Why I’m Glad I’m Not a Kid: Part Two

Both of them have their phones in hand, fingers gyrating madly, half-smiles on their lips. My old fingers aren’t so coordinated, and here lies another reason I’m glad not to be a kid these days.
Technology is great. I love it. Obviously, you’re reading this via the Internet on my website as a blog post.
When I was a kid, none of those things existed. Most of them weren’t even under consideration. Heck, I learned computer programming in Basic as a sophomore in high school. And computers were as big and clunky as a TV (well, the TVs of the 1980s).
But those kids in the opening paragraph? They’re texting each other while seated on opposite ends of the couch.
How do I know this? Because they’re MY kids. I watched them do it, and shook my head thinking:

What has the world come to that we have to send messages to a person five feet away in the same room?

Social Engagement In Person

Although my kids are big with texting and private messaging, they know how to talk to people in person. And I’ve always made them put the phone away during family dinners.
Well, I did when they were kids. They’re still pretty good about respecting this and boy do they give me a hard time if I have MY phone out while we’re at the table.
Usually I’m just checking in on Facebook because…it’s the thing to do. Right?
I’m an introvert, but I can totally engage with people in person and especially in small group settings. A family dinner generally falls into this category.
Many kids don’t know how to make eye contact when they’re talking. They might mumble or fidget. Like the physical connection makes them itch.
Is this what we’re teaching them by letting them only engage via text, chat and messaging?

Social Engagement Via Device

It was funny the first time one of my kids texted me when I was across the room. Ha, ha. *waves*
It’s not funny that so many kids prefer this to face-to-face interactions. How will they learn the rules for good communication if they never engage in it?
Or are we moving to a society where the closest we get to face-to-face is Facetime? That’s a disheartening thought because people need physical connections.
It took me years to get a Facebook account, and I finally did it only to build my author platform. (And I’m not sure how much it’s helped with that as opposed to distracted me from writing books, but that’s another post.) Now, the younger generation has moved on from that.


They’re into SnapChat or Instagram. They want to post pictures more than have a conversation.
It all sounds so superficial to me. Where are they making friends they can talk to about their issues?

Why I Would Hate It This Way

As an introvert, I could hole up in my office all day. If I chatted with some friends via Messenger, that would satisfy my need for conversation.
But I would still be lonely for human interaction.
And the social media brand of communication is pretty me-focused. Look at what I’m wearing. This is where I’m eating lunch. Check out the view from my vacation.
To prove my point about the self-centered bent of engagement on social media, the day I began writing this post was National Selfie Day.
Really? Because that should be a thing?
I’m terrible at taking selfies, and I have no desire to get better. The best photo of me is the one I don’t know you’re taking.
As an author, I live to write. And my words are meant to be read and enjoyed by other people. That means I can’t be self-focused or no one will want to read my stuff.
I avoid the guy (or gal) in the room who’s talking all about their latest and greatest whatever without any thought to care about anyone else’s. Ugh.
It’s not just the thumb action that makes me glad I’m not a kid in this tech-enhanced-communication era. I need human touch and connection, eye-to-eye so I can see that the person cares about me.
Do you think social media is playing havoc without our ability to interact face-to-face?

Like reading this? You’re a click away from getting Hero Delivery, a bulletin with deals and new releases from Sharon Hughson.

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Wonder Woman Screen Triumph

Wonder Woman is my kind of hero, and since I’m holding out for a hero around here, more Wonder Woman content might appear here than on other blogs.  Although, she’s pretty popular at the moment.

And I think her red, white, and blue costume is perfect for Independence Day. All this because Wonder Woman’s feature film catapulted her to the top of many charts.

This isn’t another movie review. You can read my thoughts on the movie here.

Today I’m going to enumerate the things ONLY screenwriters and filmmakers could do for Wonder Woman. Well, except for what the gal does for herself by being a demigod with a pure heart and idealistic motives.

The Superpowers

I have no idea what powers Wonder Woman had in the comics. I watched the television series featuring Lynda Carter, and I knew about superhuman strength, bulletproof bracelets, a boomerang tiara, the lasso of truth and an invisible jet.

The filmmakers include all of those things with the caveat that Wonder Woman can fly on her own. So there’s no invisible jet, just demi-god propelled soaring.

They also give her a shield and sword. The shield might not be as awesome as Captain America’s, but it gives her the protection she needs to walk into machine gun fire. And it works well as a springboard during some of the fight scenes.

The sword, God-Killer, is given prominent screen time, but in the end, it doesn’t live up to its name. It’s a false talisman, and Diana’s courage nearly crumbles along with it.

