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Archive for the ‘Ruminations’ Category

This Saturday, I went to the Orange County Christian Writer’s Fellowship Conference. I’d been nearly coming out of my skin for weeks, excited at the prospect of my first-ever real writer’s conference. I told you about submitting the first 20 pages of my manuscript into their contest back in February, and although I’ve managed to contain myself somewhat, I’ve been alternately excited, terrified and like a little kid on Christmas Eve for months. There would be experts! Editors! Agents! Helpful talks! Sweet people! Gobs of inspiration! I couldn’t wait.

Luckily, I wasn’t the only crazy one, since Sam registered with just as much gusto, gamely sent her writing in to be reviewed and contested and met me at her front door in a barely post-dawn sunshine, giggling like no one should before 7 a.m. on a Saturday. Her husband sleepily smiled at our fervor, reminding me of my own husband’s excited grin – the smile of a man who’s not sure why we’re so jazzed at the idea of taking notes all day, but who loves us enough to humor our wild whims. After the obligatory stop at Starbucks, we were off, Venti lattes in hand and jabbering away like two kids on the first day of school. Who would we meet? What should we say? AAAAAAAHHHHHHSOEXCITED. (That could have been the Ventis talking).

We arrived and found our monthly writer’s critique group, a lovable bunch of journalers, poets, writers and bloggers from all walks of life and every generation. After hugs and exclamations we settled in, and one of the veteran conference attendees told us what to be prepared for and how to pick out our consultations – 15 minutes of fame with the agent, editor, or writer of your choice.

I picked an agent and one of the women at our table – a passionate, empathic prophet – said she got a “witness” when I said the agent’s name. I grew up in a church that swung wildly between being slain in the spirit and contending that logic conquers all, so I could only assume this was a good sign. We sat through the first session and ate our mass-produced pastries in silence until one of our number returned from a consultation with tears in her eyes and a potential book deal.

Decorum was long gone and the excitement only bubbled at a more fevered pitch.

The morning wore on and I headed to my consultation. I had started to feel a bit nervous – writers are not always the most joyous bunch – eyeing each other critically from our sensible shoes and making snap judgments from the long practice of being more frequently watchers of people than lovers of them, and I’d started to feel both judged and judge-y myself.  Iwalkedinandsatdownallinarush, spilling out my words with eager enthusiasm. I have a dream and story to tell, see, and I blog and I write and I’ve yearned for this chance and now I’m laying my soul bare, like me, won’t you?

She didn’t.

There are a host of totally legitimate reasons why she wouldn’t take a chance on an unknown author with a harebrained idea, but what I heard was, “Nice try, but you’re not enough.”

I left the consult with a host of solid pep-talks in my head. I’m pummeling my dreams into submission, dammit. One agent doesn’t speak for the whole industry. I write because I must, and that is enough. I walked around the beautiful campus at Mariners Church, soaking up the springtime warmth and allowing hot tears to well up behind my sunglasses, in a moment of freedom. After a brief indulgence, however, I pulled myself together and went back in for another session, finding Sam again as my rock. “How’s it go?” she asked. Well, bummer.

She didn’t have any way of knowing that such a supportive question would send her into a solid hour of therapy for her needy friend, but I am sorry to say that it did. We both pitched ourselves to the sweet editor who taught our class and we both got very kindly shot down. The editor said something to me, however, that particularly stung. “Just write your blog as yourself. If you’re authentic, readers will flock to you.”

It almost got nasty, y’all. WHAT DO YOU THINK I’VE BEEN DOING FOR THREE YEARS?!

I shook her hand and said thank you and walked outside with Sam, only to surprise my kind friend with “Maybe I’m done. I’m not enough, my blog is not good enough, and I personally have been rejected as not fun enough to read/hang out with/support. I think I’m not supposed to tell this story, and I think maybe I’m done trying.”

I wouldn’t have blamed Sam if she’d said, “Well, NOW that’s certainly the case, way to go, Sunshine. I’m going to go talk to someone who hasn’t jumped off the Crazy Bridge.”

But she didn’t, sweet friend that she is. She stayed with me as we ate our lukewarm pasta with hundreds of other hopeful writers, and helped me stay afloat in multiple conversations when I would abruptly drop out in order to Not Cry. She and Todd, one of the guys from our critique group, both nodded knowingly as I told my story and encouraged me not to give up, honestly being so kind that it almost made me cry again, because here I am being so lame and needy and everyone is SO FREAKING NICE, how did I deserve this?

