Good morning, Joe.

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I have the great fortune of having a good memory. My bosses will reach me in the office through the intercom to give them a phone number rather than look it up because they know I will be able to produce that number from the depths of my mind faster than they can Google it. My memory for numbers also comes in handy when they are buying anything online and I can rattle off the company Visa number without hesitation.

My ability to be able to retain faces and names is one of the things for which I am most grateful. Having been in the hospitality business for the majority of my working life, this gift has served me well. If I have the benefit of meeting a guest face-to-face and hearing their name, that name is locked in the vault of my memory. I make a point of using their name each time I address that person so our interaction feels much more personal for both of us.

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We had a group check into the lodge a few weeks ago and I missed the opportunity to meet the guests upon check in. At breakfast the next day, I made a point of introducing myself to each member of the group and was able to remember every one of them. The fact that I could refer to each of them by name did not go unnoticed. Several mentions were made about my being able to call them by name after such a short time and that level of service was compared to the service at the Ritz Carlton! Although we are a small, family run lodge that distinction made my heart swell with pride.

Hospitality has many synonyms that describe what it is about and the descriptions that ring true for me are welcome, warmth and friendliness. Those are the things I hold closest to me, not only in my job but in my life and I hope to be able to deliver those things for a long time.

 

Keep writing and don’t give up

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I have written a novel. I’m sure many of you know that by now because I won’t stop blogging about it, but there are times I need to remind myself that I have painstakingly crafted a full, fictitious story from beginning to end from nothing more than my imagination. I am still in the process of querying agents with the hope that one of them will be consumed enough by my story and my writing to send an offer of representation. In the meantime, the continued effort of my writing is fueled by the comments from those who have boldly nestled into my story and offered their wonderful words of encouragement. The subject line of this blog is one of those encouragements after telling me he was engaged by the characters, wanted to pick the book up again as soon as he got home from work and was sad when it ended. That’s always a good sign!

I am well aware that the road to being published is a long and arduous journey. This knowledge is my waking thought, my mid-day crisis and my evening justification for losing those precious moments of sleep while I try to add five-hundred or more words a day to my latest manuscript.

The message, ‘keep writing and don’t give up’ was shared today by a woman who had her third book launch celebration on Saturday. I was fortunate enough to attend the launch and the message during her speech was the same, writers should never give up. I met another author at the launch and her journey took twelve years to get published. Thankfully, I have never been under the impression that publication is lurking around the corner.

So I am going to keep writing and then writing more. And I’m going to keep querying and then querying more. One day, I will be published. Perhaps I will decide to self-publish at some point but I’m not there yet. I know the story is good and it would make a fantastic movie with some great special effects. The thing I am most sure of, though, is that I’m going to keep writing and I will never give up.

 

 

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.

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(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.

I got the message, loud and clear

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We have a scrapbooking group checking in to the lodge this weekend. I’m sure you are wondering why I am sharing this information. Thinking about this group made me pull out the scrapbook I made for my mom’s celebration of life over four years ago.

Part of my healing process was to capture the many parts of my mother that made her so wonderful – her childhood, her marriage to my father, her becoming a mother and her dedication to our family. As I turned each page I had created, adorned with pictures of her infectious smile, I became overwhelmed with emotion. Tears began to slide down my cheeks but I stopped myself from becoming a blubbering mess by remembering all the extraordinary things about my mom and that made my sadness turn into happiness. She was a woman with a big heart who everyone admired and loved.

As I was going through my scrapbook pages, my iPod continued to shuffle songs. Although I was lost in the images of my mother, the song that began to play in the background of my reverie was called “Remember David” by A Flock of Seagulls. David was my dad’s name.

My dad passed away eight years before we lost my mom. He is never far from my thoughts but the raw emotion of my loss is tied more tightly to my mom because it is more fresh in my mind. I got the message loud and clear. I don’t miss my dad any less than I miss my mom. There are days that I take myself back to the minutes before he took his last breath, the seconds I counted between those breaths and the exact moment I knew he was gone. It is a moment I will never forget.

But with the sad moments of his loss come the memories of the life he lived. He was gregarious. He lived life to the fullest. And although he left this world before he should have, he left a huge imprint. He shaped my world and he left his spiritual impression on my brother and my nephews. They all embody the pieces of him he would have wanted to leave behind. They are loving, they are adventurous and they put their family first.

I can only thank my iPod shuffle for reminding me to “Remember David”, not that I will ever forget him. Those subtle reminders make me realize he is never that far away from me and I should make a point of remembering David more often. I miss you, Dad.

 

 

Stuffing all you can into the holidays

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There is much to be said about the joy the holidays bring – or any celebration, for that matter.  Whether it be a birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas or a reunion, the ease of the conversation, the steady flow of wine, the melodic sound of laughter and the joy of being with a close-knit group of people is unrivaled. There is an undefined comfort level that allows us to become absorbed in the festivities that surround us. The fact that we can gorge ourselves and have an excuse to eat everything in sight with only a few fleeting moments of guilt is sublime.

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The molecules change in the room when family and friends get together for a holiday celebration. There is something intrinsically sacred about holidays and the memories that are created within those moments. Time has a way of strategically obliterating those precious seconds as it marches on at a frantic pace, but our shared memories have a way of stopping that clock, if only for a few moments.

Holidays are a portal. They can freeze time and create a vortex that allows us to travel back and relive certain periods in our lives. The memories wrap themselves around us like a blanket and soothe us with the warmth of the times that have engaged us and truly breathe a bit of life back into our frenzied existence.

Although many holidays have passed and are collecting dust on the books in the library of my mind, watching my brother “float” his dinner in gravy brings back a rush of nostalgia. Sadly, I was unable to be at Thanksgiving dinner this year because I had to work, but I poured enough gravy on my dinner at the lodge to make my brother proud. That is what the holidays are truly about, the personal moments that any other person would find arbitrary but, to me, define my holiday experience.

Embrace your family, enjoy the moments and get stuffed with the memories your family helps to create.  We all have so much to be thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

The actual sounds of silence

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I made a bold decision a couple of months ago. I contacted my satellite provider, cancelled my subscription and sealed the deal by sending back my receiver. I had only suspended my service in the past, which resulted in my first finished novel, but I have never gone that extra step to fully end my relationship with my television. If I could catalogue the number of hours I spent mindlessly watching shows that held no interest for me, I would be mortified.

I am a true product of my father. My habitual pattern was to come home from work and immediately turn on the television, as he would do. Perhaps the background noise soothed him from his busy day, but eventually those mindless distractions would lure him from whatever room he was in and he would settle into his chair, randomly flipping through the available channels but never settling on one particular program. I didn’t want to follow in those distinct footsteps.

I am not saying that I do not get lost in the vortex of Netflix or online sporting events from time to time on my computer, but lately my life has revolved much more around the sounds of silence than the overwhelming din of gratuitous television. My post-work hours are spent more on reading and writing than channel surfing through the overwhelming number of anesthetizing broadcasts.

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My Kindle is loaded with new novels. My second book is in the works, my third is more than a promise and my brain is firing on all cylinders. And the moments between reading and writing are destined for the continued quest to become a published author. Those sounds of silence have been loud and clear and have been leading me in a direction I should have been following for a while. And the more I listen, the louder those sounds of silence become.

I wouldn’t change a thing

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It’s been a busy season for me. I love my job and I love the people I interact with, but the thing I love the most in my life is curiously absent. From May to October, my writing takes a backseat to my real world. Characters are hushed, story lines are left in the wings and my creativity is quieted to a faint whisper. All the important pieces of my imagination are sent into the recesses of my brain and that skill and those creative endeavors are limited to the moments when my dream sequences become aware of their true potential.

Writing is a funny thing. The artistry behind the words knows how to take advantage of the calmness in our lives. It feeds on the still moments in our brain and it dapples the blank pages in our minds with stunning and eclectic representations of stories we had never even thought possible. When the mind is idle, inspiration transports us to places we never imagined. It creates a spectral portrait of a life we had only, until now, dreamed was possible and it lets our fantasy become a reality on the pages we create.

I needed this day to get back to me. I yearned for those voices to speak to me again in a volume that rose above the din of my daily life. I wanted those characters to tap me on the shoulder and remind me their story was in a holding pattern, waiting for the chance to take off and tell their tale. And, more than anything, I wanted those voices to convince me that I was the only one who could truly convey their angst and their emotion on the pages I constructed.

Writing is a long journey. Most writers takes their queues from the voices who guide them, who wake them in the wee hours and who demand they spend every minute of their free time composing the opus of their lives while they, the writers, give up small pieces of their own existence to tell those stories.  Knowing what I know now about the creative process, and if I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing.