Monday, December 30, 2013

New Year's Resolution Page

Greetings MJWL readers! 

As you may have guessed by now, writing is my passion.  I express my thoughts, dreams, and emotions best with the written word.  So today I would like to share with you something I wrote that is not part of the novel itself, though the ideas shared below are the very essence of HOW I continue to create all that I want in my life.  (I will return to MJWL on January 2nd.)

Today's post is all about New Year's Resolutions, or "NYRs". I recently read that only 8% of us will keep our NYRs, and I found that disturbing.  At 8%, why bother?

Because for some reason the thought of a fresh, unblemished year has even the most jaded nay-sayers secretly pondering what they would like to tweak. Most of us want to succeed with our NYRs, we just don't know how. Well, what if I can offer you a way to virtually guarantee that your 2014 NYRs will work? Follow the 12 Steps listed below and collectively we can move the needle on that 8%.
12 Steps to Successful NYRs

Step 1. Find a quiet space where you can really think. "Quiet" is a relative term here. Your space could be on a peaceful mountain top or it could be the corner booth at your local Starbucks. Just find a space where you can really think, and grab a pocket of time where you will not be interrupted.  Turn your cell phone off for an're worth it.

Step 2. Begin at the end, and think from there. When you're at the end of 2014, where do you want to be? What will be different? With unlimited time (one year) and infinite resources (your mind), you are capable of extraordinary things. I encourage you to create compelling goals that truly inspire you. You will need NYRs that move you spiritually to pull this off.

Step 3. KNOW, with all that you are, that you WILL accomplish your NYRs. There is a tremendous difference between hoping and knowing. A hope says "Hey, if it's not too much trouble, can you make this happen for me?"  Knowing says "This IS going to happen. I know it with every ounce of my being." Knowing is a complete shift in energy, and is essential to the fulfillment of your NYRs.

Step 4. Choose NYRs that YOU truly want. YOU! This is critical. So often we set goals based on the well-meaning suggestions of people we like to please. If you allow others to choose your NYRs they are doomed to failure.

Step 5. Write it down. Yes, every goal setting article on the planet will tell you that you need to write down your NYRs. There's a reason for that. The action of writing it out adds a layer of commitment, and the list you create becomes a resource to guide you through the process. What would you like to manifest in your life? What will give your mind excitement and your soul peace? Figure it out, and write it down.

Step 6. Shhh...It's a secret! Most goal setting mantras will encourage you to share your NYRs with others so they can hold you accountable for your actions. I recommend the opposite.  Commit your NYRs to your own heart, but keep them to yourself. When you discuss your NYRs people will line up to share stories about others who tried the same thing and failed. Trust me. The only one who needs to know at this point is you.

Step 7. Go there! Right now! How does it feel? Try this. Close your eyes and picture yourself achieving your NYRs. What does it look like? How does it feel? Picture as many details as you can. If your NYR is to be debt free, see yourself holding a credit card statement with a zero balance. If you want to be in excellent health see yourself smiling in the mirror at your reflection, finishing a 5K, or holding the perfect tree pose in a Bikram's Yoga class. It's important to really feel what achieving your NYRs will be like ahead of time.

Step 8. Start stacking up the little victories. Most NYRs are difficult to achieve. That's why the reported success rate is so disgusting. So how do you keep from getting discouraged? By stacking up the little victories. Achievements, even little ones, should be recognized and noted. Each time you make a decision that leads you towards your goal celebrate in a small way. Even making a mental note of the moment and smiling to yourself will suffice.

Step 9. Prepare for impact. Any time you make a major change in your life there is going to be a ripple effect that touches others. What if those closest to you don't want you to change? If you decide to give up beer how will your Sunday football buddies react? If you eliminate gossip and negative energy from your life, how will that impact your favorite cousin who loves to dish on the family drama? If you elevate your life in any way there will be some who are unwittingly threatened by the new you. Get ready for this and know how to react. It may just be that they need time to adjust to your new energy, along with reassurance that you still love THEM for who they are.

Step 10. Say no to never! Whatever your goal is, it is best to not expect perfection from the get go. It doesn't have to be about 100% denial. That's why most diets don't work. Diets are about denying what you want, and will power will only get you so far. That's why you have to say no to never! Make it a lifestyle change, not a temporary adjustment. And know that it's OK to say yes once in a while. One of my NYRs is to increase my energy, so I made the decision to make changes to what I ate. Food became fuel for my body, not a crutch for my emotions. When I'm hungry, I eat. When I'm not hungry, I don't. Some days, though, I really crave that piece of cheesecake, so I have it, knowing that to keep my energy high I will need to make it the exception, not the rule. I simply enjoy the "yes" and move on.

Step 11. Review your NYRs often. Life is busy, so to keep my NYRs front of mind I read them every day.  I keep them folded up and tucked into a book next to my bed. I read them when I wake up in the morning and they ignite my soul. I read them again before I fall asleep and they help my subconscious work out the details that will bring these NYRs into my life.

Step 12. Rinse and repeat. Once you have finally achieved your once elusive NYRs, and have proven to yourself just how powerful you can be at manifesting what you want, make new goals! It doesn't have to be January 1st to sit down with pen and paper and decide what you want to accomplish next.

I wish you all light, love, and tons of success on your path. Enjoy the process, and have a wonderful 2014 and beyond!  And may this be the year that you...

Believe in forever.


Thursday, December 26, 2013

Day 142 of 365

One day at a time, or imagination unleashed?

I am pondering two great truths today, two beliefs that are symbiotic in my life but also apparently in philosophical conflict.

Should I live for today, you know, “one day at a time”, or should I believe in the future. Hmmm…that’s a tough one.

All of the enlightened masters point to power of living for today.

Live this day as if it were your last. The past is over and gone. The future is not guaranteed.” Dr. Wayne W. Dyer

Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.” Buddha

Even songs exalt the beauty and necessity of living for today.

There’s only us. There’s only this. Forget regret, or life is yours to miss. No other road, no other way, no day but today.” Cast of Rent

I believe in my heart that I have to live for this moment. It is a waste pf precious time and energy to get lost in the good, the bad, and the ugly of yesterday, or to wait impatiently for the promise of tomorrow.


I also see the remarkable value of goals, and dreams, and excitement for the creative process.  If I only lived for this moment I would do what was necessary for survival in this moment and this moment alone. What about the brilliant future I have planned? What about the novel I am creating?

therin lies the rub.” William Shakespeare – Hamlet

You see, I am also of the mindset that to accomplish great things you have to have great thoughts, and a wicked imagination. The story of Alex and Lea, Rachel and Leo has been percolating in my imagination for over three years now, and living for today and today alone will not bring the words onto paper. I have to see the completed novel, which I do.

By believing passionately in something that does not yet exist we create it. The nonexistent is whatever we have not sufficiently desired.” Franz Kafka

So what’s a writer with big dreams, living in the real world, supposed to do? For me, it’s simple. I embrace both. I try to squeeze as much juice out of today’s orange as I can, while working each day towards the goals I intend to manifest.

Big dreams have always been a way of life for me. Allow me to share a quick personal example before we get back to the story of MJWL:

In High School I was a pretty good athlete, and this talent translated into several local scholarship offers. For me the fear of spending another 4 years in the Northern part of the US (think cold, gray, long winters) superseded the idea of getting a solid education at a fraction of the cost. I wanted warmth, year round. So I did what any big dreamer would do. I researched Division 1 schools in the South that had the sport I wanted to play, selected the college I wanted to attend, and reached out to the coach at the University. I never once considered that it was not possible.

Besides believing in my dreams I also believe in the synchronicity of the Universe. It just so happened that this coach had recently lost his star athlete (who played my position)and was in desperate need of a solid replacement. Within days I was on a bus, taking a 28 hour ride to Florida in pursuit of a new reality. I tried out, signed some papers, and within 14 hours was on another bus back home with a scholarship offer in my hands.

I believed in the power of my dream, and backed it up with immediate action. Symbiotic.

OK, so back to the reason I am here…to share with you MJWL. Here’s an excerpt from the early part of Alex’s journey:

She was in the deepest, longest part of REM, peacefully dreaming of walking a chestnut brown horse down the beach. Barefoot and dressed in a white cotton sun dress, her companion bareback with halter and lead, they strolled silently down the coast, watching the sun begin its sizzling entry into the horizon. The waves gently caressed her ankles, and a salty breeze blew her blond, curly hair and the horse’s red mane in swirling crescendos. 

Alex looked behind her at her steed, smiling at the simplicity of the moment. She didn’t know the mare, in fact, she knew she didn’t own a horse in her waking moments. Didn’t matter. The breathtaking beauty of the pure white blaze against the soft, chestnut forehead, with gentle, knowing eyes smiling in response to her gaze brought tranquility to her heart that superseded her sleeping brain’s need to make sense of her surroundings. 


Alex dropped the lead and grabbed her chest as she felt one enormous heart beat slam against her ribcage. She waited anxiously for the next beat to sound, hoping to hear it but praying it would not be as malicious as the last. With trembling hands clutching her chest she looked into the eyes of the mare once more, hoping to find support, or even a measure of empathy to guide her through the moment. 

Although it marked a difficult moment in her existence, Alex knew that it was not over for her. Her heart and soul still had places to go, connections to make, love to embrace. For you see, Alex, did, and always will…

Believe in forever.


Friday, November 29, 2013

Day 115 of 365

"Have a mind that is open to anything, attached to nothing."  Tilopa

I have walked a considerable distance down this path now, and I have experienced more than I could have possibly imagined when I took that first step over 100 days ago. How could I have known that the simple, straightforward goal of writing of a book would shape and flavor so many aspects of my life?

Or did so many aspects of my life shape and flavor this book?

I am in a much didn’t space than I was 100 days ago. I have never been so clear on what I wanted for my life, for my future, for this novel. It’s like tumblers in the lock of my mind have finally clicked into place and the vault of my vision is finally open! I can see, feel, and experience what I know I want from this journey, and it brings me both peace and a sense of excitement. Every day, every effort is now centered on pursuing these goals, and MJWL is certainly a big piece of that puzzle.

One of the catalysts that helped me change was the quote listed above. I needed to become “open to anything”. For me that meant being receptive to new ways of thinking, while leaving behind the shackles of a structured timeline. “It will happen when it is supposed to happen” is my new mantra, and it has been very freeing. I can still see, in vivid colors, the places I will be in my future (including the vision of being a published author), however, I am now open to new ways of achieving these goals. And I know they will be achieved when they are “supposed to happen”.

I have also embraced the second part of the quote. “attached to nothing.” I have such beautiful, soulful relationships in my life, and I value them with all that I am. I adore my family. I love my job. I will treasure every moment that I spend with the people I love and in the job that I do, however, I cannot attach my happiness to the people, or the job, being what and who I think they should be. In my mind and in my heart they are all free. Free to do what they need to do to pursue their own happiness, their goals. 

I will treasure the moments when we walk on the path together, dream together, and spend time enjoying what this life has to offer. But the clarity of my vision comes from releasing any preconceived notions that certain things have to happen for happiness to be there. I am attached to nothing.

There was a time in the complicated relationship between Alex and Lea when they knew they had to let each other go, to become attached to nothing…at least for the time being. Their souls realized that trying to hang on at that moment would mean struggle and a disastrous end to their relationship. Not an easy chapter for either of our protagonists.

After an hour of torturing her psyche, looking for answers and explanations that would never come, Alex sat up in bed, hoping the elevation change would clear her senses. She was replaying the phone call with Lea over and over again in her mind, unable to connect the dots.

 Oblivious to the dorm room she was sitting in, the scenes played out in front of her, as if on a television screen in her mind’s eye. She saw the soft brown eyes, filled with love and passion, whispering “Love me forever Alex.” Memories of warm embraces, where two bodies fit seamlessly and hearts beat in unison. Soulful promises to “be there for each other, always”.

“What the hell happened? Where did this come from?” She sighed heavily and slumped against the white concrete wall.

Alex had always been a logical person, but she could not force lucidity into this equation. No part of “Honey, I need to let you go. It’s better this way.” made any sense to her. Forever doesn’t let go. Always is, well, always.

“I don’t get it. I just don’t get it.”

As Alex struggled with the overwhelming agony in her heart, a distant, small voice within her soul seemed to be whispering to her. The noise in her head would not, however, be still enough to allow the voice to be heard. For the moment she was content to be alone in her grief.

If Alex could have quieted her mind a bit, if she could have let go and detached herself from the past, maybe she would have heard what her soul was trying to whisper. But Alex had to go through the pain to come out stronger, and more resolved, than ever before. That was her journey. Do not grieve for Alex, though, for at some point on her path, Alex would once again…

Believe in forever.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Day 106 of 365

Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake.” Henry David Thoreau

Did you ever notice that when you are doing something you love you feel whole, alive, energized, and timeless

Whether it is painting a beautiful picture, reading a good book on the beach, being around your four-legged friends, or traveling the world with the one you adore, for me those are the moments when the soul is alive.  

"If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with success unexpected in common hours." Henry David Thoreau

I love what I do for a living. The diverse, creative people I work with on a daily basis are inspiring. I am surrounded by peace and beauty. And yet, I know the dream that I am advancing confidently towards, the journey that I was meant to take, has only partially to do with life at sea. Yes, I have immersed myself in this lifestyle, and I am blessed beyond words to be here. But my dream is to write. More specifically, it is to write this story.

It has been 5 weeks since I have spent any significant time on MJWL, and spiritually I have felt the absence. You see, dreams don’t always die in spectacular fashion. Many well intentioned goals slip ever so slowly from the spotlight of our attention to a dark, quiet corner of the awareness, waiting patiently for the light to shine again. In some cases the dream is placed neatly in the attic of the mind with empty promises of dusting it off again someday when free time is more abundant.

That will not happen to MJWL. I just have to find a better way to balance my love of writing with the demands of being a seafarer. I knew these days would come when I committed to this journey while working out here. 

Today I have reconnected to my dream, to Rachel, her Leo, Alex, and yes, her Lea. I am once again walking confidently in the direction of THIS dream, and the smile in my heart lets me know that the success of it all is already here. When I write this story I am mentally and spiritually on the top of Leo and Rachel’s precious mountain, at their farm, and with my fine-tuned imagination I can see, smell, and feel the horses, the hay, and the pine trees in the heat of the summer.  

"Logic will get you from A to B.  Imagination will take you everywhere."  - Albert Einstein

Logic did not give Rachel and Leo a life together. She was a cultured city girl. He was a half Indian horse whisperer from the mountains. Imagination, and hearts spilling over with love, blended their fates into one.

Leo took Rachel by the hand, gently weaving his rough, weathered fingers though hers.

“Come with me darlin.”

He led her though the barn, pointing out the new paddock he had built for Talia and the fresh paint he added to the trim of the doors. He described for her the area where he wanted to have an orchard someday, and proudly introduced her to the cherry tree he had planted near the corner of the barn. They walked the property together for over an hour, never breaking the magnetic connection that was sealed by their fingertips.

Finally, after an extended period of heavy silence, Leo stopped, and facing Rachel at the peak of the mountain he grabbed her other hand with his.

“Rachel, I missed you terribly this summer. It’s just not the same here without you. You have captured a part of me that I didn’t know existed, and I never want to lose you again. Rachel, baby, I love you with all that I am.”

Then, placing one knee on the soft summer pasture grass, Leo smiled and looked deeply into his angel’s eyes.

“Will you marry me Rachel Kirkbright? Say you will spend eternity with me and this farm.”

Rachel’s entire body shuddered and her eyes spoke the answer well before her lips did.

“Yes, Leo, yes. I never want to leave you or this place again. You are my family now. You are my life.”

She melted into his waiting arms, knowing that she had found the reason her soul had called her to the green mountains of Tennessee.

Dreams are nothing more than our imagination at play, and this dream gives me the fuel I need to accomplish great things, to live a life unimagined in common hours, and to fill my life with love. For you see, just like Rachel and Leo, I …

Believe in forever.


Friday, October 11, 2013

Day 76 of 365

Sometimes you need to tear it down…

…so you can build it back up again.

I started this journey with a simple goal – write My Journey with Lea, and have it published within a year. For those of you that have followed the blog so far (thank you!) you have probably seen me go through a bit of a journey myself in the past 76 days. Highs, lows, and lots of in-betweens.

This past year has brought to me more life changes than I could have possibly imagined. I knew it would be a year of change and adjustment, as I was starting a new career and a loved one was about to embark on a milestone journey of his own. But to look back and consider the layers of change that were piled on in addition to all that was expected, wow. Overwhelming when I stop to think about it.
But here I am, feeling stronger than ever. Starting over. 

The old foundation that I thought was rock solid beneath my feet is now gone. I am building a new one. 
The dreams I once had for the future have disappeared. I am creating new ones. 
The thoughts that once made me smile now make me sigh. I am thinking new thoughts.

Last year was the year of change. This year will be the year to rebuild. I have gutted the house. I am ready to put in new floors, new walls, a new ceiling. When all is said and done the house will be show read and better than ever.

I am doing the same with My Journey with Lea. The chapter by chapter approach was not working for me. I have decided to stitch the book back together, go to the beginning, and just write the story from start to finish. Holding on to all that was written, but taking a fresh approach to the project.

So for you, the reader, here’s part of the opening chapter. For Alex it marks the beginning of a very long journey.

After two quick, panicked filled gasps Alex shook herself awake, sitting straight up. Her heart was beating a mile a minute and she was sweating heavily under the weight of her cotton sheet and the textured, homemade quilt. She quickly discarded both and fell backwards into the pillows. “I’m here. I’m here.” She placed both hands on her chest, trying to control her breathing, finding comfort in the solidity of the flesh and bone beneath her fingers. 

Her mind drifted to the dream that had shaken the crap out of her world. “God, it felt so real.” She thought. “I was gone. I felt myself die. Surreal.” She shook her head, trying to clear the cobwebs and the anxiety that was building again. “But who the hell was that man?” Alex took a long, deep breath and exhaled slowly. “I have to stop reading Steven King at night. It’s screwing with my sleep.”

She glanced at her clock – 5:15 am. Alex groaned. “Game tonight. Way too flipping early to wake up on a vacation day.” Her sweaty, coverless body was now cold, so she retrieved the discarded quilt and bundled up again, tucking her knees into her chest and rolling herself into a protective ball. “It’s going to be a long night.” As she started to drift off again the man returned to her thoughts, his brown eyes looking up to see her leave the room.

Alex had no way of knowing it, but her long journey had just begun. There would be many adjustments along the way, but the good news for Alex is that she would always…

Believe in forever.


Sunday, October 6, 2013

Day 71 of 365


I was really stewing on a problem a few days ago. It’s an old issue, one that has dogged me for some time now. No previous attempt to solve this complicated, Rubik’s cube of a puzzle had led to success, but there I was, once again twisting and turning the facts around in my brain, hoping that the colors would miraculously line up and the puzzle would be solved, once and for all.

Didn’t happen.   

But within the next hour something very special occurred. I received a text message from a good friend, an email from another, and a third sent me a message via FB. The simple fact that I heard from three different friends within an hour is certainly not newsworthy. What made me sit up straight and hum the tune from the Twilight Zone was that these three VERY different individuals all had the same identical, poignant words embedded in the respective messages. And the message was exactly what I needed to hear at that moment in time.

Now, you might be thinking (as I would be) “Hey…they all knew you were wrestling with a problem, so they all offered the same solid advice.” Nope. Only one of the three knew I was stewing on something, and even she didn’t know what I was spinning about. The other two sent their respective messages out of thin air.

So I have taken their advice to heart, (why mess with fate!) and have found that their beautiful words have made an immediate and significant difference in my life, and in my writing. Ahhhh….peace at last. 

Did it solve my Rubik’s cube? All I can say is that the colors are starting to line up and I feel that with just a few more adjustments I will see 6 solid sides. When it finally happens I will do a little happy dance, hug the next three people I see, and tuck the cube away in a special place in my heart. 

What was the message? I have heard it dozen of times before, but never with the clarity that this serendipitous event brought to me. When the student is ready perhaps? Their message to me was this:

Let go. Let God. There is a plan, and it’s a good one. Stop trying to force fate. Surrender.
Simple. Truth. And I will be forever grateful for their timing.

Now back to the story of MJWL. There was a time when Alex and Lea were also fighting against the current of their shared destiny. Fate was trying to bring them together while logic was striving to keep them apart.

Alex took a cautious step towards Lea. The attraction between them was intoxicating, and the four-foot space separating their bodies had become more than she could bear. Lea put both hands up in protest and the response momentarily stopped Alex cold.  

”Listen, don’t go falling for me... “

The guarded words were not congruent with the unmistakable longing in Lea’s eyes, and the soft tone added a layer of sensuality to her cautious words. Then, as if she could no longer control her own emotions, Lea sighed, reached out, and gently grabbed Alex by the hand, finishing her thought.

“…because I have already fallen for you.”

It took Alex a solid minute to recover from the blinding shock of that moment. The scope of her existence for those 60 seconds was the feeling of Lea’s hand holding hers, fingers intertwined, and the last six words she had spoken. Once Alex could see again she realized she was staring into brown eyes filled with love, laughter, and desire. She quickly closed the remaining gap between them, gently wrapping her hands around Lea’s waist, still staring into those deep brown eyes, trying to say a thousand things with one tortured glance.

Sometimes you have to just let go and give in to the journey, knowing that destiny, God, the angels, the Universe, or whatever else you may call it, has your back, and always will. And always, without hesitation…

Believe in forever.



Sunday, September 29, 2013

Day 64 of 365

What the hell happened???

First and foremost, I want to apologize for the length of today's blog.  I have a lot to say.

I'm in a mood. For the past 29 days I have done nothing but work, literally work, every single day. That in and of itself is no monumental feat. It is neither cause for admiration nor pity. The only significant detail to call out is the fact that somehow, someway, I allowed 29 days to come between me and what I love to do most...writing.

Oh, the excuses are all good ones. "I work hard, so I need to sleep." "There just isn't enough time in the day." "I want to rest, or workout, during my break." "Two hours really isn't enough time to start anything worthwhile, so why try?"

I'm tired of the excuses, and I am frustrated by the time I have already lost.

Enough is enough.

Today I am committing to this journey once again. I did not get into this to give up at the first sign of stress, at the first hurdle to block my path.  

I have the same 24 hours a day that you have. And I have the same 24 hours each day that I had back in July when I started this effort. Yes, there may be more demands on my day now, however, I do not work every minute of the day, and I CAN make time for what I love.

I refuse to give up.   I told my best friend today that I intend to have an extraordinary life, and I meant it.  Every day moving forward I am going to fall into bed, exhausted, knowing that I gave my best effort that day, and then some.  I am mortified that I have been settling for less than "it all".  No longer will I settle. 

Like I said, I'm in a mood.

As you may have guessed by now, something set me off and I am really wound up. But I intend to take all of this energy and pour it into the creation of "My Journey with Lea" now. And into my journey. Into the life I know I deserve.  


OK, so back to a brighter time. Back to love. The love shared between Rachel and Leo. Leo would do anything for Rachel and for the horses he loved. Anything.  Time, money, circumstances, people...didn't matter...nothing would ever come between the two of them. May we all be so blessed with this type of love in our lives.

Leo made it mandatory to “interview” the owners before he accepted a horse into his training program. He wanted to make sure the owner had the right temperament to continue what he was to ingrain in his young steeds. His requirements were simple, but absolute. On the day the owner was to pick up the horse, they were to commit two hours of their time to working with the horse under Leo’s supervision. He would take them through some basic routines, talk to them about ground work, and ensure equine and owner reconnected before heading home.  

One spring day an owner arrived, on schedule, to pick up a sweet young chestnut Appaloosa filly named Indy. Leo had become fond of the mare, and Rachel simply adored her, sneaking her apples slices and carrots whenever she could. On the day that Indy was to leave the farm, Rachel broke her routine to spend extra time in the barn, brushing Indy and saying goodbye.  

Mid-morning, right after chores were complete, the owner arrived pulling a beat up trailer with a rusty two-door work truck, it’s paint barely visible through the mud. A large boy of about 17 spilled out of the passenger side, slamming the door behind him. Frank, Indy’s owner, and the only one present when the training arrangement was made, excitedly introduced Leo to his son. The boy scowled at Leo when they shook hands, taking in the bronze skin and passing judgment with his eyes.

They walked towards the show paddock, where Indy was peacefully munching on a fresh flake of hay.

“Well Frankie…there she is. Whaddaya think?”

Frankie gave Indy a quick look and frowned. “She’s puny.”   The boy turned and spit a large wad of chewing tobacco in Indy’s general direction.

Leo could feel anger welling up inside, so he turned to the owner and said “I thought this was your horse. That was the deal.”

“Well she IS my horse. I bought her for $10.00 off Sheffield farms a few months ago. But I really wanted her trained for Frankie. He hasn’t had the best of luck with horses lately.”

Frankie was already in the ring at that point, roughly putting a halter on Indy and attaching a lead rope. “Where do we gotta go?”

Fighting to control his emotions Leo led Frankie and Frank to the center of the training ring. Indy's head was low, and she was keeping a watchful eye on Leo, confused by the strange energy now present around her. Once in the ring Leo asked for Indy and attached a long lunging rope to her halter. He showed the pair how to attach the line so it didn’t rub against her chin, and how to start her moving, using a long whip not to touch her but just to show her which direction he wanted her to move in. This initial ground work established the connection between rider and stead, Leo explained. With hesitation he handed the lead to Frankie, and said "OK, now you try.”

Frankie grabbed the rope and started yelling for Indy to move. When in her confusion she didn’t immediately start in the direction he gave her a sharp whip in the right flank, and then another sharp crack to her back. She reared up for the first time since Leo had taken her in and bucked against the third smack that landed on her left flank. That was all Leo could handle.

He quickly ran to where Frankie was standing and stood between him and Indy, just as the boy's arm was about to come down for another attack. 

“How much for her?” he yelled, speaking to Frank Sr but never breaking his eye contact with Jr.

“Uh, what?”

“I said how much for the mare? My wife loves her. I’ll pay you double what you paid Sheffield." As he was talking Leo had casually taken the lead rope from Frankie and was bringing Indy to stand close to his back. “So what’s it going to be sir.”

Jr. had lost interest in the exercise and turned on his heels, throwing his arms in the air. “Take it Dad. Then maybe you can buy me a real horse.”

After the pair drove away Leo spent another hour in the ring with Indy, talking to her, touching her head, letting her know she was safe. Then he properly introduced her to the herd and started up towards the house, knowing that his Rachel would understand, knowing with ever ounce of his soul that he had done the right thing.

The right thing to do is not always the easy thing to do, but boy does it feel good when you do it.  Thank you for listening today.  I promise to write more often now...please keep checking in.  Let me know your thoughts.  Share with me your struggles and your victories.  And know that I only vent because, with all that I am, I...

Believe in forever.


Monday, September 16, 2013

Day 51 of 365

In case you were wondering...
Last Sunday marked the seven week anniversary (is there a color for that?) of the beginning of this novel, and the blog, for "My Journey with Lea." In that span of time I have done a lot of philosophical meandering on subjects ranging from the blissful highs of love and transformation to the aching lows of frustration and loss.

Very little of what I have written was planned. There is no road map to determine what I will blog about next. It literally just happens.

I actually started this novel with nothing more than an storyline and my vivid imagination. The tale is loosely based on aspects of an ongoing journey with my very own version of "Lea". We fell in love early in life and had a long gap in our relationship, before finally finding each other again. Not that life is ever as simple as that.

Having never written a novel before I anticipated the process would be similar to writing an essay. Start at the beginning, work through to the end, go back and clean it up. Wrong! Once I started writing, in earnest, the story was coming to me (or through me) completely out of sequence. Sigh. So I took a giant step backwards and decided to put some method to the madness. I drafted an outline and created a formula. Here it is. This is how I do what I do, in case you were wondering:

Step 1: How do you feel today Alex? I always begin by taking a quick inventory of my mood. Am I in a really good place? Happy, full of love? Or am I in a deep, soul stretching funk? With the respective mood determined I look for a relevant chapter to write about.

Step 2: Meditative road trip! Once I know what I am going to write about I try to go there. Really go there. I close my eyes for a few moments and try to "feel" the story, the characters, their moods and personalities. It allows me to write from my heart, not my brain.

Step 3: Go baby go! When I begin writing I try to just...let...go. I start typing and I don't stop until the words no longer flow through me. A critical ingredient in this step is that I do not allow time for editing. Spell check does not exist. Grammatical correctness is an unwelcome visitor. My creative brain is in the driver's seat, and my analytical brain is in the back seat, taking a nap.

Step 4: Spring cleaning! Later, much later, I go back in and pretty it up. The creative side is on vaca, and the analyzer is in overdrive. Spell check, grammar, flow, you know the drill. I re-write entire sentences and delete whole paragraphs. I make it make sense.

This process seems to really work for me. I have tried in the past to edit as I go, however, writing that way feels too much like learning to drive a manual shift car for the first time. Start, lurch, break, stutter, stop. I definitely prefer driving under cruise control.

And I hope that you enjoy the results.

So, as an example of this crazy writing style, I offer you a few paragraphs from the book.  The next few blog entries will focus on Rachel and Leo, as that is where my head is at right now.  Enjoy!

After a romantic but brief honeymoon in Chattanooga, where Leo surprise Rachel with a beautiful picnic by the waterfall, they returned to Highland Rim Stables to start their life together. Leo, who had been on his own since he was 14 and had lived alone for 12 years, did his best to make the house more welcoming. He built shelves in the kitchen and painted them with a light varnish so that the natural wood grain still came through. He bought a vanity at the furniture store in town and attached a mirror to the back of it, placing in the bathroom for his bride. He cleaned the best he could and made sure there were fresh stores delivered the day before they arrived home.

Rachel had seen many fine homes in Philadelphia, with stone pillars, china displays, orate chandeliers, and the finest oak furniture. But the moment she walk into Leo Ciotte’s simple county cottage she was home. Rachel loved the flow of the energy in the house, the way you immediately felt warm and welcome when you walked through the door.

Near the entry there was a bench for removing boots and a rack for hanging jackets and hats. The living space was one large room, with a long Victorian couch in the center of the largest wall. In one corner of the room there were two well made, maple chairs with embroidered cushion seats. They looked new. Between them he had placed a small table and a quaint lamp. The room was completed by a rustic wood burning fireplace with a granite mantle place, on which sat two pictures. One appeared to be Leo and Spirit at a show of some sort. The other was of a copper skinned man with dark features and jet black hair.
Rachel knew she was home the moment she walked through the door. The place just spoke to her.  She also knew she was home because Rachel...

Believes in forever.



Thursday, September 12, 2013

Day 47 of 365

An Untroubled Soul

Have you ever had the sensation of absolute joy taking over your entire being?  The warmth, the peace, the rush of silly happiness. 

For me, this feeling usually occurs during quiet, reflective moments. I am so often amazed by the pure, simple beauty of…

  • A clean slate.
  • A blank page.
  • An untroubled soul.
  • Green mountains against a clear blue sky.
  • The ocean at sunrise.
  • A beautifully written verse.
  • A promise that is kept.
  • Realized potential.
  • Self-confidence and self-respect.
  • A great work out.
  • The unconditional love of a child. Or a pet.
  • Freedom.
  • A warm beverage on a cold day.
  • A cold beverage on a warm day.
  • A good stretch.
  • A true friend.
  • A brisk walk through the leaves on a fall day, dreaming about the endless possibilities that life has to offer, the unlimited potential for creation and action, and the wonder and amazement of existence, which is ours to embrace when we start each day with…
  • A clean slate.
  • A blank page.
  • An untroubled soul. 

In MJWL, Alex went through quite a bit. Her story included moments of pure, reciprocated love, followed by chapters of deep, tortured pain and loss. It was not always easy to see the bright side, to keep her chin up, to see the silver lining. But Alex had an unbreakable spirit, and when she quieted her mind she always found a way to pull through, to breathe again. 

It's a beautiful day today, so let's take a look at some of the bright moments...

When Alex returned for her sophomore year at UNF she was a new woman. Confident. Fit. Tan. She exuded an energy that was transparent and warm, hugging her friends and greeting the incoming freshman with exuberance and hearty handshakes. She glided from room to room, a one woman welcoming committee, her contagious smile lifting the mood of the already light hearted Regency dorm. 
Cindy and Suzanne, two of Alex’s closest friends from her freshman year, took in the scene with genuine curiosity.
“Wow. Alex must have had a good summer. She’s practically floating! Maybe’s she’s on something.” Suzanne remarked, tilting her curly blond head to look at Cindy with a sideways grin, eyebrows raised in mock concern.
Cindy, a petite, dark haired Panamanian, rolled her soft brown eyes. “Yeah, she’s on something alright. I’d know that look anywhere. Alex found somebody.”
They both knew there was more to the story, and figured they would corner Alex and get the scoop once the weekend hysteria had settled down.
For Alex there was no hysteria, just unfiltered joy. She kept thoughts of Lea in her mind as a constant presence. The knowing brown eyes that radiated love. Memories of warm embraces and soft, passionate kisses. Simple moments like sitting in the car, holding hands, eating ice cream. Alex and Lea had not allowed their physical relationship to move beyond those basic boundaries during their brief summer together. There was no need. Both women had discovered more sensuality and intimacy in the modest act of holding each other than either had ever experienced before. And for now that was enough.
Alex returned to school after a beautiful summer with Lea, untroubled by the distance, fully prepared to wait. For you see, since the beginning, Alex always...

Believed in forever.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

I missed you!

Finally, back online!
After an awesome first week of travel I am back to the electronic world of MJWL.  I really missed it!  And you!  Life is certainly good, and I enjoy all that I experience where I am, however, there is nothing like the spiritual release that writing has been for me.  Ahhh…back at it again.  Pure joy.

I should probably share with you at this point a little about my travel habits, because it is going to be interesting to see how it impacts my writing adventure.  I am currently an Officer onboard a ship, playing in the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea for the next 3 ½ months.  I work 7 days a week for 10-12 hours a day.  No complaints though, I absolutely love the lifestyle, the people, and the energy of the open sea.  Staring at the ocean when the dawn is breaking over the horizon is nearly as mesmerizing as sitting on the top of the deep green mountains where Rachel and Leo reside.  It’s a beautiful life.

But this will be the first time I have attempted to work AND write.  Here’s the challenge with doing both: When I am in the moment and truly writing I lose myself and all concept of time.  3-4 hours can pass by in a heartbeat.  How will that play out when I am in “whites” every day and expected to be somewhere on time?
It doesn’t matter.  I am so invested in this quest to write about Alex and Lea, Rachel and Leo that I know, I JUST KNOW, I will find a way.  I always do.  When something is this right, you just know it. 

Leo knew when it was right too.  He knew it about people, and he knew when he was about to take on a new equine student.  His connection to horses was heaven sent, and his impact on these beautiful creatures was wonderful to behold.  Allow me to share a moment from his time on the farm. 

Highland Rim Stables usually had three to four clients at any given time.  The horses were brought to the farm for two months of intense training, during which time the owner was not allowed to visit or check in on their steed.  Leo never wanted anything to interrupt the flow of his work, and keeping the owners away kept his trainees focused.  He would not tolerate others breaking the harmony he felt with Rachel on their farm, which is why he also turned down the potentially lucrative requests to board horses.

The students he ultimately accepted into his program ranged from skittish youngsters that just needed to “learn manners”, to hot headed stallions that puffed out their chest and sought to dominate everything around them.  Leo had a gift.  He could develop them all, and his reputation spread, word of mouth, from county to county.  He was never at a loss for work.
Leo’s approach was legendary, and somewhat mystical.  He never whipped a horse into submission, or broke them mentally with muscle and brutality.  He took the time to watch.  Just watch.  He observed their movements, their eyes, the way they carried their head, their breathing.  It all meant something to Leo.   Eventually he made contact, talking to them gently, feeling them, giving the horse an opportunity to feel him as well.  It was only when they had established mutual respect for each other that the work would begin.  Then, through repetition, patience, praise, and plenty of groundwork, Leo would transform a distracted, unruly animal into a glorious, proud equine. 
Leo had a gift for sure, and it was backed with passion.  That's how I feel about writing this story.  Nothing will stop me from getting their journey down on paper.  Time is just an illusion, and it can be an advocate, if you truly...
Believe in forever.




Saturday, August 31, 2013

Commercial Interruption

Hi there!

The My Journey with Lea team (that would be me) will be traveling this week, with limited access to the blog.  I will be back to writing and posting in about a week!

Enjoy the Holiday!!!  Miss you already!


Monday, August 26, 2013

Day 30 of 365

Unlimited, unrestricted, all encompassing...Peace.

We have all felt it.  That undeniable sensation when we are in total alignment with the universe.  When all is right with the world, or at least our world.  Inner calm and a creative awakening.  Athletes call it "being in the zone."  Philosophers call it "transcending".  Whatever you call it I believe it is one of the most beautiful feelings on earth.

For me peace is not the absence of activity, or even a lack of challenges.  It is simply knowing that I am on the right track, that I am doing exactly what I am meant to be doing in this moment.  When I am at peace I wake up so happy, so alive, ready for the day, excited about the infinite possibilities that lay before me.

So if peace is such a crazy good sensation, why not have it all the time?  I think in part it is because we are analytical creatures.  We want to figure things out.  Maybe over-thinking every activity gives us a false sense of control.  There's nothing wrong with reflection and learning from the past, but sometimes our minds use this information to slip into a white hot frenzy of worry and anxiety over the future.  What a waste of time and energy.  The opposite of peace.

It is a proven fact, however, (Thank God!) that we get to choose our thoughts.  WE chooseWhen I decide to align my inner dialog with what IS right in my life, and in this world...ahhh.  Bliss.  All of my creativity comes from this place.

Beautiful.  And so simple.

Rachel understood this concept.  She adored the simple, joyous life on the farm with her Leo.  Let's peak in on our heroine and see if you can feel the peace that she felt.

Rachel quickly fell into a routine on the farm. Leo would wake up every morning, wash up, and dress quickly for chores. He never left the house without kissing his bride and telling her “I love you Rachel.” To which she always smiled and responded “Forever Leo.”  

With Leo out in the barn Rachel had time to wash up and dress, taking in the peace of the house and the smell of the fresh country air wafting in through the open windows. She loved the simplicity of being a farmer’s wife. She dressed in light cotton blouses and patterned skirts that fit perfectly and gave her room to breathe and move, unlike the restrictive, awkward boned corsets and Victorian dresses that were all the rage in Philadelphia. She would pull her long curly hair back into a ponytail and put a light swipe of lipstick on her lips. Rachel looked in the mirror and was tickled by the glowing smile that beamed back at her.

In the summer her routine included heading out the garden to harvest the plump red tomatoes, sweet bell peppers, and crisp white onions that sprung up from the ground. After detouring to get fresh eggs from the chicken coup Rachel was at the stove, whipping up a breakfast of omelets, pancakes, and coffee that Leo would inhale mid-morning.  

Once breakfast dishes were washed and put away it was time to walk down to the barn to see the dogs and watch Leo work with the horses. He had an incredible presence around the animals, and they responded to him. His movements were congruent with theirs, his voice soothing and patient. Rachel felt that she could see Leo as his truest self when he was fully immersed in training. It brought back memories of how she felt the first time she listened to a live orchestra in the city. The fullness of their notes, the absolute synchronicity of the instruments. But the appreciation she felt then did not compare to the depth of adoration she felt now, watching her man doing what he did best. These were among her happiest moments on earth.


Rachel's peace came from her realization that she was where she wanted to be, doing what she wanted to do.  She did not need fancy clothes or pompous hairdo's to make her smile at her reflection.  In that simple life with Leo she had all she needed to create an infinite supply of happiness.  And above all else, what gave Rachel peace was that she would always...

Believe in forever.


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Day 26 of 365

Beware of something really devious!!!

There is something that sneaks up on me occasionally.  When it does it makes my mind go to places it shouldn't.  It makes my head spin and my emotions run rampant.  What is this malicious entity?

For me, it's comfort


Too much free time and I try to make sense of it all.  And guess what - It doesn't always make sense!  The past is gone, the future is mine to pursue and design.  I believe that.  But when a few days run together with not a lot of activity...blah.  Whatever it is I seem to be more at home with deadlines and movement.  When I'm busy my mind just hums with happiness.

Part two of this dynamic duo is deep thought.  I have found that lately, through this spiritual process of writing a book, I have found new layers within my soul that I had not previously been in touch with.  Deep pools of love, and awareness, empathy, and understanding.  I feel more love in my soul right now than at any other time in my life.  More connection, more faith, more admiration for this thing called life. 

