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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Day 8: I'm thankful for...

Growing up in Broome County, NY. I've travelled far and wide, lived all over the world, and have loved every minute of it. I don't have it in me to settle down and stay in one place for very long--it's a great big world out there, why would I want to limit myself? But, what a great place to spend one's childhood - Johnson City, NY! Where else do you have the highest concentration of carousels open to the public all for free? It was a safe area in a safer time, when kids were allowed to roam free all summer long. We walked to school, hung out in the street, and even though we were in a few structured, organized sports and activiites, we also had lots of time to just be kids, to explore, to get into trouble, and to get ourselves out of trouble. We had spiedies, the mall, hide-and-seek through all the backyards (no privacy fences!) in the neighborhood, knew all those neighbors by name, and baseball-kickball-hockey-tag in the middle of the street. We adventured all over the county on our bicycles, and when we were old enough, wandered from one end to the other in our, or our friends' cars: the drive-in, the parks, mountain top, top-of-the-world, the reservoirs, county parks, the Finger Lakes and Quaker Lake. We wandered around at 5 a.m. delivering newspapers-on foot or by bike with no adult supervision. We slept out on porches, in backyard forts, and forts in the woods.

For those of you who can't imagine that childhood, go see the movie Super 8. Aside from the monster (and we imagined those), that was what it was like to grow up in Broome County. I feel a little bit sorry for anyone who didn't have that childhood.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Day 7: Today, I'm thankful for...

Sea Grant! What a wonderful bunch of people doing fabulous, valuable work. I was lucky enough to be part of that as an extension agent. That was my ideal job--it was made for me and me for it. I had amazing opportunities to do wonderful, fun things that were truly meaningful in a community I loved, so the work was personally important to me, not just professionally. How many people can say they wake up and love going to their job every day? How many people can say they're making a difference in the world (or their small corner of it) every day? Extension agents, that's who!

Even though I left that, first to support Sea Grant Extension as the SG-CSC Liaison, then to move on and pursue my dream of writing, in my heart, I'll always be an extension agent and will always be thankful for the amazing opportunities I had as the VIMAS agent in the VI.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Days 5 and 6: I'm thankful for...

Welcome to days 5 and 6 of my ongoing attempt to focus on one thing I'm thankful for in my life every day for 1 year. Why? Because I'm a grumpy-ass curmudgeon who finds great pleasure in grousing. I fixate on what's wrong when I have so very many things that are right in my life. So, I thought I'd try looking on the sunny side for a change! Can I do it for 365 days--from Thanksgiving Eve 2011 to Thanksgiving Eve 2012? Since this is a 2-fer post, I guess I'm not doing so well at the daily posting, but I'll get back on track and keep trying. Let's see if I can do it!

For Day 5, Sunday. 11/27/11, I'm thankful for my wonderful dog Muggle. He's a 3 1/2 year old Tibetan Terrier we rescued from a kill-shelter in the upstate 2 years ago. We got him based on a photo, with no idea how big he was ("Medium" - what's medium? I thought Spike was pretty medium at 60 lbs.) We called the rescue organization on Monday. They picked him up on Tuesday. He was groomed (shaved because he was so matted) Wednesday, neutered Thursday, and we picked him up on Saturday. He walked into the house and peed on our antique  bench.

Turns out, Muggle wasn't housebroken. Or trained. At all. He was also what I'd consider a little dog -- only 21 lbs. Matt's first reaction was, "I thought you wanted a bigger dog?"

Then Muggle went on to steal our hearts--mine, Matt's, Minerva's, Spooky's, the neighbors' and their dog's, everyone's. He was a fast learner. Before long he'd graduated from beginner obedience at PetSmart, Advanced Obedience at Lowcountry Dog Agility, Intro to Agility, Obstacles II, and within 15 months of our adopting him, he participated in his first agility trial--AND Q'ed!

Muggle makes us laugh, brings us joy, and fills our home with activity and even more love. We can't imagine not having Muggle. He was meant to be ours, and us his. I am so very thankful for our boy, Muggle.

In this image - upper left: photo we saw when we found Muggle, upper right: day1 at his new house with his haircut, lower right: at an agility run-thru.

Day 6, Monday 11/28/11. Today, I'm thankful for my mother. As with all mother-daughter relationships, sometimes it's trying, but that just goes with the territory. Regardless of how much we might bicker, we love each other. She's always there for me, even as I try to not let her be. She has always been the first person I turn to when I have a problem, but as she gets older, has to deal with her own health problems, worries about Michael, is occassionally overwhelmed by her two aging cats and new dog, I try to be less of a burden. I don't want to add to her mountain of worries. But it's comforting to know she's there. If and when I really do need my mommy, she's only a phone call away.

Moms are our security blankets. They give us the tools and ability to leave the nest and soar, to fly far away and return when we want to or need to. A successful mother is one who does her job so well that she can confidently let go, knowing letting go isn't turning away, distance isn't separation, and love doesn't need a leash. No matter how far and wide I roam, no matter what binds I get myself into, I know I can get myself out of it because my mother raised a responsible, self-sufficient, competent and capable daughter. She not only lets me go, but cheers me on and gets out of my way so I can succeed or fail on my own. And when I do succeed, she's there to share the joy, and when I do fail, she's there to give me a hug, kiss the boo-boos and make them all better, and get me moving forward again.

For having a real mom, not a helicopter parent, not one who's living vicariously through me, and mostly, for having a mom with her own life, who knows my brother and I are parts of her life, not her life and vice versa, I'm thankful for my mother.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Day 4: I'm thankful for...

Welcome to day 4 of my ongoing attempt to focus on one thing I'm thankful for in my life every day for 1 year. Why? Because I'm a grumpy-ass curmudgeon who finds great pleasure in grousing. I fixate on what's wrong when I have so very many things that are right in my life. So, I thought I'd try looking on the sunny side for a change! Can I do it for 365 days--from Thanksgiving Eve 2011 to Thanksgiving Eve 2012? Let's see...

Today I am thankful for my publisher, Casperian Books, taking a chance on a new author and publishing Marina Melee. The wonderful people at Casperian helped make one of my lifelong dreams come true.

I've been writing since I was a kid. My mother loves to tell the story of my first "book" - stapled together, hand-written, illiustrated in stick figures I drew myself (I have no artistic ability) in pencil. "School Rules." I didn't know until much later, but Mom and Dad locked themselves in the bathroom and laughed until they cried. My mother shared the book with my 3rd grade teacher, Mrs. Jones, who asked if she could take it to show her own mother.

In fifth grade I started writing a book about a girl and her horse. Barb Wiktor was going to illustrate it. We never finished it. Throughout Junior High and High School I started, but never finished a number of other stories. Finally, when I was a sophomore or junior, I finished my first YA novel, Daddy Doesn't Like Cats. The next year, I wrote my great romance about a teenage girl and the hockey player she falls in love with. Quite melodramatic, of course. I can't remember the name of that one, but I did finish it. That I finished those two was quite a feat. I wish I'd saved them.

I had a number of false starts and ideas for great novel beginnings, but never for the middle and end. I continued to think about writing throughout college, but eventually set it all one the back shelf. At some point, it fell off the shelf. I started writing short stories when I moved back to the VI, but just for myself. I outlined Lore Passers, a dystopian , environmental sci-fi story, and progressed in that in fits and starts, gathering news and research articles for reference. That's all in a drawer somewhere.

When I moved to Puerto Rico, I started Barnacles. I managed to finish that at about the same time I wrote Saving the Fairiews' Tails -- my children's chapter book that I did get a publishing contract for. Right before the publisher went bankrupt. I discovered the IWW while writing Fairies' Tails, and after a few months on the list, learned enough to be totally embarassed that I shared Barnacles with anyone. But, I did enjoy writing it. There's probably a story to save in there somewhere. I'll just have to get rid of all the telling, do more showing, and trust the reader to not need to authorial intrusion of the main narrator Barnacle. Who knows. Maybe I'll get back to both of those.

I do know that all of those early efforts were in preparation for me to tell George's story in Marina Melee. The significance was more than just to fulfill my writing dream, but to honor George. Yes, George H. Marsall III is a fictionalized version of my George, but he was my muse. He inspired it and me, and I wanted the novel to be a fitting tribute to a great man. I am so very thankful to Casperian Books for letting me pay that tribute to George and fulfill--or start on--my dream.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Day 3: I'm thankful for...

Welcome to day 3 of my ongoing attempt to focus on one thing I'm thankful for in my life every day for 1 year. Why? Because I'm a grumpy-ass curmudgeon who finds great pleasure in grousing. I fixate on what's wrong when I have so very many things that are right in my life. So, I thought I'd try looking on the sunny side for a change!

Today, I'm thankful for our senior cat, Spooky. I'm thankful for all of our babies: Muggle, Spooky, and Minerva. They each have wonderful stories and fabulous personalities. They each came to us when we needed them. And they each make our lives fuller and richer than they'd be without our furry family members. But for today, I'm especially thankful for my old boy.

Spooky, our gray domestic short hair cat, is somewhere between 10 and 14. He found me in the NOAA CSC parking lot. At first, he went home with Sean Dennis because Matt put his foot down about another pet (we had Spike and Jaguar at the time). Sean and Julia named him Lump because his favorite thing to do is lie around like a lump and not move. It still is. The Dennises fostered Lump until Matt went out of town on a work trip and I brought him home. That's when Matt learned the important and invaluable lesson that "pets happen." Sometimes, they just come into your lives and your home and there's nothing you can do about it.

Spooky fit in easily with the rest of the clan. He loved Spike, and got along well with Jaguar. Both cats were pretty happy to share their house and people, so we never had any territorial marking or caat fights. Spooky kept to himself and let Jaguar be the alpha until she died, then he moved into the role.

Despite Spooky's rather, well, spooky appearance, he's a lover. He's perfectly content to curl up in a lap and "groom" your clothing. His favorite place to sleep is on my chest or curled up with Minerva. He's also accident prone. This is our cat with allergies-fleas, pollen, flea medicine. You name it, it probably makes his hair fall out. He's the cat who fell out of a tree and broke his leg in Germany--to the tune of about $3000 in vet bills! Within a few weeks of returning to SC, a spider bit him in the ear and it swelled and got infected. Nasty, stinky stuff! Then, within a month of getting Minerva - the petite, declawed little girl-cat managed to bite or claw him in the side, resulting in an abscess that had to be slit and drained.  Lucky for us, he's pretty meek and mild-mannered about taking medicine, getting his boo-boos cleaned up, and being fussed over.

This week, Spooky was diagnosed with feline chronic renal failure (CRF). His kidney's are shutting down. The only thing to do is reduce the stress on his kidneys as much as possible by restricting his protein intake, and giving him meds to prevent the amino acids from being absorbed by his intestines so his kidneys won't  have to work so hard to filter them. My guy is still pretty perky and lovable. He's always been a snuggler.

Photo 1: Spooky and Minerva - not the shaved spot where he had the abscess.
Photo 2: Posing to show his hansomeness.
Photo 3: Curled up in my lap.

I am so very thankful for the years we've had Spooky, and for however much more time we have with him. He's been a wonderful companion, a fun sibling to his dogs, Spike and Muggle, and a good brother to his cats, Jaguar and Minerva. We'll keep him as comfortable and happy as we can for as long as we can. It'll break my heart when the time comes--and I hope it won't  be soon--but for now, I'll just be thankful that Spooky came into our lives.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Day 2: I'm thankful for...

I have a wonderful group of friends. Years ago, Donna gave me a wall plaque that reads "Friends become our chosen family." I am incredibly fortunate to have made wonderful friends who've become family as I've moved far from my family and relatives and ventured far and wide. When I've been away from "home" for the holidays, I've never felt a lack of family because I've been lucky enough to be surrounded by dear, dear friends who've become my family. So, to all my extended family around the globe, I'm very thankful for your love, support, and friendship. Thank you all! Even when we aren't physically together, you're always in my heart!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

I'm thankful for...

DAY 1: I am thankful for my wonderful husband, Matt.

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone! Tomorrow is the day when all across the country, people are focusing on and giving thanks for what they have. I've been thinking about what I have to be thankful for a lot in the past few months because I know I don't focus on those things enough and I have so very much to be thankful for. So, one of my goals for the next year is to identify and focus on one thing I'm thankful for every day, for 365 days.

I'm certain I have at the very least 365 things in my life that I'm thankful for. Rather than try to think of all of them, diluting the huge significance or any one in my life, I'll just look at one per day.

Today, my first day, I will focus on the thing I am most thankful for out of the many things in my life that I appreciate: my husband. I don't know how I got so lucky, but I found the one person who can tolerate me and I can tolerate, not just for a few years, but for a lifetime. He makes me laugh, he frustrates me, he supports me, and (for better and worse) he gets me.

If I could bottle and sell my husband, I'd be rich. He cooks, he grocery shops, he irons, he loves to putter around the house and yard and fix things, he's neat and organized--essentially, he's the anti-Lynne. But, our personalities mesh--we're both sarcastic smart-alecs, we both love to brabble, we can both get irritated with the other one minute and find the humor in it the next. And, best of all, our love continues to grow, slow and steady, every day.

When I was young, I couldn't appreciate that slow, gradual burn. I mistook fireworks and intensity for love. That's probably why all my past relationships crashed and burned. With Matt, each day I'm surprised and excited about something new. Small things. That he sets my vitamins out so I don't forget to take them. That he--not a coffee drinker--notices when the creamer is low and puts a new one in the fridge for me. That he is confident enough in himself and in us to not try to change for me or to change me, but instead, we understand and accomodate our differences. We don't need each other to be whole, but together we're a bigger and better whole.

For Matt alone, I have a lifetime full of reasons to be thankful. And I am.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Christmas shopping?

Once again this year, I'm promoting donating to charities and those in need. Whether their need is for cash, donation of goods, or time, there are so many good causes to support in so many ways that it's a shame to spend all our time, effort, and money on things we and our families and friends don't need or want all in the name of holiday giving.

I encourage you all to choose causes near and dear to your gift recipients' hearts and donate in their name, whether the cause is cancer research, animal rescue, education, conservation donation, giving to a worthy cause, where there truly is a need, demonstrates the true spirit of the holidays. This year, Matt and I will make contributions to mitochondrial disorder research, the Special Olympics, a number of local humane societies (in NY, SC, and the VI), World Wildlife Fund, and literacy programs. All causes with special meaning and relevance to us, our families, and friends.

(Warning - shameless plug ahead - feel free to stop reading at this point!)

And for those of you who feel the need to give a little something just for the joy of seeing gifts under the tree, and the excitement of unwrapping, now's a good time to order Marina Melee as a gift for the boaters, adventurers, and rummies on your holiday gift list! Order it in any of the electronic formats available at Smashwords and save 25%. Just enter the coupon code EX53M when purchasing.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

2 scenes a day!

I'm not doing NANOWRIMO this year. I've tried it 3 times before and it's always been a great way for me to start a new story. But, I can't write like that - to a word count. Turns out, when I do that, I write crap. And end up deleting most of it. There might be a sentence or two that are worth keeping, turning over in my mind, and figuring out what to do with them. Those are what eventually become stories like Marina Melee and Chupacabra.

I need structure. I need to know where I'm going. I need a plan. Yes, I'm a plotter, not a pantster. Without my outline, I meaner and wander. I ramble. Just ask Matt.

Stephen King's strategy--write 2000 words per day--worked well for Marina Melee (but I'm not Stephen King, I just went for 1000 words per day) because I did have a very detailed, specific outline and knew exactly where the story was going. Naturally, I thought the same process would work for Chupacabra. The outline was there, I knew how it would end. I just didn't know how to get there. So, I came up with a different strategy--I'd only have to write 2 scenes per day. Semantics, you say. Probably. But in my mind, I have to know the point of each scene, know where it starts and where it ends, know how it moves the story forward before I can write it.

Turns out, 2 scenes is about 1000 words, more or less. Mentally, it works for me. Maybe it'll work for you, too.