Happy Fall?

Well, if the weather were a song, it would go like this. (Um you have to supply your own music.)

You never stay the same.

There’s no need for me to complain.

   

I’m onto your yearly game.

These photos will try to explain.

Okay, it’s not much of a song. More like a chorus. 😀 😁

If you live in the Midwest, you know the drill. The weather is as changeable as some celebrities’ hair colors. Eighteen degrees Fahrenheit (-7.7 Celsius) one minute, 32 (or 0 Celsius) the next. Dry one day, snow the next, and then back to dry—all within a few days. Since the temperature is as up and down as a yo-yo, perhaps the celebrated cellist Yo-Yo Ma is the best musician to play a song based on it. (Okay, that was a groaner. Wuh-wah.)

At least Illinois ranked number 13 on the list of states with the worst winters. That means twelve other states have it worse! (In case you’re wondering, Minnesota is number one. Click here for that list. Hawaii is dead last, which made me laugh. Perhaps they could try harder this coming season.) And the winter season has not officially started! Still, the changeable weather makes deciding what to wear very interesting.

Speaking of interesting, you’re probably interested in who won the $25 Amazon card announced in this post. (Thank you to all who commented, by the way.)

Without further ado, the winner, thanks to the random number generator, is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Marie of 1 Write Way!

Congrats, Marie! Please comment to confirm below. I will need the email address you use for Amazon. If you prefer to email me that info, please let me know.

Doug from the movie up was found at Reddit.com. Amazon image from Amazon. Other photos by L. Marie.

Kitty Wants Out

See? She has candy. She knows how to celebrate the season.

She also has a T-Rex. There’s time to run though. He’s not finished (still being sewn).

Every once in a while, I feel pressured great joy to cover the antics of Kitty, even after forgiving her time after time for stealing the loose change out of my wallet. (Though how she managed to do that while carrying that cupcake in her two hands is something for the Guinness Book of Records I guess.) Even now, she’s not really doing anything worth mentioning. Just standing there on the desk staring at me. I don’t know if that means she’s plotting mischief or taking a break.

My bad. She’s saying something.

Kitty: I’m bored. Need to get out of the house. So, how do I muscle in on this Halloween thing?
Me (staring blankly at her): What do you mean?
Kitty: Halloween. How do I profit by it?
Me: There’s no profit to be made. You pass out candy to kids or to adults who show up in costume at your door. That’s it.
Kitty: Easy peasy. I’ll just make candy. Get me some construction paper and I’ll draw some to give out.
Me: You have to give real candy! Otherwise people will come after you with tar and pitchforks. (Under my breath) You should be used to that treatment by now.
Kitty: Did you say something?
Me (innocent): Me? No.
Kitty (sounding menacing, though standing there with a cupcake kinda renders this moot): I didn’t think so.
Me (trying to be helpful): You can get a bag of candy at the store for $2.99.
Kitty (light bulb): Ah. Get several bags. We can sell ’em to your neighbors for $17.50 a bag.
Me (knowing the futility of explaining to her that no one in his or her right mind would pay almost six times the price for a bag of candy that he/she could get at the store for $2.99): I see where you’re going with that.
Kitty (gleefully rubbing her hands while still holding on to that cupcake): I’ll make a fortune. Run along to the store now. We’ll be grifting in no time.

Sigh. Of course, you know this scheme is doomed. As a probable aftermath, I can’t help thinking:

Better get used to these bars, kid.

(If you know what movie this line is from, please tell me in the comments. [I already know the movie, BTW.])

Have a happy and safe Halloween.

On a more sobering note: Thinking about and praying for the families of the victims of the recent Pittsburgh shooting. As you grieve, know that others are grieving with you.

Photos by L. Marie.

It’s Puzzling

I can thank Jill Weatherholt for my new puzzle obsession.

Actually, it’s not a new obsession—more like an awakened obsession. I used to love putting jigsaw puzzles together when I was a kid. Back then, I gravitated to the 1000-piece puzzles, particularly if they had an image by artist Charles Wysocki. There was something comforting about his paintings—these visions of simpler times.

