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Friday, August 31, 2012

Midnight and a Mini Guitar

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MKvhvs-QF4k

What can you learn at midnight? A lot if you're willing to keep a playful attitude.

A couple of nights ago my husband suggested going to the basement to "see how the work is coming along." You see, we've been working on it all summer to turn it into a usable space.

Now I've been married long enough to know that "see how the work is coming along" means "see what we can go work on right now." Did I mention it was 11:30 at night?

Despite how ready for bed I was, I followed him downstairs in hopes of making him wrap up this little adventure quickly. A minute in to putting around, he grabbed a box with a light fixture in it. Here we go, I thought.

"Are you really going to hang that light right now?"

"I just want to see if it's going to fit here," he replied.

Sure. As aforementioned I know what "see" means.

He set out about unwrapping the fixture, holding it up to the ceiling, then disappearing to the garage for tools.

And there I was in a basement looking for a way to entertain myself as midnight approached. That's when I spotted a hard black case tucked between a foosball table and a couch cushion. My stepson's old guitar.

It had been a gift from his grandfather, a guitar lover himself. My stepson had been thrilled with it for a few weeks before the novelty wore off. Now it sat lonely and neglected, covered in drywall dust.

I wish I could play an instrument, I thought.

Well... what's stopping you. Here you are and there's an instrument.

Darn my conscious and it's logic. I walked over, opened the case, and pulled out a child's sized guitar. I gently carried it over to a small step ladder and sat down. Being the country fan that I am, I knew, more or less, how to hold a guitar. Brad Paisley, Keith Urban... I've seen how it's done.

Then I realized I'd reached the extent of my knowledge.  I figured tuning was probably important, so I played with the strings, not knowing at all what each one should sound like.

That's how my husband found me. He returned from the garage with tools in hand, saw me, and laughed. "Of all the things I thought you might do while I was gone, playing guitar never crossed my mind."

"That makes two of us."

I explained my dilemma about tuning and he said, "there's an app for that."

"Really?" I raced upstairs for my phone and found a tuning app. Two actually- one to hear the note and one to listen to my note and gauge it's accuracy.

Admittedly, tuning took me a little while. Once ready, I found another app with beginner guitar lessons. In less than 10 minutes I was playing the well-known riff from Smoke On The Water.

Me. Playing the guitar. Go figure.

So, here's what we've learned...

  • If you find yourself in a basement at midnight, make the best of it.

  • If you find an instrument, start playing. Even if it's a kid's instrument. Even if all you do is make noise.

  • If all you have is 15 notes from Smoke On The Water, you can still be a rockstar (or a country star) in your imagination.

  • If you want to learn something, there's probably an app for it.

  • If you want to learn more, learn more. If you're happy with just that wee bit of knowledge, that's okay, too. (I want to learn some more.)

  • Relish in your new talent. Video that big goofy smile to remind yourself of how much fun you had.


What new thing have you wanted to learn? Why not spend 15 minutes on it?


 

 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Interview: Rhonda Hopkins

Each Wednesday is Wonderstruck Interview day. Hearing other people’s stories is a great way to see things from a different perspective and perhaps find something new to apply to our own lives.

This week we are visited by Rhonda Hopkins, a unique writer with a background in investigating for family courts.

What have you been wonderstruck by recently?

I’m wonderstruck by the generosity of other writers. I can always find someone who will answer my questions and support whatever I’m doing. I am amazed by how thoughtful and kind everyone is. It makes me want to do whatever I can to help them as well. After all, we’re all in this crazy wonderful world together.

What part of your day are you grateful for?

I’m grateful for the time I get to spend with family and friends either in person, on the phone or online. I love to connect with them and find out how their day has been and what’s going on in their lives. That sharing of time is very important to me.

What part of your day is tough? How do you move through it?

I don’t really have a particular time of day that’s tough for me. The one thing that is an issue is my ankle. I need surgery on it, so I can’t do the things I’d like to do all the time and can’t walk very much. The way I move past that is to think how fortunate I am and how there are people in worse situations and in more pain. So I’m grateful for what I do have and what I can do.

What do you wish your were more conscious of?

I wish I were more conscious of time. I can get involved in something and before I know it a significant amount of time has passed – more than I should have spent, especially if I was just playing around. I think I need to get one of those timers and stick to it.

How do you stay focused on what is truly important to you?

I make a list of short term and long term goals and evaluate where I am once a month. I don’t always meet each deadline but at least I keep track of my progress and do better than if I didn’t have those lists. But the most important thing to me is family. So I make as much time for them as I can.

About Rhonda Hopkins:

Rhonda Hopkins did investigations for the state and the family courts for nearly 20 years. She uses what she learned to help those in need and to make her writing more realistic.

She is working on a romantic suspense novel, ILLUSION OF SAFETY, which should be out this
fall. She is also working on a non-fiction book, IN THEIR BEST INTERESTS, to provide information on child custody, co-parenting and what to expect in Family Court.

Each Tuesday, Rhonda hosts an author and their favorite charity in her Authors Give Back series.

Visit Rhonda Hopkins here:

Monday, August 27, 2012

Fixing the Little Irritants

[caption id="attachment_477" align="alignnone" width="500"] My freshly cleaned oh-so-usable kitchen counter[/caption]

You know how sometimes everything seems to go wrong at once? For me, last month it was the air conditioner that died, the front door that stopped closing, the piece of roof flashing that blew off the house, and the freezer defrosting in a power outage.

Sometimes it's like that.

Sometimes, though, it's more subtle. Sometimes it's the little things piling up around you that throw your life in disarray: clutter, bills, errands, or maybe even too many things on the calendar.

Yesterday, I tackled some of those little things and you won't believe how big a difference it made in my comfort level.

I started by tidying the bedroom- making the bed, picking up clothes, putting The Little One's toys in a box. (We keep a few toys in the bedroom to keep him entertained if we're still getting dressed in the morning. Strategically placed distractions are key!)

Effort level = less than 5 minutes.

Then I moved on to the studio where a futon still lay flat in the middle of the floor from a house guest that left two weeks ago. I gathered the bedding, returned the futon to couch position against the wall, and tidied up the window seat pillows.

Effort level = about 5 minutes.

Feeling calm and happy with great results in such little time, I went downstairs to move on about my day. But stepping foot in the kitchen I was instantly stressed out.

I looked around to see exactly what was wrong. The counters. There seemed to be stuff everywhere, despite the fact I had finally taken all those canned tomatoes and sauce to the basement a few days before.

There was no way I could prepare a meal in that kitchen until I fixed it. I just can't handle all that clutter. So, I set to work putting away dishes and washing sippy cups. The rest of the clutter on the counter was normal stuff that's always there, but I still felt constricted. It was time to reassess.

Item by item, I determined whether or not it truly needed to take up counter space.

Cutting board? Keep. I use that every day.

Vase of big spoons? Keep. It holds the bigger spoons, ladles, and tongs that don't fit well in the big utensil drawer. Convenient, and not overly annoying.

Bowl of toddler dishes, spoons, and bibs? Move. This had happened early on in the bottle days to keep things convenient, but now that we're on to solid foods and sippy cups, keeping them on the counter isn't necessary. The spoons were moved to the silverware drawer, the bibs to an open shelf for quick grabbing, and the bowls to the dishes cabinet.

Bread? Move. Bread has never had a proper home. Sometimes it's stuffed in a random cabinet on top of mixing bowls, sometimes it's on the counter. I made space on a shelf in the snack cabinet, giving it a new home.

Produce tray? Keep. This reminds me what we have, makes it easy to use, and more likely for the boys to grab a healthy snack. Plus it's pretty.

On the process went until I had purposefully decided to keep or move each item on the counter. This was a bigger level of effort, but still not bad...

Effort level = about 30 minutes (including dishwashing and counter reworking)

When my husband walked in and saw me cleaning, he commented on how great the counters looked (yay for me, and gold star to my hubby for saying so). Then he looked up and said, "no wonder it seemed dark in here."

All three bulbs in our center light were out and so was one of the can light bulbs over the sink. My husband went to the garage for a ladder and began replacing bulbs.

Effort level = about 5 minutes

Fixing each one of these little irritants made me feel so much better about my home. Sure, there are plenty of other things that still need fixing or finishing or decluttering or whatever, but I know they won't all get done in one day. Besides, that would be one dull day.

Instead, I picked the couple of things that bothered me most and spent a few minutes fixing them. 45 minutes total fixed three problem areas. That's pretty darn good if you ask me!

Look around your home or office or car - wherever you spend time. What little thing is causing you stress? Is it a countertop? Your kitchen table? Your desk drawer? Your shower? Spend a few minutes on it and see how you feel. It's just a few minutes. No need to make it a big ordeal or half day cleaning project. Those few minutes just may give you some peace of mind.

Have you visited my Facebook page yet? If not, you're missing out on wonderstruck inspiration throughout the week. Come check it out and click the "Like" button.

 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Inspiration for Counting Gifts



From my list of gifts:

#63. Fresh breeze blowing sheer curtains

I referenced this in my post earlier this week, Counting to 1,000 Gifts. As you can see in the photograph, I'm not the only one who enjoys breezy drapery.

To close out this week, I thought I'd offer some more inspiration for counting gifts. This time the words are not from me.

In the words of Abraham Tucker...
Dwell upon the brightest parts in every prospect ... and strive to be pleased with the present circumstances.

Henry Ward Beecher...
The unthankful heart ... discovers no mercies; but let the thankful heart sweep through the day and, s the magnet finds the iron, so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings!

e.e. cummings...
I thank You God for this most amazing day; for the leaping greenly spirits of trees and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything which is natural which is infinite which is yes.

Robert Louis Stevenson...
The best things are nearest: breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hand, the path of God just before you. Then do not grasp at the stars, but do life's plain, common work as it comes, certain that daily duties and daily bread are the sweetest things in life.

Ruth Ann Schabacker...
Each day comes bearing its own gifts. Untie the ribbons.

That sums it up nicely, don't you think? What will you find when you untie the ribbons this weekend?

 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Interview: Liz Jasper

Each Wednesday is Wonderstruck Interview day. Hearing other people’s stories is a great way to see things from a different perspective and perhaps find something new to apply to our own lives.

This week we are visited by Liz Jasper, paranormal writer who, according to her website, is "fueled by birthday cake." Love that.

What have you been wonderstruck by recently?

The smell of trees. I've been very busy with work and studying and writing of late--and sometimes I forget how much I need to recharge by going outside. Last night I drove up to the mountains and when I rolled down the window and got that first blast of cold, piney air, I got this incredible burst of joy and relaxation.

What part of your day are you grateful for?

I really like twilight. I love that flat light that makes the colors of the flowers and trees pop. And I like how the damp air makes everything smell. Here in California, there's a particularly wonderful smell that I love: the sweet scent of the golden grass that covers the hills here. My mother tells me it's some sort of must on the grass that makes it smell so good but I ignore that bit.

What part of your day is tough? How do you move through it?

I loathe the tight feeling when I feel like I need to accomplish 18 things at once, all in the space of a half hour. I sometimes will literally stop--even if I have to pull over the car--and remind myself to take a deep breath and chill.

What do you wish your were more conscious of?

I wish I were more conscious of pushing thoughts away from my head. I would like to meditate more often and more successfully. I often push it off for some vague time in the future.

How do you stay focused on what is truly important to you?

I work on it. I ask myself if this is what I want to be doing and if it is getting me where I want to go. And I stop and think of the people I care about and maybe give them a call or a thanks or, if they're nearby, a smile and a hug.

About Liz Jasper:

I'm a left and right brained person--I love both analytical stuff (science and math) and writing humorous paranormal novels. I hear a lot that it's unusual to be on both ends of that spectrum, but I'm not so sure about that. I've met a lot of fiction writers who like mucking with numbers as much as I do.

I'm delighted to say that my latest book is now out: CRIMSON IN THE VERY WRONG FAIRY TALE. It's a young adult book about a girl who learns on her 16th bday that she is really a princess--of darkness. It's available in ebook and paperback.

Visit Liz Jasper here:

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Counting to 1,000 Gifts

If I said to write down 5 wonderstruck moments, I bet you could, right? What if I said 100? Could you do that? There's no time limit. You could collect them over days, weeks, months even. Now imagine listing 1,000 wonderstruck moments. Again, no time limit. Just an ongoing list of wonderstruck goodness. What a list that would be!

I just finished my second reading of Ann Voskamp's book One Thousand Gifts in which she describes her journey of thanksgiving. A friend challenged her to find 1,000 gifts from God... and she did. In fact, now she's several thousand deep. Ann's book follows her practice of giving thanks in good moments as well as hard moments, and what she learned about grace in the process.

After reading One Thousand Gifts the first time, I became more mindful of my surroundings and my attitude. I even started my own list of gifts, though I wasn't great at keeping it up. I chose a separate journal for my gifts, but it never seemed to be conveniently located. I have also used her app on my phone (yes, there's an app for that) to collect photos when I'm on the go.

This second time reading, I noticed that Ann mentioned keeping her main journal by her kitchen sink, another on her nightstand, another in her purse, and she keeps a master list on her computer.

Aha!

If I wanted to make it to 1,000 I was going to need a better approach, so as of now my master list is on my computer and I'm tracking daily wonderstruck moments in the margins of my planner. To date, I'm up to 93. It's a far cry from 1,000. But, really, I'm almost 10% of the way there.

Here are some of the items on my list:

7. Sweet scent of honeysuckle impossibly indoors (husband's shoe polish?)
11. The shadow of a bird in flight
25. Fresh baked brownies
31. Days when I feel like I have it all figured out
36. Teenage stepson saying, "Thank you for dinner"
45. Time to refresh
63. Fresh breeze blowing sheer curtains
75. Walking around in soft socks

Having a list of wonderstruck moments is a gift in itself. Reading the list reminds me of special times and brings me back to a state of mindfulness. Wanting to reach 1,000 keeps my eyes and ears open for more.

Count them as gifts from God or simply gifts from the universe. Just count them.

What is on your list?

Friday, August 17, 2012

100 Pounds of Tomatoes and 7 Hours Later...

Wonderstruckness takes on a variety of formats. Sometimes it comes from seeing something beautiful. Sometimes it comes from experiencing a special moment. This week it came from learning something new.

My husband and I have been trying to learn more about storing food (stemming off our attempts to learn more about gardening), so when some friends said they were learning how to make and can tomato sauce (from their visiting Italian mother, no less), we jumped at the invitation to join in.

The first hurdle for all of us, though, was an obvious lack of tomatoes. I only grew one tomato plant this year, which didn't do very well. We started calling local farms, none of which had ripe red tomatoes yet. As we learned, you need super red ripe tomatoes for the sauce- no orange or yellow spots.

With no time to wait, we found a Whole Foods with a huge shipment of perfectly red tomatoes. Off I went feeling a bit like a crazy person asking for 100 pounds of roma tomatoes. They gave us a 10% discount for buying by the case, but that didn't take the sting out of the big store sticker price.

In case you're wondering what 100 pounds of tomatoes looks like, here they are loaded in the trunk of my car...



Our first step for canning was to wash, halve, and core all the tomatoes. Us girls got to work on that while the men set up the cook pot and crushing machine.



In an enormous cook pot over a propane burner, we boiled water and added red onion, celery, and the tomatoes. Because we had about 180 pounds of tomatoes between us and our friends, this was done in three batches.

Here is my husband stirring the giant pot of tomatoes...



This is what it looked like cooking...



Looks good, right?

After cooking them, we strained them as best we could by hand then ran them through a machine that crushed them. It spit the seeds and gunk out of the side while dribbling the sauce and juice out of the front. We collected the sauce and juice in a pot (that is what gets canned). We put the gunk back through the machine another 2-3 times until it felt quite dry coming out (almost like sun-dried tomatoes).

Because we were working in batches, while crushing the cooked tomatoes, we started another round of tomatoes cooking.

Once we finished cooking our last batch of tomatoes, we cleaned the giant pot and boiled water to sterilize the jars. Because it was such a large pot of water, it took quite a while to boil, so there was a little down time to start cleaning up.

After that it was just a matter of filling the jars. We put a basil leaf in the bottom of each jar, added the tomato sauce, then threw another basil leaf on top, and closed the jar. (I had picked the basil from my garden that morning- hooray for added homegrown goodness!)

The jars went back into the boiling water to seal them shut and that was it. (Ok, I know I say "that was it" flippantly like it was quick and easy, when really what I mean is "Woohoo! We were finally done.")

Where we came in with 100 pounds of ripe tomatoes, we walked out with 3 dozen jars of tomato sauce.



It's going to be great to have homemade sauce for a while to come. I can't wait to try it. When we cook it we will need to add a little tomato paste to thicken it up or simmer off the excess liquid. And, because it's a basic marinara, we can add anything we want to it- spices, vegetables, meat.

Mmmm.

So, if this were a business meeting recap, there would be take aways. What did we take away?

  • 3 dozen cans of tomato sauce (2 dozen quart size, 1 dozen pint size) - Ok, this is not a lesson. This is literally what we took away.

  • Making tomato sauce is not cost effective (unless you have grown your own tomatoes and, therefore, need to use them or lose them). You are doing this for the experience and the taste.

  • Grow your own tomatoes or buy them directly from a farm to keep your costs lower.

  • Have ready a lot of pots, buckets, deep baking dishes, whatever you can use to hold cut tomatoes and sauce. They fill up fast.

  • Clear your schedule for a day. By the time we got started, it was about 11:00 a.m. We were going strong until 6:00 p.m. This is an all day process, particularly if you are doing large quantities like we did (and if you're going to make sauce and get all the equipment out anyway, you may as well make a lot).

  • You could certainly do this on a smaller scale on the stove. Our friends had the enormous pot, so we used that.

  • It's more fun with friends, so combine your tomatoes and split the sauce.

  • Learning a new skill is fun, especially if that skill results in something you can eat.


Now I'm hungry.

What new skill have you learned recently?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Interview: Sharon Clare

Each Wednesday is Wonderstruck Interview day. Hearing other people’s stories is a great way to see things from a different perspective and perhaps find something new to apply to our own lives.

This week our interviewee is paranormal romance writer Sharon Clare.

What have you been wonderstruck by recently?

Last fall, I held a writing retreat at a lovely guest cottage up north on a lake. To get some exercise and stimulate the mind, we visited an abandoned mica mine. The ground sparkled with flakes of mica that glittered in the sun. It was like walking over tiny mirrors—quite spectacular. I pick up stones when I travel. Pink-streaked granite from the Algonquin Highlands, smooth water-worn, brilliant orange and yellows from Costa Rica, pure black and white from the Baltic Sea. They sit in bowls around my house. I am constantly awed by the beauty of the natural world.

What part of your day are you grateful for?

I used to be a night owl and had a hard time waking in the mornings. As I’ve gotten older, my sleep habits have shifted, and now I love the early mornings. I’m energized, the day is new and the house is quiet. I especially love waking up knowing I have a whole day to write.

What part of your day is tough? How do you move through it?

The toughest part of the day for me is the afternoon—slump time. After lunch, I sometimes feel tired and back-achy. This is the time when I’ll either get on my body ball for a 30 minute workout or go for a brisk walk. I usually return to writing feeling energized in body and mind. I just wish I made this an every single day routine.

What do you wish your were more conscious of?

Current events. I can too easily get lost in my head, dreaming of character conflicts or plot points. I am happy to spend time alone as I imagine every writer is. There’s nothing worse than having my 20 year-old son shake his head at me when I’m not up on the latest world event.

How do you stay focused on what is truly important to you?

I am a goal setter and list writer. Every week, I evaluate my goals and share them with 3 friends. My focus at the moment is to build a writing career, but I also try to keep balanced with family and friend time. When I get frazzled, I stop and think about at least five things I am grateful for. This seems to help put things into perspective.

Visit Sharon Clare: sharonclare.com

Sharon's book Love of Her Lives – published by Crimson Romance. Available at Amazon, Barnes & NobleiTunes,Google Play (for epub file) and wherever ebooks are sold.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Magical Moment of Actual Conversation with a Teen

Teenagers aren’t the easiest people to talk to. Understatement of the year? Maybe.

There’s the mood swings that keep you wondering which side of your child is about to respond to your question. There’s the testing and pushing of boundaries. And when you say no to something, there is always a compelling, eloquent response like, “Come ONNNN... .”

Then there’s that moment. The unexpected moment where you worry you might be dragging your teen to an event where they will be miserable (which may, in turn, make you miserable) and instead they LIKE it.

