Category: reflections

Thank God for Dads

..who change diapers when they are babies and still clean up the puke when they are teenagers.

..who don’t want us to go anywhere but still give us away.

..who consistently tell the daughters they are pretty AND smart..like their Mommy.

..who are proud but sensitive, hard-working but playful, informative and teachable.

..who still adore our Moms

..who still kiss their sons and tear up at the thoughts of how their kids have grown

..who brag in a non-competitive way

..who protect but give space

..who give advice and don’t get too mad when it isn’t taken

..who ask for help from their Heavenly Father

..who give hugs.

..who give themselves

I am so blessed to have a husband who is as wonderful a Daddy as my own, a Dad who is still with me (I miss you so much today), a brother who has and will always step up for his family, and many other special men in my life whose integrity is matched by their great big hearts. I love you all every day and thank God especially for you today.

Transitions

I by no means thought this would be easy.

But I underestimated how hard it would hit when it hits.

I miss my mom & dad.

I miss my friends.

I miss my children’s friends.

I miss the comfort of familiar,

Even if familiar was sometimes stifling or even miserable.

I miss being Mommy all day long, though I do love the challenge of my new job. (which of course, leads to brand new forms of mom guilt)

Anyway…
I want to write more, but there is a song in my head and it’s where I’m taking it

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I look like my Gramma

I see it first thing in the morning, before make-up smooths everything over, before mascara and my glasses widen my eyes, before I dress in jeans and hopefully, a cute top, rather than the bright polyester pants with matching shirts that she preferred. I see it in my mom’s eyes, as well, though we don’t really acknowledge it. I see it on my friend’s refrigerator, on a tiny green and white magnet that bears the Irish saying, “‘Tis Herself.”

I hear it when I find myself talking to complete strangers as though we’ve known each other for years, offering empathy that goes deeper than 60 seconds in the grocery line or jokes that don’t make sense to anyone who hasn’t know me for far longer that.

I taste it in my preferences: Hot tea that is light and sweet. A ham sandwich on toast. Real butter. (and of course, I have a sugary bump around my waist that matches hers as well).

I smell it in the thick “intensive care” lotion I use at night.

I touch it when I hug my children or play with their hair.

For 25 years, I experienced the best kind of Gramma a child could have. I didn’t really know her after that, but the peace of time and forgiveness and…time… has allowed me to gloss over the years between our separation and her death.

I’ve thought of her a lot this week, not for any reason other than the whole of mother-daughter relationships has been on my mind. I miss the woman I knew, and I’ll gladly take the parts she passed on to me. She is a foundation of my heritage – to carry on and to improve.

“I woke up wondering what was real. Is it what we see and touch or what we feel?”

(My Gramma never met my babies. I hate this video, but I love this song, for her…)

Success

Isn’t it amazing how the look of success changes depending on our season of life, our environment, our sense of selves, our…age?!

Five years ago I was a brand new classroom teacher, somewhat timid, always second-guessing myself, overly-prepared.

Success was usually getting through the day without having to send anyone to the dean, call anyone’s parents, swearing or getting sworn at, or, if I was feeling really ambitious, feeling like I had actually taught something to at least a few somebodies.

This morning, I was a newish teacher to two classes – one of three-year-olds, one of four-and-five year olds. I felt the same way.

Success was getting through 2 classes – one 30 minutes, one 45, without anyone getting poked in the eye with a stick (’cause we were making crosses), out-loud reading the glorious book The Tale of Three Trees without crying, managing to captivate eight kids with my bag of “things made from wood,” and not having to console, hold, or scold either of my children during these sessions.

This afternoon, success is getting each of them down for much-needed but often-fought naps, preparing my eBay sales for shipping, and planning to pack up the rest of the bookshelves.

(I have gone against my inner grain to give away a LOT of books, but we still have a WHOLE LOT of books).

Tonight, I will be speaking with someone dear to me about his success. His idea of it and mine are quite different, but that’s because we are separated by 15 years. When I was his age, my idea of success was much like his is right now: being in love, making some money, having the power to make my own decisions.

There is nothing wrong with those things except that they only cover a little ground. Nothing feels better than being in love, and little feels worse than losing the feeling, and that, I’m afraid to tell all you Disney Princesses, happens to every couple at some point. There is a point when we have to choose love, and even in the victory of saying yes there is a sadness in the realization that love is not a fairy tale, that happily ever after is more like content ever after if you work really hard at it.

