Gratitude and The Art of Chasing Normal

My latest YA novel

 

Today I’m talking about NORMAL.

Not that I know what “normal” is, exactly. Except to say, sometimes I lose my way and fixate on the grass around my feet that somehow just doesn’t seem to look as green as the grass on the other side of the pasture. The green I used to have, or was supposed to have. Or thought I had.

I don’t know. All I can say is, trying to write about “normal” this week was confusing. I mean, usually when I sit down to write my blog posts I choose whatever floats to the top of my brain, like say, Hey! I’ve got a brand new book!

Except this week something else kept fighting for top billing. I can’t stop thinking about my actual brain–and the MRI scan I had last week.

Sure, health stuff is important, but this was my third scan in three years (I’ve written a bit about it before here). Each time my neurologist has ordered a scan to “Rule out The Chronic Illness That Shall Not Be Named.” But so far, there’s been nothing conclusive. Except physically, I don’t have the bright shiny green-ness I used to.

Plus, there’s the worry. Because there were these unidentified things, not normal things, or maybe they are normal for me (one can hope). Either way they were confusing to the radiologist and doctor, something that maybe shouldn’t be there. Here’s a little graphic to give you an idea of what shouldn’t really be floating in your gray matter:

MRI scan picture

This is my brain. I’m sure you’re not at all surprised to see all the dessert.

 

But the problem with chasing after normal, is I think I’m going after me, but I lose a bit of myself in the process.

So, in order to get my brain off the subject of my brain, I’m focusing on my heart by practicing some gratitude.

Here are this week’s highlights:

 

funny faces

I’m grateful for my family–and silly faces.

 

dutch resistance world war two

Cornelia Warmenhoven

I am grateful to have heard Cornelia speak at a Kristallnacht Memorial service yesterday. Cornelia is a rescuer and an inspiration. She worked with the Dutch resistance against the Nazis during World War II.  I’m especially grateful for brave rescuers like Cornelia because my husband is a grandchild (and my kids, great-grandchildren) of Holocaust survivors.

 

I’m grateful for a college visit that took us on a scenic country drive. And for barns.  Barns are awesome.

 

military family

I’m grateful for my parents–and the U.S. Coast Guard.

Yes, I’m thankful to the U.S. Coast Guard for moving my dad and our family every couple of years. I’m serious! Because of this nomadic experience, I’ve been forever fascinated with the idea of living life in one place and falling in love with the boy next door (and road trips, but that’s another Grace and Zac story). Which leads me back around to…

 

I’m grateful for my new book.

 

I’m so thankful I get the opportunity to write, especially characters like Grace and Zac. I started this story several years ago, but it wasn’t until 2011 when they came back with more to tell, that I started reworking this one. It’s been so much fun writing about friendship and love and the boy next door. You can find out more about THE ART OF CHASING NORMAL here.

Last, but not least, I’m also grateful for YOU.

Huge thanks and big hugs to you for taking the time to read, or comment, or share. You are what make this part so rewarding. You make me feel a part of a super awesome community when I emerge from my writing cave. Tons of thanks for taking the time to share a part of  your lives with me.

Happy Monday.

 

 

 

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Playing Hooky: The Beach is not a Place to Work

 

beach is not a place to work_opt

I was NOT on vacation this week.

But I did go to the beach.  I drove two hours to spend a few days with family to celebrate my sister’s graduation from nursing school.

She lives only ten minutes from the actual beach, so…I mean, I couldn’t NOT go.

So in terms of meeting my typical work quota  last week. Didn’t happen.

I skimmed emails and stuff via my phone, but mostly I felt like I was out of the country.

And I’m so okay with that.

🙂

There was too much good stuff happening anyway. Experiences I am happy to fall a little behind at work for…

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The Pinning Ceremony.

I couldn’t miss the only time my sister would wear white tights with white shoes.

 

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My heart at the beach.

 

So I got a little behind at work. Totally worth it. Now, it’s like I’m sailing back on a salty sea air breeze.

Okay, so my mind may be a teensy bit too clear, but I’m going to take a cue from my four-year-old nephew, who one night, spent a really long time deconstructing and constructing a plain old brown box.

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 Creativity, you really can start anywhere.

 

Task number one—today I’m over at Kourtney Heintz’s blog, author of The Six Train to Wisconsin, talking a bit about my journey as an Indie author. I hope you can stop by! Bring cheese fries if you have ’em.

