Bit By Bit

Bit by bit, I’m trying to pull myself back into confidence and motivation. I’m trying to push down any doubt and anxiety and do things. So far I’ve written down several big projects and set deadlines for them, with one big overall deadline of the beginning of the school year. Why then? Because I’m hoping to start grad school, and I’ll need the time after that to focus on school work.

I’ve created deadlines at the beginning of each month, from May 1 through September 1 (with the note that the September 1 deadline is actually when school starts, since I don’t know the exact start date — though it will likely be at the end of August). I have deadlines for business projects and deadlines for cleaning projects, and, yes, they overlap. But that’s simply because some of my “free time” is more conducive to one project than another (especially when I take energy levels into consideration).

The first deadline is, of course May 1, and it is quickly approaching. What’s on the list? For business-type projects, I am finally finishing up the A Life You Want website. I’ve even announced on the site that it will be launching on May 1, to hold me accountable (not that many, if any, people visit the site, but still…). A Life You Want has remained on my to do list, partly because I have a book out there that coordinates with it, and partly because I think it’s important and has potential to help people. But I want to see it DONE! While I do plan on posting on the blog moving forward, the overall site will remain mostly static, so it will not require much work once it’s up and running. So that will be a big relief once it’s finally completed. For cleaning projects, I am finishing up my kitchen (the big stuff — I realize that dishes never completely get finished, and I will have to keep up with regular maintenance), and I am deep-cleaning my bathrooms.

Other deadlines are as follows:

  • June 1: Apply for grad school (the deadline for the fall semester is June 1), and clean the library and playroom. I also have Usborne Books & More paperwork to take care of.
  • July 1: Get Children’s Reading World up and running (I’ve made a list of what this entails), and clean the living room (if you saw the state of my living room, you would understand why this gets its own month!).
  • August 1: Update Creative Endeavors inventory and web presence, and clean/create the basement playroom.
  • September 1: Clean the rest of the basement

Of course there are other important tasks that need to be handled along the way, like potty training Emily and figuring out her preschool, signing up both kids for summer camp, tackling the yard, assorted Usborne Books & More tasks, and more, plus miscellaneous to do items. I’ll definitely be busy over the next few months!

Now you may be saying to yourself: “this sounds like more planning, not more doing. Where’s the action?” Well, I have been taking action, as well. I have finished typing up the original blog posts for A Life You Want, and typed up a couple of the articles I have written for it, as well. I have worked a bit on the kitchen. I have looked into financial aid for grad school. And I have called a potential school for Emily and gotten an application. And, though they’re not on the deadline list, I have two vendor events scheduled this week for Usborne Books & More: one today, and one on Friday evening (and I’m hoping Friday’s event will lead to bigger things, but we’ll have to see). It may not be as much as I would like, but it’s a start. And if I can keep going this week, I know I can make serious progress. With determination, I know I can even reach my deadline goal. And isn’t that the point? I work well with a deadline. So having one should help, right?

Along the way, I’ve already felt the pull to do the tasks that are later on my deadline calendar. And I knew that would be the hardest part. I want to do everything and get it done NOW! But that wasn’t working, and it’s not practical. So I’m using whatever willpower I have left to discipline myself and keep myself on track. With a little luck and determination I’ll be checking stuff off before I know it!

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Overcoming Fear

When I was younger, I had no problem jumping into new endeavors. Starting my own business, self-publishing a bunch of books, tackling any idea that came my way. Somewhere along the way I became scared, or hesitant, or reluctant to keep up that attitude. I’ve discussed this before. Maybe the long stream of failures made me gun-shy, or I’m simply older and wiser now, and more inclined to realize the possibly negative repercussions of my actions – especially since kids are now involved. Or maybe life has just gotten busier, and my confidence fell by the wayside. Whatever the reason, I find this change in attitude is taking its toll. Suddenly it’s as if I’m too scared to take real action on anything.

