A Positive Thought For Today… and Every Day.

A quick tip for staying home and staying positive.

In this time of social distancing and staying home, some people are feeling very restricted and isolated. It’s easy for people to give into negativity and resentment, particularly if they are used to being out and about and interacting with people.  It’s crucial that we don’t fall into that trap, especially as it is, in all likelihood, only early days yet. 

I have one single thought to share with you today which has the power to completely change a person’s perspective and re-focus their thoughts in much healthier directions. 

Don’t think about what you can’t do. Think about what you can do. 

This is going to be my response to every expression of negativity about staying home.  

Image by Wortflow from Pixabay

Staying Informed Without Getting Overloaded

How can we keep things in perspective and maintain a positive balance during the corona virus pandemic?

During any crisis, be it war, fire, flood, famine or pestilence, it’s important to stay up to date with important information, but it’s also really easy to be overloaded by non-stop discussion and bombardment by both media and social channels. 

In recent weeks, it seems that every time one turns the radio on or watches anything on commercial television, the only thing anyone talks about is corona virus related. It’s relentless. Government officials, scientists, medical authorities, celebrities, talk shows, podcasts, and current affairs specials are all contributing to the conversations, with varying degrees of accuracy and relevance. Every news bulletin tells us how many people have been diagnosed and how many have died. 

It would be quite possible to consume media about global developments, self isolation, quarantine, and empty supermarket shelves all day, every day— and there are probably people doing that. 

That’s not healthy. 

It very quickly becomes emotionally  and mentally  overwhelming , and can blow out into quite disproportionate fear and paranoia. 

We are all as susceptible to that as anyone else, so it is important to strike a balance between keeping abreast of what we need to know and limiting the amount of constant discussion about the virus that we allow into each day. 

My strategies and decisions for achieving this include: 

  • Being very selective about where I get my news and information. Each day, I inform myself via reputable and balanced news services. Then I turn my focus to other things. 
  • Choosing to deliberately reject “fear language” and negativity, because that doesn’t help anyone. 
  • Being discerning about the content of social media feeds, and how much time is spent reading them.
    Keep in mind that social media is very rarely one of those reputable and balanced news services. There’s a lot of misinformation out there.
    The “mute” functionality is very useful in those circumstances.
  • Adopting an “only positive” approach to sharing and promoting other people’s content. If it’s encouraging, entertaining and constructive, share away. Spread that stuff around like a five year old sprinkles glitter. 
  • Occupying our thoughts with productive and proactive things. Whether that is work, recreational, or creating positive content for our own social media depends on the needs and demands of each day.
  • Balancing the amount of screen time in each day with screen-free time. Especially in these times of social distancing, it’s vital to ensure that healthy habits are maintained. Go for a walk, enjoy some sunshine or look at the night sky, prepare and enjoy good food, talk with family and friends, dance to a favourite tune or two, read a book, play with the dog, clean out a cupboard or pull some weeds in the garden… the possibilities are myriad. 
  • Keeping things in perspective. Yes, there is a global health crisis making many people sick and curtailing personal and social freedoms. People are losing jobs and businesses as a result. The economy is wallowing. It is a very serious situation. 
    At the same time, most of us are simply being asked to stay home and find ways to entertain ourselves. It might be inconvenient, and we might have to abandon or change plans, but it is still a much better option than what some people are facing.
  • Supporting local community. When you do need to buy things, try to invest in local and small businesses so that they can survive the crisis, too. This can help you to develop a sense of connection and belonging that is as encouraging for you as it is for the folk you support. 
    An additional benefit is that many small businesses are currently offering contactless shopping and delivery options at no extra expense, and the quality of the goods and services they offer often far surpasses their bigger competitors.

We can’t control the virus, but we can control our own responses to the disruption and social climate it has created. By being proactive about keeping informed and staying positive, we can avoid being overwhelmed by the volume of discussion and the fear and negativity that can so easily take hold as a result. 

Staying informed without getting overwhelmed during the #Coronavirus #pandemic
#perspective #mentalwellbeing #blogpost

Image by Wortflow from Pixabay

How To Not Make Someone Feel Worse Than They Already Do

Despite having worked hard, going more than one “extra mile” and achieving some good things, I have spent much of the past  few days feeling absolutely, irretrievably inferior. Totally sub-standard. An awful disappointment.

It’s not a new experience, by any stretch of the imagination. It happens far more often than most people will ever know or realise. Even so, it is never pleasant feeling as though most of the world thinks you’re rubbish. 

It’s not as though any of us is perfect. I certainly make no claim to be… which is a good thing because I am most definitely not.

And yet, when others discover a flaw or weakness, or find I have made a mistake, they very often speak or act as though they feel they have a right to be outraged and judge me for my imperfection. 

So here’s a news flash. 

I am not perfect. 
Neither are you. 
Everyone makes mistakes. 
Everyone misses a beat every now and then. 

But you know what is more hurtful than someone making a mistake? 
Treating them as though they are less than you. 

Because, you know, they’re not. 

If someone does something that bothers you, or offends you, and you feel the need to talk to them about it, for goodness’ sake, be kind. And if you can’t be kind, then wait until you can. 

And please, please, oh please, go to them and speak to them rather than anyone else. Going behind their back and kvetching about it is only ever going to cause more complications and trouble, so unless that is your actual intent, it is a response that should be avoided.

Similarly, there is nothing achieved by being judgemental. In fact, it is entirely counterproductive. 

Sure, they might comply with what you ask or insist of them. But they might do that if you simply asked them to do something to resolve the issue, too— especially if you ask nicely and say please.

The saying that “you get more out of people with honey than you do with a stick” became a proverb for a reason: it is generally true. It is certainly true of how I respond to people. 

If someone treats me with kindness, I will do everything in my power to not let them down. 
If they dump judgement on me, I am just going to keep on beating myself up over it, because if someone tells me I am not good enough, I will believe them. I will also probably never again fully believe that they have any respect for me at all. 

And if someone else, completely unknown to them and in different circumstances, tells me the same thing, I will believe both of them, twice as hard and twice as long. 

It’s not deliberate, and it doesn’t matter if that is not your intention: that’s how I am wired. 

The consequence is that it makes everything I need to do in a day more difficult. I doubt myself and second guess everything, even the things I know I am good at. 

To be honest, life is actually hard enough without that. It’s bad enough knowing that I made the mistake in the first place, or that someone resents me for not measuring up to their standards. Add chronic pain, anxiety and depression into the mix, and it very quickly becomes both exhausting and excruciating. 

It’s almost certain that that doesn’t just apply to me, either. Many people have internal battles or burdens of one kind or another that they keep hidden, but which add another level of complexity to whatever else they have to deal with in a day. 

So when someone screws up— and we should all understand that everyone will, from time to to time— be kind. Tell them gently, person to person, and let them fix it, or at least try to. 

Please. And thank you. 

Can the Cold Case of Book Marketing Be Solved?

Everything David Gittlin has written in this post sounds remarkably familiar to me, as my own experiences are very similar.

This is precisely one of the reasons that I developed some budget-friendly book promotion options for Indie authors via Book Squirrel – it costs a lot less per month to get your book seen by people than it cost me, or David Gittlin, or countless others for that matter, for the months of promotion paid for with very low return. 

Of course, I don’t pretend that Book Squirrel is the entire solution. No one package ever is. But his options for book promotion definitely offer a few affordable opportunities, and provide some valuable parts of a good overall promotion plan. 

The other thing to keep in mind that promotion will not always directly result in sales. It’s also about building familiarity with your book and brand, getting your name out there, developing some credibility and presenting opportunities for people to think about your book as well as to buy it. Realistically, very few people will immediately buy a book by someone they haven’t heard of: in fact, very few people immediately buy a book by someone they have heard of. Those readers who have a “one click” response to books and authors are worth their weight in gold. 

A Writer's Path

by David Gittlin

Comparatively speaking, writing a novel is the fun, easy, first step of the self-publishing process. The second step, creating an attention-getting book cover, offers its own unique set of challenges. However, the most intimidating and difficult undertaking, to most authors, is the third step—marketing. The word strikes terror in many authors’ sensitive little hearts because they want as little to do with the outside world as possible.

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Did That Dragon Call My Name?

Image by ArtsyBee on Pixabay

In her blogpost titled ‘Did That Dragon Call My Name?’ Susan Bass Marcus reflects on why she enjoys writing her blog.  Like her and, I’m sure, many other authors, I really enjoy writing my blog as a different form of creative outlet than writing fiction. 

