Monday, 16 January 2017

Live in Balance: Are they the right goals for me?

With most of my colleagues back at work with me, we invariably chat about the holidays and that conversation then rolls around to New Years' resolutions. I usually listen with an attentive ear, not only because I can learn something but it is hard not to sympathize with some of their issues.
I might have mentioned it, about a million times or so, that I work in a very stressful environment. Most people have stress in their lives that follow a wave-like pattern - up and down, up and down. Meaning that the stress only occurs as peaks over a small time period: financial year end, completing a product for delivery, and so on.
Linzé Brandon, Live in Balance, Goals 2017, word count target

In my case, the level of stress never subsides. There are even higher peaks at certain times (almost every month), but the pressure never lets up. While it is a supercharged and exciting industry to work in, it takes a heavy toll on people, myself included.
To get back to my original point, New Years' resolutions in our lives can get drowned out in the noise of this kind of stress. A colleague mentioned that he decided to do something different this year since he barely made it through the last one. It is nothing odd or stupid, but he knew that the plan of last year was not good enough, so he had to change it.
And that is exactly the thing we often forget to do: sit back, reassess our goals of the past. Did they work? Did they achieve what we wanted them to do?
Most people are concerned about sticking to their goals for the year. I think there are many cases where people stick to their goals but feel just as frustrated or unhappy as those people who didn't stick to their goals. Could it be that the List, those New Years' resolutions, were the wrong goals to begin with?
Sure, there are lots of advice available on how to stay motivated. How to find out what motivates you to stick to those lovely goals you set for yourself. There is nothing wrong with that advice if you start off in the right place.
Linzé Brandon, Live in Balance, Goals 2017, weight-loss target

Why would putting losing weight as a goal (yeah, I have that on my Live In Balance list too!) be the wrong thing for you? Could it be that the thing you need to fix has nothing to do with your body weight, but more to do with the reasons you gained weight in the first place?
Boredom? Broken relationships? Depression? To name but a small number of reasons. Shouldn't you rather spend more time in figuring out on what the real reason is and then making that the issue you need to focus on?
It took me a long time to figure out that my problem is boredom. I don't need a lot of sleep and tend to snack after dinner to make my nights shorter. The problem is not the time of day that we have dinner, it's the snacking.
Doing mundane things bores me to tears - and I put household chores at the top of that list. I love cooking but detest washing up. And no, a dishwasher is not a solution to that problem, since it still requires work from a human - loading and unloading. I dumped the unloading part on my husband's shoulders. Needless to say, the list is long and dull. So if you expect a meticulous house when visiting me, you will be disappointed. Dust bunnies and the odd spider or gecko live very harmoniously with us until I do get around to cleaning and vacuuming. At least the geckos are smart enough to make a run for it before they get vacuumed!
Linzé Brandon, Live in Balance, Goals 2017, art projects

Before I wrote this post, I had another look at my Live in Balance list, and at first glance it is overwhelming. But knowing my personal issues with boredom, it is probably a good thing. If I can keep myself occupied with things I love - reading, writing, sketching, painting, Tai Chi practice - then my weight-loss efforts might be less of a struggle.
While I was writing this post, I realised that by writing about my issues also helps to keep me motivated. As someone who has been struggling with being overweight my whole life, I need as much motivation and conviction as I can muster at this point.

It is the start of week 3 and so far so good. Are you still on track to achieving your goals for 2017?

And the debate on diet vs exercise rages on. Click to read more...

Monday, 9 January 2017

Live in Balance: Daily Choices

It always amazes me that once you decide to either do or work at something, information about that subject seems to pop up everywhere. From my mailing lists to articles shared by online friends - living a life in balance or harmony suddenly appeared to be the flavour of the week.
Linzé Brandon, Live in Balance, word count target progress
Live in Balance 2017
I am not complaining, quite the contrary. Seeing all this information, or experiences shared by others, work well to inspire me to keep working at it. Of course, it is early days, but reading about good intentions versus commitment, can be a good starting place. A place that helps to get (and keep) my head in the right place and on track towards my goals.
I am not sure that we actually learn from the mistakes or the experiences of other people. Many people are of the opinion that we read about others' experiences (good or bad) and yet deep down still think that we won't make the same mistake even if we make the same choices. I am no expert in human behaviour, but from what little I understand of the world, I have to agree.
Take smoking or alcohol as examples. There is no way that people who smoke or drink excessively cannot be aware of the consequences of their actions unless they live in a hole somewhere and then at least they won't hurt anybody else with their choices. But the information is there. People who have rehabilitated themselves from these bad habits, share their stories to anyone who wants to listen, and still, the number of smokers is on the increase. And the same can be said of alcoholism.
Please understand I am in no position to judge but didn't they make a choice at some point in their lives to use these dangerous substances? Or do they choose not to seek help to stop once they have become addicted?
So if we don't learn from mistakes made by others, and we persist in living down the rabbit hole, what do we have to do to break these chains around our own minds? Is it simply a choice, or is there something more?
I think the first step is the choice, but it shouldn't end there. All choices to change something in ourselves or our circumstances will come with sacrifices. And therein lies the fundamental reason why we continue to live doing the wrong things to ourselves or others.
Why it is so easy to slip back to old habits?
No one likes sacrifices. No one will choose pain. So why should you?
Why should I?
Why did I choose to lose weight? Or do more art? Or write the equivalent of three novels in one year?
Doing art and writing provides me with a lot of satisfaction, and pleasure even, but the sacrifices still have to be made. To be honest, I have been writing for sixteen years now, and I don't miss the one thing I decided to sacrifice to make the time to do so: watching TV. Taking up art again, was simply another creative activity I added to please myself.
Losing weight, on the other hand, is not that simple. The choice is easy: I stick up my hand and say 'I do', but this choice comes with both sacrifice and pain. Trust me, I will avoid pain as far as I can. So what now?
It is early days. And my will-power when it comes to the temptation of food and snacking is anything but strong. I don't know if I will make my target. I don't know how difficult it is going to get.
Linzé Brandon, Live in Balance, art goals 2017
Live in Balance 2017
What I do know is that if I don't learn from the mistakes made by others, or heed the advice of those that went before me, I could end up killing myself. If that is not something that scares you into commitment, trust me, it sure as hell scared the living daylights out of me.
So here I stand at the beginning of week 2 of my year to Live in Balance. My bravery of before is seriously lacking right now. What I do have is the choice to do this today. And choose to do this tomorrow. And when I get to the day after, I will have to make the choice again. Pain and sacrifice now. So that a month or three from now, I can continue making these same choices, perhaps with more bravery and less pain. And if I can manage to make this choice enough times, the pain will go away and so will the threat to my health and ultimately my life. So I choose the pain, today.

Advice from other writers on getting better at writing

Monday, 2 January 2017

Live in Balance: Setting Up

I don't know if the New Year started at a high or a low, or both. There were few fireworks around on New Year's Eve (thank goodness) but still enough to agitate the neighbourhood's dogs into a barking frenzy. We gave our own dogs something to keep them calm, but they were not happy for the duration of that noisy display. Although, I have to say we got to bed earlier than most years. 💜👍
I started a new journal as I would normally do at the beginning of a new year. Usually, I decide on a theme for my journal, a colour or subject, to decorate it with or use as the primary scheme for any visual entries. This year I decided to forego that and stick to my goal to Live in Balance for my journal too. So whatever colour, or subject, or nothing, pops into my head for that entry, I will just go with that. It is a journal after all, and not a scrapbook.
As I sit here, waiting for the first load of laundry to finish washing, I had a look at the spreadsheet I drew up with all my goals set up. To measure is to know - a saying that has prevailed in my professional life and has proven to be a good motto to work (and live) by. Goals can only be achieved if you track your progress towards attaining them. I find this kind of thing motivating although it might be largely contributed to the engineer in me. 😉
Linzé Brandon, Live in Balance, word count target 2017, Open Office Calc graph
Graph Example
Each goal has a graph setup to be a visual map of my progress. Despite my love for math, constructing graphs has never been my strong point, so they might transform into various versions of themselves before I find a style that I can work with. So far, the simplest types were my first choice, and they might still end up being the best.
Of course, doing art and practicing Tai Chi can be difficult to measure the outcome. Here I decided to stick with the hours spent since in both these cases it is the process that is the goal instead of the outcome. I am aiming to become better at it after all. Neither art nor Tai Chi has a destination where you can say 'I have arrived' or 'I have achieved my goal'. The aim is to develop my skills, and time spent can be the only measure of progress. Without working at it, there cannot be any getting better at it, can there?
While this is the official first post of my year to Live in Balance, it is too early to show any progress of any sorts, so I decided to tell you a bit more about my project plan.
Linzé Brandon, Live in Balance, project plan for 2017, writing projects, writing, editing, publishing

As a project manager (my day job) planning forms a significant part of my daily activities. But then so is progress reporting and following up to ensure that the tasks are being executed as planned. So why not use those skills to plan my writing projects for the year?
While I use OpenOffice, Excel has the same template available to help you plan any project. While these are predefined spreadsheets, versions of both the software companies are simple and easy to use. My biggest problem usually is that the plan sits on my computer and unless I open it on a daily basis, I forget what the daily targets are, or forget to update progress.
Since the plan spans the entire year, printing the whole thing is not practical - I simply don't have space in my home office to put it up against a wall or something. So I opted for Plan B - print some weeks of the Gantt chart. This way it fits on an A4 page which I can put on a small magnetic board that I have on my desk right next to my computer. If it's in my face all the time, there is little chance of me forgetting about it!
In case you are wondering? I print my work project plans too. The only difference is that I have enough space in my office to stick them on the walls. The interesting part is that the other members of my team, like to have a look-see now and then to see where we stand overall. It helps them too.
By this time next week my Live in Balance goals will have some progress that I can share with you.
👉 Please share your goals and progress in return. This is the first time I am doing this in such a structured way, and I could definitely benefit from your comments. 💟
Have a great week!
Linzé 💜

