CHEERS TO THE HOLDAYS

images_271This is the most fun-time of the year. Family members snooping in closets, under beds, and anywhere they can remember, from last year, where presents were hid. And yes, the trips to stores to drop gifts, unwrapped, off at the places for families who need gifts. This is the important part of the holiday season…sharing. Giving rather than receiving.
I remember years ago, my parents driving me and a backseat full of gifts to parts of town I did not know existed. When we stopped in front of homes, some of them did not have lights, but candles. I thought this was neat, until my mom told me the truth about their candles. Even today, I have problems with lighting candles, except at church.
Still we all know there are discrepancies in the lives of people we know and people we do not know. It becomes our cheer to give to those whose lives are not as fortunate
as ours.

One family we encountered had two little boys….all I could think of was balls, toys, warm clothes, until the oldest kept looking around and shaking his head. When I asked if he was okay, he nodded and turned to go still looking around. “Did you loose something?” I asked. The answer came back in a whisper…”No, guess Santa never heard me.”

“What did you want from Santa?”

“A new coat for my mom, and a puppy for my brother.”

My heart dropped down to my knees. He wanted for his mom and his brother but nothing for him. “Maybe, Santa had his sleigh full and couldn’t get these inside. If he doesn’t come back tonight, we will search for him tomorrow.”

“Really, you’d help me?”

My dad turned his head around and surprised me….”Of course, but you need to keep this a secret.”

The little boy’s eyes widened as he shook his head up and down.

“If we can find Santa tonight, we’ll be back; but if we have to wait until Christmas Day, we may be a little late.”

“Okay.”

No other response. This little boy believed both of us.

“Dad, what are we going to do?”

“Everything except the puppy. They can’t feed their own family, and certainly not a dog. But, you, my daughter, will take him to the Animal Shelter and let him play with all the dogs he and his brother can handle.  AND…This will be once a month for the next year.”

I noticed the change in my Dad’s voice and I knew what he meant. A promise is your word to another person and it cannot be broken.

The next day, we drove by their house. The candles were all lit, singing came through the cracks in the doors and windows. It was a happy sound, and next to me was a huge hairy dog. We opened up car doors and started toward the house. The singing stopped, and the family members met us on the rickety front porch.

“We found Santa,” my dad hollered, but he only had a few things left. “A new coat for mom, a new flannel shirt for dad, clothes for both of you boys, and a new part-time pet. Meet, “Big Boy.” We will bring him by every so often and my daughter will take you with her to help at the animal shelter. Santa smiled as he got his sleigh off toward the North Pole.

“Merry Christmas to all who believe.”

LAUGH A LOT

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 Laughter cures. Problems are more manageable when you have a smile on your face. This makes things look smaller and when problems shrink, life looks a little better. A smile on your face also makes others wonder what you have been doing, or what you are planning. Stop for a few seconds and look around you. This could be at your friends, co-workers, family members or strangers. How many of these people you see are smiling? Everyone has so much stress in their lives, they have forgotten how to smile. No, not the little attempt, but a big lip-smackin smile that covers all of the face, eyes included.
Then you have to be able to laugh at yourself. When this happens, other people will either join in or shake their heads at your behavior. Laughter has a way of helping other people see a different side of life. Even babies enjoy watching laughter and soon are able to do this on their own. They learn their own voice, the wave of their hands, and the happy face of their mother, father, brother, sister, and even the dog. Soon, the baby learns of the noise that comes from their mouths and the fun begins. Giggles are another sound that a baby learns and practices quite often.
As we grow older, we forget about a lot of the practice we’ve had and all of a sudden — no laughter. We become dull, uninterested in a lot of life, and wonder what has happened.  WE FORGOT TO LAUGH. What’s wrong with laughing at every thing we can. It is a healthy attitude that gives us a full life and we are lucky .
Have you ever noticed a pet respond to laughter? They do, just as other people respond to our positive attitudes. You have a new pet and it listens to your speech and mannerisms. Oh, yes they do. When you are happy and smiling, your pet feels the warmth and gives back in their own way. They are attentive and become attached to the routine you established with them. They are some of our best friends.
Still, there is another area of life that needs smiles, laughter and hugs. How about our grandparents, aunts, uncles, or the older generation of our families or friends. Loneliness becomes the better part of their lives and  we can brighten their days with a smile and laughter about ‘the old times.’ When there is laughter, there is no age limit and one size fits all. Do yourselves a big favor and Laugh. Laugh A LOT. Laugh at everything. It’s free, non-fattening, great stomach exercise, increases the lung capacity and makes everyone feel better.
Happy You. Happy Laughing. Happy Times.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where is your concentration?

