Just a place

I’m on my lunch break right now, taking a class where the teacher is really into breaks. “Shall we take a break?” he asks every 30 minutes, which sounds awesome, except I’d rather get out early than take frequent breaks. Our dinner break is an actual 1 hour and 40 minutes (it’s an 8-hour class), and so I left campus and am now parked across the street from the courthouse so I can eat my dinner and read in the shade until it’s time to return.

This is an interesting place to pause. There was a time when the courthouse gave me panic attacks. I spent months in and out of this building, working out details to a messy divorce that included custody, child support, and eventually a restraining order. I was lucky to be dating a law student after some time, as he set me up with a pro bono lawyer when things took a turn for the worse. It was likely the only reason he crossed my path, as we were incompatible as human beings. But in this, I owe much to that connection.

Still, the courthouse was a place filled with scary memories, one I stuffed way down deep. I hadn’t realized how much this place bothered me until a few weeks ago when faced with jury duty. I got the call-in option every day, and I almost forgot to check for Friday. Last minute, I realized I’d been summoned.

The drive there, my stomach did numerous turns. It never occurred to me why I was so nervous until I was almost there.

Oh. Oh yeah. That’s why your nervous.

The memories flooded back as I walked the steps to the courtyard, recalling moments of unrest and fear I wouldn’t be heard. Before I had a lawyer, I was ignored. Nothing I said mattered. The threats. The fear. The phone messages. The bruises. It all fell on deaf ears. But with a lawyer, I was no longer invisible. I didn’t even have to speak, which was good because I was too afraid to say much of anything. The case closed with two years distance granted between us, allowing me the time I needed to heal and give our kids a solid foundation.

I wasn’t alone as I waited to find out if I’d serve on jury duty. One of my coworkers was also called to be there, and we both waited around a few hours together. I kept a book handy, and took turns reading and sharing conversation, along with occasional glimpses at a woman quilting on the TV. The longer we waited, the more this menacing courtroom became just a room with chairs. Nothing to be scared of, unless boring PBS shows freak you out.

We were eventually dismissed for the day, told to return Monday. When that day arrived, the two of us waited in line for security to check us through. They confiscated my dangerous water bottle, and we were sent upstairs. I was just around the corner from the courtroom I sat in more than a decade earlier. But this time, my fears stayed away. We filed into a different courtroom to await our personal verdicts on whether we’d be part of the jury or not. The judge went through his speech, fifteen minutes to be exact, and then he dismissed us. All that for nothing, my coworker grumbled.

But it wasn’t nothing for me.

In those two partial days, I received a new memory of the courthouse. The bad taste I’d last experienced was washed down by two very ordinary days. It took away the scariness and made this place a building. It became so ordinary that on my hour and forty minute lunch, I’ve chosen to spend my time here, finding solace in the shade of a tree while facing this place. It’s just a place, just a building, and I happened to experience both scary and ordinary moments here.

And that is all. I just had to share.

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Bali state of mind…


I was riding my bike the other day, listening to a Rob Bell podcast in which he was interviewing Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat. Pray. Love., among other books. I love Elizabeth Gilbert. I mean, I loved her when I read her book. In fact, I read her book at least 3 or 4 times. But now that social media exists, and she posts so many beautiful, inspirational things, I love her even more.

I also love Rob Bell. He’s got this way of sharing God with the world that makes people want what he is experiencing. He’s not preachy. He’s just all about love. And some of the things that come out of his mouth are so prolific. I mean, he’ll say something, and it will just make so much sense it seems like it’s a no-brainer. Except, it’s not a no-brainer until he addresses it in plain words, and then breaks it down even more.

The man is a genius.

So a podcast with both Elizabeth Gilbert and Rob Bell? Priceless – especially since, at the time the podcast was recorded, they were in the middle of a speaking tour with Oprah full of soulful stuff, and they were riding that wave high.