Saturday, 31 December 2016

Looking Back... Looking Forward

With less than nine hours to go before 2017 dawns, I suppose it is natural to want to reflect on the past year. It was an up and down year for me, or rather a down and up year.
The Sad
Having my mother pass away in January was definitely not the best way to start the year. It was hard, and to be honest, it still is. During the launch of JOURNEY earlier this month, I declined to read from my story, Galen's Hope, as I would normally do at such an event. While the story is about grief, it is not about my mother. The hard part was the reminder that I started writing it just before my mother passed away, so I always associate that story with her. To this day I still cry when I read it, making it impossible to read it out loud during the launch.
The New Year's Resolution
Linzé Brandon, self-portrait, art, pen and ink sketch
Self-portrait: pen and ink
But things were not always sad for me. I made a resolution (the first in many years, because I don't keep to them, duh!) to do more art. My resolution was to spend one weekend each month only doing some kind of art project. And I did! Trust me, I am surprised too. Upon reflection, I think the reason I kept to my resolution was to put a measurable goal to it - one weekend every month. There was no pressure to do this project or finish that project - the goal was to do art. To enjoy the creativity and the relaxation of the process.
The Bad
Like many people, I also wanted to lose weight. I was well on track until my mother died, and once the comfort food came out.... Well, needless to say, that resolution did not work out so well. The only good thing that I have to mention is that I didn't gain more than where I started from. Something to be grateful for.
But the weight loss effort has taken a turn from vanity to necessity. Yes, I am overweight, but I have never been one to fuss about the way I look. Until I was put on medication for high blood pressure on top of having an ulcer. I had to rethink the way I live my life and deal with the extreme stress that comes from my job. More about that a little later.
The Achievements
Linzé Brandon, book cover, print book, Negotiating the Maze, non-fiction
On the writing front, I managed to finish several first drafts and publish two books: Negotiating the Maze and JOURNEY. I also let myself down with the final editing and publication of my fourth novel, Waiting for Adrian. I am however not stressing too much right now, as it will just be the first book to finish in the new year. This book has been a particular struggle for me, but after the cover design was finished, things started to look much brighter.
Those drafts I mentioned were part of the 232k words that I wrote this year. At an average of 635 words per day, it wasn't my best year, but then again it wasn't my worst year either. I joined a Facebook group where we set ourselves a target for the year and then are held accountable to achieve that. I set myself a goal of 750 words per day for 2017, amounting to 273k words for the year. More about that later.
The Surprise
As a writer, I also love to read. I finished my 80th book of the year yesterday. If you take into account the fact that I don't read during April, July, and November (for obvious reasons) it comes down to reading two books per week for the remaining 40 weeks of the year. Trust me, I was surprised at the number since I don't have a reading target. Never have. Probably never will, since it is the one activity that I can never get enough of.
I still have a few books (mostly non-fiction) that I haven't finished yet, but that's okay, they will be on next year's list.
The Challenge
If you have been following my blog, you will know that I am a student of Tai Chi Quan and have been for the past two years. I am presently learning the 40 forms, and while doing my daily practice, I came to the realisation that I am already on my way towards my goal for 2017: to live in balance.
The New Year...2017
I will be blogging about my journey to bring my life into balance: health, work, writing, and art. Creativity has always been a major element in the way I define myself as a human being. But to keep myself accountable, I am going to tackle this journey in public. For that, you need to know what my goals are and for my journey to be a success, I need to report on my progress - not for you, but for me.
So I am taking a deep breath, and making a list of what I aim to achieve to bring my life into balance in 2017.
Here we go:
  1. I need to get my weight down from 127kg (weighed myself yesterday morning) to 100kg. It is approximately 2kg per month and not an unreasonable target. Trying to lose weight faster will mess with my blood sugar which I have to keep a close eye on for various reasons.
  2. Secondary target to the above is to get off my high blood pressure meds.
  3. I mentioned my word count target for 2017 - 273k words. Very easy to measure, although sometimes tough to keep up.
  4. I have five books on my list for publication, which include two full-length novels.
    They are:
    • Waiting for Adrian (4th book in the Nations of Peace series),
    • We, the One (a standalone novel),
    • Richard's Choice (the second story of the Last Gryphon trilogy),
    • Breathe (the fifth book in the Third Gender series), and
    • Galen's Destiny (the third story of the Last Gryphon trilogy).
    Having so many is a challenge, but three of the five are in the final stages of editing, while the first drafts on other two are almost complete. I drew up a project plan, and I will divulge more details soon.
  5. My resolution to do more art still stands, and I plan to continue to dedicate one weekend every month to draw, sketch or paint. My present painting project turned out to be more work than I anticipated (and that is not a bad thing) but if I work at it as planned, I will be able to finish it in three or four months. I have many ideas and more things to learn and cannot wait to get working on that.
  6. Master at least 20 of the 40 forms in Tai Chi with daily practice. This martial art has opened my eyes to the joy of movement and the focus associated with meditation. I cannot attend a live class, but the video course is a very close second choice. As someone who dislikes exercise, I find this martial art to be the perfect alternative for me. And after having stiff muscles for two days after my second video lesson, I can safely say that it is exercise!
  7. The last on my list does not have a target. Reading. All I can say is that I will read as much as I can. It will never be a goal to read a certain number of books each year. Why bother to set a goal for something that I love so much?
I do not have a single word for next year, as many people say you should have, but that's okay - for me it will be to Live In Balance in 2017.
So join me, and share with me, an amazing new year.
Happy 2017!

Monday, 5 December 2016

Book Feature: DIVINE LEGACY by CJ Peterson (and 2 free ebooks)

New Release and Free ebooks!

New Release!
divine legacy, CJ Peterson, christian fiction
The Holy Flame Trilogy and the Grace Restored Series come together in the exciting and much anticipated next generation series: Divine Legacy Series.

As the children of Nico and Kit Sullivan: Joshua and Rachel Sullivan, along with Mark and Casey English’s children: Jon, Jesse, and Angel English, make up the original members of the new A.N.G.E.L.s Unit. Their job is to gather their remaining teammates. While this should be a simple task, the adventure is anything but effortless. In the process of acquiring the two members listed in the United States, they run across a situation that isn’t on their agenda. Amber Jones was in need of miraculous intervention, and God answered her call with the next generation of A.N.G.E.L.s. The A.N.G.E.L.s find some unique help along the way, and learn valuable lessons that will change how they function and see the world from that point forward. Read along as the next generation picks up the torch, claiming their Divine Legacy.

Joel 1:3
Tell it to your children, and let your children tell it to their children, and their children to the next generation.

Hebrews 13:2
Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!

Link for all books:

Ebook Links:

Free 5 to 9 December 2016

the call to duty, CJ Peterson, christian fiction
"We all know emergencies never take a day off. We all know for each one of us claimed, another has to step up to continue taking care of our fellow citizens. Our job is to protect and to serve. Our job is to care for the injured, to help those who need it, and to take down the beast known to us as fire. This beast tries to claim whatever and whomever it can. We all have a call to duty, which we have sworn to perform." 
Courageous. Brave. Fearless. Valiant. These synonyms are often used to describe firefighters/paramedics, police officers, and military personnel. They face danger and lay their lives on the line when they leave for work. What are their struggles? Could that hinder their job proficiency? Who is taking care of those who are taking care of the citizens of this country? 
Casey Carter is a 'newbie' to the firefighting family of Engine Company 15. Not only does she have to prove herself as a probationary firefighter, but she also has to battle misconceptions of females within her newly chosen profession. As situations begin to arise, can she count on the firefighter brotherhood to have her back? Will she be able to pass the tests placed before her, or are there aspects that she was not even aware existed?
Often in life there are two realms in play. There is the physical realm - what is right before you; the other is the spiritual realm - what is unseen. Each can directly affect you, whether you believe they exist or not. Can Casey keep them in balance when she is not exactly sure what she is fighting? Can a group of men help her see what cannot be readily seen, hear what cannot be readily heard, and be able to overcome what she never knew existed? Will they be able to show Casey her true Call To Duty?

Ephesians 6:12-13:
12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

Link for all books:


seasons of change, CJ Peterson, christian fiction
Katie MacKenna experienced one storm after another in her life. When Leukemia stole her mother from her and her father, Katie was only seven-years-old, and her father didn’t know how to cope after such a catastrophic loss. His response was to shut down and become abusive. The overwhelming devastation which surrounded Katie throughout her journey in life forced her to shut down just to survive as well.

Trust is a difficult thing for many people, but for Katie it’s virtually impossible. Every life has Seasons of Change. Will those seasons open Katie to new opportunities or will they forever isolate her in survival mode? Will she be able to overcome the storms that have surrounded her to answer a call for help?

Ecclesiastes 3:1-4:
1 To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: 2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; 4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.

Link for all books: