Responsible Dreaming

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Five months away may seem like a long hiatus but to me it was the perfect amount of time to step back and reflect. Why am I a writer? Why do I try time and again to make my manuscript better? Honestly, because it’s so fun.

I’m not trying to write the great American novel, I’ve found I don’t really care for most of the titles that fit this moniker. I’m not dreaming night an day of being the next over night success (which almost never happened for the person overnight.) I’m not really even overly concerned with being published. So, why do I do this? I love it. I’m a reader, I’m a dreamer and damn it I’m a writer because I said so!

That’s not the whole story though, as I also step away from the page because I have a full time job, am a mother and try to fit as much fun into my weekends as possible. Plus, I really don’t feel it necessary to chase my dreams at 5am or 11pm in order to make them come true. That may mean I’m never going to be the next Mr. King or Ms. Rowling and that’s ok with me. As it also means I don’t have to spend every other entry on my blog begging supporters to send me money so I can do nothing and try to be a writer.

Am I the only one to notice this trend? Since when did blogs become the new home of panhandling? Writing post after post about dreaming and the need to support art by doling out our hard earned money so someone else can do nothing but create. Hmmm, I’m just not a supporter of that. Dreams are great, chasing after them even better, but if you can’t responsibly take care of yourself or your family while chasing those dreams, then in the end is it worth it?

For me the answer is no. I want to be the most successful Project Manager I can be. I want to be the best Mother can be and yeah, I’d like to be in the top 10% of wives, sisters and daughters out there and I want to do all this while maintaining my own sense of self.

So, what am I working on when I do finally find time to write? Well, I am on re-write 9 of my novel working on an angle I stumbled upon via the comments received in that contest I mentioned a few posts ago. (A contest I actually was a finalist in and received third place despite being told otherwise at first? Happy dance! Also, the publisher/judge liked it and didn’t think it was young adult. Well five years ago it would have been, but now we have the new adult genre. Sheesh, I can’t keep up with the genres anymore.)

Funny thing is, this draft goes back to the feel of my earlier drafts as I added the prologue back in. I’d removed it after learning in a writing class that publishers hate those, but it fits my novel so in it goes. Everything about Emma’s journey is rooted in this one moment when she is 9. How can I realistically expect the reader to follow her journey if I’ve not taken the time to show this monumental event. What really makes me laugh at myself though is that agent who so long ago took the time to read my piece said the same thing. “I sense you are struggling with the beginning…perhaps you need to start it at another place.” She also said everything would fall into place after that. It did for me before and while I am keeping where I pick up Emma in the present, its just not where the book starts. The book starts in the past. Fun huh!

The best part is we get to see little Thorn as a kid and watch the two of them unabashedly enjoy their shared magic. It’s beautiful and innocent. We also get to meet the parents earlier in the story. Hopefully we are then way more excited when it turns out his parents are alive. Hmmm, I wonder what else this will change? Everything I expect, won’t know until I get back at it. I have two days off, loads of music queued up, a snowy day to do exactly what I want and because I have taken the time to be responsible, the security that comes with knowing I am actually being paid for this as my employer pays me to take time off. Lovely. Life is absolutely divine.

Cheers my fellow realistic and responsible dreamers.

Assimilate or Shake it off?

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Feedback is a gift. I believe this to be true with all my heart and yet I have decided that it is absolutely possible to get sick of receiving such gifts.

Lately, I feel as though I am on feedback overload. I have a new boss who is in love with giving feedback. Grammar, my body language, my meeting notes, and even my physical appearance for crying out loud! Sheesh, I have really given it a good four months’ worth of focused attention…really. Although, I believe I have reached my limit to the “feedback.”

At a certain point, I have to wonder if those giving this feedback ever stop to question why they are giving this feedback. Is it truly for the benefit of the recipient or is it possibly so that they may prove they know more. Thankfully, I really don’t like to be mired down in such thoughts as I would rather see the world through rose colored glass. It certainly looks pretty that way. As such, I’ve been taking a little Taylor to heart and trying to shake it off. (Have I mentioned I’m a twelve year old caught in a 38 year olds body?)

In that vein, here is my attempt to shake it off the only way I know how. By writing about it and sending that writing into the great internet void where it shall find those these words are meant for.

Feedback is a gift, yet it is always our choice to either accept that gift or deny it and in that denial give ourselves the gift of confirmation that we know ourselves and our path more than anyone else ever could!
This happens to be the case with four of the hardest commentaries on my work I’ve yet to read. They were submitted to me by the judges from round one and two of the contest I entered and did not become a finalist in but sure had fun entering anyway. Only 30% of the entries made it to level two, so that rocks, but still I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little disheartened that I am STILL not there with my piece. It’s just not grabbing people the way it should and after receiving four critiques I actually feel I know why.

The beginning has always been the part I’ve struggled with the most, but as I read their comments I now wonder whether or not I may need to whip out some of those plotting techniques and give them a whirl. I mean, I really am drawn to character driven stories but then I saw something that in a ridiculous way changed my mind. It was a picture of piece of paper with a story map on it, supposedly written by JK Rowling. This made me pause. Then I went back to my writing bible, Stephen Kings “On Writing,” and realized perhaps I’ve not taken the proper attention to the editing I should nor put the proper tools in my toolbox to help me get this fossil I’ve uncovered into clean enough shape so that others can see what I see.

In short, I agree that the work needs well…work. However, of the four critiques I received there is one and one alone that I consider a reader who really got it. She was very kind in her remarks and genuinely intrigued by my piece and provide words of encouragement I truly treasure. Actually, 3 out of 4. were positive and truly seemed to like it. They wished me good luck and hoped I stuck with it to make it the great work they suspect it could be. Ah, the joy of a little good feedback!

Additionally, the judge I liked best also helped me classify it as to her it felt like new adult paranormal, cool I can live with that. Finally, she not only gave pointers as to where I was making grammatical errors, she found great classes for me to take that will help me correct the issue. (For those like me who have no idea what they may be doing wrong or how to fix it, she told me about http://nicemommy-evileditor.com/before-you-hit-send/, and I’m taking it! Let you know how it goes! )

In the end though, I am compiling all this feedback in my mind and will go back to my piece with gusto once I’ve decided which direction I think the piece needs to head. I’m pretty certain how to fix it, or rather how to let my readers see my Emma more clearly and finally feel no stress about the timeline. Just as long as every day I am working towards my goal. For ten minutes or ten hours, I must move towards my goal.

Cheers my friends assimilate the feedback that serves you and shake off that which doesn’t. Your choice!

Skipping Down the Yellow Brick Road

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Life is in perfect balance, as it’s been for a while now, but lately it just seems even sweeter. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I’ve taken a huge step towards taking my own storytelling career more seriously by joining Romance Writer of America. Well a few weeks ago I continued this path by officially attending my first Heart of Denver Romance Writers (my local chapter of the RWA) and am amazed by the drastic shift in my perspective. It’s unbelievable! This group gets together once a month to encourage each other and help each other along their journey to publication.

Now, I’ve never really thought I needed help with this hobby of mine because well that’s what I treated it like, a hobby. Truth is though that I don’t want it to be a hobby. I want it to be my life. After all, companies just starting out join their local chamber of commerce, project managers join PMP to hone their skills, and even tradesmen ban together. So why should it be any different for me?

Answer: It isn’t. A conclusion I’m ecstatic I finally arrived at as during my first meeting I received great advice on how to convey the stories I dream up more clearly. However, the best part is they helped to clarify my subgenre for me- Young Adult. Hmm, why didn’t I think that that before? I mean just because nearly every book I read comes from the YA shelves on B&N and we tend to write what we love, well you can see why I managed to miss that one.

Another fun part of being part of this great group is the access to amazing contests it offers. A perk I was unaware of as well until that fateful first meeting where I learned I still had two weeks to enter one of their biggest contests of the year…the Molly! It officially closed last night at 11:59pm MST and I am pleased to announce I submitted my entry with three whole hours to spare!

Shaking as I read, edited, rewrote, read, edited, etc., I finally sent along the first twenty-five pages of my manuscript and a newly drafted synopsis. Thankfully I am not judged on the synopsis, which is a good thing since I caught a few errors this morning when I reread my entry for the 50th time. However, I can’t tell you how great it feels to finally have my long synopsis created in a fairly decent format.

