Do What You Love & Love Yourself For It

Valentine flatlay 3

“Don’t compare your Chapter 1 to someone else’s Chapter 20.”

I’ve been told this a hundred times.

Doing what I love—namely reading and writing—has made a big impact in my personal happiness and well-being. As an act of self-care, it has changed the way I see the world, opened my creativity, strengthened my relationships and friendships, and improved my perception of stressors within the world around me. When I let go of trying to compare my achievements and skill level to others, it completely liberated me.

It’s ok to love what you do. It’s ok to be a beginner. It’s ok to do something purely because it makes you happy. Don’t compare where you are to another’s success. 

On this Valentine’s Day, we are inundated with images of the L-word and what we picture it should be. Of course, love is romanticized through iconic images. Couples kissing, fuzzy stuffed animals, and mountains of chocolate and candy flood our Instagram feeds. What we forget, sometimes, is that love extends far beyond romantic love. Self-love, for example, is fundamental to the human condition. Self-acceptance, self-care, and the ability to embrace the things that drive us are what fundamentally let us celebrate being human.

Doing what you love not only improves quality of life, but there are literal changes in your body’s chemistry when this happens. In the presence of something perceived as “Good”, the brain releases four main chemicals, creating desirable states of the brain and keeping us coming back for more. I like to call these guys The Fab Four: Dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins.

  1. Dopamine motivates us to take steps toward our goals, needs, and desires, then gives a wave of supportive gratification when attaining them. Why do you think it feels so great when you hit your daily word count?
  2. Serotonin circulates when you feel significant or confident.  When Serotonin is absent, feelings of loneliness and depression appear. Being outside in the sunshine promotes Vitamin D and serotonin production, a bonus for us outside-loving readers and writers!
  3. Oxytocin creates strength and trust within relationships. Released during sexual intimacy, touch/massage, childbirth or breastfeeding, and eating food (AMEN to that), Oxytocin is also famous for lowering blood pressure, increasing pain thresholds, and lowering anxiety.
  4. Endorphins are released in response to pain or stress and help to relieve anxiety and depression. That feeling after a workout you get is thanks to the release of endorphins. Laughing will bring this same feeling. Remember that mountain of Valentine’s Day chocolate? Studies have shown that dark chocolate can cue the brain to release endorphins. Reading books? If you recall my recent post about Books vs Technology, you may remember the chemistry lesson about the beloved book smell, which included the scent of vanilla. Vanilla and lavender scents have actually been linked to the production of endorphins in the body. Bibliophiles, buying books really DOES buy happiness! 

So do what YOU love. Do it often. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else.

Create what moves you, and you will move the world.

With love on this Valentine’s Day,

Laura_Sig

 

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Health & Wellness for Creativity

What is the greatest enemy of creativity? Stress! 

Like so many writers, I only have the opportunity to write part-time. My full-time gig as a veterinarian can be physically and emotionally draining, especially those nights with heavy caseloads and high mortality rates. Barricading this kind of stress from my creative side is a real effort, and it has taken years to develop the power to affect how my mind perceives and processes stress.

When the flow of creativity is imbued with a healthy mind, you can shatter these barriers. An unhealthy mind and body limit the capacity of your brain and ability to create. Stress makes your brain go into survival mode. Think about it: when you’re “running from a bear” (a fun mnemonic my physiology professor used to use in vet school), you need to GET OUTTA THERE, not write him a novel or paint his portrait. There is no space in your brain to create when you’re trying to stay alive and function. When we are stuck behind the glass wall that stress puts up, we see where we COULD go, but we can’t get there—we are “locked out” of our creative vision.

Everything I read seems to portray the goal in reverse: Creativity is needed for health & wellness, especially mental wellness. I don’t necessarily see this as a one-way street, however. Mental and physical health are what feed creativity in your brain, thus one being mutually beneficial to the other.

Increasing blood flow to vital organs (including your brain) can not only balance hormones, even out your sleep cycle, decrease anxiety, and strengthen your immune system, it can also create a healthier outlook, decrease your chances of Alzheimer’s, and allow wider creative impulses.

So how do you get to the overflowing wellspring of creativity? It’s simple: MOVE. Move your body, move your mind.

