Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

2011 is just hours away. I am looking forward to a quiet evening with my brother, Eric, his wife, SeDonna, and my youngest son, Nathan. Tonight's theme is Mexican; the casserole is in the oven, the salad is in the fridge, and I will put the rice on the stove momentarily. For dessert, we will enjoy the last of the Christmas goodies (thanks, Mom!). Afterwards, we will play board games and patiently await the toll of midnight.

I don't know about you, but I am glad to see 2010 draw to a close. It has been a disappointment of a year, with more than its share of loss and struggle and failure, although I hope I have learned a thing or two from my mistakes. But it hasn't been all bad; there has been love and joy and success, too, and that is where I am going to place my focus. Ever the optimist, I am certain that 2011 is the year that my dreams will start to come true.

Thanks to all my readers for being by my side through good times and bad, for all your wisdom and encouragement and support. I wish you all abundant blessings and much happiness in the days, weeks and months ahead. Happy New Year!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Holiday Reflections

Despite my apprehension, I had a wonderful Christmas.

It took me the better part of last week, but I got a tree and some decorations up, put cards and packages in the mail, and accomplished what shopping, wrapping and baking I needed to do. On December 24th, the boys and loaded up the car and headed to Mt. Carmel, Illinois to spend the holiday weekend with my parents and my brother, Eric and his wife.

This is what our Christmas looked like.

We opened gifts on Christmas Eve night.

Traditionally, I am the designated Santa.

Nathan and Casey loved their new Slankets.

Nathan gave Casey a vuvuzela.

I was rendered speechless by my new Kindle, a totally unexpected and extremely generous gift from my baby brother.

On Christmas morning, we met at my parents' house and caravanned to the local VFW hall for a turkey dinner.

The fam.

Casey grooved on the pecan pie and cranberry sauce.

We even had snow - which was stressful for me as I drove those last few miles on icy roads in Indiana and Illinois on Christmas Eve - but once we were safe and settled, I couldn't deny the magic.

My parents' house on Christmas morning.

We spent Christmas Day eating too many goodies, playing Uno and Aggravation, and generally enjoying being together. The time went by too fast, as it always does. I am truly thankful for my loving, supportive family, and for all the memories we share.


"There comes a time in everyone's life when all you can see are the years passing by
And I have made up my mind that those days are gone."
~Rascal Flatts, I'm Movin' On

I love the week between Christmas and the new year. All the hustle and bustle is behind me; I have no schedule and no deadlines. I can simply kick back, play with my new toys, and plan for a fresh start on January 1st.

Believe me, I am thinking long and hard about that. Last year, instead of making resolutions, I came up with a list of daily, weekly and monthly goals that were meant to help me achieve a list of general goals. I did a reasonably good job of keeping up with those lists throughout the year, yet I feel frustrated by my lack of accomplishment. In my defense, the stalled economy didn't help with my financial goals, and I *DID* pitch my novel at the M&M Conference Still, I am going to look at my daily routine, and see if there is anything I can do to pump it up; also, I am going to revisit my general goals, and try to make them more specific. Finally, I want to chart my progress on my Amazing Life List, and determine whether or not it needs updating, as well.

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and are finding time for rest and reflection this week, as well. What was your favorite present? What are your resolutions for 2011?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Writer, Rejected

Yesterday was a tough one. I got my first rejection letter.

And my second.

The first was from the agent I pitched to at the M&M Conference in October. She said,

"Unfortunately I was not as caught up in the story and characters as I had hoped."

The second was from the agent I pitched to at the GRW meeting in November. She said,

"Although your idea is heartwarming and intriguing, I'm afraid I just couldn't quite connect with Tessa."

She might as well have stabbed me in the heart.

Both suggested that another agent might feel totally different about my story; one said "it could be perfect for someone else" and the other wished me "tremendous luck in finding the ideal advocate" for my work.

But I wanted HER to be the advocate for my work.

I shed a few tears, I shared the news with my kids, then I announced my failure on Facebook. To my delight, I received an outpouring of support and encouragement from my friends there, many of whom are also writers. As a result of their responses, I decided to celebrate my rejections. I went out to dinner with a friend, drank a couple of glasses of wine, and came home and ate a very large brownie for dessert. Then I went to bed early and slept the clock around.

I woke up ready to revise, to make my story and characters more interesting, to make Tessa more accessible. Unfortunately, I am so busy with last-minute holiday preparations that I wasn't able to touch my manuscript today. But I will get back to work next week. And I intend to have my novel finished and polished and ready to send out to anyone and everyone by the end of January.

Because 2011 is going to be MY YEAR.

My critique partners and I have vowed: 2011 is the year we are going to GET PUBLISHED.

You heard it here first!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Sounds of Christmas

My Christmas memories have soundtracks.
  • My parents owned long-play record albums of seasonal favorites by such greats as Elvis Presley, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Johnny Mathis, and Jim Nabors; as a child, I would stack them six-high on the stereo changer and make sure the house was filled with Christmas music all through the month of December. If you have no idea what I am talking about, ask an old person. Like me.
  • The first time I remember playing the piano in public was in the third grade; I performed "White Christmas" at our elementary school Christmas program. I look at the piano score now and wonder how I was able to play it after just one year of piano lessons.
  • My paternal grandmother loved the song "The Little Drummer Boy." If we were together for Christmas, I would play it for her in person; if not, I played it over the telephone. I miss that.
  • I have seasonal sheet music that belonged to my dad and have added much to his collection over the years. I have spent literally hundreds of hours playing Christmas music on the piano; consequently, I know practically every word to every Christmas song ever written. If I am ever on "Jeopardy" and the category is "Christmas carols," I will make a sweep.
  • I am not ashamed to admit that I isten to 98.5 FM, "Atlanta's Home for the Holidays" almost exclusively in my car from Thanksgiving through Christmas Day, and to little besides my extensive holiday CD collection on my iPod. This makes my children crazy. I do not care.
I could go on an and on. Instead, I will share the Christmas music memories I made this year.

1. Nathan and I made the four and a half hour drive to Spring Hill, Tennessee and enjoyed a house concert of solo piano music presented by artists Joseph Akins and Philip Wesley.

l-r: Joseph Akins, Yours Truly, Philip Wesley

Santa put in an appearance, too, and played an amazing arrangement called "Jingle Bell Boogie." You can buy the single for just 49 cents at CD Baby. It will be the best 49 cents you ever spend.

I made a point to mention what a good girl I have been this year.

The concert was so amazing that even grumpy Beethoven found a little holiday spirit.


2. I attended Mill Creek High School's holiday orchestra concert. Instructor Dana Lowe really knows how to draw music from her students. Charlie Brown showed up, too. He gave me a candy cane. For real!

Mill Creek High School Concert Orchestra

3. I went to my friend Cell Fehrenbach's birthday bash at Loco's in Gainesville. Technically, this had nothing to do with Christmas. But it helped make my holidays complete nonetheless. Because that woman can REALLY sing. It is beyond me why she isn't rich and famous. Her voice is reminiscent of Tracy Chapman, but her lyrics are optimistic and laced with humor. I love her stuff. Give her a listen.


4. I participated in the fifth annual Messiah Singalong with the Riverside Chamber Players and the Michael O'Neal Chamber Singers. The instrumentalists and soloists were superb, the conductor was excellent and engaging. I sat in the alto section, next to a woman who actually knows how to sing; she helped me find my pitches in a couple of the songs I don't know as well as others. But I held my own for the most part, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience of being a participant in the event as opposed to just a member of the audience. It was wonderful to be a part, however, small, of such a magnificent performance. I plan to make this an annual event.

Do your Christmas memories have a soundtrack? What is your favorite seasonal song? Your favorite holiday CD?

Have yourself a merry little Christmas!

Thursday, December 16, 2010


I just found out about an online initiative for the month of December called Reverb 10, in which simple writing prompts allow participants to reflect on the year that is passing and manifest the year ahead. Click HERE to find out the details.

Since I am late joining in, I plan to journal my responses, two per day, so that I will have completed all the prompts by year's end, but I will post some of them here.

Today's Question:

How has a friend changed you or your perspective on the world this year? Was this change gradual, or a sudden burst?

MANY friends have changed my perspective on the world in 2010; this has been a gradual change, a culmination of many events and occasions. I have been single much of this year, giving me the freedom to accept the gift of female friendship, which was frequently and richly offered. I luxuriated in time spent with my Jane Austen Book Club cohorts, my GRW sisters and my newfound critique partners, my sweet sister-in-law, and a dear friend from the past. I also learned that true friendship does not depend on physical proximity; I value the love and support of my Facebook friends and a childhood neighbor, even though it has been many years since I have seen some of these people.

There have been a couple of occasions in which someone I thought was a friend for life has let me down in a big way. But the joys have far outweighed the sorrows, so I will continue to risk having my heart broken. Maybe it is my destiny to live the rest of my days as a single woman. But single and lonely do not have to be synonymous.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Cheese Grits

As a writer, I understand the value of being a part of a critique group. Although it took me several months to find them, now I see my critique partners every Friday morning. We haven't been together long; we are still getting to know each other and figuring out our "process."

But a couple of weeks ago, a crisis arose in our midst. We understood that this would prevent any actual critiquing from being accomplished during that Friday's session, but we felt it imperative that we meet, anyway. The substance of the crisis is not my story to share; all I can tell you is this emergency called for some serious comfort food. A spinach quiche was the star of the menu, and I was instructed to bring cheese grits to serve alongside.

I had never made cheese grits before, but I believed I could, even though my writer friends are southern belles and I am a damned Yankee. (I stayed.) I searched high and low, finally found a recipe that sounded like it might be good enough, and followed the directions to the letter. To my relief, everyone who tasted my dish loved it and wanted the recipe for their own. So I am going to share with you now, although it turns out all that was really expected was grits with a little butter and cheese grated in. Live and learn. These would taste great on Christmas morning.



1 cup uncooked grits
4 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 cup butter
1 cup milk
4 eggs, beaten
2 cups cheddar cheese, grated

Bring salt and water to a boil; stir in grits and cook according to package directions. Remove from heat. Add butter, milk, garlic powder, and 1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, mixing well. Let cool so that eggs will not cook when added; add eggs and pour into a buttered casserole dish and bake at 350 degrees for one hour. During the last few minutes of baking, sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup cheddar cheese on top of the casserole.


For dessert, we had bourbon brownies. They were beyond delicious, but the baker refused to share her secret recipe, so I have been experimenting with my own. Look for the results in a future post.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Following Directions

I made snickerdoodles the other day. Click HERE for the recipe.

Look closely at the picture above. Two of the cookies were made following the recipe; the other two were made substituting baking powder for baking soda. Can you tell which is which? If you guessed that the cookies on the left were made using the substitute, you are correct. They had an odd flavor and did not "flatten out with crinkled tops" like they were supposed to.

According to my research, sometimes it is possible to substitute baking powder for baking soda with no negative effect. Come on! You wouldn't think that a tiny teaspoon of ANYTHING would make a hill of beans' worth of difference. But, as you can see, sometimes it makes all the difference in the world.

The lesson? Baking is a science. To be successful, it is important to follow the directions. Precisely.

And listen, my friends. There are many situations in life in which following the directions is the only means of achieving an optimal result. Sometimes it just doesn't pay to make substitutions. Sometimes you can't simply wing your way through.

But, unfortunately, it seems that when it comes to some of life's most important scenarios, there ARE no directions.

Take child rearing, for example. How many times have you heard people ask why children don't come with an instruction manual? The answers to that question are complex and varied. But the fact is, they don't. You do the best you can, and you hope for a positive outcome.

Marriage similarly comes to mind. Because it seems like a girl can do everything right and still her spouse will have a midlife crisis and buy a sports car and have an affair with a woman young enough to be his daughter and leave her out in the cold.


Maybe that's why I enjoy baking so much. It's something I can count on. If I follow the directions to the letter, I am guaranteed a good result.

So tomorrow I will post another recipe. See you then!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Surviving Christmas

It's December 10th already; we're smack in the middle of the Christmas season and, I'm pleased to report, things aren't so bad. There is a wreath on my front door, a red and green sparkly plaid cloth covering the dining room table, and a tiny Christmas tree in the living room; there is even a sprig of mistletoe hanging in the kitchen doorway, although the only kiss I'm likely to get is from my dog. The greeting cards have begun to arrive, and I have already been to two delightful holiday concerts--more about those in a future blog post. I have sold a few Christmas items in my Etsy store and come up with some low-cost/no-cost gift ideas for friends and loved ones. I have enjoyed a couple of eggnog lattes, a handful of Christmas movies, dozens of Christmas songs. And baby, it's cold outside.

Best of all, I got an early present yesterday: after reading my requested synopsis, the agent I dream of representing my work asked to see the first fifty pages of my manuscript. Opening that email was better than opening a stocking filled with Godiva chocolates--and it wasn't fattening.

Yep, it's finally beginning to feel like Christmas.

To help keep myself in the proper frame of mind, I am squeezing in a few minutes every day to do some seasonal reading. Every year, I try add a book or two to our holiday collection; back when my children were small, I chose books to read aloud to them. Some of our favorites were Merry Christmas, Mom and Dad by Mercer Mayer; The Night Before Christmas illustrated by Jan Brett or Tasha Tudor; The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg; The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Wojciechowski; The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson; and Christmas with Ida Early by Robert Burch. During that time, I personally made an annual event of reading Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry, and Miss Read's Christmas Tales. Since then, I have discovered another Christmas novel by Miss Read, No Holly for Miss Quinn; last year, I also read Skipping Christmas by John Grisham (Christmas with the Kranks was based on Skipping Christmas, but as is often the case, the book is much better than the movie). This year, I am reading Lakeshore Christmas by Susan Wiggs, a recommendation from the blog Petit Fours and Hot Tamales, whose family I will join in January. I have only finished the first chapter but so far, so good.

Like playing holiday music on the piano, reading these special stories helps me to escape from the hustle and bustle that threatens to consume both my spirit and my soul this time of year and to get out of my head and into a better place. What books have been a part of your family's holiday tradition? What are some of your grown-up recommendations?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Christmas in Perspective

I have always been the queen of Christmas. In what I refer to as my "former life," I spent 364 days preparing for the holiday, sewing quilts and making jam in the middle of the summer and setting them aside for winter gift giving, constantly looking for the perfect presents for friends and loved ones. By Thanksgiving Day, my shopping was finished, so I spent the rest of that weekend wrapping packages and decorating the house, leaving the month of December free for writing cards, baking cookies, making candy, reading holiday books to my children, attending holiday activities with them, and playing Christmas music on the piano. Some years, I would even do a little more sewing, making holiday outfits or pajamas for the kids, staying up until the wee hours of the night to finish everything.

It sounds idyllic, doesn't it? Well, the truth of the matter was that, although I loved my children, I was living a lie, and Christmas provided me with a means of escape from reality. Making December 25th the focal point of my year allowed me to avoid dealing with some of the pain and problems that were the core of my existence. As you might imagine, I experienced an incredible letdown on Christmas night; I dealt with that by getting up early the next day, hitting the after-Christmas sales and starting the process all over again.

I didn't realize any of this until after my divorce. And I am not suggesting that there is something wrong with YOU if you love the winter holidays and spend months preparing for them. But for ME, Christmas was an unhealthy obsession.

This year I am experiencing the opposite extreme. There has been no extra cash for shopping these past few months; November was consumed with NaNoWriMo, and I spent every spare minute Thanksgiving weekend working on my writing. This week, all my piano students wanted to know when they might expect to see a Christmas tree in my living room and whether or not I will hang lights on my house. The answers are I don't know and never. The fact is, the autumn cloth is still on my dining room table, and I am not looking forward to digging all those boxes out of decorations out from under my stairwell. My boys are old enough that they aren't much interested in helping; they have busy lives, and friends, and really don't seem to care whether we put up a tree and decorate the house or not. The flip side to that is that they seem to understand that there won't be much in the way of presents this year. But there's got to be a happy medium.

I have been listening to Christmas music since the first of November; I have a large holiday CD collection, and could listen to the songs of the season year-round, although I force myself to save them until after Halloween. I also own a large stack of Christmas sheet music; I sit down at the piano and play every chance I get, and my students are enjoying playing Christmas music, too. I have a small holiday DVD library, and I have watched a few of my favorites already. And I am planning a few seasonal festivities: attending a Christmas house concert in Tennessee, participating in a sing-along "Messiah," and going to visit my family in southern Illinois over Christmas vacation.

But there will definitely be some compromises. For example, I love a fresh cut tree--putting it in the stand, adding lights, covering it with ornaments I have collected over the years, gifts from piano students and souvenirs of travel, keeping it watered throughout the season. But I can't really justify the additional expense right now, so maybe I will pull out my little artificial tree, set it up in the corner of the living room, and festoon it with some simple glass balls. The red and green tablecloth and my Fitz & Floyd collection in the dining room, my nutcracker on the mantel, a few candles here and, my house will "feel" like Christmas with minimal effort. Heck, I might even get inspired to send some greeting cards--and it's a sure thing I will bake a cookie or twenty.

The point is I'm going to do what I can do and not stress about the rest. I couldn't keep up with the Joneses if I tried, so there's no point in comparing my situation with anybody else's. I choose not to mourn for what I don't have, but to be grateful for what I do--and keep Christmas in perspective, with my focus on my work and my family, and not on an much-hyped, over-commercialized holiday that usually doesn't deliver on its promises.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

It's the most wonderful time of the year...

We had the best Thanksgiving ever. I made everybody's favorite dishes--ham, turkey, bread dressing, gravy, cheesy potatoes, festive sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, green beans, corn, crescent rolls--and my sister-in-law brought the broccoli salad. I set my grandmother's dining room table with her china and silver plate--it always makes me happy to have people I love sitting around her big table--and, finally, everything was ready. What a feast!

Ash, Casey, Nathan, Eric and Donna

After dinner, there was the ceremonious playing of Christmas with the Chipmunks, Volumes One and Two, which lasted long enough for Donna and me to put away the leftovers and wash the dishes. Then it was time for dessert and the annual viewing of Scrooged with Bill Murray.

And so concluded another traditional Asberry Family Thanksgiving. God bless us, every one.


Money is tight around here this year--have you heard there is a recession going on?--so rather than join the throngs of shoppers at the mall on Black Friday and Saturday, I stayed home and worked on projects that I hope, sooner or later, will help generate some extra income: first, the ubiquitous novel--I crossed the 45,000 word mark today, leaving me just shy of 5,000 words to meet my NaNoWriMo goal; second, the Etsy store--I put together several Christmas items that I plan to add to my inventory tomorrow, after I take some better pictures in the light of day. In the meantime, here is a teaser.

I love Etsy; if you haven't checked it out yet, I hope you will. There are some amazingly creative and talented artists and craftspeople out there with many unique and beautiful items for sale. Visit my shop first, The Wishing Box (maybe even add it as a "Favorite") and then knock yourself out! I guarantee there is something on Etsy for every person on your Christmas shopping list

Tomorrow I will do a little more writing and a little more beading; Monday, it will be back to the business of piano teaching. At some point, I guess I will give some thought to putting up a tree and doing some decorating, but that's going to have to wait until November 30th has come and gone. NaNoWriMo waits for no one!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

I can hardly believe it, but Thanksgiving Day is here again. I try to maintain a thankful attitude year-round, but like many Americans, I have been especially mindful of my blessings this week, and I want to take this opportunity to thank YOU, my faithful readers--family, friends, colleagues, even a few folks I have never met--for your love, support and encouragement.

I have navigated through some rough waters this year. I have found love and lost love; I have faced health issues and financial pressures; I have taken on new challenges and met with both failure and success. Through it all, you have been there for me. You have lifted me up through the hard times, given me sound advice when I needed it, and been generous with the "attagirls" when I deserved them. Knowing you are out there means more than you can imagine.

So here is a small token of my appreciation for all that you have given me: a recording of me playing one of my favorite George Winston pieces, appropriately titled "Thanksgiving." Pardon the page turns.

I hope your holiday is the best one ever.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Walk Down Memory Lane: Berkeley, MO

Last week, I was delighted to get an email from one of my best friends from long, long ago--forty years, to be exact. From 1964 until 1971, my family and I lived in Berkeley, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis. My dad, an electrical engineer, worked for McDonnell-Douglas, and my brothers and I attended Airport School.

8110 Blanchard Drive

Me with my brothers Jimmy and Greg.
We lost Jimmy in 1981 and Greg in 2008. I miss them every day.

My mommy, the most beautiful woman in the world.

My funny, handsome daddy.

We left the area towards the end of my sixth grade year, and for whatever reason I didn't stay in contact with anybody, except my next-door neighbor, Karen, a girl my age who called or wrote from time to time. Eventually, we lost touch, too, although I finally tracked her down through Facebook a few months ago, and it was great to catch up with her.

I have tried in vain to find some of my other friends from elementary school, like Robert Fitzpatrick, my very first boyfriend. As a matter of fact, I am offering a reward for information leading to his whereabouts.

Robert Fitzpatrick, 1964.

Then--surprise!--I heard from Peggy; her family lived two doors down from mine all those years. The two of us traded Barbie clothes and made potholders and sold them door to door and played jacks and four-square and rode bikes in the street. We were in the same kindergarten class, but then we were separated, as I continued in public school while she went to a parochial school. Still, we saw each other after school and during summer vacations, and I have many warm memories of her.

We have exchanged lengthy emails and a few photos, although neither of us has pictures of each other from our childhoods. What is truly amazing is how much we have in common as adults. Our birthdays are just two days apart, we have strong family ties and cherish our roles as mothers, and we share many similar interests: reading, writing, beading, cooking, sewing, baking, knitting/crocheting. If we lived two doors apart from each other, like we used to, I imagine we would spend a lot of time sitting at each other's kitchen tables, drinking coffee, sharing girl talk, exchanging books, and working on our projects together.

I know technology can be harmful, and sometimes the world can seem overwhelmingly complex. But most of the time, I revel in the fact that I live in these times, in which a woman named Peggy can do a Google search for "Pam Asberry, Berkeley, Missouri" and find herself reconnected with a long-lost friend. We may have been separated for forty years, but now we are bound for life.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Halfway there!!

On October 31st, anything seemed possible. Making the commitment to write 50,000 words during the 30 days of November? Perfectly logical. Entirely reasonable.

My brother, Eric and me at the NaNoLanta kick off party in Smyrna, wearing official NaNoWriMo garb, bursting with optimism and enthusiasm.

However, due to illness and travel commitments, I got off to a VERY slow start. During the entire first week of NaNoWriMo, I managed to crank out only 2536 words--just slightly more than the 1667 words necessary on average EVERY DAY during the month in order to reach the goal of 50,000.

This beautiful latte, from Dancing Goats in Decatur, helped.

Another week went by. I was pulled in many different directions, as I worked to teach my piano students, add inventory to my Etsy store, and keep the home fires burning. I wrote a little, but not enough. As of Saturday morning, I had completed only about 6000 words--only about three and a half days' worth.

My creative and inspirational critique partners, Lindy and Pamela, helped.

I decided to go for a 10K word marathon over the weekend. But once again, my energy was divided. I had a wonderful long phone conversation with my parents; I reconnected with a friend from forty years ago; I took Nathan to the mall; I went to a movie with Casey; I tried a new recipe for dinner. I know, I know; it almost sounds like I was procrastinating. Honestly, I wasn't; all these things were necessary, and it was a wonderful day. But by the end of it, I had written only a few hundred words. I was beginning to wonder whether or not I should simply give up.

But I woke up yesterday morning with absolutely nothing on my to-do list and lots of energy, so I determined to write 8000 words. I did end up having to run a couple of errands, but for the most part I remained BICHOK*. And by midnight, I had added 8025 words to my novel, for a grand total of 14,666.

Brownies and red wine helped.

I did the math; if I can manage 2200 words a day for the rest of the month--which sounds like nothing after 8000--I will be able to call myself a NaNoWriMo 2010 Winner. As far as I am concerned, losing is not an option; this morning's total was 2215. And I am certain that the discipline I am learning through this process will serve me well as I work to meet future writing goals down the road.

Wish me luck!

*Butt in chair, hands on keyboard.

Monday, November 8, 2010

2010 GMTA State Conference

I am back from my first-ever Georgia Music Teachers Association State Conference, held this year in Augusta. I saw some wonderful speakers, heard some great music, and got lots of inspiration for my piano teaching. Highlights were Nelita True's workshops on teaching Chopin's Easier Preludes and four Schubert Impromptus, the performance of the commissioned work, Observations, composed and conducted by Lee Johnson and presented by The Chamber Chorus of LaGrange College and the Piano Quintet from the LaGrange Symphony Orchestra New Music Ensemble, and the guest artist recital featuring pianist Jon Klibinoff and his master class with student winners of the 2010 GMTA auditions. It was also a thrill to see colleague Susan Andrews designated a 2011 MTNA Foundation Fellow and my friend and conference roommate Natalie Hardy installed as Vice President of Newsletters.

But I had the most fun reprising my role of the Creative-Can't-Sit-Still-Won't-Stop-Playing-Even-When-The-Teacher-Is-Talking piano student in a skit entitled A Day in the Life of a Piano Teacher, written by colleague Cathy Thacker.

Natalie Hardy as the Model Student

Mary Ann McTier as the Bored Teenage Student

Yours Truly as the Fidgety Student

Robin Engelman as the Whiny Student

Here is Part 1 of our presentation:

And here is Part 2:

I hope you have as much fun watching as we did performing!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

It's beginning to look a lot like Crazy

Remember when I was sick over the summer? When, after three rounds of antibiotics, I finally went to see the pulmonologist and she knew just what to do and I finally got well? Did I mention that she told me not to stop taking the meds when I started feeling better?

Well, I am ashamed to admit that didn't listen; I stopped taking the drugs. So when I contracted my first upper respiratory bug of the season --the one my kids shook in three days flat--it knocked me for a loop. Two weeks later, I was still getting worse. Finally, on Monday I broke down and made a doctor's appointment for yesterday. I went in congested and coughing and wheezing--and running a fever--and left with more prescriptions (to go along with the ones from my pulmonologist, which I had already refilled). After just two days of antibiotics and prednisone and allergy medication and an inhaler, I am finally on the mend. My symptoms are alleviated, and I feel almost like my energetic, enthusiastic self again.


*Take all medications as prescribed. Especially when they are working.
*Exercise daily (which I was doing, thank you very much, until I became so ill I couldn't).
*Get sufficient rest (which I tell myself I don't have time for, when the truth is I don't have time to be sick).


Finally, I finished the rewrite of my novel synopsis and the first three chapters of my manuscript and sent them off the agent and editor, as requested at the M&M Conference last month. They went out just this evening, and I will have another opportunity to pitch to an agent at the GRW meeting on the 20th. In the meantime, I must finish the rewrite of the remainder of my manuscript. In addition, I have committed to cranking out 50,000 words of a new fiction project during the month of November, as it's NaNoWriMo time again. I have the greatest idea which I actually got from a plot generator website. If you've ever wanted to write a novel, it's not too late to join the fun! At least I hope not, because I have completed a total of zero words towards NaNoWriMo and it's already November 3rd. Whee!


Tomorrow I am headed to Augusta for the 2010 Georgia Music Teachers Association state conference. Four of my colleagues and I are slated to do a presentation on Friday afternoon--the same skit we did at our January luncheon. I am looking forward to reprising my role as the "fidgety, talkative, won't-stop-playing-even-when-the-piano-teacher-is-talking kid," as well as receiving inspiration from other programs, concerts, and fellow teachers from across the state. I will give a full report after I return on my blog Notes From the Piano. And I promise to post faithfully every Friday after that!


I am excited to let you know that I have made my first sales in my Etsy shop! This success has inspired me to get serious about building my inventory. By the end of next week, I intend to have a complete line of birthstone crystal bracelets in both smaller and larger sizes, a mother (or grandmother) bracelet, and several other unique designs. All my pieces come packed in padded boxes tied with ribbon, ready for gift giving. I hope you will consider my work as you begin your holiday shopping. I also do custom orders; just ask! And if you are interested, I have also created a blog to support my jewelry business. Look for updates there every Tuesday.


So now you have some insight into the insanity that is my life right now. I would love to hear about yours; as you know, misery loves company. (Just kidding... it's all good!) Right now, my goal is to stay healthy so I can do a better job of keeping you posted on my progress. As always, thank you for your encouragement!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Identity vs. Essence

At the M&M Conference, special guest speaker Michael Hauge presented a workshop called Six Stage Plot Structure. He gave us a screenplay-based outline to use in developing our novels, and explained the difference between the "outer journey" - the physical challenges facing our characters - and the "inner journey" - the growth and development of our characters - with a special emphasis on romance. This was extremely helpful to me; afterwards, I was able to pin down numerous holes and flaws in my current work in progress. Using my new tools, I will be able to repair them; never again will I attempt to write a book without at least a simple outline.

What intrigued me most about the workshop, though, was Michael's discussion of our hero's inner journey: the transformation from living fully in one's Identity (his false self that he presents to the world) to living fully in one's Essence (who he has the potential to be if he can find the courage). Of course, the outer journey and the inner journey intertwine. But there is a constant tug-of-war between Identity and Essence. And the only satisfactory conclusion for our characters is living in Essence. Because after glimpsing Essence, Identity is no longer fulfilling.

This was also extremely useful to me where my novel writing is concerned. Because once I was able to pinpoint my character's inner journeys, I could then correlate them to their outer journeys; as Michael explained, they must be structured similarly. In other words, I am rewriting my entire book. I will be able to use much of my previous material, but I am also making some major changes. As a result, my finished book will be vastly improved. Thank you, Michael Hauge!

Perhaps even more important, Michael's workshop gave me pause as I considered my own inner journey, the one that has taken place in my personal life. I thought back ten years, when I was living in the Identity of wife and mother, so emotionally shut down that I was incapable of even knowing, much less expressing, what was missing from my life and my soul. Ancient wounds still inflicted pain on me me; deep-rooted beliefs that prevented me from even considering making changes. I'm still not sure how I found the strength to let go of all that. But once I glimpsed Essence, there was no turning back.

Like the characters in my novel, I am constantly shifting between Identity and Essence. I like to think that Essence is winning, but every now and then something happens - something bad, or something good - which causes me to retreat temporarily into my hollow shell of Identity. But, as Michael explained, one can be safe and unfulfilled, or fulfilled and scared shitless; in the end, there is no middle ground. So I must continue to find healing from the past hurts and let go of the old ways of thinking that hold me back.

Onward into Essence.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Whisperings Solo Piano Concert

l-r: David Carnes, Joseph Akins, Pam Asberry, Wayne Gratz, Lee Bartley

I am a lucky woman; I got to attend not one but TWO solo piano concerts over the weekend.

Playing on a beautiful Bosendorfer grand piano at Piano Works in Duluth, Georgia were Joseph Akins, Lee Bartley, David Carnes, Stanton Lanier and Wayne Gratz. Saturday night, there was even a bonus performance by Philip Wesley, who happened to be in the audience and graciously agreed to share a piece with us.

Both concerts were positively delightful. These artists come from diverse musical backgrounds and their music - often referred to as "New Age" or "neoclassical" - is as individual and unique as their personalities. Influenced by traditional hymns, the classics, pop, rock, jazz and native music, their compositions range from slow and contemplative to quick and spirited, sometimes even humorous. Regardless, as emcee Joseph Akins explained, whereas all pianists play with their fingers, Whisperings musicians play from their hearts.

These concerts tend to be very intimate and somewhat informal. Each artist plays a total of four pieces, and shares a bit of back story about each before beginning. Some of my personal favorites were Butterfly Ride by Joseph Akins, First Snow by Lee Bartley, Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring by David Carnes,Captivating by Stanton Lanier, and Natalie by Wayne Gratz. I also got a kick out of Joseph's arrangement of Jingle Bells, soon to be released as a single. (Click on any of the artist's names to visit their websites and find out more about them and their music.)

In between sets, there was a brief intermission and the opportunity to purchase CD's and sheet music from the composers, who were readily available for an autograph or just a handshake. These men are warm and accessible, and I am always grateful for the way they encourage young people to practice and perform and create. My high school students especially enjoy playing this style of music, and some have even been inspired to compose original works of their own. Who knows? One of my piano students may end up being a Whisperings artist of the future!

At the conclusion of each program was a grand finale, beginning with one artist improvising at one piano, growing into two pianists at two pianos, and ending with all four musicians using eight hands at two pianos. This was a hand-clapping, toe-tapping good time for everyone; I could have listened for hours. All that was left to do afterwards was give the performers a richly deserved standing ovation - both nights.

I strongly encourage you to go to a Whisperings Solo Piano concert if you ever have the opportunity. Click HERE to find out about events in your area, or HERE to stream Whisperings Solo Piano Radio for free.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Spicy Pumpkin Muffins

Fall is in the air, and there is nothing like a crisp October morning to put me in the mood to bake. Today I dug out one of my favorite seasonal recipes, Spicy Pumpkin Muffins.


1 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
6 tablespoons sugar (I used turbinado sugar, but plain white sugar is fine)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1 cup pumpkin puree (I used canned pumpkin)
1/4 cup melted butter
1/2 cup golden raisins (or chopped nuts, or a combination)

Heat oven to 400 degrees. In a bowl combine dry ingredients and blend well. In separate bowl beat egg with milk, pumpkin and butter until smooth. Stir pumpkin mixture into dry ingredients and blend until moistened. Stir in raisins. Spoon into 12 muffin cups prepared with nonstick cooking spray and bake 15 minutes until lightly browned.

These are great hot from the oven, spread with butter and orange marmalade. I usually double the recipe and freeze half. Let me know if you try them!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

2010 M&M Conference

No, I'm not talking about candy coated chocolate; I'm talking about the Georgia Romance Writers' annual Moonlight and Magnolias Conference, held in Decatur, Georgia October 1-3. This year's theme was "Master Your Story, Master Your Destiny," and did I ever!

I spent three days immersed in the world of writing: attending workshops and seminars with wonderful speakers like New York Times best-selling author Allison Brennan, Hollywood screenwriter Michael Hauge, and psychologist and author Kelly L. Stone; sitting in on panels with agents and editors; and spending time with friends, old and new, who are just as committed to honing their craft and seeing their work published as I am. I even got to see some of them receive recognition for their writing - and their service to GRW - at the Maggie Awards Banquet on Saturday night. It was positively thrilling.

And I had the opportunity to pitch my novel - TWICE - to an agent on Friday and to an editor on Saturday. This was terrifying; whereas it is easy for me to stand up in front of a roomful of people and speak, I was extremely anxious about seven minutes alone with each of these professionals. To my relief, they were kind and helpful, and they both asked me to send them the first three chapters of my manuscript. Now I have just a few days to revise my work, based on their suggestions, and submit it to them. What an opportunity!

Informative, educational, inspiring, encouraging, uplifting - those are the words that come to mind when I reflect on my experience at the M&M Conference. I am already looking forward to next year!

Thursday, September 30, 2010


It's late Thursday night in Decatur, Georgia, and here I am, all tucked into my king-sized bed at the Holiday Inn Conference Center, glass of white wine by my side, awaiting the commencement of Georgia Romance Writers "Moonlight & Magnolias" Conference bright and early tomorrow morning.

I am shaking like a leaf because at 11:20AM I have an appointment with an esteemed New York literary agent to pitch my novel. You know!?! - the novel I have been pouring my heart and soul into for the past many weeks and months and years. (Okay, a little over a year. But it seems like FOREVER.)

It's all good. The most I can hope for is that, upon hearing my story line, she will ask to see part or all of the finished novel. Worst case scenario, she will say it isn't her cup of tea, it isn't something she thinks she can sell, and send me on my way. Which might not mean my book actually sucks (although naturally I will think so) but that it isn't right for HER. Regardless, I am looking forward to the learning experience. This might be my FIRST pitch appointment, but it definitely won't be my LAST.

I have spent every hour that I wasn't teaching or cooking or cleaning (or sleeping) this week working on the novel revision/trying to find that perfect opening sentence/paring down my synopsis/working on my pitch for tomorrow. And, honestly, I don't think I really believed I was a writer until THIS WEEK. But you know what? I AM A WRITER.

What they say is true: you can't edit a blank page. When you have a story idea, the thing to do is write write write as fast as you can, and THEN go back and make it pretty.

In the beginning, my main character was SO MUCH LIKE ME, and the story line was SO DARK. But the more I revise, the more my main character takes on a life of her own, and the more humorous her story becomes. I like that. The fact of the matter is that writing this novel has been cathartic for me. I have purged a lot of poison, I have learned about the craft of writing. Even if it ends up nowhere, it will have served its purpose.

And my next book will be better. Oh, yes, you'd better believe there WILL be a next book.

And another. And another. I have so many ideas, there is a definite risk I might burst.

My biggest regret in life isn't marrying the wrong person, or choosing a career that didn't pay big bucks, or eating too much junk food. My biggest regret is that I didn't start writing fiction thirty years ago.

But the good news is that it isn't too late.

Wish me luck tomorrow...

Friday, September 24, 2010

Four Word Self Help

"Is life really all that complicated? Do we need seminars, self-help books, more therapy? What if we could solve all our problems with just four simple words?" In her new book Four Word Self Help, author Patti Digh ( explores the possibilities raised by this question. She points out that we often confuse the complicated (sending astronauts to the moon, doing our income tax returns) with the complex (raising a child, finding meaning in our lives) and, as a result, seek complicated solutions for things that are actually complex. As she explains, "No amount of of math or newfangled formulas will help you raise a child. Simple wisdom might." Based on this premise, she addresses twelve areas - community, love, stress, travel, soul, wellness, success, green, activism, children, generosity and endings - and summarizes them with 101 concise pieces of advice, each exactly four words long. They are expressed positively - no "don'ts" here - and as actions you can take to make your life richer, simpler, more full.

Here are some of my favorites:
Give up toxic people.
Say what you can't.
Do less, be more.
Live like you're dying.

The words are simple but they speak volumes. The entire book can be read in one short sitting, although there is rich food for thought, and one could spend hours studying the beautiful original artwork sprinkled throughout, all contributed by readers of Patti's blog. I know, because the night I received my copy, I was up for hours, taking notes and accepting Patti's challenge to write my own four word phrases. Two weeks later, I did the same thing, and found that different areas struck me, inspiring me to write different bits of advice to myself. Both times, I took away from the experience exactly what I needed.

Here are a few thoughts I came up with:
Take time to play.
Open up to wonder.
Be kind to yourself.
Tell yourself the truth.

It's one of those books that meets you where you are, lifts you up, and makes you believe that it is truly possible to create a better life. I can't recommend it highly enough.

Pink Roses, Part 2

Here is the first person version of the story I told yesterday. Which one do you think works best?


After a typical morning of saying goodbye to Daddy, breakfasting on Cheerios and apple juice, feeding the goldfish and starting laundry, six-year old Joseph and I had finally made it to the park. Holding his chubby hand tightly, I relished the warmth of the sun on my back and the familiar sounds of birds chirping, swing sets squawking, children laughing as we made our way towards the play area.

"Tell me about the day I was born, Mommy."

Not today! My heart pounding, I stopped in front of the pink rosebush next to the path, cupped a blossom in my hand and inhaled deeply before offering it to Joseph.

"Mm!" he declared with a gap-toothed grin.

"Pink roses are my favorite. Especially when they smell as good as this one."

"I know. Daddy always brings you pink roses. He gave you some at the hospital when you had me. I saw 'em in the picture."

So much for trying to change the subject. It wasn't like I hadn't told Joseph his birth story a thousand times - how much he was wanted, how happy I was when I discovered I was pregnant, how I sang to him and told him stories even before he was born. How afraid his dad and I had been when we thought we might lose him due to complications and how ecstatic we were when he was born three weeks premature but healthy and sound.

It was a story we both knew well, but I wasn't up for telling it again just then. Because Emlin had been born four years ago that very day. And her birth story had been very different.

"Why are you crying, Mommy?" Joseph asked, his black eyes clouded with worry.

"I'm sorry, Joseph; it's just a hard day for me."

"Why, Mommy? I thought you liked coming to the park."

I wrapped him in a hug. "I am so happy to be here at the park with you. But I'm sad because today would have been your sister's fourth birthday. I miss her."

"I don't remember her," he said, his face screwed with concern.

"Of course you don't. You were only two when she was born. And she wasn't with us very long. But I have a picture of you sitting next to her. She was wearing a Mickey Mouse sleeper that you picked out for her. You were grinning like a monkey. You were so proud of her."

"Will you show me that picture when we get home?"

"I'm not sure where it is," I lied.

Of course, I knew exactly where it was. But I wasn't ready for Joseph to see the picture of his gaunt, misshapen sister. I was certain that, in his mind's eye, Emlin was pink and plump like all the other beautiful babies he had seen. I wanted to keep it that way until I was sure he would be able to understand.

"I will help you look for it. Please don't be sad," he pleaded.

I took a deep breath and forced myself to smile. "Okay, sweetheart, I'll stop crying." I kissed the top of his head and tousled his curly hair. "How about a big push on the swings?"

He took off running.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Pink Roses, Part 1

I promised to share a sample of my writing with you; well, here it is. This was an assignment for my very first online fiction writing class. The purpose of the assignment was to explore point of view by writing the same scene from two different vantage points, both first and third person. As I wrote, I discovered how much point of view affects the telling of the story and the characters themselves. It was fascinating.

Below is my scene written in third person. I will share the other one tomorrow.


Joseph held on tight to his mother's hand. Part of him wanted to let go and skip ahead - he could hardly wait to climb the ladder to the top of the sliding board - but he could tell his mother needed him. This morning she had barely spoken during breakfast. She had held onto Daddy an extra long time when she hugged him before he headed out to work. And she had completely forgotten to pack snacks for the park.

He didn't know what was wrong. Maybe she was still angry with him for coloring on his bedroom wall yesterday.

"Joseph!" she had shouted. She hardly ever shouted. "Crayons are for paper and for coloring books, not for walls."

Well, he liked his walls better now that they were decorated with his artwork. But his mother had been really upset. He knew better than to argue.

Just ahead, he spied the big pink rosebush on the path. He knew how much his mother loved that rosebush. She always stopped to sniff a bloom or two. Not only that, pink roses covered the wallpaper in her bedroom, and Daddy always gave her pink roses on special days, like Valentine's Day or on her birthday. That reminded him of a picture he had seen of him and his parents in the hospital when he was a baby.

"Tell me about the day I was born, Mommy."

She stopped suddenly and gave him a funny look. Then, kneeling in front of the rosebush, she cupped a blossom in her hand and inhaled deeply.

"Pink roses are my favorite," she said, offering him the bloom. "Especially when they smell as good as this one."

Maybe she hadn't heard him.

"I know. Daddy always gives them to you. I bet he gave you the ones in the picture of all of us at the hospital when I was a baby."

His mother turned away. Her eyes were shiny and wet.

"Why are you crying, Mommy?" he asked, worried.

"I'm sorry, Joseph. It's just a hard day for me."

"Why, Mommy? I thought you liked going to the park."

"I'm happy to be here at the park with you. But I'm sad because today would have been your sister's fourth birthday. I miss her."

"I don't remember her."

Of course you don't. You were only two when she was born. And she wasn't with us very long. But I have a picture of you sitting next to her. She was wearing a Mickey Mouse sleeper that you picked out for her. You were grinning like a monkey. You were so proud of her."

Joseph had often thought about how much fun it might be to be a big brother. "Will you show me that picture when we get home?"

"I'm not sure where it is," she replied, hesitating.

"I will help you look for it. Please don't be sad," he begged.

"Okay, sweetheart. I'll stop crying." She stood and kissed the top of his head. "How about a big push on the swings?"

His baby sister instantly forgotten, he raced to the swing set.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Wishing Box

Besides being the name of my Etsy store, The Wishing Box is the working title of my first novel.

For a little background on my evolution as a writer, click HERE. When I wrote that blog post, my goal was to complete the first draft of my manuscript by the end of April and have the revision ready to submit for publication by fall. I didn't quite make my deadline, but I typed the words The End sometime in August (which also starts with the letter "A," right?) and I am determined to have the revision ready to pitch to an agent at Georgia Romance Writer's Moonlight & Magnolias conference in October (click HERE to read about my first experience there in 2009.)

Life sure has a way of getting in the way of writing. There was that bout with bronchitis in June/July, all the relationship angst, and then my piano students came back. Also, with decreased student enrollment this year - many of my colleagues are feeling the effects of this challenged economy, too- I am finding it necessary to look for ways to increase my income. I have been selling books on eBay and making jewelry and listing it on Etsy. I am especially optimistic about my Etsy site, as beading is a wonderful creative outlet for me. I am even blogging about it; click HERE if you would like to follow my progress.

But I HAVE to write. It's my passion, my desire, my dream. Somehow - despite physical setbacks and emotional upheavals and financial challenges - I must find a way to weave writing into the fabric of my days.

"Becoming a writer means being creative enough to find the time and the place in your life for writing." ~ Heather Sellers

Yesterday I attended the monthly meeting Georgia Romance Writers in Decatur. I had a lovely breakfast - including two slices of bacon, pescetarianism be damned. I caught up with some old friends - who are struggling with similar challenges, both personal and writing related. I made some new friends - who inspired me and encouraged me despite having just me. And I heard a wonderful speaker - author Karen White, whose work I have never read but cannot wait to dig into. Her message, titled The Good, the Bad and the Unpublishable: the Nuts and Bolts of a Writing Career (or, Writing Isn't for Sissies) highlighted the careers of multi-published and award winning authors (including her own). She shared stories of the good and the bad in the publishing industry, the rises and falls on the divergent roads to success, the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat. Mostly, she encouraged us to stay grounded and keep writing.

It was a message we all needed to hear.

So now it's full steam ahead. I have an agent pitch appointment at the M & M Conference and I intend to make the most of it; then I hope to achieve PRO status in GRW before the end of the year. I am looking forward to participating in NaNoWriMo again in November, and then getting started on one of the many projects I have swirling around in my head.

Check back later this week for a sample of my fiction writing. It's about time, right?

Monday, September 13, 2010

What's Going On

I'll admit it: I'm still in the free fall plummet phase of my roller coaster ride of emotions. But I might be easing into a coast. People have been in the right place at the right time - on the internet as well as in the flesh - to offer me nuggets of wisdom to help bring the blur that's rushing past me into soft focus. Don't you love the way that happens? More about that another day when I have the clarity to express it.

In the meantime, I'm spending time doing things that make me happy.

(1) I'm reading - Jane Austen's Emma, the next selection of my wonderful Jane Austen Book Club; and a book called Four Word Self Help by Patti Digh, in preparation for my participation in her blog tour this month. Be sure to check out my review right here on September 24th.

(2) I'm playing the piano. You can watch my first ever music video by clicking HERE.

(3) I'm beading - and my Etsy store is finally open for business. You can view my items for sale by clicking HERE.

(4) I'm hanging out with old friends, making acquaintance with new friends, and enjoying time with my sons. Last night, the three of them and I sat at my kitchen table and had dinner together for the first time in ages. It was a moment I will hold in my heart forever.

I collect quotes the way some people collect Precious Moments figurines or music boxes or key chains. Here's one that seems especially appropriate today.

"When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us." (Helen Keller)

I'm walking straight through every open door.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Firsts & Lasts

The first time you fall in love. Your first date. A graduate's first "real" job. A couple's first wedding anniversary. Their first child. His first birthday. Her first day of school. Their first soccer game or dance recital.

These events are eagerly anticipated and joyfully celebrated, memorialized in journal entries and scrapbooks and photo albums and end of year letters to far-flung friends and relatives.

What I have been contemplating recently, though, are lasts. The last time I read a good-night story to one of my children. The last time one of them crawled into bed with me after waking up from a nightmare. The last time my family sat around my grandmother's table sharing a holiday meal. The last time I hugged my brother before he died. The last time I lay in the arms of a lover before our relationship ended.

I wasn't able to fully appreciate these moments because it wasn't until it was too late that I realized how precious they were. Wandering in a fog of thought and too much to do, I missed them all.

Here are a couple of quotes that are going on my bedroom mirror.

First, the admonishment:

"Time is a companion who reminds us to cherish every moment because it will never come again." (Author Unknown)

Then, the redemption:

"I'd rather have a moment of wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special. What you need to know about the past is that no matter what has happened, it has all worked together to bring you to this very moment. And this is the moment you can choose to make everything new. Right now." (Makhtal Ali)

Carpe diem, y'all.