Walking ~ Day 27 The Eden Roc Hotel

Okay, back to The End of the Year list of my most popular blogs since time began (that would be two years ago when I started blogging). I like this one because it was a very fun day.

Sheila Blanchette

We slept late, exhausted from the hot evening in Wynwood. By the time we got our act together, it was time to checkout and eat lunch. It was Sunday, that day of the week when breakfast and lunch become brunch, but we had our hearts set on the chicken wings at the Eden Roc. A year and a half ago we used Marriott rewards points to stay there, pretending we were glitterati always traveling in style, enjoying happy hour by the pool every day. Six dollar order of wings, six dollar mojitos and margaritas, and three dollar beers.

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We cruised down Collins Avenue in my beat up old Azera with the dent on the left bumper, oblivious to the fact we looked out of place tailgating the Maseratis and Bentleys. Greeting us at the entrance to the hotel, the overwrought valet informed us it would be seventeen dollars to…

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Walking ~ Day 365 A Year of Walking

It was a year ago today that I set out to walk every day and blog about it. I did give a full disclosure, somewhere way back at the beginning, admitting that I was far from perfect. That hasn’t changed. The writing about it every day wasn’t possible. I’m an Indie author, writing books and marketing them, and all that entails in the new world of e-books and self-publishing. I’m also still a bookkeeper, working two to four days a week. And I have that other little thing called a life, a complicated, messy, sometimes much too busy life.

As for the walking, I probably missed about twenty four days over the course of a year. That’s an average of two days a month, some months better than others. There were brutally hot days in the summer, days that were just too hectic and too busy, and days in transit, traveling to visit my daughters or my family. In the beginning I ‘fessed up to skipping the day’s walk. On other days, I took two walks which I counted as canceling out the previous day’s missed walk. But in the end, I decided that wasn’t what the year of walking was all about. This wasn’t a NECAP test at school. No Walk Left Behind. It was a learning experience, an experiment in slowing down and observing the world around me, developing a life long habit that I am now compelled to do, not because I have to but because I want to.

There were funerals, weddings, and births over the past year. A typical year, the cycle of life. A reminder that it all goes by so quickly and we need to slow down and savor the moments. But it really wasn’t all that typical either, because I set off on a new adventure and I don’t think I have arrived at my destination yet. But I am well on my way.

“Freedom lies in being bold,” Robert Frost once said.

My good friend, Steve, who was married to my cousin Kathy, is selling his house and getting ready to embark on a new adventure of his own, moving to Utah. It can be a bit scary, leaving your job, your friends, your family. Changing your whole world. But it can also give you a new lease on life, a whole new perspective. It’s an opportunity to learn new things, see new places and challenge yourself. Life doesn’t always go according to plan. It’s good to be flexible and open to new ideas, go with the flow. None of this is over, this thing we call life, until it’s really over. Each day is a gift and it is up to us to use that gift wisely.

For everyone who follows me on my walks and my blog, thank you. In the coming year, I will still be blogging and sometimes my blogs will be about walking because walking has become a habit. One I enjoy. You never really know a place until you get out there and explore it on foot.

My year of walking was done on one big learning curve. Two years ago, I had never written a blog, much less a novel. Now I am almost finished with the first draft of my third book. I’m also a regular blogger and a frequent contributor to the Huffington Post. My writing has improved but as always, in everything we do, there is still room for improvement. I am a work in progress.

One of the biggest challenges in the year ahead is to use my time more wisely. Of all the things I do in a day, from Tweeting to paying somebody else’s bills so I can pay my bills, to writing a blog, to posting on Facebook, to writing a novel, I need to figure out what is going to get me to the place I want to be. Which is writing full time, for a living. But there is also this thing called today. This day and every day. Because the answers aren’t always at the end of the road, they are in each step you take along the path you are walking.

I’ve spent the last few days walking with my oldest daughter who is in Florida visiting for a few days. We’ve walked the beach, the Wakadahatchee Bird Sanctuary, and the Lantana Nature Preserve. Today is Mother’s Day, the last day of my year of walking, and we are all headed to Fort Lauderdale to watch her run a road race. I wish her sister was here to join us for brunch after the race but she will be here at the end of the month and we too will share a walk.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the Mom’s out there. Enjoy your day.

Walking ~ Days 343-361 It is What It Is

Okay, I get it. I’ve been slacking. I haven’t written a walking blog in eighteen days. I will admit I am glad to see the finish line up ahead. It’s time to move on to something new.

Monday I had full intentions of writing a blog, but I was having a day. You all know the kind of day I’m talking about. You have a list of things to do, just the usual shit of living in the 21st century. At the top of my list was: “Get License Plate at DMV.”

I had been to the registry a month ago to switch my expired New Hampshire registration to Florida but I didn’t have the title to my car. I was one payment away from owning it. I should have planned ahead and paid it off before my NH plates expired but I never have extra cash. Even after selling everything you own and downsizing, the bills just keep coming.

I also had to get blood work done for my annual physical. That required fasting. I can’t start the day very well without a cup of coffee, so I went there first. My promotion for Amazon’s Kindle Countdown was beginning at eight a.m. At the crack of eight, from the doctor’s waiting room, I started to Tweet, Facebook, and Instagram the promotion. Then it dawned on me. Better check the book’s page and make sure everything is copacetic. I’m dealing with a large corporation. Sure enough, the book was still $4.99 not 99 cents. And here I was advertising the sale to one and all.

To make matters worse, on Saturday I was at the Key Lime House in Lantana, selling books and handing out lots of cards, telling everyone about my Mother’s Day Sale on Amazon. I imagined thousands of people getting on the webpage at the crack of eight to buy the Kindle book for 99 cents. (Yes, I am delusional.)

Change of plans. I needed to get home and call Amazon.

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Book Sale at the Key Lime House Lantana, FL

 

Two hours later, I still had no satisfaction. You can’t speak to someone live at KDP, Kindle Direct Publishing, but I managed to get through to a lovely girl at Amazon.com who deals with customer service on the buying books end of things. She felt bad for me. We wondered how many sales I was losing as we spoke. She forwarded my problem to KDP and said I would hear from them within 24 hours. I almost burst into tears. In 24 hours the book would be $1.99. Yes I realize that is a countup not a countdown, but I didn’t name the silly promotion.

I left the house and headed to the registry where the line was out the door, snaking down the sidewalk. Under my breath, I muttered “Fuck this” and left. My temporary plate was expiring the next day. I had to work in Pompano, a thirty minute drive from home, but didn’t really give a shit. I figured if I got stopped by a cop I’d just pull the old burst into tears thing. Besides, cops in Florida are way too busy with more important things like homicides.

Then something amazing happened. On the drive home from the registry, my friend Shana at Amazon called me back! She felt so bad for me, she went above and beyond the call of duty and got someone over at KDP to fix the price. It was now 99 cents. But, what about the sales I lost in the last three hours? Would someone following a link on Twitter check back in?

Or should I be asking, does anyone buy a book from a Tweet?

I stopped to get gas. A drunk couple at the pump in front of me couldn’t get their debit card to work. The disheveled wife screamed at the gas station employee sitting at the cash register behind a window in the convenience store.

“Get your ass out here and help us you m’f’***n a’hole.”

Her husband kicked the gas pump.

I decided I didn’t really need a full tank to get to Pompano tomorrow. Someone was waiting behind me so I carefully pulled my car around the irate drunk couple, then hit the accelerator for fear they’d end up pulling a gun and I’d be caught in the line of fire. Not that this was that kind of neighborhood. It’s a nice neighborhood, I was at the closest gas station to my apartment. I booted it out of there because this is the world we live in. A majority of people in America are packing heat, it is legal in Florida to stand your ground, and this is the new normal.

I decided it was time to go home, lock the door, and stay there until the day was over because this was clearly one of those days. But I had books to deliver to the Old Key Lime House. The owner read Take Me Home and liked it so much he asked me to sell my books in the gift shop. Yes! One book at a time! It was too busy on Saturday with the fishing derby going on, so he told to come back on Monday.

When I arrived, a hostess at the front desk told me the owner doesn’t work on Mondays. I turned around and went home, locked the door, put some music on, and spent the rest of the afternoon writing my third novel.

KDP finally sent me an email at three and said, “We are sorry to hear about your problem with the promotion but we just checked the price and it is set at 99 cents.” Yah, now it is! But it wasn’t this morning when the promotion began!

I wrote a letter explaining the three hour delay and my concern for the possible loss of sales. Around ten p.m. I received this, “I understand you have concerns…blah, blah, blah….It appears that network latency delayed the start of your promotion…blah, blah, blah….In cases of latency we are unable to do anything…..”

WTF? If anyone knows anything about network latency please let me know. It sounds bogus to me but I guess It Is What It is.

That is an expression my husband absolutely hates. “It Is What It Is.” He believes it is a lame excuse describing an individual’s defeatist attitude when dealing with something difficult. But, in the world we now live in “It Is What It Is” often comes out of my mouth because it covers an awful lot of bases. From dealing with Comcast to insurance companies to signing up for Affordable Healthcare to trying to get my tax return downloaded to the FAFSA form for the 7th time, rarely are there actual humans who help you. That is a fact. That Is What It Is.

