Friday, September 18, 2015

Gratitude Post #14 - My Writing Buddies

On a long drive home from a writers' conference in Atlanta, four of us came up with the idea -- a collection of stories in several genres, covering a long period of time, but revolving around a single enchanted gemstone, a magical emerald. The Jewel Box Authors were born. We invited three more writer friends to join us and the first book, Enchanted by an Emerald was born.

The collaboration was great. We picked each others' brains, bounced ideas off one another, supported other releases we all had along the journey as well as life events in the process.

Working with a group of such talented ladies was energizing, and just plain fun. The finished product is something every one of us is proud of.

When time came to start planning the second book, the authors we'd invited to join the group from the car trip were not able to participate, but it was okay. The 'core four,' as we've dubbed ourselves, were all ready and willing. We've all been through some stuff in this journey -- both good and bad. One of us lost a parent, several have suffered with serious illnesses that affected either them or their kids. But careers have blossomed, awards have been won. And the bonds of friendship have been reinforced.

That's what I'm most grateful for.

Come February, the next Jewel Box Authors collection will be released! Rest assured, we'll have had a great time writing it.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Gratitude Post #13 - My Street Team

My very own Wenches! Yeah, it's okay for me to call them that. What are Wenches? According the dictionary, a wench is merely a young woman -- a lively or buxom one. But for our purpose here, we're talking about Wynter's Wenches, a group of dedicated women who help me with promoting my books. And let me tell you, they are the absolute best! 

If you're not sure what a Street Team is, allow me to enlighten you. It's a group of people who, out of the goodness of their heart, pimp a writer's work. They are not paid, although the author does often give them incentives like contests in which they can win books, gift cards or other prizes. But for the most part, they do what they do because they enjoy the writer's work. They share news and events, and generally spread the word about the authors books. And I am extremely blessed and profoundly grateful to have the most awesome team out there! 

How great are they? Well, when I had a personal crisis last year that coincided with a book release, the wonderful lady who serves as the 'team captain' for lack of a better term, stepped up and ran a release week promo campaign. She is supremely amazing, and a person for whom I am especially grateful. 

So I raise a mug to my very own Wenches. You ladies rock!!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Gratitude Post #12 - My Country

I'm so glad that we have holidays like Memorial Day, a time to stop and reflect on just how fortunate we are as Americans that we live in a place where we have the right to vote, the right to protest when we see injustice, where we won't be tossed into a jail cell and forgotten for speaking out against policies we don't like.

It's hard to believe that there are still many places where such things take place, yet much of the world's population lives under that type of governmental control.

Thanks to the sacrifice of the men and women of our armed forces, we have so many freedoms today. Certainly, our democracy isn't a perfect one, but it's a hell of a lot better than most. So I'm supremely grateful for those who made the ultimate sacrifice to keep the United States safe and secure.

At 3 pm local time today, please take a minute to reflect on those who died in military service to this country. It's the least we can do.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Gratitude Post #11 - My Garden

I should really title this post, "My Husband's Garden," because he is the one who grows everything in it. All I do is water it sometimes, and enjoy the scenery.

When we moved in to our house eleven years ago, the backyard was nothing but a pool surrounded by patches of dirt and a few weeds. It stayed that way for about five years. Until one day when hubby got the notion to make it into something special.

First he landscaped the area around the pool, digging out the massive overgrowth of mother-in-law tongues. Then he started buying plaster benches from a local woman as we could afford them. Bit by bit, he added ornamentals and shrubs, raised beds for seasonal vegetables came next. Then he tried his hand at building arches out of recovered lumber.

When we'd have people over, they started marveling at his work. Since it came together so slowly, I didn't realize how incredible it was until one day I stepped back and took it all in. He'd made a fire circle surrounded by benches and reclaimed fence panels around the edges that created an intimacy. We'd hung colored wine bottles from the trees (something I saw in a movie) which gave the whole yard a magical feel. We... rather than tell you how awesome it is, I'll show you with pictures. It's something for which I am grateful every day.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Gratitude Post #10 - The Diversity of my Community

One of the things I love most about living in a large city with a thriving tourism industry is the fact that it makes my community a bit of a melting pot of cultures.

