What a Lovely Surprise

What a lovely surprise! This morning I received an email from author Laura Munson. She selected a piece I wrote to add to her Spring Blog Series. I invite you to follow the link and explore Haven and all the writers who are on this journey as a writer too! Happy Spring 🙂

http://blog.lauramunson.com/2019/04/03/haven-spring-blog-series-part-1/

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So You Think You’re Book Is Finished. Really?

If you’ve followed my journey as a writer, you know where my roots are. You know I began my novel from a chance meeting followed by a NaNoWriMo personal challenge. After the bones of the story were developed, you may have read about the experience I had with two amazing editors, a toxic writing group, money spent on seminars and last year I was accepted into Writers Relief. Which I thought was going to hand me a golden ticket. It didn’t. There are no golden tickets in the traditional publication industry.

Yet I learned a lot about how NOT to write a query letter and that even if you pay top dollar for an editor, there are still mistakes you need to address. Everyone keeps telling me you have to have a polished copy of your manuscript before you send your first query. Well, that’s what I thought I had. Honestly. I did. After at least four drafts, and following line by line critiques. Reading the book out loud countless times and reconsidering the life of a hermit as a possibility. It began to dawn on me that I did not know if I was polishing my novel. Or just smudging it with a dirty cloth.

I’ve walked away from two writing groups. One as I mentioned was toxic, but I learned that I knew a lot more than I thought I did and I know the kind of writer I do not want to be. The second was a great group of men and women. All kinds of people writing different genres with different styles and of different cultures that made it a rich, rip-roaring time in conversation and personalities. But I didn’t get a lot done. There were so many of us, by the time my turn came to submit, my last submission was forgotten.

When they say everything happens for a reason, it’s true. The group was expanding and the facilitator changed, so were the dates, which did not fit into my calendar. So although the group is continuing and thriving, I walked away. At first, I worked by myself. Although the creation of the story is solitary, having it finished requires others. So along with a friend who donated her home twice a month, we formed a much smaller group of eight in the beginning and now we are six. This seems to be working perfectly. We are productive. Everyone’s work is heard, reflected upon and critiqued. We have interesting discussions and can finish a statement without having someone watch the clock because the library is closing.

For me, it was the best thing that could have had happened. This funky little group is reading my entire book three chapters at a time. I take notes, listen to their ideas, views, and opinions and decide if I need, want or should make changes. Grammar, punctuation, and flow are pointed out, corrected or removed. Discussions about the characters, the time, the nuances that make a story believable are addressed. I can see SO much more through six pairs of eyes! And now that they are at the halfway point. I find myself working harder than ever.

The manuscript beginning to shine. The elbow grease is paying off!

So I wanted to share with you – readers – writers of any and all genre – new writers, seasoned writers, would be writers, I think I’d like to write writers – go write! And enjoy the process of creating a story. And after you’ve read it a dozen times and have cleaned it up as much as you think you are able. Find a group, create a group, ask a group if they will read your work and really help you to polish what you have.

NOTE: I’m not talking about Beta readers! In my personal experience, I asked a group of people of various ages and backgrounds to read my book after the first draft. Yes, it was raw. It had faults. Although I cannot speak for anyone else, it made sense to me to ask people to read at that point, because if it wasn’t a good story, why should keep going? If they didn’t like what they read, how it flowed, how it ended, did they want more, what was the point of continuing? Because the work it takes to shape it into a novel is much, much harder than writing a story on a notepad. There are very different rules than you learned in high school, how to write a dialog without ending with, “she said, he said” after every line. What format to use, what font size etc.

The polish comes after all the creative and technical work is done. The polished novel is what agents and hopefully publishers want to see, expect to see and honestly deserve to see after receiving truckloads of dull! So although my journey is taking much, much longer than I thought it would and having my query letter written for me was the biggest mistake I’ve made so far (it was SO bad) and that having an agent accept my work has not happened yet. YET. I am not giving up!

Breathe Deep, Think Peace

Patty

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The Jury: Not Guilty. In MY Opinion: GUILTY of cruelty and so much more.

This was not the piece I had planned on writing for my first blog of 2019. Although the subject of animal rescue is one I hold near and dear to my heart. This is anything but a happy ‘beginning’ with an animal adopted into a forever home. The complete story of the event can be found on the CBS website, the following is my opinion of the event and outcome of the trial.

This is not the story of a deranged individual betting on dog fighting (or any type of animal fighting for that matter), puppy mills, or the neglect that is unfortunately in every state in America. This piece is to shed light on a man who a jury ruled was not guilty of animal abuse, but who, in my opinion, I believe is. And what is beyond upsetting is this man is a teacher. Who I assumed is educated with at least a BA, hopefully, a master, but apparently nothing else. Who in my opinion irreversibly and irresponsibly caused damage. Yet tragically, is completely unaware or simply does not care if he has caused any harm at all to his students. Which makes him, in my opinion even more dangerous.

I’m referring to a piece on CBS that reported the verdict of a teacher who fed a live puppy to a snapping turtle in front of his class.

It is my understanding this so-called teacher felt it was the humane thing to do. That he claimed the puppy was sick, so why not consciously take something he had no Veterinarian medical degree or experience in, to diagnosis and cause horrible pain and suffering to a baby animal. The puppy was alive when he put it in the water. The students who witnessed this said the puppy tried to paddle before the turtle lunged for it, tearing it apart as it drowned. Where is the humanity in that?

I can only speak for myself, but we have rescued puppies in our family who were terribly ill. One could barely lift her head while she vomited and defecated. It never once occurred to me to feed her to another animal to ease her suffering. We chose to bring her to a Veterinarian. She is now eight years old, happy and healthy. We’ve also rescued a seven-year-old hound that someone threw away. He was skin and bones when he came to live with us, had numerous health issues and will be on medication for the rest of his life. Now he is thirteen-years-old, 90 lbs and loves everyone he meets.

What damage has this man caused his students? Does he care? Does this so-called teacher have any expertise in PTSD and ALL that can be the cause of it? Not just war, not just physical abuse, not just surviving a rape or fire or domestic violence, etc. Did he even stop for a moment and ask any common sense he might have had to say, “Wait, I know that serial killers begin by torturing and killing animals. Maybe, just maybe “I” need help, maybe, just maybe there is a student watching this that will push him/her over the edge and gives permission to cause harm because my teacher did it, so it must be okay?” Probably not.

When people take part in dog fighting and witness over and over one of the most horrific acts of torture and mauling, they are psychologically changed. Dog fighting is a lose-lose event. It is witnessing a gory death and becoming numb to it. When someone as irresponsible and I really must question the mental state of this individual, given the responsibility of educating children to do something this heartless, I for one would not want my children anywhere near him.

If a teacher is teaching a lesson about snapping-turtles, I am certain there are numerous ways of demonstrating the feeding, which does not kill another living thing. If this teacher honestly feels it was the humane thing to do, then I’m guessing he would have no problem throwing a patient who is riddled with cancer into a shark tank to ease their pain and suffering.

I do not profess to be a psychologist, although I do encourage everyone to be open-minded about mental health. Their own as well as their family. We are interdependent components of skeletal, circulatory, respiratory, nervous, reproductive organs guided by the brain. All of which need care. Perhaps if our past physicians had themselves truly understood how humans think, what causes them to act and react one way or another. They may have encouraged and respected the exploration into the psychology of humans. Unfortunately, we are still very far behind in admitting this and providing care to everyone without any stigma’s attached. The medical industry needs to work together. Unfortunately, in some respects, it still appears to have egos, attitudes, and cliques. And don’t get me started on health insurance.

As an example of just how disconnected mental wellness is to physical wellness, let me share a personal story. For about two years I served patients meals in a local hospital. This job sometimes required us to wear protective clothing when going into a restricted patients room. If they had a contagious disease or unknown ailment, they still deserved to be treated with respect, kindness and offered a meal.
For a few days, I put on a bright yellow gown, mask, hairnet, and gloves to serve a man who was admitted while having tests run. He felt awful, he looked awful, but he always, always smiled when I knocked on his door. We would have conversations, discuss current topics, share stories about our kids. No one in my department was allowed to ask why he was there, or anything to do with his medical treatment, which was fine. Everyone had a role to play in his care, or so I thought.

