Stop! Now think for a moment or two…

Lately, I’ve heard a lot of people talking about how stressed they are, how they feel the world is so chaotic and negative right now. Let’s be clear, I do feel the stress of the world, and am as sad and frustrated as anyone. But I also know enough about myself that if I only focus on the negative, that I will only feel negative feelings.

For me, this is where the gratitude part of Of Grief, Garlic and Gratitude comes into the discussion. In order to survive the grief of losing Sam, I needed to actively, consciously, and almost aggressively recognize for what I am thankful. I start each day with an out loud conversation with myself. I say who I am grateful for, and what — and yes, it was awkward in the beginning, now it is part of the day. It isn’t all roses, puppies and unicorns. There are days when I may say, “I am struggling right now with XYZ, but I am thankful for this part of it.” For example, “I am struggling with my relationship with (name), but I am still so thankful that he/she is in my life because.” Sometimes it is mundane stuff, like I am thankful for our health insurance, or thankful for the great pizza from Brandon House of Pizza the night before. Sometimes is it more global, such as I am thankful for the work of the Nobel committee in recognizing greatness.

It would be easier to instead start each day with what is wrong with my life, or what is wrong with the world, but that is now how I want to live my life.  By choosing to focus on the gratitude, the irritations seem less important, and I find myself so much more open to accepting others.

So here is my question for you — how do you want to live your life?

 

 

Winter is coming…

Fall is quickly coming to an end in Vermont. While there still is some beautiful foliage, the reds are gone, and most of what remains is fading yellow. Many of the leaves have fallen, the trees are looking bare, and even the fields are turning duller colors.

Each day we have a few less minutes of day light. I love winter. I love the cold, the snow, the raw stark beauty of it. But I don’t like the lack of light. Getting up in the dark, and often coming home from work in the dark, wears on me.

Now we are beginning to have the little snow flurries, colder winds, a chill in the air. Yesterday, as we harvested potatoes, snow flurries danced around us.

To offset the darkness, our wood stove will be going pretty consistently for the next months, the cheery fire visible through the glass. Candles start appearing in the house, not because we need the light, but because they give such a warm and soft light.

Now the knitting basket has moved back to being next to my chair, the spinning wheel has taken up its winter spot next to the stove, and we are beginning to settle in for the coming winter.

Sweet potatoes? Carrots?

Over the last weeks, we have harvested a LOT of carrots and sweet potatoes. Now some were huge and perfect, some were smaller or were chopped in the harvesting process. Once we had cleaned and sorted all of them, we had a pile of ones that I wanted to use quickly, before they could get soft or rot.

I roasted a huge tray of sweet potatoes, and started looking for recipes. You have to love the internet when you can type in “savory” and “sweet potatoes” and have a recipe for savory sweet potato puffs pop up. That definitely is my new favorite recipe! Then, I still had a ton of roasted sweet potatoes, so I googled “sweet potato bread,” and another amazing recipe popped up. Hours later, I had a tray of puffs cooling, and three loaves of bread — one loaf in the freezer, a half headed off with our oldest son, a half going to college with our youngest, and one on the counter for our enjoyment this week.

Then the carrots. Anyone who spends a lot of time with me knows that I love cooked carrots. They are one of my favorite foods, and one that I will go for when I want comfort food. But we have a lot of carrots right now. Many are in storage for the winter, but I had a bucket with the less than perfect ones needing to be used. Some were roasted with beets. Some were peeled and sliced into carrot sticks for lunches. The rest were made into an absolutely amazing carrot cake. My whole life I have wanted to make a carrot cake from scratch. I don’t know why I hadn’t before now, but now I have, and I will make it again and again.

As the weekend comes to a close, the house smells of great food, the wood stove is keeping us warm and toasty, and all is well.

The Creative Process

I always have stories running around in my head. Characters arrive, often in bits of dreams, and they “need” to be heard, and over time, they become full stories or books.

Lately, I have been so consumed with the publishing process for Of Grief, Garlic and Gratitude, that I haven’t written as much as I normally do. Over the last few weeks I had written just a few new chapters in the sequel to More Than I Can Say, and had only picked at a new non-fiction for teens.

