Take the time

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“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach,and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
~ Henry David Thoreau

When you take a week off, and you enjoy every moment of that week, it makes it very difficult to motivate yourself to go back to your routine. I love my job, don’t get me wrong, but what I love even more was learning to put myself first and taking a whole week to do just that.

There was no long distance travel involved, only time spent with family and great friends (Although a few were missing) doing small things that had a big impact. I was even selfish enough to turn my phone off!

Today’s post is going to be abbreviated because its message is succinct. Take the time. Do things for yourself. And spend more time with the ones you love. Turning fifty has reminded me that my trips around the sun are waning and I am going to squeeze every bit of happiness I can out of each day. I hope you do the same.

A pinch of something extra

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“I’m just someone who loves cooking and for whom sharing food is a form of expression.” ~Maya Angelou

A great portion of my time off is spent in my kitchen. It is the place I feel most like myself and can let the rest of the world revolve as it wants to outside my kitchen walls. My father loved to cook and was one of those talented people who could open the fridge, combine a bunch of ingredients and come up with something really tasty. (don’t ask about the scrambled eggs made with eggnog – that was an epic fail)

My mom was also a good cook but was very much a recipe follower and rarely threw caution to the wind when it came to her ingredients. My brother and I both grew up watching the family dynamic in the kitchen and quickly began to love cooking. My foray into kitchen triumphs began with my Easy-Bake Oven and I remember my brother in his teens making homemade crepes for our family for dinner.

Cooking, for me, really is a form of expression. It allows me to connect with others on a level far beyond conversation and it lets me share myself with other people. There is no bad day that can’t be made a little better with something yummy that has been made at home. There is an invisible ingredient that makes it taste so much better than any food you can buy at a store or a restaurant.

If I ever have a bad day or want to make someone else’s day a little bit brighter, you know where I’ll be.

Let the sunshine in

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I had not realized I was suffering from the winter blahs until this past Saturday. I have successfully maneuvered myself through many winters and this one, although highly unpredictable, seemed no different. How wrong I was.

Saturday morning, I awoke to the sun beaming through my bedroom window. I was initially confused by the brightness in my room as I had become so used to the monochromatic mornings of December and January. I had not registered what the beautiful light represented.

The mercury reminded me the morning was frigid so I accomplished all of my needed tasks as the sun continued to warm the day. When I got home in the middle of the afternoon, the temperature was much more comfortable than the morning and all I wanted to do was sit in the sun. It was at that moment I realized I had nothing to sit on. I had sold my patio set last fall and had not thought about my winter sun tanning until now. I raced to the local hardware store and bought what seemed to be the only folding chair in stock in February.

I opened up my new purchase and set it to directly face that glowing ball of goodness in the sky, I closed the gate so I wouldn’t have to be concerned about my dog, I poured a glass of wine and I sat. And I sat. And I absorbed ninety minutes of glorious sunshine.

The warmth of the sun was welcomed like an old friend we spent some time getting reacquainted. It is a long-standing tradition in our family to cover ourselves in layers in the middle of winter and soak up some much-needed Vitamin D. I’m sure my parents were smiling as I carried on that tradition. The photo below is circa 1975 ish.

As the sun sank into the horizon, I reluctantly folded my chair and went inside. Besides the noticeable pink hue in my cheeks, there was an immediate change in my demeanor. I was invigorated. I felt happy, effervescent even. I went from feeling like I had been sleep-walking through the last few months to feeling recharged. My mood was elevated and I spent the rest of the day smiling for no reason.  At least now, I have the chair ready and the next time that sun is out all inside tasks take a back seat. You’ll know where to find me.

 

Hold my attention

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Facebook is alive and well with ads for the latest Masterclass contributors. For those of you lucky enough to NOT be sucked into the vortex of Facebook, Masterclass is an online platform for creative people, giving them the chance to learn from their famous mentors. The one who caught my attention and made me investigate this latest phenomenon was Margaret Atwood.

The beginning of her video makes me want to quit everything I have been doing, my job, my charity work and my social life, to just write. When she rewrites the beginning of Little Red Riding Hood by starting with, “It was dark inside the wolf”, fireworks went off in my head. Expletives poured out of my mouth, tripping over each other to be heard and, more than once, I had to pick my jaw up from my lap. Those six words made my entire novel seem like a four-year-old wrote it.

