29.


“Every year on your birthday, you get a chance to start new.”
~Sammy Hagar

When I was younger, I used to wait in excited anticipation for my birthday. Falling out on September 9th, it always gave me something to look forward to even after the summer sun slowly began to blend with the autumn crispness. It wasn’t about presents, or cake, or adventures in mini golf and roller skating (though, granted, I enjoyed those, just as any kid would). But more so, it was about the chance to spend a day celebrating with all the people I loved most. It was a chance to make wishes for the coming year and believe, truly believe, that they’d come true.

The innocence of a child, right?

I hate to say it, because I really do think it’s best to approach life with optimism and hope, but over the past few years, that belief faded … and instead of looking forward to my birthday, it became something that put me in a funk. Instead of it being the marker of what I’d accomplished since the previous September, it became a marker for all I’d yet to achieve. All the wishes that went unfulfilled. All the goals that were still dreams and nothing more. Sure, I’ve written a book – or two, or three, or four – but they haven’t been published yet. Sure, I’ve gotten requests from agents, but they didn’t result in an offer. Sure, I’ve been so lucky to have the opportunity, freedom, and support to create these book-babies, but they weren’t out there in the world to share.

If you asked me ten years ago where I’d be at twenty-nine, I’d have rambled off a list of answers. And do you know how many of them correlate with where I actually am now? A quarter, if that. I’m not going to lie, I was pretty upset about that for awhile. For as much as I would never begrudge anyone their success and dreams-turned-reality, it can be hard to watch these things happen to everyone around you while you’re still sitting on the sidelines. It can be hard to work and work – and work some more – only to have it not pay off.

But then something happened. I spent a lovely long weekend in Ocean City for my birthday. It’s amazing what a difference a week makes: not even seven days after Labor Day, and the shore was so quiet and peaceful. I swam in a pool that was empty except for my mom and me. I sat on a beach that was free from the summer chatter, music, and makeshift sports tournaments. I stood in an ocean that was rough from the rip currents, but devoid of all the boogie-boards you normally see. I walked on the boardwalk in sunshine, in clouds, and in a monsoon (no, seriously, that’s exactly what it looked like as torrents of water suddenly poured down from the sky and my dad, sister, and I ran for cover under a pavilion). I had Polish Water Ice, Dippin’ Dots, and Steel’s Fudge. I spent the evening of my birthday in my absolute favorite place in the world – Ventnor, NJ, where my grandparents used to own a condo. It’s been fifteen years since they sold it and Ventnor still has my heart. It always will. There was something very special about being there again – about walking on the boardwalk I’d traveled down every summer as a kid, about venturing onto the beach and watching the lights of the pier glimmer down onto the ocean water below, about going out to dinner with my mom at JoJo’s, a restaurant that will always hold such wonderful memories and still remains my favorite. I had a fantastic time with the people I love most in the place I love most.

And for the first time in recent years, I didn’t spend the day beating myself up or feeling like a failure for not having accomplished every goal. Twenty-nine feels old to me, but I know it’s not. My goals can still grow. Am I published yet? No. Married with kids of my own? No. Working at a news station like I’d have been insistent upon in my answer ten years ago? No. But I have worked at that station before. I have written four books. I have experienced a joy through writing them that words cannot come close to describing. I do have the best family and some really fabulous friends who are the family I choose. And those things? They’re the best gift of all.

So instead of getting into a funk because another year has come and gone, I’m going to be thankful for that year. I’m going to be thankful for the one ahead. I’m going to remember the inspiration of standing on the boardwalk and gazing out at the ocean. I’m going to remember how my family went out of their way to make it a special day. I’m going to remember the kind words from friends like y’all. I’m going to remember that, no, I may not be where I imagined, but that doesn’t mean I’m a failure. It means success comes in many forms. It means my hard work has paid off in other, intangible ways.

I am looking forward to what twenty-nine has to offer.

Here’s hoping for a wish come true.

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Work of Heart.


“Find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”
~Confucius

Today’s post is brought to you courtesy of my dentist appointment this afternoon. Yes, you read that correctly, and no, I don’t plan to write about green toothpaste (ick), cracked fillings (booooo) or electric toothbrushes (cool!). Nope, this post is about the dental hygienist who said something that will stay with me for a very long time.

My regular hygienist switched to another office (again, boooo … she’s so sweet and I always genuinely enjoyed our conversations), so it was somebody different today. And, as is usually the case with any meeting like that, one of the first things she asked is what I do for a living. “I write,” I told her, then proceeded to expand about freelancing and trying to get my novels published. Most people have a polite reaction to something like that. I, for one, am always interested in people’s passions and how they’re pursuing them. This woman’s response?

“You know, some people would say that’s not really working.”

To be honest, I just sat there a moment, caught so off-guard by her remark that I was stunned into silence. A wave of surprise rose in my chest and quickly turned choppy. Because, no matter how she meant it – and I’m pretty certain that I interpreted it correctly, judging by the manner in which it was said – it was offensive. It was hurtful. It was insulting. Now, I know this is a stereotype and a pre-conceived notion that many, many writers encounter. Ask an author if someone’s thought something similar about them, and the answer’s likely a resounding y-e-s. But to say it so matter-of-factly to my face? It felt like a slap. I will admit to silently stewing over it for the next half hour, until my dentist came in and immediately asked me how the books are going and whether an agent’s signed me yet. He even remembered which book I’m querying, and was all too eager to hear the details. As I brought him up to speed, our chat so animated that you’d never have guessed it was taking place in a dentist’s office, I had to resist the urge to turn around to the hygienist and say something to the effect of “see, it really is hard work.”

The assumption by some people that writing is as easy as 1-2-3 has never really bothered me. I know how much time, effort, and dedication it takes. You have to love that manuscript like it’s your baby and those characters like they’re your family. Books are not written in days or weeks. They’re brainstormed, outlined, and crafted with care. They’re edited, revised, and edited again. Is being a writer the same as being a teacher, doctor, or CEO of an investment firm? Of course not. Each job has its own guidelines, its own products, its own effects, its own frustrations and its own pure joys. Who are we to imply that one is better than another? That one is more work, more disciplined, just … more?

Driving home, the idea continued to weave its way through my thought-waves. We are lucky, so lucky, to live in a world where we have the freedom to pursue our dreams. To follow our hearts. To listen to that little voice inside our heads that won’t take no for an answer. We are all unique, all diverse, and I truly believe it makes us stronger. Shouldn’t we celebrate the fact that we have different talents? Variety is the spice of life, after all.

You know, though, maybe she was right, even if not in the way she intended. Because if we’re lucky enough to find the inspiration that lives within us, to find a job so joyous that it feels like a gift, then maybe it’s not work at all. Maybe it’s just a beautiful work of heart.

Have you ever gotten similar commentary from someone? How did you handle it?

The College Years.


“The quality of a university is measured more by the kind of student it turns out than the kind it takes in.”
~Robert J. Kibbee

Yesterday was the start of Arcadia’s annual Fall Fest, their big homecoming weekend on campus. Saturday is always Family Day for current students and Alumni Day for those of us who already went to classes, ate in The Chat, and walked across the expansive soccer field for graduation (or the makeshift stage in the gymnasium, because torrential downpours not only forced Commencement indoors, but also caused an hour-long power outage first … I may still be just a tad bitter over that). Anyway – it’s always a lovely day, and this year was no exception. The air was cool and windy, but the sun spread a blanket of warmth. The first fallen leaves crunched beneath people’s feet, balloons popped around in the breeze, and happy chatter abounded. And, when day turned to night, an explosion of twinkling fireworks lit up the velvety sky over the castle. They were a sea of sparkles, a statement of vibrancy.

Grey Towers

Knight

Water Feature

Fireworks

Now, I will be the first to admit that my five years at Arcadia were sometimes frustrating. There were things I wish were done differently, many things. But there were also – there are also – wonderful memories. Being on campus yesterday brought them back and instantly made me reminisce about all the time I spent there during college. Early morning fieldwork for Education courses, afternoons working as a consultant at the Writing Center, evenings editing in the video lab as I pieced my senior thesis and tv station newscasts together … I had some truly great experiences. They’re in the past now, each one a square in the tapestry of my years at Arcadia, but all it takes is one step onto the picturesque campus for them to once again play like a movie in my mind. Sometimes it seems like a lifetime since I spent every day there. Sometimes it seems like only yesterday. In reality, it’s been six years since graduation and five since I did my internship at WPVI and student teaching in a sixth-grade classroom. Not gonna lie, that feels crazy. Part of me is still the same person, but so much of me has changed. And that got me thinking: if I could tell my College Self a few things, what would they be?

College Graduation

1. You will find a passion that fills you up completely and makes you deeply, innately excited to work every day – it won’t be what either of your degrees are in, but that’s okay. It is okay. It’s more than okay. Yes, you spent five years fulfilling all the requirements for a double major and minor. Yes, you were absolutely certain of how you wanted to spend the rest of your life. Yes, your experiences foraying into that are ones you will treasure always. But dreams evolve. People evolve. Sometimes it takes several journeys before you find the one your heart is meant for, and even then, it’s ever-growing. That’s a good thing. Keeping yourself open to possibility helps possibilities open up to you.

2. Don’t be afraid to take risks. Putting yourself out there can be hard, so hard, but it’s worth it. It sounds cliche to talk about following your heart, but it’s not. It’s important. It’s necessary. And it can be life-changing. Personally and professionally, you will never move forward if you don’t take that first step. You’ll never get your homerun if you don’t step up to the plate and try. Will those risks always pay off? No. There will be cracks in your heart and disappointments that feel overwhelming, but you’ll get through it. You’ll realize that things happen for a reason. You’ll grow stronger. And when it comes time to take that next risk? Maybe you won’t be as afraid of falling.

3. Don’t go to graduate school right away. Give it a few years, see how life unfolds and how you unfold, and then consider it. Sometimes we walk along the same career path. Sometimes it veers off in a new direction. Why not see where that path leads? Also: do your very best to win the lottery, because holy wow, are grad classes expensive. That Masters in Editing and Publishing is calling out to me, but I may need money to start growing on trees in order to answer.

4. Meet as many people as you can, and savor the friendships that feel more like family ties. Some of those friends will drift away, and it’ll hurt deeply, but others will stay close and be such a blessing in your life. Thank them, love them, and enjoy every moment of the way you grow even closer with time. Be grateful for something as seemingly random as sitting near each other in a Broadway Musicals class or being rescued from a gigantic bug sitting on your shoulder (true story!), because it just might be the start of a lifelong friendship.

5. Embrace every minute, every experience, every memory made, because before you know it, they’ll be part of the past and not the present. Times passes too quickly. Don’t let it pass you by.

What about you? What advice would you give your College Self?

Years Fly By.


“Did you end up who you thought you would become?”
~Graham Colton, “1981”

Know what I realized this morning? Come November, it’ll be time for my ten-year high school reunion. It’ll be five years since the last one (we always have them over Thanksgiving weekend, since more people are back in town), and in just a few short weeks, it will have been an entire decade since I walked across the stage to accept my diploma.

That. Is. Insane.

No, seriously, it’s almost impossible for me to believe. It might sound strange, considering all that’s transpired since June of 2001, but sometimes it honestly feels like only yesterday that I was back at LMHS, studying for my classes, writing for the school paper, working on the steering committee for our big Involvement Day, and grumbling over gym class (least athletic person ever, right here). I can see those memories with picture-perfect vivacity, can feel them as though they’re actually happening. There was the speech I gave in front of an auditorium full of parents, school board members, and community leaders for the media symposium Mr. Pezza asked me to help coordinate. There was the time spent decorating the hallways for spirit week. There were the after-school trips with friends to Rita’s Water Ice. There was the studystudystudy! frenzy for AP tests and the pure jubilation when I got my scores. There was gift-wrapping for charity as part of Interact and National Honor Society, interviewing teachers as part of the newspaper staff, and going to Mexican dinners as part of the Spanish club. There were presentations, slideshows, papers, and the Larry King Live format talk show we did in American Studies. There was AP English, the most challenging and most rewarding course I’ve ever (college included) taken. There was my plethora of multi-colored pens, because taking notes is always fun when it’s in turquoise, pink, green, purple, and orange. There were great times, frustrating times (getting so frustrated with pre-calculus that I tossed the textbook across the floor comes to mind), and, most of all, memorable times.

