Life

09/11/15 Indie , inspiration , Life , Uncategorized # , , ,

A Head Full of Fear

Head_Fear_QuoteI saw this quote about a week ago and have been thinking about it ever since. I’ve always had a saying that has served me well;

Never make a decision out of fear.

You’d be surprised how many decisions are fear-based when that is your litmus test.

Now because this is the internet and the internet is full of trite sayings that, when dissected under the magnifying glass of critical thinking, aren’t helpful and might actually be harmful, I’m going to give you a disclaimer.

Fear can be good. Fear makes you look both ways before crossing the street. It makes you think carefully before making a career decision that might have lasting implications for you or your family. It keeps you from driving too fast and eating too much junk food.

That’s not the kind of fear I’m talking about.

I’m talking about the kind of fear that paralyzes you. The kind of fear that keeps you from taking a step in any direction because something might go wrong. Like many people, I struggle with that fear on a weekly basis. The burden feels greater because I am responsible for other human beings, and I don’t want to fuck things up for them.

But friends, I am so, so, SO glad I have not let fear rule my life. I didn’t let it rule my life when I got out of two bad marriages. (yeah, my track record there isn’t so great, but you know what? Everyone is happier now, my kids included). I didn’t let it rule my life when I ditched a very high paying but unsatisfying job in my home state of California for a quieter life in rural New York where I didn’t know anyone and didn’t have a job. I didn’t let it decide whether I should write back in 2004, when I got serious and started writing the books that led me to Prophecy of the Sisters and my first deal with Little Brown. I haven’t let it rule my life while I’ve experimented with a bunch of different genres – from YA Gothic fantasy, contemporary fantasy, Steampunk, and contemporary fiction to adult romance and psychological thrillers.

That doesn’t mean I haven’t been scared. It doesn’t mean I haven’t made mistakes either. But I haven’t regretted any of them, because I’ve been in motion. I’ve been MOVING. And even the things that seemed like mistakes at the time, later looked like exactly the thing I needed to lead me to the next good thing that WASN’T a mistake.

Isn’t life funny that way? I’ll bet if you look back on the “bad” things that happened to you, you’ll find that the vast majority were precursors to something good that wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t been confronted with the “bad” one. If you think about taking away that one negative experience, what would you lose that was good?

And I’ll let you in on another secret; almost always, the thinking about doing something scary is worse than the actual doing. That’s because we build up all these scary scenarios in our head, and statistically, they aren’t ALL going to come true. Plus, when you’re moving, you don’t have as much space in your brain for worrying and being scared. You’re too busy taking steps, looking around, making something happen.

For the first time in a long time, I feel in control of my situation. Wanna know my one regret?

Not taking control sooner. Being so scared that I stood still for so long, or if not still, that I didn’t move in the one direction that offered the most promise.

So look your fear in the face, dear friends. What’s the worst that can happen, really? What’s the best? Is your avoidance of the worst worth sacrificing the possibility of the best? Will you be satisfied later, when you’re still in the same place because you were afraid to take a step? Because here is one absolutely universal truth; nothing in your life will change if you keep doing the same things over and over again.

And you know what? Taking a step isn’t very hard. It’s just one step. Take one today and another one tomorrow. You will be two steps closer to the thing you want, and you’ll be so busy moving, you’ll be surprised by how your fear recedes into the background. Free up all that space in your brain and psyche and imagination for something better. Because there is always something better than fear.

<3

 

 

 

0 likes no responses
07/26/15 Life , Mob Boss Series , Reading , Self-Publish , Shadowguard Series , Writing # , , , , , ,

Leaning In to Life and Work

Work_Hard_QuoteMan… it has been a crazy couple of months, you guys.

I came off BEA with a huge work high and rode it all the way into July. In the two months since, I’ve written a whole book, completed a big freelance editing project, completed a smaller freelance editing project, built a pseudonym from the ground up for the Mob Boss series (including new name, domain name, new social media accounts all around, etc.), and developed a new YA concept (with character analysis and synopsis). I’ve absorbed information about self-publishing until I’ve felt like my brain will explode (metadata anyone? covers? blurbs? ISBN #s?), and I’ve connected with lots of awesome new people in the romance genre and in the field of self-publishing. I’ve read like crazy to keep up on things, maintained my household (including the weekly monster grocery shops that seem to go with the territory of having four young people in the house), and spent time with my kids when I can (and when they’re home).

And I’m not going to lie; it hasn’t been easy.

The thing is, I’ve considered self-publishing romance ever since I wrote the Shadowguard novella series (a series of adult romances based on the world in A TEMPTATION OF ANGELS) almost three years ago. I wanted more control over my career, both creatively and financially. I wanted to have the freedom to experiment and to release books as often as I wanted. But there was always a reason why I couldn’t.

I was too busy.

I wanted to focus on my contracted YA work.

I was worried about writing romance under a name most well-known in the YA genre.

I was worried about trying to build a new platform for a pseudonym.

All of which were valid concerns, and none of which have really changed or been resolved.

I’m still to busy to be doing this.

I’d still like to focus on my YA work (I’m not under contract at the moment, but I’d like to be).

It’s probably not a good idea to write adult romance under a name most well known in the YA genre.

It is difficult and time consuming and humbling to start over with a new name.

But you guys… I’m doing it. I’m working constantly. Some things have fallen by the wayside. I’m up until 3am most nights, even when I’m so tired I don’t think I can keep my eyes open. Even when it means I’m only getting four hours of sleep. It’s Sunday morning, and I’m writing this blog post instead of doing something else, and I’ll spend the rest of the day working, too.

