NOW: NaBloPoMo’s Blog Topic for June

If you are a frequent reader here (and if not, why not? Subscribe now!), you may recall that I blogged everyday in the month of November. It was a lot of fun, kind of hectic, sometimes anxiety-producing, but also an effective exercise at growing me as a writer and a blogger.

I’ve decided to do it again (that’s a post every day in June, people) this month with the folks at NaBloPoMo (that stands for National Blog Posting Month). This time’s there no prize except my own super-sense of satisfaction.

A big influence in my deciding to participate was the topic for this month. It is “Now.” I absolutely love this topic. It really dovetails nicely with all my latest efforts at intentional living. It also ties in with my yet-to-be-posted part 2 of my observations on the Lost series finale.

Now. I soooo need to be living in the now. Here’s to June 2010. This moment in time.

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I Desire Only One Superhero Power

I think I’m really having some writer’s paralysis lately—not just writer’s block.

Some of it is busyness and end-of-year happenings. Some of it is still trying to play catch-up from flood-related stuff and having some survivor’s guilt (for some reason, I feel that our family really “dodged a bullet” and I’m not sure why I feel that way?) and feeling so overwhelmed at the pain around me, that I don’t know what to write about. Serious post ideas seem to only brush over the surface of the gravity of the situation; funny post ideas (can we find humor in this situation?) seem offensive. I have one blogger friend who has encouraged us writers that “now” is our time; time to give voice to this tragedy. I agree. Only I can’t get my voice together enough to type it out.

I think I’m also kind of wondering what in the world I have to say that anyone would care about anyway. In light of this tragedy, so much seems trivial and unnecessary. That’s all the more true as I think about my getting older and the glitz of worldly possessions and pursuits seems to fade and tarnish with each passing year.

As I think on these things, I am compelled to dig more deeply into the meaning of my life, your life, this life, our lives. But that requires work. And thought. And analysis.

I know it’s work I’ve got to do, but it’s just going to take a little while. So, stay tuned, if you’re curious to read more.

And so, as I’m fighting heavy eyelids tonight with a “to-do” list longer than my arm, I’m fantasizing about having only one superhero power.

I would love the ability to stay awake (and feel NORMAL) for about three consecutive days. During this time, I would like to get caught up on every chore, project, and “to-do” list item.

I want to do this once a month. A standing catch-up session appointment.

I’m pretty sure this superhero power would solve all my problems.

At least, my blog would thrive.

Going Where This Blogger Has Not Gone Before

Way back in 2001, I and a dear friend and awesome writer worked together on a dream of mine. We created a Christian women’s magazine.

I can’t remember exactly, but I think we wrote and edited five or six issues then put the magazine away. It turns out that writing, editing, laying out, designing, copying, distributing, and promoting a women’s magazine is really hard. Especially for one woman who had a full-time job outside the home (me) and the other who had a full-time job as mom at home (Jen).

It was also really expensive to do all of that on paper, so our church picked up printing and copying costs. But it eventually became cost-prohibitive and time-consuming. Jennifer had some more babies, and I became pregnant and had one kid and then three. And you know the rest of the story.

So, anyway, sometimes I sit around and think about “what could have been” had I heeded the suggestions of some who said, “You should do this online” or “You should send it out by email.” Hmmm. To think where the readership might be today—eight or nine years later—if we had carried on online.

I am reinspired, however, to pick up where we left off, in a sense. I am eager to give this “newsletter/magazine” format another go.

See that box to the right that says, Get My Newsletter! ? Well, go over there and sign up.

I promise not to bombard you with garbage. My goal is to give you fresh, relevant, and insightful articles no more than once a week, delivered to your email inbox. I’ll be honest: this is a bit of an experimentation on my part at this point, but I’ve got to start somewhere, right?

I would love it if you’d sign up for this little experiment and give me your feedback as it gets going. You can unsubscribe at any time.

Will you support me in this new endeavor and tell any interested friends, too?

Thanks!

image: Morgue File

I Guess I’m On a Break

So, it’s been another week without a blog post.

They are there. In my head. But not here.

I’m busy with birthdays and Easter and family dinners. I cleaned my house ALL DAY on Friday. It had been since Thanksgiving a few weeks that I had really cleaned. And my bathroom floor was actually clean for about 4 hours before one boy “missed” and peed on the floor.

That was a really satisfying, exciting four hours in my day. 

Once upon a time, I remember a friend saying that when her child turned five, a “breath of fresh air” blew through the house.

Yep. Waiting on that breeze to come on through. 

I really think parenting is getting harder. The boys have two modes: fighting or needing attention. No such thing as playing happily together or playing quietly independently. And I hear one million times a day, “MOM!!! Help me wipe my bottom. I want juice. I’m hungry.”

Plus, as they get older, they get bigger. There’s just more surface area. There’s more food to make and more dirty dishes to clean. There’s bigger clothes to wash, dry, and fold.

I guess I’m trying to say that even though I’ve cut out much of my “extra” stuff, I’m still busy. I suppose I couldn’t have picked a better time to cut back, with my bigger, demanding almost 5 year-olds.

I’m tired.

So, I guess I’m on a break. Not sure when you’ll hear from me again.

Maybe when that refreshing gust blows through my house.

Seeking Intentional Simplicity

As God does so ever often in my life, he’s bringing me to the end of myself. He continues to move me from self-centered independence to a more Christ-centered dependence.

I’m so tired of being overfed, overstimulated, overzealous, overanxious, and overwhelmed.

The excess in my life is suffocating me.

I had been mulling over this principle for a few weeks, when I read a phrase yesterday that helped me better articulate my thoughts: the impact of excess.

That got me to consider what the impact of excess has been on my life.

Our culture is a sea of excess. I don’t have to tell you that, do I? The mentality is that if “a little” is good, then “a lot” must be great!

But, I’ve learned over and again in my life, that’s just not true.

My excess most often revolves around busyness and projects and participation. Because I struggle every day with “the good being the enemy of the best,” discernment is non-existent. God’s voice is always shushed—if not silenced altogether—by the cacophony of competing demands and deadlines. And because “the best” (in God’s economy) is counter-cultural and counter-intuitive, it either slips away quietly or zooms quickly past with little more than a flicker of recognition from me.

I’m too busy with focus on “the good”; I’m too distracted or too exhausted to have moments of clarity to be still and know that he is God.

I’m way too concerned with my pursuit of more and my piling of excess upon excess to ever decipher any message God delivers in moments of simplicity.

Because I can see the good in “the good,” I often cloud my radar with “good things.” Those “good things” turn into excess. For me, excess breeds fatigue, idolatry, and an insatiable appetite for more. Ironic, isn’t it? One would think that once I got my belly full, I’d be content, happy, and satisfied. But, no. It’s that lie that, Oh, just a bit more and I’ll finally be happy/fulfilled/content/smart/cool/comfortable, and so on.

I’m working through these issues right now and will continue to share my thoughts here. Right now, I’m seeking a God-centered and God-focused intentional simplicity.

I may not be blogging as much here or I may be here more. Really—honestly—I love blogging and being involved in the online community, but I am a bit uncertain as to what level I should be participating. As I said before, I’ll always write. But I may be writing in other venues.

So, I appreciate your reading and your feedback always. I covet your prayers, as well, as I and my family seek wisdom and discernment. 

What’s been the impact of excess in your life?

Image: Morgue File

Cutting Back, Living Intentionally, and Writing

You may recall that my new year’s resolution was to live intentionally.

So, what does that look like in my life?, I wondered.

Well, I know what it doesn’t look like.

It doesn’t look like worn-out, frazzled mom. It doesn’t look like worried mom juggling deadlines. It doesn’t look like fast food for every meal. It doesn’t look like the illusion of making money and “getting ahead” when, in actuality, the bank account is strained and debt continues to accrue. It doesn’t look like laundry and dish piles.

At least not for me. Not for us. Not for our family.

And so, I posted a plea for advice to you, my dear readers. You had great words of wisdom and encouragement. I felt good, at least, to know that I wasn’t completely crazy and alone, drowning in a sea of demands and deadlines.