The best power? Diana realizes love is the greatest power of all.

This felt a little cliche to me, especially since the filmmakers are claiming there wasn’t a romance between Steve and Diana (which there is in the comic book world).

But the sentiment? I totally endorse it.

What did I covet? That lasso. She used it like a whip, a slingshot and of course to reveal the truth of the situation.

Super Visual Effects

Gal Gadot is amazing, but you have to give credit to the digital effects team. And it’s a large team. Don’t believe me? Watch the credits. *20 minutes later* See what I mean?

From the beginning, viewers see the Amazon warriors as superior athletes, performing martial arts moves and acrobatic feats to aid them in their hand-to-hand combat. When Zeus created them to save mankind from constant war, battles were fought in close quarters.

The reaction to the advanced technology the Germans brought to the island? It was sadly lacking. Diana should have been more surprised by the weaponry of the early 20th Century. And how could her training possibly hold up in the face of tanks and automatic gunfire?

The filmmakers give ample room and reason for Wonder Woman to use the fighting skills to awe and inspire everyone. Her demigod reflexes thrust those bracelets (okay, really bracers or vambraces, but that doesn’t sound as pretty does it?) in the path of speeding bullets. But how did she know it would deflect them?

The ultimate battle with Ares could have been more awesome. He didn’t toss around his lightning early or with pizzazz. And he didn’t feel evil to me.

Maybe that was the point?

If you saw the movie, what things did the filmmakers amaze you with? What could they have done better?

Like reading this? You’re a click away from getting Hero Delivery, a bulletin with deals and new releases from Sharon Hughson.

Maybe you like romance or some of my other books. I’m sure there’s something worth reading on my page.

Already read one or more of my books? Please leave an honest review on your favorite site. A review is the same as the author discovering a gold nugget in the bottom of her washing machine.

Why I’m Glad I’m Not a Kid: Part One

Recent trips into the classroom at one public school where I work has inspired a series of blog posts. In fact, it’s reminded me to be thankful I’m not a kid these days.

My main job is to be a writing superhero. My alter ego works as a substitute teacher in local middle and high schools. There are plenty of things there to inspire my creative side, as many blog posts attest.

Unfortunately, all is not magic and unicorns in the realm of public education.

I’ve known this to be true for many years. It’s the main reason I decided NOT to pursue a degree in education when I went back to college in 2010. But in the final weeks of the school year, it was reiterated to me.

Why am I glad I’m not a kid?

Because education in the 21st century is all about meeting regulations and ranking well on state assessments.

Back in my day, school was about learning to read, write, do sums (and other math you never use in real life) in a social environment where you were expected to get along with everyone.

Learning at School?

Isn’t school supposed to be for the purpose of learning?


And not learning how to bully others. Or make excuses for late homework. Or perfect the art of doing as little as possible.

Believe me. Spend a few days in the average public middle school, and you’ll start to wonder.

Who decides what kids are taught in school?

Did you say the teachers? You’re wrong if you did.

Not even the school board has the ultimate power over curriculum.

Nope. Big Brother gets to say what will be taught in school.

Or else.

The fact they require kids to spend weeks and months learning things that do NOT help them understand their culture or prepare them to be an adult isn’t even the worst of it.

It’s not?

High school teachers and counselors in our school district have been heard to say, “Middle school doesn’t really count.”

So, what are they doing there? Why are we wasting six or seven hours of our time hanging out in classrooms?

Every day of school should be preparing kids to be responsible adults. Primary school should focus on the basics of reading. Once they get to third grade, throw in the basics of math. Without those two things, they’re not going to be able to succeed in the upper grades.

Nor will they be able to fill out a job application or make a budget.

Citizenship in School

I’ll be the first parent to tell you that it isn’t the school’s job to teach my kid to be a decent human being. Sorry. If you wait until your kid’s five to start teaching courtesy, discipline and respect, it might be too late.

It is NOT the school’s job to teach my child values or how to treat other people.

School needs to be a safe place to learn the complexities of social interactions.

How do I react if I have to work with a stranger? What if I get stuck with someone I don’t like? What should I do if my teacher doesn’t like me?
And the answer is NOT tell my parents and have them call the school to put me in an ideal situation.

That’s not life. School social settings should prepare kids to face the interactions they will have in the workplace. We’ve all had to work with someone we didn’t know or didn’t like.

I might be the only one who’s ever had a boss that I didn’t get along with, but I’d like to think it’s a common occurrence. And my mom didn’t rescue me from that person because that’s not what being an ADULT is about.

Staff at school should model ideal behaviors, sure. They shouldn’t tolerate bullying. Yes, they should keep kids from beating each other up because school is supposed to be a safe place.

Natural consequences should be allowed to fall on students in cases when it doesn’t mean bodily harm. For example, if you’re late too many times to work, your boss will fire you. There should be consequences for being late to class.

And I don’t want to hear your excuse. You either have a note from an adult…or you don’t. That’s all I need to know.

We’re only hurting the future of our society by failing our students in school. They deserve to learn to read, write and do math, and they should be held accountable for obeying the standard of conduct required in the schoolhouse.

Politics in School

I’m not saying that learning and citizenship don’t happen in schools these days. But those aren’t the priorities.

Government has their fingers in the U.S. educational system, and they like to generate red tape. Schools rely on the government for funding, so they have no choice but to march to the regulatory drumbeat.

Or they can shut their doors.

What happened recently to remind me of politics in school?

A teacher who taught both of my sons and I’ve worked closely with for a decade is transferring to a different position. I didn’t know asking her about it would open a can of worms.

The school has decided to combine language arts and social studies for middle schoolers. This isn’t a new or unusual thing. We had it before when the students could have a humanities block—two class periods for this class.

That isn’t what’s happening. Teachers will be expected to cover the learning goals for both subjects in one hour.

Furthermore, they’ll only receive one day of training on how to do this.

I hope the trainers are handing out Time Turners or some other magical device that will stretch one hour in to two (or ten).

How can students be expected to learn twice as much content in half the time? How can teachers be expected to teach twice as much content in half the time?

The biggest problem I have with this: the school is doing this because of budgetary constraints. They will use fewer staff to teach in this way.
Because money is what education is all about in our world.

I’m sure schools were funded the same way when I was a kid, but there weren’t common core standards and annual state assessments back then.

We went to school to learn how to be a productive citizen of the United States of America. That’s why the founding fathers pushed for public education for all people.

Kids these days are getting the short end of the learning stick. And our country will reap its dues when these under-educated people are running our country in a couple decades.

Are there things you’ve noticed about kids in school that make you grateful to have grown up in an earlier era?

Like reading this? You’re a click away from getting Hero Delivery, a bulletin with deals and new releases from Sharon Hughson.

Maybe you like romance or some of my other books. I’m sure there’s something worth reading on my page.

Already read one or more of my books? Please leave an honest review on your favorite site. A review is the same as the author discovering a gold nugget in the bottom of her washing machine.

An Online Book Club

Book clubs should be for discussing books and recommending books. Can you do such a thing online? That’s what I intended to find out when I joined Reader’s Coffeehouse.

One of my goals for 2017 was to join a book club. I love to read, so why not turn it into an opportunity to socialize.

Because we author-types tend to be anti-social reclusive and introverted. But books are our thing.

How I Found It

There’s no science behind finding this group. In fact, it sort of found me.

My friends list on Facebook is a combination of family and friends I know personally AND a bunch of writers I’m networking with, most of whom I haven’t met in person.

Guess what’s true about most writers?

They like to read.

And it was one of these friends who suggested the group to me. I think all they did was share a post from the group. It appeared in my newsfeed and the rest…is social media connection.

However, I’ve found other writing and reading groups by searching for them on Facebook. I’d recommend a private group, and I’m not sure you can search them.

Maybe a Facebook expert will comment on this.

The Group Format

The group I’m a member of was founded by nine (women’s fiction) authors. They regularly host drawings for their books (paperback, audio and digital).

One of these authors lives in a city near me. I’ve met her in person, listened to her speak about her writing methods and talked to her about the publishing industry.

Until that transpired (at a local library), I hadn’t even heard of her. That night I bought a trade paperback of one of her novels.
And I was hooked.

She wasn’t my usual sort of author. Her stories didn’t have total resolution or even a happy ending. But the people were vividly real. And she made me laugh.

Each day, one of the founders posts a question on the group page to spark discussion. I rarely comment on these. However, I’ve connected with other readers on Goodreads because of one such post and managed to win a couple books.

Each month, there is a book to read that is discussed with the author on the last day of the month. The list for the year is posted in the group (but not exactly pinned, so I copied it onto my tablet).

I’ve read four of the six books. I’ve commented on the discussion of three of those four.

End Results

While I’ve enjoyed interacting with this group, it’s not the same as when I had a monthly live and in-person group to meet with.
The comments are directed to the author of the book, meaning there isn’t much actual discussion about the story or characters or setting. I’m sure these are more interesting to non-authors who are curious about the process behind the page.

I just want to talk about books. Did the story engage me? Did the characters inspire or irritate me? Would I recommend the book to others?
So…the conversation about books has fallen short of my expectations.

Has the group fulfilled my needs? Partly.

I’ve met new authors and readers. I’ve read books I probably wouldn’t have otherwise.

But it didn’t get me out of the house. And it certainly didn’t unhook me from the computer.*sigh*

There are rumors that a few of the members of my former book group are planning to reconnect in September. I hope and pray it is so.

Until then, I’ll keep scrolling through the recommendations and reading the monthly book. Hopefully, I’ll keep winning books, too.

Have you ever been in a book club? What makes it successful?

Like reading this? You’re a click away from getting Hero Delivery, a bulletin with deals and new releases from Sharon Hughson.

Maybe you like romance or some of my other books. I’m sure there’s something worth reading on my page.

Already read one or more of my books? Please leave an honest review on your favorite site. A review is the same as the author discovering a gold nugget in the bottom of her washing machine.

Do You Love a Great Series?

If you’re like me (and a million other avid readers), you adore a well-written, engaging series. It means you’ll get to devour more books written about people who interest you written by an author you enjoy reading.
For authors, writing a series holds the same sort of joy.

And a few perils.

The Seed of an Idea

Virtual Match came to be when a group of indie authors saw an advertisement for an invisible boyfriend app. It didn’t take long for all of those creative minds to see how such a service could go wrong…or lead to a happy ending.

Before I wrote the original story, I mapped out Veronica Shay’s character and had a big secret in her past, one that kept her from dating anyone. Because it was a secret, it didn’t keep her controlling mother from nagging her about finding someone to love.

Enter Virtual Match, the online dating service that would match her with an employee who would pretend to be her boyfriend through texts, emails and even gifts. It was the perfect ploy to divert her mother’s attention.

You can find that story in Reality Meets its Match.

As with every writing project, there was a word count ceiling for that first story. Thus, it didn’t explore Ronnie and Marcus’ relationship. The premise was the dating app and problems it created.

But, Ronnie and Marcus started something in the last chapter of the first book. And my readers wanted to know what happened after that first kiss.

A Series is Born

 

Now available

The first thing you need for a series is characters with a problem that readers want to read about.

It thrilled me when readers finished the first installment of Ronnie’s story and wanted to know what happened next. These were characters I enjoyed spending time with, and I knew things weren’t going to get easier for Ronnie and Marcus. Because there’s no story if things run smoothly.

However, I didn’t have much of a background for Marcus Jordan. Originally, he didn’t even narrate much of the first story. At first, I tried to keep his identity a secret from the reader.

Beta readers thought he came off “stalkerish” when written anonymously. Plus romance readers know a romance is more enjoyable when we get time inside the skin and mind of both the man and the woman.

In Reality Bites, readers get to see who Marcus really is, and he’s not just an IT geek who knows how to hack a pretty girl’s online dating profile. His family is fun and supportive, which is a contrast to Ronnie’s flighty mother, vivacious sister and over-protective brother.

Coming from different family backgrounds adds more conflict to their relationship.

Readers learn Ronnie’s secret in the first book, but she hasn’t shared it with anyone else. I figured that would be the major event for the second story, but that didn’t feel like enough conflict.

Marcus wouldn’t respond to the reveal with revulsion. He’s not that kind of guy.

But enough about what you can expect from the second book. I don’t want to give the story away.

What I know for sure? Writing a series in smaller, Novella Niblet chunks has been fun, fun, fun. And I’m not done with Ronnie and Marcus yet because every romance deserves a happily ever after not just a happy for now ending.

For more about the final installment of the planned trilogy, make sure you’re signed up for Hero Delivery. You’ll never miss a sale, a signing or any other special I can dream up for my readers.

Wonder Woman : My Thoughts on the Film

The essence of true heroism was portrayed by Wonder Woman in her big screen feature film. Finally, a hero without a baggage-laden past or an ax to grind.

Wonder Woman’s heroic worldview is summed up in this quote, first said by Steve Trevor in the movie and later by Wonder Woman.

“It’s not about deserve. It’s about what you believe.”

A hero doesn’t stop to think if a person deserves protecting or rescuing. If they believe they can save someone, they step in and do it. Because to NOT act would be worse than whatever peril they face during their rescue.

After watching Wonder Woman’s movie twice, I’m ready for a Captain America and Wonder Woman film. Which will never happen because… Marvel and DC. But in my mind they are the supreme superheroes because they stand on their ideals.

