Flu Season and Reference Blogs

I’m feverish and achy, and I barely moved at all today. I’ve gotten tons of sleep, and I have been drinking fluids, but I just want the dull aches across my back and flushed face/neck to cease. Now is not the time to get sick.

Since I stayed home today, I’ve been reading tons of reference blogs through Pinterest between naps. Blogs on writing novels, on monetizing blogs, on word counts, on motivation, and on burnout. Many thanks to shesnovel.com, thewritepractice.com, and nownovel.com for their insights. I feel encouraged, though I know that I’m going to have to push myself and be more disciplined with my craft.

I suppose this discipline isn’t far off from the discipline needed to lose weight. Starting a new practice, eating right, making time for exercise, and being patient with self. For writing, making time to write, making time to read, scheduling out the time to make writing a daily practice, and being patient with self. Not all days can go as planned, but without any plan, what will we successfully achieve?

Frankly, I could use more discipline in each of these areas, so I decided to create a schedule for the week that incorporates activity, writing, and  a chance at a good night’s rest. I’ve started really utilizing my WP editorial calendar, and I’ve created two writing calendars through Google Calendar (one for book, one for blog). I’m going to see if I can impress upon myself some good habits.

Keep calm and keep writing, friends.

Work Sweet Home

I worked a twelve hour day today, but I would have stayed longer. In my quest to prove to myself that I am not a workaholic, and to feel a little more settled at my new job, working a long day doesn’t exactly help me feel like I have an appropriate work/life balance.

I had every intention of leaving at the close of business, but meetings ran long, and then students and colleagues kept popping in to say hello. My boss stopped by on her way out. People just kept coming, but it felt good. I’m slowly working my way into normalcy; I’m no longer just occupying someone else’s chair. Folks seem to be adjusting to me being there, and I’m finding that I’m breathing a little easier.

There are certainly some folks that I can see have their doubts, either given my age or their feelings about my office in general, but I’ve gained a lot of support. I’m still new enough to feel some level of trepidation and a need to prove myself, but I think that’s good for now. I’m not looking for a pat on the head; rather, I want to create a network of colleagues and resources that will help me achieve my goals.

Balancing work and personal life is certainly easier some days more than others, but I am making more time for myself. Getting out to SoulCycle or to take a yoga class, enjoying the local cigar lounge, meeting up with friends for wine and tapas, or even just having a nice glass of bourbon at home with my laptop on and a movie playing in the background. Dating, sure, that happens once in a while. I don’t see it as a high priority, but I think that’s primarily because I don’t want anything that feels forced. It will happen when the time is right.

People are always going to have their opinions and think that they could live your life, or do your job, better than you could. They think this without having your background, circumstances, vulnerabilities, or strengths. And they will come with criticisms, or wanting you to learn from their mistakes, or throw shade at whatever they perceive to be weakness. They meddle because they just can’t help themselves. They have control issues, they can’t handle whatever their own problems are so they project on you, or they see you as a threat.

At the end of the day, so what? No one can live your life but you.

President’s Day

This post has been sponsored by SiteGround, but all opinions expressed here are my own.

There’s nothing like a holiday weekend and some quiet. As much as I’d like to have something profound to say, I don’t want to say too much of anything. I’m content.

The snow and rain have been on and off all day, but that just makes for a cozy day at home. More and more, I find that I’ve become quite attached to my new place. My neighborhood. I’m still getting settled in, but I’m finding myself quite at home here in DC (well, just outside, but close enough).

Even if I were completely miserable at my job (which I’m not), I would say my quality of life is better here. I have more friends in town, I like this city more, and there’s just more potential here. I’m not isolated in a city that has creepy crawlers every two feet. New Orleans is a lovely place in a lot of ways, but I was terrified every time I went home. Maybe my fear was unreasonable, but I experienced very real fear on a regular basis. I was jumpy, always checking dark corners, and the remnants of that fear follow me wherever I go.

Ugh. Bugs. Lizards. Flies. Termites. Gross.

Day by day, I begin to rest a little easier. A little. I still find myself checking the shadows and turning on the lights when I get home from a trip. Thank God this place gives me a little more sanity.

On a random note, I’m loving this Editorial Calendar plugin. Scheduling posts and holding potential drafts works really well. No more months should go by without blogging. I can even blog ahead. It’s crazy. Everything I’ve needed for my blog, I found through Siteground.

