When You’re Not Writing…

I imagine writers have other responsibilities outside of perfecting their craft.

It’s a constant tug-and-war game—writing and…life. I try not to feel guilty about being one person, lacking the ability to multiply like gremlins so that I can get more accomplished; though my virtual planner these days looks like some wacky kind of road map. I’ve been busy—all over the place. Will summer break ever come? Oh right, that phenomenon ended after undergrad. To add to this, I’ve just bought a car and a house. And for anyone who’s been through the home buying process, you understand my exhaustion.

As artists, it’s so easy to get lost in our craft. Actually, most of us prefer that space—I know I do. I feel most myself when I’m creating something. I know this comes from my father. He’s a rapper. Growing up, we had a studio in the basement and he spent most of his time there. A little checked-out from the world, but when he returned he’d bring a new song with him.

Now, I completely get that obsessive passion about art. But I’m learning the importance of being present—in the moment. It’s hard to do when I’d prefer to be alone with my characters or plotting a new story. With the help of those I love, I’m learning to do both — achieve my writing goals and enjoy the special moments life offers.

When I’m not writing or reading, these are some of the things that can fill my days.

1402688149386

1) I’m spending time with students—lots of them.

1402688260184

2) Being a mom and volunteering at school.

1402688369015

3) I like taking friends out for yummy desserts. This is Hotcakes Restaurant in

Charlottesville, Virginia and they have wonderful sweets.

1402688558930

4) I take time to feel nostalgic. This is my high school. In 10th grade I had my Napoleon

Dynamite moment and danced in a talent show.

The audience cheered because they were so surprised this shy girl could break dance.

Now, I’d probably break something if I tried to spin on my head.

20131008_185057

5) I try to witness as many sunsets as possible. I love the sky. This is from my backyard.

1402688014783

6)And lastly, in light of Fathers’ Day, my hubby got Father Of The Year. We attended a

special banquet where he was honored. So proud of him!

When you’re not writing, what are you up to? 🙂

 

The Pursuit

Happinessmoon

I get the impression that my students think happiness is a divine right. That if they are not happy, it’s someone else’s fault . It sure seems like happiness is a right, seeing how it’s listed in the Declaration of Independence.

We hold these truths to be sacred & undeniable; that all men are created equal & independent, that from that equal creation they derive rights inherent & inalienable, among which are the preservation of life, & liberty, & the pursuit of happiness; ..

Although happiness in the form of the American Dream isn’t attainable for all, it’s important to believe that true happiness extends past our possession, our reputation, our talents and our looks. For me, happiness extends past anything I can actually do.

My earliest memory of feeling ‘happy’ involves a parachute. During playtime in daycare, we’d have this activity. It was a simple game of throwing the parachute in the air and running underneath while it fell to the earth. All the silky, bright colors floating towards me, wind getting caught in my sun-dress and friends racing around, left me elated. The level of fun almost too overwhelming for a four-year-old, I’d laugh until my stomach hurt.

Nowadays, people ask me all the time why I smile, especially since I’ve seen a lot of death and hardship. Sometimes I’m just nervous and smiling calms me. However, we know real happiness is much deeper than smiling. There’s much more to it, indeed!

deandanceDo a happy-dance I’m about to reveal the secrets to being….HAPPY!

Be happy for others: Celebrating with others is a sure way to feel better about life. A new baby, engagements, dreams coming true—sharing these events with others will recharge you.

Embrace vulnerability: We feel a lot—not just women—men too. Honesty about those feelings with the right people releases bad stuff that we store in our hearts. A few days ago I had to tell a friend that something they did hurt me. Sure, I could have vented to my husband about my issues, but it was much better discussing the matter with the person.

Focus on “I can”: The talent and competition these days is high. Feeling inadequate becomes a state of being if we allow it to control our thoughts. Everything around us is a constant reminder of what we don’t have, what we need, what we can’t do—it is discouraging.

A friend of mine said, “There will always be someone more talented, prettier, and smarter than me. And I will always be more talented, prettier, and smarter than someone else. That’s ok, because we’re both just as valuable.” When I started believing this it was extremely freeing. Now I focus on what I can do and don’t allow myself to feel insecure or threatened by others more talented.

Find a Reason to laugh: Even in the saddest situations, laughing strengthens the heart. I’ve attended funerals in which laughter seeps into a conversation. My husband had a brain tumor and on the way to appointments and such, we found reasons to laugh. Laughter is healing. We all should do more. Oh and by the way my husband is fine. Don’t want to freak anyone out with a cliffhanger.

Meet a need: I volunteer at an elementary school. My reward always feels greater than the service I offer. Helping people helps our spirit. It gets us to leave our world for a while to engage in someone else’s. Sometimes we spend too much time trying to solve our own problems when the answer is found as we help others.

Make sure to be awkward you: I took one of the silly quizzes to see which character I’d be in the movie Frozen. I got Olaf and couldn’t be prouder. I’m a complete goof at heart and make sure to have those Napoleon Dynamite moments often. If I’m shopping in the store and a groovy song comes on, I have no problem dancing in public. Or when I auditioned for drum major in high school, I practiced my conducting moves as I walked home. Sure, my neighbors probably thought I crazy, but I felt happy being awkward me.

