Dear Readers, Welcome Back!

Debby Zigenis-Lowery's Literate Lives; Dear Readers, Welcmome Back!

Dear Readers,

Welcome back! This has been still another new year and spring consumed by family health issues. I so appreciate your patience while I have been away.

During these weeks, I have thought about you and this blog a great deal, have numerous things I want to share, and look forward to resuming our reading/writing lifestyle together. I even woke, a couple of times, in the middle of the night and got up to write down what I was thinking about because I was thinking about you.

So how did my literate lifestyle fare during the weeks of this hiatus?

First of all, in spare moments, I enjoyed journaling and sometimes writing emails to family or friends. I downloaded some journaling prompts from my Pinterest Journaling board, and rotated through them, so each time I went to journal, my prompt was very different from the last.

I could tell things were beginning to turn for the better when finally, I did not fall into bed too tired to read. Reading before going to sleep has been my rhythm ever since I first learned to read, therefore resuming bedtime reading gave me hope our family was on its way back to normal.

Through these weeks, God has been so good both in our family’s situation and in my writing life. As he often does when my actual writing must move slowly, he’s sent all kind of ideas—for the novel I’m working on and other novels in my queue, so while I have not been actually writing fiction, I’ve been thinking a lot about my novels and jotting down scads of notes.

Your Turn:

How has your literate lifestyle fared during the time of this hiatus? What literate practices carry you through when your life gets stressful?

Please use the comment box to share. Let’s encourage one another!

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Keep Writing

Keep Writing (Or Reading) Debby Zigenis-Lowery's Literate LivesWinter, which felt like it was going to last forever, is coming to an end. Leaf buds are swelling and apple and cherry trees are blooming. So how’s your writing life going?

I know. Odd question. What does a writing life have to do with spring?

For me, the constant lover of fresh starts, it represents renewal.

Renewal and the Writing Life

There are so many things in life that can derail the best of writing plans, but the good news is, they do not have to stay derailed.

A blog post I read this week has really renewed my writerly determination and positive outlook.

12 Tips for the Best Writing Life Ever

On The Write Conversation with Edie Melson, Melson listed 12 lifestyle tips for a successful writing life. Tips 1, 3, and 12 really resonated for me.

  • 1. Writing is a mind game—and our minds play tricks on us.
  • 3.  Take care of yourself physically.
  • 12. Keep writing no matter what.

The dreary days of winter are always a mind-challenge for me. Furthermore, this has been a year of health issues as well, and when ill or tired I find it a challenge to both work on my writing and maintain the proper mindset to work on my writing. Melson is right. Taking care of your mind and body is key to producing solid work. My default tends to be to neglect myself, however I recognize the wisdom of her words and will strive to take care of my body and mind in the months to come.

I found her final tip, though one I’ve encountered and valued in the past, even more inspiring. Keep going. Keep writing.

Here, I must extend my appreciation to you, my readers. Knowing I have built a relationship with you and have a responsibility to you has been a great spur to keep writing, at the very least, these weekly blog posts.

My love and gratitude goes out to my critique group as well. I once quipped, “Anyone can bring one page.” Since then, I do not dare show up without something to read. (I will be eternally grateful to them for many more reasons than this, but that is a topic for another post.)

Keep writing. Keep going. This will be one of my themes for this season in my life.

Renewed Commitment

Therefore, I commit to keep writing here, to you.

In addition, I will finish the revisions on The Swallow’s Spring, my novel that is 98% done already and then launch into the next phase of this novel’s life—the great agent quest!

Then I will move on to a number of other projects I’ve got waiting in my queue. It is very exciting to think of the work that awaits me.

Your Turn

How will you renew your writing life this spring?

Please share your plans in the comment box below. Let’s inspire each other!

 

 

I Love My New Planner!

I Love My New Planner, Debby Zigenis-Lowery's Literate LivesOne of the side benefits of becoming a teacher was developing the practice of using a plan book. I remember feeling like there were so many tasks, big and little to remember, that I had to write them down in order to be prepared for each day of teaching and learning.

A few years ago, feeling like I just wasn’t accomplishing anything on a daily basis, I remembered my lesson plan book and decided to use the same approach in my home life. I loved it! It worked! I’d record what needed to get done each day and check each item off as I did it. At the end of the day, I could see that I actually did get quite a bit done, even if it was two dozen tiny chores. I was hooked.

