Peanut Butter and Jelly

Who doesn’t like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches? I love them. I have them for lunch many times. Something quick, easy, and filling. Some people like to cut out the bread corners. I cut out the side corners but like the top corner; it is like a door to delight. Sometimes, I eat the end corner; sometimes I do not. Why am I writing about peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and cutting the corners?

Sometimes, people like to cut corners. They like the quick and easy route. I have found that some people would like to cut corners when it comes to writing or publishing a book. They want to cut corners to enjoy the filling right away. I understand the excitement of publishing your first book; it is like nothing else. People who want to cut corners and jump right away are just excited enough. Sometimes, people expect to know in only one conversation everything that it took me years to learn. If I say something along the lines of “educate yourself on as much as you can about the writing process and publishing business,” it might be misinterpreted as an unwillingness to pass on the information. On the contrary, the intention is of meaning well enough to care. It took me years of research and study on my own to learn as much as I could on the topic before attempting to self publish. I had to make sure that I understood the current trends, technology, as well as to what type of publishing suited my personality, work ethic, and style. I only sent out one query, and as soon as I sent it I knew that I didn’t really wanted to pursue traditional publishing. It was then, after learning some more, that I decided to publish my first novel independently.

It is to the aspiring writer best interest to learn much about the craft, to know herself/himself well enough to know how to choose the best writing path. Industry, genre, writing methods, technology, trends, websites, publishing industry methods … all plays a role in the deciding factor. Many times, writing is approached with money signs in mind – “How much money will I make, and how quickly?” Again, cutting corners. No one can guarantee that you will make money writing. Some writers do well soon enough, while others do not do as well or it takes more than 10 years of hard work to see any financial pay off.

The internet opened a new world as far as writing is concerned. It opened the flood gates and brought opportunity to those who were not able to afford the steep price of self publishing back then. It has allowed me to publish my novels, and accomplish my dream of writing. For that I am grateful. However, when I entered into this beautiful and exciting world I did it with knowledge and sure of what my next step would be, as far as publishing my work. People assume that x amount of books published equals money. That is not necessarily true. They might even change tunes (even with you) when they realize that the bulk of the peanut butter and jelly is at the center of the sandwich. Cutting corners might get one quicker to the center but something will be missing – the knowledge to get there, and keep on going.

I treat writing like any other course of study and post education. Whether you do it on your own or by pursuing a degree from college as many others have done, the important factor is that you obtain the knowledge you need to pursue your writing career clearly. Knowledge is to your advantage always. If in it for the long run, the more prepared you are the better.

Whispering Trees

When I moved to the old farmhouse I had already come up with a name for it; I called it Mill Creek Little Trees. The name came to me after thinking of all the little pine trees that grew freely on the property when I first saw it – abandoned, dilapidated, and covered in wild vines and overgrown trees and bushes. In just a few years, and by the time we moved in, they had grown very large and beautiful. I am glad we let them be. Not long ago I was walking outside, and a gentle breeze made its way through the trees. It caught my attention because it seemed as if the trees were whispering, as if nature was having a soft conversation. I felt at peace. It occurred to me that a better name would have been Whispering Pines. I have loved pine trees since I was a child, any type of pine tree. It is synonym of joy, at least for me.

I am convinced that nature’s purpose is to provide peace, joy, solace, and inspiration when humans need it most. It is balance to our lives, and we naturally gravitate to it. Even in the busiest cities, people find a way to commune with nature, whether it is by visiting a park, placing a few potted plants on a window sill, or enjoying the company of a pet. Nature is a stabilizer to our human chaos. It gives us life, literally. We are part of nature but we tend to feel separate from it, as observers. I’ve asked myself if that is just human perception because when I observe animals they seem to flow with the rest of nature, and at peace with it. Our species must harness, conquer, possess, and subdue, and for some reason, it doesn’t feel as a natural flow as with other species; it seems forceful in some way.

The theme of human redemption appears on my novels and I am considering a novel with a stronger approach to the duality of our human nature. Not so much about good vs evil but more about the ambivalence of our fragile/strong soul. I am not a hundred percent sure yet but it seems more likely the more I think about it. For now it is just an idea, a whispering thought.

On Purpose

Finding purpose seems to be a human purpose in itself. The quest that many times keeps us awake at night. What is my purpose in life? I used to ask myself that for so many years, and the answer seemed to elude me always. I engaged in many endeavors; pretty much, what I fancied at the time, I did. It was just a matter of doing it. I failed many times; I enjoyed many others, and so the tiny bits of happiness those endeavors brought. It seemed to me that once I was satisfied and “done” with something, I was on to something else. There was a sense of missing purpose in the back of my mind. Still is, but only at times. It presents itself as a question – am I doing what I am supposed to be doing? I remember telling someone who had been a teacher all her life, that I could not picture myself doing one thing for all my life. She told me, “I hope you find what you are looking for.” Very wise woman.

It wasn’t until I read this biblical verse that things became more clear for me. I had read the same verse many times, and yet I never saw the connection until one day, when I was feeling a bit lost in my current at the time endeavor.

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Mathew 5:16)

What could be a bigger purpose than that? It doesn’t matter what I am doing at a particular time, as long as it serves that purpose. It is even bigger than I thought purpose could be for me. It is even intimidating, as filling those shoes is a quest in itself for such an imperfect me. When I read it, I understood that everything I do must cast a light that glorifies my creator. Wow, I thought; this is too big to even comprehend, and yet so simple and straight forward. It changed the way in which I view purpose now.

If you are searching for purpose, wherever you are in life, think about this verse. It will give meaning to it. Purpose won’t feel so far away or eluding you. I have written this verse on a card and placed it where I sit in the morning everyday, just so I don’t forget, because I tend to be an imperfect human who might forget her blessings at times. Someone who thinks that letting her light shine before men is challenging enough.

The Earth is Round No More

While thinking about a novel I may (or may not) write, this poem made its way into my mind.  I had to pen it down as soon as it showed up, and decided to include it as today’s post. I am working on two ideas for future novels, and I am unsure of what will be next (usually the loudest idea wins), while I continue to work on the current novel, which I almost lost, hence why it has taken so long to publish. I hope you enjoy this little piece of imperfect poetry.

Earth is Round No More

Earth is round no more

it has turned into a box

a square of criticism

the righteous chant of all.

 

Boxed in it rests our humanity,

understanding, and our love.

The lid so tightly closed

The air, stale down below.

 

A planet of diversity

turned into one of selfies

quick to shout geometric words

slow to think beyond the box.

 

Earth is round no more

Crucify the next cyber post

Messiah, of  gigabytes born

The Beast claimed the throne.

 

Earth is round no more

Hearts are wired, brains are stoned

Earth is round no more

Heaven’s stars, fallen short.

Elements of Transition

Transition – An instance or process of changing from one form, state, subject, or place to another. (American Heritage Dictionary

Life is full of periods of transition. From our conception until we die, we go through several stages during the evolution of our lives. We transition in decades, work, relationships, beliefs, likes and dislikes, appearance, and so on. It is so because we are alive. For some, there are transitional moments that present extreme challenges, and many times they come in the form of tragedy or sad news. These are defining moments. For some people, harder than for others. In any case, the outcome is defined during that process. I’ve been through many transitional moments, some easier than others, good and bad, and truthfully for the later, there were many times when I felt I didn’t know the answer, and as if I had run out of options, faithless, hopeless. I can look back at those transitional moments and see how many times the simple answer eluded me.

Pondering about these things, I was able to identify some elements or factors that might influence the duration and ease of the transition process. For the purpose of this post I will write referring to challenging and hard transitional times.

Time – Many times we feel that the catalyst to a transitional period could have not come at a worst time in our lives. We might think, why now? It is not fair. The nature of change is neither fair nor unfair; it just is. Our perception of timing is what labels it such; however, throughout the years, I’ve learned that there is no right or wrong time for change. God’s timing is perfect, even when we don’t understand it. Even when it may seem that our past actions/decisions might have caused or served as a catalyst for change. Time is human perception.

Money – Who on earth wouldn’t want a bit more of it? Unless you have taken a vow of poverty, money seems to be essential and necessary to live our lives, even if we have minimal expenses or few material desires. Money, whether in the shape of currency or any other form, seems to be necessary to propel forward. Many times, we feel that the lack of money prevents us from living our life and dreams. Although it is true that things flow easier when there is an abundance of money (at least in the perception of the material realm), lack of money should not define us. Money is a resource (as any other material instrument) to achieve something. However, during transition, we may feel that lack of money slows things down or even halts the process (hence the invention of credit). During this challenging period, it doesn’t occur to us that it is part of the transition, another piece to the puzzle, and not outside of it. Sometimes, in our most desperate moments money seems to have fallen from heaven at the right time.

Health/energy level – This concerns physical health as well as spiritual and mental health. When we feel good we have the disposition on taking on the world, but when we are not feeling 100% well, our perception of the situation changes. We feel that a situation is more difficult when we are not feeling well, are sick, or feel lost. The transition, whatever type, becomes insurmountable. Sometimes, we also experience a rush of energy to get us through, and it is only after we have gone through and looked back, that we can say, “I don’t know where from or how I got the strength to do _________ (fill the blank).

Past and new interests – Sometimes during transition, we undergo a self assessment that usually happens at the same time confusion/chaos sets in our minds. We start to discover that we have outgrown certain things, we have acquired other likes and dislikes, and other interests as well. The new you starts to emerge as part of the transition process. We have a glimpse of past and present, and even of what the future could be like. When we become clear of the things we don’t want anymore, but have been a constant in our lives, a series of emotions and feelings show up, making transition more or less difficult to deal with, however, necessary. The range of emotions/feelings seem to make things more complicated momentarily until we sort things out, discard what isn’t working, and decide, in order to move forward. There is no right or wrong length of time as it is part of the natural process of transition.

Failures/history/life experiences – Our past, our previous experiences, the labels we carry with us, our baggage, our personal history, seem to show up very loud during transition. Although it seems to make things more complicated or chaotic, it always comes with bits and pieces of insight and enlightenment, which seem to be necessary to propel us forward. Even when we seem to have lost faith when our history shows up, there is a switch that presents itself as a choice – to listen or not. It is when we choose to listen that we move forward. When we shut our eyes at the images that represent our history or close our ears to the sounds of it we are preventing our own evolution.

State of mind/attitude – We cannot be in a constant state of happiness or positivity; it is not natural. However, one can choose how to react to the challenge that is presented. The mood, the thoughts, the will are up to oneself. Of all the above mentioned elements, I’ve found that state of mind is the second most important during transition because it will determine much of the others. Our perception during a challenging transitional period might be clouded, but our attitude and disposition determine how bright the light on the other side shines through.

Faith – The personal beliefs we carry with us will support us during this time of transition. Our spiritual beliefs are there to comfort and guide us during transition. Even when we think we have lost hope and faith, those beliefs will show up in different ways to light up the path, so we find comfort and secure our step. This one, to me, is the most important of all the above mentioned elements of transition, and the one that influences all the others. Even when attitude fails, faith is there to pick us up.

These elements of transition are the ones I have identified during my transitional moments. There is no particular order to these, whether one or more, or even all at once show up during a transitional period. As a writer, I believe that transitional moments in life enrich my writing and help me portray characters and story in a more substantial way.

 

 

Everything I Thought I Wanted

Dreams, goals, pursuits, wins and loses, it all starts with a want. As early as we can distinguish between us and the outside world. Our basic needs give way to more elaborated desires. Childhood, youth, and years beyond, all full of dreams and the pursuit of those.

