5 Ways I am Preparing for NaNoWriMo

I am super excited for National Novel Writing Month, starting in less than a week.  I have never tried anything like this before, and I am hoping for, nay, demanding my success.  I know not everyone finishes, and most people end up with work that will require major editing, but I am still remaining hopeful as I prepare.

There are a lot of articles out there right now, teaching people how to prepare for NaNoWriMo.  They talk about time management, outlining, story planning, all sorts of funny little details.  Some of these I am listening to, but not all of them.  After all, they won’t all work for everyone. Here are five things I am doing to prepare.

1. Have a plan.

I am getting ready for this, and I am trying to do this properly.  I know the story I am going to write.  I have an outline, with some scene details where I have them ready.  I am not going in blind, I am planning to follow a map.

2. Schedule writing time.

Life can get busy.  If the writing time is not respected everyday, the words will not be written.   They always tell you if you are trying to workout, write it in your schedule like an appointment.  Just like anything else, you promise to be there, and you show up.  My writing will be the same way; I am making an appointment for my writing time, and I intend to keep it.

3. Clean up.

To get all of my writing done this month, I will need to be focused.  So, the next week will need to be spent cleaning out the other projects on my list.  Beta reading, homework; anything I can get ahead on I need to do, so that I can have the time I need later.

4. Anticipate issues.

You can’t necessarily fix everything, in either the story or your life.  I can however look at my life in the next few weeks and see what will make things easier.  I know when my kids will be out of school, and when I have appointments.  Those times will not be a free pass to goof off and not get my writing done.  Instead, I can look at those moments and plan around them, not letting myself waste anytime.

5. Write!

No matter what I do, the only thing that will get me through NaNoWriMo will be sitting down and writing.  I can plan everything, anticipate everything, but if I do not actually do the writing, it is all for nothing.  By this time next week, I plan to be neck deep in a story, bringing it out, and hopefully making it mean something.

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5 Banned Books to Read

I had a pin on my purse for a time, that read “I read banned books.”  One day, while driving in the car my twelve year old daughter asked me what it meant.

Now, Big One is generally a smart kid.  She gets good grades, reads almost nonstop, and is planning on going to Oxford one day.  The pin seemed straight forward enough, with very basic words.  I wasn’t sure what was confusing her, since I know she is smart.  The fact that she was asking genuinely confused me because I had no idea what could be tripping her up.

First thing I did was make sure she knew what banned meant.  She knew of course; she understood what every word in the pin meant, but she couldn’t figure it out.  The idea that a book could be banned was so far out of her range of thought she could’t understand.  Why would anyone ban a book?  How could someone do that?

We had a long talk about it, but I loved that my daughter found books so essential to life that she could not comprehend a book being taken away from her.

I LOVE banned books.  I hate that people feel the need to ban them, but I love reading them.  It is a little nerdy rebellion anyone can do.  I know I am a little behind, as Banned Book Week was technically last week, but here are five books I think are worth breaking the ban and reading.  Enjoy your little rebellion, and break some rules, the smart way.

(Small note, I have only included banned books I have actually read on this list.  There are many more to read and some of them might be even better than the ones I list here.  Take a chance and enjoy every rebellious moment.)

1.The Scarlet Letter  by Nathaniel Hawthorne

I originally read this book in high school as part of an assignment.  I found this to be oddly empowering; a woman in 1850 having a child on her own and taking all of the criticism.  There was no blame placed on the father, in spite of the biological need for two people to create a child.  It was horrible, the skewed way she was treated, so differently from how the men were treated.  As a high school student, growing up surrounded by that same double standard, it effected me.  I saw how she was treated and I hated it.  Apparently, when it was banned, there was feelings that they handled the situation poorly.  They should have been more remorseful, Hester Prynne should have been treated worse, and at one point it was considered to be pornographic.  Whatever the bad, I have fond memories of this book.

2. Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

Come on, who doesn’t love this book?  It is fun and crazy and honest to the emotional feelings of a small child.  It is hard to figure out how to deal with your emotions at times when you are an adult, let alone when you are still growing and developing.  Unfortunately, that was part of the problem.  Some thought this book was a little too dark for children and disliked the honesty of a child being that angry at their parents.

3. His Dark Materials Trilogy by Phillip Pullman

This makes the list mostly because I am currently reading it, and was not aware it was a banned book.  I am only halfway through and have been enjoying it.  There is a mix of religion, science, and witchcraft all in the middle of dimension jumping and war.  It is engaging and in some ways completely believable.  Religion has been at the center of many wars, and there is no reason not to believe it would not be at the center of at least a few fictional wars.  And sorry to the very religious people in this world, but lets be honest, the religious groups are not always on the right side of the war.  However, the work was seen as an attack on religion, and was confirmed as at least partially true by the author.

4.Where’s Waldo by Martin Hanford

Where’s Waldo was a book I deeply wanted when I was a child.  I’m not sure why, but these were considered the absolute height of coolness in my Elementary school.  If you had one of these books, you were amazing.  There was just so much stuff to find, not only Waldo, but other things as well.  Apparently these other things were the problem.

5. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

While not banned in the completely traditional way this boot makes the list for a couple of reasons.  First, I did like the book and the movie is currently sitting on my shelf waiting for me to have some time to watch it.  Secondly, this book was recently banned, just within the last week.  It has not been banned on a national level, just within a school district and only for the middle schools in that area as far as I know.  The worst part of this banning?  I can sort of agree.  I am not for censorship in general, but I have a middle school child.  Big One is in seventh grade, and is interested in several books which I have refused to let her read due to a sexual element.  She is smart, and she could probably handle it, but she is still a little young to be thinking about those topics.  Maybe it is because in my Mom brain she will never think of things like that.  In a couple of years, yes, I will let her read it.  I am not banning it forever, but just for now, in the same way the school district is banning the book.  This is not a banned book per say, simply a book that is being saved for those who are within the proper age range.

Five Things About My Brother

I am a part of a large family; there are eight of us, six boys and two girls.  We are all a bit spread out in age, with the oldest born in Oct of 1969, and me born in the same month of 1982.  My sister is third in line, giving us nine years in between.  Growing up, I spent much of my time with my brothers which made it all the more difficult when we lost a brother five years ago.

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1. Saying goodbye sucks.

Let’s just be honest.  Goodbye is not the best thing to say unless it is to someone unpleasant.  Saying goodbye to someone you love, sucks.  Saying goodbye, knowing you won’t see them again in this life, is one of the most difficult things you can do.  It more than sucks.  I’m not sure I know a word strong enough to express the horrible feeling this brings.

2. Time passes, but it still doesn’t feel real.

The first time I went home after he was gone, I kept looking around, waiting for him to arrive.  I knew technically he wasn’t going to come, but I couldn’t help but feel upset and angry that he hadn’t taken the time to come and see me.  I mean, I live on the other side of the world.  I traveled that far and he couldn’t make it across town?  I know he isn’t going to call or come over, but when my family gets together, I can’t help but look around helplessly.  We are no longer complete, and he needs to stop messing around and get over to see us.

3.  He is still my brother.

I’ve met several people who have lost siblings.  Some people choose to refer to their lost sibling in the past tense saying, ‘I had a brother.’  For me, he is still my brother.  Our numbers may have been reduced, but it is not as if he never existed.  I still have 7 siblings, one sister and six brothers.  That doesn’t go away as far as I am concerned.

4.  The anger stays.

I know dying was not his fault.  Heart troubles run in my family, and there was nothing he could have done.  It doesn’t mean I wasn’t angry at him for leaving.  Leaving is easy; being the one left behind is difficult.  You would think after five years I wouldn’t still be angry.  I still am.  Part of the anger comes from my own guilt, wishing I could have done something different.  I might not have been able to save his life, but did I show him often enough that he was important?  Could I have been a better sister when I had the chance?  I’ll never know now because he left, and I can’t forgive him for that. 

5. It’s not okay.

No matter how long it has been, it doesn’t suddenly become okay.  I’m not fine with him being gone, and I am certainly not over it.  I may get used to the new truth, and feel a little less pain when I think about him, but I don’t decide that it is okay.  It’s not and it never will be.

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When people hear about me losing my brother, they usually say, ‘I’m sorry’ or maybe try to give me a lecture on God and the afterlife.  I’m not sure what the afterlife may bring, or if I will ever see him again in any life.  All I know for certain is if there is another life, and I see him again, he better be waiting with an apology for leaving first, and his homemade strawberry cheesecake cookies (or white chocolate macadamia nut, and maybe a few peanut butter) and a huge vanilla latte.  He knows my drink, and the only excuse he has for leaving us early is getting a good table.

Miss you every day big brother.

 

 

Five Things About the Zoo

I love going to the zoo with my kids.  There are people who think we’re a little nuts for how often we go to the zoo.  It’s not always the same zoo, at least not anymore, but we are still at the zoo at least once every couple of months.  Many times when we travel for vacation we will visit the local zoo, but not always.  We did hit up the zoo in Edinburgh recently, but we skipped zoos in Amsterdam, London, and almost everywhere we’ve been in Germany.  Not sure why.

