Thursday, January 31, 2013

Why Does Disney Kill Off So Many Mothers??

A couple of nights ago, I watched the reality show, Intervention, a reality show about addiction and the inventions that families plan and host in the hopes of sending their family member to rehab and in the process, saving their life.

In the episode I watched, a clearly anguished father read a letter to his son that began with the words, "Your addiction has affected me in the following ways."  His son sat motionless on the couch next to his father and looked down, tears streaming down his cheeks. He listened to his father's anguished words and I wondered if the words had reached his son enough to accept the help that was being offered.

Heart wrenching! I wanted to hug the family and shake his son awake to the damage he was inflicting on himself and on his family  who listened to the man's letter, looking lost and heartbroken. It was almost too much for me to bear. The family's pain was palpable and found myself wanting to look away, but forced myself to keep watching.  I could have changed the channel to a more lighthearted program, but I sat still.  The show reminded me of a murder mystery I'd read about addiction and I tucked that away.

In the reality show episode, letter after letter is read by a family member and the boy breaks down, accepting help. He's going to rehab.  Hallelujah. Tears of joy all around and I had tears in my eyes for a kid I didn't know.  In three months time, the boy is clean and has remained drug-free since 2010. That information was flashed across the screen at the end of the show.  I was relieved, but knew better. As a former counselor, I knew damn well that this kid's recovery had been a long, torturous process for the boy and his family.  We hadn't been made privy to the details that surely entailed anguish, pain and hurt.  It's an hour show, I reminded myself.  I wondered how much had been embellished by Hollywood?  How would I know, but I applauded this young's man courage.  Maybe it helped me feel better to think that the show had been embellished and a fake like Kim Kardashian's fairy tale wedding.

Before bed, I thought about the ugly things and realities of life that many of us don't want to see, read or listen to that certainly have happened in our world and exist today. I thought of my novel where a murder occurs.  I'd written those scenes very quickly, I remember.  I skimmed through them, not wanting to slow down for the violence. Who wants to dwell on a murder, certainly not me. BAM!  It happened and then, next chapter!  "The next morning the sun shone brightly"...no.

I wrote that murder scene in and would have to deal with it.  I would have to sit and look at the ugly side of life and humanity in my protagonist and antagonist's eyes. Could I do it?  Could I embellish and imagine the horrible event and the emotional aftermath and write a believable chapter?  All I'd ever killed was a Maine lobster in a soup pot of boiling water and an enormous ant pile I discovered by my back patio last summer.

Did I need that scene? Couldn't I make this novel a feel good novel where everyone is happy and in love?  There doesn't have to be a murder!  Uh...no. I'm a realist and that's what would happen in my novel.  I couldn't be afraid to tackle difficult questions, ask those difficult questions.

Then, something came back to me from my counseling days - pain is pain.  We will never know exactly how a victim or a perpetrator feels, even if we've experienced such crimes ourselves. Each of our experiences will be different and our reactions all our own.  I could only write the sections as I imagined because I'm human and I'm not immune to pain. All we can do is walk alongside another person.

Unlike counseling, authors take their reader's hand and lead them where they want them to go.  We lead, show and then, move on. We can't control how our readers perceive our scenes and interpret our stories.  The best we can do is to be as honest and genuine as we can in the telling of our stories. And, that's what I did.  

Then I watched part of a Disney movie until I realized that Disney killed off way too many mothers!!  What's up with that?!  Bambi, Snow White and didn't Cinderella and Ariel lose their mother's too?  Don't get me started...

Peace, love, unicorns and rainbows!

Ellie



  




Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Promise Me...

So, our temps today were in the low 60's and tomorrow should be even warmer which is amazing   for the end of January.  I remember a frozen Potomac River two years ago in February, so maybe what my West Virginia neighbors tell me is true - hold onto your hats. They may be right because I heard that we might be getting snow this coming Friday. Hard to believe today as I cleaned my house in shorts and flip flops!

I opened the windows this morning and turned off the heat, hoping that the beautiful breeze coming through the windows would clear my house of any nasty winter bugs in the air. The house is clean and the air smells fresher. I needed this day to regroup and fill my wells, emotional and mental.

