Monday, October 11, 2021

Writing Books I Recommend

 I love to write and I love to read!  Here are some of my favorite reads about writing!

A Writer's Book of Days: A Spirited Companion & Lively Muse for the Writing Life


The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity


Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

The Journey from the Center to the Page: Yoga Philosophies and Practices as Muse for Authentic Writing

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

Zen in the Art of Writing

Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within

Wild Mind: Living the Writer's Life

Book in a Month: The Fool-Proof System for Writing a Novel in 30 Days

Fiction Writer's Workshop: The Key Elements of a Writing Workshop

Page After Page: Discover the Confidence & Passion You Need to Start Writing & Keep Writing (No Matter What)

Let the Crazy Child Write: Finding Your Creative Writing Voice

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Take Joy: A Writer's Guide to Loving the Craft

On Editing: How to Edit Your Novel the Professional Way

Just Write One Thing Today: 365 Creative Prompts to Inspire you Every Day

The Weekend Novelist: A Dynamic 52-week Program to Help You Produce a Finished Novel

Writing with Power: Techniques for Mastering the Writing Process

What are your favorite books on writing?  Tell me in the comments below!

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Hoarder's Dynamite

I like to say that my dad was a little bit of a hoarder.  I don't want people to picture those folks on TV with the garbage and feces in their homes.  Adding "a little bit" seems to soften the description slightly. But as we're sorting through the detritus that made up my dad's life, we have found a lot of trash.  He kept every birthday, anniversary, Valentine's Day card anyone ever gave him.  He kept reel to reel sex videos and graphic playing cards.  He kept tools (4-5 of every tool) some still in their boxes, never used.  And that's just in his office!

My dad was a kid during the depression.  His go-to line when we asked why he was keeping an item was, "I might need it."  Never mind that he had enough money to buy anything he might need in the future.  Never mind that no one could walk through his office to talk to him or clean it.  Nevermind that no one could find anything in their except him.

What kept my dad as "a little bit" of a hoarder was my mom.  She limited where he could put his treasures.  He had his office in the house the barn and outbuildings, and a six car garage that also held a 45' boat (one winter).  There is only one complete car in the entire garage and no boat.  It is full of stuff, mostly tools and equipment and car parts.  The ceilings are very high and the stuff almost reaches it in many places.

Before the dementia, he knew where everything was.  He had a system.  He could find anything you wanted.  But as the dementia took over, his system fell apart.  We now know where nothing is.  He did not leave us directions about what was worth keeping, what was worth money, or what we should do with any of it.  His only comment about all of his stuff came when he was 95 and mom tried to convince him to start selling some of it.  He said,"It took me a hundred years to collect all of this stuff.  I'm keeping it."

But, he couldn't take it with him.  So we are left to try to figure out what to do with all of it.  We started with the office.  Mom wanted to be able to use the desk.  Our first goal was to make a path to the desk.  That took a couple of hours.  On my last visit, mom and I spent 3 hours every night sorting through the stuff on top of the desk.  It took us 4 days to get to the beautiful oak desk top.  That's 12 hours in case you don't feel like doing the math just to find the top of the desk.  A lot of it was trash.  At least once every day, one of us would ask, "Why did he even keep this?"

On this trip, Cassidy and I are helping Mom clean out the drawers of the desk, one of the closets, and the rest of the office.  My job is to go into the room with Mom's Penn State tray and load it with stuff.  I give it to Cassidy who sits on the sofa and gives Mom one item at a time.  (Cassidy wasn't too excited when she discovered the graphic playing cards by accident!)  Mom decides if the item is trash, donate, keep, or something she wants to give to a specific person.  When she decides, she gives it to me and I put it in the specified area.

Last Friday when we were going through the closet, Mom warned me that she had seen some dynamite in there.  She said she was going to give it to her brother Greg.  When I found the six red sticks, I placed them in Uncle Greg's box and went back for more stuff.  After a while, I came across a box of blasting caps.  This was not surprising because my dad was a well driller.  He also built a  lot of structures and dug a few ditches in his time.  We didn't question the fact that these items were in his closet.  We didn't worry for our safety because Dad wouldn't have kept anything dangerous in the house, right?

In the middle of our sorting, Uncle Greg called.  He talked to my mom for a while and then he asked to speak with me.  This is not something we do often, although we probably should.  He started out by telling me that not only did he not want the dynamite, we should not move it because it could be unstable.  Since we had already moved it into the box on the living room floor, it was a little late for that advice, but I left the blasting caps in the closet.  He told us to call the state police and they would come and get it.

We believed him, but we weren't really that concerned because it had been in the house for probably 50 years.  We said, "Dad wouldn't have it in there if it wasn't safe."

So the dynamite sat in the box on the living room floor all weekend.  We didn't want to trouble to police over the weekend.  We decided to call them on Monday.  Meanwhile, Cassidy and the dog played in the living room every day.  Luna bumped the box quite often and every time we said, "Maybe we should move it."  But, Uncle Greg had said not to move it so we left it where it was.

Finally, late Monday morning, Mom called the State Police and told them what we had found.  They asked a lot of questions and told us to get out of the house immediately.

But it was cold and raining and there is nowhere to go because of social distancing.  We didn't think the car in the carport attached to the house was really much safer than sitting in the back room so we stayed there until the police arrived 20 minuted later.

Boy!  Did the police arrive!

They brought 5 trooper SUV's, a state police truck, and the bomb squad!  I tried to describe to the first trooper where the items were, but it's an old house that's been added onto many times.  It's a little like a maze if you're not used to it.  So he asked me to show him where it was.  He walked exaggeratedly soft through the kitchen and the hallway to the doorway of the living room.  He clearly did not want to enter the living room so I pointed to the tan box with the dynamite in it.  Then I pointed to the mirror next to the office door and told him the blasting caps were about the only thing in the small office closet. As we walked toward the back door, he said, "It was good you called.  Old dynamite can explode if it gets wet."  Then his eyes were drawn out the window at the rain and worry crossed his partner's face.

Mom, daughter, and dog had already headed out to Mom's car.  The police told them they had to go somewhere.  I asked "Where?  They can't be around people."

The officer answered patiently, "It doesn't really matter, but away from here."

I had to go to the yoga studio to teach my first online yoga class so I suggested they go to the Spaeder's driveway.  Our neighbors are very kind and they wouldn't mind her parking there.  My mom lives in the country.  Everyone knows everyone else on our road.  But, shortly after they got parked, the police came over and told them to move farther away.

They drove another quarter mile to the Osborn's driveway.  They are wonderful people who kept offering to let them come in.  They offered them food, too.  But in the current conditions, Mom thought it was better if they just stayed in the car,  The police went to all of the neighbors and asked them to evacuate.

While they were waiting, Cassidy saw her first eagle.  She said it was beautiful and she sent me a picture.

Cassidy, Mom, and the dog sat for several hours in the car before the police called and asked them to come back to the farm.  Because of our sorted piles of Dad's stuff and the way the house is situated, they weren't able to use the robot.  But, they said that the dynamite wasn't dynamite.  It was just unmarked road flares.  However, the blasting caps were real.  And it turns out that old blasting caps are more dangerous than old dynamite because it can spontaneously explode.  They said they've had several accidents with blasting caps.  It won't blow up your house by itself, but it could hurt or kill the person who moved it.

That's me, by the way.  I'm the one that moved them from one shelf to another.

They asked Mom some questions and then explained their plan.  "We're going to blow up your bad stuff with our good stuff."  They sent Mom and Cassidy back to the Osborn's, very disappointed that it wasn't all over already.  They went back to waiting until they heard a loud explosion in the field behind the house.  They thought they would get to go back home, but no word came from the police so they waited more.  When a second explosion was loud enough to drown out Mom's country music, they were sure they'd get to go home.

After another half hour, the police finally called them home, but the trooper blocking the end of the road hadn't gotten the message.  Mom waited, not so patiently for him to move.  They finally arrived home, hungry and desperately needing a restroom.  Mom had quite an angry conversation with Dad's picture asking him why he would put us all in danger like that.  He did not answer, but she's sure he's sorry.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

How to Add Pictures to Your Google Calendar

Calendar Flair

If you use Google Calendar, you may have stumbled across the graphics that show up for some of your entries when you're using schedule view.  I have scoured the internet to find a list of words that will trigger these pictures because I'm a visual person.  I like having colorful pictures that represent my activities for the day.  So I have made a list of pictures and the words that will trigger them. I have personally tested all of the words listed below to make sure they work as of this writing.

If there isn't a picture for an activity that I need to do, like rework a page on my website, I will put the trigger words in parentheses after the description of the activity.  That way, I get the picture that closest matches what I'm doing.  In this case, I put computer science in parentheses and I get a picture of a computer. If there is no picture for something, I sometimes pick a different picture to use.  For example, I weigh myself every other day.  I use the skiing picture for this.


