Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Hitting Submit

First, I procrastinated.

I didn't just procrastinate. I procrastinated in a manner worthy of a gold medal, were procrastination an Olympic event.

I did laundry and cleaned the house. I called friends and asked if they needed help with anything. I began not one, but two exercise programs. I watered plants and bought weed and seed for my yard. I wrote emails and knitted. I reorganized my files and wrote overdue letters. I wandered around on the internet looking for Christmas gifts (hey, I always shop early for Christmas!).

Finally, though, I got to work. The task was simple: write and submit a 5-page, no more than 1,500-word excerpt from a (mine, of course) novel in progress; the sample should include dialogue and be properly formatted.

A clearly-stated and quite simple assignment; unfortunately for me, simple doesn't necessarily mean easy.

Perhaps it should have been. Easy, that is. When I initially told a few friends about the assignment, each one of them, in their own way, dismissed it as the proverbial piece of cake. They all assumed I would sit down and produce at least a reasonably-good excerpt for the practicum I've signed up for at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference next month.

Each of them knew that writing has been a key component of existence my entire life. Depending on how long or how well they know me, they were aware that I began reading before I even started kindergarten and that I began writing around the same time. They know that I kept a journal throughout my childhood and teen years and off and on since then. They almost surely know that I hold a Bachelors Degree in English and a Masters in English with an Emphasis in Composition. They even probably realize that I've done some free-lance writing and been published -- and paid for it!

And here's the icing on the cake. They know that I have spent my entire career teaching writing. Yes, writing.

Lifelong writer + multiple degrees in writing + a career teaching writing should equal the ability to sit down in front of a laptop one afternoon and write a 1,500-word writing sample worthy of submission to a writing workshop.

Like I said before, it's not that simple.

My previous writing, whether it be personal, academic, or free-lance, has been nonfiction. Essays, reports, article summaries, lesson plans, human interest articles, and even a writing textbook . . . each text has been nonfiction.

A few years ago, though, I decided to {drum roll} focus on writing a novel.

Don't say it. I've heard all the jokes and (sometimes) snide comments about the stereotypical English teacher who thinks they're going to write the next Great American Novel.  Besides, that's a topic for another post. 

The novel hasn't come as easy as I'd hoped it would. There are a variety of reasons, some of which are probably more excuse than reason. But I decided when I retired last May that the time had come. It was time for me to put my fingers on the keyboard and write a book.

Fast-forward to last Monday, 8 days ago. With a week to go before my submission was due, I was forced to get to work. The novel was (is) still a work in progress, but that was okay; all I had to do was choose an excerpt to submit. That took about 30 minutes.

I spent a couple of days polishing. I revised and revised, and then I revised again. I revised so many times that I could recite chunks of dialogue from memory. Then it was time to edit. I proofread over and over, checking for errors in subject-verb agreement, parallelism, and so on.

By Friday, all that was left to do was submit the excerpt. Instead, I reassumed the role of procrastinator extraordinaire. For almost 3 days, I did a masterful job of pretending I had no assignment, no deadline to meet.

Sunday afternoon, though, less than 2 days before the submission was due, opened an email, attached the document, and hit send.

My award-worth career as a procrastinator was finished.





It's never been my intent that this blog be nothing more than a monologue. Instead, I hope you'll join in the conversation by sharing your thoughts and ideas via a comment. Thank you!









Friday, April 26, 2019

Touch (FMF)

I'm very excited to again this week join a talented group of women who connect each Friday in an online, unedited (so excuse all errors) flash mob free-write based on a one-word prompt from our fearless leader Kate Motaung. My timer is set for 5 minutes; let's see where the word "touch" takes me.

While in college, I learned of a study involving babies in orphanages. I've forgotten many of the particulars -- the wheres and the numbers involved -- but what I do remember is that the babies were not thriving. In fact, although they were well taken care of and received more than adequate nutrition and medical care, they were dying at far higher rates than babies raised with poorer medical care, a lack of food, etc. 

Orphanage workers were baffled. Doctors were brought in. Again, the details escape me, but somehow it was determined that the babies failed to thrive because, due to a shortage of manpower for the number of babies being cared for,  the infants failed to be touched other than when absolutely necessary.  Diaper-changing, baths, and feeding were done as quickly as possible because so many babies needed attention.

Volunteers from the community were recruited to hold and rock the babies on a regular basis. The babies began to thrive and the death rate plummeted to far below average.

Similar studies in America and around the world prove the importance to seniors -- particularly widows and widowers as well. 

Over and again, science has proven the enormous value of human touch. 

In recent years, though, we've become leery of touch and of touching others. Businesses and school districts provide training about touching and even warn employees to not touch other people unless absolutely necessary. 

More recently, the conduct of some politicians and celebrities have turned the concept of touch into something dirty and even the subject of one-liners and social media memes.

That saddens me.

The fact is, we all benefit from the appropriate, caring touch of another human being.

A hand on the shoulder of a frightened or grieving person, a gentle hug for a friend who is struggling, holding the hand of a hospital or nursing-home patient. 

A simple gesture, but oh how life-affirming. 


Time's up! 

This blog is intended to be a place of conversation, and I hope you'll join in that conversation by posting your own thoughts via a comment below.  




Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Me and Taylor Swift

I don't follow celebrity news and gossip, but a friend shared on Facebook the other day that Taylor Swift has been posting "cryptic" social media posts with references to 04.26 and has added a countdown calendar to that date on her website.

To be completely honest, I'm not a Taylor Swift fan. So when my friend stated that she couldn't wait to see what Swift was going to announce -- a new tour, a new CD, perhaps the publication of her autobiography -- I stifled a social media yawn and scrolled on past the post.

Well, Taylor Swift has nothing on me.

Last Friday I shared here that life had thrown me a big curveball, causing me to face a major decision.

It turns out the decision was not as difficult as I thought it would. One discussion with a trusted friend of over 35 years and reading chapter 1 -- yes, just the first one -- of The Next Right Thing (Emily Freeman), a book that I'd been planning to read anyway, was all it took.


Lightbulb moment and peace.

But I'm not ready to share that decision with anyone just yet.

So, here you go.

05.30

Now if I can just figure out how to add a countdown calendar to every blog post!




Thursday, April 18, 2019

The Next Step (FMF)

I'm very excited to again this week join a talented group of women who connect each Friday in an online, unedited (so excuse all errors) flash mob free-write based on a one-word prompt from our fearless leader Kate Motaung. My timer is set for 5 minutes; let's see where the word "next" takes me.


Just when things have begun settling down a bit in my life, just when a couple of previously- difficult situations have changed for the better, just when I'm starting to feel like I'm moving in the right direction, life has thrown me a curve ball.

A big one. One that is, in many ways, absolutely-wonderful!

But there's a catch. This delightful, unexpected situation requires a decision on my part. And like the curveball itself, that decision is major. 

I used to be a pretty confident decision-maker. Not anymore.

I've discussed this here before. Perhaps my decision-making confidence is weaker now that I have nobody with whom to share ideas and the responsibility of the decision. Perhaps I struggle because, with age and experience, I realize for more than before the far-reaching consequences of the decisions I make. Or maybe now that I'm older and more battle-weary, I'm not as fearless as I used to be. Of course, the wide array of options available to me as a retired woman living on her own can be overwhelming. 

Whatever the reason(s), I'm going to need to decide -- and soon -- what my next step will be. 

Not for the first time these past nearly-10 years, I wish I could abdicate responsibility. I wish I could go back in time and put on my pajamas, brush my teeth, and go to bed, content in the knowledge that while I was drifting off to sleep, my parents would discuss the situation and make the decision for me.

But that isn't an option. 

I've prayed. I've jotted down my options. I've journalled. I've prayed even more. I've jotted down my options yet again and put little plusses and minuses next to each one.

Yet I'm no closer to a decision than I was when the curveball first came my way.

As a result, I'm stressed, impatient with myself and the world, and more than a little cranky.

It's time to put on my pajamas, brush my teeth, and go to bed. The decision won't be made for me while I sleep, but maybe, just maybe 

There went the buzzer. Time's up. If you're so inclined, I ask that you pray for me as I make this decision. Please understand that I cannot share any details yet. I'd also love to hear about your experience in making a major decision. 




















Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Mended: Restoring the Hearts of Mothers and Daughters (Review)

When I first learned several months ago that mother-daughter team Dr. Helen McIntosh and Blythe Daniel (respectively) would be releasing a book about restoring the very-unique relationship that exists between mothers and daughters, I immediately contacted Daniel and asked to serve on the book's launch team. I was chosen and received an advance copy of the book in exchange for my unbiased review, which I am sharing here and on amazon.com and other sites.

I was intrigued by this book for two reasons. First, my relationship with my own mother (who passed away in 2010) was, as many mother-daughter relationships are, a complicated one. I hoped that McIntosh and Daniel might address coming to terms with issues that remain unresolved due to circumstances such as the death of either the mother or daughter.

I was also interested because I am the mother of a daughter and the mother-in-law to my son's wife. The two relationships are, of course, very different, and I hoped that the book would provide insight into what I can do so that both relationships remain as strong and healthy as possible.

Mended far surpassed my hopes. Before I go into further detail, though, I want to stress that this book is not just for those looking to heal a broken or strained mother-daughter relationship. This book is for anyone that is looking to better an "okay" relationship or maintain an already-strong one.

Equally exciting to me is that the information in Mended is relevant to all relationships, not just that between mother and daughter. Work relationships, those between friends, husbands and wives -- all can be strengthened and healed by the application of the principles and practices discussed in Mended.

McIntosh and Daniel address a variety of topics related to healing or building a mother-daughter relationship. Some of those topics include: choosing to be "right" or choosing to be in relationship; knowing when and what to say; choosing words of reconciliation; offering advice; resisting the urge to control and change the other person; and working through difficult things together.

The book is written from the alternating viewpoints of McIntosh, who holds a EdD in Counseling Psychology, and her daughter, Daniel. Daniel is an author and literary agent. The book is greatly enriched by their honesty and transparency as they recount their own experiences as mother, daughter, grandmother, and granddaughter.

Another strength of this book is the authors' reliance on Scriptural truths as the framework for their discussion. That said, readers who shy away from "Christian" books should not do so. Mended is neither preachy nor heavy-handed, and it is not a book about doctrine.

I read prolifically, 5-10 books a week, and from time to time I come across a book like Mended. A book I wish I could buy at least 100 copies of and give to people I care about. A book I would love to lead a group study of. A book I know I will read time and again and that, even when I'm not reading it, nuggets from it will come to mind frequently.

Mended is a book I hope you will read. For you, for your relationship with your daughter, and yes, for the relationships you have with those around you.






Friday, April 5, 2019

Offer Me This (FMF)

I'm very excited to again this week join a talented group of women who connect each Friday in an online, unedited (so excuse all errors) flash mob free-write based on a one-word prompt from our fearless leader Kate Motaung. My timer is set for 5 minutes; let's see where the word "offer" takes me.

Wow, Fearless-leader Kate, tough word this week. And yes, thank you, that was a shameless attempt to stall, take some seconds off the clock, and think of where I want to go with this week's assignment.

Every day, I receive offers. 

On the radio, on television, and particularly via social media. Everyone, it seems, wants to offer me a free workshop/webinar/guide or a free consultation or a free night's stay at a lovely lake resort.

I'm sure you know what I mean. 

Every one of those offers -- every single one -- is one thing. Each one is a sales gimmick not-so-cleverly designed as a gift.  


Yes, I'll get a free webinar, but the "giver" will receive my email. They'll not only increase the size of their mailing list for their own purposes but, here's the real kicker, so that they have more email addresses to sell to other companies.

I'll get a free consultation or free night away from home, but there will be some sort hard sell somewhere along the line. I've been there. By the time the consultant or guy/gal at the sales presentation is 2.5 minutes into their spiel, I'm willing to give them my left arm to get out of there. 

Call me a cynic, but the vast majority of offers I receive are from people who, despite their seemingly-sincere demeanors, are nothing more than fishermen, dangling out the tantalizing bait for what they hope is a gullible fish who will bite.

I know I sound "anti-offer", but that's simply not true. 

You want me to take you up on an offer? Then offer me one of these.

Offer to clean my bathroom. I hate cleaning the bathroom. Always have; I have no doubt I always will. Small space + wet stuff = yuck!

Offer to fix my hair for me every single day. I am notoriously horrible with hair, as anyone who knows me can attest. You offer to fix my hair every day, and you have a resounding "yes" and a friend for life. Or as long as you're fixing my hair every day. 

Offer to play dominoes or cards or cribbage with me a couple of nights a week. 

Offer to teach me how to knit socks or to scrapbook digitally.

Offer to take over my yard. Landscape and mow and make it lovely. Don't expect me to know the names of any plants or gush over organic mulch. You'll only be sorely disappointed. 

Offer to go on a road trip with me. Think Thelma and Louise minus mayhem and . . . well, the ending, 
which I refuse to watch. 

Offer me a book contract. 

Offer me a large sum of money to do absolutely nothing. Yep, I'm all over that one!

See? I'm not anti-offer!

So bring on those offers!!

Honestly, I hesitate to share this post. It's not profound or eloquent or really much of anything. But I respect the FMF concept and will share. Because the goal of this blog is conversation (not monologue), I hope you'll share your thoughts via a comment. Perhaps you'll be profound or eloquent or even both!  















Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Full Circle

Perhaps it was the hot toddy.

Or maybe it was just the effects of "the crud" that I'd woken up with that morning and struggled with all day.

Whatever the cause, I had a less-than-positive realization just before midnight this past Saturday.

I've come full circle. I'm reliving my late-teen years!

The music and movies are different, and so much has changed in the world around me, but my personal circumstances are eerily similar.

About this time a couple of . . . okay, a few decades ago, I faced some slightly unpleasant physical changes. After being physically active and fit during my childhood and early teen years, once I entered senior year in high school and on into college, I no longer had PE every day or played any sports competitively. The change in how my clothes fit and how I felt was gradual and not too alarming, but I remember it was significant enough that I even tried running for a semester when I was 19. Running! Me! 

Of course, the recent physical changes are more noticeable and have more significant consequences.  Minor injuries (a torn meniscus) and changes in stamina and strength are an inconvenience. And when I see myself in a dressing-room mirror, I'm reminded anew that things are simply not staying put like they should! 

But the way in which my latter teens are most similar to my life today is that both of them involve freedom I hadn't known before then and that I'm in danger of squandering. At 19, I was contemplating life after college, life not lived under my parents' roof, where my lifestyle and choices were almost-completely defined by their decisions and (very reasonable and extremely tolerable) rules. 

Today, I'm widowed and my 2 adult children are grown and on their own. I've retired (early, which I find myself explaining anytime it comes up with someone new, so they know I'm really not that old). My life is in many ways full of opportunities!

I could and can move anywhere, for example. I could and can pursue whatever career (full-time back then, part-time or even full-time now) appeals to me. Now, like then, I can learn new hobbies or get more serious about old ones. In a nutshell and within reason, I can design whatever lifestyle I choose.

Ahhh . . . within reason. That's the catch.

Back then, when I contemplated life beyond college, I was hampered by a lack of knowledge about teacher-licensing and job-finding in other states. There was no internet, of course, and my college's career placement center only posted jobs in my own state and in a small portion of the neighboring one. And I lacked the life experiences, finances, and confidence to strike out very far away on my own.  

Today, there are other limitations . . . or perhaps, if I were completely honest, I'd have to admit there are other considerations I allow all too often to limit my thinking. To cause me to eliminate choices and remain where I already am, living the life I'm already living.

As I contemplated this issue -- the similarity between my late-teen years and my life now -- these past two days, I grew impatient with myself. 

And suddenly, just this morning, I had another realization. A positive one this time.

Perhaps it's the sunshine and warmer temperatures. 

Or maybe it's because I'm feeling better now that I'm over the crud.

But I'm filled with a new-found resolve to explore the possibilities.

To consider how I might make the changes I long to make without losing what I so want to keep.

It's my hope that this blog not be just a monologue, but a conversation. To that end, I hope you'll consider what I've shared and post your own thoughts and ideas via a comment.