the good old days

The Best Advice So Far: the good old days - old-fashioned soda jerk offering chocolate ice cream cone

Ah, the good old days.

The simpler ways of bygone eras have become an indelible part of our collective consciousness, stirring a sense of wistfulness at their passing, whether we actually lived through them or not.

Neighbors leaned from open windows or across picket fences to chat, and thought nothing of asking to borrow an egg or a cup of sugar. Newcomers were welcomed with a jingle of the doorbell and a proffered platter of freshly made cookies or a Bundt cake. And it was assumed that all were invited to the backyard barbecue.

During trips to the local grocer or druggist, owners and customers greeted each other by name, never in too much of a hurry to ask about the children or that recent vacation. And partings were peppered with give-my-best-tos.

Young people helped the elderly across busy intersections, offered to carry their bag a few blocks, and climbed trees to rescue their kittens.

Sinewy men slung a tattooed arm around their buddy’s neck as they crowded together around diner booths — some sitting, some standing with one foot propped on the edge of a seat — swapping outrageous and animated stories with other guys from town.

People took leisurely strolls down shady streets, played chess in the park, had picnics on Saturdays and impromptu dance parties on the beach. No one dreamed of whizzing by a kid’s lemonade stand without stopping.

Friends threw dress-up dinner parties, and guests offered small gifts upon arrival, as well as following up with a thank-you card by mail a few days later. Just as likely might be a game night during which participants played Twister, eventually collapsing into a heap upon one another and laughing until their cheeks hurt.

Wholesome stories and images abound, combining to weave a sort of glorious fairy tale — one continuous happily-ever-after.

Of course, we tend to overlook …


influence

The Best Advice So Far: Influence - multi-colored light waves on a black background

During my six or so years of blogging, I’ve met some stellar people online. One of those people is Diana Peach, a fellow blogger and prolific novel writer in the fantasy genre.

Just last week, Diana released Catling’s Bane: Book I of her four-book series known collectively as The Rose Shield. And — lucky me — I got to be a beta reader for the entire thing, the final installment of which I’m currently reading.

Catling's Bane: Book I of The Rose Shield series by D. Wallace Peach

If you’re a true lover of fantasy, do yourself a favor, read my Amazon review, get yourself a copy of this book — and prepare to lose some sleep over it. In short, I’ve read hundreds and hundreds of books in this genre and this series makes my top five of all time. (She will, no doubt, decry my high praise as “stuff and nonsense,” but it’s true nonetheless.)

Now, my site isn’t a book review site. And Diana has no idea I’m writing this (surprise, Diana!). But I’m telling you, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about this Rose Shield series. And so, I’ve decided to go with the flow and incorporate some of those thoughts into this week’s blog post, in a way that I trust will be consistent with who I am and what this blog is about.

If you’ve read even a few pages of my book, The Best Advice So Far, or more than two blog posts here, the theme that runs through everything I write should be apparent: “You always have a choice.”

Building upon this foundation, I’ve also proposed such notions as these:

No one can make you happy.

No one can make you mad (or jealous or insecure or a host of other negatives).

And while compliance can be forced, we cannot make others respect us.

Nor can we make another person love us.

But … what if we could?

What if it were possible to …

 


’tis a gift

The Best Advice So Far - 'tis a gift - open hand showing silver stars

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the seeming ever-presence of sea glass in my world, along with five ways that it reminds me of what’s important in life. Well, it occurred to me in the last few days that many of my pieces of sea glass were gifts. And that got me noticing anew the many other gifts that I see around me on a daily basis.

In this particular case, I’m not talking about “gifts” of the figurative or abstract sort, such as sunshine, our sense of taste, or the emerald sheen of a beetle’s wings. I’m talking about things that have actually been given to me by other people in my life.

Allow me to list just some of the gifts that lie within 10 feet of where I sit writing …


someday soon

The Best Advice So Far - someday soon - dandelion seeds blowing away

Last week, I posted about sea glass and how it can serve as a reminder to slow down.

Some of you may not know this about me, but I’m also a singer/songwriter. It’s been a while since I’ve written anything new. However, with my health issues now solved, and having been thinking a lot lately about time and the choices we make surrounding it, a new song emerged while I was writing last week’s post.

I’m as eclectic as they come where songwriting is concerned. One day, whatever comes out of me will be 1920s jazz, and the next, it’ll be dark trance with an Arabic vibe or Latin Pop or a Country ballad.

This one surfaced as something I imagine would be sung a cappella, backed by a boys’ choir or maybe an African choir, and maybe with some electronic vocal treatment, a la Imogen Heap.

It’s called “Someday Soon.”

I thought I’d do something different this week and share it with you in some form. So, since I’ve had the recording equipment set up to work on the audiobook, I figured I’d take the opportunity to lay down a quick vocal-only track …


sea glass

The Best Advice So Far: Sea Glass - light blue sea glass on sand against sunset

Winter is not quite over. But after a couple spectacular blizzards in mid January and February, New England has been enjoying some record-breaking warmth. Last Friday, the temperature reached 75° — beating the historical average for that day by a whopping 35°.

I donned shorts and a tank top, slipping into the sandals I’d dug out from the back of the closet. And for one glorious day, it was summer.

I love summer.

In fact, I chose one of the iconic symbols of summer time as the primary image for the cover of my first book, The Best Advice So Far. And it wasn’t just because I like the taste of lemonade. It’s more than that for me. It’s a symbol of hope, of childlike adventure, of making time for the important little things we so often tend to whiz by in life.

Button to Read Chapter 39 from The Best Advice So Far - Free

In my last post, I shared a sample chapter from the audiobook recording of The Best Advice So Far, for which editing is currently underway. Well, since my health, energy and focus have returned, I’ve also got my sights set on the next book.

Before I’d gotten very far into writing The Best Advice So Far, I knew that lemonade would be the theme. And here again, as I plan the next book, I’m already all but settled on the imagery for its cover: sea glass.

At the center of my mentoring, facilitation and everything I write is this statement: “You always have a choice.” And like lemonade, sea glass is about …

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making the cut (negativity)

The Best Advice So Far - Making the Cut (Negativity) - studio mic with audiobook cover

I finished recording the tracks for The Best Advice So Far this week, and I’ve begun the editing process. There’s a ton I want to share with you about the process itself — and about the number of times I’d have quit already, if it weren’t for advice from my own book and blog kicking my butt. However, I’ll save that for an upcoming post.

Today, I’ll be keeping it short (at least in the volume of written words).

You would not believe how different your own voice sounds day to day — even hour to hour. Tonight, I sent the first 10 edited tracks to my iPod and listened to them as I drove. I swear, it sounded like four different people talking, and that’s after doing a lot of work each recording session, trying to maintain the same sound. Some of the chapters, I think I can adapt with some EQ settings. But one — “Chapter 2: Negativity” — is just too different. Must’ve been one I recorded too early, because I’ve got “morning voice.” Alas, however sexy, it’ll have to be entirely redone.

This makes me a bit sad, because I felt the conviction in the original reading as I listened to it this evening. I guess the written page isn’t the only place writers have to be willing to “murder their darlings.”

Still, I thought I’d at least let the original find a temporary voice here on my blog. It’s perfect timing, with my having been up to my elbows in recording and editing this week. And it fits right into recent discussions here about giving in to complaining, along with the perceived gains that drive our negativity.

I’m hopeful that you’ll take the time to listen, and …

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the grumbles: part 2

The Best Advice So Far: the grumbles part 1 - many purple sad-face balls

Today’s post is a continuation of last week’s discussion on complaining.

If you’re coming in late to the game, I highly recommend reading the previous post first, since it lays some groundwork about what constitutes complaining and what does not. However, I’ll sum up the gist of it.

My friend Chad shared something with me that had resonated with him recently:

“Complaining is a waste of time
unless you’re telling someone
who can do something about it.”
 

And that got me thinking. It occurred to me that not only does this statement warrant some self-reflection, it also allows us to redefine terms this way:

Complaining: sharing negative information, thoughts or emotions with someone who cannot do anything about the situation

I’m a firm believer that virtually everything we do in life is done because of some perceived gain. In other words, there are reasons behind most of what we do. This says nothing of the existence of ideas like altruism, which would simply be doing something based on a perceived gain for another person. My point is that we tend to believe “If I do this, then that should happen — or at least there’s a high enough likelihood to make it worth my while.”

Quid pro quo.

The problem with perceived gains, however … is that “perceived” part. You see, perception offers no guarantee of aligning itself with reality. Yet, since most of our perceived gain system becomes automatic, even subconscious, we lose track of asking ourselves, “Is what I’m doing here actually working?”

The Best Advice So Far: Complaining is a waste of time unless you're telling someone who can do something about it.

With these ideas as a springboard, let’s take a closer look at why we complain. Then, for those who are suspecting that complaining isn’t getting us where we had hoped it might — and in keeping with the theme of The Best Advice So Far, that “You always have a choice” — I’ll offer some thoughts about breaking free of the “grumbles” and trading them for greater overall peace and happiness.

Before you even continue reading, however, I want to pose a challenge …

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