These pictures are triggered my the name of the sport.  Sometimes, they also work if you subtract the ing or add an s.  Ping Pong can also be triggered by table tennis.

Outdoor Activities

Bicycle can be triggered by bike or cycling.  Sailing can be brought up by sailboat or boat cruise.  Running can be triggered by forms of jog as well.   Skiing can be brought up by showboarding, showshoeing, snow shoe, skis, or ski. Horse riding works only with that phrase, as far as I can tell.


Some of these pictures have multiple triggers. For any of the Christmas pictures, Christmas can be replaced with xmas. Santa Claus can be brought up by Father Christmas or just Santa.  Halloween can be brought up by helloweem,hallowe'en, allhalloween, all saints' eve, all hallows' eve.

Other Celebrations

Gay pride can be brought up by pride, worldpride, world pride, lesbian pride, lesbian parade, lesbian march, gayglers, gaygler, gay parade, europride, euro pride, dyke march, christopher street day.  Wedding can be triggered by wedding-eve party.


Some of these have other triggers, as well. Oil Change can be brought up by car service.  Handyman can be triggered by electrician, plumber, fridge repair, fix, DIY.  Pedicure can trigger Manicure.  Clean house can be brought up by clean house, clean the house, clean the apartment, or tidy up. Some of those will work with an ing added.


 Computer science is triggered by coding time, and learn to code.  The picture for French Course can also be brought up for Spanish course.  It also works followed by the word course or class for German, Russian, Japanese, Chinese, Swedish, Slovenian, Thai, Turkish, Vietnemese, Ukranian, and English.  The text changes on the picture to match what you enter.  The piano picture also works for trumpet, flute, clarinet, trombone, tuba, saxaphone, orchestra, oboe, music ensemble, string quartett, music class, guitar lesson, cornett, contrabassm classical music, choir practice, choir, and cello (not French Horn).  The text changes on this picture to match what you enter, as well.  Painting can be triggered by art workshop, sketching workshop, and drawing workshop.   The graphic for newspaper can be brought up by reading, newspaper, or ebook with different text.


Drinks can be triggered by cocktails.  Breakfast can be brought up with different text with brunch.  Beer can be triggered by beers, and octoberfest with various spellings. Dinner can be triggered by restaurant, and family meal.  BBQ can be brought up by barbeque and barbecue. Lunch can be called up as luncheon.

Indoor Activities

Concert can be triggered by concerts, gig, and gigs. Cinema can be brought up by movie or movies.  Theater can also be brought up by theatre.  Plan week is triggered by plan day, week planning, vacation planning, and plan quarter with the text changing.  Gym can be triggered by the word crossfit, as well. Write Letter to only works if you leave a space after the word to.

Flair Google Should Add

I would like to see Google add Volleyball, and Doctor to their pictures.  Apparently phone call, and meeting used to have flair.  I wish they would bring them back.  There are also graphics for photography, study, library, and video games that were created, but aren't available.  They would be nice to have! Google should also include major holidays that aren't just Christian like Hanukkah, Rosh Hashanah, Muharram, Yom Kippur, Passover, Ramadan, Navarati, and Diwali  What would you like to see them add?

Sunday, September 20, 2015

I'm 43 and I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up!

When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a doctor for "old people and babies."  I'm not sure why this combination, but that's what I wanted.  I went to college and started out as a premed major.  I quickly realized that my high school science classes did not prepare me for the rigors of college science.  I also realized that some professors didn't think girls belonged in science classes.  So I switched majors to Secondary Education in English.  I really wanted to be a creative writing major, but I also wanted to be gainfully employed, so teaching it was.  After student teaching, I graduated with honors from Penn State and decided not to teach.

So here's the thing about a teaching degree versus a more general English or writing degree: with a teaching degree, people will ONLY hire you to teach.  With a more general degree, you can write, edit, work in an office, teach, or do lots of other things.  I didn't know that then.

For 3 years after graduation, I worked as a teaching assistant in an emotional support classroom and as a social worker with inner city kids.  Then, I decided to try teaching again.  I LOVED subbing!  I know it's crazy, but it was different every day and I wasn't really responsible for grading.  However, I loved the creativity of planning lessons and I didn't get to do that as a day-to-day sub.  I was offered a long term substitute job which I didn't enjoy and then I was offered full-time teaching at Spring Grove Middle School.

