Friday, March 28, 2014

#423: Finishing a First Draft!!!

Reason to Be Happy #423:

Ahhh...The first draft of a novel always feels to me like luring a feral creature into a corral. It's tricky, tenuous work that requires consistency, diligence, and trust. Happy to report that yesterday I shut the gate on the corral. That feral creature has been caught. Now, the work begins to tame it...but first some celebration of the milestone and some time away from it to give objectivity. I thought about tidying up my space to take a nice, cleaned up "just printed" picture, but thought, "Nah." This is what it really looks like: Notes everywhere. Ghirardelli chocolate egg wrappers. Coffee cup. Messy house. Plants that need watered.

You can always make it better later. First you have to make it exist. Making it exist feels really, really good and the feeling never gets old (because the process never feels certain).

Doing a little happy dance!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

#422: Writing in Hotel Rooms

Reason to Be Happy #422:
Writing in Hotel Rooms

 I don't know why, but I write like crazy in hotel rooms. I feel inspired and I get a lot of words on the page. Maybe it's because I don't have to worry about anything else—I'm not at home where other tasks might distract me, and no matter how lovely a hotel room is, it's essentially just a room. I don't question it—I just embrace it. When my fella had to be out of town for a work conference and invited me along, I jumped at the chance to spend some days in a hotel room alone while he was at the conference. I told the front desk not to service our room, I fired up the coffee maker, and I got SO. MUCH. DONE. I'm really nearing the end of this draft and it feels so good!

 Perhaps the only thing that makes writing in a hotel room better, is getting to eat cake straight out of the box while I'm doing it. This beautiful cake came from the wonderful women at Thurber House where I spent the month of October, and where I began the draft of this same novel (which seems very fitting). I took a writing break Friday and left the hotel (gasp!) to go visit them. Left feeling inspired (but in a food coma). They sent the leftover cake for me to share with my fella.
Well, they even included little plates and forks, so we could eat it in a civilized manner, but I forgot to include a knife, so in a plot twist frenzy, needing sugar, I had to resort to eating the cake with a fork right out of the box. I highly recommend this the next time you're in a writing marathon. I made huge progress on the draft and now safely report that I will finish this draft by the end of the month (and, yes, I know that's less than a week away. It's gonna happen). I'm telling you: cake.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

#421: The Saguaro Cactus

Reason to Be Happy #421:
The Saguaro Cactus
I was recently lucky enough to leave the bitter, brutally long Ohio winter and spend some sunny days in Arizona. I became quite a fan of the Saguaro.
 Known as one of "the defining plants of the Sonoran Desert," it is found only there—in Arizona, and the parts of California and Mexico that the Sonoran Desert touches. They can live to be 150-200 years old, and can grow to be between 40-60 feet tall.
 They have one main tap root that goes down a couple feet, but the majority of their roots spread out like a maze (as wide as the plant is tall) only about 3 inches deep, in order to get as much rainwater as they can. Can you tell I totally geeked out about these cool old guys? If you're geeking out, too, check out Science Friday's cool blog,
 "11 Things You Didn't Know about Saguaro Cacti."
 Here's my goofy fella bonding with his new century-old buddy. Aren't they both cute?
 The Saguaro has gorgeous white flowers in the spring and red fruit in the winter. I took all the photos except for the red fruit one (above). That comes from a really cool Kuriositas blog you should check out called "The Saguaro Cactus and Its Greedy Guests." It's chock full of amazing photos of birds, bats, owls, and other creatures making use of the Saguaro.

This last photo is of a giant Saguaro for sale at a garden center we visited. It was only $6,500. Um…I'll take two! I'm known for being out of control with my garden…
but, alas, I doubt it would thrive in Ohio.
The world is just so full of cool stuff.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

#420: That Cheerful Drip Drip Drip of Icicles

Reason to Be Happy #420:
The Cheerful Drip Drip Drip of Icicles
Sure, it's a happy enough sound. But their pitter patter means winter is thawing...
 ...and that spring will come.
The first photo was taken by the talented Carol Tierney. The second is from my back porch, featuring my neighbor's leaning pine (that tree top touched the ground in 2012's ice storm, but it's resilient and stood back up. I always say it wants to be in my garden, and is trying to sneak over).

Friday, February 14, 2014

#419: When My Cat Sits Like This

Reason to Be Happy #419:
When My Cat Sits Like This

No further explanation is really necessary.
 Happy Friday!
 He's my Sexy Valentine!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

#418: Fixing Your Mistakes

Reason to be Happy #418:
Fixing Your Mistakes

Anyone who has ever waited tables will appreciate this one.
So, a little backstory first: A couple weeks back, my talented writer friend and Capricorn sister Sharon Short and I went to The Wine Loft to celebrate our birthdays. We had a lovely dinner, festive cocktails, and decadent desserts—all brought to us by a fun, attentive server. When I paid my bill with a credit card, I made sure I left her a nice tip.

We left. The week got busy. It was over a week later when I was dealing with the receipts that had accumulated in my wallet. Imagine my mortification when I realized that the night of our birthday dinner, I had accidentally taken both the customer copy and the store copy of my credit card bill. I mentioned my horror to a friend. She said, "They swiped it. You got charged. Don't worry." "But, no," I protested. "The server has no idea I gave her a tip. As far as she's concerned, I totally stiffed her." This bugged me. Bigtime. Now, sure, I heard immediately that tiny little voice in my head suggesting that "Oh, well. No big deal. That's just a little bonus for you," but I slapped that little voice quiet. It was not okay. As soon as I could, I drove over to the Wine Loft. My server was not there (fortunately, her name was on the receipt), so I left a card with a note explaining what had happened. I included her tip (plus interest) in the card. The other servers listened to my story and kept saying, "That is so nice of you." Sure, it's nice, but it was also right. I made a mistake. It felt important to me to fix it.

Later that night, I received an email from the server thanking me and telling me "You made my day." She remembered me and my friend. (See? I would've been remembered for the wrong reasons!) And here's the deal: the tip wasn't all that much. It wasn't like I'd had a $100 dinner or anything…but it felt so good to do the right thing. I probably felt better making it right than she did receiving the tip. That's important to remember. Fixing your mistakes isn't just the right thing to do; it can actually make you feel happy.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

#417: The Color Red in Winter

Reason to Be Happy #417:
The Color Red in Winter
Ah, winter in Ohio...  The landscape can be gray and bleak, and folks get prone to the blues and put on their cranky pants. Even though the cold has been relentless, you have to admit the snow is beautiful (and the landscape much prettier with it). And there's nothing more dramatic and stunning than the color red against the snow (and that is not the start to some gory horror story, I promise). Many of my friends are talented photographers, so I gathered some of their shots of gorgeous flashes of red. I hope they cheer you as much as they do me.
 This gorgeous shot is by Scott Ross.
 The next three were taken by my talented writer friend, Erin Gross. (And that's her son, aka Tank, who is among my favorite children on the planet).

 The wreath above, and the final two, were taken by Carol Tierney, whose photos never fail to brighten my days! Thanks, everyone! Please post your own in the comments—I'd love to see more!