Between the Idea and the Reality … Falls the Shadow.

newproject_1_original-e1515519360110.jpgThe header from this post is taken from “The Hollow Men,” and I use it because it so aptly describes the outcome of many of my creative visions. I have ideas, lots and lots of ideas, but bringing them to fruition is the challenge. Something always seems to go amiss.

This was brought home to me just today. As I hope you notice, you’re reading this post on a newly revamped Leah Nash Mysteries website. I launched it yesterday, feeling pretty pleased with myself after more than a month of tedious, painstaking, hair-pulling-out effort. Because, as usual when I leap into a project, I way underestimated what was involved and way overestimated my ability to achieve it while maintaining my sanity.

Even with the expertise of a professional and patient web designer (Matt Ogle of Ogle Computers, who deserves a shout-out for enduring with equanimity the many, many, many, texts, emails and phone calls and changes I subjected him to during the process), this was a major undertaking.

I knew I’d have to generate new content. No problem. I wrote an author Q&A, an interview with Leah Nash, new book descriptions, some Readers Circle promotional copy. I even managed to conquer my fear of short-story writing. Readers of the Leah Nash series know I tend to write long, not short. But I’m hoping to entice visitors to the website to sign up for my mailing list. So, I wanted to offer a free short story as an incentive. And I even managed to get that done.

The technical pieces–inserting new back pages and clickable links in all my books, generating four different files for each book to upload on the four different major ebook retailers (none of which accept files in exactly the same way), updating the sites where the books were advertised, it all got done. It all came together. Yay! The idea had been transformed into the reality. My vision was realized.

But no. The inevitable shadow that fell between my idea and my reality was that I accidentally uploaded a draft version of the short story, not the final edited copy. In addition to some typos, there was also a note to remind me to get a link from my web designer for the upload of the story.

It is not earth-shattering, I know. I hope the people who got the story before I uploaded the corrected version this afternoon are not too disconcerted to come across a misplaced comma or an unintended text note. But still. A mistake like that is the written word equivalent of giving a speech in front of a hundred people, only to discover after-the-fact that you had spinach on your front tooth. And yes, I have done something very similar to that, too. And I no doubt will again.

But even with all that, I’m pretty happy with the new website. And with the short story. I hope that the visitors who stop by are, too.

Everyday Kindness

Everyday Kindness–every day

During the Christmas season, I often wish that I’d spent the past year being a better person—kinder, more thoughtful, more actively engaged in helping. As a result, I often make a futile year-end attempt to cram 12 months’ worth of doing good into a spree of charitable giving, cookie baking and good will toward men.

While some of those efforts might be positive actions, they are not transformative. Typically, I move into the new year with the same inclination to do only those good or kind things that are convenient—or at least minimally troubling—to my daily life.

I can ease my guilt by noting that I’m busy. It’s not my responsibility. I don’t have time. But if I’m honest, I know there are other people who are just as busy, just as time-pressed, just as pulled in multiple directions as I am. Yet they still manage to extend themselves for others. In fact, I live with one of those people.

I’ve written several posts that reference my energetic, extroverted, husband Gary, who can make a friend in a minute and decimate the English language in a nanosecond. He won’t enjoy being a featured player in this post, but he illustrates my point. There are people who pick up the slack for those of us whose good intentions are rarely matched by our actual actions. People who give of themselves, not just during this season of giving, but all year round.

Gary does the ordinary good neighbor things—lend some tools, pick up the mail, give a hand with the shoveling. But while a good neighbor might lend you his snow blower to clear your driveway, a great neighbor, aka Gary, will use his snow blower to clear your driveway and all the others on the block, and all the sidewalks, too, before you can even ask to borrow it.

Gary is a man in motion, but he always has time for a cheerful greeting to everyone he meets. And on hot summer days, he can often be found handing out freezer pops, ice-cold water, or ice cream treats to postal delivery workers, UPS drivers or anyone else in the vicinity of our house who looks like they could use a break from the heat.

But he doesn’t confine himself to the quick and easy kindnesses. He tackles the hard things, too. When my mother was sinking ever deeper into Alzheimer’s, he took her for countless rides, which soothed her agitation, and brought her butter pecan ice cream cones, and teased her gently, and made her smile, when I could not. When a friend was terminally ill, Gary visited regularly, and carried out tasks for him that he could no longer do, and eased his mind by pledging to take care of unfinished business after he was gone.

And Gary doesn’t only come to the aid of family and friends. He does things for people he scarcely knows. He mobilized a group of his friends to donate $200 worth of diapers to a struggling new mother, and to buy bus passes for a woman who walked miles through all kinds of weather to get to her job at a fast food restaurant. He didn’t know either young woman, beyond a quick chat while purchasing a morning cup of coffee. He just saw a need and stepped up to help.

When people became dismayed by the declining health of our local river, marked by high levels of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, aquatic plants choking the channels, and large algal blooms each summer, Gary didn’t just talk about it. He reached out to the local college for help from experts there, began working with the area health department and local governments, and organized the Healthy Pine River citizens group to work on restoring the river. And though meetings and bureaucracy are among his least favorite things, he deals with both in order to help make things better.

Gary is not the only person with a gift for giving. He’s just the one I know best. Through him, I see the value of everyday kindness over seasonal generous gestures. To paraphrase a line from the movie, The Bishop’s Wife, the meaning of the season lies in each of us putting forth loving kindness, warm hearts, and outstretched hands—in acting with everyday kindness, every day. Instead of big plans for character reform that come to naught this year, I’m going to focus on doing just one kind thing a day, large or small. I’ll let you know how that worked out next year.  Meanwhile, Merry Christmas to all.