images_074 Yes, here I am searching for my concentration. As you can see, there is a lot of scraps of paper, twisted paper, eyes staring into space, and nothing getting done. I am in that lost phase of work. I can’t focus and my mind strays to other projects, which are not complete. What is going on? OVERLOAD. One word says it all, but why? We will look into this situation and it is shared by many. A study from Microsoft, about a year ago, discovered we have an average attention span of eight seconds. EIGHT? So, I began counting 1, 2,…..up to 8. Sure is not a long time. Our brain takes in most everything and do you realize how fast it works to keep us going on different projects? No wonder we get lost, confused, when there is so much to do and so little time. We need to step back…STOP, LOOK, LISTEN.
With the stop part, look around where you are and count the ways of instant gratification.  I can name just a few from my desk:  television,  channel changer (or whatever you want to call it), microwave, cell phone, coffee maker, any device that helps us get something faster and faster. Our brain picks these up and gets habituated to the stimuli. This is where we need to STOP from time to time and maintain your concentration. Give the brain a break. Take some deep breaths and slow your thoughts and heart rate down. Inhale in slow motion, and exhale in slow motion. LISTEN to yourself as you list the tasks you need to do. There are scads of them, but do they need to be done immediately? If there are a lot, make a list and do it the ‘old’ fashioned way…prioritize. When you stop to make the list, you are in a sense giving the brain a breather. As you prioritize, the list may get smaller and you can incorporate some tasks.
We have wrapped ourselves around multitasking and then find we need to go back and make corrections. A cell phone is a nightmare when it is turned on 24/7. You may not answer, but always look to see who is calling or who has called and this distracts you from what you are doing. Then we have to look back to what we were doing and sometimes the thoughts are not there or we cannot put them back in the same pace. Bless our brain, it can’t handle more than two big tasks simultaneously. A part of out brain is designed to work on one task while another part of our brain focuses on another task. There is no room for a third task.
Yet we can help ourselves by deep breathing and keeping our mind in the present instead of letting it wonder. This can be accomplished by turning off the cell phone or putting it on a ‘do not disturb’ notification, and then hiding it in a drawer. You will not fall off the earth. Now, think again at the difference between your days and your nights. (It might be backwards if you have a night job.) We all know to dwindle down the TV, the computer, and begin to relax before we fall into bed. At night your breaths become less labored, more relaxed, and your brain gets energized. You wake up to a new day with energy and the ability to make this YOUR CONCENTRATION DAY. How many times have we been told….stop and smell the roses. With our level of activities daily, now is the time to give those roses some sniffs.
This also applies to exercise. We need this to keep our bodies and mind working and in good order. Sometimes, we work frantically hoping to gain the results of a slimmer body, more curves, bigger biceps. Then after a couple of weeks, the gym doesn’t look so inviting. We want instant gratification.  But, do you stop and ask yourselves, how long it took you to get out-of-shape? No. Slow down and get your only body in shape physically, mentally, and spiritually. Time is a great healer of all ails, but it takes time, perseverance, and you will gain results as well as your brain.

Happy Concentration. Healthy You. A Happier You.

 

A DIGITAL VACATION

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I can hear your voices raised to the highest pitch. I can also picture your fingers twitch as they cannot touch the keys. Nerves bring your blood pressure to the boiling point. Your throat is tight, dry, and even the glass of cold water sitting next to you goes warm.

I CANNOT DO THIS.  YES, YOU CAN. THIS IS YOUR BREAK AWAY FROM ALL OF IT.

You are on your digital vacation. Enjoy yourself, but you don’t know how. This is the biggest reason for getting up, shutting down the machine, turning off the printer, and darken the light above your desk. You are on a sobriety binge-I AM A COMPUTER-AHOLIC. Now, repeat this small statement over and over and over whenever necessary. Why? We become addicted to our instant gratification of fingers and the keyboard, instant answers to our e-mails, instant….instant….instant.
Can you imagine what it was like for our Ancestors? Mail delivery or just neighborly information received when the horse and rider passed through. We did not realize that just beyond the sky, where the sun sets and the other side with the moon filling up the sky, were newer inventions. We accepted what we received and gave thanks for the information. Then, we were told there were more ways to get the news faster, and the roller-coaster picked up speed.
We forgot how to watch the stars, see how the moon became the night focal point, or faded as the huge ball of yellow lighted up the sky and gave us warmth. These special seasons that help us grow crops to feed families, and the farm animals. Then, with the advance of technology, we proceeded to make everything happen NOW. After years of newer inventions we want MORE and MORE, FASTER and FASTER.
Some days are for breaks. A break where you can walk away from your computer without guilt. We all need a computer vacation and RELAX. How can I relax if I am not working on my computer?  OOPS! This is the answer to why you need a break.
We write and write every day. If I don’t write, I won’t get paid. But have you ever felt that some days are not for writing. Some days are for thinking about writing and what will come next. Some days are for planning ahead for your future. Some days are for just doing nothing. Nothing in the sense of getting in touch with yourself and your soul. Some days are for dreaming about the next writing venture and some days are for meeting friends for breakfast or lunch and laughing, talking sharing and keeping in touch with others. You may have to remember how to do all of this, but you need this as much as you need your vacation from technology.
                   RENEW YOUR SPIRIT.  RENEW FRIENDSHIPS.
                             HAPPY COMPUTER VACATION.

 

Inspire Yourself

images_032How do you inspire yourself when your thoughts seem to be made of clay. Nothing sticks together or when it does, there is no form or clarity to the mold. Some days, my computer screen stays empty. No matter what I write, my words make no sense. Okay, maybe a new sheet of paper will inspire me to write by hand all my thoughts. Oops! Another blank page. Music, this will give me a different inspiration. Soon, I am busy changing stations or channels on the television. Nothing begins to form. And then I get an uneasy feeling–something is not right.

When we need inspiration, we need to get out of our rut by getting out of our writing space. Exploration is a great way to begin. We need something different, or we need to ‘people’ watch, or be with other people. Sitting at a desk, staring at a computer screen or blank notebook, is a lonely life unless you include others into your space. Balancing your life is one important part of the inspiration process. You need a regular schedule that includes, exercise, fun, checking out new places, and getting out with friends. This means getting your life back in balance and when you do, your writing will improve and the blank screen will be full of new words.

Remember, you do not have to go around the world for inspiration, this will come naturally when you become alive and do what you like. When you get outside your writing world, there is another world waiting for you to explore. This other world is your inspiration for writing.  Confused? No way.

Obstacles are there to make certain you know how to overcome them and live your passions to the fullest. Writing is a passion and your creative passion can fulfill your dreams.

Live life. Enjoy life. Be passionate and your writing will show this.

HAPPY WRITING.  HAPPY INSPIRATION(S). HAPPY YOU.

 

 

 

Healthy Distractions

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You walk by your desk, stare at the computer and close your eyes. Even the thought of writing is uninviting. You need more words filling the manuscript and all you have is a blank mind. Empty today, so you walk away. Even your shoulders are heavy as the muse lays more guilt on each one.
Distraction is what you need, BUT it has to be a healthy distraction. Not just a passing idea that lasts a few minutes, but one to jump-start your creative endeavors. You feel shame and clench your fingers. It makes a writer feel unworthy of their words as peers will be disappointed in them.
Hey, wake up and think of something that interests you. Yes, YOU. Now is the time to revisit areas in your memory and pull yourselves up out of the quicksand. Writing is a solitary endeavor and you need a little social life.This will give you a boost forward. Ladies, remember the lunches with friends and guys remember the runs with your friends. These bring back memories of good times before writing took over your lives. Taking time for a social life will improve your writing.
How long has it been since you dug in the dirt? Gardening can grow flower, vegetables as well as your thoughts. This is a ‘healthy’ distraction. Ladies, what about knitting or crocheting like you did eons ago. Or, maybe you dabbled in the paints. Try again. Guys, remember how you used to ‘tinker’ with the car, lawn mower or fix the drip inside the home? When a writer turns to other matters, the pride in their work is returned in abundance. This is what our writing should do for us.
This reminded me of the ‘Adult Coloring Book’. No one is looking over our shoulders to check for coloring outside the line. It is fun and frees the mind at the same time.
Healthy distractions open up thoughts and bursts your energy. These keep your mind alert and excited. When they are release you will find your characters respond to the new freedom.
Watch Out…Healthy Distractions turned loose can invigorate each scene, each page and you will have happy characters and your writing will flow. You will never look at your desk and computer with despair, but elation at the ideas abounding in your head.

