Little bits of time to unwind…

Last week was busy. Besides work and daily chores, my husband and I saw the Blue Man Group (awesome), went to a couple of after work events, celebrated his birthday, took my folks to the casino, and went to a benefit. The good news is that I wasn’t overwhelmed (of course, fun stuff makes it easier).

I wasn’t overwhelmed because each day I try giving myself time to unwind. On the weekend, I will sit out on the porch with my husband, and we’ll enjoy a cup of coffee. Our house faces the neighborhood park. We take in the trees and the birds hopping (yes, hopping) from one place to another. My husband curses when seeing the chipmunks bop their heads over the grass. We also wave to neighbors who are out for their morning job or walking their dog.

Mornings on the porch allows me to gather my thoughts and prepare for the day. I do the same on the weekdays, only it’s Qi Gong. I practice breathing and strengthening my body. I’m amazed by how many times my bones crack during my routine!

During the day or evening, I also sit for a few minutes (okay, sometimes it ends up being a nap and then sitting) to remove the noise in my head. I empty bad thoughts, worry, fear, and things that I have to do. I concentrate on the good. As I sit, I’ll watch a leaf flutter in the tree and take note on how it shimmers in the sunlight. I’ll watch the blades of the ceiling fan slowly circle around the center light and feel the gentle breeze against the warm air of the room. I think of the movie “Casablanca”. I then think of creating a great story, bringing new characters to life.

These little moments of unwind help me take a step back from chaos to remember the details that I may otherwise miss. They help me to stop before I forget about being in the present. I recharge which in turn opens my creativity for what I like to do the most….and that’s to write.

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Lesson Learned: Being a dad.

Yesterday was Father’s day. I hope all the dads out there had a wonderful day. You are special.

I think about the dads who can’t wait to spend time with their kids. The dads who stay home during the day and raise their kids while the moms work. The dads who would like to be home but serve our country. The dads who do their best in unfortunate circumstances. Kudos to you. Dads are important in a child’s eyes. Dads teach kids how to relate with others. They are the rock that can form generations to come.

Unfortunately, not all dads fit into the above categories. How sad that some choose not to participate. My son and daughter have a dad who went that route. Fortunately, my kids have a step-father who was always there for them when needed. I include all you step-dads with this message.

I think of my dad. He wasn’t perfect by a long shot. My mom raised us while he worked six days a week. When he was there, we avoided him. We jumped when he told us to do something. We feared his anger and the razor strap. (To this day, no one in my family has confessed to how that strap mysteriously disappeared!) Nor did my dad display affection. I don’t think he knew how to handle us young kids. Maybe it was his upbringing – having survived the depression, WWII, and eleven siblings. No matter, he was there for me and he tried. Always.

As we grew older, he mellowed. We saw a different side to my dad. We had fun with him. We partied with him. He let us be adults, without interfering in our lives. Only once did he give me strong advise. One sentence. “You’re making a big mistake.” I didn’t need anything else. I changed direction. He was there for me. And, he was right.

My point, nobody is perfect at being a dad, no matter the generation. No matter the stage you’re in at being a father. But if you’re there for you kid(s), you’re giving them a great start to life. You do the best you can. You learn, grow, and love with all your heart.

For all the dads who are there for your kids, thank you. And I thank my dad for always being there for me. He did the best that he could and I love him for that.

Keeping Watch

On a summer day when the sun has been sizzling your car like an egg in the parking lot, you immediately open the windows and let the heat steam out. You let the wind cool down your car before kicking in the AC as you drive home after a full day at work. For my husband Mike, the twist to his normal commute came when he waited on a side street to take a left on a busy intersection.

He watched and waited as a few men crossed the street in front of him. A straggler to the group was a few yards behind. He stopped where the sidewalk came to an end and waited for Mike to turn. Mike waited for him to cross. Pedestrians had the right-of-way. My husband motioned with his arm for the man to ‘go’. He’d wait. The man seemed out of it, a little drunk or on something as he staggered off the curb. However, the man didn’t go. Getting impatient, Mike motioned again for him to cross. The guy finally did.

With the man out of his way, Mike looked right and then left. He waited for a stream of cars to pass. Next thing he knew, the man who crossed in front of him was now in his car. He had quick opened the door and plopped down in the passenger seat. The guy was big and tall. He wanted Mike to take him to his friend’s house. In one quick assessment, my husband saw that the man was drunk or on something. Mike played into it. He told the drunk (as I will call the man now) that it was too far to drive him there, but he would drop him off at the gas station a block down. The drunk thought about it and then told Mike to call him later, which my husband said he would. The drunk got angry then and stated that Mike didn’t know the phone number. Mike told him that he did, it was in his phone. He’d call. The man settled down, satisfied with his response. Mike again offered to take him to the gas station, but the man decided to get out.

Not until later that evening did Mike really think about what had happened. In one small second, a stranger was in his car. If instincts hadn’t kicked in, if he hadn’t played into it – going with the flow – would the outcome have been the same? What if that had been me in my car? What would I have done? Even now, I’m not sure how I would have responded.

What I do know, through his experience, I will make sure my doors are locked and my windows only half-way open. I’ll watch as people pass. I’ll make sure they head in the direction intended.

WisRWA conference – Size Doesn’t Matter

Last weekend I attended the Wisconsin 2012 Write Touch Conference. This conference is small (around 100 attendees) compared to the RWA National (2000 attendees). But size doesn’t matter.

Large conferences provide the business aspect. You can attend dozens of sessions, listen to key speakers (big name authors), and pitch to one or more agents or editors. You can win awards for books or contests, and you can meet people from all over the world. The small conferences provides the same, only downsized – picture a Roadmaster versus a Mini Cooper.

Which conference do I prefer? Both. I determine what I want out of the conference. For past RWA conferences, I jetted off to Reno, San Francisco, and Atlanta to learn different writing skills and techniques. For the RT Conference in April, I jetted to Chicago to gather loads of information on self-publishing. For the conference this weekend in Wausau (with my fellow Chippewa Falls group), I volunteered to work the raffle, to connect with fellow writers, and to have fun.

Where else but a small conference could I sit next to a bestselling author and tell her that my crotch was wet? Because I was having an allergic reaction to who knows what, I had a towel filled with ice chips pressed to my arm. The ice melted and then spewed all over the floor when I quickly sat up. All of us writers in the raffle room had fun with that one. And, where else could I play match-maker with an editor? She has a son who could date my daughter, and her daughter could date my son – (don’t worry, Miss “M”, I still want to hook you up with my son). At a larger conference, I doubt these moments would have happened.

Small or large, conferences pull people together. They give us an opportunity to network, gain knowledge, and get inspired. What you make of them when you go is entirely up to you. Know what you want out of them, learn, and have fun. With my conferences done for the year, I’m now charged to get published and to write. Of course, there’s the retreat in September that I’ll be attending….