Holding On

The minute you think you should give up, think of the reason why you held on for so long.I turned in my final. I’m now officially two semesters away from graduating. On December 19. Not that I’m counting down, or anything.

;)

The funny thing is, when I started the accounting class I just completed, I worried that the topic was so alien to me I wouldn’t even be able to pass it. There was, once again, much gnashing of teeth and crushing of papers. In the end, it appears I’ve somehow managed to maintain my straight-A string.

There may be a lesson in this.

:D

My next challenge begins next week, when my university has decided to schedule me for TWO classes in one session (three in one semester)–not something they’ve asked me to do before. But if it means I don’t have to hang on to the crazy schedule school adds to my life beyond December, I will stay the course, and remind myself not to give up, to hold on for just a few more months.

Similarly, it looks like we’ve figured out how to make an August 1 move a reality… barring any crazy financial or health derailments. In the process, I read two articles in the past week that relate to the difference between easy and authentic. Charles Bukowski may be a polarizing figure, but his collection of quotes about living a kick-ass life spoke to me. Then there was the piece by Elle Luna about living the difference between should and must. Between these two sets of words, I’ve reinforced the sense that my life is best when I’m with my husband and my girls–it is the must that drives my happiness. And yet, without pain (i.e. the separations we’ll continue to endure for a few more months), we won’t appreciate the happiness of having pursued this challenging path.

There is that in me that is happy to have nourished a career of interesting positions–even though it’s never been easy or obvious. I get to write and edit in different contexts, learning a diverse set of perspectives and knowledge from different organizations, both elements of which feed my long-term goal of earning my living writing and editing full-time. The interesting thing this week is that despite being caught in a gut-funk’s claws for a few days, despite my class requirements, and despite the urge to catch up with All The Friends, I still beat my “wish goal” of 1,000 fiction words this week. I even shared several 2+-mile walks with Kyra and the rest of my family.

For the first time this year, I managed to meet ALL my goals. I’m still amazed. I suppose it underlines how important my family is to me–and reflects the rebirth inherent in the season on a deeply personal level. It vindicates the argument for continuing to hold on.

Since I have a week off before my next class assignments start kicking in… I’m going to push myself this week: I would love to manage at least 5,000 words of fiction. As well as squeezing in a white paper draft for the office that should be at least that many words of non-fiction. I may be word-drunk at the end of the week, but since I’ll be at home until this time next week, I need to grab my inspiration from its source.

:)

In the meantime, check out how the other ROW80ers are doing with their goals.

Magical People

There are people we meet in life that make everything seem magical. Cherish them.I got to come home this week again. And today I saw this image float by on my Facebook stream. I’ve always been a big fan of the “Neverending Story”–both in its movie and its original book form (Side note: Michael Ende wrote an amazingly deep, complex, and accessible story I actually got to study in a German seminar on the Fantastic in college. If you ever needed a reason to study German, I would suggest this book would be another argument in favor of that pursuit.). The quote the folks at Spirit Science & Metaphysics posted on the screen capture of Bastian riding Fuchur the Glueksdrache is a great way of describing how I feel about being back with my husband: “There are people we meet in life that make everything seem magical. Cherish them.” Even the projection of more cold weather during my visit can’t dampen my spirits. Especially since we’ve been working on a plan to move up our timeline to when we’re together again full time.

:)

I also got the bonus of having one of my class assignments canceled this week, so I didn’t have to worry about the travel time required to get home, or the annual Palm Sunday family gathering, sabotaging my academic success. In fact, my professor granted me a few bonus points this week for having attended an optional live session that didn’t meet his standards. I even worked on my short story, got some house cleaning/organizing done for my mom, met my walking goals, AND got to go see “Captain America: Winter Soldier”. It’s amazing how proper motivation and shared time with the right people can amp your productivity. (I even snuck in some reading time while we were stuck on the tarmac in DC while crews removed “foreign objects” from the runway–two books that probably deserve reviews, if I ever get back to that side of this blog…)

:D

I’m still not expecting thousands of words of fiction in a writing session at a time anytime soon. This week is finals week, and the week after that I start my first session with TWO classes at a time. But I discovered I have a break from all classes from 6/18 – 7/7, so if I can find similar motivation and scheduling then as I did this past week… maybe I’ll finally be able to finish writing some of the stories that have been on a very slow boil for the past few months.

