Fighting Through Insecurities to Reach Our Dreams

Every since I can remember I’ve dreamed of being a dancer. I remember watching Flashdance, Footloose, Fame, and all the other fun dancing movies and thinking how much fun it would be to do that. But to achieve that goal would take hard work, discipline and talent. We didn’t have a lot of money growing up, but when I was ten I took my first dance lessons. To this day I can remember the recital. I also remember feeling chubby, uncoordinated, and self conscious in a class of older girls. So I quit something I loved for fear of ridicule.

When I went back to take dance lessons at 15 years old, it was obvious I’d never be good enough or catch up to the level of the other girls. My insecurities had held me back from reaching my dream of dancing.

Fast forward twenty plus years and my secret desire is taking form in ballroom and swing dance lessons. After attempting to swing dance in sandals last summer and suffering through insecurities and my ignorance on the dance floor, I thought it necessary to take lessons just in case I ever got the opportunity to go swing dancing again.

So I signed up not just for swing, but salsa, rumba, cha cha and a whole slew of dances I was “expected to master” in just seven hour long classes. Okay, I admit, I didn’t plan on mastering them all, and the dance studio’s gamble won out when I purchased another set of lessons. And after 20 plus hours, I still haven’t mastered any of the dances. But I’m not quitting, no matter how tough.

I remember one particular lesson when my instructor arrived 20 minutes late with a scowl on his face and threw me into a salsa turn  immediately when I was still trying to get the footing down.

I tried my best, but I was perfectly fine with my bent legged salsa. Unfortunately, he was not. I guess we had two different definitions of “mastering” salsa. We spent the next 30 minutes trying to get my leg to straighten. I just couldn’t get it. And the more I tried, the worse and more confused I got and the more flustered we both got.

There was a point he kept pushing me that I wanted to throw my hands up in the air and quit, and say “This is not dancing with the stars.”  In stead, I asked him if I could practice at home and if we could move onto East Coast swing.

And we did. And he threw me into a spin again when I was still adjusting to the footing, but by this time he had apologized for his attitude because he’d just quit smoking that morning AND coming from a stressful, life altering situation. We laughed through my own klutzyness and made progress. I worked through my insecurities and inadequacies and kept pushing until I figured out what I was doing wrong. If I had given into the voices in my head that told me I’d never get it and my instructor thought I was hopeless, I never would have succeeded and learned.

It’s the same with our writing or any other dream in our lives.When insecurities start to shout that I’m not a good enough writer, no one will “get me,” and my story isn’t good enough to show my agent yet, I have to push through the inadequacies I have real or imaginary. My work may not be perfect, but who better to show me how to improve it than my agent who wants me to succeed?

I might never be worthy of Dancing with the Stars, but I’m not quitting. And too bad if I have bent salsa knees, at least I’m on the dance floor!

 

 

Cara Putman: Homeschooling, Writing and Laweyering, Oh my!

Your family has grown since our last interview in 2008. Tell us a little how your newest addition has changed the dynamics of your family.

Daniel joined us in December and is a delight. Of course, I’m still tired and praying he’ll start sleeping through the night, but really he’s added to our family with a sweet personality.

Besides being a writer, mother, and homeschooler, how else do you fill your days?

Each summer I teach business law to MBA students at Purdue. I also teach classes at our local homeschool coop, and do some legal work. Add in shuttling the kids to all their activities and it makes for a full schedule.

What drives you to juggle so many plates and do you ever feel like they’ll come crashing down around you?

I know it looks crazy, and some days like tomorrow are really nuts. But I am constantly evaluating what I do…at least once a quarter. I also believe God made me with a drive to be involved in lots of different ways. It just means I’m tired some days, but when you’re doing what God wants you to, it doesn’t seem like work so much as a calling.

What are some practical things you do to balance all the areas of your life?

When I’m teaching, I have someone come to our house to watch the kids. I have to leave by 7:30, and it keeps things simpler for them and me. I also have her stay a few extra hours so I have time to write and run errands. My husband and I decided that as I got more contracts I would need some help to have pockets of time that weren’t in the middle of the night to work. That has helped though I don’t have anyone right now. I also try to minimize some elements…for example, I love to speak, but right now don’t speak more than once a month. It just isn’t the time in our family for me to do much traveling for speaking. Maybe someday, but I’m trying to be aware of where we are as a family.

When do you find the time to write, and do you ever feel like you’re neglecting your children?

The bulk of my writing is at night after they are in bed. And because we homeschool, I don’t feel like the children are missing anything when I might grab an hour or two in the afternoon. In fact, we’d set up with one of our friends to come do Spanish and science experiments with them an afternoon a week to give me a break and them some enrichment. So my husband and I tend to get creative. But realistically, I don’t get writing done during the day without a babysitter. The one who gets neglected is my husband…I’m still trying to find a good balance there.

What do you do to encourage yourself during those days you feel less than adequate?

I have to trust that God will equip me to do what He has called me to do. And that He loves my children even more than I do.

What would you tell writing moms and dads looking for that agent who will sell their first book?

Go to places where you can get to know that agent. Usually it will be a writing conference. Listen to them speak. Watch how they interact with others. Get to know their personality. You have to like them and vice versa because you will trust them with large portions of your career.

How many books are you contracted for this year? Tell us a little about them.

I am currently working on three contracted works, one full length novel and two novellas. All three will release in 2012. The full length novel is a contemporary romantic suspense set on Mackinac Island, MI. One novella is in the collection you’re writing in, too. I’m excited to see these stories come together about four neighbors who all solve mysteries around their jobs in the Washington, D.C. Area. The final novella is one of four set around a common geo-caching contest.

What will do if the next contract never comes?

Pray and ask God what’s next. I love teaching and can always practice law. But it will be fun to see what God would have next.

Do you have any unfulfilled dreams? When do you think you’ll get to pursue them?

I’d love to spend time traveling in Europe.

What would you tell other moms and dads who have given up on their dreams?

Ask God if it’s time to dust off the dream. And if He says no, then ask Him to plant a new one in your heart. Without a vision, the people perish.

Be sure to leave a comment for a chance to win Cara’s book A Promise Forged from Ohio Brides.

My Journey to Balancing My Dreams

I’ve been thinking a lot about my personal goals, my children’s dreams, and what I want my family to look like. Unfortunately, all three are often in conflict with one another at different times.

I knew from a young age that I wanted to write and I’ve never doubted the calling, though I’ve struggled often with finding the time to pursue my dreams. I started my first novel right after I got married, then I had my first son and writing took a back seat to the demands of mothering.

I didn’t know there were writing support groups like ACFW, and I didn’t have writing friends to encourage me. I didn’t know I could write and raise children like so many do now, though in a way I’m glad I didn’t know. It allowed me to focus on my children and hold on to my dreams, knowing that one day my chance would come. So I set aside my WIP for ten years or so, had three more babies and did occasional magazine work. But my heart wanted to return to fiction.

I thought when my fourth child was two that it was finally time to start working on my own dreams of being published. Little did I know was that at the very same time God was calling me to homeschool.

What ensued there after was this stressed out mom trying to learn how to homeschool, be a good mother and write. Unfortunately, I felt like a failure on all three fronts at one time or another, somehow getting off balance at different times until my priorities became so out of whack that I had to sacrifice my writing and dreams for a season. The grieving process was real and painful. But in that grief this blog was birthed, and I started to interview other moms who seems to do it all. I grew as a mom and writer.

The other day I read something from Mary M. Byers that resonated with me.

“When you say yes to something in your life, you automatically say no to something else.”

I wish I would have understood that sooner. Then maybe I wouldn’t have been so anxious to move on to the next stage of my life and career. Maybe I would have savored each moment just a little longer.

Now as my kids are older and have dreams of their own, I’m trying to balance theirs with mine. It’s a never ending learning curve as I adjust and evaluate just how much dream pursuit this family can handle. How much I can handle and do before I burn out…

Will there be some regrets and what ifs? Probably, but if I remember that when I’m saying no to the pursuit of someone’s dream, I might just be saying yes to something more important!

Can you relate? What have you learned along the way?

Is Balancing Your Life Possible?

Reposted from 2009

I started blogging to try to find the balance between raising my family and working on my writing career. I interviewed close to a hundred moms and dads who seemed to have found that balance. Three years later I AM still searching for that balance.

I’m starting to think balance is the wrong term to use. Sure, I have tasted moments when all the plates I’m spinning stayed up in perfect harmony. Doesn’t happen often, but when it does it’s a beautiful site. But it doesn’t last. Plates come crashing down sometimes one at a time, sometimes all at once.

More often than not, “balance” looks more like a juggling act with one ball up in the air as I’m desperately grasping for the other. Again, not a pretty site.

Maybe the problem is in the word. Balance implies that all things are equal, evenly weighed on a scale or in this instance equal in my life. But should things be equal, in balance? I’m starting to think the answer is no!

