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Lost

Lost

 

 

 

 

I’m about to admit something that’s very difficult for me, but maybe it will help someone else.

Four years ago my husband and I lost everything. Well, almost everything. Like so many of you, we’d been struggling with servicing our mountain of debt, and were quickly losing the battle. It wasn’t that we weren’t trying to pay our bills, or were reckless with our spending. After thirty years with the same company, my husband was informed that he, along with scores of others at his company, were being moved into early retirement. We weren’t prepared for such a huge financial hit. We told ourselves we’d be fine and started treading water.

I had written my first novel, and was working in a salaried sales job that was transitioning to a straight commission job within a few months. Knowing that my job really wouldn’t provide me with anything close to a regular paycheck, panic struck. We kept paddling faster and faster, hoping something would break for us, but with me at fifty-two years of age and my husband approaching fifty-seven, the prospects for full-time work were looking dim. After sitting down for some long, hard talks with a financial trustee, we were told our only reasonable option was to declare bankruptcy and walk away from our house. We simply weren’t bringing in enough money to pay all the bills, and even if we both got minimum wage, full-time jobs, we’d only continue to dig a bigger hole. This was devastating news.

That January we walked away from our home that we’d so lovingly put a great deal of time and money into. It was the place our children and grandchildren came home for Christmas to. It was a place of hopes and dreams now hopelessly smashed. By declaring bankruptcy, it meant we wouldn’t qualify to rent a decent home in a decent neighbourhood, so we moved in with my parents. My mother his highly allergic to cats, so I handed my beloved Charlie over to my sister to love and care for. That really tore me up, because losing my home and packing up most of my personal belongings to put into storage was bad enough, but to lose my cat?

My parent’s two bedroom, two bathroom home is a good size, and we were extremely grateful for their generosity in allowing us to move in, but it was certainly never designed to accommodate two couples – especially two women in the same kitchen. We made it work for a full year before realizing that if we wanted to salvage our close relationship, something would have to give. Throughout the bankruptcy we’d managed to hold on to our 40′ x 12′ trailer by continuing to make the small monthly loan payment. That trailer became our beacon of light. We moved it to a park that offered twelve month lot rentals and made it home. At a little less than five hundred square feet, it was a tight squeeze, but it was our own space. No, I didn’t have a dishwasher, or even a washer and dryer. If I wanted to blow-dry my hair, I had to first turn off additional lights and the furnace/air conditioner. The small tub came equipped with a shower, but wasn’t big enough for an adult to use as a bathtub, so I gave up the luxury of taking relaxing baths.

Now, I know that many, many others struggle with far more than I did, and I don’t mean to make light of people who are. My heart, thoughts, and prayers go out to those people, and I never lost sight of the fact that I wasn’t completely destitute. We still had a place we could call home that was safe and comfortable. We still had family, friends, enough food to eat, and decent clothes to wear. I knew I’d be okay.

Keep writing!

Keep writing!

I continued to write, and began meditating to help me deal with the anger and depression I was feeling over the situation (self-inflicted and otherwise) I found myself in. I became extremely embarrassed by the fact that I was living in a trailer in a trailer park, and other than close family, I invited no one over, and told even fewer people. Pride was strangling me. The truth is, I thought I deserved better, or more, or something. I knew I shouldn’t, and I knew I had a lot, so much really, to be thankful for, but it was going to take some work to get me back to where I needed to be.

Slowly I began opening my eyes to all the beauty of nature that was all around me. We lived in a beautiful, wooded area of the park surrounded by other full-time mobile homes. The neighbours were lovely and kind – many of them seniors, and our grandchildren loved coming to swim in the heated pools, play at the playground, and try their hand at the on-site mini-golf. I was still battling, but I was winning the war. One day at a time, more light came through my filters.

Then I was hit with an exacerbation of my Sjogren’s Syndrome, an autoimmune disease that causes extreme dry mouth and eyes, among other things. Up to that point I’d been dealing with it pretty well, but in the spring of 2014 I began to experience severe light sensitivity. I eventually went to an eye specialist, who said an ulcer – a hole – was forming in the center of my right cornea. If it wasn’t corrected quickly – like within days, I’d lose that eye completely (not just the sight, but the eye itself!)

Over the coming weeks and months, I wore eye patches and took various eye drops and medications to help stop the hole from growing, and eventually repair itself. You know, it’s amazing; the left eye actually compensates for the right one. Due to some scarring of the cornea, my eyesight in that eye never fully recovered, but it’s about 90% of where it should be, and to look at me, you’d never know. It’ll never get any better, but I can see, I can type, I can read, and yes, I can drive just fine. Throughout this entire time I continued to write, because writing is where I can lose myself. I wore the damned eye patch, I gave myself the necessary breaks from the computer screen, I put in the drops, took the medication, and I paced myself, but I never stopped writing. I was reminded that I am a fighter, and that writing mattered to me. It was worth fight for. I am worth fighting for. I became determined to keep doing what I could, when I could. I refused to be a failure.