Last weekend we made another trip to a zoo, driving two and a half hours to see Burgers Zoo in the Netherlands.  (If you’re counting, yes that makes two zoos this month.)  Between the zoo and homework I got a little behind posting, but the trip was definitely worth it. 

 

1) The animal variation can be fun.

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I’ll be honest, I don’t even remember what this guy is.  We saw him at a zoo near Eindhoven in the Netherlands, and he made me happy.  There was a cool structure of logs that allowed him to climb from his pen area across a walkway to a tree and another pen space.  He just looked so relaxed up there.

Every zoo has a different mix of animals.  Most of the zoos I have visited in the USA have the same animals; lion, tiger, giraffe, zebra, and a variety of monkeys and birds.  It’s not that there aren’t ever any other animals, it’s just usually within the same range, depending on the size of the zoo.  Zoos in other countries have animals that almost seem normal to me.  In Okinawa we saw deer and horses.  In several of the European zoos we have seen raccoons.  None of these seem like ‘zoo’ animals to me, but it is fun to think of how different the world is.  Animals that seem common place to me are actually exotic in other areas of the world.

2) There are still some animals I have never seen.

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This little guy came from the Edinburgh zoo.  I had never seen a koala before.  I know koalas can be a little vicious when provoked, but they look so cute and cuddly.  It was amazing to see them being cared for.  A few weeks earlier I had seen a sloth for the first time in Antwerp, and fell in love with him.

I was a bit disappointed to discover that while Edinburgh had panda bears, they were by appointment only and we were not able to see them.  I technically understood; as a couple they were attempting to breed, it is understandable that they would want to keep them from being too harassed.  I realized, while I have seen many pandas in photographs, I’m not sure I have ever seen one in real life.  It can be shocking how familiar I am with something I have never encountered.

3) Zoos almost always have sunshine, shade, and a little bit of a relaxing walk.

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While at Burgers zoo, we happened to be there just in time to see them letting these guys inside to get some shade and cool air.  We had just gone around the corner from spotting a gorilla munching on leaves and arrived at the larger viewing area.  There were four or five Mama’s with babies clinging to either the front or back, all walking towards the door (another cool thing I had never seen before).  As they walked in, the big silverback stood guard.  He watched them go in, looked around as though checking to see if anyone was missing, and then went in himself.

A little while later we made it just in time to see reindeer running over to eat.  Last year we happened upon a mama deer giving birth in the zoo (which freaked out Little One, as she was afraid for a few minutes she might poop out a baby one day).  Walking around the zoo, you get to relax, see fun moments of animal life you might not have been expecting.  

4) Some zoos are depressing.

No, there is no picture for this.  It’s not that I haven’t been to small, depressing zoos because I have.  I’ve seen the pens where the animals can hardly move.  I’ve seen animals that simply lay there, as though they don’t have the will to even try to go anywhere.  These zoos break my heart because this is not how animals are meant to live.  When I go to the zoo, I want to see a small slice of how their life might be in the wild, not see creatures in small cages.  No one wants to see those pictures.

I’m not an animal rights activist, but there are some zoos that I don’t go to.  I know some need the money more than others.  Some of these zoos would get more space if they were able.  But some zoos just don’t care for their animals as they should.  They don’t give them the space and freedom they need or they kill off surplus animals.  I might not be able to change that, but I also will not support them.

5) Many zoos also serve as animal rescue centers.

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Many zoos keep a wide variety of animals that need a little help for survival.  Edinburgh has a large number of endangered animals, kept in nice pens where they can be protected, studied, and possibly breed.  A wonderful zoo near Eindhoven has a large bear rescue center, where bears are nursed back to health and cared for.  Some of these bears come from abusive performance acts, such as the circus. 

Most of the time, the bad aspects of the zoo make the news, such as small cages and limited movement.  It is no where near often enough that the zoos that are charging a viewing fee to help fund animal rescue efforts get the spotlight.  It is important to remember, that not all zoos are created equal and boycotting all places that keep animals away from the wild can at times interfere with necessary animal preservation efforts.  A little research, and a person can have a fun day with the family, and help out animals at the same time.

Five Things About My Trip to Edinburgh

Well, I’m back everyone!  It  was a busy week, full of lots of fun, but of course as always, I am happy to be home.  Traveling is wonderful.  I love to see new places, experience new things, and learn something I didn’t know before.  But at the end of the day, I just want to sleep in my own bed, with my own oversized blanket and many extra pillows.  It is one of the many reasons I wish the Doctor would just pick me up for my vacations already; I can go anywhere I like, bring all of my clothing, sleep in my own bed, and never worry about having room in my suitcase to bring home souvenirs.

