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Saturday, November 15, 2014

Reasons for Giving

It's that time of year again. As mentioned at length in my previous post, I LOVE the holiday season. I'm super stoked this year because I love the plans I have lined up: A large turkey-day with family and friends at my cousin's house (there will be an OBSCENE amount of food there) and an expanded 'orphan's' Christmas with lots of friends who are like family. There may even be a cameo appearance by my Mom in there somewhere (which would be awesome!!!!!). I have so much gratitude this year it's coming out of my ears. Even so, I can't help but think of the less fortunate and wish there was something more I could do.

Whenever I've envisioned my ideal future, it involves me miraculously coming into money (via a book/movie/work deal) and having enough land to grow food with plenty to share. I fantasize about setting my life up in such a way that money has less importance (living frugally, making a lot of things myself, going solar, growing a lot of my own food, etc.) and thereby having enough money to do something tangible about the things I see that hurt my heart (especially the homeless problem). I'm not a people-person at all (and in fact am quite agoraphobic) so the hands-on approach isn't something I can do, but it doesn't mean I don't care and don't see the need. I'm so fortunate, especially this year, but it wasn't always so.

I am so lucky to have had my grandparents to set an example for me. They always emphasized that helping another person should be about that person. It should be done in a way that allows that person their dignity. It's why, on the rare occasion that I can help financially, I give money. I do it quietly, and move on. I can almost hear the collective groan from my readers: "What if they spend it on drugs/beer/whatever?" What if they do? But what if it's the first opportunity they've had to do laundry in a long while? Or the first chance to get a hot meal? The point is to give without strings or expectation. Another person's life and choices are none of my damned business. My choices are to help or not. If they spend it on beer, they do. I recently discovered that my daughter does exactly the same thing for the same reasons. Have I mentioned that she's an awesome human being?

People have this idea of the poor as dysfunctional, uneducated, mentally ill addicts who were teen parents and probably ex-cons who did something grievous to bring it all on themselves. First of all, poverty is about nothing more complicated than not having enough money to sustain oneself. Being a single parent, in and of itself, can be all it takes to get there, unfortunately. It's true that some of the aforementioned issues can run concurrently with poverty or even be a primary cause, but they are all separate issues, and issues that folks who don't have money-problems can have too. We need to stop vilifying the poor and making them 'other'. We are all human beings on this planet. I know there are folks who are all about the individual and me-ism, thinking they can just set some kind of example. I'm familiar with the erroneous belief-system that assumes that all people need is a little motivation. In that vein, I'm certain that a man with no legs is not likely to be inspired by how fast YOU run, literally or figuratively. No man is an island. Nobody has omnipotent control over even their own circumstances. It is absolute ignorance to believe otherwise.

Think about it: Person A and person B are born into similar circumstances. Person A's parents pay for their education and sign off on all the big purchases. Hell, person A might even have a credit card in their name that mommy and daddy pay for. Person A starts life in pretty great shape: No educational debt, a house (equity), and even a little good credit courtesy of Mom and Dad. Person B has to work their way through school, but even so, has a mountain of debt dogging them for life. Person B also has to rent (nobody to sign off on the big purchases+school loans=rent) and is pretty much stuck. Both can do okay, but if something unforeseen happens (like cancer), person A is in much better shape to absorb the financial repercussions, but person B is screwed. Unfair, but true. And many, many folks start life with far less than even person B.

I think of my grandparents again. My grandmother especially was full of little verbal gems :-) She loathed greed and always emphasized people over money, especially family. She used to say things like "It's nice to be seen in church in your nice clothes putting money in the basket, but if members of your own family are going without it's not piety, it's hypocrisy".  Another favorite: "If you have to take credit for it, you're doing it for yourself". I miss "Nana-isms". I miss the straightforward (and occasionally relentless) wisdom that my grandparents possessed. They didn't just say it, they believed it and lived it.

Maybe that's why I get a little crazy when I see folks on TV talking about how they are helping the poor, the poor inevitably milling about in the background. Maybe people don't want to be on TV for being poor. Why has that not occurred to anyone? Why do we have toy drives instead of just quietly giving needy parents the cash to buy toys? What is the harm in letting the parents be the heroes?  Or in letting the children choose the toys they want instead of being surprised with 'whatever' on Christmas morning? Why has none of this ever occurred to anyone? It's as though the assumption is that a lack of money somehow makes a person instantly stupid or unable to make any of their own choices, and it's not fair. And it starts with teaching children that they should feel lucky to get anything at all. What most people don't (and don't want to) understand is that needing and asking for help is humiliating.

