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Teri Brown - Young Adult Author

I’m Feeling Fine


The publishing business is fully of dizzying highs and stomach plunging lows and my writing career is no exception. From a nasty publisher to a six figure deal to getting dumped by my agent to dumping my agent, from international sales to film agents, to famous producers being interested in my book to books tanking, from scoring articles in national magazines to having an editor completely rework your copy because she hated everything you gave her... I've pretty much seen it all. I could teach a master class on publishing—and if there was any money in it and I had the time, I probably would, ha)! If you aren't crazy when you start writing, the business can make you crazy.

Writers have a tendency to internalize every single rejection. Each criticism becomes a corrosive agent of self-doubt. To survive in today's constantly changing industry, you have to be able to roll with the numerous punches and zig and zag through a myriad of options. It used to make me nuts. It doesn't any more. I've reached a place where I can leave an agent (which I did last week) and not freak out. To decide that my writing is worth care and consideration and to choose both traditional paths and non-traditional paths.

For me, this recently achieved equanimity has to do with the realization that

  1. I am not my writing.
  2. I am more than an author.
  3. My day job and my activism give me so much satisfaction that I don’t have to look for publishing success as a measure of my worth.

Don’t get me wrong. Publishing is clearly wonderful. There’s absolutely nothing like “the call”. Nothing. But I think I’ve reached the point where I can navigate the industry without having it squeeze the breath out of me… and every writer on submission knows exactly how I feel.

For instance, this week alone, I left my agent, made my own submission to a non-traditional publisher for one book and am about to submit another to a large traditional publisher… on my own. I’m already researching plans for my next YA. And I’m fine. There was a moment last week when I was all , “What. The. Hell???” After about 20 minutes of that I was like, “Okay. So that’s that and this is this and what am I going to do next?”

Then I was fine. You  know why? Because for me, being proactive is empowering. Being responsible for my own writing, my own career and my own choices is empowering.

I’m not saying that I won’t be as subject as the next person to the highs and lows, but now I know that no matter what… I’m going to be fine.

Confession and Reflection

I graduated last night. Now before you ask me which university I graduated from and what I majored in, I have a couple things to share with you… it wasn’t a university, it was a community college and my major was an Oregon Associate of Arts Transfer Degree and I’m not going to transfer.

Saying both of those things is hard for me. Really hard. And yet the power of those words and the meaning behind them is worth exploring, both for me personally and within the wider context of what it means to not to hold a BA in a country that both worships and hates education.

Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom. George Washington Carver

That’s just your education talking. An old saying usually uttered in rural America to anyone who has gone to college whose thoughts and ideas they disagree with.

That those two philosophies have always existed side by side in this country is like a microcosm for the divide we find ourselves currently embroiled in. Tradition vs innovation. That age old knee jerk reaction to change is almost instinctive—a biological reality to keep us safe from the unknown. This divide has existed in European culture since the Church first started persecuting scientists. It is created by the fear that learning something new will destroy the old and that fear is nurtured by the gatekeepers of the old.

And yet educational achievement is revered by so many that my lack of education was a cocklebur stuck in my sock. The shame of this lack needled me even as I published more and more books and was asked to speak at schools and teach novel writing for our community college’s community education program. This lack of education was something to be hidden, suppressed, buried beneath a ream of achievement. I lied about it on job applications, changed the subject when the inevitable “where did you graduate from?” was brought up during discussions and once, years ago, when my young son outed me during a conversation, “but mama, you said you dropped out of high school”, I wanted to die of shame and humiliation and cried about it in the bathroom later.

Very early I decided that I would rather be pretty than smart and since I felt the former wasn’t possible, I would concentrate on the latter. Of course, math was a problem and math, in the end, was one of the things that doomed my educational career. Not one teacher or administrator in my high school asked why a girl could get A’s in sociology, creative writing and psychology and yet fail general math. If they did ask that question, the answer was always because she wasn’t applying herself. So I quit. Plus, you know, it was the eighties and I wanted to party.

Flash forward several decades and several books later, I took and passed my GED test with almost perfect scores. (See Daddy, I AM smart!) Except for math. I studied and studied, took the math portion again… and passed by one point. I had my GED. But I told very few people because no one knew that I was a high school dropout. (Even now, just typing those words at my keyboard makes my stomach clench and there are people I love who will probably be pissed that I was dishonest with them.)

