1st Time NaNoWriMo Observations: Pansters vs. Planners

So like a good little NaNoWriPar (National Novel Writing Month Participant) I’ve been following my local activity threads on the NaNoWriMo website. The first thing I notice is that there are few first-time participants like myself and these seem to me much younger than me. Oh well. C’est la vie. I didn’t get into this to hang out with any particular crowd. Our Municipal Liason (ML) is the owner of a local book store in her tenth year of doing NaNoWriMo. In an event where it seems that one is considered a winner simply by finishing, this seems to be big deal. And believe me, finishing, is no easy feat. We are talking 50,000 words in 30 days (November 1 – 30). Around 300,000 writers will participate and about 10% will actually finish. Pray for me people. Pray really, really hard!

An interesting dichotomy has garnered more of my attention as of late that is basic to writing and yet nonetheless fascinating. It is the division of the “pansters” and the “planners” otherwise known as “plotters” (suddenly I’m hearing the battle of the pugs and the poms from the musical Cats in my head). It’s not a new concept and much has been written on the subject. Basically, some writers write by the seat of their pants, throwing everything out there and seeing what ends up sticking during the rewrites, yes plural, meaning several. Obviously if you throw so much spaghetti at the ceiling, you’re going to have to clean it up. Others, opt for a more organized approach, these are the planners. Planners write outlines, make meticulous character development charts, create complicated story trees, map plot points, and basically leave as little to chance as possible. There are pros and cons to both approaches making neither one necessarily right or wrong except in the eye of the person doing the actual writing.

Pansters experience the divine art of creation through sheer imagination. A panster doesn’t think about where the story is going, how many scenes it’s going to take to develop each chapter, whether or not he is hitting plot points at the right time or if the character that just appeared out of nowhere is actually necessary to the story or what kind of ice cream she likes. Pantsters just write. In fact, the less thinking there is, the better. This allows for a purer channel for the story to come through and pantsters live on a kind of faith that their characters will come through and introduce themselves in all their idiosyncratic glory when the time is right. Of course this means tons of work on the tail end in the form of re-writes, but allows for a free and flexible flow of creativity. Sometimes pantsters don’t even know how a book is going to end until they are quite a ways into it. Hence the pantster runs a high risk of getting hopelessly lost in the big, scary forest of a story of her very own making <shiver>.

Planners/Plotters on the other hand, plan as much as possible on the front end of a project. They are the ones busy making outlines, developing story trees, mind-mapping and using any number of other ingenious organizational tools to map out a book long before any actual writing begins. By the time a good planner is finished with her planning, why, the book has nearly written itself. Unfortunately, writing this way doesn’t leave a lot of room for creative flexibility and when new material shows up that doesn’t fit into the paradigm of the world already built, it often must be scrapped or tabled for use somewhere else rather than be explored. However, Planners usually have little to do once the first draft is written as they’ve already planned out the entire thing and know how everything is going to turn out.

Who are these pantsters and plotters? Well, I’m about to drop some heavy duty, maybe even surprising names on you here:

Pantsters

Stephen King –

Preeminent “King” of horror, notorious pantster

Ray Bradbury –

Science fiction writer extraordinaire, pantster

Kim Olgren –

NaNoWriMo participant, multi-genre writer and blogger, pantster (okay, maybe not that big of a name…yet)

Planners

Charles Dickens –

Master Storyteller, planner

Edgar Allen Poe –

Yes, really, despite spending most of his time in one intoxicated state or another, planner

J.K. Rowling –

as with many fantasy writers, planner

Most writers fall somewhere in between the two. pantsters might use some plot points or a loose outline and many planners are not nearly as structured and rigid as the tools of the trade may indicate. However, I’m learning that many pantsters and planners are quite passionate about their particular approach to writing.

If you are a writer, which method do you prefer? Are you a pantster, riding the wave of the story and seeing it through to the end? Or are you a planner/plotter, putting things together with an end already in mind? Why does your particular method work so well for you?

Demons, and Heros, and NaNoWriMo…Oh MY!

Not so long ago I was in the midst of finding a new job and trying to solve some nasty medical issues while my daughter and two precious grandkids moved into our house doubling the headcount overnight. Fast forward five months and now I’m feeling healthier than I have in a long time, all the “kids” are still here, I found a full time job, and I’ve joined NaNoWriMo. What? Nanowhomo? Nanowhatnow? I know, I’m beginning to see it too, I may just be a glutton for punishment. Before all this I spent four years working full time while going to school full time to earn a degree that has recently become absolutely meaningless to me (no, I will not discuss the financial implications of this).

I have always been a somewhat introspective person and it only took one simple question to turn my whole psyche, not to mention my world, upside down. I hate it when that happens! So now that you’re dying to know how one little question turned a grounded, down-to-earth, professional, level-headed, practical gal into a mental, gelatinous pile of goo I’ll tell you what the seemingly innocuous inquiry was.

“What if there is no retirement?”

That’s it. Six simple words, “What if there is no retirement?” Did I freak out because our 401k is nonexistent after stints of unemployment for both me and my hubby? No. Did I lose it because I had just realized there will likely be no Social Security when I reach “retirement” age? Nope. It was much more horrifying that that. Something went off in my soul. My heart felt stifled, I couldn’t breathe for a moment, and for once, my ego had absolutely nothing to say. In that moment of pure clarity and suspended time I realized something big. No, something HUGE. Suddenly and large part of my life lost all meaning entirely, which left an opening for a true and passionate calling. No matter how terrified I was, there it was, plain as the nose on my face.

I couldn’t keep doing what I’ve been doing only to get what I’ve been getting and I certainly didn’t want to live… be…die…”retire” living the life I was living. Suddenly Peter Gibbons voice is in my head from the movie Office Space and I’m thinking every day I have to go into the office is the worst day of my life. Guess what? It is, and there’s nothing I can do about that right now. However, I can’t undo what I’ve seen and it’s funny how being really sick forces you to take a look at your life and figure out what your real priorities are.

Enter NaNoWriMo.org. Before this major epiphany I had resigned myself to being “okay” with the slow and constant drudgery that is my life with maybe an occasional vacation, but now that I know what I know, it has become slow torture leading to certain death. Think I’m overdramatizing? Show me someone who has heard his or her true calling and I’ll show you someone who would wither and die on any other path. I had begun writing a novel several months ago but it has been slow going as I learn a new job and juggle a house full of six people while trying to find the time to write.

NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. It is put on by The Office of Letters and Light. You can go to the website NaNoWriMo.org for more information. What NaNoWriMo participants do is write the rough draft of a novel, all 50,000 words, in one month from November 1 to November 30. Gah! Yep. This writer is going to attempt a 50k novel in 30 days working full time with six people in the house! Go me! This is my first time at NaNoWriMo, so I’m doubly nervous and excited. If you are a writer and have always wanted to write a novel but procrastination, fear, or whatever other excuse you’ve made has stopped you, maybe you’ll want to check NaNoWriMo out to get your feet wet.

Once I realized that every day was going to be the worst day of my life until I could get out of the cycle of going to a j-o-b every day I had to move. I had to set things in motion to be and do more, to create a life with more meaning and to give meaning to what I do day in and day out.

All that said, I am ever so grateful to my employer for giving me the means to pay the bills and I work for some wonderful people who will still be wonderful without me pushing papers around for them once I’m ready to become free. Even the caterpillar has to take it on faith that it will become a butterfly because it basically becomes caterpillar soup in that chrysalis before a beautiful butterfly is formed and bursts from it. I am stepping out in faith that out of the soupiness of what’s gone before, I’m changing into something different, something beautiful and someone who can offer the world a little something more. The demons of the past will meet the heroes of the future on the field at NaNoWriMo. Stay tuned.

How about you? What was your epiphany? Your wake-up call? Are you still trying to figure out what you want to be when you grow up? I felt that way for a long time. How did you know when the defining moment had arrived?

The Return of the Bounty of Good (or even moderate) Health

As some of you may recall (if you’re still interested) I ran into some issues and put my blog in hiatus for a few months while I took care of…well…me. Some health issues had landed me in the hospital and subsequent surgery was required to fix me up. All this caused havoc with my existing diabetic condition, which has landed me dependent on insulin at this point.

Yet all that having been said, I have to add, Oh my GOD do I feel so much better! Physically I think I may have just gone backwards ten years! I have some catching up to do as far as being in shape, but I guess that’s the subtle difference. I may not be in as good of shape as I’d like to be, but I’m healthier than I’ve been in some time and that gives me the energy and endurance to get in even better shape. This is a key that cost me dearly.

