SUNDAYS WITH SHARON: I Will Miss Nashville.
My plane doesn't take off for a few hours, and already I'm teary-eyed. I've been attending the Day With The Authors here in Nashville, organized by Sandy Sullivan, and I have to say it has been one of the best conferences, as a writer, I have attended this year. I nearly sold out of all my books.
Something about being in this part of the country tugs at my heartstrings (I guess that was a play on words). I know it isn't always green and warm, but Friday morning my storyteller, J.D. Hart, and I drove through the countryside and had an early breakfast at Loveless Cafe. Surrounded by pictures of stars from the 1950's on, I loved partaking of the biscuits, the bacon, sausage and ham with the baked cheese casserole hash browns, peach preserves and gravy. I don't eat like this in California, and even if I wanted to, there'd be no place like this. They were stoking up the BBQ in what we would call a summer kitchen outside the main restaurant.
Last night we went to a world class steak house, where I was surrounded by the gentle conversation washing over me like a light warm rain. People smile, they look you in the eyes, and they are gracious. As I said in my talk yesterday, there must be a Southern bone in my body somewhere, even though I've been born and raised in Northern California. They are an endearing kind of warm that really grows on me.
Today we visit Arrington Winery. But it's just a day to hang with my best friend, the man from Tennessee, and yes, I am his number one fan. I'll probably become incoherent by the end of our day together, so I'm bringing my Kleenex.
This trip has been inspiring. I've gotten way more out of it than the energy I've put in. Looking out at the sea of people as I gave my little talk, I felt honored and loved, truly loved. I like small, intimate gatherings where we can tell stories and just hang with our reader fans. The community of writers I've been privileged to get to know well is a family that will sustain me for the rest of my life.
This great country of ours is made up of different regions, each with its own special gifts. But leaving Nashville will be hard today. Going home will be nice, but I will miss this place, and the good friends I leave behind.
Until the next time!
SUNDAYS WITH SHARON: N is for NO PLACE LIKE HOME.
A friend of mine reminded me about writing caves and now the new trend, “She Sheds” and I got inspired again. I've still not given up hope that some day soon I'll have a writing cave of my own. I'm not complaining, but grateful for all I have, but the idea of having a place just for me, some place cozy and single-purposed, like for writing and messing around with my muse in private (like it was illegal or something) excites me.
I write now at a desk that also serves as a bill paying station, a catch-all for anything writing related. Bad news is that it's a mess most times, and I usually go off to bed without straightening it (bad habit). Good news is that if it is writing related, it's there. Might be under something, but this sacred space I don't even let the housecleaners mess with.
I once watched a video of an author building her writing cottage and she made the point that writing should be done in an uncluttered, free place where only that is done. She separated her space from reading area, writing area (with a view that inspired her – mine was to look over my garden and flower gardens which have not been returned yet) and then an “office” desk for all the business of writing, so the two don't get mixed up. I have no trouble focusing on bills and schedules and planning. My writing muse is something I have to guard carefully. She's a fragile angel of a thing, a lady, and very sensitive, as I want her to be.
I can write in coffee shops and cafes, at the airport (watching people), over a glass of wine or margarita at my favorite Mexican place, in fact, just about anywhere, especially if I have my headphones. Right now, I write on the “bridge” upstairs in my house, which is open down to the two story living room and near the stairs, so the dogs, my husband, anyone who passes interrupts me. Just hearing the paper shuffling downstairs in my husband's office (my old writing area I gave back because I found the view of the unfinished construction/driveway not inspiring), or the kitchen activity or TV downstairs is a distraction. Beauty of living in a church-like structure with 24′ ceilings and skylights is it's wide open and light. We have a 13′ glass garage door on one wall of the dining room. But everything echoes.
Writing cozy is beter, methinks. And some day, I'll have that. Thank you, Cherokee Hart, for reminding me of some of the ways I can inspire myself!
What about you? Do you have a craft room? Reading room? Writing area or “muse-inspired” place? Love to hear about it.
J is for Junk On My Computer! I had a lot of extra files on my computer and yesterday I cleared out 120 Gigs of junk. I feel squeaky clean! Our family Apple Expert, Mario, came over and spent about seven hours with us both. Mine was the most difficult and detailed. But what I have now are 19 separate folders containing everything about my books. I have 14 novels, 2 Novellas and 2 of my own bundles, or boxed sets.
I had snippets everywhere, blog posts and guest spots, interviews and faq sheets filed sometimes by name, sometimes by kind of file, sometimes random, and then those dreaded “X Novel – FINAL FINAL FINAL” files. Some files were separated from others because one way editors or my formatter would send them without spaces, some with dashes between the book and the date of the edit, and others in all caps or upper and lower case with or without spaces. I was holding all this in my head, and boy was my head hurting. I had to remember which ones were which (oh yes, that was a novella of the same name, oh yes, that was the correction I made that came in late, etc.)
In short, I was an accident waiting to happen. This morning as I wake up and go to the computer, my desktop is clean, organized and I know where all my important papers are. A good friend of mine used to look at my lists of “versions” of my books, and shake her head, “Sharon, you've got to get this fixed.” That was about 4 years ago. Did I mention sometime before I'm stubborn?
Now some of you saw the word Junk and were thinking of something else. And for you, all I have is a picture. Enjoy the view…the part that I can show! Enjoy your day.
If you are want to follow along in the A-Z Blog Challenge, just clink on the button at the bottom with the sunflower on it. You will be directed to a list of some 2000 other bloggers who have taken the challenge. This week, I'm number 573. Some are dropping out, so this number could change, but tell your friends about it. Enjoy!
DOING EVERYTHING. We never know what will take off. We do things with intention, do things by accident, and sometimes the accidents work out amazingly well, sometimes the well-intentioned plans do poorly. These days I'm sort of thinking about life as one giant roulette wheel. You spin it, and it arbitrarily lands wherever it does. A huge game of chance.
But not really.
Those of you who follow my blog posts know that I'm a huge fan of “playing big.” In the real estate business, we used to say to agents, “play as if you've already won.” There are times when we question our abilities, and want to “quit” mentally from giving it our all. Luckily these things don't last long for me, and I'm pretty good about picking myself up, and usually holding up a couple of others at the same time. Can't help it, I raised 4 kids and sometimes I still feel like I'm raising kids today.
So the secret of success would be that we're out there playing big. We may not know where that roulette wheel will land (I have gambling on the brain because I'm writing this from Las Vegas), but we can control whether or not we take our turn. Opportunities are there, but only if we take them. Leading the horse to water, etc….Bella Andre paid me a nice compliment when she told an audience at the San Francisco Writer's Conference 2 years ago that she always gave writers advice they could bank on, but few really followed up or did what she said. And she complimented me on being one of the ones who listened, and executed her pearls of wisdom. I call them pearls of wisdom. She's far too humble to say it. But I will! Thank you, Bella.
So, here I am, taking chances, meeting people, saying yes more than no (and learning which ones to say no to as well), trusting that I'll get to work with people's highest selves and good part, learning when I don't, and paying it forward, both upwards in the food chain and down. It makes no difference where I am or what it means.
It matters that I play. That I DO EVERYTHING.
Happy Easter from the bottom of my heart.
If you want to follow along on the A-Z blog hop, click the button at the bottom of this page and you will be directed at random to some other blogger's posting for today. We're in this together. Every day a new letter. Today was a catch up.
I stumbled upon a video I loved this week and just thought I'd share it again. Just coming off an intense race to the finish line, doing my layers of editing all while traveling out of state and beginning research on my 10th SEAL book, I think the wanderlust hit me. I started thinking about other things I could be doing with my time, like a perfectly normal adult with ADD. I've accepted this will always be a problem for me. But I also think it makes me the type of person who loves adventure and the dreams of running away from it all.
Just to be clear, my life is great, and this is no reflection on that. I'm grateful for everything I've been blessed with. But there comes a time when I do feel like doing something completely different. My friend Jody and I attended the quilting retreat at Bishop's Ranch in Healdsburg earlier in March. I went to Tucson and Phoenix, even drove to Scottsdale to attend the Tucson Festival of Books, research at the UofA library, and enjoyed fellowship with other authors, some new friends and some I'd met last year at the event. Today, I attended the Sonoma County Library Local Authors Showcase and Symposium, connecting with poets, thriller writers, historical fiction authors, memoirists and grammar divas. People had such a varied background from former newspaper reporters to teachers, cops, misfits and wine critics. I learned from all of these wonderful experiences and heard voices I loved in genres I don't usually read.
My schedule is very full this year, too. And I'm planning on launching another 4 books as well as attending 6 more conferences before December. So it's not surprising that I dream of just getting off the grid, unplugging everything but my laptop, and just going on a road trip, or maybe a cabin in Antigua looking for that cheeseburger in paradise again. I'm not running away, I'm running to something unexpected, something that makes me laugh and dream and maybe not do too much talking. Maybe lots of reading.
So when I saw the group Sisters On The Fly, I was enchanted. I was ready for a Calgon moment that might last 10 years. “No men, no kids, no pets and be nice.” What a wonderful dream that would be. Would I miss the men in my life? You bet. But there is something so uncomplicated in the company of women, when they want to be, that is, when they just sit and twitter like blackbirds on a telephone wire, shoot the breeze and laugh a lot.
I joined this group. I probably won't have a trailer until next year some time, and between trips, I can use it as a writing cottage. It would have everything I need: bed, internet connection, a decent shower, a microwave and an umbrella or two. I could pull it with my convertible Murano, stop and write when others are fly fishing. I might even learn how to do that myself. Bring my guns and my laptop and I'm all set!
I mean, what better place to cook up stories than taking a long road trip. I might find myself and never come back!
Polishing a book for some is harder than writing it the first time. I write fairly fast, and when I was first starting out, I sent an email to Diana Gabaldon, asking her about her writing process. She was gracious to answer me. Aside from her writing into the wee hours of the morning, beginning after her family had gone to bed (I relate now but at the time it gave me a heart attack), her greatest tip to me was in the polishing.
“That's where the real jewels, richness and texture of the book happens,” she said. Because I don't read very fast, editing can sometimes be a challenge. It's taken me a long time to accept that my reading skill level is a disability. I can write like the wind, but editing? Hard to do. I've struggled with reading my whole life. It affected my career, what courses I could take in college. I understand what others feel who are handicapped in some way, because I am too. I am floored when readers say they read 1000 books a year. I'd be lucky to read 1000 books in my lifetime.
I get easily distracted by anything. My chickens used to distract me. My garden. The dogs. I usually have to write to instrumental music, and only certain kinds of music work. I like candles. I dress in loose clothing and put my hair up. I have my computer glasses that don't give me a headache. I wash my hands a lot and wear scented hand cream. I wear socks. I drink lots of water and coffee. I have to work at my focus as if I was adding a table of 7 figure numbers. That's how hard it is for me sometimes.
Today I was challenged by the guy who came to work on our brick edging on the patio. He had one of those industrial grinders working from about 8:30 on. Around 11:00 I was seeing double. So I packed up my computer and worked down at the office for a few hours.
I rewrote a couple of love scenes and that helped. When I stay connected to the passion of the story, the heart of the love story, which is always about the couple, and usually about the relationship as well as the sex that describes their relationship, I can use that energy to finish and work on the rest of the book. In fact, in some of my books, I write the heaviest love scene first, to see how the couple develops organically on paper. I love to feel them evolve through my writing.
There is no rushing of this process, just like Diana Gabaldon told me years ago. I'm patient. It takes as long as it takes. I never give up or abandon a project. But I like to think that the harder ones to finish are also my better books.
We think the creative process should just “flow” and writers “get their muse” on. Nope. Sorry to say, it's just hard work, with a lot of discipline and focus. I guess I would call it Intentional Creativity.
I'm here in Tucson as I write this blog this morning. When I checked into the Arizona Inn Friday night, the first thing to greet me by my courtyard entrance was a blooming orange tree. Have you ever walked under a huge orange bush/tree and smelled those blossoms? Like nothing else on this earth. I robbed a small twig, and put it on the bedside table and let it have its way with my muse all night. They had a good time….
There will be more about this in my next newsletter. And we will be giving the quilt I made away to some lucky reader. I hope it's you. I wish I had the fingers and the time to make all of you one, but perhaps in another lifetime. Right now, I'm only given this snippet of time and I'm making the most of it.
Last week I spent from Sunday night to Wednesday at Bishop's Ranch in Healdsburg, California. Healdsburg is important to me because several of my stories take place here. The Monteleone vineyard is here where Marcus and Ann make love in the vineyards and the bloom of their love lasts forever. Hugh Jett combs the bars in downtown Healdsburg doing security for the Monteleones (a book to come later this year). Daniel and Claire walk the square in Heavenly Lover at Christmas time, and Claire, the guardian angel who falls in love with her human charge, joins the angel display in one of the store windows and surprises Daniel. Daniel signs children's books in the book store on the square. Tyler visits Kate at the family winery here, and they stay at a bed and breakfast near downtown, in SEAL Of My Heart. The town is one of my favorites to write.
Bishop's Ranch is a place of retreat and reflection, run by caring staff who are all about the experience of spiritual and personal growth. I'm going to make it a must-do each month, for a self-imposed writing cave. I think better there, just as a change of pace.
The quilting retreat is the second year for me. My friend Jody comes with me, and I'm always amazed at the beautiful pieces others have done. We “stitch and bitch” as they say, but mostly we laugh, listen to music, and just marvel at the beautiful surroundings. I walked the labyrinth, walked under blooming trees, and in general just watched the countryside just begin to lush up with green grasses and see the vineyards beginning to bud. Almost like mother nature takes a big gulp of air and sighs before the frenzy of the wine business takes over.
We all come together, women from different parts of the state, and share the love of quilting and fellowship. I always learn so much. I bought a craft iron and a seam stick for ironing absolutely flat seams, watched techniques of paper piecing and measuring, learned the power of advanced preparation and planning, and discussed and indulged in all the beautiful colors of the fabric. We are like a quilt of many colors: some red, flowered, striped, patterns of the sunset. The theme for the retreat was the daybreak quilt I show up top, but I had the mission to finish mine so I could do a giveaway on the Newsletter. (Remember, if you're a subscriber, you'll have a chance to get in on the drawing.)
We are the sum total of all our experiences, and like the scenes from my stories, these have either been lived, or imagined. Parts of them are bright, parts sultry and sexy, parts emotional, and some dangerous or fearsome. Homefully all the stories are fearsome! I put myself into experiences so I can call out my treasure trove of many colors and bring them to my books. I'm drawn to the stories of the Underground Railroad and the secret messages contained in the quilts. Even during the Revolutionary War there were messages relayed by the women through quilting, the hanging of laundry beside the house, to give signals to the young patriot army. It is a rich history of this nation. I spoke at length with a woman yesterday who reads mainly black history books, and we discussed these quilts for a few minutes. We doesn't read me, but we have the love of history and the lives of our forefathers in common.
Living a colorful life filled with life experiences is what keeps me young. I hope that as I piece together the fabric of the rest of my life, that my quilt will be as beautiful and colorful as some of these, with stories so compelling, they are difficult to put down. And I'm glad I have you to come along with me. Thank you for that, by the way. Sometimes I don't say it enough.
I totally missed the passing of Rod McKuen this January. Just like so many things in life, we miss important events when we're rushing off to do all the stuff we do, those endless activities we do to stay busy, become successful. I literally forgot to stop and smell the roses and missed this milestone.
A roommate of mine in college turned me on to Rod McKuen, in the height of his popularity. A poet who dared to say things about love and loving, he moved my heart in ways I knew were important, and would be more important later on. Filled with those flower-filled days of first new loves, I look back on that time with fondness, somewhat immune to the many heartaches that are now faded memories. The passion for love and the love of life lingers in all its living color, happily, even though the pain of loss, but more the loss of what could have been, has softened.
I always wanted to meet Rod McKuen, who was born in Oakland, California, abandoned by his father at birth and ran away from home when he was 11. He would go on to write for Sinatra, and was recorded by Johnny Cash, Madonna, Barbara Streisand and many others. He sold out Carnegie Hall, and used to do a birthday concert there every year (I always thought it was fate that he and I almost share the same birthday). Who can forget his lovely song Jean from The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie? He wrote about places the Bay Area used to be. Stanyan Street is one of my favorite poems here:
Some other great quotes from McKuen:
“This is the way it was while I was waiting for your eyes to find me.”
“I have fallen in love with the world
And I am aware that I have chosen
the most dangerous lover of them all.”
“No map to help us find the tranquil flat lands, clearings calm, fields without mean fences. Rolling down the other side of life our compass is the sureness of ourselves. Time may make us rugged, ragged round the edges, but know and understand that love is still the safest place to land.”
Thank you, my love, a lover I never met, kissed or held hands with. Thank you for sharing the insides of your soul, for awakening in me that true passion for life. I vow that, no matter how busy I get, that I won't forget to remember, and to listen to the warm, or forget the sea.
I've been listening to some wonderful music by Jo Blankenburg, who has become one of my favorites. I have about 45 days worth of this kind of music stored on my computer, and yes, I know that's not wise. But I hear something I love, and then I get into a writing groove (I'll tell you some days it's way better than sex and trust me, I like that a lot too) and play the darned thing over and over again. Why? Because I love to be inspired. I think that's why I love to write.
I probably cruised through my early married life with rose colored glasses and missed so much along the way, but I'm defending my imagination and all the worlds I lived in while I was spending the 2 1/2 hours every day in my white Suburban, shuttling the kids from karate, to swimming lessons, acting classes, gymnastics, volleyball and soccer practice, listening to the music that would make my kids groan. Yes I've been an overbearing mother and they did it my way. Of course, now that they are older, I get some grief about it. None of them can listen to New Age music without losing their dinner.
Where did I go when I was doing that? I went to other worlds. Fell in love with beautiful men and handsome warriors. I became the faery princess and the Queen of everything. I lived in worlds where love was supreme and feeling great about being alive was all that was necessary. That's where I was. For years I was there.
My kids? They were in the back of the Suburban. Okay, so I ruined it for them. My license plate was SNOWEYT, because I usually packed around seven or more dwarfs everywhere I went. I even took all four kids to listing appointments, lined them up on the couch and told them to behave while I told the sellers I had about 30 minutes before the wheels came off my little family and boy did we get down to business fast. I became the number one Realtor in my office, then my company, then the whole county while I was traveling to those distant lands and meeting those strange beautiful beings.
I guess you would categorize me as an adrenalin junkie. I want the best part of life. I like the chocolate centers of the chocolate candies at Sees, the soft part in the middle of a cinnamon roll, the “point” of the slice of pizza, the first sip of a cold beer, the part of a song that is so incredibly sweet you will put up with the whole rest of it just to hear those two stanzas again. I used to read to the sexy parts in books, and then read them again with heightened anticipation because I knew they were coming. When I'm writing I write until I get tired, go back to bed and wake up 2 hours later and get like three or four new mornings out of one day. When I listen to educational tapes I play them on triple speed so you can do 45 hours of continuing education in less than 5 hours (btw it only takes about 5 minutes to get used to Mickey Mouse speaking to you). I hate reading manuals and love having someone tell me a really good story. I believe in people and I never give up. I get discouraged, but I never give up.
I once heard a motivational speech by a lady who put it well. She said she wanted the “juice of life”, that sweet part of the orange that is so rare. And to get it, you have to squeeze it. You have to grab it.
Writing this today because I'm thinking about all of you who are under snow and ice, huddled in homes I hope are safe, and cozy. I can attest to the fact that Spring is here. The trees are blooming in Santa Rosa, Northern California, in the wine country, where I live.
The seasons aren't as colorful here in Wine Country. But we do have some things I love. Let me count the ways…
We have green hills this time of year. In fact, usually St. Patrick's Day is the greenest day of the year. The weeds are still short, the brown stalks of overgrown things from wintertime are broken or long since blown away. Now we have a nice lush carpet, dotted with daffodils in my garden. Spring is like that here. Without a lot of work, it just blooms, like the fruit trees, without a lot of my maintenance. These are the times when I love walking through nurseries. I feel the presence of my mother, who used to spend hours tending her garden. Every year she'd go get another pair of gloves at the nursery, and a new set of white tennis shoes. Don't ask me why they were white. They always were. She washed them every time she used them, and left them drying in the sun for the next day.
Spring is the time for new things, renewals. I explored a new commercial complex last week, an old apple packing plant in Sebastopol, the Barlow Center. I found community garden plots and eclectic stores from a Tibetan artifact store (complete with a painted design in the driveway), two breweries, several restaurants, a coffee roasters, a Waldorf toy and projects store, two wineries, and other retail and professional offices. I love recycled things. Making new things from old things. I love looking at gardens and fencing made from recycled apple tree cuttings.
Some of my best stories are written after I go exploring. It isn't guided meditation, but just exploring. Being guided by what is just around the corner. Kind of like life, right? The undiscovered country or adventure. The new friend I might make today or an old one I'll reconnect with. Making something beautiful today, like a bouquet of my own flowers, or some words that make my heart sing on the page, or helping someone see a shining ray of light on a future they could have, or assisting someone. Even feeding fish can be good therapy on a day like today. They know me. They get excited whenever I go into the office and collect in little rows at the tank, vying for my attention. I'm sure it's my imagination, but it works for me.
The sign I bought some years ago still hangs over the doorway of what used to be my office. “Never Too Late To Be What You Might Have Been.” It still applies. Especially today.
Have a glorious one!!! Spring is really just around the corner.
I was talking to my friend recently, and we both admitted we got married because we were totally in lust. We were laughing about how many of our early days of marriage we spent in bed. I can remember my husband saying, “But we have to get something done, Sharon.” My internal thought was, “why?” LOL. How times change. I cherish those years and I cherish the young bride I was and how I viewed the world. We would never get old, we would live forever. Everything would always be exciting and would turn out perfect. Our love would sustain us through thick and thin, if not by the sheer power of sex!
Don't get me wrong, I highly recommend this way of getting together, but love has become so much more for me. In addition to the physicality of making love, the long term friendship and the practice of being in love is what I've come to understand and fully appreciate. That is what sustains me today.
Over the years we learn to bend. Being married can be a lot of work sometimes. There are highs and lows. I'm remembering the line from Good Will Hunting when Robin Williams talks about his wife, and how there were ups and downs, and, with a smile he said, “the year she died was one of those good ones.” I watch couples who talk over dinner and hold hands, at any age. They practice communication and show affection. This is the miracle of love.
The Practice of Love is like a meditation in doing for someone else. We find it easy to do when we love our children. Some would say it's just a natural love. Sometimes loving our partner doesn't feel that natural. And that's when the practice of sharing love comes in. Something simple, but something every day. The practice reminds us that our love isn't how we feel, but how we act.
In the end, being loveable isn't about bodies or sex, although I think it's important to enjoy those things at any age. Being loveable is being worthy of love. And we are worthy of love when we give it away.
And when we give it away with our full heart, it grows and comes back to us ten-fold. Now who said there were no such things as miracles?
I spent Valentine's Day in labor with this little one. He was born on February 15th, today, so many years ago, and was the first of our four children. It was a magical time in my life and something I'm so grateful for having experienced.
So I guess I'd say the Practice of Love is more than sex or passion, or births or families. Love is who we are. Our constant friend, throughout all the phases of our life.
Needed a break today and took myself down to my favorite coffee place, walking by my favorite lingerie shop. I've shopped there in the past – you know – one of those places where the nice German lady comes into the dressing room and lectures me on “the girls” and the proper form for wearing a bra, except I am rather large chested, and when she's done, I beg her to buy a size larger so I don't feel like a trussed turkey. But no, she likes to fit me tight, and she reaches in and does — well you can get the picture.
I bought a nice red outfit for my hubby last Valentine's. I love my husband dearly. Dearly, Madly, Deeply, like the title of Hannah Jayne's book. But for an engagement present I got a bicycle. Some Valentine's Days I've gotten orange carnations. I have to say the gentleman knows how to please me now, and I'm lucky he still tries after all those (no I'm not going to say it) years. And he now gets me flowers. And he provides for me and my crazy ways like no one else ever could. Something delicious about a man who sticks around when you are at your worst, as well as your best. Easy to stick around when things are good. Really hard to keep together when those dark days come. We all get them. And we know the sun is just around the corner, too. I've learned to trust in things I cannot see, measure and treasure my faith. And my love.
My romance themes are True Love Heals In The Gardens Of The Heart. I like it, but it isn't sexy enough to use anywhere. So good. It's mine, and now it's yours. But it's what I write. I do believe in the healing power of love, and it is the theme of all my stories. Men and women find each other, and they transform into their higher, better selves as a result of that meeting. I believe in love at first sight. Love that lasts forever (and I love the title of my new paranormal super bundle, Immortal Valentines-my Valentine's gift to you for just a week). Love is stronger than hate. Quieter than hate. Never lies, and always forgives. And sometimes you have to live without it. Love is so important the Bible devotes a chapter to it.
My folks were married over 55 years before my mother passed. And then, at 80, my father fell in love again and had another ten wonderful years with my now new mother. And she loved him and our family enough to give us all another ten years we would have not had with my dad. He was ready to die without the love of his life. But, and I said this at his funeral, even though my mother had died, he finally came to the conclusion that he wasn't yet ready to give up being a father, grandfather or a husband. And so he set out and accomplished that. We are all the richer for it.
See? You thought we were going to talk about steamy romance novels. I'm talking about love and the healing power of love.
My stories are my love letters to you. In a perfect world, we'd walk down the beach together, or take a hike in the rain forest in Washington, we'd sail on a blue ocean or sit and sip beers listening to beautiful music. You and I can't do all those things. And so we have to pretend.
And for just a little while, all the world is as it should be. The equipment works and the paint's not chipped. People are safe and out of harm's way. There is a happily ever after.
And true love heals in the gardens of the heart, because that's what I wrote.
In my former career, I got to meet some great speakers, great men and women. While I never shared a meal with Walt Disney or Charles Schulz, their legacy is all around me, and I feel as if I knew them really well. Indeed, this is the magic of creating something so endearing, it lasts long after you are gone. I should be so lucky some day.
We've come back from a visit to The Magic Kingdom in Florida, and an Aulani stay in Hawaii. I know a little bit about some of the background of the Disney theme parks because I got to sit and talk to one of Disney's close friends/business associates one day. Most people know what a risk Disney took to build Disneyland, “Where all the horses work and there's no chipped paint.” I've previously written about how that was one thing he noticed about the park nearby where he used to take his girls when they were little. It is a fascinating story about how he got the funds to build the Children's Hospital of L.A., and how it involved getting the Abraham Lincoln exhibit more life-like with the help of a cardiovascular specialist, who in turn requested a children's hospital be built, a promise Disney kept. A story for another day. There are hundreds of these stories.
Having just come from the Gratitude Reception, at the Schulz Museum here in Santa Rosa, I'm struck with the same feeling that I knew Mr. Schulz, “Sparky” as he is known to his friends and family. I walk down the aisles of the comic strips he drew over the decades, witnessing how they brought laughter and introspection to a population hungry for pure entertainment. The simple lines and short phrases endeared Mr. Schulz, and the characters he created, to millions, young and old.
At the Disney resorts, grown men and women wear mouse ears, acting like children, in many cases reliving their own childhoods through the next generation of children. I think it's a gift to be able to make someone laugh. And to give back, very humbly, to the community that fostered and supported them.
Both men loved to draw cartoons. It wasn't an accident when they couldn't find Mr. Disney at the grand opening of the CHLA, and later found him upstairs, sitting on the ground, drawing pictures with some of the little patients and making them smile.
There's a lot to shout about and rant in this world. But there's also a lot to be grateful for. In the end, these kinds of men will be fondly remembered long after those that prey off society. Just like in my books, good always triumphs, is always way stronger than evil. The healing power of love and laughter is much stronger than the screaming. The Bible says it well, “Love is patient, kind.”
May your lines be straight, your moving parts work, your heart open and your soul patient. I can only imagine what kinds of conversations these two men are having in Heaven today.
SUNDAYS WITH SHARON: The Car Caper
My son needed a car for work some years ago and, since my husband is the resident expert on cars in our family, he agreed to take him down to the local auction yard to bid on a couple of cars there. These are vehicles siezed in drug busts or otherwise impounded or found abandoned. Although we've bought cars there from time to time, I've never known one of these to be a real barn-burning steal. But it's hard to tell a 20 year old male eager to get his first car, or his father, who desperately wants to prove his value to his son.
They missed the evening before to go check out the vehicles, so they arrived early the day of the auction to scope everything out, and selected five or so to bid on. As it turned out, all the cars they liked came up towards the beginning, and the prices seemed a little higher than they wanted to spend. At last, the final car they were interested in came up, and they were the successful bidders. Upon going over to the office to complete the paperwork and pay the fees, they learned this particular car, costing about $200, came with it some $120 of fines and tickets that also had to be paid off before they could take title. They were to find out this was the least of their problems.
I was at work (this was prior to writing) and was expecting a call around noon with the news. When I still hadn't heard anything, I left a message for my husband around 2 PM again without a returned call. I made several other calls to his cell without an answer. I figured out about the fourth or fifth call that he was trying to figure out a story I was going to be told.
Around midnight, a taxi delivered my husband and my son home, which was the best decision they made all day. I'm still learning details of their car buying caper, and it's been several years. I doubt I will get the whole story anytime soon. Men are like that. When their projects go haywire, they carefully bury it, thinking no one will remember to ask them about it later. Like sticking your head in the sand, butt fully exposed, thinking you're hiding.
So, near as I can get to the truth, here is what happened. After paying all the fees, they went to drive the car home, my son following my husband. The auction yard is about 45 minutes south of where we live. They stopped to pick up gas and some waters, and that's when they discovered the car had no reverse. And the heater was stuck on “on”. They manually backed the car up and went back to the auction and I guess were greeted with smiles and nods of the head, and looks like, “You honestly think we care?” The car, they were told, belonged to my son, and that was that. No exceptions. No refunds. Have a nice day.
They drove it home to Santa Rosa and decided to get some things for dinner. This wouldn't be the celebratory dinner they'd hoped (I'd hoped), but along the way they found another car for sale by owner at the supermarket. The owner came and after a test drive, they decided to buy it. They even threw in the old car purchased at the auction yard, since the person selling the vehicle was raising money for a church. The lack of reverse was thoroughly disclosed, and, although the church group didn't really want the car, they didn't decline it. My husband left the keys in the vehicle in the Safeway parking lot for the group to pick up the vehicle later on that night.
Of course, the story continued. On the way home, the new car overheated and something terrible happened. I believe the term is called a cracked engine block. It involved a lot of smoke. It would turn out to be a repair cost far in excess of the value of the vehicle.
I believe it was at this time, nearing the dinner hour, they wanted to rid themselves of the reality of now two bad decisions, so my husband drove them to a nearby brewpub to perhaps lick their wounds, leaving the smoking second vehicle at the side of the road. A few beers later, neither one of them could or should drive. A few friends came down to add their condolences to the $200 car that had now cost close to $1000 and became two, and neither one of them was worth the original $200 estimate.
Meanwhile, I continued to wait. Around midnight they returned home. My son wanted to go straight to bed. My husband was left with telling me the story. I think I was in shock. And yes, his car was safely down at the brew pub and could be retrieved the next day.
The next morning, we drove by the Safeway parking lot to discover the first vehicle had indeed been picked up. We called the wrecking yard to pick up the second car and thought we'd done our duty. My husband's vehicle was successfully retrieved. All was well.
Until the police showed up at our door about ten days later. Seems someone else wanted the first vehicle we'd left in the parking lot, stole it, used it in an armed robbery, and, not being able to quickly exit the bank parking lot due to its lack of reverse, hit several parked vehicles before abandoning it and running away on foot. No, we didn't know anything about that, and the police didn't smile much. I'm guessing they did in private.
Did my son ever get a car? Yes, some time later. Did we get in trouble for the “abandoned” car? No. Neither did the church group, thank goodness. But boy what a story to tell the grandkids. Part of the fabric that is our colorful family. Maybe it will wind up in a romance novel some day.
I'll bet you have some stories like this one from your family. I'd love to hear them!
I love how David Letterman always has his Top Ten List Of Things. I've had a lot of fun posting my own version of these over the years. So this is rather tongue in cheek, or foot in mouth, depending on how you view my crazy brain. Remember, as he says, this is just for fun.
Sharon Hamilton's Top Ten Reasons Why This Might Not Be Your Best Writing Year:
10. Your friends do an intervention. They take all your romance books away, dispose of your computer and take you to a bar and try to hook you up with a plumber who wears Aloha shirts.
9. When you turn on your computer, water pours out of the screen, which doesn't bother you until the fish start swimming over your keyboard.
8. You read your manuscript to your dog and ask him if he understands what you've just written, and he answers, “Hell no.”
7. Your $16.35 Amazon royalty check bounces and the bank repossesses your Acer 386 computer.
6. Your editor emails you to say that if she has to read one more page of your drivel she'll refund all your money and put a contract out on you.
5. You discover your daughter got a six-figure advance on a New Adult horror novel based on her childhood.
4. You sit next to a guy on the airplane and open your hot bacon dressing packet for your spinach salad and it squirts all over his lap. (This is a true story)
3. Your computer drains bacon oil for two weeks afterwards. (Also true)
2. It's hard to write sex scenes when your computer smells like a salad. (You got it. True again.)
1. Your publisher wants to change the name of your epic hero's journey novel you've edited 100 times and spent five years of your life writing to: Loser.
Now, don't you feel better about how your year has started already?
You know when you are standing in line and the sign at the top says, “No one under this height allowed, or under 4 years of age allowed without parent,” and it says “Pregnant women should be cautious” that the Volcanic Vertical Drop tube slide is going to be a screamer. And it was. Just like the day my family huddled around me and made me, yes, MADE me skydive (or risk humiliation and ridicule for the rest of my life), they once again bunched around me, especially my son-in-law, who loves to see me wiggle and squirm. He's always trying new drinks out on me, even when I tell him I can't mix a thing, and then tells me afterwards I've mixed rum, vodka and God knows what else. All I have to say is, “It's nice,” and another one is served, whether I asked for it or not.
Friday was one of those days when I'd been enjoying a long nap at the beach/pool/hot tub. When the din of children's voices, the spouts of mechanical whales and the waves crashing on the shore were just background white noise that inspired some vivid dreams (well the Blue Hawaiian helped too). I was slimed with water and begged by everyone standing around me, shivering and wet from head to toe, that I had to come enjoy this long dark water slide. Except it's really not a slide. The most important part is the vertical drop at the end. It seemed like 4 stories but wasn't nearly that. Me being me, I had a hard time saying no.
My family knows that when they want something done by everyone, they have to convince me. And then everyone else will come along. It was the same way with skydiving, and I was adamant I was an earth angel and not a faery with wings, but eventually my resistance was futile.
I'm standing in line, and every time I turn around I'm greeted with grins. That means I'm in real serious trouble. Because I'm going, my daughter, my daughters mother-in-law and several others have to go, and they're looking at me crosseyed, with the expression, “Why, Sharon, didn't you just say no?”
I'm asking things like where my hands go, will I get stuck in the tube? How far back do I lean? And then the last one, “Is it safe?” Everyone laughs. They didn't have to say, “You'll see.”
Well, it was terrifying. I couldn't see a thing. I took curves so fast I thought I was going to start cannonballing. At the end of the volcanic vertical drop, I started swimming down, in the wrong direction and yes, needed help to get out because I was disoriented. But I have to say, though terrified and definitely pushing my limits, it was fun.
I love roller coasters. I now love skydiving. I love body surfing on waves a little bit too big for my skill level. I like driving fast at midnight with the top down, the music and the heater cranked up. I guess I can add one more to the list. I now love the Volcanic Vertical Drop.
Many of you know the journey I took to become a writer. We'd driven home from a day in San Francisco. It was a beautiful March day, like we get so often here. No rain. Blue skies and big white clouds. We opted for a simple dinner and so I was munching on a salad when I heard a buzzing sound I'd never heard before. Coming up the steps, there was no smoke, so my husband thought the smoke detector was defective, and bat it down with a broom handle. We went back to our meal. Then we smelled smoke.
It never occurred to us our lives would be so changed that evening. Coming up the stairway, looking into our bedroom, I saw my rose-colored leather recliner was on fire. A perfect circle of fire was on the back, like the hand of God had touched it. Within seconds, it ignited the curtains, then snaked along the ceiling and a thick black smoke rolled toward us like a tidal wave. We knew that toxic cloud wasn't going to be healthy so we went downstairs to get buckets of water, but when we returned, the entire top floor was ablaze.
I was in my nightie, barefoot. We called the Fire Department and they were here within 12 minutes, along with 4 other engines and a crew of men in case our fire traveled up the hill and spread to neighboring properties. I sat on the steps and watched as everything in the upstairs was destroyed, the downstairs was covered with water and carpets to protect some of the furniture. They expected our floor to cave in any minute. My husband drank a beer and smoked one of his Cuban cigars he'd rescued from the refrigerator. I was finishing my salad. It was surreal.
The road to coming back was long and arduous. Our bank was being taken over by the Feds, the County wasn't sure they'd let us rebuild, our insurance company wasn't giving us the money to redesign a new home or start construction. It took us 18 months before we could get cooperation from the parties to even start.
In the meantime, I lived in a little apartment and for the first time in over 35 years, was alone, since my husband stayed up on the property in a trailer to help with our animals, and to stop the steady flow of people who “stopped by” to give us a quote and then helped themselves to our things, I guess thinking we wouldn't mind.
In short, I felt violated on so many levels. All my great grandmother's jewelry, her delicious collection of amber and jade were gone. The box my other great great grandmother brought over with her when she was 14, lovingly made by her father in Scotland, who never saw her again, was gone. Her braid, which was exactly my hair color, was gone. Lizzy, her doll was gone. Pictures the kids had made. Oil paintings we'd bought all over the world were gone. Our computers looked like something from a Dali painting. Here and there something miraculous would be untouched, but 97% of what was upstairs was gone.
Initially, I did the staying up late to watch TV movies, since I didn't have to worry about keeping anyone up but myself. I read Outlander and then read it again. Then I read the Twilight series. I began to have vivid dreams of angels, guardian angels, and I slowly began to believe that instead of being incredibly unlucky, in fact, we were very lucky. We survived. We learned to cope and do things we'd never had to do before.
And I began to write.
I am a bit on the obsessive side of the scale. I sat down on December 15, 2008 and by January 15, 2009 I had written 90,000 words, and my first novel. I learned later that was a phenomenal amount of words. But then I didn't know. My story didn't have a villain, didn't have much of a story arc, except I began to think about what it would be like if a Guardian Angel fell in love with the person they were supposed to watch over. Would they be tempted to let themselves be known? Would they want to connect? Would they be banished from Heaven? I rewrote that story 57 times. No, that one didn't get trashed like you hear writers talk about. This one came from my soul, and I could never stop working on it until it was perfect. It became Heavenly Lover, my first book. My second book, Underworld Lover, came to me before I finished the first one. And just now, I have released the third book in the series, Underworld Queen. I continued on with many of the characters so that the villain in Book 1 is the hero in Book 2. The villainess in Book 2 is the heroine in Book 3. Everyone gets a chance to transform, to fall in love with their true love, to have their happily ever after. Everyone has a shot at redemption.
The basis premise is this: Heaven isn't 100% perfect by design. The Underworld isn't 100% evil by accident. Humans walk the fence between the two. It's not a religious book, but there is a good vs. evil theme, which is actually the same theme throughout all my books, paranormal or SEALs.
As I begin a new year, and look at my schedule and what books I want to finish or write this year, I have to remember that sometimes the greatest things that happen to me are just that: things that happen. Not things I planned at all. Or perhaps the better way of saying it is that I plan, adjust, based on what I'm given. Dealing with life on life's terms. Doesn't do any good to cry over what I've lost. I'm also not blonde, 20 years old and a supermodel with an unlimited income.
But I do possess the miracle of being able to take tragedy and make stories out of them. To feel. To be sad some days for sure, but then to rejoice in the little things, like meeting a blue jay that used to greet me every morning at breakfast outside the kitchen window. Writing all night long if I felt like it. Watching my grandkids play and sing, and yes, to have my granddaughter want me to help her write a book. She's 4. Isn't that also a miracle.
So, in 2015 I profess to obtaining and keeping my miracle glasses on 24/7. I've learned I can survive. If we'd lost it all I would have survived. And the other true miracle is that my stories will last forever.
I've written before about the paths we take, the steps we take in the shoes of our choice, and how our choices make us the people we are. Sometimes we surprise ourselves and we are stronger than we thought possible. Other times, we are weaker. We've done a lot of traveling, and unfortunately that took a toll on us, health-wise this season. It was unexpected and unusual for us to be so ill for so long. I'm never at my best when I'm sick, or when a loved one is sick, or hurting. I remember the last Christmas we had with my Dad, and how weak and frail he looked at the end. I see the vacant chair at Christmas morning when we open our stockings, and I miss him. This year, even though it's been 3 years now, I missed him more than ever.
IMG_6227 He'd love to see the grandkids and their sparkly faces. He'd love to see how they enjoyed seeing the Crystal Palace at Disney World, the Osborne light show at Disney Hollywood, IMG_6042 how the kids greeted me at the door at my daughter's house for Christmas morning. With a living room so filled with packages all colorfully wrapped, there wasn't room for furniture. A sea of abundance.
There was that ache in my heart, partly from missing those that have passed on, partly because I just felt something was missing. My life is truly blessed. I have everything I've always wanted, and more. And yet something was missing. I thought a lot about it during these past four days. This morning I found the answer.
My best friend sent me some music and it made me cry. I'd been staying off the internet, trying to be present with the people physically around me, trying to get over this lonely feeling something was lost or missing. But I opened my computer and saw a post from Mark Divine, who is a SEAL trainer and one of the smartest men on the planet. With the beautiful music as my background, I read his blog, “The Secrets of Resiliency.” And that was what I was missing.
Being a romance novelist I am very sensitive. When I was little, I would cry at movies and TV shows, my family often making fun of me. I was just like my grandmother Fox. When I stayed with them, we would sit on the couch and cry together. Shows like Come Back Yeller and Lassie just broke us up into pieces. Our big red puffy eyes testament to how deeply we felt things. Two of a kind. We wore our badge with honor.
Mark asked the question, “Do you tend to back off when you get overwhelmed emotionally and let fear, uncertainty or frustration derail you? I had to answer “yes” to that. I've been halfway around the world. Had a scare with my husband's health and a diagnosis I was afraid to hear. I'd just finished a book in a new genre for me, which turned out to be more work than I'd anticipated. My year was huge in terms of what I accomplished. And yes, I've been overwhelmed. Though I'm proud of all these great things, I was letting fear take a front seat in my roller coaster ride of life. What if next year is even harder? Am I prepared? Have I made the right choices?
The miracle of life, of the season, and the answer I got this morning was that yes, I have been making the right choices. Feeling emotionally vulnerable prepares me for the next big challenge. Of one thing I am certain, there will be challenges and failures next year. People will disappoint me. I will disappoint those I love. Nothing is, afterall, perfect.
But it still is. Because the perfectness of life is that we get to learn how to be more resilient by being challenged. We don't learn to walk except by falling down. We don't learn to do anything outstanding without having first experienced failure. But if we let fear stop us, we don't progress. And by progress I mean we get resilient, not perfect. We learn how to dust ourselves off and get up and try again. We get the opportunity to have a breakthrough. Without the toughness and the fears we have to face, we don't get those breakthroughs. We don't get the silver linings without the clouds.
We got to share our Christmas Eve with a couple from Croatia and their four year old daughter. What a blessing it was to see their faces light up as they watched their daughter, only here seven months, be able to speak English and share her first Christmas in a new land with an American family. It was an honor to share our home with them. It was my greatest Christmas gift.
So I have the gift this season of being emotionally challenged, overwhelmed, with my heart bursting with gratitude for all the opportunities I have now, and in the future. Oh yes, fear will still be my familiar friend, but now I can thank him for making me a stronger person. For reminding me that my job is to feel. Not just be, but to feel. And the more resilient I become, the more gifts of feeling I will be able to experience.
Nothing stays the same. Everything passes on, fades and dies. Everything. What I see now at my age is different than what I saw as a child, a young bride, mother, daughter, grandmother. I don't have to be perfect. I just have to fill my days with enough of all the good things I can stand.
Happy, Bright, Shining New Year. May it be the first of many.
SUNDAYS WITH SHARON: Christmas SEAL
I decided to give you a little short story to sketch out a new character I'm going to be writing for my next SEAL book in the Bad Boys of SEAL Team 3 of my SEAL Brotherhood series. His name is Rory Kennedy and I'm already in love with him, and he's only nine in this story, until the very end.
Enjoy! Merry Christmas to you all!
Rory Kennedy didn’t believe in Santa Claus when he was a child, because there were no pictures in the orphanage he spent five of his young years in. There was a Christmas Tree, but they removed it when Rory and a number of the boys took the glass ball ornaments outside and tossed them at each other like snowballs.
They’d missed their dinner that night too, but the giggles continued all through the evening. Instead of Christmas carols, they told ghost stories in the corner of the locked room they shared. The room was always locked at night from the outside because these were the incorrigible boys, and though the oldest was seven, they had earned a reputation they liked: impossible to live with. They figured if they’d continue screwing up, they could stay together until their teens, and then be a pack of friends “on the outside” as they referred to it. Though they’d been scolded and reminded of it many times, it still felt like a children’s prison.
Rory’s parents were said to be still alive, but he didn’t believe it. The nuns had two classifications of children: orphans and true orphans. This made a difference since the center was given an allotment of new clothes every year, along with hand-me-downs given by the community. The true orphans got the new clothes, and the orphans, like Rory, got the hand-me-downs.
Rory didn’t mind this arrangement, because he didn’t like the look and feel of stiff pants that made skinny underweight kids like himself look like cardboard stick figures as they walked around in their new finery. The fact that his clothes had smudges and tears made him more comfortable, and less guilty when he damaged them further.
His mother visited him one time. She brought a boyfriend with her, and afterwards he realized he’d not passed the test she was hoping he would and they never returned. No doubt, the man was looking to see if Rory could come home and live with them and evidently he decided he couldn’t. It hurt a little bit. Would have been better, he thought afterwards, if she’d never come. It was evidence that she’d abandoned him, and not the other way around. And that sucked big time.
But fate had a way of messing up his community, and one by one the boys were sent off to foster care as the aging nuns began to close down the orphanage. The Diocese was in need of money, and this enterprise was considered expendable, especially since there were other agencies who could handle children that needed homes.
The first foster care home only kept Rory for a week. The second was another zoo of unkempt children with snotty noses and Rory took ill and wound up in the hospital. They discovered he’d picked up a tapeworm and along with other things, removed him from the home.
He’d developed an allergy to strawberries, of all things. His new foster mother liked to put them in everything, and Rory was soon covered in spots. At first he was quarantined like he had chicken pox, but when the spots continued for a month, the allergy was discovered. Rory had liked his quarantine. He’d started reading Playboys he’d snuck from his foster older brother, who also was a good source for alcohol and cigarettes for the nine-year-old Rory, who acted as lookout for some of the teen’s more questionable activities. But all that dried up when young Frank was sent to Juvenile Hall for some infraction he swore he never did, involving a girl at his high school. Rory was, once again, left alone.
He knew he’d developed an addiction to cigarettes. He’d heard and seen things enough to know that’s what happened when you smoked several a day. Sometimes he’d steal a whole pack from his foster mother when he learned where she stashed them after Frank was carted off. But then she discovered his sinister deed and kept her smokes in a locked cabinet.
Frustrated and telling himself he needed some kind of distraction or he’d start thinking about running away, he began a love affair with fire. He liked to set small fires in the rear yard, raking up leaves and burning them, thinking he’d been helpful to The House as he called it. His foster mother seemed to be okay with it, for some reason, since Rory was the only one to rake the leaves or do any work around the house. He liked tinkering with things.
He started tinkering with bottle rockets when he was given some firecrackers by a Chinese kid at school. Then he began unpeeling the paper on the little explosive devices and filling plastic straws with a longer fuse, which really sent the projectiles into the air. Of course he could never tell where they’d land. Only one of them landed on a car and set off the alarm. It left a large crater in the roof, though.
He found some shotgun shells in the old garage that was more of a toolshed than garage and he knew he was in like Flynn. He accidentally set one off on the workbench. He was lucky to get away with only losing the fourth finger on his left hand, but the ensuing fire burned down the garage and once again, Rory was sent to his fourth foster home after his surgery and hospitalization.
Now, as a grown man, and a Navy SEAL, he sat in the coffee house/book store and watched the chubby and well-loved children huddle at a book reading with a woman dressed as Santa Claus, telling stories to her little horde of fans. He allowed himself to drop the window on his calluses, and enjoy the scene, even though he felt a pang of hurt. It was like the caramel salted latte he sipped: some salt and some sweet. It was the story of his life.
Hope you enjoy your Holidays with friends and family. Let's remember those who are no longer with us this Holiday season as well. And the men and women who stand for us in harm's way. God Bless.
Life is one fool thing after another.
Love is two fool things after each other.
I've shared before about some of the things I learned about Walt Disney and the amazing organization he founded, developed and then inspired. I was told by one of his good friends that his rule was simple: everything has to work, and there's no chipped paint. As a young father in Los Angeles, he was frustrated when he used to bring his girls to a nearby park and the equipment was either broken or the paint was peeling. Who knew this simple mission statement would yield something so powerful as Disneyland. He saw something that needed doing, and he kept doing it, and then repeating the process over and over again.
Creating the Happiest Place On Earth hasn't been easy, but it's been a labor of love. I can't imagine what kind of powerful leadership it takes to create and run an organization like Disney did. But he was the spark. And today, his legacy lives on because he was able to light that spark in hundreds of thousands of his co-workers and “cast members” around him. Yet, even after all the success he had in business, he never forgot that he was first an illustrator, and never tired of drawing pictures for children, being with children and helping to create happy memories for children of all ages.
Being here in Orlando the past 2+ days, I'm amazed at the lights, the way millions of people wander through his vision, his land, from all over the world, a place where I couldn't wait to go to as a child, took all my children to, and now my grandchildren. A place where imagination can run wild. We want to share in the experience together, even though the lines are long, the restaurants are hard to get into, where you have to plan ahead to get to go on favorite rides – we all do that willingly and mostly without complaint. Because we want to be connected. People are using their mobile devices to make reservations and work through all the limitations of being in a setting and sharing it with hundreds of thousands of strangers.
We are all connected, and this place shows it, though we are different individuals, we still strive for that “happy” place where we can join our way. The park offers hundreds of ways people can do this. Kids and adults have their favorite lands, favorite characters, favorite experiences from the the choices offered. Entertainment is connection, where we are moved by a performance or talent outside ourselves. We go back again and again to the same things, experiencing the promise consistently delivered over and over again, like a great movie or thrilling book we've watched or read or listened to over and over again.
It was powerful last night to watch as the lights on the Castle turned the whole area into a shimmering Frozen wonderland. My little voice was just one. My grandkids screams of enjoyment a few more. Together we shared in the magic of connection with strangers all over the world. And we walked away with a little more sparkle dust. I'm sure when I get home today, there'll be some glitter in my clothes when I unpack.
I know there's lots of sparkle in my heart.
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