Tuesday, December 28, 2021

A Year of . . . ????

Last January I read The Year of Living Biblically, an interesting book by a man who decided to spend an entire year obeying all the commands in the Bible. When I shared with a friend that I’d enjoyed that book, she suggested I read Shonda Rhime’s Year of Yes, which I also liked.  

Intrigued by the idea of committing to a new behavior for 52 weeks, and after considerable thought, I’ve settled settled on two closely-related 52-week long commitments. 

First, I will buy only gifts and personal necessities in 2022. Second. I will not purchase any of them from a big box store. 

The first will probably pose the greater challenge. I have stashes of yarn and scrapbook materials, so I’ll be able to knit and scrapbook. But not buying any books for an entire year will be a huge challenge! Thank goodness for my local public library and hoopla and libby for free ebooks. 

I’m confident that not shopping at big box stores will be easier. I already do most of my shopping at local businesses, but giving up Michaels Arts & Crafts and Target might present a challenge. I’m looking forward to finding more mom and pop stores in the area and as I travel.

Why don’t you join me in a “year of . . . “ of your own?

You could refrain from doing something for 52 weeks. You might stop exceeding the speed limit or watching television. You could emulate the protagonist from Liar, Liar and refrain from telling a single lie — even of the little white variety — but for an entire year. 

It could be fun — even beneficial — to do something for an entire year instead. Read for at least 15 minutes every day or eat the recommended 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables for 365 days straight. Commit to some form of daily exercise, doing a random act of kindness, or complimenting your significant other every day. 

Whether or not you participate in a 52-week challenge in 2022, I hope you’ll join the discussion I’ll be having each Monday here and on social media.

Until next Monday . . . have a safe and Happy New Year!

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

NaNoWriMo 2021, Here I Come!

In six days, NaNoWriMo 2021 will kick off. 

For those who aren’t familiar with NaNoWriMo, it is a yearly, November  challenge in which people around the globe attempt to write a 50,000-word-minimum rough draft of a novel. 

As the founder and current organizers of NaNoWriMo explain, the challenge's aim is to help a writer, or wanna-be writer, achieve their goals. 

I tried to “win” NaNoWriMo 4 or 5 times between 2009 and 2019. Life circumstances always intervened, and I never got more than 1/2-way to the 50,000-word mark.

As a result, I was elated last year to write 50,000+ words and to wear the “2020 NaNoWriMo Winner” t-shirt I bought as an incentive. 

I wasn’t planning to participate in NaNoWriMo this year. Although I love the concept itself and the intense focus on writing it requires, I have two large projects I’m also more than ready to spend some time on.

But two weeks ago I was struck with a strong desire to accept the challenge again this year. I decided to step away from this blog and, for the most part, from social media for the entire month of November in order to free up the time and energy needed for writing, on average, 1667 words per day. 

With that decision, I felt as if a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I have a love-hate relationship with social media, and my hope is that this quasi-break will give me the opportunity to step back and consider how (or even if) I want to utilize it again when December 1 arrives.

I hope that if you don’t already, you’ll visit, “like”, and “follow” my Facebook author page (Patti Miinch), where I will be posting 5-6 days each week. I’ll be sharing information that will (hopefully) inspire, inform, and entertain you along with NaNoWriMo updates. 

If you think you have a novel inside of you, there’s still time to sign up for NaNoWriMo 2021. Find out more at  NaNoWriMo.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

No Facebook or Instagram or WhatsApp -- Oh My!

Facebook was down for six hours last Monday and again for a couple of hours several days later. Unsurprisingly, reactions to the outages were mixed.

There were the inevitable conspiracy claims; more than a few skeptics claimed that the outages Monday were linked to a now-famous whistleblower’s impending Congressional testimony. The popular theory was that Facebook folks were spending those six hours frantically erasing all evidence. Of what, I’m not quite sure.

Responses from the more “mainstream” folks ranged from frantic “OMG i cant blieve fb was down it was horrible!” to “the outages were great — too bad they weren’t permanent”. 

My own ambivalence to the outages was just what what I needed to decide in favor of something I’d been casually considering for a few weeks: a partial social media hiatus.

Moving forward, I plan to post on my newsfeed sparingly at best -- for prayer requests or information for extended family or personal friends only as absolutely necessary. I’ll be using my professional/author page (PattiMiinch) for everything else.

So while, according to news sources, “millions” of people around the globe found the eight hours sans Facebook to be a horrible experience that significantly impacted their lives in a negative way, I consider it beneficial. 

What about you? Did the outage really affect you? Did it give you food for thought about your own relationship with and usage of social media? Share your thoughts via a comment. 

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Why I Write

Last week, an author shared on social media that they received an email from a new fan. It wasn’t an “Oh, I discovered your book and loved it; I am going to buy every one you have ever written or will write in my lifetime” missive. Instead, it was an “I bought your book at the dollar store and loved it” message.

The author stated that he/she was “miffed” and didn’t know if they should be offended because that’s all the public thinks his/her book is worth and other thoughts along those lines. 

I responded that it all depends on an author’s motivation for writing in the first place. Others responded with similar comments, but there were a few people who said they would be miffed as well and that they would not be happy if their hard work was not valued any more than that. 

After reading that discussion, I thought I’d share here why I have chosen to be in the “writing business” (as a teacher and later professor of composition, as a paid columnist, as a free-lance writer, as the author of a textbook for which I receive no royalties on any sales, as a blogger, and now as an as-yet-unpublished novelist) since graduating from college just over 40 years ago.

First, I write because I am absolutely passionate about the craft of writing. I could expound on this for pages, but in short, I absolutely love (and I use that word intentionally) every aspect of writing prose of almost any kind.

Second, I’ve always know that whatever writing skills and talent I have come from God. I’ve never thought otherwise. But it wasn’t until fairly recently that I realized that my love for the craft was not accidental; instead, it was instilled by Him as well. As a result, it would be wrong (the Bible clearly says so) not to follow that strong pull and/or to not utilize those gifts. 

That’s it. That’s why I write.

You may have noticed I didn’t mention that I write in order to be published or to earn money.

Oh, I hope to someday have a book published and to maybe have a little “fun money” as a result, but do I expect either to happen? Not really. I don’t even think about that. 

I write because I can't not write

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Let's Get Real About Fictional Characters

This is a work of fiction. Unless otherwise indicated, all the names, characters, events, and incidents in this book are the product of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Unless you’ve never read a fiction book or you’re one of those people who don’t read anything before page 1, you’ve read this disclaimer before. The legal folks kept on retainer by publishers require such notices, and justifiably so. I mean, we live in a culture where people file lawsuits (and win!!) because the hot coffee they ordered at a fast food drive-through was, well, hot!

But I digress. Back to every published novelist’s emphatic denial that they have -- to even the slightest degree -- based any of their fictional characters on a person they know or have observed.

I’m calling “bull” on the whole disclaimer. 

As Solomon so wisely said, “there is nothing new under the sun”. And, of course, that applies to fictional characters. Given the time and background information needed, I’m confident you and I could successfully play a fictional-character version of “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon”. In other words, I am sure we could analyze the traits of every novel's characters and trace them back to the “actual person(s)” encountered in real life by the very first author who “created” such a character. 

I’ll even be so bold as to claim that, if authors were completely honest (or connected to lie detector machines that zapped them with every falsehood), they would confess that the similarities between their novel’s mean-spirited protagonist and their snippy sister-in-law are not exactly “coincidental”, either.

I’ve never been a trendsetter, but I’m willing to be one. To that end, here’s the disclaimer you’ll find just before the opening chapter in my first book:

This is a work of fiction. The legal team of XYZ Publishing requires that I state that unless otherwise indicated, all the names, characters, events, and incidents in this book are the product of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. 

There. I've stated it. But the truth is that every single character, event, and incident in the book you’re about to read has at least an inkling of a person, event, or incident I’ve witnessed in real life. 

If you love a character and recognize yourself in him/her, thank you for being part of my life. If you’re offended because you recognize yourself in a less-than-positive character, well . . . 

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Fact or Fiction?

Other than short stories and a novel written in 5th grade that has long since disappeared, the writing I’ve done throughout my life has been nonfiction. In grade school and high school, it was summaries, reports and essays; in college and grad school, my writing time was consumed by essays, research papers, and my thesis.

