Waiting to Fail – Advice from A GenXer

I’m a GenXer…raised in the 1980s. The generation of “Latch Key Kids.” We didn’t wear helmets when we rode our bikes, or elbow pads when we roller skated, if we had done so, our friends would have laughed at us. Our parents didn’t hover over our grades, they didn’t blame our teachers when we failed a test. We got our driver’s license the day we turned sixteen and had a part time job the very next day. We drove used cars, usually the cast-off family car, and we didn’t have GPS. We used a telephone and if we wanted to have a social life, we had to actually got OUT of the house to create one.

And we failed. A LOT.

Somewhere along the line, and I’m not really sure where, because there are still a bunch of us trying to raise our children the same way, things went haywire.

Somehow, we were convinced that our kids needed to have it easier. It started with “time out,” and making a child think about what they did wrong instead of paying a consequence.

And then we decided that if they weren’t doing well in school, it was the teacher’s fault for not teaching them. I’ve raised my kids in two different school districts, so I can attest to the fact that not every school district is created equal. Our current school district is far more superior than our previous district. But that comes with different pressures too. If you don’t fit in the “STEM” box , you’re going to have a tough time in school.

We decided that it wasn’t possible for teens to both have a job AND go to school at the same time. We made it harder for them to get real life experience. Having a job early on allows you to learn responsibility, with showing up and with your money. It’s also the ONLY time in your life you will get to PLAY with your money. You have no debt to pay off, you have no real bills. My first big purchase as a teen was a pair of black suede boots that reached just over the knee and laced all the way up the back. I still remember that they cost $135.00. I put them on lay-away at “Wild Pair” (an awesome shoe store from the 80s) and paid them off little by little until they were mine. And then I took care of them because I worked so hard to get them.

I had several jobs when I was a teen (at different times) because I could change the job when I got bored. I wasn’t locked in. If you wait until after you’ve gone through college, and trained for a career (which is a great plan), but then can’t change the job because you can’t find another one and are locked in because you owe so much on school debt, then no wonder you’re miserable. You never had the chance to PLAY with your money and fail. You can’t afford to fail now.

We had friendships and relationships and realized what it meant to have a good friend that would stand by you no matter what. That would get into trouble with you (in a good way, of course), but you knew what to expect from them, because you had created a face to face relationship. Your friendship was tried and tested. You cried through the bad times and laughed through the good. I know, I’m old and I don’t understand, but on-line relationships don’t provide that same closeness. They just don’t! I have “on-line” friends, to some extent, and they don’t measure up to the friends who have hugged me through break-ups and loss, who have celebrated births and marriages and achievements. It’s different. Read the research. This on-line generation is one of the loneliest, depressed and anxiety-ridden generation of all time. That’s not just my opinion.

“But you don’t understand,” is what I hear. You’re right. I don’t. But you also forget that we were young once too. I grew up under the fear of nuclear war. It was a real fear. But instead of withdrawing, my friends and I made a plan that in the event that they dropped “the bomb,” we would all go outside, put on our sunglasses, sit in our lawn chairs and watch the fireworks. It was how we coped…with sick and twisted humor.

And financially? We get it. My family was caught up in the Aerospace crash of the 80s. My dad was an Aerospace Engineer and had a pension plan. He was set for life…until the aerospace companies crashed and took away everyone’s pensions that they worked for their whole life. My family was devastated. I get it.

But I think the biggest lesson that GenXer’s we’re good at was “failing.” We learned skills to cope with failing. You get up, dust yourself off, and keep moving. It was just a given. Was there anxiety? Sure. Was there depression? You betcha. But that was just a diagnosis, not an excuse. We figured out how to deal with things. We didn’t have time, nor was it acceptable, to give up. “Just Do It” was what we lived by.

My advice to the younger generations?

Work now, so you can play with your money.

Get a job, so you can figure out what you like and don’t like before you get all the way through college.

Get out of the house. For goodness sake, get a gang of friends that really know you. Go to concerts (and DON’T RECORD THEM), just enjoy them. Go bowling, go hang out at a friend’s house, go to the mall, and talk to each other.

Pick up a phone…and CALL someone. Don’t just text them.

Do something for someone else…maybe even one of us “old” people. Do it for the human contact, not because you need “volunteer hours” to graduate.

Be still. Sit in awe and wonder at the world around you. Know that you can make a difference in someone else’s life.

And don’t be afraid to fail.

“I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Thomas Edison.

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Life Isn’t Fair

I won’t go into what sparked this post because to do so would stir up controversy and anger (mostly mine), and I consider this blog my happy space.