When I was six years old, I saw what I thought was the most beautiful coin bank at our town’s store; it was on display at the main window. It was a ceramic yellow dog with two puppies attached by a golden chain. It was the kind that you couldn’t take the money out once inside because there was no hole at the bottom of it. I remember that instance as being one of my strongest desires, and I had to have it. I remember working on all kind of home chores, and saving every penny so I could buy that coin bank (ironic). Once I had enough money, I told my grandmother to take me to the store. During that time, I was worried that someone would buy it before I could get my hands on it. My grandmother took me to the store, and I became the proud owner of the most beautiful doggy bank I had ever seen. I remember the joy and the feeling of satisfaction that day, a feeling I learned to recognized later on in life. After I admired and played with it, my goal became to fill it with coins until I could not fit one more coin inside. Again, I saved every penny, and asked my two aunts for chores, so I could earn money faster. I remember charging five dollars to wash white sneakers on one occasion. During that time, one thought haunted me – how could I get the coins out without breaking my beloved doggy bank? I loved it as much as the first day I saw it at the store. I agonized over the thought of having to break it.

The dreaded day came when I could not fit one more coin in it. Even when trying to push a coin down the opening, half of it stuck out. I remember that day like it was yesterday. I was full of hesitation, anxiety, doubt, and courage. I remember taking an old towel and placing the coin bank on top, on the floor. I grabbed my grandfather’s hammer and I froze for a few minutes, unsure of my next step. I looked at the two puppies; they appeared sad. How could I be so cruel? I knew I had to make a painful decision, and I did. The curiosity of finding out how much money was inside the coin bank was stronger than my love for it. I took the hammer and smashed it against the yellow mama dog. Coins and ceramic pieces spilled on the towel, and a five dollar bill. I looked at the money; I looked at the broken dog, and finally, I looked at the puppies, now tied to an empty golden chain. I remember the silence, the feelings of guilt, and regret. There was only one way to end it all. It seemed fair. I took the hammer and smashed the ceramic puppies. Somehow, I felt better.

The odd thing about all this is that I can vividly remember and relive the moment, but I cannot remember how much money there was in the coin bank or how I spent it later on. I have broken a few coin banks throughout the years, metaphorically speaking. Today, I remember this moment as a bittersweet one, and I smile. Almost a rite of passage. What I thought I wanted, wasn’t at all.

A New Season

Seasons change, and so do people. It is part of our human nature. We change views, places, appearance, and sometimes, beliefs. To be human is to be in constant change, and whether we realize it or not, we are in constant movement along with the universe. It is so simple, yet so profound.

I have changed throughout the years. I am not the same person I was as a child, or as a teenager, or as a young adult. A combination of factors in living produces a new me until the time of death, as far as earth time living goes.

Going through the many seasons of life is necessary, if not essential to our spiritual growth, and our humanity as well. Many times we are hard on ourselves, for many reasons; whether we miss a goal, fail at something or think we did, forgetting our many efforts at trying, and dismissing the trial and error time as of neither value nor purpose. Instead we label ourselves as failures, hopeless, or whatever label seems appropriate to our restless mind at the time. We forget the road traveled, and erase all our footprints, many times wandering in our minds and souls, and feeling a void, spiritually lost. “Not all who wander are lost,” said Tolkien, and that rings true today as at any time.

Many times, we feel that our guts, efforts, experience, resources, our timing, and everything around us is misaligned and does not suffice to attain whatever we felt was important then. The whole universe has conspired against us, we think; when in reality we have been part of that same universe that we label as outside ourselves. “All I have is me!”  we scream in anger, despair, and disappointment. “Me” as a sole proprietor of this body and mind, with disregard of the universal bond that unites all. Our human nature blinds us, and many times renders us paralyzed, fearful, broken. The same human nature that we count on to succeed beyond our wildest dreams. We grab positive thinking books, one after the other, in an attempt to fix what is “wrong with me” and light up the skies once more. We don’t realize that the darkness we feel and label as an outside-in source that is there to harm us, is our dismissal of the light we carry in us. It is dark; I forgot to turn the light on.

It is a new season, full of labels, but a new season indeed. It is always a new season.

Listening to Your Inner Voice

After my quasi tornado scare last evening, I remembered something that happened to me a few weeks ago. We’d had wind and tons of rain the day before, and I was due to go into town. As I drove, a thought popped in my mind – what if a tree falls and blocks your way home? It appeared out of nowhere, and I dismissed it as such. I took me about an hour to complete my errands, so I drove back home. When I was getting close to home, I saw a large tree across the road. It was too large, so there was no way I could move it out-of-the-way. There was a field to my right where they plant crops, and if I attempted driving through it in my small car, I was surely bound to get stuck. To my left, there were two  houses, people’s front yards mostly planted with large trees, one of which that tree came from. My dilemma was that I only knew two ways to get home, both ways now blocked by that tree. I have not been living here too long and had no idea if there was another way. In the end, I decided to cross through the front yards, weaving my car through trees until I came out ahead of the fallen tree. Later on that day, I learned that another large tree had fallen in front of that one, right where there was the only way to come out if crossing through these front yards, the rest was heavy woods. This is not the first time I have not listened to my inner voice, which has become louder these days. When I have listened, I have not regret it.

Your inner voice is very protective of you. It has many names – guardian angel, intuition, God or the Divine … . It seems to be in you, but outside as well, discernible from my own thoughts or gut feeling; however, I have learned throughout the years, that it is very easy to be dismissed by the mind/thoughts. It seems to be a loud silent/non-audible voice that will be firm, insistent, and sometimes, annoying. I have learned that the more insistent and annoying it becomes, the more serious the warning seems to be. I’ve had many instances in which I thank God that I listened to it. Despite that, I think that it is in my human nature to attempt dismissal, especially when I am focused on a task. When I look back at different instances where my inner voice was right and I was wrong, I thank God for it. Eventually, I will become a better listener. I hope you do as well.

 

In Simple Words, It is Too Loud

For me, that is. I am talking about social media. This post will be about my decision to leave most of my social media sites. I dropped social media for good; my internet presence is summed in two sites, all related to writing and my art, and this blog. Simply put, it was too loud for me, and my personality could not adjust to it. I am a bit of a lone wolf, introspective, introverted, and the quiet type. I like silence, I enjoy solitude, and I have never been a social butterfly. In an ideal world one site is good for me. Some people don’t understand this, and might suggest that I am missing so much and so many opportunities by dropping social media. How can I miss what I don’t want? I believe in doing what I enjoy, and when something becomes a chore, or is robbing me of time and focus that I rather put in something else, then it is not working for me.

Another argument is that you have to be well-connected online by having many venues to promote your work. I understand this, however, I think this only works if you love doing it in a genuine way. Besides, there are authors who don’t have a social media or internet presence, or have minimal exposure.

Argument three suggests that times have changed, and things do work different these days – the internet rules. I agree. However, it is up to me to utilize parts of it to express the parts of me that I choose to express, and that is fine. I think many people feel that they have to join every social media site to become visible, even when they don’t enjoy it anymore, become stressed about it, and are in a constant battle to keep up with it. For other people, it works just fine; it is like the air they breathe, and they are happy with it. My point is, despite the many suggestions you might hear and read, ultimately you have to do what works for you, personality and working style.

Argument four suggests that it will hurt my writing, as far as exposure goes. I write because I like to write. Right now, I love doing it, and the day I don’t love it anymore I will certainly stop writing. In that aspect, I am not worried about exposure, or ratings, or money, or fame/outside recognition… . I don’t plan to become a traditionally published author either, which seems to require a huge internet presence these days. In simple words, I have been weeding out what doesn’t apply to me.

I wrote about this topic because I think that as writers, we feel pressured to keep up and beyond, even when we don’t want to or don’t enjoy it as much. It is a personal decision to work with the tools that will benefit you and your writing, and enjoy the process as well. For some people, more is better; for other people, less is more. It all comes down to what works for you.

My Best Friends are Not Human

They were there when I needed them.

They were by my bedside when I was sick.

They comforted me when I felt lonely.

They were with me during my childhood, and throughout my entire life.

They are here now, and offer comfort any time I go to them.

They offered guidance and knowledge.

They taught me how to dream, and sometimes, they made me laugh or cry.

It has been a lifetime friendship, one I will treasure forever.

Books are my friends.

 

*A true story