One morning I watched a doctor walk into this man’s’ room. What stood out to me was that he did not stop to put on any of the yellow clothing, not even a pair of gloves. In less than a minute the doctor hurried from the room and disappeared down the hall. Any signs of quarantine were torn down as he passed. Slowly I peeked into the open doors and saw the patient sitting on the side of the bed. Sobbing. Grabbing a tissue box I went to him. He looked at me, no color in his cheeks, eyes red and said through his gasps that the doctor told him he was sorry, but he was going to die and there was nothing that could be done. He should go home and get his things in order. Then without another word, the doctor turned and left!

What is that oath doctors are supposed to vow? Do no harm. How was this not harmful? But what really shook me was that no psychological help of any kind was offered and I learned that unless a patient asks for it, it will not be provided. Seriously?!

Later I was talking to a friend that worked in the emergency department. He told me that there is a psychologist on call, but 99.9% of the time it is for the patients who have tried or would threaten suicide. It was for the drug addicts and inebriated people pulled from their cars after an accident. But to this individuals recollection, after working in this hospital for years, he never, ever heard of a psychologist being called to help patients in any other department. How can that be?

Now return to this person feeding a live puppy to a hungry turtle in front of his students. How does this not cause psychological harm? How many adults could have watched that unmoved? How many nightmares will his now confused (with what they witnessed, horrified, as well as learning the verdict) and distressed students have? And how many of the students who thought it was cool to watch, will now torture an animal and ultimately a person? This man whether consciously or unconsciously, in my opinion, taught animal abuse to a class in a school in America just a few months ago. I sincerely hope he and the students get professional psychiatric help from a licensed doctor.

So what do I hope happens from writing this piece? Hopefully, three things:

One, it allows me to put all my emotions in one place to try and cope with my own tortured thoughts. In my mind, I keep seeing a puppy in pain, being pulled under the water, being torn apart by a reptile. Just as people on the west coast reacted to the horror of 9/11 on the east coast, when someone is told of a horrific event, because we are human, we are affected by the act. Yet because we are human, we have the capacity to seek help and find ways to cope. Writing allows me to work through what I’ve read. Second, it also permits me to have a conversation with the reader. Expressing myself and my thoughts and asking if you agree, or agree to disagree with what I’ve shared. Lastly, the third is to consider having a conversation with your own children or a child you care about. It has been reported on the news, how do you want your child, student, niece or nephew to hear about this? What is really upsetting is that this teacher is probably going to teach again.

Which makes me ask – What and how do you teach your child to react, when they may see a teacher (or any trusted adult for that matter) doing something wrong? Immoral? Unethical? Makes you afraid? Of course, depending on the age you may not want to share the gruesome details of what this teacher did. I do not want to instill fear or cause more nightmares, but I do want to shine a spotlight on more than a verdict. This is so much more complicated than a guilty or not guilty verdict. Any of us who have been on a jury understand there is a lot more than most realize. That being said, I cannot help but feel that judgment was, in this case, wrong.

My hope is we give a voice to those who have none, and give permission and support to our children to never be afraid to use their voice and speak out against cruelty abuse. I applaud the students in this man’s class who spoke up. It wasn’t easy I’m sure but was the right thing, a brave thing to do no matter what.

Note: According to CBS the turtle was euthanized. State officials said it was a non-native species that requires a permit.

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Can It Really Be a Happy New Year?

Tonight we say, Happy New Year! But do we really mean it? How can we actually have a happy new year?

Depending on your age, think about how many times you’ve actually said those words. How old were you when you first said it? Do you remember it throughout the year or quickly drink to it and forget about it?

Not every year is great, but I do not believe every year is terrible either. Even with the added heartaches, disappointments, loss employment, the loss of loved ones, and those unforeseen events. There is good every year. With each new birth, there is hope. With each year of academics, there is knowledge. With each new skill, there is productivity.