“Life Isn’t Always Fair.” Four simple words that I think we’ve forgotten in this day and age.

Nope. We’re too “awoke” to sometimes let things go and move on. We all “want ours.” But our past doesn’t have to dictate our future and sometimes trying to make up for the past only stirs up more hurt and division.

Some things I hope my children (and a LOT of adults) would remember:

  1. You may not get the job you feel that YOU deserve. Sometimes things happen that are beyond your control. Sometimes God (yes, I said God) has a different plan for your life. And though it may not seem like a better plan, He has His reasons. Maybe your dream job would lead you down a life of dependence and despair. Maybe He’s sparing you from that.
  2. You may not get the apology you think that YOU deserve. You can’t make people apologize. Not everyone thinks like you. Learn from the past, forgive, and move on. You’ll save yourself a LOT of grief over time.
  3. You may not get into the college that YOU want. No matter how well you do on your entrance exams, how high your GPA is, or how many extra-curricular activities you’ve been a part of, there will always be someone smarter, luckier, quicker at applying than you. It’s a fact of life and human nature. That doesn’t make you “less than,” it makes you who you are.
  4. You may not get the boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife that you think YOU deserve. We all have a plan, and sometimes those plans don’t work out the way we want them to. Sometimes the gorgeous guy or girl turns out to be a real loser. Again…forgive and move on. There’s no better “vengeance” than living well, and not letting the memory of “what could have been” control you.
  5. Speaking of vengeance…getting even is never the best option. Sure, it feels great in the moment. But it’s been my experience that YOU will waste way too much time and energy worrying about how to get even when the other person won’t even remember who you are. Although, I do have to admit, that when I saw the girl that tortured me throughout middle school and high school at my 10 year reunion and I pretended not to know her, it felt really good. But I wasn’t plotting that moment for 10 years…it just sort of presented itself. I never said I was perfect.
  6. People will disappoint you…it’s part of the human condition. The only person you can (and should) control is YOU.

The common denominator in all this is YOU. You have the power to change what you can, forgive when you should, and no amount of stomping your feet will make up for anything that life, the past or the present, has done to you. Sometimes life just isn’t fair. Sometimes you have to be the bigger person. The forgiving person. The loving person. The one who is willing to rise above the noise and see through the distractions to live as best you can.

So, when life isn’t fair, don’t despair. Get up, brush yourself off, and look for the positive in every experience that you can.

Everyone Has Something…

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(This post was originally posted in 2016)

As a society, we’ve become masters at “labeling.” We know all our disabilities, all our flaws. We’ve given them names and can diagnose them earlier and earlier. But I’m not so sure that’s always a good thing. Sure, early diagnosis can help, even save, a large amount of people. But sometimes giving it a label predestines a person to limit themselves, to limit their life in ways that they may have pushed through had they not been labeled. Because here’s the thing: Everyone has something. Everyone!

Next time you’re in a crowd, even a small crowd, look around. Statistically speaking, EVERY SINGLE PERSON in that crowd has something in their life that they find challenging. A limitation. Sometimes they wear their challenge on the outside and it’s easy to spot. But more often than that, it’s hidden. It’s under their clothes, it’s under their skin, it’s in their brain. And it’s unique to each person.

Even the people that appear to have it all together, they too have something bubbling just under the surface. No one is immune.

One of the most valuable lessons we can give to our peers is to learn to push through challenges. No matter what life has dealt you, you can use that experience to build or to tear down. And everyone has something.

I think our beauty comes from those “flaws,” from those experiences, and from those challenges.

I think it’s our job, as parents, as teachers, as mentors, to help our children and those around us, with our flaws and our challenges, but don’t stop there. It’s our RESPONSIBILITY to show them how we push through our challenges and don’t let them limit us. To show them that even though we have a disease, disorder, or disability, it doesn’t have us.

People watch our every move, our every reaction, especially our children. They look to us for examples of how to handle the stuff that makes up life, both the good and the bad. A parent with a challenge has to shine through their disability, and show their children that it’s not something to stop them from doing what they want in life.

Even when we think our challenge is too big to get over, we can still show our kids what it means to HOPE. But hope isn’t necessarily proactive. Being hopeful can change your state of mind. The lesson is in how we ACT on that hope.

Think about some of our most inspiring people. Why do they inspire us? Usually it’s because they’ve achieved something IN SPITE OF or even BECAUSE OF a limitation. They’ve overcome and made things better for themselves or for those around them.

Everyone HAS something, but not everyone will DO something. How are you going to use your limitation to inspire those around you?

The Secret Life of an Indie Author

When I first decided to pursue novel writing, I had no idea what it entailed.

As most Indie Authors, I started by pursuing the “Traditional Publishing” route. I had lofty dreams and no idea what I was getting into.

I had this idea for a novel swimming around in my brain for about fifteen years before I pulled my notes out of the drawer and put keystroke to keyboard. The kids were finally old enough to entertain themselves for a few hours while I pecked away at the next great novel. I was able to finish it in about six months. I was impressed with myself, I must say. I didn’t think I could do it, but the words just sort of came tumbling out of me. After all, only something like 30% of people ever finish the novel they start out to write. I was ahead of the game.

I tried the traditional route, not knowing that first novels should NEVER see the light of day. But at least I got rejections. The worst is when you send your blood, sweat and tears off in an email and all you get back is the sound of crickets. The not-knowing is the worst, I think.

Fast forward a few years and a couple novels later (also not in print), and I decided to go the “Indie Publishing” route. I had done a lot of research and read countless blogs and agent advice. I didn’t expect to become an overnight success, but I, again, had no idea what I was in for.

The Biggest Secret? The Indie Author wears many hats.

An Indie Author is first and foremost a writer. That’s a no-brainer, right? You would think so, but it isn’t. Again, I turned to research and the internet to write the best novel I could. There were terms I had never heard before, and I was an English major. “Head hopping?” What the heck was that! It’s when you change point of view mid paragraph. But even editors and authors can’t agree on what exactly head-hopping is. Give the same paragraph to several different people and you’ll get several different responses as to whether it’s head-hopping or not.

An Indie Author also plays the role of “Marketer.” Most writers are NOT cut out for marketing. They are the creatives, the idea makers. But marketing? To a lot of us it’s like speaking a different language. Not to mention, in my case, my last job was in marketing and I’m somewhat traumatized by being on the end of rudeness and cursing and yelling by the people I was approaching. And I was one of the nicest people you could talk to. So, the thought of pandering to my “friends” to purchase my books strikes fear in my heart. It’s something akin to a pyramid scheme where your friends are your victims…uh, clients. I can’t do it. It’s physically and emotionally painful for me.

But it doesn’t stop there. The Indie Author is also the Head of Advertising. If they want to be seen among the 750,000 books listed on amazon.com (and I’m sure that’s a conservative statistic), they must engage in some sort of advertising: GoogleAds, Facebook ads, BookBub campaigns…the list goes on forever. And all those things cost money. You’re already dipping into reserves that you haven’t made yet and may never make. I know that sometimes you have to put something in to get a return, but I truly wonder how many Indie Authors NEVER see a return. I don’t have that money to invest. I just don’t.

The Indie Author is also a Social Media Expert. Again, to be noticed, they need to engage with potential readers on Twitter, Facebook, their own website (if they have one – another investment), Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, LinkedIn…and I’m sure I forgot something. All of this “engagement” takes time away from writing. Because for most Indie Authors, writing is not their day job. Even a lot of traditionally published authors don’t write a book and watch the profits roll in. They make a lot of their money from speaking engagements. But people want to hear from “famous authors.” From the Indie Author? Not so much.

The Indie Author must also be the Gatekeeper. What do I mean by that? I mean that there are a whole lot of scammers out there wanting to “help” with your marketing. The scammers have figured out how to sell “10,000 books their first year without even trying” and they’re willing to show you how…for a small fee or for the price of their e-book. Yeah, I’m not falling for it.

The Gatekeeper also screens out bad advice. The truth is there is no “right” answer. It’s hard work. There is no “quick fix.” It’s a long and arduous endeavor.

Some Indie Authors are also Graphic Designers. They have mastered formatting of their novels. They’ve learned the rules to make their books compete with the traditionally published counterparts. The talented ones can make covers that look professional.

So why do I do it?

Because I love to write. I love my fellow human beings. I want to connect with them. I want my stories to say to them “I get you. I’ve been there.” I want people to find a little bit of themselves or their friends or family members in my characters. I want to leave a legacy of some sort, an imprint on the world for when I’m gone. Even if only five people read my novels, I’m okay with that. I don’t plan on getting rich from them, that isn’t my intention. I know I should do more to put myself out there. I should make a bigger financial investment than I have up until now. And maybe when I don’t have to budget for braces or college or car repairs, and I’ve managed to retire on the MidAtlantic coast in my tiny paid-for home then I’ll have that option. But until I’m living the dream, I will continue to write and write and write. And I’m eternally grateful for every reader I’ve had.