Basically, this is me right now.

Ant_Crackers

But I’m doing it.

I think a lot about Sheryl Sandberg’s advice to lean in, even though it was directed more at women in traditional careers. She’s right; it takes guts to lean in. It takes courage to risk everything over and over again. It takes heart to choose your dream over and over again.

And one thing I’ve learned is that dreams are built not on the big moments, but on the little ones. Every time you work when you want to sleep or play. Every time you push when you want to settle in. Every time you risk when you want to play it safe. Every time you believe when you want to quit. THOSE are the moments that build dreams.

But you MUST have those moments.

Because dreams aren’t built by sleeping. They aren’t built by doing the same thing over and over. They aren’t built by being comfy. And they sure as hell aren’t built by quitting.

You have to WERK, my friends.

And the truth is, even that is no guarantee of success. You may fail. You may have to recalibrate. You may have to change course, take a detour, even take a break. But make no mistake; you will not get what you want if you aren’t willing to work, sometimes for years, often through countless setbacks. But the time will pass anyway. You may as well pass it in pursuit of something you really want.

This seems like a no brainer, but it’s interesting to me how many people I meet who want big things but aren’t willing to do the big work. After awhile, it gets boring hearing people TALK about what they want to accomplish.

Watching people DO is so much more interesting, don’t you think?

And when it comes to writing, doing doesn’t just mean output. It means honing your craft (go back to school if you must), learning from others, reading constantly, experimenting, and writing thousands of words that no one will ever read.

Write now I am WORKING. Because I can’t control a lot of things. Maybe no one will like my work. Maybe I won’t be able to sell it at all. But the one thing I can control is the work. I can make sure I never have to look back and wonder if I didn’t work hard enough, and WHEN I reach my goals (because I will), I can look back and say, when the ugly monster of unworthiness rears its head (for me it always does), “You earned this, baby!”

And I can mean it.

Now stop reading and get to work.

And if you haven’t added Michelle St. James and/or Ruthless to your social media sites, would you consider doing so? I’d love to keep you posted on my progress, and all content on those pages is unique to those accounts (i.e. not repeated on the Michelle Zink profiles).

Michelle St. James Facebook

Michelle St. James Twitter

Michelle St. James Goodreads

Ruthless Goodreads page

<3

0 likes 2 responses
04/20/15 Lies I Told , Life , Writing # , , , , , , , , , ,

Kirkus calls LIES I TOLD a “touching” Thriller!

It’s been such a whirlwind two weeks celebrating the release of LIES I TOLD that I’m just now getting to share this with you guys.

A few months ago I found out Kirkus had given LIES I TOLD a STARRED review. Most of you probably know this is a big deal; Kirkus is notoriously tough on writers, and they have a very, very high bar to star something. I was completely blown away and grateful, because the review really validated all the hard work I’ve done on craft these past couple of years.

Fast forward to release day and THIS pops up in my Twitter feed;

photo-20

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, you’re reading that right. Kirkus actually tweeted about LIES I TOLD, calling it a “touching” thriller and making it clear that it’s an exception to the rule.

So… yeah. I’m just kind of bragging.

😉

And sharing! And reminding you that LIES I TOLD is out now, and I’d love if you’d give it a shot. And if you already HAVE given it a shot and enjoyed it, I’d love it if you’d post a review on Amazon/B&N/Goodreads, because it really helps bring the book up in the search algorithms.

For those of you who have done all these things and more, I continue to be grateful and overwhelmed by your support. I think I have the best readers in the whole world.

<3

 

0 likes no responses
04/09/15 Funny , Lies I Told , Life # , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

LIES WE TOLD Video

I’m so excited to share the video Caroline and I put together to celebrate the launch of LIES I TOLD. This isn’t a book trailer. It’s a compilation of lies told by or to real life people, and their explanation of how the lie changed them and how they moved past it. Some of them are funny, some heartfelt, and one is even shocking, but one thing the video illustrates is something Grace Fonataine in LIES I TOLD knows firsthand; Sometimes the worst lies we tell, are the ones we tell ourselves.

And my lie is in here, too. Yikes!

Enjoy! And you’ll get extra entries on the massive $250 gift card giveaway if you share the link.

0 likes no responses
03/20/15 Life , Uncategorized # , , , , , , ,

Andrew Zink is My Son

Andrew_WhiteHouseAnd today, I couldn’t be more proud.

Many of you have probably heard of the uproar in our town. It’s been covered by NBC News, the Washington Post, and the LA Times, among others. You can look it up online (or on my Facebook feed) if you want to see the news stories, watch the interviews, or listen to Andrew on the radio. Frankly I’m too tired too post links. But the short version of the story is this;

As part of National Foreign Language Week, Pine Bush High School decided they would enlist bi-lingual students to recite the pledge – a different language for every day of the week. This activity was approved by administration. Monday and Tuesday were supposed to be Spanish and Japanese, but the kids who volunteered for those recitations got nervous and decided not to take their turn. On the third day, a very brave young woman named Dana and a teacher met my son, Andrew Zink, in the office as he was preparing to do morning announcements. Andrew is Student Senate President and Senior Class President, and daily announcements are one of his responsibilities. The teacher and student asked Andrew if they could recite the pledge in Arabic instead of English for that day as part of Foreign Language Week. Andrew agreed without hesitation. Dana began reciting the pledge, and immediately students in class began booing and catcalling. At first, Andrew didn’t think it was a huge deal. He assumed some people would be angry – he knows the dynamic of our small rural town – but he didn’t think the backlash would be so great.