I loved teaching 7th grade English.  It was hard and fun at the same time.  I co-directed a school play.  I loved my students.  I loved the subject.  It was great!

But, then, after 3 years of trying, I finally had a baby.  J was awesome and I loved him more than teaching.  I hated having J in daycare because he got sick all the time there.  So, I contacted a school that had offered me a part-time position in the past and asked if they had any openings.  They did!

It was perfect!  I worked from 7:30 to 10 am everyday.  J's dad was home with him until I was done with work. (No day care!)  I had full benefits and paid days off. The teachers didn't work well as a team, and the kids were a pain, but it was perfect!

The next year, the school offered me full time and I felt like I SHOULD take it, so I did.  I like to call this "shoulding all over myself."  It never turns out well when I do things I think I SHOULD do instead of doing what's right for me and my family.  This was no exception!   I was pushing a cart full of literature books to 5 different classrooms.  I had three different preps and girls who got in fist fights when I had a sub.  This was not a good choice.  Then I found out the awesome news that I was pregnant with twins!

My doctor and I decided that the stress (physical and emotional) wasn't good for the babies, so I took FMLA leave.  I was finishing up my Master's degree in education.  I graduated 2 days before my babies were born.  It was perfect!

Except for the postpartum depression.

Then I started teaching writing to college freshman.  Having a masters degree afforded me the opportunity to work part time.  I could be with my kids and still be a professional AND have people call me PROFESSOR!  I loved it. I loved my co-workers and my students.  It was perfect!  Except the grading.  I hated the grading.  I sucked at grading!  It took me hours and the students never cared what I had to say about their writing.

After separating from my husband, I quickly realized that I could not support my family on an adjunct professor's income and sporadic child support.  I had been offered a full ride to get a second master's degree in special education, something I had become interested in after years of helping my son deal with schools that didn't understand his autism. But, without help with child care, I couldn't go to school.  So I began looking for a full time job and I found it at my alma mater!

I was going to be a research scientist!  It turned out to actually be a research associate and then an editor.  I loved saying I worked at Penn State!  I loved editing!  I loved the research I got to participate in. Except that it was the most stressful job I'd ever had.  I was trying to support my kids by myself for the first time on my own and my job felt like it was constantly in jeopardy.  And then my job was gone.  My contract ended and I just tried to get by so my kids could finish the school year without having to move.  I was terrified!

In the middle of all of that drama, I met the love of my life!   I moved away from Penn State, married my best friend, my life partner, and started my dream life!  My kids were happy, my marriage was awesome, but I couldn't find a job.  I couldn't teach college at a community college because of accreditation issues with my masters degree being education and not English.  I couldn't get a job doing anything else.  I felt dejected and worthless.

But I knew I loved yoga.  With my husband's support, I completed a 200 hour yoga teacher training and began teaching yoga.  I was also offered an adjunct position teaching freshman composition at UNC Charlotte.  I loved teaching!  My students were awesome!  My coworkers were fantastic!  I still hated grading papers.  I hated it so much that it sucked out the love of teaching writing.  I was just trying to get through.  Except when I was teaching yoga.  That I loved!

So I decided to open my own yoga studio in a very religious, very small, very isolated small town.  As you can imagine, it has stayed small.  I still love teaching yoga, but I don't love marketing.

I started to feel like I wasn't doing enough.  NOT ENOUGH.  That's the key to this current crisis in career hunting.

So I decided to go back to school to be a physical therapist.  I researched.  I found a school that didn't seem too far away, although it turned out that it is.  I found out I'd have to retake some classes.  I was upset, but only deterred for a short time.  I formulated a plan.  I executed the plan.  And then I realized that I hated the plan.

I didn't count on the long hours of studying.  I didn't count on the physical therapy school that I eventually wanted to attend NOT having a part-time option or an option intended for working parents.  I didn't count on how hard it would be to take time away from my family to study for classes that may or may not eventually get me into PT school.

So now what?

My beautifully crafted, not very well felt-out plan has fallen apart.

Now what?

Now I realize that I already had the simple life I wanted teaching yoga and being a mother and wife.  I had made it infinitely more complicated.  I did that.  Me.  I can't blame anyone else.  I didn't listen to my heart.  I didn't consult my vision board for my life.  I felt like I wasn't enough and I let that take over everything.

So now what?

Now, I meditate more.  Maybe I drop my current classes, maybe I don't.  I spend more time doing what I love.  I try to teach myself the lesson I never learned; I am enough.

A met a woman the other night, a stranger named Marcia.  I told Marcia my current dilemma.  I told her about teaching yoga in the mornings and having time to help and attend meetings at the school.  I told her about having energy to help the kids with homework and do crafts on the weekends and travel. Marcia said to me, "You've created a wonderful life for yourself."  And I thought, "You're right.  I have!"

I have created this wonderful life.  I have chosen a fantastic, supportive life partner.  We have great kids.  We have love.  And I love teaching yoga!  I love helping people feel better.  I've decided today to try to eliminate the idea that I need to have more, do more, be more to be enough.  I am enough!

Instead of waiting until I grow up to be something, I'm learning that I already am something.  I am enough.

Monday, November 3, 2014

From College Professor to Yoga Teacher

Yesterday, I saw a Facebook post from my friend, who is often an inspiration to me, Mary Beth.  This is what she wrote about a quote from Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love:

People have often said to me "wow, I am surprised you don't have kids" or "I would of thought that you would've done_____with your life" to "I always pictured you as this_____"
I have heard these statements over the past 15 years, but more so lately and as I approach my last year in my 30's and prepare to enter a new decade (one that I am actually looking forward to) I couldn't have read this at a better time in my life:
"I was thinking today about all the other paths that I did not take in life, no matter how shiny and appealing they may have looked. I've had the possibility of living so many different kinds of life that could have been a dream for somebody else. I never choose those lives. I've never lived the dreams that other people wanted for themselves — nor have I lived the dreams that other people may have wanted for me.
I never had children...because that's somebody else's dream.
I never took the opportunities that were offered to me after the success of EAT PRAY LOVE to have a TV show of my own...because that's somebody else's dream.
I never took a good steady job teaching writing at a nice college...because that's somebody else's dream.
I didn't remain in Bali or Rome, gorgeous as those places are...because that's somebody else's dream.
I turn down 99% of the invitations I get to attend to fancy parties and stellar gatherings...because that's somebody else's dream.
I sold my big beautiful house with its fabulous gardens and lovely library...because one day I looked around at that gorgeous home and realized: "This is somebody else's dream." (Happily, I sold the house to the family whose dream it actually was. So we all win.)
I never hired a team of personal assistants and staff and consultants to help me "grow my brand"...because that's somebody else's dream.
I know what makes me come to life — working on my books — and this picture tells the whole story. Knowing what makes me come to life has helped me to distinguish between my dreams and the dreams of others.
Ask yourself this question, whenever you are given any choice or opportunity. Ask: "Will saying YES to this path bring me closer to the source that brings me to life? Or will it take me further away?"
No matter how alluring, no matter how beautiful, no matter how sparkling and fancy and delicious — do not say YES to other people's dreams.
Do your own thing. Live in your own waking dream. Stubbornly.
Even if it means not washing your hair for a week. (ESPECIALLY if it means that!)"

So, at 3 am, I'm wide awake thinking about this post by my friend and so full of gratitude for Mary Beth for posting it now.  I am at a point in my life where things are changing and change has always brought up a lot of fear in me.  I have decided to leave my "
good steady job teaching writing at a nice college" because it is no longer my dream.  I remember when it was, but it's not anymore.  At some point, I started to feel like I wasn't making a difference anymore, that what I did there really didn't matter.  I gave my notice at the beginning of this semester.  My department chair and colleagues have been more than understanding.  In fact, I had an hour and a half conversation with the chair, most of which was about yoga and how it could be applied to our everyday lives, and left knowing I was doing the right thing by leaving, not because I had to leave, but because I CHOSE to leave.  My heart isn't in it anymore.  There are lots of reasons why, but what's important is that I know what I want to do and I'm on that path already with the universe and my loved ones behind me!

I was going to be a pediatrician from the time I knew what the word was.  I wanted to take care of babies and make them feel better.  And old people.  I used to say I was going to be a baby doctor and a doctor for the elderly.  I don't know how I thought this would work, but that was my plan.  So I did well in school and I went to college, where I took a class about being a pre-med major.  In this class, I discovered what going to med school really meant.  As a first generation college student, I had no idea what I was getting into before this class.  In this class, I learned that I could get A's all through college and still NOT get into med school.  I could be a chemistry or biology or pre-med major for four years and then not go to med school, and then what would I do?  Then I found out I could be an English major and still get into med school as long as I took the science classes I needed, so I thought I'd do that.  Until I took genetics.  I loved genetics.  I was good at it.  But my professor was not a fan of girls in science, especially not girly girls and he made this abundantly clear every day.  At the time, I was at a branch campus and I thought if it was sexist professors were so clearly blatant there, then it would be worse at the main campus.  So I dropped the class and changed my major to English education where I could take all the English classes I wanted and presumably come out with a career as a teacher at the end.

