Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Queen of Everything


Last weekend, my neighbor was having a garage sale.  She asked me to put out a few things I'd like to sell, which I decided was a great idea.  While I was setting up, we had some early customers.  I didn't pay much attention to them as I was focused on the task of presenting my things in an appealing way.
A woman of similar age to me, approached me and instantly knew my name.  "JoAnna?" She asked. Admittedly, I was surprised that she knew me, because at first, I didn't recognize her.  I am usually able to remember names, regardless of how long ago or how brief the interaction.  It's a "skill" left over from being a salesperson, where every person you meet could be your next client.
I took a closer look at her face and discovered I did know her after all.  "Katie*?" I asked, realizing that the woman in front of me was a high school classmate, and the daughter of a rather-disliked former employer.  Lovely.  
Katie had gained a lot of weight since I'd last seen her, and her long skirt and matronly shoes made her appear much older upon initial inspection, which explained why I didn't see who she was when I glanced in her direction.   My last impression of Katie was when I heard she had slept with my best friend's boyfriend in our early twenties.  In high school, she seemed to think that she was the Queen of Everything in her tight jeans.  We weren't friends, only ever acquaintances.  Also, I worked for her dad for 18 months after high school, and found out just what an abusive jerk he was.  But I figured, first impressions, our parents bad choices and rumors from 15 years ago shouldn't be held against us now that we're adults.  That's just juvenile.
I strive to be cordial and polite in all social situations, and this was especially true then, as she was holding a few of my things in her arms when she approached me.  I felt our interaction should be that of a buyer and a seller, and at most, former acquaintances because really, that's all we were.  Apparently, Katie thought otherwise.
My neighbor teased me for being a social butterfly who seems to know everyone, and we all shared a laugh.  I asked how Katie was doing, as is the customary thing to do, and boy, did she answer.
This poor gal has had quite a rough past ten years, as she told me, at length.  She spent the better part of half an hour telling me all about her rather-serious health issues, her dad's affair and her parents' subsequent divorce, her kids' struggles.  Good Grief! She has had quite a go of it.  
I shared a few updates, like "My daughter is ten, and my stepdaughter is fourteen.  We bought this house four years ago.  I got divorced from my daughter's father seven years ago and it was for the best because I am much happier with my current relationship of the past six years." Suddenly, I'm wondering if I'm the one acting like I'm the Queen of Everything.  Should I fuss about my ailing grandparents or my massive student debt, just to be on her level?
I didn't make comment to her appearance, but she mentioned that I looked great, which was kind of her.  I told her I am a committed exerciser, but struggle with my diet.  Katie complained about her inability to exercise because of her illness, but admitted she knows it would be beneficial.  The cycle of too tired to get fit is quite a hurdle, as well I know.  I was very heavy in my twenties.  Katie knew this about me, and was obviously impressed that I had changed to a much fitter physique.  This situation reminded me that I shouldn't be constantly scolding myself for gravitating toward a higher weight than I've previously attained.  I should be grateful I'm 30 pounds from ideal, and not 130 pounds from ideal anymore.  
I felt somewhat guilty because I suddenly realized that though I struggle in many ways, my life has apparently taken a very different arc than hers.  The gap between us was unusually wide.  I know we are all prone to complaining about out lives, but this interaction gave me a truly different perspective.  I am so grateful I am able to lead such a happy life.  I am also grateful to know that it is within my power to create my life the way I want it.  I wondered what made me different from Katie?
I don't have all the stars I'm reaching for yet, but I certainly haven't been circling the drain like some  of my peers.  Whether by our own choices or purely circumstance, shit happens.  I see clearly now that life is what you make of it.  I once found myself 130+ pounds overweight, in an unhealthy marriage, struggling in every regard of life, and still, crawled back out of that existence into a body with a resting heart rate of 50 beats per minute, a deep and constantly blossoming love, smart and funny kids, and a circle of dear friends and family who I adore.  My journey molded me into a strong and capable woman who makes the most of what she has.  I hope Katie finds a way to do the same.
Regardless of where I have been, I am truly grateful for the life I'm leading, and the chance to make today even better than yesterday.  If that makes me the Queen of Everything, so be it. 

*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of others.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Why I want to be like Carrie Bradshaw

You know who I miss? Carrie Bradshaw.  Can I get an amen, ladies?
If you're an American woman, you're probably also a fan of this HBO gem, Sex in the City.
Time passes, we must move on from our savage fandom, but it's still a fantastic show.  I don't care how many years ago the pilot was filmed.  I still watch it.  I still play every slot machine with that theme, without ever winning a dime.
Sex in the City is a stroke of pure genius, one that reflected so much of the challenges women face in the modern world, including all the stuff that happens behind closed doors.  Nothing is off limits, but always presented in a way that makes it okay to talk about.  The things that most would call taboo are laid out for us in a flippantly honest, but cleverly playful way that isn't offensive.  I cheer on the girls when they talk about sex toys as openly as they do fashion.  The glamorous New Yorker lifestyle theme helps keep things interesting, too.
I know I'm treading into fanatic territory here, so let me get to my point.
I want to be just like Carrie Bradshaw when I grow up.  Never you mind that I'm already thirty-something.  She doesn't have to be quite as annoyingly noncommittal though (sorry, its true).  If you're not familiar, let me give you a quick rundown of the character:
She is cool, confident, and yet, somewhat self destructive.  She's smart, funny, ambitious and articulate.  She drinks too much and makes foolish mistakes, but you love her for it because she has so much fun. She fumbles through life like we all do, but she always learns something valuable.  She explores many sides of herself and she tries on ten million dresses.  Most of those dresses are fucking fabulous, some are tragically not.  She has flair and femininity.  She's daring, sophisticated and down-to-earth, all at the same time.  Her style is a undiluted expression of her creativity as an individual, always original.
She's vulnerable, but never shies away from the chance for a new adventure, especially in matters of the heart.  She dares to ask questions that we all wonder, but rarely give much expression to. What's more, she epitomizes the independent career woman, (hello, no 9-5 slavery) while rocking an awesome hairstyle and overly expensive shoes.
Most importantly, she never stops looking for love (and frequently succeeds).
I would like to be able to put my name in place of "she" in that description, wouldn't you?  Sure, Carrie is just a character, but she has many attributes that I think most women want (and how about her wardrobe? yes, please!).  If Carrie is a reflection of the American woman, I want to be able to successfully take life in stride despite all its ups and downs, while working it in a couture gown. Now, if only I could afford the shoes.    



Tonight's Full Moon

If you had the pleasure of looking up to the night sky yesterday, you might have noticed that the moon looked full and brilliant.  Today marks December's full moon, known to some as the Long Nights Moon.  If you don't follow the patterns of the moon, you're not alone.  There aren't many of us dorky enough to actually pay attention to something that might be completely unrelated to our day-to-day lives. (or is it?)
Regardless of whether you believe the phases of the moon might be playing a role in your personal rhythm, it lends a beautiful metaphor to the ever changing nature of our lives.  Nothing ever stays the same for long.  We ebb and flow like the tides of the ocean, or, say, the varying reflection of the sun's rays off a big rock hanging out several million miles from here.
The phases of my life go something like a pendulum swing, rather than the forward force of a locomotive.  It's desperately annoying. I take two bold strides forward, but inevitably fall two paces backward quickly thereafter.  I strike out to accomplish something then lose my focus or get scared and run away.  It's a ridiculous pattern of behavior that leaves me exhausted and never getting anywhere. I've been treading water in nearly every in practically aspect of my life, never really choosing a direct to swim.    
I've identified this about myself, so at least there's some opportunity to make improvements, whereas most of us linger in denial about such things.  If your life is feeling like a hamster's wheel, I invite you to notice that and CHANGE IT.
This month's full moon means that tomorrow marks the renewal of the cycle, and a chance to create a new pattern for the coming month.  Take a few moments out of this busy season to reflect upon yourself and your behavior.  If you see something in your life you want to do better, acknowledge that.  Decide what you're going to do differently during the next phase and implement those changes to see results.  Being on the same arc as the moon just may be the little oomph you need to make some serious improvements in your world.  I'm know I'm hoping it is for me.


Monday, December 1, 2014

The most reluctant author, ever

The Most Reluctant Author, Ever.
JoAnna Santanen

I have spent the better part of the past two years running away from being an author.  I have backed away from my career in shame, aburptly, and for no apparent reason.  Maybe the stacks of form rejection letters from agents and publishers broke my stride or the fact that I haven't had much success in business lead me to believe I wouldn't be successful in publishing.  I don't know what really happened.  I started making some progress in building my readership, then I just abandoned ship.
When my friends, who are also fans of my work, would mention my novels, I would feel a twinge of grief.  I knew I was letting the dream (of being a full-time self-sustaining author) die inside me. The grass is always greener where you water it, but man, I had turned off the sprinkler.  I quit writing.
I told myself that I didn't like the aspect of self promotion in indie publishing. I thought that letting people know about my books, which they might even really enjoy, was somehow dirty.  I was letting the business of being an indie publisher make me feel like I was being dishonest in some way.  I would tell myself that the business had ruined the art.  
I hold a damned Business Management Bachelor's degree.  Business is my business.  I was lying to myself.  I was making excuses for my "failure" which hadn't actually occurred.  My books weren't raking in the dough, but they were bringing in something, which meant in that regard, they were already a success.  That's probably what scared me the most.
I can't just declare that I'm an author and then suddenly, be one, could I? Yes, I could.  I wrote a book and published it (two, actually).  Is there another definition of author that I'm missing here? No.  There isn't. I'm an author and where I was once proud to admit it, I had suddenly become ashamed.  I had let myself go so far down the shame spiral, I almost couldn't bear to call myself an author anymore.
It all boils down to self confidence.  As with anything, self confidence is key to getting what you want.  You have to be willing to put yourself out there, to risk looking like a fool.  I was shaken by some changes in my family, my life and my employment. I let my fears overtake my goals.  I let my insecurities spread into my work, and though nothing had changed, suddenly I was telling myself that I'm a hack who shouldn't quit my day job (if I actually had one).  My negative self-talk bled into my identity (as a person and as an author) and suddenly, I felt like an impostor. 
I was a horse who was out to pasture so long I forgot there was a barn I could go back to.  
I have a room in my house that's crammed full of art supplies and papers and books.  Its my studio & office.  I am so lucky to have space that's just for creation.  I let it get sullied with a bunch of stuff that shouldn't be there and it stopped feeling like a room of inspiration and more like a storage locker.  Yet another obvious resistance to writing, I was treating my work space like a junk drawer.
Last week, I went to the library searching for some inspiration. I picked up the 2015 copy of Writer's Market, even though I already knew I wasn't going to query my work to any publishers or agents anymore.  I just wanted to feel a little pride in the idea of being an author.  I also grabbed a book about self-publishing.  Unlike Writer's Market (which has been sitting on my counter for the past week unopened), that indie publishing  book took me by the hand and drug me out of my self-imposed prison. I devoured it.  I am a changed woman.  (If you're into writing, you MUST READ: Write. Publish. Repeat. by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant.)
This book just reminded me that I was doing everything right before.  Being an author is a career.  One that takes work and perseverance.  I have all the skills and I love to write. Though I have neglected my career for more than a year, I don't have to start over. I can pick right up where I had left off.  I am back in the driver's seat.  I am finding my voice, again, and it feels really good.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Writing blog posts that generate traffic to your website

I recently wrote this article for a local company, but I wanted to share it with those of you are fellow bloggers and writers.  If you haven't considered a blog to enhance your writing awareness, you should!  Here's a few ways to help generate traffic to your site, regardless of the topic or theme:

Most bloggers seek to generate as much traffic to their site as possible, in the interest of increasing readership of their blog and other works, or to generate income from advertising.  Many strategies exist to accomplish the goal of driving visitors to one’s blog.  This article will examine a few of the many elements necessary to write a successful, click-encouraging blog post.
One of the paramount elements of blog posting is the relevance to one’s target audience.  A masterpiece will not likely produce much excitement if the topic is incompatible with one’s readership.   Often the most successful blogs are ones that have a specific theme or topic.  For example, a post about life insurance wouldn’t entice many if the readers are generally teenagers, who have no need for such a product.   Understanding what people are interested in reading will help identify inviting topics for the audience to enjoy.  Reading popular blogs will demonstrate which articles are generating the most “likes” or comments, in order to identify what readers are responding to most.  Another way to determine topics to write about is by researching news, trending keywords on web search engines, and social media buzz.
In addition to relevance, one’s work post needs to be informative and accurate.  A well written post will include some research, even if the post is mere opinion.  The reason for researching accuracy is if the potential reader finds the information unfounded, the post may not create traffic.  Enlightening posts will contain some facts in order to substantiate one’s opinion, and create validity for the reader.
Another element of the traffic-generating blog post is the photo.  Pictures are an absolutely necessary accessory to the writing.  Not only do photos aid the reader in quickly and easily identifying the topic of the post, the image will be an aid in search engine relevance.   Keywords are just as important with images as they are with articles.  A Google search for “avoiding tooth decay” will render results that include pictures of teeth, but also floss, toothpaste, toothbrushes and other related images.
Apart from writing a tempting, relevant and accurate post, one must consider announcement of its arrival on one’s blog.  Once the post is active, one must inform potential readers of its presence.  Posting links on social media web sites and community message boards and sending emails to subscribers and associates are essential ways to alert potential readers of the new post.  Generating initial awareness of the post is the responsibility of the author, because even the best post will not produce traffic if no one knows about it.
Bloggers who understand the elements essential to compelling readers to visit their site will have a greater likelihood of accomplishing their goal.  A thorough post that is interesting, informative and coupled with an image will have a greater chance of increasing the number of visitors it generates.  The better a post is constructed and announced, the greater likelihood of clickable success.  

Friday, October 11, 2013

Bohemian Style Obsession

Photo Credit: Funkyblackowl.blogspot.com
Hello my lovelies! Thanks for popping in!

Recently, I've become pretty infatuated with the bohemian style.  Looking back, I've always been a little bit hippie, if only in an underlying way.  I'm crafty & artsy, with a particular affinity for tie-dye & turquoise.  I'm even dressing as a boho-hippie for my Halloween costume this year, if that's the only way I can get away with it.  I find it fairly amusing that I am calling it a costume, when really, its just a style I want to infuse more into my wardrobe without too much overhaul of what I already own.  I have some reservations about allowing my style to migrate towards the offbeat, and here's why.

The difficulty I have with going full-on boho myself is the negative stigma that has been (rather unfairly) attached to the style.  I mean, what's so bizarre about a crochet sweater? A long skirt? Or a sun hat? I really can't figure out why some might see a women dressed a certain way, (we'll call it a hippie, if we must) and assume she's an idiot or unclean.  I'll never understand some folks' discrimination tendencies.  Call me crazy but I believe in accepting others as they are, not as I want them to be so that they fit into some preconceived mold.

Another aspect that is holding me back is the inclination towards showing so much (too much) skin.  I feel like the body is a beautiful thing, but that beauty doesn't need to be shown off to everyone.  I'm sure that I can get around it, but generally, I see boho style dresses as being meant for thin women that have no issue with overexposure (hello, sheer fabric...).  I strive to be healthy and lose weight, but the reality is, regardless of whether I'll ever arrive at the weight I want, I will always be a bit modest.  Am I alone here?

The last issue I'm struggling with this the handmade nature of a lot of the fashion and accessories.  Mainstream clothes are simply too mainstream to be bohemian, and so that lays the necessity to create one's own clothing, which is dreadfully time consuming and difficult if you're not blessed with excellent sewing skills.  Thank goodness for sites like Etsy, where handmade items are easy to come by, albeit maybe not so affordable.  I suppose I should be checking out the farmer's markets for handmade things to add to my collection.

What are your thoughts on the bohemian style? Love it or lose it?

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Happy Reading!
XoXo- JoAnna

Monday, September 23, 2013

I'm baaaack!

Hi There!
Welcome (back)!

Admittedly, I took a few months off of my writing.  I needed the break for my brain and my typing hands.  I have been enjoying my sabbatical, but missing the creativity, fun & passion that writing is for me.  During my down time, I explored some other interests of mine and sparked a desire to entertain the notion of nonfiction writing. The first effort toward that end is a new blog - Love and Long Lashes.  My new blog will center around many women's interest subjects including makeup, skin care, hair, style, decor, arts & crafts, weight loss & fitness, relationships and more.  I'm still working on new content but it will be packed full of cool posts very soon!

As for Abstract, my intentions for this blog will remain an examination of topics like psychology, critical thinking & human behavior.  I hope to update this blog at least a few days a week, and even more frequently on Love & Long Lashes.

In addition to my blogs, I intend to finish Under The Maple Tree (stillllllllllll...) and begin a nonfiction book that will reflect many of the same topics as my new blog.  More on that idea as soon as it takes shape. :)

Follow me all over the web: Twitter @joannasantanen1, Facebook joanna.santanen, Pinterest jojo728, Google+ joannasantanen, Instagam joanna728

Happy reading!