Tonight, the dam of writer’s block broke, and I couldn’t write fast enough. The funny thing was that I would be working away on one, when an idea for the other would flit through my mind, so I would switch documents and work on the other for a bit. Thank goodness for Google Docs!

Thank you!

This weekend we delivered a bunch of copies of Of Grief, Garlic and Gratitude to local homes. A couple of the recipients weren’t home when we stopped by, so they left notes to us on their doors.

People buying my book left me thank you notes. I can’t tell you how emotional it made me. I can’t adequately express how thankful I am for the support we have been shown. Wow, just wow!

 

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An Update on the Harvest

We spent much of the weekend preparing our land for the coming winter. Sunday, however, was focused mostly on harvesting crops that go into cold storage. We harvested our carrots and winter squashes, cleaned them, stored the squash and will store the carrots tonight. How much fun it was to see how many we had — especially since we have been eating carrots all summer long!

 

Then, we also pulled all the plants that have gone by, and fed them to the alpacas. It definitely is Ellsbury’s favorite time of the year!

 

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Harvesting Time

The weather is going to get colder over the next few days, and we have the threat of a frost later this weekend. This means that it is time to take the last of the less hardy vegetables out of the garden and store them for the winter. The carrots, beets, onions and leeks will come in, and the last tomatoes will be picked before the plants are pulled and fed to the alpacas. Winter squash and pumpkins will be harvested, cleaned, and put in cold storage.

The radishes, lettuce, chard, pea pods and kale will get their hoop house covers to keep them going for the next month or so.

Harvesting both makes me so happy, and a little melancholy as it means winter is coming. I love the colder weather, fires in the wood stove, knitting and spinning by the fire, and the beauty of the coming snow, but miss the vibrant greens of the summer.

Maybe I should go make some soup!

What a year!

October 9, 2017, about 9 at night, I had sat down to make sure that everything was all set for my first romance novel, That One Small Omission, to be released on October 11th. I had specifically picked 10/11 as the release date, wanting to have a positive new anniversary in October, but not wanting it to fall on the emotionally-charged 10/9.

Imagine my surprise when I logged into Amazon, and found that it had released just a couple hours before, on 10/9. My publisher and Amazon couldn’t tell me why it released early, it just did. After some shock, I laughed, thinking that it was likely that Sam had made sure it released on 10/9, wanting me/us to a have positive anniversary on that date.

A year later, it is time to reflect on the year that has passed. In that time, I have published three romance novels.  It’s not that I wrote all three in the last year, two of them were written long ago, just re-written and edited more recently. The third novel, yes, that was finished within the last year.

Then there was Of Grief, Garlic and Gratitude. I had started writing it several years ago, but finished it within this year, had amazing editors, and now it is complete.

There have been book events for the fiction, and upcoming events for the memoir.

Now, as I reflect, it amazes me how much has happened. My goal originally was to someday have a book published, I could never have imagined that all this would happen — especially not all in one year.

Love

I continued my 31 days of gratitude tonight by writing that I am thankful for love. But as this day comes to a close, I want to expand on that a bit more.

Today was the 5th anniversary of Sam’s death. As I write in my memoir, the fifth anniversary scared me — it seems like another huge milestone. I admit to dreading it for days, maybe weeks. As I awoke this morning, after a night of horrible dreams, all I could feel was the dread and the heavy, heavy weight of the grief.

Then our phones buzzed, and they buzzed all day long. Friends and family texted, called and messaged us from around the country, to tell us they care, to tell us how much they miss Sam. Voices broke with emotion, a lot of tears were shed, but through it all was this incredible love.

After planting Sam’s garlic, we visited the cemetery to bring a hot pepper and a head of garlic, then we took a long drive through the mountains, talking, listening to music, and smiling each time another message arrived.

Sam was and is love. He loved the people in his life with pure, unwavering, loud, unflinching love. The really amazing thing is, that love has just grown and grown, and how lucky we are to have it in our lives.