Research and Inspiration

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This was a hard week. I had some major anxiety about medical tests for myself and my dad and didn’t feel 100% for most of it. Luckily, we both got some good news. I’m not out of the woods, but what they suspect I’m suffering from is a mild case. This is a huge blessing. I was very worried I had another surgery in my future.

So, this is going to be a quiet weekend for me. I have some things on my to-do list, but mainly I will be doing good things for my body and spirit. We are supposed to get a snow storm tonight and tomorrow which is also a blessing. Colorado has barely had any snow this year, and we really need it. I’m prepared to keep myself busy and warm until it clears or I have to leave for work on Monday.

I have been working a lot on non-fiction articles lately, but am also being called to write picture books again. Picture books can be fun and silly, or educational, however they also can be profound and comment on elements of our world and culture that affect us in deep, intimate ways.

I researched a bunch of picture books that were published in the last couple of years and borrowed them from the library. I love reading as reader, but also as a writer. There are so many lessons on craft on the pages of the books featured above. I have been brought to tears and covered with goosebumps with every title. There is such a captivating relationship between words and pictures that work together to create such a visceral experience.

I will be writing review posts for all of these books soon, but for now, they have been wonderful company on this quiet, reflective Saturday. I am hoping they inspire me to get more of my own words on the page.

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Let it Flow

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It’s kind of a dreary Saturday morning, but the sun is making its way back. I have a lot to accomplish this weekend, but I have found myself craving the company of hot coffee and good books. As I look outside, the breeze blows the last bit of fall from the trees and I know winter is coming. Just this week we had another extreme dip in temperature and snow. My house is quiet and warm.

The quiet used to bother me. I seemed to always have the television on in the background, just to fill the space, even if I wasn’t watching or paying attention. Having lived alone for many years, the noise provided some comfort. Lately, I have been consciously turning it off to read or write…even to be quiet and think. I am less bothered by the silence.

My personal and professional life have felt chaotic these last few months and that might be the reason I have been wanting a quieter existence at home. I also have been sleeping better than I ever have before. Rest is a blessing. I think a byproduct of this quiet and rest, is hearing my own voice more clearly and the voice of story. I am more attuned to the frequency of my creative current again. The quiet is allowing space for exploration and risk, allowing the space for truth and vulnerability.

I am working on many projects at once, being led by inspiration, but also trying to show up to whatever project calls to me on that day. I am less worried about the outcome and more centered in the process. This feels new to me. I am filling a notebook with thoughts and scenes and quotes and essays. It is all jumbled together, but every page is sacred space.

The Universe is pushing me to let it flow in so many ways. I am reminded constantly that my agenda is not usually in step with the timing of my life unfolding. Patience is a virtue I will likely be working on for a lifetime.

I will do the laundry and clean the bathroom this weekend. I will work on applying for a second job. I will answer emails and work on a website. I will also leave space for reflection and quiet. I will find time to rest and listen.

Season Change

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Colorado has experienced a significant cold front with the changing of the season this year. Mere hours after the Autumn Equinox, it was in the high eighties, but overnight the rain came in and our temperatures have continued to drop throughout the weekend. It is currently forty-one degrees. I had to pull my comforter up last night for the first time in a long time and this morning I had to grab a sweatshirt and dig around for some slippers. Yesterday I read, as it gently rained outside and my green chili simmered on the stove.

As I mention every year, Fall is my favorite season. I am looking forward to the beauty and the light. I feel more reflective this time of year and I welcome the change that the season brings. However these first days of fall are gloomy and cold. I can’t help but think the outside is mirroring my inside. This year has been difficult in so many ways, both personal and global. There is so much to be sad and angry about. I have been on a roller coaster of emotion, especially for the past two months. I am hopeful and working for change within myself and in the world, but some days it feels overwhelming and I wonder if things will ever be good again. I am a silver-linings person, but I have been learning lately that there are certain things I just can’t fix and it is difficult not to get mired down in that.

There is grief in that realization, but there is also freedom in the sense that I can only control my reaction to things. I can have boundaries and take a break. I can make art and write stories and sing songs. Will that change the world? Maybe, may be not. Will it change my inner world? Absolutely, because I feel more grounded and strong when I participate in those activities. Can I send all my love and compassion to people who are hurting? Yes, and I can be an ally and work to find other tangible ways to help. 

Eventually the clouds will part, the temperature will rise and the sun will shine on the beauty of the world around me. It’s all still there, and I will be grateful to see it again. I am thankful for this seasonal change reminding me to embrace the changes I experience in my life. Today I appreciate these comfy slippers and a warm house, while I reflect on how to proceed when the sun  returns. 

Winding Down

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I am sad to say that my summer break is almost over. This summer went by faster than any summer in my memory. It was good in many respects, but I am sad to say goodbye to the luxury of time. Recently, I went swimming and had the whole pool to myself. I floated for a long time, and then finished one of my favorite summer books in the sun. 

This summer was busier than I really wanted it to be, and I’m going to have to be cognizant of scheduling less next year. I taught and volunteered. I spent time with people I love. I got a new tattoo. I took lots of naps. I finalized two short stories and submitted them to contests. I ate good food and did a lot of dancing and yoga. I organized my bedroom and bathroom. I was able to slow down. 

I am excited to see students and staff I care about, but am sad to let go of the ease in my days. So often during the school year, I run too hard and over schedule and it leads me to exhaustion. I am hoping to be able to hold on to some of these summer practices, as I move into the coming months. 

There are things that I wanted to accomplish that didn’t happen too.  I wanted to write more and finish a novel this summer. I wanted to complete more short stories and re-organize my whole house. I wanted to find more freelance writing opportunities and make more money. It is easy to berate myself for the things I did not accomplish. Yet I’ve learned it doesn’t serve me to focus on those things. At one point, as I was complaining about not getting more writing finished, a close friend said, “You chose to work and volunteer this summer, so you didn’t have enough time to finish that. You’ll still get it done, just not before you head back to work. ” 

That should have been obvious to me, but it took someone else pointing out that certain choices, made other intentions difficult. And there wasn’t any reason to judge those choices or intentions. When I am honest, I didn’t finish the novel, but I did fix a lot of plot holes and I am in a better position to finish it now. 

I also have continued to build a yoga practice over the summer. I am coming to the mat for exercise, yes, but I also come to the mat to breathe and become more centered. The yoga challenges me and supports me mentally and physically. I still have a long way to go, but I am finding solace in the strength and flexibility I am building. I have come to crave the time spent there, to turn off my brain and slow down. Perhaps yoga is another way of bringing my slowness and intention of summer into my daily life during the busy school year. 

I often feel that my new years observation and reflection revolve around the school year beginning. I think a lot of teachers feel the same. I have been thinking in the past week of all the things I want to do during the year, but in the last couple of days, I have been rethinking building any more “shoulds” into my life. Yes, I want to write more and I am the kind of person who always is loooking for ways to learn and grow, however, this year I want to continue to cultivate a blend of presence and stillness. That means I want to write as often as possible because it’s a part of me and I feel better when I’m doing it. It means that I might also take a nap instead of writing one day because that’s what I need more. I am also going to try my best to continue to let go of my judgment as to what constitutes a good, productive day. 

My personal life is also changing and in anticipation of these changes, I am choosing to build more freedom into my life. A schedule is helpful, but sometimes I get too many things on the calendar and don’t have the freedom to just be spontaneous. I hope I can change that this year. 

Here’s to a beautiful summer that went by too fast. Here’s to a new school year and a continued commitment to whatever feels best to me in the moment. 

The Only Way Around is Through

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It has been almost a year since my epic California road trip with one of my best friends. I got the opportunity to visit San Francisco for the first time, explore Big Sur and visit the Red Wood forest, which is something I had been looking forward to since I was a child. Every aspect of our journey was magic, but there were some struggles to overcome. Our rental car was a dud and we had to postpone the second leg of our journey by a half a day as we limped back to the airport to exchange it. Jamie struggles to sleep comfortably the first night in a new place and we changed hotels/locations almost every night. My snoring didn’t help either. Having my wallet stolen at Red Rocks the day before our trip was a huge inconvenience as well. All of that aside, we were able to work everything out and had one of the best trips I have ever been on. 

