Are You a Neal Page or a Del Griffith?

Enjoying the 1987 John Hughes classic Trains, Planes and Automobiles is a tradition in my house on Thanksgiving week. Uptight Neal Page (Steve Martin) is trying to get home to Chicago in time for Thanksgiving. The worst happens when his flight is rerouted to Kansas and he is forced to travel with chatty shower curtain salesman, Del Griffith (John Candy). Things go from bad to worse after the duo is robbed while sharing an awkward (but funny) night in a motel.

I belly laugh during this movie every year! Having spent over fifteen years traveling for work, I recognize both characters from my own experiences. If I’m being honest, I relate with control freak Neal. I’ve learned to travel light. The more stuff you bring, the more stuff you must carry through airports. BUT – I think all of us would like to be a little more like Del. He has a jovial charm and a kind heart.

So which kind of Holiday Traveler are you?

Your suitcase and belongings are:

A – Minimal, tidy, and individually wrapped like string cheese

B – Thrown into your bag like last week’s laundry

During the flight to your holiday destination, you:

A – Put your headphones on, lean back and pretend to be asleep like an antisocial hermit

B – Wake up headphones hermit and ask him all about his life whilst you are eating the sandwich you bought at the airport

After One Night’s Stay, your Hotel/ Motel Room looks like:

A – Nobody slept in the bed or unpacked their things. Housekeeping wonders if you’re a spy

B – A crime scene! All your stuff is scattered across every square inch of flat surface

Results:

If you chose mostly “A’s” then you are a Neal Page. Welcome to the Club, friend!

If you chose mostly “B’s” then you are a Del Griffith. I may not want to travel with you, but I want to be your friend!

If you ended up with an even “A” and “B” result, then Gobble, Gobble. Take it again because something went wrong!

Commemorating the Santa Fe Trail 200th Anniversary

Most folks living in North America learned about the Santa Fe Trail as children in school. Opened as a commercial route in 1821 by William Becknell and his party, the Santa Fe Trail grew to become a critical trading lifeline between Missouri and New Mexico. Our memories conjure images of pioneers riding across open country in covered wagons. Hollywood’s version of history also influences our perception of life on the trail. But it is the real experiences of travelers who dared journey on the Santa Fe Trail that I find the most fascinating.

Living in the Rocky Mountain West most of my life, I assumed I had a good understanding of the Santa Fe Trail and its history. I’d driven the byways in Southern Colorado and New Mexico often enough. However, while researching my upcoming historical fantasy novel, THE VENGEFUL DEAD, I came to understand how little I knew of what life was really like for the pioneers and traders.

Over the next few months leading up to the release of my book in 2022, I’ll be sharing interesting facts about the Santa Fe Trail and other locations from the setting of THE VENGEFUL DEAD.

If you’d like to learn more about the Santa Fe Trail and its 200th Anniversary (1821 to 2021), please visit https:/santafetrail200.org

Encouraging Tips for Embracing Your First Step

Life is a journey. The imagery for envisioning our individual paths varies based on the unique experiences of each person. My path embraces the natural terrain of a peaceful forest. Patches of sunlight peek through the leaves as I walk, delivering warm positive thoughts. Of course, some stretches of the path are rocky. I’ve hiked through thunderstorms. My heart has been bitten by frigid snow as well. Still – I keep going. I know storms end. I have faith the darkness of night will be expelled by a benevolent sun.

Take Your First Positive Step! © _Danoz – stock.adobe.com

Our journeys don’t stay on a single path. Life is full of byways and turns. Each decision we make takes us on a new trail. If we are wise, then we will use what we have learned from past excursions.

Encouraging Tips for The Next Leg of Your Journey

  • Reflect with an open and forgiving mind as you look back on your journey
  • Be Compassionate with yourself and others. You didn’t have the knowledge then that you do now
  • Let the past go, taking with you only the things that will aid you in future trails
  • Banish the fear. Embrace the new!

Be Positive. Be Happy. Be Well.