As a high school English teacher and later a college professor, I spent countless hours writing lessons plans, student guides, worksheets, assignment sheets, quizzes and tests, notes and memos, and reports required by administrators. All of it — every single text — was non-fiction. Not a single short story or novel in the mix.

When I retired three years ago, I decided it was time to resurrect my longtime dream of writing a novel. My children were raised, my free time was no longer consumed with grading essays, and it was my time to write.

With two storylines in mind, I attended several well-respected writing conferences, where I was able to pitch my ideas to a few agents and even an editor or two. 

All but one were encouraging. But when they asked about my writing background and learned about my nonfiction writing experience, they urged me to write a nonfiction book instead.

Their position was that nonfiction offers a greater chance for a new author to be published. And though several gently tip-toed around it, one very bluntly stated that at my age, I didn’t really have the time for the longer learning-curve I would face as a fiction writer.

And so, I’m ashamed to admit, instead of making a decision between fiction and nonfiction and then forging ahead, I’ve done nothing.

But 2021 has been a year of doing things and even of abandoning comfort zones, I’ve decided that I’m done sitting around dithering.

And so, on September 1st, I began writing a book that I hope you’ll some day be able to find in your local book store or on amazon. 

But where? In fiction . . . or nonfiction? Hmmmm . . . 

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

One Big Change

A friend recently mentioned that she couldn’t believe it had been almost seven years since she committed to giving up sugar for an entire year and, in a show of support, I gave up soft drinks.

Our conversation moved on to other things. But over the next several days, my mind kept wandering back to what she had said.

Giving up soda for an entire year had been an invigorating challenge, and I’d been surprised at how much fun I’d had sticking to my commitment. The more I thought about it, the more appealing I found the idea of doing something similar in 2022. 

I began compiling a list of ideas as they occurred to me. Just for fun, of course. 

And then it happened. While riding my Villager trike on a path alongside the Meramec River last Sunday, I suddenly decided to do it. To commit to a significant life change for 2022.

I don’t know yet what it will be. No matter what I commit to, I’ll share it here closer to the end of 2021. 

Until then, I hope you’ll offer ideas of things I could either do every day or not do at all for an entire year. Possibilities that have already occurred to me include walking 5 miles, eating 7 servings of fruits & veggies, knitting 4 rows of a current project, not breaking the speed limit, and abstaining from all chocolate. Also on my list is discarding (donating, selling, or throwing away) one possession every day.   

So . . . share your suggestions via a comment below!  What big change do you suggest I commit to in 2022?

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Just a Girl and Her Trike

After returning from my van-camping adventure, I turned my attention to my “100 List” of things to accomplish or experience. I read my list and stopped at #47.  There it was! Something that would be both fun and good for me. 

It was time to buy a bike! 

But not a traditional bike. You know the type: 2 wheels; multiple speeds; horribly-uncomfortable seat. Not that sort of bike. 

I rode one of those until about 7 years ago, when a minor health issue made that problematic. I sold my bike then, resigned to never checking off #47: participate in a multi-day bike-riding event/tour.

Enter my friend Laura! A long-time triathlete, she mentioned to me this past winter that issues stemming from a major (automobile-driver caused) accident had led her to trade her traditional racing bike for a recumbent trike. Between her glowing testimonial and my subsequent research, I realized that a recumbent trike offered me the opportunity to ride a bike again and eventually check off #47.

Armed with stimulus money I hadn’t yet spent at small businesses and funds from my precious savings, I visited my favorite bike shop back home. Within an hour, I was the proud and excited owner of a neon green-yellow (looks better than it sounds) Catrike Villager. 

I’ve been riding my Villager on bike trails every weekend for a month now. It’s wonderful to be active and outside in the gorgeous sunshine. 

I hope that you make opportunities in these dog days of summer to get outside and enjoy the beauty of the world around  you!

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Lesson Learned From the Olympics

Over the past 12 days, I’ve watched countless young men and women from around the globe who have achieved their dream to compete in the Olympics. The realization of that dream has allowed them to pursue yet another dream — to stand on a platform, wearing a medal-adorned ribbon around their neck and clutching a bouquet as their nation's anthem is played. 

