“Move the bucket out of the sun or you’ll cook them.”
Huh! Good advice. My daughter and I were clambering across the rocks at the beach in Tahoe testing our skills at catching crawfish. It is an annual tradition, dating back to when I was a kid scurrying across these very same rocks. We were not alone… a dad and his two kids (the overhear was directed at them) were doing their best with nets and lunchmeat. It was time to take some drastic measures. Crawfish are far too clever for that method so I offered them the string and hot dogs we were using.
We, the father and I, watched them fish waiting for sure success. But, while they caught a bunch of little minnows, the crawfish eluded them. I was prepared to be disappointed for them until I looked into their smiling faces
and was reminded that it is not the destination, but the journey, that matters.Journeys Inspired by Love
– I have lived with this tagline for so long now that I sometimes forget why I picked it. Goals and dreams are important. They inspire and motivate. But too often in my own past I have become so caught up in pursuing them that I have forgotten to enjoy the journey getting there.
One of my favorite bloggers, Chris Guillebeau, wrote a great post today on deciding if what you are doing is Worth it All
. Part of making the decision requires visualizing your future self after having completed the goal. It sounds easy but in fact I think this is more difficult than we might imagine. If I have framed my goal of being published purely in terms of the recognition or money I might receive I am sure to feel ready to give up along the way. However, I look at what I have written…. Jessica’s journey to renew her passion for life, Gabriella’s journey to live the faith she espouses, Ryan’s journey to really, truly find love again, and I know that my goal is about much, much more than the rewards at some distant date. It is about sharing their story with my readers; real people who may be facing similar journeys and looking for their own inspiration along the way.
This is why comments and reviews are so
critical to writers. They remind us that what we do matters. Thanks for being part of my journey. I promise to not forget about you and cook you along the way.Deanne
“Can someone please help me?”
In the distance a call rang out, someone had not attacked the zipline and were paying the price by hanging in the middle, waiting for a guide to come pull them to the platform. Ha! Silly person. All you had to do was make sure to give a good push and anyone could make it to the other side.
Less than two minutes later I sat, 10 feet away from the platform, waiting for my own guide to come help me. As they say, pride goweth before a fall, but fortunately it was only my ego that was damaged. The treetop course was more challenging than I had assumed, and over the next two hours I would have plenty more opportunities to look silly, struggle to reach my goal, and find new depths of humility. I would also laugh more than I had in a long time, help my friends and allow myself to be helped, watch our kids tackle amazing heights and be surrounded by the beauty that is Tahoe.
The very best overhear of all, after we had finished our time and were getting ready to leave, was when the littlest kid in our group turned to her mom and said, “What are we doing tomorrow? Can we come back and do it again.”
I am pretty sure we all felt the same way.
“It’s like you're trekking.”
With one of the chair lifts out of commission, and many of the runs closed, you would think our day of skiing would not have been much to talk about. Instead, though, the sun was out, the views were great, and I got to experience the concept of back country skiing as a guide led us across a run where at times we had to take off our skis and hike over patches of dirt.
The best experiences in my life, especially when I am travelling, always seem to occur when something unexpected changes my plan. Getting lost in Italy, finding myself without a hotel room in San Francisco, a car malfunction in England... these situation have led to my stepping outside my comfort zone and relying on the generosity / help of others. And, when I get that chance to interact with locals, be they foreign or domestic, I usually get a much better understanding of the place I am visiting.
I suppose this is why solitary beach vacations don’t do a lot for me. It is not so much that I need to be active as that I like to be involved. In fact, I am currently intrigued by the idea of a working vacation…though I know these aren’t always as useful as they are promoted to be (see this article from Conde Nast Traveler
My husband doesn’t feel this need like I do, and so vacation planning is always a negotiation for us. Even when I go someplace like Hawaii, I tend to spend quite a bit of time chatting with my fellow- travelers; or better yet, with locals in restaurants or shops. How do they like living where they do? What do they
do for fun? Have they ever visited where I am from? And if so, what did they think of it? I imagine it is like what a photojournalist must feel when they
travel… a moment that is shared even if it is not fully understood. (Link here
to one of my new favorite t.v. shows Word Travels, about being a travel journalist.)
Hiking across those dry patches was just a moment of my day…and for the others simply a means to get to a lift that was otherwise inaccessible. But for me, it was the highlight of my ski trip.
“Perfect. I was looking for the right person for this extra hot cocoa.”
We were visiting the Ritz Carlton for a behind the scenes tour of their kitchens but ended up with a once in a lifetime experience of service; and we weren’t even guests of the hotel.
Let me step back and explain how we arrived there. Spending Thanksgiving week in Tahoe we were looking for fun things to do around the area when we stumbled across this, free, kitchen tour. No questions asked the Ritz put us down for the visit at 3:00.
Located on the hillside above the Northstar Resort, the only parking optionwas through the valet at $20. Yikes… did we have a choice? Not really, but after expressing our concern, the valet offered to park our car, with our dog inside, in the heated garage at a much reduced parking rate.
Having arrived early we wandered around the lobby and were ultimately drawn by the huge windows which looked out over a massive fire pit, and in the distance, the ski slopes. I ordered a warm drink and while my husband and daughter had a quick snowball fight, sat at the fire pit enjoying the warmth and the view.
When it was time for our kitchen tour we went to their Flagship restaurant, Manzanita, created by famed chef, Tracy des Jardins. “Do not touch anything,” I warned my daughter, who immediately reached out to see if the huge, wooden bowl sitting at the bar was real. No problem… as I scolded her, the bartender, Tamaniqua, came over and told us that there was a ton of wood all over the hotel and everyone loved touching it. What did my daughter think of how it felt?
Moments later, Anthony, the Executive Sous Chef came over and began our tour, which covered much more than I had imagined. Vats of soup and homemade stock simmering in the catering kitchen, two huge walk in fridges,
thousands of square feet of prepping area, introductions to many of the chefs preparing for meals coming out of two restaurants and the catering area; the tour took 45 minutes and had us all entranced. At one point my daughter noticed a big bin of pre-wrapped s’more bundles. Anthony told us that every day at 4:00 the marshmallogists showed people how to create the perfect s’more out at the fire pit. Then he handed my daughter her own bundle so she could be prepared.
It wasn’t only Anthony who gave us his full attention. Along the way, any staff who ran into us greeted us warmly and asked what we thought, as though we were professional food critics. It was one of these staff members who
handed over this extra hot chocolate referred to in the overhear. My daughter was dazed, it was like magic to her. And at the end of the tour, after being shown the perfect cut from a huge halibut and the crackling duck fat in the open Manzanita kitchen, we met the managers of the restaurant who greeted my husband by name and reiterated the invitation to the marshmallogy.
Later, after we had roasted our marshmallows and picked up our car with our nice warm dog inside, we talked about our experience with each other. I explained that there are many hotels out there that will treat you well if you are dressed in designer clothes or have the last name Kardashian, but only a truly great hotel knows how to make every single guest, even the smallest among them, feel like a star.
This had hit home for me while we were roasting marshmallows. The marshmallogist had asked the kids there what they liked best about the hotel. There were the normal answers of the skiing, the pool, the game-room, but when a seven year old answered the bed, and another child said the food, I knew this was a hotel I would save my pennies to return to… as a guest.
Impressing adults is one thing but impressing a child is practically holy.
“Donkeys will only walk if they can see the end point.”
Now… I can’t vouch for how true this is. I did a bit of research and couldn’t find it on the internet anywhere. But, I can see that it could be true.
The discussion stemmed from something we learned while on a mine tour in Virginia city earlier this week: Donkeys were used in the mines because, 1. They were smaller than horses but 2. Apparently you only need to show a
donkey how to do something one time and they will then repeat it. I’m not sure if this means they are clever or stupid… but I DO know I often wish my child had this characteristic.
As to seeing an end point… many experts talk about this as the ideal goal setting technique. Breaking a larger goal up into manageable chunks is far more likely to be successful than attempting to tackle the entire thing at one time.
This, in fact, was how I began writing. It is a daunting idea to consider writing a publishable novel as a brand new writer. Instead… my only goal was to finish. It didn’t matter what I wrote, I simply wanted to know I could write an entire novel. My next goal was to learn to edit it… then to market it… then to publish it. And I continue to set goals using that book, BETTING JESSICA, but only attainable ones; like figuring out more about how Kindle works by pulling my book down, editing it, and re-publishing it.
And as I am on vacation right now, my end-point for my blog would be exactly… here!
“Crikey, that dog looks just like Sirius Black.”
The huge black dog lugged itself out of the little stream while we and our visiting friends from England quickly scampered out of its way. It looked entirely gentle (unlike Padfoot), but none of us wanted to be in its line
of fire when it began to shake.
Having our British friends visiting is like living in an episode of Harry Potter. The reference for all things, especially to the 7 year old, is either the book, the film or the studio tour
they recently went on in Leavesden, England.
Our daughter’s request for rainbow sherbet leads to a question of its similarity to Dumbledore’s favorite candy, lemon sherbet. A ride in the car on the road up the mountain involves a comparison of the Weasley’s flying Ford
Anglia. This is a family you would never want to play the Harry Potter trivial pursuit game with!
The good news is that I am a fan…. both of Harry Potter and of my wonderful British friends. The even better news is that every little tidbit they drop goes into my running inventory of British expressions for use in my next novel. Something which is almost as good as being able to apparate over to England… and certainly much more useful than being able to transform into a humongous, hairy, black dog.
The animal actor and the
“Is this lunch or dinner?”
“Neither, it’s Happy Hour.”
… At which point my husband and I broke down in hysterics. The irony of our answer was lost on my daughter, who was in one of those places where nothing was going to make her happy.
We were sitting in a beautiful spot, overlooking the Lake, on our last night in Tahoe and trying desperately to enjoy our drink, if not our time.
Ahhh summer…. A time of ice cream trucks, water fights, and whining. They go together like peas and carrots and
When can I watch TV?
Are we doing anything fun today?
I don’t want to go to the grocery store.
Are we there yet?
The complaints are never ending and are set up so that by the time September rolls around we are more than ready to get up at 6:00 a.m. again and send our little loves out into the world of school. (Sigh, give me a moment to dream about this….. ok, I’m back)
Don’t get me wrong; I love the extra time I get to spend with her when she isn’t whinging about something. I love watching her build a huge lego tennis court (after we have insisted that 8:00 a.m. is far too early to begin watching tv). And I really love being able to get outdoors bike riding or playing on the street with friends and neighbors (when the Portland rain finally lets up).
It’s just that, like most parents, I wish we could do all this without the drama that prefaces it.
However I may have discovered a solution… A friend recently returned home from a family visit to their parent’s farm in South Dakota. The kids learned, when they arrived there, that there were no computers, Wii, video games and you could only watch channel by channel on the tv. After the first few days of pain, the kids finally gave in, accepted it, and would simply go outside as soon as they got up in the morning. So next year we are definitely
vacationing at a farm!
Even without any fancy drinks involved it sounds like the very happiest happy-hour of all.
Happy 4th of July to all my friends!
God Bless the USA.
“It’s the evil crawfish explosion.”
One of the joys of visiting Lake Tahoe in the summer is fishing for crawfish (aka crawdads) along the rocks of the shore. Yesterday we were hanging out at the beach admiring the bucket load a family had caught and they offered to give us one for our sand bucket. My daughter was thrilled…after finding a dead crawdad on the beach earlier, it was nice for her to see a live one.
Later that day, as we packed up to go home, I walked with her over to the rocks so we could set the little crawdad free again. Along the way we ran into the boys who had caught the original bucketful. They had set most of the little guys loose already. But, unfortunately for this one remaining crustacean, they had come up with a game where they dumped sand on top of it in the bucket then tipped the bucket over and waited for the crawfish to climb his
way out.. I asked if they thought the crawfish liked this and they said he had already done it a lot of times and was
What had been such a lovely memory from my childhood became tainted by the sight of the poor crawfish struggling for freedom and, earlier, the dead crawfish sticking out of the sand. It reminded me of the recent YouTube video where the old woman was bullied on the bus. A fantastic writer, Charles M. Blow wrote a piece for the New York Times about how that event relates to the society we now live in.: (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/23/opinion/blow-bullies-on-the-bus.html
). Somehow I don’t think Mr. Blow would be at all surprised by the behavior of these two boys.
He wrote… ”It is that part of society that sees the weak and vulnerable as worthy of derision and animus.”
You would think that in a civilized country we would be teaching our children how to care for, not take advantage of, those who are weaker or less able. Instead, we live in a time when in order to maintain our own powerbase we model
disrespect and intimidation. It is pervasive…. In the video games we play, the political debates we have, and the resources we fight over. And sadly, I think many people have become immune and even callous towards these
There are ways to combat this though. Of course one option is to donate to the vacation fund set up for this bullied woman. But to affect it on a larger scale we can consider donating to an anti-bullying campaign (find some resources for this here: http://ellen.warnerbros.com/2010/10/donate_to_the_anti-bullying_organizations_ellen_supports_1005.php
We can also join many others in the bipartisan effort led by NoLables.com to restore civilized debate and discussion (http://www.nolabels.org/about-us
And certainly we can and should do some reading about the negative effects of violent video games (http://www.apa.org/research/action/games.aspx
But most of all we can stand up for the little guy… every day, even when it is only in a small way, and even if it is
only just a crawfish.
“We don’t say I can’t here; only I don’t want to.”
It’s really not that high…. And the trapeze isn’t as far away as it looks, but when you are standing on the top of a 5 inch round log, with nothing to hold onto and only air surrounding you it seems like the most impossible obstacle in the world.
Obstacles are funny that way; I suppose if they didn’t seem impossible they would just be called play-structures. The ropes course at Squaw Valley
challenges you to face the thoughts that tell you something is impossible (although it doesn’t really do anything about the inner voice shouting‘this is crazy’
Writers face plenty of these obstacles as they go through their journey. Some of them are entirely internal (you’ll never be able to finish it)
, and others are voiced openly and with such confidence you assume they must be true (do you know how impossible it is to get an agent
And the funny thing is, I have found it doesn’t really help when eventually you do get published (because, believe me, if you stick to it, you will). Then the inner voice says something like, (no one will like your work
) and the external ones talk all about the impossibility of making a living at writing.
Listening to these voices it is easy to forget that the reason I started writing was because I loved it. Rather than the sheer joy of writing, the obstacles begin to look like the purpose for my work.
At the top of a 100 foot tall pine tree I was so intent on ringing the bell that proved I had reached the top that I completely forgot to look at the beautiful scenery surrounding me. And ultimately that is the biggest problem with using the word can’t
; I become so focused on overcoming the obstacle that I forget I am actually there because I want
“I wish they would still let us light a fire in the fireplace…. Early summer nights can get cold here.”
We’d just finished our tour of Vikingsholm
and were talking with the wonderful park ranger who had provided such great information on the beautiful old house.
As a child I’d spent my summers at Lake Tahoe, and it was a family tradition to hike down to Vikingsholm and have a picnic there. So I remember the spot fondly and was so glad to finally be able to share it with my own family. But even more, I loved taking our hike because it was the first time I had gone back since using it as the setting for one of the scenes in Betting Jessica
I recently wrote a guest blog post for Romancing the Genres
where I describe why I love to write contemporary fiction. I enjoy being able to use things I observe or overhear or past experiences. The scene from Betting Jessica
is a perfect example of this.
On one of our trips when I was young a terrible storm came up and began raining and then hailing on us as we were half way down the mountain. My mom had us hold towels over our heads to keep the stone sized hail from hurting
and we ran down the mountain until we reached the castle. When we arrived there we found all of the visitors huddled inside and they quickly made room for us.
As I took the tour my memories of that experience overlapped with the story I had created. I asked the park ranger if the fireplace was ever used, and this led to us talking about that childhood experience so long ago. I explained that I remembered a fire being lit in the fireplace and at some point the ranger pulling out his guitar and leading the storm hostages in song. She told me that although the fireplace was no longer used, she had heard stories about the previous ranger playing his guitar and sometimes having a fire there.
Fortunately, Betting Jessica
is fictionalized because when they arrive at the castle after encountering a similar hailstorm they are able to have an intimate moment sitting on the hearth in front of the fire… something that couldn’t actually happen at Vikingsholm today.
Still… as I stood there, getting ready to shoot a YouTube video for my fans, Erik and Jessica were as real to me as the ghost of my past self.
Main room at Vikingsholm
with fireplace in the background.