The Last Day

Today is it. The last day of 100 Days Of Good Karma. There’s some Internet science quote. I don’t know if it’s right and I’m too lazy to look it up to be exact, but it’s something about it taking only thirty days to create a habit. If we do something over and over it will eventually sink in. I don’t know if that’s true. I don’t know if finding a silver lining to each day helped me think more positively. I don’t think this experience has made me more enlightened or elevated me to the next stage of self-awareness.

But I do know this:

There were a few things I noticed about trying think of a positive anecdote every day. One, some days it was hard and I was tempted to phone it in. Nobody would notice if I sneaked tacos in as my silver lining for another day….although tacos are amazing and so worthy. But I worked hard to come up with things that were real. It was hard because most days I have a routine and I work through the day and don’t stop to really analyze it much. Other days are just blah, normal, same. Nothing special. But coming up with a silver lining forced me to be present in the day, it gave me permission to stop and evaluate the blah with a different lens.

Good news! My parents can finally park in their garage!

Good news! My parents can finally park in their garage!

Another thing I know is that I was very concerned with being real. I have training as a counselor and I became very self-conscious of the image I was projecting out. I’m not a pretender. I like to be honest with how I feel, so it was important to me to not have the Karma for the day be a sugar coated version of my life. Being positive does not mean being fake. Early on in the project I confessed to Meghan (Getting the Words Wrong) that I had some guilt over coming up with positive things when there were so many things going wrong for other people. Was I being a Pollyanna? Was I inadvertently taking away someone’s validation to express pain? By showing I wanted to remain positive each day, would that send the right message? In the end I decided to take points from the best example of someone doing it right. For example, Meghan’s ability to share the realness and horror of cancer mixed with humor and grace. Her blog is amazing and everyone should check it out.

The last thing I learned was that looking for the biggest thing was like chasing a rainbow. It’s beautiful to aspire to, but in reality the “best” thing or “something better” would always move. Things became “not big enough to mention” or “boring.” At some point, I stopped caring about the big deal things. In the beginning of the project I was doing small acts of kindness. I left coupons on items at stores, I bought a random person’s coffee, I gave money to a guy downtown in a wheel chair that had a sign saying he survived cancer and had fallen on hard times, I left tips at places I don’t usually think to leave a tip. But sharing those things became too hard. I didn’t do them to get a pat on the back, so I didn’t post it on Facebook. It took away the joy of the activity. I also think I was doing them because I had survivors guilt. *MY* house didn’t burn down. *I* didn’t have cancer. I thought I needed to make up for that slight, or accept eventual punishment coming my way. Funny how we talk ourselves out of grief.

In the end the simplest parts of the day became the most cherished and most interesting. I didn’t have to ride a Pegasus, or go on a cross county journey planting non-GMO corn across America Johnny Appleseed style—the most fulfilling part of my day became a simple conversation with my kids or spending time with family.

(although random acts of kindness sounds like an awesome project for another time).

Chica, my parent's dog, surveys the property

Chica, my parent’s dog, surveys the property

And so what did I do on my last day? Ironically I ended it where it all began. I stayed with my parents in their trailer. The place where the house once stood is roughly a 2,000 square-foot hole in the ground. From the view out of the trailer I could see the room where my husband, kids, and I would stay when we came for holidays or just a quick weekend to hang out with family. There are steps that lead to nothing and are stained with the smoky reminder of what happened 100 days ago.

The house debris is gone, but the trees and bricks around the area are still holding the scars.

The house debris is gone, but the trees and bricks around the area are still holding the scars.

It doesn’t look like much now, but I’ve seen the plans for what’s going to be put in its place and if I close my eyes I can see the front porch that will extend much farther than the one that was there before. I see the outline of my parent’s new room where they’ll have more space. I see a kitchen that will be open to the living room and where my kids will eat never ending pancakes, which my dad sometimes calls dot cakes because he makes them super small to make the kids laugh. There are a lot of things that my parent’s can’t get back, but those things were not important. We will make a new measuring wall. We’ll make new family heirlooms; we’ll cherish the ones we still have and talk more about the people who left them to us. We don’t need things to help us remember the people we loved.

I also spent the day at my grandma’s house at Sunday dinner. My great-grandmother started the tradition. She’d have her whole family over every Sunday and my family still does this today. We annoy each other with jokes, we eat too many carbs, we horde the gravy boat….okay, maybe only I horde the gravy boat. And there is always a seat for one more person who happens to stop by on their way to town.

So maybe it’s hard to think of a silver lining each day, let alone a hundred days. In Megan’s post this morning she talks about her cure for a bad day. And it’s really simple: going for a walk (she says run. I don’t run), thinking of something positive for the next day, and a good night’s sleep. When I’m in a spiral of negative thinking I have a go-to plan that I pull out, too. Just like some people have a survival pack that they can grab on the go for an emergency, I have an emotional survival pack. Hint: it’s pretty much the same as Meghan’s (there must be something to that).

If you’re one of those people who can’t find that positive nugget for the day then maybe stop looking for the obvious rainbow, and start looking for it in the dirt that you grow your own vegetables in, or the smile on your child’s face. Look for a sliver lining in the simple things.

Real Life Ghost Stories Part One: Power Animals

When I first heard about power animals I probably giggled. Who doesn’t imagine a moose with a cape, boots on every hoof, who is tripping down a rocky mountainside? Oh? You don’t? Maybe it’s just me.

But seriously, don’t kid around with power animals. Just don’t. Below is my cautionary tail:

We all have interesting moments in our life. Moments where we did something completely off the beaten path and chose to try something different? For me one of those times was when I accidently became part of a local psychic group.

Okay, okay. It wasn’t exactly “accidental” and being “part of” the group wasn’t exactly an accurate term. It was more like they allowed me to attend the meetings for a little over a year and I became an observer and learner of the culture.

It started when I found out someone I knew (a friend) had some psychic abilities. It was uncanny the things she could do/guess. A lot of people argue that being psychic is just being more observational than the rest of the general population and if that’s *all* it is then it’s a talent indeed. I was/am slightly skeptical. They knew this about me and still were completely fine with me attending. I learned about raki, shamanism, eastern medicine practices, how the dead communicate with us, Wiccan rituals…I learned a ton of different things. It was pretty cool. Mostly they let me ask questions and take notes. They hoped that I could “use some of the stuff in my writing.” To me this was science fiction and to them “it’s real”– was a common joke between the group members and me.

But one of the most interesting things that really seemed to speak to me was the concept of power animals. Maybe it was my Native American heritage and the fact that this was not a new concept to me, but I really liked the idea of animals bringing certain messages to us. Just like any cultural concept, power animals (or spirit animals, or totem animals) have a variety of facets, uses, and whatever. It is sort of another type of horoscope (I know, most people find those unhelpful. If you don’t find it helpful, then it won’t be, but there is no harm in it, I figure, since it’s nothing that will alter my decision based on the outcome or message. Or maybe it just reaffirms a decision I would have made regardless. Whatever).

Anyway, a few months ago I saw a turtle on my morning walk. Usually I see all sorts of squirrels, scrub jays (sort of like a really mean bully-ish blue jay), worms, various bugs. Being it’s not a common animal to spot on my daily walk, I took note of it (read as: I took pictures and texted them to Pam, who loves turtles). At the time it was just a fun animal finding. I did look up the animal’s meaning (needing, providing protection—stay strong despite obstacles, being overwhelmed, preparing to make your home anywhere). The next day I saw a group of deer in the same area. This again was not a common animal spotting (not a squirrel, not a scrub jay, not a worm or beetle) so I took some pictures and looked those up, too (don’t be hard on yourself, you can’t change others, be at peace with other’s decisions, or things you can’t fix/change). I saw a group of rabbits (protection from fear brought on by illness, tragedy/disaster). This same week in the same spot, I’d see other various animals that pretty much could be put in this category all adding up to “some bad things are going to happen and I’d need to protect myself emotionally.”

Needless to say that Power Animals became not as fun at that point, because two weeks after my turtle sighting my parent’s house burned down and my friend found out she had cancer. And that was just the tip of it. After the main events happened, the animals stopped appearing on my morning walk.

Lesson: don’t mess with power animals.

Okay, got it, Power Animals. You’re not just a fun, light pastime like horoscope reading or tarot cards or ouija boards at sleepovers (All things my psychic friends giggled at and would give me a look that would say “that’s adorable” when I’d mention them).

So I’m not really a huge believer, but that power animal experience was enough to make me not look at it the same. It’s sort of like when you burn yourself (which only takes once) and learn to take the fire a little more seriously.

So last week I saw a group of wild turkeys in that same spot. I literally stopped in my tracks and paused. I might have held my breath. I didn’t move until they were gone. Then I walked a little quicker back to the house. I know, it’s funny, but this is how superstitions are created right? The next day there were cats, tons of them. All frolicking and pouncing in the same field where I saw the turtle, deer, turkeys, ect. I sort of wondered if crazy cat lady had unleashed her collection. The next day just one cat, a black one that settled herself/himself directly in my path and her/his tail flicked while I carefully walked around it. Her/his gaze followed me the whole time. Today I had three cats do this to me, one in that same spot, and two later on in the walk.

Okay! I get it, cats. You have a message I’m guessing? So I looked it up and so far it looks like something more positive this time. Yay!

Or Northern California really needs to crack down on its domesticated homeless cat problem.

I love comments! Every time you comment, share your spooky story below, or heckle mine a power animal will burst through the psychic plane to taunt a non-believer.

The ‘Aha’ Moment

 

plane_bannerThere are only a handful of moments in life that define you, that you remember vividly years later. When you say, “Yep, that was when it happened.”  One of those moments came when I finally decided to take a writing class from Margie Lawson.

I had first heard about her on the RWA Yahoo loops I’d been using for critique, in a comment directed at another author.  “You would benefit from a Margie Lawson class.” Which broke down into a discussion of who Margie was and what she did, which disintegrated into a love fest.  It was the kind of devotion I’d only seen before in religious zealots or newly, reformed ex-smokers.

Curious, I looked up her stuff online.  She wasn’t writer turned teacher but a psychologist turned writing teacher which intrigued me more.  After watching Margie’s graduate blog post, the number of published author who listed her as a mentor, the boatload of contest winners who gave her credit, the crazy amount of NYT best sellers who used her techniques, drew me to explore farther. I circled her online for months not wanting to commit cash (wasting money to me is akin to spilling life’ s blood, so I hesitated).  I scoured the internet for references and found pages,  upon pages of glittering recommendations.

I finally caved and tried the first class.  In that moment, I knew. This is what my writing was missing. (I also met the one and only, super awesome Tina Gower in that class but that’s another story).

Some of the techniques where things I’d never heard of or tried, some I was familiar with, but the key for my learning was the assessable way the ideas were presented with examples. When I applied the ideas to my work the results proved astounding. Critique groups gave me positive feedback. I finaled in my first contest.  I saw, at last, what was wrong with my writing, and used Margie’s toolbox to fit the problems.  I was hooked.

And like a good junkie, I soon soaked up every class she had to offer except the big one—Immersion. This is the mecca of Margie’s classes which she usually teaches in her Colorado mountain home.  I worked my budget, I tried to find transportation, I crunched the numbers and considered not eating for a few weeks in order to subsidize, but I could find no way to get to the mountain.

One night I was stalking the Immersion page on Margie’s site, trying to come up a with a plan, and some magic happened.  Margie was scheduled to do Immersions offsite and one happened to be in Ohio within easy driving distance.  After doing a long and enthusiastic Snoopy happy dance across my living room, I claimed a spot and waited, edited, and reviewed my material.  That was five months ago.  I go to the Immersion in less a week and I’m beyond excited and open and willing to absorb all the great teaching she can impart during my four days.  I am not only geeked to see Margie but to meet my classmates who must be equally obsessed with perfecting their writing and perusing a writing career.

I feel this conference will be another huge step into the direction of publication, whether it be with a trad publisher or indie.  I know with a fabulous mentor and wonderful support, this will be one of those moments that I look back on in ten years and say. Yes, that was it. The moment that changed it all.  I will be reporting back with an afterglow blog post.

Please comment if you have had an aha moment in writing or life, a positive turning point, or just say hello.

Faith

faith1

 

I have been trying to do this blog post for a couple of weeks now. Faith. Good subject for writers. We all got to have it.  But where does it come from and how do we harness it.  In Steve Pressfield’s War of Art, he discusses how difficult it is to show up to the artistic battlefield every day.  He says that Resistance (capital R) is a force, an entity, that works against us, and we must fight back.

You will find a thousand, thousand reasons not to show up to the field.  Your kid is sick, your job is overwhelming, the dishes must be done, the cat just threw up on your feet, and unless you find that compelling reason to ignore the horde of distractions, you won’t sit down and do it.  The little voice tells you: give up, give in, it’s too hard.  No one will read your tripe anyway.  Why are you wasting time?

But that is your first clue. When this little voice makes some noise you know you are following your soul’s purpose, cause Resistance doesn’t push back unless you are about to break through to do something original, unique, maybe even dangerous. You are about to put your heart and soul out into the world for people to judge.

If you can get through Resistance, if you can have faith and write, you have already succeeded.  In moving forward and in creating, you conquer your fear and realize in the end the only judge that matters is you.

I judge myself more harshly for giving up than I ever will for trying.  So get out there, beat Resistance with a wire coat hanger and try having a bit’o faith.  That’s what I’m doing.

Dear Husband, I’m Watching This Week’s Outlander Without You

Dear Husband,

It’s Friday and you’ve left for deer hunting. The children and I shall live like college students by staying in our pjs all day–eat pizza, tacos, pancakes, sometimes all three at once—We might even drag a couch out to the lawn and listen to Frozen music. The sound dial will be turned to eleven.

But really the biggest travesty that will occur is our Saturday ritual of Outlander. I know it’s our “thing”—we read all the books and we nerd out on long discussions over character motivations and how tempted we were to skim the parts where Claire is testing her mold samples.

I had no idea that the wedding episode would fall on the one weekend a year you have dedicated to being manly. But I am weak and I cannot wait for you.

I’m going to watch this episode without you.

Seriously? I know you will also miss Dr. Who and I can wait for that. We started getting into Downton Abbey and I can wait for that. Except my strength of will is tested with Outlander.

So consider this your notice (even though you’re on the mountainside right now with no internet connection, so you won’t know until you get back…but I can pretend I didn’t see it while I watch it for what will likely be the fifth time). I promise to have more strength in the future (as long as it doesn’t include things I cannot resist: Chocolate, index cards, retractable highlighters, and Outlander…this is not an exhaustive list, just a sample).

Yours truly,

Wife