Instead of looking at it as trying to find the balance between family and work, why not see it as simply wearing of different hats? No balance involved there. You just put the family hat on your head, smash it done so it won’t fall off and viola! It’s family time. The time for you to focus on being mom or dad. Time to schedule movie, pizza nights or a day at the park. Then when it’s time to switch hats, grab the work one. If you’re like me, I have more than one work hat. There’s the mom hat, and the teacher hat, the writer hat and the housekeeping hat. They all need to worn throughout the day, but my problem comes in when I wear one of those hats longer than the other. Usually my writer’s hat. And then the other hats hardly get any head time! I didn’t even mention the faith hat, the church hat or the service hat. I’m sure you can come up with a half a dozen more, but you get the idea.

So is it really a matter of balance (think spinning plates or juggling balls) or is it all a matter or priority? Allotting a certain amount of time to wear each one of the hats. I think that’s the real answer to the balance question. Sounds easy, but it’s not. I know! Some hats are more appealing than others, and our hand gravitates to the one that fits most comfortably on our head, but all need to be worn to find that “balance.”

Having come to this revelation will I suddenly trade my plates and balls for hats? Probably not right away, but it sure helps put life into perspective and changing hats beats keeping those plates and balls from crashing to the ground!

Where I am now…

I think I’ve slowed down the juggling act some, not as anxious about spinning those plates. I try not to worry about writing when I’m doing other things and try not to worry about family when I’m working. Have I reached that perfect balance? No, and I don’t think I will as long as I’m on this earth. But through dialoguing with my readers and learning from successful writing moms and dads, I’m closer than I was two years ago!

How about you? Do you juggle, spin or wear hats?

 

Resurrecting Your Dream Passion

Our dreams can be like a familiar childhood friend.

They’re often something we’ve grown up with and treasured in our hearts since we were little, but for one reason or another we’ve drifted away from.

We all go through seasons where our dreams need to be grounded so we can focus on other things in our lives, but there is a time to resurrect our dreams.

I struggled for years with figuring out when the time was right for me to pursue writing full time. After ten years of focusing on family, I thought it was time to resurrect my dreams. Looking back, it might have been easier to let them sleep a little longer, or if I slowly worked toward my goals those ten years. I’ll never know, but here are some thing I’ve learned along the way.

Identifying Your Dream Passion
Sometimes it’s been so long since we let ourselves dream, that we’ve forgotten what our passions are. Think back to when you were little. What were the things that brought you joy? Did those same activities extend to your high school and college years? Did you lose your passion in the busyness of family rearing and life? Still stumped at identifying your passion? How about the things you did that you felt God’s smile of approval or presence in? Ask God to stir up a passion inside of you for His glory. Then expect him to! Here’s a peek at one of my childhood dreams…fulfilled!

Pray Before You Leap
It seems so simple, but why don’t we do it? For me, it’s because I’m driven and I see others with the “prize” and I think “I can do that.” But I’ve learned that no matter how hard I try or how talented I think I am, God’s the one in control, not me. I can strive all I want (and I believe in working toward my goals,) but ultimately God knows when I’m ready to take that leap toward my dreams. I’ve learned the hard way not to rush it. Don’t make the same mistake.

Banish the Naysayers
Sometimes our biggest dream killers are our inner voices that tell us our dreams are too impractical or unrealistic. That’s why they’re called dreams! While some seasons of dreaming might have to be practical like having a steady job or bigger home, I believe inside everyone is a dream that connects with our soul that if left to sleep too long with eventually die, killing your spirit as well! Allow yourself to wake the dream!

If you feel that now is your time to resurrect your dream, you might be terrified. But how scary is it to live without the pursuit of our passions? To live with the doubt of never knowing if you might have succeeded because your never even tried or gave up too soon.

I don’t want to live with those regrets.

Do you?

 

 

Dancing Shoes…

I finally did it! I’m about to cross off something on my bucket list and it involves dancing shoes!

When I spent 3 1/2 weeks on the road one of the highlights for me was going swing dancing with Susie May Warren. Dancing with strangers was a little out of my comfort zone, but Susie makes everything less painless.

While there I thought it was about time to do something I’ve wanted to do for YEARS. So when I got home I called several ballroom dance places in town, but didn’t hear back from them and just forgot about it until my birthday came around in November and I was trying to decide what to do to celebrate. That’s when one of the dancing schools called me and apologized for not answering my email. Their server was having problems, so they offered me a $60 package for FREE!

What a birthday present! Life has been super busy with two kids in two different plays, so I just had free afternoon to make an appointment and though it is still a bit out of my comfort zone to sign up for classes by myself (hubby has three left feet) I’m doing it. FOR ME!

Because I’ve always wanted to!

So next time you hear from me I might have an update about me and my dancing shoes!! In the meantime, I’m going to pretend I’m as good as the finalists on Dancing with the Stars, and hope I don’t get voted off the dance floor when it comes time for my lessons!

