Thursday, June 30, 2011


Personal boundaries are the physical, emotional and spiritual spaces between two individuals.

People with unhealthy boundaries say yes when they want to say no; internalize the success or failure of those closest to them, especially their life partners or their children; find themselves exhausted at the end of the day from caving to the whims and demands of others; often feel taken advantage of, used, and resentful.

People with unhealthy boundaries:

  • Have an overdeveloped sense of responsibility and more concern for others than for themselves.
  • Have difficulty expressing negative feelings.
  • Isolate themselves and fear authority figures.
  • Seek approval from others and lose their own identities.
  • Are frightened by angry people and personal criticism.
  • View themselves as victims and tend to attract friendships and intimate relationships that feed that weakness.
  • Judge themselves harshly and have low self-esteem.
  • Fear abandonment and stay in unhealthy relationships due to this fear.
  • Feel guilty when they stand up for themselves.
  • Are prone to addiction.

Do you have healthy boundaries? Try this online quiz and find out.

I will admit that I answered "True" to far too many of those questions. The fact is I have struggled with boundary issues my entire adult life - especially in romantic relationships, where I have tended to be a chameleon, transforming myself into the person my partner wanted me to be and losing myself in the process - but also in personal and professional relationships: saying yes to the point of becoming completely overcommitted and overwhelmed, allowing others to take advantage of me, financially and otherwise, in the name of friendship or love, blaming myself for everyone else's problems.

I have made steady but slow progress during the ten years since my divorce; old habits die hard. Suddenly, though, my learning curve is improving rapidly. The simple act of writing down ten goals and reviewing them daily has been very empowering. My morning routine now consists of making coffee, rewriting my list of ten goals, meditating, writing my morning pages, and reviewing my to-do list. These activities get each day off to a positive start and help me keep my eye on the prize, so to speak. I have been more productive in every area of my life, procrastinating less and accomplishing more.

Best of all, my distance vision seems to be improved; now that I have a clearer picture of what I want, I am not about to engage in activities - or participate in relationships - that might stand stand in the way. It's going to be much easier to say no to activities that will draw me away from my chosen path. I am accepting responsibility for my own happiness; if others are unhappy, they have no one to blame except themselves. And if I am exhausted at the end of the day, it will be the good kind of tired.

Today I drew a line in the sand. I won't go into all the details, but it was the right thing to do. Now that I have done it once, I am hoping it will be easier next time.

Do you struggle with boundary issues? If so, what steps have you taken to deal with them?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Sweet Blog Award

I have had my nose to the grindstone this week. I've been very productive and I'm proud of my accomplishments but days spent writing, beading, reading, going to the gym and running errands do not make for interesting blog material.

Sweet Blog Award to the rescue! Both Laila Knight and Ashley Nixon presented me with this award recently - thank you, ladies! The requirements for acceptance are as follows:

1. Link back to the giver.
2. Tell seven things about yourself.
3. Award it to five other bloggers and let them know.

Simple, right? So here are seven things about me.

1. I am addicted to Words With Friends. (Wanna play with me? My username is pianoteacherpam.) I also love Tetris and Bejeweled but I don't play them much these days.
2. When I was in college, I slapped a guy for kissing me without permission. He sent me a dozen red roses and a note of apology the next day.
3. I almost quit piano lessons over The Song of the Volga Boatman and Turkey in the Straw. But eventually I mastered both pieces and can play them to this day.
4. I have never been to Ikea.
5. I don't wear a lot of make-up but I rarely go out of the house without putting on at least tinted moisturizer, blush, eyeliner, mascara and lip gloss.
6. If I could live in sundresses and flip-flops, I would.
7. I love going to Waffle House for breakfast, watching people and chatting with the servers. My favorite meal is cheese and eggs and grits and raisin toast with apple butter. With coffee, of course.

So there you have it. And since I think you're ALL sweet, I can't decide which five of you to pass the award on to. So if you want it, just say the word, and it's yours! Otherwise, feel free to share a random fact or two about yourself in today's comments!

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Be sure to come back on Friday to find out about the Freedom Giveaway Blog Hop - an opportunity for you to get to know some other bloggers and win some great prizes! See you then!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Who are your friends?

Pam and Lindy of Writers Li.P.P.
I became acquainted with  author and speaker Jody Hedlund on Twitter; today she wrote a great blog post called How Genuine Are Online Friendships? Coinciding as it did with my Writers Li.P.P. post today called Who's On Your Team?, Jody's post as well as her readers' comments really resonated with me.

Because not only do I receive amazing online support from people who share my passion for writing - most of whom I have never met - this blog has also served to deepen my experience with real-life friends and acquaintances. Like the mother of the piano student who gave me the amazing end-of-year gifts last week, others who have known me in only one capacity or another - as a fellow parent, a peer in high school, a colleague from my local music teacher's association - have gotten to know more about the many facets of my life through these pages. As a result, when I run into these people in the course of my real life, I find out about other things we have in common, whether it's an unfulfilled dream, a mutual love of knitting or beading, or the hope that we will find True Love.

As a matter of fact, sometimes it's easier for me to open up and be my authentic, complicated, messy self when I am writing. Since this is my "personal" blog, I am not obligated to maintain a "professional" persona. I try to keep things PG-13 rated - after all, a handful of my piano students, as well as my parents and occasionally my own children - read these posts. But even my fiction is PG-13 rated. That's just how I roll.

