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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.