What Have You Missed?

During the COVID-19 pandemic what have you missed? Have you taken the opportunity to reflect on what is most important to you? Or have you curled up and told the world to check back with you after things get straightened up?

Some things I have missed the most are shopping, baseball, and gathering with family and friends. As I reflected on this, it was a surprise to find I miss shopping. I’m not a big shopper and ordering online is not the same. When you go to a store you have an opportunity to use your senses in the shopping experience, which helps you decide on what to buy. Sometimes you meet a friend you haven’t seen in a long time and viola lunch plans are made.

My sons played baseball and I have spent countless hours watching games and practices. I can keep score with the best. I am not bored with the slower play of the game as there is food most of the time. At the games you become part of a group that cheers for great plays (or for the 6-year-old that runs the right direction) and shakes their heads when plays go wrong. There are people to talk with and sometimes you don’t talk about baseball.

This year we celebrated Mother’s Day with signs and talking with Mom through a window at the retirement center where she lives. While we got comfortable with this form of celebration, it was cut short as there were others waiting to celebrate with their mothers.

Humans are not made to be hermits (with a few exceptions). We need and want to be with other people. For people that have experienced deaths, births, and marriages during this time things have been different. When a person is in their last hours of life and you cannot hold their hand or mourn together everything feels wrong. A newborn child is an opportunity for families to celebrate. But during this separation time, the celebration is with waves through the Internet. It feels like a missed opportunity. A marriage ceremony is a celebration. Today, we watch on our phones as the couple exchange their vows unable to hug them. It isn’t what we do. The separation has been eased with the Internet, but it doesn’t replace being there for these times.

When we can gather again, let’s not take these celebration opportunities for granted. Don’t find a reason to skip going to the hospital to say goodbye or miss the funeral. Don’t wait until later to see the new baby and parents. Go to the wedding and enjoy one more dance.

Summer Heat

Where I live July is one of the hottest months of the year. The heat and humidity can be oppressive, forcing natives to seek relief inside air-conditioned homes, buildings, and cars. When I lived in Wisconsin, I found July was hot but not like Texas hot. In Wisconsin you can be out during the day and the evenings are pleasant especially with a soft serve cone. People complain about the heat, and by Wisconsin standards it is hot, but I grew up in Texas where 100-degree days with evening temperatures in the 80s during July and August are expected.

The Wisconsin summer is enough reason to visit this part of the country. The popular ski shows are found all through the state and Door County fish boils are a treat for tourists and residents alike. Summer is a time for the farmers’ markets to open early and close around noon or when the produce and baked goods are gone. The fishing is good most of the day and swimming is a favorite activity when the fish aren’t biting. Jet skis and boats are found on all the lakes and rivers.

The days are long, over fourteen hours of sunlight in much of the state. That means there is still daylight after work providing time for family activities. With mild evening temperature people stay outdoors and soak up the warmth of summer knowing that autumn will bring the first freeze of the year.

Writing the Jameson stories set in Wisconsin helps me remember how much I loved living there – especially during the summers.

Celebration Memories

How do you make celebrations fun, meaningful, and memorable?

My parents divorced when I was ten and my mother became a single parent with no support from my father. Birthdays, Christmas, Thanksgiving, and almost any other celebration was an opportunity for my mom to shine. We didn’t have any money, but she wanted to make every day we had together special. She baked, cooked, sewed, and went without lunches so we, my siblings and I, could have good memories.

Like today it takes creativity and resourcefulness to take almost nothing and make it seem like the best celebration ever. Every year we would go to see the Forth Worth Independence Day fireworks display. It was free. We participated in a lot of free events.

July Fourth in Fort Worth, Texas is almost always hot and dry. I don’t remember a rained-out celebration. We would drive downtown, carrying a bag with some drinks and cookies, a couple of blankets, and walk many blocks with the pavement so hot you felt it through your shoes. There was a park along the Trinity River where we could watch the show. We would spread out the blankets, grab cookies, play with friends we brought with us and other children in the crowd until it got dark. And then a large booming firework would explode, and we would run to our families and lie back on blankets to watch the magic.

There would be oohs and aahs throughout the park with each volley of fireworks. I always felt a giddy happiness watching the dark sky light up with the colors and patterns. This would go on for about thirty minutes and then it was time to go home. The walk back to the car seemed further and more difficult because we were so tired.

During the show, the world didn’t feel so big – there was magic in the air and we could see it. We weren’t the poor kids – since everyone around us always asked for a homemade cookie we could share with others. But what stuck with me was that my mom would smile the entire evening – and that felt like the magic in the sky had crept into my mom giving her some relief from every day pressures.

