Friday, May 29, 2015

On Failure

On Thursday I woke up craving cupcakes (don't worry, it's not that kind of craving).

I tweeted this:

By 10:30, the daughter and I were in the kitchen, trying out a new recipe for cupcakes.

We didn't have eggs, so I decided to use applesauce as an alternative (which can be done, yo, and is a legit option when there's an egg allergy in the family).

(No egg allergy here, though--just no eggs, period.)

You saw the title of this post, right? Do you get where I'm going with this?

So we mix our ingredients, pop the pan in the oven and wait. And wait. And wait. And when the timer dings our cupcakes are still flat. 

Like . . . pancakes.

Round 1: 

I keep my cool, grab the cookbook, and reread the instructions.

SELF-RISING flour. Not All-Purpose.

Crap. It. All.

At this point, I had a choice. Freak out and moan and groan, or take the high road. It was my mistake, after all.

So I smiled. And I said: "Well, that happened. Let's try again."

The daughter and I washed all of our pans and measuring spoons and started over. This time, we used the right kind of flour.

Still no egg.

Turns out, substitute or not, that egg was pretty freaking important. 

Round 2:


So here's what I know about failure:

Failing is an important part of life and living.

If you aren't failing, you aren't trying 
(or you're not trying hard enough, 
or you're not trying the right things).

Every failure contains its own lesson. 
You will learn more from your failures than your successes.

Yeah, I could've gotten angry, tossed it all in the trash and spent the rest of the day sulking because things didn't go like I planned. (Because that's what "perfectionist" me wants to do.)

But I embraced the failure. Called it what it was.

Then I buttercream iced my failure and ate it.

The lesson I want my daughter to learn from this day: Mom didn't give up. Even when things didn't go the way she expected, she kept trying. And she kept her good attitude while she did it.

So when Mr. Klein came home and asked "What the $%&* happened?," I turned to him and smiled and said:

I taught our daughter how to fail today.

Now it's your turn. Go find failure. 

And Be Brilliant while doing it.


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

On the Duggars. Yep. I'm Going There.

I've been so torn about posting this, because I'm not really a fan of jumping on the hot topic bandwagon or dipping my toes into the controversy of the week--but over the past few days I have seen ALL THE PERSPECTIVES floating around the internet, from the "Crucify Him!" to the "God forgives and will make whole," and I just want to say a few things.

(Yeah, I'm talking Josh Duggar. Sorry)


You know the story, so I'm not going to link. If not, Google it. Read a few articles--there are a million different opinions on what happened and what should (or shouldn't) be done about it.

I just want to get my thoughts out into the world, and the most important is this:

I want the girls Josh assaulted to Be. Okay.
I want them to have a fighting chance to overcome this.

Because the Duggars, as a family, put "purity" on an impossibly high pedestal, preaching boys and girls who engage in pre-marital sexual behaviors of any sort are unholy and defiled. They are a family that equates these behaviors with a roomful of people spitting into a glass and then asking the last to drink from it. 

[Not kidding--apparently it's in one of their books. Personally? I only know the "chewed gum" analogy-- that no "good" boy wants a piece of pre-chewed gum on his wedding night. (The girls are the chewed gum, in case you didn't catch that.)]

Because it's not the boys who bear the brunt of this attitude, it's the GIRLS. The girls must dress modestly so that boys don't look at them or want them in "that way." Because girls who dress inappropriately or flirt or find themselves alone with boys are "asking for it." They're Jezebels and Bathshebas. Temptresses.

So . . . if you dress appropriately and behave and stay away from boys then everything will be okay.

Unless it's not.

Or unless you're a Duggar, and your older brother wants to molest you while you sleep.

I know the "modesty" and "purity" lingo. I grew up in this world. Thankfully, my world wasn't as strict as the Duggars, but I heard the preaching and the comparisons and the anecdotes. I was pulled aside one night with a friend by a "preacher-wife type," who took it upon herself to tell us that what we were wearing at the time was a "danger" to the men around us. We were stumbling blocks. We (with our harlot-wear--which, I'm pretty sure did not exist, because I know our parents at the time, and it wouldn't have been allowed) were capable of single-handedly destroying the male population--setting eyes on fire with lust and want. And, if they succumbed, it would be All. Our. Fault.

This is the world of the Duggar girls.

They are taught to believe their worth is tied to how "pure" they are. They are a shiny present wrapped in white satin--a gift to their future husbands.

And now some have been "defiled"--repeatedly, apparently--by someone they thought they could trust.

And my heart aches for them.

Because the family picked Josh. Everything I've read from the family focuses on Josh. Josh's forgiveness. His repentance. The horrible "path" he was on. The "counseling" he received (which I also question, but that's another post entirely). How grateful he is for everyone's "support."

And all the while I'm screaming: What about the GIRLS?

I don't watch the show. I don't pretend to know everything about them or all the details. But I'm familiar with them, and their beliefs and culture, and, while we absolutely do NOT need to know the girls' names, nor should we try to speculate who was affected by this, I'm not a fan of the way this situation was handled. The "cover-up." I don't think anyone benefited from the "counseling" and the "hush hush."

And I don't think the girls were provided the therapy they need to come to terms and move past this--and there are multiple layers which need to be addressed, with the "purity" stigma so deeply attached to it all. And I don't think they will, because the psychology behind it goes against everything this family "values."

And it's sad. Because, if not dealt with, there's no way to know how this experience will manifest itself in the future.

Josh's behavior was NOT NORMAL. It's deviant. It's inexcusable. And if it's not addressed professionally--by people who are trained to deal with this behavior--it could happen again.

I'm not saying that I don't believe in repentance and will-power and the power of forgiveness--if the Duggars want "God forgives and makes whole" to be part of the recovery process, that is absolutely okay with me. But it CAN'T BE THE ONLY PROCESS. Do not leave these girls to founder.

As a parent, I can't even imagine what a dark time this must have been (and still be) for them. But I know I would do everything in my power to get each child the help he or she needed--to whatever degree necessary--even if it meant stepping outside of my personal comfort zone, religious or otherwise.

Because "image" and "saving face" should never trump humanity, especially where our daughters are concerned.  

That is all.


Thursday, May 21, 2015

The "Why"

I'm super-excited to be working with a Cross My Heart fan right now who wants to be a writer, because her story is a lot like mine.

I first began to take writing seriously--as something I could do forever--in college. (I blame Dreamland by Sarah Dessen--a book I needed SO MUCH in high school but didn't have access to at the time.) But . . . I didn't think I had it in me to sit down and write an entire novel. Because, when you think about everything that goes into creating a full-length work, it can be paralyzing. Character development. Plot. Dialogue. Scene development. Story arcs.

What. The. Heck.

I did the reading and I did the outlining, and I realized NONE of it mattered if I couldn't get 50,000 words onto paper. It seemed like such a huge task. I didn't believe I had what it takes, because every time I sat down to write, I just couldn't get to "the end."

I feel like our story is similar to a lot of other writers' stories. Maybe it's your story.

But then, just before my last semester of college, I realized I had to scrap the details. Characters and scenes and description could be fixed later. I needed words. I had to prove to myself that I could do this.

That summer, I wrote my very first book. It was pretty bad. I'm sure it will never see the light of day. But I wrote it, and it was all mine, and I realized that I could tell a story in 50,000 coherent words. It was possible. After that, I never had trouble with word count again (characters, arcs, description--those still frustrate the hell out of me), but never word count. I've got that covered. I beat that block as soon as I wrote that first "the end."

But what I've learned along the way is this:

If you want to do this--if you REALLY want to be a writer--you have to find the "why."

Why do you want to do this? Why is this important? Why do you feel this pull? Why do you think it matters?

You're going to need to know the answer, because it's not going to be easy. You're going to start all determined, and then you're going to hit the "messy middle" and you're not going to know where to go. You're going to want to give up. 

If you don't want this to happen, it's going to come down to the "why." 

Why do you need to tell this story? Why do you need to write it right now?