So maybe, just maybe, there should be a little more thought in this yearly statement. More thought, fewer resolutions. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve made dozens of resolutions myself and a few of them have actually happened. Unfortunately, the majority has not, but that’s on me. So why do we continue to say things we know are doomed to carry to fruition? Instead, give some serious thought to what it is that is important to you and strive to make that happen.

An example? Well, instead of setting a goal of losing weight, promise to give yourself something healthy to eat every day. Instead of spending money on a gym membership right away, go for a walk in a park. Or volunteer at a local shelter to walk one of their dogs once a week. (That’s 52 walks by the end of a year. Not a marathon workout in any stretch of the imagination – but a little something good to do – for yourself and for a furry soul that benefits from your company and the exercise too).

What I’m trying to say is to do something you can do to celebrate YOU! Without guilt. Without selfishness, but selflessness. Once you get used to doing one thing that feels good and does something good, hopefully, you’ll want to do more. For myself personally, I’ve noticed if I am working out, I feel great. I sleep better, eat better, have a better attitude and take longer to get upset about stuff.

But when I stop working out, I don’t sleep as well, I’ll eat stuff I normally wouldn’t touch and will quickly snap to anger. As I continue this journey as a writer, this past year I stopped myself and allowed others to dictate how I felt about the process of trying to enter the world of publishing. Letting rejection block my progress. Doubting my abilities. Getting frustrated and second-guessing myself stalled my motivation and direction.

Just as quickly, with support and encouragement, the direction turned from one of self-pity and deep sadness to rejuvenation and excitement. It is a state of mind, not a promise, not a resolution, a state of mind to persevere. Without which my book will continue to live in my computer and not for sale in a bookstore!

It might surprise you as much as it surprised me that inspiration, which we know is found in unexpected places for sure, made a huge difference in my perspective with three larger than life men. Literally and figuratively. Which unexpectedly yet ultimately helped my writing. As much as I lean on the authors and writers in my life to guide me. Three men who have nothing to do with my writer’s journey stepped into my life. In the last few months, I’ve had the pleasure and honor to ‘meet’ David Goggins, Steve Weatherford, and Ed Mylett. (The latter two and I have chuckled on Instagram together. David’s new book Can’t Hurt Me is a New York Times Best Seller second only to Becoming Michelle) If you do not know their stories, check them out for yourself. Listen to their PodCasts, dive into their thoughts and see if you take away anything that will help you with whatever struggle you may have. Whether it is writing, weight, self-doubt, or any personal challenges.

I wish I could give you perseverance in a box to open and use whenever you wish. But it doesn’t come wrapped up with a bow. It is found deep inside of you and only becomes awakened when you choose to. So that is my New Year’s wish for you and for me. To ignite unexpected inspiration, be it a candle, a flare or a sparkler. Find the light that leads you to be a healthier you, more productive in what matters most to you and ultimately a happier you in this New Year.

Happy New Year to ALL of us!
Patty

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Thanks A Lot

My mom was an extraordinary woman. She was an amazing artist, a brilliant cook and the best hug giver I’ve ever known. She loved with every breath and was a pretty incredible problem solver. And yes, I mean from advanced mathematics to seemingly being able to channel her father when it came to building something or designing something to fix something else. She was witty and smart and was adored by many more than just me. I miss her more with each passing day and hold her teachings close to my heart. One of her teachings was recently presented to me again.

Today I had a conversation with a dear friend, who used my mother’s words to help me as I had offered them to help him not long ago. I shared one of these pearls of wisdom when he was having a difficult time. From problems with water entering his home through the walls of his basement which would cause anyone distress, aggravation, an unexpected expense. Combine that with facing a surgical procedure that could ultimately take his life on the table, or extend the gift of time with his wife. Thankfully, today he is enjoying that gift. But yesterday, when I was in a dark place, hearing my mothers words from him broke the tension and sliced through the pain.

“If money can solve your problems, you don’t have any.”

Nine words strung together that can stop you in your tracks. They can for a moment make you angry. “Damnit, I need more money.” But then they make you realize, there are those who have bank accounts higher than Mt. Everest, but if diagnosed with cancer, or ALS or dozens of different horrible illnesses, cannot buy themselves out of that situation. Having good health, a decent quality of life, just waking up in the morning, oh and throw in a little happiness. Money alone cannot compete or understand just how priceless that is.

“Thanks a lot.” Can be said sarcastically. You’ve been dealt a terrible hand. Learn your car needs major repairs, the unexpected expense of a new furnace, and so many other things can present themselves. You can shake your head, pound your fist and scream, “THANKS a lot!”  My dad would have added…”I need this like a hole in the head!” Yeah, I’m sure you’ve heard that before.

Or “Thanks a lot.” Can be said with sincerity, appreciation, and love. It can be spoken while holding hands at Thanksgiving. It can be said to someone who took the time to visit you in the hospital. Or bake you a casserole when you’re under the weather, or lost a loved one. We hear the word “thanks” a lot before and during the holiday. But it’s during those unexpected times, when you feel you are alone and facing a crisis you can’t easily share, that it means oh so much more.

So I would like to acknowledge and give thanks and celebrate my friend JD in this November blog. For not just talking a good talk. But to honestly and sincerely listen, hearing my pain, reaching out, breaking things down into easy to see pieces and building me back up. Without judgment, without ridicule or guilt but with my mother’s words. It’s not often you find someone that is a complete package. We each have friends who come in and out of our lives. Who bring spice or drama, support or adventure into our day to day living. But it is those special few, who you can lean on no matter what and their strength carries you forward. I’m so proud and humbled to call him my friend. I wish my mom could have met him (and his wife!), I think she would have loved him too.

Thanks. A LOT!

Breathe Deep, Think Peace

Patty

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Trick or Treat! A Future President Perhaps…

I love to see the creativity on Halloween. Of course, the nostalgic costumes of yesterday were sweet, with face masks you couldn’t see out of, that kept your face hot and sweaty and the thin elastic strap popped before the end of the night. Now costumes seem to be a lot more interesting, comfortable and fun.

The other day I saw a post of a woman wearing a black robe with a lace collar. A colorful panel was stuck to the front, a gavel in her hand and Darth Vaders helmet on her head. She was Ruth Vadar Ginsberg. A friend sent me pictures of their baby boy, dressed in little trousers, a pair of black glasses, his hair parted to the side and a white shirt opened at the chest with a little Superman crest peeking out. I’ve never seen such an adorable Clark Kent.  But my favorite was a father, dressed in a suit and tie, wearing shades and carrying his son who couldn’t have been more than a year old. Also dressed in a little suit, in front of a cardboard podium with the Presidential Seal on the front. The father acted as his bodyguard, his son smiled at the camera.

With all the unrest and division and anger in our country at this time. I just loved seeing this. It made me happy, it made me smile and it made me wonder if this little man would grow up to be one of our future presidents?

We can only hope that everyone grows up and puts a stop to trash talk period, insists that whatever party you support; Democrat,  Republican, Independent or LMNOP will actually work together for ALL the people. Can you imagine that once a person is elected to work in Washington DC, as well as local governments, that the label of ‘a party’ is put away and that American’s are represented and worked for without special interest groups and money taken from the rich to push elected officials to cater to them? Is that even possible?

How about the concept that taxes are fair, healthcare is affordable and America can once again stand proud, knowing we set the standard, raise the bar and expect nothing less than our very best.

Maybe, just maybe we could also take an educated look at our education system and stop pouring money into anything thinking it will ‘fix’ the problem. We have brilliant people living here, we should have amazing school systems that do not come with private price tags and the best education should not be for only the ones with the biggest bank account. Whose college loans are forgiven by ‘friends’ in Washington DC. How is that fair or right? And let us look to see just where the money is going in colleges and universities who in my life has gone from an out of state private school tuition in 1980 for $6000 a year to $60,000 a year (in many cases even more) in 2009. How is that possible? And how can banks tack on interest rates designed to keep you in debt as long as a mortgage?

