Note to Self (and anyone else who needs to hear it): Your life is what you make of it. You are 100% responsible for your happiness.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Don't Sweep with a Dirty Broom

Before you go trying to beautify your life's sub-sections -- job, love-life, relationships -- you need to clean up yourself first. Otherwise, you're just going to drag your "dirt" into those other sections and they'll never be what you want them to be. It's not them (the boss, the new love, or any other person you'd like to have a functional relationship with), it's you. And the sooner you realize that, and start working on cleaning up the "you," the more beautiful your life, as a whole, will be.
You alone are responsible for your happiness. You can make excuses until the cows come home, dwell on your past, or blame others for your current unhappiness; but only YOU can accept what it is/was, make the decision to move past it, and look eagerly into your future. Only you can grasp your life with both fists, take control over what it is, direct it toward what you want it to be, and take the first step to get there.

Only you.

So take that broom (that would be you) outside and bang the crap out of it until all the dirt and dust are gone, and it's nice and clean and in the condition it needs to be to do its job, and THEN go back inside and sweep all your rooms.

...This is my metaphorical kick in the ass for whoever might need it.

November was a doozy. I didn't blog once, and I'm not happy about that. (Notice how I'm not making any excuses about it, though.) I'm back in gear ... and apparently not in the mood to beat around the bush, walk on egg shells, or blow sunshine up any butts. I'm wearing my big girl panties. I highly recommend them.

I hope everyone has a great week! (And if you don't, really, whose fault is that?)
Rock your own world.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Importance of Editing

I was thrilled to be asked by T Denise Clary 
to be a guest-blogger on her book blog
It was a first for me, and I really enjoyed not only writing it, 
but also answering her readers' questions.
If you have a minute, go check it out.
(Especially if you're a writer -- there's good stuff in there!)
And follow her blog as she's an oh-so-interesting lady!

Be Blessed! Be Happy!

The Importance of Editing – From an Editor’s Viewpoint
**For a limited time, Jennifer with MoodyEdits is offering a special discount on editing services. Scroll down to the bottom of the post for additional information**
Editor and Writer Jennifer Moody
I have been proofing other people’s work since 1999. When you edit for a living, you don’t get to turn it off at 5pm and go on with everyday life. The editor-eye is always searching. I have seen more errors on things that I don’t give a darn about… billboards on highways, banners on buildings, signs on doors… mistakes are everywhere. When I see one of these, I think, “Good LORD, didn’t you have somebody READ that before you made it 50 feet tall???” …Guess not.

When I’m editing to-be-published material (that would be the stuff I DO care about), it’s a whole different story. As a writer myself, I can relate to the writer’s position. I know from experience that no matter how many times you read through your own work, you’re going to miss something. (Right now I’m re-reading all this, thinking… if I have a mistake in this blog about editing that will look pretty sad! I probably will though, since it won’t be professionally edited. Whatchagonnado.)

While I offer a variety of editorial services, my bread-n-butter work is monthly national magazines. My normal editing process for a magazine feature goes something like this:

·         Read-1: I read through it first, just getting a feel for its flow. (I make corrections as I see them, but it’s not the point of the first-read.)

·         Read-2: Second read is done as a word-for-word, not really taking in the story on this round. (I catch a few more this way.)

·         Read-3: Then I officially turn on the eagle-eye and read again – fixing any errors I catch along the way. (This is also the round where sentence restructuring is done, should the client want heavy copy-editing, which my magazine clients do.)

·         Read-4: This round is done as a safety-net, because even editors miss things once in a while. (Hard to believe, I know; but alas, it is true.)

·         Read-5: Final round – I sit back and read it as a READER. (Usually there is some sentence restructuring here too.)

Five rounds of proofing for each feature—with perfection as the ultimate goal—is how you get a beautiful “book” (as they call it in the magazine world) in the end.

When editing a book to be submitted for publisher consideration, the process is a bit different, but the goal is the same… perfection. Because the last thing a publisher wants to see when considering a book, is a book filled with errors. If you didn’t care, why should they? There are too many people out there begging for their book to be considered, for the publisher to invest their time reading a book that the author didn’t invest in. You have to do your job first, or they’re going to put it down and pick up the next one. And what you end up with is a rejection letter…and a reputation.

Professional book editing runs about 1.5-2 cents per word (more if rewriting or ghost writing is involved). If you’re serious about getting your book published, it is the best investment you’ll ever make. When the publisher reads through your work, they won’t be putting it down and grabbing the next one. They’ll keep reading. That’s the goal—to keep ‘em reading—all the way to the end!

If you are self-publishing an e-book, the importance of proper editing is not lessened. Sure, it will be published either way; but now, instead of a publisher stumbling over errors, it’s the reader. And if your first readers are tripping and falling, they won’t finish it, they won’t recommend it to their friends, and they won’t write a good review (or even worse, they’ll write a bad one). If that happens, ALL your blood, sweat, and tears you put into your work was for nothing. Because it will sit on Amazon or Smashwords for months, with a handful of sales (at a few bucks each) and a couple of bad reviews. At that point it’s dead in the water. And not just that book… any book that e-publishes after that with the same author’s name, already has a strike against it. Readers won’t hit that “buy” button if they’ve already been bitten.

When you have invested so much into your work, do not skip the last step. Have an editor go through it with a fine-tooth comb, giving it that final polish so it shines. THEN publish it. If money is an issue, shop around. There are good editors out there offering slightly lower than average rates to build up their business. And know your options… such as paying for a chapter at a time rather than the entire book at once. When you get to pay for it in pieces it becomes way more affordable. You won’t get the editor’s input on the entire book’s flow, but you’ll get each chapter edited, which is a big step in itself.

Another option, if money is really tight, is joining a book writing group. I belong to one that meets twice a month. Writers bring single chapters of books they’re working on, and read them out loud (while the rest of the group follows along with their own printout). After the reading, we go around the table giving our input… page 3’s second paragraph is confusing, consider changing such-and-such so it flows better, etc. As an editor in a writers group, I sit there marking up my copy as I listen to the author read… editorial freebies.

Whichever editing route you take, it’s better than not taking it at all. The important thing is to make the investment in your work so it pays off. With any kind of product, if the quality isn’t high it won’t sell, or at least, not for long. A book is no different.

Jennifer Moody

**SPECIAL OFFER** For a limited time, now until December 31, 2011, Jennifer with MoodyEdits will offer a special rate on her services to all T Denise Clary Book Blog Readers. She is offering to bill at a penny per word for single-chapter edits. Please contact her through her contact information above.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Great (weekend) Escape!

Seems all we do day-in and day-out is hit the alarm clock, spend the majority of our waking hours at work, take care of the kids, cook dinner… Are we having fun yet? Sometimes you just have to go find some fun! It’s easier than you think.

If you’re like me, your calendar gets booked with obligatory events. Don’t get me wrong, most of the things on my calendar are there because I enjoy them, and want to attend. But seriously… sometimes I look at my calendar and just sigh. How did I get this booked up? Between work, family, kids, and volunteering, my calendar has something written on close to 25 of the squares each month. And when it gets to the point where the next four or five (or eight) weekend squares are filled in, I go out to the next blank weekend and block it out like this: FUN TIME! Then I turn to my husband and say, “Let’s get out of here.”

We try to take a real family vacation each summer. "Real” for us means 10-14 days, usually out of state. But during the rest of the year (when we’re building up our vacation days at work again) it’s the weekend get-aways that help us keep our sanity.

Sometimes it’s by plane, most times it’s by car, but the point is to get away from the hustle and bustle of our busy lives. Just a weekend of pure quality time together, with a heavy dose of relaxation.

If this sounds good to you, look on your calendar and go past the weekends where you’ve jotted down “Sally’s birthday party” and “Joe’s tournament.”  Keep doing this until you come to that weekend that is two blank squares. Did you find it? You know what to put there… FUN TIME! Next step: Make a plan. Camping with the kids, a Bed & Breakfast without them (I’m a big fan of that one). It doesn’t really matter what or where. The point is to “escape” for an overnighter. Or even better, use a couple comp hours and leave work early on a Friday so you can spend two nights away.

With today’s economy it can be difficult to squeeze a get-away into the budget. But because of the economy it’s also easier to find great deals on hotels and entertainment. Figure out what your budget can spare, and plan accordingly. Then book it, update your calendar, and pull that duffle bag out of the closet and shake off the dust! 

What do you do for a great weekend escape?

(I originally wrote this for the blog I used to do for the Houston Chronicle back in 2009, but thought it was worth reposting!)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Podium - Scary Stuff

After reading Megan's blog, How to Jump in the Deep End, I felt inspired to do a little blogging myself this morning. (Thanks Megan!) If you follow Megan, you know how inspiring she can be. If you haven't read her stuff, you should go check her out.

I’ve never been the public speaker type. In high school I once took a zero for an oral report grade because I wouldn’t get up to read it to the class. Sad, I know. I have been known to say things like, “I can write a killer speech, but do not ask me to stand at the podium and read it.” (There’s just something about a podium that scared the bajeebers out of me.)

Well … I learned that a fear, even a long-time fear, isn’t necessarily a permanent one. Two years ago my Aunt asked me to do a reading at my cousin’s funeral service. My reaction was something like, “Me? You want ME to?” She said yes, but quickly added not if I’m uncomfortable, etc. I wanted to, God knows I did, but at that moment the fear had the bail on the tip of my tongue. I got a grip on it fast, and wouldn’t let myself take the out. I was honored that she asked me, that she wanted ME to do it. This was the funeral of her son – something I cannot fathom going through. It was important, and I didn’t want to say no. So I said yes, and went home with the printout of the reading and read it over and over and over forever before going to bed.

The next day at church my heart was beating a bit quicker than it normally does, and I found myself staring at that darn podium. I asked God to give me the strength to go up there and read this reading nice and clear to all of Kerry’s friends and family who came because they loved him so much. When I got the look/nod from the priest indicating it was my turn to go up, I stood up, walked down the row and up the aisle, climbed the steps, stood at the podium (insert scary music), and stared out at a sea of people all staring back at me. With the reading clutched tightly in my hand, I breathed … just fine actually. My heartbeat was normal.

I imagined (a more appropriate word would be – felt) the presence of God standing behind me, arms wrapped around me, with His face resting against the left side of my face. With a whispered “Okay, now go…” in my ear, I started reading. I think I spoke clearly. I felt choked-up but I know I didn’t cry. I remembered not to read too fast, and to pause in between phrases. I even looked out into the audience during the reading … a little.

That evening I saved the print-out in my Bible. It’s special to me mostly because I read it at Kerry’s service, but also because … I read it, at Kerry’s service. It was a turning point for me in the confidence department. A gift given to me by my Aunt, who doesn’t even know that she gave me something so special in a time of such heartache.

I’ve had to speak several times since then, and I’ve done just fine. Nobody ever makes fun of me. ...Imagine that. If you have the opportunity to face a long-time fear, give it a shot. You might be surprised at how well you do when you're no longer that scaredy cat from years ago.

Be blessed, everyone. LIVE your life. Take chances. Hug your kids. 

Friday, September 16, 2011

My Kaylie

I've been doing this “Mom” thing for 22 years now…
Me and Kaylie
When I became a mom back on March 24, 1989, I didn’t know what the heck I was doing. Poor Kaylie – she was a guinea pig in my learn-as-you-go world of motherhood. I made mistakes, as we all do. But seriously, somewhere along the way I had to do something right; because Kaylie has grown up to be this amazing, caring, loving, strong, determined, capable, beautiful woman. (I have so many more adjectives but I figured I should tone it down a bit, ha!) 
Kaylie (center) with high school girlfriends
From the start, Kaylie was confident, a leader, and a nonconformist. I remember when she was in 5th grade she came home from school PIZZED. She told me she was playing with a group of girls on the playground, and another little girl wanted to join in. These two “stupid girls” in the group told her she couldn’t play with them because her “clothes didn’t match.” (This little girl wore hand-me-downs in pretty bad shape – the family was struggling.) Kaylie told those two “popular” girls that they were NOT the boss of the group, and then told the little girl to “come on, we’ll go play something else,” and walked off. A few other girls walked off with her/them. THAT’S my Kaylie… standing up for what’s right, not worrying about what anyone will think, never EVER shutting up when a wrong is being done to someone. I often wonder if that little girl remembers that day. I’m not even sure Kaylie does. But I do … I’ll never forget it. Sitting in the living room listening to her tell me this story – the passion in her eyes, the anger in her voice, the confidence she had, never once thinking how it could have outcasted HER from the “popular group” … it was one of my proudest moments as a mom.
Kerri, huggin' on her Mama
She is a mother herself now, and every time I see her in mommy-action I think… She’s a much better mom than I ever was at that age. How’d she get so good at it so quickly? Just a few minutes around her daughter, Kerri (have I mentioned I have the most beautiful grand-angel in the world?), and it’s easy to see that this baby is happy, healthy, LOVED, and well on her way to becoming an incredible woman, just like her Mama.

Kaylie - you are the light in my life and I love you more than you'll ever know. ~Mom 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

My Gramma Passed Down the Strong-Woman Gene

If there is such a gene, we've got it. In my family there's not a wimpy female among us. Strong women... strong willed for sure, but it's more like we're all made of strong emotional building blocks stacked on a sound foundation. Our foundation's strength comes from the strong women before us -- teaching us along the way. (Alright already with the metaphors - geez.)

Okay so one of the women in my family who influenced me is my Gramma Lucy. My Mom's Mom. In all of my childhood memories of her, she's smiling (just like in this picture). She enjoyed life, saw the good in everyone, the humor in everything, and shared her wisdom with me often. 
I was about 8 years old when I told her I hated a boy in school who was mean to me. (Phillip - sheesh, what a jerk.) She told me I shouldn't hate him, that it's such a strong feeling, and that God doesn't want us to hate anybody. Then she leaned in close and whispered, "You can really, really 'not like' him, but try not to hate him." ...HA! You rock, Gramma.
Later on, during my oh-so-very dramaaaaatic teen years, I was complaining to her about a "friend" who had talked behind my back, lied about me, and blah blah freakin' waaaaaaah. Gramma looked me in the eyes and asked, "Why are you friends with her?" I didn't have an answer -- not one single reason. She talked a bit about how life is too short to put up with that crap. And then she said the words that have stuck with me for 30 years... "Surround yourself with those who make you smile."
At first it seems like a simple enough statement. Kind of an "awwww" moment. Sure. But if you let it sink in, say it a few times in your head, you might see that it's the smartest thing anyone has ever said in the history of people saying things. Uh huh. Sure is. It is without a doubt, my life's motto in a nutshell.
God needed Gramma in Heaven, unexpectedly, on June 16, 1987. (I'm still a little mad at Him for that, but I can't blame Him. She would be an incredible asset to any good-guy organization.) Her 3 daughters and 12 granddaughters are all amazing women today due in part to her influence. And because she helped shape us, her 7 great granddaughters (with another about to arrive!), and now even a great-great granddaughter (that's my grand-angel) are all amazing women in-the-making. I know she watches over us. And I know she's proud of us all -- not only our strength, but our bond to each other that is the glue of the entire family.

I wrote this poem (below) for the women in my family a few years ago. Thought I'd share it today.
Have a good one, y'all.
To the Females of Our Family:
The women in this family are the ties that make it strong
The reason that our family tree’s roots are deep and long
From Carol down to Laureli, and all of us in between
There is strength of character – you all know what I mean
The ones who came before us, and the little ones yet to arrive
The former our foundation, the latter too will strive
We’re there at a moment’s notice when any of us makes a call
Offering unquestioning support, never letting one of ours fall
Sometimes things can get crazy, but always we are there
It’s nothing short of priceless, this bond that we all share
I’m proud to be part of our circle, holding hands with you
I cherish where we come from, who we are, and what we do
I love you all with the whole of my heart.
XOXOXO, Love Jen
Copyright Jennifer Moody 2008

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Find Yourself a Good Man - They're Out There, I Promise

After my divorce back in 1998, I spent (wasted) about a year in the dating world. Not really knowing what you want makes it hard to find it. I gave up looking and focused on bettering myself - educationally, religiously, emotionally. It was a good decision. I filled empty evenings with writing - mostly poetry and short stories. I'd share them with friends and family and enjoy the praise. :) Several poems were published in coffee table books. You could call it my year of reflection and personal growth (if you wanted to sound dorky).

Then, continuing my quest to edit my life one day at a time, I found myself scrolling through personal profiles late one night back in November 2000. Back then I was an AOL'er with a free profile on (This was big stuff back then - you never heard of anybody doing this, except of course the murdered victims that they talked about on the news.) Anyhoo... you could put in your criteria and search through the matches. You could also choose profiles with or without pictures. I purposely chose "without" because I wanted to read about them without seeing a picture, to see the inside first. Best decision I ever made.

That's when I came across Scott. I liked what he had to say on his profile so I sent him a message. Several emails and then phone calls later, we arranged to meet in person. Our first date was amazing - neither of us wanted it to end so we ended up drinking coffee in IHOP until 1am so we could keep talking. And since I wasn't murdered, like my mother and best friend were sure would happen, we continued dating.

During our get-to-know-you stage, I learned that Scott had been serving our country for (at the time) 19 years. (Brag break: He served a total of 22 with the U.S. Army.) He is the most proud man I've ever known. A true gentleman (not always easy to come by) who puts family first (that's a big'n for me). He's one of those guys who is always there for his friends, no matter what. He loves our daughter (from my first marriage) like she was his own biologically. He's supportive of everything that's important to me (including me cutting my income in half to pursue a dream). I'm telling you, he's always got my back.

So fast forward through 11 years past a wedding, a baby, a new (bigger) house, a couple of scary health issues / surgeries, and here we are... Happily married, with a good, solid, healthy relationship. Friends have teasingly called us the White Picket Fence Couple, but trust me, we're not. We work hard at our relationship. We're both devoted to its lifelong success.

My point in writing this post (gaaah, bet you're happy I'm getting to the point) is that there are good men out there. I had to weed through some to find Scott, but they're out there... if you know what you're looking for.  And THAT is my point. Figure yourself out first. Know who you are and where you want to be. Know exactly what it is you want - in a man, in a relationship, out of life. THEN, go get it. And do not settle.

You are 100% in control of your happiness.

Goodnight... from one half of a happy little couple. ...::inserts a corny little picture::...

Thursday, August 25, 2011

My Brain Turned On at Around 30 Years Old

I spent my childhood and teen years like most everyone else ... having fun / acting like an idiot. But at some point that phase of life is over and you're a grownup. Let's say that's at age 20 (because really, who decided 18 years qualifies anyone as an adult?). Okay so 20 (which is still arguable, but we need a number here) ... what was I doing? I was married to a fool and expecting my first child. ::shakes head:: It's the ten "grown up" years from 20 to 30 that I really cannot account for. I had no real direction. I hated my job. I didn't know who the hell I was, where I was going, what I wanted -- in a relationship, as a career, out of life. But somewhere around 30 years old my brain turned on ...CLICK...

I got rid of the fool.

I enrolled in college and took random classes just so I would be IN a classroom and stop talking about how I'd LIKE to be in one. And I found out I could not get enough -- education became a sort of drug for me.

I went church shopping and found a church community where I fit in and could contribute. And I learned the true meaning of belonging.

...And I started writing. That's when everything click-click-clicked into place. I found out that I LOVED writing, and all of a sudden I knew where I was going, what I wanted to be, the kind of job I would enjoy doing. I could actually RESPOND when somebody said, "Tell me a little about yourself."

I finally knew who I was ... I was Jennifer, the Writer.