Walking in a winter WTF?

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Dear Mother Nature and Old Man Winter,

While I can appreciate your exuberant spirit this time of year, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my lack of sharing your enthusiasm to the extent at which you seem so willing to share with the rest of us.

Although I too enjoy a white Christmas, your overwhelming desire to coat the world in an abundant layer of winter frosting has become exaggerated to the point of becoming meddlesome.  The charming Northern snow globe in which we reside has been clamped into a paint shaker and set to convulse at an alarming rate, leaving us armed with nothing but shovels and good intentions.

Similar to Anthony Michael Hall’s geeky character in The Breakfast Club, I have been assigned the task of writing a letter on behalf of the disgruntled local residents who share my sentiments.

I could write an essay telling you how much this ridiculous amount of snow is defining our lives, but it wouldn’t matter.  You would still see us as you want to see us, in the simplest terms and the most convenient definitions. Through this barrage of lake effect snow and churning vortexes of flakes, you found out that each one of us is a brain for surviving the storm, a princess for not wanting to drive in it, a criminal for stealing a few extra minutes hiding under the covers, an athlete for shoveling for three days straight and a basket case for forgetting all those other things and thinking it is still beautiful outside.

morning

Does this answer my question?  No.  But I certainly feel a little better having rested between the previous and the next battle with the effing shovel.

Sincerely yours,

The Winter Club

PS: I had to cancel my appointment to get my snow tires on because of you two!

The good, the bad and the grossly unfair

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Death is selfish. It lurks in the shadows. It hides in a realm of certainty somewhere between acceptance and denial and it feeds on our inability to process its inevitability. It waits for nobody. It heeds its own agenda and it gives no signs of compassion. It simply reaps.

This past weekend began on a good note. I left work on Friday with plans for a full day on Saturday with a friend and things quickly changed. My weekend went from good to bad as Mother Nature unleashed her winter fury in the wee hours of Saturday morning and obliterated any plans for travel on Saturday. Since my car is still in possession of its summer tires, our plans were thwarted and I was home-bound for the day. While I made the most of the day by making soup and catching up on some reading, my disappointment still tainted my afternoon.

After a good night’s sleep, I awoke Sunday morning with a renewed faith the day would be great. With my shopping list in hand, I loaded up a grocery cart with items to make Freezer Crockpot meals for our local food bank, surrounded myself with a group of volunteers and we created twenty-eight meals that will each feed a family of four. The good that afternoon far outweighed the bad from the previous day.

When I got home a few hours later, I was greeted by the news an old friend has passed away on November 2nd after a brief battle with cancer. I was unaware of his passing until today and missed the opportunity to attend his funeral service. Even though my car is equipped with only summer tires, I would have driven through those early snow storms to pay my respects to Doug and his family.

He was a wonderful man. Charismatic only touches the surface of how animated his personality could be. He was quick with a smile, eager to share a laugh and truly one of the most genuine people I have ever had the good fortune to meet. To say he will be missed is an egregious understatement. I spent a great deal of Sunday night in tears, crying for the loss of Doug and the fact that so many people are taken before we are ready to say goodbye to them. Fuck cancer.

 

Dear pen pal….

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The mere mention of the phrase ‘pen pal’ conjures memories of my public school classroom. Our entire class would be given time to compose letters to students in foreign countries and I can still see the younger version of myself with my tongue sticking out as I wrote because I was so focused on writing the perfect letter. There was an inherent joy about crafting a letter and sending it halfway around the world to a complete stranger. And there was a true feeling of elation receiving a letter in the mail in response to the words I had written.

I get to feel that sense of pleasure again. Our community has a wonderful program for local seniors and one of those programs is a pen pal group. Once I found out about this group, I knew I wanted to be a part of it and today I received a brief profile of my new pen pal. She loves reading, cooking, dogs and the same types of music I enjoy. She also enjoys writing. She and I are a match made in Heaven.

(image credit)

The time went by slowly as I waited for my work day to be over. I had already started writing three different versions of my first letter in my head, eager to introduce myself to my new pen pal. The walk with my dog was abbreviated and dinner was figuratively put on the back burner as I wielded my pen and put it to paper. It took a while for my thoughts to flow from pen to paper since I am so used to plugging away on my keyboard but, after a slight hesitation, the cascade of ideas began to gel into a thoughtful first letter.

For the first time in a long time, I will be stopping at the Post Office to buy stamps. I will put my first letter into an envelope and mail it to my pen pal and I will anxiously await the red flag on my mailbox to let me know that she has written back. To quote Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca, “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship”.

 

 

 

 

Is the omission of truth really a lie?

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It is interesting to see how my life has evolved over the last twenty-five years.  I’m certainly not going to tout that I walked uphill to school both ways in the snow in bare feet but there are some long-forgotten truths about things that happened when we were surviving our impressionable years, some that our parents were oblivious to…..and for good reason.  Back in the days when not wearing seat-belts and driving under the influence were almost socially acceptable, there were some essential unwritten rules shared by siblings and friends.  The most important being – “Things that happen in your teenage years, stay in your teenage years”.

