Just Bloom

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I have spent many years wasting time, concerning myself with what everyone else is doing and hurting when they do things better than I do.  I held back what I could do, knowing it was going to measure up and being too embarrassed to try anyway.  At some point in life, it is time to say screw it, and just bloom, no matter what everyone else is doing.

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Five Things About My Trip to Edinburgh

Well, I’m back everyone!  It  was a busy week, full of lots of fun, but of course as always, I am happy to be home.  Traveling is wonderful.  I love to see new places, experience new things, and learn something I didn’t know before.  But at the end of the day, I just want to sleep in my own bed, with my own oversized blanket and many extra pillows.  It is one of the many reasons I wish the Doctor would just pick me up for my vacations already; I can go anywhere I like, bring all of my clothing, sleep in my own bed, and never worry about having room in my suitcase to bring home souvenirs.

Today, I will keep it simple, and just share with you a few things from my trip.

 

1) I love Touristy Crap.

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I know, you are supposed to pretend you don’t want to see the ‘fake’ tourist stops, or buy anything from the shops aimed at the tourists with dirt cheap prices.  Screw that.  I love the touristy things.  Not only is it awesome to step into a shop that jokes about the cultural stereotypes, but you cannot beat the ‘everything is on sale’ prices.  I love when a culture is willing to make fun of themselves a little.  Scotland knows everyone thinks of kilts and Nessie, so they sell Nessie in a kilt.  It’s just knowing what people want and giving it to them.  The shops win in the end as they laughingly walk away with our money, finding our lack of exchange rate knowledge hilarious.

Its not just the shops I love.  I genuinely enjoy the tourist trap destinations.  I’m in Edinburgh for only a few days.  I can’t get to know the entire history, or the real everyday culture in a short time.  I know most people from the city most likely avoid the Royal Mile unless they work there.  I’m not trying to be a local, I am trying to see a place I never have before.  Tourist traps are designed to take your money, yes.  But they are also there to give you a small glimpse into a place, something that will make you want to come back another time.

2) I ate haggis and didn’t die.

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Technically I am Scottish, somewhere back in the line. Now enough time has passed that, up until this trip, we held a perfect balance of Scottish and American culture in my family.  My brothers occasionally will wear kilts (some of them anyway) but no one ever ate haggis.   Well, I decided I was going to do it.  I was Scottish, in Scotland, it was required.  I have no idea exactly what is in that picture (the menu said Haggis, Natties, and Mash with a Whiskey sauce), but I ate it all.  The orange stuff tasted kind of like cauliflower, the white was obviously potato, and the haggis itself wasn’t bad.  The flavor certainly didn’t tell the truth of what kind of meat goes in there, but the texture was not pleasant to me.  It seemed as if someone had cooked ground meat on the stove, like you would for tacos, and then stuck the cooked meat together in an attempt at meatloaf.  I’m glad I tried it, but I don’t think I ever will again.

Haggis definitely did not win my vote for best food I ate in Scotland.  I expected it to be fish and chips, something I shouldn’t eat, but love enough I eat like crazy when I travel, but it wasn’t even close.  Don’t get me wrong, there was good fish to be had, but my favorite meal was a quick snack we had at the Elephant House.  We stopped in for my Harry Potter obsessed Big One, and went to have a cup of tea.  We ended up there three times, and if we hadn’t needed to pack on our last day we might have ended up there again.  On the third trip, we were killing time before a tour, and getting a drink and snack.  A person behind me in line was eyeing the pastry case, which with my gluten problems I had mostly ignored.  She mentioned a blueberry coconut sponge cake and I may have involuntarily moaned that it sounded delicious.  When the kind staff informed me this it also happened to be gluten free, I instantly ordered a piece.  I might be willing to live in the Elephant House and eat that cake exclusively for a while.  It was quite possibly the most amazing thing I have ever eaten.  I’m pretty sure I will dream about that cake for years to come.

3) The entire city is uphill.

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Do you see that gorgeous view?  Yeah, I worked for that view, harder than I have ever worked before.  There were points walking around the city when I wasn’t sure I would ever recover.  By the end of the trip, I was absolutely certain my ancestors left Scotland because we were not built to travel on hills.   Or maybe that is just the lazy, out of shape, could live off of blueberry coconut sponge cake, modern American I am. As much as I loved the city, I may need to replace my feet now.

4) I took the tours.

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We took three walking tours while we were there, and honestly, I kind of wish we had taken more.  The first was a the guided tour of Edinburgh castle.  We didn’t want the audio tour, since there is something taken away from a family vacation when you are all listening to different parts of a tour with headphones in.  We happened to walk up just as a tour was leaving from the front, so we hopped along to hear a little about the castle as we went.  Let me tell, you it was awesome.  Not only was the guide funny, but I was enthralled with the history he shared.  Hearing a story about how 31 Scotsmen took back the castle in the dead of night, against a large English army was inspiring.  It was also cool to actually see the Stone of Destiny, and hear it’s history from someone who seemed to feel the connection personally. 

The second tour we took was the Potter Trail, a free tour put on by University students.  I didn’t expect to like the tour much.  I am a fan of Harry Potter, but not an obsessive fan the way Big One is.  We mostly took the tour because it was important to her, and in the end I loved it.  It was more than just the little stuff listed on the website.  Gemma was a charming guide, who laughed and joked as she shared stories, and was completely willing to geek out with all of us. 

Our final tour was a paid tour, again one I did because my husband thought the walking tour would be fun.  We were supposed to learn secrets of the Royal Mile, and it was amazing.  We had been walking around for two days already and didn’t realize how much we walked right past without ever knowing it was there.  She took us down the little alleyways, showed us the oldest walls in the city, walls that once surrounded the city.  There is a heart, made of bricks outside a cathedral, I had stepped on many times, never realizing it marked the site of an old prison.  The architecture I had looked at many times and simply thought to be pretty took on new meaning when she gave us the historical context.

In the end, the tours gave me a little taste of what the city used to be, and it is now.  I was left with a desire to learn more, and really, what else could they ask.

5) I want more.

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I watched the sunshine on the waters of Leith.  I walked along roads that had been soaked in history.  I drank my tea in the same room where much of Harry Potter was written.  I left Edinburgh feeling relaxed and inspired.  I’ve often told my husband I would like to retire to Scotland someday.  With every trip we take, I wish for that more and more. 

Clearing My Mind

Every now and then my Little One will announce that she needs to meditate for a while.  Most often it comes before a meal, or after she gets home from school.  Sometimes it is out in the middle of shopping (such as this time the day after she broke her arm for the second time this year).  When and where vary, but one thing is consistent; Little One has had something happen to overwhelm her and chooses to sit, calm herself, and re-center her mind.

I’m not sure exactly where this habit of hers came from.  I did yoga for years, but mostly before she was born.  I studied Buddhism, but we don’t teach our daughters much about religion or spirituality.  Somehow, Little One came to the practice on her own, and decided it was something that helped her.

Last week I finished a manuscript.  Well, mostly.  I’m saving my celebration until I tweak the ending into something better.  I made a goal to get it done before today, and luckily I came through.  I plan to start the first round of revisions, fixing the notes I made while writing in one week from today. 

Before I start the editing process, I need to take a moment away.  I need to clear my mind, center, and come to it with refreshed eyes.  Instead of sitting on a bench outside a store in the Netherlands as my daughter chose to do, I am taking a family trip to Edinburgh.  We are going to see the castle, eat haggis, and visit every Harry Potter related thing we can find (my Big One is just a wee bit obsessed).  I’m hoping the inspiration found in the Elephant House might rub off on me a little, or at least that they have good coffee. 

How do you clear your mind and center before you start something large?

Potential

 

This morning I took my children to the fabric store.  There were technically many other things I should have been doing, but the fabric store was where we went. 

I needed a small piece of fabric to make a repair on a shirt of my daughter’s, and naturally found other things I somehow realized I could not live without.  Now that I am home, I can lay the fabric out, but I have very little desire to actually sew with it.  Once I begin sewing with my fabric, it loses it’s greatest excitement; the pure potential available. 

I might know what each of those pieces are going to be, but until I actually cut into the fabric and start sewing, they can be anything.  It is the real reason why I accumulate so much extra fabric.  It’s not because it was on sale, or because I have a pattern I could do with it.  I keep it around because I love being surrounded by possibilities.  Each and every piece could be something new and exciting.  I can’t just go with the first thing that crosses my mind, not when there are so many other options.  I am able to let my creativity flow, and see what happens.

Tomorrow, I might need to cut into the fabric.  After all, the shirt won’t mend itself, and the dress my daughter wants will not happen b magic.  Today, however, I will leave them out on the table to show their potential, and allow me to dream. 

Glow

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Just a simple post today as I am heading out to the zoo with my kiddos again.  What can I say, we love animals.

I found this little gem on pinterest, and I kind of fell in love.  It is easy for me to feel broken.  I have struggled with anxiety and depression in the past and sometimes it comes back out of no where to bite me again.  When the darkness comes, you can absolutely feel broken, useless, or worthless.  It’s nice to remind yourself that sometimes things get better after they are broken.

I hope every one of you spends your day shining, whether you are the brightest star in the sky, or a glowstick.  Show the world your light today!

Sing Along

I have always been influenced by music.  I clean a little faster with some fast music, feel a little more sentimental when a love song is playing, and focus a little more with classical music.

More than just the momentary influence, I can have my entire mood change if I am listening to a certain musician or style for a long period of time.  There was a brief point in high school where I found myself listening to too much depressing music and having my emotions follow it down to a dark place.  Since then I have tried to be aware of my emotional state, and the external factors that are influencing it.

I have tried to use this as a way to help my writing.  By listening to music that should fit I feel a little more in tune with the moment, or the character, or the storyline.  Sometimes the music  I select has an obvious connection to what I am working on, and other times the connection is only within my own strange mind.  The only requirement I have for my music selection is that it is not distracting from the writing of the moment; if I am too busy changing the song every couple of minutes, I know I have chosen the wrong type of music.

Lately my musical kick has had absolutely nothing to do with the type of writing I am doing.  While working on a midgrade novel, it wouldn’t seem as though classic rock is the music of choice, but for some reason it is exactly what I needed.  I turn on my current mix, and I find the time melting away as my fingers fly over the keys.  I can’t promise how long this particular mix will work, but for now, I am happy to have it.

Having a playlist that helps me focus is not the only benefit I have found from my current musical preference.  I have found there are many lessons to be learned from this music.  Most of these things I already knew about writing, but every time I hear these songs, I get another reminder.

1) You Shook Me All Night Long by AC/DC

Don’t me afraid to shake up your story.  Things should be exciting, making your reader want to come back for more.

2) Eye of the Tiger  by Survivor

Rise up to the challenge.  Your story won’t always be easy; some times it will feel like a battle you can’t win.  Hang tough, stay hungry, and you will succeed.

3) Don’t Fear the Reaper by Blue Oyster Cult

Sometimes you have to kill characters, or cut out entire sections of work.  Don’t be afraid to be the reaper of your own creation.

4) Free Bird by Lynyrd Skynyrd

Set your characters free, and let them tell their own story.  You may have created them, but if you force them into roles that are not right for them you are also killing them.  You cannot change things to make your story easier, unless you want it to become something that is no longer genuine.

5) Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin

Your story has a natural progression it should go through.  Find your stairway, and let your story go where it should go to become the best it can be.

6) Carry on Wayward Son by Kansas

There should be no peace until you are done.  Too many peaceful moments in the story make for boring reading.  Carry on, and keep the action going until the end.

7) Don’t Stop Believing by Journey

Do I need to say more on this one?  Never stop believing in your characters, your story or yourself.  No one else will believe in you if you don’t believe in yourself.

Victorious

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Sometimes living a creative life sucks.  It can be easy to let your self worth and your belief in your talent falter based on the views of others.  This is of, course the quick road to failure.  This is likely why so many of the most creative minds have been reported to be depressed or have substance abuse problems.

Doubt comes from many places.  Sometimes it is a rejection letter, sometimes it is a stunning silence, other times it is harsh words that seem to be directed from no where.  Most often it comes from within myself.  I am my worst critic, much like the rest of the world.

I know the technical truth; no one will believe in me if I don’t believe in myself.  I have to have enough faith in my own abilities to put them out there, or nothing will ever happen.  You cannot be a successful writer if you never let anyone read your words and if you tell someone your story isn’t very good, they just might believe you.

I know all of this, and yet somehow it doesn’t matter.  Knowing something on an intellectual level, and feeling it on an emotional level are two different things.  I might know I have a great idea and I can make it work, but if I feel that I can never do it right, my doubts will win.

Today, I am trying to conquer a few of those doubts.  I can’t promise I will slay the dragon, but I know I can at least beat it back for a while.  Today, even for a short time, I will not have doubts, I will not have fear.  Today, I will be victorious, even if it is only over myself.

Five Things About Writing New Stories

I love creating fiction, at least as much as I love reading fiction.

Sometimes I feel as though I have a thousand ideas, many of them feeling fully formed and perfect, while others are little more than a vague notion I still need to think about.  I love almost everything about the creation of a story, from idea to finished manuscript, but it is definitely a process.  Creating a story is much like having a child.

1)Birth

When the idea first comes to you, you are so excited and proud.  You instantly know this will be the best thing you ever did.  It is brilliant, and you are clearly the most creative person on the planet.  There are so many things to do to get ready, and bring this idea into a fully functioning story.  In spite of the morning sickness, the nerves, and the fears, you know this will be fantastic.

2)Growth

You are making your plans, and adding a little to your story every day.  Sometimes it is a chapter or two of writing, other days it is a few notes on the outline.  It is, at times, hard to know how your baby is doing, and you need to give it a check up to make sure it is growing healthy and strong.  Of course there are days when you know you could keep this as your baby forever, and other days you wish it had grown up already.  In spite of it all, you are amazed at how much your one little idea has changed.

3)Potty Training

Just as with a child or a small animal, sometimes the poo ends up in the wrong place.  There will be days of messes all over the pages of your precious manuscript.  Other days will be filled with long hours of focused energy, trying to keep your pages clean as you flush the waste away.  It can be a difficult process for some stories, making you jealous of the stories that seemed to be clean over night.  In the end, it doesn’t matter how long it takes, as long as you end up clean.

4)The Teenage Years

Considering your story is only made of your own words, it should be difficult for it to talk back to you.  But somehow, it does.  The characters can be unlikeable, the plot full of holes, and have the whole idea suddenly stinks.  You’re not sure how this happened, as the story you were raising used to be such a polite, clever, and delightful child.  Now suddenly you are certain it has been doing drugs in the basement because that is the only explanation for how it is turning out.   Before long, you don’t know what to do with it anymore.  You still love it, but you’re not sure you like it much and you know you cannot continue to live with it this way.  You cry, you fight, you threaten to send it to a severe editing session and cut it down to size.  No matter what you do, nothing feels like it will ever get better.

5)Moving Out

Eventually your story outgrows its awkward, rebellious stage.  The wonderful idea you once had has returned, a fully complete manuscript, ready to enter your personal publishing process.  Maybe it has a contract to a major publishing house, maybe it is still looking for an agent.  Maybe your story has decided to strike out on its own for the world of self-publishing, or even enter a contest.  This story is now ready for the world, and ready to make you proud.

