Posted in Blog, Life as I know it

Fire in Northern California

A firefighter monitors a flare of the Nuns fire in the Sonoma Valley, Oct. 11. (photo by Kent Porter / Press Democrat

I woke up Monday morning to the smell of smoke. It was faint, but strong enough that I kept searching for the source. I made my coffee, checking the burners on the stove to see if someone had left something on overnight. My dog stayed by my side, his nerves matching mine as the source of the smoky smell remained a mystery. As the coffee brewed, I checked notifications on my phone. That’s when I came across the text from my college saying classes were cancelled due to fires in area. Well, that explained the smoky smell. I grabbed my coffee and headed to my office. Before starting homework, I opened Facebook. That’s when I was met with post after post about the fire. My work, the Press Democrat newspaper in Santa Rosa, had a Facebook Live video going, taken from the Kaiser hospital in north Santa Rosa. The scene was apocalyptic. A whole mobile home park torched. The hospital had been evacuated. Fire everywhere. I thought it was just that part, but soon learned that the town was surrounded. People had been evacuated. I immediately thought of my parents, and found out that they had also been evacuated.

Santa Rosa was on fire.

The sheer magnitude of what was happening began to unfold over the next several hours. There were fires in Napa, Calistoga, Kenwood, Santa Rosa, Windsor, Mendocino… It felt impossible as the fire grew, popping up in new spots. I spent the morning keeping our newspaper’s social media up to date, wondering if I was even going to be able to make it into work. I didn’t know if the freeway was open, if it was jam packed with cars, if I would be driving into the fire, if my own house would burn down while I was away. I felt pulled to stay and protect my family, and to go to work to help keep the public updated on what was going on. Luckily, my husband stayed home, ready to leave with the kids and dog should anything happen. I was assured that the freeway was clear. So I set into work.

The sky in Santa Rosa was a deep black toward the fire. Where my work was, we were safe, but the smell of smoke was thick. Inside the building it was just as bad. I soon became noseblind to it (though my head and sinuses have yet to recover), and set to work. All hands were on deck as everyone pulled together to gather information. Let me tell you, information was confusing. No one knew were the fires all were, where they were headed, who was in danger…nothing. We did what we could, but it felt like the world was caving in around us as information kept pouring in. A whole subdivision was lost. Then another. Hundreds of home, demolished. Thousands of people evacuated. So many unsure where their loved ones were, afraid they were part of the growing number of lives lost.

PDfrontpageThat first day was organized chaos. Our team of journalists shone in the worst situation possible. Several had been up all night, awake since the fire broke and in the office to do their job. Some were evacuated and still at the office, unsure if they’d have a home to go back to when all was said and done. Stories poured in. Video and photos poured in. People came to our page for information, wondering if we knew anything about their specific house. I tried to answer every question sent our way. Some left me feeling helpless, others I was able to give answers. The answers weren’t always good.

We’re about to enter our 4th day of fires. Yesterday there seemed a small victory as firefighters attacked a section of the fire near my childhood home. They lit a backfire, sending an alarmingly large plume of smoke over southeast Santa Rosa. Before knowing what was happening, it seemed like things were over. But the firefighters appeared successful; this morning, everything in that fire’s path is still standing.

Still, it feels bleak as the fire fight continues. The whole town of Calistoga has now been evacuated. Half of Sonoma is evacuated. Santa Rosa is still burning, and containment is unclear. It’s been 0% for days. My parents haven’t seen their house since they left early Monday morning, but we’re assured it still stands thanks to vigilant firefighters fighting defense on the hills around the neighborhood. We have no idea what we’ll see when….if…they come back home.

In all this, our community has formed a solid bond. We’re all in this together. People are reaching out to strangers. Donations of food, supplies, money are pouring into evacuation centers. Our newsroom has been well taken care of as people send food in every day for our hardworking crew. Friends are opening their homes to those who have no home to stay in. My aunt lost her home as her neighborhood was wiped out. My friends with a one-year-old left home with only the clothes on their back, returning to mere ashes. At least 10 of my high school classmates have lost homes, and several very generous people from our class have worked tirelessly to gather money and supplies for them. One of these classmates who lost their home is a fire captain, and he’s continuing to save other people’s homes even though his home is gone.