But, after the Earth had orbited the sun a sufficient number of times, I felt a little more comfortable regaling my parents with a few of the stories that happened in the good ol’ days since I had a nice cushion of “time gone by” and didn’t think I was eligible to be grounded anymore.  The sealed records had been expunged, the statute of limitations had expired and I was ready to open the locked vault that contained the evidence of our teenage shenanigans.

Running with scissors would have been a much more acceptable behavior and a much easier tale to share over a cocktail or two but my folks took everything in stride, just like I knew they would.  All things considered, after leaving a 19 and 15-year-old home alone while they went to Florida, they were not as shocked as I thought they would be to find out why the kitchen linoleum had tiny burn holes directly in front of the stove (it wasn’t the bacon) and why the giant satellite dish was perched at a precarious angle at the top of the steep hill behind our house.

My brother and I, for all intents and purposes, were respectful human beings and responsible kids.  My parents knew our friends well and we were trusted to roam about town in our pimpin’ ride – the Pontiac Acadian.  If I had to guess, I would say my brother had a Rum and Coke held firmly between his legs (maybe not so responsible) when the little blue car crested the hill.  It was winter and the steep decline was more than treacherous.  All of the defensive driving techniques my dad taught us could not have prevented the outcome of this evening.  The momentum carried them down the hill and my brother strategically maneuvered the tiny car as it tipped on its side and wedged itself between a tree and a telephone pole at the bottom of the hill.  My brother impressively “stuck the landing” and all of the occupants were completely unharmed.  The car, that only weighed what felt like 100 pounds, was pushed out, righted and driven away with minimal damage.

acadian

(ours was a 4-door, but you get the idea)

After spilling the goods to my parents, a little bit at a time, they seemed unnerved.  I always wondered if they had known these things all along and were just waiting for us to come clean.  Was the omission of truth a lie?  Were we terrible children for wanting to shield our parents from the horrors of the real world?  Was it wrong to want to keep them in their safe little bubble?  Only time will tell.

Now that they have both passed and have access to all of the details of our lives, my brother and I may eventually be in for a long overdue time-out when we are all together again.

Show, don’t tell

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I was introduced to the phrase “show, don’t tell” by a woman who runs a small publishing company in Arkansas. After she read the first three chapters of my novel, she gave me some extremely helpful advice. I have since edited those first chapters and am moving forward with much more knowledge about writing.

What she said to me made complete sense. In the first chapter, one of my lines ended with “the impending nightfall felt menacing”. It did not occur to me to show the reader how the night was achieving that menacing quality rather than just tell them. I was guilty of some rookie writing mistakes and rather than telling me my writing needed work, she showed me how to make it better.

This same phrase introduced itself to another realm of my existence, proving three words can pack a powerful punch. When new people join your work team, there are bound to be some adjustments, not only for the new employee but for the long-term team members as well. And when that new employee steps into a managerial role, some toes are going to be stepped on and some noses will be out of joint.

Once the employees aired their grievances, it was agreed that the new employee would show the team how his new ideas could improve the existing way of doing things instead of just telling them how he wanted things done. By showing them and not simply telling them, not only will he have his new ideas implemented but everyone will get involved and the team will become stronger.

Listen to those who have been there

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Knowledge is power, this is a universal truth, and over the last few days this truth has made itself extremely evident.

I have been immersing myself into a world that is new to me and there is a huge learning curve as well as many veins of information that branch out from that curve.  To gain as much knowledge as I can, I have been spending a great deal of time travelling down those arteries of wisdom and storing as many nuggets of information as I can into the recesses of my brain.

Every author I have spoken to about getting published has said the same thing – it’s really all about luck and timing.  I have no reason not to believe them because they’ve been there.  They have pounded the same pavement on which I now find myself so they know this route much better than I could ever claim to know.  I have been spending a great deal of time learning about different literary agents, what they like and what they don’t like, and only adding those agents who may be a good fit for my book.  I have been spending much more time on Twitter as that seems to be a more popular social media site for those in the writing world and last week I was introduced to the hashtag #PitMad.

PitMad is a pitch party where authors have 280 characters to describe their unpublished manuscript.  If an agent likes your tweet, you have the green light to send them a query based on their submission guidelines.  I tweeted my first pitch and sat back, hoping for the best.  But then I wanted to know all I could know about PitMad.  It turns out, you can send a maximum of three pitches for the same book, so I carefully constructed a second tweet and sent it out into cyberspace.  When I checked back a while later, my second tweet had a beloved heart below it.  An agent liked my tweet!  I had the go-ahead to send a query and I did that as quickly as I could so my story was still fresh in her mind.

Luck and timing magically combined and, when I got home from work that day, there was an email from the same agent requesting to read my full manuscript.  I’m not under any illusion that her interest in my book is going to mean that she is going to take me on as a client.  I am quite grounded in reality.  I am, however, under the illusion that her requesting my full manuscript means that my writing has enough merit to make her want to see where I take the story and THAT is a huge step for a new author.

I follow “LitRejections” on Twitter and they post very encouraging tweets to help authors keep writing and survive rejection.  This tweet is the one that got under my skin and keeps me going ~ “Rejection of your writing will not break your spirits. You are going to do this. You will not quit. You WILL be successful.