At any rate, there I was, riding my bike, and Liz (we’re on nickname basis) started talking about how people will come up to her and seek her permission to be able to do things. In her words, it’s like they’re looking for a principal’s note to quit the crappy part of their life and start living the part they’ve always dreamed of. Quit a dead-end job. Leave the abusive husband. Sell everything and travel across the world.

My mind wandered, and I was suddenly in Bali. Not really, but my heart was. Ever since I read Eat. Pray. Love., it’s been my dream to visit Bali and experience the peace that Liz experienced when she found herself there. Like Liz, I went through a soul crushing divorce. And then, even more crushing, were the messy romances that followed, and how I threw my  poor, tender heart into them when I had no place throwing that sensitive little thing anywhere.

But Bali… It was my answer. It was where I would find peace and love and serenity and answers and….

Well, not really. I realize this now. There’s no place you can go to find absolute peace. There’s no thing that can offer you absolute solace. Leaving your prick of a husband won’t give you peace. Quitting your job won’t give you peace. Selling everything and moving to Bali won’t give you peace.

But know how you can have peace? By focusing on the beauty around you. By remembering what fills your soul, and then surrounding yourself with more of that. By immersing yourself in friendship and love. By understanding that life is too short to put so much energy into the things that are killing you, and to, instead, put your energy into the things that give you life. By taking all those things you would like to do someday, and doing them today. Write that book. Take that dance class. Learn a new language. Travel to a foreign country. Exercise. Do yoga. Read more. Watch TV less. Stop and notice the world. Breathe in. Breathe out. Smile.

Back to riding my bike….

As Liz was speaking, and I was in a Bali state of mind, I realized that I was already in Bali. I live in one of the most beautiful places in the world. The sunsets, as of late, have been absolutely breathtaking, and the light was casting this ethereal glow across the golden fields I was riding next to. During the day, these fields are just dingy side effects of the massive drought California is going through. But on this evening, they were truly fields of gold. And then, right next to them were pathways lined in green trees and draping leaves. People were out performing all kinds of activities in the summer heat, and were quick to greet me as I rode by. And my soul was so full of peace I was sure it was radiating out of my pores, through the spokes of my bicycle, and cascading in sparks all around me.

You guys, I was bleeding rainbows.

So yeah. I still want to go to Bali. I still dream of a time when stress is at a minimum and peace only grows by the moment. But I also know that Bali isn’t my absolute answer, and peace starts with me.

(VIDEO TEXT)

I want to go to Bali. This is what I tell my husband all the time. I want to go to Bali and stay in a little one room house in the jungle, one with open doors and windows and curtains that flow in the wind. I want to see all the townspeople and watch them, and then I want to go home and sit on the porch of my one room house and write about them. Most of all, I want to ride my bike all over Bali. I want be free in the wind, just using my pedals to get me anywhere I need to go.

I think the part I love most about my dream of riding my bike all over Bali is the thought of being totally free. Free from worry. Free from stress. Free from the things I don’t want to do, or have to do, or obligate myself to do. I don’t have to be anything for anyone.

If I were in Bali, I could just be me, riding the whole world on a little island.

But the truth is, Bali is here. The island might be halfway across the world, but the frame of mind exists within me.

I live in a little town called Petaluma. It has rolling hills, friendly people, and gorgeous sunsets. It also has bills and jobs and obligations and all the must-dos to make sure the can-dos happen. But on a gorgeous evening like this, I can still take my bike out and be free. Free from worry. Free from stress. Free from the things I don’t want to do, or have to do, or obligate myself to do. Not forever. But in the moment. Just for the moment. I am free in the moment.

I’m in Bali.

10 rainy day musings

Happy December friends! I can’t believe we’re in our final month of 2014. What a crazy year it’s been! Here are 10 things I’m thinking of today as the year comes to a close.

