Be Yourself: Let Life Tap Its Toes to Your Beat

A couple of weeks ago, I heard a dean of admissions from the University of Virginia speak on the dreaded subject of the college essay.

The gist of his speech?  Be the best YOU.

He said, every year he reads countless essays from prospective applicants trying to be who they think UVA wants them to be.

Topics like,

Thomas Jefferson is my role model.

The Louisiana Purchase and me.

Why I Believe the Declaration of Independence Rocks!

And countless other themes that manage to mention the lawn, the academical village, or the rotunda.

 

The lawn at the University of Virginia.

 

These essays are not endearing to the admissions staff.

Because Thomas Jefferson founded the University of Virginia, and writing about him is a warning that student X is trying to push his or her unique, but angular self into the UVA circle.

And losing an opportunity to be themselves.

It got me thinking how this applies to so many things. How many times are you filling something out and you see:

Tell us a little something about yourself.

Or what about those bio fields in social media? Or if you’re a writer, what about the author blurb, or About Me page?

Like the college essay, these descriptions could be your one shot to sum up YOU.

Maybe you’re thinking they’ll eventually see who you are, but what if that first impression is your only opportunity to go from person X, to the eXtra special, unique you?

For instance, UVA gets twenty-nine thousand applicants a year.  Pinterest currently has forty million users. Twitter even more. And hundreds of thousands of books are published in the U.S. every year.

There’s bound to be A LOT of circles.  And when you’ve seen one circle, well…they all blur into one massive blob. They become like white noise.

If you’re trying to make an impact, looking for connections, or just trying to be seen, then you don’t want to be the white noise.

If you want to be found, then you kind of have to let your INNER WALDO shine. 

 

Not that it’s easy. I struggle with filling out those short bios.  Here’s the latest author bio I’ve written.

Coleen Patrick grew up in New Jersey, Virginia, Michigan, Louisiana, and Indiana. Always being the new kid, she learned that books and friends are precious—and dessert. She never met a dessert she didn’t like (except for flan). 

When she’s not writing, reading (or avoiding flan), she enjoys TV, arts and crafts, quoting movies, and trying to take cool photos.

She lives in Virginia with her husband and two kids.

 

Now this is short, but it seemed to take me forever. Because I wanted to be me (well me, in a few sentences), but at the same time it was cringing to be real.

It’s not easy to allow a part of yourself to be vulnerable. In this particular case, I was afraid to be a little funny. Except funny is important to me.

So how can you get started telling a little about yourself?

It might help to ask yourself some questions:

 What do I like best about myself?  What are my talents, interests?  What do I believe in? What would my perfect day look like? What would  I do if I had unlimited time or energy?

Find a way to be true to yourself.

Because somewhere out there, whether it’s a university, an employer, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, a bookshelf…someone is looking for YOU.

Why not make it easy for them to see you?

 

Do you have any advice on how to sum up you?  What would you do if you had unlimited energy?

Have a spectacular week!

 

 **If you enjoyed this post, you can subscribe to my mailing list to receive my new posts straight to your inbox.  Just add your email in the space at the top of the right sidebar under my photo.

Stop by and say HI to Patricia Tilton at Children’s Books Heal.  I think book reviews are VERY hard to write, but Patricia does an amazing job!

Surface Chic vs. Soul Deep: The Beauty of a Woman Blogfest

boaw-2013

 

It’s time for August McLaughlin’s second Beauty of a Woman blogfest!

In case you missed it last year, it’s an event designed to celebrate beauty, however you define it.

I like to think of beauty as something sparkly within us, an inner beauty kind of thing.

But we live in a society where the media often portrays beauty as a surface thing, something based on a scientific balance of pleasing eye symmetries, body measurement ratios, color palettes  and potions.  Anything that doesn’t fit into that is ignored, discarded or carefully airbrushed into compliance.

Even if you don’t subscribe to that, it’s hard to argue that appearance doesn’t matter.

I watched a social experiment on TV a couple of weeks ago. Katie Couric sent a woman out on the street to ask for directions. The first time she went out, she was in full makeup and all dressed up.

 

This beauty had no problem getting where she needed to go.

 

She received a lot of attention. One passerby even said, I’m buying whatever you’re selling.

Then, the same woman went out a second time to ask for directions. Only this time, she dressed down in comfy clothes, without makeup.

 

This beauty didn’t get very far.

 

She didn’t get much help. In fact, she was mostly ignored.

So if surface chic gets immediate acceptance and preferential treatment, how do you NOT obsess over looks? How do you reconcile the inner definition of beauty with the outer standard?

I’m not sure. But I do think it’s important to take care of the inner beauty–our attitude, emotions, feelings, and spirituality.  Make time for a little heart and soul primping.

 

inner beauty quotes

 

Because what we focus on grows.

What do you think?

Be sure to check out more BOAW blogfest posts this Friday, February 22nd, at August’s site (and if you haven’t yet, be sure to check out August’s debut thriller, In Her Shadow).

All participants and commenters will be entered into the prize drawing to win win a Kindle Fire or equivalent Amazon gift card. The more blogs you visit, the greater your chances become.

Have a happy weekend!

 **If you enjoyed this post, you can subscribe to my mailing list to receive my new posts straight to your inbox.  Just add your email in the space at the top of the right sidebar under my photo.

The Creative Life: Following your Bliss vs. Taking the Sensible Path

This weekend I heard a middle school choral director speak about supporting kids’ creative passions.    

He said, kids often don’t continue with music (or art, photography, writing, etc) because somewhere along the way they are told it’s not sensible, that it’s not a “clear and trusted” practical career path.   

But, he asked, what if a career in the arts is your bliss?

Photo credit: Mallari Sizemore 

 

Dreams are important. When I was a teenager, I concocted big ideas for my future. One involved me owning horses, a show barn, and 537 acres of land, not because I loved horses, but because apparently riding horses with “your hair whipping away from your face” primes the creative pump. Either way, you get the gist, writing was pretty important to me.

 

 My diary dreams.

But, now that I’m a parent of kids sitting (precariously) close to the edge of our family nest, I admit the dreamy thing makes me cringe a bit. There’s an element of fear.  

Fear is the thing that can derail a dream.  

And fear can send a parent into the You Need to be Practical speech (you want your kids to be happy, but you also don’t necessarily want them living in your basement at thirty.)  

Except I also know that it’s not my job to define their happy. So, so hard to remember after years of telling them when to sleep, eat, and blow their noses.  

This whole following your bliss thing can be complicated.  Do you take the risk, or stick to the more sensible pursuit?   There’s a character in my YA contemporary, Come Back to Me, named Evan Foster, and Evan believes without question that you should go “balls to the wall” when it comes to your dreams. Now, balls to the wall is an old aviation term that refers to pushing the ball-shaped grip on the throttle all the way forward, i.e. full speed.  

Full speed, like with your hair whipping in the wind and all that.

 

 I don’t think there’s one answer, or one way to follow your bliss. Sometimes you are not exactly sure of your dream, sometimes all you have is a wispy idea.  

Write those wispy ideas down.  Listen to your heart.   Talk to people who do what you want to do. Take classes. Keep learning.  Continue moving forward.  

If it’s your passion, find a way to keep creating.  

Me? I got a degree in criminal justice, worked in a library (and a whole slew of other odd jobs, like delivering phone books), got married, became a mom (best job ever), worked some more odd jobs (selling makeup, crafts, and gutters—but not all at the same time), and now I’m writing again.  

No, it wasn’t a straight path, and nothing about it felt particularly “clear and trusted.” But still I’m where I wanted to be.  

And I’m picking up some momentum . . . I think there may even be a little hair whipping happening.

 

What do you think about following your bliss? Do you think you can balance the sensible and your dream? What’s the oddest job you’ve ever had?

 

Happy Monday!

Oh and I hope you stop by on Valentine’s day–I will be participating in the Indie-Kissing Blog Fest hosted by the INDELIBLES. 🙂
 

Prediction: You Can Invent Your Future

alan kay quote invent life

 

Meet Phyllis.

Phyllis, the star of Susanna Leonard Hill‘s books PUNXSUTAWNEY PHYLLIS & APRIL FOOL, PHYLLIS.

Phyllis is a groundhog and a prognosticator, which sounds a lot like procrastinating. Especially when you factor in those Groundhog days in which she sees her shadow.  Then everything gets pushed off for another six weeks.

Can’t say I haven’t been there.

Anyway, you see those teenagers shuffling around in the background? They finished exams last week at the high school where I eavesdrop help out, and were kind of like groundhogs popping out of their burrows, looking for some sort of relief from the tortures of school winter. Phyllis could totally relate.

They even seemed to be engaging in ancient customs of weather lore. I think.

These shoes say early spring, right?

I think my backyard is ready for spring. 

I am happy to report that Phyllis did not see her shadow here in Virginia. In fact she had a ball.

And of course, Phyllis predicted the  Ravens would win.

And she also accurately guessed which snacks would be eaten first at my house this weekend.

As well as the Monopoly token Hasbro will eliminate from the boardwalk this week.

But I can’t tell you which token will be replaced.

Or else I will go directly to jail.

 

And as for today’s forecast?  Here’s to creating some possibilities.

A big thank you to Punxsutawney Phyllis. Check out Susanna’s website (link above) for more Phyllis adventures.

Are you forecasting BIG things for your future? What spring things are you looking forward to?  

What is your favorite Monopoly token?

Have a happy week! 🙂

Around the World in Eighty Seconds: Where Would You Go?

henry miller inspiration

I like looking at travel/food blog posts.  I get a little boost, a little vicarious relaxation.

Maybe it’s the cold, rainy, icy weather we’ve been having lately, but I’ve been craving some go time, the kind of meandering that starts with a leisurely cup of (fancy) coffee and goes . . . wherever.

Fancy coffee always makes me feel like I’m on vacation.

Add in a great view and I’m set

 

 

 

 

Do you have any plans to travel soon?  Where would you go if you could go anywhere right now?  Would you eat seafood cake?

Have a great week!

The Beauty and the Beast of Optimism

eeyore optimism

Each week I aim for optimism in my posts.

But some weeks I feel like gloomy Eeyore.  I doubt the positive message.  I feel like a poser, or a Pollyanna.  I wonder if you’ll think,
 

Who is this woman handing me these rose-colored glasses?

 
Because sometimes behind that optimistic message I feel defeated, frustrated.

 

These were supposed to be stars and other assorted cut out cookies.

 

This past week was no exception.  There was a moment where I found myself jumping up and down because I was so excited (news for a future post!), and then there was one where I cried tears of frustration.

Now before you write me a prescription, this wasn’t one big massive mood swing (although can’t say I’m immune to those either).  This week it was two unrelated things.

And way more frustrating than a crappy batch of cookies.

Enough to make me feel like I suddenly had no business writing about optimism.

Then while perusing the food blogs in my Google reader (never underestimate the power of a pretty picture of monkey bread), I read some posts from a blogger who recently gave birth to her second child.  In between posts on yummy confections she updated readers on the ups and downs of getting to know her infant. The sleepless nights, the tricks that work and don’t work, and the worry.

The opening notes to The Beauty and the Beast of Motherhood.

And in her story, I recognized myself and my daughter, how our first night home from the hospital (many, many moons ago) my daughter cried and cried no matter how many times I changed her, fed her, swaddled her, held her. I remember staring at her and thinking (and crying), just tell me what you want.

But we don’t always get the answers. Sometimes after life shifts, or plans derail, it takes time to figure out what works.  Eventually I figured out that my daughter loved her swing and white noise.  She’d sleep and so would I.  Then that would pass and there would be something new and equally exhausting to figure out.

 

My daughter, the gift.  She also inspired me to write songs with lyrics like, Please go to sleep.

 

And as I thought about the new baby posts and the super cute photos of this tiny new baby girl and her mother’s face glowing with happy exhaustion,  I remembered the joy.  Eventually, light seeps through.   We learn to deal.

It reminded me that my current confusion will pass too.  Maybe I haven’t figured it out yet, but at least I know I’ve done it before.

And I hope that by focusing on the light seeping through each week, maybe I can inspire someone else to remember the joy too.

A big thank you to Kristan over at Confessions of a Cookbook Queen and her tiny new daughter. Their story was the one I needed this week to remind me to keep on keeping on.

Oh and just in case you’re wondering, this is what I did with that funky batch of sugar cookies:
 

Cookie dough truffles.

 

Where do you turn to get a dose of optimism?  

xoxo

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Adventure Agenda:Get the Most Out of Life

edge life_opt

Kids, do not try this at home.  All stunts performed by a free-spirited professional tour guide. 

 

With the new year upon us, I want to send out an extra special thank you for stopping by and sharing in this adventure with me.  You all add heaps of sparkle to this journey and I am SO grateful.

So here’s to getting the most out of life.  Whether your adventure agenda for 2013 includes dangling your legs over the Grand Canyon or making room in your day for afternoon tea (yes please), here’s to a happy, healthy, successful and peaceful new year.

Wishing you all the best,

Jump at the Sun and Reach for the (Pie in the) Sky

jump at the sun quote_opt

 

For the most part, I am a feet-on-the-ground and Thanksgiving-at-home kind of girl, but I have to admit that opportunities can arise that call for some “jumping at the sun” time.

grand canyon ledge_opt

 This is a little too close to the sun if you ask me.

That’s some of my family at the Grand Canyon.  We broke from our routines and typical Thanksgiving traditions and flew with my husband’s family to Las Vegas.

From there we took a day trip to the canyon.

grand canyon jump_opt

 Jumping at the sun.

 

We all had a fun, and very uplifting time.

 

Expanding comfort zones on the Las Vegas zip line.

 

Yeah, that’s me up there.  Totally exhilarating.

Okay, so I have to admit that as I stepped on that platform, I considered the expertise of the kids trussing me up like a turkey and hooking me to that line, but I put that fear aside.  And I’d do it again.

Comfort zone . . . what’s that?  Waistbands weren’t the only things stretched this Thanksgiving holiday.

Although there was plenty of that too.

Finding pie in the sky is a tasty bonus.

 

Okay so I missed my usual Thanksgiving festivities like the parade and my mom’s turnip mashed potatoes.  And leaping from a platform that’s almost 7o feet in the air?  Well, that was a stretch for me (if you don’t believe me, check out my post on flying).

But, new experiences offer growth, confidence and in the case of a writer, research!  Plus, new stuff can offer a deeper appreciation for your regular routine and traditions.

Of course, some new things aren’t difficult at all . . .

That’s a TV and a bath tub.  Together.  What?

I hope you get the chance to try something new and awesome this week!

 

 

What new opportunities are within your reach?  Do you struggle with stretching your comfort zone?  Have you ever been to the Grand Canyon, or on a zip line?  

Tell me, I love it when you comment!

Have a great week!

A Toast to Fun, Food and Men in Skirts

 

fun is good seuss_opt

 

In the spirit of holiday, food and fun, I want to wish you all a happy Thanksgiving week via photos from the local Celtic festival.

 

First, a toast to FUN.

 

And to YUMMY food. 

 

And Music! 

 irish dancing_opt

To dancing.

 

To hanging out and playing games.

 men in kilts_opt

And to dressing in your holiday best.

 

And last but not least, to tradition!

I don’t remember my Irish grandmothers mentioning this Celtic delicacy, but I leave you with–

Ye Olde Fried Oreo . 

 

Enjoy yourselves this week!  Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to stop by. Huge heaps of gratitude. 🙂

What are you thankful for this week?  Do you have a favorite festival food?