Where the hell were you guys 10 years ago?

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I have had my book idea for well over ten years.  Every so often, I open it up, dust it off and think ‘this is going to be it’.  I write a few paragraphs, get distracted by  life (or a rerun of a good sitcom) and the book just seems to close itself up until next time.

But something has drastically changed this time.  I purposely suspended my satellite service for six months in the hopes that I would read more but what has happened has been mind-numbing.  In just over a week, between working full-time and volunteering a few hours a week to make meals for the food bank, the characters have come to life and are pushing each other out of the way to tell their story.

In the past decade of developing this idea, I have come up with its inception, general direction and 9,000 words.  In the past week, the characters have become extensions of my brain and I have feverishly typed 16,000 more words and they just keep coming.  If I can keep this up, this book could potentially be finished by the end of April (because I periodically take time to write a blog post or two and work so I can pay my bills).

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It is an exciting process.  I have written my fair share of short stories, but getting involved in something as detailed as this is fascinating.  I get excited when a new idea pops into my head that weaves into the novel to give it a bit of a twist and I can’t wait to see where it goes next.  I have a general outline but when I sit down to write, I just go where the story takes me.  I can’t wait to see what happens next.  Gotta go….the characters are calling.

They just needed to point a little harder

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writing

The words are back, the characters are active and the book is alive.  Motivation is a fickle thing.  For months I have been wanting to get back to the book but life had a way of coming first.

Suddenly I find myself overwhelmed by the personalities who are craving attention.  These poor characters have been so neglected that they are doing everything they can to be heard.  The voice recorder on my phone is never far away since these voices seem to have no sense of time.  They pay no attention to the blackness of the night sky and chatter incessantly in my ears.  After not writing a single word about them over the last couple of months, I have recorded almost 5000 words in two days because they do not want to be silent anymore.

I’m happy for their intrusion.  I welcome their chatter.  And I am willing to lose sleep to hear their stories.  Fingers crossed, over the next few months I can keep up this pace and have a book at the end of this.  Keep pointing fellas….it seems to be working.

 

The road already travelled

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“Time moves in one direction, memory in another.” ~ William Gibson

Nostalgia is a funny thing.  When you least expect it, what began as a glimpse into your subconscious suddenly floods your senses and overwhelms you with thoughts of the past.  It could be a song lyric, a smell or an old picture that triggers the trip down memory lane but, regardless of how the journey begins, the open road to your past looms behind and begs for you to follow it.

 

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On occasion that journey can feel like you have stepped through a portal into the time-space continuum and have completely ensconced yourself in that moment so many years ago.  You can visualize the wallpaper on the walls that no longer exist in reality but feel like they are an arm’s length away if you reached out to touch them.  You can inhale fragrant scents and feel the presence of the person who used to wear that particular perfume or cologne.  That one song can play and transport you back to the time and place you have associated so strongly with those lyrics.

That road that stretches behind us still waits for us whenever we feel the beckoning pull of sentimentality.  Venturing down that protected surface serves to remind us where we’ve been but will always afford us the opportunity to turn around and forge ahead into the future.

Understanding and embracing those things from our past can only motivate us to continue.  We carve the paths of our progressive journey knowing that the moments that have shaped us will always be there to remind us of where we have been and where we have since chosen to go.

I don’t have a thing to wear…

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I am going to be on television.  It will be a fleeting interview about a subject I feel very passionate about but I am now starting to sweat the small details.  Can I remember not to curse?  Will the 10 lbs the camera adds make me look like a beached whale?  And what the hell do I have in my closet that will help me not look like a road beacon or a clown?

I am that much of a self-professed nerd that I actually Googled what to wear on a TV interview.  It was actually quite helpful so I’m glad for my nerd-ish tendencies.  The cursing is another subject, all things considered, but I’m certain I can hold it together.

One of our local news stations is coming up to Muskoka to do a brief segment about the Crockpot Freezer Meals I have been organizing for our local food bank.  The news personality coming to do the interview actually did a four-day challenge to eat only the food provided by her local food bank and her struggles were palpable, to say the least.  She photographed her meals along the way and the results were far from appetizing.  There is only so much you can do with processed, no-name pasta, canned sauce, tuna and canned fruit.

I have always loved cooking.  Perhaps I have taken for granted my access to fresh meat and vegetables, but this project has made me truly value my good fortune and my goal is to help create some of the same good fortune for those who struggle through the winter months.

Our town is very seasonal with respect to many things and jobs are at the forefront of the shortages.  And some families who may find success in the booming summer months are left to visit the local food banks in the winter months to help supplement their supply of necessary items to make it through the tough times.  That, to me, seems egregiously unfair and the reason I began http://www.gofundme.com/dollarsfordinners

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So, regardless of whether I look like a street clown or Shamu on a good day, I will face those TV cameras.   I will tell my story of Crockpot Freezer meals in hopes that other communities may recognize the possibility of doing the same thing in their small towns.

It takes a village, not only to raise a child but, to empower a community so we can all say we were an active part of making it a success.

 

I have resolved only one thing….

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I am not a fan of making resolutions for the new year.  I have never followed the time-honored tradition of making a list of things that, once they are scripted, seem somewhat ridiculous and marginally unattainable.  I have known enough disappointment in my life to know that setting myself up for a possible failure, in a manuscript penned only by me, is not an option.

But this year something changed.  A small cog in the wheel of my thought process became stuck for a short period of time and had me reflecting on the past year and the role that social media played in perpetuating a plethora of misguided and angry posts.  No topic was sacred and no member of any social media outlet came out unscathed.

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Friendships have been lost or irrevocably changed.  Lines have been drawn in the sand and sides have been taken.  The majority of posts I ignored and would not engage in a battle, political or otherwise, without the benefit of being able to see my opponent.  It is easy to send a cascade of beliefs out into the cyber world without having to actually face your adversary.  There is a level of comfort enjoyed when you are typing your emotional mitigation without the burden of having to face a rebuttal.  You can simply turn off your device and ignore the reply.

So my resolution this year is simple and it came as no surprise.  I have resolved to not post any negative statements this year.  This does not mean I will not have strong opinions on many topics.  It simply means I will hold my pessimistic views about any issues until a fair and just way of sharing those sentiments presents itself in a personal and neutral setting.

Social media makes voicing thoughts far too easy without taking that extra moment to calm down before we type.  Just thinking about how many eyes may read what I write has made me want to be much more culpable for the content of my posts.  Fingers crossed I can hold my tongue if the need arises!

 

Long stems and deep thoughts

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fresh-flowers

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It is not often that I buy myself fresh-cut flowers.  I sometimes peruse the selection at our local grocery store and every now and then will splurge on a pretty arrangement that catches my eye.

As I stood in front of the floral arrangements yesterday, I heard a voice over my shoulder say, “Go for the plant basket.  I never buy fresh-cut flowers, they just die.”  That one sentence didn’t engage my writer’s brain until I got home and really thought about it.  It stayed with me all night and I have been replaying that comment in my head over and over again today.

I don’t want to miss the opportunity to have a bright bouquet of flowers greet me in the morning just because I know they are going to die.  I want to be able enjoy the allure while they are still full of color and charm.  I want to give them a chance to see how long I can make them last.

Longevity is subject to limitations but there are always ways to fight the inevitable.  And who knows what opportunities you may be passing up if you only focus on the outcome instead of the journey?

 I think I will stop and buy myself some flowers on my way home tonight.

The true spirit of giving

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This afternoon I received an email from a stranger.  It read:

“Greetings from Dwight.  We were touched by your wonderful crockpot idea to help your food bank. We have decided to make a donation on your Go Fund Me page instead of buying gifts for a few family members.  Thanks for helping Muskoka families in need.”

Over the last couple of weeks, some friends of mine who are very supportive of Dollars for Dinners have been mischievous little elves and have contacted some local media outlets to share the story of our crockpot meals for our Food Bank.  I can only guess that this lovely woman heard the story on the first radio interview and contacted the station to get my information.

After I wiped the tears from my cheeks, I smiled.  What a wonderful gift from one family that will help create meals for several other families who are struggling.  That is what the spirit of the season is about.

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But when the holiday season is over, when the Salvation Army bells fall silent, when the donation Kettles are gone and the spirit of giving seems to be packed away with the extra wrapping paper and bows, that is the time that we need to remember those families who need our help.

The end of the holidays does not signify the end of the hunger or the need for a helping hand.  We need to keep the true spirit of giving alive and well and keep that glow in our hearts, the glow you can only get from helping others, burning all year long.