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.