What people, places, or things are worth getting a little behind at work for to you?

Have a GREAT week!

Coleen xo

 

Book Marketing or Winking at a Boy in the Dark

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The one thing I know for sure about book promotion is that there’s no shortage of information.

I’ve been reading and bookmarking how-to articles for the last couple of years, but when it comes to promoting my writing (and probably flirting), I think I probably resort to that winking in the dark stuff.

But then my very first print copy of my YA book, Come Back to Me, arrived in the mail.

Having a copy of my book made being published feel more real.

Made me feel like I wanted to do a little book flirting.

Which is a good thing, because if you want your book read, then you need to get your book OUT THERE.

Right?

I can’t just sit in my office and wink out of the window while holding my shiny, new book.

Come Back To Me 200 320_opt

 

Gotta do some book marketing.

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VLUU L210  / Samsung L210

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 adam levine promoting my book_opt

An endorsement from Adam Levine? You never know, he could like my “voice.”

 

Speaking of promotion, my book is now officially available in paperback at Amazon (all other formats can be found here). Plus, my book will be experience it’s very first blitzing in May (a promo blitz is kind of like the opposite of winking in the dark). 🙂

Do you have marketing advice to share? Are you any good at flirting? If so, do you know any celebrities?

Have a spectacular kind of week!

Coleen xo

 

Do You Have Tattoo Envy?

Today I’m hanging out at Jenny Hansen’s blog. The topic? Tattoos!

Hop on over and check it out!

 

 

Have a spectacular weekend!

 

 

 

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Multitasking: Make Twice the Mistakes in Half the Time

mistakes

 

Two weeks ago, while in the middle of answering emails (and clicking on link after link until I had at least two dozen tabs open that would need to be dealt with), I remembered I wanted to send a birthday package to my twin nephews.

So I opened another window and with a few clicks I filled my virtual shopping cart with fun picture books.   And cookies. Animal cookies in a cute yellow school bus box.

What four-year old wouldn’t want to have cookies and then play with the cardboard school bus box, right?  So cute!

So I put two in my basket, checked out and then patted myself on my super productive shoulder.  

Then I continued toggling, replying, reading and jumping around my to do list.

Until the next week when my mom asked:  Where did you buy those cookies?

ME:  Amazon, why?

MOM:  Your sister seems to think they were dog biscuits.

ME:  WHAT?

MOM:  Yes.  She was pretty sure.  She said the ingredients mentioned the percentage of crude fat and protein.

ME:  But why would they package it in a bus?  Dogs wouldn’t care about that!!  No way.  It can’t be dog biscuits!

It was.

I checked my Amazon receipt and that’s when I noticed the things I’d been too busy to catch:

Great for finicky pets!

Made by Exclusively Dog.

Animal Shaped Dog Treats.

In my defense, I had started out in the food section, but with one click or maybe switching from animal “crackers” to “cookies” I ended up in the pet supply section.

Whoops.

 

“I try to take one day at a time, but sometimes several days attack me at once.”  

~Jennifer Yane

 

The thing is, I know that I’m entering the Mistake Zone when I start toggling between tabs, email and everything else.

I worry I will type the wrong name (legal vs. writing name) when I switch back and forth between personal and writing emails.

I worry I will hit publish instead of save while I’m in the middle of writing the “vomit draft” of a blog post–which to me would kind of feel like walking out of the house without pants on.

Still, some days it’s hard to stop adding another chair on top of the stack.

 

coleen patrick balance_opt

Got balance?

 

But  our brains slow down when they go into juggle mode and occasionally information can get lost between long- term memory and our short-term working memory.

And the next thing you know you could be overlooking important clues:

Made with human-grade ingredients.  No animal parts or by-products.

It’s a good thing vacation is right around the corner, because I need a Balance Check.   For now though,  I will remember to breathe, take a fun day and feel the waves.

There’s no secret to balance. You just have to feel the waves.

— Frank Herbert

Oh and take more time for tea.  I LOVE tea!

And it’s even better with a great snack.  Anyone want an animal cookie?

 

Sometimes it’s important to work for that pot of gold.  But other times it’s essential to take time off and to make sure that your most important decision in the day simply consists of choosing which color to slide down on the rainbow. 

~Douglas Pagels

 

What are your thoughts on multitasking?  Do you think it adds to stress or do you feel more productive?

 

Balderdash: A Writer’s Guide to Making Stuff Up

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 “Your reality, sir, is lies and balderdash and I’m delighted to say that I have no grasp of it whatsoever.”

