Celebrating the Small Stuff

This week I did a series of picture posts on my Facebook page. I’d read somewhere that pictures were more popular than links or straight text on Facebook and based on my small ‘experiment’ it does appear to be true. Pictures do seem to get more attention on my page.

For me, that was good because I spend a lot of time with text, words, concepts and sometimes, a picture really does speak better than any word you can come up with. Or maybe pictures coupled with the right word is the real winning combination.

The picture post that got the most attention is the one I used above.

So, why would that message resonate more?

Getting lost in the big stuff

I think that people get lost in the big stuff. I know I do. Chasing the dream of being a best-selling author, is a good example of the big stuff I want to celebrate. I pray I will be able to celebrate. I fear I won’t ever celebrate. And I doubt there is any author who doesn’t feel that way.

We all have dreams that we chase. Some more realistic than others but important to us, nonetheless. Despite any proximity to reality.

But the problem with getting lost in the big stuff is that we miss all the wonderful little things that happen to us, for us, and around us. The world is a big, beautiful mystical place and there are probably hundreds of moments a day we could celebrate if we chose to.

So, here is the small stuff I’m celebrating this week:

♥ Puppy Lily absconded big dog Emma’s bear (stuffed toy) and guards it with all the ferocity of a bear. Did I mention the bear is bigger than she is?

♥ Dinner with my friend Andy. It was just us barbecuing a couple burgers in my backyard and then later going to Starbucks for coffee. Then hours of talk about anything and everything.

♥ Phone call with Jenny. My best friend who lives in Texas and whom I miss terribly. Quote from her son, “I touche a Guinea pig and now I’m sick.” You just can’t make that kind of stuff up, right?

♥ I finally figured out scene 86 in my book.

♥ The grocery store had daffodils on sale – $1.99 for 10 stems, I got 20. Today they opened. What a beautiful sunny scent!

♠ I discovered tiny little tomatoes on my tomato plants. Six of them. Big news!

♥ I had heavy cream for my coffee this morning. Heaven.

♥ A favorite client contacted me out of the blue yesterday.

♥ Spring is finally here.

Maybe it’s just gratitude

Maybe all I’m really talking about is feeling gratitude in my life. And if I am, that’s fine with me. I want to feel grateful for everything in my life – even the small stuff. Even the bad stuff. Because it’s all part of this mysterious game we call life and you can’t appreciate the good without the bad. The highs without the lows. The exciting without the boring. Right?

How about you, dear reader? What is the small stuff you’re celebrating this week? Did you finally master that cookie recipe? See a beautiful baby? Hug a puppy? See an old friend? Witness an incredible sunrise? Feel free to share any or all of it.

Have a great weekend.

Annie

Thank you in no particular order

balloon-1048933_640

Today is a day when we all reflect on those things for which we’re thankful and count our blessings (stuffing ourselves senseless, notwithstanding). And reflecting on your blessings is never a bad thing. In fact, whole industries have been built around gratitude. And lots of people keep gratitude journals or meditate daily on the things for which they are grateful.

I was never able to do a gratitude journal – not because there weren’t things to be grateful for or that my life lacked blessings – there were. I think it was something about the wording I was using, “I am grateful for…” To me, it felt egocentric (or something). Anyway…the other day I started my day with a thank you list. It was simple, I just wrote thank you for (fill in the blank) and the list was a long one.

And I realized that saying thank you, instead of I am grateful changed things for me. Because I believe that there is a force greater than myself in the world – you can call it God, the spirit in the sky, the Universe, Mother Nature or whatever you like but it’s something outside myself. Something bigger, smarter, wiser, kinder and more loving than I am. Some source from which (I believe) all things good comes from.

