Journeys

So Far, So Good

In September 2017 I moved from my condominium in the city (Santa Rosa is, at least to me, a city, since the county I now live in is smaller than Santa Rosa) to the rural community of Lake County, California. I moved to Clear Lake Park, a tiny community about a ten-minute walk to the actual lake of Clear Lake, the only natural lake (not made made) in California. As I settled in with the love of my life, I prepared my condominium for rent. The people came and applied, but background checks proved that I would not be renting to any of them.

Then, the devastating Tubbs fire happened, then the Sulphur Fire that was back door to where I had moved. We were evacuated from our house for about five days, and the area where condo is was evacuated for almost two weeks. Finally, when I was able to get back in to have an open house, desperate people came in droves looking for a rental. After all was said and done, I rented to a wonderful family who had lost their home in Coffey Park, Santa Rosa. It took them a year and a half to rebuild, and now they are safely back home, and my condo is up for rental again with the imprint of the good memories they left behind.

So, having advertised an open house, I waited for those potential renters to come running up the stairs. I advertised enough so that people from far and wide would know that my darling place I had lived in for 12 years was available. I emailed all the prospective tenants who had contacted me and let them know about the open house. I had been at the condo for over an hour when only one family showed up. Then another lady came with her smile, questions, and measuring tape. She took notes and filled out an application.

To be honest, I had anticipated the lull because the market is not as in demand anymore. After the fires, people relocated elsewhere, or they are still renting, waiting for their homes to be rebuilt.

So, I think today’s experience might be the Universe’s way of telling me it’s time for change- to release my 12-year past in my charming condo and move on. To let go this part of me, this house with good energy and history embedded in its’ fabric, to allow others to come and fill the rooms with their own joyous memories.

So far, so good. I am a true believer that my past has brought me to the place I am today. My past does not dictate who I am, but it has helped shape me into the self-sufficient and confident woman that my mother raised me to be.

Mom told me to get an education, find a career, and learn how to support myself. I did.

She told me to create my own life outside of a man. I did.

She told me not to marry the first man who came along. I did not, but I had a short union with the second man out of desperation and feeling like I was a late bloomer beside women my age.

I asked my mother why she wanted those things for me, and she said it was because she did not want me to be like her.

My mother was the most beautiful woman in the world. She had a heart of gold and loved my brothers and me fiercely and was always there for us to the best of her ability. But, she was also raised in a time when she could not experience the things she wanted for me- so, I have been sharing this journey with her.

My mother passed away from cancer long before seeing the mistakes I made along the way and the life I have today, but I am sure she is smiling down on me now- no, she is beaming as I embark on this journey, with four months closer to marrying my best friend, the love of my life.

In fact, she would love him.

She would say…..so far, so good.



Uncategorized

Commitment

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Years end is about reflection and the New Year about welcoming. There is no more self-scolding about what I could have done, and no more resolutions about what I will do. There are only possibilities arising from what has been and what can be, life-enriching snippets that bring me into the present.

The Ghost of Should’ve Done Past

I have always beat myself up for not writing more, especially as December progresses toward the first day of January. I tell myself nasty lies that elicit guilt for not doing.  I would be a successful author today if I had finished writing that novel instead of allowing 365 days of dust to gather on my hard drive, or invited those characters invading my head-space to a robust life on the pages of a short story.  Oh, if only I had queried that article on world views in a small community, I would now be a big-name journalist.

If only, if only is such a self-debilitating disease, along with should’ve, would’ve, could’ve.

Yes, I scold myself for neglecting the things that I was not ready to do and create more excuses for me to wallow in self-pity and guilt.  After all, if I had been ready to finish that novel or write that short story, they would be done by now. 

This ghost wants me to show me all my failures in a light where nothing outside of what I should’ve done looks good.

The Ghost of Resolutions Future

Each year I make resolutions to get stuff done. I make a pact with myself to finish that novel this year that I did not complete last year, to write more short stories, to start being this and stop being that, to start doing this and stop doing that, and to become an all-around better person.

