Stumbling Onwards

I often feel like I’m flailing hopelessly in anything I set out to do. I’m not alone in that feeling.

I’ve resolved to keep my head down and concentrate on the project ahead of me, instead of focusing what I’ve done. Putting out more work and aiming for something better than the last, helps me to continue moving forward. The compliments and the accolades are nice and it’s good to garner feedback, but in the end, it’s only the work that’s important. It’s what lines your shelves or fills your inbox. It’s a confusing and often challenging process. I’d like to think there are other people who feel the same, and we have mutual struggles. Everyone is kind of wandering around trying to do the best they can with what they have and work hard. We are all trudging uphill and holding on to the belief the hill will eventually even out and we can just stop and rest for a bit; have a gander at the view and take a deep breath. I do a lot of research, read as many how-to’s as possible, but it’s tedious. It’s not always useful nor the best plan for me. I often end up doing my own thing and hoping it works out. Best put, I fly by the seat of my pants and I hope I don’t crash and burn.

In the meantime, if you feel like you’re the only one struggling up that hill, you are not alone. I’m right there with ‘ya. I’m the one with my head down and my sturdy shoes strapped on tight so I don’t trip over a pebble and roll back down. Also, I bring wine. Lots of wine…

Stay safe,

KJ xo

Handling Rejection

There are many writers who decide to publish their work independently for various reasons. Many are frustrated with the extended time it takes to propose traditional publishers. By the time the manuscript hits their desks, they read, and ask for more chapters only to reject it in the end, a good six months has passed. At least. In that same six months, an independent author could have the book edited, a professional cover completed, and hit the internet for sales. Many opt for the latter just for time constraints. I enjoy the process of self-publishing. I like creating my own covers. I had help on my latest, Kevin, and it was a joy to involve other talented individuals who understand your vision and want to help you realize it. I enjoy searching for the right images, I enjoy formatting and learning about fonts and which paper is best for the look I want inside the book, as well as out. Yes, it’s hard work. Yes, it’s frustrating and if you don’t want the hassle of doing any of that work yourself, then hiring a professional to do it for you is a great option. If traditional publishing is more your thing, being prepared for the many letters and emails you will receive is a must. Rejection is as much a part of that process as querying potential houses.

The rejection letters I have accumulated over the years have all taught me a thing or two. The form letters were not constructive, however, I have a few who took the time to give me pointers on what a traditional house would be looking for. Keep to their specific genre, edit carefully, take your time with the characters, etc. Initially, the letters stung. I took them to heart. I gave it a bit of time and after looking at them again, with more of an open mind and less swearing, they were actually useful. When I approached writing my first novel, I sat down and went through a more methodical plotting strategy. I went online and searched how other writers plot their stories. I watched videos, I bought novel-writing books and I researched how to edit. I downloaded editing software, I purchased a copyediting book, I wrote and re-wrote. I continue to research other ways on how to approach a novel. I structure things differently. I seek advice from other writers. I do all of this now, and never would have thought of doing any of it had I not been rejected. I value the opinions and I learn more everyday. It’s not a race, it’s a marathon and I learn something new with each book.

I’m preparing to write my third novel, the sequel to False Hope. I’m taking my time with it. I have storyboards in place and I will continue to read and write and work. The rejection letters are sitting beside my desk prepared to be read again. They’re not pleasant, but they remind me of how far I’ve come and how far I can go. Rejection is a natural part of any business, not just writing and accepting it as a tool for learning instead of a personal attack is far more beneficial. Take a look at those letters. Read them for what they are intended; as a guide and a tool, not as a means of sending you away. Good luck.

KJ xo

Writing

Too many times we imagine barriers that prevent us from following our passion. We erroneously think we need permission from others to follow our path when all we really need is to give ourselves permission to be who we need to be. I became a writer because I write. I became an author because I wrote books and self-published them. I decided to write them the way I wanted. I decided to publish them instead of waiting for anyone to tell me I was good enough to publish. If it fails, it’s on me. But if it succeeds…also, me.

Have a great week and believe in yourself enough to follow your passion. Whatever that may be…

KJ xo

Top Ten List of Shit You Don’t Want to Know When Turning Fifty

A friend asked the other day for any useful tips for turning fifty.  I struggled with ‘tips’ as I was unsure as to what infinite wisdom I could bestow.  I’ve been fifty for a few years now and I have some advice, warnings and ‘ohmygawdwatchoutforthisshit’, but not exactly the ‘tips’ I think she was looking for.  In any case, in honour of all of those young ladies turning fifty, here is my Top Ten List of Shit You Don’t Want to Know When Turning Fifty. 

 You. Are. Welcome.

And Happy Birthday!