Continuing to push along as things get harder and harder and you get more and more tired is a sign that something more is going on. Physically or mentally, there’s nothing wrong with challenging yourself, but the challenge should energize you, not feel like it’s destroying you. There are times when “suck it up and drive on” just doesn’t apply. Who knew???

What’s more, when a major life event knocks you on your arse, I’ve found that it’s valuable to look into why that might be. I’m not talking about physical cause and effect, I’m talking about much deeper correlations. Spiritual correlations. Even now we are learning that when we get sick, it’s not just our body that is sick, something in our spirit, or our soul is out of balance or sick too. Could sickness be the higher self or Spirit trying to get our attention? Could it be trying to slow us down and make us take a look at where we might be in our lives as opposed to where we truly want to or should be? I believe, at the very least, that it offers an opportunity for some introspective stock-taking. Perhaps if I would have been paying better attention, life wouldn’t have had to konk me over the head to tell me that something was amiss.

Nevertheless I am so glad to be back and so happy to be writing again. Have you experienced an event that changed your life or made to stop and truly take stock in your life? Have you experienced a setback only to find that it was one of the best things that ever happened to you? Did you change your priorities because you were somehow forced to be still for a while? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Hiatus

Friends, followers, and fellow bloggers. I apologize for my disappearance from the face of the earth. I was admitted to the hospital with some somewhat serious health issues and have not been able to post. “Round the Bend will be on a short hiatus as I take some time to focus on my health and regain my strength.

Thanks for your patience and I’ll be seeing you soon “Round the Bend!

What Is Your Relationship to Silence? – Danielle LaPorte

Photo by: Kim Olgren

Photo by: Kim Olgren

Danielle LaPorte asks her burning question of the week. What is your relationship to silence? I found this a very intriguing question. As I began to ponder the question I wondered how many uber-busy people out there would even get the question. In a time of e-mail, Facebook, smart phones, electronic tablets, and huge TVs, I began to wonder how many people actually know what real silence is anymore. If I grabbed fifty of my Facebook friends and asked them if they meditated or spent any time in silence on a regular basis, what would I find? I suspect that very few would respond that they do.

For me silence is comforting. The world has become a noisy, dirty, mean, joyous, frenetic, volume on max, cacophony of speedy activity. I guess I’m kind of old fashioned or maybe it’s because I’ve found that my best writing comes to me out of silence. I own an android phone, I have a Facebook account, email, and entertainment system that includes a 47” flat screen TV, as big ‘ol stereo receiver and surround sound, but I spend the majority of my day – quiet. I’m sure that will change once I find a day gig to support me while I’m writing, but for now, I relish each quiet day. I don’t turn on the 47” TV during the day. In fact it is off until my husband gets home from work in the evening. Most days, I don’t even turn on my favorite companion, music. It’s fabulous, but then I’ve always been the kind of person who grabbed a bit of silence whenever I could. Don’t get me wrong though, I also do my fair share of making noise and running around like a madwoman.

Silence is refreshing. Silence is grounding. Silence is soothing. Silence is the place where the infinite, the holy, and I meet. Silence is the place where my angel wraps her wings around me and gives me strength. In silence my spirit rests. In silence I find the beauty of my own spirit. Silence makes no demands and yet its incredible power changes lives.

I appreciate the quiet moments in my life. Not long ago, my son and I sat in the living room, each on our respective computer. Me working on a story and he working on some video editing, I believe. We sat silently working for some time and I deeply appreciated the fact that this person who had been raised with all the modern day distractions our electronic era has to offer, could still sit comfortably in silence with another. He is a mere twenty-one years old and is already wiser in the ways of silence than many other adults I know.

Obviously I think silence is a good thing. I think everyone should get a little bit of it every day. Not necessarily in the form of intentional meditation, but if nothing else, to unplug for a while. In taking a moment to hear yourself, you connect to the divine or higher self. Silence allows us to give our brains a rest from the myriad of stimuli that are thrown at it every other second of the day. I know a few people, myself included, who tend to go outside, take a walk or find a quiet place to sit when a particularly difficult or complicated issue comes up at work. Many times that few moments of silence is all that is needed for the answer to a problem to show itself. Silence is valuable.

Now that I’ve told you mine, what is your relationship to silence? Is it a good thing, or do you have better things to do with your time? Does silence make things you don’t want to think about crop up for you, or is it a comfort?

Movie Review – The Avengers. See it. Feel Puny. Be thoroughly entertained.