What have you ALWAYS WANTED TO DO, but never have? And what’s stopping you??

Sleep Patterns…Vacation vs. Home

I woke up everyday on vacation around 6:30 – 7am. The first week I blamed it on the time change. Back home it’d be 8:30-9am so it seemed logical. But by week 2 and 3 I thought my body would have caught on. Others blamed it on the altitude or the light streaming in the windows of where I was staying. I’m not sure what it was, but I consistently woke up earlier than I wanted to!

Now that I’m home and sleeping in untlil 8:30, 9 and sometimes 10:30 and theoretically in bed more hours than I was on vacation I’ve got a new theory.

On vacation I played hard and slept well, even in a strange bed every couple of nights. I slept really well, woke up very rested, and remembered I my vivid dreams (the one about being attacked by a moose and a camel came to save me and the other where Don Maass told me to dump by historical and write my time travel book, though I attributed that to listening to The Time Traveler’s Wife in the car.)

Being home, I’ve noticed I’m having trouble going to sleep, and I’m waking frequently through the night. Why?

Now for the theory. On  vacation I didn’t worry about anything. I enjoyed each moment without a care for the next day. At home there’s so much to do I lie awake worrying whether I accomplished enough during the day and thought about what I needed to do the next.

Needless to say, I’m not sleeping like I did on vacation and I’m sleeping in. So how to remedy my sleep issues?

I’m not sure. All I can think of is “cast your cares on Him.” Easy in theory, hard when your home looks like a tornado swept through it after the hurricane had its way. SIGH!

Maybe I just need to fall into a new bed time routine and lay off the caffeine during the day!

Thoughts?

Big Dreams Walking?

Lately, there’s been a lot of talk about dreams and working hard to achieve them? A part of me believes whole heatedly in never giving up on your dreams, the other part of me wonders if the price is really worth it…if the realization of that dream will actually come to pass. If I have what it takes to carry it through to the end.

I’ve been dreaming BIG dreams my entire life, yet the only dreams that ever come to pass are the little ones. Is it because of MY effort? Am I not trying hard enough? But if I try harder, then something in my life will be out of balance. Seems a bit like works mentality to me, and that I can make it happen. Where’s God’s will in all this dreaming? I don’t care how hard you work, you might NEVER reach your dreams. Your dreams, the dreams you think are God’s dreams might not really be HIS dream for you.

That’s where I’m at right now. I’ve spent over 30 years dreaming big. Sometimes I wish I could be happy, content with small dreams.

Where are you in your dream cycle?

A Fear Overcome and A Dream Come True

…about thirty years late. But I guess it’s still a dream come true. When I was younger I loved being on stage in my high school plays, even if I was just in the background dancing, but I hated the auditions. It scared me to death. I never had a speaking part that was more than a line or two, but I was fine with it. Though secretly I dreamed of being a childhood actress and star on television. Not sure why I was obsessed with it. Maybe the lives and families on television looked more fun than my own, but I really never told anyone of my dream. I was too shy and insecure and growing up in a single mom home, didn’t think my dream would ever come true.

Then I got married, had children and over the years I realized my children were gifted musically. So I put them in musical theatre and though shy at first, they all fell in love with theatre and they were good. I was happy to get my childhood dream fix watching them, though once again I wondered if it was something I could do myself. But who had the time with pursuing a new/old passion of writing fiction and being published? Still, I thought I should at least give it a try, once, and promised my kids one day I’d audition and be in a play with them.

I thought one day was a long time away, but with no pending book contracts or books in dire need of writing, it seemed like I had a pretty free summer. So I nervously auditioned for the Wizard of Oz. My kids said I had a great Wicked Witch cackle, I took that as a compliment and with shaking script in hand, I auditioned.

And was relieved I didn’t get the part, but I did get in the play. I had a safe little part as Mrs. Gulch the mean woman who wanted to take Toto away. All I had to do was run across the stage, yell a few lines and I was off. I had a few other appearances in Oz, but for the most part, it wasn’t a big deal and I was okay with that. My dream, still fulfilled.

Then I got a call. “Auntie Em” left the show and could I do it?” My first thought, I enjoyed being the mean lady with a small part. Could I be nice old Aunt Em with a dozen or so lines. They needed me, so I said yes, now I have to memorize the lines which is my second biggest fear. My third biggest fear, forgetting the lines!

But I had my first practice as Aunt Em the other day and it felt pretty good. There’s 3-4 more weeks left of practice and I’ll get better and learn those lines. So while it took me over 30 years to make this childhood dream come true, I’m praying it won’t take another 30 for my dream of publishing my first novel!

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