Posts tagged ‘journalism’

September 27, 2014

There’s a winner! #nightones #giftcard #giveaway

 

I love rainy days when clouds sink low into the mountains, like this!

I love rainy days when clouds sink low into the mountains, like this! 

What a happy rainy day for a gift card drawing!

The winner is Heidi from Wyoming. Congratulations, Heidi! I hope you enjoy the gift card!

So what’s next in the Night Ones world?

Book two is still on schedule for a December release. The cover reveal will probably happen around Thanksgiving time, maybe a little bit before. LaRae Monroe has already agreed to create the book cover, and I’m so excited I can hardly wait for November. She’s an incredible artist. (Check out her Facebook Page!)

Meanwhile, some local authors are banding together to sell books at a pumpkin walk this year. I wasn’t going to print any physical copies of the book, but I do want to support my fellow writers–so I gave in.  I expect to have a small number of books in a week or two. My husband, a truly talented woodworker, also wants to sell some at a craft show on October 30. I guess we’ll see how it goes!

A poetry sample book is coming sometime soon, too. I meant this as a Mother’s Day gift two years ago. Due to some technical difficulties, I set it aside and only finally finished uploading it last night. I may get some physical copies of that one to give to loved ones, or to sell, if there seems to be a demand. I intend for it to be free on Kindle, maybe as soon as tomorrow.

I also have a stand-alone fantasy book I’m in the process of editing. I hope to have it completely edited by the end of October. At the request of someone dear to me, I’m sending out queries to traditional publishers for this one. I’m not holding my breath. It sounds like fun, but right now, I plan to self-publish this book after I receive all my rejection letters. 😀

The critique group is coming along NICELY! I really love having people to bounce ideas back and forth with, and the writers in this area are packed with talent. It’s impossible to spend time with friends like these and not become a better writer. The larger writer’s group is lots of fun, too.

Journalism continues. I had three pieces published in September, which is the most work I’ve had published at once in about two years–I may have to slow down again, but I love writing these stories, so it’s hard to set aside. These articles are all fun, lighthearted stories focusing on the positive things in my world–incredible people with amazing talents and unique experiences to share. I love writing about good people who do great things in their spheres of influence!

And now, the news about more gift card give-aways: Yes, I’ll be doing another one in November!!! Stay tuned for more details! If you’ve already downloaded The Night Ones but haven’t had a chance to read it yet, now you have a head start! 🙂

If you’re interested in more information on my books, my give-aways, more frequent updates on my works-in-progress or other writing-related things I don’t always post on my blog, please send me your contact information! I’ll send out an e-mail once or twice  a quarter to let you know what’s up.

Wishing everyone a very happy day!

 

February 15, 2014

We write because we love to write

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

There’s an interesting post over at Author’s Promoter about why writers write, including a pie chart showing the writing reasons of a hundred different published authors.

Among the top purposes writers listed for writing was they had to…they felt they couldn’t survive without it (that answer was second only to writing to express themselves), and I wondered how many authors I know feel the same way.

It also gave me cause for reflection. Over the years, the reasons why I write have changed.

  • Twenty years ago, I wrote to entertain myself.
  • Fifteen years ago, I wrote with the hope I would someday entertain others, and someday maybe even make some money off my writing…not a bad dream. 🙂 
  • Ten years ago, I wrote to educate myself, to educate others and to share with others the delight I felt in the world around me. This came mostly in the form of freelance articles rather than book-authoring, though.
  • Five years ago, I wrote because it was my profession. (Freelance journalism, again, but I had found some success.)
  • During the past three years, I’ve written primarily because writing relaxed me and supported me across some rough waters.  Words flocked around me like friends, drawing me out of myself and into the wider world.

The reasons I write  now are kind of a combination of everything. I still write to entertain myself. I still write to educate myself (though not as much as I once did), and I again write to share my joy in daily life. I still write books, and I still occasionally write articles.

I write because the ideas in my head won’t leave me alone until I’ve at least scribbled them down in a notebook somewhere. And I write because my family enjoys me better when I’ve written something.

Interestingly, only three percent of the authors interviewed said they wrote as their profession. Only two percent wrote to entertain, and only two percent wrote for exposure and fame.

Which leads me to believe that most writers are like me.

We write because we love to write.

Is this true? Please let me know why you write.