Today I woke to a new day. I got to the registry when it opened. The line didn’t look promising but I had to get the license plate because I am working again on Thursday. It Is What It Is.

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I got my number. G102. Within twenty minutes, I heard the automated voice. “G102, Station 7.” I barely had time to read a few pages of my book. I told the DMV lady I was all set, I’d done all the paperwork a month ago but didn’t have the title. She said “I know, I went outside with you to check the VIN.”

“That’s right. You changed your hair,” I said, remembering her now. “I like it.”

It was Shuntel from four weeks ago! A familiar face with unfamiliar purple hair, friendly service, and a thirty minute trip to the DMV. Things were looking up. Could this be the new It Is What It Is?

I am now back at home, finally writing a blog. A maintenance man is fixing our toilet. I lugged groceries up four flights of stairs because the elevator in our building is broken. My oldest daughter and her boyfriend are visiting. Last night we had a great BBQ at the pool.

We learn to take the good with the bad. I guess that’s the new normal. I also find wine helps.

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P.S. TAKE ME HOME IS A $1.99 Until 5 P.M. TODAY MAY 6. CHECK IT OUT. IT’S COUNTING UP UNTIL THURSDAY.

Walking ~ Days 340-342 Wastin’ Time

One summer my husband was hired to paint a summer home on Surfside Beach on Nantucket. It gave us the opportunity to spend three weeks getting a little taste of the good life. Beachfront living from a good day into a moonlight.

Friends visited for the 4th of July weekend and we rented a jeep, let some air out of the tires, and drove out to Great Point where we grilled burgers on a little Coleman, drank beers, and swam in the ocean.

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No cell phones, just a mostly deserted beach and the wild Atlantic. Wasting time/let the hours roll by/Doing nothing for the fun. On Monday our friends didn’t want to leave so we played Dave’s song and convinced them to Stay. For a moment this good time would never end

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I met Dave Matthews several years ago when I was in Hartford for two nights of shows at the Meadowlands. It was a hot day in July with not much going on in the city. After checking into the hotel, my husband plopped on the bed to watch some golf, as he always does when he checks into a hotel. I went for a walk. It was so hot outside/You could fry an egg.

This was sometime in the 90’s when I didn’t have a smart phone. No camera, no paper and pen for autographs. Just me, out on a power walk, in an old T-shirt and shorts, sweating. I passed a bus parked in front of the Goodwin Hotel. A rock ‘n roll bus. Four fans were milling around on the sidewalk.

First to step out of the revolving hotel door was Carter Beauford. He walked over to us, took some photos, signed autographs, and chatted for awhile. He was followed by the rest of the band members who also stopped to meet and greet. One of the guys waiting on the sidewalk told me, “Dave always comes out last.”

And then, there he was, walking out of the hotel just as a bride and her groom were entering. He stopped for photos and gave the bride a kiss. That’s when I thought, “I could get one of those. That’s better than a photo.”

After the other four fans got their photo and an autograph, I gathered up the nerve to walk over to him. I put my hand on his arm and told him how much I enjoyed his music. How it helped me live in the moment and enjoy each day.

“I was out for a walk. I had no idea I’d bump into you. I don’t even have paper for an autograph,” I told him.

His brown sleepy, bedroom eyes gazed at me, giving me his full attention. I asked him if I could get a kiss. He leaned closer and I caught a whiff of patchouli oil just before he kissed me on the cheek.

***

Yesterday was the fiftieth anniversary of the invention of the cubicle. Sixty percent of Americans work in a cubicle and ninety three percent of them hate it. I used to have a cork board in mine, covered with inspirational quotes to help me through my day. One was from Lie in Our Graves, another favorite DMB song.

I can’t believe that we would lie in our graves…wondering if we had spent our living days well…

I escaped my cubicle over a year ago and I will admit there are still days I get bogged down in the mundane. But most days I work at home, writing, chasing a dream, working on my third novel. I have a lot more time to walk, to appreciate the world around me, to be blown away by the simple things.

It takes a conscious effort to slow down in this busy world we live in. To shut the phone off, not check email, try not to panic when you forget the damn phone at home. We have to remind ourselves, every day, that we will miss these things when it all rolls by.

Walking ~ Days 323-339 Hot Air

I have finished the rough draft of my third novel. Now I am tearing it up, moving things around, adding stuff, deleting stuff. Don’t ask me how I did this, writing another novel so shortly after releasing the second one. I have no idea. I was trying to focus on promoting Take Me Home.