Ten years ago, I knew exactly what and who I wanted to become. I was headed to college for journalism and my biggest dream was to work for our ABC affiliate. Several of the journalists there had inspired me so, and I was lucky enough to form bonds with three of them in particular. They were amazing mentors and sources of support, and when I did have the opportunity to both intern and work at the station … well, let’s just say that calling it a special experience would be a huge understatement. Living out my dreams, getting to work with these talented journalists who had lit such a spark in me, is something I will never forget and always treasure.

But dreams evolve. For a lot of people, they probably change entirely, but that hasn’t been the case for me. Journalism will always be a passion of mine. I’ll always watch the news, read the newspapers, and jump at chances to get involved. But creative writing, taking these stories that live in my head and heart and putting them to paper … there is nothing like it. It’s an invigoration, a joy, a love, and, for me, a way of living. It’s a spark that grew into an everlasting flame and a passion that only gets stronger. I’m about two-thirds of the way finished the first draft of my current manuscript, and I’m being honest when I say I love those characters, love going on their journeys, even more today than I did when I sat down to write Reflections of Me last August. Those characters have a piece of my heart. Writing has a piece of my soul.

Without a doubt, my high school self knew that. A career that involved writing was always the plan. But sometimes the person we thought we’d become follows a different path. It can be a difficult decision to make, to veer off and try something new, but if we embrace it, who knows where we’ll end up? Sometimes following that different path helps us blaze our own. It’s intimidating, uncertain, and sometimes scary, but no matter what the outcome, the reward comes in the journey. It sounds corny and cliche, but I honestly believe that. In many ways, I’m the same person I was back in high school, but in many others, I’m entirely different. I think that’s a good thing. After all, we can’t walk toward our future if we just keep standing still.

How about you? Have your aspirations stayed the same over the years, or have they changed? Who were you back in high school? Have you gone to your reunions? I enjoyed catching up with friends and classmates back in 2006 and am looking forward to doing the same this fall.

Roll with the Punches.


“The key to success is often the ability to adapt.”
~Unknown

When I was a little girl – three, maybe four – my favorite phrase was “roll with the punches and make the best of things.” I apparently doled out that advice to anyone who would listen, which says a lot, seeing as how I was pretty much the quietest kid ever when I was around people I didn’t know. Fast forward more than two decades, and I find myself needing to remember that go-with-the-flow attitude more than ever. As a planner and a doer, that’s tough sometimes. After all, when you have your future mapped out and it’s just a matter of having all the steps fall into place, you want that to happen as soon as possible. I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t the case. I’d be lying if I said I don’t wake up every morning and wish for it to be the day that changes my life.

But what about the changes we can never imagine? What about the ones that come out of nowhere, take us by storm, and alter the course we’ve been sailing along so steadily? We can’t always control the direction we travel – sometimes a burst of wind makes everything all topsy-turvy – but we can anchor the boat and steer it along a current of our own choosing. Case in point: my mother had a bad fall over the summer (an errant wave knocked her down in the ocean) and has been going to physical therapy for a fractured knee for nine months now. And, as fate would have it, it’s her right knee, which means she can’t drive. On top of that, my grandmom had an equally bad fall two weeks ago and ended up with three different fractures. Note to self: walk very, very carefully for … well, forever. My grandmom’s at an in-patient rehab facility for a few weeks until she heals enough to go home, which means lots of visits and pick-me-ups. It also means that I may as well just be living in my car these days. Between driving my mom to PT and driving her to visit my grandmom (keep in mind, this rehab place is thirty-five minutes away without traffic), I’m pretty sure that I could navigate the roads with my eyes squeezed shut. It is, of course, more than worth it – the look on my grandmom’s face when we walk into her room and the sweet gratitude that’s reflected in every word remind me that I’d drive to the ends of the earth if I had to – but it’s also an adjustment. An adaptation. A change to the schedule.

Does it mean waking up even earlier to squeeze in a few hours of writing time every morning? Yes. Does it mean printing out some pages to edit as I wait during my mom’s PT sessions? Yes. Does it mean wanting to bang my head against a brick wall whenever one of the employees there feels the need to whistle EVERY SINGLE TIME a new song comes on the radio? Anyone who follows me on twitter knows the answer to that question. I’ve refrained from launching into a speech about the work I have or the book I’m trying to concentrate on reading, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t find another place to channel my frustration with the WHISTLING THAT NEVER ENDS. All I can say is, “careful, buddy, you may end up in my novel.” In fact, there’s a very, very good chance a similar character to him made an appearance in a scene I wrote yesterday. Hee.

Adaptation isn’t only about the day-to-day, though. It’s about being content to look at the big picture and realize that not every stroke will be painted the way you hope for so strongly. Life is messy. Lines criss-cross, colors blend together, the plot points we designate for our own lives fade, brighten, and take on minds of their own. That can be hard to deal with, very hard. But as much as we wish it was possible to box everything into neat compartments, schedules, and timelines, it’s not. Life doesn’t always happen when we want it to, dreams don’t always come true when we’re yearning for them. But life does often happen when it’s supposed to, when we’re truly ready for that change. Serendipity has its own schedule, and even though it’s impossibly difficult to be patient sometimes, it’s so important. I’m not saying we should just sit back and wait for things to fall into place, not at all. I believe that we make our own luck and create our own destiny. Absolutely, definitely, unequivocally. But sometimes life really does happen when we’re busy making those plans, and we have to adjust accordingly. We have to mold our lives, our loves, and our hearts to the unexpected – and, with a little bit of luck, that’s when the unexpected will change our lives for the better.

Adaptation has also been the name of the game with my current manuscript. When I began writing, I had every intention of it covering an entire year. In fact, that was the plan ever since I first got the idea for the book, back when I was writing Reflections of Me over the summer. The more I work on it, though, the more I realize that may need to change. Part of me is still holding tight to the original plan, but at the same time, I’m exploring so many other possibilities. I don’t know yet how much time this book will span – and I probably won’t for at least a bit – but I’m excited by all the options and looking forward to where one (or more!) will take not only me, but also Sofie and the whole cast of characters. See? Proof positive that change can be a good thing.

None of us can know exactly where the future will lead, but we can all roll with the punches and remember that sometimes the best really is yet to come.

A Love Affair.


“When a writer talks about his work, he’s talking about a love affair.”
~Alfred Kazin

No, not with someone tall, dark, and handsome (although I am quite ready at this point for all the Prince Charmings to find their way off whatever deserted island they appear to be hunkered down on). I’m actually talking about my new manuscript, which I was so, so excited to jump into last Friday. I’ve been looking forward to writing the sequel to Reflections of Me ever since I wrote the final word on the final page of the original. I wasn’t finished with those characters yet. Or, perhaps it would be more fitting to say, they weren’t finished with me yet. As I realize all over again with each project, it is a truly special thing when you let them – and their journeys – lead the way.

It’s a bit different this time since I already feel like the cast of characters is comprised of old friends. I spent just over two months writing their first story, but between brainstorming, plotting, editing, revising, and querying, they’ve lived inside my head and heart for much longer. And now I get to bring them out again, to travel along as their story continues to unfold. Know what that makes me? Lucky. So unbelievably, indescribably lucky. In a way, it’s like coming home. I’ve missed those characters so much these past few months, more than I even realized until I started writing about them again. Brainstorming was fun. Color-coding character sketches was fun. Developing a loose outline – one that’s already curving to fit in new ideas – was fun. But sitting down at the computer and finally, finally, finally letting the words to their story flow again? Priceless.

It’s been a very reaffirming experience. I’m just under 14,000 words in at this point, but already I can see the possibilities opening up before my eyes. I have glimpses not only of where Sofie and the other characters are now, but where they’ll be fifty, a hundred, two hundred pages from now. That writer’s part of my brain is just bursting with inspiration and joy, and it feels good, so good to get swept up in the magic of writing again. I’m not going to lie, the querying rollercoaster has been especially emotional lately. Last week was both the most hopeful and most disappointed I’ve ever been. I could have let it break me, I could have let it completely dampen my spirit, but I refused. Instead, I took some time to let myself feel the heartbreak (I know that might sound like an exaggeration, but this book, this journey, this dream, they’re so important to me that that’s what it felt like) and then I moved on and moved forward. I sat down, skimmed through all the notes in my writing journal, opened that blank page on the computer, and wrote.

And wrote. And wrote some more. Take today, for instance. I sat down with the intent of writing my usual amount, which equates to four or five pages and about fifteen hundred words. Two hours later, I took a breather and realized I had twenty-seven hundred words that spanned eight pages. Oops? This is why I adore writing, though. Getting lost in the words and their magic, getting so immersed in your characters’ lives that you completely lose track of your own, it’s the most invigorating feeling. It doesn’t matter how many times I experience it, it still sends that same starburst of inspiration exploding along my veins. I love it. I love this. And I love it far too much to ever stop. E-V-E-R.