But as is often the case when you achieve something, the GED wasn’t enough. I realize now that I had biases against people who hold GED’s—they were the people who didn’t have what it took to stick it out in school. People who were somehow less than those who could. And I was one of them. Which is just crazy fucked up because that means that NO ONE can ever rectify a mistake they made as a teen—a mistake that hurt no one but themselves. And crazy fucked up because school isn’t and has never been a one size fits all proposition and education should be made accessible for all students and in a way that works for them. I KNOW this… yet the shame lingered.

So, in spite of being contracted by major publishers and being a success on the outside, I went back to school so I could feel like a success on the inside. I chose to start with community college because it was the most affordable and offered an online component that would work with my very busy schedule. My ambition was to get my BA and a master’s degree and teach writing at a university. I wanted to breathe in the rarefied air of higher education, sit in an office filled with books and hear the crunch of leaves as students walked the quad to another class. Yeah, I’m aware that doesn’t exist anymore but I had dreams, people! DREAMS!

But life shifted. During the very long 3.5 years I spent getting a two year degree, I was blessed with another grandchild. The world changed and activism became a part of my daily life.  I got a full time job that I love and one which affords me the opportunity to make a difference in young people’s lives on a daily basis. My writing suffered because I didn’t have time.

So I started to ask myself why. Why at 54, would I want to go deeper in debt when both of my careers are fulfilling and exciting and I’m so privileged to have them?  I was so conflicted that I even threw a party with some of my closest and most accomplished women friends… the wise soul’s party, where I was able to talk out my feelings about continuing my education and get sage advice in return. I knew in my heart that it had come to the point where I either had to choose to live my life or choose to get more degrees. I simply didn’t have time for both and I, better than most know how dangerous it can be to put things off. Deep down, I really want to write more books and play with my grandchildren and get more politically involved, and yet…

What I’ve come to realize is just how deeply my biases about education and success are ingrained within me. How imposter syndrome is a real thing. How afraid I am of missing out on opportunities that can only come from having that higher degree. For instance, I’ll never be asked to teach at a cool MFA program, get selected for an amazing residency or be the director of a non-profit when the only degree listed on my application is an associate’s. But why would I want those things when I'm really happy with where I’m at? Why am I always striving and pushing myself endlessly?

Quite frankly, it’s exhausting.

Last night, I graduated from Portland Community College with honors. I sat with nine hundred other people who worked damned hard to get there. While I was overcome by gratitude to be a part of it, I was also aware of a sense of shame. Shame that I ever thought less of people for whom education didn’t come easily. In that crowd of nine hundred, there were people who were older than I am. There were Dreamers who fought for that two year degree with everything they had. There were people who wheeled themselves up to the podium to receive their diplomas. When Senator Jeff Merkley asked if there were any students who were the first in their family to graduate college, hundreds of people stood. When he asked how many people were receiving their GED’s that night, dozens more people joined them. Next to me, a young man waved as his father walked by… he and his father were graduating the same night.  The diversity of that group, the determination and grit of that mass of people is something you can’t find anywhere else. Not at a state college and certainly not at an Ivy League school. In addition to those of us who were receiving our associate of arts or science degrees, there were people who were graduating with certificates in welding and auto mechanics, people who achieved credentials in medical and dental assisting, web development and fire protection technology. Something dawned on me as I watched the endless line of humanity marching across the stage… these are people who now have the education to care for our children and elderly, work in our offices, fix our cars, give end of life care, help care for our pets when they’re sick, help addicts kick their habits and fly helicopter rescue missions. These are the people who will take our blood pressure, fix our infrastructure, manufacture the products we consume and police our communities.

These are the people who make our fucking world go round.

And I am so very, very proud to be one of them.

Yes, there’s sadness, but there’s always a shadow of regret when letting go of one dream to reach for another. I was accepted into three different colleges and there may always be a feeling of loss over what might have been. I’ll probably always have to fight my sense of educational inferiority, but perhaps my inner struggle is just reflective of the conflict our nation has always had concerning education. After all, we live in a country that worships at the altar of higher education while at the same time defunding schools for our children and cutting programs that allow our disabled students equal access. But I’m not going to let that conflict define me anymore and I AM letting go of the shame I feel for dropping out of high school.  I will never stop learning. I will never stop achieving. My associate’s degree is enough.

I am enough.

Education is the most Powerful Weapon which can be used to change the world. Nelson Mandela

 

 

Common Pitfalls to Avoid when Saving the World.

When you have a save the world complex, it's important to watch for the following pitfalls:

  1. Being angry at people who seem to be obtuse about the suffering of others. Everyone has a protective layer that keeps them from being heartbroken over the myriad of injustices and suffering surrounding them. In some folks; the layer is several feet thick. Sometimes it’s almost as if they blame the sufferer for hurting. Try not to get angry, dear ones. They may be battling their own demons—like assholery and callousness. Remember that anger impedes the work.
  2. Mistaking the save the world complex for the savior complex. You’re not here to help the professional sufferer—they’re actually quite attached to wallowing in their pain and unless you’re a professional therapist, run when you see yourself trying to make someone happy to no avail. It‘s their job to find their own happy, not yours. Being entangled with the chronically unhappy and dissatisfied takes away time from your work for social justice, intersectionality, economic equality, environmental action and education, and world peace. They suck up valuable time from the work. (And please, don’t think I’m talking about the clinically depressed—I’m talking about toxically unhappy people. Learn the difference. The clinically depressed needs help. The professional sufferer needs to be eased out of your life. Protect yourself and the work.)
  3. Looking at the work with too broad of a lens. It’s difficult when there’s so much work to be done to narrow your focus to the issues that feed your soul, but it’s important that you do so. You’ll feel better, like you’re making more progress when you focus. Because I’m in school and work full time, my focus is all over the place. I don’t really have time to set get my teeth into one or two issues, so I use what little time I have to calling my electeds over a ton of topics, writing thank you cards to people showing courage, trying to get the vote out by sending reminder postcards and giving money to various non-profits in need. Saying focused also helps you from getting burnt out by the sheer magnitude of the work to be done. I’ll be figuring out a process on how to narrow my focus and choosing which issues feed my soul this summer when school is over. (One more term!)
  4. Forgetting to take care of you. It’s imperative that you know that real self-care isn’t actually bubble baths, scented candles, massages and pedicures. Self-care is creating and maintaining healthy boundaries. Self-care is educating yourself, being mindful of your time, saying no and working on yourself and your own issues. Saving the world is taxing—mentally, physically and emotionally. The work demands that you keep yourself healthy in all those areas. Our community and the world desperately need more emotionally and mentally healthy people. It’s not selfish, it’s necessary.

I’m sure I’m forgetting many more pitfalls that are important to the work, but my body and my dog are telling me to move now. Hugs, love and light to all my fellow save the world peeps. We got this.

Saturday Mornings

I love Saturday mornings. It's when I look back on the week to see which goals I reached and where I fell short. It's when I ask myself honestly if my goals are attainable or if I'm holding the bar too high. How did I self-sabotage myself? Are these little goals creating the life I want to live now and the life I want in the future? In the midst of the busy, did I include down time to relax? Did I nurture my important relationships? What did I learn?

Last week I did some ciphering and learned that everything I want to do in a day takes up 22 hours give or take. That includes 7 hours of sleep, working out, food prep and eating, work, commuting, meditation, journaling, homework time, etc. There IS enough time to do what I need to get done, so why am I constantly falling short? I'm thinking social media. Not socializing, really--I realized that I'm reading five or six news articles or essays from various news outlets a day. Something interesting goes by on my feed and CLICK, I'm there. While being informed is important, I think I need to cut back. So that goes down in my goals for next week.

Also, in between a Human Development exam and a Transition Workshop on Thursday, I'm going to be  plotting my next book. I've played with and tossed at least a half a dozen ideas because I have to find a concept and characters that compel me enough to fit it into my schedule... and I think I have it. And it's beautiful and different and its a YA, not an adult.

Also, there's a total solar eclipse next Wednesday morning that I'd like to see if possible. The weather man says not likely, but you never know!