Making money is also a really, really, REALLY important part of success, but since in the last two years I’ve probably worked harder than ever in my life on DREAM jobs and made almost nothing doing them, I have mixed feelings on this one. You can’t live on dreams and money can’t buy happiness. The fine line I think we’ve found is that you do what you HAVE to to get what you WANT. I have a degree in teaching that I might not ever have to use again, but I have it, I can use it, and the skills and experiences I gained from earning it have prepared me for a hundred other jobs and experiences I couldn’t have foreseen.

And power: it is the launching point for one-to-one debates and the fall of kingdoms. Who doesn’t want power? My 5 month old niece wants power when it comes to when she eats and sleeps. My 3 and 4 year daughters want power to decide what is for dinner, what they wear, what they learn, and to drive the car. The thirst for power in engrained in us and becomes harder to satiate the older we get. The problem with power, though, is as Spiderman put it (or was it Uncle Ben? or Ben Kanobi? Anyway…) With great power comes great responsibility.

I was over the moon when I had the means and power to buy my first brand new car, and it was my “dream car” – a Chevy Blazer. But with it came the responsibility of a huge interest rate (because I was young) and having to pay for an upside-down trade in order to get rid of the rate. Power means having to decide whether to take a child to the ER or ride it out and dealing with the consequences either way. Power means having to decide whether to hold your tongue and possibly effect change in a situation or bite your tongue and the let the cards fall.

Personal power is like solar power. It only works when the sun is out, or when our brains are functioning the right way.

What I mean in this little tangent is that “success” is going to change on us, all the time. I know a man right now who used to have, literally, millions of dollars at his disposal. Now he is working carefully and patiently for the chance to make a comfortable living for his family just so they can be together.

We cannot see into our future. All we can do is make every intentional step we can to ensure our ability to deal with the future. We have to recognize that decisions we make today might affect our “success” ten years from now.

Anyway. I have to go affect change in my kitchen. It’s a mess and we have our 10 millionth house showing in 90 minutes.

For Young Writers

Today, I will have the distinct honor at presenting and teaching at Bloom District 206 Writers Day for the…6th time (I believe). This is an annual gathering at my old stomping ground where graduates who have pursued professional writing come back to interact with current students who are active in  creative writing. It is all orchestrated by my long time friend and writing mentor Mort Castle and the wonderful powers in the district that continue to set funds aside for the arts, even while many schools across the country and in good ol’ Crook County-Chicagoland are having to cut out everything but the floors, walls, and flushing toilets.

What has made the last 3 years particularly special is that Mort has also extended an invitation to my husband Rod to sing and share with the students…the mindset being that because I write about life as a gospel wife, Rod can be a living object lesson to the kids. Today, the icing on my cake is that Rod will be singing the first song we ever wrote together.

Every year, the hardest part of this for me is deciding what to talk about in my workshop. The company I keep at this event includes 2 guys who publish comic books, another who makes movies, and a very dynamic professor – tough acts to follow, indeed! So tomorrow I will talk to the kids tongue-in-cheek but totally transparently about my own growth as a writer and what I am currently doing to keep getting better. Here is what I will share:

My Life as a Writer


My first finished story was written when I was in 2nd grade. It was about my friend Sabrina coming over to spend the night. I was so excited that I filled up 2 sheets of “handwriting paper” instead of the one-half that Mrs. Hircshman required.

The next year, I began my first “novel.” It was a young adult story that traced a group of friends in junior high (they grew older as I did). They dealt with the issues of jealousy, redecorated bedrooms, drugs, and drunk driving. I had no idea what I was talking about. When I was in eighth grade, I finished the story. My Language Arts teacher sent it over to MORT CASTLE for a critique. His EIGHT page analysis was about 10% the length of my story. It was kind, patient, and encouraging. That story is somewhere on a hard drive on my 80/88 (green screen) computer in the garage (unless my husband has finally thrown it out without telling me). It will likely never see the light of day again, but will live in my mind forever, along with its main characters, Samantha, Mike, Nina, and the non-descript boyfriend character whose name I can’t recall.