Here are some simple ideas to get your blood pumping or de-stress, and get your creative juices flowing!

-Use a fitness tracker. I use the Fitbit Blaze and absolutely love it based on my lifestyle needs. If I am sitting too long, it prompts me to stand and take a specific minimum number of steps per hour.

-Walk regularly, jog, run, skip, or ride a bike. I can’t stress this enough: walk regularly, even if it’s just 15 minutes a day.

-Regular stretching, focusing on the back, neck, and shoulders. Staring at a screen will wreak havoc on your neck. Consider a professional massage or even acupuncture.

-Yoga, Barre, pole fitness, or aerial dance (silks, hammock, or Lyra hoop). Download the MINDBODY app HERE to explore classes and pricing near you.

-Meditation, recite mantras/affirmations for writers such as WriteNow cards which you can purchase HERE

-Photography and Videography. Train a different creative channel in your brain. You’ll see the world in a whole new way.

-Voiceover, podcasting, songwriting. Hear yourself in a new way. Record yourself reading your writing—it’ll blow your mind.

-Listen to music, play piano, learn guitar. Have a playlist blasting while writing to inspire certain moods or emotions. Pandora and Spotify are a great start. Noise-cancelling headphones are a must if you’re in public.

-Art galleries, painting, drawing, quilting, knitting, ceramics, Paint & Sip classes.

-Live performances, dinner theater, bands, acting workshops or theater groups, Shakespeare festivals in summer!

FURTHER READING: Psychology Today:“Our study supports the idea that engaging the mind may protect neurons, or the building blocks of the brain, from dying, stimulate the growth of new neurons, or may help recruit new neurons to maintain cognitive activities in old age” (American Academy of Neurology, 2015).

Pick Your Platform: Paper, E-Reader, or Audiobook?

 

Printed Books: Have you ever walked into a second-hand bookstore, stood in the open foyer to shake the rain off of your umbrella, and drawn in a long, deep breath through your nose? That glorious smell lingers thanks to the slow breakdown of substances called lignin and cellulose, which are found in wood (and therefore, paper), releasing volatile compounds that we recognize as certain scents. These include vanillin (vanilla), benzaldehyde (almond), and even certain floral or sweet smells can sometimes be detected. The older the better.

Ah, but then there’s the new book aroma. *Inhales*. There is nothing like that smell, wafting through the crackle of the new book’s spine as you journey through the story. Ink, paper, and adhesives give off this intoxicating aroma and can vary book to book based on the products used to make them. Check out this useful printable infographic by Compound Interest for more on the chemistry of old and new books.

Pros: What’s not to love? You can twirl around with them in your arms like Belle and cross your fingers wishing for a giant palace library from a prince. You can visit used bookstores for the low prices and amazing aroma experience. Everyone, of course, loves a good #Bookstagram: Taking photos all day of your color-coordinated bookshelves, coffee mugs, and long socks (bonus points if you have a cat in the photo). The best feelings are the butterflies you feel when that beautiful rectangular package is awaiting your arrival, leaning against your front door, like a lone cowboy from a romance novel leaning against a fence, waiting for you and tipping his hat (shirt optional). Howdy.

Cons: Books are a guilty pleasure for many of us readers, however, the soaring expense of printed books can be staggering (especially new release hardcovers). The physical lack of room can become a problem when your little book collection overruns your spare bedroom (actual book walls were banned at our house, despite my creative suggestion). The gut-wrenching wait for Amazon deliveries hurts, but thankfully Prime has relief for that.

 

E-Readers (Kindle, Nook, etc): About 3 months ago I purchased a non-backlit Kindle. I was hesitant at first. There was no intoxicating book smell, no physical pages to turn. I tried to hold it in one hand above me as one would a beloved paperback while laying down on my favorite couch, but it merely fell straight onto my face and bruised my ego. It was a rough start to our relationship. But after I downloaded a few books and found the ease of the features, I absolutely fell in love with it. Its portability makes it perfect for my busy schedule and frequent air travel. It makes me go to bed at a reasonable hour as I can only use it with the lights on. When my husband and I are ready to fall asleep, I turn it off and can fall asleep much sooner.

Pros: Lower cost than printed books and most audiobooks. You can highlight important sections and make as many notes as you want while staying organized—fantastic news for Goodreads users! Immediate delivery of e-books (sweet satisfaction!) and very large amounts of storage space make it a great deal. Purchasing a refurbished non-backlit Kindle is very economical. And if you forget to bring it along, you can download the app onto your phone.

Cons: Some models are a bit of a budget squeeze. The backlight on certain models can induce eye strain and affect sleep patterns. The battery life may be a problem depending on your model. You also may accidentally drop it on your face. No judgment.

 

Audiobooks: My dad got me hooked on audiobooks a very long time ago. He would listen to them during his almost one-hour commute every day to work. Plowing through audiobooks, we would go to the library and check out even more. Back then they were all on cassette tapes in an enormous, squishy plastic case. The cassettes were a pain to cue up, typically more than seven or eight in a set. Throughout the years, audiobooks moved on to CD’s and finally onto smartphones and tablets, making them more portable than ever. The only time you won’t catch me with an audiobook is when I’m reading another one in print.

Pros: Perfect for people on the go, especially with long commutes. Very handy for multi-taskers as you can tuck your phone in your pocket and get your to-do list done. They also can be a fun book-club alternative—club members attend to listen together over a glass of wine or two. For individuals utilizing English as a second language, audiobooks are excellent practice. Some studies show that audiobooks can actually increase reading accuracy and fluency. If you are tired, have difficulty with vision, or experience frequent eye strain, audiobooks are a comforting alternative.

Cons: Expense can be an issue, however, there are memberships available that may decrease the cost. Audible offers a free book when you sign up, and you get to keep it if you cancel. Storage can be limited if books are kept on a phone app. Sometimes the story itself is awesome, but the voice acting is absolutely awful, thus ruining the experience. I recommend downloading the audio sample before purchasing (if they offer one).

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Books that are available in all platforms bring larger audiences as they offer more options for virtually all lifestyles and budgets.

At the end of the day, if a story is meaningful and speaks to your humanity, get your hands on it and hold on. Stories have the power to bring change to our lives, and that is the magic of books.

What’s your favorite platform? Take the poll above!

 

PRINTABLE: The Writer’s Daily Planner

Kick your creativity into high gear and get organized! This two-sided daily planner sheet is specifically aimed for writers. Integrating your creative goals throughout the day, this planner helps prioritize what you need to accomplish while keeping your everyday tasks on schedule. It even reminds you to hydrate, which is vital for mental acuity and to keep the creativity flowing!

For 50% off the download, enter WRITERS50 at checkout! (Not case-sensitive). Your contribution keeps this blog up and running, thank you for your support!
Get the Writer’s Daily Planner HERE

coffee and write

Write Now, Write Often

How do you quickly settle into “writing-mode” if you’re not a full-time writer?

As a full-time veterinarian, I don’t get much time off. When I do, I have to pack a lot of things into just a few short days before jumping right back in again. I find it challenging to make time to write, but I carve it out when I can. I need to write. It’s my escape into the other world—you know, the one where we tame dragons and live happily ever after? The world of endless imagination, where we can be anything or anyone, go anywhere, and our feet don’t even have to leave the ground.

Early to bed, early to rise? Forget it. I get in at 1:30am most nights from my daytime/emergency swing-shifts, throw some sweats on, and slink against the kitchen counter, petting my dogs and catching up on the day’s world events while the kettle heats up for a cup of tea. “Winding down”, we call it. Mentally, these shifts are often draining. Emotionally, they are exsanguinating.

So how do I come home and suddenly shift into writing-mode? How can creative flow just “click” into place? It doesn’t. I have to invite it in, one cup of tea at a time. One deep breath after another, a gentle neck-rolling, and eventually I’ll flip open my laptop.

Very briefly, I will shuffle through emails and any social media I need to respond to. I stay here no longer than 15 minutes. Once I am mentally warmed up, I find my spot on my chaise-style couch (think: giant, soft Ikea rectangle) where I can spread out all of my materials, blankets, a cup of something hot such as coffee or tea, and a stack of my current books I am reading. You know, for inspiration…or maybe they’ll just diffuse onto the page I’m writing. Hey—it’s only weird if it doesn’t work. 

