Thursday, April 10, 2014

More Thoughts About Art


                I love when a theme runs through my life for a short time.  The subject at the moment is art.  As I wrote last week, I believe we all have creativity residing inside of us that if we are to express it in some form, life will be that much richer.  Well, Friday evening I read excerpts from a Julia Cameron book about children and creativity.  Here is a quote I especially liked.  “The act of making art is both scary and healing.  Art brings light to places that have remained dark.  Art brings perspective.  Making art, at any level, is an act of courage and an expression of faith” Location 495. 

                When my husband deployed to Iraq, the day after he left I went to a number of stores.  Once I came home, I draped red, white, and blue fabric in an alcove above the television.  I placed a number of 4th of July decorations on top of the fabric.  The display was very artist and soothed my soul.  Years later, when my oldest child left for BASIC training, I knew I would miss him terribly.  I removed all the items from his room.  With the help of my daughter, we redecorated the room with two new colors, a horse border, a painted tree and clouds.  The room is darling and helped me get through the first couple of weeks.  Because of my artistic projects, I was able to transition easier to the changes in my life.  Art is very healing and keeps the darkness away from me.

                Art education is very important for children.  “If schools do not, in general, foster creativity, then the responsibility falls on the parent to find these opportunities.  If art classes are not offered at our children’s schools, then we must find or create opportunities for our children to explore the arts” Location 403.  I want to take that even a step further.  We need to create fun art for them within the home.  Now, I cringe when my children want to paint.  I want everything to be tidy and perfect.  Over the years, I have worked very hard at letting them paint anyway.  I have spent hundreds of dollars finding new creative projects to attempt.  Of the three children, I have tried to teach two of them to crochet.  I have printed hundreds of coloring pages.  Lately, my youngest has found sites on the internet showing her how to draw her favorite characters.  And I praise every effort they make even if it makes me wonder what they are attempting.  We have been fortunate to have a good art education in our schools, but the teachers can’t teach it all.  I have built on their education to show my children how they can continue to learn and explore all areas of art: writing, music, cooking, drawing, pottery, painting, crocheting, and other areas.

                I also model the creative process at home with both successes and failures.  “As parents, we have a responsibility to model imperfection, especially if we are adept in an area that interests our child” Location 308.  I do this all the time.  My kids know I am not the best at anything I do and that is awesome.  This gives them the freedom to be an amateur.  “Amateurism-which translates to “for love”-is a wonderful goal as we urge our children not to be perfect, but to explore creative outlets for pleasure and for pleasure along, without the pressure of someone else’s “perfect” performance as the only worthy goal” Location 323.  My kids, husband, and friends still tease me about our pink house.  I was tired of having a drab colored house to come home to everyday after work.  I wanted a fun, unique color.  Boy did I get it.  I swear the chip looked like brown with a tinge of purple.  Coming home one evening after a day of work, the sun touched the garage wall in just the right light, pink.  My house was pink!  Failure.

Now, I do strive to do a good job on every task I accomplish.  I do not strive for perfectionism any longer.  “Perfectionism is not a quest for the best-it is the pursuit of the worst in ourselves, the part that tells us we will never be good enough.  Perfection is egotism parading as virtue” Location 338.  Wow, that quote says a lot.  I also believe that when I strive to be perfect, I end up being a blocked artist.  Instead, I try to laugh at my flaws in all I do.  Now granted, I struggle with my flaws in the area of writing because I want to be great.  I want the world to read my work.  However, the other side of me will be happy if all I write for are my children.  I leave my career up to God, though I move ever forward.  But when it comes to my artistic hobbies of gardening, painting, crocheting, and the like, I smile at the imperfection of it all and enjoy the process.

                In the book, Julia wanted the reader to reflect on this unfinished statement, “If I didn’t have to do it perfectly, I would try ________” Location 343.  I have been putting off a couple of projects.  So this summer I will try making stepping stones, wooden quilt squares, wine or mead, and barbed wire art.  If you didn’t have to do it perfectly, what would you try?

Friday, April 4, 2014

Art Participation


                On Monday, a college student stopped by the house.  He asked me to edit a paper he had due for educational psychology.  About twenty years ago, I took the same type of class.  I forgot how fired up I can still get when discussing education.  I only taught for three years, but my passion still resides in my heart.  The topic of the paper was art.

                I believe our education system does a disservice to the discipline of any form of art: writing, music, painting, welding, and the list can go on.  Through all my years of art class and music, I was never taught how I can express the creativity in these areas for the remainder of my life outside the classroom.  Granted, I listen to music and sing in the church congregation, but I never learned the ability to play on my own or with a band.  I watched my son go through band and his teacher taught them to do just that.  In fact, one of my son’s classmates is excited for when he goes to college so the two of them can start playing their gigs again.  With my daughter, I am helping her learn by the instructor I hired.  She will soon be playing guitar for our church.  Hopefully both my children will continue on with music more then I have.

                Growing up, I always felt like a failure at art.  My entire educational career, I only once felt like I created something beautiful and that was a project we did with lines.  I actually received an A and it looked better then all my classmates.  Thus, when friends of mine comment that I am an artist, I laugh.  Not me.  I did horrible in art class.  Yet, if I am honest with myself, I am very artistic in interior design, gardening, and crafting.  Unfortunately, we are not taught to appreciate, succeed, or grow in these areas through the education system.  How did I reach my success?  I have watched hours of design and gardening shows on the Home and Garden network.  (I am sad to say that I don’t like the programming as much in the last five years.  They have turned to huge construction projects or buying and selling.  I like the easy programming that an amateur like myself can complete.)  They gave me the courage to try the work on my own.  I have had some whopping failures, but through those failures I have learned and grown. 

                Hum, that is another lesson I wish was taught.  We need to learn how to fail.  When I was young, I stopped participating in what I failed at or was mediocre at even if I loved the task.  I stopped playing basketball and volleyball because I was not athletic enough to make the teams.  I also feared criticism because I grew up with the impression that everything has to be perfect or it shouldn’t even be attempted.  Why do we have to be good/perfect at something to continue studying and participating in that activity/sport?

                The answer is we don’t have to be good.  I look around my house at the painting I have accomplished.  I see a lot of flaws.  I won’t be an interior design professional, but it will continue to be a major hobby.  Some people in my life delight in pointing out the flaws.  I either ignore them or make the statement that I saved a chunk of cash because I did it myself and had fun.  I also pity those people because they will never know the joy of accomplishing a project and seeing how they become better at the work as times goes by.  Other people compliment me.  I appreciate these people tremendously.  They are positive and see the value in the process.

                I have worked at teaching my children the value of attempting tasks and having a blast even if they are not very good.  Will my daughter play college softball?  I don’t know nor care.  I care that she plays on the city team when she is forty.  Will my son become the next Louis Armstrong?  It doesn’t matter.  I do want to hear him play when I am sixty.  Will my oldest become the next Bobby Flay?  Who cares?  I just want him to continue to enjoy his passion even if he burns a dish. 

Life is about the creative journey.  What is your passion?  Go out and participate!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Reflecting


                In my eternal study of the best way to forward my career, the other day I came across a statement.  The blogger commented, that as an author, the best practice of blogging is to stay away from all topics dealing with religion and politics.  Their logic was sound in that a writer doesn’t want to alienate their potential readers due to differences of philosophy in these areas.  Of course, after reading this, I have felt the urge to write about faith issues.  Will I push potential readers away?  Maybe.  But if my readers want to know who the real me is, they will discover that I am a Catholic Christian.  I love my faith because it has molded me and continues to help me grow as a caring person of all mankind. Am I perfect, heavens no!  I am also a conservative republican, but I try to appreciate other viewpoints because that is what makes our country great. 

Earlier today, I ran across this quote.  “Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.”  Cyril Connolly.  I am going to break the rule many writers follow and talk about faith to write for myself.

 

Being a writer and being Lisa, I reflect on my actions and the actions of others both in the present and past.  I also analyze where I have been, where I am at, and where I would like to be in my faith, life, relationships, and career.  During Lent, I do this even more due to the nature of the season.  Here is a quote I came across in my readings earlier this month.

 

“Some people think worst of me than I am, others better.  But Jesus knows what I’m up to – good or bad.  And he loves me.

If maligned (slandered, badmouthed) for doing right, I can take courage.  The Lord knows the truth.

                                If I get credit for things I don’t deserve, I must take heed.  The Lord knows the truth.

