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Teri Brown - Young Adult Author

Summer of Reset: My Work Space Transformation

When I received the offer for my new job, I was overjoyed at the opportunity. I suddenly had a full time job doing something that would make a concrete difference in both the lives of the students I would be working with and the world at large. I would be taking the six or seven things I do (all that I love, by the way) and turning them into three: Writing, work and school. And I'm going to be honest, I was thrilled that I would have my own office. Like a grown up.

Then I saw my office.

And another:


No. Just no. The woman whose place I was taking had been there for over thirteen years and it showed. When I asked, (No doubt in a hushed horrified voice if I could paint she said no. Also that she knew that some people nested in their offices, but she wasn't that way.


I let it drop, but the moment my training was over, I called and asked to paint. Since the offices were slated to be torn down in a couple years, they said it was fine as long as the colors were neutral. That's what they said. What I heard was " Go ahead and remodel how ever you like!" So I did.

I began by moving stuff out. I was a herculean task. What I had left was depressing.





But I have a secret weapon. Actually two. One, I am real stubborn and two, I'm married to this guy.


So in four very intense days that included three outside commitments, we transformed my office from a death trap into something that I will be happy to work in every day.







I need a few more things for the walls and I can't get all the nasty off the floor,  but I love it it beyond reason. What do you think?


Summer of Reset part 4: In Which I Search for the Magic Switch

I took my granddaughter to the beach last Friday. The weather cooperated—even though it was foggy, it was about 65 degrees and there was no wind—not bad for the Oregon coast. Rina-bug, Sahalie and I walked the beach and I watched my granddaughter and puppy frolicking on the shoreline, running from waves and chasing seagulls. Because Halie’s such a friendly dog, I usually leash her up whenever I see someone coming. Last year, a man shot and killed someone’s off leash pitbull for harassing their dog. I don’t know the details, but the thought of someone pulling out a gun and shooting my dog because she runs up to investigate them terrifies me. Halie has pit in her and people notice. So when I saw someone running towards us through the mist, I leashed her up.

It’s probably a good thing because a young man ran by, kicking a soccer ball with his feet. Halie loves balls and had already popped two that week. I marveled at the runner’s control of the ball and envied his athleticism. We soon lost him in the mist and decided to walk the mile or so back to the car to get the sand toys and park it somewhere on the beach to relax. On the way back, I noticed a nice jacket on a stick poking up out of the sand. The word soccer caught my eye and I surmised that the young man had become overheated.

We walked over the dunes, grabbed our stuff and by the time we’d returned, the man had gotten back to the stick to retrieve his jacket. He was about 20 and in stunning shape. He stopped to pet Sahalie and talked to us for a bit. Turns out he’s a soccer player for Concordia University in Portland. After conversing for a moment, the girls and I went and staked out our spot in the sand. I watched as he finished up his workout with calisthenics and stretching at the water’s edge and my envy—so overwhelming it almost made me cry— returned. I wanted that. I want to be that fearlessly fit. I want to run on the sand again. I want to climb mountains without crippling myself. I want to feel good again.

I started another program last week-a six week diet and exercise regime that begins fairly easily and increases in difficulty. The food plan is no nonsense and easy to follow. There’s nothing new in this plan, so I won’t go into detail. There’s nothing new in my resolve to get fit because I’ve been doing that since I was in my thirties. I’ve actually managed it a few times. I even ran a half marathon once—the whole damn thing. I lose weight, get strong and then drop the plot somewhere along the way. Then I’ll spend several years carrying an extra 20 to 50 pounds around before the desire to feel good overcomes my desire for cheesecake. And it’s not like I don’t know what I’m doing while I’m doing it. I know enough about diet and exercise to be a bloody nutritionist or personal trainer. I know when I sit down at a restaurant what I should order… then knowingly order something else. It’s not an issue of education. It’s in my head.

So it comes down to a brain thing. But then, doesn’t everything?