Sticking with the goals I set last week thus seems reasonable–especially in light of a great commencement speech by Neil Gaiman I was treated to tonight, which concludes with the exhortation to “go, make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. But make good art.” I may be making a mistake by not driving myself toward something more ambitious with my writing schedule, but the same could also be said about not pushing harder to reunite my family, or not finishing the MBA that still has the power to make me curse and feel like my brain is breaking. So I’m choosing to focus on the magical people around me, and trust that that focus will drive my own “good art” in the end.

In the meantime, don’t forget to check out all the other ROW80ers and how they’re doing meeting their goals.

Seeking Peace

Sending love, peace, and healing to all those who may be suffering tonight. May tomorrow bring a renewed sense of peace. -Zen to ZanyI know I should push myself to set some kind of measurable goals again… But it’s another one of those days where the road ahead of us invites that insidious depression that says there’s too much to do and finding our way to the end of this road is an intolerably long prospect.

In the past week, then, I found the Zen to Zany page on Facebook, and the quote to the right. I also found the tragedy of another author who has been bullied into silence. I don’t know Sarah even peripherally, and I’ve been lucky enough so far to have avoided having bullying or stalking or any of the other trollish activities I see online directed my way (knock on wood that I continue without that burden). I do know, though, that each of us has a story. And we all suffer in our stories. I’m just an optimist enough to feel deep in my bones that there’s a silver lining in every cloud.

So I’m scaling back again. For this round, I know I have more classwork–I’ve been scheduled for two classes one session. We also have a major project deliverable coming up in May at work. If I manage fiction writing this round, it will be a big bonus. I’d like to take at least two 2-mile walks per week to mitigate for all the sitting I’ve been doing for work and school. And we have tasks to accomplish related to moving even though I’m still mostly in Virginia while the rest of my family is in Wisconsin.

There’s more than enough to do… I’m just trying to cut back on the sense of being overwhelmed by it all. And reading the wrap-up post by one of the ROW80 moderators from last round about burn-out shows me there’s good sense in backing off and taking a wait and see approach. May the next 80 tomorrows help me find peace in that approach.

Doing Best

If you're doing the best you can under your current circumstances... then kick up your heels and dance.The end of the first round of ROW80 came this week, and brought the somewhat depressing realization that I’ve almost wholly missed the goals most important to me. Life decided to play a round of 52-card pick-up with me in January by forcing me out of my comfort zone. I’ve been hugely lucky about the kind of safety net that has come into play in the meantime, but it’s not what I had expected of this year, nor what I had planned for, so I’m still working on finding my balance.

And correlates somehow to the very cute picture that drifted by on my Facebook feed earlier today. I’m sharing it here because it reminds me of the Zimbabwean saying “If you can walk you can dance. If you can talk you can sing.” It’s a good expression for pushing people into lifting the energy they put into their creativity. Combined with the saying in today’s picture, it’s also a good prod toward letting go of shame or embarrassment, and just doing what you can.

I’ve been keeping up with schoolwork. And I haven’t missed a day of work at my new job yet, either. Walking… well. I park on the far end of the parking garage to get at least a little exercise, but I haven’t even figured out where the stairs are in the buildings where I work, let alone whether I could manage that many flights carrying the mobile office backpack that has become my constant companion. Even blogging has fallen down my priority list, since it seems all my time is dedicated to other things: helping family, taking care of logistics, maintaining at least some kind of long-distance relationship with my husband. Fiction words? <snort, cough> I’m actually pleased with the paltry sum of the fewer than 1K I’ve managed in the past three months. But it also means I need to radically change my expectations for this year generally.

It’s wearing and wearying. And there’s no real end in sight–unless some random miracle means I’m suddenly earning $2K/month in royalties on top of everything else we already have coming in, and we can afford to push up my hubs’ moving day from sometime in the vague fall season (preferably before the first snows return next winter) to sometime closer to my birthday.

No, this post is not going to turn into a harangue to buy my books. (But if you do, THANKS, SO MUCH!) It’s a sigh about how often you start down a path with a certain expectation, and then something else happens along the way. (And, here again, on its third anniversary, I will plug for Kathryn Schulz’s TED talk On Being Wrong.) In general, I’ve cultivated a Zen-like attitude about NOT having expectations in or of my life, since it’s predictable that those will be shattered one way or another. It’s served me well over the decades, and I’ve adapted both to living in other countries and to pursuing a strange hopscotch of jobs that have incongruously built into something of a recognizable career. I’ve kept an even keel in the process. This change, though… being separated–voluntarily, supporting each other, still loving each other–it’s destabilized me in ways I’m still coming to terms with.

