Lessons Learned: Lifting the Gray Ceiling

I’m alarmed to hear older, or even middle aged, people saying that they’ve given up a hobby or something they enjoy doing because of their age. It’s not so much that they physically can’t do it anymore; it’s more like society telling them that it’s not age appropriate. I say screw that train of thought!

The baby boomers are here to prove that age doesn’t matter. If you can still do what you love to do…go for it! A few weeks ago I had a conversation with a co-worker who told me about his mentor, a consultant, who travels to help different companies improve their processes. He’s always been looked up to and respected…until now. In his late seventies, he’s noticed that people are stepping out of his way, opening doors for him, and second-guessing his opinion. According to my co-worker, this guy is healthy, smart, and sharp as a tack. He’s not showing signs of slowing down, and he loves sharing his experience. As my co-worker called it, the “gray ceiling” is getting in the way. It’s up to the baby boomers to lift that ceiling and prove that age doesn’t matter.

Another gray ceiling lifter is Christine McVie rejoining Fleetwood Mac at the age of seventy. She’s getting back into something that she loves to do. Think of the Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney. They continue to write and produce music, along with performing on stage. They are still rocking with the best of them.

Fleetwood Mac

Fleetwood Mac

This is a lesson to learn for everyone. No matter your age, do what you enjoy doing. Don’t put a cap on it because someone tells you that you’re too old. If you love playing music, join a band. If you love to write, continue to write. If you love swinging on a swing set, then go swing. There may come a time when you can’t continue because of health reasons. You may have to compromise and find different ways of doing what you love to do. For example, you love bowling but you can no longer lift the heavy ball. Wii Bowing is a good replacement.

Most important is that you gave it your all. You didn’t let society tell you that you couldn’t do it. You helped lift the gray ceiling.

Lessons Learned: Chill-Out Time

Tonight’s a chill-out night. I haven’t had many nights where I can sit back and read. Usually I’m up in my office writing, promoting, working on bills, catching up with emails/Facebook, or out and about. I’ve decided that curling up on the couch with a book (a paperback) is just the right medicine after a long weekend of travel, helping others, and fighting electronics. My body is telling me to take it easy, and I’m going to listen.

Tonight’s an unplug night. After my blog is out, I’ll turn off my computer, my phone, and my iPAD. There are many good books on my list to read, but tonight I’ll read one that I’m judging for a contest. I’m looking forward to meeting the characters and seeing how the author develops her story.

And with the wind blowing outside, another arctic blast making its way to the Midwest, I’m looking forward to “getting away.”

Writer’s Digest Contest

Writer’s Digest Contest

Last year I decided to sign up for the Writer’s Digest’s Self-Published e-Book Awards. I entered the contest and then mailed them three copies of my book “Gitana – Life Plan.” They said they would notify the winners at the end of the year. When the first of the year came around…heavy, sad sigh…I knew I wasn’t one of the winners.

Today, when I got home from work, I did a quick review of my emails. I had three emails from Writer’s Digest. The first email I opened was a greeting and a document of general marketing tips for entrants. I thought that was nice. The next email was a thank you for participating, a note saying that narrowing down the winners was difficult due to impressive talent, and that my score and judges commentary would be arriving shortly. I quickly went to the third email to see how I did.

The scores were 1 (needs improvement) to 5 (outstanding) for the following categories: structure and organization, grammar, production quality and cover design, plot, and character development. I received the highest score, 5, for all categories. Yay! My heart sang. Here is their commentary (in their writing):

“The cover is gorgeous. Love the mix of blues and grays to convey her blue mood. Also, the pier being a bit rubbly, with weeds growing, conveys her state of mind, that she has been walked on, that unwanted things grow (memories), and the model’s thin and slumped posture shows the weight of the world. Well done, conveying so much as well as a sense of place. Very engaging, and a strong impression to bring the reader to the book.
Great opening! The reader can see the smarmy doctor’s tan, the glitzy car, feel his tense presence and her tension in his presence. The reader tightens up at their meeting, which is very good when you make the reader react emotionally and physically in just a few sentences, that’s excellent craft.
Excellent imagery tied between Gitana and her scenery, such as when she looks up to the sun and the author ties it to the sailboats looking up to the sun and sky as well. Author does an excellent job with place, and giving Gitana a presence in it. It’s very 3D, very well-done.
The author excels at using sensory details, how things smell, taste, feel, textures, even the bend of a shoe. Great talent with this essential element of a novel that is an experience, not just a read. We are there with the characters. Beautiful inclusion of nature and animals. This is a real world she’s created.
BRUTAL that the ex gives her a bottle of Diazepam, especially with her history. Reader gets a visceral reaction, feels Gitana’s anger and hurt. This was a brilliant idea on the author’s part.
All of the characters are likeable and engaging, written well with differentiated voices and movements; the author has done great work in creating each of them as the surrounding characters. Excellent work with the supporting cast. Especially with Rex, who is a hoot, and it’s especially good that he’s distant and hesitant with her at first, then grows into a relationship with her. This shows maturity in the author’s writing, not just laying supporting characters in a scene like a paper doll. These supporting characters have depth and motivations, worlds of their own. Well done.
While there are just a few slow spots that are not at all a detraction from the book’s quality, the pace is good, the author moves the plot along well and naturally without any gimmicking, and the romantic parts are done naturally, lacking in clichés. Enjoyable to read and organic to the story.
It’s especially enjoyable to start with Gitana’s sadness over her infertility, her inability to create a child, then evolve into being a creator of art. Nice that this journey allows her to give birth to art.
The author does a good job of evolving Gitana from that mind-lock of imagining her ex with the other woman, the obsessive thoughts, to finding more freedom from that. We sense her strength growing, her learning from her life’s mistakes even with some backslides, and the surprises throughout truly take the reader for a ride. Nothing predictable here. A great read, with great characters, in a great world.
Well done.” —Judge, Writer’s Digest Self-Published e-Book Awards

I didn’t win the big prizes or get honorable mention, but I was extremely happy with what I did receive. In a world with a million plus authors and zillions of books on the market, it’s nice to know that my scores were the highest given and they liked the book. They made my day! 

Lessons Learned: 2014 Brain Scramble

The first morning of 2014, I was in somewhat of a brain scramble. Mike and I stood in the kitchen drinking our coffee. I had two cups before I could even move, and I didn’t even drink the night before! Instead my goals had overcome me.

Since the beginning of December, I thought about and worked on my goals for 2014. I always get excited about goal setting because I’m a forward thinker (which is also a downfall because I have to remind myself to live for the day). I believe that the New Year brings a fresh look on life and a chance to revitalize what you want to accomplish. Three of my personal goals for the New Year include:

Goal 1: Respecting my body. I know that my body is changing, and I’m not as flexible as I used to be. Not that I’m succumbing to it, but I need to readjust my thinking. Instead of military-style exercises, I need to go for gentler exercises that help balance and strengthen my body. Besides exercising, I need to eat less. Again that age thing. Now is a good time to stay healthy inside and out.

Goal 2: Stop worrying so much. I worry about family and life. I want the best for my children and it’s hard to see them struggle. I want my parents to be comfortable. It’s hard to see them when their bodies and minds start to fail them. I dream up scenarios that make me worry even more, and I have to stop that habit. I believe everyone has their destiny marked. Things happen for a reason. Instead of worrying, I need to enjoy each day and feel blessed to know those who are in my life. I also have to remember that when I was younger and just starting out, I had to struggle and find my own way. By doing so, I became stronger.

Goal 3: Write. I love to write but my time lately has been spent on promoting and other duties related to writing. This winter will be a good time to write the next story, especially when the weather is minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit (like this morning).

And now I’ll circle back to the first sentence in my blog. After deciding on my goals for the New Year (like the ones above), I woke up on January 1, 2014, wanting to run full speed ahead to accomplish my goals. Only my goals weren’t like tasks to accomplish in a day. So that morning I stayed in a brain scramble as my mind spun wanting to do everything at once. My body finally said, “Relax, it’s a holiday.”

January 2, the day after the New Year, I began my goals for 2014.