Sunday, November 13, 2016

BKA Blog Guest Post!

Below is a republication of my guest post on the BKA Blog! It's fun to be included as part of the BKA Writer's Series! To see the original, follow the link to the BKA Content Blog. ENJOY!

The Blessing (and Challenge) of Working from Home

When you work from home, all kinds of things can be distracting. Whether it’s the kids who need you, the constantly ringing phone vying for your attention, Facebook pop-ups luring you into the tangled web of social media, or the laundry buzzer reminding you that you’ve already reset it 3 times, trying to work at home can be a challenge.
The problem becomes even worse when you aren’t in the mood to work, or have a personality that is easily distracted. And . . . that pretty much describes me.
I am one of those people who loves life and likes to have fun. However, I’ve also got a job to do. . . several jobs, actually. For starters, I’m a mom of 7 amazing kids varying in age from 21 to 8, and let me tell you, if that isn’t fun, I don’t know what is! Besides trying to keep myself sane while raising my children, we own a 2.5 acre piece of property complete with a smattering of assorted farm animals that need to be taken care of every day. My husband works in international agricultural business consulting and travels every few months for his employment, making things just that much more exciting! Besides all that, we both hold busy church callings and serve in the community. To help make ends meet between my hubby’s big clients, I design websites and write SEO articles for BKA. Are you feeling tired yet? I feel tired just typing about it!
I love working from home because I can choose my own hours and work around my always-hectic schedule. But as I said before, working from home can be very challenging because. . .  well, because you choose your own hours and can work around your always-hectic schedule!

Working on Your Own Schedule

It’s one of those double-edged-sword kind of things to work on your own schedule. If you’re really good at following a rigid timeline, and your life happens to roll along at predictable hour-long chunks, then it’s no problem to work, be a mom, and keep up with all the other demands such as church and community service, lawn care (ugh), and making sure the pets aren’t starving. But do you honestly know anyone whose life is perfectly scheduled and always on time?
Okay, I admit, there are a few people I know who are extremely good at keeping life on a tight schedule, and they seem to be always on top of everything. But . . . not me. I admit it! And I’m okay with it. Why? The answer is simple, there’s just too much good stuff out there in the world to let yourself get anxious or depressed about a rigid, self-imposed, silly little schedule!
And I’ll tell you what, it may sound irresponsible, but when my 11-year-old daughter wants me to play a game with her, or my 8-year-old son invites me to watch Justice League with him, I try to say “yes” as often as I can. Why? Because I have a few grown-up kids, too, and I know how fast they grow up. It’s mind boggling. Snuggling up with your child when they’ll still let you is such a precious gift. Don’t let it slip away too fast!
It’s not worth it to give up that precious time with your children just to make the house sparkle unnecessarily, or even to get one more article written. (Gasp! Am I allowed to say that here?) But truly, building relationships with your loved ones has to come first, especially when it comes to those quickly growing children.

Balancing Responsibility, Work, and Guilt-Free Fun

Now, don’t think I’m unrealistic. I realize that you can’t just fly from thing to thing all day without a schedule and still expect to get anything done. Bills have to be paid, school and sports fees have to be taken care of, and ice cream needs be purchased. So, in my case, that means that articles need to be written! And therein lies the big question. How does one balance the joy of living life and the responsibility of completing work?
I’ve found that for me, I have to have little games to play with myself. You know, “Work now, play later”. I guess I’m kind of like a little kid. My internal dialogue goes something like this:
“Write one article, then you get to play one level of Candy Crush.”
“Pay this bill, then you get to look around on Pinterest for half an hour.”
“Finish the laundry, then you can watch one episode of Call the Midwife.”
Things like that. Whether it’s a simple check-off list, setting a Pomodoro timer, keeping track of tasks at, or rewarding myself with something I like to do, keeping it fresh and making it fun makes all the difference.

Procrastination – That Pesky Little Problem

I’ll tell you, though, if there’s something I really don’t want to do, I’m as good as anyone at putting it off. Especially if there are lots of other fun things around to get me distracted. So, when the procrastination bug hits, how can you overcome it?
According to “The NOW Habit” by Dr. Neil Fiore, there are three great ways to get past the block of procrastination. So if you find yourself avoiding your most important work and projects, maybe these ideas can help you.

Tool #1 – Three Dimensional Thinking

When we begin a large project or try to force ourselves to do something we’ve been avoiding, we often put it off because we quite simply get scared! We see ourselves trying to accomplish various parts of the project all at once, and we become overwhelmed. We procrastinate because it’s less painful to just not think about it. But that doesn’t really help because the work is still there, and the deadlines loom closer.
When you use three-dimensional thinking, it’s like extending a telescope out and projecting the work along a timeline that only needs to be traversed one step at a time. You see the beginning, middle and end of the project, instead of the whole thing at once. By creating what Dr. Fiore calls a “reverse calendar”, you can work backwards to schedule your tasks, in manageable chunks, until you get to one little thing you can do today. Maybe you can’t plant, water, harvest and store the entire garden at once. But you can purchase seeds today.

