Sometimes, Storms Come

Last week started off like a gentle breeze literally and metaphorically. The temperature was warm and inviting. I had a lovely time with Kate Hosford on the blog. (In case you missed that post, you can read it here.) And I read a beautiful post by Penny over at her Life on the Cutoff blog. The photos of colorful flowers paired with a poem by Robert Frost made a powerful and uplifting combination. (You can read that post here.)

   

My birthday happened midweek. I spent much of the day in a windowless room without wifi. I’ll say more on the why of that in August probably. I can’t discuss it now. In celebration of the day, a friend gave me flowers (below) and a ton of my favorite tea.

Inspired by Penny’s post, I went in search of flowers to photograph, but found many of them windblown and defeated looking.

   

The gentle breeze earlier in the week had turned cold and dreary, thanks to the relentless rainstorms that shoved their way into the area. Fitting weather for the events ending the week. First, a friend texted me to say that her mammogram resulted in the need for a biopsy of “something suspicious.” And then my sister-in-law texted to announce that her mother had been rushed to the hospital.

It doesn’t look good, she wrote. Less than half an hour later, I heard back from her: She’s gone.

Yes, sometimes, storms come.

Even if a loved one has reached old age after living many years in poor health, you still aren’t ready for that person to leave. But after taking turns with my brother to desperately give her mother CPR (no response) until the paramedics came (still no response) and watching the medical team at the hospital try to rouse her mother (no response), my sister-in-law reluctantly let go.

So that was the week—a grim reminder of the cycle of life: birth and death.

On Saturday, the friend who learned of her need for a biopsy handed me this hyacinth:

A reminder that though storms sometimes come, life goes on.

Speaking of life going on, thanks to the random number generator, Lyn Miller-Lachmann, you can expect a copy of How the Queen Found the Perfect Cup of Tea to come your way. Please comment below to confirm.

Photos by L. Marie (except for the author photo). The paintings in the background of one photo were painted by Rick Smith. Copyright © 2016 Rick Smith.

Bending in the Wind

Happy post-Easter! I had a great Easter. If the celebration of Easter is part of your tradition, hope you had a good one too.

While out for a walk in a high wind the other day, I couldn’t help noticing the flowers. Many were doubled over, their stems bent by the wind. Bent, but not broken. This roused my curiosity. Why was this the case?

Botanists have studied why plant stems can take the pressure of the wind without breaking. The vascular tissue in a plant stem helps stiffen the plant enough to take the wind, while keeping it flexible enough to bend and not break.

While searching the Internet on the subject, I discovered a new word: thigmomorphogenesis, which is

the response by plants to mechanical sensation (touch) by altering their growth patterns

A “mechanical sensation” like wind can cause a plant to change the way it grows. A plant hormone like ethylene also aids in this process.

Imagine that—change inspiring growth in a new way.

You’re probably not here for a botany lesson, so I’ll get to the point. I couldn’t help comparing myself to the plant stems I observed. When the winds of change come, I tense up, rather than welcoming the change as a catalyst for growth. Instead, I plant my feet—the very image of inflexibility. I’m not overly fond of change—especially change involving discipline.

Growing up, my mother used to say that I was stubborn. I preferred to think of it as firmly resistant. But lately I’ve also noticed that the more resistant I am toward change, the easier it is to be broken by an unavoidable change. Bending seems a lot healthier.

For those of you who are reading these words (and I’m grateful you took time to do so), please don’t think this post is a veiled attempt at calling you or anyone else out. It’s totally not. This is what I observed about my own life.

Since Easter is a celebration of new life, I can’t help being reminded that new life can mean a new attitude. I desperately need one. Because like it or not, change comes like the wind. I can either bend with it or break.

How about you? Do you bend with change or resist it?

Photos by L. Marie.

Beckon the Lovely

Not long ago, my friend Sharon emailed a link to a TED Talk by author/filmmaker Amy Krouse Rosenthal (see below). You might know this author either from her books (see above) or from her very popular and very heartbreaking New York Times article, “You May Want to Marry My Husband.” (The answer to that is, yes.)

If you have twenty-one minutes to kill, take a look. I highly recommend it. But in case you don’t, I’ll give you the upshot of the video in seven words:

Make the most of your time here.

That was Rosenthal’s motto. Was, because the author recently died from ovarian cancer, which made the video all the more poignant for me. Though this talk was given years ago, I found it very fitting today.

One of the pieces of advice she gives in the video is to “beckon the lovely.”

I don’t know about you, but whenever I hear ugly words, or discover that someone lovely died from an ugly disease, or I hear about the ugly actions of others, my soul craves something lovely.

[W]hatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:8

I think of flowers and sunsets and clingy baby pandas. My friend Jill emailed this article, which features a video of a clingy baby panda. Perhaps you’ve already seen it. There is a reason why this video has over 160 million views. Lovely sights beckon to us.

Like flowers. Flowers of any sort catch my eye.

   

Photos from a couple of years ago and recently (last photo). Alas, a recent snowstorm killed these sprouts off.

Crocheting also is a way I beckon the lovely. I promised Marie of 1WriteWay that I would post a photo of a jellyfish I crocheted recently for a little boy’s birthday party, thanks to this pattern. I can’t help but smile that the designer chose to make something lovely and cuddly based on the form of a creature with a harmful sting.

When I consider ways to beckon the lovely, I’m reminded of lovely gestures people make. Last week, a colleague came bearing two boxes of Dunkin Donuts Munchkins, which brightened our day.

Speaking of gestures, the lovely Jill Weatherholt is giving away a signed copy of her debut novel, Second Chance Romance. (U.S. only. Sorry.) All you have to do to be considered for the drawing is to comment below. What have you seen recently that you consider lovely? Perhaps you were the one whose lovely gesture made someone’s day. Do tell! Or describe what you plan to do to beckon the lovely this week. The winner will be announced on March 27.

     

Amy Krouse Rosenthal book cover from Goodreads. Second Chance Romance cover from Jill Weatherholt. Dunkin Donuts Munkins from Pinterest. Other photos by L. Marie.

When Your Mojo Stops Mojoing: A Spa Day L. Marie Style

This has turned out to be one of those weeks when I’ve struggled to write anything of significance. Scenes I’ve written in my story have fallen flatter than the last batch of brownies I attempted. (Who fails at brownies made from a mix? Um, me that’s who.) Sigh. I had to be honest with myself: my mojo wasn’t mojoing.

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Some of this had to do with various points of worry that the week dredged up. The stress of those worries trickled into my writing, which added to the flatness.

Ever feel like that about your writing or other projects?

Some people turn to yoga or take a spa day to recharge. Since the cost of a spa was prohibitive, I had to DIM—do it myself.

Here’s how you do a spa day, L. Marie style:

First, spend a couple of hours with a friend at Ikea enjoying an ultra cheap breakfast, followed by a leisurely look at baby furniture. (Her unborn child will need it soon.)

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This was only 99 cents.

Second, when you return home, watch movies like

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and call it “research.” After wishing you lived in Pixie Hollow and had a lightning bug for a friend, decide to watch something else, since that wish will not be granted. Binge on several episodes of the Pemberly Digital show, Emma Approved, a modern-day retelling of the Jane Austen classic. You can find it on YouTube. It’s like Clueless, except with adults playing adults, rather than adults playing teens. Each episode is around 5½—7 minutes long. If you’re like me, you’ll sigh over Alex Knightley and Frank Churchill for at least an hour, which is almost as bad as wishing you lived in Pixie Hollow.

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But third—and this is very important—procure some viewing snacks like

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These snacks are courtesy of a friend.

Fourth, work off the calories by getting plenty of outdoor time, traipsing among the flowers. Be sure to greet the bees while you’re there. They’re buzzing about, ready for their close-up. But don’t expect them to stay still if you want a photo. None of the bees I greeted did.

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These are blooming in the yard.

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These can be found at my local library.

Fifth, watch more episodes of Emma Approved. Consider whether or not you would want your life to be like the retelling of a Jane Austen novel.

Sixth, after dinner, try again to make that troublesome scene work.

Seventh, believe in yourself. While you’re thinking about how to make that scene work, crochet a flower for a friend’s birthday. Use it to remind yourself that if you can produce this, you can produce a compelling scene.

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What do you usually do when your mojo stops mojoing?

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Sad man from goodgeorgialawyer.com. Breakfast plate from ikea.com. Emma Approved logo from tvtropes.org. Other photos by L. Marie.

Sheer Delight

What do you find delightful? A couple of weeks ago a friend told me what delighted her: the Disney Fairies movies.

