Here There Be Dragons

In my former career I was a mapmaker.  No seriously!  My degree is in Cartography which is map making.  I worked for the US Department of Defense in mapping and charting division, then targets division, and just before I retired/resigned I worked in digital productions.  Some of the work was very interesting, and some rather mundane.  Sounds like any job doesn’t it?

Ever look at ancient mariner’s maps?  I love old world maps.  The skill and artistry they used to create their maps and charts were truly masterful,  especially when you consider the tools they used.  In modern times we use sophisticated sources that we can neither confirm nor deny the existence of, and in some cases would blow your mind.  Those high-tech things that you think are fictional in movies?  Mere child’s play. I better quit now, I signed many forms to not divulge secrets.

Moving on . . . those ancient charts had markings in common places that read “Here There be Dragons”.  One common spot was off the coast of China.  Another is in the upper Atlantic area between Great Britain, Greenland, Iceland, Nova Scotia, and New England area of the U.S.  It was unknown.  Maybe they saw whales, or giant squids, or Nessie’s relatives.  Who knows what they actually thought they saw.  The point is it was unknown and uncharted.  Danger, danger Will Robinson!

Isn’t this how most of us approach our unknowns?  Our first reaction is a sharp intake of breath followed by rising pulse and a big red DANGER flashing in our minds?  Why?  Because it’s unknown.  Better the devil we know than the one we don’t.

This big sign hangs over that section of our lives we call unknown:  Here there Be Dragons!  We are afraid to go beyond that border of the familiar and venture into the land of dragons.  We makes lines of demarcation on the borders to warn us not to venture beyond this point.

Enter the Dragonslayer!  (Insert dramatic music here and picture of imperious heroine standing arms akimbo on the deck of my sailing vessel!)   No, I’m not going to slay your dragons for you.  No, I don’t work for hire; unless you pay in Caribbean vacations and chocolate.  No, I’m not slaughtering innocent dragons.  NO dragon was harmed in the writing of this post.  I’m exploring the boundaries of my own limitations, and re-evaluating those areas labeled as new and different.  I’m updating my maps to explore the dangerous land of dragons.

We laugh at Medieval superstitions, but we do the very same thing in our own lives with much smaller matters.  2012 is the year my borders are expanded, and my myths are busted!  Just because I haven’t done it before doesn’t mean I can’t.  Just because I haven’t obtained success in a certain area doesn’t mean I won’t.  Just because my past is boring doesn’t mean my future will be.  Get the picture?

For those of you that prefer your nice, neat, tidy little boxes beware.  I’m in a box smashing mood, and on a rut destroying mission.  It may spill over on you if you get too close! For those brave souls who like adventure, I invite you to come along on the explorations and adventure.  Strangely when the explorations begin, that dragon that cast the ominous shadow turns out to be a tiny lizard with a blue tail.

I know, about now you’re wondering where do I come up with this stuff? To give you a little insight into that dark hallway you can take a look at a friend’s blog that inspired my dragon slaying adventure.

Sort of a yang to his yin!  Many members of my extended family are rutmakers.  I hate ruts!  I think I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I like to change things frequently.  If you check my post for THAT’S SPICY!, I mention it there.

February was less productive than I would have liked it to be.  I really didn’t make much progress towards my main goals, and this sickness has derailed me even more.  I’ve been plotting my charts for March, and setting milestones to achieve.  While working on that I visited Raymond’s blog, and I was off and running!

Hope there are a few brave souls to join my crew of adventurers as we sail into the unknown, charting new territory.

My course? Second star the right, straight on till morning!

The second star to the right

Shines in the night for you

To tell you that the dreams you plan

Really can come true!

Avast ye mateys, all aboard Starship Mack as we sail the uncharted waters!

Overcoming Emotions

This is an excerpt from the presentation I’m doing for Saturday’s seminar.  The entire presentation is called Soul Matters: Your Mind, Will, and Emotions.

The root source of the term emotions comes from the Latin ex mocrere; which means to move away.  Isn’t that what we do when we allow ourselves to be overcome by our emotions?  We move away from rational thought, move away from our balanced being?

Nobody will ever reach a point in life of not experiencing a wide variety of emotions.  Our job is not to get rid of those emotions but to learn to manage them.  Instead of throwing ourselves down and having a temper tantrum like a two-year old, we have to learn to reign in our feelings and communicate in a more mature manner.  How many examples of bad behavior do we really need to see on tv anyway?

Do you think that anyone on Jersey Shore would last a minute in a board room meeting? I don’t, they’d be laughed at and escorted out of the building.

Here’s a few observations pertaining to emotions:

  • Typically women show emotions more than men.
  • phlegmatic show the least emotions of the four temperament groups. (Reference: Tim La Haye; Why We Do the Things We Do.
  • Sanguines show the most emotions of the four temperaments.
  • Melancholics have the most problems with depression – they are deep thinkers.

It’s not an easy thing to overcome your emotions, but it’s possible.   Emotionalism is being dominated by your emotions.  Think about the drama queens you know.  Everything is to the extremes and they are led by the rollercoaster of their emotions.

One of the keys to overcoming your emotions is honesty.  Be honest with yourself.  Get gut level real and examine why you feel the strong emotional reactions.  this is the beginning to understanding and eventually being able to control your emotions instead of allowing them to control you.

There are two things that can handicap us in the development of our emotions.  Abuse and responsibility put on us at too young of an age.

Abuse  can be in different forms: verbal, physical, sexual, and mental.  All of these forms hinder our developing psyche, but sexual abuse is the most damaging, causing shame within our sense of self.

Abuse to a deep thinker sets them up for a lifetime of performance orientation. they never enjoy life.  They feel they have to be perfect to earn the right to enjoy anything.  To a strong-willed person it can cause a reaction of rebellion and distrust.  Rebellion as a statement that they will never allow another person to control them in any way, and distrust of ever allowing another person to get close enough to be able to hurt them.

OCD, or obsessive compulsive disorder often stems from abuse.  It’s not the only cause but it can certainly manifest from abuse.  It’s a control issue, an area that the person feels they can control where control was taken from them in the abusive situation.

Abuse robs a person of their childhood.  The same thing happens when a child is saddled with a burden of responsibility that they are too young to handle. Not being allowed to play robs a person of their childhood.

All of these things cause a person to constantly be on edge, they don’t know how to relax.  They don’t enjoy life, always waiting for the other shoe to drop.  Perhaps they waited with baited breath to see of daddy was in a good mood when he came home each day.

They make a mental to-do list for a single day that would require a team of four people to accomplish in a week, then beat themselves up for not being able to accomplish everything.  Then in self punishment, they haven’t earned the right to relax and have any fun.  Is it any wonder high blood pressure is such an issue in our society?

We have to learn to relax and let our inner child come out and play.  Relearn a better way to process the garbage in our lives so that the emotions don’t reign over us.

What are some characteristics of a child?

  • They have fun no matter what they do.  You can put a child in the corner and they will make a game of it by counting the flowers on the wallpaper.
  • If you tell a child to sweep – they’ll be dancing with the broomstick while they work, maybe .  They may just forget they were suppose to sweep.
  • Children have imagination!  Grownups forget how to use their imaginations and get stuck in ruts, going through the daily grind.
  • Children laugh.  Have you laughed today?
  • By nature, children are uncomplicated, simple.  We add dimensional complications to our lives by our own psychological malfunctions.  We need to get back to our simpler selves!

Let your inner child come out to play once in a while and it just may help to get a handle on the emotions.  It’s ok to feel.  Sometimes it hurts, but sometimes it’s great.  Trying times are learning times and through learning to relax and allow yourself to be human,  we learn to manage our emotions.

Adults are just kids with wrinkles.  Smiling causes fewer wrinkles than frowning.

We have to develop a tougher skin as we mature, learn to manage the mean kids in our lives.  We don’t have to become autonomous zombies.  Although if we referenced ourselves as zombies it might cause our teens to be more interested in what we say.  OK, maybe not!

Maturity doesn’t mean we have to become grumpy old people.  It means we become  responsible adults. Responsibility doesn’t have to be boring and sedate.  I’m fighting the aging thing every step of the way. One of the ways to do this is by releasing the inner child!  Life suddenly becomes a game, one that I can win.  Because I set the rules to my game, and I control the moves of the game.  I’ve already won, it’s just a matter of crossing that finish line and getting the blue ribbon prize!

Playing Hooky

This is going to be really short today, because I feel miserable!  I finished my work for the paying gig, so everything else is at my discretion.  As much as I tend to be a type A personality, there are times when I have to admit I just don’t have it in me.  Today is one of those days.

Never did muster the strength to make my chicken soup yesterday.  Perhaps that has contributed to the increased misery of today.  Who knows!  No one is here to play nursemaid for me and make me rest, so I have to make myself do it.  The family will have a big surprise later when I’m not doing it for them either.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been sick, and I’ve done everything I could do to prevent sickness.  The vitamins, the exercise, the healthy diet, the – well ok maybe I don’t get enough sleep.  I think it’s the common denominator amongst Americans.

I have a stack of magazines that I haven’t had time to read, but couldn’t throw out until I at least skimmed through, a couple of novels that I haven’t had time to read, 6 hours or recorded movies that I haven’t taken the time to watch, and  about a gazillion hours of sleep to catch up on. Now the trick is to fit all that in before this afternoon when I have to pick up my kids from school.  Another tricky thing is to manage to take medications to help me breathe and get some rest and time it so I can manage to drive the car to the school.  My daughter has her permit and I can let her drive home, but getting there is the keypin for my day.

