Thursday, March 1, 2018

Follow Me

Oh follow me, follow me...
I'll no longer be blogging here. I've moved to a new home, and I'll hope you'll follow me... Click on the link to go to my website!


Deborah Small




Saturday, January 20, 2018

Friends

Enjoyed a good discussion with one of my children today, regarding friends. Specifically, how to manage competing interests. One friend wants to do one thing, another something else, and another nothing at all; how to balance that to please the majority, while also remembering to prioritize personal well-being. Good question. And one I hardly feel qualified to answer.

Growing up, I had one close friend. One person I hung out with 90% of the time. The other 10% I was either up to my elbows in household chores, or horse, chicken, and rabbit dung. More often than not, my friend helped me get my livestock chores out of the way, because we were in some instances partners--we each owned rabbits and chickens and caged them on my property, bred the bucks and does, hens and roosters, and sold the kits and chicks at auction--and because in exchange for helping, my friend had exclusive access to ride one of my horses. But time changes everything. And everyone.

By the time we were eighteen, we each had serious boyfriends. From different backgrounds and friend groups. My parents had separated, and my mom sold my childhood home; I had to sell most of my animals, taking with me only one horse (boarded out) and my dog. My friend and I hung out less often, wrapped up as we were in our new boyfriends and their family/social groups. Not to mention full-time jobs. Eventually, we each married our respective boyfriends, and our visits were even less frequent. Then I had kids. She didn't. My marriage broke up. Hers didn't. She had kids. I remarried and moved away. Had more kids. My friend and I went from hanging out daily in elementary and high school, to not seeing or speaking to each other for months. Sometimes a year or more. And yet, when we did finally manage to coordinate our personal and family schedules to visit, it was like we'd never been apart. That's friendship.

The same is true with most of those people I consider true friends. 
Me and one of my life-long friends.
Not the one mentioned in the post.

We don't talk or text every day. We don't hang out every weekend. And we're not all in the same group. Or lifestyle circumstances.

My friends are spread out. Only two live within ten minutes of me. The others are anywhere from an hour, to twelve hours away. Some are married or in long-term relationships. Others single. I see some more often than others. And they all mean the world to me.

Friendship isn't about how much time you spend together, or how you spend that time. Friendship is in the heart. It's a feeling, and it can't be charted.

I've made mistakes with regards to friendship. Looking back with age and wisdom, I realize people I thought were close friends, were actually, In The Moment Friends. Meaning, that in that moment in our lives, we needed each other. We each served a purpose for the other, providing emotional or physical support. Shared lifestyle. Children of similar age, or on the same sport's team. And when that moment in our lives passed, or we outgrew the need for the other person's support, developed new interests or hobbies, or entered a different stage in our life where that person no longer easily fit, or filled a necessary role, like a black hole collapsing inward, the relationship imploded. It happens.

What I also learned, is that true friends forgive. They actively strive to resolve differences. As my childhood best friend and I did. Many, many, times. 

We threw rocks at each other. And hurtful names. Hung up on each other. Refused to answer the phone when the other called. And yet somehow, we always found our way back to each other. Our way back to putting our friendship above petty differences.

So, when it comes to managing competing differences among friends, I have no hard, fast answer. I don't know that there is an answer.

I think, however, when you're happy in yourself, in who you are and what you do, you'll attract like-minded friends. People with whom you can safely share and exchange ideas, interests, goals, and dreams; people who support you, or, at the very least, give you the freedom to do what you need to do, to be happy. People unafraid to challenge you if, or when, you veer off path, or attempt to sacrifice important values or goals for less-important or easier diversions; people willing to be honest, and who value your honesty in return. Friends care. Even when you don't do what they want you to. Even when you don't like some of the things they do. Even when you want something they don't. The same is true in reverse.

Friendship is about empowering those you care about to be authentic; to be true to themselves. To their goals. Their dreams. Their values. And perhaps, that's the answer.

Check your values. Do they align with the people you consider friends? Do theirs align with yours?