So, today I say thank you in no particular order…

  • Thank you for coffee
  • Thank you for this beautiful, cold, crisp day
  • Thank you for Amazon and KDP and the new opportunities it has created for writers and readers
  • Thank you for writers like Hugh Howey, Anne R. Allen and Joe Konrath who have forged a path that other writers may follow
  • Thank you for my quick mind
  • Thank you for laughter
  • Thank you for puppies, kittens, babies and all things innocent and pure
  • Thank you for words, ideas, thoughts, characters that magically appear in my head
  • Thank you for books and eyes to read them
  • Thank you for computers, pens, paper, pencils, recorders, smart phones and tablets – all the tools through which we can communicate
  • Thank you for the creativity that I take for granted every single day
  • Thank you for the kindness of strangers
  • Thank you for colors, smells, tastes and sounds
  • Thank you for the pain that has driven me to learn where I went wrong
  • Thank you for the will to continue when conventional wisdom says otherwise
  • Thank you for everything I am and am not and the joy of discovering which is which
  • Thank you for the new day and another chance to do better

 

Enjoy your day and thank you for reading, you are a blessing.

Annie

Paying it forward

pay it forward

Years back there was a movie called Pay it Forward. The concept was simple, do something nice for someone and instead of having them return the favor, tell them to pay it forward by doing something nice for others. The movie was good and except for a couple of overly sentimental scenes very enjoyable. It certainly delivered its message. Make the world a better place by passing on kindness.

Can you make the world a better place just by being nice?

I think you can. I think that people do it every day. Passing on small kindnesses of all types – from giving directions to giving a few bucks to somebody who’s hungry. In fact, without the small random acts of kindness that we give and receive every day, I think the world would be a much darker place.

Make no mistake, it won’t have the immediate impact that the release of the new iPhone has (although you’d think it should) but if we all did one more nice thing a day it would certainly improve our outlook – on ourselves and the world around us. What’s not to love in that idea?

How do I pay it forward?

I try to be nice to everybody. That doesn’t always work out. But I try. But my go-to way of paying it forward is with food. I love to cook. I love to cook too much. So I am constantly giving away food. Make a big pot of soup, I keep some, then give the rest to friends, co-workers and favorite merchants. Around the holidays I bake cookies and deliver them to the local post office, fire station, food banks, my mechanic, my co-workers, and friends. It’s not much but it brightens their day and mine.

A couple of weeks ago I went grocery shopping and I was stopped by a man who asked for a couple of dollars so he could buy a sandwich at Subway. He was middle-aged, dressed in clean but old clothes and had a nervous, flitting glance. In under two minutes he told me his life story – had a drug and alcohol problem, been clean for two years, living on disability but looking for work – most of his check went to rent. I gave him a few bucks. He thanked me profusely. I told him to pay it forward. That when he was on his feet, to help somebody else out. I don’t know why but I’ve thought about that guy every day since. I’ve wondered how he’s doing. I’ve wondered if he got his sandwich. I’ve wondered if he did something nice for somebody else lately. I wish him well and hope things are looking up for him.

A couple of months ago, a friend asked me to read his manuscript and give him feedback. He agreed to read my manuscript and give me feedback as well. I’ve done a lot of critiques, so to me it wasn’t that big a deal. I stayed up that night and read the whole thing – taking notes as I went. The next day I wrote up my critique and sent it off. Then I didn’t hear from him. It worried me. I feared I’d offended him. Then I just didn’t know. Finally, I let it go. I’d done what I could, sent it out in the world and I realized I didn’t need to know the fate of my action. Recently, I heard back from my friend (knock me over with a feather) and it was good news. He was pleased with the feedback and thanked me – also had some nice things to say about my work. I felt good. He felt good. Somewhere in the universe things were being paid forward or sideways or some way. It was a feel-good thing. And I thought that we should all do this more often.

How do you pay it forward?

So I’m wondering – how do you pay it forward? Or do you believe in such things? I know things have been rough for all of us in the last few years. The economy, the job situation, everything seems to get more and more expensive. Often, we’re working a lot harder for a lot less. It’s easy to feel cynical under those conditions. Easy to feel like people are trying to exploit what few resources you have by asking for a favor or some free advice.

But I believe that one of the biggest joys in life lies in helping other people. In big and small ways. Often the cost of brightening someone else’s day is very small and really can make a difference.

And isn’t that what we all want in our heart of hearts? To make a difference? Does it have to be a huge difference for it to count? Or can we just be happy in the knowledge that because of us, somebody had dinner today? Or because of us, a little girl laughed, or an elderly couple didn’t have to stand so long in line because you let them cut ahead of you?