Don’t laugh, but I use a curved nursing pillow on my lap to balance my laptop and keep my arms hanging at the right distance to prevent strain. It works great as a neck pillow too!

I use an ambient sound creator to add background noise in order to focus a scene towards a particular setting or feeling, such as Noisli (it’s FREE!) or Ambient Mixer.

Two apps remain open on my phone so I don’t have to switch screens around on my laptop: My Merriam-Webster dictionary/thesaurus app for quick word choice reference and The Brainstormer, a spinner-style solution for writer’s block that can quickly provide writing prompts and fresh ideas.

I write for 60 minutes at a time, averaging 3-4 hour sessions if it’s a day off from work, with a word goal of 500 words a day. Sometimes I reach this goal, sometimes I don’t. But I know I’ll never hit the end of my novel if I don’t keep going. If I have work the next day, I write only 25 words. Why only 25? Because at least that’s a couple of sentences I can get down on paper to keep moving forward, and it’s an easy goal to keep.

When I’m not writing, I keep a notebook and a pencil with me, including next to my bed, in case of emergency ideas popping up at 4am. They happen. Be prepared.

Where should I write? I find that sitting at my dining room table gives me about 5 minutes of functional work time…and then my seat goes numb and everything in my back aches. You can’t write when you’re uncomfortable. Find a spot that works for you—the floor, a couch, a hammock, a coffee shop, a large recliner chair, wherever fits your needs!

Dress comfortably. Avoid harsh waistbands or tight-fitting clothing, but don’t write in your pajamas during the day! Shower, eat, drink, and complete other tasks (laundry, dishes, you name it) before you start so they aren’t a distraction. Show up like it’s a job.

How much should I write? That depends on your goals. If you are writing a large piece of fiction (say, a 50,000-word goal), a daily goal of 500-1,000 words is a great place to start. By “daily word count”, this means only the days on which you write. This does not mean you literally have to write 1,000 words every calendar day. If you do, congratulations, you’re a full-time writer!

What if I just can’t get into it? If you just can’t find it within yourself to write, then read. If you don’t feel up to reading, then listen to an audiobook and set it to Sleep Timer mode to automatically shut off after a timeframe of your choice. Don’t fall into the video game or TV trap. Allow a quick lunch break for a single episode (no Netflix marathons!) if you must, then get back to it. Even better yet? Exercise! Go for a run or walk (bonus if you bring your dog). Increasing blood flow to your vital organs will increase oxygen and refresh your mind. Don’t sit there waiting for creativity to drop in your lap—it won’t happen. Go out and find it!

Happy writing!

IDAHO WRITERS CONFERENCE 2018

I’m heading to the Idaho Writers Conference on May 4-5, 2018 for two days packed with opportunities for writers to pitch their work, attend workshops and panel discussions, and meet one-on-one with literary agents. This is my first writing conference I will attend, and I am absolutely thrilled!

iwg_circleandnamelogo_highresIdaho Writers Guild members get a discounted entry fee. To join, click here.

 

SHORT STORY: THE CLOCK WIVES BY L.S. VEALS, 2017

Evie Harrison Jenkinson

Hambleden, Oxfordshire

England

Personal Diary, 1940

Strictly Private

  ______________________

 

“…And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever…amen.”

I turn away from the woman softly praying aloud on her knees in the front pew of the stone church in Hambleden, tears running down her cheeks from her red, swollen eyes.

I try to swallow a sob in my throat, dry with disbelief. My eyelids flicker closed with tears threatening to escape, and for a moment I can’t look up. Eventually, my gaze rises to the cross up at the altar, and with a tear rolling down my cheek, a sharp whisper escapes my mouth, “How can you let this happen?

I just stand there, motionless. Blank.

When I finally turn around to leave, my mother is standing in the stone archway. With a tearful nod, she silently slips a well-worn handkerchief into my hand with the initials “ESH” embroidered on it, which I presume is for my tears.

“Who is ESH?” I murmur as I stare at it.

