I sat diligently in front of the computer all day yesterday, watching the rankings for Follow That Arrow climb from #897 to #1. As the book climbed higher and higher, it became harder and harder to believe.
Stop right there.
Why is my reaction that it’s hard to believe? Is it hard to believe that I wrote and published a book? Not really. Is it hard to believe that my friends and readers came out to support me in a big way? Not even, my readers are the best readers. Is it hard to believe that some of you out there actually liked the book? Well, ok you got me there.
Let’s not play this script all over again. Where I say something like, “I’m just so lucky, I’m not sure how this happened to little ole me.” Because I do know how it happened, it went something like this: I sat my butt down and wrote everyday for a year, I polished and edited and deleted and rewrote until my eyes bled, I took a giant leap of faith by leaving my coffee shop behind to focus my time and attention on this book. That is not luck. Luck is finding a $20 bill lying on the street.
And most importantly, I haven’t done any of this alone. You can’t move all over the country, open a business, close a business, write a book, publish a book, and take care of a baby all on your own. All of that takes some serious man/woman power. And that power comes from all of you. It’s no miracle that Follow That Arrow is the #1 Adventure Travel New Release on Amazon. It’s because you all made that happen. Don’t buy into that idea that there are those among us who have it all. No one has it all, no one can do it all. Lots of us try to keep up appearances (guilty as charged), and for what? It’s complicated right?
But I felt guilty. About not working. About my credit card bill. About not keeping the house cleaner. About being unproductive sometimes. And as I write these thoughts, it occurs to me. This is crazy. I am a writer because I want to be. It makes me happy. So I say to myself, self, this is ok. It is ok to need to sit in the park and stare. It is also ok to share our strengths with the world, it is ok to be brave or smart or agile or well-read. And it is ok to say so.
Well so, let’s agree to make it less complicated. Let’s not hide ourselves, let’s shine. Let’s be proud of our gifts and be willing to share them. Let’s be strong. Let’s be badass. And let’s share it with each other and celebrate what makes you, you and me, me. You’ve been given gifts, and I have to. So sing your song and dance your dance and be proud of the life you breathe into this world.
Let’s start now.
Hey, I’m Gwen. I have fearlessly invested my savings into publishing a book because I want to share my story and writing with the world. Two years ago I pressed the reset button on my entire life because I woke up and realized I had been ducking out of living my truth, my joy, my heart song. I am an interesting person with lots of stories to tell.
Your turn. Who are you? What are you all about? None of this, “I’m just a mom,” stuff. I want to hear your braggiest, shiniest, most confident words. Leave them in the comments below or send me a private email or message. Blast it!
If you have been waiting to purchase my adventure travel memoir, Follow That Arrow, now is the time! The official launch day is this Thursday, June 23rd.
By purchasing your copy on Amazon on that specific day, this will give the book a good chance to make an Amazon Bestseller list.
So mark your calendars! Or, if you just can’t wait, buy it now, see the “Buy the Book” tab above.
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Be the first to get your hands on a copy of Follow That Arrow, my adventure travel memoir with yummy recipes included. All you need to do to get a copy shipped to you NOW is contribute to my IndieGoGo campaign.
If you would rather wait, regular orders will be available via Amazon real soon.
In the meantime, why not like Follow That Arrow on Facebook? Or, better yet, mention your excitement to read the book on Twitter (@gourmet_gwen) or Instagram (@gourmetgwen) by using #FollowThatArrow.
I’m sitting on the couch with a baby who is twelve days old. It’s been raining all week and in between feedings we nap together, or listen to soft music, or watch a movie while she sleeps. The rain splashes against the windows and we are very cozy with our blankets and our hot tea and dad in the kitchen making dinner. Her tiny baby head fits in my hand. She’ll never be this small again, she is growing fast.
She is growing so fast that we will probably forget the way her shiny glass eyes peer out from a squishy face. We will forget how cute and soft her little noises are, her wide yawn, her impossibly tiny fingernails. She will grow and grow and very quickly her hair will turn from down to soft curls to textured locks. Her mouth will go from soft pink to full of teeth to crooked smile. I will forget what it felt like to carry her in my belly, the pain of birth, the anticipation of seeing her face for the first time.
This time will pass, like all things do, beautiful and tragic. We will never again have a tiny infant Ella to croon over while she sleeps, weeks of rain to keep us indoors, hours and hours just to hold her and rock her and admire her ears and eyebrows and toes. So that leaves nothing else to do but just savor this day, this entry into Motherhood. To take some time to be thankful for answered prayers that were so precious, they were never spoken aloud.
I never thought that it would feel this way, being a mom. It feels the same as standing on a mountain top, having walked for weeks and weeks. It feels the same as customers filling the coffee shop I started from scratch. It feels the same as locking the door to my Hawaiian home for the last time and not looking back. That glorious sense of free fall when you take a chance on something your heart is pulling you toward. That realization that this is the song of your heart. That moment of knowing, I was made for this.
And now I get to share all my heart songs with her, my little Ella Seraphim, as my mom did with me and your mom did with you. Not many of us get to experience this thing called being a mother, but all of us have been mothered, and so we are all in the fold.
For all the mom’s who have come before us, and all that will come after, we are in this together. For all those that have been held by a mother, fed by a mother, loved by someone who might as well be your mother, well we are all together, too.
So let’s use this time called Mother’s Day to appreciate just right where we are. Whether you are a new mom, a grandma, whether you have a great mom to celebrate or a mom to remember, let’s be thankful that someone fed us, cuddled us and kept us alive. Thanks mom.
Friends, followers and foodies,
The time has finally come to pre-order my book Follow That Arrow. Release date will be sometime this month, please stand-by for details. The link below is to the crowd-funding campaign I created in case some of you are able to chip in a little extra to help out with publishing costs. If you are not able to do so, I will be offering the books for sale via my website very soon ($14.95 plus shipping).
Thanks in advance for your support,
PS: I am still donating 10% of sales to the Hays’ family, simply mention “Hays’ Family” in the shipping/check-out notes.
The thing about sunrises, if you can catch a good one, is they just get better and better until they turn into the beginning of a day. This day, the only one like it that ever was and ever will be, is born before your eyes. And so if you want to get up early, you have the chance to witness a miracle every day of your life. Life happens somewhere between that particular pain of accepting that your life is not what you’d expected it to be and the unbounded joy that it is actually more than you could have ever dreamed.
The truly brave among us are those that can look at this day and all the things we have been given in it and say, this is enough for me. To those that say, this is my life and I accept it exactly how it is, those are the heroes we never consider, that live beside us silently enjoying their serenity.
I met Evan Hays several years ago at Konawaena Middle School, both of us teachers. I was in my very first year and terrified. Evan is the kind of person who made it a point to come to my classroom to see how I was doing, checking on me a couple times a week. He told me it was ok to cry in your first year of teaching, that even he had done it.
Through mutual friends we became closer, and I spent many sunset evenings on the beach with he and his wife Roz and a group of good friends. He now runs an inn in South Dakota with his wife and two children. He works hard, he plays hard, but all you ever see is easy. Evan is the guy that’s easy to be with, to talk to, about anything.
He doesn’t raise the Jesus flag, ask you about your religious ideals, or even suggest that you go to church. He simply lives his life in peaceful serenity, unquestionably surrounded by grace. His ordinary yet stunningly extraordinary faith bleeds out and onto everyone he comes in contact with. He does not need to tell you what he believes, because he lives it.
Very few of you know that in the last couple years, since leaving Hawaii, I have experienced some powerful religious moments that can safely be called spiritual growth. People like Evan Hays have stood quietly in the background, cheering me on, nudging me forward. He likely has no idea the impact his faith has had on my life.
God has placed these type of people in my life because I needed to see real people who were not weirdos, living a faith-based life. I had given up on being a Christian long ago because it seemed so abstract, untrue and manipulative. It is people like Evan who have shown me that my faith is what I make of it, that God is just love and that love is accessible to each of us at all times.
Last week Evan found himself in the ICU after a rock climbing accident in Colorado. His brain was injured to an extent we do not yet know. He is up and talking, but it will be a long road to recovery.
You might not know Evan personally, but you know him in other ways. He is the person who helps out without being asked, who enjoys each day to the last drop, who accepts people for who they are. He lives with a fire in his belly and joy in his heart. He is the guy with that intangible calm we all wish we had, some call it serenity, some call it faith, some call it humility. Whatever it is, the world needs more of it.
