Drifting Thoughts: Without a Sense of Place

Home.

A word both tangible and illusory.

One of the most problematic words in language.

Most people feel incomplete without it.

Others, tragically, have learned that home is a false concept of security and warmth.

But many still look for it.

Even life’s wanderers.

Even me.

And I never wanted to stay in one place.

Three years, max, and I feel the desire to move on. Especially now, feeling a geographical dislocation in this high desert.

I still want to burn bridges.

To leave a wake of delightful chaos and destruction in my wake, however inconsequential.

Enough, I say. I’ve had enough of this place.

It’s okay to be a stranger. To be out of place and step no matter where you go.

But then I got tired.

I didn’t expect that.

To wake up a stranger in this aging body that I have trouble believing is still mine.

“Own it.” (No, thank you.)

What do you do when noplace wants you?

I found a cover letter for a job with a local company back in 2007 in my files. I applied when I lived here before. I’m back in this locale, and have applied to the same company quite a few times recently. It felt so silly, wasting all that recent effort that (in a random. passing realization) still hasn’t wanted to hire me.

I felt like Don Quixote. My whole life a series of tilting-at-windmills.

What do I do with a whole bunch of middle-aged angst? Excusable in the young, sometimes, but all these mixed emotions as an adult? It’s not allowed. I’m supposed to have it all figured out.

But what if you just realised you never even had the chance to figure it out when you were a kid? To not be who you were, inherently? To be taught that everything about you was somehow implicitly wrong, but then get slapped with the wake-up call that maybe, just maybe, that might actually not be true?

An entire sense of self just stolen, and you didn’t even realize the extent of the theft?

How do you go back and recover it? And why would you, at your age?

But you’ve exhausted all the possibilities. Or it feels like it. Physically, you can’t do the working-three-jobs solution you did when you were young. Jobs that sucked but gave you the illusion of independence. Of home.

But I was homeless within four walls. I didn’t own anything. I had nothing.

So I opened the door to a different room. An internal door. A door that led into creativity. Maybe not into the room of being an artist the way I always wanted as a child. Or the violinist. Or a million other lost dreams.

I was so scared.

But I opened it anyway.

I took the gamble.

And now I can’t close it.

But, why would I? So many years just trying to fit in. To conform. To keep my head down. To not rock the boat. To dress for the workplace. To work, at the cost of everything. A starving artist without even the comfort of art.

And guess what?

The gamble’s working.

I’ve had more acceptance the past few years as a hopeful writer then I have had in an entire lifetime of just trying to “get a job”.

So much support, even in rejection letters. Journals, editors, magazines–all mostly offering valuable feedback even when my stories or articles aren’t accepted.

And they are so nice.

And, even more astounding, my articles and stories are actually being accepted. At a mind-blowing, pinch-me-I’m-dreaming level. Even other writers are wonderfully supportive. I want to give acknowledgements to all but I’m forgetful in my old age sometimes, so I don’t want to leave anyone out. But you know who you are. If you follow me on Twitter, or look at the blogs I follow, and share via social media, you’ll find them. Or ask, and I’ll be glad to share links to read/purchase my works. And I try to be as supportive as possible in return, but I struggle with time management. As in there’s not enough time in the day. I feel like ambitious, hardworking Hermione, who still needed a time-turner to accomplish everything she intended to do at Hogwarts.

Have I arrived?

Not yet.

But, for the first time, I feel the inklings of what it would be like to have a sense of place. A connection. To not be the outsider eternally looking in. And I want to say, don’t let people take away your dreams. To put you down. To steal your sense of self. Even if you’re not making any money. Better to be broke and happy, then miserable and eking out an existence at a dead-end job. (Having said that, I still have a day job. *laugh*)

And, maybe someday, I’ll have roots in an actual community, too. In Glasgow. Or in Europe, somewhere. A little sea cottage by a tumultuous ocean, even. Surrounded by wilding trees, and roses by a blue front door.

Home.

 

 

( Feel free to share links to your actualised dreams, or write about them, in the comments below!–Willow)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wandering Minds: Tips for ADD/ADHD Writers

Writing and ADD/ADHD can be a contradiction in terms. I mean, sitting still? For hours? Luckily, I’m older and it comes a little easier. Or not. I still spend waste a good bit of time in wandering through my house. No mean feat when it’s a smaller place. When I’m not doing that, I’m giving into urges to do laundry, or looking for my pencil or that piece of paper THAT WAS RIGHT F**KING there two seconds ago and which has now fallen into a black pit of nothingness, never to be seen again.

So, here’s some tips I use to stay focused and actually meet writing goals instead of organizing your shelves for the twentieth time. (I put visuals after the bullets)

  • Work with your mind, not against it. This may seem contradictory to my later bullet points, but trying to force your mind in a linear track leaves you staring at a blank sheet of paper, or even an empty traditional outline. The end result being that you spend the whole day doing nothing because your brain hasn’t been hooked, or is intimidated by linear ways of doing things. (Disclosure: I don’t embrace drugs for ADD/ADHD, whatsoever.) I tried to force my mind into outlining my books traditionally, because one of my first manuscripts was awful. My mind kept throwing up “I-don’t-get-it” roadblocks. So I created my own system. For short stories, I outline with a pencil/pen and a sheet of paper. I write something that resembles a spider web made by a drunk spider. Connecting arrows, text going every which way, circled bits, underlined, and sometimes highlighters. Then I write it all out by hand. Then I type it into the computer and format it. Then I print it out and edit it again. And again. I don’t use a file cabinet (out of sight is an irretrievable event horizon); instead I put my research materials and other information in labeled and color-coded folders and line them up on a bookshelf. Easy access, and I don’t “forget” that I have that writerly resource. For book-length manuscripts, I use the same freeform outline method to brainstorm. Then I use Duolit’s character profile sheets and Creative Writing Now’s scene outlines to keep myself on track.
  • Create transition periods. When I switch from my morning online work to my writing desk, I have little transitioning rituals. Like doing the breakfast dishes, and/or organizing my desk and reviewing my schedule and submission deadlines. Even if I know what I have to work on, I still take some time out to lay out all my projects. I then light a candle and put on some background music–generally something classical. If it has words, it’s distracting, while film scores from movies like Harry Potter or video game scores like Myst create an atmospheric mood that’s great for writing.
  • Close doors. Even if it’s metaphorical (I don’t have any closed doors), closing the door can help you feel like you are entering into a private writing sanctum. I pull down the blinds at my writing desk to help me feel like I’ve moved into a little haven from the outside world. If I don’t, my mind seizes on something external I see in the outside world and hangs onto it a way to distract itself from writing. 
  • On schedules and timers. I have a timer. I forget to use it about half the time. And it’s too jarring when it goes off and breaks my concentration. I make schedules and barely look at them, but I keep making them. Why? The process of making them helps root it in my brain. It crosses over into the transitioning trick. I review them and it acts as a checkpoint or assessment. It tells me “What did you remember to do today, on your own?” and what I need help to keep from forgetting. To-do lists are great. When my work sessions end, I review the to-do sheets and cross things off. I also have a big desk calendar so that I can look at submission deadlines for the whole month, in one viewing, and I don’t panic when I realize it’s the day before twenty stories are due. I still had some crashing and burning with this, as I somehow thought I could do twenty stories in one day. It’s like my mind can’t compute length of time very well when it comes to submission deadlines. So I printed out a smaller calendar and assigned myself one story (or article/article pitch per day). So by the end of the deadline, I would at least have most of the stories done, rather than hardly any. I also gave in and used a submission tracker I made in MS Word, because, of course, I was lying when I told myself “Oh, I’ll remember it all in my head.” (humour alert) And I use a Hallmark Datebook to record my social media posts, mainly because it has the birth flower and the birthstone for each month. Don’t know why it helps, but it does.
  • Location, location, location. Change it up! I don’t usually leave my house to write, as it requires time, money, effort, and having to be around people, but I do switch rooms/locations in the house when I get that antsy or dead-head feeling. 
  • Snacks! I had this tendency of mine supported by a NaNoWriMo category, but I get the munchies bad when I write. Bagels with schmear, black olives with spreadable cheese, apples and cheese, chips and sour cream dill dip–you get the picture. On another note, they double as rewards. 
  • Reward system! Snacks (try to have healthy ones, not a whole box of cookies in one sitting), brew another cup of tea, flavoured water, afternoon cup of coffee to get you through the slump, or change up your work day by interspersing it with something more active but not totally time consuming. Laundry’s a safe bet. I also used this Facebook-based game, YoWorld, as a motivator to do computer work, but they’ve added so many fun side quests, challenges, and other in-game tasks that it doesn’t work very well as a background mind stimulator–it’s a full-time job in itself! I’m welcome to suggestions for a replacement option–please share in the comments!

On that note, it’s over to you. How do you balance ADD/ADHD, different learning styles, or a busy schedule/day job, with writing? Please share in the comments.

(Oh, by the way, I also offer ADD/ADHD coaching. You know, in case anyone is interested…and I have plenty of sparkly distractions to offer too!)

Outline.JPG
An outline, or a cryptic communication from another dimension?
DailySchedule.JPG
Even more thrilling! My daily schedule and to-do list. (MS Word/Publisher)
BigCalendar
Submission Deadline Calendar # 435 1!
WeeCalendar
Submission Schedule Calendar
SubmissionTracker
Yearly Submission Tracker Notebook (Yes, it’s sparkly silver! And has colour-coded tabs for each month!)

 

Green Stars Review: Milagro Herbs

Company: Milagro Herbs: Organic Herbs & Skin Care

Address: 1500 5th St. #6
Santa Fe, NM 87505

Contact: 505-820-6321

Open from 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday

Website: https://www.milagroherbs.com/

3/5 Green Stars based on:
* They use some organic ingredients, and some wild-harvested.
* However, they weren’t very forthcoming with information (either online or in person) about habitats that they harvest from. 
* This struck me as odd, since part of the goal of Milagro Herbs is supposed to be education. 
* Wild-harvested could be positive or negative, depending on the harvesting locations and methods. 

* Containers are a mix of plastic or glass.

* Would be nice if they accepted containers back to be refilled. 

For more information on Green Stars ratings see this post.

About the Company, and My Experience: I visited the store location on a couple of earlier occasions. The front part of the store is stocked with a wide variety of lotions, shampoos, and even soaps and other bath and body products. There’s a wall dedicated to local honeys in different flavours. If that weren’t enough, they have a huge selection of herbal/nutritional supplements, tinctures, flower essences, and, of course, their new CBD line of products. They have herbs and teas in bulk in a rear room. The storefront is also the location of the Milagro School of Herbal Medicine, through which they host individual classes, as well as a comprehensive program that concludes with a “Certificate in the Foundations of Herbalism”, according to their website: https://www.milagroherbs.com/school.html.

With the exception of their bulk herbs and teas, the products’ packaging seems to be evenly split between plastic and glass. In Santa Fe County, all plastic (regardless of number) and all glass, can be recycled at collection stations. Still, I’ve attempted to return the rinsed bottles from the products I have purchased from Milagro Herbs, and they will not accept them for refill.

The staffer that assisted me generally deferred to Dr. Enos in regards to the products, but she did help me pick out a suitable skin lotion for use in this painfully dry climate.

Despite the company’s business title stating that they carry organic herbs and skin care, their products are a mix of “organic and wild harvested plants collected by Dr. Enos and his staff” as quoted directly from the About statement on the company’s website.

During my most recent visit, I had the opportunity to talk to Dr. Tomas Enos in person about his products and his collection/harvesting practices. 

It was difficult to get information from Dr. Tomas Enos regarding the sustainability of his company’s collection practices and the herbs he imports from other countries, and from places like “rainforests and marine ecosystems” that the website refers to, and which does not identify a specific location within the source countries mentioned. He, unfortunately, was not very forthcoming during our conversation. Which was my loss when it came time to write this blog post, as his website bio states that he has “25 years in the herb business” in addition to his PhD.

I did learn from Dr. Enos, at least, that the main ingredient in my shampoo, conditioner (white plastic bottles), and the “Abundant Hair Oil” (brown glass bottle with a plastic top) grows everywhere in New Mexico.

Dr. Enos informed me that the New Mexican globemallow in the products (which have become my hair product staple in surviving this dry desert climate) was collected directly from his land.

I do not have any other information on how sustainable and environmentally/ecosystem friendly the company’s collection practices are.

I was also unable to get information on the labor practices he uses to collect the plants he uses for his products. His website mentions that the plants are collected by him and his staff, so I can only assume it involves fair pay to his staff, especially since it’s the law that Santa Fe pays its workers a living wage. No mention on whether he relies on local labour in these international locations.

Seeking Inspiration from Spirits: Guest Blog Post by Author J.H. Moncrieff

I hear dead people.

Not all the time, of course—that would be enough to drive one mad. But whenever I have encountered a ghost, it’s always been heard rather than seen.

When I was a teenager, I borrowed a Ouija board from a friend. At first, I carefully followed all the rules: I never used it alone; I made sure to move the planchette to Goodbye before taking my hands off it, etc. But the darn thing never worked.

One night I fell asleep with the Ouija at the end of my bed. I was in a deep sleep when a loud knocking sound woke me up. Groggily, I realized the sound was coming from the Ouija, but I was too out of it to process what that meant. Instead, I grabbed the board and threw it in a dresser drawer.