Tweets, blogs and Facebook posts don’t seem to sell many books. But in the middle of the social media blitz, an idea came to me. I tried to ignore it. I was afraid to sit down and face the blank screen so soon. I dismissed it as hot air. A loosely formulated idea for another story. I knew if I sat down and started writing, I would ignore everything else. But that’s exactly what I did and where I’ve been as I approach  the final days of blogging about walking.

Saturday I took a break from writing to just hang out with my husband. During CBS This Morning, we saw a commercial for a Hot Air Balloon Festival in Lake Worth over the weekend. We watch CBS because we both like Charlie Rose. Well, Rich may like Norah O’Donnell a little more than Charlie but that’s okay. I love Charlie.

I am a huge fan of balloon festivals. Many years ago my friend Mary Jane and and I were traveling cross country and stumbled on the granddaddy of all balloon festivals in Albuquerque.

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The photo is old and grainy. It’s impossible to describe the scene. More than two hundred balloons rising in the early morning light.

The night before, we pitched a tent at a nearby campground. Late thunderstorms were expected. Some people mentioned the balloons might not be able to go up the next day. We were beside ourselves with excitement and refused to believe serendipity had brought us here and now you’re telling us it may not happen. No way!

A man in an RV parked next to us was concerned our little pop tent might blow away, so he helped us tie it to a metal pole that was some kind of electricity hookup. We didn’t know. Naively we followed his advice then left the campground for Old Town to check out the bar scene. We were twenty-four years old, if I remember correctly. He seemed to know what he was talking about. A retired guy living in his RV, traveling from one campground to another. A lifestyle we envied and vowed to pursue when we “get old”.

Late that night, lightening streaked across the sky. The rain shook the tent and loud thunder kept us awake. MJ and I huddled together, petrified we would be electrocuted from lightening striking that damn metal pole we were now tethered too. But it didn’t. We woke early, a full hour and a half before the sun rose, and drove to the field. Ever since that day, I have been hooked on balloon festivals.

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The Lake Worth balloon festival was way out west in polo country. We had decided to go at night to see the balloon glow. Despite all the balloon festivals I have attended over the years, I have never seen a balloon glow.

I had printed  directions from Mapquest as neither one of us is adept at GPS. The directions led us on a wild goose chase through a residential neighborhood. I decided to give Siri a chance. She sent us down a dirt road that led us to a horse farm. The horses were beautiful, the barns exquisite, and I would have taken more photos if it weren’t for this.

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I took this really quick, from the moving car, afraid someone might Stand Their Ground. When I first saw the sign, We Don’t Call 911, I didn’t know what it meant. I didn’t see the rifle hanging beneath it. My husband laughed.

“You don’t know what that means? We Shoot to Kill, that’s what it means.”

I laughed, nervously. “Friendly neighbors, aren’t they? Let’s get the hell out of here.”

Farm hands loitering in the barn after a day of work stared us down as we circled the dirt road and drove past the house where they don’t call 911. I held my breath until we were back on the road.

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After parking the car and walking onto the field where  twelve balloons lit their gas tanks, we got the bad news. It was too windy to put the balloons up. The balloon-like clouds lit by the setting sun would have to suffice.

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It was a beautiful night and the event was for a very worthy cause, the Wounded Warrior Foundation, so it wasn’t a complete bust.

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But, We Don’t Call 911 still haunts me.

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Walking ~ Days 323-336 The Long Walk to Long Island

I was in New England last week for my brother-in-law’s funeral. After watching the weather reports from the frigid north this winter, I honestly thought I might suffer from frostbite or worse but it was surprisingly pleasant. Temperatures were in the fifties, slightly chilly for this newly-minted Floridian but not bone-chilling.

My brother-in-law, John Blanchette, was a writer and a publicist. A great guy who enjoyed life and travel and meeting new people. He was successful because he loved his work. Something I have never experienced. Until now. Writing has become my obsession. A passion. I can’t stop writing. “Oh really?” I can hear some of you saying. “Then where have you been with this walking blog?” Good question. I am writing every day, but it is my third book I am working on. I did write a piece for the Huffington Post about my mother’s Alzheimers but it’s been eleven days since I’ve written about walking. Not that I haven’t been walking. I have. But it is the long walk to Long Island that I have been focusing on.

Recently I was accepted to the Southampton Writers Conference,  sponsored by Stony Brook University on Long Island. It takes place during the month of July in the Hamptons, in the lovely seaside town where Rachel Ray, Howard Stern, Kelly Ripa and other famous rich people summer. I know, tough assignment, but someone’s got to do it. I will be summering for twelve days with writers, such as, Meg Wolitzer, Julia Glass the author of Three Junes, Dan Yaccarino, Libba Bray, and Peter Lerangis, to name just a few. A shout out to my very supportive hubby, Rich Blanchette, is necessary here. And very well deserved.

I  need to sell more books. My marketing department is not well connected. That would be me. I am the marketing department, a one woman show. Temping two to four days a week in accounting, writing a third book, blogging, occasional Huff Post pieces. Managing my husband’s bookkeeping (if you know my husband you realize this is one of my most difficult tasks). And trying to sell my books.

I spent three hours getting a Florida license plate at the registry this week. I brought a book to read but reading was impossible as every minute or so the woman on the loudpseaker interrupted my thoughts. “Now Serving A201 at Station Number 24.” I decided to strike up a conversation with a lovely older woman who mumbled something about her fears of dying while waiting to get her driver’s license. She had done this two weeks ago but failed the eye test. On her lap was a form from her eye doctor’s office and the little slip of paper with her number on it, which she held on to tightly, every once in awhile glancing at it, checking the number. Afraid to miss her call. D95. Mine was  resting on top of my Kindle which I couldn’t concentrate on, so anxiously waiting to hear G107. She loved to read she told me. I told her about my books and gave her my card. One book at a time.

I also spent two hours at H & R Block this week getting my taxes done. I usually do this myself. I am a bookkeeper after all, that is my day job. A reluctant bookkeeper but usually capable of handling this yearly chore. But this year it was complicated. We sold a house. I had royalties. I think I had a nervous breakdown back in that cubicle. So I brought my jumbled mess of paperwork to H & R Block. The woman who did my return does this every year from January to April 15. She summers in Wisconsin where she and her husband run a family lodge with cabins on a lake. I told her about Take Me Home, Josie and Andy running the fishing lodge in Idaho. I gave her my card. One book at a time. She asked me about my daughters in Colorado. One of her daughters works in a cubicle in Orlando but is planning to quit and move to Boulder. “The job is destroying my soul,” she told her mother. I tell her mother about The Reverse Commute. Sophie’s desperation in her cubicle, her dream of owning a bed and breakfast. “You should read that one too,” I told her. “And your daughter needs to read it too. I know all about work that destroys your soul. Here’s a card for your daughter.” Two books at a time.

I Tweet, I blog, I Pin, I Instagram, I pimp myself out on Facebook. I send emails to other bloggers who might like a free copy of the book in return for sharing it with their followers. Sales are slow. I need to sell more books. Since I published Take Me Home on January 6, 2014, four more books titled Take Me Home were published. How the hell does that happen? It’s like naming your baby some really cool name and they get to kindergarten and 4 other kids in the class have the same name.

Four of the other books have really hot guys on the cover. You’ve got to be kidding me. I might need to start pimping out my character Andy Radcliffe. He’s hot.

Drinking coffee on her deck early the next morning, she saw him shaking out his comforter, hanging it over the railing. He was wearing long boarder shorts, the kind Luke wore when he went surfing, and no shirt. He was lean and fit, the hair on his chest gray. He brought out the cushions from the sofa and smacked them with the handle of a broom, creating a cloud of dust, then leaned them against the railing and went back inside. The whirring of a vacuum disturbed the peaceful silence of the alpine setting. A little beagle ran out on the deck, barking in protest.

 

That’s right. I’ve got Luke, Josie’s son. He’s hot too. A young guy and an older, more mature man. Something for everyone.

Josie noticed him giving Andy a thorough inspection as they crossed the bar room to the booth where Luke was waving them over. She too was doing a visual inspection, looking for signs of happiness or dejection over the breakup. Would growing your hair longer and wearing it in a short, stubby ponytail be a sign of disarray or defiant independence?”

 

But where is the sex in this book you ask? Hold on, I’ve got it.

He was energetic but tender, his kisses amazing , his tongue exploring and investigating her body like a cat on a lazy afternoon . She wasn’t self-conscious at all. She felt like a goddess, all that was missing were the grapes. If she had some, she was sure he would feed them to her.

 

So I applied to Stony Brook and got accepted.  I am very excited about this opportunity. I hope to get advice on how to reach my readers, make connections in the industry, and most importantly, improve my craft.

It seems like it’s been a long walk to this point but in reality it’s been a short jog.  In the spirit of my brother-in-law John Blanchette I am pursuing work I love, I am writing, and I am not giving up. He is an inspiration to me and his spirit lives on. So does his writing.