We All Have Baggage

“Cute bag!”

I love hearing that. It always makes me smile. Don’t you love it when someone says it to you?

I make sure I give the same compliment to others when I spy a beautiful bag. Beautiful color. Beautiful style. Perfect size. A cute bag makes me feel special as does the positive attention that may come with it.

Regardless of how cute a bag is, I always wonder what are they carrying in there? I’m completely curious. I know what I carry around. I know what I can’t be without. However, there is this mystery of what’s in the stylish bag of the person standing next to me. There is a sense of intrigue about the designer bag in the hand of the person walking in front of me, or passing me in the hall.

It’s like the Capital One credit card ad campaigns:  What’s in Your Wallet?

Anyway … I want to know what’s in the big and bold or the small and stately bag just as Capital One wants to know what’s in your wallet. Especially if the bag is small because I don’t understand how someone can live in a bag that’s only big enough to hold cash or lipstick.

So what do I tote around in my bag? The usual or what I think that every woman would take with them:

  • Wallet
  • Planner (may need to consult my schedule)
  • Phone (2 of them … one for work and one personal)
  • Make up bag (might need to freshen up)
  • Comb
  • Digital Recorder (inspiration sometimes strikes in places where paper and pen won’t do)
  • Pens (at least 10, maybe more)
  • Stationery (just in case I have time to jot a note)
  • Notebook (because my planner isn’t for everything)
  • Hat (need to be prepared for rain or snow)
  • Vitamins (for continued hair growth)
  • Sunglasses
  • Gum / mints

Okay, I take an “everything but the kitchen sink” approach to bags and that is not all that I carry. Sadly, my handbag is heavier than I’d like to admit. Still, I can’t help but drag these things around with me. Lug may be a better word for it.

Oh and don’t forget about the multiple bag effect either. You know it and have witnessed it:  the person who has a handbag, computer bag, lunch bag, shopping bag, or plastic grocery store bag (pick a combination). As a culture we keep spreading out, building bigger homes to accommodate the amount of stuff we have. Yet, it’s not enough. We feel the need to take it with us where ever we go. We all have baggage.

And now in the age of the man-bag and messenger bags… curiosity increases. What do men need to carry around with them? Their keys and wallets or their phones? An iPad or eReader?

Consider me inquisitive. Call me a busybody but I am dying to know … what’s your baggage?

Writer’s Block: Take Another Step, Add a New Character

The process of writing has been slow. I committed to my writing partner that I would produce 1500 new words last week. With two and a half days left in the accountability week, I was sweating proverbial bullets.

My small start moved me forward. And for that I am grateful. I am glad that I have the desire to create new words for my novel.

Changing venue helped but I needed to take another step. Increase my stride. Move at a faster pace.

Cover of "Immediate Fiction: A Complete W...

Cover via Amazon

One of my writing rescues is Immediate Fiction by Jerry Cleaver. He states this:

“There are more conflict and more scenes, but what account for them? One thing and one thing only:  MORE CHARACTERS. More characters, who are more trouble, more scenes, more pages. Believe it or not that’s all there is to it. That doesn’t mean it’s easy. It takes work, but it’s that simple … Additional characters cause more trouble, forcing the other characters to act and reveal more of themselves. The novel is longer because the problem is bigger, the conflict more complicated and longer running. That larger, longer conflict is created by the presence of more characters. In terms of story elements, more characters are the difference between the short story and the novel.”

I wasn’t adding characters for length. My story line has so many possibilities that length isn’t an issue, unless you’re describing what I need to leave out because it’s getting too long.

New characters are energizing. Adding one new (unplanned, surprise) character reinvigorated me and reconnected me to the story I was worried had gone stale.

Introducing a new character created unexpected conflicts; unnamed environments; and undefined characteristics. The “un’s” need words to make them something.

I was able to explore the conflicts to see how they moved the plot along. I experimented with the environments to test out images. I was able to bring evolution to a character idea until the person was real for me.

This new character and her interactions with my existing characters have made writing this story fun again. It has created momentum … Surprisingly, this new character didn’t just help me write the 1500 words I’d listed as my goal but I was able to write double that number because of the conflict she represents.

I finally have my villain, my antagonist. Now my story is moving!

You don’t have to be stuck. If changing venue didn’t help … take another step and add a new character … I’d love to hear how this works out for you.

Handwritten Correspondence: Where Have You Gone?

Pen is courtesy of RECTurnings: http://www.recturnings.etsy.com

We live in a tech savvy culture. We live in a tech dependent world.

I, for one, miss the personal touch of a handwritten note. I miss getting “real” mail like letters, cards, or invitations in the distinctive hand of the sender.

Don’t you wish that when you opened your mailbox that you were buried under an avalanche of personalized handwritten correspondence? Instead we are buried under an avalanche that consists of coupons, bills, advertisements, and solicitations.

Credit card companies have gotten wise to the fact that people want mail that contains even the faintest whisper of personal connection. The most recent “please get our credit card” solicitation I received, looked like a wedding or baby shower invitation; which is the only reason I opened it rather than immediately shredding it.

Right after college I spent a lot of time sending cards and notes to my friends. Back then it was cheaper to put a stamp on an envelope than to call. At least once a week one of my closest friends received a handwritten note from me.

Taking great care in picking the right card or stationery. Writing an outline of the stuff I wanted to share. Why? I don’t know. Selecting the perfect pen based on color, point, type, etc. Print or cursive or a combination.

I loved it. Sitting at my writing desk and spreading everything out. Each letter had to be unique based on the person who would receive it.

My life wasn’t exciting and there wasn’t much to tell but I put a lot of effort into telling the story in the most interesting way. I wrote about work stuff, family things, books and movies. Nothing Earth shattering. I was too busy writing about life to live it.

And if I missed a week, I would get a complimentary phone call stating, “I didn’t get my letter this week. Where is it?”

As a matter of fact I saw one of these friends recently and she said, “I remember when you used to send me letters.”

Keep in mind I didn’t get much handwritten correspondence in return. Sometimes it was okay but sometimes I wanted reciprocity. More than anything though, I was glad that I afforded some of my friends with a moment of joy.

Then life got busy to the point where I had to live it and my letter writing slowed.

Enter the age of “cheap” long distance. I remember getting offers to change services, from 7 cents to 5 cents to 3 cents. It became cheaper to call. One commercial advertised a woman talking about calling her sister to “talk about nothing for hours” because it was so cheap. That’s what my sisters and I did. We’d sit on the phone and watch TV together like we were in the same room.

Following the cheap long distance age came the Hotmail age (dial up and slow connections but quicker than sending a letter by post). Email made correspondence easier and quicker. Then came the cell phone in every hand and texting. Now we live in the age of the SmartPhone with Facetime & Skype as options.

I miss the personal notes, so I started letter writing again. A few years ago in an intentional personal campaign I decided to bring back handwritten correspondence. Trust me when I say the comeback is a slow burn. But I am committed to it.

Imagine my excitement then when PaperMate®   introduced a new pen line called InkJoy™. Part of their mission:  ‘But most of all, we wanted to bring back the joy to writing …” Awesome, right? It’s aligned with one of my personal causes. I still need to decide if the pens bring me as much joy as their mission statement.

Anyway, I’m back at it. Writing letters. Personalizing each note to each person. Buying stationery and note cards that make me smile knowing the person on the receiving end will smile too. Paying the price of stamps and hopefully adding a special life moment for the recipient.

When was the last time someone sent you a personal handwritten note? It’s been too long. When was the last time you sent one? Also, too long.

Join the mission today … I am calling you to arms or rather to hands … sit down and pen a thank you or thinking of you or miss you note. Choose someone you rarely see or talk to. Choose someone you see every day. Put an “I LOVE YOU” in that special someone’s computer bag or handbag or backpack.

I dare you to make someone’s day by contributing to an avalanche of handwritten correspondence. Maybe you’ll be buried under an avalanche too!

Writer’s Block: Start Small, Change Venue

My writing partner and I have a weekly accountability call. Every Thursday night we talk about what we’ve accomplished in the previous week and what our goals are for the week to come.

