Thanksgiving – In Poverty and Abundance

English: "The First Thanksgiving at Plymo...

English: “The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth” (1914) By Jennie A. Brownscombe (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tomorrow we will be celebrating Thanksgiving Day in the United States. Whether you live in abundance or in poverty, one thing is for sure – you will be thinking about “giving thanks.” The mere act of thinking about this day that we celebrate makes us ponder about the “state of our lives.” Whether you are thankful or not for your current situation has nothing to do with the level of satisfaction you derive from it.  Whether you live in abundance or poverty, your mind will reach for the file that reads “I am thankful for …” There must be something you are thankful for, just one thing.

I am thankful for many things in my life now, as well for many in the past. The future is not here yet but I aim to be grateful for it as well. When I asked myself, “What are you most grateful for and why?” I came to a halt. I could name many things I am thankful for, but I could not settle on naming just one – “the one.” Then, the answer became clear. The thing that I am most thankful for is the present second, the now. Why? Because without it, without the awareness of it, all the other things disappear from mind. It is in that second that I am alive, processing thought, that I can think of my wonderful husband, my cats, my family, friends, and all the good things around me. It is in that second, in the now, that I can experience life through my senses and brain. The scent of a traditional thanksgiving dinner, the sounds of holiday music, the pine cone candle aroma … so much to take in.

On the other side of things – the misery side – your senses and brain are probably processing different information. Maybe hunger, or pain, or heartache … so much to take in. The same milliseconds of Now, in misery and abundance become “the one thing to be grateful for” when we become one with life, with the miracle it is, beyond physical barriers. It is then that we become so grateful for the experience … just the experience.

To all of you who celebrate Thanksgiving Day, I wish you a wonderful and happy day, and to the rest of you, I wish a wonderful and happy NOW!

Writing Lesson From a Squirrel

Sometimes, little bits of wisdom come from unexpected sources, that is, if we observe and listen.

A few weeks ago, I was sitting outside eating peanuts while I talked on the phone with my aunt. I noticed a squirrel looking at me and getting close. I threw a peanut on the ground and it came running towards it. The squirrel took the peanut and ran with it, not too far, and then, I saw the squirrel bury the peanut. Right away, it came back for more. This time I threw a few peanuts to the ground. The squirrel became excited running from peanut to peanut, and grabbed one. It ran to a different spot and buried the peanut.  The squirrel repeated this process, and I added a few more peanuts to the pile. I noticed a Blue Jay bird following the squirrel and squawking loud. The squirrel ignored the bird and kept busy, running back and forth, until she buried all but two peanuts. When it returned for the last two, the squirrel climbed on a garden bench and slowly ate them. That was when the epiphany hit. This is what I learned.

The squirrel did not know about instant gratification. It worked hard saving the peanuts for the future, and ate only what it needed for the moment, enjoying it after a laborious effort, and from the bounty that it encountered that day. Although the Blue Jay bird was loud and annoying, it totally disregard its presence, and kept going back and forth until the job was done. Think of the Blue Jay as a symbol of obstacles and the negative influences in our path. You can apply this lesson to your daily living, finances, goal setting, and life in general; however, I applied it to writing. Many times, as writers we will have to work hard, put many books out, and work for peanuts, to be able to appreciate the rewards later. We may meet many Blue Jays in our path, sometimes naysayers or loud squawkers who will try to derail us from the main purpose, but we must ignore them and keep working hard to complete the job, and enjoy its rewards when we are ready.

You might be thinking that the squirrel only ate two peanuts and saved the rest. But let me tell you that after it ate those two peanuts, I deposited a whole bunch of peanuts on the ground, and the process started all over again. In the end, not only its efforts paid – it ate, it had a future source of food, and a whole new pile of peanuts to work on saving – the benefits compounded. I am sure that it will be very happy for some time.

Write, write, write, ignore the naysayers, work through the obstacles, and keep working towards the goal; in the end, your efforts will produce rewards, and the rewards will compound. I learned that from a busy squirrel in my garden.

photo by M.A.D.

photo by M.A.D.

When Inspiration is Not Enough


Cloud (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many times, I have heard that inspiration is all around us, and may show up unexpected, can come from anywhere because it is everywhere; I’ ve even written about it on this blog. However, I have found that sometimes, inspiration is not enough. How come?

For me, it happens when despite being inspired, the writing presents a challenge. I know what I have to write, or I had written it, but deep inside I have trouble dealing with it – more of a spiritual denial, I think. It is on these instances that I have to step it up a bit, and connect spiritually with my work. It helps me understand my human limitations. It helps me view the overall picture and understand why I have written it, and at the same time understand my perception of it/my conflict. This is happening now when I am writing The Book of Sharon, and another reason why it has been a challenging novel. Sometimes, I’ve had to take a few days between chapters to reconnect with the book (on purpose) and stop fighting my own limitations. I am thinking that because of this, editing will be as challenging or more when time comes.