“You should watch them,” she suggested.

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I wasn’t too keen on the idea, believing that only girls three to six would take an interest in them. I couldn’t help recalling some of the Barbie videos I sat through multiple times while babysitting a little girl. (She insisted on watching the same movie over and over.)

Anyway, my friend talked me into watching Tinker Bell and the Legend of the Never Beast—a 2014 film she’d watched with her daughter. It’s part of the fairies series that centers on Tinker Bell, the character from J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan/Peter and Wendy, who became iconic because of the 1953 Disney movie, Peter Pan, and her place as Disney’s mascot. But there are other fairies as well.

Having seen the play and read the book, I can say categorically that Tinker Bell was never one of my favorite characters, though she is way more interesting than Wendy. My interest, however, wanes in stories where one person is jealous of another person because they both want to be loved by the same person. So the thought of watching a series where jealous Tinker Bell is the main character failed to fill me with delight. But because I trust this friend’s opinion, I bit the bullet.

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She was right. Tinker Bell and the Legend of the Never Beast was delightful. I also realized that I’d fallen into the jaded adult trap with my presumption that I would fail to find enjoyment in a product intended for three- to six-year-old children. And I call myself a writer of books for children? Shame on me for trying to avoid a product many kids (and parents) love.

The title of the movie is a bit of a misnomer, since another character figures heavily in the action. (And I don’t mean Peter Pan.) But since this post is not a movie review per se, I’ll move on to why it delighted me.

Delight is one of those subjective terms that are hard to quantify. After watching the above film and another—Tinker Bell, the 2008 origin story of Tinker Bell—I tried to figure out why I was so taken with these Disney Fairies movies. The animation? The idea of fairies taking care of plants and animals or inventing labor-saving gadgets? The world building in general? Probably a combination of all three. Whenever I feel stressed, as I have lately, watching a show or movie with lots of beautiful forests and flowers; cuddly, friendly animals; and well-rounded characters who blow it badly and have to make good relaxes me. But I’m especially delighted in the premise that a fairy is born because of a sound of delight—the first time a baby laughs. Little world-building details like that help ensure that I’ll be pleased with the result.

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Fairy tales/folk tales have always delighted me. Journeying through a book or a movie to a world where dragons or fairies exist always makes me giddy. Even if horrible things happen, the whimsy of the world keeps me glued to the pages or to the screen.

Another film I find extremely delightful is Iron Monkey, a 1993 film directed by Yuen Wo Ping. I have the Quentin Tarantino Presents version on DVD. This is a Robin Hood-kind of story—a fictional account from the childhood of a real person: Wong Fei-hung, a martial artist and physician. Obviously this film is very different from the Disney Fairies. 🙂 But it has a similarity in that it is the fantastical story of an iconic character and one in the making. I appreciate the beauty and skill of the fight choreography. Martial artists defy gravity as they battle each other. And the Iron Monkey’s determination to help the oppressed poor makes me cheer. (Warning to any newbies: this film is violent. If you are unused to martial arts films from China, you might skip this one. I grew up watching these films.)

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I don’t expect everyone to share my delight. But I’m sure something delights you. If so, what? While you think about that, I hope this post by Penny O’Neill over at the Life on the Cutoff blog delights you as it delighted me: https://lifeonthecutoff.wordpress.com/2015/07/01/an-occurrence/

Then feel free to come back and walk among the flowers in the garden where I live.

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Iron Monkey image from qavobrae.livejournal.com. Yu Rong Guang as Iron Monkey from movies.film-cine.com. Tinker Bell posters from aceshowbiz.com and tclnews.blogspot.com. Disney fairies from fanpop. Pixie Hollow image from disneysonlineworlds.com. Flower photos by L. Marie.

Beauty to Behold

Recently some good friends of mine told me they’ll be taking a much needed family vacation to the Caribbean. This will mean leaving me behind, no matter how much I make puppy eyes at them and beg them to take me. I’m pretty sure I could fit in someone’s suitcase if they leave all of their clothes behind.

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Since I can’t go with them, I decided to take a vacation on the grounds of my apartment building. Every day I have a front row seat.

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Let me show you the sights to be seen.

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I’m not responsible for the care of the flowers and trees. If I were, they would be dead by now. I lack a green thumb.

