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Accountability…Ugh.

There is nothing fun about that word. You want to know how to nail the concept down? Promise a child you’ll do NaNoWriMo with them. 😉

NaNoWriMo Writer Badge

Kate, my niece, lives a few states away. I don’t know her nearly as well as I’d like to, but we have the BEST common interest…BOOKS! Reading them. Writing them. Smelling them. Well, I don’t know if she loves the smell of books like I do. That’s an assumption. I’ll have to ask her.

Back to NaNoWriMo. I’m a list person, and let me tell you, I could write a doozy of a list of reasons this is NOT the month to write a novel:

  1. We just moved to a new house in a new city. There are boxes everywhere.
  2. I’ve been fighting a head and chest cold for the past two weeks. *sniff*
  3. I have three jobs
  4. and two busy teenagers
  5. and an adult child who may never leave home
  6. and a husband who buys me mugs that say, “Write Epic Shit” on them. (Okay, that’s actually one for the “Pro” column.)
  7. and my novel has been shelved for several years
  8. and whinewhinewhinewhinewhinewhinewhine

But there is a twelve year old girl in Wisconsin counting on me to keep my word. I won’t let her down. I won’t let myself off the hook. And I really do love writing. Well, I love having written. If I’m going to reach my goals and dreams, I need to start somewhere.

Today is Day 1! It’s time to begin again! If you would like to join me in my quest to pound out a 50,000 word novel in thirty days, click on the link below to sign up for NaNoWriMo. If your list of reasons not to do it is anything like mine, ignore it. Find an accountability partner, and put your butt in a chair and your fingers on the keys. You can do it! I believe in you!

https://www.nanowrimo.org/

For the 17 and under crowd, join Kate in NaNoWriMo’s Young Writers Program: https://ywp.nanowrimo.org/ 

2-WriterWebBadge

Happy Writing! 🙂

 

Finding Your Voice

18 years ago today, my birthday twin posted on his blog for the first time. I know this because that’s what he posted on it today. You can read it here: http://wilwheaton.net/2019/08/6584-days/

“I enjoyed writing in my blog (powered by Greymatter!), and I felt like, for the first time in my life, I could speak for myself. My voice, which had only been heard through the filter of teen magazines, or vapid entertainment press, a voice which had been tightly controlled by the adults in my life, could finally have a chance to speak on its own truth.”

Holy crap! That resonates with me!

womanvoice

I started blogging the same year Merriam-Webster declared “Blog” their word of the year. YouTube was launched a year later. With three children under the age of five, I was desperate to find something that was just mine. As a youth minister’s wife, I longed for a place to express myself outside of the fishbowl I was living in. I was starving for connection with people I could be myself with – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Like Wil, I started blogging to stretch my wings a bit and find my voice, but I got to do that with a MUCH smaller audience because I’m not famous for anything, anywhere. Less pressure. The people in close proximity didn’t know what blogging was, so there was a sense of safety in the vague anonymity of the web. My how things have changed, huh?

I’m still struggling with my voice. Sometimes it’s funny, sometimes it’s sarcastic. Sometimes it’s irritated or angry and I want to scream, “Go ahead! I F***ing Dare You!” Sometimes it’s weighty and sorrowful, and sometimes it holds the giddy excitement of a first kiss. At least that’s how it seems to me.

Blogging has given me a place to practice my voice, and I’ve learned a lot in the past fifteen years. Here’s a quick top ten:

  1. I have a voice but I’m still nailing down what it sounds like, because like my speaking voice, I know its sounds different to me than it does to you.
  2. I have permission and the courage to use the voice I have, even though sometimes I have to dig pretty deep inside myself to reach my courage.
  3. WHO reads my words is more important to me than the size of my audience.
  4. I blog to connect, entertain, challenge, inspire, and to explore and process the world around me. I blog to give others the gift of going second and permission to speak freely. If I want others to do that, I’d better be doing it too.
  5. My goal isn’t making money. If you’re blogging to make money, good for you! I hope you’re wildly successful! That’s just not the point of this for me.
  6. I am not always right. I have apologized for the things I’ve written SO MANY times through the years. #eatinghumblepie #beingteachable
  7. It’s okay to only write here sometimes. As long as I keep paying for my domain name, this thing isn’t going anywhere. I write in other spaces too – some private, some public.
  8. We all grow as we go. I keep my old posts – even the ones I no longer agree with – to honor who I was then. That woman was trying to find her voice too.
  9. Not everything that floats through my head needs to be written down or spoken. WORDS! I love them. I have lots of them. The word-vomit temptation is real, friends. I fight it all the time. You’re welcome. 😉
  10. Words have the power to heal and mend, so sometimes I write. I hope when you meet me here you’ll choose to see the best parts of me even when I show you my unloveliness. Surely we can find some common ground to heal and mend together so we can help heal and mend the world.

Wil inspired me today. I appreciate his journey, and using his paragraph that I quoted above, I’ve created my own version:

I’ve enjoyed writing on my blog. It’s given me an outlet to speak for myself and share pieces of who I am. My blogging journey has felt a lot like puberty – the beauty of personal development contrasting with a voice that cracks during the moments that will cause the most embarrassment. My voice, which I have allowed to be tightly controlled by my fear of what the religious people in my life would think of me if I spoke freely, is finally getting a chance to speak its own truth. My voice is one of love and inclusion, but also authenticity, which means there will also be times when I say, “I f***ing dare you.”

Have you found your voice? What has your journey been like? How are you using your voice now? Permission to speak freely…

Find your voice. Change the world.

TGIF – Or Not

Day 3.

I have a love/hate relationship with Fridays. I’m guessing ninety-nine percent of the people I know LOVE Fridays. It’s the last day of their work week, or they are living for the down time they get on the weekends, or whatever. Then there is me. I love Fridays for one reason only – It’s the one day a week I teach kids other than my own. I love our school. I love my teacher friends. I love my students. I hate waking up at 6:00am.

H-A-T-E with a fiery passion.

For my new friends stopping by, here’s a little Niki trivia for you: I used to think I suffered from insomnia – I don’t.  What I do have is called DSP or Delayed Sleep-Wake Phase. That’s the official name for being a night owl, and yes, it’s a real thing. It means left to follow my natural circadian rhythm, I will go to sleep later at night and wake up later in the day. When I do this, I am my best self. The other name for it is DSWPD (Delayed Sleep-Wake Phase Disorder). WHY is this classified as a disorder? Because we have socially acceptable times for sleep??? The most common treatments are time-controlled Melatonin, or light therapy to “correct” the disorder. What if I don’t think it needs correcting?

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I am not a farmer, so there is no need for me to rise with the sun each day. I am no longer in the bleary-eyed bliss of young motherhood, so I don’t have to grab snippets of sleep whenever and wherever I can get them. I am not part of the Monday through Friday, 9 to 5 crowd. I am a woman who found a way to embrace being a night owl in an early bird world. What else could I do?

BK (before kids) I worked a few jobs where I had to be up early, but since then I’ve been in positions that were flexible enough for me to set my own schedule most of the time. My babies were not early risers. (Thank God!) As teenagers, they still aren’t. I suspect they too have DSP.  After all, it’s believed to be genetic. Benny certainly doesn’t have it. I am married to a man who wakes up before the sun without the use of an alarm. He can’t sleep in. Poor guy. Speaking of alarms, let’s get back to Fridays.

In 2021, my homeschooling and teaching days will end. Pete will graduate from high school, and I will no longer have to set my alarm for 6:00am on Friday mornings. It will be bittersweet, but right now the thought is just sweet. Why? Because it’s Thursday night and I will be up early tomorrow morning. Thursday nights are the worst. Even after I’ve completed my pre-Friday checklist, my brain is not ready to slip into sleep mode. Tonight, I’m up blogging. Most nights I read until my iPad slips and hits me in the face or falls on the bed or floor. (True story.) I keep it in an Otterbox case for a reason. 😉

How about you? Any other night owls up reading this way past their socially acceptable bedtime? Or are you one of my early bird friends that will read this long before I am up showering for school? THAT is called ASP or Advanced Sleep-Wake Phase by the way, and is also considered a disorder.

