Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2009, you were a good year...


I've never been one to go out and celebrate on New Year's Eve. I remember in 1999, when everyone I knew (seriously, every single person) was doing something big to ring in 2000, I opted to stay home. With 2 great movies (Shakespeare in Love and Sliding Doors--and I know it is weird that I remember which movies, but I can't help it, I remember lots of unimportant details) and a Domino's Pizza (thin crust cheese).

And lots of people called me right before midnight to try and get me to say I was sorry for not agreeing to go out, but I was happy where I was.

For me, the turning over of a new year is more of a reflective time. I don't like the forced cheerfulness and the over-emphasis on having the best time of your life. If that's your thing, then by all means, enjoy, but the best time of my life isn't going to happen at some party or random club at 11:59 on December 31.

I probably sounds like an old stick in the mud. :)

Some might call me crazy for wanting to hold on to 2009 for as long as possible, but I want to squeeze each and every second of it. Big things happened to me in 2009. It was a fantastic year!

Just a few highlights:
  • Holding copies of my first two books in my hand for the first time.

  • Seeing those books in stores for the first time. I still have to fight the urge to take pictures of them on the shelf (and usually end up caving and photographing).

  • Traveling to Washington D.C. and the Grand Canyon for research; traveling to Denver for a writing conference; traveling to Charm, Ohio, for a book signing.

  • Book signings: I participated in 6 signings this year!

  • Hearing from readers who enjoyed the books! This came in the form of letters, e-mails and reviews.

  • Along those lines, one of the biggest blessings of 2009 was meeting so many wonderful people--fellow authors and readers. You guys rock!

I'm hopeful that 2010 will be just as wonderful! These aren't necessarily resolutions, but here are a few things I hope to accomplish in the new year:

  • Get a new book contracted. Or a new series. :)

  • Become reacquainted with my old friend, the gym! It's been far too long.

  • Change my diet. I am ashamed of how unhealthy my eating habits are. If I could just add some fruits and veggies I'd be happy.

  • Come up with fantastic marketing for my May and October releases.

  • Go on a trip that is in no way related to books, research or work. In other words, take a vacation!

  • Get rid of a lot of "stuff"--I have way too much and want to downsize. Maybe I'll never really be a minimalist, but I can try!

  • Finally figure out how to balance life, work and writing. I'm afraid this might mean adjusting my schedule to where I get up early and go to bed at a decent hour...

Okay, I could go on and on, but will stop. Perhaps I should do a mid-year check on these goals to see how I'm doing!

No matter how you choose to ring in 2010, I hope it is wonderful!

Song of the week...my favorite version of Auld Lang Syne by Mairi Campbell & Dave Francis.







Sunday, December 20, 2009

Tis the Season




I'm still feeling a couple of months behind. I still want it to be October so I can carve that pumpkin I meant to carve and put out some pretty mums.

I missed summer while I was locked away writing Love Finds You in Charm, Ohio.

Then I went and missed fall finishing Love is Monumental.

No wonder I'm all off-kilter. I step outside and am honestly surprised it is cold. Where, oh where did that yummy football weather go? The warm/cool that I love.

Clearly I need better time management skills so I won't miss anymore seasons!

With that in mind, I had to make a difficult decision recently--the decision to leave my career as a special event coordinator for a non-profit. It was a dream position for me. I believe very much in the organization and I spent hours upon hours working and thinking about ways to make things better. I was consumed.

But, you see, I was also driven by my desire to be a writer. It was a dream and a gift and something I couldn't walk away from.

When you are being pulled in two totally different directions, both of which mean the world to you, you have to give things up. Like sleep. And seasons. And seeing your family and friends.

So after a lot of prayer and soul searching, I quit the non-profit. I determined that I can't have two careers. I can have a writing career and just a job. But not a career as an event coordinator (that is demanding) and a writing career (that is also demanding).

The same non-profit offered me a part time position working with their database. Such a huge blessing to me. I can pay my bills (yay) but still devote most of my time and brainpower to writing.

Which means that I can sleep again! (I assure you, after several months of working all day and writing most of the night, I feel like a new person now that I'm actually getting several hours again)

And I'm determined not to let any more seasons pass by without me noticing. So my house is decorated--I LOVE the lights of the Christmas tree, the smell of a fresh wreath and the holiday movies on every night.

I'm so glad to be going into this holiday season without the fog of stress and no sleep hanging over me. I can't wait until Thursday--when my entire family will be getting together for gifts and games and lots of food. And Friday we'll do it all over again and maybe catch a movie. Saturday, we'll do some marathon after-Christmas shopping. Then family gatherings again on Sunday and Monday. So fun!

Song of the week: Winter Song by Sara Barielles and Ingrid Michaelson. One of my favorites from my Christmas playlist.

Enjoy your family this Christmas season! Here are Buster and Arnie who refused to pose together in front of the tree...so I made them pose with my Christmas pillows! :)


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Time at the Grand Canyon

First, I must apologize. :) I had trouble with my Internet connection while I was in Arizona. (in other words, there wasn't one) I was thankful to be able to check in on my iPhone, but updating my blog was out of the question.

If that wasn't bad enough, once I finally got back, I was pretty sick. Thankfully, I'm better now and ready to re-connect with the outside world.

So...here's a trip recap:

I drove from Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon via Williams, Arizona. It was a neat place--lots of leftover Route 66 remnants. I spent a little time there before heading north to the Grand Canyon.

I could hardly contain my excitement as I drove through the entrance for Grand Canyon National Park! I drove straight to the lodge area and checked in to my room before my first view of the canyon. I opted to stay at the Bright Angel Lodge--a little rustic, but so close to the rim! I threw my stuff into my room and stepped outside for my first view...

There. Are. No. Words.

You know the song, Jesus My Lord? If not, here are some of the lyrics:
Have you ever look at the sunset
With the sky mellowing red
And the clouds suspended like feathers
Then I say you've seen Jesus my Lord

Have you seen Jesus my Lord
He's here in plain view
Take a look open your eyes
He'll show it to you


That song immediately came to mind upon seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time. Just awesome.

Once I was able to tear myself away from gazing into the canyon, I set out for a walk along the rim. Totally amazing.

Side note: I am a naturally clumsy person. Like I trip sometimes even when there isn't anything to trip over. (don't let my years as a ballet/tap dancer and cheerleader fool you--I learned to hide my clumsiness, but it was always there) The lack of railing at the edge of the canyon made me VERY nervous.

After a quick trip to the visitor center (via the handy shuttle bus) I watched the sunset from Yavapai point. Being November at 7000+ elevation, as soon as the sun set, it got COLD.

Speaking of elevation, it took me a while to get used to it. The least bit of walking left me breathless and I learned how important it was to stay hydrated.

Another side note: By the time the sun went down on that first day at the park, I was feeling pretty awful. I went to the Bright Angel restaurant and ate some soup, then went right to bed. There are few things worse than being sick and far away from home.

The next day (my first full day at the park) was a good one. Thanks to my friend Benedryl, I felt better. I spent the morning exploring the village area--the lodges, the General Store, etc. After a quick lunch in my room (I'd come prepared with groceries) I set out on a lengthy hike along the rim.

First of all, the views are just amazing. Really just breathtaking. But I am a little bit afraid of heights sometimes, clumsiness notwithstanding. The rim being so close and the huge drop offs made me very nervous. There aren't rails for the most part, except for the key lookout points. Which is good, because they kind of detract from the natural beauty.

A third side note: I can't tell you how many people I saw doing stupid things. One of the rangers I talked to shared my feelings and told me that despite the warning signs posted, some people just didn't understand that there were real dangers. I watched small children running around, dangerously close to the edge. I saw many, many people with pets (leashed) whose owners weren't paying attention. When it was an especially large animal, all I could think was if that dog sees a squirrel (which were everywhere) and goes after it, both dog and owner will topple over the edge. And then there were those people who would climb out onto places that clearly weren't mean to be climbed onto just for a photo opportunity. My lesson from watching these people: I think you need to have a healthy respect for the canyon and many people clearly do not.

Okay, back to my story. :) So despite my fear of heights, I plunged ahead. A couple of times I had to stop and sit on well-placed benches away from the rim just to talk myself into going on. But each new vista was worth the fear. I hiked all the way to Hermit's Rest, where I rewarded myself with a cup of hot chocolate from the snack bar. I took the shuttle back to the lodge and watched the sun set.

I decided to try the Arizona Room for dinner. It seemed a little fancier than the Bright Angel Restaurant. The food was delicious. Warm bread and butter, chicken corn chowder and a yummy burger and fries.

All in all, a perfect day.

The next day, I explored a little more. This time, I went to VerKamps visitor center and checked out the displays. Then I attended a ranger program that was very interesting. I talked to the ranger for quite a long time--explaining that I was a writer and telling her a bit about my Walk in the Park series. She was excited about the books and was happy to answer my questions.

After lunch, I set out on what I knew would be a tough hike. I still wasn't feeling that great, so I didn't push myself too much. I desperately wanted to hike down into the canyon though, so I set out on the Bright Angel Trail. I only went about a mile or so down. It was amazing! I had to stop to let a group riding mules pass me. I know those are very sure-footed animals and all, but there is no way I'd ride one down into the canyon! I preferred my own 'hug the canyon wall' method of hiking.





I'm not going to lie. Coming up was HARD! And I can totally understand those people who go to far and get in trouble--hiking down was easy. And it was SO TEMPTING to go around another bend to see the view that waited around the corner. But hiking up was very difficult--I can't imagine doing it during the summer heat.

I headed to Hopi Point for another beautiful sunset.




The next morning, I got up before daylight and went out to watch the sun rise over the canyon. First of all, it was FREEZING! But such an amazing sight to see.

I treated myself to breakfast at the El Tovar. It is the "fancy" place and I have to say the food was delicious.

Sadly, all good things must come to and end. I spent the night in Flagstaff, then drove to Phoenix early the next morning. One cool thing--on the way back to Phoenix, I drove past some kind of hot air balloon event and saw tons of hot air balloons. I wish I could've gotten a picture of them flying over the red rocks.

Despite the sickness that plagued me, it was a fantastic trip.

Song of the week: Elevation by U2. Enjoy!

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