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

The story behind “Reclaim Your Creative Soul”

Last week, I was honored to speak to a group of people from my church about Reclaim Your Creative Soul, the book I published earlier this year about making more time for creativity. I began by telling them about my journey toward that book, and then I shared a quick rundown of the necessary steps to varying types of organization—both body, mind, and the space around them—so that their craft can be a priority.

This book is very personal to me. It shares many of the things I’ve come to know in my journey as a writer. I lay out the details of my writing practice, and the different ways I’ve created order in certain areas of my life to free me from distraction and allow me to focus on my craft. But more than that, it shares the spiritual journey I took toward actually writing this book. I’d like to share that with you here.

In August of 2015, I reached my breaking point. My writing was suffering because I felt like I had no creativity left in the tank. My eating habits were out of control, which resulted in weight gain, lack of energy, and a feeling of gross worthlessness. I felt overextended at my job, which was eating away at me even when I wasn’t on the clock. The successful writing career I thought I was going to have was nowhere to be seen. I actually felt like my desire to be a writer was a curse, because everything I wanted was so out of reach, and I was sure I’d be chained to being a 9-5 worker for the rest of my life.

That August, I reached a point where I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I felt like this huge weight on my chest was consuming me. I knew if I didn’t do anything about it, I was going to go off the deep end. Something needed to change, I just didn’t know HOW. So I did the only thing I could think of doing. I took a day off from everything to focus solely on the three areas of my life that were consuming me the most: my career, my health, and my creativity.

I called this day my “soul retreat.”

During that day, I spent time with God, addressing each area that plagued me and seeking answers on what I could be doing better. I not only came away with these answers, I also received a better understanding of who I was, my worth as God’s creation, and my purpose as a creative person. I gained clarity I was unable to reach before. Most of all, I learned how to breathe again.

(I explain what happened in full detail in my book, and also in an earlier entry of this blog)

At the time, I didn’t know I was going to write this book. But the seeds began to sprout on the day I took my soul retreat. A few months later, I began laying out the bones of Reclaim Your Creative Soul: The Secrets to Organizing Your Life to Make Room for Your Craft. At face value, it was my answer to those around me who wondered how I was able to write books while holding a full-time job, raising a family, and everything else that kept me so busy. But more than that, it was a love letter to myself and those who needed to hear this message: The two biggest obstacles between you and what feeds your soul is fear and a feeling of unworthiness. More than following my guidelines toward structure and organization, my hope is that readers will began to believe they are worthy of contributing their creativity to the world, and that the world NEEDS this creativity.

Don’t get me wrong, the struggle I felt in August is not something that just magically went away . I still reach moments of overwhelm and an inability to focus. Right now, as I’ve rearranged my life to include college courses, I can feel that same weight bearing down on me. But whenever I feel this way, it’s when I know I need to pause and reevaluate where I’m at, where I’m going, and what I need to do to get there. And because of this book, I have a reminder on what needs to happen so that I can keep going.

If you are in a place where your creative life feels out of reach, I encourage you to pick up Reclaim Your Creative Soul and start working the steps toward creative freedom. Writing this book changed my life. I hope reading it changes yours.

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

Being the school kid at 38

booksLast month, I went back to college. Actually, back isn’t the right word. I’ve never actually been to college before, unless you count that time when I taught a college class (true story). While my peers were racking up college loans to further their education, my world was filled with diapers and sleepless nights, and trying to find new ways to soothe a colicky baby. I was so jealous back then, even though this life path was my choice. But when I was stuck at home with a crying baby, I would have given anything to be out doing stupid stuff with people my own age, plus taking college courses.

Of course, I would never have appreciated it as much as I do now—the college courses, not the stupid stuff, lol. The first time I had to meet with my English professor during office hours, I must have repeated how happy I was to be in college at least 3 times. But I am. I’m sitting in classes with students who are 20 years younger than I am, learning stuff I’ve almost completely forgotten since the last time I was in school. There are a few new ways to do things (like, when did all the rules change in math???). But there are also a few things I do remember how to do. And it just feels good to learn new things. In the adult world, things are the same day in and day out. But in school, we’re on this steady incline of learning. I feel stretched and pulled, and I like it.

