Why I Changed My Mind About Memoirs

History Where You Live – © Tony Craddock stock.adobe.com

I’m fussy about what I read. So many books, so little time. The Memoir and Biography genre doesn’t typically interest me. Self-aggrandizing celebrities and politicians with their pictures splashed on a book cover written by someone else – hard pass. Then I started doing research for my novel about the Santa Fe Trail. My notion of memoirs changed a bit. The most impactful book I’ve read to date is a memoir not written by a sports star, but rather written by a woman living her life in the Southwest during the 1800s.

Land of Enchantment: Memoirs of Marian Russell Along the Santa Fe Trail is an authentic account of a courageous woman who traveled the Santa Fe Trail (more than once) and lived in old Santa Fe. She lived in a few forts with her soldier husband as well. Then helped him build a town in a rugged part of Colorado.

Her recollections make this memoir real for the reader. We share her shock and fear when the wagon train comes across gruesome deaths and other violence against innocents. These accounts, for me anyway, were more troubling when I stopped to consider this isn’t a work of fiction. The murders – witnessed by Marian as both child and woman – really happened. I found myself grieving with her when she experiences tragedy as a young wife. Marian was an extraordinary woman who took on a sometimes-brutal land. She was a true pioneer.

I believe part of the allure of this book for me is the setting. I’ve lived in the Rocky Mountains most of my life. Many times, I’ve traveled across Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada (in a car) passing through the places she mentions in her book. How about you? Do you know who lived in your hometown before it was a town? Seek out the stories that reveal more than one dull paragraph in a history book. You might be amazed by what you find.

Be Positive. Be Happy. Be Well.

Share Your Knowledge Share Your Joy

Share Your Interests © DM7 – stocke.adobe.com

The internet is a wealth of information. Some of the information you find is correct and helpful. Other tidbits are flat out wrong. Getting hardcore facts is critical when conducting research for my books. Readers want realism no matter the genre and I, as a writer, want to make them feel as if they are experiencing the story along with the characters. I enhance what I learn from books and historical evidence with human experience.

My current “Work in Progress” is a ghost story set on the Santa Fe Trail at the end of the US Civil War. Historical accounts and facts give the book accuracy, but the human experience comes from enthusiasts of the Santa Fe Trail. I’ve enjoyed watching lectures and travel videos of folks who love to visit destinations along this important route. Living in the Rocky Mountains most of my days, I have the life experience to draw on as well.

Are you an enthusiast in a special topic or historical event? Why not share your knowledge? If you write a blog, volunteer to speak on the topic, or make a video, I guarantee you will find an audience.

Be Positive. Be Happy. Be Well.

The Wisdom of Mr. Pooh

The Fabulous Mr. Pooh wishes you a day full of fun and joyful energy!

I first met the Fabulous Mr. Pooh when my sister rescued him from a bad home in Wyoming. I’d lost my best furry friend, Buddy, a few months before and was open to “meeting” a new dog. She assured me Marley (aka Mr. Pooh) was the same size as the 50-pound fur baby I’d lived with for over ten years.

They pulled into the driveway and I saw Pooh jump out of her vehicle. My first thought was “Wow. He’s big.” The Fabulous Mr. Pooh is a black Labrador and Great Dane mix. Our vet guesses a bit of Chesapeake Bay Retriever might be in there somewhere too. He is one hundred pounds of cuddly fun.

Pooh knew he was home the minute he walked into the door and jumped up on my (now his) puffy chair with ottoman. You guessed it. He takes up the entire space. My new gigantic furry baby rolled onto his back and stuck all four legs in the air. He wiggled when I rubbed his tummy, reminding me of Winnie the Pooh. That was it. Pooh adopted me right then and there.

I can be an overly serious person sometimes and I tend to live in my head too much. Mr. Pooh’s gift of being a good time wherever he has changed my life. Here are some tips I’ve learned from the Fabulous Mr. Pooh to shake off the blues:

Have Fun No Matter What You’re Doing – Whether it’s a short walk around the block or a trip to the mountains, Pooh shows the same level of High Octane enthusiasm

Silliness Is A State of Mind. Be Silly as Much as You Can – Stick your head out the window and let that tongue hang out. Splash in those puddles with all your heart. The worry and years of struggle will melt away

There Is Always Time to Chase Bunnies (even though we all know you can’t catch them) – Having fun is never a waste of time.

Be Pooh-sitive. Be Happy. Be Well.

Fighting Back Against Negativity

Be an Encourager © Photocreo Bednarek – stock.adobe.com

Maybe it’s the writer in me, but I believe the struggle between Positive and Negative is a war. Imagine two kingdoms fighting for control in the battlefield of human consciousness. One side wants to lift humanity higher and encourages us to follow our own dreams. It values freedom of thought, kindness, and creativity. The other side wants to control through fear, depression, and hatred. I don’t know why. I suspect there is a larger agenda hidden from us.

Negativity has powerful weapons. Fear-mongering can be a blunt instrument that smashes common sense. It can also use gossip to subtly undermine. Both tactics are part of Negativity’s Deception arsenal. Lies cause mistrust. Mistrust causes resentment and hatred. If you don’t trust anyone, you will become isolated and depressed. The energy to fight negativity is lost to you.

Positivity may seem to be losing the war right now, but our side has powerful weapons too.

  • Acts of Kindness outweigh violence
  • Truth spoken with Love cancels out lies and ignorance
  • Knowledge smashes the barbs of fear and misdirection
  • And the most powerful weapon of all? We have each other! Be an encourager. Lift someone else up!

No matter how horrible things get or how upset I feel, I refuse to feed the enemy’s forces. What about you? How will you stand in the face of Negativity?

Be Positive. Be Happy. Be Well. 

Do What You Can Do

Be Kind to Yourself © laplateresca – stock.adobe.com

Task Lists are helpful. They serve as reminders for all the stuff we need to accomplish each day, week, or year. Lists manage our productivity and keep us humming along. I rely on them to keep me sane with my many literary projects. Ticking off completed tasks gives me a feeling of accomplishment. During this pandemic, however, they are seriously stressing me out.

Our world has morphed into an unpredictable and sometimes frightening place. Yes. I know. If I’m honest, life has always been an unpredictable minefield in which I had no control over anything. But it was my minefield and I knew how to navigate it. Now? Not so much.

I’ve gone from:

Forcing a positive attitude: People need my art to help them feel better!

Then Depression: What’s the point? Does my art really matter?

Finally, Acceptance: The world continues to change. Success looks different now. I must remember why I do my art. In a word: Love

Do What You Can Do

I have days when my creative brain won’t cooperate due to stress or depression. Here are a few ways I cope:

  • I putter around with practical tasks: formatting my manuscripts, researching topics, outlining unfinished chapters
  • I read manuscript drafts to remind myself of upcoming fun projects
  • I free write random ideas (nonsense is encouraged)
  • I try creative hobbies other than writing. Classical guitar is my newest interest
  • I silence my inner taskmaster

Be extra kind to your creative brain right now. It will eventually adjust to the new reality. Patience, mindfulness, and self-care will ensure your creativity thrives again.

Be Positive. Be Happy. Be Well.

Are You Holding onto Old Stuff?

Old stuff © Watercolor_Concept – stock.adobe.com

The pandemic has been a curious motivator to clean out closets, dust off old hobbies, and re-examine priorities. Like most people, I’ve had the opportunity to go through stuff I’ve hidden in closets and on shelves. Are these objects hidden treasures or just junk gathering dust?

I hadn’t realized how sentimental I was until running across my musical instruments. One instrument is impossible to miss. I have a piano in my living room. Though I don’t play much anymore, I still hang onto it. I used to be a concert pianist in College. The piano is a comfortable fixture in my life. I like having the option of sitting down and playing music anytime I want.

Then we come to the string instruments. I have an acoustic guitar, a classical guitar, and two mandolins. The acoustic guitar has been with me through a divorce, flood, and three moves. Its case is damaged, but the guitar is still beautiful and looks new. I’ve never liked playing this guitar. The steel strings hurt my fingers. The neck is small and awkward in my hands. Why have I kept it for the past twenty-plus years if I don’t like it? No idea.

The classical guitar has nylon strings and a wider neck. It’s comfortable to play and sounds beautiful. I have decided to keep this one and sell the acoustic guitar. This is a huge breakthrough for me! I’m still working on letting go of the mandolins and possibly the piano. Baby steps.

What about you? Are you holding onto things that don’t fit your life anymore? Let them go and make room for new experiences.

Be Positive. Be Happy. Be Well.

Finding Beauty in Surprising Places

It’s a foggy dismal morning. My Labrador Retriever, Mr. Pooh, doesn’t seem to mind. The new spring bunnies are hopping around the wet grass. He loves pretending to chase them. Pooh runs a few yards and then goes on point. We both understand it’s just a game and no fuzzy critters will get hurt. Bunnies are a great source of doggy entertainment on a Spring morning.

Giraffe – Unknown artist Aurora, CO

I tug at my coat collar and watch him sniff about as we walk. The coffee isn’t kicking in yet. I long for the sunshine and warmer weather. This damp gloom is souring my mood.

Penguin – Unknown artist Aurora, CO

Then I see it. Some talented soul has painted art on a little hope rock and left it to cheer their neighbors. One…Two…Three little gifts of beauty. I take pictures to share with you. And I wonder if I’ve missed other signs of Love, Hope, and Joy when I was stuck in my own gloomy thoughts.

Gnome – Unknown artist Aurora, CO

How about you? Are you seeking out little signs of beauty and joy?

Be Positive. Be Happy. Be Well.

Walking on Water and Other Annoying Habits

Everybody has there own perspective! © Philip Steury – stock.adobe.com

The Green River tumbles from Utah’s Flaming Gorge Dam in thunderous roars. It churns and bucks at its center, propelling water through the towering walls of rock. Then the canyon widens. The river slows its pace. Calm ripples make their way gently to shore. It is here the trout thrive.

I’ve spent many pleasurable hours walking along the banks of the Green River with fly rod in hand. Wear the right sunglasses and you can see the trout swimming along the shore. The water is that clear. I’ve stood in the Green River with my line floating downstream and had a trout swim mockingly between my legs.

Is the river really green? I suppose it depends on your sunglasses. Some fishermen prefer dark polarized lenses. Others like the yellowish amber tint. Both help your eyes see the fish better against the glare of sunshine on water.  Both give the water a different shade. Which one is correct? I bet if you ask the fish they’d say, “Get out of my river, two legs. You’re both wrong.”

How can you know what another fisherman sees unless you swap sunglasses? You’ll soon find you’re both right and you’re both wrong. It’s pointless to argue or feel superior about what you see in the river (unless you can walk on water.) Everyone views life through the filter of their personal experiences.

I think the trout might have the most accurate perspective. To be honest, they can be a little judgy.

Be Positive. Be Happy. Be Well.