Mindful Mondays – Week 43 – And the Oscar goes to…

Oscar! Both a man’s name and a celebrated achievement for those in the movie industry. Last night, we popped the pop corn, readied the snacks, and decorated in Hollywood style. We sat down to enjoy the 90th Academy Awards with our bets placed and coveted prizes awaiting the announcement of Best Picture.

Oscar is ninety years old and still so slim, so shiny, so gold. It’s no wonder he is at the center of so many theatrical dreams. So when Jimmy Kimmel, whether out of humor or all seriousness, suggested that the shortest acceptance speech of the night would win a jet ski, the room roared with laughter. Funny as it was, it got me thinking.

Taking out the obvious that most of the audience goers at the Academy Awards can afford to purchase their own jet ski. Would anyone really be so willing, when given the chance, to dismiss that moment of importance? Besides being a honor to receive, Oscar is a symbol of a job well done, a validation of sorts.

The Oscar Goes To...

None of us walk through this world without the help of others so I can’t imagine not taking the time to thank all those that walked beside me should the opportunity present itself. With Hollywood and its productions touching our lives, our news feeds, and our hearts on a daily basis, it is easy to forget the courage it takes to create art. Whether it is a feature length film, a musical score, or editing that makes the difference between a masterpiece and a flop, each person involved in the process steps out on a limb and says, “this is me”!

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Mindful Mondays – Week 42 – Mindfulness in a Snowstorm

Have you ever noticed the magic of being lulled into oblivion by a snowstorm? This past weekend we traveled to Idaho for a Jazz festival that our son was participating in. The first day of travel was pleasant. Though snow adorned the hills and valleys, the roads were clear and safe passage was granted.

The following day as we traveled from our hotel to the festival site, the roads were far less forgiving. A semi truck jack-knifed on an exit ramp was an eerie reminder of what can happen during travel through a snowstorm. It was however, the journey home the next day that made me question one’s ability to be mindful while driving.

White was everywhere. In the air, on the hills, covering the highway. The white out conditions were mesmerizing at best and treacherous at worst. I will admit, I am a nervous passenger by nature. Yet even I found myself being sucked into the vacuum that was the lull of the snowstorm.

Being mindful is often thought of as taking time throughout the day to reflect, be still, and be present. As we crept our way along the highway like a trail of ants destined for the same ant hill, I was struck by the notion of how thoughts, goals, and potential deadlines might be the motivating force for others traveling the same roads.

Mindfulness in a Snowstorm

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Mindful Mondays – Week 41 – The First Draft… Or a Chinese Dinner

First drafts are a lot like other challenges in life. So often I am told by those that do not write, how impossible they think it would be to write a book. I am confident though, that like any challenge, if the desire exists, the challenge can be met. I must admit that there are some aspects of writing that come easy to me. Others though, not so much. Most of my struggle can be found during the first draft stage of writing.

The first draft of any project is somewhat like preparing a special birthday dinner. Let me explain. This past December, my son requested a Chinese dinner for his 18th birthday celebration. The list included sweet and sour pork, lemon chicken, chow mein, beef and broccoli and the almighty fortune cookie among others. No problem you may think. Take out is only ten minutes up the road my husband pointed out. Me, being the “Mom” and wanting to make the day a special one, decided to make the feast from scratch.

After all how many of these milestones will we have left to celebrate with a young man on the verge of adulthood? This doesn’t take into account the fact that one, I don’t eat much in the way of Asian cuisine. Two, I have never attempted to make such a meal. And three, and only upon reflection after the fact, I do not have enough stove top burners to pull off such a feat.

So there I sat, a few weeks before the big day. I scoured the internet for the perfect recipes. My grocery list resembled something of a foreign language quest. I visited seven, count them, seven stores in search of ingredients I had never known to exist. Pulling my hair out, I sought guidance from store staff only to be greeted with a blank stare and a shrugging of shoulders.

The First Draft... Or A Chinese Dinner

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Mindful Mondays – Week 40 – The Rule of 70/30

I have a rule. It is called my 70/30 rule. I can’t remember if I heard the notion from someone far wiser than myself or if the realities of life taught it to me. Either way, the 70/30 rule simply states, in life there is likely to be 70% of experiences you enjoy to 30% of those you do not.

This rule can be applied to virtually any situation. Life, work, parenting, and even play offers us a percentage of the same balance. I have discovered that if the mark of 70% of enjoyment is reached, the willingness to endure the remaining 30% of necessary tasks is accepted by most individuals.

The Rule of 70/30

This morning, I watched an Olympic athlete very graciously accept accolades for his achievement of a gold medal in Pyeong Chang. He spoke of the hard work it took to reach his goal. Then he spoke about the level of stress he had endured up to his last ski event. His words and body language both confirmed the extreme level of stress he was still recovering from. Continue reading

Mindful Mondays – Week 38 – The Allure of History

History has been a passion of mine since I was a small child. I enjoy stories of the past. Whether the historical account comes from within my own family or between the pages of history books, all history is fascinating to me. As a fiction writer, my inspiration for story settings and thus story creation, often come from the backdrop of history. I am often asked why I focus on the era surrounding World War II.

To be honest, the time between 1930 and 1960 in North America has always been of interest to me. In this, I am not alone, as there is much fascination surrounding the history of World War II. Everything from military tactics to the devastating tales of human injustice. It was a time filled with varied experiences and I personally believe, we could spend several more centuries trying to comprehend it all.

Though I do love the fashion, the hairstyles, the hats, it is the human experiences of history that make me want to know more. It is often commented that my historical fiction title, Becoming Mrs. Smith, is from a fresh perspective of the era. The story follows the life of a girl as she comes of age in a small town in South Dakota. As war rages in Europe, America enters the battle with the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Life continues in her little town, but it also ends. This competing sense of time and circumstance is what pushes me forward in research.

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Mindful Mondays – Week 36 – The art of listening…

Listening. Something we do, or at least think we do, everyday in order to move about our lives. But what does it really mean to listen? Our world is full of distractions.  Many of them are small enough to hold in the palm of our hands. How do we maintain a good listening protocol?

I recently had the opportunity to attend a university book club discussion. The discussion was based around the reader’s assessment of Becoming Mrs. Smith, my recent historical fiction title. I understood that book club members would be interested in hearing from me about how the book came to be. They also sought out insight into characters, settings, and such. Open to answering their questions as best as I could, the hours went by quickly. The most interesting thing I took away from the meeting though, was a further understanding of my own listening skills.

The art of listening

I have always been an active listener. My head nods up and down when I am engaged in deep conversation. Even at a workshop, if a speaker is particularly insightful, my heads bobs along. The awareness of my head movement exists simply because it often draws the attention of the speaker at the front of a room. I am not certain if my active listening is helpful to the speaker or not. I do know that it is a cue to myself to be aware of what is being presented. On some level, my heart and mind are interested.

I listened as the book club members provided me with deep insight into what I was doing right and where I could improve when it came to crafting a story. I was delighted as they quoted back to me my own words. In that moment, I knew that my story had struck a chord. It had resonated with them so deeply that my words had become their own. It was quite literally a highlight for me as an author.

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Mindful Mondays – Week 35 – The Magic of NetGalley

NetGalley? Do you know what it is? I certainly didn’t until I immersed myself into the world of fiction writing. Oh my! My head spins when I think about all the books I missed reading, simply because I did not know about this bookish website. So I am here to let you in on the not so little secret about the magic of NetGalley. Did you know that NetGalley is a free service for readers and reviewers looking to get their hands on digital copies of a multitude of books?

We are talking, advanced reader copies from well loved authors that haven’t even seen the fluorescent beams of a well lit book store yet. The NetGalley bookshelves brim with new talent, just emerging into the literary world, as well as many favored authors whose latest titles we eagerly await. In fact, many of the big publishers and authors use the platform to showcase, test, and determine the temperature of their recent literary work from the pool of NetGalley’s avid readers.

Becoming Mrs. Smith on NetGalley

This month, Becoming Mrs. Smith is available for download from NetGalley and I couldn’t be more pleased. Not only do readers/reviewers get to vote on book covers (I love that part!). But they are also invited to request, read, and review as many titles as time allows. Some titles linger for awhile. Others make only a brief appearance. So checking back frequently is the key to getting the most of this wonderful reading experience. Continue reading

Mindful Mondays – Week 34 – Welcome to the New Year!

New Year’s Eve has come and gone. I hope you celebrated well and arrived home safe and sound. 2018 has so much promise, I am bursting with excitement! A New Year is like supercharging your reset button. If you’re a golfer, it’s a mulligan on steroids.

Not that you want to do everything over again. I am sure there are many aspects of your life that you are absolutely loving. But I bet there are a few things that have been nagging at you these past couple of months. You know the ones. The ideas that won’t let you be. The projects you keep putting aside for when you have a little more time.

Carpe Diem folks! Today is the day. Make it happen for yourself in 2018. Dream big. Aim high. Don’t limit yourself by the hows and whys. Reach for those stars and let your heart show you the way.

Happy New Year 2018

New years are meant to make us think. Celebrate the old, appreciate its gifts. Be gracious and kind for all that you have learned. Then spend a few days sorting through the list of things you want to tackle this year. The key is to dream bigger than your current self perceived limitations. Don’t put yourself in a box before you’ve even attempted something new. How do you know you can’t climb Kilimanjaro if you’ve never taken the goal seriously?

Trust your instincts. They’ve been with you since day one, perhaps now is a good time to start listening to them. The biggest reason for failure of reaching a goal is negative self belief. That comes primarily in the form of negative self talk. Dis-empowering self behaviors and lack of positive affirmations make any goal a much more challenging path than anything needs to be. Believe in yourself and your abilities first and then create a basic plan of how to get there.

Write it down! I repeat. Write it down! The fastest way to lose track of a goal is not remind yourself that you had a goal in the first place. If you want to write a book, then figure out your end goal. When do you want to have your book published? If you want to publish your book before the end of 2018, then get out your calendar and commit to a finish date.

Work backwards from that date to determine your monthly then weekly smaller goals in order to reach the big one. Next, break it down one more time into a daily schedule. What does writing and publishing a book in 2018 look like in your daily calendar? Do you have to write 200 words a day? 500? Or do you need to take your book idea and find a ghost writer?

As you can see, there is always more than one way to get somewhere. It is entirely up to you to decide the path. Keep in mind that goals worth achieving seldom materialize without some effort and sacrifice on your part. Decide your goals while keeping in mind what you are willing and able to put in and give up in order to meet those goals.

Get excited about 2018! It is your New Year. Celebrate it in style, doing what your passionate about.

Happy 2018 to each and every one of you!

Mindful Mondays – Week 33 – Merry Christmas from our home to yours

Christmas on a Monday! How grateful am I? A Monday morning Christmas means an extra long weekend for my family. It means a balance of time at home and time visiting others. It also means, Christmas falls on a Mindful Monday, which makes me super happy to reach out to each of you and wish you a very Merry Christmas.

Merry Christmas

The holiday season for me is filled with laughter and joy, lights, delicious scents, and good old fashioned fun. It is a week of family games and favorite movies. The days are shorter and darker, lending themselves to the magic of a Christmas tree lit up in all its glory Continue reading

Mindful Mondays – Week 32 – An aroma rich with tradition…

Yesterday morning, I set out to make my family a holiday cup of cheer in the form of mulled apple cider. This recent addition to our holiday tradition, brings us together while we sip, savor, and enjoy the taste of the holiday season. It was the aroma though that triggered a memory from my childhood.

The cinnamon and cloves were warming and delightful. But, it was the scent of the orange skin as it was grated into the pot, that filled my mind with images of Christmases past. I find that an aroma, whether pleasant or otherwise, is often times, a direct route to a memory. And so it is with oranges, Christmas, and me.

An aroma rich with tradition

This aroma memory got me wondering about why the connection is so vivid. I fondly remember the family tradition of a Christmas orange in the toe of my stocking. A tradition that continues today with my family. The smell of a sweet and juicy orange still lingers around the tree each Christmas morning. Continue reading