Next up, for me is drafting a short synopsis and finishing up chapter five in book two. Seriously, I’ve got to get on that one I have $.50 on the line! Another perk of this club is they use monetary enticements to meet your goals. Heck, I could win $3.00 if I am the only one to meet my stated goal. Hilarious right?

That’s it folks. The last few weeks of blogging silence in a nut-shell and a glimpse at where I am headed. For those reading who are aspiring writers like me, I encourage you to find a group to join in your genre and if you don’t know which one that is go ahead and join the one you read the most! Surely that will lead you to a good group of people who will help you along the yellow brick road. We can do this people!!

Cheers, happy storytelling, story-reading, and story-watching everyone!

Falling out of love with Shortcuts!

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I am a big fan of short cuts. Admittedly, I’ve purchased more than my fair share of “miracle pills” in hopes that I could actually lose weight while still consuming copious amounts of beer. Sadly, I know that no such pill exists, but it hasn’t stopped me from trying them out anyway.

Recently, I had the good fortune of getting to pick the brain of a published author. The premise of course was to gain some great advice, but I’d be a liar if I didn’t say that in the back of my mind I was hoping to find the “miracle pill” of the publishing world. Join this group and “boom” I’d get published. Or “just use this editor and you’ll be published in no time.”

No such luck. Don’t get me wrong, I received some amazing advice and still cannot believe I even got to email her. However, there just is no substitute for hard work and determination. When I think about it though…really stop and think…I can’t picture that I would be happy with a shortcut. A funny realization for me, since road trips have long been my favorite part of summer. We just get in the car and my husband drives off into the sunset. Sometimes we have a destination, sometimes we don’t, yet it never matters as it’s the journey that’s important.

Knowing this about myself, this love I have for taking off into the unknown with nothing but the good sense of direction in my husband’s head, why on earth do I find myself seeking out shortcuts elsewhere in life? Dieting is usually horrible, but after a week with my new Fitbit I can say this journey has been really sort of fun. Best of all though, unlike the miracle pills I’ve tried, the Fitbit actually works! By encouraging me forward and helping me to see my progress along the way.

Here is the difference though. With my road trips, I have my husband to guide me. With my weight loss, I have my Fitbit to see me through (as well as all my co-workers to compete for most steps with.) In these journeys I am most definitely not alone. However, in my writing I feel I am always alone. Yet, looking back on my journey, I can see where I have been encouraged time and again to NOT go it alone. Most recently of course in the words of wisdom from someone who has travelled this road herself.

So perhaps there was a “miracle pill” in her advice after all? Seek out a group to join. Be a part of others on your journey. Let those who have gone before be your guide. We do not HAVE to be alone on our path to fulfill our life’s dreams!!!

Thankfully, this amazing woman even read a few pages of my manuscript and offered some great advice as to which group I should join. It shouldn’t have come as such a surprise of course, but she suggested the RWA- Romance Writers of America. Hmmmm, I’d always thought of myself as a fantasy writer, but this feels right. I mean heck, my determining factor for whether or not a movie is worth watching or a book is worth reading is if at any point in time, someone kisses another. A kiss is just essential! Ok, I give in…yes I am a romantic at heart. I think I’ll check them out and see if they’ll have me.

In other news, I’ve recently started a new job, rescued the cutest 6 year old Cocker Spaniel, and as mentioned began a new fitness goal. Hence, my weeks of silence! It is all paying off though…I am happy, just plain ole happy and it’s showing in my writing. Mainly, that I actually AM writing, which is a relief since I thought I’d never write again. Yet, as with many other things, stress is bad for the creative mind. As well as your heart, skin tone, sleep habits, waist line, family dynamic and general sense of well-being. Stress kills people and I decided to cut out the biggest source of mine…a job that was quickly taking over my life and leaving no room for ME. It feels great to be on the other side and on a more balanced life path.

Cheers my friends, you are not alone on your journey to reach your dreams!

I AM NOT A WRITER!

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I am not a good writer. Spelling my own name often poses a challenge and I admit readily that I’ve always had to LOOK at my daughters spelling lists when helping them study because I can hardly ever spell the words correctly myself. And they are both in elementary school still!

Then there is the grammar portion of writing. I could be told the sentence was wrong, hell even see the silly green underline in word and still have no clue what is wrong with the damn sentence. Reading it aloud tends to help, yet still I just correct it by listening to the words in my head until it sounds right. Never knowing what was wrong or what I did to correct the matter. Nope, I am not a writer.

Oddly, I never really thought I was before a writing class I took five years ago. I sensed I had SOMETHING to offer this earth, I mean surely everyone has some sort of talent…right? Well having failed at photography, knitting, piano lessons, vocal lessons, violin lessons, painting and nearly every other lesson I tried, I finally found myself in a community writing course clutching my copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, battered from repeated readings.

Our first assignment was to bring a book that we loved! Well, having spent four years in college reading a book a day to obtain my English degree, I’d decided I HATED reading after graduation. This lasted until a few years into my working life when I stumbled upon dear old Harry. That’s it, that’s all it took. I was head over heels in love…with reading! More than that though, I was in love with the process of falling into a new world. A place where anything was possible.

Unfortunately for me, the rest of the class brought decidedly more “adult” titles with them. Twain, Dickens, Austen, Steinbeck…all the greats were there until it came to my turn to share. Tossing me a patronizing smile, the elderly instructor praised the rest of the class for filling their minds with the classics for “if you want to write well, you must read well.” In a rare moment of maturity I decided not to tell her to “bite me.”

Looking back, I can see how impactful that sentence has been to me throughout my journey thus far. Although I haven’t allowed it to change my reading choices, I have allowed it to make me feel like I will never be a great writer. A part of me knew subconsciously I’m certain, but the conscious awareness of it a few weeks ago brought me to a painful cross road. If I’m never going to be great why bother trying? Do I quit or do I keep going? Uncertain I knew the answer; I took out my piece, opened it to a random page and began to read. Immediately, I was struck squarely with the truth that I admit made me smile. I DON’T WANT TO BE A GREAT WRITER!

From the time I could talk, I have and will always be great at one thing. Storytelling. From dinner time tales to the world of the Calamitares, I just love to tell stories. I can even recall the first time I remember seeing a story form in my head and feeling powerless to tell it in the way I wanted it. I was in second grade and we could write about anything we wanted. Unfortunately, my prose was simply not up to the task of representing the beautiful tale I could see unfolding in my mind. Thirty years later, I admit it is still something I struggle with. The world I see is so real, so rich, that I often wonder if I will ever find the right words to help others see what I see. I can only try.

Hmm, now that I think about it, I think it’s time to change the tagline on my blog. Ranting never has felt right to me; I mean I’m not really a “ranting” type of gal. Nor, as we just discussed, am I a writer. I think finally I know what I am. I am a storyteller and this blog is my platform to prattle on to any who care to listen about a world I created.

Ah, it is so nice to know where my true talent lies. For now, I think I can freely admit that I need an editor. Writing is not my talent, storytelling is, so it seems only fitting I get an expert to help me create the clearest portal possible for my readers to enter my world.

Cheers to all my friends and the gifts you possess. (Whether you know it or not!)

A fine line separates badass from dumbass.

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A thin line separates the badass from the dumbass and it never ceases to amaze me how quickly I can travel from one to the other. Often without even realizing I’ve managed to do so.

Yesterday, sensing a slow day, I brought my personal laptop with me to work and began goofing off. Sitting back, I felt like quite the badass as I watched my favorite movies while folks fluttered about like busy bees. Now to be fair I was accomplishing a bit of busy work myself while I did so, you know the kind that doesn’t quite require your entire brain, but I was hardly working hard.

Well thus passed an enjoyable morning, until around three when the proverbial shit hit the fan. A fellow project manage had a system go live and sensing all was well went home for the day. Unfortunately for me, not five minutes after the kid left we found a problem and I was the only project manager left to help. Now, if I hadn’t been goofing off, I would have jammed through my work in record time and been long gone by the time the problem was found but no. I thought I was a badass and was goofing off thus crossing the line directly into dumbass territory. Three and a half hours later I was finally headed home, tail tucked firmly between my legs and feeling like the idiot I had been.

Let’s look at an earlier example though. When I first started writing five years ago, I admit I felt like such a badass completing that first draft. Strutting proudly into my little writing group with my 654 pages, it took approximately ten minutes to shift deep into the realm of dumbass. My draft was 60,000 words over a normal draft, my punctuation was a disaster and I’d managed to misspell nearly everything but my own name. (Starred vs. stared….OMG could I be a bigger dumbass? They are not starring into each other’s eyes, but staring!)