I'm more about empowerment. You don't empower people by taking their choices away and throwing them crumbs. You don't empower people by using them and their suffering to lift yourself up and talk about what a great person you are. You don't empower people by telling them that if they don't have money, there must be something wrong with them. What IS that? Nobody wants handouts or crumbs. what people want are opportunities, real ones. Not the opportunity to struggle and be treated like disposable crap at a low-paying job, but REAL opportunity. I would have given anything for the opportunity to save myself. But I'm person B, and a single parent. I fully understand the shock of discovering that daycare costs more per hour than I can make and all the fun little shenanigans that follow that discovery. I feel that my perspective is unique because I fell from one world straight into another, and it was one I was completely unprepared for. The difference in the way I was suddenly treated was shocking and frankly, unacceptable. It was my fortunate upbringing that helped me to survive and pull myself out, but I didn't forget a thing. But how are people supposed to have any hope?

So clearly, this post got away from me. Even so, I hope that what I've written here gives you something to think about. I'm not saying don't donate to the food shelf and don't buy toys for the toy drives (in fact PLEASE DO! They are really in need!!). Right now, that's what there is and it's preferable by FAR to doing nothing. But please keep in mind that the folks who are struggling do so all year round, that they are not struggling because they want to. Many of them work and have children, many are veterans, are disabled, are elderly. All are human beings, each one a soul with value and purpose. Please don't let the media lie to you or the few who abuse the system convince you that the poor are somehow undeserving of your love and respect. While it's true we are all responsible for our own lives, we are here for each other too. We all need help sometimes, and I'll value human beings over cash any day.

On that note, I hope you have  an awesome turkey day!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

I'm Part of the Problem

I've come to a startling revelation. When folks gripe about the season of scarymerrythankmas, it's people like me they are griping about. Okay, I admit it. I LOVE the holiday season. LOVE it. Halloween is the best, I love all things spooky! But I have to suppress the urge to run out and buy myself an ugly Christmas sweater the morning after Halloween is over. No kidding. I think there is a place for such garishness, and that it can even add to the festivities :-) One ugly Christmas sweater, please! Oh...my friends are going to hate me...

So here we are, aaaalll the way into November (the 4th, actually) and I'm already thinking about updating my Christmas card list, and making patterns for all the homemade Christmas things I'm going to make this year. I feel like I'm so far behind! I didn't get ANYTHING done last year because both my daughter and I had the flu. But this year I am all over those crafting projects.

I think part of the excitement is my updated point of view. I've historically had a tough time during the holidays. It's a time of year that emphasizes the loved ones I've lost and the ones I always miss. It's a time when I'm reminded of everything I've lost. But this year, this amazing year, I've had a chance to look around and see my friends in a whole new way. Friends are the family you choose, and mine don't ever seem to let me down. In fact, they regularly seem to go above and beyond. Yes, I've lost loved ones, but I've got a lot of new ones (or "new-ish") in my life. That realization alone is cause for celebration!

Nothing is the same. Nothing will ever be the same. I get that now, more than ever. And yeah, there will always be sadness attached to that and there will always be holes. But I'm not alone, not at all. I AM supported and loved. I don't need to go looking for that where it isn't on offer because it is offered in SO MANY places. I'm looking forward to making plans for our 'Orphan's Christmas' with friends (and hey guys, if you're reading this, let's wear ugly Christmas sweaters. Like for real. And take LOTS of pictures), I'm excited about getting gifts done, about sending out my cards. I can't wait for the cheerful lights, the fresh smell of pine, and the sound of Christmas music. Yup, I've become THAT person. And why not? What's wrong with a whole season of joy and gratitude and cheer? I have so much to celebrate this year, and so many people to celebrate with. Let's get this show on the road!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Stop the Bus

When life would get to a point somewhere past ridiculous, my friend Dawn (AKA "Donna") used to say "Stop the bus, I want to get off".  It was silly, but somehow, nothing was quite able to sum up that particular state of mind quite so well as that statement. It just fit. I am currently experiencing one of those days. I wish there was a bus to stop. Figuratively, anyway, the bus I'm currently riding feels like it's careening down some random embankment, driven by a zombie, and I'm its hapless, helpless passenger just trying to hang on until it comes to a stop. My greatest hope is that when it does, it's still upright. Ahh...there are few things I like better than getting overly dramatic about bad days, so if you don't have the stomach for that sort of thing, you may want to get off this particular bus now.

