Sunday, January 29, 2012

Where Have All The Snowflakes Gone?

We haven't had much snow in the northeast this winter.

I miss sitting at my kitchen table watching snowflakes paint a natural scene that can never quite be captured  in a photo or on a canvass. A snowfall is truly on of those events that has to be savored as it happens. I wonder where the flurries, squalls and blizzards are. Maybe they're stuck in Alaska. Check it out....

The most fascinating thing about a snowfall, at least for me, is the individual flake. Minuscule ice crystals floating down from the sky to brighten the lifeless land. Each morsel with its own design that if enlarged and solidified would surely be the most exquisite gem in a jewelry box. I actually like going outside and letting them fall on my black gloved hand. Seeing if I can detect their differences before they melt. It's sort of like going to a snowflake museum. Check out some of these "real" snowflakes:

They really do fit into the category of ordinary miracles. Just think about that five-foot snowman that you might make after a storm. Scientists estimate that you'll need two million snowflakes depending on how hard you pack them and each one will be different from its neighbor. I'm sure you've heard that before, but each time I think about that fact it amazes me. So for all it's worth, I'll take a moment to make a wish:

Let it snow!  Let it snow!  Let it snow!


A snowflake is one of the most fragile creations, but look what they can do when they ban together:
Unknown Author

My young sons pack together at least
2 million snowflakes for a snowman

Gliding through Gatineau Park in Ottawa, Ontario, CA

A Nice Scene Somewhere

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Winter Camping...Why?

“I'm going to try winter camping this year,” my husband, Keith, announced.
“Really?” I responded. “Why?”
I was a little nervous about his answer. I mean, I thought we had a good marriage, but maybe not. He must want to flee. Why else would anyone want to go sleep in the snow in the middle of the mountains? Being a relatively reasonable person, I decided to wait for an answer before searching the Internet for a marriage counselor.
“I don’t know,” he replied. “It might be interesting.”
That was a good answer. After ten years of being with Keith, I am aware that he likes to delve into the extreme - marathons, hiking the Northville-Placid Trail in eight days, 100-mile bike rides on a Saturday in the summer.  
“Are you going alone?” I asked concerned. After all, I didn’t want him to slip off a cliff with a 40-pound backpack strapped to him, fall head first into a snow bank and not have anyone around to rescue him.
“No. Dennis got winter camping equipment for Christmas and wants to try it out.”
Dennis is Keith’s extreme athletic friend. What one doesn’t think of the other one will. Dennis’s wife, Margaret, and I often say, “We’re so glad they have each other.” That way they don't try to convince us to engage in these, let's say, different kind of activities.
So they made a plan, and I was fine with it. It gave me at least 24-hours of uninterrupted quiet to edit my novel for about the 20th time without Keith saying, “Are you revising that again?”
Just out of curiosity I asked once more, “Why do you guys want to camp out in the winter? Besides, it might be interesting.”
He thought for a minute. “I’m not sure. A little crazy, huh?”
Maybe.  Maybe not.
We know that spending time in nature is one of the best ways to find peace and maintain a positive attitude. Winters are cold and long in the Northeast. Nature enthusiasts need to go out to get a dose of tranquility despite the weather.
Here’s what says, “A winter landscape offers campers solitude, inspiration, natural quiet, and a place to get away. Winter camping can provide a haven from the pressures of our fast-paced, industrialized society, providing a place where one can seek relief from the noise, haste, and crowds.”
It does sound appealing and check out this picture of Keith hiking away from contemporary living into a winter paradise.

Looks peaceful. In fact, next year I just may join him although I’d love to find a rustic cabin with a fireplace at the end of the trail as opposed to a tent.

Other advantages of winter camping according to include:
  • The clear and open view is unparalleled. Deciduous trees shed their leaves and provide unobstructed vistas of the surrounding landscape. 
  • Clear night skies offer a great star grazing opportunities.
  • Winter camping provides a different perspective into nature than offered during the other three seasons. 
  •  Night time sounds carry easily enhancing an audio landscape of coyotes, owls, trees snapping and ice cracking.
  • Camping in the winter inspires a feeling of independence and gives people confidence in their survival skills.
  • There is a satisfaction in learning new skills or extending your current outdoor skills.
  • There is little competition from other campers. Camping sites that are overly popular during summer months are rarely visited or usually only visited by day hikers.
My almost favorite:
  • There are no mosquitoes or bears.
My absolute favorite:
  • One can justify eating excessive amounts of snacks and chocolate for energy.
Take heed, winter camping does require skill and special equipment. Organizations such as the Adirondack Mountain Club, Appalachian Mountain Club, etc. are great resources and often  arrange group trips.