Chris and I prayed, mulling over your words and ideas and re-evaluating our “intention” of intentional living in 2010 and decided that we were not, indeed, living with intention. We were being run by our circumstances. We were reacting, not proacting. We were slaves to the tyranny of the urgent demands of everyone and everything else besides those that were most important to us.

On March 15, I worked my last day at the most time-consuming of my four part-time jobs. I have all but closed shop on my Melaleuca “business” (although I am always happy to answer your questions and/or open a membership account for you—just ask). Our church is shutting its doors (another long story of emotional drain for our family—post forthcoming) at the end of the month, so I will no longer be employed there.

That leaves my writing.

I will always write. Writing for me is intuitive and effortless and cathartic. One of the negatives of these last few months is that I have not had the time I would have liked to devote to my writing.

Now I can devote my “free time” to my writing. Truly, I believe this is my gift from God. I feel that I’ve pushed all the other boundaries of my interests and skills. God has revealed to me that while I may be “OK” at many things, there are only a handful that are true gifts.

Writing. Writing here and at Faithful Bloggers and at Suite 101 is where you’ll find me now. I’ll be using my God-given skills for his glory.

If he chooses to bless us with money for that, then I rejoice. If he does not, then I rejoice!

I’ve decided that I will be intentional about living as he’s guiding me. The fact is that he’s placed certain circumstances in my life, which dictate his will for me.

He has called me to be Chris’ wife and all that that entails. He has called me to be mom to my three kids and all that that entails. He has called me to manage this home with the income that he has provided and all that that entails.  And he has called me to write. He has called me to write—since I could string together subjects and verbs in the first grade—for his glory and others’ edification.

OK, God. Show me my next steps. God, you promise that when you require something of your children, you equip them with the grace to accomplish it. I believe it, Lord.

I am intentionally and deliberately believing it.

Image: cohdra at morguefile.com

I’m Going to Whine Now

Typically, I don’t like to post whiney-tale ramblings.

But, hey, I’m in a funk and I have a blog.

And if I can’t whine on my blog, then why have a blog, right?

So, if this is a problem for you, then you can click off my post and come back tomorrow.

I hope you’ll stay, though, and help me. Help me, readers.

Help me figure out my life. 

I’m really overwhelmed right now, and I’m not sure what to do about it.

I know that I have no margins in my life. I first heard about the concept of margin several years ago.

Think of the margins on a piece of paper. That’s the “extra” space that can be used if needed or in an emergency. A place for spill-over. White space that is pleasing to the eye and a soft place to land.

Nope. I have none of that in my life.

(I’m going to get this book, ASAP, by the way. I’ve heard other friends talk about it. It’s been on my to-read list, but I’ve procrastinated. But, I’m going to get it soon. Disclosure: I am an Amazon affiliate and receive a small commission for purchases referred to Amazon.)

My life runs from sun-up to sun-down with far more to do than there is time for.

FlyLady wants me to do my routines. Yea, I have no time for routines. Because as routine as routines go, they Still. Take. Time.

Exercising and grocery shopping and cleaning toilets all take time. Fifteen minutes here, an hour there, thirty minutes there. Time.

I need a lot of sleep. Like 8-9 hours to feel really good. But, hey, that takes time. I can either cut corners on my sleep and be grouchy and grumpy and less productive or I can feel guilty about going to bed when there is still so much left undone. (I know that’s crazy. But that’s me.)

All my little part-time jobs are wonderful blessings, and we truly need the money. We count on each little $100 or $200 check to make ends meet each month. So, which $200 check do I forfeit so that I don’t feel guilty when I go to sleep?  In the meantime, which meal/activity/chore is neglected so that I can finish a work assignment?

Blogging and writing are the only things I do for fun. Period. I don’t read. Magazines and books sit untouched on my nightstand. I haven’t scrapbooked since July 2007. That’s terribly sad, but seriously, how in the world can I justify sitting around sticking pictures into books when I have a to-do list as long as my arm? Plus, scrapbooking would require my downloading, sorting, and actually printing pictures. I don’t even want to think about how much time that would take.