I have been thinking about this trip a lot lately and wishing I could go back in time and do it again. A full week with one of my favorite people in some of the most beautiful places I could ever imagine. I’m so grateful I got to see and stay in Big Sur when I did. 

Last week I found myself at a coffee shop after class. I had been planning on meeting a friend. I told her where I was in the coffee shop and said I had arrived a little early since traffic had been kind. She messaged back quickly that the day had gotten away from her and she wouldn’t be able to make it. I was faced with the decision to pack up and head home, or enjoy a coffee and work on some writing. I decided to do the latter, and pulled up my working outline. 

I have been working on this novel for a while. I realized about year ago that much of what I had already written was merely backstory. I had to scap a lot of it. And I have been really struggling with the plot points in the second act. Really struggling. Everything I outlined seemed cliche and boring. Yet, as I sat there sipping my Americano, I had a second act break through. I was able to tie in some of the old ideas in a way that felt fresh and rang true for the the characters and how I wanted them to grow through the story. I outlined the whole second act and felt at ease with these new plot points. Now, I have to write it, but I’m excited to tackle this new leg of the journey. Now I have a map. 


Brene Brown speaks about this same struggle in her magnificent book, Rising Strong. She writes of working with Pixar Animation Studios President and staff. The Pixar team explained that the middle of the creative process is the hardest part, in the writing and story telling, but also for the character. I would have to agree. I used to loathe editing, but now it is the part I love the most. The shaping of the story is fun. The slugging along through the middle has had me stuck in creative quicksand for a long time. As Brene states, “You can’t skip the second act.”

This is true in so many parts of life, not just the creative practice. The second act is difficult and trying. There are times it feels as if you will be walking uphill forever. I have been feeling this in my personal life as well. There are great things, don’t get me wrong, but there are deep struggles too. Brene also tells us, ” If we are brave enough, often enough, we’re going to fall. Rising Strong is about what it takes to get back up and keep being courageous with our lives.” 

Holding space and continuing to work and move through the hard stuff can be daunting, but it is worth it. That is one of the reasons I am drawn to storytelling in the first place. It is the shared experience of the human condition that intrigues and excites me. The good stuff wouldn’t feel so grand without the hard stuff to compare it to. There is also grace in accomplishing something seemingly impossible. You always get to keep that prize, you made it through whatever daunting thing had been placed in your path. And when the next hardship rears its ugly head, you aren’t hopeless, because of all the dragons you have slayed before. As Brene so brilliantly reminds us, ” The middle is messy, but it is also where the magic happens.”

Take a Breath

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Happy Summer! It has been hot here in Colorado, but nothing compared to some other states! I have been on summer break for a couple weeks and I wish I could slow down summer. Time off always seems to fly by! Every year I  find myself making big plans for productivity and projects as the school year is winding down, and inevitably, I neglect to schedule rest. My body had some plans of its own and I am proud of myself for listening and slowing down this year without judgement or criticism.

I don’t seem to be able to sleep in anymore, which is sad, but it has actually been nice getting up early in the day, even if I am moving at a slower pace. I have found myself being a bit lonely lately too, which makes the quiet difficult. That said, the quiet is what I have been craving. I used to ignore my self care in a reckless fashion, and now that I’m invested in my health (mental, physical, spiritual etc.) I know that when my body talks, I need to listen. 

I have made some goals for the summer, but have given myself some wiggle room for those days when the thing I need to accomplish the most is rest. I have been outlining and organizing my wip in Scrivener. I’ve been journaling. I’ve been napping. I started teaching this week and the structure of seeing kids again has been nice. It is only half days, a couple days a week, but I think I am enjoying it because I have gotten some rest and quiet. 

I also started a new tattoo about a week ago. It is healing nicely, but because of the location of the tattoo, I haven’t worked out in a week. I realized yesterday that the lack of exercise was negatively affecting my mood. Today I was planning on meeting a friend at a coffee shop. She had a conflict, so I sipped my iced Americano and worked on my book. I came home and danced and did some yoga. It felt really good to move again. To breathe in that particular way that clears my head and centers me back in my body. 

There will definitely be adventures this summer. I have already had the chance to do some really fun things with friends. I will go to the mountains and kayak and float in a hot spring. I will continue to work on this story. I will rest. I will breathe.