I woke up this morning thinking about my mom, and how she did what she did to make my and my brother’s childhood fun, and really…magical.
She absolutely loved the holidays, and would buy decorations for every one, even the smaller ones. She hung cloth banners in the skylight of our house for all of them. Christmas, though, was her favorite. We got stockings and presents under the tree every year, and the house was decorated to the nines with Christmas lights on the roof and Frosty the Snowman lit up outside, with some reindeer. Inside stood her nutcracker collection, a talking Santa and many other delights. She wouldn’t rest until the banners were up and all holiday details and decorations were in place, up to and including the wreath on the door.
There are good moms everywhere, but I’ve never seen anyone take the job of “Mom” and run with it quite the way she did. She went all out, from Easter egg hunts for us and our cousins, to camping trips with the cook stove so we could all have delicious meals while at the ocean or in the wilderness, and she always had an excited gleam in her eye to be out there camping.
As we got older, her coolness spread to our friends and youth group. For years, we went on summer trips to a beach house in Oregon that I remember with fondness, and we also put on a haunted house in the old barn at our church. We all had such a blast dressing up and scaring the bejesus out of people.
Mom’s way of meditating was taking care of the plants all around the property – 3 levels worth of plants. It was a huge undertaking but she did it lovingly.
I never got the feeling that she was happy to see us head off to school. If she ever had that, she hid it well. She took such joy, delight and pride in being a mom that I don’t think it ever crossed her mind to be “rid of” us, even for a while. The pure essence of loving kindness surrounded her, always and it really did make it hard to leave for school – up to and including university. In a sense, now that she is gone I’m sad that I did, or didn’t go to a closer college, because I would’ve had that much more time with her. Luckily, during our elementary school years she would take us to the ocean once a year, letting us skip school that day so we could fly kites with our family dog, and go on the go-karts and bumper cars, and many other fun little places.
Since I did go away to school, it gave me the ability to return to see the precious gift I had in her. I appreciate that she always encouraged the writer in me – and didn’t mind so much that I never had kids. She always said “I’m not old enough to be a grandma yet” with a little smile. Deep down, I think she knew that it wasn’t in me to give birth to babies but to stories instead, and she was cool with that. My dad always wanted grandchildren but my mom didn’t worry about it…sort of the reverse of most families. I credit her for awakening my imagination as a child. She read so many books including the Oz books, which she collected and which I now have, to us as bedtime stories, so I went to sleep dreaming of those characters. My own books lay dormant within me until the time was right to write, and out came the story of Ninja Nanny and her adventures in babysitting and in becoming a superhero.
For my birthday this year, my boyfriend got me the Wizard of Oz box set which has the original movie in 3D and special features, and a number of other Oz memorabilia, which I’ll add to my mom’s collection when I can display it all. Awesome gift! It also came with a journal, which I wrote this by hand in before typing it, in honor of Mom – Sharon. Thanks, Mom, for being such a powerhouse and an example of how to be, all life long.
Though most of you reading this didn’t know my mom, this is the way I spread her unconditional love out to you, and I hope you feel it. She loved everyone. You have her love, and mine as well.
It’s the season I love the most, autumn and welcome to it! As much as I love the other seasons, this one makes me feel magical, mystical and creative, and it is usually when I become the most inspired, and productive in the creative process. The world is cooling down again to prepare for the hibernation of winter, but life is gearing up as school begins once again after the playful summer, so it feels like there is a swirling of energy and a natural balance occurring. Also, maybe I feel most at home as I was born in late October. (I was supposed to be a Halloween baby, but my parents went dancing on 10/28 and I think that made me want to dance my way into the world a few days earlier than expected!)
Right now I am focused on the reds, ambers and golds of the leaves as they change colors. This is not as apparent here in the Phoenix area as it was in Washington state where I moved from last year, but if we drive a bit north, we can still witness it. These colors are the colors of the first three chakras (red, orange, yellow), so the issues of survival and having a solid foundation tend to arise during the autumn, for me and for others I know. I’m doing several things at the moment to bring in money, but at the heart of it, a writer I will always be, to the core.