Magical. That is the only way to describe it.

This weekend I went to a country concert with my husband, my friend, her daughter, and my fifteen-year-old stepson. I almost didn’t buy my stepson a ticket because country isn’t really his thing. Rap and hip hop are cool amongst the teenage set these days.

Anyhow, when I bought his ticket last month I thought this would be his first concert, so at the very least I figured it might be an interesting experience for him.

Since then his friend invited him to a different concert a couple weeks ago. Rap. Or hip hop. Or some such variety. In other words, his kind of music.

In their lawn seats, they stood most of the time, danced a lot, and came home saying it’s basically just a big party there.

Fast forward to this weekend. The country concert was at the same venue only we had actual seats.

During the first two acts, people were sitting. My stepson asked if anyone was going to stand. I assured him that they would as soon as it struck them to do so. Sure enough toward the end of the third act, everyone jumped out of their seats singing, dancing, clapping.

Here’s the crazy part. So did my stepson. He jumped up, started clapping and swaying along to the song even though he didn’t really know it.

When that group finished singing and the stagehands began preparing for the headlining act, my stepson struck up a conversation with me.

Can I just say that one more time? My teenage stepson struck up a conversation with me.

As if that wasn’t shocking enough, he started by saying, “Country music is pretty good.”

Jaws should be dropping.

Recognizing the magical moment for what it was, I clung to that conversation with every ounce of attention I had. We talked about the music. We compared behavior of country concert fans vs. behavior of rap concert fans. He marveled at how quickly the stage was reset between each act (apparently this took much longer at his prior concert).

When the headliner came out, he jumped right back out of his seat and started dancing again. He was completely into it.

As I replayed the conversation in my mind throughout the night, I realized something. During my teen years, the conversations that I remember having with my dad were about music. He would let me play my music in the car. I’d tell him what I liked about the particular song or artist. He would listen to the song and give his opinion.

I really loved when my dad would come to me and say, “I heard this song at the gym. It had a piano intro and it was a guy or a group of guys, maybe, and they said, ‘Stay with me’ a lot.”

Most of the time I knew exactly what song he was talking about and I felt special being able to tell my dad something he didn’t know. (Though, admittedly, the above description stumped me, so we got our answer from a music store employee - “Beautiful Girl” by INXS, in case you were wondering.)

My point is maybe in order to talk to teens, we need to meet them where they are. Music is a great place to start because nearly every teen likes music. And maybe taking them to something that is out of their element will turn out better than we think.

What I know for sure is I will treasure that night at the country concert forever. In that moment, I felt closer to my stepson than I ever had before and I appreciate that he let himself have fun there.

Have there been moments where your children surprised you with a positive response to something unexpected? Whether or not you have kids, what music do you feel in your soul?

Friday, August 10, 2012

Renewing, Refreshing Rain



The falling rain outside my window quiets me. The world closes in and brings my focus back to home. Back to here. Back to now.

When it rains I don’t feel pressure to get out and run errands. The rain reminds me that there is much I can do right here.

Such focus makes me feel like I am capable of more.



I think of the garden drinking up, soaking in, then bursting forward with the next sun. I think of the meals I’ll be able to prepare. Fresh, grown from love meals. That’s the best kind, yet unfortunately not the norm.

But what if we all felt rain the same way? Drinking up, soaking in, and bursting forth with new energy.

Imagine the possibilities.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Interview: Tami Clayton

Each Wednesday is Wonderstruck Interview day. Hearing other people’s stories is a great way to see things from a different perspective and perhaps find something new to apply to our own lives.

This week our interviewee is Tami Clayton, a writer of young adult and middle grade novels and an avid traveler. 

What have you been wonderstruck by recently?

While there are things out in nature that always amaze me, I am constantly wonderstruck by the things people say to others and do for others. The generosity and kindness given so freely often brings tears to my eyes. Recently, a friend I've known since high school said the most touching thing to me over the phone. I, of course, cried. It totally made my evening. I've continued to reflect on it since and am so thankful for her friendship.

What part of your day are you grateful for?

It's difficult for me to pinpoint just one part for which I'm grateful. I love that first sip of coffee in the morning. I love seeing the sweet, innocent, sleeping faces of my kids just before I wake them for the day. I love seeing my awesome officemates/friends at work and getting the chance to "check in" with them. Coming home at the end of the day and seeing the friendly faces of my cats always warms my heart. I'm grateful for those times I'm in the kitchen cooking dinner, listening to some good music and sipping a glass of wine. And I love when the house is quiet in the evenings and I spend it writing, watching a favorite show, or reading.

What part of your day is tough? How do you move through it?

The hardest part of my day is getting up out of bed. Seriously. I have such erratic sleep anymore and am always running a sleep deficit that it's quite the challenge to drag myself out of bed most days.

What do you wish your were more conscious of?

I am working on being more conscious of how my silence affects others. I spend so much time in my head sorting through my thoughts and feelings as well as listening to the thoughts and feelings of others that I can sometimes be oblivious to how little I've said when I'm in a group of people.

How do you stay focused on what is truly important to you?

I believe the truly important stuff comes down to the people in your life and the connections you have with them. It is the core of our humanity. When I notice I'm too focused on things and outcomes and the trivial banality that I let take over my life, I have to remind myself to pause, get out of my head and reconnect with the wonderful people in my life.

About Tami Clayton:

I am a YA and Middle Grade writer with a passion for travel, all things dark chocolate and coffee, and reading everything I can get my hands on. I am a child and family therapist by day, writer by night, and a dreamer of far off lands where I can explore new cultures. I am currently working on my first novel.

You can find me at my blog: www.tamiclayton.wordpress.com
Or follow me on Twitter: @TamiClayton1
Or hang out with me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Tami-Clayton/260685870667371

Monday, August 6, 2012

What happened to this blog?



I don't know if anyone still comes here anymore. If you do, you may have noticed the silence.

This blog was a beautiful writing home for me for four years. I explored many topics and even made a few friends.

Now I have a new blog home at livewonderstruck.com where I am exploring what it means to be wonderstruck and how we can all bring a little more wonderstruckness to our everyday lives.

It's not just me that you will hear from. Each Wednesday brings a new wonderstruck interviewee. Someone else whose perspective may give us something new to consider.

You can also find me on Facebook at facebook.com/smhutchinswriter. Click the "like" button for bits of wonderstruck inspiration and to get the latest from my blog.

I hope you'll come visit. Wishing you a wonderstruck day!

Being Genuine

A couple years ago, on a blog far, far away, I wrote a post called "Being Genuine." I recently stumbled across that post and was struck with a variety of emotions.

I felt proud of having written something so honest. I felt sad for that sense of being lost because it still creeps up these days. The best part was I felt clear.

I thought I had been feeling lost lately, but in reading that post, I realized how far I've come. For example, now I know I am here to help spread wonderstruckness (at least for now). I realize that I am here as a storyteller, a communicator.

This is a wonderful feeling. Now on days when it seems like I'm spinning my wheels, I will come back to this post to remind myself of how far I've come.

How far have you come? Think about where you were a year or two ago. What is different now? Take a few minutes today to revel in your growth.

Following is my original post.

The Original "Being Genuine" Post from April 19, 2010: 

Throughout my life I've wished I were like other people I knew. Sometimes I wanted to be that girl in school who knew how to dress cool, or the one who could find the symbolism in the book from English class.

Later I would want to be the one who could dance gracefully. Then I'd want to be those people who knew exactly what path to follow in college to get to their already selected ideal career.

In the work world I wanted to be the marketing manager I knew, followed by the professional corporate climber, followed by the geeky web guru, and then the online editor who knew how to talk to anyone and everyone and make an impressive job come out of those conversations.

In the blog world, I wanted to be a joy rebel like Brandi, a silly but smart business woman like Havi, an exuberant artist like Connie, or any of the other wonderful bloggesses I've encountered who have a topic and know how to rock it.

The thing is, I've learned that I never actually wanted to be any of these people. What I wanted was to be as genuine as they were. I wanted to know what my topic was and be as passionate about my own thing as they were about theirs.

I wanted to feel as secure in myself as all of them appeared to be. I wanted to say, "This is me! This is how I roll. Take it or leave it!"

Which is really hard to do when you haven't identified your Thing (with a capital T, because Things are big).

Over the past year or so, I've settled in to the notion of my own authenticity. I'm certain I've stifled my genuine self because of my insecurities and my people-pleasing tendencies.

I may not have determined a Thing that is my subject of choice, but here is what I know for sure. I know that I am passionate about getting the most out of life. I know that I am amazingly selfish in wanting to spend my time doing what I want, when I want, and I don't want to be constrained by "rules" about how I'm supposed to live.

I know I'm not perfect and I've made mistakes, big and small. I know that I want my goodness, not my mistakes (real or perceived) to define me.

And I know that above all else, I believe in kindness and I wish there were more of it in this world. I seek it out. I feed off of the good feelings that come from doing good deeds or hearing about others' good deeds.

I don't know yet where this all leads me, other than it leads me to live with my guiding values at my core. If I let myself go after life and kindness, everything will be as it is meant to be.

Victoria wrote about Thing-finding on her blog. In it she says,
Finding your Thing is like walking at night with a flashlight. You can see only so far ahead of you. If you want to see farther away, you have to take at least one step forward. In other words, you’re going to have to step into something that interests you before you really know if it’s your Thing.

That was an aha! statement for me because that is what I am doing right now- walking at night with a flashlight. I can't see what is on the long road ahead or where it ends, but I can see what is around me right now (my core values) and I will keep stepping into the light.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Ducks Make Me Happy



There is something about ducks. I don't know what it is, but they make me really happy.

It could be the way they swim gracefully on the water, appearing calm as can be, even when their feet are paddling away like crazy beneath the surface.

It could be the plucky little way they waddle when they walk.

It could be the way they walk right up to you at a vacation spot we like in Florida and wait for you to marvel at their amazing duckness.



I realize they look a bit like statues in this picture, but those are real ducks that wander around the Royal Pacific Resort in Orlando.

They are just so silly and happy looking. I can't help but smile when I see ducks.

So, this morning I popped on Facebook real quick and the first thing I saw was a chipper, fluffy, little, yellow duckling paddling in the water with the most adorable happy beak face. A friend of mine shared the photo from a place called "The Happy Page." (Thank you, Marla, for the giggles!)

Oh, yes. That is my kind of place. I have now "liked" The Happy Page in the hopes of having my news feed inundated with fun and beautiful photos. It could be a great source of inspiration.

Where do you find silly happiness and inspiration?

 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Interview: Rabia Gale

Each Wednesday is Wonderstruck Interview day. Hearing other people’s stories is a great way to see things from a different perspective and perhaps find something new to apply to our own lives.

This week our interviewee is writer Rabia Gale. 

What have you been wonderstruck by recently?

I am constantly amazed by my children’s capacity to learn, and to do so with joy. Whether it’s teaching themselves how to play cat’s cradle out of a book or making the huge leap into reading independently, my children show me every day how to try, fail, and try again—and to do it all with a smile and utter unselfconsciousness.

What part of your day are you grateful for?

The post-lunch Quiet Time, where we all have a chance to wind down in the middle of our often-busy days. This is the time for journaling, reading, writing, doodling, quiet play, and recharging for the evenings.

What part of your day is tough? How do you move through it?

The evenings! A lot of activities are crowded into the evenings, along with the preparation and eating of dinner, end-of-day cleanup, and bedtime routines. At least my husband is available during that time, so we often divide and conquer.

Some days, though, only the thought of chocolate peanut butter cup ice cream and an episode of Warehouse 13 at the end of the day keeps me moving!

What do you wish your were more conscious of?

I’m a planner, so I’m always looking ahead. Sometimes I get so caught up in divining and organizing the future, I forget to enjoy the present moment. I wish I spent more time living in the now instead of the what might be.

How do you stay focused on what is truly important to you?

Connecting with God through prayer and scripture helps me get a better perspective on my life. It also helps me to focus on people instead of things and schedules.

About Rabia Gale:

Rabia Gale breaks fairy tales and fuses science fiction and fantasy. A native of Pakistan, she currently resides in Northern Virginia. She has recently published two short story collections, Shattered: Broken Fairy Tales and Unseen. Visit her online at http://www.rabiagale.com or find on her on Twitter (@rabiagale).