HAPPY WRITING. HAPPY HEALTHY DISTRACTIONS. HAPPY CHARACTERS.

 

 

 

I NEED INSPIRATION

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Have you ever plopped your tush in the chair, found the keys on the keyboard, and nothing entered your mind? You know what you want to do…write…but your mental and emotional energies are not connecting. Why? Are there problems in your life that need attention before your writing? I know, as this has happened to me. My head says ‘WRITE. WRITE. WRITE.’ but the emotional side is in turmoil. Knowing you should write and not allowing yourself the attention you need to be healthy, will not improve your writing. I’ve tried this and my writing comes back like a stranger playing on the keyboard. The writing is unacceptable, terrible, and the spelling is at a first grader’s level. Still, I keep plugging along hitting the keys until the DELETE KEY is my only salvation. Today, is my day to take care of me and I shut down the computer.
Inspiration is not forced, it is waiting for you to find this part of your writing. Sitting at the keyboard is not the way to go. Get yourself out. Yes, out of the chair, out of the house, and explore an area of town that is unknown to you. Stop in at a coffee shop and watch the special coffee show pets. Imagine this…dogs on leashes sitting beside their owners and not growling at another dog. Or Fluffy sitting in a patron’s lap. No hisses. No claws out. Just a relaxed cat snuggling up to its owner. Each pet is so thrilled to be out on a “date” with their owner and no keyboard around.
I had kept myself glued to the chair, wanting to write, and nothing happening. Getting out and about, I find as a writer, I need to play, live, be with others, and absorb living from everyone.
Get out of the box you made for yourself and visualize your writing  in a new corner of your neighborhood. Take yourself to an afternoon movie and sit wherever you want. Splurge on a box of popcorn and notice the difference in the taste. Take yourself to breakfast. I love the WAFFLE HOUSE. Food is fantastic and you can eat breakfast at any time. Coffee is always fresh and hot. The order language is foreign, but works. I always get what I ordered. Customers and staff are friendly and informative, if you ask questions.
You need to balance your life with whatever you like to do. JUST DO IT! Do not write without checking for the balance and you will see your writing take off. New ideas hit the waves and the creative juices fill your passions for writing. Have fun.
Now, a thank you to all of my readers. Your comments are always welcome, and I would like to hear from you about stories, articles, or what you want to see on my blog. What do you want? I consider this our blog and welcome your suggestions.
On a personal note, I received an invite to a Cancer Survivors’ Celebration, from Piedmont Cancer, for a picnic, parade on the baseball field on Sunday June 12, before the game, and see the Atlanta Braves vs. Chicago Cubs. Will I be there? You bet your dollar I will. It’s been a hard row, but with faith, friends, family, and all the wonderful doctors and staff at Piedmont Cancer, we’ve made the journey.

 

 

Treasures. Where?

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If you hunt for treasures, you know they come in different places. Some of the best are the neighborhood garage sales or yard sales. You drive by and something grabs your attention. The next thing you know, you’ve parked and meandered up the driveway. Maybe this diversion will unblock the sticking point in your story.

As you look around, you see the same things from other garage sales:  clothes, dishes, ornaments, and tables filled with gadgets. Still, something nags at your mind and you continue walking around. Nothing. Then as you start to leave, in a small trash basket is a photo album. For some reason, this makes a special call to your heart and mind. You look at the sticker, 25 cents, and you pay the cashier as you walk out. There is a tingling in your hand as you carry this purchase out to your car. What is in here? You cannot wait to drive home, but sit in the car and open this album. Heartbeats are rapid as you look and see pictures and more pictures from years ago of a family. Your mind registers and you think…stories and more stories.

You hurry home, park, run inside and know you have found many treasures in this old album. But there is a problem…no names, no dates, no hand written information. As you continue through the photos, they are not the same people. Now, you are confused, but excited. You look at faces, landscapes, clothes, and know these are not all from a certain era. The excitement continues as you make notes and search the internet. Nothing comes up that will solve your questions, and you do different searches. Nothing.

You hear a whisper and your muse tells you a secret. “Here is your chance to make these people come alive again. Study each picture and give life to this album. It is your opportunity to celebrate each picture from the past with stories of the future.”

As you begin to study and write, each picture brings to you a sense of family and reality. You continue to write and write and write. All other avenues are closed, only the current street is open for you. Where you stopped on your story is where this story picks up. They are connected and you reach out and touch the album. Where you once felt excitement is now replaced with a respect and solitude for all of the people in the pictures. Your writing is tighter, the warmth you bring to each page is from your heart, and as you continue the pictures smile back at you.

Treasures from the unknown are giving you and your writing a push forward from the past. You keep writing and know that this Garage Sale is one you and each of the people pictured in the album will continue into the future.

Listen to your heart, use your head, and keep your hands on the keyboard or notebook. You, as a writer, make characters come alive and live today.  Keep Writing.

Happy Writing.  Happy You.

 

 

REVIEWS?

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Reviews are part of the writing process, whether good, bad or indifferent. What writers do with them are sometimes a shrug of the shoulders. Let’s take a this to a different level. I have noticed more and more questions coming in from social media. What to do? How to handle emotions? Ignore? This is why I will take a stab at my own observations.

We write because of a fire that burns inside us. Stories we want to share. After months and months of research, writing, editing, searching for an agent or publisher or deciding to self-publish, we still keep plugging on making this the best book we can. Edits, edits, and edits are done over and over until the publisher or the author thinks this is the best.

The next steps are the cover and the ‘blurb’. You  look at the cover and decide if this entices you enough to look at the ‘blurb’. Then you notice your book is in the general “Romance” section, and you know it is romance and suspense. Sometimes, our books get into sections of a bookstore, or even online where we do not expect to see them.

A writer writes what she or he sees, feels, imagines, or has experienced. This may take a year or years to get the experiences onto the computer screen. Then  a publisher or agent comes in with their view points. Next, the bookstore puts the book into a different section.

As writers, we know our work is good, but we cannot please every reader. Each reader has an opportunity to express their thoughts on a particular book. However, I have found a lot of social medial avenues are not reviews on the books. Sometimes the reader has not even read the book, but wants to get their information online, so others will see their names on social media.

As writers, we have the option of reading and responding or not responding to these reviews. Why, we can see they have not read the book, ignore the content, or the genre of the book.

Just remember, a reader took time to bash your book and another reader took time to share a good report of your book.  Move on without a conversation on either the good or the bad. Reviews and Reviewers are part of the process. Your  part of the process is to KEEP writing.

HAPPY WRITING.  HAPPY DAY.  HAPPY YOU.

 

 

 

 

Fortune Cookies and Writing

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You’re kidding. What do these have in common with writing? Words . . . not just any words, but words with ideas.
Late one afternoon, a few of my book club members decided to go out for an oriental dinner before the meeting. Some of the members are writers and others readers of books. After the last course, Fortune Cookies became the centerpiece of the table. A ‘savage’ grab got our fortune right in front of us. One by one, we read our fortunes out loud. Voices got softer as each cookie not got read.
“Stop,” one in the group hollered. “These are all about kidnapping, murder, and death. Who did this sinister trick, and no, it is not funny.” We looked around the table. No fingers pointed to another. No eyes stared at a specific person. One lady, a writer of mystery answered, “This helps me know which character will go over the edge.”
“Why not put all of our fortunes together and see what we have,” I said. “We might be on to the beginning of a fantastic book.” All I got was silence and big eye stares.
After our review of the book for the evening, I returned home and begin thinking about fortune cookies and writing. They do have a lot in common. First, someone has written all of these proverbs, humorous sayings, statements, predictions, advice, and messages. Fortune cookies are not new and have been around for a long time, and remind me of words at play. Isn’t this what a writer does? Play with words until the right ones enter the mind and the fingers make this known on the keyboard. Here you get a good meal and at the end, possibilities for a new story.
The next time you open a fortune cookie, keep your message. No you cannot borrow or exchange your cookie with others. This was the message YOU picked up. It is YOUR personal message. Think of this as a prompt for your writing. Start keeping these fortune cookie messages in a jar, box, envelope, or what you have handy. Now, you have your own Fortune Cookie Prompt Jar. When you get stuck, dig in and find a new message. If you’ve used it before, replace and get another. Think of all the story starters these create and enjoy your Fortune Cookie Treasures.
Happy Hunting. Happy Fortunes. Happy Writing.
                                 HAPPY YOU.