Yes, I resolve in the New Year to become a different person, so much so that not even I might recognize myself!

Well, the truth is that resolutions are just mumbo-jumbo derived from the guilt of letting another year go by without working on the projects that burn in my soul but somehow never get done. Resolutions are a by-product of disappointment over my character traits that lead me down roads that are not healthy for me, so I tell myself that it’s time to start taking a different road. To make a long story short, the ghost of resolutions future wants to lead me into the land of unrealistic expectations.  

The Angel of Perfect Present

Now that I am in present-day 2019, I can clearly see how I have set myself up for failure by allowing the Ghost of Should’ve Done Past and the Ghost of Resolutions Future to rule my life.  There is no power in beating myself for what I have not done or in making that wicked list of resolutions.

The Angel of Perfect Present has clearly shown me that resolutions have no solid foundations, therefore making them pre-meditated disappointments.

The Angel of Perfect Present teaches me that everything I do must be in the moment, in the here and now.  If I am truly serious about picking up old projects or starting new ones, I must take the first step, and followed by a second step, and continue taking those steps down that winding path with plenty of forks in the road until I arrive at my desired destination.

Now, destination does not always mean a completed project, but perhaps the building of smaller parts of a puzzle until the picture is complete.  This can take an hour, a week, sometimes a year or more.  In fact, it takes however long it takes! 

In the past I have limited resolutions to fiction writing, all the while beating myself up for not getting those words on paper.  Berating myself for not realizing how my characters and what they want.  It’s all this negativity that I have allowed to stand in my way of realizing my accomplishments.

In fact, if I take a good hard look at my life’s panorama, I write just about every single day in my work as a paralegal.  A big part of that life is taking facts of cases and putting them into…what?  A factual story, which in the writing world is called non-fiction. While I love to write about cases, I admit I am motivated by that paycheck twice a month, and the accolades I receive when I do a good job. 

So, now I’m back to the fact that I would love to complete my novel as well as write more short stories.  Well, this requires me to come up with a plan, or a commitment to write so many words or spend a half-hour or an hour working on my novel. I even have the option to commit myself to writing two or three times a week, or every other day, whatever works for me. The point being, until I take that first action step (which I have not), this wanting, if you will, is nothing but a resolution either being tossed around or waiting to be executed into a solid plan.

Maybe instead of ending this article by saying, “Yep, that’s it, the plan is in place,” perhaps I will make a commitment to write on my blog next Saturday.  If I put something on my calendar, I am committed.   So, there……I have entered my next blog to be written on Saturday, January 19, 2019, at 8 a.m. It doesn’t have to be fancy, it just needs to be. 

Remember, no more resolutions, just commitments. 

2018 · New Year · resolutions · Uncategorized

Welcome 2018!

design-3047520_12802017 brought tragedies and triumphs. The big tragedy was being laid off in July of that year, with a resulting triumph of retiring as a paralegal and starting my own business. The even bigger tragedy were the October fires in Santa Rosa and Clearlake, two communities very dear to me, followed by the triumph of many people choosing to rebuild.

I am a true believer that every dark cloud has light waiting to break through, but recognizing triumph after tragedy takes time and healing.

While my partner and I did not lose personal possessions in the fire and were able to return to our home in Clearlake Park. Our condominium in Santa Rosa near Coffee Park was also spared. Even though we were blessed, I know that terrifying feeling of almost losing everything—my precious cats, treasures from my deceased mother and grandmother, documented family history archives, and childhood mementos. My animals and personal belongings are the things that have brought me to the place I am today.