That’s not even the worst, I am pretty sure my worst occur regularly on this site. You see, I never feel like a dumbass when I post this stuff. I’m really just posting pages of my journal and am usually happy when they manage to make any sense whatsoever. However, this week I declared myself addicted to a certain game….unfortunately no one on the planet has heard of sugar crush. You know why? Because the stupid game is called CANDY CRUSH SAGA! Yup, badass to dumbass in nothing flat.

Thankfully, I was gifted with an unparalleled ability to laugh at myself. Sure, I can go around feeling like an idiot for thinking my first draft should have been sent off to a publisher or that any one of my mistakes on this site are still posted, but that would miss the point. I think we are here to make as many mistakes as possible, because it is only through failing that we grow and perhaps become better than we ever thought we could. That’s what I’m telling myself anyway!

Cheers my fellow badasses, dumbasses and everyone in between!

Hello, My Name is Erin and I am a Sugar Crush ADDICT!

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Sugar Crush may well be destroying life as I know it!

Ok well that may be a bit melodramatic, but damn that stupid addicting game has just taken over my life. How did this happen? How did I become this person who wastes away my life moving silly candies around on a board and then moaning in agony when I have to wait for more lives? Unfortunately the answer is as pathetic as my addiction itself. Peer pressure, pure and simple. I’d see my friends inviting me to join on Facebook and thought I could resist. I’d underestimated the irritation of the repetition of such requests though. Pestering me over and over, every day until finally joining was the only option left.

Seriously, that’s what I’ve been up to during my month long absence. Well that and avoiding book two, which I have to say has lost its shimmer for me. Thornton’s not with Emma in the beginning of book two and thus I find myself not caring. They are the reason I love these books and without him I find myself as depressed as my dear girl.
Fortunately, the fact that I FINALLY realize this is proof though that a major breakthrough is just around the corner. As is my discovery that writing during the editing process is completely different from writing that first draft. Plus, as I’ve only written one first draft in my life I guess it stands to reason that it might take me a bit to get back behind that “closed door” as Stephen King likes to call it in his book On Writing (Side note- this is the writers bible. If you want to write buy it, read it, write then read it again.)

Thankfully, this is the season of fresh starts! A new year is upon us and I have three more days of my staycation left to explore a new angle on this book. I realize that if I’m too bored to write it, then how on earth is it going to hold any interest for my readers? My dear friend Amy and my Sister Sue are my ideal readers. Those readers I always keep in mind when writing and I can tell you they would dump this book and QUICK! No way would they read this crap. Therefore, I shall start again and try to bring that spark of magic I felt in book one. Well if I can keep my butt away from time killing candies.

Cheers my friends. Here’s to fresh New Year and our opportunity to break with the old and embrace the new!

Consulting the Magic 8 Ball

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Fallout from last week’s craptastic day continues.

First, I was moved onto a big damn project. A project so big the old me would have run screaming and crying, but the new me simply says bring it on. I mean what’s the big deal. I have to show up to work anyway, that’s how the whole getting paid thing works, so I may as well make myself useful.

Second, my husband and I left our girls all alone for two hours. (This is sort of new for us, they just now became old enough…so it is sort of a milestone!) Anyway, the goal was a grocery shopping adventure, which for us of course started with a pit-stop at the pub for a pre-big box store beer. (How else does one stand those Saturday suburbanite crowds?) Anyway, we shopped, we had fun, and we came home to happy girls wishing we’d stayed away longer!

Third, I finished the eight draft of my novel. It is the first draft since version four I’ve felt comfortable enough to share. Yet, unlike that draft, tonight I do not find myself on pins and needles waiting for a response. The emails have been sent and here I sit, watching the boys in orange and blue kick some butt on the field and am perfectly content. They either read it or they don’t, either way I know a professional edit is my next step. Plus in honor of finishing my eighth draft, I turned to my trusty Magic 8 ball to ask if I’d be published. “YES” was my short and sweet reply! YEAH BABY!

Fourth, in finishing the last few chapters tonight I came upon some passages I’d not seen since earlier this year. They felt brand new to me and even I couldn’t remember how I managed to tie everything together so the ending felt like a surprise. Eight drafts in, yet it really was a surprise. Lovely!

