Winter Cold and Olympic Gold

You know the feeling… that curl-into-yourself-to-try-and-get-warm kind of feeling when you’re shivering and sure your teeth might chip from all their chattering? My rhododendrons are feeling that way in our record low temperatures this week. Now, before someone reminds me that a windchill of -14 celsius isn’t exactly bitter compared to what others have  experienced this winter, I hasten to add I know it’s only considered  c-o-l-d  if you live on the Pacific west coast and aren’t accustomed to this kind of weather. Some years we’re mowing lawns by now, but this year we’re frowning at the forecast for snow this weekend.

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The birds congregate around our bird feeders and gossip about the groundhog who dared to predict six more weeks of this misery. They huddle mournfully against the frigid wind and do battle with the squirrels who challenge them for first dibs at the sunflower seeds and peanuts.

Meanwhile, I’ve dug through the closet and brought out my special toasty red mittens and will wait out the weather by watching parts of the XXII Olympic Winter Games — not the opening ceremony but some of my favourite sports, hoping Canada will do at least as well this year as they did at our Vancouver 2010 Games (26 medals including a record 14 gold).

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In between my sessions of watching, I’ll be writing… or perhaps I’ll be doing both at the same time. It’s not a bad way to spend a few wintry days.

What are your plans for this weekend?

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What constitutes success for a writer?

Can. Ch. Shiralee’s Elizabeth Barrett (“Sonnet”)

I’m not keen on being in the spotlight. My comfort zone is more behind the scenes. But since the mid-1970s I’ve lived with show quality purebred dogs. For years I subdued my nerves and stumbled around the show ring with our Shelties. Eventually a good friend (who later became an all breed judge) rescued me, and I soon discovered it was much more exciting to watch from the sidelines as the dogs won.

Our Labrador, “Tynan”, third from left with handler and friend, Jayne Luke

Many exhibitors thrive in the competitive environment – one of my recent manuscripts features a character who is addicted to it – but I’m not one of them. My thrill comes from being the breeder and/or owner of a dog whose quality is well presented, acknowledged and rewarded. I don’t need to be in the ring trying to make it happen.

In the purebred dog fancy success means different things to different people. It can be achieving goals in a breeding program – producing sound minds in sound bodies, and great family companions…

Can. Ch. Riversedge Tynan at Careann (“Tynan”)

owning top quality show dogs that can win trophies and ribbons in competitions…

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or becoming a celebrity (of sorts), perhaps in a movie or magazine.

Yes, that’s our “Tynan” on the cover

In the writing community defining success can be challenging. Many writers labour over their words in private, satisfied by their written expressions in journals and personal memoirs. For some, having their words make a difference to others is the goal as they write devotional material or create encouraging messages for greeting cards. Still others strive for publication of books that will garner great reviews and take their names to the top of bestsellers’ lists.

“For every available bookstore shelf space,
there are 100 to 1,000 or more titles competing for that shelf space.”

[OutThinkGroup]

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Not everyone reaches a specific goal. Sometimes the criteria for doing so is beyond their control. Sometimes the effort put forth isn’t adequate for the desired result. For me, what’s important is acknowledging my motivation, seeking God’s will in my decision making, setting realistic goals, doing my part to reach them, and enjoying the process en route. That’s a hefty list, but I believe each item on it is crucial if I’m to feel fulfilled and be content with my level of success.

What’s your interpretation of ‘success’ in your current endeavour(s)?

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When the clouds roll in (or, dealing with disappointment)

You plan a weekend at the lake, but awaken Saturday to unexpected rain. Or maybe you prepare a surprise birthday dinner for your hubby, only to learn that a meeting has come up and he can’t make it home in time. Things don’t always go according to plan.

(A click will enlarge the photo)

I watched several Olympic events over the weekend… saw the hope and great effort that didn’t always achieve the expected or desired results.

Canada’s bronze medal win in the Men’s 4x100m Relay Final was forfeited when the replay revealed Jared Connaughton had stepped on the line, thus disqualifying his team. He was understandably “devastated and disappointed”.

The bigger shock for me was when China’s Qiu Bo hid his face and berated himself for winning a silver medal in the Men’s 10m Platform Diving… because it wasn’t gold.

Lofty goals and expectations are motivators. As writers working towards publication we do our best to learn the craft, write good stories, polish the words, and then search out contests judges, agents and publishers to help us make the dreams come true.

But not everyone’s will. So how do we deal with broken dreams, unfulfilled desires, or letters of rejection?

When clouds darken your skies, what keeps you watching for the sun’s return?

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Hope is tomorrow’s veneer over today’s disappointment.

Evan Esar

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Anytime you suffer a setback or disappointment,
put your head down and plow ahead.

Les Brown

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And hope does not put us to shame,
because God’s love has been poured into our hearts
through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Romans 5:5 ESV

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Preparing for the Olympic Games

I’m ready! The Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Summer Olympic Games is today and it marks the start of my July 27th  to August 12th epic television viewing marathon. (Actually, I’ll be without access to a TV for part of the time, but you can be sure it won’t take me long to get caught up on any missed news and results.) My favourite sports are held during the Winter Olympics, but I still enjoy many of the summer ones, especially the swimming and diving, rowing and canoe sprints, the cycling, equestrian and gymnastic events.

Chair Balancing isn’t likely to be among the recognized Olympic sports, but don’t tell that to this little guy. All his pre-game training suggests he has every intention of participating.

I’ll have my Canadian flag handy. I may even pull out my 2010 Winter Olympic red mittens… not to wear in this heat, but just to add to our Canadiana display of enthusiasm. I should forewarn you: if you’re likely to be anywhere in the vicinity of my house during the next couple weeks you might want to carry ear plugs. I can get a little carried away during the Olympics.

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Do you watch the Olympic events? What’s your favourite sport? 

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Barbed Beauty and a Bicycle Ride

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Sunny buttercups and their many memories of childhood. Bouquets clutched in tight fists, holding one flower under my chin waiting to be told how much I liked butter. We thought the fields dotted with floral sunshine were beautiful. No one told us that the invasive weed known as Creeping Buttercup was poisonous when eaten fresh by cattle and horses. Now I understand the rusty barbed wire surrounding the fields. Barbed beauty – an oxymoron.

The day this photo was taken I was attending our church picnic. Our choir director arrived a little later than the rest of us who had driven the twenty minutes from the church… riding her bicycle. Ellen Lewis takes every opportunity to get in a ride because she’s been in training for a full year to participate in this weekend’s Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer, benefitting BC Cancer Foundation.

Some of her reasons for participating are posted on her page of the Conquer Cancer website. One of those reasons is her brother who is a cancer survivor and who also participates in the ride each year. But what she doesn’t mention is that she has never done anything athletic like this before, and when she signed up for the ride, she also made a commitment to get in shape and lose weight. In less than a year she has reached her goal, a weight loss of 128 lbs.  That kind of determination and commitment is a wonderful thing.

Cancer is an ugly disease – I can tell you that from personal experience – but amid that ugliness there is hope. I know that sounds like another oxymoron, but the hope is evident in the monumental fight to find a cure, and in people like Ellen who are helping to make it happen.

I wonder if there’s a connection between the colour of those buttercups and the riding gear being worn by Ellen and her team. Nah… probably not.

If you’re one to say a prayer, add yours to mine for her safety and the success of the ride – it will be a grueling two days this Saturday and Sunday, as she joins the thousands of other cyclists riding between Vancouver, BC and Seattle, WA.

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June 21 Update

 Ellen and her team safely completed the ride along with over 2700 other riders. She exceeded her original financial goal and raised $4,136, while her team, led by her brother Sam, raised an amazing total of $61,237. Well done!

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Go, Canucks, Go!

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There’s no getting away from it. I live in metro Vancouver, I’m a Vancouver Canucks fan, they’re in the playoff finals, and TONIGHT is the first playoff game. So, yeah, I’m waving a Canucks flag, and no, there’s no writing analogy to be gleaned from it. At least, I don’t think there is.

There are rumors that my cuz, Ra McGuire will be joining the Odds to sing a brief but rousing version of his Raise a Little Hell at the start of tonight’s game. Seems like an appropriate choice. The rivalry is friendly around here, and we welcome the Boston fans… but GO, CANUCKS, GO!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Is Writing Professionally the Ultimate Publication Goal?

Snow filters through the trees and fills the recently shoveled pathway. It’s been snowing lightly since sometime last night, tiny flakes descending from a glowering grey sky. It isn’t a blizzard – nothing like the mounds of white powder that buried Mt. Washington Ski Resort on Vancouver Island earlier this week. They had a record-breaking 150 cm. (5 ft.) in less than twelve hours, over 4 m. (13 ft.) in five days! The skiers love it, but stranded car owners are still digging out their vehicles.

After my oh-so long-winded post on Tuesday I found myself thinking seriously about my writing – about my short- and long-term goals, my dreams.

I think most of us like to ‘dream big’ and would probably jump at the opportunity to be a full time professional writer, making a living at what we love doing.  But I wonder if a writing career is everything we think it is. We see the professional’s life from the perspective of the amateur and it looks pretty rosy. What we don’t see is what it takes to get there and stay there.

The weekend skier who adores spending time on the slopes probably has no concept of the life of the Olympic skier – the sacrificial hours of grueling training day after day, the risk and injuries, the expense and promotion, the constant travel. When the weekend enthusiast watches an international skiing competition he sees only the exhilarating races, the skill, the medals, the glory.

Back in mid-September Jody Hedlund blogged about the differences between our writing as a hobby or a profession. If you didn’t happen to read that post I highly recommend you go back and do so now. She defined the differences between hobbyists and professional writers, particularly in the areas of motivation, pleasure, inspiration, work time, standards, investment and image.

For those of us who are putting publication on our wish list for 2011, and aiming at the life of a full time writer, I wonder if we really understand the commitment and endurance a career in writing will require.

The first person to comment on Jody’s blog post was Katie Ganshert, and she made a significant observation: “Another important point is that it’s OKAY to be a hobby writer. There’s no shame in that. It’s not like professional writers have a one-up on hobby writers. It’s all about what God’s called us to be.”

She’s right, of course. We need to allow God to guide our ambitions… and to remember there are other ways to use our [skiing] skills that are as valuable as whipping down a slope in search of gold medals.

Are you writing with the goal of publication and a full time career? If not, or if that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen for you, what other areas might you find that would let you make use of your love of writing?