Me, I live in Petaluma. We’re still okay, but told to be prepared in case the fire comes this way. With the high winds expected today, it’s possible. I don’t even want to think about it. I’ve been devoted to the news while at work, and unable to detach while I’m at home. I’m praying it will end soon, trying to combat feelings of helplessness, that it’s all hopeless. I know it’s not, but when will this end? I’m trying not to be angry as the world keeps going on while our community goes up in flames. I’m trying not absorb the chaos, the desperate need, the sheer danger. What happens next for the people who have no homes? Where will people go when the evacuation centers can no longer hold them? It feels like the end of the world. It seems weird to open up the New York Times and see stories that have nothing to do with the fires here in California. Everything seems trivial while we continue to burn. Why hasn’t the president stepped in? Why aren’t there more planes fighting this in the sky? Why is the fire still burning?

I pray that this nightmare ends soon.

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Posted in Blog, Inspiration, Life as I know it, Writing

The temptation to give up

Today, an author I’m friends with wrote a post about giving up. “It turns out the world does not need my novels,” she wrote. “I have spent thousands and thousands of hours writing and reading about writing, and for what?”

I hate that she wrote this. And I get why she wrote this. And I totally understand why she is ready to call it quits on writing.

I have these arguments with myself almost every day.

In fact, I was just talking myself down today as I drove home from work . It had been an especially hectic day at my day job, and I’d left my desk knowing that if I lingered for even a minute more, thirty more minutes of work would land in my lap. So I raced out of there. And the whole drive home, I questioned what I was doing. Why was I working so damn hard at a job that sometimes feels suffocating, and it’s not what I want to be doing? Why hasn’t my dream of being a full-time author been realized when I’ve worked so damn hard at this for the past 5 years of publishing, and 3 decades of writing? How long can I sustain writing novels, working full time, going to school, taking care of my family, and every other part of my life, all at the same time?

What if….what if I wasn’t meant to be an author?

I’m always stunned into silence when this thought crosses my mind.

I love words. I love the shape of them, the taste of them, and the feel of them. I love the way they look on a page, how they smell in a book, and how they sound in other people’s mouths. I want to spend the rest of my life playing with words, and my dream is that this will always involve storytelling: playing with words, creating words, writing words, and then using them to create books that people love to read.

But what if the people never come?

Today I saw another frustrated post from a different author who had written 20 novels, and she still hadn’t seen any kind of success. Her books don’t suck, either! Meanwhile, I’m sitting over here with 8 books, believing my time should have come. Apparently there’s no number to these things.

It is really, really hard when you want something so bad, and it just isn’t coming to you. In The Alchemist (my favorite book), Paulo Coelho writes, “when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

But why does the universe have to take so damn long???

Coelho also writes, “It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.”

And this, my friends, is the meaning of life.

We all have dreams we wish to fulfill. And when that dream is realized, a new one must be sought after. After all, life would lose meaning if you had nothing to work toward.

Do I want to be chasing success this hard all my life as an author? Absolutely not. But I never want it to get old. It’s always going to be hard, and I’m always going to be striving to make it happen, as this is what I know I’m supposed to be doing.

Now, that’s not to say that my dream won’t one day change or evolve, or that my friend is wrong for “giving up.” Sometimes things just aren’t in the cards, as much as that hurts to write. However, no dream is a wasted dream. I truly believe this. An unrealized dream may just be the bridge you need to set you on the path toward the dream that’s meant to be.

Or, sometimes we just need to give ourselves a break so we can rediscover what we loved about our original dream in the first place.

___

SHAMELESS PLUG: My book, The Road to Hope, is still FREE! But only until Sunday. Don’t miss this chance to read the first book in my 3-book Hope series for free!

Posted in Blog, Inspiration, Life as I know it, Reclaim Your Creative Soul, Writing

Running, writing, and changing your thoughts

running

This morning when I woke up at 6 a.m., I had a choice on how I could spend the next 30 minutes before I had to start getting ready for work.

