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March 24th came and went

Well, did you notice? Did you check your email box yesterday and go “Hey, where’s my Jolly Jingle for March?

Yes? Well then, thank you for noticing. :) And, if you didn’t that’s totally okay too. I get that you’re busy. I am too. And that’s exactly why you didn’t get a Jolly Jingle yesterday.

I decided that, while I’m busy writing book four, and we’re “off season” I’d give myself a little breathing room and you all a month off. I might even skip April too, though I doubt it since I’m already thinking about all there is to talk about, but I’m not going away so don’t be thinking about going anywhere either okay? Sooner or later I WILL get this rough draft done. (The use of capital letters there was a power boost message meant for me. :) Somedays you just gotta believe. :) )

Thanks for loving me even when you forget about me. :) And hey, if you’re not on the Jolly Jingle list, why the heck not? You can win stuff. Sign up in the green box above.

Oh Oh Oh! – jingle

 

 

A lucky first on the first day of spring

You're the best, VMS!

Thanks to the wonderful teachers and the head of schools at Valley Montessori School in Livermore California, I got to do my first talk with a classroom on the first day of spring.

It was spectacular!

I mean I really really loved it. I had 35 reasons why:

32 bright 4th and 5th graders and three caring, talented teachers.

Wow is that a great place to learn and to teach. Every person there made me feel welcome. Even more than that, the students all made me feel special. They asked important, smart questions, they clapped for me, they made some great suggestions for my books (at least one of which I plan to use!) and they graciously and warmly asked me for my autograph.

This author’s heart, like the Grinch’s, grew two sizes that afternoon.IMG_5509

Thank you again fabulous students of Valley Montessori School. Kindness rocks and so do each of you! Write on!

oh oh oh! – jingle

 

 

Three happy things about March 20th!

March 20th marks the first day of spring in my part of the world (versus, say, Australia where they will just be starting in to fall.) Sunshine, green grass, flowers and longer days are all part of this marvelous season! You simply can’t help but be happy!

March 20th also marks my nephews birthday, Spencer. How I love him! He’s the inspiration for the Spence in the South Pole Santa series too. Both wonderful characters. :) Happy Birthday Spence!

March 20th has been declared World Happiness Day by the United Nations. You just know that is an occasion I can get behind. :) You too I’m thinking. I mean we all like to be happy. I say we intentionally determine we will be extra happy for the whole weekend just to celebrate the heck out of this special event! :) And – let’s make other people happy too! This is a perfect weekend for some random acts of kindness. For me, I’m traveling this weekend so I’m getting creative. I’ve already decided that I’m going to:

  • Tip big! Since I’m on my own this trip, I’ll be counting on others for dropping me off, lugging my bag and making me some nice tall coffee drinks. Good chance to practice generosity.
  • Be nice. I’m not proud of it but traveling doesn’t bring out my best side. It seems to activate an anxiousness in me as I worry about traffic, lines, luggage, security, etc. I get stressed and impatient. This weekend though, I am going to leave early and smile through it all. I know my calmness can help others around me and besides, I’m still on my “no complaints” restriction. I gotta like it.
  • Eat healthy. You might think that is a strange one for this list but healthy eating doesn’t just make me happier, it is so much better for the environment then noshing on junk food. It keeps your energy up, keeps the pounds down and adds to your overall good health – which puts a smile on your face which puts a smile on the faces of everyone you’re smiling at. It’s a wonderful thing. :)

So let’s see your best happy happy joy joy dance! Surely a day devoted to happiness is worth a dance? I think I might just try one at the airport. :)

Oh Oh Oh! – jingle

 

half way mark!

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Woo-Hoooooo! Thirty five thousand words (35,000!) in the bag which means just about half way through book four!  I am:

Feeling fine Valentine!

Really good Robin Hood!

Having fun yellow sun!

 

Oh Oh Oh! – jingle

Busting through the Blocks

Well it’s writing season once again and I came up against my first real true bout of writers block.

Nasty stuff.

Gives me the shivers thinking about it. I had a nice long weekend by myself at home scheduled for writing this past weekend and there I was.

I cleaned the fridge. I changed the sheets. I watched “The Price is Right.” I straightened my closet. I packed two bags of stuff for Goodwill. I sat out on my deck for a lovely meditation in the sunshine. I even cleaned out the cat boxes.

Anything but write.

So I gave myself the ole pep talk on “tomorrow will be a better day” watched a repeat of a couple of episodes of “Chopped” on the Food Channel and turned in.

Morning comes and I went for a walk. Talked to my mom. Popped over to Target for “just a few things.” Had dinner with my sister and somehow managed to write a couple thousand words in between. “Tomorrow” I told myself. “I’ll still be able to catch up.” My stretch goal for the weekend was 16,000 words and I knew I could hit 12,000 even at that point.

Despite my bad, procrastinating self, I managed to hit 10,000 words over the long weekend and every one of them was a little bit excruciating.

I don’t know for sure what the problem was to be honest. I just know that what usually flows steadily when I sit down and give it time wasn’t. Worse, I didn’t even want to be writing. It felt like a “have-to-do” instead of the somewhat fun “get-lost-in-the-story” kind of way to spend time. It’s never just easy for me but it’s also never something I resent or begrudge.

Thankfully that phase seems to have passed and the words are flowing again. I’m determined to still hit the 12,000 words I owe and after work last night I got down another 600. I’ve passed the 28,000 word mark and am creeping in on 30,000. Still a long way from the likely finish of 70,000ish but movement forward feels like a good thing.

One by one is how it gets done.

 

Oh Oh Oh! – jingle

 

Signs of Spring

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Signs of Spring are popping up around our house and it’s making me smile. smile, smile. We’re expecting sunshine and warm days this weekend — which is terrible! It’s a writing retreat weekend right here at home for me the next several days and nice days don’t help! Go away sunshine! Ha! (You know I don’t mean that right? Especially you Mr. Sun. That was just bitter writer smack talk going on there.) :)

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Yeah, I’ve got to write, write, write till I hit 12,000 words or more which would put me at about the halfway point.  Just a heads-up to my Icelandic friends — the elves are headed your way! Hide your sweets! This little white wonder isn’t helping anything. She seems to think “writing retreat” means “oh good my favorite pillow is home for me!” 

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Besides the sunshine some other signs of spring include the fact that the yard guy was here today mowing our lawn! He got to enjoy looking at our very pretty blooming plum tree in the yard. For dinner, coming up is a very spring dinner of just wonderful fresh grilled veggies. Aren’t they pretty here in the sunlight? Plus, I got out some spring decor for the middle of the table. 

Ah spring! At last! At last! Hooray!

Oh Oh Oh! – jingle

Good book! Good book! Read The Martian!

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I read a book!

 Oh c’mon now, no yawning. Yes, I know, that is hardly an interesting proclamation but when I’m in the writing process it’s really rare for me to read anyone else’s work. I have this weird paranoia about inadvertently picking up any great stuff from someone else so I just avoid it. Plus, there’s really no time. Plus, it can feel so intimidating to read such amazing stuff from incredibly talented writers.

 I get around all of that simply by not reading.

 But I loooove reading and getting into a good book has been calling to me lately so I compromised. I picked something so far from my own genre that there was no way I would want to “lift” anything from it. Plus it sounded mostly interesting so therefore a good use of time if I was going to “waste time” not writing.

 The Martian by Andy Geir did not disappoint. In fact, one of the strengths of this book is its wonderful surprises. I’d heard a review of it on NPR several years ago now, ordered the book and there it sat with many others on my book shelf just dying to be read by someone. Thank goodness the day had come.

 Well technically two days since that’s how long it took for me to get through it. That’s the other reason I can’t read when I’m writing – it’s all I want to do till the book is done!

 So the set-up for The Martian is that mankind has made it to Mars. There’s nothing there but us and on one of the walks on the barren planet something goes wrong and one of the team dies. The rest of the team have to leave him, head back to the ship and back to Earth. But the thing is he didn’t die. He’s alive on Mars with very limited supplies, no way to contact home, and four years before the next ship returns. Oh, and giant size smarts and a strong will to live.

 The book has many pages on technical stuff on how to make “living” on Mars possible. Most of it way over my brain level and yet:

 I LOVED THIS BOOK!

 Loved it! It is smart and clever and best of all, at times, flippin’ funny! The main character is written as smart and self-effacing. He faces incredible challenges at every turn. When I realized it was really, truly going to be a book about just this one guy on Mars and not this one guy finding some alien race on Mars, I was skeptical. I’m a fantasy girl. My trips to Mars would have little green men. :)

 Thank goodness this didn’t. It’s far more powerful and, at times, magical almost in its realness. You are that guy. You are the team that left him there believing him dead. You are the team at home sick about it all and eventually, you are the world wanting him home.

 So, go on, skip re-reading one of my books right now. I know you love me. :) Pick this one up instead and be really, really happy you are human and that each one of us matters.

Oh Oh Oh! – jingle

 

Notes from Jabbering JingleBelle

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The Jolly Jingle is out y’all! Check your inboxes and read it while its hot! This month my favorite feature in it is tips – direct from the head leprechaun himself, Redson O’Brien – for a great St. Patricks Day party. A not to be missed issue from me to you.

Have you noticed a trend toward kind acts lately? I have seen so much attention and deliberateness around kindness and practicing it consciously on social media, at my job and even in some media stories lately that hope is alive in my heart that a new time is coming.

I’m on a cantaloupe kick lately. Anyone else or is it just me? I’ve been having a half a cantaloupe in one way or another every day! I like it for breakfast with yogurt. At lunch with cottage cheese. At dinner with a spicy garbanzo salad that I’m hooked on and for dessert with a scoop of vanilla ice cream in the middle.

The count now in my “complaints fund” after one week is at $14. Not the greatest I know but $10 of that came from one bad rant. I’m reporting here to keep me both accountable and a bit rueful.

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Some amazing barges and freighters have been going by our house lately. Love that! Tugboats like the Mistletoe, of course, are my very favorite but these big ole boats the other day made me think of the brand new South Pole Village barge that is finally going to be completed in this book! I’m soooooo excited about that – and so is Sandra. I think it will be about the size of this big barge here – but much prettier of course. :) (That is when you can see it. The new paint developed by the elves is going to make it so easy for it to blend in with its surroundings wherever it is!)

Okay, that’s it today from Jabbering JingleBelle! I just love Jolly Jingle days. And all of you.

Give up complaining – join me!

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I posted this week on my Facebook page that I was giving up complaining for in the spirit of Lent. Truth is, I’m not a member of a religion that follows Lent. Somehow though, I have come to like the idea of giving something up each year for the six weeks between Ash Wednesday and Easter. (It could be any six weeks of your choosing but that is when Lent runs.) The act of making a conscious choice to give up something deliberately and then work to stick with it during that time appeals to me.

Generally speaking, I have given up sugar many times since it always seems to be my nemesis. I’ve also given up eating meat in the past and one year watching TV on the weekends. My choices have varied. This year though I have selected something more challenging for me that I hope I can do successfully.

I’ve given up complaining.

It’s been fun seeing the different reactions to that when I’ve shared my choice. The most common one has been “NOOOO!” I’ve laughed at it partly because it is such a strong reaction but also just because it is so deeply felt as well. We all like to complain. We do. It gives us something to talk about and to bond around. I am definitely a fine complainer.

But what if I wasn’t? That was my thought when I finally landed on this goal for Lent this year. What if I could curb my enthusiasm for jumping in with my complaints? I think I’d like myself better if I tampered down on them.

I should be clear here lest you get the wrong idea. I’m not a down sort of personality or a chronic complainer. I see the world from rose-colored glasses and I usually wake up happy. But, complaining is insipid and sneaks into our lives even when what we’re complaining about is a big ole nothing.

I want to be done with that kind of complaining. Or at least done for a bit.

I think this goal is going to be more challenging for me than any of the others. It really takes a lot of self-awareness. I’ve decided to make it a little bit more “painful” and more positive too. So for every time I catch myself complaining – twice now in just the several days I’ve been at it! – or someone else points out my complaining, I’m putting a dollar in my gratitude jar at home. If it’s a real bad complaint then it will be $10. At the end of the time, the day after Easter, all of the complaint dollars are going to our local animal shelter as a donation.

The only bad thing about that is I like donating to the animal shelter so that might not help me quit complaining! Ha! Well, one thing you know for sure, I’ll make that donation without complaining about it! :) 

How ‘bout you? Giving anything up for Lent or any other reason? A new year’s resolution perhaps? How’s it going? I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments below or drop me a line!

Hey and the Jolly Jingle comes out on Tuesday! Be sure and check it out to see what the free drawing is for this month. Something extra special fun. :) 

happy happy joy joy list


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It’s a perfect day for a gratitude list! Here’s the top things on mine:

  • It’s a holiday Monday and I have the day off! Woo Hoo!
  • More than that, it’s a holiday Monday in the Northwest and it is a flat out gorgeous February day! On a day off! I have the deck door open as I type this!
  • I sort of need it open cause I’m cleaning my oven. Now you wouldn’t think that would go on a gratitude list but A) I have an oven and B) I have time to clean my very dirty oven.
  • And I have had time to clean my fridge, make a  couple meals for the week, pack my lunch for tomorrow, unpack from this weekend and get a basket ready for an auction donation. 
  • Oh and I also got to go to Trader Joe’s and Target and I didn’t have to hurry! Almost unheard of in my world.
  • That was all after having a nice chat on the phone with my parents this morning. 
  • Next up is a walk.
  • I spent three days up at Orcas Island and got 18,000 words written toward the next book! Praise be! It’s always a great thing to get it underway. And on the way home there was some kind of super cool sailing regatta going on next to the ferry dock. 

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  • Oh and this adorable Valentine from our adorable five-year-old niece Savanna is on the list too.
  • And finally, still to come today, I’m meeting my sisters tonight for dinner to catch up on their latest adventures.

Life is feeling fabulous today – what’s on your happy happy joy joy list?

Oh Oh Oh! — jingle