Moose, Lobster, Blueberries and Schooners

What comes to mind when you think of the following items?

Moose

Moose

Lobster by tuppus via Flickr

Lobster (Lobster by tuppus via Flickr Lic CC by 2.0)

Blueberries by La Grande Farmers' Market via Flickr CC

Blueberries (Blueberries by La Grande Farmers’ Market via Flickr Lic CC by 2.0)

Schooner (Mopping up by Tassadara C via Flickr

Schooners (Mopping Up by Tassadara C via Flickr Lic CC by 2.0

Anyone? Anyone?

What if I make it multiple choice:

a)    The latest round of perfectly normal celebrity baby names

b)   Maine

c)    Liminality

d)   The story of a swashbuckling moose and his bumbling lobster sidekick who sail around the world on a schooner fueled by blueberries


If you answered b, you’re correct

If you answered c, you’re also correct

If you answered a, you’re probably psychic and will be correct in the very near future

If you answered d, you’re probably a writer

All right, so what the heck am I babbling on about?

  1. My husband and I are moving to Maine
  2. The concept of liminality

My husband has been a woodworker for some time and we have a full shop in the basement, filled with terrifyingly sharp things such as the bandsaw. See what happens when you don’t respect the bandsaw:

Band Saw Injury

Band Saw Injury

He spends his free time down there building furniture for our house (and trying to keep all his appendages fully intact):

Dining Room Table

Dining Room Table

Coffee Table

Coffee Table

Nightstand

Nightstand

And we finally decided it was time to take his love for woodworking to the next level. So, this August we’ll be heading to coastal Maine where Logan will begin a nine-month comprehensive program in fine furniture making at the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship.

This means leaving his job at the hospital where he’s worked for almost twelve years. It also means leaving behind a steady paycheck, a nice benefit package and the comfort of knowing I could buy as much tulle as I wanted at the fabric store. It also means traveling across the country with three cats, learning to live with humidity, and shopping for a much more substantial winter coat.

Ultimately, it’s a period of letting go of the past, and experiencing, processing and reconciling the unknown.

This leads me to my next point: Liminality.

According to the Oxford Dictionary, liminal is defined as:

-Of or relating to a transitional or initial stage of a process

-Occupying a position at, or on both sides of, a boundary or threshold

The term was originally used in the context of societal rituals and there is often a ceremony that accompanies the transition. A common example is the transition between childhood and adulthood, marked by the graduation of high school or college.

Over time, the term has been applied more loosely and I tend to identify big liminal events as being marked by some sort of party:

-The going away party

-The bridal shower

-The baby shower

-The housewarming party

(So, in case you weren’t sure if you were in the midst of a liminal event, if someone wants to throw you a party, you probably are)

It’s in these times of liminality, where we are neither here, nor there, that there is an unusual opportunity for growth, an opportunity to push ourselves, to try new things and discover something new about ourselves.

So, we’ll be packing up soon, fully embracing our liminality, ready to see what happens next!

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How I Conquered My Book Eating Pigeons (or writing conferences are awesome)

A car crashes into a writer’s bedroom. The final line of her manuscript (the only manuscript that can save the world from fictitious book eating pigeons) is left unwritten. Will anyone ever read it? Will her story ever be told?

Pigeon flying

A book eating pigeon poised to attack.  (Pigeon in Flight. Image courtesy of quinet via  Flickr CC Lic. 2.0)

A young woman leaves her “day job” to write insanely humorous urban fantasy. Follow her as she skyrockets to the top of the industry and remodels her house to include a dark, but well lit library.

study or library

My dark, but well lit future library complete with magical potions, because writing is magical. (Study. Image courtesy of CodyR via Flickr CC 2.0)

These aren’t the plots of Hollywood movies. These are the types of thoughts that run through my mind at night. And by night I mean while in bed desperately trying to fall asleep.

These thoughts can usually be divided into two very distinct categories: Fortune and Fame or Doom and Gloom. Examples:

Fortune and Fame – I can’t wait to sell the first million copies of my book!

Doom and Gloom – What if I never finish the book? What if something happens to me, and my manuscript remains the gooey, messy, but delightful draft that only I’ve read?

Fortune and Fame  – This trip will be amazing! Our Mardi Gras costumes will be the best anyone has ever seen and we’ll be on the front page of every newspaper and meet Angelina and Brad.

Doom and Gloom – Unless our plane crashes into an alligator infested swamp.

Yeah, I might have a little anxiety … countered by delusions of grandeur.

I don’t know why my brain does this. Someone please explain to me the evolutionary advantage of keeping myself up all night worrying about book eating pigeons or fantasizing about my Oscar speech for a book that doesn’t even have a title yet.

But I digress.

