Thursday, September 30, 2010

Margarita or Exercise?

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, one thing I've been doing to keep positive is making myself exercise almost every day. And I've been really sticking to either walking outside or going on the elliptical six days a week. Yesterday, I'd planned on going on the elliptical when my husband got home, but then I let him talk me into going out to dinner instead.

Since school has started, the kids have been so tired that we barely have gone out to dinner at all. On the occasional night where we can't face cooking we've gotten takeout or popped a Trader Joe's frozen pizza in the oven. Once upon a time, pre-kids, my husband and I could barely locate our oven. These days, we're pretty out of touch with the whole restaurant scene.

But last night, despite all being tired we went out to our favorite Mexican restaurant. My husband and I each had a margarita and we shared nachos and a cheese crisp with the kids. Then we walked around an open air mall and stopped for gelato. And amazingly, the kids were exhausted, but *perfectly* behaved. Maybe it was the change in the routine, or the fact that they love eating at this restaurant and haven't been in a while, but we all left smiling and happy. (This is a rarity for toddler, and for us whenever we dare take toddler to a restaurant).

So, I missed my workout last night in exchange for a margarita and a gelato. Not exactly the best trade-off? You would think not, but a little time out with my family, good food, smiling faces, laughter (and my mixed berry margarita, of course) seemed to give me a mid-week boost that, until I got it, I didn't even realize how much I needed it.

This morning, however, you'll find me power walking around my neighborhood :-)

How do you recharge mid-week? Do you ever think that the things that are "good" for you aren't always what you need at the moment?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Happy News

I came across this site the other day, and I just had to share. It's called Happy News. Their slogan is "Real News. Compelling Stories. Always Positive." Love this!

I'm a bit of a news junkie, but admittedly, I do sometimes feel depressed after going through the latest headlines where there's usually a lot of doom and gloom about things over which we have no or little control. For instance, MSNBC did you really need to bring me the article about peanut allergy bullying, so I can now obsess that this might happen to my peanut-allergic child? I think not.

So this week, I've been checking out Happy News instead, where I can read about Lindsay Lohan's visit to homeless teens rather than her latest issues with drugs and jail and rehab!

What kind of news do you like to read? Do you find reading the news depressing, or do you like to be up to date on the latest?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I Can

Yesterday, older child and I had a conversation about trying things, and about not saying the words "I can't." He's gotten into the habit of saying these words a lot lately, and I don't think it's just him. I helped out in his classroom last week and I heard that sentiment echoed by quite a few kids. The thing I've noticed with older child is, once I can convince him to try something he actually can do it 99.9% of the time. One thing he's gotten very interested in doing lately is writing his own stories and drawing pictures to go with them (and yes, this does make me proud!). Often he'll ask me how to spell things, and I always tell him to sound it out and try to figure it out on his own first. To which I almost always get a sigh and an "I can't." And then after some of cajoling, he almost always figures out how to spell the words on his own, or close. (Yesterday he wrote a story about a starving fly. It was adorable, but here, I'm digressing . . .)

Anyway, after he said "I can't" to me a few times yesterday afternoon, I turned to him and said, "You know what? If mommy had said 'I can't' I would've never gotten my book published. A lot of people said no to me, but I kept thinking I could do it, and then I did."

He stared at me hard for a moment. "Is that really true?" he asked.


He thought about it for a moment, and then he said. "So people said no to you, and then you got to do it anyway?"

"Eventually, yes."

He thought about it again. Then he said, "That's really cool."

"Yeah," I told him. "It is."

And you know what, it is really cool. And's what's also cool is that a few years ago, when I was getting a lot of rejection for my writing and I was tempted to give it up forever, there was one thing that stopped me. Older son was a baby, but at the time, I told myself that when he got old enough to ask me what I did, I wanted to be able to tell him I was a writer, an author, published. When I had that conversation with him yesterday, I had this strange feeling that maybe this was that moment I'd been thinking of so many years ago. And that was an amazing feeling.

What's one thing you thought you couldn't do that you could? And how do you help your children get over their "I can'ts?" Don't forget, if you comment any day this week, I'll enter you to win one of my last ARCs of THE TRANSFORMATION OF THINGS!!

Monday, September 27, 2010

In Which I Completely Topple the Wagon Over. . .

The winner of last week's contest is CBlaire. E-mail me your address to jill(at) This week, leave a comment any day, and I'll enter you to win a signed copy of one of my very last advanced copies of THE TRANSFORMATION OF THINGS!

So, quite honestly, I'm not sure where or how to begin this post or to put it in a way that doesn't sound negative. I guess I should start by saying that I've really enjoyed writing this blog so far every day, forcing myself to have a more positive outlook on the world by virtue of having to keep a public record of things. And I've really enjoyed all of your comments and your e-mails and your notes on Facebook, telling me how my positivity has helped you be more positive or has helped you appreciate your own life more. But --

Someone said something negative to me about this blog last week. I'm not going to say what it was, because that would be, well, spreading negativity, now wouldn't it? But the sad fact was that over the weekend I was dwelling on it quite a bit. This one thing, of course, seemed to resonate much louder in my brain than all the positive comments, thoughts, and notes (and there have been quite a few) that I've received in the past six weeks. So I wondered, why is that?

I think it goes back to the reason why I started this blog in the first place. And not because I was depressed or I have a bad life, because I wasn't, and I love my life. I know I'm lucky to have an amazing husband and two beautiful children and a career as a writer. It was more that I personally would tend to dwell on negative things that happened, or that I tended to always view things in a glass half empty sort of way rather than a glass half full. And I started this blog because I thought I could change this about myself. And really, I have been.

Except I couldn't -- and can't -- stop dwelling on that one negative comment. As a writer, it's kind of the same way I feel when I get a rejection letter or a bad review. No matter how many good things have been said about a book, it's the negative that seems to always eat away at me, making me question whether a book will succeed, or whether I, as a writer, will succeed. I even considered for a moment, this weekend, that maybe I should stop writing this blog. But, that seems to defeat the whole purpose of starting this in the first place, doesn't it?

So today my question for you is this: how do you drown out negative feedback or forget about negative things people say to you? Is there a way to make positive feedback resonate louder? Please share!

Friday, September 24, 2010

My 10-Minute Rule

Don't forget to let me know what TV you're watching this week to enter to win this week's contest. I'll announce the winner on Monday!

I started off this week expressing my joy over the new season of TV, so I thought I'd end by telling you what I enjoyed most this week (without giving any spoilers in case you haven't seen them yet). I was not disappointed by any of my old favorites, and simply loved every moment of House, Glee, Grey's Anatomy, and Bones. I kept Glee on my DVR so I could watch it again over the weekend -- awesome singing plus irreverent humor always makes me feel good!

As for new shows, (and there are a bunch I haven't watched yet that I'll try over the weekend), only one really intrigued me enough to want to see it again next week, and that was Lone Star. At first I thought I wasn't going to like a show about a con-man leading a double life with a wife and a girlfriend. In the first ten minutes, I actually really didn't like the main character, and would've turned it off, except, I was watching it while exercising on the elliptical and was breathing too hard to work the remote. Then before I knew it, maybe twenty minutes in, I was positively hooked. The character had gained my sympathy. I finished my workout before the show was over, and I really wanted to know what was about to happen next.

Here's where I'm going with this, though. I usually have what I call a ten-minute/ten-page rule. That is, I give a movie, or TV show ten minutes, and if I'm bored or don't like it, I'm done with it. The same applies for books. If I'm not hooked after the first chapter, I'm done.

But -- if I'd gone by this rule, I might have missed a show I ended up enjoying. (Consequently, there were four or five others that I did not watch on the elliptical that I did erase at the 10 minute point this week. Ooops. . . maybe).

