Archives

Midnight, The One-Eyed Cat – How a Cat (or Dog) Can Soothe Your Soul & Inspire You to Write a Book

20140806_082023 midnight and daddy

The soft nudge of a cat’s nose against your cheek, the sloppy wet kisses of a blue-eyed Australian Shepherd on your eyelid – no wonder we love animals so much.

I have a friend that sometimes comes over and watches tv, and often tells me, “It’s so comforting to have your pets around.

Our big goofball (part Bernese Mountain Dog, part Aussie) loves to flirt, belly side up and wag his tail.

Our little girl kitten hops up on my lap, and snuggles on her grey security blankie.

I could go on and on about my pets, but there’s one girl in particular, who my husband rescued on a snowy, wintry night nearly 13 years ago, covered in motor oil, hiding under his car, who holds a special place in my heart. With the intentions of merely fostering, Midnight spent 10 days in the master bathroom de-fleaing, de-worming, and getting to know us. By then, we were in love with her sweet disposition.

Midnight, our black cat, just turned 18 years-old this week. That’s something to celebrate.

Something else to celebrate – she was the inspiration for the children’s book Pat Wahler and I co-wrote together, MIDNIGHT, THE ONE-EYED CAT.

For two years, I stared at a book title scribbled on a piece of paper, pinned on my office bulletin board. A book title that my smart, cute, clever husband came up with – THE ONE-EYED CAT WITH A FEATHER IN HER HAT.

They say sometimes if you write down your goals and read them every day, eventually they come to fruition.

The story, inspired by a dream I had, came true after I penned a poem, and phoned my friend Pat to brainstorm about creating a picture book.

A book deal and several years later, MIDNIGHT, THE ONE-EYED CAT, is available on Amazon pre-order, with a printing publication date of September 2018.

Final Cover 2_Midnight

The ‘real life’ Midnight, who loves her butter and whip cream, inspires me to be a better person every day. Yes, a ten pound, 18-year old cat, inspires me to be a better person.

She loves her canine stepsister and brother so much, she cleans them every day. And when I rescued a pregnant stray two years ago, Midnight adjusted her comfortable life to include more cats. (We kept two of the kittens.)

Real life Midnight is resilient, positive and confident. She ‘talks’ to me when she wants something, has the loudest purr, snuggles on your lap, gives cat scratch kisses, and holds her own with the other pets.

Midnight, the One-Eyed Cat (the book version) who is bullied by other cats, learns to be ‘the best she already is’ with the help of her best friend, Starlight.

I hope the real life Midnight sticks around to see the book version in print.

Wouldn’t that be awesome?

Peace out and love,

Xoxo

Sheree

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Yoga with Baby Goats & a Coastal Irish Pub – my newest publications

IMG_3439001

Copyright Shenanigoats Yoga 2018

Good Morning Everyone,

Normally, I don’t post freelance publications on my blog. My blog is mainly inspirational posts and content. But…I’m just so excited on how these two assignments turned out, I wanted to share with you.

The first is a story on Shenanigoats Yoga in Nashville, Tennessee titled “Got Goats” (published in Long Weekends Spring Summer 2018) and how much fun goat yoga can be!

The second is a three-page spread on Fibber McGee’s, Sunset Beach, North Carolina’s only Irish Pub with a coastal flair, titled “Luck of the Irish” (published in South Brunswick Magazine Spring 2018). Sunset Beach is my favorite place to vacation, and Fibber’s is amazing!

So here you go! Enjoy the stories, and feel free to leave comments below.

Happy Monday! It snowed here in the Midwest last night, so I’m loving it!

Peace out,

xoxoxo

ShereeLong Weekends pg 97 Spring Summer 2018 crop

South Brunswick spring 2018 Luck of the Irish pg 90

South Brunswick spring 2018 Luck of the Irish pg 91

South Brunswick spring 2018 Luck of the Irish pg 92

Lists – Why We Make Lists…Why We Need Goals…Does it Stem from Our Childhood?

Lists for blog crop

Today I got stuck on the subject of lists with an acquaintance.

As a young girl, I used to send notes airborne from the second-floor balcony to my parents below, via the winding mahogany staircase.

I floated notes to Mom and Dad on brightly colored paper whenever I felt they weren’t listening to me, taking me seriously, or when I wanted to voice my opinion.

