Monday, April 18, 2016

Manic Monday: My Favorite Things

The necklace I'm coveting to wear for #UVA games. 
I like pretty things. A lot. Like, really a lot. I'll always be a child of the 80's. Big hair, crazy makeup, bright colors, SO MANY LEGGINGS, and tons of jewelry were my earliest style influences after Disney.  (My wedding dress and hair was very Cinderella-at-the-ball.). The first time I got into costume storage at UVA, I was ready to prostrate myself before the giant, rotating, dry-cleaning-style rack, filled with costumes from every period.

Costume shops are also filled with baubles and hats and bags and things—even though there’s confusion about what is a PROP and what is a COSTUME. What it all is, however, is awesome. Actors love dress-up, and transitioning to behind the the stage, instead of on it was a natural progression for someone who had been drawing costume renderings on the sides of her notebooks since elementary school. 

Nowadays, the only people I get to dress up are my family. I adore shopping for them and trying to find just the right things, at just the right price, to fit their individual tastes and personalities. With Stella & Dot, I get to do that and get PAID for it. WIN-WIN! (Shhh--the store is HERE).

Also, jewelry, y’all. JEWELRY. Never underestimate the power of the luxurious bauble, my friends.

It’s a tale as old as time. 

But, seriously.

Dressing up and taking time to fully express myself through my choices in hair, makeup, and fashion, is one way I battle against depression, and the pain of my Fibromyalgia. A day where my hair is done, my makeup is perfect, my clothes feel fresh and fun, and my earrings are swinging away--well--that's a day I have a much better chance of finishing happy. 
Some days, I'm playing dress-up to act the part of a capable, healthy, vibrant woman. And it works. For me.

I can't do that every day. That's the reality of living with a chronic illness. But every day I do do it, feels like a punch in the face to the ever-present specter of depression and pain.

I have to be my own Fairy Godmother. My current writing project is so important to me. It's a labor of love. And I'm doing everything I can to make sure I am able to keep at it, moving to a cheaper house, selling a car, and starting a part-time business that I can manage at my own pace, while paying attention to my physical and emotional needs. 

I hope you'll tune in to hear more about my favorite things, and tell me about yours. What sparks joy in you? What lights you up? What keeps you going when the days are dark?

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

In Response to Mom: The Designated Worrier

The New York Times published an article entitled Mom: The Designated Worrier. I started to share it on Facebook and my response turned out to be way longer than a Facebook post. 

Yes. I am the designated worrier. But I'm pretty sure that's mostly on me.

I have said something to my husband, Chris, before about the sheer stress of being the one who keeps the tally of #ALLTHETHINGS in my head. Meanwhile, his response is that he never keeps things in his head. If he kept things in his head, he'd be too paralyzed to act. 

He follows the Getting Things Done method of time management and having stuff in your head is against all its precepts. Worrying is meant to be completely eliminated. There is only time taken for thinking and action. He is very deliberate in this way.

Meanwhile, I argue that that works fine for one person, but kids throw curveballs, like coming home in the midst of a crying hormonal meltdown after being the recipient of some good, old, girl-drama shunning. It only takes one sobbing child and one other child having a potty accident to derail an otherwise well-planned afternoon. I'm actually pretty good at micromanaging my time if there are no major emotional crises, but when the crises do hit, I'm the one with the household stuff in my head.

To be fair to my husband, Chris has the money in HIS head. He doesn't mean to. He tries to keep it within the system, but I promise you if I ask what day a certain bill gets paid, or how much the power bill was this month, he'll know. But, money is fairly easy to schedule (at this point in our lives. There was a time Chris keeping his eye on that ball took him two hours every day so we could stay on top of being broke and not be dead broke). Our bills don't usually have meltdowns. They don't contact us at the last minute to help with a class party because somebody got sick. They don't get ear infections on the one day you only have one driver and the other kid needs to be dropped off and picked up and and you need to run ear infection kid to the doctor but you don't really know enough people yet to call for help. On the other hand, if money is really tight, the bills need shuffling to deal with crises. I know there are lots of families where the moms handle the bills, too.

I'm lucky to be married to someone who appreciates just how much I have in my head. And the real truth is Chris functions beautifully when I go away, and I don't prep  for him. I used to get a lot of stuff ready for him. Now, I don't. I leave a list of what I do each day with the kids when he's not around so he doesn't get a ton of, "But MOMMY* does it this way." But he cooks, does laundry, plans lunches, and makes sure everybody is dressed and the house is picked up and the dog gets fed just fine.

I's not how I would do it, but it works. I don't worry about it when I'm gone. So, for my generation, I often think it's more about how much we take on and how much we hold tight to our power in the family, than it is about men's willingness or capability. I think the guys are willing to deal. But we women have to be willing to let things go, too.

The hardest thing for me to let go of is the fear of being judged by other women for my mothering, my decorating, my cooking, and my housekeeping. Apparently, I'm a child of the 70's and 80's with a 1950's Mrs. Cleaver living in my head. And that's not my husband's fault. It's my responsibility to kick Mrs. Cleaver out of our house. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go hot roll my hair and get out of this bathrobe before I pick up the kids from the bus.

* Mommy is always said in all caps. Always.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

What's New?

This website is a testament to something my mother is fond of saying.

"Life happens while you're making other plans."

Actually, until she spent time with my husband and I, I don't think that was a big phrase for her. But Chris and I are planners. We like lists and spreadsheets and calendars with automatic alerts. Eleven years ago, our plans went a wee bit astray. I became pregnant with our first child, and while we'd planned on her, she wasn't actually on the calendar for another year or so.

That's the first time mother told me about life and plans. She and my father weren't big on plans. Their plans tended to change in an instant. After almost fifteen years with my husband (and twelve and a half of them, married), we have finally started to accept that our plans are, well, nebulous. People ask us what we'll be doing in a few months.

"We don't know what we'll be doing next week."

I made a lot of plans for my writing career. I wrote two manuscripts. I did a small bit of querying. I joined RWA. I went to conferences. In 2013, I decided to go the self-publishing route. I made a business plan. I got excited. And then I got the agent call. So, I scrapped some of my plans.

2013 was a crazy year. We moved from Virginia to Texas. A year later, we moved from Texas back to Virginia, but to a different part. It was a hard, hard time for my family. My kids suffered, my marriage suffered. Hell, even my dogs suffered. Through it all, I wasn't just suffering emotionally, I was suffering physically. I wrote very little. I slept very little. I worked with a personal trainer. I changed medications. I found a fabulous therapist. And then I got a diagnosis.


It was both a massive relief and a terrible burden. This pain was never going away? Never?

I'm still working through that grief. But I'm trying things. I have a doctor who listens to me--for the first time in my entire life. The only other medical professional I ever trusted, because she listened, was one of the midwives at my old OB's office.

Now, I'm writing again. I'm trying something new. It's an adventure. I don't know how it will pan out. Maybe this is the thing I've been working towards for years.  Maybe it will be a disaster! I have a lot of varied interests. This book combines many of them, history, mystery, romance, perhaps a whiff of the paranormal. We'll see. I'm also hoping to try my hand at a different sort of blog, probably not on this page, but who knows? Maybe I'll find the courage to do it here.

The main point of this post is to answer the question, "So, Jenn? What have you been doing?"

The answer is both complicated and simple. Surviving. Taking each day as it comes. Living in the moment. Finding my way back through the thicketed woods. Making a new path.

Oh, and look, I wrote a blog post. So, I'm also writing.

It feels good.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Thoughts after RWA 2013

The annual national conference of Romance Writers of America wrapped up this past weekend.

I can't stress this enough. If you weren't at RWA, you need to read the blogs about this year's conference. There is REVOLUTION happening in the publishing world, especially in romance and new adult.

Three major agents who are indie friendly all said they haven't sold a debut romance in nine months, that publishers are starting to want to see self-pub sales numbers before taking on a new author. Agent Deidre Knight said she is still selling but it is definitely changing and in flux. She is working with her clients to help them forge what is being called "the new hybrid career."

Folks who are self-publishing are sharing their knowledge and they are talking numbers. There is so much to know. Also, the people who know what they are doing are making a killing. Seriously.

The number one thing remains (and will hopefully always remain) WRITE A GOOD BOOK. THEN WRITE ANOTHER ONE.

When it comes to promo, the message was definitely BOOKS SELL BOOKS.

Your first book isn't doing well? WRITE THE NEXT BOOK.

What does traditional publishing have to offer the indie writer? Expanded distribution and readership. What does indie have to offer the traditionally published author? WAY MORE MONEY.

We're basically talking about the mid-list here. But even best-selling authors are jumping on the band wagon. New authors just starting out are starting to wise up and tell their agents to be especially careful in their contracts. Non-compete clauses could kill their future if they aren't done right.

The biggest missing piece right now are the editors. Sure, there are a lot of freelance editors out there and the the good indies are mining that gold. But what about the top-notch editors still working at traditional publishing houses--who, quite frankly, aren't paid anywhere near what they are worth?

I heard whispers that self-pub folks would love to lure them away with promises of royalty shares. Two years ago, the whispers were about self-publishing at all.

It's a whole new world. If you were at RWA and your mind wasn't blown? You weren't paying attention.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Blogging at #amwriting Today!

You can find me over at the #amwriting site today, blogging about life and character development, both on and off the page...

Just click HERE

Friday, October 26, 2012

How Apple Destroyed My Day

It’s Friday and I can’t keep my eyes open. 

And it’s all Apple’s fault. 
No, really. It is.

See, Apple didn’t let me sleep last night. In fact, Apple sabotaged my ability to sleep on a number of fronts. 

First, and let’s be ABSOLUTELY CLEAR, I am in no way responsible for the fact that I stayed up late reading a book on my iPhone. That’s right. Apple sabotaged my brain. If I hadn’t had that book on my iPhone, I would have gone right to sleep, like a sleep-loving baby (said no parent of a baby EVER).

