I know that it is February. I know that in Ohio, February often means cold…and snow. However, the Texan in me is NOT a fan. I prefer the cold to be in my books and if forced to deal with the white stuff, I like to do it from the comfort of my living room with a warm cup of coffee and fuzzy socks.
My children and husband have a very different view! So over the last several days they have been taking full advantage of sledding and snow ball fights. Though the snow we have is not the heavy wet stuff that is best for building snow men and snow balls. I had no idea there were multiple types of snow, and what the building properties of each was, until I fell in love with a man who yearns for cold winters!
I enjoy the pictures of my girls having fun in the snow. But I am the queen of having hot cocoa ready for when the chill eventually drives them back in (usually within thirty minutes for my youngest and after I have to warn my oldest, she could get frostbite if she stays out any longer).
What about you? Do you yearn for sledding and snow fort building? Or are you more partial to the less wet, warm and toasty inside? (Yes, this was a biased way to ask the question – and I stand by it.)
Hope everyone is having a lovely winter, if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere. And for those of you in the Southern Hemisphere, please feel free to send a bit of your summer heat this way!
I think most authors get asked this question a LOT! I low-key hate it. Not because I mind answering, but because I don’t really have a good answer – at least not one that will work for everyone. And often I come up blank when it pops out of someone’s lips.
It came up over a zoom call a few weeks ago, and I went blank. Again! I spouted off nonsense about making lists (which I do) and just pushing through (also true). But it was not what anyone was actually looking for.
I recently spent a significant time quarantined due to a covid diagnosis, and it gave me plenty of time to myself – ugg. But I spent some time working through this question (there is only so much television you can watch when confined to one room for ten days.) And one truth kept popping in.
My writing group!
Several years ago, I saw an ad on Facebook stating that someone was starting a writing group at my local library. I decided to check it out. There was the leader, Kit, her husband and one other writer. We did some writing sprints and talked. It was one of the best nights!
Over the years others have joined us. We do not have any genre or age requirements. We have poets, romance writers, a children’s book writer, a fantasy writer and some that are just playing with any genre that fits them this week.
When Kit and her husband got transferred two years into the startup, she asked me to take over the job of leading. This mostly means that the library has me listed on the paperwork in case we tear the place down.
Writing is a solitary activity but when you are with a group of other creatives it really can get the juices flowing. I wrote one novel based on a prompt we had. Celebrating when we finish a story or get a poem or book published is so much fun. But mostly it has made me accountable to a group of people that I respect and love spending time with. Their cheers when things go well and encouragement when they don’t have gotten me over so many hills.
During 2020, we have met over Zoom. It’s not the same, but it has kept the connection going and I always look forward to Thursday nights. Though I cannot wait to be back in person (one day)!
So that will be my answer from now on. If you can find a writers group to join do so. If not, make one. Kit put a note on the library calendar and for several weeks only she and her husband showed up. Then there was three and then four, then more. It has been one of the best experiences of my writing career.
So from our latest zoom meeting here is my lovely group!
Romance is the only genre that guarantees a happily-ever-after. That warm fuzzy feeling that everything will be alright is baked in. If that premise isn’t met, then the book is not a romance, despite the multitude of lists that routinely tout non-happily ever afters as the “Greatest Romance.” Looking at you, Wuthering Heights and Great Gatsby!
What we never really get to see is the “after” story. Sure, we may get a brief epilogue a few months or a few years later. Usually, it’s a snapshot showing that the couple is still happy and often starting or growing their family. But then what?
The truth is that what happens next looks a lot less exciting to the outside world. It doesn’t have the tension of will they or won’t they to keep the story going. If I included it in my novels, I know my lovely editor would tell me that it might be better on the cutting room floor.
But it’s the simple bits after the grand declarations that make a great love story. On Tuesday, my husband and I will celebrate thirteen years of marriage. Our day to day life is routine now. We’re raising two girls, going to the office, making dinner, and binge-watching Netflix. He’s on his tablet as I type these words. It is not the stuff that lands between the covers of my books.
But it is what my books are based on. That feeling that love can last forever. That years into the future, two people can look past the gray hairs and smile lines and wonder how did I get so lucky?