Fifth. Ok there is no fifth…oooo except I think we are going to get the ball back! YES! We really are kicking butt. Man, I love American Football. Ok, back to fifth. There is no fifth, but I think it’s bad luck to end on an even number. Although, if there was going to be a fifth it would have to be all the creative energy I have spinning around in my head. The ending has rekindled my passion for the second draft, which until now I’ve been AVOIDING. No longer! I know exactly what’s happening to my girl and I know exactly what my Thornton needs to do to help her. Damn, I love writing!

My life has taken such an amazingly positive direction since my craptastic day that the only conclusion I can make is that there must be magic involved and how fun is that.

Cheers to you all on this chilly Sunday night.

Craptastic Day Magic!

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Today was honestly just a horrible day. A friends turned into enemies kind of day. Drama permeated everywhere I turned, until finally I could stand it no longer and fled to the happiness found only within the loving arms of my husband and two sweet girls. (Ok, I admit all this was after a long chat with my Mom on the way home. Yes, I am 38 and I still call my mom when I’m having a bad day! Thankfully she solved it and I didn’t have to follow-up with a call to my sister for additional support as usual.)

Anyway, I walk into our warm house and find pizza, beer and pumpkin spice cannoli, the desert served at our wedding, waiting for me! And the best part is, he didn’t even know I was having a bad day. He just thought it would be a kick to have some cannoli. It was a gesture filled with love and thus also filled with magic as with one bite, I could feel the layers of negative energy wash away until only clarity remained.

Love won again and reminded me that the worst day writing is still better than the BEST day at this job so why bother stressing one bit about a day that in five years (or hell five days) will not matter in the slightest? AHHHHH. Happiness. Contentment. Realignment to my purpose. Love.

Sadly, I feel I’ve had this revelation before. Unfortunately, I think I keep having to learn it. The universe is good like that, it keeps sending us the same lessons over and over until we master them and finally move on to the next step. I hope I’ve got it this time. I think I do, but only time will tell.

In the end, I am grateful for this horrible, rotten, everyone at work can go to hell sort of day, as perhaps because of it I find myself once again drawn to this world I created that I love. Maybe without this day, I wouldn’t be back on track towards a goal I know I am MEANT to reach? Either way, I am grateful to be alive, to have love in my life and a dream to work towards. I am blessed beyond measure and that will always be enough!

So Cheers to you my friends. I hope your day was better than mine. But if not, hopefully it too contains a bit of magic that leads you back to your purpose!

Time Lapse Photography, Middle School Voyages, and other random thoughts.

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Random thoughts…

1. Dreams and living are often enemies of each other. I have these large dreams, just really big things I want to do, yet I find that living my very full and quite fulfilling life tends to get in the way of achieving them. Thankfully, every time I stop to think about it, I find that in retrospect I am achieving my dreams. It just is happening super slowly. Sort of makes me want a time elapse camera.

2. Time elapse cameras make me think of middle school, which makes me think of that series they made us watch in science “Voyage of the Mimi” or something like that, which of course starred Ben Affleck.

3. Ben Affleck would get along with Jason, this character I made up that none of you know about because as mentioned in item one living is getting in the way of publishing. Anyway, I think Ben seems like a nice guy with a good sense of humor, I think he would get along with Jason.

4. Jason is based on a LOT of people, one of whom I used to work with and had a crush on me…I think. I mean we sure did flirt, but I sort of just do that without thinking. It’s never truly intentional; I just really enjoy flirting with someone I have chemistry.

5. Chemistry, don’t you love it when you happen upon a random hot guy that just makes you giggle and blush like a twelve year old girl? I truly love those random moments where you find a bond with a random stranger. A random link that for a moment makes you speculate about what that path would look like, but in the end ends up being nothing more than a fleeting connection.

6. Connections are my favorite part of life. I’m an extrovert by nature, so I tend to always seek out others. I love meeting new people and finding new ways to see life. The most fun connection I’ve ever made though has been with my two girls. I always knew having kids would be a blast, but nothing could have prepared me for the deep connection I would have with my sweeties. They are my favorite people in the world and are just amazingly fun.

That’s it, just a bunch of random thoughts running through my mind today. I have so much to do, and promise I am getting it done. Even if you have to use time lapse photography to see the progress!
Cheers all!