Parenting, Time Management, Uncategorized

Be Productive While You Wait

This week is going to be a good week. I can feel it in my bones. I am determined to be productive. I am going to write a paper, or at least start one. I am going to write several blog posts and read an entire book.

And I am determined to not won’t let parenting duties stop me. I will be effective in every area of my life, starting tonight, even while I sit in my car and wait for my son’s basketball practice to end.

I used to hate waiting for my teenager. Sitting in my tiny gas efficient car seemed like a waste of time. But not anymore. I know how to turn waiting into the most productive time of my day. And if you’re prepared, you can too.

Here are a few tips to make waiting worth your while.

  1. Keep your goals on you. I carry my phone and iPad most places so I have my to-do list with me at all times. (Hint-hint… the Success Wizard App is great for this. I know what exactly what I need to be working on and why.)
  2. Carry a book. If you’re in school and have texts to read or if you have a page-turner you haven’t been able to make time for, there’s no time like the time you spend waiting!
  3. Go analogue. The WiFi in most places may not have a wide enough reach, so if you’ll be waiting in a parking lot, carry a pen and paper. If you need to free-write or brainstorm, a notebook is all you need.
  4. Wind down. If you’ve been working all day, take a break. Meditate. Journal. Nap. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve adjusted my seat, locked the doors and gotten a quick twenty minute rest while waiting for my son to finish a practice or a class.
  5. Have a little fun. If your child’s rehearsal or sports practice is the only time you’ll get to yourself before bed, savor it. Read something just for fun, watch a YouTube video, get in a favorite show on your Netflix app.

Just remember, it doesn’t matter what you do as long as you take advantage of your wait. Wasting time is the enemy of productivity. Let’s be intentional with every movement.

Apps, Check-in, MFA, Time Management, Uncategorized

Update Fail One

I called this post Update Fail One because I am sure that if I do nothing else, I will continue to fail at updating this blog on a consistent basis. How shameful is that?

Yet, onward!

It’s no secret that I am failing in every area of my life. If you read this blog you know that already. What you don’t know is that I have a solution. This week I got a life coach! Not a human. I’m broke-ish and can’t afford a human. But what I (sort of) can afford is an app.

It’s called Success Wiz and I’m hoping it will help me get my life together. Like a lot of people in the social media age, I have big dreams. The trouble with me is that I want it all right now and have no idea how I can make any of it happen. I am inconsistent and easily overwhelmed. I get anxious when I think about all I want to do and instead of working towards my goals a little at a time, I whine and complain and resent myself and everyone else… and that’s not productive.

Because I listen to Gretchen Rubin’s Happier Podcast, I know that I am an obliger. I know that I need to be accountable in order to effective. In the case of the Success Wiz app, I’m accountable for the money I will be spending every month on the pro version. It’s only three bucks, but I can’t see myself throwing three bucks out the window for an app I won’t use. I’ll either use it lose it. That’s for sure.

Over the next week, I hope to see a difference in my focus and work ethic. I have to turn in my submission packet to my MFA mentor. I need to create a registration list for the classes I’m helping to admin. I have to read a book and write annotations. I have to work and spend time with my son. I need to read submissions for the literary magazine I edit for and lead the outreach push. I have a lot to do over the next seven days.

My plan is to come back this time Saturday morning and write about whether or not the app helped me to do any of the things I just listed. And since app developers don’t pay unknown inconsistent bloggers to write about their products, you don’t have to worry that I won’t give an honest review. I’ll keep it 100%.

(And do me a favor this week – keep your fingers crossed. I’ll need all the help I can get.)

Time Management, Uncategorized, Writing Goals

The Do What You Can Challenge

It’s January 2018. Nearly one month down and eleven more to go. So far, I’ve accomplished nothing. Instead of finishing the projects I started in 2017, I’ve taken on new projects. Because that’s so smart…

I’m not worried about any of it. I’m not wise enough to be worried. I’ve created a weird distance from my projects. So much so, that while I am sporadically hit with spurts of anxiety, they don’t last long enough for me to actually do anything about them. I only get anxious long enough to whine.