I could go for a run.

I could sit and peruse Facebook and email.

I could cram in some editing.

I could close my eyes and get 30 more minutes of rest.

My preference would have been to lounge in bed, scrolling through social media. I’ve made that choice many times. But this morning, knowing I was due for a run, I got out of bed and put on the workout clothes I’d set out the night before. And then, before I could talk myself out of it, I walked out the door and hit the pavement.

Let me confess here that I am not a natural runner. Before I even start running, I HATE running. I’ve learned to just not think about it too much beforehand, because if I do, I’ll talk myself out of it every time. Instead, I have to set myself up for success by laying out my clothes the night before, and set the coffee so it’s brewed by the time I’m done running.

Once I’m running, the first few minutes are spent getting over the shock to my system. Remember, I’ve only woken up about 10 minutes earlier, so my mind is generally cussing me out. Not my body, mind you. My body is still unsure what’s going on, and is just going with the flow. But my mind is well aware that I traded scrolling Facebook for heavy sweat and aching muscles.

Here’s where the shift comes in. It’s up to me to pull my mind out of the mental gutter and focus on what’s going right.

***

Mind: @*#%@*&

Me: I’m not sure you should be using that kind of language.

Mind: Fine. This sucks.

Me: No it doesn’t. I’m powerful.

Mind: No, I’m slow.

Me. But I’m learning to be fast.

Mind: Everyone thinks I look stupid.

Me: No, everyone thinks I’m amazing for even being out here running at this hour. Besides, why do I care what people think?

Mind: I don’t even know why I’m doing this. Eventually I’m just going to give up and stop running. Then all this will be for nothing.

Me: I’m not worried about tomorrow, or any other day. I’m worried about right now. And right now, I’m running. And right now, this feels easier than it did yesterday, and the day before that.

Mind: Actually, that’s true.

Me: Yup. And I’m almost done running.

Mind: Wait, that was fast. And I kind of feel amazing. And powerful!

Me: See?

Mind: Still, I’m going to have to do this again. And it’s taking forever to make progress.

Me: But each step forward brings me closer to my goal. So I’m not giving up.

***

And you know what happens after my run? My calves ache. My body sweats. And I feel incredible. In fact, I feel like I can take on the world. Just 30 minutes earlier, I’d been filled with doubt. But once I pushed through it, not only did I feel amazing, but I felt triumphant to have accomplished today’s challenge. It was only 30 minutes, and I got it done and out of the way before the day even started.

This is the trick with any goal, and the exact way I tackle my writing career. Do you think I always wake up ready to write when I’m in the middle of a book project? No. That’s a big fat NO. There are some days when I just want to sleep in or take a day off. But if I do that, I know I’ll lose the motivation I need to finish my book. So every day, I wake up at an ungodly hour and I start writing. To ensure success, I always leave myself notes during the previous writing session so I know where I left off. And I make sure my writing station is (mostly) clutter free, all my materials are within reach, and the coffee pot is set to brew. Every morning I have the same choice of options as I do on my running days—waste time on social media, sleep, or write. To keep from making the wrong choice, I don’t even check my social media or email until after my writing time is complete. Then I dive right into my book project. I don’t even worry if it sucks (rather, that voice does come up, but I push it out of the way). I know I can fix it later. I don’t bother with necessary research, I just make a note to check it later. I write, going through the motions until I get in the groove, and I change my thoughts every time I start to get down on myself.

Regardless of the goal you’ve set for yourself, you have to change your mind’s thought process first. If you’re telling yourself that you suck, encourage yourself instead. If you tell yourself that you’re going to fail, focus instead on what you’re doing RIGHT NOW to succeed. If you’ve become buried under negative thoughts, find positive ones to take their place. Speak to yourself as if you were one of your friends. Leave inspirational notes around your bedroom or in your car. Read inspirational books that uplift you and make you want to strive for more (I recommend Man’s Search for Meaning, The Alchemist, and A Return to Love, to start). Keep yourself surrounded by the positive so you can chase away the negative. You might have to force it, at first. But do it enough times, and that voice of positivity might sound more and more like you.

Stay tuned, I have another blog coming on how to make goals and stick to them.


Do you lead a busy life and wish you had more time for your writing? Are all the responsibilities of your day eating up the time you wish you could spend on your craft? Do you often wish you didn’t need to work full-time so that you had more time to write? Learn how to have both a full-time job AND a fulfilling writing career with Reclaim Your Creative Soul: The secrets to organizing your full-time life to make room for your craft.

 

Posted in Blog, Life as I know it

Love letter to my sadistic, ego-stripping, hard as nails English professor

When I walked into my Critical Thinking class at the beginning of this semester, I automatically assumed it would be an easy A. I’d sailed through English 1A the semester before, and thought that this advanced English class would be along the same route. After all, I’ve written eight books (and counting), and I work at a newspaper. Writing, to me, is like breathing. I figured that all of this gave me an edge on the other students, and I did my best to keep my ego in check and open myself up to learn something new.

The professor came in, and she was seriously like a dream. She was this outspoken Jewish woman who was incredibly well-versed in all the literature classics, and she brought us food so we wouldn’t starve during her class. Plus, she was a total passionate liberal, and she had numerous news sources to back up everything she stated.

Here was this book loving, newspaper reading, incredibly wise woman leading our class. I felt like I’d met my soulmate. My love for her and this class only increased when I realized I would NOT be earning an easy A. I was about to be educated, and I couldn’t have been more excited about it.

I was so naïve.

The difficulty of this course increased with each class. She raised her expectations of us to a bar we couldn’t reach. She often mused about the disservice our previous teachers had given us in not teaching us certain things, assigning certain books, pushing us to our hardest levels. Thinking back to some of the lame books and essays I’d had to read during last semester, I agreed. Yet, it didn’t change the way she kept pushing.

Things came to a head when she split us into groups so we could present a certain topic to the class. I’ve never loved public speaking. In fact, this one area holds me back in my book career. If I could figure out a way to write and sell books without ever having to speak to a crowd, I’d do it in a heartbeat. I would have traded writing a dozen essays instead of conducting a five-minute presentation in front of the class—and that’s not an exaggeration.

My group and I had spent weeks poring over the reading so that we understood our topic. I was a bundle of nerves for a whole week before that dreaded class. However, my nerves subsided (as they usually do) once it was our turn to present. When it became my turn to speak, I knew the material well enough that I didn’t even need to look at my notes. I thought we were crushing it.

And then I looked at my professor’s face.

I faltered in that moment, forgetting everything I’d studied over the past few weeks as I took in her furrowed brow, the thin line of her lips, the air of disappointment that surrounded her. Quickly, I averted my gaze and finished what we’d rehearsed. At the end of the longest five minutes of my life, I took my seat with the knowledge that we’d failed.

In fact, we had. The whole class had. Following our presentations, the professor raked us over the coals for every way we’d failed to follow directions. Our group ended up with a B on that presentation, but the way she verbally whipped us, I was sure we’d all received an F.

englishpaper
I actually thought this essay was perfect when I turned it in…

Little by little, this teacher deflated the ego I’d shown up to class with on that first day. The essays I wrote, revised, and re-wrote came back to me full of red marks for things I’d missed. Class discussions became more intense. And the workload and reading requirements increased substantially. I found myself counting down the days until this class could be over so that I could curl into a fetal position and lick my wounds for the three months of summer.

As that day came closer, however, I started to realize how much she’d taught me. Her style of teaching was akin to throwing us in the deep end and telling us to swim. However, it forced us to think for ourselves as we strived to reach that impossible bar. I’m still not sure I’ve reached it; however, it seems closer than it was before.

Tomorrow is my final class with this professor, and I have mixed feelings of relief and disappointment. I don’t know if I’ll ever be in a class that will push me this hard in my Major, or will teach me this much about writing and collecting information. Honestly, if she suggested I quit school in favor of learning everything she had to teach, I’d become her disciple in a heartbeat.

