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Archive for October, 2013

I remember the first time I saw the Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta. It was July 4, 1989, and I became motivated! The whole process of running in a race, gathered with thousands of people, all with one purpose—to make it to the finish line as quickly as you can—really got my blood pumping. So right then and there I decided that I was going to start running and get in shape for the race the following year.

So I started running every morning at 6:00 a.m. before getting ready for work. The first day was hard and I wasn’t sure I’d make it past the stretching. But I did and I ran a mile. And the next day, and the next, and the next. I gave myself two days off a week, but I stayed consistent and focused. I made it up to two miles and then three, but the process was hard. The pains in my legs were strong and my feet were screaming at the end of each session.

I bought new running shoes, I stretched some more, got massages, purchased special socks and running gear, but my speed didn’t increase, my endurance wasn’t improving, and my pains weren’t going away. So I went to the doctor and found out that I have a genetic muscle deformity that prevents my muscles from performing normally. I decided to get another opinion and another. As my chiropractor puts it, even today, my feet are not my friends. True, I could keep running but the pain would probably never lessen, my speed and endurance weren’t getting any better, and probably wouldn’t. I had most likely reached the pinnacle of what I would be able to do as a runner. I continued to attend races and watch the runners whose bodies so fluidly moved mile after mile, looking like it was effortless, even though I knew that was not true. I kept hoping that maybe by watching them I would discover some secret that would help me change my body and get it to do what my heart and mind wanted.

My heart was broken. I’m of the mindset that we can do anything if we put our mind, intentions, and efforts into it. But there I was, faced with the reality that the best I could do in running wasn’t going to get me to the front of any race and it probably wouldn’t even get me to the finish line, unless it was a short race.

So I gave up running. I pride myself on not being a quitter so it was a tough decision but I learned a big lesson—none of us is going to be able to do everything well. Now I look at the things I can do well and I embrace them, celebrate them, and give thanks daily.

But I will admit—to this day, I envy runners.

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My husband and I recently saw the movie “Gravity” with Sandra Bullock and George Clooney in 3D, and it got me thinking about the wonderful solidness of Mother Earth and the force of gravity that holds us here! While I love looking up at the sky and its beauty, as I experienced (through 3D) floating through space and not being attached to anything or anyone, I felt a sense of panic. I had to remind myself it was just a movie, then taking a very deep breath, I sat back and enjoyed the beauty that encompassed the screen.

But what if it wasn’t just a movie? Being a writer, I’m a contemplative person, so most of the experiences I have bring moments of rumination, thoughts, and ‘what if’s’ into my mind. I began thinking of the men and women that willingly go into the space frontier and agree to go out into the galaxy and “float around” with little or no attachment to anything solid, simply depending on a man made device to keep them safe. And if it doesn’t, they just float away into infinity. Now to me—that’s brave!  I consider myself relatively adventurous, but I can’t even contemplate something like that without feeling chills and a big sense of real fear!

I admit that up to this point in my life, I have taken for granted the solid earth beneath my feet and the wonderful attachment I experience with the ground, the trees, the water, and other human beings. But no more. In response to the great line in the movie, “I hate space,” I heartily reply, “I love earth!”

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I absolutely love writing; especially when I can step into that “space beyond the mind” where the story just flows, often with the characters leading the way. To anyone who isn’t a writer, that phrase probably sounds a bit Schizophrenic, but to other writers, it’s a well-known and desirable state. It’s when we are writing from that space that our stories and the words that end up on the page can leave us with the feeling. . .”Wow, I wrote that?”

As I’m working with my publisher’s team to get my novel ready for release next October, I’ve been experiencing some of those moments. This last week I received the draft of my back cover blurb for my approval and tweaking, and as I read the synopsis of the story, I must admit, I was drawn in. It was a curious moment for me to read the description of the book from someone else’s perspective.

Called to the bedside of their dying mother, three sisters reluctantly return to their childhood home in northern Minnesota. What should be a reunion of love and warmth is tainted by the ghosts of their childhood; their parents’ farm is a place of painful memories. With their mother slipping into a coma, Helene leaves behind a shell of a marriage in Atlanta—her country club lifestyle not at all what it seems. Alice has finally fled an abusive husband but is afraid her failing courage will put her children in danger. Waking up beside yet another stranger, Suzanne can no longer deny how an alcohol addiction may destroy everything she’s worked for—an addiction that barely masks the terrible wounds on her soul.

They may have escaped the farm, but Helene, Alice, and Suzanne find they are still perpetuating a cycle of pain, abuse, alcoholism, anger, fear, and bitterness. Seeing themselves through each other’s eyes, the sisters are forced to confront their demons as their mother’s presence supports them in a way she never could in life, on a journey of healing, of awakening. Slowly, the women tread through the wreckage of the past to create lives filled with hope, love, and triumph—building a legacy of the heart.

As my eyes scanned the words and my mind formed a visual picture of the story, I forgot that it was my book, my story. In those brief seconds, I was a reader. The story pulled at me and I wanted to know more about these women. When I finished, a small smile touched my lips as I sat back in my chair and  thought, “I’d read that book.”

For a few brief seconds I was totally mesmerized by the words and not besought with the quest to continually make the story better, the characters stronger, the book perfect. For a moment in time I stepped out of the shoes of the writer and into the pleasurable experience of being a reader. Then a big grin consumed my face as I thought. . .”Wow, I wrote that book?”

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My husband and I recently returned from a brief getaway to the Isle of Palms, South Carolina and after just a few days, I came back with a cleared mind, relaxed body, and positive attitude. When I was younger, getaways were perceived by me as a luxury, a special treat we awarded ourselves when everything else had been taken care of. But as I’ve gotten older, I realize that it’s absolutely necessary that we all step away from our daily routines on a somewhat regular basis to get out of the mental, physical, or even spiritual ruts that we can fall into.

When either the budget or time demands don’t allow us to actually escape for several days at a time, my husband and I will take a day trip, and with our Garmon navigator sitting snugly on the dashboard of our car, we  disappear into the maze of country roads that dissect the beautiful Virginia landscape. Turning off our cell phones, not turning on the radio, nor plugging into our iPods, we simply enjoy the beautiful scenery and quiet conversation.

During those times when my daily routine is left behind for a few days or even a few hours, I find that my mind is able to wander from thought to thought or from one quiet space to another, and issues that seemed big before the getaway disappear, and solutions to problems gently appear in the quiet spaces. Emotions that had been boiling under the surface die down to a simmer and logical thought patterns take their place.

Perhaps, if in my younger years I had realized the importance of just stepping away—for either days at a time, or just hours at a time—some of the messes I created in my life would have disappeared into the quiet spaces before they had a chance to manifest.

If it is age that helps me to understand the importance of rest and relaxation, I’m truly grateful for the wisdom.

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