Grateful In Spite of Myself

The week of April 15 was a rough one. Tragedies of various kinds consumed the airwaves and social media sites. Watching these tragedies unfold, I cried more last week than I have in all the weeks combined so far this year.

GriefThe misery I've observed from a distance has made me acutely aware of just how much I have to be grateful for–big things and little ones–and more determined to keep those things at the forefront of my mind. So this morning, I just wanted to share ten things I'm grateful for as I write this post.

  1. Warm slippers and hot green tea on a chilly morning.
  2. Courageous men who run toward the scene of a disaster, seeking to help, without thinking of their own safety.
  3. A husband who believes my dreams matter.
  4. Sunshine and blue skies over the newly green trees outside the window of my home office.
  5. Technology that lets me work from home in my yoga pants and warm slippers.
  6. The privilege of introducing people to books written by authors I know personally.
  7. That my grown children like to come home, and enjoy each other’s company.
  8. New friends who encourage and challenge me.
  9. That the people I love most are safe and healthy.
  10. Second (and third and fourth) chances.

This is what I've been trying to learn in the last year or so: joy is a choice. It's not dependent on circumstances, but on attitude.

Joy is a Choice

By nature and by training, my tendency is to see the things that are “wrong” in any situation. That can be a recipe for despair. I don't want to spend my days in despair. So I've undertaken the discipline of looking for things to be grateful for. In every situation, no matter how unpleasant, it's possible to find something to be thankful for.

I am determined to remember that. I am determined to be grateful.

What about you? Are you struggling with a difficult situation right now? Can you find something to be grateful for, even in the midst of that situation?

When times are hard, we need to encourage one another.

Share something you're grateful for in the comments below.

I'll be thankful to hear from you. 🙂

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Greenville, Texas
I Was Just Thinking . . .
Legal Blog: Real Estate Law Blog
Twitter: @LauraMcMom
Email me

Giving Thanks & Starting Over

It's hard to believe that the first quarter of 2013 has passed already. Why is it that the older I get, the faster time seems to fly by?

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Have you accomplished what you hoped in the first three months of this year? I haven't, although I did get some things done for which I'm grateful. I had hoped that Do No Harm would be finished by now. And that I would be back on track in my regular workout schedule.

But here's the thing: hoping won't get goals accomplished. Only doing will make that happen.

And here's another thing (a really great thing): every day is a chance to start again.

God's mercies are new every morning (thank God for that!)

And every morning the world starts over.

My tendency is to focus on the things I haven't done, the things that haven't gone the way I'd hoped. But I am trying to learn to focus on the positive. And honestly, the last couple of weeks I've been consumed with the many things I have to be grateful for. Such as:

  • the fact that God's mercies are new every morning (!!)
  • a husband who loves me and supports me in the crazy things I think up (like . . . this whole writing thing, and moving to New York a few years ago with our five young kids so I could go to law school, and . . .)
  • my kids are healthy and happy
  • I have a great job that challenges my mind every day
  • I've been given opportunities to grow and learn as a writer–and make some amazing new friends–by attending the My Book Therapy Deep Thinkers retreat and, most recently, the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference
  • affirmation of my writing by judges in the fiction contests I've entered this year
  • a major breakthrough in a complicated, contentious matter I've been working on for three years (for a client of my law practice)
  • did I mention those new mercies every morning?

Today is the first day of the second quarter of 2013. I spent some time last night thinking about my goals for this quarter, and writing them down. Some of them are very private, but I thought I'd share some with you:

  1. Finish Do No Harm and send it to the agent who, at Mount Hermon, reaffirmed her request to see it when it's finished.
  2. Get back on track with regular workouts and healthy eating. (For those of you who are time management geeks like me: yes, the actual goal as I wrote it down is more specific and measurable than that!)
  3. Give thanks daily for the many blessings in my life.

Your turn: What are you thankful for today? What is one thing you plan to accomplish in the next three months?
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Laura
Greenville, Texas
I Was Just Thinking . . . 
Legal Blog: Real Estate Law Blog
Twitter: @LauraMcMom
Email me

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Taking a Leap of Faith

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Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

I don't have any statistics to back this up, but based on personal experience, lots of reading, and many conversations with other women, I think many women have a hard time believing in themselves. Some of the women I've found most inspiring because of their accomplishments or apparent confidence have confided to me their own struggles with self-doubt. So often, it seems, women hesitate to pursue their dreams because they lack the confidence that they can achieve them or, worse, question whether they deserve the right to try. Many times we keep our dreams secret, afraid of how other people might react if we admit that we dream of accomplishing great things.

Or maybe it's just me.

Since I was a little girl, I've wanted to write–to write lots of things, but especially to write novels. As a girl I spent hours at the public library, poring over back issues of Writer's Digest and The Writer, studying the craft. Over the course of my adult life I've spent hundreds of dollars to amass what I'm sure my husband believes is the world's largest private library of writing books. I collected notebooks full of ideas for characters and plots. But I didn't write a novel. And I seldom spoke to anyone about my dream of being a novelist.

Why?

Good question.

A year or so ago I finally admitted the answer to myself: fear.

Fear that I didn't have the talent or skill or creativity required to do this thing I've dreamed of since I was a little girl. I was paralyzed by it. It was safer not to write. Because as long as I didn't try, I could continue to hope that maybe I could do it. But if I tried and failed, that dream would die forever.

Last year, though, I decided I'd let the fear paralyze me long enough, and I finally started writing my first novel. As I write this blog post, the first draft is nearly complete. Is it any good? I don't know. I can't let myself think about that until I've finished it. The goal this time around wasn't to write a masterpiece, or even to get it published. It was just to finish.

Here's the funny thing, though–even after I started writing the novel, I still didn't talk about it to anyone. I was embarrassed to tell anyone I was trying to write a novel. Afraid, I guess, that they'd secretly laugh at me. Who is she, to write a book?

But you know, if you don't believe in yourself, who will? (My husband does, God bless him.) If you can't call yourself a writer (or whatever it is you want to be), why should anybody else?

So recently I took a step that, for me, was a huge leap of faith. I launched a website, which is now the home of this blog. It's part of my decision to allow myself to say out loud that, along with the other things I am (wife, mother, lawyer, . . .), I also am a writer.

So welcome to LauraMcClellan.me. It just launched last week (as of the date I'm writing this). I hope you'll take time to click on the link and explore the site, and then maybe come back here and leave a comment telling me what you think.

Even as I launched the website, I found myself feeling embarrassed to tell anyone I'd done so. (Old habits die hard.) Who in the world does she think she is, to have a website?! She's not an author. She hasn't published a single book yet. Maybe she can't even write!

Yes, I worry about things like that. What am I going to do with a website? But I felt like it was time to take that step, so even though I have no idea where this staircase will lead, I've climbed up onto the first step. And we'll just see where it all comes out, hmm?

In the meantime, what dream have you been hiding in your heart? Are you ready to give yourself permission to pursue it, or at least to admit it's there? I'd love to encourage you. Leave a comment below, or if you want to share it with me without making it public, send me a note through the contact form on my website. I'd be happy to cheer you on or hold your hand as you start the climb on your own staircase of dreams.

I would love to hear from you.

A couple of notes for you to consider:

  • If you like the design of my website, all the credit and thanks go to Tekeme Studios. If you're a writer who's considering launching (or redesigning) your own author website, I highly recommend them. Check out their website for the various services they offer. If you decide to work with them, use the code LAURAMC20 for a 20% discount on their services.
  • Special thanks to Jodie Westfall Photography for the photos of me that appear on my site. I don't like being photographed, but Jodie made it fun.

Laura
Greenville, Texas
I Was Just Thinking . . .
Legal Blog: Real Estate Law Blog
Twitter: @LauraMcMom
Email me

How Memoir Writing Can Change Your Thoughts About Yourself – Guest Post by Dawn Novotny

I'm delighted to welcome today's guest blogger, Dawn Novotny, as she shares her thoughts about the impact writing a memoir can have on your self-image. See below for more information about Dawn and her memoir, a fascinating (and at times heart-wrenching) tale of abuse, regret, and redemption, from her troubled childhood through her marriage to Marilyn Monroe's stepson.

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As I was working on my memoir, Ragdoll Redeemed, I discovered that writing a memoir changed my psyche first and my heart second—and I believe it can have this positive result for everyone.

First, your mind has to dig around like you’re scavenging through an old treasure chest. Some of the “treasures” are pretty, some are ugly and worn, some are very badly tattered and some are even stinking from being concealed for so long.

But if you rummage long enough, writing a memoir is healing. While not meant to be therapy, the process of writing or revealing one's story can be quite therapeutic. Writing slows down the telling of one's story like watching a movie in slow motion.

For example, I was in a writing group with a friend that I had been close to over thirty years. I thought that she knew everything there was to know about me. Over the years, having told her all of my “stories”, I worried that the re-telling would bore her, but as we continued in the writing group she would remark, “Wow, Dawn, I didn't know that incident was so heartbreaking for you. You always seemed so strong when talking about those situations.”

I was taken aback that she didn't know how much I had been hurt back then. Yet, looking back, I could see how glibly I used to convey my stories. I would truncate my feelings, but other times, I abbreviated my words so I would not have to feel the depth of my sorrow. How could she have known?

Through writing and sharing my memoir, I came to understand that my previous accounts were like showing the previews of a major motion picture without connecting the story lines. Writing slows down the narrative beyond just the bold captions. Through writing, one has to add and expand on the colors and the textures, and supply details that create a coherent, integrative life story. This slowing down process changes how you think and how you see yourself in the context of what happened.

Untold stories can imprison memories, creating a lack of coherence and an ongoing sense of not being seen or heard. Writing a memoir — telling our stories creates a sense of integrative coherence and connection.

After all, we are talking about our life. It is our life and our unique story. If we don't honor that exclusive story, the story that can only be produced by our remembrances, then who else will? Who else will honor you?

When we write our memoir, we journey to our heart, which changes us in unexpected ways—how we think, feel, and react to the past. We grow and expand with each memory that we pluck from the treasure chest regardless of its condition.

The pieces we find in our memory chest are part and parcels of the who that we have become. If we are lucky enough to be supported through our memoir journey by a writing group, we will be held, nurtured and witnessed in unimaginable ways. Start your memoir journey now, and reap the riches of self-discovery.

Dawn Novotny.jpgDAWN DELISA NOVOTNY, MSW, LCSW, MTS, CDP, CP, is a clinician, teacher, author, spiritual director, and national workshop leader with a private practice in Sequim, Washington. Novotny holds a master’s degree in clinical social work. She completed a post-graduate program in Spiritual Direction sponsored by the Jubilee Community for Justice and Peace and the Vancouver School of Theology. She was an adjunct professor at Seattle University and past instructor at Peninsula Community College. She is a nationally certified psycho-dramatist and completed the advanced Internal Family Systems training in 2004.
Have you considered writing a memoir? The stories and lessons of your life matter — certainly to you, but perhaps also to others who can learn from your experiences. There are tons of resources available to help you with the process of memoir-writing. If you're interested, email me and I'll share some suggestions. In the meantime, consider picking up Dawn's Memoir, Ragdoll Redeemed, available at bookstores and at Amazon.com. Here's the back-cover description of the book; click on the cover image to buy at Amazon:
In 1963, Dawn Novotny was seventeen. She thought God had finally come through for her. Out of nowhere appeared her dashing Prince Charming. Married within three months, she was sure this was redemption for her rag doll beginnings. Though she had lived in the shadow of illegitimacy, poverty, and physical and sexual abuse, she was sure she would prove worthy to her groom. After all, she had remained a virgin. How was she to know that he expected her to be an aggressive sexpot, or “whore,” as he put it, modeled after the persona of his famous stepmother, Marilyn Monroe? Thus began Dawn's ill-fated effort to compete with the sexual image of Marilyn. Divorced after two years, she though of herself as “used goods.” Ironically, she reacted by becoming exactly what Joey had wanted her to be–an alcoholic and a sex object, not only in men's eyes but in her own.


Laura
Greenville, Texas
I Was Just Thinking . . . 
Legal Blog: Real Estate Law Blog
Twitter: @LauraMcMom
Email me

Book Review (& FREE BOOK): Need You Now by Beth Wiseman

When everything that matters most to you seems to be falling apart, where do you turn?


After the safety of one of their children is threatened, Darlene Henderson and her husband Brad move their family from Houston to the tiny town of Round Top, Texas, moving into the old fixer-upper farm left to Darlene by her grandparents. Adjusting to the change is more difficult than any of them expected, especially for 15-year-old Grace, who becomes a cutter, using a dangerous and self-damaging way of coping with stress.

The move also begins to take a toll on the couple's marriage when Darlene decides to take a job outside the home in an effort to make new friends in the community. As the domestic tension rises, both Darlene and Brad begin to wonder whether the shared faith that has carried them through difficult times in the past will be strong enough to help them now.

To make matters worse, Darlene begins receiving inappropriate attention from the widowed father of the autistic young girl she works with at the school for special-needs children where she's employed. Unfortunately, this attention comes at a time when she's feeling vulnerable and unappreciated at home.

The small-town life that they though would be a haven from big-city dangers might just prove their undoing.

I received my review copy of Beth Wiseman‘s recently released novel, Need You Now, several weeks ago. Unfortunately, I had overcommitted myself to reading (judging two fiction contests and reading chapters from my critique group). Adding this to the heavy obligations of my law practice and a long daily commute left me with too much to do and not enough time to get it done. I put my review copy of the novel on my desk and planned to get to it “soon.” Every time I saw it on my desk I felt guilty. “I need to get that read so I can write the review I promised.” But other deadlines pressed and it got put off.

Last week I finally couldn't stand the guilt, so I picked it up at about 7 pm on Wednesday, determined to get some chapters read before bed.

At midnight (on a work night! when I had to get up at 5 am!) I finally put the book down, having read it to the end. That's how compelling I found this book.

Beth Wiseman is an award-winning, bestselling author of Amish fiction. I've never read her other novels, but the description of Need You Now (her first contemporary novel) intrigued me, so I happily accepted a review copy. She opens the story with a clever and suspenseful scene that immediately grabs you and draws you into the story. One by one, Wiseman layers on the complications and the conflicts, creating a family that the reader cares about in a situation that any of us might find ourselves in. There is no good place to put this book down–and that's why I ended up reading the whole book in one marathon sitting. Wiseman keeps you reading to find out whether these people will survive the crises that threaten to destroy this family. Will Darlene and Brad find out in time what their son is up to, and what Grace is doing to herself? Will Darlene be able to resist the temptation of a kind, understanding, attractive man? And will Brad emerge from his preoccupation with work in time to save his marriage?

I thought this book was a well written and engrossing story of how a family can fall apart little by little when nobody's paying attention, and how total destruction can be averted if people are willing to take the right steps at the right time. The characters are well drawn and believable. Although I've been employed full-time for quite awhile, I recognized in Darlene many of the career moms and homemakers that I've known, and, in fact, myself when I was at that stay-at-home mom stage of my own life. She loves her family and loves making a home for them, but sometimes feels isolated and unappreciated–even a little invisible to her family.

If I have any reservations about this novel, it's that I felt like a little too much blame was laid at Darlene's feet for taking a job instead of staying at home. There were a few places where I felt like the implication was that if she'd been home, none of this would have happened. Maybe, or maybe not. Darlene wasn't the only parent not paying close enough attention to what the kids were up to. Throughout the novel, Brad was completely preoccupied with his work and his hopes for making partner at his accounting firm. And frankly, those teenaged kids seemed a little ill-equipped to handle life–and just a little petulant about being asked to get their own breakfast sometimes.

Nevertheless, this is an outstanding novel that both entertains and challenges the reader. Maybe the lesson to be learned from the Hendersons' story is that family is just too important to take for granted.

I heartily recommend Need You Now to my friends who enjoy women's fiction. You can learn more about Beth at her website, and connect with her on Facebook. Need You Now is available in bookstores. You can find it both in paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon.

Would you like a free copy of Need You Now? Leave a comment (and your email address) below. I'll draw a name later this month.

Laura
Greenville, Texas
I Was Just Thinking . . .

Legal Blog: Real Estate Law Blog

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