As individuals, we have our own ways to reconnect spiritually, recharge our batteries, and try to gain a deeper understanding of our work and of the world that surrounds us. For me, prayer/meditation, contemplating nature, awareness of the moment, among other things, help with this. One thing I know for sure is not to ignore when inspiration is not enough. By taking the necessary time to do this, I think that we help and authenticate the process.


The Most Needed Break After a Novel – Emotional Exhaustion

English: Emotions Q-sort

English: Emotions Q-sort (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Emotionally exhausted – that is how I feel after writing the first draft of a novel. I find that the first draft takes a large chunk of energy out of me. Possibly because I find myself experiencing the moods and emotions of characters as I write them, and because most of the time I do not follow a rich or detailed outline, and many times the characters drive the novel. Sometimes, I do not know the ending. This is true for the novel I am writing now – The Book of Sharon. Unlike the other two, it has brought me to a new level of emotional exhaustion, and I have found myself needing to take a longer break from it during periods of writing. Part of it is because it takes a different format from the earlier novels, but also, because it is written in different voices, besides my voice as an author. It responds to the character’s individuality, but also to at least three different tones throughout, as part of the new format. It has proven to be a challenge.

After the first draft (hopefully the end of December for this one), I need to take a few weeks off from a novel before proceeding to a second draft and rewrites. I do that for every draft after. It helps me unplug not only from emotions, but also disconnect my brain from the novel, so I can approach it fresh for the next draft.  In order to go through rewrites, I need to disconnect from it as much as I can.  I have to leave the writer behind close doors, and become a reader, before it goes through other sets of eyes, and a last edit.

In general, I think writers and artists have a heightened sense of emotions, and awareness of environment. When we immerse ourselves in a fictional world, we end up experiencing a lot of it, at the same time we are creating, and it could be refreshing and exhausting. This is why sometimes, writers tend to see the editing process from outsiders with cautious eyes. The question seems to be, how can this person totally understand this world I have created, if he/she has not lived in and through it? The question is the answer. Precisely because of it; because a reader is not the writer, he/she comes to the story detached, and this enables him/her to view it with unbiased sight.

I have read that the first novel (published or not), the first story a writer creates, has a lot of the writer’s experiences/issues in it, camouflaged, and many times, it responds to an internal healing process, whether the writer becomes aware of it or not during the creative process. It is because of this closeness that a writer might not see what is missing in the pages, what is not clear to the reader; to the writer it is there, in his mind and heart, present at all times, but not necessarily clear enough for the reader.

Emotional exhaustion during writing may present itself as a total mind and heart fatigue, but also as a need to retreat for a while, as well as a resistance to go back to the story and keep on writing (not to be confused with writer’s block). One must be cautious to not overdo or over extend a much-needed break.


Reblogged from Good Time Stories – The Story of the Wemmicks: Feeling Good About Ourselves

This is such a beautiful story that I had to reblogged for all of you. Original story – Max Lucado. Enjoy!

My Good Time Stories

There are many times that we feel “beat up”, insignificant and worthless. We focus so much of our time and energy of what we think other people think and say about us, that we sometimes we forget the most important thing…how we feel about OURSELVES…despite what others say. Today’s story is a beautiful example of how we should feel about ourselves.

The Wemmicks were small wooden people. Each of the wooden people was carved by a woodworker named Eli. His workshop sat on a hill overlooking their village.

Every Wemmick was different. Some had big noses, others had large eyes. Some were tall and others were short. Some wore hats, others wore coats. But all were made by the same carver and all lived in the village.

And all day, every day, the Wemmicks did the same thing: They gave each other stickers. Each Wemmick had a box of golden…

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Perseverance – Is it Worth the Pain?

Tape measure

Tape measure (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Is it worth it? I have asked this a few times. It is a question that one time or another will cross your mind and heart. The answer to it is as individual as we are. It comes down to not so much the Why or What or even When but of How Much. How much do you want something (Fill the blank)?  This is where the answer is. I have read countless of books on achieving goals/dreams and many of them focus on the Why. Find your why and you will find a reason. This is true; however, sometimes a reason is not enough, no matter how powerful. Sometimes it comes down to how much you want something, and is it worth the pain to achieve it. By pain I mean all the things you will have to do, modify, change, refuse, sacrifice, endure … to persevere to get what/where you want.

Is it a matter of time? To each its own, time is irrelevant, I have found (although necessary as a measure in the physical). It is my perception of time that matters. How long am I willing to keep on going, on believing, on working towards this or that, on waiting, on just being there, on trying, on moving on, on … How much am I willing to give? How much of my time, my energy, my effort, my hope, my faith, my focus, my interest, my … How much? How much longer will I … persevere? Is it worth it? The answer is as individual as you are. How Much for you is all about You. You, Me, we are in constant evolution. You, Me are one and of the same. It adds another layer, doesn’t it?

Half Way There, Oh No!

