Is It Still Mother’s Day?

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Ah, it’s a week after Mother’s Day.

Still celebrating her? Still bringing Mom flowers or breakfast in bed? Still doing the dishes for her? Still listening to what she has to say? Still telling her you love her?

Or is it back to normal?

Just like my Mom has always told me, I told my girls: if you listen to me, respect me, help me out with the little things each day — then every day can be Mother’s Day. Those would be the best gifts of all!

So yesterday, one of my daughters cleaned her room. The other one collected and took out the trash. Both of them set the table for family dinner. They didn’t do it without being asked — I still had to ask them. But today they listened; they did what I asked. Right away. And it was as great a gift as the beautiful picture frames they made and gave me last weekend…

So at our Family Movie night last night where Mommy, Daddy and the girls watched The Peanuts Movie (great movie, by the way), I finally noticed a bit of Meghan Trainor’s lyrics to her song that plays during the final credits, “Good to be Alive” (great song, by the way):

Gonna wake up every day like it’s Christmas
Gonna celebrate this life I’m given
From now on (from now on)
Gonna tell my mother every day I love her
And tell her “thanks for being such a good mother”
From now on

Oh, it feels so good to be alive
Oh, it feels so good to be alive

It does feel good. And what gifts we have each day — in each other. Let’s celebrate while we can.

I love you, Mom. Happy Mother’s Day.

And thanks, girls, for the continued ‘gifts’!

Onward!

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When Inspiration Has Bad Timing

 

When inspiration comes at the wrong time…drop whatever you’re doing, right? Not always so easy.

When I went to Armenia one glorious summer, fully expecting to delve into new writings about family history, ethnic identity, the genocide, you name it, what came to mind instead? An idea I had started several years before that I hadn’t finished. Avoidance of the personal? Procrastination? Maybe. But it just didn’t stop coming, and I had to get it down, even if it meant missing out on that one outing or tour. (The inspiration from that trip would come through in writing a few years later, actually).

At other times, in the throes of a PTA meeting, school event or church meeting, the juices flow and I want to run out and take copious notes, but instead I try to slyly put them on my IPhone notepad as if I’m taking notes of the event/meeting itself, nodding along with the speaker but all the while getting my freewrite done.

  

Or I’m on a writing deadline or in a tough spot with one script, and all of a sudden the inspiration comes with another idea (some would definitely call this procrastination if we don’t want to deal with a tough project). Should we at least jot it down?

Or, upon that exhausted first moment we plummet into bed and have some peace and quiet and literally don’t want to move — not even to the nightstand to get the journal and pen (because you DO have them there, don’t you?) — and you’re in the most comfortable position you’ve found in weeks…and then the most exquisite line pops into your head and takes your weak breath away. But you just don’t want to move, and your eyes are heavy, and you tell yourself: I’ll remember it in the morning.

But you don’t. It’s gone. And you kick yourself.

  

Or that flash of an idea first thing in the morning – but if you don’t get dressed now you’ll be late for work or late to take the kids to school. You’ve already pressed snooze; there’s no more buffer time. But you finally came up with the solution to that scene that just wasn’t clicking – til now. And if you don’t get it down now, the day will race by and you never will.

Be late for once. Get it down. You won’t be able to recapture it the same way later.

Here are some suggestions to deal with inspiration at the wrong time:

Have notepads and pens everywhere – bed, car, purse/attaché, kitchen, bathroom, office, living room. Whatever type you like – Mead paper & Bic, Moleskine and Pilot Precise, journal & Ticonderoga #2 pencil, IPhone/laptop, napkins & Crayolas, anything. Just have them everywhere. So that no time needs to be spent looking for something to write with – the tiny spare bits of time can be dedicated to getting the idea written down and done. Then you can continue as you were.

Learn to love – or at least tolerate — your recorded voice. Sometimes it’s easier in the car or in another setting to use the recording function on our cellphone (most of them have it now, like VoiceMemo for IPhone). Sometimes it’s easier to just say what you’re thinking, just like sometimes it’s easier to call someone rather than craft them a detailed email. And if you don’t have the voice recording function on your cellphone? Just call yourself and leave yourself a voicemail with your creative idea. Just don’t erase the message until you have it written down.

Sleep truly does make a difference. I rarely come up with strong creative ideas when I’m exhausted or cranky or preoccupied. And I find that the moments right before and right after sleep, are potent times for visionary, free thinking. But if we never sleep, we wouldn’t have those moments.

Repeat it to yourself, over and over. If you get a great idea and are in a setting – giving a speech, taking a test, changing a diaper, going into the doctor or x-ray — where you’re about to do something that you absolutely cannot get out of — repeat the idea to yourself at least three times, so that it’s engrained in your mind and you can remember it after your obligation is done. If necessary and possible, repeat it to yourself throughout the occupied time until you are free, then run to your car where you have kept your trusty notebook and pen and get it down.

Ask for help. Lean to a friend and say, “Remind me to tell you about my XYZ idea after we finish this meeting.” And if you forget, perhaps they won’t, and their follow up may jog your memory. Or when you get home at night, share your idea with your family. A week later when you’re frazzled with something else, the idea long forgotten, they might mention it and you’ll be grateful you shared it.

And if you do end up not being able to get the idea down, don’t worry. There IS more where that came from. Just give it space to wiggle out. By all means, never stifle your creativity or say “not now” or “that’s crazy” or “it’s no good.” Get in the habit of responding positively to it so that new ideas will be inclined to visit more often. Everything else can (hopefully) wait.

Onward!

An earlier version of this post appeared in 2015.

The Beauty of Book Clubs

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I’ve enjoyed three book club experiences in the past several months where my book “Bravura” was featured and read by a group of women (and men!) Each of them was markedly different and yet I learned amazing things from all of them. Continue reading

“Our Best Hopes…”

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“And whatever else history may say about me when I’m gone, I hope it will record that I appealed to your best hopes, not your worst fears, to your confidence rather than your doubts.”

This quote from Ronald Reagan’s 1992 Republican Convention speech has struck me powerfully today.

Those who know me know that I rarely quote Reagan or Republicans (though my other favorite quote of the 40th President is “There’s no limit to the amount of good you can do if you don’t care who gets the credit.“)

But with the current campaign climate and all its nastiness, a change of tone surfaced when this quote came up during the coverage of the passing of Nancy Reagan today.

The lovely and circumspect quote above clarified to me why this season’s Republican presidential campaign is so distasteful and disgusting to me:

No one is appealing to our “best hopes.” Everyone is appealing to our “worst fears.”

That is precisely why no one is inspiring my “confidence.” The candidates have instead sensationalized and over-generalized various topics, pitted groups of Americans against each other, lashed out at other nations and cultures, demeaned their fellow candidates, magnified people’s doubts, and turned the whole affair into a circus when it could have been an intelligent, compassionate and cogent series of dialogues and debates.

Not that such tactics are anything new. But I’d like to think that one day our country will have a handful of candidates on both sides of the aisle who don’t merely quote their beloved predecessors every 2.3 minutes but actually emulate them — or better yet, surpass them as servant-leaders. Here’s to hoping.

Onward.

 

This Wind

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Having to be on the road across Southern California this weekend, literally through snow, severe rain and wind, my daughters and I have certainly been through some weather. Feels good to be home.

But nothing has struck them like this wind. This 60+ mph wind that is knocking down chunks of trees, patio furniture, and any item that seemed solidly placed in our front and back yard. This wind that taps tree branches at our windows, like in Wuthering Heights. This wind that is wreaking havoc on some people’s homes and cars, with old trees falling and crushing them. I’ve felt so badly for these families I’m reading about.

“Are the trees going to fall on our house?” my younger one asked.

“I don’t think so,” I said. “One good thing about this wind, though,” I told her, ” — is that tomorrow morning the sky, the air will be clean and clear.”

It seemed to satisfy her enough to go to sleep.

But as the wind has continued through the night, mighty and unstoppable until it chooses to subside, I also can’t help but think that such a wind blowing through our souls, our schedules, our clutter, our bodies, our lives, would be an amazing, cleansing thing. To wake up the next morning with our ‘sky’ all clear and blue. Even if it disrupts other things in the process. My husband even noticed how the wind actually propelled him forward when he walked outside — it urged him in a direction he could not avoid.

Perhaps this is often why God’s spirit is referred to as wind. It is unavoidably felt, and affecting, when it comes.

This windstorm reminds me of the remarkable Christian singer, the late Keith Green, gone far too soon, and his beautiful prayer-song, “Rushing Wind”:

 

“Blowing out the dust within” — yes, that’s what I want from this wind of God’s spirit. Today and every day.

Onward.

 “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” — ‭‭John‬ ‭3:8‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

“And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.” — Acts‬ ‭2:2‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

 

 

 

 

 

What I Learned as a #RRBC Book of the Month

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I had the distinct honor and pleasure of my novel Bravura being selected as a Book of the Month by the Rave Reviews Book Club (RRBC) in October.

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It was a tremendous month. I saw sales of the book increase. More reviews of the book came in on Amazon and other sites. Increased attention on Twitter came in the form of new followers, retweets, and so on.

But more than gaining numbers, I also learned a great deal from the Book of the Month process. The lessons will stay with me far beyond the month of October 2015:

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3 Ways Writing a Book Transported Me to the Twilight Zone: Guest Post by Colleen M. Story

I’m thrilled today to welcome author Colleen M. Story to my blog. Her post explores the experience around her latest release, Rise of the Sidenah, and her Writing and Wellness website is a must-read for authors seeking balance in their life and work. She is a delight and an inspiration.

Welcome, Colleen!


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3 Ways Writing a Book Transported Me to the Twilight Zone:

Think of the Twilight Zone, and words like “other worldly,” “spooky,” or “magical” may come to mind. Most likely you’ll imagine something with no rational explanation.

And of course, there’s that popular theme song. (Do-do-do-doo…do-do-do-doo…)

I found myself humming that song several times while working on my first book, Rise of the Sidenah. Things would happen that I couldn’t explain. Were they really magical, or were they just coincidence?

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See what you think.

Continue reading