Based on Google statistics, I know that a lot of people visit my blog and never leave a comment. Some of you comment on Facebook instead, and that's okay, too. Regardless, I want you to know how much I appreciate each and every one of you. I feel your love and support reaching out to me across the miles, through the blogosphere, and it means the world to me. Knowing that I am accountable to you spurs me on to work on my novel when I would rather go outside and play and to blog about my progress when I would rather watch television. And after I am a published author, we're gonna have the biggest blog party that ever was. Who's in?

Summer Fun, Part 7: Stormy Weather

This spring and summer, Atlanta has had more than its fair share of thunderstorms - heavy rain, damaging winds, thunder and lightning. Figuratively speaking, my family has weathered a few storms, too. But this evening as I drove home from Lindy's house - following a productive but exhausting few hours with her and Megan - I saw the most beautiful rainbow I have seen in a long, long time. The picture doesn't do it justice, but there it is.

It made the storm seem worthwhile, and left me with such a feeling of well-being. Indeed, it gave me hope that maybe everything really will turn out all right in the end. Maybe I am following the path I am meant to travel. Yes, I have a lot of work to do. But maybe if I am able to ride out the rough times, the floods and the power outages, the heart stopping thunderclaps and the blinding flashes of lightning, something beautiful will come out of it.

I'm going to hold onto that for a while.

* * * * *

I'm blogging over at Writers Li.P.P. today about team building. Whether you're a stay-at-home mom or a corporate employee, you need good people on your team. Come check out my post and comment at the end for a chance to win a Writers Li.P.P. t-shirt. Not available in stores (or anywhere else, for that matter)!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Summer Fun, Part 6: Summer Celebrations

The first party of the summer is always my sister-in-law's birthday.

 We started the celebration at her house this afternoon with ice cream and strawberry cake and presents

My brother Eric killing cutting the cake 
and then went out for a movie (comedy) and a late dinner (Mexican).

 What a great day! Thank you, SeDonna, for giving us an excuse to get together and have some fun!

* * *

Next on the family calendar is Independence Day in July followed by my birthday in August. 
What special occasions do you look forward to during the summer months?

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Summer Fun, Part 5: Summer Projects

Today we cleaned out the garage.

This is what it looked like before we started.

I hear what you're thinking: HOARDERS. Ahem.

I'm not going to do much in the way of making excuses, other than to say that I have had a lot of people working against me in this venue. For example, I am storing furniture and personal belongings for my firstborn and still sorting through items left behind by my ex-fiance and his children. Today, however, I wrangled the assistance of said firstborn and my youngest. This is what it looked like after we got finished.

 My car is parked in the garage! What a concept!

 I have yet to organize the items on the tool bench and the steel shelves. But at least I know what those items are. I want to have the antique chair on the right reupholstered, and am trying to figure out a better way to store the other one as well as the leather desk chair that belongs to my oldest son.

The above items are for sale: a piano bench, a copy machine, a love seat, and a Wave Master.
 I also have an entire unused gallon of purple paint. Interested?
The lawn mower will live in this part of the garage again after these things are gone.

We threw away gallons of trash, hauled an entire carload to Goodwill, and set a couple of pieces of particle board furniture curbside for pickup. We also cleaned out the back room, which you cannot see.

What a great way to start my summer vacation - by tackling a project I could have easily dreaded for the entire summer and beyond.

Yep - today I ate the biggest, ugliest frog I could find. Tomorrow I'm going to take some time to play.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Summer Fun, Part 4: Last Day of Piano Lessons

As a teacher, I sometimes think in terms of school years instead of calendar years; today was the last day of my academic year 2010-2011. A few of my students gave me end-of-year gifts this week; it was kind of like Christmas in June.

I received an Amazon gift card,

a bouquet of flowers arranged by an eight-year old girl,

and a bag containing several of my ultimate favorite things, as well as a couple of the giver's ultimate favorite things, which I just might consider adding to my list.

Notice the beautiful card to the right of all the goodies, signed by my two students as well as their mother, who also wrote me one of the most beautiful notes I have ever received. It turns out this woman reads my blog regularly - how else would she know about my ultimate favorite things? - and finds it personally inspiring. She thanked me for my work with her children as well as for writing this blog, and wished me the best of success as an author, as well. It was all I could do not to cry. Since children aren't usually comfortable with tears, even happy ones, I smiled and gave hugs all around instead. But I was deeply moved.

The card is sitting on top of my writing desk now; when I am having a rough day, feeling overwhelmed and discouraged, or simply having trouble tracking down my muses, I will pick it up and savor those encouraging words once again.

It is always good to touch base with my students after the recital is over, to congratulate them on a job well done, and to remind them to sit down and play for a few minutes at least two or three times a week over summer vacation. Music is like math, I say. If you don't use it, you will forget. Hopefully at least a few of them will heed my advice.

Everybody gets a break until after July 4th; just a handful of students are opting for lessons during the month of July. But we will hit it hard again after school resumes in August. Then it will be time for another batch of New Year's Resolutions. A fresh start. A new beginning.