So how do I turn on and more importantly KEEP ON the light switch of motivation in my head? How do I get fit and stay fit without returning to fat? I’m old now. Well not old, old, but old enough. If I don’t do it now, I’m afraid I’m going to end up in a chair watching the Price is Right or Family Feud—a prisoner of my own frailty and self- indulgence. It’s not about how I look and it never has been. It’s about how I feel. I’ve called this summer, “the summer of reset” because so many things are changing and I am getting my house in order to live out the final third of my life with as much gusto as I can muster.

I want more education. I want to make a difference. I want to inspire. I want to try kite-boarding. I want to climb Mt. St. Helen’s. I want to go backpacking with my daughter. I want, I want, I want. I want to live my life up until the very moment that it’s gone.

I want to run on the beach like that young man and cool down at the water’s edge.

But how? Nike’s Just Do It motto is as helpful as a lead balloon. It’s not really a question of a magic pill. It’s a question of that brain switch. I used it to quit smoking. I know what it is—I just don’t know how to activate it and keep it activated. I’m motivated—not only do I want a multitude of things that fitness will afford me, but I have horrible reflux and don’t want to end up with esophageal cancer. As someone who has had cancer twice, I'm not interested in going down that road again. I’m doing all the things needed to destress my life and put together a support group. I’m planning my meals and doing my workouts and hoping for that magic activation. So I'm doing the right things and hope it works. I don’t really have any answers here and if I did, I’d probably market it and retire in Sunriver.

But maybe if I hold that feeling of envy, that longing for fitness brought on by that young man running in the sand with a soccer ball, I’ll be able to do it.

Rock Stars of the Resistance

As many of you know, I have become increasingly more political since November 8th. No more half-assed political posturing for me-I want to actually be as informed as I can. I believe our Republic is in jeopardy and we got to this point because of ignorance. I'll never be caught with my democracy bloomers down again!

As always, in times of trouble, (did anyone else just think of the Beatles there?), I look for guidance from others with more knowledge or experience. I've found so many willing to rise up as leaders--to take time out of their lives to resist because it's important. This list is by no means exhaustive... in fact, if you want to add your own suggestions, please leave a comment. Today is regular Joe day. I'll do media outlets, journalist and politicians later.

Regular People Who Stepped Up

Elizabeth Cronise McLaughlin: A whip-smart former lawyer and women's leadership coach who now does almost daily podcasts that analyzes the news with a definite legal slant. Her brains and positive attitude makes me feel better about the state of the US. (And I have tickets to see her speaking tour here in Portland! Squee!) You can learn more about her work here.

Amy Siskand A recent head-line for the Washington Post said "Trump won and Amy Siskand started a list." She catalogs a weekly list of the subtle changes going on the changes going on in the US should scare the bejeesus out of everyone who reads it. The work she is doing is EPIC and so is Amy.

Ben Wikler: Ben is the Washington DC director of MoveOn.org and his tweets keep me informed. It's like having boots on the ground in the city where it's all happening.

Jennifer Hoffmann Another Regular Joe who started a weekly Action List for Democrats and Republicans of Conscience. The list is well researched, compassionate, extensive and includes a list of people to thank for doing the right thing.

It's Time to Fight Though this is a website rather than a person, I personally know the woman behind it and she's a rock star. Though she prefers to remain somewhat low key, she's a political staffer and a total politics geek. Her weekly and daily action lists are invaluable.

Have any regular Joes to add?

Summer of Reset Part 3: New Beginnings

Summer of reset: New Beginnings

New Beginning #1: Even before my job at Common Ground ended, I’ve been training for the new job. The woman I’m taking over for was in the middle of moving and retiring, so it was paramount that we snatch as many training hours as we could before she left on the 30th. The timing is perfect really…I’ll have the summer to ease myself into the job before the students arrive after Labor Day. My summer hours will be filled with visits to different Job Corps sites, employers who actively look interns or are open to learning disabled employees and various academic programs that help at-risk teens. I’ll also be getting up to speed on the YTP program, the services we offer, as well as the work I’ll be doing for the district. My office/closet needs a lot of help, too. Hoping I can talk them into painting it for me or allowing me to paint it. Because damn. Also, even after training I know nothing. Fake it til you make it?