But I’m going to take charge! What I have to do during this season is lower the bar. I’m changing my definition of success. I’m going to work with the real me. And the real me doesn’t have enough discipline to finish a novel draft this month. However, I can write every day. I may not be able to read 100 books this year, but I can read two or three a month. I can do what I can.

For the rest of 2018, I am going to challenge myself to do what I can. I’m going to call it the “Do What You Can” Challenge and I challenge everyone to participate. Do what you can do. Actually get up and do it.

This month, starting February 1st, the shortest month of the year, I am going to write every day. I am going to sit down for at least twenty minutes and write. It can be a blog post or a journal entry, but I’m hoping to work on my novel. I’ll check in with myself to see if it works, to see if I commit.

I hope everyone has realistic goals for themselves this year and I hope everyone is showing themselves grace if they aren’t so easily met. Either way, let’s try, and if we fail it’s OK. Failing is OK.

Check-in, MFA, Uncategorized

January Check-In: Failing at Staying Energized

It’s only January 11th. Eleven days since 2018 started and I’m already out of energy. Seriously. I’m completely tapped out and I haven’t yet done anything.

My excuses are somewhat comforting: I live in the Midwest and for anyone who hasn’t heard, it’s been cold. Really cold. Below zero cold. Curl-up-in-bed-with-a-book-as-soon-as-you-get-home-from-work cold. Nevermind-that-you’re-a-student-and-you-have-writing-to-do cold. Nevermind-your-dreams, just-don’t-freeze cold.

Plus, it gets dark early and it’s hard for me to function without the ever necessary Vitamin D… *insert side-eye here*

What I don’t understand is why no one else seems to need the comfort of a well-crafted excuse? Why isn’t anyone else hiding under a blanket and enjoying the spoils of laziness? Is it that they don’t know how to make excuses or are they too busy producing content to take the time to come up with any? (I may not be great at commitment, but I excel at coming up with reasons to remain stagnant. I could help them out. It could be my first writing job!)

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While I work hard not to covet, several of my Facebook friends finished manuscripts at the end of 2017. They’ve gotten published in lit mags. They started successful blogs. They’re actually working on 2018 goals while I eat cookies in my bathrobe. It seems that everyone is beating me in the race towards success because they won’t stop moving.

I know what I need to do. I’ve always known. I need to overcome myself. I need to get up and get writing. I need to move. Only, it’s hard and I’m tired. Plus it’s cold, and I mean really really cold… change-into-sweatpants-and-watch-Netflix-for-twelve-hours cold.

MFA, Uncategorized, Writing Goals

Failing to Fail in 2018

2017 is over. It’s the past now so there’s no need to go over it again. There’s no need to rehash how I gave up on blogging as soon as school began. We can forget that I started a new manuscript without finishing the one I was working on. Bringing up that I didn’t make any attempts to submit work would be silly. It’s too late to worry about it.

What does matter is that we can start again. This year we can choose to do the work we pushed aside last year. We can search for better ways to get it done if we have to. We can allow for false starts and backtracking as long as we keep going.

My goal for this year is to write seven hundred and fifty words a day. I’m currently using my free trial membership with 750words.com, a website that tracks whether or not its members are keeping their writing commitment.

Another goal I have is to submit to online journals. I’m going to call it Submission Sunday. At least one Sunday a month I’m either going to send my work out or to research outlets where I can. The way I see it, twelve attempts to submit will be better than the zero I’m used to.

Finally, this is the year I finish my master’s degree and I want it to count. So in 2018, I am going to take advantage of every mentor and every assignment given to me. I won’t procrastinate.

While we can’t predict what happens this year, we can receive the joy that comes from hard work and consistency. We can find the joy in doing what we love for the sake of the process. Isn’t that what it’s all for anyway? Isn’t that why we write?

