Sarah Turner from Bend, OR Coming to Europe!

I have this close friend Sarah Turner* from The States who keeps saying she wants to come visit me in Europe. Sarah’s a high school counselor in Bend, Oregon. She’s totally into hiking and running, has been happily married for over a decade, is close with all of her siblings, enjoys her job. In other words, she has a great life.

But then her husband cheated on her with one of her best friends who happens to be the wife of her husband’s boss. It’s a total cluster f*&k, as you can imagine, not to mention humiliating. So there she is, 36 years old, suddenly divorced, betrayed by not only her best friend, but her husband (I never really liked that guy to be honest). Did I mention that her mom passed away not long ago? I’ve been worried about her because these are big, disruptive life changes all at once.

X003Most of our communication about all of this has been through email and PMs on Facebook. But she called me up at 4:00 in the morning (forgot the time change) to tell me something totally out of character; she left her job and has just embarked on a solo-trip through Northern Europe to rediscover herself! At the end of her trip, she plans to visit The Netherlands for some appointment she has scheduled in Amsterdam, and will have time to visit me in The Hague!

I’m really impressed. It’s pretty gutsy to travel all by yourself through Europe; especially for a woman who’s never left the continental U.S. and has a hard time picking up foreign languages. As I recall, she’s also a bit afraid of the dark and she became a vegan a couple of years ago. Hmmm. Not sure how traveling in Europe will work out for a vegan. That’s got to be hard.

I’d love to introduce Sarah to some of my single friends, because she really is quite a catch. But it’s obviously too soon. I wouldn’t say she’s in a man-hating phase, but more like she just needs to be totally on her own and remember what it’s like to be an individual.

I hope Sarah doesn’t mind me sharing all of this personal stuff on my blog.

Want to get the full scoop on Sarah Turner, then you might want to click here. I understand you can read quite a few intimate details about her.


Sometimes you’ve just got to talk to the ducks

Coincidences have been abundant as of late. I chose a book for our reading group called Flight Behavior, by Barbara Kingsolver. It’s about a lot of things involving flight, from a woman who wants to flee her marriage, a reporter who flies toward sensationalism and away from reality and the flight patterns of Monarch butterflies.

That’s not the coincidence. That’s the author playing with theme.

Where the coincidences begin is in the timing. I selected the book six months ago and it is finally on the table for our mid September meeting. Considering the majority of the book club members are procrastinators like me, this means that most of us have been reading it in the past few weeks. Thus our minds are focused on butterflies, beautiful prose and flight.

I met a friend for a coffee and she described a dilemma in her personal life that almost mirrored the main struggle of the lead character in the book. If I hadn’t been reading Flight Behavior, I might have found my friend’s desire to flap her already outstretched wings a less tenable idea. Is it strange that being so deeply inside the head of a fictional character can give you more compassion for the real characters in our lives?

And then there are the butterflies. Everyone is talking about them. I know that I have a heightened awareness to these winged insects by the mere fact that I’m reading this book. But really; I have heard the word vlinder (butterfly in Dutch) in no less than six conversations over the past two weeks.

It’s like I’m being tickled on my cheeks by the butterfly wings of coincidence. Let me just share the latest example. After church on Sunday, I was offered the left over communion bread (waste not, want not) with the thought that perhaps my son and I would like to feed the ducks in the lake. Who wouldn’t want to minister to the ducks with squares of blessed bread?

Although my son initially rolled his eyes at the idea (roughly translated as I’m Seven and a half now mom;  way too old to go feed the ducks), he was eventually on board. We had planned a walk anyway, and the ducks might be hungry.

Boy were we wrong. The ducks were acting like lazy agnostics as they slowly paddled toward us with only mild interest. It was a hot day, I’ll give them that. And the water had a strange green layer on it’s surface, which not only stank but must have made it a bit harder to swim. But still! Have you ever known an urban duck to be lethargic around free bread, already cut to bite size?

We moved on to a second, more popular duck feeding spot along the edge of the lake where more ducks were assembled. But we had competition in the shape of a four-year old girl and her father with a slightly larger plastic bag of bread. I bet you it wasn’t blessed.

Strangely, we didn’t greet each other, but competitively set up shop just ten feet apart and my son and I threw our holy bread into the water with zeal. If the first group of ducks were agnostics, these were the atheists. 

“They just aren’t hungry,” said a man behind me in Dutch. Of course he was right. We were probably the 100th group of bread throwers today. Somehow, I fell into conversation with this older man, who sat on the bench with the leisure of someone who planned to stay a while.

He heard my English accent paired with my ability to carry on a full conversation in Dutch and astutely assessed that I was foreign, but had lived in The Netherlands for a while. Due to my apparent affinity with English culture and his apparent abundance of free time, he launched into a story about a design competition he had won in Canada years ago for sculpture. He was flown to Canada to create his masterpiece. He chose to make a butterfly sculpture to represent the connection between Canada and the Netherlands. I must have looked at him sideways. Of course you did a sculpture of a butterfly. I already knew the end of this story before you even began. 

In all seriousness, I like the flow of coincidence; how if your thoughts are aligned and tapped into the world around you, the world seems to unfurl its wings with something as unrelated as pieces of bread leading you to a conversation with a stranger about a butterfly sculpture. Am I describing a portion of chaos theory known as the Butterfly Effect? Is that a coincidence? How about this? It doesn’t just exist in the physicial world. I did a search on something like “butterflies flapping their wings and a tsunami” and guess what came up in sixth place on google? Butterflies in The Hague. Say what?

Shall I just get it over with and declare September the month of the Butterfly?

My son and I walked around the rest of the lake and found a bench to sit on. We spent a good deal of time discussing a rectangular hole in front of the bench and a number of possibilities of how that hole got there: Was it man made? Did a dog with a penchant for straight edges have a digging fest? Would the hole grow deeper each time it rained? Would a duck float in the hole?

Before we left the lake my son said “Good bye ducks.” He smiled at me, as if I too was in on the duck joke.

Sometimes, you’ve just got to talk to the ducks.

Green by Kristin Anderson

Have you ever seen an image that stirs you within? Reminds you of childhood, of longing, of romance, of hope, of nature, anticipation? I had such an experience when I encountered Catrin Welz-Stein’s digital artwork online, especially her painting The View. I looked at that painting and decided I had to order a poster.

Then, as I was working on the final draft of my debut novel, I imagined her beautiful image on the cover of my book. But it wasn’t quite right for my book. I needed a more contemporary version of this same piece. I needed to lift the melancholy out of the clouds and add anticipation and hope. 

But that was a dream, after all. I couldn’t just contact a Swiss artist in Kuala Lumpur out of the blue and ask her if I could not only use her artwork for the cover of my book, but alter it. Could I? Well, if there’s one thing I learned from Doctor Seuss, it’s that you don’t know until you try and it never hurts to ask.

So I contacted her. 

After working with her over the internet for a number of months–me sending mock-up drafts, and she providing her thoughts on composition, color, balance, we developed an idea that suited both of our needs. I called upon my husband’s graphic design skills, and got the final version approved!

Green by Kristin Anderson
Green by Kristin Anderson

I am so excited about my book launch coming up on Saturday, November 16th, 2013, when I will officially release this book into the world. Like more info? Check out my author blog: or Facebook page:

Dappled with rainwater

I subscribe to a blogger called Kristin Noelle because 1) she writes about living with trust in your life and 2) I share her name, Kristin Noelle (my first and middle name and I suspect her first and last name). My second reason is a little silly, but I think there’s something interesting about us walking around in the world with the same name, even if expressed differently.

A while ago, she sent an email entitled “Dappled Things.” If I could have a love affair with a word, this would be it. Dappled reminds me of light summer rain, of nature, of sunlight through trees, of thoughts transitioning in front of you, and of a distant poem I love about dappled rainwater.