Why do I write?

I write because I have stories in my head that need to get out. I write because I want to make a difference. I want to create characters that speak to readers--characters they can relate to. I want to take readers away from the world for a little while. Make them squeal with joy. Make them cry.

I write because I don't see the world in black and white. This annoys some of the people around me, but I see gray--things that aren't so easily defined. No one, simple answer. I like playing devil's advocate. I can find the humanity in anyone--remember that we ALL have stories, no matter who we are or what we've done. I believe anyone can change. I believe anyone can make a difference.

I write to offer a new perspective--to try to make sense of the world we live in and who we are as people.

The "why" is one of the most important parts of my writing.

If you want to be a writer, if you're already a writer and struggling--if you're not a writer but there's something else you feel compelled to do--sit down with a sheet of paper or a new computer document and spend some time working on the "why."

You'll need this.

Your "why" is your motivation.  

And knowing this is just as important as getting that story out of your head and onto paper.

I'm so excited for this new writer I'm working with, because now we know the "why," and we're going to get her to "the end," too. :D 

Be Brilliant! Always.


Monday, May 18, 2015

On the Mad Men Finale

I just want to pop in (late) and say: 

If you don't watch Mad Men, I'm sorry. 

It should be required viewing for any writer.

Great characters, great storytelling--everything done RIGHT.

That is all. :D


----Editing on Monday to add----

THIS had to be one of my favorite scenes of Peggy from the final season:

It was so well done, I didn't think we would see her anymore. But I was glad because:

Peggy + Stan Forever!!!

I might have squealed. 

I was also happy to see Joan kicking butt in her new venture, that Roger seemed to finally settle down with someone who could keep him in line, and Don Draper finally found peace.

I'm reading summaries and reviews this morning. Despite what anyone feels about the conclusion, I think this will remain one of the best series of EVER.

That is all (no, really.) :D

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Comfort Zones

So I've already mentioned I'm in the midst of a crisis.

And don't worry--thanks to a Polish psychologist named Dabrowski and his theory of "Positive Disintegration" I've totally come to realize that crisis is a GOOD thing. It's the catalyst for change. And, trust me, this change has been a long time coming.

It's not easy, adjusting a whole mindset, but I know the person I am today is not the person I was six months ago. I've completely crash landed outside my comfort zone--reading new authors and considering ideas I never would have touched before.

Trying new things.

Learning, I guess.

One thing I'm trying to be more mindful of is how much kindness I'm putting out into the world--not that I am a horrible person to be around. I just have a snarky side--one that most often comes out with those I'm comfortable with. Or, ironically, when I'm uncomfortable. Snark and sarcasm are funny--but maybe not as a permanent lifestyle.

When I'm down to my final days, I'd much rather be remembered for kindness over "caustic wit."

I guess I'm just over the whole "tearing down of others" thing. Might as well toss "conformity" and "the competition" in the mix, too.

But what I'm learning through all of this is that comfort zones are easy.

Even though I am failing all over the place, stumbling through this "crisis of being," there's progress. On my best days I can see it--feel it.

Because the "discomfort zone"--that's where the magic happens.  

Be Brilliant!


Thursday, May 7, 2015

Three Good Things

I'm not sure when, exactly, we started doing this together, but we must have been going through a stressful time--when the "bad" or the "negative" seemed to fill our days. I'm sure I read about this somewhere--the idea seems too good for it to have been my own.

Of course, now you can find articles about this everywhere. . . .

But my daughter and I, as part of her bedtime routine, practice "Three Good Things About Today." We both have to play, and the rules are simple: you have to think back on your day and come up with three things that were good about it.

You can't pick something that's going to happen, or something that happened earlier in the week; the "things" have to come from that day--from the time you wake up until you play.

Sometimes life happens, bad days are had, and it feels like everything is going wrong. What I've discovered is that, even on the hardest of days, I can usually go back and find at least three things that were good about it.  

It's not always easy, and sometimes those "things" seem pretty mundane, but this gratefulness practice reminds us to focus on the positive. 

Some examples of my "good things":

My workload wasn't bad.
I got everything on my "list" accomplished.
I managed to sneak some writing time in.
I ate a brownie for dessert.
The baby took two really great naps.
I managed to get outside for a few minutes to enjoy the fresh air.

My daughter is more likely to mention playing outside or being with friends, starting a new book (or finishing it!), drawing or making something new, or seeing one of her grandparents. . . .

It seems simple, but the act is proven to make a difference in our attitudes and how we see the world. It's beneficial to our health--both physically and mentally.

It reminds us to be grateful for the little things in life--the "good" that is often overlooked.

A worthy endeavor, I think. :D

Be Brilliant!


Monday, May 4, 2015

On Expectations

Warning: Honesty Ahead

My anniversary is coming up this month, and I've been thinking a lot lately about the culture I grew up in, which was very patriarchal: women were seen and not heard, and, if women needed to be heard, it was only in an "appropriate" way or the right context.

I've been engaged in a lot of soul-searching this year--this massive project I've undertaken to learn everything I can about the world and the people in it so that maybe I can find MYSELF and my place. I'm trying to become the very best ME, and the best ME is not aligning with the ME I was told to be growing up, and it's scary, sometimes.

I've completely torn down my foundation--it's gone, destroyed--and now I'm trying to rebuild, one brick at a time.

I find myself angry a lot, trying to rationalize the expectations that were heaped on me and how hard it was for me (pretty non-traditional and free-spirited to begin with) to cram myself into such a confining box.

And, looking back, how damaging it all was.

So I was doing some reading the other day and my thoughts drifted to my wedding. There was a lot of drama surrounding the whole event--my dad who didn't (still doesn't, really) like the guy I picked, or the date I picked. The age I picked. Drama. Drama. Drama.

Everything was a battle. (My whole life has felt like a battle. Again with the Expectations.)

And when no one liked what I was doing, I changed things up. In the biggest "eff it" I could manage at the time, I tossed out our old date and scrapped part of the guest list so we could get married at our alma mater on our own terms.

In three months.

And one person in particular--a minister relative of the family--had the nerve to ask my mother if we were rushing because I was pregnant. Like I needed some kind of shotgun wedding because there was something I was trying to hide.

Like I had been "defiled."

No white dress for me!!!

*Insert shaming here*

I found myself really, really angry at this guy the other day--because he embodies so many of the men I grew up around.

I was angry at him for assuming an unexpected pregnancy is the only reason I would ever try to pull off a wedding in three months--for assuming things that were none of his business. I was angry at myself for being embarrassed at the time, and going out of my way to assure my poor mom that no, she would not be a grandma, yet (she had two more years to wait for that). ;)

I am still angry for not calling more people out on their bullshit, especially this guy.

So I'm taking deep breaths, and reading these stories and articles and books and looking to the women who grew up in similar environments. And what I'm learning is how NOT OKAY it all was.

And those feelings I've had? I'm learning they're worth exploring. And that I'm not alone.

My anniversary is in a few weeks. Against all odds, we've made it twelve years.

We've almost not made it, so believe me when I tell you I don't take these years for granted. It hasn't always been easy. I haven't been easy.

But I love the quote that went out on my feed a few days ago:

"We fall in love by chance, we stay in love by choice."

I don't know who said it, but they were right. Every day is a choice.

Looking back on my wedding, I kind of regret getting sucked into the whole "perfect day" with the white dress and the crowd and the dinner. . . . I don't think it was ME. I think I was just going along with it because that's what "society" said I should do. What everyone else I know did (or was doing). More EXPECTATIONS.

Since we're being honest, I should've eloped. I should've had a party--danced the night away and not given a shit about what other people thought of the idea. I should've worn black because it's my favorite color. Or gray--a dark gray wedding dress would've been beautiful.  

I would've owned that dress.

So this year I'm trashing expectations. I'm making choices.

I'm learning more about myself. 

I'm building a new foundation. 

And I think I might be better for it.

YOU should just go on being Brilliant. ;)

That is all.