After spending two hours staring at a screen of what I’ve already written and being unable to comprehend what I had planned to write next I’ve conceded to the brain fog of nasal congestion.  I surrender today, but I’ll attack it with vigor as soon as I’ve recovered.  It’s important to choose your battles, and this one isn’t worth the fight.    Besides this whatever it is doesn’t play fair  – I can’t breathe!  It’s cut off my oxygen and I can only breathe through my mouth.  Which of course leads to dry mouth, an increase in the sore throat and irritated eyes.

It’s times like this when I miss my mom the most.  Even though I’ve been married and on my own for years, it was Mom who would stop by and bring me soup, juice, and orange sherbet for later  when I felt better.  She would come in, fluff my pillows, straighten up the kitchen that I didn’t have the energy to do, heat up the soup and make me eat at least four bites.  She would make sure I had my liquids next to me before she left.  There was never any milking it either, she knew.  She would say ” You’ve got to take care of yourself because nobody  else looks after us moms. ”

The kids looked at me like I had 7 horns sticking out of my head and said “Hope you feel better.”

My husband set a can of 7Up on the counter and said “Make sure you call XXXXXX, and pick up YYYYYY.  Don’t forget the kids need to be picked up from school, and maybe this (the 7UP) will make your stomach feel better.”

Sigh!  I really miss Mom!  I had the privilege of being her caregiver for the last year and a half of her life.  At the time I didn’t consider it such a privilege, she was a strong-willed person with iron will.  Her nickname was “The Iron Maiden”.  It was Virginia’s way or the highway, and she ran a tight ship!  It was difficult for her to lose her independence, and difficult for us to watch her decline.

I appreciate that time for one main reason, we talked.  We didn’t have the best of relations, she was bossy and tried to control even to the end.  I am rebellious and determined to do things my own way.  We were a lot of like my mother and I, it was this that caused conflict between us but it was this very thing that brought us together.  We related to each other, understood how the other thought and rationalized.

Today I’m on my own.  I haven’t been sick since she has passed, and come to think of it for a couple of years before.  Oh I”ve had an upset stomach or a mild cold but not like this.   So, today I’m playing hooky.  I couldn’t just completely play hooky because I had work that was due this morning.  I had to get the crew moving this morning and out of the house and on their way to their destinations.  In true Ellie fashion, I promptly started in on my work.  I have to maintain a schedule, and practice that self-discipline.  It was a two-hour exercise of futility.

Y’all get a break today because I just don’t have it in me.  It’s probably a good thing because I was going to discuss the difference between the esoteric philosophies versus the eschatological studies relating to the Mayan calendar and Christian end times theology.  Yeah, maybe I just need some rest.

Have a glorious weekend!  Write On!

Comfort Foods

I think it’s interesting to find out what comfort foods my friends turn to, and why that food is a comfort for them.

Ok this is not a Jillian Michael’s friendly post; and if Jillian reads this – she is welcomed to show up on my doorstep and whip me into shape!  In a way though, I think Jillian would approve.  It’s the psychology behind our comfort foods that make it a comfort.

I have different comfort foods for different occasions. I spent many years self medicating myself with food.  I understand the addictions, the psychological dependency, and the desire to mask the pain in our hearts.  The most difficult part of losing weight is not the diet, or the exercise but the space between your ears.

My mother was never generous with praise.  She was quick to criticize and compare, but I remember very few times when she gave praise.    Don’t get me wrong, I love my mother.  She was raised in a manner that dictated that we are not demonstrative with affection. She taught what she learned, and instilled strong values in my siblings and me.  She did however express her love through food.

Had a bad day?  Aw, let’s have some cake.

Aced your exam?  Yeah! Let’s have some cake.

Bobby broke your heart?  Aw, let’s have some cake.

Do you see the pattern there? Chocolate cake fixes a multitude of problems!  I know it doesn’t really, but there’s a part of me inside that screams for chocolate cake with a victory, a defeat, or heartache.  Mom’s chocolate cake with homemade fudge frosting was the bomb!  She wasn’t much of a cook, but boy could she bake!  Pies, cakes, cookies, and bread were masterfully created in our home.  There is nothing better than the smell of freshly baking bread.

My mom has passed, but her “cake therapy” remains.  There was also different therapies for different occasions.  For a cold, there is nothing better than homemade chicken soup.  For the flu, it’s a sip of pickle juice, or 7Up, or hot tea, or basically whatever will stay down.

Two days ago I was perfectly fine.  Finished my workout at the YMCA; and I felt really good about myself.  I spent the afternoon writing about 6,000 words; finished a project that was due and had time to kick back and enjoy a tv show that I had recorded. Yesterday I woke up with a sore throat, itchy watery eyes that burned; my sinuses alternately running like a faucet, or being so congested I thought my head would explode.  I attended my morning meeting and handed off my portion of the project.  Everything was completed and just needed to be printed and bound.  Things went downhill quickly with the finishing team.  The back covers were put on wrong, The appendix was omitted.  My natural bent is to take over and say “Here, just let me do it.”  Anyone know what I mean?

I didn’t do that however, I saved the file, made sure the other people knew how to retrieve it and print however many more copies would be required and I left.  Letting the others do their job while assuring myself that they would eventually get it right was a hard thing for me.  My projects are like my babies; I have trust issues with someone else caring for them.

I returned home to my ‘office’ feeling miserable.  To be honest, I slept most of the afternoon and evening.  When the nausea strikes of course there are no comfort foods in the world that are tolerable until it passes.  Now I’m really craving some homemade chicken noodle soup.  I have the canned stuff, but yuck!  My desire for the soup has not been great enough to make myself prepare it so I sit here and think about it.

Scientific evidence has proven that there is some benefits to hot chicken broth in fighting illness.  Do we really need science to tell us this?  They’ve also claimed that chocolate does indeed have health benefits.  Of course it does! For one, a little chocolate goes a long way in allowing the other person to live.  It causes endorphins to be released.  Well duh, I guess these scientists have never heard a woman sigh after biting into a Dove chocolate.

A friend of mine has the comfort food of Shepherd’s pie.  I tried it and I thought – yuck!  She explained to me the history in her family of the Shepherd’s pie and it has sentimental value to her.  My husband’s comfort foods are scrambled eggs and ice cream.  Not together of course!  My sister in law’s comfort food is creamy mac and cheese, because when they had family gatherings that was the food her Grandma would always bring to the gatherings.

Isn’t that what is really behind our comfort foods anyway?  The sentimental feelings we associate with childhood memories that cause that food somehow transport us back to a time when we were happy is the root of the comfort food.  So psychologically speaking we could attain the “comfort” without the food if we just sat back and thought about it.  But where’s the fun in that?

Isn’t it more enjoyable to eat that oatmeal cookie with walnuts and savor each bite because it tastes like the ones Grandma used to make? Doesn’t it make that plain chicken noodle soup seem like the best meal ever because it was what Mom made for us when we were sick?

What are your comfort foods?  Can you identify why they give you comfort?  Figuring these things out doesn’t prohibit me from enjoying my comfort foods.  It helps me to not behave like a food addict, or over indulge to drown my sorrows.  there are many reasons why people over-indulge and become fat or obese.  I’m working through mine as I regain my health and improve my figure.

I will at some point make some chicken noodle soup today.  Between the “have to finish today” list and the errands that are mandatory,  I will get in a little extra sleep to recover from this flu bug, then have my soup.  After I go back to bed the family will order pizza or go for some other foods.  I’m ok with that.

Leave me a comment and share your own comfort food(s).  Everyone is so diverse, I think it will be interesting.  Thaks for stopping by!

Pink Elephants

We started with a spider monkey.  It became a nuisance until it grew to the size of a silverbacks Gorilla.  No, I’m not actually talking about animals here so there’s no need to contact PETA, no animals were harmed in writing this blog.

Well, except for that spider I squished and insects and arachnids do not qualify as animals in my book.  They have the entire outdoors to run free.  When they cross the barrier into my domicile, I can not be held responsible for the consequences of crossing into an arachnid free zone.  It would be the same thing if I crossed a fence onto a government testing site – enter at your own risk.  Survival of the fittest, and biggest.  That spider was no match for my New Balance tread!

Anyway back to the gorilla:  we all have those pink elephants that we know are there, we just talk around them but never acknowledge.  It takes someone new and unlearned in the practice of ignoring the elephant to bring up the uncomfortable topic.  It started small, hence the metaphorical spider monkey.  It was manageable, back then. But we let it grow.  Ever notice how some things grow even though you don’t consciously feed them?

It’s like the weeds in my garden. Oh sure, I have to work to tend my tomatoes, but the Johnson grass pops up over night and invades with a voracity of kudzu!  The gorilla is like that.  It’s the kudzu gorilla!

We’ve managed to function around it, ignore it, overlook it, we’ve even trained ourselves to block it from our periphery.  But it’s on the move again, having a tremendous growth spurt.  I swear someone snuck in while I slept and fed the thing. It’s now morphing into an elephant.  We can rebuild him.  We can make him stronger, faster, oh wait that was the six million dollar man.  But you get the point.

My daughter’s friend comes over and innocently blurts out “Mrs. M, what’s with the . . . (gorilla)?”

I was at a loss for words! You do realize how monumental that is right?

After a few seconds of picking up my dropped jaw and kick starting my brain again, I found a word “Uh, uh, uh”  Brill!  Quite the conversationalist!

After a big swig of my Gatorade, I finally got my brain and mouth to work together and in embarrassment admitted what was the “deal” with our gorilla.  It’s a long, long story.  One that is tediously ignorant in two people feuding over the small stuff.  Anyone ever see the episode of “Raymond” where he and his wife fought over the suitcase?  Yeah, it was on that level.

After realizing how foolish the whole matter was, after I heard myself explain to this naive 16-year-old that didn’t understand marital politics, it sounded petty and ridiculous at best.

With an exaggerated sigh, I slumped my shoulders and forced myself to move the gorilla to the garage, where it would go out in the trash.  It had been in the way for nearly six months.  I had asked HIM to do it, and He should have, six months ago.  I realize that none of you probably EVER deal with stuff like this, right?  I have to admit that after it was in the garage, I felt tremendously relieved.  Why had it become such an issue? Why had I ever let it go so long?

I’m usually the one that rolls up my sleeves and says “Give it to me and I’ll do it.”  I take responsibility, do what needs to be done because it needs to be done, normally.  But this gorilla, this benevolent thing that grew from a simple spider monkey – I made it an issue.

This morning when I left for a meeting, I noticed the ‘gorilla morphing into elephant’ sitting in the spot where the trash cans belong.  The trash cans were at the curb for our usual pick up.  What’s the deal?

The peaceful calm that I had achieved by doing the long overdue grown up thing and removing the gorilla was now like a needle scratching across a vinyl record.  HE had some ‘splaining to do!  I was livid!

The hubs called at noon and you can bet your bottom dollar that the subject of the gorilla was brought up by yours truly.  His response: “Well, I had to laugh.  I couldn’t bring myself to throw it away because, . . . well, we’ve both been ridiculous about it.  I was thinking maybe we should keep it as a reminder to never let things get this out of control ever again.”

Awww! That was code for “I’m sorry” for those who don’t know about marital politics.  After he said that I couldn’t be angry any longer. He was right, we’d both been childish and immature.  We’d both allowed it to become the “pink Elephant”.

As I surrender to the warm fuzzies of my Dayquil induced slumber I want to leave you with this thought:  we all make mountains out of mole hills; spider monkeys into gorillas.  It’s so easy to take the  low road and yet sometimes impossibly difficult to choose the high road.  Especially when you’re the one who is usually responsible and you just want someone else to step up to the plate this once.

Being responsible isn’t always fun, it’s doing the right thing because it’s the right thing to do.  Sometimes it just takes one person to move an inch to turn the pink elephant into a monument to keep for ages to come.  I did the right thing finally, and even though I had the wrong attitude, it turned out to be a good thing after all.

Either kill the gorilla or bronze the elephant!


A View to a Thrill

Anyone can tell a story but not everyone can do it well.

As a writer, it’s my job to paint word pictures in a fashion that puts the reader in the midst of the action.  It takes a certain degree of talent, but a greater degree of experienced training.  Any high school English teacher can attest that there is a certain degree of talent involved.  Student A writes a paper about King Arthur that has the teacher yawning and reaching for the bag of Doritos.  Student B – K are similar, while she stuffs one Doritos after another in her mouth and washing it down with a Diet Coke.  Ah, but when she reaches Student L’s paper, she sits back in her seat, lifting the paper to her eyes as she takes in the magical illustrative essay that suddenly transports her to Camelot, but not in a way that she’s ever seen on Broadway or on the big screen.  It’s engrossing, entertaining, and leaves her wanting more.

Isn’t that the reaction we’re after?  I don’t want to be student A – K.  I don’t care about the ones after L, I want my writing to grip the reader, put them on the edge of their seat, and keep them turning the page with bated breath.

Anyone can tell the story, but no one else can tell my story.  My story has to be told by me, in my words, in my voice with my own brand of sagacious wit.  Nobody can do the writing for me, and no one else can tell it exactly like me.  I think that the wild imagination I have is a gift.  I can dream up ideas in a flash, it’s the follow through that I get bogged down with.  Yes, the commitment phobia thing.

I had a meeting this morning  to review the workbook for an upcoming seminar that I am one of four speakers. The outline and topics for my presentation were approved.  In fact, they want me to expand on a couple of items.  Public speaking is not one of my fears, I figure if they are willing to listen to me I’ll certainly give them an earful.  It’s easy to talk.  I have an outline, and a person on the front row to flash me a sign when I have 10 minutes remaining,  5 minutes, and 2 minutes.  I’ve tried to check the clock, that doesn’t work for me.  I’m usually busy – arms flailing, right at the punchline when I get the signal to wrap it up.

I’ve mentioned the EIEIO principle – educate, inform, entertain, inspire, outrage.  My job is to accomplish one or more of those things while speaking, and or writing.  The entertaining is the easy part.  Get people to laugh and everyone loosens up a bit.  It makes the somewhat painful lessons easier to take.  While they are laughing at the scene I just play-acted, I can slap their hands and tell them “NO, bad writer!” and they can handle it.  I can inform them of a better way than the rut they’ve gotten into simply by shedding some light through my own struggles.  With a little self-effacing humor, sharing my own struggles and accomplishments, and eventually knowledge I’ve managed to hit every one of those targets.  The Outrage? It just happens.  I get it, my personality just grates on some people and that’s ok.  I make messes in neat and tidy boxes that people lock themselves inside.  Some don’t want to come out of their box and they don’t appreciate anyone else in their box.

I distract them with a little standup comedy and some don’t realize that while they are looking at the right hand the left one is smashing their boxes.  I’m weird that way.  But you know what?  In the end, more people express appreciation for my candor than the few who are outraged at my antics.  My personal opinion is that if I were paying money to hear myself or any of the other speakers talk, I’d find something of value in what they said.  I’d take away something positive about the experience.  It’s sort of like going to a Chinese buffet.  There are a variety of things to choose from, the perfect opportunity to taste new things in small amounts.  Ever get a bite of something that you just had to spit out?   Use a napkin if you do, it’s less messy.

I tried some Garlic Chicken at one restaurant and it was so bad I had to spit it out in the napkin.  But I didn’t call it all a loss.  I went back for something else to try, and ended up with chocolate ice cream.  I like chocolate ice cream.  It was the first time I’d had chocolate ice cream in a long time.  So the experience wasn’t ‘the restaurant with the really bad garlic chicken’, it was  ‘the place we went that I got some chocolate ice cream!’  It made everything better, and my experience ended with a smile.

My job is to paint the picture in a manner that my reader feels the tension, can taste the flavors, (bet you want chocolate ice cream now!), can smell the acrid odors in the air, and can feel the hairs on their arms prickling in anticipation as they dare to turn the page almost holding their breath.

See Dick run.  See Jane run to Dick. Dick hugs Jane and kisses her. They do not see the pack of wolves approaching on the edge of the field.  Oh my, what will happen to Dick and Jane?  I just told you a simple scene.

Now let’s try it my way:  Dick searches the horizon for his love.  He spies Jane in the field below the parapets. Racing down the stairs, heart pounding he pushes aside the other guards in his race to reach his love.  Jane turns, brushing the loose strand of hair behind her ear and sees a blur moving towards her. Realizing it’s Dick her heart leaps at the sight of him, her face alight with pleasure.  Dick lifts her in his arms, twirling her around and slowly bringing her down till their lips meet.  HIs lip on hers, one hand clutching at the mass of curls, the other on the small of her back.  He’d thought of nothing but Jane during the battle, deciding that if he survived, he would marry her.  Life without her wasn’t worth living.

As Dick poured his heart out to Jane between kisses they were unaware of the pack of wolves approaching at the far edge of the field.  Unaware that the crowd had left them standing in the field near the main road, they were lost to everything around them.  Suddenly Dick heard the panting as the animals approached.  He moved Jane behind him and reached for his sword – it wasn’t there!

It was just a quick illustration so don’t get your hackles up but you get the point.  Both are telling the story, but one is better.  With a little editing I could make it the best scene, but that’s not the point.  My point is that as a writer it’s my job to tell the simple outlines story in a manner that gives my readers the thrills and chills.  In that particular scene, in my WIP Dick is known as Kyle and the wolves are demonic monsters that are determined to destroy humankind.  Kyle has some powerful weapons but he’s not immortal like the monsters.  Kyle bleeds when they attack, he falters and exposes Lexy (Jane) to the ravenous appetites of the beasts.  When Lexy is seriously injured Kyle becomes enraged and vanquishes the beasts.  He decides his life isn’t worth living without Lexy and makes a deal with the Fae.  Bad news because they always extract a pound of flesh for everything they do.

Ian Fleming was a master of this with his 007 spy thrillers. Whether you’re writing romance, a spy thriller, urban fantasy, action adventure or any of the other genres;  nobody likes a flat Stanley or cardboard backdrops.  We have to be able to visualize it, taste the ocean salt in our mouths, hear the waves crashing on the rocks, and see the blood stains trailing at the edge of the road to the point where the limp body now laying on the rocks below was tossed.  All of these lead to the most important part, leading the reader to a glorious climax!! What a thrill!



Seize the Day!

Oh if it were only that simple!  Opportunity knocks, frequently but do we recognize it?

Working from home presents a set of problems different from those in an office environment.  In an office  there are politics, the cooler talk, conversations to distract you from working, and people to deal with.  At home there is no politics to distract me, the coffee pot refuses to converse with me, and no people to deal with, normally.  However it seems that many people think that if you “work” from home, you are really just being lazy and don’t have a real job.  How many writer’s have heard that one before?

These are the same people who drop in unannounced for me to go out to lunch.  Sometimes they stop in to vent about their day, or their life.  Someone always wants my attention, and help with their projects.  Funny how they never stop in to say, “Hey, how are you doing? Is there anything I can help YOU with?”

The point is, they think you are available for whatever they want to do.  I admit, sometimes the offer for a lunch out is a nice break.  Sometimes I need to run errands and company is nice.  I’ve usually completed my daily work for my first job by 10:00 a.m.  This is about the time when my friends seem to wake up and start their day.  It is also the time when I transition into writer mode.

It “looks like you’re just playing on the computer all day” is the way my teenage daughter put it.  Apparently it seems to be the common opinion.  I do not have a boss looking over my shoulder, or assigning me work.  I have to set my own schedule, and apply self-discipline.  This is both rewarding and challenging!

But my work is right there, staring at me, calling me, summoning, taunting me in a way that it’s never far from my mind.  I try to set aside family time for the evenings, force myself to tune it out.  At least in an office you can go home for the night and leave it on the desk.   My desk is always visible.  Most of the time I maintain a regular schedule; each thing in its proper place, nice, neat and tidy. This is the very reason that the interruptions in my day are so detrimental.  It’s not that I don’t like to socialize, if I didn’t it wouldn’t be such a temptation.  If I’ve neglected a couple of hours work in the day, I feel obligated to put in the hours in the evening.

Sometimes those distractions are opportunities in disguise.  An opportunity to get outside these walls and live is often the fresh breath of creativity I need.  At least that’s the story I’m sticking with!  A trip to the grocery store can open my eyes in a way that the dim light from my computer screen never can.  A chance to sit at the cafe and chat with my sister, clears my mind so that I can truly think.

A stroll through the library can be like walking into a pheromone filled room, inducing a euphoric response that can’t be explained.  I know it’s weird but the smell of books, real books stirs things inside me.  Passion and envy are the two most frequently stirred.   Envy that their (whoever they are) books are on the shelves where mine will one day be. We’ll just glide on past the passion part, I’m sure my fellow writers will understand my meaning.

To appreciate life, you must learn how to live. To write, you have to live fully and experience life.  There are times to set schedules then there are times to not only set aside routine and seize the day, but there are times when you just gotta smash the whole box!  After all, tomorrow is another day, to write like a maniac!!


Today is Valentine’s Day,  A day to express our affection for the ones we love.   A day of romance, roses, and passion.

Romance doesn’t have to be expensive.  It’s not necessary to spend copious amounts of money to express your heartfelt affection for someone.  I don’t know any girl who would turn away diamonds, but after a few years of marriage it’s really not necessary.  I’m not saying the spark is gone or the desire has waned, not at all.  It’s a matter of knowing your partner, or getting to know them.  It’s a matter of the “heartfelt” part.

Cards are great, roses are lovely,  but true affection means more to me than diamonds or pearls.  Anyone ever heard of the book ‘The Five Love Languages’?  In this book the author, Gary Chapman outlines your love style.

The five styles are:

  1. Words of Affirmation
  2. Quality Time
  3. Receiving Gifts
  4. Acts of Service
  5. Physical Touch

Here’s an easy way to determine your own love language, whatever your first response to show affection is, that’s typically how you would perceive the affection.  If your significant other loves receiving gifts, then you’d best get to the store STAT!  Start paying attention to these things, listening, observing their actions as well as your own.

My love language is Physical Touch.  This is more than just in the bedroom.  This can be as simple as a squeeze of his hand,  a hand laid on my arm as he walks up behind me while I’m washing dishes,  holding hands while we walk, sitting close while watching a movie, things like that.  You can imagine then that gifts don’t mean as much to me as touch.  Anyone can buy a card, or pick up flowers but not everyone will hold my hand during a movie, or during a hike through the woods.  If the cards are played right it can certainly lead to some serious touching in a more intimate manner.

My husband’s love language is acts of service.  Ugh!  He perceives love in the daily housework, the meal preparations, and those little things that if they are not done, suddenly become an issue.  By doing stuff, he’s saying he loves me, but I’d rather have a hug.  When I don’t run the vacuum, It’s because I don’t feel like it, it’s not an expression or lack of love.  However, I will say that I’ve been guilty of using this against him when I’ve been angry.  It always backfires though because I end up having to do it anyway.

How do we find a happy balance?   I don’t know, when we figure it all out I’ll let you know.  In the mean time this becoming one thing is difficult at times.  We’re working on it. We’ve managed 26 years so far, I think we have a good chance of figuring things out.

If words of affirmation are your primary love langugage, it’s not a matter of constantly stroking their ego.  An expression of appreciation goes a long way to  opening up their heart.  Whereas a critical remark to this person has devastating consequences when it was just meant as constructive criticism.  It’s perceived as criticism!

Quality time spent with a person can be the best time investment you could ever make if your partner has this as their primary love language.  Lunch together, a walk through the park, time spent shopping, whatever it is that you do together – DO IT!  I shouldn’t need to explain this, but it’s a matter of focused time, not just being in the same room.  My husband and I can be in the same room, in different worlds.  When I”m writing, I’ve been told that I check out and I’m unavailable.  Apparently it’s an issue, so his secondary language is quality time.

