As I get older, I am very aware of how time is limited and the fact that tomorrow—or even five minutes from now—isn’t guaranteed. This realization led me to do something I never thought I’d do—travel outside of familiar places alone. Sure, I fly back and forth to Buffalo and Oregon to visit family and friends by myself all the time. I take pride in my ability to not only plan those trips, but to complete them by myself. But the trip I was contemplating was more complicated.
I wanted to travel to Hawai’i and see Maui again. The only other time I’d been to Maui, I was on a cruise and I got the usual highlights tours of the island. This time, I had a list of things I wanted to do, some for the first time, and others were repeats of things I had enjoyed before.
After working out the logistics of the trip (with a few false starts), I asked various friends and my daughter if they would accompany me on this “Bucket List” trip. I was a little amazed when no one was able and /or interested in going! Their reasons varied from “I’m not interested,” to “I have to work.”
Finally, after thinking about my options, it was obvious that there was only one choice—go by myself. For months, I waffled about whether or not I wanted to travel alone to Hawai’i—which is 2500 miles away from the nearest land mass and where I knew absolutely no one—or if I should just postpone the whole trip until someone could join me.
Finally, I decided to go—and take a chance on staying healthy, finding my way around, and being safe. One of my major concerns was being lonely. The thought of eating all of my meals without a companion was depressing. And to whom would I point out a particularly stunning or exciting sight?
I did my homework, as the saying goes, and prepared for the trip by carefully researching the hotel I chose and booking tours to accomplish my goals.
The trip was fabulous! I found out that going alone isn’t a bad option as long as you are somewhat resilient and make sound plans. Eating dinner at busy restaurants alleviated my loneliness. I enjoyed the people watching and felt like I was part of a community, albeit a temporary one. Booking group tours meant that I had companions to share my experiences with and diminished any risks involved. Because I am naturally out-going and friendly, I found it easy to strike up a conversation with my tour companions. The down hours I spent with my trusty Tablet, playing games, posting pictures on Face Book, and reading. I also “checked in” every day with some close friends and family via text and phone calls.
There were benefits I didn’t expect. Driving myself to my hotel on a stunningly scenic road on Maui made me feel empowered. After all, this wasn’t a familiar route in my hometown, nor was I being chauffeured by my daughter. I found my way (thanks to Google) and didn’t make a bunch of wrong turns. (I’m not too adept at using navigation systems.)
Making my way around a strange town and seeing what I came to see was liberating. I didn’t have to accommodate anyone but myself. I chose what I wanted to do—and did it on my own schedule.
Would I do it again? Absolutely. I would hesitate if I went to a non-English speaking country of course, because that would present different kinds of challenges. But somehow, the freedom to do what I wanted when I wanted was life-affirming for me.
Image courtesy of Pixabay
“I think I’ll write a book someday,” said the young woman. “It will be poetry, verses about love and longing and the angst of being twenty.” That Christmas she received a suede-covered volume from her beau inscribed ‘Kate’s Scribbles.’ After he left her, she filled the parchment pages with poems and stories of love and heartbreak which were splattered with her tears. When she graduated from college, she clutched her teaching degree to her heart. Her mother’s advice echoed in her ears.
“Teaching is a good profession for a woman. You’ll be home when your children are—and you can always write in the summers when you’re off,” her mother advised.
The suede -covered book stayed on a shelf and the parchment pages remained blank. ***
“I think I’ll write a book,” said the woman.
Her husband laughed. “When will you have time for that?” he asked archly. “We have a child to raise. We can’t take chances like that, not with a mortgage and bills and obligations. Maybe someday—but not now.”
The woman nodded.
Yes, maybe someday she would take a pen in hand and write. She’d tell the story of a young couple, only in their thirties, with a child, finding their way in a sometimes hostile world.
The suede-covered book stayed on a shelf and the parchment pages remained blank.
“I think I’ll write a book someday,” said the forty–something matron. Life’s lessons had etched fine lines around her mouth and eyes, and added streaks of gray to her dark hair. Children were her main concern—her own child who was struggling to find her way and the ones she taught every day. Her marriage was in tatters from the battering of life’s realities: finances, personal problems and dreams that might never be realized. The woman could not remember the last time she had written anything other than a grocery list or a note to a parent. Sometimes, she would pick up a pen and hold it in her hand, hoping that words would flow onto paper. Once in a while they did, but the words spoke of anger and frustration and mostly of lost opportunity. So she hid those words from herself.
Her mother, now dead, had advised her well. Teaching was, after all, a steady, predictable job with an income she could rely on.
The suede -covered book stayed on a shelf and the parchment pages remained blank.
“I think I’ll write a book someday,” the woman said to her friends as they toasted her fiftieth birthday. She thought back to the earlier years, when the desire to write flamed in her heart. Searching everywhere, she finally found the suede bound book with poems so full of young love and loss and promise. Taking it reverently from its shelf, she blew the dust away. That night, she sat and read until her eyes grew heavy and a single tear traced its way down her cheek. And she felt like a part of her was dead.
“I think I’ll write a book,” said the widow, now in her sixties with hair that was more silver than black. Sadness was her daily companion. “I’ll write about loss and loneliness, and trying to make my life new.”
Her career as a teacher was a memory—one that over time had become more distant.
The woman’s child, now grown, lived in the great northwest forest with her beloved. Days were empty and the woman wanted—no—needed to tell her stories.
So, she picked up a pen, and began to write. Words flowed like water breeching a dam. And the woman wrote a book, and another book and another book. The pages were filled with the story of her life: of the things she had put aside, the sacrifices she had made, and the joys and dreams that had been realized. She wrote of the sorrow and the searing pain of loss. As she wrote tears and sometimes even laughter were her companions.
Surveying the shelf crowded now with the suede-covered volume and many others like it, she smiled.
With words as soft as a prayer, she whispered, “Finally, I wrote my book.”
The New Year is underway, and somewhere, a well meaning soul is trying to stick to his/her New Year’s resolutions.
I wish him or her good luck. However, I haven’t made any resolutions.
Making resolutions is a time honored tradition at New Year’s. For most people, the resolutions are broken within the first month of making them.
That includes resolutions to lose weight that may include joining a gym or a weight loss program, both of which can have a hefty price tag.
It includes resolutions that have a tangible reward: a new wardrobe, a trip, better relationships, and better health.
It’s a documented phenomenon that New Years’ resolutions don’t work.
I wonder why this happens.
I think most people who make resolutions are sincere—they want a better life, to be healthier, slimmer, kinder, and all the other rewards that keeping the resolutions would grant.
Is it because we see New Year’s resolutions as something that can be broken? After all, aren’t promises made to be broken, according to an old saying? Or is that making the life style changes necessary to fulfill the resolutions are too challenging?
Whenever I’ve done something to improve my life, it was a decision I made after realizing that continuing to do what I was doing would not make me happy. In other words, making changes, at least for me, is not contingent on making a promise to myself or a time of year.
Do you make New Year’s resolutions? Have you ever kept any?
Image courtesy of Pixabay
One of the most powerful boosts for many writers is Amazon.com. It provides a platform for unknown authors to bypass the stranglehold traditional publishing houses have on the industry. Services like Book Baby, Create Space and others support the independent writer by providing an accessible and affordable platform to bring their work to life.
There are many reasons why an author may resort to self-publishing. In my case, I made this decision after pitching my book for several years at writer’s conferences (where I paid a fee for the privilege) and sending numerous query letters to agencies. I sent the required three or whatever chapters, synopses of the book, author bio, and cover letters to agents I had investigated.
It was time consuming and ultimately fruitless—although I had at least two agents who would “have loved to promote my book if only…”
So, I turned to a small press publisher who did bring my lifelong dream of being a published author to life.
Then the hardest work began—promoting the book. I am not naturally good at self promotion.
I rely on word of mouth and whatever opportunities come my way to talk about my book and my writing.
But the one thing that all authors—including me—must have to survive is book reviews. And that’s where you, dear reader, come into the picture.
The five or ten minutes it takes you to write a few simple sentences telling other folks that, yes, you enjoyed the book you just finished are the greatest boost you can give to any writer. Just log onto Amazon.com, find the title and author of the book, and choose the option to review the book.
You don’t have to do an in-depth analysis of the plot, the nuances of character development, or compare the book to others in its genre. Just say that you liked it (or not) and why.
And speaking for all struggling authors like me, your review will be deeply appreciated.
It’s hard to chase a dream. Dreams are ephemeral and unpredictable. They’re illogical. They don’t follow the rules of physics.
Dreams can make you feel elated or leave you empty and confused.
When you wake from a dream, it can be a hard landing back to reality.
I feel like I am chasing a dream right now as I face the most difficult part of having my latest book, Elvis Saves a Marriage…published: trying to foster interest in it.
It’s an intricate ballet of pushing the book a little here and there and exhausting people. You don’t want your efforts at promoting the book to feel like forcing people to watch a never-ending telethon.
But it is a necessary step in being an author. Even mid-list authors have to promote their books—through personal appearances, radio interviews, and book signings. The only ones who are somewhat exempt are A-listers who are a sure sell. And they have staffs to plan their promotion campaigns—and get to travel to exciting places and be on TV interview shows.
Writers like me are the author and promoter all wrapped up into one person. It can feel daunting.
From the time I was old enough to envision a future, I knew deep in my heart that I wanted to spend my life writing. I describe myself now as a writer who was disguised as a teacher for many years.
But I am a dream chaser. And no matter how upside down, how illogical, or how difficult it is, I will continue to follow this dream.
Graphic courtesy of Pixabay
The developer here in my community continues to build new homes wherever the company can find a space that could accommodate a house, even if it’s a lot no bigger than the proverbial postage stamp.
That’s the price of living in a community that is still actively under construction.
Recently the developer has begun to clear land to build homes along my favorite space here—a linear lake that runs parallel to Solivita Boulevard. I take my dog Sparkle for a walk there, as do many other residents. People also walk and bike along this pathway. The pathway is shaded and the view across the lake is serene and natural with a thick stand of old trees. I often stopped there to meditate.
I don’t know why I was so naive about this area. I thought that it might be a “forever green” space—but, alas, it wasn’t.
The first sign that something was afoot were stakes with red ties on them, obviously marking the boundaries of lots, which popped up one day. When I first saw them, I felt saddened. I love this path and the beautiful view of the water and the woods that frame it. The thought that the woods would be torn apart for more homes was upsetting, especially given the fact that there is plenty of land left to develop. But this particular area would be in high demand. It will command a view of the golf course and the lake.
I cringed at the thought of listening to the bulldozers as they uprooted old trees covered in Spanish moss that went back possibly a hundred years or more. I had seen the bulldozers when another nearby tract was cleared, and the crashing and crunching of trees was sickening.
I wondered if there was some way to stop this development. But I knew it would be a fool’s errand. I imagined lying down in front of the ‘dozers as they rumbled along the road hell-bent on their mission of destruction. Then I imagined myself being scooped up with the tree debris as it was loaded onto a truck and hauled away, or worse, set afire. After all, this is Florida—the land developers dream of because virtually anything goes.
So far the clearing of the lots has been prudent. Many of the older trees have been left standing. But I fear that that can change any day.
A thought occurred to me when Sparkle and I were out for our walk. The neighborhood I live in now probably resembled this particularly beautiful area before homes were built on it. The whole tract of land that our community was built on had been a favorite hunting ground—a virtual wilderness for many generations.
I can imagine the thick groves of trees that populated all of what is now called Rainbow Lakes. And I’m sure that the bulldozers knocked down old tress and displaced all sorts of wildlife to make neat parcels of land. Later, young trees were planted on the plots of land and landscaping was installed. The unnatural replaced the natural.
So, I can hardly criticize the developer.
After all, I was happy to find a nice house in this development. I never gave a thought to what had been here before and the impact that building my home had on the environment.
Still, I can’t help wishing that some areas were “hands off” simply because of their natural beauty. Where the developer sees high priced homes on choice lots, I see a stand of woods bordering a picturesque lake. I keep telling myself to concentrate on the soothing water and the trees that border it still.
But a question keeps intruding into my thoughts.
Is this progress?
I guess it depends on your perspective.
I finally got to Hawai’i. Three tries, three cancellations, and finally—I made it! Hawai’i was all I hoped and dreamed it would be. The weather was nearly perfect: warm and sunny with a lovely breeze that kept the bugs and humidity away—and wrecked havoc on my hair. The beaches were stunning with crashing waves and…
Every morning I take my faithful canine companion, Sparkle, for a walk. We have route that we both enjoy. Sparkle likes it because it is a treasure –trove of (apparently) fascinating smells.
I enjoy it because it is beautiful and serene.
The route is a very popular path along Solivita Blvd which follows the course of linear stream. There is plenty of shade in the summer and shelter from the chilly breezes in the winter. I love starting my day out with this leisurely walk with Sparkle. It sets a happy tone for the rest of the day.
When I’ve felt anxious or troubled, I’ve sought its peace and calm. To me, it’s the perfect place to meditate. Even though we take this same route every day at least once, and most often, twice a day, I never tire of it. The ripples on the surface of the water remind me that life has an ebb and flow to it. The trees, flowers and birds that are attracted this stream provide an ever changing scene.
It is a piece of paradise practically in my backyard.
I was supposed to celebrate this Christmas with my daughter and her spouse in Oregon. That didn’t happen. I needed to have unexpected surgery on December 11th and came home from the hospital a few days later. Luckily, my daughter was able to travel here to be with me while I was hospitalized. But she had commitments back on the West Coast, and had to go back soon after I returned from the hospital.
The word disappointed hardly begins to explain how I felt when I realized that I would have to cancel all of my plans for Christmas. I was angry at my situation, and I wondered why me?
This is my second Christmas without my husband—and it hasn’t gotten much easier. The Ghosts of Christmases past haunted me: the party we gave and the ones we went to, the Gala, festive decorations, decorating cookies and visiting my daughter were memories from other Christmases— and would not be a part of this one. There was no reason to bake Christmas cookies, and I did all my shopping on Amazon.com.
You can imagine how I felt.
And there was no miraculous reprieve. I woke Christmas morning with just my dog Sparkle for company.
Luckily, several good friends came to the rescue. I was invited to a wonderful Christmas Eve dinner by one friend and to Christmas Day dinner by another. Several other people extended invitations to celebrate the holiday with them. And my family called every day to bolster my spirits.
Before she left, my daughter decorated the house, and together we put up my table-top Christmas tree. Having a festive house did lift my spirits and made the holiday feel a lot more cheerful.
Best of all, I went to a meaningful Mass with a dear friend who recently became a widow, too.
So even though the Ghosts of Christmases Past hovered in the wings, I did have a merry Christmas.
I hope you did, too.