Tuesday, March 31, 2009

My Daily Piece of Heaven

Way back when I started blogging, I had a comment from a published romance author. I had never heard of her before, but I began to follow her blog. I loved her voice and her humor, and I especially loved how she was so open and honest about her life. Her name is Suzanne McMinn.

There was one post in particular that really hit home with me. She asked herself, "Are you really happy?" and discovered that the answer was a resounding NO. So she packed up her belongings in suburbia and moved to the hills of West Virginia with her three children. A few years later, she still writes novels, but she is also now a farmer. She has slowly built her farm from scratch - literally. She now has chickens, goats, sheep, a sheepdog, and farm cats. She grows a garden. Her children are discovering the value of living and working on a farm. She loves to cook and bake and comes up with the most delicious recipes. Over Christmas, she made homemade crafts and shared it all on her blog. You can read about her amazing journey here.

Her blog, Chickens in the Road, is my daily slice of heaven. It never fails to bring a smile to my face. Suzanne posts pictures of her farm animals, of her children, of the crafts and food she's made, of the beautiful West Virginia landscape, and she continues to entertain with her wit and wonderful view on life.

I owe a great deal to Suzanne. When I read the post on "Are you really happy?" it made me stop and take stock of my own life. Was I really happy? And my answer was a resounding NO. Frankly, I was completely miserable. My toxic marriage had started to take a toll on my health, both mentally and physically, which in turn affected my daughter. I walked around like I had the burden of the world on my shoulders. I didn't smile a lot. I didn't laugh a lot. And I asked myself, "Do you want to live like this the rest of your life?" And again, the answer was a resounding NO.

While I know Suzanne's life is not perfect, I see her joy for her newfound life on every blog post, in every picture. And it is a deep and pure joy. She didn't take an easy path to get there, but the results have, I'm sure, been completely worth it.

Though my journey has just begun, I am already smiling more, already laughing more (though the days when I cry or feel blue are there, too) and I look forward to the future now more than I ever did before. I now have hope for that future, when before I didn't.

So this is to say "thank you" to Suzanne for giving me the courage to make the tough decisions, to realize that we only have one life in this world, and that we need to make the most of it.

If you get a chance, take a moment to visit Suzanne at the Chickens in the Road blog. Maybe you, too, will find your own daily slice of heaven!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Nice Weekend

Not a whole lot to say today other than I had a nice weekend with my dad and his girlfriend. They came down Friday night and we spent all day Saturday together and Sunday morning. Went to a few museums and then Saturday night we went to Old Chicago and I splurged on my meal. I paid for it that night, though. My system just isn't used to grease (I had a stromboli with lots of Italian sausage and pepperoni) and my stomach just hurt all day yesterday. So I took a nap yesterday afternoon then watched Casablanca last night. I had my laptop open to my manuscript, but my stomach wasn't in the mood to deal with it, so I didn't.

Now it's Monday already. Sigh. I honestly wonder why the weekends go so fast. I still think we need a four day work-week. Anyone with me?

Friday, March 27, 2009

Looking to History in Your Backyard

Growing up on my small family farm in western Nebraska, I used to dream of going some place more exciting. Virginia, where the Civil War is embroidered into the fabric of their history. Massachusetts, to see the incredible struggle of the American Revolution. South Carolina, to see those awesome Southern mansions. And oh, Europe. I was obsessed with European history. The French Revolution, Napoleon, Georgian England, Regency England. To me, that was where the exciting history was, not boring ol' Nebraska with the Indians and pioneers and covered wagons.

Truth be told, that part of my state's history still doesn't send a thrill through me. But I've now looked at other parts of our history and found myself entranced - specifically the World War II era. The deeper I dig, the more I realize the important role Nebraska played.

The Enola Gay, which dropped the bomb on Hiroshima, was made in Omaha at the Offutt Air Force Base. It is now on exhibit at Washington D.C.

I worked at Fort Robinson, a fort nestled in the buttes of northwest Nebraska, and became intrigued with the fact that German POWs were housed there during World War II - and this became the focus of my graduate thesis years later. An army training center for K-9 dogs was here, as well, and if you ever get the chance to visit this place, it's well worth it. The original buildings are still standing and it is a beautiful location.