To my surprise, it has a weight to it—the center drops to the middle of my hand and slowly I unfold it. Nestled in the fabric is a small pocket watch. Or is it a locket? The outside frame is the most exquisite detail I have ever seen—surely it cannot have been made by hand. Beautiful, rich swirls in the wood’s grain trace around small openings carved into the metal overlay. Through the openings, impossibly small dials with perfect teeth turn in a circle as the seconds tick by. I am mesmerized.

My mother doesn’t say a word. She gently puts her hand on my cheek, turns, and walks out.

I look back down at the watch. I know nothing about clocks. The top has a round knob, much like one would see on a gentleman’s pocket watch. When I turn it, it makes a satisfying click. It is almost soothing as I twist it between my fingers. I slip it into my pocket and start the walk back home up the lane, crunching pebbles into my leather riding boots. The evening breeze nips at my neck as I turn my collar up on my coat and warm my hands in my pockets. I think of the woman crying in the front pew of the church, her daughter ready to be laid to rest in the graveyard nearby—the little girl I couldn’t save three days ago.

__________________

Her name is Hattie, her face full of freckles and joyful laughter we never thought could be silenced.

Her father is away serving allied forces in France. Her mother, left behind to tend the bakery they have been running for three generations, is fighting the daily battle for normality in a war-torn world. Hattie is known for being frequently, yet gently, scolded by her mother for pressing the baguettes too hard as she so loved the satisfying crunch it made. I always buy the crunched ones from little Hattie.

Living west of the bombing in London, we knew there was a possibility of a hit. Mother and Tom are in Chaldon with our car, tending to Great-Aunt Nellie. I am to stop in the village for a few things and check the post.

The rain is relentless. I borrow my brother’s hunter green bicycle as it still has the basket attached. The lane is already a mire, and no amount of peddling gets me anywhere. I walk the bicycle the rest of the way, soaked but smiling as I see Sophie and Hattie jumping about outside in the puddles by the bakery. I wave to them as they flash me their beaming, toothless grins.

“Have you lost another tooth, Miss Sophie?” I ask with a laugh.

“Yes Miss Evie! It’s my second!” She proudly proclaims back with a lisp.

I balance Tom’s bicycle against the village’s old fountain in the square, sheltering for a moment under the trees and shaking out my hair. The post office faces the square past a few of the cottages and I am thankful for the reprieve from walking the bicycle. The wooden door opens before I can grasp it—Finn Loghan stands in the doorway with his red hair and growing smile, summoning me in from the rain.

“Aye, Evie, soaked to the bone are ye? Why isn’t yer hood up?” he offered in his Scottish tongue.

I flash him a coy smile. “Look, I suppose one reaches a point where they just can’t get any wetter. Why fight it? Oh dear, I’ve muddied your mat.”

“Why fight it, indeed…” He flashes one back.

Finn goes behind the mail counter and hands me a tea towel. “What is that for, my pinky?” I scoff.

“Yer an English lass, aren’t ye all born holdin’ umbrellas?” He scolds back, feigning offense. I yank the tiny postage stamp of a towel and wipe the mud and rain off my arms, face, and brown curls. Finn pulls down two teacups and pours steaming water over bags of Earl Grey. He plops a small slice of lemon in one and slides it to me.

“Ah, good sir, I do believe you are learning our ways.” I bury the lemon with my teaspoon and blow the steam away from my lips.

He chuckles as he turns to the back wall to sort through mail. “What ye need is a good single malt Bruichladdich if ye ask me, it’ll warm ye right up—and put hair on yer chest.”

Finn is a bench joinery apprentice. Until I met him I hadn’t the foggiest idea what that even was. I thought it was just carpentry, but Finn tells me this work is lighter and more ornamental. He lives with his father and little sister, Celeste, in the village a few doors down, spending some of his time working the post office for Mr. Blannery, who is frequently ill at home with his lung condition. Finn’s rough, warm hands reach for a parcel from the top shelf and I watch the muscles of his back as he reaches. I catch myself staring, then flush over my teacup and stare sideways at the poster of Churchill’s “Keep Calm & Carry On” pasted to the wall.

Finn pulls the parcel down and slides it across the counter to me. “Post is slow, looks like this was over two weeks ago.” He squints as he notes the date of the ink stamped on the side. “Christ, I hope it’s not another spongecake from yer dear Auntie Nell!”

