When All There is to Say is “THANK YOU.”

As I sat down to the computer just a few moments ago, it was to check messages and then to lay down. I’m still in the throes of some weird virus that has me headachy and exhausted. “Just this one thing and then off to bed to try and sleep it off,” I told myself.

But one thing inevitably leads to another and I found myself calculating and transferring the first (of what I hope is many) deposits from our Airbnb earnings into our checking and savings accounts. After I did it, I checked my balance in our main checking for one month from today’s date (I try to make sure we are always at least one month in the black) and smiled at the number.

Not because it was large, but because I suddenly felt like I was resting a reassuring hand on my own shoulder, one that patted me and said, “You’re doing great, you know, this is all going to work out.”

And it was such a relief to hear that voice instead of the one that Marsha Shandur (from Yes Yes Marsha!) calls the Beast, one that is always trying to stop you from doing your best. It’s the one that tears you down, that tells you that you are less, that you are lacking, that you are NOT ENOUGH and never have been and never will be.

Have you ever heard that voice?

Of course you have.

Sometimes I have wondered if it is simply part of the human condition, a mountain we are all faced with, a vestige of our earliest, most primeval days that beats at us, whispers poison in our ears, and stops us from being the people we can’t even dream of being because our heads, hearts and ears are filled with its hateful whispers.

You heard it first when you were young and you did something wrong and got in trouble with your parents, or at school when you were daydreaming instead of listening to the teacher. Every sharp tongue, every correction by another and that nasty little beast would start up telling you that you were worthless, stupid, too this or too that, and you didn’t belong, weren’t welcome, and certainly weren’t worthy.

And maybe, when you grew up, you married someone who knew how to make that Beast talk even louder with their own twists and perversions of reality. After all, humans are also wired to re-create what we learned early on, right? So you marry someone who wants you uncertain, on edge, and questioning yourself. If you are busy questioning reality, or whether or not you are a worthwhile human being that deserves love and respect then maybe, just maybe, you’ll be a little easier to control.

The Beast likes to control you. And so do plenty of humans in this world.

I spent a lot of years listening to the Beast in my head. And a lot of years were wasted thinking that I wasn’t good enough, that I wasn’t okay, and that I wasn’t a good human being, daughter, wife, or mother.

And life happens, and things change, and, if you are lucky (and honestly, that’s what it’s been, DUMB LUCK), you occasionally are blessed with these epiphanies that come along while you are trudging down the road, eyes to the ground, just hanging in there, and they blindside you.

Suddenly, quiet and loud, all at the same time, you realize, “I AM a good person.” Or, “I AM a writer!” or a cascade of realizations…

  • I can be imperfect and still be deeply loved
  • I can have bad and good days as a parent and still be a GREAT mother
  • I am worthy of love and I deserve to have it in my life

Epiphanies are magical, life-changing events. Really, you should try them on for size. I have no idea how they happen, it isn’t like I’ve ever been in charge of sending one in my own direction (because damn, I would have done it a lot sooner if I had known how), but they are fucking fabulous. They take a CERTAINTY, something you have known to be TRUTH and turned it on its ear. I imagine that if I believed in God, it would similar to a light shining down from heaven. If you aren’t gob-smacked by the end of an epiphany then check your pulse, because you might have bigger problems to worry about.

I think it is a shame that epiphanies can’t be ordered in advance. Set up early and often, so that the bulk of our lives are spent in true joy and peace, accepting and loving ourselves and being the best we can be along the way.

Instead, some of our darkest moments can precede epiphanies. And not just moments, but months, even years, and at worst, decades. How much energy do we waste in support of inaccurate beliefs of ourselves? How much does it take from the here and the now?

Today, as I realized with no small amount of appreciation that I did have it together, that I was on the right track, that I was doing well, my thoughts strayed to those in my life who had melded so well with the Beast, the ones who had stood shoulder to shoulder with it and tried to tell me WHO I WAS. Standing on the outside, peering in, judging, hoping to mold or control, so sure they knew me – my motives, my reality, better than I did.

And for the first time, I felt grateful. Not in some snarky, facetious way. Honestly grateful.

Despite being wrong…

Despite trying to push their hurts, fears, inadequacies from their own Beasts onto me…

Despite the hurt they inflicted at the moment…

I choose to see the end result. That the combination of their words, deeds, decisions, actions at some point in my life shook loose a magical WHOMP of epiphany that hit me, changed my course in life, and brought me to a new space in my life.

