Wishing You a Wondrous Holiday Season

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Haven’t written much on this blog this year. My only excuse is work and life have taken more of my attention. But I didn’t want to let this season of love and peace go by without expressing my gratitude for all of you who are (or have been) clients, family and friends. You sustain me throughout the year.

I will be taking on new projects in the new year, and I’m excited about what will come into my life. I am so grateful for the clients I have had over the years, and especially those who have become friends, as well. If you have a book you’ve been working on that’s ready for an experienced development editor, or you would like the little nudge that comes from working with a writing coach, I would love to hear from you. May the peace and promise of this season settle upon you. May the love of family and friends surround you. May the abundance of the natural world visit upon you the nurture of nature. May you feel the love of the people who hold you in their hearts. Happy Holidays.

Sea Ranch—Our Annual Writing Retreat

Here again at beautiful Sea Ranch, near Mendocino in Northern California, writing, reading, walking on the bluffs, hanging with the sea lions and sharing work with my sweet sisters from AROHO.

We met six years ago at the biannual women's writing workshop at A Room of Her Own Foundation in New Mexico, and have traveled from all over the country (Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Mexico, and various parts of California, to be together once a year since.

This year I have been madly working on finishing the final revision of my memoir, and it's almost there (cheers and clapping). It has been a wonderful and relaxing week, as well, and I have relished the time I've had to walk with friends, read, and contemplate this beautiful stretch of coastline. Nature abounds. See for yourself...

Sea lions rookery—how many can you count?

Sea lions rookery—how many can you count?

The view from our house.

The view from our house.

Native grasses.

Native grasses.

Yellow lupine.

Yellow lupine.

"The Journey is the Destination"—a Life Lived Out Loud

Our good friends Eva and Yoel Haller invited Rob and me to a special Santa Barbara International Film Festival luncheon last week to celebrate a new film about an extraordinary young man named Dan Eldon. "The Journey is the Destination" tells the compelling story of how Dan, in his brief lifetime, inspired people to work for peace and social justice in parts of the world where both are in short supply.

Dan was born in London in 1970, and the family moved to Kenya in 1977, where his British father headed the east Africa division of a European computer company and his American mother, Kathy Eldon, was a freelance journalist. He attended the International School of Kenya, where he met students from around the world and developed his insatiable appetite for travel and adventure. While Kenya remained his home, he traveled widely, and, following in his mother's footsteps, became a journalist.

From an early age, Dan worked to help others. When he was 14, he raised money to pay for open-heart surgery for a young Kenyan girl. At 15, he helped support a Maasai family by buying their hand-made jewelry and selling it to fellow students and friends.

After graduating high school in 1988, Dan attended college in California and Iowa, but ultimately returned to Africa to pursue a career as a freelance photographer. His work caught the attention of Reuters' editors, and Dan was hired as a staff photographer covering Somalia's terrible famine in the early 1990s. As the situation worsened, violence drew American intercession and the attention of the international community. Despite the danger, Dan continued to work in Mogadishu, hoping his images would bring attention to the unfolding tragedy in Somalia. In July 1993, American forces mistakenly bombed what they thought was a meeting of warlords, and many innocent civilians were killed. Dan and three of his Reuters colleagues were killed when a gathering mob turned on them. He was 23.

Dan's mom, Kathy, founded a nonprofit organization—Creative Visions—to honor Dan's legacy. "The Journey is the Destination" is the realization of Kathy's long-held dream of telling Dan's story. A book of the same name features the drawings and artwork he jotted in his journal.

We met Kathy at the luncheon last week, as well as Maria Bello, the actor who portrayed Kathy in the film. It is a deeply moving and ultimately uplifting film, which also screened at the Toronto Film Fest and opened the DC Independent Film Festival this week.

Creative Visions continues to honor Dan's memory, supporting individual artists working to effect positive social change. You can find out more about Creative Visions here, and read more about Dan's story here. Kathy has also written several books about her own journey, which is just as inspiring. See her story here.

Dan's extraordinary life reminds us that all of us, each of us, has the power to bring about positive change in our world. If you have a chance, see the film. And support Creative Visions.

A New Year's Reflection

Things I am grateful for:

·      my love

·      my friends and family, especially my precious daughter

·      writers who share their lives, loves and words

·      my work and the people who entrust me with their books and dreams

·      my sweet dog, Chevella, who turns 14 next summer

·      the ability to read and think and appreciate ideas

·      meaningful conversation with interesting people

·      the wonder and blessings of travel

·      my home and the ability to share it with clients and friends

·      the possibilities of the future

·      my own writing projects, which feed my soul

·      wise women friends who provide support and succor when I need it (and you know who you are!)

·      the opportunity to live in a beautiful corner of the world

·      walking on the beach with my dog

·      mentors who guide and encourage me

·      good health

·      deep, intimate relationships with people I love and care about

For these things and many more, I am profoundly grateful.

May your 2017 be filled with meaningful work and relationships, may you experience all good things, and may your loftiest dreams come true.

Happy New Year.

On Wonder

My friend Kathleen Barry and I write together every couple of weeks, and yesterday we both wrote about wonder. You can read her take on it here. Here's mine:

I love the concept of wonder. It conjures up the image of a child gazing at a colorful butterfly, or watching a bird's egg open, the tiny feathered creature inside emerging into the light.

I have been in that dreamy state of wonder, whether at some physical world delight, or in contemplating the metaphysical. Lyanda Lynn Haupt says wonder "is contingent on the habit of being that allows it to arise...." In other words, you have to be in a constant state of openness and wonderment for moments of wonder to find you.

How can we bring more wonder into our lives? Can you discover the wonder in an everyday cup of coffee? Or in the choosing of your clothes for the day? Or in washing the dishes after a meal? It's easy to see the wonder in a stunning sunset, less so in the drudgery of vacuuming the house.

If we are called to see the extraordinary in the ordinary (and I believe we are), then we learn over time to recognize the moments in our lives that God (or the Universe) asks us to appreciate, no matter how seemingly insignificant.

Where do you see wonder in your life? I see it in the purple bougainvillea outside the window, in the hummingbirds which flit among its petals, in the distant ocean and the tides that govern its movements.

Life is both fragile and fleeting—wonder is our opportunity to appreciate it in every moment: the touch of a friend's hand, beach sand between your toes, ice melting in your double scotch. Wonder abounds.

Season of Loss, Season of LIfe

A dear friend had a severe stroke over the weekend. She and her husband, who live near Fresno, had been out gardening in their yard early, to beat the heat. When they came in to get breakfast, she collapsed onto the floor. Her husband knew right away it was likely a stroke: the left side of her face sagged and she was paralyzed on her left side. At the hospital, doctors immediately tried a drug called tPA (tissue plasminogen activator), which works by dissolving blood clots. In this case, though, it didn't work, and they rushed her into emergency surgery.

That night, after surgery, doctors told her husband they'd gotten the blockage at the top of her carotid artery, but couldn't get to the one near her frontal lobe. It has been touch and go. Monday she moved her left leg and arm, and she was alert and asking for her phone and glasses Tuesday morning. Yesterday the report wasn't so good. We'll know more about the extent of damage in coming days and weeks, but we are all hopeful. She faces many months—perhaps a year or more—of recovery.

I've known these friends for more than 25 years. They just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, having married as youngsters on the eve of his going off to fight in Vietnam. He became a journalist and, later, a businessman. We met when we worked for the small daily newspaper in Redding, California, along with another friend. As couples, all six of us became close friends and have remained so to this day, though we all ended up in different cities far apart. We watched our kids grow up and vacationed together. We also supported each other when one of us was diagnosed with breast cancer many years ago. Last fall, her cancer returned. Her husband, meanwhile, struggles with rheumatoid arthritis. 

Earlier this year, my younger sister died unexpectedly, and another dear friend succumbed to ovarian cancer last month. Other friends are dealing with the sudden loss of his job; he is in his mid-60s.

This season of life for me has brought many joys—and, increasingly, illnesses, difficulties, sorrows, deaths. It is sometimes hard to remember that life is also death, and struggle. 

As I have gotten older, I find myself more introspective, seeking answers, looking for the reasons behind the events of our lives. I do not have the answers, but this I do know: None of us is immune from heartbreak or sorrow, and the only response to any hardship is trust, and gratitude for what is, and perseverance. And faith. I always come back to Julian of Norwich: "All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well."