Sep 1, 2016

I've Moved!

Welcome and thank you for stopping by. I wanted to let you know that my blog has moved. You can now find me at

tashaseegmiller.com

Please stop by, have a look around, and let's continue the conversation over there. 


Jan 4, 2016

Deliberate Determination

One of the best things that happened to me in 2015 was that the little reading I did get in (little meaning just over 20 books) proved to be quality. In particular, Jeff Goins' The Art of Work and Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic resonated with me. Of course, I've been listening to their podcasts and soaking in whatever I can from blog and facebook posts, but reading through the entire theory and letting their words and inspiration linger for longer than 20-30 minutes at a time triggered something in me. Add Gretchen Rubin's Happier podcast and I found my spare time after dropping a child off somewhere, quiet moments before falling asleep, monotonous tasks like washing dishes and folding clothes filled with ponderings of what if?

Then my brother told me I had to listen to EOFire with John Lee Dumas, a podcast for entrepreneurs, and all the musings in my mind suddenly started making sense. There are ways that I want to contribute to the world that I had dismissed for so many reasons. There are things I think I'd like to do - I want to blog regularly. I want to create meaningful handbooks and guides. I want to have positive interactions with people all across the globe. I want to offer some suggestions of how I manage working and family, marriage and myself as well as hear the tips and tricks from others who are chasing simultaneous dreams, be that raising a family and creating art, running a local PTA chapter and teaching private music lessons, contributing to a community and keeping a zen-like balance within themselves.

Toward the end of last year, I had a realization about my progress. Real life, the inherent frustrations of a career that isn't as fulfilling as it used to be, frequent injuries over the last several years (I've had FOUR re-constructive surgeries since Oct. 2010) and the natural let downs of being human slowly pulled me into a hole, slowly closed in around me, and I found myself emerged in a kind of depression that was deeper and heavier than anything I've experienced before. When discussing this realization without knowing how to rectify it with a family member who is studying social work, she asked me this question:

Do you feel like you have a voice?

I started to reflect on what, during the last year or so, had brought me joy. I work with a local Suzuki organization - can accompany them for hours on the weekend and leave feeling fulfilled. I sit on a board that organizes and brings world-class entertainment to our small rural community, and I love the meetings, the logistics. I love learning, stretching, growing, developing my talents and my knowledge and ways to give to others, but for a multitude of reasons, I haven't been satisfied with a day job that asks me to pretty much do that.

And my family member's question kept lingering. Do you feel like you have a voice? 

No. At least, not in that capacity.

And then I got thinking: If I am feeling like I don't have a voice, if I'm feeling stuck, how many
others might be in the same place? Whether it is a career choice that didn't turn out as desired, days filtering in and out without time to devote to what is really desired, that lingering hope to learn or improve a new skill, to try something wanted, or to deviate, even a little, from the seemingly continual conveyor belt of life, I realized that you and me and others around us?

I want to guide people of all walks of life to find their voice, to discover their passion, and then share it.

Of course, there are still the other dreams. I dream of my children having success and joy in their own self-discovery. I want to continually fall in love with my husband, to support him with the same encouragement he has shared with me.

And then there is the one in particular, the one I've been chasing for half a decade. I want to publish my novel. I want to sign with an agent who is excited and passionate about my work, who can't wait to share it with editors, who can't wait to help me get it published.

We get one chance at this life, one chance to make ourselves what we dreamed we could be, one chance to try that thing we've always wanted to try.

While I am a firm believer in a time and place for everything, I also strongly cling to the idea that there is something we can be doing on a daily basis that is fulfilling. There are chunks of time in our lives, probably in our every day, when we fill the time with something as an escape, but what we are escaping with doesn't allow us to feel satisfied. After all, Candy Crush bragging rights only go so far.

So I'm inviting you to come on this journey with me. I'm going to be open, candid and share the things that I'm learning, the times I've failed, things that go better than expected and everything in between. But throughout it all, this year, and the years to follow, I'm holding to the mantra of being deliberate and determined in the way I spend my days, in the way I chase my dreams, in the way I live my life.

And I invite you go journey with me, to share your ups and downs, to have a friend in your corner who wants you to succeed as much as you do.



Nov 30, 2015

The Nuances of a Balanced Life

Nearly every week, I come across something that tells me the latest and greatest trick to having a balanced life.

“Work out first thing in the morning!"
“Prepare all your meals for a week!"
“Clean for just 15 minutes a day!"
“Work-life balance, working mom balance, balance, BALANCE, BALANCE!"

One time, when I was younger and still thought I would rule the universe while feeding my kids home-cooked, zero processed meals, I actually graphed out my day, how much time things took, estimating how much I could accomplish every week.

Every waking moment was allotted for, each different responsibility receiving a different color on my graph. I had meals and workouts, playtime and date night.

