And how does that make you feel?

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With December rapidly approaching, I am anticipating many social media posts about the Elf on the Shelf phenomenon. What seemingly started as an innocent way to get children to behave during the month of December has morphed into an epic competition to see which parent can get more creative with the benign holiday character.

Many blog posts and articles have been written with very strong emotion regarding this cherubic creature. Parents either love him or their contempt is so strong they hold ill feelings towards those parents who embrace his presence.  Some argue that he is the Elf on the Shelf, with a strong emphasis on the word shelf. He may stealthily maneuver his way around the house in the darkness to take refuge on another shelf, but that is his only purpose. Others, holding tightly to their innovative genes, have created a list of 101 ways the Elf can get into mischief during the night.  Spoiler alert – most of those creative ideas require extensive clean-up the following morning although I’m sure the children would be thrilled to see what mess the Elf made while they slept.

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Had my life been different and I had kids of my own, my children undoubtedly would have been in therapy either during or shortly after the Christmas holidays.  I blame my choice of reading material but my sense of entertainment tends to lean towards the macabre.  Picture Dean Koontz or Stephen King finding indecent ways of displaying the Elf and you have entered the world that my Elf would have had to endure.  There would have been crime scenes, possible Elf DNA and an abundant amount of Police tape. This is the stuff that my dreams are made of, the stuff that helps me write my books. But this is also the stuff that would have a child sitting in the waiting room of an analyst’s office at least once a week.

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For those of you able to remember to innocently and creatively display your Elf each evening after your children have fallen asleep, I applaud you. You are creating memories that your child will inevitably pass on to their children.

As for me….perhaps I will get out the Elf my brother gave me and track his bizarre habits in a journal.  CSI – Elf on the Shelf.  Hmmmm…..I may be on to something……stay tuned.

A blog sundae with a Cherry on top

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In light of what has been happening on social media these days, I have been struggling to come up with a blog post I am not frightened to make public. On a typical day, I can sit down at my laptop with several ideas and bang away on the keyboard until words form sentences and sentences magically transform into ideas. But my writer’s platform has gone from a sturdy stage to a treacherous landscape where I am leaping from lily pad to lily pad over a crocodile infested pond. I am afraid to write. Something that comes so naturally to me has suddenly become so daunting.

I am not sure when I feel like I lost my freedom to say what I want to say. I cannot pinpoint the moment when I became afraid to offend anyone who reads this blog, but it happened. And then I stopped to really think about how I felt and realized I still have a voice, and there is no one person who can tell me my opinion doesn’t matter. If I allow my writing journey to be guided by anyone other than me, I may as well not write at all. My ideas and opinions may not be shared by everyone who reads what I write but I still choose to send my words into the world, knowing there will always be someone who will disagree and have a strong opposing point of view. That is what life is about.

My mother used to tell me “it takes all kinds to make the world go around”. Thirty years ago, her words fell on deaf ears but, even though she has been gone for almost six years, her words speak louder now than they ever did. Every opinion has a passion behind it. I get that now. And I have to embrace the fact that not everyone thinks the way I do, and that’s okay. What is not okay is feeling like I have to choose my words so carefully that I am afraid to speak.

Words have power, that is a universal constant, but words will always be subject to interpretation. How we comprehend those words speaks volumes about our character. Keep speaking your mind, but know your words will always offend someone and there is nothing you can do about that.

 

 

 

 

 

May I please fill your half-empty glass?

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Facebook has, yet again, provided me with fodder for another blog post. As a writer, I am endlessly fascinated by the many ways people process information. My mother did tell me it takes all kinds to make the world go around and she was so right.

A friend re-posted a story about the actions of a specific location of a well-known pizza chain. (I like to believe it is a true story) Management and staff had noticed several homeless people who had been picking through their dumpster after hours to find their next meal. This pizza chain posted a sign at their front door offering these same homeless people the opportunity to come in to the restaurant for two slices of pizza and water, no questions asked. Naturally, this warmed my heart. What a wonderful gesture towards people who have obviously fallen on hard times, for whatever reason.

And then I read the comments that followed the story. The first posted reaction was much like my own. This act of human compassion restored a little of their faith in humanity. The second reaction took me completely by surprise. The words written were, “I just see them publicly shaming a homeless person”.

I’ll be honest, I do not have a clue what it is like to be homeless. I have had the good fortune of continually being employed, having a roof over my head and being able to feed myself on a daily basis. Having said that, I cannot imagine if I were homeless and starving I would think I was being publicly shamed by being offered a meal I did not have to dig out of an over-sized trash bin. I would see it as a blessing, a message that someone wanted to help me in any way they could, regardless of my situation.

How horrible it must be seeing the world through such a myopic lens. The things we don’t understand, things we could never fathom in our daily lives, make us uncomfortable and say or write things without really thinking. If you can only see the negative in the story of this restaurant offering a meal to the homeless, I would like fill your half-empty glass so you can gain a new perspective and remind you of the other saying my mother was fond of was, “you should walk a mile in their shoes.”

 

 

The shameless act of self-promotion

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I am a writer whose dream is to one day find an agent and get published in the traditional way. That is much easier said than done.

The publishing industry has a death grip on their door handle and only a few authors are lucky enough to be invited through that door to the magic world that exists beyond the barrier between us and them. Having a novel that is marketable is one thing, being able to find the ONE agent who happens to be looking for that EXACT story is another.