This week it’s been back to writing, back to daydreaming (why is it that story ideas ALWAYS come to you when you’re unable to jot them down, like when you’re driving? I may or may not have pulled over on a Starbucks’ parking lot the other day to grab my notepad … and then I may or may not have had to buy one of their amazing double chocolate chip frappuccinos since, hey, I was already there), and back to querying. My spirit is refreshed and rejuvenated, and I’m more determined than ever. Jumping into this new book – all its joys and all the challenges that come from tackling a very different writing format that I’m used to – it’s been so wonderful. I believe in pushing myself as a writer, in growing with every project, and I’m excited to see how that continues to unfold with this one.

Never mind the fact that I also may or may not have slammed my wrist into my laptop in a writing frenzy and ended up with a lovely dime-sized bump to prove it. Occupational hazard? I’ll take it. In fact, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Right here, right now.


“Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.”
~Omar Khayyam

That quote? That very wise, very inspired, and all-together very important quote? My new motto.

It’s so easy to look ahead to the future. Visions of what could be dance across our thoughts, tiptoe through our minds. What will we make of ourselves? What will we become? What goals do we have, what aspirations are we working to turn into reality? There are so many questions, and it’s a natural reaction to get caught up in the open-ended answers. After all, don’t we tell our children that the possibilities are endless? That they can do whatever their hearts desire and inspire to be? We teach them that there’s an infinite world out there, one that stretches beyond the limits of the possible and soars right into the impossible. Dream big dreams. Wish sparkling, glittering wishes. Go out there and make them your own, make them come true. That’s certainly what I’ll teach my little ones someday.

There’s more to it than that, though. Sometimes – and I really think this is true for so many of us – we can get so caught up in tomorrow that we forget to appreciate today. Dreaming of what could be doesn’t preclude us from absorbing what is. Even if we’re not where we want to be yet, chances are there’s something still to love, even if it’s small. Instead of looking at time as something to conquer, why not look at it as a series of stepping stones? It’s something I try to do all the time, but on the heels of a rather disappointing email yesterday, I’m approaching it with a renewed vigor. Obviously, my constant hope for my tomorrows is that persistence and perseverance will finally pay off and result in having a career as a published author. I know, I know, the shock level of that sentence must be sky-high. I’ll wait while you all collect yourselves. Ha! :-)

Even as I’m constantly working toward that, though, I’m going to try not to get fully wrapped up in the future. I don’t want to lose sight of today. Because these moments along the way? They’re pretty darn special in their own right. I get to follow my passion. I get to write the stories that entrench themselves in my mind and go on a journey with the characters who live in my thoughts. I get to feel that indescribable spark of giddy excitement, that inspiration that somehow grounds me and lifts me up into the clouds at the same time. I get to do this now. I get to brainstorm, outline, plot, write, edit, revise. I get to live these stories as I write them. How lucky is that?

Our lives are a series of moments and memories, threaded together stitch by stitch. The whole patchwork will be beautiful – I’m sure of this, I truly am – but so is each individual square. So as I dive back into more querying, more writing, more immersing myself in the path that I am still every bit as determined to make my own, I’ll also be doing something else. I’ll be remembering that stepping stones can lead to wonderful things. I’ll still hope for the future and work for it with everything I have, everything I am, but I’ll also be happy for this moment. Because this moment is my life right now, isn’t it? Nothing can change that, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

And when tomorrow finally comes, when that moment is my life, I will be the happiest person in all the world.

Childhood Days … Hopeful Daze.


“I’ve heard that it’s possible to grow up – I’ve just never met anyone who’s actually done it. Without parents to defy, we break the rules we make for ourselves. We throw tantrums when things don’t go our way, we whisper secrets with our best friends in the dark, we look for comfort where we can find it, and we hope – against all logic, against all experience. Like children, we never give up hope.”
~Ellen Pompeo (Meredith Grey, Grey’s Anatomy)

Weather

Again with the Grey’s quotes, I know. They’re just so good, though, so beautifully and eloquently crafted. They make us think, they make us reflect, and they make us feel. Because these quotes, these tidbits of wisdom and hope that Meredith imparts at the end of each episode, they don’t just touch the lives of the show’s characters. They touch our lives. They resonate. They resound. They inspire. And this one? It couldn’t be more fitting.

It probably doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone who knows me that I’m the sentimental type. I like to save everything with memories attached (and, okay, if I’m being honest here … some things that could easily be tossed). My family is the same way, which is why lately we find ourselves sifting and sorting through boxes and boxes of old papers, collections, and various other items in our basement. Everything’s organized and neatly compartmentalized into its place, but not all of it needs to be saved. Some of those memories? They’re folded in our hearts, and that’s the only place necessary. Sometimes the moments, the reminiscences, that we paint for ourselves end up having so much more focus and clarity than the physical reminders. And sometimes the tangible representation just makes us smile.

Case in point: what did I come across today, you ask? Among other things: books from when I was a little child, Barbie clothes from when I was a bit older, an entire bag full of student teaching mementos – lesson plans, the sweetest cards from the kids and the amazing teachers I worked with, and more – and a catalog made by yours truly. I very clearly remember writing it, so energized and excited by the fact that our family had our first computer. It was the summer before ninth grade, so 1997 (I know, I know, we were late to the technology game, despite all the pleas from my sister and me) … and boy, did it make me laugh. It made me smile, and it also made me think about how, even then, I had such a love for writing. This catalog was filled with articles, advertisements, even an order form for anyone who wanted to “subscribe.” I never would have thought of writing it, not in a million years, until I found those pieces of paper that represented so much more than just the literal. Little did I know then how my passion for writing would grow, evolve, and blossom over the years.

Every child is probably asked that age old question: “what do you want to be when you grow up?” at some point in time. I know I was, and my answers varied over the years: nurse, veterinarian, teacher, meteorologist (see above, circa 1988 or so!), librarian, and journalist. I parlayed that last one into a dual degree in Print and Video Communications, added in another degree in Elementary Education, and had such a clear idea of what path I wanted to follow. I’m lucky enough to have had several dreams come true on that front. And then creative writing came back into my life, swept it – and me – up in a whirlwind, changed everything in ways I never thought possible, and I’ve never been the same. Funny how things work out … and pretty darn wonderful, too. I’ve said many times that I believe people come into our lives for a reason, and I believe things happen that way, too. We find the path we’re supposed to walk. We find the journey we’re meant to take.

And no, maybe we don’t ever grow up entirely. But maybe that’s a good thing. Because, like Meredith says, then we can hope. We can hope against all logic, against all experience. We can take the innocence of our childhood, that time when we lived life with arms wide open, and put some of that sparkle into our everyday. And who knows where that hope will lead?

What about you? When you were younger, what did you want to be when you grew up? Have your dreams changed over time, or are you still working toward the same goals?

Memory Book.


“You’ve already had the best days, the best days of your life…”
~Kellie Pickler, “Best Days of Your Life”

Long time, no post. Okay, perhaps a week isn’t that long, but with the past seven days speeding by in a whirlwind of querying, writing, reading, brainstorming, and just about every other related activity you can imagine, it’s sort of felt that way. That’s a good thing, though, at least for me. Oh, and then there’s been snow. Snow last Friday, snow last Saturday, snow again tonight and tomorrow. Those glistening white crystals that blanket the ground are beautiful. The purity of a quiet winter wonderland is beyond words. We’ve all heard that phrase about no two snowflakes being exactly alike, and somehow that seems even more fascinating when you’re looking out at this seemingly endless expanse of fluffy, cold cotton candy.

That got me thinking. Just like snowflakes, no two people are alike. No two writers are alike. No two books are alike. We’re all inspired by different stories, different characters, different journeys. We all have our own pictures to paint and our own threads to weave. But there are commonalities, too. We all share a passion for what drives us – for those moments when an idea first sparks in our minds, for those moments when we’re so gripped by what we’re working on that it doesn’t feel like work at all, for those moments when our characters feel so real to us that it’s like we can reach out and grab them. At least, I assume it’s that way for everyone. I can’t imagine being a writer and not feeling that way at least part of the time. There are so many reasons why I write. There are so many reasons why I treasure it. Everyone has different reasons, but even though we may walk along different paths, I think we’re all branching off from the same main road.

If someone asked me what my biggest wish for this year was, I could answer in a heartbeat. In fact, anyone who knows me could probably answer it, too. More than anything, I want to forge a career as a published author (shocker, right? I’ll wait while you all stop gasping in surprise). Sometimes I can’t help daydreaming about what it would be like to sign with an agent and have my book sold to a publishing house. Without a doubt, those would be among the very best and most cherished days of my life. The moments, like so many others, would happen in a heartbeat, but they’d linger in my soul forever. So, going with the power of positive thinking, I thought it would be fun to reflect back on some other best days.

Mine include:

The day my sister was born … I remember everything about it like it happened yesterday, not twenty-two years ago.

The days my little cousins (aka my honorary sisters) were born – no pictures scanned in from those days, so I’ll just say that it’s absolutely crazy to me to think that the girls are now eleven and fourteen. Where does the time go?

My Bat Mitzvah.

My first day interning at WPVI-TV … actually, every day that I was lucky enough to intern and then work there. They’ll forever be treasured memories.

The day I finally met Kelly Clarkson. I know, I know, some people may not understand this one, but it was just … very special.

The days when I met and spent time with some of my favorite GH stars, Idol finalists, and authors:

And then there are so many more days, including some with ordinary moments that were extraordinary in their own right. I have way too many pictures to even think of narrowing them down to post, but they’re all forever etched in my mind. I’m truly blessed to have such amazing family and friends – and memories, too.

What about you? What snapshots fill the pages of your memory book? What are you hoping to add to it this year?

Back to Business.


“We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.”
~Edith Lovejoy Pierce

Book

January has always been one of my favorite months. Is it cold? Yes. Is it icy? Yes. Is it snowy? Yes. But it’s also something else. It’s a fresh start, a time when we can look forward to the future with nothing but pure, unabashed hope. We can allow ourselves to dream, to wish, to entertain our heart’s deepest desires and most fervent promises. The past is important, yes. It’s a patchwork of all the lessons we’ve learned and all the memories we hold most dear. We should celebrate that, treasure it. We should also use it to propel us forward. After all, how can we reach new heights if we just stand still? January seems to symbolize all of this and more. It’s an opportunity to write our own stories – or, in some cases, add the next chapters. We’re given 365 blank pages at the start of every year. How we choose to fill them, what words and pictures we choose to use, is filled with possibility.

So, even though I’m not a fan of those broad, sweeping resolutions, even though my motto is to take things day-by-day and make each one the best it can be, I do have some goals that I’d like to act as bookends for 2011. In terms of writing:

-Sign with an agent and take this passion for being a published author to its next point on the journey (and yes, I realize this is not exactly within my control, but the individual steps to actively make it happen are, so I’m including it)
-Write the sequel to Reflections of Me (SO. RIDICULOUSLY. EXCITED. FOR. THIS.)
-Write another manuscript based on my newest idea (inspiration gleaned from an experience at the mall – it really is everywhere!)

To that end, I’m back on the querying trail as of yesterday. It felt strange to take a two-week break over the holidays, but with so many agencies closed, I figured it was for the best. And, you know, as much as it drove me up a wall not to be working on those queries, it was actually refreshing not to have my heart leap to my throat every time I checked my email. Getting to jump back into it, full force, now … it’s reinvigorating. It’s rejuvenating. It’s reminded me all over again how passionate I am about Reflections of Me. I believe in this story. I believe in it so much that it hurts. And I won’t stop until somehow, someway, it’s out there in the world.

2011 stretches before us, a wide road that leads … well, who knows? Maybe that’s the beauty of it. Maybe the twists and turns will lead to something beautiful just around the bend. After all, sometimes the unexpected is what ends up changing our lives the most. Falling back in love with this kind of creative writing was unexpected for me. Both my novels were, in that the ideas for them popped into my head randomly and then wouldn’t – maybe couldn’t – leave. They were meant to find me, and I was meant to find them. I don’t know where the road will lead or what will fill the pages of this year’s book. I don’t know what the conclusion will be. What I do know? We can turn our can’ts into cans. We can turn our dreams into plans. We can turn our hopes into goals. And along the way? We can fill those pages with bright words and bold pictures that last a lifetime.

What about you? If you could turn one wish into reality, take one goal to its finish line this year, what would it be?