Radio silence

*picks up blog, blows dust and cobwebs off*

Good news: my health is cooperating for the most part. I’m doing well.

Had a recent epiphany that I need a break from the digital world, not just from blogging. I went outdoors and it was amazing. (Have you been out in nature lately?)

This is me, officially, until I don’t know when:

writing cave notice

Best Schwarzenegger impression: I’LL BE BACK.

~Sadie

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Campaign season is war when you work at home (and I have the scars to prove it)

I’ve been working from home since January 2013, which means this is my first presidential campaign season. You know what I’m talking about: political callers and door knockers. It’s not going so well.

Actually, it started out okay.

First, I did a little dance when I remembered we got rid of our land line a few years back, which meant I would not be interrupted by political pollsters and robocalls all day.

But then I remembered that we kept the old phone number as a cell phone. I’ve tried blocking the calls, but they just call from another number. When my blocked calls list reached its limit a few weeks ago, I warned my extended family not to worry, and then permanently turned off the ringer.  This has only been slightly effective because now I worry. I feel compelled to check to make sure none of them are trying to call me for some emergency. Like what if my mother-in-law is trapped under a heavy piece of furniture?

Next, the door-to-door canvassers started knocking. Every time anyone knocks at the door, my coonhound leaps out of her 18-hour nap and barks like there is a serial killer on my front porch. Every. Single. Time.

The first time a canvasser knocked, I crated the dog and opened the door to a smiling, clipboard-carrying young woman. I had one of those surreal moments where you feel like you’re the same age (you know, 21-ish) but then you realize the last time you were her age you were crying into a beer over some dumb boy while listening to a Metallica cover band in a smoky bar, at which point she was probably in diapers.

I politely answered her questions. Yes, I’m a registered voter. Mm-hmm, I’m planning to vote. Yes, I’ve researched my vote and yes, I understand where her candidate stands on the issues. Sure, I know where to vote. Yes, of course, I know when to vote. I casually joked about her not being born yet when the Wall came down. She replied that she once listened to her dad’s old vinyl copy and it was kind of okay. I spent twenty minutes on my couch, dumbfounded at the facts that A) she didn’t know I was talking about the Berlin Wall and that B) she wasn’t impressed by Pink Floyd.

The 117th time a canvasser knocked, things went a little differently. My coonhound startled me out of my writing cave by barking as if an axe-wielding evil clown was chopping down the front door. Needless to say, I felt neither polite nor chatty.

Desperate, I looked around for a way out. I noticed the container of dog treats on top of the piano. Luckily, the curtains were closed, so I dropped to the floor like an action movie hero in a war trench. Head down, I belly crawled across the room but somehow took a wrong turn and found myself under the dining table.

The canvasser must have heard my out-of-shape panting and grunting, because he knocked again. I didn’t care. I was committed to my cause, and I was going to see it through to the end. I backed up and made a break for the piano.

Despite the sweat dripping into my eyes, I managed to find a piano leg. When I tried to stand, I bumped my head on the underside of the piano, which spilled the dog treats onto the piano keys. The dog leapt up on her hind legs to chomp all the treats before I could gather them. Her coonhound paws pounded up and down the keyboard, accompanied by my horrified shrieks, and the terrible noise sent both of my poor cats into a howling hurricane up the stairs. Together, we were like some kind of a crazed, screeching quartet.

As the dog’s lips smacked at the last of the treats, I knew the barking would start again. There was no way out. I was literally trapped under the piano.

The canvasser knocked again.

“Hello? Is everything okay in there? I can hear you breathing. Are you all right? Do you need me to call 911?” he asked.

My throat was dry, which made me sound like an old woman trapped under a heavy piece of furniture. “No. I mean, I’m fine. Just, uh, rearranging the furniture. I can’t open the door because um, the piano is blocking it. Just leave your campaign literature on the porch. I’ll get it later.”

Momentary silence from the porch.

I smiled to myself. My hands and knees were covered in dust bunnies, there were dog treat crumbs in my hair, and I probably had a mild concussion, but I had avoided the umpteenth discussion of my voting habits with a well-intentioned stranger. I had won this particular battle in the War of 2016.

But then, like a Shakespearean dagger, the final blow landed.

“That’s okay. We’ll just come back at a more convenient time.”

Two things: 1. I’ve stopped joking that someone might be calling me because they’re trapped under a heavy piece of furniture. 2. I hope they aren’t because I won’t be able to hear a thing with my new noise cancelling earphones.

-Sadie

election season

 

Greetings from Sticky Note Hell

I’m in the post-writer’s conference frenzy of creativity.

For the past month I’ve been living in my writing cave, communicating with the outside world almost exclusively by sticky note. I leave only for the bare necessities. It’s true woman cannot live on bread alone, but she can survive nicely with the three C’s: crock-pot, coffee, and chocolate.

After my eight minute meeting with the agent at the conference, I had a lot to consider. He was exceptionally nice, and expressed sincere interest in working together. However, after a few days of mulling it over, I chose a different direction.

rocky-steps


photo credit: People.com

Ultimately, I’ve made it this far as an indie, even with significant setbacks due to my health, and I want to see it through to the top of the steps in Philly.

I need to have my “Rocky” moment.

(Don’t worry. I have maintained a friendly, professional connection in case there is a future opportunity to work together.)

