One dark cloud can rain on everybody

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Moods are contagious.   When a mood is allowed to live and feed on the energy from which it was born, it is given the power to grow exponentially and infect everyone around it, like a slow-acting poison.  That mood can seep under the skin of unsuspecting people and change the trajectory of their day.

Last week, one dark cloud hovered above my surroundings and it spewed forth its acid rain.  What started as a relatively happy day slowly spiraled into a morning from Hell.  I was astounded at how quickly one bad mood could leech itself from its host into every organism with whom it came into contact.  I bore witness to a malignant energy infecting everyone in its path.

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A quick discussion with my superiors resulted in temporarily removing the poison from our work system and eventually the day became much brighter.  Within minutes of the cause of the discomfort leaving building, calm was restored and the dark cloud was lifted.  The miserable rain ended and the sun began to shine once again.

Although it may be a small cloud in a vast sky, one dark cloud can rain on everybody.   We just need to be strong enough to blow that cloud into a different sky.

 

 

 

This is my circus and these are my monkeys

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My aunt recently had a milestone birthday and  last night we had dinner at our family cottage to celebrate.  As much as I admit to having some absurd personality traits and a slightly off-center sense of humor, I realized my apple does not fall far from my family tree.

The conversation flowed freely as we all caught up on the relevant stories in each other’s lives.  Lots of laughter was shared and the dialogue eventually focused on funny stories from the past, as it always does.  Though the tales have been told many times and in many ways, they never get old.  These stories are the thread that binds us, the string that weaves through the fabric of our relationships.   Spending time with these people is home to me.   I am never more myself than I am with this crazy circus I call my family and I am happy to be one of its monkeys.

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After spending a couple of hours around the dining room table, the summer solstice sun began to make its descent into the horizon.  The waning orange glow reflected on the water and we made our way out onto the screened porch to watch the evening sky struggle to hold onto the remains of the day.  For a moment, no words were spoken.  We were enveloped in a comfortable silence as we watched the sun disappear.  A single voice broke the silence, more stories bubbled to the surface and the darkness of the evening was welcomed by our laughter.

As the saying goes, you don’t choose your family.  But if I were given a choice to go back and make that decision, I can’t imagine choosing any other people to go on this journey with me.  Thank you monkeys, you fill my life with love and laughter.

 

 

 

 

 

How times have changed

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Although my childhood seems like a lifetime ago, there are many things that stand out and make me think that I once lived a very dangerous lifestyle.  We played in the mud and made mud pies.  We drank water from a garden hose and we ran from cottage to cottage in our bare feet, jumping through puddles and springs on the way.  We picked up worms, bugs, frogs and chipmunks – in our hands!  There were nights that my parents had to physically drag me inside because I couldn’t get enough of the outdoors.

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We swam under our dock and hung out with the rock bass and the dock spiders.  We had cook-outs and ate the fish we caught that day and we showered in the rain on the days that the water poured from the sky.  In the winter, we made forts in the snow banks and we stood outside in -20 degree temperatures to wait for the school bus which felt just as cold inside as it was outside.

The reason for my stroll down memory lane is a strange tale.  Let me set the stage.  It was late afternoon.  A slight rain was falling and I had run to the grocery store for an item that I had overlooked on my list.  I was wearing a light summer dress and the rain was gentle but steady.  I picked up my item and, as I was leaving the store, a father and his three teenage children were standing in the doorway watching the rain.  The oldest sibling told the others to put their coats on and the father instructed the kids to wait indoors while he retrieved the car and picked them up at the door.

Not having children of my own, I was questioning whether the genetic make-up of children today is different from the children of my generation.  Perhaps they melt now if they get wet?  Maybe with all of the new allergies, rain now causes a reaction.  Whatever the reason, I stood in the rain beside my car and watched as the gigantic SUV pulled up as close as it could to the door so the children could get into the car unharmed.  I wonder if they are allowed outside at all in the winter?

 

 

 

A wish to build a dream on

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After successfully losing hours of sleep, multiple strands of hair and a decent portion of my sanity, I have completely read through my novel for the first time.  This first run-through was to catch any glaring grammatical issues that I would have been humiliated by had someone else seen them before I had.  Along the way, I did make some notes about slight plot restructuring and that is what the second reading will accomplish.

The romantic portion of writing a book seems to be a tiny pinpoint of light in my not-so-distant past.  The business of writing a book has taken center stage and the formidable task of marketing a book is waiting in the wings, making faces at me and sticking out its tongue.

I have been told many times and in many ways that for every one author who has the good fortune of being published, there are at least 10,000 writers whose novels will never be seen in print unless they choose to self-publish.  I want to exhaust every effort in traditional publishing before I entertain the thought of self-publishing.  Call me a bleeding heart, a romantic, a crazy…..whatever adjective you choose, my wish is to follow the path of the many authors I have read and followed for decades.  Their sacrifice, their blood, their sweat and their toil have carved a path that I want to follow.

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I want the criticism (I think), I want the rewrites (I hope), I want to inhabit my space on the arc of the learning curve and I want to have my book published in the way in which I have always dreamed.  Perhaps my dream is lofty but I am willing to follow the bread crumbs to their inevitable conclusion, whether that outcome favors me or not.

At the end of this journey, at least I can say I followed the culmination of my devotion to writing and gave it everything I had.  In no way have I conceded my efforts to appease the writing Gods.  I can only hope that, after my constant effort, the writing world has something it would like to give back to me.  Fingers crossed.

 

 

 

 

 

The business of doing business

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I have a very large, very dead pine tree looming over my driveway and threatening the safety of my home and my new car.   It has been dead for several years but each day when I drive in my driveway, I convince myself that it is leaning closer to my house than it was the previous day.  It was time to call in the professionals.

I found four local companies that offer tree removal services as well as free estimates.  All four came to my house and gave me a wide range of quotes for different ways that the tree could be felled and cleared.  The company I chose to do the job was the best fit in terms of safely felling the tree with the right equipment and not charging me a fortune to move the pieces off to the side of my driveway.  I thanked the other companies for their quotes and let them know I went with a different service.

Two of the other three were understanding.  One was not.  After I told him I would be happy to pass on his information to others looking for his services, I received a text message from Brian and this is what it said, “Well thank you Susan.  No need to pass my name around since you have not experienced the level of service we provide.  In future, I would respectfully suggest you exhaust your cheaper options before calling someone that spends their time and fuel to look at your work.  Good luck with your tree and hopefully the damage will be minimal.”

WTF???

To say that I was angered would be a gross understatement.   I had to hold myself back from responding with the words that were churning in my head.   Instead, I politely explained that I had chosen a company with a similar rate but a better option for me and the safety of my oak tree since Brian was going to strap the dead tree and pull it down so it would come into direct contact with my 100-year-old oak tree.  (But he assured me the oak tree would be fine!)

What I should have texted was this, “Well, thank YOU Brian.  I will certainly be passing your name around now, just not in the way I had expected since I now understand the level of service you provide.  I respectfully suggest that you not offer free estimates if you are going to whine about the time and fuel you spent doing something you advertise as free and act like an asshole when you don’t get the job.”

What you leave behind

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Everyone wants to make their mark on the world, to leave something behind so they will be remembered.  For me, that mark is made with words.  This blog will live on in cyber space long after I am gone and I can only hope that some of the phrases that I have strung together will leave an indelible imprint, not only on the internet but, in the memories of those people who took the time to read my posts.

I have taken it one step further and just completed writing my first novel, hopefully the first of many.  This chain of ideas, this woven tale of characters and plot lines, has a piece of my soul buried in its structure.  It has my emotion and my sense of humor represented by the cast, human or canine.   It is stippled with moments of my life that had a lasting impact on me whether they were humorous or traumatic.

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My words are my legacy.  They are the things I choose to leave behind, the things I want people to remember about me.  Besides my relationships with family and friends, words are the things that I gave my heart to expecting nothing in return.

We all make choices every day of our lives.  The hardest choices are sometimes the most meaningful and the most rewarding.  If you had to make a choice, what will you leave behind?

 

 

 

 

The stages of writing a book

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I am writing a book.  There, I’ve said it.  I’m out.   Although the book is not quite finished, I have stopped to reflect on the different stages of writing a fiction novel.

The first stage, for me,  was definitely the romantic stage.  Writing a book has an allure about it.  There is something truly whimsical about imagining yourself dancing in a meadow with a plethora of phrases spilling from your brain.  Each of those phrases floats through the air and settles onto fluffy white clouds until you are able to collect them all and put them to paper.

The second stage is certainly more realistic than the first.  This stage for me was jotting down the plot twists that I wanted in my story but not knowing where they would be presented.  I also had to decide whether I wanted to write a full outline and follow it or if I simply wanted the characters to tell their story as they saw fit.  There are many places in my life where structure and organization are crucial but creating a story is not one of those places so the characters were able to share their voices without my framework.

The third stage was fantastic.  Once I had the basic premise in my head, I just sat down and wrote.  Some days were better than others but I spent a significant amount of time each day seeing how much further I could delve into the story and where it would lead me.  The best part about the third stage was getting excited when I came up with a new plot twist and  having those ideas create even more scenarios that I had never thought of before.  This stage was the ‘perpetual high’ stage.

I am now in the fourth stage, which is the panic stage.  I am so close to finishing the book and now I am second guessing everything I have written.  Are my characters deficient in some way?  Does the story line flow properly?  Is there enough meat in the story to keep readers interested?  Am I even going to have readers?   The list goes on….

I am hoping that there is a bright light at the end of this arduous tunnel when I gain back a little more self-confidence and I can just pat myself on the back and say, ‘you finished your book’.  That in itself will be a monumental occasion.

I already have the sequel planned and seemingly I am willing to put myself through these phases all over again.  They must make some sort of pill for this……