Following the Pledge, Dana was harassed at school, called a terrorist and told to “go back to the Middle East.” Andrew wasn’t vilified until he contacted a newspaper. This was seen as traitorous by many in the district, set in a town with deeply racist roots (it’s changing, but not quickly enough) and a history of silence about those issues (in 2012, the NY Times published an article describing systematic abuse of Jewish students and the administrator’s lack of action when confronted with that abuse, a situation that led to a lawsuit against the district and a subsequent public uproar). The anger immediately turned to Andrew for “creating an issue by telling the media” and “talking to the media to get attention.”

I guess if a tree falls and no one is there to hear it, it really DOESN’T make a sound. That was sarcasm.

Now to understand Andrew’s motives, you have to understand Andrew. This is a kid with a deep, deep passion for politics and for his country. He knows more about political history and modern politics than 99% of American adults. He has volunteered on local political campaigns and used to ask me to take him to the town’s Democratic Party (a very small minority, I might add) meetings before he could even drive. He wants to change the country, change the world. The highlight of turning eighteen for him – he could FINALLY vote. And he can’t WAIT. He has plans for a political website geared toward educating young people and making politics understandable and accessible to them. He CARES.

Because of the history in our town, and specifically the town’s tendency to shield problems from attention so that everything looks pretty from the outside, Andrew truly believed that this issue would not prompt change unless a spotlight was shone on it. Even at eighteen, he understood that to be overcome, ignorance and prejudice must first be brought into the light, and he knew from the Jewish discrimination suit that the tendency would be for everyone to pretend it hadn’t happened, to avoid talking about it and just move on.

To some degree, I understand this tendency. Unfortunately, the goals of the school district and people like Andrew, like US, are in some ways opposed. The district not only wants to keep things calm, they NEED to. Jobs depend on it, insurance depends on it. And that’s just for starters. But for students like Andrew, the goal isn’t calm. The goal is growth.

This is a complicated issue.

I don’t want to vilify the district here. I think they are in a very tough position, and I do believe the principal at Pine Bush High School cares, and that he wants to see this growth in the town. . He was damned if he did (“Why did you let a student read the Pledge in Arabic?!”) and damned if he didn’t (“Why WOUDLN’T you let a student read the Pledge in Arabic? What about diversity?!”). I understand why the principal apologized immediately following the Pledge, but I wish he hadn’t. In my view, when you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t, you choose to be damned on the side of right. You COMMIT and let the chips fall where they may. My grandmother would have said, “Make yourself happy. At least then you know one person is.” I will translate that here into, “Do what’s right. Whatever happens, at least you know you did what’s right.” This is how I’ve taught my children. When you’re in doubt, distill everything to one question if at all possible; What is RIGHT?

Then you do THAT. Because it’s right.

In a district that has severe prejudice (and not just against Jewish people or Muslims, but against African Americans and other ethnicities as well), the right thing here is to say, “Look, we know this is going to painful for some of you, but we’re going to support diversity in every way we can. You may not like some of it, but it’s the way it has to be for our district to move into the 21st century, and for our students to be prepared for the global society they will be entering.”

And then you stick with it.

I understand how difficult this is, especially when so much of this deeply rooted prejudice comes from parents who themselves haven’t moved into the 21st century. It’s been interesting to read the tweets coming from former Pine Bush students in support of Andrew. Most of these kids have gone onto college and now have a broader view of the world. I’m not sure some of them would have stood up for Andrew in this situation back when they lived here. But the real world isn’t like this, and they know that now. We do our kids a disservice to let them think that it is.

The saddest part to me has been the hatred and vitriol directed at Andrew and at our family, many of it from adults across the country. Things like this;

photo-9 photo-8 photo-7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And this;

photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

photo-14

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

photo-13

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That is difficult to see, and difficult for Andrew to see, but whatever he may say when he’s trying to act like it’s no big deal, the hardest part for him has been going to school and seeing former friends turn their backs on him. And while many of his peers support him, others have bombarded him with tweets like these that are well into cyber-bullying territory even after he tweeted that night, “To everyone who disagrees with my decisions, I respect your right to do so and hope we can have a productive conversation. Goodnight PB.”

photo-5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

photo-6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

photo-2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although, for a little levity, I did appreciate this;

 

photo-12

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Andrew is President of Debate Club. It’s not a bad strategy.

😉

Andrew’s younger sister has not been immune and has been subjected to shouts of, “Fuck Andrew Zink!” when she walks by people in the hall (sorry for the language, it’s ugly, but so is this). I guess it’s okay to shout things like that – as long as we don’t do it in Arabic.

Is this what we do? Turn our backs on people who have a different viewpoint than us? Turn our backs on people who bring light to a situation that needs to be addressed? Is this what we teach our children? I know they’re kids, but many of them are kids we’ve nurtured since childhood, kids who have been welcomed into our home and family. I’m not going to lie; it’s really, really hard to see them publicly bash Andrew for doing what he thought was RIGHT. Because while Andrew has been the subject of these vicious attacks, many of them from ADULTS from all over the country, he has not once attacked someone personally. Instead, he’s made a point of saying that he respects everyone’s opinions and hopes a productive dialog can be had on the issue.

I can only hope the parents in our community use this as a means to discuss the merit of respectful disagreement as opposed to personal, hate-filled rhetoric. Can we keep talking about this? Can we talk to our kids reasonably, without coloring their minds with our own opinions, about why they feel the way they do? About whether those feelings are a result of reason or emotion? About what to with the negative feelings when they have them?