What about my fellow Indie Authors – what’s your Indie Author Secret Life look like?

Update – Sticking to a Meal Plan

My last post was called Sticking to a Meal Plan. I find it easy to make a meal plan, but hard to stick to one.

I know we’re only halfway through the week, but I thought I’d give you a quick update as to whether I can stick to my meal plan.

Sunday – Day one was a success! Minestrone Soup and French bread was the bomb! It was easy to throw together and simmer on the stove while I relaxed until it was time to serve. The meal went well and everyone actually ate it, and I had leftovers for another night or lunch. A side note, the recipe calls for vegetable broth of which I had none, so I substituted with chicken bouillon. It turned out just fine.

MondaySpanish Chickpeas and Rice…I originally had this scheduled for Tuesday, but realized that my avocado (for the guacamole) was ripe, so I moved it up a day. I hadn’t made it for a while and forgot that it works best if you prep everything before you start. So, after turning the stove off briefly after I added the rice to the onions and garlic, I was back on track. I also forgot how good this dish is! Serving it with guacamole, sour cream and tortilla chips is a must. The kids like to use it like a topping for their tortilla chips. That’s fine with me…however it makes it to their bellies.

Tuesday Soy veggies, teriyaki marinated chicken and steamed rice. I don’t normally make rice two days in a row, but I made an exception since they were different styles of rice. The Soy Veggies recipe calls for frozen mixed veggies, but I prefer fresh veggies. I use broccoli, sliced baby carrots, sliced red onions, and tomatoes sliced in quarters. The soy veggie recipe is one of my favorites. I also make them with steak and baked potatoes. They make a great topping for the baked potato. I have to admit, it was my day off, and I was tempted to call the hubby for take-out, especially when my 13 year old asked if we could get fast food for dinner. Fortunately when he asked, the veggies were already in the oven, much to my son’s disappointment. (Sorry, I forgot to take a photo of this one)

Wednesday – I was weak again. It was a long day at work, and I’ve been fighting a cold or something, because I came home from work wrecked. I texted my husband at 5pm asking for fast food, but he didn’t answer my text…or the second one. Apparently, he had a really busy day too. I was hoping that he somehow saw the text before he left work and picked something up. He did not. My daughter had an after-school activity where she had pizza, so she wasn’t hungry. So, we had enough Minestrone Soup leftovers from Sunday’s meal to reheat. I added an extra cup of broth and a cup of pasta, and voila…dinner!

Two more days to go. We’ll see if I can make it!

I Choose Hope

I posted this graphic to my Instagram yesterday. I’m not sure why.

I’ve been avoiding the news like the plague lately. It seems it’s never anything good.

I’ve tried to steer clear of the debacle that’s happening in Washington right now (not that today is any different than any other day in Washington).

And when I looked at Facebook today and saw New York’s heartbreaking decision that caused them to light up the Empire State Building in pink, I wanted to cry.

Add to that the Covington students’ controversy, and I just can’t stomach it any more. Any of it.

It isn’t healthy, and I feel powerless to change any of it. Truly, I do.

The only recourse I have for my own well-being, and that of my family’s, is to hope and to pray for something better.

As a human race, I know we can do better. I know we have it in us to reach out instead of push back.

There is so much to hope for, so much good in the world that goes un-noticed because we’re too busy screaming at one another and standing our ground. Forgiveness has been thrown out the window completely.

So, here’s a list if you’d like to join me with some good news for a change:

  1. Watch an episode of Mike Rowe’s Returning the Favor on Facebook. There’s a new episode every Tuesday and it will lift your heart and give you back some hope for humanity.
  2. Forgive someone who doesn’t deserve it.
  3. Pick up that piece of trash on the sidewalk that’s been there for the last three days.
  4. Say “thank you” to the salesperson who may be having a bad day.
  5. Hold the door open for the person behind you.
  6. Pay it forward – pay for the cup of coffee or fast food of the person in the drive-thru line behind you.
  7. Turn off the news when you feel yourself getting angry…especially if your kids are in the room. If it angers you, think of what it does to them.
  8. Put down your phone and be present with the person you’re with.
  9. Call your friend instead of sending a text.
  10. Look around and see what you can do to make a difference in someone else’s life, even if it’s a small thing.

Choose hope instead of despair, love instead of hate, words that lift up instead of tear down.

It starts with the person in the mirror. I know we can do it, because we are better than the media wants us to think we are.

Best wishes and blessings to you all.

What are you going to do today to make this world a better place?