Lighten Up and Laugh

The sun played hide and seek (mostly hide) for most of last fall, making it one of the darkest autumns I can remember. I read some where that during months with less sun shine people have reported more hair loss than usual. It seems to me, if the hair loss theory were true, all of us would have gotten wigs for Christmas last year. Our gloomy fall was then followed by a dreary winter with record breaking snow depths and cold temperatures. Okay, we don't need to be reminded how bad the weather has been for the last six months. We are more than ready to put all that behind us and move forward. But moving forward has launched us into a transition phase. The  time of the year when signs of spring appear but the weather is still uncooperative. It seems we're in limbo and nice weather is close and yet so far away. We've managed to keep a good attitude the last six months because we're Minnesotans but really, how much more can we take? The question is: How do you keep a good attitude through this whole thing? How about laughing? A heard about a study that connects the ability to laugh at ourselves to higher levels of optimism, better moods and happiness overall. I learned that laughter can relieve stress and tension. Hearty laughter helps our bodies relax up to forty-five minutes after. Laughter is good for your heart because it expands the inner lining of your blood vessels and increases blood flow. It also can temporarily relieve physical pain and burn calories. Ten or fifteen minutes of laughter a day can help you lose three to four pounds in a year. A laughter study in Norway claims that people with a good sense of humor lived longer than people who didn't laugh as often. So after you're done pushing around mountains of snow and slush. Go inside and have a hot chocolate (or a glass of wine if need be) and watch a comedy flick or listen to a good stand-up comedian. Do what ever it takes to laugh at yourself and lighten up. Remember, life is short and laughter is what makes the world go around—so don't let it stop spinning.

Romance Before Hallmark

It's estimated that 145-150 million greeting cards are sold on Valentines Day each year. It's second to the biggest greeting card exchange day—Christmas. If each card averages around seven dollars that's—1.05 billion dollars—Wow! That's a lot of money. I would think those statics aren't just for one single company. In any case, it's America and everyone has the right to prosper. It makes me wonder what people did before Hallmark. I know some made homemade Valentines. They got out the construction paper, scissors, and glue. I would think putting the card together would be the easy part. But how strange it must have been for them to actually think about their feelings and write them down. It's likely the verses in the cards wouldn't have been as long, but more heartfelt. Short and sweet and to the point. The whole card would have meant so much more to the recipient. Especially the words, originally composed for them by their own true love. Not someone else's declaration of love. Nowadays, many people would say they're not poets and aren't capable of writing love verses, and most wouldn't take the time. I would tell them to write what's in their heart. How long would that take? And how romantic it would be for them to try? Put it this way, if my husband made me a card and wrote the verses, it would be framed on my wall. Oh well, any card I receive that brings me to tears has accomplished something special. Happy Valentines Day.

Making Resolutions or Changes?

Like every year, some of my friends and family members have told me about their New Year's resolutions. I know that learning and implementing a different behavior is always a battle and I'm impressed by their good intentions. But I wonder, Why not make the changes instead of just working on them? Tell yourself, This is what I want, and go for it. This year I've decided to make changes instead of resolutions. Last fall, I attended a workshop and was told the title of my book didn't reflect a romance novel. I also learned that most editors and agents in the current market are more interested in a trilogy than most individual books. Soon after the workshop, I attended a retreat and was basically told the same thing: The title of my book should be easily recognized as a romance and trilogies are selling. Luckily, a few years ago I interviewed a group of farmers in the Montevideo area and learned enough information to write a three book series. Things about their history and the struggles they endured in the early to mid-seventies. And of course, a good romance always adds something special to the mix, making it all the more heartfelt. I mulled for weeks on what would be the best title for my novel. It had to be something that reflected who and what my book was about. And that answer is—sugar beet farmers. So, I've decided to change the title of my book to "Heartbeat of Desire." I'm now editing my second book called "Revenge in a Heartbeat." The third book which I'm still outlining is going to be called "Only a Heartbeat Away." The series title will be "The Heartbeat Series." I recently entered Romance Writers of America's largest contest for unpublished writers—The Golden Heart Contest. This is the last year for the prestigious contest, and it's the biggy for someone who hasn't yet published. Just qualifying in the contest could be the key to a good promotion for my series. The nominees are announced on March twenty-first of this year. The winners are then announced at RWA's convention in New York City in July. After that time, anyone who entered the contest can get the results of their scores. I'm hopeful this year knowing last year I had some good scores. I did some editing since, and as you know, placed second in the modern history category of the RTTA (Romance Through The Ages) Contest. The rest of this winter I'm planning on finishing the second and the third book as well as getting organized to Indie-publish this spring or early summer. I'm still on my journey and there is so many trails to explore. I wish everyone good luck this year on achieving whatever it is that fills them with the heartbeat of desire. Happy trails to you!  

Christmas: Keeping it Magical

It can't believe it's Christmas time again. I'm not ready. Maybe I've been procrastinating because I generally dread all the hoop-la involved. Don't get me wrong, the best news in this world is the birth of our Savior, but almost everyone agrees the commercialization of the holiday is the worst. Each time I tug the newspaper out of the mailbox and a  stack of heavy ads fall onto the ground, I find it irritating. Or when we put on the television or radio and we're bombarded with a parade of annoying and repetitious commercials. If I had a dollar for every must have or die, electronics commercial I've seen, I'd be a millionaire. And don't forget about that person who finds a new car with a giant bow on it in their driveway. We don't know if the couple later argued about the payments, but we do know for sure, it got everyone in the neighborhood talking.

I do love Christmas and believe in giving gifts and don't want to be labeled Grinch or Scrooge. So I asked myself what was it about Christmas that made it so magical when I was a child? So, I decided to compose a list with a few of those things. 

The smell of: The Christmas tree, cookies baking, oyster stew on Christmas Eve, the house when the family gathered for Christmas dinner, a new doll, cakes baking in an Easy Bake oven, and of course Christmas candy and chocolate. 

The feel of: Tearing wrapping paper, the velvet on a Christmas dress, a hug from Grandma.

The sight of: The Christmas tree before and after Santa came, colored lights reflecting on the snow, relatives you hadn't seen for a while, the anticipation in the faces of my brothers and sisters, cookie crumbs left from Santa on a plate. 

The sound of: The squeal of excitement, caroling, Christmas Eve mass, singing "Silent Night" and thinking about the quiet, wondrous night a bright star lit the sky above Bethlehem and someone was born who changed us all. 

There are so many things that fill your senses and make Christmas a glorious time. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, make a list. I hope you can feel some Christmas magic all over again. Merry Christmas to everyone!

 

 

 

 

A Tribute to Bucket Head

I've decided to embrace the new season by refusing to let cold weather bring me down, especially today. It has been ten years since our son passed away and there hasn't been a day we don't think about him. Throughout his life time, we had some tough times but many good ones as well. I had to laugh when I found this picture while digging through some old photos. Both of our children loved to dress up in old clothes and play for hours. Our son would often put a pail on his head and pretend he was a super hero named "Bucket Head." Bucket Head protected the neighborhood and his family, especially his sister and the cats around the farm. He would fly into outer space and nothing, not bullets or laughter about the bucket on his head, could hurt him. Every Bucket Head adventure always ended with a happy ending and a hug. Now, as I look at the picture, I wish I could be more like him. He loved the world and wanted it to be a safe place, and didn't care what other people thought he should do. In his own words, he wanted everyone to be happy no matter what. I guess that's how he believed every episode in this world should end. We will always love and remember our brave hero who fought against some of life's greatest challenges and conquered them in his own way. Long live the memory of Bucket Head!

Three Red Drops

Halloween is around the corner and I've got a spooky tale to tell. A few weeks ago two close friends of mine, Phoebe and Dan, let me in on a recent experience of theirs and the story made a chill run down my spine. They booked a dinner cruise aboard a river boat based in a popular southern Minnesota town. To extend their get away, they decided to stay in town for two nights at a bed and breakfast not too far from downtown. The B&B was an elaborate, well preserved mansion built in 1884. It had a three stories and each room was named after a famous author. They arrived on Wednesday afternoon and checked into the Lewis Carroll bedchamber on the third floor. Carroll was the author of "Alice in Wonderland" which was written in1865. Phoebe and Dan went out and did some shopping then returned to the B&B after dinner. The weather was a little unstable with rumbling thunder and occasional flashes of lightning and they decided to stay in for the evening. They toured the historic mansion and soon discovered they were the only guests in the whole inn. Calling it a night, they climbed the stairs to the third floor and once there, watched the sheer curtains in the hallway gently blow away from the tall windows. Both Phoebe and Dan giggled on the way to their room and commented that it looked like a scene from a horror movie. Moments after they turned out the lights, Phoebe got up to go the bathroom and Dan rolled over with closed eyes but was still awake. He felt a wave of cool air pass over him and opened his eyes. A woman stood by the door and Dan assumed it was Phoebe.  "Where are you going?" he asked. "Are you going downstairs for some water?" When the woman turned, he could hear that she was crying and knew it wasn't his wife. Her hair was pulled back and up and she wore what Dan called "a long, old fashioned dress." She stared at him and sobbed,"He wouldn't even kiss me." Dan blinked a few times and the woman disappeared. Phoebe asked Dan who he was talking to when she returned from the bathroom and he told her what had happened. My friends aren't not the superstitious types and they blew it off as some kind of crazy nightmare. The next morning they went downstairs for breakfast and didn't lock the door of their room knowing they were the only ones there. The two staff members were busy downstairs making breakfast and Phoebe informed them they didn't have to make their bed but they would like more towels. When they returned to their room, they found the door was locked. This struck them as strange knowing the staff was busy downstairs and the door had to be locked with a key that was in Phoebe's pocket. Again, they shrugged it off and went to town and did a little site seeing. They returned early in the day to freshen up for the dinner cruise.The inn keeper apologized that no one had been to the third floor yet but she would get them cleaned towels right away. Phoebe pulled up the bedspread before the inn keeper got to the room and three, red, glass beads shaped like drops flew onto the floor. They looked like something used in flower arrangements or for decoration. It was strange because no one had been up to the third floor and had the beads been on the bed all night they would've surely landed on the floor earlier. On Friday morning when they were ready to leave Phoebe asked Dan if they should take the glass beads with them. He wanted to forget the whole incident and told her absolutely not. She put the three drops on the mantel above the fireplace in the Lewis Carroll bed chamber and they left. Days later at home, Phoebe went to wash her glasses and was stunned to find one of the red glass beads inside the cleaning cloth in her purse. She was frightened and decided to leave the bead in the garage on the work bench instead of the house. For good measure before leaving the garage she stated,"Evil spirits go away" then bolted for the door. When she grabbed onto the door knob, somehow she cut her hand. This story is true and scary to me because the people involved are very credible. I don't know what the significance is with the three, red, glass drops but if anyone does please let me know. Happy Halloween to all!

The Way We Were

At this time of the year we are reminded that the glorious days of warm weather are slipping away like sands through the hour glass. No matter how much we would like to hang onto them, it's literally not how the world turns. It was, what it was—a May to September romance. We fell hard right from the beginning but who could've possibly resisted? The warm sun was wrapped around us, the flowers bloomed in every gorgeous color and each morning we awoke to an orchestra of birds singing outside our door. Now, knowing the warm weather is leaving us, we consider a desperate rebound affair with autumn. But fall is like a handsome stranger who charms and dazzles but is only in town for a short while. He becomes increasingly colder with each passing day and we quickly realize we will never develop the relationship we had with spring and summer. Then comes the dreaded day the boys of warm weather are gone and we—settle for—old man winter. At the start we convince ourselves that he isn't so bad because he readily helps out with the holiday decorating. He flocks the trees in the yard and covers the ground with a festive blanket of snow, all without being told. Soon, reality sets in and we realize the relationship is more work than what we thought. Our time is suddenly taken up with winter's dirty laundry—cleaning snow off cars, deicing windshields and longer commute times. And if that weren't enough, we are expected to deal with endless piles of snow that have been carelessly left everywhere except for where they belong. Although we feel trapped, we learn to cope with the cold heart of winter for a few months but deep down we long for our old love—warm weather. Miraculously, one day the wind shifts and we find ourselves once again reunited with spring. Despite the ugly breakup months earlier, we are more than willing to give our hearts away without a second thought. The warm weather romance starts over and we joyfully remember "The Way We Were."

