As I was driving my friend Ruth to lunch the other day in a windstorm, I grumbled in too great of detail about how many (relatively) little things turned to ash the previous week.
Long made plans to raft with my family? Cancelled due to weather. My nifty birthday gift, a book given to me by a friend? The cat barfed on it. And on and on.
Out of nowhere, a huge sign flew into my car. Thwack!
Despite the weight of the sign, and despite the fact that hit the window of my now screaming friend, it didn’t crack a thing.
We could not stop laughing.
It was a terrific re-set. It reminded me of the song, I Saw the Sign by Ace of Base. I saw the sign, and it opened up my eyes.
I deal much better with big crises than I do with the accumulation of small things.
There are many good things coming up, some that I haven’t permission to mention yet. But here’s a few delightful things in my author world :
• That day at lunch with Ruth, we gave my new nonfiction work in progress a subtitle. Thriving, Decoded: Calm the Crazy andControl the Crisis. Do you like it?
• I’m teaching a new class online. My online Udemy Course is available online for free if you click here. (I could use a review, please. )How to Help if Someone You Love is Being Abused. It’s my first online course. I have very good intentions, but my video editing is amusing. Sorry in advance. Hopefully, you’ll get good information and a giggle at the same time.
• My youngest daughter just taught me Powerpoint skills for the neatest conference I’ve ever been asked to present at; The International Association of Women’s Police, with more than 3,000 female officers from around the globe in attendance. I’m really jazzed!
And then I’ll get to take a long break to see family in late September and October.
My daughters are both healthy and working, and the weather is very warm for us here in Alaska.
So much for me. How are you? Have a beautiful week.
At the risk of sounding superstitious, I’m fairly certain that my house is jealous of my efforts to leave it.
The web searches for homes in less expensive states to live in after I retire, the upgrading of the bathrooms, the kitchen, and the floorings. The conversations that must’ve been overhead about my need for sun and warmth and a place closer to my extended family have not gone unnoticed.
I know this, because just before or just after leaving the state, some catastrophe occurs. Flooding. An earthquake. Flooding again. Every time I leave, some punishing event that catches me completely off guard.
As I packed for my book event in San Jose, California a
couple of weeks ago, I found a huge puddle of water on the newly tiled kitchen
floor. I sopped it up, hoping I’d simply stacked the dishes in the wrong
direction and ran the dishwasher. It wasn’t. The puddle appeared two more
times, the final one just as I was getting my luggage packed. My neighbor
kindly guided me through the process of shutting the water supply off in the
crawl space, schooling me first by phone and then finally leaving his date
miles away to help me. Together, we slogged through the dirty area beneath the
garage for a short-term solution.
I got to the airport just in time for my flight, smelling of
scented kitty litter, with cob webs still in my eye lashes. Only to realize
that in my haste to shut the water off, I’d forgotten to pack shirts.
At least I remembered copies of my book.
To my happy surprise, the person I rented a room from picked
me up at the airport. James worked in Silicon Valley before retiring and
re-tooling, now renting affordable rooms and cars to people with short work
stints in the area. Chatty and firm in his convictions that we must offer hope
to the hopeless among us, he became my accidental life coach, filled with ideas
and concepts of books he was certain I needed to write. They were great ideas,
it turned out. “Stop aiming small,” he told me.
I felt welcomed and safe, and enjoyed some six- mile walks
without ever getting lost, a true miracle in my world.
San Jose had warm temperatures, generous walking trails, and friendly people. I was impressed. Book group organizer Lloyd Russell of Booksage and his wonderful wife Joni took me to dinner. My longtime friend Richard from Berkeley made his time and home available, and I finally got to meet his new (to me) wife.
Richard is a loyal friend who never stopped encouraging me to write my book. When my computer died a decade ago, he gifted me my first laptop. He was that committed to the story being published. And it was through Richard that his cousin Lloyd got a copy of my book. I owe this once-in-a-lifetime book event and trip to him.
During the event itself at Recycle Bookstore, I got a warm round of applause as I entered the bookstore. Wow! An evening to talk with thoughtful readers about writing and publishing and the inevitable setbacks life dishes all of us, and how we choose to handle them. I enjoyed every moment of it.
I took trains and busses to visit my cherished friend and
former roommate Barbara, hosted me for a night in Redding at her apartment in a
lively retirement community. We stayed up late, pouring through old pictures of
when we lived together in ’92-’93, reminiscing about my daughters before their
abduction, and the zany things the girls did in those years of near normalcy
before the event that severed their childhoods.
I returned to my welcoming
little home and two needy cats just after 2am, and found that the water shut
off had been successful. No new damage occurred in my absence. I crept around
in the crawl space and turned the water back on. By default, I learned that
this particular problem was the new dishwasher installation. No big deal. I’ll
fix it when I can.
I got a text from James the day after I returned with
another new book idea. His best yet. He’s asked that I send him a completed
synopsis by next Thursday. He’s not kidding.
“The idea is to give victims and their families, as well as
the good people in America, hope among the hopelessness… Your book is a step in
the direction to help victims or potential future victims.”
So much love and inspiration packed in to a few days reminded me that home isn’t simply a place. It’s a moveable part, a sense of connection, not just where I toss my belongings.
But I do love my little weird place, with its memories of
raising kids and cats. Of hosting friends for get-togethers. Memories of my
neighbors, delivering freshly caught fish or helping when I needed them with
frozen pipes or car or kid troubles.
Who knows? Maybe I can rent my house out and live here in
the summers. It will be a while yet before I figure out where I will ultimately
But as a cautionary measure, I’m writing all of this from a coffee house rather than from home, just in case my home is looking over my shoulder.
The threat is just too great.
Thank you for stopping by, and thank you Lloyd Russell, Richard Illgen, and Recycle Bookstore and Recycle Book Club for the book love.
And thank you to my daughter for taking care of Oliver and Lou.
It’s February, and my mind is on matters of love and motivation.
I may be single, but I adore experiencing second-hand love.
Here are two of my favorite Valentine’s reads.
One is from my friend Ginni Simpson on being in the moment with her husband.
The second is my blog post about my dear brother Danny and his wife Joan.
I told myself that my New Year’s resolution to get rid of cable TV would be key to increasing my writing time.
It was not.
Instead, I’ve filled my time by enjoying more sleep, and have done a lot more reading. But recently, I’ve started putting myself on restriction, and not allowing book or movie time to happen until I’ve written a set amount of words. It’s motivated me to make baby steps during a time of year when I’d rather crawl under the electric blanket after work than open my laptop and keep plugging away.
Here are a few of my recent favorite rewards.
They Shall Not Grow Old- a must-see documentary that renovated 100 year-old film footage from WWI and carefully gave it sight and sound.
The Old Man and the Gun
Inheritance by Dani Shapiro (memoir).
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine (fiction) by Gail Honeyman.
You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero (nonfiction, self-help). As much as I don’t love the title, it’s a fabulous read for reframing self-talk and changing attitudes about money, body image, and living life larger.
Entertainment-wise, my greatest find has been finding the series, The Marvelous Mrs. Maizel on Amazon Prime.
My book events are picking up again. Tonight I get to spend time with a set of dynamic, now retired social workers I was mentored by twenty-plus years ago when I was a child abuse investigator.
Who says writing doesn’t pay?
How about you? What’s keeping you motivated this time of year?
Thank you for sharing your time with me. And if you have friends in the San Jose, California area, please let them know I’ll be doing a book event there at Recycle Book Store on March 20th at 7PM.
It’s that time of year where we make promises of
transformation that are too easily abandoned by the middle of the month.
I typically make a small list in a few categories, but this year I’m making different commitments.
Last year, I ran my legs off. If someone asked for a
volunteer, I raised my hand. If a friend wanted to go to a dreadful performance
of this or that, I said yes. Between too much work with the summer job and my
fulltime job, over-volunteering and writing (and getting a number of essays
published in various blogs and magazines and making bits of new book progress)
I was left cranky and tired. And bewildered as to how I got so busy (and so cranky
I knew I was in rough shape when my eye doctor hinted at
giving me a referral to a psychiatrist.
So I’m ready for a new chapter.
I have a goal list still, but in addition to looking like a To Do List, it includes a To Don’t List.
I’m letting go of a few things, even good things and fun things. I’ve adopted author Marie Kondo’s way of thinking about clutter as a way to think about activities. If the extra activity or invitation doesn’t bring me joy, I’m saying no to it.
For example, I volunteered in a civic group filled with delightful women. I wanted out pretty early on, but kept talking myself in to continuing. I left last week. It was like taking off a girdle and breathing deeply. Then I cut my cable television. Finally. After talking about it for years. No more reality television or news channels or even Twilight Zone on the SciFi network. Just podcasts or audiobooks or the radio now. I’m saying no to invitations to social gatherings that don’t thrill me.
I like my home. I love being at home with my cats and my thoughts and my laptop after a very long work day. Leaving home is a sacrifice that I need to want to make. And as much as I enjoyed the camaraderie of working in tourism last summer, I won’t do it again while working full-time at my day job. I don’t have the energy.
But I’ve found some fun new resolutions, or To Do’s this
I enrolled in a Spanish class which has gone pretty poorly thus far. I took a salt water aerobics class right by my work for the first time, and loved it. I have an appointment to meet with a virtual personal trainer this weekend (who happens to be a cousin!). And I’ll be a grants administrator for the local writer’s guild, a very short-term commitment.
I was inspired by Zenhabits blog about The Rule of the Edge. I want to keep pushing myself toward growth, but for me, that means getting comfortable doing and being less. Leaving myself open for other surprises.
I also loved the Write-Minded podcasthabout selfishness as it relates to writing and prioritizing completion of essays or books in order that there will be works of writing to share.
Sometimes what we don’t do is as important as what we commit to. I’m looking forward to less commitments and more room for fun and writing and even sleep this year.
In Alaska, we went from 20-something degrees to 50-something almost overnight, and I couldn’t be happier. There’s still enough darkness at night to fall asleep, and enough warmth put my winter boots and coats away. As I write this, I’m sitting in a sunny atrium at the local university, watching college students walking around outside in their shorts.
No one appreciates springtime more than sun-starved Alaskans!
A few bears have awoken early and been seen in the city, and the moose are getting ready to calve. It’s a time to stay alert while enjoying a stroll in the beautiful outdoors.
I’m also gearing up for a busy summer. In the spirit of transitioning to retirement, I’ll be working at Holland America/Princess Cruise lines on the weekend in addition to my job in probation. If I like it, I may continue the work fulltime seasonally beginning in summer 2021 no matter where I live in the winters. If I don’t, I’ll finish the season and likely have great stories to write about. Plus I’ll make minimum wage and work with a crew that are even older than I am, so I’ll feel like a kid again. A real win/win.
So in the interim, I’m trying to get stuff done around the house. And I’m writing a little more, sending work to my editor, and appreciating this period of quiet.
I was invited to participate in both National Library Week and Crime Victims Rights Week, and can I tell you how much fun I had at both?
It never ceases to amaze me how many non-monetary benefits being an author has. I continue to meet lovely and inspiring people at events I speak at. And did I mention there’s free food? I ate some unidentified appetizers last night and a chocolate cake that was life-changing. And people I’ve never met email me, telling me their stories and how mine intersected with theirs. I once had a man write after his relationship ended to say he’d considered taking his son from the child’s mother to bypass government red-tape and to retaliate for their parting, but decided against it after reading the long-term impact on my own daughters.
That was a wonderful note to receive.
And I’ve written an essay on the challenge of letting adult kids live their own lives called Conscious Unhovering. It’s early draft won a contest an netted me $100! (Nothing to sneeze at for a freelancer today). Stay tuned to my author Facebook to see which blog or magazine publishes it!
Thank you for your support and for staying in touch here with me.
A month ago, I volunteered to work here. This is completely my doing.
But in the interim weeks, I’ve been barraged by memories of my last trip. The tales of recent suicides. The scarcity of trees and greenery. The abundance of intoxicated people walking around in this dry town. The $4.00 apple.
And then I read a couple of current articles in the paper about Barrow. About the nice district attorney I’d worked with who was murdered a few months ago in a domestic violence incident. And the skyrocketing amount of violent crime like rapes and domestic violence, fueled by insane amounts of bootlegged alcohol and drugs.
Seriously? What was I thinking?
Last night, I couldn’t fall asleep until after midnight, and when I finally drifted off, I had a nightmare about bedbugs biting me over and over again.
I didn’t unwind my curls until I took my seat on the plane and buckled up for the long flight.
Then I sat behind an Alaska Native youth who’d just finished high school, and was on his way home after his graduation trip in Hawaii. His sweet smile could melt the thick ice. He had a red baseball cap, red tennis shoes, and a ukulele that he played for the passengers’ enjoyment.
Other passengers asked him questions:
What does whale blubber taste like?
What will you do for fun later?
When was the last time you saw polar bears?
“A great texture, and tastier than steak.”
“Today, I’ll get on my three -wheeler and hunt geese.”
“The weekend we got a whale. They come in to share.”
He didn’t say too much, but he represented well. And then there was Anne Morrow Lindberg, the fabulous writer who detailed her trip to Barrow in 1931 in her first book North to the Orient. In Barrow, met a family who proudly displayed a tomato plant, acknowledging the plant would never grow in Barrow since there wasn’t enough sun and the tomato was rooted mostly in sand, “but the leaves grow and we can smell it. Even the smell of growing vegetables is good to us,” she explained at the time.
It’s all perspective.
I’m grateful to be back in Barrow. To be back to old friends and gorgeous sites and the possibility of polar bears, but mostly to be among people who know the value of looking at the glass half-full.