In college, I had this theory that since I had to pay for 12 credits to be full-time, anything over 12 credits was free.  I decided to take full advantage of this, filling my schedule with creative writing and dance classes, even before I changed majors.  If I had known about yoga, I would have taken that too!  If I had stayed at college one more semester, I would have had a second major in creative writing and a minor in dance!  Clearly these things mattered to me, but I thought getting a job right away was more important.  Looking back, I can see how I've often let other people's dreams for me (or what I thought they were anyway) dictate my life choices.

My driving force in life, "what makes me come to life," is love.  I need to feel like I make a difference.  I have left other jobs before for this very reason.  I worked as a bank teller for a while after college and I hated it!  I used to say it was the worst job I had ever had.  The reason?  What I did there didn't help anyone.  It didn't really matter.  So I became a social worker where it felt like I mattered every day.  I loved this job (although it was stressful and emotionally draining) until I attended the first day of school with a 14 year old client.  Watching the teachers prepare their rooms and lesson plans for a new school year and feeling that excitement made me realize I needed to go back to teaching. So I did.  A few years later, having children showed me that I needed more time to be a mom than public school teaching allowed for, so I started teaching part-time at a college.  For many years, teaching college writing has given me this feeling of making a difference and allowed me to have time to be a mom.  I have been grateful for that, but I began to feel that there had to be something more.  

Discovering J had autism changed my focus in life.  I had to help him learn to navigate life and school.  I became the mother of a child with autism.  I studied autism, spoke about autism, taught teachers about autism, and fought for my son's right to a good, public education.  This was my focus for a long time.  I was even offered a full ride for a master's degree in special education, but without the support system at home, I couldn't make it work.  Now J is 13 and almost done with middle school and he is doing well.  The school calls me less and less about issues with him.  I am now more focused on his independent living skills at home, which C and A need as well.  Being a mom is much less demanding than before.

I know I make a difference to my children as their mother, but as they get older and need me less, I find that I need more to satisfy my drive to make a difference.  I also feel the need to rediscover my identity, not just as J, C, & A's mom, or K & T's step mom, or S's wife, or my parents' daughter, but as ME.  I have learned from past mistakes that I mustn't give up my identity to anyone or I'm not good to anyone.  I have to be clear about who I am and what MY dreams are.  It's best for everyone, not just me.

So who am I today?  Today, I am a mom, a step mom, a wife, a friend.  I am a writer.  I am creative.  I am a yoga teacher.  I am a business owner, an entrepreneur.

I am still growing into these things, redefining them day by day, trying to figure out how they all fit together and how I can use them to help support my family.

Teaching yoga allows me to help people.  My goal is to have people feel better when they leave my class than they did when they came in.  I love teaching gentle yoga for this reason.  Students have told me that my touch is healing for them.  I know that this statement is about their journey, but I also know that I am part of that.  I get to help them be stronger and more flexible and who can't use a little more strength and flexibility in their lives?!

I know the universe supports my decision to leave college teaching because things have come together to make it work.   S earned a raise this summer equal to what I was making teaching writing.  He may earn another that will make us more financially secure because we're still sort of on the cusp.  I still have income from another yoga studio and I've been hired to teach some corporate classes that will fit into my schedule nicely once I am finished at UNCC.  I have become friends with a fellow entrepreneur who has helped me advertise my business on my personal vehicle and allowed me to bounce marketing ideas off of her. I have had two students come to my new studio, who were not my husband or best friend.  (I've had four students, if you count them!)  I have had a total stranger (recommended by a friend and mentor) buy private lessons from me at my new studio, my first paying client! Having a paying client has been a huge turning point for me because I can see that the money can come.   Last week, for the first time since we moved here, I was able to volunteer at a school event besides a field trip.  C & A seemed genuinely happy that I was at their school to help and I got to meet some of their friends!  Being available for them is very important to me.  