Our friendships are a reflection of who we are. In the moment. At the time. Where we are in our life. Where we'll end up. Some friendships flow, change, and grow with us our entire lives; others last only until the harvest. The key to recognizing the difference, and appreciating each, is to spend time with and know, nurture, educate, entertain, love and empower, the very best-friend you'll ever have: You.

Deborah

To be capable of steady friendship or lasting glove are the two greatest proofs, not only of goodness of heart, but of strength of mind. ~William Hazlitt












Thursday, December 28, 2017

Beginnings, Endings, Betas and the SPCA

Wow. What a year. Many significant milestones: a 75th birthday, a couple of 50s; and a 30th wedding anniversary. Throw in a couple of out-of-town concerts and work-related travel, and we were gone more than we were here, which meant for a lot of fun visits with family and friends. Toss in a couple of hospital stays for me, and it was a well-rounded year, that's for sure.

On the writing front, I sent one manuscript off to an editor, and another out to Beta Readers. Sadly, none of the Betas got back to me (which does a real number to one's confidence. Fortunately, I've been in this business long enough to learn to soldier on). The editor, on the other hand, did a great job, and I've been reworking MS with her insights in mind, with a mind to publishing this year. I also want to get the sequel out (and in a twist of fortuitous fate, just yesterday I had an offer from two people willing to Beta read, so I sent it off to them today. Fingers crossed!), so that is my work-toward for 2018.

When not completing final polish or revisions, I'll be completing the third book in the above series, My Forever Love, featuring Maggie and Joe. I'll also be researching cover artists (or Photoshop) and developing a publishing plan and schedule, among other businessey things. I'm looking forward to it, to stretching my wings and expanding my knowledge and skill-set.

In the old days (pre-Amazon), writers working towards publication finished manuscripts and mailed query letters to editors and agents, seeking someone willing to take them, and their work on. It could take months, if not years, to find an agent or editor willing to take on a new writer, and more months if not years for that book (or a different one if the first failed) to actually make it to print. That's still true for many writers. For others, those who choose to self-publish, it's quicker.

Self-publishing offers a certain freedom traditional publishing does not. It's also brutally challenging.

Trad published writers have, as part of their royalty-paid publishing contract, no upfront costs to have in-house editors scar up their manuscripts; copy-editors proof the final version; proof-readers ensure the first few rounds of edits and copy-edits missed nothing; cover artists to create covers to House specifications; publicity arms to market the book; distributors to get it into the hands of readers. Self-published authors can get all that help, too. Provided they can afford it.

That is the biggest challenge self-pubbed authors face: upfront costs. Which is why Beta Readers are so valuable.

Having a few sets of different eyes on a manuscript before it goes off to an editor means an author has an opportunity to work out the worst of the kinks and confusion, before having to pay a professional editor to slash, dice, and dissect a manuscript. The less work an editor, and then copy-editor, has to do, the less expensive it is for the author. Betas are Golden. They see the manuscript in its fledgling form; their opinions/initial impressions/keen eyes and bewildered "huh?"s offer authors a chance to see the book as others see it. Not as the author sees it.

By the time I'm ready to send a manuscript to a reader, I've stopped seeing the problems. Otherwise I wouldn't send it. I'm too close to the story, to the characters, to the structure. I can't see the forest for the trees. I'm like the Crazy Cat Lady who doesn't notice the litter box odor permeating the house or cat hair festooning every level surface; I see only my precious kitties. Beta readers are the SPCA.

They come in, and wrinkle their nose, mutter "yuck" as they step on and around fresh and dried hairballs; collect saucers of hardened wet food and sour milk to be disposed of. They notice the big Tom lounging in the fruit bowl and skittish kitten squirmed between the fridge and wall. They see the fleas hopping in the carpet, and yellow stains on the wall where that big Tom cat marked his territory. They're the first line of defense in Cat Justice. Editors are the prosecutors. Readers the Judge. And Jury. The End, is just the beginning of a manuscript's journey. Just as 2018 is a new journey for all of us.

Whatever 2017 was like for you, may 2018 be better. May you put into action a plan to achieve whatever your heart dreams of. May good people fill your life. May you be a good people in other people's lives. May you dream a dream, and make that dream happen.

Dream.

Plan.

Execute.

Achieve.

Be who you know you're meant to be.

Be awesome.

Deborah

There is no advancement to him who stands trembling because he cannot see the end from the beginning. ~E.J. Klemme























Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Today is my first grandchild's first birthday. I'm torn between joy, and utter devastation.

You see, my son sent me a couple of videos this week, of my grandson walking. Last I saw my grand baby, he was still trying to find his center, stay balanced without the aid of furniture, someone's hand, or his wheeled push-toy. Now he's toddling the length of my son and DIL's home. Cue laughter. And tears.

My grandson's gone from Surprise, we're pregnant! to a fully actualized little person complete with a life-size personality.

When he's happy, he grins. When he sees something he wants, or that captivates him, he extends his hand, palm up, and "whoos". He loves trees; and anything with wheels, especially if he can push it. Blueberries, raspberries, yogurt, bath time, and the family dog also get high marks. He's less enthusiastic about bedtime and diaper changes. And when he's mad, well, he's mad. There is no doubt in my mind, he is his father's son.

My eldest, too, loved anything with wheels. He still does. His smile lights up a room. And his temper is equal only to... mine. And his father's. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Ask my  mom, who got it from her father. It's a family thing.

That is what devastates me. And buoys me.

I hope to be around to welcome my grandson's firstborn and give thanks for the opportunity to hold the future. There are no guarantees, of course, which is why I intend to make the most of what time I do have with my grandson, and all those I love, for as long as that may be. And when friends, school, sports, and building a life eventually dominates my grandson's time I'll be content to watch from the sidelines, safe in the knowledge that he is weaving new and colorful threads into the ever changing, slightly frayed, and always precious tapestry that is our family.

Happy 1st Birthday, Little One. Grandma loves you.





In youth we learn; in age we understand. ~Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach


























Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Oh Don't You See

A number of people have shared with me in recent weeks how they've struggled over the last few months to feel optimistic, energetic. I've been one of them. We all agreed that the prolonged rain and cold and lack of sun played a big part. But another large player in our overall mood this winter has been the ongoing chaos in the US following the Jan 20th election, chaos that this week appears to be escalating toward war with North Korea.

There isn't a lot many of us can do about that. Not with this administration that seems to have its ear to a completely different ground than the one most of us are living on...

Diversity? LGBT? Tolerance? Health care? World peace? Environment? It's like they all time-traveled here from the 1750s and have no concept of what any of those terms mean. Fortunately, there is a strong force of intelligent, wise, and compassionate people trying to educate them.

People are marching on the WH, and protesting through out the world. Lawyers, and Mayors, and Governors, and other concerned people are fighting irrational and divisive EOs. People are speaking out on Twitter and Facebook. Some are donating to the ACLU, Meals on Wheels, and National Parks, organizations either actively fighting, or in imminent threat from, orders fired down from on high. And don't even get me started on the Russia thing.

In short, this new administration has stirred up a whole world of ugly. And a whole world of amazing unity and strength of purpose dedicated to preserving and protecting not only USA's Rights And Freedoms, but the world's. Lately, in me, the continual barrage of negative news coming out of the WH has stirred up an ear worm: Oh Can't You See, by The Police, only in my mind I changed the opening lines.

Today, in the spirit of procrastination, and I Need To Make Myself Laugh Before I Cry, I rewrote and re-titled the song. Same tune. You're welcome to sing along...


Oh Don't You See
                                                         by Deborah


Every law you break
Every decision you make
Every FL trip you take
Every good thing you raze
We'll be watching you

Every EO you sign
Every single lie
Every tweet let fly
Environmental protection let die
We'll be watching you

Why can't you see
We're a democracy
How our poor hearts ache
With every misstep you make

Every false allegation you raise
Every Russian friend you've made
Every tear you fake
Every heart you break
We'll be watching you

Since you've been Prez, we've lost the faith
We miss 44 even more when we see your face
We plead for Reason, someone wise to take your place
This world's gone cold, needs a happy change
And oh, btw, we're not going away

Oh don't you see
You should be impeached
How our poor hearts ache
With every day you stay

Every missile strike
Every health care assault
Every travel ban
Every single fault
We'll be watching you
Every…



Great men undertake great things because they are great; fools, because they think them easy. ~Vauvenargues

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Robins and Jays, Symbols of Hope

It's the last day of February and snow still dominates the landscape. This is not unusual in most parts of Canada, but in our West Coast region...