Once the fires were over and we were back home safely, I started seeing the light breaking through what seemed like several months of dark clouds. I began thinking about what is important to me, and as I took that leap from 2017 into 2018 I devised a plan to make 2018 a better year by choosing to:

1. Show family and friends each day how much I love and appreciate them.
2. Stand up for what I believe in and fight against corruption.
3. Prepare in case another disaster strike by having an evacuation plan in place to keep ourselves and our animals safe and to preserve treasured items.
4. Treat my fiction writing as a job. Make time to write every day.
5. Treat my non-fiction writing as a job. Make time to look for paid writing gigs.
6. Continue to grow my business as a notary and loan signing agent. Market, market, market, and show my value through my final product.
7. Make a sustainable income from my notary/loan signing work and writing.

I wish everyone a wonderful 2018!

Uncategorized

Olive Picking Party

OLIVES

Every year in early November we look forward to an olive picking party where there is the harvesting of olives from hundreds of trees in a vast orchard. While out picking, sometimes the conversation is humorous and lively, other times serious and introspective, but one thing is for certain; when the voices cease the only sound is the rhythmic thump of olives landing onto tarps and into buckets—like beating hearts working together toward a common goal.

While an olive is an olive, the people who attend this party come from varied places and lifestyles. As a community, we pick from late morning to lunch, share in a fabulous midday meal, go back to the orchard and continue harvesting, then head back inside for supper and dessert. Once our bellies are satisfied, we gather in the living room where musicians play guitars, mandolins, and other instruments, and several join in the singing of age-old songs.

This year, the olive picking party was bittersweet following life-changing events—the May 2017 passing of Marilyn, the matriarch of the family holding the event, and the aftermath of the October fires in Lake County and the surrounding counties. Even with such loss, the unspoken consensus was that death, whether human or nature, encourages new life and opportunity for growth.

With fondness, we laughed about how Marilyn, even well into her eighties, facilitated engaging and outright fun charades. She had the special gift of seeing the good in people, of making each of us feel as if we were the most special person in the room. In fact, I’m sure Marilyn was present in spirit that night to enjoy the conversations about her!

With compassion, we shared how the fires affected us directly or indirectly. Some of us had been evacuated and talked about how we dealt with the fear of losing our homes, and about family and friends who lost everything in the Santa Rosa fires. Others were not in the fire zone but helplessly watched from afar, and listened to the news, not knowing what to do or how to help. No matter what our experience, it was clear that everyone felt a deep gratitude for what we had in that very moment.

Now, with the olive picking party in distant memory and Christmas and the new year quickly approaching, my hope is that I will continue to live in gratitude and pay forward to my community the many blessings that have been given to me.

Happy holidays to all.

 

blogging · Change · curve balls · General Writing

Fire

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I had been working on an article about how to successfully move your business from one County to another, but this has been put on hold due to the fires in the county I moved from (Sonoma) and a fire in the county I moved to (Lake).

Sunday, October 8, 2017, the wind was fierce and concerning. Later that evening as I worked at my computer, an alert came across my phone regarding a fire near Calistoga resulting in road closures to Sonoma County. I became worried because the next day Don would travel from our home in Clearlake Park to the Petaluma Creamery in Petaluma to pick up cheese and then deliver it to various places around Lake County. Since he was already asleep, I left him a note on the kitchen counter, saying he might want to take a different route due to a fire.

After going to bed late on Sunday evening, a popping woke me. Since the wind was blowing harder now, I thought nothing worse had happened than the electricity going out and had quickly fallen back to sleep. At about 2 a.m. Don woke me and said something was going on, the electricity wasn’t working, and that we needed to get out now. At about the same time, a mandatory evacuation order came over his phone with direction to go to a designated shelter. In the dark, we grabbed a few things and tried to capture the cats, but they became agitated and would not let us near them. We had no choice but to leave them behind and hope for the best.

When we stepped outside, the night sky was bright with flames from Sulphur Bank Road in a neighboring village, Clearlake Oaks. Smoke hung heavy, making it difficult to breathe. In what is normally a quiet area, a flurry of activity was taking place: fire trucks with flashing lights were hurrying toward the fire and cars with headlights like fear-stricken eyes were quickly moving the other way down the hill.

