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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Choosing Happiness

Photo by Kevin Tomasello
Butterflies are a sure sign of summer. Here's a photo my husband Kevin shot of a swallowtail on an island full of flowers in the middle of the river. There's a butterfly in my upcoming novel, too, although that one appears in a vision. And it's bright blue. More on that when the publication date comes closer early next year.

So, we're not quite at the dog days yet, since summer just officially started last week, but this month went by so fast! I can't believe it's the end of June already.

I've been plotting my next novel. Mostly in my head, but I am about ready to start outlining and I have a few scenes written. This story is quite different from my first book. It's a huge project that will require quite a bit of research to pull it off well. It's difficult to switch gears when I am still in the process of launching my first novel. Speaking of which, I decided to change the title HEARTLAND after I found out there was another book and a Canadian TV series with the same name. My publisher, Unsolicited Press, agreed and so we have a new title: WHERE THE HEART LANDS. I think it works just as well. I can't wait for you to read it!

WHERE THE HEART LANDS is a story about two women who learn how to make happiness for themselves, despite circumstances of suffering. Happiness, according to Marianne Williamson in her excellent book EVERYDAY GRACE, is an acquired skill. It is easy to get lost in suffering. No one really blames you for feeling terrible when something bad happens to you. Tragedy is all around us, after all. Williamson reminds us that "there is always something to complain about, even in the best of times. And there is always something to celebrate, even in the worst of times." I struggle with this all the time. I have a tendency to look at the negative side of things. In fact, I sort of crave melancholia. Gloomy days feel pretty good to me, for some reason. I guess because they give me time to think. I like to think about stuff. Too much of anything can make one bloated, though, and thinking too much is no exception. Too many people don't seem to think enough about anything. But, thinking can lead to suffering, if you don't choose your thoughts carefully.

Williamson also notes that "those who have learned to be happy are often those who have suffered most." But, she's not talking about dwelling on sadness. No, she reminds us that "gratitude is essential to happiness." Gratitude for any little good thing that happens, like noticing how nice the warm sun feels on our skin or when your child laughs or when your little dog does a happy dance just because you walked in the door. Or how good basil smells growing in your garden. Or maybe someone held the door open for you or your husband fixed your broken bike shoe cleat or the chair you're sitting in is particularly comfortable or a tree offers you shade on a hot day. Maybe you were able to hold a cup in your paralyzed hand today or you said your first intelligible words after a stroke took them away or you can still smell your spouse's scent on the clothes in the closet after he passed away or you are able to take a deep breath without pain. Stuff like that.

Good things are all around us. We just have to notice them. That doesn't mean that we have to give up our sadness. It doesn't mean that we don't grieve. But, we can choose happiness over grief if we want to. I am inspired every day by the people I see in my day job who have lost so much because of a stroke or traumatic brain injury or cancer or ALS or some other horrifying disease. The ones who have lost so much, yet pull through and thrive for whatever time they have been given. They take each day and make it as good as they can.

I invite you to notice the good things. Choose whatever happiness you can find. I am happy that you are willing to read my words today. Thank you for stopping by.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Make Always Right Now

Photo by Laura Bear
Another weekend of perfect weather in upstate New York. I don't quite believe it, but I'm not complaining. Grass mowed, two hilly bike rides, took the dog for a drive to the soft serve, cleaned the bathroom (it had to be done), hung out some wash, worked a bit in the garden, combed mats out of the cat's fur, picked more strawberries and made shortcake. I even got a little writing in! There is one more cord of wood in the driveway that needs stacking, but a girl can't do everything in one weekend.

So, how do I sit down in my writing room when its so lovely outside? I make myself so tired I can't wait to sit for a while, that's how. And I dream about our upcoming trip back to Acadia next month--wait, maybe that's not productive--here's a little boat picture to get you in the mood. Speaking of boats, Kevin is away finishing up his last boat clinic (kayaks and canoes) for the year and for life, since the guy he works for is retiring this year. I miss you, Babe, but I will also miss having a few days at a time to myself again (see previous post titled "Solitude").

I spend far too much of my life thinking about the future and regretting the past. I don't think it's wrong to have dreams, but if you spend too much time thinking about what hasn't happened yet or worrying about what did happen before, well, you miss what's happening right now. I have to remind myself every single minute of every day (when I'm not too busy ruminating on past and future) to focus on the moment. There's a chapter in the book Living a Course in Miracles by Jon Mundy, PhD titled "Always Must be Right Now." I don't remember what he said about that (I need to reread this some time in the future), but I like the concept. Always doesn't happen except for each right now, right? So, make the most of it. Trouble is, I forget. I have a terrible memory. I have to write everything down or its gone into the ether. Unless it's some painful stupid thing that happened to me when I was eight years old, then just try to forget that! Ha! But, I digress. What was I talking about?

Oh yeah, living my life by the moment. Does that mean don't plan anything? Don't work on anything because the result only exists in the future? No, I think not. Living for the moment does not get you off the hook. I believe it means, pay attention because you don't know how many moments you have. Cherish each and every one. Even the bad ones, for without them, we can't grow or learn or be grateful for the really good ones. That's all. Simple, yes? Or not, it doesn't matter. What matters is that we make our always right now.

Enjoy your moment. Thank you for reading.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Spaces Between

Photo by Kevin Tomasello
Here is some of our daily strawberry harvest! I am so excited that our strawberries are taking over the flower garden along the driveway this year. Usually when tendrils invade, it's a weed plague or aliens sucking the life out of you. Don't worry, still plenty of flowers, just not in the former bare spot that grew nothing for the past several years. Now we have fruit! Let the shortcake begin!

Anyway, we were supposed to have a beautiful, sunny weekend, but Saturday felt a little too much like fall. Cool and cloudy. I like fall, but not in the middle of June. Not as nice for bike riding, but perfect for wood stacking and weeding the garden. Tomorrow should be warmer and we'll be ready for the bikes again. Digging in the dirt is always therapeutic, but nothing beats a Sunday rolling through the countryside on two wheels.

As far as my writing, I have been scribbling during the snatches of time between day-job and home obligations. I have been working on the list of items sent by my publisher, a bit more on the new book, and on this blog. I have been busy trying to educate myself on the whole book promotion process and frankly, I am more confused than ever! Hopefully, I'll have it figured out well enough by the time my book comes out. I really like the characters in this book and they would love to meet you! Perhaps I will introduce you to a few of them soon. I could use a few more hours in the day...

Well, time to head downstairs to the "theater room" for a show on Netflix tonight with my spouse. When we renovated the basement, my son suggested the funky short part of the "L" shape would make a great spot for a movie theater. Our house is tiny, but we make the most of every space.

May you make the most of all of your spaces this week. Thank you for reading!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Heart Pump

Photo by Laura Bear
These gorgeous weekends are interfering with my writing time. I had two spectacular bike rides and took care of some yard and garden work. After my favorite 40-miler with my friend Amy (hubby is out of town working), I watered the vegetables, took a quick nap on the couch and took the little dog for a walk downtown.Teddy thinks he needs a 10-mile hike every day, but he managed with the stroll through town because of the frequent sniff stops along the way. The frog posed for a photo when we were in Acadia a couple years ago. We will be headed there again this summer--our favorite outdoor playground.

So, before I crash tonight, I thought I'd get a few words down. I try to stick to a schedule with my writing, even if I only manage a few sentences. It keeps the demons at bay. I've been thinking about poetry lately. I haven't written any in a long while. Here's a short one in honor of the bike ride today:

Blood pushes through 
Roads of arteries 
As legs pump
Hard over the next hill.
Spinning wheels
Rolling out
From passing farms.

That's all I got tonight! Hope you found something that made your heart pump this weekend.
Thanks for taking the time to look.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Learning to Shine

Photo by Kevin Tomasello
I had a strange dream last night that a group of bears invaded my backyard and were devouring a carcass of some mystery animal. The bears were mostly very young cubs, but a few were older and I kept looking for the mother bears. There were also oodles of stray cats trotting off with pieces of legs and other bits of carrion. For some reason, I was trying to scoot some of the cats into the house to protect them from the bears. Our little dog Teddy (he's in the boat to the right, clearly not a dream) was watching the scene with nary a peep. Highly unusual for our MIGHTY dog. I had a glass of wine with dinner last night, but geeeeesh!

I am pretty sure black bears don't eat meat, but I guess they could have been opportunists. Certainly their grizzly cousins will eat meat and anything else they can find in a campground. Not sure that I can get a story from this dream, but it was interesting, nonetheless. Maybe I was communing with my name in the unconscious state.

Anyway, now that my book is written and will be published, I have to learn the business end of writing. I admit, I am allergic to business. I almost break out in hives when anyone utters the word marketing. But, I am immersing myself because, hey, it's necessary. I mean, what good is it if I write a book that no one reads? My friend Mari (check out her amazing website and radio show at http:/ gave me some good advice about this recently. She told me that marketing is not about selling. I was so relieved, because I don't think I could even sell girl scout cookies, and they're pretty tasty. She said that marketing is more like promoting who you are and what you have to offer. No pressure there, right? What she meant was, I believe, it's about why we write. Tell people the story of how you came to write the book. Who are your characters? What can people relate to in your story? Stuff like that. It's really not a sleazy thing after all. It's connecting with other people! I can do that, I think. It doesn't change who I am.

Here's a nice quote from Rumi:

If sunlight falls upon the filth,
still it's the same light:
no contamination comes to it.

Spread your light everyone.