Sunday, January 30, 2011

Meditation


As you might have read in previous blogs, I'm working my way through "Eat, Pray, Love" by Liz Gilbert and I love it, love it, love it with every fiber of my being. I've often wondered about the practice of meditation and what it really means. Obviously, it means different things to different people at various times in their life. To some, it likely means nothing. I've heard that prayer is when we speak to God, but meditation is when we listen for God to speak to us. I've never tried it, and that seems a travesty.

This morning I gave it a small attempt. I say 'small' because, in a room on one side of the house with three other people in the rest of the house and two dogs (one of which randomly burrows under the covers or walks across my chest), it's pretty difficult to even begin any sort of meditation process. My understanding of it is that I'm just supposed to empty my head of thoughts, sit silently, and just... BE.

Muy dificil, I tell you. Very difficult. First off, my body is not used to just 'being', nor is my mind, nor my soul. They are used to 'doing', and 'thinking', and 'running-around-like-a-headless-chicken'. Sitting for just one minute, a barrage of thoughts swept through my mind, while others lingered, and some break-danced. Gilbert calls this "monkey mind". Sometimes the meditating person needs to focus on a particular word or syllable and either chant it, or think it, while meditating. It helps to bring the mind to a still place. "Om" is traditional, but since it means nothing to me, I tried "Ru" which is Sanskrit for 'light'. (The word 'Guru' means darkness/light, which I find fascinating... Gurus are so named because of the removal of darkness from their lives and the replacement with light. Poetic, simple. I like it.) At any rate, I made my first attempt. After yesterday, I needed some light. A lot of it.

I mentioned in yesterday's blog that I knew my flaws and failures well, and it's true. I am impatient, selfish, unkind, controlling, angry, hateful, envious, cowardly, bitter, resentful, covetous, obsessive, defensive, rough, clumsy, sarcastic, manipulative, petty, nagging, loud, obnoxious, and I have a big nose. There is only one of those things I can't do anything about. The rest of them, I really need to work on.

How wrong could I possibly be? If this is the way I live my life, these are the thoughts that fill my head and the spirit inside of my heart, how can I profess to love God? How can I love other people? How can I teach others to love God if this is the picture of Him that I'm presenting to them? Because, as a Christian, my life is supposed to be a reflection of Him. My words, my actions, my reactions -- all are supposed to be a reflection of Him. God is love. And as cliche as it has become, there's a very real description of love in the bible that cannot be denied. Cliche doesn't always mean untrue -- just sometimes over-used and misunderstood.

Here are the descriptions of love in I Corinthians 13:
Patient
Kind
Not Jealous
Not Boastful
Not Arrogant
Not Rude
Not Selfish
Not Irritable
Not Resentful
Does Not Rejoice at wrong
Rejoices in Right
Bears all things
Believes all things
Hopes all things
Endures all things
Never Ending

How many of these definitions fit the Stephanie that I am? How many of these definitions are so far beyond my reach right now I can't even fathom what I would look like if I embodied them? Is it any wonder that I am so tired all the time? I'm carrying all of this around with me, all this darkness. It's weighing me down. 'Light' means more than one thing: It's the opposite of darkness, but it's also the opposite of heaviness. If I get rid of the darkness, I get rid of the heaviness.

Ru.

Today is day one. Sunday, the first day of the week. I said yesterday it's got to be better than last week -- but maybe the only way that will happen is if I endure it all with a different attitude. My days and weeks aren't likely to get easier -- sometimes I just have to choose my outlook and not let anything phase me.

Stephanie Jean

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Hold My Heart


It's time for a major confession.

It's been a really rough week for me. It's been a rough month, but this past week starting last Sunday and promenading right through today has been particularly forceful in its roughness. It went right past rowdy taunting into blatant sarcasm, and today it just sort of sent an unforeseen sucker-punch to my intestines.

That wasn't the major confession.

In the midst of my anguish, I sobbed the phrase: I $^@#&*# hate God.

Now THAT is a major confession.

I'm not proud of it. I don't have any good excuse for it besides the withering of my heart, the emotional knife that filleted through my soul long ago and has just been sort of rooting around in there with it's serrated edge, pulling at little strings now and then to see if it can get a rise out of me. I've been angry with God before, yes, who hasn't? I've been disappointed when my plans go awry, I've been jaded by years of what I felt was being ignored by Him, and I've been stubbornly upset when I've waited and waited and waited and waited and waited, and then tried and tried and tried and tried and tried to make something happen and it hasn't happened. I've ignored God before. I've spoken sternly to Him. I've yelled at Him from time to time.

I remember one point when Zachary was very young, and we were leaving church, and there was something he was arguing about with us in the van... something he wanted that we wouldn't give him, or whatever it was. He was sobbing and angry and he muttered, "I hate you guys." Something a parent never wants to hear. Because we're only keeping their best interest in mind by not letting them have what they want right then, right?

So how is it that I, as a human being, can know that fully, but when my Father hasn't given me something I've tried to get myself, that I've begged Him for, that I've asked Him for repeatedly for years... how is it that I, a parent myself, can't understand the need for patience? How is it that I, who am logically writing this at the moment, can be the same person who uttered that statement earlier today?

Because we all fail.

I failed miserably. As an adult woman, but also as a child -- HIS child. I've asked His forgiveness a hundred times today since that point, and I'm sure I have it. I know it didn't change anything. It was just a temper tantrum, really. The six-year-old little girl inside of me not getting what she wanted, tortured by an envious, covetous heart. (I know my failures. I can list them to you alphabetically or chronologically if you'd like.)

This link will take you to a song that perfectly describes the way I feel today. I am so utterly weary. But I know there is a God, and I know He is good. He is nothing but good. He's good like a parent who throws you out of the way of a moving bus. It might hurt really badly right now, but you should be glad you didn't get hit by the bus that was coming.

Here's hoping next week gets a little better. God knows it can't get much worse.

Stephanie Jean

Friday, January 28, 2011

Muncie Munchies


I'm sitting in the lobby at the School of Music at Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana. Our son is auditioning as we speak (well, rather as I type). He then has to take a couple of tests, and we'll be good to go. Again, I have mixed feelings. I want him to succeed, of course. I want all of his dreams to come true. I want him to be happy, and well-educated, and well-rounded. I also want him to be home, free from debt, and a bit more balanced before he goes off on his own. It's in God's hands, though. It's not what I want, and not what Zachary wants, but what God wants for him that will happen. If he doesn't get into the Music Department, he'll try again next year. If he doesn't get into Ball State at all, he'll go to Ivy Tech for a year and get all his pre-reqs done, and try again next year. I'm optimistic because there's not a bad outcome either way. If he goes, he'll do well and be happy, and if he stays, he'll do well and be happy. Granted, he thinks he'll be happier if he's AWAY at college, but he's a dang kid, what do they know? Haha!

But right now, I'm hungry! I could consume a couple of plates of ribs, fries, and wings at Buffalo Wild Wings if I could find one around here. I have the Muncie Munchies. It's probably because in the last two days, I haven't had a single meal. I ate a bagel with cream cheese and coffee yesterday, and a small bowl of corned beef hash and breakfast scramble mixed together, and coffee today. That is all. I'll bet if I didn't eat the rest of the night, I'd lose some weight when I weighed in tomorrow morning. Wings. Ribs. The only problem with BWWs is they don't have Mountain Dew. If they had Mountain Dew, I might never leave!

I'm trying desperately to finish reading Eat, Pray, Love. I can't extol the virtues of this enough. She has written exactly what I felt when I was going through my divorce, and in the time period shortly thereafter. My feelings are echoed in her prose, over and again, and part of it is heart-wrenching because it takes me back to a sad, sad place. Another part of it is uplifting because I have always wondered if there were other people out there like I was. I didn't hate my ex-husband. I don't hate him today. We were just absolutely terrible for one another. I have no doubt that I loved him at some point, but it was not the love of a marriage, of a wife for a husband.

That felt maudlin, but it wasn't meant to be. I apologize if it came off that way. But I'm telling you, read this book. If you watched the movie already, even better -- the book is 100X better than the movie, and I liked the movie!

Not much more to report today. I'm hoping the theory test goes quickly, and well, and I can get some nummies in my tummy.

Mmkay, have a great night, peeps!

Stephanie Jean

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Lately

Lately, I've felt beaten down.
Lately, I've felt like people don't especially care what I think or how I feel.
Lately, I've felt that nothing is going to work out the way I've hoped.
Lately, I've been worried we might not be able to make ends meet.
Lately, I've wondered how things might start getting better.
Lately, I've wondered IF things will ever start getting better.

I used to sit and dwell, letting myself wallow in lament. Now, I try to get my mind off of whatever is ailing my emotions and let it go. It's not easy, but it's part of the journey. There are things that are upsetting me greatly, but I have to give them up and stop allowing them to churn inside, because, as I've finally figured out -- there is no point in it. Things are going to come at me every single day that will depress, anger, frustrate, hurt, or upset me. There's not an 'off' switch for that, not even a slower rate of such things that I can downgrade to. I can let them dictate my life, or I can give in and be peaceful. At first, it seems a dire injustice just to give in. I have rights. I have feelings. I should count. I should matter.

But the truth is, it doesn't really MATTER if I matter or not. What matters is how other people feel. I want to be a positive force in the lives of others. Whoever the others are, I want to lift them up, not bring them down. Even if it's someone I can't stand, or if it's someone I love to pieces that's hurt me greatly. The former is difficult, but the latter is even more so. But it doesn't really matter, because it's not about me. It's about other people.

Sadly, everyone does not have this mindset. If everyone did have this mindset, the world would be peaceful. Did you hear that? I have the solution to the world's problems ... it's "BE NICE WHETHER YOU FEEL LIKE IT OR NOT".

So somebody hurt your feelings. So somebody pulled out in front of you. So somebody took your cart at the grocery store. So somebody didn't say 'thank you' when you gave them something. Be nice anyway.



There's an awesome quote we have framed at work, and it never ceases to amaze me how many people comment on it during a given week, or request a copy of it to take home. The quote has been attributed to Mother Teresa, but may not be hers, depending on what source you check:

***

People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered;
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
Build anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have,
and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you've got anyway.
You see, in the final analysis,
it is between you and God;
It was never between you and them anyway.

***

Regardless of the source of this quote, if people really lived this way, the world would be as perfect as it could possibly get.

I'm not there yet, but I'm trying.

The journey continues.

Stephanie Jean

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Coffee Far

I am in the bedroom. Coffee is in the kitchen. Coffee cup next to me is empty. Getting up is not on my list of things to do in the near future. Only because I've confined myself to this bed until I finish writing my blog and posting it to Facebook, and reading portions of each of the books that I'm reading. In the hour I've been in bed, I've accomplished the following things:

Drinking my first cup of coffee
Catching up with the last 24 hours of Facebook News
Chatting with my sister on Facebook
Finding Pink's "Raise your Glass" video on YouTube
Watching Pink's "Raise your Glass" video on YouTube
Posting Pink's "Raise your Glass" video to my cousin and a few others on Facebook
Checking to see if any more of my books have sold
Checking my email
Glancing into my coffee cup to see if more had magically appeared
Staring at the screen while I think of a way to focus
Internally complaining that I had confined myself to the bed before coffee #2

It's not like I haven't accomplished anything yet today. I've worked out with the Wii, weighed myself, had a good talk with my oldest son, made breakfast sandwiches for my daughter and husband and self, let the dogs out, made coffee, folded the blankets in the living room, wrote to my cousin and mailed the letters with some bills, brought the newspaper in, etc. I'm just very unfocused right now, and I dislike this greatly.

I'm pretty fed up with my mortgage company. They're hosing me on escrow and there's not much I can do about it. This is the house that I still own in Elkhart, on which there is a land contract so someone else is living there and paying the mortgage to me, and I, in turn, pass it on to the mortgage company. (It's somewhat like renting, but I'm making some of the money back that I've sunk into it for years.) The problem is, I just want to get out from underneath the house without losing a bunch of money on it. The kid can't get a traditional mortgage, and I can't get a traditional mortgage on the house we DO live in until he does, because otherwise this would qualify as a second residence and we'd have to have 20% down. (You don't even want to know what 20% down would be. I could buy a brand new car for that much. And if I had that much, I would probably buy a brand new car. Or at least a very decent last year's model still on the lot car.)

This is coupled with how badly business is going at our workplace. The company's not making much money, probably not any money to be honest, and so hours have been cut and changed and maneuvered to save money. My schedule's changed quite a bit and it's making me crabby, even though I appreciate the paycheck. Steve's working crazy numbers of hours because he's on salary, so he's cranky and tired. And we're never sure if we're going to have a job the next week, so that's scary because we both work at the same place. When we're unemployed, we'll be unemployed together. (Can you feel the panic?) So I'm a little... strike that, a LOT... on edge lately. I'm trying very hard not to take it out on anyone, but I fail sometimes miserably.

On the other hand, the ex-wife is being very friendly lately, so that's nice. I would like to maintain a good relationship with her, especially for the kids' sakes, but also because as much as she and I disagree on many issues, I still respect her position as their mother. I will do everything I can for them and love them with my whole heart, but I will never try to take that position away from her. Early on, when we were dating, Steve said that to me and I've always respected it -- he didn't see eye to eye with her on anything, but he was not looking for a mother for his kids because they already had one, he just wanted us to have a really good relationship. This was before I even met the kids, or the ex-wife. And I thought then, and I think now, that my husband is a very, very good man inside for this, and many other reasons.

Even when he's cranky and/or smelly.

:)

Do I really have to stay in bed, or can I get another cup of coffee?

Church tonight! I'm excited about that. I love going to GCC, and I especially love going on Saturday evenings instead of Sunday mornings. I like the first service because it's not completely honed yet, and it's a more raw run without all the tweaks they make in between services. By the fourth one on late Sunday mornings, which is when we'd been going for awhile, I kind of feel like it's not as genuine as the first time around. Not that the message itself is any different, but like any 'performance', it's been changed to fit the audience, if that makes sense. More emphasis on what makes them laugh, or think, or feel something in particular, and less emphasis on the story-lines that didn't fare so well the first time or two. More like entertainment instead of a service. I'm not saying that all of that is really the case, it's just the way I feel. I grew up going to church on Saturdays anyhow, so it feels more comfortable to me to go then instead of on a Sunday morning, even though I know God doesn't care what day you go (or even IF you go, we're loved just the same no matter what we do or don't do).

