Christmas Gifts

12375307_10153135140067035_344606078367329524_oI find as I get older, my view of Christmas changes. When I was a child my thoughts near the holidays centered around the glittery presents that Santa was going to bring me.

I remember one Christmas Eve when we lived in Oswego in a two-story home at the top of a hill. I stayed up late trying to wait up for Santa. As the snow gently fell, I kept my eye out for Santa. I just knew that was going to be the year I’d see him! On a side note, that probably also was the year mom put plastic on our windows because the house was drafty and I poked holes in it. To this day I still need a cool breeze (and a cold room) to sleep in. My mom still tells the story of the year I poked holes in the plastic. But that’s off-topic.

My efforts to see Santa arrive were futile, I fell asleep before Santa came and woke up to a fresh blanket of snow — the gorgeous kind that sparkles under the moonlight due to it being so lightweight in the cold air. I remember taking a few moments to enjoy the beauty of the snow before bounding down the stairs to open my presents. Ah, good times and happy memories.

As I get older, however, my perspective has shifted from receiving to giving. Sure, it’s always fun to receive, but I realize now, it’s more fun to give. This year I put a lot of thought into my gifts to family members, friends and even a few surprises for the staff in the newsroom. I searched what I call the “deep web of Ebay” to find the perfect gifts at the perfect price. As I shopped (I spent many hours in the middle of the night during my frequent bouts of insomnia) I searched for something not only meaningful, but something I knew the person would treasure. I imagine faces lighting up as they open their gifts and this makes me happy.

But it isn’t just material things I’m giving this year. This year I chose to amp up my donations to The Salvation Army, dropping a few bucks into every kettle I saw. That organization does so much in our community in so many ways and I also enjoy chatting with the bell ringers as I’m dropping in my money.

There are other gifts this year has provided to my family. Our family has seen a lot of changes this year. My brother, Dalton, and his wife, Amanda, welcomed a new baby earlier this year, Kizen. In addition to having a new baby, they generously open their doors to another family member, Averi. So, I gained two new nephews this year and I couldn’t be more ecstatic about it. I’m proud of my brother and sister-in-law for stepping up and opening their hearts and home to so much love.

So, while you’re opening your gifts this year, take some time to see the joy and the light on your loved ones’ faces. Take some time to also count your blessings for non-material things.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

National Novel Writing Month success

12239193_10153109835592035_6675072051074975256_oFor many, November means being thankful (it means that to me as well) and preparing for Thanksgiving and the kick-off of the holiday season.

But, for hundreds of thousands of writers such as myself around the world, it also means a 30-day quest to write 50,000 words — all in the month of November.

For the third time, I decided to take on this challenge. The breakdown (if you don’t get behind) is about 1,667 words a day for 30 days. The event began in 1999 and more than 250 NaNoWriMo-inspired novels have been traditionally published, according to their website,

On Nov. 1, us novelists were off and running. With the help of our Municipal Liaison, Charity Sandstrom, our local Emporia region cranked out more than 566,000 words during that 30-day period. We had weekly write-ins at various places around Emporia and many of us found ourselves writing where ever and whenever we could.

My novel, titled “Ula’Ree,” was my first crack at world-building. The novel is set on another planet, called Ula’Ree and also has parallels with Earth. Without giving up any secrets, I found world-building a fascinating and extremely difficult challenge. On one hand you have a blank slate to create anything you want, but on the other hand, it does have to make sense — or readers won’t buy into it. I must say after 30 days of intense time with my characters I’ve become very fond of and very attached to my world. But, I must say, it’ll need a lot of cleaning up and expansion before it’s ready for anybody’s eyes but mine.

With all that said, here’s a look at my month. When you have that many words to crank out in one month here is what it means:

  • You decline nearly all and any social engagements. “No thanks, I have to write.” I don’t know how many times I uttered those words this past November.
  • Sleep, who needs sleep? When everybody else is peacefully sleeping you are, you guessed it, up writing. And writing. And writing. And when I wasn’t writing, I was thinking about writing. This in addition to my day job, which at The Gazette, focuses on writing.
  • Coffee (or any form of caffeine) cannot be consumed fast enough. My attempt to cut down (or eliminate caffeine) failed in November.
  • You begin to blur the lines between your novel and reality. “Hey wait, is that my main character ahead of me in the check-out line? Wait, that’s in my book. Hey, I wonder if that’s Ula’Ree shining up in the night sky? Wait. That’s in my book. Never mind.”
  • You have to make lists and lists and lists — just to keep up with your daily life. Because every spare moment you spend on getting that word quota — and building a bank of words if you can.
  • Your characters haunt your dreams. I don’t know how many nights I wrote up to the minute I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer, which prompted many dreams about my characters. But usually those dreams led to another scene in my novel.
  • Your novel is literally all you can talk about when you’re not at work. Because, with no social interaction aside from your time you spend with your characters, it’s all you have to talk about. (Again, blurring reality).

But, I’m proud to say, I completed the challenge two days ahead of time — on Nov. 28. And, after saying “I’ll never do this again,” I’ll likely do it again.