Story Inspiration!

If you attend author signings on a regular basis, then you know the most frequently asked question is, “Where do you get your story ideas?” I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have heard this question asked… and yet only one author, Christopher Moore (Bite Me, A Dirty Job, You Suck) answered it by way of a humorous story.

He replied, “ From real life. I read the newspapers.” From there he explained that just a few days earlier he read a newspaper story about a girl who was hoarding bunny rabbits. The authorities said she had too many and they would have to remove them from her home. Before they could return with cages and such, the girl stuffed as many bunnies as she could into her… wait for it… Volkswagen Rabbit.

The newspaper story continued to report that not only was she driving with all the rabbits in the car, BUT she was A. Wearing a diaper so she could drive for long periods without having to stop to use the restroom… and B. Brought along her goldfish, in the fish bowl, and was using a long straw to blow air bubbles into the bowl for aeration. Can’t you just picture the scene?? Yes, before you ask… she was blonde.

This week on Facebook a friend posted an article about a person who purchased some cows. Authorities were called in because a cow was found wandering around the area. Apparently the 800 lb cow got loose as the new owner couldn’t fit it in his small car. Why wouldn’t it fit you ask? Because they already had a 400 lb cow in the back seat and another in the trunk!!!! Seriously!!! You can’t make this stuff up folks!!!

I seem to think a great mystery can be written about the Michigan woman who was found dead a few weeks ago in the back seat of her jeep in her garage… mummified after being there for six YEARS. Add that to the missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370 and there’s a real thriller in the making!

Do YOU know of any fun and/or interesting news stories just BEGGING to be made into a book??? Please share!!!

Receiving Handmade Gifts

Years ago I was spending the night at a friend’s house. As we re-arranged the furniture to make room for my temporary bed in the middle of the living room, I noticed a piece of art work stuffed behind the sofa. That evening I pulled it out and took a closer look.

It was obviously a hand painted canvas… very modern in all shades of blue concentric circles with a dab of rusty red. I couldn’t read the artist’s name in the lower right hand corner… but it was there.

I looked around the room and wondered where a good place to hang it might be, and I would offer to help in the morning. As I took a closer look I came to the realization this painting didn’t seem to ‘fit’ the house I was in.

The next morning I gingerly broached the subjet of the painting. I was told it was a gift, hand painted by a friend many years ago. When originally given, it went perfectly with their style… but years have passed and now it stuck out like a sore thumb. They continued by saying they shoved it behind the sofa because they didn’t know what else to do with it. They understood the amount of work that went in to painting it… and just couldn’t bare to dispose of it.

I then asked if they would like me to walk around their house and perhaps suggest a spot to hang the painting where it wouldn’t compete with the rest of the house (having already scouted out their upstairs bathroom as the perfect place). “Nah”, they replied. “I really don’t like the painting any more, so I just stuck it behind the couch… out of sight, out of mind.”

Watercolors

That comment got me thinking. I give a lot of gifts to friends and family that are handmade. Quilts, watercolor paintings, knitted scarves, seashell ornaments, beaded jewelry, baked goods, etc… I wonder how many gifts I have given that created stress for the recipient.

The joy for me is in the process of making the item. I give the finished piece to someone because I think they might enjoy it. No strings attached, no hidden meaning, just pure friendship. Sometimes I hit the nail on the head and it is a perfect gift… and other times I bet I miss by a mile. Never once do I intend a gift to create clutter in the recipient’s home/space… nor do I want to interfere with their decorating style.

Quilting

In as much as I appreciate someone understanding the work involved in creating a handmade item… I hereby give everyone permission to treat a handmade gift from me as you would a gift from anyone else. If it is not to your liking just thank me anyway and do whatever you feel you need to do with it. I will not be offended in any way shape or form. I think it would bother me more to know the item was stuffed away behind a sofa… out of sight, out of mind.

How do you handle gifts you don’t like? Do you re-gift? Donate? Hide it? Do you treat a handmade gift differently than a store bought one?

 

Mermaid Tears

The calendar tells me it’s the last day of Winter. It’s a bit overcast and chilly here at the Jersey Shore… but that didn’t stop me from taking a walk on the beach. Inhaling the sea scented air with each step I took and listening to the continuous crashing of the waves… I fell into a meditative mood.

Reflecting on conversations I’ve had over the past few weeks I am reminded of so many people having difficulties at the moment. Either they themselves, or people close to them are facing illness, unemployment, misunderstandings, death, and oh so much more.

For some reason, walking in solitude at the beach during a drab winter month makes me concentrate on these friends. I send happy thoughts their way via the ocean breeze, and hope they know that for one brief moment I think of them… only of them… and make a wish that whatever they are going through will pass quickly. I don’t know if this type of meditation does any good for them… but it sure makes me feel better.

Turning around to start my trek back to the car, I walked closer to the water’s edge. As the breeze picked up I shoved my hands into my pockets for warmth and turned my back to the wind. My nose began to run and my eyes watered from the constant attack of cold air. I lowered my head and hunched my shoulders in an attempt to brace myself against the blustery bursts. My eye caught a glint of green sea glass.

I didn’t come to collect sea glass… to be honest I didn’t even give it a thought… but I can’t pass this piece by. I bend over and pinch it out of the sand. It’s a teeny, tiny, triangular piece… about 1/4” top to bottom. Normally I wouldn’t pick up a sliver that small… but today I did.

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Then I saw another one, this time only about 1/8”… then another, and another… some green, some white, all no bigger than a… a… ah… a… tear drop. Mermaid Tears!!!! Another name for sea glass is Mermaid Tears! I get it!!!

I don’t know how yet… but SOMEHOW I’m going to use these Mermaid Tears and send them off to my friends. Perhaps they will show up in a Sympathy Card… or maybe a mini Message in a Bottle… Something wonderful will come out of my walk on the beach today… Something MAGICAL!!

Benediction…

Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth in 1968 I graduated Eighth Grade from Dow Avenue School. It was a time of transition for every one in my class. Not only were we moving up into High School, but our youth was falling behind us and we were expected to grow. Our hormones were raging, it was time to get serious about our education… a time for transitioning from a child to a teenager.

Of all the students in our class, the ‘powers that be’ selected ME to give the Benediction at the Graduation Ceremony. I thought they were crazy then, and today as I sit here and type I still think they were crazy. What in the world were the staff of Dow Avenue thinking when they said, “Benedicition… hmmmm… I know… Deb Hathaway.” My name should have been the furthest down the line. Actually it should never have been uttered in the same breath as the word Benediction.

First… let me explain what a Graduation Benediction Speech is. Graduations are a time of transition. A Benediction is a blessing for all going through this awkward time. It’s not a prayer, but a short speech expressing good wishes and hoping that everyone makes it through these times with ease.

Traditionally a member of the clergy delivers the Benediction, but individuals may upon occasion be asked… as in this case. Of all the students graduating that year I was by far the least religious… and therefore I felt the least prepared to give a Benediction. As I wrote my speech I remember questioning the teachers’ choice on a daily basis.

Standing up in front of our class, teachers, staff, and family speaking into a microphone didn’t scare me at all. Having something worthwhile to say… well that scared the daylights out of me. Today… so many years later, no one remembers what I said or that I even gave the Benediction. I am sure no one knew what I said that day either. No matter… I don’t remember it myself.

Today… as so many of us from the class of 1972 are turning the big SIX-OH!… our lives are in transition yet again. Thanks to Facebook I see many of us are retiring, are now empty nesters, becoming grandparents, losing our own parents and spouses. Many ups and downs are reported in our lives as we prepare to venture into another stage of living. At this time I would like to once again deliver good wishes for the travel through this transitional time.

I hope your personal path is paved with good times and filled with great adventures. And if you should hit a bump in the road, know that there are many people wishing you well… and hope you get through it as best as you can.

As always… my best to you,

Deb

Why I blog… AGAIN

Apparently I lost sight of the original intent of this blog. Thanks to a few emails I received these past few days… I was gently reminded this blog represents ME, as a writer. It is a showcase of what I can do… what my strong points are… my weaknesses too.

Prospective clients secretly check me out… to decide if I have what they are looking for or not. I purposely did not install analytics that tell me who visited the site… just so I wouldn’t be swayed to write for an audience… but for my own amusement instead.

This blog has very little to do with my book writing… only as an update. So… just because I tossed that all into the fire and am beginning from scratch… does not mean I should stop posting.

What it DOES mean however… is that I just won’t post as frequently. Mostly because I’m spending the better part of my day typing away at a manuscript or a specific job… but also because writing a book takes over your life leaving no time to do any extracurriculars to report.

I guess I need to place a ‘sticky’ on my desk top reminding me each day why I do what I do. It will read… BIC HOK!!! Every procrastinating author knows this means… Butt In Chair, Hands On Keyboard.

 

Industrial Sized Shopping… For One

Industrial ShoppingI need to tell you about my shopping trip at Costco the other day. This whole thing started because I was hungry and wanted a slice of pizza for lunch. My local Costco is just down the road, and the pizza is cheap… oh and I had to gas up at their pumps. Yeah… that’s how they reel you in.

When finished smacking my lips and wiping pizza grease from my mouth, and hands, and the front of my shirt… I grabbed a shopping cart and hit the aisles. As usual the rotisserie chicken aroma seduced my nostrils as I followed the scent to the back of the store and picked one off the warming rack. That accomplished I headed to the produce section. And before you ask… NO that wasn’t on my shopping list. But really, in my defense I have to ask… who can walk into Costco and NOT buy a rotisserie chicken???

I planned on making Chicken Pot Pies this week to keep in the freezer… so I needed onions, celery, garlic, carrots and such. I plucked a net bag of garlic from the pile and threw it in the cart. Hmmm… there are a lot of garlic heads in that bag… but I’ll figure out a way to preserve them. I won’t have to purchase garlic for at least a year, I mollified myself.

Onions the size of Softballs were the only yellow onions available. No problem… I cook with onions on almost a daily basis. This gigantic bag will hold me over without any going to waste.

The big problem started with the carrots. A 10 pound bag to be precise. They looked so good… a nice deep orange. Eh… how bad could it be to try and use up all these carrots? I like carrots, so it shouldn’t be that difficult. One night I’ll roast them, I need some for the pot pies, I can make carrot soup, and I’ll bake up a batch of carrot and oatmeal muffins. Yeah… that’s good.

Next… the broccoli. Hmmmm…. well, I’ve gone this far, I may as well bite the bullet and grab this industrial sized bag of broccoli while I’m here. I don’t want to waste the time and energy it takes to go to another food store JUST to pick up broccoli, I rationalized. I’m sure I will find SOMETHING to do with it all. Yeah right, famous last words.

The chicken is no big deal. A bag of frozen breasts can last forever in the freezer, so I didn’t even flinch at the size of the bag. I’ve already ‘been there done that’ many times before. History has shown I can whip through that bag within 6 months all by myself and not break a sweat.

I actually made it out of the store without any ‘extras’ in the cart. I think this is a FIRST!!! No snacks, no clothes, no office supplies… no books, no cakes or pies… OK… I bought the rotisserie chicken… but that’s to be expected. Hey! I can squeeze 4 meals out of that bird then make stock with the carcass. That’s a lot of mileage for only $4.99.

Now home, I unload the car. Houston we have a problem. The chicken breasts are no big deal… plenty of room in the freezer for it. It’s the refrigerator I have issues with. Between the rotisserie chicken, huge bag of broccoli, 10 pounds of carrots and other items I picked up, like fruit… AND the stuff already in there… I have to be creative in the shifting and re-organizing of the shelves in order to get everything stuffed in.

The potatoes, onions, and garlic. Where should I put these items??? My kitchen is so tiny, every inch is already in use. I make the executive decision to open the basement door and place them precariously near the trash can… so they don’t roll down the steps. OK… all settled in for now.

The next morning I awake with all the good intentions of the world. I decide I am going to attack the bag of garlic first… then make soup in the afternoon. Thanks to the wonders of YouTube I found an easy way to peel the garlic. Step one, smash the bulb with the palm of your hand. Step two, place everything in a bowl, top with lid, and shake shake shake until your arm falls off. Ta-Dah!! Well… not exactly. I realized too late it needs to be a hard bowl or pot, like a metal one… I used plastic and only a few actually stripped down to their skivvies. Back to the drawing board.

After peeling enough cloves to fit into 2 small canning jars (and I DO mean small) I covered one with distilled vinegar and the other with olive oil… capped them both and placed them in the refrigerator. Whew!!

The kitchen smells heavenly as I also chopped the tops off three heads of garlic, drizzled them with olive oil, ground some fresh salt and pepper over the tops and tossed them in the oven to roast. 2 hours into my day… and two whole heads of garlic have been preserved, and three roasted. Only 20 more to go. I’ll do those another day.

Carrots. I now move on to carrot soup. No problem… I’ve got this down. Like a mad scientist, I don’t use a recipe. Chop one of those large onions, a few ribs of celery, throw in a garlic clove (or two, or three)… saute in butter. Mmmmm. Scrape and chop the carrots… throw them in the pot. Add some homemade turkey stock (from the Thanksgiving turkey) and bring to a boil. Peel and chop some ginger… throw that in the pot… oops… a little too much… oh well. Blend everything nice and smooth, season to taste. DONE! In record time… and oh so yummy. Break down what’s left into sturdy containers, and pop in the freezer.

I glance over at the counter… it doesn’t even look like I put a dent in the bag of carrots.Are they procreating behind my back? Oy! I guess I’m having roasted carrots with my dinner tonight.

The next morning I take a peek in the refrigerator to see what I can pull together for breakfast. I am greeted with the seducing scent of ‘eau du garlic’. Normally I would pull in a deep breath and inhale all of it’s goodness. However, it’s 7:00am and I JUST brushed my teeth with minty paste. Not a great combination.

My eyes rest on the ginormous bag of broccoli that hasn’t even been touched yet… sitting right next to the now 9 ½ pound bag of carrots. I shut the door and ask myself…

What was I THINKING????

Why I Blog… Or not.

I’ve found it difficult to blog lately and I had to sit and ask myself why.

This afternoon I took the time to read my past blogs. It was fun to see the changes in me. What I’ve done, where I’ve been, what excited me. Except for some of the more personal things in my life I have been pretty open and honest. I’ve talked about my PTSD, my travels, my past life, my daily work, crafts I’m working on… heck, I’ve even told you all about my bras and panties!!! Very little has been off limits. When I read all of these posts I say, “GEE… I want the life THAT girl is living.” Trust me  when I tell you my life is really not that exciting… you are just getting the highlights.

I began this blogging journey on the advise of so many people ‘in the know’. If I wanted to be an author, I was told, I had to create a ‘platform’. I had to get followers. I had to be witty and charming, and make people LIKE me… so when my book came out I would already have an established following.

I set up Facebook pages… plural. One for me personally, one for me as a writer, and another for my book business Unique and Novel.

As with most things… you must practice, practice, practice in order to be good. And so I wrote and wrote and wrote. I sat up in my bedroom window over looking the lake and told you about any little thing that popped into my head… taking pictures when I could. Personal friends marveled at how I was never at a loss for words. I joked by saying I have no one here to talk to… and so I type my thoughts instead. It really isn’t a joke. I really don’t have anyone to ask about my day, so I throw it out to you all to read or not.

As a whole we writers are an insecure bunch… and I am no different. Personally I suffer from low self esteem… as time and time again life and reality hits me in the face to remind me. But I don’t write about that. You wouldn’t LIKE me or my posts if that’s all I wrote.

I haven’t gotten many followers or ‘friends’. To be fair… I don’t work hard at gaining new ones either. Like anything else, I’m good ‘out of the gate’… but never in it for the long haul. And with that statement I will let you in on a secret… the book I’ve been working on will not be published. As a matter of fact I have burned everything in the fireplace this afternoon.

So… without any further fanfare or discussion… I am signing off.

Deb

 

 

 

Miss Liberty…Quilters Take Manhattan

You never know who you are going to run in to at a quilt show.

Miss Liberty - Meg Cox

Today while attending Quilt Fest in Somerset, NJ I bumped into Miss Liberty (AKA Meg Cox with a friend). Donned in her very own bed quilt, she greeted show attendees and informed them of the up coming QUILTERS TAKE MANHATTAN being held on September 20, 2014. The Quilt Alliance is looking forward to this 4th year being bigger and better than ever. More information and registration can be found HERE.

I have been a lucky volunteer for this event… and am thrilled to be volunteering again this year.