As Don and I drove the 20 minutes to the evacuation center, all I could think about was how close the flames appeared to be to our home. I cried because our precious fur babies were still in the house. My worst fear was that, being inside cats, they would not be able to escape if our house caught on fire. If they did escape I hoped they would be able to survive.

When we arrived at the evacuation center, rows of cots with pillows and blankets filled one side of the large building. People milled around in a daze, while other lay on the cots trying to sleep. Being pushed from our home and at the evacuation center was surreal and scary, as if we were living a Stephen King horror novel. When we finally settled in with coffee at one of the tables, we all attempted to smooth over a tough situation with conversation about everyday life sprinkled with our early-morning evacuation experiences.

While still at the evacuation center, I went looking online for information about the Sulphur fire—the devil that had chased us from our home—and read that Santa Rosa was burning up too. I discovered that friends had been evacuated from various parts of the city, and later learned that many had lost their homes. With barely time to get away from approaching flames, our family members lost everything they owned.

While Don and I were blessed enough to stay with a friend, and to have other offers shelter, the evacuation centers quickly filled up. In Lake County, during the two days we were not allowed back home, strangers embraced and shared their stories and tearfully talked about the continuing destruction in Santa Rosa. Community came together in loving and compassionate ways that we often forget about in ordinary life.

The evacuation in Clearlake Park was lifted on Tuesday night of that same week. Because it was dark and the electricity was not yet back on, we returned home on Wednesday morning. I thought coming back would feel a little normal, but it did not. The air smelled burnt and smoke billowed from the sky in the distance. Our cats gazed at us, as if to ask where we’d been for two days. It took several days for me to adjust before realizing we were safe and that the danger of re-evacuation had passed.

Now, two weeks later, the northern California fires- Lake, Mendocino, Napa, and Sonoma-have all reached almost full containment. In the Lake County fire there were 545 structures destroyed and 43 structures damaged.

In the combined Sonoma County, Napa County, and Mendocino County fires 42 civilians and one private tender operator. Entire neighborhoods in Santa Rosa are devastated and people’s lives were turned upside down in a matter of hours. In Santa Rosa alone, approximately 5,300 structures were destroyed. In the combined fires of Lake, Sonoma, Mendocino and Napa counties, about 9,000 structures are demolished.

The aftermath of the devastation is just as staggering as when the fires ravaged through entire communities. Now, some people will stay and rebuild, but others will move on to start new lives elsewhere.  In this, my hope is that all paths will lead to a place of healing.

blogging · discipline · General Writing · goals · Marketing · Time management · writing

Time Management: It’s All About the Time You Already Have

TIME MANAGEMENT

The many years I worked full-time it was easy scheduling time to write. I would pencil in my lunch break or the few hours before bed, and I would tell myself that I could put in some extra writing hours on the weekends too.

It took me awhile to learn that scheduling time to write and the act of writing were two different things, especially with a stressful job that required periodic overtime. I often ended up relaxing at lunch instead of writing, and on most overtime days I was too tired to fire up my computer in the evening.

Sometimes I could get some quality writing time in on the weekends, but that was only if I was not suffering from low motivation after working all week. Because I had created poor time management habits, and I was allowing myself to become stressed and overtired in my job, my writing suffered and I eventually shelved my works in progress for extended periods of time.

In July of 2017 everything changed. I got laid off from my full-time job and found myself with nothing but time on my hands.

While applying for unemployment, looking for work, setting up my own business as a notary public and loan signing agent (which included building a website, researching the market, and doing online marketing), getting my condo ready for rental, and preparing for a long-planned move to another county, I suddenly found myself inundated with work.

This thing is that I’m still ultra-busy dealing with being laid off and moving, but I’m sitting here right now writing this article for my blog.