And now, if only I could have one of these calendars for my book. I think my book needs a more structured schedule.

Valentine’s Day

This post has been sponsored by Amazon and SiteGround, but all opinions expressed here are my own.

Such an interesting day. I get that Valentine’s Day is a manufactured holiday — one that benefits the card, candy, and floral companies — but I am enamored with any day specifically purposed for love.

I’ve never understood the folks who hate Valentine’s Day or the ones who celebrate “Singles Awareness Day.” Even if you don’t have a significant other to celebrate the day with, you have a special someone: you. Self-love is a real thing — a necessary thing — and I’ve never understood the amount of self-loathing that takes place on this day in particular.

Being single on Valentine’s Day doesn’t mean you’re a failure or that you should hide under a rock for the next 24 hours. A little self-love goes a long way. Pamper yourself. Go get a massage, buy yourself your own flowers or chocolate (just don’t eat the whole box). I used to send myself my favorite chocolates on Valentine’s Day as a reminder that it’s not really a big deal. Don’t allow the only way for you to feel special about yourself to be controlled by someone else. You can (and should) do that for yourself.

How do I spend the day? This weekend, I’ve been curling up with some good books, watching movies, I’ve been cooking and organizing the apartment, hosted a dinner, went to the salon, and I’ve enjoyed the peace and quiet. I love long weekends, and I am enjoying making my apartment a home. This doesn’t sound like some adventure-filled weekend, but it has been everything I’ve needed it to be. I’m relaxed, in good spirits, and I’ve removed some of the chaos at home (by cleaning and organizing my storage room). This may not be romantic love, but self-love is abundant.

Recently, I finished a book by Adriana Trigiani, entitled Brava Valentine: A Novel. Though the title is appropriate for this weekend, it’s not actually about Valentine’s Day. Rather, the heroine (Valentine) navigates a trilogy in pursuit of professional success, family business stability, love, and (in my opinion) self-realization. Through her missteps, she learns about what she wants for herself. Though she’s taken great pride in her work, she has an ah-ha moment and discovers that she really does want to be loved. She didn’t trust that honest love or passion were really possible, primarily as a result of familial infidelities.

Through the novel, the beauty of Italian country, good food, and funny quips come through. Brava Valentine is the second book in the trilogy, so I’m excited to read the third installment, The Supreme Macaroni Company: A Novel. As a writer, nothing gets me more amped up to write than reading a good book.

I’ve also spent a lot of time this weekend trying to optimize this site; to make this site really work for me. I’m so glad that I decided to self-host my domain, and that Siteground has been the absolute best choice for me. Though WordPress recommended Bluehost, I thought their service was awful, the attempt at transferring my domain was rough, and that maybe the company doesn’t have enough staff to truly support such a huge WP constituency.

Moving over to Siteground came with more than really responsive service. It also opens up the world of plugins, which you cannot use if you’re hosted on WordPress.com. Opening up the worlds of Adsense, affiliate programs, the editorial calendar, and a ton of options makes this process a little overwhelming but a lot gratifying. Taking 100% onus of the site means that it can be done my way, can make me money, can have whatever content I need. This part of my writing journey is coming together, which frees up more time and focus for my books. Finally.

Web Hosting

Mindfulness

I’ve been chomping at the bit to blog the last two weeks, but (as you may have noticed), my site has been undergoing some changes. I’m officially self-hosting my domain (as opposed to having my blog hosted by WordPress. The transfer process took longer than I anticipated, but I’m finally master of my own site, and I’m excited to explore some of that potential.

I read a quote yesterday that stuck with me:

“To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.” ~Thich Nat Hanh

I’ve been thinking a lot about mindset lately, about making sure I’m in the right headspace when it comes to work, health, body. About being unapologetically, 100% me.

It’s not that I’m afraid to show who I am, insecurities and all. It’s more that I’m fighting with having these insecurities. I see some of them as silly, but here they are. They’re in my thoughts every day. And I’m working on many of them, but we are in this age and time now, where we want such instant results with everything. The truth is, none of these insecurities developed overnight.

There are things that I’ve found hard to accept over the last decade. Physical changes, professional challenges, loss, differences among friends. And I know that experiences help to shape who you are, circumstances can humbling, the people you cross paths with can influence you. But through all of this, I’ve been fighting with acceptance.

I let some really strong words from other people influence how I saw myself and my abilities, and I accepted for a long time that they were right. That all I amounted to were what they said. That they said what they did as some sort of “tough love” or “I’m your friend so I’ll tell you the real truth” kind of intention.

I never for a second questioned the people making the statements or their motives. Instead, I believed them. Blindly. Like a lost puppy. And I have to own that; it was my mistake to think their opinion mattered more than my own. That I could know better than others I held in such high esteem.

As I work on this novel, and I push her through some uncomfortable realities, I realize that I’m facing them myself. A part of my block is that I need to get to the other side of the tunnel as much as she does. I have to accept me for what I am now, and not who I can be, who I think I should be, or who anyone else believes me to be. I can strive to be more, try harder, and improve, but I can’t deny present time.

Sometimes, I think we worry so much about the future that we never really pay attention to right now. Where are we right now? Who are we right now? What can we be grateful for in this moment? When I saw “we,” I guess I’m talking about myself.

Anyway, one of my resolutions this year is to be more present, take more ownership, and really affect the change that I want to see in myself. If nothing else about me changes, and I’m in a vacuum exactly as I am now for the rest of my life, I am good with me right now. It’s taken a lot for me to be able to say that.

Do I see areas where I believe I can improve? Absolutely. But I’m accepting who I am, where I am, how I am. It’s all a testament of where I’ve been, what I’ve been through, and how I’ve handled myself. I can’t be mad at that, and I won’t apologize for being me.

I actually think I’m inherently good, kind, and generous to others, though often to a fault. I need to be more generous to myself, but I’m working on that. I’m really proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish so far, and I feel like there are some personal accomplishments that I’m not far from reaching. I’ll keep plugging along, but I’m going to stop and take breaths to enjoy moments as they happen.

Anniversary

I can’t believe that today is actually a blog anniversary for me here. My posts grew so infrequent for a time that this site still feels so new to me. So unlike my Xanga days, which I miss.

I miss the followers that frequented my page, ones that I could really get to know. Ones that understood or even just empathized with the loss and grief I was experiencing. I appreciated those days.

I recognize that things have to change; change is necessary for growth. I’m not resistant to change, but I do want some sort of normalcy. I’ve got to get that for myself though, rather than wait for it to come to me. Writing can’t be an every day for me if I don’t allow it; I have to make the time and the effort, even when I feel mentally exhausted.

I assume many go through moments where they question motivation, where they give in to the pressures of the every day, sacrificing the things that they actually enjoy. If my days were full of writing and cooking, I’d be a hell of a lot happier. And I guess it comes down to making excuses. I have so much work to do. I went out this weekend. I need more sleep. If I need to write, I need to make the time. Let’s see that commitment come to fruition.

Stay tuned. Four years here. Here’s to many more. Cheers.

Be Still

I’ve been going back and forth with myself over how I’ve let so much time go by; how I’ve allowed everything to get in the way of something I really love: writing.

I’ve been doubting myself a lot. Work, love, family, friends. Writing is in that pile too. I let people get into my head and make me think their opinion mattered more than my own. I fell back from church, and I felt completely isolated, guilty, and stressed to my breaking point.

Slowly, I’ve been building back up. I could have come back faster, but I think it would have been premature. I needed to be still for a little while and pray. To get back to where I need to be with God. To remind myself of who I am in Him. To remind myself that self love is as important, if not more, than loving others.

I am rededicating myself to my craft. To blogging, to the novels. To “me time.” I allowed myself to be robbed long enough.

Let Men Be Gentlemen

So I’m boarding a plane, and thankfully I received an upgrade. As I go to situate myself in my seat, tossing my purse into the seat and preparing to put my roller bag into the overhead compartment, an older gentleman tells me to take my seat and he’ll take care of my bag.

I turned to the gentleman, smiled, and said, “thank you, but I’m capable.” I lifted my bag easily and took my seat.

Muttering to the other men in first class, he says women never let them be gentlemen anymore.

Yes, times have changed, but there is chivalry and then there is control. And maybe I’m just a little more sensitive on this point, but I don’t appreciate being told to sit down so that someone can do something for me. Why should I sit? Why should I cater to your “manly” ego?

Women appreciate chivalry to a point, and men appreciate independent women, but only to a point. Men appreciate knowing they don’t have a gold digger on their hands, but any ability a woman has that could best her man stands the chance of bruising his ego.

I appreciate chivalry, but only to a point. I appreciate the gestures. The door opening, the walking on the street side to protect, the pulling out of a chair. But I don’t need it, nor would I allow someone to use it to create the impression that chivalry is necessary to care for the weaker sex. Really, it’s in the approach.

Had the male flight attendant come up and asked me if he could help me with my bag, maybe I would have let him. Maybe I wouldn’t. But don’t tell me what to do and hide behind the guise of being a gentleman, and then subsequently get all your boys to chortle and chuckle at another one of those “feminist” types.

It’s not that I won’t allow you to be a gentleman. The truth is in the gesture. If you offered, you are a gentleman. If you tried to pay the check and she wouldn’t let you, or if she got to the door and opened it first, it doesn’t take away your intention. Why does it seem like these actions on a woman’s part are to be seen as emasculating?

I completely understand and applaud those gentlemen who step in and help those ladies who overpack their carry-on bags, who couldn’t lift them if they tried. Honestly, I’ve stepped in and helped those ladies too. Not because of my sex or chivalry, but because I felt it was the right thing to do. So I guess that means I’m not a gentleman.

To me, the question is really do you want the title of gentleman, or do you want to be recognized as one by your actions? Either way, I have no intention of feeling bad for being capable, strong, and independent. There are plenty of men out there who can appreciate that.

Playing the Odds

I always find it interesting when people decide to point out how skewed the odds may be, especially when they appear not to be in my favor. It’s like, “hey, this looks really bleak… So how do you feel about it?”

Um, what?

I’m not big on worrying about the odds, whether they’re in my favor or not. If I gave up every time my chances weren’t great, I might as well have just stayed in bed. Why try at all? And this can apply to dating, job opportunities — anything where you’re putting yourself out there and taking a chance.

We face challenges on a daily basis. Sometimes we know we’re in for an uphill battle. Sometimes we know we’ll have smooth sailings. But isn’t life about the journey? Isn’t a part of the point that we will have a story to bear witness to others? If we were to always operate based on the odds, should we just give up when the odds aren’t good? And, if the answer is no, what is the true point in declaring that the odds are unfavorable to others that have to face them? Is it a passive-aggressive thing?

I get the sense that sometimes this is meant as a dose of reality, a “face the facts” sort of alert. But your reality may be different from mine. Just because you think I should be worried doesn’t mean I will be. That’s not really how this works, at least not in my reality.

I’m not going to worry about the odds. There’s always a curveball that can be thrown, and as long as you expect that from life, you’re about as equipped as you can be. I believe in myself, my resilience, and I surely believe in miracles, because I fall short.

Life doesn’t feel a whole lot like risk when you factor in faith. Stay positive, try anyway (regardless of the odds) and see what happens. Maybe you can change the odds.

Regresar a Casa

Finally home, after 3 weeks of travel, and I don’t know where to begin. Do I clean, do laundry, or eat some of Zea’s famous Thai style ribs?? Of course, we all know the ribs are going to win this battle, but I have yet to find that semblance of home.

I think the answer really is in finding a balance, but because I’m always in a state of wanting to move, I never put in all of the effort I’d need to really make any place “homey.” I think I actually feel more comfortable living in hotels at this point.

Mexico was incredible. And although “la vengaza de Montezuma” did take over for a few days, the language, the people, the history, and the buildings were just amazing. I’d go back in a heartbeat. I’m inspired.

I want to get back to my Xanga days. Very few followers have made the journey with me from my start on Xanga in 2003, through my blogspot days, to my home on WordPress. Through anonymous spells to completely public, and back to semi-anonymity.

But when I say I want to get back to my Xanga days, I mean that I’m tired of filtering what I have to say. I used to write anything and everything, and the only thing I really hid were the names of those I came into contact with. I just got everything off my chest and avoided the worry of stepping on egg shells.

Maybe Mexico was the start of my journey to the kind of writing I like, or maybe I’m just tired of talking about randomness without tying anything together. I’m a professional, I’m a writer, I’m a cook, a musician, an avid reader, a yogi, a friend, and a wanderer.

This is where the facets intersect.