Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Years

So another year has passed away and 2014 has almost begun!!  I've never been very good at making or keeping resolutions but I'll give it another try.  This year I'm going to

Laugh more

Take more risks

Eat better

Worry less

Be Grateful

Remember with Joy

and take nothing for granted

and I'm wishing you all the best in the new year as well!!  Thank you all for every time you visit and comment.  I really appreciate it!


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Giving Kindness

Recently, when I was out shopping a woman spoke very rudely to me.  This is the place where the story that follows could be all about how the person’s actions were wrong.  It would have been easy to demonize her. I could dissect the behavior and ask others to join me in ridiculing and shaming the other person’s actions but her behavior isn’t what interested me.  It was mine.  After all, the only person I could control in this situation was myself.  I thought about being snarky back, but then I really looked at the woman.  She was an older lady who looked harried and angry but she also seemed sad.  It made me wonder what was going on in her life.  I smiled at her and just moved on with my chore.

This time of year can be very difficult as we all know.  We have an abundance of parties, the perfect gifts to purchase, cookies to make, and family obligations.  Its rush, rush, rush with too little time for all we would like to do and very little rest.
Sometimes it’s even more than that.  I thought back six years.  It was December and my mother was dying.  She was suffering from frontal temporal lobe dementia and lymphoma.  This type of dementia meant she was losing her ability to find words and she seemed unable to think clearly.  She'd been through a round of chemo but although the doctors thought the cancer was under control I had my suspicions that they were wrong.   I found myself in grocery stores, the post office, in my car, worrying and distracted.  Those who didn’t already know me had no way of understanding what I was going through.  I probably just seemed like a distracted, sometimes angry female easily prone to crying.  Pain and anger often go hand in hand.  I was angry at a disease I couldn't understand or control.  It was taking something from me that I desperately didn't want to lose.

Sometimes when I was at home I would snap at my husband.  I'm sure he felt like I was attacking him but instead of biting me back he was kind.  He spoke to me quietly with respect and tried to comfort me.  It would have been so easy to snap back but he saw that I was fragile and on the edge.  I wouldn’t be able to take it.  I was so grateful for his compassion.  He knew what was going on but it isn’t always that simple for us when we run into discourteous and disrespectful people we don't know as we go through our day.
This holiday season, I decided to try to remember that kindness my husband showed me and to try to bestow it on the next person who needs it, as I did with the woman at the store.  I've been trying to remember that we all have difficulties in life, and perhaps that ill-mannered person who crossed my path is going through something I don’t know about.  A sick child or parent, lost job, abusive spouse, car accident--it could be anything.  Like my mother used to say, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” 

Then came a problem with my phone.  Could I remember my new advice and be patient with someone when I had a problem?  After all, it wasn't the customer service representative's fault I had a problem.  I wrote Calm and Nice in large print on a piece of paper in front of me.  This was a more difficult task.  I get highly frustrated with technology when it suddenly does naughty behavior that now I have to solve.  At least it seems to me to misbehave deliberately.  A man came on the line and with a clearly logical tone asked if he could help me.  This is where I tend to want to scream into the phone, "Yes, help me, this stupid phone doesn't work right," while slamming it against my desk.  (I can attest here -- this rarely works with the phone or the representative).  I looked down at my paper and took a deep breath, trying to state the most logical testament of my problem.  He paused a moment and then I could hear typing.  Every once in a while he would apologize for how long it was taking him to find the answer but after a bit he was able to tell me the fix.  It was the byproduct of a recent update.  I really couldn't complain--I like that my phone does nearly miraculous things like my email, games, facetime etc.  and there is a payment for that privilege.  At the end of the call I gratefully thanked the man on the other end and wished him a good day.  I could feel the warm tone in his voice when he rang off.  It was a good day. 

I'm going to try to continue my streak of niceness.  I won't be perfect.  I've never been.  I've said things I oughtn't, done things I shouldn't, and have had them haunt me when I've regretted it.  But at least I'm going to try.   In that one way maybe it will be a gift that won't be the wrong size.  If I'm lucky, it will be returned or regifted. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Shadows & Spirits of the State Capitol

We have such a variety of quality events in Minnesota but I find I do more unique experiences when we have guests in from out of town.  This past weekend my sister-in-law and her husband came into town.  We were so excited but as it was somewhat short notice we hadn't planned any fun excursions. 

When they called I happened to have a brochure from the Minnesota Historical Society sitting in the middle of my desk.  As a member I look forward to the brochures to see all the unique upcoming events.  I was sure I would find something we could do I just hoped it wouldn't be sold out. 