So now I wonder, is it negative of me to make such a quick judgment? What do you think? How much time do you give a new show before deciding whether or not to keep watching? And what were your favorites this week?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Importance of Glue Sticks (and Cupcakes)

I'll admit, I'm usually terrible at baking things. Even things from mixes. Somehow, even when I follow the directions to a tee, my cakes sink in the middle or my cupcakes explode. But, since I am being positive now, I decided that I would give this baking thing another try. After all, I should be able to do anything I put my mind to, right? Maybe I just needed a positive attitude going in? Perhaps I'd always doomed myself by thinking, beforehand, that I was going to mess up?

So yesterday morning the weather was cooler and a little rainy, and it seemed like the perfect day to turn on the oven and bake something. I pulled out my boxes of Trader Joe's brand new yellow cake mix and chocolate frosting mix and enlisted the help of younger son. Let me point out here that this was two positive things I was attempting -- one to bake something successfully, and two to let younger son "help." After a rocky start that involved younger son attempting to throw -- literally throw -- eggs into a bowl, things seemed to be going pretty well. Younger son helped me fill the cupcakes without breaking, dropping, or injuring anything or anyone. The cupcakes were in the oven and rose appropriately and neatly; the frosting was mixed and sampled (and delicious). And I was feeling pretty good about myself, until younger son handed me a little black piece of . . . the dishwasher. "How did you get this?"I asked him.
He shrugged. "I pulled it off." He had no answer for the question, why, but I'm guessing that his little fingers got bored somewhere in between trying to throw the eggs and stir the frosting.

I, of course, did what any self-respecting mom would do and took the glue stick and glued the little plastic button back on. On the upside, though, the cupcakes were delicious, and nice looking, too!

What's an easy task that you have trouble with? Do you think your attitude going in makes a difference with whether or you're successful?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

It's Fall aka 100 Days Left this Year!

Here's a little fact that I just learned about today: it's the 265th day of the year, which means there are exactly 100 days left until 2011. It seems like the perfect time to think about all those New Year's Resolutions we made last January, or, even better, make some resolutions or some goals now.

Today is also the first day of fall, and I always start to get a sense at this point, that the year is almost over. I'm tempted to already start looking ahead to the next year and thinking about what things I might want to do or accomplish, come January.

But 100 days is still a long time, so this morning, I'm making a list of goals, things I want to do between now and the end of the year. I'm thinking of this fall as a fresh start, rather than an ending -- kind of like how I decided a few weeks back to see Mondays as beginnings. It's a new season today, and 2010 still has 100 potentially amazing days left.

How are you planning on spending the last 100 days of 2010? What do you hope to do or accomplish?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


I'm going to make this post short, because I have two DVRs working hard at my house right now, and I have lots of shows to watch! (Don't forget to tell me what you're watching this week to enter to win my weekly contest!).

I was thinking yesterday that one of the things that helps me stay positive on daily basis are my connections to other people, and the way technology plays such a part in this. There's the way Twitter and Facebook and Blogging connect me with virtual strangers and readers and bloggers old friends, and the way e-mail keeps me in contact with other writers and friends with whom I share good and bad news, writing and life ups and downs and receive nearly instant feedback. There's my phone which keeps me connected to my parents and sister who live across the country, and Skype which I often use to see my family, and sometimes even connect to readers. You would be hard pressed to find me without my Droid in my hand, at any point during the day. These connections, though, help me stay positive on every level. They're encouragement and relief and feeling like I'm in a community of writers (even if it is virtual). I'm not quite sure what I would do if I couldn't quickly e-mail a friend or call my mom when I need reassurance.

What got me thinking about this was a portion of a book I'm working on now, which takes place in the 1930s, and as I took on the life of my character for a little bit yesterday -- who was admittedly depressed and feeling negative -- I really wished she could e-mail a friend, or throw a Tweet out into the universe and get an answer that would make her laugh in return. Or, for goodness sakes, if I could just hand her a cell phone so she could call an old friend, who I knew would make her feel better. I can't, of course, and it's been interesting living vicariously this way, thinking about the way connections and relationships were so different 80 years ago. I wonder, was it easier to stay positive without the constant technological connections, or was it harder? For me, I know it would be harder.

