Ep. 47 Today’s episode shares 3 simple ways to have enough for Christmas. Enough what? Enough everything. Enough time. Enough money. Enough patience.
Ep. 42 What do you know about Sao Paulo, Brazil? Join me for stories and surprising experiences from my trip to Sao Paulo.
#10 BRAZIL is a Country of Immigrants
Like my home country, the United States of America, Brazil consists of the true native indigenous tribes, such as the Gaurani, , but otherwise the citizens have descended from immigrants. I could sense a spirit of building, enterprise, and a hard work ethic. The people I met knew the stories of their ancestors.
My tour guide, Doris, descends from immigrants. Her grandparents were Jews who escaped Poland at some point during Hitler’s regime and the outbreak of WWII. They didn’t know where they were going. They got on a ship having no idea where the ship was headed. That is the true definition of fleeing, taking the gamble that any place you land will be better and safer than where you are. I would LOVE to know the intricate details of their story, how they ended up on the ship, who they were with, what happened to their friends and family who decided not to go with them or who found a different way out. I only know what Doris told me, that her grandparents arrived in Brazil with nothing, and found a way to work and carve out a living.
Another man’s great-grandparents escaped from Syria due to war in their homeland in the late 1800s. A new wave of Syrian refugees has been fleeing to Brazil over the past eight years since the civil war has driven close to 5 million Syrians from their homes. The UN refugee agency reports that Brazilian consulates in the Middle East have been issuing special visas under simplified procedures to allow survivors of the war in Syria to claim asylum and have a chance to start a new life.
#9 Sao Paulo is HUGE
Sao Paulo is the largest city in Latin America, larger even than Mexico City. With 19 million residents living in 587 square miles, the Sao Paulo city sky line goes on and on and on. The view flying over Sao Paul is hard to comprehend—miles of skyscrapers, apartment building that just keeping going.
Yes. Traffic is an issue. What’s interesting is that I didn’t feel crowded. There was a vibrant energy to the city.
#8 End to Slavery Spurred Immigration
The sugar cane and coffee plantations were largely built on slave labor. Brazil was the last country in the Western Hemisphere to abolish slavery in 1888. At a loss for labor, Brazil began paying voyage for immigrants from countries such as Italy. Today, Brazil has the highest Italian population outside of Italy. But Italian immigrants worked for low wages, were ill-treated, and had poor living conditions. In 1902, Italy banned subsidized immigration to Brazil.
Meanwhile, poverty in Japan forced Japanese to migrate, but their options were limited due to bans in the U.S. and Australia. In 1907, the Brazilian and the Japanese governments signed a treaty permitting Japanese migration to Brazil. Between 1917 and 1940 over 164,000 Japanese came to Brazil, 75% of them going to Sao Paulo where most of the coffee plantations were located. Today Brazil has the largest Japanese population outside of Japan.
#7 Language Encounter
English is not taught in Brazilian schools, so you’ll find that many residents do not speak English, and those who do have found ways to learn on their own. My tour guide, Doris, spoke excellent English. Doris is an example of the Brazilian population of immigrants. Her Jewish grandparents fled Poland in the 1940s. Doris regretted never learning to speak Polish from her grandmother. However, she did learn Hebrew studying the Torah in school, but has since forgotten all but the phrase, “I don’t speak Hebrew.” When Doris explained that she can’t really consider herself a Jew because she’s forgotten Hebrew and hasn’t been to synagogue in years, I taught her the English suffix “-ish.” I explained that –ish means not exactly. A person can be tall-ish or hungry-ish, or wealthy-ish. So I told her she could call herself Jew-ish. She loved that.
#6 Bandeira Means Flag
I picked up this little piece of trivia. Bandeira is Portugese for flag and is close to the Spanish Bandera. So, the name of Spain-born actor Antonio Banderas can be translated to English as Antonio Flags. Now you know. You’re welcome.
I learned what it is like to drive through long mountain tunnels. Now, I live in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, and there are some tunnels here and there. My kids have contests to see who can hold their breath to the end of the tunnel. But we don’t have anything like the tunnels on the route from Sao Paulo to the coastal city of Santo. Those tunnels go forever, you wouldn’t be able to hold your breath and live to tell about it. I have never before experienced mountains covered by a solid carpet of lush green foliage.
With five World Cup trophies, Brazil is the soccer capital of the globe. The dominant religion in Brazil is not Catholicism, but soccer, and what team you cheer for matters. A lot. There are four main soccer clubs.
- Corinthians is the most popular team in São Paulo (and the second most popular in Brazil). Corinthians regards itself as being the “team of the people” and gathers most of its support from the city’s working-class suburbs. It’s jerseys are white & black.
- Palmeiras is Corinthians’s biggest rival. The club is traditionally linked with the city’s Italian community, having been founded by a group of Italian laborers in the early 20th century. Playing in green and white, Palmeiras is officially nicknamed Verdão (Big Greens).
- São Paulo is known as the Tricolor for its white, red and black uniform. São Paulo is the city’s second-most supported club and one of Brazil’s most successful.
- Santos is not technically part of São Paulo’s Iron Trio, as they are from a city outside of the state capital, but Santos is one of the most famous football clubs in the world, not just in Brazil. Playing in the coastal city of the same name, Santos is nicknamed Peixe (Fish) and its all-white jerseys are recognized across the globe. The club’s fame is most known thanks to Pelé, the greatest soccer player of all time, who played for Santos for 18 years, arriving as an unknown 16-year-old and leaving as a 34-year-old global superstar. Pelé won three World Cups as a Santos player, while he also took his club to an astonishing 26 trophies, including two South American championships and two world championships.
#3 Gambling is Illegal; Fake Gambling is Fun
Gambling in Brazil has been illegal since 1946, so our hotel hosted a Casino Night offering every guest 100 worth of fake money. I don’t know how to play Poker or most Casino games. And the hotel employees did not speak English. I was trying to learn how to play Poker with Portuguese instruction, and somehow it worked. My husband and I had studied up on Portuguese numbers before going. It turns out that “gambling” is a great way to practice learning numbers. The employees helped us learn to count in Portuguese and we helped them learn to count in English.
#2 Ibirapuera: The Central Park of Sao Paulo
With massive growth of population, mostly old buildings or historic sites weren’t preserved, just torn down and replaced with bigger, more modern. Except in the city there is this huge park. Parque Iberapuera. Swamp. 1950s president planted foreign trees like Eucalyptus that drink a lot of water. Now it’s a tree park with trees from all over the world. I love trees. Justin and I walked half the park one night, and guess what? Felt perfectly safe. So many people jogging, sprinting, biking.
Cool thing: adult exercise playgrounds. Never seen this before. Par corp/Ninja equipment. Chin up bars. Leg presses. Rowing machines.
#1 Brazilian Cheesy Bread is GLUTEN FREE
Maybe you remember from Episodes 19 and 20 talking about not limiting summer screen time, my family chose different things they wanted to learn and practice during the summer. Then, at the end of the summer we had a Family Shine Time (Ep 34) and took our kids to eat at Rodizio Grill, which IS a Brazilian Restaurant. BUT, I didn’t eat the cheesy bread there because I assumed it wasn’t gluten free. I didn’t even think to ask.
From Doris, my tour guide in Brazil, I learned that Pao de Quejo, or Brazilian Cheese Bread is made from Tapioca flour and is GLUTEN FREE!!!
The best part of the story is how Doris came to know that Brazilian cheese bread does not have gluten. It happened like this: even though Doris is Jew-ish, a few years ago she was fasting and not eating flour. Her brother, who is not Jew-ish, but more like Orthodox, told her it was okay to eat Pao de Quejo because it is made from tapioca flour. Right away Doris asked the man behind the counter if indeed these particular cheese breads had any flour and he said NO. I bought one and ate it on the spot.
This marvelous thing happened on my first full day in Brazil. For six days after that, I ate Pao de Quejo every day. What would my trip have been like if we hadn’t stopped for juice at that cafe, or started talking breaded and fried foods, and Jewish fasts, and flour-free bread options? It would still have been a marvelous trip, but not nearly as tasty.
This makes me wonder what other yummy morsels of life I miss out on because I don’t know or because I don’t think to ask. Months ago, when I was debating whether to purchase an airlines ticket and join my husband on his trip to Brazil, my daughter said, “Mom, of course you’re going to Brazil with dad because it would be ridiculous if you missed the opportunity.”
I think this is the summary of what life is all about. If I had to summarize the meaning of life I would say it is this: Life is about getting an education, about having experiences, and opening your heart to find the love in all of it.
I loved this lesson learned from my Jew-ish, Polish, Brazilian tour guide (now friend) during a trip that I didn’t want to take: that life has all kinds of delicious bites for me to partake of, if I open myself to the possibility.
And this is what I learned traveling to Brazil.
Ep. 41 Greek War Horses were “meeked” which meant they were trained to stay in battle rather than flee at the sound of loud canons. The Greek origin of the word meek is “praus” used to describe these strong and disciplined horses and means “strength controlled.”
In his work, The Art of Horsemanship, Greek author and soldier Xenophon describes the selection and training of war horses.
The Greek army would find the wildest horses in the mountains and bring them to be broken in. After months of training they sorted the horses into categories: some were discarded, some broken and made useful for bearing burdens, some were useful for ordinary duty and the fewest of all graduated as war horses.
When a horse passed the conditioning required for a war horse, its state was described as ‘praus,’ that is, meek. The war horse had ‘power under authority,’ ‘strength under control.’ A war horse never ceased to be determined, strong and passionate. However, it learned to bring its nature under discipline. It gave up being wild, unruly, out of control and rebellious. It would now respond to the slightest touch of the rider, stand in the face of cannon fire, thunder into battle and stop at a whisper.
Xenophon uses the adjective “praus” to describe these war horses. It was now meek.
Yes, Meek People Get Angry
Aristotle said that the praus man is the one who has the virtue of the mean between two extremes.
For example, if there were a continuum with recklessness on one end and cowardice on the other end, the virtue in the middle would be courage.
This is how Aristotle defined it in relation to anger. The praus person, the meek person, is the one who feels anger on the right grounds, against the right person, in the right manner, at the right moment, for the right amount of time. Notice that he didn’t say: A meek person never gets angry.
