What moves you?

It’s a typical day.

Same old. Same nine-to-five routine. Same rush-hour headaches, same group of maniac drivers on the road… when… all of a sudden, my attention is gripped by the sight right in front of me—mother nature’s magnificent ink pots of ruby, magenta, russet and amber spilling to stain the deep blue of the sky—right there before my eyes, waiting patiently to be noticed. In awe, I detour away from the traffic to a quiet road, park my car, and sit in worship of such a perfect sight.


When I see something that moves me like this, I am compelled to stop and take notice… and write about it. Everything about a sunset—the amalgamation of colour, the serene sense of peace it represents, the powerful expanse, the pull of it—is all too special not to be noticed and revered.

Writers have an all-consuming need to translate what moves us into words. When we see something that stirs our feelings, we simply can’t keep quiet about it. If we see something that makes us happy, we must write about the source of our happiness. If we see something that makes us sad—oh woe is the story we’ll write. If we see something that makes us angry—well, let’s just say it’s wise not to mess with a writer because you just might find yourself the subject of a very spirited editorial in a newspaper or other venue. We don’t just see things, we feel them to the core. Which drives our need to write.
If you’ve been down with a case of writer’s block or caught in a mood rut, perhaps you need to rub your eyes and take a fresh look around. It’s all too easy to lose sight of the simple yet astonishing beauty blooming in front of our noses every day, when our sights are ever-focused instead on the hustle and bustle of daily life.

A fat black and yellow bumble bee darting into and out of a clump of blossoms; the metallic flecks that sparkle in an otherwise plain stone; a lone ripple on the calm face of a pond made by the paddling of a mallard duck and her babies; the bouncing pigtails of a little girl playing hopscotch; cream-puff clouds on a blueberry sky. So simple, so precious, so easy to miss.


How many sights do you pass by each day without taking notice—sights that have the power to move you?

Open your peepers. There are miracles everywhere.

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Another Year, Another Hope Dashed. That’s Right. It’s Time To Make A New Year’s Resolution.

new-years-eve-pixabayAs the New Year looms ahead, I remember that it’s almost time to choose which of my shortcomings I’ll target as my resolution to tackle in January. After all, is there any better way to punish myself for my overindulgence during the month of December?

I wonder if the Romans realized how much grief they would cause someday when, back in 153 BC they voted to declare January 1st the beginning of the New Year. Way back in 2000 BC, the early Babylonians, who had originally named March 23rd the beginning of the New Year based on the start of crop-planting season, weren’t nearly as hard on themselves as we are today. After all, their most popular New Year’s resolution was to return any farm implements that they’d borrowed from their neighbors.

We should be so lucky. Every December 31st, we modern-day folk insist on looking back with a critical eye, looking forward with an idealistic eye, and coming up with at least one way to put a damper on the month ahead. Thanks to the Internet, I discovered that we even have a top ten list of the most popular New Year’s resolutions:

  1. Spend more time with family and friends. Magazine polls show that more than 50% of us vow to appreciate our loved ones and spend more time with family and friends this year. My family and friends already take up far too much of my time. I plan to spend more quality time with myself this year.monkeys-pixabay
  1. Exercise. Anyone with half a brain knows that exercise reduces the risk of certain diseases, increases longevity, helps achieve and maintain weight loss, enhances mood, lowers blood pressure, etcetera. So why is it that most of us spend not only the month of January, but every month that follows, beating ourselves up over the fact that we can’t seem to stick to it? I already know that exercise will, once again, be at the top of my list of resolutions for 2017 since it’s been reappearing there every single year since 1986.fitness-frog-pixabay
  1. Lose Weight. According to statistics, the vast majority of us are clinically overweight, so (surprise!) weight loss is one of the most popular of all the resolutions. With this also being my resolution for the past twenty January firsts, I’ve alternated donating fat clothes and, later, skinny clothes to the Salvation Army for so many years that I know I could walk into the store at any one time and find pieces of my clothing in every size category.diet-pixabay
  1. Quit Smoking. Smoking harms nearly every organ in your body. It increases your risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, impotence, infertility, lower bone density and more. It also adds wrinkles to your skin that wouldn’t otherwise be there, stains your teeth and makes you smell like a dirty firepit. Ick. Even if you’ve tried to quit before and failed, don’t despair. On average, smokers make the attempt about four times before they quit for good. Really, why would you want to risk shortening your life span with all these resolutions to look forward to every January 1st?smoking-pixabay
  1. Enjoy Life More. I know we lead hectic, stressful lifestyles these days, but do you really need to be told to do this? Come on, people! Pick up the phone and call in sick!hammock-in-the-forest
  1. Quit Drinking. If you have decided that you want to stop drinking alcohol, there’s a world of support available right in your community. In my case, I don’t imbibe enough and I’d probably be doing myself a favor by substituting a glass of red wine for every coffee I chug throughout the day.wine-pixabay
  1. Get Out of Debt. Money is the number one cause of friction between spouses. Most of us don’t need all the stuff we already have, so why buy more? With that said, try chopping up your spouse’s credit cards on January 1st (but find a good hidey hole for your own).credit-card-pixabay
  1. Learn Something New. There is so much to learn in the world around us. So get moving. Learn a language, master a hobby or a dance step. Whether you take a course or read a book, education is one of the easiest and most stimulating of all the resolutions to keep. A challenged mind is a sharp mind. (Now, where did I put my book?)knitting_pixabay
  1. Help Others. When you help others, you help yourself in a most spiritual way. Whether you mentor a child or build a house or volunteer at a hospital, volunteer organizations can always use your help.helping-hands
  1. Get Organized. Unless your entire life has somehow been electronically wired so you just have to clap to find everything in it, you probably need to organize all your nooks and crannies. Cleaning out the flotsam is empowering. Begin with a closet. And this spring, when your mate can’t find the golf clubs, simply remind him/her about Resolution number one!50s-housewife

Losing a parent is so difficult

I haven’t blogged in a while. I’ve been in a slump that’s been hard to crawl out of. My dad passed away unexpectedly the day before Christmas Eve, and saying that it was the worst Christmas of my life is an understatement. Christmas? What Christmas? When I wasn’t moving around in a fog, I was frantically busy helping my mom with everything in her life that needed to be attended to. And although things have started to settle down a bit, her life and mine will never be the same.

When my healthy dad was told in early 2015 that he had amyloidosis—a very rare condition where an abnormal protein is produced in your body that is not a form of cancer but is equated to it, the conundrum being that nobody in the medical profession can determine what causes it to develop in a healthy person with no family history of anything that remotely resembles it—he was told that six months of chemo and some related meds could extend his life for possibly a few more years.

He endured the horrible treatment throughout the months, finishing his last dose on the Tuesday before Christmas. His diagnosis had improved and he was feeling good…was so looking forward to spending Christmas with his family. Chemo does terrible things to your taste buds, so he was excited about eating Christmas dinner and having his first glass of wine in a long time. The next morning, after happily rising to enjoy his first cup of coffee, his heart simply stopped beating. And that was that.

I wrote a eulogy to read at his funeral, and I thought I’d share it here on my blog. My father inspired me in many ways, and my eulogy was my final thank you to him.

Dad relaxing in his garden.

Eulogy for my Father

My dad always saw the good in people and in life.

He could be a pessimistic old buzzard at times. But he was also an optimist in so many ways.

I remember him telling me, when I was little, that we are all very much alike, just people with flaws and strengths, all doing the best we can with what we have. When I would be judgmental, or be negative about life, or just behave the way we human beings sometimes behave, he would sit me down and share his heartfelt beliefs with me, the sort of beliefs that can only come from a soul that’s rich with integrity. He was my teacher, and I learned so very much from him.

As I watched him struggle to beat the terrible disease that took his life, I found myself asking all those questions that we ask ourselves when we believe that life’s not fair.

It wasn’t long before I realized that much of the wisdom he had used to guide me as a child was still there to provide the answers I needed, and it was clear that no matter how bad things can get, making a conscious choice to look at life with anything other than the most optimistic eyes would be to dishonor everything he ever taught me.

Mom, dad, and baby me.

My dad was an inspiration, and I’d like to share with you some of the wisdom that he taught me throughout the years:

Hold my hand and let’s take one step forward today.
If you are sad,
if you are angry,
if you are sick,
if you are lost,
if you are alone,
if you are confused,
if you are frustrated,
no matter your complaint,
stop for a moment.
Step away from yourself.
Then take one step forward.

Lift your chin
and appreciate the quiet expanse
of the sky above you.
Focus on the wonder
of something so simple,
something that will always be there
even on all the days that you don’t see it.

Give thanks for the miracle of your eyes.
Because they allow you to see a sky
that many can only try to imagine.

Breathe deeply of the air that gives you life.
Basic. Base. There.
Such a blessing
to enjoy the simple act of breathing
without a thought, without a struggle.

Dad and mom in recent years.

Kneel to the ground
and smell the rich aroma of the earth
that is your foundation.
Draw up and fill your lungs
with flora, with fresh laundry,
with all the scents of life
that ride on the breezes.
This gift. This blessing…

Move those limbs that you can move.
Do you have legs?
Can you walk, run, jump, twirl?
Do you have arms, hands, fingers?
Can you clap them, flex them, write your name in the air?
Can you reach for the sky?
Rejoice in these simple freedoms
that so many must live without.

Who are you (you may be thinking)
to sermonize to me
about counting my blessings?
Well
I, too, am sometimes guilty
of the human disease
called unmindful existence.

So today is the day
I will step away from myself,
take one step forward,
and acknowledge how very blessed I am.

That’s dad in the middle, with two of his buddies.

I have eyes that allow me to see
all that is right in front of me,
and awareness to clear my vision.

I can see.
I can feel.
I can breathe.
I can walk.
I can speak.
I can hear.
I can taste.
I can eat.
I can drink.
I can forgive.
I can love.
I can choose.
I can imagine.
I can make a difference.
I can hope.
For hope is always there,
waiting for you to believe.

I can walk outside
and I can look up at the infinite sky
and I can marvel at the magical synthesis
that produces such an astonishing shade of blue.

me and dad at the lake

Me and my dad, once upon a time on a lovely summer day.

I can stand on land
that spreads in every direction
and know that it is possible
to go anywhere I want to go.

I can peel an orange
and eat the flesh
and when the juice runs over my chin
I can splash cool water on my face
and feel grateful that the simplest things in life
are also some of the most magnificent.

The sadness, the anger, the frustration…
it will come, it will go, it will still be there.
But so will all of our simple blessings.

Thank you, Dad. And rest in peace.

A salute to writers of the past, present and future

writers1Let us imagine for a moment that we live in a world where writers do not exist. We express our thoughts verbally or by gesticulating, but no words are recorded for posterity.

There are storytellers who entertain us with impromptu tales. Mimes are the new Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Daily local news is dispatched by word of mouth but becomes diluted and distorted, as usually happens when the masses pass information verbally. And telephone companies are rolling in more dough than ever!

booksBut there are no writers. Imagine that.

There would be no books. No Lewis Carroll, Hans Christian Andersen, Beatrix Potter, or C.S. Lewis to fuel our imaginations. No word pictures from the past painted by Emily Dickinson or Walt Whitman or Tennyson or Wordsworth. No Edgar Allen Poe or Bram Stoker or Mary Shelley to chill our spines. No Tolkien, Robert Louis Stevenson, Jules Verne or Mark Twain to sweep us away on amazing adventures. No Louisa May Alcott, Harper Lee or E.B. White to bring us to tears and laughter. No runaway romances, funny anecdotes, or science fiction to entertain us. I wouldn’t have enough space to list all the authors from yesteryear and present day whose thoughts and ideas would never have connected with ours.

No biographies or memoirs to give us a glimpse into the fascinating lives others have led. No history books to take us on great journeys back in time. No geography books to transport us to places we’ll never be able to see on our own. No science books to expose us to worlds we can’t even begin to imagine. No special-interest books to inspire us to learn new activities.

magazinesNo magazines with articles that entertain and teach us. No Good Housekeeping or Reader’s Digest or Popular Mechanics or Psychology Today. No National Geographic or Sports Illustrated or Prevention. No People Magazine or Fortune. No newspapers to keep us informed about the world around us. No comic books filled with scenarios featuring larger-than-life heroes.

No greeting cards or letters. No advertising to help us make choices.

No song lyrics on record. No theatre, television or movie scripts.dictionary comic card

No manuals to instruct us. No dictionaries or encyclopedias or famous quotations.

Consider the impact that writers throughout the ages have had on our lives. Writers make work of seeking out and compiling information about the things that we wonder about but don’t have the time or resources to seek out on our own. Writers use their skills to transform rough ideas into vivid pictures that will teach, entertain and inspire. Writers keep the era that they live in alive in the minds of future generations.writers2

Writers live with constant rejection—it’s the nature of the work. But today, I’d like to take a moment to praise and raise a toast to writers everywhere—those from the beginning of time, those today, and those of the future.

Bottoms up!

There’s that sunny with blue-skies-ahead, picture-perfect wedding day … and then there’s marriage.

wedding

 

 

 

Paul and Donna on their wedding day in 1980.

 

 

 

My husband and I celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary last Sunday. That’s right. Thirty-five years under the same roof. If you also count the three years we roomed together before the wedding, it’s actually been thirty-eight years. We started dating when I was sixteen.

When you’ve lived with someone for thirty-eight years, you’ve earned the right to refer to yourself as the Queen/King of compromise, patience and acceptance. I don’t think it’s possible to be in it for the long haul without both parties making a conscious effort to cultivate these essential virtues. Being able to laugh at yourselves is also a necessity.

It’s not even remotely easy. I could have packed my bags any number of times through the years and left over issues that I would today consider to be moot. I’m glad I didn’t. Every human being on this earth is flawed—you included. When you live with another human being, you live with their flaws too. That’s where a combination of compromise, patience and acceptance comes into play. Without it, your partner’s flaws become magnified until they are unbearable.

My husband and I both have our flaws (he has a lot more than I do, of course) but we are and will always be each other’s best friend forever. That makes the choice we both made to live our lives with compromise, patience and acceptance worth it.

Speaking of flaws, the subject brings to mind a story I wrote that illustrates a good example of choosing patience over murder. 🙂

Unfashionably Late, Thanks To My Mate

My husband’s pet name is Pokey. Shortened from its full spelling: Slowpoke.

There’s a generations-old myth that implies that women are guilty of taking forever to get ready to go out while the men wait impatiently for them. At our house it’s Pokey who takes forever to get moving. We are fashionably late for absolutely everything and it’s never intentional.

Here’s a typical scenario. We were invited to a friend’s wedding. On the same day that we received the invitation, I recorded the date and time on the kitchen wall calendar, updated the daily diary in my purse and set my email appointment calendar to send me an electronic reminder. Before the day was over I had map-quested the location, printed out detailed directions plus a street map, calculated the time it would take to drive from A to B with or without heavy traffic, and confirmed in my mind the dress and shoes I would wear. Only then was I able to relax and simply look forward to a fun evening out.

Pokey’s response to the news: “Just remind me the day before we have to go.”

I reminded him a full week before—and every day leading up to the event. You’d think he would have been prepared, right?

With the wedding procession set to begin at precisely three in the afternoon, I knew that we had to leave the house no later than two-ten in order to arrive in plenty of time to find prime aisle seating. Naturally, on the day of, Pokey decided mid-morning that the eavestrough, which had been overflowing with debris and on the verge of crashing down at any moment for the past several months, was in dire need of a cleaning… immediately. By one o’clock I had thoroughly aerated the lawn from stomping back and forth in my high heels, and our neighbours learned curse words they’d never heard before. Pokey finally climbed down after I threatened to pick him off the roof with his old pellet gun.

Sending clumps of mud, pine needles and bird poop flying in all directions as he slapped off a sopping wet pair of work gloves, he had the gall to smile. “Why are you in such a knot? I’m hopping into the shower right now and I’ll be ready in five.”

Pokey was, in fact, out of the shower in five minutes; I stormed upstairs to find him wandering around naked, trying to choose between two ties that looked identical. “Do you realize that we have to leave in less than an hour?” I shrieked, my blood pressure staining my cheeks more effectively than my blusher. “Don’t sweat it,” was Pokey’s reply. “Oh. By the way. Have you seen my white shirt anywhere?”

At two-oh-five while I stood near the front door giving myself a quick once-over in the hall mirror, Pokey was still upstairs ironing the white shirt that, though dry-cleaned since it’s last wearing, had been discovered in a crumpled heap at the back of his closet.

Leaning against the front door, trying my best not to look at my watch, I waited. Although my foot was tapping a hole through the ceramic tile, I’d made a pact with myself not to have a meltdown. I loudly whistled the Guns N’ Roses tune Patience in an attempt to drown out the creaking of the floorboards upstairs as Pokey loped about, searching for his wallet and car keys while trying to knot his tie.

At two-fifteen I was practicing the breathing techniques I’d learned years ago in Lamaze classes, while focusing on a hairline crack in a ceramic floor tile that Pokey was supposed to have replaced last year.

At two-seventeen my fists were flexing as my Lamaze breathing converted to hyperventilating. It was at that precise moment that Pokey appeared, literally leaping into his shoes and yanking his trench coat from the closet in tandem while ushering me out the door with a, “Why are you just standing here? We have to get going if you don’t want to be late.”

Believe it or not, we arrived at the church with exactly sixty seconds to spare. Of course I never did get my aisle seat, which explains why, in my one shot of the bride making her entrance, her face is obscured by the beehive ‘do of the lady beside me.

Whenever anybody says that marriage is all about compromise, my thoughts flash back to all the years I’ve spent tapping my feet at the front door. Compromise—hell, yeah! And a good supply of blood pressure meds too.
today

Paul and Donna today with our Jennifer.

Come with me. Hold my hand and let’s take one step forward today.

if you are sad
if you are angry
if you are sick
if you are lost
if you are alone
if you are confused
if you are frustrated

No matter your complaint

Stop for a moment,
step away from yourself.

Then take one step forward.
Lift your chin
and appreciate the quiet expanse
of the sky above you.sky

Focus on the wondrousness
of a thing so simple,
a thing that is there
even on all the days you don’t see it.

Give thanks for the miracle of your eyes.
They allow you to see a sky
that many can only try to imagine.

Breathe deeply of the air that sustains you.
Basic. Base. There.
Such a blessingforest Path
to enjoy the simple act of breathing
without a thought, without a struggle.

Kneel to the ground
and smell the rich aroma of the earth
that supports you.
Draw up and fill your lungs
with flora, with fresh laundry,
with the scents of life
that ride on the breezes.
This gift. This blessing

Move those limbs that you can move.
Do you have legs?
Can you walk, run, jump, twirl?
Do you have arms, hands, fingers?
Can you clap them, flex them, write your name in the air?
Can you reach for the sky?
Rejoice in these simple freedoms
that so many must live without.

Who are you (you are thinking)bougainvillea
to sermonize to me
about counting my blessings?

Well
I, too, am guilty
of the human disease
called unmindful existence.
Called ingratitude-itis.

So today is the day
I will step away from myself,
take one step forward,
acknowledge how very blessed I am.

I have eyes that allow me to see
all that is right in front of me,
and awareness to clear my vision.

I can see.bird tree
I can feel.
I can breathe.
I can walk.
I can speak.
I can hear.
I can taste.
I can eat.
I can drink.
I can forgive.
I can love.
I can choose.
I can imagine.
I can make a difference.
I can hope.
For hope is always there
just waiting for you to believe.

