Monday, January 23, 2012

Just For the Health of It!

“If you’ve got your health, you’ve got everything!”

Remember hearing that when you were growing up and thinking, “Geez, I’d rather have my allowance!”? I did. I always took my health for granted and thankfully, never really had any problems to speak of. I’ve never broken a bone, didn’t wear glasses until my last year of high school (and then didn’t really need to wear them), was rarely sick, took no medications, though I was ‘heavy’ (substitute ‘big boned’), was always in good physical shape, wasn’t bothered by acne or PMS, and breezed through child birth twice. And then I hit 40.

I could probably blame a return to the full time work force for the sedentary double whammy of having two butt-in-chair jobs. I could blame stress. I could blame age. I could blame gravity. I could blame it on Rio (which has nothing to do with anything but sounds like a good excuse). But this is 2012, and true to my New Year’s mantra, there’s no blame involved. What is, is. What I do about it is up to me.

Taking care of your health isn’t an occasional concern. Even a perfectly tuned engine needs to be put up on the rack regularly. My mom insisted that we have yearly checkups and I passed that nagging on to my sons. Doctor, dentist, ophthalmologist. Vitamins, food groups, exercise. See you in 7,500 miles.

But as the years and mileage add up, we can’t just go in for an oil change every 4-6 months and be good to go. There’s a lot more maintenance involved. Trust me on this one since my car has over 90,000 miles and I’m fifty-mumble mumble. It’s not just the preventative stuff anymore. It’s the repair and replacement. 10W40 and a new air filter isn’t the cure-all anymore. Now we have to check everything from sagging suspension to rust spots just to be road worthy. Age ain’t for sissies!

We can’t stop the aging process (unless you’re a SciFi or paranormal writer!) so we need to take preventative steps to keep what we have in the best shape it can possibly be.

I break “Healthy” of my “Healthy, Wealthy & Wise” series down into three areas: Mind, Body, and Spirit. Each part of that trifecta needs equal attention. It’s not all about the scales, ladies (thank goodness!), it’s the big picture. This year, I’m addressing all three for the changes I need to make to keep it between the lines.

MIND isn’t any different than body. It needs to be fed, rested and exercised. Check out my “Wise” blog for a refresher course. MIND doesn’t always run perfectly any more than your car’s computer chip. And yes, I’m starting to wander around saying, “What did I come into this room for?” Recently, depression and early stage dementia have become serious issues several of my friends have had to deal with. These are real health problems that we need to be aware of and pay attention to. Diagnosis, education, and treatment are the only ways to improve or stabilize many conditions. When I found out I was pre-diabetic, I was in total denial and did nothing to prevent the avoidable onset of the disease. It took the ‘pre-existing health conditions’ box on insurance forms to convince me to be accountable and take action. That was a MIND thing that had to happen before I could take care of BODY. Awareness, acceptance and action starts in the mind. Start giving it a workout now by paying attention to your body and dealing with any potential issues before they become problems. My favorite cartoon that has a student raising his hand, asking to go home because his brain is full, is something more fact than funny.

SPIRIT is our refresh and rejuvenate area. We get so caught up in the busyness of our lives that we forget to tend to the SPIRIT. A starved spirit makes our health wither away. It’s where our energy, our joy and excitement, our creativity comes from, so it’s not a well we want to run dry. SPIRIT doesn’t demand a lot, doesn’t cost much, isn’t greedy. It’s satisfied by little things. Things that make us feel good about ourselves and restore our optimism. ME time. Remember that? Sometimes it’s just stepping outside to take a deep breath during the work day (a 15 minute walk is even better!). It could be a warm scented bath, the newspaper and coffee, eyes closed to listen to music, a massage, a few minutes in the Word or doing meditation. Whatever it takes to achieve that ‘Calgon’ moment of being taken away from the stresses of living. I love having my hair washed. Complete nirvana. I look forward to reading the e-devos from my church every morning, and watching the birds on my patio. Take a minute to be good to your soul.

BODY gets us from place to place, sometimes in style, sometimes in comfort, and sometimes wheezing and burning oil. We take it for granted until it stops working properly. Unfortunately we can’t trade it in every three years on a newer model so we have to make it last. Oil changes, tune ups, wash and wax, new tread and maybe even a better sound system are things we can control to keep things running smoothly. What we put into it and how hard we run it make a difference in how long it lasts, whether you’re a Porche, a Prius or a Pinto. And if you’re a Pinto, all the dreaming, wishing and scheming in the world won’t make you a Porche, but that doesn’t make you any less a fine ride. I’ve accepted that I’m never going to have long legs, look like Heidi Klum or be 30 again so I’d better make the best of what I have. BODY needs acceptance and love, just like your kids do. Pamper it. Be nice to it. Buy it shoes that fit. Don’t stuff it with junk. Park it in safe places and don’t let everyone you know drive around in it until it drops. A lean, mean machine becomes a Clunker for Dollars if you don’t treat it with respect.