             Winter Snow by Chris Tomlin and Audrey Assad


On October 12, 1972, a plane carrying a team of young rugby players crashed into the remote, snow-peaked Andes. Out of the forty-five original passengers and crew, only sixteen made it off the mountain alive. For ten excruciating weeks they suffered deprivations beyond imagining, confronting nature head-on at its most furious and inhospitable. This is their story -- one of the most astonishing true adventures of the twentieth century (From


Yosemite National Park

"I must return to the mountains - to Yosemite. I am told that the winter storms there will not be easily borne, but I am bewitched, enchanted, and tomorrow I must start for the great temple to listen to the winter songs and sermons preached and sung, only there." - John Muir from a letter to Mrs. Ezra Carr (November 15, 1869). 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Need a Good Laugh?

Sometimes you need a good laugh and nothing tickles your funny bone. You look around the house. You flip through the channels on the TV. You might even check out your Facebook feed to see if any friends posted something amusing. Nothing.

That's why it's good to have a collection of pictures, jokes, people, etc. that make you laugh. Keep it on your desktop and pull it up whenever you need a chuckle moment. I found a video on You Tube that might be a good addition to a funny file. Just try getting through this video without laughing out loud.    

Sunday, January 15, 2012

What Makes You Laugh?

Did you ever notice that kids laugh often and easily? Do something silly, like make a funny face, and the giggling begins. Now, have you also noticed that as age increases laughter decreases? It's true.

The average preschooler laughs or smiles 400 times a day. That number drops to only 15 times a day by the time people reach age 35, according to Mary Rue Foster, R.N. and host to the website, Workplace Issues. What are some other interesting facts about laughter? Here goes:

1. People smile only 35 percent as much as they think they do?

2. Laughter releases endorphins, a chemical 10 times more powerful than the pain-relieving drug morphine, into the body with the same exhilarating effect as doing strenuous exercise.

3. Every time you have a good hearty laugh, you burn up 3 1/2 calories.

4. Laughing increases oxygen intake, thereby replenishing and invigorating cells? It also increases the pain threshold, boosts immunity, and relieves stress.

The conclusion is we adults need to kick back and laugh more. All those benefits for something as simple and fun as laughing. How do we go about doing that? Seems like an easy questions, but I had to think about it for a little while. Here's what I came up with.    
  • Funny Friends - Think about some of your friends who tickle your funny bone. Make sure to hang out with them as often as you can. Even thinking about these folks can bring on a chuckle, at least for me.  
  • Comedians and Other Funny Media Personalities - Some people who earn their living by making others laugh are true masters. Favorites of mine include Bill Cosby, Tina Fey, Stephen Colbert, Gildna Radner, George Carlin, just to name a few. With these comics, a laugh is just a DVD away. Just look at this face and see if initiates a spark of a laugh:

Bill Cosby

  • Funny animal pictures - Keep a file of your favorites somewhere on your computer, preferably your desktop, for a quick laugh. Check this one out:     

  • Situations - Last night I went to a hockey game in Glens Falls, NY. The team's mascot is a giant woodchuck, or maybe it's a beaver. At one point the costumed whatever gyrated to We Will Rock You while kids gathered around trying to imitate him/her/it (couldn't tell). It may not sound that funny, but I found it to be hysterical. I often laugh at these spontaneous moments that surprise me in my day to day life and I'm going to be on the lookout for more.
  • Irony - I laugh at things that really aren't funny, but when spoofed are highly amusing. Tina Fey and Jon Stewart are brilliant at this. Don't know if any of you have tuned into the TV show, The Onion, but whenever I do, their parodies crack me up. Here's one called, Congress Forgets How to Pass A Law:  

Take a minute to share what makes you laugh. The more ideas the better. After all, we could all use a little laughter in our lives. Hope you found a bit here.

Kick Back Book:

Humor is not easy to pull off in writing, especially fiction, but Marian Keyes manages to do just that in her novel, The Other Side of the Story. If you want a light read, with vivid characters and lots of laughs that revolves around the publishing world, read this.

Kick Back Song:

From one of my favorite movies, Mary Poppins, I Love to Laugh. Sit back and enjoy.

A Little Something Extra:

"The human race has only one really effective weapon, and that is laughter. The moment it arises, all our hardnesses yield, all our irritations and resentments slip away and a sunny spirit takes their place." -- Mark Twain

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Elevator Ride

"This has to be the slowest elevator in the world," a bearded man said as he stepped onto the people lift in the grand hotel where I'm staying.

"Really?" I said as I checked my cell phone. It was 9:59.