Earlier this month, I sent out three query letters and received two positive replies from two agents.  I was thrilled and gladly sent them the first three chapters.  It's been a scary month, waiting for replies from the agents; to say that I checked my emails a dozen times a day wouldn't be a lie.

In the meantime, I kept editing and rewriting my manuscript and managed to finish three fantastic books on writing that have permanent places on my writing shelves, The Scene Book - A Primer for the Fiction Writer by Sandra Scofield, The Forest for the Trees by Betsy Lerner and  The Writer's Guide to Character Traits by Linda N. Edelstein, Ph.D.  If you haven't read these books, find them!  I learned so much and with Scofield's advice and tips, I've rewritten many paragraphs that now read more polished and professional.

The books helped me remain calm, well, calmer during the waiting period.  Over the weekend, I received a very nice email from one of the agents telling me that she enjoyed reading my chapters, likes my writing style, but unfortunately the market isn't kind to historical novels.  They're hard to sell.  Well, I think my novel fits perfectly in women's fiction, as well.  Yes, the story begins in the 1900's, but the issues, challenges and themes of the women at that time aren't that much different from what women face today.

I wrote the agent back, thanking her for her time and for considering my novel. Although I was a bit bummed out, I also realized that I'd only sent three queries with two replies.  Not bad, Ellie, I told myself.  In 2006 I finished writing the novel and sent out 100 query letters and received eight positive replies from agents. My story hits a nerve and it's interesting, exotic and different. The consensus from the agents was that I had two stories in one. They recommended that I split the story and I was about to when my life turned upside down with a separation after a 25 year marriage.  The story remained in a box until earlier this year.

So, I'm okay.  I'm proud of my story and the story it has become with a long year of rewrites and a wonderful editor's help.  I've dusted myself off and vow to send as many query letters as I can this week. Did I hope that God and the stars would have taken pity on me and said, "She's paid her dues.  It's her time now"?  Yes, I did :) Hey, I'm human!

But, instead of sweating it, I decided to continue to enjoy, caress, love and make my story the best story I can write.  I decided (because it makes me feel better) that the market may be into chick lit and present day stories at the moment, possibly because this economy has many of us stressing out about money, jobs and we need light reading. Maybe historical novels or novels set in the 1900's require a certain type of reader, audience and agent.  Could be.  But, I'm not giving up, not by a long shot.

I'm not going to flail around and tread water during this time and I'm not going to sink like a rock, either! Time has shown me that I'm a fighter and a survivor.  A marital separation, a trans-Atlantic move, losing my house, and divorce didn't do me in and this won't either.  I'll find the right agent who loves and believes in my story as much as I do. Could someone please help the economy!

I prefer to look at this time as a gift because every time I turn around, I'm learning more and more about writing and the writing life.  I don't remember who said it, but several authors have written that I need to enjoy the time before publication and new challenges come up with selling books and keeping readers reading my book.  I'll never be a virgin again :)

Peace and love,
Ellie


Sunday, January 27, 2013

Don't Play, Take It Seriously!



Happy Sunday to you and what a beautiful sunny day it is!  My day started out by bundling up and walking through the downtown area to attend Mass, followed by french toast, 2 slices of bacon, and two coffees at our local diner served by a nice waitress who called me Hon, Sweetie and Sugar.

I ask you...HOW can you have a bad day when your body, heart, soul and tummy are full and happy?

I left the diner as the lunch and after-church crowd started streaming in and headed to our public library down the street.  My favorite librarian greeted me and winked as she whispered that the fancy computer with the large monitor in the private room was available.  So many nice people on on this beautiful sunny day!

As I got situated to prepare to write this blog, I realized something, had a light bulb moment if you will.  I briefly interacted and shared moments with many wonderful people today at church, the diner and the library, but I haven't had one conversation.  Not one.

I shook hands, said good morning, offered the people around me the sign of peace in church, gave the waitress my breakfast order, and when I dribbled syrup on my white tank top, I asked the same waitress for a bit of water to remove the stain.  I thanked her, paid my bill, asked for a diner mug that I heard was on sale, thanked the cashier, said hello to the librarian, and thanked her for the heads up on the private room.  I had exchanges, but no real conversation.

