I need my 20 minutes too.

As if I wasn’t already bombarded with too much, deciding to focus on writing has me spread even thinner. All the other obligations, mom-related tasks, work, social pulls are still there but now I’m hyper-focused on putting in regular effort to write. Reading and writing go hand in hand. When you are reading your writing is better, makes total sense. But, how the heck do I find time to read? I miss reading. I had a good long stretch of making reading a priority. I have a stack of books (not to mention all the e-books on my Kindle) that I have yet to crack open.

We all know that our kids need to read. I know that for my oldest, ever since he’s been in Kindergarten, 20 minutes of reading is part of his daily homework. Luckily, he loves reading so it’s never been much of a fight. According to Edudemic, skipping your nightly reading can have adverse affects on learning. The benefits for those children who get their daily 20 are pretty substantial. Edudemic cites, they are better at Math, they tend to be more empathetic and reading raises self-esteem and confidence.

It made me wonder what reading might do for adults. I’ve seen all the articles that say that adults who do things like word searches and puzzles have greater retention of memory. So I went to Google. Turns out there are benefits for getting just 30 minutes of reading in per week for adults. Express cites a study that found adults who read for 30 minutes a week are 20% more likely to be satisfied with their life. Twenty percent! Mirroring the benefits that children see, adults who read weekly have higher self-esteem and self-acceptance. One reason offered, which makes complete sense, is that reading is a way to share life experiences. For any age, sometimes you read and you realize you aren’t alone in your circumstance. The study went further to get a group of people who had stopped taking the time to read for various reasons. Those folks were challenged to spend 2o minutes per day reading. They reported sleeping better, feeling happier and more energetic.

It’s funny that I work pretty hard to get some sort of exercise most days of the week. I made the realization long ago that no one is going to make me a priority, unless I do. Getting in just a little exercise daily, relieves my stress and makes me feel better. So I do what I can to get it in, even if it’s only 30 minutes and I’d prefer an hour+. But why not reading? With so many benefits, 20 minutes a day could be while I drink my coffee. Or sitting in the car rider line at pick-up. I’m challenging myself to get in a daily 20. Will you take the challenge?

Googled

I decided to google myself to see what would turn up. In addition to 3 social media profile pictures (which were all 8 years old), and some pictures that weren’t me, there was also my Examiner page!

As my memory has gotten fuzzy, I forgot that I had written several things. It’s nice to see another sign that the leap is worth taking. I guess the bug has been there all along, even if I have forgotten some of my attempts along the way. Thanks for the memory jog, Google!

Before and After: My happy place organized

Sometime in the past year I decided that I was a much happier, nicer, less stressed version of myself when I allowed myself time to write. With two kids and a husband, sometimes the problem has been where I can write, not when.

I created a little happy nook for myself months ago (I’ll have another post on all the things that make it my happy place later). Since I keep my laptop here that means I not only write in this space, but I also pay bills in this space, plan our vacations in this space, check email, the list goes on and on. It’s gotten…messy.

I’m going to put my mess on display.

Before.After-3

You’ll notice my overflowing trashcan, a camera bag, Target bag, piles of notebooks, my daughter’s brush (I did her hair in here this morning), my new copy of Writer’s Market, all the things. It’s a mess.

Since I finished writing my book and am now having a few folks read it, I have a writing to-do list. The problem is I’m so distracted by all the piles of things that I can’t seem to prioritize anything (which is not like me, I’m pretty spectacular at prioritizing AND lists). So I headed over to Target today (another happy place) and purchased a shelf to house all my notebooks and binders.

Before.After-9

I’m pretty pleased with the outcome.  I like that the shelf is tall enough between the middle one to have binders standing up. And when my daughter walked in a few minutes ago she said “Oooh oooh, looking good in here”, so it must look better.

Books that I loved from childhood

My intense love of reading started when I was very young. Much like the television and movies I was permitted to watch (they did fast forward through sex scenes, so there’s that), after a certain age my reading content was probably questionable. I’ve always loved a thriller. Stephen King remains one of my favorite authors to this day. My love of books is varied and all over the place just like my taste in music, 40’s jazz and rap anyone? As I sat here thinking of what needed to be put on my writing to do list, my mind wandered to all the books I loved as a child. So here’s a list (nowhere near inclusive) of some of the books that I have loved and why.

Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery

I loved Anne’s imagination and her spirit. I become obsessed with Prince Edward Island and put it on my dream list of places to visit as an adult. I loved the PBS movies just as much. I look forward to reading these with my daughter.

Pollyanna, by Eleanor H. Porter

Another orphan book! I’ll admit that I saw Pollyanna the movie starring Hayley Mills before reading the book (something I really dislike doing). But the book still remains one of my all time favorites. Pollyanna’s relentless ability to find the good in situations and her neverending optimism was foreign to me. I was fascinated by and honestly, envious.

Sammy the Seal, by Syd Hoff

This is a book that I loved dearly. I’m not sure if it was that Sammy didn’t fit in when he tried to go to school, or his search to try different things, or the fact that all together it didn’t make a lot of sense. I still have the copy from my childhood and it remains a cherished possession.

The Dark is Rising series, by Susan Cooper

The Dark is Rising books started my love of all things magical and mystic. The battle between Light and Evil? That’s good stuff. I ordered the entire series a couple of years ago so that I could re-read them with my kiddos.

The Baby-Sitters Club, by Ann M. Martin

I’m going to show my Type A side, I loved how organized these kids were. That and it was a much lighter read than some of the other things I enjoyed. It’s good to have a balance.

Go Out in Joy!, by Nina Herrmann Donnelley

This book made an imprint on my soul. I remember the day that I bought it. I was in the 3rd or 4th grade and we had stopped at a store while on vacation. I begged my mom to let me buy a book and she said fine to hurry. This is the book I grabbed. It’s the personal story of a television news reporter who leaves her job to go work as a student chaplain at a hospital. The book is about the very sick children she meets, it’s a heavy read. But even as a child (reading a book that was meant for adults) I felt the magnitude of what this woman was doing. That has to be one of the hardest, most emotionally draining jobs in the world. But imagine the invaluable service she provided those children and families. I still love this story and book.

The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett

I’ll end my list with yet another orphan book. Although the story is sad and unfortunate, there is the underlying theme of positivity and what it can do for you. I think when you are in a negative environment for so long, you run the risk of brushing off the thought of positive thinking, it’s silly. But for me, these books planted a seed. I’m still watering it and hoping it grows taller and stronger, all these years later, but it’s there all the same.

 

I’m going to write, right?

Most of my childhood and adolescence, when people asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, my answer was, “I want to be a writer.” When other girls were imagining their weddings or being doctors or teachers, I imagined that I’d live in a little cottage (think English countryside) with either my best friend Tanya, or alone. I’d be surrounded by books, wall to wall built in bookshelves, filled to the ceiling! And I’d write books. Children’s books, then as I grew older, thrillers seemed like a better fit.

I was most at peace when I was writing a story or poem, or reading a book. I was in a safe little bubble, and all the noise in my head would calm. That never changed. Reading takes me to a place that lets me truly breathe.

As I grew older and processed things, issues, relationships, I became interested in psychology. I decided to major in psychology and in the back of my mind thought ‘But I could still write.’ Enter Freshman English 101 and my first editing failure. I took a few poetry and literature classes after that first class but the damage was already done. In my heart I felt that there was no way I had what it takes to be a real writer.

I thrived when it came to research papers. That I can do. And like any good little nerd, I really like them. There’s writing, but also order, organization, it’s fantastic. But it’s not the same. The urge to write was always there, pulling at the back of my mind. Even through surviving my first bout of depression as a grown person, graduating college, getting married, the urge and desire to write called to me. It was my dirty little secret.

I started a book maybe 10 years ago and when I was in the throes of writing my husband walked into the room. I immediately became flushed and closed it down. I felt like he had caught me doing something wrong. Writing had become my deepest darkest desire. I was embarrassed.

Life continued on and brought us to a new state, then came kids. I was a mother, which was something I never thought in a million years that I would want. I was afraid I’d be awful. Jury’s still out, but I feel like most of the time I keep the scale tipped toward the not-so-bad end.

And then came the depression, again. It never really left I guess. I had a couple of miscarriages when we were trying for our second child, so that depression I understood. I embraced it and let it flow through me. I have to experience this and deal with it or it won’t go away. Done. The other, later depression, baffled me. What’s my problem? Why can’t I shake this? My wonderful therapist said to me one day, “There’s a common theme when we talk, do you know what it is?” My mind goes to my mother and father. “Writing. You talk about it and I think that might be part of what is missing for you.”

So, I dedicated a little time each day, no matter how hard it was. I journaled using writing prompts at first. I made sure that I wrote a little each day. And I felt lighter, free. One day, ideas started to pour out of me for stories, dare I say, books. I bought a planner with hour slots and started penciling in time to work on my story. I set a word count goal for each week, just to give me something to work for. And I finished. A whole book.

I haven’t talked about this with many people because, well, it’s personal. It’s my deepest darkest desire. I’m afraid that I’ll fail. And I’m afraid that I won’t be brave enough to try. I’ve decided, with the support of my non-reading husband (believe me that’s a big deal), to focus on writing once my little starts Kindergarten in the Fall. Let’s see if I can make a go of this thing. This blog, well this is part of that journey. I’m excited and scared and hopeful that there are some friendly faces along the way.