Monthly Archives: December 2014

Social Media in 2014!

Xmas image

At the end of 2014, it is only ‘fitting and proper,’ as the Georgians say, to look in our rear view mirrors and see what the universe has brought to us. The first thing that comes to mind is my year with social media. With a tad of hesitation, I created a blog through Word Press and finally signed up with Twitter. My publishing company had been trying to get me to take the social media plunge, but I had cold feet. Now, that I have dived in, there is no turning back.

I created my first blog post in January of this year. I did not have a lot of direction and now that I look back, I have gone from two-paragraph posts to lengthy narratives. I did my homework by reading others’ blogs and consulting the experts. Many continually promote their books, but there are so many other things to share. People like every day occurrences and each blog post is an opportunity to share our fresh writing skills as we engage and entertain others.

Once I have found something to write for a blog post, the other big challenge has been editing. Sometimes, I can edit a piece five or six times and still that illusive error may be sitting right there. Usually a word has been omitted or an extra word has been added. The ideal situation would be to have an extra set of eyes as used by professional proofreading services. That perfectly written piece has normally passed through at least two sets of eyes.

If my followers like my writing style, then they might purchase some of my books. Finding topics of interest can be a challenge but I try to keep it simple. I have blogged using a variety of techniques such as: book promotions; book reviews and analogies; interviews of other authors; narratives; poems; a music review; a movie review and a short story, to name a few.

Years ago, authors posted parts of their books in newspapers and they were called serials. Audiences anxiously waited for the next publication to see how the story would unfold. I wrote a short story which was entirely too long for one post. I decided to use the old technique and posted it in three parts as they did in days of old.

My fan base is growing and I keep trying new things. Writing for a blog keeps my fingers moving and it keeps my eyes open as I look for new topics. It allows me to share my views on situations. I understand that some people actually make good money as they blog for big companies. I have not ventured into that area but I imagine that it is like being a ghost writer.

And then there is Twitter. I signed up for Twitter in 2014, and it has been most rewarding. I have found author and artist friends both here in the States and overseas. My Twitter friends who are writers are in places like Washington D.C., Florida, Baltimore, Atlanta and Ohio to name a few. I have also picked up a number of author friends in the UK and one very special one in the Netherlands. We all support each other by reading and reviewing each other’s works. We normally post the reviews on websites such as Amazon, Amazon.uk, Goodreads and Barnes and Noble. Amazon and Goodreads allow authors to create free author pages, which I have done.

Frances Caballo is a guru on social media and her books have guided me as I learned to blog and Tweet. With Twitter, I used to post four or five Tweets in one sitting and Caballo let me know that I was missing the point. The goal is to try to have some input throughout the day. Those tweets should be spread out over the hours to catch different people when they are online. And it is important to connect with the international followers while they are online taking those time zones into consideration!

When tweeting, sometimes, I join in on conversations that resonate with me. Or, if time permits, I read others’ blog posts and leave comments. We all want to know that someone out there is listening. When I do not have the words to express what I am feeling, I often tweet famous quotes. I let the greats speak for me and be my voice.

And lastly, there is my personal website. After, listening to a webinar, we were advised to create as many pages or tabs as possible. I am still developing tabs and subsets as I go along and I try to update the book excerpts on a weekly basis. I usually write at least one poem per month to add to the Poetry tab. It can all be quite time-consuming, but no pain, no gain. Take a peek at your convenience.   http://lynnmdixon.com/

Social media has been a revolutionary tool for me. I am so happy to know that there are others out there who think like me!
Lynn                                                                                                December 31, 2014

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Word Finds

Holiday Tunes

As a librarian, I distributed word finds to the children of all grade levels after teaching the lesson for that day. I chose ones that correlated with the subject that we were studying. For, example, if were covering the Presidents, then they received a word search listing the Presidents by last name.

The students were always excited to receive them. The searches calmed  and challenged them at the same time.  Also, it was an activity where they experienced personal success. The students used cognitive skills as they learned word order and the correct spelling of words, as they added several new words to their vocabularies.

My helpers passed around the little baskets filled with colorful markers including a host of pastels. The students carefully selected the color or colors they wanted to work with to cross words off the list. Sometimes when I graded their work, there were little art designs drawn along the sides of the page.

After they worked individually for a while, I allowed them to work in pairs. Of course, they loved this because it fulfilled that need for a little socialization. Oftentimes, when it was time to leave the library, students would ask if they could take a few extras home to their siblings. It really does not take much to please a child!

As we moved through the divisions of the Dewey Decimal System, I distributed word finds on that particular subject. After doing tedious bibliographic searches in books, this was a relaxing way for them to still obtain new information about a subject category. Also, it was a great reinforcement tool.

Though this was one of our rituals, I had never actually completed a word find until the other day. I had a new book lying around and I had some lull time. I started finding words and I ended up doing more than one puzzle. They say hindsight is 20-20. So, as I look back, I realize that the learning activity was indeed everything that I thought that it had been to the children.

I enjoyed being engaged and found myself using different colored markers as well. I practiced what I had preached. I found it rewarding but quite challenging. The word searches reminded me of life. Sometimes the answer is sitting right there in front of us but it takes time for us to actually see it. So I had quite a few ‘Aha moments.’

Some of the teachers complained about the word finds and felt that they had no educational value in the library. I just ignored them because I know the importance of word power. And guess what? Over time, those same exact teachers started giving word finds to their homeroom classes because they saw that they were not only calming but quite educational.  So I went from “aha’ to ‘hmm.”

Lynn                                                                                                   December 29, 2014

Worn Out Conditions!

Catherine Ponder, A Unity author, speaks of worn-out conditions her book, The Millionaire Joshua.  Now that Christmas is over, we start looking forward to the New Year. We think about what no longer well serves us.

Ponder informs us that a worn-out condition can be recognized when we begin to fail at things that were once easy for us.  It could be a job where we were highly successful  but, due to a shift, nothing and no one seems to cooperate. We start showing up later and later. Or, we take days off because going there has become too painful. The message is that it is time to move on. We cannot ignore those nudges that are propelling us forward. These are the signs of worn-out conditions.

She writes, “You begin to fail where you had previously succeeded. That formerly successful situation becomes hostile, unfriendly, and inharmonious to you. It no longer cooperates with you because it is releasing you to your new good elsewhere! When this happens, failure is success trying to be born in a bigger way in your life, so let it be.”

This also applies to our personal relationships. Perhaps, none of the conversations flow anymore or the outings end in feuds. The compliments have stopped coming. Everything feels like an obligation and the next verbal onslaught is constantly anticipated. That’s when we need to pull out and play B.B. King’s “The Thrill is Gone.” We can then relay the message to the other person either face-to-face, phone, text, email, Skype, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or some trustworthy form of communication.

I think of people and situations that I have left behind for whatever reason. When there was an occasion to revisit them, it was as if time had stood still. It was similar to pushing play on a tape recorder that has been paused. Things resumed in the exact same spot. No growth. Nothing new. I quickly remembered why I left the situation and vowed to never try it again. As the saying goes,” Never the twain shall meet.” We realize that circles will never fit into squares.

As we approach 2015, we want to very careful about who and what we bring into our new season. We must carry some people or situations over into the New Year, but we can alter our approach as to how we deal with them. Years ago, there was a popular book called Codependent No More by Melody Beattie. It helps us deal with people in a less needy way and shows us how to function more independently.

But to those truly worn-out conditions we can say, “Sayonara” or “hasta la vista, baby” and throw them a worn-out condition wave. Then, we can move on into the light, open a new door and welcome all of the goodness blowing our way.

Lynn                                                                                                                        December 27, 2014

Special Christmases!

Xmas wreath

Most of us have fond childhood memories of Christmas.  I remember real Christmas trees with angel hair (which can really itch), and Christmas ornaments with liquid flowing on the inside of rocket-shaped capsules.  Yes, I know I am dating myself. I think of gifts like my dainty tea set or my Smokey the Bear or my sister’s Mr. Potato Head.