I’m still working on turning that into my own personal dance.

I don’t know whether I’ll be able to write in other than 1-200-word snippets while I get through this, but this process has always been the long game for me, so I’m keeping my eyes glued to the goal of togetherness, and assuming that at that point I’ll be able to return to the writing process that has gotten me this far. It should help that I’m done with my MBA in December as well.

In the meantime, I’m going to share a BBC documentary about the Secret Life of Dogs… because I miss my girls, and everyone gets some level of help with even vicarious puppy therapy. I’m also going to share the link to the other ROW80ers and their wrap-up posts for this round–because surely at least some of them have been able to achieve what I have not. See you next round!

Have Wheels, Will Travel

"Bizarre travel plans are dancing lessons from God." -Kurt VonnegutYeah, yeah… I skipped a week. I was returning from Wisconsin to Virginia last Sunday, and had neither the inclination nor the enthusiasm to blog about being separated again. Then, Monday night, I got my consumer buzz on: I spent *hours* at the local Toyota dealership making arrangements to add to our collection of Priuses. Prii? I spent the rest of the week driving myself to and from work, and getting semi-intentionally lost to reacquaint myself with the roads of my High School years. A lot has changed in this neck of the woods since then. As Vonnegut says, “bizarre travel plans are dancing lessons from God.”

I love the Prius. Especially with the upgrades they made in the six model years since we bought the previous one. So I had to give family and colleagues test rides, too, right?

I also had to figure out how to think like an accountant. This class is almost as bad as the business law class for twisting my brain into knots. And I can’t just write my way out of a box into a good grade with this upside-down use of words. I keep fighting with my textbook in an Inigo Montoya-voice: “I don’t think that word means what you think it means…”

This class may be the one that finally breaks my straight-A streak. On the other hand… my sister-in-law IS an accountant, and she was helping me sort some of my confusion tonight, so… I’m fighting for something that really doesn’t mean that much in the end anyway.

:D

The other good thing about regular flights across half the country: I found an enforced time away from everyone that allows me to write. Not that I wrote much, but at least those 250 words got me to 15K, and broke the wordless streak.

I also discovered the Electro-Plasmic Hydrocephalic Genre Fiction Generator 2000. The plot-bunnies… they MULTIPLY! This one actually sounds enticing to me… and not unrelated to what I’m already doing with the Red Slaves series… (Spin-off, anyone?):

In a coal-powered Soviet Russia, a young collector of oddities stumbles across a dream-inducing drug which spurs him into conflict with a charismatic politician on the rise with the help of a bookish female scholar with mousy brown hair and her closet full of assault rifles, culminating in a fistfight atop a tower.

Your title is: “The Neurotrons.”

So it’s been a busy, productive week for me–even if it wasn’t as productive as I was hoping. And I capped it with a sore throat and fever starting yesterday morning. I’m feeling better now, but have the cough of a strange cold to contend with as we whipsaw through another drastic set of temperature swings. If things continue this way… next month I may have to threaten Virginia with my full-length, down-filled blueberry to make the temperatures stay consistently above freezing.

;)

In the meantime, check out how the other ROW80ers are doing with their goals.

Life Worth Living

"It was only a sunny smile, and little it cost in the giving, but like morning light it scattered the night and made the day worth living." -F. Scott FitzgeraldI’m home. There are so many good things about that statement, and it’s too easy to take for granted. Even with Facetime, and seeing my husband’s smile remotely, there’s something in Fitzgerald’s line that makes being here to witness those smiles in person … more worth living. In fact, my husband sent me the link to a profound article about sacred relationships this week that reflected yet another way he makes my days worth living.

I love my job and the opportunity it’s giving us to get out of the repetition of Wisconsin’s wintry mess and economic morass. I’m also beyond grateful at my company’s flexibility with its work from home policy, that it recognizes how much better I work with my partner in the picture. To say nothing of my girleez.

All that blathering to say… I’m still too discombobulated about *everything* to have made one small step of progress on fiction.

I’m not even sure how long I should give myself to settle in to some kind of writing productivity in this transition. And that makes me twitchy. Today, my latest class began, and I started working on my first assignment, so those will continue to give me at least some small framework for my weeks, but I worry about how long it’s been since I last looked at any of my manuscripts with any kind of serious intention to continue them. I want all the change to be done so we’re happily together again full-time, and I don’t feel quite so constrained by a suitcase and airline schedule, but I also know all the logistical details that tell me even the most optimistic wishing won’t make that desire a reality without a realistic timeline.