Try not to sustain an eye-rolling injury as we both laugh at the experts.

It’s Planner Time!

Day 2

I’ve been working on my 2019 planner. Like an office supply junkie needing a fix, I’m surrounded by my stickers, rubber stamps, washi tape, bold colored pens, and my favorite pencil. This is my toolbox for coping with the chaos of life. Planning calms me. Making lists and highlighting important dates to look forward to helps me breathe easier. It’s one of my best brain dump practices. Paper and pens are my thing.

nerdy girl

My friend Don has been showing me his bullet journal pages for a couple of years now and I hate to admit it, but I’m a bit jealous. I’ve purchased 157 blank books in my life, give or take a few, and I’ve filled about 4 of them. But I’ve filled a planner every year for as long as I can remember. Don makes his own planner, and he’s amazing at it. I think it calms his brain too.

Mary, another dear friend, special orders an Erin Condren planner every year with her name on it! Yeah, they do that. I’m a little jealous of that too. Yes, I know I can order one, but we are in different planner tax brackets for the moment. I dream of owning a planner with my name engraved on the cover. *sigh* (I’m kidding about the sigh.)

That may be one of my goals for 2020. That seems like a good goal, right? Or maybe I shouldn’t jump ahead a whole year. I should tackle this one first. Baby steps.

Are you a planner or a pantser? (Do you fly by the seat of your pants?) I’m a planner that sometimes embraces spontaneity. I’m off to brain dump before bed, but here’s a picture of my two planners. The tall one is for work. The spiral shorty is my personal planner and fits perfectly in my purse. The lighting isn’t great, but you get idea.

2019planners

What’s in your toolbox?

So It Begins!

Day 1. January 1st. A fresh start. 365 days of possibility stretched out before me. New beginnings. A chance to do better and be better. But, I’m still feeling the sorrowful weight of 2018. I don’t know how long it will last. Here’s what I want for the new year…

EASY-button

I don’t make resolutions anymore – I never keep them. What I do is hope. I hope to be intentional this year, in my relationships, my work, my health, my writing, my travel, my rest, my faith, and most of all, my family.

2018 kicked my ass. I am down for the count and I’m fighting to stand back up. I moved beyond sad awhile ago and I’m struggling with depression. This past week I had friends on Facebook asking us to list three good things that happened to us in 2018, and I sat there numbly staring at my screen. Could I think of three?

  1. Amsterdam & France. The mom’s mystery trip was the best thing that happened to me in 2018. Traveling to another country with some of my close friends and spending the day with Don in France was AMAZING!
  2. Erin graduated in May. Erin is my neighbor and one of my “daughter from another mother” kids. Traditional school was not a good fit for her, so I worked with her mom and we helped her homeschool her last two years of high school. Homeschooling is HARD, but I am built to do hard things.
  3. I’m thinking…

In the name of processing hard things, here’s my 2018:

At the beginning of the year I started a new job I thought would be amazing but turned out to be awful. I don’t want to work for abusive people with zero integrity who lie and manipulate others to get what they want. When I started back at GJK in June, I came home and cried that first day. I had forgotten what it felt like to be treated with respect and as an integral part of a team. The joke has been that I took a five month sabbatical from them and everyone is glad I’m back. Me too.

Someone dear and close to us broke the law and twelve months later we are still walking through the fallout of that bad decision with them – it’s not over.

What I initially thought was a break from my church turned into a break up. I am dismayed by much of American Christianity and navigating what that looks like for my faith journey. I’ll be blogging more about that sometime this year.

The mystery trip was a wonderful adventure, but I was betrayed by a friend shortly after we returned home. I didn’t see it coming and it completely blind-sided me. Then she cut me out of her life and I just don’t understand. I’m still mad as hell about it.