The North Platte Canteen in North Platte, Nebraska, was a stopping point for many soldiers on their way to war. Citizens of this small town and Nebraskans for miles around volunteered their time to bake cakes and make sandwiches and coffee and whatever else was needed to give to the soldiers on their short stop. Although the canteen doesn't exist anymore, it's been the subject of a book and a film documentary.

My own family was involved with World War II, of course. My grandfather used to tell me stories of how they would go to the Italian POW camp in my hometown and pick up prisoners to help work on the farm. Since my grandfather's family came from Italy, it was a natural fit. My brother focused on this small POW camp for one of his papers in college (he's also a fellow history major!).

What does all of this prove? That for years, I neglected to look in my own backyard for the history that I loved.

Lesson learned. And this weekend, when my dad comes for a visit, I'm taking him to the Nebraska History Museum to look at their amazing World War II exhibit. He's a big World War II buff, too, so I'm sure we'll have a great time.

Take the time to look at the history in your own backyard. You never know what you might find!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Politics and Religion at Work? Maybe Not...

(Interior of church in Witney, England)

Politics and religion can draw people into pretty heated arguments, and it can polarize family members and friends. While discussion of different ideas is always a good thing - especially when it is done in a respectful manner - there is a time and place for it.

Which leads me to this question:

Should you discuss politics and religion at work?

If you have strayed into this territory at work, what has been your experience with it? Have you been able to see other points of view that you never considered before? Or does it create unbelievable tension with your co-workers?

It's been my experience that you should pick a time and place for these types of discussions, or you should avoid them altogether.

What do you think?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Digging Deeper

After watching Quantum of Solace again last night (what, you didn't think I'd buy the DVD and not actually watch it, did you? *grin*), I'm revising my original opinion of it. I think it's a lot better than I at first thought. Since it's a direct sequel to Casino Royale, it takes Bond's character and digs deeper with his thirst for revenge. Every scene had a purpose toward his character development and in the end, it showed how he came full circle.

It made me realize that I need to dig deeper with my own story. My characters have some pretty serious issues they're dealing with and I think at this point I'm skimming the surface of their problems. I need to unearth the layers, get down to the heart of things, and really explore what's going on in their innermost soul.

Here's where writing has a slight advantage over film. I can devote an entire page to what my character is going through - but a character on film normally doesn't have that advantage mainly because he or she isn't going to sit on screen and "tell" you what they're experiencing. That would be boring.

Thanks to James Bond, I'm going to take a closer look at my manuscript and see where I need to "dig deeper."

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Only in Nebraska


Yesterday we experienced quite the weather anomaly. On the western end of the state, where I'm from, they were having snow. Actually, it was more than that. It was a full-blown blizzard. Now snow is not uncommon in Nebraska during March. We've had more than our share of spring snowstorms.

But...

What
was rather uncommon is that on this end of the state, the far eastern end, where I'm at now, we had tornadoes, not to mention rain, thunder and lightning!

Funny, how one side of the state can have snow while the other side has cyclones! Only in Nebraska...

Great night's work on the novel - I think I'm about to the halfway mark in the editing process. It feels like it's taking forever, but I want to take my time with this and not rush it. And I'm pleasantly surprised at some of the stuff I came up with in the first draft. That's always a good thing.

Let's just hope the snow stays on the other end of good ol' Nebraska. On the other hand, it would give me an excuse to turn the fireplace on and write...

Monday, March 23, 2009

Anticipation


Oh boy.

Quantum of Solace, the latest James Bond movie starring Daniel Craig, comes out tomorrow on DVD.

I'm just a little bit excited.
And, of course, the Disney movie, Bolt, also comes out on DVD tomorrow. My daughter has had the date circled on her calendar for months now. Yes, months. She loves Bolt. Loves him so much that she has transformed her room into a Bolt Utopia with pictures that she's drawn of Bolt hanging up everywhere. I only have a Daniel Craig calendar. ;-) But you can guess where we'll be tomorrow after work - the store!

Weekend was good. The weather was glorious. I got in a work-out on Saturday, did some shopping and now have two chairs and a table sitting on my deck. On Sunday, I took a morning walk by the duck pond, got some editing done, and finished reading the new James Bond novel, Devil May Care. Excellent read. Guess I'm in a bit of a Bond mood. Heh.

Anything you're looking forward to this week or this month?

Friday, March 20, 2009

It's Spring!

(Picture from here)

Hurrah! The first day of spring is TODAY. And our high is supposed to be 60 degrees. I'll take it!
I can't wait to see the bursts of green on lawns, trees, and flowers. Already I'm enjoying the sounds of the birds singing and the noticeable lack of chill in the air. My mood has lifted and I can't wait to go hang out at the duck pond or take a long walk in the warm breezes.

And...spring also means I can take my laptop out onto my deck and write. Bliss!

What is your favorite thing about spring?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Reading

(Books at the Chatsworth library, England)


Simple and short post today.

What are you reading?

Here's what I'm currently perusing:

Devil May Care: The New James Bond Novel by Sebastian Faulks

The Summer of 1787: The Men who Invented the Constitution
by David O. Stewart.

Your turn!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Writing Wisdom

(Chatsworth, England)

I am a huge fan of Brenda Ueland's book, If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit. It was written in 1938, yet the wisdom is timeless. I've frequently turned to this book whenever I needed a lift in my writing spirit. It never fails to inspire me. And I need a good dose of inspiration right about now. Life's burdens have intruded upon my zest for editing my novel and I need to re-focus on the story.

One of Ueland's points is to have "microscopic truthfulness." Here is what she says:

"Describe something just as it is. Do not worry if it is angular or clumsy or how it comes out. Just look at something and put down what you see. Remember William Blake who said, 'Improvement makes straight, straight roads, but the crooked roads without improvement are roads of genius.'"

I think this goes along the lines of, "To thine own self be true." I have tried writing sweeping, grand, lofty sentences, but they all fall flat. I am not that kind of writer. I have to stay true to my writing self. This does not mean that I can't explore and branch out of my comfort zone and try new things. But if I discover that those methods do not work, I should not force them upon myself simply because I "think" I need to write that way.

I suppose you could boil this down to one thing - being true to yourself as a writer is the way to find your voice.

Agree or disagree?


Monday, March 16, 2009

Our Newest Member



Meet Kathren, the newest member of our little family. Kathren is named after Catherine the Great because of her regal bearing, but my daughter likes to spell her name the other way. I'm not going to argue. :-)

We went to a local no-kill shelter here in the city and found Kathren yesterday. There were so many cats to choose from, but this one instantly came up to us and wanted us to pet her. Our hearts were won over and we brought her home. She's starting to settle in, though is still a bit skittish and shy. But she still loves to have us pet her and "talks" to us a lot. My daughter absolutely adores her.

After my personal life took a disastrous turn last week, I knew that my daughter and I would both need a loving animal in our lives to bring us joy and help us to cope with what we're going through. So when I mentioned the idea to my daughter on Thursday, she was ecstatic and couldn't wait for the weekend. We went to the shelter's website and looked at all the cats. She had a favorite one that she wanted, but when we went there yesterday, that cat had already been adopted. No worries! Miss Kathren was ready and waiting for us.

She has already stolen our hearts and made life a little easier to bear. I have every confidence that she will soon adjust to her new surroundings and love her life with us. :-)

And as for me, well, life continues on. Every day is a little bit better and I have received such a an amazing outpour of support from my friends, my family, and you, my blogging buddies, that I am deeply humbled. It is so wonderful to have such a caring group of people to surround my daughter and I.

I managed to get some editing done this weekend, and my daughter and I did quite a few fun things to lift our spirits. We both laughed a lot and smiled a lot, so that always makes things easier.

I've recognized that my healing process will be a slow one, and that's ok. I need time to sort through all my emotions and thoughts. Thank the Lord I am a writer. I've been filling up pages in my journal and I've also had the chance to take a mini "vacation" from it all by diving into my novel. I can't tell you what a blessing that is! It has helped so much. I hope to focus on the important things in life now - my family, my friends, my daughter, my faith, my health, and my writing.

Time for a new beginning.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Beautiful


Thank You

I want to thank each and every one of you who commented on my post yesterday. I wasn't sure whether I should get that personal on the blog, but like I said, if I can help anyone else through something like this, it is worth it.

I love you all. Thank you for being there for me. It has made a world of difference.

Every day gets a little bit better. :-)

Blessings to you!

~~Melissa

Friday, March 13, 2009

Drained

I have nothing to say. I am drained. I'm a washcloth who has been wrung out, again and again. My eyes are puffy and red and I am incredibly fragile. The soon-to-be ex told me he is "seeing" someone, even though we promised each other that we wouldn't date anyone until after the divorce. I was holding him to that promise. I was holding myself to that promise. And in my eyes, dating someone else while you are still married is wrong. It's called cheating. It's disrespectful and demeaning to your mate and cheapens the years you were together.

It also teaches your children something - a whole host of somethings. Suffice to say, my daughter is grieving just as much as I am.

Why do I share this with you? Is this too personal? Perhaps it is. But I hope if I can save one person from making this mistake, I will have saved them from causing their spouse the unbearable nightmare my life was in the past two days.

Some may not agree with me. They may think if you're separated or are in the process of a divorce, you can see other people. That's fine. You are entitled to your beliefs. But me...no. I will never ever believe it is right. Not only will you do yourself a disservice if you cheat (because how will the other person in your new relationship really ever trust you?), but you are hurting your soon-to-be ex-spouse. My divorce has been in the works for four months. Four months. That is it. We were together for 10 years. I feel cast aside, like a piece of used goods. I ask myself, was I that easy to get over?

Yes, yes, I know. "Time will heal. This just shows you his true character. You're better off without him." I know all these things. But sometimes, you have to vent. You need to get it out, express your anger and the feeling of betrayal. And that's exactly how I feel - betrayed. But even worse, my daughter feels the same way.

We'll be ok. We're strong. We have lots of friends and family surrounding us. But I will never look at my husband the same way again. He has destroyed our friendship and I was so hoping we could hang onto that.

Counseling is in my future and for my daughter. Lots of prayer. Lots and lots of journal entries (I wrote one last night). And lots of pouring my frustration, hurt, and anger into my exercising

So I'm trying to be positive, but since this is a grieving process, I also have to let those emotions out, otherwise they will hit me when I'm least expecting it.

Onward.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Are You a Comment Junkie?

I admit it. I check my blog several times a day for comments. I don't receive them via email because for some odd reason, I love to see the numbers go up on the comment section of the blog itself.

In fact, I think I'm more than a comment junkie - I am just a letter junkie period. I love getting emails. I love getting letters in the mail. When I was young, I used to stalk the mailbox every day because I couldn't wait to get the mail. One time, my mom, who had watched my disappointment and frustration when I didn't get any mail, sent me a note that said, "I hope this mail cheers you!" What a great mom!

And I guess I've carried that obsession over to my blog comments. I just love to hear from people!

What about you? Are you a "comment junkie"?

Monday, March 09, 2009

Step Away from the News!

The economy stinks. People are losing their jobs. We're still fighting a war. And the bad news goes on and on and on.

I admit that I have become a news junkie as of late to keep up with everything. But after awhile, it really starts to wear you down. A person can only take so much doom and gloom before it starts to affect your mood.

That's when it's time to step away from the news for awhile. Turn off CNN. Don't click on ABCnews.com. Click on www.icanhazcheezburger.com and laugh at all the cute kitties. Go to http://cakewrecks.blogspot.com and giggle at the monstrous cakes some people come up with. And after you've had a good laugh, you can go back to the news. Or not. Take the day off.

Me, I like to immerse myself in my writing. It's my own little vacation for the mind. After an hour or so in my characters' world, I feel refreshed and ready to tackle my own world.

Friday, March 06, 2009

The Beauty of Weekends

I love Fridays. I love that I have two days coming up where I don't have to worry about getting up early and heading to the office. I love the promise of uninteruppted writing time. I love lounging around in my comfy clothes, listening to my music, and just relaxing.