Some intended good, others certainly intended the hurt they inflicted, but all of them helped release an epiphany, sometimes decades later, that has done nothing but improve my life, my belief in myself, and my value – in my own life, and in those who exist in my little biosphere.

I don’t remember all of their names, some literally are nameless because they were strangers, but that’s okay, they helped all the same. The words they spoke, the actions they took, both are irrelevant. There have been plenty of folks I have had change my life in nothing but good ways, but these people changed my life too. It might not have felt good at the time, but in the end, their actions and words have brought me to this place, a good space where I know my worth, and so, I see the value in having known/met them.

  • Mom
  • Dad
  • Mum
  • Nana
  • English teacher/librarian in 8th grade
  • Walter B.
  • Former landlord
  • James S.
  • Random book reviewers (2 of them)
  • Danielle B.

I’m sure there’s more. But each of these folks brought on serious hard-core, life-changing epiphanies. Ones that both rocked my understanding of myself and changed how I looked at myself – all in a good way. In most cases, it took a while for the realization to hit. That I wasn’t. Wasn’t what?

That I was not the labels applied to me. That I was so much more.

And so are you.

I’m in a good space. Despite being ill and feeling yucky at the moment. I have plenty of people I love, and those who love me in return. And even if could only count on one finger the ones I love as the song goes, I still would have enough.

When all there is left to say is “thank you,” whether these folks are gone from your life, deaf to your words, or blind to the person you truly are, then set it there on the table, bow, and walk away.

Sincerely, with all of my heart, thank you for being the catalyst for who I am today.

Happy and whole, no longer racked with guilt or insecurity, and the best human being I know how to be.

Thank you.

Cleaning…Everything

Time Away from Writing to Make the Final Push on Cottage West

At the beginning of August, when I took a break in writing and dove into working on Cottage West, I had a vision of what needed to happen. There are a few details left, but we already have four, count them, FOUR reservations coming up in October and November. We are on our way, for sure!

Time Away from Writing for Travel

The beginning of this month saw me travel round-trip over 1,000 miles to Franklin, Tennessee. The TRIBE conference was the excuse, but the time away was a catalyst. I realized that I need time away by myself. It was a powerful lesson and when I returned, I was determined to finish the last parts of Cottage West and return to writing.

I guess you could say that I was cleaning my mind – resetting it even – determined to focus on what was important and let the rest go.

Time Away…To Clean My House

This little creature here. She’s awfully cute, isn’t she?

She’s also a lunatic that thinks all plastic bags, pooled on the floor curtains, and baskets full of clothes are the perfect place to pee.

Cats are freaking gross. Another reason I prefer dogs.

BUT, we took her on, so we need to put our best foot forward. And in the middle of my husband telling me for the umpteenth time that he didn’t know what to do about the peeing and me telling him I was NOT going to live with an animal doing such awful things – the possible answer came.

Clean the house, top to bottom, spray all of the areas or potential areas with the stain/odor product that helps keep cats from smelling and then re-applying their pee to areas they aren’t supposed to. I told my husband and daughter – “We can change OUR ways, keep this house neat as a pin, and I think that will stop the peeing.”

The thing is, it really needs to be them. I’m already pretty much there, but my husband and the kids? I clean up a lot after them. Stupid stuff, like the wrappers or keys and shoes left wherever. Empty cans of beer, dishes, empty chip bags, you name it. Clutter too.

I’m tired of cleaning it all up. After all, except for our nearly 4-year-old foster daughter, they are old enough to clean up after themselves and should be more responsible. So I pointed that out, and have continued to do so over the past few days. “Hang up the bathmat. Please put your clothes in the laundry. Your shoes were left in the living room.” And on and on and on. I figure either the house will stay spectacularly clean or they will get tired of all of the cleaning and putting away and we will end up with one less furbaby living in our house.

I also, after years of hinting at it, got assent from my husband to begin tearing up the carpet in the upstairs. I absolutely despise wall to wall carpet. It’s never clean, no matter how good a vacuum you have or how often you use it. I learned just how gross carpets are when we re-did the floors in our Belton house, replacing it with laminate flooring over 14 years ago. It still looks great, whereas the 6-year-old carpet in this house looks horrible.

With my husband’s blessing, I’ll be pulling up the carpet beginning with the library and office, doing one room a time at his request, and then moving on to the rest of the upstairs over time.