New Beginning #2: Somehow or another I’ve gained a shit ton of weight and fell off the fitness wagon. So I'm back on said wagon once again and doing the Slim in Six program. I gotta be honest. It’s sort of boring. But I don’t need exciting, I need results and this is a nice low key program with sound nutrition plan and workouts that challenge me without crippling my old fat fanny. It’s a six week program and I'm augmenting the boring workouts with PLIYO and yoga. I have put together a small support group and we’re just trucking along. I need to lose about 42 pounds—though not all this summer, obviously. I do NOT want to go into my dotage being frail, inactive and watching family feud.

New Beginning #3: New school term! This time I am taking an elective and crossing off a bucket list at the same time! I am taking Spanish. It’s confusing and weird and wonderful and I am excited to finally learn another language. I have always wanted to and if I don’t do it now, I never will.

New Beginning #4: I finished the revisions on one book and sent it to my agent. Now I am working on another… a YA this time. I am NOT going to talk about it much because I love it and I am afraid to Jinx it. But I love it and I am glad to be writing something new again.

I knew this summer would be big and important… I just didn’t know how big or important it would be!

And That’s a Wrap-Summer of Reset

For the past nine years I’ve worked at an afterschool program called Common Ground Extended Care. In that capacity I was a teacher, the head teacher and then last year, stepped back down to teacher again. We had 60 k-5th grade kids and the idea was to create a program that challenged the older kids while not boring the younger ones and vice versa. Through the years I hugged, taught, wiped up spills, read to, bandaged, counseled, reprimanded, played with and cooked for hundreds of children, (I did a cooking show called Cooking with Teri in which I would cook foods from around the world while giving a lesson). I booked numerous guests to come in and give presentations that went with our theme. We’ve had Shakespearean actors, history reenactors, soap-makers, candle-makers, bee-keepers, quilters, scientists, inventors, car buffs, city planners, biologists, scuba divers, cloggers,  jazz dancers, conservationists, puppeteers, numerous artists and authors, and the odd Dairy Princess or two.

We had musicians and bands of all kinds including a ragtime duo, a nationally known blues guitarist, a band specializing in ancient instruments, a blue grass fiddler, a saxophonist and a didgeridoo player who gave us a full blown concert with sound effects, loops and everything. Our kids got to dress up in bee suits and scuba suits, watch a salmon being dissected, throw a lasso, sit in vintage cars, make Lego robotics,  hold a human brain, dress up in traditional Budapest costumes, learn how to dance the tango, make gnocchi and that wasn’t even the half of it.

In all my excitement in my new job, I pushed away the sadness of leaving a job that I love with the best co-workers and the best boss I could imagine having. I cried on and off all day yesterday and there were a few children it just gutted me to say goodbye to. I got flowers and gifts and homemade cards with childish embellishments. I received sincere, heartfelt thank yous from parents whose children I have taught for years.  I’m excited for the new chapter in my life, but it will never be able to replace the old chapter in my heart.

Like the song says,

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end.”



Summer of Reset Day Three

Resetting is slow.

Before I get into my slow resetting, I wanted to say something about why I'm doing the Summer of Reset. I mean, what's the point? I think humans need to occasionally reevaluate where they are in terms of their vision and goals. If they've veered off the path or if their former vision has changed, they need to recalibrate themselves. This summer, I'm recalibrating, readjusting and fine-tuning.

