Love Where You Live

Friends!

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? I left you all on a cliffhanger about where I going to go and what I was going to do with all the change happening in my life. The last month and a half has been crazy busy and brutal, but refining in ways I never imagined.

First let’s talk about the obvious things. After a last minute flurry of job opportunities through the agency I was working with, I ended up working for my aunt again. This job is two hours away from Orlando, which meant I was moving closer to the business.

Closer, but not with my aunt again (because what 30-something wants to live with their family? Not this one. I love them, but no thank you). I found and rented a one bedroom apartment in a decent area where I can continue my morning walks and am close to EVERYTHING in town.

The move was not without its complications. I ended up working through the week and going back to Orlando to pack and bring things down on the weekends. My body was tired and my emotions were all over the place. I was not happy to be leaving Orlando and the life I had created there, even if things weren’t going the way I wanted them to go. This single girl wasn’t anxious to move to a small city with few dating prospects, other job opportunities, and places to go on her days off. But this is what I had to do, so I may as well do it right.

I could tell you about the night I literally drove through a ton of crap on the road–as in manure. When I got to my destination, manure coated my tires, wheel wells and chassis. Strong smelling manure. When I drove past where it happened the next day? There was none on the road. That was a little present just for me.

I could tell you about two trips with two vehicles to move my things out with my family. The communication struggles were mad real.

Or picking up a few things from my ex’s place and having his new girlfriend helping us move things because my family had car trouble. Those were fun times.

Or how my new place wasn’t ready by the first so I had to wait an additional three days before I could move my stuff into the place (yay for moving twice in one week!). They thought they might be able to finish early, but the tenants (who promised they would be out early) didn’t leave until the last day of the month and left a huge mess. So I was pretty  much homeless for three days (which I spent in the lap of luxury at my aunt’s, for those prone to be horrified).

But I’d rather tell you about the better parts of the story. When I was packing, I found a printable from Lara Casey’s website where I’d written down some life goals. Some I had achieved (write a book! publish a book!), but most I hadn’t yet. One stuck out to me: I wanted to make my living space into a home.

Most of the places I’ve lived have just been places to stay. I haven’t had artwork on the walls and pictures on the end table. There isn’t a real design to the set up. Nothing about it feels like me. It’s like I took dorm life wherever I went, like I wasn’t allowed to change anything.

Looking at that item on my list, I felt conviction. This was my opportunity to make a HOME. Even if it is in an apartment. Even if it’s not with a husband right now. I don’t have to wait to make my living space cozy and warm and a place I love coming back to or welcoming others into. I can do that right now.

I went out and bought rugs. And piece of art for the bedroom wall. I found a doormat that reads “Love where you live.” I bought a new bed frame–headboard, foot board, and side rails–and a cube organizer to match (which I use as a TV stand and shelving unit). I bought new bedding and created a color scheme for the bedroom, living room, bathroom and kitchen.

I’m still not all the way unpacked, and moving in hasn’t been without its problems. I’ve been working on editing two books for a client, working a job, and putting together a home. It isn’t easy. But I’m starting to like this little apartment. A lot.

There’s so much more to tell. I am going to a conference this week (!!!) and have new products to launch. I can tell you about my two editing projects thus far and officially launching my editing and publishing services. I can tell you about the projects I’m currently working on. But in this entry, I wanted to sit with this idea of making my living space a home and not a place I sleep and shower.

Even though this season has been hard, it’s been refining. I’m working on life goals here! I’m stretching myself to pursue the things I love in a place I never would have chosen, physically or emotionally. But I’ve discovered something I already knew: God is here, too. He didn’t wave farewell to me as I drove down from Orlando; He welcomed me with open arms here. It’s like the song we sing in church–anywhere is home if Christ my Lord is there.

Learning to Love Where I Live,

Erica

 

BYOV!

I’m not a Valentine’s Day hater. I take seriously any reason to celebrate myself or anyone else. I love birthdays and holidays. I enjoy seeing people spread love any day of the year.

Does it bother me that candy companies (or greeting card companies or diamond dealers) more than likely manufactured this holiday to drum up business for themselves? Nope. Personally, I think that’s good business. Ingenious marketing. Go you, whoever you are. You came up with a whole holiday AND made major coins. Greeting card companies, candy manufacturers, florists, and diamond dealers across the world thank you. Women who FINALLY get shown love in their actual love language thank you. Your country thanks you.

