Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Defining Success

Earlier in my career, a mentor of mine encouraged me to apply for a director-level position where I worked. I was honored. I was practically a shoe-in for the role he said. And I believed him. 

At that time, becoming a director was the pot of gold at the end of my career rainbow. Ever since leaving college, I had been ignoring a little voice inside of me that kept nudging me to pursue a writing career. In the name of responsibility and obligation, I made a habit of telling that little voice to shut it.

Besides, who would't salivate over the opportunity to get a position that came with perks like a fancy company car, huge salary increase, increased exposure and a chance to control the careers of dozens and dozens of people?

The interviews were scheduled. I bought a new suit and prepared myself with the rigor of an Olympic athlete, making sure I had a brilliant reply for any question they could possibly throw at me.

Except one.

The last executive I spoke to leaned forward in his chair. According to the clock, we were almost done. I could almost picture myself behind the wheel of a brand new baby blue Beemer when he looked me in the eye and asked, "How do you define success?"

"Uh..." I froze. Then I stammered, "Yes. Of course. I would have to say that, uh..."

I clutched the arms of the chair I was sitting in with a white-knuckled grip.

"Getting this job," was all I could manage to articulate. 

I gave him a weak smile and tugged at the collar of my new really expensive blouse, wishing I had left the price tag on so I could return it.

Needless to say, I did not get the job. Happily, that was then; this is now. 

During the years in between, I've had plenty of time to contemplate my real answer to that question. It goes much deeper than the kind of car I drive, the amount of money I make or the amount of power I have. 

It has more to do with how you chose to respond to that sometimes annoying, but undeniably persistent little voice inside, the one that won't let you go until you pay attention to it. 

I finally listened to mine and, for the first time in a long time, I finally feel like I'm on the right track. 

I'm not sure what will come of it, but I'll keep the faith. Who knows? Maybe next time it will say, "Buy a winning lottery ticket." 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Mind the Blatant Self Promotion

I'm on the verge of realizing a life long dream, so pardon the plug - but, here it is:

My first book, False Start, available one week from today, is listed on Barnes and Noble and Smashwords. Just like Jane Austen and F. Scott. How surreal is that?

So, go on now - order one for yourself, your BFF, your mom, your aunt, your nieces, your sisters, every single member of your book club and school district's parent-teacher association, your landscaper, your manicurist, your dog walker, your running buddy, and anyone else you can think of who would appreciate a light-hearted romance.

Oh, and did I mention it would make a great holiday gift? Because it would. There. I'm done.

Sorry if I'm going a little overboard, but I've been crazy about books since I learned to read and seeing my name on the cover of one is, like, wow. It leaves me speechless. But, lucky for you, I can still type.

When I was a kid, one of my favorite things was to go to the bookstore with my mom. Forever busy with work, making dinner, ironing my dad's shirts or sewing outfits for me and my sibs, I cherished any one-on-one time I could get with her.

Our favorite haunt was a placed called Breadloaf Book Shop. While my mom mulled over the latest mysteries, I gravitated to the kids' section and managed to plow through nearly everything the owner had in stock. Then, when I was in sixth grade, I read a book that helped crystalize what I wanted to be when I grew up.

That book was Harriet the Spy. Not that I wanted to be a spy, but Harriet's story had me so enthralled that being a writer suddenly became my dream.

That I ignored said dream when I grew up was another matter entirely. Plot of a future book, as a matter of fact.

But, who am I kidding? Tooting my own horn has never been my strong suit. Stop your snickering. I know that if I want a shot at the New York Times bestseller list (and, I mean, come on - who doesn't?), then I'm going to have to get good at it and fast.

I've got the whole social media thing down. Sort of. I'm on Facebook and Twitter, so if you haven't already, please like and/or follow me. Trust me, I'm not above begging. I mean self-promoting which is really not that far removed from nagging. Just ask my boys. 

Oh! That reminds me - I still have to order their copies...

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Plate Spinner Weekly Prep Checklist

It's Sunday. What you do today determines exactly where you and your family's week will fall on the crazy scale.

No pressure.

After ensuring your family's religious obligations are met, all you have to do is: orchestrate three meals a day for the next seven days, make sure everyone's drawers and closets are stuffed to the brim with clean and folded clothes, and last but not least, brief everyone living under your roof on any mandatory appointments or deadlines.

