Monday, December 31, 2012

Puerto Rican New Year's Eve Tradition



IIITo my The Writing Life friends who have joined my writing journey this year
and
to my family and friends whom I love with all my heart -

I wish you a most wonderful and blessed 2013!

Here's to peace, love, good health, safety and prosperity
for you, for me and our loved ones!

My Puerto Rican family's custom is to individually fill a glass of water sometime during New Year's Eve
 and
 at exactly midnight, throw the water out!
Refill that glass with coquito or champagne!
All the negative, gone!

My family and I have followed this tradition since I was young and I have introduced this family custom to friends from all over the world. 
I have thrown out a glass of water in the many countries I've lived and in many states of the US,
always remembering
my departed loved ones who I've shared many a New Year's Eve with over the years
and
I also remember those friends and family far away from me.

Happy New Year!
Feliz Ano Nuevo!

Cheers from West Virginia!!
Ellie


Friday, December 28, 2012

Like a Virgin...



Good morning from snowy West Virginia!

I emptied my purse this morning and found the two little pieces of paper I'd saved from Christmas Day - an IOU to me from my son who stuck it inside my gift and the little name tag that my daughter made out of wrapping paper to put on my beautiful gift.  I'm very sentimental. I save things like that.  Actually, who am I kidding?  I've saved everything my children have ever given me.

In the attic sits a huge Rubbermaid container with everything from my children's first scribbles, their drawings, first attempts at letters, hand-made greeting cards to their high school and college essays.  They are my treasures - my children and their writing and drawings.  My daughter is in a Master's program at the same university my sister and I graduated from and I'm saving her papers, as well.  Why stop now, right?!

In that same container, I've saved Mother's Day cards for my mother  that I made when I was young, a racy, poster-size drawing from high school that I copied from an issue of Cosmo magazine I wasn't supposed to have, and dozens of fashion illustrations I drew from Women's Wear Daily magazines from my 20's.  I kept it all!  Everything tells a story and when I look at them, I am transported back in time, to more innocent, beautiful times.

There are a couple of things I know about myself for certain.  One is that I've always been a storyteller.  Whether with words, crayons, pastels or watercolor, we all tell our stories.  My family knows me to return from a trip, a trip to the supermarket or just a Metro ride and come home with a funny or interesting story or two about someone I met or someone or something I'd observed.  In high school and in college, I was the go-to friend that my friends went to about writing a kick ass "Dear John" letter to a soon-to-be ex, and yes, I will confess to helping my friends whose first language wasn't English with essays and papers in college.  I edited them, I didn't write them, so don't get the wrong idea :)

I don't know if it's a Virgo thing or not, but the second thing is that I have a hard time with bad grammar and misspelled words in any form...and, I find them all the time.  Be it on a friend's website, a cereal box (yes, I found one!), a menu or a sign - I'll find it.  The only place I seemed to have missed bad grammar and misspelled words is in my own novel-length manuscript!  I've read and read these pages for years now and thank God for Microsoft Office is all I have to say.  The program catches my misuse of grammar and misspelled words which is great.  What this program doesn't do, however (unless no one has informed me) is help with clarity.

I am a person who speaks clearly and always attempts to make myself understood and crystal clear.  I can actually admit that I also edit my texts and instant messages. I know.  I know!  It's a Virgo thing and only two fellow Virgo girlfriends and I will admit to that!  And, don't even get me started on auto-correct.  The thought of being misunderstood or worse, that my words would unintentionally hurt someone really bothers me.  I want to be understood and I want people to enjoy my novel.  

What about with a novel?  Art and writing are subjective!  I've exhibited art pieces and photography that  visitors didn't "get".  What I intend to show you through my words, descriptions, locales and by the use of our senses might resonate with you OR they just might go right over your head or by the wayside.  Too much description can bore us, too little can confuse us and/or make us go back a page or two.  Too much dialogue might take us away from the scene and too little might seem sterile and dry.  The flow of a story is important!  I love a page-turner and it is a true art.  One that I'm trying and determined to master...and master and master.  

Note: Two page-turners that immediately come to mind are Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code and The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver.  I read those books in less than two days; couldn't put them down!

I am in awe of a great page-turner that keeps my interest, teaches me new things and shows me new places.  I am a believer in editing to the best of our ability and then, reading our work from start to finish, without editing.  I just put the pencil and the pad of paper down and I read.

I have 25 pages left to edit today.  Later today or tomorrow as I watch the snow fall, I'm curling up on the couch with a pot of tea, my kitten on my lap, and my manuscript, A Decent Woman.  Just me and my beloved story as if I were looking at it with fresh, new eyes for the very first time. 

Like a virgin :)

Peace and love,

Ellie






Thursday, December 27, 2012

2013 New Year's Resolutions


Hi all!

If my family had joined me for Christmas in my home in West Virginia, we'd have woken up to a white Christmas!  I'd heard that we had gotten snow on the day and when I stepped off Amtrak last night, there were four inches and gale-force winds!

Picture this - you step off the train with your weekend-size suitcase with wheels and trudge a block to your house through slush and snow (uphill) with the wind whipping right through your puffy brown coat!  That was me last night at 6 pm :)  I chose to walk in the nearly snowless paths that cars had forged which, of course, meant I was walking in the road.  Drivers were patient with me and one young woman stopped and rolled her window down, offering me a ride home.  So sweet!  I thanked her and told her that I was half a block from home; I could do this.  What a work out!  A much-needed workout to begin to burn all those nasty and oh, so good Holiday calories and pounds that I've most definitely put on.  Ugh...

Months ago, I bought the entire Zumba series of exercise DVDs and gave two to my daughter yesterday.  I am determined to lose 30 pounds.  Yes, I am and I will!  I love to dance and I'm Puerto Rican - what better way to lose weight dancing to merengue, salsa, cumbia, and a bit of belly dancing.  It's on!  I lost 30 pounds last spring and looked my best (for my age), but winter came again and so did the weight.

20 New Year's Resolutions and daily schedule - subject to change or change importance whenever I want them to!

1.   Walk Ozzy shortly after waking up, drink 8 ounches of water first
2.   Eat a yoghurt and drink a glass of water before coffee
3.   Stretch and do not fire up the laptop just yet!
4.   Warm up and do the 60 minute Zumba routine
5.   Cool down with meditation and prayer and water
6.   Fire up laptop, check emails, Facebook and like something or write a status update so that my kids know I'm alive :) At this time, make coffee with low fat half and half
7.   Throw out all the old food in fridge and go grocery shopping for healthy foods! No more fast food until never!
8.   Take Ozzy for his noon walk and eat a salad for lunch
9.   Write my blog and DO NOT watch The View or CNN!
10. Do not turn on television, at all and finish that editing.
11. Write query letters and send out!
12.  Delete phone numbers for Anthony's Pizza and China King!
13.  Throw out all size 14 and 12 jeans and clothing!
14.  Continue walking instead of starting the car and driving; do NOT stop at Habanero's for a steak burrito!
15.  Continue reading and learn to review books that my friends have written!
16.  Continue to keep up with other author's blogs and their book updates
17.  No more painting (wall or canvas) or Pinterest projects this winter and spring!
18.  Order new bathing suit instead of waiting until summer when the pickings are slim to none in my size!
19.  Start wearing my size 10 shorts in the house, tight waist and all!
20.  Be happy, healthy and productive this 2013!  Be published and more focused next year!

Peace and love,
Ellie

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas Memories


My sister and I on Christmas morning,1965


Happy Boxing Day to you! 

The day after Christmas is called Boxing Day in the UK because of all the people who go back into stores today with boxes of gifts to return!  I'm not going near a store today, I can tell you that!  I'm headed to the train station around two to catch my four o'clock train to West Virginia - home.

I will board that train with a huge smile on my face, new memories and a warm heart.  I was so blessed to have spent Christmas with my children, friends and family.  We had a wonderful Holiday and I hope you did, too.  We cooked way too much, ate way too much and shared in the cooking and clean up!  Cleaning up after dinner was just as much fun as cooking and eating with my family.  

Interesting to note that the women were cleaning up and putting food away and the men sat on the couch watching TV...what's wrong with this picture??  We kept them busy with three bags of trash that needed to go out and anything else we could think of to include them in the whole Christmas experience :)

I hate to leave my children in Northern Virginia and head home to West Virginia, but I will leave with beautiful memories, tons of pictures to edit and share.  And...I can't say I'm not glad the Holidays are over :)  I also get to see my furry babies tonight and that's great, too.  I've missed them and hope we have snow on the ground.  We had an inch in Virginia this morning, but it's now raining and slowly melting.  Glad I took photos early this morning!

We now head toward New Year's Eve and I don't have any plans.  I've already thought of an outfit if I get asked out, though :) You never know and must be prepared!  If I don't receive an invitation, I just might have a little cocktail party to ring in the New Year with my friends in town.  No reason to ring in the new year alone :)

Then, the editing begins BIG time.  It's time to prepare for the birth of this novel.  I have query letters to write and it's time to push forward in finding an agent and/or getting published out right...I know, I dream BIG!  Hey, I can visualize it, so it will happen, right?!  Right!

2013.  Bring it on :)

Have a beautiful day!

Peace and love,
Ellie


Saturday, December 22, 2012

Holiday Love



Good morning!

First of all, I would like to thank my readers, friends and family for joining me on my blogging journey with Blogger this year!  I've enjoyed my time in my new blogging home and the 852 page views are awesome!  It has been quite a good year for my children and I and we are thankful!  I am thankful for you, as well :)

I wish you and yours a beautiful, safe Holiday season and all the best for the New Year!

My friend Ruth has invited me to a Christmas party tonight, the first of the Holiday season for me, and I'm excited.  I haven't seen the hosts for quite a while and they are a fun bunch - a young, fun bunch :)  I'm finally feeling the Christmas spirit!  I need to pack today, so that I'll be ready for my trip to Northern Virginia to see my kids...I might be a bit tired from the night before!

Tomorrow morning, I take the train to DC and will Metro to my daughter's house to help her get ready for our family Christmas dinner.  I'm excited to see my kids and family!  I'm not really ready, but will have a day to buy last minute gifts in the DC area.  If I can't find great gifts in the malls of Northern Virginia, they just don't exist :)

I leave my Pug, Ozzy and my kitten, Pierre in my pet sitter, Junior's good hands with a new ceramic heater for the kitchen which doesn't ever seem to be warm enough.  I will miss them!  I'm off to share the Holidays and make new memories with my human kids now and leave my furry kids behind :)

My thoughts and prayers are also with those who find themselves alone during this Holiday season, with those who are hurting, and with the Sandy Hook families who face a Christmas without their precious children and family members. I also pray for the military members who can't be with their families, the elderly and with those who are in hospitals, unable to get home.  I pray for those in hospice and in shelters.

God bless and keep you all.

Peace and Holiday love to you,
Ellie


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Furry Blessings



Good morning to you!

You know how people say that having a pet can change your life?  It's true.  A pet can add much joy, love and comfort to you and only a pet can give you unconditional love. I am a huge animal lover and can't see myself living without pets.  

As a kid, we had a Papillion named Monster (he was feisty!) and a laid back Westie named Ricky who loved to dig much to my parent's dismay.  As a parent, I made sure my kids had lots of animals in the house.  Over the years, we eventually owned four Cocker Spaniels, four cats, a cheeky parakeet named Juju, many fish,  two small lizards and one turtle who loved my ex-husband.  I swear that turtle sat on his rock all day long and when my then-husband bent over the aquarium, that turtle did a jig.  I've never seen anything like it :)

All but one Cocker were rescues and so were two of our cats.  I even kept a small aquarium on our front porch so that my kids and their friends could keep minnows and pond critters from their adventures near the creek in the common area.  Our house was animal central and I didn't have a problem with it.  I felt, "what's one more?"

When my kids were in university, the last two Cockers passed away and when they moved away after college, our two Birman cats, Zach and Mia passed away.  I've been present at all their passings which is traumatic and sad.  I cried and cried to lose my precious babies.

Three years later, Ozzy, a three-year old Pug, adopted me at my local Petsmart and he's my bud!  I take Ozzy to the river and to visit friends who are pet friendly.  He's a great dog and when I wanted another Pug as I loved the breed so much, Lulu entered our lives.  A rescue Pug from South Carolina who grew up on the streets, literally.  She lasted a year with me.  The first dog I've ever "given up on".  Lulu was a sweet girl, but she was also a tough cookie.  Lulu didn't adjust to living with another dog, she wanted to be top dog and Ozzy wasn't having it.  My friend and her daughter now have Lulu and I'm happy that she found a good home. She is top dog at their house!

A year after moving to West Virginia, quite by accident, I met Pierre at our local Humane Society.  Love at first sight :)  He was ten weeks old when I brought him home and Ozzy accepted him immediately.  They are quite the pair and I love watching them play and horse around.  Our new family was complete and I also found a great pet sitter as I love to travel.  Life is good!

This morning, I'm looking into installing a surveillance camera in my kitchen.  Yes, you read right.  The peaceful home Ozzy and I shared is...less than peaceful.  Cats will rearrange your life, force you to rearrange furniture and knick knacks, and remind you to shut doors you previously left open!

I need to see what Pierre (kitten) and Ozzy (Pug) get into while I'm sleeping.  Well, I actually know what they get into while I'm sleeping because the evidence is usually strewn on the kitchen floor.  All over the kitchen floor.  I want to SEE how these capers happen.

Last week, I bought a large box of Rice Krispies because I was craving a big bowl of cereal and at five dollars a box, that's an expensive treat!  I had two bowls the night before and I left the box on the counter.  In the morning, the entire box of cereal was all over the kitchen floor!  This morning, I woke up to a brand new package of napkins, shredded all over the kitchen floor and Pierre has managed to figure out how to open the bottom drawer of my stove!  How does he do it?!

Ozzy never got into anything.  He never got into the trash, into shopping bags, my purse nor did I have to keep the toilet paper roll in a closed basket.  I could leave jewelry lying on my dresser, my placemats on the kitchen table and spare change in a bowl.  Not now.  Pierre is one busy kitten at night and his accomplice Ozzy is right behind him...when the object(s) reach the floor.  I can't leave my coffee or tea unmanned, don't dare have lit candles in the house, have removed objects I don't want broken and I've lost more pens and pencils than I can shake a stick at.  Batteries, Chap Sticks and lighters, too!  God forbid I should leave my laptop open...sheesh.

Pierre has been the impetus to redecorate my house for the Holidays.  Christmas cards are now taped to a mirror, I have no ornaments on my tree (only lights) and the dining table is sans Holiday tablecloth.  I wouldn't dream of wasting money on a Holiday bouquet or flower arrangement and poinsettias are poisonous for animals!  Did my other cats do these things or was I so busy with kids and other animals to notice?  Did I have more energy and less stuff?  Have I grown so stuck in my ways that I didn't notice?

The only change I've had to make with Ozzy since Pierre came to live with us is that the litter box now sits on my dryer and it's permanent...I'll let you figure that one out!

I'm constantly trying to stay one step ahead of Pierre, but when that kitten lays on my lap and purrs, I'm putty in his hands. When Ozzy joins us on the couch and snores lightly beside me, that's pure heaven.  When I need a hug, a kiss and someone to baby, they're right there with me.  What're ya gonna do?  Gotta love animals :)

Peace and love,
Ellie





Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Going With the Holiday Flow




Hi all!

Christmas Day is eight days away and I'm finding it difficult to focus on my novel this week.  Who am I kidding?  I found it difficult to edit last week, as well.  A couple of days of good work a week and other days of...distractions.  That equals two and a half weeks of distractions.  Is this happening to you?  Maybe I should have taken December off, thereby reducing the guilts!

Okay, I did have a week vacation with my friends and family in Puerto Rico which I enjoyed immensely.  I rested the week following my vacation and got my house in order.  I even found time to paint my front door glossy black (after pinning dozens of black doors on Pinterest this fall) and I decorated the outside of my house for the Holidays.  I visited with a sick friend, had coffee with two neighbors and caught up with girlfriends and family by email and telephone.  Yesterday, I gave my neighbor and her family a little tree because I know they are hurting this year and last night, I had dinner with a new friend - our second date.  Distractions?  Yes!

My writing rhythm is shot.  I was doing so well at the beginning of the month and had made great headway with my novel and then, the Holiday pressures were on.  I suppose I put those pressures on myself, but they're valid distractions this time of year.  I have ecards to put together, gifts to buy, a train ticket to Virginia to purchase, and friends I'd love to get together with.  Not to mention, my bedroom looks like a hurricane passed through.

I have kept up with my blog, however.  Bite-size pieces of writing.  I suppose the fact that I'm writing is a good thing.  My mind is jumping around and my heart is already in Northern Virginia with my kids and family.  I can't wait to seem them all!

How do people write, publish and market books while working full-time, part-time and raise kids, I wonder?  Am I that disorganized?  I don't work outside the home, I should be able to do all this with my eyes closed, right?  Priorities, I know.  I know the drill, but there's something major to be said about being present.  I don't know how many Holidays I'll have with both my kids and family; none of us do.

So, I've decided to enjoy my family and friends this Holiday season and when I return, I'm turning off the phone, not answering emails and I won't put the TV on!  That's it.  I'm not wasting time mind you, I'm simply going with the Holiday flow and choose not to feel guilty about it.

Guilt, worry, and anxiety are wasted emotions.  I choose to put all my energy into enjoying my family and friends this Holiday season.  For me, that is what is important - being present and enjoying the gifts that my family and friends are.  True blessings.

Peace, blessings, and love to you.
Ellie


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Making Sense of a Senseless Act



Good morning,

Yesterday, I didn't turn on the television until late afternoon after being glued to CNN on Friday after I came back from running a few errands.  I was at the laundromat washing my couch slip cover and cushion covers when the woman next to me put her hands over her mouth and muffled, "Oh, my God."  Of course, the women closest to her, including me looked at her to see what was the matter and she pointed at the television set.  I remember the time was nearly eleven o'clock.  I made a mental note that I'd forgotten to add fabric softener to the industrial machine, but couldn't stay away from the television.  Not much was known at that point.

The three women and myself at the laundromat wrestled to process and fathom how a human being could take the lives of children, any one really, but especially children.  Through our brief conversations, we found out that we were all mothers and two were grandmothers. We had tears in our eyes and the eldest woman turned away, she couldn't watch anymore.  She reminded me of my grandmother and how she flew back to Puerto Rico when it was clear that my mother was dying in the hospital.  That stunned me, but I also understood what my grandmother was saying, she couldn't buy another daughter.  I was a mother, I understood, but would be lying if I said that I didn't want her with me during that horrible time.  I couldn't judge her.  I hadn't walked in her shoes.  Maybe the older woman at the laundromat had lost children and grandchildren, as well?

I gathered my laundry, said prayers on my drive home, and immediately turned on the television.  As the night progressed, I became annoyed and surprised that parents would allow their children, students at Sandy Hook to be interviewed instead of rushing home and circling the wagons in safety.  I caught my annoyance and reprimanded myself.  I didn't know the circumstances, the parent did what he or she thought was right. Not the time or place to judge, I thought.  She knows her child. Maybe her child needs to speak to process and heal?

Anderson Cooper was on and he said that the station had decided not to mention the shooter's name any more than necessary.  I agreed with that.  Then, the gun lobbyists and anti-gun folks came on the air, arguing back and forth.  President Obama spoke and spoke about "meaningful" changes that had to be made.  I agree with that.

After awhile, I decided to check Facebook and friends and family were posting status updates on gun control, Autism, sharing prayer requests and news links as more information became available.  I shared a prayer for the children, their families and for the staff of Sandy Hook.  I understood people's anger and frustration about guns getting into the wrong hands, but I felt that maybe it wasn't the time to argue about guns.  Twenty precious children and six staff of Sandy Hook had been gunned down.  But, then I thought...if not now, when?

Were we being disrespectful by talking about guns, mental illness, the shooter and his family and not focusing on the issue at hand - the death of innocent children and adults?  I could understand people's anger and frustration, I was angry and frustrated, as well.  How could this happen?

I believe most people want to do the right thing in difficult situations, but we can only express what we express because of our life's experiences.  Who's to say what's right, appropriate and sensitive?  We all process information and grieve in myriad ways.  Who's to say what's right and what's wrong in any given situation?  It's human nature to judge other's actions, thoughts and beliefs and I believe most people want to do the right thing.

"She shouldn't have said that!"  "Why did he do that?"  We try to make sense of other's actions and without all the facts, we'll probably miss the mark.  We may never know why that young man did what he did.  Some people blamed the press, his mother, others blamed our society, many blamed guns, a few said our President wasn't really crying, only looking for sympathy votes.  A few said they were appalled and outraged that people were posting updates on Facebook yet they themselves had just posted on Facebook.

We are all trying to make sense of a senseless act - in our own way.  With the life experiences we'd had.  We all filter life and what life throws us through our own lenses.  I finally posted something that has bothered me since 2010 - how children fall through the cracks in our schools in this country.  How bullying can affect some children.  How children can check out of residential treatment centers at 18 years of age in Maryland with severe behavioral, emotional, and mental issues.  I could put two and two together because I'd seen it; I worked in one such center.  I took it even further - what if these children couldn't afford the meds they really need and got a hold of a gun?  It made sense to me.

Another person could read my status update and think, "How could she post that?"  "How insensitive in light of what just happened!"  Well, if you've never worked in a residential treatment center, you might not have share my opinion.  It won't make sense to you.  I thought of parents with children with emotional issues, mental issues.  Their views would be completely different than my own.  Perhaps, a parent saved his family because he had a gun when an intruder entered their family home.  The world looks completely different from where we stand.

We're grieving those senseless and brutal deaths. The more information that comes forth, the more vivid my mental images are - of their last moments, their last breaths.  As a parent, it's unfathomable to me.  The parents and family's grief isn't anything I can ever know as I've never lost a child.

People immediately had negative comments about Emilie's father on the news last night speaking about his beautiful six year old daughter.  Who are they to judge?  We all grieve in many different ways.  He's doing what he feels he needs to do.  Full stop.

Is there a right and a wrong way to grieve and process information?  Not in my book.  We're all doing what we can in our own way with life has given us.

Peace and love,
Ellie










Saturday, December 15, 2012

Thoughts and Prayers


My thoughts and prayers are with the precious babies and the heroic staff whose lives were taken at Sandy Hook Elementary School yesterday.

I pray for courage, peace and strength for the parents, families, friends and staff of the school
whose lives will never be the same.

Rest in eternal peace.






Friday, December 14, 2012

I'll Have a Donut and a Coffee for My Friend Here


Hi all!

The photograph above was taken two years ago on Christmas Eve in my rented townhouse in Falls Church, Virginia.  I loved that house, especially the wood burning fireplace that I used for two years during Fall and Winter, but the rent was crazy high and it was time to buy a house.

I didn't find a house in West Virginia with a fireplace and that really irked me. I could do without a garage and a driveway (which is what happens when you live in town), but a fireplace would have been great. But, moving into this ol' house brought Junior into my life.  He's my road trip buddy and my pet/house sitter and he's a hoot :)  

My friend Irene lives on her family farm outside of town in a beautiful house built in the late 1700's, complete with many wood burning fireplaces.  I love going out there; the views are spectacular and the sunsets are even better.  Irene owns many acres, some still farmed on and last night, she invited me to come out to chop down a small tree and pick greenery, magnolia leaves and holly branches to decorate my house, front fence and enough to make a couple of wreaths.  So, I invited Junior to go with me.  Irene is a very generous lady and as my walk with Ozzy yesterday didn't produce any greenery or anything organic except for a pile of poo that a very inconsiderate dog walker failed to pick up, we're going out.

