The signs we shouldn’t ignore

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When the souls we hold dear move on to the next realm, I believe with my whole heart they send us signs. As strange as it sounds, when my friend Sandra passed away in 2003 I found my ear drums pummeled by the strains of the song The Girl From Ipanema. It was not a song I would ever have on my play list, and she knew how much that song made me cringe, but its chords would sound in random places and that same song magically appeared on the list of music I have on my iPhone. I have gone through my iTunes history and I have never downloaded nor have I ever paid for that song, but it IS there and I don’t have the will to delete it.

When my dad passed, it was owls. I would hear the Barred Owls at night having what seemed to be a profound conversation and one of those miraculous creatures would frequently visit and perch itself on the largest branch of the tree closest to my deck. When I am having a bad day, those owls seem to make themselves known with their signature call and the calming effect takes me back to when I was a child and would curl into my dad’s protective embrace.

Years later, when we lost my mom, it was butterflies. Although Monarch butterflies are relatively common where I live, these stunning winged creatures would appear in such a way that we knew my mom was letting us know she was close. There was a playfulness to their flight, like she was reminding us of how strong her spirit was on Earth and how that spirit continues to be a part of our lives even though she has been gone for almost six years.

Today, still fresh from the raw emotion of having to recently let my dog go, it was birds. Callaway and I used to sit on the deck together and I would marvel at the unique species that would visit my feeders. There have been many different birds who have frequented my deck, but Chickadees have always been my favorite. With the tears still sneaking up on me, I sat in my living room today and watched at least five dozen Goldfinches jockey for a position on the feeder through the window to my right. The slight movement to my left made me look out the other window and a single Chickadee was sitting on the window sill, looking directly at me from outside the glass. It stayed for longer than a confused bird would and its gaze was trained on nothing other than me.

These are the signs that make me feel like our lives are not limited to where we are now. Every one of the signs I have acknowledged over my lifetime gives me a sense of peace. They provide me a continued connection to those important souls in my life and let me know that they have not actually left, but they are now able to communicate in a way that is special to me.

 

New year, new decade, new mindset

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It is the first day of a new year, a new decade, and I have made no resolutions. However, I have resolved to do a few things that are very important to me. A resolution is a decision to do or to not do something. Resolve is a firm determination to do something and I stand strongly in the resolve camp.

I go into this new year with a great deal of hope and while my bleeding heart would love to see the world embrace a new decade of kindness and acceptance, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Those steps need to begin in many places and go in a multitude of directions and I can only hope the ripple effect of kindness is sent far and wide.

My biggest objective is more focused on the path I would like to follow throughout this new decade. I have resolved to accomplish the things I have talked about but, perhaps, never truly believed could happen. Now, more than ever, I have the steely determination to see things through and to make things happen in my life. There will be no waiting for luck or timing, I am going to make my own luck. I am going to take the bull of life by the horns and stare it down until it realizes my potential.

There are a few facets of my life where this new determination could become a very welcome guest. I don’t have a bucket list. I feel my life is very full with the people and things I have in it and I have no desire to throw myself out of a perfectly good airplane. I am simply driven to succeed, to take my passions and harvest every leaf of hope that grows on their vines.

This is much more than a new year or even a new decade. This is a new mindset.

Micro-fiction and getting the writing bug back

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When I find myself wordless and lacking the drive to write, I go back and read through some of my past blog posts. Once I choose one, the suggested posts underneath take me on a journey into my own writing. There are not many things that will make me pat myself on the back but my writing has the ability to make me extremely proud of some of the things that have come from the depths of my imagination.

I used to participate in several micro-fiction competitions. Writers would be given a photograph or a phrase and we were left to our own devices to see where our stories would go. Mine, more often than not, led to the macabre but that is the genre where I feel most comfortable, the creative avenue where the words lead me and not the other way around. Click here to read one of those posts.

Not only did I feel the cylinders slowly coming back to life, I could almost smell the gas as it turned into power. The engine sputtered slightly but eventually roared back to life. I felt excited. I felt hungry for the high that writing gives me and then I felt inspired to put all of those micro-fiction pieces together and organize something resembling a chapbook.

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For now, this collection of fiction will serve as my inspiration. Those pieces of make-believe will remind me that I have the ability to weave a yarn that is entertaining, if not sometimes disturbing. Maybe, one day, I will want to publish those stories or perhaps they will remain on the pages of my blog. Regardless, they have rekindled the writing flame and it’s time to restore the lines of communication to the characters in book number two.

Every now and then, I follow a recipe

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Although I was able to attend the gift opening portion(s) of the day, I missed Christmas dinner and the family fun that followed. It seems one of my Christmas traditions is to get sick during the holidays and this year was no exception. I could have handled the sore throat and cough, but the fever did me in. I am always hot but, when I asked for a blanket on Christmas day, my brother knew I was sick. The pellet stove was cranking out some warm air, the oven was set to an ambient temperature to cook the bird and I was wearing jeans, a sweatshirt and a blanket. On a normal day under those circumstances, I would have become the victim of spontaneous combustion but I was still shivering. I left before dinner began and after a couple hours on my couch watching Christmas movies, I drifted off into a twelve-hour sleep.

The fever finally broke shortly after one o’clock today. I didn’t have a lot of energy but I knew I needed to muster what I had to spend some time in my kitchen. I had an order for an Apple Streusel Cheesecake and I had three pounds of mushrooms in my fridge waiting to be finely diced and made into my mother’s famous mushroom soup.

It’s no secret I love making soup. More often than not, I channel my father’s method of throwing a bunch of ingredients into a pot and turning it into something wonderful. I love to experiment with flavor combinations and have created an amazing Cauliflower, Pear and Blue Cheese soup that is outstanding. But I cannot “wing it” with my mom’s mushroom soup. The cocky wannabe chef in me has tried, on many occasions, to make a mushroom soup that would compare but I have fallen short every time. Today, I opened the recipe book and followed it step by step. The result is divine. Both the smell and the taste transported me back to the kitchen I knew and loved as a teenager.

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This weekend, I will be given the turkey carcass and whatever leftovers remain to make what I like to call Christmas Soup. Every leftover, minus the turnip, becomes a part of this delicious soup my dad used to make after our festive holiday dinners. Turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, peas, gravy – all of it gets thrown in with the freshly made turkey stock to make the best turkey soup ever! There have been years when the leftovers were almost non-existent, so I made a fresh bowl of stuffing, a new pot of mashed potatoes and created a gravy so the soup would be perfect.

If my dream of having a soup truck ever comes to fruition, I am sure the only soup sold on the truck that is made from an actual recipe will be my mom’s Mushroom Soup.

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.

Sending 840 characters into the Quantum Field

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Writers spend countless hours crafting ideas into words, words into a story and a story into a novel. I have likened my experience writing my first novel to birthing a child. Long months were spent nurturing this concept and, once the book was completed, I had an outpouring of emotion and wanted nothing more than to snuggle the pages of my book and weep for the joy I felt holding this thing I had created.

Asking someone to love your child as much as you do can be challenging, especially if that person is a literary agent. They are well aware of the painstaking process from conception to labor and delivery but asking them to love that child as much as you do is a hurdle some Olympic athletes could not successfully cross without incident. Where you reserve no judgement about the beauty of your child, agents are the first to find the flaws. But you are the parent and they are the teacher. Their job is to identify those flaws and to help your child to be as successful as you know they can be.

The query letter is the introduction of your child to the prestigious school you have always envisioned that child attending and the agent is the head of admissions. You have a small window of opportunity to convince that person your child will do great things if given the chance. The query letter is exhaustively crafted based on the agent’s criteria and you helplessly send your child into the arms, in essence, of a stranger.

Social media introduced a new avenue to aid in the effort to place your child with the perfect school. In 2012, PitMad was introduced on Twitter and writers are now able to send three pitches, each two-hundred and eighty characters, not words, into cyber space to catch the attention of an agent. This challenge happens quarterly and the next phase is rapidly approaching.

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On September 5th, I will be sending my two-hundred and eighty characters, three times, out into cyberspace but there will be a decisive difference to my approach. I am going to find the head of admissions and help them to see the potential in my child, and I will be afforded the chance to brag about the second child I am nurturing and will soon be bringing into the family of my novels.

This is my opus. The quantum field of possibilities has been listening to me brag about my child and this child, and my future children, will do great things.

 

 

Just go where the road takes you

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Spontaneity does not run deep in my veins. I am a planner and I always have been. My brain is wired to know what to expect and is also programmed to be able to come up with a Plan B on very short notice. Up to now, it has served me well.

There are very few times in my life when I feel comfortable not having a plan in place. The days when I get into the car and just drive, with no destination in mind, are some of those times. There is freedom I feel being in a car that has no purposeful end in sight. If a dead-end sign is nowhere to be seen, any road is fair game. This blind journey is one of my greatest pleasures.

The arteries of paved streets could take me anywhere and I always take comfort in the fact that my car’s navigation system will be able to put me back on the road to home. But the most enjoyable part of this pilgrimage is seeing the sites I would never have planned to see if I let my brain plot the course. Landscapes paint themselves on a canvas as I drive and I am awed by places I never knew existed. The world becomes a vast collection of vignettes after I take the time to slow down and recognize the beauty that is in my peripheral vision.

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I need to allow the aspect of that freedom to take over more of my life. While structure is a welcome friend, improvisation could be that lonely kid on the playground who I tentatively get to know, but becomes the best friend I ever had.

Weaving a new reality

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I am on an epic journey and it is one I have been on before. Writing a book is a daunting task and one I have come to welcome with open arms. This creative expedition is unlike anything else I have experienced. It is an opening of the soul and a willingness to bleed words until the well runs dry.

The moments I doubt my talent far outweigh the times I feel I have captured lightning in a bottle. For each new paragraph I type, thinking these words will be the ones agents will fall over each other to represent, there is a glaring reminder of how many people are writing books and how few agents are looking for new talent. And yet, for some reason, I am compelled to ignore the obvious and dive head-first into the murky waters of becoming an author.

Call it a misguided faith in my ability or a simple obsession, I want to be known as a writer. I want people to read my books and I want to keep writing for many years to come. I have the ideas, I have the passion to write and I have the tenacity to follow my dream. Deep down, I have always known about this part of myself but I have swept it under the rug called reality. Thankfully, the threads of this rug are decisively coming undone and the definition of my reality is being woven in a new way.

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I am part dreamer, part writer and part spider, weaving the threads of my dreams into a possible reality and hoping to snag an agent in the silk of my creativity.

 

 

Long days and long walks

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It is that time of year again. Work is busy and we are waiting for our summer staff to join the team so, when we have guests at the lodge, my days are very busy. I put in a normal Monday to Friday work week (36 hours) in three days with the last group we had staying with us!

Since I had been making it a priority to make conscious healthy choices, I had been starting my day with a minimum three kilometer walk before I went to work. That routine was slightly interrupted by my 6:45 am starts and, after working such a long day, I could not muster up the energy to fit that walk in for a few days. I was surprised to discover that I really missed that part of my new routine. Like any habit, I was afraid my walks would be replaced by my desire to decompress on my couch after such a long day but I was wrong.

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Although today was a mere eleven and a half hour day, I got home shortly after six-thirty, immediately changed into my walking outfit and pounded the pavement for thirty minutes, absorbing the energy of the day’s sunshine, and I feel great. I didn’t just walk off the stress of the last few days, I got back to myself and the new life I want to live.

Long days are something I have to live with but long walks are something I live for and I am proud of myself for making the effort to continue on this journey. Rain or shine, I will be on the road tomorrow morning at 6:00 am!