The difference between then and now is that my writing no longer sits in the back seat. I have chosen to put my writing in the passenger with my notary and signing agent work because I love them both so much.

My attitude about how to manage my time has also changed. I don’t have to make time for the things I love to do, I just need to utilize the time that I already have.

The reason that I could not see my writing opportunities before is because I was allowing stress and dissatisfaction to take over my life.

Things are looking better for me every day.  I have been doing temporary work when available and landing some notary and signing gigs.

And, I’m still finding time to write.

I have been earning a little money from writing content and pitching to companies that need writers.

Tomorrow I will work on a guest article for a writing friend’s blog, and I will begin working on an article I have been hired to write for a magazine. After the gym, I will fix my oatmeal with fruit, make my mocha, and work on these articles while I eat.

Oh, and I’m back at working on my first novel again-making changes and killing little darlings, as the saying goes.

Every day is a new day and reveals how much time I will have to write—and, there is always time.

blogging · Change · discipline · General Writing · goals · writing

Placeholders (Places You Have Been)

1 TYPEWRITERMy grandparents owned an old Underwood typewriter that my mother used in school during the fifties, and her four sisters used in the sixties and seventies. It was old, durable, and downright tough against all the fingers that tapped its’ keys to complete many a school paper.

When I was twelve years old and announced that I wanted to be a writer, my mother bought me a pink typewriter for Christmas. I don’t recall if it was a Royal or Olympic, but I do recall typing stacks of my handwritten poems onto onion paper to create a booklet for my mother.

That pink typewriter lasted through junior high and high school and has always been a well-remembered placeholder symbolizing when I first became serious about writing.

In fact, placeholders are important to remember as we walk our journey to success because they tell us where we have been and where we are going, and let us know when we have reached our destination.

Where You Have Been

One of the most important things to remember is where you come from. Even if right now you’re churning out novels, stories, or articles left and right and making a living writing, chances are you didn’t start that way. You started where all writers start and faced rejection, and more rejection, probably until you were ready to give up.

For example, Dean Koontz sold the first short story he wrote then received 75 rejections before selling anything again.

Stephen King said that by the time he was fourteen, his rejection slips hung heavy from a nail on his wall. When the nail would no longer hold the rejections slips, he replaced it with a spike and went on writing.

It’s clear these two prolific writers never forgot where they came from and, despite the odds, they kept moving forward.

Where You Are going

It’s important to have a clear picture of where you are going.

If you want to be a writer, then you must write and keep writing. You must use a pen and paper, or open a word processor, and you must write, and keep writing.  To do this, it’s a good idea to:

1. Find a quiet place to write
2. Open notebook or laptop, or engage typewriter or desk top computer
3. Cut our all distractions
4. Put butt in chair and write for a specified amount of time each day

If writing isn’t your thing but law is, then you must go to law school and make sure your activities revolve around law. A lawyer never starts off as a lawyer, even if their dad or mom, or uncle, practiced law.

If you want to be a nurse or doctor, you must first complete educational requirements. You don’t just start off as a nurse or doctor, you take steps toward working in your chosen profession.

As you take each step toward where you want to be, keep in mind the path that is helping you travel toward your goals. Each place you have been holds purpose and intention.

Where You Want to Be

Finally, there is that moment in life when you reach the place you want to be. Perhaps you finished law school and decided to practice elder law, or you earned your RN and became an emergency room nurse.

If you had not stuck out all the prerequisites in college to get into law school, or endured all those late-night nursing, you would not be doing what you had set out to do.

Or, after years of enduring rejection slips, you finally sell that story or novel, that leads you to writing more novels and becoming a midlevel or bestselling author.

Had you let those rejection slips knock you down, you would not have met with success so many years later. You would not have reached your goal of honing your craft and finally selling your work.

If I remember correctly, my grandparents donated that old Underwood to the local historical society. As for me, I don’t remember what happened to that old typewriter, but the clickity-clack of the keys in motion is forever embedded in my memory.