I'm stuck at 14 books. This is a good number, and I'm happy with it, but it would also be nice to sell 1,000,000 of them, you know? Not that I expect that. Steve wants me to send my book to Oprah, and I appreciate that advice. I know that he's right -- if she were interested, I would be a millionaire. I can't quite put my finger on why that bothers me so much. It's not a fear of rejection, or even of success if that were to actually happen. I don't like Oprah. I don't dislike her, either, but I feel like the country just sort of gloms onto her and waits to find out what she likes so they can like it, or what she dislikes so they can boycott it, or what charity she's passionate about so they can donate to it, instead of thinking for themselves. I want a lot of people to like my book, that's true. But I don't want a lot of people liking it because their guru told them to. I want them to like it on its own merits. Sure, it's not a fantastic book, but I think it's good. Other people think it's good. My heart is in there -- my emotions, my tears, my mistakes, my complete and utter failures. My raw pain. My excitement, my elation. I want people to like it for what it is. I don't want Oprah to read it and say, "Wow -- I like this" and then the rest of the people to like it because Oprah validated my emotions. They're MY emotions, for goodness' sake, they're not a new stock of underwear being inspected by #421 and stamped "good" or "irregular". And on the flip side, I dislike critics because they give a thumbs-up or down, and make or break things sometimes... I don't want Oprah to give it a thumbs-down (or the fourteen people that read it before Oprah even gets a look at it)... thereby demeaning the importance of the stories and such. It might not make a lot of sense to you, but it's how I feel.

I've contacted both the South Bend Tribune and the Elkhart Truth, and I'm planning on contacting the Niles Daily Star to try to solicit some interest in a story about e-publishing, or 'local girl on journey to fulfill dream' or something of that sort.

There is another book I've written that I need to finish editing, and if/when I'm done with that, I want the whole world to read it. It's non-fiction, it's about hypocrisy, and it's something I've felt pressed to write for a long time. It's two years in the making, going on three. I have drafts of it all over my house and computers, and I just want the best possible way to go about putting it into people's hands. My little sister did the cover art for it, and I just need to put some finishing touches on it. I have to stop letting the rest of 'life' get in the way of what I'm meant to be doing. I feel like, if I lose my job, that's God's way of saying, "There... now you have time to do what I want you to do". So, we'll see, won't we?

By the way, I'm getting up to get some coffee before I read the rest of this stuff. I'm letting myself out of this self-confinement. I just have to NOT get distracted by the Wii while I'm out there...

Thanks for listening. I feel better.

I think.

Stephanie Jean

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

*no title, just incoherent screaming*


This has been a very trying week so far. So trying, in fact, that I have sincerely contemplated throwing glassware at brick walls just to hear the soothing cacaphony. Although, at this moment, I'm listening to some Asian dude doing a worse rendition of a Miley Cyrus song than Miley herself, which is a tremendous feat. Why do I subject myself to American Idol every year when I swear I'm never going to watch it again?

Oh. Because of Steven Tyler. I don't care if he's sold out by being on the show. I don't care that he is approximately 142 years old. I don't care that he has more highlights than I've ever had in my entire life. I don't care that his mouth could swallow a football. I. Love. Steven. Tyler.

Yesterday, while I was using the Wii Fit, I came upon a little boxing game. I gave it a shot (no pun intended), and got a few points. No big deal. Today, however, after the day I had -- I came home and beat the living crap out of the little Wii Punching Bag Dude. He smoked, his arm fell off, and he collapsed. I burned a lot of calories. And I did it twice in a row before my arms felt like Jello, then I did step-aerobics for twenty minutes while I watched Cash Cab. I. Love. Wii. Fit.

I'm getting paid for an article that I'm writing! This is very exciting news. This is what I've been hoping for! Well, I've been hoping for several articles in rapid succession, preferably in syndication, but... ya know. I gotta start small. Starting free was small. Getting paid -- well, that's a step in the right direction. I. Love. Getting. Paid.

Tomorrow, two houses to clean and a visit with my little sister. I so look forward to spending time with her. It's very rare, since we are both so busy all the time, but she is a lot of fun and we always have a great time together. The book I wrote is dedicated to her, because when I look at her I see so much of myself at that age, and I want her to grow and mature more quickly than I did. That, and I love her a huge ton! :)

My daughter had to have another immunization today. She's pretty skittish when it comes to shots, but she did a great job this time. It was quick and fairly painless, unlike last time we went. We got to spend some time together boy-free afterward, so we got some Chinese food and stopped at Goodwill for a few minutes. They're having a 50% off sale on Saturday, so we'll go back then! She's looking for some pieces for a costume for High School Musical, the middle school drama production in April. She just got her balance for the Washington D.C. trip -- she owes $382, which is about half of the original. Anyone who would like to hire her for babysitting, yard work, or housecleaning, drop me a line! She's very determined to go on this trip to D.C., very interested in law and politics, and wants to go to the University of Michigan law school. I get my own little Wolverine!

Well, it's just about bedtime here in the Salisbury household. I would just like to thank all of you for your love and support, for reading, for downloading my book, for passing on the info to others, for being there for me and encouraging in my writing endeavors. I can't tell you how much it means to me.

Stephanie Jean

Monday, January 17, 2011

Here We Go Again


I used to read a lot of Garfield as a kid. The comics, the books... I always wondered what the big deal was about Mondays. Garfield hated Mondays. I completely empathize with him now. I'm not sure a Monday is more difficult on a cat than any other day, but they certainly are on me. I woke up at 4:55 a.m. to the same thought that always runs through my head when my alarm goes off in the morning: "Do I really have to get up?" The sad answer is always "yes". If the alarm goes off, yes. If there is no alarm, I don't have to get up. I have this logic right now, but I don't retain it in the mornings. The first thought that runs through my head is still, "Do I really have to get up?" Logic comes later, after coffee. Or, in today's case, chai. But I definitely need some more caffeine, because this headache ain't gonna cure itself.

It was a long day, not terribly stressful, but long. My back, neck, and body ache. I just want to lay down in a hot bath full of bubbles and read, and maybe fall asleep. Of course, there is really no point in my life at which I don't want to do those things.

I got home, however, to find a wonderful thing: I sold two more books since last night! I'm pretty happy about this, obviously. I would love to figure out how to sell more books, but I guess there's no surefire way to do such a thing. Just one-at-a-time marketing, blasting Facebook, begging friends. If anyone should decide to use it as a book club book, that would be kind of nice :) I've been told I should send it to Oprah. I'm not sure how I feel about that. I wonder if she'd even notice. Or rather, the person who opens the mail to give to the person who is the assistant for the executive assistant for Oprah... I wonder if that person would even notice.

That bath is sounding better and better.

Is it wrong to look forward to Friday on Monday?

Stephanie Jean

Saturday, January 15, 2011

I Needed This


There are 26 minutes left in the day, and I don't want to jinx it, but I have to say that today was an extremely great day, as days go. At least in comparison to the last couple of weeks. My loving husband got up with the dogs at 5:30 this morning, and I got a full night's rest. I woke up at 10:00 to weigh in and find that I had lost four pounds this week! I did some yoga on the Wii, then made a healthy breakfast for those of us who were awake. (Zach was still sleeping, and I don't blame him! He's on the go constantly!) I made mostly egg-white omelettes with chicken and cheese, and I added a little onion and green pepper in mine (very little, just to try and get myself used to a little veggie-ness here and there), and tomatoes in Steve's. We had english muffins (which only have a half gram of fat), and orange juice. I had to have my coffee, of course. I can't quit everything at once!

I took a nice, hot shower and played Legend of Zelda on my just-for-me Nintendo (yes, the original!) and then Steve and I took a short nap. We got up to go to church, and it was perhaps one of the most moving services I've attended. There are no words. When this week's services are posted, you should just watch them at www.gccwired.com -- the end was just incredible.

After church, we dropped Michael off at his friend's house for a birthday party, and we debated whether or not to go to McDonald's, but in the interest of saving money and calories, I opted to cook dinner. I made homemade chicken nuggets and french fries in the oven, so there was much less fat and fewer calories then if we'd eaten at McD's. Then Aria and I went to karaoke at Sports-Time, and called my sister-in-law Beth to see if she wanted to go. We bought a couple pieces of awesome chocolate cake to celebrate Beth's birthday (which was yesterday) and we shared. I sang "She's in Love With The Boy" and "Somebody to Love", Aria sang "Temporary Home" and "Your Love is My Drug", and "Imagine" with Christi (my niece, Beth's daughter). Christi and Beth sang "The Climb". Everyone had a lovely time, and we came home. Aria's probably a bit wired from the chocolate and Mountain Dew (in fact, she might be on the ceiling if I were to peek out into the living room), but we have all day tomorrow to relax, watch football, and enjoy being together.

I have to say this... who gives a crap if the stars are misaligned and we're all a different astrological sign? I don't fit the bill of a Pisces or an Aquarius. True, I like water, but so do a lot of people. Just sayin'.

If I could change one thing about my husband, I would make him snoreless. I fully realize that 'snoreless' is not a word, even without the red line below it from the Blogger Grammar Checker. Also, Aria might not be the only one hyped up by the chocolate and Mountain Dew.

I'm going to read now. I could be up all night reading. I might get all of these books in my stack read by tomorrow. Too bad I'm not doing that 100 book thing again this year, huh?

Stephanie Jean

Friday, January 14, 2011

Evening Postzzzz..z....z..zzz...zz.......


zzzzzzzzz.

Okay, I'm officially exhausted. I don't mind the extra hours at work because I get paid by the hour, but I feel bad for Steve. He's on salary, so it's the same no matter how many extra hours he clocks. This pay period it was almost two extra days work of work. New schedule, and all. I wish I could have some of his hours and he could have a little rest once in awhile. I stayed after today and worked after I clocked out because it's Friday, and we don't work after sundown on Friday. If he were to have closed alone, he would've been there too late.

We rented "Despicable Me" on Blu-Ray and watched it while we had dinner together with Aria tonight. She and I made chicken spaghetti. When I did grocery shopping this week, I did not purchase any red meat. I'm bound and determined to infuse some health into this house if it's the last thing I do. (That sounded wrong...) I've lost a couple of pounds this week, thankfully. Weigh-in is tomorrow morning. I have to stop by my mother-in-law's and pay her for our entrance fees for our Biggest Loser contest (and my extra dollar from last week, since I didn't lose any weight!) Hopefully my awesome sister-in-law, Beth, will be there because today is her birthday and I didn't get to see her or talk to her. (Much of that is my fault, because I didn't leave work until after 5, came home and cooked and watched a movie, then came in to weigh myself and go to bed, and lo and behold, there was the calendar with her birthday on it... and now it's too late to do anything but Facebook her (which I did). I heart you, Beth! We'll celebrate soon!

"Despicable Me" was great, by the way.

Off to do my reading, which I always seem to be behind at. It would probably help if I weren't reading six or seven things at the same time. I finished "The Ragamuffin Gospel" by Brennan Manning about a week ago (I can't remember if I posted about it or not). It was quite good. A lot of the stuff they talk about at our church, how people don't know they matter to God, and they're trying so hard to earn their salvation, or earn His love, and how they already have it, they just have to accept it, and other so-called Christians are turning them away because of their holier-than-thou attitude. Manning is an alcoholic, several years recovering, and talks about that a lot in the book. I've started "The Shack", but I'm not very far into it yet so I can't say how I feel about it. I LOVE "Eat, Pray, Love"... the movie was good, but the writing in the book is far superior, so I'm glad I saved it until after I saw the movie. "Full Dark, No Stars" is Stephen King's new short story collection ('short' is a term used here to denote very small novels, as Stephen King has long since forgotten how to write an actual short story). I'm learning quite a bit from "The Bipolar Teen", and I'm also doing "The Love Dare" devotional (not as good as last year's, but some nice ideas thus far). I'm also reading "The Lonely Polygamist" on Kindle which I can't talk about until after Steve has read it, since he downloaded it and I'm reading it first. So I won't even tell you if I like it or not. (SPOILER ALERT: I DO.) Haven't gotten into the Apocrypha much in the past week. I'm looking forward to reading and relaxing as much as possible this weekend (in between football and church, in no particular order.)

I cannot get Katy Perry's song "Firework" out of my head since the girl performed it at chuch last week. Aria posted it on her Facebook, and of course her mother had something negative to say about the video. I just wish she could write something positive once in awhile to counteract the negative. It's frustrating. Aria's absolutely an incredible person, and I'm not just saying that because she's my daughter. If she were someone else's daughter, I'd want her for my own. Oh... wait...

(pause for dramatic effect in which you realize she actually IS someone else's, and I DO want her for my own :)

I realize periodically that my familial connections are bizarre when written out. If people don't understand that I have a great compunction for the words 'step-' or "half-" when added to my family members. I don't make a distinction. I don't feel that any of my siblings are "half-", and I don't feel that any of my children are "step-". I have a brother, two sisters, and three children. However, my three children have a mother, and two of my siblings have another mother. Sometimes I refer to my sister's mom, or my brother's mom. Sometimes I refer to my kids' mom. It's odd when written out. (Sometimes it's odd when spoken -- I remember meeting up with my sister and her mom at a craft show once, and I introduced my friend: This is my sister Jennifer, and her mom".)

I'm pretty sure I was going to stop writing and read for awhile. I should probably do that...

Have a wonderful weekend. It'll be spring before you know it. (In five months, if you live in Indiana.)

Stephanie Jean

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

What's Wrong, Cajun Man? Stagna-shown!

Well, it's been over 24 hours since a book sold. My initial elation has turned to frustration at the stagnation. Those of you who ever watched Adam Sandler on Saturday Night Live remember Cajun Man, so whenever I use a noun that ends in '-ation' I hear him saying it. I literally hear Adam Sandler doing a very bad Cajun accent in my head. Not my own voice. That is correct. At any rate, I'm feeling sort of the same way I feel after the grand finale at a fireworks display. There was all the build-up, the excitement, driving to the field, finding a parking space, pulling out the chairs and blankets, bringing snacks, listening to the music build up and then the fireworks display which is beautiful, especially the purples and the greens, and the absolutely fantastic grand finale - and then it's over, and you have to pick up all your junk and go back to your humdrum life. That's how it feels to sell nine books in a row and then none for 24 hours. Now I have to figure out how to market the darn thing, and we all know how much work that is. The alternative is to continue writing, producing books quickly, and sell them on Kindle to the same nine people that bought this one. Chances are, though, that at least some of them won't like it, so they won't buy the next one.

Depres-shown!

The Kindle market is tough. It's cheap to download books, the software is free, but it's a limited audience, and an even more limited audience that have the Kindle or the software and are actually interested in a book of poetry or short stories. At least, that aren't my family or friends. There are like, four other people out there that might purchase the book that didn't go to school with me or share some of my blood. So if you meet one of those four people, can you please tell them to check it out? That would be so great, thanks.

Today I opened by myself. I did it almost correctly. A bit overzealous, I did something I thought I was supposed to do, but turns out I wasn't unless it's a Monday. On the flip side, I forgot to do something that we didn't do on Monday but that I have to do all the rest of the days. I didn't poison anyone, though, and I didn't burn the place down, so that's a plus. I've worked more in the last two days than I used to work in a week when I first started. It was kind of nice, though, after the initial shock wore off, to just be working with Steve. He's all right. I guess I'll keep him. I came home and used the snowblower for the first time which was reallllllly cool. I might get some crap for doing The Man's job, but it's worth it to have used it once. It's like a lawnmower, but way more fun. I wanted to snowblow the entire yard into the neighbors' yards. That would've been kind of cool. I also wanted to take it into the backyard and blow snow at the dogs. Nikita said it was okay, but Doobie was pretty uncomfortable with the idea.

Zach got his SAT scores back. I haven't talked to him about them yet, but I see them on the counter. I'm hesitant to say whether he'll get into Ball State or not. I hope so, for his sake. I, of course, would rather keep him home for another year so he can take classes and work part time and... well, be here. I'm not ready for him to leave yet. He still seems so young to me. It's not that I don't want him to have any freedom, of course I do. And I trust him not to make any large mistakes of, shall we say, 'character'. I just... I don't know. I look at him and I see a very tall nine-year-old boy who should be asking me to take him bowling, not driving to the bowling alley himself in his own car that he bought to have dinner and hang out with the guys and spend money he made working at his job that he's had while he's been a senior in high school. GAHHHH! See how all of those things just strung themselves into a nightmare!?

This evening holds some good things -- we're getting "The Social Network" on Blu-Ray which we're all kind of psyched to see, we're having dinner together, and this portion of 'we' is going to take a hot bath and go to bed early. Being the opener at work sucks my big toe. Hats off to my husband who has done it by himself for a couple of years now. I did enjoy the peace and quiet, though, before all the customers got there. I think I would thoroughly enjoy working at a coffee shop as long as we remained closed at all times.

Please download Kindle for PC onto your PC. Please download Kindle for Mac onto your Mac. Please buy my book. Please click on these links to do these things. Because do you know what that would give me cause for?

CELEBRA-SHOWN!

Thank you, and have a lovely day.

Stephanie Jean

Monday, January 10, 2011

Monday, Monday -- Can't Trust That Day

Oh, man, am I weary. I'm sitting on the sofa at my wonderful in-laws' house, kicking back on the wireless and typing for a little bit before the last bits of my consciousness drain away. I'm attempting to watch the BCS National Championship game, but since it's comprised of two teams that I really don't care about, I'm not paying too much attention. I have a lot of other things on my mind.

Our oldest son had his winter band concert tonight. He was in the percussion ensemble piece at the beginning, and the four symphonic band pieces at the end. One of them, called "Trolls", made me giggle because it was the theme song for a video game that I was obsessed with when I was younger, on my Commodore 64, called "Trolls and Tribulations" (if my mom is reading this right now, she just began humming the music!) It was a very nice concert, but sadly, not the most pleasant of listening experiences. I'm not sure why I continue to be taken aback at the audacity of concert-goers. Well, anywhere-goers. I feel there are a certain set of rules when you're watching a performance of any kind -- unspoken rules -- but I guess in this day and age, they should probably be spoken because a lot of people must have no idea. Turn your cell phone off before the concert begins, preferably before you walk into the auditorium. When someone is speaking on stage, or when music is being performed, stop talking. And if you sit behind me and you are chewing gum, have the decency to at least close your mouth while you chew. Do not allow your six-year-old child to join with another six-year-old child in playing 'maypole' with the railing in the middle of the steps leading down toward the stage. Do not continually crinkle and tap the paper program you were given when you walked in. That is to keep track of what piece you are watching them perform on the stage. You know, the stage? That large, flat lighted area directly up front where all the performers are? The reason you are at the concert? That stage. These rules, unspoken as they are, seem like a lot of common sense to me. Unfortunately, common sense is pretty uncommon these days.

Tomorrow I have a meeting with Kerri White, who is the editor-in-chief for Mi Child and Family magazine of Michiana. My first article was published in the January issue of Family, and she has slated my next two articles for Family and Mi Child in February. This will be the first time we will meet face-to-face. I feel very honored that she's put so much faith in me right away, and has allowed me to write so much for her already. I'm afraid of being The Wizard of Oz -- once she sees the real me, up close and personal, she might be disappointed! (Pay no attention to the girl behind the counter with the espresso covering her jeans...)

So, let's go through the day together. I woke up at 4:05 this morning, to my husband's alarm going off for the second time (I know it went off at 4 because that's what it was set for, but apparently I slept through that one.) I threatened his life last night if he let it go off several times because I was getting up at 4:30, and if it goes off every five minutes before that, then I get no sleep. He lovingly removed himself from the bed at 4:05 and went to sleep on the couch. I got up at 4:30 and walked with my blurry eyes in the dark toward the bathroom. I went to turn on the light switch to find my husband already standing there, and my heart went "GARRGHGHGHHH!!!!" and I was promptly wide awake. We drove separately to work since we're never sure what time we're both going to get to leave, and he showed me the ropes of opening by myself. I adore my husband, with all his idiosynchrasies, his little obsessive-compulsive ways. I watched the very specific way he did everything and tried not to do it differently, even though I have very specific ways I like to do things, too. That's not what I wanted, I wanted to do what he wanted me to do (no matter how difficult that is for me because of my personality). I didn't wholly succeed, but I did my best.

After he left to go shopping, Laura and Ashley came in. Ashley used to work with me, and she is awesome, and I'm so glad she's coming back even though we won't really be working together. She'll be Saturday Girl. It was fun getting back into the groove together, and she did a great job. Somewhere around 1:30, our coffee grinders simultaneously stopped working for no good reason. We tried everything to fix them, to no avail. I tried the breakers, all were fine. I went downstairs to find the other breakers, one of which was tripped, and I moved it back and forth several times, and it still didn't work. We decided to give up and wait for Steve, since he's well-known for fixing something in ten seconds that the rest of us have spent an hour and a half working on. We offered to make an Americano for anyone who wanted coffee that wasn't our flavored or decaf coffee, since we'd run out of both the dark and the house at that point. Once Steve came back with the groceries, he walked downstairs to the breaker that I'd tried several times to fix, and, in about ten seconds, fixed it. See?

I came home from work, talked to the insurance lady about Zachary's car insurance (which, knock on wood, isn't bad for someone his age). Then I made myself some leftovers and sat down with THE REMOTE CONTROL in front of the television in the living room with no distractions and watched whatever I wanted on the Netflix Instant Play through the Wii. I chose: The State, one of my favorite sketch comedy shows from MTV back in the early nineties. I loved that show, and it was even funnier watching it now than it was back then. I watched two episodes of it, and would've watched more if the kids hadn't come home. Pesky childrenz. I was ready for a nap, though, so I skedaddled off to the bedroom, read a tiny bit, and zonked out for about a half hour. Then I got dressed and went to the band concert, and now we're all caught up. I feel uninteresting, and for that I apologize. But hey, you're the one reading this! :P

My brother has started up a new band, Red Hot Voodoo Revue. I'm looking forward to seeing them when they start playing out. He posted some of their practice online and it's pretty cool. (Or, as my son would say, 'legit' -- I think I might ground him from that word, he uses it so often...)

Time for getting to some 'real' writing, for lack of a better term. I have an article to write for the Good Neighbor News' February issue, and I haven't thought up a good topic yet. Brainstorming time!

Let's see if I can open all by myself tomorrow without incident... wish me luck!

Stephanie Jean

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Fresh Week

Here we go. The first day of a new week. There was a great service at church today. It was very inspiring and fast-paced, and the music was great, too. They sang Katy Perry's "Firework", showed clips from the food drop yesterday. Even with the record-breaking snowfall, over 1000 people showed up to help feed the hungry in Michiana. I am so glad to be a part of Granger Community Church, even if I don't get there every week. It's nice to be in a place where there's no judgmental glance as you walk in the door, no preaching at you about who you should vote for, no diatribe on how evil the world is and how great we are. They tell the truth: that we're all sinners, that we all struggle everyday, and that loving people is what it's really all about.

Tomorrow, I start my "new schedule" at work. Not sure if it's just for this week, or if this will be continuing, but I'll be opening most of the week. The hours will be good, so I will get a better paycheck, but I'm not the biggest fan of mornings. We'll see how long until I totally flip out...

I've sold nine books so far, and I'm pretty excited! I'll get my first royalty check in about sixty days. I would love to sell a few more this period, and I need to find a good way of marketing this. It's great for people who have a Kindle, but a lot of people are wary about downloading the Kindle software onto their computer, or they're just not into reading on a computer screen. I think I need to get some cards printed up with the website address for DLing Kindle, and a book description with the picture and the Amazon address for that, too, and just pass them out at the Daily Grind where I work.

I need to focus on losing some weight this week so I don't have to pay another dollar for the Biggest Loser contest our family is doing. My mother-in-law is the keeper of the weight and money. That reminds me, I still have to pay her. I really like the Wii Fit game, now that we have the board to use with it. I burn calories while having fun. I wish I could burn calories sitting on my butt playing The Legend of Zelda on my old Nintendo in the bedroom.

Sipping a little Mountain Dew before bed. I know it sounds ridiculous, but the caffeine will not keep me awake, it will just keep me from getting a headache in the morning.

Happy birthday to my father, Mike -- he certainly doesn't look his age!

Stephanie Jean

Saturday, January 8, 2011

A Conversation with Dog

The following is a transcript of the conversation I had with my husky, Nikita, this morning:



8:32a.m.

Nikita: ...mom?

Me: mrrfnm.

(pause)

Nikita: Mom! MOM! MOOOOM!

Me: What!? Ugh, c'mon. Let me sleep.

Nikita! MOM! MOM, it snowed! I can feel it! Mom!

Me: Go to sleep.

Nikita: Mom. I NEED to go outside. I NEED to be in the snow, Mom. MOM?

Me: Fine.

Nikita: OH! Good. Okay, great. I'm ready. Are you getting up? I need to go out
in the snow. I'm a snow dog.

Me: Just hang on.

Nikita: SNOW DOG! That's me! I'm excited. It snowed a lot. And I like snow. I LOVE IT! C'mon!

Me: I'm putting my robe on, can't you see? Just chill. Move away from the door. I can't open it when you're in front of it.

Nikita: YES! We're going out of the first door. I will lead the way to the Outside Door. Are you coming? I'm out here. C'mon! I'm excited. Snow, snow, snow-de-snow! Oh, man. This is awesome. I can't wait.

Me: Okay, here. Go. (Open door)

Nikita: WHOOOO HOOOO! This is great! I am so... hey. It's uh... pretty cold out here.

Me: Yep.

Nikita: I think I'm just gonna pee. Yep, I'm done. Can I come in?

Me: Jerk.

Actual, word for word conversation. No joke.

So much for sleeping in today. Nikita wasn't the first thing that woke me up. But last night was fun. We went to Bella Luna around 6:30 and sat at the bar so we could have good seats for when the band started (three hours later). We had dinner, watched some basketball, talked, and then P.S. played three sets, finishing a little before 2a.m. I even got to dance to two songs with Steve, and neither of them were The Humpty Dance which is the only song he will usually dance to while sober. When we got home, our daughter was still awake watching Heroes in the living room because she couldn't sleep. It's 10a.m. right now and she's sleeping just fine right now! Haha! Wish I was.

I weighed in this morning and sadly lost no weight this week. At least I didn't gain anything. But, truth be told, I really wasn't trying yet. I'm still drinking pop and still eating the same. I bought some Slim Fasts last week and haven't done that yet. Maybe I'll get around to that this week. When I diet, I usually do like, oatmeal or cream of wheat for breakfast because it keeps me full for a long time, then a Slim-Fast for lunch and a smaller dinner than normal. I also stop drinking pop because the carbonation makes people retain water. I can lose about five or six pounds in a week when I do that. It's just a matter of actually doing that. It might be easier to just cut off an arm, that's gotta be six pounds or so.

Aria wrote a blog about her brothers last night. I feel for her. She really looks up to them, and they don't pay much attention to her unless they think she's annoying them. It's hard to get them (brothers in general) to pay attention to these things at that age. It's not that they're bad kids, they are just teenage boys and are involved with their own lives. She is younger, and wants to be a part of their lives as well. It was the same with my brother and me when we were younger, and I told her that. We have almost seven years between us, so I was even more annoying to him probably than she is to her brothers. But as we got older and both became adults, we held conversations, we talked, we listened, we started to have a few things in common. It'll get better for her and her brothers. Besides, we know our brothers love us even if they're not demonstrative about it as teenagers or as adults. No siblings ever have everything in common, or spend a ton of time together, or want to be around each other all the time. Sisters are more likely to be close to sisters, and brothers to brothers. But brothers and sisters have a love and connection more often than they realize, and when the chips are down, those boys would always be there for their sister to protect her if someone were trying to harm her. It's just the day-to-day struggles of being three teenagers under the same roof that get to us all sometimes!

Can I just say how happy I am that God blessed us with such a wonderful thing as coffee? Sadly, I've been typing so long that it's gotten cold and I have to leave my comfy bed to microwave it. Looking outside, I kind of feel like I'm in an igloo right now.

Stay safe on these roads, and if you live somewhere warm, or tropical... well, I dislike you greatly at the moment.

Stephanie Jean

Friday, January 7, 2011

Friday Night... Just Got Paid... *dance*

Greetings and Salutations, reader-type folks. I have what could perhaps be the best news of the last two weeks -- it's payday! And, after paying the bills, the credit cards, the Christmas Club, gas for the vehicles, and my daughter for cleaning the house last week - I have a few bucks left! So I am going to celebrate by seeing P.S. Dump Your Boyfriend perform tonight at Bella Luna (as I mentioned yesterday) and I'm going to dance my rear-end off. It's been a hella-rotten day, and next week's going to be fairly strenuous as I am apparently opening four days by myself when I've never opened by myself before, so I'm going to enjoy this weekend to the fullest.

My friend Ben (which is not the name of a Ted Nugent song, though my husband thinks it is), mentioned to me in a comment a couple of days ago that the KINDLE software is also available for iPad, iPhone, and Android if you download the app, or whatever you people do with your fancy schmancy phones that do things other than call people. So if you don't have a Kindle and don't want the software on your computer, you can download it onto your shiny phone toy and then download my new book, "Women I've Been" to whatever device you happen to have that will do such a thing. (This is why Ben is my tech guy. I like to write, he likes to be... well, techy.)

The application for "Dollars for Scholars" is due at 4:15 today at Northridge High School. I know this because my son called me around 3:30 to tell me, and to ask if I'd be at home because he finally filled out the application and it needs a parent's signature. It's 4:03 right now and he's still not here to have me sign it. I really hope he didn't get in another quasi-accident like yesterday. Oh, wait, here he comes.

*Pause to sign*

Now he's on his way back to the school, and the other kids are excited to read my article in Family Magazine of Michiana's January 2011 issue which just came out today!

I've sold seven books so far :)

Okay, I need to get to writing another article... or perhaps a nap. Have a fantastic weekend!

Stephanie Jean

Thursday, January 6, 2011

A Smorgasboard of Information

Today was somewhat of a roller coaster for many people in our family. While I was cleaning my first house of the day, I got a call from my husband saying our oldest son had been in his first car accident in his pretty yellow new-to-him car that he's only had for about two weeks. Attempting not to panic, I waited for more information because if I spoke, the gutteral "nooooooooooo" that would escape my lips would accomplish nothing. Everyone was all right. Apparently he slid on the ice, and the girl behind him wound up totaling the front of her vehicle on the guard rail trying to miss him. And thank God she did, because they could both have been hurt badly by the impact. However, again thanking God, both of them are safe and the insurance won't have to be notified because Zachary had no actual impact, he ended up just being a witness.

When I arrived home after cleaning my second house today and braving the ridiculous roads (a 40 minute drive became about an hour and 20 minutes on the way there and the way back, first because of bad visibility in the snow, and last because of icy roads), I found out that my father-in-law was at the emergency room. He has a case of cellulitis in his foot, which is basically an internal staph infection (if you go back in the archives, you'll see this is the same thing my director for RENT had back in July or August). They gave him some antibiotics and sent him home, but he has to keep a careful watch on it to be sure it doesn't flare up, or it could be dangerous.

And finally, my brother's family lost their kitty to internal injuries from a dog attack. My niece was also bitten on her hand, and swelled up pretty badly. That's a traumatic thing. I know how very much I love our dogs, even when they drive me batty. They're family, and if something happened to one of them I would be devastated. My heart goes out to the Stowes :(

I have been writing some articles the last couple of days for Family Magazine of Michiana and Mi Child. I also received a copy of the Good Neighbor News for January, and read my article in there. I have to think of a title for my space in the newspaper and have my February article in to her by the last week of January as well. I'm having a brain freeze as to what to call the space. I'm seriously considering "Salisbury's Stake". Yeah. I'm a dork.

As of 10:00pm, I've sold five books on Kindle. Now, if only I could keep up that average each day for the rest of the year...

One more day of work this week! I am so excited about tomorrow, because P.S. Dump Your Boyfriend is going to be at Bella Luna. (For those of you who are not local, I just said something that made zero sense to you.) P.S. is a local cover band that's been kickin' it in Michiana for at least 20 years, as far as I can remember, and I love watching the perform. And dancing. I get to dance tomorrow, yay! Bella Luna is a little bar about three blocks from our house. This is incredible because P.S. usually takes up a gigantic amount of space with their following -- Bella Luna is pretttty small. So it should be fun to see how many people can stuff themselves into it! We're going right after work to ensure that we have a place to sit. When I'm not shaking my groove thang, that is. Walking distance from our house... always a plus, just in case we can't agree on which of us is going to be the designated driver.

Here's hoping the weekend is better to my family than the week was... be careful on the ice and snow out there, and bundle up warm! Did you know that mittens keep your hands warmer than gloves because of the body heat generated when your fingers are together as opposed to being separated? Just a little tip from your friendly neighborhood writer-mom. (See how that kinda sounded like 'Spiderman' but not really? I should stop writing and go to sleep while I'm ahead...)

Stephanie Jean

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Book is LIVE!

Here it is! Do you have a Kindle? Yes? Awesome! Then please go to the Amazon Kindle store and download my new book, "Women I've Been" for only $8.99!

If you do not have a Kindle, you can go to this KINDLE FOR PC link, or this KINDLE FOR MAC link and download the software for F R E E onto your computer, then go to the Amazon Kindle Store and download my new book, "Women I've Been" for only $8.99!

Today was a pretty good day. Work was same old, same old, but then I went with Steve to his Subway hangout and did some reading, and had a very good chipotle steak and cheese sandwich. After hanging out for a couple of hours, reading, and working on an article for Family Magazine of Michiana, we came home. I did some laundry and made Chinese food for dinner: cashew chicken fried rice, sweet sour chicken and I made some separately with the Asian Zing sauce from Buffalo Wild Wings. It tastes different at BWW than it does at home. Funny, because Dunkin' Donuts coffee tastes different at the store than it does at home, too. I think they put drugs in their products while you're at their restaurants so you buy their stuff, then buy more of their stuff to take home, then you don't get your fix so you have to come back. Okay, I know, another one of my paranoid theories. Then I won at Jeopardy, which is a rare thing lately, so that was nice.

A calm is coming over me. I live in so much chaos all the time with work, and kids, and more work, and cooking, cleaning, dogs, choir concerts, band concerts, theatre... I'm usually at my wits' end. But right now, I feel peaceful. Content. I feel as if I'm finally getting where I'm supposed to be. Moving in the right direction. This book, the newspaper byline, the magazine articles -- it's all falling into place. And for once, while that's happening, I'm not waiting for the other shoe to drop.

I want to thank you all for sticking with me on this journey, and for being supportive and encouraging. If it weren't for my family and friends, I would've given up years ago.

If you don't have a Kindle and don't want Kindle software, I bear you no ill will! Haha! I do ask, however, that if you could pass the info along to anyone you know that might be interested, I would greatly appreciate it. Refer them here, even -- I can always use more followers!

Have a wonderful second half of your week!
Stephanie Jean

Monday, January 3, 2011

New Book Going Up!


Finally, some exciting news...

I just finished the cover art on my collection of short stories and poetry and will be soon uploading it to my Amazon Kindle account so that my book will be finished and for sale by the end of the week. With 70% royalties, I could sell three books and make more than I did in the entire 6 years my last book has been for sale through PublishAmerica. This collection spans about fifteen years of my life. There are poems and stories in there that originated in college, and I've worked on them a bit here and there over the years. It won't be perfect, of course. I know there are things in there I'll want to change after it's actually out there and people are reading it, but I have to just let that all go. Part of what keeps me from being published is fear. I have to get over that fear -- fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of being made fun of -- and do what I'm meant to do. I'm not sure why it's taken me this long to realize that. I guess the timing has to be right on everything.

That being said, please download the free Kindle software to your Mac or PC if you do not own a Kindle. I will alert you the very moment that "Women I've Been" is for sale (retailing at only $8.99!) And then you can promptly purchase it, make me rich doing what I love, and I can quit my job and buy a mansion in Bangor, Maine. Oh... wait... that's not how it works, is it?

The cover art was fun! It wasn't the original concept I had had for the cover art, but I like this better than what I thought of the first time around. You would've had to read the book for the first one to make sense, because it's an allusion to something that happens in one of the stories. This artwork is about the title. "Women I've Been"... a picture of my feet, one in a work boot and the other in a strappy black shoe with painted toenails, standing in the leaves outside. My little sister showed me how to use PicNik online to mess with the color and edit the pictures, so I went off of what I remembered her showing me to create the rest of the effects and then saved it. I'm pretty excited. Do I seem excited? I am. Pretty excited.

Also exciting is, the little newspaper that's been publishing me, the Good Neighbor News, just asked me if I'd like to have my own byline, my own personal space each month to write what I wanted! I wasn't sure if there was a proper, businesslike, cool way to answer, so I said, "YESYESYESYESYESYES!"

And (but wait, there's more!) we're getting a free pool table!

The rest of this day blurs. I recall that it began with a massive headache and the slowest day ever at work, and that I replaced the smoke detector at our house (to the joy of our husky, who was really rather tired of the beeping by this point). I've had some funky back pain all day and missed Marla at work to give me a mini-massage when we weren't busy (which was, I reiterate, all day long).

Now I think it's time for some dinner, whenever the husband gets home. I am so thankful for today, headache and all!

Stephanie Jean

Sunday, January 2, 2011

De-Christmasing

Perhaps my least favorite part of the season is the removal of Christmas decorations. It signifies the end of all the fun stuff: pigging out, presents, sleeping in... and the beginning of the resolution phase of the year: holding back, saying 'no thank you' to perfectly good chocolate, and the massive housecleaning that is long overdue.

I got up 'early' this morning and met my dad for breakfast before church. Once in a great while we get a chance to see each other, just the two of us, and it's very nice. Then we went to Lowe's so I could look at dishwashers. Mine's fizzling out. Well, it's way past the fizzle mode. Now it's in the "please, for the love of all that is holy, find me a replacement' mode. Dad told me that Lowe's has a great price-matching plan... if you find the same model at a lower price elsewhere, Lowe's will match it, and then knock another 10% off! So it's time for me to search the inserts in the Sunday papers, and drop by a few other places. There's one that looked pretty good for $270, I just need to wait about two months before I can buy it. I refuse to put anything else on my credit card. I can hear it sigh with exhaustion when I remove it from my wallet, and I just don't want to put any more pressure on the poor thing. It's been through enough already.

Steve and Aria met me at church. The first service of the new year is sometimes about financial stuff, so I was wary, but it was nice to hear about people mattering to God, and how we are meant to love others. Stuff we should all know already, but nice to hear nonetheless. Then we dropped my car off at home, I made burritos, and we drove off to Fort Wayne to pick the boys up. After waiting only 45 minutes this time (as opposed to the two hours we waited last Thursday), they showed up. Aria came with us so she could spend a little time with her mom. Then we piled back in the van and drove home, attempting to listen to both the Bears and the Colts games. My brain checked out for awhile -- I like football, but I have a hard enough time listening to one game instead of watching it. Two is just insanity.

I saw the most beautiful sunset. Deep blues and oranges on one side of the horizon, and light purple and blue on the other. That's one of the beautiful things about farm country. It's not as beautiful as a desert (read: Vegas) sunset, but it's quite stunning, at any rate.

I came to bed at 8:00 so I could read, catch up a bit, have some devotional time, and get to bed early to prepare for my work week. I'm hungry, which is nagging at me. Not terribly hungry, more of an "I want a Mountain Dew and Reese's Cup" sort of hunger, "with some tortilla chips and queso" thrown in for good measure. This is why I've gained 30 lbs in the last five years. If only I could have the "I sure love carrot sticks and naked lettuce" cravings. I've never had those. Ever. Not one.

I finished reading whatever Sookie Stackhouse novel came next. It's the one right before "Dead in the Family" which is the last one she's written, I believe. Steve's reading that right now, so I have to wait until he's finished with it. This will help me with the 'patience' portion of my journey. Much of me wants to get out of bed, grab it out of his book bag, and stay up all night reading it. But I know he would hate that, so I won't do it. And he'd probably wake up if I stood up right now, and I'd have to explain my actions since I wouldn't be walking toward the bathroom, I'd be walking toward the book bag...

I do have Stephen King's new book to read, and a devotional that I was going to do last year but did a different one instead. So, I'm covered. I just... really... want to read... the Sookie... STOP IT.

The kids are back to school tomorrow. Zachary is excited, because he gets to show off his new car. Aria is excited because she misses her friends and she actually likes school. Michael is downstairs playing his new XBOX game and I have no idea how he feels about school starting, I'm just praying he remembers that there is such a thing and he has to wake up on time for it. We'll see if I get a call from the attendance office tomorrow or not.

This must be the year that I figure out how to stop my husband's snoring. (I mean without suffocating him with a pillow. I'm fond of him.) I wonder if I tried stuffing a tennis ball in his mouth while he's asleep if that would get him to breathe through his nose...

Now that I'm at the point where I'm just plotting evil things, I should probably stop typing. Tune in again tomorrow to see if everyone's still alive.

Stephanie Jean

Saturday, January 1, 2011

2011 -- A Brand New Journey


Good morning, faithful followers and new readers alike! I'd like to thank you for taking the time to check out my blog, whether this is the first time or whether you've been reading all last year as well. You might notice the changes -- I hope you like them. I've removed the "Books I've Read" widget from the screen, as I'm no longer keeping track of how many books I read this year. That was last year's goal, and 53 isn't too shabby, even though it wasn't 100. Thanks for all your feedback on what I did read and should read, it was greatly appreciated.

On to 2011, though. Each and every year, I'm pretty sure it's the last year I'm going to see Dick Clark on the New Year's Eve countdown, and for that I'm very sad. Part of the sadness comes from the fact that apparently Ryan Seacrest is taking over and he's no Dick Clark, but I guess someone has to take the torch. We'll see what happens at the end of this year. If only we could make him bionic Dick Clark -- rebuild him, make him better -- then my grandkids could be watching him count the new year down in 2040, too.

I have no lofty goals this year. At least, nothing tangible. I've changed the name of this blog from "A Year of Reinvention" to "A Journey of Reinvention". It will take more than a lifetime to achieve the changes that I want in my heart and soul and person, but writing them out certainly helps me to make progress. Every year I want to lose the same ten pounds, and then I gain weight, so now I'm trying to lose ten pounds from three years... do the math, it's harrowing. But much more important than physical accomplishments, for me, are the accomplishments I need to make within.

I fail on a daily basis. Everyone does, it's what makes us human. Or we fail because we are human, depending on how you look at it. I can make goals and forget goals, I can attempt change and fail to change -- but the dire element is that I am, in fact, attempting. Stagnation is a dismal place. If you're looking at a river, and water is flowing, you can see great distinction in the manner of the flow. An eddy, where water is twirling back and forth in a ring, a rough current flowing over underwater obstacles such as rocks and tree trunks, a slow and gentle lapping at the edges where the water meets the dirt... all of these are beautiful in their own right, and reflect different aspects of our humanity. The eddy shows how we chase our own tails at times, desperately trying to accomplish something but becoming caught in our patterns and then breaking out and becoming something different. The rough current represents the distress and crises in our life, and how we build momentum forcing ourselves along to get through even when things are boisterous, angry, or dangerous all around us. And the slow, gentle lapping is the beautiful, serene time in between when we just allow ourselves to relax and BE.

Be still, but not stagnant. Stagnation smells. It corrupts, it molds, it rots. It attracts flies and mosquitoes, it sits in its own ugly mess and goes nowhere.

Be still, but with gentle movement.

How can this make sense? Because on the outside, we might be rushing around to fulfill obligations, all the time missing the calm that we really need to keep on the inside. On the inside, we might have a million thoughts and be unable to put them into action on the outside. Both of these have negative impact. If we can hone in on that inner stillness, that calm relaxation, that state of just being... being content, being happy, being joyful, being humble, being patient, being kind, being loving... everything else will fall into place. We'll still do our day-to-day rush when we need to. We'll still have time for friends and family. We'll still be ourselves. We'll just be gently lapping at the shore, making things more beautiful than they were to begin with, and enjoying the peace and serenity that God has given us each new day.

2011 is a blessing. January is a blessing. Saturday is a blessing. 11:30 a.m. is a blessing. Live in the moment, grateful for what you have, not wishing for what you have not. Smile more. Listen more. Help people more. These are my somewhat intangible goals... how about you?

Happy New Year,
Stephanie Jean