This weekend I attended the Pikes Peak Writers Conference (PPWC) in Colorado Springs, CO and guess what? I learned things. I learned new ways to think about things. I learned that “things” isn’t a very strong word. Well, I already knew that, but I liked the use of anaphora.

Crows reading

Me looking up the word anaphora. What? You didn’t know I was a crow, with other crow friends? (Reader. Image courtesy of h.koppdelaney via Flickr CC 2.0)

When I sunk into my couch yesterday afternoon, I was filled with a range of emotions, the best being exhilaration. Although, you couldn’t tell from my slack jaw and glazed over eyes.

The conference was three days of workshops, pitch sessions, critique sessions and writerly fun. At times it was overwhelming, and the realities of the writing life can be daunting.

While I was splayed on the couch, my husband asked if I felt discouraged. I didn’t even have to think about my answer. No, I wasn’t discouraged. In fact, I have never felt more encouraged, supported and empowered. I’ve never loved being a writer more.

When 8:00 p.m. rolled around, I was semi-conscious and drooling on a throw pillow. So, I decided to go to bed. And then it happened – I couldn’t sleep. I was up for hours. I reworked my first two chapters in my mind, pondered marketing strategies and, of course, pictured myself walking down the red carpet. There was no worrying, no negative thoughts. Only the positive flowed through my mind.

So, goodbye Doom and Gloom. From here on out, I’m focusing on Fortune and Fame.

Thank you PPWC!

Public Speaking: Practice Makes Perfect (or at least slightly less scary)

It’s feared more than spiders, heights, and Jello molds. Some would actually rather be dead than do it.

Amazingly, public speaking is more frightening to people than going an entire night without cable TV.

And that’s what I was doing last week. I rarely talk about my “other” job, but after eight months of being self-employed, I think it’s time.

I used to work for the state government as a nurse surveyor. This meant that I got to visit home health agencies, hospices and even a few hospitals to evaluate their compliance with state and federal regulations. We’ll just say nobody was happy when I walked through the front door.

Now, I help the same companies that I used to scrutinize. I provide training and education on how to interpret and comply with all those federal and state requirements. This means that on a monthly basis I give presentations. In front of people. For like hours.

This is how I felt about public speaking in college:

Public Speaking Socially Awkward penguin

Um, I may have done this once. Or twice.

Socially awkward penguin public speaking

Yes, socially awkward penguin, I understand. I contemplated doing this.

public speaking anxiety cat

Luckily, I never had to resort to this. I found a loophole 🙂

And that feeling stayed with me into adulthood, although it lessened over time. Soon, I was able to verbalize my thoughts in front of a group of five or ten people without this happening:

Public speaking brain

But a four hour presentation in front of twenty or so strangers? Hmmm…. Maybe that coffin doesn’t look so bad.

My first presentation brought on some nerves. To help, my body decided to recruit my sympathetic nervous system, which resulted in:

Nausea – I knew those three bites of toast would come back to haunt me

Tachycardia – The fancy word for a fast heart rate

Cotton mouth – I had no idea my tongue could be this dry

Trembling hands – We’ll just forget about using the laser pointer

The need to pee every five minutes – Now I know what it’s like to be my mom

And pretty much the overall sensation that I was going to die.

Thanks, body. That really helped create the illusion that I was confident and composed.

Now, eight months later, I am more confident and composed.

sponge bob public speaking

Just like Sponge Bob

I still get a little jittery before each presentation, but instead of feeling like my heart might explode for the full four hours, I go through the following:

-It’s almost time to start the presentation. Everyone is looking at me. Wow, my heart really can beat 200 times per minute. Maybe I should go throw up really quick. Or just pee. I think I have to pee again.

-Wow, I’m already 30 minutes in. And I’m rockin’ it. Look they’re laughing at my jokes. They’re asking questions. They’re nodding like they understand. I’m awesome!

-Ugh. We’re only two hours into this thing. Is that person sleeping? Yes, I think they’re sleeping. I’m boring them. Better say something funny.

-Says something funny. Everyone laughs. They all go back to sleep. And I don’t take it personally.

-We only have a half hour left. I can do this. Maybe I need some caffeine? Where’s that racing heart beat? I think I need that again. A little shot of adrenaline just might spruce up the last bit of this presentation. Ugh. Body, come on. You were so generous with it earlier.

So, I guess what I’m trying to say is this public speaking thing does get better. The more I do it, the easier it becomes. I almost even like it sometimes. Crazy, huh?

As a side note: My cousin and I are attending our first writing conference this weekend and we’re planning to read the first page of our novels. Out loud. To an agent. And an audience. I have a feeling that pesky sympathetic nervous system will be kicking in again.

As another side note: My cat was sitting on my mouse the whole time I was writing this and she bit my hand every time I tried to use it. But don’t worry – she hardly has any teeth left.

Hiking to Blue Lake: moose, mosquitoes, and a really fit old man

Sign at trailhead for Mitchell Lake and Blue Lake

Sign at trailhead for Mitchell Lake and Blue Lake

Hiking. The Rocky Mountains. Waking up before dawn (well, not me) to beat the traffic to the best trailheads. It’s all synonymous with summers in Colorado.

My first confession: I haven’t hiked all summer. Not that I’m some fancy, gear-toting, Powerbar-eating, mountain goat like some of the people who live here, but I do enjoy climbing the hills every so often.

My second confession: Hiking always sounds like a good idea the night before. Then, 6:00 a.m. rolls around and I wake up wondering why I so foolishly uttered the words: we should go hiking tomorrow.

Around 6:30 yesterday morning, I was in full denial mode. We should have been up at least thirty minutes ago, the bed was unusually comfy, and I could always go hiking next weekend instead. I rolled over and pulled the blanket over my shoulder.

Then my husband did the unthinkable. He sat up and stumbled out of bed.

Crap. He’s actually getting up. I think we’re actually going to go. Fine, I guess I’ll have to go enjoy the fresh mountain air and beautiful scenery.

I doddled. He kept forgetting things. Whole Foods had nothing appetizing in their prepared foods section. Everything seemed to be standing in our way.

We got to the Brainard Lake Rec area at *gasp* 9:10 a.m. We knew this meant certain misery. We wouldn’t be able to park at the trailhead.

Since we hadn’t been there all summer, we didn’t realize they had a new day use parking area. You can no longer park along the road. Now, we had to walk an additional (I’m going to guess) mile (I have been known to exaggerate) to the trailhead. On the way there, it’s not so bad. On the way back you begin to wonder why they couldn’t install one of those moving walkway things like at the airport.

The hike started off okay. I tried to pace myself.

We hadn’t even made it to Mitchell Lake and I began to struggle. My thighs were trembling, my heart was in overdrive, and I couldn’t get enough air to satiate my demanding lungs. I began to wonder if I was too young to have a heart attack.

“I don’t know if I can make it,” I said to my husband after the first big push past Mitchell Lake. Like a good husband he was encouraging and sympathetic.

Then, during our 18th stop for me to rest, he asked if we could get moving again. Why was he in such a hurry? Because he was getting cold! Cold! I had already stripped down to my tee-shirt, my face was flushed, and I was dreaming of diving into the next pond I saw. And he was cold. What a show off.

I was becoming more and more dejected. I was ready to give up. But I found motivation–twice.

At the last big pond, before the trail gets rocky in a very ankle-twisting way, we saw moose. Two of them. They were just relaxing, watching all of us gawk at them. The Brainard Lake rec area is a great place to see moose. We’ve seen them here before. The last time we were so close he could have trampled us in four strides if he wanted.

Moose we saw last summer on the hike to Blue Lake

The moose we saw last summer on a hike to Blue Lake

This time they were off in the distance, but no less remarkable. My hubby and I lingered and I got to rest before my husband dragged me farther up the mountain.

Moose relaxing by the pond

Moose relaxing by the pond

The trail steepened and I continued to struggle, but the joy of seeing the moose kept me motivated enough to continue. Descending hikers began to bounce past us, laughing, talking, big smiles plastered on their faces. I hated them. I’m always jealous of the hikers going downhill.

I looked up to make way for the next pair coming down and I felt ashamed. Embarrassed. The guy in the lead was like 100 and pretty feeble looking.

After they passed, my hubby looked back at me with a big grin on his face. He didn’t need words. I knew what he was thinking.

I set my jaw and plastered a look of determination on face. I was going to make it to the top with what little dignity I had left.

The final ascent was glorious and well worth it. As we rounded the final corner, we were greeted by chirping marmots, bright pink wildflowers and the clear blue lake. We marveled at the scenery, ate a few dollops of hummus, and repeatedly brushed away mosquitoes. Seriously, at 11,000 feet you can’t get away from these things. People say cockroaches will be the last creatures on earth. I think mosquitoes might be right there with them.

Snow at Blue Lake CO

Snow at Blue Lake captured during our hike last year

As usual, I excelled at the descent. Hiking is much easier when you’re working with gravity, not against it. I smiled and waved at all the folks going up, happy to no longer be gasping for breath.

Now I’m sore and a little tired, but I’m glad we went. I’m glad we pushed past the little obstacles that can easily become excuses to quit. We got some great pictures of the moose, and I was able to enjoy my shrimp boil without remorse. We’ve even talked about heading back up next weekend. He he. We’ll see.

Pinterest: Now offering shots of courage

Courage can come from many places: supportive words from friends and family, an inspirational story, or from deep within yourself.

Well, for me, it came from Pinterest. Not the site per say, but from the quotes I had curated (doesn’t that sound fancy) on one of my boards.