My sister-in-law, Geri, reminisced about a time she was dating my brother, and was hanging out at our house one evening. I was four years old, and had refused to go to bed.

Most of my note scribbling pertained to reasons why I should stay up late.

Justifications were:

I’m not tired.

I hear something outside.

My tummy hurts.

I have to pee.

I need a drink of water.

I’m still hungry.

According to Geri, sometimes I’d convince Mom (based on which excuse would win her sympathy), to garner a more few hours with the adults in the living room. Other times, they ignored me. Eventually the effort of note-writing just wasn’t worth it, and I fell asleep, recognizing defeat.

I suppose I’ve made lists all my life.

At my first home, Post-It Notes came in handy.

I scattered lists all over the kitchen table. Since I attended college in the evening, and worked full time, my lists consisted of –

  • What art projects I needed to finish
  • Lists of supplies for class
  • How to study for my anatomy quiz in Figure Drawing

When I began my career in Telecom, my lists morphed into color-coded spreadsheets of my customers whose circuits I was designing for their networks and stages (steps) of the Provisioning process.

After my first marriage ended, there were lists of goals I wished to accomplish. I was determined to take my mind off my recent divorce, and lift my spirits.

My lists were:

Take a yoga class.

Take a dance class.

Snap more photos.

Go on a vacation.

Get a promotion.

As I checked these items off my list, I met the man I was going to marry.

I created more lists!

What shape diamond do I like?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Where should we hold the wedding?

What flowers would be in my wedding bouquet?

Savory food for the menu?

What musicians should we hire?

What song would I walk to at our sunset ceremony?

What memory of my Dad could I include in the ceremony?

Today, I create lists of goals I want to accomplish as a writer.

  • Tweet more
  • Finish editing my essay collection
  • Write a better bio
  • Network more
  • Figure out how to sell more books
  • Prepare for those upcoming presentations at schools
DSC_0874 Russell copyr

Hubby, Russell, speaking at Troy Buchanan last year about our book, Folly Beach Dances

My writing lists seem far more stressful. Working at home can be both a blessing, and a hindrance. There is no sense of urgency on self-imposed deadlines. Or is there?

Taken from Wikipedia, Newton’s First Law of Motion states –

  • An object that is at rest will stay at rest unless a force acts upon it.
  • An object that is in motion will not change its velocity unless a force acts upon it.

For me, I accomplish a lot if I keep moving. I start my day early with a strong cup of espresso, a sunny bay window and a great view. This keeps me motivated.

Other times, I feel somewhat overwhelmed, so I accomplish the easy items first. Afterwards, I meet a friend for coffee, smooch my hubby, or play with the fur babies. I end up staying at rest. Not always a good plan.

One goal that’s sure to keep me moving – a new picture book with Amphorae Publishing slated for September release, titled “Midnight, The One-Eyed Cat”, with coauthor Pat Wahler.

20140806_082023 midnight and daddy

Midnight, the inspiration for our new picture book, with her ‘Daddy’

It’s about overcoming handicaps, building confidence, and learning to be the best you already are.

Guess I could take some advice from Midnight!

Do you find lists helpful in accomplishing goals, or does making lists stress you out? I’d love to hear your opinion.

 

Peace Out and Love,

Xoxo

Sheree

 

 

The Storms in our Life

(This is are repost from last summer.)

Sometimes even though you may have best interests at heart for a loved one or a pet, situations may still be stressful in your household.

These episodes of conflict, or ‘storms’ were described by our pastor, Tim, at O’Fallon Christian Church. These times often seem hopeless, neverending, physically and mentally draining.

DSC_1170 folly pier after storm copy

I am currently going through a ‘storm’.

For the past three months our home has been divided – structurally and DSC_0956 Adeline and her babies copyremotionally.

It all started with a female stray cat visiting our back deck in March. We rescued and adopted her before knowing she was pregnant.

Momma Adeline delivered six precious kitten babies, and we witnessed the miracle of birth. It was simply amazing!

Our sixteen year old cat Midnight doesn’t care for Adeline and makes it know by vocalizing in the form of hisses and pig snorts. Adeline, being protective of her babies (even though Midnight doesn’t come in contact with them) takes Midnight’s vocalization as a threat — a brewing storm. This makes life stressful. I’m always trying to make peace between the two– trying to get them to see things the same way.

DSC_0857 Midnight copyr

Out of the six kittens, four have gone to lovely homes. Two are left – Elvis, a beautiful boy with long body, tall legs, big paws, black with striped head and haunches (manx and black cat mix); and Ireland, a feisty little striped girl (manx) that makes me laugh, loves to play, and gives kisses.

DSC_1296 Elvis and Ireland copyr

DSC_1267 Ireland Elvis on black stool copyr

Adeline is separated from the kittens now, so they can thrive on their own without momma’s milk. At nine weeks, they are eating dry food (which they love), drinking water, and being silly little felines. The kittens enjoy running, leaping, and playing in the master bathroom and master bedroom.

At nighttime, Adeline has the run of the basement, and Midnight is on the main floor. During the day, they live together with the dogs, sometimes peacefully, sometimes not so peacefully. A house often divided indeed – by rooms and by emotions.

No sure how much longer I can live like this. Hubby says it will all work out in the end.

On top of all this commotion, I’m trying to work on my writing. There are good days, and there are unproductive days. On the unproductive ‘writing’ days, I usually clean the house, run errands, fix things that need to be fixed. You get the idea.

Add to that, the trouble my husband has with cat dander. Lately, he has been retreating to the solice of the guest bedroom with Red Dog – typically a cat-free zone.

20150418_183754rRussell and Bordeaux copyr

Our Australian Shepherd, unsure where to sleep, usually follows me to the bedroom, after I tuck the kittens in at night on their favorite cozy bench in the bathroom.

DSC_0941 the culprit

“The Culprit”

Dogs are such gentle souls. With the storms brewing in our household, comes frustration, lost tempers, and sobbing. Let me just say, the dogs have adapted the best. Things change at a minute’s notice. The goofy pooches are always eager to lick away your tears.

Why can’t humans be like dogs with their “Oh, well attitude”? Nothing seems to bother them. Seems like dogs just go with the flow, don’t they?

I’ve experienced a pretty significant storm in my life – Tropical Storm Jerry – back in the early 1990’s. During a Blackbeard’s cruise off the coast of Bimini, Bahamas, Jerry struck, with twenty foot wind swells pummeling our sailboat of 20 scuba divers. The torrential downpour forced us to don our raingear purchased on Bimini. After 90 minutes on deck in the midst of bitterly cold rain and unforgiving ocean, we attempted singing show tunes. When that didn’t work, we retreated to the warmth of the galley and salon, conversing, smiling, laughing, and trying to remain positive until the storm subsided, all the while the boat was taking on water.

I wish I could tackle all of ‘life storms’ in the same way. Sometimes I forget my favorite Bible verse Philippians 4:6 which says, “Don’t worry about anything, but pray about everything”.

As I write this today, I’ve decided to forego my usual morning breakfast ritual of raspberries, oatmeal, and toast accompanied by a dose of Gayle King, Charlie Rose and Nora O’Donnell from CBS This Morning. Instead, I’ve spent my time reflecting on life, and reading Coffee with God by Sarah Arthur – 365 Devotions to Perk Up Your Day.

Because sometimes…. many times, you just need a dose of God and a good cup of coffee to start your day, to get you through those ‘storms’ in life.

And the prayers of friends, family, and even strangers doesn’t hurt either…

I hope the ‘storms’ in your life subside.

Peace out and love,

Xoxoxox

 

Sheree

A Thousand Sunsets…

20170831_193551 R B S fishing

The last week in August, my husband, canine kids and I, spent four glorious days in Door County, Wisconsin. We stayed at a quaint inn with cabins in picturesque Ephraim, Wisconsin.

Marinas and docks dotted the curvy shoreline, and sunsets were spectacular. We set aside 90 minutes each evening to meander to the inn’s private dock, complete with white Adirondack chairs.

Four evenings brought lively conversations with other guests from the inn – a family with a young boy who loved to fish, a baby boomer couple who wiled away hours during the day searching for the perfect winery, a grandma with her children, and their children who gave the dogs repeated hugs, and a doctor and her husband who hailed from flooded Houston, but were afraid to check texts and voice messages for fear they would be homeless when they returned.

Just as the people we met were unique, so were the sunsets – pastel pink clouds, blue violet strands dancing across the glassy bay, ebony silhouettes set against golden-hued horizons – no two alike, painted by God’s hands.

20170828_191948 1st night sunset

And no matter how routine our sunset ritual seemed, I welcomed the hand-holding with my husband, and the dogs’ tags jingling as we stepped lightly across the two-lane road, to settle on the wooden Adirondacks. I never tired of this. It was our time to chill. No schedules. No worries. No expectations. Nature doing what nature does best, in all its splendor.

During the day we visited new coffeehouses, ice crea20170827_192050 cherry crumblem parlors, creameries with homemade gelato, chocolate establishments, gift shops or restaurants or markets selling cherry-themed products – cherry crumble, cherry pie, cherry salsa, cherry jam, cherry granola, cherry juice, and cherry spumante. You name it, we tried it.

We hiked along fairy-forest paths that paralleled aquamarine harbors, sank our feet in sandy beaches sometimes tripping over pebbles, stood atop cliff outcroppings with lofty expectations of jumping in (well, at least my husband), traipsed through sunflower fields, visited art galleries, observed an authentic fish-boil from the porch of our tiny cottage, and frequented dog-friendly cafes and restaurants. A special thanks to Buttercups Coffee in Egg Harbor for loving on the dogs so sweetly.

DSC_2461 cana pt girl jump copyr

I’ve not felt this relaxed since our anniversary trip to Pearl Harbor, and the grandiose waterfalls, beaches, and stunning scenery in Maui, Hawaii.

But of course, travel back to that familiar place is inevitable – home.

Last evening, I listened for the beauty at our abode –

It showed me favor in the crisp fall air with crickets chirping, coyotes wailing, the faint sound of a motorcycle revving its engine in the distance, the monotonous hum of our refrigerator, and the sound of voices from the television on the lower level.

Four cats reposed in harmony – one cleaning and preening velvety fur and precious paws while sniffing night air, another curled up on the sofa, one more playing hide and seek in the tunnel of the kitty city condo, and one waiting at the garage door for Daddy to come home from a long day’s work.

Two goofy canines slumbered on the king size master bed complete with tons of throw pillows. They dreamt of running as they yelped and fidgeted.

It’s nights like these I cherish the ceiling fan pushing cool air downward from the open window as I nestle ‘snug as a bug’ under the covers.

It’s times like these that remind me of the thousand sunsets of my life I’ve been lucky enough to share with loved ones, by quieting my mind, and realizing that beauty is universal.

Stop. Listen. Observe. Feel.

Quiet your mind, and look for the sunsets in your life. What you’ll discover might just be amazing!

Peace out and love,

 

Sheree

 

 

Just Listen for the Beauty

This has been a popular post; so I’m sharing with you again.

_____

I position the hot red-hued Adirondack chairs on our back deck facing each other. The hubster lights the Tiki torches and pots of citronella for ambience. We’re eager to relax as night falls over the pine, birch and maple trees on our three acre slice of heaven.

This night is different. It’s cool and crisp for a summer evening in the Midwest. Normally humid, our French door windows are fogged with condensation.

As I gaze up at the sky from my chair, I delight in the pastel white-blue clouds blended with the deep indigo blues.

We’ll see no stars tonight. Just as well, as I close my eyes and listen for sounds in the distance. The pooches settle in on the bright red and white patterned rug nearby.

I ask hubby, “What do you hear?”

“The pool, the people, the crickets…”

Dogs bark in the neighborhood adjacent to ours, cars putter slowly down the gravel road, and a plan’s engine zooms overhead. Through the window screen, I can hear the kittens playing, shuffling in the curtains, meowing inside.

“Just close your eyes and listen,” Russell says. “Just listen for the sounds of the night.”

My eyelids become heavy as I reflect on the beauty I discovered in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan this week. Creamy yellow and dreamsicle sunrises over Copper Harbor, vivid red orange and blue violet sunsets silhouetting kayakers in lake waters, endless waterfalls, pebble beaches, and an eagle flying above the shoreline as day breaks.

DSCN1326 sunrise copper harbor copyr

I believe beauty is where you find it. And it’s everywhere in this land, in every form.

It’s present in the smiles of my two pooches as the wind whips through their silky hair as we tool around town in my Chevy Equinox.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Sabrina (copyright Sheree K. Nielsen)

It’s in the faces of the two sweet kittens we adopted…and their mother.

It’s in the eyes and weathered face of the 86 year-old woman I converse with at the airport, as she tells me how much she loves her children and grandchildren.

There’s beauty in the crisp morning breeze as the fan pushes air downward, and the comfort of the feathered pillow caresses my head.

Or in the ruby-throated hummingbird, wings fluttering, as it sips nectar from the lavender magnolia in my back yard.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Beauty is present in the hugs from my long time friends that shower me with affection after I’ve been out of town.

There’s beauty in the smiles of the baristas at my favorite coffee shop as I walk in and they ask, “Hey Sheree, how ya doing?” Of course I know all their names. We’ve had a beautiful relationship ever since that coffee shop opened. As they pour those perfectly pulled shots of espresso into a mug, they leave time for latte artwork in the shape of a heart or a leaf.

I guess you could say, there’s a reason to find beauty in just about everything. I’m looking at seven of those reasons right now – my husband who is intently gazing at his computer from the leather chair, and my six fur kids playing, sleeping, or exploring.

Stop what you’re doing right now, close your eyes, take a deep breath and just listen and observe.  You’ll be surprised how much beauty you’ll find in whatever you see and hear.

Peace out and love,

Sheree

DSC_1721 cappucino art design 1 crop copry

A Writer’s Conference, Some New Ideas, and Several Awards

Last Saturday I had the opportunity to attend the All Write Now Conference in Cape Girardeau, Missouri.

The conference was held at the University Center on the campus of Southeast Missouri State University.  Perusing the schedule, I circled the workshops I wished to attend.

First hour, Brian Klems, Senior Online Editor from Writer’s Digest spoke on “25 Questions You Need Answered Before you Seek an Agent or Self-Publish a Book”.  His handout included information on the ‘how’s, whats, and where’s’ of resources on getting your book published and building social media platforms. Along the way, he gave personal examples of his road to publication, and humorous stories living with three daughters.

20170715_104446 Brian Klems

Second hour, Robert Yehling presented a workshop on “Keys to Writing Conversational Dialogue: The Driving Force of Your Fiction and Nonfiction”.  His workshop explained how the right dialogue is so vital in writing, because the reader directly relates and ‘hears’ what humanize characters. He gave personal experiences of meeting autistic surfing great, Clay Marzo, which served as the anchor for Robert’s biography on Clay, Just Add Water.

20170715_114546 - Robert Yehling crop

After lunch, literary agent at Speilburg Literary agency, Alice Speilburg, held a workshop on “Narrative Pull: How to Keep Agents and Editors Reading”.  Alice’s suggestions included starting with a gripping opening, follow with an inciting incident, rising action, tension, climax, falling action, and finally, resolution in your story. Other steps to ‘build a tight rope’ included placing your main character in an eye-opening situation, keep your character looking forward, among others.

20170715_134136 - Alice Speilburg crop

The last workshop of the day, Karen Sargent, debut author of “Waiting for Butterflies”, presented “Marketing Strategies: Extending Your Reach and Preparing for a Book Launch”. Karen went over topics such as Who’s Going to Buy Your Book, The Truth Is, Hanging out Online, Building Book Buzz, Social Media Graphics, Book Launch, and Resources. This lady has such a plethora of information, it made my head spin! Her suggestions and resources could keep you busy 24×7!

After taking a break to grab a cappuccino and tea with co-author and friend, Pat Wahler, (Midnight the One-Eyed Cat) at a local coffeehouse, we returned to attend the awards ceremony for the contest winners.

I walked away with four awards – First Place for Nonfiction, Honorable Memorable for Nonfiction, and Second and Third Place for Poetry.  I snagged the Grand Prize drawing (free registration next year), and the main door prize drawing (a $50 Southern Writers Business Ad), as well. I believe I wore a path in the carpet walking up to receive the awards, which proved a bit embarrassing.

20170718_115028 -AWN awards

All in all, it was a great day, and rejuvenated my creative juices! Once home, I submitted a query to a publisher, and received a request for a full manuscript.

You never know what life has in store for you. Be ready for surprises!

Peace out and keep writing,

And check out my inspirational book of photography and poetry, Folly Beach Dances, which includes contributions from five-award winning Missouri women authors, including myself and husband.

xoxoxo

Sheree