My husband still gets up and shovels the snow off my car, even when he doesn’t have to be at work until much later than me. He always starts the electric kettle so I can pour hot water over my coffee grounds as soon as I come downstairs. Though that may be self-preservation – I am a nightmare before caffeine! And he’s shouldered more than his fair share of housework, homework, and carpooling when I am on a tight deadline.
These are the moments that make a real happily ever after. And I want my readers to believe my characters are still doing these things for their partner long after the epilogue has ended. Because no matter who you are or who you love, we are all worthy of someone who treasures us – years after the vows have been said.
Happy early anniversary to my hero. Thanks for the inspiration.
I thought very hard over what to write for this blog post.
I considered creating a post about most romantic gifts you could give your other half on the big day; the most romantic gestures I’d ever experienced, which then led me onto thinking about when romance went wrong for me!
Most of these stories happened when I was still in my middle to late teenage years, so I can now blame youth for my naïveté, but thought if I share mine, someone else might share theirs! So come on, now! Don’t leave me hanging!
Experience 1 – When I was seventeen, I worked in a kiosk at a petrol station (this was the late 1980s, btw). Most of my customers were men filling up their tanks on the way to work and I soon got to know my regulars. There was this young man, maybe in his early 20s, who I saw often and he asked if he could take me out for a drink. Giddy with excitement, I said yes and he picked me up in his Ford Cortina a couple of days later. He was driving me to a country pub and we were chatting away quite happily, when I happened to glance into the backseat and saw two baby seats. I asked, ‘Whose are those?’
Mr Suave gave me a look and then said, really casually, ‘They’re for my kids.’
I asked, ‘Are you separated?’
His response? ‘Nah, I’m still married, but you know the score.’ And he winked at me!
I sat there, feeling awkward and embarrassed, with not much experience in dating and not knowing how to get myself out of the situation and worrying that technically, I was with someone I didn’t really know, in the countryside, with no way of getting home. So I said nothing, figuring when the date was over, I just wouldn’t see him again.
Did it end there?
Mr Suave thought that my silence was acceptance of the fact that he was married and when we got to the pub, he couldn’t stop slobbering kisses over me and winking at me from the bar when he got drinks.
When he finally dropped me back home, I couldn’t get out of the car fast enough! And for weeks afterwards, he stalked me, until his wife came into the petrol station to have a go at me for trying to steal her man!
When I protested my innocence, she seemed to believe me, but I was under the stark impression that he didn’t get off so lightly at home!
Experience 2 – Still at the petrol station, I swapped an evening shift with a colleague as I was going out with family to a birthday dinner. As we drove home, we had to pass the petrol station and found it filled with police cars. There had been an armed raid! (Never have I been so pleased to have swapped a shift!) I went to the kiosk to check on my colleague and got talking with a couple of the police officers (I’m sure you see where this is going)
One of the officers, let’s call him Paul, called in a few days later to the petrol station, to check on us and report progress to the owners. Paul chatted to me for a bit and offered to take me out for the day to Alton Towers.
I (Naively) thought, he’s a copper. He’s bound to be honest.
He offered to meet me one morning in his car at the top of my street and off we went to Alton Towers. Having a great time, going on all the rides, really funny guy, brilliant sense of humour, everything was going great, until it was time to drop me off at my house. He stopped at one end of my street, down a blind lane and said, “I’ll drop you off here, if that’s okay?”
Now, my street was a pretty long one. And it was dark and I was pretty scared about walking all that way on my own. “Can’t you drop me off outside my house?”
“I can’t be seen doing that.”
‘Because you’re a police officer?” I asked. See? Stupid, I know.
“Because I’m married.”
Ah. Well, at least he told me, I guess.
I never saw Paul after that. And updates on the crime were delivered by other officers.
I think my Mum was more upset than me that he wasn’t genuine. She’d quite fancied having a police car parked outside of our house most evenings, keeping our rowdy neighbours quiet for once.
After those? I’d like to say my dating experiences got better, but sadly they didn’t. Two more married men tried it on (this time I knew they were married, so turned them down) but I did meet a guy there who I ended up living with for five years, who turned out to be abusive.
Still. I learned from that, too.
Now? I’ve been married for 22 years, with four kids of my own.
And no married men have propositioned me since.
It could be because of the six-foot-two husband that walks by my side, that stops them.
So come on everyone! Want to share any of your dating disasters?
I have a new dog named Lili. She was a stray looking for a home, and in a sense, I was a stray looking for a dog. When we met it was love at first sight and Lili came to live with me. No regrets because she is a smart, funny, affectionate girl who loves her humans as much as they love her.
Sadly, some people have a preconceived notion about Lili. She’s mean. She’ll turn on you. Eat your face off. Kill your cat. Yep, she’s an American Pit Bull and her breed has been branded as a breed that should be killed. Why? Rumors. Innuendo. Bad press. Lili has gained a reputation for something she’s never done and never will. Some people see her for what she is—a sweet dog full of love. Others see her for what they expect her to be—mean and viscous. Much the way so many people expect romance novels to be boring or stupid.
I show antiques at the state fair every year, and the lady in charge of the antiques division is a well-educated biology teacher. When she asked me what I write, and I told her, she couldn’t contain the sour expression on her face. “I’ve never figured out why anybody would write that garbage let alone read it,” she said to me. I wanted to ask her why anyone would be so critical of another person’s career, or even their reading choices, but I didn’t because people like her don’t listen. They fix on a notion and will not wander away from it. She also went on to tell me that if I have any writing talent at all I should put it to good use and write something that will make a difference. When I told her romance novels do make a difference, she laughed at me. That’s right—she laughed out loud then walked away, smug in her knowledge that she was right.
Certainly, Mary, as I’m calling her, is entitled to her opinion. But when opinion crosses the line and turns into insult, that’s when someone needs to make an assessment of what they’re saying, and to whom. At a flea market recently, I encountered a woman who was making frilly seat covers for various model cars. They weren’t to my taste, but I’d never dream of approaching her and saying anything negative about what she has chosen to sell. Quite honestly, my mother taught me better. And, I’d never be the one to tell a pit bull owner all the bad things that have been reported about that breed. Yet, that has happened to me. “Do you really let that dog go around people?” one person asked. The answer is yes. She’s allowed to be around people, to sit on their laps if they want her, to lick their faces if that’s acceptable. And no, she would never eat the face she licks.
We have become so judgmental that simple, decent kindness is slipping away. My grandmother had a hat she wore to church. It was red, big and basically hideous. But no one ever said that to her. Instead, they were kind—told her she looked glowing or radiant, told her she brightened the room. Those were the kind things to say and they were so simple. They also made an old lady quite happy. Now, when I smile at strangers, which I do all the time, some are suspicious but more often than not my smile is returned with a smile. It’s a small thing, but I hope that someone, somewhere needs a simple smile to make then feel better. Maybe my smile will be the one they need.
So now, I get quizzical looks when I tell people I write romance novels, but my response is always much kinder than their intent. Same goes for my pittie. Insult my dog either directly or in a round-about way and I pop out my phone and show them all the cute pictures of her. In either case, kindness is free, and it’s a gift so few people remember to give these days. Those opportunities come to us in so many ways and it’s up to us how we use them. Personally, I believe life is too short to go around criticizing pit bulls and romance novels, but that’s just me. I’d much rather spend my life looking at the bright side. It’s a nice place to be.
My next book, HER SECRET MIRACLE, will be out in June. You’ll be able to find it in all the usual places.
As always, wishing you health and happiness (and puppies and romance novels.)
There are two questions I’m always asked. The first is: Are you still writing? I knowpeople mean well, but it would be the same as if I were to approach my doctor and ask: Are you still practicing? Or my plumber: Are you still plumbing?
Writing is what I do. I get up in the morning, go through my normal routines, then go to work. That work happens to be writing. Honestly, the question does annoy me as it implies that writing isn’t work, or that I can do it as a whim. And while I’d like to answer with something like that, I’m always very polite to say: Yes, I’m still writing.
The other question: Where do you get your ideas? That’s one all writers get, and it may be one of the hardest questions to answer concerning my career because I’m not always sure where my ideas come from. Sometimes they’re simply rattling around in my head, origin unknown. Maybe they come from an article I’ve read, or something I’ve seen on television. I listen to conversations around me (I prefer not to call it eavesdropping) and hear wonderful tidbits of stories that might expand into a scene or even a full book. I heard one just a few days ago in a restaurant. Then man sitting with his family, behind me, was explaining to them why he wasn’t going to fix spaghetti in 2019. If I wrote comedy, I’d have my plot. It was a funny story that could have been developed. (OK, when he fixes it, then serves it, there’s not enough left for him because his family is grabby and he’s slow to get to the table.) It might have turned into a very sad story, too, like a father not eating so he can afford to put a meal on the table for his family. Or something thoughtful, possibly memories of his mother’s spaghetti. From one little snippet of conversation came so many possibilities.
Another place I find my ideas—the people in my life. I just finished a book New York Doc, Thailand Proposal, which will be out later this year. The inspiration for the story was a dear friend, a doctor who took his practice on the road and practiced out of the back of his Jeep. His parents did the same. They did this on Indian reservations here, in the US, but I set my book in Thailand and used my friend as the inspiration. Also, in my nursing career, I worked with military doctors and the stories I heard and things I saw… Most of my books are based on someone or something I’ve known, known about, or watched because, in the end, when you look at reality, there’s usually a brilliant, adaptable story attached.
Here’s a little poem I read years ago. I believe it sums up quite nicely the whole process of finding the idea (with maybe a little larceny thrown in).
by Nance Hill
Beyond your perception, I’m full of deception;
From you, I will loot, filch and forage,
I’ll approach with a smile, and steal all the while;
The stash goes in notebooks for storage.
I’ll pilfer your grin, or the last place you’ve been,
Or your habit of slapping your knees,
The puns that you sprinkle, your lips as they crinkle;
Whatever I fancy, I’ll seize.
Perhaps I’ll abscond with a faux pas you’ve spawned,
Or a client you met on the job,
Your wild-patterned tie, the half-tear in your eye;
With a swipe of the pen, I will rob.
Then I’ll gather my plunder and rend it asunder,
Revise ‘til there’s only a hint.
You won’t know what I’ve taken until you’re quite shaken
To see that I fenced it in print.
OK, so maybe my taste in poetry isn’t sophisticated, but this little poem is oh-so true. If you’re a writer, admit it. Have you done some of that? I freely admit I have. And if you’re not a writer, better look out. We’re always looking for good ideas. You could be that idea!
I would love to bring you good tidings of Christmas this year but instead, I’m bringing you a fun little background of The Ten Monsters of Christmas. Yes, even the nicest of all holidays, the one where we wish everyone peace and joy, has its dark side. Talk about a way to ruin a jolly holiday.
So first, there’s KRAMPUS. Yes, we’ve all heard about him in recent years. He is the evil anti-Santa who walks around carrying a stick, looking for people to beat, especially children who haven’t been obedient. He’s a predominantly European Christmas monster, originating in Austria, but popular celebrations centered around this demon are popping up everywhere, and celebrated on December 5, the eve of St. Nicholas Day.
Next comes the merry old JÓLAKÖTTURINN, an evil Icelandic Yule Cat who lurks about the countryside at Christmastime, ready to eat people who haven’t received new Christmas clothes to wear. Apparently, this cat monster is tied to an Icelandic tradition where those who finish all their work on time receive new Christmas clothes, thus making them immune from getting eaten. Like Krampus, the Yule cat is used as a threat to motivate children to work and keep them in line. “You’d better watch out, you’d better not cry…”or you’ll be eaten by the Yule Cat, kiddies.
Then there is FRAU PERCHTA an ugly Christmas witch who hangs out around Austria and Germany during the 12 days of Christmas with the express purpose of punishing the sinful by ripping out their internal organs and replacing them with garbage. Now, that’s a lovely Christmas tradition if ever I’ve heard one.
Not to be outdone by all the other Christmas child punishers, BELSNICKEL, who made it from Germany to live amongst the Pennsylvania Dutch in the U.S. carries a switch to punish the bad children at Christmas. But he does have a good side, as he carries candy to reward the good ones. Knecht Ruprecht and Ru Klaas are also monsters from German folklore who get their holiday jollies by beating children.
