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.

 

Got a Lot on Your Mind? Braindrain!

Got a Lot on Your Mind? Braindrain!

Do you have a lot on your mind? Doing a braindrain can be a great exercise to help you capture all the issues and ideas so that you can deal with them in a rational manner.

What’s a Braindrain?

A braindrain is like a brainstorm, only instead of trying to come up with as many ideas as you can that relate to a focused topic, your objective is to spill out all the busy-ness in your head onto paper. It’s a useful way to get an overview of the big picture.

Funnel Cloud

My Braindrain

I have been on medical leave for almost a month now. I’ve had lots of doctor appointments and email conversations. I’ve researched topics related to asthma and better self-care. I’ve had to do a lot of resting. And I’ve learned a lot of things I don’t want to forget. So, today I did a braindrain. You can type one on your computer or phone, write it in your journal, or just spill it out on a big piece of paper.

Here’s a sampling from mine:

  • If I use my emergency inhaler more than 2x per week, I need to call my allergist.
  • I like my job and miss my colleagues.
  • I enjoy seeing my friends’ and family’s facebook posts.
  • I enjoy writing to Mom.
  • Humidity is one of my big asthma triggers.
  • I’ve found some great new blogs to follow.
  • I love reading my Bible daily.
  • I need to add more fruits and veggies into my diet especially carotenoids and leafy greens.
  • I have learned how to use my planner more effectively.
  • It is good to sit still.
  • Dark chocolate is still good for me.
  • I need to be a more faithful vacuumer and duster for my health’s sake.
  • I can always remind myself my life is in God’s hands; God loves me; God is good; and God is in control. I have nothing to fear.

As you can see, I let the ideas come in random order, although thinking of one thing sometimes reminded me of other related topics.

writing-pen

What Will I Do With My Braindrain?

When I look over my list, I see there are things I need to remember for when I get sick. I’ll gather these on an index card and put it on my bulletin board.

There were more healthy eating suggestions on the list than I included on your abbreviated version. I want to make another index card with an “Eat These!” list on one side and a “Limit These!” list on the other to keep in my wallet. I will also make an index card for each and put them on my fridge.

I tend to over-embrace the Puritan work ethic, and I tend to get stressed. I’m going to make another list, on a blank page in my planner, of things I enjoy doing that are restful and relaxing.  Then, I’m going to try to remember to look at it when I feel stressed.

I have also created a new daily item for my planner: Calming Activity.

The Braindrain: Another Great Benefit of a Literate Lifestyle

I am a person who thinks best with a pen in my hand. I love using the braindrain exercise  to capture or quiet what’s on my mind. It feels really good to get everything recorded in one place.

Your Turn

Please use the comment box below to share your own tips for coping with having a lot on your mind. Or share a braindrain of your own. I’d love to hear from you!

Whilst I Lie Here Sick–My Life on Pinterest

Asthma! Grrr!

I am now on week 4 of lying about the house in an effort to recover from an “asthma exacerbation” brought about by high humidity and a respiratory virus. Basically I’ve been living at levels 1, 2, and 3 on the “Pain Scale” I adapted from the Samn-Perelli 7pt. Fatigue Scale.

Fatigue-Scale

Too Tired to Read! Don’t Want to Watch T.V.!

While being in the state of “Extremely tired, very difficult to concentrate,” let alone move around and do the simplest of chore,  yet highly susceptible to boredom, what have I been doing? Pinning. It is my favorite “brain-dead” activity. All I have to move are my fingers and my eyes, and as someone who loves visual imagery that is pleasure enough.

debby-zigenis-lowery-pinterest-illustration-row

What Have I Done on My Pinterest Boards!

Follow the links if you would like to check out any examples.

debby-zigenis-lowery-pinterest-thing-of-beauty-row

Why I Love Pinterest:

As I already said, I am a very, visually oriented person, and so I love feasting my eyes on the beautiful images.

Better yet, Pinterest is eliminating my need for additional file cabinet space. No more clipping and filing writing information, historical references, recipes, and teaching, craft, and holiday ideas.

As a fiction writer, it has provided a quick and easy way to save other types of inspiration like art and photos for settings and characters.

And, it’s just a great place to collect things I love, all without having to take up physical space collecting them!

I think it has saved my sanity in these long boring days when even journaling felt like too much. Pop in on any of the links and take a peek. (Oh, and feel free to pin whatever you want; my boards are about sharing.)

Your Turn

Are you a pinner? Leave a link to your pinboards in the comment box. I would love to check them out!

debby-zigenis-lowery-pinterest-literate-lives-row

Write Your Life: A Metaphor for Being

Write Your LifeWriting is a great way capture, reflect on, and enrich your life. It is even good for your health. And, as someone who has health issues, that is good news.