One of Charles Wysocki’s paintings turned puzzle

I breezed through Target the other day and happened upon some puzzles made with images of his paintings. They brought back memories of many autumn days of my childhood and the large piece of cardboard on which I would assemble my puzzles. But that day in Target, I selected a puzzle with a different image—one that reminded me of summer. (Yes, in the photo above and below, those are ice cream scoops.)

I’m an edge builder. I gather all of the pieces of the edge and put those together. With that framework, I work the rest of the puzzle. What is your strategy for putting jigsaw puzzles together?

I’m sort of the same way as a novel writer. By “sort of,” I mean that I only partially work on an outline—the framework of a story. I’m a hybrid writer—pantser and plotter. I usually work through some of the plot off the bat. But the rest comes as I write. Still, I find it helpful to know the boundaries of the story—what pieces need to be there and how they might fit. Like with my main character. I have to know who I am writing about.

I ask myself: Who are her

Friends?

Enemies?

Family and extended family?

Pets?

How will any relationship conflicts work thematically with my main character’s desires? How much of her back story will I include? How is the setting emphasized? These (character, setting, plot) are the puzzle pieces that I and other novelists sift through as we draft.

Yeah, I know. I didn’t coin the usage of the puzzle metaphor in regard to writing. But as I work on a puzzle and a novel (not at the same time of course), I can’t help being reminded of the connection between the two.

The puzzle metaphor sounds nice and neat, doesn’t it? But if you’ve worked on a book, you know that writing is often messy. So the puzzle metaphor is apt in another way: we’re puzzled about how we’re going to take our mess—all of those pieces we come up with—and make a cohesive whole out of it. As with many difficult puzzles, we often have to roll up our sleeves to solve them. But the satisfaction of seeing the whole puzzle put together is worth it! (And no, I didn’t finish the puzzle above. Look at the first photo. That is what the finished puzzle is supposed to look like. 😀 😁)

Charles Wysocki puzzle from puzzlewarehouse.com. Other photos by L. Marie. Shopkins Shoppie dolls and Apple Blossom by Moose Toys. Black Panther figure by Funko. Shuri action figure by Hasbro.

The Pressure to Be Something

I went to the same school as Stephen Colbert and Julia Louis-Dreyfus. I’ll pause to give you time to look up which school they went to. (If you are a follower of this blog, you already know which school.)

You’re back? Okay good. The first thing you’ll notice is that they are celebrities and I am not. Not everyone who went there is. But while I was an undergraduate, and even after graduating, I felt the pressure to live up to the prestige of the university. During my time there, when I chose to major in writing, many people gave me the stink eye. “Major in something useful,” I was advised over and over. (Code word: more prestigious, at least in their eyes.) “In that way, you can make a lot of money and be an alumna the school can be proud of.”

   

The pressure to be something.

(Though nowadays, the latter message comes through in the frequent invitations to donate to the alumni fund. The pressure to give something.)

Ever feel the pressure to be something others have decided is the definition of success?

As a writer, I definitely feel the pressure. My grad program has turned out graduates who have won major awards and who have sold many, many books. Even the organization of children’s writers and illustrators that I belong to routinely sends emails about those who have “made it,” while extending the invitation to “Send us your success stories.”

But what if you’re the writer of some books that went out of print within two years? Or you’ve racked up 89 rejections for a book?

The pressure to be something.

Ever feel like you didn’t measure up somehow? Maybe like me you even fell into the funnel of comparison recently, and felt yourself squeezed out of the small end.

Comparison—the bane of our existence

Thoughts like that swirled through my head as I drove to Wal-Mart the other day. Yeah, I know I shouldn’t let such thoughts hold sway. I’m trying to get my mind right and defeat negative thinking. But for some reason, I thought about the sister who had died the year before I was born. I found myself crying and wondering why she was stillborn, while I lived. Not that I’m ungrateful for life. But because I lived, was I really being all I could be? Was I living up to the potential teachers and others had told me I had over the years?

The pressure to be something. The pressure to make my life count because my sister was dead and I was alive.

But after prayer (because I was really getting worked up), I realized, Wait. I could silence that nagging voice in my head—the one that caused me to feel the pressure to measure myself against someone else’s ruler. I could silence the strive, strive, strive, you’re not doing it right, make things happen and just be.

Be . . .

Content in who I am—someone who persists past rejection and failure.

Joyful regardless.

I’m not Stephen Colbert. I like the guy. I really do. But I don’t have to be him or Julia Louis-Dreyfus to be somebody. I already am somebody. I might not do life like them. But I do what I do, because I like doing what I do, whether that fits someone else’s protocol or not.

Pressure dispelled.

As Nancy Hatch of Spirit Lights the Way would say, “Aah, that’s better.”

And now, I’ll leave you with a Lindsey Stirling video, suggested by a friend who went to Lindsey’s concert the other day. It’s for anyone who needs to get out of the pressure and into joy.

Marsha Mello likes being with the Unfinished Tiger. His chill approach to life—that all of us are works in progress—soothes her.

Stephen Colbert photo from enspireusall.com. Julia Louis-Dreyfus photo from popsugar.com. Other photos by L. Marie. Marsha Mello and Donatina Shoppie dolls from Moose Toys.

Time to Play!

My brother and his family used to live in San Diego. I wrote that just to give you a little context. One day when I was visiting, I had ordered my nephew, then five years old, to do something. You know how much fun it is to order kids to do stuff for you—tasks you’re perfectly capable of doing but are too lazy to do. While I can’t recall exactly what I wanted him to do, I’ll never forget his response.

“I’m busy,” he said.

“Busy doing what?” I asked. Obviously not busy doing what I’d just told him to do, which annoyed me.

“Playing,” he said.

I was so taken aback by his answer, and the seriousness in which it had been uttered, that I just stood there, staring at him. Finally, I said, “Okay. I can’t argue with that.”

His response might not seem profound to you, but it was to me. My attempt to interrupt his schedule had been met by a rebuff I couldn’t refute.

Lest you think I’m one of those adults who think children should do whatever they want whenever they want (newsflash: nope), let me just say that this is not a post about teaching children responsibility or anything else. You see, my nephew taught me something that day: the value of taking playtime seriously.

Oh, I see that look. Adults have to behave responsibly. We’ve got mortgages, car insurance, and other bills. Can’t always sit around building with LEGOs, right?

Right?

Playtime is even better with a crowd.

I’m a better writer when I take time to play, when my nose isn’t always to the grindstone and I’m trying to force myself to write something whimsical and delightful. How many people know that you can’t force yourself to write anything with that description if your attitude is, “I MUST do this. I MUST suck it up and put words on the page because, y’know, that’s what you’re supposed to do”?

Yeah, yeah. I totally get the need to sit down and put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). Sometimes, you have to do that. But sometimes, you have to allow yourself time to just play, whatever that might mean for you.

Playtime is like ma space, a rest (or space) between periods of action. (Look here for the Wikipedia article on ma space or here for a post on this blog about ma space..)

My friend Jill puts puzzles together. My friend Sharon takes photographs and draws. My friend Laura hikes or kayaks. My friend Lyn builds awesome things with LEGOs. Some of us play videogames or crochet lambs. (Yes, I consider crocheting playtime.)

What do you do to play?

Here in America, today is a holiday called Labor Day. What is Labor Day? According to this website on the history of Labor Day, “It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”

What better day to kickback and play? I have deadlines tomorrow, yeah. But today, I’m gonna play. Today’s playtime could usher in tomorrow’s inspiration.

Hopscotch anyone?

Donatina Shoppie with mini Donatina and locket by Moose Toys. Hopscotch photo from toysperiod.com. Other photos by L. Marie.

Time Out

On July 21, I headed with some friends to a cabin near Danbury, Wisconsin. The cabin is owned by the family of a friend and sits above a private lake. Sweet. We spent the weekend lounging on the deck with our favorite books, playing games (dominoes, bean bag toss, badminton), swimming, and touring the lake via pontoon boat. I don’t have permission to show the cabin. But here is the view from the deck.

  

In the mornings, I sat on the dock on a chair that swung out over the water, sipping my coffee and listening to the occasional call of the loon. (Unfortunately, I didn’t get any pictures of loons. They kept diving underwater.)

  

Loons were particularly active at dusk. This is the cry we heard over and over.

While on the boat, I saw a bald eagle soaring high above. He never flapped once. Just glided across the sky. But he moved fast. I was never quick enough, and he never came low enough, for me to get a closer shot. So, here he is.

On July 23, we headed to St. Paul, Minnesota, with a brief pit stop at Stillwater. I deeply appreciated this city because of the large amount of bookstores encountered in just a few blocks. The photo at left shows the Stillwater Lift Bridge.

  

We visited the Como Park Zoo and Conservatory in St. Paul.

   

   

Our main objective was to check out the Japanese Garden. So lovely. The bonsai trees were amazing.

  

Later we checked out other sights around St. Paul.

   

We couldn’t get inside the James J. Hill House in St. Paul. It was closed when we visited.

   

On Tuesday, we headed to the Mall of America—the biggest mall I’ve ever seen in my life.

  

That afternoon, we headed to downtown Minneapolis. Yes, the statue below is from The Mary Tyler Moore Show from the 70s.

   

If you’re a Vikings fan, you know what this building is (below).

All in all, a good time was had by all.

Photos by L. Marie.

What Is a “Real” Job?

I’m a freelancer. Under my given name or other names, I have

• Proofread books, articles, legal material
• Copy edited books


• Line edited books
• Written short stories, books, and curriculum
• Ghostwritten books


• Helped other authors develop their books
• Reviewed manuscripts
• Written standardized tests used in various states

For years, I worked in an office as a part-time or full-time editor. But as a freelancer, I work at home. For all of the above tasks, I have been paid by publishers or book packagers working with publishers. Yet, I can’t tell you how many times people have hinted at or even said outright that I don’t have a “real job.” By that I infer that people mean a job you do away from your home, one that pays benefits.

  

Is this (photo at left, representing someone working in the food industry) a “real” job? So, working on a computer at home isn’t?

I know people who have jobs outside of their homes but lack benefits, because their companies chose to avoid those. Would their jobs fall under the umbrella of “real”? I have also heard stories of people working in the food industry who complained about their jobs. They leave home every day to go to their places of employment. Does that mean their jobs aren’t real, if they say on social media, “I’m not gonna work here forever. Someday, I’m gonna get a ‘real’ job”?

When I searched for images to use with this post, I found a meme that discussed YouTubers. I chose not to use that image because I was not sure about copyright issues. Suffice it to say that some YouTubers make a large amount of money working at home making videos. Apparently, some people take issue with that.

Many writers are well acquainted with this sort of comparison. Some don’t think they can call themselves “real” writers because they either aren’t compensated for their work or are not compensated to the degree that authors like John Grisham or J. K. Rowling enjoy.

Still others have been told that they aren’t “real” writers, because they write books for children or teens. “Real” writers, according to those naysayers, write for adults.

Suddenly, I’m reminded of a conversation from The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams. You know the one.

“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day. . . . “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

The comment that really struck me was this by the Skin Horse:

Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.

When I struggle with being labeled as not having a “real” job or being a “real” writer, this conversation from The Velveteen Rabbit helps me move past the negativity of those who deem what I do as “less than” based on a subjective standard.

How about you? Ever been told, “You’re not a real [fill in the blank]”? What did you do?

Editing illustration from clker.com. Ghost writer image from seoblog.com. Chelsea Cheeseburger Shoppie and Petkin by Moose Toys. Pinkie Pie Equestria Girl doll by Hasbro. Photos by L. Marie. Velveteen rabbit illustration by William Nicholson found at commons.wikimedia.org.