The Marathon of Novel-Writing

I’m guest-posting on A Writer’s Path today, sharing my experiences as a novelist.

Come on over for a visit and check it out!

The Marathon of Novel-Writing

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A Life That Matters

 “It doesn’t matter who we are, what we are doing and what our station in life is, we all have the ability to contribute to something beyond ourselves and (to find) purpose in doing so.” – Emily Esfahani Smith, author of The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters.

According to Smith’s research, it isn’t happiness that makes life worth living – it is meaning. It is rising each day with a purpose. As simple and as uncomplicated as that sounds, I wonder how many of us have been chasing the wrong thing.

Is developing a “meaning mindset” the only true answer to achieving fulfillment?

Living on auto-pilot, or chasing mostly what brings you pleasure, or working long and crazy hours, driving yourself to exhaustion to conform to someone else’s definition of success – do any of these pursuits sound like happiness to you?

Or have you already figured this out?

Have you found your meaning?

A Moment With Maisie

Alright, I admit it.I am clearly the more introverted feline in this two-cat family.
Often the loner – the diametric opposite of my sister Vivian –
you will usually find me shying away from the spotlight.
Yes, I am a lap cat, and an affectionate one at that…
…but Vivian is the more “in your face” sister,
and the more photogenic one,
so naturally she gets the lion’s share of attention.
I’m the quiet and cautious girl who moves with stealth,
who wonders why Vivian is so annoyingly vocal.
And even though I might seem timid,
I’m actually more “alpha” than Viv.
I guess that’s why Jennifer says I’m the glue that holds us all together.

Do you live in a multi-cat or multi-pet household?
Do you sometimes feel overshadowed by your sibling?
 

Five-Year Reflection

I received this notification today:
5 Year Anniversary Achievement
“Happy Anniversary with WordPress.com!
You registered on WordPress.com 5 years ago.
Thanks for flying with us. Keep up the good blogging.”
 ***
 My blog turns five years old on New Year’s Eve. When I look back on that first post, Follow the Yellow Brick Road, I wonder: how on earth did I make it this far?
images-200x199Before I started blogging, I wondered what the point would be in it. I used to liken it to shouting into a void, and where was the fun in that? And at first, that’s exactly what it was. With only a handful of followers, getting a like or two – or, wow, is that a comment??? – was all the encouragement I needed to post another photo, or a poem, or a thought about something.
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Consistency is everything, as many of my blogger friends will tell you. Showing up and putting in the time and energy is what draws more followers, likes and comments. It is what brings the lovely reward of connection with other like-minded people, as well as with those who walk an entirely different path.
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 So much can happen in the span of five years. When I reflect on my life as shared through this blog, certain events stand out. I remember the highs – cherished moments with friends and loved ones (which strengthened those relationships), travel to new destinations near and far, and the fulfillment of two novels written; and the lows – first and foremost, the loss of my beloved mother to Alzheimer’s disease, as well as other sad good-byes, personal disappointments and health afflictions. For me, keeping a blog is also a form of testimonial to my ongoing gratitude, as a way to pay homage to the priceless gifts that life has granted me.
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 Today, I can’t picture my life without blogging. I know I’ve said this on earlier blog anniversaries, but it still holds true. When life gets hectic or throws me a curveball, I admit to moments that hint of burnout, but those times have thankfully been few.
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I hope Jennifer’s Journal lives on for a few years yet. Why? Because, as an introvert, I have been enriched and inspired by all the incredible people I’ve met here. You’ve added another meaningful dimension to my days, and I want to keep you around, in 2017 and beyond!

Bloggers:      
How long have you been blogging?
Have you found the connections you’ve made rewarding?

Christmas Gifts With A Wow – Not An Ow!

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Big-Hearted Gifts on a Small-Sized Budget

There is satisfaction in settling on the perfect gift – something that shows how well you know the recipient and how much you care about your relationship with them. And contrary to what advertisers will tell you, you don’t have to drop loads of cash to find the right present. In fact, the most meaningful gifts are often the ones that cost less money, but take a little more thought, time, and creativity.

Check out this list of gift ideas that tug at the heartstrings while giving your wallet a much-needed rest.

Poetic License

Express how you feel about the recipient with a poem or quote (you can use someone else’s, but please give them credit). Write it on heavy cardstock in your prettiest handwriting and frame it. Even if you’ve never crafted before, there’s lots of inspiration to be found online.

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Dinner Party for Two (or More)

You don’t have to be a master chef to make a delicious, inexpensive meal. Look up some recipes and whip up a loved one’s favorite meal and dessert. For an extra festive touch, deck the table with Christmas decor items from your local thrift store.