I hope so. I KNOW there are others here who feel the way we do, but I have to admit it sometimes feels like we’re rowing the boat alone.

On the other side, many, many people have been lovely and supportive.

photo-15

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

photo-18

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

photo-19

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

photo-16

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How did this happen? The truth is, I think Andrew and this issue have become a symbol for a deep-seated prejudice in our country. It’s hit a nerve, and when you hit a nerve, it hurts for a reason.

Many who have questioned Andrew’s motives in going to the media have asked why he did it. The answer, straight from his mouth, is simple; “I’m really just hoping to start a discussion about what being an American is, and what defines being an American.”

That discussion is being had now. I’m receiving emails and tweets from people who are discussing this issue at work and at home, from teachers talking about it in class. This is how change happens, not by hiding the truth in the shadows, but by shining a spotlight on it. That isn’t always comfortable to people (it has not been comfortable for us), but only then can we begin to affect change.

In the end, I can only find comfort in the words of my amazing son.

“It’s not our language that makes us American, it’s our beliefs.”

Amen, son. Amen.

<3

 

 

 

 

0 likes 88 responses
02/24/15 Life # , ,

Making Time

Goethe_Things-That-MatterToday I finally thwarted my most used excuse (“I don’t have time”) for not getting yoga and/or meditation in, and I thought I’d share how I did it. It’s simple, too; I no longer allow myself to open my computer in the morning until I’ve done both.

“Attaching” something to an everyday task is the best way to make it a habit. For awhile, I was attaching meditation to my morning shower, i.e. meditation time was right before I took a shower in the morning. But 3-4 days a week I’d find that I got caught up answering emails, posting to my social networking sites (and YOURS! 😉 ). I’d look at the time and think, “I need to hurry and shower! I guess I’ll try to get everything else in later.” Except “later” never actually materialized as a good time to meditate or do yoga.

Isn’t that always the case with “later”? He’s a tricky little bugger, isn’t he?

😉

Anyway, I thought about the source of my distraction (work) and decided to try putting yoga and meditation BEFORE it instead of after. And you know what? It worked! I’ve had four solid days on this schedule and I feel SO MUCH BETTER.

Is there something you’ve been wanting to make a daily habit? Try attaching it to something you MUST do every day (like brushing your teeth or eating dinner) – but make sure to attach it BEFORE the must-do event and not after. I hope it works as well for you as it’s working for me.

🙂

0 likes no responses
08/21/14 Life # , , ,

Are You a Seeker?

What_you_seekWhat_you_seekI’ve always considered myself a Seeker, but I have an ongoing debate with myself about whether or not it’s a good thing. For a long time, I assumed everyone pondered life constantly, that everyone spent a large amount of time contemplating the universe, their place in it, whether or not there is a creator force, etc., etc., etc. It wasn’t until I married my second husband that I realized that isn’t true. I’d say, “Do you ever think about XYZ?” And he’d shrug and say, “No.” It was a shock to me. How can you not WONDER? Don’t you CARE?

But over time I also realized that those kinds of people seemed happier. Honestly, my ex just didn’t think that much about stuff. He took life as it came and adjusted as necessary. I envied him and others like him. Spared the angst of pondering life’s great questions, they seemed free to just BE. At the same time, I can’t imagine living absent the rich inner life that keep my mind occupied even in the most mundane of circumstances. I recognize that having this kind of heart and mind is what makes me who I am, and now that I’m older and I actually like myself, I wouldn’t want that to change. Still, I’m always trying to strike that elusive balance between letting my mind go where it will and not making myself crazy (which is probably why meditation has been such a lifesaver for me).

What about you? Are you a Seeker? Do you think it makes you happier or less happy? Would you change it if you could?

0 likes no responses
01/01/14 Life # , , , , , , ,

Throwing Stones

mountain streamReading this short article on Time Ideas got me thinking. Rather than focusing on New Year’s resolutions, the article features five simple things we should all do in 2014. They were all good, but it was #3 that really got my attention;

Radically forgive even cruel people.

As part if my journey to grow personally and spiritually over the past couple of years, I’ve made a point not to hold onto anger. This is aided largely by my realization that it’s expectation that causes anger. We expect things (sometimes without realizing it) of people, they don’t meet our expectations, we feel hurt. Hurt = Anger.

So I made a pact with myself that I would try not to expect things of people. Doing so is like expecting someone to honor the terms of a contract they’ve never seen. Some things have been easy to let go (expecting someone to reciprocate when I do something nice for them, expecting a thank you card, etc.). Others have been hard; expecting loyalty, honesty, respect. Because isn’t everyone entitled to these things?

The answer, of course, is yes. But wanting them and feeling entitled to them is different from EXPECTING them. I deserve to be treated with a certain level of respect — and I want that for my children, too. But I’ve figured out that I can insist on those things for myself without expecting them. It might sound contradictory, but it’s actually pretty simple; If I don’t like the way someone treats me, I can choose to let them go. Not out of anger. Not to teach them a lesson. I can simply choose NOT to nourish their place in my life because I don’t feel good when I’m around them. And I deserve to feel good. Which is still so different from expecting certain things from them. This is way of accepting the reality of a person without judgement or resentment, and then making choices (i.e. whether I want said person to be part of my life) that honor the life I know I deserve.

Anyway, when I searched my heart for lingering anger, petty hurt, long-standing resentment, I was happily surprised to find very little. I felt… LIGHT. It made me feel that all this work I’ve been doing really has made a difference. I’ve come to see anger and resentment and old pain as a handful of rocks. We reach down, picking them up and stuffing them in our pockets along the way, the weight of them growing heavier so gradually we don’t even notice as we add each one. Until one day we are so heavy, so burdened, that we have to sit by the road just to catch our breath.