Seriously, though, I love this season. I thought I would really hate it this year, though. I mean, I’m Single Selena this year. “I Could Fall in Love”; I could be “Dreaming of You” tonight, if there was a You. I thought I’d get in my car, drive off somewhere to lick a wound or two. Pretend this day totally wasn’t happening. I planned all these things to take my mind of it and then…nothing. I’m just as excited about today as I was last year (I didn’t get a gift then, either). I’m just as excite as I was that time I spent Valentine’s Day at a ladies day in Georgia, or the time I bought myself a Little Caesar’s pizza, a teddy bear and a blank cassette tape to make a valentine’s day mix tape (yes, tape, not CD). Or that time I had ten “dates.” It doesn’t matter to me whether I’m with the one I love or not, or if I even have a romantic love interest. I always manage to enjoy the day.

This year, I’m not getting in my car and going somewhere where Valentine’s Day doesn’t exist. I’m not hiding under the covers with Hagen Daas and heartbreak (but Hagen Daas in bed sounds great any day. I don’t care what you say. I don’t care. I don’t care. I don’t care). This year, I am BYOV–bringing my own valentine. I am tending to my loves today. I’m reading God’s word, writing my own words, watching rom coms, eating a favorite meal, and working on book club stuff. I’m praying for all my people and loving on family near and far.

I’m bringing the love with me everywhere I go today. I’m sending it out. I can’t keep it to myself. I can’t give it to just one person. I’m sharing it with everyone. I don’t want to be my own Valentine; that’s BORING. And trite. And downright sad. But I might buy mysel a teddy bear that’s bigger than I am, ’cause I want one.

What are your Valentine’s Day plans? Do they involve real pants or a fancy dress? How are you going to live and love today? Leave your two cents below.

XOXO

Erica

Single Awareness Day 2017 & Other Non-Sequiturs

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Sad Panda is sad.

It’s that time of the year where proposal season has its last big hurrah before it moves over and wedding season begins, friends. Anyone who knows me knows I love LOVE, and this year, despite my own epic fail in love, is absolutely no different. If you’ve read my book Altered before the Altar: Allowing God to Make You “Meet” to be Met, you know my motto is “Throw Rice, Not Shade.” I have no issues being happy for your engagements, weddings, new babies, or Valentine’s Day mush fest posts. What can I say? I’m a giver.

Speaking of giving, there’s something super awesome I want to give all my fellow singles in the lead up to Valentine’s Day. I’m a celebrator at heart, and being single has NEVER stopped me from participating (seriously, I’ve given myself the best gifts for Valentine’s Day a girl could ask for–candy, flowers, mixtapes, teddy bears, dinner and a movie, you name it). So I’ve decided to spread a little love in the lead up to the day many singles dread by sharing some love themed tales, interviews and op-eds filled with tips, tricks, and torpedoes for your day of love arsenal.

If you’ve been reading for a while, you already know I have some interesting tales for V-Day, like the time I went out on Valentine’s Day with 10 guys, my career as Cyrano de Bergerac,  or the time a guy told me he loved me and I said “what?” But you don’t know about the time my friend dated a guy with the nickname Chester the Molester (actually, I have two friends who dated two different guys with this unfortunate moniker), the first time I was serenaded by a guy, or what buses, bandannas, and Hershey’s Cookie and Cream bars have to do with my love life. I’ll bring on friends to share their funniest escapades, count down our all time favorite romantic comedies and love songs, even host a singles’ dinner and a movie mixer.

If all that doesn’t get you excited about the month of love, maybe this will: I’m running a special in my shop on Altered before the Altar and the study guide. Enter promo code LOVE at checkout, and get $5.00 off plus some fun free gifts with purchase until Friday, February 17. I’m also going to do a couple giveaways for a chance to chase your blues away with fun prizes. There may even be a free sneak peek into my next romance related release for those who participate.

Here’s to a whole month of love and happiness for all of us, friends!