Sure enough I hit on Shadows and Spirits of the state capitol.  In the evening for two weekends you can tour the building with only the historic lighting from when it was constructed from 1896-1904.  It had been many years since I toured the Capitol Building but I remembered how taken I was with the building.   

We would see the Capitol Building often when we were downtown.  Driving by I would tell my husband, who hails from Ohio, we needed to visit but there was always something else that would capture our attention. 
We arrived just as it was getting dark.  The thermometer had just hit 40 degrees and the golden light that shown from the doorways and windows beckoned us in.   Climbing the steps we turned to see the Cathedral on the hill across the way, and were awed by the beauty that is St. Paul. 

Walking the halls with the historic lighting was such an evocative experience into the past.  We were met by the 'spirits' of the building who recreated famed historical people and experiences of Minnesota's past.  Telling of the art, building and legislative fights of our history, such as the fight for women's vote, were a former night watchman, an army general, a suffragette, and a building foreman. 

As we left the building, my husband and our guests agreed that this building is as beautiful as many in Washington D.C.  When you mention Minnesota, out of state people mostly speak of our cold weather, but we have a lot to offer in our state.  It made me proud of my capital.  Just one more thing that is worth a visit in beautiful Minnesota.
If you're moved to visit during the evening there is only one more weekend this year.  Tours are Thursday till Saturday, October 24-26 - 6:30, 7, 7:30 & 8 PM.  Cost is $9 - $12 ($2 discount for MHS members)  Reservations required.  651-296-2881.  It makes for an entertaining and learning evening.  Flash photography is prohibited but with a night setting you can still get stunning photos.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Within Reach

My novella Within Reach will be coming out May 2014 in e-Book form published by Melange Books.   It was a story I wrote when I was coming to terms with my mother's dementia and subsequent death.  While the story is based on my mother, it is not the true life story of her life and death, instead it was a tool for coping.  For the sake of simplicity I changed a lot of details but the essence of my experience is intact.

My mom, Marlys, was a gentle and sweet woman.  She had a wonderful sense of humor and an infectious laugh.  A brilliant woman who seemed to have the answer to everything when I'd call her with a question about children, cooking or something that upset me.  Sometimes now, I wish I could tell her, "Mom, you were right about everything."  Many days I think, "I have to tell Mom" and find myself on the way to the phone before I remember she is no longer with us and I am left with a hole that will never be filled.  She was hardworking, holding down a full-time job and raising five children, not to mention volunteering at church.  I think I got a lot of my creativity from her--she tried painting, embroidery, refinishing furniture, crewel work, and decorating.  When I was fifteen she was diagnosed with lupus and was chronically ill from then on.  Rarely complaining she continued working and still kept her house cleaner than I can seem to.  Her health kept continuing downhill until she was diagnosed with dementia, then t-cell lymphoma. 

Dealing with dementia is a heartrending experience that is described in my story as "realizing she was being stolen from me one fragment at a time".  I struggled with losing my mother before she was actually gone from this world.  Letting her have her dignity while making sure she was safe was a balancing act I'm sure I didn't always do gracefully.  It was a mentally and physically draining time and I wish I had been more prepared to know how to help her.  Although there are medications for some forms of Alzheimer's we had no such weapons in our arsenal to fight the type of dementia my mother had. 

There are many websites and resources to help those in need.  The Alzheimer's Association is one of the places we turned to for information, and part of the proceeds from this story will be donated there for future research and caring for those who have the disease.   http://www.alz.org/

I will be writing more on Within Reach when we get closer to the release date but here's the official blurb for my story:

Within Reach is the story of Emma, a woman coming to terms with her mother’s increasing dementia and the everyday challenges associated with it.  Inexplicably, she finds herself ‘re-living’ specific events from her past.  She soon wonders if her own sanity is slipping, and only her mother can help find the key.

In memory of Marlys Joan Tonder Fick with love and remembrance.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

My Favorite Easy Dinner

I'm not usually a person who passes around recipes and talks food.  I don't particularly like to cook although my husband, George, says I'm really good at it.  Of course, I have to wonder whether that is to get out of cooking himself but perhaps I'm being too jaded. 

A lot of you who know me, know I am on a anti-inflammatory diet.  It can be restrictive but after being on it for over a year, I quite like it.  I had to find a whole new way to eat from the way I was raised.  Gone are the potatoes, gravy and heavy sauces.  No more sugar, very little wheat and milk.   I can eat some lean meats and fish so we decided to try to make salmon. 

With trepidation we entered the forum of fish.   Neither my family nor my husband's made salmon when we were growing up so we had only had it from restaurants, and even then we weren't sold on the taste.   We started by buying the single serve frozen patties from the grocery store.  They were convenient, and they had this handy little button that would pop out when they were done.  So easy.  Unfortunately they were only so-so in taste and the ingredients they were marinated in, with it's salt and MSG, weren't really optimal from a health standpoint. 

We were walking through our local grocery store when they had a person sampling salmon pan-fried in olive oil.  After tasting it we were sold on buying fresh salmon but we weren't so sure we were going to be able to pull off cooking it.  For some reason it seemed scary, but what did we have to worry about anyway?   If it didn't turn out we could just warm up some Campbell's soup. 

We found a recipe online.  Easy-Peasy.  Cook in 2 Tbsp olive oil for 3 minutes a side.  Cooking on the side with the skin first was no problem but when it came to turning it, well, it just looked yucky.  It was almost like thinking about eating a fish we'd just known.  After our 6 minutes I talked Geo into pulling it out and pulling the skin and scraping the brown stuff off.  Back in the pan on medium high for a minute to sear the bottom and it was ready. 

Now for the sides.  I don't really love rice so we decided to try quinoa.  Everyone was talking about it, a plant based protein.  We tried natural but it was blah.  Finally we found one packaged with roasted garlic flavoring.  Perfect, easy and prettily plated.
We add sweet potatoes for a vegetable and it is the perfect meal.  Cut the sweet potato in small cubes, brush with olive oil, add salt and pepper to taste and bake at 425 degrees for 25 minutes, turning at the half way point.  Yum, and I didn't even know I liked sweet potatoes.
Nutritious, Easy and best of all - Geo insists on being the one to cook it. 
Thank you to my cousins, Renee and Rhonda for encouraging me to write this post!! 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

A Look into the Past

A book can take us into another world, time and dimension.  Recently I started reading a book about Julia Child called Dearie.  It brings to life a lot of interesting information about a woman I had seen on television but whom I never found to be interesting when I was younger.   For me, the making of a meal is a chore, not one I wish to linger over, so I never looked beyond this middle aged woman who appeared frumpy to my then teenaged mind.  The book discusses her unmotivated early life and moves into a vision as a brave rule breaker who rarely let anything bring her ideas down.  She called herself a secretary during the second world war but she was a major secret keeper whose job seemed mostly mundane in its daily routine.  It made me discern a discrepancy between developed perception and reality.

The book brought me to a time in history I find quite fascinating--the beginning of the twentieth century with all the changes and progress it brought alongside the devastation of two world wars.   While we can never really know what it was like in another era, it's wonderful to imagine ourselves there.  With the rising popularity of delving into our own personal ancestries I realized that there was a whole generation striving to find our own family stories and how they fit into a larger picture of history.   Before my mother passed she helped me make an ancestry book that I filled with names, dates and places along with a few stories that had been passed down.  It was interesting, but mostly just dry facts without a true connection.

Reading the Julia Child story made me really start trying to put myself into the life of my ancestors, particularly my grandmother, Jennie Odegaard Tonder, who was raised in that generation, although not in the moneyed world Julia was raised in.  I came to realize that the grandmother I'd known as a child for her soft enveloping hug and laughter I can still hear, was actually a spunky young woman in her earlier days.   Somehow we can't see past the people we have always known, and recognize them for the younger vibrant beings they were years before.  Life intrudes to make us more careful than carefree as we age, and our younger lives and stories get forgotten in the pedestrian reality of our daily routine. 

When we would visit my grandmother's tiny house and it wasn't nice enough to play outside on the ancient swing set, I'd sit listening in to the exchange of gossip and information between my mother and grandmother.  Other times when I would finally get bored of tinkering on her old piano, I would ask my grandmother if we could look at her old photo albums and scrapbooks.  (I wonder now if that is where I learned to develop my photos into stories.)   She kept them all in a large, tall cupboard in her bedroom.  Opening the doors which were tied shut with twine was a wonderful experience leading to all her keepsakes and other treasures piled high in that shelved cupboard from floor to ceiling: vintage bedding, a two toned wooden game, a small globe coin holder, an old forgotten camera, and best of all, a pile of scrapbooks and photo albums. 