For the Health of it, I’m going to be accountable and proactive in 2012 in these ways:
  • Take that 15 minute walk whenever the weather permits to clear my mind midday.
  • Give my Spirit a break. I’d planned on going to four conferences this year. Now I’m just attending my writing chapter’s Retreat and spending 8 days at my critique partner’s in Arizona for some real R&R (with computer. Deadlines at poolside are still deadlines.)
  • Pay attention when the warning gauges come on. Sore muscles, tired eyes, swollen knee, mopey mood often have deeper roots.
  • Get a new mattress. Did you know you should change it every 6-8 years because of dust mites that cause all sorts of allergies and other icky things? And not getting a good night’s sleep makes it hard to run on all cylinders.
  • Get out of park and back into the passing lane in my weight loss campaign by participating in this year’s Romance Biggest Winners. Take a look, and if you’re up for the challenge, sign up and ask to be on my team!
What are you doing to take better care of yourself?

Check back next Monday for my “Healthy, Wealthy & Wise” summary. 2012 is going to be a great year!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Money Talks

Windfalls come in all sorts of guises: that $10 you find tucked in your coat pocket, a $50 addition error in your check book in your favor, winning a gift certificate in a contest, BOGO for your favorite jeans, or even a sudden flash of inspiration when you least expect it.

While sitting at the keyboard to start my Week Three article on “Wealthy” in my Healthy, Wealthy & Wise New Year’s series, I was searching for that perfect catchy title when the noise from my son playing his X-Box downstairs forced me to dig out my headphones and cue up my iTunes. And there it was, AC/DC playing “Money Talks.” When you least expect it . . .

I always smile at that old saying, “Please let me prove that winning the lottery won’t spoil me!” Don’t we tend to believe that having that big windfall of cash would make every aspect of our lives immediately better? I say this after entering my twice daily chance to win the HGTV Dream House. The hard truth is a majority of those big lottery or sweepstakes winners are worse off for having won because they didn’t know how to deal with the burden of wealth. The value of the having it is in the earning it.

I’ve always worked hard for what I have, but I haven’t always planned wisely for what I’ve gotten. Thinking back, I wish I’d invested more and charged less, that I’d taken more time to enjoy what I had instead of working harder to get more. Hindsight has value in what you’ve learned from it. Here are some of the things I’ve discovered about the all mighty dollar that will influence what I do with the ones passing through my pocket this year:
  • A penny saved . . . is still a penny if it’s not invested properly. Learn how to make your money work for you by talking with an investment planner. Check into having your employer set up a matching deposit into a 401K.
  • The best things in life are free! Enjoyment doesn’t always come with a price tag. A sunrise or sunset. A walk in the woods. Reading to a child. Sharing old pictures with your family. Trying on fancy clothes or silly glasses with a friend, sampling free books on your Kindle app, community concerts. There are so many things out there that don’t involve a fee and sometimes you get so much more than you’d pay for.
  • Share the wealth. It’s the giving, not the getting. Give of your time, your talents, your friendship. Donate when you can to where it will do the most good. Check to see what percentage of your donation actually goes toward the charitable work and how much is eaten up by ‘administrative costs.’ Remember, to reap you have to sow.
  • For a rainy day. Trying to instill the idea of saving in my boys was a tough one when money burned holes through their pockets, but there’s something satisfying in working toward a goal. Try a Christmas club, putting your change in a jar, sticking the $5s out of your billfold into a special fund, keeping your bottle return money. Every little bit adds up.
  • Everything old is new again. My daughter-in-law had a great idea with her ReMaryd Originals, making gorgeous new jewelry from old or broken pieces. Old doesn’t have to mean without value. Re-use. Re-purpose. Re-sell. Take your children’s or your own out grown clothes to a consignment shop or list unused items on EBay or Craig’s List. Try wearing something hanging in the back of your closet in a new way (personally I’m waiting for the return of shoulder pads!).
  • Render unto Caesar . . . Taxes happen. Make sure you pay estimated installments on your untaxed writing income. Make sure you take every tiny little deduction and write-off you’re entitled to. Check out my GETTING IT OUT THERE: PR and Social Media for Writers installment on “Budgeting Time & Money” for ways to reduce your tax burden and plan ahead.
  • The B Word. Budgeting isn’t a dirty word. It can help you manage and save your money, and find ways its trickling between your fingers. I’ve listed plenty of practical ways to get control of your spending in the aforementioned “Budgeting Time & Money.” Find a way that works for you . . . and stick to it in 2012!
  • Quality, not quantity. First impressions do mean everything. Always put the very best you can afford out there when getting publicity pictures, ordering promotional materials, writing a chapter. Spend on quality and you’ll get your money’s worth. Cheap doesn’t last whether you’re talking a pair of jeans, a computer, or a service so it ends up costing you more in the long run.
  • Moving on up. Forward momentum is hard to maintain in the writing profession. It seems like something is always holding you back or taking you down: your editor leaves, your line folds, your genre loses its appeal, your numbers take a nose dive. The only thing you can control are your choices, so make ones you can live with that are in your best interest. Learn to define ‘success’ in a new way. Consider the ‘long tail’ as well as the ‘quick buck.’ There’s nothing like continuing to get paid for something you’ve already done, royalty period after royalty period. Think about your backlist or those manuscripts that didn’t quite fit with traditional houses to either self-publish or go with a small or e-press. Green is green, no matter where you earn it when you’re doing what you love.
Money talks. Are you paying attention to what yours is saying? Hint: It isn’’t always “Spend me!”