I don't know where my car is. My daughter took it to work last night, and both the car and kid are still AWOL. Some days, I don't even feel like I actually own a car, unless it's time to pay one of the many car-related expenses. I said "You can use my car for work" She heard "You may take over my car, and my need for it will always be secondary to whatever you have going on". This is totally my fault. I hate playing taxi SO MUCH that it was a relief. But it has now reached the point of sublime ridiculousness. I don't like bringing the thunder, but if I don't I'm going to explode. Badness. I just have to keep reminding myself that yes, I actually DO own a car. MY car. MINE.

Don't get me wrong, my daughter has been in touch. This morning, at 4:00 AM. Then again at 6:00 AM. Then again at 9:00 AM. Ask me how fabulously I get on when I haven't slept. To say I feel prickly today is an understatement (and what an adorable little euphemism prickly is). I have decided to remain in my apartment for the safety of others. Well, except when I have to take my dog out, which happens. I will do my level best to NOT unleash the tides of doom on whichever unfortunate neighbor I happen to encounter en route. No promises though.

Did I mention that today was also 'sprinkler-test' day? That means the the sprinkler company is here all morning, setting off the alarms over and over again at random intervals. If that noise isn't enough to do in that last nerve that I hope I have, my screaming Doberman might just do it. When the alarms go off, the dog screams. AWESOME. Dobermans are a big dog and most people will tell you that they have a big, booming bark to go with their large size. But, (and all Doberman owners are very aware of this) they also have what I call 'tea-kettle' mode. They have a high-pitched, piercing shriek in their arsenal of sounds that is simply not to be believed until you experience it personally. It almost has a paralyzing effect on the nervous system in some odd, apparently supernatural way. My preference would be to get in my car and maybe take the dog somewhere until they are done, but ya know, I don't know where my car is.

Today is also one of those days when the folks I need to hear from are not getting back to me, and the folks I DON'T need to hear from won't leave me alone (and somebody keeps leaving voicemail messages on my cell phone, which is kind of new, and I don't know how to retrieve the messages). It's not a super day for chit chat. Trust me, you are SUPER psyched that I'm not answering the phone ;-)


Okay, so here's the game-plan: I'm going to hole-up until the storm passes. I can do this. I know that with a little bit of something chocolate and maybe a mocha latte, this day need not be an utter crisis. I promise I will not call you today, and I will not call my Mom. Her nerves and my nerves have a similar intolerance for utter madness. And yes, you may laugh as I am sure to do myself in a day or two. Until next time!



Saturday, September 27, 2014

Q&A

I can't believe it's been almost a year since my first book, "In Stone" was published. And what a wild year it's been! I am so beyond grateful for all the awesome folks who have gone out of their way to support me, all the folks who have read the book and all the kind words coming my way. Thank you, SO MUCH for putting out all that wonderful, positive energy! Not a day goes by when it's not appreciated.

I thought I would commemorate the book's almost-one-year anniversary by answering some of the most popular questions. I actually really like it when people ask questions, and I notice the same ones popping up with some frequency. I normally reserve this space for mind-wandery, whatever's-in-my-head stuff, but it seemed like a Q&A was long overdue. So here goes!

1) Why didn't you just leave?

This has got to be, far and away, THE most popular question I get. The short answer: We didn't have the resources, and we had nowhere to go.

The long answer is much more complex, however. I tried my best to provide some context here by highlighting how we grew up vs. where we suddenly found ourselves. When we rented the house, we were not in a great place emotionally or financially. I describe that time in my life as feeling like I had been pushed down a hill and I couldn't stop falling. Renting this house was supposed to be healing, and we desperately needed it to be. Letting go wasn't just financially impossible, but it was like an emotional last-straw that we didn't have. There was also a part of us that, in spite of what we were seeing with or own eyes, never could come to grips with the reality of what was happening to us.

2) When is the movie coming out?

Haha...the second most popular question! There has been some interest shown in making "In Stone" a movie, but I still don't know if or when it will happen. I wish I had a better answer, but this bit is out of my hands. I will definitely keep you all posted though!

3) I don't believe in ghosts.

Okay, not really a question, but for reasons I don't quite understand, total strangers have walked up to me and said this very thing. My response is usually "Okay...?" followed by me walking away confused. It doesn't matter to me who believes what. For me, it changes exactly nothing. Frankly, it's a little bit like a color-blind person walking up to me and saying "I don't believe in the color red".  Whether or not red exists isn't dependent on any individual belief. I've seen it, so I know it's real.  What would be foolish would be ME not believing in the color red. Am I making any sense? Wishing/hoping something isn't true doesn't make it so.

4) When you noticed things happening, why didn't you research the house?

I have had folks get REALLY angry about us not doing any research while we were living in the house. There were so many reasons for this! First of all, you have to keep in mind that this was rural Vermont in '97-'98. We had no computers, no cell phones and all the ghost-hunting programming was long into future yet. We didn't even have a cordless phone. Any contact information could only be found in the yellow pages, and since none of us had ever even heard the words 'paranormal investigation', we didn't look. If we had, we would not have found anything. It was a different time, a different place, and we were just normal people trying to go about our lives. On the very rare occasion that we summoned the bravery to say "our house is haunted", we were met with laughter and ridicule, which is exactly what one would have expected then. Also, we were TERRIFIED. We were in survival mode, and we innately felt that the more we acknowledged what was happening, the worse it would get. We didn't even talk about it with each other; our fear was that intense. Digging deeper was the LAST thing on our minds. We were just getting through the day. Most people who have lived in a genuinely haunted house totally get it, and for that I have been grateful.

I DID do some research when I wrote the book. What I learned is that it's really difficult to find anything relevant, BUT the Hinesburg Historical Society was able to provide me with some juicy historical tidbits that are included at the end of the book.

5) Are you Catholic?

This is one I get a lot but I don't really understand why. I am, but it didn't seem to have any bearing whatsoever on our experience. Maybe folks ask because Catholics believe in exorcisms, but since none was ever performed (or even considered/discussed), I guess I'm not really clear on the relevance.

6) Are you writing another book? And will it be paranormal?

That would be a 'yes' and a 'yes' :-) The next book is going to be a fictional story built around true accounts. It's been slow going because "In Stone" continues to pull focus (a "problem" I'm happy to have!) but I'm having a blast! There's something exceptionally liberating about writing fiction. "In Stone" was a true account and it involved so many people that I really had to keep things truthful and above board. Those who were there said I did so successfully, so YAY! But book two is just between my characters and me, and it's a much simpler path in many ways.

I would be happy to answer more question if you have any, so don't hesitate! If you're local, I will be at the Milton Public Library on Monday night at 6:30, so I hope to see you there!

So much LOVE AND GRATITUDE!!!!!!



Monday, September 22, 2014

Productivity

Photo: desktopbackgrounds.biz
Productivity means different things to different people. Some folks take it uber-seriously, breaking down each hour in the day for some active task or another. Some bosses ride their employees relentlessly to make sure that every minute they pay for is used in service to something. Some people drive themselves, pushing the limits of their own endurance because...well, I guess I don't know why. I think there is something a little masochistic to that mind set. I've had helicopter-bosses too, but not for very long ;-) It's not that I don't handle nagging/whip-cracking/nipping at my heels well, it's more like I don't tolerate it at all. It's the surest way there is to get me to bail entirely.

Don't get me wrong, I will work like a dog and respect deadlines, I can even work like that for awhile for a specific purpose, but I don't do well with someone standing over me. But long-term, it's like, something short-circuits in my brain and all I can think of is getting away. I get all weird and avoidy and NOTHING gets done. I used to think it was strange, because I've observed people with an (apparently) extreme tolerance for this sort of thing, but I've learned it's actually fairly common. Does that make me feel better or more "normal"? Better, yes. More "normal"? Well, that's a whole n'other topic.

My personal productivity peaks when my mind is quiet. Some of the best ideas I've ever had were in those moments when it appeared that nothing at all was happening. Some of the other most productive moments have occurred when I was going for a walk, or doing some easy but repetitive chore (like mucking stalls). My friend Autumn called those moments of brilliance "muckpiphanies" and it's one of the better words either one of us has made up (and we've made up a few!). I NEED that quiet. without it, I can do nothing. For me, being busy is not at all the same as being productive. For me, it's the quiet that's important.

It's something to keep in mind as I look forward to some of my fondest wishes coming true. I'm grateful for the time between being able to acknowledge the possibilities, and the actual manifestation. I feel like it's not an "if" but a "when" (when, oh WHEN?), and I feel it in my bones. I know that feeling, and I know what it means. So what do I want? Home, of course. But a home that's not a chore-factory. I will never be okay with spending an entire weekend devoted to mowing the lawn. That's just stupid, unless you LIKE mowing. I HATE it (probably because of all those weekends devoted to mowing the lawn!). I will never want a house so big it takes me all day to clean it. I simply don't see the point. What do people do with all that space, anyway? And for me, a lot of space would just make me paranoid. I write HORROR. My brain can conjure up all manner of things hiding in various corners. Do people get big houses to collect belongings? Why? I kind of like the idea of getting a few quality things (or even better, having them made) and then take really good care of them. Like, forever. To hell with what's fashionable. I'm not fashionable. It's not something I think much about. I just like what I like. And how much stuff does a person need? I will admit, I rent a storage space. I rent a space for us, and a space for my stuff. It would seem really stupid to me, but my storage contains outdoor furniture that my grandfather made. it doesn't work in my teeny apartment, but I won't let it go either. Okay, so THAT I get. But otherwise, what's the point?

I always thought I wanted so much but as it turns out, home and a horse would get it done. Lots of folks have both. I (we) deserve to as well. For some, a horse is not a want but a need. That's what keeps me productive and moving forward. Sometimes, when results are less tangible, or time goes by and I feel like I have to take everything on faith, I keep those basic needs in mind. Then I try to find some quiet moments to be productive, and lose myself in the (mostly) peaceful world of the story I'm working on.


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Empathy

Photo: rapidlikes.com
I'm in an uber-weird place today. I blame the moon. I like to be funny, but today I'm just not feeling it. I've been a bit hyper-sensitive to the "ugly" in the world lately, and I don't like it. I know it exists; it always has and it always will.  Most of the time I choose not to focus on it. There's a lot of things in this world that are exceptional and amazing too, and I think the more we look at those things, the more we can shape our outlook to something positive. Even so, sometimes I feel like I live in a world devoid of empathy. I don't want to be part of that. Easier said than done.

I know what it's like to be around unsympathetic people. I know what it's like to be humiliated and judged. I think we all do. I know what it's like to be marginalized, verbally abused and physically assaulted too. It's a smaller group that I belong to, but not small enough. I know what it's like to be so betrayed by people I've loved and trusted that I was never the same again. I know what it's like to grow up and realize that nothing I believed in was true. I know what it's like to be told, over and over and over, "You need to figure this out by yourself." I've heard it when I was having the rug ripped out from under me, I've heard it when I was drowning emotionally, I've heard it when I was desperate and asking for help. I drove myself to the hospital in labor. I raised a child to adulthood without a dime of child support. There have been times in my life when just the smallest gesture, just the most minute amount of faith from another person would have made a world of difference, but it wasn't there. I have had to "...figure this out by myself" so consistently that my challenge these days is learning how to trust and work with other people. I'm not complaining! It's new, I've earned it, and it's kind of awesome. But nobody should have to "figure this out" by themselves. That's not why we're here.

But I know what it's like to be angry. Okay, not just angry, but so angry I thought I could be eaten alive by my own rage, and almost was. I can almost understand why people hang on every word of the "news" that tells them who to blame, who to hate and how to feel. And of course it works. If someone is "other" and we get to hate/blame/whatever them, then not only do we get to feel "better than", but it absolves us of  any responsibility for our fellow human beings. We can watch people struggle and feel nothing. We get to be selfish, and feel perfectly justified. Of course it's easy to hang on to that, to believe the lies, to be 'us vs. them'. To develop and cling to a paranoia so intense that we arm ourselves so that we are able to put fatal holes into other human beings as we see fit. Into them. That other created by the hate-factories called "news". How are we okay with this? I mean, HOW ARE WE OKAY WITH THIS?!

I know I'm not the only one who sees it or feels it. I am so grateful for that. But what if we all woke up tomorrow, and decided to trade in our judgement and hatred for empathy? What would things look like then? What if we could be human beings instead of Americans, Canadians, Russians, black, white and brown? What if we recognized that ALL religions (well, maybe not satanism) are, at their heart, based on love? What if we embraced our differences instead of using those differences to kindle fear and paranoia within ourselves or others? What if we saw people struggling, and instead of blaming them, we offered a hand? I know it's possible. In my very own life I have met people who do just those things. Some of them for me. Sometimes, that person has BEEN me. That's how I know we have a choice.

I have been angry and blamey. I know what it feels like. I know how easy it is to just exist in that. But the good people (my mother especially) who have come into my life have allowed me to see something else. We can all be that person for somebody if we want. I choose to be the kind of person I can have respect for. For all of us, it's a choice. You can hate and judge; you can turn a blind eye. It will be your sin to live with. No matter what other people do, the behavior we are responsible for is our own, always. How we treat people isn't about them, it's about who we are. We don't have to be the same to have empathy for one another. If we all had empathy, all the problems in the world today would disappear.



Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Significance of Sunflowers

Photo: amoreint.com
Monday was the Monday-est Monday I can remember for a long time. This week, they're doing work in my building too, so the space invasion is feeling extra invade-y Yet somehow, I remain somewhat philosophical about it. Perhaps it's because I'm fully and properly caffeinated, or maybe because I know it's temporary. All thing in life can't be cool and groovy all the time. Not only would it be boring (though I will admit to being all set with nail-biting, tooth-grinding events. ALL set) but there would be no contrast. There's lots to look forward to, not the least of which is "spooky season". I get giddy just thinking about it. Besides, (okay, awkward and lumpy segway) I hail from the "sunflower" tribe. I didn't always, but I surely do now. It's all good.

People often overlook sunflowers. They aren't popular in bouquets and when you think of beautiful things, sunflowers may not immediately spring to mind. But they actually ROCK.

Whenever I could, I planted giant sunflowers somewhere on my property just to have them around. Just looking at them made me happy, so why not? A few years ago, I had five of them growing in front of my home. It was August, and they were tall and strong and AWESOME. In an exceedingly unusual turn of events, we had a small tornado (an EF-0) kind of stroll right past my property (on rt2 in Grand Isle to be more specific). It was TERRIFYING. My dogs were glued to my legs and I could hear the ripping and tearing sounds of siding and shingles being forcibly removed. I saw all kinds of greenery flying past my kitchen window horizontally at an alarming rate, and hear the sounds of hail threatening to break glass. I had enough time to think "Holy crap, I'm going to die" a few times when it all suddenly stopped. Everything was a mess. It was kind of surreal. But my sunflowers still stood in my front yard. Their heads were bent over and their leaves were shredded, but they were the only thing I planted that year that wasn't just gone.

It was sad to see them looking so forlorn, and I was sure they were dead too, but I waited a few days to pull them up. Well, I never DID pull them up. Within a few days, their upturned faces were looking resolutely towards the sun again. They were renewed. From that time on they became my favorite flower.

There are flowers that are much more beautiful to be sure. But as a reason for existing, beauty alone doesn't mean much. When I think of beauty for it's own sake I think of orchids. They are delicate and unique. But when their exotic and ephemeral beauty is gone, there's nothing left. Some folks think of roses when they think of beauty, and they ARE beautiful. They are not quite as delicate as an orchid, but they have thorns. Some say the thorns are worth it for they joy the flowers bring, but long after the blooms are gone the thorns remain. Something to think about.

I want to be a sunflower. I want my beauty to be about my strength, a determined kind of joy and a desire to keep my face turned to the sun. I know that life's tornadoes (and forgive this clunky metaphor) have beaten me around and torn me up, but I was not left destroyed with my head hanging, at least not for long. I love the happy yellow petals of sunflowers, they are the color of joy. I love that when the summer is over, they aren't just dying and done, they have more yet to offer. With maturity they feed the birds, they feed us. They have something yet to offer beyond the way they look.

Last year, I was going through a bout of uncertainty. I was just about to finish my manuscript and I didn't know what would come next. What if I had done all that work for nothing? What if I had experienced all those sleepless nights, relived that nightmare, for no useful purpose? Then, inexplicably, I saw that a giant sunflower was growing in the small patch of grass near the dumpster behind my building. I don't have a yard anymore. I live on the 4th floor of an apartment building. As grateful as I am for manageable expenses and a safe place to be, I am really out of my element here. But there was a familiar sight sight in such an unlikely place. It was like seeing an old friend just when I needed them most. I felt a sense of reassurance as I watched it grow in such a inhospitable place, it's happy yellow face turned resolutely toward the sun. True or not, it felt like a sign just for me. The rest, of course, is history. I published my book and it's been a whirlwind of crazy-awesome since! It seemed unlikely (bordering on impossible) that a sunflower would just grow on that small patch of grass, and just as unlikely that my book would sell like it has, that I would get my picture in the paper, that I would be on TV and have a chance to think of my book being turned into a movie, and yet there it is.

Sunflowers, to me, represent resilience in the face of impossible odds and a fierce and determined joy. There's no bad there. Who know what's to come, but whatever it is, I bet it's good!