XOXO,

Erica

Behind the Scenes

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Little known fact about me: I love documentaries and “docu-series” about concerts. There’s something about seeing what goes on behind the scenes of performances which gives me a greater appreciation for the show an artist puts on. Seeing performers battle through all the glitches and personal issues to deliver a stellar performance adds a little something special to the pot for me. And I’m nosy. I want to know all the things that go into making the spectacle possible.

I’ve been watching Mariah’s World on E! When I heard about this show, I knew Mariah’s engagement was called off, but I didn’t know anything about the tour or what the show’s spin/angle would be. I wasn’t sure if they would address her broken engagement. I was in it for the behind the scenes peak into what makes a large production run. And to see if she hit her notes. Let’s be real. A couple of her live performances lately haven’t been up to par. Like I said, I’m nosy.

If you’re looking for a point to all of this, here it is: even in concert documentaries, everything you see is carefully curated. We rarely see the real, raw, behind the scenes action. Producers piece together story lines from the raw material. When someone you follow on Instagram posts a hi res photo of their kid having a meltdown or their face sans makeup with a thoughtful caption reminding you not to compare your life to their highlight reel, they aren’t showing you the worst moment of their day. No one stops in the middle of the truly messy moment to whip out their camera or phone and take a picture. They’re too busy trying to deal.

Indeed, we all live our lives this way to varying degrees. Despite our best efforts, all we can process is a carefully curated version of events in our lives. It’s easy to see things from our perspective and believe we are looking at the full picture. It’s easy to miss the nuances, the messages, the moments in which we messed up.  It’s difficult to be real, even with ourselves.

I have this radical goal. My word for 2017 is “share,” and I want to share with you. I want to be honest. But I realize the futility of trying to share everything. Once I start thinking about how to share information, it’s already being curated, placed into a more logical order. I’m drawing conclusions and putting more emphasis on the parts which support my conclusions. I’m thinking of ways to explain away the things which don’t fit.

This is a truth wrestling with since I read this line in The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. DuBois during D.E.A.R. in the eighth grade:

M]emory fails especially in small details, so that it becomes finally but a theory of my life, with much forgotten and misconceived, with valuable testimony but often less than absolutely true despite my best intention

If I’m really going to do this sharing thing, here, on other blogs, or in memoir form, the best I can give you is theory, a true account of my life from my perspective and what I can glean of others’. I’m going to have misconceptions about things that happen. I’m going to forget things. I’m going to gloss over things which may seem vitally important in later years. But I’m going to share, not only my life, struggles, and triumphs, but my God. I’ll share the people who are most important to me, the things I feel are imperative to say, and small things I believe will be important to remember later. Like…

I’m leading a book club. A  younger sister at church asked me to, and I said yes. We have our first meeting Saturday to discuss Make It Happen by Lara Casey.

I have a radio interview next month to talk about my books with my sister in Christ and her listening audience. More details to come.

I started C25K today, and it SUCKED. I got a cramp in my calf and my hip. I paused the program a few times. The 30 minute program took me 45 minutes, an average of two minutes slower per mile than I walk. But I finished.

This is my version of what happens when I stop being polite and start getting real (word to the reality TV show Real World).

XOXO,

Erica

Breaking Up is Good for Your Skin

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Listen, Linda, listen. Things have been changing in my life faster than I can keep up.

If you’ve been reading for a while, you know one of my favorite quotes by Zora Neale Hurston is “there are years that ask questions and years that answer.” Well, 2016 was a year where questions were answered, and 2017 is shaping up to be more of the same.

I am not working for the company I had worked for since November 2008. After nearly eight years, I was canned. Yep. Don’t get me wrong; I was ready to go and was looking into other opportunities, but they were quicker on the draw than I was. I saw the writing on the wall, though. When they called me to the office, I didn’t have to do the walk of shame where they escort you to your desk while you pack your things up and then walk you from the building; I had already taken my personal effects home and took my purse to the meeting.

I’m not going to bash the company. At some points I loved working there. They gave me a lot of opportunities, paid me a fair wage and provided me with great benefits. But in the end, while it was a “good” job, they position I landed in wasn’t right for me. My only regret is I didn’t get to leave of my own accord, not because I wanted to show out when I quit, but because it makes finding a new position a lot harder when you have to check the box that you’ve been fired from a position.

Out with the old and in with the new, right? Except there is no new yet. I’ve had ample time to work on new books and products for Serious Season Press, but I haven’t found a full time job yet. Luckily I had some money I could use in the interim, but the interim needs to end soon. I’ve had the opportunity to do things I never thought I would be able to do with my extra time, and I’ve committed to making the most of it.

Another major life change is I’m single. After nearly nine years, Mr. Perfect and I have broken up. I can imagine your shock, but it’s been coming for a while. It’s been over two months ago now, and I’m doing fine. I’m getting back the bits of myself I lost in my relationship.

People have noticed some changes in me. “You just look so happy.” “Your skin is looking really good!” “You look like you are losing weight.” “You’re glowing.” “You seem more like yourself.” I’ve made a lot of positive changes which have resulted  in many of these good developments people are noticing aside from breaking up, but the break up was…freeing. I don’t have the pressure of when are we going to move forward or why aren’t we moving forward hanging over my head. I don’t have to police being me to suit someone or consider someone. I haven’t been single since I was 22/23, and I’m definitely not that girl-woman anymore.

Another major life change (I know, you’re like really Erica? We can’t stand any more) is I’m moving–again. Somewhere. As yet to be determined. But in the new few months. You see, my roommate is getting married in April (congrats Tasha!) and doesn’t want my team Super Single self underfoot when her boothang moves in (I totally made that up. I knew I’d be moving long before I was Super Single, but it might be true now). So I have to move.

It’s going to be super weird to be single, at a new job, in a new place. Weird but exciting.

There have been some positive changes, too. My relationship with God has grown so much in the past year or so. I have been praying more (using my Serious Prayer Journal which I’ve redesigned), using a quiet time journal (this awesome Give Me Jesus Journal from Life Lived Beautifully), and listening to Christian podcasts, music, and sermons. It may sound weird, but my own book, The Season for Getting Serious, has been a big help to me in this season, especially the chapter on grief, “Bitter, Broken, but Blessed” and the chapter “On the Run”. I’m pumped to dive back in to Altered before the Altar with a fresh perspective, and I’m working on the follow up, which is going to be refining in a way you may not expect!

I’ve gotten more writing and business planning done. I have a mission statement for Serious Season Press. I created a few prints which have been really popular. I have some exciting releases lined up for this year. I’ve been able to focus on what’s next with my writing in a new way. I have an accountability partner I trade writing with again. My pen has been moving swiftly.

I’ve traveled on my own. I have gotten in my car, thrown on a playlist or podcast, and covered hundreds of miles to share my work with other women who want a deeper relationship with Christ. I’ve heard some inspiring, convicting messages and connected with some women who are just as on fire for what God is doing in their lives. I’ve wanted to travel more for a long time, and it’s happening.

Maybe I’m just weird, but this has been a great season to me. Not for nothing. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone and I would rather have not gone through ALL THE THINGS, much less at the same time. But for a long time, I’ve seen what many call failure as opportunity. I now have the opportunity to find a career instead of a job, a man who is just as exciting about marrying me and building with me as I am about it, and a place I can make into my home. I have the opportunity to discover who Erica Denise, 32 (in a month and ten days!), Christian, single, no kids, is. I have a feeling this is going to be a wild ride, and I’ve never shied away from that.

Hands Up (lap bar down,

Erica

I Don’t Know How to Tell You This…

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I’m the type of person you can tell anything. If you tell me your business, it doesn’t end up “in the street.”  You can tell me things you think I should know without “clap back.” But sometimes people still struggle with whether or not to tell me something, or if they decide to tell me, they struggle with how to say it. This is especially true in the area of relationships.

The counterpart to “no snitching” is “if you see something, say something.” Law enforcement has struggled to get it to catch on. It’s even harder to get people to do when it comes to someone’s relationship. Some people will speak up, but they do so in ways that put the other person off, or they do it so often they become the friend who cried “break up with him/her.” Others “what if” themselves out of saying anything: What if I’m wrong? What if the person already knows? What if the person blames me for telling them instead of the person they are in a relationship with? What if that’s just how they roll? I’m closer to the other person in the relationship, so should I say anything? I don’t know them well enough to say anything to them. The list goes on and on like Erykah Badu’s debut single.

I’ve had instances where someone I wouldn’t call a friend had to approach me with some sensitive relationship information. It’s not a situation I’d ever want to be in, but through the experience, I have first hand proof it can be done. My boss at the time saw something she felt she had to bring to my attention. We were NOT friends and she didn’t know much about me outside of work, but she decided to speak up anyway. She prefaced the discussion by saying she didn’t know my relationship or if I already knew about what she was sharing, but if it was her, she would want someone to let her know. She handled the situation delicately, and I was grateful for how she handled it.

Unlike reality TV style drama, when someone comes to you expressing real concerns and misgivings, it can be a life saver. It can save you time, energy, money, heartbreak, heartache, and sanity. It can keep you from making bitter #wastehistime2017 memes or letting your inner Petty Boop out in other ways all over social media.

As someone who has had to be the friend who spoke up as well as the recipient of the relationship penalty flag, I’ve noticed these things work best when sharing sensitive info about someone’s “boo”:

  1. Consider how you would like someone to share this information with you, especially if you don’t know them well. Also, consider the person in question. What sort of approach would they appreciate?
  2. Do it privately. Don’t put anyone’s business out on front street. You’re being “messy” and trying to embarrass them when you do it in public. No one wants to hear anything from Petty Patti.
  3. State the facts, not your opinion. If you stick to what you actually witnessed or experienced, and not your feelings or thoughts on it, you give the person the chance to think it through and draw their own conclusions. You also lessen the chance they will go on the offensive and spend more time defending their partner than hearing what you’re saying.
  4. Encourage the person to discuss things with their partner. They need to handle the issue in-house. Don’t turn it into a bashing session. Redirect them to the person they are in a relationship with to clarify things. Perhaps they don’t have the same understanding of their relationship status as their partner. Either way, they need to talk it out.
  5. Avoid telling  people what they need to do. More often than not, this just pushes the person into defense mode. Asking questions and offering support is a much more effective tactic.
  6. What they do with the information is their business. If they decide to stay in the relationship or end it, it’s their decision. If they regret it later or express the sentiment they should have listened to you, don’t beat them up about it.

Telling people after the relationship has broken up is rarely helpful. Most people do this because they wanted to spare the person’s feelings or didn’t know how to tell the person, but as with discipline, when you spare the information, you spoil the child. Who knows how much heartache and wasted time could have been avoided if you spoke up? No one. But there’s a whole lot of petty gossipping and bashing that can be avoided when you don’t start saying what you should have said when it happened.

It’s not always easy to decide when to speak up and when to keep something to yourself, especially about someone’s relationship, but hopefully the things I listed will give you something to think about and help you decide when to be someone’s wise counsel or listening ear.

Update: Not So Dirty 30

At nearly 32, I’ve done approximately half of the things on this list.

1. I want to write and publish another book. I wrote and published The Season for Getting Serious at 31 and four months, but I did it.

2. I want to take more vacations. I’ve taken a lot of trips, but they’ve been to sell books and attend conferences. So…sorta??

3. I want to speak at least once at a conference. I spoke at a ladies day (twice) and a workshop. I haven’t been a keynote speaker, which is what I was going for, but I can live with that.

4. I want to open an online shop for my books and other accessories. I opened my online shop, Serious Season Press, through Square in July, and I’ve fulfilled some orders!

5. I want to develop a class based on Altered before the Altar. I developed a schedule and an outline…and nobody signed up and I chickened out. But I’m doing it in 2017. I’m going to record videos, start a closed Facebook group, and dedicate a section of the Altered before the Altar site to the class. So excited!!

6. I want to publish a fiction book. I still haven’t done this…but I will.

7. I want to turn my living space into a home. Um…I don’t really know where I’ll be living come March (again with March moving. Why?!), and with everything feeling so transitory and temporary, I haven’t done this. But I should, shouldn’t I?

8. I want to create a dedicated writing/office space in my home. See #7

9. I want to lose 25 pounds.–Well, no. But good news is I have been eating better and exercising. I see changes. And I’m making changes and celebrating the little by little. The best part is it’s for me, not anyone else. 😀

10. I want to break a certain pay threshold (Yes, I have a number in mind; no I’m not telling). Good news: I broke it! Bad news: I don’t have that job anymore. Also good news: I don’t have that job anymore.

