So Many Reasons to be Grateful

Happy Thanksgiving! In the midst of autumn, families gather to enjoy a meal together and recount their blessings.

A couple of days ago alumni outreach from my alma mater, The University of Texas at Austin, called me. The senior I chatted with asked me if there was any advice I’d offer someone about to graduate.

Now, I don’t think of myself of an age to offer life advice, but, as we spoke, a pattern from my life emerged.

Give Thanks

CC0: https://pixabay.com/en/thanksgiving-fall-pumpkin-flowers-2903166/

This year I’m reminded of something else to be grateful for: the chances I’ve been given to do something special, something different or unexpected, and how those chances have paid handsome dividends in my life.

Even from simply deciding to go to Austin for my degree, for pursuing engineering instead of something else, the choices I made and the chances I took created unique consequences. If I’d chosen differently, I’d have ended up somewhere else. With a different degree, I’d have worked at some other company for my first job, likely in a different city, and I would have gained entirely different skill sets.

Instead of moving to Houston and accepting a transfer from that first job to Baton Rouge, there’s no telling where I would have ended up or who I would have met along the way. And while moving to a new city can be daunting, moving to a new place after that where you know no one is even scarier. It’s certainly true that it’s harder to make friends after college.

But because of those moves, I made friends and got to expand my world view. As a big city girl, moving to Baton Rouge was extreme culture shock. Then to experience the impact of Hurricane Katrina and the storms that came after… Let’s just say that I now follow hurricane season every year with a greater understanding and concern than if I’d stayed away from the Gulf Coast.

Even the way I write is affected by choices I’ve made. Because I’m an engineer, I like to think about the way things work. If you haven’t checked out my series on Why Engineers Shouldn’t Watch TV, you’ll find that logic and fact are important to telling good stories. So as I build worlds and explore the inexplicable, finding a plausible (if fictitious) reason for why things work the way they do is a way that I make things feel more real even within the realm of fantasy.

Perhaps if I hadn’t studied science and fed my fascination for understanding how to build or fix things, I wouldn’t consider that a lack of magic in Worvanz would lead to infrastructure breakdowns, as in Dark Empire, or the need for mermaids to have highly transmutable cells and the impact of their biology on their lifestyle, as in the Sea Deception series (coming soon!).

The choices I’ve made impact me in much more personal ways, too. I look around the table at my family, at the man I married and the children we share, at the home we live in, the food we eat, the things we choose to discuss and the books we decide to read, and I realize that all of these small choices add up to build who we are as people. Anytime we go a different path, the effect of that choice may be profound.

And today, as I think about the season of Thanksgiving, I am especially grateful that I have no regrets about the way life is turning out for me. I’m blessed with a family to love, with friends, with a home and a career, and a passion for storytelling that fuels my soul.

Wishing you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving.

Previous years: 2017 2016  2015  2013

Be Kind to Yourself

Nothing like re-reading last month’s thoughts to realize I could have FINISHED my 3-month workout program if I’d stayed the course this past month. Instead, I spent some time in the pool and tried to fit in a few workouts as I eased into the school year and our radically altered schedule.

So I present to you the motto I embraced after D was born and it seemed like life entirely fell apart: “be kind to yourself.”

No, it’s not groundbreaking or original, but it works for me. This morning I needed a quiet cup of tea and a few minutes of meditative silence to recharge and get out the door. I can’t express how much better I felt for taking the time to do that.

We all fill so many roles in life to the members of our family, to our jobs, to everyone but ourselves. If you’re working full-time, you don’t get to turn off being your kids’ parent, your spouse’s partner, or your moral self. It’s difficult to be everything you want to be to everyone all the time: sometimes you have to recognize and accept that you are good enough just the way you are.

Laundry doesn’t magically wash and fold itself any more than the dishes empty and reload the dishwasher themselves. Kids (and adults) make messes. Everyone needs food to eat, so someone needs to shop for it and cook it. If you have a house project, party, or a vacation to plan, you have to fit that in between everything else.

If you have a book to write…well, good luck to you. I count any words written as forward progress. More than 15,000 words into Book 3 of Sea Deception, I finally dug myself out of the hole created in the first scene that derailed my entire outline.

But when do you do the things that are good for you? I try to eat healthy foods, drink lots of water, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep. The only time I often find to write, though, is late at night. Sometimes a rough day means I want a glass of wine at dinner. And late writing sessions make getting up for a morning workout difficult. Combined with feeling out our new schedule, it means that I haven’t devoted sufficient effort to my workout program this month, though I have clocked a number of exercise minutes according to my fitness tracker.

I’ve always thought of myself as an extrovert, but lately I’ve recognized longstanding habits that point to introversion. For example, I don’t like to leave the house if I don’t have to: there’s always plenty I can do inside the house. Luckily, my husband happily takes on the grocery shopping and takes the kiddos with him. I recharge my personal batteries by reading alone or spending time by myself. He wants to get out of the house on weekend evenings (understandably) but in this season of busyness, I want nothing more than to stay in and eat comfort food in my lounge clothes.

But I love to talk to people and enjoy socializing. I’ve worked in sales and loved doing theatre in school. It’s really hard to embarrass me: public speaking and last-minute requests to present just don’t faze me.

Every personality quiz I’ve taken for work identifies me as an extrovert. But all of those quizzes recommend that you put yourself in a work frame of mind. I found an online quiz yesterday that perfectly pegged the truth: I am a “public extrovert and private introvert.”

Finally, an explanation that reflects my need for alone time!