Bring a Joyful Spirit to Your Life.

Website for the book Otterocity! by Author Tim Northburg.

Sample Chapters


Cory Samuelson here—glad to meet you!

You may be asking yourself, “What is Otterocity?” Several months ago I didn’t have the faintest idea what the word meant. In fact, it isn’t a real word at all—I recently made it up. You can’t find it in a dictionary but its meaning is a mixture of things. If you take velocity times electricity, and mix it with generosity and creativity, then infuse that to a joyful and happy spirit you get Otterocity!

If taken literally, ocity means “quality of.” Therefore, Otterocity is having or displaying a disposition or quality of an otter.

However, Otterocity is more than a play on words. Otterocity is a way of acting, thinking, and being that brings balance in your life and focuses your energy in a positive way to help you become a better person. Otterocity is about bringing a joyful spirit to your life, in everything you do.

As I have found out recently, otters display some unique qualities that, if you can infuse them in your life, it would change your thinking and thus, change the way you act or react to things.

Why otters? Why not write about some other animal like a lion that is the “King of the Jungle” that displays strength and mightiness, or an eagle that soars above everything and rules the sky?

Well, that is a great idea, I might write about them next. The truth is I didn’t find this creature. It found me.

Two years ago a huge wave crashed over my life and took me to an unfamiliar place. All my life I was in control. Now, due to the economic downturn, wave after wave pummeled against me, kept me underwater, and prevented me from reaching dry land. I was out of control of my life. I was pinned in a deep, dark abyss—drowning.

It was somewhere I didn’t want to be, but I had no choice in many of the events that led me to this place. How was I going to get out and get my life back on track? I had no clue.

Sometimes strange events come about when you least expect them. An opportunity presented itself, which led me to a fisherman named Old One Eye, and an otter, that I named Lizzie. Over the course of several weeks I learned some valuable lessons from both of them. In those lessons, I learned what Otterocity was.

Now, let me share it with you . . .

Journal Entry One

November 24, 2010 - 10:38 p.m.

This is my first journal entry.

I bought this journal at a bookstore two months ago and the pages are still blank. I don?t know what to write . . .

OK, how about this . . . tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I don't know what I am thankful for.

HELP ! ! !

Big Turkey

I put big turkey in the oven early in the morning and slow roasted it in a basting bag. I threw in some onion, for flavor, some carrots and potatoes, mainly because I liked them roasted in turkey juice. That afternoon, the smell of baked bird permeated the air.

Around two o'clock, the adults buzzed around the living room. Some snacked on chips and dip, around the coffee table, while conversing. Others nibbled off the vegetable tray, their eyes glued to the football game that played on the flat screen attached to the wall near the fireplace. The kids were in the basement playing video games on the Wii until it was time for dinner.

Finally, the big moment came. I pulled the big turkey out of the oven, tested it with the meat thermometer, which assured me it was done, and carefully lifted it onto the carving platter.

I quickly made the gravy, dumped half of it into the pouring bowl and brought it, along with the stuffing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, candied yams, and bread rolls to the table.

With a quick yell downstairs our guests and the children gathered around the table and sat at their respective seats. I brought over big turkey and placed the platter in my space at the head of the table and addressed my family.

"I want to thank you all for coming over today to share this good food and this big turkey before us. Before we begin, let?s go around and share what we are all thankful for."

I nodded to my father-in-law to start first.

"I am thankful for my health," Keith said. "I have had a rough year." He rubbed his chest where the scar was. "I am thankful for being here."

We all nodded and smiled at him.

"I am thankful for my daughter and her loving family for having us here," said my mother-in-law Molly. She smiled at me and then at Sarah.

About that time I started tuning out. I know it was not polite, but things from the last two years flew through my mind. What do I have to be thankful for? I thought.

Everything that could go wrong in the last two years did. I lost my best friend and business partner. I lost my job and had to take a huge pay cut. Keith had a massive heart attack. My home was months away from foreclosure, and my marriage was strained.

I was struggling to find the silver lining in it all. I stared blankly over big turkey, at the people assembled around my table.

Just then, the things people were thankful for popped in my head like corn in a theater popper going wild. They were thankful for this food, family, mommy and daddy, their home, Prince William, and my nine year old said she was thankful to be alive.

Tears started forming in the corner of my eyes. I choked back the emotions to remain strong in front of everyone. Really, I wanted to run out of the room and crawl into the corner of the closet and hide.

It was hard work looking like the 'rock of strength' all the time. I knew I couldn't show my fear to my family. I had to keep moving forward despite it all.

Finally, it was my wife's turn. She looked around the table and said, "I am thankful for all of you." She reached over and grabbed my hand and squeezed it.

Then it hit me like a ton of bricks. I didn't need the stinking house. It was only wood, bricks, siding, roofing, carpet, and tile. In fact, without it we would do just fine. We could find a cheaper place to rent and with that we would have plenty of money left over to do the things we want to do-to live and have fun-which is something we haven't done in a long time.

I also realized that these people around me, my family, were there for me when times got tough and we were there for them during their rough patches. No money or possessions could replace that.

I sat there for a second realizing that I really did have a lot to be thankful for. I was thankful for my company providing 'big turkey,' as my six year old called it when I brought it home the other day, and much more.

When it was my turn, I stood up, held up my glass of mimosa, looked at my children, my in-laws, and my wife and said what was in my heart and on my mind.

"I am thankful for a lot of things, mostly the people in this room for being there by my side. I am thankful for my wife Sarah, for taking care of our children, the house, and for putting up with me lately. I am thankful for my kids Marcy, Lucy, and Heather for bringing joy into my heart-I love you a lot." I paused and looked down at big turkey to keep the tears from rolling then I continued. "I am thankful for Greg Denise, and their daughter Chrissy as well as Keith and Molly for coming from Washington to share this holiday with us. Also, I am thankful to still have a job in this tough economy."

I tipped my glass, took a big swig, and suppressed my urge to break down right there in the dining room.

"Let's eat this big turkey!"  Heather shouted from the end of the table.

I looked at my six year old and her eyes were big and excited. She had been asking all day when we were going to eat the turkey and apparently she couldn't wait any longer.

"Yeah, let's do it," I confirmed picking up the carving knife and fork. I sliced into the turkey and doled out the tender, juicy meat while everyone piled their plates high with and topped it all off with steaming, hot gravy.

It was a great Thanksgiving. The sound of forks hit the plates as everyone munched down on the glorious meal. The friendly conversation and warmth filled the room.

I felt happy. It was the first time in a long time that I felt that-I wondered if I would ever have that feeling again.

Then a thought occurred to me, was this what Pilgrims felt during that first Thanksgiving? I sensed they probably did feel the same warmth and sense of pride, friendship and thanks that I felt this very moment. I never fully appreciated Thanksgiving as much as I did now.

When dinner was over and the dishes were all cleared and filed into the dishwasher I sat down in the living room with a beer in hand to watch the Dallas Cowboys play the New Orleans Saints. Greg and Keith were discussing the Seahawks season and if there was any chance that they will make the playoffs with their new coach. Greg thought they stood a really good chance, seeing that their head coach had won several national Championships for USC.

"?How 'bout them Broncos?" Keith asked me.

I shook my head. "Worthless." I replied. "They can't run the ball on offense, and they can't stop the run on defense. This year has been a bust!" I took a drink of my beer.

"They need to play Tebow," said Keith.

"Yeah, play the guy," said Greg. "They spent several trades to get him, let's see what he's got."

"I agree, he brings a lot of enthusiasm, but their problems run deeper than that." I said.

"They need to get a coach like Bill Cowher to fix their defense and find a great running back like 'The Bus' or something," Greg said.

"He'd probably want tons of money. And then, they'd have three coaches on the payroll," I added.

We all laughed and watched the game for a while.

About an hour later, Sarah poked her head in the room, "Who wants some pie?"

"I do!" We all said in unison.

"Apple or Pumpkin?"

"Apple," said Keith.

"Pumpkin," said Greg.

"I'll take Pumpkin dear," I replied.

She brought back our pies topped with Cool Whip and we stuffed our faces some more.

"Sarah told us about the house," Keith said between bites of pie. "If there is anything we can do, let us know."

For a quick second I was angered that Sarah would tell them our private financial details. Then, I realized that she too needed someone to talk to about these things. Naturally she would turn to her parents for support.

I think, for me, it was more about my pride and my ability to take care of my family. I didn't want others to think I wasn't doing my part of providing a home and the other necessities.

"It must be hard on you," Greg said.

I didn't really want to talk about the subject, but I couldn't be rude to my guests. "Yes, it has been." I said, and stuffed pie into my mouth so I couldn't say much more.

"I know what it's like raising a family and the pressure you put on yourself as a man, husband and father." Keith said. "Just know this . . . the pressure never goes away."

"Thanks," I said choking on my pie.

"Really, its pressure you put on yourself. Let me tell you . . . I have had my share of tough times in my life . . . it will get better."

"Thanks Keith, I appreciate it." 

"Hey Cory, I have a proposition for you," Greg said changing the subject. "Do you still have your video equipment?"

"Yes," I said.

Actually, I was going to take it to the pawn shop for some extra Christmas cash next week.

"Well, last week my videographer was on a ladder putting up his Christmas lights . . . he fell and broke his leg. We were going to do a documentary on some Sea Otters that appeared near San Jan Island. We think they came down from Canada and are now living in the area. It is a perfect opportunity to film them in the winter time, but now I don't have anyone to film them."

"Yeah," I said, wondering where this was going.

"I am the production manager and I do the scheduling of all the programs for W.O.W. We really want to do this piece-it is right in our back yard."

I knew Greg was a 'Big Wig' at the World of Wildlife channel, but I didn't really know what he did for them.

"We need someone to come out to Washington for two weeks to film these Sea Otters. We will put you up in a cabin on San Jan Island, and have a fisherman guide you around."

He stopped and studied the interest on my face. I was somewhere between not for me, and sounds cool. Really, I was unsure.

"We will provide anything you need." He said and took a bite of pie, swallowed and added, "Oh, I forgot to mention . . . not only will cover all of your expenses, but it pays $3000."

I just about choked on my pie again. I could tell by his expression that he saw the surprised look on my face. He caught my interest now.

"Do you still have some vacation time?"

"Yeah, I actually have two weeks left."

"I know it is short notice, so talk it over with Sarah and let me know in the morning. I'll need to know if I have to find someone else to do it."

It seemed like a great opportunity and I had the time available. The fact was, Sarah and I didn't have the money to go anywhere on vacation so my vacation time was sitting there unused. I was thinking of taking time off around Christmas anyway.

"Thanks, Greg," I said and patted him on the shoulder. "I really appreciate the opportunity!"

"No problem," he smiled. "It's what family does for each other."

That night, I lay in bed thinking about leaving the family for two weeks with all that was gong on. We could sure use the three grand for Christmas and paying some bills. Sarah said to go for it, if that was what I wanted to do. She was always supportive, in anything I did. I was thankful for that too!

I made up my mind to do it, and I lay there thinking of all that had happened to me today. This Thanksgiving had a greater meaning than the 37 other Thanksgivings in my life. I attribute it all to 'Big Turkey' and his sacrifice for us.

Journal Entry Two

November 26, 2010 - 7:24 p.m.

I don’t know where to start. I am not very good at writing down my feelings, especially writing about the events of the past two years.

I am going to try harder on this . . .

I am thankful that my best friend, Mark, gave me the name of his psychologist - Dennis Armstrong.

I don' know what else to write - I think I will go and do the dishes . . .

- - -

Ok, I am back . . . doing the dishes helped me think about what else to write.

I always thought I was strong enough to handle whatever life threw at me. However, I was wrong. I wasn’t strong enough to handle everything these past two years.

Mark knew what I was going through. He told me talking to his shrink helped him through his tough times. He also said, “It’s not a sign of weakness to talk to someone—it’s a sign of strength.”

At the end of this August things were bad, I mean really bad. The negative thoughts in my head were taking over and I needed to talk to someone to get them away. It took me nearly two years to realize I needed to talk with someone, so I decided to give it a go.

Mark was right—he was always right. After a few meetings with Dennis Armstrong I started to feel better. It’s strange how something as simple as talking to someone can make a difference.

In our last meeting, Dennis talked about the “Predators” that ruin our lives. Those predators are our bad thoughts. He explained that the bad thoughts feed on all the good thoughts we have. They swoop in and take over our emotions, actions and reactions.

At the end of our meeting, he harped on my journal again. He said it is a good way to keep the Predators at bay.

First thing was to write about the past. He said, “In order to move forward you needed to deal with the past and let go of the old, seasonal, Predators. You have to resolve your issues and start with a clean slate. Only then, can you move forward.

Second, you need to understand who you are. Lastly, you can figure out how to move forward.”

Maybe he is on to something.


Which Predator do I start with?



Otterocity! Copyright © 2010 by Tim Northburg - All Rights Reserved.