She would tell her stories as we sifted through the pages and each time I would sit enthralled because my young memory couldn't remember all the details, making each story new to me again every time it was told.  Jennie was born in 1908, the year Ford brought out the model T, before women had the right to vote, before women regularly wore pants, and when they were just beginning to be involved in mostly male careers.  Most women married young and didn't even realize they could have dreams of lives beyond motherhood and housekeeping.

Jennie graduated high school in 1927 and decided to continue on in nursing.  I now wonder what led her to nursing but perhaps it is a question hidden by time.  What an exciting prospect that must have been to a girl who had grown up in a town of only a few hundred people in northern Minnesota.   She moved down to Fargo, North Dakota to enroll in St. Luke's Hospital School of Nursing.   Her picture shows her as a vibrant young woman with marcelled waves in her hair.  She was required to wear a uniform made of blue gingham, shirtwaist style, long sleeves with two inch cuffs, with a neck cut to fit a Betsy Ross collar.   They also wore bibs, aprons and black stockings.  I can almost see her walking down the hall of an unadorned hospital, entering a world of medicine where between six to nine out of every thousand women died in childbirth and one out of five children died before the age of five.  It underlines some of the challenges she must have faced in her chosen profession. 

She graduated from the college in 1930, and went on to nurse professionally for several years and privately for many years thereafter.  Her scrapbook was filled with napkins from social engagements, notes about patients, cards, clippings, photos, and the footprints of the first baby she assisted in its birth.  The items are just fleeting images of the stories she could have told.  Each life that goes by is so intricately woven with others and we pass out of this world taking those amazing experiences and memories with us.  Perhaps it should be a reminder when we see someone of advanced age that we ought to sit down and spend some time listening to the stories they can tell.  It could be a twofold blessing--keeping the aged from being lonely and giving us a glimpse into stories that shouldn't be forgotten. 

Jennie married in 1933 and then began a family but never forgot her nursing background.   People of the little town would come to her for decades later for medical help when they couldn't see a doctor.  
In a time now when it is not an uncommon event for women to go to college and start careers, the focus on the past can become blurred by comparisons of the present.  Sometimes we need to look back and honor the ones who came before us just so we can be mindful of the steps strong people took before us.  I look back at the photos I have tucked away and realize there was a Jennie I never had a chance to know. 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Reuseful Things

We hear a lot about reduce, reuse and recycle but how many articles tell us new ways to reuse?  The ones I have seen lately have been more about furniture, mostly cutting an old table in half and using it as a side table screwed into your wall.  While I've seen that done well, I've also worried about how much time it was going to take to fix my wall after I was tired of the side table and wanted a new look. 

I hate to throw out anything that I could use again but I also don't want things just sitting around my house.  I've adopted a philosophy of only keep what you use.  Don't save your good china, new outfit, or any new item for a special occasion.  That day just may never come.  I remember my grandmother used to have a suitcase she kept packed with new pajamas and underclothes in case she would have to go to the hospital sometime.   When she did have to go to the hospital for her gall bladder she wasn't at home and couldn't take her little suitcase.   I've found life never goes as planned.

Here are a few of the items I have reused and their new lives.  

When I first started finding sheets in tiny cloth bags to cut down the packaging materials I was so excited.  They were cute and fun but what would I use them for after I opened the sheets?  I found they were very useful to put my purses in for storage.  It would save the items from scratches and dust.  Also, I use them when I travel to put shoes in.  If the shoes are soiled it keeps the rest of the items from getting dirty.

I was out at the antique store and I found this wonderful little box.  I moved it about the house trying to find a good use for it when I stumbled on my favorite idea.  I put all my vitamins and medications that sit on the counter in it.  This isn't a good use if you have small children but it's perfect for keeping our counters uncluttered. 

When we went to Scotland recently we toured the Edradour Distillery.  Geo brought home a bottle of Scotch and it came it a cardboard cylinder.   He wanted to keep it but I didn't want it just taking up space, we settled on using it for small change.   He can now have it out to remind him of our trip and it has a use. 

To save on paper use, I use pretty tea towels as a wrap on presents.  Then after the person receives their gift they can use the towel as well. 

Remember all those gifts you receive at your wedding?  Occasionally you look at them and wonder -- what am I going to do with a decanter?  If I open a bottle of wine, we often finish it.   I found they are a beautiful way to have your mouthwash on your counter in your bathroom. 

I know these aren't revolutionary ideas but I like to find new ways to reuse things that may be sitting around.   I would love to hear any ideas of things that you are reusing in your home.   Any time we reuse items and don't buy new or throw away, I think we all help our earth. 

