Monday, January 30, 2012

Breaking Through

I have been checking out a few creative writing blogs trying to find inspiration for “honing my craft” as “they” call it.  I came across a cool blog, and was intrigued by the author's challenge to have us writers create a 6 sentence story.  For those of you reading this blog it shouldn’t come as any level of surprise that I may have some difficulty limiting myself to 6 sentences.  My first thought was how I could cheat the contest.  I could create extremely long run-on sentences, using semi-colons and other punctuation to make them seem grammatically correct.  This approach has a few problems for me, one being that my style lends itself better towards fragments of sentences rather than run-ons, and contrary to popular opinion, my English degree does not make me a very good editor and I really don’t have any idea how to correctly use a semi-colon (though I think I just created a rather illustrative run-on sentence).  After deciding to embrace the challenge as a learning opportunity I was then faced with coming up with something to write about.  The author of the contest has offered to publish the stories on his website, so I had the added pressure of writing something I thought someone else would find worthy and cool enough for the website.

For the past week I’ve been stuck.  I have a huge wedge of writer’s block firmly encased over the creative sections of my brain.  Every time I tried to begin this challenge, there it was, the looming brick wall of my indecisive, impenetrable writers’ block.  Each time I tried to come up with an idea, any idea, I was met with nothing.  Nothing good, nothing bad.  Just nothing.  My thoughts would encounter the brick wall and scamper along it’s perimeter to something less intimidating and more exciting.

Last night I decided to try to deal with the brick wall rather than continue to walk along the outside.  I resorted to one of my favorite methods – brainstorming.  I have two rules for brainstorming that I follow religiously.  The first is that I have to write down every idea as it comes, no matter how stupid I think it is.  Otherwise I’ve found those ideas continue to fester and clog the pipeline from anything else coming out.   The second rule is that I always brainstorm in pen.  For the record, I write almost everything in pen.  The reason being that I don’t want to be tempted to erase anything.  Once it’s erased it’s gone for good.  If I write in pen and cross out ideas I deem terrible I at least have a record of their existence.  I’ve found myself more often than not returning to the original word choice preserved by the ink.

So I got out a piece of paper, grabbed a pen, and started jotting down ideas.  My ideas usually come out as fragments of imagery.  On my 5th or 6th fragment I wrote “crack of gunfire”.  My mind immediately thought about a soldier in the barracks who is thrown awake by the sound of gunfire or the screaming of the air-raid siren.  I had a vivid picture of this young man, hair still tussled by sleep, ready to go because he had been told to always sleep with his boots on.  I then wrote down a few other ideas, but this image wouldn’t leave.   This soldier had come to the forefront, begging for his voice to be heard and his story to be told.  I abandoned the brainstorming and began to explore his story.  In about 90 seconds this is what I came up with:

Got my boots on, but I’m not ready.
I’m not ready to leave you my love.
How did I get here in this land of dust and smoke, so far from your sweet and rolling hills?
What am I fighting for, and why must I try to even the score?
I want to be brave, but I see your face, and home is where I want to go.
I’m still dreaming of you, my bluegrass Kentucky love.

Is it the story for the 6 sentence contest?  I’m not sure, but do I want to learn more about who this soldier is and his “bluegrass Kentucky love”?  Absolutely.  And maybe more importantly, I think the wall has had a breach.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

My Favorite Reads Vol. 1

Is it bad that some of my favorite people are characters in books?  That probably makes me a big nerd, but I really do love them.  Reading is one of my biggest passions and I love exploring new worlds and adventures from the comfort of the couch with a glass of good red wine close at hand.  

With this in mind I am going to create a “regular” post series where I share some of my favorites with you.  I am planning on choosing 5 per post and with the number of “favorites” it’s pretty safe to say I’ll have plenty of material to make this a regular post topic.  

I have to admit I felt a little pressure to come up with these first 5.  It’s like when someone asks me to name my favorite song.  I just can’t.  While perusing my bookcase and kindle old friends I haven’t paid attention to in a long time were almost leaping off the shelves to have me pick them first.  Adventures I’d forgotten about begged to be relived.  Kind of like the forgotten toys in Toy Story.  So I did the only fair thing - I listed them all on a sheet of paper and randomly picked 5 to start with.  There was one exception however...

1.  Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen

 This is, and may always be, my favorite book of all time.  I read this classic for the first time while in an English class at Western Washington University and have read it  no less than 20 times since then.  I read it at least once every year and is my go-to book when I’m sick (along with watching The Princess Bride).  I love getting lost in the world of Darcy and Elizabeth.  The characters have become like my own disfunctional family now, and I cringe along with Elizabeth and Jane when Mrs. Bennett opens her mouth with one of her ridiculous exclamations.  They are the misfit cousins I only have to see every once in awhile (hpothetically speaking of course, all of my family members are amazing - and may be reading this post).  Of course the main theme of the book is to not let your own pride and preconceived prejudices get in the way of your discovery of love and happiness, but I love the world that Austen potrays and find myself swooning and pining over balls and “meals” with friends and relations.  If you’ve never read it, I’ll still be your friend, but I highly suggest giving it a try, you might be surprised by how relevant corsets can be.

2.  Firefly Lane - Kristin Hannah

Kristin Hannah is an amazing contemporary author, and if you haven’t checked her out, get thee to Amazon, the library, kindle store, or wherever one can still buy books these days and pick this one up.  This was the second book I read written by her (okay, technically the third, but I didn’t know the first one was written by her for a few years later).  It follows the friendship of 2 women from childhood into adulthood as they are faced with traumatic, life altering betrayals and tragedies.  The book is set in the Northwest and it’s fun to read about life in Seattle in the 70’s and 80’s.  I will warn you that you need to have plenty of Kleenex ready for the ending, but it’s so good you won’t be able to put it down.  I cried for a solid 20 minutes after finishing.  I remember walking downstairs and my husband worriedly asked me what was wrong.  I told him nothing, just that the book was so sad and soooo good.  He asked me why I read something that made me cry.  I think many of us read to escape or experience life through the lens of someone else and when you find a book that touches your heart, it’s amazingly powerful.  This is one of those books.

Kristin Hannah has the unique ability to write about the relationships that women have with their friends, spouses, families, etc. in a way that is perfectly relatable.  I have yet to be disappointed by anything written by her, and I’m sure you’ll see her name plenty on this list.

3.  The Rum Diary - Hunter S. Thompson

It would be tempting to just say that anything by Hunter S. Thompson is going to take you on a wild ride through experiences you hope to never live, but that would be too easy.  I fell in love with Johnny Depp in “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”, and came across this obscure book at a library book sale right around the same time.  Rumor has it that this was sort of a hidden manuscript from Thompson that Depp came across and encouraged him to get published.  He wrote it in the 60’s and it was published in 1998.  However it happened, I’m glad to have found it at that book sale.  Some may see it as the slightly less frantic, tamer cousin to “Fear and Loathing” but that’s not to say this one doesn’t have it’s moments in the sun either.  I like the vulnerability of Paul Kemp as he swelters his way through San Juan, Puerto Rico.  He has been hired as a newspaper writer for a struggling shop and the book opens with him realizing he’s drank his way through the hotel’s mini-bar before he evens gets to work.  I love it and won’t say much more than it’s pure Hunter S. Thompson with a little more maturity - and you shouldn’t believe the critics - the movie was good too.

4.  A Million Little Pieces - James Frey

Yes, I know Oprah hates him, he’s a liar and sold us snake oil blah blah blah.  Yes, the memoir contains less soemtimes inaccurate factual events, but no one can deny the power this book had when it first came out.  And even after the Oprah bashing I can honestly say this remains one of the truest books on addiction and self-destruction that I’ve ever read.  To those of you who changed your mind because Oprah told you to, I say shame on you.  It should not be a surprise that there are chunks of this book that are made up.  How could one possibly remember the details of events that led to blacking out and finding oneself in the gutter?  

