I love the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Whenever I can steal away and spend time in one of the many adorable towns across the Chesapeake Bay, I jump at the opportunity. Saturday was just such a time. Additionally, I have a vested interest in getting a good “feel” for the place as my new novel is set primarily in Oxford, Maryland, with jaunts to St. Michaels and Easton as well. I’ve done my homework—this summer, I spent time in Oxford. I made two trips there to walk around and get a feel for the place and the people. On Saturday, I took a stroll…it was just my camera and me as I attempted to capture the essence of all it offers residents and visitors. I’m sharing my photos; despite that it was a grey day in St. Michaels, the weather can’t put a damper on the splendor and the beauty of the town.
The picturesque town sits on the water; shopping, boating, inns, churches, and homes with white picket fences abound.
I happened to be visiting on Saturday when the Antique Car Show was taking place.
This is my favorite shot from the day. This is the patio of a homeowner in St. Michaels. The sign out back is something we all should remember: Life Is A Journey, Not A Destination.
I am very excited to launch my new novel in November. Every time I go back, I know I picked the right setting for the characters…and if I close my eyes sometimes, I can imagine them walking these beautiful streets.
As a college educator, I can certainly tell you with certainty that procrastination doesn’t pay. I see it every day—sometimes getting started on the task is actually more difficult for some than executing the task itself.
The truth is, people think procrastination is about managing time. However, it’s much more complex than that. People underestimate how much time a certain task will take.
Another fallacy is that people think procrastination is just about putting off a task. It’s not. It’s also about being late to meetings, events, interviews, or parties; not paying your bills on time; or even something that can be good for you, like taking your paycheck to the bank. These are all forms of procrastination.
The very real truth is that procrastination is a lifestyle choice.
I’ve had students tell me that they wrote a paper the night before it’s due, and they are proud of its outcome. While the paper may be okay (or not), the reality is this: think how much better it could have been if more time had been spent on it. The same is true for tasks we must do at work—sometimes we need to plan for more time to attack that particular project or report. One such tip might be to use a planner and work backwards to account for the time needed to do something well. Seeing the plan on paper may help jump start what needs to get done and keep the project on track.
In the end, preparation and not being afraid to get started on something count a lot. Deciding NOT to procrastinate has the potential to propel you toward success, and it has a greater chance of making you feel wonderful about what you’ve done or produced.
Last night, some friends and I went to see a band called The Reagan Years in Annapolis. By their name, you can probably guess that they specialize in covering 1980s music to an audience who thoroughly appreciated it. As a music lover—and one who lived through and sported big hair, wore black Madonna rubber bracelets up the arm and a see through mesh top with a black bra, and can name every MTV original v-jay—I was one of those people who relished every moment of the show.
It reminded me that I need to download some stuff I don’t have: Billy Idol, the Outfield, Morris Day and the Time (used to have “Jungle Love” on vinyl), Dead or Alive (“You Spin Me Right Round, Baby, Right Round”), Ah-ha (“Take on Me”–only one of the best videos ever on MTV), and a few more Journey tunes. From the moment the band played, they were high energy, which made us all high energy: we all sang along, reminisced about the songs, and even went so far as to dance. Yup. Just like we did in the clubs in the 80s and 90s.
Music was really good then.
But what’s funny about last night was that we weren’t sitting there thinking, “Gosh, music was good in the eighties,” as if it were a revelation. We KNEW music was good then. It was damn good.
And then, all the nostalgia came rushing back when the lead singer jogged our memories. It made me remember passing notes in class (folding up the paper really small and handing it off to someone–the hell with texting–this was the way it was done!), taking typing class (only the greatest course I ever took because I’m sitting here typing this without even thinking about my fingers…they just know where to go), wearing stonewashed Jordache jeans, teasing our hair and getting perms or sporting mullets, watching all the Brat Pack movies, and the list goes on and on.
In my everyday work week, I am around students who clearly did not exist in the 1980s. I speak their language now, but last night, I was surrounded by and among only my people: the people of the 80s. In those few hours of appreciating The Reagan Years, We Walked Like an Egyptian, Got Into the Groove, and Put Another Dime in the Jukebox, Baby.
To use the words of Jeff Spicoli, it was totally gnarly.
I haven’t been blogging much lately, and I’m feeling badly about it. I’ve been incredibly busy with two kids in high school, teaching at the university, volunteering for things, and serving on committees, in addition to actually trying to fit my new mentality of health and fitness into my daily regime. I wish I could write an insightful, meaningful post right now, but all I have time for is a quick roundup of random thoughts and things I want to share with you.
So here it goes…
I finally got around to watching the movie Me Before You last weekend which was based on the book by JoJo Moyes. I always say the book is better than the movie in almost every instance, and this will be no different. However, I will tell you that the movie did an excellent job of capturing the essence of the book and offered a clear understanding of the novel. I think that the cast was perfect. I loved both of the main characters who were portrayed by Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin. There was good chemistry between them, and if I were the author of the book and I watched the film, I’d be pretty pleased that the director didn’t take too many liberties with my original story. Grab a tissue and watch it if you haven’t already. I don’t think you’ll be too disappointed. (And I’m saying this as someone who LOVED that book and would put it on a list of favorites).
If you’re ever on a tight timetable to arrive somewhere by car, you will inevitably get stuck behind every law-abiding citizen who prides himself on doing the actual speed limit. Yesterday, en route to a few engagements, every single time I got behind the wheel, I found myself behind the slowest drivers on the planet.
I’ve been exercising regularly now since the end of May. I’ve lost quite a bit of weight and feel better. It’s amazing what a little self-discipline and determination can do for you.
Yesterday, during a lecture in Feature Writing, we all decided that we were going to be word artists. If you think of writing as an art, and consider yourself someone who is crafting prose on the page, thinking about it in the same way an artist thinks about brush strokes is helpful. We should always care what goes into our writing and not be bashful about taking things out. Artists don’t leave things in that shouldn’t be there. We are word artists. I love that.
Every time I get together with my Fabulous Friday Travel Writing Class it makes me want to go somewhere, experience it, and write about it. I love writing fiction, but can you imagine how fantabulous it would be to write about travel for a living? Um, yes, I’ll have a slice of that pie and a ticket to anywhere. (This by no means is suggesting that I don’t love my job as a professor; I consider it the best profession in the world. Travel writing might be a close second, or novel writing, or designing clothes…)
As I’m combing through the novel I wrote this summer and making my final edits, I’m always amazed by two things: (1) How much I change as I edit, and (2) How what I’ve written always changes me. That’s the thing about writing: it’s often transformational. My new book should be ready by late October.
I love this quote: I’VE THOUGHT ABOUT RUNNING AWAY AS AN ADULT MORE THAN I EVER DID AS A KID. Remember when summer days were spent outside and nights were spent catching fireflies? Remember thinking summer was long and exciting? Remember watching Little House on the Prairie and The Love Boat? If you do, you’re most likely from my era of childhood, when our primary responsibility was to enjoy ourselves. Nowadays, we’ve got grown up responsibilities. I hope the kids of today try to enjoy their childhoods. There’s no need to grow up so fast.
The year was 1997, the year I was to marry. My soon-to-be husband had taken a job in New England, and on the weekends I would travel by Amtrak from Baltimore to Stamford, Connecticut, where my fiancé (now husband) would pick me up at the station.
After eating dinner, we stopped at a convenience store to pick up some items for the morning. In the parking lot, the car radio gave us the news. “Princess Diana has been injured in a car crash.” At that time, we didn’t know the severity of the situation, but we went back to my husband’s place and put the television on. I felt ill, as if the accident had happened to someone I knew personally.
We didn’t turn off the television all night.
In the morning, after tossing and turning, we learned she had died.
The people of Britain were distraught. Their princess had…
I won’t lie: I’ve sort of been dreading the beginning of this fall’s school year for one primary reason:
The 5:30 a.m. wake-up call.
Well, it’s not actually a call, because I don’t live in a hotel and ask for the wake-up from the front desk. It comes in the form of my iPhone alarm, and it always awakens me from the deepest sleep.
And did I happen to mention that I’m not a morning person? At all?