Day one: Activism in the morning: Called all my Reps about our health care followed up with 30 minutes of cardio, (which I highly recommend as a way of dealing with the frustration at our nation's current state of affairs). Food wise, I was almost on point. I say almost because I had Cheetos with my lunch salad. (Because all salads call out for crunchy, fake cheese crisps.) I finished the rough of an editorial letter for a client and also cleaned some things that needed cleaning and hadn’t been cleaned since spring term started. (It ended for me on Wednesday) Then I made a fabulous chicken dinner from Cooking Light magazine. And I mixed my rośe with calorie free tonic water. That cuts calories, correct?

Day two: Activism in the morning. 45 minutes of PIYO, (A pilates/yoga workout that hurts everything), and a two mile walk with my dog. I worked on my own writing, (YAY), and went to work. Food was not on point. In addition to my shakeology, salad and healthy snacks, I had two Rice Krispy treats, a small chocolate pudding, more Cheetos, (which are satanic), and two pale ale beers from Terminal Gravity. (If it’s pale, it means light, right?) One of the best parts of the day came at twilight when after playing with my dog in the backyard, I lay on the grass and stared up at the trees blowing in the wind. I acknowledged the perfect moment in the moment that it was happening which made it more perfect.

Day three remains to be seen. I did meditate, which is good.

Things I have gleaned so far:

  • Summer of reset has confirmed my love for Headspace. I wrote this on Facebook, “Great meditation this morning...was contemplating the "loop". How angry thoughts fuel angry emotions and how angry emotions fuel angry thoughts. It's the same with sadness, guilt, shame, hopelessness, etc. It perpetuates itself. I've been aware of this loop for years which is why I give my emotions the side eye. It saddens me how many people are caught up in this cycle without being aware of it. That loop can destroy lives. The trick for me is to spot the loop while it's happening and use distraction techniques to circumvent it. I acknowledge the emotion, try to trace it to its root and then try to move on. The meditation I'm doing helps”
  • Decluttering means getting rid of things in your life that aren’t working any more or just taking up space and energy. This can mean items, beliefs or even relationships. I’m going to be doing lots of decluttering this summer.
  • I’m trying to add to my Gratitude Jar daily. My hubby and I started this tradition four or five years ago and we really like it. Every time we think of something we're grateful for, we put it on a sticky and into the jar. On Thanksgiving Weekend, we pour ourselves some really good pinot and read them aloud. We always put the dates on them so we know what part of the year they were from. Sometimes I forget to do it for a month or more at a time so I am trying to remind myself to do it more often this summer.
  • I am really, really sore, but so far I am persisting.


The Summer of Reset

This is my summer of reset. I’m almost done with the revisions on a book that will go out this fall and it’s the best thing I have ever written, I’ve cut back my school hours and while I’ll be busy as all get out, it will be stuff I love doing. I’m still fighting every day for the country I love. I’m getting my nutrition, physical fitness and weight back under control.

I think the big thing that set this off is my new job. I’ll be a Youth Transition Specialist for the Tigard/Tualatin School district and I am thrilled and overwhelmed and so, so eager to get started. I felt deep down that I needed a new challenge. I’m still in school and I’m still writing and doing developmental edits on the side, but I just felt as if there was something else out there for me and lo and behold! The circumstances surrounding how I landed the job show me that I’m right where I’m supposed to be. For those of you who don’t know, YTP is a program that works with Vocational Rehabilitation to transition learning disabled kids from school to vocational school or employment. I’ll be mentoring, job coaching, helping them to write resumes and navigate transportation, and teaching other life skills needed to make a successful transition into adulthood. Everything in my skillset led me to this point.

To make room for a full time job, (only ten hours in the summer), I’ve given up my teaching job at Portland Community College’s noncredit program. I am, of course, going to finish my own education. After this summer, I’ll have 18 credits left for AA degree and at that point I’ll reevaluate how far I want to go.
I think the news that I passed my math class on top of a fabulous new job gave me the feeling that I can do anything. Like I’m Wonder Woman. I’m cutting the clutter from my life— both figuratively and literally. It’s time to get rid of the deadwood holding me down and making this a true summer of reset.

I can hardly wait!

When your Beloved Morning Routine Blows up in Your Face

There’s nothing better than a good morning routine. It sets me up for the rest of the day, emotionally, physically and mentally. It helps me maintain some sort of emotional equanimity so I can go the craziness that is my life all Zen and shiz. (Or at least a semblance of Zen and shiz.) My morning routine also shows me just how attached I get to having things a certain way and what kind of emotional reserves I have when things veer off path.

This morning, my routine blew up. My eyes popped open at 3:30 am, fully 90 minutes before I was supposed to wake up. My husband, who has been working overtime, got home at 4:30 and turned on the TV in the living room. My daughter, who had to catch a flight for a work trip, got up late and had to scurry around the house to get ready. My mom is visiting, effectively closing off my office/spare room as an escape route. I had nowhere to go. No place to escape chaos. No place to meditate, journal, or study.

Instead, I was stuck in the living room with my hands clenched as my husband watched the news and commented on the horror of the day’s events. I bit my tongue as I watched my daughter flailing about so I wouldn’t make a sarcastic remark about getting up earlier or having everything prepared ahead of time. Clearly, this wasn’t a teachable moment.

Or was it?

By the time my husband went to bed and my daughter left for the airport, I was a mess. My nerves were shot, my stomach was churning and a two ton heavy thing sat on my chest. Not a great way to start a day that was already crushingly busy. I had to volunteer at the school, take my mom to a hair appointment as she had a wedding to attend that afternoon, get dinner in the crockpot, pick mom back up, make it to my math study group and then go to work. I had to turn it around and fast or otherwise I would come home and dive into a vat of wine. I had maybe fifteen minutes before my mom got up. It was time for some ninja calming techniques.

Deep Breathing

Ten very slow breaths. I imagine that my stomach is a drawer that opens as I take in air through my nose. As I let the air out, the drawer contracts closed. I count on the bottom of the outbreath.


Mountain pose. I stand very tall, feet close together, arms by my sides, fingers pointing down, eyes gazing in the distance. Then I dive to a loose standing forward bend to stretch out my back. Then I straighten with my arms over my head, stretching first one arm upward and then the other.

Creative Scheduling

Then I spend about five minutes jotting down my schedule. Was there anything I could move or change? It took me a minute to realize that I could skip or reschedule study group and run up to the tutoring center to get my questions answered after dropping Mom off to get her hair done which would save me about two hours out of the day. That would also give me time to stop at the store to pick up an item I was missing for dinner.

Mindset Reset

Then I took a moment to realign my thoughts. Instead of resenting running my mom around, I reminded myself to be grateful that I still have my mom with me. My struggles with math show my commitment to my goal of getting a degree. Instead of being pissed off that I had to stop at the store, I should be grateful that I have access to have so much available food. Gratitude is a game changer in my daily struggle for equanimity. My ego is like a petulant child always wanting to run the show, always wanting its way. Gratitude is a quiet way of putting my ego back in its place.

I took a deep breath. Then another. It was going to be okay. A hint of anxiety was still there, lingering just below the surface and I knew I would have to remember to deep breathe until bedtime, but a bad start to the morning didn’t mean I was stuck with a bad day. It took just ten minutes to come to grips with that concept. Lesson learned.

I’d still rather have my morning routine, though.

Mindful Writing

In writing, as in so much of life, we often concentrate on the goal. We peck away at our keyboard, longing to finish the paragraph, page, chapter, book. When we finish the book, we find that our goals have moved further off into the distance. We now need to write the query, polish the synopsis, obtain an agent, and score a book contract. Then we have more goals: second book contract, promotion, third book contract, more promotion.

Add in an industry fraught with rejection and reviews that judge both the writing and the writer, it’s no wonder that writers have historically reached for that bottle of gin, or wine or other mind-numbing poison. The advent of the Internet has been both a Godsend and a bane—research and communication are easier but at times it feels as if everyone else in the world has good writing news except you. The Internet is good at creating that little flutter of anxiety that means if you don’t hurry, ALL THE CONTRACTS WILL BE GONE AND THERE WILL BE NONE LEFT FOR YOU.