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10.  You lose interest in everything except yoga pants, wine and food-  Okay, maybe that blanket statement goes too far.  You lose MOST of the interest you had in leaving the house.  I started wanting to spend more time drinking in my yoga pants than going out or doing something that required me to wear pants or an ‘outfit’.  I still enjoy going out, but I really have to want it.

9.  Impatience is the new virtue since you don’t have time for shit, don’t give a shit and basically you can’t put up with anyone’s shit. True.  My patience is waning for whiners and folks who like to complain simply to hear themselves talk.  NO. TIME.

8.  Crashing Fatigue is actually a ‘thing’ and when it hits, it’s difficult to snap out of it-  You feel exhausted every day all day and you just want to crawl into bed and stay there. It will pass, but you have to summon up some patience.  It usually lasts a few days and I get through it by telling Hubby I’m on strike of mother duties due to the polar vortex and incessant winter.  Even if it’s summer, I can say I’ll be tired for the next few days so just let me be the best version of Greta Garbo and I vant to be alone…. Trust that this is simply an ‘episode’ and it WILL pass.  It IS an actual part of the Big M, so take it day by day.

7.  Opposite of Crashing Fatigue, comes Insomnia AKA Your Brain On Menopausal Meth- Sleep is a distant thing and you stay awake with songs blaring in your brain, a to-do list of epic proportions, the mistakes you made on the Grade 6 Spelling Bee and how you’ve clearly failed as a parent because your child can’t boil and egg. You start to panic realizing you haven’t accomplished ANYTHING and your life has been one big waste of time. Up you get from your bed, start writing out a bucket list of stuff that you WILL NEVER DO because you don’t have boatloads of cash and your Fairy God Mother is on vacation.  Breathe.  This too shall pass…but still write the list because you’ll need something to make you laugh later that day when the Migraine Auras start.  Oh, I didn’t tell you about that, yet?

6.  Migraine Auras are fucktastic – No, you are not having a stroke. You don’t have a brain tumour.  You are having Auras.  Little bits of psychedelic lights dancing in your eyes like you’ve been staring at the sun too long.  They flash, they dance and are squiggly lines pulsing and moving.  It’s a part of having a Migraine.  I don’t actually get the blinding headache pain with migraines, just the auras, but some people get both.  After fifty, you can experience these auras a little bit more frequently.  Awesome.   They usually disappear within 30 minutes with my eyes closed and laying down.  That’s after having a few nights of no sleep thanks to #7.  See how this works?  Fun.  Times.  *having said that, make sure to get your blood work done regularly so you can keep your levels in check.  Your chances of stroke, heart disease and diabetes rise as you age. Know the signs of a stroke so you can differentiate between the two.  If you have any doubts, get thee to a doctor.   Stay healthy.

5.  Breakouts vs Wrinkles, the Epic Battle of your Skin – Around the time when my period used to occur, my body still thought I should endure the effects of one. My skin continues to break out like I’m seventeen, I get all that crampy-bloated-wonderfulness of a tween and I’m crankier more than usual.  AND, I’m over fifty so the fight against aging or simply looking older than I should, is an ongoing battle.  I’m not thinking I should look twenty, because I’m not.  I just don’t want to look ninety, either.  I went on this epic fact finding mission to discover the basic ingredients for fighting wrinkles.  I found a few things:  Serums – I like them and use them daily.  They go on first, then a moisturizer.  Vitamin C and E are your friends.  Vitamin C helps with brightening and tone, Vitamin E helps with repairing the wrinkles and I use that one at night.  Hyaluronic acid plumps up your skin.  Retinol fights wrinkles.  Glycolic Acid exfoliates.  Those are the basics.  I don’t buy anything expensive.  I use all-natural as much as possible.  You really don’t need to buy expensive creams to look good.  Use something that you like and stick with it.

4.  You need a hobby – seriously, you have dedicated your time, energy and talents to work and raising a family. Now, take some time and develop something else.  Do something out of your comfort zone or find your creativity.  Paint, write, run, walk, volunteer, sand-down the outside steps…it doesn’t have to be wowtastic, just something you enjoy.  You need time for you to develop your own interests and hidden talents so you don’t go batty.  It’s healthy for you to be busy and enjoy something other than work/kid/husband/partner related.

3.  Brain fog – I’ve noticed that I can’t remember as much as I used to. My short term memory decides to take periodic vacations.  I can’t keep the kids’ schedules straight in my head and I incessantly ask what they are doing every day.   I’ve decided to practice using my brain more.  Crossword puzzles, games with reasoning, reading something other than newspapers or online content and writing are all keeping my brain active and engaged.  Something TV does not do.  Turn off the tv and do something else for your brain.

2.  Exercise- Oh, come on you knew that was coming. Weight training and aerobic exercise are important to keeping you feeling and looking younger.  Weight training builds muscle, and helps your joints.  Aerobic exercise keeps that heart pumping.  Do both.  You’ll feel better.  It may help with #7 and #8 as well.  Kinda.

1. The Fashion Industry Sucks at dressing us – We either end up looking like a wannabe-twenty-something, or like Dorothy’s Auntie Em. It’s disgusting, really.  I don’t do elastic waist band pants and I don’t like being called ma’am.  I also can’t wear a dress up to my bum and a v-neck down to my naval.  Trust me NOBODY WANTS TO SEE THAT.   Finding age-appropriate comfortable clothing is challenging, but I always manage to find something.  I drag daughters with me and find some stuff at Winners on a good day.  Sometimes, online is the best bet, but you are taking a chance on sizing and fit.  It’s a trial and error thing, but know that you are not alone.  That’s why yoga pants will always be in style.

BONUS:  Key to staying young is a positive attitude and finding your tribe.  Having friends and a good support system is vital at any age, especially when journeying through a transition.   Getting through the hard days will be sweeter with some good friends and some hearty laughter.

Enjoy the journey!  xo

Conquering ‘Hoods

I don’t know when it happened.  When the kids grew up and I am now faced with retirement ads that I actually watch.  When we look at the house and say ‘we need to fix this before we move’ or when we look around at the now adults who we once carted and snuggled and fed and loved; who needed bed times and naps; who needed rocking to sleep and lessons in ‘appropriate songs to sing in public’; who were once my babies but somehow morphed into adults, and I hear myself say ‘when y’all fixin’ to move out?’  like I’m suddenly southern and drink lemonade in a rocker on the front porch.  I’ve been so busy raising kids and cleaning houses and buying groceries and making dinners and trekking kids to this and that, then driving lessons and graduations and convocations and first jobs and first dates and first car accidents and first hangovers and generally, just living, that  I missed when I grew up.  I missed my journey into full-fledged adulthood, motherhood and womanhood.  Generally, all of the ‘hoods.  How did that happen?

I don’t think I’m alone in that sentiment of ‘missing’ my growth.  It happened when I wasn’t looking.  When I was distracted by a ten pound baby careening out of my vagina.  And by ‘careening’ I mean taking his sweet ass time because who doesn’t love being in labour for fifteen ungodly hours followed by hearing the words “You’ll feel a little discomfort” (HAHAHAHA)   and then seeing a wall of onlookers oohing and ahhing.  Ahh, childbirth.  And that was the last time I did THAT.

I wouldn’t change it.  The three labours.  The three births.  The three babies that are now trying to find their ways into the world and stumbling every now and then.  I’m not missing their journeys into their ‘hoods…I’m paying attention to theirs.  I’ve just been absent in consciousness for mine. 

I look at the pictures and see the outward changes.  The weight gain, then loss, then gain.  The progression of one baby, then another baby and then the last chunky kid who threw Cheerios on the floor in great bunches.  The relocations.  The new friends.  The old friends.  The new neighbourhood.  The hair gets lighter, then lighter then *gasp* grey!  The glory of discovering ‘the perfect shade of red’….

Maybe I haven’t missed my growing up, but have simply participated in less mindful way.  That’s a new term I’m learning.  Mindfulness.  Maybe I haven’t been so much AWARE of my growth, as I have actually grown.  That could be it.  I must have matured and grown emotionally after all of these twenty five years of being Mommy, Mom, Maaaaaammmmmm!!!   It isn’t possible to stay stagnant without some semblance of inward enlightenment from all of the nights of illness, worry, fights, battles and dolls thrown down the hall in outward defiance of ‘get to your room’.  (That was D1 in all of her 7 year old will) There has to be some sage, some wisdom from raising three children while working and staying married.  There has to be something other than grey hair and osteoarthritis awarded for all of this middle-agedness.  For all of this Motherdom.  Wifedom.  Womandom. 

Please tell me, there is.  

There must be some spec of intelligent advice, some all-out magical power that is awarded to us moms, dads and upbringersof the generations that carries us to that moment in our lives when we fold our hands on our laps and say ‘we did it’.  

What if I’m at that moment?  What if I’m there now and I don’t know it?  What if I’m missing it? That would be a tragedy.  

I don’t think I am.  There yet, I mean.  I’m hoping in a new mindful way, I can acknowledge when I’ve reached the point where I can say I truly feel grown up enough.  Grown up enough to say that I’ve done everything I’m supposed to do.  Grown up enough to let go of those babies and watch them move on without the dramatic doll-throwing.  Grown up enough to take ma damn lemonade and sit on the porch in my rocking chair, saying ‘have a nice day, y’all.’    

Until then, I’ll just be over here while you conquer your ‘hoods.  I’m not quite finished conquering mine.  I’m still growing up.