11. Sell the next hundred (100) copies of Altered before the Altar.  Done and done! And in one calendar year (2016). Thank you all for supporting this work.

12. Go to at least 3 more conferences. In 2016 alone, I went to the Ladies Conference in Brunswick, the National Ladies Lectureship in Alabama, The National Singles Seminar in Orlando, and the Christian Acappella Music Awards, along with several song fests, ladies’ days, and an All White Ladies Night.

13. Learn to create my own book covers. Not only did I learn how, I created my own covers for three projects. I am still a beginner and haven’t done anything overly complicated with my covers, but I took my own pictures, designed my own layout, choose my own colors and fonts, and got it uploaded successfully.

14. Lead a class on self-publishing. I’ve spoken about this at two different events, and one of them was actually a workshop/class. I want to offer a class where people have a chance to do more hands on things with publishing, but I’m counting this as a win.

15. Start offering proofreading services. I am offering proofreading services now. You can email me at inquiries[at]aseriousseason[dot]com for a quote for your project.

16. Start a book club. I’ve been trying, but everyone’s schedule isn’t cooperating. We shall see what happens.

17. Register as a business. I sorta did…then I moved to a different county. I need to do so much updating of this and get a business account and all the things. 2017. I’m doing it.

18. Shoot at least one Youtube video. I shot one. It’s posted. I’m never giving anyone a link to it because it’s horrible, but I did it. I even did a couple Periscopes. Totally counts.

19. Start a podcast. I thought I wanted to do this. I love interviewing people. LOVE it. And I love recording what I’m meditating on with my digital recorder. But I don’t know if I want to host a podcast. I think I would love to be ON a podcast, but running one isn’t something I want to pursue anymore.

20. Improve my business cards. I did this, and I really like the new business cards. They are clean, simple, and show more of the heart of my business on them than the old cards with Altered on them.

21. Create a professional vendor table setup for events. I still play around with different elements of the setup depending on the event and what new products I have, but I have the core style down.

22. Run a 5k (actually run the whole time). Nope. Maybe I will at some point, but I haven’t.

23. Find my fit/workout passion. Sorta. More on this later.

24. Drastically cut carbs. No. And to be honest, I haven’t wanted to. But I have found myself eating less of them naturally. When I try to force myself to eat healthy, I eat all the carbs. So maybe it’s best to listen to my body here instead of forcing it.

25. Get a facial. No. You will notice it’s “no”  or “sorta” for every other self-care thing on this list. Because, apparently, I’m always the last priority on my list of things to attend to. *I think I said something significant there*

26. Get a professional massage. No. I need one. But no.

27. Write a business  plan. Nope. Again, I need one. But no. Because I’ve wrestled with thinking of writing books as a business since day one and only got comfortable with the idea this year.

28. Start paying student loans consistently. *Cries* No. *Cries all the tears*

29. Contribute an article to a widely read magazine. Nope. I haven’t written an article or submitted it anywhere. Zero effort has gone into making this happen.

30. Develop my fashion sense/individual style. No, but I have been trying different things with my hair and putting more effort into other aspects of my personal style. It’s a slow process.

Paring Down and Ramping Up!

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In the month since I’ve written, I’ve been laying the groundwork to reach a few of my goals and to get things moving in the right direction overall. Sometimes life has intruded and kept me from writing, sometimes I’ve felt I have nothing to say, and other times, I’ve been so busy doing that I haven’t been writing. But rest assured, I am committed to getting back into the swing of things and writing here and elsewhere much more often.

For the last couple weekends, I’ve been moving. Moving has been a really big chore for me, mainly because only myself and Mr. Perfect have been doing all the heavy lifting. Yesterday was the day we rented a truck from Budget Rental and got the big things taken care of. When I say the big things, I mean two desks, a bookshelf, a large DVD shelving unit, a file cabinet, a chair, a futon, a queen sized pillow top mattress and its box spring, a dining room table and chairs, two coffee tables, an end table, an office chair, and probably something else my brain isn’t remembering but every muscle in my back, arms, and legs remembers intimately.

I gave a bunch of things to Goodwill and have a lot of things to go through and give away. It feels so freeing to go through my things and get rid of what I don’t use or need. I needed to get rid of some things because I’m now living with a roommate and have less space, but I didn’t realize how good it would feel to have less of certain things. I’ve gone through shoes and furniture; now I have to go through clothing to see what I have that needs to be trashed or donated. If you have the opportunity to do so while you’re spring cleaning, I encourage you to donate and pare down your possessions.

I’m still not done moving, but everything else can be accomplished with a couple more car trips and storage totes. Then it’s on to changing my address on a million forms and getting more settled in a new morning routine. Then it’s on to the financial goals.

In non-moving related news, I entered the first page of a new story in Harlequin’s Book to Blurb competition for their Love Inspired lines. It’s a story in a series that I’ve been working on for over a year now. It’s not the first book at the moment, but it’s turning out to be one of my favorites. I’m hoping to advance to the next round, which consists of the first three chapters and a synopsis.

I commissioned a cover for my NaNoWriMo 2013 story, to be released under a pen name. I’m waiting to see what the artist has come up with. It’s the first book in a romantic suspense series that I’m testing the fiction self-publishing waters with this year. I love this story and can’t wait until it’s available. I have the second and third books in the series on the go, on the back burner while I work on book to blurb, but very much in process.

Of course, I’m working on my second non-fiction book as well. I have two possibilities–a follow up to Altered before the Altar and my book focused on the Wilderness experience of the children of Israel. There’s still a lot to muddle through on both fronts, but both are developing well.

I received permission to sign up for a class to get my claims adjusting license in April. This will better position me in my current role and lead to opportunities to be promoted to a new role. The goal is a higher position and salary in the department I currently work in. We’ll see how well this strategy works.

I’ve signed up to review a ton of books and have interviews, guest posts and other fun book related posts over at Copywrite1985. Please join me there if you like romance/romantic fiction, suspense, writing related books and posts, and any literature/literary news that strikes my fancy.

Not so Dirty 30

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I am 30 years old today.

Ladies and gents, it’s the big one. It’s a monumental birthday. I survived my twenties, all that jazz. Time to do something big. Chop all my hair off. Quit my job. Go on an African safari. Elope. Do. SOMETHING. Preferably something big and life altering. Things are never going to be the same after today.

Except…they are. You and I both know it. Change doesn’t really happen overnight or at the turn of a calendar page. The God I serve exists outside of time and isn’t confined by time, so when things are happening on his time, I can’t put my timetable on it. I am so content where I am! I’m alive! There are so many people in this world who have it so much worse than I do. I LOVE where I am and what I’ve accomplished!

Except…I don’t. Not really. I feel like I could have done so much more with thirty years. I know, there are people who are amazed at what I’ve done and who think that I am years ahead of where they were or I should be, but deep down, I know I was capable of even more in these years. I could have reached so many more women by now. I could have so many more books out. I could drown in or be smothered by all that I left undone and unsaid, opportunities I could never get back, but that’s not going to change a thing.

So, if I’m going to be honest with you about turning 30, I have to say that thirty feels…disjointed. Imbalanced. I’m vacillating between feeling grateful for what I have accomplished and feeling compelled to do more. I’ve spent a few years doing busy work and now I feel like I’m starting to do more of what some call walking in purpose and others call pursuing my passion, with a few more starts and a few less stops. I’ve made enough progress that I’ve left my comfort zone behind. It’s hard sometimes not to run back to its safety, but I’m getting better at being exposed.

I’m working on ideas that would have seems overwhelming a year ago. To me, that’s progress. Progress is so much better than not trying for fear of failure. I’ve had some “no’s” and setbacks, but I’m ultimately still moving forward, which is the only way to get anywhere.

So, 30 for 30. What do I want to work on the year I am thirty?

1. I want to write and publish another book.

2. I want to take more vacations.

3. I want to speak at least once at a conference.

4. I want to open an online shop for my books and other accessories.

5. I want to develop a class based on Altered before the Altar.

6. I want to publish a fiction book.

7. I want to turn my living space into a home.

8. I want to create a dedicated writing/office space in my home.

9. I want to lose 25 pounds.

10. I want to break a certain pay threshold (Yes, I have a number in mind; no I’m not telling).

11. Sell the next hundred (100) copies of Altered before the Altar.

12. Go to at least 3 more conferences.

13. Learn to create my own book covers.

14. Lead a class on self-publishing.

15. Start offering proofreading services.

16. Start a book club.

17. Register as a business.

18. Shoot at least one Youtube video

19. Start a podcast

20. Improve my business cards

21. Create a professional vendor table setup for events.

22. Run a 5k (actually run the whole time)

23. Find my fit/workout passion.

24. Drastically cut carbs.

25. Get a facial.

26. Get a professional massage.

27. Write a business  plan.

28. Start paying student loans consistently.

29. Contribute an article to a widely read magazine.

30. Develop my fashion sense/individual style.

I have to admit some of the items on the list scare me a bit. But the overwhelming feeling I have looking at this list is one of excitement. I know I can tick off every single one of these items if I work with God instead of going out ahead of Him. I believe it’s all within my reach and more importantly, in line with God’s will for my life. Now all that remains is to do it.

XOXO,

Erica

“30 years of awesome”

30 for 30

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In about 32 days, I will be 30.

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Yeah, I’m still processing that myself. In all of this day to day hustle and bustle of life, time has been marching on. That makes me sad to think about all of the days that I was just trying to get through, all the weeks I was looking forward to getting over and done with. It makes me want so much more for myself, to be so much more fulfilled.

I know what you’re thinking. “Of course you feel that way now. Thirty is just one of those birthdays where people have another quarter life crisis. You did the same thing at 25, and you might keel over from the crisis when you turn 40. Get over it.” It’s just another birthday, another day on the calendar. My life isn’t that bad, blah blah.

Here’s the thing, though. I didn’t sign up to live a life that’s “not that bad.” I didn’t sign up to live a life of mediocre days that I just wanted to be over so I could reach the weekend, my payday, my vacation time, etc. I am tired of wasting days that should be spent doing something that I feel adds to other people’s lives and pushes them closer to Christ.

It seems ungrateful of me, and downright stupid, for Christ to come so that I can have this more abundant life and I’m just…existing. Just…trying to make it. To just see glimpses of what it truly means to be living out my purpose. To see other people stepping out on faith and doing these great things and yearn for a chance to follow my dreams and ambitions that way.

I say none of this to negate the things I have accomplished and do enjoy in my life. God blessed me to write an amazing book. I’m starting to get requests to speak at events and have secured spots to be a vendor at others. I’ve been working on other writing projects and working to get more of them out into the world. I’ve been focusing on deepening and improving my relationships. I’ve seen a lot of growth within myself.

But sometimes, when I look at the complete picture of my life as an almost thirty year old, I feel like I’m behind. It can be difficult to restrain myself from trying to “catch up,” to believe that I’m right on time for my life. Things haven’t happened when I wanted them to, but they are happening when they are supposed to happen.

I have to be honest: sometimes it sure doesn’t feel that way. I could bury myself in I should have been statements. I read a story at least once a day of someone quitting their job to pursue their dream or their calling, or someone who decides to get married and plans this beautiful wedding in two months because they don’t want to wait to start life together. I see people who have fought their way into their dream jobs, who finally found homes to buy, who have birthed babies. I see all of these people who are where I thought I would be this close to thirty and far beyond. It’s not that what I had planned was so impossible, so unattainable; it just didn’t happen for me.

The other day after a particularly bad day at work, I sat in my car so frustrated. I longed to be able to listen to someone coming down on me for something so ridiculous and say, as calmly as you please “That’s cool. Consider this my two weeks.” But…bills. Responsibilities. Obligations. Necessities like food and water and lights. I don’t get to quit my day job to chase my purpose. If I don’t do whatever it is, there is no one else. If I’m ever going to be able to write and speak full time, it’s going to take a lot more time and planning.

As I’ve been examining every nook and cranny of my life, there are so many things that need to change, many of which are coming to a head. The time to act on them is at hand. I’m not going to worry about the things I can’t control, only those I can. In the next 30-ish days, I’m going to share what I’m going to be working on the year that I am 30.

XOXO,

Erica