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. 

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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. 

For What it’s Worth

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If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you would have noticed that I have had trouble getting back into a writing groove since The Christmas Child was published. I have had some false starts and some deep dry periods. I don’t know if it’s fair to say I’ve been blocked because I think about writing all the time – I just haven’t gotten many words on the page. 

Things are changing. I have some major writing momentum right now and it feels great. I am flooded with ideas and edits and images. Over spring break, I took some quiet time to go inside and practice some necessary self-care. I worked most of the week on an application for a content writer position for an online magazine I really respect and believe in. It felt like a long shot, but I thought it might be good for my inner writer to work through this and write the two samples they requested for the application. It felt good to find my writer voice again. It felt great to edit and fine tune every paragraph and sentence. It was difficult to write with such extreme honesty and vulnerability, but it shook something loose.

Surprisingly, it opened the floodgates for my fiction as well. I started to work through the details of a short story project I’ve been sitting on for a couple years. I felt renewed enthusiasm for my wip and have a plan for finishing this draft. In this environment of self-care, I’ve been able to drown out a lot of noise. I think some of these ideas just needed a safe space available so they could show up. 

This last week I learned I made it to the second round and they published one of my submissions. I was so proud to see my article on their website, next to articles that inspire and move and challenge me. My excitement only grew when I was met with such support and love from the people in my life. On Saturday, I learned that I got the position and will be signing on for six months, with an option to extend my contract after that. It still doesn’t really feel real as I write that. I have been published before, but never on this scale. I am beyond honored and grateful to join them and add to their work. 

When I let people know, I was overwhelmed by their excitement, joy, encouragement and validation of the worth of my writing and my worth as a writer. I was worried that my work might not be up to par, but these people never doubted it. I even received a handful of comments about how they were happy to see this organization was seeing what they already knew. 

It occurred to me that a lot of the “stuck” energy I have been feeling over the last couple of years has been about not feeling worthy or good enough. I wrote this one thing I was proud of, but could I write something else that was good? I clearly had other stories to tell, but could I get out of my own way to tell them? The answer was no for a long time. That answer has started to change. 

I’m still an equal mix of excitement and nerves. I am empowered and feeling very humbled all at once.  Hearing kind words and support of my worth is helpful, but I am starting to feel my own worth as a writer again as well. I am looking forward to seeing what this next chapter has in store. 

Spring in my Step

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It has been feeling like spring and I am loving it. We are getting down to the last couple of months of school, my birthday is coming up, and it’s warm and sunny. I have had a hard couple of months. Lots of stress has taken its toll, and I am finding myself in desperate need of a reset.

I have been seeing a therapist again and I am very grateful for the support and perspective she brings to my life. We have been talking about ways to get energy in, instead of having all my energy drained out. Upon reflection, I’ve decided to take a month to really concentrate on self-care and do what I can to fill my cup.

I had a hard time embracing the idea of self-care when I was introduced to it. As a people pleaser, type A person, the idea of down time seemed ridiculous. As a recovering people pleaser, I’ve learned over the years that time to rest is almost more important than the work I do. I’ve learned that I need to listen to my body, my energy, my spirit, my heart and take time when it is asking me to. Even though I have learned this, but I am not always good about slowing down.

That said, this thirty-day reboot is an opportunity to do just that. Take a break. Do things that are good for me. Do things that fill me up. Be around people who support me, where I am right now…not people who drag me down or expect me to give my all and not give me anything back. I’m reading some books, doing a yoga practice everyday, trying to create a bedtime ritual that promotes true rest and writing.

Yep, I said it. Writing is a big part of self-care for me. I ignore that fact from time to time, but I feel more grounded and stable as a human when I’m writing regularly. I have recently started working on a freelance content writing portfolio with a graphic designer and I applied to an online magazine I really admire and respect.

For a couple of weeks I was really stuck. Paralyzed by a fear of not being good enough and daunted by the task of writing the samples and resume. However, I jumped in over Spring Break and worked really hard to finish my submission on time. Writing vulnerable and honest essays about my life and editing them over a week, opened up a door in my heart that I hadn’t realized was closed.

Now I’m getting a rush of ideas and am feeling excited to be writing again. It’s hard sometimes to come to a blank page, but so is trying harder yoga sequences when I’m still a beginner. Not quitting and doing my best is really invigorating.

I am excited to see what these thirty days of reflection, intention and rest bring. I am only four days in, but I’m already feeling a difference.