Saturday, February 6, 2016

Saturday Special: Smead Organomics
As someone who loves not only organization, but also paper products and office supplies, I'm naturally drawn to the Smead Organomics page. I must admit that I spend more time looking at the pictures than reading the articles, but I did browse around long enough to see that, like me, Smead thinks in styles. We name them differently, and I have less of a vested interest in which tool you choose to use, but the concept is the same. And, if you're looking for specific tools to fit your styles, at least when it comes to paper and office organization, you'll find them here. They even have a podcast, "Keeping You Organized," organized by topic.

Need bite-sized pieces? Try following them on social media for one tip at a time.

Happy browsing!

Friday, February 5, 2016

Friday Freebie: What College Kids Need to Know

I love teaching college freshmen. At the college where I teach, many students work, and are aware of the life lessons in this article. Still, as both an educator and a parent, I think it would be nice to see some of these on an upcoming schedule, or perhaps as hands-on workshops.

What would you add?

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

4 Things that are Different 4 Years Later

Four years ago at this time, I'd just turned in my letter of intent as the first step in my retirement journey. Things were emotional, to say the least. My family was less than thrilled with my decision -- the part of my family that lives in my house, anyway -- and I was alternately exhilarated and terrified. I was just beginning to share the news with my colleagues, very few of whom had seen it coming, as I was about a decade younger than retirement age. I was crying a lot, praying a lot and trying to act as though everything was normal, when, in fact, it was about as far from normal as my professional life had ever been.

Four years later, things are different. I still worry about money -- but I know very few parents of high school seniors that aren't thinking about money. A lot of other things have changed, though -- nearly all for the better.

My daughter, who was finishing middle school when I made this decision, is now finishing high school, and on the cusp of changes of her own. In the intervening four years, I've gotten to spend much more time with her than I would have if I'd stayed where I was. I'm here every morning when she leaves for school, and accessible nearly every day after school. I'm around most days when she and her friends come by for lunch, and though I make myself scarce so they can have their privacy, I love that I'm here. When she leaves for college next fall, I'll expect that I'll treasure these four years even more than I do now.

My job is different, yet the same. I always thought I'd continue to work part time as a counselor, but when that door closed, I was more surprised than sad. As it turned out, being an educator was rooted in me more deeply. While I initially sought out jobs in community education to earn an additional paycheck because that was what I knew, once I got back into the classroom, I realized it was a part of who I am as well. And, though a part of me always thought it would be fun to teach at the college level, I never imagined leaving elementary education behind. Then again, I never imagined it would look the way it does today.

My writing is an enormous part of my life, which came as a surprise to no one. When I shared my intention to retire, all of my colleagues asked me if I planned to write. I'm not sure I'm cut out to be a full-time writer -- I'm used to the stimulation and interaction teaching brings -- but I love that writing of some kind happens nearly every day in this no-longer-new lifestyle. While I've been blogging for close to a decade, I didn't blog regularly until I retired. Though I had two nonfiction books published while I was working, I didn't publish a novel until after I retired -- and then, I had two out within two years. The combination of writing and teaching fills -- and drains -- the creative part of my personality.

My schedule is much more within my control. The first year, I had almost too much time on my hands, and last semester, I had almost none. But the pace of the days is up to me much more than it every was. While I still plan my day around classes, I don't have to report to a place of business (except when I teach), and though I get up to see my daughter off to school every morning (much more for me than for her), I can go back to bed when she leaves if I want to (and, as a non-morning person, I often want to). I can work until noon, take a long lunch, and make up the hours in the evening -- and I often do -- which is a great option for a night owl. My schedule now shifts three times a year instead of twice, and that is still taking some getting used to, but I love the freedom that comes with it.
We never know for sure the impact of the decisions we're making when we make them. We can hope, pray and project, but every new choice carries new risk -- risk that inspires fear we can overcome only in the face of deadlines that force us to choose. Sink or swim. Now or never.

Maybe there's something to be said for the magic wands and crystal balls of fairy tales.

Or maybe they unnecessarily complicate leaps of faith.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Giveaway Day!

The second day of the second month seemed like the perfect time to give away TWO copies of my second book -- the one about second chances :-)  To enter, you can do any of the following:
Don't forget to leave your email address when you respond. Or, if you'd prefer, email it to me with Chasing a Second Chance in the subject line.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Anatomy of a Sprint
One of the best things about the break between semesters is the opportunity to put my writing first. And, thanks to a great presentation by fellow writer Ramona DeFelice Long, one way that I do that is to make sure I get my writing sprints in. If you're a regular reader of this blog, you know all about my writing sprints, so you understand that getting myself into the habit between semesters (when I have lots of one hour time slots at my disposal) makes it easier for me to maintain the habit once the semester begins.

For me, the ideal sprint remains the one Ramona taught me: one hour, first thing in the morning, before the day takes over, with a goal of writing 1000 new words. This is the gold standard, the one to which I aspire.

The reality, however, is somewhat different.

On a good day, my one hour sprint consists of sixty uninterrupted minutes sometime early in the day. Because I have a high school student living in my house, and because procrastination is part of my writing process anyway, these sixty minutes rarely occur right out of the gate. I usually putter for a bit, checking email and often writing and posting my blog before settling in for my sprint, which occurs anywhere between mid-morning and bedtime.
Some days, I end up with a split sprint -- the first thirty minutes in the morning or early afternoon and the second thirty minutes in the late afternoon or evening. I try not to cut my sprint into more than 2 pieces, but some days, it happens.

Perhaps the most useful sprint variation I've stumbled across is the sprint as a means of digging into an unpalatable or overwhelming task. For me, that task is revising. I hate revising, but there's something about breaking revisions into one hour chunks that makes the process much less painful. By telling myself I have to revise for only an hour, I've already taken an insurmountable task (revising an entire novel!) and made it more approachable.

I rarely "cheat" and count writing I'd do anyway (blog posts, for example) as my sprint time. Regardless of how I do it, when I do it, or how many chunks I break it into, I think sprinting is meant to advance a work-in-progress.

What task do you want to tackle, but keep putting off? Could a sprint be the answer for you?

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Sale Today, Event Tomorrow, Giveaway Tuesday!

I thought that the second day of the second month provided the perfect opportunity to celebrate my second novel, Chasing a Second Chance. Stop by on Tuesday to find out how you can win a copy for your Kindle. Or, if you live in the York area and prefer a paperback, stop in and see me at the Village Library in Jacobus tomorrow, February 1. I'll be there from 3 - 5 pm.

Meanwhile, the Kindle version of Casting the First Stone is 99¢ through tomorrow, and Chasing a Second Chance goes on sale Tuesday, so that even if you don't win a copy, you can join the celebration.

Don't waste a second.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Saturday Special: Sooner is not Always Better
Yes, I am profoundly aware of the irony of posting a link to an article on procrastination late. This one, however, was worth sharing regardless of the timing.

Unlike most articles, this piece from the New York Times about procrastinating on purpose is a great read for procrastinators and non-procrastinators alike. The author, a "get it done" kind of person, learned that achieving a balance between leaping into action and dragging his feet might indeed be a good place to be.

If you're wondering how that could be possible, you should definitely read the article. Now or later? Well, that part is up to you.