1. It’s hard not to feel down when there is so much horrible stuff going on around the world, both close to home and far away. But it’s times like these that remind me of a Mr. Rogers quote: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” Let’s make a stand to be the helpers. Here are some things you can do:
Smile more. Give loved ones your time. Step in when those around you need help. Say ‘I love you’ more. Hug. Use your phone as a talking tool, not just a texting tool. Be generous. Practice empathy. Stay positive.
One of my friends posted this to their Facebook page:


Let’s do more stuff like this. Let’s spread love in these troubled times. Are you with me?

2. My birthday is this Sunday! Want to know a confession? I cry every year on the day before my birthday. How terrible is that? I never thought I’d be the person who would mourn getting older. And I can’t even promise it won’t happen again this year. However, I’m also starting to view each birthday as the start of something brand new. My 36th year held so many wonderful things. What are my intentions for my 37th? This is something I’ll be thinking on for the next week until my new year begins.

3. My most recent book, The Road to Hope, actually hit the Amazon Bestsellers List this week! It got as high as #64 in the Women’s Fiction category, which is really, really hard to do. This was due to everyone taking advantage of the book’s discounted pricing, shooting it up in the rankings, and making it much more visible to other readers who may not have seen it otherwise. I cannot thank you enough!
BTW, The Road to Hope is still less than $1 for a limited time if you haven’t downloaded it yet. Check it out here: bit.ly/road2hopebook

4. It’s raining on and off here in Northern California, a foreign phenomenon in our drought-riddled parts. I don’t think I’ve ever loved the sound and smell of rain more than I do right in this moment. So what do you do on a rainy day? Go on a hike! The Mr. and I took a trek over to Mt. Tam to check out the waterfalls right after the rain broke this weekend. We weren’t disappointed. I took a video of the waterfall and included it on my YouTube page so I could share the magic.

5. This year I vowed to read more books. I made a goal over at Goodreads to read 24 books, figuring that 2 books a month would be a lofty, but worthy, goal. As of this moment, I am currently reading my 29th book, The Hunt for Wolf Eyes, by Sonoma County writer Ty Strange. I read all 29 of these books on top of writing and publishing several books, and discovered a bunch of new authors this year. Who knows, maybe I’ll aim to read 3 books a month next year…
Here are a few of my favorite books I read this year:
Maybe Someday, by Colleen Hover
Going to Solace, by Amanda McTigue
Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman
The Fault In Our Stars, by John Green
Kissing Midnight, by Laura Bradley Rede
I’m always looking for recommendations on new books, so if you have a suggestion, send me a note.

6. Speaking of written books, I conquered my 5th NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) this year! If you don’t remember, that’s when writers strive to write 50,000 words in 30 days. I managed to cross the finish line on day 20, and finished the novel’s rough draft just a few days later.

7. And on that note, this novel I just wrote will be book 2 in my upcoming “Dessert For Dinner” series, coming out in 2015. This series combines magic, desserts, and lighthearted romance with 4 delicious stories. The first novel coming out is called Come Here, Cupcake. The book focuses on Morgan Truly, a girl who discovers she has the power to infuse her baking with her feelings – but not before she affects the whole town. Stay tuned for information on when this book will be released!

8. This holiday season, I am utilizing the talents of some of my artistic friends to give some gorgeous gifts. If you know any crafty people, I encourage you to do the same. Not only will you be giving an original gift that no one else can replicate, but you’ll also be directly supporting local artists! It’s a tough world out there for creatives to make a living off their craft, and there is a lot of competition from bigger companies with deeper pockets. Your support would be more than appreciated.
BTW, if you know of local artisans with gift-worthy creations, let me know! I’d love to spread the word on my Facebook page so that other people can find them too! If visit my page now, you can already find a few indie gifts there.

9. Earlier this year, I published the book, Forever Thirteen, the sequel to A Symphony of Cicadas that was never supposed to be. I just found out that it received an Honorable Mention for Young Adult books in the Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards for 2014! This is like winning 2nd place among thousands of entries! And to think, if my friend hadn’t insisted a sequel was in order, Forever Thirteen wouldn’t exist. Goes to show how much power readers have. 🙂

10. I am so grateful for YOU. Here’s the proof. (P.S. Did you notice it’s snowing here? Love that about WordPress!)

Love you guys! And thank you for all your support!