The eyes of people from all over the world are on the 3 individuals (or teams) on that platform. Some will continue to be in the limelight when they return home. Most will, no doubt, be interviewed by at least local news media, and some will sign lucrative endorsement deals, appear on national television programs, etc.

But for every athlete standing on the podium, there are many others who have worked equally hard and made equal or greater sacrifice only to fall short of winning a medal. 

In fact, the vast majority of the athletes competing in Tokyo receive little, if any, media attention while at the Games and none upon their return home. There will be no public accolades, no deals, no appearances on shows like Dancing With the Stars. 

As I’ve watched the Olympics, I’ve paid special attention to those athletes who have been to the Games before and not yet won a medal and to the athletes who are considered huge long-shots to step onto the podium and receive a coveted medal.

I’ve watched them, back there behind the favorites, positioned at the edge of the television screen, as they adjust their goggles or stretch their hamstrings or raise up and down on their toes in anticipation. 

They’ve come so far — literally and figuratively — to pursue a dream. They’ve sacrificed and sweat and struggled and worked unbelievably hard, knowing their dream of winning an Olympic medal will almost surely never happen. They've done it for a myriad of reasons that we will never know.

They've pursued their dream even when the odds were stacked against them and it would have been so much easier to simply give up. To stop dreaming.

And they've done it all without fanfare.

How can you or I do any less?

How can we sit on the couch, scrolling through social media posts or watching hours of mindless television when our dreams go unfulfilled?

Nobody is paying any attention to us or knows what our dreams are. Nobody will know if we achieve them or fail to even try.

That’s all the more reason for each one of us to get out there and pursue our dreams.

As John Wooden said,  “The true test of a man's character is what he does when no one is watching.”

Get out there. Pursue your dreams.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Question Answered

Confession #1:

    When I decided to boldly ask God for clear direction as to whether He wanted 

    me to continue writing in some “official” capacity (see "Fish or Cut Bait"), I had

    a hope that I didn’t dare articulate to myself, much less share with anyone else.

    I hoped that God would speak to me — that He would answer me audibly. That I 

    would hear His voice. 

Don't scoff. Over the years, very credible people have shared with me that God spoke to them -- literally -- and I’m not going to discount their claims. If you believe (as I do) in God and in the truth of the Bible, including all His actions documented there, why would you doubt that He can and even does speak to people today? 

God did not speak to me in that way, though. 

As I waited, I kept an open mind. By the time I decided to ask God for clear direction, I had gotten to the point where I was truly ambivalent about continuing to write anything at all.

I was completely open to God saying it’s time to put the writing aside; in fact, I knew my life would be easier and my to-do list shorter if He did. I had even begun imagining what I could do with the free time that would result! 

Even though I didn’t hear God speak directly over the last 5-6 weeks, I felt a consistent, increasingly-strong pull to continue writing. 

Then, about 8 days ago, the idea for a project presented itself. It simply felt “right”, and I’ve begun taking baby steps to lay its foundation. 

But some things are going to have to change in my life in order for me to continue working on the project. As a result, over the next days and weeks, I’ll be prayerfully considering what those changes will entail. 

Confession #2:

    Although I’m feeling excited and energized by my recommitment to the writing 

    journey, I don’t really care where the it leads. Instead, this former planner-

    extraordanaire is overjoyed to simply take one step at a time and let Someone

    else handle the rest

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Standing in a Corner, Adult-Style

In the past month or so, two acquaintances and one friend have shared with me that they haven’t dared to dream — to look beyond getting through their current situation — for several years.

Each time I was told this, my reaction was the same:

I nodded in understanding

My heart broke a bit for the speaker

I made a note to pray that he/she would some day dream again

A naughty child told to stand in the corner and not turn around can only see their current environment consisting of very small portions of two walls as they come to meet in a 90-degree angle. Similarly, an adult in very difficult circumstances often can only see his or her immediate situation — whatever crisis they’re in the midst of. 

Just as the child in the corner is devastated and very possibly even angered by being forced to stand in a corner, the adult who can see only devastation, injustice, etc., feels pain, helplessness, and perhaps even anger.

Fifteen years ago, I may have scoffed at that comparison, but life has taught me its truth.

So how does an adult who can’t see beyond their difficult circumstances gain a broader perspective and begin to dream again?

There is no one answer to that question.

Just as what puts an individual into such a dark and despairing state of mind can vary wildly, so does what it might take for him or her to see beyond the present, feel glimmers of hope, and take even a single tentative step toward dreaming of a better future. 

I’ve been thinking about dreams quite a bit these past few weeks; a dear friend and I are completing a “book study” on the topic. We’ve talked about what holds us back from dreaming, we’ve each been developing a list of possible dreams, and this week we’ll begin looking at those dreams more closely.

If you haven’t thought about your own dreams for awhile, or if your life circumstances have caused you to put your dreams on hold, I hope you’ll find some time this week to dream, to consider what you want your life to include, what endeavors you want to pursue, and what adventures you want to embark on.

Dream. Dream big, my friend!

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

The Divine Adventure Awaits YOU!

“Discipline” brings to mind thoughts of punishment — the revoking of privileges perhaps or the administration of some negative consequence.  

But as Rebecca Friedlander explains in her recently-published book The Divine Adventure (BakerBooks 2021), Spiritual Disciplines have nothing to do with Godly punishment. On the contrary, they are practices by which a Christian can grow spiritually and “unlock a life of wonder, passion, and flourishing faith”. There is no hard-and-fast list of Spiritual Disciplines; articles/books typically include 8-18 specific practices.

In The Divine Adventure, readers are treated to a discussion of 12 disciplines such as obedience, prayer, community, forgiveness, sacred rest, fasting, pilgrimage, etc. Those new to spiritual practices will appreciate the well-written, clear explanation of each practice. Even those familiar — and even implementing in their own life — the Spiritual Disciplines will find this book insightful.

Each chapter addresses one practice, with Friedlander weaving together Scripture, her own experiences, and ancient texts to explain what the discipline is (as well as, in some cases, what it is not), how it has traditionally been practiced, and how its practice has impacted her own life and/or that of others. 

Each chapter ends with opportunities for active involvement on the part of the reader. Several “Your Turn” questions allow the reader to reflect on how a particular practice has played out in his or her life, how it might be incorporated going forward, etc. In “Spiritual Practices”, Friedlander provides an activity/exercise by which the reader can begin to practice that spiritual discipline. The questions and activities at the end of the chapters are not at all intimidating; rather, they are thoughtful and insightful, gently allowing the reader to contemplate that practice’s influence on their life and begin to implement it more intentionally.

Friedlander brings a much-welcome voice that is all too often missing from the conversation about spiritual disciplines.  Rather than a dry discussion of a rule-oriented set of steps, Friedlander presents the practices as tools to be incorporated into the routine of life. She readily admits that it may not be easy to find the time or energy to do that, but her warm, engaging style encourages the reader as they do so and offers helpful, practical suggestions.

At the risk of nit-picking, there is one aspect of the book that gives me pause. In the “Notes” at the end of the book, there are several citations for wikipedia, which is not a credible or reliable source. . Additionally, the information found in the wikipedia articles cited could easily have been found from sources that are credible and reliable (it took me less than 5 minutes to do just that). The inclusion of wikipedia-sourced information in a book on such an impactful, scholarly, and spiritually-impactful topic is unfortunate and concerning. 

That said, The Divine Adventure, provides a wonderful discussion of the modern-day practice of 12 Spiritual Disciplines and would be a great resource for both individual and group study.

I'm so excited to be able to share with one reader a free copy of The Divine Adventure by Rebecca Friedlander. To be entered into a drawing for a copy of this book, please do each of the following before midnight on Wednesday, July 14:

1. On social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc) post a comment in which you:  a. ask your friends to visit and read this post

         b. include a link to this blog post

         c. Tag at least 3 friends

**you must do all 3 things

2. Post via a comment below a link (the URL) to your social media post

A drawing will be held on Thursday, July 15, and the winner will be announced. 

I received 2 free copies of this book from the publisher so that I could read this book and provide an honest review *and* host a give-away of one copy.