Jan 092017
 

 

Every year, I re-evaluate my life’s goals. I take into account, where I am, what I’ve done, and where I want to be in the future. I think about my health, my family, my career, and my friendships. This type of evaluation becomes more essential the older I get. If I know where I’ve been and I have goals, then I know where I’m going.

This year, there have been some losses and health scares in my family. These situations have made me realize that I must make better health choices to get my body and mind to its optimum state.

I also believe that being healthy goes beyond the physical and that I need to be as mentally healthy as possible. This is why I am learning how to take things as they come, surround myself with supportive and positive people, and think before I speak. I will also put out supportive and positive energy. I will be more appreciative of the happiness that surrounds me.

I love being able to witness the good that surrounds my family and friends. I love it when they not only what they want, but what they deserve. This year, my husband received his master’s degree, my son received an excellent report card, my sister went back to college, and my brother helped my parents move to North Carolina to be closer to him. They are all pretty happy, which makes me happy.

Watching my family succeed is motivating because if they can do it, then so can I. They make me feel invincible. I am determined to sharpen my writing, editing, marketing, and design skills. I will utilize these skills to be as successful as possible this year.

The older I get, the more I realize that time is one of the most important currencies in my life. I will not squander it away as I have done in the past. It is important to be selective about who I spend my time with and what I spend my time on. This year, I will spend more time with my family, on my work, and on myself.

I know how easy it is to lose your way. This is why it’s important to set goals with time limits and take action.

Here are some questions you may want to answer to help you with your own life evaluation:

  1. What did you want to accomplish last year?
  2. Did you accomplish what you set out to do? If not, re-evaluate if you would still like to do it this year and create a list.
  3. Think about what you wish to do this year. Where would you like to be? Create a specific to-do list with a plan of action complete with deadlines.
  4. Then take action. Like they say, there’s no time like the present.

This is your year and nothing will stop you. You can do it. Good luck with all of your goals!

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined.” -Thoreau

Happy New Year!

 

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Nov 062014
 

I just had a piece published by Chicago Literary Map.

If you haven’t heard of Chicago Literary Map, you should check it out. Here’s what it’s all about:

“Beyond the bright lights and cityscapes, stories unfold. Some are true, others are fiction, showing you a side of the city that often goes untold. Chicago Literary Map is charting the text and putting it in the palm of your literary-loving hand.

Navigate Chicago on a new level, guided by the voices who have been, where updates bring new vignettes from around the city.”

Rad, huh?

Please check out my piece called Ohio Street.

If you’d like to more about the creator of CLM, Stephanie Plenner, please follow her on Twitter: @splenner. You can also follow Chicago Literary Map here: @literarymap.

Your turn. What was it like where you grew up in Chicago?

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Oct 072014
 

My life is always changing, which means that the space around me is always changing. After my first update, I worked on my office closet again and here are the results.

I stated that I wanted convenience, space, lighting, and color. I think I have achieved all of that and more.

Here is my current space:

closed and open closet doors

And here is a close-up of the interior: office closet
Here is what I did to achieve my dream space:

For convenience, I had an outlet put into my dining room and it is wonderful. I no longer have to avoid cords sprawled across my floor.

For space, I purged a ton of paper. I still have one small bin that I need to go through, but everything else is in files on my desktop. Sure things need to be separated, but at least all of that paper is out of the way.

For lighting, I used a clamp lamp, which can be moved around anywhere. It’s a great tool to have. I couple that with my overhead light above and it works beautifully. I believe that a workspace needs plenty of light to be functional.

For color, I added a city scene that my son made and put up photographs and desk toys. These pops of color are like tiny pieces of happy energy that help me focus.

For organization, I added a DIY combination cork/dry erase board. I made it using an old cabinet door and a pack of square cork and dry erase tiles. I used stamps and white paint to make patterns on the cork, which gave it a little bit of personality. I love my cork/dry erase board and use it every day to keep track of ideas, to-do lists, and important reminders.

I also organized my writing books by color. Organizing books by color makes your space look well put together. Try it yourself.

The best part about my office closet is that there is a place for everything and when I’m done, I can just close it up and join the real world.

May you find your perfect work space in your home as well!

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Apr 022014
 

When I began freelancing, I didn’t have a computer. I’d write out all of my short stories and novel ideas in notebooks. Then, I’d take them to the nearest computer/coffee shop where I’d spend hours transcribing. I thought I was spending my time and energy wisely, but looking back, I wasn’t as productive as I should’ve been.

I should’ve been writing, not transcribing, but I didn’t have a proper tools or workspace. It’s easy to talk yourself out of being productive when you don’t have either.

It took me a few years, but I now have what I need: space, a laptop, software, books, a coffee maker, a routine, and the ability to say no.

This works for me, but every once in a while I dig a change of scenery. Unfortunately, I get easily distracted at coffee shops and bookstores. This leaves me with my current workspaces. I have three desk areas, but they are all very small.

Here’s what I need: space, light, color, and convenience.

Here’s what I need to do: purge and purchase new matching supplies.

When my workspace is unorganized, I find that I am mentally unorganized. I am going to fix my workspaces. My timeline to get these workspaces complete is in 1 month.

I will show before and after photos of my workspace on Monday, May 5th. Stay tuned.

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Feb 232014
 

If you’ve tuned into the news lately, you’re aware that the weather in the Midwest and beyond has been intense. It’s been snowy to say the least, but we’re tough. We can handle it. Except when people get stuck in the alleys. That’s where we draw the line.

A few weeks ago on Saturday morning, I was awakened by the sound of spinning wheels. I looked out and saw a truck stuck in the snow. The alley hadn’t been plowed and I wasn’t sure it would. Alleys aren’t top priority in Chicago after a snowstorm.

The driver kept hitting the gas. The wheels spun. This went on for an hour and a half.

If you’ve ever been awakened by somebody stuck in the snow before drinking your first cup of coffee in the morning then you know how blow-out-your-brains inducing this can be. Think I’m exaggerating? Watch for yourself:

Imagine hearing this for an hour and a half.

Just as I was about to go out and bring the driver a shovel, I saw my neighbor trying to help. Strange thing was, the driver didn’t seem to want his help. Eventually, two burly men arrived and pushed the driver out of the snow.

A beautiful calm fell over my alley and all I could think was, silence is wonderful.

Note to self: emergency shovels are essential and rather cheap.

Note to others: Chicago winters aren’t something to be messed with. Prepare well.

 

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 Posted by at 12:15 pm
Aug 232013
 

My sister and I recently finished our collaborative picture book. I’ve got to tell you – it feels amazing! It took a lot of hard work, motivation, and serious revision, but we’re finished. It looks awesome and I like the way it reads.

I am proud of us!

This work is especially important to me because it’s about growing up as a multiracial kid, a subject I know all too well.

I grew up in Chicago in an area called Ukrainian Village and went to a grammar school in Humboldt Park; a neighborhood that was a stone’s throw away and mostly Puerto Rican. Many of the students that attended my grammar school were 100% Puerto Rican. My sister and I were not. We were genuine Poliricans – half Polish, half Puerto Rican. It doesn’t seem like such a big deal now, but it was back then. I didn’t and still don’t speak Spanish or Polish. To people in these very strong communities that is a no-no. It looks lazy and like you don’t care enough about where you came from, but that is incorrect. All that means is that neither language was available to you. If you were not immersed in a particular language, chances are, you did not pick it up. That’s what happened to us. It had nothing to do with us being lazy or not wanting to connect with our cultures. It didn’t have anything to do with the kinds of people we were or the kinds of people our parents were. It did however, have everything to do with the environment we grew up in. Now try explaining that to a child. I can tell you from personal experience that all of those things don’t matter because kid world is different from adult world and it comes with its own rules. Kids can be loving and enthusiastic, but at their worst they can be as cruel and illogical as any adult.

I was told that I wasn’t Puerto Rican because I didn’t speak Spanish in the 7th grade. When I stood up for myself, my classmate asked if I was calling her mother a liar because that’s who she got that idea from. She was the tallest girl in my class and she was towering over me in a threatening way. For a moment, it scared me. Would she really hit me? I didn’t know. All I knew was that you never wanted to call somebody’s mother a liar in grammar school because it could get you punched. So I did what any kid my age would do, I backed off and let it be. I never believed what she said, but I never liked her or her mother again. From that day on, I refused to be her friend.

What she said to me divided us. It made me feel like I was not good enough to be Puerto Rican, that even though I had this blood running through my veins, until I spoke Spanish, I would never be good enough for that girl and all of the other Latina’s that spoke Spanish. To them, I would be just be an imposter, a fake, different.

Being different is the worst thing you can be in grammar school. Nobody wants to be different. Everybody just wants to fit in and blend and exist because nobody wants to be made fun of. Everybody just wants to be left alone. Most days, I was, but some days, I wasn’t. So, I just got quieter and quieter. All I wanted to do was disappear. And I was disappearing or at least my self-esteem was. That’s how it all started. That’s when I learned how to bury my feelings. That’s where it lay until this one day when I took my son to the park.

This older kid singled him out and told these little girls not to play with him because he thought my son looked weird. Weird to kids nowadays seems to be the new racial epithet. And he wouldn’t let it go. He was berating him and my son didn’t know what they were saying because, well he was two, but I did and it brought back all of these horrible memories of being ostracized by ignorance. All because he looked different. It made me angry.

So, in order for my son to be accepted into their world he had to look like them? Who told them that nonsense?! Where did they pick up that ideology?! I wanted to leave and never take my son back to that park, but my husband said no. That we weren’t going to just walk away and hide. That doing so would be teaching our son that he’s not welcome to play where ever he wanted to and that is not a good lesson to teach a child. You know what? He was right!

And then one of the little girls said something that changed everything. She said, “WHO CARES IF HE LOOKS WEIRD. I DON’T CARE!” And I wanted to applaud that little girl and I was, on the inside, because even though she didn’t know it, she was standing up for my son, for people of color, for me. I knew then that my son and this world would be okay. And that is how our picture book was born.

It’s a book that is long over-due, a book that kids like my siblings and I have been waiting for our whole lives. We are currently shopping our PB around and we’re hoping that it gets picked up soon. This world needs this book and more books about being multiracial; about acceptance and love.

Our fingers are crossed.

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Jul 162013
 

30. Moisturize. Enough said.

29. Recognize your part in everything and take responsibility for your action and inaction.

28. Exercise is a necessity. If you work your body, you will work your mind.

27. Fun is essential.

26. There are a lot of bullies in adulthood. Don’t let people treat and talk to you any old way and don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself. Remember, if you don’t, who will?

25. Fresh foods are the key to healthy living.

Fruit Bowl

24. Go to the doctor and the dentist regularly.

stethoscope

23. Don’t say you’re sorry unless you mean it. It comes off as disingenuous and everybody knows that a phony apology is worse than no apology at all.

22. Having good friends is important.

21. ABL. Always be laughing.

20. Don’t talk to people any old way. They’ll always remember the way you made them feel – disrespected and insignificant.

19. Sometimes it’s better said with a look. Remember the folks from The Office?

18. Take a moment for yourself during the day and go to bed on time to ensure that you’ll always be and feel your best.

17. Travel and make photo books.

16. Some people will disagree with the decisions you’ve made and are making in your life. This is okay.

15. Love yourself.

14. Sometimes you’ll go through a rough patch. Just remember – it’s temporary.

13. Splurge on good coffee. Trust me, you will not regret it.

coffee

12. Believe in yourself. Now take a chance.

11. It is okay to indulge sometimes.

10. Listen to what people are saying and not what you think they are saying.

9. Your spouse/partner/significant other is one of the only people you’ve chosen to have in your life. Remember that and treat them as such.

8. Your body tells you everything. Pay attention to it when it’s shouting at you.

7. There are many young, brilliant minds. Respect the youth.

6. If somebody hurts your feelings, be confident and tell them straight away. Under no circumstances should you let those feelings fester.

5. Your tongue can be just as cutting as a knife. Choose your words wisely.

4. Always be in control of your emotions.

3. Life plans are amazing.

2. Have a running list of nouns that make you happy and refer to it often.

1. When you love the people in your life, love them hard because they won’t be around forever and chances are you’ll miss them when they’re gone.

Hearts

That’s what I’ve learned in the past five years. What about you? What did you learn in your 30’s or are learning?

 

*Note: all images were created by me – Janina R. Williams. Please contact me for permission before using.

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Feb 192013
 

If my alley could talk…

A week ago, at 3 a.m., I heard shouting. I sprung up from my bed, darted towards the window, and lifted the shade to see two guys screaming at each other. One was thin and dressed in white t-shirt and jeans with an open windbreaker. He was wobbling as he walked and I couldn’t tell if it was because he was completely inebriated or if it was because of our icy alley. I soon came to the realization that it had everything to do with alcohol. His friend, a big burly man with shaggy red hair and a beard was screaming at the top of his lungs. “I’M NOT GOING TO LET YOU DRIVE HOME.”

The conversation went something like this:

James Dean Dude: “Why do you care dude? Huh, why do you care?!”

Red Haired Dude: “Because I f’ing care about you okay. I don’t want you to f’in kill someone. I don’t want you to kill yourself!”

James Dean Dude: “Who cares if I kill myself?!”

Red Haired Dude: “I f’ing care okay! I F’ING CARE!

James Dean Dude and Red Haired Dude get into a scuffle. Red Haired Dude comes out of it with an accessory.

James Dean Dude: What, so you’re a tough guy now? YOU’RE A F’ING TOUGH GUY? Give me my glasses.”

Red Haired Dude: “No, I’m not giving you your glasses! You’re not driving home. I’m not letting you drive home!”

James Dean Dude reaches for glasses, but Red Haired Dude is way too strong for drunken James Dean Dude.

James Dean Dude: “Give me my glasses.”

Red Haired Dude: “No.”

James Dean Dude: “Give me my glasses, give me my glasses, give me my glasses, give me my glasses dude, GIVE ME MY F’CKIN’ GLASSES, GIVE ME MY F’CKIN’ GLASSES, GIVE ME THEM, GIVE THEM TO ME, GIVE THEM TO ME.” X 10.

Red Haired Dude: “No, you’re acting like an f’king dick.

James Dean Dude: FFFFFFFFFUUUUU!

Red Haired Dude: “FU you F’king dick! You are f’king wasted, you stupid piece of ish.”

James Dean Dude: (Stomps around with arms flailing.) “Give me my glasses or I’ll call the cops.”

Red Haired Dude: “I’ll call them right now. Here’s my phone.” (Lifts phone into air).

At this point I’m hoping he actually does it, but of course he doesn’t.

They continue screaming like this for five more minutes and I decide that this is my cue to call the cops if I ever want to get back to sleep again.

James Dean Dude: (Stomps around again minus arms) “I can’t see! I CAN’T SEE WITHOUT MY GLASSES!”

Red Haired Dude: “Walk to the street.”

James Dean Dude: “I can’t see. I can’t see.”

Red Haired Dude: “Walk to the street. WALK MFK’er. Walk!”

James Dean Dude: “I can’t see!”

Red Haired Dude: “Put one foot in front of the other and walk.”

James Dean Dude: “I can’t see!”

This is when I realized that the James Dean Dude had some major problems beyond being a little drunk. I was watching a full blown alcoholic with severe mental problems. I started to feel really bad for the Red Haired Dude because I could tell that he really cared for him and I could see this friendship ending very soon. I could also picture the Red Haired Dude being completely broken up by the friendship and I could imagine the James Dean Dude being indignant about it.

I wanted to open up the window and tell the Red Haired Dude that it was useless; that he was wasting his breath. I wanted to say that the James Dean Dude’s problems were way bigger than he could ever imagine and that no amount of trying to make him see that he is screwing up his life will make him change, but it didn’t matter. It wasn’t my battle to fight.  It wasn’t even the Red Haired Dudes battle to fight. It was the James Dean Dudes fight and he was in a battle with himself.

The cops were supposedly on their way, but probably not.

A few minutes later, I saw another man walking down the alley and I was scared for him. The two guys were so aggressive I thought they might beat him up just for being around. Luckily, they didn’t. They just moved out of the way and continued on with their argument. And just like out of a movie, a homeless man erupted onto the scene. He walked right up to the two dudes, completely fearless, and said, “Come on guys. Don’t argue. Why all the screaming?”

They both looked at the homeless man and I thought maybe, just maybe they were going to realize how ridiculous and rude they were being, but no. They just shook their heads at him like he was the crazy one and turned the corner.

The alley became silent again.

I learned two things from episode:

  1. Alcoholics make miserable companions.
  2. I fear Wicker Park in the summertime.

Stay tuned for more stories from The Alley From Hell.

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Nov 272012
 

I constantly bite off more than I can chew. I know I’m not the only one. What I want to know is, why do we do this?

Every year, from October thru February, my life is insane. I have no business taking on a new project, but like many people out there, I have a superhero complex, so I do. This past month I decided I was going to give Nanowrimo another go. After all, the last time I completed Nanowrimo was in 2005.

This year, I actually had a good idea and spent time creating a chapter by chapter outline. I even wrote a character analysis. I was ready to construct my amazingly, awesome, completely thought-out novel, but after writing 1,000 words I realized that I couldn’t devote the amount of time necessary. This of course, was in addition to the fact that I needed to finish up the other projects I have in the works.

I have no business starting anything new.

This is why I’ve decided to take this new novel bit by bit. I will finish it when it’s right for me to do so and it will be right when I have finished all of my looming projects. I desperately want to give this new project the respect it deserves.

On that note, there isn’t very much time left for Nanowrimo, so I’d like to wish all of the Nanowrimer’s out there much luck. Keep going! You can do it!

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