Still, the sunny day made a yard vacation worth the trip. And the sunshine remained, unlike yesterday. That day I left home, so sure of the sunshine as I ran out to run errands that I neglected to check the weather. A mile away from home, however, the clouds abruptly darkened at the north. Within fifteen minutes, you’d never believe the sun existed as hard as the rain fell.

But today, there was beauty to behold and sunshine to set it off. But after awhile, I adjourned inside to watch Fantasia 2000, which featured Igor Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite. If you have a spare 12.15 minutes, enjoy this performance by the YouTube Orchestra. (Who knew YouTube had an orchestra?) It’s beautiful. (You can watch the Fantasia segment on Vimeo. Just click here or Google Firebird Suite—1919. When you see it, you’ll know why this piece of music seemed appropriate after my tour of the flowers.)

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From the Firebird Suite segment of Fantasia 2000

And speaking of beauty, I have three books to give away by three wonderful authors. You remember them:

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If you’re thoroughly confused about what I just mentioned, click on these interview posts:
https://lmarie7b.wordpress.com/2015/06/02/check-this-out-surviving-santiago/
https://lmarie7b.wordpress.com/2015/06/04/check-this-out-julia-child-an-extraordinary-life-in-words-and-pictures/
https://lmarie7b.wordpress.com/2015/06/08/check-this-out-skyscraping/

Huge thanks to the authors for donating signed books and other swag! After consulting the random number generator, I have three winners. The winner of Surviving Santiago is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Nancy Hatch!!!

The winner of Julia Child: An Extraordinary Life in Words and Pictures is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Marilyn Warner!!!

The winner of Skyscraping is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

One of the authors I’m featuring: Lyn Miller-Lachmann!!! (Yes, authors who comment are eligible for the drawing too.)

Winners, congratulations. Signed copies will be coming your way! Please comment below to confirm, then please email me. Thanks for commenting!

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I’m ready for my closeup.

Author photos courtesy of authors. Book covers from the authors and Goodreads. Flowers, tree, and chair photos by L. Marie. Puppy eyes photo from jinglegraphicdesign.blogspot.com. Fantasia 2000 image from pinterest.com.

Let the Sunshine In

In case you’re wondering, I did not have the musical Hair in mind when I wrote that post title. Because of the previous post, I thought I’d share this photo of the sunflowers, now that all are open.

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They look like eyes, don’t they? They see you!

Though this photograph doesn’t show dimensions, each sunflower is about the size of a dinner plate. Such happy, but huge flowers. They came at the right time, too, providing beauty and color to the walkway outside my apartment building. But the fact that they draw energy from the life-giving sun also reminds me of my need to refuel. Ever feel creatively drained? That’s how I’ve been feeling lately. When your tank is empty, there’s only one thing to do: fill it. (I learned that from Andra Watkins.) So recently I decided to take some time off to do activities that replenish me.

1. Visit bookstores. I spent a fun afternoon with a friend looking at books at Halfprice Bookstore and Barnes & Noble. It had been too long since I’d walked through either door. At B & N, I was pleased to find books by fellow VCFAers: Trent Reedy, Varian Johnson, and K. A. Barson.

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2. Hang out with friends and mooch meals off them. It’s great to have a home-cooked meal that someone else prepared, especially when good leftovers result. Even if they don’t, spending quality time with good friends is a gift I gladly gave myself this past weekend.

3. Have lunch with a friend at Panera Bread and dessert at Oberweis. Oh yes. We dared. If you aren’t familiar with Panera, click here. For Oberweis, click here. While Oberweis is known for milk and ice cream, they also have a chocolate layer cake my friend raved about and insisted that I sample. Who was I to say no?

4. Watch this funny, fantastic movie with another friend. I’d looked forward to seeing this movie for months! I’m grateful to say it did not disappoint!

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Chris Pratt, one of the lead actors, is just what the doctor ordered. I won’t spoil it for you, however. If you love Marvel movies or stories set in other galaxies (Star Wars anyone?), head on over to the theater.

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When you need refueling, what fills you up?

Book covers from Goodreads, except for Varian’s book, which is from his website. Oberweis photo from eatinwheaton.com. Chicken photo from donnahup.com. Chris Pratt photo from insidemovies.ew.com. Guardians of the Galaxy logo from static4.wikia.nocookie.net.