But look deep enough and you will also find other sentiments.  Sigh.  I dug up pain and impatience, frustration and loss.  Some of it I am sure has been buried deep within for decades, cordoned off from the rest of me, safely tucked away.  Some of it is more recent.  But when you meditate, when you dig deep, when you go on a spiritual journey that is producing the writing that I am doing, you are sometimes going to get the bad with the good.  I guess that's just the way it is.

For me - Time to process the negativity and let it go.  Forever.  Think I will keep the good stuff though.

It does help me write.  How else can I share the struggle that Alex and Lea went through without feeling the pain too?  They had a journey, not a relationship.  And Rachel and else to describe their love, loss, and resilience than to allow those feelings to channel through me.  Tough stuff.

But with every ache there's usually a silver lining, a lesson, and ultimately a happy ending.  And I guess a chance to write, to feel, to live.

Leo certainly lived.  He allowed himself to love completely, which opens up the soul for the possibility of deep loss.  Let's check in with our farmer just after Rachel left this physical world.

“It’s been a month.” Leo thought. “A month. God it still hurts so much.”  

Leo was dressing slowly, putting his shirt on, pants, then his muck boots, willing himself to keep moving. “God I still feel her everywhere.” he mumbled to his boots. “I still smell her hair when I lay down. I still hear her whisper “I love you Leo. Always will.” Leo felt the now familiar crater opening in the pit of his stomach again, the burning inside of his chest threatening to immobilize him. “No, Leo, get going.” He slapped his knee, stood up, and walked defiantly out the door.  

He had had a rough go of it. Some days he ached so deeply that he wondered if his heart might just give up and stop beating. He struggled to eat, nibbling on tasteless bits of bread or nuts when he felt like he was going to pass out from lack of nutrition. He drank only when the thirst began to give him headaches and blurry vision.

Truthfully, only two things saved Leo from starvation or dehydration. One was his animals. Knowing that they too were thirsty on what would become a blistering Tennessee summer day, got him out of bed and into the barn to care for them. Time with his mare Spirit gave him a welcome but temporary reprieve from the soul draining ache that lived with him now. And she seemed to know. The typically spirited paint seemed less concerned with bossing the herd around and just wanted to be close to him.

The second thing that saved Leo was something he could not wrap his head around. At times he thought he was actually losing his mind. Whenever the pain brought him to his knees, or caused him to sit motionless against a stall door, he would hear words whispered in his ear. It was always soft, always quick, always gentle and caring. “Baby.”, or simply “Leo.” He would always stop and try with all his might to hear the voice again. He never did. But it was usually enough to stop the downward spiral and get him on his feet again.

Leo struggled, but he found a way to keep going.  He knew it would get better.  And despite his loss, Leo would still...

Believe in forever.


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Day 25 of 365

I guess it was time to stop!

We've all heard the cliche "Stop and smell the roses."  Right?  Meh.  Who has time for that? Sure, I'll stop. Once I have the book written, and the blog updated, and the checkbook balanced, and...and...

Well, yesterday I discovered, once again, how much beauty there can be in slowing down.  In taking a moment to breathe.  In letting yourself .... just  

And it was wonderful.

I have been one of those "driven" individuals for most of my life, and the past few years have been off the chart go go go!  Build a career!  Support the family!  Spend every spare moment working at home!  Read more!  Improve improve improve!  Now, in addition to all of that, I am blissfully focused on getting this story out of my mind and into a Kindle somewhere.  What a pace!

But last night, I stopped.  No one was home.  Not even the dog.  I said to myself "Alex, tonight - turn the computer off.  Leave the books upstairs.  No pen and paper to jot down ideas for future chapters or new blog posts.  Just enjoy the simplicity of a comfortable chair and a good TV show."

So after I overcame the guilt that the other half of my brain was trying to force feed me, I ran through the 200 options at my disposal and landed on a program that I haven't seen in years.  So You Think You Can Dance.  Lovely show!  I cried like a sap at their stories of inspiration, at the beauty of their movements.  When they teared up so did I.  When their chests heaved with exhaustion and their parents beamed with pride I felt reverence for the magnificence of it all.

OK, so maybe I was long overdue for a night off.

The bottom line for me is that there is real beauty in watching people strive to do something well.  I could see the joy on their faces when they knew, even before the judges responded, that they had reached a place deep within themselves and had brought it out for the world to see.   

It was uplifting and inspirational.  Today, I am back to doing what I enjoy most.  Writing about Rachel and Leo, Alex and Lea.  Hoping that I too can dig deep inside and find the best that I have to offer this world.

Leo did so on a daily basis.  It's all he knew.  But before Rachel entered his life the best within him was usually reserved for the horses he trained, and his small herd at Highland Rim Stables.

Leo had three horses of his own, and they filled a gap in his existence that few people could.  His first love was a feisty black and white paint mare by the name of Spirit.  She was undoubtedly the leader of the herd, regardless of who else Leo brought home to train.  Spirit liked being the boss.  All she had to do was stretch out her neck, bare her teeth, and flatten her ears for a second and the entire herd would move to her liking. Then there was his gelding Chester, a sturdy, easy going plow horse that held his own but typically got along with everyone.  Chester worked hard when Leo needed him too, and relaxed quietly in the pasture when he didn't, staying just out of reach of Spirit and her moods.  

The most recent addition to the Highland Rim family was Talia, a striking Palomino mare with a perfect white blaze, blond mane, and flowing tail.  Leo had rescued Talia from an auction in town last fall.  At the time she was muddy and skinny as a rail, with spur scars across her flank, and an already defeated look in her eyes. Leo knew he couldn't leave without her.  He hated auctions.  They always left him angry and bitter, wondering how anyone could ever treat these beautiful creatures with such malice and indifference.  So Leo brought Talia home, fattened her up, and brought life back into her eyes, all the while distance and solitude were reinforced in his.  

Leo rarely understood people.  Horses he knew.  He could feel them.  And I am quite certain that with horses, Leo could...

Believe in forever.