In contrast, all the positive things in life — light and love and joy — are like a pocketful of feathers. Soft and light. A reminder of all that is beautiful. A gift beyond the things themselves because they not only enable us to move forward weightlessly, but they help to carry us, too, as if we can actually perch on them as they float through the air. And there is always enough to go around, because who wants to keep a beautiful feather stuffed in the recesses of their pockets? Better to let it loose, allow it to drift to someone else who may need it, too.

Today, before my first meditation of the new year, I turned my pockets inside out, looking for any remaining rocks. I found a couple — tiny pebbles worn smooth by my hand. Once I set about it, they were surprisingly easy to vanquish. But instead of throwing them blindly into the water, I took a moment to look at them, to face their weight. I was surprised by how innocuous they were. I think now of all the time I spent ignoring them, letting them rattle around, weighing me down just enough to keep me from feeling free.

Today I threw them out across the water. I’m going to try not to pick up any more this year, but I think I’ll take a look on the first day of each new year anyway, just to be sure.

Dear reader, that is my wish for you in 2014; That you may have empty pockets, a light heart, and plenty of feathers to go around.

<3

 

0 likes 4 responses
06/06/13 Life , Little Things # , , , , , , , ,

Little Things – Time

Little Things – Time


Okay, this isn’t EXACTLY what I look like when I have free time.

 

 

 

 

More like this;

 

Still, time is the biggest little thing in the world. I haven’t had much of it the past few months. Really, the past couple of years. I’ve been working non-stop, running from one project to another, editing in between, and generally just trying to stay on top of it all. Unfortunately, blogging is one of the first things to go when things get crazy, which is why I’ve been MIA.

But there is good news! Some of it I can’t tell you just yet, but I have lots of stuff in the works, some official and some not-yet-official, that you’ll be hearing about soon. In the meantime, I finally have a little time. Not run-through-a-field-of-wildflowers time, but time to take a breath and figure out what to write next. Time to plan a marketing strategy for THIS WICKED GAME, which comes out in November. Time to do some soul searching about which direction I want to take my career. Maybe even time to bake some cookies.

And there’s nothing like NOT having time to do those things to make you appreciate the very big, little thing that is time. So today, I’m grateful for having a breather. For every nap, every moment talking to my girls on the couch, every morning enjoying the sun on the patio.

I hope you enjoy it, too. Whether it’s five minutes, five hours, or five days. Make the most of every moment.

<3

0 likes no responses
04/01/13 Life , The Sunday Experiment # ,

The Sunday Experiment – Extended Cut

Whew! It’s been awhile! I haven’t done an official Sunday Experiment the past two weeks, mostly because Rebekah was home from college for Spring Break, and I ended up taking a FEW days off over the past ten days. So really, I guess I did a Sunday Experiment — just on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday.

😉

 

Even though it’s put me behind a bit, I’m learning to embrace opportunities to take time off. I really do feel energized after stepping away from work — and technology — which makes it easier to view it as a necessity rather than a luxury. After some time off, even if it’s only a Sunday, I just work better and more efficiently.

As part of my mission to be more mindful, I’m slowly learning not to think about work when I’m not doing it. There are some exceptions; during transitional periods, i.e. driving home last night after dropping Rebekah off at school, I might choose to use that time to ease mentally back into work, pondering a plot point on which I’m stuck or a problem I need to solve in my current WIP. But it’s okay, because I’m CHOOSING to use that time rather than feeling like a slave to my unruly mind.

Most of the time, though, I just accept the times I can’t work. In the past, I would obsess about that time I was losing, the work I NEEDED to do. But being mindful is training me to live in the moment. As a result, I enjoy my time off more and come back from it ready to work.

Now we have about seven weeks until Rebekah is home for the summer. I plan to bust it during that time, finishing my current WIP as well as two big edits. Hopefully by then I’ll be ready to handle the challenge of balancing work with the slower, more relaxed pace of summer and the temptation to spend every second with Rebekah while she’s home.

How are you guys doing? Anyone else still with me in taking regular time off and away from technology?

 

0 likes 2 responses
03/18/13 Life , The Sunday Experiment # ,

The Sunday Experiment – Going with the Flow

Sorry for the radio silence last week, you guys. I spent all week working around my house, doing much needed maintenance and repair. I’m rarely in the mood to deal with that kind of stuff, so I figure I should take advantage of it!

This week’s Sunday Experiment was a little different as I had several of Rebekah’s college friends home for the weekend. I knew in advance that I wouldn’t get any writing done, so I decided it was a good opportunity to practice being mindful and just enjoy the deviation from our usual routine. With that in mind, I happily cleaned, cooked, and generally tried to be hospitable without giving too much thought to the work I could be doing. And while it wasn’t textbook time off, it was lovely to be around other people, visit with a friend who came by to chat Saturday night, drink wine, and make good food.

I didn’t text at all because Rebekah was home, I didn’t write, and I didn’t answer emails or check Facebook more than a couple of times. Sometimes rest doesn’t mean sleep, but time away from the obligations that make us feel stressed or pressured. This past weekend was good practice for the next two weekends, which coincide with Spring Break. I know I’ll want to spend some time with Rebekah while she’s home, so I’ll have to find a way to make that my time off.

