What Do You See?

What do you see in the photo below? (This is not a trick question.)


When I asked two people that question, both said, “Two trees.” One added, “One with pink leaves, one with white leaves,” for extra credit points, I guess.

Now look.


It is one tree, or at least two that became so interrelated as saplings, that they are now one tree. Changes your perspective a bit, doesn’t it?

You’re probably waiting for me to correlate this image with diversity—the fact that we’re all different, yet we’re part of the same “tree”—humanity (humani-tree, I guess). When I began this post, I thought I was going to do that. But something else more obvious struck me: I walked by that same tree year after year, and never noticed that what I thought was one tree is really two until last week.

Observant much? Yep. That’s me. But sometimes, I get smacked in the face with something that’s always been there, waiting for me to finally take notice. Like a beautiful sunrise or a sunset I’ve been too busy to stop and admire.

Life surprises us in delightful ways, occasionally. Which is good, because lately, I’ve had enough of the bad surprises, like when I learned that a teen I know has to deal with cancer yet again—this time a much more aggressive phase, or when I heard of the sudden death of a friend’s mom. And there were other surprises that sent me reeling in the last few weeks. Even writing has been frustrating.

The blows we take in life can change our perspective too—toward the good or the bad. The choice is ours, of course. Unfortunately, I haven’t always chosen a good perspective. I struggled with that recently. Lately, I’ve felt like cracked clay. But breath-catching moments, like when I finally noticed the tree above, also are soul-sculpting moments. What do I mean by that? Moments when I feel my soul expand like clay taking shape on a potter’s wheel. In those moments, I’m reminded that beauty still exists in the world. And good surprises.


So, yeah, in the midst of a sobering week, I celebrated the fact that this tree surprised me. I also celebrated my birthday last week. Because I posted an author interview (and arranged for others), I didn’t post my usual birthday giveaway. But rest assured—there will be surprise giveaways in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a couple of photos of craft projects I’ve been working on in my spare time to unwind after a hard week—making doll furniture and crocheting friendly looking dragons (a change from the T-Rexes I had to crochet for a kid’s party weeks ago; patterns for fiercer looking dragons are not free, however). To make the doll sofa (it is about 7″ wide and 5″ tall), I watched a tutorial on a great YouTube channel—My Froggy Stuff. The sofa was made out of cardboard and a fabric remnant that I paid $1.49 for at Michaels. The pillows were made out of felt (39 cents at Michaels). The dragon came from a pattern that can be found here.

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How have you been surprised in a good way lately?

Clay on the wheel image from somewhere on Pinterest. Other photos by L. Marie.


A Birthday Gift for You

I woke up today to discover that Kitty and Jordie were missing.


This is Jordie and Kitty if you wonder who they are.

My first thought was to check my wallet for missing credit cards. Kitty is a supervillain after all, while Jordie is a bit impressionable. But they turned up eventually before I could alert the authorities. I was touched that they had enlisted the help of others to surprise me with this.

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Awww. Makes me ashamed for having doubted their integrity.

Yes, it’s that time again. (Though by the time you read this, Monday would have rolled around, signaling an end to my birthday.) I enjoyed a number of good meals over the past week and weekend with friends and family. I have good leftovers in my refrigerator and fond memories.

Though it was my birthday, I want you to have a share in the loot. This is one of the gifts I received:


The coffee, rather than the crocheted car

The Caribou Coffee shops near me are now Peet’s Coffee shops. But Amazon and other stores still sell Caribou coffee.


Now let me tell you what I’m going to do. I will send to one commenter a 12-ounce bag of medium roast Caribou coffee and one of the above tiny crocheted cars. (I had to make a bunch of them for a child’s upcoming Hot Wheels-themed birthday party.)

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The busy roadway and a Hot Wheels car I could not crochet

If you have a Keurig, um, sorry. I don’t have a Keurig. I’m giving away a gift like the one I received. Unfamiliar with Caribou? Don’t worry. Since I also received some Starbucks gift cards, I can have a bag of Starbucks ground coffee sent to you. Not a coffee drinker? I’m willing to send a box of Tazo or Harney & Sons tea—whatever Target sells—since that’s something I would supply for myself with a gift card.

Comment to let me know what you would prefer (Coffee? Tea? Nothing?) or what your favorite morning beverage happens to be. I’ll announce the winner on April 30.

Tazo tea from javaestate.com. Harney & Sons tea from luxebc.com. Peet’s logo from glutenfreeville.com.

Suits Me to a “Tea”: A Birthday Gift for You

free-giftI had a great birthday weekend. (If you’re totally confused about that sentence or its relevance, read this post.) Friends and family treated me to three great meals during which I ate more than a human being should ever ingest and still hope to retain the ability to stand.

Since I had such a great time and am very full, I want to share the wealth. Before you recoil due to the belief that I’m about to do something disgusting (like provide a photo of myself with gross, chewed food in my mouth ala what my older brother used to do when we were younger), let me quickly reassure you, starting by reminding you of the tea I received as a birthday gift.


In a minute, I’ll tell you why I brought that up. But first, a quick word about a meeting I attended this past Saturday—the quarterly meeting of my SCBWI chapter. Our speaker talked about e-publishing and mentioned that some of her friends can write 100,000 words a month and therefore produce several books a year. The speaker also had a couple of projects of her own and hoped to squeeze in a third later on.

As I listened, my first thought was, I have a hard time finishing one project. But today, I realize that I’ve convinced myself that I have this limitation. When pressed, I can produce way more than my current level of output, as I’ve done in the past.

It’s funny how you get used to a certain level of activity (or inactivity). There was a time when I wrote three books in a year, because the book packager I worked for had extremely tight deadlines and demanding clients. When I stopped working there, I convinced myself that I was now free from the pressure to produce, and therefore, could focus on quality. But that was an excuse to slack off. I can’t say my quality increased when my output severely dropped. I can, however, put a name to this state of affairs:

Inertia is the resistance of any physical object to any change in its state of motion, including changes to its speed and direction. In other words, it is the tendency of objects to keep moving in a straight line at constant linear velocity. The principle of inertia is one of the fundamental principles of classical physics that are used to describe the motion of objects and how they are affected by applied forces. Inertia comes from the Latin word, iners, meaning idle, sluggish. (Wikipedia)

Having tight deadlines on the job or in graduate school helped establish the discipline of regular writing. Being forced to crank out a certain amount of words every week (for some projects, no less than 10,000—12,000 words) pushed me past my comfort zone. I grumbled, but I met the deadlines. So why do I settle for less now? Picture me shrugging or sitting slacked jawed. The only limits I have currently are the ones I’ve placed on myself due to doubt, fear of failure, or fear of rejection. It’s time to go beyond those limits and reach for the sky.

Number-2-iconNow, about that giveaway: I thought it would be fun to give away something I was given for my birthday. (Um, no, I don’t plan to regift a gift.) I’m giving away two (new) tins of chocolate mint tea, one per winner. Why two? Because I’m writing a duology and 2 is the magic number. Sadly this has to be a domestic, rather than an international giveaway. But if you live abroad, don’t worry. There will be other giveaways.

If the thought of chocolate mint tea gives you the hives, I’m willing to go this route:


Wondering how you can win one? Just comment below. Share how you’re willing to push yourself past your comfort zone in order to achieve a goal. Winners will be announced on Monday, May 5.

Here’s another gift from me to you, along with these special words of advice:


Cinnamon sunset burst tea from Target.com. Number 2 image from iconarchive.com. Gift image from thebeautyroom.co.uk. Cat from LOL Cats.