As I prepare for this last class, one decision is plaguing me. This professor has no idea I’m an author. Once I realized how much I still had to learn, I chose to keep my novels under wraps. I came there to learn, and I didn’t want her to think I thought I was too big for my britches. Plus, I was sure she’d mark up my book with red ink, pointing out every time I was too wordy, used passive voice, or committed some other literary faux pas.

Now that we’ve reached the end, I keep going back and forth on whether I should reveal that I’m an author and present her with one of my books. If I did, I’d give her Loving the Wind or The Road to Hope, the two books I’m most proud to have written. But every time I think of giving them to her, I can feel the apologies and explanations rising up: I still have a lot to learn…my next books will be better…I promise to work on my passive voice…don’t read them… I’m totally overthinking what should just be a gift. All I want to do is offer her the things I’m most proud of as a thank you for all she’s offered me.

I know I need to give her one (or more) of my books. I know I need to just get over my fear and do it. I let fear win far too often, and this is one chance to overcome that fear and move forward. However, jury is still out on whether those books ever leave my backpack during my final Critical Thinking class.

P.S. If I do give her a book, which one do you think I should give her?

Posted in Blog, Inspiration, Life as I know it, Writing

Focusing on one thing at time

busy

This morning, I found myself in between the craziness of finals. I have no more homework left to do, I have enough time to study for my next final, and the essay I’m working on for English needs a day of rest. My morning was free and clear to spend on the other things I have been wanting to do. Naturally, I picked up my manuscript for Hope at the Crossroads, and resumed editing it. I haven’t been able to work on it for weeks, so this was a rare opportunity.

But guilt and distraction reared their ugly heads, and they started whispering in my ear. What about those short stories you promised to edit? You really should be taking the time out to study. You sit all day, why not go to the gym? I know, write a blog entry!

Okay, so I folded on that last one. However, I’m going to make this short. There are always going to be other things you *should* be doing, or *could* be doing. But you can’t do everything at the same time. Right now (after this blog entry), I am working on my manuscript. Just my manuscript. Tonight I will work on my short stories. Everything else will have its time, but it’s not right now. If I keep focusing on everything I *should* be doing, I’m doing a crappy job on the one thing in front of me.

Doing one thing at a time is faster than trying to do all the things at once.


Do you lead a busy life and wish you had more time for your writing? Are all the responsibilities of your day eating up the time you wish you could spend on your craft? Do you often wish you didn’t need to work full-time so that you had more time to write? Learn how to have both a full-time job AND a fulfilling writing career with Reclaim Your Creative Soul: The secrets to organizing your full-time life to make room for your craft.

Posted in Blog, Life as I know it

A bad grade isn’t all that bad

Last night in my Critical Thinking class, the professor prepared us for receiving back our essays we’d turned in a few weeks earlier. The assignment had been to write a one-page, double-spaced essay on one topic. Sounds easy enough, right? Wrong. It’s incredibly hard to get a point across in that small amount of space, especially when you have a habit of being wordy, like me. I originally wrote two pages worth before I edited it down to one. When I turned it in, I was confident it was as good as it was going to get, and it was worthy of an A.

Spoiler alert: I was wrong.

Before we even got the essays back, we were told to write down what we thought we earned on this assignment. Naturally, I wrote down that I would get an A. I was humble about it, figuring I’d get a 45 instead of a 50 on the assignment. After all, none of us are perfect, right? I’d received A’s on all of my essays in my previous English class, so I didn’t think getting an A would be hard in this class either. Besides, I write novels and I work at a newspaper. Writing is like breathing. Getting an A was a given.

Did I mention that I was wrong?

After estimating our grade, the class then received their essays back. There was no grade on it, but there were marks on what could be improved, what was unclear, and anything else that needed fixing. Here’s what my paper looked like:

essayexample.jpg

(Yes, I blurred my essay. But I’m sure you can see how much it’s marked up) The gist of the comments were that I was way too broad in my topic (to the point that my topic wasn’t even clear), that I used a lot of extra words, and that I completely confused my professor. My citations page had a novel of an explanation as to why my essay didn’t work, how I really should have met with her first, and how I never supported my original thesis. Re-reading my “A”-worthy essay, I saw exactly what she meant, and realized I wasn’t as awesome as I thought I was.