The conference gifted me the opportunity to see how far I’ve come. I met a new friend who was genuinely excited for my little glimpses of success. It was a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the experience I’ve gained along the way and to remember how timid I felt when I first embraced the journey toward authorhood. I also learned a ton of exciting things from more experienced writers who are indie, traditional, and hybrid published.

I made another connection at the conference which has been absolutely life changing.

I met an editor, and she’s not just any old editor, she’s a freaking wizard.

Good news? In a matter of days she helped me figure out “the unsettled something” that has kept me from publishing for the past eighteen months.

Bad news? She gave me homework. It was homework that involved using sticky notes in as many different colors as I could find. (Okay, it wasn’t bad news.)

Me at the corner store, in yoga pants and a ponytail:

Chocolate? Check. Every sticky note on the shelf? Check.

Then I set to work taking the entire manuscript apart and putting it back together. I’m not going to lie. It was anything but pretty.

I laughed. I cried. I ate all the chocolate. I drank buckets of coffee. My kids ate cereal for dinner. My cat even stopped trying to get my attention.

post-its pickle

It was like open heart surgery without anesthesia, but with colorful sticky notes.

After several hours my writing cave looked like utter, colorful chaos and I tweeted this desperate plea for help:

And I spent Valentine’s Day like this:

Never fear, I made it past the “What on earth have I done?” phase and “the unsettled something” is *POOF* gone!

I’m on to the “Publish or Bust!” phase, aka the “crock-pot, coffee, and chocolate (and sometimes wine)” phase.

So, cue the “Rocky” theme song.

*Adjusts lucky Halloween socks, refills coffee, grabs another piece of chocolate, returns to writing cave*

~Sadie

Eight minutes.

socks23I recently registered for a writer’s conference. (I highly recommend this for fellow writers, and if you want to know why, please read about my first writers conference and 5 Reasons to go to a writers conference).

As part of my registration, I made several choices about my weekend.

Would you like to attend a four-hour workshop with a bestselling author? Learn from an experienced, successful person? Yes!

Would you like to eat lunch there? Sure. Chicken option please.

Would you like an appointment with an agent?  I blinked. Did I?

Over my second cauldron of coffee, I pondered the idea of an appointment with an agent.

Hmm. I’ve been down that road before, and the agent was very helpful but ultimately I decided to go out on my own, agent-less. In the 18 months since, I have successfully launched a kickstarter campaign and reached my goal funding to indie publish. I’ve gone through numerous re-writes and months of editing. I commissioned awesome cover art and a book trailer (which I can’t wait to show you!) and set launch dates three times, only to have my health put my plans on hold each time.

I’ve really worried that I am disappointing my loyal supporters as I keep trying to move forward. I’ve even gone through pretty serious depression related to my stalled book and ongoing health, which has sometimes made it even more difficult to keep myself going.

As a result of my health obstacles, I’ve started wondering if I should revisit the idea of working with an agent. Con: Lose a chunk of my profits and control over timing. Pro: Maybe it’s worth it to not have to do every single thing on my own. It’s that nagging life theme I seem to be learning:

Yes. Being wonder woman is possible, but it’s kind of exhausting and accepting help can be a healthy thing.

Appointment with an agent?  Let me read their bios…

Hey, this one sounds like a great fit. Looking for my genre and target audience, has years of industry experience but seems to think outside the box, has worked with bestsellers, and most importantly, has a clever sense of humor.

Appointment with an agent?  Okay…yes.

So, the confirmation email came and I was able to get scheduled with the person I liked. The appointment is eight minutes. Eight freaking minutes. TODAY.

These eight minutes could be life altering. (Okay, realistically, the agent isn’t going to throw his hands up and shout from the rooftop that I’m the next J.K. Rowling.) But after hearing my 30-second pitch and/or watching my book trailer, there are a handful of possibilities I can imagine.

  1. He might ask for my manuscript. The thought is exciting and terrifying because then I’m going to have to decide if I want to remain on the path of indie author and figure out how to keep my promise to my kickstarter friends (it can’t take another year to get them their books because that is just plain rude and unfair.)
  2. He might pass. This scenario is equally daunting because then I’m going to have four or five awkward minutes to ask him what I could do to improve, whether it’s just not a good fit for him and if he’d be willing to recommend another agent who might be interested, or whether he thinks it stinks.
  3. He might have another idea that I haven’t really considered, like maybe I send him what I’m about to indie publish and he helps me take it across the finish line as planned while looking for some kind of hybrid deal for the sequel(s).

There may be something I can’t imagine, and I better not try because I have a wildly active writer’s imagination and I don’t want to scare myself or worry needlessly. Besides, worrying goes against the law of attraction.

I know that agents are just humans. They are not gods. We’ve all read and heard the stories of agents and publishers who rejected unknown authors that went on to great success without them. I don’t think that if this one person doesn’t want to work with me for whatever reason that I should forget it. But I would also be a fool to not at least weigh the opinion of an experienced industry professional.

Truth? I’m honestly not sure what I want out of these eight minutes, other than maybe to just take my own pulse. If he rejects my book idea knowing it’s basically low-hanging fruit—the MS is done, the cover is done, the trailer is done, my author platform is in place—then maybe that’s confirmation that I need to proceed ahead without an agent. Maybe I’ll just walk away with the confidence that I am meant to keep going. Time to get out of my own way. I just won’t know until it’s over.