Of course, not all stories move out.  Some simply move into your basement.  Sure they call it their own apartment, and talk about how they need to find themselves, but you both know they have no ambitions anymore.  They may have started out with so much potential, but now they can’t even get a job pulling in readers on a blog.  Best case scenario has this novel in a writing workshop, demonstrating all of the things a writer shouldn’t do, and working to scare other stories into a good life of being published.  As much as you know you should throw it out, you can’t quite get rid of it.  It is still your baby, and you are still hoping for the day it grows up and becomes a novel.

Prehistoric

Yesterday I accompanied my daughter’s school on a field trip to the Natural Science Museum in Brussels.  As much as I wanted to be there for my daughter, there was a part of me that was hoping I wouldn’t be needed as a chaperone.  It was nothing personal, I was just busy and didn’t feel like I had time to shepherd kindergarteners around a museum full of exhibits they couldn’t touch with information they couldn’t read.  I guess I don’t sound much like a former preschool teacher right now, do I?

It seems a small amount of time away from the classroom, and I have forgotten how much I used to love the job.  I remember the kids, some more than others.  I remember the parents, some with fondness, some with the fear that they may somehow come back into my life.  I remember my coworkers, again with a mixture of sadness that I no longer see them, and happiness that I may never have to see them again.  I remember the frustrations that came with the job, but much of the joy has faded.

It bothers me to have the good memories leave.  I always thought you were supposed to forget the bad things and move on the with happiness you once had.  It’s why people call exes they hated after the break up, or go to high school reunions.  Everything that used to make you cringe, now makes you smile.   And the farther away you get, the more you should wish you could go back.

Maybe it shouldn’t matter to me that my memories have changed this way. I know consciously that I loved many things about the job, does it matter if I forgot the rest?

I guess it doesn’t.  Not much.

I know where I want to go, and that path is not heading back to the finger painting section.

So why does it bother me to have this job that I have placed in my personal history not give me warm fuzzy feelings anymore? 

Because this is my back up.

Everyone has one, whether they admit it or not.  If you lose your well paying office job, you could always take a job with a rival company.   If you lose your house, you will live with family.   If you can’t make it as an actor, you’ll wait tables for a while.  If you can’t have what you want, you will settle for something else.

I know that writing is not something people should ever do for the money. Yes, a living can be made, but for most people, it is not going to make you rich.  I’m well aware that even if I sell a book, and become a published author through an agent and a publishing house, I might still need a day job to make ends meet.  Even worse is the possibility that one day I will be back in the classroom, crawling on the ground picking up legos, and wishing I had sold a manuscript before time ran out.

And maybe that is why the memories are not as pleasant as I wish they were.  It’s not the memory of the past, it is the fear of the future.  I know I will most likely be back there one day, and I’m not sure if I will have anything to show for this time spent focusing on my writing.  Will I go back, happy because I know where I am and I just need a little longer to finish getting there, or will I go back broken, defeated, and dreamless?

For now, I try to find the enjoyment of my life, both with writing and with the occasional foray back into working with children.  Because the truth is, I did enjoy the museum.  We saw some dinosaur bones, something I had never seen in a museum before.  Most of the kiddos liked the T-Rex.

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Of course who doesn’t love him, with his big head, tiny arms, and potential to actually have been covered in chicken-like feathers.  My daughter however has a bit of a love for the triceratops.

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She is apparently the only one in her class who has an interest in a herbivore, which is strange as she often asks for meat for dinner.  (I don’t mean she asks for chicken nuggets, or hamburgers, I mean she will request her food by animal that had to be killed.  Ham is piggy meat, steaks are cow meat, and chili should always be cooked with bison meat.)

In the end it was a good trip.  It reminded me that if I need to, I can go back and still find enjoyment in an old career.  It also reminded me that there are other things I want more.