 ~Baron Munchausen

 

This weekend I was reading some posts over at Catherine Caffeinated and found a particularly entertaining one on the subject of book reviews.

In it, she included this excerpt from an Amazon customer review of The Help by Kathryn Stockett:

 

“Where was the editor for this book? In the end notes the author confesses to playing with time. For instance, Shake ‘N Bake is mentioned but didn’t hit the shelves until 1965. A Bob Dylan song is referenced but wasn’t released until 1964. Okay, but why did they have to be included? They certainly weren’t plot points but is a writer allowed to just make stuff up?”

 

Hmm.

Well, it’s kind of in the job description.

 

fiction writing:

1.  any kind of writing that is not factual.

 

So um, what’s a writer to do?

I mean, how do you tame the pesky imaginations that long to smear the pages with historical inaccuracies?  How do you stop yourself from throwing your head back and laughing maniacally as you plot to twist facts and screw with the universe’s fancy logic and statistics?

Sounds daunting.  It’s enough work keeping a steady supply of coffee and ignoring the vacuum.

Besides, what about artistic license?

Check out what Picasso had to say on that subject:

 

We all know that Art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize truth at least the truth that is given us to understand. The artist must know the manner whereby to convince others of the truthfulness of his lies.”

~Pablo Picasso

 

Okay, upon first skim that quote kind of reads like a riddle.  I think he meant something along the lines of this:

 

Writing fiction is the act of weaving a series of lies to arrive at a greater truth.

~Khaled Hosseini

 

So breathe deeply dear writers.  You are not merely a liar making stuff up, you are dealing in GREAT TRUTHS.

And this is a safe place, where nonsense knows no boundaries.  Your knowledge and creativity are revered.

In fact in the spirit of the board game Balderdash, let’s lie create.  Below are a few words.  Use one, two or all three to create a FAKE fact or statistic.

Chocolate       Elephant        Season     

 

 Let your imaginations frolic in the comments!

 

Embrace Your Artistic Voice, There will Never be Another You

 

 

Recently I met a writer who said she gave up on the book she was working on because another writer published one with a similar premise.  I don’t know what her story was about in particular, but she was adamant that there would be no reason for her to bother finishing hers.

It got me thinking.  How many books have been published about vampire love stories or teens fighting dystopian governments? A lot.  And I could continue on with the list of similar premises.  Because when readers like a book, they usually want more.

But even working with the same topic or premise, no two writers will end up with the same book.

Because artists have their own style.  Your experiences, your opinions, where you live, who you grew up with, what you do with your day–everything that makes you uniquely well, YOU, weave together and mesh to make up your tone.

It’s your voice and it is influenced by the tapestry of your life.

And we all come to the page, the canvas  or whatever medium with which we create, with our special voices.

For example, check out the difference in perspective on these Alice in Wonderland covers:

 

 

 

 

 

Creativity is open for interpretation.  (more on creativity here in this post.)

 

We writers, as we work our way deeper into our craft, learn to drop more and more personal clues. Like burglars who secretly wish to be caught, we leave our fingerprints on broken locks, our voiceprints in bugged rooms, our footprints in the wet concrete.
~Ross MacDonald

 

Your art is ready for your fingerprints.

 

A part of me wonders if maybe there were other reasons this writer abandoned her story.  Maybe she was afraid of not measuring up. I don’t know.

But I think it’s important as artists to embrace our uniqueness.

Stop comparing and start celebrating.

Because there will never be another YOU.

 

You’ve got to recognize, there will never be another you. It has nothing to do with ego; it happens to be the truth.

There will never be another person the same.

There’ll never be another you.

~Mickey Rooney

 

 

What are your thoughts on the artistic voice?  Do you have any advice for a writer/artist who gets stuck comparing their work to others?

 I love it when you comment, so please share your thoughts!

Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

 

 

 

What Happens in the Outhouse Doesn’t Always Stay in the Outhouse

 

If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance. 

~George Bernard Shaw

 

Several years ago my dad gave me his old Torts book from law school. He told me there was a case in it involving my great-grandmother Mary Fitzpatrick Rush, and that I might want to hang onto it because it was a bit of our family history.  The story was a curious one, but still I put the book away for safe keeping.