Plus, I’ve been on top of all my homework. Back when I was in high school, I managed to keep my homework levels to a minimum. Often I’d be doing my assignments during tutorial on the day they were due, or studying for a test the night before. I had the freedom to do this back then, as time was only my own. But now, I have a full time job, a family, and other obligations outside of school. Being lax on my homework is not an option. This week, for example, we had a huge essay assigned on Monday, due Wednesday. I knew this was coming, so I researched my topic over the weekend before it was assigned. I started writing the essay on Tuesday morning before work, then I worked on it during my lunch break, and finished it Tuesday night after my math class. If I hadn’t researched the topic beforehand, I would have choked on this assignment. It really helped to have an outline of what I was going to write before I wrote it.

The one drawback of being in school, however, is my writing is taking a backseat—at least in novel form. This was fine with me when I signed up for classes. I was ready for a break from novel writing so I could catch my breath a bit. But now, I keep getting jolted by novels I want to write, the ideas pulling at me when I’m supposed to be studying. I’m getting bit by the writing bug bad! I’ve even started an outline for my next novel with hopes to write during NaNoWriMo. But honestly, I don’t see how I’m going to be able to write a novel during November. My classes will be in full force at that point, and I use my writing time now for homework. There just isn’t a pocket of time for me to write a book at the speed I need to write for NaNoWriMo.

This is all ironic, of course, since I just wrote a book on finding time for your creative endeavors, even while living a full-time life (Reclaim Your Creative Soul). However, there is one passage in this book that is offering me the grace I need in this busy season of my life:

Your time is important. And if you are dividing your time between your art, a full-time job, raising a family, and the many other arenas of your life, you don’t have much time to waste.

Or, perhaps you feel like you have no time left for your art.

I want to pause here and acknowledge that your time is different from my time, and the time of everyone else who is reading this book. I do not know your circumstance, and I cannot dictate how you spend your time in your life. Some of you who will be able to uncover a few extra hours for your art after reading this chapter. And some of you may only be able to uncover a few minutes. Different priorities require different responses. For example, you may have very little wiggle room if you have a full-time job or are raising a family. However, I’m certain you can amend the time you spend perusing social media or watching TV.

I also want to remind you that there is a season for everything. Parents of young children probably feel more than frustrated about the lack of time left over for their creative endeavors. However, children don’t stay young forever. Eventually they become more independent, and require less of your devoted attention. Same with your job. You may be frustrated because you are working so hard at making someone else money, when you really want to be devoting your time to your art. Your time will come. You may only have an hour or so a day to give to your art, and are a slave to your cubicle for the rest of the day. This makes that one hour so much more valuable. But if you keep at it, using that hour as best as you can, the day may come when you can decrease the amount of hours you spend working for someone else, and increase the amount of time you spend creating. (Reclaim Your Creative Soul: Chapter 8, Managing Your Time)

Here’s where the grace comes in. This season is about furthering my education. It’s where my focus needs to be. In the long run, it will help me to be a better writer. Novel writing will happen, but I have to be patient. Winter break is coming up, and I’ll have 3-4 weeks to lose myself in the novel writing process. Summer break will give me a full 3 months to write seriously. But now? My writing muscle will stay toned through journaling, blogging, and, of course, school and work writing. And this is okay! I’m just getting stronger for when my writing season begins again.

Posted in Blog, Life as I know it, Weekend Recap

Meeting my baby niece

adeline2This past weekend, I was able to meet my new niece, Adeline, for the very first time. She’s already 8 weeks old, but because she lives in Southern California and I’m in Northern California, I haven’t been able to meet her until now. She’s still little, which means many of our conversations consisted of me telling her about the world, and she pooping in my arms.

Adeline is now the 3rd baby in my family, but there are 15 years between her and my youngest kid. I had my kids young. I was 20 when my daughter was born (she’s now 18), and 23 when my son was born (he’s now 15). Back then, I had no idea what I was doing. I had parenting books that contradicted each other. But that didn’t matter because I just read them and did what I wanted, anyway. We made so many mistakes back in those days. But we also did what was right for our family. We must have done okay, because the kids are still alive. 🙂

My sister, Melissa, and I are in completely different worlds right now. She and her husband are adjusting to a sleep-deprived schedule of feedings, diaper changes, and tip-toeing around the house while the baby is sleeping. Everything revolves around their new daughter, and 5 minutes of personal time is now a luxury.

