Giving Thanks

It’s time to give thanks. So much to be thankful for I’m sure I can’t remember everything, but I think it’s worth the effort to try.

  • Thank you God for the abundance in my life and for my family’s health and safety.
  • Thank you to my husband for being a wonderful provider.
  • Thank you to my children for being a constant source of joy and pride in my life.
  • Thank you to my church, for welcoming me with open arms.
  • Thank you to my friends for making me smile.
  • Thank you to my extended family. I love you all and am in awe of your unconditional love.
  • Thank you Nebraska. You’re too darn cold in the winter and humid and buggy in the summer, but the fact is, you’re a good safe place to live.
  • Thank you to my pets who allow me to cuddle them and talk to them like they’re babies.
  • Thank you to my writing group who gives me support in the writing endeavors I undertake.
  • Thank you to so many new friends I’ve made over the last several years through writing groups and events.
  • Thank you so much to every person who reads my books. I can hardly believe I’ve had people from all over this country, and other countries who have read the words I’ve written.
  • Thank you to everyone who leaves a review on any book sales distribution site such as Amazon or Barnes & Nobles. Seriously, good reviews sell books and every 4 & 5 star review is like gold to this author.
  • And thank you to everyone who follows and comments on this blog. It means a lot to me to reach out and touch new people, or connect with those I know.

I have a daughter in St. Louis. The images of violence and anger in Ferguson last night are weighing heavy on my mind this morning. My daughter is safe, and for that I’m so thankful, but I’m mournful about the businesses who had to pay a debt they didn’t owe. I’m grieved over a media who no longer reports facts with a controlled tone, but now blurts out hearsay and gossip in voices that sound like little kids tattling on their friends at recess. And I’m praying we can all remember the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Junior, who said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” We could use a leader like Doctor King right now. I pray for that and I am thankful for every person who tries to bring harmony to the world.

It’s All About That Bird, ‘Bout That Bird, Yeah Turkey

I’ve got that song on my mind, All About That Bass, by Meghan Trainor. But yesterday, I couldn’t stop thinking about that turkey.

I bought a turkey breast last week and kind of forgot about it in my refrigerator. I know. Who can miss a turkey? Well, me, I guess. I kept thinking I was going to make a little Thanksgiving dinner for my husband, son and I, but then the son went back to Lincoln and other things came up, and Sunday afternoon, I realized that bird only had a couple of days left before I wasn’t going to have to start worrying about it being spoiled. And that would be a dirty rotten shame. So, yesterday I decided to make a little Thanksgiving feast for just me and the hubs.

Nope. No company. My daughter won’t be coming home this Thanksgiving. We’ve been invited to a Thanksgiving at my Niece’s family’s home. And my sister and I are cooking a nice big turkey dinner for our church this coming Sunday. So, no worries, I’ll get my share of stuffing and mashed potatoes, and then some. But I love to make that meal in my kitchen and eat it at my table. It’s my favorite meal to cook. And so I did. Smaller portions, just enough for three servings and some leftover turkey. The rest of it is gone already. And it was delish!

I don’t fear the bird. It’s just an oversized chicken. Season it, butter it up, cover it and put it in the oven. Read the rules about time per pound and it’ll be fine. Making cranberry sauce is fun. Bag of cranberries, cup of sugar. The rest is up to me, me, me. I like to cut up a small orange to cook in it along with a cinnamon stick. Makes the joint smell good. Mashed potatoes, shrug. No big deal. Gravy came with the turkey so I didn’t even have to think about that. I had some frozen butternut squash in the freezer. I thawed it and mixed it with some eggs and milk, sprinkled some pecans and brown sugar on top and baked it. Oh, and I had some green beans in the freezer, too. sautéed them in some butter and tossed in a handful of almonds. I had all this stuff in the fridge. I’m all about a well-stocked pantry and fridge.

I tell you all that to tell you this. I think the stress that comes with making Thanksgiving dinner has nothing whatsoever to do with the meal, yet I seem to hear everyone talking about their worries that the bird will be dry, or what stuffing recipe they’ll use, or if they can get away with buying pie crusts. You know, they’re talking about the symptoms, not the disease, if you will. The real stress is cleaning the house, setting the table, doing the math, worry about what everyone will do for the day, the everlasting piles of dishes, the yelling kids, the snoring grandfather, the picky eaters, and on and on. I know, some people live for that stuff, and honestly, I like it too, but when you add that to the cooking, it’s the cooking that gets blamed, because the cooking won’t be offended. The cooking is innocuous.

So, I had a completely stress free thanksgiving dinner. My husband watched football all afternoon and I puttered around in the kitchen. It was done when it was done. And I’ll have lots of family and friend time this week so I’m not worried about that, but yesterday, I think the meal itself tasted better than I’ve ever had because it’s all we had to think about. Plus, we didn’t feel like we needed to go get another helping. Or like we had to make small talk and smile a lot while we ate it.

Now, bring on the wine and people and fun. I’ve enjoyed my turkey treat. Yesterday it was all about the bird.

RESPONSIBILITY TO DO GOOD WORK

I found this quote by Bill Gates: “I think it’s fair to say that personal computers have become the most empowering tool we’ve ever created. They’re tools of communication, they’re tools of creativity, and they can be shaped by their user.”

This has proved incredibly true for me.Thanks to my computer, I have access to videos and white papers, emails to visit with my friends to get advice, all while I type away in a word document. Think of how fast this allows the world to move now? It’s amazing.

Thanks to the Internet and computers, we now have the world of independent publishing. I can do something that in earlier generations was much more difficult. I do not have to leave my house to publish a book. I don’t have to pay a vanity press to do it for me, or beg an agent to pitch it to a publishing house. I can write it. Hire a professional editor online and email it to them. I can hire a professional cover designer and take care of every ounce of business related with bringing that cover to fruition. I can format the book for print or digital, all on my computer. I can upload it to be printed and in a couple of weeks it shows up at my door in a box via postal service. I can upload the document to Amazon where within 24 hours; it’s available for sale. I can then go to my computer and the Internet where I can, for free, promote my book on my blog, my website, on Twitter and Facebook and a variety of other social media outlets. I can meet other writers all over the country and world where I can get advice or assistance with promoting my books. Independent publishing is an obvious and organic response for those of us who want to write books and have the skills to use computers and the Internet.

Yet, we have a responsibility to create good work; we need to make sure our story is ready for print. And ultimately, whether a book is traditionally or independently published, the reading public is who decides a books success. It doesn’t matter how much money a big traditional publishing house puts behind the promotion of a famous author’s book… if the reading public doesn’t like it, they won’t buy it. In the same token, if an independent author writes a great book, the word gets around far more quickly in this social media world than it ever would have in the past. What a wonderful, wonderful world.

 

The BLUE LADY

My mom encouraged my creativity. She recognized my need to draw. Not my desire to, but my need. I drew constantly—hours and hours scribbling on any piece of paper I could find. Mother kept every envelope and letter that had a blank backside for me to draw on. The top left drawer of our hutch cabinet had paper and the top right drawer had pens and pencils. She called me an artist, and I believed her.

In lower grades I enjoyed writing poems. I knew they had value because I took a poem to school to read for show and tell and one of my classmates stole it! Right from my desk! People only steal things of value, so although I wasn’t happy about the theft, I certainly felt important to have written something good enough to be pilfered.

In high school I wrote an essay for Mr. Rose, my peculiar English teacher. He gave me an A+, a grade I didn’t get very often, and in the margins of the essay, he wrote in red ink, “This is either prose, or drivel!” For whatever reason, I decided he was complimenting me and I knew then and there, I wanted to write. This led me to journalism class, where I learned how to take pictures and write articles, but I frustrated my teacher, as the convergent thinking required in fact-based news articles was far too restrictive for me. I wanted to add my own opinions. I didn’t realize then, but know now, I simply needed to write fiction.

I made up fictional stories and created worlds and scenes since I was little.

Someone gave me a present of paper dolls—pretty girls and boys with little outfits to cut out. I played and enjoyed them, but the true fun was making my own paper dolls and clothes. I became obsessed with finding the perfect piece of cardboard to make the dolls out of. It couldn’t be too thick, but had to be thick enough to hold up. One day I came across a medium blue file divider—just the right weight. I drew and cut out a woman from the blue board and she became the infamous BLUE LADY!

Even as a child I knew every story had to have conflict. It’s one of the first things we learn when we start to write fiction… stories must have tension. No one wants to read a story about the happy people in the happy village. From the Bible, to nursery rhymes, to any movie or TV show you’ve ever watched, you will find conflict. Humpty Dumpty falls off the wall. Little Bo Peep loses her sheep. Little Red Riding Hood must contend with the wolf. And in my paper doll world, The Blue Lady ruined my little people’s days.

Creativity has always been the path I’ve taken. I tried very hard to be a secretary, and a bookkeeper, but I always found myself staring out the windows. But when I could be a photographer, the world opened up for me. When I could promote the Opera House or the community; ideas abounded. And now that I write, I can create worlds and scenes and characters to my hearts content. Maybe you are a lot like me?

 

 

Change Maker

If you remember my last post, I had told you I was to give a presentation for a teacher’s sorority. It went well by the way. It’s true, teachers are lovely human beings. But I already knew that.

I had told you I was going to break down my presentation into six parts and post them here, as I found some of the information I dug up fascinating. So, here is part two… coming off admitting I wasn’t the best student in the classes at the higher and more valued end of the learning hierarchy: Math and science. Actually, I stunk.

I found a meme on Facebook that sums up my thoughts fairly well.

“I hate math tests because all through the chapter it’s like really easy and then you think you’ve got it and then the test is like,

IF I THROW A TRIANGLE OUT OF THE CAR AND THE CAR IS GOING 20 MPH AND WIND RESISTANCE IS A THING THAT EXISTS, HOW MANY CUPCAKES CAN PEDRO BUY WITH ONE HUMAN SOUL?

I “googled” the difference between Convergent and Divergent Thinking. This led me to a man named Joy Paul Guilford, born in 1897 in Marquette, Nebraska. He was a psychologist known for recognizing convergent and divergent thinking. Convergent thinking is the type of thinking that focuses on coming up with the single, well-established answer to a problem. It’s about remembering stored information and following rules and constraints. Divergent thinking typically occurs in a spontaneous, free-flowing manner, where many creative ideas are generated and evaluated. Multiple solutions are explored.

Obviously, there is quite a bit more to it than this, but these definitions are the gist of it. I am a divergent thinker. I understand the rules and go back to them to solve the ultimate problem, but I like to think, “out of the box,” as they say. And this is where the potential for creation comes from, for me at least. This is why my favorite quote has always been this one by George Bernard Shaw:

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

So, I’m not difficult. I’m simply a change-maker!

Note: I love the picture of Shaw I found for this post. I have been enjoying this man’s quote about the unreasonable man for so many years, yet today was the first time I ever really researched him. I found out from the time he began writing, to when his play, Pygmalion won the Academy award, was around 14 years. The information claimed it took him this long to reach his writing stride. This gave me an incredible amount of comfort! What a wonderful thing to realize the best of writers take years to develop their style and ideas. So, the best of me is yet to be.

Write on, my friends!

 

 

 

Speaking to Teachers

When preparing to give a presentation to teachers, I shivered a bit.  I wasn’t really a favorite student of most of the teachers I had. This is because; I was one of THOSE students. The one who gazed out the window, lost in my own thoughts. The one who didn’t know the answer to the question the teacher just asked me. Heck, I didn’t even know the topic the teacher was talking about. I was that kid visiting at the back of the class. And when the bell rang and the teacher said, “Hand in the assignment tomorrow,” I said to my neighbor in a panicked voice, “What assignment?” If you’re a teacher, I know you’ve had those children in your classes… and some of you even had me. I apologize.

Thinking of this, led me to think about an organization I worked for called Home Town Competitiveness. With them, I worked with Entrepreneurs. What I learned at that time was I had all of the symptoms of an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurial personalities are often bored in school, and it seems as though they are always trying to break the rules. If you research creative personalities, they are nearly one in the same. There’s even a name for it. Divergent thinking.

To prepare for the presentation I did some research. I typed “Teaching Creativity” in the search bar of Google and came up with Divergent /Convergent thinking, 21st Century Learning, and the name of a man it seemed I needed to know more about… Sir Ken Robinson. I learned that he is an international advisor on education in the arts. I listened to a TED talk he gave and found I agreed with what he said, and I also found a wonderful story I could relate to.

The story he told is about a girl in the ‘30s, Gillian Lynn. Gillian was one of those children who fidgeted in her seat and couldn’t focus on the teacher’s instruction. She disrupted the class and gave the teacher fits. Her mother and teachers thought she had a learning disability, but at that time they had no name for it. The principal called the girl’s mother in and the mother, principal, and Gillian sat in his office and discussed her “problem.” After their discussion, the principal told Gillian that he needed to speak to her mother in private. Before the Principal and the mother left Gillian alone in his office, the Principal turned on his radio. When they got into the hall, he told the mother to watch her daughter through the window to his office. What they saw was Gillian dancing around to the music. The Principal told the mother, “Your daughter doesn’t have a learning disability. She’s just a dancer.” He instructed her to take her daughter to a dance school. Her mother did and Gillian said it was the most wonderful moment in her life—to meet other children just like herself. Children who needed to move to learn.

Ken Robinson went on to say that all children start out with a desire to dance… a desire to be creative. But our school systems teach it out of children. We focus on the things at the top of the education hierarchy. Math, Language, Science. His recommendation is that we must encourage creative thinking in all areas to glean new ideas. He talks about how children are willing to try things and don’t worry about being right or wrong. But as we go through school, we’re trained to not be wrong. But he says, If we’re not prepared to be wrong, we’ll never come up with anything original.

Gillian Lynn went on to become a famous dancer and choreographer. She met Andrew Lloyd Weber and choreographed Cats and Phantom of the Opera. She is famous in the world of dance and a multi-millionaire—all because one person in her youth didn’t just say, “You have a problem, sit down and be quiet.” Instead they encouraged her talent.

I love that story because I can relate to it. Just like those entrepreneurial personalities I worked with in HTC probably could relate to it. I didn’t think I was good in school because what I was good at, wasn’t as highly valued as what society said I was supposed to be good at.

My next blog will talk about being a Change-Maker.

 

New Vistas

Those of us who write know momentary glimpses into clear thinking come when least expected. We find ourselves typing along, wondering when the next perfect line will spill out, or what twist our plot might take. Then as if by some stroke of magic, our fingers tap out a sentence even we didn’t know we had in us—one of those lines we are amazed to have created. Those moments, for writers, remind me of other times in life when I realize a new vista has been put before me. Such as the time I took a helicopter ride over Kauai. We came up and over a cliff and the ocean appeared before us. My breath caught in my chest as I attempted to mentally grasp how fortunate I was to see something so magnificent. Those big vistas are easy to see, but there are smaller vistas, too, which we also need to be thankful for.

I spent last weekend at a writing retreat in a monastery. I know. That sounds peculiar, but reality is this beautiful peaceful and well equipped facility lets groups of any kind hold conferences or retreats, or even allows individuals to stay and rejuvenate or contemplate, whichever it is they need to do. It’s a wonderful place to be. There is a reflecting pool with fountains and walking paths. It’s a haven and very peaceful. The vistas are lovely, whether it be the ones you see or the ones you experience emotionally.

I am not an old hand at writing, but I do have six books under my belt and a decent understanding of indie publishing and the writing craft. It’s easy for me to think of writing like I now think of driving, or any other thing I am used to doing. But I mustn’t forget I can always reach a new epiphany and see a new vista. And I hope I will. New energy helps me keep creative vistas coming.

The St. Benedictine Center is nestled in the hills, and when I left for home I drove out of the long driveway, on to the highway. Just over the hill, the vista of the Platte Valley spread out before me. Breathtaking. Every time I go over that hill, or any hill where a valley appears like an epiphany below it, I’m always reminded how common my view of the world can be at one moment, and how amazing it can be at the next. I hope my books can provide vistas just like that for my readers, and for me. It is the joy of writing.