I wish with all my heart, WE can all recognize the importance and strength of empathy. Learn to accept one another (not tolerate but actually have the maturity to accept everyone whether you agree with them or not) and try to walk in someone’s shoes other than your own, which brings greater understanding and much more patience. “Oh, What a wonderful world it could be…” Can be. Should be.

Until then, may you be safe and spooky. May your bags be full of treats not tricks. May we all enjoy the fun and freedom to be silly, dress any way we wish, and still go home to our family and friends when the celebrating comes to an end. Happy Halloween.

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In a Handful of Hours

Are you familiar with the saying, “What a difference a day makes”? I’ve had many days I’ve thought about that saying over the years. Be it for weather, nerves about a test, an upcoming interview, whatever you are most grateful was over with or resolved. The same holds true with feelings. In that split nanosecond when someone cuts you off on the highway, and you become enraged, to the relief in finding your wallet dropped in the car instead of the mall parking lot you left an hour ago. Feelings can complicate, enhance, repair and rip apart your soul. Time can be all-powerful and begin to mend them. Sometimes in a day or in my case, surprisingly, just a handful of hours. In my case, it was wee hours of the morning.

We had a pretty bad day. Like many uncomfortable events, it started with a misunderstanding and grew in tension that became so thick, a knife was useless. It would have required a chainsaw to carve through. When siblings lock horns, and feelings become fragile splintered glass needles. It is difficult for parents to navigate or offer advice. In our case, when one is leaving, moving out of state for a new job, a new beginning, ready to write chapters all her own. Yet the other sister is staying on, finishing undergrad work, looking at a path in a different direction next year. You do not want them to depart in anger. Oh, time will heal the harsh words and hurt feelings, but the relationship will be frayed, not torn, but damaged nonetheless.

As I crawled into bed, feeling terrible that nothing I could say or offer would be accepted. No mothers soothing words and kisses on the forehead can erase this kind of pain. The ache inside me grew but I knew they had to figure this out without me.  A few hours later as the light from my cell phone directed my way to get a drink of water, I found a note. Just a few words I could make out on the bright screen in the darkness. All was forgiven. Everything was right in the world. Immediately the weight on my shoulders lifted, it suddenly began to rain. A cool breeze flowed through the house and the air was lighter. When I went back to bed, it was with a smile on my face. Our little family was whole again.

That night, our children (funny isn’t it, no matter what their age, they will always be our ‘children’) healed one another’s feelings and hearts. Apologies were both given and accepted. They listened and actually heard what the other one said, how they felt and the why behind the words. They laughed and supported, cried and ultimately became stronger and better sibling to the other. I can not wish for anything more than that can I? It means the world to me that each has the other to lean on, be with and ultimately grow old together when I’m gone. To be honest, not having a sibling makes me feel a little lost in this world.

I miss my brother terribly, who I only had a relationship with for a handful of my adult years. In part thanks to a bitter relative who walked away and chose to carry anger and misunderstanding tightly inside. I can’t fix it, nor can I reach out more than I’ve tried in the past. But for my own daughters, seeing hurt and anger between them cut me deeply. I’m so proud that during the formidable years, with a little nudging, encouraging communication and growth to understand one another nurtured a special relationship. They were actually listening all along! How about that?

It is my hope we all can come together, feel the pain of the other, then figure out the path toward healing.

Our family is not unique, although it is stronger than some, yet my husband has always said, we know what needs to be done. We know the why and it is the listening and accepting how the other feels that is the key. To continue to love one another through that is the magic. And caring enough to go through storm after storm is the faith in family. Recognizing who the individual is as they are, not to change them into what YOU want them to be, but to help them be the best they can critical. Difficult true, but not impossible. I know that now.

How deeply emotional, yet healing and all-encompassing this experience has been. I am still amazed at what was learned in just a handful of hours. It is life changing. Just as life can change with an unexpected apology, “I’m deeply sorry I hurt you” or when a beloved member of the family unexpectedly dies, and you are blindsided with grief, it turns one’s life in an instant. It changes. It can change for the better in precisely the same amount of time. To be mindful and accept those moments are indeed a step toward if not enlightenment, serenity.

Breathe Deep, Think Peace

Patty

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