Total Trust

The feelings that erupt upon meeting your first grandchild create emotions you could never have fathomed, even in your wildest dreams. Others who entered this stage in life ahead of you tried to prepare you for this onslaught, but all of their sage advice was for naught. The moment you laid eyes on this tiny little being, you were instantaneously swept away, hopelessly smitten by this child of your child.

As completely overwhelmed as you were at his birth, nothing compares to the next feelings that strike you as he heads rapidly through his milestones. Then one day, one year later, he begins moving his tiny feet, tentatively navigating forward. Looking up at you with a giant smile, he offers you his hand to hold. He is asking for your assistance. Carefully clutching his little fingers in yours, you guide him on his journey. It may only be from the kitchen to the living room. But it is indeed important for him. It is for you as well.

Because it is at that exact moment when you realize that he trusts you. Implicitly. And it takes your breath away.

Loss

I was raised to never use four letter words. Sixty-three years later, I still try not to use them. However, there is one four letter word that makes all of the other words pale in comparison.

“Loss” is perhaps the cruelest word in our vocabulary. Mainly because too often it is placed at the end of “Sorry for your…” Perhaps we say those words in the moment because that sentence is all that we can muster. In our defense, there really aren’t any better words. Especially when the loss was caused by cancer.

At this moment in time, I would love to string together a run-on sentence comprised of only the four letter words I was forbidden to use. You know the words. They could get creatively used as nouns, verbs, adverbs and adjectives. It might help. Or maybe even a full paragraph of them would be enough to give the right balance. But maybe there are no perfect words to properly convey the immense depth of sorrow joined with the abyss of anger that is currently sitting in my heart.

A dear friend passed this week. She was too young, too wonderful, too beautiful inside-and-out to not be walking this planet anymore. Fighting her battle with cancer with the strength of a warrior, she never gave up hope. Never gave up her faith. She has left behind a legion of people who loved and adored her. We have all had tremendous loss.

It isn’t fair.

Denouement

Denouement. What a fancy word for the resolution of a story! Finding the right conclusion for a plot line always plagues me. Constantly. Did I do it successfully? Or did I hang my laundry out on someone else’s line to dry? Did I leave too much for the reader, forcing them to imagine their own endings? Are they mad at me?

I hope not. I do try to find a way to complete a storyline even while leaving things open. Readers are smart and creative and they read between the lines. I like that they feel compelled to find out what might be and that they like thinking about the characters well after they have closed up the book.

I thought I had done enough for my characters when I wrapped up one of the series. But just when I thought I was totally finished with them, those darn characters started bothering me again. They have wormed their way into my brain and I just have to acquiesce.

I need sleep, and since they are keeping me awake, I have promised them that I would find closure for their storylines. For my newest book, Back in the Before, I have zipped into today, setting the time to 2022 with flashbacks to the past. I am typing as fast as I can at the moment, as this story is just oozing out onto my laptop!

However quickly this story is coming into light, it is hard to write fiction without at least some kind of connectivity to current events. This is a terribly difficult time right now. Within my chapters, I find myself compelled to touch on the angst we are all feeling. One would be remiss not to do so. The past two years have opened our eyes to a time we will never forget. Finally, it seems that the fears of the pandemic have lessened. Only now they have been replaced by the fears of the dreadful war in the Ukraine.

I hope with all my heart that the leaders of the world create a proper denouement. And soon.

Close Call

It almost happened today while on a thousand mile drive to Florida: that life-flashing-before-one’s-eyes moment. Only it did not happen. It could not happen. Because I was at the wheel and too preoccupied for any sort of retrospective.

Instead of an actual life review experience, I did have an instantaneous recollection of two past near-accidents. One had forced me into a three-lane spin out, the other had forced me off the road onto a narrow shoulder. More through muscle memory than imagery, I could remember how I felt during the other near-impact moments. Frankly what happened back then shouldn’t have happened. There was no explanation as to why or how I was left unscathed. Somehow I had known what to do, but I cannot tell you what actually took place nor how I managed to escape the grim reaper, either time.

Perhaps they were dress rehearsals for what transpired today.

Today was similar to the other times, yet not. This time I had passengers, my husband and our cat. It was my turn to drive and I had gone about fifty miles on I-95. We were chatting away, when I saw it. Right there, inches away from the passenger door. Oblivious to our car, a panel truck was careening towards us, moving left from the center lane to our lane. Even though we were driving sixty-five MPH, it felt like things were moving in slow motion. I braked and shifted over to the shoulder, collision narrowly avoided. With incredible relief we sat there to catch our breath and gather ourselves. All three of us.

Looking across the highway, we noticed that the truck had stopped on the other side of the highway. Mouthing his apologies, the driver’s face looked as stunned as ours. He must have needed a breather as well.

Within minutes, we saw the flashing lights of a state trooper pulling in behind us. The kind and concerned officer asked if we were okay and said that he had been called to the scene of an accident at our mile marker. We explained that there had not been any contact and what had transpired wasn’t an accident. Passing cars must have called it in, assuming there had been an actual collision. Indeed it must have looked like one. And it was then that we realized we were not the only terrified people this morning.

Close calls, not just while driving, happen all the time. They catch us off guard but give us pause and gratitude after the fact. Maybe they are actually a learning moment for us to glean experience for the future. Not only for those in the midst of the experience, but for the observers as well.

Unblocking

Writing is a daunting task. Attempting to weave words into a coherent and interesting combination is like a composer organizing notes in a unique and previously unused manner. Whether working on a speech, a paper or the next novel, the worst part is the first sentence. It sets the tone and can propel a reader to carry on and plow through the subsequent sentences. Or not. And so, a writer strives to make the opening words impactful, hoping to keep readers engaged.

But how to begin? There is nothing more frustrating than having an intimidating blank screen glaring and sneering at you for hours on end. But sometimes luck strikes and a thought miraculously appears in the brain, usually when one least expects it. As wonderful as that is, it can be terrifying as well. How then will you be able to properly capture in words the feeling that was evoked? Doesn’t that happen every time you attempt to explain a dream that seemed incredible to you? You usually end up sounding silly, as your words are incapable of conveying exactly what happened in that dream.

However, when spontaneous inspiration does not occur, sometimes you just need to shut that laptop and take a walk. Try not to think. Or at least stop thinking in a linear manner. Think sideways. Let the universe enter your brain. Stop obsessing and just be in the moment. That is exactly what happened to me when I wrote the last book in The Circle of the Souls series. While walking on the beach in Northeast Florida, I let my mind become a blank slate. While staring at the shoreline, the first two paragraphs of a book I wasn’t even going to write crashed in like the waves before me. Tripping over the sand and racing back inside I whipped open my laptop and wrote the following opening words:

“Rhythmic rolling coils of water cycled their way to the shoreline, gradually drawing the waters in, creating their patient and continuous pattern. Tides high, then low, the same water, over and over made its journey in, only to head back out and repeat the cycle once more. Again and again. Standing, feet in the foam, at the edge of the most recent lapping wave, she realized that the waves themselves gave her the explanation she sought. Waves and life are both in constant renewal. If one believe in such things. And she most certainly did. Life was indeed one big repeat of itself. Forming and then reforming. Over and over and over. Souls coming and going, and then coming back again. And again. Until each individual soul finally got it right. The revolution, leading to the evolution of the soul.”

The prologue wrote itself. The rest of the words followed suit. The book that I never intended to write, “Circles” , the sequel Split Soul was born. Sometimes what we write is out of our hands. And out of our heads. It just is.

Words

Words. Spoken, they have the power to calm, console and reassure. Alternatively, they have the ability to crush. Once words are liberated, the speaker often finds themself relieved, perhaps with a lessened burden. However, once spoken, words released can never be reclaimed.

The recipient of spoken words may feel pacified. Or tormented. Perhaps inadvertently. Perhaps not. Either way words can have an impact. Sometimes the words cause a temporary consequence or setback. But sometimes the words can create a repercussion that lingers eternally.

The speaker of those words may be satisfied that the words used were only meant to help the person. Or the purpose of the discourse was simply an honest conveyance of feelings they had held deep inside. A justifiable release. What they said was accurate. Necessary. Wasn’t it?

They were just words, weren’t they?

Decades ago, while reaching up high on a shelf, a box fell, landing painfully on my foot. Not a ritual swearer, I yelled out a word I seldom used. That four letter “s” word. Three times.

Hours later, in the midst of constructing a tower, my toddler watched as the blocks fell around him. He yelled out that same word. Three times.

Words. Just words. Right?

Written words possess similar super powers. Only they are even more potent. Spoken words can be lost in translation, not quite fully heard nor accurately remembered. But the written word is for forever, never ceasing to exist. The words remain, living in time and space in a permanent state.

Be careful what you write.

As an author, I try to be certain that the words I write are there to calm, console and reassure. While still telling a story. Sometimes the words may be at times too honest, too forthright. But they are chosen specifically to convey a message, to bring fiction to life and to create a world in which the characters exist.

Words are powerful. Hopefully we choose them wisely. Or, better yet, that we choose never to share irrevocable words.

Losing and Finding

“In every losing there will be some kind of a finding. There always is. Sometimes you have to wait for it, but it will come. In the end, you will discover that there is a perfect balance between what one loses and what one finds.”

Those words were spoken by Mary Reynolds in The Rule of Thirds.

We lose so much in our lifetime. The lost, replaceable material things, although crushing in the moment, become fleeting and forgotten in the future. Mattering not in the entire scheme of things, a lost article is simply a lost something. We often find joy in the next stage that occurs when we fix the situation with the discovery of something new. Sometimes the next find is even more rewarding than the initial loss. The passed over promotion has led us to land an even better job. Our new home becomes even more special than the one we lived in for decades. Or that brand new car is safer and more reliable than our old trusty yet rusty heap.

It is the loss of loved ones that leaves us shattered. A lost someone is a weight that often becomes more than one can bear. When someone you are dating has left you in the dust, or your spouse moves on to another, or when you lose the beloved family pet, you are desolate.

But the finality of a loved one dying is beyond devastating. How does one replace the irreplaceable? One simply does not. But what one can do is find solace. That takes time, and a lot of patience and faith.

Life circles around and in its continuous rotation, the souls of our lost loved ones have a sneaky way of returning. Subtly and randomly, they lead us to discoveries, reminding us that they are still here with us in spirit. Somehow we find that misplaced letter tucked in the back of a drawer, its words reiterating how deeply we were loved. Then, in the midst of a long road trip, we hear that song that we had danced to with our parent at our wedding and we are jolted back to a different place and time. One morning we awaken from an almost palpable dream, one filled with cherished moments of being with them again. Then, late one afternoon, a persistent butterfly remains perched for hours on the plant in the kitchen window box. Fluttering its wings, it shows us that our loved one is still looking out for us. And then that incredibly joyous day arrives when we look into our newborn grandchild’s eyes and we catch a glimmer of recognition. They are here with us, always.

We lose often. But we also find renewal.

The Book Within

Remember that Seinfeld episode when Cramer publishes a coffee table book about coffee tables that also becomes its own coffee table?

Well, that is kind of what The Rule of Thirds, my newest novel in the Things Come in Threes series is like. Throughout the novel, two teenaged girls assist a little girl in the making of a book. Following along through the pages, the reader is able to experience the creative process and the inspiration behind their work. In the end, the little book that they make ends up being more than the characters could have expected. Not only does the book help a little girl learn how to accept her grief, it also becomes worthy of fictional publication.

Maybe fiction does imitate life. In this case, it is the other way around. Since the little book that the characters create lies within the novel, it also needed to spread its wings and attain a life of its own. Entitled Happy Again, this book has two homes. One within the book, one outside the book and living on its own.

The Gift of Healing

A peek into the inspiration for the novel, Elke’s Magic

We live on top of a hill, surrounded by woods. Countless wild animals pass through, en route from the stream and ponds below to the sanctity of the forest. We have been visited by deer, fox, raccoons, possums, groundhogs, rabbits, coyotes and on the rare occasion even a bear! The same pair of mallards arrives every spring to lay eggs, and a red tailed hawk flies overhead daily. Needless to say, there is never a dull moment around here!

Arriving at my front door late one afternoon, I looked out into our backyard, and noticed a doe nursing her newborn fawn. She was only about a hundred feet away. As soon as she had spotted me, our eyes locked. We had bonded, the deer and I. Knowing that she and her baby were welcome and safe at our home, she continued feeding her little one until it had finished its meal. And then they both bounded back over the stone wall into the woods once more.

All day I had been struggling with a way to open my first Young Adult Novel. Elke, the main character, is a healer who can mysteriously bring about curative powers simply through her touch. I had already written most of the book already, but I needed a way to introduce Elke, and to subsequently introduce readers to the world in which Elke lived.

Unbeknownst to them, the deer and her fawn had just given me inspiration. And so, the first chapter of Elke’s Magic opens with a doe seeking help. Injured, she heads to Elke for her magical healing touch. After Elke offers therapeutic assistance, the deer leaps back into the woods. Turning back for a moment, the deer looks Elke directly in the eye before disappearing into the trees.

We are all capable of being a healer like Elke. Maybe less effectively than the fictional character, but we can all provide that necessary hug, offer encouraging words, extend our deepest sympathy or give a warm and loving smile.

Sometimes that is all it takes to bring about the gift of healing.

Contemplating Reincarnation

Not exactly sure when I started to fully believe that our souls have the capacity to return. A few years ago, for some inexplicable reason, I had an “aha” moment. In a spontaneous burst of comprehension, I felt it in deep down in my own soul.

I have been here before.

Perhaps being in my sixth decade here on this planet has made me more introspective. I have expectations that if the end is nearing, yet hopefully not too soon, I will have yet another stab at life. This soul inside me needs to move on and finish what it started in its current corporeal state.

Sounds a bit creepy to think about it, though. The concept or belief that a soul can shift into another seems too far fetched. Too unreal. But I think, no I believe, that it does happen.

What perplexes me the most are the logistics. When did this recycled soul actually arrive? Did it swoosh in, at birth? Or did it occur at conception? Perhaps somewhere along the line, during gestation? And then, at death will it leave in a poof, only to enter another human form? Maybe. It makes sense. We as humans all need time to grow. Our soul needs to grow. Is one lifetime long enough to learn everything? Or do our souls need many lives in order to evolve into whom they are destined to become?

So, if indeed we do reincarnate, it could explain why we are so often drawn to the familiar. When we meet someone for the first time and there is an instant connection, does that mean we knew them in a past life? Were we friends, spouses, or family members before? The night I met my husband, I went back home and told my roommate that I had met the man I was going to marry. Not sure why. It was just a knowing feeling that had come over me. Were we once spouses? Eons ago? Fast forward, and 38 wonderful years together, maybe we were together before. In another lifetime. It explains so very much.

And why do we instantly love our children? Something magical happens the very first moment that you meet your child. Most often, seconds after birth, but for some, it might take a bit longer. It does grow though, in intensity, that connection that lies deeper than just the knowledge that you carried this child inside of you for nine months. Or if adopting, that the child in your arms knows somehow that you are family. Has that child’s soul been part of your life in the past?

I assume that all of these answers are there for us, in our next lifetime. Maybe. Until then, I hope that this soul inside of me right now is doing its very best. And that it will continue to do so when it finds its new home, once it is finished and ready to move forward.