Just for fun, here’s my financial soundtrack:

Make sure you check back with me next Monday when I deal with the “Healthy” portion of being Healthy, Wealthy & Wise.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Using Your Brain for Good, Not Evil!

Last week, I announced my 2012 mantra: 

Week Two is here and I’m more committed than ever to taking an active approach to changing/improving my life—and I’m going to drag you with me . . . kicking and screaming if I have to.

Instead of making Resolutions for the New Year (Read: sweeping generalizations that sound something like: 1) Lose 50 lbs, 2) Work out more, 3) Hit the NYT list, 4) Buy a condo), I’ve tossed out those huge, vague desires in favor of listing very specific steps I’m going to take to achieve control in three areas. I call this trifecta: Healthy, Wealthy & Wise. Because you have to think it to do it, I’m going to address this trio in reverse order, starting today with Wise.

When my oldest son, who is lucky enough to be blessed with my ADD/OCD, was in the Young Fives program at his elementary school, his first project was to color in the silhouette that had been traced around his body on a long sheet of paper so it could hang out in the hallway. After a day or two went by, his teacher pulled me aside, concerned because he wouldn’t work on his figure. That night, when I sat down with my son and asked him why he wasn’t doing his project, he got all teary and told me it was too big, that he’d never get it done. I thought about it for a minute then told him, “Don’t think about the whole thing. Start with one hand.”

While the entire shape was overwhelming, he agreed that one hand was doable. So with that goal in mind, the next day he colored in the right hand. Then the left. And the left hand is connected to the left arm . . . you get the picture, and so did he. By looking at the individual steps of the process instead of the finished product, he was able to compartmentalize his work into small, achievable sections that added up to what he’d viewed as an impossible accomplishment. BTW, he’s a darned good artist now!

As fate would have it, a wonderful blog on how the brain works was posted yesterday at Writers In the Storm. Check it out! It breaks down how our brain processes our reactions when presented with a specific stimuli or challenge. For example, when I look at my Resolution list above, those four goals are so general, my brain is immediately overwhelmed with sorting through so many ways to achieve them that it finally freezes up (just like your CPU/laptop processor when it’s trying to run a program that’s beyond its capabilities!). Instead of starting the New Year with positive strides toward my goals, I’ve set myself up for despair and failure (which in my case, leads to the kitchen). And the hoped for forward momentum is stalled, or sometimes even goes backward.

Start small and work up, piece by piece, until the whole is complete.

See, you’ve already learned something!

Since I want to start working smarter instead of harder, I’m applying that principal to my Healthy, Wealthy & Wise goals in 2012.

When we picked a speaker for our Mid-Michigan RWA chapter Retreat a few years ago, someone commented that she wasn’t going to attend because there was nothing that person could teach her. Oh pity that poor closed mind! Knowledge is found where you least expect it. Knowing how to look, and what to do with what you learn is half the battle.

