on January 2, 2013 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

We made it (not that I ever doubted it; I had too much planned for this year)! I just love new beginnings and January 1st fills me with energy and motivation. I started a new Gratitude Journal, and I’m rapidly filling my planner with goals of various sizes and deadlines.

The recent holidays were filled with unexpected twists and turns.  Tim continues to have intractable hiccups, lasting between 2 and 48 hours at a time.  Before Christmas, we were in the ER again as his prescribed medications weren’t offering any relief.  A chest x-ray revealed he had pneumonia and we stayed in the hospital for a few days while he hiccuped and received IV antibiotics.  Our girls were beyond wonderful, staying with Tim while I ran home to shower and change my clothes, and keeping the critters fed while we were away.  When we finally came home (after I caught a bug that turned into pneumonia of my own), the girls kept taking care of us, running errands and cooking.  We are still not back to our healthy selves, but we’re getting there.

When I’m sick, I like to escape into other worlds.  Usually I read, but pneumonia does funny things to a person’s head.  Fortunately, my sweet husband bought me the Harry Potter movie set for Christmas.  It’s so much easier to forget what troubles you when you’re immersed in a good story.  You don’t have to be physically sick to enjoy a short vacation from the real world.  I recommend such an escape for anyone feeling depressed, overwhelmed, or just plain tired.

Back to the real world now.  As usual, I’m not going to make New Year’s resolutions.  I prefer Christine Kane’s way of choosing a word to guide my path.  Due to being sick, I haven’t chosen my word yet… but the main contenders are:

  • Now
  • Progress
  • Completion
  • Satisfaction

Hmmm… I need to peruse my list of goals for this year again and decide where I need the most guidance.  But first, I have to go back to work today.

Have a beautiful day!

My palms were sweaty, my throat was dry.  I stood up straight and sucked in my stomach.  First impressions are important.  Finally, the girl seated at the table stood up and shook the agents hand.  She briefly glanced my way, then bolted toward the door.  The agent sighed, then turned to me.  I exhaled the breath I didn’t know I was holding and said, “Good morning.  I’m Kitty Kessler.  Thank you for meeting with me today.”

Thanks to The Desert Dreams Writers’ Conference, agents and editors had come to my town and wanted to meet with authors, both new and previously published.  There were writers of all genres, from science fiction to romance.  I met a sweet young librarian and a tiny lady in her 80s that writes instructional manuals for office equipment.  I hugged a kind ghost writer and traded cards with a playwright.

My weekend was filled with workshops and I learned more than I thought I didn’t know.  I filled a notebook with priceless tidbits of information and advice.  Traditional Publishing vs. Self Publishing.  What exactly does an agent do for the author?  E books.  Owning the rights to your book.  Formatting.  Marketing.

On Friday, I hastily rewrote my pitch and then was chosen to practice in front of crowded room.  The feedback and suggestions I received were invaluable, and after dinner I went home with a new, unpolished pitch.  Tim listened to my excited rambling far into the night, until his soft snore told me to quit.  The puppies curled up under my desk as I sat down at my computer.  Two hours later, my pitch was ready and I tumbled into bed next to a now loudly snoring Tim.

Saturday morning was a blur, and all too soon I heard my own voice starting the conversation.  We shook hands as the agent introduced herself and said, “Tell me about your book.”  My briefly rehearsed and not quite polished pitch sounded rushed so I paused several times, expecting questions.  I was not interrupted.  My notes sat unseen on the table; my eyes were focused on the agent.  When I finished, she waited a moment, then quietly said, “You have an incredible story.  It’s a shame you aren’t famous.”

She went on to tell me that celebrity memoirs sell millions of copies because readers want a glimpse into a life they can only dream of living.  For a debut author to do well with a memoir, the story has to be captivating and powerful.  Then she said, “Even if you self-publish, your memoir is going to do very well.”  I couldn’t hide my excitement.  She gave me her card, and a short list of exactly what she wanted me to send to her and when.  Her next interviewee had appeared, nervously fidgeting just to my left, but she continued to talk to me about trying traditional publishing before self-publishing.

I thanked her again for her time.  After years of pouring my past onto page after page, I finally heard from someone in the publishing industry that my time was not wasted.  I had heard it before, from friends and family, but coming from someone who has the power and resources to make my dream come true… I was trembling with excitement and validation.

My additional agent interviews went similarly, and all but one asked me to submit something or another to them.  I was sad to see the conference end on Sunday afternoon, but anxious to get home to start polishing my “requested submissions.”  I’m not even upset about the agent that wasn’t interested.  One agent asked for more than the others, but insisted I polish my manuscript and have at least two friends read it before I send it to her.  She also wants to see their comments.

One of the things that was repeatedly discussed at the conference was internet presence.  As a debut author, I need to be out there so people can find me.  Blogging was highly recommended.  And so I have.  And will continue to do so.  Thank you for listening to me brag.

Life was moving along at break-neck speed.  Work was demanding more than its allowed 80 hours per pay period.  School was keeping me tied to my desk with Linguistics homework.  The mountain of dirty laundry actually toppled over, completely blocking the back door.  The stove top shattered and it took two weeks for the replacement/upgrade to arrive, while the plumbers ripped a twin-bed size hole in the ceiling to find the 1/2 inch gas line to run down the wall.

It seemed only logical that I would wake up midway through a rare four-hour slumber, completely unable to move my right leg.  The burning went right down to my toes.  As I hobbled to the bathroom, the pain dulled to a white ache.  My doctor said to see a chiropractor, and Dr. Dan stayed late that very day to help me.  Sciatica.

A while back, I had the pleasure of hearing Jean Auel speak.  She was talking about writing her Earth Children Series and someone asked her how she found the time and energy to research for and write six books while raising a family and working.  Her answer will forever be etched in my heart.  “What do you mean, how?  There is no how.  You just do it.”

And that’s my new motto.  There is no how.  I’m just doing it.  45 minutes at a time, sitting on an ice pack.  Pain pills and muscle relaxants help when it gets really bad.  Massages and adjustments at Dr. Dan’s on a regular schedule.  Nothing is more important than having my book ready to pitch to an agent in two and a half weeks.

How am I doing it?  What do you mean, how?  There is no how.  I’m just doing it.  Because I have finally decided what really matters.

Get Over It

on March 9, 2012 in Musings | No Comments »

I was really starting to feel guilty about not blogging for so long.  Family drama, work stress, school deadlines… It all seemed to be more than I could handle.  The final straw was taking two days off work to devote to writing, but having to run errands and then take care of my husband who got food poisoning.  I really felt like life was conspiring against me; a pity party was in the planning stage.

So I sat down and really thought about it.

On February 11th, my husband and I rode in the Arizona Centennial Bike Ride.  We were along side my best friend and her husband, and another friend was further back in line with her husband.  It was an amazing event, with 5000+ motorcycles thundering into downtown Phoenix.  I am proud to have been a part of it.  Everyone there was extremely friendly and accepting of everyone else.  Just normal people with a common love, riding together to show our Arizona Pride!

One of the most precious memories I made this day was watching a big biker with a scraggly beard help a little Canadian woman sit on his motorcycle so her husband could take her picture.  She was probably in her early 80s and this biker treated her with respect and honor.  She kept saying she was sorry she had been afraid of ‘bikers’ for so long!  After the Kodak moment was captured, several other men and women almost fought to have her get her picture taken on their bikes too!  Big bad bikers, huh?  I know the truth.  I was there.

During February’s Scottsdale Society of Women Writers meeting, I got up and gave a progress report on my memoir.  No one had to push me this time.  I was ready and I wanted to share my news with my writing peers.  As I walked up to the microphone, I heard a friend tell the woman sitting next to her, “I just love this lady.”  What a confidence boost!

The trophy and blue ribbon say BEST SPEAKER and the purple ribbon and IceBreaker gum are for completing my first speech!

This past Wednesday, March 7th, I gave my first real speech at Toastmasters.  The Ice Breaker.  I was nervous, but thankful that I was surrounded by this new group of friends who support each other in their pursuit of confident and competent public speaking.  I received a stack of evaluations that are filled with positive words and encouragement, as well as useful tips.  Everyone in the group has been there themselves.  I was even voted Best Speaker and got a trophy and a ribbon to keep until our next meeting.

The first Toastmasters meeting I went to was an open house and everyone greeted me enthusiastically.  I really thought they were being fake, for the sake of the open house.  But, I had done my research and I knew that Toastmasters could and would help me develop the skills to properly pitch my book when I meet with an agent.  I was willing to take a chance because my life-long ambition was on the line.  The meeting was a little on the cheesy side.  The Toastmaster opened the meeting by banging a gavel, and closed the meeting the same way.  Speakers shook hands with the Toastmaster when stepping up to the podium, and again when they were finished speaking.  Someone rang a bell anytime an “um” or an “ah” was spoken.

I am happy to admit that my first impression of Toastmasters was very wrong.  The truth about Toastmasters is that everyone is actually happy to meet a potential new member, because they know that they can and will grow together in the group.  The day before I gave my Ice Breaker speech, I received more than a dozen emails offering encouragement and support.  My group stood up and applauded me when I was finished.  I knew I had made a few mistakes, which was proven when my abundant use of “Ah” and “Um” earned of the “Wizard of Ah’s” award.  It was truly an eye-opening experience and I cannot wait until I give my next speech!

As I sat thinking about the happy moments of the past few weeks, the bad memories had already begun to fade.

Today, March 9th, is Get Over It Day.  While originally intended to help heartbroken lovers get over breakups, it has developed into something more. Check out the website here.

I am now proud to say that I am over

  • being unfriended on Facebook
  • feeling depressed because I can’t fix everything
  • being excluded by some of the people at work
  • trying to impress people who don’t have anything nice to say
  • being judged
  • trying to be SuperMom and do everything

Life is too short to worry about what other people think about me.  In fact, what they think about me is none of my business.  I am proud to be me.  I have many things to be thankful for and I’m going to focus my energy on my goals instead of worrying about things I cannot change.

Have a beautiful day.  I’m going to.

I survived!

on January 28, 2012 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

I didn’t throw up and I didn’t pass out.  No one was more surprised than me!  Let me start at the beginning…

I belong to the Scottsdale Society of Women Writers.  It’s a fabulous group of women who support each other in our writing goals.  Every month, we have a dinner meeting.  The inspiration and motivation I receive from being with these remarkable women is priceless, and that doesn’t even include the wealth of writing and publishing information I have learned from the speakers.

Every meeting starts with a ’round the room’ opportunity to briefly introduce yourself to the group and talk about where you are in your writing goals and accomplishments.  I have belonged to the group for over a year now and I have never taken this opportunity.  Talking to the women seated at my table was pretty painless; there are about 8 of us and usually at least 3 conversations going at the same time.

January’s meeting started in the usual way.  Patricia’s working on a book she had set aside for quite a while.  Betty’s 11th book will be out on the 31st and we are all invited to attend the book launch.  Nancy is attending the Writers Unite to Fight Cancer conference in late February.  Then it was Maria’s turn.  She was at my table that night, instead of her usual spot.  We’re known as the ‘shy table’ because I’m not the only member that hasn’t spoken and we tend to huddle in the back.

Maria spoke about her book, then she challenged us shy people to get up there and speak.  I can’t remember her exact words, but I promised myself (and Susan, who was sitting next to me) that I would do it… next month.

The meeting continued and Larry James spoke.  I had never even heard of him, but I was immediately in awe.  He talked about networking and had personal examples to prove he knew what he was talking about.  He got a photo opportunity with Barbara Walters after being on her show, just because he asked!  Apparently she doesn’t do that.

As he winded down his very motivating talk, he offered a printed copy of his e-book to one of the ‘shy’ members if they would get up there and speak.  A woman at the table in front of me immediately jumped up.  What a relief!  She did great and we all applauded her.  Larry answered a few questions and then he changed my life.

He said he wanted another shy person to speak.  He offered the bribe to autograph his story in A Second Helping of Chicken Soup for the Soul.  Susan (on my right) said, “Kitty, go for it.”  Nancy (on my left) said, “You can do it, Kitty.”  As Nancy said this, she bumped my elbow, causing my hand to go up a little… and I finished the job by raising it the rest of the way up.  Then I stood up and took a deep breath.

I wasn’t dressed as nicely as most of the women.  Everyone dresses so professionally; the beauty in the room would make any man stare.  My pants were baggy, my blouse was tight, but I knew the vibrant shade of teal blue looked good with my hair.  I put one sneaker in front of the other and was in the front of the room before I realized it.  I tried to swallow as I took the microphone Larry offered, but my mouth was dry.

I introduced myself… said I was working on my memoir and mentioned that I had recently joined Toastmasters.  Then I said I spoke to Patricia earlier about how grateful I was for this group of supportive women that she had brought together.  There was applause as Larry signed his story and I hustled back to my chair.  Larry answered another question and Patricia ended the meeting.  It was a blur to me.  My heart was pounding with excitement!

The women at my table complimented me, saying I did a good job.  Dee came over and asked about Toastmasters and also said I did great.  I felt empowered!  I went up front to purchase Larry’s networking book, and when I said “Thank you” I hope he knew it was for more than the book.

When I got to work the next morning, I asked to be put on the Toastmaster schedule to give my first speech.  I told everyone who would listen about my speaking in front of my writer’s group.  I’m going to be ready to speak when we go around the room at February’s meeting.  No… I’m ready now.

This first week has just flown by.  Plagued by family drama, it has been easy to procrastinate writing in my blog.  The two week break from school is over and as I find myself planted in front of the computer, I am shamed into writing a quick post.

I love fresh starts.  Sunday morning is designed to start that new healthy diet.  The first of the month is perfect for a new journal.  But the New Year is my best incentive to make changes.  So what if I’m not starting my New Year on 1/1/2012?  Today is just as good.  No, today is better.  Because I am committed.

Every year I pick one word that describes where I want to focus my time and energy.  The idea came from Christine Kane, a singer-songwriter and Mentor to Women Who are Changing the World.  Her website is www.christinekane.com.

Picking a Word of the Year has proven more effective for me than making a handful of New Year Resolutions.  I always felt like my resolutions were unrealistic.  But it was easy to make an ambitious goal.  Lose 50 pounds.  Organize the house.  Save the world.

Instead of setting myself up to fail, I now pick a word to guide me.  I focus on my word, using affirmations to make it my truth.  If you aren’t familiar with affirmations, please visit www.louisehay.com.  Louise Hay is an author, a motivational speaker, and probably the most well-known self-help philosopher in the world today.  I have many of her books and CDs, and I consider her to be a guiding light on my path of life.

A couple of years ago, my word was VALUE.  I was struggling with accepting my self worth.  Just a few weeks into the year, I noticed my word starting to pop-up all over the place.  From magazine covers to the shelves at the grocery, and even on a billboard just across the California border, VALUE was everywhere.  I took each viewing of the word as a personal message to me.

I bought myself a locket (shaped like a book) and printed ‘of value’ in Sanskrit to put inside.  I taped positive sayings regarding self-worth on my mirror, where I would stand every morning and repeat my affirmations.  I still wear the locket often, to remind me of my own worth and the journey  I took to learn it.

And now we are one week into 2012.  My year of COMPLETION.  The dictionary defines completion as conclusion and/or fulfillment.  To me, completion means to finish and to accomplish.

So this is the year that I will finish what I start.  I will not start too many projects at once, because I am determined to complete one before I start another.  This is the year that I will finish my memoir.

2012 is going to be busy, but rewarding.  and I am ready.

When I publish my memoir, I will be exposing a part of me.  It would be easier if I could guarantee that none of my friends and family would read it, but that isn’t realistic.  I am flattered that they even want to read it, but I am also afraid of being judged because of my past.  It’s a chance I have to take.

Dear Abby once said, “We wouldn’t worry so much about what people thought of us if we realized how seldom they did.”  This sounds logical and it should help put me at ease.  But it doesn’t.  Now that I think about it, I realize that I don’t spend very much time thinking about other people.  They flit in and out of my mind throughout the day and I do briefly focus on each of my family and friends every night when I do my gratitude ritual.  But other than that, I don’t dwell on any single one of them.  So why do I think someone is going to focus their attention on me?  And so what if they do?

In a world where bad things happen, I believe it is important that those of us who have overcome obstacles should share our stories and our support.  Those of us that have a positive way of looking at our situations have an obligation to let others peer through our eyes.  They don’t have to accept what we have to say, nor do they even have to listen.  But I will give them the opportunity to see the world of my past.  And I will not leave them there; I will show them how I left that world behind me and how I became a better person for having lived there.

As I continue to put the ugly, naked truth on the page, I see myself standing there next to my words.  I am naked.  I am exposed.  But I am alive.  And that is why I must tell my story.


on November 29, 2011 in Musings | No Comments »

In a perfect world, everyone would get along.  In a perfect world, everyone would have enough to eat.  In a perfect world, no one would be an unhealthy weight.  In a perfect world, education would be free.  In a perfect world, all the dogs and cats and bunnies and guinea pigs and other pets would have loving, caring homes.

We don’t live in a perfect world.

When I get discouraged, I remind myself that I can make a difference in this imperfect world.  I have given a happy, loving home to many dogs, cats, fish, rats, mice, lizards, guinea pigs, and even some snakes and other creepy crawlies.  I do my best to walk away from heated confrontations, preferring to talk things out when tempers have cooled.  We donate to the local food bank, collect pet food for our favorite rescue group, and we volunteer our time to various organizations.

In this Christmas season, everywhere we go, we see opportunities to give.  The Salvation Army bell ringers stand guard at the doors of the stores we frequent.  The radio station is collecting toys with the help of a television channel and several car dealerships.  Christmas trees at the mall are decorated with paper angels to adopt.  The firemen are also collecting toys.  The neighborhood kids have been by twice to collect cans for their school food drive.

What can you spare?  The food banks are desperate for peanut butter.  Do you have an extra coat that you could drop off at the Goodwill?  The animal shelters would love to have all those old towels that keep falling out of your linen closet.  That magazine you just finished would be a treasure at the senior center.  Look around you… surely you have something to give.  And don’t forget your time.  Can you spare an hour to sit with a lady in a nursing home?  How about two hours of walking dogs at a local shelter?  Ten minutes to write a letter to a soldier who is far away from friends and family?  A minute to offer up a prayer?

In a perfect world, we wouldn’t have to worry about these things because everyone would have enough.  Enough time, enough money, enough family, enough security, enough love.  We don’t live in a perfect world.  But in the moment that you give, you blur your vision just enough to make the world appear perfect.  And that’s good enough for me.

I have an eating disorder.  But it’s not like bulimia or anorexia.

I eat when I’m:

  • bored
  • stressed
  • upset
  • happy
  • sad or depressed
  • tired

I am addicted to food.

I’ve always thought of food as a friend.  I do not just eat when I’m hungry.  For me, food equals comfort.  With my hectic schedule, I often find that I’m eating just to stay awake.  I reward even my smallest accomplishments with large fat-filled meals and desserts.  Sitting down in front of the TV is difficult without a snack.  When yet another unqualified co-worker is promoted at work, my anger can be dulled with several trips to the vending machine.  A lunchtime trip to Paradise Bakery or Chipotle will make any day brighter.

My addiction to food comes with a bonus feature.  Protection.  Hardly anyone looks twice at the heavy girl.  No one expects her to dress nice or wear heals.  She keeps quiet and rarely volunteers.  Most people can’t tell you what she wore to work yesterday or if she was even at the staff meeting.  Fat provides a protective barrier between me and the world.  That used to be okay with me; I didn’t want people to notice me.

All that is different now.  I have a husband who loves me just the way I am.  I’m qualified to move up in my company and an opening is on the horizon.  I’m less than a year away from my BA in English.  It’s time to take off the protective layers and take some chances.  My memoir is almost ready to be shopped around for a publisher.  It’s time to come out of my shell; this layer of fat is slowly suffocating me and my dreams.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t scared.  Change takes courage.  Change brings attention.  Change takes work.  Change requires commitment and follow-through.  Change does not happen overnight.  Do I really want to add something else to my plate right now when I’m busier than I’ve ever been before?  YES.

Recently, we were on ‘vacation’ in beautiful Santa Barbara, California, taking care of my mother-in-law while my sister-in-law took a long overdue vacation with her husband.  The ocean is absolutely gorgeous there, and wandering the beaches is one of my favorite things to do.  I love finding sea glass and pretty shells.  The sand fleas creep me out; they jump and hop, then dig into the sand to hide.  I like watching the seagulls and the sand pipers.

In addition to wandering the beaches, we were up and down State Street several times this trip.  We went to the Farmer’s Market on Saturday.  Trader Joe’s, Antique Alley, Stackey’s, Joe’s Cafe, the Betsey Johnson store, Happy Feet, the world bead store, Esau’s cafe, the Sterling Silver shop, Santa Barbara Shellfish Company, and every other place that caught our eye.  But every single place we visited shared a common feature: Friendly people!

What is it about a place that makes the majority of people happy and friendly?  Could it be the moist ocean air?  The abundance of greenery and wildlife?  Perhaps the average income level has something to do with it.  But when I sit down and really think about it, it seems to me that the quantity of friendly people can only be explained by contagion.  Santa Barbara, California is infested with smiles.

A real smile starts in the heart and ends in the eyes.  We saw genuine smiles everywhere we went.  People on the street passed each other with a “Good morning” and a “How are you?”.  And they expected a reply!   By the time we were headed back to dry, hot Arizona, we were fully infected with happiness

Grumpy people may curl up the edges of their mouths, but that’s as close to a smile as they can get.  Impatient people smirk.  Come on people, if you aren’t happy, don’t pretend.

Give up the grump!  Find something to smile about.  And when you do, let that smile work its way right up into your eyes.  You’ll be surprised how light your step is when you’re wearing a smile!