Another in the line of the traditional Christmastime children haters is HANS TRAPP from France, who, disguised as a scarecrow, punishes bad children by eating them. Even though he was reportedly killed, it’s said he still visits young children before Christmas to scare them into good behavior.
And, to make matters worse, there’s the evil French butcher PERE FOUETTARD, who, with his wife, lured children into his butcher shop, where he killed, carved, salted and ate them. St. Nicholas did come to the rescue in this story, by taking Pere Fouettard captive and turning him into a servant whose job it was to dole out punishment to bad children on St. Nicholas Day.
Not to be left out, the JÓLASNENIR, or Yule Lads, 13 Icelandic trolls, stole things and caused trouble around Christmastime, so as one might expect, their purpose in life was to scare children into behaving. Somewhere along the way, they met the benevolent Norwegian Julenisse (Santa Claus) and decided to try a little kindness like he showed, by leaving gifts in the shoes of good children. But if you were a bad kid, your shoes were left empty which was a much kinder fate than eaten by the Icelandic Yule Cat.
However, if you get by the Yule Lads, there’s another Icelandic monster to deal with at Christmas – GRYLA, their mother, and let’s just say, she’s not in line for a Mother of the Year award because she encounters bad children at Christmas, especially the ones who don’t obey their parents, then kidnaps, cooks, and eats them. And, to make matter worse, her precious pet is the dreaded Yule Cat. Talk about the traditions of a family at Christmas.
So, in my family, Christmas has always been about the children. We even have a brand new one, Westin, to welcome into our tradition. He’s going to grow up in a family where Christmas is about love and peace on earth and all the good things associated with the holiday. My wish for him is that there will never be any monsters in his world. And this is my Christmas wish for you…
Once upon a time, there was this cute, somewhat round orange thing attached to a vine, sitting out in the field. Then later, it became the craze, and even the madness of certain segments of society. But, that’s moving too far ahead in the story. So, let’s take it back to 1584, when French explorer Jacques Cartier, who was skipping his way merrily through the St. Lawrence region of North America (aka Canada), reported finding fields of gros melons which, in the English language, translates to big melons. This is when the story gets a little tricky and Google Translate gets confused. The name pumpkin actually originated from the Greek word for large melon which is pepon. Pepon was changed by the French into pompon (who knows why?) then the English changed pompon to pumpion (again, who knows why?) Anyway, after the name was bandied about for a while, American colonists had to get in on the act, so they changed the perfectly good pumpion into pumpkin.
By that time, the poor little orange thing said, “Enough!” So, what was thought to be an exclusive North American or Canadian or Upper New York vine that sprouted orange globes (even though seeds were discovered that could have put the pepon-pumpion-pumpkin in Mexico as early as 7000 B.C.) was finally, and somewhat unfirmly, established as a North American fruit. Or, squash. Or, melon. Or, placemats (as the indigenous North American populations used them.)
This is where I could skip ahead to where pumpkins turned into latte and the stuffing for certain popular sandwich cookies, but that leaves out a lot of history. Like the origins of the pumpkin pie, when the early colonists sliced off the pumpkin top, removed the seeds, and then filled the hollow cavity with milk, spices and honey then baked it in the hot ashes of a dying fire. Or how the traditional turnip and potato jack-o-lanterns gave way to the big orange thing when Stingy Jack convinced the Devil to turn himself into a coin so Jack could pay for his drinks at the local pub.
The Devil, being who he was, liked that type of shenanigan, so he did what Jack asked of him. But Jack decided to keep the money for himself and put it into his pocket next to a silver cross, which prevented the Devil from changing back into his original form. Score one for Jack. Except, being basically a stupid man, he eventually freed the Devil, under the condition that Mr. D would leave Jack alone for a year, and in that year, not claim Jack’s soul if he died. Well, that turned out pretty good for Jack, so in another year he decided to try more trickery on the big D, who was, apparently too dumb to know better when Jack asked him to climb a tree and pick him some fruit. But while the D guy was up that tree picking away, Jack carved a sign of the cross into the tree so that the D dude couldn’t come down until he promised Jack he wouldn’t bother him for ten more years.