Every so often I see a movie, hear music, see art, that I just have to share. I’ll write up a review and share it in hopes of showing others what’s out there. I believe that many of us just don’t have enough fun in life so when I find something fun I tend to shout it from the rooftops. This is one of those times.

I must open with a recommendation – to get the full entertainment impact of The Avengers (rated PG-13) you should have at least seen Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor or at least be familiar with the marvel comics versions of these characters. You should also be familiar with The Incredible Hulk. Although the movie is highly entertaining in its own right, knowing these characters in their recent movie setting adds a certain amount of depth.

That having been said and being familiar with said movies I am happy to report that I had a great time at this movie. My only disappointment was not knowing enough about superspy, Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow and outlaw archer, Clint Barton/Hawkeye, but knowing that this movie is based on Marvel Comics, and not being a big fan of comic books, I take responsibility for not doing my research on this before I went to the movie. Hence my recommendation above. You can find out more about any of the characters by checking out the IMDb page on The Avengers.

In The Avengers Nick Fury, Director of SHIELD, forms a group super human super heroes that are highly unlikely to succeed in cooperating with each other, into a kind of global threat response team. He pits this team against Thor’s bat crazy brother and his evil army to save humanity. That’s all I’m going to say about the plot because I don’t want to spoil it for those that haven’t seen it but are wondering if it’s worth the price of the ticket. Laughs, scifi gadgets galore, and terrific action. Yes, it’s worth the ticket.

Two-time Oscar Nominee, Robert Downey Jr. delivers what he does best as Tony Stark/Ironman. Hot, arrogant, bad boy/genius that really does have a heart under all that bravado…maybe. Ladies want to be with him and guys want to be him, but he doesn’t play well with others.

Oscar Nominee Mark Ruffalo delivers a great version of Bruce Banner the science and the man with a tortured soul behind the Hulk. His scruffy nature and cool façade can’t hide the anger that boils beneath the surface just waiting for an excuse to turn into a big green monster and start smashing everything in sight.

Chris Hemsworth, winner of ShoWest and Logie Awards, and teen Choice and People’s Choice nominee is Thor, true king of Asgard and brother to the bat crazy Loki. What can I say, Chris could be doing just about anything and it wouldn’t really matter to me because he’s hot! Hot! Hot! Seriously though, when the ego of a demigod and that of a bad/boy genius, or Hulk-ing monster collide, incredible action ensues.

The beautiful Scarlett Johansson is no stranger to the big screen. She’s been nominated for four Golden Globe awards and can be seen in Iron Man 2 among a myriad of other films. She brings the heart, edged with a little crazy to Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow. Oh, and this woman kicks some serious behind.

If you haven’t heard of Jeremy Renner, keep him on your radar. The Avengers isn’t the only blockbuster movie he’s worked on. Action seems to be his forte and he’s been a part of Mission Impossible 5, Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol, and Thor. I’m sure we will be seeing more of this guy. His boyish looks belie how dangerous he truly is.

Gwyneth Paltrow, an Oscar winning actress, is a superstar in her own right and plays Tony Starks right-hand gal/girlfriend, Pepper Potts. She’s beautiful, she’s got it together, and she seems to deftly handle Tony Stark when others are stymied to say the least.

Oscar nominee and winner of numerous other awards during his illustrious career, Samuel L. Jackson is Nick Fury, Director of SHIELD, referred to as simply the Director. Nick reports to a council in charge of this international intelligence agency, but like any good soldier guided by his heart, honor and a higher calling (and with a ton of secrets), he doesn’t always obey the council and can be quite dangerous.

Winner of various awards in the UK for his performances in film and on stage, Tom Hiddleston, is Loki. The brother that has lived in Thor’s shadow all his life only to find out that he’s not really and Asgardian at all. Driven insane by his long-held jealousy of his brother who has always been favored in his eyes and this new information, Loki raises an army to invade the home of Thor’s favored people – Earth. Loki hopes to gain revenge and ultimate power in the form of the tesseract.

The Avengers also boasts an awesome supporting cast including Cobie Smulders, of How I Met Your Mother fame and Stellan Skarsgard who also appeared in Angels and Demons and Mama Mia!

The Avengers is an action-packed, funny, and somehow inspirational film that’s just plain good times. Stay through the credits.

Favorite Diabetic Recipes – Egg White Cheese Omelet with 505 Green Chile Sauce

A favorite for me because it’s quick, easy, and so packed with bold flavor that I don’t even miss the richness of the egg yolks. I adapted this recipe from one that Jay Robb published in his book The Fat Burning Diet Made Easy. Jay Robb is a clinical nutritionist and former body builder. He also happens to sell the best tasting, and healthiest protein powder on the market. No, I’m not crushing on Jay Robb, but I have done my homework over the years.

Back to the omelet; there are three keys to making this omelet perfect.

1) A good nonstick pan (have I mentioned how much I love Scanpan?).

2) Quality organic coconut oil.

3) Medium heat.

You don’t need to go out and buy an omelet pan to make good omelets. I, for one am not into single-use items taking up precious space in my cupboards. A good nonstick 8” pan with a good bottom is just fine and happens to work well for a single burger, a single grilled cheese sandwich, two or three over easy eggs, well, you get the picture. What do I mean by good bottom? Better pans such as Scanpan, Swiss Diamond, and All Clad will have a nice, thick, and heavy bottom. This distributes heat more evenly even if you are working on an electric stove such as the one that I am unfortunate enough to own (once your use gas you never want to go back). Of course you still need to have the right fat to cook your eggs.

Egg whites are very sticky and no matter how nonstick a pan is, a little fat ensures they aren’t going stick, tear and generally be uncooperative. But which fat should you use? Butter? Nope. Olive oil? Nope. Vegetable oil? Nope. The problem with most fats we use for cooking is that they break down into unhealthy compounds when heated. True, Olive oil and vegetable oil have a higher tolerance for heat, but olive oil’s tolerance is probably lower than you think and vegetable oil is surprisingly toxic to your body. The best choice ends up being, of all things, coconut oil.

Coconut oil was widely used up until the late 50’s when the powers that be decided that saturated fat was bad for us. Now that we have come full circle, it turns out that coconut oil is one of the healthiest oils on the planet, especially for cooking at medium to medium high temperatures (keep the olive oil for the salad dressing though because it’s still heart healthy that way). Go figure. Not to mention they make sticky egg whites slide around in a pan like a dream, but all this is for naught if you have the heat set too high.

I have found that this egg white omelet cooks best on medium-low heat. This allows the eggs to cook thoroughly but not browned or tough (unless you’re like my husband and you like that sort of thing. Eww.). This is also the perfect temperature to melt the cheese once you flip the omelet. Yes, I said flip, and I am aware of how omelets are usually made. Believe me, it’s not that hard, in fact you can do it with a spatula if flipping eggs in the air isn’t your thing. So without further ado, here is the recipe for the bold, the extraordinary, the spicy, the ultra-low carb, egg white cheese omelet with green Chile sauce!

Ingredients

3 egg whites (large)

1tbsp. Coconut Oil

1 ½ tsp Lemon Pepper

1-2oz sharp cheddar cheese (shredded)

2 tbsps. 505 Green Chile Sauce (warmed)

Instructions

Heat an 8” nonstick pan over medium heat. Separate eggs (you can save the yolks in the fridge for a day or two to use in another recipe). Add lemon pepper to egg whites and beat with a fork until bubbly. Add coconut oil to pan and swirl around to coat and return to heat. Pour egg whites into pan allow them to set for a few minutes until the edges are white and they are about half cooked.

Flip the egg whites over with a spatula or, if you’re really talented or want to learn a new skill, flip the egg whites over by tossing them in the air and gently catching them in the pan (it is not recommended that you do this over the burner…big mess…huge). Sprinkle the shredded cheese on top of omelet reserving a tablespoon or two for the top. Allow cheese to mostly melt as the omelet finishes cooking.

Slide omelet onto plate folding it over with the cheese in the center, which will now finish melting under the residual heat of the egg whites. Pour 505 Green Chile Sauce evenly over the top and sprinkle with the remainder of the cheese.

To make this a proper breakfast for a diabetic we would need to add carbs. I would suggest fresh fruit, which would offer a cooling contrast to the spiciness of the Chile sauce and gives a boost of vitamin C, fiber, and antioxidants, depending on what fruit you choose. I tend to stay away from breads and cereals except oat meal for the most part.

A word of caution here, please be sure to cook your eggs thoroughly to avoid very unpleasant illnesses caused by nasty little microbes like salmonella (says the woman who loves her eggs over easy).

Anybody else out there with great-tasting diabetic recipes they’d like to share? I hope to be sharing more recipes for diabetics in upcoming posts. Having been diagnosed with Type II diabetes and metabolic syndrome a few years ago, I have had to change the way I look at food, but that doesn’t mean that I have to eat drab and boring meals or that I can’t indulge in something sweet. Stay tuned for more diabetic friendly (and maybe not so friendly) recipes.

Traveling Through the Mojave Desert

Legends abound about the Mojave Desert and its desert companions The Great Basin Desert to the north, and the Sonoran Desert to the south. From lost Spanish galleons ran aground and now covered by the sands, to lost gold and silver mines, to subterranean rivers with black sandy shores running with gold, to haunted ghost towns, the desert bigfoot, mutants and the ever popular gambler that owes too much to the wrong people who “disappeared” but whose buddies are sure was buried in the desert somewhere. These three deserts that comprise the Mojave Desert Preserve certainly seem to have lots of stories to tell, but they don’t seem to be giving anything away.

Driving from Nevada to L.A. and back we saw a whole lot of desert; mostly Mojave Desert, which I found fascinating as I do most any landscape outside of the one consisting of our ¼ acre lot at home that’s under constant construction. For instance, I learned that the Mojave Preserve is home to the largest and most dense Joshua Tree forest in the world.

What is a Joshua Tree, you ask? I’ll tell you, According to the Joshua Tree National Park website, the Joshua tree (Yucca brevifolia) is a member of the agave family. Its twisted branches seem surreal in the otherwise mostly desolate landscape.

A Joshua tree does not bloom unless conditions are just right and if it doesn’t bloom, it doesn’t branch out. Instead, it looks like a lonely pillar-like sentinel with a spiky green pouf of spiky leaves on top. (if you happened to see the movie Rango, these would seem to be the “walking cactus” seen in the desert near the water pipes). The oldest Joshua tree in the forest is in the Queen Valley Forest. It is 40 feet high and is estimated to be 300 years old. The name “Joshua tree” came from Mormon settlers who thought the tree looked like it had its branches stretched out in supplication. The name stuck and that is what later settlers and prospectors called the trees as well.

As we stopped at a rest stop just off the highway (much of which was the infamous Route 66) I was struck by the interesting contradiction between the palm trees, which I’d really only seen near water of some sort, near what seemed to be an unprotected picnic area amid a vast field of nothing but sand.

I mean nothing but sand. Still, there were signs of life. Birds flitted around the rest area, probably waiting for some unsuspecting tourist to drop a crumb or two. One or two bigger birds circled in the sky, probably waiting for an absent-minded tourist to leave a small pet unattended. There were also flying insects…insects always seem to find their way to me, much to my dismay.

On the road again we caught glimpses of mountain and sand dunes and cinder cones. All of which were rumored to harbor great veins of gold or silver and a great many who went in search of such treasures never to be heard from again.

Some parts of the desert looked more like an abstract painting than a real place with only the different colors of the sand, hills, and mountains making any distinctions in the landscape (no, this photo is not doctored to look like a painting, this was taken out of the front windshield going about 75 miles per hour). Other parts were crowded with Joshua Trees, yuccas, scrub, and the occasional palm tree. Unfortunately we were too far south to see any of the iconic saguaro cacti.

This is the greatest thing about road trips. I’ve flown over this seemingly desolate area of the country a few times. From above it looks like reddish sand, dirt hills, and canyons for as far as the eye can see at some points. From the ground, up close, it is an entirely different story. Traveling down the nostalgic Route 66, through the desert and over the mountains to its end in Santa Monica California was an experience that left me wishing I could have had more time to explore the desert. I would have liked to have seen Death Valley, hiked through some of the lava tubes, communed with some of native wildlife. Perhaps another time, for now, I’m grateful for the glimpses I did get of the Mojave’s austere, and sometimes mysterious, splendor.

Have you ever visited someplace that seemed totally alien to you? What’s the strangest place you’ve ever visisted. I’d love to hear about it!

Gracie the Cat – A Rescued Friend

Gracie the cat (a Burman mix, which is one half of the original Ragdoll) was rescued on fine day from the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region. Being an experienced cat owner, her new meow-ma had spent months diligently searching for just the right cat to add to the family after an appropriate mourning time for the previous cat who had passed away. I know some people aren’t cat people but after not having a cat for a while we found we missed having one around (we are both dog and cat people).