No matter what happens, it is good practice in selling a total stranger on my story. Will I be able to hook him? Give him shivers? Bore him to death? (Hopefully not!) There is absolutely nothing wrong with practice. In fact, I’m going to have to be good at getting other people excited about my writing if I want any kind of success, whether I have an agent or not.

After decades of being a Detroit Lions and Michigan State Spartans fan, there is one thing I know for sure. Eight minutes can take forever or fly by.

And I’ll be wearing my luckiest of lucky Halloween socks for sure.

~Sadie

PS Happy 2016! I hope your year is off to a great start!

A Tale of Three Decembers

Over the years, I’ve made friends with people from places near and far, many of whom struggled beyond imagination to find a better, safer, more comfortable life here in America.

I don’t have big solutions to all that seems wrong in our world, but I offer these three Decembers as glimpses of friendship, wonder, joy, and the comforts of home. The homes and families and friends we may sometimes take for granted.

The first: December 1989.

During my senior year, a boy emigrated to my hometown from Vietnam. (For privacy I’ve changed everyone’s names.) In addition to attending high school, Tam worked full-time as a dishwasher at the same restaurant where my best friend waitressed part-time. At first we were envious when we figured out he lived alone—we just knew all of our teenage problems would end when we could live apart from our parents too. But then the holidays approached and we considered how he had no social life or family to enjoy. Tam just went to school and worked all the time.

For all of my talk of leaving home the second I turned 18, I wasn’t sure deep down if I could handle life in another country with all new customs, a second language, school pressures, and a crappy job. And the thought of doing all of that thousands of miles apart from anyone familiar seemed impossible. My best friend agreed.

So, we threw him a three person holiday party. Well, four, if you count the landlady.

When we knew Tam was at work, we begged his landlady to let us into his apartment and we decorated it for his first Christmas in Michigan. I can still remember when he walked in the door in his dirty restaurant apron. His tired face filled with confused wonder and then, he laughed.

It must have been a shock to say the least. Two giggling American girls, a Christmas tree with all the tacky trimmings and blinking lights, a personalized stocking stuffed to the top, Christmas cookies, gifts under the tree, “Frosty the Snowman” blaring on the cassette player, and one dumbfounded landlady.

My favorite part of that December is the laughter. We drank cocoa and ate cookies.  We danced and acted out the many verses to “The Twelve Days of Christmas”, and we laughed the entire time. It was one of the most joy-filled nights of my life.

When winter break was over, one of my favorite teachers pulled me aside with a tear in his eye and told me how inspired he was when Tam excitedly told him what we had done. It sounds kind of strange to say, but I hadn’t really thought about it being some grand gesture of kindness or selflessness. It had just been spontaneous, lighthearted teenage fun. I don’t even know if our parents knew what we did. But it was nice to hear from a respected adult that we had done something good.

Yule socksThe second: December 1991.

I had my first apartment with two roommates and we could barely afford our rent, but we had managed to put up a modest Yule tree. It was a whole thing where all the roommates had to be home. We invited friends, played music, baked cookies, and celebrated our first holiday on our own.

At the time, I was working as a nanny for some very wealthy people. The Millers had three children, ages 9, 4, and 1. I tended to the children and did light cooking. Someone else did the housekeeping and a third person did the landscaping and seasonal upkeep. A few days after my roommates and I had our tree decorating celebration, I was given instructions that the Miller’s tree would be delivered in the afternoon. I had just put the baby down for her nap when the doorbell rang. I crossed the spacious entryway to the grand front door. I expected a couple of delivery guys to be standing there with a giant tree that would fit with the Miller’s expensive furniture and vaulted ceilings.

My mouth could have caught falling snow in it.

“Hi. We’re here to decorate the house for Christmas,” a red lipped woman with a clipboard smiled at me.  There were about a dozen people behind her, and four delivery vehicles in the driveway.

Ms. Miller had actually hired a team of people to put up the tree, hang the stockings, string the outdoor lights, place wreaths on the doors, and deep clean the guest rooms for out-of-town relatives. The woman with the clipboard directed the team all over the house. Poinsettia floral arrangements, fresh garland, and candle groupings were placed just so. Two women baked dozens of cookies and decorated them. A third woman pushed whole cloves into star-shaped orange slices to float in wassail. Yes, I said wassail. They tied red bows and greenery on the lamps along the driveway. Two men strategically used a small snow blower to even out the distribution of snow on the outdoor evergreens and one person even made a snowman in the front yard! When they were finished it was magazine perfect, and not one person who lived there had anything to do with it. It was strange and impersonal, but the children were still amazed and thrilled. They screeched and giggled and jumped for joy at all the sparkle.

Later that evening, my roommates and I debated the whole thing over ramen noodles and leftover pizza. Maybe they hired decorators because they worked so much and they didn’t have time before the visiting relatives arrived. Maybe an actual magazine was going to shoot photos there. Maybe they were really spies, not high-powered corporate attorneys, and it was all part of their cover. The one thing we agreed upon was it would be nice to be that rich, but we’d probably never want someone else to hang the stockings, build a snowman, or bake the cookies.

(Now that I have a family of my own, I’m thinking it would be nice to hire a team to un-decorate and clean up after the holidays are over. Am I right?)

The third: December 2007.

I was in college in my mid-thirties. I made friends with a young student named Ashley who’d recently moved back home to attend school closer to her family. There was something about her that I instantly liked. Eventually she became a trusted babysitter and family friend. We were both struggling back then. I was in my first semester and feeling guilty for being away from kids. Ashley had just come out to her family as bisexual, and although they were loving and affirming, she wasn’t sure how her extended family would receive the news.

Ashley found a listening ear with me, maybe saw me as an older confident, but I found her to be equally wise and kind. I think I was the first person outside her immediate family that she trusted to tell her personal story. I could tell she was nervous that I might reject her, but I hugged her and told her how much I respected her. I told her I had a secret too. She had no idea how insecure I felt about being in college in my thirties. I was the same age as many of the professors. As I confessed my feelings, she reassured me that everyone feels insecure in college. We had a good laugh when I reminded her that half the people I sat in class with were born after I graduated high school.

“You were all born after the wall came down. You were in diapers when I was listening to Nirvana!” I laughed.

real candles tree

It was like a scene from Jane Austen, but without the cumbersome, flammable clothes. 🙂

Then Ashley invited me to bring my children over to her parents house the week of Christmas for a traditional German tree lighting involving real candles. Words can barely describe the utter magic of that evening. The candles burned quickly on special holders that keep the tree from catching fire. Everyone sang carols and then we gazed at the beauty of the tree. My children remained perfectly still, marveling at the brilliance of all of the white candles. As I was leaving, Ashley’s mother tearfully thanked me for being a friend to Ashley. I hugged her and told her how I needed the friendship too. I said I hoped someone would do the same for my kids someday if they ever needed a friend. Mother-to-mother, it was a moment I will never forget. It was one of the loveliest Christmas invitations I’ve ever accepted.

Full Circle Gratitude

Ashley finished college and pursued her dream career. Last I spoke with her, she was really happy. I don’t know what happened to the Millers. They weren’t the kind of people who stayed in touch once you moved on from their world. However, the best part is what happened to the boy from Vietnam.

A couple of years ago I was visiting my hometown with my kids. We were eating lunch out when a man approached our table. It was Tam.

He still had the same sunny smile and kind demeanor. After high school, he worked his way up from dishwasher to owner. He eventually bought a second location, the one where we were dining. I introduced him to my boys and told him that my husband is a sommelier at a restaurant so I understood how hard he had to work for his success. Tam proudly showed me photos of his beautiful wife and children. It was wonderful to see his life had turned out happily. He was the epitome of the middle class American dream.

Then he reminded me of that crazy night all those years ago, which I had long forgotten. We all laughed at my “Midwestern friendliness”—my kids couldn’t believe my best friend and I had barged into someone’s apartment like that. We laughed at Tam’s perspective of the goofy blinking colorful lights and the way too sweet treats. And we really cracked up at that poor, frazzled landlady.

It took me twenty years, but I finally understood what it had meant to Tam. When I got the bill for our meal, there was no charge. It simply said, “Thank you for my first American Christmas.”

Let there be Peace on earth, and let it begin with me.

~Sadie

John Lennon’s Voice

We were sitting on cold pavement, blocking traffic. Our small circle was in the heart of an increasingly hostile crowd, and my anxiety mounted at the sight of nearby police tapping their riot sticks. It was January 19, 1991. I was 18, and I was in way over my head.

Earlier that morning my friends and I had gathered with several thousand people across from the White House at LaFayette Park to listen to several passionate speakers—a mix of activists and politicians. For much of the day I was perched on my friend Lynn’s* shoulders with his expensive camera, taking photographs of the endless protest signs and diverse faces. The peace demonstration had started out harmless enough, but as we marched towards Martin Luther King Jr. Library, it began to turn into something ugly. About halfway to the library, the demonstrators around me suddenly locked arms, jerking me to the asphalt in the middle of an intersection, chanting, “NO BLOOD FOR OIL!”

I was arm-in-arm with a charming boy. I was smitten by his curly mop of hair and our shared music interests. I had a false sense of safety as Andrew’s* smile widened through the U.S. flag I had painted over his entire face. His pony-tailed brother Michael* was equally gorgeous in an old army jacket and torn jeans. Michael was linked to a woman whose heavy black eyeliner and blunt cut hairstyle gave her a strange likeness to a Vulcan from Star Trek. She was connected to a woman wearing mismatched vintage clothing, pointy cat glasses and a 1950s head scarf. A professional couple dressed in athletic clothes and their big, friendly golden retriever completed the defiant chain of peace activists.

My face itched from the flower painted on my cheek. I had no idea where the rest of my friends were in the sea of people. The police were tightening their lines around us. I anxiously imagined phoning my mother from jail, attempting to explain why I was in D.C. instead of at college in rural Indiana. For one fearful moment I wished that the manhole cover in front of me would suddenly open so I could escape.

From high above, some construction workers on skyscraper scaffolding began taunting us. My mouth dropped open as the woman in the vintage clothing did exactly what their signs dared. She flashed them—and all of us—her breasts “for peace”, then flipped them the middle finger and shouted obscenities at them.

I whispered to Andrew, “Well, that wasn’t very peaceful.”

Before he could reply, the Vulcan-looking woman ironically chimed in, “We’re all Earthlings,” while assuming an exaggerated meditation pose.

Andrew, Michael, and I struggled to keep our laughter hidden, unaware that tensions were mounting nearby. Under the din of the crowd, a policeman let his frustration get the best of him and began an angry confrontation with someone at the edge of the sit-in. Some people stood to confront the officer and many others shouted at him while remaining firmly seated.

The crowd tightened their arms, murmuring, “Stay together…stay linked.”

Police motorcycles revved around the perimeter and I tried not to breathe in the thick exhaust fumes.

“I’ve had enough of these people! They’ve been out here all week stopping traffic!” another officer scoffed, thumping his riot stick in his hand.

Several of the policemen began grabbing at their handcuffs as if they were going to start hauling us in.

lennonThen, out of nowhere, a man with long shaggy hair and round granny glasses quietly stood in the midst of the surreal chaos. I felt the blood drain from my face. There were dozens of audible gasps. We couldn’t believe our eyes. He looked like John Lennon circa 1970. In his hands, an acoustic guitar with a harmonica mounted to the top, and on his face, that infamous mischievous smile. Without saying a word, he sat down and began strumming Lennon’s song, Give Peace a Chance. My heart leapt when I heard his voice, because he even sounded like John!

The melody quickly spread through the crowd, until everyone was singing along.

“All we are say-ing, is give peace a chance.”

Over and over we sang the chorus, drowning out the single guitar.

“All we are say-ing, is give peace a chance.”

Soon we were on our feet , slowly beginning to move again.

“All we are say-ing, is give peace a chance.”

We gradually moved down the street and away from the police, who let us go with no arrests! We looked for the mysterious musician to thank him, but he was gone. Nobody around us saw him leave. It was as if we had been visited by John himself.

Andrew and I shuddered when the woman with the golden retriever gave voice to what we were all thinking. “He must have been John’s angel,” she marveled to her husband.

It was a magic moment. It was a demonstration of how one person can change everything, instantly. Because of that moment, I have never forgotten the power of one voice.

However, it wasn’t until I made friends with people from other parts of the world that I began to understand how lucky I am to have grown up in a place of peace.

thunderstormIn 1995, I was swimming with a dozen friends at a lake when a thunderstorm developed quickly. It was one of those storms that are so electrical your hair stands up on your arms.  One minute we were splashing around, the next lightning streaked across the August sky, followed by a clap of thunder that nearly split the heavens.

My friend Jayne* and I shrieked out of the water to the safety of the shore. As Michiganders, we’d been told all our lives to get out of the water if there’s lightning. The rest of our friends, who were mostly from Lebanon and Palestine, did not hurry out of the water. They strolled toward a nearby pavilion as if the sky was still clear.

Again the thunder cracked like a whip right next to us, the ultimate jump scare from Mother Nature. It was the kind of thunder that startles everyone, not just people who are fearful of storms. My friends were unfazed, chatting and laughing around a table of food.

Tears welled in my eyes as I realized Jayne and I were the only two who even noticed the incredibly loud thunder.

Mistaking my tears for fright, Nabil* smiled with arched eyebrows. “Are you scared of a little storm?” he teased me.

“No Nabil. I just realized no one else jumped besides me and Jayne. It’s because you all grew up with that kind of noise. You heard bombs and guns all the time, right?”

“Yes. You’re a good friend,” he acknowledged, hugging me. He pointed to scars on his chest and arm. “These are from shrapnel. From when my brother died.”

That was more than enough to break my heart, but then a few of the others heard our conversation and began showing me their scars too. Every one of them had lost a brother, a cousin, or a neighbor.

In 1997, a new coworker and I became fast friends. He had the whitest, brightest smile and the darkest, most beautiful skin I have ever seen. Jean-Luc* was exceptionally kind to all of our patients, and they adored his French-ish accent. We worked alongside each other for several months and I never once heard him complain, not even when we were incredibly short-staffed. We lost track of each other when he went to school and I moved on to another job. Then, in 2007, I ran into him unexpectedly. In the decade that had passed, we had both got married and had kids. We had never talked about his childhood in Rwanda, but that day I had the courage to ask him about surviving the 1994 genocide.

“Ask me anything you want to know,” Jean-Luc smiled, as usual.

I was naïve. I didn’t want to believe that Hollywood got the story right—I hoped that it had been exaggerated a bit for  the dramatic movie Hotel Rwanda. Hopefully it had been exaggerated a lot.

I asked, “You know that part in the movie, when they turned onto the foggy road and they had to stop because there were too many dead bodies? That wasn’t true was it? Was there really a road like that?”

It was the only time I have ever seen Jean-Luc’s smile fade.

“No. It wasn’t like that,” he shook his head. “It wasn’t just one road. There were no roads. There were no roads left.”

My heart shattered as he recounted how he and his younger brothers, ranging in age from 12-17 years old, witnessed atrocious acts of violence against neighbors and family—and how they narrowly escaped.  Even now I am haunted by his story, especially as my own children grow to the age that Jean-Luc was when he endured that horrific trauma.