Junior (75 years old) loves a good road trip and he's great company.  We always laugh and carry on like kids when we get together.  Junior loves to sing and he loves Christmas, so any recent trip to Walmart or the dollar store has included him singing Christmas carols in the aisles!  He is a fruitcake and I love him :)  

Once we almost got kicked out of Dunkin Donuts. Yes, we did.  Junior's last name is Dunkin, spelled exactly like the donuts, and when I tried to order Dunkin Donuts for Mr. Dunkin, I started laughing which set him off which set me off!  I don't know what got into me, but I laughed so hard in line that the teenager behind the register asked me to step aside which, of course, made me laugh even harder.  Junior was no help, at all!

I didn't step aside because I wanted my Dunkin Donuts and a coffee for Mr. Dunkin!  I tried to compose myself, but one look at Junior did me in.  So finally, the kid looks at us and says, "Hey, if you're high or drunk, I'm going to have to ask you to leave!"  WHAT?  Well, that did it.  I couldn't control my laughter or my mouth any longer, it was such a ridiculous scene, but I couldn't leave it alone!  "We're not high on crack cocaine nor do we have the munchies, young man!  You're just making me laugh!"  Junior had to go to the bathroom at that point; he just couldn't hold it!  I finally stepped aside to allow the elderly woman behind me to get in front and no shit, this is what she said, "I DO have the munchies and I'll take a bag of donuts!"  

I almost fell on the floor laughing and I just had to hug her and wish her a beautiful day!  Kids today have no sense of humor :)

So, lets see where Junior and I get kicked out of today...I'm sure it'll be memorable no matter what!

Peace and love to you,
Ellie







Sunday, December 2, 2012

Relax, It'll Happen

Hi all,

I depart tomorrow morning for Puerto Rico and I couldn't be happier.  This trip came up quickly. I jumped at the chance to see my family on the island when I saw the email from Travel Advisor that informed me about the $262.00 round trip ticket!  Done!  I called my friend D and she was up for a trip, so we booked it.

This week, I had a great week with my novel.  I'm at Chapter 23! I hadn't paid my cable and Internet bill on the 1st and when I thought about it...I thought, "well, let's see how much I get done with no major distractions.  Major work was done, wow.  I took what Julia Cameron, author of The Artist's Way, calls a major break.  I left the world behind.  So, I didn't pay my bill and boy, did I get a lot done!  I'm at chapter 22 with the editing. All good.  I should do this more often, I thought!

So, I planned on leaving my home in West Virginia on Amtrak #30, headed for Union Station in Washington, DC to spend the night with my friend D who is traveling to PR with me tomorrow morning.  I called Amtrak before I left the house and was informed about a 30 minute delay.  No problem. I kept calling and at 11 am, I boarded the train.  I'm headed to Puerto Rico tomorrow morning, I thought.  No big deal.  I love the train and the two hour journey.

Around Harpers Ferry, our train stopped.  Twenty minutes later, we were still stopped and no one knew why. I went in search of a coffee in the Cafe car and was informed that the freight train ahead of us had derailed.  The train behind that one (and in front of my train) called in an emergency.  So, we were delayed.  There's nothing as annoying as wanting to begin your vacation or journey and you can't!  But, I kept calm.

One, no one had been hurt in the derailment and two, I was seated next to a lovely young lady who, as it turns out, I had a lot in common with.  Well, actually...her mother and I could be twins.  Long time marriages, divorce, and her mother and I have made new lives for each other. It was funny to speak to a young woman who was saying the same things I've heard my kids say, "She's on Facebook all the time, she writes a blog, and she's tried Internet dating." :)  Yep, been there, done that!

We made the best of an annoying situation and before we knew it, we were moving. We never exchanged names or numbers as people often do, knowing full well that they'll never contact each other.  We enjoyed our time together and bid each other farewell, wishing each other a wonderful Holiday.  It's all good.

I love the randomness of life.  I love the people we meet as we're going on with the business of life.

I'll toast you with a rum punch tomorrow when I reach Puerto Rico!

Peace and love,
Ellie









Thursday, November 29, 2012

One Way to Overcome Writer's Block

Hi all,

Yesterday I found out that my local library has a fax machine for public use.  I don't mean that you can stand there and fax any ol' thing you want.  First, you have to get through the tall, wiry, and might I add, stern-looking woman who will fax documents for you at one dollar per page. I don't know if this is common practice in libraries, but as a person who hasn't figured out how to install her printer at home which has fax/scanning and printing capabilities, this was awesome news.  Please don't tell my local library if it's not 'normal', I love it!

After I faxed my documents (so easy!), I trudged upstairs to the computer room  and decided to see what it would feel like to enter a strange room, write a new blog on a strange computer (to me) among 20 strangers. 

As I waited to get assigned a computer, I scanned the room.  Much like I do in a crowded restaurant while I wait for the host/hostess to seat me. I want a nice table and not in the middle of the room, thank you very much. The computer room was packed with people of all ages.  The only free computers were right smack in the middle of the middle aisle of three aisles. Damn!  People on all sides.  I don't like sitting in the middle of any room. I've always liked my back against the walls, so that I can view YOU :)

NOTE: I've worked in residential treatment centers for kids...you don't turn your back, ever. I learned that quick and it has stuck with me.


I didn't have to stay in the computer room.  I have a perfectly lovely red laptop at home. I could have left any time after faxing my documents. But something pulled me upstairs. I'm curious, intuitive and I happen to reading "The Alchemist" for the third time.  (My daughter gave me her Kindle and the book happens to be on her list, so I started at 4:30 am when I couldn't sleep.)  Yes, 4:30 am.  Well, I love a good challenge and I wondered if I would meet anyone interesting in the computer room.  Would I meet someone with a message for me about my novel?  Would I meet the Alchemist? The King? The Englishman? A talking camel?  Who knows, but I'm open to new experiences.

I was up for the challenge, but writing my new blog in this computer room was posing an internal challenge for me. I could do it and I would!  I would accept whatever computer was offered to me and not worry that someone was looking at my screen.  That was it!  I was feeling 'naked' and spied upon and I hadn't even sat down.

I pushed through it, looked to my left and right several times (just because) and looked behind me because the guy was having a conversation with his rental office. Highly annoying.  Someone else had their music blaring and I could hear the rap music through his head phones.  Very annoying.

I pushed on!  I checked Facebook, checked my two email accounts and replied so some emails and I wrote this blog :) There is ALWAYS a lesson and a lesson learned in every situation and experience that we have. I usually learn something new from a brief conversation with a neighbor or someone in line at the grocery store.  I truly believe that. You have to be open to people, places and things.  I usually am.

What did I learn this morning during my writing experience at my local library?

Writing at home is freakin' awesome :) I can't wait to walk home and fire that baby up and write to my heart's content.  Make your writing experience crappy, challenging or just interesting enough and I guarantee you that your computer will look awesome to you when you get home.

Peace out,
Ellie














Tuesday, November 27, 2012

But, I Digress...

Hi all,

We had snow flurries this morning!  I woke up, checked my phone for the time (no one wears watches anymore) and at 8:38, we had wet snow and snow flurries.  I was as excited as a kid, teen or adult who is hoping to get out of school or work or the commute to work.  And, I work from home :)  Hell, as an at-home Mom, I was excited for my kids to stay home so we could play! They had my ex-husband's genes in that respect, however...they never wanted to miss a day of school.  But, I digress...

Then, it was all over.  The snow flurries landed on wet sidewalks and it was all over, really before it even began.  Bummer.  I really wanted to see snow on the ground this morning.  I wanted to put on my old gray robe, make a pot of vanilla chai tea (chai means tea, doesn't it?) and write to my heart's content, watching the snow fall from the dining room window.

I've always wanted to live in a Currier & Ives painting. I want to live in a thatched roof cottage by a lazy river that has a brick bridge going that leads to my children's homes because they live a stone's throw from my house.  But, I digress...

Of course, I put on my old gray robe, made a pot of vanilla chai and powered up the laptop.  I edited my novel yesterday from 9 in the morning to nearly 10 at night with a few breaks. I was on a roll! Why?  Because I forgot to pay my cable bill that includes the Internet :)  No distractions and it worked like a charm.  I made huge strides on my novel and I'm so, so pleased with the first ten chapters.  But, I digress...wait.  What is this blog about any way?  Writing, snow, or kids?

So, I powered up the laptop this morning, shoo'd the cat away from my vanilla chai (which must be a drug as powerful as catnip for my Maine Coon, Pierre) and took Ozzy my Pug out for a quick walk.  On our walk, I noticed that Main Street has put on their Holiday accessories which are beautiful.  I just LOVE walking through small towns with big Christmas and holiday decorations like the town I live in.  It's charming this time of year, but I digress...

You know what? I don't have a damn clue what this blog is about.  I started losing the thread almost immediately and I don't think I even had a thread!  I just started writing.  That's the way it happens with me.  I just start to write and I end up with a short story, five poems (I canNOT write just poem) or a blog.  I write dialogue, scenes and character descriptions.  I rewrite paragraphs, whole chapters, beginnings and endings.  I never get bored.

I don't really know what today is all about, but I DO know that I have to write like I have to breathe.  I have to write and you should, too.

So back to my novel :)  Happy writing.

Peace and love,
Ellie

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Pumpkin Pie Debacle

Hi all,

I hope you had a super Thanksgiving with your loved ones.  I had a wonderful weekend with my family.  A busy, fun, and wonderful weekend full of laughter, joking around, hanging around, and eating way too much.

Okay, I'm not going to lie...since Friday, I've enjoyed four smallish plates of Thanksgiving leftovers and one delicious sandwich of turkey, dressing and gravy. I haven't, however, had enough slices of pumpkin pie with Redi Whip.

I could have baked a pumpkin pie, but I was traveling to my kids by train and my kids ran out time.  My sister swore she would have pumpkin pie for our dinner and I believed her, but I wanted just one more pie.  Just one more.  I love pumpkin pie.

As soon as I arrived in Northern Virginia, my daughter, son and I drove to Safeway to buy an extra pumpkin pie.  No big deal, right?  Well, normally not a big deal, but it was Thanksgiving Day.  I grabbed the pies, super excited and loving Safeway for the extra pies.  I paid for the pies, got into my daughter's car with a huge smile.  "A real coup!  I found two pumpkin pies!"

To which my son jokes (and probably jinxes), "Watch her have bought sweet potato pies!"  We all laughed and then, I checked the bags.  My heart sank.  Are you kidding me?  Two sweet potato pies and no pumpkin.  I had picked up two sweet potato pies at the supermarket by mistake.  Damn, was I mad.  The sign behind the stack of pies was clearly marked and clearly read, "pumpkin pies" but, I failed to read the labels slapped on the boxes which held the 'wrong' pies.  These were clearly sweet potato pies.

I immediately opened the car door, yelling, "I'll be right back!  I'll just exchange them, there was a huge stack of pumpkin pies!"  My daughter grabbed the belt loops of my jeans, holding me in.  "You're not going back inside, we're late, Mom!"

"You don't understand, Sweetie." I said, laughing as I unhooked her fingers from my jeans, "I MUST have pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving!  I don't eat pumpkin pie but twice a year and sweet potato pie will not do!"

On and on my kids kept telling me things like, "Mom, pumpkin is exactly like sweet potato pie", "Let it go!" and, "Let's go!" When my kids realized that I wasn't leaving the Safeway supermarket, they gave in.  Exasperated, my son got out of the car, vowing to come back with a pumpkin pie.  My hero!

Ten minutes later, he came to the car carrying a Safeway bag.  "Well?  Do we have lift off?  Did you find a pumpkin pie?"

"Um.  Safeway is out of pumpkin pies.  All they have left are sugar-free pumpkin pies."  

"What?  No!  It won't be Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie."  I'm told I actually pouted like a four year old.

"Mom, it's okay!  Let's just go, we're late."

I moaned and groaned, "Should have made a pie."  After a while, it changed to,"You're right, we are late."  After all, I am an adult :)

Thank goodness, my sister had a pumpkin pie for us.  Yay!  I had my slice and everyone wanted slices of sweet potato pie (which surprised me) and I got to take the remaining pie to my daughter's house (where I was staying).  I snuck a midnight slice of pumpkin pie with Redi Whip, happy as a kid.

My family and I had a great Holiday dinner. I was blessed to enjoy two wonderful days with my children.  I loved our time together and I went home with no leftovers and no more pie.  Good.  I was beginning to forget about leftovers and pumpkin pie when my girlfriend invited me to share her Holiday leftovers tonight!  I'm SO there, I told her!  I have no will power, damn!  She made a homemade pumpkin pie to die for :)

I swear, no more Holiday food.  Enough is enough.  Zumba is calling me. Vamos a bailar! Vamos a rebajar de peso!  Si!

Peace and love,
Ellie


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

On Being Grateful and Gracious

Hi all,

This will be my last blog before Thanksgiving as tomorrow morning, I'll be on a train headed to Northern Virginia.  I'm excited to see my children and cook our side dishes together.  I'm also excited to share our Thanksgiving meal with my sister and her children in Maryland.  

I wish you a beautiful Thanksgiving with your loved ones and safe travels if you'll be on the road!

I love traveling by train.  Not only do I love the beautiful West Virginia and Virginia countryside, it's a great way to people watch.  I'm not a stalker, believe me!  I just enjoy observing and listening to people, wondering what their story is as I sit quietly, enjoying the views.  More than once, I've built characters on people I've watched and listened to.  I watch their body language, how they interact with others and their facial expressions as they converse. People are fascinating to me :)

I'll be cooking side dishes with my son and my daughter in her home while watching the Thanksgiving Day parade in NYC and in the afternoon, we drive to Maryland to share Thanksgiving dinner with my youngest sister and her kids.  We always have a great time when we get together and this Holiday should be no different.  We laugh and joke while we get dinner and the table ready, we take photos of each other and the kids as a group, we start dinner off with a prayer and I always ask my family to say what they're thankful for.

That Thanksgiving tradition might be getting old for our kids who range in age from 27 to 21, (maybe it's already old for them!) but I never tire of it.  To me, it's important to give thanks and NOT only on this day.  I believe that the root of happiness and joy is in the giving to others and not in the receiving.  This year, I got a surprise that changed my mind a bit.

My family is blessed and we know we are.  We've all had difficulties, faced challenges and found ourselves in the deep valleys before.  Most of us have come out of those valleys into the sunshine.  I hope you have, too.  When I've found myself in the dark, I only have to look around me and listen - there's always someone who needs help, my help.

In the past, it was me who was the helper whenever I could.  This year, I received many blessings and realized that for once, I was the person other's thought needed help.  That came as a big surprise to me as a self-sufficient, stubborn, single Mom!  I like to think that I've got all my ducks in a row and my shit sorted out :) I just didn't expect it and it was beautiful!

This year I received four invitations from beautiful new friends in my new town to share Thanksgiving dinner with their families because they wanted to make sure I wasn't alone.  They know that I live two hours from my kids and family.  Another friend brought me a little artificial Christmas tree with lights because he knows that I'll spend Christmas with my kids and family in Virginia this year and he figured that I'd probably not put up a tree this year.  Beautiful!

Those invitations and gifts, were precious gifts to me.  Gifts that warmed my heart and yes, made me cry. I cry a lot these days which I attribute to menopause :)  Happy tears, mind you.  My friends wanted to make sure that I was taken care of and that's a beautiful thing. I was so thankful and grateful.

I learned a valuable lesson this week.  Life is a give and take and it's as important to allow others to help us as it is to help others.  It's good Karma for everyone involved :)

Happy Thanksgiving to you.

Peace and love,
Ellie 



Tuesday, November 20, 2012

We're Having Technical Difficulties

Hi all,

Apparently, there is a little button on the top of the Microsoft Word panel that says "UNDO".   I still can't find it, but my daughter assured me it's there.  That little button would have undone the potentially devastating deleting I did of my entire manuscript two days ago!  Someone will have to show me where it is because I'm not seeing it.

Disaster averted yesterday afternoon, however, when I went back to search for the deleted manuscript and found a copy of it deep in the files!  I'm good!!  I can't tell you how relieved and grateful I was to God and Microsoft for automatically making a copy for me!  Prayers answered.

The saved copy of the manuscript was the most recent copy minus the adverb search and changes I'd done, but no big deal.  I don't mind redoing that, believe me!  I was smiling like crazy when I saw that copy.

This morning it occurred to me that when the power is off in my house, the only way to find out the time is to check my phone.  I realized that with the TV off, the laptop off and having no way to charge my cell phone, the only source of time would be the stove which is off by an hour!  There's gotta be a better way.

I've owned one watch in my life.  I love that watch and it needs a cleaning.  It's an expensive watch, so it makes sense that the cleaning will cost me a few $100's.  After buying a house, I never have a couple hundred dollars sitting around so, the watch sits in my bedroom and I rely on the clocks in the house when the power is on :)

It also occurred to me that if my laptop was lost, stolen or broken - I wouldn't have access to my novel nor could I save changes made.  I now have several copies of the manuscript on the laptop, the hard copy my editor sent me, and I've saved the ms onto a USB thingie, as well.  As a matter of fact, I saved it onto two USBs and one is on my key chain.

Have I checked all the boxes of being safe?  This morning, a friend recommended that I download (burn) the manuscript onto a DVD or CD.  Good thinking!  I would do that if my laptop CD drive worked, however it hasn't worked in years.  It might be time for a new laptop...I've had this one for over two years.  It seems ridiculous to me that laptops don't seem to last over four years.  Why is that?

I suppose I've done all humanly possible to save and protect my manuscript save for saving it on an external hard drive which I own, by the way.  But, I lost the cord to it when I moved two years ago.  I carefully wrapped the respective cords of my laptop, computer, printer DVD player and external hard drive and put them in one box...which, of course, I can't find.  Don't you just love moving?

A friend suggested taking my hard drive to Radio Shack and perhaps, there is a universal cord and battery pack.  I guess that's where I'll be next week.  Aren't you happy I wrote this blog?  Ha ha!

I'm supposed to be working non-stop on this novel and I seem to be dealing with technical difficulties and issues relating to technology!  Stop already!  I just want to write a book and see it published, for goodness sake.

Have a beautiful day.  It's all good :)

Peace and love,
Ellie








Monday, November 19, 2012

I Laughed 'Til I Cried

Hi all,

I don't know much about the human brain nor how it works, but I believe that what we experience and think about in our waking life manifests itself in our dreams.

Have you ever woken up from a dream crying and/or laughing ?  I've experienced both and it happened again this morning.

My dream early this morning (isn't that when REM happens?) involved an old fishing buddy/friend.  In the dream, we were on a fishing trip and he was trying to get all romantic with me and I playfully pushed him away.  He had wanted to slow dance and when we started dancing, we fell through the wood floor and landed in a mud pit!  I laughed in my dream and when I woke up, I was laughing so hard, I had tears in my eyes!  I lay there laughing for about five minutes until my sides hurt. Laughter is the best medicine for what ails us :)

Here's why I had that dream:

Late last night, the very friend in my dream (who I haven't heard from in six months) sent me a photo via text of him proudly holding up a huge trout that didn't look too happy.  We've been friends for years and I secretly think he has a crush on me, but I would never  jeopardize our friendship (and he has a girlfriend) so, I've jokingly pushed away his friendly advances.

and,

After I received my friend's text, I watched a comedy with Meryl Streep, Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin (just before bed) entitled, "It's Complicated".  It was complicated!  Divorced ten years, Streep and Baldwin start an affair while he's married to someone else. See? It was all connected and led to my dream!

Our brains are so complicated that it boggles the mind. My dream was a composite of things I'd experienced and thought about before bed.  The falling through the wood floor part stumps me though.  I'd watched the newest episode of "Walking Dead" before the comedy and I don't think anyone fell through the floor (although a dozen zombies or so bit the dust last night) and it certainly isn't a comedy!  The falling through the floor into a mud pit did make me laugh, however.  I know what makes me laugh :)

I suppose I needed that laugh this morning after losing my manuscript edits yesterday that I'd been working on for two weeks straight.  It worked and so, onward and upward we go!

Peace and love,
Ellie

Sunday, November 18, 2012

I Did The Unthinkable.

Hi all,

The unthinkable happened this afternoon...I lost the copy of my manuscript that I've been editing for a week.  It wouldn't have mattered if I'd saved it, either.  I was deleting a paragraph on page 98 and must have hit the wrong key.   I then clicked on the Enter key without noticing I'd highlighted the whole manuscript and poof, gone.  I went from over 300 pages to page 1 of 1.  Gone, all gone in a blink of an eye.

Wow, I couldn't believe it.  Shocked and stunned would best describe my face.  I immediately set about retrieving the manuscript, but no cigar.  I couldn't find it!  I checked the trash can icon and it wasn't there either because I didn't delete it, I simply erased it.  Shoot.  I didn't actually say "shoot" by the way...it was more like, "shit, shit, shit".

Thank the good Lord I have two earlier copies of the manuscript in my files, a hard copy and one copy of my editor's Track Changes, thank GOD.  So, I started again.  There was no sense in screaming, running around the house or getting mad, it was done and I had to accept it.  I could say this was a disaster or put a positive spin on it.  I'm no Mother Teresa, believe me, but what would have been the point in losing it or worse - giving up?  I guess I am getting wiser with age or I truly have gone nuts.

So, I just chalked it up to life.  Live and learn.  I am a fan of things happening for a reason, so who knows?  Maybe this version will be THE one.  Maybe this was meant to happen and maybe not.  I had a choice and I made it.

I made a copy of the manuscript with my editor's Track Changes and decided to begin on page one.  Yes, page one.  I decided to focus on re-removing (that might not be a word, but it aptly describes what I have to do!) all the "ly" words, the adverbs throughout the entire manuscript and tweaking dialogue without the adverbs.  It's going faster than the first time and along the way, I've remembered dialogue that I'd tweaked before, places where I'd made changes, and remembered to delete unnecessary paragraphs.  Carefully deleted, mind you!!

I've certainly been through much worse in my life and I survived.  I shall survive this, too :) It's not life or death for goodness sake.  I'm happy and healthy; my kids are happy and healthy and that's all that matters.  It's all good :)

Be careful with your writing, editing and saving!

Peace and love,
Ellie


Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Denutting of Pierre

Hi all,

My kitten Pierre will be under the knife in a few hours which I hate, but it's necessary.  My   pet sitter, Junior (75-year old Junior) calls it "denutting".  I laughed out loud when he said that to me, but I'm sure Pierre isn't laughing.  Denutted.  That Junior is a hoot :)

Pierre and I met at the Humane Society on the outskirts of my town and it was love at first sight.  Ozzy (my Pug) and I fell in love at a rescue event at Petsmart in Virginia nearly four years ago.  Do you get the idea that I can't go to rescues or shelters?  You'd be right and that's why I don't go on a regular basis!  I'd come home with puppies and kitties every single time.  It's very difficult for me to leave empty-handed.

Junior says I have the best dog and kitten in the world and I have to agree with him.  They're awesome furry children.  I told Junior that they're great because they were raised right :) They're well-loved, they get along great, and they give me unconditional love every day.  That's worth the price of admission as far as I'm concerned.  

I might have to juggle a purring kitten on my lap as I try to edit my manuscript or find several lines of "zzzzzzzzzzzzz" on the page when I return to the room, and I might have to take several breaks during the day to walk and play with Ozzy, but it's all worth it.  Watching them play and nap around me is very comforting and a lot of fun.  Ozzy welcomed Pierre with open paws and it's heart-warming to see them drinking from the same water bowl.  They don't have to as the kitten has his own food and water bowls, but Pierre loves his big brother and Ozzy is happy to share.

What writer doesn't need a warm lap and several breaks during the day to get away from the laptop?  My pets remind me to stop and smell the roses when I'm headed inside my head with my novel and they remind me to stand up and stretch my tired muscles from sitting at the laptop for hours on end.  Lord knows I need the exercise as I sit on my bum nearly all day long with this novel!

My kids live two hours from me and I can't imagine living in a house without pets. I would be too lonely.  Pierre and Ozzy don't talk much, but they're great company and even better listeners :)

Happy Saturday to you!
Peace and love,

Ellie