How do you feel about connections in your life? Are you a technology addict like me? Do you think connections help you feel more positive, or do you feel better when you get a break?

Monday, September 20, 2010


First the winner of last week's contest (chosen with is Laura Rachel Fox. Laura, e-mail me your address to jill(at) and I'll send out your book. Also, let me know if/how you want it signed! For this week's contest, let me know what TV show (new or returning) you're most looking forward to, and I'll enter you to win a free month of Netflix.

So, on the topic of TV -- here's something to feel positive about this week: There are real shows on again! I know a lot of writers aren't too obsessed with TV, but I don't fit into that mold. I like watching a show at night before I go to bed to unwind. It's often hard for me to read and concentrate on a book when I'm in the midst of writing one myself, so TV shows are like my nightly brain candy! The long summer without any new episodes of my favorites is always hard for me to get through.

This summer I tempered that a bit with a new Netflix membership. My husband and I started watching Bones from the beginning, and watched all five seasons in a row. The show became my new obsession, and my impatient mind was thrilled to be able to watch episode after episode night after night (way better than having to wait a whole week to see what happens!) Needless, to say, I can't wait to see what happens on the first episode of Season 6 on Thursday.

I'm also a big Grey's Anatomy fan, and despite a bit of a rocky season last year, I thought the final episode was really good, so I can't wait to see what happens, and I can't wait to see Glee on Tuesday night!

I've been reading good things about The Event and Lone Star, so I have the first episodes set up to tape this week.

I could go on. . . Honestly, I hope my dvr doesn't suddenly explode, because after months of non-use, it's going to be working overtime now.

What shows are you looking forward to?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Oprah's Book Club Pick

Here's the thing about being a writer: every non-writer that you are related to, friends with, or even vaguely know will try and offer you this little tidbit of wisdom: send your book to Oprah! I can't tell you the number of times I've politely uh-huh-ed, laughed, smiled, or just generally tried to ignore this comment. Of course, I'm sometimes tempted to answer, why didn't I think of that! Ha!

But somewhere hidden in that quite unhelpful advice, I think there's some optimism, part of what I love about being a writer, the possibility of well, possibility. Things -- great, Oprah-like, things -- can sometimes happen to your book. I'm bringing this up now because, in case you haven't heard, Oprah will be announcing her next (and final) book club pick on her show today.

I love Oprah (who by the way, I think is pretty much like a paragon of positivity) -- isn't her go-to phrase "live your best life?" And as soon as I heard she was picking her next club pick, I immediately thought of the writer. The writer, who, I'm sure, has heard from countless friends and family and co-workers and strangers over the years, "Why don't you just send your book to Oprah?" Maybe that writer struggled to get published or struggled with bouts of writing pessimism (like I have), or maybe that writer once looked at his/her novel and wondered if anyone ever anywhere would read it (like I have). And then there is the fact that that writer will now be able call his/her friends and family and even random strangers, and say, Hey, guess what? I did send my book to Oprah. . . !

It seems there's already some controversy over this pick, as it was supposedly leaked yesterday that she's chosen Jonathan Franzen's Freedom. (You can read an article about it here .) My Twitterfeed was filled all day with reactions to this news, most of it negative, for reasons varying from the fact that Franzen has already gotten so much press for the book, that he shunned Oprah once before, and that Oprah should've chosen a lesser-known woman author. I don't know Franzen, and I haven't read Freedom yet, but I have been following some of the controversy surrounding him (and reviewers' treatment of him as late), and I guess my point is that in everything I've been reading there's so much. . . negativity.

So I'll definitely be tuning into Oprah today to see what her pick is. Do you think it really will be Franzen's book? And how do you feel about this choice? Are there any books/authors you'd be rooting for?

For me personally, I'm almost hoping it'll turn out to be a book I've never heard of by an author I've never heard of, because that, to me, is the true positive thing about Oprah's club, that she's able to show millions of readers an amazing book that they might, otherwise, never have heard of.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

4:59 AM. . .