Do I stop blogging? Do I stop writing for fun?

Do I shrivel up to nothing because I have no outlet for creativity?

I could go on and on. I know you know that I have laundry, meals, activities, Bible study, and church. I know you know what it’s like to juggle and prioritize.

Am I the most insanely organizationally-challenged person in the world? Or is this just “part of it” and I need to grin and bear it until retirement? 

What should I do? How do I take some of the pressure off? Which ball(s) to drop?

At what point do we simply step out in faith, do away with things that drain us, and trust God to provide compensation (whether emotional, financial, spiritual)?

Truly, I’d love to hear your feedback and any suggestions for me and my family.

Thank you. Whining over.

Image: Morgue File

My (Honest) Blissdom 2010 Re-cap

(Explanation: My intent with this post is to be constructive and honest. I do not intend to be hurtful or snarky.)

As you all know, I was on a high anticipating my trip to Blissdom. I kinda hate it when I do that because I inevitably leave a smidge disappointed.

And that’s kind of what I’d say about this conference.

My Blissdom Report Card
Food: B-
Take-away learning: B-
Opportunities for relationship-building and making connections: A
Organization and logistics: A
Swag: A+
Overall grade: B

Blissdom kind of reminds me of a ginormous sorority meeting, which is good in many ways and kind of useless in others.

No doubt about it, this is a great place to meet all the ladies of the Blogosphere. Seeing these bloggers up close in person takes the shiny veneer away and gives you an invaluable dynamic of someone’s personality that you don’t have otherwise.

I had an opportunity to tell a fantastic blogger face to face how much her post made me laugh and cry. I was able to say “thank you” to another smart lady for some bloggy advice, and I got to ask another multitasking mom for more “mom advice” about managing schedules.

I loved that I learned a lot of great info about monetizing my blog and the vocabulary of ads. I needed that lesson. The Nashville blogger gals were able to socialize quite a bit, as well as trade helpful advice and information. I found my conversations with Bilingual in the Boonies (don’t you love that name???) refreshing and insightful. I loved that I have found new friends in my Faithful Blogger gals, Kelly and Courtney. It was great fun to meet them and talk about Faithful Bloggers face-to-face.

But when it came to technique and practical take-aways, I thought the conference came up short. Don’t get me wrong: I did bring home a few helpful lists and tips (those posts to come), but I spent way more time checking Twitter, Facebook, and email during the sessions than I would have thought I’d even want to.

I am a writer (not perfect by any means), so I don’t need the basics. I’m not sure what I do need; I was hoping the conference would tell me!

And if I had heard the word, community, one more time, I would have thrown up in my mouth a little.

Ironically, I just posted on the value of community at Faithful Bloggers last week. I think my issue with a blogging-conference definition of community is that—at least it seemed to me this weekend—creating a community around one’s blog was more about what it could do for the blogger than what the blogger could do for the community.

One of my personal goals of writing has always been to perform a “public service.” I really want my writing to resonate, inform, encourage, and/or otherwise be helpful. If just one reader comes away with something, then I feel I’ve done my job. That’s not a great big community there, but for me, it’s more about the quality than the quantity.

Sure, you must have quantity to get traffic to get exposure to get ads to get money and so on. But I’m of the belief that quantity follows quality. And if it doesn’t, then, well, I need to reexamine my purpose for writing in the first place.

I think the “women blogger group” (for lack of a better term and to be dangerously broad-sweeping) has a somewhat skewed definition of community. Certainly, aspects of community do exist and thrive among this network of blogs. But more often than not, I find these “communities” a bit superficial and fickle. (Or maybe I’m just a sucky “community member.” LOL)

Also—I hate to say it—but I sometimes question the sincerity of the overriding sentiment that blogging is “all about community.” I think their idea of community begins at a rather self-centered place.

Just who is your community? Me. Who is my community? You. That’s right. We’re all blogging and reading and blogging and reading. Sure we have readers outside the blogging community, but really, in the end aren’t we really just giving ourselves a big pep rally and a collective pat on the back?  Building community in the sense of a “blogger conference” definition seems just down right exhausting at best and self-aggrandizing at worst.

Recommendations for Change
I’m not sure WHAT I would change about Blissdom. I think I’d begin with redefining the word community (‘ya think?) and helping bloggers really drill down to their core motivations for writing.

Maybe I’d do away with the panels and bring in more stand-alone speakers. (I do realize this costs money, though.) I loved hearing from the PR and marketing professionals. Editors, attorneys, and web/tech gurus would all be interesting to me.

I think I’d like to participate more in vision-casting. I loved how Alli Worthington said that this is just the “pre-game” season; the season’s not yet begun. I’ve never been on the cusp of anything in my life! Let’s explore that more and how we all fit into that bigger picture. Let’s look at what it takes to really equip women to be influential and effective.

I don’t mean to detract at all from the hard work of the organizers and the obvious enthusiasm and positive energy generated by the conference.  Truly, these have their place and can be beneficial in accomplishing many goals.

I’m just not sure those were my goals, too.

New Month, New Home, New Friends

It’s the first, and I’m excited about all the things ahead for this month and this year!

I know you’ve noticed my new blog design. I’m enjoying it so much, and I think it really captures the feel of The Writer’s Block. Lindsey at Sour Apple Studio did the work and did a great job. Thanks, Lindsey!

You may notice that the cartoony woman really looks a lot like me. That is intentional, of course. We tried to make her hair color and eye color like mine to achieve this. And, of course, I’m that skinny and always look that nice in my tailored suit. I always have hair and makeup fixed with a smile on my face while I juggle all of those colliding responsibilities. Yep. That’s me, alright. 🙂

I am still tweaking a few things here and there, even though I had hoped to be all set for today’s “re-launch.” But, you know, I’m juggling all of those colliding responsibilities and so, I’ll get to it soon.

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I’m also excited to tell you about a new online home for my writing: FaithfulBloggers.com. I have joined Kelly and Courtney as a contributing editor, and I am thrilled! I’ll be posting over there four or five times each week, as well creating podcast interviews of member bloggers. Faithful Bloggers is devoted to helping Christian bloggers glorify God with their blogs. So, we’ll be talking about blogging, writing, and online stuff and how it relates to your faith. Please come see me there.

If you are interested in being interviewed about your faith and your blog, contact me. We want Faithful Bloggers to be a dynamic community, representing the many faithful voices of Christian bloggers.

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Remember, I’ll be posting and tweeting from Blissdom this weekend. I’m so excited I can barely stand it. Check back here to read what I’ve learned. 

Around the Block: Pardon My Mess!

As you can see, The Writer’s Block is under construction. With my Christmas money, I bought a new blog design! Some girls dream of shoes and bags or makeup and jewelry. Not me. I fantasize about my blog.

So, anyway, I think it’s still in progress and needs some tweaking here and there. I’ll let you know when it’s all finished and everything is in its right spot.

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This week has been heart-wrenching as I’ve continued to keep online vigil for my friend, David Hames. As of tonight, he remains missing in Haiti. Hope remains alive, however, since a man was found alive today–14 days after the earthquake. I am praying constantly for his rescue. I think it would be an incredible testimony to God’s gracious glory if this man is found alive. I pray so, anyway.

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Grammar alert: It’s time for my every-so-often grammar correction public service announcement

The word, between, is only used when talking about two entities. The word, among, is used when talking about more than two entities. So, please note:

I must choose between the two books. (Correct)
She shares her books between the four family members. (Incorrect)
She shares her books among the four family members. (Correct)

You’re welcome.

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I’m convinced my laundry is procreating behind my back. Mama Sock and Daddy Sock are having Baby Socks, while Mama Sweater and Daddy Sweater are spawning Baby Shirts, Baby Pajamas, and Baby Undies.

I’m preparing for their revolution any day now. If laundry can figure out how to procreate, they can certainly organize themselves into a mutiny.

image: morguefile