What To Do First?

don_t_panic_buttonWhen facing a big project with many different facets, what do you do first? I’m big on making a general priorities list with very few details. I find the details become apparent as I go thru the project. (Same philosophy I have when writing a story.)

Soon I will start a yearlong adventure traveling across the country in an RV. As the plans for this adventure were first put together, there were many things to consider.  Then as the plans were being made a surprise was injected into the plans that made it possible to start a year earlier than planned.

So now we must hurry up and decide:

  • What to do with all the things we no longer need or have space for.
  • Getting the financial side of living set up.
  • What about the pets – can we take them with us?

And now, we wait for things to progress so we can leave. The biggest thing to be done is to sell our house. A house we truly love – it has been like living in a park for the last 8 years. As we wait for the buyer to find our house, the pressure builds to move on. But this waiting time has given us a chance to emotionally come to grips with moving from our house and selling off most of our possessions. And now we are looking forward to this adventure.

One of the questions that required a great deal of discussion was how can I continue to write while we travel. Details have been worked out and I’m seeing the future with a lot more time to write. Maybe I will be able to get busy on all the editing that is waiting for me. I hope to publish a couple more of my novels, pursue publishing some of my children stories, along with some freelance writing.

As I discussed my plans with my husband, partner in this adventure, he wondered aloud if I was allowing time for exploring our new surroundings. I laughed and said I was expecting to have more fodder for my stories.

So back to my original question, what to do first.

The Day Everything Changed in My Life

imageFlag Day. June 14 – a significant day in my life. It’s the day my first son was born – I became a mother. This event has changed and shaped everything in my life since that moment.

You are never really prepared to be a mother, even if you have read the best books, had an excellent role model, and babysat until you know everything about children. But then you have your own, and everything goes out the window.

I’m sure someone told me that every child has a unique personality, but I didn’t listen. After all, I was the eldest of four children and had practically raised my siblings. Sheesh! I was such an idiot to think I knew how to be a mother.

The learning started a few minutes before the nurse handed me my precious child to feed for the first time. The nurse took a few seconds to explain what to do and told me to relax. Like that’s going to happen! It’s my first child. A multitude of questions popped into my head at that moment as I gazed on that small bundle lying so still. What if I do something wrong, will he be scarred for life?

The nurse laid the child in my arms, and immediately he began to cry. I looked up in a panic, but the nurse was totally unaware he was crying. She was helping me get ready to nurse my baby. I watched as the bundle began to twist and turn. Soon an arm and foot were out of the blanket and flapping around. The nurse smiles and encourages me to try feeding him.

Feed him? He was practically turned over in my arms. Tears formed in my eyes as I tried to smile thinking, “I’m a failure as a mother!” The nurse patted my shoulder and made a couple of magical waves of her hands, and my baby was snuggled back into his blanket.

So life as a mother began. Being a mother isn’t for weak people. Also, it is best to have a partner to make the job easier. Having a partner gives you someone to turn to when your perfect child becomes an absolute monster turning your dryer into a hiding place for the cat. Which by the way, cats don’t mind being put in the dryer as long as it’s not turned on. Turn the dryer on and between the bumping and howling you fear it has become demon possessed.

Single moms (and dads) have their work cut out for them. If you should ever wonder why they are always tired, the answer is found when you look at their child and see he is growing, healthy, and happy.

A child can drain you of energy, test your emotional well-being, and cause you to question your sanity almost every day. But when the child is sleeping on your shoulder or runs across a room as fast as their little legs can carry them to give you a jelly covered kiss, you realize this is about as good as it gets.

To my first born son, happy birthday and thanks for giving me so much.

Say Something Nice Day

SocksJune 1, “Say Something Nice Day.”  When my sons were young there were times when they would get on each others’ nerves, bickering, fighting, and, in general, just being ugly to each other. At those times, I would make them sit at the kitchen table and say something nice about each other. It has to be a real comment about what they liked about that person and could not be repeated from one brother to the next – it had to be an original thought about something nice in the other person.

On a particularly trying day, I had the three boys sitting at the table. They were so upset with each other they could hardly stand being so close together. They knew the drill and would not be allowed to leave the kitchen table until everyone had said something nice about the others. We began the process. It was slow, but the first brother got through it, and things lightened up ever so slightly.

Then the next brother said to youngest brother, “I like your socks.”

Reply, “They’re yours.”

“I know, that’s why I like them.”

Sometimes finding something nice to say comes down to the socks, but there is always something nice to be said. Celebrate today.

No Place Quite Like Palo Duro

centipedeOne of my favorite places to camp is Palo Duro Canyon. I have some fun memories of the park from the times my family would tent camp in the canyon. Once we were sitting at the campsite table talking and laughing when my husband hushed everyone. We sat listening and heard the rustling of leaves. We looked under the table and saw what was making the noise. It was a centipede taking a morning walk. It was longer than a clothespin and about the size of nickel around. It was the first time I ever heard an insect walking.

10 Things about Palo Duro Canyon:

  1. Second largest canyon in the US at over 120 miles long, the park is 70 miles long, average width 6 miles – up to 20 miles wide in places – depth is 800’.
  2. Palo Duro is Spanish for “hard stick.”
  3. Nickname Grand Canyon of Texas
  4. Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River is the river that carves the canyon.
  5. Some the geological formations in the canyon include mesas, caves, and hoodoos (rock balanced atop a smaller base).
  6. First human habitation 10,000-15,000 years ago with the Clovis and Folsom peoples and has been continuously inhabited since then. First Europeans to discover the canyon were part of the Coronado Expedition in 1541.
  7. The park was built utilizing the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) – took five years.
  8. Park covers 28,000 acres, second largest park in Texas.
  9. Using the canyon as a backdrop, the Texas Outdoor Musical has been running for 50 years.
  10. Painter Georgia O’Keeffe described the canyon as, “It is a burning, seething cauldron, filled with dramatic light and color.”

The inspiration for my story Canyon Riddle came from this place. If you get the opportunity to visit this amazing place, take it!

The Not Fun Part of Writing

Blank Page with Pen 572x600The secret of getting ahead is getting started.  Mark Twain

Writing is so much more than putting down the story, which for me is the easy part. The story just flows and it is fun to write. My mind fills with characters and plots as my fingers fly across the keyboard. Once completed, I feel exhilarated. Now comes the hard part – editing.

I have been editing my second book for publication at a snail’s pace. The marked up draft sits there mocking me as I say, “I’ll work on you tomorrow” and laughing at me as I walk by too busy to work on it.

Two other stories are sitting nearby gathering dust and waiting for my attention. At this point, they have remained silent, but I expect any day to hear their murmuring complaints.

Slowing my editing progress is the new stories that keep trying to come out. The new story’s characters march across my mind developing their personalities and whispering things they would like to do. Then out of nowhere comes a plot line that needs to be jotted down for future use, which leads to doing a quick bit of research to confirm that the plot line is even doable.

“Stop the editing!” The new story demands, “Write, now!” Sigh. Editing continues to wait.

When I die, there will be stacks of stories that have never seen the light day because they lack editing.  I tell myself that at least the stories will have been written, and maybe someone will pick up the story and do the editing. But will it still be my story if I’m not there to direct the editing? Sigh. Another story plot just popped into my head.

I would welcome hearing from other writers about how you get and stay motivated to edit.

Were You Born in a Barn?

barn with sunflowerWhat is the craziest thing your mother or dad ever said to you? As you read the sentence above a memory came into your mind. It may have been something your parent said all the time or a once-in-a-lifetime event. For me, it was when my mother looked at me and asked, “Were you born in a barn?”

I was about ten, going on twenty, and acting like a three-year-old. I had been sent to pick green beans in the garden, but I wanted to play with the neighborhood kids. Pleading my case that I would pick the beans when I got back was of no use. My mom wanted to can the beans now. She worked outside the home, and this was one of her few days off.

So I picked up my bucket, tromped out to the garden, furious that I had to do this right now. It was a large backyard garden with about a ten rows of green beans. On that day, the rows looked like there were a mile long each. The reality was they were about thirty feet long. Typically the job would take less than an hour, but today, I felt sure it would take all morning and my friends would be having fun while I slaved away.

Pouting I began picking, and with each bean, I got more upset. I glared at the back door and finally sat down in the middle of the row on the soft, moist soil. I sat there picking at the dirt and throwing dirt clots at the bees that were working the garden.

Slowly I finished the chore and carried my bucket into the house. My mother took one look at me covered in dirt and mud with the back door hanging open and asked, “Were you born in a barn? You’re a mess. The door is open. Where are your shoes?”

I stood there with my bucket and thought, “You don’t know where I was born? Weren’t you there?”

She took the bucket, sent me to the bathroom with a promise that I would be cleaning up the floor where I tracked in mud. Looking into the full bucket, she smiled and said, “You did a great job picking the beans.”

Through all of these garden chore episodes (or maybe because of them), I have a love of gardening and the ability to laugh at myself. And, no I wasn’t born in a barn.

Dot-to-Dot

dot-to-dot-ragged

Storytelling is ultimately a creative act of pattern recognition. Through characters, plot, and setting, a writer creates places where previously invisible truths become visible. Or the storyteller posits a series of dots that the reader can connect. Douglas Coupland

I was raised in a family of storytellers and never thought of a story as a dot-to-dot, but there seems to be some truth to this quote by Douglas Coupland, novelist, designer, and artist.

When I write a story I follow a formula of if this happens what is the logical thing to happen next – one thought leading to the next. Imagining a conversation between characters with their quirks and writing it can be a challenge. But by taking one sentence (sometimes one word) and then thinking about what is the logical response, I develop a conversation.

To write an action scene, it the same thing. If this happens what happens next. Even in the world of fantasy, there are rules by which the imaginary world works. Using these rules to formulate what happens next, keeps the story moving and holds the scene together.

So are authors really dot-to-dot creators?

Superpower for Everyone

SuperHeros-shutterstock_225400357-500x486I was recently asked, “What is your superpower?”

I scratched my head and said, “I don’t have a superpower.”

The person smiled and replied, “If you did have a superpower what would it be?”

Again, I looked dumbfounded and said, “Superpower? No idea!” And then I turned the question back to them and asked, “What superpower do you think I have?”

The person laughed and then said, “You are the Super Supporter.”

“Super Supporter! That’s not a superpower.”

Without a pause, the person said, “Superpowers provide us with abilities to help others in unexpected ways. And you are one of the greatest supporters I know.”

A couple of days have passed since that conversation, and I haven’t been able to shake it. I am a little overwhelmed that someone would consider me a super anything much less a super supporter. Not being modest just surprised.

The dictionary meaning of a supporter is a person who approves of and encourages someone or something (typically a public figure, a movement or party, or policy). Some of the synonyms are champion, advocate, backer, defender, crusader, apologist, ally, and helper.

How does this definition show itself? When thinking of the characteristics of a supporter, I think of a cheerleader.

Some years ago I read the book, “What Happens When Women Pray” in which the author, Evelyn Christenson, compares supporters to the crowd that would sit in the balcony of a theater many years ago. These balcony people would cheer loudly for the good guy and give boisterous boos when bad things happen. This same rowdy group would call out warnings when danger was near. It is hard to imagine a better picture of a supporter.

Over the years, I have worked hard to encourage those around me. I not only look for something good in everyone but try to express it to them. When criticism is necessary, I try to make it not a personal attack but an attack on an action or event that is wrong. I try to be a balcony person.

My supporters have helped make me who I am today. I have been blessed to have many supporters come (and go) in my life. They provide me encouragement to tackle new projects, challenge me to see life from different perspectives, and keep me going when I want to cry.

“Super Supporter” is a superpower we all have inside of us; the question is if we use it.

Holiday Here, Holiday There, Everyday a Holiday

chocolate-covered-cherry-dayWhat the world needs is more holidays, or at least, it appears there is such a need based on the number of holidays that have been thought up. There are several websites dedicated to unusual holidays. At Days of the Year we are reminded to celebrate Old Stuff Day (March 2), or Cheese Doodle Day (March 5), or False Teeth Day (March 9) or Day of Awesomeness (March 10). The list goes on and on. Looks like we have a reason to celebrate every day.

Think about that for a moment – a reason to celebrate every day. When I was growing up, I was taught to celebrate every day because it could be your last. The implication was our days are precious and limited, don’t waste them. So now we have holidays for every day to remind us to celebrate something today.

I am in favor of celebrations but some of the holidays are a little silly – Underwear Day (August 5) or Moldy Cheese Day (October 9). Then there are others that can be reminders of what is important and we need to celebrate. Such as Middle Child’s Day (August 12), Make Your Dream Come True Day (January 13), or Hug a Plumber Day (April 25).

For me, I’m looking forward to celebrating Chocolate-Covered Cherry Day (January 3), Tell a Story Day (April 27), and Sangria Day (December 20), there are so many reasons to celebrate. Which days are you going to celebrate?

How Are You Measured?

Exceptional RatingDoctors measure all sorts of health related things – weight, blood pressure, etc. These measures are based on tests and scales, pretty well accepted across the board as a good way to measure our health.

Employers measure your effectiveness with performance reviews. Questions are raised to the validity these reviews due to the subjective nature of the measures.

Schools measure your ability to learn with various tests. Arguments abound that these tests are not a good way to measure a student, but none the less, tests are used to measure learning.

The government measures your ability to pay taxes, through your ability to pay taxes – sales, income, property, social security, etc. In theory, the more we can afford, the more we pay. With good tax planning, our tax liability can be reduced so it isn’t an effective way of measuring our financial capabilities.

But a measure that always makes me smile is the LinkedIn measure of my business profile. I’m an “All Star,” which is the highest ranking. Does this mean I’m someone that everyone should want to get to know and learn my secrets to becoming an “All Star”? Not really. The only reason I’m an “All Star” is that I have gone thru the hoops to provide information, posts, and befriending people. I’m not necessarily an outstanding person; however, based on this measure everyone should be clamoring for the opportunity to be one of my followers. (Hysterical laughing taking place as I write this.)

What if my profile is only “Advanced”; does that mean I’m a lesser person than the “All Star?” Or, heaven forbid, if my profile is found to be only “Intermediate.” Who wants to be a connection to someone who is only an “intermediate?”

We all forgive a “Novice” after all, they are still learning and will be looking for an “All Star” to follow – like me.