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!

Nothing To Fear

Earlier this week, I thought about writing and why I started in the first place. In school, I loved to write reports, essays or anything that involved some sort of creative writing. Writing was something I enjoyed that I didn't have to work very hard at to get good grades. Some teachers would let you out of class to enjoy free time if you finished your writing project (providing they were happy with it) and that was a—dangling carrot. Years flew by and I wrote here and there but mainly to advocate for my disabled son. When he passed away the house went silent and so did my pen. Then one day I visited my parents and listened to my father's recollection of his thrashing days. Later that night, I dreamt about one of his shared childhood memories and I woke up knowing what would make me happy. I wanted to write realistic stories that I wanted to read. The only problem now—facing the dreaded computer. Before 2008, I rarely had the opportunity to lay my fingers on a keyboard. I certainly didn’t have the time or energy to sit down and give it an honest try. I’m not complaining. Like most of us, I had other things in my life that took priority, but my love for writing pushed me on. I admit in the beginning, I was scared of my computer. I didn’t think it would eat me alive, or something silly like that but I feared the permanent damage I could inflict upon myself and the rest of the world. If I’d only known then, that without the access code to home land security or the FBI files, everyone was safe. But that irrational fear was nothing compared to the fear of appearing ignorant. It seemed like everyone had gone to technology island and I had missed the boat. I’ve come a long way on this cruise but I have much farther to go before I’m to where my fellow writers have docked. I'm comfortable enough these days with the computer and I hope to continue learning how to use it. I now often think about how it was for writers years ago using the old typewriters. They had to be so deadly accurate with their thoughts and words or had plenty of white out handy. Thinking about them, I feel blessed for technology instead of fearful of it.  

Just a Little Patience

Come on already! It feels like January but the calendar says it's April. Maybe it's... Japril. It's hard to believe spring has sprung when snowflakes continue to fall and temperatures are running twenty degrees lower than normal. I guess it gives me more time to submit my book. I know if it were nice outside I would find it hard to sit at a desk and research agencies and their agents. A writer friend of mine said that querying isn't for the faint at heart. She was definitely right. It takes a lot more time and effort than what a person would think. Like I said in my last blog, the average number of queries a new writer sends out before someone agrees to represent their book is around one to four hundred. I'm no where close to that. Meanwhile, in my effort to muster up some patience, I decide to google what it means to be patient: Bearing pain or trials without complaint / showing self-control / steadfast, persevering. I can't complain because I do love to write and if I refrain from ripping my hair out after each rejection, I am showing self-control. I'm more than determined to push on and move forward. I know a mountain is in front of me, but it doesn't scare me as much as it used to. I've already climbed a few on this journey.

A Forrest Gump Attitude

Many people have seen the movie Forrest Gump several times. Most can agree the main character, Forrest, isn't the most intelligent. However, he isn't afraid to do what is called upon him and is driven by his beliefs. That said, I've often told people in challenging situations to try and take on the Forrest Gump attitude. It being an older movie, I remind them of how Forrest perseveres ahead and does the best thing he can despite the fact that those around him seem to have little faith in him or the situation they're currently in. The weird part about that fictional movie is that the moral of the story is usually true. Many times in real life things work out better than you could ever imagine if you just put your best foot forward. I remind myself that in the publishing business, it's not uncommon to submit your book one to four hundred times before someone agrees to represent it. So far, I've submitted my book over thirty times to agents. I realize to get any feed back is a rare and positive thing. I've had a couple of impersonal rejections (Dear Author) and some that say they're simply not interested. Some rejections I've received are very positive, saying that they're not interested but keep querying because another agent will take it. One agent (My dream agent) thought it was a good story but didn't think a seventies romance was salable. She went so far as to challenge me to keep on querying and prove her wrong. I think about Forrest Gump and push on!

Love at First Sight

I was a waitress/ bartender for twenty plus years. I liked waitressing and anyone in food service can testify that tips greatly depend on being attentive. I kept an eye on the bar and on my tables and doing so I noticed a thing or two about longtime committed couples. Many barely spoke to one another as they waited for their food and if they did, it was a brief comment or an occasional nod. Often, it seemed to be a quiet time while their attention was focused on other things or places in the room. Thankfully, my faith in romance was restored after I met Bill and Ginny, a couple in their late seventies. They rendezvoused for lunch every week after he played golf with the guys and she quilted with the gals. It wouldn't take long for them to be settled at a table and be enthralled in one another's account of the day's events. Their eyes and minds stayed on each other and it was obvious that they truly loved being with one another. I learned later they had met during World War II when he came to a dance hall with some navy buddies. Bill told me it was her sparkling eyes and captivating smile that drew him in from across the room. Ginny said something had drawn them together like magnets. It had to have been powerful, because she was engaged to someone else at the time and two weeks after meeting Bill, they were married. I was a honored to be a guest at their fiftieth wedding anniversary. The sparkle was still in her eyes that day and the way he looked at her, I got a glimpse of what happened at that dance hall back in the early 1940's. I still believe they were the most in love couple that I've ever met. This Valentine's Day/Night when you're with your sweetie remember it isn't just about the flowers and the chocolates or the fine dining. It's about spending your time and full attention on the one you love.

Rays of Hope

I was going to write about winter being half over but who cares about the weather when the Vikings are just one game away from the Super Bowl? I think about the team members and imagine the pressure they must be feeling. To me it all falls into three categories: Winning, Losing, and Never Trying. Winning is the best feeling in the world and no one can argue about that. All your efforts have finally paid off and because of them...you won! Losing, well no one likes to lose, but the bright side is that you did your best. You can learn from your mistakes and hopefully, you'll win next time. Then there's never trying...that's the real failure. When you don't even try to live up to your potential, that can eat away at you. So whatever happens next Sunday is going to be a success no matter what. This Minnesota football team isn't an accidental miracle, these guys are winners because they strive to give it their all. Go Vikings!!

The New Year’s Banquet

Do you ever notice that year after year we make the same old New Year's resolutions? Topping the list are vows of weight loss, exercise, saving money, finishing old projects, or maybe even finding a new job. I believe goals keep us motivated and most of us find self satisfaction once they've been achieved. My question is: Why do some goals get left on the tread mill? At the beginning of the year we're hungry for change and sit down at the table starved but end up too full to finish. Our goals end up like left overs pushed to the back of the fridge—out of sight and out of mind. Perhaps our eyes were bigger than our stomaches. So this year maybe when we chose our resolutions we should order a la carte instead of a full entree. I'm going to limit the amount of goals I make and focus more on the ones most important. This year I'm going straight for the dessert table...and publish my book!