Also, I have realized that the things hurting my stomach the most are coffee and milk. (Sniffle) So I'm going to try to cut back on my coffee intake and replace milk with cashew or coconut milk. Both of those things go down on the goals for next week.

Also on the list for next week, two IEP meetings, a lab field trip to the coast, and planning a party for my female friends because that's on my list of intentions for this year... spending more time with my women friends.

Right now, my puppy dog is bringing me tennis balls and tug toys because she knows I'm not getting ready to go to work and she knows what that means. She loves Saturday mornings, too.

2018 Themes and Staying Open to New Things

It’s hard to believe that I will have my AA degree in June. Seriously, Four. More. Classes. This three year journey has been exasperating, stimulating and transformative. I spent a lot of time going back and forth as to whether I should continue my formal education or not. Oregon State University has a wonderful online Human Development and Family Sciences degree that I’d love to have. Education, while taking time from some of the things I love to do, also helped me do other things with more clarity and understanding. I believe more education would take my ability to create social change to the next level. However, not only is it cost prohibitive, (especially since my husband is seven years from retirement), but working full time means I could only go part time and it would take me another three years to finish. So that’s probably not in the cards. Most of the time, I’m at peace with that decision.

So. What to do with the time this will give me? My themes for the year run the gamut from creativity to self-definition, from developing leadership skills to developing the discipline necessary to do the work I was put here to do. Whether that work is in my outer world—activism, career, writing/publishing, relationships—or in my inner world—peeling away the layers of bullshit to reveal my authentic self, being more mindful of the needs of others, etc—it all needs discipline.

Because discipline is by nature active, I’ve come up with a couple ideas to help me foster it. I signed up for another half marathon to discipline my physical self and I also plan on taking a meditation retreat or two. In addition, I’m looking for a project that will help me grow my already formidable organization skills and foster my creativity. What that project looks like, I’m not sure.

The first half of 2018 will mostly be about finishing up school, political resistance and getting better at my job as a transition specialist for LD youth, but after that… I’m excited for the possibilities. I have several writing projects floating around in my head and I’m waiting for one to stick. I’m also waiting for that project/opportunity to tap itself on my shoulder and announce itself. I am by nature a planner… but this waiting, being open… it feels kind of good. It feels right.

Happy New Year!

The Death of a Bird and the Birth of a New Year

 

I found a dying bird the other day. Sahalie and I were taking a much needed holiday break and set off for a walk, crunching through the ice that Portland decided to gift us with for Christmas Eve. I was carefully watching the ground, (afraid of slipping and falling and breaking a hip), when I spied a tiny bird shivering in the gutter. Following my instincts, I swooped down and picked it up. Spots of blood showed on its beak and I surmised that it had been hit by a car and had little time to live. My heart tugged. No creature should die freezing and alone in the gutter. Cradling the bird in one hand and holding a bag of poop and Halie’s leash in the other, I spoke half to the bird and half to my dog as I carefully picked my way home.  “No, leave it, Halie. Its okay, little bird, you’re not alone. Stop it Halie. Let’s go home.  Poor baby, poor little bird.” I sounded like a mad woman. The warmth of my hand translated itself to the bird and the shivering stopped. I opened my fingers a crack and it blinked at me. I would have felt elation but there was more blood on its beak and I knew better. Had he lived, I would have taken it to the Audubon Society as soon as it opened. The bird died while the humans and baby dog celebrated a dark and snowy Christmas Eve. But, as I left it out in the woods near our house, I realized that it was enough for me that I’d followed my instincts and offered what comfort I could to a fellow earth creature as its life ended.

It was just one of many moments of growth and reflection that 2017 gifted me with.

It’s an understatement to say that it was a growing year for me. Many years have been growing years (the year I fought cancer and wrote four books leaps to mind), but my awareness of that growth has trebled. Between meditation and journaling, the year’s lessons have taken on profound meanings. Perhaps my heightened awareness is simply an symptom of growing older—the impermanence of it all has settled sharply in my chest.

