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.

 

 

 

**If you enjoyed this post, you can subscribe to receive my new posts straight to your inbox. Just add your email in the space at the top of the right sidebar under my photo.

Expectations, Success, & the Sun-streaked Possibility of Summer

I like the idea of summer. It really does feel like a new beginning. Or at least a chance to catch my breath.

Even though I’m not in school anymore, I’ve been anticipating the shift into this new season.

Yeah there may still be work to do (and troubles to deal with) but I’ve been looking forward to longer days, sunnier days…days that somehow seem open for MORE.

Well, more of the things that seem to allow you the space to breathe.

Our days can be packed with obligation. Too many times I’ve ended a day staring up at the high bar of expectation feeling like I just missed it. Again.

There’s a lot of noise when it comes to the definition of success. Not only with work, but health, relationships, and life in general.

Not enough. Do more.

But there’s something about summer that leaves room for the good kind of more.

More color, more fun, more daylight, more possibility.

More space to be you.

 

every summer has a story

 

 

What do you love about summer?

🙂

Check out super cool writer, Emily R. King! Emily lives on an island in the Pacific Northwest–and she’s been shark cage diving!

 

**If you enjoyed this post, you can subscribe to receive my new posts straight to your inbox. Just add your email in the space at the top of the right sidebar under my photo.

Choosing Happy: Come Back to Me ~ My New YA Release

 

Big news…my debut YA book, Come Back to Me, is out NOW.

It went live on Amazon last Wednesday, a happy surprise. There I was gearing up for the you’ve-published-a-book-now-what marathon, when suddenly the starter pistol went off.

I think I was tying my shoes or something.

But I got moving. Thanks in BIG part to family, friends, and lots of super cool people like the WANA (we are not alone) writing community.

Although no one mentioned the adrenaline. I could’ve lifted a car.

Anyway, speaking of family, friends, and love…those are big themes in my YA contemporary story. Check it out:

Come Back To Me 200 320_opt

 

 

 Available for purchase at AMAZON or SMASHWORDS 

(paperback and other venues, coming soon)

 

Whitney Denison can’t wait to start over.

She thought she had everything under control, that her future would always include her best friend Katie… Until everything changed.

Now her life in Bloom is one big morning after hangover, filled with regret, grief, and tiny pinpricks of reminders that she was once happy.  A happy she ruined.  A happy she can’t fix.

So, she is counting down the days until she leaves home for Colson University, cramming her summer with busywork she didn’t finish her senior year, and taking on new hobbies that involve glue and glitter, and dodging anyone who reminds her of her old life.

When she runs into the stranger who drove her home on graduation night, after she’d passed out next to a ditch, she feels herself sinking again. The key to surviving the summer in Bloom is unraveling whatever good memories she can from that night.

But in searching for answers, she’ll have to ask for help and that means turning to Evan, the stranger, and Kyle, Katie’s ex-boyfriend. Suddenly, life flips again, and Whitney finds herself on not only the precipice of happy but love, too, causing her to question whether she can trust her feelings, or if she is falling into her old patterns of extremes.

As she uncovers the truth about her memories, Whitney sees that life isn’t all or nothing, and that happy isn’t something to wait for, that instead, happy might just be a choice.

 

So, it’s been an exciting week.

But wait! I’ve got one last, but very special thing to share.  You may have read a post I wrote about signs.  In that post, I mention how I equate ladybugs with hope, and to my brother (who passed away six years ago).

So, ladybugs found a way into Come Back to Me–and into my book’s acknowledgments, where I wrote, To my brother, Dan the Man, Thanks for the ladybugs.

Then, last Wednesday, in the middle of the awesome hullabaloo of seeing my book on Amazon, I ran up the stairs to grab my slippers (because it was a snow day–and cold!).

Halfway up the stairs I saw this:

ladybug2_opt

 Thanks for the ladybug, Dan.

 

Have an AMAZING, hopeful week!

Pepi the Dog & the Million Little Things of Friendship

Today I am happy to have a very special guest here: Alarna Rose Gray.  Alarna describes herself as an aunt, animal lover, and writer.  To me she is also a new friend.

AND she has a brand new book!

Hello Pepi_opt

Hello Pepi: A Toy Dog is for Real

There was a little puppy

 With a coat of raven silk,

A lightning splash upon his chest

And paws of peppered milk…

 

Hello Pepi is the first book in a wonderful new series for children young and old.  It is about the special friendship between a toy dog and his most important person.  The verse is smart, sweet and wonderful to read aloud. The illustrations make me nostalgic for the picture books from my childhood.  In short, the books made me smile.

Pepi is also based on a true story.

Here is that inspiration in Alarna’s words:

Hello Pepi is a collection of memories that form a fictional narrative of the life of one small dog.

But not just any dog.

Pepi was a dog that burst onto the scene of my life in a most unexpected way.

Pepi Age 1_opt

Pepi, Age 1

I had no intention of getting a dog. My flatmate at the time had suffered a terrible loss and wanted to get a puppy. Although between us we already had four cats!

 

We took a long drive across the city to the other side of town, and it was as we stood in the living room of a European lady that the magic happened.