Before I left for vacation I promised her that I would write one new scene. Maybe 500 words. That’s it. A small commitment to get me back into writing the novel after a long break from it.

Five days into a new accountability week (and the distractions of vacation) I hadn’t put down one word toward the scene I set as my goal.

As I sat on the plane heading West I tried again to read through my manuscript only to find it made me sleepy. That’s not necessarily a commentary on the quality of the story as much as it could be a reflection on traveling in recycled air.

I closed my eyes intent of taking a nap. But that’s when insight came. I was so excited. I pulled out my notebook and pen scribing 175 words. A small step forward.

Then 2 days later sitting in my hotel room while my family slept another 150 words flowed. Renewed inspiration when I least expected it. A small move in the right direction.

All I can think of is finishing this scene to see how it changes the story. I keep thinking about where I left off and wondering, “What’s next?”

Since returning I’ve finished reading through my manuscript (without falling asleep). New story are lines spinning around in my mind. A small spider web of thoughts has started to form.

Two weeks away from home, my sofa, and writing at night after the boys are in bed. I added 800 new words. It sounds small but it serves as a new beginning especially when 0 words were added in a two-month time frame.

My point, in sharing this breakthrough, is that one way to move forward, move past the block, is to change venue. You don’t have to take a trip like I did. Start small. Sit in a different seat at the table. Go to a coffee shop. Pick a different time of day. Does the change in scenery change your perspective in your writing?

Being outside of my regular writing routine was wonderful, because it provided a small flash of creative light that I may not have experienced otherwise.

It’s Lovely to be Recognized …

Thank you to my fellow bloggers:  Whitney of A Serendipitous Happenstance and Amanda of By Amanda Leigh for nominating me for the One Lovely Blog Award. I am flattered because both blogs inspire and encourage me in my writing journey as they share their journeys.

The rules for accepting this nomination are:

  • Link back to the blogger who nominated you.
  • Post the blog award image on your page.
  • Tell 7 facts about yourself.
  • Nominate 15 other blogs.
  • Let the nominees know they been chosen.

Seven things about me:

  1. Success and failure incite the same emotions in me:  fear and anxiety.
  2. Parenting is the single most difficult job I’ve ever had and it’s the only one I won’t ever quit.
  3. I recently found two brand new pairs of shoes in my closet. Both are at least two years old and never been worn. Not sure how that happened. This week will find me wearing them.
  4. I am a packrat … thankfully my husband is not. And only have my house is cluttered.
  5. Please don’t touch me, speak to me, or look at me funny until I am on cup of coffee number two. I am NOT a morning person. I need to ease into my day.
  6. Typically, I prefer the book to the movie except for In Her Shoes. My favorite line: “When I feel bad I like to treat myself. Clothes never look any good, food just makes me fatter. Shoes always fit.” So you’ll usually find me in the shoe section not clothing.
  7. When I focus on writing things that I perceive will be received well … it creates fear and anxiety. Only I don’t have control over the outcome:  Success or Failure. So forgive me if I just create without regard for receptivity.

In attempts to share the lovely I won’t be nominating my usual suspects. My favorites are always honorary nominees for me whether I specifically name them for an award or not. You can see them in my blogroll and they are definitely worth the visit.

Today, instead, I will nominate blogs that I’ve recently visited or may have only visited once or twice. They are worth taking a look at, so please show them some love:

Congratulations to the nominees! Share the lovely!

DAD DAYS – When I Miss Him Most

I lost my Dad more than 8 years ago. It doesn’t get any easier with each passing year as I thought it would.

With the soulful tones of Luther Vandross’s Dance with My Father filling the car, I pulled away from my childhood home knowing that homecoming would never be the same without Dad there to greet me along side my Mom.

  • In childhood, Dad was my superhero. He could do no wrong in my eyes.
  • In adolescence, Dad taught me to dream big and believe in my ability to make those dreams come true.
  • In early adulthood, Dad was my life-coach; counselor; financial advisor; professional mentor; and friend. I consulted him on every major decision.
  • In marriage, Dad was supposed to be my teacher and support for parenting and relationships. But he died shortly after I found out I was pregnant with my oldest son.

I mourn the fact that my boys will never know their Papa Dave. When I see them display mannerisms that are undeniably Dad’s I am sad that they don’t understand how they came by them. That they inherited them from Dad. But I am thankful for this circle of life that gives me such moments to remember Dad.

I’ve come to romanticize Dad’s existence; often only speaking of the kind things he did, like giving his last dollar to someone panhandling outside the grocery store. Or how he always had a fresh pot of coffee brewing and willing ear to hear the worries of others who stopped by for his wise counsel.

Now that he’s gone, I don’t want to take him down from the pedestal we’ve placed him on.

I miss the denim jacket and ball cap. The white running shoes without laces that he tried to dye brown. I miss the quick wit and easy laughter.

I miss him saying things like, “Someone call the police and make this one play,” if you took too long making your move in a game of cards or Yatzee.

I miss how he would laugh at his own jokes, saying, “Now that’s a knee-slapper.” Usually, they weren’t funny but that didn’t stop him from enjoying it.

I miss the songs that he would sing while playing the spoons or harmonica or mouth-pick:

Hambone, hambone, where ya been? Going around the corner and going again. Beans and cornbread had a fight. Beans knocked cornbread out of sight.


I can tell by your knees you’ve been climbing those coconut trees. You goin’ look like a monkey when you get. When you get old and grey people goin’ look at you and say, I can tell by your knees you’ve been climbing those coconut trees.

I missed him singing along to his favorite LPs …

  • Bad Bad LeRoy Brown (Jim Croce)
  • Charlie Brown(The Coasters)

I do my best to share stories about the man who shaped my life but sometimes feel like it’s not enough. He was larger than life and touched many lives. Words alone don’t capture that well.

More than 8 years have gone by and I still have days where missing him paralyzes me. Still have days where I dream of him because I am faced with a major decision and I need his advice.

On these days I declare DAD DAYS. When people ask me, “What’s wrong?” I simply say, “I’m having a Dad Day.”

When DAD DAYS come I sit and listen to Luther Vandross singing:

“…If I could get another chance, another walk, another dance with him, I’d play a song that would never ever end. How I’d love, love, love, to dance with my father again … Never dreamed that he would be gone from me. If I could steal one final glance, one final step, one final dance with him, I’d play a song that would never ever. ‘Cause I’d love, love, love, to dance with my father again …”

My heart yearns for him. Yet I know God’s will for our lives involved saying goodbye when we did. But even as I sit here typing, my kids playing innocently in the next room, I can’t contain the tears.

Cherish the moments you have with loved ones.

Happy Father’s Day DRH … Today’s a DAD DAY because I miss you most at times like these.

Vacation 2012 Postcard: Fast Food Tour

Whenever I visit my childhood home I make sure to visit the restaurants, usually fast food restaurants that we don’t have where I live.  I create my list and systematically make my way through it.

I am highlighting a few of the favorites from the list (my meal choices and some pictures)… This is the first trip in which I didn’t hit everything on the list. Disappointed about it but I still ate really well.

Del Taco – My favorite meal here is a combination burrito (ground beef, refried beans, and cheese) with a salsa Verde. The meal comes with a drink (Cherry Coke) and fries. I request “secret sauce” which is a mayo sour cream blend.  I have to dip my fries in something.

Not only is the food good but Del Taco is the first place I ever worked that required me to fill out a W-2. Thanks to my older sister who worked there and was a good employee for recommending me.

I worked the drive thru window wearing my jeans and turquoise blue uniform polo top and baseball cap. Not attractive but that was also the first year I purchase ALL of my own back to school clothes and supplies.  I was 16 years old going into my junior year.

IN-N-OUT Burger – I order the Double Double with cheese no onions with fries and a chocolate shake. Yummy! It’s so worth it.

When I was in my teens I sang in the church choir and we’d travel to other churches to perform. One night we were getting back really late and our choir director stopped to get us something to eat. I hadn’t eaten at IN & OUT before but was grateful. They ordered cheeseburgers for all of the young ones. I inhaled mine I was so hungry. This garnered the comment:  “We should have gotten you a Double Double.”

Can you guess what my nickname was that Summer? If you’ve never had IN-N-OUT make sure you add it to your list when you travel to California.

I made the mistake of telling my husband about being called:  Double Double and now he and the boys call me that just for fun. My husband says, “After eating all these things on vacation we’re going back ‘Double Double’.”

Carl’s Jr. Western Bacon Cheese Burger, which has onion rings and BBQ sauce.

Alberto’s – My husband only makes one request for the list (every trip) because he has to have authentic carne asada burritos. So of course I accommodate the visit to Alberto’s. This time around I ordered the nachos.

Weinerschnitzel – I always get 2 corn dogs and the chili cheese fries.


Jack-in-the-Box – Jumbo Jack with cheese, no onions.






The full list for Vacation 2012:

  • Del Taco
  • IN-N-OUT Burger
  • Carl’s Jr.
  • Alberto’s
  • Weinerschnitzel
  • Baja Fresh
  • Jack-in-the-Box
  • Lee’s Donuts
  • Yum Yum Donuts
  • See’s Candy
  • Gloria Jeans Coffee
  • Rio Buffet

Sorry if you’re not a foodie but I had to share. Let me know what your favorite fast food haunts are … especially if you have to travel to get them like I did.

This, I believe, is the last of my 2012 summer vacation postcards. Thanks for letting me share some of my trip with you.

Lucky Me … the Lucky Meme

Forgive me because I feel like I need to provide some background.

I decided almost a year ago to write a novel. Finally.

I was so optimistic. August 31, 2012 was my projected end date. The goal was 90,000 words. My reasoning:  if NaNoWriMo participants could produce 50,000 words in 30 days, surely I could achieve my word count goal in one year.

It didn’t matter that I hadn’t written creatively in years. It didn’t matter that I didn’t have training or education in the discipline of writing. All I had was an idea and a desire, which should be more than enough for a writer to get started.

Shortly after beginning, I decided that I needed an accountability partner. I have two writing partners that encourage me. I’ve allowed them to read segments of my novel in progress, which at times could be called a novel interrupted. However, the idea of letting others read what I’ve scratched out makes me nauseous.

But I am about forward motion. Momentum. I am game …

Here’s what’s required:

  • Go to the 7th or 77th page of your work in progress.
  • Go to the 7th line of the page.
  • Copy the next 7 sentences or paragraphs. Remember, they must be as they are typed.
  • Tag 7 authors.
  • Let them know they’re it.

Here’s me … taking a leap … an excerpt of my novel. I am not brave enough for seven paragraphs. Not yet. The working title, based on the initial idea and summary:  Momma’s Heels, which has morphed into so much more than I expected.

“The summer where she could rid herself of this stupid nickname and take on her given name, which is very grown up. Being treated as a grown up is her definition of happiness. But as the summer comes to a close she can feel that happiness has been absent from the season.

For a long time now she’s hated being called Baby Girl, but no one would listen to her requests to be called Chloe. Baby Girl started out as a term of endearment; a way to convey how special she is because it had taken her parents so long to conceive a little girl. Because she’s the only daughter in a family of five children. Unfortunately, Chloe considers being dubbed ‘Baby Girl’ as an eternal marker of youth that she doesn’t want.”

I appreciate fellow blogger and author:  Whitney of A Serendipitous Happenstance  for helping me take this leap in sharing my work with a broader audience, even if only a small snapshot. Her excerpt for her novel, Rain, will have you hooked and wanting more. Don’t miss your chance. Check it out.

Tag you’re it:

Expressing Gratitude for the Inspiring Blog Award

For almost a year, I’ve been searching for new ways to express gratitude. I’ve learned a lot but most importantly, I’ve learned that a simply saying thank you is enough.

Thank you to my blog world friend Whitney of A Serendipitous Happenstance for nominating me for the Inspiring Blog Award. Congratulations to you for receiving this award as you well deserve it. Your blog is an inspiration to me as I work on my writing journey. I am glad that it’s reciprocal.

Accepting the award calls for:

  1. Listing 7 things about myself
  2. Nominating 7 blogs/bloggers who inspire me

7 Things:

  1. I have a pile of unfinished projects and crafts next to my bed. I commit to completing one of them by the end of the year in addition to everything else I am trying to do.
  2. I am still uncomfortable in my own skin but I’m working on it.
  3. When I travel, I always over pack but I never know what I’ll need. I only use a quarter of the stuff.
  4. This summer I dedicated time to gaining wisdom so I am studying the book of Proverbs.
  5. I am starting an electronic/gadget diet i.e. less time plugged in. Moderation. Maybe I can accomplish more if I unplug for a bit.
  6. My goals are often lofty and my follow through lacking. But it doesn’t stop me from trying to have it all.
  7. My favorite pens are BIC Cristal Bold and now they come in colors other than blue and black which makes me happier than it should.

My nominees … (I must confess that I haven’t had time to explore a lot of blogs and the ones I read regularly are just coming off of nominations. I truly love them but I don’t want to overwhelm people either so if my list is short, I hope you’ll be forgiving.)

Congratulations to all bloggers who inspire others with their words.

Creative Writing is Child’s Play

Children aren’t limited by convention. They haven’t discovered or embraced the rules. They don’t know to filter or sensor what they say. We can learn a lot from them.

Last week I asked for advice about picking up a story that I’d let sit too long. I received some wonderful tips. I’ve incorporated some into my personal writing process.

However, nothing prepared me for the creative writing exercise that took place two days ago.

While trapped in the car on a road trip, each of my boys decided they were going to write a story. “Maybe we can get our stories published Mom.” Does a writer’s heart good to hear.

Writing approaches are as varied as there are authors or writers. Some outline, develop character, and research first, creating a specific plan to reach the desired end of their project. Others just write to see what comes out.

My boys operate on opposite sides of the spectrum in planning and going with the flow. My oldest wants to map out his goal while the youngest just tells his story. Both boys offered me valuable writing lessons.

I find it difficult to assign names to people, places, and things. But my oldest made it seem easy. In order to start his story, he wanted to create a list of character names to work from. My first thought was to use the names generator in Scrivener, but he just wanted to make them up. He came up with boys’ names and I was charged with girls’ names.


    • Mooea
    • Yeeoow
    • Noowaau
    • Nugy
    • Abluy

I can’t pronounce these names. He seems to like vowels more than consonants so I said, “You should pick names that people can pronounce.” Way to kill creativity, right?

His response was awesome. “I can name them whatever I want. Besides, they’re aliens.”

But he altered his course because the final names he added were:  Beetle and Storm, still fun but not as “out there” as the above.

I should have kept my mouth shut and let him create. He taught me that I don’t need to overthink my choices, especially not in the first draft.

The girls’ names were less creative as they were my task but I like some of them. So with his permission some of his characters my find their way into my novel.


    • Sierra
    • Marsha
    • Feather
    • Blondie
    • Francie
    • Willow
    • Smudge

His final step in our playful session was to describe the story and give it a title. It’s an alien ghost story called:  Spirit Kingdom. Cool, right?

Why do I make writing so hard?

Another challenge for me is deciding where the story begins. My youngest doesn’t have this challenge. He handed me a pencil and said, “I need you to write down my story.” Here’s what he told me:

“This is a story about a boy named Noah, who finds a pair of magical shoes.

When he’s bad, bad things happen. So he needs to learn a lesson. He has to be nice or the leaves will fall.

Noah went to bed. While he was asleep a witch named, Will, touched the shoes with his wand. He put a spell on the shoes.

Noah woke up the next day and put on his shoes. The shoes made him dance all day.

‘Oh no, my shoes,’ he said because they need repair.”

It’s a great start to a story that I would read. The premise is simple, yet a lot could happen if he were to pursue it.

He taught me to just let the words flow. You can edit and change them later. It’s more important to just get the story out of your head and on paper, which I should already know. (Just as a side note, he cried when his paper crumpled in his backpack because he thought this would hinder publishing.)

Children create stories as a way of life. It’s their way of viewing and relating to the world around them. It’s how they play and interact with one another. I love listening to them play made up games but it never occurred to me until this happened that good writing is like children playing make believe.

No matter what your writing approach you can write with childlike abandon. Spend some time playing make believe and let me know if it has a positive influence on your writing.