Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Great expectations

          A week before "Open Road" came out in January, I said to my friend, Lisa, "I'm so thankful to have this project finished.  It has been an incredible experience to write it...and has healed me in more ways that I could have imagined.   But once it's out of my hands, I have no expectations as to what happens next."
          Guess my ego didn't hear that the first time.

          It's been an interesting journey to watch how the book has been received.  How some friends have been joyfully present for the debut, and others have joined the celebration along the way.  The comments I receive from readers have been consistently positive and encouraging.  Sales have been steady...but really slow.  And while that's okay, it wasn't what I had expected to happen.
          A few weeks before the launch date, I was in contact with a publisher in New York who was helping me garner the rights to use a quote in the "Pruning" section of the memoir.  As HarperCollins receives numerous requests weekly, I had to wait my turn in line for approval.  However, I know the author of the quote as we are both represented by the same literary agency and had already garnered his approval.  His editor was on board and I even received a wonderful phone call from the head of the permissions department telling me I could use the quote gratis for up to 200 copies.  By then it would be my turn in the queue and the long-term agreement could be put into place.
          How wonderful!  I thought.  I'll probably be able to sell that many in a few weeks.
          Well, that's not exactly what happened.  And like I said, sales have been steady, but it's more like one book per day instead of ten or twenty.

          Am I disappointed?  No.
          Do I feel rejected?  Hardly.
          It's just that I needed to be met with my unconscious great expectations so that I could once again learn the lesson of letting go and allowing the book to grow in its own time.  If I've learned nothing else in the past twenty years, it's that gardening takes long hours of work.  Long weeks of patience.  Long stretches when nothing seems to be happening.  Then, all of the sudden, a bloom appears.  And then another.  And another. 
          And before I know it, the whole yard is bursting forth in color.

          Lisa and I were talking about this last week and she said, "It's like that Woman's Right to Shoes episode on 'Sex and the City.'  A single woman's accomplishments don't always get celebrated as much as one who's married and has kids.  But don't worry, Katie.  If you had it all happen at once, like a wedding reception or a baby shower, it would be over."  She smiled.  "This way, you're only just beginning and the celebration can last a lot longer...just give it time."
          I've let those thoughts percolate as I've been shoveling snow and scraping ice this week.  Mulling over my hopes and wishes as I prepare my home for rain showers that will arrive tomorrow.   Sometimes this winter has made me cry tears of frustration.  I'm so sick of being trapped inside by myself.  Tired of knitting (and THAT'S saying something)!  Tired of the cold weather.  Tired of listening to the furnace blow, the pipes creak in the frigid temperatures.  Isn't everyone who has lived through this -- the snowiest winter in over thirty years?
          But through it all, I've learned that when I let go of expectations, whether it be about the weather and the way I feel about it; my memoir and the way I want it to be successful; or even about the steps I'm taking to move forward in my life, I open myself to even greater opportunities.

          One of the best written shows I've ever watched was "Six Feet Under" and at times like these I remember a line that Nathaniel passed on to his son, David, who was complaining about how unfair life can be.  He gently put his arm around David and said, "Infinite possibilities and all you can do is whine."
          And so this afternoon as the sun shines brightly through my office window, I've told my whiny self to take a time out so I can be thankful for today's respite. Thankful I could go outside without a heavy jacket to chop down the three foot icicles that dangled precariously from the gutters.  Thankful for my neighbor who helped me unearth the downspouts.  
          Thankful I have the time and space to contemplate my unrealized great expectations and let them go with the realization that infinite possibilities are waiting...right around the corner.



Sunday, February 16, 2014


Katharine Hepburn once said, "What you see before you, my friend, is the result of lifetime of chocolate."  I'm only part-way through mine and I suppose I could say the same.  When I was a first grade teacher, my kids even named our baby guinea pig "Chocolate" in honor of my obsession with all things rich, dark and tempting.  At that point, I was so addicted, I ate M&M's with a spoon!

There have been occasions when I've given up chocolate for periods of time, but never for more than a month or so.  And since becoming a vegan nearly two years ago, my choices have been limited, but that's just fine with me.  I've found the alternatives are much more delicious and satisfying.  Hershey's Miniatures no longer tempt me when there's a decadent chocolate mousse chilling in my 'fridge.

As a writer, I rely on chocolate to keep me alert during late night editing sessions.   My acupuncturist encouraged me to give up coffee a few years ago and, to be honest, I don't miss it, particularly when a warm cup of chai cocoa is simmering on the stove.  Sprinkle it with a touch of clove, and I'm in heaven.

Every single day since my birthday in September I've indulged in some form of chocolate.  Not a lot, but enough to keep me jonesing for the next treat.  The next burst of energy.  The next rush of serotonin.  Particularly in the later stages of getting my memoir ready for publication, I went through gallons of chocolate soymilk, dozens of avocados that I whipped into chocolate mousse and even a small bag of vegan chocolate chips.  It was stressful and those simple, yet soothing treats kept me sane in swirl or rewrites and formatting.

How strange to now find myself free of chocolate cravings of any kind.

I once had a yoga instructor who encouraged me to eat like a deer.  In the fall and winter I should focus more on grains and dense proteins.  In the spring and summer, more fresh fruits and vegetables.  In some ways that resonates with me, in some ways not.  But I do find that my tastes change as the seasons do.  And even though the groundhog said we would have six more weeks of winter, my body is telling me otherwise.

And the first thing to go has been chocolate. 

I'm not promising there will be no more snow (Toledo is due to have another storm tomorrow evening), nor am I saying what's true for me is true for you.  I'm simply listening to my body's shifting messages.  I'm drinking more tea.  Eating more raw foods.  Focusing on quality, not quantity.  So -- in my world at least -- that heralds winter changing into spring.

I'll keep that in mind when I'm knee deep in snow drifts tomorrow, covered from head to toe in polar fleece and wool.  And if I want a cup of cocoa afterwards, I'll take that as Old Man Winter asking me to enjoy what might be my last for a long, long time. 

A girl can dream....can't she?

Friday, February 14, 2014

Walk on

          I'm up at 1:15 AM after tossing and turning for nearly two hours.  After an evening of frustration and turmoil over being met with yet another opportunity to experience a lesson I don't really want to tolerate anymore.  But I've come to know that we are met with similar circumstances in our lives over and over again until we embody the change needed to end the cycle...until we learn the inherent message hidden within the experience. 
          Still I find myself struggling with this one...and struggling mightily.
          You see...I'm tired of standing up for myself...alone. 

          I've stood up for others ever since I was little.  When my older sister complained of kids teasing her at the bus stop when she was in kindergarten, I marched my four-year-old self to the corner and swiftly took care of the situation, warning the boys that they'd better never bother her again -- or else.
          When I was a teacher, I stood up for my students when I suspected abuse, when I knew a child was in need of support or services.  I banged the drum hard especially when parents were in denial about their son or daughter's challenges and tried my best to open new doors of awareness and understanding.
          When I moved back from California and discovered I was living five feet from a den of heroin dealers, I stood up for my neighborhood and my own home by reporting them to the police.  By repeatedly seeking help.  By relentlessly and resolutely confronting the situation again and again until all avenues were exhausted. 
          And then, nearly a year later -- nearly hopeless and utterly spent -- I stood up to the property owners until they finally moved them to another home.  Looking back now, I realize I was risking my own life if the dealers ever found out what I was doing (as one of them has been linked to a nation-wide cartel), but I didn't care at the time.
          Then and now, I'd rather stand up and speak up than sit and suffer and stew in my own juices.

          Over the past sixteen years, I've built a small business.  Yoga class by yoga class.  Student by student.  Venue by venue.  I've learned how to set clear boundaries with the financial pieces so that I can be responsible and timely in taking care of my own financial obligations.  It's not been easy.  At first I was worried I'd lose clients.  Then I was worried that I wouldn't have enough money to pay the gas bill.  And if I left a venue that made it nearly impossible to justify my time and effort, I worried about what would come along to fill the gap in my ledger.
          I've learned how to be unambiguous with my policies and to communicate clearly...right up front.  And I've been blessed with students who understand that while their yoga practice is a bonus in their week, it's my bread and butter.  It's the way I've chosen to earn my living.
          And yet, now I've been confronted again with a situation in which I'm at the mercy of someone else's choices, someone else's ever-shifting policies.  In the end, they call the shots and my paycheck will reflect it.  I've stood up for myself with this venue countless times in the past and have once more, but I'm realizing this pattern has repeated itself often and with each cycle, the situation deteriorates even more.  
          So it's time to make a choice.

          I recently watched the movie "Doubt" and was left with a lot of questions.  A host of uncertainties.  But I was stunned that the scene which brought me to unstoppable tears was the heated confrontation between Merle Streep's character and the priest she suspected was abusing students.  She was willing to risk the damnation of her soul and unseen darkness in order to speak up for the children in her charge.  As principal of her school, she was willing to stop at nothing to protect them. 
          Although the film ends with uncertainty, and of course, doubt, I was struck by her fervor and determination to stand up for others in the name of discovering the truth.  I found myself crying tears of frustration, remembering countless moments in my life when I had to be the one to defend myself, often to my own detriment.  I suppose that four-year-old within is keep me up tonight.  Her tears are flooding my eyes.  Her grief is bubbling up, longing for someone to come along and stand up for me.  For someone to stand beside me and help me through this uncomfortable lesson I need to slog through one more time. 
          But in the end, I've realized that through standing up for myself again and again and again, I've developed the strength to know what's true for me.  To leave no doubt that I will hold my integrity, no matter what happens.  I hope that I've learned this lesson well enough to stop the cycle.  To open new doors.  To realize there are infinite possibilities in this world and all I need to do is stand up...and walk on.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Living out loud

          Writing is a solitary act...a primarily silent experience.  Unless I'm working with an editor, the majority of my time is spent sitting alone in my office working.  The only sound I hear is the occasional whooshing of the furnace.  The hum and click of the refrigerator.  The sound of cars passing by.
          Reading is also a solitary pursuit.  Unlike watching a movie or listening to music, which can be readily shared with friends, enjoying a good book invites you to tune out the rest of the world and dive deep into the story.  Unlike a movie or a CD, reading often takes more time.  A good book can keep you hooked for days (and even the better parts of some nights).  It invites you to invest yourself in the story, evoking your own thoughts and images and memories.  Reading invites us into the silence of ourselves so that we can hear the proverbial still small voice that is often shrouded by the clamor of the outside world. 
          Writing and reading have always been my harbingers of healing for all of these reasons...and countless more.

          But now I find myself in a very different place. 
          My first book has been published, and not the one I had intended.  And not the way I had imagined.  Instead of a hardcover novel that's available at your local bookstore, it's been a digital version of my memoir that has been in the hands of readers for nearly two weeks.   Instead of fiction, I have chosen to let my first offering be one that reveals the truth of what my life has been so far.  And in these past fourteen days I've learned many things about myself and my expectations.  My fears and anxieties.  My hopes and wishes. 
          It's been very challenging for me to self-publish, not because I don't have the joyful desire to share what I have written, but because I am unsure of how to go about living my life out loud.  It's easy to sit here and write.  It feels completely natural to allow the thoughts and images in my head to flow through my imagination and onto the computer screen.  My desk drawer is full of ideas for a new novel, for a dozen or more blogs, a handful of children's books. 
          It's simple to live a silent writer's life...but not so easy to nudge myself into the world of self-promotion.  
          And yet, in the past sixteen years, I've been able maintain a yoga business that has been built on referrals alone.  Each venue, every person, every class has been linked to person I've taught.  A person I've taught with.  A person who resonates with the style of yoga that I teach and has shared their enthusiasm with others.  I always say that Toledo is a "word of mouth town" and I imagine the same is true for most everywhere.  I've been blessed to have countless people in my classes over the years, many of whom have become dear friends.  Many who have become my greatest cheerleaders as I take this step forward into publishing.
          I've come to understand that living out loud does not mean I have to constantly shout from the rooftops.  I don't need to sell out or saturate the market with advertisements.  I simply need to strive for quality and know that my work will attract the readers who are interested in investing a little of themselves with the promise of a healthy return for their time.   And if you're one of those readers, please share a blog, share a link on Facebook, share a customer review on or Barnes and Noble or Goodreads.  Share your story and share your reading experience with others.  

         I've often said, it takes a village to grow a writer...and each one of you is helping me venture into this new adventure of living out loud.  You're my village, people...and I thank you!     

Sunday, February 9, 2014

You know what you with downloading Open Road: a life worth waiting for

          My generation was born at the cusp of the computer age.  In some ways I envy those in their twenties and early thirties who never had to endure the long process of using a card catalog.  Who never had to use a dime to call home.  Who can't remember life before the Internet.
          If I had a dime for every time I said, "What did we ever do before Google?" I could retire to Hawaii right now.  And this winter, that's looking mighty tempting.
          Still, I know what I know about computers.  I cut my teeth on an Apple and worked my up to a Power Mac. Then I switched to a PC and figured out my way around Windows.  I've had a couple of desktops, then switched to a laptop...then back again.  I don't own a Smartphone or a tablet...yet.  And while I would never, ever say I know a lot about computers, I know enough and am always curious to know more.

          Many of you have sent emails and messages letting me know you'd love to download my memoir, Open Road, but don't have a NOOK or a KINDLE or a tablet.  No worries!  I have none of those either, but with your PC, you can easily find the book on Amazon. com or Barnes and Noble.  Here's how:

To download to a PC, Smartphone or Tablet with Windows 8, you can purchase the book at either B&N or Amazon.  Simply click on the link below to first download the free app that will allow you to read the book on your computer.  Links to the product pages are also below.

Link to free app on Amazon:

Link to free app on NOOK (Barnes and Noble):

To download to a PC that has an older form of Windows, you can only download from  

Link to book on Amazon:

Link to book on Barnes and Noble:

          I hope this helps with those of you who know what you know about computers, but are still on a learning curve...just like me!

          Enjoy your day and happy reading!