Last night my husband and I watched the movie Date Night, which we both agreed was the funniest movie we've seen in a long time. The movie had me from the opening minute when the couples' child jumps on them in bed nearly killing them and shouting "I love you." (Youngest child does this to us all the time -- frequently he is head-butting us while shouting "I love you!") And then we got to watch Tina Fey & Steve Carell being bombarded by two children shouting for breakfast, as the camera cut to the clock to show it was 4:59 AM. My husband and I were already laughing hysterically. Why? Because this could've been nearly any morning in our life lately.

I was thinking about the movie today -- and sure, as it went on it had a bit of an outlandish plot. But watching Tina Fey do her mom countdown from three (something at which, I'll admit, I'm also pretty darn good at) in the middle of a gunfight, I could not stop laughing.

I think what really got me, was that I saw so much of my life in those characters, but watching it through a comedic lens, I was able to laugh at it, the way I often can't bleary-eyed and fumbling for coffee in the half-darkness of my kitchen in the morning.

I've been thinking lately that part of starting the day off positively is waking up in a good mood. Ideally, I'd love to wake up and reflect on my goals for the day and lie in bed for a while and think positive thoughts. But realistically? I'm usually awoken at some ungodly hour when it is barely light outside by kids who are ready to go, go, go. But maybe, I need to react a little more the way I did when I saw it in the movie last night. Maybe I need to laugh and roll with this stuff more. My kids won't be young forever. Before I know it they'll be teenagers and I'll be waking them up, right?

What's a movie you saw lately that reminded you of your own life or made you laugh? And other parents, how do your children wake you up in the morning? Do you think this affects your mood for the day?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Vision List

In the comments on Monday's post Searcher Gurl mentioned that she makes a vision board. I've never actually made a vision board, exactly, but I did do something a few weeks ago when I started this journey that I completely forgot to mention on this blog. I made, what I guess you could call a vision list.

I read or saw something about this a few years back -- I think on Oprah or somewhere similar. Anyway there was someone who was feeling negative about things, and this person decided she would make a list of everything she wanted to happen. Only she would write the things on the list as if they'd already happened. Say, for instance, she was trying to have a baby or she wanted to find a job she loved rather than the one she had that she hated(and I don't remember exactly what she was trying to do), she wrote on her list, I have a beautiful, healthy baby girl. Or I have an amazing job doing. . .

So anyway, I decided, in the beginning of this journey, to make my own list. I wrote everything down that I wanted to happen in the next few months, as if it already had happened. Then I tucked the list neatly in my desk drawer. I don't feel I can tell you what's on this list -- in fact, I haven't even told my husband -- because it kind of feels like wishing on a star or blowing out birthday candles. Though, I will promise this, when the things on the list start to come true (and they will!), I'll discuss some of them on this blog, (and of course, tell my husband, too!).

So have you ever made a list like this or a vision board? And, if you have, do you share the details with your friends and family and maybe the blogosphere, or do you keep them to yourself? If you haven't, then let me know if this post has encouraged you to make one!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Can Happiness Be Taught?

Yesterday, I stumbled across this website, called The Pursuit of Happiness. I read through their site and it looks like they're a group dedicated to teaching happiness as a fundamental part of education. They say that one of the basic rights in The Declaration of Independence is "the pursuit of happiness." So why aren't we taught to pursue this?

They also quote some startling statistics, that 20% of us will experience depression at some point, and that 9% of children will as well. So I wondered, is happiness really a skill, something that we could've or should've been taught in school like reading, math, or science?

I think that optimism can definitely be learned. I've felt myself become more optimistic in the past few weeks, even with my very unscientific methods of positive thinking. And if optimism can be learned, then why not happiness. Aren't the two interconnected?

I thought about this as I sat through older child's first school conference yesterday, where I got to read over the standards for the first half of the year and hear about his reading readiness test scores. What if, included in this, there was a measure for happiness or the ways to achieve it? Later on in life, will it be just as important for older child to have the skills to think positively as it is for him to have the skills to read, write, and do math? I think that it is.

What do you think?

Monday, September 13, 2010

The positive chicken or the positive egg?

