Navigating the Hills and Valleys of Holidays

I will not whine.

Let's face it, life has its ups, downs, and sharp curves, and we all experience them.  Looking back on this year, my first impulse is to say that it started out fairly well, then took a downward turn.  Not a steep hill, but slowly going down.  So there have been times, especially during these holidays when crawling into a hole or at least bed with covers over the head sounds divine and the only way to survive.  Adopting Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" as my theme song and heaving heavy, morose sighs are my usual response, but I've had some new thoughts on this.

It's easy to let the holiday rush and fuss, and the super highs we experience during these last few weeks of the year leave us tired and worn out. Emotional highs are good, but, like sugar highs, the crash when they're over are sometimes too hard to bear.  Those times when we crawl into a fetal position come too fast and too often.  My highs haven't been all that high, but then a couple of things happened.

The night after the day after Christmas happened.  I've been diligently working on revisions from hell and had gotten to the point where I didn't know where to go with the scene, so I decided to leave it for the morning and go to bed.  We all tend to get a little maudlin when we're tired.  Being worn out, especially mentally, makes it so much easier to see the negative things that have happened or are happening.  That was me.  And suddenly I realized that all wasn't as bad as I kept thinking.  Good things had happened recently.  Okay, not so good ones, too, and those were what I'd been focusing on.  How easy it is to miss the good things, especially the small ones, when we're down in the dumps.  As soon as I had that stunning thought that there had been good that I'd not embraced as I should, I felt a smidgen better.  So I thought a little harder.  I found two, specific things that made me take notice.

A month ago, I vanquished dark clouds that had hung over me for something that had happened way back in high school.  It took the simple act of stuffing my bad feelings aside and saying hello to the person who I hadn't seen or spoken to for 35 years.  In fact I've tried not to even think of it.  What surprised me that day was that, afterward, I felt proud of myself.  I felt good.  About me.  A little over a week later, that person called me, and we talked on the phone for nearly an hour.  (Let me say that I nearly didn't answer the phone when I saw the caller ID.)  But it was okay.  It didn't hurt at all, and because of it, I've put those bad times behind, where they belong.  Now I can smile.

Christmas Eve, there was a knock on our door, and outside stood a man holding a plastic sack.  The neighbor introduced himself, and handed me the bag.  "It's a ham," he said.  "Can you use it?"  Well, color me shocked.  Apparently he's gotten to know my grandsons and thinks they're great.  (Obviously he doesn't know them as well as I do. ;) )  It wasn't until I went into the house, after talking with him for a good ten minutes, that I realized who he was.  To be honest, I wouldn't have picked him as someone who would bring me a ham or even have a conversation with, civil or not.  And it was okay.  It didn't hurt at all.

How do I say this?  It isn't the things that happen that make us angry or sad, it's our thoughts about them.  Granted, life has its disappointments and sadness.  But it also has surprises and happiness.  If we focus more on the good, instead of wallowing in the bad by thinking and worrying about them, we find that it's a pretty decent turnover.  It's those little things, like a hello or a ham that can make a big difference.

With the end of this year coming to a close, it's a time of reflection for many.  A time to look back and decide what changes we want to make.  I'm not one for making New Year's Resolutions.  I know ahead of time that they'll be broken within days.  But if I want to make the most of the rest of my life, I will have to make one.  Not a resolution for the new year, but one to be carried out each day.  An Each Day Resolution?  Each night when I go to bed, I'll find one good thing--one thing that made me smile or laugh--that happened during the day, and then focus on it.  And it won't hurt at all.  In fact, it will probably make me smile.

Anyone want to vanquish the blues?  Would you like to join me on the Each Day Resolution and see if this experiment works?  Life, itself is an experiment, so let's make it a great one.

And I did not whine.  Well, just a little in the beginning. ;)

If you're looking for help on how to get through the holidays, check out 'Tis the Season of Madness, over at my blog, Diary of a Mad Romance Author.  You'll find links galore!  It isn't too late to start.


As you can see I managed to miss my commitment to write a blog post on the 26th!


Because I'm over-committed!

Who did that?



Because I don't pay enough attention to how many hours are in a day and how many days are in a week and how many things I've said I will do for others (as well as commitments to myself!).

This is the season, especially, to over-commit ourselves and then make ourselves crazy-mean (teeth clenched when one more person says, "Did you wash underwear today?" They're lucky to have dirty underwear! Keep up with the questions and I'll not only give them a perfect example of passive-aggressive behavior, but an up front seat of their underwear burning on the front lawn....


Are you paying attention?

Did you over-commit yourself too? I took a good look at myself today when I realized that I'd missed this blog YESTERDAY! Really?, Yesterday? Yup, 'fraid so.

I stopped. Thought. And realized that over-commitment is an overpowering thing that many of us do. My goal for the new year is to stop that! I'll be armed with a calendar and this time I'm going to use it! And I'm going to be practical on exactly how much time I really have to do things in a day.

Here's a rundown. Compare it to the things you can actually do.

In a day I,
wake up, get dressed, fix food, clean up after food, clean the sandbox we live in (work on it)--this will   require over four hours per day, then I will drive somewhere and do other things at least five times a week--going anywhere will involve no less than three hours, then I will be doing wash, doing bookkeeping chores, talking to loved ones and otherwise be doing things of importance.

How much time can I realistically count on to do things for others? About an hour or two a week--if I remember.

How much time can I realistically count on writing? Time unknown. However, with my new found resolve to watch time. I think I can get a handle on my commitments and start being better about my commitments to myself and my writing.

The New Year is soon. We have a bright and shiny new year, full of hope and possibilities.  Let's all commit to figuring out where our time goes and do we want it to be spent in that manner. Let us be aware of ourselves and each moment spent that can never be retrieved. This doesn't mean that we should give up goofing-off time. Our goof-off time renews us. However, thoughtless unknowing with a side of guilt I wouldn't think would do anyone any good.

See you on the other side--(In 2014 ya goofs!)
I'll be thinking of you!

My Library Christmas Tree (Melissa Robbins)

Merry Christmas Eve!  I thought I would share my library Christmas tree with all of you.  It’s a tree I have been dying to create for a while and it’s still a work in progress.  I designed the base out of necessity.  The original one was too small for the heaviness of the tree.  The two books are fake paper mache books I painted and stuck the base inside. 

Every tree needs an angel and one reading a book is perfect for mine.  That’s Skippyjon Jones photobombing my picture.  One can’t have a tree without a cat climbing up it or should I say a Chihuahua?  And yes that’s Lowly Worm around the base.  I am a HUGE Richard Scary fan.  The other ornaments reflect famous stories, mini books of Little Women, Wuthering Heights, and Alice in Wonderland.  Route 66 for Grapes of Wrath.  Many of the little ornaments are actually charms I found in the jewelry section of my local craft store.  I’m on the lookout for a pirate ship or the Jolly Roger flag for my favorite pirate story, Treasure Island. 

What ornaments to represent your favorite books would you add if you had a library tree?

Christmas Mission Possible (Penny Rader)

Happy holidays!  Your mission, should you choose to accept it (and I hope you will!), is to use as many of the following words as you want in a Christmas piece. No pressure to use all the words.  It can be a poem, a haiku, a short story, a scene, a paragraph, or a sentence. And feel free to use a portion of the word, if need be.

Ready?  Let's play!


And if you need some visual inspiration, maybe these will help:

by mararie, creative commons license  

by koko love, creative commons license

by HumanSeeHumanDo, creative commons license

by rika Oyen, creative commons license

I can't wait to read your offerings!

May your Christmas be blessed, happy, and merry.

The Dent in the Side of My Head

The theme this month is Gifts and the best gifts ever! Be very careful of gifts....

I only started writing because my mom bought a Tandy portable computer at a yard sale and thought I would like it. I had it in a Wal-mart sack for a few months before pulling it out to see if it would turn on. It wasn't until the week after I discovered it was alive that I thought about writing on it. It was more word processor than computer, but it did the job. It was a tiny white thing and every word on its tiny screen was in an odd grayish green written in computer font. After I wrote most of a book, I'd maxed out the memory as well as realized that with the year 2000 upon us, that I might lose everything I had to Y2K issues. I bought a real laptop, converted the files, and never looked back.

Each new computer is a new gift and a new headache with its own special problems. Much like a new puppy, the future is bright and the possibilities endless.


The first problems start. Slowing down. Making mistakes. Peeing on the new carpet. Oh, wait, that's the old dog, not the computer. But the emotion is much the same--dismay and aggravation.

Last monday, you know, the day I was supposed to write this blog? I discovered my e-mail was taking over a minute each to delete. Things had been slowing down, but oh, this was awful. So, still in my lacy long blue nightgown and fuchsia/orange caftan, with bed-hair waving, waiting for my morning coffee to perk, I did a bad thing. I contacted technical support.