I finally rallied enough to help her hone her own consultation pitch, and continued to tell myself to quit being ridiculous already. (Berating myself usually works well. Sarcasm intended.) After lunch, they announced the Memoir Contest winners. As the judge preambled, Sam squeezed my arm and the other sweet people at the table grinned knowingly at me. I shook my head as they did so, snorting a little bit to myself in my self-deprecating wisdom. “It’s not me,” I thought, “because I’ve already been told multiple times (by the experts) that I suck.”

Third place.

Second place.

The people at my table are in a frenzy of winks and smiles and shoulder rubs.  I don’t know why they’re being so nice, it’s obviously NOT ME.

First place.

DANI NICHOLS.

Sam squealed, Todd said, ” I knew it!” and I burst into tears.

I walked up in a daze and collected my prize money, shaking the judge’s hand clammily. I shakily stumbled my way back to our table, hid my face in my hands and tried not to sob uncontrollably. Someone was saying something on the microphone and I have no idea what it was. The unbelievably kind woman who won second place came over and gave me a tissue, and the lady seated behind me handed me her napkin. Our table was in an uproar, giving me winks and smiles and being SO GENEROUS with their congratulations.

Then Simon Tolkien (J.R.R.’s grandson) got up and spoke, and it finished off the surreal sense of the day. The judge of the memoir contest wants to help me polish my book and publish it. The editor who had (in a nice way, but still) shot me down earlier shook my hand and said congratulations. My friends did not begrudge me my victory but wholeheartedly rejoiced with me. Sam’s hugs sent me soaring.

I’m so blessed, you guys. Even though I, once again, foolishly allowed self-doubt and crippling despair to grab my soul, I got an umpteenth chance to persevere and do it right. It seems silly to let another person’s opinion crush or validate my dream, but it just reminded me of how fragile the creative process is, and how jealously I have to guard my hope.

I’m not done. I have tons of work to do, loads of edits, hours of continued doubt and dreams and sweat.

But I WON. And for today, that’s more than enough.

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Hello friends! I haven’t shopped in a while, and I’ve been feeling weak, pale and much more apt to leap upon email-newsletter sales than normal, which means I need to do a bit of preemptive control of myself and my trusty credit card.

Hence, a shopping post! (Applause) In my opinion, Mother’s Day is on the same level as Valentine’s Day – a made-up reason to tell somebody you love that you do actually love them, especially if you don’t say it enough. Mom’s day gifts, however, are kind of fun, because they’re not particularly expected but are fun to shop for and always appreciated by our hard-working moms. Plus, a bunch of my friends have BECOME moms recently, so this post is the perfect hint to your fella: “don’t worry about getting up for the baby…. just buy me this“. (Seriously, that’s a link to something BEAUTIFUL. Hint, hint.)

We have a lot of goodies to get to today, because moms are way too easy to shop for and this is partly a list of all the things I want too and I just appreciate them so much. So let’s get shopping!

kuhn rikon mothers day

I love shopping for my mom, because we both seriously love to cook, and buying kitchen gadgets is almost as fun as using them.

This little beauty from Sur La Table would absolutely stop my herb-chopping world. It’s a knife. And it’s flexible, like a cooking gymnast.

Also, it’s only $17.95 and it’s SO PRETTY.

Speaking of cooking, check these bad boys out:

nesting mixing bowls mothers day giftsFrom vesselsandwares on Etsy. This might be the prettiest and most practical $98 you ever spend. Look at my gorgeous serving bowl! Oh, and he has two brothers that I’m making pancakes and scrambled eggs in. Yes, I am that classy.

What’s that you say? Your mom is more the wine and cocktail party type, rather than the whipping-up-breakfast-type? I can totally empathize with that, which is why we’re having breakfast for dinner tonight. Also, you should buy her this:

pottery barn gifts for momFrom Pottery Barn. I LOVE THIS. I’m fairly certain that any of the talented men in my life (Adam, my dad and my brother) could replicate this, and I’m also fairly certain that the ladies in your lives would be EVER so grateful if you did. It wouldn’t even have to be Mother’s Day. Just any ol’ time, if you want to whip this puppy up… (if you just want to go with a bottle instead of a bin, though, you should use these tags, because they are awesome.)

mothers day giftMy mom and I have different styles, but one thing that we are Very Alike About (worst grammatically terrible descriptor ever) is A) we love anything vintage, particularly anything kitchen-related, and B) we kill plants. By the dozens. So I think the above gift (from plantology on Etsy) would be perfect. Already started plants in cute containers… if we do manage to kill it, at least we can try again next year with the vintage coffee can and another budding victim, right?

Chicha, from The Emperor's New Groove

Chicha: So, what did the emperor want?
Pacha: [clears throat] Oh, you know what, he couldn’t see me.
Chicha: [angrily] Couldn’t see you? Why not?
Pacha: I don’t know.
Chicha: Well, well, that’s just rude!
Pacha: Well, he is the emperor. I’m sure he’s busy.
Chicha: No, no, no, no, no. No. Emperor or no emperor, it’s called common courtesy.
Pacha: Honey–
Chicha: If that were me, I’d march right back there and demand to see him, and you know I would!
Pacha: Sweetie, sweetie. Think of the baby.
Chicha: Pacha, I’m fine. This baby’s not coming out for while. But even if it was, I’d give that guy a piece of my mind! That kind of behavior just… just– [snorts in anger] I gotta go wash something.
This rabbit trail is brought to you by my kinship with Chicha (she totally should be considered a Disney princess, by the way) and my assertion that froofy cleaning supplies are always a welcome present, especially when they smell as good as this stuff. Every time I’m mad, I clean the house, (please no comments about calm and happy I must be feeling lately) and good smells always help assuage my tousled spirits.
But I think we need to move on to fashion, because we all have some young and fashionable moms who can rock stuff from Etsy, you know? Stuff like this:
mothers day jewelry I kind of can’t get over how much I love this necklace. Honestly. (From justexpressive on Etsy.)

Also, these are fabulous. They remind me of Costa Rica:

mother day giftsSO PRETTY. From BellaBeachJewelry on Etsy.

I’m kind of in a beachy mood, and I stumbled upon these sandals the other day and thought “this is what I’ve always longed for” then I realized how full of hyperbole my brain is. But seriously. These are really amazing – the perfect blend of trend and class, from J.Jill:

mothers day giftsFinally, we are at our last two offerings. This is a sad moment for me, because I love shopping. You probably quit reading several dumb jokes ago. Anyways, our last two are both bags, one for toting everything, and one for toting camera gear. Both are adorbs.

The one for everything.

That’s all folks! Hug a mom today!

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…and I need you all to tell me what you think.

(Sorry for the shameless self-promotion lately, but this IS MY BABY.) (Honestly.) (So much sweat was involved, you have no idea.) (Ok, maybe not sweat.) (Just concentration.) (I’ll stop now.) (Sorry.)

Clickity-click!

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When I was around 11 or 12 years old, in my childhood living room, my dad taught my brother and I how to protect our faces and deliver a hefty punch, in case we ever got into a fight. (This knowledge was only to be used against meanies, of course). (Which it has, if you must know). Later, in college, I had a punching bag in my room that I frequently used to assuage my frustrated feelings and rattle the hallways of our poor old house. I’ve never been afraid of a fight, even though I consider myself a dreamy/artsy type, hence why the title quote made me smile this week.

I’ve been thinking about dreaming lately, and the fight that it takes to turn a dream into a plan. It’s said that planners marry dreamers, which is definitely true in my life. I’m the spontaneous and overly casual dreamer – I don’t measure when I cook and keeping track of my keys is my biggest daily challenge.  Adam, the planner, makes a carefully printed out and detailed spreadsheet for work-outs, vacations and Big Life Decisions, while I tend to only worry about such silly details 10 minutes before we’re about to embark upon said adventure, at which point I realize that I maybe should have thought this through.

Being with Adam reminds me that I’m not a planner. Honestly, I’m in awe of someone who is so rarely rattled. So, if I’m honest about my own short-comings, I’m completely shocked that my business is thriving. I very nearly break out in stress-related hives every tax season, I have done my fair share of blowing by opportunities and I often make dumb choices. Basically, I’m me and I never realized that I could actually be good at things. I’ve always expected much more from myself, and when I didn’t deliver, I would assume that was just how it was. Punching something, in my mind, only helped me feel better – little did I know that very fight in my heart, and that mere strong-willed determination might be enough to overcome my failures.

I know now that a bit of grit goes a long way, and a good pummeling only makes me stronger. A few tough brawls have taught me that although I’m rejoicing in my momentary success, hard times are just around the corner. That’s what boxing lessons with my dad taught me, anyway, and it hasn’t been disproven yet – don’t ever turn around on your adversary, don’t ever assume you’re safe – fight until you know you’ve won.

As much as I’ve wanted to give up sometimes, I’m glad I’ve learned the art of hunting down my dreams and giving them a stern beating. I have a new, personal goal to achieve and it will take a lot of clobbering to overcome. Luckily for me, I have a deadly right hook.

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Lately, I have:

  • gotten in fights on Facebook
  • eaten my weight in leftover Brownie Bites
  • made homemade burgers that were downright scrumptious
  • ridden on a duffy boat
  • gone geocaching with The Hubs
  • cried
  • laid out on the beach and gotten less-pale (I can’t really say “tanned”)
  • dealt with a severe episode of writer’s block
  • listened to a God-awfully long timeshare presentation and walked away with free loot
  • been pelted by freezing rain (yes, this is juxtaposed with my beach episode. California is having a Texan spring)
  • watched one of my little cowgirls trot a perfect spiral (so proud!)
  • cleaned my house from top to bottom (including dusting – BLEH)
  • been inspired to garden
  • not started gardening, however
  • thought about gardening
  • thought about writing
  • tried to get inspired
  • eaten more Brownie Bites instead

I’m in a funk, one that is not just in my head but is actually kind of sad. However, I am trying to think positively, to kick all this junk to the curb, to rise above and to overcome. Maybe I’ll write about what’s making me sad, or maybe I’ll just power through it. Either way, I probably need a few more Brownie Bites.

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I call Adam, tearfully.

Me: “I have a tale of woe. Do you want to hear it?”

Him: “Sure.”

Me, spilling out Tale of Woe with much gesticulation and, well, woe.

Him, calmly and kindly and not hysterically at all: “We’ll figure it out. We’ll see what they say. It’s OK, it’ll be fine.”

***

Why can’t I ever react calmly and not hysterically and more like my wise Hubs?!

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Hello, Internetz.

Ok, since I know you’re all on the edge of your seats wondering how on my Earth my contagious self is faring, let me tell you a couple of things that I learned today.

Thing #1: Going to the doctor is preferable to staying up all night in pain. Adam suggested that we head on over to the medical practitioners yesterday, an idea which I bah-humbugged, citing my earnest belief in my immune system and the power of OJ. I then stayed up all night against my will and made Adam very sad by moaning/crying in pain until we could get into Urgent Care this morning. It was great.

Thing #2: I have never had a sinus infection before. When I heard of other people having sinus infections, I would usually sigh sympathetically and think “oh, yeah, how terrible, that’s like a stuffy nose with extra stuffy, right?” WRONG, Dani of the past. It is a horrific phenomenon in which your entire face falls off and you can’t sleep and you can’t eat and you think you might just die if your temples throb one more time. I now have had a sinus infection. To anyone who’s ever told me of theirs and gotten a vaguely sympathetic nod in return, I’M SO SORRY.

Also, it really sucks to be the sole owner and work-doer of your business and be sick and woefully unable to string sentences together, when writing is kinda how you make your living. I feel terrible for letting people down, even when my face is falling off.

One last update, and then you can go about your healthy lives. I’m going to blame this decision on lack of sleep and too much DayQuil, but today I was feeling terrible, and on strict orders to remain in a mostly prostrate position and NOT sweep the floor even though it is getting way gross around here. So, I thought, “Hey! Time for a mid-day movie. I know! I feel awful and depressed, so let’s watch one about sweet little kids dying of cancer. That’s the ticket.”

my sisters keeperSERIOUSLY, Dani? I can’t even look at the poster without feeling sniffly. Well, at least some of the Kleenex thrown out today were used for a nobler cause than simply catching my germs, right?

(PS – I have to give a shout-out to the Hubs, who not only listened to me moan but drove me to the Doctor and held my hand and bought me breakfast. What a guy I’ve got.)

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