I Love VT

Hello and greetings from the wild winter wonderland known as the great state of Vermont. I am up here as a guest of When Words Count Writer’s Retreat and I am so delighted to share the new book, Uncle Neddy’s Funeral, will be ready for summer reading!

I finally wrote an ending you all will love. I am over the moon excited.

Currently the wind is gusting out my window. Two feet on snow has fallen so far with more to come tonight. I did get outside earlier, before the wind stirred up, to enjoy the quiet crunching of new snow under my feet.

It is gorgeous here. I am in the middle of nowhere Green Mountains with Killington Peak off in distance. Usually my trips to Vermont destinations involve ski lifts and slope-side pools.

This is different.

The retreat sits on a quiet country road. Gourmet meals and snacks are served throughout the day, usually signaled by the chime of a bell. Writers huddle on couches sitting in front of a roaring fire. Others sit at the dining room table or in the formal living room upfront. Rooms are named after famous authors.

(I am in the Bradbury room. The first night I removed a photograph of Ray from the opposite wall because it was “creeping me out” yet my accommodations are comfortable and homey).

This was a first but not a last. In the past I have limited myself to one-day workshops to hone my skills. This time I had three. For my artist friends, the opportunities are out there to practice your craft – take advantage.

I am going back outside to “play” in the fresh snow. Thank you When Words Count and the beautiful Vermont countryside. I am inspired…

Oh – and stay tuned. I will be releasing the first chapter or two and maybe a cover preview, to you my faithful readers. I hope you enjoy!

Waffles & Weed

The past two days I have climbed to the top of two very different mountains. Yesterday I used my feet while today a ski lift helped with the ride. Although two different experiences, similarities are present.

Take for instance how Mother Nature humbles us. Hiking the side of a muddy, rocky, and more notably, steep hill takes concentration, especially during the descent when ankles can be twisted or knees torn. Effort is needed to make it to the top, just to overlook interstate 91 in one direction or clouds reflecting on a body of water in the other.

This sight reminds me that we are such a small part of the universe.200805-r-xl-classic-belgian-waffles

Today I used little effort to get to the top. I bought a ticket, stood in line, then hopped on a chairlift that took me above the clouds. On the ride the frigid wind blew through snow covered trees. Snow fell, almost burning one’s skin on contact. And at the top, the only view appeared ten feet away with the fog circling.

Like the mud, a bit of ice is thrown in. Focus is needed to not sustain similar or worst injuries. (There was at least a half dozen folks who we saw getting sled rides down. We hope their injuries were not serious.) Yet like the view from the ridge yesterday, once the fog broke, we are treated to a look out over an expansive valley with other ski trails looming in the distance.

This is a happy place. This is where I come to not think, to just be. In both instances, I keep focus on the task at hand so that I may enjoy what Mother Nature is trying to share.

The physical part is fun yet it is the mental exercise that brings me back.

(Oh, yeah. Waffles & Weed. This was the aroma that greeted me on both hikes. One day off in the distance, dancing on the trail in front. Today around the base. Yet, the only thought I have is what a great name for a band! I would go see them. Would you?)

Observations In Church

First, please let me say, this is not a religious post.

When I was a child my mother would take me and my three siblings to mass each week. In church, she would instruct us to behave. Behaving meant that we were to sit quietly and follow the direction of the priest. When he directed the parish to stand, we stood. When he said kneel, we knelt. And of course, we he said pray, we bowed our heads and prayed.

This was our expected behavior.

Of course, my mother wasn’t beyond bribing us. One time, during silent prayer, one of my siblings asked, “Are we behaving enough to go to McDonalds?” adding in after the snickers of the parish, “now?”

Fast forward many years.  My husband, a middle school teacher, comes home from work and asked, “Did the Catholic church start allowing beverages during Mass?” I made some water and wine comment. “Because I was listening to some seventh graders today and this one girl told a story about being late to church because her mom stopped to get her a Frappuccino.” I shrugged.

“She didn’t get to drink it though because she spilled it in the pew.” I stared.

“Frappuccino in the pew?”

“Yeah – but she didn’t clean it up because, you know,” in his best teenage girl voice, “God forgives.”

I was stunned.

Fast forward to Christmas Mass a few weeks ago, a mother with two teenage daughters next to us sat on their phones prior to the start of the service. About fifteen minutes in, mom pulls out bottles of Gatorade and they sit and sip through a good part of the service.

Today three rows in front of me, a man in his 30’s drank a Monster, texted, and scrolled through Facebook while our minister spoke about the need for even for five minutes of silence during our hectic days.

I must ask, when did phones, and drinks in church become acceptable? Next thing you know, we will have wine bars in the back.

The human body can easily sustain itself for an hour, about the length of the religious services I am writing about, without food or beverage. The human mind should be able to rest for that length of time too.

The benefits of delayed gratification, especially with children, include learning patience and working for a reward. By not teaching this concept, getting what one wants immediately becomes a terrible habit that leads to a “me first” approach to life.

The day my brother spoke during silent prayer we may have still ended up at McDonald’s for dinner, although I can’t be certain. He broke proper decorum. And my mom isn’t a push over…then or now.

Feeling Grateful

Last Saturday night we ventured out to one of my favorite venues, The Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, New York. The theatre is a restored art deco theater that has hosted many of rock’s legends. The building is just shy of a century old. In the tradition of sixties liquid light shows, patterns are projected on the walls and ceiling. On Saturday a cartoon squirrel ran around among a paisley motif. This then morphed into strange configurations as the band took the stage.

All appropriate illusions for the Chris Robinson Brotherhood.

Most of the shows we have experienced here give the option of walking up to the stage, in a polite standing room only area, or if one chooses, sitting up in the balcony. Since I am height challenged, I prefer the back of the floor or balcony. Hubby will venture up front yet I get too squished to appreciate the view.

Recharging my creative juices in this fashion brings on a plethora of strchris-robinson-brotherhood-11-18-at-the-capange occurrences, the most prominent one happening this morning. I woke to my characters fighting. Not my present characters, they are still steamed that I haven’t finished telling their story, these voices were those of past protagonists.

And what were they fighting over?

This blog. Okay, so I realize some of you think that maybe I had lost part of my mind at the show, yet hear me out. This is the time of year when we all seem to look around and (hopefully) appreciate the good things in our lives. My past protagonists want to express that appreciation to our readers.

To maintain a bit of order, and the ability to get back to my current character crisis, here are some thoughts from a few old friends:

From Lindsay of Dancing With Faith: “Hi beautiful people! I am so grateful for my family and friends and the beautiful sound of live guitars. We wish all of you a wonderful Thanksgiving.”

From Maxi of Maximum Mayhem: “Ric, I, and my entire family wish you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving. I would include greetings from Zach yet I don’t want to overstep any boundaries because our relationship is, well, complicated. If she ever finishes, look for the next part of our story coming soon, well not too soon because she gets distracted and well, you know…”

From Izzy of The Perfect Pitch: “Bobby and I would like to send out holiday greetings to all our friends and family! And a special congratulation to The Chicago Cubs! As Red Sox fans, we get it.”

And finally, from Rina of Passenger – the only game in town: “Greetings folks. Chris Robinson Brotherhood, huh? At least she listens to jam bands. This is probably why she hears those voices, too. To quote one of my favorite artists, G. Love, I wish you peace, love, and happiness!”

Can you see why I don’t let them speak, yet I am so grateful for their voices!

I’m grateful for many things, like you (yes, you), the ones who take the time to read my creations along with family, close friends, and one psycho Beagle-Dor (half lab, half beagle). There is more: poetry and books, good music and bad, mentors and students, rainbows and sunshine…for this and more, Be grateful!

 

 

The Missing Zen

The last few months have been tough. Blog posts have been sporadic as I allowed others to dictate my time. I should clarify that; dictate my spare, creative time.

Last winter I completed Passenger – The Only Game In Town, in a cute café along the Connecticut shore. I fell in love with the vibe of the place along with its friendly, eclectic staff. Today after months away (I don’t enjoy summer crowds), I finally returned to disappointment. You can’t go back…

It’s not that I am opposed to change, things happen, what I am opposed to is an energy shift. Please humor me to explain. During the summer my writing partner and I started doing laptop meetings all over the state. After a few weeks, we discovered The Harmony Café, and like the name suggests, creative juices flowed freely.

It wasn’t just the place; the staff made our time there a pleasure by just giving off good energy as they did their job. Now fast forward almost a half year. I come back to my super-secret writing spot and the new staff is snotty. I don’t mean “No problem” verses “You are welcome” snotty. I mean “I hate my job and I am going to be a jerk to everyone I meet today” snotty.

I am a tea snob. I like iced green tea unsweetened. If the tea is premade then it stays strong. If they brew it there and pour it over ice, the drink gets watery.

Yes – I am being picky however isn’t this basic chemistry?

So, when I ordered an iced green, which was premade during my last visit, and the counter girl pointed to a bunch of tea bags and said pick one, I explained why that wouldn’t be good. She gave me the blank bitch stare. (Ladies, you all know what this is because we have all done this at various times to people who probably didn’t deserve it). Yep – that’s when I just ordered soup, which is sitting next to me steaming, yet I can’t eat it because I know bitch face either spit or put snot in it or something equally gross.

img_20161024_113349I probably should be working on my book as you can see my imagination is soaring. But no…writer’s obsession questioning is there really snot in my soup? And what if there is? What can I do about it? I could take it go. Maybe have the soup analyzed for boogers.

Or maybe not. Maybe I should just write. Eat the soup, toss the soup; it doesn’t matter either way.

Maybe I just wrote my first blog post in a month at my last time at Café Sol. There are other places to go with a positive vibe that assists with creative endeavors. Maybe I should head there now…

(Any suggestions would be appreciated.)

How 9-11 Changed My Perspective

On September 11th 2001 I was driving up I-95 heading to Logan Airport in Boston. Traffic was a mess. Traffic in the Northeast is always a mess. So I opted for a Grateful Dead bootleg instead of listening to the radio.

I already knew about the traffic. I was in the middle of it!

I parked my car and checked into my flight. I was told it was delayed. With further inquiry, I got the agent to explain there was an incident in New York. A phone call from a colleague told me what I never expected; our country was under attack.

Before that morning I thought I had a really good life. I was pursuing one version of the American dream. Yet that day something in the way I viewed the world changed.

Call it a touch of paranoia. Call it a slap of reality. At that time the average  United States citizen really didn’t worry about domestic terrorist attacks or other such happenings. Those things took place in the European and Middle Eastern countries. That was why they had soldiers in their airports.  In the United States we didn’t worry about any of that; here we were safe. I often wondered how people live with fear and after 9-11, I found out.

I left Logan in a mental fog. Hit the Mass Pike and headed for the office. I had to reschedule the trip. My version of the American dream had business first, right? I worked at a major newspaper. Reality would hit fast.

My boss simply said, “Go home. Hug your family.”

It wasn’t long after I started to appreciate my life more than my job. A bedtime story with my kindergartener was better than a night in skybox. Dinner with my husband was far more superior to hanging out with movie stars. Pursuing my passion was finer than indulging a case of the material wants. I wondered why my career sucked up so much of my time and mental space.

9-11 kicked me off the hamster wheel.

As a nation, we now have a before and after 9-11-01 definition of normal. The before version of me was very driven and I can admit, not always the nicest person.

The after version still has goals, yet appreciates simplicities such as a slower pace, jazz in the woods, and staring at the moon. I like to think that I’m a bit nicer at least when I’m not driving. I still have issues with the traffic on I-95 that even Jerry Garcia live cannot solve.

This weekend my little town has a memorial out. A flag representing the country of every person who was murdered that day graces our town green. As beautiful and patriotic as this sight is, like with every tragedy, one wishes that this display wasn’t necessary. That the cataclysm never took place.

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Missed Fortune

The best part of Chinese food for me is the fortune cookie, not eating it, just reading that little slip of paper inside. Since I have known my husband, he always opens his cookie and says, “Help! I am trapped inside a fortune cookie factory.” Cheesy, yet funny.

So last evening when I reached across my kitchen table, my stomach fluttered with anticipation. I pulled apart the cellophane wrapper only to have the cookie go flying through the air! My heart sank as it crash crunched on my kitchen floor at the same time my half Lab, half Beagle dive bombed on top.

The cookie didn’t have a chance. Neither did my fortune. The old girl is fast when it comes to food.

Fast forward twelve hours. I keep watching her butt so when the time comes, I’ll know what fate has instore for me. She has been fed, walked, and snacked so much this morning that if she was human she’d ask if she was dying.

Finally, the blessed moment arrived and sticking out of her pile, which we have to pick up anyway as to not upset the neighbors, is the small, telling piece of paper. I had plastic gloves ready. My eyes watered from the smell yet finally I could read the words of wisdom I have been waiting for.

Help! I am trapped inside a fortune cookie factory!