I gently slap his hand away. “Well none for you, then.” I hold back a smirk. My god, he is beautiful. His red hair is just slightly too long and starting to curl at the ends. A single curl threatens to cover his left eyebrow. He smells of wood shavings, scotch, and the lemon he cut for my tea.

“Do ye fancy a real drink later there, lass?” His eyes meet mine. I feel the heat rise up again.

Why does my body betray me when I am around him?

“Let’s just see, shall we? I promised Mrs. Hughes I’d pop in to check on her later, but perhaps if I’m free after that…”

He smiles again, taking the bait, “Aye, I’ll pop by later, then.”

The pull between us aches in my belly, and I know deep down what we cannot have while the world is trying to end.

He reaches for the door behind me and brushes past my arm, sending electricity down my back. I pop my hood up as he sheathes his hands in his pockets, and I walk away back down the lane with my parcel, biting my lip and fighting a bittersweet smile. I feel him watching.

The rain teems down mercilessly as I make my way back to the bicycle. Hattie reaches for my hand as I approach the bakery and smell the deep aroma of the farmhouse loaves baking. My mouth waters.

“Mummy says she needs you to come see Juni and Hyacinth tomorrow because they aren’t milking well,” she informs me.

“I’ll come by when I have the car, Hattie. Tell your mum not to worry.” I had been frequently helping Hattie’s mum with their farm. The little hanging bell rings as I walk into the quaint bakery as Hattie pulls my hand in tow.

“Two of the sourdough and a cottage loaf, love?” Her mother asks, wiping flour from her hands on her apron.

“Yes please,” I reply. “Oh, and I’ll come by for Juniper & Hyacinth tomorrow if that’s ok—the car is down in Chaldon.”

I gather the wrapped bread in my arms and wink at Hattie and Sophie as I leave, the warmth from the loaves blooming against my chest. A flash of lightning catches my eye across the square through the rain, and a thunderclap booms over us a moment later. I turn around, surprised to see part of a tree on fire and I realize in my horror that I am utterly mistaken when I look up.

It isn’t thunder.

Three German planes are heading our direction. There is no time to think. Gunfire shatters windows as the bread drops from my grasp and I turn to run, but trip to my knees. “Miss Evie!” I hear cries behind me towards the direction of the bakery. A car explodes in the square and the explosions get closer each moment. Plumes of smoke rise as the flames begin to settle in. I can barely see as I cover my face with my scarf to breathe.

Suddenly Finn emerges through the smoke, ash on his face, as he runs towards me.

“Evie, ye need to go!” He throws his arm around me, pulling me up.

“The girls…” I cough through my scarf. “They’re behind us.”

I weave through the smoke and fire. Hattie is on the ground, her eyes closed with her face cut open by shrapnel.

She is breathing.

We fly to her and Finn scoops her up into his arms. Another explosion blasts nearby. “We have to go. Now, lass!” He shakes me as he turns to run.

I don’t know how, but we find ourselves at the end of the lane and turn toward the stream. I know exactly where Finn is heading. We slide down the muddy embankment and bolt to the water. Trees canopy over the stream on both sides—exactly where pilots can’t see. Blood runs down Finn’s back from Hattie’s face and I choke back my fear as we splash down the center of the water. To our relief, the bullet sprays don’t follow us, but in the distance, the deafening thunder grows louder. I follow Finn up through a field trail towards a row of houses, where we slip into someone’s back garden through an archway lined with rose bushes, hiding us from view. My cheek is cut open from tearing past one of the rose thorns.

To my terror, I look up to see another two planes coming in our direction. I hold Hattie in my arms as she chokes on her own blood. Her stridored breath draws in as she turns blue, then white. As her innocent hand falls from mine, my knees buckle and meet the soaked ground. One plane dives low—so low I can see the pilot’s goggles as he turns toward us. A large dark metal object falls from the plane and lands with an enormous splash into the swimming pool nearby. Finn braces over us, ready for the end—he yells something through the sound of the plane engines but I cannot say what. My ears are ringing. Blinded by tears and deafened from sobs of grief, I crumple in two.

