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One year ago today, I wrote my first blog post on A Dream Made Truth.

My initial intention was to create more of a website than a blog, a place for literary agents to find out more about the memoir I’m writing. I didn’t know what I was doing but I did understand that more readers was better than less and in order to have them view my site more than once, I’d need to post new content regularly. 

Hitting “publish” for the first time was slightly terrifying. I kept my first post short and sweet. 

Months later, after receiving feedback from an assistant at a big time New York City literary agency, I decided my 100+ page proposal needed significant changes. But I haven’t made those changes. Whatever the future holds for the publishing industry, one thing is certain: it’ll work differently than it did yesterday. So I set aside my search for an agent to do what feels right today: write my book and maintain my blog.

So what’s in store for year #2?

  • A revamp of my blog (an undertaking for non-technical me but I’m excited)
  • Could I possibly finish my book this year?
  • And more stories not just from me, but others immersed in the world of travel, food, sustainability, and connecting.

I started this blog feeling it was a prerequisite to getting my book published. And I have struggled this year with where to spend my limited time: on the blog or writing my book.

But in delaying the completion of my book, I’ve found a community of people who share my interests from all over the world and stayed connected with friends and family. For that, I am grateful. Thank you!

Have ideas for my new and improved blog? Suggestions for writing my book? Thoughts on posts you’d like to see here? Send ’em my way!

Happy new year everyone.

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“White wo-man!”

“White wo-man!”

I cringed. It could only be me the voice from behind was calling. The last time a man jogged to catch up with me on my walk from the white house to our dinghy in Clare Valley, not the presence of my toddler riding on my shoulders nor my declaration of love and commitment for my husband did anything to quell his lengthy proposition to please me like no other man could.

“White wo-man!”

The eyes of nearby villagers were on me and my two children, waiting to see what would unfold. The slap of feet pounding pavement grew louder. Goats bleated. Chickens pecked at bugs. I stopped walking and turned around.

The eyes of a dreadlocked man, barefoot and in a raggedy t-shirt and shorts, lit up when he saw my acknowledgment. 

He stopped inside my invisible comfort bubble, panting, and smiled. “Good morning,” he said.

I steeled myself. “Good morning.”

“You have solar panels. I need a solar panel. Can you get me one?”

“A solar panel?” The surprise in my face and voice must have been something to see.

“Yeah, I live on the mountain,” he gestured behind him. The villagers came closer. “We have no power. You have solar panels, yeah? I have money. I can pay for it.”

My shock turned to instant admiration. He wanted to talk business! My heart swelled. He would be my ally.

This post has been entered in the Grantourismo Home-Away Holiday Rentals travel blogging competition hosted by Grantourismo Travel and  Home-Away Holiday Rentals.

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Island poetry

Daily life on La Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua

We spotted the Ford Ranger from the ferry. 

Its turquoise color matched the sea.

The truck’s owner hurried toward us. “Good morning, you must be Brian and Nicole, and you are the children, and you, the brother!” Herb said. His wife, Ilene, hugged us. 

“Wow, the truck is outfitted just like ours,” Brian said. 

“Is that right?” asked Herb. “Shall we go back to our place to discuss the sale?”

“I’ve made some sandwiches and juice,” said Ilene. 

Shouldn’t we just discuss the purchase here? Take it for a test drive? I wondered. Brian shrugged.

We loaded into the back, riding on the bench seats under the canopy, just like we had done in our rusted out truck.

At their home, we snacked and admired photos of Herb and Ilene’s grandchildren. Two hours later I suggested we look at the truck. 

Brian inspected for rust and finally the modest price was revealed.  We accepted without negotiation.

Spirits were high. “Have you seen all of Bequia?” Herb asked.

Well, no we hadn’t.

The sun sank low before we were dropped back at the ferry dock. Herb would deliver the truck to Kingstown next week. They watched us board and searched us out on deck and waved as we sailed away.

The next day, there was a phone message. “Brian, I’ve been thinking. Considering the cracked windscreen, the price seems too high. I’m going to lower it by $300.”

I listened to the message three times to make sure I’d heard right.

This post has been entered in the Grantourismo HomeAway Holiday-Rentals travel blogging competition.

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A second look

Often, when I talk about my and Brian’s experience operating the resort, I say it was an emotional rollercoaster. And I say it with a twinge of affection.

So when the fair came to town last month and I found myself sort of dreading it, I started to wonder, did I really have a fondness for emotional rollercoasters but not amusement park rollercoasters? Maybe I only thought I didn’t like real rollercoasters.

   

My kids, on the other hand, waited with great impatience for the fair to arrive.  So I took them, with my own agenda to find answers. I rode some rollercoasters. Every time the ride started to move, I’d start to laugh, while my mind was consumed with, “How long until it’s over?”

“Hahahaha, How long until it’s over?”

“Hahahaha, How long until it’s over?”

And then it was over. And I was glad. And I had no desire to ride another.

I’ll admit I didn’t care for the lowest points in the emotional rollercoaster of life at Petit Byahaut. I especially didn’t like the day that I was waiting with my toddler son for a boat ride back to Petit Byahaut in our neighboring village and a staff member with a criminal record of MURDER unleashed a tirade against me while the villagers observed in silence. That was a bad day.

The downward spiral went pretty low for Brian too, so much so that I saw a side to him I’d never before seen, with much anger, all directed at me. That was a bad day too, for both of us. Afterward, we blamed it on the abundance of steroids he was prescribed to rid himself of a craze-inducing painful rash he acquired in the bush. 

My husband does not hold the same affection as I for emotional rollercoasters.

But without those low points, the high points might not have been so high either. An afternoon swim with our family might have been just that, an afternoon swim.

Instead, an afternoon swim was paddling out to the big wooden pirogue moored in the bay with Simon riding on my back, he climbing into the boat and delighting in discovering he could move water through the hand operated bilge pump,  jumping off the boat into the warm sea over and over, Brian and Remy turning somersaults at the water’s surface while a whole world lived beneath us. It was diving down to the bottom, and seeing the look in our five year old daughter’s goggled eyes as we marveled at an octopus.

Those moments made up for it.

So why did I like emotional rollercoasters but not amusement park rollercoasters?

At Petit Byahaut, there was no picking and choosing the rides. We didn’t debate over whether to have lunch or ride The Inverter. There was no discussion over whether to try to win a giant stuffed animal or hop on the Super Loop. It just happened, in whatever way it was going to happen.

And I noticed the local people around me were living that way too. Their highs were possibly different than mine, but their lows and struggles made them live to the fullest in that very moment. They noticed their surroundings, their company, their emotions.

I decided it was living in its rawest form. Extreme Living. Primeval. Instinctual. Survival. There was no autopilot.

And I guess I liked it.

What about you? Do you love rollercoasters or hate them, emotional or physical?

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Funny, the timing of things

I finished the first draft of my memoir a year ago.

I spent months writing a proposal for the book.  

I got slightly discouraged/overwhelmed shopping  my proposal around to literary agents.

I started this blog, joined Facebook and Twitter.

I wrote an essay about life on St. Vincent for publication (fingers crossed).

And now it’s time to polish this draft and get it published. 

Here’s my plan.

1. Set my alarm clock for the wee dark early hours.

2. Encourage my children to sleep until 9:00 am.

3. Write, write, write, edit, edit, edit.

I need your help! If you haven’t already, click “Like” on A Dream Made Truth’s Facebook page. If you’re out there keeping tabs on me, you’ll help me crawl out of bed every morning and get to work. 

I’ll post snippets from what I’m working on several times a week, but only on A Dream Made Truth’s Facebook page and Twitter. Brian’s been helping me brainstorm a giveaway for Facebook “likers” (hint: it has to do with eating) and I’ll post the details in a few days.

And if you’d like to be the very first to see new blogposts, sign up to receive posts by email. They’ll be in your inbox the second they’re published and it only takes a second (see instructions for subscribing in the website’s upper left hand corner).

First snippet’s on Facebook already. Support me! Win stuff! Click “Like“!

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Reality check

Funny, the timing of things

This island dream

At 8:30, my girlfriends and I are finished with our telemarketing shift at Olan Mills Portrait Studio. We jump into a car and head to 7-11 to find out what’s happening tonight. We park in the lot and soon two cars pull in, one of them a chocolate brown BMW 320i, both full of testosterone-fueled guys. Two of them saunter into 7-11 and exit with a case of 3.2 Shaeffer beer. The guys come over, no one knows of any parties, we hang out for a bit. “We know someplace we can go,” one guy says. 

We jump into cars and peel out in a line, leaving suburbia. Our car train stops on a tumbleweed-strewn parched field.

“We call it The Moon,” one of the guys says.

The cute one inserts a Police cassette tape into his car stereo and finds the song, Walking on the Moon. He opens his car doors and cranks it up. We all cheer and dance and sing along, gazing up at the clear night sky, imagining ourselves on the surface of the moon. 

I’m chilly. The cute boy with the BMW offers his Guess jean jacket. Later he drives me home. He doesn’t ask for his jacket back.

“We bought tickets to Hawaii two days ago. We got a great deal, Brian can take time off work, the kids are elated, our dog sitter is available. I feel like I sold my soul.”

That’s what I submitted to a 3-Sentence Confession writing contest hosted by David Miller, senior editor of Matador Network.

The back story?

I’ve wanted to backpack through Africa for twenty years. My plan was to take The Africa Trip in 2010, the year I turned 40, with my family. Our kids would be 11 and 9, a perfect age, I thought. But here’s a bit of advice that probably does not need to be said: Do not show your children documentaries or reality tv shows about Africa.

For some reason, I eat this stuff up, getting more pumped for a trip of adventurous possiblities. But when kids see people eating coagulated blood by the handful, malaria sufferers, a horrifying worm emerging from an arm, and a mud brick building full of skulls, it’s a big turn off. What was I thinking? It seems so obvious now.

I’ve tried to convince them there is so much more to Africa than what they’ve seen. It hasn’t enticed them. I’ve told them, “This year I get to choose the trip, you can choose the next one.” They’d rather stay home. Traveling with my family is what drives me, what brings me peace and contentment. I bring up Nicaragua.

“Remember, you weren’t all that excited about going to Nicaragua, but it was awesome, wasn’t it?”

“Yeah! Except for the ticks.”

Simon re-told the story of the tick infestation last week to Uncle Jason (we actually don’t often share it) and he couldn’t get through it without cracking up. It wasn’t very funny at the time but we roll with laughter about it now, and those are the memories I long to create with my family. Africa was going to be that good.

Africa is not going to happen this year. I need an memory eraser to wipe away all that shock-value footage my children viewed. What was I thinking? So I’ll compromise. This one is hard for me. Now to figure out how to make Hawaii what Africa was going to be…

Comic books and graphic novels are the favorite reading material of Remy and Simon these days so they circulate through our house by the armful. Our latest find is artist, Kazu Kibuishi, cartoonist extraordinaire. We can’t wait for the third book in his Amulet series to be published, but this Copper cartoon actually inspired me to create my own cartoon. 

But how in the world will I draw it? I wondered. I tried to convince Remy to help me out but she ditched me. So here it is. Try to look beyond the poor quality of the drawings. If nothing else, it was fun.

Here’s the real life photo that should be inserted between the seventh and eighth panels.

Life can be so complicated.

While I can’t yet offer a publication date for A Dream Made Truth, I have something for you to read in the meantime. 

The Last Resort by Douglas Rogers.

It stole the time I reserve for writing,  I couldn’t put it down. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad, but I don’t regret it.

Does sex, drugs, violence, and diamond smuggling get your attention? In The Last Resort, Douglas Rogers tells the amazing story of his parents struggle to survive and operate a popular lodge in Zimbabwe, called Drifters, after violence erupts when President Mugabe starts redistributing white-owned farms to blacks. What’s especially refreshing is Mr. Rogers’ success in telling the story from the viewpoint of both whites and blacks. While the guests stop coming and the economic condition of the country becomes dire, the Rogers’ refuse to leave and, to put it mildly, lower their ethical standards in order to survive.

As I read, I may have been looking for answers on what we could have done differently to hold onto our resort, but at the same time I found solidarity with the Rogers’ on several fronts. Perhaps all resort operators face equipment breakdowns, eccentric guests, and theft, but I had to laugh when I read about Mr. Rog proudly showing off his marijuana crop. We too had a plot onsite, only not planted by Brian or I. And although I have no idea what it’s like to live in daily fear in my own country, there was a time or two that I was very afraid when invaders with unknown intentions arrived at our remote resort.

I bow down to you, Lyn and Ros Rogers. You have my utmost respect.

Visit Drifters. I’m planning on it.

I’ve had this series of atonements roll in lately.

First, it was this radio story, Midlife Cowboy, that is so completely different from my story, but the ending, the ending was what I needed to hear after the rejection from the prestigious literary agent partly because of my ending, to keep me going and tell me my ending was alright.

Then, on a day when the revising of my manuscript was feeling overwhelmingly neverending, this photo showed up of President Obama’s hands holding his mess of a marked-up speech-in-the-making. I suddenly didn’t feel alone. I mean, if those most accomplished in the world are making massive revisions, imagine all those in between me and him who are doing it at this very minute.

Then there’s this. Many days over the past year we’ve questioned whether adopting our akita from the local animal shelter was a good idea. Don’t get me wrong, we totally love him, but man, is he a lot of work. So we watched Hachi: A Dog’s Tale last week, and the special feature where the show business dog training experts discussed the challenges of working with akitas made me, at least, feel better. I still might design a video game, tentatively titled: Take Hoshi for a Walk. Pure adrenaline pumped unpredictableness.

And the 110 year old rejection letter popped up and I would imagine anyone trying to get something published would appreciate this. What I found interesting is the similarity of modern day literary agents to those of yesteryear. They speak bluntly, but they’re amazingly polite and often encouraging. I’m still holding onto this line from a rejection letter I received: “I absolutely think you should continue pursuing representation.” The agent who wrote that is my favorite, so far.  

Then after a crime happened last weekend on my street that made me question whether this is where my children should be living, this appears, reminding me of why I love my neighborhood and really do want my kids living here. 

This isn’t even all of them. It wasn’t until I started writing this that I realized I was describing life at Petit Byahaut, except on a much more subtle and less interesting scale. And as crazy as it may sound, I miss that ride. So, I’ve decided I’m going to keep looking for these little redeeming things. Maybe they’ve always come.

But this one I haven’t figured out: a few days after receiving this photo in the mail from Mom,

(I’m between my brothers, with the black eye), Simon gave himself a black eye. Easter 1984, I had the black eye. Easter 2010, it’s Simon’s turn. What does that mean?

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