Sadly, Jack died shortly after his deal, but he wasn’t allowed into heaven because he was judged to be as unsavory as his D buddy was. But, Jack’s D buddy wouldn’t let him go to the warm place either, and instead banished him into the dark of night with only a burning coal, otherwise known as an emblem of hellfire, to light his way. But because that coal was too hot to handle, Jack put it in a carved-out turnip (or potato if that’s your carb of choice. Or, if you’re British, the ever-popular beet was also Jack-approved) and he’s been wandering the Earth with his root vegetable ever since, at first calling himself, Jack of the Lantern. But as many of us do, he took on a pseudonym – Jack O’ Lantern.
Then, of course, when he reached America carrying his rather small tool, the Americans, as only they would do, decided that larger was definitely better. And that’s how Jack went from toting around a fairly lightweight turnip/potato/beet to a rather heavy and awkward pumpkin.
Now that we know the absolute truth about the origins of the pumpkin and the Jack O’ Lantern, let’s look at what years of research has taught us about the pumpkin:
– Pumpkins are a member of the gourd family, which includes cucumbers, honeydew melons, cantaloupe, watermelons and zucchini. – Pumpkins are low in calories, fat, and sodium and high in fiber. They are good sources of Vitamin A, Vitamin B, potassium, protein, and iron. – The heaviest pumpkin in its original form weighed 1,810 lb 8 oz. – Pumpkin flowers are edible. – The largest pumpkin pie ever made was over five feet in diameter and weighed over 350 pounds. It used 80 pounds of cooked pumpkin, 36 pounds of sugar, 12 dozen eggs and took six hours to bake. – The pumpkin spice latte drink made popular by a certain famous coffee chain didn’t contain actual pumpkin pulp until 2015, but now it boasts the exact measure of a tad bit of pulp. Also, in a good year, this drink generates $80 million in sales. Oh, and those sought-after sandwich cookies with tasty pumpkin spice filling – no pumpkin in those whatsoever.
Which brings me to the point of this blog. My new book, SECOND CHANCE WITH HER ARMY DOC, out now, has no pumpkin in it either. Not in reference, not in a sample of the actual fruit, vegetable or whatever the heck it is. Why? Because this author doesn’t like pumpkin. But, I like my book, so please have a look at a story about what it takes for a lost love to be found again. And I don’t mean pumpkin love.
As always, wishing you health and happiness, and a recipe for Toasted Pumpkin Seeds if that’s your thing: – 1 1/2 cups raw whole pumpkin seeds – 2 teaspoons melted butter – 1 pinch of salt
1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C). 2. Toss seeds in a bowl with the melted butter and salt. Spread the seeds in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for about 45 minutes or until golden brown; stir occasionally. 3. Makes 6 servings. Nutrition per serving: 83 calories; 4.5 g fat; 8.6 g carbohydrates; 3 g protein; 4 mg cholesterol; 12 mg sodium.
Some of you may have noticed that I’m a bit obsessed with the moon. There’s usually a moonlight scene in my books (my favourite is one of my Modern Heats, taking place on a volcano – because, well, that’s two obsessions at once). Apparently my parents used to have to shine a torch outside my window when I was tiny so I could say goodnight to the moon, otherwise I wouldn’t go to sleep!
Last night was the supermoon. It was too cloudy to see it last night, but this morning it was just glorious. I had to take my daughter into college really early for a sixth form trip to London, and the first thing I noticed when I walked into the kitchen was the bright light streaming in…
It lit our way into the city, and this beautiful enormous moon was in front of me all the way home. I usually take the dog out before sunrise anyway, but this time I took my proper camera rather than just the phone and hopped over a ditch or two (poor dog thought I’d gone barmy). And I got the shot I was hoping for, reflected in the trout lake.
As the sun started to rise, the moon turned pink. Now, I’ve always wanted to do one of those massive moon shots but have never quite managed it before. Today I ended up with two shots I’m so, so pleased with. (That streak across the moon is a cloud, by the way.)
The book I’m writing now is set in the summer, so I’m not quite going to be able to get away with using these in a scene. But watch out for future books 😉
Did you see the supermoon? Do you have a pic to share? I’d love to see it!
This is my “No Blog Because I Forgot to Blog” blog. It was on my calendar, I got the reminders, knew it was coming up. Yet, every time I saw one of those pop-up reminders, I thought to myself, I’ll do it tomorrow.” Well, here it is, half-way through my blog day, and I still haven’t done it.
Why? Because I get distracted. Or, too busy. Because I have other things to do. Maybe I just want to take a nap, instead. Whatever the reason, here I am at the last minute, unprepared. But life is like that in a lot of ways, isn’t it? Insurance payment coming up and you know you need to pay it, but you’re not in the mood right now, so tomorrow… Oops, it’s five days later and you’re writing your “I Forgot to Pay” blog. Your father-in-law’s birthday is coming up and you keep putting off buying that card, then suddenly you’re writing that “Why my Father-In-Law Hates me” blog.
Life is full of distractions. Some we create for ourselves. Some are created for us. Of course, in my case, some are created by my cat at the exact moment I want to write. She knows. She always knows. But, I allow it, because I want to be distracted. I want that few minutes of purring in my ear, that few minutes of putting off what I know I need to do. I need that distraction. I really do, because life closes in. It surrounds us. We multi-task nowadays (even though some experts say there’s no such thing.) We let ourselves get caught up in things that waste our time. For me, Facebook. Sometimes up to an hour a day, complaining about it every second it holds me hostage. There used to be a time, in that spare hour, when I’d read, or play the piano, or even write (before I was a writer.) All pleasant things. Distractions, perhaps, but ways to enrich me as I was being distracted.
Now though, people accept their distractions for what most of them are – a time suck, a waste of true enjoyment or productivity. They count on their distractions to move them from place to place. In some cases, even motivate them. I’m bored—play a game. I’m sick of doing what I’m doing—go to social media of your choice. I need to call my mother—go eat a taco. In a way, we plan these distractions, and while there’s not necessarily anything wrong with that, we let them consume us. And, not in a good way, especially when they start to take over.
For a writer, a distraction can be fatal for a deadline. For a doctor, it can be fatal for a patient. So, it makes me wonder, where has our attention span gone? I know where mine goes. Cats, research, chatting with friends. But, only in moderation (except for, apparently, when it comes to writing my blog). I plan distractions in my daily routine because the body, as well as the mind needs them. The truth is, you can’t stay focused all the time. Sometimes you have to let down. I get that. But what I don’t get is how our distractions have become almost as important as the task-at-hand. I shouldn’t let my cat anywhere near me when I’m writing. I know that, but I still do it. Then ask myself, why?
Personally, I think it’s because we’re losing the concept of self-discipline. The grandmother who raised me was all about that. In her iron-fisted, little German body, she had more self-discipline than any ten people (put together) I know today. But, she came from a different era, where a distraction for her meant a meal might not get served (and there was no calling out for pizza), or a bath might not get taken (because there was no hot tap water and a warm bath came from water heated on a wood stove.) For me, the worst that can happen if I get distracted is that I do call out for that pizza, or I just hop in the shower later on.
Maybe the distractions we face are a generational thing. Perhaps earlier generation distractions had bigger consequences? I don’t know, but it makes sense. Especially on those nights when I invite all my grown kids to dinner and see them distracted from eating because they’re tied up with their phones. The consequences of that – cold food which can be reheated in the microwave.
Maybe it’s time to measure our distractions. Get off the phone, read a book. Get off the social media, go outside and take a walk. Get off the game, call your mother. Distractions are allowed, but they need to be re-defined into something that benefits us. Talking on the phone throughout an entire family meal never has, and never will. It’s simple, really. Choose our distractions wisely. Choose them so they’re beneficial, not detrimental. That’s all I’m saying.
Except, cats. Cats can always be a distraction. Just ask my three. They’re the distraction experts.
My book, Saved by Doctor Dreamy, came out the first of June. It’s available in all the usual places. It’s all about the wild jungles in Costa Rica where the wrong distraction can cost you your life. Or, your true love.