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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.

 

 

blogging · Change · discipline · goals · writing

Believe in Your Worth

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When was the last time you really believed in yourself, when you were sure of your accomplishments and where you were headed in your life?  A time when you, without a single doubt, believed in your worth? 

If you’re like most people, including me, you have trudged through difficult times when you didn’t see value in your work.  Maybe you were working at a unfulfilling dead-end job or you just could not figure out what you wanted to do. 

The bottom line is that you need to know your own worth in order to succeed in your chosen profession, whether it be a traditional or entrepreneurial career.  How much, or how little, you value your skill set determines how you present yourself to others in the business world. 

Knowing your worth is especially important if you are self-employed because incoming business determines whether you make a profit. For example, if you are a freelance writer proposing low rates for projects just to get your writing out there, or you think nobody would pay you higher rates, then you are selling yourself short.  

You may get less writing opportunities if you quote higher rates, but it’s guaranteed that you will more quality ones.  In my book, quality always wins over quantity.

Knowing your worth requires seeing the value in your skills, putting yourself out there, and going after what is important to you. It means believing in yourself and not giving up even when you face slow times, or even rejection. 

Believe in yourself. don’t give up, and you will realize your own worth. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Change · curve balls · discipline · General Writing · goals · Marketing · storytelling · writing

When Life Throws You A Curve Ball

FLYING BALL
When life throws you a big fat sock-her (or sock-him) ball….

Quick, DUCK!

But stay in the game.

Seriously, we have all experienced a fast-moving curve ball that we saw from a mile away, or that we did not expect at all.

It’s our attitude that will break our spirit or carry us through a difficult time.

When a curve ball comes our way, we have two basic options: we can let it slam us to the ground, or we can duck and use the opportunity to learn.

In the business world, a speeding curve ball can actually be a life-saver.  Read further to find out what I’m talking about.

Honestly Assess the Situation

Whether or not you saw the sock-her ball coming, it’s important to assess the situation and look at your part. For example, if you lost a client and are not sure why, think about your working relationship.

Were you and the client not a good fit, but you continued the relationship anyway because you needed the money?

Or, did you make some big mistakes, only to realize that the project was out of your league?

It does no good to point your finger at whomever threw that curve ball.  Assess the situation through your own eyes and learn from it so that you may better service your current and future clients.

Enjoy a Big Glass of Lemonade

When I was a kid and I complained about things not going the way, my sweet mother used to say, “Well, take those lemons and make some lemonade.”

After you have made that lemonade and downed about half of it, take a look at the glass. Is it half full or half empty?

If you see the glass as half empty, you are focusing on what you do not have.  On the other hand, perceiving the glass as half full means you are fully aware of what you do have.

Focus on what you have gained from the arrival of the curve ball, not on what you have lost.

For example, you may have lost a client that was not a good fit but you now have room to take on some new projects.  Or, perhaps you made some mistakes with that huge project, but now you know how to change your behavior to produce a better work project.

 Stay in the Game and Up the Ante

force-2483944_640.pngNow that you have figured out your part in the situation and you see a half-full glass of lemonade, what’s next?

Vow never to give up. Stay in the game and up the ante.

For example, before considering future clients, take time to assess whether you are a good fit.  The quality of a working relationship is far more important than money.

If your work product suffered, explore ways to improve performance for future projects. For example, if you were coming up on a deadline and cut corners instead of asking for an extension, learn how to manage you time better. If your work had too many errors, take steps to improve.

Final Words 

So, whether life has thrown you a sock-her or sock-him ball, the important thing is to remember, as my mother used to say…….

It’s not the end of the world. This too shall pass.

 

 

 

 

 

 

blogging · Change · discipline · goals · Marketing · writing

The Snowball Effect

When you’re a kid and you do something you’re not supposed to and try to hide it from the adults, the snowball effect can take over pretty quickly and get you into trouble.  I’ve been there, you’ve been there.  We’ve all been there before.

When you’re an adult trying to start a business, the snowball effect is exactly what you need. You start with small steps and then let the process take over.  I know…I’m there right now.

How does this whole snowball effect happen?

First, you decide what kind of business you want and start taking actions to reach your goal, kind of like when you were a tot learning how to press snow together and shape it into something. After awhile of trying to shape the snow, you came up with your first snowball.

With every move you make toward your goal, the snowball gets bigger and bigger, until you have something tangible to keep building on.

What kind of actions are essential to creating your business?

Write up a business plan

There are plenty of business templates on the web that you can use. The important thing is to get your business model down on paper so your goals are clear.

If you will be creating more than one business to bring in income, it’s a good idea to write plans for each one.

Buy a Domain Name

Buying a domain name will be one of the best things you do for yourself.  You can purchase a domain name for as little as $10 a year.  When you choose your domain name, think about the type of business you plan on running.

For example, if you’re a writer, you will want to choose a domain name that reflects that. Or, if you are opening a baby store, choose a domain name that clearly tells the world that you will sell baby items.

Build a Website

Once you have purchased your domain name, there are numerous places on the internet where you can find web hosting for reasonable prices. While I prefer WordPress because it’s easy to use, you need to find one that works for you.

It’s also a good idea to link your website to your social media sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, or any other social media you participate in.

Educate Yourself

Research everything you can regarding the type of business you want to open. Look both locally and globally for educational materials relating to your field.

You Tube is excellent for finding instruction videos, as are online professional organizations. Check out companies and organizations in your area so that you can build relationships that will help you build your business.

Market Like Crazy

Once your business plan is set and you have your website up and running, and you have educated yourself enough on business essentials, it’s time to start marketing. The best way to do this is to make cold calls, send cold emails, and show up at local venues with your pitch and business card.

For example, if you want to write articles why not market yourself to local newspapers and magazines?  If you’re into retail, sign up with the Chamber of Commerce and attend meetings. Take all necessary actions to promote yourself.

Keep the Forward Momentum

Once your business starts to flourish, or the snowball starts growing eyes and a carrot nose, you will need to keep taking actions steps. It will do you no good to just sit back and expect things to keep moving forward by themselves. All business have peak seasons and slow times.  Always use the slower times to do more marketing.

Once you have established professional relationships that work for you, keep flourishing them. Send occasional notes, or even create a newsletter to keep clients informed and remembering you. Work on creating new relationships at every turn so that clients start coming to you.

Final Words

You’ve got this. Keep building that snowball and trust the process.