For the first time in twenty years, I missed out on summer camp. I had just returned to work with GJK and Benny was job hunting. We just couldn’t make it happen.

Letting go of the cigar shop and dealing with unemployment for a few months was a huge challenge. We survived it, but I can’t even talk about the difficulty of that season. It’s still too raw.

Kids: Max had two car accidents and two tickets, we had to sell his car for scrap when we couldn’t sink any more money into it to fix it (it wasn’t the car in the accidents), job changes for the kids, teenage hormones and angst, and a medical issue that had us worried for months that seems to be resolved now, and all three of my children had their hearts broken, which hurts a momma’s heart too. It was a hard year for the whole family.

We have several friends fighting serious health battles, a few of whom have stopped treatment and are trying to live their best life with the time they have left.

And death, oh the deaths. One of my former students passed away. The loss of a child in one’s life is particularly hard. A sweet young lady we’ve known for many years shocked everyone who knew her when she took her own life. We love her family and feel their heartache. As you know from my last post, Avon Shields lost her battle with cancer and that devastated me. My 14-year-old niece Sarah got sick and passed away the week before Christmas. While I didn’t know her because we’ve never lived close, it was excruciating to watch my sister lose her only child. It was terrible speaking with my dad on the phone and hearing his voice break. Her funeral was last Saturday on Pete’s birthday. On Christmas Day we learned of the passing of our friend Davon the day before. It was a year of great loss and I’m still reeling.

There are things that happened in 2018 that I am processing privately. Hurtful, ugly things that make me want to change my name, move somewhere no one can find me, and tell the whole world to go to hell. That doesn’t sound like me at all, but it’s where I’m at. 2019 has got to be better, right?

And now that I’ve purposefully tried to think of three good things about 2018, I’m remembering several more…

  1. I made new friends.
  2. I enjoyed lots of planned coffee dates in person and messenger or phone dates with friends far away.
  3. I saw some good movies.
  4. I read a lot of great books.
  5. I met several amazing authors I love.
  6. I got a free educator’s pass to Denver Comic Con – spent some time with my friend Rebecca and we got a photo with Val Kilmer.
  7. I reconnected with old friends I haven’t seen in years.
  8. I wrote a little bit.
  9. I led some fun field trips with my homeschooling mom friends.
  10. I prayed for a lot of people and was prayed for too.
  11. My food bank was thriving and I helped lots of families
  12. My dad and Shari came for a visit.
  13. I learned some new skills that will serve me well in the future.
  14. I bought a vintage 1930’s typewriter and won a pretty cool 1970’s one for a poem.
  15. Benny got a great new job.

I’d keep working on this list, but I really just want to move through the grief process and look forward to good things in the new year. I know every year is a mixed bag. That’s life, and it’s never fair, but for now I’m signing off with this…

Good riddance 2018. You may have kicked my ass, but 2019 is going to kick yours.

Mourning a Mother

I can’t breathe.

Is there anything heavier or sharper than grief?

If this was a movie, I’d be slumped on my side having just been run through with a sword. No, it won’t kill me, but to deny that death more than stings for those of us left behind would be an atrocious lie. Papercuts sting. This is so much more.

Talk of heaven doesn’t comfort me. I don’t want hope right now. I want to press into this moment of terrible otherness – the rending of life. Don’t talk to me about her reunion with Jesus or the promise of being with her again someday. Those thoughts will come in the days ahead. Today let me mourn and don’t try to stem the torrential tears. Just hold me close and let me be.

Twelve days ago, one of my “mothers” chose her ending – to enter hospice care at home with her precious family by her side. She’d been battling cancer and the treatments didn’t work. Last night, she took her last breath.

Avon

I stole this from her Facebook page. I love her mischievous grin.

Avon Shields, known by thousands of women around the world as “Momavon,” was my dorm mom in college. She has been one of the most influential women in my life. I could write volumes about the lessons I learned from her, but I’ve tried my best to live them out instead. The way she loved the girls in her care made me want to be a mom even though I swore to her that wasn’t part of my plan. She just laughed and hugged me tight, “Oh Niki, my sweet girl, you may change your mind one day.”

Three weeks after my eighteenth birthday, I packed everything I own and waited for my friend Erin Beske and her parents to take me away to my new life, one I’d been dreaming about since the seventh grade when I first stepped foot on the campus of York College in York, Nebraska. Finally, and against the odds, I said goodbye to my childhood in Wisconsin and swore I’d never call it my home again. Yes, I’m a bit dramatic like that, and apparently I swear a lot.

There were only two women’s dorms and I was assigned to the one Avon lived in. Someday I’ll write about the many kindnesses and miracles of that life-altering first year, but this is about me and Avon. She told me once she loved me from the moment we met. That strong, patient woman poured love and guidance into me, a broken girl with too many holes in my bucket, and when I apologized for being so needy, she pulled me close and said that was nonsense.

She saw the leader in me and gave me responsibilities, showing me I was capable. When we joked and teased her about her many rules and forms, I was secretly relieved at the structure and stability she provided after growing up in my chaotic family. I’m totally a rule bender, but I needed her to help me set my life on a better course. I think we both knew it. A lot of the major decisions I made at York were discussed over tea in her apartment. She talked me through all the things my mother couldn’t, and I’ll be forever grateful. When she did finally meet my mother, she was kind and gracious to her, which was also a gift to me.

Avon loved Benny. She loved to remind me that she knew he was the one I’d choose maybe even before I knew myself. It’s been many years since we’ve sat together with a cup of tea, and I’m glad we had Facebook to help us peek into each other’s lives. I’m thankful for the brief moments we’ve shared in the 25 years since we lived in the same space. There are so many stories to tell, and all of them are coursing through me today with a painful and beautiful cadence.

I love Avon’s family and ache for them right now. Her husband Ron is a kind and funny man. I don’t know their eldest son Alan, though we’ve met. I’ve always admired Lynnette and her beautiful artist’s soul. I know her son Paul the best as he was my editor when I worked on the school newspaper staff in college, and his wife Shalee is one of my kindred spirit friends I wish lived next door. I can’t be with them this week, but my aching heart is there, attempting this dance of grief and celebration with clumsy feet.

When we lose someone we love, we often choose to immortalize them as their best selves. We know they were flawed but we overlook those things to remember them as the heroes they were in our lives. I’m okay with that. I think it’s the way it should be. It’s what I hope for someday too, to be remembered as the best of what and who I was.

I will remember you, Avon. I promise. I learned how to patch my bucket and I’ve tried to be purposeful about pouring into others. Thank you for showing me how. Thank you for guiding me through my baby steps of adulthood and loving me when I didn’t feel lovable. Thank you for cheering me on as I spread my wings and flew away. It’s been years since I’ve hugged you, and I hope to hug you again someday. Thanks for being a mom to me.

Begin Again!

Those two words are the story of my life.

I start things, get busy or bored, leave them sit for a while, then begin them again. Projects, writing or otherwise, are the worst and most common testing ground for this. I take brave, stumbling steps forward and often fall down, but I always get back up and begin again. I am resilient.

Beginning again is a choice. If you get lost, find your way back. If you fall down, get back up. If you are wounded, let yourself heal. Never ever give up. Finish what you start. Just do it. Press on. Start over. Pick up where you left off. If you’re still not happy or making headway with the project or whatever it is you’ve stalled out on, re-evaluate and decide if you’re at the end. If you are, let it go and embrace your freedom to move on. If you’re not finished yet, begin again. You can do it. So can I. We can cheer each other on!

Oh, how we need to cheer each other on! We need reminders because we forget and we judge ourselves too harshly. It doesn’t have to be this way, so here’s our reminder for today:

Keep moving forward. Dare greatly. Begin Again.begin again

(I was searching for a beautiful photo to accompany this post and came across this gem at http://melissablair.net/always-begin-again. What a nice reminder that this is nothing new and we are never alone. Great minds…)

 

 

 

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