Before I could get back to sleep, loud knocking sounds started coming from inside the dresser. At this point, I was really annoyed, and yelled a few choice words at it. The knocking stopped, and I fell asleep.

In the morning, once it dawned on me what had happened, I returned the Ouija board to my friend.

 

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Who is this haunting lady in red? (Photo: 2019 Copyright of J.H. Moncrieff)

Growing up, I had a very close friend. Let’s call her Morgan. We definitely had our run-ins, as we were both willful, opinionated girls, but we also had a special connection. She was one of my dearest friends from the age of seven, when we met, to the age of seventeen, when she died in a horrible car accident.

I don’t think you’re ever prepared to lose your best friend, and certainly not at that age. To say I was devastated would be a massive understatement.

Soon after her death, there were plenty of signs that my friend’s spirit was still around, but they could all be dismissed as a coincidence or accident. Her portrait fell over during her funeral, right on her casket. The area around her grave was mysteriously warm, even in the dead of winter, with a wind howling and no shelter in the entire cemetery. Sometimes I’d be walking down the hall at school and hear someone call my name, but when I turned, no one was there. And that’s when I’d recognize the voice.

Mysterious Woman in the Mist

When I moved away, Morgan really made her presence known. It was my first year away from home. I was living hundreds of miles away from my family and friends in a shitty little apartment in yet another isolated northern community. For some reason, even though Morgan had never been to this place, I felt her around me all the time.
One day I found a mix tape that she’d started making but had never gotten the chance to finish. I was alone in the apartment, cleaning up the kitchen, so I put the tape into my boyfriend’s stereo.

The tape played just fine until it got to my friend’s favorite song. When it got to the end of the song–which was in the middle of the tape–the stereo suddenly auto-reversed, and played a song on the opposite side. It then auto-reversed again.

It was at the beginning of her favorite song once more.
I froze.

I said her name, very tentatively, my heart beating a million miles a minute. “Morgan?”
My kitchen cupboards went nuts. It sounded like someone was knocking on each one very hard with a fist. The knocks went down the row of cupboards and then started coming toward me again.
I ran to my bedroom, threw myself face down on the bed, and yelled something along the lines of:

“No, Morgan, go away! I’m not ready for this!”

The knocking stopped.

I’ve never felt my friend’s presence again.

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J.H. Moncrieff’s visit to Poveglia (Photo: 2019 Copyright of J.H. Moncrieff)

When visiting Poveglia, the world’s most haunted island, I was standing in the abandoned asylum with only a few minutes left when I felt brave enough to speak.

“Hello?” I said, stupidly, before remembering I was addressing Italian-speaking phantoms.

As soon as I repeated the greeting in Italian, there was a noise from the next room. Was it something falling or shifting? The building settling?

Or was the soft-yet-deliberate thud someone’s attempt to communicate?

I’m not sure, but I do know I convinced myself that spending the last ten minutes outside on the shore was a fantastic idea.

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The natural decay of an old building, or someone trying communicate? (Poveglia Photo: 2019 Copyright of J.H. Moncrieff)

When I moved into my hundred-year-old house, I put a collar with a bell on my anxiety-ridden cat to ensure I could find her if she went into hiding. The collar didn’t last long, and soon I found it on the floor upstairs. Exhausted from unpacking, I left it there. One evening, while I was downstairs watching TV with the kitties, that bell rang, clear as day. We all heard it. And that’s not the only strange noise that occurs in this house, either. For years, every night right after I went to bed, the front door would make a strange clunking noise—the best way I could describe it is as if the cylinders of an ancient lock were sliding into place, but I have a modern door. People have waited up to hear the noise and see if they can find the cause of it, but none has ever been found.

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Is there ever a final resting place? (Poveglia Photo: 2019 Copyright of J.H. Moncrieff)

There are many more stories, but suffice it to say—for a writer of supernatural suspense, inspiration is everywhere.

Can you relate to any of these stories? 

–J.H. Moncrieff

 
J.H. Moncrieff’s new release, Forest of Ghosts, was inspired by her real-life experiences in Romania, including Hoia Baciu, the world’s most haunted forest.

J.H. loves to hear from readers. To get free ebooks and a new spooky story every week, check out her Hidden Library.

Connect with J.H.: Website | Twitter | Facebook

Read on for a spooky sample of Forest of Ghosts:

Jackson Stone is sick of ghosts. With his love life in shambles, he heads to Romania for a horror writers’ retreat, hoping it will be a break from the supernatural and breathing space from his relationship with medium Kate Carlsson.

But as his fellow writers begin disappearing or losing their minds, he realizes he needs Kate’s help. 