I hope there’s someone out there who can give me some hope for productivity as the months stack up, or some tips on how to build some structure when everything is up in the air. For now, I’ll try one more time for a 1K-word week, admitting I failed even that last week. Meantime, check out how my fellow ROW80ers are handling their goals.

Smiles Are Contagious

Smiles are contagious; go forth and contaminate as many people as you can!It’s nice to have a series of weeks in a row where I don’t come to the end of the week feeling like I’ve been through the wringer. I don’t know if it’s some kind of situational PTSD or long-term conditioning I need to work through, but I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop… even while I’m smiling for the general improvement in my working circumstances. So I’m sharing a ridiculous picture today that speaks to both ends of that spectrum. Let’s all smile together and count it as a random act of kindness for those around us who are still struggling.

Since I just turned in my latest final, and can therefore count one of my main goals as complete for this week again, and have managed to spend quite a few hours on a daily basis on the phone/Facetime with my hubby as we muddle our way through being apart, I’m relatively satisfied with my progress. I also took a mile-long walk with my sister-in-law last night, so not all exercise has been left by the wayside, but I haven’t managed to figure out a comfortable way to sit at the computer in my temporary digs yet, so I’m starting to think the next six months are going to see drastically reduced fiction word counts… Not the best result, all things considered, but I’m OK with prioritizing my relationship with hubs over ambitious fiction production.

I’m still planning on being home one week of each of the upcoming months, so it’s possible I can manage decent production at those intervals, but I’ll also need to be sorting, throwing away, and packing stuff during those visits to do what I can to keep us on track for our targeted moving day, so it’s just as likely that all my time will have been allocated. Still… I’m smiling. We’re fixing the two main frustrations in our lives by tolerating this separation, and I have faith that our relationship is strong enough to weather the next six months. I will remind myself of that every hour, too, as I miss my sweetluv and the frequent, random hugs we have always shared.

;)

For the next week, notwithstanding everything else I said above, I don’t have class assignments, and will be home again on Friday, so am crossing my fingers for at least 1,000 words and a few walks. I’ll let you know how it goes. In the meantime, check out how the other ROW80ers are doing with their goals.

Winterized

The five stages of winterFunny how settling in to changes can be a lot like … same ol, same ol…

:D

My first week in Virginia was great: My new job has some fascinating elements to it, the people I’ve met there are great, and I discovered in the course of the Wisconsin-like snowstorm that shut down the federal government (and my office!) on Thursday that they are much more reasonable and flexible than any other employers I’ve had. It helps that they seem to have a “wherever your desk happens to be” attitude and issue everyone a laptop and backpack their first day of work.

It’s also rather a shock to the system that a week ago I was returning from a week of 70s-and-sun-style idyllic weather, and now I’m shivering in the lighter-weight clothes I sent ahead in expectation of NOT sub-zero weather… So I say…

Et tu, Virginia?

Nonetheless, I’m starting to settle in. I got all my schoolwork done early today, and am getting small elements of move-related research taken care of. I had hoped to get back into the word-generation mode this weekend, but got pre-empted by family activities. (My niece did very well her first time out as a junior handler in a local dog show… but it meant I was chauffeur to make up for some miscommunication among the relevant parties.) I think the sidewalks will be passable after the rain forecast for the end of the week so I should be able to walk at some point again soon, too. Mostly, though, I’m getting used to the idea of long-term transition. I think I’ll be home again for a week in March, and likely once a month thereafter, so I have my feet in two different worlds until I have my own home again… whenever that might be. I’m glad I’m flexible.

:D

I’m also grateful for Facetime. One of my class assignments this week related to the pitfalls of virtual teams, and I read a post about how texting can damage relationships. It’s one thing to have a phone conversation, but to see facial expressions and catch those fleeting glimpses that convey unstated emotional depths makes tolerating the “miss you” ache just a little bit easier.

Next week, I have my final due, so I still may not get back to fictional words, but I’m thankful making this move seems to have been the right choice for us. Getting through the next six months of transition will be a challenge, but we just managed week one, so I’m going to make managing the transition (and the hours of phone calls related to that) one of my other ROW80 goals. Because without the relationship I have with my husband… well… fictional words pale in comparison. Meantime, check out how everyone else is doing with their goals.

Miracles

"I'm realistic. I expect miracles." -Wayne DyerIt’s been an amazing couple of weeks. As I mentioned at my last check-in I got to go on vacation with my family last week. It turned out to be the vacation of a lifetime: I can’t rave enough about how amazing a Disney cruise is. I got to swim with dolphins, for crying out loud!

:)

Even though we were very careful not to try to book multiple excursions per port of call and even though the weather was an idyllic 80 degrees and sun-shiny the whole seven days, it turns out that there’s a special kind of soporific effect of hearing the gentle whoosh of the waves and feeling the balmy breeze of the Caribbean, to say nothing of the impact of the rocking of the ship as it navigates its way even through calm waters.

In other words, I didn’t do much of anything.

:D

I managed to write 1,673 words while we were underway, and I turned in all my assignments for the week before I started my new job.

I can’t even be upset about it, because we all had such a great time together.

:)

Strangely, for as tired as I’ve felt both during the cruise and now that I’m trying to acclimate to Virginia weather suddenly gone Wisconsin-like, I’m still energized: My new job is everything I’d hoped for. Even the realization that I would need to borrow socks from my mom because in my rush to ship work clothes I forgot a few key components to my wardrobe, wasn’t as stupid-making as it might have been.

;)

I still need to sort out my schedule so I can carve out those hours I need to write, and settle into the new rhythms of the new place–and figure out my own set of wheels, so I’m not always relying on family and colleagues to move me from point A to point B! But things have gone remarkably smoothly so far for such a big transition. And that makes me hope for more miracles.

Next week is finals week again, so I’m still not sure how much writing I’ll accomplish, but at this point I’m either floating on a cloud of sleepiness or hope, so I’ll leave it nebulous until I check in again.

In the meantime, see how the other ROW80ers are doing with their goals.

Go Where You’re Wanted

"If you don't feel it, flee from it. Go where you are clebrated, not merely tolerated." -Paul F. DavisIt was an exciting week–and the harbinger of great change. Wisconsin failed the three strikes rule for me, with three different companies downsizing and shedding my position in the eight and a half years we’ve lived here. We’re uprooting.

The joy of this move is that my new employer seems enthusiastic about the skills I bring to the table. Reviewing the position description included with my offer letter read like my new job had been designed specifically for my strengths. And I get to live in the DC area, close to my brother and his family as well as my mom, cousin, and assorted other family as well as friends dating back to when I went to High School in that region. It will be, as my mom has said, “the return of the prodigal daughter.”

The funny thing about this big step is that as exciting as it is, and as much as it seems my skills will be welcomed, the next six months will be a challenge. Coordinating the logistics of streamlining our household and closing down his acupuncture practice will fall to my husband, and we’ll have to content ourselves with once-a-month visits while those details shake out. I worry about Kyra. As strong and independent as she is, she’s always mourned when I’ve gone away; what will six months of only rare physical contact with me do to her and her health–especially as old as she is?

The funny thing about how this lines up with my current class (Leadership and Organizational Behavior), is that we were discussing personality styles this week and what it takes for each of us to find success in our jobs. I took the Meyers Briggs test for the umpteenth time and confirmed again that I’m an INFJ. My J self wasn’t satisfied that we had understood the scope of the change until we created a spreadsheet with deliverables tied to particular dates and understood how to divide out the mountain of work we face to be realistic with our expectations. Turns out the gut-thought of six months wasn’t wrong. My NF self spent a few days of cuddling my velcro dog and promising her this was all for the best–at the expense of a good night’s sleep.

So in my prioritization for the week… I signed on for a new job. I did my assigned course work. I took a 2.28 mile walk with my girls on the one day the temperature made that possible. And I managed 524 words of fiction.

Apparently I’m still discombobulated enough that the fiction-writing closest to my heart still wasn’t enough of a focus that I could set aside the shiny objects of all these changes and be super-productive. The list of things I have to do this week makes me wonder if I will be able to focus on it now. We’re headed out on a dream vacation that’s been in the planning phase for over a year, which means I’ll be offline 2/1 – 2/8, and my new job starts 2/10. So I’ve already had to box up and ship some work clothes to be ready for that new chapter. I need to do two weeks’ worth of assignments before I go so I don’t fall behind in class, and that spreadsheet I mentioned earlier has a couple of administrative things for me to take care of prior to our departure.

I’m still hopeful I’ll finish the first draft of Red Slaves book 3 before I start the new job–I don’t have that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that we’re doomed anymore–and in theory vacation time means some unstructured hours. But you’ll have to wait to hear about my progress until we get back.

:D

Meantime, check out how the other ROW80ers are doing with their goals.