Today, I will keep it simple, and just share with you a few things from my trip.

 

1) I love Touristy Crap.

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I know, you are supposed to pretend you don’t want to see the ‘fake’ tourist stops, or buy anything from the shops aimed at the tourists with dirt cheap prices.  Screw that.  I love the touristy things.  Not only is it awesome to step into a shop that jokes about the cultural stereotypes, but you cannot beat the ‘everything is on sale’ prices.  I love when a culture is willing to make fun of themselves a little.  Scotland knows everyone thinks of kilts and Nessie, so they sell Nessie in a kilt.  It’s just knowing what people want and giving it to them.  The shops win in the end as they laughingly walk away with our money, finding our lack of exchange rate knowledge hilarious.

Its not just the shops I love.  I genuinely enjoy the tourist trap destinations.  I’m in Edinburgh for only a few days.  I can’t get to know the entire history, or the real everyday culture in a short time.  I know most people from the city most likely avoid the Royal Mile unless they work there.  I’m not trying to be a local, I am trying to see a place I never have before.  Tourist traps are designed to take your money, yes.  But they are also there to give you a small glimpse into a place, something that will make you want to come back another time.

2) I ate haggis and didn’t die.

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Technically I am Scottish, somewhere back in the line. Now enough time has passed that, up until this trip, we held a perfect balance of Scottish and American culture in my family.  My brothers occasionally will wear kilts (some of them anyway) but no one ever ate haggis.   Well, I decided I was going to do it.  I was Scottish, in Scotland, it was required.  I have no idea exactly what is in that picture (the menu said Haggis, Natties, and Mash with a Whiskey sauce), but I ate it all.  The orange stuff tasted kind of like cauliflower, the white was obviously potato, and the haggis itself wasn’t bad.  The flavor certainly didn’t tell the truth of what kind of meat goes in there, but the texture was not pleasant to me.  It seemed as if someone had cooked ground meat on the stove, like you would for tacos, and then stuck the cooked meat together in an attempt at meatloaf.  I’m glad I tried it, but I don’t think I ever will again.

Haggis definitely did not win my vote for best food I ate in Scotland.  I expected it to be fish and chips, something I shouldn’t eat, but love enough I eat like crazy when I travel, but it wasn’t even close.  Don’t get me wrong, there was good fish to be had, but my favorite meal was a quick snack we had at the Elephant House.  We stopped in for my Harry Potter obsessed Big One, and went to have a cup of tea.  We ended up there three times, and if we hadn’t needed to pack on our last day we might have ended up there again.  On the third trip, we were killing time before a tour, and getting a drink and snack.  A person behind me in line was eyeing the pastry case, which with my gluten problems I had mostly ignored.  She mentioned a blueberry coconut sponge cake and I may have involuntarily moaned that it sounded delicious.  When the kind staff informed me this it also happened to be gluten free, I instantly ordered a piece.  I might be willing to live in the Elephant House and eat that cake exclusively for a while.  It was quite possibly the most amazing thing I have ever eaten.  I’m pretty sure I will dream about that cake for years to come.

3) The entire city is uphill.

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Do you see that gorgeous view?  Yeah, I worked for that view, harder than I have ever worked before.  There were points walking around the city when I wasn’t sure I would ever recover.  By the end of the trip, I was absolutely certain my ancestors left Scotland because we were not built to travel on hills.   Or maybe that is just the lazy, out of shape, could live off of blueberry coconut sponge cake, modern American I am. As much as I loved the city, I may need to replace my feet now.

4) I took the tours.

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We took three walking tours while we were there, and honestly, I kind of wish we had taken more.  The first was a the guided tour of Edinburgh castle.  We didn’t want the audio tour, since there is something taken away from a family vacation when you are all listening to different parts of a tour with headphones in.  We happened to walk up just as a tour was leaving from the front, so we hopped along to hear a little about the castle as we went.  Let me tell, you it was awesome.  Not only was the guide funny, but I was enthralled with the history he shared.  Hearing a story about how 31 Scotsmen took back the castle in the dead of night, against a large English army was inspiring.  It was also cool to actually see the Stone of Destiny, and hear it’s history from someone who seemed to feel the connection personally. 

The second tour we took was the Potter Trail, a free tour put on by University students.  I didn’t expect to like the tour much.  I am a fan of Harry Potter, but not an obsessive fan the way Big One is.  We mostly took the tour because it was important to her, and in the end I loved it.  It was more than just the little stuff listed on the website.  Gemma was a charming guide, who laughed and joked as she shared stories, and was completely willing to geek out with all of us. 