Hair woes, “instant” success, and living in Generation NOW

I’ve been having hair indecisiveness lately. It all started last November, as I faced my 36th birthday (you know, the one that makes you in your LATE thirties instead of your EARLY thirties), when I decided I wanted to cut off ALL my hair. I wanted my hair to look like Jennifer Lawrence, even though I don’t make clumsy look cute, and I’m not in my twenties with a styling team behind me. I didn’t care. I wanted to sport the pixie, and knew I would look young and chic and sassy.

My hairdresser, however, was a little freaked out by this request. I’ve had loooong hair pretty much all my life, so going from that to a pixie was a bit of a jump. So she talked me into an a-line haircut. She trimmed the back all the way up to my neck, and the front sloped down to my shoulders. It was super cute, and I totally loved it.

When it started to get long again, I went back in to get the same cut. I expected the same bit of sass to come out of her scissors. What I ended up with, however, was a MOM cut. I looked older than my age. I didn’t even want to look my age, let alone older! After going home and doing my best to style it, I realized that this was NOT the cut I had originally gotten. And it just wasn’t working. I called my hairdresser the next day, and she promised to fix it when she had an opening at the end of the week.

Of course, a funny thing happened by the time Friday came. My hair looked fine. But I was not going to be the one to say it. I let her trim things up and work her magic, and I came away with a great haircut that looked even better after a few days had passed.

Three days ago, I went back in for a haircut. This time, I cheated on my hairdresser with a cheaper salon. And I told the lady I wanted it short, short, short. But I didn’t want it to do the weird flippy thing it was doing. She talked me into longer layers to go with the short do, and had her way with my hair.

Now, dang it, I am not a person who speaks up in disappointment. If I did, it would be interrupted by my lame tears, because I pretty much cry whenever I feel strongly about something. So when I looked in the mirror and saw RAMONA QUIMBY looking back at me, I wanted to wither and die. I wanted to leave the salon with a bag over my head. I wanted to do everything in my power to make myself invisible. Instead, I smiled at the lady, thanked her, and gave her a 20% tip. Because that’s the ridiculous person I am.

My husband could see the disappointment in my eyes. Worse, he could see the haircut. Worsest, I could see that HE didn’t like it.

“It’s cute,” he lied, and then he avoided looking at me all night long. I’m not making this up. For two days, he avoided eye contact with me.

Then a few funny things happened. First, my hair relaxed into the haircut. Second, I began playing around with it, learning the ways that it looked best. Third, it started to look cute. I mean, really cute.

“Wow, your hair,” my husband said to me yesterday. I had clipped it back in small french braids so that it hung in the back but away from my face. And I felt pretty adorable. Then today, I received several compliments about the scrunched look I gave my hair.

“How did you get your hair to do that?” my coworker asked me. And I could tell that in the moment she was actually jealous of my hair – the same hair that I wanted to hide under a bag only days before.

There’s a lesson in this, and it has to do with instant gratification, as well as high expectations.

Just like with my hair, I expected extremely great things for my first book, A Symphony of Cicadas. Not that it would make me look young and sassy, but that people would read it and be changed forever. Back in March of 2013, I published that book, hearing the warnings that no first-time author hits it big on the very first try. I heard it, but I didn’t listen. The first few months, the sales trickled in. And by trickling in, I mean I was selling only 1-6 copies most days.

Oh, how naive I was to believe that was BAD, that ANY number of sales could be bad.

After the newness of the book wore off, the sales tapered down as well. I published my poetry book and a book of parenting essays to try to grab the attention of the crowd again. But nothing was happening.

Then this last March, I published Forever Thirteen, the follow-up novel to A Symphony of Cicadas. This time, I put a marketing plan in place. It wasn’t a huge plan, but it was something. And I fully expected the numbers to roll on in. And they did…just a little bit smaller than I expected.