Today, I still feel lighthearted and in awe of the magic found in fireworks. Celebrations don’t have to be expensive and filled with stress. They are what we make them. Remember to make them fun, meaningful, and memorable by enjoying the time together.

Challenge Completed = Change

When I accepted my son’s challenge to participate in the NaNoWriMo, I had no idea where that experience would lead me. For years I wrote stories for children. I’m a good storyteller and it was an easy way to entertain kids. The challenge to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days was outside of anything I had ever attempted.

That first night I began writing my first adult fiction. I was amazed at how easily the words flowed. It seemed like the story told itself. By end of the thirty days my first novel was written. A few years later it became Canyon Riddle, my first published work.

Today, I received notification my fourth novel, Mystery on Cherry Ridge, is being released. I am excited about this book and hope the readers enjoy the story.

But if you had told me ten years ago, I would be writing adult fiction I would have laughed in your face. Now I know that writing adult fiction is a lot of fun with fewer limitations than writing children’s stories.

If you have any desire to write, I challenge you to sign up and participate in the Nation Novel Writing Month. You will be busy writing the entire month of November and with the holidays it will seem like too much to attempt. For me, at the end of the day I lock myself in my office with hot tea and chocolate, and then write no matter how busy the day or how late the hour, I write for at least an hour. This method doesn’t work for everyone, but I encourage you to find your inspiration, location, and the time that works for you.

Go ahead and accept the challenge. It could change your life in ways that will surprise you.

Island Inspiration

goose-islandAs we travel, we are exploring many new places and learning much about the history of the U.S. But on occasions, we revisit places. This week we have revisited Goose Island State Park. This state park is outside of Rockport, Texas. We have camped here many times; it’s a favorite place. The park has two camping areas – the wooded and very shady mainland and the island. We prefer to camp on the island because of the openness and the smell of the water is what I enjoy so much. Also, on the island the wind blows a lot and keeps the mosquitoes away.

The island is surrounded by oyster beds, which draws birds to the area. Great place to start your birdwatching skills. While the oyster beds make for good fishing, it is not a place for swimming or walking in the surf. The oyster shells will cut your skin without any mercy.

In my first book, Canyon Riddle, I write a little bit about this place of wonder. While the story is fiction, what I write about Goose Island State Park is true. It is a great place to spend some time. Watching the ships pass by, or holding a fishing pole waiting for the next strike, it is a place to relax, soak up some sun, and get in touch with yourself. Or in my case, provide inspiration for story.

 

Not a Winner, What Happens Now?

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This is the first year in five years I have not completed the NaNoWriMo challenge. Lots of reasons for it, but the biggest reason is I am traveling and couldn’t coordinate everything to find the time to complete the challenge.

On December 1, the sun came up and things continued on. I’m not crying or feeling sad for failing to complete my goal. I am glad for the experience and what I learned about myself.

The NaNoWriMo group sent me a very encouraging email at the end of the competition. This encouragement is typical of the NaNoWriMo community.

What is next? I will continue working on the story with the reality check that traveling takes a lot of my time and energy.

Book 3 via NaNoWriMo

winnerAfter the announcement that Coyote Vengeance, my second book with Texas Ranger Scott Durham, was available for Kindle, I got a question, “Is there going to be a third?” That sounds like a simple question, and the simple answer is yes. However, the book is in my head.

Over the past few months this third book has been forming in my head. The characters talk to me sometimes when I’m sleeping and at other times, like when I’m cooking – not good if there is fire or a sharp knife being used at the time. The characters are very demanding of my time. They have outlined a story for me but haven’t given me the complete storyline. One of the characters had the audacity to tell me to get to work before I forget all the good stuff they have been whispering.

The getting to work will start next week. This is the story that I will write during the NaNoWriMo.

I have participated in four other NaNoWriMo challenges, and have been a winner each time. Winners write at least 50,000 words in thirty days, the month of November. This crazy time fits my writing style, which is take a semblance of a story idea and run with it. For thirty days, I let the characters talk all they want, typing as quickly as I can to keep up with the story. When there are pauses, I push the characters to do something mundane to see what happens. The story writes itself – not ready for publication – but the story is done.

This free-flow of ideas to form a story is not always the best way to write. You can end up with some very awkward situations, i.e. a fight scene where your hero punches himself, or two or more descriptions of a character. But like I said, the story completed for NaNoWriMo is not ready for publication. All those silly inconsistencies are part of the editing and rewrite that takes a raw story and makes it ready for the public.

To become an author, you first must a have a story. NaNoWriMo is a good vehicle to help encourage you to write the story. So, my challenge to you is sign up for NaNoWriMo, lay in the snacks and caffeinated drinks, and write. Write 50,000 words and you are Winner, even if you never look at the story again.

Got to go buy a large quantity of tea (sorry I don’t drink coffee) and an even larger supply of chocolate. Good luck to all of you who will be joining me for the NaNoWriMo Challenge.

Successful Attitude Change with One Word

yellow flowers-shutterstock_121361704“I’ve got to go to work.”

“I’ve got to go to school.”

“I’ve got to go to the doctor.”

“I’ve got to….” Just fill in the blank.

Every day we say we got to do something and it is usually something we would rather not do. But by changing one word you can change your entire attitude towards doing whatever it is you got to do. Not magic, not over hype Pollyanna happiness, but serious attitude change.

That change is go from “got” to “get.” Now think how these same got to dos sound when you get to do them.

“I get to go to work.” I’m not unemployed. Might not be my dream job but I have work, which will make it easier to get a better job.

“I get to go to school.” This provides you the opportunity to learn more, meet more people, and have more (get a better job.)

“I get to go to the doctor.” Unlike much of the world, there is a doctor available for me. To make me feel better.

The chores are the same, but the idea is different when you get to do something. Get implies opportunity, something special just for you, and has an element that this might be fun.

When I’m looking a pile of dirty clothes that need to be washed, I remind myself I get to do the laundry because I have more than one outfit and washer and dryer, and the chore isn’t so bad.

Give “get” a try. You’ll be surprised what a difference that one word can make in your attitude.

 

Evidence of Nothing to Say

Blessed is the man, who having nothing to say, abstains from giving wordy evidence of the fact. George EliotTrash

In this day of public exposure to other people’s ideas and thoughts, this quote should be our constant reminder to watch our words. Social media, blogging, television, etc. gives almost everyone a chance to say their piece. Whether it is to sound off about your latest interaction with poor or great service, a wonderful meal, children’s accomplishments, crazy pet stunts, anger about a current event, or swooning over the love of your life – we all can tell or show the world. But is it wise to do this?

Considering most of the comments make no difference in anyone’s life or will be remembered even a year later, do we post because we need to hear ourselves talk?

I am as guilty as anyone for posting thoughts that are trifles. I try not to do this, as I want to be considered relevant. If I were to post my every thought this would cause others to view me and my comments as meaningless. No one wants to be meaningless.

Does this mean I never post a silly photo or express my anger over a situation? No. I just try to think about what I want to post and decide if it has any value to anyone. Just before I click publish, I stop and ask, “Will this make someone smile, or think about a problem they may not have considered before? Or is it just babbling?” As you might expect, there are more posts in the trash than you will find here.

The Day Everything Changed in My Life

imageFlag Day. June 14 – a significant day in my life. It’s the day my first son was born – I became a mother. This event has changed and shaped everything in my life since that moment.

You are never really prepared to be a mother, even if you have read the best books, had an excellent role model, and babysat until you know everything about children. But then you have your own, and everything goes out the window.

I’m sure someone told me that every child has a unique personality, but I didn’t listen. After all, I was the eldest of four children and had practically raised my siblings. Sheesh! I was such an idiot to think I knew how to be a mother.

The learning started a few minutes before the nurse handed me my precious child to feed for the first time. The nurse took a few seconds to explain what to do and told me to relax. Like that’s going to happen! It’s my first child. A multitude of questions popped into my head at that moment as I gazed on that small bundle lying so still. What if I do something wrong, will he be scarred for life?

The nurse laid the child in my arms, and immediately he began to cry. I looked up in a panic, but the nurse was totally unaware he was crying. She was helping me get ready to nurse my baby. I watched as the bundle began to twist and turn. Soon an arm and foot were out of the blanket and flapping around. The nurse smiles and encourages me to try feeding him.

Feed him? He was practically turned over in my arms. Tears formed in my eyes as I tried to smile thinking, “I’m a failure as a mother!” The nurse patted my shoulder and made a couple of magical waves of her hands, and my baby was snuggled back into his blanket.

So life as a mother began. Being a mother isn’t for weak people. Also, it is best to have a partner to make the job easier. Having a partner gives you someone to turn to when your perfect child becomes an absolute monster turning your dryer into a hiding place for the cat. Which by the way, cats don’t mind being put in the dryer as long as it’s not turned on. Turn the dryer on and between the bumping and howling you fear it has become demon possessed.

Single moms (and dads) have their work cut out for them. If you should ever wonder why they are always tired, the answer is found when you look at their child and see he is growing, healthy, and happy.

A child can drain you of energy, test your emotional well-being, and cause you to question your sanity almost every day. But when the child is sleeping on your shoulder or runs across a room as fast as their little legs can carry them to give you a jelly covered kiss, you realize this is about as good as it gets.

To my first born son, happy birthday and thanks for giving me so much.