Productivity and PMS

Since having children, I have noticed more than ever before in my life, just how PMS (pre-menstrual stress) affects my writing and author life.

I’m female, almost 39, and while I was pregnant and breastfeeding my second child, I didn’t have a menstrual cycle for almost 2 years. I definitely experienced a variety of hormones and particularly the more notable tiredness of motherhood, but I didn’t experience the same kind of mood swings that I have since my cycle has returned. I know these moods are no worse than they were prior to having kids, but I have a lot more clarity around how PMS hormones affect me as a writer and how I should treat myself in light of that.

When I have PMS I feel a general kind of sadness, some hopelessness, and even a sense of failure. I am plagued with a lot more doubts about what I am doing and feel tempted to give up. I find it hard to make simple decisions especially with regard to self-promotion, marketing and advertising. I struggle to write status updates, or I write more negative ones – which is fine, especially in the sense of being authentic, but can sometimes wind up being discouraging instead of encouraging. And my writing during that time of the month is often poor and requires additional editing or to simply be thrown out!

Since I’m aware of all this, I am now able to go about writing and marketing in a more productive manner. I know that during PMS I am better off not pushing myself to write or edit the book I’m currently working on, unless I have a clear direction about what comes next in the story. I am better off doing other tasks that need to be done, but require perhaps a bit less brain power:

1. Reading! As writers we always need to be reading and reviewing other authors’ works. If I can’t concentrate on writing because of hormones, then I will turn to reading

2. Sorting my work space. This helps clear the mind as well as the desk

3. Watching continuing education videos like InkersCon; TikTok and YouTube videos relevant to my writing topics; listening to relevant podcasts

4. Generally socializing with other authors and readers online whether that’s on Facebook, Goodreads, Instagram, or wherever.

5. Spending time in the outdoors to gain a fresh perspective

6. A little bit of brain-storming – particularly about time wasters I may need to get rid of, or ideas about how I want to simply my daily writing life. However I try not to make final decisions until during my period

I have found that during my period is often a really good time for clearing junk and clutter, whether that be physical mess or a writing mess. When you think about it, the body is eliminating something it no longer needs and so a woman’s frame of mind at the time is often one of elimination, simplification, sorting and organizing. This seems like the most ideal time to plan out the next cycle of work. Yes, I do mean that your writing cycle may benefit from following your hormonal cycle. Do the bulk of your writing and editing after your period, during those weeks before PMS strikes again and eventually your period begins.

It also stands to reason that the most creative time of the month is during ovulation! Your body is putting out all this juicy, hungry energy and is trying to create new life! You will probably crate your best work and formulate new ideas during ovulation. So, if you know how to track or approximate ovulation, make sure there is time in your schedule for your creativity to be thoroughly expressed at this time of the month. Prioritize writing, marketing, advertising etc. around your menstrual cycle to maximize productivity at the most appropriate times.

Interestingly, I wrote this blog during PMS because that is when I am at my most critical and analytical.

Keep up the good work, female writer friends!!

Happy Halloween from North Carolina!

A bit about Australian culture and Halloween

I grew up in Australia; a child in the 80s, a teen in the 90s & a graduate of (senior) high school in the year 2000. When I was a child, very few Australians celebrated or really acknowledged Halloween. It was an American thing that we saw on the movies and in TV shows. A handful of trick-or-treaters would knock on our door Halloween night and ask for candy. We’d search our cupboards for the best crackers and cookies and offer those instead.

Nowadays in Australia, Halloween is more commercialized. We copycat American culture by selling Halloween costumes, candies & a few decorations, because we don’t want to miss out on this mystical party we see on TV every October. Trick-or-treating in fancy dress costumes is much more common for Aussie children today than ever before.

But, in Australia, October is spring, not autumn/fall. It is similar weather, but it does not have the same harvest backdrop that is experienced in the States. There are no pumpkin patches, corn mazes, hayrides, jack-o’-lanterns, or fall leaves. In fact, Australians don’t celebrate these things at harvest time either. It’s a different climate, a different harvest, and ultimately a different culture.

This is the context I come from. Add to that the fact that I grew up in a Christian family that was a little suspicious of Halloween with its ghosts and witches, and the result is an adult who has essentially NEVER celebrated Halloween. I’ve never donned a costume on October 31st, never knocked on doors for candy, never made a jack-o’-lantern…

Until this year! 2021, the year I moved to America!

A bit about American culture and Halloween

What I never realized as an Australian observing Halloween through a television screen, is that Halloween is intertwined with fall. In fact, I daresay that fall and harvest are the bigger celebrations. They come to a epic climax on Halloween and Thanksgiving, but they are so much more than just October 31st and the last Thursday in November.

There’s a very gradual shift in the weather that starts somewhere in September. The leaves on the trees begin to change color and us spectators start trekking to the mountains, and the famous Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia, not far from where we live, and other parts of God’s creation like pretty parks and lakes, to photograph the stunning leaves. And let me tell you, there are far more changing leaves in the continental US than on the continent of Australia. Plus there is a whisper dancing on those leaves and a deep knowing in our bones… COLD is coming.

While it gets cold in plenty of southern places in Australia, I grew up in the Western Suburbs of Sydney where the cold is fleeting. It has never snowed in the general area that I lived in. But where I live in America, it will snow at least once or twice before winter is over and there are days of cold that never get much above freezing!! It’s a different climate (for me, at least). And winter here means that harvest is mostly–if not completely–over. So harvest has a weight here that is perhaps not as strongly perceived in Australia.

What are two big ticket items that are being harvested:
Pumpkins & corn.

People start making their pumpkin soups and their pumpkin pies and drinking hot drinks with lots of cinnamon because it’s cold, and eating corn on the cob and corn kernels and using corn starch in all sorts of things.

And over the years, Americans have developed traditions like fall festivals and walking through corn mazes.

What’s a corn maze?

You’ve seen corn fields on creepy movies, right? A lot of farmers grow them—taller than your tallest friend—with paths going through them that create a maze for you to try to find your way out of. You can actually get lost in the really big ones! I experienced my first corn maze this year. It was for families like mine with toddlers. There’s one way in and couple of routes out—no getting lost if you follow the path.

There are also farms dedicated to growing pumpkins that are specifically for carving jack-o’-lanterns! I really had no idea that these pumpkins that look so massive, are mostly hollow inside, and apparently they don’t taste nice if you try to eat them. I went to my first pumpkin patch this year on a farm. We patted animals and saw a field of pumpkins where people chose one (or however many) to buy. We later bought a cheaper one a Walmart. Last night we visited friends and learned

How to make a Jack-o’-lantern:

1. Cut a hole around the stalk of the pumpkin so that you can lift the top off like a lid
2. Gut the pumpkin of seeds and flesh until the walls of the pumpkin are solid and smooth
3. Draw an outline of a face on the pumpkin as a guide, using shapes like squares and triangles that are easy to cut
4. Use a sharp knife to cut the face into the pumpkin outer layer / skin
5. Throw out excess pumpkin pieces so that it is hollow inside and you can safely light a candle and place it in the bottom of the lantern without starting a pumpkin fire
6. Replace the top of the pumpkin that you cut off at the beginning (ensuring it has no dangling bits that can catch on fire).
*This will be easiest with an appropriate jack-o’-lantern pumpkin, not one you eat!

How do you celebrate on Halloween:

Well, you can do the traditional trick-or-treating in costumes by knocking on your neighbors’ doors and asking for candy. Special Halloween buckets are sold and most neighbors play along by buying tons of candy! You can do it in groups or throw a Halloween block party.

OR: Trunk-or-treat

For those of us who are still a little creeped out by Halloween, I recommend starting your own trunk-or-treat! Trunk-or-treat is a Christian/religious spin on trick-or-treating! Hundreds of kids will meet at churches in their Halloween costumes to play games, eat food and have treats from the trunks of cars. (Whether or not the car trunk is really involved, I have yet to witness, but that’s why it’s called trunk-or-treat). And that’s what my daughters and I will be doing tonight. My eldest will be dressed as Belle from Beauty and the Beast, my youngest in a black and orange tutu and I will be wearing my pumpkin fall leggings from Walmart and an orange shirt I picked up at Goodwill.

And if you need a creepy but Christian book to read this Halloween, the 3rd and final instalment of my series Covenant-999 was released at 12am this morning!


