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Setting Goals for the New Year

2016 was pretty good to me.

New Year's Resolution

Nothing particularly spectacular happened. The railroad is slowing down so money is tighter. Watching the furloughs (basically lay offs) leaves a little anxiety as we wonder just how deep they will go and just how much seniority will be necessary to survive them. Demands on my time are greater. As my children get older, I stress more over their weak areas (and worry more about how much losing their brother will affect them academically rather than just . . . well . . . “just” the way losing loved ones affects everyone). I still battle feelings of failure and inadequacy. I still struggle with becoming suddenly and inexplicably overwhelmed by seemingly mundane tasks.

Except that it isn’t the task at hand. It’s the loss of a child.

So why would I say 2016 has been good to me?

Because this is the first year that I’ve been able to consistently do things like appreciate the small pleasures in life. Find the humor in everyday mishaps. In fact, while is seems to come out more on facebook, I’ve seen my sense of humor more and more over the last year. Little hiccups don’t regularly bring the day to a crashing halt. I have been able to plan things out, make goals and carry them through. I forget important things less. I can remember Mattias and smile. The feelings associated are bittersweet, but they no longer overwhelm me with grief. We’ve homeschooled every single day. And while we’re behind, it’s a normal behind, not an I-just-can’t-cope behind.

Life is moving forward.

And I’m looking forward more, too.

I like the idea of a New Year’s resolution. A time to reflect on the things we don’t like about ourselves and resolve to improve. A time to acknowledge our dreams and resolve to take steps toward achieving them. It’s a time to sweep away the failure and give ourselves a fresh start. Even if that start sputters and dies for all the reasons that brought us to this point to begin with.

But this year, I just have goals.

This year, I want to write.

I want to write more here. I want to get a few more articles published in magazines. I want to finish the e-books I started over the past two years. I want to start the novel that has been slowly developing in my thoughts over the last three years.

And I might be ready to pick up a project that was almost finished before Mattias died.

I purchased myself a nice big planner with room for plans and ideas and deadlines. I wrote my first query and have my first deadline.

My biggest challenge will simply be time. But my children are getting older and I am going to try to go to the library at least once a week to work. Alone. And during the day.

It takes discipline, which is where I’ve fallen short in the past.

So perhaps I have a resolution after all. Simply to be more disciplined.

What are your plans, goals, resolutions or words for the New Year? And maybe even a better question: Is there anything we can do to help you achieve them?

And a little more from around the homeschool web:

Heather from Wellermomma blog shares Ten Ways to Be a Happy {More} Relaxed Momma. (Pretty sure taking time to work on your own lifelong dreams counts, right?)

Becky from Homeschool ‘N Stuff is improving her relationship with God, reading more and getting to know her boys better. (And such a good thought. As homeschoolers, at home with our children ALL day, it seems like we know them. And of course we do. But learning to ask more questions and listen more deepens those relationships.)

Jody of Kitchen Table Classroom is sharing some super cute (and free!) New Year’s printables to help get your children started thinking about the new year and making their own resolutions.

Misty of Year Round Homeschooling is sharing how she prepares for a new year.

Crystal of Serving Joyfully shares the one resolution all of us (as Christians) should make.

And fellow homeschool mom Sarah Coller of Classical Homemaking even wrote a book: Purposeful Steps Toward a More Abundant Life. I have not read it, but we homeschoolers gotta stick together and help each other out, right? (Also, that link is an affiliate link.)

 

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At the conference

Small talk in the conference room while waiting for the readings to begin.

“Are you a writer?”

“Are you reading?”

“How long have you been writing?”

“Are you published or working on projects for publication?”

I ask and I answer roughly the same questions over and over and I feel so out of place. One moment I am a writer, discussing her craft. The next I am a grieving mother, cloaking her grief in practiced words.

The small talk seems so out of place given what I am about to do. I’m having second thoughts. Third thoughts. I want to flee and soon have more reasons to leave than to stay.

It’s too soon.

Why did I ever think I could do this?

Or even should do this?

And these selections . . .

My name is called and I walk to the podium. I am no longer author or mother. I am an observer. I watch myself walk. I hear myself introduce what I am about to read. I listen to two paragraphs of For a moment I forget and from my vantage point, my voice sounds strong. But then John flips on the radio and I am back in the car on the highway in the middle of the night sinking under the weight of my son’s death.

My voice quivers and breaks as the tears begin to sting my eyes. I fight for control and find it at the start of the next selection. We are a happy family starts off rather impersonal. It is a simple recounting of a day. I am able to regain my distance from the text and with that my composure. But then there’s Tiggy, sitting in his car down by the garden. My voice is almost pleading as I sketch out a little picture of life with my little boy and I feel the tears begin to flow as the story returns to the seed catalogs, allowing me just enough distance to fight my way through.

I end with The amazing thing about love, though the words have blurred and I have to stop for them to clear. I am met with total silence as I collect my papers and return to my seat, avoiding eye contact. Applause starts as I find my row but it sounds so far away and it takes me most of the next person’s reading just to catch my breath.

I did it. I’m not sure what that means. If it was good, or silly or healthy or mad. But I did it.

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Advice sought

Well, this weekend is the Nebraska Writer’s Conference. I wasn’t going to go. I had no interest in going. In fact, I really didn’t care all that much about renewing my membership to the Nebraska Writer’s Guild this year. Now that it is here, however, I’m glad that somewhere in that fog I had some sense that I should not retreat from the world entirely and that April might look a whole lot different than January.

Except for one thing.

I still do not know what to read aloud.

Last year, my readers selected an entry for me, In which I beat of a coyote with a box of Rice Chex. It was a good choice. It was my very first public reading and my audience laughed in all the right places. That was an incredible boost to my confidence as a writer and quelled some of my fears of some day going out in the “real” world to market a book.

But this year, I am again stuck. And I am again asking for your input. I have ten minutes to share a sample of my writing which consists mostly of this blog.

Which entry would you recommend?

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I am a mommyblogger, or Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Preparing for the Nebraska Writer’s Guild Spring Conference, I took out my purse–an oversized, faux leather monstrosity purchased because absolutely everything fits in it–and began to pack. Out came the diapers, the diaper wipes, the extra outfit for the two year old, the extra pants for the baby. In went two pens, a notebook, directions and the piece I planned to read aloud. With a nagging sense that maybe a blog entry wasn’t appropriate for a public reading, being “only” a blog entry after all, I kissed the children and clicked out the door, conscious of each step in the unaccustomed heels.

A single word struck my thoughts: mommyblogger.

With articles like “Honey, Don’t Bother Mommy. I’m Too Busy Building My Brand” and “World of Sex, Lies and Mommy Blogs,” the curious world of the mommyblogger is again making news and again making waves. Hinting at a bit of irony in the “minivan crowd” discussing SEO and defining it as a $two-trillion market, the authors dismiss the validity of the efforts of thousands of moms–some of whom blog about being moms.

The spin isn’t new, nor the subtle criticism. While the term mommyblogger is a badge of honor to some, it ruffles the feathers of others.

It reminds me of A Room of One’s Own. The fight a century (and more) ago for women to be taken seriously as writers.

The indifference of the world which Keats and Flaubert and other men of genius have found so hard to bear was in her case not indifference but hostility. The world did not say to her as it said to them, Write if you choose; it makes no difference to me. The world said with a guffaw, Write? What’s the good of your writing?

In 1713, Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea writes of her craft,

My lines decried, and my employment thought
An useless folly, or presumptuous fault:
She was careful that her occupation should not be suspected by servants, or visitors, or any persons beyond her own family party.  She wrote upon small sheets of paper which could easily be put away, or covered with a piece of blotting paper.  There was, between the front door and the offices, a swing door which creaked when it was opened; but she objected to having this little inconvenience remedied, because it gave her notice when anyone was coming.
And in 2009, Joanne Bamberger writes in Don’t call me a ‘mommyblogger,’
Some may be curious about my pique because sometimes being a mom blogger is a brand, one that can be used to one’s benefit. But when others try to flip the title to describe us as writers and, yes, sometimes activists, it ends up as shorthand for someone who is less deserving of respect or influence. It makes our opinions much easier to ignore.

{Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf?}

Who’s afraid of a woman. . .a wife. . .a mother. . .who has found her voice?

After I finished my reading, I returned to my seat and my oversized bag. With hands still trembling, I slipped my papers back in and caught sight of my baby’s shirt, neatly folded in the bottom. I stroked the soft cotton, thought of his soft skin, could almost hear his soft coo. It focused me on why I attended this conference and why I write.

I am a mommyblogger.

Even if it is accomplished in fits and starts, between all the tasks of motherhood and household management.

I am a mommyblogger.

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Saga by 13 year old author takes wing

It started with a dream, dedication, and a lot of hard work. The dream was about birds in the forests: cardinals and blue jays, struggling for freedom. “When I woke up, I just couldn’t help it,” she recalls. “I just had to hatch my bird story.” Nancy Yi Fan set aside a half hour a day to work on her book and took many walks in the woods to watch birds, notebook in hand, to record her ideas and develop her plot. It wasn’t easy. Peace and freedom are large topics for a young girl to wrestle with. Many girls her age are still complaining about five paragraph papers for English class. And Nancy is a recent immigrant to America, having only arrived from her native China six year ago, speaking almost no English.

To prepare herself for writing this book, she studied birds in the wild, researched thoroughly on the internet and at her library, sometimes taking home cart-fulls of books and even enrolled in a Kung Fu class so that she could better describe the sword fights which take place between the birds in her story.

Who would have thought she would have her first publishing contract with an American publisher at the age of twelve? And already working on a prequel, also to be published by Harper Collins?

Her book is called Swordbird and is being published by HarperCollins with a first run of 50,000 books. It is also being released in China.

I could not find much personal information about her, other than she “attended American public schools until fifth grade.” The Guardian reports she is now living back in China and PublishersWeekly reports she is living with her parents in Florida, where her father is working on his doctorate. I hope with that kind of talent and dedication that she isn’t wasting her time in public school all day. There’s more for her to learn in researching her next book.

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