My personal feelings for Oprah and how she handled the whole situation aside (thank you South Park for trying to make it right as only you can), this book remains one of the first books that humanized the drug addict and brought him to the public.  To me, that’s why it’s still one of my all-time favorites.  Before this book there were a few books about drug addicts that reached the best seller list, but they were often glamorized or too characterized to make them real (yes, even by the great Hunter S. Thompson).  Frey’s ability to make us root for him and see him as our neighbor, son, friend, weird cousin, etc opened a lot of people’s minds to the dangers and horrors experienced by those trapped in the hands of the addict.  This may have been the seminal piece of work that drew me to write about characters that struggle with addiction and examine how a seemingly innocent substance holds the power to take control over otherwise normal people.  So ignore Oprah and give it another look.  Good news?  Thanks to Oprah you can probably find it pretty cheap.  Now the sequel?   Hmm....let’s just say that one won’t make this list.  lol

5.  Violets of March - Sarah Jio

This one I cheated on a little bit, I admit.  I didn’t randomly pick it.  I just finished this book on Thursday, and let me tell you, it’s awesome!!  Sarah Jio is a new author who has just released her 2nd full length novel, and her storytelling and charater building skills are superb and well seasoned.  I was excited to see she was going to be in Leavenworth today for a book signing, only to make the drive to see her cancelled notice.  Oh well.  This book is a fantastic love story and journey of self-discovery and acceptance.  The main character finds herself hiding from her life at her aunt’s house on Bainbridge Island after her marriage crumbles.  She discovers a love story and mystery from the past that makes her question her views on everyone around her.  I won’t say much more because I really want you to read it and don’t want to give any of the delicious secrets away, but the story takes you places you may not expect.  Pick this one up when your schedule is free because you won’t want to put it down!

Well, those are the first five.  Read any good ones lately?

Friday, January 27, 2012

Lake Wenatchee Hike

Photos uploaded from my hike to Spider Meadows in November 2011.  Click here to go to the Photos page.

Over 1000!!

I am so excited that I couldn't wait.  We've been viewed over 1000 times!!!  Okay, so a good chunk of those views were by me, but still, I'm stoked.  Thank you to everyone who has been supportive of this new endeavor.  You rock my world!!!

Love to you all!

Good Enough?

Now that I am putting work out there for you to see I find myself wondering if what I will write is interesting enough, funny enough, witty enough, or normal enough for you to like it.  I find myself struggling to keep the lessons learned from My Warrior Aunt close to heart, while also wanting to create original, potentially publishable works.  I’m having a hard time not self-editing and limiting myself to posts that I think you will enjoy and share. 

Take “1974 Corona” for example.  I am proud of this short story.  Is it the best I can do?  Is it the pinnacle of my craft?  I don’t think so, but the characters have lived with me for 15+ years and are old friends.  I’ve submitted the story a couple times to short story fiction contests, shared it with close friends, had it evaluated by a college professor, but somehow posting it on a website and making it available to people that I know was more terrifying than anything I’ve done with the story.  You may have noticed that when I shared the link to “1974 Corona” I didn’t share the exact page to find the story.  I chickened out and posted a generic post about “New Blog Posts” and shared the link to the main page.  I then buried "1974 Corona" on the Writing page, knowing the link I shared wouldn’t take you, my reader, straight to the story.  Thereby adding some layers of protection to it.

I was worried about what you might think.  How would you feel about the language and subject matter of the story?  What would my coworkers, friends, family, and high school English teacher think when they read it?  Many of you have never seen that side of me, and I was nervous about how you’d react.  Would you think I’d experimented with heroin (I haven’t)?  There is just enough of me in the story to make some of you wonder if any of it was true (aside from the Flamester it’s all fiction).  Sharing that story was much more terrifying than pouring my heart out to you via “My Warrior Aunt”. 

I’ve been thinking about why that is.  Why is it easier to talk of my emotions, rather than have you read something fictional that I’ve created?  Maybe it’s because I know that I can defend myself but my characters are defenseless?  Maybe it’s the vulnerability of the artist voice, still juvenile inside?  Though I still have my moments of immaturity, I am a fairly grown-up adult.  I am pretty confident in who I am and how I think and react to the world around me.   My confidence in my writing however lags behind this general maturity. 

A good friend recently advised me that putting my work out there may make me more neurotic because I’ll be spilling my life to the world.  Here’s the kicker though.  I can share myself, that’s easy for me.  I’ve always worn my heart and emotions on my sleeve.  I have a hard time sharing my creations.  I hesitate to call them “art” or call myself a writer.  I wonder why that is when it’s such a big part of who I am.  I write to learn.  I write to create.  I write to escape.  I write for a million reasons, but mainly I write because it’s what I do and who I am.  I turn to words to help me process uncomfortable situations, to help me understand the world I live in, but I’m working on learning to write to share. 

And I can’t help but wonder, am I good enough?  Are my creations interesting enough for anyone to actually want to read them?  Will people laugh when I tell them that I long to be a writer?  That I dream of one day making a living as a writer?  That I have my book tour planned out, though I haven’t finished the story?  Do you think an artist is ever truly confident that what he/she creates is good enough (not to mention the best)?  Is the constant pursuit of discovery and growth what spurs artists to keep creating?  Knowing I can do better is one of my motivators.  For when you’ve reached the pinnacle of greatness what do you have left to say?

I need to learn to stop letting what I’m afraid people might think get in the way of my creations.  I tend to criticize my work first so that you know that it’s okay if you don’t like it, since I don’t really like it either.  I point out flaws first hoping to reduce the impact of your sure to come criticism.  The problem?  Your criticism may never come.  My fear keeps you from coming to your own conclusions about how you feel about a work.  My fear gets in the way. 

So what’s the solution?  I think the answer is to keep working.  To keep trying.  To keep dreaming and creating.  To be brave enough to give work wings and see where it goes.  Some works are destined to stay on the ground, but maybe there is one that will touch one person.  After all, isn’t that my role?  To say things that someone may not know how to.  To allow someone to escape their own life for the 5 minutes it takes to read one of my works.  My job is to get out of out my own way, and out of the way of my characters.  I need to release them to the universe and hope I’ve armed them with enough to stand on their own without my fence around them.  Of course I’ll always protect them, but I need to let them go and find their own paths.

I am going to promise myself that even if I am the only one who ever reads this blog, I will continue to create and I will know that I’ve been brave enough to share those creations with the universe (or blogosphere in this case).  That’s enough for me.

Hi, my name is Sarah and I’m a writer.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Wishing on a Willow Tree

Here's a sneak peek at a song I'm working on now....

Wishing on a Willow Tree
Sarah Johnson

Breezes blow through the holler
Memories of long forgotten kisses in the air
I pull my heart tighter knowing you’re not here
Cold fingers do nothing to warm my soul

So I hold on tight and remember that summer
That summer when the honeysuckle bloomed and the river ran strong
Laying in the meadow holding each other tight
Hiding from the world in our willow tree

You went away that fall and met someone new
Said you needed to see what the city held
Went to chase your dreams and never came back
Forgot our love beneath the willow tree

Now I’m left wishing on the willow tree down in the holler
Wondering what to do with all this love you left behind
Watching the falling leaves turn to snow and waiting for the bloom
Waiting and wishing on our lonely willow tree

To be continued….

Monday, January 23, 2012

1974 Corona

I am trying not to fall into the habit of using this blog to regurgitate my daily life (I'm not sure you would find it all that interesting), so I am posting one of my favorite pieces of writing on the "Writing" page.  It's called "1974 Corona" and was a short story I wrote at Western Washington University for a Creative Writing class with Katie Trueblood.

I have always been drawn to passionate people, and my characters become very close to me personally. I also tend to write in the first person about things that are familiar to me, which may lead some readers to think that I'm writing factual history. I want to say publicly that I have not experienced my stories firsthand, but have lived each and every one of them in my imagination and dreams. They have all been created by me and may represent parts of me, but should not be confused with actual events. 

The story deals with a snapshot of time between two people traveling in a car with two different ideas on journey in front of them.  The pacing and language is frantic and raw.  I will warn you ahead of time, that it contains references and languages that are not suited for children (if you're offended by that sort of thing).  It was inspired by a car that a good friend of mine had in college.  He named the car the Flamester and it was blue with bright orange flames down the hood.  I always felt the car had a personality and a story to tell.  The Flamester made his way through a couple friends, and has disappeared off the map.  I choose to believe that he has found some hot chevelle and they are travelling the highways and byways together (always at sunset with the taillights blinking). 

Take a walk on the wild side and take a look. As always, your feedback is always welcome!

1974 Corona

 "“No.” One simple word made of two simple letters had the power to rip my world apart."
-Excerpt from 1974 Corona 

Friday, January 20, 2012

Reminders from the Universe

“Simply be rather than do”.  That was my inscription on my Dove chocolate today and I couldn’t help but notice it fit my new methodology perfectly.  Thank goodness for reminders from the universe. 

Today is Friday and Fridays typically involve a lot of thought and conversation about what we are doing for the weekend.  I usually have the whole weekend (down to the hours) planned out before I leave work on Friday afternoon.  Could it be that my 4:00 craving for chocolate was the universe’s way of reminding me the importance of enjoying every minute and not planning my life away?

I think I have such a hard time with not planning every moment of my spare time because I don’t want to feel like I waste my time off but not doing anything.  Because I have a M-F job I fall squarely in the “weekend warrior” category.  Push hard all week to make it to the weekend only to push hard to do all the things I love to do.  Unless I want to give up some of my passions and hobbies I’m not sure how to just “be” rather than “do”.   And I’m not interested in giving up those things that I love.  So I guess that leaves learning to “be”.

Maybe the key to balance the joy of what you’re doing right now and not get lost in planning the next event or worrying that you are running late?  I tend to get grouchy when I run late, sometimes becoming very short with people because being late stresses me out (I blame it on my type A+ personality).  I don’t like disappointing people and don’t like to tell anyone “no” when they ask me to hang out.  We’ll have to address that topic in this blog at some point too. 

Today is a perfect example of how I run through my life.  Already today I have gone snowboarding (it was awesome!), worked almost a full day, rented a movie, and bought new snowtires for my car.  Yes, I’m aware it’s only 4:00, and I’m just getting started.  On tap for the weekend are a possible movie with the parents, snowboarding Saturday and Sunday, tickets to the hockey game Saturday night, a possible sledding adventure, and a walk with a friend.  And you know what?  This is pretty typical.  I want to do everything because I know I’ll have fun doing each and every thing on my list. 

I need to learn to slow down and realize that I’m pretty easy to please.  I have fun doing pretty much anything.  If Mark and I watched a movie on the couch with the dogs at my feet, I’d be just as happy as going to the hockey game.  So how do you choose?  How do you live a fun, adventurous life without running from one event to another? 

My goal for this weekend is to enjoy every moment of every event and if we don’t make it to the hockey game because the snow is fabulous on Saturday and we just want to veg out on the couch (hopefully because our legs are wasted from riding powder all day), that’ll be ok.  If we say no to sledding, that’s okay too, our friends will still love us.  I’m going to try to slow down, breathe, and really experience what I’m doing while I’m doing it.  I’ll let you know how it goes. 

Have a fantastic weekend and enjoy the snow (if you’re into that sort of thing J)! 


Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Finally!  Old Man Winter finally showed up to the party.  Guess he felt it was best to be fashionably late.  It snowed hard, all day.  And I LOVED every minute of it. Sparkling white diamonds falling from the sky.  I feel like a rich woman today.  Add to the party 17 degree temps and you have some of the finest, lightest powder crystals west of the Rockies.  

I know part of the purpose of this blog is to stop planning my life, but it's also about living your life and doing what you're passionate about so I think this one qualifies.  I may have to make snowboarding for a few hours a priority on Friday...hmmm now to figure out what to do about my massive helmet hair I'll have when I go back to work in the afternoon.  Thank goodness for braids and the huge powder smile that will be on my face (oh, and no meetings lol).  

The snow today made me acknowledge something about myself.  Snow makes me supremely happy all the time.  I don't think I've ever had a day where I said to myself, "I really wish it would stop snowing".  Nope, it never happens.  Rain and wind during a planned bike trip, yeah that makes me a tad grouchy, but I love the snow.  I love that it makes everything quiet in the world.  Even when the wind is blowing there is something unbelievably peaceful about snow coming down, even if it's coming down sideways.  It serves as soundproofing to city streets, heels don't click, and the only sound you hear is the sound of the shovel on the sidewalk.  

The title of this post is partly in jest of the massive hysteria of the mainstream news outlets calling this Snowmaggedon and the Snowpacolypse.  To be fair, we in Eastern Washington are a little more setup to handle snow than our cohorts on the Westside.  Our cars have snowtires, our drivers have experience, we have a decent number of snowplows, and the roads don't pitch at 45 degrees.  I would have liked to experience snow in Seattle though to see if it quiets city life as much as it does here.  To stand on the pier or at the beach at Discovery Park and watch the snow meet the Sound would be a pretty cool experience.  (You just need to take care to stay out of the way of a spinning Toyota Prius.)  

I had a late meeting at work tonight and decided that we should forgo our normal Wednesday night gym workout and play in the snow instead.  You will be happy to know dear readers that I put the snowshoes and headlamp on, gathered the hubs and the dogs and headed to Tedford Park to play in the snow.  Yep, I walked right past the dishes that needed to be put away, the laundry that should be folded, and the driveway in need of shoveling.  We were going to play in the snow at the park first.  Chores and work will always be there (I'm beginning to think laundry is one of life's guarantees), but time with your best human and canine friends won't be.  Mark in his cross-country skis and I in my snowshoes made a few laps around the park and came home wet, tired, and above all, happy.  It's nights like these as the dogs snooze on the rug after running 50 miles through the snow that make me appreciate all life has to offer and makes me thankful that I live in an area that allows me to walk out my door and have an adventure in nature.  

I challenge you to look for adventures in your everyday life.  You never know what you may find by walking out your front door and leaving your car in the driveway (especially if you don't like driving in the snow).  And don't you worry, the driveway got shoveled and the dishes are on their spin cycle.  The laundry?  That's another story for another day.  

So welcome home Old Man Winter!  Take off your shoes and stay awhile.  You are most welcome here!!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Bloom Shine Fly

Okay, here I go for real!  Some of you may be saying, “Wait, didn’t she already launch her blog?”  Touché.  As you may have noticed, I started posting on this blog last week, but true to form I didn’t want to tell anyone about it until it was “ready”.  I was afraid that if it didn’t look amazing and wasn’t full of content people wouldn’t want to stick around and see what became of it.  Well, since this blog’s entire purpose is to inspire me to put my voice out there regardless of whether or not I think it’s ready, that theory was a problem.

I was moved to write a post about my aunt yesterday and asked my husband to read it.  This is a big step for me, since I never really ask him to read anything I write.  Outside of 2 or 3 people in the world I don’t ask anyone to read anything I write.  He read the post and without telling me, posted the link on his Facebook page.  That simple post caught fire and seems to have touched a chord with dozens of people – some of whom I’ve never met.  I am humbled that a few words from my heart seem to have the power to move people and inspire them to share the post with others. 
I have never been humbled by anything I’ve written.  I’ve been proud, happy, disgusted, satisfied, you name it, but I’ve never been humbled.  Reading the comments people shared about my words brought me to tears, over and over again. 

Since I’m an analyzer I started to wonder why these words have become so powerful to me.  I have concluded that because I gave them wings (and my husband shoved them out of the nest), they were able to become something bigger than me.  None of my other works have had this opportunity because I share them with a few people, and put them back on the shelf.  I know they exist, and I am proud of them, but to the world they were never written. 

I thought about where I would be if Jane Austen had never been brave enough to put her words in the hands and hearts of her readers.  (You should know that Pride and Prejudice is my very favorite book/story/piece of art, but that post is for another day.)  The great poet John Keats had these words inscribed on his tombstone, “Here lies One Whose Name was writ in Water”.  He demanded this inscription because he didn’t think his words or his creations would stand the test of time.  Even if you can’t recite the words, I’m sure most of you have heard of a poem he wrote called “Ode to a Nightingale”.  I would say that Mr. Keats was very much wrong and that his words have long stood the test of time.  Where would we be if artists such as Jane Austen and John Keats had never shared their creations?  If Stephen King had not sent off a series of short stories or if Stephanie Meyer hadn’t put pen to a dream she had of a glistening vampire in a meadow?

I am by no means attempting to compare my simple words with those magnificent authors, but I do think that I do my artistic voice a disservice by not releasing my creations to the universe (or blogosphere in this case).  A true artist creates to share not to store.  Sharing our creations allows them to bloom, shine, and ultimately fly.  Not every creation is a masterpiece, but sometimes the words come out just right and you convey truth.  I am pledging to you, my blog audience that I will give wings to my work, even if the only person they touch is me.  They will have grammar errors, verb tense disagreements, spelling problems, and won’t all be magnificent.  I can promise though that they will all be written from the heart and with the courage to set them on their way.
So again, I say that I am humbled by the comments and postings readers have shared about my Warrior Aunt.  I’m still working on finding my artistic voice and giving it some volume, but your support means the world. 

With that in mind, Welcome to Be Here. Be You. Again.
P.S.  These flowers were taken by my mom, Bev Battis, at Pike's Place Market.  Good job, mom!

Change in Altitude

The winter of 2011-2012 has not been a very wet winter for those of us on the Eastern Slopes of the Cascade Mountains.  The promised La Nina weather pattern has remained that, a promise.  One of the perks of living in Wenatchee is that the Mission Ridge Ski Area is 12 miles outside of town.  The downfall is that our ski area has received about 40 inches of snow this year.  Total.  Lucky for us, we have top-to-bottom snowmaking so we’ve still been able to enjoy some riding.

While riding a very cold chairlift up the mountain on Sunday I couldn’t help but be a little disgruntled by the lack of snow found on the hills.  Those who know me know that I love powder.  I search all season for the perfect powder turn and then spend the entire offseason remembering it.  40 inches and man-made snowmaking = no powder.  The first run had proven to be fast, but bulletproof hard.  I was freezing on a chairlift thinking that it would be okay if my husband wanted to go back to the car and call it a day.  My toes were cold, and my attitude along with the temperature was plummeting.  Then for 3 minutes the sky lifted and snow began falling.  My husband put his arm around me and we rode up the chair watching the snowflakes. 
I allowed myself to leave my thoughts of the powder I wasn’t riding and enjoy the ride I was on.  I was sitting on a chairlift with my best friend watching the snow fall knowing I loved and was loved in return.  A perfect moment in an ordinary life.  What more can you ask for?

And if you’re interested, the weatherman is promising powder this week so that planned trip to Ikea next weekend may have to wait.  There may be a powder turn in my future.    

Monday, January 16, 2012

My Warrior Aunt

Dedicated to my Warrior Aunt -

I’ve been thinking a lot about mortality lately. Not necessarily my own, but what it means to leave a footprint on the world. I have an aunt who has been battling cancer for more years than I care to remember. She has been on a journey of the highest highs and lowest lows. She was diagnosed with breast cancer at a young age, and was forced to confront the possibility of the end of her life while she was right in the middle of living it. Throughout her victories against cancer and the setbacks of a battle lost, she achieved something most of us never do until it’s too late. She gained a sense of her own mortality and what it means to live the life you are given for however long you’re given it for. None of us know when our time on this earth is to end, but those of us lucky enough to know the finality of our own lives and laugh in the face of it are my heroes.
My aunt Brenda is one of those people. I jokingly call her my warrior aunt, but I’m not sure people really know why. They probably think that I consider her a warrior because of her fight against the cancer that stubbornly refuses to leave her body. I don’t tell them that I consider her a warrior because she knows her time on this earth is finite, but she continues to make new friends, try new adventures, and hold those she loves even closer. She doesn't just fight against the cancer. She fights for time. Time to spend with her children and grandchildren. Time to love her husband. Time to grow a business that will continue after she leaves us. She fights for the time to leave her mark on this world.
She has now decided that her fight against cancer is coming to an end. Some may see this as giving up. I see it as one more demonstration of her warrior spirit. I know she hasn’t been able to accomplish everything that she set out to. She’s left a bucket list that will never be completed. But she has the courage to face her own mortality and say the hard goodbyes. Through one final act of bravery she is again choosing time. Time to say her goodbyes with dignity and acceptance. The treatment options left to her at this point are painful and will not eradicate her cancer. This cancer will win the war. In one final victory over cancer she has decided that cancer cannot and will not take everything from her. She will take back her life and spend her final time with us helping us to prepare to live on without her. She knows the fight isn’t about her anymore. It’s for us to learn that our time in this world is our most precious gift and we musn’t squander it. We must live everyday to its fullest and know that even the ordinary acts of life are extraordinary.
My warrior aunt has taught me much. As we prepare to say our final goodbyes I hope that we can give her one final gift so she knows her fight was not in vain. We can love and show that love. Everyday. We can leave the pettiness and hurt of insensitivity behind and move forward. We are all human and do terrible things to one another all the time whether intentionally or unintentionally. We take friendships for granted. We reach out in times of trouble, but not always in times of joy. The human spirit is great in times of adversity and tragedy. Our charge is to remember to also be great in times of joy and the ordinary.
My promise to my warrior aunt is to live my life knowing that one day it will end. To call a friend I haven’t talked to in awhile, even if it’s “her turn” to call. To go to lunch with my mom just because. To strengthen the bonds of love and friendship. To be brave enough to love,hurt, laugh, cry, and be bored. To be brave enough to live. My time on this earth will someday reach its end and I will move on. I don’t want to be present in life only when time is ending. I want to accompany my friends and family on the entire journey.
I want to be a warrior too.
I love you Brenda, and I thank you for the life lessons you've taught me. Thank you for teaching us all what it means to live a life with purpose and be participants in our own lives. I will never forget you or the footprints you've left on my heart and soul.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Here I Go!