Meekness is developing a focussed, deliberate center.
Every Power Principle has a polar opposite, such as mess on one end and order on the other. On one day I could teach the power of embracing mess. And I would be right. The next day I could teach the power principle of creating order. So which is right? Embracing mess or creating order? The answer is finding the right middle place. It isn’t healthy to wholly inhabit one extreme or the other. [See Ep . 36 Organized Chaos]
Meekness is the effort of pulling both extremes together to find strength in the middle.
Ep 40 I LOVE artists. Today I’m sharing stories of how five artists have colored my life.
I’m grateful for anyone who creates and shares on any level. It doesn’t matter if it’s amateur or professional, hobby or full-time gig. Fro me, art is the sauce of life. When I lived in France, I learned that the secret to delicious French food is the sauce. Without art, life would be like plain mashed potatoes or dry chicken—you get the basic nutrition, but it’s the sauce that adds the spice, the flavor, and makes everything taste so good.
“Art and love are the same thing: It’s the process of seeing yourself in things that are not you.”
― Chuck Klosterman
All Kinds of Art
Years ago my husband and I went on a campout with other young married couples from our church. One man from our group performed a magical comedy routine while we sat around the campfire. I laughed so hard that my belly hurt for three days. It was awesome. This wasn’t something he did professionally. He was going to college like the rest of us, probably studying bio-engineering or something rather serious. I can’t remember what got him interested in magic and comedy or why he had taken the time to learn the skill. But I remember feeling grateful that he had taken the time to hone that talent and that he would share with us and not be embarrassed about it. Twenty years later I still remember that night of entertainment.
I love comedians. I love humor. You know those friends you love to be around because they are funny. They have a unique way of seeing and saying life. You never know what is going to come out of their mouth, but you know that when you’re around them your belly is going to hurt, in a good way. I’m really grateful for people with a good sense of humor. I think humor is an art.
Accents. I love accents. Real or imitation. With the internet and social media, our world is becoming more monochromatic. And I like that around the world we realize that we are more similar than different. But I hope we don’t lose our accents. I have a friend who can shift into accents on a dime and it’s hilarious. I love conversations when she gets in a mood and suddenly I’m having an international conversation with an Irish lady or German man. I don’t know why. It’s just so colorful and entertaining. I think being able to do accents is an art.
Of course I love writers. It took me awhile in my writing journey to think of myself as an artist. What finally gave me that AHA! was realizing how similar my writing process was to learning piano. Both required that I to sit my but in a chair for at least an hour every day and plunk away at the keys. And at first what came out wasn’t very pretty. However, little by little over time it got better. Aha! Creating art, developing an artistic skill requires practice. Daily practice.
I could go on and on about writers I love, books that have changed my life. I want to mention artists who create for children. Thank the heavens, truly, for artists who create for children. I don’t know how I would have survived mothering without Dr. Seuss. Other favorites are Betsy Lewin’s Click Clack Moo, Cows that Type and Doreen Cronin’s Diary of a Worm. How about the gorgeous language and illustrations of Don and Audrey Wood in “The Napping House” and “King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub.”
For me, life without artists would be a black and white outline. A blank coloring book. When I look back on life, on raising young children, it is our encounters with art that added the color to our pages.
I feel this way about nature, which makes sense because God is the great artist and an encounter with nature is to experience art.
I feel extreme gratitude for artists who create clever, engaging, fun music for children. I’m not talking here about a run-of-the-mill CD of Mary Had a Little Lamb sung to a strum guitar. Sorry nursery rhyme album recorders that sound like you hired Donna Reed to sing straight from the book of Mother Goose accompanied by a few basic piano chords. I suppose you have your place in the world, and you are certainly better than nothing. But goodness, if I had to listen to your menu in the car one more time, I would have parked at the drive-through of the crazy house and checked myself in.
And Kidz Bop? PLEASE. With your aerobicized Top 40 synthetic, auto-tuned, lip sync! Have mercy on us mothers whose mental faculties are already as fragile as the thread of Justin Beiber’s relationships.
Five Favorite Artists
I said I would name five of my favorites artists, so I will. But choosing five is HARD! Much harder than naming five of my favorite children, which I can do without hesitation. BUT, choosing five favorite artists is much more difficult. I’m mentioning these five because they have come into my life during a transition or when I needed comfort or uplift. Their creativity, their art became the soundtrack of my life at that time.
1. John Lithgow
I owe any strand of musical mental fortitude remaining to John Lithgo and his children’s album Singing in the Bathtub. Thank you, John Lithgo, for witty lyrics, catchy tunes, and comedic poetry set to music. How a Tony and Emmy-winning performer ends up creating children’s stories and music, I don’t know. You didn’t have to do it. You didn’t need to do it. And yet you did. For this I say THANK YOU, and I mean it. Friends with kids, if you want a squirt of fun in your day, ask Alexa to play John Lithgow’s album Singing in the Bathtub or YOUTUBE it. Our personal favorites were From the Indies to the Andies in His Undies and Big Kids Scare the Heck out of Me. I don’t love the Triplet song, but in light of the exceptional, over-the-top fun of the other 13 tracks, I can forgive track #7.