I’m on the other end of the spectrum. I went through the sleep-deprived and kid-centric schedule while my peers were making questionable choices in their college years. But it all paid off. While my peers (and sister!) are having babies now, I’m preparing for the empty nest, and experiencing tons of free time. Well, sort of. I’m busy, but it’s with my own stuff instead of a crazy kid-filled schedule. I did my time in the mommy groups, as a school helper, on the sidelines of the soccer games, in the audience of the dance recitals, cheering on the baseball teams, and struggling through homework I no longer understand.

Now, my kids are leaving the dependent stage and becoming more like friends. They choose to hang out with me, instead of tagging along by obligation. My daughter, who works at Whole Foods, now takes ME shopping (organic food at an employee discount!). My son asks to go out to coffee with me, even offering to pay just so he can have some mom-time (and probably because that’s a sure way for me to insist on paying). They negotiate with me instead of just going along with whatever I say. And while I am sometimes frustrated that it’s not “my way or the highway,” I think I prefer it this way.

They also have their own lives, spending a lot of time with friends and away from the house. I’m starting to get a feel of what it will be like when they’re on their own and my husband and I get to enjoy a quiet house. It will be both wonderful and a bit too quiet. I know I’ll miss laughing at my son’s everyday inappropriate jokes, or letting off steam through a venting session with my daughter. But I also know we’ll all survive this next stage of life, just like we’ve survived all the previous ones.

One thing’s for certain – I am so glad to be done with the baby stage! Being around Adeline, I was reminded about how much work caring for a baby really is. Every second of every day was devoted to her needs. During my stay, I did my best to help my sister with a few household chores, loads and loads of laundry, sorting baby clothes, and taking turns rocking Adeline when she was fussy. But I think the one thing my sister appreciated the most was when she got to spend an hour coloring her hair and taking a long, hot shower while I took care of the baby. She may not get this chance again for awhile. But no worries. In 18 years she’ll have her time back again. 🙂

Meanwhile, I need to figure out when I can see this sweet little girl again. Her baby years are going to pass by in the blink of an eye! After all, I blinked and now my baby is going to college.

 

Posted in Blog, Life as I know it, Weekend Recap

A Head Full of Dreams

When I was fresh out of high school, I discovered this alternative rock band called Coldplay. At first I thought they were pretty cool, especially when they came out with this song:

They released a few more songs, and eventually I was hooked. They became my favorite band, and I couldn’t buy their new albums fast enough.

In 2001, they were coming to the Warfield in San Francisco. I was determined to go. The tickets were $39 apiece. Back then, we didn’t have a ton of money to spare, so $39 felt like a chunk of change. Still, I made it happen.

concert1
My hubby and me, waiting for Coldplay. 🙂

The day of the concert arrived, and I was raring to go. Unfortunately, my gas tank was not. We were on empty with no funds to replenish. We were going nowhere. The concert came and went, and I never got to see this up and coming band perform.

15 years and 6 more albums later, Coldplay announced their “very last” concert tour. Tickets started at $150 apiece, and if you didn’t snatch them up quick, you’d lose. Knowing my obsession with this band, my husband bought us both tickets as soon as they came available, scoring us awesome seats in the stands.

The concert was on Saturday, and I can honestly say

BEST. CONCERT. EVER.

These guys put their all into it. Chris Martin was all over the stage as they played a full two hours of music, touching every single one of their albums. We were all given bracelets to wear that lit up during the concert, changing colors to create a sea of light choreographed to each song. The whole thing was amazing.

concert2
Bracelets handed out before the concert. During the concert, the straps would light up with different colors.

Hopefully this really isn’t their last concert tour. The band is claiming that they are done creating traditional albums, though they swear they’re not breaking up.

When the tour first started, I came across this tear-inducing video of an autistic boy who could not stop crying at Coldplay’s concert. I watched it again yesterday, having experienced the whole concert myself. Yup. Tears!

 

Now that I’ve experience Coldplay in concert, I can honestly say I will never miss a concert again (even if I have an empty gas tank!!!!). Let’s hope they forget this whole “never touring again” nonsense.

Have you gone to any concerts lately? Which ones have been your favorite?

Posted in Blog, Life as I know it

50 shades of sparkling grey

  

 It’s been months since I dyed my hair. Before that, I grappled with stopping. I’d stand there with boxed dye in hand, wondering if I should buy it. My hair was fried. I was tired of spending money on it. I wasn’t even sure if my hair looked better when I did color it. However, I just couldn’t bring myself to let go of the color. After all, grey hair means you’re old. I’m in my 30s. I wasn’t ready to grow old. I mean, what would people think if my hair was partially grey? Would they whisper about me behind my back? Would they think I was letting myself go? Would they think I had just stopped trying now that I was an old married woman?

Inevitably, I’d end up buying the dye. And for 6 weeks I’d go grey-free. And then the roots would start showing and I’d be back at square one, wondering if it was even worth it to dye my hair again. 

But then, one day, I stopped. I stopped seeing the point. I stopped caring what people thought. I stopped trying to make my hair something it wasn’t. I stopped defining my beauty by color.

I stopped dying my hair. 

At first, it was scary. In fact, it was scary for months. I had to keep reminding myself that no one cared about my hair. Soon, I realized it was true. NO ONE CARED ABOUT MY HAIR. I have yet to receive strange looks. At worst, both my mom and sister said I could always dye it again if I changed my mind – because they not-so-secretly hoped I’d change my mind. And it’s true, I could dye it if I change my mind. But something funny happened as the color grew out. 

I started to like the grey. 

I think this has surprised me most of all. I think the grey is beautiful. Right now, I have a long ways to go before the dye grows out. But the grey is mostly in one section of my hair, creating a silver strand that entwines itself in my brown locks. It adds dimension to my braid. It peeks through when I wear it down. It highlights a portion when I pull it back. It makes my hair so much more interesting. 

Plus – and this is the old lady in me talking – I earned those greys. It’s every ounce of life I’ve struggled through, every hurdle I’ve overcome, every kid I’ve raised, every heartache I’ve endured, every worry I’ve lost sleep over… It’s every part of my life that I’ve questioned, and it’s a reminder that I’ve survived. 

So, I’m growing out the greys. And I feel beautiful. 💕

Posted in Blog, Life as I know it

What I did in 2015

In 2015:

– I wrote 3 books

– I published 1 book

– I read 21 books

– I grew stronger in my faith

– I grew deeper in love with my husband

– I became an auntie (due in 2016!)

– I became a homeowner 😊

– I found peace at work

– I found peace with my age (hello, 50 shades of sparkling grey)

– My firstborn became a driver and a high school senior 😳

– My lastborn became a high school freshman 😳

– I gained some weight

– I gained some perspective

– I enjoyed a really, really great year.

I can’t wait to see what 2016 has in store for me. ❤️

I leave you with this video of the ocean surrounding the Point Reyes lighthouse, where my husband and I trekked down 308 stars to visit, then back up those stairs to leave. Wow, my legs were wobbly! But it was worth it. I mean, look at the view! Plus, there were tons of whales spouting in the water. It was a great way to end the year. 

Posted in Blog, Life as I know it

A great way to start 38

IMG_6524

I want to tell you a little something about birthdays for me. Every year, I cry. It started around my 31st birthday. I was in Disneyland, the happiest place on earth. It was the perfect place to spend my birthday – or so I thought. I had no idea how old I would feel surrounded by a bunch of adorable, little teenagers. And there I was, celebrating the fact that I was officially in my 30s.

Ever since then, I have gotten the birthday blues around my birthday. Every year, except this year.

I turned 38 today. In two years I will be leaving my 30s and entering a new decade. And you know what? Bring it. Because today I had the absolute best day. I spent it working on my book (which is still not finished! but almost!). And then I did a little shopping. And then I went out to the beach to spend time with God, reflect on this past year, and think about how I want this next year of my life to look.

Here’s a video from today:

But there’s more. As I went home, there was this old guy hitchhiking on the side of the road. I passed him, and saw the frustration on his face. Something in me told me that I needed to turn around and pick him up. And so, I did.

IMG_6526Now, I’m not saying that everyone should go out and pick up hitchhikers. It’s generally not a safe practice. But there was something about him that told me he was okay, and he really needed a ride.

Turns out, he really did. His name was Bob, and he was 71 years old. He’d had a heart attack the week before, his 4th one of his life. He was staying in a beach house up the way, and his wife was gone for two days while she took care of her own mother. So he had no car, and no way to get into town.

And so I drove him. But before I did, I told him that today was my birthday, and I asked him not to hurt me on my birthday. I was only half joking with him. But he assured me he was a good guy.