I have been diligent in doing as much research as I can to find an agent but there comes a time when you have to sit back and take a deep breath. The publishing industry has become so specific about the gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation of the lead character in the story that many books will never find their rightful place on a shelf unless they are self-published. My first novel, The Waking Hours, meets none of the criteria the industry is currently looking for in a protagonist. Although the story is a great read and would make a fantastic movie, I have pushed it to the side to focus on my second novel and have heeded their new guidelines by creating characters who align themselves with the industry’s wishes.

When I began the journey of becoming an author, I thought the writing itself was the hard part. I was wrong. Many times when I sit down to write, the words pour out of me. I can’t type fast enough to keep up with the characters as they will me to tell their stories. I don’t have an outline, I just listen to them. The writing is the easy part, the self-promotion and the marketing are the difficult parts.

I talk about writing on social media. I post to this blog as often as I can. I have created an author’s page on Facebook, all in the hopes that I can create a platform that will be ready to hold me up when the time comes to announce my signing with an agent and a future publishing date. This is a dream I am not willing to let go. So when you see me posting about my writing, know that I am not doing it to inundate you with my progress. This shameless self-promotion is the only life raft I have to navigate these unstable waterways until I can float on my own.

Applying my salve

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Like most people, I lose myself sometimes. I get so caught up in the emotion around me I forget the things I should be focused on. Nothing brings me back to myself like cooking. I find great solace in my kitchen. The world around me disappears and my existence is renewed by the smell of a combination of ingredients that transport me to a place I had professedly forgotten.

Life has a funny way of throwing countless distractions in our direction and it is up to us to tune out those interruptions and concentrate on the things we value most. Family and friends are always at the top of my list and cooking has consistently been the thread that weaves together all of the important people in my life.

My fondest childhood memories are richly steeped in the images of our family kitchen and my love of cooking was absorbed through osmosis. Whether it was my mother methodically following a recipe, my father taking every ingredient from our refrigerator to see what he could randomly create or my brother making delicious crepes from scratch, cooking has always been the one thing that holds a piece of each of them close to my heart.

Last night I got home from work and knew the only place I yearned to be was in front of my stove. Nothing else mattered. As much as I wanted to tackle the “to-do” items on my list or write the next five hundred words in my novel, cooking was the only avenue that would afford me the true escape I needed. The onions were chopped, the bacon was rendered and my house began to, once again, smell like my home.

In a collection of minutes, the chili was simmering on the stove and the cheesy beef tortellini was set to cook in my crockpot. All was right in my world and the chaos of the universe outside of my existence had been laid to rest for the evening. Cooking is the salve that heals my wounds. Whether it is a simple salad dressing, a comforting stew, a tasty casserole or a perfectly cooked sous vide piece of beef, cooking will always have enough positive energy to undo anything negative in my life.

 

 

 

 

The Art Of Reading Through Tears

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I knew it was a risk. I had been told about a book called The Art Of Racing In The Rain and had all but ignored it…until now. I began reading this book in the waiting room of my Honda dealership while passing time during an oil change and brake pad replacement. It was a fitting scene.

The book is narrated from the perspective of a dog who belongs to a race car driver. Although I am not a race car driver (perhaps only in my mind), the irony of sitting in a car dealership while beginning this book was not lost on me. I devoured the first half of the book in two hours while waiting for my car to be serviced. I sat in a small, sparsely furnished area with three very large men and openly wept while devouring every chapter I could of this novel.

There is an underlying joke between my friend and I that we would be gold medal winners if the Olympics ever created a competition for crying. Sitting in the waiting room of that car dealership while reading this book was certainly my qualifying round. Initially I did my best to conceal my tears, but these three men were on to me from the appearance of the first glistening tear that tracked its way down my cheek and they made every effort to not make eye contact from that moment forward.

I have a dog who recently turned twelve and has health issues, and the narrative in this book hit very close to home. Every well-paced paragraph reminded me that I may be mere moments away from having to realize every truth written in this book about an aging pet. It was eviscerating, but strangely comforting.

This book gave me a gift. I now know that I will have the strength to make that tough decision because it is what is best for her, not for me. Her comfort and her dignity come before my need for having more time with her. And as I cry writing the end of this post, I know it will be one of the most difficult decisions I will ever have to make, but one that has to be made….for her.

 

Learning to leave it behind

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I internalize a lot of things and lately I have been bringing a great deal of negative energy home with me. The precious moments of solace I used to have at home are slowly being diluted and I am struggling to find the peace I used to have at the end of a long day. I know I need to leave it behind, but that is easier said than done.

Emotion is a fickle creature. As much as I think I can regulate mine, it has found a way to take the driver’s seat and I have been thrown into the back seat, a mere passenger in a vehicle that is recklessly careening out of control on what should otherwise be a smooth ride.

I have tried many avenues to escape the intensity of my emotions but I have come to learn this blog is my lifeline. This is how I process emotion. I write. I expel my demons into the void and hope I can free myself of the weight of the unhealthy aura I carry on my shoulders. My words are my own judge and jury and it is up to me to read them over and over again until I am convinced my phrases ring true and I rule in my own favor.

I need to walk away. I need to leave the negativity behind and free my mind from the challenges of my day. I need to close the door on the bad energy and open the door to my happiness when I get home. I am the only person who has control of how I let myself feel and it’s time to learn to leave the bad stuff behind and focus on the things I can control and the things that make me feel truly happy.