Our final tour was a paid tour, again one I did because my husband thought the walking tour would be fun.  We were supposed to learn secrets of the Royal Mile, and it was amazing.  We had been walking around for two days already and didn’t realize how much we walked right past without ever knowing it was there.  She took us down the little alleyways, showed us the oldest walls in the city, walls that once surrounded the city.  There is a heart, made of bricks outside a cathedral, I had stepped on many times, never realizing it marked the site of an old prison.  The architecture I had looked at many times and simply thought to be pretty took on new meaning when she gave us the historical context.

In the end, the tours gave me a little taste of what the city used to be, and it is now.  I was left with a desire to learn more, and really, what else could they ask.

5) I want more.

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I watched the sunshine on the waters of Leith.  I walked along roads that had been soaked in history.  I drank my tea in the same room where much of Harry Potter was written.  I left Edinburgh feeling relaxed and inspired.  I’ve often told my husband I would like to retire to Scotland someday.  With every trip we take, I wish for that more and more. 

Five Things I Miss About Home

In spite of being born and raised in America, I haven’t lived there in a decade. 

Over these last ten years, there have been many things I have loved about living overseas.  My eight years in Okinawa were amazing and I would go back there is a heartbeat.  I’m fairly certain there is a part of my soul that now firmly belongs to the island.  Falling in love with Belgium has been shockingly quick.  It’s as though I was grieving for the loss of my overseas love and pushed myself to fall in love again right away.  But this isn’t just a rebound country; the kindness of the people, the unique character of the country has helped to build a solid foundation of love here.

While I have found so much to love about living overseas, there are times I miss being home in the USA.  There are just some things that you can’t find when you are away.

 

1) Family

The absolute worst thing about living in a foreign country is living away from family.  I might have picked up and left, but they stayed behind.  It can be years between visits, and due to the awkward time difference, months between phone calls.  At first I resisted Facebook, thinking it to be a trendy thing that would pass.  As soon as I realized how easy it would be to stay in touch with people this way, and know what was going on in their lives even when we couldn’t talk, I was converted.  I honestly would have to say that social media saved my sanity while living overseas by putting me back in touch with my family.

 

2) Holidays

Independence day has just passed for the USA, and I did nothing.  Well, not nothing.  My husband joined up with the Air Force, and we moved all over the place.  But you know.  No barbeque, no fireworks; none of the traditional celebrations.  Why?  Because the closest place to celebrate that way for us was at least an hour drive and no one wanted to make the trip, dodge the traffic, fight large crowds, and get back superiorly late at night.  The hassle of not having a celebration close by means we must make a choice.  Either we celebrate the traditional way, or we make it a low key holiday at home.  We’ve had quite a few low key holidays at home.

Of course, when it comes time to travel to Germany for the Christmas markets, I am really happy to be overseas for the holidays.

3) Shopping

Of course there is shopping all around the world.  I’m not complaining about there being no where to shop.  The complaint is in the ease of shopping.  There are always going to be things I simply can’t get anywhere else.  Some of these things are from the USA, others are now things I wish I could buy from Okinawa, and I am sure when I leave here there will be things I deeply miss from Belgium.  The biggest challenge is the translation of ingredients in food.  I have a gluten intolerance, which means I have to read what is in my food carefully for my health.  Checking labels that are in another language is not an easy task when you do not speak the language.  Some are easily labeled, and some have multiple languages written on them.  Some are just me taking a chance as to whether or not it will work out.  It’s a risk, and it’s not always one I enjoy taking.

4) Fast Food

There are very few fast food restaurants here in Belgium, at least that I have seen.  In many ways, this is a great thing.  We can’t as easily just pick up dinner instead of cooking a healthy meal, meaning our healthy eating habits have improved since moving here.  However, when I am exhausted at the end of the day and just DO NOT want to cook, I hate that I still need to make something.  When we are on the road, or having an incredibly busy day, I hate that we can’t just pull over anywhere and have a quick bite before diving back in.  The lack of fast food restaurants is great for our health, but horrible for my convenience.

5) Family

I know, I already said family.  This one is hard enough it deserves to be said twice.  I’m fortunate enough to have an awesome set of siblings, and a mother who is AMAZING, as well as the coolest nieces and nephews.  Everyday I am apart from them is heartbreaking.  I know living in another country is a great opportunity for myself and my daughters, but I hate that the price is time with my family.

 

So now, I have to ask.  What is your favorite part about your home?

FIve Things About Summer

One week into summer, and it is already easy to feel overwhelmed.  To think that once upon a time I thought of this time as relaxing.  I’m not sure what I was ever thinking!

Well, alright, I know what I was thinking.  I was thinking I had no responsibilities, and having the summer off meant hanging out with my friends, lounging in my pajamas all day, and only doing what I wanted to do.  If my summers were still like that, I might be much more relaxed.

1) Summer is in, my school is not out.

The children are out of school, but I am not.  I received one week when there was a lapse between the class I had finished and the next one I needed to start, but I am back in with no breaks until Christmas.  That is both the joy and the torture of the continuous program; I don’t need to take multiple classes at once, but I am always in school.  Luckily my children are used to this, having watched Mama go to school for a few years now, and they are understanding of my need to complete homework.

2) A child’s lazy day and an adult lazy day are not the same.

If I were to have a lazy day, I would wake up early.  It wouldn’t be on purpose, but mostly out of habit.  I would drink my coffee slowly as I read a book or as I wrote on my own book.  Eventually I would get dressed, and maybe take the dog for a walk or go for a jog of my own.  I might spend a little time in front of my sewing machine, with a movie playing in the background.  I wouldn’t have a schedule, or anything I needed to worry about, I would just do whatever sounded like a good idea at the time.

When my kids have a lazy day, they want to stay in their pajamas.  Meals should consist of popcorn or ice cream, with maybe a pizza thrown in for their version of a healthy meal.  They would pull out art supplies or toys, and not clean anything up.  They would later go to bed, without showers and without cleaning anything in the house.

My lazy day is about having no schedule; their lazy day is about having no cleaning or healthy food.

3) Vacations are not relaxing for the one who is planning them.

In one week my family and I leave on a three day vacation to Edinburgh.  Everyone else gets to be excited as they ask me, “So what are we doing when we get there?”  I was looking forward to this much more before it became reality.   Now I am just tired from a vacation that hasn’t even started.

4) Houses stay less clean when there are more people in them.

When my children were in school everyday, there was forty hours a week where it was just me and the dog.  Most of the house wasn’t even used during that time, just my work area, the kitchen and occasionally the living room.  Now, everyone is running through every room in the house.

I may not have a clean floor again until August.

5) I miss warm weather.

I lived in Okinawa Japan for eight years, a wonderfully hot and humid tropical island where you were never truly that far from a beach.  While it is nice to have more relaxed weather, and I am thrilled to have the rain in my garden, I am ready for some summer heat.  I want to be warm enough that I want to stand in front of a fan and never leave.  I have always preferred to be hot rather than cold.  It’s just my way.

 

Well, that is all for today, but please come back tomorrow when I join the blog tour, My Writing Process.  I haven’t had a lot of opportunity to interact with other bloggers yet, but I am hoping to move forward to a new period.  I’d like to get to know others better and branch out more.  What better way to get to know people than by being willing to share who I am with you?

A Very Special Five Things

Today is a day to celebrate.   We have just entered summer, and I am posting my 100th post since I began blogging.  I have to be honest, I haven’t grown numbers as fast as I wanted to but I hope I am growing quality.  I’d like to think I am beginning to find a bit of a rhythm to my postings, and writing better pieces than when I first started.

It seemed like today’s posting should be something special.  Falling on a Sunday, meant it would be a five things posting, and of course it would have to be unique or personal.  The thought ran through my head of doing 100 things, one for each posting.  When I was done laughing, I decided I needed something I could actually do without feeling like I was going insane.  Finally I honed in on one theme I could use.  Fear.

Fear is something that seems to be at the heart of us all.  Everyone is afraid of something.  When I am reading or writing, I tend to look at that fear and see it in the actions the characters make.  The characters who feel real factor their fears into their actions, even if it is not always obvious.  They jump on horrible relationships because they don’t want to be alone, or avoid relationships because they have been hurt.   They run because they are afraid of what is chasing them, or hide because they are afraid of being found.  They smile because they are afraid to cry.

Our fears move us through life.  Sometimes they stop us, and other times we keep moving and pushing through.  They are personal because they have power over us.  What better way to make a post having meaning, than to open up and share my fears?

 

1) Birds

When I was twelve years old, I saw Alfred Hitchcock’s movie, The Birds.  Within a few weeks, an angry bird flew at me, swiping through my hair and just missing my head.  I knew then that birds are evil.  You might think I am a little crazy with this one, but it is a fact that birds are mean.  Ducks bite, geese chase people down, and we do not even want to get into the cruelty brought on by feelings of inadequacy in large flightless birds such as ostriches. They stare at you with their beady little eyes, plotting to kill you with their shockingly sharp beaks and claws.

This is a fear I think I deal with well.  In spite of my knowledge that birds do in fact get angry and attack, I try not to let this fear be passed down to my children.  We do the bird feedings, and we even enjoyed a park in Okinawa where you stand next to 4 1/2 foot tall birds who chase you down hoping you have bird food.  I survived, but I know the truth.  Birds are evil.

2)Public Speaking

I know this is weak.  Almost everyone is afraid to speak in public.  It doesn’t change the fact that it is hard for me.  I stand in front of people, my heart pounding so loud I can hear it as it vibrates my ears.  My mind goes blank, and I completely forget everything I was going to say.  I always carefully go over my speech, rehearsing it over and over again, but it never matters.  The entire thing goes right out the window as soon as I have to stand in front of a crowd.

3) Standing Still

I don’t have an actual fear of standing still.  In truth, I can be quite lazy on occasion, almost completely motionless until I am forced into movement.  I’m not afraid of physically standing still, I am afraid of metaphorically standing still.  I am afraid of never changing, never growing, never becoming more than I am right now.  It’s not that who I am isn’t fine, it’s that I want to do more.  I want to be more.  I want to keep moving, and not solidify.  I fear missing my opportunities, and staying exactly as I am, with no new chances, for the rest of my life.  I like where I am, but another 50 or 60 years of this would get old.  I have so much time to fill, and I don’t want it to all be the same.

4) Failure

Again this is something everyone almost everyone shares.  It is easier to not take a chance than to risk the humiliation of failure.  As it is, I work on my writing, and I dream of publication, sharing this dream with a group of strangers, but I barely speak about it to people I see in real life.  I  know that there is a chance of failure, even if there is a part of me that believes I can do this.  The odds are against me, and I know it.  It is bad enough to fail, but I can’t tell everyone I am trying and have them know I failed.

There is a strange intimacy in the anonymity of the internet however.  I can tell you all about my hopes and dreams because I might never have to look you in the face.  I may never have to see the look in your eyes as you pity me for my hopeless, failed dreams.  It lets me share in a way that is essential, and for that, I must thank you.

5) Smallness

Again, not literal smallness.  I like puppies, babies, and those tiny espresso cups.  I fear never growing into anything more than I am now.  I always wanted to be someone important, and I know there are people who see me that way.  I have children, a husband, and a dog, who all look to me as a part of their lives.  I live a normal life, and there is not necessarily anything small about that.  The world needs normal people as much as anyone else.  But I am building my own life, and I want to be able to look out at the life I have built and know that I have made it large, engaging, and interesting.  I want to know that I have done everything I possibly could with my life.

 

Alright, there is my personal moment.  I’m hoping a few of you will take the plunge and share something personal with me as well.  Tell me, what are you afraid of?

Five Things About Fathers

I wasn’t close to my father.

I know this is the part where people expect me to whine about how hard my life was since Daddy didn’t love me enough.  Honestly, I didn’t really notice the absence at first, it simply was what it was.  There was a period of my life where I hated him for who he wasn’t, but I got over it, and it went back to the reality  that he simply wasn’t the person I wanted him to be, and that was okay.

It doesn’t mean that not having my father in my life did not affect me at all.  Not having a father makes me want my daughters to have a good Daddy.  I don’t want them to have a point in their life where they wonder if they are simply unlovable, I want them to always know they are awesome.  I am lucky enough to have a husband who is not always perfect, but is a fantastic father.

1) A  Good Father is a Father.

I know, this is the silly one that should be obvious.  It is easy to make a child, but it is much harder to be a part of a child’s life.  This isn’t about a genetic connection, it is about an emotional connection.   It is about caring, and wanting to be there, even when you can’t.  No one is perfect, but a good father takes the role seriously.  Maybe he sometimes buys the wrong toy, but he still knows what is important for his children and tries to make sure it happens.

2) A Good Father makes his kids laugh.

There is nothing quite as nice as a laughing child (unless they are loudly laughing in your ear while you try to work, but that is another thing).  A dad who knows his kids knows all the things that make them smile, from the stupid knock-knock joke, to the Harry Potter reference, to the ritual pulling of the finger.  Just when he thinks he knows everyway to make his child laugh, he finds something new, not because he became funnier, but because he was trying.

3) A Good Father makes his kids cry.

Now calm down, I’m not talking about anything crazy.  Sometimes kids want things that don’t need or shouldn’t have.  A good father knows that when this happens, his kids might cry, or whine, or pout, and he has to let them.  There is more to learn from disappointment than there is to learn from getting everything you want.

4) A Good Father is strong.

When those tears start flowing, whatever the reason, the good father needs to be strong.  If they are crying to get their way, you can’t give in.  If they are crying because they are hurt, you need to be there for them  before you are allowed to break down yourself.  The needs of the child come first when they are crying, and a father needs to be strong enough to know how to deal with the tears.