What about the movie? You ask.

I loved it. Loved it two viewings worth and can hardly wait to own it on DVD so I can watch it again (maybe interspersed with Cap and the Winter Soldier).

The Story

I’m not a comic book reader, as I’ve stated multiple times. I don’t know how closely the film version of Wonder Woman comes to the comic-book rendition. But I like how the mythology is intertwined with the contemporary world (which shouldn’t surprise people who know I’m a huge fan of Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series, as well as the two spin-off series he’s written/writing).

Diana is a princess on an island set out of time and populated entirely by women. She is the only child on the island, and her mother tells her she was sculpted out of clay and brought to life by Zeus. Later, we learn that Zeus got Hippolyta with child the good old fashioned way (in the tradition of Greek deities).

She is enamored with fighting, which is what the Amazon warriors were originally created to do, but her mother denies permission to learn it. This doesn’t stop Diana from meeting with her aunt (the general of the Amazonian army) in secret until finally her mother allows her to train.

“But she can never know the truth.”

Diana doesn’t like hurting people (which is surprising from a warrior race), and her instinct is to rescue the stranger she sees crash into the ocean near their island. (It’s never sufficiently explained to me how the plane and later the Nazi boats can enter the bubble when Diana is warned she won’t be able to return if she leaves the island.)

All the stories Hippolyta has told Diana about the Amazons’ purpose come back to bite her when Steve Trevor shares the horrible news about The Great War in the “real world.” Still, the queen allows Diana to steal the armor and the God-Killer and leave with Steve to “save the world from Aries.”

Diana embraces her purpose and never shrinks from it, which adds plenty of tension. She’s happy to waltz into no man’s land rather than waiting for a safer route to her destination. In the end, it’s her head-on confrontation that sparks the heroism of the men with her, from the soldiers in the fox holes to the pilot spy.

Eventually, she does meet Ares, and their battle is epic. Of course, the secret her mother withheld is revealed by the villain and almost cripples Diana’s resolve to defeat him once and for all.

My Reactions

Gal Gadot is not Lynda Carter. Gal is much more athletic and equally as beautiful. Lynda sold me in her portrayal. I haven’t watched the old series for many years, so maybe it’s childhood hero worship that makes me say this.

I adored all the hand-to-hand combat. The Amazon warriors terrified me when they swung down the cliffs and thundered in on horseback. The Germans might have had guns, but they were seriously out-classed and under-trained to meet the immortal warrior race.

Diana’s motives sold me on this story. She whole-heartedly believed the Amazons were created to save mankind, and how could they do that on an isolated island?

I loved the innocent reactions Diana had to things like kicking in dresses and tasting ice cream. The filmmakers could have included more of this, because she seemed to adjust to the world of men rather easily.

I was sad the romance with Steve Trevor didn’t get to run its course. Because of their intense time together, I can believe that they loved each other. He was the first man she’d ever met, and his handsome exterior accentuated his rescuer’s soul.

While the effects during the battle with Ares were cool, I had a difficult time believing he would destroy her. And was it anger or grief that pushed her to finally end him?

Image from joblo.com

In any case, she wasn’t even happy about doing it. Resolved, yes, but she showed so much fervor for killing the general and Ares before she heard his story, and that wasn’t present when she finally shot the god of war out of the sky.

There were portions of the story that didn’t make sense to me: the creation of the Amazons and how they were enslaved by mankind. If Zeus was dead (as Hippolyta described in her story), how could he father Diana? And why would the Amazon’s still pray to him?

If you’ve seen the movie, what did you think? Did it live up to the hype?

Like reading this? You’re a click away from getting Hero Delivery, a bulletin with deals and new releases from Sharon Hughson.

Maybe you like romance or see my other books. I’m sure there’s something worth reading on my page.

Already read one or more of my books? Please leave an honest review on your favorite site. A review is the same as the author discovering a gold nugget in the bottom of her washing machine.

An American Author in Canada

Authors take vacations, but sometimes they aren’t for avoiding the keyboard. This author travels occasionally with her engineer husband, and most of the time those are working vacations.

What? It’s not vacation if you’re working.

Maybe you’re right. Or not. The third definition for vacation at dictionary.com says: “freedom or release from duty, business, or activity.” In this case, I’m freed from my household duties and my regular activities for a specific purpose: to incite creativity.

Creativity and Canada are a decent mix, I’ve decided.

High Hopes

Sometimes I spend too much time inside my office. The lovely walls with all their inspirational sayings and plaques of my book covers move like a trash compactor (picturing a scene from Star Wars IV here).

Even when the sun pushes back the gray clouds, all I see are the words that need to be rewritten or revised or edited. The list of projects in mid-completion expands to block out everything else.

In short, the creative space I’ve slaved to build in my home office (and on my back patio) works against me.

This is when I need a change of scenery. Sometimes going to the coffee shop works. Or I’ve plugged in at the library.

But in light of the daunting tasks facing me in the months ahead, my muse begged for something bigger.

So when my husband told me he had a conference in Vancouver B.C. and asked, “Do you want to come with me?” I jumped on it.

All I was hoping for was a new view outside my window, a touch of sunshine and maybe a little magic in the air.

Reality Rules

Several people gave me ideas of things to do while I visited this Canadian city. I smiled and nodded, listening but thinking, “I’m not going there for a relaxing vacation.”

No need to rain on their good advice. I even checked into a bicycle tour of the city because that’s something I’ve decided I will do if I go to Europe with my husband on a business trip. It’s a great way to breathe foreign air and glimpse the local sights, all while stretching the flabby muscles in my legs. Sounds like a win-win-win to me!

The weather app (who needs a weather man when you have a smart phone) advised me that it wouldn’t be sunny during my stay. But the first couple days wouldn’t bring precipitation either.

I could deal with that. I’d be able to get outside and walk along the harbor which is only a block from the hotel. Fresh foreign air: check.

Of course, spending time isolated in a hotel room to write isn’t the same as writing in my office. The maid wants to come in and clean. There isn’t food and water close by to keep me fed and hydrated.

And there are no cats to assist me by climbing in my lap and scrubbing their chin over my typing fingers.

The lobby in the hotel has a small area that would work for writing, but it’s pretty busy, and I’m a person who prefers silence during certain stages of writing.

Was this going to be a bust after all?

Expectations Exceeded

Here’s what I wanted to accomplish on this vacation: draft the third installment of my sweet contemporary romance series.

That meant 20,000 words in four days, which is about an average accomplishment for me when I’m in the drafting phase of a story. Five hours of writing per day equals 5,000 words.

Of course, I only had three days in Vancouver. The Monday and Friday of the week were travel days.

Monday was sunny and gorgeous when we arrived. Much better weather than in Portland when we left at 4:30 in the afternoon. My muse perked up her ears and gazed out the window on the cab ride from the airport to the hotel.

Priorities:

  1. Find a place to get coffee and breakfast (sorry, Marriott, I’m not paying $20 to eat breakfast)
  2. Scope out restaurants with great people-watching views for budget-friendly lunches
  3. Set up a snack-stocked writing area at the desk in the hotel room

Oh, Starbucks, how do I love thee? I know plenty of people aren’t fans. Fine. But for less than half the price of the Marriott offering I get a mocha grande (non-fat, no whip) and a yogurt, fruit and granola parfait. Sounds like the perfect breakfast to me.

Better yet? It’s directly across the street from the hotel.

Three blocks down, I locate Waterfront Food Court. Yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like: a mecca of variety in eats and bountiful bodies to watch.

Day one, I enjoy falafel and Greek salad while reading on my iPhone and stealing glances at the people flooding through the seating area. Day two, should I eat salad or grab a slice of pizza?

I love having choices.

I packed healthy snacks in my suitcase, but my husband didn’t want me to starve. So he snagged a bag of pretzels and white cheddar popcorn from the offerings at his conference. (I’m pretty sure the popcorn is for him since I don’t like cheese on mine.)

All three priorities met. Better yet? The walkway along the harbor was better than I imagined. Check it out.

Look! Canadian Geese in Canada.

 

Pedestrians on the left and bicycles to the right. Ingenius!

Yes, there are TWO lanes on the path. One of them is for foot traffic and the other is for bicycles (and a few in-line skaters whooshed by, too).

I wanted to share my thoughts on the city, but my post is getting long. Look! A topic for a future post. SCORE!

Is there such a thing as a working vacation for you? Or does it have to be about relaxing and sightseeing?

When I Want to Relax

Some people go on vacation to “get away from work.” Or to experience some new and exciting place. Maybe they want to have once-in-a-lifetime adventures. While I might want a little of those things, sometimes I want to do nothing…and relax.

Relaxation takes many different forms depending on the person.

