Un-decorating…And Fresh Starts

happy-new-year-wallpapers-hd-2Yesterday was one of my least favorite days of the year for one reason: On January 1st, I un-decorate from the holidays.

It’s good to clear out after the holidays, but in my house, it’s a huge job that, like all things having to do with household d√©cor, I get to do 99% by myself.

It’s my own fault. I love to create a homey, warm atmosphere, especially at the holidays, and I have a plethora of items with which to do that (remember my post about the bathroom tree? LOL. Yeah, as one of my friends mentioned, I might need a decorating intervention). ūüôā

imageBut the result is that on un-decorating day, my dining room (where I gather all the stuff to put it away into specified containers, boxes, bags etc and haul them back down to the basement) looks for a while like a holiday yard sale. imageAs you can see from these two pics.

It’s an all-day process¬†to remove everything from the rooms where I’ve decorated (which is basically the¬†downstairs…I don’t do the upstairs), not to mention un-decorating the big tree (which is real and therefore I need to vacuum once I’ve gotten it out of the house).

At the end I have a strangely empty-looking house. imageMy dining room looks kind of sterile and imagemy mantel looks bare.

Overall, I’m glad when it’s done. It IS a fresh start, and it’s nice to have everything de-cluttered. Now if only I can keep it that way!

This will be a new year for me in that, as of February 3, 2015, I will have published a book for the very first time entirely through my own choices and arrangements of hiring independent contractors, rather than working with my traditional publisher (HarperCollins) or my former independent publisher (Cool Gus Publishing). Copyright M. Reed McCall, Mary Reed McCall, novel, writing, writer, author, book, Moose Tracks on the Road to Heaven, preorderMoose Tracks on the Road to Heaven marks a new phase in my life. After a long time away from the book scene, I hope to provide some enjoyment, provoke thought, and entertain anyone who decides to give the novel a try. Anyone here who wants to know more about the book in general can click the highlighted title above. To read an excerpt you can click on cover to the left, here.

So, Happy New Year to all of you. May this year hold many good things, times spent with people you enjoy, health, and success. Onward and upward, 2015! ūüôā

new-years-eve-quotes-05

 

Cultivating a Healthy P.O.V.

its_time_to_be_inspired_640_high_04This resonates with me on a personal level. What I bring to the table supersedes the rest, for good or for ill.

It’s also useful in my life as a writer. It’s why there are so many opinions and reactions to various books, writing styles, themes, subjects etc. What is moving, meaningful, and amazing¬†to one may seem trite, pedantic, or corny to another.

As a writer, it’s far easier to remember and be affected by criticism – by those who didn’t like one’s work – than by those who offered positive feedback, review, or praise. This quote helps me to keep it all in perspective.

ALL reactions to creative work are valid…but because of the intimate and subjective nature of any creative work, those reactions, positive or negative, often speak more about the person reading/viewing/hearing the work than the work itself.

When a review seems firmly based on the book – characters, plot, setting, background etc – it’s still true. Have you ever seen the reviews on amazon and the like where a reviewer who gave a blistering, one-star review is questioned by others who liked the work with something along the lines of, “Are we even talking about the same book – and did you even read this one?” It’s all in each individual reader’s perspective.

When the reviews are clearly personal Рwhether sweetly gushing or sarcastically slashing Рhaving little to do about the work itself but seeming to be more emotional, the quote above is doubly true.

In the 13+ years since my first book was released, I’ve had reviews of all kinds, and it takes a while to develop the thicker skin required of anyone who hopes to have a long-term writing career…especially when it can¬†seem as if those with¬†negative reactions are the most vocal. But it’s a necessary skill to cultivate if you intend to put your work out there for public consumption.

Not everyone will like your baby. Some will even call it “ugly”. But others will adore it and treasure it. It’s all part of a writing career, and it’s a good idea to try to cultivate a healthy perspective about it. ūüôā

 

For the New Year…

Steve JobsAs a writer/self-published and traditionally published author/teacher/wife/mom/daughter/sister/friend (you get the idea) who keeps fighting the good fight to let the message of this quote inform my life, I love it, but I also recognize that it is a tough one to achieve. In my experience, the pressing needs of responsibility often push aside or in some way subvert the yearnings of heart and intuition.

Thoughts on this? How do YOU try to achieve a harmonious balance of responsibility AND the yearnings of heart/intuition in your life or your work?

About Control…

kdp-quotes_control3thingspp_w649_h649Much easier said than done.

Have you ever had someone accuse you of trying to “control” what they do?¬† I have.

But I’ve learned that often it’s not that you’re trying to control them; it’s that they feel trapped by their own choices, and the only solution is to push the blame outward.

To the one on the receiving end of that kind of accusation, it’s¬†hurtful. Sometimes there is no moving past it. Sometimes calmer emotions prevail and the accuser can step back and realize what’s really happening.

Either way, all the other person can do is to remember the above comment. Each of us has control over only three things: What we think, what we say, and how we behave.

Notice none of them include “others”. Only ourselves.

You can’t control other people.

You can only control yourself.

Tea Wisdom

image

From my tea today – Good Earth’s “Sweet and Spicy”, which is one of my favorites at this time of year, for its lovely cinnamon-sweet warmth.

I love my dog, and, in the words of my sister-in-law, who helped me organize my pantry cupboards a few years ago, I “have more tea than all of China” because I enjoy it so much, it’s true.

But I also love my husband and wouldn’t¬†have thought to¬†make this kind of comparison.

What do you think?

Thoughts Have Energy

think-positiveI stumbled on this poster the other day, and it triggered something in me. A little, niggling voice in the back of my head that reminded me of how I’ve been wrestling with this concept in the past three years, especially since my father’s passing. But I suppressed the voice as I tend to do and moved on.

I went in search of the poster, intending to write down the words and make a “Wordle” of it for my students. When I located it, I admit to being more than a little startled¬†to find that it had been originally posted on the very day my father died.

Here’s why that was startling for me:

It’s kind of funny, but for many members of my family (and I’m talking not just my husband and kids, but also my six sisters and their families, and my mother), the death of our father (“Pa”) seemed to be the demarcation point of a series of unfortunate circumstances (family illnesses, some severe and long-lasting, some involving our children or grandchildren, shocks, stresses, and accidents) that seemed to have kind of piled on as time passed.

Of course Pa’s death doesn’t actually have any connection to any of the other events or challenges. People lose parents – especially an older parent – all the time. But it was kind of noticeable that in conversation it would come up, “You know, since Pa died…” followed by the various¬†incidences or at the very least, a sense of displacement. A sense of things being shifted out of balance that is very subtle but still has impact over time.

That Pa was really the emotional and physical center of our family and a strong, much-loved, vital presence for my mother, all seven of us daughters and our own families made his death very difficult, of course, but he had been ill for the six months prior to his death, and so we were also relieved for him when his suffering ended.

Still, it was a struggle to pull out of the sense of shock of losing him in our family. I tried to turn as much of my thoughts and energies as I could to the positive, even through the challenges that seemed to arise out of nowhere (I was even able to finally finish Moose Tracks on the Road to Heaven, after having struggled with writing it for¬†two and¬†a half¬†years prior,¬†thanks to some of the lessons and experiences I had during his illness and death. Ultimately, a full five years after beginning, I wrote “The End” this past May).

Anyway, as the issues cropped up one by one, they tested my emotional mettle, but I soldiered on.

I’ve been mostly successful with it.¬†As a¬†child, I couldn’t bear the least amount of change (I even begged my parents to save the old linoleum they ripped up after they refinished the kitchen floor when I was five), but¬†I’ve become an adult who is becoming comfortable with the realization that control is an illusion; I know and accept that the best I can do is choose how I will react to the circumstances I face, positive or negative. Pa tried to teach me that all my life. I learned the lesson slowly while he was alive (probably because he was always there as the emotional¬†“safety net” for all of us)¬†– then in big, heaping leaps once he died.

My life has settled down and been very good again in many respects. But I wonder, sometimes, if I still spend too much of my energy “watering the weeds”. I¬†keep working and slaving over what I “have” to, all the time, and letting myself get bogged down in responsibilities and feeling trapped by them.

Thoughts are energy.

I tell my own children this all the time. And the whole convoluted story in this posting is just to say that, seeing this poster has made me realize that maybe I need to do a better job of remembering that statement myself.

I’ve been getting better at it, but I have a ways to go and some polishing to do in terms of the thought patterns I allow myself…and that allow positive or negative into my life here and now.

And those are my philosophical thoughts for the day (maybe even the week).

Happy Wednesday! May it be a positive one for you.