Keeping it Fresh

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Last month I felt a bit discouraged about my writing for InWithSkin magazine to the point of questioning my career choice.  Oh, my managing editor is nothing but encouraging; however, each week the drafts returned to me seemed filled with more and more editorial commentary.  I mentioned my concerns to her and she admitted she expects a lot from me—because “you are a writer.”  Okay, that’s fair, and I do desire to improve upon the art.  She then presented me with a challenge: post the blog I had been working on for the past week, and then write one spur-of-the-moment the day I normally post. Although I am a work-ahead-store-up-an-arsenal-of-material writer, after a momentary niggle (or more) of performance anxiety, I agreed to the test.  

Thursday morning rolled around and as soon as I arrived at the office, I set to work on my blog.  Two hours later (including a few breaks to stretch), I turned in my draft and not only did my editor return it soon after, but it contained minimal suggestions.  I think I will eventually frame the draft…not because it is my best piece of work, but because of the encouragement penned at the bottom of the page—beginning with “Excellent!” and ending with “Kudos!” 

Apparently, writing “under pressure” is my strong suit, at least when it comes to blogs (check out my Links page!).  Or maybe it’s more about shaking things up a bit—like performing a common routine out-of-order, taking a different route to work or learning how to Tango after 22 years of dancing the Waltz.  Perhaps this is one secret to climbing out of self-imposed ruts or keeping things fresh, in writing and in life…doing something different, whatever it may be.  If that’s the case, I think I may be on to something. ~ cs

Maintaining Sanity When Life Happens

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A couple of weeks ago I emerged from my office and told my husband how happy writing makes me.  His response: “Then you should do it more often.”  Yes, yes I should.  I’ve already determined it’s a form of therapy in my post entitled Psychology 101, have purposed I would eliminate excuses, talked of simplifying, prioritizing and the list goes on.  When I spoke of Dreams Deferred in another post, one of the passions I was referring to was my writing—specifically, the story I’ve been carrying around in my heart for as long as I can remember.

Unfortunately, other “stuff” just keeps getting in the way.  For example, my family is getting ready to close escrow on one home in less than three weeks while preparing another as a rental property; our soon-to-be-empty-nest still contains one chick who desires to fly the coop but isn’t quite mature enough (financially, anyway) to spread her wings; my internship is coming to an end next week with only minimal job prospects on the horizon and I’m still working part-time to contribute to the family coffer.  And then, of course, there’s the everyday living that takes place in the midst of all the craziness.  This is where I struggle—finding a way to balance what needs to get done while at the same time knowing some things must wait. 

But how, then, do I maintain a semblance of sanity and find happiness in the process?  That’s the easy part.  I still write … letters to an out-of-state friend, emails to my long distance daddy, my weekly ramblings and rhetoric, a few hundred words here and there which may, someday, end up finding their way into my story, the next issue of InWithSkin or during my ideal job awaiting me just around the corner.  I have to believe that when I finally realize my dreams it will have been worth the wait, knowing everything leading up to that point prepared me well. 

Or, who knows, maybe I’ll just trade it all in for life as a beach bum—the sand a natural exfoliator, the waves my own personal white noise, the crystalline skies the backdrop for my muse and the seashells a reminder that it is possible to store memories in a jar—salty fish scent and all. ~ cs

Rhetoric from a Middle-aged College Graduate Empty Nester

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In many locations of the country, spring is in the air.  Some cities, like Minneapolis, can’t quite commit but, for the most part, budding leaves, blooming cacti and warmer temperatures signal the advent of the new season.  On a personal note, I’m also recognizing the seasons in my own life.

Middle-age.  Although it’s been steadily approaching for years, it hit me like a slap in the face when I began my internship at InWithSkin this past January.  As the more “seasoned” beauty editor (in age, not experience), I do bring a different perspective to the blogs and articles I write, relating (I hope) to the more mature audience.

College Graduate.  It was exciting and surreal to finally receive my diploma from ASU in the mail after graduating with my B.A. last December.  But with 26 years of office management and administrative experience behind me, it has been a scary prospect beginning a new career path where I’m competing with 20-somethings for the ideal job. 

Empty Nester.  My 18- going on 30-year old daughter is ready to fly the coop—at least in her mind’s eye.  It’s a time for me to figure out what this new season will look like where my life no longer revolves around school activities and the everyday drama surrounding young girls … and to discover what truly makes me happy.

Dreams Deferred.  I don’t know if this can be considered a real season or not, but I’m learning that some of my dreams must be put on the back burner in order for reality to take precedence.  I think this has been the most challenging place for me to be (even beyond the wrinkles), and in some ways the most painful.  I am not a patient person (big surprise to some of you), and to place my passions in limbo is like asking me to hold my breath.  But while sitting at Starbucks yesterday morning before heading over to my internship where only three weeks remain, I was encouraged by a fellow patron.  Something good is out there, he said.

Indeed. ~ cs

Perception is in the Ear of the Beholder

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Recently, I heard through the grapevine that I made an old friend feel like our friendship was a mistake.  Ouch.  But according to, a mistake is defined as “An error or fault resulting from defective judgment, deficient knowledge, or carelessness.”  So in my literal—or literary—mind, any mistake, if any, was simply a poor choice I made in regards to my friend.  This scenario reminded me about a post I wrote several months ago ( concerning word choices and how the speaker may think they are conveying one idea while the listener is hearing something completely different.  It’s all in perception. 

I’ve found that to be true in my writing, as well.  In my job as an intern with InWithSkin, I often submit the first drafts of my blogs to a more seasoned beauty editor for her feedback prior to reworking and forwarding the “final” (or what I hope to be) draft to my managing editor.  One such draft was returned to me with the words, “I see where you’re going with that but try rephrasing” scrawled in the margin.  So how do you say what you’re thinking in order to be interpreted correctly (in the way you intended) by a listener or reader? 

Along the lines of following the advice, “Think before you speak,” one of the things I’ve been practicing is a technique my editor suggested and one I also wrote about—writing organically.  In other words, putting my thoughts on paper and then setting the draft aside for a couple of hours or days, if possible.  When I return to it, I am able to see it with different eyes.  Although this helped me with a recent blog I was working on, I obviously still failed miserably when chatting with my friend. 

I guess, like with all of life, communication is simply trial and error.  And I also have to realize that no matter how hard I work at conveying my thoughts and feelings, every individual is hardwired with their own experiences, pre-conceived notions, etc., that color their interpretations.  This sure makes it a challenge to pick out just the right word or phrase, but I know the effort is so worth it when the end result comes out write. ~ cs

Looking Back Long Enough to Learn Something (and Then Closing the Door)

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Last week I wrote about planning for the future while remembering to embrace the present.  Recently I came across this popular quote which supports my new outlook: “The past is behind, learn from it.  The future is ahead, prepare for it.  The present is here, live it.” (Thomas S. Monson).  Today I’d like to ramble a bit about where the past fits into this equation for me. 

Just as I have no control over my future, I obviously possess no hold on the past except in hindsight, which of course is always 20-20.  But as I continue my quest for solutions to life’s tough decisions, I’m realizing more and more how the past can do the holding.  In other words, focusing on yesterday can and will jeopardize my todays while potentially altering the course of my tomorrows. 

Thankfully, I can choose to use what I know now to make a difference—not only in my life, but in the lives around me and within the make-believe worlds I fashion on paper.  So even though I cannot rewrite history stippled with all its regrets—the would-haves, could-haves and should-haves—I can decide to chalk it all up as one great big cumulative lesson learned (not to mention a boat load of creative fodder).  And in my case, I have no doubt this is the write choice in order for me to live more fully in the present and to move forward into a richer future.  Because when one door closes, another opens.  ~ cs