We live in a culture of right here, right now. On Facebook, we post photos and then feel disappointed when someone doesn’t comment on them right away. We email our coworkers and then walk over to their desk to ask if they go it (not me, this drives me crazy!). We send out a Tweet, and if it doesn’t get retweeted, we tweet it again. We go on a diet, then give up when we don’t lose weight within the first two days. We can’t live in the moment, but have to take photos of it and share it across various forms of social media. We even laugh at the graduates who think they deserve a high paying job right off the bat, but then we do the same thing by expecting instant success with our first attempt at greatness.

I expected to be discovered as an author, for my book to be picked up as a movie, for me to be moving into my mansion and deciding how to spend my JK Rowling fortune. Sixteen months into this, I am still working my day job, fighting to find time to write my novel, and spending more money on everything it takes to publish it then I’ll see from sales.

Thing is, I make peace with this constantly. I mean, I grapple with low sales and the yearning to be discovered. But I also hold on to the fact that I am doing it – I’m doing what I’ve always dreamed of doing. I’m writing books. Can’t that be enough? At least for now?

Last night, the trailer for If I Stay came on. My husband hadn’t heard of it before, and I watched the look of shock cross his face as he watched it. The premise was on the same plane as A Symphony of Cicadas. Except my book isn’t some soon-to-be blockbuster hit.

“That should be your book,” he said. Yeah, but it’s not. And I have work to do if I want it to get there. And it’s not going to happen overnight. But if I keep doing what I’m doing, and striving to move forward, my books could be on your TV screen as a movie trailer, too.

P.S. If I Stay was written in 2009. That means it took 5 years for it to hit the big screen and become a “runaway success.” Just an FYI. 🙂

P.P.S. A pixie cut is still not out of the question. 😀

CrissiHair

Being a lazy writer

Photo by AquaSixio on DeviantArt. Click for more of his art.
Photo by AquaSixio on DeviantArt. Click for more of his art.

I’ve been a lazy writer. I admit it. I have not done any book writing since NaNoWriMo, or book editing since December. I keep seeing other authors I follow in blogs and on Facebook talking about their work-in-progress, and the green-eyed monster in me wants to be doing what they’re doing.

But I’m not.

I guess I can chalk it up to catching up on my sleep. When I’m in writing and editing mode, I wake up at 5am and spend the two hours before I need to get ready for work on my book. Do that for several months straight, getting only 6 or less hours of sleep a night, and things get a little crazy. Plus, my hubby was getting the short end of the stick, since I was so tired. Patience tends to wear thin when you’re overtired. And other things tend to be lacking as well.

Second, I’ve been reading a lot. And I mean, a lot. I’ve already read three books this month, and I am currently in the middle of reading three more at the same time. I blame it on my brand new Kindle. And I thank my Kindle for it. This past year I forgot how to make time for reading. And as a writer, reading is soooo important. It serves as inspiration, and it’s pretty cool to see how other authors go about painting a scene and develop their characters. However, I should be reading AND finding time to work on my own books.

(Btw, my favorite book I’ve read so far this year is “The Fault in Our Stars“. O. M. G. That book was amazing….)

Third, I’ve been sort of focused on preparing for the release of “Forever Thirteen.” I say “sort of” because I feel like I’ve done a lot, but there’s still so much to do. Call the local bookstore, plan a launch party, gather blogs who will help host a blog tour (any of YOU bloggers interested?), get the sales pages worded right, finalize the book cover…. Everything I didn’t do with “A Symphony of Cicadas” (because I just didn’t know), I want to do with “Forever Thirteen”. I want to expand this title to even more people who might enjoy this book.

But then, I want to start on the next project. And then the next. And then the one after that….

So there is no one to blame but me for my writer’s envy. This week I start getting serious about my writing and editing. Hello 5am wake-ups. Hello finished manuscript in need of serious editing. Hello and goodbye to wrapping up the final things on my Forever Thirteen to-do list.

(and sorry in advance, hubby. love you!)

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