Thank You Coronavirus

From my observations of the world this year—the year of the coronavirus pandemic—I have come to the conclusion that a spiritual shift is taking place. What do I mean by this statement? Well, for those who don’t believe in the spiritual, I guess you would call it a subtle shift in direction—a change of heart or mentality. To me all these are basically the same things. Our response to a physical virus has ramifications in so many areas of our lives as individuals and as a whole. While not every individual has gone through the same challenges as every other individual, I think the collective whole would say that things have changed or that change is in the air. I suspect that the multitude and variety of changes across the billions of lives on this planet, imply a bigger collective change—or, at least, an opportunity for growth and awakening.

Some of us are re-evaluating our vocation. Millions have lost jobs and had significant changes in occupation. Financial hardship has sent some people scrambling for social security, taking out loans, claiming insurance, and cracking open their retirement accounts, or actually retiring early. While for others, this has been a year of increased prosperity, additional work hours and new opportunities as we work from home and online.

Some of us are re-evaluating our physical health. Going on diets. Exercising more regularly. Experiencing the incredible link between physical health and mental stability, and the distinction between indoor exercise and outdoor exercise which also has an impact on brain serotonin levels. Others have decreased their physical exertions in favour of binge watching and overeating. Still others have had babies this year and can’t seem to shake the last five kilos (11 pounds).

There seems to have been a lot of relationship breakdown this year. Couples that were on the rocks for a long time have been tipped over the edge of the cliff by this shift in the spiritual climate of our world. We’ve been stuck at home more and the things that get on our nerves in our home-based relationships are getting on our nerves a lot more. A great big spotlight has thrown light on our weaknesses and many of us have been given the opportunity to either address those issues or to decide that we have irreconcilable differences.

My own marriage has struggled. With the added pressure of a second pregnancy and child, JD and I have had more fights this year than any other year since we met. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that 2020 has been the hardest year in our relationship. We are working on our marriage. We’ve visited with a spiritual mentor. We’ve also added some reading time to our evening routine as a way to connect more deeply. We used to read together regularly before we had kids, so it has been refreshing to do this again and has sparked meaningful conversations. But the things that annoy us about each other are still there and we are continuing to navigate and negotiate the reality of our life as a family of four.

And I’ve experienced some loneliness this year. I’m guessing a lot of people have. Especially those living alone or feeling vulnerable and isolated during this pandemic. When you are told you aren’t allowed to catch up for coffee with your friends and family for an unknown period of time, it can actually spark the question whether you even have many friends or a caring family. I’m very lucky when it comes to family—immediate, extended and in-law. But honestly, I’ve lost a lot of friends, over a lot of years, for a lot of different reasons. In the past decade I’ve altered a few belief systems, married and given birth to two children. I have become more honest and less polite—perhaps we all do this with age? And coronavirus has brought to my attention the fact that I want more friends and deeper relationships with the friends that I have.

So, on the negative side of things, coronavirus has swept more than a million lives right off the globe, and caused physical suffering for many more. Millions of people are grieving and too many have plumbed the depths of loneliness. Domestic violence and divorce have most likely increased this year as well. But on the positive side of things, many relationships have taken the next step. I’m sure there’s been a spike in online dating and online wedding ceremonies. A baby boom is expected to result from lockdown and in my own circle of family and friends a lot of babies have been born during this period of social restriction. 2020 relationships have gone “kaboom!” in both positive and negative ways.

All of this affects our mental health, stability and well-being, and in turn our mental health—our thoughts and emotions—affect our reality. It’s like we are being woken up. We have been forced to ask questions like “Do I have enough friends?” “Am I working purely for money or for love of my job?” “How can I earn more money to support my family?” “Where do we go from here?”

Where do we go from here in this global financial crisis? Where do we go from here in light of the virus? Where do we go from here in our marriages? Where do we go from here in our businesses? Where do we go from here in the larger environment, with climate change and our carbon footprint?

When I was younger, I had this dream of becoming a writer. I never really doubted my ability to write books, even though it took me until I was 25 to complete one that I was truly proud of. But between the ages of 25 and 38 I’ve sold only a small number of copies. I’ve played a sort of tug-of-war with my dream. I’ve been selling myself the lie that, “I don’t know how to market my books.” That’s my justification for my financial failure specifically as a writer. But this year—in this mentally challenging climate, full of questions—my soul has been reminded of my dream to be a successful published writer by earning a profit from my writing. I’m blogging again. I’m editing the books I’ve already written. I’m re-vamping my website. I’m researching marketing and how to be a successful indie author. And I believe I owe some thanks to coronavirus.

There is so much opportunity in the air. Do you sense it? In amongst the chaos and death of coronavirus, there are new things springing to life everywhere. The Bible talks about the seed that falls to the ground and dies so that the plant can grow in its place and bear fruit. Rebirth starts with death. This was so true for me after my mother died in 2011. On New Year’s Eve my status update was something like “good riddance 2011.” And I know that a lot of people feel that way about 2020. But so many things changed for the better in 2012-2013 that I learned experientially what the Bible meant about one thing dying in order for new things to be born. I met my husband because of changes in my belief system that occurred as a result of my mother’s death. And even though it’s been a tough year for our marriage this year, I am excited for our relationship to grow and blossom through the fire and testing that coronavirus has afforded us.

I truly believe that the year 2021 is a year of opportunity. While 2020 has been an amazing year for some, it has been heart-breaking and painful for others. But this ache—this shift in spiritual direction or mental health: the changes and the questions—it’s all a wake-up call to make things better for ourselves and others. What I really want is for people to see the opportunity—the dream come true, the renewed passion, the rebirth in amongst the death, rubble, turmoil and trauma that the pandemic-year, 2020, has brought us—and to build something fresh in 2021.

So, I say thank you to the coronavirus pandemic and to the year 2020. Thank you and goodnight to you … and may tomorrow bring fresh hopes and dreams and something new to this planet as the year 2021 begins.

Judgement in the book of Obadiah

In the short, poetic prophecy of Obadiah violent language is employed:

Obadiah (8) “In that day,” declares the Lord, “will I not destroy the wise men of Edom, those of understanding in the mountains of Esau? (9) Your warriors, Teman, will be terrified, and everyone in Esau’s mountains will be cut down in the slaughter. (10) Because of the violence against your brother Jacob, you will be covered with shame; you will be destroyed forever.”

Then we have a clear statement of judgement:

Obadiah (15) “The day of the Lord is near for all nations. As you have done, it will be done to you; your deeds will return upon your own head.

Followed by this prophecy:

Obadiah (17) But on Mount Zion will be deliverance; it will be holy, and Jacob will possess his inheritance. (18) Jacob will be a fire and Joseph a flame; Esau will be stubble and they will set him on fire and destroy him. There will be no survivors in Esau.” The Lord has spoken. (19) People from the Negev will occupy the mountains of Esau … (21) Deliverers will go up on Mount Zion to govern the mountains of Esau. And the kingdom will be the Lord’s.

Judgement in Obadiah is focused on the descendants of Jacob and Esau. Jacob and Esau were twin brothers who parted ways in Genesis and Esau’s family are not included in the genealogy of the Israelites. This prophecy mentions violence that has been committed against the tribe of Jacob by the tribe of Esau. The result of violence is judgement! In this case the judgement sounds an awful lot like the crime. “Eye for eye, tooth for tooth” (Exodus 21:24) type judgment. Jacob will set fire to Esau and there will be no survivors.

The judgement on Jacob is one of deliverance! He is set free from the violence of his brother. And the judgement on Esau is to experience the consequences of his actions: wrath. Eye for an eye. Or as we would say today, “what goes around comes around.”

Yet the last part of the prophecy says that there will be deliverers ruling Esau and the kingdom of Esau will be the Lord’s. This sounds like a victory for God and alludes to something more than the literal destruction of Esau. Keep in mind that the prophecy was written in poetic language and that it is not literal. Jacob is not literally a fire. Esau is not literally stubble. These descriptions tell us that Jacob will overpower Esau as fire overpowers stubble. What if the phrase “destroyed forever” refers to the violence of Esau being destroyed? Then God–who is love and not violence–becomes the ruler of the kingdom of Esau. So judgement results in the cessation of violence and the deliverance of those who are being violated!