Tool #2 – The Work of Worrying

This idea fascinates me. Did you realize that it takes work to worry? It’s true. When you worry, you imagine all the problems that may occur, and all the roadblocks holding up your success. Unfortunately, according to Dr. Fiore, most people never “finish” their work of worrying. We tend to only do the first part – thinking about all the reasons why we may or may not be able to finish the task. So what do we do? Bingo! We procrastinate so we don’t have to think about the pain.
Again, this solution is temporary at best. Dr. Fiore says we need to “finish” the work of worrying by mentally carrying those worries through to completion, and finding solutions for them. For instance, you may worry that if you don’t do a good job on your writing assignment, the account manager will complain about your work. To “finish” the work of this worrying, you ask yourself, “Okay, if that happens, what will I do next?” Then imagine yourself through the situation.
Keep asking yourself “Then what will I do next?” as you imagine each part of the scenario, and carry it all the way to its conclusion, where you will realize that no matter how bad it gets, you can always pick yourself up and keep going.
Once you complete these “worst case scenarios” for your worries, you give yourself power over them. Instead of having a worry become paralyzing, your mind is freed from the “what if” syndrome, and you can get back to the real work – doing what it takes now to avoid getting yourself into that situation in the first place.

Tool #3 – Persistent Starting

This is just what it says – you must simply start on whatever project you are procrastinating. Even if you can only set a timer and do 5 minutes on the “next action” in your project, just the act of making yourself take the first step may be the jumpstart you need. If you focus on persistent starting, finishing will take care of itself.
In fact, it was the idea of persistent starting that finally got me going on writing this blog entry (on the very last day of the twice-extended deadline, no less). I thought to myself, “This is silly! I’m just going to start writing!” For weeks, even months, I’ve been thinking about what I would write about if I put an entry into the blog writer’s series. And yet, I write dozens of articles every week. So, what’s the big deal? That was it – it was time to quit procrastinating. I just started writing, and here we are!

Really Short Conclusion Because This Is Getting Too Long

So – I guess that’s all I have to say! Life is fun, working at home is amazing, getting distracted can be a challenge, and procrastinating can make life downright depressing! By finding little games and tricks to play with yourself, and using a few simple time management strategies, things can go a lot smoother. And before you know it, you’ll have written over 1500 words and realize it’s time to STOP!
So – go have some fun – and get something done!
Published on the BKA Content Blog on Nov 12, 2015:

ENJOY!! And Happy Tuesday! ~JS~

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Book Review: The Queen's Poisoner by Jeff Wheeler

The Queen's Poisoner: The Kingfountain Series, Book 1 | [Jeff Wheeler]
"Good story, fun premise, only one minor complaint."
Would you consider the audio edition of The Queen's Poisoner to be better than the print version?
I haven't read the print version, so I can't comment on this.

What other book might you compare The Queen's Poisoner to and why?
I can't think of any other titles off-hand to compare it to. I liked the setting in a castle, intrigue between nations, family conflicts, magical twists and turns. A protagonist who doesn't understand his powers... it's similar to other books, but with a unique view of magic through a "fountain" and the whole concept of being "fountain-blessed" was interesting.

What do you think the narrator could have done better?
She did a really good job on interpreting various characters. I especially liked her interpretation of the protagonist's best friend, who was a chatty girl with a wonderful personality. My only complaint is that the voice she used for the main character was a bit whiny, which didn't seem to fit how I would have imagined him to sound if I were just reading it. Also, the way she did the voice of the Queen's Poisoner was a little overdone when she was being "sweet" to the little boy. I did like how she showed that the woman was ill through her voice. Overall, well done.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?
The one thing that constantly drove me crazy was how all of the adults around the young protagonist tell him about things way beyond the level that you would normally explain to an 8-year-old. They give so many details of intrigue, facts about the history of the realm, and personality conflicts, that it was hard for even me, as an adult, to follow along and keep up with everything. It would have been way above the head of a young child. I realize that this is a "special" child, but still, would you talk to any child about members of the royal family killing and poisoning each other, women being "forced", and abstract concepts that are not even physically processed by young minds until adolescence? It was just a bit too much. I feel that if the protagonist had been at least 10 or 11, it would have been more believable.

Any additional comments?
I liked this book quite well, it was interesting and compelling enough to keep me listening. The premise with fountain-blessed magic is unique, and I enjoyed the various characters and their diverse personalities. By simply ignoring the age issue, I was able to really enjoy the story line. I am looking forward to reading the next installment, to see what happens next in the lives of these characters. :)

Join the Conversation!

I'd love to have you connect up with me on social media. For a list of all the places where we can connect online, visit: I'd love to get to know you, see your channel, your page, your social media stuff that you're doing out there. I just love learning and meeting people and connecting with people, so I'm excited to get to know you. ~JS~ 🌞