And speaking of being mindful, I know I said I was going to focus on something new each month to bring my life back into balance, but the truth is, mindfulness just hasn’t become enough of a habit for me to move on from it yet. My goal is to get to a place where it’s the exception for me not to be mindful. Right now, it’s still the rule, so I’ve continued to work on it this month and will do so in April, too, if I still don’t have a handle on it.

Someone asked me on Facebook if focusing on certain components of balance had the opposite effect of my goal in taking time off. That is, instead of being able to relax and just BE, if having something to focus on — like mindfulness — became just another obligation. The answer (for me, at least), is no.

A year ago, I made it a goal to do yoga nearly every day. I made it part of my daily routine, right up there with taking a shower and brushing my teeth in the morning. In the beginning, it was a hassle. But after awhile, it became so much of a habit that now I don’t even think about it. I know I don’t need thirty minutes to get ready even though that’s how long it takes me to shower and get dressed. I need an hour so I can do yoga before showering. And making yoga part of my daily life has made a HUGE difference in how I feel.

I guess that’s my goal with mindfulness, too. So while right now, I still have to remind myself to be in the moment, to look around, to really listen to the people taking to me, I’m hoping that it eventually becomes a habit like yoga.

How about you? Anybody else still with me on the Sunday Experiment? If so, how is it going?

0 likes no responses
03/09/13 Life #

River Walk

River Walk

Today I took advantage of the 50 degree weather by taking a walk with my son to our favorite river.

It was awesome. I don’t think I need to say more.

<3

 

0 likes 2 responses
03/06/13 Life , Recipe of the Week , Recipes # , ,

Recipe of the Week – Quick Vegetarian Meals

Recipe of the Week – Quick Vegetarian Meals

Last week I gave you guys a list of pantry staples for vegetarians. Of course, after I posted it I thought of a million little things that I like to have in the pantry, but I forced myself not to edit the post because the idea of a “staple” is that it’s something you really must have, not an “extra.”

In that blog post, I promised you a list of quick, easy meals you can make with said staples, as well as the recipe for my own quick vegetable soup. But after writing down some of my favorite throw-together meals, I decided to hold off on the soup recipe. I’ll give it to you next week instead because there’s already a lot to work with here.

Here I go! Vegetarian meals you can make with pantry staples;

Saute veggies with olive oil and garlic, toss with pasta, and throw in some Parmesan (or not)

Toss pasta with canned or fresh tomatoes, garlic and basil

Think outside the traditionally-Italian pasta dish by mixing up the ingredients and spices, i.e. toss penne with corn, black beans and tomatoes and toss with olive oil, chili powder, and cumin for a Mexican-based dish. Toss linguini with peanut butter and a little chili oil or red pepper flakes for an Asian or Thai flavor (you can also use a little sesame or peanut oil).

Brown rice is overlooked as a base for meals, but it can be used much the same as pasta. In the colder months, you can saute it in olive oil or butter and then add stuff to it in the water for a kind of homemade Rice-a-Roni/healthier risotto. This works great with a little vegetable based Better Than Bouillon added to the water and some spices (use something that works with your ingredients, as with the pasta above) or even something like coconut milk, which will give it a more exotic flavor (I toss rice or quinoa cooked with coconut milk with pineapple and cilantro and it’s amazing).

In the hot summer months, cold rice can be tossed with virtually anything. Add flavor with rice vinegars, fruit-based vinegars, flavored olive oils, and spices or fresh herbs. In vegetarian cooking, especially, herbs and spices are king. A rice-based dish with curry powder will taste completely different than one with oregano or one with chili powder. Vary other ingredients accordingly.

Quinoa is a miracle ingredient for vegetarians. Packed with fiber and high in protein, you can use it almost interchangeably with rice. Use the above ideas with quinoa to mix up the texture and vitamin/mineral content of your meals or just to boost your intake of protein.

Eggs are another overlooked ingredient. You can make a quick easy frittata with the vegetables you have in your refrigerator. Just saute them a bit and pour beaten egg over the mixture in the pan. Use a rubber spatula to separate the egg from the edge of the pan every couple of minutes until the eggs mixture is almost set in the center. Sprinkle with cheese (any kind will do, goat cheese is a favorite in our house) and put under the broiler for a few minutes and voila! Perfect with a salad and it takes about 20 minutes to make. You can also add chunks of wheat bread to the veggie saute to boost the fiber content (this is a good way to use up the ends of a loaf of bread). As with the other dishes, vary ingredients and herbs and spices to mix up the flavor. A Mexican-based frittata is great with some warmed tortillas and a nice salad. Frittatas are a great way to use up odds and ends at the end of the week (or beginning of a new one). Almost anything works!

And speaking of tortillas, they come in handy! You can use the big ones as wrap holders by spreading them with hummus and layering anything and everything inside. Use goat cheese or feta with lettuce, olives, tomato, and pepperoncini for a Greek vibe. Mozzarella, basil, and roasted red peppers drizzled with a little olive oil are great if you want an Italian sandwich fix. And of course, they can still be used for burritos and tacos. I love the burritos from Chipotle Grill, but making them at home is so quick and easy, especially with leftover brown rice and canned black beans (I saute mine with minced onions). Slice up some avocado and/or make guacamole, add salsa, and you’re good to go. Small tortillas can be used for vegetarian tacos. It’s a little known secret that virtually anything seasoned with chili powder and cumin and placed in a taco shell will send “taco” messages to the brain. For example, a mixture of sauteed chopped zucchini, corn, and black beans with said seasonings are DELICIOUS as a taco. Even my teens don’t miss the meat AT ALL.

And as with frittatas, wraps are a good way to use leftovers. One night’s leftover rice dish can seem entirely different wrapped in a tortilla with hummus, salad dressing, salsa, etc.