Now… to report on the quilt show itself. I’ll be honest… nothing grabbed my attention to report on. The winning quilts didn’t excite me either. Although a lot of attendees ‘ohhhed’ and ‘ahhhed’ at the top prize winners, I couldn’t get enthused. Not a huge fan of an over use of rhinestones on a finished quilt… I thought the winners used bling instead of talent to capture a judge’s attention.

I like glitter and sparkle as much as the next princess… but not on my quilts… unless a touch of sparkle enhances the design.

Another quilt that had me stop short… was a portrait of the Dalai Lama… at the bottom was attached a smaller rectangle quilted with Dorothy, the tin man, cowardly lion, and scarecrow of the Wizard of Oz. Huh??? I had to read the small print of the attached description revealing the message ‘follow your path’. I can honestly say I didn’t ‘get it’.

Word to the wise… Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

 

 

Time Marches On…

Each day as I inch closer to the big ‘Six Oh!’ I sit back and watch life from afar… and take the time to really be IN the moment. Taking a deep breath I inhale the scents around me and take a closer look at things. Just a few short years ago I couldn’t sit still for more than 10 minutes. Now? Well now I can sit for hours and just let my thoughts take over.

I love capturing a glimpse of the little hands of a toddler grabbing their mommy’s hand to walk down the sidewalk. A woman’s tender glance as her husband opens the car door. A bird as it gathers bits of treasures to make a nest. The glint of the sun upon the ocean waves.

Last week while traveling I had the surprising joy of attending a Variety Show… of Octogenarians!!! What a hoot!!! The MC was an 85-year-old man with shaky hands from Parkinson’s… but that didn’t stop him!! Oh no!! He was majestic as he announced each act… his wife of 65 years by his side holding up the ‘APPLAUSE’ sign. His daughter was so taken aback commenting her Dad would NEVER in his life gotten up to speak in a large crowd … until he came to live in this particular Senior Living Home a few months ago. It took him growing old to make him finally come out of his shell.

The first act was a woman playing 5 selections on the organ. NOT an electric keyboard… but an old-fashioned two tiered keyboarded Hammond Organ with foot pedals. Before she placed her fingers on the keys I imagined how hysterical it would be if her first selection was the ballpark favorite… CHARGE!!! She adjusted the built in metronome to the proper s-l-o-w beat… and began her concert. The ‘standing room only’ audience began to sing along. I looked around the room… the joy on their faces was PRICELESS! I even knew some of the words! “You made me love you… I didn’t want to do it, I didn’t want to do it…”

Next up was a talented woman who sang (and I use the term loosely) a parody she wrote to the tune of Favorite Things from the Sound of Music. The audience laughed large and loud at the list of favorite things like Maalox, Ben Gay, and Walkers. You see… her talent was in the ‘writing’ of the song, not the actual performance of it. Poking fun at the changes in their daily life certainly keeps them young at heart.

The balance of the show was filled with comedians (telling off color jokes… deadpan style), more singers, and an AWESOME reading of Casey At The Bat… by none other than Bob Evans… whose voice was still smooth as silk from his years as a sportscaster… now retired.

Old-timers fall into a routine. The show ran over it’s allotted hour time slot… and precisely at 5:00pm the audience began to leave the theater… in the middle of an act… for DINNER!! I was stunned into silence. Too funny!!

At what point do we lose our internal ‘filter’? The one that keeps us from saying things we probably shouldn’t. Here is a photo of a log entry near the dining room of this senior facility. It’s funny… but it’s not…

Dining room log entry

And here’s something I got a real kick out of… Individual LIQUOR LOCKERS! I’m not a big drinker… so I would never have thought of this. In order to have a swig of your favorite bourbon or scotch before, during, or after dinner… and to not have to haul your bottle down to the dining room each night looking like a lush… this place provides a locked space for it. You can have your own personal locked liquor cabinet!!! I don’t know why… but I just HAD to photograph it!! It’s soooooooo…. Gentlemanly Southern!!!

Liquor Lockers

I realize it is a privilege to grow old. Not everyone is afforded this gift of time… I am among the lucky ones. I intend to enjoy the next 20 or 30 years… and revel in all the little things. And I hope one day younger people will look at me and say, “Wow… look at that crazy old lady. She is really enjoying herself. Good for her!”