter how you color it. But hey, I'm still learning and growing. Still, it's an adventure that I'd rather take with people who may not be just like me, but still find joy in doing it together.

Have you ever had that aha! moment of realizing that someone shares a personality quirk that you always thought made you strange?

Are you still longing to connect on something you think no one understands?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The lie of perfection

[caption id="attachment_1952" align="alignleft" width="300"] I wanted to take a perfect picture of a flower, and ended up with a blurry mess. But the more I look at it, the more I realize how beautiful it is.[/caption]

Part of why I haven't been consistent with my blogging lately is a lot of the same reason I haven't put my website out there yet. I have this crazy thought that until it's perfect, until I'm perfect, I can't put it out there. I've been doing a Bible study on the lies we believe, and that crazy thought of being perfect, well, that's one of them. I'm not perfect, and I never will be. Neither will you, or anyone else. But we get caught up in that lie and it makes us crazy.

When I started knitting, and I was frustrated with my lack of progress, a friend told me a story of how Jewish women intentionally put a mistake in their work because it can't be perfect. Only God is perfect, therefore they shouldn't even attempt to be.  As I look at my struggle with perfection, I wonder how much easier my life would be if I lived like that...

Now, I'm not talking about taking the attitude of saying, "I'm not perfect, never will be, so I'm going to go out and sin all I want to."  But what if I gave myself grace moments every day, like instead of yelling at my kids to pick up their stuff as I answer the door for an unexpected guest (because God forbid someone actually sees what an awful mess my house gets to be), I let the person in- and I let them accept me for who I really am. Because yes, I desperately dream of having a perfectly clean house. Some days, I'm really good at it. Other days, I live in fear that social services will take my kids away because it looks like really bad things happened here. Maybe, if someone sees that my house is not a perfect show home, maybe they'll accept that theirs doesn't have to be either.

Because if I were to sum up my mission and purpose for sharing on Twitter, Facebook, and my blog, that's really it. You are not alone in your struggles. I am struggling right there with you. There are two people I really admire who've said similar things- Lisa Samson, who says that she writes so "that people will know that they are not alone"; and Michele Cushatt, who has this great thing she says on her website, "I'm with you." I should mention that some things Camy Tang has said to me privately also inspire me in this vein, but she hasn't shared publicly, so I won't. But she's awesome, too, so she needs a shout-out. :)

I mention these people, not because I want to be another Lisa Samson, Michele Cushatt, or Camy Tang. They all have incredible messages, but they aren't me, and I'm not them. I'm living my own imperfect life. In revealing those imperfections, and sharing the truths I learn along the way, maybe someone out there will find a bit of extra strength and courage to get through that next place because someone is right there with them.

Will I do it perfectly? Nope. I hereby offer you the 100% guarantee that I'm going to mess up. I apologize in advance. But I'm done living the lie that I can some how, some way, be perfect.

How about you? Are you fighting a battle against the lie of perfection? How do you deal with it?



Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Welcome to my new site!!

I've been working on my new site for several months now. It's been live, but I haven't moved the blog entirely over because well, I'm just not fully satisfied with it. I paid to have someone do it, and unfortunately, due to some communication errors on both sides, they never finished it to my satisfaction. So I've been messing with it, trying to make the things that I don't like work, and I've kept working on trying to make it more perfect.

But then, Michael Hyatt posted something on his blog where he encouraged people to Embrace Permanent Beta and Launch... So, Mike, if I can call you that, this one's for you. Thanks for making me finally accept that it's not going to be perfect, and I need to just do it already.

So here it is... my imperfect website that's probably a better reflection of me than something perfectly shiny and wonderful. There's so much I still want to do with it, but for now, it is what it is. To be honest, that's pretty much who I am as a person and a writer. I'm doing the best I can with what I have, and hoping to improve, but in the meantime, I'm enjoying the journey.

Take a look around, let me know what you think, and in the coming months, we'll see this place evolve. Or not. And that's okay.