Finally, a New Writing Schedule

The other day, I sat down with my journal and asked myself what my perfect day looked like. I chose a Monday for my perfect day and it went something like this:

  • 6:30 – Dave wakes me up and I join him and the girls in the library for coffee
  • 6:45 – Yoga, a nice stretching out before I exercise
  • 7:15 – Begin walking on the treadmill. Now that I’m not cleaning houses, I’ll need the full 10k steps. As I walk, I check email, go over my “to-do’s” for the day and wave goodbye to my family as they all leave together for work, school, and daycare.
  • 8:30 – I’m done exercising and it is time to take a shower with the new shower extension Dave has added to the main level bathtub.
  • 8:45 – time for some meditation and journaling
  • 9:15 – I sit and write. My goal is 1,000 words per day, but I can often do more than that.
  • 11:15 – Time for lunch. A small plate of meat, cheese and fruit fills me up and I read a little while eating before I return to writing.
  • 12:15 – I write a little more, but more importantly, I dash off some notes on what tomorrow’s work will be.
  • 1:15 – time to market. Just an hour, that’s all. Perhaps I’ll focus on one of my books that is underperforming and draft a new ad. Perhaps I’ll blog.
  • 2:30 – time to tidy up. Work on my desk or clean a little bit around the house. Set out meat to thaw for dinner. Perhaps I get in another brisk walk on the treadmill or work in the garden.
  • 4:00 – Time for the family to return home. I’m glad to see them and I have had a wonderfully productive day!

This is an awesome plan. However, I still have to clean houses for income, homeschool my teen until she is accepted into the charter school of our choice, and we don’t have a shower extension on the bathtub downstairs yet!

So the next thing I asked myself was: How does my day look when it isn’t perfect, but I still want to get writing done?

And here is what I came up with…

  • 6:15 – (15 minutes earlier than my perfect schedule) My husband wakes me up and I join him and the girls in the library. After I finish my coffee it is time to stretch and do yoga
  • 6:45 – Walk on the treadmill while I check email and look at what I need to write today
  • 8:00 – Write 500 words, I know I can do it!
  • 8:30 – 11:30 Check in with Em on what she needs to study before I go off to a cleaning. Hey, it’s great money!
  • 11:30 – A quick lunch and a short reading break
  • 12:00 – Write another 500 words, Champ!
  • 1:00 – Another cleaning, but hey, it’s a hell of a lot better than working in an office with a bunch of bitchy, petty co-workers. And better pay, too.
  • 3:30 – Get a little bit of marketing in. Just 30 minutes or so.
  • 4:00 – Dave and Little Miss return home, we cook dinner or go out.
  • 6:00 – Plan for next day’s writing and blog
  • 7:00 – Journal, decompress, take a bath, and hang out with the kids. Watch some tv.

In other words? It might be a little more compressed, but I can still get 1,000 words written a day if I apply myself and keep focus.

In the end, my schedule fluctuates, so I will have a mix of “perfect” day and the “almost perfect” days each week. More importantly, writing 5,000 words per week (I’ll take weekends off due to family obligations), at 50 weeks per year (two weeks set aside for “all hell breaks loose”), means 250,000 words a year. Since most of my fiction hovers at around 100k in words, that’s 2 1/2 books worth of writing per year, folks.

I even went as far as to look at each book project, figure out how many words (this is a average goal, really) I needed to write in each one, count the weeks out (including editing time), and put in some publishing dates for my next few book projects.

Letting Things Go

The other thing I am doing is letting some stuff go. That way I’m not freaking out trying to keep all of the plates spinning and not able to get everything I need to do, done. The monthly newsletter, for example, along with the short story of the month.

My reason for doing them in the first place was the idea of building a platform. Draw readers to you with monthly short stories to go with the ones they have just read. Let them know when books are coming out, and give them cleaning and organizing tips.

And that works if all I am doing is writing. But I’m not. I’m juggling housecleaning biz, homeschool, Airbnb, family obligations and book writing projects. So that means reducing my output in platform-building so that I can focus on creating more content that will bring me income and push me closer to the goal of simply writing for a living.

I’ll still put out newsletters, but not necessarily on a monthly basis. I’ll still write short stories that will be free for my newsletter subscribers, but not necessarily each time I send out a newsletter.

Eventually, I’ll outsource my cleaning biz and the cleanings on the Airbnb’s as well.

In summary? I’m cleaning my house, my mind, my attitude and more. I’m making plans and I hope they will be what I need to move forward.

If not, then I’ll adjust. Life ebbs, flows, and redirects. We can only try to anticipate and flow with what comes next.

p.s. Save me from the spammers, leave a message!