Filtered Light

Filtered Light

Oddly enough, having come that close to such a serious health issue, I began to actually feel more hopeful and grateful for all I had. My meditations became more about giving thanks for what I have than asking for things I don’t have. I started to laugh more, and lost my insecurity regarding my living circumstances. I was finally at a place where I could see light at the end of the tunnel again. We still didn’t have much money, but my husband’s very small company pension and his willingness to go back to work seasonally helped fill in some of the gaps. Another blessing is that we were closer as a couple than we’d ever been. His willingness to go back to work at a time when I couldn’t work at all, reminded me how much I trust and admire him. In order to indulge my love of travel, we began house and pet-sitting for others throughout North America. We discovered people and places we never would have in the days when we went to resorts and hotels. We discovered a mutual love of history, museums, and unique places that cost little or nothing to visit and explore. We re-discovered each other and ourselves. There were so many small, unexpected blessings taking place all around us, that I couldn’t help but be moved to a place of gratitude.

Recently we moved into a three bedroom, three bathroom townhouse back in the city, and are in the process of selling that small trailer. We’re closer to the majority of our children and grandchildren, and I’m reveling in the small things I no longer take for granted; things like taking a long, hot bath, a dishwasher, my own washer and dryer (no more lugging laundry to the community laundromat at the park), real space to display my beloved personal items, unpacking favourite things that have been in storage for years now, and welcoming family and friends to our new home. The other night we put up the Christmas tree for the first time in four years, and I marvel at how far we’ve come. Our townhouse isn’t a fancy home, not nearly as grand or beautiful as some of my family and friends have, but it’s warm and welcoming, and home. As we approach a new Christmas and a New Year, I’m grateful for so many things. Whatever the coming months bring, I have more hope, more joy, and more daily gratitude than I have for a long time. Through the grace of God, life is good.

I guess all the good things have always been there, I just had to let in enough light to see them.

Just Enough Light

Just Enough Light

 

 

 

 

 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

What have you learned this year, and what hopes do you have for the new one just around the corner?

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Hold close the beauty of each day

Well, I’ve gone and done it. I’ve taken on a new position as Business Development Manager for Strategic Incentive Solutions, a Canadian/US incentive and rewards marketing company. I’m pumped, I’m excited, I’m ready to rock and roll. I’m  ready to get out there and kick butt. But…

Having committed to this writing gig, I also acknowledge that I have to fine tune my time management. No longer can I devote my time soley to my writing, but allocate blocks of time to successfully work at both. Each is time consuming and comes with it’s own set of demands. As I dive into the sales pool again and surface, I know I have to stay motivated in each area in order to make them work. But how to accomplish that task?

Motivation is a funny thing. Typically, humans aren’t motivated to change unless given a reason – an incentive if you will. After all, if it ain’t broke, why fix it? Well, you might want to fix it if the same old same old simply isn’t working for you any longer, or if there is an incentive to change or take action. For example, most people will motivate themselves to get up in the morning and go to work because the incentive of a pay cheque waits at the end of the week (or whatever pay period you have). Going to school? The obvious incentive is to gain education and thereby hopefully secure a good job in a field of interest, and get paid for it. What about writers who write a book, article or journal? Again, the motivation might lie in wanting to get paid for the work we do.

But there are other motivators and incentives, as well as the inherent rewards. What about the social aspect of work and school? I remember my children at around the age of eight or nine years old telling me their motivation or incentive to go to class wasn’t getting education – far from it. They were motivated to get up and out the door by the prospect of seeing their friends and playing with them, or doing something neat like a school trip, or being leader of the class for the day. Later in life, when we start working for a living, yes we need that pay cheque, but we also crave the social aspect of working with others. Most of our friends are cultivated from work or the work place, so we want to go there and interact with others.

Then there’s the motivation to succeed, to improve and to grow for it’s own sake. I know I personally am often motivated to do something because I enjoy the challenges, or the learning experience. Every time I take on a new project, I learn more about the subject matter, and about myself. When I travel, I love seeing the truth of the place beyond the commercial glitz (I’m not averse to commercial glitz and enjoy that too!). I love discovering neat little out of the way places, or talking to the locals. So, even though I’m terrified of alligators, I’ll hold a baby one (yep, me big chicken) and go to an alligator zoo to get up close and see the criters, because I’m motivated to learn and see something new.

That brings me to recognition. Most people also seek recognition of what they do, whether in the work place or on a personal level. Recognition can be as simple as a heart-felt “thank you” from a boss, coach or trainer, or it can be as elaborate as getting an all expenses paid vacation to a fabulous destination. In fact, experiential rewards top material merchanise or gift card ones by far, every single time.  Recognition can also come through fame; by attaining that level of notoriety whereby you are recognized by peers and the world at large for what you’ve accomplished, which can be it’s own motivator.

In fact, studies have shown that when employers recognize and reward their empoyees, the confidence in the company increases, production and sales increases and loyalty increases. Getting paid and just having a job aren’t enough to motivate people to do their best, to remain with a company, or strive to excel. When employers and managers see the value in those who work for them, and when teachers, coaches and trainers understand the true merit of incentives and rewards, then, and only then, will they see the kinds of performance they need to reach certain goals. I call this a “thoughtful team work approach”.

The fact is, people are motivated by a variety of factors. Each is as valid as the other, and every person is subject to his or her own motivators. Our jobs as human beings is to find what motivates us to change or do something proactive and use it to our best advantage. In fact, to borrow a military saying, “to be the best we can be”.

Question: What motivates you to achieve success or reach a goal, and how do you act on that motivation?

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Okay, so I’ve written a few novels. I’ve even gotten an e-publisher to be interested enough to want to publish my most recent one for all the world to see. Or so I hope. Whew, this business of writing is a lot more complicated than I thought. That’s all right though. I’ve decided to finally chase the dream.

I first started writing at around the age of about ten, when I decided to try to pen my own story for the “Dark Shadows” television series. Remember it? No? Well that’s okay, it was a looong time ago. It may actually have been one of the first paranormal romances, and I fell for it completely. I loved the mystery and intrigue. I loved Barnabas Collins (the vampire protagonist), and I wished I could be a part of it. So, I created my own story line.

It was pathetic. I was already an avid reader, but my first attempts at writing taught me one thing – writing is hard. Oh, the story and dialogue came easily enough, but it took time. A lot of time,and I knew it needed a lot of work to make it good. I realized it would take more time and hard work than my ten year old self was willing to give it. See, my problem is I’ve always been a bit of a perfectionist – no, really. If I start something, really start it, then I want to finish it. I give it my all and learn everything I can about it, so I can be sure I’m doing it as well as I possibly can.

Then there’s the whole life thing that happens. I grew up, married, had two children, divorced, raised two children on little to no money, tried to go back to school, couldn’t afford to, met a man, fell in love, married, added his three teenaged children to my now teenaged children, formed a new family, worked, was blessed with five fabulous grandchildren, starting writing novels, …then everything fell apart. I’m still married to that wonderful man, I still have my family – thank God, but financially, the bottom fell out of our lives.

I was a mortgage advisor for one of Canada’s largest banks and had been a real estate agent for five years previous to that. How the heck did it happen? Well, let’s see, first my husband was downsized out of his corporate job of thirty years, at the age of fifty-five. I was working commissioned sales in mortgages, and we thought things would get better. They didn’t. Our mortgage interest rate was locked in at a higher rate than we could really afford on my husband’s company pension, there was little to no equity in the home, and we were staring at mounting debt. All this lead us down the slippery path to financial disaster.

I quit my high stress, commissioned sales job, we sold the house at no profit, and moved in with my parents (temporarily, I promise you mom and dad), and decided to take a breather to consider our next plan of action. Part of that plan includes me, writing for a living and living within the means of my husband’s not so grand monthly company pension benefit.

I’m fifty-two years of age, what the hell am I thinking? My kids don’t get it. Lots of our family and friends don’t get it, but we get it. We are getting off the merry-go-round. We’re starting over and we’re doing it our way.

We didn’t get where we are because we’re stupid, or dishonest (quite the opposite in fact), or lazy, but I am a realist – I think. The old plan wasn’t working. We had to come up with a new one. A simpler one. One that allowed us to live our lives on our own terms. We also needed to seriously look at how we wanted to deal with looming retirement. After many looong, sleepless nights and even more looong talks over coffee each morning, we decided to follow our dreams. I wanted to write, not work long hours at a commissioned sales job for a bank. Here’s a lilttle secret: I’m not really very good corporate material. I ask questions, I care about the little people and will fight for their rights, I treat people fairly and honestly, and I’m not run by the company. Okay, I get it. I was very good at my job, but suck at commissioned sales. As for my husband, well, he’s still trying to decide what he wants to do when he grows up, which is fine with me, because I can’t make those decisions for him – any more than he could for me.

One of the bonuses I’m discovering, is time. I now have time to think, to really plan, to notice what matters to me. I get to spend time with my husband and my family. I am reconnecting with people who are important to me. Most importantly, I’m re-connecting with myself. I think that’s important too. I write every day. I spend a lot of time learning the business of book publishing and am slowing getting more confident. I’m feeling my way along, braille method, as I traverse this road toward becoming a bonifide, published writer.

I’m also learning something else. I was right when I was ten. I love to write, but it’s a lot of work. For the first time in my life, I feel ready to tackle the job and learn the lessons. I don’t have the educational background in English, or journalism, having finished school mid way through grade twelve, but I still think I’m smart. Smart enough to take the time to learn the ropes. Smart enough to have fun along the way now. Smart enough to know only I can make it happen. It feels as if my whole life I’ve done what I had to, what was needed to be done, but there was always that little kernel of knowledge in my head and in my heart that said “you’re a writer”…so now, I write.

I welcome any who wish to join me on the road to discovery. Feel free to share your love of reading, writing and life in general. If you are an author, publisher or anyone with an interest in books, and have some tips and tricks you’d like to share with others, please don’t hesitate. From time to time I’ll also post reviews of books I’ve just read. If you are a fan – you’re my favourite kind of person. lol

Seriously, my goal is to educate, share information and a few laughs, and have fun with it.

I do, however, expect common courtesy, respect for all who post on this forum, and a willingness to share their love of life, the written word, as well as the business of bringing words and stories out into the light of day to be shared by all. Welcome.

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The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap

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