Oh, my stars! (actual expletive exchanged in consideration for the faint of heart).

The tech people said they could help for the price of $$$.$$ and it would be good for six months. They could help me remotely and fix my computer as I watched and I had to watch because there was things they would need my assistance on. Since my computer was beginning to go into mini-comas, I decided their plan was best

Bad move.

I stole one potty break and one cup of very cold coffee at 3:10 PM when I accidently disconnected the tech when I re-attached my router.

At 7:15 PM, my beloved came home and peeked in the office door, took one look at me, and said, "What a life. Couldn't be bothered to get dressed today?"

If I'd have had a skillet in my hand at the time, instead of trying to stand up because my feet had grown roots, I'd have put a dent in the side of his head.

However, I couldn't catch him.

Computers make me want to bang my head against the wall. Repeatedly. With emotion.

Friends tell me that will leave unsightly dents in the side of my head.

So, WARA-ites and others, please be advised. The tech showed me disgust in his 'chat' with me by telling me my multiple issues could have been addressed and taken care of if I'd have been optimizing my computer regularly. His tone was much like someone pointing out that if you get a dog you have to clean up the droppings in the yard and why hadn't I? I had to ask what optimizing is. He showed me.

Optimizing: Use a program like CCleaner and Malwarebytes. They have free versions.  Do it monthly. They fix Registry errors that occur when other programs snag pieces of your computer's operating code to do their thing. They don't put it back in place and sometimes take it permanently.  Much like guests, husbands, or children using the kitchen. Silverware disappears, sticky residue marks appear in odd places, bread hardens, mayo resembles plastic, and crumbs may be found in the butter.

I have checked this advice with other more savvy computer users and it turns out, that yeah, you gotta do this or you're asking for trouble.

I tried to do other work while incarcerated in the chair, but found out that I'd missed a cue on my computer screen which had the tech drawing red circles to get my attention--again. I didn't make that mistake a third time.

Save yourself from wanting to put a dent in your head or someone elses. Optimize.

I went online and researched CCleaner and Malwarebytes from the company the tech guy was using. He used professional versions that also came with Recuva. Recuva can do miracles--it finds lost files even if you've put them through the trash can and deleted them from there (something I did with this entire years financial records a mere two weeks ago). I bought all three professional versions from for less than ninety dollars. This would have been a lot cheaper than last monday's activities.  By the way, the tech guy deleted his from my machine so that I couldn't use his. If I hadn't been paying close attention, I'd never have noticed what programs he was using and the rest he was doing.

One of my best gifts ever is finding out I can write novels. Another is a computer. And of course the members of WARA who make it all come together like rich warm chocolate sauce over ice cream and a brownie. Thank you--every one!

And now I give you a gift of knowledge: OPTIMIZE!  (before you have to....)

My Wildest Christmas Gift? by J Vincent

I looked at the calendar yesterday when I sat to rest a moment from packing up our temporary home and saw it was the 5th! The topic this month is our wildest gift wish.  What I am getting for Christmas isn’t my wildest wish.  This was never on any list I had.  It still confounds me how this all came about but it is certainly the biggest “gift” I’ve ever gotten.

Our new home.  Not exactly a “gift” but in many ways it is considering we’re making the move because of my health problems.  Having no steps will make my life immeasurably easier.  And my DH is sacrificing in leaving his large garden behind as well as all his nut and fruit trees.  Any  sacrifice is a gift and this is a huge one.

We start moving in this weekend.  Kansas is helping with some extra balmy weather but my kids assure me they will be warm from all the lifting and carrying.  Our temporary quarters have taught us many things.  Mainly that we can live without a great deal which we once considered necessary.  I have to admit I revel at the idea of a kitchen with a stove and oven, a full sized sink, and a pantry!  Not that we haven’t managed perfectly well with a microwave, a toaster oven, and an electric skillet.  It’s been a lot like camping.  I think the best part will just be having our own space.

We’ve learned gratitude in a big way.  So many things to be thankful for--the generous son and daughter-in-law who provided this temporary space, for our daughters who have chipped in time and again, for those who have helped with the move out of the old and into the temporary and now into the new, for the support of friends through a very trying summer, for those kind souls who make up WARA and encourage and support writers even when they aren’t writing, for authors as well as readers.  I’m especially thankful for the gift of being able to see the good, the blessings even when they seem to be in thin supply or when there are difficulties to surmount.
All of this combined makes a pretty incredible gift!  Wishing you many blessings. Merry Christmas one and all!