And then, as I continued to grow and evolve, I have enjoyed Christmas from different places.   As a teenager in Chicago, I remember going to house parties which were quite popular at the time.  But it was pretty much understood that all partying stopped before midnight as people made their way to Midnight Mass, whether Catholic or not.  It’s a Chicago thing!

Or as a college student, I remember my mother making me this colorful floor-length dress. I still have a picture from that evening as I was getting ready to go a Christmas ball.  We often dressed in formal wear and after-five clothes back then. I wish more young women today would get ‘all-dolled up’ and see how it can raise their self-esteems. Jeans and pants have a place but there is nothing like putting on evening wear.

When I went away to grad school, I really splurged one Christmas by buying a real tree and decorating it beautifully.  I actually cooked a duck, a German Sweet Chocolate cake, and a lemon meringue pie along with all the sides. Cooking was not my thing so this was really a stretch for me! The food was not only eatable, but quite delicious!

I traveled to Indiana to spend time with my extended family on another Christmas.  It was a reunion because we were connecting after many years of separation. My niece surprised her daughter when she went into a closet and brought out a bike.  I won’t forget her daughter’s reaction. I think she did a sprint and a cart-wheel!  Pure joy!

Years later, I was temping in downtown Chicago and was invited to an office party.  It was held on the Mag Mile in Neiman Marcus, after the store was closed. There was a rich feast and a live band.  I was all ‘gussied up’ and I wore my fur coat.  Now, that was a sparkly night!

While temping for a law firm in Boston, I was invited to their Christmas party.  It was held on the scenic Rowe’s Wharf.  The food was good and we nibbled and mingled while the musicians played the night away.  I had the perfect little red dress and it was an exquisite evening.  Who said temps don’t have fun?

Another memorable Boston Christmas was celebrated at Legal Sea Foods in the heart of the city.  I was with another company by that time, but I do remember that the ambience of the restaurant and the good company combined to make it a beautiful night.  We enjoyed ourselves as we talked and ate heartily. It was a great way to share the joy of the season!

And lastly, there were the nine years that I spent working as a school librarian in Chicago. The details are too numerous, but the things that stand out during our Christmas celebrations are: the arts and crafts with glitter; the reading of ‘Twas the Night before Christmas; showing movies such as The Wiz, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas or The Nutcracker; giving and receiving countless gifts and most importantly,  sharing oodles of hugs and love.

Those are the Christmases etched in my memory.  I hope this Christmas will end up on the list of specials for all of us!

Lynn                                                                                   December 25, 2014

Frenzied Shoppers!

 

Family shopping

When I look at the people downtown shopping on television, I sigh, “Wow! Glad I am not there!”  Some people love crowds but I am not one of them.  The throngs of people walking down the street look like they could use a crossing guard or a traffic cop.  They need someone out there to say, “Stay to the left or stay to the right.”

Or they need some of that yellow tape or ropes to help control the flow so that everyone can move in an organized fashion. But of course, that’s only a creative dream.   That is not likely to happen.  Again, I am glad that I am not caught up in the frenzy of making hurried choices.

And imagine trying to find gift of real substance.  A lot of stores at this juncture have racks of items that have been picked over.  Some of the shelves look threadbare or some may be well- stocked.  But if there is an abundance of items available, that means that the store bought in bulk.  So you go ahead and buy that cute, colorful little dress for an inexpensive price and wear it to a holiday party.  Oops, two other women have on that same dress.  You can’t go in the ladies’ room and camouflage it because the colors are hard to hide.  So, you just slip out the side door of the party and call the night a wash or a wrap.

When frenzied shoppers feel that they just need to get ‘something,’ because most of the things of real worth are gone, chances are the receiver will not even like it anyway.  Somehow, when receiving a gift, there is this gut-level feeling that comes with it.  You can feel when someone picked a gift while they were in a hurry. They obviously felt obligated to show up with something, anything.

Then there is that other feeling that comes when a gift that has been carefully selected for you. A real gift!  One that you knew was chosen specifically with you in mind while  taking your personality into account.  Now, that is the difference!  You know when someone has taken the time to think things through and the well-thought out, well-intentioned Christmas gift truly brings a smile; as opposed to the ‘grab and walk gift.’

A few years back, the coined phrase ‘regifting’ emerged.  I am so glad that it was okay to give the ‘grab and walk’ gift to someone else.  I ended up giving away this set of bath oils with a non-likeable fragrance to someone else.  And, I gave away a box of cherry-filled chocolates to the postman.  Oh well!

I discovered that gift cards worked for me when it came to buying gifts for co-workers.  I had observed them long enough to know whether they liked music, books, clothes or whatever.  I knew that I would not go wrong there.  I just heard that many of the gift cards are not used, but I knew these people well enough to know that they would definitely use them.

It’s beneficial to take time to know people’s taste, their likes and what would genuinely make them happy.  Then they won’t have to join the ugly sweater committee or regift your purchase. But when in doubt, cash or purchasing power works every time!

Lynn                                                                               December 23, 2014

Busy Hands!

When I was in fourth grade, we painted the Nativity scene along with other memorable Christmas pictures on the classroom windows.  Our teacher, Ms. Campbell, guided us through the process.  We probably used a stencil of some sort to sketch; but I do remember the actual joy of painting on the glass.  I wonder if children still do this today!

Somehow, the Three Wise Men stick out in my mind.  It made us feel great as we used our hands to create something grand.  Every passerby on the street could see our handiwork and be drawn into the spirit of Christmas.

Busy hands have helped people cope for eons.  Some people tinker under the hoods of their cars or whittle or build items out of wood.  My parents used to upholster pieces of furniture as a team.  At one point, my mother made different types of jewelry.

I am reminded of the women of yesteryear in certain novels or period movies.  We see them knitting, embroidering or sewing as they discuss issues of great concern.  I think of Marmee in Little Women who quilted or Elinor Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility who knitted or the unmatched Madame Defarge who is often seen knitting in the wine shop in The Tale of Two Cities.   Though Madame Defarge’s handiwork had a dark intent, the readers always see her hands in motion.  All of the women found a degree of solace and a sense of satisfaction as they used their hands.

One of my aunts, who is quite a horticulturalist, nurtures her plants for comfort.  And, they are quite beautiful.  She can give the history of each plant and her sweetheart rose brushes.  When she really wants a reprieve from life’s issues, she goes into her greenhouse and sits and feels the love emanating from her green thumb.

One of my older sisters sews.  She is the seamstress and when things weigh heavily on her mind and if she is feeling up to par, she pulls out some cloth and she designs, cuts and puts her hand or foot to the metal and sews on her Singer.  (We all started out with Singer sewing machines). Just checked with her, it is a Pfaff.  But, the bottom line is that the skill, itself is her think tank, her mantra.  Busy hands.

Sometimes, I might go and buy a paint-by-number set if I do not want to read or write.  I know, I know.  But, some of these pictures actually turn out quite nicely.  And, I paint.  It does not have to be an intricate set, but the moving of the strokes of the brush and the changing of the colors can be calming and peaceful. I have actually hung a few of my paintings!

A while back, one my coworkers brought her sewing machines to school.  She taught sewing to the girls and boys of her 6th grade class.  They made the costumes for one of the assemblies and they were so proud of themselves.  Many of them learned the rewards that come with a positive, creative venture.  There were fewer arguments and more cooperation while focused on a common goal.

Our youth need so much. I bought countless blank books for girls who would come to me in tears about personal matters.  I introduced them a new best friend- a journal.  I saw later how they guarded their new found friend with their lives.  They started pressing out those thoughts in longhand with those busy hands.

Our elders used to say that “idle hands were the devil’s workshop.”  They knew the importance of being engaged in some project.  When we are cleaning, washing dishes, sweeping, mopping, painting, writing, drawing, gardening or whatever, we do find a level of peace.  More clarity comes and we can ease into the next phase of our existence with a new level of calm. So, if the holidays bring a bit too much stress your way, find some purposeful outlet and get those hands busy!

Lynn                                                                               December 21, 2014

A Visit with June Kearns!

I would like to thank June Kearns for agreeing to do this interview. She is a historical romance writer from the United Kingdom and she  is answering my questions about An Englishwoman’s Guide to the Cowboy which is set in Texas.  I am currently reading her other book 20’s Girl, the Ghost and all that Jazz.

June Kearns

Here are her answers to my questions:

Why did you choose Texas as the setting for An Englishwoman’s Guide to The Cowboy?

It all started when I was poring over old maps, trying to trace the path of cattle drives from the southern states of the US to the north, after the Civil War.

That’s when I first saw the size and scale of Texas. Wow!

All that open, empty land stretching to the horizon – from ocean in the south to mountains in the north – with every kind of landscape and all sorts of weathers.

As someone used to the neat fields and tidy hedgerows of England – I was entranced. (I’ve still never visited, though. P’raps one day!)

Why do you think McCall was drawn to Annie, in spite of her imperfections?

To begin with, I don’t think McCall was drawn to Annie at all. She was just a tiresome burden, holding him back from what he needed to do. It was her mind and spirit that eventually overcame his reservations about her. She wasn’t the least bit bothered about his being half-Sioux, either.

Do you think McCall admired Annie’s spunk? Why, or why not?

Bearing in mind that Annie came from Victorian England, where an un-gloved hand at the window of a carriage was considered risqué – here, she just hitched up her skirts and got on with it!

I think McCall admired that – as well as the way she stood up to the red-neck in the saloon, to defend a Sioux scout.

Often writers do not know where the path will lead. Did you know before writing this novel that McCall and Annie would end up together?

Oh yes! I certainly do.

I’ve always been drawn to plain, disadvantaged heroines Ever since reading Jane Eyre – (as a small, self-conscious little girl, who thought that no-one would ever fall in love with me!) –  I realised, thanks to Charlotte Bronte, that passionate relationships could be sparked by great conversations, argument and humour.

So, I want to cheer my characters on, help them win through and end up happy-ever-after-ish!

Englsihwomans guide

Thank you, June!

Lynn                                                                                      December 19, 2014

 

Christmas Music!

Music!  Music lifts us out of the depths of our being and makes us feel buoyant again.  And now, there is the Christmas music. There are so many variations of Christmas music during our seasonal celebration!

We hear songs sung in hip-hop, jazz, rock, folk, country and western, classical, pop, rhythm and blues, to name a few.  But every genre of music celebrates Christmas!

If we do not listen to the radio, then the television shows will pull us into the spirit.  And if we do not look at television, when we go shopping, there will certainly be Christmas music playing as we spend our hard-earned dollars.

There is music and then there is music.  When I hear Nat King Cole crooning,” Chestnuts roasting on an open fire,” (The Christmas Song) I know that I can do longer delay the fact that it is indeed Christmas. I know it is time to make a list and check it twice; regardless to who has been naughty or nice.

We may hear Johnny Mathis singing, “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas.” Or Bing Crosby may be singing his traditional tune,” I’m dreaming of a white Christmas (White Christmas).  After doing a little fact-checking, it is said that Irving Berlin wrote this song while visiting the LaQuinta Hotel in LaQuinta, California.  The words started flowing and he told his secretary to start writing (Wikipedia).

Here a few of my favorites:

Little Drummer Boy

I’ll Be Home for Christmas

Santa Claus goes straight to the ghetto – James Brown

Silent Night

Oh Holy Night

We Three Kings

Santa Baby- Eartha Kitt

Do You Hear What I Hear?

This Christmas –  Donnie Hathaway

Rock around the Christmas Tree

Baby, it’s Cold Outside

I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus

I will stop there.  What are some of your favorite Christmas songs?

Lynn                                                                                                  December 17, 2014

Glitter, Sparkles and Bling!

Keep Calm and Sparkle

When I worked with young children in the library, we would make seasonal greeting cards. There would be special occasions such as Mother’s Day, Father’s Day or Thanksgiving, to list a few.  But at Christmas, I would pull out the glitter.  And, oh my gosh!  The children’s little eyes would light up like I was pouring nuggets of gold.

Of course, I would not let them touch the little bottles.  That would have been disastrous because even with me doing the shaking, glitter still ended up on the floor, on my clothes and in my hair.  The janitor simply took a deep breath as he swept it up. Everybody is a little more tolerant at Christmas.

So, we as adults still have that same response to glitter and all things sparkly.  It is that time of the year when all is filled with scintillating wonder.  I was in Walgreen’s the other day and saw a red, sparkly butterfly.  It was made of voile and very pliable.  It had a clip on the back and was probably intended to be a tree ornament.  I had to have it and it was only 79 cents.  Too good to be true!

I went on to add another one which was a cluster of gold, shiny leaves with little jewel-like ornaments to my cart as well.  It also had a clip.  I did not think of a tree. I planned to put it on the lapel of one of my  coats to get into that sparkly feel of Christmas.  But, when I got home, I ended putting both of them on two different Fedora hats.  They still may adorn a coat at some point, but they each add to the feel of the holiday spirit.

Everything shines at Christmas.  I think of the silver icicles that are strewn on holiday trees.  I think of the many highly ornate Christmas tree bulbs.  As children, we used to have some that looked like there was a colorful liquid moving inside of the lit bulb.

Of course, the ultimate sparkly would be the stars.   Those cannot be matched. However, on earth, the ultimate sparkly would be some ‘bling.’  Who is not elated when receiving a little bling (street lingo for jewelry)?  The jewelers rack up during the Christmas season because everyone knows that jewelry brings an automatic smile to a loved one’s face.  Everybody likes a nice ring, watch, bracelet or necklace at Christmas.  It speaks volumes.

So, as we journey through this scintillating, glittery, blingy season, we can all enliven our holiday with that sparkly touch with something extra shiny!

Lynn                                                                                         December 15, 2014

Packing on the Pounds

We will be eating heartily this season.  Or, shall I say overindulging.  Just think!  There will be pies such as: pecan pies, peach pies, cherry pies, peach cobbler, blueberry pies, mince meat pies, sweet potato pies, pumpkin pies, lemon meringue pies, to  name a few.

There will be cakes.  Upside down cakes, pound cakes, sock-it-to me cakes, German sweet chocolate cakes, cheesecakes. I will stop because now I am hungry.

Ok.  I resume.  There will be cookies. Sugar cookies, peanut butter cookies, oatmeal cookies, Christmas cookies with extra candy ornaments, raisin cookies and the list goes on. Oh yes, add the candy and the ice cream.  Those are just a few of the desserts that we will be enjoying during this holiday break.

And then, there are the main course foods filled with all types of delicious meats.  There is turkey, ham, duck, lamb chops, pork chops, pork shoulder and many will be dripping with oils and juices from the baking and preparation.

There will be an array of sides or vegetables like green beans, squash, zucchini, corn, corn- on- the-cob, yams, broccoli or greens.  Add the starches like potatoes in a variety of forms.

So, those are just a few of the choices of the desserts, meats and veggies that we will be enjoying around the many dinner tables as we travel from house to house.  And, yes, we will be packing on a few pounds as we go back for seconds and enjoy that late night snack that acts as a reprisal of the main feast.

We have to watch those helpings and know when we have really had enough.  We have heard the saying “the eyes are bigger than our stomachs. “  We have to respect that and as one of my aunts used to say, we must ‘push back.’  She meant push your chair back from the table and simply stop eating.

And when a good meal has been enjoyed, we need to walk it off.  Walk, exercise and get limber.  Maybe we need to go and pump a little iron or work out in the gym.  We should eat, drink and be merry, but the last thing we want is to enter 2015 looking like an inflated balloon from the Macy’s Day Parade.

So, eat, drink plenty of water and by all means, walk and exercise after those healthy meals.  Hopefully we will all bring 2015 in looking trim and feeling fit as possible and still filled with glee!

Lynn                                                                                                   December 13, 2014