My offer to pay it forward

So, in the spirit of this post I’d like to make an offer to pay it forward to you, out there, reading this post. I can’t offer you soup because it just doesn’t travel well in the virtual world but I can offer to do a manuscript critique. Short story, script, poem, or novel – doesn’t matter what type. I’d be happy to help anybody out there who’d like some honest feedback on their manuscript. Since I’m not a superhero I can make this offer to three people. So, if you’re interested in taking me up on it, leave a comment and let me know.

In the meantime, thanks for reading and may we all make the world a better place, one little random act of kindness at a time.

Writer Chick

Copyright 2014

Love me, love me (for God’s sake will you just love me already?)

love me, love meLet’s be honest, to be a writer, an actor, singer or any type of ‘creative’ you have to have a pretty big ego. It’s not wrong, it just is. Perhaps it’s God’s way of helping us deal with all the rejection, finger-pointing and the fact that we were looked upon as the weird geek all through high school.

Most people aren’t going to understand us. They aren’t going to understand why certain sounds might send us into a state of impassioned annoyance. Or why we’re so interested in talking to strangers and fascinated by the conversation at the next table. Or why we have that “I’m taking notes” look on our faces half the time. But that’s okay. We’re not here to be understood. We’re here to create. We’re here to enrich other people’s lives (hopefully) with the things we create. Whether it’s a song, a performance, a painting or a story – ours is a mission of finding beauty and meaning in life and reporting back. Maybe we’re also the note takers for the current culture – the predictors of what the future may hold. Some think so…

But what we aren’t is the world’s darling. We aren’t here to be loved. To gain approval. Or to be the homecoming queen. The world isn’t interested in our neediness. And yes, we’ve got it – in spades. And if the world (or any part thereof) decides to love you, it will be on its own terms, not yours.

The very fact that we create something doesn’t mean that it’s great or even good. And when it’s not we should be humble enough to accept that when someone points it out. We should be grateful that there are people in our lives who will be honest with us, tell us the truth and insist we give only our best work. Because in our best work we give what we are meant to give – an undeniable truth, a pure note, a perfect color – whatever it is, you know it when you’ve got it. When you’ve reached it. When you’ve created it.

The world does need our work. It is important. We can only give that when we put on our big girl and big boy pants and dedicate ourselves to it. And keep the griping and hurt feelings to a minimum.

Though there is the occasional anomaly – trust me you won’t:

  • Pen the great American novel on a first draft
  • Paint like Picasso after one art class
  • Win an Academy Award for your first performance
  • Sing like Caruso (or Beyoncé) after completing Music 101

If you don’t put in the work, you’ll never develop your craft enough to get there. But if you do dedicate yourself to it – earnestly and without insisting on constant love and adoration for doing your job – the world may love you after all. Or at least your work.

Writer Chick

copyright 2014

Dear Friend

dear friendFriends are the best and what the heck would we do without them? But we’re so busy all the time and there’s always so much to do, we sometimes don’t say the things we should to our friends.  So, I’ll say it here and now. 

Dear Friend,

I am not your friend because you are always happy, cheerful and care-free. The truth is I love you even when your warts are showing.

I think you are a wonder even when you can’t control your anger, sadness or depression. I respect you because you can feel deeply and feelings are neither good or bad – they’re just feelings.

My wish for you is that you are always happy and that life is a continuous adventure.  But I know that sometimes you aren’t and it’s not.  But that’s okay because I still love you. (Even if you have gained 50 pounds and can’t give up the chocolate.)

I want you to always feel loved but I know that sometimes you feel alone.

I want you to know you can tell me anything – even the the things you keep from me because you don’t want to be a bummer.

I want you to spread your lovely wings and fly. But I understand that there are times when wings break and the back-ups are at the dry cleaners.

Why do we try so hard to be perfect? Don’t you know that you are perfect just as you are in all your wonderful imperfections? Well, you are.

To all my wonderful friends – you are truly special people. 

Writer Chick

Copyright 2014

Ten Things That You Can Do To Get Inspired

robinLook, let’s be honest – life can be a drag.  Life can be hard.  Life can be all work and no play.  Things have been tough for a lot of people in the last couple of years—perhaps you’re one of those people.  Maybe you’re working a job you hate just to pay the rent and feed yourself.  Or you’re working two jobs because you can’t find full time work, or doing work on the side just to make ends meet.  Believe me, I get it.

So, it can be hard to get inspired about anything – except maybe a large pizza with everything and an all weekend Lost marathon.

There’s an old adage that says, “The best things in life are free.”  And maybe there is some wisdom in that statement.  Have we become so accustomed to our super techie world that we’re unable to see the simple everyday miracles right under our noses?  I think maybe we have.

So buck up maties and take a look at the following list to see if you can find inspiration in any of the following:

  1. Grow something from a seed.  There is nothing more inspiring than growing something with your own hands.  Seeds are very inexpensive, often you can find them in Dollar stores or discounted at the local nursery but even if you can’t afford that, you can harvest seeds from fruits and vegetables you already have.  If you harvest your own seeds, make sure to dry them out before planting.  It’s simple, just rinse them, dry them on a paper towel and set them in a warm dry spot for a week or so – then plant them.  If you don’t have a yard, use a patio pot.  If you don’t have a patio or porch, set up a pot on a table by a sunny window.
  2. Read a children’s book.  Who can read The Cat in the Hat or Ham and Green Eggs and Ham, without smiling? Children’s books by their nature are meant to encourage, teach, and inspire.  I dare you to read a Dr. Seuss book and not feel better.
  3. Make  your own bread.  There is something wonderful about the smell of fresh baked bread wafting through the air.  This is a no fail recipe that enables anyone to make their own bread.  And again if you’re on a tight budget, you can probably find all the supplies you need at the local dollar store.
  4. Make a little movie.  This article discusses specifically making a book trailer but you can make any kind of movie you want.  Maybe you want to make your own little inspirational movie.  Have fun, it’s only for you so you can make it as bold or silly as you like.  And play it whenever you want.
  5. Take a free course.  Learning something new can open new worlds and ideas to you that maybe you didn’t even know were there.  Free courses online abound everywhere.  The ones offered here really inspired me.
  6. Volunteer.  Nothing makes you feel better than helping someone else.  It puts things in perspective and makes our own problems seem a little less daunting.  There are hundreds of places to volunteer, hospitals, veteran centers, food banks, libraries, rest homes, etc.  But even if you don’t want to commit to that you can learn about seniors in your neighborhood who could use some help, maybe a ride to church or the local grocery store, helping them weed their garden or walk their dog.  If the will is there, you will find an opportunity.
  7. Take your grandparents or parents out to lunch.  Your parents and grandparents are a wealth of information.  They all have histories.  They have all gone through hard times and survived.  Why not take them out to lunch and ask them what life was like when they were their age.  What challenges did they face?  How did they overcome adversity.  Learn your own family history – maybe you have some heroes in your family tree you never knew about from whom you could get inspiration.
  8. Mind map your brilliant ideas.  This free software is a fun way to work out that idea you’ve had in the back of your mind for years or months.  Why not work it out on paper to see if you could actually make it work?
  9. Personalize photos and make a collage.  Everybody has photos – grab a bunch and head over to this free site.  Spiff them up and make a collage and send it to your friends or post it on facebook or make it your computer wallpaper or screensaver.  Or string a bunch of images together that creates a dream board.  The possibilities are endless.
  10. Count your blessings.  This is something none of us does enough.  No matter how bad things may be in your life, they probably aren’t as bad as someone else.  It’s so easy to focus on what is wrong with our lives while ignoring what is great.  We often take the good things in our lives for granted rather than showing gratitude for them.  I promise you if you just change this one thing you will see a real change in how you feel about yourself,  your life, and other people.

The truth is, inspiration is really everywhere we turn.  If we just open our eyes and look for it, we are sure to find it.

Are there things that inspire you?  Tell me about them in the comments below.

Writer Chick

Copyright 2013

Today we honor them

“[W]hat sort of soldiers are those you are to lead? Are they reliable? Are they brave? Are they capable of victory? Their story is known to all of you. It is the story of the American man-at-arms. My estimate of him was formed on the battlefield many, many years ago, and has never changed. I regarded him then as I regard him now — as one of the world’s noblest figures, not only as one of the finest military characters, but also as one of the most stainless. His name and fame are the birthright of every American citizen. In his youth and strength, his love and loyalty, he gave all that mortality can give. … [W]hen I think of his patience under adversity, of his courage under fire, and of his modesty in victory, I am filled with an emotion of admiration I cannot put into words. He belongs to history as furnishing one of the greatest examples of successful patriotism. He belongs to posterity as the instructor of future generations in the principles of liberty and freedom. He belongs to the present, to us, by his virtues and by his achievements. In twenty campaigns, on a hundred battlefields, around a thousand campfires, I have witnessed that enduring fortitude, that patriotic self-abnegation, and that invincible determination which have carved his statue in the hearts of his people. From one end of the world to the other he has drained deep the chalice of courage. I do not know the dignity of their birth, but I do know the glory of their death. They died unquestioning, uncomplaining, with faith in their hearts, and on their lips the hope that we would go on to victory. Always for them: Duty, Honor, County; always their blood and sweat and tears, as we sought the way and the light and the truth.” –General Douglas MacArthur

Today is for those men and women who have given their lives for our freedom – so among the hotdogs, parades and fireworks, let’s say a prayer of thanks. God bless our troops and keep them safe.
WC

Gratitude – The Truth

This week I am grateful for the truth. In all its many forms. The look that tells it all. The touch that conveys meaning. An honest belly laugh. And the truth that humbles and humiliates – that makes me see I have a long way to go. That I cannot phone it in and expect much in return. That facing up and starting over is so much better than a free pass.

The facts. A candid assessment. Because facts don’t judge or give you extra points for style, looks or pedigree. Facts  just are. Because the truth is something I can work with. Something I can get my teeth into and taste, digest.

So I thank anyone who tells me the truth, even when it hurts. Even when it changes something I’d rather not change. Even when it sends me down a new and tenuous path. Even when I don’t like it very much. It is still the best friend a girl can have.

copyright 2011

Gratitude – Personl Liberty

lib•er•ty
–noun, plural -ties.
1.
freedom from arbitrary or despotic government or control.
2.
freedom from external or foreign rule; independence.
3.
freedom from control, interference, obligation, restriction, hampering conditions, etc.; power or right of doing, thinking, speaking, etc., according to choice.

One thing that most men have in common is the desire to be free. Whether he lives in the western world, the third world or, behind a government-erected wall, man’s most beloved freedom is that of personal liberty.

Perhaps that is why America has been a most prominent and envied country since her beginnings. Our founding fathers were forward thinkers who believed that personal liberty was something that every man, woman and child was entitled to and in fact was divinely endowed to every person on Earth.

This week I am profoundly grateful for my personal liberties. For my freedom. For the fact that I had the good fortune to be born in the United States and not in another country. That in that respect that fate has treated me well.

It is easy as an American to take for granted what so many men have given their lives to provide. And what men and women still fight to provide. When we turn on a switch, we have lights, when want to go some where we have transportation and freedom of movement, when we have an opinion we voice it. This is the way of life in America and ‘normal’ for us. We rarely, I think, stop to consider that it is not normal for millions of others. We rarely consider that loudly voicing our opinion in another country might result in a prison sentence or even death. We rarely marvel at the fact that if we are hungry we can simply go to a store or a local eatery and satisfy our hunger.

We walk down the street without fear of marauding bandits, rabid and predatory animals or being thrown in a gulag in which no one will every find us.

We are too busy and too stressed to notice that we live in the greatest country in the world. We are too angry about the issue of the moment to say a small prayer of gratitude for the glory of daily life in America.

And I am as guilty as anyone else for taking it for granted. For not thinking of it often. For not contemplating how very rare and unusual our country is. How very much I have to be grateful for just by virtue of the fact that I am an American.
And so I say now – thank you – I am grateful.

What are you grateful for this week?

WC

Copyright 2011