Second, Apple did a truly heinous thing. It released its new version of the iPad for sale at midnight on FREAKING PACIFIC TIME. 

Dear People of the West Coast, Please get it into your heads that we on the East Coast run the time clock. Quit this uppity nonsense right now. The United States of America can’t base their time schedule on a portion of the country that could fall into the ocean at any moment. Sorry. 

Why did this new iPad release time suck hairy goat balls you ask?

Because my husband had to get up to order a gagillion iPads at 3am. Now, WHY he had to do this, I have no flippin’ clue. It was for work. Apparently, underlings cannot be trusted to order iPads. You need a junior executive to this. At 3am. 

The ways of corporate America are mysterious indeed.

Of course, he was also out late for work last night, so he was worried he would not be able to wake up to complete his onerous late night shopping task. 

This required alarms. 


Guess what we use as alarms in our house?

That’s right, Apple products. 

He set his alarm on his iPhone(some horrible dinging sound noise)--apparently, for multiple times, so that he could not be bamboozled by snooze.

I set my alarm, a happy, gentle harp sound. We hunted up the family iPad to set an alarm. We tracked down the daughter’s iPod to set an alarm. 

(Now, just three days ago, I had a flash of evil insight and changed the daughter’s alarm noise to “My Girl” from The Temptations. Little did I know that this piece of parental sadism would come back to bite me in the ass so soon). 

All of the alarms duly went off and were silenced or snoozled. Repeatedly. 

At some point, in a fit of complete disorientation, I bolted upright and looked around frantically for the source of my torment. There were so many damn Apple products in the room I couldn’t figure out which one was torturing me. 

At some point, around 3:30, after hitting and swiping at some sort of electronic screen, I reached over my soundly sleeping son (go figure--he’d been awake from midnight to 2am) and smacked Chris on the shoulder.

Me: “Did you get up? Did you order the stupid iPads?”
Chris: Mumble, mumble. “Mhhhm.”
Me: “Yes? Does that mean yes?” Smack.
Chris: “Ahh!” He shoved my hand away. “Yes! Yes!”
Me: “Then turn off the DAMN ALARMS!”
Him: More mumbling.

I looked around the room one more time, darting suspicious glances at all the corners where possible Apple predators lurked. “Those things had better be ALL TURNED OFF, DAMMIT.”

Finally, I drifted off towards sleep.

And then the strumming of a harp started next to my head. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Do You Plan Your Menus?

So, last night on Twitter, I mentioned I was menu planning, and a couple of folks asked me to share, so here it is! 

I used to do this all the time, but after the second child was born, our lives went CRAZY and I rarely could plan anything more than a day ahead, let alone a week. 

My daughter and I are working on keeping a calendar so everyone can have a clue what the whole family is up to. It's a work in progress. -------->>>>

Now, some of these recipes will not be eaten this way by the whole family. Spicy chicken cakes will have a plainer kid version. I fully expect the children to eat plain focaccia, with raw spinach dipped in dressing and plain feta. My daughter will eat deconstructed fajitas, with raw red peppers on the side. But at least there's some food here that I can get excited about, because I've been in a huge food rut. 

We'll see how it works out. More labor intensive meals are for Sat and Sun night. Simple stuff is for crazier weekdays. 

So, do you plan YOUR menus? What factors influence what you choose?

Cheeseburgers, roasted potatoes and green beans
Salmon burgers, steamed broccoli
Leftover Fajitas salad
Greek salad with chicken

Breakfast--eggs, toast, fruit, whole grain pancakes, homemade waffles, bacon, canadian bacon, milk, 
Snacks--fruit, cheese, quickbreads, cookies, veggies & dip, yogurt, fruit bars, smoothies
Lunch--sandwiches (pbj, turkey, ham, grilled cheese, veggies, fruit), salad, 

Shopping List 

(I have some things on hand, like potatoes, lime juice, fresh ginger, soy sauce, olive oil, minced garlic, salad dressing, mayo,  and dried spices. I also have frozen organic burgers from Costco, as well as frozen salmon burgers, and a huge bag of whole wheat sandwich buns). 

Steam in the bag broccoli
Steam in the bag green beans
romaine lettuce
1 jar pitted kalamata olives
3 packs baby carrots
3 packages romaine
4 cucumbers
3 red onion
large bunch bananas
big container strawberries
2 lemons
2 (6-ounce) packages baby spinach
1 bunch fresh oregano
2 bunches cilantro
green bell pepper
3 red bell pepper
1 pound fresh asparagus
1.5 lbs sweet potatoes
1 bunch fresh chives
peanut butter
Fat free milk
Whole milk
Cocunut yogurt
plain  greek yogurt
brick cheddar
2.5 llbs of chicken pieces
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast
1 flank steak
Rice milk
Almond milk
1 (13.8-ounce) can refrigerated pizza crust dough
1 package golden raisins
1 can mandarin oranges
large jar medium salsa
flour tortillas
swim towels
dog food
toilet paper