I have struggled with starting this yoga business at home.  I thought it would be easier.  I thought more of my past students would come.  It has not been easy.  I have cried when a class is scheduled, but no one is there to take it.  I am learning to use these times to promote my business instead of feeling sorry for myself.  I have begun walking the neighborhood and giving out business cards and using this time to create flyers and plan future classes.  I believe it is helping.  

My husband reminds me that we built the space for people to do yoga, I am here to provide the instruction, but I can't force people to take it.  He believes people will come.  It's my field of dreams, "If you build it, they will come." But I'm learning that it's not magic, like in the movie. Besides, I don't want ghosts of students (although that would be sort of cool).  I want actual students.  For actual students to come, they have to know I'm here.  So I need to find creative, cheap ways to advertise, like driving my Daisy Yoga van around town, handing out business cards to my neighbors, holding kids yoga classes, speaking at a juice cafe in town, and being in the town's Christmas parade. I hope it works.  I feel like it will.  It can't hurt, anyway. Right?
Having time to be creative, without the guilt of not grading papers, is also very important.  Last year, I tried doing 365 days of creativity, but it ended up being about 45.  Mostly, I stopped because of a lack of time to be creative.  I also found that doing something creative and finishing it every day is a huge undertaking.  I know I will do something like this again because I liked the structure it provided, but I will allow time for planning and projects that take more than one day to accomplish.  I ended up feeling pressured and rushed, which doesn't make me feel creative or happy.  I know that a lot of my creativity goes into being a mom and promoting my business.  That's okay, too. That needs to be part of my creativity plan as well.

Led Zepplin may have said it best, "Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run
There's still time to change the road you're on.  And it makes me wonder."

My dreams are clear to me now.  It doesn't mean they won't change and grow.  What it means is that I have structured my life in such a way as to make living them possible.  I have made stubborn choices each day (thank you vision board) to lead me to this point where I can live my dreams.  I feel like ME. Life is good.

What are your dreams?  What drives you?  Would you like to change the road you're on? Please share your journey in the comments below.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Dinner with Autism

Dinner with a child with autism can be a bit of a challenge.  J is very picky.  He prefers bland food.  He doesn't like to try anything new.  He wants to eat the same processed, low-effort foods over and over (mac & cheese, chicken nuggets, tuna triangles, pancakes, pizza with no sauce, spaghetti with butter and salt, etc) and NO green vegetables!

In my previous marriage, my husband was rarely home for dinner.  Since J complained about everything except his preferred foods, we began eating just what J liked to avoid a fight every night.  I was tired of being told that anything I made was "disgusting" so I gave in.  You have to pick your battles, right?

After a while, I became very tired of eating the same things over and over.  I also found that my other kids LIKED trying new things and they wanted variety as well.  So, when I became a single mom, I tried something new.  I would make different foods with the promise that J would always have at least one thing on his plate that he liked.  This thing was often apple sauce, cottage cheese, or butter bread.  Even so, I was tired after working full-time and taking care of kids by myself so we didn't add a ton of variety, but it was an improvement.

When I remarried, my new husband, thought I was a great cook.  He would compliment my food and rave to his friends about my cooking (thank heavens for low expectations!)  I enjoyed cooking for him because he made me feel competent and he truly seemed to enjoy whatever I made.  My younger two also enjoyed my experimentation with trying new recipes.

Last year, S helped me create a menu board out of an old cookie sheet, picture frame, a piece of scrapbooking paper, Modpodge, magnets, and a corn muffin mix box.  On one side of a 1 x 3 card, I printed the names of foods I wanted to make and foods I thought the majority of the family would like.  On the other side, I listed the ingredients to make grocery shopping easier.  I didn't have to look up the recipe to make my grocery list.  I got this idea from Pinterest and it is one of my favorite DIY projects yet!

Every Sunday, each person in the family gets to choose one meal for the week so everyone gets something they like.  Right now, S needs to cook twice a week because of my work schedule so we have pizza one day and he chooses something easy to cook another day.  We often end up with one day for leftovers.

This new system has been wonderful!  I'm not going crazy at 4:00 trying to figure out what we're going to have for dinner.  We almost always have more pleasant meals because each person knows they'll get their choice at some point that week.  It's cheaper for groceries because I don't have to worry so much about stocking up on things.  It's a win-win!

However, once in a while, J REALLY doesn't like the dinner and he makes it unpleasant for everyone.  Often, I can ignore him, but tonight was not one of those nights.  I had been looking forward to tonight's dinner for a while.  Texas Chili was my pick for the week and it was a new addition to the menu.  I had never made chili before and I was nervous.

J didn't like the chili.  He thought it was too spicy (although everyone else thought it was mild).  He didn't like the baked potato.  The only thing he ate was the shredded cheese.  Then, he went on to loudly complain about how awful the food was.   This being the second snow day this week, I had had enough!  I sent him to his room.  S went and spoke to him and J joined us to watch Dr. Who about an hour later.

While J was in his room, the rest of us had a very pleasant conversation.  Everyone enjoyed their food.  And for a moment, I thought, "This is what our lives would be like without autism," I love J, but I must admit that there was a tiny bit of longing there: a tiny wish for "normal."  I immediately felt guilty for having this feeling.  I love my son, after all.  We've worked hard to get him where he is and I wouldn't trade him for anything in the world, but sometimes being his mom is hard.

Today is Valentine's Day.  S left me my favorite: Dove milk chocolate truffles and I gave each child a chocolate bar.  For no reason, J came up behind me, hugged my back, and said, "Happy Valentine's Day, Mom" and walked away.   Just like I've learned to choose my battles, I also learned to take what I can get.  It's not an apology, but for J, hugging another person on his own and saying "I love you" is huge! No matter how hard things get, I'm a lucky mom!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

My Insomnia Solution!

I often wake up in the middle of the night with racing, repetitive thoughts and can't fall back asleep.  This leaves me tired and often more stressed.  I have been reading two books that seem to be helping with this problem.


The first book is Eckhart Tolle's A New Earth, which is difficult for me to describe. I am reading this book with my husband, giving us lots of opportunity for interesting, thought-provoking discussions.  So far, this book describes how humans are awakening to a new way of being.  We don't have to be stuck in the drama and stories we've been telling ourselves our whole lives.  We can choose to see a healthier way.

When we first started reading the Tolle book, I woke up in the middle of the night with racing thoughts, but I was able to see how my ego was creating this drama in my life.  That realization was enough to help me step back from the drama and go back to sleep.  Unfortunately, we haven't been reading that book lately and I seem to have lost the ability to step out of the negative thought stream so easily.

The second book is Katie McClain's How to Tame Your Thought Monster. This is a book written for parents and children to teach them a new way of seeing events in their lives.  It empowers children (and parents) to see that there are choices in the way we view things.  These choices lead to actions and results in our lives being how they are.  If we want a different life, we have to choose to think about situations differently.  We are reading this book as a family and doing the activities together.  I have found the theory so interesting, that I've also introduced it to the college students I teach!

There are five parts of McClain's theory:
  1. Circumstances - just the facts of any situation
  2. Thoughts - We create thoughts in our minds about the circumstances of our lives.
  3. Feelings - The thoughts we have create the feelings that we hold onto about our lives.
  4. Actions - We take (or don't take) actions based on feelings that we have.
  5. Results - The actions we take (or avoid) give us the results of our lives.
We have only discussed the circumstances part so far with the kids.  We spent a lot of time talking about the difference between fact and opinion.  J really struggled with all of it, but he stuck in there with us, regardless!

Last night, I once again woke up with the racing, repetitive thoughts about things that happened during the last couple of days and of course what I did wrong.  I was particularly obsessing over some feedback I was given about my Yoga class.  I just kept trying to figure out what I did wrong and how I could fix it while keeping my integrity.  And saying lots of discouraging things to myself like "Why am I so stupid?" "I should have known I wouldn't be a good yoga teacher," and "I'm too lazy.  I should be trying harder." 

I could see this type of thinking wasn't getting me anywhere and I just wanted to go back to sleep!  I tried just breathing.  I tried listening to my husband breathing.  I tried relaxing each individual part of my body.  But, none of it worked because the thoughts were so persistent!  

Finally, I thought of Tolle, which lead me to thinking about the similarities of McClain's theory.  Then, I thought, "Wait a minute!  What are the real circumstances here?" The real circumstances are that I received feedback on my class.  That's it.  All the other stuff is just thoughts I made up about the feedback.  Earlier in the day, I had discussed the situation with my friend Jess and come up with a plan of action.  So I just reminded myself that I already had a plan.  When the thoughts tried to come back again, I just reminded myself of the real circumstances and that I already had a plan of action.  I quickly went back to sleep!  Woot!  Woot!  I kicked insomnia's ass!