It was a lovely rainbow of planning perfection.

It was oh so impossible.

I think I made it two days of following the schedule, snapping at my kids when they weren’t on time, because the colored block said so, and completely fatigued because I had zero downtime.

At a different point in my life, I might have considered this to be a failure. Then, I probably did.

But now? Now, I remember what is involved in creating balance in the first place.

If you go back to your days in elementary school, you can probably remember a time when you’d play with a scale. At my school, we had different colored cubes, and each on weighed a different amount. We’d have to put so many white ones on, and then figure out how many blue went on the other side to get it to look even.

There were a few techniques in this. The first is to put on one blue block at a time, watching as the equality got closer and closer. Another was to guesstimate how many blue blocks would be necessary. The observant kids might have even realized there were numbers on the colored blocks and used their mad math skills to get the initial effort pretty close. Then, there were the kids to put all the blue blocks on, looked at the white hanging precariously above on the other side, and started, slowly, to even out the weight distribution.

But before we were in elementary, such a process was still in place, often balancing money and produce. The complications that occur when discrepancies are down to grains of rice meant that finding actual agreeable balance often meant undershooting and overshooting the estimation several times.

We need to give ourselves the same opportunity. There are going to be times when we have to give a little more than we thought we would, when an anticipated effort may come up short. But there is a necessary process of imbalance that deserves attention. And negotiating those different distributions of weight (and sometimes it is weight) is necessary if we are to get anywhere close to the value we want from our life.

Nov 18, 2015

My Manifesto

I recently attended a webinar by Jeff Goins. I found out about him because Jamie Raintree set up a group and had it as a book of the month to read. I highly recommend reading The Art of Work because it is inspiring and motivating, meant for everyone.

One of the things that stood out to me in the webinar was the necessity to write a manifesto. At first, I thought I’d just jot down some ideas and let them ride. Then, I thought it would be the sort of thing I’d work through, write out my thoughts, for myself. But as it sat in my mind, as it lingered in the back of my brain, I realized that it would be more beneficial, to myself and maybe to others, if I put what I’m thinking out there for the world to see.

Yes, it’s a dangerous thing these days, to express thoughts and opinions and feelings.

But it’s more dangerous to live of life of dissatisfaction. And I’ve been doing that for several years now.

Jeff Goins recommends three steps to fleshing out a manifesto. These aren’t just his ideas - it’s the way Declaration of Independence is constructed as well. Below, you will find thoughts on the three manifesto components:  

1. The Problem
2. Ideal Solution
3. Call to Action

THE PROBLEM


To figure out my problem, and again, guided by ideas from Jeff Goins, I asked myself these questions.

Is creating my primary concern?
Do I write for the love of writing?
Am I working toward a career, hoping that the act of creating will sustain me?

“As we care less about our audience’s affections, more people will be affected by our writing.” —Jeff Goins

Creation is not now, nor was it ever, motivated by the praise and accolades of others. Creation is a sense of self, a divine ability given to man to make more of this world, of themselves. There is a tendency online to become a receiver, to simply adopt the role of a benefactor who acquires motivation, who absorbs inspiration without any indication of reciprocation. This does not align with the role of a creator. 

Writing and rewriting something with the hopes that the numbers will go up, that it will reciprocate its value through monetary is selfish, and not the way of art. Writing is to make sense of a world that can, at times, be frustrating, overwhelming, soul-crushing. Writing is to allow what I keep inside to maintain political correctness, to sustain friendships, to avoid confrontations due to statements, logos, colors and creed because I don’t want to fight anymore. That is different from giving up. That is different from apathy. That is simply valuing relationships. But holding it in can become heavy — heavier than what one person can handle. 

If I let the writer within me have the chance to express herself, even the most frustrating feelings can eventually become lyrical expressions of peace, joy, love. 

And so, I’m declaring my intention as a writer. 

This is different than announcing I’m a writer. This is different than admitting I’m trying to find representation on a book I started two and a half years ago. This is even different than investing in myself through attending conferences, buying craft books, joining organizations and the like. 

This is me, saying to myself, to my loved ones, to the world, that I write because there is a part of me that longs for it. There is a peace that I get when I can put word on screen or paper that doesn’t quite come from anything else. There is a way that writing lets me sort through thoughts, feelings, complications of a daily life that can often remain ambiguous otherwise. 

This is me saying that to have the quality of life that I can enjoy, to be the mom that my kids need, to be the wife that my husband needs, to serve people around me, I need to have time to write. 

IDEAL SOLUTION


Of course, ideal would be that I could work a little less at the job that currently pays me, and make a little more as a writer.

However, I think the ideal solution can’t happen until we admit the actual reality.

I will often let excuses of tiredness get in the way of what I know I need to do to be happy.
I am prone to stare at something for fifteen - twenty - thirty minutes as a way for me to calm down, to take my mind off of all the things that are keeping me from writing when I know what I should be doing is writing.
I am guilty of having been a taker of the internet for a long time, which was beneficial when I was a student of the craft, and while I firmly believe that everyone needs to be lifelong learner, dedicating our lives to just that isn’t sufficient for a society to exist; life long learners need to be contributors as well.
I didn’t pitch a class for a conference this year because I discredited what I have to offer.
I don’t put advice out there because I wonder if I’m expert enough. 

And at the same time, I let my kids, my husband, my friends, my students see me fail because I know they need to see that failure isn’t forever, that mistakes make people better, and that ebbs and flows are part of the process. 

Too often, and I think this is mostly an American thing, we hide the struggle that someone went through in the process of getting it together. We wait and hide until what we have to put forth is “the best” and then offer vain mumblings of humility because it’s not socially appropriate to let someone know how much work something was. 

So I’m not waiting until my career is at the right place to justify an active blog. I’m not waiting until I have an agent, a deal, a book, or a crowd to share what I think about process and struggles and craft. The writers who I love are the ones who are honest about their dealings with their art. Who acknowledge there are incredible days and bad days. 

CALL TO ACTION


And finally, as the final part of my manifesto, I’m giving myself a call to action. I’m showing up - here and for my family and with my book - every single day. No more dismissing a day because it might not be as good as the last one was. No more not writing because of whatever reason I’ve used in the past. I tell my students all the time we can fix crap, but we can’t fix nothing. If I want this to happen, I have to have something. And it might not be the most eloquent something. It might not change the world. But I am committing to this goal/dream/aspiration or what have you because every element of my soul is acknowledging this is the right thing for me right now. 

CHALLENGE


Discovering my love for writing, over and over, has made it clear that there is more to life than repeating the same day over and over. I hope you, as a reader of this blog, know what it is that makes you feel complete. If not, start exploring. Start wondering and trying and testing. Accept the failures (there will be some) and then accept what that means. My failures in learning to crochet (still can’t) FELT different than my failures in writing. I wanted to continue pursuing after the one, I’m really good to never try the other again. 

Have you identified the thing that makes you feel the most you? Is it parenting? Knitting? A passion someone doesn’t know about? Reading? Have you taken the time to identify what is keeping you from enjoying it more thoroughly? 

If not, please set up a date with yourself, a chance to find/rediscover a passion. Identify the problem. Discover the ideal solution. Then formulate a call to action - however big or small - to get you on the path of enjoying that 
And then, experience the magic of chasing a dream. 




Aug 24, 2015

Filling the Pitcher

I was recently teaching a group of youth in my church and we were talking about the nuances of being a parent. I had them list some of their concerns, which ranged from dropping the baby to how to teach the kids all the things. After they had suggested their list, I added one more - WANTS/NEEDS.

This, of course, can mean several things. First, there is the financial aspect. My kids know that there are times they have to wait until payday for things that can be deemed as needs because needier needs were already taken care of (food, clothes, what have you). And they know that if it is a want, they will often have to pick up extra chores (or, quite frankly, actually do the ones they have right now all the way).

I suggested to these youth, though, that moms and dads are often guilty of working so hard to provide for everyone elses everything that they begin to neglect their own. We hear all the time that moms do this, giving everything they have to their children, but I've known way too many men who become reluctant workaholics to think this is a gender based issue. Before long, both mom and dad are on autopilot, both at work and at home, reacting to the circumstances around them instead of intentionally making decisions for a happier life.

Everyone knows that a cup can't be filled if the pitcher is empty, but more and more, I see adults transitioning into empty pitchers.

This, among several other reasons, is why I write. I like that I have something to work toward, something that is mine, something that gives me joy and satisfaction and a feeling of accomplishment. Sure, that feeling can come when all the laundry is done, but it's not the same thing at all.

Several of my sisters find this feeling in athletic competitions. Two of my sisters, and my 60 year old dad, are heading to California in a few weeks to complete a century ride down the coast of California. That's 100 miles on a bike - and they are quite excited about the idea. My brother has taken part in starting up a company (okay, a couple) because helping get a business from concept to corporation is thrilling for him.

Yes, there are things that will fall to the wayside in pursuit. But if I'm weighing pros and cons, I'd rather have a kitchen that is less than meticulous than have children who are afraid that one more request might be the one that snaps mom's patience. I'd rather have floors that get vacuumed slightly less often and let my kids see that I can have a career and love/drive/cheer/encourage/comfort/push my children and myself.

The funny thing that happens is happiness begets happiness, talent begets talent, satisfaction begets satisfaction. Time and again, I've seen adults who rediscover a passion they had, and that passion extends to passion for marriage and love and children and family. There will still be the struggle for balance - I don't think that ever goes away. But the end product of such a balancing act can be drastically different if we allow time for ourselves.