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It's Friday Show and Tell at Writers Li.P.P. I hope you'll stop by and see what Lindy and I have to share with you!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Summer Fun, Part 3: Summertime Treats

There's nothing like the fresh produce of summer. Tomatoes and sweet corn. Peaches and watermelon. Garden lettuce and green beans. Strawberries and limes.

Put strawberries and limes together, and what have you got? Strawberry limeade, right? Well, until my friend Sherri, blogger at From the S in Saidfraz, waxed eloquent about this Sonic concoction, I had never even heard of a strawberry limeade. Sherri has never steered me wrong, so as I drove past Sonic on my way home from the post office yesterday afternoon, I couldn't resist taking advantage of their Happy Hour Special - all drinks half price 2-5PM - and finding out what all the fuss was about.

To say I was not disappointed is the understatement of the season. So just in case I'm not the LAST person on the planet to know about this delectable libation - the perfect combination of sweet and sour - I thought I would share it with you, my loyal readers.

* * *

Then I found a recipe, in case you want to try making your own.


1/2 cup fresh lime juice
2 cups cold water
1/4 cup white sugar
1 1/2 cups frozen sliced strawberries
5 ice cubes

Place lime juice, cold water, sugar and strawberries in blender and blend on high until smooth. While blender is running, add ice cubes, one at a time.

I am going to try this soon, substituting stevia for the sugar for a lower-calorie treat. I will let you know how it goes.

* * *

And while I was searching for strawberry recipes, I came upon this one for Strawberry Tiramisu Trifle. I have always wanted a trifle bowl. Now I have the perfect excuse to buy one.


1 quart fresh strawberries
1 1/4 cups cold milk
1 package (3.4 ounces) instant vanilla pudding mix
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
4 tablespoons strong brewed coffee, room temperature, divided
2 cups whipped topping
1 package (3 ounces) ladyfingers, split
6 ounces grated chocolate

Slice strawberries, setting aside three for garnish. In a bowl, whisk milk and pudding mix for 2 minutes. Let stand for 2 minutes or until soft set. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth; gradually beat in 2 tablespoons coffee. Beat in pudding. Fold in whipped topping.

Brush remaining coffee over ladyfingers. Line the bottom of a 3-quart trifle bowl with half of the ladyfingers. Top with half of the sliced berries, grated chocolate and pudding mixture; repeat layers. Cut reserved berries in half; place on trifle. Cover and refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.

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Clearly, I live a too-sheltered life. What else am I missing out on? What are your favorite summertime treats?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Summer Fun, Part 2: School's Out!

My 23 year old son left home several years ago; the 19 year old still lives with me, but with his work/class schedule and social life, we don't see much of each other. But now that school is out, having the 15 year old around all day every day out is definitely impacting my daily routine.

My blog sister Sally Kilpatrick shared some of the challenges of having very young children underfoot in her very funny post today at Petit Fours and Hot Tamales (click HERE). I remember those days well: the noise, the mess, the work, the worry, the exhaustion.

But even though my children are much older now, I'm still dealing with all of it - especially the worry.  Here is a case in point.

Last week, actress Selena Gomez came to the Mall of Georgia to promote her new movie. Watch this clip from FOX news to find out a little bit about her visit.

Can you believe that kid who tried to rush the stage? Well, here is a slightly different perspective of what happened at the 1:15 mark in that news clip.

"Who is that handsome young man?" I hear you asking. Well. Gulp. That's my boy.

Can you imagine how I felt getting that phone call from the Gwinnett County Police? It was terrifying, I can assure you. Thankfully, no charges were filed - as a matter of fact, Nathan's peers -and a surprising number of adults - are treating him like some kind of hero. He has his own fan page on Facebook; there are even commemorative t-shirts available for purchase. 

I'm almost as concerned about all that as I am about the incident itself. Sigh.

When my children were small, people warned me how quickly the years would pass and admonished me to enjoy every minute. I tried; I really did. But if I had those days to live over, I would relax and enjoy them even more. Because now my big boys are making adult decisions that will affect the course of the rest of their lives and I have little say over any of it. All I have to offer them is the benefit of my experience and, for the most part, they aren't interested in hearing what I have to say. Regardless, I am doing to best I can to enjoy what little time I have left with my young men - to love them even when they make mistakes and to help them pick up the pieces when things go wrong.

A boy becomes an adult three years before his parents think he does and about two years after he thinks he does
~Lewis B. Hershey

I'm going to give my boys a good night hug before I go to sleep tonight. And count the days until school starts again. 

NOTE: It's 47. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Summer Fun, Part 1: Travel Plans

This is the last week of my 2010-2011 academic year piano lesson schedule. As much as I love what I do, I will admit that I am looking forward to a reduced summer teaching load and more time: to write, to catch up on household projects, to simply BE.

But this afternoon one of my moms asked me if I had any travel plans for the summer. Sadly, I confessed that I don't. I would love to book a Caribbean cruise, lie on the beach in Florida, travel up to Mt. Hood for a visit with Pat, spend a few weeks in France.  But travel costs money and I have none. I might be able to swing a trip up to Mt. Carmel, Illinois (population 8000) for Ag Days in August, but that's it. (Don't laugh! My mom and dad live in Mt. Carmel and I haven't seen them since Christmas. Also, my niece and nephew traditionally attend Ag Days and I haven't seen them since their dad's - my brother's - funeral. So I will be positively THRILLED if I make it to Ag Days.)

Anyway, since my travel plans are limited, I am hoping to live vicariously through you. Where are you going on vacation this summer? Where have you always wanted to go but have never been? What can you do to get there?

* * *

It's not to late to pop over to Writers Li.P.P. and comment on my blog post for your chance to win the coolest t-shirt ever. You have until midnight Tuesday - good luck!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Back in Funkytown

You don't have to control your thoughts; you just have to stop letting them control you.
~ Dan Millman

Overwhelmed by the demands of work, parenting and my own self-imposed deadlines, and exhausted from several weekends in a row of travel and music recitals, I found myself totally depleted by the end of last week. I allowed myself to take a break on Friday and felt further rejuvenated after spending time with Georgia Romance Writers, Kelly Stone, and my blog sisters yesterday. Today, finally, I began to pull myself out of the slump I was in.

It happens so fast.

An orderly home does wonders for the spirits, so I started with that. I cleaned up the kitchen and mopped the floor; I sorted the laundry and did a couple of loads; I dusted and vacuumed. Then I posted to Writers Li.P.P., got some packages ready to take to the post office, and wrote my to-do list for next week. By then I felt collected enough to get back to work on my novel revision. With 60,000 words left to go, I had to admit that my June 30th deadline was completely unrealistic. So I decided to extend my deadline to July 15th; that's 2,222 words a day between now and then. I wrote 2,367 words this afternoon so I am off to a solid start.

I am especially proud of meeting my word count goal today because it was brand new work - a couple of challenging scenes that weren't in the previous version. I had been dreading them and missed several days of writing as a result. It feels great to have them behind me.

Now I am ready to curl up with a cup of mint tea and a sweet romance. I will leave you with this video. Because what seems obvious to you might be amazing to others.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Georgia Romance Writers/Author Kelly L. Stone

Just when I am about to throw in the towel with my writing, it is time for another meeting of Georgia Romance Writers and I get inspired all over again.

Today was a perfect example. I reconnected with good friends, like Atalie.

Atalie was one of those lovely women who made me feel super welcome when I was a newbie to GRW. She was also my very first Etsy customer. She has been dealing with some pretty serious health issues so I haven't seen much of her lately, so I was especially happy to be able to give her a hug this morning.

Visitors were introduced, then it was time for good news. My friend and PFHT blog sister Susan Carlisle was recognized for signing a two-book deal with Harlequin. Congratulations, Susan! 

Susan Carlisle with GRW president Nicki Salcedo

Then it was time for our featured speaker Kelly L. Stone. Author of the Time to Write series, Kelly has the best ideas for helping writers keep motivation high and deal with the inevitable interruptions that life throws our way. Today she talked about the thought, feeling and behavior cycle, explaining that we may not be able to control our thoughts and feelings, but we CAN control our actions. So it is important to set specific writing goals for ourselves, and then make sure that our actions are in line with those goals regardless of how we might be feeling. Makes perfect sense, right? She concluded her presentation with a guided meditation. The message I got loud and clear was "Do the work." More on that tomorrow.

 Pam Asberry with Kelly L. Stone

Several of GRW's own were available to sign books at the conclusion of the meeting.

Then it was time to head over to Ted's Montana Grill for lunch with the Petit Fours and Hot Tamales, to celebrate Susan's success.

Susan pours the sparkling grape juice. 

 Susan is gracious and humble. She toasted to all of us!

Lindy and I rocking our new Writers Li.P.P. t-shirts.

When it comes to writing, a little bit of encouragement and support go a long way; Georgia Romance Writers provides megadoses of both. I have never been more enthusiastic and inspired than I am right this minute. Thanks, GRW! And thanks to Lindy Chaffin Start for all the photographs. 

Friday, June 17, 2011

Fruitful Idleness

I am pretty good in a crisis, but I fall apart when it's over. So although I dealt with yesterday's pandemonium pretty well, it took me all day to recover.

At Friday Show and Tell on Writers Li.P.P., I shared my plans for the day. But I didn't work from a list. I simply followed the whisperings of my heart. I wrote. I knitted. I watched Betty White on David Letterman and Sarah Ferguson on Oprah. I ate barbecued potato chips and a chocolate fudgesicle. I took a late afternoon nap in the lounge chair on my deck.

I tried not to think. Because both my body AND my mind needed a break.

Now the day is nearly over, and I am feeling a bit more rested and a lot more centered than I did this time yesterday. I am looking forward to getting up early and starting the morning in a thoughtful way - with meditation, morning pages, and a review of the day's schedule - then putting on my Writers Li.P.P. t-shirt and my hot pink suede shoes and stepping out to the monthly meeting of Georgia Romance Writers and having lunch with my Petit Fours and Hot Tamales blog sisters afterwards.

Then I'll be ready to get back to work.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

With a capital "S" and that rhymes with "mess"

It's been one of those weeks...

I went like the that battery-operated bunny but I don't have much to show for my efforts. My house is a wreck; the laundry piles are mounting. We need groceries and the dog needs ear drops I need to pick up my thyroid medication at Kroger. My self-imposed deadline is approaching fast and I made very little progress on my novel revision.

But I taught my piano students and nobody went hungry and everybody got where they needed to go. I had some girl time with Jennifer and Denise on Tuesday and my critique partner on Wednesday; she and I launched a new blog. And while I was in the shower this morning, I figured out the next two scenes of my story. That's not nothing.

And I gave some long, hard thought to my goals, both long-term and short-term, and got to work on some lists that, if adhered to, will help me achieve those goals. That's not nothing, either.

It's been one of those days...

I finished a custom order for a client - a stunning crystal necklace, bracelet and earring set in UGA colors. It's supposed to show Bulldog pride, but I'm thinking this combination has little black dress potential. Here is the necklace.

She was so thrilled when she picked them up that she ordered several Christmas items - for herself and for gifts - as well as ten pairs of earrings that she is going to donate to a cause she supports. I am delighted to have the extra work. Pleased as punch, I went to my favorite local bead shop and picked up most of the supplies I need to complete her requested items, then went to Kohl's and used three coupons to get a small bottle of Juicy Couture cologne - which I have been out of for over a year - for $11.90 plus tax. I was feeling on top of the world.

Then, out of nowhere, there was trouble here in River City. Forgive me for not sharing the details; maybe someday I will be able to look back on this situation and laugh. For now, all I will say is raising children isn't easy and I am not so much as cracking a smile.

Here's my point: your whole world can change in an instant. You can be sailing through your life, smooth waters, right on course, everything according to schedule, and BAM! - a meteor falls from the heavens and lands smack on top of your vessel you and your boat are under water, never to be seen again. So you've got to cherish every moment; try not to gag on the frog as he's going down every morning, be sure to schedule time for your friends and family, and treat yourself to a special bottle of cologne once in a while. Because you just never know.

Making a list, checking it twice (or more)

Boy, am I tired.

I just attempted to make my MASTER LIST - a list of every item I want to accomplish at some point in the future - and I got stuck. Because the future is going to last a long time - at least I hope it will! - and some of the items I WANT to accomplish feel more like impossible dreams than items for a to-do list. Like everything on my Amazing Life List.

So I decided to start small, by writing a summer to-do list - to be completed by September 30, 2011. It feels good to have created this list. But I feel exhausted because, in a way, it is just the tip of the iceberg, as it does not include the mundane but necessary daily and weekly tasks. Anyway, here it is.

Clean out garage.
Wash/wax/vacuum car.
Declutter house.
Deep clean house.
Shampoo carpets.
Finish painting Nathan's bedroom doors.
Paint my bedroom.
Make pillows for living room.

Have siding pressure washed.
Have gutters repaired.
Trim shrubs.
Lay pine straw in natural area.

Annual physical.
Dental visit.

Organize music.
Have piano tuned.
Organize ensemble materials/paperwork; prepare to pass on to new committee member.
Prepare and mail (or email) back-to-school packet.
Send July invoices.
Send August invoices.

Add 5 new items to online shop per week.
Keep up with online marketing course.

Finish revision of The Wishing Box.
Query Hilda.
Draft new project.
Write 100,000 words between June 1st and August 31st.
Write short story; submit to Woman's World magazine.
Put together writer resume.

Complete Firestarter Sessions.
Knit scarf.
Knit hat.
Knit sweater.
Organize journals.
Organize photos.
Organize memorabilis.
Organize grandmother letters.
Travel to visit parents.
Travel to visit Pat.
Travel to beach.

The next step is to incorporate all these items into my daily and monthly lists. Here are the standing items.

Morning pages.
Write 500 words.
Read 30 minutes.
Create one new item for Etsy store.
List one new item in Etsy store.
Practice piano 30 minutes.

Do laundry.
Grocery shop.

Clean house.

Pay bills.
Send student invoices.

Tomorrow morning, I am going to divide the items on my master list between the days, weeks and months that remain until September 30th. My goals may be too ambitious. But it's a sure thing I will get further with them working from a list than I would have otherwise. How are your lists coming along?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Knitting and Winner and Lists - Oh, My!

I had so much fun knitting with Jennifer and Denise today. The cinnamon streusel muffins were a big hit - Nathan says they are the best muffins he's had in a long time, and he would pay big bucks for them at a bakery - and I very much enjoyed the fresh fruit Denise brought, too. Eventually, we got down to knitting. The girls took my advice and went to Yarn Garden Knit Shop in Lawrenceville on Monday and treated themselves to beautiful yarn and bamboo knitting needles. As I explained to them the last time we were together, I don't knit to save money; I knit to feed my spirit, and cheap aluminum needles and cheesy acrylic yarn just don't do it for me. I taught them to cast on and do the knit stitch, all they need to know to complete their garter stitch scarves. Well, except for binding off, but they won't need to know how to do that for a while. I finished the black scarf I told you about last week, so I started a new project, too, using Patons Classic Wool Roving in Pumpkin.

I cast on 18 stitches and am following this pattern.
Row 1: *K2. P2. Rep from * to last 2 sts. K2.
Row 2: *P2. K2. Rep from * to last 2 sts. P2.
Row 3: Knit.
Row 4: Purl.

I plan to make a matching hat, too. I heart knitting.

* * *

The winner of the $10 Amazon gift card from yesterday's drawing is S.M. Carriere. Congratulations, S.M.!

* * *

The more I dig into Eat That Frog! by Brian Tracy, the more life-changing I believe it can be. I am becoming much better aligned with my goals and see much more clearly how to go about achieving them - primarily through making written lists.

Mr. Tracy emphasizes the importance of making lists. He claims that if you work from a daily list, you increase your productivity by 25% or more - about two hours a day. TWO HOURS! He suggests making your daily to-do list the night before, giving your subconscious mind time to work on it while you sleep - great idea, right?

But it's not that simple. He says to start the process by making a MASTER LIST of everything you can think of that you want to accomplish at some point in the future. He also recommends MONTHLY, WEEKLY, and DAILY lists - and reminds us to start each day by "eating the biggest, ugliest frog first," because 10-20% of tasks represent 80-90% of results. Continually ask yourself which one project or activity will have the greatest positive consequences in your work or personal life.

Another tip is using the ABCDE method of prioritizing tasks, as follows:

A=very important, must do; rank A-1, A-2, A-3, etc. and do in this order.
B=should do; only mild consequences if not done.
C=nice to do, but no consequence if not done.
D=jobs you can delevate.
E=eliminate - things that might have been important at one time or things that you do primarily out of habit.

Again, he reminds us to START IMMEDIATELY on the A-1 tasks.

The time is going to pass anyway. The only question is how you use it and where you are going to end up at the end of the weeks and months that pass. And where you end up is largely a matter of the amount of consideration you give to the likely consequences of your actions in the short term.
~ Brian Tracy, Eat That Frog!

If you're not sure where you are headed, give yourself thirty seconds to write down the three most important goals in your life. You will be surprised how much clarity you will have with such a severe time restraint. You can then flesh it out by taking a few more minutes to identify your three most important goals in the following areas:
  1. business or career
  2. family or relationship
  3. financial
  4. health
  5. personal and professional development
  6. social and community
  7. problems or concerns

This dovetails beautifully with today's #Trust30 prompt.

One Thing by Colin Wright

Do your work, and I shall know you. Do your work, and you shall reinforce yourself. 
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Take a moment, step back from your concerns, and focus on one thing: You have one life to achieve everything you’ve ever wanted. Sounds simple, but when you really focus on it, let it seep into your consciousness, you realize you only have about 100 years to get every single thing you’ve ever wanted to do. No second chances. This is your only shot. Suddenly, this means you should have started yesterday. No more waiting for permission or resources to start. Today is the day you make the rest of your life happen. Write down one thing you’ve always wanted to do and how you will achieve that goal. Don’t be afraid to be very specific in how you’ll achieve it: once you start achieving, your goals will get bigger and your capability to meet them will grow.
(Author: Colin Wright)

I encourage you to give some of these exercises a try. And remember: the chief benefit of getting your work life in order is to give you more time with the people and activities you love most. I wish you much success and great joy!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Cinnamon Streusel Muffins

I'm on my way to Jennifer's house; she, Denise and I are going to knit. And eat. I am bringing muffins.

Makes 12

Streusel Topping:
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon cold butter

2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray muffin tin with cooking spray.

Cut butter into remaining streusel topping ingredients until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Combine flour, sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl; combine wet ingredients and add them to dry ingredients, combining until flour is moistened even though the batter is not smooth.

Divide batter into prepared muffin cups, filling them about 2/3 full; sprinkle each with about 1 tablespoon streusel topping.

Bake 15 minutes or until done. Cool slightly before removing from pans. Serve warm with butter or jam.

From Baking Basics and Beyond by Pat Sinclair

Check back later for an update on my knitting projects and who knows what else. I will also announce the winner of yesterday's drawing. Hope you are having a great day!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sunday Update/Important Announcements

What a weekend. Exhausted following my recitals and all the preparation that went into them, I didn't accomplish half of what I hoped to today. All I really wanted to do was write. But my 15 year old foiled my plans to attend a write-in in Smyrna this morning; then I got distracted by several things at home, so I added only about 3000 words to my revision instead of the planned 6000.

But I also spent a couple of hours working on an online marketing course I am taking in the hopes of boosting my handcrafted jewelry business; inspired, I added some Fourth of July items to my Etsy store and several rows to the scarf I am knitting. Later, I met a friend at the mall for coffee and conversation and found the hot pink shoes I have been craving for months now.

That wasn't the only good fortune I had today, though. This afternoon, I spent a few minutes lying the sun, and while I was stretched out in my lounge chair, minding my own business, two dandelion seeds drifting through the summer air landed directly on top of me.

Not only that, but when I was walking back to my car at the mall, shopping bag firmly in hand, I found a penny lying on the ground.

I happen to be a big believer in making wishes on dandelion seeds and lucky pennies, so I more excited than ever about what the future might have in store for me.

But since I have never been one to sit back and wait for good things to happen, I want to tell you about a couple of things I have going on right now.

First, I am blogging over at Petit Fours and Hot Tamales on Monday. Stop by and leave a comment there and you will be entered in a drawing to win a pair of millefiori earrings handcrafted by yours truly. The deadline is midnight on Monday.

Second, Monday is the blog launch of Writers LiPP, the joint project of my wonderful friend/critique partner Lindy Chaffin Start and myself. Follow us and leave a comment there and you will be entered in a drawing to win an authographed copy of Suz Brockmann's Kiss and Tell and a Writers LiPP t-shirt. The deadline is midnight on Tuesday.

Finally, leave a comment at the end of this post and you will be entered in a drawing to win a ten-dollar Amazon gift certificate. The deadline is midnight on Monday.

See you in the blogosphere!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Most Important Thing

So you made your list of ten goals? Here is the next step.

My goal of being debt-free by June 30, 2012 would probably have the greatest impact on my life right now. So I am going to write that on a separate sheet of paper, make a list of everything I can do to make that happen, and then do something towards that goal EVERY DAY.

It is serendipitous that several of my other goals dovetail with that one.

It is also interesting that none of my goals have to do with relationships. My, how my priorities have shifted. This time last year, all I could talk about was Bachelors #1, #2, and #3. 

* * *

The Asberry School of Music Spring Piano Recitals took place this afternoon. My students played beautifully, and I am one proud piano teacher. My son Josh snapped a few pictures and recorded some video, but I don't have them to share yet. But I promise I will. 

* * *

Life will slow down a bit now. I teach just two more weeks of regular lessons, then have just two more weeks of "regular" lessons before I have a two-week vacation followed by a drastically abbreviated summer lesson schedule. I am looking forward to some down time; the house and garage need attention, and I am hoping to have a bit of fun, too. But my first priority is to finish The Wishing Box. It will be ready to query by June 30th. You heard it here first.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Ten Goals

Did everybody do their homework?

If I didn't inspire you yesterday, watch this video (it's only four minutes long), then take five to make your list. When you are finished, you may read mine.

Here goes.

  1. I am a published novelist by 12/31/2011.
  2. I work ten hours each week as a freelance writer by 08/31/2011.
  3. I sell ten pieces of jewelry each week by 12/31/2011.
  4. I am debt-free by 06/30/2012.
  5. I have $10,000 in the bank by 06/30/2012. 
  6. I weigh 110 pounds by 08/31/2011.
  7. I sleep at least seven hours every night by 06/30/2011.
  8. I meditate every morning by 06/30/2011.
  9. I live in a clean, orderly, clutter-free home by 08/15/2011.
  10. I speak fluent French by 06/30/2012.
I don't know about you, but I feel more accomplished already!

What next?

Mr. Tracy suggests we take a few minutes each morning to sit quietly and reflect on our goals, rewriting them, visualizing them as reality. As time passes, we might add goals to our lists, or delete goals that no longer seem important. But regardless of temporary setbacks, he advises that we work on our goals every single day.

Your next assignment? If you could wave a magic wand and have any one of those goals come true within the next 24 hours, which one would it be? Write that one down on a separate sheet of paper; we'll come back to it tomorrow.

You are never too old to set a new goal or to dream a new dream.
~ C. S. Lewis

May all our dreams come true!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Burning Desire

I am participating in #Trust30, an online initiative and 30-day writing challenge that encourages you to look within and trust yourself. 

Prompt #9: Your Personal Message by Eric Handler
To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, that is genius.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
What is burning deep inside of you? If you could spread your personal message RIGHT NOW to 1 million people, what would you say?
(Author: Eric Handler)

What is burning deep inside of me right now is an urgent desire to do the work I believe I was put here on earth to do. I often describe my life as a three-cornered stool; the legs which support it are piano teaching, jewelry design, and writing.

I have a long way to go before I achieve my goals in each of these areas - much to learn and years of hard work ahead. But I am convinced that, in the end, all that hard work will pay off and I will meet with the success I crave.

Not only that, I have an urgent desire to encourage others to pursue their dreams, if only by sharing my journey on the pages of this blog. Life is short; let's live it loud! 

One of the resources recommended to me recently is Eat That Frog! 21 Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time by Brian Tracy (click HERE; also available as a Kindle download). I am finding it very thought-provoking; maybe it will be useful to you, too. I try to squeeze a lot out of every day, but like most people, I struggle with distractions - such as email and social networking - that keep me very busy but don't necessarily lead me to the results I am seeking; and with my ambitious schedule, I cannot afford to waste a minute.

Here is a short video in which Mr. Tracy shares a little bit about his background and some of the ideas presented in the book. 

As explained in the video, this is the basic premise:

Mark Twain once said that if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the WORST thing that is going to happen to you all day long. Your "frog" is your biggest, most important task, the one you are most likely to procrastinate on if you don't do something about it. It is also the one task that can have the greatest positive impact on your life and results at the moment.
~Brian Tracy

So here's a challenge for you: every morning for the next thirty days, when you make your daily to-do list (you do make a daily to-do list, right?) circle the "frog" and then do that item first. That alone will make a huge difference in your productivity.

Mr. Tracy then goes on to explain how to develop the habits of success that will help you reach your goals, emphasizing the importance of actually WRITING THEM DOWN on paper. He suggests making a list of ten goals that you want to accomplish in the next year, stating them as though the year is already past and your goals have become reality, then reviewing the list and selecting the one goal that would have the biggest impact on your life if achieved. Finally, he recommends writing that goal down, setting a deadline, making a plan, taking some immediate action on the plan, and then doing something every single day to move yourself toward that goal. He says this exercise alone could change your life.

Go ahead! Grab a sheet of paper and give it a whirl. You've got nothing to lose and everything to gain. I'll share what I come up with tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Fighting Fear

On my way to swim with the stingrays, June, 2010.

I am participating in #Trust30, an online initiative and 30-day writing challenge that encourages you to look within and trust yourself.  

Prompt #8: Afraid To Do by Mary Jaksch

The other terror that scares us from self-trust is our consistency; a reverence for our past act or word, because the eyes of others have no data for computing our orbit than our past acts, and we are loath to disappoint them.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Emerson says: "Always do what you are afraid to do." What is 'too scary' to write about? Try doing it now.

(Author: Mary Jaksch)

I found this prompt confusing, because it seems to me that the two quotes mean different things.

I believe the first quote refers to our reluctance to behave in unexpected ways so as not to alienate our social circle. We get comfortable in our little niche, and we don't want to risk losing our place. But the fact is those who truly have our best interests at heart will support us unconditionally. They will let us be our wild, wonderful, unpredictable selves and love us all the more for it. Inevitably, we will make mistakes; our real friends will help us pick up the pieces. When our risks pay off, they will show up at the front door with champagne and dark chocolate.

So, while we're quoting Emerson:
A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.

As for the second quote, I try not to let fear stop me from doing anything I truly want to accomplish. For example, I am afraid of being in water over my head, but I put on a life jacket and swam with sting rays in Grand Cayman last June. I am afraid that I will never find a worthy life partner, but I keep putting myself out there. I am afraid I will never find success as a writer, but I am doing my best to learn the craft while developing a daily discipline.

My deepest fears have to do with things completely beyond my control. Tornadoes and earthquakes and house fires and decisions my children make and losing loved ones. When scary thoughts pop into my head, I try not to focus on them; instead, I acknowledge them and hope they will pass as quickly as they came. Then I focus on the next thing so there will be no room for them to come back - at least, not for a while.

I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.
~ Frank Herbert, Dune, "Litany Against Fear," 1965

Does peer pressure ever keep you from being all that you are? Do you ever find yourself immobilized by fear? How do you fight your fears?

# # #

#ROW80 update: I got my Maggie entry (synopsis and 35 pages) submitted Sunday evening; I have been hard at work on my revision ever since. I've added only about 2000 words to my manuscript so far this week, but at least I'm back in the game, and hope to up that word count considerably tomorrow and Friday.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Kudos! and this and that

Despite the odds, several of my Georgia Romance Writer pals are meeting with success in the world of writing.
  • Annie Rayburn's Bittersweet Obsessions was released by Red Sage Publishing on June 1st. Click HERE to purchase. Also, click HERE to visit her author page at Amazon and purchase Insight and Phantoms and Fantasies, described as "erotic romance with paranormal and sci-fi elements." 
  • Linsey Lanier, "writer of mystery-suspense, romantic fantasy, and romance - with a dash of sass" released several short stories in May. Click HERE to visit her author page at Amazon and purchase The Clever Detective series as well as The West Wind Blows.
  • Mary Marvella's novella Forever Love, romance with a hint of paranormal, is also available for purchase at Amazon; click HERE.
  • Last, but certainly not least, author Susan May just signed a two-book deal with Harlequin!
Congratulations and continued success to all of you! I have purchased every single one of these titles for my Kindle and am hoping to set aside at least a few lazy days this summer to get them read. 

* * *

I don't know what it is about summertime that puts me in the mood to knit, but it happens every year. Laurie Perry posted a pattern for a "slouchy hipster hat" on her blog (click HERE) that I am itching to try. Although I have plenty of yarn in my stash, I love the look of the Noro Taiyo that Laurie chose for her hat, so I ordered a skein in a discontinued color (more affordable that way) and as soon as it arrives I will get started. She just started a sweater knit-along, too (click HERE) that I am going to participate in, too. After all, knitting a sweater is one of the items on my Amazing Life List. While I am waiting for my Noro to arrive, I am going to try to finish this scarf I started ages ago.

I dig the juxtaposition.

When do I find time to knit, you ask? Mostly when I am watching television. I just have to have a project started and handy and remember to pull it out. You'd be surprised how many rows you can finish in the space of an hour.

* * *

Since I was out on the deck photographing my scarf, I realized it was the perfect time to show you how my little garden is growing.



You can't quite make out the flowers in the pictures, but there are lots of them, and each one will turn into a tiny tomato or pepper. I can hardly wait!

And to those of you who were skeptical about the squirrel-proofness of my bird feeder, well, you were absolutely right. Sigh.

* * *

I made manicotti for dinner tonight. I had never made this dish before, and although it was more time consuming than lasagna, the results were spectacular if I do say so myself. It was definitely worth heating up the house for.

I simply followed the recipe on the Barilla manicotti box. I used Barilla marinara sauce, too. Highly recommended.

* * *

I am participating in #Trust30, an online initiative and 30-day writing challenge that encourages you to look within and trust yourself.   

Prompt #7: Five Years by Corbett Barr

There will be an agreement in whatever variety of actions, so they be each honest and natural in their hour.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

What would you say to the person you were five years ago? What will you say to the person you'll be in five years? (Author: Corbett Barr)

To the person I was five years ago, I would say: "It is better to be alone than to squander your time and yourself in a relationship that you already know, deep inside, is going to lead to nowhere; end it immediately. Invest instead in yourself, your family and your friends; they will be there for you long after this man is gone. Your sons are growing up so fast; you don't want to miss a moment. And be warned; there are tough times ahead, and you need to prepare for them. When it happens, you will be on your own."

To my future self, I will say, "Don't stop now!"

What do you have to say to your past and future selves?