Sunday, December 9, 2012

Seasonal Musings-Happy Christmas!

     I am feeling a wee bit overwhelmed. I haven't really fully recovered from the rush of the Thanksgiving holiday and it is time to start gearing up to be festive for the Christmas holiday. Some of this sensation has to do with my ambivalence towards my work situation. I feel paralyzed and incapable of making even simple decisions.
     I managed to move forward quite nicely with my November writing project. It helped to have that focus and to have to answer for my writing time. Now that the program is done, I seem to be done. I have other projects to work on, but have lost focus and motivation.
     I decided to start looking at past projects in the hopes of finding some inspiration. I came across this piece that I entered in a Guideposts contest years ago. I didn't win that contest-but I still thoroughly enjoy this piece. The criteria for the contest was you had to write about the birth of Christ from the point of view of someone that could have actually been there. The little boy I picked came to mind partly because one of my favorite songs is "The Little Drummer Boy." I have always way over identified with the whole concept that I have nothing to bring, give, or lay before the king. I don't even know how to play the drums. But every once in a while I can string a few words together in a way that is meaningful to me and hopefully enjoyable or useful to others.
     I want to share this essay from a few years back with you. Re-reading this helped me calm down for a while this morning and remember and feel my enjoyment from when I wrote this piece. It also helped me feel the peace and contentment that I long for in this season. I hope you enjoy this small story as well. Wishing you all peace, happiness, health, and contentment in this holiday season!





A NIGHT LIKE ANY OTHER?



    James scuffed his sandal on the pebbles as he walked through the rugged pasture lands.  The chill pierced the cloak that he pulled tighter around his small shoulders.  It was winter now in the desert.  The land looked as bedraggled as the small bands of shepherds that tended it and their flocks.  As soon as the sun disappeared over the low hills, the cold overwhelmed everything and everyone.
     James sighed as he walked along.  It was too bad he came from such a poor family.  It was too bad he had not done better studying Torah.  He wanted to be a rabbi.  He loved nothing more than being immersed in God’s words.
     Why did his father have to die that slow strange death?  He had been one of the tallest, strongest, smartest men that James had known.  Slowly his father had lost his strength.  His limbs withered.  His words left him as his voice faded.  He was a small dried up shell when he finally died.   James had been grieved by his mother's constant tears.  He did not complain when he was separated from his brothers.  Some of the boys went to his uncles who were fishermen in Galilee.  One had been sent to Jerusalem to learn the trade of being a shop keeper.  James had wanted to work in another uncle's inn in Bethlehem.  That was where his brother went that he was closest to in age.
     James was so small and quiet that it was decided that he would be best left to tending his Uncle Abraham's smallest sheep.  He liked caring for the sheep.  He didn't mind being up through the long, dark night.  In his mind he recited the many verses he still remembered.  They gave him much comfort during the long, cold nights.  His favorite passages were from Isaiah.  He often repeated to himself these words during his long night watch. 
 Isaiah 40:30 “The poorest of the poor will find pasture, and the needy will lie down in safety.”
Isaiah 54:9-11 “Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed," says the LORD, who has compassion on you.”
   He often prayed to God. That was the only help for the quiet longing in his heart.
     He was not sure what he longed for so urgently.  Was it the comfort of home?  Was it the chatter of his brothers as they ate a meal?  Was it the touch of his mother as she used to brush his hair from his eyes?
     James longed for a change of some kind.  He wanted the world to be different then it was, or to be different himself.  He wanted to not miss his father as much as he did.
            James no longer cared much for the world he encountered when he did make it into Bethlehem for selling of wool or the lambs in the spring.  The town was now a sad, dingy place.  The people were stressed, hurried, unkind.  The beggars and the lepers at the city gates frightened and saddened James.  The screaming and shoving in the market place overwhelmed him.  There were no little children at play in the streets as there had been in his small village back home.  James longed to be at play on those streets, to be the child he had been only a few seasons ago. 
     James found a rock to sit on.  In the distance he could see the small fire on the side of a hill.  Abraham had set up camp.  His cousins and other family members would be seated around the fire and talking.  Joshua would tell stories or maybe sing a song.
     He was feeling sleepy.  James started to hum a little tune to him self.  His eyes grew heavy.  He could barely keep his lids open.  His head gently nodded forward.  If he slept for just a moment it would be alright.  Hopefully nothing would happen to this portion of the flock.
     Suddenly there was a bright flash of light.  James head snapped up and he opened his eyes quickly.  There were bright lights swirling all around.  It was as if the clouds glowed with fire!  And the sound!  It was like thousands of voices singing. The praise and joy shook James entire body.  He jumped from his rock and looked wildly all around. The sheep lay peacefully on the hill staring up at the heavens.  James stood still, gazing upward.
     One loud voice spoke out above the heavenly chorus.  James clearly heard the speech!
     "9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ[a] the Lord. 12  This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."
 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
 14"Glory to God in the highest,
      And on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." Luke 2:9-14 (NIV)

     James heart pounded in his chest.  This was something different.  Yet it was familiar.  It reminded him of passages he loved to study from the prophets.

Isaiah 55:11-13 “You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.”

 Maybe this would put an end to his longing.  He raced down the gentle slopes.  The sheep had now fallen into a deep sleep.  He had to get to his uncle Abraham.  Surely Abraham would know what to do.
     James rushed up to the camp.  The others were all talking and gesturing at once.  Some seemed afraid.  Others seemed giddy.  James tugged on his Uncle Abraham's cloak sleeve.
     "Uncle, we should go.  We should find this baby.  Your brother owns an inn.  Maybe he knows where to find this savior."  Some of the men laughed.
     Abraham knelt down to look James in the eye and nodded.  He put his hand on James shoulder as he turned and spoke to the others. "I believe that the boy is right.  I don't think we need to see my brother.  We will just follow the star." 
     Abraham took James by the hand and they walked off in the direction of the star, as it illuminated the stable dwellings cut into the rock outcroppings of the distant hills.
     As they approached the cave over which the star hung, James could see other shepherds there already.  Some knelt at the edge of the gate.  Some had shoved their way into the small stable.  Abraham gently pushed James between the throng of the men as they moved forward. 
     James found himself on his knees right in front of the manger.  The baby he saw wrapped in clothes seemed ordinary.  Yet as he gazed at the child James felt a peace wash over him.  He knew in his heart that this was no ordinary night.  Everything had changed, most of all---James!



    





Thursday, November 22, 2012

Much to Be Thankful for-Always!

     I just want to pause from the busyness of this beautiful day and say a heartfelt thank you to everyone that has helped me this past year as I have journeyed through so many experiences. I am grateful for love and support of friends and family, for the well placed words of encouragement of people I have only just met or know only through online writing communities. Each one of you has had a positive impact on my life and enabled me to pursue my dreams of being a published author.

     One way I am able to express my gratitude is by offering free downloads of my storybook, Green Goo. The following link will allow you to get your free copy. Please feel free to share this link with others. I am hoping to give away thousands of copies.

http://www.meegenius.com/store/coupon/redeem/goo/


     Again, thank you all so much for your love, encouragement, prayers, support, and kind words and deeds that have blessed me so. I raise a toast to all of you!


Sunday, November 11, 2012

My Entry in the Latest Three Minute Fiction Contest on NPR

     I happened to discover this series contest on NPR in the winder of 2011. I had liked NPR's page on Facebook and so their updates would scroll through my news feed. I saw the contest for three minute fiction, where you had to tell a whole story, following their writing prompts, in 600 words or less. I have entered every round since round six. I have not won or been picked to have my story on display on their website. And yet, being part of this group has changed my life forever.
     It is through this group that I have met a supportive and encouraging community of writers. I have learned so much from so many of them and I am glad to be able to have them as friends and coaches. It is through this group that I heard about the Author Challenge Contest at MeeGenius.com. It is through that contest that I had one of my storybooks published and was able to fulfill a lifelong dream. This aspect of my life journey also re-enforced the point about being ready-by having spent years writing stories that no one ever read, when the chance came to have some read a story-I had dozens that were ready to go.
     This past round of Three Minute Fiction-the author that came up with the prompt was Brad Meltzer. He is also the host of one of my favorite TV shows-Decoded. I was so excited to read the prompt and get to work on my idea. Again, I didn't win or get picked to share my story-but I thoroughly enjoyed the process of researching and telling my tale! I want to share that tale here, with you, as I so enjoyed the whole process and it again reminded my why I love to write. I am so grateful to have had this chance to invigorate my whole process and recapture my joy. The story had to be about a real or imaginary President. I wrote an imaginary tale that featured a real President-with hints towards another real President and several other historical figures. I hope you enjoy my little tale as well!


Kindling
             A fresh breath of spring air washed over the crowd of spectators as petals from the gnarled flowering Dogwoods rained down. President Taylor was already bored. He swatted at the debris that now littered his collar. His mind wandered as the students droned on and on during their end of term speeches.
 He barely remembered the face of the young man he fought alongside back during the War of 1812. The headmaster of this small academy, The Milton Boarding School for Boys, apparently was this fellow soldier’s son; at least that was the story presented in the letter that requested Taylor come say a few words at this commencement day ceremony.
            It was from his sense of duty, toward all that had served under him over the past forty years, that he now found himself mounted on the rickety wooden chair, wishing it was time for the promised luncheon; his own words now long forgotten by all those present, drowned in this sea of wasted words.
            It was then that the boy took his place on the stage by the podium. He began to speak in a torrent of words. His fiery passion gushed over the audience, enthralling them. Taylor glanced at his program, squinting at the name printed there. He snorted as the crowd leaps to its feet, thundering their applause. The young boy flushed with pride. He gave a slight bow and bounded down the steps. Headmaster Smythe gave the closing remark, the sweet words of release.
            President Taylor lumbered off toward the table where the luncheon buffet was set up. Students flocked after him, yet kept a safe distance from “Old Rough and Ready.”  Very few of the boys had ever met a war hero, let alone The President of the United States.
            The boy that had recited the classic speech by Cicero was suddenly at Taylor’s elbow. He seemed to have no sense of his intrusion into the President’s space as he leaned in to speak rather earnestly.
            “I have always been a great admirer of yours, sir. I hope to one day be a great man like you,” said the young orator.
            Taylor looked over the thin figure of the boy that stood before him. Shaking his head, he said, “Being a back woods boy from Louisiana, I don’t know much about theatrics and such. At best, if you are lucky enough you might one day become half the actor your father was, before he soaked his soul in alcohol.”
            And now, this man that had stirred the boy with such feelings of admiration incited the boy with rage. He balled his hands into fists as his friends pulled him away; the anguish evident in every strained muscle of his wiry frame, tears of anger rimming his blazing eyes.
            “One day everyone will know me, you just wait and see. I will be more famous than you ever were,” screamed John Wilkes Booth.

               

Friday, October 26, 2012

Step Away

     Often I feel like I am moments or mere steps away from some sort of success. If I can just stay focused or just keep working or worrying a project, the right break through will come along and everything will fall into place. That is often what is promised in many of the writing and motivation books I read. And since it is in print, it must be true, right?
     I am now finding that it is equally important to step away; from my day to day life, work worries, writing knots, daily dramas, and any other thing that brings me or others down.
     This past weekend I was able to step away for a weekend away. It was a working weekend as I was watching my friend's kids, but they live far out in the country, so for this city loving gal I was very much out of my element.
     There were many beautiful moments, even as rain poured down much of the time. Early one morning, as the hazy mists were lifting, a flock of wild turkeys emerged from the woods, gathering around and on the wood pile.
     I also had the opportunity to see and walk among the glorious fall foliage that I enjoy so much. I even got several great snaps that I gaze at whenever I need to alter the landscape of my soul. Being out and about outside also helped replenish my words, my inner source. I finally was able to start writing again after a drought of several weeks.
     It isn't often that I have been this much at a loss for words so I now have a new found sympathy for anyone that suffers from writer's block or any issue that keeps them from a task they ordinarily love.


Magical Thinking

     So, as I have been wallowing in my anxiety, I have finally been able to come up with one coherent thought; I really figured I would have things better worked out by now. What sort of things, you might ask. If I wasn't feeling so burned out I might be able to give a clear answer.
     Hmm, what things did I hope for way back when. Well, for one thing, I really thought I would feel like a grown up by now, a full time, full fledged adult. Oh, sure, I have made some grown up, hard choices every now and then, even been mature a time or two, but I still feel like a fraud at the end of the day.
     For instance, what should I do for my resume? The current job may or may not last much longer, no one really knows. However, it just so happens that my place of employment has made national news and it is one of those hot button topics that people get all enraged about. When people I meet for the first time find out where I work, they feel the need to share their opinion about what they think of the company and those of us that work there. And I seriously need to stop reading all the messages on the social media chat-boards or I will just slip right over the edge into oblivion.
     But back to the resume? What do I do? Do I list where I have been working for the last year and some odd months? Will people want to call me for an interview just to hear about my experience there? If they have a negative opinion about the company I currently work for, will they just disregard my application?
     I have given this a lot of thought. I could feasibly say I took a year off to pursue writing. I have been writing a lot the past several years and this year I actually did have a storybook published. Maybe I just shouldn't even list my current employer on my resume. Several of my friends think this sounds like a reasonable solution.
     I may eventually agree with my friends. Right now it just feels like too much of a  defeat if I leave it off my resume. I already feel like all I really did this past year was get another year older. As much as I want to get mired in that thought, another one whispers through my mind, "You did get another year older." And then I am grateful as I think of where I was headed this time last year, preparing to have invasive surgery.
     And then I look at the clock and see the time. Time shifts and blends when I write. Suddenly it is the middle of the night and if you would have asked me, I would have said it couldn't be much past ten pm. I'm reminded of many of the nights of my childhood and young adulthood. Often I would turn on my reading lamp and read through the night, certain that if I could just stay awake, it would stay today and I would never have to deal with tomorrow's problems.
     I can deal with right now, this minute, these words. If I just keep writing I can hold off tomorrows fears and worries, the anxieties of next week, next month, next year. If I can just keep writing, everything will be okay. None of this tomorrow is another day crap for me, all I want is an endless today.
    

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

When Autumn Leaves Start to Fall

     I am enjoying the fall weather, finally. As the summer months dragged along and scorched my soul along with our landscape, I feared relief would never come. A person can only take off so much clothing and still be fit to work out amongst the public. Now I can layer as needed, which is generally not at all. I love autumn's chill that is able to cool my churning mind.
     It has slowly dawned on me that I am having some issues with stress and anxiety. Part of it is til residual fears from last year. I had some great moments last year, but also several that rather sucked, at least to me. I ended up having three surgeries last year, two of them for my kidney. They rather threw me for a loop. I think I am fully recovered, except for those moments when there is an inexplicable pain and one holds one's breath, wondering, is it over? Is it back? Is there another blockage of my kidney? I go for weeks now and don't think of it at all.
     It was a shocking thing to have to change how I viewed myself, thankfully only for certain moments, at least for now. I had always considered myself healthier than my peers. Maybe I was, maybe I wasn't, but I had avoided surgery of any type for my whole life until last year. Suddenly having to think of myself as sick was a huge blow to my ego. It is sad how as a whole, we do make people feel that it is rather somehow their fault when they end up ill. If only you had done this, or done that, or had the foresight to have different ancestors. Being ill is quite a discouraging process. And that makes the recovery process rather hard to begin.
     I do feel much better than I did a year ago. At least physically. I feel a certain sadness that is partly cued by the falling leaves, the lengthening darkness of the days, and the inevitable markers of the passages of time-children bounding off to school, boats and bikes being put into storage. I have a greater understanding of the issues that plagued my mother's health since she was younger than I am now. I can now better appreciate the consuming despair that would encompass watching your physical health slowly fail.
     This fall season finds me with the added difficult situation of again working for a large corporation that has managed to do things in a somewhat unorthodox way. The company I work for was the recipient of a lot of special funding. Even with that special funding, there have been great difficulties in keeping the business running through our struggling state and national economies.
     When I first considered starting this new job at this brand new plant, the advice I received from almost everyone was, "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take." Sadly, you still do miss some of the shots that you do take. We all just think that will never happen to us. That being said, I would still make the same choice. everything does happen for us to learn and grow from. I have learned a lot is this past year at a greater rate than I have learned in probably my whole life.
     Yes, the excitement has worn away. When we first got our company coats with the name and logo of our company on it, I was thrilled. It was just like the old days when I had worked at another of the great automobile suppliers in our area. Now, I cringe when i put on the only winter coat I own with our company logo shining brightly on my left breast. Strangers now feel free to verbally assault me and belittle me for where I work. People that had no interest in helping me spread the word about the storybook I had published this year suddenly care what I might have to say based on where I work. Not about my book, mind you, about the company.
     Well, my job is not my life. It is not who I am. It never has been. It just seems like it in this moment. I need to remember this will pass just has surely as the miserable heat of summer passed. But even in that heat, there were many opportunities for me to make it out to the big lake to swim.
      Feeling like I need to defend myself from strangers has caused the type of anxiety that can rule one's sleep by creating frightful nightmares. I just need to learn to appreciate these for what they are, my brain's way of sorting out these issues for me. This way I can better enjoy pursuing my real dreams, using words to create colorful pictures that will make a lasting connection between me and my stories and their readers.
     As I was saying to a friend of mine, whether the sky is a foreboding gray or a bright blue, the trees glorious colors are showcased either way.


Monday, October 1, 2012

GUTGAA Small Press Contest

     This past week has been another unbelievable week for me. The highs and lows were a bit much. I am often reminded of the little grandma talking in that movie Parenthood, describing to Steve Martin's character Gil how life resembles an amusement park ride. She says so many people prefer the merry-go-round, but she liked the thrill of the roller coaster. Now, most people know that I am NOT a big fan of roller coasters. In fact, they leave me quivering and shaking with fear. I generally only ride them when I have been shamed into it. Ask my sister about this.
     This past week, I again found my private life on public display as the potential short comings of my current "day job" employer were out on display in a media circus. Reports were coming every half hour during the early morning news hours of our work shortages and stoppages, all things I would rather not share except with my closest friends or with my co-workers that are going through this with me. The fear that I had been keeping at bay was now out for public display, much to my dismay. It seemed like I was getting in a rut with my day job and feeling discouraged about my dream job, my writing prospects.
     Then came the unexpected email. I had put out several different entries for multiple contests that are being sponsored by the Gearing Up to Get an Agent Contest, GUTGAA. I found out on Friday I had made the cut for the Small Press contest. Suddenly I was clutching the handrails again as my little coaster car careened up the roller coaster.
      When you have a moment-please follow the link and check out my humble entry. If you have an extra moment, please leave a comment. I always need critiques and they are appreciated.

http://julianalbrandt.com/2012/10/pitch-19-one-step-closer-to-nowhere/



Saturday, September 15, 2012

Edit and Polish of Pitch Polish Blog Hop Entry for GUTGAA

     It has been an amazing week for me as I have been about exploring other blogs and learning so much from fellow authors. I appreciate each person that stopped by my blog and attempted to decipher my original entry in the Pitch Polish Contest.
     I have been busy this week with many new volunteer opportunities that I have been able to explore due to the slow down in production at my day job. It has been a welcomed change of pace.
     I have also started an exciting new project that was suggested to me by my husband's cousin. I am going to try to adapt my storybook into a stage play for a children's theater group. It has been a great way for me to expand the original story and really explore all the main characters and supporting characters in the story. I am again excited about the story and the process.
     The exercise of exploration also instilled in me a desire to work at my original entry and give it a good going over. So.

The Mystery at Half Moon Lake
Chapter Book/mystery ages 6-10
30,000 Words

Leah is glad it is summer break. Time to sit back and read the mystery/adventure novels she loves so much. Reading will be the highlight of her summer. When the phone rings, that all changes. Suddenly Leah has to hurry and pack as she is invited by her best friend Becca's family to stay with them in the family cottage up at Half Moon Lake. What starts off as a relaxing trip becomes an exploration into the past history of the lake and its early settlers. Leah and Becca will have to rely on each other and their brothers to solve the mystery that haunts the cottage at Half Moon Lake.


Beginning of First Chapter:


Leah sleepily wondered what she might do today as she chased the last fruity flake in her bowl of pinkish tinted milk. It was her day to clean the bathroom she shared with her messy brother. she would rather clean the chicken coup. Maybe Noah would trade with her. He didn't like the chickens. Leah loved to gather the warm eggs and place them carefully in the basket. Her girls would come running, clucking their greetings. Thinking of the chickens running always made Leah laugh out loud.

"What?" asked Noah as he stuffed the last of his toast in his mouth.
"Nothing. I was just thinking," Leah answered, still giggling.
"Why? We're not in school. My brain's on break. I don't have to think any more," said Noah.




Friday, September 7, 2012

Check out Lynne's Story

     Well, the end of my blog writing schedule is upon me. I made a goal to write a blog post for every day I was off of work for this last layoff period, along with some other writing goals. As I will be gone over the weekend-and not have any internet access, I needed to do three blog posts today.
      I want to feature a friend of mine's short story today. She has entered her piece in a short story contest. She has been a great encouragement to me while I have been chasing my writing dreams-and I want to offer that same encouragement to her.

     Please follow the link that I have posted below-to her story-there will be a brownish colored task bar at the top of the story feed-and in that bar will be a place to enter your email address---please do that-then follow the direction of the email they send you-it will direct you to confirm your email address-and then when you do-you can follow the link back to the story-and at the bottom of the page you will then have the option to vote a thumbs up for the story and also like it for Facebook.


http://www.familyfiction.com/short-stories/create-romance-2012/lanie-s-hope/

My Entry for the Pitch Polish Blog Hop-GUTGAA

Terri . Rowe

Mystery at Half Moon Lake

Chapter book/Mystery

132 Words

     Books were my earliest friends. My family moved often when I was a child and the school and local libraries were my sanctuary. It was while tucked away in a cubicle there that I discovered the first loves of my life while reading The Three Investigators Mystery Series.
     My story is a mystery that is reminiscent of the classic old tales, yet set in a current time frame. There is an emphasis on family, friendship, working together all wound around a well told story. The adventure of the Mystery at Half Moon Lake follows Leah and her friend Becca as they vacation with Becca's family at Becca's grandmother's cottage on Half Moon Lake.
     Historical fact will be tied in with story as the girls and Becca's younger brothers try to figure out what is behind the strange events that are disturbing the peace at this tranquil lake shore community.

                                                            The Mystery at Half Moon Lake

     Leah was wondering what she might do once she was finished with her cereal. She had been dawdling. It was her day to clean the bathroom she shared with her brother. It was her least favorite chore. She preferred going out to the chicken coop out back and collecting eggs. She also liked to pour out the feed in the containers for the chickens and give them fresh water. She loved to watch them as they ran to greet her. One of her favorite things in the world was watching them run. The thought made her laugh.
     “What?” asked her brother Noah.
     “Nothing. I was just thinking,” answered Leah.
    “Why? We’re not in school any more. My brain’s on break. I don’t have to think any more,” said Noah.

Better Late then Never- GUTGAA

     So, I am so very new to the world and ways of blogging. It is exciting and frightening to me as I learn and explore this new to me medium. I have had so much fabulous help along the way. My fellow bloggers are a helpful and generous bunch of people. I am so fortunate to be part of this great online community.
     I made a discover this week about a blog hopping event, Gearing Up To Get An Agent, that has been organized by Deana Barnhart. Happily, I am just squeaking in under the deadline for signing up. I will be out of range of the internet for most of my weekend up North, but highly anticipate my return Sunday night so I can begin my blogging journey of exploration.
     As a means of introducing ourselves to our fellow bloggers-as a meet and greet event, we have a series of questions to address. They are as follows, with my brief answers:



-Where do you write? I am either at my laptop in the living room or the pc in our "office."

-Quick. Go to your writing space, sit down and look to your left. What is the first thing you see?  Directly to my left, my cat Simon is wedged between me and the arm of the chair I am sitting in as I am on the laptop in the living room right now. On the tray stand next to beyond him-there are two notebooks, a pen, and to television remotes.

-Favorite time to write?  Early morning or late at night.

-Drink of choice while writing? Water.

-When writing , do you listen to music or do you need complete silence? I prefer silence.

-What was your inspiration for your latest manuscript and where did you find it?  The storybook I had published was based on an incident with my nephew. Most of my stories are influenced by real events and people in my everyday life.

-What's your most valuable writing tip? Write. Even when you don't feel like, sit down and write.

                                                                      

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Chasing a Dream

     I have been working diligently this week on strengthening my discipline as a writer. For me, that means writing even when I am not in the mood or particularly inspired. It means trying to work past the excuses that I have relied on for so many years to explain why I am not living my dreams, why I chronically lack vision.
     I have discovered that the best way for me personally to pursue adhering to a writing regime is to be constantly working on multiple projects. That means that so far this week, I have pursued my blog, the novel for my mother, a story for a friends daughter, research for my newest screenplay, and researching for a presentation I may or may not have to do at work. That all depends how the job situation shakes out in the next few weeks.
     The project for my work has to do with a presentation on leadership. My report will focus on a woman scientist that was a leader in her field s well as a visionary for humanity. In reading on the characteristics of a leader, I discovered a quote from Thomas Edison that I have grown quite fond of, "Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up."
     This really spoke to my heart. I was at that point last year. I was at a personal crossroads in the spring of 2011. It was then that I prayed, humbled myself, and re-doubled and re-committed my efforts to the pursuit of my writing dreams.
     Last year became one of my most fulfilling as a writer. I may not be making a living as a writer yet, but I am finally connecting with other writers and my audiences. It has been a time of enormous success for me. And it would never have happened if I had given up. And after years of chasing my dream, there was no real reason to think that my circumstances were going to change. What had to change was me, my view of my dream, and my commitment level to my dream. It was also a matter of bringing my faith into the context of the pursuit of my dream, to add strength and discipline to my hopes and fears.
     I share this tidbit because I really want to encourage everyone else as they try to determine what their valuable dreams are and how they can work to make them come true, to better themselves and their communities. I am hoping the best for you. I am cheering for you and rooting for you. Know that I am on your side.
                                                       

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Grateful for What I Fear




     You know what I am really thankful for? Dentists. Now, anyone who knows me will scratch their head and say, "Really?" They would be saying this because I am absolutely, unreasonably, borderline nutty, phobic afraid of going to the dentist. However, I am more afraid of tooth decay and disease than I am of going to the dentist, so I go faithfully for my teeth cleaning every six months.
     I was fortunate that my parents were able to send me to the dentist regularly when I was a child, so for me, it is a habit. I have to go to the dentist to be happy. Even though I am frightened to the point of barely being able to squeak above a whisper while I am there.
     It didn't help that I had issues with my teeth when I was really young. It turns out that one of the side effects of being a preemie is that often, when your baby teeth finally come in, they don't have enough enamel on them. When my small molars broke through the gums, they needed fillings put in right away. Happily, my adult teeth were much heartier when they came through and as I am devoted to brushing and flossing, my teeth are pretty happy overall. But every now and then, my tiny world gets rocked.
     I went in last Wednesday and was feeling confident even though it was again time for x-rays. I wasn't feeling any pain and as I said earlier-I am devout when it comes to the day to day up keep of my teeth.
     Everything seemed fine. My hygienist merrily cleaned and picked along my gum line, banishing all excess tartar build up. She polished, swished, rinsed, and dried as if all was right in the world. She was gone for a bit retrieving the x-rays and had called the dentist to come to my room for a look see. She had begun to fill my little take home package with a new brush, a tiny tin of loss, and two wee tubes of toothpaste. And then my jovial dentist walked in, and still-all seemed to be okay.
     And then he said, "well, you're not going to like this," which is truly understated. I already didn't like it, whatever it might be. I was already squirming and trying to eye my escape route. It was truly no big deal, for an ordinary person, one that isn't afraid of the dentist. I had two old fillings, as in they are probably 30 years old, that had pieces that broke off and the tooth below was starting to decay. An easy fix. But the soonest we could schedule an appointment-was a week later-today.
     I am also glad that my dentist is so very patient. He doesn't ever say a word. He knows I am afraid and never belittles that fact. He doesn't say a word as I silently try to control my shivering. I know I could do myself harm, but it is really a struggle to not shake. He is also generous with the pain medication and fast and efficient. It always reminds me a bit of one of my favorite books from my childhood-where a little character is all afraid about this bad thing that will happen at the end of the book and pleads and begs for you to quit turning pages. I would do that to, if I could, plead and beg to not have the fillings fixed, and then, suddenly, after only a few moments, it is all done.
     I am truly grateful for the dentist. Really, for the hygienist and everyone else that works there. I am amazed at what they do, day in and day out, and how they are able to help such a wide variety of patients, including really cowardly ones like me.
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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Telling Our Stories

     Story telling has always been an important part of my life. It has been a way of communication that has been important to our family traditions for as long as I can remember. When you hear the stories, as a child, of how various members of your family connected, you learn to appreciate them and you learn how you fit into the story of your own life. I have always been blessed by the fact that all the people in my life love to talk and share about life events through the telling of their stories.
     In fact, this concept of the importance of story telling to our ability to form our own identities and our community identities has been an interest of mine for years. I even wrote several essays about it for school and turned those essays into articles that I shopped around for publication.
     I have yet to find a publisher, but feel so strongly about the ideas that I just want to share them with all of you. In around 500 words I was able to tie my core beliefs in with some societal concepts to emphasize my passion for telling our stories.
    

Telling Our Stories

    I believe taking the time to tell our stories and listening to the stories of others is one way to create a sense of community. It is through the sharing of stories that valuable connections are made. Our stories connect us to our personal pasts and cultural history. Our stories are also our bridge into the futures that we will and won’t be seeing one day.
    In the past, the story tellers of a society were revered. They were the keepers of a community’s legends and lessons. They were the honored advisers to the community’s leaders. The stories they told were for entertainment as well as education.
   I think that in this day of instant technologies we still need to take the time to make connection with our family members, co-workers, and friends by exchanging our stories.
   At one of my former places of employment, conversation of the production line was discouraged.. Our purpose was to quickly build quality parts for shipment. One day I could tell my co-worker was upset. I asked if something happened. She said she was about to celebrate her daughter’s fourth birthday. It seemed odd this would be upsetting to her. I asked if her daughter was well. She told me that her daughter was fine.The she shared with me that when she was four her mother had to make the choice to send her to this country with her grandparents. She was thankful that she was here and her grandparents had raised her as their own daughter but now, as her child was turning four, she wondered if she would have been able to make the same sacrifice.
    It is not often that I am moved to tears at work. This is one example to me that everyone we encounter has an amazing story we can learn from if we take the time to listen.
   My uncle was our family historian. He made the past relevant for us as we grew up. My grandparents died before I was two. My uncle made them real for me by the stories he told. He created a sense of family. The stories were able to bridge gaps created over time by illness, old age, and death.
    My uncle passed away in May of 2008. It had been hard to adjust to his absence. I yearned to hear one more story. My aunt came to visit in September of that year and said she had a gift for me, a piece of paper. She explained that my uncle had taken a class when they moved to Las Vegas fourteen years earlier. It was his way to meet people in the community.
In the concise one page reflection my uncle told the story of my grandfather’s life and death, details that were new to me. I learned new facts about my grandfather's early life working down in Alabama and new insights about my uncle’s thoughts and feelings when caring for my grandfather when he was dying.
    Death could not reduce the power of our story to connect us. My heart’s desire was fulfilled with one last story.


Monday, September 3, 2012

The Story Tellers

     Last evening was quite adventuresome for me. We took a lovely drive up to a small inland lake where my cousin has a cottage. We were planning on being able to go out for a ride on his boat and have some burgers on the grill. An altogether pleasant way to spend some time on the long Labor Day Holiday weekend.
     Anyone who knows me, knows I tend to be a bit of a cowardly thing. I have been known to be so frightened by a kiddie roller coaster, that I can barely walk once I disembark from the ride. If there happens to be a bat fluttering around in our garage, my husband now knows that it is useless to ask for my help. When called upon for assistance in removing the bat, I bravely walked out into the garage and said, "I don't deal with spiders, what makes you think I'll deal with a bat?" As the bat dive bombed me, I hastily retreated back into the house, figuring I could call for help if necessary.
    Anyone who knows me also knows I also tend to trip, fall, and spill in large and awkward ways whenever I go to gatherings. One of my mother's favorite stories has to do with a family reunion we went to when I was 8. She had packed multiple changes of clothes along with the potato salad she was to bring. My grandfather questioned the necessity of all the extra shoes, shirts, and pant. He grumbled as he pointed out that we weren't babies any more. After the picnic lunch, I wandered around a pond with all the other little cousins. And I was the only one that tripped, fell in the cold waters, and was completely soaked. As my mother triumphantly pulled a towel out to dry me, before changing my outfit, she said, "This is why I pack all those clothes."
     So, I had my bathing suit on under my clothes, not because I expected to go in the water, but because I figured if anyone would fall out of the boat, it might be me and I best be in a suit and have a change of clothes along. When my cousin offered up the idea that anyone of us could ride the tube behind their boat, I shivered at the idea and shook my head. My little second cousin asked if I had a swim suit along. I said, "Yes. But I didn't actually mean to be in the water." My cousin said I should try it, I would like it.
     My brother was enthused. He was already putting on a life jacket. I was busy scanning the images in my mind, of me having my arms ripped out of their sockets, of me flying off the tube and slamming into a tree on shore, and one of me flinging off the tube into the path of another boat. And then I said, "Okay. I'll go."
     And my family, being quite clever, got me into a life jacket right away and said,"Ladies first" so I didn't have time to think to much or change my mind.
     And then, once I was finally situated on the tube, the most amazing thing happened. I had an absolutely fabulous time. Skimming over the water, bumping along in the wake of the boat, gliding past all the activities that happened on shore, and bumping into my brother's tube next to me as we flew into a turn turned out to be magnificent. My arms were stronger than I suspected. I could hold on for dear life and have fun, all at the same time.
     I actually went out on two rides around the lake on the tube. Then we went around for a leisurely boat ride as the sun was setting, and then it was time for some of the best grilled burgers I have ever eaten. After we finished our meal, my cousin led the way out back to where they have one of the biggest fire pits I have ever seen. Consequently, he built one of the largest fires I have ever seen. We all gathered around the fire to make smores and started to tell stories.
     My cousin told us about times he spend with our grandfather, the one I never knew since he passed away before I was born. He told us about fishing with him and what his cottage had been like. We talked about one of the haunted mansions that is in a local resort community and our experiences there. We talked about amusement parks, Halloween costumes we have known, and just an assortment of other things.
     As our words flowed back and forth around the fire, you could really feel the communal sense of family growing among us. It reminded me of my belief that everyone has a story to tell and that everyone I meet has a story worth listening to as well. It reminded me how the sharing of our stories is what helps bind us together in a community-across the barriers of time and distance. I am glad to have these moments to add to my family chapters of my story.

                       

Saturday, September 1, 2012

It Never Gets Old!

     I am thinking ahead towards tomorrow. I am doing tomorrow's post today, partly because I try to keep some semblance of the Sabbath and partly because I want to get the information out in enough time for anyone that may want to purchase some of the great children's storybooks that are on sale through MeeGenius-the publishing group that published my storybook.
     I want to share several of the titles that are listed in this great sale-from my fellow authors that have books produced by MeeGenius. I also just wanted to put that sentence in print. It never gets old. It will never get old. I will never tire of being able to say, "my fellow authors." This has been one of the greatest priviledge's that I have had since my little storybook earned a contract through MeeGenius' Author Challenge Contest back in March. And yes-my little storybook was published very near to my birthday-thus making it one of the best presents ever. I never get tired of saying that either.
     In honor of the Labor Day Weekend Holiday and in honor of all the kids going back to school, MeeGenius is running a fabulous sale. Fifteen great titles are on sale for around 33% off. I am always happy when there is a promotion that aims to make reading materials available to as many children as possible. These books have great story contents and also have great read along features and fabulous graphics, all are a  real pleasure to read! Please check this out when you have a moment.






Germonsterous


http://www.meegenius.com/book/6215/germonsterous




Antonio's Dream 

http://www.meegenius.com/book/6183/antonios-dream


Chicken Boy: The Amazing Adventures of a Super Hero with Autism
http://www.meegenius.com/book/6072/chicken-boy-the-amazing-adventures-of-a-super-hero-with-autism



I'm Not Afraid of Anything
http://www.meegenius.com/book/6070/im-not-afraid-of-anything


The Big Fuzzy Coat
http://www.meegenius.com/book/6068/the-big-fuzzy-coat

The Reluctant Caterpillar
http://www.meegenius.com/book/6063/the-reluctant-caterpillar

The Loud Little Lady
http://www.meegenius.com/book/6061/the-loud-little-lady

Herbster Readers: The Most Unbelievable First Day Of School
http://www.meegenius.com/book/6024/herbster-readers-the-most-unbelievable-first-day-of-school

Jungle Orchestra
http://www.meegenius.com/book/5770/jungle-orchestra

Beethoven's Monster
http://www.meegenius.com/book/5640/beethovens-monster
Pajama Girl
http://www.meegenius.com/book/2905/pajama-girl

Floppity Phillip Flaut

http://www.meegenius.com/book/2736/floppity-phillip-flaut

 And--last---but certainly not least-in my eyes---my little storybook. :)

 Green Goo
http://www.meegenius.com/book/6074/green-goo



You Never Know

     You never know how your day will go. My trip out to the beach yesterday was splendid, however. It was even better than I anticipated. I was able to make the drive out to the State Park in less then 15 minutes. The sand was still early morning cool as I trekked to the shore. The gulls were all sleeping. There were only three young men in the water and they had surf boards, which I wish I had and knew how to use. The waves were really spectacular, frothing and foaming as they crashed and roiled to shore.
     I gave up the notion of swimming and happily dove amongst the churning waves, floating and bobbing as best as I could. I also saw an interesting thing after I came ashore to dry off in the slowly warming sun. At fist I thought the man that had arrived was simply trying to fly a kite. It was rather larger than I expected, but soon it became clear why that was. He was using that to catch the wind, so that he could hop on a board and was rapidly pulled out on the Big Lake. It was rather thrilling to watch.
     It is definitely something I hope to try one day. It was also something I had never particularly heard of before. You just never know when or where you might learn something new. I like that life is like that.
                   

Friday, August 31, 2012

So Happy...

     Some days you wake up lucky; the sun is shining, the air is relatively clear, and for no good reason you feel happy. Of course, for me, it helps that I have the day off  work for the holiday weekend. Really, that has a lot to do with my almost giddy state.
     There are also no pressing chores. Sure, there is yard work or housework to be done, but nothing will collapse or grind to a halt if it is ignored for the morning. Even though I am not going anywhere, I have that sensation I get when I am on an actual vacation.
     I feel light and free. All worries or doubts have momentarily vanished. When I actually do go on vacation, there is a mind game I like to engage in that allows me to really relax. I pretend that I am a person of leisure, that I have a trust fund I live off of, and that I never have to think about going back to work ever again. It really does work for me. It allows me to truly, deeply relax.
     It also helps that I live in the state of Michigan. You are never very far from water of some sort-rivers, creeks, inland lakes, and the Big Lakes. I am blessed-only about twenty minutes away from a state park on Lake Michigan.
     If I leave now, I can still get in a morning swim before it gets too crowded. That will guarantee a great start to my day!
                                           
                                                          

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