We have an Asian section of the city, another that's primarily Hispanic, and some spots that are mostly black. But those cultures mix into the fabric of the society as a whole. And that's the way I like it.

Now, being in the south, we do still have a couple of those antiquated institutions, like a country club that doesn't allow any black or non-Christian members. That stuff makes me cringe, but I do my best to ignore it, and hope that the ignorance that perpetuates such things will end soon.

I enjoy that my city has a wide range of religious institutions, not just the regular Christian churches, but there are also Jewish synagogues, mosques, Hindi and Buddhist temples, Pagan and Unitarian churches. We have a blending of styles and cultures. And that is important when you consider that people come in all shapes, sizes and beliefs.

So one of the things I am thankful for is my community's diversity in so many ways.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Gratitude Post #9 - Volunteer Work

About a year ago, I learned that two of my friends were tutors for our local adult literacy association. I was familiar with the organization because I'd been involved with several book signings over the years that had benefited the charity. But for one reason or another, I hadn't investigated what it would take to become a tutor. Time was an issue, I'm not the most patient person, plus it just never occurred to me that volunteering was something somebody my age did. I figured that was a pursuit I'd look into when I was closer to 'retirement age.'

But I'm so glad that I took my friends' suggestion and signed up for volunteer training and began my journey to becoming a reading tutor to a learning-disabled adult. Watching my student grow in confidence and ability is so rewarding, and that's a part of the experience I'd never anticipated.

Not only does the tutoring help my student, but it enriches my life in a way I can't really put into words. Every time we finish up a session, I have a sense of inner satisfaction, as if I've served a purpose greater than myself. Each new milestone for my student is not only a triumph for her, but it's a warm fuzzy for me. And it's one more thing in my life for which I am deeply, surprisingly grateful. I highly recommend the experience of volunteering. Do something you care about, give to others, and you'll end up giving a lot more to yourself.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Gratitude Post #8 - My Life

I almost died a few weeks ago. There's nothing like a brush with the grim reaper to push your gratitude meter into uncharted territory.

What I assumed was a bad intestinal flu turned out to be diverticulitis, which led to a GI bleed that very quickly caused me to lose more than half my blood. Had my husband not been home with me, I'd have tried to ride it out. He, on the other hand, called 911, which was the thing to do. By the time I arrived in the ER, I needed a transfusion of four units of blood. That's a lot.

I spent the next four days in the hospital in sub-acute care, hooked up to antibiotics and gradually transitioning from no liquids at all to ice chips, to clear liquids to full liquids. It took two days for the bleeding to stop, and I'm still working on getting my strength back to a hundred percent.

My wonderful husband spent every day there with me. I had to kick him out each night after midnight so he'd save his own strength and get some rest and a shower. My kids came to visit, as well as a couple relatives and one of our close friends. A few others offered, but I declined since I really did need to rest.

After I got home, three of my dear friends either came by the house or sent flowers. Others called with offers of help. I'm so overwhelmed with gratitude for those wonderful friends.

But the other night, as I lay in bed, I started thinking about two of my other friends. Both of these women knew that I'd been in the hospital since they'd Liked or commented on Facebook posts. They also knew about the other, way more devastating event in my life last year -- the death of my father. Yet neither of them bothered to call or send a card then or now.

Maybe I'm being petty here, but I've done things for those two 'friends.' I've made donations to charities they requested when they've lost relatives, sent cards, called in times of need and even cooked meals and sent gifts for their big life events, the births, and graduations of their children. Yet they have done none of those things for me in my times of need. Not a card, a phone call, an offer of help, nothing. Only a line of sympathy on Facebook. Big freaking deal. I know everyone's busy, but seriously!

So maybe it's time to cull the friendship roster in my life. After all, like I said, I have a lot of wonderful, amazing friends, whom I love dearly. Friends who show through their words AND their actions that they care.

Yes, I am infinitely grateful for my life, my family and my friends. My true friends. I now know who those are. There's another huge life lesson, for which I'm also thankful. It's sometimes in the darkest hours that things become the most clear.