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Judith Natelli McLaughlin

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Signs - Remember to Pay Attention

Posted: 03/19/2013 5:48 pm

Life is busy and often finds us, members of the human race, running at a frantic pace. In order to get yourself to the right place at the right time you must read the signs. The simple ones like enter and exit. The ones marking the bathrooms and the ones that highlight the featured movie you are trying to see at the ten-plex. If you don't read these signs, you could wind up a woman in a men's room, or worse, a man in a movie theater watching Safe Haven.

Subtle Signs
But the subtle signs are important too. I always enjoy the beginning of the movie Bruce Almighty starring Jim Carrey as a down-on-himself, entertainment news reporter. Arguably, Jim, starring as Bruce, has a great girlfriend (Jennifer Aniston), a great job and a quirky dog, but his glass remains half empty. His luck just doesn't break the way he wants. After a horrible day and a fight with his girlfriend, Bruce jumps in the car and talks to the Lord. "Give me a sign," he begs from behind the wheel of his car. There is a blinking light signaling caution ahead. "Send me a sign," Bruce implores. A truck filled with road signs including stop, wrong way and do not enter pulls in front of him. Bruce passes the truck. "I need a miracle," he shouts before running into a lamppost. That scene never fails to amuse me.

I believe in those types of signs and try to listen to them too. They can be simple. You are running late and two out of three kids call to say they forgot their [fill in the blank]. You still have to walk the dog and arrive at a meeting in two minutes. Since this is me we are talking about, I will admit it. I am cranky and crabby, walking the dog, wondering how I am supposed to get to two schools and make my meeting. Then I see it; the first, tiny, purple crocus, rising from the earth, poking its head toward the sun, begging me to notice it. I do. It is perfect. "Slow down, Judy," it says. "Look around. There are more of me." So I do and there are. And they are equally beautiful. I am happy I took the time to notice.

Do you ever dream about a loved one lost? When I do, I am thrilled to be in that moment. My loved one is alive. Their death becomes the bad dream and my dream becomes the reality. "Oh," I say. "I always knew you were really here." I hate waking up from those dreams, but I remind myself of their beauty too, I just got one more minute with my Nonny, or Nana. My Uncle Ed, or my sisters-in-law Pam or Beth. One more moment in time. For me it is a sign from the ones I love, reminding me they are always with me.

Life-Altering Signs
How about the real life-altering signs? I wrote my first novel in 2000. I pedaled it around and secured an agent. I was out of my mind with excitement. The agent got my novel to the top of a major publishing house, but it was ultimately passed on. Disappointed? Completely. The agent did all he could for me and we parted ways. I shoved the manuscript under my bed, where it gathered dust bunnies. I poured my heart into new creative endeavors and my novel was out of sight and out of mind for 11 years.

And then my father called me. He had not had the Wall Street Journal delivered to his home in years. He missed it and reinstated delivery. On December 9, 2011, the very first day the paper arrives on his doorstop, the cover article, "How I Became a Best-Selling Author" was about publishing sensation Darcie Chan and her book The Mill River Recluse. The story chronicled her success with e-publishing and getting her novel on the best-seller lists without a single copy in print. "E-publishing," Dad said. "You can digitally publish your book by yourself." I could hear the excitement in Dad's voice. Then he spoke a few words of advice: "Do it." I did. I hired an editor, Angela Wiechmann, and worked with her for a year, giving my novel, This Moment, the love it deserved. The book went live on Amazon in October 2012. The experience has been satisfying beyond belief. I am a published novelist. All from a sign? Well, a sign and a lot of hard work. But it is a simple sign I'm glad I listened to.

Pay attention to the signs. Both the physical ones that keep you out of the motor vehicle line meant for folks who have seven forms of identification when you only have two, and the subtle ones that help you remember your loved ones, tell you to slow down or beg you to follow your dreams.

 
 
 

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