It never ends. Like a sailing ship, the goal is always just over the horizon—we never actually reach it and it becomes ever more elusive. “So concentrate on the writing,” we’re told. Yet, who is really satisfied with their own writing? Oh, we may be in flashes, but overall? “Not I,” said the little red hen.

Often, in spite of what it looks like on the outside, even working writers aren’t assured of anything. I have a total of seven traditionally published books that have been translated into four different languages, two novellas and a half a dozen articles in Writer’s Digest, yet I’ve had four agents and no books on the horizon. No one is more aware of the quicksand that most authors are sitting on than I am. I teach novel-writing classes for my local community college, attend conferences, write for magazines when I can and constantly worry about my next book sale.

So what is the solution? Perhaps the answer lies less in the goal or the outcome and more in the process. Perhaps the process is the point. It’s being mindful of the writing while actually doing it. I’ve always enjoyed timed writing sprints with friends online. It makes the time and the writing go faster, but maybe this method simply keeps me more focused on the word count than the actual words. I get sloppier in my sentence structure when I’m racing and less aware of word choice. What if in my desire to outwit my inner editor, I’m bypassing my inner writer? The one who actually enjoys word play?

People say you should only worry about what you can control and we certainly can’t control the publishing business. But maybe if we concern ourselves more with the process and less with the outcome, we will worry less about where our writing is going and enjoy the act of writing more.

So next time I sit down to work on my manuscript I’m going to try something new. I’m going to forget about daily word count goals and word racing. I’m going to open the document without expectations. And I am going to play with each word, each sentence and each passage—and try to be mindful of what I’m doing each moment.

Yes and No

I think one of the most important tricks in life is to figure out what to say yes to and what to say no to. This one still knocks me on my arse... I actually think that those two little words are the building blocks of your life. Your yeses and nos basically dictate how you spend your time.

People tell you that I'm the queen of no. My husband-who says yes to way too much-made up the name. My friend, Miriam, however, says I need to say no much more because she thinks I say yes way too often.

The truth lies somewhere in between. I say no to others and I say yes to myself to excess. And I’m not talking about the “Yes, I can have the extra piece of cake or third glass of wine.” (Though I do that a lot too!) I'm talking about the, “Yes, I can go to school and work three jobs and train for a half marathon and write books.

Then I’m all shocked and butt hurt when I crash and burn.

I think part of the problem is that I really don’t know what I want and the options are dizzy-making. I'm afraid that I'll say no and lose out on something good. For instance, last spring, I quit my day job. Then in the summer, I took it back (with a lot less responsibility.) I was ready to give up my college degree dream as a something impossible because it really doesn’t make financial sense. Then I registered for fall term because in spite of it being impractical, I want that degree. I just do.

I waffle. I waver. I says yes and then no and then yes again so many times it gives me vertigo. People tell me to slow down and enjoy life. What they don’t understand is that excepting a few moments of freak out, I enjoy being busy. I like feeling accomplished. I also pencil in time for friends & family, time alone, time to get out in nature, etc, so it's not all work. Sometimes I burn out. Sometimes I screw up. Sometimes I’m exhausted. But I try to remind myself that those times of exhaustion and burn out means I’m out there swinging, out there trying, out there living, and THAT makes me very happy. As anyone who has overcome cancer will tell you, living so you have time to love and learn and experience is the only thing that counts.

So for me, saying no opens up time to say yes and vice versa. It’s everyone’s job to find a yes/no ratio that works for them. I know a fellow author, (and fellow cancer survivor), who decided after a successful career writing romances that she didn’t want to write them anymore—her taste and priorities had changed. She said no to one thing so she could say yes to another. So mind your yeses and your nos. Because that, my friends, is how you make a life.