Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Typhoid Mary, Typhoid Mark

When Hannah comes home from college for the summer and gets together with her younger sister, Emily, there is a lot of laughter, a lot of teasing.  Hannah provides the appropriate setup, and Emily finishes with usually some sort of sarcastic observation of life.  Kim and I enjoy sitting nearby and listening to them and I catch myself with a smile and generally laugh along with them.  They’re just fun to be around.

The summer between my freshman and sophomore years in high school, I was asked to take part in a graduate study that took place through the University of Wisconsin.  For my part, I volunteered at a day care center with three, four and five year old kids.  I lived in Madison for about a month in the summer in a room in a house of a family rented by my parents.  I supervised the playground, read stories, and took the kids swimming.  I loved it.  I loved being around their laughter, their smiles, the energy and their enjoyment with life.

That experience led me to work with my hometown’s recreation department where I worked for several summers as a playground leader in a sort of day camp situation.  Kids would play organized games, we’d have a special day of the week, and even did arts and crafts.  Again, I liked being around kids.  I liked their innocence and sense of adventure.

I enjoy being around my older brothers and sisters and their families.  Stories are shared.  Laughter is shared.  I think after a visit or two, I end up with a smile that lasts for days.  As I write this, I think of this person, that story, and I end up smiling because of the memory.

I think for each of us, there are those among us who we let into our lives who bring and share joy.  We seek them out because they make us feel good.  They lift our spirits and raise us up.  They make our life, our world better just by being around us.

And then . . .

There are those who bring us down.  Their words, their actions, their attempts to engage us in the game of “Yes, but . . .” where there is only one winner, appropriately named, I would suppose: the “but.” 

“The sun is out!”  “Yes, but it’s supposed to rain.”  “I’m thinking on taking my family to see the newly remodeled Washington Monument.”  “Yes, but the traffic!  And then you have to stand in line along with everyone else!”  and on and on and . . .  The “but” always seems to win.

In the end, one’s spirit is dampened, perhaps darkened.  At the least, the excitement, the energy is zapped from us.  Sadly, we might lose our enthusiasm.  Our smile.

Sad to lose our smile.

Like the story of Typhoid Mary, (or Typhoid Mark) who spread disease from one person to another, I believe there are those among us who spread the disease of negativity.  There are those among us who spread the disease of doubt.  There are those among us who steal our energy, our strength, our joy, our spirit, our fun.  There are those among us who steal our sense of well-being.  Who steal our smile.

It’s easy to get caught up in it if we’re not careful.  It’s easy to fall into their trap, to fall victim to their game.  Perhaps they aren’t aware they do it.  Perhaps they know full well what they are doing.  I’ve not spent much time wondering about their psychology, their reasons, because frankly, I’d rather spend time around those who bring out the life, the love, the joy I have within me. 

But it is easy to become a Typhoid Mary, a Typhoid Mark.  To spread the ill of the world . . . their world.   I guess I’d rather be a Pollyanna, as naive as that sounds.  I think a Pollyanna is much more fun to be because one gets to spread joy and light, instead of sadness and darkness.  My question to you is: which person are you?  A Typhoid Mary, a Typhoid Mark, or a Pollyanna?  It is a choice and a choice that can have an impact not only on you but on those around you.  Something to think 
about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Driving On The Wrong Side Of The Road

A scary thought, don’t you think?  Hadn’t ever done that before, until . . .

This past Tuesday, I watched Emily play soccer for the high school team.  Tough game.  Two overtimes.  The other team scored at the very end of the second overtime.  Sad.  Hard fought.  A tough way to lose.

Kim had to drive from supervising a track meet at her school, so she had one car and I had the other, and after the game, Emily chose to ride home with Kim.  I was thinking about how hard the kids had played and what a tough loss it was.  Lots of things running through my mind and absolutely none of it about driving home.

The major road that leads me to our house is under construction and it’s a hassle for everyone driving on it.  I approached an intersection and noticed that my green light had just turned from yellow to red.  So, instead of going straight as I had planned, I decided to make a right turn, which is usually no big deal.

Because the road is under construction, I looked for the big orange barrels that are used to designate lanes and turns.  I didn’t see them.  I swear they were there in the morning when I drove that way to work, but they weren’t there later that evening.

It was dark.  There isn’t much light on that road at night anyway, but it seemed darker to me.  Perhaps it was just my imagination.  And as I said, no orange barrels that I had expected, except the ones on the other side of the boulevard.

So I made what I thought was a correct right hand turn at the orange barrel, only to find out that I was Driving On The Wrong Side Of The Road. 

I had no way to cross back to the other side because the median was all torn up due to construction.  There was no place to turn off for at least a quarter mile, maybe a little longer.  None.  Nowhere.

I began to panic.  I worried.  Traffic was heading towards me.  I really didn’t know what to do except to keep driving until I had an opportunity to get off the road.  But that quarter mile or so sure seemed like a long way to go.

The few cars that I did encounter didn’t beep their horns at me.  No one hung their heads out of the window to yell or gesture at me.  None of the cars came at me head on.  But instead, each driver slowed down, moved over, and allowed me to continue on my wayward journey.

Finally, in what seemed like a lifetime or three, I was able to pull off and travel through a parking lot to get to the road . . . my road . . . and my correct side of the road. 

When people say or write that they breathed a sigh of relief, well, I know exactly what they mean.  I was shaking.  I had been hunched over the steering wheel, holding onto it in a death grip, and I could finally, finally, relax.

There are times when we . . . you and I . . . Drive On The Wrong Side Of The Road.  We don’t mean to.  It’s accidental.  We certainly don’t intend to.  We think we’re doing the right thing- at least in our own mind we think so- we think we’re doing the right thing, only to find that we’re traveling against traffic, against the way it’s supposed to go, against what everyone else is doing.  I guess sometimes that’s okay, but not in a car, usually not in life, but every now and then, I guess it’s okay.

But when we find ourselves Driving On The Wrong Side Of The Road, we panic.  We don’t think straight.  We don’t think correctly.  We run out of options, and sometimes, there doesn’t seem to be any options.  It’s dark and we’re alone, and we grip the steering wheel . . . our thoughts, our lives . . . in a death grip and hope and pray it comes out okay.  And perhaps, we don’t necessarily find other drivers willing to slow down and move over.  Perhaps, we don’t find other drivers who let us pass without incident, but instead, yell and scream and shake a fist.  As if we really don’t know we’re Driving On The Wrong Side Of The Road.  I mean, really, who doesn’t know something like that?

I guess the best thing to do is go slowly, watch carefully, try not to panic (at least too much), and when one can, get off that road in order to find the correct one.  The best thing to do is to regroup, rethink, to calm down, and approach the road . . . life . . . our way of thinking . . . a little differently.  Maybe begin again.  Maybe start over.  Nothing wrong with beginning again.  Nothing wrong with starting over.  It happens all the time, to even the best and the brightest among us.  Happens to both you and to me.  Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Spring Into Life

March: In like a lion, out like a lamb. 
April: April Showers, bring May Flowers.
And at some point in April or May, things begin to grow and come to life.

Farmers seem to be a much better predictor of Spring because their livelihoods depend upon their ability to predict their planting and their animal production.  Without this ability, their farms or ranches don’t make it.

Me?  I can’t predict much and have given up trying.  Growing up in Wisconsin, we’ve had snow storms in April and cold weather in May, and I can even remember a year or two when we had better, warmer weather in April than we did in May.

The thing I like best, and there are actually many things I like about Spring, is that life begins again.  There is energy and optimism and growth and hope that occurs in Spring that doesn’t seem to happen in the other three seasons. 

In Fall, things begin to die out, to wind down.  A chill, a cold seeps into the air.  We change from shorts to pants, and from t-shirts to sweatshirts and jackets.  Instead of planting, we rake leaves.  It is nature’s way, nature’s timing, and while we might complain here and there, nature seems to know what to do and when to do it.  And in Winter, we’re all bundled up because of the cold.  People tend to stay indoors more often than not unless they are those hardy souls who venture out and take part in all the Winter activities.  Animals tend to hibernate and aren’t necessarily as visible as they are at other times of the year.  Nature’s colors change into drab gray and white.

But in Spring, that changes.  Literally, the world around us seems to Spring Into Life.  There is an anticipation of Summer, of vacation, of rest and relaxation.  In Spring, colors change from the drab gray and white into green.  As flowers bloom and trees bud and flower, there is more color.

I notice that in Spring, in our neighborhood, there are more joggers and walkers and bike riders about.  Pants are changed into shorts.  Sweatshirts are changed into t-shirts.  Sunglasses appear, as does suntan lotion.  More folks are pruning trees, planting flowers, and there is the ever present hum from a lawnmower and weed whacker. 

Life comes to Life.

So it caused me to think about, to consider . . .

Perhaps Spring is a time for me . . . for each of us . . . to begin anew.  In our daily life.  In our thinking.  In our energy.  It seems to be a perfect time to change course, to change direction.  As the world around us Springs Into Life, so might we . . . each of us.  Spring gives us an opportunity to reexamine our life and our lifestyle, our habits in our thinking and in our action.  Might we do so productively, positively, in helping us grow and become, as well as helping those around us grow and become.  Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

Friday, May 2, 2014

A Benefit Of Persistence

I’ve written about not giving up, about finishing strong, running the good race, and taking care of yourself and others, especially kids.  Today, I want to tackle not giving up from a different angle and providing you with a reason why persistence makes sense.  There really is A Benefit Of Persistence.

Some of you know, and many of you don’t know, that I’m a writer.  My particular interest, besides this blog is thriller fiction.  My particular slant is that many of my characters are kids and the adults who want to help them, rescue them, and protect them from other adults who aren’t so nice.  Not so nice is being very polite.  I’ve been working on a storyline with this slant for over two years and it has developed into a series.

After a lot of revision and edits and more revision and even more edits, it came time to seek an agent.  I did my research.  I crafted and honed a query letter.  I sent it to those agents who worked with the thriller, suspense, crime genre, following their guidelines.

And . . .

One rejection after another.  Lots of rejections.  Tons of rejections.  Enough rejections to wallpaper a small room in my house.  There were many agents who never answered, stating ahead of time that they would only respond if interested.  I get that, because they are busy.  Very busy.  One agent in particular, was really rude and nasty in his response and I have to admit it hurt a little.  Okay, it hurt a lot.

The whole process of trying to find an agent took a little over a year.  And then, thankfully, Stacey Donaghy, of the Donaghy Literary Group, took me on.  She has been more than patient, more than supportive, and has worked tirelessly on my behalf.  At times, she has been a mentor, a friend, a confidante, and a shoulder to lean on.  So thankful for her.

But even with Stacey’s efforts, with her due diligence, her persistence, I received more rejections.  If I added the publisher rejections to the pile of agent rejections, I think we could paper two small rooms in my house.

As time went on, I saw that a writer received a deal with a publishing company, and another writer received a deal, and even multiple writers received deals for multiple books.  I asked myself over and over, “How come them and not me?” 

There were times I felt that it wasn’t supposed to be for me.  There were times I felt that nothing was going happen with my story.  There were times I felt so down and so discouraged.  There were times I felt like giving up, calling it a day, placing my story so high up on my shelf that no one would find it and that I would, hopefully, forget about it in time.

But . . .

I didn’t give up.  I still had a belief in myself that I could write.  There was something about it all that I felt that I had spent so much time, put in so many nights, and so many days, that surely someone, somewhere would find a ‘home’ for it, and that at some point and at some time, it would all pay off.

And it did!

True Visions Publications contacted me and they really liked my trilogy: Stolen Lives, Shattered Lives, and Splintered Lives.  But they had a suggestion.  A really good suggestion. 

Their suggestion was that I should write a prequel to introduce myself to readers and to introduce my readers to my trilogy.  I liked that suggestion and began immediately.  So as I write this, the prequel, Taking Lives, is taking shape.  I like it.  I really like it a lot.

And early this week, I signed a contract with them for a four book deal.  My first book, the prequel, Taking Lives, comes out this summer.  Of course I want tons of people, millions of people to read it and the trilogy.  But honestly, yes really honestly?  I’m happy, really happy that I didn’t give up.  That I stayed true to myself, believed in myself.  That my belief in myself paid off. 

I’m one example . . . just one example out of many . . . of A Benefit Of Persistence.  I do believe that if it’s meant to be, it will be.  If it’s meant to happen, it will happen.  So if this helps you to stay on your path, great.  If this helps you to stay the course, excellent.  If this helps you to get back up on your feet after being knocked down for the zillionth time, wonderful. Because in the end, there is a benefit to believing in yourself.  There is a benefit to listening to those who gently, and even not so gently, correct you and caution you and provide wonderful words of wisdom and guidance.  And more importantly, there is a benefit to picking yourself up one more time . . . ten more times . . . a hundred more times . . . a thousand more times.  There is A Benefit Of Persistence.  Something to think 
about . . .