But recently I got a little more curious after watching the TV show Who Do You Think You Are.  Every week a different celebrity is taken on a journey of personal discovery into his or her family history.  Rob Lowe discovered that his five times great-grandfather fought in the Revolutionary War and Ashley Judd traced her family line back to the Mayflower.

The process typically starts with looking up census records and court documents and then they follow the twists and turns back in time, stumbling upon hardship, perseverance, triumph and even secrets and intrigue.  Above all, they always seem to come away with some sort of inspiration from their lineage.

So I decided to Google my great-grandmother’s case.

outhouse Mrs rush_opt

My grandmother, great-grandmother and great Aunt

 

Let me first say that this is not a story of Pilgrims and Patriots, but rather the New Jersey Supreme Court, tenant rights and an outhouse.  In its own unique way it goes deep (so deep I imagine my great-grandmother might’ve wished she’d been wearing waders).

 

What happens in the privy, does not always stay in the privy.

Here’s the gist of the case:
Rush v. Commercial Realty Co., 145 A. 476 (N.J. Sup. Ct. 1929)

The case for the plaintiffs was that they were tenants of the defendant, which controlled the house wherein they lived and also the adjoining house, and provided a detached privy for the use of both houses; that Mrs. Rush having occasion to use this privy, went into it and fell through the floor, or through some sort of trap door therein, descended about nine feet into the accumulation at the bottom, and had to be extricated by use of a ladder. The defendant denied that there was any pit at all, and claimed the floor was only about nine inches above solid ground.

The story as told by my Great Aunt Kitty to my dad was that my great-grandmother fell through the outhouse floor when the rotted portion of the floor in front of the toilet seat collapsed.

My great-grandmother was 5’2″ (and pregnant with my Great Aunt Anna) and the hole was nine feet deep.  So 14-year-old Kitty ran to the neighbor for a ladder so she could help her mother climb out of the um, accumulation.

It took years to finalize the case, but she won.  The judge blamed the property owner.

 In dealing with these, it should be observed that Mrs. Rush had no choice, when impelled by the calls of nature, but to use the facilities placed at her disposal by the landlord, to wit, a privy with a trap door in the floor, poorly maintained.

Now I imagine this had to be a humiliating experience, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned from my dad’s side of the family, it’s that we all thoroughly enjoy a good laugh.

And that’s what I found when I searched the internet.  It seems that the case of Mrs. Rush was a bit of a comic relief in Torts class.

On one of the blogs, a law student said he laughed until he cried.  When I asked my dad about it, he said his grandmother’s case has been the subject of limericks and poems in law school for decades.

But my favorite find was reading about law students showing up for their Torts final wearing t-shirts that said:

“Whenever you feel like you’re drowning in shit, remember Mrs. Rush.” 

 

Ah, sweet inspiration.

But there is something universal in this story, because in some way we ‘ve all experienced the crap dunk tank.  And we all know it’s not always easy to get out.  Sometimes we have to holler for help and sometimes we have to wait for a ladder.  But hopefully, like my tiny, great grandmother, we find a way to climb out of the accumulation.

Although, if you can, I recommend boots.

 

To learn means to accept the postulate that life did not begin at my birth.  Others have been here before me, and I walk in their footsteps.  The books I have read were composed by generations of fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, teachers and disciples.  I am the sum total of their experiences, their quests.  And so are you. 

~Elie Wiesel

 

Tell me, have you done any family research?  What have you found in your history?

I love when you share!

Happily Wrinkled in Time

This week my daughter and I hit the road for another college visit, but this time around we went to my (and my husband’s) alma mater.

So surreal.

We walked the campus and I pointed out the sights, each turn awakening old memories as if Zeus had bellowed, Release the Kracken!

Because I relayed my ancient stories as we roamed the student center and shopped in the bookstore.  I showed her the places her dad lived, where I lived and even the chinese restaurant that we loved.

I was surprised to see it.  So much had changed, renovations, new buildings, me.

Seeing it anchored me back in reality, and I thought:

How is it possible that 20 years have passed since I graduated from college?

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So happy to graduate.  So clueless about my smooth skin.

 

The great thing about getting older is that you don’t lose all the other ages you’ve been.

~Madeleine L’Engle

 

Okay so I have some wrinkles, but according to Madeleine L’Engle they are evidence–evidence of not only titan clashes, but of ages that I am happy to carry with me.

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Like becoming a big sister for the first time.

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And again.

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And again. 🙂

Even if I don’t remember it all, I can see I was happy.

It’s with me.

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What ages are you happy to keep with you?