As you know, I have two fiction books out and I’m going to be taking a break from those to write a self-help novel in November, during Nanowrimo. (If you don’t know what this is, go to nanowrimo.org and check it out). I’m very much looking forward to these intense periods of writing during which I will sequester myself with a cup of coffee or hot chocolate – creative juice -and try to reach word count by month’s end. I have other projects going on as well, both literary and musical, and hope to gain some ground on those also. I’d love to connect with fellow creative souls. Let me know what you have going on right now. Let’s inspire and encourage each other! Please feel free to leave a comment and I’ll do my best to respond in a timely fashion.
Whomever you are and whatever you’re up to, I hope you’re enjoying the energy of autumn and the current lunar cycles – harvest moon and hunter’s moon and all the festivities that go along with this season.
One copy of YA Fiction book Ninja Nanny: The Beginning being given away – Someone WINS on June 16th. It could be you. Good luck!
Just kidding. Your mama doesn’t need the drama either.
Someone complimented me the other day on my “quiet strength.” Although it can be difficult to see that within oneself, whether we know it or not we all possess this. Reaching your power and holding onto it can be more challenging than seeing it in the first place, but not impossible. Here are some ideas on how to do so, how to deal with what happens in the world, and how to regain your balance:
Sit quietly and watch the world go by. This simple technique can be done anywhere there are people to watch, once you have a half an hour or more to yourself (when the kids are asleep, when the party is over, when the spouse is away, at the park, at the mall, on your lunch or dinner break, etc…hopefully you can carve out this time within your day or night. If not, there are larger issues that should probably be addressed).
Meditate. This is a slightly different version of, but can be used in combination with, the above. You can make this unique to YOU. Do you prefer a yoga class full of people, or a room where you can close the door on the world and be alone? Music, or silence? Incense, candles, or not? A blanket, a meditation pillow, a simple yoga mat, a beanbag, sofa or chair?
Exercise. There is really nothing that compares to this. It helps you digest better, sleep better, think, look and feel better. Find, if you haven’t already, the exercise that brings you to a blissful place—running, martial arts, skiing, swimming, tennis, walking, hiking, climbing, soccer, football, dancing…If you need to pick back up where you left off a while ago, give yourself permission to do so and don’t punish yourself for taking said break. Obviously it happened for a reason.
Read. Step away from your computer, your phone, your TV, your iPad, iPod, Kindle or Nook or whatever screen is staring you in the face, and go for a walk in nature, or have coffee with a friend. Change it up…if you usually get your coffee to go, sit and talk. Reduce your screen time and increase your face time. It’s a healthier choice.
How many times have you stretched today? How much have you enjoyed your physical space, being without doing, in the past week?
Those were the easy ones. The others might require less physical, and more mental/emotional:
Be careful what you give your energy to. Are you in a relationship drama? Office drama? Friend drama? What takes up much of your awake-time brainwave activity? Energy flows where attention goes. How can you make your thoughts more productive and conducive to getting things done? Furthermore, how much are you at peace with your own self? Do you allow yourself space to make mistakes without judgment or criticism? If you give yourself a break, might you be better at giving others a break as well? Perhaps it is time to ease up.
When drama happens, you choose how you react. Do you freak out and get emotional, or do you sit and stew about it unhealthily? Do you think things through logically, or do you listen to what people are saying with their gossipy mouths and choose to believe them? Are you looking for a person to place the blame on? Remember that when you point a finger at someone, three fingers are pointing back at you. If you have done something wrong, own up to and rectify the situation if at all possible. And then move on.
Or, instead of reacting to drama, do you turn and walk away, shifting your focus to face something that brings you peace for some clear thinking before forging ahead to take action and improve the situation? Sometimes shifting the focus off of the situation for all the time it takes can really improve it once we turn back to it.
Visualize how you want your world to be, and then slowly, step by step, bring the vision into the realm of your reality. I recommend visualizing your troubles aboard a ship, and letting that ship drift into the distance. To make a visualization stronger, make it more active, i.e. write what troubles you on a piece of paper, and then burn it in a safe container. There’s a lot of power in practicing visualization, and solutions can become more clear by sending these subconscious signals to the universe to help you with them.