I started writing a response to Kristin Noelle’s email, eager to share my thoughts with her, and I yarned on about an E.E. Cummings poem I loved so much that had the word “dappled” in it. I couldn’t remember the title of the poem, so I started searching through E.E. Cummings’ works, soon realizing his poems have very little to do with dappled sunshine and a lot to do with sex and his most-likely-made-up last name.

I had thrown my love affair word to the wrong poet. Then William Carlos Williams popped in my head. Oh, that’s it! I thought confidently. And I pulled up a poetry website and quickly found that beautiful poem from all those years ago. And without much further ado:

The Red Wheelbarrow
William Carlos Williams

so much depends
a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

Glazed with rainwater? Not dappled with rainwater? So much for my dappled tryst; it’s not even in the poem.

This leaves me to believe, that like Robin Williams in the 1994 film The Final Cut, my brain had somehow misremembered a crucial piece of information from my past.

Perhaps crucial is a bit strong, but I feel cheated by my own memories, and I have to agree with William Carlos; glazed with rainwater works much better.

But back to my namesake. Kristin Noelle’s email, the one that caused me to expound upon the virtues and amorous nature of dappled, also made me slow down and ponder her words:

Life is a dappled thing. The contrasts are *everywhere*. And since my goal is to learn and practice a worldview of trust – that is, a softening into, rather than a constant resistance to, what is – then my invitation is to practice saying yes to these contrasts. Practice watching for the gifts in them. Practice listening for what they’re calling me to learn or remember or do…or to release and let go of.

What if the dappled things, the many startling and confusing and even horribly troubling contrasts, are a deep sort of kindness, and learning to trust is the process of waking up to that kindness? Of learning to welcome it, and soak in it, even when we can’t yet recognize its outlines? (excerpt from an email sent out by Kristin Noelle to her subscribers on Dappled Things)

And now you can see why I subscribe to her blog; these are the sort of thoughts that make us contemplate our lives and perhaps see goodness and lessons of growth in a place where we only once saw trouble.

I often think of the internet as this wonderful, horrible thing, a dappled thing; it offers up an incomprehensible amount of information, and like an expanded Wikipedia, it represents a superhuman collective of our history, thoughts, experiences and beliefs; some horrible and dark, others refreshing and insightful.

The internet is knowledge. Harkening back to a famous story of a snake, a woman and an apple, some say knowledge is evil. But I disagree–it’s what you DO with the knowledge that makes all the difference. We can handle knowledge if we have trust in our lives–trust in our own ability to reason and differentiate, and to make decisions based on our core beliefs.

How do you live with trust when betrayed by your own memory? I can fact-check the author of a poem online or in a book, but how can I fact-check that experience I had when I was nine years old when one of my best friends betrayed my trust? I can’t.

If I got back in touch with that long-ago friend and asked for her version of the experience, would she have the same story, or something completely different? Whose version would be right? Would our interpretations be based on feelings as much as facts? Can we trust our own ability to recall an event objectively and in that moment, or do we reshape our memories with layers of new experiences?

Trust is also the ability to realize you can be wrong once in a while, and to do so with grace.

Love Stories

When I was little, like eight or nine, I played piano. I had a songbook of popular hits and one of the songs I enjoyed was called Love Story. It had this haunting, sad melody. If I was feeling distraught about something or just moody, playing this song seemed to pull me deeper into my emotions. I didn’t know at the time that Love Story was the theme song to a really sad romantic movie of the same title. My mom must have known, must have seen the movie even, but she never told me about it. Or if she did, it didn’t hold my interest.

So just a few weeks ago, I rented the 1970s film Love Story as a bit of research on the romance genre. It was on multiple lists of all time best romantic films. I recognized the Love Story theme immediately when I was trying to turn off the subtitles, and as the melody connected me with that childhood melancholy, I knew I was in for an emotional rollercoaster.

When the film was over, I immediately went to my husband. Teary-eyed and sniffly, I hugged him, telling him how happy I was to have already had ten wonderful years with him. In other words, this movie played an e minor concerto on my heart strings, rendering me sappy, emotional and aware of the love and happiness in my life.