In my last post I talked about my mind-blowing decision to quit my job. But, I still had to give my notice. That would be easier said than done. I’d worked with these people for what felt like forever in my 36-year-old mind. The night before I gave my resignation I frittered about, unable to settle myself. My husband offered me a glass of wine and I said, “no.” Yikes!

Then I logged onto Pinterest and found my new board of inspirational quotations. You know things like “hang in there” or “there is no I in team.” Well, instead of those gems, I had pinned things like:

“If we wait until we’re ready, we’ll be waiting the rest of our lives.” –Lemony Snicket

“If you are not willing to look stupid, nothing great is ever going to happen to you.” –Dr. Gregory House

“Sometimes your only available transportation is a leap of faith.” –Margaret Shepard

I read through quotes from the likes of Mark Twain, Calamity Jane and Pablo Picasso. Some were not credited to an author; some were about unicorns and mermaids. The butterflies in my stomach settled and my mind stopped rehearsing the resignation speech it had been stuck on all day.

The jitters found me again in the morning, but I pushed them aside. I walked into my boss’s office and just did it. She took it well and that was it. I was a victor over my own self-doubt and society’s insistence on a life of conformity.

The remaining weeks of my six-year tenure, floated by. My last day came and went as if nothing special had happened. I mean, people said their goodbyes. I had a lovely going away party. I gave away treasured items from my cube. Who knew a picture of Ace Ventura with my head plastered over Jim Carey’s would be so coveted?

But nothing special happened inside me. I just walked out of the building for the last time and loaded my things in the car. I didn’t crumple with regret or have confetti thrown over me with trumpets blaring. I didn’t feel sad or afraid or excited or anything. I just was. It was strange. I guess I was just content, satisfied maybe?

I woke up the next day and logged onto my Pinterest account. I clicked on one of my favorite quotes and “the people who pinned this also pinned” feed came up. I scanned down until I found it. The perfect quote:

“Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes but when you look back everything is different…” –C. S. Lewis

Then, of course, since I am a Pinterest addict, I also found:

“That was the day she made herself the promise to live more from intention and less from habit.”

Very appropriate I thought, until I stumbled upon this one:

“Oh, dear. I really ought to do something but I am already in my pajamas.”

Wow, it’s like they read my mind. Not really though, I am actually quite productive in my pajamas. What do you think I was wearing when I wrote this?

P. S. If you’re wondering about the mermaid and unicorn quotes here they are:

“Always be yourself. Unless you can be a unicorn. Then always be a unicorn.” –Author Unknown

“I still like to pretend I’m a mermaid whenever I go swimming. (I’m 28)” –Author Unknown

The Decision (to believe in myself)

I quit my job a few weeks ago. There, I said it. After 6 years of steady, benefit filled employment, I quit. It felt less ceremonial than I imagined. Maybe it’s because I quit long ago, I just never told my body to stop driving in each day to sit in my three-walled cube.

My internal rumblings of dissatisfaction began a while ago, an itch here, a bout of malaise there. Sometimes my frustration peaked rapidly and then deflated with a whoosh. Other times it built slowly, festering, into a quiet contempt.

It’s not that I didn’t like working per se or even working in my current industry. I was just ready for something new–a new challenge, a new adventure. But, I had fallen into the lull of routine, of the known, the easy. It was scary to leave a secure job and embark on something new, something where failure was a possibility.

Then, almost exactly a year ago, I took the first step. I asked to work part time. And within a month, I was working 24 hours per week. This helped. It really did. I was less prickly both at work and at home. I had more free time to work on my novel. And, in my world, Wednesday was the new Friday.

The problem was I still wasn’t happy. This is how things went for most of the year:

Me: Why am I still working there? I don’t like it anymore. I want to do something different.

My husband: Why don’t you look for something else?

Me: Where would I find something that paid this well and still allowed me to work part time?

My husband: Do you want a glass of wine?

Me: Just bring the whole bottle. (Not really, but you get where I’m going.)

Then, something just happened. I’d been working on my novel since November and I was feeling really great about it (my emotions about my book waffle between sheer brilliance and the possibility that vampires are so 1897). I felt confident, bold, and unstoppable. So, bolstered by my new inspirational board on Pinterest, I decided to quit. This is how it went:

Me: I think I’m going to quit. I’ve decided to give my notice on July 1st.

My husband: Sounds good. You know I believe in you. What are we going to do for money?

Me: I dunno. Maybe I can do some consulting work. It’ll be great. Plus, I have a best-selling book on my hands. Remember?

My husband: Oh yeah. We’ll be millionaires soon. How about a glass of champagne?

Me: Yes. Make it something fancy. Like Cristal or Dom Perignon. You know, since we will be straight ballers soon.

And with that, the decision was made. Where do I go from here? I have some ideas. Of course, a publishing contract is in my future 🙂