I created Be Here Be You in an attempt to create a space dedicated to self-discovery and expression. I live a really full life, and often get lost in planning my life instead of living it. I am a planner by nature. I know that I will never be able to fully live for only today, but I want to make a concerted effort to LIVE my life going forward. To live in these moments and look at today. I want to find the balance between looking forward and looking inward, between making choices to make my tomorrows bright, and loving the shades of today - whether they be black, white, red, blue, or gray.

After I decided that I wanted to create a blog, I struggled for awhile to find the right name. Okay, I admit, I'm an Aries by nature and birth so I didn't spend that long (we are very impulsive and impatient by nature). After many great ideas, and a few glasses of wine, I kept coming back to one name that seemed to sum up what I was hoping to accomplish. Be Here Be You was born.

Be Here. Each day we are given is a gift. A beautiful, perfect gift. When I look back on my life, I don't want to remember the days I spent at work, or the mundane Tuesday when I was too tired to take my dog for a walk. Those who have come before us would give anything for those minutes of life that I spent watching some mundane reality show on television or mindlessly thumbing through Facebook spying on friends living their lives. I want to say "yes" more than I say "I'll do it tomorrow". I want to remember a life filled with adventures, both big and small, and the touches of friendship and love. I need to get rid of the excuses.

Time with my loved ones is the one gift I am lucky enough to receive every single day. And every single day without fail, I squander that gift. I push it aside and run through life. I put off calling friends and family because I know I can see them tomorrow or next week or next month. I get annoyed when my mom calls while I'm cleaning dishes instead of enjoying the fact that my mom is one of my best friends and cares enough to want to talk to me every day. I want to learn to enjoy the moment, no matter what that moment is.

Be You. I don't want to spend my life waiting for the perfect image of myself. I want to learn to love who I am today. I will change and grow, but I want to appreciate the journey, not just long for the destination. We are all perfectly flawed and capable of greatness, but we need to learn to be present in our own lives, rather than live as a bystander. I have been given incredible gifts, and I want to explore all of the different sides of me. My plan is to use this blog to create, express, and learn who this girl really is and where her place is in the world.

I am highly critical of everything I do, and need it to be perfect in order for me to be happy. I'm hoping this blog helps me change that mentality. I'll be posting bits and pieces of original creations whether I think they are perfect or not. I want to learn to find my unique creative voice, rather than the voice I think I should have. I don't know where this journey will take me, but I'm excited to find out.

I hope you decide to share this adventure with me and find out a little about yourself in the process too.

Be Here. Be You. I dedicate this blog to all those who have come before me and left too soon. I hope to make you proud.