Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Construction Zone

It’s been a whole week since I’ve posted on my Blog.  Maybe you’ve noticed.  Maybe you haven’t.  To me, a week seems a long time when I usually post two to three times a week but I really did not have the extra time to blog.

It happens. Between work, home, and kids, the hours in each day just seem to shrink away, leaving little extra time to manage other things.
However, it is also more than that.  I’m in the middle of a construction zone.  Of book construction, that is.  I am constructing, I am building, and I am creating.  This is no surprise, correct?  But this is exciting.  There are more changes coming my way.

In addition to writing, the busyness of work, household and outside chores, and activities involving the boys, I have been especially busy with the final steps involved with preparing my first book for publishing.  This, I have to say, is more exciting than I thought was possible.
The final edit is complete…or as complete as it can be.  I believe if I let it, the editing process would turn into a black hole with no end in sight.  I could continue editing until the end of the year and still find areas of the story or the characters I want to add to or take away from.  It’s a small issue I have with wanting to attain perfection.  Eventually, though, you just have to have faith that what you have created is ready.  You have to believe that the construction of your creation is finally complete and as solid as it will ever be.

Now I’m on to bigger and better things; or rather, more exciting areas of the writing process.
Currently, I am working with a company to produce a cover for my book.  I’ve also put together a short description of my story which I would love to share with you…but it will have to wait until I make a final decision on the wording used in the description.  I’ll admit I can’t wait to share it with you.  I’ll be interested to hear whether the description does in fact peak your interest and leave you wanting more.

Also in the works will be the conversion of my book to an eBook format so that I can make my book available to you online through Barnes & Noble and Amazon.  No matter what happens with the sales involving my book online, the whole process will certainly be very exciting.
The construction zone I’m knee deep in will also penetrate this Blog as I begin to make some changes here so if I don’t post as often the next week or so, bear with me as any absence will also be due to the time I am involved with that process. 

In the meantime, I just want to say that I completely appreciate all of you who continue to follow what I’m up to.  Whether you like to read, wish to write, or just follow me because you know me, I enjoy sharing my thoughts during this process.  I hope you are as excited about these latest developments as I am; although, I’m not sure if that’s possible because I am pretty excited!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

New Chapter in Life

I had the pleasure of attending a wedding yesterday.  Now that I think about it, this is the first wedding I’ve been to in quite some time.  This was a family wedding for a cousin of mine and I am extremely happy for him.  He is a very sweet and extremely smart individual who deserves only the best.  Having found someone special he can spend his life with, he is now moving on to a new chapter in his life. 

The scene for the wedding was Snoqualmie and if you’ve ever been in that area, you know how beautiful it can be.  We arrived early so we took some time to walk around town to see the sights, which did not take long because the town itself is small but it is very quaint and includes a charming train station and museum. 

The wedding was as I like them, short and sweet, and from there we moved on to the reception where we could spend time visiting as we enjoyed good food and cake, or in this case, cup cakes.  I was informed cup cakes at weddings are a new way of doing things.  They were all very cute and I was thrilled when one of the flavors was red velvet, my favorite.

June in the Pacific Northwest is no guarantee when it comes to the weather so it was no surprise when we were greeted with rain later in the afternoon.  Other than the dilemma of nice hairdo’s getting ruined or new clothes getting dirty, rain only dampens the ground, not the festivities.  Umbrellas are usually only in use by those who are not from around this area or, in this case, by a ladder apparently concerned about keeping the top rungs dry.

I never did find out why this ladder was standing out in the middle of the lawn with an umbrella on top.
After spending time with the bride and groom and catching up with family, eventually it was time to hit the road.  As we said our goodbyes to the happy couple, I thought about the fact that they are now moving on to a new chapter in their lives, this time in a story they will write together.  It is an exciting time for them with many promises for a wonderful future together and I wish them all the best as they work towards their own happy ending.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Kindness goes a long way...

It would be a perfect world if everyone could be nice to one another but this is not a perfect world.  Not everyone is able to get up on the right side of the bed and start off the day with a positive attitude towards others.  Do too many of us have to work at having a positive attitude towards people?  To just be nice?  For some, it is effortless, while for others it appears to be very difficult. 

A case in point for the effortless would be my grandparents.  My grandpa has passed away but my grandmother is thankfully still with us.  The two of them together could crush you with their extreme thoughtfulness and caring.  A visit with them could make you feel like the most important person in the world because they would give you their undivided attention and in no uncertain terms would show you how happy they were just to visit with you.  They weren’t like that with just family; it was with anyone they came in contact with.  Both of them never failed to wake up on the right side of the bed and show their love for life and for people.
When it comes to examples of those who find it difficult to be nice, I will leave those to your imagination, as I’m sure you have your own first-hand knowledge of how mean some people can be.  The saying, ‘mean people suck’ are three words that say it all.

My reason for commenting on this subject is because I’ve come to realize that, regardless of whether people are nice or mean towards others, there are many people who don’t expect others to be nice to them.
Where I work, I take phone calls from clients who are most likely going through one of the most difficult times in their lives.  They have been arrested, jailed, are heading towards trial and possibly prison.  For some, it is their first offense and the process completely frightens them but for others, they do not seem to learn from past mistakes and continue to get into trouble.  I make no judgments against them.  I have no reason to treat them with anything but a pleasant attitude and I expect them to return the same to me.

So when I began to hear comments from some of the clients, telling me thank you for being so nice, thank you for taking the time, thank you for helping me…it made me realize that many of them did not expect me to treat them decently.  That’s a sad thought.  They based their expectations of my attitude towards them on the fact that their title is now “defendant” and they feel one rung lower on the ladder of decency and respect.  At this point in their life, they cannot see the bright side of anything, only the bleak possibilities before them. 
I may not be able to make them believe there is a bright side to anything at this point in their lives but I can at least make every attempt to show them there are still people who will respond to them positively rather than negatively.  If I were in their shoes, I would hope for exactly the same treatment.

Another reason for this post is due to my husband’s new job where he currently has daily contact with elderly and disabled people.  Each person he has contact with has their own unique story and they are kind and interesting people.  They are only different from others due to their advanced age or disabilities, whether from birth defects or an accident later in life.  Most have thoughts and dreams like any one of us and if they are limited, it is due to no fault of their own. 
My husband’s new job has had many positive effects.  The job has placed my husband, a completely kind person, in the path of so many who only wish to be treated like everyone else.  My husband gives them the respect he would only wish to receive in return.  What my husband receives from them is heartfelt appreciation for his kindness and a job which gives him great satisfaction. 

Being kind goes a long way and can brighten anyone’s day.  We should always offer it, regardless of what side of the bed we wake on, and others should always expect it, regardless of their circumstances.  Whether you get up on the right side of the bed or look at the bright side of things, if you combine those efforts you will hit the day running with a positive attitude towards the day and towards others.  
And if we all gave it a shot, the results would be amazing.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

You Only Live Once

It’s that time again…the end of a school year.  High school and college graduations; families celebrating the accomplishments and future goals of their high school or college graduates; and students, like my youngest, preparing to move up from middle school to high school. 

Honestly, it’s really hard to comprehend the fact that it has already been a year since my oldest graduated from high school.  Even more so that he will soon complete his first year in college.  As my youngest moves on to high school, I know I better not blink because the next four years will completely fly by.
Yesterday I attended the graduation ceremony at the high school where my oldest graduated last year and where my youngest will be attending next year.  The graduating class included one of my own family members as well as sons and daughters of some of my friends.  It was also what I would view as a historical event for my small town because it was the 100th class to graduate from this school.  I graduated from this high school a number of years ago and it was a special treat to see that three of the graduating students were the sons and daughter of three of my own high school classmates. 

At the graduation ceremony, our high school principal brought up the catchy cliché, “You only live once.”  While this phrase may be overused or lost its meaning to some, our principal advised the students to keep the phrase in mind.  We do, in fact, have only one life to live.  We can only hope that as our children graduate high school, move on to college, join the work force or join the military, they have gained some insight as to what they would like to do with their futures.  Everyone makes mistakes and it is from those mistakes our children will hopefully learn, change and grow to eventually form the life they truly desire.  However, since what you do for a living should not define you, I’m sure all parents will agree the best result is that our children grow up to be good people who are happy with themselves and with their lives.
What goes through the minds of the graduating students as they throw their caps in the air?  Most adults remember this feeling, even if it is a bit fuzzy after many years.  At that moment it is pure excitement and the feeling of freedom from the binds of adolescence and high school rules.  Eventually, the thrill of feeling like an adult as they look towards the new adventures ahead is combined with the anxiety of what the future actually holds for them.  Some take it much better than others.  It’s hard for me to remember exactly how I felt but I do recall looking forward to college while I also felt some anxiety at leaving behind what was so familiar.  It was a sad day to think I would no longer have regular contact with many friends I had known since grade school.  High school classmates, especially in small schools, are much like a family.  You might not see them for a long while but when you do finally hook up, there is a familiarity which makes overdue visits effortless.    

The high school students who graduate will receive many words of wisdom and advice from those who care and hope to make life decisions easier for them.  These newest members of adulthood will listen to who they trust and heed the words that make sense to them at that time but they still have to trudge forward in their own way.  Some will immediately excel, others will falter, and mistakes will almost certainly be made.   Most importantly, from my perspective, I hope each student will live their life to the best of their ability, find what makes them happy, and treat others with the respect each of us deserves. 
While advice and wisdom will run rampant during each stepping stone in our lives, there is no denying we only live once.  Based on that fact, we should always do our best to make it count.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Does Fear Hinder You?

I was browsing in the book store during my lunch break yesterday when I ran across a writing book that caught my eye.  I can’t honestly say what the title was or even who wrote the book but in flipping through the pages I gleaned a few lines in a paragraph that struck me.

The book made me think about a feeling I hoped had gone away.
It is the feeling of fear.

The subject of the book that caught my eye had to do with how often we may desire to do something, to move forward with an endeavor we feel strongly about, but how by our own fault it never happens.  For some, it is a simple explanation.  Some people just get bored easily.  They may not be serious about the endeavor and are easily distracted after the first thrill wears off.  Or they may be the type who just cannot ever finish a project. 
But for many, the reason is much more serious than that.  The reason many do not complete what they begin, if they ever start at all, is due to nothing other than fear itself.  It is the fear of the unknown.  The fear of the ‘what if’s.’  The fear of being criticized or turned away.  The fear of being compared to others and not being able to compete.  For some, it is the actual fear of success. 

As I continued to read the advice offered in the book, I began to understand how often we will sabotage our own attempts at success.  If we never give others a chance to view our work or see what we are capable of doing, we never have to feel like a failure, hear the cutting words of criticism, or cringe as the door is slammed in our face.  If we cut ourselves down first, we won’t have to deal with being cut down by others. 
There are many times in life when we have to put ourselves out there, never knowing how others will receive us.  But if we never try to accomplish our goals, live our dreams, move towards something which will fulfill our lives, we will never truly feel as if we have lived the life we were meant to live.

This book made me realize I had slipped back into my little jacket of fear.
When I first began this process and secretly wrote the first draft of my book, it was fear that kept me from telling anyone but those very closest to me about my dreams to be an author.  I did not want to hear anything from anyone that would make me question myself and my goals.  When I finally let the rest of my family and friends in on the secret, it was honestly one of the scariest times in my life when it comes to putting yourself out there. 

Since then I have worked to push down the fear but I’ll admit it’s much easier when you have the support I have had.  Many writers don’t have that type of support.  And it’s not just writers.  There are many artists in general or individuals who have other sorts of dreams, such as playing pro sports or traveling the world from a backpack or starting up a non-profit, who may not gain the support they crave from those who truly count.
While I had pushed down the initial fear, I’ve noticed something as I move along with the completion of my book towards publication.  I’ve noticed some of the fear has returned but this time it is different.  The fear doesn’t involve thoughts of whether others will like my book or whether I’m criticized or praised.  Of course, those are thoughts I have had and may experience in full force at a later time but they are an expected part of this process. 

No, it is not the fear of failure or of rejection but instead, this fear involves a certain amount of resistance on my part.  It is a feeling that is hard to explain.  It is the fear of handing over a piece of work I have put so much of myself in to.  It is like giving away your most prized possession, never to have full ownership again.  It is like releasing your child into the unknown.  It is like standing naked before a watchful crowd. 
Whether the fear I have now or the fears I may have later will cause me to sabotage my own goals is a question I had to honestly reflect on.  What fears do you face as you attempt to move forward towards your life goals?  Do you believe you have ever sabotaged your own success due to an unknown or perceived fear?  

I’m truly thankful I ran across that one particular chapter in that particular book at this particular time.  It was meant to remind me that to reach your goals in life, you must name your fear, face it and move forward regardless of the fear.  In this way you prove to yourself you have more faith in yourself than in your fears.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Bird Watching

Bird watching you!
While I enjoy all wildlife, birds are my favorite.  From the smallest hummingbird to the largest Eagle, I am always on the lookout for them and I love to see all the new and returning birds who visit my gardens and bird feeders.  Whether it’s from my front or back yard, while I hike in the woods or even while I drive, I enjoy the sight of any bird that may catch my eye.

Small birds are fun to watch and have great variations in size and color but my absolute favorites are hawks and even more so, owls.  We have owls who return every year and I hear them talking to each other just before and after dusk.  There are two screech owls and one barred, or hoot owl.  It never fails to make me laugh when I hear the screechers talk back and forth and in the middle of that, the hoot owl tries to worm in on their conversation, which falls short of any reply from the screechers.  It is true that the hoot owl sounds like he is singing out the question, “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?”  We’ve never seen the hoot owl but we’ve learned how to hoot at him and he thrills us by responding in return.  A few times the screechers have completely made my day by landing in a maple tree above me, and once on the roof of my shop, as I sit by my fire pit in the evening.  It is a rare sight indeed.  Most recently I had the extreme pleasure of spying a baby owl as it sat at the top of a fence post in our driveway.  I will admit I was in absolute awe.

Each time I get to see any owl, it is a real treat...even the one we accidentally ran over. 

Don’t worry, the story ends well.  Thankfully, the owl did not move as we drove over him because by the time we saw it, it would have been too late had the owl decided to fly.  I encouraged my husband to turn around so we could check on the pour thing and we were pleasantly surprised to see the owl alive and well and still standing in the exact same spot.  Why did he remain there?  Turned out he was standing on top of a mouse he did not want to lose.  He did not finally fly away until I exited the truck to check on him.  Of course, he took the mouse with him.

I also have a favorite hawk I usually spot on my way to or from work.  He is always at the same location above a certain freeway, sitting on a lamp post as he watches traffic go by underneath him.  If I don’t get to see him, I’m a bit disappointed but he doesn’t often disappoint me.  The other morning he offered something new: rather than just sitting on the post in his usual fashion, he impressed me as he sat with his feathers fanned out to his side, showing some of his size I would not get to see unless he was flying.  Whether he was trying to impress, or scare off, another bird or was preparing to fly, it was an added delight to my morning.

Eagles are also great to spot but are not often seen close to our house.  However, we have had a few sightings the past couple of months, with one of the first occurring towards the end of last year.   It was the middle of November, just after my great aunt passed away.  The very next day, in fact.  I was working from home when I saw the Eagle fly right over my front yard just as I happened to look out my home office window.  It’s hard to explain but as I grieved over the loss of my aunt, the sight of that majestic bird made me feel better.

The birds I can do without are the turkey vultures. **Attention:  please be advised this story may be distressing to some animal lovers.** While these scavengers are a necessary part of life, I’ve never liked them after they kidnapped one of my cats, Misty.  I’m not kidding.  She is a beautiful silver cat and I was devastated, not only for the fact that she was gone but for all the horrible thoughts that went through my head as I envisioned what she had gone through. 

However, things do not always end as you might expect. 

Believe it or not, three months went by before we finally found out what happened to Misty.  My husband had left the house to run an errand but he returned only a short time later.  I figured he forgot something but instead, he entered the house holding Misty in his arms.  I was dumbstruck.  In fact, I wasn’t sure I was seeing things correctly.  Maybe it was a cat that just looked like Misty.  But, no, it was her and she was pretty freaked out, to put it lightly.  I checked her over and other than a wound on her head that had not yet completely healed, she was pretty healthy.  My only thought was that she fought for her life, causing the awful-minded turkey vulture to drop her where she must have struck her head.  My husband found her as she was crossing our driveway so she was close by but apparently she had not yet figured out her way home. 

Ever heard of a cat with amnesia?  That was my favorite guess as to why she never made it back home on her own.

Ever heard of a cat with agoraphobia? 

I will say for a fact that Misty had agoraphobia.  She would not exit our house to go outside for a full six months after she was brought back home.  She would go to the door.  She would peer out the door when I opened it.  But after a few sniffs, she would quickly turn around and scramble back into the living room.  And when she finally did venture out?  It was to go out the front door, walk alongside the house under the eaves all the way around to the back door where she would immediately want back inside.  A few months after that, she was brave enough to go outside to the garden area but only if it was to hang out with me.  I’m happy to say she is now back to her old, ornery independent self, and she completely enjoys being outside. 

All the phobias are gone.

But you can bet, every time I see a group of turkey vultures pass over our property, I am checking to make sure I know exactly where my cats are napping.