Afraid something might fall through the cracks? No worries. I've got your back. Just follow my handy-dandy Plate Spinner Weekly Prep Checklist:

  1. First and foremost, get thee to an early church service. Not because you want to get it over with, but aside from a long walk on a cool, bug-free morning, there's really no better way to start your day. There, I'm done preaching.
  2. If you couldn't squeeze in laundry yesterday, order the biggest kid in your house to transport the overstuffed hamper to the laundry room. Instruct the rest of the humans in your domicile to collect stray articles of dirty clothing, rake stray socks out from under beds and couches, check cars for smelly discarded athletic wear, and deposit them in the laundry room.
  3. Host a "sorting party." What better way to teach your offspring the value of washing whites with whites and colors with colors, and to scan labels for phrases like "Dry Clean Only" and "Air Dry Flat." Be sure to keep evidence of past laundry blunders on hand as visual aids. My favorite is the white designer blouse I got for a song at an upscale department store sale. After getting mixed in with a load of dirty blue jeans, it ended up a blotchy blue and two sizes too small. Award points for placing like fabrics together.
  4. Take stock of your pantry, freezer and refrigerator. 
  5. Check current grocery store ads for sales on items you need to make enough favorite recipes for the week. Identify the gaps in your food inventory against what you plan on making and, voila' - you have your grocery list. Points awarded for each meal that doesn't require contacting a takeout restaurant. 
  6. Before having your kids transfer contents of the washing machine into the dryer, remind them to remove any and all articles of clothing destined for air-drying (see step 3).
  7. Head to the store. If possible, bring at least one child along to retrieve things that you might not realize your had forgotten until you're in the check out lane. Tip: On your way back home, call ahead to let the rest know you're coming so they can assist with unloading and unpacking. 
  8. Host a "folding party." With the first dryer load done, get your kids to fold the clothes and deposit them in their intended repositories. Mark points off for any stacks of folded clothes or pair socks left on beds. 
  9. Prep your kitchen for cooking lessons. Preheat the oven and plug in the crockpot. Match your kids', uh, students' skill level with their station. For example, I don't let my boys man the vegetable shopping station until they've earned their "Totin' Chip" in Boy Scouts (because, really, who wants to interrupt their busy day with a trip to the emergency room?). Once you and your crew have a weeks' worth of dinners baked, stewed, roasted and/or grilled, refrigerate or freeze as required. 
  10. Finally, synchronize your calendar with your spouse's and your kids'. In the event of a conflict, make arrangements for a workaround. Possible options include: rescheduling the appointment or determining if you or your spouse could take a personal day or work from home. Points for squeezing trips to the mechanic, doctor and dentist all in the same day. Extra points for finding a doctor or dentist with in-house mechanics on staff who can change the oil in your car while you lounge in the waiting room reading year-old Time magazines.
Now, if you're anything like me, you'll head to bed wishing your day had really gone this smoothly. Points for dreaming...

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Living Between a Dream and a Cube Space

Remember a few weeks back when I was eagerly awaiting THE CALL? 

If you're wondering what the heck I'm talking about, re-read this post. Quick. Do it now.

All caught up? OK, good.

Well, THE CALL never came. But hold your pity, because the EMAIL did (she announces, grinning through clenched teeth so as not to arouse the neighbors at this early hour with yet another loud "woohoo!"). 

The email was from the head of a publishing company. She liked my synopsis. She loved my voice. She asked if I'd be interested in working with her. 

I had to read it a few times before it kicked in. My husband, sitting across the room from me, asked if everything was all right. I looked up at him and said in an uncharacteristically small voice, "A publisher wants to sign me."

His face lit up. "I knew it must have been something good because I've never seen you smile like that before."

Having known me for over thirty years, that's saying quite a lot.

What followed next could best be described as an out-of-body experience. For the next week or so, I felt like I was floating, observing myself from the outside looking in. I had waited so long for this to happen. Now that it had, I was stunned. 

I only told a handful of people at first - my sisters, my Mom. I gauged their reactions trying to determine if it was really real. They were happy for me, of course, but they're family. They're supposed to be happy for me, right?

That I was preoccupied shuffling my college boys back and forth didn't help matters. 

Then I got the contract. For a three-book deal. With deadlines. That's when it felt really real.

I sent off my polished manuscript. Re-titled False Start, it should be available sometime this fall. ("Can you freakin' believe it?" she still squeals to no one in particular.) 

Funny thing, though. A book deal does not a day job replace. While I had always visualized a Nicholas Sparks type of scenario - the one in which he was at his day job when his agent called to inform him of a one million dollar advance - I'm not quite there yet. Not even close.

As my husband is fond of reminding me, "This is a marathon, not a sprint."

Point taken. 

So I fired up my little laptop, the one that weighs less than a feather, so I can take it with me on the train to and from said day job. Book number two in the series, aptly titled Assignment: Romance, is not going to write itself, is it?

And, I'm OK with that because I'm doing what I love. Really, really love.