Personalized Playlist or “Mixtape”

Burn a CD of songs that mean something to you and the recipient, make nifty cover art with an easy-to-use template, and print out a track listing. Or, use Everyone’s Mixtape to keep the gift purely digital… while giving a nod to old-school mixtapes.

Do It Differently

Come up with something unique. There are many unusual present ideas for her or for the man in your life that don’t mean whacking the wallet. Stay away from the same-old, same-old, and watch their faces light up!

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Movie Night – Their Choice

Invite that special someone over for a movie marathon – they get to choose the flicks. Make awesome snacks, munch, laugh, discuss, enjoy, repeat.

Say That Again?

Choose a quotation that means something to your friend or loved one, or is significant to your relationship, and get it lettered on a cool print.

Make It Snappy

Use a service like Printstagram to print photos from a trip or an event, or order pictures of you and the gang, or the family. In a world of online selfies and digital photo albums, a tangible memento has special cachet.

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Bargain Bag

Searching Amazon for “cheap stuff” returns a treasure trove of fun gifts. Do your part to help a loved one get goofy and playful with a bundle of goodies they might not buy themselves! Need some ideas? A vintage owl pendant, ‘80’s Style Wayfarer Sunglasses, The New York Times Light & Easy Crossword Puzzles, and the game Set totals less than $19.

Simply Sales

At Threadless, artists submit designs and the community selects which ones will become t-shirts. The result is unique tees with fun, funky graphics. Shop the $10 category for cool and adorable t-shirts for men and women.

Selecting the perfect gifts for your loved ones is often tough, we all know that firsthand. But if you can come up with heartfelt presents, they will earn you mistletoe merriment and possibly save you money in the bargain!

Do you have any clever and inexpensive gift ideas or online gift sites to share?

Making Memories That Will Last Forever

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Have you ever looked at your children when they are teenagers – or beyond – and wished you could go back in time to enjoy a day when they were little? I certainly have.

Children grow up so incredibly fast! It’s almost like you blink and they are grown. All the way through childhood they are making firsts: Their first word, their first steps, their first day of school. There is so much to relish and celebrate about these milestones that you almost forget about the time whizzing past.

Kids need a solid grounding and good examples to learn from, therefore conscientious parents want their kids to remember their childhood fondly, and with love. Their formative years are important because they’re going to remember certain things forever, so if you do fun things together as a family, they will remember these events fondly for the rest of their days. Here are some ideas on how to make memories that will last a lifetime.

Play with paint

It’s a great idea to teach a child creativity from a very young age. If they learn not to be afraid of a blank page, they will probably go on to create great things. (As a writer, I have faced that blank page many times.) One of the most imaginative and artistic things you can do with your children is to create and paint together. Let them go wild with crayons, colouring pencils, acrylic and water paint, and glue. They will feel proud of their results in the moment, and it will be fun to look back on their creations together in the future.

Pose for a picture

The wonderful thing about smartphones is that you have a camera almost always at hand. This give you the chance to capture as many candid photos of your children as possible. And don’t forget taking videos of them. If you would like something a bit more professional, a photographer can give you great results. A professional family photo is something that everyone loves to look back on because it perfectly captures a moment in time you can cherish forever. Not only will you have the physical photos, but you’ll have great memories of the actual day as well.

Read stories together

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My girl’s favourite: The Owl & The Pussycat

This was a big one for me when I raised my kids. When your children are little, it’s a great idea to get into the habit of reading them a book every evening. This not only calms them before they sleep, but it also helps them learn. The stories that you first read them will probably stay with them forever. Almost everyone can remember the first book that they loved to have read to them. It’s a child’s way of really using their imagination to form the pictures in their mind. Keep a couple of their favorite books for you to show them when they are grown up.

Cook together

If you can teach your children a family recipe that has been passed down through the ages, they’ll remember it forever. A cherished recipe can be pulled out and enjoyed again and again, and it will strengthen the memory for your child of when you first made it together. 

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Our boy making muffins!

Notice the recurring theme here? Creative endeavors seem to be the best way to make memories for you and your family!

What do you and your children do to make memories that will last a lifetime?

Moving with change

To give us perspective. Of note, Karen’s words from the comment section: “I think when there is a shock, we need time to absorb the news and if we can spend sometime in nature … it does ground us and calm us.”
That often works for me when I need to let go of anxiety.