                Either way, I’m safest with the Lord.  He knows me better than anyone, and I know he knows.  No need to fake it.  And he loves me more than anyone.”

 

                As I stated, I reflect a lot.  I rehash the same negative scenes over and over wondering how I could have acted better.  I especially look at the relationships in my past that have failed in one way or another.  I contemplate my part and the other person’s.  Depending on my mood, I will either blame myself or justify myself.  In reality, it took both me and the other person to fail at the relationship.  This season, I specifically reflected on one bad association when I came across this quote.  I know because of the falling out “people think worse of me.”  But God loves me.  I know some of the people involved have gossiped about me either telling the truth or not.  God however knows the truth.  I am sure with some people I get all the credit for the situation being bad.  God knows.  I remain in the safety of my loving father.  He and I both know I am far from perfect.  I don’t have to fake it and he accepts me warts and all.

                Since I read and prayed over the quote, I have been at peace.  At some point, I believe I will repeat the scenes in my mind once again.  As a writer, the emotions are what makes for good stories.  However, I know the truth in that I have a constant companion in my journey that keeps me safe.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Hating March


                I wrote this post eleven days ago.  I usually let my posts rest for a day before editing them and putting them up on the blog.  I never accomplished this task because my body went into pain mode of a pretty big flare-up.  I would love to say that I have handled the set back with grace, but alas, I became pretty grumpy by this past weekend.  Yesterday, I actually woke up with about five hours’ worth of energy.  We will see how today is going.  I am counting down the days in March.  Seven!!!  Of course, I will struggle a little in April, but not as much.

 

The last couple of years I have developed a hatred for the month of March.  Last year when I realized I dreaded the inevitable coming of the third month, I wondered why.  I mean, I love spring.  March, many times, brings warmer weather, birds, and shoots of green.  In fact, this afternoon on my way to the mailbox, I saw sprouts emerging from my poppy.  All of this should bring me joy.  I love to garden and I can begin my work when the temps are in their forties: raking, trimming, and cleaning.  Yet, the end of April rolls around and I find I haven’t done a thing and am already behind in the gardening curve.

                Tonight I worked on my second load of dishes for the day.  I have not had an ounce of energy for the past four days and I was determined to get the four days worth of dishes done.  I was also determined to get my bed made which I normally do every day but haven’t accomplished since about Monday.  Yes, I have been thankful that all the clouds rolling in through the valley haven’t caused me any pain, but it has caused my body fighting fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis, leaving me doing the bear minimums of taking care of my daughter.  Since I didn’t have to drive her anywhere, in between rest periods, I have worked on cleaning.  As my back growled at me for standing up too long and my hands enjoyed the warmth of the dish water, I watched more clouds roll into the valley from the west.  The reason for hating March dawned on me. 

                The change of weather causes me to ache and/or have no energy.  March is one of our most fluctuating times of the year and leaves me completely drained.  Now I need to take this knowledge and come up with a plan to make the month more enjoyable.  Hum, this is going to be a challenge.  How do you make a month enjoyable when your energy is completely drained?  How do you entertain yourself when you feel like a zombie?  I should work on my reading list so I can answer those crazy quizzes and get 90 of 100 instead of 36, kidding, as if I need more to read.  I have over 70 books on my list as it is. 

Anyway, I am glad I finally figured out the problem with March.  For the rest of the month, I will work at a better attitude and find the little pleasures as my body is buffeted by the changing barometric readings.  I will grasp my good days with abundant activity.  On the bad days, I will putter around the house while crocheting and reading.  Instead of fighting the inevitable, I will embrace the journey.

Is there a month you struggle with?  How do you get through the rough spots?

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Cabin Fever


                My cat and I have a lot in common this week, cabin fever.  With all the ice, snow, and low temperatures, we have been staying in the house as much as possible.  She wanders around meowing to let us know of her discontent.  I kick her outside for a minute or two periodically throughout the day, but she isn’t getting her hunting, fresh air time. 
                Yesterday, I felt her pain.  I wandered around the house complaining about everything.  In fact, I wrote a long paragraph about all of the stuff I am tired of dealing with of late.  Today, I kicked myself out for a short time.  I almost fell on my butt in one parking lot from all the ice.  My vehicle slid in a couple of areas.  I am back in the house with the cat.  We have put white flags up in our corners.  Each of us dreams of spending significant amounts of time out in the sun.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Stepping Out


            Music floated across the stark landscape of a gray skyline, weathered gravestones, drifted snow, and frozen tundra.  A mahogany casket rested on a platform above the deep hole in the ground.  The only color displayed, amidst the mourners dressed in black, was that of the bright red tulips in the flower arrangement draped on the box.  As the notes to “Amazing Grace” ended, the minister’s voice spoke of my dear friend of thirty years.  I gazed across the white snow, being transported to the past. 

            We dreamed in the early days.  For Christmas, we received the music and scripts to our favorite play.  Within a few short months, we memorized all the songs and lines. 

             Kari wore denim jeans with the legs rolled up to mid-calf with a plain white button up blouse.  Her brown hair bobbed up and down in a ponytail with a red bandana holding it in place.  I scrambled down the hall after her in a matching outfit hoping not to bump into any of my classmates as I carried my guitar.  Mrs. Eckloft said our audition was right after school with no lollygagging.  At her classroom door, we deposited our books.  I pulled my instrument from the case as Kari opened the door.  Ignoring the students in the room, I strummed the first cords to “Hopelessly Devoted To You” as Kari belted out the lyrics.  After this song, I continued on to “There Are Worse Things I Can Do” while I sang solo as Rizzo. 

“Mrs. Eckloft,” Kari began her plea to produce the musical as I handed the drama teacher the scripts and music, “we have been working on all of this.  Mr. Sawyer says he can help with the music and he will give extra credit for the band kids who will play in the performance.  Mrs. Ludlow said her home economics classes can help with the costumes.”

Thirty minutes later we finished our presentation.  Mrs. Eckloft agreed to take on the project.  Our little community gave us a standing ovation at both performances.  We left high school ready to conquer the entertainment business on Broadway for Kari and on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry for myself. 

As we set out for college, we determined to conquer the world.  Reality struck.  Kari’s father died our freshman year causing her to run out of money.  She returned to our home town to help her mother.  First she worked as a waitress saving her tips for college only to use them when her car broke down or for a wedding dress.  Day after day she trudged through the daily tasks of working and raising children.  Her brown hair turned gray and wrinkles began to form.  We talked often.  She avoided conversations about our dreams.

I finished college with a degree in business.  I justified selling out my dream for the time being to learn how to handle the finances for a future band.  Instead of joining one, I also raised children and trudged to the office. I returned home and worked at the local bank.  Nashville remained in my thoughts but as yet I hadn’t traveled to the fabled city of country music.  The days blended together with small highlights of playing for church.  Raising my own children, I claimed no time to volunteer at the local theater or join a band. 

I watched a hawk fly overhead jolting me from my thoughts.  As the bird swooped down to land on a branch, I remembered my last conversation with Kari over coffee.

My dear friend sat across from me at our table in the back corner of the Java Hut.  She drank her tall vanilla latte as I drank a tall hazelnut latte.  Every Wednesday morning we met to talk about our kids and work.  Her dainty fingers pulled apart the cinnamon roll in front of her.  What happened to her?  In high school she wore all the latest fashions and sported trendy hairstyles.  As I gazed at her drab clothes and twenty year old hair style, I tried to see the actress within.  Instead, she matched the cloudy day.

“They actually put the bright purple sample against the portrait of their family.”  Kari worked in the craft store as a framer for all artwork that came into the store.  “It took me thirty minutes to convince the woman she needed to use a soft gray to keep the formality of the occasion.  Purple, my god, it would have been hideous.  There are days I would love to just quit and do something fun.”

“I have a great idea,” I interrupted, grabbing the opportunity.  “‘Grease’ is playing in the city next fall.  Tickets go on sale in a couple of weeks.   With all our kids out of the nest, let’s go.  It could be an awesome girl’s weekend for us.”

I watched as Kari’s shoulders stiffened.  A wall seemed to materialize between us.

“You know that I work on Sundays in the afternoon.”  She tugged on her grandma blouse.  “I don’t want to be rushed to get to work after staying up all night.”

“Listen to you.  You sound like you are eighty years old.  One tired afternoon would be worth the fun of seeing our play.  In fact, I was thinking it could springboard us into volunteering at the theater here in town.  I could run the music and you the stage.  It would be like old times.”

She laughed.  “Regretting your past lately?  I am too old for that stuff.”

“But Kari, you said you wanted to do something fun.”  Before I could continue, her cell phone rang.  The store called her in to help with something.  Or at least that was her excuse as she left without finishing her coffee. Five days later, she died in an icy car accident never stepping out to live her dream of being an actress. 

As the casket lowered, I realized that I regretted not doing more with my love of music.  I hadn’t been in a band for years.  I never tried to conquer Nashville, let alone go to visit.  Kari and I were artistic versions of Sandra Dee never stepping out on the ledge to grasp our Danny, our dream.

I hummed.  Those closest to me turned.  Softly the words spilled from my mouth.  Look at me, there has to be something more than what they see, Wholesome and pure, oh so scared and unsure, a poor man's Sandra Dee.”  I hummed the notes to continue the reprise when Sandy decides it is time to take her life to the cliff. 

A gust of wind picked up a patch of powdery snow twisting it up in the air to softly settle on the ground once more.  Taking a deep breath I belted out the last lines.  “Sandy, you must start anew, don't you know what you must do, Hold your head high, take a deep breath and sigh, Goodbye to Sandra Dee.”

I raced from the funeral to my home computer; I booked a flight to Tennessee.  A message of confirmation for the plane ticket joined the new message from a local band looking for a guitar player.  My audition was scheduled for later today.  I may not become the next Lorrie Morgan, like I dreamed in high school, but I would begin to live my dreams once again.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A Love/Hate Relationship: The Book Thief on Writing


                Some time last fall I went to the movie with my daughter.  I watched the previews and goose bumps formed when I heard about the story of a young girl called the Book Thief.  I presumed she stole/saved books during the reign of Hitler and his Nazi regime.  I noted the release date to put the movie on my to do list.  Alas, the movie didn’t come to our small community.  When I learned the story started out as book, “The Book Thief” went to the top of my reading list.  After the New Year, I began reading.

                Of all the books she stole, only one was saved from a book burning.  The author went beyond that typical assumption.  The first book she stole was due to carelessness on the owner’s part.  The book thief didn’t even know how to read at the time of the theft.  The story was truly amazing and I highly recommend it.  I wanted to share a couple of quotes.

                As all people know, war causes innumerable damage to the psyche of all involved.  Really, life in general causes damage.  As a writer, I delve into the suffering of characters.  Each time, a piece of me is left behind.  The other day, while working on a scene, I cried and cried.  I felt the pain of my character.  This quote resonated.  “’Don’t punish yourself,’ she heard her say again, but there would be punishment and pain, and there would be happiness, too.  That was writing” Zusak, Markus, “The Book Thief,” page 524.  To some extent, a writer does have to punish themselves.  I know I feel that way sometimes.  I take myself back to the heart wrenching feelings I have lived through to be able to write of similar emotions for my characters.  The process hurts.  Yet, happiness can be found.  I get to cheer on my character and feel their success.  I feel very happy when a reader understands the scene.

                The past two weeks, I have been in a painful time.  I am trying to write new stories and scenes but the words fail to flow from my thoughts, through my fingertips, and onto the page.  Each word falls flat and my ideas seem to be vague or cluttered.  “Words are so heavy, she thought, but as the night wore on, she was able to complete eleven pages” Zusak, Markus, “The Book Thief,” page 526.  In this quote, the book thief reads eleven pages which under the circumstances is an amazing feat.  In fact, comparing my writing life to the book is completely inadequate due to the heaviness of the topic; yet, the quotes are so all encompassing that they fit for a writing life.  Words can be very heavy.  They can bog down a scene and leave the writer at a loss on how to continue. 

                In January, I dropped my manuscript off with an editing friend.  This novel has lived with me for over sixteen years.  For the last five years, I have actively written, rewritten, edited, and worked on all these pages.  I am far from finished for the project is at least a three book series.  I still have two more books to work on.  “I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right” Zusak, Markus, “The Book Thief,” page 528.  This is definitely how I feel about all the fiction pieces I have written.  I always hope the words are right.

                For some reason, the local theater finally brought The Book Thief to our community.  I took the opportunity last night to watch the film.  As is the case with a movie, many beautiful scenes were left out as were my favorite quotes.  I still recommend reading the book because the author “made them [the words] right.”

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Great Depression


                The great depression begins when the National Football League season has ended and continues until April when I get to go play in the dirt in my gardens.  Up here in the north, I sit longingly waiting for the ground to thaw and the air to warm.  As I look out at my gardens, I anticipate the digging and planting that takes place with vitamin D soaking back into my skin.  This year will be a little harder with no plans of travel to a warmer climate during spring break.  I am stuck here in the frozen mountain land forever!

                Many people struggle during the first months of each New Year.  They may have feelings of let down after the holiday season and family members return home.  Others become depressed due to lack of sun and being stuck inside the house.  People like me struggle with the lack of football to distract me from the claustrophobia of no outside warmth.  Some of us also fight the battle of pain due to autoimmune diseases that inevitably get worse during the violent weather patterns of snow and frigid temperatures.  In the last seven days, four have been filled with aches and pains for me.  I feel like my joints are literally burning and my energy is drained.

                To battle these issues, I make plans.  This year I am redecorating a room in the house that I can use as a retreat for my writing.  I am excited for the possibilities.  The theme is literature in its many forms with “Gone with the Wind” being a staple of the décor.  I am also facilitating a new Bible study at my parish to get me out of the house a little more.  My husband helped me with a workout plan that lets me go at a slow pace on bad days and a fast pace on my good days which I do at five in the morning.  I love mornings.  I will continue to work my writing challenges.  If I find that I still struggle, I am going to study the great painters and photographers as part of my artist dates that help stimulate my creativity. 

                The great depression will not prevail in my life.  I hope all of you have fun projects to keep you busy during the dreary days ahead.  I see some people taking their aggression out on the groundhog on facebook.  Instead, use that energy for good.  Tackle a project instead.  Happy Winter!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Salute


The card slid smoothly into the slot as a click and green light indicated the door unlocked.  He pushed it open depositing his small black bag by the door.  When he originally planned the trip years ago, he wanted to stay in the Grand Hotel of his childhood days.  Instead, he chose the newer hotel and booked the suite with a fireplace.  The open space dwarfed the tiny living room he grew up in thirty-five years prior. 

After pouring himself a drink, he slid the balcony door open and stepped onto the patio.  Off in the distance, the full moon peaked over the mountain range freshly capped with snow.  Before his father left for war, the two of them spent many days in those mountains hunting, fishing, and hiking.  The past twenty odd years, he missed the feel of them watching over him.  The whiskey burnt going down his throat.  Loosening his black tie, he turned back to the room to get some sleep and stop the memories from overwhelming him.

          Throughout the night, the plaid comforter tugged and pulled as he fought his dreams.  Visions of kids twice his size taunting him filled his sight.  Harsh words of baby killer exploded in his head.  A bloody nose turned into a fire leaping up to consume him.  He jerked awake relieved at the sunlight streaming through the panes of glass.  The scars on his hands throbbed.  Stifling the urge to grab the bottle, he stumbled to the coffee pot instead.  He opened the laptop drowning himself in work until afternoon.

          An hour before the service, he slid onto the grey leather seat of his rental car.  His fingers turned the key in the ignition and the engine roared to life.  Maneuvering through traffic, the side street beckoned him.  He pulled into the empty parking lot.  Stepping out of the vehicle, he placed his beret on his head straightening it just right above the bridge of his nose.

He sighed at the look of the old building.  Bricks lay on the ground leaving holes in the wall.  The windows in his old science classroom long shattered from either old age or vandals.  Even a small tree grew from the cracks in the foundation.  Peaking through the window frame, he shook his head at the burnt tile on the floor where he tried to grab the plain green ball cap his dad gave him before he left for war, the cause of his scarred hands.  The rank and unit crest of the unit his dad worked with in the war was displayed on the front.  He remembered wearing the cap with pride until that fateful day.

The local bully called his father a baby killer and grabbed the hat off his head.  With a Bunsen Burner, the creep lit the cap on fire dropping it on the floor.  Not thinking clearly, he grabbed the flaming mass with his hands to beat out the fire.  The taunts only grew worse with each new report that came from the war zone.  Some teachers tried to shield him, but other teachers allowed debates disparaging the soldiers.  With the ball cap destroyed, he saved the unit crest and wore it on his jacket.

His father returned from the fighting with what they now call PTSD.  They only spent one day in the mountains.  The bullies and liberals accused his father further when he committed suicide a year after his return.  With a heavy sigh, he turned from the window and the memories.  He needed to finish his drive to his appointment.

          Cars lined both sides of the road.  Parking, he straightened his tie once more and beret.  Standing tall, he walked down the lane passing those grieving.  Discomforted, he avoided the looks people gave him.  A man in dress blues rarely appeared in this area of the country.  He stood near the back of the crowd.  The minister spoke standing next to the six foot hole the casket shaded.  As the service drew to a close, the military man waited until the last person spoke to the widow. 

          “Mrs. Blake, may I walk you to your car.”  He offered his arm to her.

          Once at the black limousine she asked him to wait a moment.  Reaching into the car, she grabbed a small book from the seat.

          “Richard kept track of your career over the years.  He was very proud of you.”  Wrinkled hands held out the weathered black book to him.

          Taking the gift, he flipped through looking at all the scrapbooked pictures and news articles to the last page with an article of his being pinned General.  Tears streamed down his face.  “Mr. Blake sat me down after the fire.  He told me I held the key to my future.  I could listen to the naysayers or I could overcome them.  My dad left us in dire straits, but with Mr. Blake watching over me and guiding me, I prevailed.” 

          They exchanged a few more pleasantries.  He helped her into the vehicle and watched it leave the cemetery grounds.  Executing an about face, he marched back to the casket saluting his high school principal.    He continued on to the poor side of the grounds to stand in front of a pauper's grave.

          “Dad, not a day goes by that I don’t think of you.  I do all my work with veterans and their families in your honor.  I miss you.”  Snapping his heals together, he saluted as a soft snow fell to the ground.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Grammar Fear


                Defeat overcame me as the words washed over my soul.  “Editor needed for grammar.”  No.  The entire reason I asked for readers I trusted was to face those issues softly.  Of course, I knew the truth in my heart.  A reader and an editor are two completely different roles.  In all fairness, hoping a friend would put in the time and energy to fix minute details was not realistic.

                Facing the computer, my fingers flew over the keyboard searching Google for editing services.  Quote one equaled a $2000 price tag, quote two, $1000.  I closed up Google.  Paying that amount of money fiscally was a gamble I refused to take or ask my family to take.  I zipped off a note to my reader thanking her for all her help and asked if she had any suggestions for editing at a reasonable price.

                The rest of the day I washed laundry and dishes.  Pulling the sheets tight across the mattress, thoughts of how to fix my problem tumbled through my head.  I sighed in relief as family members filtered through the door from work and school to help distract me from my problem.  I hid by not mentioning a thing to my husband.  My head throbbed, so I read other writers’ novels not thinking of mine sitting on the desk.  I fell asleep to listing all the daily happenings that I was thankful for, minus the comment about my novel.

                I trudged to the gym the next morning not thinking and continued through my morning routine until I opened my e-mail.  My faithful reader responded to my questions with three options to my editing dilemma.  I hated all her ideas.  I felt frozen in fear.  I closed up her words and played on the computer.

                For hours, I avoided speaking of editing out loud; yet, conversations ran through my head.  The continuous pressure in my forehead kept the problem in close proximity.  I read; I crocheted; I avoided.  As water streamed out of the faucet, a thought hit me.  Grammar Nazis!  I feared giving my work to anyone with a red pen.  The pounding in my head grew more persistent.  Instantly I was transported back to the classroom with the blood of red ink pouring off my papers.  I still hate the letters C and B with the sympathetic minus sign keeping the lower grade at bay.  I feared giving someone the opportunity to say I was a horrid writer.  This happened in the past; I didn’t want it for my future.

                Was I going to let one more set back keep me from my dream?  For another day or two, yes.  For all eternity, no.  However, the thought of becoming a fulltime crocheting, reading, gardening, stay at home housewife looked appealing. 

                A day crawled by when I finally realized a dear friend held an English degree.  I finally acknowledged everything to my husband/writing coach.  He confirmed my plan.  After some e-mails back and forth, Maria agreed to edit with pixy dust.  She would be my Grammar Fairy, not a Grammar Nazi.  With excitement mounting to work on this project with this amazing lady, we met over coffee and my novel is in her safe keeping.  My writing life is back on track awaiting more challenges.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Reflections 2013


                I just read the blog post I wrote last year about reflections.  I enjoyed reading about what I accomplished in 2012, so I will write about what I achieved in 2013 including my hopes for next year.  As always reading is at the top of the list.  Unfortunately, in September life became a bit complicated with an increase in writing activity and volunteering.  I stopped putting down the books I finished with the total being 40 books.  Opps!  I am changing my strategy and instead of listing books on a spreadsheet, I am going to post them on pinterest.  This will be a nice change for 2014.  As for what I read last year, I have to say I didn’t really have any books that stood out.  I read a lot of free books that I received off of Book Bub.  This year I am hoping to work more off my old reliable favorite authors list and suggestions from friends.

                The book I wanted to finish this year was the Bible.  Alas, I got about three fourths of the way done and stopped.  I feel guilty, but I ended up facilitating a Bible study twice a week and chairing a committee for a church retreat.  All of this took up a lot of time and really made for a great excuse.  Now is my quiet time of the year, so hopefully I will finish up this very special book.  With this, I ended up not reading the entire book of Saint Jerome’s writings.  To be honest, this became a little boring after a while, but I may pick it up again.  This year I am going back to Saint Frances de Sales’ work.  He entertained me a lot.  Besides, he is the patron saint of writers, so I have missed learning about him these last two years when I worked with different saints.  Also, I am keeping the words delight and joy in the forefront of my thoughts for the year.  Last year the word was discipline.  I did become more disciplined in my writing, but the word seems a little oppressive.  I want light and airy this year which delight and joy definitely fit.

                I am very excited about my writing journey the past year.  I didn’t keep up with the blog as much as I would like, but I grew in leaps and bounds with the word count, editing, and publishing.  The latter I added in the spring to learn about how to indie publish.  My goal for words I surpassed by 26,000.  I wrote 91,000 words of new fiction and the rest of my 227,000 words were all non-fiction.  This next year I am going to shoot to add 50,000 words to the total by doubling my fiction words and reducing my non-fiction by a little bit.  My daughter thinks I need to have a goal of 315,000 because this is what I need to reach 1,000,000 words.  I told her I would indeed try, but I am not going to worry too much.  As for my editing, I think I finally became better at rewriting my scenes and developing them.  I worked really hard on five short stories and my novel.  I blew past my goal by 2800 minutes.  For someone who hates to edit, I think I did awesome.  I went over my publishing minutes by 1500.  Really in both the editing and publishing, I am not sure how much time I should be spending on the tasks.  I probably need to do a lot more, but each year I increase the goals.  At some point I will find the correct number.  As always, this year I will strive to do more including indie e-publishing my work.

                Adventures were abundant this past year.  The family flew to Cancun to take in the resort scene; plus, we traveled to Chichen Itza to see the Mayan structures.  At some point, I still need to write the short story that my muse excitedly helped me write out an outline for during the vacation.  Throughout the summer, I went on a couple of hikes in areas I haven’t been before which I enjoyed immensely.  I also visited an area that I hadn’t been to in years, Ross Creek Cedars.  I want to go back this next year when the light is better to do some photo shoots.  The Cedars will be in a book idea I have down the road.  In the early fall, I took in some Scandinavian history and culture in both Washington and Montana.  Oh, I also visited an Amish store.  My last grand adventure took place in Missouri.  I visited the home of Laura Ingalls Wilder.  This next year I am not sure where I will explore.  I believe I will stay closer to home.  Falcons have become an interest for me in the last couple of months, so I want to visit a bird sanctuary about 200 miles from my home.  I suspect I will work on hiking into a waterfall I have wanted to explore for many years.  My options are unlimited.  In fact, a friend posted a link to a bucket list for Montana.  I have done 26 of the 100 activities.  If I add my bucket list items, I have plenty of adventures to choose from.

                This year I am adding a new goal to my arsenal.  Since I have retired, I have concentrated on healing, writing, gardening, multiple projects, and just enjoying life.  Because of the aches and pains from my autoimmune diseases, I have allowed myself to get out of shape.  I have exercised a bit, but hiking long distances has been out of the question.  I don’t want this to be my future.  I worry that my writing goals will suffer from the added stress working out will do to my body, but I hope over time I will be rewarded.  Besides, I really want to make it into the falls.  Hopefully, I will be sharing pictures of this in May or June.

                So, come on 2014, I look forward to all the fun and work we have in store.