Bread can be used to make panini or cold sandwiches. I make a great vegan sub with avocado, shredded lettuce, red onion, tomato, olives, pepperoncini, oil and vinegar and salt and pepper. We started out making them with cheese to replace meat, but honestly, I don’t miss the cheese with the avocado in there. Think outside the box with grilled sandwiches. Grilled cheese can be modified to include any kind of cheese and fruit like pears and apples, etc. Use mozzarella and layer with roasted red pepper and basil for an Italian panini or spread sun-dried tomato paste (not in staples but readily available) on bread and layer with thinly sliced veggies for a cold sandwich.

Soups are my go-to meal in the winter. I make at least one giant pot of soup every week and sometimes two or three. It makes for a comforting snack and is a cheap, nutritious between-meal boost for my busy, active teenagers. And you can make anything with vegetable based Better Than Bouillon. Saute veggies for vegetable soup. Throw in some leftover rice, corn, black beans, and tomatoes with chili peppers (or Rotel) and add some lime, chili powder, and cumin for a Mexican soup. Saute potatoes with leek and puree with beans to make my famous Potato Leek soup. Add elbow macaroni, two kinds of bean, canned tomatoes, and chopped fresh parsley for a vegetarian pasta fagioli.Serve with bread and/or a salad for a meal and store the rest in the refrigerator for snacks.

In the summer, salads take over for soup. We throw everything in them and vary the kind of vinegar for different flavors.You can make salads without lettuce, using rice or quinoa ad/or canned beans as the basis for a hot-weather salad that’s super nutritious AND tasty. No need to be fancy! Just throw in some other ingredients and toss with olive oil and/or flavored or rice vinegar.

There are tons of ways to mix up basic vegetarian staples for easy meals. Most of the meals above can be made in thirty minute or less. The soups, which take more like 45 minutes, allow for some simmer time, so you can do other things while its cooking. And one of the unexpected bonuses of vegetarian meals is that I don’t feel like I have to make side dishes. In the past, I’d have to add a grain and vegetable to meat to feel like my family was getting a well-rounded meal. But with vegetarian dishes, the meal itself is generally packed with nutrition, rendering side dishes almost obsolete. Nutrition-packed vegetarian dishes are also surprisingly filling. Because your body is getting what it needs in terms of vitamins and minerals – and because vegetarian meals are often packed with fiber – everyone needs a lot less food to feel satisfied. It’s an amazing phenomena!

The biggest thing it to have staples in your pantry and get cooking. It’s not hard once you’ve logged some time in the kitchen. Make it a goal to make one or two new recipes a week (Pinterest and Epicurious are my favorite sources for new recipes), and before you know it, you’ll find that being in the kitchen is second-nature. Then you’ll begin to get your own ideas, i.e. “You know what would probably be good? THIS with THAT!” Enlist the help of your spouse and kids, too. It is good for kids to learn to prepare healthful meals fro themselves, and time spent in the kitchen totally counts as quality time. At a loss for what to make at the last minute? Ask THEM to look in the pantry and refrigerator and see what they can come up with.

You might be surprised – in a GOOD way.

Plus, you can use the money save not eating out to do something fun!

 

 

0 likes 2 responses
02/26/13 Life , Recipe of the Week , Recipes # , ,

The Vegetarian Pantry

The Vegetarian Pantry

I’ve been getting a ton of traffic on my vegetarian recipe posts, which makes me think there are a lot of people out there trying to cut back on meat (or cut it out entirely).

So in lieu of a recipe this week, I thought I’d give you some vegetarian pantry staples. Odds are, if you have most of these things in your pantry or refrigerator, you can make something healthy and vegetarian with a moment’s notice.

Bonus; it’s MUCH cheaper to eat vegetarian, even allowing for organic produce and other more expensive type items, which you don’t HAVE to buy.

This may seem like a lot, but once you’re stocked, you just have to replace an item here and there as you use it. Every week I might have to replace 3 to 5 non-perishables (tamari, vinegar, olive oil, etc.). Most of our grocery cart is fruit, veggies, and the rare dairy product or almond milk. Our family of five (Rebekah is away at college but I still supplement her dorm food a bit) spends $150-$200/week on groceries, and that includes paper products and almost entirely organic produce (and even organic rice, canned tomatoes, etc.). If you’d like to start making changes but want to avoid a big, giant stock up, just add a couple of these items to your regular list each week.

Here’s what I recommend;

Olive oil

Vinegars (I keep balsamic, red wine, apple cider, white wine, and raspberry)

Brown rice

Quinoa

Canned chickpeas (I also keep black beans, pintos, kidneys, and white beans as well as dried beans, although they take longer to cook)

Peanut butter and/or tahini

Jarred tomato sauce

Canned diced or whole tomatoes

Better Than Bouillon vegetable broth paste (in soup/broth section of store or natural foods section for organic)

Applesauce

Pasta and/or rice noodles

Greek yogurt

Goat cheese and/or feta cheese

Olives

Nuts and/or seeds (the ones we use most are sunflower and pumpkin seeds, walnuts, and peanuts)

Eggs

Tamari (natural soy sauce – don’t buy so called soy sauce. It’s just corn syrup) and Sriracha sauce

Wheat bread

Tortillas (corn or flour)

Herbs and spices (my go-tos are cayenne, red pepper flakes, paprika, oregano, basil, tarragon, thyme, chili powder, and cumin)

Staple fruits and veggies (ours are apples, bananas, oranges, tomatoes, mixed greens, avocado, eggplant, zucchini, carrots, celery, leeks, onion, garlic)

With these things you can make multiple (and amazing!) vegetarian soups, pastas, rice and quinoa-based dishes, wraps/burritos/tacos, main course salads, etc. Next week I’ll post some of my favorite quick vegetarian dinners, including a recipe for my much-loved, super fast and easy vegetable soup.

