Tag Archives: personal

a dozen things i’d tell my younger self

14 Oct
Ronald and me, circa 2010, Thailand

Thailand, 2008

1. Go ahead. Hang up on those telemarketers.

2. Don’t sweat the mess. Keeping a tidy house is not how you want to be spending you time, trust me. Did someone see it? Don’t sweat that either. IT’S FINE. So you’re not going to be remembered for how orderly you were. So what?

3. The world is a wildly confusing place. Form your opinions, but don’t expect to be right all the time.

4. Don’t rush your plans. Think slowly and carefully about where you’re going with your life. At the same time…

5. Make decisions! Yeah, you’re going to make bad ones, but picking a path and walking down it is better than being in limbo all the time.

6. Mistakes are great. Mistakes are the best teachers.

7. Rejection will help to refine your art and transform you into a badass. Don’t shy away from it.

8. Let the kids flip the pancakes, even though they suck at it.

9. Wake up early. You actually like it. No joke.

10. This is not a perfect little world so drop the perfect little facade. Things getting real? Well, get real with them. Don’t be embarrassed for you or anyone else. You’re not putting on a play. Besides, if you were putting on a play then you’d need all of that emotional and awkward¬† and messed up stuff or else it’d just be boring.

11. Don’t take yourself too seriously.

12. Persistence is key. Forget about easy. Easy gets you nothing.

Anyone else feeling any of these? I missed a lot. Anything you would add?

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oh, baby – it’s time to slow down

31 Mar

I had a baby 12 days ago, and today is my husband’s first day back at work. This means several things:

  • I’m wildly in love with a new, little person.
  • My kids are doing significantly less math.
  • My home is a mess.

I’m completely fine with these three things. Look at this face and try and tell me that a sink full of dishes is a big deal…

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This is Adelveiss Leigh Burns. Her first name is inspired by the edelweiss flower and is the result of me watching The Sound of Music during early pregnancy. This, of course, is her song:

Her middle name is also my mother’s middle name. A beautiful name now shared by two beautiful ladies ūüôā

I want my babies to slow me down, slow me way down, and Adel has been doing just that. The determined writer who spent the winter waking up at 5:30 and milked each hour of the day for more writing time is now in hibernation, replaced by a mama bear more interested in the quality of her milk supply than the number of her word count. I’m catching up on reading and going over flawed story aspects as well as potential fixes, but they circle in the far back of my mind, and I only let my attention drift there when all else has gone quiet.

Wake up time has been moved to 9 AM, the to-do list has been abandoned, and my expectations have been… significantly adjusted.

Here is all I want out of today:

  • Make some food
  • Make homemade play dough with the “big” kids
  • Love my family and myself well
  • Bless God

Dishes and toilets and word counts don’t make the list; they will soon enough because babies grow too quickly, but not yet.

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productivity & perspective

7 Mar

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If¬†someone had stopped by my house two days ago at around three o’clock in the afternoon, it would have been easy for them to make a few unsavory judgments about me.

I was still in my pajamas, the sink behind me was full of dirty dishes, and I had a towel slung over my arm because I was just heading into the bathroom to take my shower.

Again, this was at three in the afternoon.

Here are some of the things that could have gone through their mind:

“She’s lazy.”

“Lucky stay-at-home moms.”

“Gee, I wonder when she finally rolled out of bed…”

“I wish I didn’t have a job and responsibilities to show up for every day.”

“Doesn’t she want to do anything with her life?”

They would have had quite a bit of evidence at their disposal for making those kinds of judgments too, but they’d still be lacking one important thing: Perspective.

Two days ago, come three in the afternoon, I was overjoyed with all I had accomplished. I’d been on¬† a consistent diet of 5:30 wake-ups for awhile, but that particular morning saw me up at 5:00. I had a hefty list of edits to make on¬†my middle grade novel and a plan to get the story polished for literary agents. Long before the sun came up in the sky, I was at my kitchen table giving all I had in the form of a Word document. I worked until the kids woke up at 8:00 and paused long enough to¬†get them ready for the day and fed. When they went off to play, I¬†hit my¬†edits even harder until it was time for the kids and I to get busy with their¬†homeschool work. I cleared my computer and my mountains of notes¬†off of the table, and we¬†pulled out their papers and books.¬†Letters, math, reading, and endless questions – we made a time of it, and soon we were clearing the table off again.¬†I whipped together some grub for lunch, we ate, I cleared the table again, and, when the kids were settled in front of a movie, I got back to my novel. I worked until three o’clock,¬†seven hours¬†at my keyboard spent fixing, figuring,¬†writing, and rewriting.

The kid’s movie was over and they¬†were hungry for snack. Half in a daze, I got them food and told them how proud I was that they had been so good for me and let me get so much accomplished. Then I told them that I required a shower if I was going to be able to get my mind straight¬†and have¬†fun with them for the rest of the day. I took a shower, beaming and blushing with how close I was to my goal of querying agents, and got dressed.

Then it hit me: it was 3:30 before I’d gotten¬†dressed.

Wouldn’t it be so easy for someone to assume I’d done little to nothing with my day had they only seen pieces of evidence with none of the perspective?

I’m a writer and a mom. Work for people like me looks a bit… odd. Productivity is difficult,¬†when even possible, to measure.

As a writer, I can announce that I wrote 5,000 words in a single day, but only my fellow writers are going to see that number for what it’s worth. And there are many more days when I go backwards in word count, editing the heck out of my manuscript,¬†yet those days¬†are often just as productive and necessary.

As a mom, there are days when just keeping the kids fed and attended to is all I can manage. You moms with your teething babies know what I’m talking about. And if¬†I take a much needed¬†day to clean, organize, and revamp the basement, it might look amazing down there¬†come 5:30, but the rest of the house is going to be in shambles and dinner is going to be a frozen pizza. And the neighbor will likely stop by and think I did nothing but scroll Facebook.

A farmer can bale X acres of hay, a teacher can go through so many lessons with so many kids, an IT guy can get his eight hours, and a mason can lay block for a whole basement.

But not all forms of work lend themselves to being measured this easily. And not all forms of work require pants.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, pajamas can be perfectly acceptable work attire.

Oh, and judging productivity accurately requires perspective. 

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the thing about gratitude

15 Feb

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This is our family’s gratitude garland. We started it at the end of last December with just a couple of tags and a Sharpie. I was the one who insisted on it. I could feel my gratefulness slipping through my fingers, and it wasn’t a feeling I enjoyed.

The thing is, gratitude isn’t just a mindset I can switch into; it’s not sitting there for me to grab anytime I want it.

Gratitude – the kind that sticks to me whether my circumstances are rosy or not – that kind of gratitude takes practice.

I used to keep a gratitude journal. Everyday I’d scribble in it the things I didn’t want to take for granted. Mostly they were little things: The sound of Piper’s giggle, the smell of coffee, the way the kids had woken up happy and not grumpy. A haiku my dad had sent to me and my mom. The haiku reply my mom sent back.

Little things. The light on the kitchen table kinds of things.

Over time I grew more joyful and content. I was blessed. I’d recorded the blessings and they looked back at me, proving it.

IMGP0240 (2)Then I slowed down in my record keeping. Life got hectic. Occasionally I’d type out a quick list on Twitter using the hashtag #gratitudes. I fell out of the practice of a grateful heart.

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I don’t enjoy my life near as much when I find myself ungrateful for it. So the garland went up and is still going up, piece by piece. And my art journal/planner now doubles as a place where I keep the list going (an email from Clayton, cilantro in the pasta, kind words from one of the kids) so that my mind is constantly brought back to how blessed I am.

I’m not trying to sugar-coat anything; Life is often times downright awful.

But I find I can latch onto small gratitudes, even in those miserable times, so long as I’m well practiced in it.

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So, that’s it. That’s all I wanted to say.

Oh, and I gave the ol’ blog a little makeover. Do you like it? There are still some things that need adding and tweaking (Twitter feed, anyone?), but I’ve only had small bits of time to work on it. Hopefully I’ll be done with the revamp in another week or so.

Winter’s getting a bit long, and the edits on my book are getting more and more difficult. Maybe I’ll get on here a bit more often ūüėČ

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when you realize your story is awful…

13 Jan

Oi. This latest round of edits is killing me. And possibly killing the book as well. Funny how scenes and sentence that looked so good to me one week can look like hell the next. Only, funny… yeah, that’s not really the right word.

I’m telling myself all the right things: with any project I’m working on, my thoughts are bound to be fickle and fleeting; the important thing is to keep to the writing and the editing whether I’m on a high or a low. Think the book sucks? Fine, but keep working on it. Think it’s a sure-fire New York Times Bestseller? Fine, but get back to work.

Still, I find it a bit disheartening to read through what I thought was very good and instead come to the conclusion that it’s all kinds of messed up.

I’m not the first person to feel this way. I don’t know a lot about the world, but I do know, without a doubt, that the greats and the failures alike have all had conflicting thoughts over their work during its creation. I also like to imagine that the greats are the ones who kept working on it even when their current state told them that the piece was crap – no – especially when their current state told them that the piece was crap.

So I’m getting back to work on mine. Maybe it will fail like my other four novels. Or maybe it will grow into something great. Either way, this is no place to stop.

I’ll let you know if my opinion of it changes.

God, I sure hope it does.

I’ll leave you with a response from one of the greats…

Neil Gaiman Answers Well

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i’m going to ramble & there will be ecards

5 Oct

This could not go wrong, scientifically speaking.

First, frustrations. Because, as my personal checks clearly state, I am freakishly talented! Really, I am. Yet my bank account does not properly relate this little tidbit of information, and when I am drug from my fantasy world to survey this unfortunate fact I am left frustrated and confused. How could I be that poor?! Talented, wonderful me?! Oh yeah. I almost forgot:

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I hate that stupid ecard.

Also? My house is a wreck, and I haven’t been on top the laundry situation in our home for about… 2 years. This is not a joke. This is a sad, sad truth. But, for my sake, let’s look on the bright side:

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I love that ecard.*

Okay, okay. I’m good now. I have no money and my house is as organized as a $5 bin at WalMart but let’s move on. Because I have good things to ramble about too!

For instance, my husband and I celebrated my newly minted first draft Wednesday night by eating way too much Mexican food while the kids were at Awana. What did we talk about over fajitas, chalupas, and copious amounts of chips and queso? Writing, because this was my celebration, dang it. He asked me what my game plan for NaNoWriMo was, and I told him.

Umm, curl into a ball and cry?

No! I mean, uh, rewrite The Warrior! Yes, that’s it. Because I love this story too much to not torture myself with it a bit longer.

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This means I’ve been busy thinking and planning and, you know…

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So, that’s the big news. NaNoWriMo is coming up. When you see me during November and find that I’m incapable of decent conversation and have dribbles of coffee down my crumpled shirt please cut me some slack. A novel in a month is difficult (especially when you have a job, 3 kids whom you homeschool, and you’re pregnant and scatterbrained enough as it is), and this will be my reality :

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I hope you’ll take part in NaNoWriMo with me. Because, well, NANOWRIMO!

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I’ll be writing along side two or three friends, my dad, a sister-in-law (I think. Heather. Are you there? Are you writing?), three nieces, and countless internet buddies. YOU COULD TOTALLY JOIN IN.

Think about it.

*If your house is clean, please forgive me. I’m just trying to make myself feel better. Let me grasp my strings, and kudos to you, my tidy reader.

**I know it wasn’t an ecard. My blog; my rules.

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do it scared

5 Jun

The phone was ringing, so I checked the caller I.D.

WIRELESS, NY

It only took a moment for my mind to put together that ‘N’ and ‘Y’, and as soon as the realization hit, fear took over. I went from just fine to sick-to-my-stomach-with-dread.

NY. New York. It could only mean one thing.

A call from New York might not strike you as fear-inducing, but then you might not be in the process of querying agents either. I am, and I’m not above confessing that I’ve been petrified for most of it. When I hit the ‘send’ button on my first query… I freaked. When I had an agent tell me that she liked my premise and first chapter then request the whole manuscript… I fell on the ground and wanted nothing more than a deep hole to crawl into. When I saw that ‘N’ and that ‘Y’ on my caller I.D…. I wished to myself that I’d never EVER sent out a query letter to begin with.

My hands were shaking. I took the phone. As much as I didn’t want to, I hit the green button.

“Hello?”

It was my mother-in-law. She was calling from her home phone. In Minnesota.

I mean, is God getting bored or what?

It took me a good fifteen minutes to recover from my mother-in-law’s phone call, and I realized just how afraid I was to move forward with my book. In church last Sunday we had a guest speaker. He told us that he was once horribly afraid of public speaking. You know what he said he did? He did it scared. His advice to us when we need to do something but are afraid: Do it scared.

Do it scared.

I want an agent. I want a book deal. I love telling stories and want a career in writing books.

Writing comforts me; it also pushes me to do things I’ve never done before.

So, I’m going to do it scared. And you know what? I queried another agent this morning and didn’t freak out at all. Querying no longer feels new or scary. I’m comfortable with it. And I’m trusting that one day I’ll be comfortable on the phone with an agent, an editor, even Harper-freaking-Collins!

Right now I just need to do it scared.

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