IMG_6529

I took him to the restaurant he wanted to go to, and discovered he would probably hitchhike back home. This didn’t sit right with me. So I told him to enjoy his dinner, and I would wait for him and drive him back. He offered to pay for my dinner, but I refused. My hubby was already making me dinner at home. Plus, I really wanted to get some writing in.

At any rate, he ate quick, and then came out. I felt a bit selfish to have not eaten with him, choosing my writing over conversation. If I could have changed anything about this experience, that would have been it.

On the ride home, Bob told me that I blessed him. He said he felt like God brought me to him. But I felt like he blessed me. Of everything, this tiny gesture was the highlight of my whole day.

It was a great way to start 38.

Posted in Blog, Faith, Life as I know it

They’re right. God isn’t fixing this.

NYDailyGodYesterday, 14 people were slaughtered at the hands of at least two gunmen who mowed down innocent people in San Bernardino for a still unknown agenda. It was yet another senseless tragedy in our nation, on the heels of several mass shootings that have left us numb.

So many of us were left to ask WHY. Why does this keep happening? Why isn’t something being done? How can we change this? We’re left feeling helpless, feeling like there’s nothing we can do. And so, those of us who pray, PRAY. We pray for the victims and their families. We pray for our nation. We pray for our leaders, and for answers. We pray that this war on ourselves will cease fire, that we’ll embrace peace, that we’ll live in harmony. And we pray for our children, fearful of the world we are handing them.

Our leaders are praying too, offering their thoughts and prayers with the family through posts on social media. And while their sentiments are likely sincere, they are also leaving a bad taste in the mouths of many who believe these leaders could be doing more.

This was heavily illustrated by the headline posted on the NY Daily News, stating “GOD ISN’T FIXING THIS.”

I can’t even begin to tell you how angry this headline makes me feel, which means this newspaper is doing their job. Media outlets are competing for our attention, and the best way to do that is to incite some sort of emotional response to get us to react. This newspaper doesn’t care about God’s part in this tragedy. They care about our reaction to the word GOD, and are hoping we will respond, negatively or positively, just as long as we are talking about THEM so that their traffic goes through the roof.

I guess I’m helping that along, now aren’t I?

Here’s the thing, though. They’re right. God isn’t fixing this. I mean, how can he when we’ve done such an awesome job of pushing him out of our lives?

God isn’t fixing this, but don’t mention him in public because you might offend those who don’t believe the way you do.

God isn’t fixing this, but keep him out of our schools.

God isn’t fixing this, but don’t tell me how to live my life.

God isn’t fixing this, but remove the word GOD from everything.

God isn’t fixing this, because we’re not fixing this.

Here’s the thing. God is not some convenient genie in a bottle. His job isn’t to grant our wishes or mend everything we screw up. We are also not his chess pieces. He doesn’t sit there, plotting our every single move. He doesn’t force our actions. He doesn’t even force us to follow him or his ways. He’s granted us FREE WILL, offering the gift of choosing how we will live our lives, as well as the freedom of living with the choices we make. Sometimes our choices are good. Sometimes they’re not. And hopefully we’ll learn from those choices and become wiser because of them.

Thing is, we live in a world where everybody gets to make choices in their lives. And sometimes those choices don’t just affect them, but the people around them. Sometimes they affect people on a much larger scale, even. This can be a good thing, like when people encourage others to do good through their own actions of kindness. But it can also be bad, like when someone picks up a gun and kills others for no other reason than to wield power and send fear through the nation and the world.

This is what happened yesterday, and in every other mass shooting we’ve experienced through terrifying news stories. And as we watch the details unfold, held captive by the images we see on the screens or read about in the papers, we feel helpless, filled with sorrow, and unsure what we can do.

And so, we pray.

The NY Daily News called the action of praying “meaningless platitudes.” I call it a good start. We should all be praying for our nation. We should be praying for our leaders. We should be praying for change. We should be praying for answers.

And then, we should listen.

Because God isn’t going to step in and fix this. But he will use us to make things right. If we all we do is pray for God to fix this, things will never change. But if we pray about how God can use us to change things, and then let him guide us, change will happen.

The NY Daily News may have used their headline to cause anger on both sides of the fence, particularly among those who just read the words “God isn’t fixing this,” and leave it at that. But I encourage you to see those words and let it inspire action.

God isn’t fixing this, because he believes YOU can.