When Jackson loses his own memory, Kate’s love is the only thing that can bring him back. But she’s falling for the man responsible for the evil in Romania. A man who claims to be her soul mate. Will this master of wraiths forever break Kate’s bond with Jackson?

 

Intrigued yet? Purchase your copy today to uncover more about Kate and Jackson’s fate!

Mysterious Galaxy

Barnes and Noble

Chapters

Amazon

 

Stray Dogs and Mad…Owners.

 

I rescued yet another stray/unwanted/dumped animal this week.

This one was a scared puppy running around; collar with no tags, and most likely without a microchip.

Animal Control came and got it.

It was not neutered, of course.

I’m keeping watch on the shelter website. Will call to check on the pup today.

No lost pet ads for a dog matching that description.

I’m hoping since it had a collar, it has a frantic owner out there. 

If it’s not claimed, that means another animal waiting for a forever home in the shelter.

Or the even more unfortunate and heart-breaking alternative of being euthanized.

Because there are too many irresponsible and fickle pet owners, and not enough homes for their unwanted animals.

So, please, if you adopt an animal, make sure you are in for the long haul. Some pets may even outlive you, so think ahead and plan for the animal’s future in your will and in your estate planning.

Choose the right pet for your household. Many shelters are more than happy to assist you in picking the right pet, to ensure placement success! Oftentimes, parents and guardians get trendy pets for their children that require a lot of care and special attention, like rabbits, which may not be the most suitable pet for a household with young children. An older, more sedate and calm dog or cat is probably a better choice than an animal that requires special handling to avoid injury to both animal and child.

Senior pets are often overlooked in shelters but make wonderful pets. My own two cats lived to be 20 and 21, respectively.

Moving with animals is relatively easy with the right planning–there’s no need to leave them behind. And leaving them locked in an empty house or apartment carries the risk that they will not be discovered in time to save them from a torturous demise.

Some may take affront to this post. I’m not going to apologize. Over a million healthy, lovable, adoptable pets are euthanized each year in the United States alone, based on recent statistics i retrieved from this website: https://www.aspca.org/animal-homelessness/shelter-intake-and-surrender/pet-statistics.

There’s no reason why you have to adopt a breed dog. Not when you can search Petfinder for the type of dog you want. Not when many of those pets come from puppy mills, or have many issues and illnesses from inbreeding. And many breed animals/designer pets end up in shelters because their owners were following a trend and got rid of the animal when it was passe’ or too much work.

And, I’m a firm supporter that spaying and neutering your pets should be mandatory in every state in the United States.

Letting your animal breed is just as irresponsible as abandoning your pet. Especially when there are low-cost (or even free) spay/neuter programs sponsored by animal shelters and/or animal rescue groups.

Lastly, keep your dog leashed. If you have a fenced area they can’t escape from, that’ll probably be good too. Definitely keep your cat indoors. Cats are free-roaming*, and risk not only being a nuisance to your bird-loving neighbours (cats’ impact on local wildlife populations is extremely detrimental) but also prevents them from being attacked by wildlife or dogs. 

Please don’t leave your dog alone in the yard all day. Both dogs and free-roaming/outdoor cats are easy prey for individuals who scour neighbourhoods for pets to use as bait animals in dog-fighting, or capture them to sell to labs for animal testing.

In the same light, do not post your animal for free in the want ads. They are also a source for people to gain animals for the two situations listed above.

*TNR feral cats are a little different situation. But, they still need to be fixed and have shots. I have two myself that had been abandoned, and which I took on the duties of being their colony manager. I’m still working on socializing them in hopes they will be indoor cats at some point.

 

 

 

 

Letter to a Literary Muse

Letter to a Literary Muse

Your time is spent nurturing your fans, and I am preoccupied with once and future worlds. I am never in sync, but I see you in each parallel; we touch and go on our way. Constantly inconstant forces in each other’s lives.

But I, unlike you, have never been anytime; born in a thistle maze, kept captive in a briar patch, wandered worlds only in my head, where I dream dreams in Mobius strips: nightmares and fears; misplaced intentions and missed chances; a thousand thousand deaths, countless lost and founds.

This night, I dreamt in Celtic lore, both modern and past, simultaneously; my mind’s eye’s mirror reflection; dark red hair in cascades, hunter-green dress, among glass and metal and life-in-a-pod on a strange new world. There is no prickly nest to trap me; to hide me in thorny safety. I am exposed. Alone.

You. You see me. Not a mirror reflection. No haint from a past world. This is the future. Our future. You gently work a twig from my hair, and hold it for an eternity while our worlds dream themselves together.