I wrote another novel in high school. This one was a “heroic fantasy” about a sexy blond knight name Katlen who was also an orphan from a young age and a widowed young father who was injured in battle. He had friends, a sorceress aunt who raised him, and the favor of the king. He of course met and fell in love with a woman who was so, so different from his dead wife, as she was a warrior too. This book never had a title and received something like 40 pages of analysis from Mort. He took me to Giordano’s to let me down easy that the work, the world that essentially got me through my otherwise depressing junior year of high school was in no way a finished novel. I needed to research, I needed to fill out the plot, and for the love of all sexy knights everywhere, I needed to not address so many issues in my writing. (Katlen’s best friend went blind from a war injury. I will never, ever, ever forget Mort referring to him as “Jake Blindy Blind.” I still use that term in my everyday life, though only my husband knows what I mean…)

After high school I had a huge creative dry spell. I was consumed with college papers on things I didn’t care about, then business emails about more stuff I didn’t care about, and the occasional Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan fiction story (which, frankly, is some of the best writing I’ve ever done). Thankfully, however, all of this writing – and my four-year tenure on the staff of the illustrious and applauded Bloom Trail Express staff (2.5 years as editor, thank you very much), rolled into invaluable experience. In my late twenties, I began writing a column for a southern gospel ezine, of all things. I now write for several and am the editor-in-chief of another, and I’m also a blogger for a large blogging community and have guest written for several others. I recently co-wrote a song with my husband for which we have high hopes. I have written copy for websites and created marketing campaigns for several businesses. In the next weeks, I am hoping to take a job as the Director of Marketing for a regional theater.

I still have not published a novel – or any fiction, for that matter. And when I watched the Academy Awards last month, I wondered if my time to dream about winning Best Screenplay had passed me by. But I think not. When writing is in your veins, it is always a part of your life. The bonus of my current life as a writer is that STRANGERS read what I write and sometimes find it interesting enough to comment on it. I’m grateful. I will never stop writing, and I’m happy for the opportunity to tell you that you shouldn’t either.

11 Things That Make Me Write Better

1.     Reading everything I possibly can
I am addicted to reading…signs, bumper stickers, brochures, product labels, magazines, blogs, closed captions, Tweets…and on occasion, BOOKS.

2.     Carrying a notebook at all times.
I take notes at church, at meetings, when listening to talk radio, and when something ‘pops’ into my head. You can always, always go back to these things later, and the more your write, the more you will find yourself flipping back through pages of notes.

3. Talking to people, listening to people, even a little eavesdropping
How can you write about humans if you don’t know how they talk? Dialogue is everything. Pay attention to what people are saying.

4.     Realizing and acknowledging that my own life is interesting…
The mundane of my everyday existence is much like that of some other people like me (moms, stepmoms, wives, people who work at home, etc), and if I can put a fun spin on it or in some way elicit emotion from it, it’s likely that other people will respond to it!

5. Writing…Every. Single. Day!
Whether it’s a 200 word blog entry or a note to myself, it’s important to flex my muscles and keep my writing voice in shape.

6. Trying a voice recorder
While this is not something I do often, it is helpful when driving or in a place where I simply can’t write something down. If an idea strikes, record it. Most smart phones include a voice recorder now. If you don’t have one, call your own voice mail and leave a message for later.

7.     Turning off “reality TV…”
…as it includes some of the worst “unscripted” dialogue every scripted! Try watching the news, movies without CGI, old TV shows (I sadly concede that this now means shows that went off the air before 2005 or so). Identify overused plots and good/believable vs. bad/fake dialogue.

8.     Putting down the DVR remote once in awhile and watching the commercials.
In order for writing to reach people, it has to be a little bit slick/commercial.

9.     I don’t wear my heart on your sleeve, but don’t hide it completely either.
In order for writing to reach people, it has to be human!

10.  Having a branded, consistently updated online presence
Writers are narcissists. We want people to read what we write. I have been blogging for about 8 years, and with the social technology of LiveJournal followed by Facebook, Twitter, and genre-specific blogging networks, I have more readers and more reader feedback than ever. Knowing we are being READ makes us want to write more, so start a blog somewhere, keep it updated, and tell people about it.

11.  ***Advice from Auntie Kelly: No matter how long you have been writing, keep doing what you do well, keep learning, and keep trying new things.
Somewhere, I have notebooks full of song lyrics I’ve written through the years. A few months ago, I finally co-wrote a real song for the first time. Soon, I will embark on my first full-fledged marketing campaign for a business other than my own! I’ve been writing for almost 30 years…the world is big and as long as the words come, I won’t be afraid to try something new. In the mean time, I know that my writing strength is personal stories with a humorous flair and writing about faith with a humorous AND teaching flair…so I will continue to do those things and continue looking for places to showcase that style of writing.

And as an example of my “best” writing, I will be sharing this blog post with them…
One Christian Fan’s Viewpoint of Harry Potter