One minute and eight seconds into her official trailer, she said the three words that make writers lose sleep, “Hold my attention”. As an avid reader, I know exactly what she means. If a writer veers into a mundane few chapters, I am more than happy to put the book down and I will eventually forget I started reading it. But if a writer can keep me on the edge of my seat, I am in it for the long haul and I will lose sleep to finish reading that book.

Writing is a tough business, but as Margaret says, “You become a writer by writing. Do it, and do it more. Do it better”. Many people, just like me, have written books. Many people, just like me, believe so much in their story and are convinced it will be published one day. But many people, just like me, are one tiny dot in a portrait created by stippling. We are a minute speck in a massive painting. But the more we write, the bigger our speck becomes. The more we write, the more our words have a chance of being discovered. And the more we write, the more we will master the art of holding your attention.

The needs of the one

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It was the eve of 2019. A creature of habit, I sat in my living room with my Christmas tree lights still on, my dog occupying the space on the other end of my couch and my gourmet dinner for one in the process of cooking.

With the new year only hours away, I spent my new years eve at home, ruminating about the year that has just passed and the one that was inching closer to being a reality. As with every calendar year in the past forty-nine of my life, last year had its wonderful moments and its challenges. Each one of those memories made me realize I am not completely the person I want to be.

I don’t make resolutions but I do take moments to recognize my strengths and my weaknesses and make a promise to myself to focus on the things I need to work on, to nurture myself as much as I do others and to be selfish sometimes and put myself first.

With my fiftieth birthday approaching, it’s time to make this my best year yet. It’s time to cut out the things that aren’t working and it’s time to fiercely embrace the things that truly make me happy.

Wishing you all a wonderful 2019.

2019 – The year of Lark

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I thought he was a character I created, but I am slowly coming to realize he is defining himself. I named him Karl, but from the moment he began to tell me his story he referred to himself by the anagram ‘Lark’. He is a complex soul with stories buried far beneath his skin and I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface. He repeats the phrase, ‘the dead claim their own’ and I have yet to figure out why but I know he will show me on his terms and it will become a significant part of the novel.

If you have been following this blog, you will know I love to write. I am utterly amazed by the words that travel from my brain to my fingertips at such a speed I have to stop and read them to keep up. This new book I have begun to write is a prime example of that wonder. I wake up in the middle of the night, patting my bed in the dark to find my phone so I can mumble almost unintelligible words that take me a while to decipher the next morning. I hear phrases during the day I feel the urge to write down and I see landscapes I know will become a part of Lark’s world.

He was never meant to be the main character but his voice is rising loudly above the din of the other personalities who already hold a spot in this book. I am eager to welcome the new year so the holiday bustle will become still and Lark can make his way to center stage and shine a light on the life of atrocity he is eager to share with me. He is a poet. He is a killer.

How 5 weeks turned into 27 days

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“It’s not how much we give, but how much love we put into giving.” ~ Mother Teresa

A few weeks ago, I wrote this post about my friend’s text message regarding the gift he had purchased for me for Christmas. His excitement was palpable and, more than contagious, it was consuming. I spent many hours trying to figure out what this mystery gift could be. There were a few hints, but the tidbits of information he shared about the gift only made it more difficult for me to solve the riddle.

This past Saturday, I was Christmas shopping close to his house and we had made a plan for me to stop in quickly to pick up something I had left behind during a previous visit. Once I was inside his house, the five-week waiting period came to an abrupt halt when he told me he couldn’t wait any longer for me to open my present. I was instructed to sit on the couch while he ran downstairs to collect the gift.

He presented me with an unwrapped box and eagerly watched as I opened it. He was relatively sure I did not own what was in the box, but until his suspicion was confirmed there was a chance the fire of his excitement could be extinguished. But the box contained something that was definitely not a part of my collection of kitchen gadgets. His smile can only be likened to the smile on a child’s face when they open their present from Santa to find exactly what they had asked for. But he was the one giving the gift, not receiving it.

(image credit)

I had heard the term Sous Vide and knew a bit about the cooking concept, but I had never had the good fortune of eating meat cooked to a perfect temperature, evenly across the steak, until now. I am very particular about how my steak is cooked and thought I had perfected the method at home with an extremely hot pan. I was wrong. I bought a lovely cut of beef on my way home, followed the cooking instructions for a blue rare steak and enjoyed the most tender piece of beef I have ever eaten.

To say I was touched by his thoughtfulness is an understatement. He didn’t just buy me a Christmas present, he spent a great deal of time researching this gadget online and bought a gift he knew I would love. I guess the perfect way to say thank you is to cook him the most tender Garlic Butter Prime Rib he’s ever had!