I did, however, people watch before Mass started, listened to conversations around me at the diner, watched people's eating habits, and wondered if my protagonist would say this or that and if so, how would she say this or that?

Welcome to the world of the writer :)

I edited, wrote and rewrote all this week.  From Monday through Saturday, I sat at my laptop and only got up to eat, walk Ozzy, feed him and Pierre, and make chicken noodle soup in my crock pot.  I took an evening walk with my Pug and rediscovered how utterly beautiful snow looks at night under streetlights.  I saw diamonds and glitter all the way home. What a gift!

I guess you can figure out that this week, I didn't see many people and you'd be right. Other than a ten minute visit with a neighbor mid-week and a two minute conversation with another neighbor as we shoveled the sidewalks in front of our homes, I was silent.  Me and my novel.

As a creative child who loved to write and draw, I was in my head quite a bit. However, I was also a social child with a younger sister and many friends to play with. I didn't isolate myself, but when I needed time to myself, I took it and loved it as much as climbing trees or playing Tetherball in our school playground.

Today, I'm much the same way.  I love socializing with friends on Friday and Saturday evenings and try to save Sundays for myself unless I'm visiting with my beautiful daughter and son or visiting friends in Northern Virginia.  During the week, I putter around my house during writing breaks and don't answer the telephone, but will answer texts if I see them.  I play inside the house with my characters, my story line and figuring out who will say what and how will they look when they say it.  I'm in my head and I love it.

Now, I'm no hermit, believe me and if a nice man asked me out on a date, I'd go (only on the weekend!).  In winter, I take walks and in the spring, I get my hands dirty in my gardens or I fish on the river.  I love the outdoors. Come spring, I'll be editing, writing and rewriting at my place on the river, combining many of my passions.

Is there such a thing as being TOO much inside our heads with our writing? Not unless you don't come up for air, get no exercise or fresh air, or if you repeatedly avoid family and friend's invitations to get together. We do need some down time, but I've realized that even during down time with family and friends, I'm still thinking about my book.

Hey, most people have jobs and honey, this writing life IS my job.  I take this seriously :) So, my title is playful because we need down time, play time if you will, and hopefully, writing will always feel like play to me.  Not that I don't take it seriously, now.  I do, but the time I spend in my head is play time to me.

P.S. I can't find the photographer's name nor the title of the photograph. Sorry for that!

Peace and love,
Ellie

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Risky-Risque Business of Writing


Amen.  This quote says it all for me.  I could stop writing this very moment and you'd get it.  Risk.  You gotta take some! I've taken lots of risks as an writer, poet and writer, more when I decided to write full time.

Risky behavior.  Get you some. I highly recommend that, too! But, not like you might think I mean...but, then again...it would depend on what risky means to you, right?

I'm talking risky - daring, venturesome, adventurous, chancy, hit or miss, uncertain risky.  I'm not talking about risque behavior, just risky. (Please forgive the missing accent on the "e", mine doesn't seem to want to work today). But, wait a minute!!

Risque - off color, ribald, bawdy, racy, spicy, daring, blue. Hold the press!  If you write romance novels or real life stories about real life, genuine people doing real life, genuine things, you're going to have to be risque!  I have a couple of sex scenes in my novel-length manuscript, A Decent Woman, and you know what? They were hard to write. I write great romantic scenes, they come easily to me, however, a scene with lovemaking and having sex? (Yes, two different animals!)  Not so much!  I have two children so I'm not a nun, but when I wrote the lovemaking scenes, my brain was saying, "Oooh, that's too raunchy, Ellie!" or "Too clinical!" My writing had either TMI, had too little detail, or the writing read clinical or unbelievable.

How much is too much? And, I don't mean that in a philosophical way!  Literally, how much is too much? Is there an art to writing sex scenes? Is there a right and wrong way?

It depends. No. Yes.  Maybe.  There seems to be an art to writing a sex scene. Actually, there has to be. I'm off to read some sexy scenes on a frigid winter day, no pun intended :) Anais Nin, here I come and I'm not reading "Fifty Shades of Gray", either.  No, thanks. I've read too many bad reviews about the author's writing aka bad writing, and I don't mean bad in the "bad girl" kind of way!  I mean bad writing!  Sheesh! I'm signing off now :)

Stay warm wherever you are!

Peace and love,
Ellie


Monday, January 21, 2013

When The Manuscript Leaves The Nest

What an exciting couple of days we've experienced with President Barack Obama's inauguration on Martin Luther King's birthday, made even more special and momentous for many reasons. One of my favorite special moments was when President Obama was sworn in on Abraham Lincoln and Dr. King's Bibles.

Whether you voted for President Obama or not, Washington looked beautiful and you had to be proud to be an American today - I was.  I'm not a political person nor do I enjoy talking politics, but I did enjoy the President's speech. President Obama mentioned immigration laws, gay rights, the environment, and doing better.  We have to do better and there is so much more for us to do in this country.

A lot of hard work is ahead of us collectively and individually.  We can no longer believe that we are separate entities.  We are one nation under God.

I know there are many, many wonderful and wise quotes by President Obama and Dr. King I could use today, but this quote by Bill Cosby is appropriate for me tonight.  The quote is fitting for me at this stage of my life - as a writer and future published author.

As I near the end (this thought will probably change tomorrow!) of this editing session of my manuscript, the closer I get to the next stage - finding an agent.  That next step has always been in the distance, not way in the distance future, but not in the next few months. Well, I changed that earlier this month.  I felt ready.  I sent out two query letters and received two replies back for the first three chapters.  To say that I was happy to receive the emails would be a major understatement!  So, now we wait.  My fingers are crossed now.

"I managed to avoid the initial slush pile!", I kept saying to my kitten, Pierre and my Pug, Ozzy who just looked at me, wondering if their special treats were behind my back.  I was over the moon and then some, but I was also afraid.  I AM afraid.  My manuscript, my baby, has left my very safe nest and is out in the world...that's a very scary thought.  I can't protect 'her' and I can't speak for 'her'.  My story, must stand on her own two feet like my two adult children have done and done well!

I created my story. I've fed and nurtured the story and my characters and also cut out people, places and things that would otherwise harm and/or detract from the story line. I've soothed, challenged and tested my story and characters and I feel the novel is ready. Will I find another typo, a misspelled word, or a word in italics that shouldn't be?  Yes, probably. I'll keep reading, tightening and checking that baby until I'm blue in the face. Or until the blue ink in my pen runs out!

It's been an emotional weekend for me and I'm sure I'll sleep well tonight. Tomorrow, it's back to my manuscript and back to the reading and double checking.  And, checking my emails about a couple hundred times a day :)

Today is the anniversary of my beautiful mother Mercedes's passing.  Te amo, Mami.

Peace and love,
Ellie




Friday, January 18, 2013

Some Things Can Wait, Others Won't!

Hello!

Last night, my neighbor told me the sun would be out this morning after a gray, dismal week with little sun, so I decided to leave the bedroom curtains open last night. She was right.  I woke up to sun in my eye and it felt great. I lay in bed for a couple of minutes, soaking up the sun's warm rays and then, I noticed the dirty streaks on my windows that I'd apparently missed when I cleaned them...in the fall?  No matter! The sun was out! I'd get to them later.

Instead of the usual "I wonder what time it is" before throwing the comforter off, I bounded out of bed. I was up way late last night with my novel and despite feeling a bit tired, I washed my face and went to make a pot of tea.  I let my Pug, Ozzy out, put the kettle on, and walked out onto my kitchen porch in my robe.  Beautiful! Blue skies and very little clouds.  Then, I noticed that the white paint on my wicker chairs was flaking off...really flaking. I'd have to get on that soon. But, not today!  The sun was out!  There's always March.

I fired up the laptop, watched Pierre, my kitten, jump from the dining room table to the top of the armoire (his first time!) and then, decided that instead of continuing the edits and rewrites on my novel, it was time to print out the entire manuscript. I wanted to read my book, A Decent Woman, and my reading eyes needed a break from the computer screen, too. No printer?  No problem!  I'd take a sunny day walk to the library where the very sweet and helpful librarian lets me use the library's fancy shmancy computer in the back room with the equally fancy shmancy, super fast printer! She's very nice to writers and future authors :)

As the printer spit out the 263 pages of my novel, I read the first page as I've done a couple hundred times over the years.  Something didn't feel right.  I couldn't put my finger on it.  I decided to reread the first paragraph.  Yep, it's in there.  I honed in on the first sentence...holy crap. 

My vision has recently turned into a "You can say it better, poor usage, bad grammar-seeking missle!!

Nothing was really wrong with the first sentence, BUT it could be explained and described even better!!  ARGH!  Needless to say, when the 263 pages were out, I'd already reworked the first sentence...and I loved it.

I printed out the new first page again because I'm a Virgo, wrapped up my manuscript and walked home, holding my precious bundle called A Decent Woman.  The reason for these new eyes - one reason.  Natalie Goldberg.  She's the reason I'm fleshing out the mss, rereading with new eyes, staying with the mystery, slowing down when I want to rush forward, and describing the crap outta things!  Yep, it's Nat's fault. And, I love her dearly.

My dirty windows can wait and so can the wicker chairs.  Ozzy will always have to go out and Pierre (and I) will always reach new heights.  I'll always love a pot of tea and I'll continue to walk every day, rain or shine. I'll write at home and at the library.  Some things can wait and some things won't.

Rewrites, edits and learning through writing never seems to end and cannot wait.  I'm okay with that even if the sun isn't shining.

Peace and love,
Ellie



Friday, January 11, 2013

Kindles and Comadres



I have to tell you that since my daughter gave me her Kindle...I'm reading more than ever!  When my daughter mentioned the Kindle, I was very hesitant.  I love my books!  I love how books smell, I love buying and holding books!  How could I get used to a Kindle?  Well, I quickly got used to it and I love mine.

I love reading in bed and a Kindle is perfect for me.  I don't have to worry about turning pages or balancing the book or paperback on my chest as I lie in bed, and for goodness sake, I don't have to leave my comfy bed and warm covers, to turn out the light.  Why?  Because the Kindle has a handy built-in light!  This blog might make you smile because you've already had yours for quite a while, but I'm a late bloomer in many ways :)

Since November, I've finished five books...unheard of in my life of late.  I read the two books my daughter already had on the Kindle I inherited from her and on an Amtrak train bound for Union Station in Washington, DC, I "bought" two books on my own.  I was so proud of myself and in awe of what we can do these days :)  Yes, I'm old and I thought I was too old-fashioned to get used to this newfangled bit of technology.  It's awesome!

For Christmas, my daughter and her boyfriend gave me a gift certificate for Kindle and I've had a great time perusing the book titles and genres.  The latest book I ordered (and read in one night, mind you) was Count on Me: Tales of Sisterhoods and Fierce Friendships.

This beautiful collection of personal stories is a must-read.  I couldn't put the Kindle down.  I smiled, fell in love, and laughed out loud with stories of sisterhoods, comadres, compadres, and yes indeed, fierce friendships.  My spirit soared and my heart broke reading the words of the authors in this collection who I already count as friends although we may never meet. They have my heart :)  I highly recommend this book to you and I will, no doubt, read it again.

I am extremely fortunate to have my own group of comadres and compadres.  This group of friends, new and old, cyber and real, continue to be part of my life.  These friends continue to be an integral part to my personal and spiritual growth and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Tomorrow, I'll share a bit about the comadres and compadres in my inner circle whose friendships I treasure.  Happy Friday to you!

Peace and love,
Ellie~








Sunday, January 6, 2013

Holes, Loopholes and Questions




I felt it coming on yesterday - the winter cold.  I prayed it wasn't some type of crazy flu.  The scratchy throat, fatigue, and the dull headache began in the morning and I immediately started a round of Airborne, sprayed Zicam on my tongue and began popping probiotics.  Could I nip this upper respiratory illness or flu bug in the bud?  I was hopeful and determined, but I usually have one nasty cold per winter.  Ugh, was this the one?

I made a pot of tea, put on thick ski socks and wrapped myself in the dark pink chenille robe that my daughter left at my house one Spring break and got cozy on the couch with the television remote.  I curled up with one romantic comedy after another.  I did.  For about ten hours.  That's a lot of love, romance and break-ups for anyone!  An overload, really.  A movie marathon of meet-ups, hook-ups, break-ups and happily ever after. All that did was remind me that I was a single woman in my 50's who is more likely to be hit by lightning than find love...great.

Food.  Food would make me feel better.  Since I had nothing but three eggs, no butter and no cheese for the omelet I was craving, I called China King and waited patiently as the woman finished screaming at someone in Chinese before giving her my order. I held the phone away from my ear as she barked my order and then, I waited 50 minutes for a quart of Won Ton Soup and a pint of Garlic Shrimp that promised to be hot enough to kill this cold and clear my sinuses.

As I waited for the delivery man, I flipped through the stations and decided that a pay-for-view was in order.  Nothing caught my eye and then, I saw the title of a movie I'd wondered about, The Word.  I'm a person who buys books by the title and reading a tiny bit of the back cover.  I don't like to know what a movie or book is about before watching or reading, and God love you, if you tell me the ending!  Since I hadn't had the energy to tackle the edits on my novel yesterday, I thought I might be entertained and inspired by watching a movie about a writer.

The Word was well-acted, but to me it was a limp film about a struggling writer whose manuscripts are rejected time and time again (not great for my morale or headache) and who discovers an old manuscript inside a leather briefcase he finds in a Parisian antique store.  After reading the masterpiece and agonizing a bit, the writer decides to copy the exact manuscript, word for word, and give it to an agent who immediately wants to represent him and his book.  Said writer becomes rich and famous...and of course, the real author of the manuscript comes forward.  I thought it would have made a better murder mystery which it would have been if I'd discovered that someone else had stolen my lost manuscript and called it his/her own!

I never connected with the characters of this film and it was a good lesson in writing.  They seemed one dimensional to me and the film felt rushed.  We must connect with our readers at a deep, emotional level.  It just wasn't there for me.  Although the film was entertaining, I was left with questions and there were holes that were never filled.  It was the kind of movie that left me shrugging my shoulders at the end.  Eh.

Before falling asleep, I thought about my own manuscript, A Decent Woman.  I vowed to make sure that I didn't leave holes and/or create unrealistic loopholes in my story.  Will readers love my characters and will they relate to them, especially since my heroines live in Puerto Rico in the 1900's?  Will I receive many rejections along the way to publication?  Do I have enough thick skin to withstand negative reviews?  Will I find love before I turn 60?!  Yes, all these questions before bed!  Ha ha!

I woke up several times last night, grinding my teeth and blowing my nose, but slept relatively well.  This morning, I woke up feeling a little blah and decided that my three friends, Airborne, Zicam and probiotics, will keep me company today along with my heroines.  I love my heroines and I still believe in my story.

I do and so, on we go.  Cold or no cold!  I've got work to do.

Peace and love,
Ellie









  



Friday, January 4, 2013

Living Your Creative Life


Hello!

I snapped this photo of my place on the Potomac River in West Virginia last summer on a sunny August day.  From April to October, this is my favorite place to write and paint.  I love it out there.  I usually set up my painting studio in April and I find much inspiration for nature photography, as well.  If I choose to write in the morning and paint in the afternoon and edit photographs in the evening, I can do that.

I never intended to move to West Virginia permanently, however.  The piece of land I was searching for was supposed to be a weekend retreat and a sanctuary away from the DC area rat race, traffic, smog and a rewarding job that included so much paperwork and red tape, that I was constantly stressed out. And, this property had to be within a two hour drive from Northern Virginia where I was living (renting) and working.  I had to make my money work for me after divorce and Scarlet O'Hara's father's words echoed in my head:

"It will come to you, this love of the land. There's no gettin' away from it if you're Irish."