When I showed up at the Hays’ doorstep a couple years ago while crossing the country, they welcomed me without question. I was running away from home, wild and without direction. Evan talked with me about this, in his own way. I never felt judged or pried open, he just wanted me to know that I would be ok. That a higher power was taking care of everything I needed.
And so it is now that I reciprocate the gesture. A higher power is taking care of Evan and his family and everything they need. They will be ok. You know Evan, you know him. He is the man of quiet faith that never questions, just knows and believes and settles into placing his life into God’s hands in a brave and rare way.
Last November I wrote the very first words of my very first book (to be launched in less than a month!) in their cabin in South Dakota. Deep in the magical Black Hills, surrounded by snow and wood heat, I found inspiration. And I finally found God. You see I had been looking for him, all across the country and even over the plains in Spain. I found grace, also known as magical healing, through the family and friends of the Hays’.
Thank you Evan, for showing and guiding me by simply living your life.
It’s not uncommon to see a crowd funding campaign these days for hospital bills. I see them all the time in my Facebook feed or my email inbox. More often than not, I don’t know the person who needs help. More often than not, it is difficult to have a heart connection with someone you don’t know.
Please considering donating to cover the medical costs for Evan’s accident. Because while you might know Evan personally, trust me, you know him. And trust me twice, we need more people like him.
I will also be giving 10% of book sales of Follow That Arrow to Evan’s family for those that mention his name when pre-ordering the book. Which you can do now by emailing me at email@example.com. Simply mention Evan’s name in the subject or body of the email, payment will accept via Paypal for now, I will reply with details to your emails.
I’m practicing butt in chair. Which is the technical term for what many writers advocate, the forced sitting in front of an empty page until said page is filled, a timer goes off or whatever terms you and your inner artist have agreed to. I currently have four minutes left. I also am currently self-publishing a memoir and it is one the most frightening experiences of my life.
So many doubts surface on the regular: you’re not old enough to write a memoir, you should try to get it traditionally published, you are wasting your money, no one wants to read your crazy town words. The only way out of this constant negative bombardment is to just keep going. I have no idea if I’m doing the right thing anymore, I’m so lost in the fabric of doing it.
Not to mention that there is a very large and squiggly human child eagerly anticipating her arrival into this world. She currently resides in my belly. And her realness is so real and scary and exciting at this point that it feels like I am genuinely losing my mind.
All of these layers of giving birth to a book baby and the impending task of motherhood are about to be peeled, leaving an already extremely vulnerable artist and woman absolutely naked in front of everyone who knows her. As my body succumbs to the stretching and growing necessary to harbor new life, I have had to accept my current physical limitations and turn to look at this experience as a very precious gift. At first I felt limited, but now I feel grateful for the perspective this vulnerability has brought. Strangers help and look out for me all the time now and I have been privy to some of the sweetest and most heart shattering motherhood stories imaginable.
Placing my book out there in the world feels self-centered and awkward. It also feels risky and brutally, painfully honest. For what it’s worth, I want to tell you this particular story. I have no idea if you’ll be inspired or interested, engaged or satisfied. But I do believe that honestly telling our stories means something. I believe that my voice joins lots of other voices and that together we express something important about life. In other words, I hope you’ll read my book.
That all being said, I want to thank all of you for being patient during this period of radio silence. I am deep in editing mode, and even deeper in the final phase of this pilgrimage toward becoming a mother. Both events are expected around the first of May. You will be the first to know.
Until then, look for your chance to pre-order Follow That Arrow in the coming weeks.
There are so many things to count, so many adventures had. There have been mornings waking up on Hawaiian beaches with only waves and seabirds. There have been gardens planted with asparagus and tomatoes and arugula to spare. There have been motorcycles and bicycles and businesses and houses. And let’s not forget sailing, hiking, flying, surfing, sprinting, leaping. But don’t be mistaken friends, things and adventures are just that. Things and adventures.
A podcast came my way the other evening as I revived chicken leftovers for dinner. A pair of millenials discussed the myth of wanderlust, the false idea that travel or living abroad or packing your life in a backpack and trekking around the world, will ultimately lead you to finding your life’s purpose. I completely agree with them, no amount of backpacking will solve your life’s problems. Because that would indicate that someday, somehow, we could possibly get our figurative shit together. Sigh. I don’t know about you, but together my shit is not.
When the homemade sausages have all been eaten, we can make some more. When the pilgrimage comes to an end on a hot summer evening, we can plan to go back to Spain and do it again. When the car is on its last leg and the money has all run out, we can stay in one place and get jobs and save up. When you’ve left all your friends and your pets and your comforts in search of adventure, you can start a new life, and then leave that one, too. Some of us roam, wander, seek, seek, seek. Some of us put our heads down and achieve, achieve, achieve. Some of us stay curled tightly in a ball, waiting it all out. But in the end, we’re all doing the same thing. That thing is called living. And it doesn’t end until we’re dead. I think.
What do you want to do? Do that thing. But don’t expect to have it all solved, to be able to rest, to come to a place of, “oh now I get it.” There is no formula. There is no magic wand. I have traveled yes, I have run away, too. I have accomplished many, many “if only’s…” at the end of which there is never a rainbow, just another wish. At the end of the journeys and the road trips and the pilgrimages, I have found myself back living life just like you and Joe and Angie and everyone else. Life is unexpected and unforgiving and difficult. Nothing we can do will stop the clock from ticking or make being a human any less hard. We don’t get to sit back on our laurels and polish an award. But we do get to press on, to be better, to do more. At least for now, we get to live.
Run and run. Sit and sit. You are you even at the top of Haleakala or laying at home on the couch. And you are worthy and capable and deserving. Life happens to us whether we run away or hide. So don’t believe for a tiny second that you can do anything to mess it up. It’s in the messing up that life gets really beautiful.
I want you to not be afraid. I want you to not be ashamed. I want you to do what you do and trust that you are right where you need to be. Let’s look at today, this day right here. There’s two feet of snow outside the front door, and the sun is shining. It’s a perfect day for (careful) sledding and hot chocolates and for laughing at the dog leaping through the drifts. Let’s do what feels good today and let time pass the way it does, whether we have a tight grip on it or not.
I’m sitting at a little writing desk, next to a sleeping puppy, inside a row house, surrounded by the city of Baltimore. Landing here is random, so random, I know. But embracing the unknown sometimes sends you to unexpected places.
And so here I sit, just down the block from an ancient, and excellent, donut shop that sells out of marshmallow fluff filled dough, and up the block from a convenience store whose owner was shot and killed just a few months ago. Baltimore is like that, a place of extremes. You might know this place for blue crabs and Old Bay seasoning, or Freddie Gray and Serial. You might not know this place for pretty brick row houses, a deep culture of the arts, friendly people, or really good Italian food.
I work in a vastly white neighborhood, among hipster record stores, a vegan bakery, and restaurants that serve only small, shared plates. On the bus ride home, I am usually the only white person among polite teens and old ladies who shout “have a blessed day,” before exiting at their stop.
Prostitutes roam the busy street a block away from my house in the late and early hours, while art galleries have openings on Fridays just across the street. Flower pots bloom right along with the rats nests and the methadone clinic surges with clients near the independent book store. More garbage floats down the sidewalk in a light wind than leaves, and every other block sports a creepy, bullet proof glass enclosed convenience store. The busiest place in the neighborhood is a little Latino bakery and rowdy kids skateboard in the elementary school parking lot after hours. Entire blocks of homes sit abandoned and crumbling a mile away from the newest brunch hotspot. Packages left on the stoop won’t stay there for long, and neighbors are happy to stop for a chat on their way inside.
Baltimore, as far as I can tell, is a tortured, starving artist. Full of promise and ideas, talent and genius. But that talent often comes from a dark, depressed place. There’s something about survival and suffering that fosters great art. About loneliness, obscurity and hanging on by your fingernails that forces beauty to the surface. So while a very real chunk of this city starves, suffers, and caves in, life beats on behind front doors, between library shelves, in basement bars, on a canvas, under headphones.
It’s sunny again today. I will pass the same liquor store with the same guy sipping away on something covered with a black plastic bag on my way to the park. He will say, “how are you today ma’am?” and I will wave. I will admire the gold-domed church visible from the other side of the park and stop to buy bread at the Italian deli. There are no gurgling creeks or perfect drifts of snow, no perfectly silent mornings or owl sightings. But there is a pulse here, there is a warm light behind closed blinds, there is a challenge to be more.