What is your favorite thing to do on the weekend?

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Spring, Is That You?

This morning, I walked outside and couldn't believe it. I really didn't even need a coat. It was absolutely gorgeous. My daughter was ecstatic.

"It's spring!" she said.

And even though it may not officially be spring, it sure does look and feel like it. With the time change coming up on Sunday, the days will get longer and that means more walks around the duck pond and more time spent outside on the deck. I'm looking forward to it.

I also noticed a nice change in my mood this morning. Upbeat. I'll take it. :-)

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Brain Dead

For the past month, I've felt brain dead. I don't feel depressed. I don't feel happy. I don't feel very strongly one way or the other on the "happy" vs. "sad" scale. I'm sort of in the middle. I'm just...here.

The feeling comes and goes throughout the day, but for the most part, I don't have the ambition or the drive to do a lot. I like to sit and stare into space. I like to think about...nothing at all. I like to just sit.

I know, I know, none of this is making sense. But stay with me.

I'm exercising. I'm eating right. I'm spending time with my daughter. I'm editing the novel. I'm working every day. I'm laughing with my co-workers (when I feel like laughing, that is). I'm even doing laundry.

It's a very difficult feeling to explain. One minute, I can feel very passionate and excited about something - and the next, that feeling is gone.

I think my brain has put itself on "neutral" mode. And the reason for this can probably be found in my personal life. In a few more weeks, I will no longer be a married woman. I alluded to this change back in November and have never really talked about it a lot, but that is what it all boils down to - the big 'D' word.

We tried, my husband and I. We tried and tried and tried. But we just couldn't do it. I've got so many emotions going through me that it's nearly impossible to describe, but I'll try: guilt, relief, sadness, grief, loneliness, contentment. They all seem to contradict each other, don't they?

Sometimes I'll have good days, when the future looks glorious. Other times, I'll see it as an endless wasteland of lonely days and nights. What makes this all even harder? My husband and I are still best friends. And thank goodness we still are friends because we have a daughter to raise - together - even though we may be in different households. But I often wonder...can I still remain good friends with my soon-to-be ex, even when, one day, we find others to share our lives with? (I don't even want to think about that yet. So, so, SO not on my radar.) That's just one of the many questions flitting through my brain.

I know it's all normal. All of it. And I've come to accept that having my emotions all over the place at this time in my life is just the way it is. I'm getting through it thanks to my friends (and that includes my blogging buddies), my family, and God.

And that's why I think my brain has sort of went into neutral mode. There's just too much to process at once and it has to filter through a bit at a time. That's maybe why some days are grand, others less so.

One day at a time...

Monday, March 02, 2009

On the Revolution

My planned vacation to Colonial Williamsburg has jump-started my interest in the American Revolution. That, and I am really getting into the political scene again. I used to be fairly knowledgeable about politics in high school, but through college and early adulthood, I admit it - I fell victim to cynicism and didn't much care who got elected. Shame on me. When there are so many around the world who do not have a voice in their government, I should never take my political voice for granted.

To that end, I've been reading
about the Founding Fathers, and just yesterday, I ordered a few books to help me truly understand the debates surrounding the ratification of the Constitution. Two important factions arose from the debates - the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists. In elementary and high school, we were basically taught that the Federalists supported the Constitution and the Anti-Federalists didn't. There is much more to it than that. In fact, the Anti-Federalists are largely responsible for the Bill of Rights being included with our Constitution. So that I can understand the debates more, I ordered The Essential Federalist and Anto-Federalist Papers. No television or Internet to get your point across in those days - just good old fashioned pen and ink.

It's funny how all the history you learn in school fades throughout the years. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Frankline, and the rest become sort of mythic heroes. But they were ordinary men who found themselves in extraordinary times. And when I think of what they accomplished and that the country they created is still here today, it is just inspiring on so many levels. I sometimes think every American needs a refresher course in the American Revolution, one that goes beyond the legends and the stories and gets to the heart of what these men really did. No matter what way you look at it, these men fought against incredible odds and won. It should inspire us all to remember their sacrifices.

New Digs

I've got a new home on the web - stop by if you get a chance! www.melissamarsh.net