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Saturday
Feb072015

Learning to Let Go of My Mistakes with an Online Game

When I was 20, I landed a leading role with a community theater group. On opening night, near the close of the second act, I couldn’t find the slit in the drop curtain through which I supposed to emerge, to belt out my final, gut-wrenching number. After what seemed like hours of searching, I stumbled through the black glittering morass and finished the show, though I was convinced the audience was laughing at me. Despite the healthy applause. Despite several great reviews.

For years after, I was haunted by frequent thoughts and even nightmares about 1,200 people snickering at my clumsy entrance on a night when I needed to be perfect. All while getting my first high school teaching job, getting married, and starting a family. 

I was a normal young woman in every other respect. Sure, I had my ups and downs and emotional trials. I suffered a bout of depression after miscarrying my first child, but it’s not like I had ever been diagnosed with extreme mental illness like paranoia. Then again, I'd never told my therapist that I routinely chewed on every mistake I’d made as an adult. I thought everyone held onto them to the extent that I did. I was soon to learn that I was consumed with guilt about nearly inconsequential things far longer than was reasonable or constructive—certainly eons longer than men.

“They asked men and women what was the worst professional mistake they'd ever made and how long they dwelled on it,” said Mary Beth, my first and best professional mentor, who hired me when I was 38-years-old. She’d become a senior college administrator at a time when it was a white man’s province, especially in private higher education. She regularly read books for professional development, including one about women competing with men. “Men said they felt bad about their mistakes for three days. Women said they felt intense guilt about their mistakes for three months,” she concluded.

Men didn’t feel equally guilty as women for as long as women? This was a revelation to me. In fact, the news was so hard for me to process, it took nearly twenty more years to assimilate it. 

But I get it now. I have tangible proof that holding onto your mistakes interferes with your ability to do your next task at work, even in life—thanks to about 50 little lavender, hot pink, and neon green trains.

This Lumosity game is supposed to improve your ability to divide your attention but offers other value-add for me

About two years ago, feeling blindsided by menopausal mental fog, I subscribed to an online brain game service and started cognitive workouts regularly. One of their newer games called “Train of Thought” intrigued me, partly because I’d become a daily commuter on Amtrak and because I became really good at "Train," quickly maxing out at Level 14.

The way the game works is that I have to switch tracks so that a certain color train enters the station with the matching color. The better I do, the faster the trains come at me, and the higher the level I obtain. However, if I make a mistake with one train, I need to forget about it instantaneously to send the next train into the correct color-coded station or I’ll compound the situation and wind up with a string of misses and a crummy score.

Every day I ride Amtrak with a smart young woman who betters me in many ways. At age 30, she is fitter, faster, more athletic, and more tech- and social media savvy than me. I shared “Train of Thought” with her and, because she outshines me frequently, she thought she could whoop my ass at this game, too.

Within a couple of tries, I expected that she’d beat my top score—sending 46 out 50 trains to the right stations. After playing a few times, she gave up on the game because she couldn’t beat me.

“Please don’t think about the trains you messed up. Just concentrate on getting the next train right. Keep trying. Don't give up,” I coached, to no avail.

That may be a lesson she’ll have to learn over time like I did, though I’m hopeful it won’t take her decades like it did me. I care about her and want her to reach her potential and realize all the wonderful things she is capable of. 

I have a 26-year-old daughter, a college graduate now living on her own. Like my commuting friend and how many other talented young women, she can become consumed with what she did wrong rather than celebrating and building on what she did right.

Dwelling on your mistakes is a personally and professionally crippling habit of mind. It may take therapy, a book, or even an online brain game to help women and men learn that life lesson, but it’s one we need to learn, one that I learned at 56-years-young, and one that can never be learned too late.  

Saturday
Sep202014

Don't arm teachers, for god's sake!

Recently the local news did a story on a bill in the Pennsylvania Senate that would allow local school districts to decide whether teachers and other staff should be allowed to carry a weapon for protection.

This is a dangerous and ill-conceived idea. Why so many people think that the answer to ending school shootings is to provide more guns absolutely confounds me.

I taught in private and public schools for 10 years. I experienced many joys during my teaching career, no doubt. But some of my most profound professional disappointments also occurred during the years I taught school as well. That includes moments when I became unhinged, if I am being completely honest.

For the love of everything sacred, don't arm teachers. More guns means more senseless shootings, not less.

For one thing, what does the teacher do with her gun all day. Go through the school day packing? Lock it in her desk drawer? Use it as a starting pistol at track practice?

Teaching middle schoolers can be uncommonly stressful, for another. Students can enrage you. Parents, sometimes stressed beyond their limits, can insult you and reproach you when you least expect it, storming into your classroom when their child doesn't get the lead in the school play. Colleagues can undermine you and make you angry.  

More guns make for a more dangerous working environment, not a safer one.

If you must have guns on school premises, leave them in the hands of trained law-enforcement professionals and keep them out of the hands of classroom teachers.

If this movement to have more guns on school premises isn't the greatest recruiting message for Mennonite-run schools such as Lancaster Mennonite (the Mennonites are a peace-loving faith), for whom guns and armed officers would be anathema, then I don't know what is.

Sunday
Sep072014

Tom's passage to India

Last July, a freelance reviewer and blogger from India contacted me through my website contact form:

Hope you are doing fine. I would love to read [WHO KILLED 'TOM JONES'?] and write a review for the same. If you could kindly send me a paper-back copy of your book, that would be so great. I don't have a Kindle unfortunately."--Aditi SahaThis is Aditi's profile picture on Goodreads


So, I did what any writer desperate for reviews on Amazon and Goodreads would do. I thanked Aditi profusely for looking me up, asked for her mailing address, packed up 'TOM JONES', and sent him off to India.

When Aditi told me part of her six-line mailing address included these parenthetical directions--Landmark: Near Committee's Big Pond--I just knew that 'TOM JONES' would end up floating aimlessly down the Ganges from the pit of a crocodile's belly.

Here is the valiant mailman, trying to keep the novel from the jaws of a crocodile
O me of little faith in the USPS and the Indian mail system. My novel reached Aditi ten days later. And not only did she read it, she reviewed it, very generously, on Goodreads, Amazon US, and Amazon India. (I am embarrassed to say that I didn't even know there was an Amazon India).

OMG! WHO KILLED 'TOM JONES' is terribly funny, I'm going "ROFL" over this book. Do read this book to catch the humor and hilarious moments and dialogues. The characters also add up to the wittiness of this book. And when the old residents get involved in footsteps of Sherlock Holmes, things get messy, chaotic and very, very funny. Ellie is sweet and witty and her chemistry with the residents of the retirement home is very interesting. The chemistry between the detective and Ellie is quite rocking and passionate and lights up the whole book!

Click here to read the complete review on Amazon India.

Wow. My first review for any book on Amazon India. By the way, the paperback version is a steal. Only 796 rupees!

Was this a fun exercise? Absolutely. I am so grateful for readers who take a passionate interest in my work. It's what writers like me live for. Would I do it again? Indubitably. Now that I know a crocodile isn't snacking on my literary masterpieces, I am sending Aditi a copy of GRACE UNEXPECTED.

Friday
Sep052014

'Grace' knocks one out of the park!

Now, an e-book to be published by Amazon!I am SO totally jazzed to share some truly exciting news with readers and loyal blog followers. This week my Seattle-based publisher Booktrope entered into a new business relationship with Amazon, beginning with a mutual licensing deal that deepens ties with Amazon to a significant degree.

This licensing deal directly impacts me because I was one of the ten authors whose novels the folks from Amazon selected for this opportunity. What this means is the digital version of Grace Unexpected, my second novel published by Booktrope, will be reissued under Amazon Publishing as an e-book and/or audio book under Amazon’s imprint while still crediting Booktrope. This agreement covers 15 of Booktrope’s nearly 300 titles.

Words cannot express how excited I am to have had this opportunity literally drop into my lap, and I wanted to share my very happy news with my treasured readers and fans first.

If you would like to learn more about this new relationship, here is the link to the official Booktrope announcement.

And my sincere thanks for your continued support of my writing. I will keep you posted as this new publishing arrangement unfolds.

In the meantime, if you are not familiar with the novel, you can read more about Grace Unexpected here.

Monday
Sep012014

WHO KILLED 'TOM JONES'? takes Bronze in Readers' Fave Award

This is the first year I entered the Readers' Favorite International Book Contest. Since I published WHO KILLED 'TOM JONES'? in 2014, I decided to enter that novel. First, it was named a finalist. And today I learned it won the Bronze Award.

I am so happy for this recognition and am grateful to my creative and editorial team--editor Toddie Downs, proofreader Evelyne Topfer, and cover designer Greg Simanson for their help.

And a special shout out to Ellen Sterling and the best Tom Jones impersonator working today Steve McCoy for their special contributions to the book's success.