Out with the Old

A common theme at this time of year, but this year is not ending the way 2010 did. I was blindsided in 2011 by more than a few things, but thanks to my friend Valerie’s gift of a really good book, I’m coming to grips with the fact that change is inevitable, and to live a better life, I need to stop resisting change and instead roll with the flow of it.

One of the biggest things I’ve learned is how powerful a motivator fear is. Ever see pickup trucks with “NO FEAR” on them? I used to think it was macho BS. On trucks, I still think it is, but it made me notice something. Everyone’s afraid of something. But a friend told me a long time ago, “Courage is knowing what you’re afraid of, and doing it anyway.” I keep that in mind when I query an editor or agent I would LOVE to work with but I know is so busy and so talented that everyone wants to get to her/him. I shut off the fear center in my brain, seal the envelope, and drop it in the mail. (Or shut my eyes and hit “send”. Believe me, I do that EVERY time.)

Now that I’m facing a very uncertain future, my first reaction was fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of whether I’d land on my feet. Fear that I’d never be happy again. Not to mention, hating the hell out of the person who swiped my future life and expectations out from under me. That hatred was born out of fear. I went through all the stages of grieving, and every now and then I get glimpses of “acceptance”. I’m like a mouse, peeking out from under the cupboard at a crumb on the center of the kitchen floor. Some times I get closer than others.

But it’s a matter of accepting change, rolling with it, and looking forward to what comes next. NOT being afraid of it.

It used to be the Madison Avenue slogan was, “Sex sells.” It’s why in the 70’s, my uncle bought a Mercury Cougar on his credit card, because he thought Farrah Fawcett came with it. Uh, no. But I’ve noticed that since 9/11, fear sells, maybe even more than sex. The market now offers programs to protect you from identity theft; commercials advise you what to keep in an emergency kit; home security system signs are on most houses on my block. Oftentimes, the price of security is privacy, but we won’t get into that. The ubiquitous “they” have figured out, you’ll do and pay anything to stay safe. Fight or flight is a natural human instinct. We want to stay alive.

I’m not saying I’m denying my fight or flight instinct from now on, but I’m not going to live in fear, either. Yes, I don’t know what’s around the corner. It could be a hot guy or it could be a rabid goat. I’m not going hide anymore, certain it’s the latter. It could be the former, too, and when it comes down to it, I won’t give up a chance at happiness in exchange for a guarantee of security. There’s no such thing as a guarantee of anything.

Phil Keoghan, the host of “The Amazing Race”, wrote a book called N.O.W.: No Opportunity Wasted. It’s an excellent read if you get a chance, and now that my life has changed direction, it’s something I refer to regularly. I need to stop being afraid and embrace the possibility that the next opportunity could make me deliriously happy. Or I could fall flat on my face, but even if I fail, I’ll learn from the experience of getting up again, and not making that mistake again. I just have to stop being afraid of failing and falling. (Interesting how those two works look so alike.)

So, while at the moment it feels like bravado, I’m ready to start the New Year. No resolutions; just the hope that this time, I’ll do better in all my endeavors.

I wish the same for you. Blessed, healthy, and prosperous 2012 to you!!

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Auld Lang Syne

This is the time of year I’m most prone to melancholy thinking about the people who can’t be with us. It often makes me wonder what they’re thinking. Are they screaming in frustration with the way I live my life, or do they stand there, silently crying with pride. I prefer to think it’s the latter, but I won’t know for sure. I can only hope, and try to feel the vibrations they’re sending out from wherever they are.

The radio station has been playing Christmas music since some time in November, but for the last two days, I’ve put that station on and let it play. Normally I put on the iPod and let life go on as usual, but not yesterday and not today. It’s kinda nice, swimming in the Christmas spirit. And not drowning in it.

This morning they played some of Alex’s favorite Christmas songs (really, they all are his favorites) so I’d call up to him to put on the radio. At one point they played Jose Feliciano’s “Feliz Navidad”, and it made me smile, thinking of my ex mother in law. That was one of her favorites. We didn’t always get along. Sometimes we were downright nasty to each other, but she loved the boys like they were her own kids. We got along better after I divorced her son (well, after that fight in Newark Airport), and at times I find myself missing her. It’s the first Christmas without her, and wherever she is, I hope she knows I’m thinking of her, and not in a bad way.

I’m also thinking of my grandparents, and their relationship, and how much I miss them. Just thinking of the moments we had together make me feel warm from the inside out. Grandpa singing “Moonlight Bay” and the time Nana held my hand when I fed her lunch, and knowing that despite her Alzheimers, she was still there on the inside.  

And Aunt Jeanne. I’m knitting a hat in the round, but I think this was her yarn. It’s going to someone I care about very much, who’s a terrific person (who I can’t name, or the surprise will be blown, though I doubt he reads my blog), so hopefully the connection comes full circle like my knitting needles.

Oma and Opa. We didn’t have a lot of time together, but the time we did have together was precious. Every time I’m driving and someone ahead of me is going slow, and I say out loud, “If you go any slower, you’ll be in reverse,” I think of Opa and the time he said that to me. Don’t worry, I do remember it fondly. 🙂 And if I’d known Oma could knit, we’d have spent hours together, stitching to our heart’s content. I bet she could’ve taught me a lot.

This time of year, it’s a good time to reach out to the people who matter to you and bring them close. Like Grandpa always used to say at the end of his annual reunions (which we haven’t had since he passed, and I bet that makes him sad), “You never know when it’ll be the last time.” We laughed about that for 13 years, ’til the last time happened.

Just remember that Christmas isn’t all about what you give someone, but the memories you make with them. Things break, get lost, or get thrown away, but the memories will stay with you and them, always.

Healthy and Happy Christmas to all!

Many Times, Many Ways…

‘Tis the season for giving gifts, so my gift to you is the gift of inspiration. If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know that music is one of my key inspirations, so here are some songs that inspire me the most. I played them this morning and thought, “These are too good not to share.” Enjoy!

“All the Above” by On the Rocks. There’s another version out there but I love this one.

“What Doesn’t Kill You (Makes You Stronger)” by Kelly Clarkson. My new anthem.

“Hard Candy Christmas” by Dolly Parton. Sad as it sounds on the surface, there’s a shred of hope in here if your heart is willing to look for it.

“Single Ladies” by Beyonce. I dare you not to dance around the kitchen while this one’s playing. Seriously, I double dog dare you not to at least twitch.

You know, I had every intention of making this a longer list, and then Thursday dawned and I completely forgot about it. There IS more, but let me get out my iPod and add to it later today.

If I forget (again), have a blessed holiday celebration of your choosing! And may your relatives remember your current address! 🙂 (Seriously, Pete, that address is over three years ago. Santa needs to bring you a Day Planner app.)

Bloodletting

No, this isn’t about Twilight, I promise. (I have to confess, I was a Twilight-hater until my BFF reminded me that people down-talk Twilight like they do romance fiction. I love romance fiction, so I stopped being a hater. I’m not converted, but I stopped sharing anti-Twilight pics on Facebook. That’s as good as you’re going to get from me.) 🙂

Bloodletting is the craft of releasing blood from the body in hopes of curing illness. Done right, I suppose it has its merits. Done wrong and, well, we won’t go there. I’ve undergone it, emotionally, over the last few weeks. It hurts like hell, let me tell you, but I think I’m healing.

When it’s done, life starts over again. I’ll be ready, and I’ll be stronger. I’m feeling stronger already. I’ve started running, and I love it. I can’t imagine my day without my half hour at the gym. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that at least one of the TVs will have ESPN on, and someone is *going* to be talking about Tim Tebow, who’s the mental model for the hero in my current WIP. When Tim’s on the screen, I’m running faster. It gets me nowhere, but it burns a nice batch of calories.

I really feel like I’m going to be a different person when this resolves. It wasn’t what I had in mind, but somewhere I heard, “A little revolution now and then is a good thing.” I think that’s what happened here. Better still, I’m going to find out things about myself I didn’t think I’d ever know.