The snow started in early December and except for a couple of brief periods, it's hung around causing commuter chaos. Having spent the last twenty years in the Kootenays of BC, I'm used to it. As is my family. We have snow tires. And use them. So getting to and from, for us anyway, has not proven a problem. But, being accustomed to snow, ice, and slippery roads does not mean we--I--enjoy the white stuff. Far from it.

I have Lizard blood. I like it hot. The hotter, the better. Give me a patch of sand, sunglasses, a good book, cold drink, and 38C and I'm in Heaven. Shoveling snow and scraping ice from the windshield is the equivalent of Hell to me. Which is why I was so delighted to see my first Robin this morning!

Photo copyright Deborah Small 2017

Robins, to me, are a symbol of hope. Of Winter waning as Spring gathers strength. Add in a Stellar Jay--

Photo copyright Deborah Small 2017
and I am positively giddy.

The last few weeks have been challenging; I've found myself mired in lethargy, a distracted funk in which the weather played only a small part, the major player being illness, and a certain new President whose agenda, policies, and striking lack of empathy and respect for the people he claims to represent, are as foreign to me as the seemingly corrupt world he inhabits.

But this post isn't about him. It's about the weather. About how Robins and Jays herald the season's change, how dark, cold, and gloomy days eventually give way to warmer, sunnier, brighter ones that eventually extend to weeks, and months of brilliance and abundance. It's about the power of regeneration, the ability of the earth and its creatures to survive, and emerge triumphant from even the longest, harshest winters.

Yes, some creatures perish before spring, whether from old age, infirmity, or lack of sustenance. But the majority survive. Those that do, owe their survival to preparation, stamina, and cooperation...

Squirrels, bears, Jays and bees are just some of the critters that prepare for winter by stocking up. They store food--either externally or within layers of fat--in advance of winter's first snowfall, a reserve to sustain them through the lean months.

Elk, Moose, Cougar are some of the creatures that rely on brute strength and stamina to see them through the long winter months. It takes huge reserves of energy to plow and paw through crusted-snow for dormant grasses and twigs, and to stalk and wrestle to the ground beasts three and four-times one's weight.

Wolves, Deer, Seals, Orcas are some that find strength--sustainability--in numbers; many eyes are better than two when on the look out for predators. Multiple sets of legs, lungs, feet, fins and fangs increase the odds of cornering or running down dinner. And as it appears a long brutal winter is descending on the US, it behooves all of us, throughout the world, to look to our furred, feathered, and finned brethren for clues on how to get through alive:

Prepare for the worst. The black storm clouds on the horizon might prove a brief, wintry blast; it might herald a lengthy blizzard. Stock up, emotionally and financially; gather happy moments, activities, extra cash, and people to your breast and protect them the way a hamster stuffs its cheeks with seeds. Draw on them sparingly in times of need, restore yourself on the sustenance love, laughter, and new adventures provide beleaguered hearts.

Stamina. This is not a Quarter-Horse race. More a mouse's round-the-world marathon. It can't be done in a minute. Or even a day. It's going to--potentially--take years to muddle through, and like the mouse, one must be clever, and alert. Find safe places to curl up and rest, when not attempting to stealthily navigate open fields shadowed by Eagles, and swim swirling rivers churned bloody by spike-toothed carnivorous pike.

Cooperation. Gather like-minded individuals close, and have each other's backs. Always. It's easy to give in to fear, run bleating, or roll-over and play dead when the Eagle swoops, or the Wolves howl; it takes courage to rally with the herd, form a protective circle, each member backed into the other facing out at disaster, the weakest and smallest sheltered at the center. But it's how entire herds manage to defend against, and even scare off, wolf packs, and ravenous cougars. Resistance and persistence, equal existence.

I for one, intend to continue to stock up on my favorite form of sustenance: fun memories made with family and friends, good books, and writing. Always writing. And I'm going to rebuild stamina by getting back into a regular exercise routine. Six-point Elk don't earn their tines wallowing in a mud bath. As for cooperation, that circles back to preparation for me.

My family, and friends, are my herd. And I will face out and fight to death to protect them. Because without them, who am I?

  Holding my grandson for the first time.
Photo copyright Deborah Small 2016


Deborah

The greatest achievement of the human spirit is to live up to one's opportunities and make the most of one's resources. ~ Vauvenargues





Wednesday, January 4, 2017

And then there are grandmas.

There are grandmas. And then there are grandmas.
My maternal grandmother was of the latter variety. Soft in all the right places, gentle, quiet, she was the rock of the family. I loved her dearly.
To me, she was Mum-mum, my name for her from the time I was toddler and she used to look after me while my then single-mother worked. Before I was out of diapers, my mom and stepdad were living together, and mom became a stay-at-home mom. I no longer spent every day with grandma. But I always looked forward to visits with her.
I would plunge in through the carport door, kick off my shoes in the narrow entry that doubled as a coat and laundry room, and dash into the dining room knowing I would find Grandma in her chair at the end of the table, cigarette in hand or smoldering in the ashtray, cup of tea in front of her, her pet Chihuahuas on her lap, the TV tuned to one of her favorite shows. As soon as I raced in, she would stub out her cigarette, shoo the dogs off her lap and to their wicker basket by the door, and allow me to take their place.
I'd clamber up and twist to look at her, maybe earn a peck on the cheek. After a few minutes of patiently answering whatever nattering questions I had, she'd scoot me off her lap, and head into the kitchen to fix me toast. With ketchup. And a cup of tea. Always a cup of tea. When Grandpa came in from the shop for lunch, she'd give me a look and nod, my cue to disappear into the living room and read, or color, while Grandpa ate in peace. As I grew older—and heavier—grandma was more inclined to bend her cheek toward me for a kiss, than let me invade her lap. So I would settle in the chair next to hers, eat my toast and ketchup, sip my tea, and watch her watch her favorite show. But time is fickle. And so are teens.
School work, sports, horses, friends, boys, motorbikes and cars dominated my teen years. And I rarely went along when mom went to visit her parents. What fun was sitting around grandma's house watching TV when I could race my horse against my friends' horses, or cruise back roads with my boyfriend?
A good decade passed where I rarely saw my grandparents but for family events, like Christmas, Thanksgiving and family reunions. But they again became an integral part of my life when, in my early twenties, my then husband and I moved into the mobile home on their property they had installed a few years earlier for one of my aunts. When she moved out, another of my aunts moved in. And then it was my turn.
Three years we lived side-by-side with Grandma and Grandpa. Three years I cherish. Three years my two eldest children ruled Grandma's lap. And made Grandpa laugh. Three years where I was welcome to wander across the yard that separated my home from theirs, and enjoy a cup of tea with Grandma, or simply sit on the foot of her bed and watch her favorite TV programs with her.
We laughed at Aunt Bea and Opie's antics. Watched Vanna turn letters. Provided Alex Trebeck the Answer. Rolled along with Ironside, and Matlock, solving crimes. And sometimes I cried.
My tumultuous first marriage heaved its final breath on Grandma and Grandpa's property. Before it did, it was to her I would go for comfort. Mostly she would listen. Sometimes she would comment. Only once did she judge:
           "If you don't like what's going on, change it. If you can't or don't want to change it, deal with it. But whatever you do, stop complaining."
She shocked the hell out of me with that. And sobered me up. Dragged me out of my pity pool, with a good swift kick in the proverbial ass.
Grandma at my first wedding.
1986
Grandma's life had never been easy. Her younger brother died of an illness she had brought home from school, and survived. As far as I know she didn't know her father. And her stepfather was rumored to be not the kindest man. She never spoke about him. Or her mother. Or the sacrifices she made as a wife, and mother. Not once do I recall hearing her complain.
Grandma raised six children on a shoe-string budget. Kept the family together when Grandpa fell apart, and stopped working for over a year. She dealt with his alcohol abuse. Anger. Chased her daughters around the stairwell with a wooden spoon when they deserved it. Fixed them tea and handed them tissue when they needed it. Did her best to protect her only son from his father's contempt. 
She picked apples and made the sweetest-tart applesauce I've ever tasted. Turned cukes into tangy pickles, and raw salmon into canned delicacy. She doted on her dogs. Adored her grandchildren. And did whatever she could to make her children's lives easier. I miss her.
Today is the anniversary of her death. And it feels keener this year, than years past. Perhaps, because this year I am a grandma; my mortality no longer a distant echo, but a resounding boom, a persistent, rhythmic thump, like the tattoo of my grandson's heart beneath my hand when I cradle him on my chest. 

Grandma on her wedding day.
1942
It leaves its mark, becoming a grandparent. A raw bruise where your youth and longevity used to be. I only hope, whatever time I have left—a decade, or four—I leave as indelible and happy a mark on my grandchildren's lives, as Grandma did on mine.

Deborah
They never die, who have the future in them. ~Meridel Le Sueur

Friday, December 30, 2016

Insulted

I read an article today by a woman who slammed Indie writers. She stated self-publishing was "an insult to the written word". This breaks my heart. For her.
Writing is a lonely enough job. It does not serve to isolate yourself further by denigrating a huge--and hugely successful--group of individuals, all of whom share the same interest: the written word.
Self, Trad...however a book makes it to readers is less important than how readers react to the book. Lord knows the "less-than" books are quickly picked apart, their writers insulted and criticized, some quite cruelly. As far as I'm concerned, it needs to stop. Just stop.
I despise fat on my steak. I go to great lengths to cut it off, and ensure very little ever crosses my lips. It makes me gag. My husband, OTOH, loves fat on his steak and prime rib. As far as he's concerned, it's the closest thing to Heaven as he wants to get right now. Same fat. Different reactions to it. Neither reaction is right. Or wrong. They just are.
Books are the same. Some you love. Some you, "eh". Some you toss before you get three pages in. It's subjective. Selective. Personal.
I used to groan, and kvetch when reading a novel loaded with back story, or erratic POV switches. Now I simply close the book, remind myself to watch for these types of issues in my writing, and move on to a book I enjoy. What I don't do, is go on Goodreads, or Amazon, or Twitter and beat the hell out of some poor author for his/her rookie--or not--mistakes (some seasoned--BESTSELLING--authors make very good money committing such blasphemy). Who cares?
Writing is hard work. And yes, as the author of the aforementioned article stated, it does take years to hone the craft. But that doesn't mean you have to be middle-aged or doddering, or traditionally published, before you can reap the reward of seeing your story in print.
Some children take to reading/writing from the moment they're handed a pencil, and Dr. Seuss book. They love reading. They love writing. They excel at it. And by the time they're in their teens or twenties, they're quite competent. And in this era, quite tech savvy, too. Other writers come to their craft late, in their thirties, or forties, fifties and sixties. Should they all have to toil decades receiving rejections before ever seeing something they've labored over into print? As far as I'm concerned, no.
Amazon and other "Indie" publish options have opened doors certain "gate keepers" would like to see slammed shut. Good. Not all gate keepers are good gate keepers.
Some gatekeepers are overwhelmed and hitting the R button out of pure survival instinct. Others have a fixed mindset as to what types of books readers want and are committed to permitting only that formula to venture past the iron fence. Some gatekeepers like fat on their steak. Some hate it. Some love fat, but can't find anyone else willing to eat it. The steak remains on the plate untouched. Should it sit there indefinitely? In my opinion, No.
When an author takes the time to pour heart and soul into something that means something to him/her, let him/her publish. Who are they hurting, really? You don't have to read it. Heaven knows there are a gazillion choices; choose the ones that make you happy. And if you feel like letting the author know you enjoyed their book, go ahead. There isn't a person alive that doesn't appreciate a little praise every now and again. If the book makes you gag, put it down. Find something more to your taste, and feed your soul. But please, don't suck the soul out of someone else. No one wants, or needs, anymore poison in an already toxic world.

Deborah
*stepping off soap box*

Those who are lifting the world upward and onward are those who encourage more than criticize. ~Elizabeth Harrison