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After Winter, Spring.

“I want to do with you what spring does with cherry trees.” ― Pablo Neruda

 

I’m not going to say that a lot of the bad poetry I’ve been sharing here is going to end up in a certain book…

But I’m not going to say it isn’t either. ;)

Below, the latest…

 

After Winter, Spring. 

 

We’re opening the windows,

And the doors of our lives again.

Too long closed—

To keep out the cold.

We shake the dust off and out,

Erase what winter left behind.

Finally, the sun is shining.

And the birds sing once more.

A time for renewal—

I’m certain this is what happiness feels like.

How much better can it get? 

I don’t know…

But lest not forget—

Summer is headed our way, too.

Maybe, it is as they say…

The best is yet to come.

And I wonder…

How ever did we get so lucky?

Not just to have found each other—

But to have survived another winter,

together.

Nineteen. Ready or not.

“Through the blur, I wondered if I was alone or if other parents felt the same way I did – that everything involving our children was painful in some way. The emotions, whether they were joy, sorrow, love or pride, were so deep and sharp that in the end they left you raw, exposed and yes, in pain. The human heart was not designed to beat outside the human body and yet, each child represented just that – a parent’s heart bared, beating forever outside its chest.”  Debra Ginsberg

 

I know it isn’t “fashionable” to profess your love for your (now) adult children.

 

And if this is true, it’s probably definitely off limits to write about it publicly.

 

But, I also know that people we love die. They die at random ages like 29 and 82, before then, and after too. I know that there’s a finality in death— only truly understandable when it happens to someone you love.

 

Mostly, I know there will be a million things that you will have wish you’d had the time and the forethought to say. Words that could sustain a couple of lifetimes. And that sometimes these things haunt you more than you’d like.

 

Which is why I guess I gave up being fashionable a long time ago. :)

 

 

Nineteen. Ready or not.

 

I swear it was just last month that you were born and we were there in the hospital figuring each other out. Six weeks early— and a lifetime too soon.

 

You were teaching me how to be a mother…

 

At fourteen, a baby myself— I remember being equal parts proud and terrified.

 

Ready or not…

 

We were growing up together.

 

I’m almost certain it was just last week that I watched you take your first steps.

 

I was learning to let go, too

 

Ready or not. 

 

And wasn’t it just yesterday you started kindergarten and then moved on to first grade—where your teacher informed me it was time to let you walk into the school by yourself?

 

But it was so big and you seemed so small.

 

She said I needed to learn to let go.

 

You were ready. I was not. 

 

We were growing up together…

 

In reality, though, I know these things didn’t happen last month, last week—and they definitely weren’t yesterday, no matter how fast it all seems to have gone by.

 

That’s the funny thing about time. It’s difficult to measure against love.

 

Somehow, it was almost a year ago now that you walked the stage and straight into the life of an adult.

 

You were ready. I’m pretty sure I was not. 

 

As I watched you take those steps across that stage I realized I’d blinked —and in the meantime we’d both grown up.

 

Ready or not. 

 

Nineteen years…lots has changed—

 

But a few things remain the same…

 

I’m proud of us both.

 

We grew up together.

 

And, as you know, I’m still learning to let go.

 

Ready or not. 

Good to Great

“Good is the enemy of great. And that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great. We don’t have great schools, principally because we have good schools. We don’t have great government, principally because we have good government. Few people attain great lives, in large part because it is just so easy to settle for a good life.” ― James C. Collins, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t

Last week I wrote about my big little lesson in betrayal and after having some time to reflect upon not only how I allowed these things/people/situations into my life (businesses) but how tolerant I was in ignoring the warning bells going off inside my head at each step of the way, I realized it was paramount to take account of my own shortcomings in order to move forward.

A major one of those being that I’d spread myself too thin. Turns, out it’s fairly easy to be betrayed when your attention is all over the place. I mean, who knew? ;) But, deceit aside, what’s more relevant in the long run was that in an attempt to be good at a variety of things I’d actually failed to be great at the things that truly matter– at least to me.

In short, the greater lesson here was the realization that I don’t want to be a good writer…I want to be a great one. I don’t want to be a good wife (and mother) I want to be great at it. And I don’t want to be a good business owner I NEED to be a great one. And while I guess the definition for what makes one good versus great is rather personal and subjective, I do believe that deep down I knew the difference.

I knew that I was allowing my attention to be diverted away from what was important to me. I was an active participant in that– and it cost me.

I also knew that I had to leap off the hamster wheel, take back my attention, listen, and focus on what really matters.

And by “really matters,” I mean the stuff I want to be great at. Which as it turns out, sadly, pretty much can’t be all the things. ;)

Long story long, if the people you love, the work, and/or the journey of becoming, are at the mercy of anything, which matters less than those things, then trouble will no doubt ensue, as it did for me.

I know because prior to my big little lesson I was, for a while, at best, decent at prioritizing.

Good, maybe…sometimes.

Great, well…I’m working on it. :)

Because, it cost me, sure– but mostly because this is one lesson I REALLY don’t want to have learn over again. ;)

Short and Sweet.

“The things you own end up owning you.” — Tyler Durden, Fight Club

I’m going to keep this short and sweet as I’m on deadline and honestly I’m mostly only writing over here today so as to give in to the resistance (it’s so strong, you guys) and “cheat” on my daily word count goal. :) Also, it’s been a few weeks…

I’m not quite sure but it’s possible that I’m losing my mind. Obviously, I realize that I should probably watch what I say here, as one never knows what will be taken out of context. I’m not literally going crazy, just making a few necessary tweaks to my life. Crazy is subjective anyhow. And really, it’s all just semantics.

In my case, I blame this temporary insanity on the character I’m writing. Sometimes the lines do blur a little and I’m not certain my brain realizes when I’m on (working) or off. The full moon and mercury retrograde also provide relevant possibilities. Nonetheless, yesterday I found myself sitting across from my husband at brunch naming off all of the ideas I have for the future and a list of the things we need to get rid of, or cut out of our lives so we have less tying us down. Many, if not most of them, being not entirely rational choices. This obviously appears a little clearer this morning. ;)  But, you know what the amazing thing was… he not only listened intently (and I mean without batting a eye) but he told me he was completely on board.

God bless that man. :)

I think everyone deserves someone to embrace his or her level of crazy. I know this because I mentioned these same ideas to two of my best friends and they both told me I was indeed nuts. And, this my friends, is why I’m not married to them. ;)

That said, I actually have cut quite a few things, commitments etc. out of my life over the past few months (I feel like I write about this a lot here) and while I won’t bore you with the details I will say it has been incredibly freeing. And just when I didn’t think there was anything else left to cut….I cut a little more. There are two really great ways to know where cutting can occur and those are: take inventory of what’s on your calendar and watch where your money goes. It’s pretty simple from there.

Anyway, I’d better get back to the novel, which is tentatively scheduled for release on 12/2/14.

P.S. Love, love, love this episode of Shots of Awe. It totally explains my life. ;)

As for what I’m writing to these days… it’s mostly all about Paolo Nutini:

The acoustic versions are typically my favorites…

Guess what time it is??

“I went to my son’s graduation this weekend, and I heard a great quote I’ve never heard before from Albert Einstein. It was that the greatest danger to the world is not the bad people but it’s the good people who don’t speak out.”  -Hamilton Jordan

It’s commencement speech time, that’s what. My son is graduating next week, the son who I gave birth to at fourteen, and so it’s a tad bit emotional around here, these days. If you know me (and even if not I’ve blogged about them a ton) then you know I have a very deep affinity for commencement speeches. Partly because I’m a lover of words and partly because I didn’t graduate from higher education (which makes me appreciate them all the more) but also because it’s typically a certain type of person who gives them, and I swear I could watch for hours upon end.

Most times the only thing that has gotten me through the “struggle”and over the hump (that’s what growth is, right?) has been learning from others who’ve survived struggles of their own. And, really, who hasn’t? Whenever I’m having a particularly tough time and it feels as though I’ll never “get where I’m going” I hit up Youtube and watch commencement speeches, because not only do I know that will they lift me up, but there’s a lot wisdom to be garnered within them. Below are two of my favorites this year. I love what William McCraven, U.S Navy admiral, says here on the top 10 lessons he learned from basic seal training–from making your bed– to standing your ground with sharks. I also loved what Sandra Bullock says about dance parties– dancing before you leave the house, that it changes how you walk out in the world. All true stuff, and it’s good to be reminded of all that we’re capable of, from time to time. It’s easy to forget that we have power, and to take that power back–to remind ourselves that the choice is ours, to choose how we react in any given situation. Oftentimes, it feels better (and safer) to play victim. I’ve certainly been guilty of it, but let’s not do that, ok.  :)

Lastly, a few weeks ago I blogged about a story I told  my husband about  how making your bed leads to overall greater happiness, and while at the time I said it (though I understood it to be true) I was mostly joking. Later that day he asked me if I noticed that he’d made the bed. He said he’d considered that I was right about people who make their beds being more successful. Funny, I had actually used the word “happier” but he’d heard successful. Anyhow, he told me he wanted to put my theory to test (he’s the last one out of bed, to be fair) and let’s just say ever since that things have been even happier than they were before. ;) That said, when this commencement speech crossed my desk, it made me smile. I always say: thoughts are things–and what we put out, shows up in return. And just like is said below, about changing the world, perhaps I won’t get around to that (today)—but maybe, just maybe, someone out there needs to hear this as much as I did. And who knows? Maybe watching it will change their day. If I know anything, I know that by changing one persons day, you create a ripple effect, which has the power to effect a lot of people’s day. And hey, you gotta start somewhere, right? As it turns out, making the bed, just so happens to be not a bad place to do it. :)

 

 

The Creative Process.

“A story is not like a road to follow … it’s more like a house. You go inside and stay there for a while, wandering back and forth and settling where you like and discovering how the room and corridors relate to each other, how the world outside is altered by being viewed from these windows. And you, the visitor, the reader, are altered as well by being in this enclosed space, whether it is ample and easy or full of crooked turns, or sparsely or opulently furnished. You can go back again and again, and the house, the story, always contains more than you saw the last time. It also has a sturdy sense of itself of being built out of its own necessity, not just to shelter or beguile you.” ― Alice MunroSelected Stories, 1968-1994

The creative process has always been something that amazes me. It’s just so interesting how something comes from “nothing.” I want take it apart and dissect it, understand the who, why, what , where and when of it, as is my nature, but the truth is that one really can’t. The interesting thing I find, also, is that in most of my “negative” book reviews the issue the person has is over a decision a character did or didn’t make. At first I took personally as until one really “understands” the writing process it’s difficult to explain that the things the characters might’ve done (or might not have) is not a reflection of myself. Part of what is fascinating and albeit at times extremely maddening about the process, is that the characters have a life and a voice of their own. I relate it to parenting a bit, because like children, characters may be “of you” but they are not you, so to speak. They come with a mind, and habits, and a voice–all their own. And just like in parenting as writer I think the real trouble comes when one isn’t able to make that distinction. Some say being a writer is like having multiple personality disorder but (most of the time) I don’t see it that way. I think it’s more like seeing life in 3D verses two dimensional. In Technicolor versus black and white. It’s like the way the Buddhists describe enlightenment in many ways.

Starting/writing a new book for me is always a thrilling and yet terrifying time which I akin to dating someone new. Or falling in love. It’s terrifying to think that you’re starting over, from scratch. And thrilling for that very reason, all the same. You’re getting to know your characters in a very raw, real, and interesting way, but first you have to sift through “all the stuff.” It’s like a Tootsie Pop, I guess. It takes a while to get there…but the good stuff is underneath.  :) I think the key is enjoying the entire process, the getting there, and recognizing it for what it is.

Right now, I’m exploring a new protagonist and sifting through my own “stuff” in order to find her voice. At first, it typically starts as a little whisper, something that makes you go “hmmm” and then as the process continues it grows louder and louder, until you can’t ignore it, where it’s almost a part of you–and yet it isn’t. This morning I watched my half-sleeping husband laying in our bed the I turned and called over my shoulder : “Hey when you get up, make the bed. I read somewhere that people who make their beds are 62% happier, than those that don’t.” I said it in an extremely annoyed and “over it” tone, which surprisingly couldn’t have been any more different from what I was actually feeling in the moment.  I then left the house to deposit my multitude of children at their various schools and as I was driving I wondered just when and how I became a person dreadful enough to make that kind of statement, specifically in the kind of tone I used–and then I realized that it wasn’t me at all. I was partly living someone else’s world, where she thinks and speaks in that way. When I arrived back home, my thoughts now on other things, I walked into my bedroom and noticed the bed was made. I paused and thought to myself: so this is what it’s like to be her. Then I smiled because I realized I am at that point in the process where I know it’s working. It’s just starting to take shape from “nothing” into something a little more recognizable. And it’s a damn good feeling, I must say. After all, as the saying goes: “variety is the spice of life.” Truth is, it certainly doesn’t hurt ones marriage either. ;)

P.S. This is what I’m running and writing to this week: http://youtu.be/sE5WscjdNZs
 

 

 

They All Said No. And It’s Personal.

“Today if you come up against rejection, remember: This does not mean “no.” It just means “not this way.”

Last Friday, this was a part of what I shared at the BookPeople signing and I wanted to share the story here as well:

I’ve always been an avid reader and for at least the last decade or so every time I’ve read a great book or maybe one not so great I’d make the comment that I was going to write a book of my own someday. After one of these comments my husband looked at me and said  “So why don’t you do it, already?” or something to that effect. I remember deadpanning, stopping whatever I was doing at the time and staring at him, strongly considering slapping him. I mean, couldn’t he see all of these kids running around everywhere? Where was the time? Couldn’t he see how hard I was working at work? But after the initial sting of what I perceived to be his abruptness wore off I realized I knew in my heart that he was right. A few short weeks later, I lost my only sibling, my brother who was sixteen months younger than I am, very unexpectedly. So unexpectedly, that I clearly remember sitting in his dinning room staring at his half-eaten dinner as the coroner photographed his body. Perhaps it was the (literal) shock–but I all I could think about in moment as I sat there was how it could possibly be that one minute you’re here, eating and conversing, and the next you’re just…well, gone. His death really made me evaluate my life, all of the things I was focusing my attention on and where and how I was spending my time. Things and places, it turned out, that would not get me what I ultimately knew I wanted.

Then, five months later, I found myself in a hospital with my Grandmother whom had raised us (so for all intents and purposes she was like my mom) and I had to make the decision to take her off of life support after what we thought would be an in and out hospital stay. Her death and the aftermath only further made me contemplate what we’re here for and what we leave behind. In fact, although I didn’t know it at the time, my last conversation with her was about me publishing my first book. She said she was proud. One thing I know, for sure, is that I will be forever grateful that we had that conversation and that she knew that I was going for what I wanted.

As of May 2nd, it will be a year since I decided to independently publish. Since that time I’ve published three novels and the latest, Somewhere With You, is probably the most personal. In it, both characters lose their parents very young. Amelie, loses her father very unexpectedly in a car accident while Jack loses his mother after she succumbs to a battle with cancer. In the story we see how these losses and the circumstances surrounding them shape the characters. Jack’s mother has the foresight to know that she isn’t going to make it. So, she makes the decision to write letters to her son to be opened at key points in his development. As a mother, this has always been my greatest fear, to die before my children are grown. And so I’ve always had the idea to write them letters in case that were to occur which is where the idea came from for Jack’s mother to write him. At the signing last week, one of those letters (an excerpt from the book) was part of my reading and I’ll share it below.

That said, I’m not writing this to say “woe is me.” Because it’s not. I am actually happier than I’ve ever been and I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished within the past (almost) year, even if I’m not where I want to be, yet. Yesterday, I had the pleasure of seeing my books on a Barnes and Noble bookshelf, which is no small feat for an indie author. I hope that changes but either way, it was a dream come true. Also, I am told that Somewhere With You will be featured next week on BookPeople’s Best Seller Shelf in their store.

But my actual point here is that going for what you want, for what you know you’re meant to do, is NOT easy. Every single agent I submitted to told me no. To be fair, my book was already published, so yes, this fact probably played into that. Still, two marketing firms that work with indie authors both turned me down saying that I wasn’t what they are looking for. And…I uh… would’ve been paying them, so that’s kind of really bad, the suckiest of all sucky things. :) Of course, there have also been the bad (and the just plain mean) reviews, in addition to the uphill battle to try and get my work out there in the world. But none of this has stopped me from keeping on, keeping on. Sure, just two days ago I wrote author friend of mine and told her I wanted cry, scream, and punch something. Simultaneously. But that is part of it. I was almost at my wits end when yesterday, a pretty significant opportunity came about, I saw my books on the B&N shelf, and scheduled a conversation to speak with a publicist who is interested in taking me on as a client. So…I write this to share my experience but also in hopes that if you have something you’re going for that you’ll push through. Because sometimes it is the only thing you can do. Sure, from afar it may appear that others have it easier than you do, but that’s only because you don’t know their story. Anything worth having takes work. Rejection and heartache and all the rest just come with it. Keep going. It’s probably worth it. ;)

And the excerpt from Somewhere With You:

My Dearest Jack,

If you’re reading this, then you’ve probably just had your heartbroken for the first time. Or at least it feels that way, anyway. But I want you to remember, son, that this isn’t the first time (nor will it likely be the last) that you’ve felt this way. You’ve been through so much already, and if you’re reading my letter, then obviously, you’ve survived thus far. And while it may not feel like it just now, you’ll survive this, too.

There are so many things I want to tell you about love, Jack. Oh, how I wish I were there to tell you this in person, to hug you, and hold your hand. Though,I’m guessing at this age, you might not like hand holding so much anymore. I try to picture you, what you look like now, where you are as you’re reading this, and it brings me so much joy to think of you all grown up. I looked in on you tonight as I’ve done every night since the day you were born, and as I watched you sleep, I pictured the man you’ll become. It’s hard not to feel a little bit bitter knowing I won’t be there to see it all. Oddly enough, though, it is with that sentiment that I want to tell you about love. If you are reading this and your heart is broken, you are lucky, Jack. I want you to pause a moment and let that really sink in. You are so damned lucky. Feeling this way, it means that you are living and more importantly—that you are loving. You cannot know how lucky you are to love until you’ve felt the immense pain of having to let that love go. It is a part of life. And as I am learning, it is also a part of death. Do not waste it. Do not play small. Lick your wounds, but then get back out there. Love harder next time. Most people don’t do that, you see. They get hurt once, and they hide behind it. They use it to excuse themselves into living guarded lives, never quite feeling the passion, the love that they are capable of. But not you, son. Don’t make that mistake. And I hope that if you consider taking that route, you’ll think of me and you’ll feel my love and know that even though I may have lost my battle, that I didn’t go down without a fight.

Neither will you, my love.

Neither will you.

I love you always,

Mom

P.S. Tips for healing a broken heart: time, above all else (don’t worry, you won’t feel this way forever), ice cream, and meaningful work. Now is the time to start a new project, Jack. Try something new, throw yourself into it, and let yourself get lost in it. You’ll come out all right in the end. You always have.

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