I can walk outside
and I can look up at the infinite sky
and I can marvel at the magical synthesis
that produces such an astonishing shade of blue.

I can stand on land
that spreads in every direction
and know that it is possibleorange
to go anywhere I want to go.

I can peel an orange
and eat the flesh
and when the juice runs over my chin
I can splash cool water on my face
and feel grateful that the simplest things in life
are also some of the most magnificent.

The sadness, the anger, the frustration …
it will come, it will go, it will still be there.

But so will the simple blessings.

sunsetTake a step forward today with me.

Symmetry in motion

Did you know that this December 13th is the last day in this entire century with a consecutive pattern (12/13/14)?

Does it mean anything? Who really knows? I’m sure the 13th will be somebody’s lucky day. And it will be a day filled with nightmares for somebody else.

For the majority of us, I’m sure it will come to pass as just another day.

060When the universe offers up a strange and perfect order such as 12/13/14 (or like the peculiar but perfect rainbow that circled the sun as I stood on a beach in Curacao), I’m reminded of the myriad questions that drift above us all the time like clouds, the answers just as far out of reach.

Like

Why are we here?

Let’s pause what we’re in the middle of doing
and go stand before the nearest window.

Look out. Take in everything around us—
The rain, the snow, the wind, the sun, the expanse of the sky,
All that was made by man,
And all that wasn’t.

Everything we see is a little piece of who we are. Imagine that.

And right here. Right now. Today—
We are exactly where we are meant to be.

You and I, we’re essential puzzle pieces
among seven-billion others. And counting.

Every piece is a fundamental part
of an ever-evolving picture that is our truth.

059We exist for the simplest
and for the most complicated of reasons—
We are links that fit together to create
a perfect puzzle: Life.

Feeling special?
You should.
Because we are. All of us.

What’s all that in a writer’s head?

If you were to slice off the top of a writer’s head (and I really hope you wouldn’t) to peer inside, you might see a bustling galaxy; no stars or planets—instead, a whirling mass of words and phrases and story ideas.

Is it any wonder most writers are considered to be on the cusp of insanity?

We writers share a common bond that separates us from the rest of the world: We are madly in love with words. We love to hear them and see them and say them. We love to discover brand new ones and when we do, we roll them around and around on our tongues like a fine piece of chocolate. Most of all, we love to express them on paper or screen

I know I don’t just speak for myself when I say that a day does not pass that I don’t have a story concept brewing in my mind. It’s in my DNA, like eye colour or blood type.

So if that’s the case, why aren’t Indigo’s shelves collapsing from the weight of my thousands of best-selling novels?

Well, it’s like this…Time is my enemy (excuse!). There is never enough of it (excuse!). Not only does my job suck the bulk of it dry (excuse!), my family and other responsibilities suck up the rest (excuse!). When I retire, I’ll have lots more of it, so that’s when I plan to knuckle down (excuse!).

The fact is this: there will never be enough time. That’s just the way life is.

But I do want to write. I yearn to write. The words in my galaxy are always pounding away at the hatch in their struggle to escape. After all, I find plenty of time to read the work of other writers. I find time to pursue my other creative endeavors. I find time to watch House Hunters International, for Pete’s sake. But do I write every day? Not really. Could fear be at the root of my excuses? Fear of failing at the one thing that truly defines me? Maybe that’s it. (Excuse!)

One of the first rules all writers learn is that we have to force ourselves to sit down and write every single day; better yet, at the same time every day. It doesn’t matter if in that moment we have nothing worth writing about. All that matters is that we make the effort to sit in front of a blank page with a pen or keyboard at our fingers. Discipline = habit. Get in the daily habit of opening that hatch and releasing those pent-up words and they’ll eventually fall into place. They may even form a constellation that marks the beginning of a brilliant novel or short story or poem or article.

There is only one way to fail and that is to do nothing.

No more excuses.

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