Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A Word for 2014

Most years, I select a word to be my focus for the year.  It's usually something I'm already struggling with or something I want to invite and embrace more in my life. Some past choices have been "letting go," "balance," and "choose." This past year I didn't choose a word, so the year chose one for me. December 2012 was a mess, and by January I didn't feel focused enough to choose just one word.  Instead, I selected a ton of goals and failed miserably at most of them.  In the process, the year flung shit at me, captive monkey style, until I realized that I needed to focus some attention - LOTS of attention - on developing and enforcing some personal and relationship boundaries.  It was a hard lesson to learn.  One I desperately needed to learn, but a lesson that would have been nice to learn on my own terms, not in the midst of chaos.  So this year, I have a word . . .


Hemingway reminded the world that courage is not the absence of fear, but rather looking fear in the eye and moving forward anyway.  He called it "grace under pressure."  

News flash: I'm not known for grace.

I can be loud and clumsy and erratic.  All things I'm fine with.  But over the past several years, somehow, my courage has rolled over in the face of fear, anxiety, and depression.  Sure, I might look like I'm all guts and bravado on the outside, but I've been a mess on the inside.

"Do one thing every day that scares you."
—Eleanor Roosevelt

I do a lot of things that might scare other people.  I love trying new things and making messes.  I don't blink at making most big life decisions.  I follow my heart/voice/gut/whatever-you-want-to-call-it.  But if doing those things and making those decisions doesn't scare me in the first place, that's not courage.  That doesn't make me a brave person.  While I might be an Aries girl and we're known for being bold, let's not forget that I'm a ram, not a lion.  I'm fierce when challenged (tell me I can't do something . . . I dare you), but most of the time I'm content to hang out on my mountain where it's nice and safe.

"A woman is like a tea bag - you never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water."
—Eleanor Roosevelt

This past year, I found myself in hot water.  And you know what?  I took a stand.  I faced it with courage and conviction.  Mostly.  In doing so, I realized just how weak I've been in that past, how much I've let fear make the rules and guide my actions.  I saw a glimpse of how strong I can be, and I want more.  So this year I'm taking a stand.  I'm not going to be pushed around by the past, by my fears, or by anyone or anything else.  This year, I'm going to be strong.  I'm going to do the things that scare me.  I'm going to do the things that keep me awake at night.  I'm going to live my life on my terms, not waiting around to see what new ugly thing jumps out from the darkest corners.  This year, I'm packing a flashlight and my courage and I'm gonna kick some ass.

I'll write another post soon with specific applications - writing, personal, etc. - but for now I want to sit with my word for a few days and allow it to sink in and become part of me.  I think just embracing it and keeping it as a focus throughout the year will at the very least help me identify when I'm acting out of fear.  Because truly . . . sometimes we just don't see it.  I will no longer allow myself to make decisions simply based on the fear of "what if."

I have no idea where I'm headed this year, and I'm ok with that.  
Whatever the year throws at me, I'm going to face it with purpose and courage.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

February Baby Steps

January was rough, but when I looked back over my baby step goals, I realized I accomplished more than I thought I had.

I never finished my cleanse (I had to give in and honor my needs when I got sick a few days in), but I did spend several days kicking a sugar addiction.  Side note: kicking a sugar dependency is worse than anything else I've ever tried to quit.  Seriously, by the second morning I wanted to stab someone, anyone, if only I could find the energy . . .

I didn't jot down many ideas for a new writing project, but I did realize that I need to schedule time for discovery writing.  Yes, I need to schedule time to listen to music and browse pinterest.  Absolutely.

And while I didn't knit those arm warmers for the girls (crap, it's been warm, so it's not like they'd get the chance to wear them this winter anyway), I did get the spring garden planted.

I took baby steps.
I started projects.
I moved forward.

I feel much more clear-headed this month, so I'm ready to bite a little harder into this year's goals.  But I know not to take on too much.  Small bits of progress are more desirable than taking in a large chunk, spitting it out, and feeling like a failure.  With that in mind, here are my baby step goals for February:

  • Family - host another full moon family game night; perhaps with a hike or backyard campout
  • Health - begin each day with glass of lemon water and a few yoga poses
  • Work/Writing - read and make notes on 1st draft of last year's NaNoWriMo project; begin first rewrite (to be finished by the end of March)
  • Other Projects - complete a knitting project (a small gift for girls maybe?); organize our fabric, felt, and yarn stash

I have already begun reading through my first draft, so I'm quite proud of myself for getting a jump on that.  I also picked a knitting project, and I'm working on figuring out the pattern.

All good signs for the month ahead.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Forward Motion

Some days, I feel well equipped to handle the heaviness of life.  Other days, I feel quite lacking.  This January has been filled with a great sense of lacking.

I couldn't ask for a better month.  Clear skies, temps in the fifties and seventies, and plenty of time to get things done.  Yet my goal list for January remains unfulfilled.

Sure, we had some sickness, but nothing major.  My own head cold derailed my cleanse midway through, and I've spent the past few days on what I now call Old Lady Bed Rest.  Because I am old.  And unpregnant (just to clear that up), but needing to rest with my feet up all the same.  But I should be able to handle these better.  I've done so in the past.

I usually love January.  It's like a month of Mondays.  Renewed energy after a crazy-busy period of time, with limited commitments and plenty of time to refocus on my own goals and projects.  But this year, I let January slip away from me.  I couldn't uphold any routines.  I allowed circumstances to carry me away emotionally.  I didn't write much of anything.  I barely managed to pull meals together, and sometimes just gave up and glutened the crap out of myself.  I found joy in very few places.  These facts remained mostly hidden from the outside world, and in part even even hidden from me.  It's a sort of functioning depression.  An insidious enemy.

Then, last week after a few extra minutes of sunshine and a tiny bit of begging for help from my kids, we grabbed the seed packets and garden tools.  Let me tell you something.  Dirt therapy is a very real thing.  Seriously, antidepressant bacteria live in dirt.  Take advantage of that.

The strawberry plants are blooming early this year.
One hour of removing debris and pulling runners from strawberry plants and digging my hands in that cool, dark soil was enough to get me moving again.
Moving forward.

It's not gone.  I still feel grey and my edges blurred.  But now the seeds have been planted.  I have to go out, at least every few days, and clear leaves and pull weeds and water the garden beds with the help of my girls.  For now, it's enough.  It's forward motion.  Momentum.  Pretty soon, I'll be able to add something else.  I wound a ball of yarn yesterday, so I'm counting that as knitting progress.  Maybe I'll get a row or two done soon.  We'll see.  One baby step at a time.  Baby steps build habits.  Habits ground me.

Here's to forward motion and habit building.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

2013 Goals

It's been quite a while since I spent time in this space.  I decided not to blog through NaNoWriMo.  It left me free to focus on the work, and despite kid illnesses and a camping mini-vacation, I crammed a lot of words at the end and finished.  Winner, winner, chicken dinner.  Or something like that.  Minus the chicken.

Then came December.


Let's just move on, shall we?

So here we are.  A new month.  A new year.  and I couldn't be happier. I love the possibilities of planning and setting goals for a new year.  I don't do resolutions, because they just don't feel right for me.  I don't need my conscience wagging a finger at me.  I want to build habits and grow.  In that light, I prefer goals and plans.  I've done a word or theme for the year in the past, but this year I really didn't have that kind of focus.  There are several areas of my life I would like to address, and there's no one encompassing theme to bundle them all neatly together this time around.

For 2013, I decided to focus on four areas of my life and set goals for each.  Here are the four areas and my big picture goals for them:

more camping trips
visit aquarium and/or insectarium (kids' request)
solstice & equinox celebrations - revisit our yearly goals together and make plans for each new season

running with dog
2 detox/cleanses
continue healthy eating & incorporate more vegan recipes in regular rotation

rewrite 2012 NaNoWriMo project
Draft a new novel

garden - plant again and add 1 raised bed
continue dog training - add tricks & agility
reading - focus on 1 book at a time (ok, maybe 2)

These are my big, broad goals.  Next week, I'll share the nitty gritty, otherwise known as my baby-step plans for January.*   Until then, best wishes for a productive and fulfilling 2013!!!

* I'm also sharing those plans in the project-based homeschooling forum, since there's a new section for grown-ups.  Since almost everything important I've learned I taught myself as an adult, I DO consider myself a project-based homeschooler.  So there.  You can join in or read along with Lori's PBH for grown-ups series on her blog.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy NaNoWriMo Eve!

It's been a month of sick here, so I am woefully behind in story prep.  But my characters finally have names, I have a general idea of where they are going, and I pretty much know what's going to happen in the first act.  (For my simplified rundown of 3 Act plot structure and how I plan for the month ahead, read here.)  Beyond that, I've got nothing.  I have a map, but I still don't have place names for anything on there.  Hopefully I can get to that later . . . not sure when later . . . this is Halloween and I am a mom and all.  Still, I have a start.  I've tried all methods for writing:  NaNo, non-NaNo, pantsing, plotting.  They all work to a certain degree, but for me I find the best method is a hybrid pantsy-plotting approach.  I develop a very vague spine for my story (usually a couple of major turning points and a possible climax), then I just run with it and figure things out as I go.  And index cards.  Have I mentioned my love of colored index cards?

Act One is hanging there with notes on it, sort of planned out. The rest of the cards are typical plot points that I might or might not use.  They simply serve as guideposts on this journey.  I can use them or not, but they provide a nice map of where I can go next if I ever get stuck.  I also add scene cards as I go along.  Once again, I'm pretty visual, so it helps me to "see" my story this way.  Also, this way . . .

I have a few other pictures that I dragged straight into Scrivener, which I LOVE and always use for drafting now.  The update (yes, it's been that long since I've written) is great, and I already love having those character and setting templates built in.  Not that I've filled them out yet.  Ahem.

Next item of business: after-Halloween clearance sale candy.  For daily word-count rewards.  Absolute necessity.  Fret not.  I have a dental cleaning scheduled for early December.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Novel Prep: Maps

For now, I'm starting with a large area map. 
No, I don't have any place names. Yet.
It's on the to-do list.

I'll do some town maps or building maps during November while I'm drafting.
I think leaving a few of those for later could add a bit of visual inspiration at just the right time.

Mind Maps are also fun.
And colored Sharpies make everything better.  

My characters still don't have names.
That's sort of a problem.

Luckily, I can use any name for now and easily change it later with Scrivener.
One of the many advantages of that program.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Plodding Along

Actually, this has been a productive month so far.  Drawing and playing with colored sharpies to add color to my brainstorming have really opened up some pathways for me.  Pinterest is always fun for inspiration, too.  But today, I've got nothing.  It's Sick Week, crammed in the middle of Busy Month.  I'm exhausted and not really moving forward with anything.  Here's a quick list of things I've been doing to prep for NaNoWriMo.

  • Main character motivations, fears, goals, etc. and lots of questions that need answers.
  • An initiating event, and a basic conflict to get the story rolling.
  • A couple of plot points or twists I'd like to include.
  • Vague hints of other characters.  Not certain who the antagonist is at this point, but that's ok.  I like to leave some discovery for the drafting process.
  • I even sat with my 9 yr old (who will be doing the young writers program next month) and helped her create a plot chart for Star Wars: A New Hope.  By "help" I mean that I sat there and asked if she knew what fit where.  She really didn't need much help.  Love it!
  • Reading.  Hey, it's homework for writers.  I swear.
Next on the agenda (should have been today, but, eh, feeling cruddy, so next week) will be creating a map.  Or maps.  Hopefully I'll actually have something to show.  A collage, perhaps?