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What I’ve learned so far. 

If you want to be really good at something there are no shortcuts. You have to do the work. You must put in the hours. 10,000 hours? Probably more.

Friendships are important. They’re like planted seeds. If you want them to grow pay attention and care for them.

“The language of friendship is not words, but meanings.” Henry David Thoreau

Don’t make yourself so busy that you forget to be grateful. Gratefulness is the key to happiness because when you’re grateful you feel joy and when you’re filled with joy you’re happy.

Marriage is difficult. Don’t always trust your feelings because they change. That thing I wrote about working really hard to be good at something. It applies to marriage. The thing I wrote about friendship. It applies to marriage. There will be good days, days that carry frustration, and many days where you’ll be grateful to have such an incredible person in your life. keep those days close to your heart. The thing I wrote about gratefulness….

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” Henry David Thoreau

Your kids are not yours. You may forget this for a while and stress about their behavior, grades, their future, but in the end, the most important thing to think about is what kind of relationship do you want to have with your children when they become adults.  When they look back on their childhood will they feel your love and acceptance?

Your thoughts are really important because they tell stories you believe which can evoke many different emotions. Tell yourself more good stories than fearful or angry stories and you’ll have a better day.

“As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.” Henry David Thoreau

While routines can bring comfort they can also bring stagnation. Get out of your comfort zone and travel before you get stuck.

It’s good to have goals and dreams, but if you become too obsessed with them you can make yourself and those around you miserable. Work toward your dream remembering to enjoy the climb. Take breaks to breathe and celebrate your work along the way.

“The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.” Henry David Thoreau

Live! You must listen from within and find the strength to live your life your way. Don’t wait until you’re eighty to look back, wonder where the time went and wish you would’ve done things differently. Live the gift of life.

And finally, I’ve learned that there’s so much more to learn!

“Wealth is the ability to fully experience life.” Henry David Thoreau

Sometimes life lessons appear in the strangest places like in the bathroom of Castle Golf. I loved these rules. Number eight, ten, and twelve are my favorites. I would add rule number 15: Find things to be grateful for every day.

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Bittersweet. It’s a word that has resonated with me lately. It seems there is this pull on my heart like puppies tugging on a rope; one end is joy, the other sadness. I search for the place right in the middle where I can stop and take it all in.

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If this post is a little late I’m blaming having 9 dogs in the house. 9! My husband can’t believe we actually have more dogs than cats. That’s never happened in our twenty-five years together.

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I didn’t recognize the symbolism of growing an avocado tree at the same time I was beginning my journey of becoming an author. I simply loved avocados. Four years later as I set a new seed on my windowsill at the same time I was stressing over how to market Mystic I realized my avocado trees represented change and growth from within myself. They were my reminder that even though I could envision the giant tree that would fill my yard it wasn’t going to grow overnight. I needed to care for it every day while enjoying each day and know that eventually my seed would be a majestic tree.

Here’s how to grow an avocado tree.

av. seeds from 08 or 09 that grew into trees

This picture was taken the summer of 2008.

First: Plant a seed.

The summer of 2008 I felt such a sense of freedom and of new beginnings. I had decided to switch careers from teaching to writing. I knew it was a risk and I faced scrutiny from others who thought I was simply becoming lazy, or that writing a novel was easy. I knew better. I knew what was right for me. As soon as I devoted time to my craft the ideas flowed. I wrote daily and began taking care of myself as well as my family. I was a better, more present, mom and wife because I was embarking on the right path. I had no idea how we were going to make ends meet without our second income and I had no idea how long it was really going to take me to publish Mystic. I simply let go and trusted that if I followed my heart everything would be okay.

Second: Wait for signs of growth

av tree one root 2008 2009

It takes a month to two months for the seed to sprout. Be sure to give the seed fresh water daily.

There were days when I questioned my decision just as I questioned whether my avocado seed would ever turn into a tree. I started a blog in September 2008. I continued working on Mystic, attending writing conferences and I wrote several picture book drafts. Sue Monk Kidd became my author of choice. I delved into her books as well as Eckert Tolle and sought self discovery. I was growing even though some days the fear of failure was great. I kept on. The joy that was sprouting inside me was a constant reminder to keep going.

Next: Water and nurture.

av. tree roots 2008 2009

I began to see life as a privilege. I learned the importance of gratitude. Every success from having a closer relationship with my family, to listening to others tell me I inspired them through my writing, helped me break through the doubts and fears that still crept in. I was stronger.

Then: Plant your tree and watch it grow.

Av. tree picture from June 2012
June 2012

It took four years to go from the seed on my windowsill to a beautiful tree in my yard. In those years I worked on Mystic. I watched my children progress through school. We explored Barcelona as a family. I reconnected with high school friends on Facebook and met authors and illustrators who shared my passion for writing for children.

Finally: Your tree is growing. Keep nurturing it and remember to see its beauty.

av tree  March 2013

 March 2013

To do anything well it takes time. The magic begins when the seed is planted and the excitement bursts with each new root or branch grown. It’s the days in between that count the most because those are the days that make the others possible. Those are the days you have to believe in yourself. Believe that one day you’ll sit under the shade of your giant avocado tree and know that you added beauty to this wonderous world.

The inspiration for this post came from: Kristen Lamb’s Blog

Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” Roald Dahl (1916-1990)

I believe that besides teaching my kids to have empathy, be kind, get good grades and learn disciplined working habits I must also teach them to always look for the magic in life.

Any parent that has more than one child is aware of how different siblings can be. Siblings that are raised with the same parent or two parents can have very unique personalities. I have one child that is naturally very adventurous, thrives in a crowd, hates being at home for more than one day and enjoys trying any new food as long as it’s vegetarian. Arielle. My son Kai on the other hand, can spend days at home creating songs on Cubase 5, refuses to even try any new food and enjoys being with his friends but then craves time alone. When presented with going anywhere or trying a new activity Arielle will easily go along and Kai will want details about exactly what we are doing and want to know if he has to go.

Basically, I have a natural extrovert and a natural introvert. I saw this early on when Arielle was three and had no problem talking to strangers. The first time Kai was invited to a birthday party for a classmate in Kindergarten, I remember walking up to the front door, Kai grabbing my hand and telling me he wasn’t sure if he wanted to go. It was at that moment that I knew… my son was just like me.

I have been blessed to have been surrounded with extroverts for many years. They have helped bring me out of my shell and continue to challenge me with new activities… activities with lots of people I don’t know. My husband Eric and my friend E. have learned the perfect balance of knowing when to try to push me into trying something new and when to let me be. When they get me out of the house especially late at night, I hear, “I’m so proud of you for coming out with us. I’m very impressed.” Pretty cool really, having friends and a husband who will see me for who I am and encourage me to stretch my boundaries. In return I get to see more of the magic in life. Magic that I wouldn’t see if I stayed in my sweats continuing my nightly routine of reading, writing or watching a movie.

This is why when an opportunity presented itself for me to help Kai stretch his boundaries, I knew I had to take it.

Cell Phone/iPod Destruction:

There was time I watched a pair of iPod headphones sail across my windshield and get stuck in my wipers for a quick second before they took a swan dive into the Gulf of Mexico. Then there was the time I heard the words, “It really wasn’t my fault. I was pushed into the pool and my phone was in my backpack attached to my wheelchair.” And… “I didn’t realize my iPod was in between the two books when I dropped them on my bedroom floor.” All Arielle. For awhile she was known as the technology destroyer.

We were fortunate enough to get through at least six months without any incident and then came spring break. The day began with me finding oatmeal spilled on our living room floor. Sitting on my counter was a bowl and inside the bowl was oatmeal and Kai’s new iPhone. Apparently, Kai forgot his cell phone was in his pocket when he jumped into our pool. The oatmeal was his second attempt at absorbing the water. His first try was with the only rice we had in the house. A package of Mexican rice with taco flavoring. That explained the little red chilies covering the touch screen.

I chose to ignore the cell phone situation and simply have hope that between the Mexican rice and oatmeal somehow the cell phone would survive. It was a weekend. Eric was home. He works with technology every day. I figured this was his department.

Later that night, Arielle had some friends over. Eric and I hid upstairs and watched Contagion giving the teens their privacy. Well, I watched Contagion and Eric snored. Just as I’m starting to freak out at the number of times a person touches their face during the course of a day – if you’ve seen the movie you know what I’m talking about, I hear a chorus of hyenas downstairs. I couldn’t even hear my movie.

Like a good parent I turned up the volume and let the teens have their laughter without interrupting. The next morning I asked what the sudden abnormally loud outburst was about.

One of Arielle’s friends had used our bathroom. She was dressed in her swimsuit. Somehow her cell phone slipped from her side and dropped into the toilet just as she had flushed. Horrified she watched it go down. Then she came out into our living room and announced that she had flushed her cell phone; thus the hyena laughter. But wait it gets better. One of Arielle’s other friends… a daughter of a science teacher – yells, “get the plunger!”

They all crowd into the tiny bathroom and plunge away. Up comes the cell phone. Someone screams as another someone reaches in to grab it. They clean it off and unlike Kai’s iPhone, it works.

Back to the magic of life and my introvert:

After several hours in plain rice it was obvious Kai’s new phone was kaput. I called AT&T, thankful I had learned my lesson with child number one, and bought the insurance plan which included water damage. Well, even with insurance they told me it was going to cost me another $200.00 to replace Kai’s phone.

What’s a parent to do? Simply shell out $200.00? What message is that sending? We wanted Kai to earn the money for the phone. Instead of simply giving him household chores we discussed having him do community volunteer work and then realized we had an opportunity to help Kai stretch is comfort zone and perhaps we could motivate him to try things he normally would be against. Like eating a half cup of vegetables or a spinach salad. Reading a book that Eric and I enjoyed. Singing to a song he composed. (He plays but never sings.) Running two miles a day. Eric and I made a list of activities that would get Kai outside his comfort zone and force him to try new activities or food. And yes, we would pay him for it. Why, because he is our very strong-willed child who has the passion to practice or write his music for hours but when that passion is focused on something he doesn’t want to do it takes extreme gentleness and guidance and communicating to help him work through his not wanting to do it. I call it keeping the passion focused in the right direction and we’ve been talking about this aspect of his personality since he was about ten.

I know all about the introvert wall that must be broken through in order for me to step into an unknown world. A world I may not be comfortable in and there lies the fear. I want to help Kai learn that life contains magic and if he stays inside a box surrounded by walls his comfort could turn to complacency and lead to extreme negativity. And there’s no magic in negativity only a dull existence. That’s what Roald Dahl meant . Those who can’t see outside their walls, can’t see the magic.