Tuesday, January 22, 2013


Today I want to write about my dog, Wally.

Wally was a beautiful, big, golden retriever. When we first met him he was a guide dog in-training. My husband, David and I were lucky enough to know the puppy trainers who were going away for a few days and needed a dog sitter. We just got married a year and a half earlier and were working many hours a week, but we both grew up with dogs and loved them, so we jumped at the idea. They instructed us to take Wally everywhere we go; stores, parks, restaurants- everywhere. So, we did. We took Wally to Ikea, the grocery store, and the mall. We even took him to the local sushi restaurant. (They were not happy with us!) But tough. We didn’t care and neither did Wally who just plopped down under the table and took a nap.

Well, Wally was kind enough to fail out of guide dog training. They said he was too soft-- which is code for the perfect dog for us.
The puppy trainers couldn’t take him, so they recommended that we get Wally-if we wanted him.
Are you kidding?? Of course we wanted him! The sweet, too-soft, 95-pound ball of fur was ours!
We were so excited. At last our house felt like a home!
Coming back from work was awesome. Wally was always waiting at the door with his tail wagging and tongue slobbering. It was heaven!
We went to the park, out on hikes and walks-anywhere we could with him. He no longer had the guide dog vest, so no sushi, but that was fine. He didn’t mind hanging out at home.
Three months later we found out I was pregnant---with twins! Surprise!
Wally watched out for me and made sure I was okay. When David traveled for work, Wally was my guard dog. (He had a huge bark- but absolutely no bite- just lots of licks!)
I was on bed rest with the twins for six weeks and he never left my side.
He was my hero.
Abby and Josh were born and they were tiny, but our 95 lb. dog was so gentle. Nothing was going to happen on his watch! He licked them gently, let them play on him, and only stole some of their food. He was also the best cheerio vacuum cleaner. Danny came five years later and Wally loved him just as much. Our family was complete.

Years passed and Wally started to get older. He had painful arthritis, his vision was poor and his hearing was even starting to go- but Wally never complained. He’d always follow me up and down the stairs, but the stairs were getting harder for him. I had to trick him to stay downstairs and run really fast to get whatever I needed so he wouldn’t follow me up. That only worked some of the time.
Every time I came home, there he was, sleeping near the door. He’d get up when he saw me and give me a cuddle and then lay down again. My doggy was getting old and I didn’t like it one bit.

On December 23, 2012, we got home from an errand and Wally couldn’t walk. I prayed that he was just tired, but he was no better in the morning. The unthinkable was happening and I couldn’t deny it. I was sick, couldn’t talk with laryngitis, and I was devastated. My dog, my guard, confidant, pillow, and especially my friend was dying and there was nothing I could do about it.

It’s almost been a month and I’m still sad. I know I will always miss Wally.
In the past, when there was something on my mind, I’d write it out. So, here it is.
Wally had a great life. He gave us 14 happy years. We are so thankful for every one of those years. Now, we have memories (and still golden retriever fur around the house somehow!)

Thanks for listening. Cherish everyday with your pet. Love them and let them love you. That’s all they really want to do!

Have a wonderful, tail-wagging week.


Saturday, August 11, 2012

SCBWI Summer Conference

So many times I have thought about my blog. I’ve had fantastic ideas swirling around in my brain. I’ve had so many experiences worthy of a blog post. I guess the time wasn’t right. Now it is. I think with writing, as with anything creative, there are peaks and valleys. Times when words flow through your finger tips straight onto the keys on the computer so fast you can hardly keep up with them. Those times are fun and exciting. 
But there are also times of drought. The drought usually is because of outside circumstances: family, health, job. You know, life.
But when the drought is over, when the words come, that’s where the magic happens. We all love magic, don’t we!

August 3rd through 6th of this year I feel as if I’ve had a rebirth.
The SCBWI Summer Conference was here in Southern California. I had been looking forward to it for months and I’m happy to report that it didn’t disappoint. In fact, it did more for me than I expected. I taught me the craft, making me a stronger writer. It inspired me to write a book that the “younger me” would want to read. It reminded me that in order to succeed, you need to sit down and write, to finish the story. I love take home messages. You know, one liners. Here are some of my favorites that I wrote down in my notes. There were so many, and so many times I listened with my whole body, no notes taken. Those words of wisdom are stuck in my brain, sorry, I can’t share them. But here are some good ones:
Ari Lewin said explaining a world is boring. Use characterization to set up the world or the scene. A writer needs to convince readers that they want to go on a journey. Great advice, huh. Here’s another one.
Karen Cushman said that sometimes you need to climb inside you story, be receptive to inspiration, it may come even when you’re far from your chair. Two of her rules were 1. Tell the truth (connect with emotions) and 2. Write from your heart, with passion.
Arthur Levine said to find something in your story that’s unique, then he went on to answer many questions from the group with patience, clarity, and honesty.
Gary Schmidt gave the final keynote speech. I loved so much of what he said like to “give the kids more to be a human being with.” 
He had 5 words of wisdom:
1.Love words.
2.Love the world.
3.Ask questions.
4.Pay attention.
5.Does the writing serve?
Love, question, attention, and serve. This is what we’re giving our readers, the children that will pick up the books and go on the journey we create. They are who we write for, and that’s the most important thing to remember.

Lin Oliver has a way of taking 1,200 people in a hotel conference hall and making them a community, a tribe. I have spoken to her in the past and she is so real, honest, caring, and loving. Stephen Mooser was wonderful and I think I know how he broke his arm, but I’m not 100% sure.
The agents, editors, and accomplished authors were so available and willing to help us “pre-published” authors on our road to publishing. I love that, pre-published” ha- I guess that’s similar to when I was pre-med. Not a doctor yet, don’t let me do surgery on you-but I’ll get there. And I did with medicine. So, with hard work, a great story, and a little bit of luck, I’ll get to drop that “pre” one day, and get published.

I actually haven’t written about the most important part of the conference. The lectures were fantastic, that’s for sure. But I met some wonderful people. Writers that are like me. They have families and crazy lives too. They understand what it’s like to sit down in the chair and write for hours. They know how exciting it is to write a scene that is so good we want to jump up and down. They know rejection. They know that when people ask you what you do, and you say that you write, those people don't understand why. They know why. They have doubts if they’ll ever get published. These people are like me and I love them.
They are my writer friends. They are my community.
Throughout this year when I’m sitting alone and writing, I’m really not alone.
That’s what the summer conference gave me.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart.


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Picking Daisy Deadheads

I just spent the last two hours, yes two hours picking daisy dead heads off one of the two daisy plants in my front yard. Of course, I was thinking to myself, here I am a doctor with years of schooling and I have so many things to do, write, blog clean, cook, shop, put pictures in a photo album, ha-ha, so many things and I’m sitting here picking dead heads. blah blah blah.

Why? I asked myself.
To make it pretty.
Because the plant needs it.

Well, isn’t that why we do anything? We want to make our life pretty, or happy or joyful, and of course we have to accomplish a need.
Not even close to half way through this first plant, I get the big cutters out from the garage and start to trim some of the plant away - the overgrowth that really doesn’t need to be there in order to make the plant pretty.
It cleans the plant up a bit and makes my life easier by decreasing the number of dead head that I have to pick. It’s getting rid of the unnecessary. Guess what. The beauty is still there. Actually, the plant is even more beautiful.
My hands are dirty and the dirt has gotten under my fingernails and I’ll probably have remnants of the daisy plant in my nails long after a long, hot shower; but, when I go outside and look at the daisy plant, I’ll smile.
Of course, there still is more dead heads, and I still have to clean up the other daisy plant. These things are never done. But right now, I can look at the one daisy plant and see beauty. See beauty that I helped to bring out.

I guess when I pick dead heads I think. I think about my life and how it’s so much like me picking dead heads off the daisy bush. With every pick, life is my beautiful. But the work is never done. I have to keep on picking, keep on working to find that beauty, knowing that there’s a whole other plant right behind me waiting for my time and energy. Our work is never done. But our work is important. Beauty in life is important.
Sometimes I feel like taking those big cutters and cutting the whole bush down and maybe plant something easier to take care of, lower maintenance. And maybe I will someday. But today, I pick daisies and with dirt under my fingernails, I look at the job accomplished and smile.

Appreciate the beauty of today.
Work hard to achieve your own beauty.
The job is never completely done, the daisies bud, bloom, and then die. There are always new daisies growing.

So, here I go, picking the daisy dead heads, enjoying the beauty and knowing that any small or large job is worth the work.

Soon, I'll get to write, blog, clean, cook, work, help the kids, etc. and I’ll try find beauty in those things too.
Look around; see the beauty in the world.

Have a Beauty-filled day in all you accmplish,

Monday, April 23, 2012

How Do You Handle Stress?

My six-year-old son had baseball practice this past Friday night. Afterwards, many of us went to a family friendly restaurant in our town. Believe it or not, even though it was after 7pm, our eight boys were all sitting and chatting and actually being really good. The adults and older kids were talking-it was all going really well.
Or so we thought . . .
This older gentleman came into our walled off area with fists clenched and red faced and started yelling at us. He said how the children were being terrible and how we were all irresponsible parents for allowing our children to behave so badly.
Honestly, we were all shocked. We had been impressed with the kids. It was so late and the food was taking a long time to get there, and they were sitting and playing. This man was not only attacking our kid’s behavior, but our character as well.
What should we have done at that point?
Should we have yelled back?
Should we have tried to ignore him, hoping he would just vanish in midair?
Should we have complained to the manager?
Or, maybe we should have gone to his table and start a fight, attacking his family or friend’s character and behavior.
What would you have done?
I’d like to say we spoke with the manager who handled it quietly and tastefully and everyone shook hands, the man apologized and we all laughed about it.
Unfortunately, that’s not what happened. There was a little yelling back and forth, and then the manager was notified. We never got an apology and I’m actually not sure what the man was so up in arms about. Happily, the boys didn’t hear any of this and they continued having a great time together.
I assume the man had a bad day or was unhappy about something in his life. We’ve all been there; we’re upset and take it out on the closest target, which I guess was us that night.
But it got me thinking. Life is hard. How do we deal with these hardships without scapegoating others around us?
Well, no surprise what I usually do when I’m sad, upset, or have a lot on my mind. I write. Writing it all out helps me deal with it better.
Some people work out, or shop, or drink, or even sleep.
How do you handle your stress and how would you have handled this man’s attack?
Life can be hard sometimes. I think that in order to get through it in the most fulfilling way, we need to grab onto the positive, work hard to be happy and successful in whatever you do, and laugh it out. As they say, laughter is the best medicine. Maybe we should have just told that man a joke, for example, my favorite:
So, this guy walks into a bar . . . OUCH!

Sorry, but I do love that one.  Ha ha.

Have a wonderful, laughter-filled and as stress-free as possible day.

Be kind to each other,

Sunday, April 1, 2012

April Fools

Hi! I’m back.

What a break I took from my poor, neglected blog.

It’s been a whirlwind of a March and I blinked and it’s April. How in the world did that even happen?
My husband, David and I went on a quick trip to Arizona to celebrate my cousin’s daughter’s wedding. We literally were gone for less than 24 hours! But I was so happy to go! What a beautiful wedding. The couple looked so happy. I got to visit with family that I don’t see often enough. I did the things I love to do: dance, laugh, eat, and drink.
It reminded me about a piece of advice someone gave me before my wedding almost 14 years ago. They told me to take a moment a few times during the wedding to look around, be present, and really feel the love, see the people, appreciate the sights and sounds. So many times, an event happens after months of planning and darts by before you know it. I think life can be that way too.
We blink and months go by, a year flies by.
Did we even experience it?
Life is so busy.
Kids need to be driven here and there. Groceries need to be bought. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner need to be made, eaten and cleaned up. Wash needs to be folded and put away, Work happens Monday, Tuesday, all of a sudden it’s Friday. School, homework . . .
We need to live life-life should not get to live us!
Breathe. Count 1, 2, and 3. Breathe again.
I’m ready for life now.
I’m ready to appreciate the experiences: good and bad.
(Although I prefer good, please)
I’m not going to be the April fool this time. Are you?

I know this is a short blog post this time.
But, I have a lot more to say.
We will be talking soon!

Enjoy life,

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Best Face Forward

For my 18th birthday, my parents asked me what I wanted. I said I wanted a makeover. You know, have some person tell me what make-up colors look good for my skin and eye color and how to apply it to my face. That kind of thing.
So, we went to this local woman who had me sit down in front of a magnifying mirror and started looking at my face. The only thing I remember from that day was one comment she made. She was shaking her head as she was studying my face and said, “You know, you really shouldn’t smile so much because you are starting to get laugh lines around your mouth.”
I started to laugh. I thought she was kidding. Not smile? Are you for real? What’s the point of life if you don’t smile and laugh?
Thankfully, I didn’t take her sage advice. And yes, I do have some laugh lines, which I’m proud of, usually. (Although some creams wouldn’t hurt to lessen them a little. Is that shallow?)

I think that’s why those Beverly Hills housewives look so strange to our eyes, or at least mine. It’s not that they’ve had Botox or plastic surgery, I’ll support anything that makes a person feel good about themselves. It’s because they went a little too far. They cut away their individuality. They cut away the things that make them unique, different, special. Now they all look the same. Some have brown hair with long hair extensions and some have blonde hair with long hair extensions, and they all have the same wide-eyed, permanent smiling faces-even when they’re not smiling. Their face is pulled so tightly that they can’t seem to look relaxed.

I think it does pertain to writing. We all don’t want our novels to look the same. We want our stories to have laugh lines and maybe even some grey hairs. We want depth. We want to feel that our characters had to work through their lives. We want to care.
Maybe that’s one of the things, (the many things), that made Harry Potter so interesting. His scar made him different, not perfect, but even more, it made him special. We wanted him to be victorious. We cheered for him- our flawed, courageous underdog.

So, just like my 18-year-old self laughed at this crazy woman who told me to smile less, we should see that when a character is too perfect, or too refined, it gives the feeling of a shallow and superficial story that is difficult to embrace.   
Show your characters’ faults. The reader will care and will root for you and your characters’ success. Isn’t that what we want from our reader?

We have to be able to grow up. Our wrinkles are our medals of the passage of life. They are what we have been through and who we want to be.

With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come.

Love yourself- laugh lines and all!