New Year, Same Me.

sk-hny-2017

(photo credit: Siân Smith, age 7)

Happy New Year!

It’s the time of year when we sit down and think about what’s coming in the year ahead. It’s a time for fresh starts and do-overs because it’s the first day of a 365-page book! It’s a time for re-energizing and grabbing life by the balls because you’re a badass and you can do anything! It’s a time for feeling guilty because you’ve totally overindulged these last few weeks (months, years) and now your jeans won’t fit! It’s a time for being completely overwhelmed because now you’re not sure where to start with all the fresh-starting and the ball grabbing and the badassing! It’s time, too, for well-meaning people in our lives (and in our electronic devices) to tell us what we should and shouldn’t do and all the ways we should or shouldn’t accomplish all the things we need to do or to stop doing, in the year ahead.

I’m not here to do that.

I am here to say, that this year, I am not starting at the start. And, I’m not going to ask for a do-over, and I’m probably not going to be engaging in much badassery. But, I have spent a fair amount of time over the past couple weeks thinking about what I want to accomplish. Last year, Steve and I dubbed 2016 “The Year of Do,” that meant if we said we were going to do something, we would do it. For example, we said we were going to travel more, and we did, a lot as it turns out. We said we were going to get blinds for the windows and get those put up – we did that, too. Not everything in The Year of Do was glamorous, but we did many of the things we said we wanted to do, and that felt good. There were many other things still left on the to-do list on December 31st, but that’s okay, we’ve got 2017 to be: The Year of Do, Part Deux.

That said, I’ve come up with a main overarching principle for the year. An idea that will help guide all my other ideas and shape my hours and minutes this year. This year, I want to focus on nourishment. We hear often about food being fuel and the things we watch and read fueling our lives and our directions. To me, fuel is something you need to get you from one place to the next. It’s not pretty, it doesn’t smell great, and the act of fueling up is not generally a pleasant experience. Necessary? Sure. Pleasant and joyful? No.

I prefer pleasant, if not downright joyful. So, I choose nourishment. I intend to utilize the idea of nourishment to inform my choices. Will this food nourish my body? Will this video nourish my mind? Will this experience nourish my soul? If the answer is yes, then that is the direction I will encourage myself to take. If the answer is a resounding no, then I will need to re-think that choice. I don’t expect 100% compliance, and I don’t expect 100% perfect achievement, but I do believe that by changing my mindset, I will be able to make changes, some big, some small, that will help me nourish my mind, body, and soul, and that will lead to a happier and healthier life – not just for 2017, but for the future, too.

I am in charge of my life. I will make choices that support the kind of life I want to live. (I feel like I should be chanting: “I am one with The Force, The Force is with me,” and that works, too.)

Now, for the list part. I do love a good list. And with the principle of nourishment in mind, here is an incomplete list of goals, some nebulous, others concrete, that I have for myself this year:

  1. Choose nourishment.
  2. Write 2,000 words a week. (I’m never going to be a writer if I don’t write…)
  3. Do the things I say I am going to do.
  4. Complete the Master Gardener program. (This is pretty much a foregone conclusion, but I’ve included it because it will be an achievement, with hard work put into it, so it counts and should be counted.)
  5. Spend more mindful time with my husband and children. (Focus on them when I’m with them, put the phone down.)
  6. Finish writing my first novel. (See #2.)
  7. Walk 10,000 steps a day (Fitbit helps with this. And Steve’s got one now, too…no excuses!)
  8. Drink more water.
  9. Say “yes” before “no” more often. (Over the years, “no” has become the default answer when the kids ask for something. I should have more confidence and faith in my children’s choices and desires. See #10.)
  10. Allow more grace for myself and others. (Just breathe.)
  11. Participate in groups or movements in meaningful ways so that I am putting good into the world. (This one is vague and that’s okay.)

There you have it. That’s how I’m shaping my 2017. Am I still going to eat cake? Yes. Am I still going to have days that I choose mindless television over engaging activities? Yes. But I know that those are my choices, and if I want to be better, I’ll have to choose better.

What about you? Do you have plans for 2017?


Newbie!

Say what you want about the internet…sometimes you actually can find vital information out there!

Today, I wanted to know if the word “newbie” existed in the 1990s. I can’t remember saying it back in high school but I wasn’t much of a gamer then, or now either, actually. I mainly only remember using the terms “psych,” “not,” and ever-so-briefly-because-it-never-took-off-no-matter-how-badly-we-wanted-it-to, “n’t” (you know, an abbreviated form of “not.” Duh! [we tried, Tina, we really did]) So, I did what anyone my age would do, I asked Google. And the very first return was an article titled, “THE ORIGINS OF NEWBIE, NOOB, AND N00B.” (Link provided for the curious.)

Like I said, vital information.

I read the article, and while it’s probably more to my son’s interests, I found the information I was looking for, and I discovered what an insult it is to be called a noob, compared to being referred to as a newb, which is the more playful version of that term. And now you know, too – see you’re no longer a newb.

Anyway, after reading about the evolution of the term newbie, I followed a few more links just to be sure, and they seemed to cement the idea that I could safely use the term “newbie” in a dialog taking place in the 1990s, and still sound era-appropriate.

Whew.

 


Oh, Deer!

house-lights

Photo credit: Steve Smith

I walk my dog every day, well nearly every day, my husband does it at weekends and in the evenings. Anyway, in the mornings, I walk my kids to school and I take the dog with us. We live in a suburban master planned community. It’s lovely, it really is. Lakes, trails, clean sidewalks, big houses – lovely. Really.

It’s particularly lovely during the holiday season. Most houses have lights, and it looks like (to use the words of my mother), “a gingerbread village.” Again, lovely. Many people will also put various decorations in their yards; everything from those inflatable Santas and Frostys to lights in the shape of the American flag staked in the yard, and any festive idea you can think of in-between. One relatively common decoration is the plasticy-wicker deer. You know the ones, they’re life-size and sometimes they have lights and they proudly stand guard in their front yards, protecting their families inside from….overeager delivery people?

I don’t know.

Anyway, those deer have made me laugh every morning for the last two weeks – yes, since before Thanksgiving: we’re in the suburbs, the lights start to go up the day after Halloween, and the decorations increase incrementally (exponentially?) over the following days and weeks. If you’re not fully-lit by Thanksgiving, you’re late.

Back to the deer. So, do you ever crack yourself up? Like, you think something in your head and you snicker and shake your head and think, “man, I’m funny.” But, really, you’re just good at telling your own self dad jokes. I do it. I know you do it. C’mon, you know you do it.

It’s been a little windy here. Sometimes, the wind knocks over the deer. When the dog and I walk past those fallen creatures, I think to myself, “oh, dear.”

And I laugh, and I laugh.


Fiction and Politics

A winsome twosome? An unlikely pair? Whichever your view, I’ve been doing some thinking about the results of our recent election, and I am ready to talk about those with you now.

I’ve been playing my thoughts over and over in my mind and I’ve been trying to figure out not only what I think, but also how I want to convey those thoughts. My initial reaction was to post something like, “this space left intentionally blank” on facebook. Clever, but ultimately meaningless. Then, I thought about posting about how I have been following Thumper’s Mother’s principle…I didn’t have anything nice to say, so I didn’t say anything. That didn’t feel quite right either, though I must say that I believe it’s a pretty good principle to reflect on before actually speaking/typing.

I realize that my silence might be misconstrued for complacency or apathy, but that’s not it. I’m overwhelmed. I haven’t wanted to make anyone upset, so I haven’t said anything. I know, it sounds weak. Maybe it is. So…I’m speaking up now.

I’m not happy with the outcome of the election, and that’s putting it mildly (see below re: optimist). I’m sad for our nation and I am particularly concerned for the safety and well-being of my friends and family who are in any way marginalized in our society (I feel like pretty much everyone I know falls into at least one category). I’m concerned for the safety and health of all of us – this feels like uncharted territory and I think we are all at least a little bit scared or apprehensive about what’s going to happen in the weeks, months and years ahead. But, what really is getting to me is the way some people have reacted to the outcome. On any side. Politics, frankly, doesn’t matter at this point. If you’re being cruel, destructive or otherwise causing pain to someone who is not exactly like you or your ideal of what you think an “American” is, and you’re feeling bolstered by the outcome of this election to engage in these types of actions or comments, then shame on you. It’s 100% on YOU. It’s got absolutely nothing to do with who won, who lost, who’s a crybaby, whatever. If you’re using the outcome to justify destructive, violent actions or to cause pain, whether it’s verbally, emotionally, physically, or a combination, you are making poor choices and you are impeding on others’ abilities to live their lives to their fullest. That is wrong. You are in control of your actions and your words, and you are also in control of your clicking finger. If you click “like” or share memes that perpetuate these destructive actions and divisive words, you are contributing to the problem. Nobody else is responsible for your actions or words. Just you.

And you know what? That sucks. I’m an optimist, a glass half-full kind of girl. But lately, I’ve seen so much pain, and fear, and anger, and hate; it’s disconcerting. It’s hard to look at all of that ugliness and still find good, and meaning, and a path to the right side of history. But, there it is, and I had to acknowledge it. Now, it’s time to move through it.

The reason I decided to finally write, and let you all read, my thoughts is because I found a way that I can contribute positively to the conversation. I don’t think I have anything to say that’s going to be profound and change people’s minds, and if you’re reading this, I expect you probably already see things in a way that is similar to me, at least to some extent. If you gave up on reading this when the opening paragraph didn’t immediately reflect the title, then you’re missing out because I’m getting there now.

I titled this fiction and politics. The reason is because fiction draws many of its finest characters and moments from real life, real people and real situations. Sometimes, real life even turns around and reflects the fiction that had been reflecting real life before it. It’s all intertwined. And, it can be beautiful. Think about your favorite stories. Even the most fantastical stories have a foundation in real moments. Real moods, real feelings, real relationships. A friend posted the other day about how someone else had posted about being totally upset by the hero in a story being a bit of a dirtbag. He’s the “good guy,” how could he possibly be a dirtbag and be the good guy? Because, people are more than what we label them. It is easy to fall back on labels when dealing with someone or some idea that you don’t like or don’t agree with. Easy, but not helpful.

You’re a republican? Those elitist liberal leftists! They’re the ones to blame! You’re a democrat? Those backward rightwing conservatives! They’re the ones to blame! 

Finger pointing. Labeling. Placing blame. Not helpful.

We teach our children to see their friends for who they are, not for what they look like or where they come from or what groups they belong to. I think we should remember to do that as adults. From the early stages of this particular election, if I posted about politics, my main point was one of inclusion, and embracing the other. I believe this is still important.

We must build bridges now.

We must find the things we love, like, or can at least tolerate, in each other. Just like most well-written fictional characters have many layers, and many traits – positive and negative – so do real people, and you may not agree entirely with the ideals that someone supports or with their view on certain topics, and here’s the kicker – that’s OK. It really is. I know a lot of my friends and I see many things in a similar way, and that’s great, but I know I have views that they might not agree with, and I’m certain my friends have ideals that don’t reflect my values. That’s ok. We aren’t all cookie cutters or carbon copies of each other, nor should we be.

I’m not suggesting that we gloss over the things that have happened that are wrong, or look past things that we don’t like and just hug everyone because: peace and love, man. People who have made poor choices need to own those choices and make amends. That’s how we fix things. We need to face our challenges and deal with the consequences – good or bad. But, what I’m saying is that simply because someone has different labels than you do, doesn’t mean that they are only a manifestation of those labels. Maybe you know someone who sits across the aisle from you politically, and until a couple months ago, you considered that person a friend. Try to consider that their labels do not define them. Just as your labels do not define you. Find some common ground, and start (or re-start) there.

That’s it. That’s all I’ve got right now. It’s not huge, it’s not profound, but it’s a positive contribution to the conversation. I truly hope people try to find their way back to some sense of harmony so that we can move forward as a unified nation.

And, if you want to speak up, or speak out, or do something for the good of our country, I’ll be there to support you, even if it’s only with a click or a smiley face, for now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Rock the Vote

rock-the-vote-tshirtThere have been a lot of 90s references in my world lately (@midnight 90s edition, anyone? Check out the Pound Sign Wars for a laugh), so I thought I’d add to that by breaking out my flannel shirts, my Dr. Martens, and resurfacing an Mtv reference that we all knew would change the world (or, at least it made us all feel really grown up at the time):

Rock the Vote!

 

Can you hear the music? Can you feel the GenX energy in the air?

Anyway, this is not a political blog, and I’m not trying to sway anyone in any particular direction…other than to sway to you register, and to vote. It’s important, and as American citizens it is our civic responsibility.

To help the process, here’s the link to Rock the Vote’s list of registration deadlines per state. Make sure you’re registered in time.

 

T-shirt Image from meMel Etsy Shop
Rock the Vote logo from Media Confidential

 


Itchy Feet

you-know-when-it-all-starts-to-feel-a-little-too-easyThat’s what we call it in my house when we start to feel too settled. You know the feelings: when you can go about your daily routines with your eyes closed; when your casual acquaintances become your very best friends; when the guys at the meat counter, and the coffee bar, and the floral department at your grocery store all know you by first name; when you know exactly what time you need to leave and which roads to take, or avoid, to get you where you need to go in any part of town at any given time. You know, when it all starts to feel a little too easy.

I know not everyone can relate to that feeling; moving around frequently, on purpose, takes a certain kind of masochism, er, I mean, dedication and organization. And, I also know that some people live the nomadic life less by choice than by circumstance. But, there are those of us who’ve chosen to live our lives on the move, and some of us even like it.

I get a rush every time the mention of a new opportunity comes up. The words barely leave Steve’s lips and I’m already hitting up Realtor.com and Google Maps. It doesn’t matter that it’s probably not going to happen, I need to know house prices and commute times, STAT! Next, I open my excel spreadsheet (yes, I have an excel spreadsheet template set up to compare two locales) and start populating the cells with pertinent information, from currency exchange rates to average grocery, gas, and telecomm prices per month. My imagination kicks in and I’m already six months in to our new assignment (because we all know that the first six months are a roller coaster ride between “OMG I love this new place!” and “Ugh, I can’t believe we gave up our comfortable, easy life for this!”), where I’ve figured out where nearly everything goes in the house, and I know exactly how long it takes to get to the grocery store and coffee shop, oh, and of course the kids are settled in to their school by then, that’s important, too.

It’s not always easy, and with the prospect of each new opportunity, I promptly forget the stress and strain involved in packing up our lives and moving all over again – even if it’s not actually us doing the heavy lifting. To make life a little smoother, I have recently instituted a “two Christmases” rule where we are required live in the same house for at least two Christmases. So far, so good, but that could change. One thing I’ve learned to rely on is that the moment life starts to really make sense, that’s when it’s about to up and change. Occasionally, that doesn’t happen, and we stay put for a few years, and we get securely entrenched in the local life, complete with great friends, a home that looks and feels how we want it to, kids who are happy and thriving: by all accounts we feel like we’re “home.”

That’s when I get itchy feet.

 

Please don’t forget to support our kickstarter project for Knocked Up Abroad Again. This book, and its 26 contributors, need your support in order for it to get published! $10 gets you a pre-release copy of the e-Book. Please show your support and head to the kickstarter page to pledge now! I thank you, the 25 other authors thank you, and Steve thanks you (really, he does)!

 

 


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