Surround yourself with good energy: Everything has energy. You know that feeling when that co-worker comes around, and the energy drains out of you the closer they get or the more they talk. That’s real–it’s not a delusion. There are people who are true, seasoned energy-zappers. Take them in small doses but surround yourself around others that fill your tank. I have a friend that anytime I’m around her, I feel like I can win an Olympic event.

Let it go: Forgiveness is more for you than the other person. Carrying around hurt and resentment or hate, will kill any inkling of happiness.

Love without expectation: Ok, this is hard, but give to others without expecting anything in return. I’m not saying we should be doormats or sounding boards for those who want to hurt us, but I’m saying extending  kindness to those  around us, even those who don’t deserve it. Because the truth is, I receive wonderful things and opportunities all the time but I can’t say I deserved them. I use to get really upset with a family member of mine, thinking they should do X, Y, Z for me, you know, I wanted them to act like someone else. Once I let go of my ridiculous expectations I was able to just love and accept them.

Live for something greater than your happiness: Purpose. As you start living out your purpose, happiness will come. This is the greatest pursuit and the search takes patience.

Choose ‘Happy’: I may not always have the power to change my circumstances or control my life, but I can choose how I will respond. Many days, despite my momentary troubles, I choose happiness.

Good food: Eating quality foods will change your mental state. There are certain foods that can put you in a better mood too–one being blueberries. Who knew? Anyway, eating foods that are healthy for the body helps the mind.

So, there we have it! And don’t get me wrong, I’m not running around on a mountain top each day singing how happy I am. Like any thing that’s worth our time, pursing happiness takes work. But true happiness is there for us all!

Enchanted happyclap

And yes, my friend, this is the best news EVER!

 

Gif credit: puppetlabs.comgiphy.com

What Everyone Should Know About College Life

College campuses are constantly changing. Nowadays, they can look more like a vacation resort than a place to get an education. So, here are some of my thoughts on college life and things I’ve noticed. These are great points to keep in mind if you write about college students or choose to use a campus setting in your novel.

1)   College is Weird and Stress Inducing.

Let me begin with a quote from a  student:

“college is so weird like you give people a bunch of money to provide a service that just stresses you out and makes you poor so that hopefully one day they give you a piece of paper that says you’re qualified to earn all of that money back this is too much i need a drink” –Brandon

Stressed and under pressure–that’s everyone, especially college students. Even before the semester begins it’s not uncommon to find students studying, preparing so they can get ahead.  So when you’re on campus and students walk in front of your car like it’s invisible, give them a break.  They are overworked and not getting paid at all.

“College kids literally don’t care about walking in the way of cars at school because we’re like “hit me i don’t care pay my tuition.” – Christina  

2)   The Best Food in Town.

Virginia Tech Dining

Virginia Tech Dining

Seriously, it’s no mystery college kids gain weight. Restaurants love being close to campus, it’s guaranteed business. Some the best places I’ve eaten have been these little hole-in-the-wall diners near my school. Also, the food on campus is not too shabby. At Virginia Tech, you can pick out your own Lobster and order filet mignon.  They even have their own campus ice cream shop and bakery. And the quality is pretty five-star!

3)   Neutral Living Space

Live with Opposite Sex

Live with the Opposite Sex

Co-ed rooms –yep, guys are girls can share a room. Heck, they can share the same bed if they want, all by choice, of course.  Many schools are providing gender neutral housing assignments. I image parents to have the biggest issue with this one. 🙂

4)   Free stuff

Free is Neat

Free is Neat

It never fails.  Each time I’m meeting with a student on campus free stuff is available, they are just handing it out as you walk by. Anything from pens, cups, t-shirts, hats, food, even computer software. Surprisingly many students don’t care. So much free stuff and so little space to put them, I guess. And there’s a such thing as having too many t-shirts. Believe me, I know!

5)   Puppies and Babies Pretty Much Get The Same Reaction From Students

puppy and baby

It’s one of the best things to witness, seeing the stressed out faces soften anytime a baby or puppy is around.  It’s as if babies and puppies help remind students that there is life outside of the institutional bubble. I had my baby while I was still living/working on campus and everywhere I took my son, everyone wanted to see him or hold him. Bring him to various campus events completely changed the atmosphere. I heard less profanity, saw more smiles, got more attention from strangers.  Very similar reaction my co-worker got when she’d bring her puppy. 🙂

6)   Entertainment Weekly

Dave Matthews Band

Dave Matthews Band

Since I’m originally from Charlottesville, I had to find a way to include Dave Matthews. He performed at UVA all the time and generously donated money to the school. But most colleges have concerts, plays and other forms of entertainment. And they are not just for the students. Many of these performances and events are open to the public. Universities are a big businesses– everyone is a potential customer, so inviting the community on campus actually helps revenue. Date-night on campus isn’t so bad with great food and concerts at a reasonable cost!

******

Photo Source:

http://knightnews.com

http://bostinno.streetwise.co

http://social.virginia.edu

http://www.babble.com