Four Lessons From My “Desert Friends”

Hi Friends,

I hope you had a wonderful end to 2017 and a better beginning to 2018! A few of you wrote to me with your “one word themes” for the year, and there were some great ones out there. Focus. Fitness. Courage. Finish. No matter what your heart is set on this year, today is the first page of a crisp white notebook. May you fill it with the story of your dreams!

One of the really fun parts of starting a new year is when you get to ceremoniously let go of something ugly, or take a look back at the good and understand how much you’ve grown, how much you have to look forward to, and who has been there along the way.

Tonight I went to my mom’s for posole, and she was waiting with stacks of goodies for my sister and I. My sister got to open a time capsule she made years ago as a school project, and it turned out that my mom had been saving some fun stuff from my elementary school days as well. I now submit this evidence that I should have been a Studio Art major, with an emphasis in illustration:

I know, right? Eat your heart out, Picasso!

These were picture books I made as school projects 20 years ago. I’m only showing you two, but my mom had books I wrote all the way through the 6th grade, and then a series of papers I wrote for my classes. So, over the course of a little less than an hour, I got to see my progression from THE DESERT FRIENDS FIND A NEW HOME to one of the research papers I wrote in the 10th grade. All of these sort of make me cringe, but there were lessons and things I learned about myself as I traveled through time, especially reading Desert Friends:

  1. Jake the Snake, Carl Coyote, and Randy Roadrunner were all best friends with a tarantula, so I wondered if I had some level of sympathy for spiders at one point. The poor coyote even gets injured by a car running around by “A” Mountain whereas the tarantula crosses the street unharmed. Why is the spider faster than the tarantula? Because I liked the spider more? Nah, I think it’s because spiders are evil and the little devil probably teleported. I learned that my fear of them has always gone beyond the natural. Carl Coyote deserved better.
  2. I’ve always had mad love for family. I dedicated all these picture books “to my little sister Ciara,” who was barely even about to become a person at all.
  3. I’ve always enjoyed good, darkly epic villains, especially if they have sarcastic or biting dialogue. I’ll leave you to debate who the villain of DESERT FRIENDS is: the sun who laughs maniacally as he fries the paloverde tree, or the guy who bulldozes through the desert and tells the friends “I don’t care.”

Fourth and absolutely the most important: my mom has always been the most supportive person in my corner, because she took these projects seriously and made sure I did too. She, along with my teachers, found the author in me and made sure he loved what he was doing. I can remember how much fun I had making up stories as a 7-year-old. At 27, I still feel that same unfiltered joy even as I write for career purposes rather than grades. I’ve never looked away, and neither has my mom.

This year, I challenge you to do more of what you love, whether it’s a hobby, a career, something in between, or something far off the rails. If you’re still looking for that, ask what you loved to do when you were seven. There are clues there!

Hold that passion, give it a big hug, and thank the people who always believed in you.

Happy New Year!

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The Year of Calm

Hi Friends!

I wanna start off with a request: Stand or raise your hand if 2017 was a 10 out of 10 for you.

I see three people! Good job, three. You’re the most optimistic people I know. For all of you still sitting, I’m right next to you! This was a weird, weird year, and I wasn’t totally in love with it. I don’t have to describe it all to you. We know our news feeds have been trash fires almost every other day–so much that I took a “Facebook detox” for about three blissful weeks just to get away from some personal negativity.

And I also know that there’s been a lot of good. I hope you can agree and that you’ve pocketed some really great memories this year. Having celebrated my niece’s first birthday and been invited to serve on my first author panel recently, I’ve definitely had my “10/10” moments. But I won’t call it a 10/10 year. Not by a long shot.

I want to share my goals for 2018 and my “one-word theme”:

  1. Add my current novel-in-progress to my publishing contract.
  2. Complete one novel and one short story.
  3. Go somewhere I’ve never been before.

So here’s my one-word theme: CALM.

Let me clarify. I want my life to be full of exciting new adventures, and I don’t want 2018 to be the exception. I hope it’s filled with places I’ve never seen, things I’ve never done, and new opportunities. I hope I see many new faces. That is something I thrive off of.

It’s on the inside that I need to do some maintenance. I know it sounds cheesy! But I’ll share that sometimes my ambitions and my anxiety get in the way of a healthy mindset, and in turn, a healthy body, and sometimes at the expense of great opportunities. I sometimes worry that the world will open up beneath my feet if I don’t get x amount of words on a page or 50 hours into my work week, and then when I accomplish these goals, I ask “Did I do enough? Are these words strong enough? Will people actually like this?”

As an example, my family recently discussed the option for me to travel to Hawaii with them sometime in the new year. I’ve always wanted to go to Hawaii, but without hesitation, I shook my head and said, “There’s no way I can make that happen right now.” My mind was already spinning before I could sit and process it. What about my schedule? Am I on any deadlines? Will so-and-so let me?

But if I can sit, calm down, and be present for a minute, and be okay with taking ten minutes of not doing something, the bigger picture comes clear. I have enough vacation days stored up for this. I’m not going to forget how to write if I sit down on a beach. I can scribble notes on an airplane if I’m really worried about forgetting them.

So 2018 will be the year of CALM. (Literally, I’m going to use the CALM app on my iPhone and hope to meditate around three times a week!) Sometimes we make the best progress by stepping out of the hustle-bustle and off our Facebook feeds, taking a deep breath, and allowing ourselves to recharge. I know that’s what I’m going to do.

Do you have a one-word theme for 2018, any goals, or something you hope to accomplish? (Or any books you can’t wait to read?) Feel free to share ’em with me and I’ll cheer you on! Whatever that is, I want to wish you the best as we close up shop in 2017 and get ready to start a brand new chapter on the calendar!

Happy reading,

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