5) A Good Father loves, always.

Kids mess up.  Sometimes it’s a mess on the wall, sometimes it’s staying out past curfew, or bad grades.  No matter what, a child needs to know that they are loved and they have a place to come home.  Love for your child should be unconditional; even when the conditions change, the love remains.

Five Things About Reading

I have been on a little bit of a non-reading mode for about a week. It is not something that happens to me often, but occasionally I just cannot find a book that I am into enough to want to keep reading. It is incredibly hard when this happens, as reading has been so much a part of my life since first grade. I almost don’t know what to do when I do not have a good book to read.

1) Even in a non-reading mode, I still finished two books.

When I say I am not reading, it generally means one of two things. Either I am not reading for pleasure, typically because I am reading a lot for school, or I just don’t have a book I am really excited about. More often than not I am reading something that I do not want to put down. It doesn’t have to be a best-seller; I can get just as excited about a poorly written cookie cutter romance. As long as I want to know what happens or how it will happen, I will keep reading.

For this hiatus, I read two midgrade books from the library. It wasn’t something I chose for pleasure, but chosen for research into what makes a midgrade novel work. It is a writing age I feel has great potential for many reasons, and one I may want to spend some time writing for. Reading novels from there give me a little more insight into the possibilities. They were good enough, but it was definitely research, not pleasure reading.

2) I never cry when reading, and have never had a ‘book boyfriend.’

I’m not sure why I don’t cry over books. I cry over enough other things in life, maybe I just don’t have any tears left. My emotional involvement with books is typically limited to getting angry when the book gets it wrong. I like to think I am understanding of creative differences, and the potential for making different choices, but sometimes it’s hard not to HATE what the author chose to do.

As far as having a special fictional character be someone I claim as my own? I’m not sure why I don’t do that. I guess I fall in love with the way the characters are together, whether they are in a relationship or just working together. Inserting myself in there changes the characters and how they interact. I can’t have a book boyfriend because they wouldn’t be the same person with me as they are on their own.

3) I occasionally crave books, much like other people crave food.

Every now and again I have a deep craving for a rice krispy treat. It’s not for any one thing, such as the marshmallow, or the cereal, or the sweetness. It’s for the entire sensory experience. I want the stickiness, the crunch, the flavor, all combined together in just that one special way.

Books are the same for me. It might be a strong desire to read a specific book I have read many times in the past, it might be a desire for something new, or something from a specific genre. Whatever the craving, I want the book that fills that need. I read it obsessively until I have no more pages to turn. I look for another book that might be similar. Sometimes I just go back to page one. I do everything I can to get that book feeling, until I finally feel at peace.

4) There are stories from my childhood that I remember, but cannot remember what the book was called.

There is a book, I want to say I read it in fourth grade, about a group of girls who play baseball together. One of the girls is new, and drives a wedge in between the friends, leaving one of them out in the cold. I remember at one point she gets half of the team to tie dye their jerseys, and there was probably a few other things. I remember these little details so well, but I cannot for the life of me remember the title of the book. I want to remember; there are so many details I have forgotten that I would love to learn again.

It’s not just one book, sometimes it is details I can remember without a full context of a story. I know I once read about a girl who had really long hair. As long as she didn’t tell a lie, her parents wouldn’t make her cut it. One day, bullying got out of hand, and someone cut a large chunk from the back of her hair. She lied to her parents about knowing who did it because she already had to cut her hair now.

Some book out there had a new girl getting all of the others to listen to her because she had a four color pen and had created an exclusive club where the girls ate lunch together.

I really want to know what these books are. Maybe I am remember parts of books that went together, and I just forgot. There are so many books that influenced who I became. It wasn’t because of the special message of the book; it was because they kept me reading. I wish I could remember because I would like to see them again. Remembering is a way of thanking them.

5) I deeply miss the used bookstore I went to as a child.

The other large factor in my life with books was the used bookstore my mother used to take me to. We never had much money when I was younger. Reading for us was a combination of library books and used books. My mother used to work on weekends at the store, just for a few hours here and there, to earn our book money. Some of the time I would go with her. I would clean the books, and place stickers on for pricing. Whenever I could, I would spend my ‘working’ time in the nook of juvenile books. That section would probably be split into midgrade and young adult now, but I really didn’t care what it was called. I could browse the books for hours under the guise of organizing. It was probably the most satisfying job I have ever had in my life, including the fact that it paid in used books.

I can’t be the only person out there with a strong memory tied to my books? What is the strongest reading memory you have?