Gracie’s new meow-ma was not able to take her home right away as Gracie was due for the obligatory clip and snip and microchip. So her meow-ma picked her up the next day. She spent the first week at home hiding, in her crate, or behind the curtain thinking that no one could see her rear end below the bottom of the curtain or her bushy tail sticking out. She was less than a year old and scared. Gracie’s new family gave her the space she needed to heal and get used to her new home, but checked her stitches regularly and made sure to interact with her in a gentle and friendly way a few times per day.

After a while of cohabitation with her new family Gracie came out of her shell to be the beautiful, sweet, loving, and playful kitty her adopted meow-ma knew she would be. She was skinny and matted when she arrived, but diligent brushing and attention improved her coat and her appetite. Soon she had to be on an eating schedule because she was getting chubby.

Gracie is now a happy and healthy cat who trusts enough in her new family to make a habit of lying around on her back with her belly exposed, somewhat unusual for cats, but not unheard of. She L-O-V-E-S tummy rubs and will walk up to just about anyone and flip over on her back with a trill in her voice as if to tell them what she wants. She is not the most graceful of cats, hence the name “Gracie”. She often falls off the back of the couch or off the windowsill, and many times she missed her mark when trying to jump up on a windowsill but she always recovers in true cat fashion with a flick of her tail and an air of “I meant to do that.” Sometimes she just slides off the couch on her back like liquid pouring out of a pitcher. Sometimes she runs around literally bouncing off the walls and if one of her favorite toys are lost, she’ll cry about it until you help her find it.

Most of the time she’s sleeping…on her back.

In fact, now one has to wonder if she sleeps any other way.

Oh yeah, she does. All together now…Awwwww!

If you are looking for a four-legged friend, I seriously urge you to consider adopting a shelter or rescue animal. Shelter and rescue animals are some of the most loving, grateful and beautiful friends anyone could ask for! Do your homework, figure out what breeds might be right for you then take your time finding your new friend. A pet should be a lifetime commitment. Go ahead, take a trip to your local shelter and see what kind of awesome friends await!

Have you adopted a rescue animal? I’d love to hear about it. :-)

Sorry May Not Be The Hardest Word…

According to Sir Elton John, Sorry seems to be the hardest word. Although sorry is a heavy, heavy, word there may be an even harder word to deal with…forgive. Forgive can be an extremely difficult concept, especially when it comes to people, ourselves included. According to Merriam-Webster.com, this kind of forgiveness is defined as “to cease to feel resentment against.” Seems simple enough in theory, but it can be oh so hard in practice. Many people seem to think that to forgive someone they have to accept whatever the transgression has been as okay. That’s not true. Forgiveness has nothing to do with the violator but naming him/her, and everything to do with the victim.

And still it is sometimes so difficult to forgive. Knowing that it will free you, knowing that it will make you lighter, knowing that it will release the burden…still it can be so daunting. So some people keep dragging that burden around keep letting it make little cuts in their psyche, keep letting it hold them back, from the right relationship, the right job, the right whatever. Think about it, is there someone that still burns your chaps when you think about him/her? I bet there is. Maybe it’s an ex maybe it’s a family member or a friend, maybe it’s a stranger. Recently, for me, it was some previous coworkers.

I was recently reminded of my neglect in forgiving them when they ended up sitting in my line of sight at a local event. The first thing that entered my head was “You gotta be kidding me! There goes my afternoon!” Then “Really, you’re going to give these slime balls that kind of power?” I’m so grateful for those times that I can actually hear my quiet voice of reason whispering to me. She was right. That, my friends, is the power of forgiveness – the power to completely dissolve any power that someone has over you because of some transgression or violation they have perpetrated against you. As long as you haven’t forgiven them, they live rent free in your head all the time, affecting your thoughts, your actions, and how you feel. Did I walk up to them and say “Hey, yeah, uh, I forgive you.” Nope. That’s the cool thing about forgiveness, participation of the heathen violator is not necessary. One more thing that proves that forgiveness is for your own well-being, not that of the meanie that hurt you.

“But I’m still really mad!” you say. That’s okay. This was one of those particularly difficult forgivings for me, but I did it. I did it right then and there. Here’s how I know that it worked. I’m still pissed about what these people did, but it no longer sits in my heart like a cold, lead cannonball, weighing me down. My heart feels open and light like it should. You don’t have to give up your feelings and surrender; you just have to let the darkness out. You can work through the rest afterwards, but oddly enough, you can’t work it out and move on until you’ve done the forgiving part.

Have you ever had a hard time forgiving someone? I’d love to hear how you overcame it or how you’re working through it.