Chicago to Mackinac Island – Sailboat race starts tomorrow…

sailboats-1375064_960_720The race from Chicago to Mackinac Island starts tomorrow (Saturday, July 21, 2018). If you are in the area, head down to Navy Pier. It’s exciting and beautiful to see all the boats lining up to take off. They have different sized boats, so they leave at different times to make the race fair.

The reason this is exciting is because this is the oldest freshwater race in the world, it started in 1898. If you enjoy sailing, you might like to see this online tracking of the race. If you click on the “online tracking link,” you can see a picture of Lake Michigan with a line showing you how they will sail from Chicago to Mackinac Island. They sail nonstop, so they use spotlights at night. I believe there are about 340 boats and approximately 3,000 sailors.

Weather forecast not looking so good, rain and high winds.

So, you see, Chicago is known for a little bit more than just “Al Capone / gangsters.” Ah, I’m kidding, but did you know that Walt Disney was born in Chicago, 1901, and grew up here? He studied drawing at the Institute of Fine Arts. I leave you with Frank Sinatra’s song, “My Kind of Town (Chicago is)!”  AND The Blues Brothers with “Sweet Home Chicago.

Let the race begin!

Chicago: Painted Lighthouses by artists, many with disabilities

Lighthouse 2If you’ve been to Chicago, you know our Magnificent Mile is gorgeous in the summer. The flowers are in bloom in front of all the shop windows, the Chicago river looks fantastic and tourists are everywhere. We really enjoy summer, because we know that soon winter will be upon us.

Lighthouse 3A few days ago, I was walking down Michigan Avenue and I saw a lot of painted Lighthouses. Each one had it’s own theme. The Lighthouses on The Mag Mile™  are displayed for the public to enjoy celebrating people with disabilities. There are 51 six-foot lighthouses to see. I found a few and took pictures.

Lighthouse 4My daughter saw one that looked really spooky she said, with hands painted as if they were coming out of cracks in the wall. I was looking, but didn’t come across that one.

Lighthouse 1It’s a wonderful project, fun to see how creative the artists have been. The Lighthouse Art Display runs from June 19 – August 11, 2018.

A good friend gives a Prayer Box

2A9C2534-817B-44BC-BBA8-3EF0B421C7ACIn life, we all go through challenges. Even when we strive for positivity, we are not immune to feeling angry, tired, frustrated, etc. A few years ago, I had been laid off my job. I was trying to stay positive and see the silver lining in the whole ordeal, but it was tough.

One day when the tears were flowing and I was questioning, “why do I have to go through this again!?!” A friend called and asked me out for lunch. I was not in the mood for lunch. I was on a tight budget with no job, so I didn’t want to spend money on lunch. I asked if we could compromise and meet for coffee instead.

A happy, “no problem,” was the answer. I made a joke and told my friend, “YOU DO KNOW, I am not in the best of spirits, right???”

She chuckled and said, “Even when you are down, you can still make a joke.”

True, I am lucky that growing up, my mother never allowed us to sulk or stay unhappy. She taught us to “immediately” turn a bad moment into a happy moment. It takes a bit of practice, but I realized early on that we are in charge of the direction our thoughts or mood go in. Focus on negativity, be angry all day, focus on the sweet smelling roses, smile and be happy all day. We decide! We choose to either be Pooh Bear or Eeyore all day! That is how I explained it to my daughters. This was a no brainer, we preferred to be “Pooh Bear,” who was always cute, happy and funny.

Anyhow, back to my coffee date. As we were drinking our coffee, my friend said she had a gift for me. I immediately felt guilty accepting it, because I felt like it must be a gift that said, “I feel sorry for you.” So, I forced myself not to be mean and say, “You shouldn’t have,” instead, I graciously accepted it wondering what it could be.

8A1F73DD-4D53-41E3-B358-FED322689BB1Well, I got quite a surprise, because in the cute packaging was a “Prayer Box.” I would never have expected something like this. Even better was when I opened the prayer box and read the nice rhyming sentence! I couldn’t help smiling.

As I read that sentence a sense of relief came over me. My stressed shoulders relaxed, I smiled and felt a sense of freedom. Give my worries to someone else, what a great concept.

So, imagine my surprise when I happened to open a box in the closet yesterday and there was my Prayer Box! As I am job searching again, I got the BIGGEST SMILE!

Prayer Box to the rescue!

Giving to the Homeless

To giveLately, there is something going on in the Universe, because many people are suffering for different reasons. In the past two weeks I had a girlfriend tell me she has cancer, another friend had such bad leg pain that she said she didn’t want to live anymore, a guy I work with is angry, because we are not getting normal hours at work to support ourselves… the list goes on.

I’ve been challenged with this job hunt myself. When I feel a low, I remind myself that we don’t stay down forever. At some point, as we continue to be persistent and think positively something changes and we are catapulted into a whole new direction.

Today I was at Starbucks doing my job search. There was a homeless man sitting by the entrance. I see him there a lot. As I was looking his way, I though I should do something nice for him, because I know how I have appreciated acts of kindness. So, I pulled out a $5 and I went to him and asked if he would like a coffee or something. He was surprised and thanked me. He took the money and went to buy something to eat, but apparently the packaged food at Starbucks is more than $5, so he started to give me the money back, because it wasn’t enough. If I had been working, I would have bought what he wanted, but times are tough for me too.

I told him to keep the money and buy himself “something” to eat or drink. He went back to the counter and bought two bags of chips. Then he came back to me with the change and offered me a bag of chips. I smiled at that, but again I told him to keep the chips for himself. Not long after he ate his chips, he came over to thank me, but then started to tell me how he didn’t want to get married, that it causes a lot of problems, etc. It was the strangest conversation. I listened, but then told him I had to get back to work. He was a very polite and well spoken man, I was happy I had helped him.

For my friend, who said she didn’t want to live, I sent her a pocket silver angel in the mail with a very nice note. She called saying she loved the angel and that she was feeling better and starting to go to physical therapy.

Finally, for my co-worker, I searched and sent him some job postings. I know how the job search is, not fun, it sure helps to have someone else help us out.

Oh… at the grocery store, someone had a gift card they were using. The cashier told them they still had $4 left on it. As they were about to leave, they turned around and handed the gift card to the man behind them and said, “Enjoy $4 on us.” The man was surprised and thrilled to have this lucky gift card.

Sometimes, we ALL need to know someone cares.

So, let’s all go out and do an act of kindness. It makes us feel good and we can change the recipients life around.

Query letters to agents… so, you’ve been rejected!

 

 

This week I have been working on the dreaded “query letter.” I’ve finished one of my children’s books and last year I sent it out to a few agents. Two wrote back that they weren’t “feeling it.” Well, not their exact words, but basically they didn’t have the “wow, factor” when they read my story. Two others never responded, which is par for the course.

Rejection is hard, because it makes us second guess ourselves. Our first reaction is to toss our story into the trash can, like Stephen King did. Done, finished, it wasn’t meant to be! After a good night’s sleep and soul searching, we start to think. Was it really my story or maybe I am not querying the right agents?! We pull our story out of the trash, dust it off and start again.

We take another pass at our story, maybe have a person or two read it and give comments. We tighten up the text and we start the query process again. If you are a writer, you know the drill — research sample query letters, research agents, research publishers, etc. Trying to find that one golden nugget that sparks inspiration where we type like mad and pat ourselves on the back for our brilliant query letter.

THAT is where I am today. Focusing on the end result, which is ALL of YOU lining up for a signed copy of my book only to find out I’ve run out of books! Laughing, didn’t that sound good!

In all seriousness, if you’ve written a winning query letter, please share some pointers. It’s time to turn this story around from rejection to signed contract!

Pizza in a cast iron skillet?

cast iron pizzaFourth of July holiday is coming up, which means a lot of barbecuing. BUT, what if you prefer pizza.

I have exciting news for you. If you own a cast iron skillet you can make your own gourmet crunchy crusted pizza in 15 minutes. Make life easy on yourself, buy the pizza dough already prepared.

Here’s what you do:

Roll out the pizza dough. Warm up your cast iron skillet on medium/high on your stove top, dust the pan with a little bit of flour, no oil needed. Put your dough in the pan. While your dough is warming up, sprinkle some olive oil on it, pizza sauce and add your chosen pizza toppings (i.e. mushrooms, pepperoni, whatever you like) and then pop your pan into the oven at 425 degrees. Your pizza should be ready in 12-15 minutes.

I had no idea!

Now, I just need to find a good deal on a cast iron skillet and I’ll be a Chef in no time!

Bon Appétit!