Mine is quite an eclectic blog, I suppose. Shakespeare, my love of words and language, books and reading, life as an Indie author, teacher life, my involvement in community and school theatre— it’s all fodder for my musings and ruminations here at WordyNerdBird.

I enjoy the opportunities to explore ideas that I would not seek to explore in fiction. There are some aspects of life that are well suited to inclusion in a story, and others that really don’t work so well, yet they are still worth thinking about and exploring. 

It’s good to share aspects of my life – as a teacher, an author, a poet, a reader, an actor or director, a blogger, or a member of the human race – in a way that others can hopefully relate to and feel as though they know me a little better each time. I also hope that some of those posts are thought-provoking and help others to see things from a different perspective. 

I love sharing what I know about Shakespeare and making his writing more accessible to new readers. I try to do that in a way that is down-to-earth and easy to read, so that my pieces are interesting, enlightening and not too long. 

I always hope that people will find my posts about choosing and using the right words helpful to them, whether they are students, authors, bloggers, or whatever else they do. I love language and how it works, which definitely qualifies me as a grammar nerd and a word nerd, and I appreciate the opportunities to share that knowledge and joy with others that a blog like mine provides. 

Susan Bass Marcus blogs quite differently than I do, because we are individuals with different styles and interests. Her posts are interesting and helpful, so I trust you will enjoy her reflection on the pleasure she gets from blogging, too. She is definitely a blogger worth following, and an author worth reading.

Susan Bass Marcus Writes

I am used to imagining the ways that dragons think and respond to  humans, to change, and to challenges. For years, I studied dragon lore and felt the need to write my own story about them, which I did; and while two novels about the dragons that inhabit my mind have been published, I am still writing about them. Why? Because I have more to say. In a way, I have just begun to tell their story. Aurykk, the golden dragon, and his nephew Draaco, call my name and I answer, but not without feeling some anxiety and hesitation. It’s that darn opening paragraph.

A member of the Chicago Writers’ Association, Andrew Reynolds, once posted a blog entry that summarized responses to a question he threw out to the membership: Why [do] we write? His post: “[W]hen the question popped up as part of a discussion about writing among a group of writers I am…

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Not Wrong.

My friends and I were standing in front of a portrait of Oliver Cromwell at the Tudors to Windsors portrait exhibition at the art gallery in Bendigo. .   

As I often do, I added my own commentary. In a posh English accent and lower vocal register, I quipped, “Look at me being all godly and humble and unroyal and stuff before I go and kill a bunch of people and destroy all the monasteries… you know, on God’s behalf.”

A well-dressed elderly gentleman had come to stand beside me. When I finished speaking, he added in a crisp, upper class accent: “Bastard.”
He was not wrong. 

The View From The Top Of The Mountain

Why it’s been two weeks since I last wrote a blog post.

Wait.
What?
It’s the end of December already?

What a busy month it’s been.  The last time I wrote on this blog, I bragged about turning my alarms off and being able to relax because school was done for the year. HA! Add that to the list of things I shouldn’t say if I don’t want to tempt the fates. 

In the few days between school finishing and Christmas, my father had a slew of medical appointments. Christmas shopping had to be done. End of year breakup parties had to be attended. Some decoration of the house, at least, had to be done. Then the presents had to be wrapped. And all the time, people kept telling me to take it easy, to not worry about things, and to not feel I had to do all the usual Christmas things.

I did have to, though. My husband’s family were all coming for Christmas, and mine were arriving shortly after, so I needed to make some effort. I’m glad I did, too – we had thirty people sharing Christmas lunch in our home. Everyone brought part of the feast with them, so my contribution was minimal – I made a chocolate honeycomb cheesecake, a trifle, and the maple glaze for the ham, all of which were done the day before. 

My husband and I had agreed well before the day that it would be better to leave the running of the day to him and his sisters, so that I could preserve both my back and my energy.  There is, after all, no point in undoing weeks of healing for in the course of one busy day. 

My Christmas Day was, therefore, quite relaxed. I was able to relax in my recliner and cuddle my adorable great-nephew, drink whatever lovely cordial was in the glasses that people handed to me, and enjoy a wonderful day of fun, laughter, conversation and sharing with my family. In the late afternoon, we went to visit our best friends and exchanged gifts before sharing dinner with them.  That time, too, was precious and relaxing and lovely.

Boxing Day for us is always a day spent with extended family and friends, so we gathered at my sister-in-law’s home for a barbecue with another group of thirty or so people – some were double-ups from the previous day, some were not – on a blazing hot 40 degrees Celsius Australian summer’s day. Thank God for shade, fans, and lots of cool drinks!

Tomorrow, my sister and her family arrive from interstate for a second Christmas, and to spend some valuable time with my father. And that means it’s going to be busy again! 

For that reason, I was determined that today would be blissfully quiet. It was stinking hot again: 41C in the coolest part of mainland Australia – so I stayed indoors and enjoyed the air conditioning. Thankfully, I managed to catch up on some social media and prepare the rest of Book Squirrel’s Golden Squirrel Indie Book Awards for the 31st, which I really needed to get done so that everything is properly prepared and ready to roll. 

So, I really shouldn’t have made flippant remarks about being able to relax. It’s true I’ve been able to sleep in a bit, and I haven’t had to put real shoes on more than once, which is always nice.

In all honesty, though, getting to the end of this year feels like I’ve climbed a mountain to find that I’m standing on top and looking out to the western horizon as the sun sets.

I’m thankful to have survived the journey thus far, and I can see how far I have come.  One thing is for sure, though – I won’t complain if 2019 is kinder than its predecessor.

Ten Ways We Can Start To Change the World For Our Kids. 

When I was 20, I pledged to never buy another women’s magazine.

Even then I was frustrated by the unrealistic body image they consistently communicated to women.  It wasn’t long before that extended to the “cool” publications like Cleo and Cosmo, which I had convinced myself were different because they provided helpful articles on makeup, health and other issues relevant to younger women.
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Okay, so I was deluded about that, but it didn’t last long once I observed that these magazines also projected false and unrealistic body images that neither I, nor most of the young women I knew, could ever hope to meet.
 For longer than anyone can remember, our western society has had  an unhealthy fixation on looks. We’ve been getting it wrong since long before Henry VIII married Anne of Cleves based entirely on her portrait and promptly divorced her the minute he met her in person, citing as his reason the fact that she looked like a horse.
And it’s only getting worse. Chlidren as young as five or six are no strangers to the words “cute”, “handsome” and even “sexy”. Pre-teen kids have body image issues and the eating disorders that go with them. Peer pressure and bullying are daily realities in every school and friendship group that our kids belong to. Marketing is aimed at wearing the right clothes, having the right look, and doing what everyone else does. Social media can take those problems right into kids’ own homes. And it happens to boys every bit as much as it happens to girls.
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When does a kid ever get a chance to be themselves?
 
All of this leads to one challenging question: How do we swim against the stream when the current is so strong?
My answer is that we need to invest differently in people.  We need to model much more healthy and constructive behaviour, and encourage others to do the same.
Let me say straight up that I don’t have kids of my own. I have, however, been very active in helping a lot of friends and family raise theirs. Our house has, quite literally, been a second home for more than a handful of teenagers over the years. I’ve also been a teacher, youth leader and mentor for almost thirty years. It’s this accumulated experience upon which I base these comments.

 

I don’t have all the answers. Nobody does.
But I do have a few ideas about how we can start.

 

This is my starter list:

10 Ways We Can Change The World For Our Kids

  1. Don’t put kids or other people down. Ever. I can’t stress this enough. Never tell kids, or anyone else, they are stupid, useless or worthless. Criticise a behaviour if you need to, but do not make it about the whole person.
  2. Stop buying into what the media tell us is ideal. Choosing not to surround yourself and your kids with unattainable ideals helps to take your focus off how far short we fall. This decision had a significant effect in my own life, so I am speaking from experience here.
  3. Stop commenting on how people look. Whether someone looks beautiful, tired, or exhausted, don’t say so. Don’t comment on whether someone has lost or gained weight – in this case especially, you can safely assume that they already know. Just don’t comment on anything external. Chances are, the less you comment on it, the less you will think about it. And the more you think and talk about those things, so will your kids.
  4. Instead, comment on things that have intrinsic value. Statements such as “I love it when you smile like that!” or “You did such a good job of that! Well done” can make such a difference to someone because they emphasise one’s value rather than looks. Saying “I really appreciate your kindness” (or any other value) reinforces that behaviour as well as encouraging the person who hears it.
  5. Discuss celebrities differently. Instead of saying “I wish I looked like that!”, discuss the positive qualities of a person or the character they portray. There will doubtless also be opportunities to discuss negative behaviours and messages. Be honest about the consequences those behaviours carry for real people, even if they’re made to look funny’ popular or “cool”.
  6. Don’t comment on your kids’ or your own health, weight or fitness. Make an effort to do something about it instead of commenting on it. Model behaviours for your kids that help to establish habits that will help you as well as them – provide better food, go for a walk, go to the gym together or take up a hobby together. It doesn’t have to cost more to be better for you.
  7. Discuss feelings and values in a positive and purposeful way. Not every feeling or experience shared will be positive, but honest discussion lets kids and young adults know it’s okay to not always feel great about things and teaches them ways to handle different emotions and experiences. This encourages self-awareness, but more importantly, it builds honest communication and relationship that both they and you will value enormously.
  8. Make an investment of time, more than money, in people, especially in your kids. It won’t matter to kids what they have if they feel unloved or undervalued. Take an active interest in each one and find out what matters to them.  Building a strong, loving relationship with your child is the best gift you can ever give them. It will bear fruit in every other relationship they have.
  9. Celebrate worthwhile achievements. “You did it!” should be more valuable than “You’re so pretty!”
  10. Be realistic and constructive about disappointments and failure. Make sure they know you care about their disappointment and hurt. Don’t tell them it doesn’t matter, because it does matter to them – at least for now. In time, they will be ready for you to help them see the bigger picture and refocus their efforts and priorities.
We can’t expect to change the whole world. However, we can influence the way they see themselves, and we can influence the way our own kids see, experience and respond to the world they live in.  

And there’s no better time to start than today.

Silent Night by Alana Conway at Carols by Candlelight, Melbourne 2013

Christmas Eve was busy in our household.
We started with a family dinner which included the festive crackers that we would normally have on Christmas Day, as different members of our family were going different ways to be with other family the following day.
We had food to prepare for the big family lunch that we were planning to attend. We had presents to put under the tree.
We had to get Little Miss Chatterbox into bed and asleep, so that we could organise Santa’s visit in peace. Once that happened, we could start putting out the Santa presents for the family.
Before that, however, we chose to indulge in something that has long been a Christmas tradition in my family. We gathered around the TV, with only artificial candles to light the room, and watched the Carols By Candlelight being broadcast from the Sidney Myer Music Bowl in Melbourne.
Carols By Candlelight has become an Australian tradition. Singers and TV celebrities perform Christmas songs for a live audience, who are welcome to sing along, dance, and enjoy the show. There’s a fantastic choir, another choir full of children, and a magnificent orchestra. It really is fabulous viewing.
Of course, there’s a bit of commercial promotion for the companies that sponsor the production. Once you get past that, you can relax and really start to get into the spirit of Christmas.
Last night, watching and singing along was a welcome break in an incredibly busy day and night.
Among the fun, tinsel, and standard carols, there were a few standout performances.
The performance by Alana Conway of “Silent Night” was my favourite. It was simple and beautiful, and absolutely took my breath away.
It also reminded me, in all my hustle and bustle, of the simplicity of the message of Christmas – on a silent night, with nobody “important” taking any notice, Jesus was born to a simple peasant girl. He came as the Messiah to bring life, healing and grace to a world that was broken by sin.
Please don’t be offended by that statement – I do realise that some people might be. 
I’m not here to push my faith onto you or to insist you believe as I do.  I’m just reflecting on my experiences last night and how they affected me in terms of my attitude and my perspective.

This gentle reminder really changed my perspective and feelings about what I still had to do that night. Every gift I gave was a reminder of the gift that God gave us on that silent night in Bethlehem. Every song I sang along with was a reminder of God’s love and grace. Every message to a friend was a reminder of the blessing they have been to me. Every gift placed under the tree brought anticipation of the response of the recipient. Everything was full of joy, even though I was exhausted.

It doesn’t take much to remind us of the important things in life. I’m so glad of the reminder that was delivered so breathtakingly last night.

I hope the video blesses you the way it blessed me.
I hope for some of the peace, joy and reflection of Christmas to be yours today and always.