And my thanks to a public library, the lovely building that houses all this art for free. The best price for young families who have more toddlers show up to the dinner table than they have dollars in the bank account. Each of the books, and music CDs I mention we discovered through our public library.
2. Josh Groban
In 2001 Josh Groban released his first album including track #5 “To Where You Are.” When my brother passed away that year, I would get in the car by myself and play Track #5 over and over, crying and feeling my brother close to me. I had never heard the song when I purchased this CD; it wasn’t the reason I bought the CD. That’s how I know that artists, teachers, mentors come into your life when you’re ready and seeking. That song was the wings of my healing. It carried and soothed me. I don’t know how anyone could ever heal through grief without music.
While Josh Groban performed the song “To Where You Are,” it is especially the writers who need acknowledgement. Do you know who wrote the song? Richard Marx! Yes. The Richard Marx of “Right Here Waiting for You” fame. As well as Linda Thompson, who I don’t know anything about, but I’m sure she’s lovely.
3. Voice Male
Voice Male is an an a capella group consisting of six men who have performed together for twenty five years, since they first met in their college choir. It’s their improv slapstick humor and witty asides during concerts that endear them to me. Also, the fact that I’ve known them since college.
What I love about Voice Male, in addition to their unique arrangements of popular songs and original compositions, is the energy and relationship of their group. I appreciate that these six guys really go out of their way to keep creating and performing art. They each have day jobs and live in different states. When one of the original members passed away from cancer, it would have been easier to call it quits. They have wives, kids, and mortgages. And, they continue to make it work to do concerts, put out albums, and create art. What’s more? They’re getting old. I know because they are my age!
I don’t get a kickback for mentioning them. They don’t even know I’m talking about them. They probably don’t even remember me. But I can without reservation recommend that, if at all possible, you see them live in concert. Our favorite albums are Kids Stuff or their Christmas albums Jingles 1 or Jingles 2. They also produce beautiful arrangements of sacred hymns.
Voice Male has been the soundtrack to our family gardening projects and the background music each December when we set up our Christmas tree. Their songs are my favorite background music to my annual Christmas Card Videos.
4. Lindsey Stirling and The Piano Guys
I remember not too long ago seeing a flyer advertising a performance by John Schmidt. Tickets were $30 for his outdoor concert at Thanksgiving Point in Lehi, Utah. I wanted to take my husband for date night, but we had something else that weekend. Now John Schmidt and The Piano Guys are selling out stadiums and tickets are four times as much. I missed my chance to see him perform his original composition, Waterfall, in front of the actual waterfall at Thanksgiving Point Gardens.
Lindsey Stirling has a similar story. She performed in local venues until AGT judges told her she wasn’t a talented enough violinist and that her act wasn’t strong enough to make it on her own.
For both John Schmidt and Lindsey Stirling it would have been easier for them to not pursue their art. Their acts certainly weren’t mainstream. They were probably not going to get picked up by a major record label. “Don’t give up your day job,” was probably sound advice. The Piano Guys were doing classical music. Nobody pays money for classical music. We fill sports stadiums and pay out enough ticket money to give rookie athletes million dollar salaries. But all our symphonies and art programs are subsidized. But I’m so glad they didn’t listen. I’m so grateful they didn’t quit. I love that they sell out sports stadiums.
I am a daily beneficiary of their creative artistic endeavors. Every morning I listen to Lindsey Sterling and the Piano Guys. They are both on my morning yoga playlist. I’m grateful for their hard work, their perseverance. I’m grateful they fought through the self-doubt and public doubt and brought their art into the world.
Both Lindsey Stirling and The Piano Guys have shown that becoming an artist is about tapping in to what you have unique to offer the world and becoming more of who you are.
5. ABBA and Mamma Mia
I grew up in the 1980s listening to my older brother’s cassette tape recordings of ABBA’s albums and rewinding to my favorite tracks Dancing Queen, Super Trouper, Take a Chance, and Money, Money. ABBA was the soundtrack of my awkward tween years.
Then, what I find truly genius is that playwright Catherine Johnson found a way to take a string of unrelated songs and mold them into a story. I admit that to me the plot sounded a bit scandalous—a young girl afflicted with back-to-back sleep overs and three potentials fathers. I never say the musical, but when the movie came out—well, I will watch anything with Meryl Streep. And I LOVED it.
Next, imagine the genius required to take all the leftover ABBA songs and create a believable, unique, and even more lovable prequel. When Mamma Mia Here We Go Again came out, I was helping my oldest daughter pack to move away to college. We took a break from packing and wen to the theater and laughed and cried. The ending scene between mom and daughter was particularly poignant.On the drive to college, we blasted ABBA music full power. That movie and all its glorious music became the soundtrack for the story of my daughter growing up and leaving home for the first time.
Then (and how cool is this?), for Homecoming her university had an ABBA tribute band and she got to rock out live with her college friends. It’s like the gift that keeps on giving. And through this all I kept thinking how grateful I am for artists who create what literally becomes the soundtrack to our lives.
“A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life,
in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.”
― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Ep. 39 In times of struggle, asking WHY will drown you. Finding your WHAT will save you. Today’s topic discusses what happens when life doesn’t go the way we expect, when things don’t turn out the way we want or hope. We’re talking about when stuff happens that just doesn’t make sense, or seems unfair, or is caused by other people’s cruelty or negligence. We’re talking accidents, mistakes, or being beaten by the odds.
In some ways suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning.
The most powerful thing that we can access during any challenge is our will to find the meaning in it.
― Victor Frankl
A Hard Topic
The purpose of today’s episode is NOT to tell you, that everything happens for a reason or that God gave you this challenge so you could learn something or because you need to be humbled or it’s to test your faith. This episode is NOT going to say, “Look on the bright side,” or “Be positive,” or “Keep your chin up.”
I feel my job today is NOT to give answers or words of comfort (that probably wouldn’t comfort) or to cheer you up or to make you feel better. I feel my job today is only this: to offer PERSPECTIVE.
When you’re in the middle of a crisis, you have so many questions, decisions, emotions, and unknowns that it can be almost impossible to find any perspective, so I hope I can offer a little today.
- Why do some kids get sick and others don’t?
- Why do some fathers die?
- Why are some people inspired to to take a different road and thus avoid a car accident?
- Why does it seem that some people are miraculously spared while other are not?
- Does God pick and choose who stays and who goes?
- Why Me? Why Us?
- Why did God make this happen or allow this to happen?
- Why didn’t God intervene and perform a miracle for me?
- Why didn’t God prompt me to act sooner or act in a different way?
- What did I do wrong to deserve this? Why is God punishing me?
God Did Not Make This Happen
After his wife died from brain cancer eight months after diagnosis, Michael Wilcox questioned if God appointed her to die. He concluded that God created the earth, granted us life and set the wheels in motion then for the most part lets things play out. Life appoints. Mortality appoints. Life happens. Time happens. Occasionally the Lord intervenes, delays, prolongs, but mostly He allows life to happen.
Michael Wilcox said, “I felt the Lord weep with us, sharing our sorrow, saying, ‘I wish she didn’t have to have cancer. I wish you could travel the world together now that you’ve retired. I can’t heal everyone who gets cancer or who gets in a car accident.’ God didn’t appoint her to die. Cancer appointed her to die.”
For me, I don’t believe every specific thing happens for a reason. The only reason is that we are alive, we are mortal, and so we are susceptible to mortal experience, to genetics, to environment, to accidents, short-sightedness, evil acts, and mistakes. The only reason is that we are here, on this earth, having a mortal experience.
The way I see it, challenges come as a natural consequence of being alive and bumping into each other. I don’t believe that God plays us like chess pieces. Please don’t misunderstand because I do believe, very much, that God knows us, that He knows me. He is 100% aware of what I’m experiencing. I believe that angels are involved in the intricate details of my life. BUT, I do not believe they are here to interfere. I believe they are bound by natural laws that allows them or prevents them from getting involved.
The Miracle is NOT What you Think
Kate Braestrup is a chaplain to the state of Maine’s Warden Service. Her job is to be there while Search and Rescue hunt for missing people. She has had a lot of opportunities to ask and answer questions: Why was this child found alive while I have to go tell this family that their child’s body was found at the bottom of the lake?
Kate shares her experiences in her beautifully written book, Here If You Need Me. She writes exquisitely about the difference between miracles and odds. On the podcast I quote from chapter 16.
There is no WHY, Only WHAT
In times of crisis, dwelling on the WHY will drown you. Finding the WHAT will save you.
Ep. 38 This episode is all about STRESS and how to NOT feel stressed. The goal is to understand that it IS possible to have a lot on your plate and to NOT feel STRESSED about it. Listen to learn POWERFUL thoughts to help you to NOT feel STRESSED.
So often we believe that we have so much to do and not enough time to do it all. We believe ALL the things are so important and we worry that our effort won’t be good enough. Therefore, we end up panicked and stressed, which actually freezes us and limits our ability to finish ALL the things. We end up working frenetically, staying up late, getting sick, but not finishing the tasks.
I promise that life does NOT have to feel STRESSFUL. It is entirely possible to have a lot on your plate and to NOT feel STRESSED about it. You can have an amazing life and be engaged in purposeful work and move forward through accomplishments and success steps and never feel stressed.
If you think this can’t possibly be true, that I’m exaggerating, then this is going to be an excellent episode for you. I’m glad you’re here.
WHY WE FEEL STRESS
Let’s talk about Why We Feel Stress:
Every emotion comes from thoughts. Every. Single. One. It’s not possible to have an emotion that wasn’t triggered, that wasn’t created by a thought in your head.
Now, that thought in your head doesn’t necessarily have to be your own thought. Other people can put thoughts in your head, dark spirits can put thoughts in your head, TV/media/billboards can put thoughts in your head. Sometimes this can be frustrating because we can’t always control what thoughts pop up in our minds, but can control how we think about, how we react to those thoughts. In any case, the emotions we feel always derive from a thought.
I’m not saying this to chastise or belittle anyone for experiencing stress. I feel stress at times, not too often these days, but I used to live in a chronic state of stress. And it’s not fun. Stress is a real kill-joy, it sucks the bliss out of life and makes you not a very pleasurable person to be around. Not to mention that it can make you really sick.
Let’s look at some of the thoughts that lead to us feeling stressed.
“I don’t have enough time.”
You feel the crunch of the deadline. The calendar days are turning, the clock is ticking, and you are running out of time. This is a common thought. I think we’ve all been here, probably several times already today.
“Not good enough.”
This is the thought of either “I’m not good enough” or “What I’m doing isn’t good enough.” This is where perfectionism comes to roost. This thought is a relative of the thought of not having enough time, because usually we are afraid that we don’t have enough time to make our work be good enough. We fear our imperfections and weaknesses and so often we allow our subconscious to make it be about time, when in truth, it’s about fear of not being good enough.
“I should do more”
CHALLENGE THESE THOUGHTS
I’ve practiced noticing when I’m feeling stressed and following that feeling, like a detective hunting for clues, back until I discover the thought triggering the stress. Then, I’ve found it helpful to ask questions: Is this thought true? Or, is this a useful thought?
I discovered this tool of discovering and questioning thought when I was searching for healing from postpartum depression and autoimmune disease. This is when I realized that my thoughts were the roots of so many of my so-called problems and stress and that my sickness stemmed from my toxic thoughts. Most everything that I talk about on this podcast comes down to what’s going on in our heads. If there’s one thing you get out of this podcast, or any of these podcasts, if you learn to question your thoughts, that skill alone will launch your life in powerful ways.
Let’s do it. Let’s question these thoughts.
Thought: “I don’t have enough time.”
There are so many ways your brain can verbalize this. I’m so busy. I can’t do it all. I have too much to do, thus I don’t have enough time.
Challenge: Is it TRUE that I don’t have enough time?
Instead of going into a huge existential discussion about what is TRUTH, let’s skip to the understanding that when it comes to your life, you get to create your truth. It’s a gift called Free Agency. So I would ask, Do I want this to be true for me that I don’t have enough time?
I can choose to believe that it’s true and my brain will be extremely skilled at finding evidence to support why I don’t have enough time. Or, I can choose to say it’s not true. I can choose to think that I have plenty of time. I have SO much time. Time is an unlimited commodity. I can use time today and I will have more tomorrow. I can use tomorrow’s time and I will have more time the next day. It’s amazing!
For so long, self help people have pushed this idea, this “thought” that time is a precious, and limited commodity. Get it done today because there are no guarantees for tomorrow! And it’s true you could die at any moment. But still, I believe that death is not the end of me, that I will go on living and have, get this, even MORE time! More time to learn, progress, experience, etc. When my brain throws up that idea that I don’t have enough time, I challenge it and I argue for all the reason why I have an abundance of time.
I’ve never found a scenario where the thought “I don’t have enough time” is a useful thought. It doesn’t serve me well. The panic of running out of time makes my insides contract, it freezes me up, and it drains my power to take action. Ironically this thought of not having enough time actually leads to procrastination rather than prevents procrastination.
Replace: What to Think Instead
I have plenty of time.
I have exactly enough time.
I have an abundance of time.
I have exactly enough time to accomplish all the things that are important to me
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Ep 37 My Writing Journey to Publishing
Today I’m talking honestly about getting published. I’m sharing the misconceptions I’ve had about becoming a published author as well as things I’ve learned about the publication process. I’m sharing fears, tears, and indecision.
Traditional vs Self Publishing
Today writers have a lot more options for publishing their work than they did fifteen years ago. The question of whether to traditionally publish or self publish has been my BIGGEST dilemma. This decision has burned up so many of my brain cells. And I’m not exaggerating by calling it a dilemma because I will have FINALLY, after weighing ALL the pros and cons and doing a TON of research, come to the conclusion to traditionally publish. Then I walk into another room of my house, it’s not 30 seconds later and I am 100% convinced that the best route is to self publish.
This has been going on for several years. It’s a big decision because both options require a lot of time moving in very different directions. I want to talk about some of the pros and cons of each option.
Finding a Literary Agent
To be traditionally published you generally need an agent. Publishing companies (with the exception of a few small ones) no longer accept manuscripts directly from authors. This means writing a query letters (a cover letter) and “querying” agents. This requires spending hours researching which agents might be a good fit and even more hours perfecting the query letter. Next plan to spend several months sending out your queries and waiting for agents to respond.
Waiting for the Query Response
Most agents do try to respond, even if it’s to say, “Thanks, but I’m not interested. Maybe you’ll get an agent who says, “I like your query. I’d like to read the full manuscript.” THEN, you wait months for the agent to read and say either “Not a good fit for me” or “I think it has potential, change this” or “I like it. I’ll represent you.” You can repeat this process to 25, 50, 75, 100 different agents.
Agent Revisions and Shopping for a Publisher
If you do get an offer for representation, you’ll spend months to a year doing revision with your agent. This is when you’ll come to understand that your agent represents 50 or so other authors and your manuscript is not his/her only priority. Once all these revisions are done, the agent THEN begins to solicit editors at publishing houses. At this point the agent essentially repeats the process that you went through to query her. A lot of writers believe (this was true for me) that once you land an agent, everything else will be smooth sailing. However, it does happen, that an agent is unable to sell your manuscript to a publisher. Or, the agent may sell to a small publisher or not succeed in getting you a cash advance. You might question whether your agent is doing all she can for you. Maybe you’ll consider finding a different agent.
Waiting for the Finished Product
Another scenario is that your agent does sell your manuscript and you’re happy with the contract. THEN, another round of revisions begins with your editor and from that point your book will be one to two years before publication.
Author Percentage of Sales
Most people are surprised to learn that under a traditional publishing contract, the author typically only earns 10% of book sales, AFTER they earn back any cash advance. So on a $15 paper back the author earns $1.50. Also, the publishing company owns the rights to the content, so the author doesn’t get the final say on book cover.
Today publishing companies expect authors to do the majority of their own marketing. I saw a comic showing a writer sitting across the desk from a publisher presenting a contract, and the caption read: “We’d like to publish it, do nothing to promote it, and watch it disappear from the shelves in less than a month.” I’m not saying this is true in all cases. I know many successful, traditionally published authors who have a fantastic relationship with their agent and sing high praise of their editor and publisher. Still, the hard truth is that most traditionally published authors will sell less than 500 copies.
The good thing about traditionally published books is the vetting process. You can see how anyone who gets through this lengthy ordeal has to know what they’re doing and that the manuscript has been edited over and over again to produce a good book. Many authors who feel their manuscript is done are astonished at how much more revising they do with their agent and then their editor. Though there are still plenty of low-quality books put out by traditional publishers, for the most part, if you pick up a book from one of the big five publishing houses, you can feel confident you’ll have a pretty good read.
Considering the amount of time it takes and the little control and profit for the author, why would anyone choose traditional publishing? Why wouldn’t you just self publish? My question exactly!
Because the world of self publishing has as many pros and cons.
Do It Yourself
Some people compare self-publishing to building your own house. Yes, you could probably google and learn everything you need to know to build your own house. But you’ll make a ton of mistakes in the process and it will take much longer than hiring someone. Self Publishing is a LOT of work. When you traditionally publish, you have a team working for you. You have multiple editors: content editors, line editors and copy editors. The time they spend on your manuscript is time you don’t have to spend. To self publish either you spend that time yourself OR you pay someone, up front, to edit. Editing is not cheap. A self published author should budget several thousand dollars for good editing.
Other things you’ll do yourself (or pay out of pocket to have done):
- design your book cover
- format and layout
- plan the interior design including font and any graphics or special features
- write your back cover copy
- get an ISBN
- You design your own cover or pay someone to do it.
When you self publish, you are your own marketing team. Some printers require the author to buy 500 or so copies of their book, which you want to do because you want to sell them, right? But then you have 500 books in your garage and you have to find a way to sell them. The marketing is often the factor that most discourages self publishing.
I think, and I know this is true for me and many authors, the big issue about self-publishing is VALIDATION. I crave the validation that I believe would come from being chosen by and agent and picked up by a major publishing house. I want or (have wanted) that STAMP of approval that my work is good enough to bear the name Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster, Penguin Random House, Hachette. I could sort of sail on the confidence that somebody else says I’m a good writer.
Autonomy, Speed, and Profit
One of the biggest pros of self publishing is the autonomy. You can get your book out much faster. You have full control over cover design and you keep 100% of profit (after your expenses). Most authors (even those traditionally published) discover that no one is going to promote and champion your book as powerfully as you will.
So, self publishing is a big investment of time and money. Essentially you are taking a gamble on yourself. However, with Kindle Direct and other print on demand services, you no longer have to buy hundreds of book copies and store them in you garage.
https://medium.com/@skooloflife/self-publishing-vs-traditional-publishing-the-pros-and-cons-89ab2c9d53a8To Self Publish or Traditionally Publish: That is the QUESTION!!!
Sara Gruen, author of Water for Elephants said, “If I had known how hard it would be to publish a book, I would have never started.”
I can so relate. I would have never predicted I would be here, 10 years after my first writing class, still working every day to 1) become a skilled writer and 2) decide the best way to get my writing off of my hard drive and into your hearts and hands.
Writing is like showing up in a boxing ring and getting punched in the face over and over and then coming back for more the next day and the next day and the day after that.
Why do I do it? Why does anyone do it?
For me, writing is the manifestation of my hope for connection. It’s putting my thoughts and my human experience out there to see if anyone else thinks and feels the same way. Writing is my way to feel that I’m not alone in this world, which is strange to say because the writing process is so isolatory. Mostly I write because I so intuitively feel the power of story to build empathy, understanding, to connect us.
Mary Karr, author of the memoirs Liars club, Cherry, and Lit said, “ We are all hardwired in moments of empathy to see ourselves in another. Hearing each other’s stories actually raise our levels of the feel-good hormone oxytocin, which is what nursing mother secrete when they breastfeed—what partly helps them bond with their young. It helps to join us together in some tribal way.”
Mary Karr also said, “I don’t write because I want to, but because it’s better than the angst over not writing.”
What I have found is a hybrid publisher, a mix between traditional and self publishing. Which is so me. I can’t decide between one or the other, so I’m going to find a way to do both. And I really like so many things about this option.
STILL, my brain is going all kinds of crazy telling me “this isn’t the best publisher, this isn’t the best way . . . to the point that I have even Googled applying to the Master Fine Arts program at Syracuse University. Yes. That’s in New York. And yes, I live in Utah and have children well immersed in school here. And, Syracuse’s MFA accepts a total of 12 students, from the world. 6 poets and 6 fiction writers. No nonfiction, especially not memoir. YET, my brain is so convinced that I still need to do MORE with this manuscript. I am big time fighting my own “It will never be good enough” syndrome.
I am asking myself: Am I giving up my dream of being a traditionally published author? Am I settling? This is a real question. I get to decide the answer, and this is what I’m deciding:
My dreams are safe in my head. They can be as big and glorious and perfect as I want them to be in my head. Things always look better in my fantasies. They are pink, and bubbly and happy with no imperfections. In my head, no one can criticize or burst my dream bubble.
But, here’s the truth, what good does a dream do in my head?
This is what I’m learning. I’m learning that the process of making dreams into reality is MESSY and not very pretty. Things are never as fantastic in reality as they are in fantasy, whether it be a romance, a marriage, a dream vacation, even winning the lottery. There are hang-ups and problems with any situation. And I’ve decided I would rather live a nicked up, bruised, dented dream in real life, than keep a flawless, ephereal dream in my head.
I can do real. I can do messy.
So I’m saying it out loud “I have a publisher and I am going to be published within one year!”
It is going to be real, it is going to be messy, it is going to be a LOT of work.
In fact, it is already real, it’s already messy, It’s already a lot of work.
And it’s awesome.
Folks, Look at this! Can you believe it! I AM living my dream.
Thanks for being with me on this journey. I love that you’re here.
Ep. 36 Organized Chaos is a Sign of Progress
The purpose of today’s Power Principle is to help us UNDERSTAND that chaos is part of organization, so that we can be more comfortable with periods of CHAOS and so that you can manage and springboard from those moments of chaos more skillfully.
Getting Your Ducks in a Row
I saw a YouTube video of a mama duck trying to stop her babies from falling down a storm drain. She worked feverishly to gather her scattered brood and nudge them to hop out of the gutter onto the step above. By the time she got the last duckling up the step, the other ducks were again scattered and she started the process over. Mrs. Duck, I can relate! I just get my kids settled into a school routine, then it’s summer break. I just get the last moving box unpacked and we move again. This cycle from chaos to order back to chaos could drive one crazy, UNTIL you understand that this cycle is an essential part of progress.
Chaos is GOOD, Necessary, and even DESIRABLE for growth.
I want to assure you that when you find yourself in periods of chaos, you’re not doing anything wrong. (As long as it’s progressive chaos. There is a difference between progressive chaos and non-progressive chaos.)
“In the beginning . . . ” the Book of Genesis illustrates this pattern of chaos to order and back again. God took unorganized matter and created the earth. His six days of toil had barely ended when Eve ate the fruit and shifted the perfectly ordered life in the Garden into chaos. No sooner do Adam and Eve figure out how to labor for their livelihood and establish a good system when Cain slays Abel and their life is thrown into chaos again.
The flood. The enslaved children of Israel, I mean the only place on Earth that really stayed organized was the city of Enoch and God didn’t want that place to get messed up, so he picked it up and put it on the top shelf so the other earth kids wouldn’t break it.
Do you get the point? From the beginning of time, we have this pattern of chaos to order to chaos to order. We are designed to bring things from order to chaos, not just once, but over and over and over again.
The important point is that this cycle isn’t meant to be repetitive, but progressive.
Without periods of chaos, our lives would be stagnant. Chaos is what jumpstarts our learning and growth.
Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
As we move through Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs, we don’t stay indefinitely at the top of the pyramid. We don’t sit for eternity at Self-actualization. We go back to the beginning and start again, not repeating ourselves, but improving ourselves. On our next journey up Maslow’s pyramid, we upgrade each level. We improve the quality of our food, shelter, environment. We increase our sense of safety. We build deeper connective relationships. We deepen our sense of self identity and we further pursue our passions and purpose. Then will will go back to food and start all over again.
If you feel that you’re stuck in life, that you are running the hamster wheel but not moving forward, try going back to the basics. What is one way you can better fulfill your physiological needs? Can you upgrade your food and nutrition? Perhaps eat more raw vegetables, reduce sugar intake, quit smoking, take vitamins. Maybe you could get more sleep or clean out your closet and donate those old clothes that don’t fit. Something as simple as organizing the silverware drawer in your kitchen can energize you and jumpstart your progress up Maslow’s pyramid.
Now that you understand how periods of chaos are desirable and essential for our learning and growth, you will be better able to manage the chaos and used it as a springboard to move forward in life.
Good luck gathering your ducklings!
Ep. 33 How to Readjust Screen Time for the School Year
Is your child struggling to readjust from summer screen time to school screen time?
The issue we’re having at my house looks like this: the kids want to be constantly on the computer after school. Like, the minute they run in the door. My older two are pretty good about getting homework done. My youngest got used to having 3 hours each day during the summer to do his Minecraft stories. And he is absolutely panicked now that he’s not going to have enough time to finish his Minecraft stuff. And I mean, he is anxious. He is seriously worried that the world of Minecraft is going to explode or disappear if he’s not on there.