Monday, September 28, 2015

Would You Like a Hug?

It seems lately like I'm surrounded by the discussion of hugs, both giving and getting them.  An author friend on facebook discussed whether or not hugging strangers at writing conferences was weird, and at church we laughed together as another friend hugged me and my sister-in-law, but excluded my brother-in-law.  I realized that even though this brother-in-law is a friend and like a blood sibling to me, I don't think I've ever hugged him.  Maybe at his wedding?

When to give hugs and how to give them can be complicated.  Sometimes we're in the awkward position of getting a hug we don't want, or aren't comfortable with.  I'm generally the type to pass them out fairly freely, but I'll admit there's been times when I realized halfway into the hug that maybe it wasn't such a great idea.  And then there was the first time a guy I didn't know well did the European air kiss thing, to the sides of my cheeks.  I wasn't expecting it, and probably looked like he'd leaned in and checked my nose for loose hairs!

If you're one who prefers personal space, here are a few tips for avoiding unwanted hugs:
  • Watch your arm movements.  If you approach a group with your arms up and waving excitedly, it can look like you're opening them up big for a hug.
  • As you and the person approach, extend both hands but keep them close together.  With your elbows tucked in to your sides, reach for their hand, and give it a warm shake or pat.  This will help you seem welcoming and make clear you're happy to see them, but avoid the hug.
  • This can also be adapted to situations where you're standing still and someone approaches but is getting in your personal space.  You extend your hand to shake hands with them, then once the hands are clasped you keep your arm extended and stiff while stepping back.  This gives you the space you're looking for by literally keeping them at arm's length.
  • If they surprise you with the hug you can still turn it into the 'half hug' of an arm around the shoulder by pivoting as they step in, perhaps to introduce a friend, or point out something around you.  Potentially awkward, but perhaps less so than the un-welcomed hug.
  • Similarly, as a friend is approaching and obviously going for a hug, you can extend your arm to welcome them in a half hug while opening your other arm to extend to another friend.  This makes for a looser group hug and once again creates a bit of distance.
It would be nice if we all came with 'hug radar' and could tell when someone wanted a hug, and they could see the same in us!  What's your preference?  When you see a friend after a week or two's absence, or run into an old critique partner at a conference, do you go in for the hug?  And do you have any tactics you've learned for when to give them, or how to avoid them when you don't want them?  I'd love to hear them!  In fact...I'd probably give you a hug. ;)

Friday, September 25, 2015

Cleaning out the Closet=Liberation

A few months back I stumbled on a blog by a mom in Texas who mentioned another blog. Long story short, it was about narrowing your wardrobe to a select few pieces for each season. Here are the #s. 

15 tops
9 bottoms (pants/skirt mix)
2 dresses 
2 jackets

Now, items in the wardrobe not counted are underwear, bras, workout apparel, swim suits, belts, shoes (though I think she tried to stick to 5-9 or something like that), and accessories e.g. jewelry, pins, scarves, etc. 

She had a budget for each season, some of which weren't economically feasible for me. I think I spend about $200 a year, maybe. She also had a rule, if she bought something new, then she had to get rid of something old, keeping the numbers steady. 

For months, I've been curious if I could take on this challenge and pare down my closet, which was stuffed and overflowing. While I opted to not restrict the number of clothes by each season, (I thought I might have an stroke if I attempted it) I did do a thorough clean out. I especially couldn't keep to the 2 dresses rule. I attend church every Sunday in a dress or skirt so I needed more. 

I set a goal, time frame, and used it toward a Personal Progress Value Project which require 10 hours of work to be completed. This is part of a church program we have for teen girls age 12-18. I work with these awesome young ladies and have been working on earning my own medallion of completion, so it was a total win-win. Good example, project complete, my closet got clean, and then I offered the girls to raid my cast offs (after my daughter was done calling dibs), as they are always on the lookout for modest apparel. Maybe that's a win-win-win-win. In any case I haven't found a downside yet. Unless you count the fact that I tried to sell my in-good-condition clothes to a second hand store and they declined citing the garments were too upscale. Apparently they disagree that not all teens want to look like they rolled out of bed. 

Anyways, you're probably wondering how cleaning out a closet could possibly take 10 hours. Well, when you count trying everything on, sorting, attempt to sell, inviting girls to raid, and getting rid of the leftovers, it comes out about right. Plus it's a walk-in closet. 

Unfortunately I didn't take any before pictures. 

Just know my racks were crammed, shelves brimming, and not a place of serenity. Not a happy space for an organizational queen. 

I did take pics of after. 

The one you see of the overflowing basket with items next to it is what I got rid of. It doesn't look like much in the picture but it actually fills 2 large black lawn bags and is half my wardrobe. Charity is going to be so lucky!

I don't have a dresser so I use horizontal shelves instead. Of the bins, one is now empty. 

Next comes the half hanging with shoes underneath. I tried hard to get rid of shoes, but wasn't very successful. There are 35-40 pairs there including the boots. I was able to donate the castoffs to a charity program that recycles them. Soles for souls or something like that. I went through my jewelry and handbags too. 

Then there is the back section for long items and coats. I got all the miscellaneous papers, books, and stuff that didn't belong in my closet, and found them appropriate homes elsewhere. See all those empty hangers!

Now when I walk into my closet I know whatever I grab 1) fits me, 2) is something I love to wear, & 3) generally looks good with any number of combinations of outfits I can put together. 

I made sure to not just keep neutrals either. You have to have color each season. Who gets excited about wearing endless combinations of khaki, brown, navy, and black? No one. 

It has been wonderful to get rid of the burden of sagging shelves of clothes I wasn't using or didn't fit anymore, or clothes that did fit but made me feel frumpy. 

I still think there's some more paring down I can do. Items that fell into the maybe list. If they still haven't seen the light of day in a year, or if I don't really love them the next time I wear them, then I'll donate those as well. The charity store never closes. Besides, do I really need 4 pairs of brown heels? Navy shoes? Probably not. 

Now, some of you may be thinking, "This is a great idea!" and it is. But then you might be tempted to think, "Now she can go shop for new clothes and refill her closet! Lucky girl!" And that's where you'd be wrong. 

I don't want to add items and get back to where I was before the closet purge. I'm inclined to follow the other bloggers rule of item in - item out. 

Will I ever get down to the ambitious numbers stated at the beginning of this post. Maybe not. But if I feel lightened and liberated now, think how amazing that would feel. 

Are you up for the closet challenge? 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Mommy Overwhelm

There are times when it feels like being a mother is far too hard. We're supposed to feed them (all organic, no sugar), clothe them (in things we sewed ourselves using all manmade materials - recycled, no less), take them to the park, teach them their ABCs before they're born, have them reciting the Declaration of Independence before they're two, and always, always keep the house spotless in the meantime.

Of course, that's an exaggeration, but it's sure how it feels sometime.

And yet, you know what? That's not our greatest, most important task . Our most important task is to teach our children the gospel. The Lord doesn't care if we have eight dishes in the sink or if our children ate peanut butter and jelly for lunch instead of a tuna salad made from tuna we caught ourselves in the river flowing by our house. He cares that we love them, and that we are teaching them the most important things they can ever know - how to return to Him someday.

I find that when I keep my focus on the eternities, it becomes so much easier to keep the little tasks of today in perspective. And if someone comes by my house and sees a messy living room, I'm relatively certain it won't be the end of the world.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

How to Write a Perfectly Dreadful Query Letter

by H. Linn Murphy

Because I am a backwards girl, I like to explore the whatif side of things sometimes. So this is my stab at writing a What-if-I-Wrote-the-Worst-Query-I-can-Possibly-Think-of query.

The jury is still out on whether writing a horrible query is worse than writing no query at all, but I can't write a negative, so here goes:

Subject: My book (Let's just make this a great big void in space.)

Hi, um, whoever. I rote this book and just new you'd like it; because it's stoopendus. (Already the slush pile slave's finger is hovering over the delete button for several reasons. Misspelled words, bad grammar, and boasting are all flags. Don't worry about the color of the red flag.)
I got your name off the internet. Put this at the top of your pile. I just know all your readers will read this book and love it so much. (Yeah, don't bother finding out anything about this publisher or what they want to publish. Also don't specify a target audience. On the off chance that your slush pile slave has gone to lunch and just left your query on her desk, keep going.)

This book is about cats. How to take care of cats. I had a cat once. It was a tabby with cute little paws that need me in my chest and chaste mice and one day it cot one and brought it to my feet and it was so cute I just had to right about it cuz I now how to take care of cats reel good cuz I have 51 if you don't count the wild one's that come eat at my house two. They just love me--love love love love. So i will right down all my ways of feeding them and taking care of them and making sweters out of there fir. Their are alot of things you can make out of there fir cuz thay shead alot all over the place and sometimes p but you can try and train em if you just dont feed em. (Poor slushy is either gagging on her sub sandwich or sending the thing out to her co-workers as an example of what dolphins can do with some education. Don't bother letting anybody else read your query. They might steal it.)

This book is 1,000 pages and the size is 24. I'm not dun with it, but if you want to publish this, I can have it done next year. I think. (Slushy is revising her estimates. Even mentally challenged dolphins write better queries. For a dreadful query about a cat book, anything over 65,000 words is great. In fact, the bigger the better. Try 100,000+ words. That'll wow 'em. And try to make the font unreadable and either too small or too large. Don't do 10--10.5 point type and definitely don't look at the publisher's parameters and go by them. In fact, don't even read a publisher's parameters. They're merely guidelines anyway.)

I might send this out to a bunch of other publishers to. If I don't here back by Tuesday, I'm camping on the lawn of the publishing house. (They'll just love that. Make sure you park far away so they don't come by and let the air out of your tires.)

I have a high school diploma and I know how to make doilies. I don't have a husband write now but if you no any good guys that would be swell. Oh and I got a award for spelling in third grade. My teacher said I should right a book so here I am righting a book. (Don't worry about keeping your credentials current or having anything to do with your subject. They'll know right away anyway.)

Wow. You've done it. Now just sit back and rake in the big bucks.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Love reading? Then here are my favorite ebook services

I wanted to share with everyone a few of my favorite services. I love books. That is why I write and review them. Often buying books gets expensive, but I'd like to recommend three email e-book services that offer great deals.

1. Book Gorilla- This one is my favorite. They send me a full list every morning of at least 10 or more books that are either free or low price. You can even receive a list of up to 50 books! You choose. They are specific to Kindle though.

2. Book Bub- BookBub alerts you to limited-time free & discounted ebooks. 
It's free to join, you can read on any device, and the books are yours to own. I picked my favorite genres and every morning I get an email listing several books. I only get about 4 or 5 books though, so the variety is semi limited.

3. Books that Buzz- I found this one because it is an author resource  where books are listed and promoted. However, because I subscribe, every day I get a list of discounted ebooks and book giveaways. Love it! This service also sends me about 10 books a day.

Happy Reading!