 

 

 

August 24, 2013

Personal deadlines are hereby banished

Freedom!

Freedom!

Five years ago, I  paced my hallway floor, venting to my sweetheart.  I was overwhelmed by my writing workload. I felt inadequate as a wife and mother, completely backward when it came to social situations and I sometimes thought I could drown in a constant flood of paperwork, laundry and dishes.

He spoke as kindly and truthfully then as he always does. “You don’t need to take on so much work if you don’t want to,” he said, and “You don’t need to set deadlines for every project you want to do.”

Okay. I sometimes still feel overwhelmed, but his advice has been stewing on the back burners of my mind for long enough that I think I’m finally getting it.

Here’s how I know: As I wandered through the JoAnn Fabrics store a few weeks ago, I realized I didn’t need to buy materials for a new creative project, no matter how much I love the idea, no matter how great the coupons are. I’d really rather be writing.

Beyond that, my creativity cup already runs over.

My shelves at home are still stocked with half-finished quilts, sewing and needle work projects, crochet and knitting endeavors and a plethora of materials for other hobbies. I used to list them out on a notebook page. (It generally took two columns.)

Of course, sewing and craft projects were only part of the notebook. I also had pages for my writing projects, for landscaping and gardening ideas, for recipes and cooking ideas I meant to try, and on and on and on.

I used these notebook pages to set goals, in every area at once, and all of them had target deadlines.  That was a bad idea. Having set deadlines for myself only increased the stress and pressure I felt, and it sometimes meant I got so frustrated that I gave up completely.

It became a vicious cycle of perfectionism: I’d try, fail, get angry, tell myself I could do better, write even longer, more detailed lists and create more unrealistic goals with even more unreachable deadlines. I set myself up for failure.

Finally, I landed on the idea of a personal level up system where I could focus on the amount of time I spent working on a project rather than on accomplishing a certain number of things each day. Even then, I struggled to focus on just one or two areas at once.

It’s taken some time, but I’m getting better at it. I’ve created some rules for myself to help protect  me from my own perfectionist tendencies.

  • I am to hold the perfect Gwen Bristol in my mind every day–not as something I have to be immediately, but as if I already am the way I intend to be. This is a no-pressure exercise. I mean to savor and enjoy what it feels like to already be there, and I refuse to allow myself to even think about how I get there.
  • Beyond my simple housekeeping routines, I can only focus on three level-up areas each day–and one of those always, always gets to be writing. 🙂 Happiness and Joy!!!
  • In writing, I can work on no more than three projects at a time–this includes writing, editing, publishing, marketing…the whole gamut of what it means to be an author.
  • I will accept deadlines from other people, but no more than three deadline-oriented projects at a time. (If I say no to a request, please understand that it isn’t a permanent no…more than likely, your request will remain in a ‘possible project’ queue for me to get to when I can. This is important to me, because I really do love helping other people. I love it so much that I sometimes let what they want get in the way of other things I’m trying to accomplish. In the long run, that’s not good for anyone.)
  • Where my own projects are concerned, deadlines are hereby banished.

Instead of goals, I’m going to track my progress in a journal. More Writing! Hurrah! I’m hoping this will help me celebrate my successes rather than focus on what I haven’t yet finished.

My theory: If I remove the stress, I’ll actually get more done, in every area of my life, but specifically with my writing works-in-progress. I expect all my priorities to balance out and increase my joy.

So here begins my no-deadline experiment. I’ll try this out and I’ll report on it here on my blog when I have a feel for whether this can work or not.

See how I didn’t create a deadline for myself? See?!? This is going to be a lot of fun. 🙂

June 28, 2013

Wedding dress, draft 7 1/2 or so

Celtic knots for BR Chaston's wedding dress--they were time consuming but fun to make

Celtic knots for the wedding dress I’ve been making–they were time consuming but fun to create

Tonight, I’ll put the finishing touches on the wedding dress I’ve been working on for the past three months. It’s all little things now: hooks and eyes, hand sewing the stays in place, finishing the bustle. It feels like the final polishing of a challenging article, the last read-through before I submit it for publication.

I beat my deadline this time. I’m pleased.

Looking back on the past few months, I can say with certainty this is the most challenging sewing project I’ve ever tackled, and possibly one of the most challenging creative projects of any kind, outside of writing a book.