Nothing is more frustrating than have things I need to do — things I want to do — and feeling like I’m not making any progress in any of them. I finally know what course I want my life to take: what I want to do professionally and with my kids and in my home. And yet I’m stuck getting nowhere.

I can make excuses: I’m too tired, too overwhelmed. I don’t have time. There are more pressing things that need to be handled. Yet somehow I find time to check social media and e-mail a million times a day. I have the time and energy to plan and tweak and make lists. So what’s really holding me back? Is it fear? What can I do about it?

I think there are a few issues here that I need to address:

  • Fear of failure — and of success. What if I fall on my face again, this time with what I believe is my “purpose”? What if I succeed — and discover this is not what I want to do, or that it’s more than I bargained for?
  • Uncertainty of priorities. Obviously my kids come first, yet there are so many other things that I want and have to do that I’m not sure what to tackle first, which leads to my getting nowhere, doing a little of this and a little of that until I’m just frustrated that nothing’s getting completed. But what do I do first?
  • Staying healthy, and addressing personal needs. Often the times I have available to tackle my projects are when I’m most tired: early morning or evenings, when the kids are in bed. At that point all I want to do is relax. But where do I draw the line? Is it just a question of determining how important the tasks are? Or of finding a balance?

As with everything, my way to figure out the answers is to think about them. As a problem-solving introvert with a knack for looking at all sides of an issue, I can often evaluate the problem in my mind and process what will be the best course of action. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

Game plan:

  • Limit my social media and other screen time. Have scheduled times when I can check Facebook and e-mail, and stick to it.
  • Push myself to stick to my planner. I’ve worked hard to create a daily and weekly schedule that fits my needs and wants. And yet I keep deviating from it. That has to stop, at least most of the time.
  • Set deadlines. Look at my many projects and determine when I would realistically like (or need) to have them done (ASAP is not an option!). Then, prioritize based on urgency and tackle them, one by one (or two by two, depending on the projects and time availability).
  • Fake it ’til I make it! In the beginning, especially, it will be difficult to have the confidence and motivation. I think (I hope!) this will change with time.

Once I get back into the habit of getting things done, and I start seeing progress being made, I think I will feel better. At least that’s what I’m hoping! I hope that getting closer to my goals will keep me going. I’m tired of being stuck

The fear and uncertainty are still there, and they likely will be for a while. But if I can prove to myself that success is an option, perhaps they will fade away. If I can show myself that I really can reach my goals and get where I want to be, then perhaps I will once again be confident, motivated, and happy. What have I got to lose?

Brain Dump

This week was definitely different than last week! And not really in a good way. I believe I mentioned last week that I had to focus more on family this week, and that happened…for better or worse.

To start, on Monday evening Kevin and I finally told the kids about the divorce. It went about as expected: Emily didn’t really understand, Avery cried and yelled for a while. Once the initial burst of emotion passed, however, Avery was OK. And, while I’m sure he’s still processing it, he seems to be dealing pretty well. And his behavior, surprisingly, hasn’t gotten more out of control as I feared it might — though of course this may change down the line once it really hits him! He actually had a couple days of good behavior at school. I suppose the best I can do is be there for him if he needs to talk, and make sure he knows how very much I love him — and hope the good school behavior continues!

But that is actually not the biggest thing that happened this week. On Wednesday, after battling cancer and other health issues, my grandmother passed away. Though of course we are all saddened by her passing, she had been sick for quite some time, and it was expected. And, in many ways, it is actually a relief. The past couple of years had been a struggle, both for her and my mom, dealing with doctors’ appointments and treatments and hospital visits, and never knowing what the next day would bring. She hadn’t really been living for a while. But, still, something so final can be heartbreaking, and it will be difficult as we go through her stuff and get used to not having her in our lives.

Amidst these family dramas — and actually for a while now — my brain was ready to burst. I have been feeling like I have so much stuff crammed in my noggin that I can barely function. And that overwhelming feeling is not fun! It’s hard to get anywhere; it takes so much energy just to tread water. So I decided what I needed was a “brain dump.” Basically I needed to write out everything that was taking up space in my mind: things to do, ideas and thoughts, questions, uncertainties. Getting it all on paper means it didn’t have to take up room in my head. Here’s the result:

 

Seeing it all written out, it’s no wonder I was feeling overwhelmed! And, to be honest, there are little things I didn’t write down, like what I’m going to wear today and tomorrow, finishing up Easter prep, and other daily to do items. But once it was all down on paper? I could breathe a little easier. My brain didn’t feel so cluttered. And I actually started to have new ideas (not that I really need more!). In short, I started feeling more like my usual self.

During this brain dump I didn’t take the time to think about or process any of the items I was writing down. This was supposed to be a clearing of the mind, not a way to get more overwhelmed. Over the coming weeks I will be reviewing the lists, seeing what can be done quickly and what requires more time, fitting new routines and tasks into my weekly plans, and overall just processing it all and seeing where to go from here. The overwhelming feeling may return, but I’m hoping to be able to focus on one area at a time, without letting unrelated tasks and projects interfere. I need to find a way to plan out my days and weeks so it doesn’t all bombard me at once again. That, I fear, may be easier said than done.

The biggest problem? I don’t want to take away anything (except for the annoying household chores, and I can’t really do anything about those!). All of my projects mean something to me, especially the ones that align with what I’ve determined to be my purpose. And yet I keep coming up with new things that mean something to me, new directions and ideas and projects. How can I balance it all? How can I stay true to myself without having to sacrifice something that’s important to me? And how can I ensure my kids don’t suffer with all of my multitasking and goals?

I have my work cut out for me. But fortunately I feel more equipped to tackle the challenge. Let the fun begin!

Well That Didn’t Work

Every time I think I’m getting a handle on things, “life” shows up, laughs in my face, and shows me I still have a lot to learn. This week is a good example of that.

As I mentioned in my last post, this week was filled with opportunities. And it started off great. My first meeting, on Monday afternoon, was productive and successful. It was the meeting with faculty members at Avery’s school to discuss Usborne Books & More. I received great feedback, and it looks like there are definite possibilities there. I also presented one of our fundraising programs, Cards for a Cause, at the PTO meeting on Thursday afternoon. And, while there weren’t a lot of people there, I got positive feedback there, too, and another bit of hope that this ESR thing might pan out.

That was probably the only area of my life that was successful this week.

My meeting with the Friends of the Library on Wednesday night was postponed, due to the forecasted weather (though it could have definitely been held, since it didn’t even start to flurry until a half hour before the meeting was scheduled to start). My vendor event on Friday was not very successful, despite previous events at the same location that were successful. Of course I may have been a little “off” too, since I had Emily with me. And my author event on Saturday: while I enjoyed talking to other authors and a few readers, attendance was low (it was their first year), and I didn’t make much by way of sales.

That was business this week. That doesn’t touch on the personal stuff. Avery’s behavior has been a challenge, with not listening and attitude and talking back. My grandmother is in the hospital again and not doing well, though she seems to be hanging on (this is why Emily was with me at my vendor event. My mom, my usual babysitter, was at the hospital with my grandmother). And, of course, being crazy busy with business stuff is all fine and dandy — but you don’t want to see my kitchen or laundry piles. Plus, being busy has left me more tired than usual, which means I’m a bit crankier than usual — which leaves me with little patience to deal with Avery and little motivation to tackle the cleaning.

All in all, I’d say it was a very educational week. I learned a lot about what I can and cannot do, and where I need to tweak my routines and priorities. At this point I have a few options:

  1. Take a deep breath, evaluate the week in depth, and see where I can make adjustments to make it all work. Stay positive.
  2. Take a deep breath, evaluate the week in depth, and forget about some things that didn’t work so I can focus on the areas with the most potential.
  3. Shift focus this week, put business stuff on a back burner, and tackle personal life stuff. Deal with the business stuff in dribs and drabs when I feel so inclined.
  4. Curl in the fetal position and ignore all my responsibilities until I have to drop off Avery for school tomorrow morning.

I think anyone who knows me could tell you that any variation of option 4 is completely out of the question. Since when I have been one to run and hide? So that leaves the other 3, and, to be honest, I’ll probably be combining all 3 in some way to get the most bang for my buck. (But let’s be honest — it will probably be mostly option 1. I am determined to have it all, after all.)

I have already made some decisions. For example I have determined that the way I had my weekly routine/schedule wasn’t working for me. While most of it was fine, trying to pigeonhole certain tasks into specific project times wasn’t working. Why? More urgent tasks kept coming up, needing to be done first, which meant that my regularly-scheduled projects were getting pushed. This week, with its long list of pressing tasks, was a prime example of this. So I need to find some way to account for that.

I also need to find time to read the books I keep borrowing from the library. While reading may be considered unnecessary and a relaxation tool, these books were borrowed for specific reasons, usually to help with Avery’s behavior. If I don’t read them, I can never implement the ideas and see if they’ll help. And his behavior certainly isn’t improving on its own. I’m tired of getting frustrated and irritated when I know I could be learning and helping.

With regards to the rest of it? Well, I’m still figuring it all out. But I’ll be sure to keep you posted! Maybe by this time next week I’ll have a better handle on it all. Stay tuned!

 

Hope and Potential

Yet another crazy week awaits, but this one is full of potential. Today, as per Sunday usual, is not very exciting. It will be consumed by cleaning and errands. But tomorrow the exciting stuff begins.

Get It Started
Monday afternoon I meet with a couple of faculty members at Avery’s school, to discuss programs and opportunities with Usborne Books & More. It will be my first official meeting as an Educational Services Representative, and, while I’m nervous, I’m pretty excited about it. I think a couple of the offerings, in particular, would be great fits. I just hope they agree!

Wednesday evening I will be attending my first Friends of the Library meeting at my town’s library. While I am interested in helping the library overall, I am also hopeful it will become a foot in the door for ESR opportunities, as well (and perhaps, down the road, career opportunities). I don’t know yet if I will bring up Usborne Books & More in this first meeting; I’ll have to see how it goes. But either way it will be a good opportunity to meet others who are involved in the library, and find ways I can become involved, too.

Keep It Going
Friday I will be visiting a nursing home as a vendor, for both books and whatever baskets I’m able to scrounge up. I’ve been there before, and it’s been worth the time and effort, so I’m hoping for another successful visit. I have plenty of books to sell! And the timing may work out well for Easter (that was the plan, anyway!). Whatever doesn’t sell will (hopefully) be posted on Facebook next weekend in case anyone else is looking for Easter goodies.

Renaissance
Saturday I will be attending an event as an author. When’s the last time that happened? When I learned about the Read Local event back around the holidays, I was excited to get my writing “career” going again. Of course I had hoped to have recent writing projects to discuss at the event, but that hasn’t happened. Still, I’m hoping this will be a little push to get in touch with that part of myself again. I have plenty of books to bring and, perhaps, sell, so fingers crossed for a successful event!

The Big Picture
You may have noticed a lot of “hoping” in the plans for this week. And that about sums it up. I’m trying to stay optimistic, counting on something to reap rewards. I’ve decided to put most of my efforts into opportunities that actually mean something to me, rather than struggling with the dull, meaningless activities that do nothing to get me ahead. I really want to move in the right direction, not just tread water being stressed and disgruntled. And I know if these opportunities pan out, the results will be worth it. Not only will they be beneficial financially, but they will be helping me create the “brand” I want, as I discussed last week. They will actually put me more in touch with my purpose, and that can only be a good thing.

So: an exciting, busy, nerve-wracking week. But, oh, the possibilities!

Rebranding

Do you ever feel like you’re so focused on what you have to do that you lose sight of the purpose behind it? I think we’ve all been there, and I find myself there right now.

It’s no secret that I’ve been focused on money, or the lack thereof, for a while now. It’s no secret that I need more to continue the lifestyle the kids and I have grown accustomed to. But I think along the way the “whys” have become a secret. I don’t do what I do just to make money. So why did I start my business? Why do I want to write? Why am I creating websites? And why am I trying so hard to keep my house?

I think in my journey to create the life I want I have come across as desperate. And I think that is part of the reason I have not succeeded thus far. I’ve been so focused on what I need to accomplish, just to survive as I see fit, that I’ve dimmed the passion that should naturally be coming through. So this post is an attempt to reclaim and put forth into the world why I’m really doing what I’m trying to do. Will it help me in my businesses? I don’t know. But, more importantly, I think it will help me, to get my mindset and priorities back on track.

Why Books?

My love of books — of the written word in general — has been consistent my entire life, as I touched on in a previous post. I truly believe in the power of the written word to change lives. It’s why I’ve decided to start a new blog and will be creating a new website to go with it. So far I’ve only written the first post, but I think it will shed a little light on how much this means to me: For the Love of Books.

As I get my Educational Services Representative career going, and hopefully pursue my longer-term goal of becoming a librarian, I’m coming to realize how much I want to be involved in promoting literacy. I really want to help kids succeed, and I think this is a wonderful way to do it on a large scale. Not to be too cheesy about it, but “I believe that children are the future,” and I believe books can help our children succeed in the future. I’m not trying to minimize the power of technology, but it can never replace the substance that is a book. It can never spark the imagination like well-written words on a page. It can never truly take us to other worlds, regardless of how much CGI is used, as well as the vivid imagery our own minds create.

Why a Writer?

Perhaps in contrast to my children’s literacy goals, my writing endeavors have been geared toward adults. Perhaps one day I’ll try my hand at writing for children, but I must admit the illustrating end of things has me nervous (yes, I know I could partner with someone to do the illustrating, but where’s the fun in that?). And writing for adults helps me process my own experiences, thoughts, and feelings.

To be honest, I don’t know why a writer. It’s just something I feel compelled to do. And, unfortunately, it’s something I’ve been putting on a back burner for far too long. I’ve put it on a back burner for so long I question whether that burner works any more. Maybe it went out long ago and what was simmering has gone bad. But I’m still tempted to try it…

Why Websites?

Apparently in addition to feeling compelled to write, I’m also a glutton for punishment. Because, aside from novels, the medium that attracts me the most is also one of the least likely to bring in income: the free informational website. And that stems from my desire to help people, and to want to help as many people as possible, regardless of their ability to pay. Maybe one day I’ll actually get something in return for these sites, but in the meantime I’ll continue to try to create something worthwhile for others.

Why Keep the House?

While I must acknowledge that in many ways it would be easier to have a “fresh start,” my reasons for wanting to keep the house are multiple and complex.

The first, perhaps most important, reason is that this is my children’s home. I know kids are resilient, but they already have a lot to deal with. This is the only home they’ve known. And to take that away at what is already a fragile time is less than desirable.

The other reasons are more selfish: the sense of pride that keeping the house would provide, the determination to not lose what I’ve already been fighting for, the feeling of loss that would surely result from losing the much-desired spaces I’ve been struggling to create.

It is a challenge, but one I am not surrendering to easily. Until I decide it’s the best option to sell, I will continue to try to make it work.

Creating a Brand

In business it is recommended that owners create a brand. When someone buys something from you, they are not purchasing an item — they’re buying you, your brand. The brand is the image that you portray, what you stand for, what you offer the world. And it’s not just businesses that have brands. Everyone does. Think about the image you portray to the world: who other people think you are, what other people think you believe in and enjoy. That is your brand.

For a while now I think my brand has been “desperate and determined.” And I’m not happy with that. Would you be? It’s time to change. Because while I sometimes feel that way, that is not who I truly am. Yes, I’m determined. But I don’t want to come across as desperate (even if I sometimes feel that way!). I want to come across as open-minded and helpful, knowledgeable and happy, confident and successful. I want to be equated with books and literacy and children. I want to be the one people turn to for creative problem solving, brainstorming, and advice. I want to be seen as professional but approachable. I want to be seen as a good mom, a good friend, and a good person.

To create this new brand, I need to shift my priorities. While I can’t minimize the need for money, I need to focus more on value rather than cost. What is the value of my time? What is the best, most valuable, use of my time? I can’t believe that it is doing things I have no desire to do just to try to bring in a couple bucks. I want to do things that will bring me closer to my goals, that will be in touch with my purpose.

This week, as I juggle Avery’s half days at school, my first cash and carry book fair, Avery’s parent-teacher conference, and prepping for my upcoming author and vendor events, I will be evaluating how to get the most value for my time. And next week I hope to share my findings. Until then, wish me luck! And if you have any suggestions or feedback, please feel free to share!

With a Little Help From…

I have always prided myself on my desire to help others. I’m not perfect, but I’ve tried to help when I could. Over the past year or so, however, my ability to help others has been dwindling. I haven’t had money to donate even a few groceries. I haven’t had the time or energy or mental capacity to help on a more personal note, easing burdens or pitching in. And now it looks like, instead, I’m the one who needs to be helped.

It’s no secret as to why this has happened. When Kevin moved out, our already-tight budget got impossibly stretched. And now, with more financial changes taking place as we make things official, that budget is ready to burst at any moment. So I’ve had little choice but to seek out assistance in the one place I never thought I would need: the department of social services.

I’m not ashamed. I’m a hard-working mama who just needs some help until I’m in more comfortable circumstances. And I know I will get there. But in the meantime I’ve qualified for state-supported health insurance (which is actually a pretty sweet plan, if I do say so myself – and all of our doctors accept it, so it was a no-brainer!). And I’m pursuing food stamps, though I’m still awaiting the answer on that one.

It’s not easy accepting handouts, especially when you’ve always been the one helping. But this is why the programs exist, and I am grateful for the help. I honestly don’t know how I would have afforded health insurance for myself after the divorce. And if I don’t have to worry about paying for groceries (even though I am an excellent shopper who doesn’t spend much anyway), that’s more money that can go toward the less-forgiving expenses, like keeping a roof over our heads.

While I use these benefits, I’m still chugging away, trying to get my business and websites going strong. I’m still putting in my hours at my day job. And I’m still searching for other ways to bring in income. I’m still hemming and hawing, trying to figure out the best course of action with some things, and putting in the effort with others, hoping something will pay off. (And something has to pay off, right?)

So, that being said, it’s time to move forward. My current project? Trying to use what I’ve got to bring in the income I need. I’m going to start putting things on eBay again (a project I let fall by the wayside after a few measly listings). And I’m going to finish reviewing what I have on hand, in my personal stash and my businesses’ inventory, to create baskets for Easter and beyond. I can’t spend much, if any, money on more inventory, so I need to get creative and maximize what I already have. It won’t be easy, but I’m up to the challenge.

I expect to have one vendor event coming up before Easter that will offer both books and baskets (and whatever else I want to bring). Whatever baskets I’m able to make will be brought to this event. But I think I’m also going to revive my sad and pathetic Creative Endeavors Facebook page so I can post everything I have available without making my personal page too sales-y. If you want to want to “like” the page and hold me accountable (and give me a little kick in the butt!), you can find it here: https://www.facebook.com/MyCreativeEndeavor/.

I have a few events coming up just with Usborne Books & More, so I’m hoping those will help, too. And I’m still working hard on getting my schools and libraries division up and running. I also have to update my available inventory in my Usborne Facebook group.

The only problem with these grand plans? They all take time. And that is something I’m still working on. I’ve been finagling with my weekly schedule to figure out how to fit it all in, but it’s definitely much easier said than done. And that’s assuming I stick to my plan! If I succumb to fatigue, or get attacked with illness or very grumpy children, everything tends to slip.

So the moral of this blog post? Time and money are not my friends. But I’m doing what I can with what I’ve got. And I suppose that’s all any of us can really do!