He was a tiny black and white fella who made gentle cooing noises as I held him in my palm.

 

My flatmate had chosen his brother, the runt of the pack, and not wanting to separate the two, I made a snap decision to take the puppy home. Who can resist the cuteness of a little dog who quacks at the sight of you?

And this is where the reason for my writing the series came about.

 

It’s a common story. We fall in love with pets because we’ve bred them to be cute for us. But sometimes we don’t realise what that decision means.

At the age of eighteen / nineteen, having a dog, in particular, made me feel grown up and independent – that idea of being responsible for another living creature who you take out into the world with you.

Then the reality comes in. They need to be fed. Walked. Bathed. Cleaned up after. Trained. Not to mention all the very costly vet bills.

Little dogs, in particular, are quite high maintenance. They might be small, but they make up for it in energy, and (quite often) noise!

I’m a very quiet person, and can also be impatient. So the two together meant that I was in for some ride with Pepi!

Pepi Age 2a_opt

 

Pepi, age 2 

It really wasn’t until someone close to me pointed out how clever he was, that I truly began to appreciate his energy. And that’s the bittersweet tragedy of having pets. I don’t think we always appreciate how much they know, or what they give us… until it’s gone.

He suffered something similar to a stroke at fifteen. Even at that age, people in the street thought he was still a puppy, because he was so small, and full of energy. But he was never quite the same after that. He started slowing down. He got dementia. That’s when I decided to chronicle his life and spirit in verse.

He loved having the story read to him. He was a very musical dog, and the rhythm of the rhyme made him jump up in excitement. He knew it was about him, and he’d talk back as I read aloud.

Pepi Age 2b_opt

And that’s it, really. I wanted to share the joy of the experiences I had with him, as well as the lessons that I learned. My puppy parenting was far from perfect. But he always knew he was loved, and never held that against me. Except when I forgot to give him treats. Then he held a grudge . 🙂

Little dogs are also much maligned. People think they are stupid, or blame them for provoking their bigger dogs into a fight. But there’s a lot more to them than that. It just requires us to see the world a little through their eyes…

Beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing your story Alarna.

The first three ebooks are available on Amazon here.  But in celebration of the launch of her new series and the wonderful spirit of Pepi and friendship, Alarna would like to gift the first book to YOU.

So if you’d like an ebook of Hello Pepi #1, simply leave your email in the comments before Monday, December 10th.

Have an amazing weekend!

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHAT’S YOUR HAPPY SONG?

This weekend I took a little road trip to take my son to camp. With nothing on the radio, I dug around and came up with a cassette. It had no artist cover, just my loopy, teenage handwriting all over the paper liner.
Yes, it was a mix tape.
From 1987.
So I popped it in the player and started to sing (while my son pushed his headphones deeper into his ears). I found myself thinking about the power of music, and I don’t just mean the power that is remembering lyrics from a 25 year old song (although that is pretty amazing especially when I can’t always remember why I walked into a room), no I’m talking about the power it has to give you a boost.

I GOT A FEELING
Music improves your mood. It can make you happy, make you want to dance or inspire you. Some of the top happy, upbeat songs (they say so in the title) are:

Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t worry be happy “
U2’s “Beautiful day”
Don McLean’s “American Pie” (okay, so it doesn’t exactly say it in the title, but the song rocks and who doesn’t love pie?)
Or this oldie, but goodie:

Even that outfit makes me smile

 

GLORY DAYS
Music not only evokes emotion, but memory. Forget the beat or the lyrics, sometimes a song can lift you up simply because it reminds you of a happy moment.

For me a big one is the day my fourth grade teacher passed out the slightly damp, freshly copied lyrics to “We will rock you” and “We are the champions.” We all sniffed the paper (ah, remember those days?) and then sang along to Queen, slapping our palms to our desk to the beat (Mrs. Fearn rocked).

 

COME TOGETHER
Music brings people together. Think about the last concert you went to, wasn’t it amazing singing along with thousands of people to one song?

But it doesn’t have to be that big.

I can also think about dancing in my room to Club Nouveau’s “Lean on Me” with my sister B (small favors that the recording technology was not as accessible as it is today).
Or, there’s the synthesized beats of a-ha that will always remind me of high school. And Jimmy Buffet will always make me think of college and singing with everyone at Sully’s (including my future husband).

Then there was this song that reminds me of going to parties. To this day it makes me want to turn it up and scream along (even if I’m still not sure what it’s about).

Yes, whether the song is cool or cheesy, it can lead to happy connections.

 

DON’T STOP BELIEVING
Everybody loves a song that can lift your mood, empower you or even make you feel like a superhero, as it apparently did for Henry David Thoreau:

“When I hear music, I fear no danger. I am invulnerable. I see no foe. I am related to the earliest times, and to the latest.”

(And he lived in a cabin in the woods for 2 years!)

Who doesn’t want to listen to a song that makes you feel like that?

Whether you prefer the original or one of the many covers, here’s a rocking, positive song (so good it apparently summed up the entire six seasons of HBO’s Sopranos).

What is your happy song?