Write About Your Life

I write about my life for a variety of reasons, to celebrate, to mourn, to dream, to plan, to understand, to pray. Sometimes I do so intentionally, sometimes the words begin to spool out in my mind and I memorize like crazy until I can get my hands on paper and pencil or pen.

A Metaphor for BeingA Metaphor* for Being

Last week I returned to work after being ill for 13 days. I was not well, but I was out of sick leave and I wasn’t contagious. I am a high school writing coach and work one-on-one with students, and I figured, even running a little slow, I could do more for my students than could my sub. So, I went to work last Thursday.

My energy levels were at about .01 on a 0-1,000,000 scale, yet as I moved about the classroom, I felt an urgent need to go faster, even if it made my head ache, even if it made me more tired. My colleagues told me to slow down. I told me to slow down. I just couldn’t seem to do it.

Then, as I was attempting to poke my way along the long hallway, it came to me, “Move like fog.” And in the next instant, my mind took it further yet, saying, “You are fog.” I envisioned how fog slowly rolled in across the San Francisco Bay of my childhood. My pace slowed, my mind stilled, and I moved with the speed appropriate to me physical state! (I even, later that day, was inspired to write a poem about the experience.)

A Metaphor for the Moment

Whether you are struggling to do something or eagerly pursuing a goal, you can craft a metaphor to shape your frame of mind. Then repeat it to yourself when you feel the need for reinforcement.

Your Turn

Please use the comment space below to share a metaphor that would be useful to you today, in your life.

*A metaphor is a comparison that does not use like or said. It simply states the one thing is another.

golden-gate-bridge-573643

 

Pen Pals and Reading Buddies: Literate Lives 2017

pen-pals-reading-buddiesStarting a Blog is like Starting a Pen Pal Friendship…

That is how I began my second post here at Literate Lives.

As I was doing my blog-housekeeping last week, I was captivated by this post. “Yes,” I thought, ” Now art thou Romeo!” (translation: now you are acting like yourself! See Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet Act 2 Scene 4.) Therefore, as with my previous post, I wanted to start a new year with some excerpts and additions:

Pen Pals & Reading Buddies

I have decided starting a blog is like starting a pen pal friendship. You begin by explaining to each other who you are, and as your individual identities become established, you begin to write about ideas and events in your lives and the common interests you share.

So, who is this person (me, Debby Zigenis-Lowery) who is trying to reach out to readers, writers, parents, teachers, and anyone else who loves reading or writing?

I have been (and-oftentimes-still-am) a child, as well as a wife, mom, writer,  student, preschool teacher, librarian, and middle and high school English/Language Arts teacher. And through it all, I have always been a reader.

Books were the first things I ever chose to collect. They have been my friends, guides, encouragers, windows to other worlds, and companions in scary, sad,  and lonely times. I love books–the look of them, the feel of them, their typefaces, cover illustrations, page and line art. And I love the materials that go into making them—pencils, pens, paper—so many wonderful kinds!—computers, word processing software, fonts, dictionaries, reference books, 3×5 index cards, notebooks, and any slip of paper on which I can scribble a new idea.

What do I read? I am a fantasy loving Christian. I love fantasy stories intended for all kinds of readers– children, young adults, and actual adults. Other favorite genres include historical fiction and historical mysteries. (I love the Middle Ages!)

As you may have noticed, I included children’s and young adult fiction in my fantasy favorites. Why? Because I grew up loving fairy tales, and eventually found C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Lloyd Alexander. I now not only read fantasy fiction, I write it. I have had retold folktales, published in Cricket magazine, have written Set in Stone, a middle grade novel and The Swallow’s Spring, a coming of age novel (and am now seeking publishing homes for both of them), and am working on a new middle grade novel and a YA.

I am a teacher, member of SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) and two critique groups. In addition I am a member of SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) and serve as the Pal Communicator for our Oregon region’s Ad-Com committee.

I am so looking forward to making new friends, as well as enjoying those I’ve long cherished, in the months ahead. So tell me about your reading, writing, and teaching interests. Who are your favorite authors? Your favorite genres? I hope Literate Lives will be a place you can come to enjoy, interact, and share.

Literate Lives 2017

Litlives PurposeWelcome to Literate Lives 2017!

In the week between Christmas and New Year, I have been doing some much-needed housecleaning here on the blog, and ended up reading a lot of old posts. The process charged me with excitement for this next year together, and instead of making you new promises, I want to touch back to my original intentions here at Literate Lives. So here is a blast to the past: excerpts from (and a few additions to) my very first post, June 6, 2010.

Literate Lives: The Vision

The concept of a blog is interesting. It is a challenge to be both personal and useful-to others. This is my second version (now my third actually) of my first blog post here in “Literate Lives.”

In the first version of this post, I eagerly shared who I am and the things I love, believing if readers and I share some common passions, you might come back to read more. And I do want you to come back for more. I love reading, writing, and teaching, and I want to contribute to the reading, writing, teaching community in a positive way.