Thanks, John. 🙂

Never bored

Changes are coming. Actually, the only constant thing IS change, but for my life, changes are coming that I didn’t quite see coming. My bad for not anticipating.

Granted, I should’ve seen it. I knew the situation. I was in it too, and truth be told, I felt much the same way. How many times have I played chicken with the exit sign on the PA Turnpike, thinking, “You know, if I just keep driving, no one will notice I’m gone. I could start over again, somewhere else. Be someone else.”

Well, here’s my chance.

I often get spiritual messages from my iPod. It has this knack for playing the song I need to hear at just the right time. When I’m troubled, sometimes it’s Dave Wilcox’s “Turning Point”. Today I got to work early and wanted to keep knitting on my Harry Potter scarf (first years, not later years) because there was a color change coming up and I wanted to set it up so it’d be ready to go next time I grabbed it. So I left the iPod on as it played Barry Manilow’s “Looks Like We Made It.” I would’ve dedicated it to my parents, for surviving their bi-annual journey from frozen NYS to Florida, but the content of the song wouldn’t allow for it.

But then I got two messages: Celine Dion’s, “My Heart Will Go On” (it will), and John Hiatt’s “Have A Little Faith In Me.” I need to keep both those songs in mind in the days, weeks, and months ahead.

Okay, enough moping. Time to go have some FUN!

Deep Breath

Tuesday I mailed out my second entry for the RWA Golden Heart contest. I won’t give the titles, in case you happen to be one my judges. I don’t want to bias anyone, either way. Judge the stories on their own merits, not mine, please.

It was a huge relief to get it done. I’m sure you’ve heard the line, “I love it when a plan comes together” from “The A-Team.” That’s about what happened for me. For a while there, I didn’t think I’d make it, and sadly, I wasn’t too upset about that. It meant I could take the easy route, not taking the chance that I might final, or might not final. It’s brutal when you put so much hope into a story and Notification Day comes, and the only time your phone rings is when your friends call to say, “I finaled!” It’s not easy to keep in  mind that it’s not a defeat. Good stories don’t final sometimes. Plenty of excellent authors have never finaled in the GH, let alone won. You may be next.

Something else to bear in  mind is that there are at least 200 other entrants in my category. My odds of finaling are slim. Too many things could work against me:

– I get the infamous East German Judge who gives me a 4 thinking it’ll give her buddy a better chance (since you can’t judge the category you’ve entered). Deny it all you want, but it happens.

– My judge just had her heart stomped on the day she opens my entry, and the last thing on her mind is romance. The first thing on her mind is castrating the next unfortunate male that crosses her path.

– My judge just got a ticket, laid off, or cut in front of at the supermarket checkout, and she’s in a low-down rotten mood when she opens my entry. Somebody’s gonna pay.

– My judge’s ex’s name was Will or Jonah, so every man with that name immediately sparks a bad memory. Yes, the heroes in my entries are Will and Jonah. (Good luck narrowing that one down. Google won’t help you.)

These are all hypotheticals, and chances are good I’ve never finaled in the GH before because yes, my stories weren’t ready. But this year I’ve done my homework. I’ve paid in my share of elbow grease. I’ve worked on these stories until the very idea of looking at the MS one more time made me want to run, screaming, from the county.

I am SO ready. This year, I’ve had people tell me I write “compelling characters”. (Two people, in fact. The roses should’ve been delivered a week ago.) These stories came from deep inside, and believe me, unless you’ve really dug deep into your soul and pulled out realistic characters, it’s not easy. It’s like giving birth to grown ups, only it hurts worse and takes longer. The good news is, you don’t have to send them to college.

Anyway, I didn’t chicken out and take the easy route. I knuckled down, put in the time, and made that second manuscript SHINE. It went in the mail Tuesday and I said a little prayer that it finds the friendly hands of some kind soul who just got a raise, a promotion, or a marriage proposal.

One hundred sixteen days until the calls go out, notifying the finalists. If you have a second, please say a kind word to the Higher Power of your choice that this is my year. Well, 2012, anyway.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have work to do. 🙂