Pushing the Limits

My husband and I recently took a trip to the last frontier—Alaska. We saw many unique and beautiful landscapes still being formed by glaciers. We learned that glaciers exhibit a brilliant blue color and are actually moving rivers of ice. Most of the glaciers we saw had receded into the mountains, but a few had flowed down to greet the sea. Some were massive while others were small and perched along side the mountains, but all were pushing their limits and creating something new. Like every cruise, there was a karaoke night and I reluctantly entered after the announcer begged several times for someone to sign up. Twelve people entered and I was one of the six that would go on to the "Voice of the Ocean" contest. Had I known it qualified you for a contest that would require two practices with a live orchestra and a coach, I doubt I would've done entered. At the time, it seemed so easy to say "yes" especially after a couple glasses of wine. They gave us a very short list of songs and told us to pick two. During the first rehearsal, it became evident that one of the contestants was a professional singer and we all knew she would win. One contestant was a former cruise ship (theater) performer and he was great. Another man who was disabled, sang okay on the original karaoke night but rocked it at rehearsal. The youngest of the group was twenty-two and very impressive with the memorization of his song. One lady, the oldest in our group, had a very sultry, sexy voice and I thought she may give the professional singer a run for the win. Everyone was very calm, cool and collected at the rehearsal except for me who appeared as a blundering idiot. It was scary to face a professional orchestra and sing like you knew what you were doing. I couldn't ignore the disappointment on the faces of the musicians when I asked them to take it from the top one more time. I was worried I'd let my coach down as well as myself. The second and final rehearsal included a stage sound check with concise instructions about the show. It got us used to the chairs of the judges sounding off and turning when they picked you. It was very close to the "The Voice" on television. During the second rehearsal, all the contestants except for me, once again appeared composed and confident. I reminded myself that my husband and the countless couples we had met on the cruise would be out in the audience and it was supposed to be a fun activity. Finally, on the last sea day, I found myself in a dressing room waiting to go on. The music was loud and it was hard to hear the person singing from back stage to tell what kind of job they were doing. I was second to perform and held my breath in anticipation. The lights went dark and I stepped onto the designated spot and lifted the microphone to my mouth. I sang the first line of my song and that's when the bright lights magically hit me and I couldn't see much of the crowd in the theater. The words to a Supertramp song came to mind about how wonderful being on the stage feels. I felt like I was alone and sang like no one was listening but me. Believe it or not, I did get all three judges to vote for me. In the end, the professional singer was fabulous and won the trophy. Everyone, including my husband, told me that without a doubt I had came in second. He and the others said that the other four contestants sounded nervous and apparently didn't perform like they had at rehearsal. I enjoyed getting to know them and I know that I received something much better than a trophy—a nice big slice of confidence. The whole experience showed me not to be afraid of pushing my limits to achieve something that I didn't think was possible.

From Out Of The Blue

Many times I catch my self saying, "I wish something exciting would happen." Something positive and fun, but totally unexpected. A few weeks ago I was walking through the woods behind our house and discovered a surprise—literally—from out of the blue. Huge clusters of ripe blueberries hung everywhere like small grapes—ripening in the green grass. This year's perfect weather conditions of ample rain and no late spring frosts, had left the berries thriving like I'd never seen before. Then while in the boat one day, I enjoyed a whimsical cloud formation that seemed magically painted on the perfect sapphire sky above. It made a striking contrast against the deeper shades of blue water below. Days later, unexpectedly, my book—Sowing Northern Fields placed second in one of RWA's biggest contests—2018-Romance Through The Ages (RTTA) Contest. The contest was sponsored by the Hearts Through History Writers. The recognition is huge in getting someone to seriously look at my book. Take a moment this busy summer and appreciate the unanticipated moments that make life much more fun and interesting. I am so thankful for many of the things in my life that come from—out of the blue.

A Wild Roller Coaster Ride

No one would argue that our lives seem to move at roller coaster speeds. We've gotten used to having everything from food to information at our fingertips in a matter of seconds. So when something unexpected happens and we have to wait, it can leave us feeling stranded at the bottom of a dip. I remind myself that ups and downs in life make the ride more interesting and maybe I can learn something from them. Last month after some medical testing, I discovered that I had a herniated esophagus. I was bummed out for while but decided at my age why not just repair it with surgery instead of taking pills for the rest of my life? I didn't dread the surgery as much as being on a full liquid diet for two weeks then on a soft diet for another two. Then a couple of days before the surgery, I got some good news. My book— SOWING NORTHERN FIELDSwas nominated as a finalist in one of Romance Writers of America's big contests for 2018—Romance Through the Ages!  It was a nicely timed diversion that gave me something positive to think about during a difficult time. I'm feeling better now and I'm glad I did the surgery. I can only hope when the winners are announced at the RWA conference this summer, the news will push me up the next hill. Wish me luck!