Well, I'm not Irish, but I did want a permament home for my kids to come home to during holidays and a place where we could make new memories after my bitter divorce.  For a year, I searched the Web, combed through realty magazines, and perused countless realty websites for a plot of land that would fuel, encourage and sustain my creativity and dreams.  I stumbled on the ad on a Friday night, called the realtor and drove out Saturday morning, making an offer on the property that night! When I stood on the riverfront patio of the property, looking out onto the frozen Potomac River, I knew I was home.  This was the place.  I realized right then and there that this was a pivotal moment in my life.  I was at a crossroad in my life and I knew it.  This felt momentous and huge and I didn't know why.  I only knew that I loved that property and felt it would become more than a weekend escape and it was.  The property had a one bedroom Park model camper on it and a pontoon boat with no motor :)  This was no villa by any stretch of the imagination, but that view is amazing.

We closed on the property in late February and by May, I'd also closed on my house - in West Virginia.  I didn't see that coming!  Neither did my kids, friends and family who thought I'd lost my marbles.  I heard everything from "what are running from?" and "how will you live?", I heard it all :) But, in my heart of hearts, I knew this was a new beginning for me and a real opportunity to live the creative life I'd always dreamed of.

I paint and write at the river from April to October.  We have no Internet nor cable at the river and no plans to install them.  I'm never bored out there and I find much inspiration in nature, so it's perfect for me.  There are few distractions at the river and it's a quiet place during the week which is when I usually write and paint.  On the weekends, there are boats, jet skis, and pontoon boats on the river, plenty of action and at night, it's loud with parties, BBQs, family reunions, and pimped-out golf carts, complete with boom boxes and speakers!  I love entertaining at the river and my friends from the DC area love to visit, leaving the city behind for a more simple life.  The river never disappoints unless you must have TV and the Internet at your disposal.

From November to March, I write at home.  There is no water or electricity at the river in the winter months  (unless we purchase a generator), so that's when I go home.  Home is a 106 year old house in West Virginia, about twenty minutes from the Potomac River which is great.  I set up my writing shop on my dining room table that faces a window that gives me a great view of the front flower garden that I worked so hard creating last year.

It was a great move for me in many ways.  I live in a large town with a small town feel with few traffic issues and I love the slower pace of life.  No rush, rush.  No high cost of living and since I live in the downtown area, most everything I need is within a block or two.  These days, I rarely drive my car unless the river is calling to me or I decide to take an impromptu road trip. If I need a DC "fix" and plan on seeing my kids and family in Northern Virginia and Maryland, I walk a block to the train station and voila!  In two hours, I'm at Union Station in Washington, DC.

I don't have to travel far for a writing retreat or for a solitary spiritual experience.  I'm blessed to have these two places that afford me what I need to live a creative life, but they didn't come without considerable sacrifices and concessions on my part. I also had to make many internal changes in myself to create the life I envisioned for myself as a full-time artist and writer.  Gave myself a good talking to :)

What do you want?
What do you want to be when you grow up?
If you could not fail, what would you do?
How badly do you want it?
What are you willing to do and/or give up to achieve that goal?

Living in a large West Virginia town might be everyone's cup of tea, but for me?  It's great.  If my home had a wood-burning fireplace and if we had a hot tub at the river, it would be perfect!  Let's see what I can do about those two wishes :)

Believe. Create your life.  Visualize what you want and work toward that goal.  Make decisions and choices, small and large, that will move you closer to your dream.  Dare to dream and live large!

Your dream may not end up looking like your original dream, at all.  It might better than you ever dreamed.

Peace and love,
Ellie




Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The New Year's Eve Conga Line



Happy New Year to you!

I rang in the New Year with my friends and neighbors, Miss Ellie and her husband, at the local VFW which is a club for US veterans of foreign wars.  I had every intention of watching the ball drop at home at home in my jammies with Ozzy and Pierre, my Pug and Maine Coon, and ended up doing the conga line in a LONG line of New Year's Eve conga dancers!  Don't you just love when stuff like that happens?!