A few of the things I’ve learned this year:

  • I’ve learned both the importance of community involvement and the importance of personal boundaries.
  • I understand the interconnection of our country and our world in a whole new way.
  • I’ve learned how the mentalities of scarcity and abundance impact our entire world.
  • I’ve learned how important positive female relationships are in my life.
  • I’ve learned more about how our democracy works than I ever learned in school and I’ve learned how it’s currently being threatened.
  • I’ve learned how important and precious that democracy is to me.
  • I’ve discovered the perils and rewards of radical honesty and I’ve learned the limits of my own courage in regards to that honesty.
  • I’ve learned how important that moment of space between stimuli and reaction actually is to the quality of your life and your relationships.
  • I now know just how vital mentorship relationships are and how they are the lifeblood of female growth and maturity.
  • I also know that mentors can come in the most unlikely places. Among my mentors for the year, I count an astrologer with a bent for human justice and healing, (No, I don’t really believe in astrology, but her intuitive, humane and feminist writing is glorious), a ghost writer, whose compassionate and well-researched Action Check List for Americans of Conscience has deeply impacted my activism, and a former lawyer in New York whose Resistance Live broadcasts have informed me of the inner workings of our government and made me think about female leadership in new ways.

I’m sure many people will agree with me that 2017 has been a shit-show of a year but as I set my intentions, goals or resolutions for 2018, (I hate all those terms, btw. They’re so cheesy and don’t even cover how sacred this process is to me),  the growth that I’ve achieved this year directly impacts how I’ll proceed next year. Or, in writer terms, every line I have written, every character trait deepened and every plot point informs what comes next. I wish I had a way to tie up this blog with a deep corresponding lesson about the dying bird, but I got nothing, so I’ll just leave you with my love and hope for 2018. May it be a brighter year for all of humanity.

Creating Change Through Self-Actualization

I recently applied to New Leadership Oregon, a PSU residency program that will help me take my skills to a whole new kickass level in terms of leadership, activism and community engagement/involvement. Cross your fingers for me, because I really want to get in. Why? Because I believe that all women need to learn to be better leaders and I believe all people need to concern themselves with self-actualization. I see this as one path I can take to turn my self-actualization into change. I know myself pretty well and I know what my strengths are. I believe this residency will help me turn those strengths into weapons for  progress.

In my job as a transition specialist, I emphasize self-actualization to my students. Why? Because by knowing yourself, you can manage yourself. It’s only by recognizing patterns of behavior or emotional reactions to stimuli that you can change your behavior. So it’s incredibly important that you be authentic… at least to yourself. What do you value? What do you like? What works for you? What doesn’t? I find that for many people, (not including my students, because they’re just beginning their journeys) it’s almost impossible to successfully manage themselves because they have no idea who they are. Yes, we change, yes, learning who we are is a life-long process, but too many people adopt whatever mode of thought happens to be popular at the time. They mimic trends and the people who start those trends, as if being like Marie Kondo, Elizabeth Gilbert, Oprah Winfrey, Danielle LaPorte, Natalie Goldberg or Cheryl Strayed, etc., will make them happy. Spoiler alert: It won’t—because you are not that person. I’m not saying that people shouldn’t have heroes or even learn from the experiences of others, (I adore and study the works of Strayed, Goldberg and Gilbert, for instance), but if you’re busy trying to be someone else, you will never learn who you are.

Getting to know yourself is a beautiful commitment. It includes finding the tools that work for you and applying them to your life. Setting long and short term personal goals and checking in on them is one method I use to get to know myself. My hits and misses show me where my priorities are, where my strengths lie and what weaknesses I’m either ignoring or abetting. For instance, if health is a goal and I’m continually sneaking in to McDonalds for fries, (true story) I have a weakness. Once I spot the weakness I can recreate the circumstances that led up to my enabling it. Am I stressed? Why? Am I too busy? Why? And more… did I fail to plan healthy snacks or lunches? What caused the failure to plan? Did I collapse into an exhausted heap and play on social media too long instead of cooking my lunches or packing snacks? What is the science behind choosing unhealthy fries instead of the fruit and yogurt plate (Tired people often go for carbs). Once I recreate the scenario, I can create positive systems to change it.

So yeah, self-actualization rocks.

It’s my hope that the leadership residency will broaden my horizons and deepen my commitment to being an agent of change. Why? Because I want to change the world for the better, or at least a small portion of it. In this shit show of a world, I want to work to decrease the world-wide suckage and make it a better, more just, place for all living things to dwell. Overreaching much? Probably. But nothing of import has been accomplished by thinking small.

This Job, Though

As many of you know, I’m now a Youth Transition Specialist for the Tigard/Tualatin School District. I knew there would be many changes to my schedule and lifestyle going in...I haven’t worked full time since the eighties. Of course, I usually had three or four jobs—all which I loved—and often ended up working far more than forty hours a week on a regular basis, but full time on one job? Not so much. Things I’ve learned so far.

  • The most difficult part isn't getting up early--I’ve been an early riser for years. And it’s not getting up early and having to be somewhere because I did that many mornings—meeting friends at the gym or at a coffee shop to write. No. It’s getting up early, having to be somewhere AND LOOKING PROFESSIONAL. As in hair done and make up on. That’s the most difficult part of this whole full time business. What’s up with that nonsense?
  • The days are shorter. I don’t know what kind of metaphysical space/time continuum this is, but it’s a very real thing. I hesitated bringing this one up because I have smarty pants friends who will display a subtle, “welcome to my world,” kind of attitude which is not what I need. But my bestie was a stay at home mom like myself and is now working full time at a job she loves and she totally understands that there’s something fishy going on with the hours in a day scale. I love her.
  • Prepping is EVERYTHING. Clothes laid out the night before. Lunches made on Sunday and put in jars for the week. Menu, lists and grocery shopping are all done on the weekends. All of this gives me the space I need to make sure I have time to meditate, workout, study, and hopefully write/edit. (That starts next week)
  • My entire life-long accumulation of skills has prepared me for this job--even the things that had no monetary value. I meet with businesses and non-profits, engage with the community, talk with teens on a daily basis, problem solve with people in my department, write lesson plans and teach kids how to set and implement goals. I have to think outside the box and be spontaneous while still tracking my schedule and keeping meticulous notes. Considering all my experiences, from working at the Redmond Humane Society to being a stay at home mom, from homeschooling to mentoring teens, from all my volunteer work to writing both fiction and non-fiction, from speaking engagements and publicity to creating curriculum for 60 children of diverse ages and abilities, from going back to school to just juggling my crazy life and schedule… all of this has led to a unique skill-set that is perfect for this job.

Like Mrs. Doubtfire once said, “I. Am. Job.”

And something else I have learned? Having a job that I love and that fulfills me is incredible. But realizing that my life experiences have value…absolutely priceless.

Summer of Reset Adieu

I blogged quite a bit about my Summer of Reset at the beginning and the middle of summer, but then I started drowning and the blogs ended as I was too busy dogpaddling in a vat of excrement to write about dogpaddling in a vat of excrement. Actually, it wasn’t that bad, but it wasn’t particularly good either. Oh, there were some great moments… wine tasting with family, a couple of lovely parties, attending a comedy show with my hubby and a six day trip to the mountains with my hubby and granddaughter during which we saw a mountain lion and watched an eagle steal a fish from an osprey… but mostly it was dogpaddling in excrement.

Of course, resets usually are, aren’t they?

Learning Spanish was much harder than I thought it would be. I actually thought I'd walk out the door after my first class with my mind buzzing with the beauty of a new language and singing sentences. I don’t know why…perhaps because I’m a writer and love languages and I thought they would love me back? At any rate, I really had to stretch myself because it was like the instructor was speaking a whole nother language or something. Actually, he was, because that's the entire point of an immersion class--you have no idea what anyone is saying and you feel like you've landed on an alien planet. Seriously, there were times when it almost made me cry.  I also had to deal with the fact that my teacher friend—who is also fluent in French—picked it up and retained it much faster than I did. It was a good thing because we were able to study together, but it was still surprising and a little frustrating. It didn’t help that my Spanish teacher was incredibly disorganized. While I liked him and his teaching style in the classroom, the disorganization created a lot of unnecessary frustration. And when you’re disorganized in two different languages… OMG. The experience made me realize that I needed to focus more on the process and less on the end result. While I purport to live that way, learning Spanish really drove it home for me. Lesson learned.

Before I knew I'd have an entirely new job, I did what I usually do in the summer and set up some freelance workshop gigs at my local libraries and such. While the kids were great, I had two different disasters, (of my own making) that I had to work around. The presentations took up a ton of time and my hubby had to drive me to two of them because I don’t drive in some parts of Portland. (Mild driving phobia.) Add that to redoing my office, trying to learn my job before school started, the shit show that is our government, and I was more stressed than relaxed. Seriously, the most carefree I felt I all summer was when I was sitting in the middle of Little Lava Lake in a borrowed inflatable kayak with an icy cold beer. (An experience which actually ignited a new passion. The kayaking, not the beer, though I'm pretty passionate about beer, too.)

As the summer of reset closes, I’m coming to grips with both the successes and the challenges.

Challenges

  • I’m not running
  • I’m not ten pounds lighter
  • I didn’t write a proposal for a new book.
  • I didn’t meditate enough.
  • I didn’t declutter my whole house.
  • I had some startling friendship issues.

Successes

  • I found a new passion and my husband and I will be purchasing kayaks and learning to float together.
  • I’m well on my way to speaking another language...a bucket list item.
  • I grew my editing business and added a coaching component.
  • I’m learning my new job and loving it.
  • My husband I have started doing resistance activities together.
  • I finished revisions on a novel that’s the best work I’ve ever done and my agent went out with it.
  • We're almost finished with cleaning out, decluttering and reorganizing the garage.
  • I am eight credits closer to having a degree.
  • I have a beautiful work office that’s already filled with the memories of my husband and myself working together, laughing together and overcoming obstacles…together.

As I reflect back on this past summer, a few things really strike me...my husband and I, for whatever reason, are growing toward one another again. Not that we've ever had more difficulties than any other  long term relationship, but we've re-prioritized our time together. With this commitment comes the surprising revelation that there are a few outside relationships that just aren't, for a myriad of reasons, sustainable any more. And that's okay.

I've also learned more about setting goals for myself and being okay with not reaching them. I can always make them anew. In fact, I've learned that reset is infinite and can happen all the time.

In other words, I'm now in the autumn of reset and the reset is good.

Adventure in Your Everyday Life

I come from a long line of people inflicted with the travel bug. My grandmother went to Europe—the first time after the age of fifty! My uncles went several times…one to climb in the Alps, another to bike through England. My aunt wants to visit every National Park before she dies and is very close to accomplishing that goal. My son saved his money and spent a month in England with friends at the age of twenty and my daughter backpacks fearlessly through the Cascades, the Olympics, the Tetons and the Rockies.

My adventures are of the tamer sort. I’ve been to New York City for a book festival, to Nashville to see family and to New Orleans for a writer’s conference. But mostly, my traveling is limited to the places I can go in less than a week by car. Social media is all too willing to show me what adventures I’m missing… I have friends heading off to backpack through the Highlands, tour Normandy, write in Tuscany and kite sale through Asia.

For a time, I felt envy with a capital E. Resentment was mixed up in there, too. I wanted to spend a month or so in Spain, to write, feast and immerse myself. I wanted to lean against buildings that had been there for thousands of years. As a history buff, I’m jealous of the fact that all the good stuff took place on the other side of the world. I read other people’s accounts, clicked through their pictures and watched their videos with sadness and regret. I wanted an adventure so badly!

Then I’d tamp down my feelings and get back to work, thinking that it’s a dream that may always be a dream. Honestly, it’s just not practical at this time in my life, I’d tell myself.

It was that last thought that changed everything… why wasn’t it practical? The answer was so simple, I almost missed it.

Because I had already chosen my adventure.

My adventure was to finish schooling in my fifties. My adventure was to write books that entertain, provoke and illuminate snapshots of history. My adventure was to start a new career helping underserved teens better their lives. My adventure was to start my own business and learn a new language. My adventure includes being an activist, taking leadership courses and working toward a future I want for my grandchildren. It includes learning to can and preserve food, learning to cook and teaching myself about wine. As soon as I get my Sea Eagle 330, it’s going to be about learning to Kayak with my dog.

It dawned on me that life is an adventure and my life is full of adventure every single day. It’s not exactly what I had envisioned, but it is rich and full and it’s mine.  I may never get to Spain, but if I do, at least I’ll know the language!