Healing Your Grief

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For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone.  The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes.  To someone who doesn’t understand growth, it would look like complete destruction. – Cynthia Ocelli

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Come From Away – A Review

In September, I blogged about how excited I was to have tickets to a local showing in concert of Come From Away, a musical that is heading to Broadway in the new year. You can read that post here.

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We attended the Gander show on Saturday afternoon, and it was INCREDIBLE!

Both shows in Gander on Saturday were sold out.
Both shows in Gander on Saturday were sold out and received standing ovations.

Flawlessly executed.

Overflowing with energy, talent, and professionalism.

And generating such love and pride for the citizens of Gander and surrounding communities – who most certainly deserved it – it was truly a moving experience.

“The Come From Away musical was written to show the compassionate response by Newfoundlanders when air space closed over North America after the Twin Towers fell —diverting dozens of planes to Gander. The community took in more than 6,000 passengers for several days while planes were grounded.” – Local CBC story on Come From Away

Can you imagine if the population of your town had nearly doubled on 9/11?

The show tells the tale through the eyes of local mayors, residents, a pilot, and stranded passengers, 100 minutes of heartfelt musical numbers that show how Newfoundlanders went above and beyond with their own special brand of hospitality.

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To paraphrase Canadian playwright Irene Sankoff, cowriter of the musical:

Not only did the {citizens of Gander} let people off of the planes who were {strangers} to them, but they let them into their community buildings. They canceled school for the entire time that “the plane people” were there, devoting all of their energy to taking care of them.

They put them up in their schools and community buildings, and then began inviting people home for dinner, inviting them to stay the night, cleaning their clothes, and giving them anything that they could ask for over the time that they were stranded.

Countless times during the show, we laughed out loud. And many other times we wiped away our tears. And boy, did we ever applaud! I had chills several times, and it had nothing to do with the fact we were in a hockey arena.

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I could go on and on about it, but just let me say, if you have the opportunity to see the show in Toronto or New York, you should. I know I’m biased, being a Newfoundlander and all, but I think anyone would enjoy such a positive showing of humanity in the face of crisis and disaster. With all the negativity in the media these days, it was a welcome change. 

The cherry on top? All proceeds from the Gander shows were donated to local charities.

The Love Story. On the left, the actors who played the real-life couple on the right. One from Texas and one from England, they met during 9/11 in Gander, eventually marrying and honeymooning back in Newfoundland!
The Love Story. On the left, the actors who played the real-life couple on the right, a woman from Texas and a man from England. They met during 9/11 in Gander, eventually married, and honeymooned back here in Newfoundland!
At a special dinner held in Gander, the U.S. Ambassador to Canada, Bruce Heyman unveiled a new plaque thanking the people of this province.
At a special dinner held in Gander over the weekend, the U.S. Ambassador to Canada, Bruce Heyman, unveiled a new plaque thanking the people of this province.

I think our little province and its people made quite an impression on those affected that week. To illustrate, near the end of the show, one of the “plane people” from the U.S. told her new Gander friend that Newfoundlanders can’t tell knock-knock jokes.

“Why not?” her friend asked.

“Okay, I’ll be the Newfoundlander,” said the American. “You say knock knock.”

“Knock knock.”

“Come on in – the door is open!”

This is a shining example of Newfoundland hospitality and our way of life being brought to the Broadway stage. Did I mention I was proud?

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For more info, here is the Official Come From Away Website.

Change the Way You Think About It

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Recently, I was catching up with someone I hadn’t seen in a while.

At first, the conversation was pleasant, as was my general mood, but as the chatting continued, I realized this person was swimming in barely concealed hostility.

Almost everything that came out of this person’s mouth was either a brag or a humble brag, a passive-aggressive remark, or a backhanded compliment (don’t you just love it when someone insults you like that – and it’s “socially acceptable”?).

But perhaps what rankled most was the obvious avoidance of discussing anything going on in my life. Whether the reason for this was self-absorption, disinterest, jealousy, or whatever, I could only hazard to guess.

So what did I decide to do? Well, I held my tongue and chose to follow the advice from Ms. Angelou as stated above. I decided to look at the experience differently, to frame it in a way that muted the annoyance I felt, and replace it with understanding.

I already know this person has difficulties going on in his own life, which helped me to recognize that the hostility had very little to do with me.

So I chose to temper my hurt with this awareness. The pain he is presently enduring in his life is far worse than anything he could inflict on me with his words. And perhaps, along with that, he was having an especially hard day.

It doesn’t always work, but in this case, a little understanding made all the difference.

Have you ever consciously changed your thought processes about something?
How has it worked for you?
How do you deal with difficult people?

Happy Thanksgiving, Canada

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*Travel theme: Enlightened