Here are my smart goals for 2012:

  1. READ. I will set aside time every night to read material that’s outside my genre.
  2. LEARN. At least once a month I will take a class, watch a program or follow a blog topic on something I know nothing about that could improve or enlighten my world.
  3. GROW. I will step outside my professional comfort zone to embrace self-publishing as well as expansion through traditional venues.
  4. BUDGET. I will maintain my computer calendar and prioritize my schedule to fulfill my deadlines (And I won’t spend writing time on Social Media!).
  5. ORGANIZE. I will practice the 1 Minute Rule: If it takes less than a minute to deal with it, deal with it, don’t just put it aside.
  6. DECLUTTER. I will keep my work area free of “Oh shiny!” distractions i.e. bills, AAA cruise flyers, HGTV, hot guy DVDs, or clothes that need to be ironed.
  7. FOLLOW UP. I will respond immediately to personal and professional contacts/opportunities instead of losing them in e-mail or letting deadlines expire.
  8. EXERCISE. I will do something fun every day to give my mind a workout i.e. a round of Mahjong, a crossword or word search puzzle, or a Jeopardy challenge.
  9. CULTIVATE. I will find and maintain the support system that can help me achieve or expand my goals i.e. industry experts, PR contacts, inspirational or informational sites, and by engaging instead of observing in social settings.
  10. FOCUS. I will look ahead for opportunities instead back at disappointments. Learn, accept, adjust, move on.


The brain is a marvelous thing. But having one doesn’t automatically imply wisdom (nor, unfortunately, does wisdom miraculously arrive with age). It’s something you have to use or lose for it to continue to expand instead of stagnate. Give it specific, solvable tasks. Exercise it (which is why you don’t want to have a crossword puzzle book in your bathroom if I’m your guest!). Feed it with new experiences. And give it plenty of rest. I do some of my best plot problem solving after I go to bed and turn out the light.

That’s my Wise list of goals. What are some of yours? Remember, keep them small.

For more tips on how to manage and prioritize your time, check out my mini-read, Getting It Out There: Budgeting Time & Money through Wise Words Publishing. It’s filled with practical and proven ways to take control of that illusive clock.

Next week, for my All About Me Motivational Monday, I’m addressing Wealthy. Betcha a dollar you’ll be richer for it!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

WIP Wednesday: This Year’s Work In Progress . . . Me!

I’m not much for New Year’s resolutions. They last only as long as my ADD is interested in them—a week, one, maybe two month’s max. But, since I’m huge on self-motivation, I decided to forgo resolutions to pick a yearly mantra instead. Remember when you were in high school and you had to pick a ‘theme’ for your story? A mantra is a theme for your life, something to follow, to explore, to expand upon. And since life changes, so do mantras.

My 2011 mantra was “What’s in it for me?” On the surface, that sounds selfish but it’s meant to be self-centering (in a good way!). It was a year to discover what I truly wanted, what was important to me and how outside influences and events related to that question. We do a lot of things without thinking of reasons or consequence. “What’s in it for me?” helped me narrow down my focus to target my answers and responses. And I’ll continue to ask myself that defining question in 2012. But 2012 is a new year, filled (already!) with new experiences and challenges, and it needs a mantra big enough to confront them. So, what’s in it for me in 2012?

It took all of 5 seconds on Facebook on January 1 to discover words prophetic enough to guide me through the year:


Hmmm . . .

Technology and our daily lifestyle have made us observers rather than participants. Toys and books now do the playing and the reading for our kids. Devices and appliances now do the work we used to have to use our bodies and brains to accomplish (not like this is a BAD thing! I love to be spoiled and don’t always have time to shred all those carrots myself.) And what do we do with all our extra time we’ve saved? Change the channels. Life has become a spectator sport instead of the active event it’s meant to be. We just sit back contentedly and let life happen . . . and then complain because we feel unsatisfied or are confused because we’ve lost control and focus. I’m guilty of this myself. Just yesterday I was musing to my daughter-in-law/co-worker how nice it would be to only have to put in my 9-to-5 hours and go home to HGTV. No stresses, no deadlines, no projects, no worries. And it took about two seconds for the full effect of that to sink in . . . I’d go crazy within a week! I need to be challenged. I’m an inherent procrastinator so I need to be pushed. I need to do it for myself (except that getting off the couch to actually, physically change the channel thing).

For the follow three All About Me Mondays, I’ll be addressing this year’s mantra in three different areas that need my active attention. I call them Healthy, Wealthy and Wise. I hope you’ll take the journey with me.

A big “Thank you!” to Diane Burton who reminded me of my January motivational workshops. This year, I needed one!

What are some of the things YOU need to address more actively this year?