Friday, June 7, 2013

Comic Con Not Just For Boys

I know a lot of you have heard of Comic Con but did you realize there was one that is right here in Minnesota at the State Fairgrounds?  It's not as fancy or large but it really is a fun time.  

 One thing I noticed was the lack of females at the event.  It's not as if there are no women but there are not nearly as many as men.  (Ladies, think target rich environment.)

My husband has collected comics since he was young.  Just like Big Bang Theory he can tell you all the back stories of each character.  I haven't paid a lot of attention over the years but it's come in handy for all the super hero movies that have come out.  I get a full background story before I see the movie so I understand the history of what's going on. 

Last year my husband convinced me to go with him to the Spring Comic Book Convention by the Midwest Comic Book Association.  This was my first adventure into comic cons.  It was enjoyable and I just wandered around enjoying the atmosphere.  The costumes, the comics and figurines, and artists everywhere.   But the more I looked at the comics the more I started seeing these graphic novels as art. 

This year was my second visit to the comic con.   We entered and started looking around as usual.  Geo started looking for issues he'd been trying to find and I wandered about on my own.   As I was walking around I noticed a poster of Supergirl that I particularly was drawn to.   One of the themes in my writing is strong women and I decided it would be wonderful to have it over my desk.   The artist was sitting at the table and I went up to talk to her about the poster.  Her name was Amy Reeder and the poster was a cover for a series.  She drew the cover on several of the issues in this series.  I purchased the poster for my office, then set out to find the actual comic books this was the cover on.  I found several of the series but not the one on my poster.   I ended up started my own comic book collection that day.   The art is beautiful and the stories are actually interesting and empowering.   (Amy and her partner Brandon Montclare have their own new series Rocket Girl - read about it on her blog http://amyreeder.tumblr.com/.)

Then off to do more wandering.  I have a thing about supporting people in the arts but especially women.  That's local authors, painters, jewelry designers or what have you.   I want to see those around me succeed whatever their endeavor.  So I decided to walk around and talk to all the women artists at the event. 

I met two women sitting together, Jessica Hickman and Darla Ecklund.  Both are wonderful artists.  Jessica drew a beautiful comic called The Mermaid and the Shark.   She was able to tell a story through pictures alone.  It's a lovely story about the dangers of netting to the shark population.   A must have for all you shark lovers.  Visit her and enjoy her art at www.jessicahickman.com.  Darla can do amazing fantasy pictures but also does commission portraits, watercolors and drawings of your favorite pet.  Her enchanting drawings really spoke to me, and I encourage you to check them out.  She will have a new comic coming out soon about the Loch Ness Monster.   http://darlaecklund.blogspot.com/  Both women couldn't have been more gracious or nice.   They made me feel at home in a new environment which I really appreciated.   

I found myself caught up in the fun of a different world.  One of art and fantasy.  People came dressed  as their favorite comic book heroes and it was really fun.  I saw a wonderful Superman, Batman with a tiny Robin, Poison Ivy, all the Star Wars characters, the Joker and more.  There are photographers there to take your costumed pose and a contest for best costume.  They have raffles so you can win free stuff, which makes for a wonderful fair type atmosphere.  For a day you can suspend belief and just go back to the days where we put towels around our necks for capes.  Perhaps next year I'll even have the guts to go in my Seven of Nine costume. 

Even if comic books don't seem to be your thing, you might enjoy a new adventure.  Now I can't wait for FallCon on October 5th!!     Find it on MCBA website -      http://midwestcomicbook.com/?s=Fallcon+2013

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Household Products that May or May Not Work

Don't we all see products in magazines, on television and in stores and we wonder if they work?  I often see products I would love to try but don't want to buy them if they are just gimmicks.  Sometimes it's nice to hear a recommendation from someone you really know. 

I decided I would try several items I've found recently and see if they work.  Are they going to make my life easier or are they just wasted money?

The first product I tried was one I didn't think would really work.  It was a sponge type thing that was supposed to be a hair lifter called coincidentally Gonzo Pet Hair Lifter.  It would be great if it worked because I am always covered in cat hair.  (as is my furniture)   I decided to try to clean Senora's perch because it was difficult to clean being covered in carpet.  (Not pictured because I'm sure you'd rather not see it.)  Did it work?  Surprisingly the answer was yes.  It has a very odd texture, not really sticky but similar.  It was able to get in the corners and around edges.  The hair kind of just rolled up in a ball and you could throw it away.  It actually worked much better than my vacuum.  This one I would endorse.  You can rinse it and reuse.  It doesn't leave any chemicals behind.  You can find it at Amazon, the Container store and some pet stores.

The next item I tried was one for cleaning silver called Hagerty Silversmiths' Gloves.  I know most people don't have silver anymore but I love old spoons and I still have some silver pieces from my wedding.  I don't clean them often but I like something that is easy and does a good job.  These are gloves covered in a cleaner right when you get them.  They say they can be washed and sprayed with the original cleaner to be reused.  You can find these at Amazon, The Container Store or even Home Depot. 
Although the pictures aren't great you can see they did work.  They were surprisingly fast and much less messy than traditional cleaner.  They are supposed to stay untarnished longer but the jury is still out on that one. 
I know most of you know that I love vintage items but once in a while they are not in the best condition.  Reusing items is something I think more people are interested in so it's nice to find a way to make them look new again.  My neighbor, a lady in the antique business, told me about the next item.  It's called Kramer's Best Antique improver.  I would be very careful trying something like this on a fine antique but for my small picture frame it really couldn't ruin it. 
You can see by the following photos that this is another item that actually works to make the scratches not stand out on the wood.  The scratch is still there when you look at it from the side but to outward appearances it does work.  It also seems to renew the wood making it shine.  If you try this I would put it on an inconspicuous spot first, maybe the back.  I think it would work best if you stripped the wood but I actually didn't in this case.  You never know how it's going to react with old finishes.   You can find this in a lot of antique stores and on Amazon. 

The last item I tried because of my infatuation with acrylic boxes.  I use a lot of them for organization but they do get scratched.  I found a product saying it could help those scratches.  The Novus Fine Scratch Remover. 
The scratch starts out pretty strong and it does seem to minimize the scratch but it is still there.  The smaller scratches are quite diminished.  There is also a deep scratch remover and perhaps later I will try that one.  For now...it might work on small scratches but not on really deep scratches.

Now if you are ever tempted to purchase these items you have some idea whether they work.  If you have any questions I didn't answer leave a comment and I will try to let you know.   
I really hope, dear friends, that you are having a great week, and thanks for reading!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Why do I blog?

Everyone has a blog lately and I am only one of many.  Why did I start this blog?  It's an honest question -- one I hear when I tell people about Unaccompanied Jaunt.

Anyway, as long as I remember I have wanted to be a writer.  When I was little I would staple mini blank pieces of paper together and start a story.  Mom always said I was so into the dedication I didn't get much further at that time.  Later in 7th grade I won a writer's contest for a children's story I wrote.  S is for Sally.  Not very imaginative but for some reason very well received.  I moved on to a fanfic story where I was the heroine in the Star Wars universe.  (The foreshadowing of how important that knowledge was going to be once I had my son was unknown at the time.)  Somewhere in my teens I became very embarrassed about my stories and unfortunately I destroyed them all.  Just think of the entertainment they would have been after all these years. 

Ever since then, I've written off and on for years, bits and pieces of started novels, some short stories and even a couple of children's stories but I just didn't seem to be able to find my process.  Last year I started another novel but this time I took some online classes and read a few books on outlining.  Somehow I began to stumble on a process that worked for me.  I finished my first draft of my novel in 3 months.  I co-wrote a novel with my husband a few years ago but this one was my baby.  My husband, Geo and I went through 3 more rewrites before we decided to try to find an agent and get it published.

The process of finding an agent is a daunting task.  I've been sending it off but thus far the story hasn't found a home.  I am hopeful that I will see the story published someday. 

Now, I am 40,000 words into my next novel and am truly enjoying every moment of bringing my new world and friends to life.  Although I do write in several genres most of the same themes run through my stories.  Redemption and forgiveness are some of the themes I feel to be important in life because we could all use to have both given to us.  Another theme is women finding their own strength, something that took me many years to find for myself. 

Publishers and agents like to see an author start the process of getting a readership.  This brings me to my blog.  Blogs are one of an author's platforms to interest readers in their work.  In the future I hope to feature some of the stories I have written as well as lighter articles about organizing, travel or just the latest topic to come into my life. 

So to all who stop by my blog, I hope you enjoy the articles.   Thank you for your support in this endeavor!   If you feel compelled to leave a comment or message, I would love to hear from you!.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Why Can't We Accept Compliments?