The Book of Sharon (Half way - first draft)

The Book of Sharon (Half way – first draft)

What you see in the picture is setting me into panic mode. It is November 8, and I am half way to complete the first draft of The Book of Sharon (book 2 – The Dinorah Chronicles). I set a goal to finish the first draft of the novel by December 31st, and I have less than two months to do this. I have to say that I expect to finish it in time, and I will be very disappointed if I don’t (but I will). This novel presents its own challenges because of the format in which it is written (I won’t say more) – not typical. Despite the novel’s challenging approach, and a few challenges of my own, I am excited to push to meet the deadline, and will celebrate when I do. After the first draft, I usually go through 2-3 more drafts, and a final edit before publishing. It could take months before it is ready to fly. The good news is that the cover is ready (so far, unless I happen to change my mind).  So it is just down to finishing the story.

Part of the issue of finishing it on time is that I had prepared a rough short outline, a very basic bulleted list of what I thought the story would look like when finished, and that changed as we speak. The story took an unexpected turn, and I am not forcing my outline on it. I want to know where it will take me. Maybe it will take a different direction, or it may be just a turn that will eventually meet my intent, who knows. I know as much as you do now, but I am very excited to see it develop some more. For now, although a bit worried, I am happy that I am half way there.

Write, Write, Write, Then Take the Plunge and Make Things Happen

Lao Tzu, traditionally the author of the Tao T...

Lao Tzu, traditionally the author of the Tao Te Ching (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I was in elementary school, I read a quote from the Chinese philosopher Lao Tse (also known as Lao Tzu, Lao Tze, Laosi …), and it stood with me for the rest of my life. In Spanish, because that is the language in which I read it, it read “De las cosas ni lo mucho ni lo poco, en el termino medio reside el equilibrio.” Translating it to English it means, “Of things, not too little nor too much, in the middle resides the equilibrium.”  I don’t know why when I read this from a book being read in the classroom that day, this quote made a home in my memory but it has lived with me since. I remember reading it over, and liking it for some reason. In a way, I think it has permeated how I lived my life, and I don’t know if that is good or bad. It sounds the opposite to “live to the fullest all the way!” But I have always beware of excess. Thank you Lao Tse?

As a writer,  I applied that philosophy, most likely unaware of it. In the beginning, I wrote, and wrote, researched the craft, learned, pondered, kept learning, pondered some more, and decided to take the plunge. I became an indie and published my work.  The key here is that it was not a rushed or prolonged decision; it was taken after much research and deliberation, but at a comfortable time for me as a writer.  I think this quote applies to the process I experienced before self-publishing. Thank you Lao Tse.

At times, aspiring writers follow the advice “write, write, write” but that is as far as they go. They get stuck in the writing phase, and maybe do a little research about the craft, and begin doubting themselves. Fear is a normal part of the process, so is doubt. Researching and learning, while writing, will take care of those two nuisances. However, not too little nor too much (or too long) that you become paralyzed and do nothing about your future as a writer, whether that is embracing the traditional model of publishing or becoming and indie writer. At one point, you will have to find your equilibrium before taking the plunge.

The middle is where balance resides but you have to find your own middle to find your equilibrium, and decide when it is the right time for you as a writer to take the plunge. Not too little as to be unprepared, not too much as to become paralyzed by procrastination or doubt/fear. In the later, you might have to see if there are some areas where you need strength by learning a bit more, and find your balance. Once you find your equilibrium, you can make a comfortable and informed decision.  You will have found your equilibrium.

Just a Few Words

New Orleans: Thank you message in the grotto o...

New Orleans: Thank you message in the grotto of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church; added by those for whom prayer or miracles were granted (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This was not the intended post for today, but it is what I needed to write. I write it for you, as for myself. The truth is that I probably need these words more than you do. Sometimes, life has a funny way of showing up. It shows up in the expected as well as the unexpected. It would not be call living if it weren’t that way. It would be programming instead, and I particularly don’t like the word programming that much. So I have assumed the attitude of welcoming life with its expectations as well as with its surprises; in the end, I know that it serves the purpose – it completes the picture. It is the journey. Sometimes, the journey might not be as easy as expected or work  as you have planned; however, it is your journey, my journey, and it must be lived. Living the unexpected journey is the challenging part. Living the expected is always easy. It is the unexpected that shapes your character. Whoever said “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” was probably thinking along those lines. And it is a fine line sometimes. But in the end, you know, I know, who holds the pen to draw those lines. You/I hold the pen with gratitude and keep on drawing along the way or we break it into pieces. But know (I know) that a broken pen ceases to write. It is gratitude that holds the picture together.

Whatever events/challenges/the unexpected life brings you, live it with gratitude. In the end, when you halt to rest, and look back, you will do so with a smile. If you smile, then you will know that you are ready to keep walking the journey, stronger, and maybe wise as well. In your heart, my heart, we know that sometimes it takes just a few words … of gratitude, strength, wisdom, encouragement, sometimes the right unexpected words for the unexpected part of the journey. I need them, you need them, we all need them at some point in our lives.

With gratitude,