There’s been a side benefit. The handwork was sometimes tedious and took much longer than I expected, but it gave me some great quiet times for reflection. This meant I learned some new things about me–some happy things, and some things I hope to change in the near future. I’ll include these with my Rome Construction Crew goals in July.

Another benefit: I earned more than 50 hours in the scholarship area of my personal level-up campaign. 

And I don’t think I’ll ever, ever be afraid of sewing again.

As great as it was, there were some definite downsides. My writing time, blogging time and family time all took huge hits. Just when I thought I could get back on track with things, a new challenge regarding the dress would come up. These interruptions usually lasted at least a week, sometimes more, and I was derailed at least half a dozen times.

Not to mention the fact that my house was practically conquered by pincushions, scissors, bits of ribbon, lace and beads and scraps of white cloth.

I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything, but I’m really, really looking forward to normal life.

Which, of course, means writing–and, hopefully, more dedicated blogging.

The skirt is bunched, and there's a celtic knot at every bunch. There are more than two dozen of them on the dress.

The skirt is bunched, and there’s a celtic knot at every bunch. There are more than two dozen of them on the dress.

 

 

May 17, 2013

Growing pains

When she was just a year old...

When she was just a year old…

Something big happened this week. Something that, even though my family talked about it, I didn’t see coming, didn’t expect, wasn’t prepared for.

Finding jobs near where we live has become next to impossible for teenagers. A downturn in the local economy means that all the jobs youth used to take are now filled by adults struggling to take care of their families. As a result, my eldest daughter started looking for work elsewhere.

On Tuesday, we traveled to my parent’s home, hours and hours away.

On Wednesday, my daughter interviewed and was offered a job with a local fast food franchise. She accepted it.

That night, I left her in the wonderful care of my parents–for the next few months. She’ll come home to visit only a handful of times. We’ve both had some tearful moments. I imagine the rest of the spring and summer will be that way, and she’ll come home completely grown up.

For a few days, I was heartbroken enough to not want to write. At all. That hardly ever happens to me.

Thankfully, she seems to be settling in pretty well. Her co-workers seem to like her, she likes her job and she loves spending time with her grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins. She has school work and her job, and she plays with her dog when she’s  not busy with school or work. Most likely the time will fly by.

It’s caused me quite a bit of introspection. Have I taught her the confidence she needs to face society without me? Will she find ways to be happy when she’s homesick? What tools have I passed on that will help her reach her goals? What bad habits that she’ll have to overcome?

I’ve been thinking quite a bit this week about life with her when she was tiny. She is one of the reasons I started writing. I wanted to be home with her, and with her siblings when they came along. I still needed a way to connect with the outside world, and I needed a way to help with finances, even if what I brought in was meager.

I wouldn’t trade it now for anything. I took her with me on all kinds of interviews. She traveled with me to towns I visited and wrote about for ND Business Watch. She came into shops with me, sat quietly in armchairs while I visited with people in their homes, followed me everywhere. We had fun. We still talk about the towns we saw, the museums we wandered through, the parks and the libraries and the rivers and the way tiny old shops on forgotten Main Streets became treasure chests.

Writing meant we were together.

Even during the hard times, the long days I spent away from home during legislative sessions, we were sometimes sneaky enough to find ways to eat lunch together. She pampered me on deadline weeks by sorting the laundry and starting the dishes, and I spoiled her when I could.

All in all, I think I got the better end of the deal. There’s nothing like just spending time with your child, nothing as wondrous as seeing them enjoy what you do.

And nothing is as difficult as letting them grow into their own thing when it’s time.

These are just growing pains. We may not be together all the time, but we have ways to keep in touch, and we use them often. As broken-hearted as I feel, I also feel that this is right. This is how it’s supposed to be.

I’m finally getting over the poor-me syndrome. I’m wanting to write again, and again, she’s a large part of my motivation. She’s old enough to really understand what it’s like to work, and I want to make her proud of me. It pushes me on.

I will always be grateful to her for that.

April 27, 2013

Wedding Dress Draft One: checking facts and more

Well. This has been a busy week. I haven’t been blogging or writing as much as I thought I would be, but with the help of some wonderful people we did make some headway on my niece’s wedding dress. Granted, there’s still a lot to do, but it’s finally starting to come together.

I’ve been thinking a lot about fact checks as I’ve worked on this dress. This is a one-of-a-kind dress for a once-in-a-lifetime day, so it has to be perfect.

The level of perfection I’m seeking makes me feel like I’m working on an intricate article on a topic I’ve never covered before.  The fact check is like pinning things on, making sure they drape accurately over the outline, fit perfectly in the seams, and are stitched together into a whole piece that–hopefully–is a masterpiece of its own.

Fact checking is hard work. For me, it involves several drafts of an article. I underline things I think I understand and ask myself whether I’ve put the ideas into words well enough that others can see the same pictures I see in my head. I write several follow-up questions, deepen my research following my initial interviews, and usually run at least a few follow-up questions once the drafts begin to shape up.

It’s exhausting, but it’s part of what makes writing my constant education and my lifetime learning project.

And that brings me back to my niece’s wedding dress. I can’t begin to say how much I’ve learned so far. Yes, I’ve used the seam ripper (more than once). It’s okay. It’s a creation process that’s making me a better person, and that makes me happy.

It also means I’ve had several opportunities for girl time with my niece, a cousin and my daughters, and that’s been great. I guess networks are needed in every area of my life.

Along with that comes another happy announcement. My niece has started a writing blog. Please fly over to the BR Chaston blog and welcome her to this new adventure.

Wishing a wonderful and exquisitely happy weekend to all! 🙂

April 18, 2013

An interview with author Gabe Berman

I always want to be better, and I deeply want to enjoy the process of getting better. I suspect this is a big deal for the majority of the other writers and bloggers and life-livers that I know. For that reason alone, Gabe Berman‘s Live Like a Fruit Fly: The Secret You Already Know completely appeals to me.

So does his second book, The Complete Bullshit-Free and Totally Tested Writing Guide: How to Make Publishers, Agents, Editors and Readers Love Your Work.

I’ll be reviewing that one next week, and I’m pretty excited about it.

Meanwhile, Gabe Berman agreed to an interview (with a very fast turn-around, I might add). And here it is:

What led you to write Live Like a Fruit Fly? (Readers, an exciting note here: this book was reviewed by Deepak Chopra)

For years I’d walk the aisles of the bookstore, looking for the perfect book to inspire me to live an extraordinary life. I knew it was possible and life being as short as it is, I didn’t want to wait. I was sick of all the preachy, otherworldly books, so I wrote the book I could never find.

Same question for The Complete Bullshit-Free and Totally Tested Writing Guide: How To Make Publishers, Agents, Editors & Readers Fall In Love With Your Work.

And the same answer. I wrote the book I wish was given to me long ago.  My book whispers in your ear, “Keep going. It’s going to be ok.” It will keep you from writing crap and remind you, because you deep down already know, how to make readers fall in love with your work.

Why did you self-publish at first? And why the second time around?

After writing for the Miami Herald for eight years, I thought everyone would be interested in my radically different self-help book. I was ridiculously wrong and rejected by everyone. Twice.

But since I decided my ordinary days were over, I knew the extraordinary move would be to keep moving forward. To kick doors open that appeared to be sealed shut.

I self-published and proved the gatekeepers in the publishing industry didn’t know everything because people fell in love with Live Like A Fruit Fly.

Through a string of miraculous events, HCI, the original publisher of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, found me and offered me a contract.

I decided to once again turn to self-publishing for my new book The Complete Bullshit-Free and Totally Tested Writing Guide: How To Make Publishers, Agents, Editors & Readers Fall In Love With Your Work. This writing guide is unlike any other ever written and I wanted to have complete control of it. For example, the kindle edition is just $1.99.  It’s certainly worth the $9.99 a traditional publisher would charge but I wanted to make it accessible for everyone right away.

How did you get picked up by HCI, and what was your initial reaction?

It’s your typical story: guy meets girl in a bookstore. Girl’s friend is the acquisitions editor at a publishing company. The rest is history (I’m oversimplifying it but you get the gist).

How did I react? I was more relieved than anything else. Destiny finally fulfilled.

How in the world did you get to have your book reviewed by Deepak Chopra?

It’s your typical story: famous person finds my self-published book on Amazon. Famous person is friends with Deepak Chopra. I force myself to find the guts to ask famous person to ask Deepak to read my book. Deepak digs it and says, “In Live Like a Fruit Fly, Gabe Berman shares his recipe for living a more joyful, worthwhile, and abundant life in every way. A witty, entertaining, and insightful read.”

Did you ever have a chance to meet him or talk with him about your book?

Not as of yet. All in due time.

What are you doing when you’re not writing?

Procrastinating at Starbucks.

What writing project are you working on now?

The sequel to Live Like A Fruit Fly and a couple of top secret projects (I’d tell you but then I’d have to…)

What marketing strategies work best for you?

I seem to sell more books when I stop worrying about marketing so much. The Universe is a sly one.

What is the best part of being a writer?

It allows me to add a little goodness to the world.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

My dad always said: stupid rules are made to be broken.

And the best advice you’ve ever given someone?

Follow your gut, not the tornado of thoughts in your head.

And–just for fun–your favorite kind of ice cream.

Are you kidding me? Chocolate of course.

by Gabe Berman

by Gabe Berman

Thanks, Gabe Berman, for a chance to get to know you and to learn about your books! I’m looking forward to reading them soon. 🙂

April 5, 2013

Building my Rome

Silly Teenager Gwen--no matter how much I change outside, I still feel like this on the inside

Silly Teenager Gwen–no matter how much I change outside, I still feel like this on the inside

Thanks to Green Embers, I’m going to be trying something new. I’ve chosen a personal goal to work on publicly through his Rome Construction Crew.

Actually, I’ve chosen three goals–a health goal, a writing/marketing goal, and a volunteer/service goal. He’s asked that we share the stories behind these goals. If I get too personal, please forgive me. I do that sometimes.

Health goal and the story behind it:

Nearly twelve years ago now, I was diagnosed with a pituitary tumor. It’s benign, but it causes all sorts of discomfort, mostly related to rampant hormones and their effects on the rest of my body.

Since then, I’ve discovered I have an amazing ability to develop benign tumors in other places, as well, and I have a not-so-hidden talent for gaining fat.  I once thought this was life-threatening and that I was going to die an early death from it. I’ve since learned that although it’s not fun sometimes, I don’t have to be miserable over this. I have become a much more jolly soul because of it, and that’s a gift I wouldn’t trade for anything.

There are things I’d like to change, though. Because of the hormonal imbalances, it’s very easy to gain fat and very difficult to lose it. I’m currently about a hundred pounds overweight. Only a few things seem to help control this: balancing the hormones, which involves doctor visits, MRIs, blood tests and other yucky lab work, and medicine that doesn’t always fit into our budget; a low carb diet, which is very hard for me to stick to; and at least two hours of exercise a day, which is also hard to fit into my schedule.

I’d like to say I could lose five or ten pounds with combined efforts in April, but I don’t have confidence that it would happen even if I did everything right (I’ve had trouble with this before). Instead, I’m going to focus on the goals themselves. I’m hoping to be able to start the Couch to 5K program in May, and in order to work up to it, I’ve been walking two hours a day. I intend to keep doing that until the end of April.

Of course, I’ll be working on my eating habits at the same time, but my Rome Goal for April will be the two hours of daily walking.

Writing goal and the story behind it:

The Night Ones Legacy has been poking and prodding me for the past two years now, and it’s past time I do something about it. I set a goal earlier this year to get its sequel out by the end of April. I’m beginning to see that I probably won’t make that deadline, so I’m setting a different but related writing goal: I have to work on this particular book at least ten hours a week in April. If I can’t manage my time well enough to make it happen along with the walking goal, I may not take any more journalism assignments until I complete this draft.

That’s good motivation, right?

In the meantime, I’ll also be working on the edit of the pirate story–but that’s another goal for another time. 🙂

Volunteer service goal and the story behind it:

My life is always better when it includes people, and it’s even better when I’m doing something nice for them. I love to see other people smile.

However, in the offline world, I tend to be introverted, shy and awkward, and it takes some work to bring me out of my shell.

With that in mind, my Rome Goal for April is this: I will complete my comments on two manuscripts that fellow writers here in Utah have asked me to look at, and then, instead of e-mailing them, I’ll deliver them in person.

Now, a quick note (probably more like a disclaimer):

I tend to be way too optimistic about what I can get done in a day. For that reason, I’ve learned to love setting goals, but I’m not very good at following through with them. Sometimes they’re just not realistic enough to fit into my life.

These three goals are my attempts to take baby steps toward my dreams. If I reach them in April, I’ll set new goals for May. If not, these ones will be extended.

Either way, I intend to have fun with them. It’s another fun game! And maybe I can win!

I’m counting on everyone out there to cheer me on. 🙂

 

April 3, 2013

Celebrating a met deadline

Looking down from a waterfall at Thanksgiving Point gardens

Looking down from a waterfall at Thanksgiving Point gardens

I met a deadline today. Beat it, actually, by one day, which was tricky. This particular article was one of the most intricate and challenging journalism assignments I’ve ever accepted, and although it’s still subject to editorial change, it feels good to have submitted it.

It’s like standing at the top of a mountain and watching worries fall away like drops of water.

I’ve been celebrating, these past few hours. Here’s how:

  • Dessert Club–I turned the final submission in just 33 minutes before two carloads of friends and their children (on Spring Break) showed up at my door. It was my turn to host–and I can’t say I was prepared–but it was a great stress relief. Delicious, too–I tried Strawberry Soup for the first time today. Yummy and healthy, too!
  • I took a nap with my toddler this afternoon. As pleasant as this is, he’s becoming less inclined to take afternoon naps, so I’m counting myself lucky.
  • I looked through a catalog my neighbor brought over. I love window shopping, even in catalogs or online, but it’s not something I take time to do very often.
  • I took a short walk with a daughter. While we were out, we chatted with some neighbors I hadn’t yet had the chance to meet. They’re lovely people. They felt like sunshine.
  • I walked over to another neighbor’s house and saw the beautiful quilt she’s making. Inspiring. Maybe I’ll pick mine up again.
  • I caught up on some blog comments (although I’m still looking forward to visiting other blogs and catching up with what my online friends are up to).

And here’s how I plan to celebrate during the rest of today:

  • take my daughters shopping for prom shoes;
  • file away all the papers and e-mails related to the article I submitted;
  • play in the sandbox with my toddler while it’s still sunny out;
  • buy a book for my Kindle; and
  • get back to work on my fiction projects this evening 🙂

Have a lovely evening!

March 26, 2013

A smoky but happy adventure day

Smoke from a wildfire

Smoke from a wildfire here in Utah, summer 2012

I woke this morning to the piercing beep of our carbon monoxide detector. Our basement was filled with smoke–especially frightening because two of my children sleep down there, and one NEVER hears her alarm clock. Thankfully, she got up when she heard my voice and went straight outside.

There was no fire–only smoke. Cold air apparently sunk down our chimney last night and pushed the smoke from our last fire, two days ago, out through the basement. It was enough to make my eyes water and my throat burn.

I’m grateful. It could have been a lot worse.

We opened several windows, set up all the fans we could find and even turned on our swamp cooler vent. The air upstairs is breathable now, but it’s cold, so two of my children and I are camping out in my office. There’s almost no smoke in here. The heat source in this room is electric, so there are no vents for the smoke to come through, and it’s cozy warm. As long as we keep the door closed, we’ll do fine–although I think a trip to the library later today may still be in order. 🙂

In an hour or so, when the smoke has cleared a little more from the basement, I’ll heat the chimney up with a hair dryer and then light a new fire. If I warm the chimney enough first, it should draw the rest of the smoke back up the chimney, and we’ll be able to close the windows, turn off the fans, and reheat the house. We can turn on our Scentsy and cook something delicious to make the air smell better.

Surprisingly, this it turning out to be a great day. It’s close quarters in my little office, but we’re having fun hanging out together while we work on our different projects.

Lots of little things are going on today– I’m blogging, of course, and working toward a deadline for an article assignment, writing some for a work in progress and editing a chapter of the pirate book. Meanwhile, one daughter is updating software on her laptop while she reads. My toddler is busy redecorating my bookshelves and rearranging a drawer in my filing cabinet. Another daughter, who truly values her privacy, has taken her laptop outside. She’s doing her schoolwork at the picnic table, and she seems perfectly content in spite of the cold.

It reminds me just a little of a few of our camp-out-in-the-basement days we had last summer, when the wildfires in Utah got so bad that the air was gray and the swamp cooler drew smoke into the house. It wasn’t as thick as it was this morning, maybe, but it was still a wonderful way to break the routine and bring my family together in a unique and fun way.

Inconvenient. That was the first word that came to my mind this morning. Now I’m calling it a blessing. How weird is that?

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