For those whose language is receiving  gifts, they are usually gift givers themselves.  They tend to keep every memento from every little thing you ever gave them.  That Tootsie pop wrapper from the day in the park when you hiked to the falls?  Yeah, they keep it smoothed out in a little “treasure box”.  They can tell you every detail of the day, and why it is significant to them.

As acts of service is my husbands primary love language, I will spend a couple of hours today cleaning, vacuuming, and tidying up the place.  Fresh linens, new tablecloth, and the good china will be out and ready for his arrival.  A fabulous steak dinner is on the menu for the evening, at home.  Valentine’s Day is a busy day at restaurants and he’d rather stay at home.  He can take me out a different day when it isn’t as crowded.  I’m ok with that.  That’s also one of the benefits of having been married a few years, you learn to have some grace and patience with each other.

At the same time, I’m doing a project from a counseling session.  If you can’t take your own advice then don’t give it, right?  I’m making a treasure box.  In it is 100 paper hearts of varying colors.  On each heart I write something I love about him, or a special memory that we’ve shared.  If you love the person this should be easy right?  I thought it would be.  It’s not.  In fact it’s really forcing me to examine our lives together.  The first 30 or so were easy, but the next 30 were a little more challenging.  I’m at 74 and I have a couple more hours to come up with the rest.  I won’t be so quick to question the next couple when they say how difficult this exercise was.

A card, the treasure box and a small gift will be waiting for him tonight.   I have no idea what he has planned.  I’ll just wait and see.  If it’s just a card, ok.  If it’s more great.  The point is, I”m expressing my affection and I’m making this day about giving to the ones I love, not about what they can or will do for me.  My children were greeted with their Valentine’s gifts this morning.  They were happy, which makes me happy.

It is far better to give than to receive.  In this case, yes it is.  I’m doing the part I have control over.  I’m giving out of my heart, expressing my love to family and friends.  It makes me feel great that I can bring a smile to someone else.  It makes me feel productive to know that with just a little effort, I can bless someone else.

It’s about others, and about me.  I have to start with me, learning to love myself before I can truly love anyone else.  It’s a risk, opening up your heart to someone else.  By giving out of myself, not expecting back I’m learning to value myself.   When you give, it’s often given back in greater measure than you gave.

Give some love today!!


Ever have those days when your best laid plans go horribly awry?  It seems to be the running gag throughout my life.

I have these ideas and they sound so wonderful at the time.  My impulsive nature acts on them often before I think things through.   Sight gags are often funnier than written comedy but bear with me, I think you’ll find the humor.

We want to think about the good side of relationships; the romance, the love, companionship, stuff like that.  However my life isn’t so picture perfect as a happily ever after tale.  Opposites attract.  It’s like polar opposites and sparks fly.  In the bedroom – va va va voom. I daily life – sparks fly there as well.  Let’s just say make up sex is a great thing.  Two people of different personalities living in the same house, day in and day out are bound to have conflict.

Conflict leads to resolution, resolution to the make up session.  Ideally.

I had a vision of inspiration, and acted.  As Valentine’s Day is fast approaching I thought it best to clear the air, and get our differences resolved.  The kids were at a sleepover; the house was clean; I put on romantic inspiring music as I worked.  The new satin sheets were on the bed, rose petals spread on the bed, the candles lit throughout the house.  I put on what I considered to be my most flattering lingerie and sexy high-heeled shoes.  I added my best jewelry, and greeted him at the door with two glasses of chilled merlot in my hands.

Surprised wouldn’t exactly be the expression I was greeted with as he came in through the garage.  The table was set, the steak was ready to serve and I stood with wine in hand wearing the lingerie and an apron.  I’m happy to say the dinner was a success.  We talked between bites and cleared the air about our issues.  That was a good thing.

While I cleared the table and loaded the dishwasher, he took a shower.  I removed the apron and headed down the hall with my refilled glasses.  I leaned against the door frame, trying to strike the seductive pose as I admired the view on the bed.  It went sharply downhill from there.  I didn’t see the jeans laying in the floor as I stepped forward, tripping myself in the process.  My ankle twisted in the 4 inch heel, and I lunged forward throwing the wine on him and the bed.  When I fell on the satin sheets I slid across the end of the bed to the other side.  I grazed his leg as I passed so technically we did touch.  When my butt made contact with the floor m head made contact with the dresser drawer at the same time the glass I still held in my hand made contact with the wood and shattered cutting my hand.

Quite the romantic aren’t I?  What a mess!  What was intended to be a romantic evening ended up being an embarrassing trip to the emergency room.  After I put on more appropriate clothing and he showered again to remove the wine, we sat in the emergency room for hours.

We can laugh about it now, especially with the pain meds. Hope your plans work out better.