Catching Fireflies

finding magic along the way

Filling the Long Gray Days

Winter and spring in Central New York can be difficult. Long gray days stretch ahead of you with no relief. The air is damp and chilly; the world around you is muddy and ugly. These are the weeks between the pristine snowfall and the pink flowering trees. They can seem endless.

Or they can be the perfect excuse to stay inside and wallow in a good book.

Or they can be the impetus for starting something new.

For cleaning out the closets and organizing the drawers.

For trying a new form of expression – writing, painting, drawing, dancing around the house.

For making some noise on a new instrument.

For taking an online class in a topic that has always interested you.

For catching up on Netflix. 

For attempting yoga, or meditation.

For napping.

I try not to let cold, rainy days get me down. I use them as an excuse to not leave the comfort of my home. I have always said that if I am ever quarantined to my house for a month, it would be wonderful. There is so much I want to do and never enough time to do it. 🙂

Monday Morning Pick-Me-Up

Let’s face it. Monday’s are rough. The end of the freedom that came with the weekend, the start of a long week, the return to work. To help ease you into your week, I wanted to share a little something that made me smile.

Inspiration Station

I am always excited to learn that someone I know through work or random friendship secretly wants to write. I was always a secret wanna-be writer myself. I would hold that dream tight to my chest and never tell a soul.  I read bought and read writing books in secret. I wrote in my journal. I never wrote anything remotely resembling fiction. There were no characters, no plot lines, no descriptive passages. My dream to some day write a book remained just that – a dream.

Then in 2007, I bought a book that seemed to speak directly to my issue. No Plot, No Problem by Chris Baty seemed from the cover to discuss what to do when you wanted to write, but had no story idea. I dove in, looking for the magic formula.

To my surprise, the book was not about how to write a book without a story. It was about National Novel Writing Month. After reading the first few chapters, I was hooked. I signed up for NaNoWriMo, finished my 50,000 words in 30 days and never looked back.

NaNoWriMo taught me the most important lesson anyone who wants to write can learn. It taught me how to shut up, sit down, and just get the hell out of my own way.

Getting up the courage to actually talk about my writing and come out of the closet, so to speak, was an entirely different lesson to learn. It took my 7 years from that first high of winning NaNo, and many NaNos more, to decide to self-publish one of my books. It took me another six months to actually call myself a writer and start to talk about it with friends and family.

As soon as I took that first step and owned my writing dream, I was amazed at the number of people I knew or came to know that “always wanted to write a book.” And I was even more amazed that I could become an inspiration to them. Me? An inspiration? Hardly! I was so full of writerly angst and uncertainty that I could not imagine anyone taking anything positive away from my experience other than perhaps as a cautionary tale.

Now as I polish my second book for its first trip to my editor, I am still finding fellow writers in unlikely places. I always tell them about NaNoWriMo and urge them to just take the plunge. Put one word in front of the other and get out of the way. Magic has a way of taking over in the middle of an impossible challenge.

Inevitably, they will say things like, “oh, I wouldn’t know what to write about,” or “I am so busy, I couldn’t possibly find the time.” Yet they have such a wistful expression as they say this that I can’t help but think NaNo may be just what they need. A chance to get out of their own way and stop making excuses. A chance to spread their wings and just try.

What happens in NaNo can stay in NaNo if you choose, but so many of the wondrous stories that happen in NaNo find their way into the world. And thank the gods of words and stories for that!


Monday Morning Pick-Me-Up

Let’s face it. Monday’s are rough. The end of the freedom that came with the weekend, the start of a long week, the return to work. To help ease you into your week, I wanted to share a little something that made me smile.

Maximum Threshold

You’ve heard of maximum security, maximum overdrive, and even maximum heart rate. I have recently named a state of mind as “maximum threshold.”

Maximum threshold is the ultimate level of stress you can handle before you have to give yourself a day off. It varies from person to person, and week to week. Even if a person has a relatively high maximum threshold, there are weeks when it will feel lower and more down time will be necessary to maintain an even keel and not start swinging. 🙂

Personally, I tend to need one day of down time for every month at the day job. Sometimes I need more, especially when there are a lot of projects and stress there. But also when there are a lot of projects in my personal life, like prepping books to go to the editor or to print, or just a really cool quilt I am itching to work on.

A few weeks ago, I felt that maximum threshold coming on. It coincided with a major project at the day job, a lot of little stress piling up there and the upcoming due date for Book #2 to head off to my wonderful editor! Add to that the feeling of fleeting weekends being filled with chores and errands and I was ripe for a meltdown.

So I decided to take myself out of the 9 to 5 for a five day weekend to decompress and focus on some editing. And okay, maybe bond with my sewing machine a bit too. The poor girl is getting dusty! Add to this an incredible urge to have a pajama day and not actually leave the house… and five cats who have a way of convincing me I need a nap…

I was aiming to be productive during my time off though. I actually proctored an exam on Saturday for seven hours, and worked on the final push of rewrites on Book #2. But, I admit, there was a LOT of down time too.

And though I know that the relaxed feeling will probably disappear again within a few hours of returning to the regular work day, I know deep in my heart that I mentally need these breaks to keep doing what I do.

How do you handle your maximum threshold? Do you find that sometimes the best medicine is to simply allow yourself a few days of unsupervised, unclaimed down time?


Monday Morning Pick-Me-Up

Let’s face it. Monday’s are rough. The end of the freedom that came with the weekend, the start of a long week, the return to work. To help ease you into your week, I wanted to share a little something that made me smile.

Developing a Platform of Positivity

There is a movie called Man of the House where Tommy Lee Jones is a federal agent tasked with protecting a group of college cheerleaders who witnessed a murder. He poses as their coach and gets thrust into a pep rally where he is expected to “inspire and electrify” the crowd. And he does just that, telling people to hold their team up on a “platform of positivity.” His speech at the pep rally goes something like this…

All right. Bring it.
This torch right here represents…
the spirit burning deep within the heart…
of each and every Longhorn that never can be extinguished.
All right.
All right, you’re all here because…
you want to see your Longhorns emerge victorious.
You want to see them dominate the football field…
and win the football game.
Well, then it’s up to each and every one of us to help them.
We got to raise them up.
We got to hoist them high…
to put them on a platform of positivity.
Any fool can feel good when you’re winning.
But when you’re down points in the fourth quarter…
you got to ask yourself, “Who you gonna call?”
I tell you who I’m going to call, and that’s these ladies right here.
They’re the most spirited group of young ladies I’ve ever seen…
or had a chance to get to know and had the privilege of coming in contact with.
Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!

I wanted to find a clip for you, but Youtube came up empty. So you will just have to watch the movie. 🙂

Now you may be wondering just what in the world I am talking about here today… I’ve been thinking a lot about positive thinking lately and how it can strengthen and heal us. And this little pep talk got stuck in my head along the way.

Tommy Lee Jones’s character was talking about a football game, but the same concept holds true for so many obstacles in our lives. Adopting a “platform of positivity” and putting positive vibes out to the universe helps me to face challenges and things that scare me.

I’ve talked about this before –

The Names We Call Ourselves

The Words You Whisper

Fake It Til You Make It?

For those of you who are more science-minded, there are many articles out there to support the theory that positive thinking is one of the best life skills you can learn. Helen Sanders over at wrote a great article about the power of positive thinking on your health. Check it out here.

Negative thinking and worry does absolutely nothing to remedy your situation. I know switching off your worry is not easy, but sometimes you just have to lay your load down and let the universe take over. Understand what is out of your control and say a prayer instead of fretting over it. Maintaining a negative state of mind has serious repercussions on your emotional and physical well-being.

On the other hand, adopting a positive spin can actually boost your immunity and improve your health. It also helps you become more resilient and handle stress and pain better.

So how do you switch gears and drop your negative-Nelly act? After all, it’s easy to feel good when your winning, but how do you feel good when your down in the fourth quarter? Helen gives you some simple but effective ideas in her article.

Having suffered depression and anxiety for years, I know that when you are at your lowest, some of these gear-shifting ideas may seem too simplistic. Smile? Really? But, simple changes like this can have a serious impact on your outlook. I promise! 🙂 The smile may seem forced at first, but before you know it, it will become second nature.

Changing your outlook, and your life, takes conscious effort. It will not happen overnight. It will not happen without some work on your part. But it can happen, and when it does, you will wonder how you ever managed to get through the day carrying all that worry and negative energy!

Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition, indeed! 🙂


Monday Morning Pick-Me-Up

Let’s face it. Monday’s are rough. The end of the freedom that came with the weekend, the start of a long week, the return to work. To help ease you into your week, I wanted to share a little something that made me smile.

%d bloggers like this: