Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thank You, Thank You, Thank You!

I love Thanksgiving. I have many reasons to love this holiday, but mainly it gives me the opportunity to thank everyone for everything, all at once. I thank God, my family, my friends, my co-workers, and some of the strangers I have met through the year who I believe to have been "angels in disguise". I was taught this lesson of gratitude over 20 years ago during one of the most difficult times in my life.

I was 18 years old. I had just graduated from high school, my parents were separated and heading for a divorce, my mother was struggling to take care of all of us, and the decision was made to move from Garrison, ND to Minot, ND. More job opportunities, a fresh start, we were hopeful that this would be what we all needed.

When we arrived, we had to find a place to live. Mom found a small apartment. She found two jobs, one at the Little Flower School as a cook, and the other was at K-Mart. I found a job at McDonalds. But even with 3 incomes coming in, we still had a hard time. It was Thanksgiving, and with all of the family drama going on, nobody in Garrison was inviting us for dinner. We were on our own and we didn't have much. A container of Jello and a half gallon of milk with assorted condiments were in the fridge. That was it. We were trying to keep from thinking about it, and getting more depressed about this situation. Not only was I worried, as I'm sure Mom was, about eating for Thanksgiving, but for the rest of the week. Then, there was a knock at the door...

Two ladies carrying big grocery boxes full of food were there to give us what we needed. Food. They were from the church. There was two of everything. Turkeys, canned vegetables, boxes of stuffing, boxes of mashed potatoes, bread, butter, and pies, and of course, the cranberries. Mom had to swallow hard, because pride doesn't go down easy, and she had never taken or needed to take a handout in her adult life, that I could remember. I remember Mom starting to cry and in a shaky voice, she said, "Thank you on behalf of me and my children." We hugged those ladies and Mom and I vowed on that day to try and donate something, ANYTHING, to the food shelves because they had helped us when we needed it the most.

I thank those ladies to this day, whereever they are, for helping me and my family. I'm not Oprah, giving away refrigerators, or building homes for people, but I try to do what I can and give what I can. It might be a few dollars to a friend in need, who is down on their luck. It might be to the Salvation Army in the big red kettles (they are all out now and they need your help this year more than ever). It might be to give a ride to a co-worker that has their car in the shop. Any small Act of Random Kindness is important in the life of someone who has run out of luck and hope. Just do it, and then thank God, the Universe, your Higher Power, for all of the blessings you have received in your life. Here is a small portion of mine:

1. My health.
2. My home, job, family, and friends.
3. My future.
4. My past. Because I can't appreciate anything I have today or tomorrow if I don't appreciate where I've come from.

Make your own list, and then in a grateful voice, say, "Thank you, thank you, thank you."

To everyone in my life who has helped me get this far, and for those who will be there to help me in the future. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Misfits Unite!

My name is Laura, and I'm a misfit.

Let me explain. I subscribe to a number of online ezines, newsletters, blogs, etc. I am going to be launching my own zine soon, or newsletter, or both, and I needed to research the best and the worst to get a feel for what is being put out there to find my niche. Tonight, the posts I read from John Carlton's Big Damn Blog( )"The Slippery Truth" and "Misfits In Charge", were like a splash of cold water in the face. Surprising, refreshing, but most importantly, eye opening.

How many of you walk through your life like a zombie? You're here, but your not here. You function at a level that doesn't seem to take much thought whatsoever, going through the motions, day after day, and it usually takes something like a tumor, a heart attack, or worse, the death of someone close to you, to make you realize that there is more to life than just "going through the motions."

I'm not judging anyone, because I am guilty as charged, but I realized, thanks to John Carlton's post about misfits, I am one of them.

I'm a misfit. It all makes sense. Only a few people in my circle of family, friends, and co-workers actually GET ME!

I am not happy going through the motions, trying to live up to other people's expectations, following their rules, all of that! I've been labeled lazy, out-of-it, a daydreamer, a failure, a troublemaker, and my personal favorite, angry. Of course I'm angry! I haven't been living the life I'm meant to live, trying to conform to a society and rules that don't apply to me! I've been trying to do the right thing for everyone else...but not FOR ME!

Why? To avoid conflict. To keep the peace and keep everyone else off my freaking back. But now, I understand. I wasn't born to conform. I have a hard time following the idiotic policies and procedures of my job, and society, because they don't work for me!

I'm not advocating everyone create mass chaos here (although, with regard to the gas prices, I think the zombies need to wake up or go feast on some oil barons masquerading as politicians!). Just a little anarchy to get the juices flowing. We creative types need stimulation!

I'm a writer. I will make a living as a writer, or die trying, and since I have way too many people, places and things I want to meet, see, and do before I start pushing up daisies, I'm going to make it one way or another. I'm not ready to quit my steady job yet, but I will post when that day arrives. Watch for the fireworks!

Most of the goals I have set for myself, in regards to my writing have been accomplished:

1. I have been published. Yes, in my local paper, but it counts!
2. I have started my own writing business and have business cards to prove it!
3. I am writing my second novel for NaNoWriMo 2007, editing the first novel from 2006 and outlining a third.
4. I have a mentor, Beth Erickson, who is helping me get my writing business and career off the ground.

I haven't stopped dreaming, laughing, or praying for help when I really need it, but most of all, I haven't stopped being grateful for all of these things and more.
These are just the ones I have completed for myself. I still have a long way to go, but here are some that I will be working on in the next few months:

1. Get a domain name, website, etc.
2. Market my business locally, then regionally, and finally, nationally.
3. Establish more than one stream of income using my skills as a writer and speaker.
4. Teach writing classes, marketing classes, seminars or workshops, and get paid for it!

I am having more fun and I have never been more scared in my life doing this, but sometimes you have to just jump in and do it.

I am an observer, which is a good trait to have if you want to be a writer. I have observed the most successful people are those who follow their own path, the "The Road Not Taken", as Robert Frost wrote. It is one of my favorite poems, and when I think things are tough, that I can't go on, or I want to give up on myself, I read that poem.

Imagine where the world would be if Robert Frost didn't take "the road not taken." What if Stephen King never wrote or tried to publish his work? Or if John Lennon didn't get together with 3 other musicians to form The Beatles? Or if Bill Gates didn't drop out of Harvard to follow his instincts with regards to computers? Or if Oprah didn't start her talk show? You get the picture.

Think of all the people you admire, who inspire you, who have come from absolutely nothing to be where they are now, if they didn't take that path, drop out of school, break the rules, or "didn't fit in" with the rest of society and yet, they were successful and they ended up making the world a better place. Or they are trying to, in their own unique way.

I say, "Misfits of the world, Unite!" as John Carlton says at the end of his post. Stand up and be proud! And for the rest of you, I leave you with the wonderful words of Mr. Robert Frost:

The Road Not Taken


Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Choose your path. Make a difference.