Recently I told a friend how much I liked the way she'd done her hair.  Her first response was, "Oh no, I just decided to try it a different way."   I thought her hair was beautiful or I wouldn't have said anything.  I wondered, why can't we as women take compliments?  If you tell a man he looks handsome or did something well, he'll smile at you and say "Thanks."  Women on the other hand will explain in detail how your compliment isn't true.  If you tell them they look nice you hear a litany of things wrong with them.  If you are listing all your perceived shortcomings to me when I'm giving you a compliment, what negative things are you telling yourself privately in your mind?  Is it because as young women we are told that if we like how we look we are conceited?  Do we somehow feel we don't deserve compliments because we don't look like models?

Do we think of ourselves as always falling short because Hollywood shows us only beautiful, perfect women?  These are the same women who look more alien to me as time goes by after too many trips to the plastic surgeon.  I was watching The Real Housewives the other day and one of the women there was turned to the side and you could see her extensions.  I started looking at all the women closely, and saw  that there is a veil of masquerade over all of them.  Pieced together with glue and tape then shot in perfect light.  All of them trying to look perfect as they act atrociously and make their catty asides.  Weren't we told it was your behavior rather than your appearance that counts?  Yet this is the mirror we hold ourselves up to.   We have to stop allowing this to be our measuring stick.

Of course, I'm guilty myself of shunning compliments.   Someone recently gave me a very nice compliment on a photo. What did I say?   I said I was grateful for filters. Well, I am grateful for filters, after all it erased 10 years from my face.  From now on though, I'm going to try to just say 'Thank you", and be appreciative of any compliments that may come my way.

We are real women, real bodies, real beauty.  The gracious way to take a compliment is just to say, "Thank you."  Then just for a moment allow yourself to believe what they say.  If someone compliments you, the thought obviously went through their head.  Shouldn't we start feeling good about ourselves?

Organizer Prize

For all my readers -- Sorry for the delay -- I am going to extend the prize through April since I have missed several weeks of blogging.   This is a simple idea that I found to be helpful.  My medicine chest sits directly over the toilet being the only wall space available.  Unfortunately due to my clumsy nature too many items have ended up where I can never use them again.  This just slips right inside the cabinet and has a rim so items can not be knocked over easily.  What a great idea!!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Displaying Your Collections as Unique Art

Hi Everyone -- Yes, I'm finally back.  It's been a long winter so I'm back in organizing mode. This week's blog is all about unique displays.  I know I've done a few display pieces before but I keep thinking of other items to display and finding other containers to use.  Whether it's a collection, a unique gift, a child's art, or a travel memento we all have things we would love to display in our homes to make them uniquely ours.  So here's a few different ideas that may have you thinking of ways to display things in your own home.

I collect antique spoons but I have this unwritten rule that I can't collect anything unless I use it or display it.  It can't sit in a drawer or box moldering away.  I originally purchased this from Pottery Barn but you can get less expensive versions now at Michael's. They aren't as solidly made but they look good and as they are just going to hang on the wall they do a fine job.  I particularly like these because the front swings open and you can easily change what you are displaying.

The next item my husband is not really sold on but I adore.  He finds it very odd to have an elephant just hanging out on the wall but I think you can see him from all sides and he doesn't get dusty.  I purchased this acrylic box at CB2 but you can also find many different sizes and shapes online.


 All of the parents out there probably have children with some sort of item they collect.  Most of the time we would just throw everything in a box but how about displaying some of those items?  One of our son's collections is those little Lego people.  I found this display at the Container Store.  The ability to set up different levels makes this a perfect case for being able to see the details of each little character.

What other unique items can you display?  Photos surrounded by invitations and themes.

Everyone's seen containers of seashells but it's one of my favorite collections.  I actually placed each shell to highlight my favorites.  I've also displayed them in a shadow box.
Vintage and inexpensive fans.

Vintage Needle Holders or sewing supplies can be found very inexpensively on EBay.  This is one of the window boxes from Michael's.  I liked the detailed surround on the frame.


Here is a collection of doilies and vintage handkerchiefs.  How about wine labels, small vintage cookbooks, vintage patterns, necklaces,  boy/girl scout badges, guitar picks, antique keys?  The ideas are as limitless as your imagination.

Ultimately there is no reason not to display your favorite collectibles.  For each idea there is a different case/frame for it.  So pull out a collection and use it as art.  I'd love to hear about anything unique you have found to use for art. 

New for March - Prize Giveaway!!!  - For each time you comment on this website (not Facebook page) you will receive a ballot to win an organizer that I will feature.  So get to commenting and look for the winner at the end of March.  Next week - I'll show you what you could win!! 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Maui - A Guide of Our Best Memories

I recently got back from my accompanied jaunt in beautiful Maui, Hawaii with my family.  When we started to plan this vacation we were flummoxed as to where to stay, what to do, and what not to miss.  I knew this may be our one chance at going to Maui and it almost made me unable to go ahead and plan the trip.  We started asking around to friends and family and we only got a few responses.  Although several people had gone to various islands we didn't get much in recommendations.  Either people were too busy to go through their old pamphlets or perhaps they were worried we wouldn't have the same experience if we did the same things.  I decided I would sit down right after our trip and write out our experiences and maybe that would help others to plan their trips.  This information is not from locals so I'm sure we missed more than we found. 

As to the island we chose, we just guessed and went with Maui.  We were told that Maui and Kauai were both the best islands by friends and so we just picked the one that a friend had given a recommendation on a condo.  We loved Maui.  Next time we'll try Kauai or another island, I'm positive they are all idyllic paradise. 

 We stayed at the Kihei Beach Resorts found here http://www.kiheibeachresorts.com/.  It was a delightfully quiet little condo at the very north end of Kihei.  South of town is very busy so this seemed more in keeping with our quiet ways. 

Staying in a condo has many advantages.  Obviously having a kitchen can really save on your food bills which was a larger expense.  This condo had a small fresh farmers market that had wonderful fruit and vegetables.  They do have a Kmart and Walmart on the island so stock up there for cereal etc.  The little stores are like here and can be expensive, but we found the grocery stores reasonable when you remember everything has to be shipped here on boats!

Our favorite experience had to be the helicopter over West Maui and Molokai.  At first we balked at the price but then realizing we would probably never be able to return we sucked it up and went for it.  Choosing the service and trips was challenging.  There are many helicopter services and several different trips but we loved the one we chose.  We saw rainbows, mountains, waterfalls, and even whales.  It was very cool.  We flew with Blue Hawaiian Helicopters and our pilot, Tim was amazing.  He had this lovely calm voice and was knowledgeable about the history and inhabitants of the islands.  I'm not sure which was my favorite the rainbow, waterfall or whales.

Another activity our son and his girlfriend enjoyed was surfing.  They had lessons from a man by the name of Sasha who works for a company called the Maui Beach Boys.  He was really patient and they got up on their first try.  They really recommended him.  Just so you know, they don't take credit there.  There were a surprising number of places that didn't take credit.  You need to carry cash.
Our favorite restaurant was recommended to us by a nice little couple from Ohio we met waiting for the helicopter.  Mama's Fish House has excellent food and the atmosphere is not to be missed.  Is it expensive -- Yes, but well worth every penny.  The food was probably the best I've ever had at any restaurant.  They had fish caught that day, steak for those of you who don't like fish, and a dessert to die for.  Strawberries in something like clotted cream. 
Another thing we think you must do is a luau.  We looked at several and would have liked to try a few but what we finally went with was the Feast at LeLe.  It was a delightful evening centering around a dance and dinner course from Hawaii, Aotearoa, New Zealand, Tahiti, and Samoa.  We probably wouldn't have tried some of these items if just offered.  They differed from our usual fare but we really enjoyed it all.  They have a professional photographer who offers photos on the beach and a local artist who will personalize your favorite tiki.  I know it's another unnecessary expense but what a great rememberance to bring home.  In the midst of a Minnesota winter I will look at it and be reminded of those days in the sun--a thing worth it's price when it is 10 below. 

We didn't end up doing the full road to Hana but we went 10 or so miles.  We turned around when someone thought they could go faster than the speed limit and ended up in our lane coming at us around a curve.  We decided other people were a hazard we didn't want to deal with.  We ended up turning around and visiting a twin waterfall.  We walked along an irrigation wall back to this delightful secluded area. You can swim in the pool but we didn't. 

If you are on the island from December until April you should try the whale watching tours.  I don't normally get motion sick on a boat but it was a very windy day.  Seeing the whales was worth the trouble though.  It's not every day you will see something so magnificent in the wild. 
The last day we were on the island we decided to drive all over and just see everything we could.  It was one of our best days.  We saw the Iao Valley, Tedeschi Winery, and then just drove and stopped as the whim caught us.  Finding a deserted beach was just one gem. 

This is just an overview of items we did on our trip.  Shall we say the best of the best.  One thing I will say is that I'm glad we did it.  You never know if you will be here tomorrow so you need to remember to live for today.