I squint one eye open.

Nothing.

Mercifully, the bomb doesn’t go off. We don’t stay long enough to figure out why.

_________________

Over and over, the last few days resound nauseatingly in my head as I continue my walk home. My hand returns to the watch in my coat, heavy and steadily turning in my fingers like a smooth stone. I welcome the rain with my face when it starts to fall again, as if somehow I can be washed away. The cut on my cheek is still tender and hurts even more when the cold drops hit it.

“I couldn’t save you,” I say aloud to her memory. I don’t know why I live when she barely had even started – surely no child deserves a life cut short by hatred?

I close my eyes and let the rain erase my tears. The twisting sound soothes my nerves as I wind it. My thumb finds the top and it clicks down.

Silence.

The rain—what on earth?

I open my eyes to the deafening silence of absent raindrop sounds around me as I walk, but what I see defies comprehension. I stop dead in my tracks.

The rain, it’s stopped. Not stopped—suspended. All around me, I turn and it’s the same—drops hanging in the air, unmoving.

Have I gone utterly mad? 

I blink again, yet there is no change. Just suspended drops of rain surrounding me in dead silence. I reach out with my hand to touch them. They are wet, cold—my hand can feel them. They are real. “Why are they not falling? What is wrong with me?” I bellow.

Breathing heavily, my heart races as I tear through them. I reach my doorstep and burst through. “Mother!” I cry out in the silence. “Mother? Tom? Where are you?!”

I walk into the empty kitchen and find a note on the counter:

“Find me outside when you are ready.

Bring the watch. Press it when you see me.

-M”

I turn cold. How does she know this?

Opening the back door to our garden, I walk through the impossible raindrops around the hedges to our homemade pond filled with Koi. Mother is standing there, still, with her back to me. My heart races as I reach into my pocket and pull out the watch, fingers fumbling as I reach down and press the small knob.

The rain falls freely around me, the wind surrounds us. The trickle of the fountain in the pond cuts through the silence, and all is as if nothing has happened.

“Mother, what-t on earth…” I stammer, eyes wide, backing away to a garden bench. My knees suddenly are heavy.

“You must have questions, Evie.” My mother replies, turning around. “I need you to know that you are safe. I am safe. You have no idea how long I have been searching for the right moment to tell you.”

“Tell me what?” My heart is racing, the confusion blinding and I find my throat drying in fear again.

“I need you to trust my timing,” she began, sitting on the bench. “The day you were born, the world became smaller to me—you, Tom, and your father were my entire world. I wanted to shut out the rest of it. War, famine, disease. For 25 years, I had tried to change it. And when you were born, I finally put it away. I couldn’t do it anymore.”

“Put what away?” I asked.

“The watch, my dear. It is our duty to protect it, the secret—our secret. The one the women in our family have been guarding with our lives for almost 200 years.” She looked at me, tears welling up in her eyes.

“All I can tell you is when we press the crown—the knob on the top of the clock there,” she pointed to the clock, “time will not move. The earth does not move, and everything and everyone on it is suspended. You are alone in that eternity. When you press it again, it’s as if nothing ever happened.”

I sit in silent disbelief. This isn’t happening. It feels like an eternity before I speak.

“Who or what is ESH?”

My mother walks past me and motions for me to follow inside the house and up to the attic. I haven’t been up here for years. Old furniture, paintings, and stacks of books with decades of dust lay untouched on white canvas covers.

“I know what you tried to do for Hattie. You would have stopped it if you could. Your entire life I have watched you reach out to others. Evie, you have the brave heart it takes to protect our secret.”

She reaches into an old leather coach box with three locks and the initials ‘ESH’, pulling out a thick leather-bound book with the sillage of centuries on it, and hands it to me. “Her history is in these pages. She wrote down what she learned, who she saved, who she couldn’t, and her hope for us and the future. Guard it well, and never speak of the clock to another living soul until you pass it down.”

Who?” I press again.

“Elizabeth Scott Harrison.” She points to the initials.

I stare at the book. “How?

“She is our ancestor, Evie. She started it all.” She gently places her hands on my face and lifts my quivering chin, “What you do with it now is your choice—and yours alone. Your fate is up to you.”