Nevertheless, with two kids in high school who both catch the bus at 6:30 a.m., I decided it was finally time for us all to be on the same schedule. If they’re going to go out the door at 6:25 a.m. to meet the bus, I figured I should just leave around the same time and get to campus early. Both of my kids have after-school activities, and moms, if you’re like me, we know we have to hang our “taxicab” sign out as soon as work ends for us. We end up being the shuttle, the taxi, and the kids’ personal Uber driver. Actually, I’m the un-Uber, because all moms are uncool when you have to drive your kid and his/her friends around, especially if your kid has a driver’s permit but isn’t quite eligible to drive yet. Then you’re doubly un-Uber, and no amount of trying to be cool with the friends will help.
I have no doubt that if the Beatles wrote the song today, with a little persuasion, we Mothers-of-the-World might be able to persuade them to change the lyrics from “I’m the taxman” to “I’m the taximom.”
And the taximom gets really tired at the end of the day, especially after the 5:30 a.m. thing that should henceforth be known simply as “the un-godly hour,” especially to those of us who have #ihatemornings disease. This sickness can be cured, but only if you wake up and get your butt moving. Every day. For the rest of the year.
There’s another cure: drown yourself in good, highly-caffeinated coffee. Nothing like getting that heart pumping first thing in the morning.
Raise that coffee cup, Moms—it’s going to be a long school year.
The mantra in our household is pretty simple: do your best. Just do your personal best.
My husband and I believe that doing your best — your very best — is the most important thing you can do, whether that pertains to grades, sports, work, personal goals, or just being a good person in general.
People tend to become unhappy when they compare themselves to others—and, often it happens when someone else yields success, whether it was something you wanted or not. Jealously is a powerful thing, and the less we compare ourselves to others, the better off we will be. The only person you should be comparing yourself to is…you. Were you better today than you were yesterday? Did you do something kind for someone that you didn’t do before? Did you set a personal goal and achieve it?
Here are 5 reasons why Steph’s Scribe thinks you should stop comparing yourself to others immediately:
Comparison is the thief of joy. ~ Teddy Roosevelt
It can make you very unhappy. Comparisons are tough. No matter what, we can be left feeling like we didn’t get the proper end of the stick. I may want to have a movie-star figure, but the truth is, I’m not a movie star. Comparing myself to someone who is on camera or film all day long as their job is probably not fair to someone who is a professor, wife, mother, and writer. While I would love someone to do my hair and makeup every day and tailor a wardrobe to fit my figure perfectly, it’s not going to happen (unless you’re not employing your fairy godmother; if that’s the case, please send her my way). No matter what you want or who you compare yourself to or with, you will end up feeling miserable.
It’s just not a fair thing to do to yourself. We are all different; we have different features, different body types, different minds, and different skills and talents. Comparing yourself to someone else will only make you feel that you are not achieving, when in fact, you very well may be. Stop being unfair to yourself; look in the mirror and tell yourself how great you are today.
You lose focus. If you begin comparing yourself to others, you will focus more on outcome rather than process and change and growth. You have your own goals you want to achieve. Set those for yourself and watch yourself bloom. Your goals are not your best friend’s goals, your boss’s goals, or your family’s goals.
You fail to give yourself a pat on the back for your achievements. So, I’ve lost some weight this summer by sticking to a plan and exercising 5-6 days a week. I can’t compare myself to people who have great metabolisms whereby weight falls off their bodies when they make a conscious lifestyle change. My weight loss is slow and methodical, but I treated myself today to a new dress. It was my goal, not someone else’s that I hit, and I gave myself a good old pat on the back and brought home a present for my closet.
It can kill your creativity. If all you do is compare yourself to others, you may very well lose your creative impulses and drive. When I began writing my second novel, Baseball Girl, and I was trying to figure out the tone and plot line of it, my mother offered advice I’ll never forget. She said, and I quote her, “Don’t forget to put some of your funny stories in there, too. Don’t lose that side of your writing; stay true to your voice.” If I compare myself to others in my field, and if I allow that comparison take hold, I might never write another word again for fear of failure. All I can do is be true to my own voice, my own writing talents, and my own storytelling. But if I think I’m going to write like Tolstoy or Dickens or Anne Tyler, I might as well just quit now. The only thing I can do is hunker down and write and let my creativity flow in my own way. That’s what I owe myself. And that is what you owe yourself, too, no matter what endeavors you pursue.
It can be a little daunting watching celebrities who are born in your birth year or a year or two ahead of you grow old along with you but show no signs of wrinkles and aging. Their endless use of Botox, plastic surgeries, and hours in the gym cause you to compare yourself to them and wonder why you haven’t considered going under the knife or injection needle yourself (working out is quite possible if you set your mind to it). As much as I want to look as if I’m in my thirties, that isn’t quite realistic any more. It’s time to come to grips with aging and simply embrace it. I’ve got to face reality.
Nice thought, but to hell with it.*
I hate aging. It totally sucks.*
Celebrities born in my year? Sarah Jessica Parker, Viola Davis, Kristin Davis, Paulina, Elizabeth Hurley, Julia Ormond… And they all still look fabulous and fashionable.
But let’s get real for a moment. Anyone who relishes aging is just really full of crap.* I mean, who the hell likes growing older? It isn’t for the faint at heart. Nevertheless, it is part of life, and I suppose there are things we can do, such as the following seven that top my list to make ourselves feel better about the whole damn process:
Remain true to your sense of style—stay fashionable and fabulous. It makes you feel better. I love clothes and fashion. I cleaned my closet and organized my shoes the other day. Feet don’t typically change size, so shoes will always make you feel good, unlike the waistline of your pants.
Stay young at heart. Laugh a lot. Enjoy life. Allow those “beautiful” laugh lines go to good use.
Refrain from saying the words “remember when…” that totally date you.
Keep up with current events and trends. It helps me in the classroom, and I get a laugh from students when I ask them to guess what’s on my play list and they find out I’ve got some hardcore rap among the music. I really do.
Stop crying when you see photographs of yourself. Remember, those who are Vintage 1965 do the same exact frigging thing when they see a bad shot of themselves.
Get excited when you get a zit! You are still like an adolescent!
Stay the hell out of the sun or use mega sunscreen to keep age spots and wrinkles at bay. I like a little sun on my face just like the rest of you, but this is a big no-no for long-time good skin care and health.
Yeah. Happy freaking birthday.
I used to get excited about it, but not any longer. It just means more aging, more grey hairs, more anxiety, more dental work, and more of a need to watch that cholesterol.
I think I’ll go sit amongst my shoes to make myself feel better.
Have a great day, everyone. I’ll go away now, take two aspirin, and call you in the morning.
**(My apologies for the crasser-than-normal language. Sort of. I’m typically G-Rated; just not today.)
With only a couple of weeks remaining before the return to school and classes, do you have time to squeeze in one more book this summer?
I’m currently reading In Defense of the Princess, a nonfiction account of one woman’s affinity and respect for the princess culture. As a fan as well, I wanted to read something that wasn’t fiction since that’s my typical go-to type of book. I wanted to go out of my normal genre. So far, I’m really enjoying it.
But my favorite quote about summer reading is the following:
“Summer is a great time to expand our horizons as readers and to try something new, either a new genre, or a new author, or a new topic, or a new place to read.” -Pam Allyn
So, if you haven’t picked up something different this summer, why not do it before it ends?
“Don’t wait—if you have something to say to somebody, say it now.”
The words above were uttered by Sir Paul McCartney last night at his concert at Verizon Center in the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C. He was making reference to his friend, John Lennon, and regrets he had about not saying words he wanted to say to him before John’s untimely death. Regret is a tough thing to live with, for sure, and Sir Paul was sharing his own very personal account and wishing things had turned out differently.
But it’s not too late for us if we heed the advice. We hear this type of advice a lot from people, even from huge celebrities. Maybe it’s time to actually do it.
Before it’s too late.
PART TWO: The Concert
Last night was the second time my husband and I saw Paul McCartney, and both times we caught his concert at Verizon Center. While his voice may have been a little raspier at his young age of 74, it still was exceptional. He played a lot of Beatles numbers, along with some Wings tunes, songs from some of his newer records, and even a tune that was pre-Beatles. To sit and watch a legend at work still is amazing to me. His songwriting, singing, and instrumental abilities are beyond comprehension, and he played for almost two hours and forty-five minutes.
What’s ever-charming about McCartney is his humility; he is humble and kind. He brought two women with signs up on the stage at the end of the night, and both of them had him autograph their bodies. The first woman had him sign her shoulder; the second younger girl, asked him to complete her tattoo on the side of her rib cage. Apologizing to his wife who was in the audience, he did so, in very good humor. He also teasingly asked a gentleman who was holding up a sign that read “108 shows” if he knew his behavior was “a little obsessive.” The crowd got a charge out of that.
Another aspect I loved about the concert was that McCartney made no political references or took any stances—even in Washington, D.C., which is typically a pulpit for acts and celebs to spew their political beliefs. I loved that McCartney did not get embroiled in any of that last night. He kept political comments out of his show, which was entirely refreshing.
But overall, the amazing thing about McCartney is that he gives it his all, and he tells us stories from his past along the way; his passion is not difficult to see. From his interactions with the fans, the band, and the music, McCartney’s talent is one we want shared until he can bear it no longer. He still has so much to give, and we appreciate all of it.
Yesterday, I popped onto my Instagram feed to take a peek at what was going on when I came across this:
The Instagram post was written by a former student who was also one of the co-presidents of our public relations club that I advise and someone I mentored during her college years. During that time and afterwards, we became friends.
I am always so touched when someone takes the time to write something heartwarming like this. It’s the best reward one can get from being a teacher.
I am full of gratitude, and it brought a tear to my eye. It means the world to me.
Thank you so much, Rachel, for your very kind words, and for allowing me to share this on my blog. And I’m so proud of the journey you’ve taken into the world of higher education where you are now making a big difference in the lives of students, too.
Writer and director James Cameron (Titantic, Avatar, and the Terminator) says it best at the end of his Ted Talk on Ted.com:
Don’t put limitations on yourself; other people will do that for you.
I typically show this Ted Talk to my university feature writing students each fall after they read a piece about the iconic director. We discuss the profile article, the writing style, the use of feature techniques, and then we talk about James Cameron—as he is portrayed in the article.
You see, when you read an article about someone, it’s from that one person’s perspective. And sometimes, he or she doesn’t get all the details, facts, and nuances correct from that interview process. Nevertheless, we walk away with a portrait of James Cameron that seems rather different from the Cameron we see in the Ted Talk. (Hence, the reason why I tend to show it in class—to see two perspectives.)
But what Cameron says at the end, that we shouldn’t put limitations on ourselves because other people do that for us, is so very true.The world is competitive, and sometimes all we need to do is focus on our goals and make plans to achieve them. As soon as we begin to doubt ourselves or decide that we cannot do something, we’ve limited ourselves.
For example, this strategy doesn’t just apply to professional goals. It can apply to personal goals…little goals that you set for yourself such as improving your exercise routine, bettering your eating habits, or losing weight altogether are fully within your own control. For me it was all three. For a while now, I’ve battled weight issues as I’ve watched it go up and down, and finally, I decided to do something about it. The bottom line is this: prior to this summer, I didn’t take the time to make it a priority in my life. I put others first. I put work first. I put writing first. I compromised my own health because I didn’t think it was important enough and I thought it couldn’t be done.
As of this writing, I have lost 20 pounds this summer, and I continue to work at it. When the semester begins, I won’t stop the practices I’ve put into place that are working because it’s important to me now and I’m reaching goals. I still have more to go, and the drive to succeed has now exceeded the limitations I put on myself.
The same is true for any goal you want to accomplish. Another example I can share with you is writing my third novel, a passion I have had since I was a teenager. I wanted to complete the writing of it this summer, and the draft is done. I have moved on to the editing phase and hope to publish this contemporary romance/women’s fiction novel in the fall.
I’m sharing all of this because I know you can do it, too.
Don’t put limitations on yourself.
You owe it to yourself to set goals and achieve exactly what you want to achieve.