Then we were asked to estimate our grade again. I knew I’d be lucky to get a C, but figured I probably had a D paper in front of me. When the grades were finally released, I was relieved to get a C.

And you know what? I’m embracing that C. I needed to get that “bad” grade. I needed to see that I still have so much to learn, and I’m excited to have a teacher who is not only honest in her grading, but who also takes the time to show me how to improve. You better believe that I’m holding on to this paper as a lesson—that there is always room for improvement, that I am still in learning mode, and that I need to seek help instead of thinking I can do it all on my own.

As a side note, I’m in editing mode on my yet-to-be-named sequel novels to The Road to Hope. I’m taking my time on them, though. Part of this is on purpose. I feel like I’m learning so much in my English class right now, and everything I’m learning can only benefit my writing. All those comments on my essay are the same things I need to edit on my rough drafts. So my education is benefiting all of you, too. 😉

Second side note (and I’ll be mentioning this often), I’m the featured author at Copperfield’s Books in Montgomery Village (Santa Rosa) on April 25. If you live in the Santa Rosa area, I’d love to meet you there. The event is 6-7 p.m., and I’ll be presenting The Road to Hope. I’ll also be talking about my writing and publishing process. If you’ve always wondered about writing a book and what it entails, come to this event with your questions. I encourage you to also read The Road to Hope, as I’d love to chat about the story with people who want a deeper look into the characters, storyline, etc. See my events page for more information.

Hope you all are well!

Posted in Blog, Life as I know it

4 things I’m going to do when I find my iPhone

phone
My iPhone and me in happier times

Yesterday, I lost my iPhone. It was just before I started my Astronomy class, and I know exactly how it happened. I was about 30 minutes early for class, and I was headed to the bathroom. I asked another student for directions, and she was looking for directions to her next class. We figured out that we were in the same class, and I pulled out my phone so I could bring up the map. She then waited for me while I continued on to the bathroom. Once in there, I set the phone down on the TP dispenser, and did my duty. Then I left the stall, washed my hands, and we continued on to class. Twenty minutes later, I thought I’d check my phone for messages before class started only to realize I didn’t have it on me. I went back to where I left it, and, of course, it was gone. No biggie, I used my new friend’s phone to call my phone. It went straight to voicemail. Then I called my husband so he could locate it using Find My iPhone. But the phone was offline. I figured that maybe the person who had it was in class, and it just wasn’t getting reception. But here we are a day later, and the phone is still offline. I’ve called the school’s Lost & Found and I called campus police twice, and nothing has come up.

My phone is gone.

Here’s the good news. iPhone is awesome in these situations because you can put it in Lost Mode with a finder message on it. If the person who found it is honest, they’ll turn on my phone and find my husband’s cellphone number on it, and can then call us so we can meet up. Lost Mode also turns off Apple Pay, so I’m sure no one can use my credit cards from my phone.

Here’s the bad news. I used my phone for everything. And I mean, EVERYTHING. My checkbook was on there, ensuring that I always had an ironclad budget and knew my money to the penny. My passwords to everything are on there (passcode protected, fortunately), and now I am locked out of so many things until I can reset the passwords. I already blocked myself out of one of my accounts this morning. And then there’s the convenient apps I had that made life enjoyable: my Starbucks app for an occasional coffee treat, email at my fingertips, my calendar, my maps, all of my music including Spotify and Pandora, my Kindle app for reading on the go, and so on. Not to mention I’m completely unreachable unless I’m behind a computer.

I’ve already gone through several stages of grief. It started out with shock that this had actually happened. After all, I’m attached to my phone! Then came the denial as I searched and re-searched my bag for the phone I knew wasn’t there. During this stage, I also kept calm, sure that some Good Samaritan had found my phone and we’d be reunited before the night was over. Throughout the night, I began thinking of ways I could entice the person to want to give it back to me. I wanted to punch everything in sight. I submitted to a full on ugly cry. The one I’m still teetering on is acceptance, but I am clinging to hope – hope that an honest person is in possession of my phone, or that their conscience will get the better of them!

Here’s what hasn’t helped. “It’s just a phone” or “We got along fine before we had phones”. I know both of these statements are true. But my iPhone has become my personal assistant, my credit card, my entertainment, my map to the world, my music, my flashlight, my EVERYTHING. In the years that I’ve been an iPhone owner, I have slowly transferred my whole life to my phone. It has so many photos, videos, and so on that are all missing with my phone. Now that I’m without it, I am literally lost. I find myself reaching for it, and then becoming sad all over again when I rediscover it’s not there. I feel phantom vibrations, and wonder how many messages I’m missing. What if my kid needs me from school?

One way or another, I will have a phone in my hand again. If this phone doesn’t show up, I’ll be forced to bite the bullet and purchase a new one. However, once I am an iPhone user again, here are some things I vow to do (and you should, too):

1. BACKUP MY PHONE!!! Currently, my lost phone has so much stuff on it, I haven’t been able to back it up. I kept telling myself that I would clear it eventually so I could back it up properly, but I never did. So stupid! I promise to always have a current iPhone backup so that I’m never in this situation again.

2. Invest in a password manager. This I need to research more, but there are apps out there that will store my passwords in one place with some rock solid security, and I’ll have the ability to access it from my phone, my computer, etc.

3. Invest in a checkbook ledger that can be accessed on a computer. I was using iReconcile, which I loved. But the developer hasn’t updated it in years, so I just recently switched over to one that doesn’t have that capability. That meant I had some hefty balancing to do just to get things right. And now I’m back in the market for a new checkbook app.

4. Take a digital detox. It’s telling how often I am still wanting to reach for my phone, and how I don’t know what to do with myself when I feel stressed, or bored, or really any feeling at all. My phone became my crutch, the thing that muted all those unpleasant feelings so that I could move through them easier. If I felt lonely, I could scroll through Facebook. If my computer wasn’t loading, I could check my email. If I wanted to be entertained, I could watch videos. If I wanted to tune out the world, I could listen to music. But without it, I can feel emotions. I can see things around me. I can be present. I may even be able to smooth out those unsightly creases on my neck from too much bent over screentime.

In the meantime, I’m still hoping, praying, and crossing fingers that I’ll find my phone. Please think good thoughts for me!

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Posted in Blog, Life as I know it

How to change the world in 2017

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Kīlauea Lighthouse in Kauai, which we visited in October.

2016 was a hard year, and like many, I felt rocked by everything that happened in the news, politics, violence across the nation and world, and the loss of so many icons. In 2017, my prayer is that we will stop being so divided.

If we look at the world as a whole, things feel pretty bleak. But when we look closer at our community, at the small things being done – the volunteers, the random acts of kindness, those bringing people up – it’s suddenly clear we live in a beautiful world, and it becomes apparent that the change starts with us.

So choose to use kind words, listen more than speaking, aim to understand a differing view instead of trying to change it, respect everyone you come across, see how you can help when necessary, do more for others than you do for yourself, pray/meditate often, put down social media as much as possible, enjoy nature, read every day, call your parents/grandparents often, learn about that thing your kids are so interested in, stop doing those tasks that make you unnecessarily busy, practice saying yes, practice saying no, practice good health, forgive yourself, spread love, and change the world.

I love you all. ❤️

Posted in Blog, Life as I know it

Gray hair, birthdays, and growing older with grace

happy-birthday-to-me9This week, I celebrated another year around the sun. For those of you who have been reading along for a while, you may recall how much I struggle with birthdays every year. It started on the day I turned 31, and my reaction to that day took me by surprise. Before I turned 31, I welcomed every birthday. I had no problem getting older. Even when I left my twenties to turn the big 3-0, I didn’t have an issue. But for some reason, turning 31 was a bigger deal. Part of it may have been because I was no officially IN my thirties, and not just 30. But I think the bigger issue was that I chose to celebrate my birthday in Disneyland. There I was on my 31st birthday, surrounded by all these young, adorable 20-something kids and I was just some washed up hag who was hiding wrinkles with makeup and gray hair with dye.

Ever since that year, I would dread each birthday as it came closer, and couldn’t get over the fact that I was aging.

For so many years, I took pride in being the younger person in the crowd. Having had my kids young, I’m often the youngest parent in the room at every school function. At my work, I was one of the youngest people in the newsroom. At my kids’ camp, I’ve been the youngest chaperone. And because my husband is 14 years older than I am, I’ve always been the youngest when we hang out with other couples. I placed a lot of pride on my youth. So when the tides started to turn, things began to get uncomfortable. As my kids got older, I stopped feeling like the young and fresh mom, and started feeling old and out of touch. My work started hiring all these young and brilliant millennials who are way quicker at learning new technology and social media skills. Younger chaperones signed on at camp, and have way more energy than my old body can handle. And so on.

Aging just became uncomfortable, because I had placed so much of my worth on my youth.

This year was different. I turned 39 on Dec. 7, and I didn’t have my annual freak out in the days leading up to my birthday. I think it’s because I’ve embraced the process of growing older. This is mostly apparent in the fact that I stopped dying my hair over a year ago. I am now sporting a brilliant streak of white in my hair.

crissigray2The decision to stop dying my hair was huge. I found my very first gray hair at 19 years old, the same week I discovered I was pregnant with my first child. I do believe the two go hand in hand. When plucking these pesky grays became too big of a job, I resorted to coloring my hair. At first, I went with all-natural dyes to ensure I wouldn’t harm my hair. But soon, I was grabbing any chemicals I could get my hands on to ensure my youth would be preserved.

Last year, I’d had enough. I knew I had a section of my hair that was all white, and it was apparent whenever I was between colorings. I realized that I didn’t want to be one of those “old ladies” who continued hiding their true color even when the jig was up. I wanted to go gray while my face still held some of its youthfulness. So last year, I decided to see what would happen if I just stopped dying it.

At first, the process was awkward. It looked silly. I wanted to hide my head in a scarf until I no longer had three-toned hair. But gradually, I began to look at my hair differently. The white section created this new and interesting feature to my hair. I’d play it up with different hairstyles, and starting receiving comments on how cool it looked. But most important, I actually stopped caring (for the most part) about how anyone saw it at all because I liked it. I thought it was beautiful.

Because my hair is long, it will be a while before the gray is completely grown out. I have about 5 inches of white, followed by another 7 or so inches of dye. But my hair has never worked as well as it does now. It feels better, it isn’t weighed down by dye, and it’s fun to play with.

crissigray1My hair is only one aspect that’s allowed me grace in growing older. My perspective, in general, has changed. Each year, I learn something new about myself and the world I live in. I learn what I can tolerate, and what I need to stop wasting so much energy on. I’ve learned to depend less on what other people think of me, and depend more on how I view myself. I’m learning to focus my attention more on my accomplishments and to stop putting so much weight on all I still have to do (this is a work in process, but I’m getting better).

Here are a few cool things that I’ve made happen this year:

  • I published two books I’m incredibly proud to have written: Reclaim Your Creative Soul and Loving the Wind: The Story of Tiger Lily & Peter Pan
  • I enrolled in college and am finally taking the necessary steps in taking control of my career path
  • I wrote another book, even while taking college courses, by implementing the skills I preach in Reclaim Your Creative Soul
  • My husband and I went on a gorgeous Hawaii vacation that we paid for out of pocket

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I’ve also lost my fear of being older. I still place importance on my age, but it’s in a different way. I’m now proud of being one of the older people in the room. In my college classes, the younger students turn to me to help them understand what the teacher is saying. I’m one of the more experienced people at work. I can relate with the crowd I hang out with. And at camp, I let the young and fun chaperones burn themselves out while I rest my tired bones.

I have grace about growing older. Each new year means new opportunities. Each gray hair serves as a badge of my experiences and time on this earth. Each wrinkle is proof that I’ve spent a lot of time smiling and laughing. Each birthday is a celebration that I’m still here, and I still get time to fulfill my goals.

Growing older is not a curse. It’s a blessing. And I’m 39 years blessed, and still going.