Happy cooking!

<3

 

0 likes no responses
02/25/13 Life , The Sunday Experiment # ,

The Sunday Experiment – Uphill Battle

The Sunday Experiment – Uphill Battle

You guys… I’m clinging to my Sunday Experiment by a thread.

After working so hard last week (SO HARD) to meet a deadline, I told myself I’d take the whole weekend off. Problem was, I was running on 2 hours sleep from Thursday night and it totally jacked me up. I was in this weird manic, exhausted state where the words of the project I’d finished kept roiling around my head, even when I tried to sleep.

And it lasted all. weekend. long.

Then on Sunday I had another project I had to finish, plus I had to go to town to run an errand (something I normally would have done in advance to protect my Sunday off, but didn’t get to do because of the deadline).

So basically, I had this weird, exhausted, frustrating, sort-of day off that I didn’t fully enjoy.

Part of the problem, I think, is that I was struggling with mindfulness (my focus for February). I couldn’t seem to compartmentalize the things I’d finished and the things I needed to do from the time I needed to relax.

The other part is that I abandoned a lot of the things I’d been prioritizing to take care of myself. I should know by now that the 30 minutes I gain is totally offset by the diminished productivity I feel when I’m not taking care of me.

But I’m NOT giving up. I still have a lot of balls in the air, but I’m really going to work on getting back on track this week, starting with taking care of myself with yoga and meditation, both of which went out the window during last week’s crunch.

And I WILL get my Sunday off this weekend!

How are you guys doing? Is anyone still with me in trying to take one full day a week away from work and social media?

<3

0 likes 2 responses
02/20/13 Life , Recipe of the Week , Uncategorized # ,

Recipe of the Week – Vegetarian Stroganoff

Recipe of the Week – Vegetarian Stroganoff

Before we became vegetarian, Beef Stroganoff was one of my very favorite dishes. Sure, I knew it was loaded with fat and calories, but there was just something about it’s creamy goodness… every now and then, it was worth the splurge.

 

For a long time, I didn’t even think about trying to recreate it, probably because anything that leads with the word “beef” can seem like a no-brainer for vegetarians.But I have to say, I really regret not trying to modify this sooner. It’s AH-Mazing!

 

And super easy!

 

Okay, still not great in terms of fat (although I’m going to try subbing Greek yogurt for the sour cream next time), but no meat and so delicious, none of us missed the beef. I made it for the kids for Valentine’s Day last week, served it with green beans sauteed in butter, garlic, and lemon, and topped it all off with my famous No Red Velvet Cake.

Best. Valentine’s. Dinner. Ever.

After mentioning it on Facebook, a bunch of you clamored for the recipe, so here tis! Hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Vegetarian Stroganoff

I’d say this serves 6-8 people. All measurement accomodate a standard size bag of egg noddles (12 oz).

4 tbsp. butter

1 medium-large onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

32 oz. mushrooms (I used Baby Bella but you can use whatever you want), quartered (halved if they’re small)

16 oz, sour cream

4 tbsp flour

2 cups water

4 tsp. Better Than Bouillon Vegetable Paste

12 oz cooked egg noodles

1/4 cup chopped parsley

Saute onion, mushrooms, and garlic until onion is translucent.

In the meantime, combine sour cream, flour, water, and vegetable paste in a medium bowl.

Once onions are translucent and mushrooms are cooked but still firm, add flour mixture to pan. Stir until combined.

Let simmer until sauce begins thickens.

Stir in parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve over egg noodles and bon appetit!

0 likes 20 responses
1 2 3
Sign up for book news and free bonus content!

Michelle Zink is the award-winning author of over seven novels. She lives in New York with too many teenagers and too many cats.
Michelle Zink Online
Michelle St. James Online
ORDER LIES I TOLD
iBooks
Amazon
B & N
IndieBound

ORDER THIS WICKED GAME
iBooks
Amazon
B & N
IndieBound

ORDER A TEMPTATION OF ANGELS
iBooks
Amazon
B & N
IndieBound

ORDER CIRCLE OF FIRE
iBooks
Amazon
B & N
Indiebound

ORDER GUARDIAN OF THE GATE
iBooks
Amazon
B & N
Indiebound

ORDER PROPHECY OF THE SISTERS
iBooks
Amazon
B & N
Indiebound
Acclaim

"This arresting story takes readers to other planes of existence…"
- Booklist (starred review)


“An intense and captivating story…”
- VOYA (starred review)


“A fresh and engaging cast of characters, a page-turning plot and lyrical prose add up to an accomplished feat of storytelling…”
- The Guardian


“A captivating tragedy…"
- Publishers Weekly


“Zink’s methodical unfolding of events will draw readers in…”
- Kirkus


“Tingly suspense is craftily managed…”
- The Bulletin

Awards
 

 



@MichelleZink
@realDonaldTrump God is not part of our government in the U.S. Seperation of church & state is cornerstone of our democracy. Period.
RT @TopherSpiro: Experts predict this spread needs to be >8 for Dems to retake the House. The wave is coming...let's make it so. https://t.…
RT @khayadlanga: Many of us know this famous picture of Tommie Smith and John Carlos. But few know the bravery and tragedy of the white guy…