"Uh Huh," said the bearded man shaking his head and clicking his tongue.

The elevator said, "Ding."

I had reached my destination on the 30th floor. I checked my cell phone. It was 9:59. The slowest elevator in the world? I almost said, "Enjoy the ride," but instead just smiled and walked away. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A Positive Attitude and Health

In the book, Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, we learn about Louie Zamparini, a man who miraculously cheated death more than once. He survived for 48 days on a raft in the Pacific Ocean after his plane went down during World War II. He then suffered from hunger, beatings and deplorable conditions as a prisoner of war in Japan and he overcame post traumatic stress syndrome and alcoholism when he finally returned to the U.S. In Unbroken, Hillenbrand discusses Louie's positive attitude and how it helped him endure monumental challenges. The medical world concurs with her consensus that positive thinking can really contribute to survival, keep you healthier, increase longevity and make you successful at whatever you choose to do. How do we get there?

The AARP has listed six ways that will automatically improve your attitude. In a nutshell, they are:
  • Get a pet
  • Laugh
  • Help Others
  • Listen to Music 
  • Spend time in Nature
  • Tai Chai (Yes. I did say Tai Chai.)   
The good news is there are simple ways to incorporate all of these into our lives, although I'm not so sure about Tai Chai. I think it's pretty complex. We'll explore these life enhancers over the next few weeks.
You may be wondering whatever happened to Louie Zamparini. He's 94, lives in Southern California and refuses to concede much to old age according to the Wall Street Journal. He still works a couple of hours each day in the yard of his Hollywood Hills home, bagging leaves, climbing stairs and, on occasion, trimming trees with a chainsaw. His outlook is reported to be upbeat, even rambunctious.

"I have a cheerful countenance at all times," Zamparini says. "When you have a good attitude your immune system is fortified."

I included this book trailer on an earlier post, but it's worth repeating:

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Stop Whining!

New Year's Eve -- a night to kick back and enjoy. Bring on the new and say farewell to the old. Celebrations can range from reading a book peacefully at home to tooting a party horn on a dance floor in Vegas. This year my husband and I chose dinner at a restaurant followed by a pay per view movie in the comfort of our living room -- quiet and relaxing.

Sounded great to me until we arrived at the restaurant. Naturally it was busy because of the festive holiday. I expected a wait even with reservations and there were all kinds of ways to keep busy -- munching on pretzels at the bar, gazing at the decorations, listening to the music and one of my all time favorites, people watching. Unfortunately, the woman who stood behind me didn't see it that way.

She felt the need to let everyone within earshot know that her feet hurt from standing so long. She was convinced a party who came in after her was seated before her. Not knowing what to do about this catastrophe, she decided to drone on about it. Then she went on about a rumor she heard that the food quality at this dining establishment had gone down hill. There's more, but I think you get the idea. I was so relieved when we were seated far away from this high pitched whine. I feared that my welcome into the new year might go like this (from The Whiners on Saturday Night Live):

Some people are trapped in a downward spiral of negativity. The complaining starts and doesn't stop. The good news is it only takes a moment to turn it around. Just Google: for great suggestions.

What works best for me?

Number one, taking a minute everyday to be thankful for the things I could take for granted. Things like health, a job, a home, food. It immediately puts me in a positive mood. When something minor happens, like waiting in the checkout line at the grocery store while the person in front of me searches for a credit card, it doesn't seem to matter. It's such a small inconvenience compared to real problems.

What really makes me kick back and be grateful however, is when I see someone who has a major issue and defies it. A person who has so many reasons to be downtrodden, but isn't. Stephen Hawking reminded me of this when I read an article about his 70th birthday celebration this past week. Hawking was diagnosed with motor neuron disease at 21 and was given only a few years to live. So much for that prognosis. During the 49 years since then, Hawking has spent his life crippled in a wheelchair and able to speak only through a computer. Despite this, the theoretical physicist's quest for the secrets of the universe has made him one of the most famous scientists in the world. For anyone who doesn't know about Stephen Hawking, watch:

When asked about his disability, Hawking said, "The human race is so puny compared to the universe that being disabled is not of much cosmic significance."

That's what I call positive thinking.

Happy Birthday Stephen Hawking!

Read more:

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Do What You Love

Be positive. Do what you love. I came upon this video and had to share it with you. Just do it!!!

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Sunday, January 1, 2012

A Positive Attitude = Success

I write novels as a hobby. I love creating characters, putting them into troublesome situations then figuring out how to save them. The problem with this pastime is, I can't really show off my handiwork. It's not like I can hang my novel on the wall for people to admire like a painter does with her work of art. My books are spending their time gathering dust in a Microsoft Word file. My husband tells me to simply enjoy the creative process and let it be. Good advice, but it's sort of like cooking a five course gourmet dinner and having no one come over to enjoy it. Something is missing about that loop. A writer needs readers just like a chef needs eaters and an actor needs an audience.

You may be thinking, why not publish your book?

I'm trying. I've sent out many query letters to literary agents requesting representation. A writer needs one of these sought after individuals so a publisher will pay attention to their manuscript. No luck.

Snicker, snicker. I hear you. You're thinking if your novel is good, you'll be able to get an agent. But that's not the case for me or any unpublished author.

 A.V. ~ Publishing did an interview with a small ‘mom and pop’ literary agency in Colorado. They receive 36,000 query letters a year. From those queries, 896 writers are invited to submit an additional 30 pages. Of those 896 submissions, a handful of full manuscripts are requested. They selected three new writers to represent in 2010. That's less than a one-tenth of one-percent chance of being picked up by a remote agency! If writer takes a novel to NYC, the odds are worse and if a writer does nab an agent, only 50% will end up finding a publisher. Not a good time to break into traditional publishing. To read the interview click here:

Will having a positive attitude get me a book deal? Maybe. I also have a Mega Million lottery ticket that is certain to win.

What do I do?

Give up my dream?

Or keep moving forward?

Keep moving forward. I will publish my novel(s) just not through a literary agent. I don't have the patience to put too much effort into an arena where my chances of success are less than 1/10 of one percent. Let's say I'm a realistic optimist. So what do I do? That's where my Pollyanna spirit shines through. I become my own publisher with the help of's CreateSpace, the booming e-publishing market and community support.

Will I sell books that way? Sure. Lots of people who e-publish and self-publish do. Why not me? It's a decent book and I have loads of energy to market it.

Will I become the next Jodi Picoult?

That is totally up to fate. At this point, all I want is for some people to read and be entertained by my novel and to have a little fun with the marketing endeavor. My happiness does not depend on making it to the New York Times Bestsellers List.

Let's look at the top selling author, John Grisham's journey. Did he write a novel, try to get it published and then mope around until that happened?

John Grisham

First, Grisham had a dream of becoming a professional baseball player then an author.

Grisham figured he was good enough to become an athletic pro after playing baseball for a year at Northwest University. He transferred to Delta State University so he could play for Dave 'Boo' Ferriss, head baseball coach and athletic director. Among other honors, Boo pitched the Boston Red Sox to the American League pennant in the 1940s. It was Boo who convinced Grisham that he was not cut out for baseball and told him to try something else-like books and studying.

Instead of crashing into a depression, Grisham transferred to Mississpi State University in 1975. He studied accounting and went on to become a lawyer. Somewhere during that time, he caught novel fever. He wrote his first two novels, but they were never published.

He began writing his third novel,  A Time to Kill in 1984 while serving in the Mississippi House of Representatives and it was published in1989 by a small press after being rejected by at least 28 publishers. A Time to Kill sold 5,000 copies and was quickly pulled from store bookshelves.

According to Grisham's website the rejection process didn't discourage him. "I never thought of quitting. My attitude was: 'What the heck, let's have some fun.' Honestly, I believe I would've sent it to several hundred people before I would have even thought of giving up."

Talk about the power of positive thinking! 

To help keep the creative juices flowing and his mind off the lengthy process of getting a first book published, Grisham took the advice of his agent and immediately began writing a fourth novel, The Firm, and we all know what happened to that blockbuster. For more click here:

Was a positive attitude the foundation of Grisham's success? I never asked him or met him so I can only speculate. Based on his story, I would guess the answer is yes. If he was a pessimist, wouldn't he have given up on writing after his first three novels weren't successful? 

Where is he now with both of his dreams?
  • Author - There are currently over 275 million John Grisham books in print worldwide, which have been translated into 40 languages. Nine of his novels have been turned into films (The Firm, The Pelican Brief, The Client, A Time to Kill, The Rainmaker, The Chamber, A Painted House, The Runaway Jury, and Skipping Christmas), as was an original screenplay, The Gingerbread Man. 
  •  Professional Baseball Player - Although John Grisham never made it to the major leagues, he now serves as the local Little League commissioner in his hometown. The six ballfields he built on his property have played host to over 350 kids on 26 Little League teams.
Adopting a positive attitude about endeavors works. It's been proven over and over again. The good news is it only takes a moment to turn a negative thought into a positive one. Try it.     

A Little Something Extra:

Click on the link below for an NPR story about several authors difficult journeys to success: 

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“Life is short..Live to the fullest..”
                         John Grisham, The Runaway Jury