Lessons Learned: Goal Swapping

At my writer’s group meeting on Saturday, I had to confess that I didn’t reach my goal to write or edit 1,000 words per week. What’s more disappointing is that I didn’t make last month’s goal either. The goals weren’t heavy. I thought I could manage working full-time, take care of my family, and reach my goal. Needless to say I was a little upset. In my Author Business Plan, my goal is to write four books in four years. Yikes! I need to step up the pace. Even at 1,000 words per week, I am stretched to reach the larger goal.

I then took a step back and thought about the “writing” work that I had completed for the first quarter of 2014. I judged three contests in three months. The first contest was to read five books in five weeks (books ranged from 193 pages to 554—small print pages) and then score them. The second contest was to read the first 50 pages of five manuscripts and score those within 3-4 weeks. The third contest was to read the first ten pages of four manuscripts and then score and critique/edit them. This may not seem like a lot but with the family events I’ve had, this took up the majority of my spare time.

Looking back, I see that I had been very busy, but just in a different way. I can’t feel bad for not writing as much as I wanted or reaching my goal. I have to look at it in a different light. I goal swapped. I had made commitments to deadlines for the above contests. I reached those goals by setting aside my personal writing goals.

What I learned is that I need to be flexible or prioritize, even with my larger goal. I can monitor and adjust as needed. The trick is not to stress myself out but to find a balance. I can re-engage and get back to my 1,000-word goal starting this week. Like riding a bike, I can jump back on to get to my destination. I’ll just have to pedal a little faster each week to catch up.

Lessons Learned: Vehicle Swapping

Sometimes events occur when you least expect it or not at the best time. An opportunity presents itself and you just have to go with it. For us, it occurred in the last eight days. Plans had been in the making for my niece to buy my daughter’s car. Since both live in different areas and miles apart, the perfect time to make the purchase and the handoff was at my dad’s funeral in the cities. The exchange was made.

Now my daughter needed a vehicle. She had been looking but hadn’t found one that she felt was reliable or that she could afford. I owned a Subaru Forester. I offered to sell it to her so she could have a reliable vehicle. At first she didn’t think she could afford it, but she made it work. I received word that she and her fiancé would buy my car. The financing was set.

Now I needed a vehicle. I knew I wanted another Subaru. On Wednesday, I worked out my finances. On Thursday, during the snowstorm, I went to the dealer to test drive Foresters and Outbacks. Within a few hours, I was a proud owner of an Outback. I drove home, white-knuckled, in the snowstorm. I was driving about 45 miles per hour on the freeway (my husband claims it was only 15 mph). I was comfortable driving the all-wheel drive vehicle; however, I was more paranoid about the other drivers on the road!

All in all, I knew I didn’t need the stress of selling my vehicle and buying a new one, but the opportunity came up so I had to take it. Even with the rough three weeks that I had already been through, I was glad that the vehicle swapping all worked out. In fact, I think my dad would have found it fitting. He loved cars and understood what it meant to help each other out. Many years ago, he helped me out when I needed a vehicle. He sold me his truck, knowing that it would be reliable and a good fit. I believe us girls bought vehicles that fit our needs. Maybe my dad made sure of it.

Lessons Learned: Funeral for a Dad

This last week has been filled with mixed emotions and chaos to say the least. I believe I’ve held up quite well since my dad passed away. Maybe because I haven’t had time to think or to grieve yet. I have had my bouts of tears and crying, but it hasn’t hit me yet that I won’t see him again. The whirl of being busy has consumed us.

After his passing, we (my brother and sisters) had to take care of my mom, and we had many phone calls to make. Our phones were constantly ringing. Yes, we may have missed telling some friends or army buddies, but we tried our best. We also had to make the funeral arrangements. The funeral home was a tremendous help. They asked questions, handled the church, the flowers…they took care of everything.

We then had family fly in from other states which included my sister and brother-in-law from Texas, my nephews from California, and my son from Germany. We were busy traveling to the airport and figuring out places to sleep.

The night of the wake, we were at the funeral home for five hours. The hard part was seeing my dad again in his open casket. The touching part was seeing the different flowers and plants from friends and family. Those who came to pay their respects for our father also touched us. We met a woman who had gone to high school with my dad. Another was a friend of his from when he was little. My dad was 84. We’re talking about people who knew him 60/70 years ago and hadn’t seen him in years.

The funeral was tough as well; we were drained from the night before. My sister and I gave the eulogy. We took turns listing his favorite things, his hobbies, and key personality traits. We were nervous but found the strength to smile and to celebrate his life versus thinking about the grief.

The ceremony at the cemetery was even more touching and heartfelt. Five veterans provided a small service to salute my dad who had served in the Korean War. The veterans were the same group who had honored my brother when he passed 2 ½ years ago. My son, in his Air Force uniform, took the honors of presenting the flag to my mom. There wasn’t a dry eye when seeing him kneel down in front of her, present the flag, and then stand again to salute her.

Our final goodbye was a family celebration of his life at my brother’s house. My dad’s favorite drink was Jack Daniels so we toasted my dad with a shot of Jack. We then toasted my brother with a shot of his favorite—blackberry brandy. We all had tears but we also had laughs as we shared memories with each other.

Family Toast to Dad 2

I think my father would have been proud and happy of his funeral and his celebration of life. And when the grief hits, when time stands still, I will think about what the pastor said to us right after our last goodbye. She said, “Look around you. This is what Stan (and your mom) created. Because of him, you are all here. This is reason to celebrate.”

I love you, Dad.

Dad 5

Lessons Learned: Vaulted Memories

My dad worked for Chandler Wilbert Vault Company for over 30 years. I always liked telling people that he buried people for a living, mainly to see their expressions. And with a sinister smile, I loved telling my boyfriends to see them sweat. They always asked what I meant by that.

My dad was proud to work for Bud Chandler and his job at the vault company became part of our lives as well. For our family, it wasn’t unusual to have a funeral tent for our graduation parties. It wasn’t unusual for me (when I was around eight-years-old) to sell burial vaults to my imaginary customers. I always sold more of the copper and bronze vaults because they were my favorites. Of course, I sold Avon too. I wasn’t totally weird. ;)

My dad passed away on Sunday. He had on his Chandler Wilbert Vault tee shirt. How fitting. Even the funeral home liked that one.

Here’s to my dad and one of my memories about him.

Lesson Learned: The Joy of Innocence

My six months old grandson came down for a visit this weekend and even though he tired me out, he was also a joy to be around. On Saturday when I tried getting him down for his nap, I cuddled with him on the bed. I tried pretended to sleep and he watched me. I then pretended to snore and the little dude started laughing. His blue eyes were wide and bright, and his laugh had a shrill of delight. I couldn’t help but laugh with him. We had our little bonding time which meant a lot to me since I only see him once a month.

I think about how his laughter brought me happiness this weekend. I needed it. Sometimes when life has us drained, the simple innocence of a child can brighten spirits. The same is with a pet. Who can not love the excitement of a puppy who wags his tail, spins around, and keeps saying “love me, love me” with his eyes. I hope you can find a little happiness this week with something simple and innocent. Let me know what you find.  

Lessons Learned: A Fresh Coat of Paint

My husband completed a project over the weekend to paint the wall behind the stove and then to put up stainless steel tiles to protect the wall from grease splatters. The wall, once tan, is now Cajun red. I just love the look, and it lifted my spirits. You wouldn’t think that changing the small area in our kitchen would make such a big difference, but I love the new life that it brings to the kitchen. The task took him less than a day to complete and under $75.00.

Kitchen Mar 2014 001

Spring is a great time to begin small projects like the one my husband completed. After the winter doldrums, the change was a nice pick-me-up. This made me think of other things that I could do to lift my spirits. Spring is all about new beginnings, and March is a great time to make a few changes to celebrate the new season. For us in the Midwest, we’ve had way too many subzero temperatures in the last two months. We need a nice change.

Think about what you can do to lift your spirits and create change. Ideas include a new hairstyle, a new spring wardrobe, going to the spa for a full rejuvenation, changing the decorations in a room, buying a new piece of furniture, or painting a wall or room. Bring in some brightness to anticipate the colors of summer. Buy a fresh bouquet of flowers and place them in a room where you can always see them. The goal is to bring or improve something in your life. Now I can’t wait to start a project of my own. Maybe a new stove…

Amazing what a fresh coat of paint can do.

Lessons Learned: Book Buying

In the writing industry, the experts say that the first five pages are important to grab the reader’s attention. I agree with the statement, but I believe that there are other factors as well. Last month I judged a contest for published books. I was pretty excited to judge the contest, but I wasn’t thrilled seeing the books as I opened the box. The books didn’t have covers that intrigued me, and a couple of them didn’t have a blurb to entice me to the story.

When I buy a book to read, I’ll scan the shelves or website and stop at a cover that intrigues me. I’m big on first impressions, and I like it if the cover can portray a mood or emotion. Next, I’ll look at the back blurb. If it’s interesting enough then I’ll continue. I won’t base my decision just on the blurb, knowing how the blurb is one of the hardest pieces to write for a book. And last, I’ll open the book and start reading the first page. If the writing gets me to turn the page, I’ll buy the book. If not, I’ll pass on the book and look for another one.

I never thought too much about how I purchased a book until seeing those books from the contest that I had to read. If I had seen these books in the store, I would’ve passed them by. The bad news is that I would have missed reading some good stories. In fact, one book was so good that I can’t wait to buy her other books.

The lesson I learned is how important first impressions are when writing and creating a book. You always hear the experts say it, but I never experienced it until now. Will I be more careful when purchasing a book? You bet. I will pick up a few books here and there to see if the first pages will grab my attention. Will I continue to buy a book based on cover, blurb, and first page? You bet. First impressions get me hooked.