Whether you know/believe it or not, your world is your oyster—your own creation. Your reactions to things reverberate and rattle if they are loud. If they are calm and quiet, they increase the peace of this place.
My final suggestion is a general, blanket statement, meant to be like a warm fleece blanket of comfort over you: don’t get too caught up in whatever is going on that you miss out on joy. Days, weeks, months, and years of your life—make them your own to experience and to live happily. Bring bliss into each moment. Let go of drama. Go out and enjoy color, space, sunlight, moonlight, water, trees. Breathe. Replenish your soul. Let go.
People you meet who want to know what makes you tick and share what makes THEM tick, and the all night conversations that sometimes come from such encounters. Ghost stories. Love stories. The sound of waves. Lots of color on walls, whether paint or art. The feeling of a big bear hug. My cat’s purr. Overhearing someone saying something NICE about someone else. Kissing. Coffee. Compliments. Cookies. Especially fresh peanut butter ones. People who go out of their way to do something that ends up taking your breath away when it’s done. Paying it forward and walking away without hope of a reward. Exercise highs, natural highs, epic evenings after self-induced highs. Loud music that just works. Cleaning a whole house while listening to said loud music. Days when it looks like it’ll rain but then sunshine takes over. Spontaneity and spontaneous trips. A good mystery and a good cup of hot chocolate together. The Central Market. Making jewelry. Dancing. A salad with tons of yumminess in it. Drumming. Learning an art you haven’t tried before. Fresh squeezed juice. Swimming in the summer. Crying because you miss someone so much when a certain song comes on that reminds you of them. Maya Angelou. Sweet-ish red wine. Dark chocolate. Hell, any kind of chocolate. Finding new ways to cook foods you’ve had already but in different combinations. Secret passageways, tree houses, trampolines, tire swings, rope swings over water, hammocks. Stories about people doing what they love and flourishing in whatever that is. Stories about survivors. Movies that make you think long after they’re over. Barbecues, old fashioned picnics, meaningful text messages, stupid hilarious random text messages, boating, sandy beaches, seemingly random but truly cosmic encounters. Portland, Oregon. Oregon coast. Auckland, New Zealand. Hiking. Massages. Sangria in Spain. London. Ellensburg. Road trips. New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment. Reunions. Manette Side Bar. Barnes ‘N Noble. Spiral staircases. Baths. Surprises. Planting trees. Singing. Camping. Doing martial arts. Doing yoga. Camping. Thunder storms. Dressing up for a night on the town. Casual day (or week…if the boss is on vacation) at work. Post Alley. Seeing people you know from home in Europe or Hawaii or some other place far from home. Havarti with dill. Spoken word poetry. Speaking French and Spanish. Good vibes.
-I wrote this on May 19, 2009. Sometimes it’s good to get back in touch with ourselves. 🙂
Ready for adventure on the high seas? At last, the highly-anticipated sequel to Ninja Nanny!!!!
Ninja Mommy: Maritime Magic, out on March 28, 2013! In the continuing adventures of Natalie Newport, our superheroine is faced with new challenges: to refine her superpowers (including being a new mommy) and to conquer the high seas! She reunites with a few old friends and makes some new acquaintances as well in her quest to reunite with a long lost loved one. During her travels, Natalie navigates her way to the most valuable treasures she has ever known.
Do you ever get caught up in daily life, going faster and faster in the “rat race?” If so, you’re not alone. Most people in their frenzied schedules often forget that for a truly full life, they need to take time to be alone (or with others) and meditate. “On what?” you may ask.
The answer: “On nothing.”
If you take 5-15 minutes a day to slowwww dowwwwwn, smell the roses, drink some tea or actually grab a spot on a meditation pillow or yoga mat, your life will be much improved. The body-mind-soul is a delicate thing and is in need of balance. To restore that balance in this frenzied world of school, work, sports, and whatever else may be in the mix, you should really give yourself that time.
But wait, how do I meditate on nothing?
That’s right, I did say to “meditate on nothing.” Just give your brain a break. If thoughts of “I have to do this, that and the other” enter your mind, or if any other thought does, acknowledge it and let it go. See it as a bird flying by and let it pass, giving it about as much importance as that bird. “Hmmm, that’s interesting,” you might think.
As you let the to-do list drop away, you will likely feel your body relaxing in ways it hasn’t for a while. This is very, very good. You may fall asleep while meditating. Your body needs deep sleep to heal its cells, and if you’re not getting that, you need to supplement it with deep relaxation.
Try using an eye pillow, a pillow with different herbs like lavender in it (you can find them online or at holistic type stores where yoga mats are sold), to put over your eyes. It’s the most relaxing feeling. If you don’t have or can’t find one of those, you can use an eye mask with a strap, found at most drugstores to shut out or “shun the light.”
Music is another element you may want to add to your meditation. I listen to an online station of relaxing music, and there are so many to choose from…Go to the music store or a bookstore with a music section and find Native American flute, Reiki music, Yogic music, music for healing the chakras. Also, I highly recommend Andrew Johnson’s meditations. You can get those on your phone, there’s an app for that. Some are free and some are inexpensive. You can even meditate on your lunch break in your car with a CD or a chill station on satellite radio. Or you can take a yoga class and use the time at the end (savasana) to get the meditation and relaxation in.
There’s no wrong way to meditate. Experimenting with different techniques or visualizations is great and will help you find what works best for you. And if you already practice meditation, kudos to you! If you have suggestions or ideas, feel free to leave them here in a comment. Here’s to your inner peace – Cheers!
Hello, and welcome to the Getting to Know You Blog Hop. We have an eclectic choice of bloggers for this hop and it will run from January 29, 2013 to February 1, 2013. I’d like to thank Vicki M. Taylor (http://vickimtaylor.blogspot.com), the author and blogger who created this hop and made it happen for all of us.
Let’s get started on getting to know me.
Where are you from?
I was born in Kochi, Japan and grew up in Washington State. I always loved being near the water…something dreamy about it.
When and why did you begin writing?
I started writing at age 12 as an expressive outlet, first poetry and then later on, song lyrics, stories, blogs and books.
What books have most influenced your life?
Mystical journeys like The Pilgrimage and The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, The Camino by Shirley MacLaine, Star Woman and Jaguar Woman (etc) by Lynn V. Andrews, mystery/chick lit like the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris, the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich, and YA fiction (beloved by grown-ups too) Harry Potter, of course.
What is your favorite book from childhood?
Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends. I also adored the Serendipity books, which were magical tales about animals both real and imaginary.
Are the names of the characters in your novels important?
They’re important in that they are all codenames or nicknames, to protect the innocent.
What’s your favorite fruit?
Strawberries, covered in chocolate.
Do you ever wish you had an entirely uncreative job?
I have never ever wished that, and never would. Writing is my dream job, and I live the dream every day.
What are the most important attributes to remaining sane as a writer?
Remaining sane requires giving yourself permission to really delve in to your craft, being open to suggestions, as well as having ways of completely separating oneself from writing, i.e. other hobbies and interests that have nothing to do with it. You have to be able to close the door on it and leave it in that room on occasion (hopefully you have a writing room or a space in your room just for writing). I also can’t stress enough having a peer group of people you trust, who won’t get jealous of your talents and skills and also won’t blow smoke, meaning they will be honest with you about your writing, whether it sparkles and shines or needs some polishing up.
What was the greatest thing you learned at school?
Collectively, my education taught me that people should follow their hearts regardless of what anyone tries to tell them. Take advice with a grain of salt, because that is one person’s opinion and their scope is limited to their perspective. Only YOU know yourself the best.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
I have two: Stephen King, who wrote On Writing and knows how to write a gripping scene that keeps readers up all night reading! Also, Hal Zina Bennett’s Write from the Heart: Unleashing the Power of your Creativity. He’s a wonderful writer and his books are deep, meaningful and spiritual. He was very encouraging and inspiring to me in the writing of Ninja Nanny.
Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Sure. My sequel is currently in the hands of a very fine editor who is helping me turn it into the bestseller it is destined to be, but here’s a snippet of the first book, Ninja Nanny: The Beginning:
The Big Day
I had looked forward to today for what seemed like eons. I’d practiced for it for same. I was to face an actual ninja in the secret dojo underneath the gym where I worked out! I practiced my jabs, upper cuts and back fists, preparing for what was to come, and then moving on to kicks.
This was the first time I’d dressed all in black to spar. I was nervous as hell, but vowed not to show it. We were allowed to use hands and feet only, no weapons. There was only one rule: I was to disable my opponent by any means necessary, but if either of us got seriously injured, we had to stop.
I didn’t know which direction he, or she, would be coming from. There were mirrors everywhere and four entryways, sans doors. I stood in the center of the room, waiting, breathing, grounding and centering. I imagined the strength of the planet coming up through the earth and floor into my feet to assist me and give me power, balance and stamina. I self-checked, making sure I was alert but not stiff. I had to keep flexible and loose, ready for anything.
It was official. I was in the zone.
I sensed a movement behind me and to the right. I turned and saw a fast flash of black coming straight at me, instantly aware that the flash was male and unarmed. I remembered the helpful hints my trainer had given me: Use your intuition. I sensed my opponent’s fierceness; that he was quick to act and wanted to get the job done—the job of defeating his opponent. Maybe too quick
…Don’t give away your moves.
So to that end I let him come at me, waiting to see what he’d do before I responded. He was so fast, his wiry body whirring with energy—almost too fast to see. Almost like the Tasmanian Devil from cartoons. Suddenly, he did a roundhouse kick. I ducked to avoid it, looked up and he had disappeared. I was no longer in the dojo, but in the mountains, in Japan. I realized that I now had the body I’d had as a child when I lived there.
I remembered this place. My parents had taken me here the day I turned 5. It was a special birthday trip, to enjoy nature and each other.
As we started the drive home after a fun day of sightseeing and hiking, I saw a summer camp of boys practicing martial arts outside. There were about a hundred, all sparring in pairs, and all evenly spaced in the field. I was mesmerized. I asked my parents if I could learn. They said no, I was a girl and should focus on other sports, like tennis or track. I knew this was a typical protective parent response, but I wasn’t upset. I knew I would learn someday.
And then I saw him.
I knew his face instantly, but wasn’t sure from where. I waved and he waved back. My parents drove on, unnoticing.
When I came to, I was sweating, and remembered nothing of the fight. My opponent shook my hand in ninja fashion, quickly and without feeling, and left through the door kitty corner to the one he’d entered from.
As Jin congratulated and hugged me, I looked into the face of the man I’d waved at as a child, realizing I’d always known this face. He smiled for a split second, some combination of recognition and humor playing across his face. His brown eyes flashed a deep green for a moment, and I though I was seeing things.
“Phoenix, we should talk. However, I teach a class in 10 minutes.”
“Okay, I understand. See you next session.”
We bowed to each other, and he silently left the room.
Life inside the training studio was usually pretty simple. I was given challenges and met them head on. It was a lot of hard work, but there were very few surprises. The outcome was for the most part known. Either one opponent would win, or the other would. The benefits of training were also known, of course. Being in excellent physical shape speaks for itself. There was no clutter here, which made it easy to think clearly. The only ones I laid eyes on were the ones who’d been invited—one could enter this dojo by special invitation only.
Life outside the studio: not so simple. I didn’t have an instructor for how to deal with this guy I had my eye on, who seemed shy and wouldn’t make a move. Well, to be honest, I didn’t just like him—he totally consumed my thoughts. It was out of control, and needed to be dealt with. Only…I didn’t want to deal. For the first time in my life, I wanted to run away. I was scared of everything, rejection, or worse. The possibility he might actually like me back. I didn’t know which was scarier. I could face adversaries as I’d learned to do in training, but not this flippin’ firefighter.
Children, Conundrums & Change
Outside the studio, before the firefighter showed up in my life, I had everything under control. I felt good about my life as a 20-something nanny. My finances were in order, and life was just peachy keen, jelly bean.
I knew I could make a decent income as a nanny, and could learn a lot about how to take care of kids. That’s exactly what I’d been doing for 3 years. Cleaning, learning and earning. I wanted a solid foundation for my life, and stability. I wasn’t good at dealing with change. Little did I know, however, changes were blowing in with the breeze: big changes.
I was conceived and born in Japan, and spent the first five years of my life there. I was fascinated by martial arts, but my parents wouldn’t let me learn them, saying they were too dangerous. Even then, I remember thinking that not learning them would be more dangerous. But try explaining that in five-year-old language. We moved to Washington State, but I never forgot the early days and ways, and I yearned to go back.
I was born to be bad. I had a fire in me that just wouldn’t let me settle down and live a normal life (whatever that might be, these days). Plus, my nanny job was with a newborn. All the softness and cuddling and baby faces and baby talk just about made me want to puke. It was an easy job, because that baby couldn’t backtalk or throw tantrums—he just cried, and 9 times out of 10, I plugged him up with the pacifier. It worked. Those tenth times were rough, but rare. Such a good baby.
One has to find balance in life. This nannying job didn’t put out my fire, so I started taking martial arts lessons. I took them for a year, and I got good. I took them for two, and I got even better.
My schedule looked like this:
Super loving, nurturing, sweet, gentle, controlled substitute mom
Those last two hours of my day taught me how to toughen up, be strong, and hone those reflexes. In essence, they taught me how to be a fighter. They felt very clandestine, as they were held in the basement of my gym. Only martial artists knew about the place. This included the gym’s owner, Jin, who kept his skills a secret. Since I learned both Japanese and Chinese forms, I referred to Jin as both Sensei and Sifu. Being a business owner, he had to keep a lot of things secret.
So I was feeling fairly decent about life, in general. I had a chance to convince this firefighter he couldn’t live without me. I would keep the training quiet, and what he didn’t know wouldn’t hurt his pride. He could remain feeling like Mr. Studly without ever knowing my secret.
Then my world was turned upside down. The proverbial carpet was pulled out from under me. The tablecloth was pulled from the table, like in that magic trick where all the dishes stay put, but this time—they all broke. Dark clouds gathered, a heavy rain pelted down, and lightning bolts made the sidewalks hiss all around me, and the question hung in the air: “How would Natalie, the nefarious Ninja Nanny find someone to help her quell the fires within? How on earth would she ever find love now?”
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Yes! If you’re trying to finish a book and it’s been sitting around in some stage of unfinished chaos for eons, I highly recommend signing up to write during National Novel Writing Month, or nanowrimo.org. It’s during November every year, and the goal is to get to 50,000 words without stopping or letting your inner editor take over and slow your progress. This is how I wrote both books in the NN series. I finished them some months later, but got the initial 35,000 words out the first time and more the second. And really, what else is there to do when the nights are so cold and dark and dismal and short, than delve into a project that keeps you warm from the inside? I believe there are so many unfinished novels of brilliance out there, and the light from the passion to write burning inside these authors could light up such a cold night for miles…They just need to pick up the proverbial pen again.
Also, read as much as you can: every type of writing you can get your hands on, from the back of a cereal box or a shampoo bottle (Aussie products for example have creative, witty descriptions) to guidebooks to miniature books they sell at Barnes & Noble counters, to magazines, to newspapers (online articles), to all genres of novels, and beyond. This will make you a better writer. Pay attention to what people are reading in public places. This will help you learn what’s selling.
Make your book a Facebook page, even if it’s not finished, and market, market, market. Social networking is amazing free marketing. If you have a little extra money, make an ad on Facebook to get your book’s page likes up. Also, Goodreads is absolutely amazing for advertising–have a Giveaway, which will help get the word out. Have book signings at local fairs and bookstores.
Also, I don’t recommend using a print on demand publisher. It is too expensive, and they end up wanting more and more money to market the author when much of this can be done by oneself (with friend and family help – this makes it easier and more enjoyable). Authors shouldn’t pay to be published, but if they don’t want to wait to be accepted by a literary agent and big publishing company, they should go through a site like Createspace which offers affordable printing and comes out looking professional.
Thank you for reading a bit about me and I’d like to introduce you to other authors along this hop. Their links are below: