Saturday, August 12, 2017

I feel like a chameleon


Me with one of the kids from my section

Back from Guatemala (minus my suitcase) and with a whole new level of gratitude for my year down there!!  

Playing at baby house

My visit was phenomenal.  I went as a trip leader for 16 kids and 7 adults and (as leaping before looking seems to be my life plan) I didn't realize I was the leader until the week before when I got an email with my name next to the title: NPH Trip Leader.  Sheesh.  
I thought they just wanted someone to accompany them.  :o)

Picking beans...ironically I never did anything like this the entire year I lived there

I met up with the group in Atlanta and immediately they welcomed me into their Bahstan circle.  Loved these people!  And honestly, by the second day I realized I was having more of a Boston-cultural experience than a Guatemalan one...mostly because I know Guate, but apparently not Boston!

Day trip to Antigua...my first attempt as a tour guide!

Visiting NPH itself was a gift.  I received so many hugs, kisses, well-wishes, "I miss yous" and welcomes from the kids, caregivers and admin that I spent the entire week on a high.  

Central Park

I also appreciated that I was with a group because it led me to spend time with every section of kids and if I had gone on my own for a visit I think I would have spent most of my time with my own special needs kids.  Instead I was able to talk and catch up with ALL the kids...who remembered the nurse who used to give them their shots and pills!

Miss this view!

So the chameleon comment comes from the feeling that I've just been going from group to group and fitting in.  My flight to Atlanta I sat next to a beautiful, devout woman and talked about EWTN, Cardinal Sarah, Rome, vocations and all things Catholic.  On the flight back I sat between two drunk people and talked AA, football, life decisions and bar hopping.  

Visit to outlying pueblo...brought supplies to their school

Comparing my back-to-back high school group experience: at camp we were on our knees every night for an hour and a half for adoration with fully habited friars, however with the youth group in Guatemala we didn't kneel even during Mass as they have their own special youth thing going on...but I loved being with both!  In each instance I felt connected to the group/people I was with...however, since they were all so different and I was following their lead, I'm beginning to wonder if that's normal!  Hence the chameleon comment.  Oh well, God connects to each of us, so I'll trust Him.  Sorry for the bizarre thoughts!  Glad to be home and so happy to know all these amazing people!!

Only in Guatemala

Oh and as goes along with my random life, we found $1500 USD in a couch while down there.  How weird is that?

For real!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Intermission



I've been busy.  I went down to South Carolina two weeks ago and attended my godfather's wedding.  I was able to see my 93 year old grandma (mom's side) and that is a blessing because this week she was put on hospice.  :o(


Then I spent last week working at an AMAZING Catholic kids camp...one that I've volunteered for before and loved!  This time it was in Maryland (they run four or five including one in Ireland!) and so I was able to spend time with my grandma (dad's mom) and aunt who live down that way.  


What a blessing!  Both the visit and the camp.  I had the pleasure of visiting Hagerstown which is a super-cute little place on the cusp of West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania.  We saw their museum of fine arts, the $100,000 mural along the cultural trail (pictured above) and the downtown visitor's center.  Super cute!



Also in breaking news, I was able to teach my grandma how to text on her new cell phone. She is 85! The first day she received my text, she called my aunt to tell her she had received it.  She then tried to text my aunt, but sent it to her landline.  The next day she called ME to tell me she received my text.  It was only by day three that TADA: I received a text!  So now she is tech-savvy (text-savvy?) and I don't know what will happen next.  Will she be on Facebook?  Who knows?


The camp itself was an amazing and beautiful week of grace.  We had daily Mass, adoration, rosary, talks by religious accompanied by paddle-boating, swimming, soccer, dodgeball, rope courses and all kinds of camp-like things for 250 teenagers.  The campground itself was built in the 1950s and hasn't changed a thing.  I felt like I stepped onto the set of Hailey Mill's movie The Parent Trap.  It was awesome!


I worked in the nurses office where we mostly fielded off bloody noses, bumps and bruises although we did have some broken bones and concussions mixed in.  The entire week was so uplifting.  And exhausting.  Which is why next year, I will not do camp followed by four days of working followed by a trip to Guatemala.


Because tomorrow, I am going back to Guatemala with a church youth group from Boston.  I'm super exhausted but excited.  God is good and I really can't wait to see my kids.  I have been so blessed.  Now to remember that!


Tuesday, July 4, 2017

The Fourth of July


Having flashbacks to when I was a little girl and we'd make the all-day drive up to my grandparent's house in West Virginia for the Fourth of July holiday.  We had the perfect spot for the town fireworks right on my grandma's front lawn, blankets and chairs set out in the grass as the lights filled the sky above us.  The West Virginia heat, oh my!



Thinking back to all the times I listened to Lee Greenwood sing Proud to be an American...errr...God Bless the USA (official title I think) and cried, thinking how glad I was to be born in this country.  Standing in kindergarten and learning the pledge of allegiance.  Hearing the national anthem played at ball games and, even more meaningful, at the olympics when every other country present listened along.  Watching the President speak after 9-11.  And waiting with baited breath each election to see who would come out on top.  Complaining about long waits in the DMV and grateful for a cop or ambulance responding within minutes of calling.  People dying to get into our country. Decisions and options and the ability to do more with my own life and do more for those around me than I could want.  Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom to carry arms, freedom to own property, freedom to challenge the government and the freedom to assemble.  Land of the free.




I've been to a lot of places over the years and although I have plenty of love and respect for these other countries, I am so grateful to call the United States of America home!


“Yesterday the greatest question was decided which ever was debated in America; and a greater perhaps never was, nor will be, decided among men. A resolution was passed without one dissenting colony, ”that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States.”
You will see in a few days a Declaration setting forth the causes which have impelled us to this mighty revolution, and the reasons which will justify it in the sight of God and man. A plan of confederation will be taken up in a few days."
~John Adams
July 3, 1776


Sunday, June 25, 2017

Learning to be author savvy



I'm taking this slow as I: 

1) Have other commitments 

2)  Don't want to screw it up from the beginning

...and...

3) Don't want to be a crazy spam author trying to push my book down people's throats yelling, "READ IT!"

I started an author website at the recommendation of everyone on the internet...I know, great place to get advice!  You can see it if you'd like by clicking here.  It's not very exciting.  Basically, a link to my book and exclamation points because I'm not very involved with the site just yet.  I'm keeping this blog (Adventures First) my personal one (so personal, huh...when it's public...but yah).  The author site is more an investment in the future should I somehow end up with 30 published books (cause, yah...that's gonna happen) and need a place to put them all.  :o)

I joined goodreads as an author.  That site, I am told, is a goldmine for finding readers as long as I avoid number 3 (listed above).  It's cool because it brings people interested in a specific genre all to the same place so they are easier to reach...now to figure how to reach them without being pushy.  Baby steps.

My Amazon author page is up.  It's funny because there is another author with the exact same name who published some financial management thing and at first they tried to put that under my name too...all fixed (I think).

As great as it is to have a publisher to edit, design and put out the book...most of the advertising falls on my shoulders.  Which is fine.  It's all a new challenge and I like those.  No pressure either, I have an income and there is only a dog to feed so no worries that my kids or someone else's will be homeless if I don't sell this book.

I wrote a short-story (mystery) for an anthology that comes out at Christmas by Cozy Cat (my publishing company).  Then in the Spring I hope to have the second Aimee Talcos Mystery ready to go.  The best of all of this is how much I am enjoying putting the story down on paper.  If I lose that, I imagine I will lose any motivation to write...so glad to live in the moment and go where God is taking me!



Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Canadian Rockies

The Canadian Rockies are Canada's best kept secret!  They are AMAZING and BEAUTIFUL and why doesn't everyone go there??

Calgary

This year is the 150th anniversary of Canada and in celebration they have made all their national parks free: brilliant!

Top of Athabasca Glacier

We arrived on a Sunday to Calgary and made it Canmore, just south of Banff and the official entry into the Park, late that night.  Funny thing about this far north?  It's daylight out until 10:30 at night and then light again by 5am.

Lake Louise

And then we hiked.  And hiked. And hiked some more.  We went up to the Agnes Tea House above Lake Louise, followed the ten peaks after passing Lake Moraine (in the rain), wound our way up Paget's Peak and around Emerald Lake.  Then took some time to drive up to Jasper, stop on the Athabascar Glacier and then hike the Valley of the 5 Lakes.  In between we managed to stop at a million waterfalls including a nice little hike through Johnston Canyon.




Bird at Lake Louise

Fields of Alberta

Avalanche on Eifel Trail

Ten Peaks

Lake Moraine

Emerald Lake

Bow River

Back of the Fairmont

Glacier Climber

Columbia Icefield

Skywalk

Mama and baby bears

Athabasca Falls

Peyto Lake

Mountain Flowers from Valley of the Five Lakes

Big horn sheep

Johnston Canyon

Now I want to know what other parks I can get to before the end of the year!  What else is Canada hiding?  :o)

Saturday, June 10, 2017

So about the book I wrote...



I rather feel like a horse in a race that has just been let go from the box...all the other horses have taken off, I'm left in a cloud of dust, and I can't even think how to run, let alone catch up.  This is because today my book was (officially) released on Amazon and who knows where else.  It will be on Kindle sometime this week.  

What book, you ask?  Well, as alluded to in my last blog (and the one before that!): I wrote a mystery.

I wrote it while I was in Guatemala, one week when the doctor (head of the clinic) was on vacation and after literally 45 minutes, I had nothing to really do with my time (amazing how no one ever really needed anything when she was gone...hmmm...back to my book).  SO I sat at my desk, next to the clinic coordinator and started writing...and writing...and writing until by the end of the week I was leaving the clinic, tucking my kids in and then writing some more until it was dark and I had to go to sleep.  

The end product was a painful to read and rather pathetic attempt at a murder-mystery-who-done-it-type book.  My housemate, my mom, and my dear friend (who happens to have her degree in editing just not currently working in the field) all graciously read the vomit copy, gave me great feedback, and so, rather foolishly, I sent out a query letter thinking I had a book to publish.

My query was great!  I got all kinds of interest.  I seriously think if this author thing doesn't work out I should just write query letters.  I found a bunch of publishers online and went through all kinds of hoops to submit.  Some wanted one chapter, others three, others a synopsis and some just the word count and title.  I wanted to have my book published but with one caveat: I didn't want to pay anyone to do it.

And so it began, the round of refusals..."not what we're looking for; not quite right for our house; you stink."  Okay, I made the last one up.  But you get the picture.

Finally after several months, I got a reply from a publisher of "cozy mysteries."  (These are clean mysteries, usually with a female sleuth, and no gratuitous violence or sex.)  The publisher wanted to see my book again, but with some changes...  

At this point I had received interest from several other people but nobody that I really liked (when I looked at the other books they publish).  The bigger houses (like anyone you've ever heard of) required an agent to submit and the big christian publishers required you pay to have them look at what you wrote...both kinda went against the grain since I was doing this for fun and to fulfill a childhood dream (thank you Anne of Green Gables and Jo from Little Women).

It was while I was in Honduras at the bus stop waiting for the mechanics to fix our bus (yah, that happened) that I emailed the cozy mystery publisher back, committing to the rewrite but only after I returned from my travels.  I then spent the months of February and March rewriting and reading my book aloud to my poor, very patient housemate: I found that reading it aloud was the best way to edit as it enabled me to hear and see the story simultaneously.

After all this I sent the book in to the publisher and within 24 hours I had an offer with a contract...the one stipulation being I had to create a series out of the book (which means I have at least two more mysteries to write).

And now what you probably want to know is: what's it about?  Below is the blurb from the back of the book, the cover and the link to Amazon.  The kindle version will be out shortly...I'll put the link in when I have it!



Acquainted two short weeks, married less than three days and widowed little more than one hour…

    Aimee Talcos isn’t sure what to do or where to turn when she finds her husband, Declan, murdered on the floor of her grandfather-in-law’s seaside home.  Combine that with the unexpected discovery of her deceased husband’s criminal activity and Aimee finds her life just beginning to unravel.  
     Balancing the suspicious attention of a good-looking detective with mysterious break-ins, roadside attacks and ominous threats, Aimee has to decide if clearing the name of the man she married is worth risking her own life in the process.


This whole process has been kinda crazy in the midst of readjusting to living in the states, restarting my job, moving around, reacquiring my dog, etcetera (oh and all those trips...like tomorrow when I leave for Banff).

Clearly God has a hand in all of this.  I like to think He's keeping me busy so I wouldn't come home and wonder "Now what?  Life is futile!" after Guatemala.  

One day at a time...His grace is sufficient for me!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Settling in

I don't like to post pictures on the internet of where I live but rest assured, I have successfully moved in!  Today the internet guy came and hooked up my wifi...and so here I am!  I think the most awesome part is I'm reunited with this bozo:


At first I was worried because after 20 months of living with 9 kids he was waking me up EVERY MORNING at 6 am.  Thankfully his oldness kicked in and we are back to an 8am wake-up call and this morning I was the one who woke him up!  Speaking of which, he's sleeping again.

So apartment living is weird.  I still haven't figured out the key-pad door entry and I've got stove problems...the nice part is a maintenance guy will be out in an hour or so to fix it.  My neighbors are gone all day and I rarely see anyone.  There are a lot of dogs.

However, I like where I'm living!  It's clean, and spacious, and pretty and stuff.  It's just weird being on my own again and not having any one to squint at in the morning.  Well except Clarence but he ignores me.

My next blog will be about the book I wrote.  I thought we were still copy proof editing it but apparently it's on Amazon already...so not sure how I feel about that since I didn't think it was print-ready!  But I'll write about that and the whole process of getting published because that's a story...errr...blog...in its own right!

Hope you all have a beautiful day!