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

Staying Inside the Lines

I don’t like adult coloring books. Coloring inside the lines of detailed drawings frustrates me because I lack the patience and precise tools to accomplish it well. But I stopped at the library today and passed a table inviting patrons to take a moment. So I did, with this result.

Imprecise, a little confused, very colorful: this bookmark summarizes how life has been going lately.

A major house project is nearly complete, and along the way a bunch of other stuff broke. But at least there’s a final-ish product that we can now use and enjoy. And the other items have now been replaced.

Traveling doesn’t make anything go smoother. Delayed flights, extra laundry, more stuff to put away, loss of home time, and missing the planned schedule…I feel like I’ve been on the road a fair bit of the summer.

One munchkin is about to start school…which makes both of us anxious. We did stop and get school supplies together, which was a fond childhood memory of mine I wanted to extend to her. Trying to readjust everyone’s schedule is much harder.

The other munchkin is about to have a birthday party. Some people love planning parties. Some people like crafting. I like the latter but not so much the former. Trying to balance the time I have with the work to be done is a fine line. I want to make him happy and I enjoy seeing my friends, but I struggle with doing enough and being happy with the result.

Then there’s another planned trip for which some prep work needs to be done. I’ve made a plan but haven’t executed–and won’t–until after the birthday is behind us.

Meanwhile I just started Month 2 of a three-month workout program. It’s kicking my behind: while I feel stronger, the scale refuses to budge. I am focusing on the “beginner” plan and doing it as well as I can. While it’s a hit on the ego to treat myself like a beginner, I do occasionally have to swap or add rest days to the program to keep myself going. I also don’t prioritize the time to do more exercise right now.

Work, of course, continues its daily slog.

The balance is always my writing. My remote coworker said today that we needed to regularly schedule our time together to get our work done because we always de-prioritize it in favor of everything else. There is wisdom to his words. It seems like making time to work on my writing always gets the least of my attention.

By the time the kids are abed and I get back downstairs to a desk, the question is not “how much do I care about this story?” but rather “can I do this story justice right now?”

I finished my final revision of “Sea Dreams” on a printout. This re-read and review uncovered a number of small problems with the manuscript. Right now I’m typing in the edits for the last seven scenes. After that, the story is off to beta-readers and the only changes to the story will be from their identified errors.

I’ve also got the sequel printed out to treat the same way (cutting one editing step from my original process). But I’d like to finish writing the third book before starting the sequel’s edit.

Recreation-wise, I’ve been wrapping up “Quantico” and watching the Netflix series “Anne with an E,” and I’m still only halfway through the past season for “Arrow” and “Big Bang Theory.” I’ve also been reading a few books, including a graphic novel and the memoir “I am Malala,” which I highly recommend.

So for now, it’s on to the next item on the to-do list while I try to keep a grasp of that evasive tranquility.

Do you feel like this season of life has been busy, or have you been coloring inside the lines?