Around 3 that afternoon, I remembered that Miss Ellie (I'm known as the Other Ellie on the street since I moved in) had told me about this event a few weeks back.  Why not?  They'd kindly invited me and I'd forgotten!  My father was a vet and so was my ex-husband of 25 years, his father and brother, as well.  I had connections!  Not to mention, plenty of potential conversation starters with vets and their wives as a former Army brat and an ex Army wife.  This could be a fun night and Miss Ellie and her husband are a fun couple!  He's a former Marine and one of the youngest Vietnam vets at the VFW.  A quiet, unassuming guy whose body tells his Vietnam experience with dozens of amazingly amazing tattoos. Why sit alone on New Year's Eve when I could dance the night away with friends, right?

Around 4 pm, I texted Miss Ellie who immediately texted back, "Don't eat dinner and get your butt down here!  LOL!!"  Done!  I jumped in the shower and pondered about what to wear.  What do you wear to a VFW shindig in West Virginia, I wondered.  Sequins, a cocktail dress or jeans?  Since I don't own a single sequin anything, I decided on a shiny black top, my tailored black blazer, black heels and jeans.  Kinda festive, but not New Year's Eve attire to me, so I added great pair of faux diamond hoop earrings.  Done!
The VFW is literally behind my house, so I walked over in my heels, wishing I'd worn flat boots as I gingerly sidestepped the icy patches on the sidewalk. At least I knew I'd be walked home and no one would have to drive!

I pressed the buzzer at the imposing front door and was buzzed in. A private club?  Exclusive to be sure!  The huge bar was decorated with streamers and Christmas lights and several men and a few couples sat on bar stools, nursing drinks.  Mostly men over 60 who smiled when I walked up to the bar, asking for Miss Ellie.  Potential dance partners?!  The friendly bartender (turns out she was a Navy brat) informed me that Miss Ellie was in the kitchen, helping out and that if I decided to stay on to dance, there would be a five dollar cover charge.  Done!  

I wasn't surprised to see Miss Ellie behind the grill as she is a superb chef. As our steaks sizzled on the grill, her husband joined us.  Our evening began with a fantastic New York strip steak, a baked potato with everything on it and a salad in the VFW "diner".  Super dinner!  I'm a red wine devotee and when I was informed that they didn't carry red wine, I opted for scotch and water.  Hadn't had one in over 20 years and the good scotch went down easy :)  With the huge dinner, I knew I wasn't in danger of getting overly tipsy that evening, but I did need to dance off those calories!

And, dance we did!  The DJ was awesome and my hips can you the story of how I danced for about...five hours!  In heels!  I danced with Miss E and her hubby, with two vets and Miss E's hubby, with other women in circles and lines, and in a conga line that went through the VFW, out the door, spilled onto the sidewalk and back into the VFW!  I conga'd with new neighbors in my new town and made new friends.  

It was after the conga line that I remembered my traditional Puerto Rican custom - the glass of water!  I got a glass of water from the bartender and sat it at my table.  At 11:30, we donned shiny cardboard hats and tiaras, got lei'd, and were each given a cardboard horn to blow.  We danced to a couple more songs and at midnight, I ran to throw out my water.  All the negative of 2012 was thrown out the door of my local VFW onto the sidewalk!  Gone!

When I got back to my table, my daughter was calling :)  I could barely hear her over the music, horns and laughter, but we managed by yelling!  I was really glad to hear her voice and she, of course, had thrown out her water!  Good girl!  I texted my son, my sister and friends who began to text back.  It was so much fun!

We left the VFW at 12:20 and I was home in my jammies at 12:30!  The following morning, the first of 2013, I got a call to come over in my jammies and share a huge country breakfast at Miss Ellie's :)  I ran over with an empty coffee cup as I'd forgotten to buy half and half!  

I rested all day yesterday and wondered how many calories I'd burned only to consume much more at breakfast!  Who cares?!  I had a great NYE and a wonderful New Year's Day.  I hope you did, too :)

Oh, and my January 2013 horoscope by Susan Miller predicts that I'll be busy this month with a new creative project that will keep me busy all year!  Yay!  My novel!  And, that I'll find love.  Who knows, right?  Apparently, my stars and planets have been in retrograde for years in the love department and this January, I have five important planets around my sun sign.  Girl, I could have told Susan that!

Peace and love to you,
Ellie