The thing that strikes me the most about my friends from Lebanon, Rwanda, and another friend who survived a decade in a refugee camp in Myanmar—they are all incredibly grateful and optimistic people.

john we live in a world2015 has been a year of upheaval and violence. In the wake of recent events in Paris, Beirut, and many other parts of the world, many of us have been asking:  Is global peace possible? 

I’m not always the wisest person, but here is what my 18-year-old self once wrote about it:

Why does humanity seem to have endless conflict? I think we forget we are not just human. We are also spirit. This life we are living is merely a moment in eternal time. We forget that we have the opportunity every moment of every day to live in Love, without conditions or limits. I can feel myself rest in my heart space when I ask myself: “Am I being kind? Am I hearing and seeing the other person? Am I a peacemaker?” These questions remove the focus from being right, being superior, and struggling for power. The urgency of conflict is diffused with the simple question, “Am I being kind?”

True friends do not have to agree on anything to be kind. Maybe peace is possible—one friendship at a time. Kindness makes room for peace.

“All we are saying is give peace a chance.”

Thank you John, for your timeless, wise, simple words.

Parts of this blog post are edited excerpts from a magazine article I originally wrote and published in March 2003. *names have been changed to protect privacy of friends.

So, are you a witch?

Someone recently asked me, “So, are you a witch?” after hearing that I write about witches.

First thought in my head:  Does that mean Twilight author Stephenie Meyer is a vampire because she wrote a fictional series about vampires? The lovely Anne Rice has written dozens of cult classics about vampires and witches, does that mean she is a vampire and a witch?

PattinsonEdwardStewartBella

Yep, I’m a Twilight fan and a Lestat fan. It’s possible to be both. Don’t judge.

Okay, I know that was a little facetious. But seriously, why does it matter? The year is 2015, right? Right?!?

I mean, I got dressed in actual clothes and put on makeup and left the house so that someone could ask me that? Is it just me?

As an introverted author (hermit), I always get nervous when people start with the small talk.

First they ask, “So, what do you do?”

Admitting I’m a writer earns me a smile of admiration (or a sideways glance) and polite, skeptical questions. There’s “What kind of writer?” which sometimes feels like code for “Are you a journalist?” or “Who pays your bills?”

I tell the truth, which leads to inevitable follow ups like “What kind of fantasy?” and the dreaded, stomach churning, “When is your book coming out?” ACK.

Telling someone I just met that I’m a YA fantasy author often gets me the you-probably-think-you’re-the-next-Twilight-mom look. That look is always returned with a big, wide Sadie smile.

In fact, yes, I am hoping that I am the next phenomenon fantasy writer.

I’d be insane if I didn’t hope for that. What writer would not want rabid fans who stand in line for hours to buy your books, wear t-shirts with your characters on them, and stand in line again when your books are made into movies?

In truth, I’ll be over the moon if any stranger–basically anyone I am not related to or know from high school–reads and loves my book.

Anyway, I wrote a book about witches, and now I’ve been asked if I am a witch.

Maybe they wanted to know if I’m trying to proselytize others into witchcraft. The gracious J.K. Rowling was accused of such nonsense, and people even went so far as to ban her books. There are plenty of books that have been written with the express purpose of religious conversion, but mine isn’t one of them.

Ask me if I’m a witch on a non-hormonal, second cuppa joe day and I might take the high road. I might reply that it is possible that several people in your life are “in the broom closet” witches. Seriously though, when you think of some of the worst deeds in human history, often they’ve been committed in the name of religion, so you can’t blame people for keeping it to themselves.

Speaking of some of those “worst deeds”, an excerpt from my book: (shameless plug)

Teaser-we could not be burned

Excerpt from THE RECOLLECTION OF TREES by Sadie Francis Skyheart, all rights reserved.

On the flip side, maybe people want to know if I’m an experienced witch who aims to accurately represent like-minded folks. If that’s why you’re asking, then hold onto your lucky socks because I have done my utmost to write in a balanced way that shows good and not-so-good people within all walks of life.

Ask me if I’m a witch on an under-caffeinated, crankier day and you might get a sarcastic answer something like this gem someone shared with me: “There are almost 5,000 gods being worshipped by humanity. But don’t worry…only yours is right.”5000 gods tweet

Honestly, I’ve said worse.

Or I might just give you a creepy smile until you walk away. *cackle*

I know it’s not nice, but it’s also not nice to ask the question, and here’s why.

Many, many people still assume incorrectly that being a witch involves any or all of the following stereotypes:

1. Wearing nothing but black. On any given day of the year I wear lucky Halloween socks and black yoga pants, does that count?

2. Worshipping the devil. Holy crime shows! Step away from your TV remote! NOT TRUE. Witches share core beliefs yet are varied, similar to the sects of Christianity—Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran, etc—but I’ve never met any who believe in the Christian devil. NO SUCH THING among witches.

3. Casting evil spells or curses on their enemies. Most witches believe in the law of three, meaning if you choose to do negative things, your negativity will return to you multiplied by three. Just like holding a grudge toward someone—the one who loses the most in the end is you, and often the other person is completely oblivious to your misery. So that would be NO.

4. Making people do things against their will (like fall in love or have sex). Um, trying to make someone do anything against their will is wrong—especially when it comes to sex—so that would be under the categories of NOPE, NO WAY, and YIKES. See also number 3.

5. Performing creepy blood sacrifices. Seriously, put down the TV remote. NOT. TRUE. Given the horrific historical persecution of witchcraft, do you really think witches would commit violence in their spiritual practice? Think about that for just a second… then revisit number 3. Witches are often the kindest caregivers you’ll meet. For generations, witches have helped the most vulnerable in society: domestic violence shelters, soup kitchens, suicide hotlines, animal rescues, and hospice care—just to name a few.

6. Stirring cauldrons, green skin, and pointy hats. If you count a slow cooker as a cauldron and a green thumb from herb gardening, then yes. Pointy hats are worn only as part of a costume for Halloween or a Harry Potter themed party.

Most often people ask if I’m a witch because they’re deciding if they trust me or my sanity, as a result of the above list of preconceived ideas. I’m willing to concede that it might be possible that occasionally it’s just out of pure curiosity.

So… the facts—ANYONE on this diverse planet might:

  • light candles or incense
  • sit in silence, pray, or meditate
  • make offerings or donations (money, food, etc) to their faith
  • take communion
  • give or receive a blessing/healing
  • give/seek wise counsel
  • affirm or confirm beliefs, alone or with witnesses
  • sing, chant, or read sacred texts
  • outwardly express beliefs through appearance (clothing, jewelry, tattoos, etc)
  • volunteer to help people, animals, the environment
  • abstain from eating certain foods
  • respect nature/living things and enjoy the wonder of life itself
  • celebrate the seasons/holidays

…and the same is true for witches!

"Lily's Prayer", an excerpt from THE RECOLLECTION OF TREES

“Lily’s Prayer” from THE RECOLLECTION OF TREES by Sadie Francis Skyheart, all rights reserved.

The real point of THE RECOLLECTION OF TREES is way beyond religious viewpoints—it is that settling for being normal is a mind-numbing, soul-sucking, unachievable, outright lie. Trying to be normal usually involves shrinking to fit into someone else’s constructs of normal. No one is normal. Normal doesn’t exist. Normal is an illusion.

The TRUTH is you are enough. In fact, ENOUGH is vastly different from normal. ENOUGH is perfectly imperfect. The best and worst parts of you are enough, but they are anything but normal or ordinary.

My personal truth? I’m striving for the extraordinary version of myself–and on the enchanted days when I glimpse her, she’s usually wearing lucky Halloween socks and transcribing from somewhere between the worlds.

With love,

~Sadie

P.S. Science has confirmed we are made of the same stuff as the stars, so one last poignant meme…

you are here

I love this clever meme, but I did not create it. I tried to find the original creator, but alas.

(ICYMI: my last blog post explained the delay in my book launch. I hope to announce the new pre-order date soon.)

I’m not dead, I just felt like it for awhile.

Welp, I’ve been AWOL since July-ish because…you guessed it… I haven’t been feeling well again.

You know those pharmaceutical commercials about fibromyalgia where the women are describing how they used to have energy and in the background their dishes (and their lives) are piling up on them? That’s pretty accurate. However, with the list of symptoms I already experience from day-to-day, I personally do not take any drugs like that because there are too many side effects that sound like my symptoms! Ha!

Happy New Year!I even had to give up the crazy hair dye, because it had ingredients in it that might have been part of the problem. BOO! 😦

It’s not that I haven’t been able to write while I was sick, it’s that I would probably write really cranky stuff. Blogging to me feels more personal than a social media post, so I’ve kept up on posting lucky Halloween socks and odd musings. But believe me, when my autoimmune symptoms ramp up I don’t feel very entertaining or nice.

“You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.” ~Hulk

So, once again I’m on the rebound, and getting back on track. I’ve used my down time as best as I could, planning for the near future and trying to stay hopeful.  Unfortunately, I’ve had to postpone some of my travel plans and appearances so that I can continue to rest and recover. I sincerely appreciate all the patience and understanding I’ve received in re-working my schedule.

So how do I cheer myself up? I drink my coffee from a cauldron and wear cozy Halloween socks, of course. Because it’s October? Um, sure.cauldron and ghost socks

Goddess knows if I ever make really great money at writing I will be first in line to fund medical research to end the autoimmune merry-go-round for all of us. ENOUGH ALREADY!

Don’t worry–I’ve got a Halloween-ish blog post coming in the next week or so, but at the very least I wanted to post this so you all didn’t think I dropped off the face of the earth.

If you’re interested, I’m currently reading “The Martian” by Andy Weir*, which is now the top new movie. It was originally published in 2011 as an e-book, then in print in 2014. So far it is an awesome read, I highly recommend it! *Contains adult language, as one would expect from a person who is abandoned and trying to survive alone on Mars with limited resources. Love the first line. 😉

Watch my facebook pages Sadie Francis Skyheart and The Recollection of Trees for upcoming details on pre-orders, and thank you AGAIN for your patience and birthday wishes!

~Sadie

(If you want to know more about my journey with Hashimoto’s thyroid, fibromyalgia, adrenal fatigue, and food allergies, feel free to read some of my previous blog posts below. I’ve tried just about everything known to mainstream and not-so-mainstream medicine. Please also share it with anyone you know who may be struggling with the same thing. If nothing else, maybe they’ll feel less invisible and alone.)

Related posts:

It’s not you, it’s me.

I believe in magick

Russell Brand, Brave Knight

The shift is hitting the fan!

Crisis or chrysalis?

Dreambusters: BUSTED! Part II

In Dreambusters: BUSTED! I shared with you my latest revelation about people who, intentionally or unintentionally, were a source of negativity when it came to belief in my dreams. I realized there was gold to be mined from their thoughtless and sometimes horrible behavior.

I made a list of those people and/or moments and turned it into a writing resource for negative characters and situations. If I’m stuck on how an antagonist might act or what she might say, I can refer to my dreambuster list.

I hesitate to give any credit to negative people in my past, but guess what? I’ve figured out a way to use their meanness for GOOD material too.

I copy & pasted the dream buster list onto a new page. The original columns headings were:

1. Dreambuster    2. what they said/did    3. potential character/situation

I show “dreambuster” crossed out because I deleted that column after the first exercise. The power isn’t in the negative person; it is in what my imagination can do with the material they gave me.

I added a third column again, to the right of the original statement/action (between 2 & 3). I gave this new column the heading positive opposite. So now my table looks like this:

1. what they said/did     2. Positive opposite   3. potential character/situation

I kept the first column as is. That’s the raw material.

In the second column, I tried to write the opposite of the original statement. Here are some possible examples:

Negative: Poor kids can’t grow up to be rich. Positive: Any kid could grow up to be rich.

Negative: Just try to be normal. Don’t call attention to yourself. Positive: Normal is an illusion. Be yourself.

It’s like cheap therapy! Just doing this for your own affirmation could be pretty amazing.

However, I did this to create a writing resource, and it turns out it is a two-for-one list.

First, it serves as a reference as positive things that supportive characters might say to the protagonist. But secondly, it serves as a reference for conflict between antagonist and protagonist!

Let’s use something that many of our parents have said to us when their budget was tight, without realizing it might stunt our ability to attract prosperity later.

Negative: Money doesn’t grow on trees. Positive: What if money grew on a special tree?

This rich-poor theme is in countless stories. Imagine the possibilities if you just took all the statements of fear, poverty, lack, or failure from your childhood—things people might often say without much thought or mean intention—and turned them into imaginative, wonderful tales?

Look no further than your greatest teachers, your dream busters! Soul cleansing, and possibly money generating ideas are waiting inside your past!

My declaration: Hey dreambusters, you didn’t succeed in stopping my dream, quite the opposite! (pun intended)

~Sadie

I’m in Oprah Magazine!

I’m in the August 2015 issue of Oprah Magazine! 

In my blog post Summer of Secrets, I mentioned that I had something big potentially happening in August, and it happened!

Here’s how it all came together:

This past spring I was inspired to answer the O monthly reader question, so I did. A few weeks later, I got an email from a lovely staffer at O Magazine, notifying me that I was being considered for inclusion in the August issue and could I please send over a photo of myself?

The email couldn’t have come at a better or worse time. I’d been feeling horrible for over a week because my kids or husband had brought me some kind of awful plague. My body ached,  I had a fever, and worst of all, my nose was as red as Rudolph. But I was thrilled! It was Oprah! The photo specifications were for a neutral or light-colored background, and my latest photo has a dark background. In my current state, I didn’t even want to appear in the grocery store (never mind O Magazine). I took a chance that they would be okay with my dark photo and went back to bed.

A reply came back that the photo wouldn’t work and the lovely staffer wondered if could I send a different photo in a few days when I was feeling better. Nervous that I might miss the magazine’s deadline, I contacted my favorite photographer, only to discover that she had stopped being a photographer! I asked my friends for a referral and within 24 hours I was connected with a talented young woman who just completed a beautiful project with one of my close friends.

The evening of the photo shoot was amazing. Amanda made me look and feel like a million bucks, despite my red nose! I honestly hoped the photo we chose to send to the magazine would be included, just so she would get exposure for her work.

Then my inbox went back to the same old stuff from my favorite online retailers and bloggers. Not a peep from Oprah’s staffer. The suspense was nauseating and terrifying and exciting. Mostly I tried not to think about it.

And then, POOF!

Sadie-Oprah-August2015

Yes, I know it’s not an article or a book review or an exclusive interview. In fact, my original response was edited down to a single sentence.

But I don’t want to spoil this moment with what this is NOT…I choose to savor what it IS.

Amazingly, that single sentence sums up my intention as a writer, and as a friend: To be a voice of inspiration for those who may yet be finding their own voice. It is literally one of my meditation mantras. It is a dream to have a reader approach me at a book signing to tell me that I helped them connect to their voice.

I am humbled that my voice is in print for thousands to read and hopefully nod to themselves, “YES, me too.” I am incredibly grateful and thrilled to be able to say:

MY WRITTEN WORDS ARE IN FREAKING OPRAH MAGAZINE!

Sadie-SoulLitePhotographyCheck that off the bucket list! How can life get any better?

I’m dancing in my lucky Halloween socks!

Since my new friend’s wonderful photography didn’t get included, here it is. It is one of the best professional photos I’ve ever taken, despite just getting off the couch after a blurry ten days of evil cooties. Thank you Amanda!

 

 

Photo credit: 2015 Soul Light Photography by Amanda