The Great Planner Hunt

Up until this year, I have always used a spiral bound planner. Each December I would look all over town for the perfect planner and agonize over how pretty or colorful it was or was not.

This year, tired of the last-minute search, I started looking in the fall. There were very limited numbers of spiral bound binders available, and none were very pretty. However, there were oodles of those removable/re-arangable-page-planners. They were colorful. They were pretty. But…they had flimsy laminated covers. I like the solid feel of a hardcover spiral planner.

So I looked and I looked and I looked. I could not find a planner I liked in a style I liked. Finally in December, I surrendered. I bought one of those new-fangled, laminated cover planners.

It was pretty, but I did not even look at it again until January.

Now, I love it.

It was originally an 18 month planner, starting in the summer of 2017. So, I was able to pull out the July – December pages and insert them, and their dividers, in the back of the planner as resources.

As a planner, this new planner is as fully functional as my old style planner.

But those re-arangeable bonus dividers and pages? I am in love.

My Bonus Sections

I have four sections in the back of my planner–Routines, Lists, Cooking, How-Tos. Using techniques picked up reading about bullet journaling (such as establishing a table of contents) here’s how I’ve filled my pages so far.

Routines

The routines section contains notes for how I want to set up my planner, a template for teaching days, a template for weekends, a template for vacation days and holidays, and a schedule for medications and supplements.

For example, on days I do not work, here is how I like to start out:

  • Read my daily section of the Bible
  • Pray
  • Read some of the Blogs I follow
  • Clean up the kitchen
  • Get dressed and put away clothes
  • Check my phone
  • Clear my email inbox

Lists

I like making lists. The act of doing so helps me to remember things that are important to me. I have lots of lists:

  • Favorite exercises and stretches
  • Things I want to make (both practical and crafts)
  • Things I want to learn (both just for fun or for personal/professional development)
  • Personal pleasures: things to do for fun and relaxation
  • Asthma home improvement to-do list
  • Ideas for Family dinners (my kids are grown and out on their own, and I want to come up with some fun ways for us to get together regularly)
  • Chore lists: including an order of rotation so that over time, everything routine gets covered.
  • Writing project lists and priorities
  • Blog ideas and to-do lists
  • Home improvement projects
  • Once-in-a-blue-moon chores
  • Projects, big or small, that once I do them, do not need to be repeated
  • What I am learning about managing my asthma

Cooking

  • Recipes my husband likes
  • Baking (snacks and desserts) my husband likes
  • Side dishes my husband likes
  • Mixes to make

I focus on my husband here because I already and always know what I like. When it’s my turn in the kitchen, I want to be as considerate of my husband as he is of me.

How Tos

  • How to embed a pin in a blog post
  • How to embed a Facebook post in a blog post

As I learn new things I expect this section to grow.

And More…

I have two more dividers left and multiple unused pages. The possibilities are open before me. I love it!

Your Turn

Do you use a planner or some other form of organizer? Use the comment space below to tell us about it. Let’s inspire and encourage each other!

How to Nurture a Literate Lifestyle in a Crazy, Non-stop World

How to Nurture a Literate Lifestyle in a Crazy, Non-stop World: Debby Zigenis-Lowerys Literate LivesAs someone whose famous last words as a child were, “Just let me finish this chapter!” and who discovered at an early age that I think best with a pen in my hand, the crazy, joyous, busy holiday season, while wonderful, is also a severe challenge to my quiet spirit, and no more so than this year, when I came down with a cold the Monday before Thanksgiving and never quite got over it until nearly Christmas Eve.

Here are a number of literate practices that helped me to manage my stress and keep my eyes on the blessings and special joys of the season:

  • write emails, letters, and texts
  • make lists
  • doodle meaningful vocabulary
  • read blog posts
  • read seasonal books
  • engage in devotional/inspirational reading
  • collect quotes
  • braindrain to collect memories

Write Emails, Letters, and Texts

As with most families, the holiday season, like any other time of year, came with both its trials and joys. I relied on emails and letters to support an uncommunicative relative who was going through a difficult time.

Also, due to how hectic the days felt, if I needed to contact someone, I relied on emails and texting whenever possible, thus avoiding long drawn out phone conversations.

How can you apply this to any busy or stressful season? Prioritize your time by using the most efficient means of contacting people, and save phone conversations for meaningful interactions.

Make Lists

When you work full-time, are a wife, mother, grandmother, daughter, friend, blogger, and writer, you have a lot of relationships and responsibilities to juggle. This December, I did not rely on my memory. I made lists for what I wanted to accomplish each day, lists for baking plans for the season, multiple lists for the grands’ Christmas craft party, not to mention shopping and gift lists, and lists for our family’s Christmas Eve gathering. I was able to do, complete, and  provide everything that mattered most to me.

How can you apply this to any busy or stressful season? When things matter to you and there’s a lot going on in your life, commit them to lists so they do not get forgotten, you can track your progress, and you will not be disappointed when you discover it’s too late to do that thing you were looking forward to.

Doodle Meaningful Vocabulary

I love Sybil Macbeth’s Praying in Color book and website. This year she posted an article on honoring Advent, the season before Christmas, by doodling an Advent themed word each day. She had a list of words I started with, then I brainstormed some more of my own. While I did not do this every day of Advent, I found when I did practice this, using a 3″x 5″ card, I experienced a sense of stillness, calm, and deep meaning in the present moment (which served as a great stress-buster as well).

How can you apply this to any busy or stressful season? When you are very, very busy and don’t have time to journal or write, choose a word, or brainstorm a list of words that make this time meaningful to you, then pick one to doodle for five or ten minutes. It’s very refreshing. (P.S. You don’t have to be an artist to do this. Note I used the word doodle. Anyone who can hold a writing utensil can doodle.)

Read Blog Posts

Often functioning in a state of overwhelm or exhaustion, I did not have the energy to sustain the attention necessary for my favorite form of reading, the novel. So, I read a lot of blog posts–much shorter, more easily digested–and thus kept my reading-loving brain satisfied.

How can you apply this to any busy or stressful season? What types of short works do you like to read? Switch to “shorts” during challenging times–short stories, poetry, essays, magazines, blogs… There is much to be gleaned from short, tight writing that can be satisfying to the spirit.

Read Seasonal Books

I love to read Christmas novels and novellas in December. So when I had the leisure and energy, I indulged. The stories were lighter fare than my usual reading rotation, which helped with my lack of energy and time, and they helped remind me of what I love about the Holiday season.

How can you apply this to any busy or stressful season? Read something seasonal, whether it’s a romance novella for February, a beach read for summer, or a cozy mystery for fall, to remind yourself to savor the season you are in.

Engage in Devotional/Inspirational Reading

For me, Christmas is meaningless without Christ. Fortunately, there is a whole Christian marketplace full of devotional books with short daily readings. I chose one and tried to read faithfully each day. (However, I did not beat myself up when I missed a day, rather I looked on that missed reading as a short bonus pleasure I could slip in on another day.)

How can you apply this to any busy or stressful season? You don’t have to be a Christian to enjoy inspirational reading. There are so many themed books of readings in the marketplace. Topics include: seasonal thoughts, collections excerpting a particular writer or group of writer’s work, themed collections of daily thoughts, and of course, publications from your own philosophical tradition. These kinds of readings can remind you of what you love, what you value, and what you want to focus your attention on.

Collect Quotes

I love words; I love quotes. A short quotation can be so meaningful, comforting, and inspiring. So, whenever I found a quote that “spoke” to me, I either cut and pasted it into an email to myself or jotted it down for my collection.

How can you apply this to any busy or stressful season? When you hear or read something that makes you stop to think or appreciate, collect it. It doesn’t take long, but to your inner reader will find it most satisfying.

Use a Braindrain to Collect Memories

I keep a journal, but during times like this past holiday season, I do not have time to sit down and write in it in a leisurely manner. Christmas Eve, my husband and I had such a wonderful time with our kids and grands, and fell into bed exhausted, with a travel day planned the next morning to see my parents and brother. But I so wanted to remember all the highlights of our own Christmas party. So, that morning, while I drank my coffee, I did a braindrain of all the special memories. I didn’t worry about, spelling, grammar, or complete sentences. I didn’t worry about putting everything in the right order. I just jotted each delightful memory down so it could be savored latter. And I thoroughly enjoyed the process.

How can you apply this to any busy or stressful season? Sometimes our minds are so full and we long for time to just sit down, pen in hand, and reflect on it all, but there are no big enough chunks of time in which to do so. In such situations, a braindrain can be most satisfying.

Your Turn

Thanks to these strategies, I enjoyed a peaceful, meaningful, joyous holiday season.

How do you nurture your literate spirit when times get tough? Please use the comment box to share a strategy that you love or have found particularly effective. Thanks for you willingness to nurture our literate lives.

Wonderful Words: Work-Life Balance

Reading Writer’s in the Storm this morning, I came upon this quote:

Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling five balls in the air. You name them – workfamilyhealthfriends, and spirit – and you’re keeping all of these in the air. You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back.

But the other four balls – family, health, friends, and spirit – are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged, or even shattered. They will never be the same.

You must understand that and strive for balance in your life.

~ Brian Dyson, CEO of Coca-Cola Enterprises

As the daughter of a work-a-holic, who is as driven as the beloved father who bore the trait before her, I have always struggled with work-life-writing balance, the most recent bout culminating in my physical collapse this spring.

In theory, this summer is (according to me) supposed to be about resting, recuperating, and enjoying my relationships with children, grandchildren, parents, and friends. I remind myself over and over again that there are no goals, writing or otherwise, that need to be accomplished this summer.

And yet, my mind lives in both the actual, physical world and the literary worlds of my reading/writing lifestyle. There are writing projects I want to finish even though I keep telling myself I don’t have to be done before September 1. These include building databases–of markets, agents, and editors, and revising a novel that has been a life’s work. And I yearn to finish before school starts (but honestly will not be able to) in spite of the constant reminder, “Debby, you don’t need to finish anything before September.”

And so, this quote is a good reminder. What I came out of my weeks of illness feeling was a determination to make more time for my loved ones, and a yearning for more time for my writing. I confess, God forgive me, I am too often motivated by the second, rather than the first.

And so I’ll sign off. My granddaughter has a music camp concert tonight, and then I have a writer’s group meeting. I want to be ready to enjoy both!

Your Turn

What new priorities have you been trying to introduce to your life? Do you, perhaps, have some good ideas to help me stick to mine? I would welcome your advice. Please chime in using the comment space below.

 

What’s Your Mission (Statement)?

Mission StatementYears ago, one of the workshops I attended at a writing conference was on the topic of crafting a mission statement. The premise was, with a mission statement, a writer can be more focussed and effective. The instructor was a retired businessman, and he prefaced the hands-on part of the workshop by discussing how businesses and organizations use mission statements to help themselves function more effectively. And he sold me on the idea that any person, any lifestyle can benefit from a mission statement.

I have since served as part of a team crafting a mission statement for a nonprofit organization, and I loved teaching my students how to write a mission statement for where they were in their lives. It’s a different form of writing from the compare and contrast or analytical essay, and for most of them, probably a much more practical skill for life.

Why a Mission Statement Now?

As those of you who follow this blog know, I have been ill for a solid month–lie down and don’t do much of anything ill. As mentioned in my previous post (view Got a Lot on Your Mind? Braindrain! here) I’ve learned some things from this experience and want to apply them to my life. Thus, I have written a new mission statement.

My Mission Statement

My mission is to:

  1. teach and nurture literacy
  2. celebrate creativity, imagination, awe, and wonder
  3. serves as a faithful ambassador of Jesus Christ.

How I Am Implementing or Will Implement this Mission in My Life

Here are some of the ways I plan to “fulfill my mission.” To teach and nurture literacy I will:

  • continue my work as a writing teacher
  • continue reaching out and encouraging others in building a literate lifestyle through this blog
  • nurture a love of reading and writing in my grandchildren
  • joyfully serve as my husband’s personal librarian (I love that he lets me/counts on me to do this for him!)

To celebrate creativity, imagination, awe, and wonder, I will:

  • again continue reaching out and encouraging others through this blog
  • read
  • write fiction and poetry
  • participate in my writers’ groups
  • serve in the writing organizations to which I belong.

To serve as a faithful ambassador of Jesus Christ I will:

  • continue my work as a writing teacher
  • continue reaching out and encouraging others through this blog
  • continue to write fiction and poetry
  • read the Bible as close to daily as I can get (I confess I am not a get up before the sun and do it before anything else kind of woman. I’m pretty groggy in the early part of my day. I can learn and absorb more if I get a chance to wake up a bit)
  • participate within my church family
  • love the people I have been blessed with in my life–my husband, children, grandchildren, parents (I am so blessed they are still alive), friends, colleagues
  • strive to love my neighbor (and remember all humanity is my neighbor) as I love myself

What Stays and What Goes?

Having established this understanding with myself, I am now better equipped to evaluate  opportunities that come my way and make wise choices that will serve my mission and prevent burn-out.

Your Turn

Use the comment box below to share what you would put on your mission statement.