Friday, January 5, 2018

After the Airport Goodbye

Raising Daughters

They need you and need you and need you
Until they don't
Because you've taught them well and
Shown them the way and 
Given them all you have
Your heart and your soul and your favorite flat iron.
They thank you, they hug you, and they leave you
In one motion
They are off and you wouldn't have it any other way
This is why you carried them, why you fed them, and why you held their hand
So one day 
They could let go
And live their beautiful life.


Monday, October 2, 2017

Resist The Fear, Refuse the Helplessness

I learned of the Las Vegas mass shooting at 8:20 a.m. today. My mind, my heart, cried “No, no, no!”

Random and reckless. Terrifying and too much. I remember once again that I live in this world where people can hurt, maim, and kill. I can already see the wave of grief spreading out over the city and state, the country and the world. It takes all my willpower to resist the fear and refuse the helplessness.

A single thought whispers, "Do good. Do something kind. Love someone today."
At first it feels pointless or ineffective or too thin in the face of such thick evil. Yet the thought persists because of what I know.

You see, my son shares a birthday with his uncle. My brother. The brother that was killed—kicked to death—by three men. This isn’t a fact we dwell on when November rolls around and we sing Happy Birthday. For years after my brother’s death, I wished my son could have been born on a different day. But their shared birthday has led me to a comparison I might not have made otherwise.

My son is also a liver transplant recipient. Some organs you can share without giving your life—like kidneys. While others can only be given when your life ends—like hearts. So, yes, a child died unexpectedly and his parents agreed to donate his liver to our son who had been waiting almost three months. Through the next 24 hours of tears and prayers and skilled surgery, he emerged with a healthy liver and a body capable of living. And live he has. For 23 years our family has known joy. Whole-souled, awe-filled joy because of him. Not just because of the miracle of his life, but because of the miracle that someone we didn’t know was allowed to choose to give him another chance at life. They chose to give life, to love a stranger, even in an hour of pain and grief.

While I have grappled with the heart-sickening actions of others—hateful acts of violence and even small mistakes—and how those actions are allowed to wreak havoc in the lives of innocent people, I have gradually come to see what this means for the loving actions of others. Loving actions are allowed to impact us as well. Generous gestures, kind compliments, and heroic rescues can all create waves of comfort and peace. Doctors who dedicate years to practice so they can save a life or relieve a pain. Friends who show up on doorsteps with dinner, neighbors who water your plants and watch the street when you’re out of town. Family members who listen, encourage, and cheer you on—give you a hug (a high-five, a fist-bump—whatever love language you speak.) All of these loving actions can supply happiness and peace, hope and joy. Love can help and heal and give life. And like a wave, it can move through a family, a city, and the world too.

This is my reality: three men I will never know changed the landscape of my family causing immense grief and pain by ending my brother’s life. While another three people, two parents and a child, were allowed to give the gift of life, also changing my family—bringing infinite happiness and joy.

It may be impossible to avoid grief on a day like today—when the news headlines are driving pain into my heart and home. I don’t have maxims or adages and certainly not answers.

But I do have a longing, swelling up into a soul-filled determination, to push back against the wave with one of my own: Do good. Love someone. Don’t hold back. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Easy to Make Holiday Wreath

I love making wreaths, not that I’m great at it, but I love a pretty wreath. It’s like an art form and though the structure is simple, a round base with some kind of ornamentation for accent, it seems the possibilities are endless. And fun. So I look forward to making a new one when I can.

But this year has been, oh slightly busier than the normal holiday swirl. No surprise with a little thing like a book launch thrown into the season. I thought I might have to find a store-bought one. Ouch, hurts to write that.

I found a few I liked and they all had a price tag I didn’t. So here’s what I did:

I grabbed a pine base, ½ price at Hobby Lobby $10 (There may be cheaper ones out there but this one does have a double wire, makes for a fuller-looking wreath. And as my youngest daughter mentioned while we were comparing ‘if it’s too skimpy, it sort of ruins the door.’ Note taken.)They had pre-formed Christmas floral bunches. The ones I chose had a gold ornament, some frosted pine and white glittery spray—I’m not even pretending to use official descriptions here.From another retailer (Okay Wal-Mart) I found clip on ornaments. Where have these been all my life? I picked up three gold poinsettias and three pine cone clusters. No glue stick, string or floral ties needed. Just clip onto the pine branches like you would the tree, and voila! You have yourself a decorated wreath ready for the door.

I made this in less the twenty minutes for under twenty dollars. Now that’s making spirits bright!

Of course, then I installed it on the door and wondered if it needed a ribbon bow. I’m still wondering. Mainly because I haven’t had a spare minute to tie one on and decide. If I do I’ll let you know.

Until then, this is me wishing you a very merry holiday and hoping all of your creative dreams come true!

Friday, September 23, 2016

The Way We Look At Books

by Tamara Passey

When you attend a writer's conference you can hear a buffet of advice--use active voice, not passive, no info-dumping, and so on. But not all writing advice is created equal. Every now and then you can come across some wisdom that can fundamentally change your writing life, if you let it.

J. Scott Savage
ANWA 2016 Keynote
The ANWA conference keynote speaker this year was J. Scott Savage. One of the things he said was "Your writing will change people's lives." It reminded me of something I heard him say several years earlier. He was speaking about his personal writing and publishing journey up to that time and said something I hadn't heard before. Something that changed the way I think about books and that I haven't forgotten since.

It went a little like this:

"If you've ever read a book and thought, 'how did that book get published?' thinking only of what was awful about the book, what you could be asking is 'how did that book get published?' with an eye for what was good about the book."

"If an agent liked the book and an editor worked on the book, and it is selling--look at what is working. Look for what the author did to reach an audience and connect with readers. That is what you want to emulate."

Maybe this had an impact on me because at that time I had written the first draft of my first novel and I was hoping for publication sooner rather than later. Instead of reading books for pure enjoyment, I began reading them with a critical eye and found myself wondering how or why certain books ever made it to the shelf. I thought it was my high standards for writing, but I'm sure there was some creative jealousies at work too. 

And so the way that he turned that question around changed my entire attitude. For the better.

Asking what works about a particular story or novel opened me up to positive energy. Focusing on the good and what the author did right, made a place in my mind for me to do the same. Looking for techniques that resonate with the reader made it possible for me to learn those techniques. And I'll take it one step further, being happy for the success of another author--helped me achieve my own.

Me--finally having a chance to thank Jeff Savage for some really great writing advice!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Fall Wreath Non How To - Repost

This is a re-post in honor of the first day of autumn. 

I could probably come up with a better post title, but it's late and the heat wilted me today. So I went for the straight-forward approach, tell it like it is. 

First: The "Non" How To Make a Wreath that doesn't cost $50.
Why is it a Non-How-To?
Because I am NOT an expert. This is my first attempt at making a wreath. I don't even call my self crafty, unless we're talking about hiding chocolate. But I wanted a fall wreath and one that didn't cost more than a trip to see real foliage. So this is what I did. And if you are brave enough to copy my non-expert craftiness, please send me a picture -- I'd love to see new and improved versions of my beginner's luck. 

Straw wreath - a couple of dollars at WalMart
One bunch of fall foliage flowers and leaves - $5 - conveniently next to the wreaths
One roll of burlap ribbon - $5, maybe a little more
One package of wreath making pins - totally forget how much but they were also right next to the wreath bases. 

And heavy duty wire cutters. I borrowed a pair from the kindest neighbor on the planet. If you don't own any, you will have to use different flowers that don't require cutting.

I clipped the flowers and leaves from the bunch that I wanted to use. I removed the plastic from the straw wreath. A lot of straw went flying. Probably could have made the wreath in a barn instead of on my table, but that's hindsight for you. One note of caution (this is code for how I almost ruined the entire project): don't cut the twine that is responsible for keeping your straw wreath base in tact. It's not pretty. 

I chose to wrap the burlap ribbon around the entire wreath (mostly to help secure the section I cut loose--see above caution) - but if you want to conserve ribbon, you could wrap the exposed side only-(this is a personal choice somewhere in the realm of how to organize your sock drawer--at the end of the day you are the only one who will know or care :)

Secure the flowers with the extra long looking wreath pins as you see fit. That's right, I don't have a flower placing pattern for you to follow. This feels like stating the obvious, but I don't have any flower-arranging credentials so you are better off figuring out this step on your own. 

Tie or create a bow with the burlap ribbon. 
Hang on your door. Pretend it isn't 100+ degrees and enjoy!

Written in the fall of 2011 in AZ while reminiscing about the fall seasons of my little growing-up years in MA.

Hand Picked Fun

I don’t know what happened to my bathing suit
Summer up and left                                                                                       
Mom moved the sweaters
From my big sister’s drawer
To mine
And the sun inched west a little sooner each day
Taking all the fun with him

Until we piled into the maroon station wagon
And drove north
Long enough for us to wonder if Dad got lost

We found the trees. Green leaves gone to yellow and orange.
Did the colors bring the cool air?
I thought so, but they told me it was the other way around.

Rows and rows of heavy laden trees.
We picked for hours, climbing, stretching
Dropping, joking
With cold noses and fingers
We filled our bags and bushels full of red, ripe apples.

And the country store had heated, fresh pressed cider.
One sip and my brother laughed at my eyes
Popping from the burst of flavor
Sweet and spicy
And warm.
Like those apples had figured out a way
To store all the rays of summer sunshine.
Just for me.

Tamara Passey

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Quotes and Not-So-Deep Thoughts from the ANWA Conference 2016

Another great ANWA conference. I'm still reveling in the joy of it, and maybe the nerdiness too.

Not-So-Deep Thoughts

Advice: Check the chair before you sit on it. If it looks wet, it probably is. And you won't have time to run back to your room and change before you have to stand up and teach.
Yes, that happened. To me. Because I didn't look before I sat.

Philosophy: Overspending in the bookstore is really not overspending at all.
It's an investment in your mind. And we all know a mind is a terrible thing to waste.

Thanks: To the woman who won my book as a door prize and stood up and cheered with so much enthusiasm I almost cried. I owe you a hug!

Observation: Pitches by the wall-sized water fountain--genius. No one could hear the 1,000 windmills churning away in the hearts, minds, and stomachs of all the pitchers!

Peggy Urry - Pitch Master

Quotes from the wild:

"In between the highest of highs and the lowest of lows is the magic." J. Scott Savage

"Your writing will change people's lives." J. Scott Savage

"Middle Grade readers have gatekeepers--don't offend them." J. Scott Savage

"Teens do not tolerate exposition." Heather Flaherty

"An author should never be satisfied with the limitations of someone else's world." Katherine Cowley

"Where is a good place for backstory? When the character is naturally thinking about it." Patricia Nelson

"I WILL Google you. Not one page, five pages of google results." Patricia Nelson

"You can't please everyone. You are not pizza." Anika Arrington

"We betray our readers when we wish away our own voice." Anika Arrington

J Scott Savaage - ANWA 2016 Keynote Address

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Birthday Cake, Two Hearts, One Day

Another birthday poem.
This one about cake and heaven and being connected in the best of ways.
Sometimes the best gifts are the unexpected ones.

Two Hearts, One Day

Baking the cake
We will share
Has come to mean more to me
Than flour and eggs
(Though I do love the way vanilla wakes up my kitchen,
The way velvety batter falls into
Reliable and waiting cake pans
Like liquid ribbon.)
It means more to me than mixing and frosting.
This is the cake I will share with my
Not-so-baby girl, born on my birthday.
Reminding me there are no coincidences
In heaven or on earth. That we are connected
Through time and space.
That we share memories and hearts full of love
For the gift of life,
For the best and permanent birthday gift heaven can give.

Previous Birthday Posts


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