There are some people who run five miles to relax. Others want to chiropractor to adjust their joints and then they’ll suck down a gallon of water and hang out in a hammock.
In fact, I find many things can be relaxing. For example, I might relax while: getting a pedicure, getting a facial, having a massage, sitting by the pool, reading a book, walking on the beach (or pier or a trail) and even riding horseback. But do I have to do any of those things in order to relax?
Let me phrase this another way: can I kick my stress to the curb without doing anything special?
Like so many other things in life, de-stressing (isn’t that the essence of relaxation?) is all about mind over matter.

My Mind

As a creative person, my mind is a hive of activity. There are many memes I’ve seen that illustrate this fact, but this is my favorite one:

Because most of the time, if I appear to be staring into space, I’m likely in an alternate universe. One I’m creating and populating with people I’ve dreamed up to face all sorts of situations I’ll never face.

Often my eyes will be closed but my mind will be spinning at a million electric charges per nanosecond. Yep, this old brain is one speedy computer.
Which means it rarely shuts down.
Many authors will tell you they’ve vividly dreamed many of their best stories. They wake up and try to regurgitate the brilliance onto a page before it dissipates with the morning mists.

Yes, even when I’m asleep, mental gymnastics continue.

So how can I ever relax? Where’s the shut-off switch for this thing?
Can I truly rid myself of stress if my thoughts continually roller coaster?
Mind over matter, my friend.
For me, it’s all about WHAT I’m thinking about that determines the quality of my anxiety.

It Doesn’t Matter

In order to dump my stress, I have to actively convince myself that the things hammering away in my brain like an overzealous woodpecker, aren’t important enough to think about. AT THIS MOMENT.
In effect, I convince my mind to reschedule contemplating the stressful items to a later date. Say, Thursday morning…when I’m vacuuming the house.
My query packet for my women’s fiction isn’t ready to submit on June 1. It doesn’t matter. You can think about it May 30th.
Are those sample pages from my nonfiction book enough to convince those agents to request all three chapters? Will they contract me to write the book? Am I ready to delve into the depths of my grief to pen those pages? It doesn’t matter today. I’ll find out in August.
How about creating something new? Maybe just a short piece that you don’t intend to publish? Or the opening scene for the short story you imagined during your girls’ weekend last month.
The cats could be tearing apart the house while I’m staring at the misty horizon at the western edge of the earth.
Look at the shades of blue in the Pacific Ocean and the sky stretching above it. Feel the pounding of the waves against my tattered soul.
The projects and deadlines and considerations for my author world will still be waiting in my office when I get home from this short retreat to the Oregon Coast.

Today, those things don’t matter.

What matters is the taste of the salty breeze, the scattering of seagulls in the surf and the sting of sand blown against my bare calves.
That’s the way I use my mind to subdue the thoughts that would infuse stress into a day meant for relaxation.
Does mind over matter work for you? What is your picture of true relaxation?

Crime Against a Creative Spirit

Legislating away my right to create is criminal. Sometimes its the weather or circumstances that commit the crime which freezes imagination. Might as well hit it with liquid nitrogen.
Creativity holds an artist hostage. It plagues the mind at inopportune moments (like when I should be sleeping). The very element of creating can wind up like a fast-pitched softball and, if released too early, peter out short of the plate (our expectations).


Lately, I’ve been keeping up with one of my betterment goals designed for No Fear this Year. It involves reading an inspirational book before bed at least four nights per week.
The current read looks to link creativity and spirituality. It’s an interesting connection, but I’ve yet to sell myself on its reality.

The Difference between Soul and Spirit

Even though my title mentions the creative spirit, I believe creativity emerges from my soul.
The soul is the part inside me that makes me have the character, personality and world views that distinguish me as an individual. While I strive to grow my character to look like Jesus Christ’s, I’m certain my personality is not a thing like his. Because I’m a woman living in the 21st Century, my world view looks completely different, too.
On the other hand, the spirit in me is what makes me alive. It’s the breath of life that God gave Adam on the day of his formation. It’s the thing that keeps my heart beating and lungs working without any conscious thought on my part. And if the spirit of life leaves, then those automatic functions stop, too.
Therefore, I believe the soul is the source of my creativity and the spirit the source of my existence.
Can creativity be linked to spirituality then?

The Difference between Heart and Mind

There’s another level of personality that I see as diverse. Decisions I make might originate in the heart but are carried out by the mind.
The heart is the seat of my emotions. This is where I feel the death of the hunting dog in Where the Red Fern Grows. It’s where disgust over political lies or ire about injustice kindle and ignite.

Is this linked with creativity? Is creativity all about emotion?

My mind is where reason holds court. It listens to the exclamations and rhetoric of the heart’s reactions, and it weighs that in my soul’s world view balance. If it deems there is sufficient reason to act, the mind wills my mouth or body to do so.
I hope my mind is engaged when I’m creating. It should be running the show when I’m worshiping, too.
In this case, I believe both the mind and the heart are involved in pursuits of creativity and spirituality. Things that are emotion-driven might seem to come from the heart, but the heart is only a messenger. It can’t act apart from the mind. (Although there are times when I let my heart lead and wished I’d thought things through a little better.)

Creativity or Spirituality?

This brings me back to my original inquiry. Is there a link between my creative self and my spiritual self?
Unless I’m two people, there’s a link. It’s me. My individuality that shines forth through my lifestyle.
Can the spirit operate on it’s own? Or is spirituality tied to every facet of life because it is the seed of life?
If only I had the answer. Perhaps when I finish the book, I’ll know for certain if these two aspects of my being are related. At times, I’ve felt deeply spiritual while being wildly creative. However, there are plenty of instances when I was quite spiritual without a creative thought, and creating like mad without being spiritual.
I believe that means they aren’t mutually exclusive. Perhaps I would be more creative if I focused wholly on strengthening my spiritual side. But am I less spiritual when I set my imagination free?
The truest crime against my creative spirit is giving it a question like this that has no definitive answer.

Do you think creativity and spirituality are linked? What drives your creative spirit into hibernation?

Crazy Things Students Say

I’m a full-time author. At least two days each work week (when school is in session), I substitute teach at the local middle and high schools.
Due to a shortage of licensed substitutes, my state allows any person with a Bachelor’s Degree to go through the training and application process and attain what is called a Restricted Substitute License. Although I hold no teaching degree, I have more than a decade of experience in education.

Why would I subject myself to such a topsy-turvy schedule? Two reasons:

  1. It’s not conducive to creativity to spend everyday in an office without interacting with other people (and social media doesn’t replace actual human face-to-face contact)
  2. Most of my publishing contracts are “royalties only” and the schools give me a much more regular (and at this point, substantial) paycheck

Since my dream is to write fantasy novels for young adults, this subbing thing keeps me engaged with their worldview and voice.


Heard at the Middle School

“If you’re an author, why would you be a sub?”

Why indeed! I generally give them reason number two as outlined above. I have been known to use other reasons, as well, but not to the same student.
Yes, this is a common question. For some reason, they think a published author should be SO famous and well-paid that they wouldn’t submit themselves to the degradation of being a substitute. (I don’t find it degrading. I actually enjoy it…most days.)
“Are you the sub?” Isn’t this obvious? I’m always amazed by this question.
“YES!” I never know how to respond to this unabashed joy that they have a substitute. It would be ego-affirming if it was because they liked me so much, but the reality is much darker. Any sub is preferable to the regular teacher.
What does that mean? Is the teacher mean? Are subs easy? What?


Heard at the High School

“Do people ever call you Miss Texas?” (Do you need context for this? My last name is often mispronounced as Houston by students.) “I’m from Texas, and I’d like to call you Miss Texas.”
Well, thank you, freshman male student. Now I can feel like a beauty pageant contestant–for an hour of my life.
“At least I had a dad.” I’m not sure this one needs any explanation. FYI, the student was laughing in a pleasant manner when he said it. (And no, it wasn’t directed at me.)
“You look familiar” (and after I say I’ve subbed often in the building) “No that’s not it. I think it’s from Facebook.”
Just when I’m wondering if my author page is blowing up with my young adult audience, the bubble is burst.


“You were one of my suggested friends.” (What does that even mean? I know she meant FB suggested me as someone she might know, but what is a suggested friend?)
“Hey, I know you!” I’m squinting at the skinny junior boy at my old alma mater. I definitely know the kid in the back of the row beside him.
I try the, “I subbed here two weeks ago” response.
“No, that’s not it.” He gives his forehead an exaggerated pound. “The middle school. Right?”
“Are you sure you can remember that far back?” Three years is a lifetime for teenagers. But I smile and assure him that he’s nailed it. Too bad he doesn’t smile so proudly when I hand him the essay assignment a few minutes later.
There are priorities. Writing class is rarely one of them for high school students.
These teenagers offer me plenty of smiles. And eye rolls. But best of all, their vivacity contributes fodder for future fiction. (Yes, I do love my alliteration.)
So, I’m glad that the state hasn’t changed the substitute teaching requirements just yet. I’m on my way to being licensed for three more years of inspiration from the world of public school.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve heard lately?