That’s Not a Reindeer

Christmas holds beloved traditions for many cultures around the globe. Experiencing different holiday customs is my favorite tradition of the season. A few years ago, I adopted the German tradition of the Advent Calendar. I – being a techie – went for an online animated one recommended by a fellow techie.

Artist Jacquie Lawson designs a delightful, animated advent calendar. I eagerly await her creation each December. Lawson and her team take us to a new place every year. She visited Scottish traditions in 2019 with an Advent Calendar located in Edinburgh. This year we’ve traveled to a small Nordic village.  

Lawson’s Nordic village includes Scandinavian folklore and tasty recipes. My favorite piece of folklore from this year’s Advent Calendar is the Yule Goat. It has become the symbol for Scandinavian Christmas.

The Yule goat is coming to town. © gitusik – stocke.adobe.com

Fun Facts About the Yule Goat

  • Pagan Origins: Many believe the tradition of the Yule Goat represents the Norse God Thor, who rode across the sky in a chariot pulled by two goats
  • Swedish Beliefs: The Swedes believed the Yule Goat was a Spirit who traveled to Sweden prior to Christmas Day. The goat made sure all the Yule preparations were done correctly
  • Move Over Santa: In the 19th century, the Yule Goat rather than Father Christmas brought the presents. Father Christmas eventually took over the job
  • Hay Goat: The Yule Goat was traditionally made from the last batch of hay at the end of the harvest season
  • Big Goat: Some Scandinavian cities still build a Yule Goat from wood and hay at the center of town. These goats can be over 40 feet high

Be Positive. Be Happy. Be Well. AND BE MERRY

My 2020 Book Gem Discoveries

Each year I join a multitude of other book lovers in the Goodreads.com Reading Challenge. It’s a great way to set and track reading goals. I typically list my goals at two to three books per month for a nice round total of thirty. Sometimes I exceed my goals. Other times – like this year – it’s a challenge to squeeze in thirty books.

Read and Explore the Possibilities! © Elnur – stock.adobe.com

The benefits participating in this yearly challenge make the time investment well worth it. Here are my top three benefits for folks to try the reading challenge in 2021:

  1. Encourages individuals to read when they typically don’t spend a great deal of time exploring books
  2. Free and fun way to engage with other book lovers
  3. Goodreads offers Lists for readers to discover new books and authors they may not have found otherwise
Here are my top favorite new finds from the 2020 Goodreads Reading Challenge:
  • The Felix Castor series by Mike Carey – Listed in Amazon Genre: Ghost Thrillers. Felix Castor is an exorcist barely making ends meet in a modern, but alternate version of London, UK. In this world, ghosts are a reality and zombies walk the streets.
  • The Troop by Nick Cutter – Listed in Amazon Genre: Genetic Engineering Science Fiction. A Must – Listen to the audiobook! The narrator gives a John Malkovich vibe that really sends this read over the top.
  • Harry Hole series by Jo Nesbo – Listed in Amazon Genre: International Mystery and Crime. I first discovered Harry Hole when he appeared in the 2017 movie “The Snowman” with Michael Fassbender. Harry, the lead detective in the Oslo crime squad, is such an intriguing personality. Nesbo has given us a clever but flawed main character. I can’t wait to read more in the series for 2021

Do you have book suggestions for the 2021 Reading Challenge? Let us know in the comments.

Be Positive. Be Happy. Be Well. AND sign up for the 2021 Reading Challenge!

Are You Open to Happy Accidents?

There are two types of Pumpkin Lovers – Savory or Sweet. Savory folks love the pumpkin in its natural state: pumpkin soup, pumpkin ravioli, and roast pumpkin. Sweet folks are obsessed with sugar and spice: pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin pie, and pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. I have a foot in both camps though I don’t enjoy super sweet food.

Be Open to Happy Accidents. © ogichobanov – stock.adobe.com

You’ll find a can or two of “Pure Pumpkin” (just the pumpkin, ma’am. Not the pie filling) in my pantry all year round. Considering my love of this versatile and healthy food, I find it odd how much I hate pumpkin pie. Yep. My least favorite Thanksgiving fare.