First the winner of last week's contest -- the $10 Amazon gift card (chosen with -- is Tiffany. Tiffany, e-mail me at jill(at) so I can e-mail you the gift card. Thanks to everyone who shared their favorites parts of their job with me. Check out this week's contest on the right sidebar. All you need to do is comment any day this week, or Facebook or Tweet about this blog, and I'll enter you to win a signed advanced copy of THE TRANSFORMATION OF THINGS >>>>

So to start off this week, I've got a question for you. I've gotten a few pieces of good news about my upcoming novel, THE TRANSFORMATION OF THINGS, in the past few weeks. (You can read about some of it on my author blog here, and some I'll share in the next few weeks!). Anyway, I was talking to my friend about it on Friday, and she posed the question of whether I thought all my positive thinking was the cause of the good news. I answered her by saying I wasn't sure if it was the cause, but I certainly have been feeling better, in the mean time, thinking positively.

I thought about it a little bit more over the weekend, and I think it's sort of a chicken and the egg type question. Does positive thinking beget good things happening? Or, because some good things have happened do I now feel more justified in my positive thinking? Can we really get good things by putting good vibes out into the universe?

I think, probably not. But hey, it can't hurt, right?

What do you think? Have you ever seen good things happen after thinking positively? Or vice versa?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Why I Love My Job

For this week's contest, I've asked you guys to tell me (either in a comment, Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, etc.) what your favorite part of your job is.

The reason I was thinking about this, is because I've noticed a lot of people around me complaining about their jobs. That seems to be, in fact, what we do when we chat with our friends. How often does a topic of conversation start with someone saying "Wow, I love my job so much. . ." (and they're not being sarcastic!). As a fledgling optimist, I've been thinking that there are bound to be some things each of us wouldn't like about every job -- after all, nothing is perfect. But then there are bound to be things we do like. Why not focus on the positive?

So to be fair, I thought I'd share what I love about my job. First there's the fact that I'm pretty sure some people in my life don't consider what I do -- writing -- "a job" at all. These people think this in a totally negative way, but I see this as a positive. I don't spend my life in a windowless cubicle. (Okay, sure, I don't collect that steady paycheck either). But I've been able to stay home with my kids and be involved with their lives and their schools (which is another job in and of itself, of course.) I get to work on my own hours -- often late at night or early in the morning, in my own house, in my sweatpants.

But the thing I love the most, is that I get to tell stories. I get to make up things and people and places and spend hours and hours immersed in these fictional worlds. As a child, I used to spend hours and hours reading books, but somehow writing them, it's almost better. I always loved the Choose Your Own Adventure series, because I liked thinking about the different ways stories can play out. Yes, there is a lot of rejection that comes with my job, and often a lot of stress and waiting, and then often, more rejection -- the compounding of which made me feel the need to start this blog in the first place. But there is also the fact that I get to do what I love, on my own terms. I can think of nothing better than that?

What's your favorite part about your job? Tell me, and I'll enter you to win a $10 Amazon gift card!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Laugh or Cry?

Yesterday I woke up determined to have a better day. Because isn't that what optimists do? Brush bad days off and decide the next day will be good again? The morning was better -- I only had to clean cat puke off the rug rather than my bed, and I crossed the street in a different spot to avoid the cranky crossing guard. Then I took younger son to run a string of errands, which ended with me in a shoe store where I mistakenly asked some poor customer if he could help me find a size, thinking that he worked in the store. Hey, he was wearing a red shirt, and the guy who worked there was also wearing a red shirt. Just as I realized my mistake, younger son proceeded to have a tantrum.

As I walked out of the store, I thought about my grandfather, because I had just totally done something that he often did. I can't tell you how many times I was with him in a store when I was a teenager when he'd decide to just ask some random customer for help. Of course it was the most embarrassing thing ever, and equally annoying that it seemed he always knew that the person didn't actually work at the store, but that he just didn't care. That was my grandfather in a nutshell. He pretty much did what he wanted, when he wanted to, but in the nicest way possible so everyone loved him for.

My grandfather died a few years ago, but I find myself thinking of him in seemingly random moments, like that moment yesterday. Those moments used to be sad moments, where I missed him, but more recently, they've become more positive moments, where I think about how lucky I was to have known him.

Yesterday, there was that moment, where I paused outside of the store, trying to calm youngest child down, and I thought about my grandfather. Had he been with me, I was pretty sure he would've still been inside the store, trying to convince the poor customer to help him find a size. And then I couldn't help but laugh at myself. After all, laughter and optimism must be related, right?

How do you react when you do something embarrassing in public?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Even Optimists Get The Blues, Right?

Yesterday I had sort of a blah day. It started when I woke up at 5:30 to the sound of my cat puking on my comforter, the comforter which I had just washed the day before to get out the remnants of the last time he puked on it, last week. Nothing like starting off your day cleaning a hairball of your bed, is there? Then there was the the crossing guard at oldest son's school who, I think, mistook me for a sixth grader, and then proceeded to yell at me for walking across the crosswalk without him. He yelled something like "Kid, you need to wait for me." At which point I yelled something back, like "I'm an adult. Thanks. I know how to cross the street." I didn't help that it also felt like it was 800 degrees outside and I felt like I was dying of heatstroke.

It was honestly the first time I felt like I had a "bad day" since I've started this whole optimism thing. When I sat down last night to write about it, it kind of surprised me. Is it true that even optimists have bad days?

I was contemplating all this when oldest son, seemingly out of the blue turned to me and asked me the question every parent dreads having to answer. He wanted to know how babies were made. Remember, he's only in kindergarten, so I fumbled through some general information about women growing babies in their stomachs. Yes, he said, but how do the babies get in there? I fumbled some more, and at every turn he asked more how/what/why questions. Until finally I told him that mommies had eggs like Charlotte in Charlotte's Web and that they could turn into babies sometimes. That seemed to satisfy him because he then turned to my husband and asked how houses were made. I watched my husband breathe a sigh of relief that he'd gotten the easy question. So not fair.

Then oldest son went to bed, and as I sat down to dissect my crappy day and my possibly even crappier explanation of the miracle of life, I thought about the fact that it seemed like older child was just born, and here he was, asking so many questions. It's not just houses and babies. This morning, he wanted to know what Earth was like before dinosaurs and where the first dinosaur came from. Yesterday, he wanted to know what the Earth was like before it had buildings and how thunder and lightening exist. More often than not, I find myself Googling to get him answers now. And in his questions, I start to see the world fresh again, through the eyes of someone with wonder and curiosity. This is a very good thing. This made me smile.

What makes you smile at the end of a bad day?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

When and Will

First the winner of last week's contest, an advanced copy of THE TRANSFORMATION OF THINGS is Brenda! Brenda, e-mail me your address to jill(at) and I'll mail out your book. Also check out this week's contest on the right sidebar.

Since I'm a writer, word choice means a lot to me. I was thinking about it over the long weekend, and I realized that a lot of my new optimism project has to do with my word choice. I've found myself replacing the words "if "and "maybe" with the words "when" and "will." I also correct my husband to do the same. For instance, when he said this weekend "If X happens then maybe we can do Y." I interrupted him and said, "When X happens then we will do Y."

In essence we were saying the same thing, but I've found that if I state things I want to happen as fact, or refuse to let doubt creep into my semantics, then I actually believe these things as truth, and I stop doubting. If I say something will be true, then I believe it will.

But in the conversation I was having my husband, his word choice was technically more accurate. He, of course, pointed this out to me. Does it matter? I thought about it, and I wondered if my positive word choices also mean that, in a way, I'm lying to myself. I'm eradicating the possibility of a negative outcome in my mind, but is this the smartest thing to do? Am I just setting myself up for disappointment and maybe, more pessimism, down the line?

What do you think? Do you ever state things as fact, even if they haven't happened yet?

Friday, September 3, 2010

Long Weekend!!

Thanks for all the book recommendations this week! Today's the last day to post one, and I'll use to select a winner -- which I'll announce on Tuesday.

Today is a Friday, heading into a long weekend, so even back when I was complete pessimist, it was hard to feel anything but optimistic on this kind of day. Three days in a row without school or work is enough to make anyone feel good, right?

This weekend, for me, will also mark the first weekend in months where I'm not trying to get work done. As I mentioned a few times this week, I just came to stopping points in two huge projects. Usually, I try to get a lot of my writing done on the weekends, since this is when my husband is home to watch the kids. My weekend schedule involves being woken up early by one kid or the other, making some coffee, writing for a few hours, having some family time and lunch, and then writing for a few more hours. I can't complain, because I love writing, and I'm fortunate that my husband is home every weekend and thus can watch the kids.

But. This weekend, I'm not in the middle of working on something. This weekend my husband is off and so am I. I'm looking forward to reading or maybe even working on the Sunday crossword puzzle, or, if the weather cooperates venturing somewhere fun with the kids like the zoo, and if the kids cooperate venturing somewhere else fun like brunch. I'm looking forward to three unscheduled days with absolutely no work or school.

Do you, like me, find the idea of a long unscheduled weekend optimism-inducing? Happy Labor Day Weekend :-)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Retail Therapy

Living in the desert like I do, I find there is nothing more depressing or pessimism-inducing than the end of summer. Or rather, the fact that summer feels never-ending here. And not the fun kind of lay-out-by-the-pool and sip lemonade summer, but the unbearable 100+ degree day-after-day summer.

Yesterday was September 1st, which means to most of you reading, nice cool, fall weather is fast approaching. But not here. Here I will have to endure at least another month of 100+ temperatures. Here it has already been over 100 degrees since May, and to tell you the truth, I'm so past sick of it at this point, I'd consider moving to Alaska.

These past few weeks I've been trying to be optimistic about the heat, forcing myself to spend time outside and pretend it's not as bad as I think it'll be. (It usually ends up being worse). On Tuesday, younger child and I showed up at the park, and we were the only people there. The slides were too hot to slide down, and we left less than ten minutes later both red-faced and soaked in sweat.

But, I am trying to be optimistic here, so yesterday, I went shopping for some winter clothes for the kids. As I sorted through jeans and sweatshirts and long-sleeves, I started to feel a little better. Cooler weather can't be that far away, right, if the stores already have all the cooler weather stuff on sale?

What's your least favorite season, and how do you stay optimistic during it?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

In Which I Revisit an Old Love

Yesterday, I promised I was going to try something new. And I did. Sort of. I tried something old, that I hadn't done in so long, that thinking about it felt new. Does this count? I think it does.

Before I wrote novels, before I could even envision writing something that long, I used to write short stories. In fact, I used to love short story writing so much that I swore to myself I would never see the need to write a novel (Are you getting the theme of how resistant I am to change here?). Then, about eight years ago, I wrote a novel, and I loved it so much that I swore to myself I would never feel the need to write a short story again. I haven't really thought about them much since.

Short stories are what originally made me want to be a writer. I read Lorrie Moore's "People Like That Are The Only People Here" when it was first published in 1997-ish. I loved the story so much that I re-read it, over and over and again. And I'm pretty sure that was one of the main reasons I really seriously started writing stories of my own.

But, back to yesterday. It's been a good seven or eight years since I've written, or even, read, a short story. I am fresh off finishing up two, rather lengthy, novel projects, and so yesterday, it occurred to me, that I could write a short story. Just for fun. It's been so long, I wondered, would I remember how? I opened up a file of stories I wrote back in 2002, and it felt strange to read these little pieces of my life from so many years ago, when I was such a different person and different writer. And then I remembered why I used to love short stories, because, in a way, they're like photographs, tiny snippets of life and time and the people living it. Just glimpses. I love novels for their expansiveness, for the way they consume you. But stories are good, too.

So now for my trying something new: I started working on a new short story yesterday, for the first time in over eight years.

What do you like better? Short stories or novels? Have you ever tried something for the first time in so long that it felt new again?