Is this what we want in a romance? To connect to the love in our own lives? Absolutely. A tragic ending? Occasionally, when done well (Romeo and Juliet for example). As far as tragic love goes, I would never change the ending of Love Story. It is a perfect composition, from the moment they meet in the university library to the father and son passing each other in the turnstile door of the hospital.

But is this what we want most of the time? Um, no. We romantics prefer a happy ending. In fact, if you read through articles and posts on the romance genre, people expect a happy ending. I’m not saying we always want fluff, but we want romance, a good story and happiness.

Talking with authors

A handful of you may know that I’m almost finished with my first novel. This would be a great time for me to mention the title of my book, but unfortunately I’m like a floor fan on a hot summer day when it comes to determining the best title for my debut novel–oscillating between one corner of the room and the other. A title, after all, is crucial to marketing your book and conveying what the potential reader can expect from the content nestled between that compelling cover design and the great quotes (from your mom) on the back cover.

The title isn’t the only delay. I’ve been reading online about marketing and it is clear to me that if I hope to sell more than a handful of copies, I better get my marketing p’s and q’s in order. Because after all, people have to know our books are out there before they can purchase them and a book will not likely go “viral” unless you’ve done your time promoting the heck out of it.

Even though there is an overabundance of advice online on how to self-publish, I tend to lend more credibility to the advice that comes from people I know who have already gone through the experience.

Thus my morning coffee date with Carolyn Vines, author of Black and Abroad. I met Carolyn at a Connecting Women gathering in The Hague and discovered that she had self-published a book a few years back. Seeing as the point of these monthly Connecting Women gatherings is to connect with others, I got up my nerve and approached this beautiful, well-spoken, self-published author to admit that I was; 1) working on a book, and 2) would greatly appreciate it if we could get together for a cup of coffee and discuss her self-publishing experience. And instead of saying she was too busy, or that I needed to be further along in the process, or a more crushing response (get lost! for example), she replied “Yeah. I’d love to get together with you for a cup of coffee.” And so today was the big day.

As two American women who have chosen to live in the Netherlands with their Dutch husbands, Carolyn and I unanimously picked a table in the sunshine, determined to catch some rays while we could. As she sipped her coffee, Carolyn graciously tolerated my flow of consciousness style of questioning, and did her best to answer along the way.

First off, she confirmed what all the online sources say; you need to be ready to self-promote through multiple channels of social media: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, an Amazon author page, if you’re going that route, and a website designed for your book or books. Good news is, most of these sources are free or low-cost–unless you have a premium LinkedIn account or go for a fancy website design.

But no process is ever entirely free. A book launch, for example, can be where the expenses begin to add up. I learned from Carolyn that if you want to do a book launch as a self-published author at a bookstore, you need to order and purchase the hard copies of your print-on-demand books (at cost) and sell them to the bookstore. The bookstore will then determine for how much they will re-sell them. I’m assuming because of overhead like rent, employees, etc, bookstores need to make more than a buck on the exchange. Thus they mark them up quite a bit–sometimes as high as 19.99.

This kind of mark up can be quite problematic for a self-published author. Imagine you are attending a friend’s self-published book launch. Your loyalty is with your friend, so even though the sticker price for her novel might shock, you’ll most likely bite the bullet and pick up a 19.99 (plus tax) copy of her book. But let’s say the book launch is over and you’re another customer browsing the bookshelves who doesn’t know the author personally–would you purchase a novel that costs 19.99 from an unknown author, or get the latest work from a world-renowned bestselling author offered for 25% to 50% less? The competition is steep enough without having to deal with this sort of inequity. It’s not the fault of the bookstore; it’s just a byproduct of supply and demand economics.

Adding insult to injury, it’s quite possible that the bookstore will ask you to “purchase back” the books that aren’t sold within a reasonable amount of time. No problem, you say. I can sell them from the back of my car, or from the basket of my bike (for my Dutch readers). But once again; you have to prove yourself.

But back to Carolyn Vines. The most fascinating part of our discussion was about Carolyn’s book, Black and Abroad.

I purchased it as an e-book and was blown away by her natural writing style. This memoir is far more than a fun journey about falling in love with and moving abroad with her Dutch guy. It spans twenty years of her life and deals with topics of race, poverty, transition, depression, prejudice, culture and finding your strength to grow beyond tragic situations, rather than letting these situations make you a lifelong victim. But words from her website can sum it up much better than me. In her online bio, I pulled the following:

black and (A)broad: traveling beyond the limitations of identity, Carolyn’s memoir, spans her twenty years’ living and traveling abroad and shares how she found the inspiration to transcend the limitations of her identity as a black woman.

And to top it all off, she brilliantly describes humorous situations and isn’t afraid to laugh at herself–a quality I’ve always admired in people. Seeing as I’m only a handful of chapters in and already hooked, it seems clear I’m recommending it to you as well. Although the book was written for a black female audience, you do not have to be black or female to appreciate it. In fact, I think the honest portrayal of racial issues is important for everyone, regardless of race or gender, to read about. I got the kindle edition here. If you read it, let me know what you think!

If any of you are interested in knowing when my as-of-yet-untitled novel is coming out, please subscribe to this blog by pressing “follow” at the top of the page, and you’ll be sure to hear more.

Fancy* Nancy

Mom. I love so much, there’s not even words for it. So how do I write a post about how important you are to me? I suppose the easiest thing is to make a list of things you do that have positively shaped me and informed who I am.

First, you have a crazy sense of humor. You can tell a joke that’s not even funny, but your full rolls of laughter that follow the punch line make us all laugh so hard that our eyes water. Further, you say flippant things, followed by that gut busting laugh, and suddenly a world that seemed serious and foreboding is shot through the middle, rendered wobbly and no longer able to take itself so seriously.

Second, you love nature, animals, living in the country. Because of you, I grew up loving trees and tall grass. After having two boys, you were so happy to finally have a girl. You got your girl, but one that loved, not surprisingly, trees and tall grass. You tried so hard to put ribbons in my hair, send me to modeling class, get me interested in dolls and hair brushes and dresses. It paid off in the long run. I have a dress section in my closet and I do brush my hair once in a while. I gave my Hotwheels and G.I. Joe’s away at least a few years ago now. Because of you and dad, I love nature, being still, listening to night descending upon the countryside.

Third, you are the illustrated dictionary example of Hope Springs Eternal. You never give up on people close to you (or on animals or plants). You ALWAYS try to see the good side in situations, even when things are rough. Yes, this can have a down side. But, whether its the Pollyanna Principle or positive thinking, it has played a positive role in my life.

Fourth, you can call it for what it is. I remember one break up with a very handsome boyfriend. I was heartbroken. You listened to me for a good half hour and then you asked what seemed the obvious.
“Well, why don’t you give him another chance?”
“Because he broke up with me!” I responded forlornly.
“Oh! Well, then. what’s the problem? Forget about him. If he can’t see how precious you are, he’s not worth another tear!” That was almost 15 years ago now, and I don’t know if I got the words exactly right, but the message was clear; I am absolutely valuable, and if this guy doesn’t get that, then he’s not worth it. I wanted to argue, but there was no arguing. Why would I ever want to be with someone who didn’t appreciate me? Her simple words seemed to break the spell that was keeping my heart bound to a place it didn’t belong.

Fifth, you value stories and you pay attention. As a retired librarian, you know how important stories are. You told us stories throughout our childhood, emblazoning a love for stories both real and imagined. You created a biography about your father. You developed a family tree and are working on your own biography. Further, you clip articles out of the paper and send them to us, wherever we may be, to let us know what is going on with our long-lost high school friends, former teachers and home town characters.

Sixth, you make an awesome cheesecake.

Seven, you are my mom and my friend. The list goes on of course, but for now, this is my message to you, mom! I love you!

*Even though you gave up the big city years ago to go live in the countryside, you still have a fancy side to you; the part that grew up playing violin, going to balls in fancy gowns, spending your Saturdays in the library devouring knowledge.