A Happy Holiday Accident

I decided to forgo my usual sugar-free Pumpkin Custard dish and make pumpkin pie instead for Thanksgiving this year. Why? Maybe it was sentiment for a childhood tradition? I don’t know. Turkey Day Eve I took out the ingredients. Our family recipe and the instructions on the can of pumpkin called for evaporated milk and lots of sugar. I realized I’d purchased sweetened condensed milk instead. Opps! Not really invested in the outcome, I found a pie recipe using sweetened condensed milk. The ingredients are simple: pumpkin, eggs, sweetened condensed milk, pumpkin pie spice, and a pinch of salt. No extra sugar.

What a difference! The pie was delicious. I believe it is my new favorite pumpkin dish. I’m delighted by this happy accident.

Are You Open to Happy Accidents?

What about you? Has a habit or belief you’ve held for years been suddenly challenged? Rather than struggling to revert back to old patterns, try embracing new things. Be open to them. Meditate on their nature and how it can impact your life for the good and bad. Make a mindful decision before acting.

Be Positive. Be Happy. Be Well.

Focus on Creation Not Outcome

2020 smashed all perceived notions of success. Institutions we KNEW were solid suddenly faltered. Movie theatres closed. Even the Big Mouse started their own streaming service and releases its movies on that platform. I don’t see many near-term plans for traditional theatre releases.

Be Kind to Your Inner Creator! © MarekPhotoDesign.com stock.adobe.com

So, what does that mean for your creative project? Will the time and creative energy you put into that novel, screenplay or other art go to waste? Let’s break it down to what we mean by “Successful.”

Financial – Simple. Nobody’s getting rich right now unless you own tons of stock in Amazon.

Conclusion – Everyone is in the same boat. No need to judge your progress by anyone else’s level of success (or failure). The pressure is off!

Fame – Globally, we are inundated with COVID 19 news, the American Presidency, and advertisements for early Holiday spending. Nobody can hear you right now unless you fit into one of these categories.

Conclusion – If you are counting on a huge social media party for your new book (or other artistic project), then there is a big chance you’ll be disappointed.

Changing Your Focus from Outcome to Fulfillment

In March 2020, I and my colleagues were told to work from home until further notice. The USA was on lockdown. We were all stuck at home. No face-to-face interactions with my readers. It’s very difficult to work in a vacuum. We produce art, but what if we don’t know whether or not someone is experiencing what we create? It has been frustrating and depressing. I wasn’t able to write much if at all during those early days.

The pandemic forced me to take a hard look at why I write. It’s easy to tell yourself you create your art for the sake of art. Then a horrible global event happens. Depression sets in. You crack open a bag of potato chips and lose yourself binge watching TV. The blank page stays empty. You no longer experience the excitement of planning for the next book’s release. No one knows if or when things will return to normal.

I can’t stay away from the act of creation for long. This time was different. I began to work on something new. It isn’t part of my book series. Nor is it in my “comfort zone.” This is a new story I am creating with no expected outcomes. I’m writing it, because I am a creator. I must create my art. It is who I am and what fulfills me.

Be kind to your inner creator. Cast out your expected outcomes for your creative projects. Now is the time to get back to the simple pleasure creation brings.

Be Positive. Be Happy. Be Well.

World Kindness Day

World Kindness Day is November 13th. It’s a dedicated day to do little acts of kindness for your neighbors. Kindness isn’t expensive. It doesn’t take a grand gesture either.

World Kindness Day 2020 – © Yury Zap stock.adobe.com
Here are three tips to try in November:

1 – Go out of your way each week to do Window Waves with elderly neighbors or those who live alone

2 – Set a goal each day to make at least two people smile

3 – Find one positive thing to share with your family at mealtime

Be Positive. Be Happy. Be Well. And don’t forget to be Kind. It matters!