However, having completed that first post, I was aghast to discover it was all about me! Me, me, me—as if I were some kind of navel-gazing egomaniac who has nothing to offer save my own glorious vision of myself. (Definitely NOT my intention.)

While a revised “version one” will likely soon appear as a post (because I do feel, if you and I are to become friends and colleagues in pursuit of a literate lifestyle, I must be willing to share who I am). What I want to say here, however, is that I hope “Literate Lives” will be a “place” to which you can come, a quiet corner where you can think about reading and books, writing, and creativity. I hope it will be a “place” where you can share your love for these things with a like-minded community and glean from the blog posts, comments, “Play with Your Words” writing prompts, and reading response exercises treasures to enrich your own literate lifestyle and that of your students or family.

Wonder, Poetry…a Creative Life

Wonderologywonder-poetry

This morning, I read “Wonderology: The Pursuit of Wonder,” by Emily Morgan, on my favorite blog: This Incandescent Life. (It is the third post in a series about wonder that starts with “The Purpose of Wonder.”)

At the end of the post, Morgan asks: “What fears did you have to overcome in order to pursue wonder?”

I responded:

I’m not so sure it is fear that interferes with my pursuit of wonder, but pettiness, the niggling details of day-to-day living. To encounter wonder, I need to look up, look beyond myself, let go of the battle of “this needs to be done, and this needs to be done, and…”
Hmmm.

The Creative Self

Later today (Did I mention that I’ve been sick for the last five days?), I read a post on Psychology Today, The Creative Self,” by Hara Estroff Marano. In it, Marano includes tips for nurturing and developing creativity. They include such ideas as:

  • “Searching for Beauty:” Marano says beauty “seizes” our “attention,” and engages the “intensity of” our “feelings.” Morgan also shares her thoughts on beauty in this post.
  • “Communicating: …Creativity fundamentally involves expressive power”
  • “Finding poetry in the everyday:” by developing “the power to see the ordinary as poetic.”

Flint & Steel

When I read The Creative Self in reference to Wonderology…, I realized not only do I need to permit myself to experience wonder, but I need to be open and observant enough to find it in my daily life.

Now, the other side of my brain takes over and says, “We need a plan.”

A Plan for Wonder? Yes

Oh, drat! How am I supposed to tether wonder to anything as mundane and restrictive as a plan?

Yet, if I don’t plan to “look up” routinely, how will I make a practice of seeing wonder in an average day?

When Marano said to “Find the poetry in the everyday…” Did she mean we need to write a poem every day?

No, of course not. However, I recall at one point last summer I had decided I needed to start a gratitude journal when the new school year started. Why? To keep me from sinking under the weight of routine and the dark of winter. I even selected a journal,…but I never did it.

Okay. So maybe this is a wake up call. Shall I start that journal and give it some guidelines?

“Yes, Miss Debby.” The always agreeable pupils who exist only in my mind nod their heads. “We cannot do our assignment unless you provide us some criteria.”

In addition, “The Creative Self” also stated that “limits yield intensity,” and went on to explain that “unrestrained freedom is a myth, and it’s not productive.”

How might I limit myself? For starters, I’ll write three responses per day. That seems do-able (and there’s always that fairytale magic about threes).

Three responses to what?

What matters to me? God, family, friends, my novels, reading, writing, the beauty of people and the natural world… I could go on, but I’m ready to move on.

How shall I craft these loves into creative guidelines for my gratitude journal?

I will call it my Day Book. In it, I will record (at least 5 times per week?) 3 things I am grateful for.

  • One entry must document how I see God working in the world, my family, or my life
  • One entry must celebrate the loved ones who bless my life
  • And the final entry must reflect the wonder that I believe is daily before me if I’d just lift up my head and open my eyes.

For instance, today:

  • I am grateful for the way God uses times of illness to reset my thinking.
  • I am grateful that my husband is going out of his way to turn in my Samaritan’s Purse Christmas shoebox for me because I’m sick and it’s due today.
  • I am grateful for the golden glow of early sunlight I experienced when I woke up at 7:something; before I fell back asleep for another glorious four hours.

Can I do this on a 5 day/week basis? We do gratitude leaves on the windows at school five days per week. Yes, I think 5 is a worthy goal, but I pledge not to beat myself up if I fall under.

Accountability? In my journal I wrote, “I think I’ll blog this.” Now I have. In January, after we have passed beyond the darkest days of the year, I will report. (I even logged it into my planner!)

How About You?

Anyone want to join me in a commitment to pursue wonder?
How might your criteria differ from mine?
I’d love to see your ideas. Just respond in the comment box!

Update:

Crazy, I know, but I just had to add one, little modification: While I only need to select three items a day, I want to add just one more category to select from–Little Things. For example, hot,running water. The kinds of things we take for granted unless we think about them.

Yes, that’s better. Have a great day!