Encourage Yourself, self care, Uncategorized

Why I Won’t Be Listening to 2017 Year in Reviews

I was in a good mood Friday morning. A short work day was ahead of me. My Christmas shopping was nearly done and I felt optimistic and nearly giddy… until NPR ruined it.

Let’s be fair, I have never been able to handle the news. When I was a little girl my mother banned it from our house because it made me cry. As an adult, I listen to podcasts only after a quick skim over the episode notes and read news stories only after searching the headlines for safe topics. I spend more time on social media breaks than I spend actively engaging.freely-9326

Because of this, during my morning commute, I listen to book podcasts or church sermons. I can normally trust them to create a decent atmosphere. Because my guard was down Friday morning, I dropped the ball and my morning was invaded by the hapless wonder that is our President. I’m not critical enough to be political, so I try not to mention politics in my posts, but even his voice makes me cringe. I can’t handle him. I can’t handle the state of the world right now. It’s too much. I’m too sensitive.

Honestly, I could stomach the news a little better during the Obama administration than I can now. Even when something terrible was happening, I had less anxiety. I felt safer knowing that the person in charge would at least ask questions before making decisions. I even hoped he might pray. I don’t feel that way now. What used to be casual avoidance is now an outright war against knowing.

In 2017 I leaned on self-care. I worked hard to create a safe space where my family could be carefree, where we could breathe and hope in spite of. When the year in review episode crept in I remembered all that I’d been running from and wondered, “Why does anyone want to review this year?”

I am going continue pursuing self-care as 2018 approaches, but I hope against hope that things get better. I won’t worry and I am going to continuing praying about the hard truths and writing about things that make me feel hopeful. And I’ll continue to do so with the radio turned off.

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“Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.” – Psalms 34:14

 

Time Management, Uncategorized

Failing at Trying to Do it All

There are only twenty-four hours in a day. I try to devote anywhere from seven to eight of those hours to sleep. I mentioned sleep first because you must understand that, like the fox in the above photo, sleep is my favorite thing to do.

I am required to spend nine hours at my full-time seed money gig (and that doesn’t count commute time). I hang out with my son, eat, sometimes cook, do chores, pray, write and read for school. I read submissions for the two literary magazines I work for and then there’s that hour a week I devote to Game of Thrones. Sprinkled in are church attendance, the time I spend volunteering in the church bookstore, and time with my extended family.

With all of that, it feels as though I have something going every hour of the day. I no longer sit on the couch and binge-watch Netflix. I can’t lay out in my backyard and reread Agatha Christie novels (which is fine because I don’t miss the subsequent mosquito bites.) I no longer have time to do nothing.

When I first began the pursuit of my MFA, I asked one of the women who had been in the program for a year how I was supposed to do it all? She told me that I couldn’t. She told me that I would have to choose.

I spent all of Sunday catering to my son, who has a virus and working on my draft that’s due on Friday morning. There are dirty dishes in my sink and I still haven’t folded last week’s laundry. I’m going to have to leave early in the morning to get both my son’s bus fare and his lunch money from the ATM because I couldn’t leave him to go do it during the day. I may even have to throw a load of clothes in the washing machine at 5 AM because there’s no way I can do it now. Right now I am working on this week’s posts.

Right before I got super busy, God showed me a race. The runners were behind the line, revving up and eager to go. He told me that it wasn’t time to run yet, but that I should rest and wait because once the race started I wouldn’t be able to rest for a long while.

I did rest a good deal during the previous months, so when I started running I thought I was ready. What I didn’t understand was that I could get distracted by trying to take on more than one race at a time. Not only is that not a very smart thing to do, it’s impossible. No matter how many hours there are in a day, I can only concentrate on one task until it is complete… And right now that task is The Game of Thrones because really, Jon Snow deserves my immediate attention. He deserves everyone’s immediate attention.

Parenting, Time Management, Uncategorized

Failing at Morning Routines

This post will be published around the time my teenager and I are stumbling out of the house for the first day of school. There will be faint whiffs of excitement, a lot whining, and some yelling. The yelling will be from me.

I am always late. No matter where I go. I am late – running through the door at eight for work, sneaking in through the back doors at church, waving across the room at chatting friends who have been waiting for at least five minutes. I try. I really do, but my efforts never pan out.

For months I have been obsessed with morning routines. I watch youtube videos and listen to podcasts. I read blog posts. I even read Hal Elrod’s Miracle Morning. The problem is, I can never stick to the routine. Sure, I do great at first: lunches packed the night before, clothes laid out and ironed, breakfast prepared and ready to go, morning meetings with myself over coffee… and then I fall off. Game of Thrones comes on, someone calls, or I fall asleep on the couch, and then nothing gets done. The next morning I find myself once again scrambling to get out the door ten minutes too late.

The good thing about a new school year is that gives me and my son a chance for a new start. Maybe this time it’ll work. The Miracle Morning works, planning ahead of time works. It’s me that’s a problem and I’ve got no choice but to get it together. I’m tired of fighting with myself every morning. It’s getting me nowhere, and definitely not anywhere on time.

Finances, Uncategorized

When Your Credit Fails

Sallie Mae and I have had a long running relationship. It hasn’t been a good one. The Bible says in Romans 13:8, “Owe no man but to love him.” I owe Sallie Mae so much more than love. I owe her a mid-sized house in a middle-class neighborhood. I owe her a luxury car and few years of my salary.

Because I can’t give Sallie Mae all that I owe her immediately, she’s trying to stand in the way of my dreams of home ownership. She’s out to get me.

God showed up and showed out the day I stumbled into my credit union with a hope for a home loan. The loan officer was able to give me just enough money to outright purchase the home I already live in. Great, right? I like my house. It’s a nice house. It’s treated us well over the years.

Debt to income ratio is a real thing. After my credit score, it was the second factor my loan officer considered. She smiled… and then noticed my hefty stack of student loans. She immediately stopped smiling.

I’m thankful for my home. An outright mortgage will save me lots of money per month, more money to pay Sallie with, but what strikes me as odd, is how I never thought going to college would hold me back in any way. I thought it would propel me forward. And it sort of did, except it propelled me forward with an unforeseen weight on my back. And they don’t advertise those weights in those cool college brochures.

I’m thankful, even with the discouraging debt ratio, even with the delays and possibly too high hopes. My credit may fail, but God never does. Plus, God promised in Deuteronomy 6:10-11, “…to give thee great and goodly cities, which thou buildest not, and houses full of all good things, which thou filledst not…” And I believe God over my credit any day. God can do – even when it comes to home ownership, greater than I can imagine.

Explanation, MFA, Uncategorized

MFA or Bust

To recap: Following the advice of two writers I knew, I decided I would leave the MA program if I gained acceptance to a low-residency MFA program. And to put pressure on it, the MA program I was currently in, closed registration within a few days of my decision to apply. This only mattered because I was afraid that if I took a break from school, to wait for news of a Spring acceptance, I would quit. I needed direction. I needed favor. So, I prayed for just that.

Then I moved on it. I called the school on a Wednesday, to see if they would expedite my application. I was told it wouldn’t happen. To say I was disappointed, was an understatement. But I kept going. I kept waiting for God to come through. Even if God came through with a dose of perfect peace and a rejection letter.

And then, I got a call from the chair of the MFA Program. He notified me that he’d had a last minute cancellation and that my application was the only one on his desk.

The next semester’s apps hadn’t come in yet. He could read my submission if I wanted. I said yes! It took a week for the director and the board to make a decision, but the day before the workshop began, if I was offered admission. The next day I was on a plane.

God had made it so I had the money for housing and transportation. God miraculously use a fluke situation that had held up a check, that ended up being released within a week of my acceptance. God worked it out so that I had willing people to help take care of my responsibilities at home. God worked it all out.

And I am so thankful!