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There’s Always Something

Do you ever run out of something to write about?  If I had a quarter for every time I’ve been asked this question, I’d buy all my Grands ice cream cones every week.  

            When I committed to write this weekly column eleven years ago, I had many stories about my young Grands.  My friend, writing mentor, and fellow Herald-Citizen columnist, Jennie Ivey, told me that when I ran out of those stories, I could look around, listen, and read, and there would always be something to write about.  Jennie was right. 

            The problem is too many things.  Topics swirl in my head and I sometimes begin several columns before choosing one.  But this week, that didn’t work.  Bits and pieces keep churning in my thoughts.

            Last Monday for the first time our oldest Grand, age 16, drove alone to our house, and my eyes watered, a lump filled my throat.  Samuel came to spend the night with Husband and me. This Grand began staying overnight when he was a toddler.  By the time he was three, he stayed one night a week.  Thru the years, he and his siblings have taken turns – each week one spends the night at our house.

            The next day, before Samuel drove his family’s little red truck out of our driveway, we hugged and he said, “Thanks, Gran. I had lots of fun.”  Right now, this Grand knows love through food.  When we feed him, he’s happy. I’m thankful every time he takes his overnight turn because there’ll be the day when he’ll say, “It’s okay.  You can skip me.”  Then I’ll wipe big tears.

            You know that June is National Fresh Fruit and Vegetable month, don’t you?  I thought June was Dairy Month.  According to nationaldaycalendar.com, this month also celebrates cats, the great outdoors, country cooking, turkey lovers (shouldn’t that be November?), zoos and aquariums, accordion awareness, and more. Twenty-five in all. 

            I could write about fruits and vegetables.  About garden-fresh green onions and lettuce available now and buying produce at Farmer’s Market. My mouth waters for summer tomatoes and a mess of green beans. 

             Bird-watching is entertaining.  When birds began building a nest in my new bluebird box, I was as excited as a first-time daddy who passes out cigars.  From a distance, I watched birds dart in and out of the small hole and thought they were really brightly colored bluebirds. Using binoculars, Husband identified them as tree swallows.

            I studied tree swallows and blue birds in my bird identification book and then discovered that for years I’ve called House Finches by the wrong name: Purple Finches. I learn something every single day.

            It’s time for the WCTE Great TV Auction!  Check it out at https://wcte.givesmart.com

            Why is it that minutes after I carry my laptop computer outside to write my neighbor starts mowing his yard?             Grands. National Days. Animals. Local happenings. There’s always something to write about.  And for backup, there’s a bulging folder labeled ‘Possible Columns’ filled with notes beginning 2011.

One Word for 2014

imagesA few days into 2014 and so far, so good.  I’d thought about New Year’s resolutions, but hadn’t made any yearlong commitments.  I’d just keep on keeping on and try to make better choices.  Try to eat good food.  Drink more water.  Exercise more.  Not waste time.

And then my niece posted a question on Facebook, a question that she’d heard discussed on a morning television talk show.  What one word would you choose to motivate yourself through 2014?  A word flashed in my brain and I immediately posted a comment.  Intentional – that’s my word.  Intentional with minutes, hours, and days.  With prayer and praise.  With a positive attitude.  Intentional when I eat and drink.  When I play and work.  When I spend money.  When I write and read and see and hear.  Intentional.

It felt good to have a plan, all wrapped up in one word.  And that day went as intended.  With ceremony, I ate a piece of Christmas dried apple stack cake and drank a perfect cup of coffee.  I watched the chickadees and cardinals peck seed from our birdfeeder.  Throughout the day, I consciously followed my intentions.

That night was weekly family supper night at our house and afterwards one Grand would stay overnight.  The next morning would be Grand and Gran time.  Except this night, two Grands would spend the night.  Lou, age 6, and Elaine, her 2 ½ year old sister.  Lou would sleep in the bed where she always sleeps at our house.  Elaine would sleep in a crib in the same room.  We’d eat breakfast and play.  Puzzles, painting, play dough.

At midnight as I lay awake between Elaine and Lou in Lou’s bed, I realized that my plan had gone haywire.  Elaine had climbed out of her crib three times and I decided, while half asleep, that she and I should sleep with Lou.  We slept, but not well.

While we ate breakfast, Lou asked, “Gran, do you have a bathing suit here for Elaine?”  I didn’t.  “Well, do you think this is a good day to swim at the Y?”  I didn’t.  Then Lou said, “I really wanted to practice diving underwater,” and I couldn’t say no to a morning swim.

Forget the puzzles, paint, and play dough, we were going swimming on a cold January day.  An hour later, after we’d brushed hair and teeth and packed towels and dry clothes and gone to Elaine’s house to get her bathing suit and the three of us wore our bathing suits, we stood at the edge of the Y swimming pool.  Lou said, “Watch me go to the bottom, Gran!”  She jumped into the swimming pool and picked up a diving rocket from the bottom of the 4 1/2 foot deep pool.  She stood and stretched her hand that held the rocket high over her head.  Elaine and I clapped and cheered.  “Way to go, Lou!”  I said.

At that moment, a word flashed in my brain.  Flexible – another word for 2014.

Intentional in play.  Flexible to change from puzzles, paint, and play dough to swimming.  Intentional to eat dried apple stack cake.  Flexible to change to a chocolate covered cream-filled donut.  Intentional and flexible.  I need two words for 2014.

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Try, Try Again

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As a teacher and as a mother, I’ve said it a thousand times.  “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, again.”  I’ve stood over students’ shoulders and said, “You almost got that problem right.  Check your addition and try again.”  And I remember when each of my children learned to ride a bicycle.  I held onto the back of the bike seat as my child peddled.  I ran along beside the bike and when I let go, the bike wobbled and fell.  “It’s okay.  Try again!  You can do it,” I said.

Words that flowed easily from my mouth.  Try, try, again. But when those words were aimed at me, I wanted to chomp them and spit them out.

About three years ago, I shared with friends a family Christmas story that I’d written, and they said, “That’s a Chicken Soup story.  You’ve got to submit it!”  I was familiar with Chicken Soup for the Soul books.  I’ve had one on my bookshelf for twenty years.  According to its cover, it includes 101 stories to open the heart and rekindle the spirit.  And I knew that several local writers have published stories in a Chicken Soup book.  From looking at the Chicken Soup website, I learned that as many as ten books, on different topics, are published each year.

I submitted my story.  And never heard a word from the publisher.  “Try again,” my friends said.  I did.  I sent a dog story and a cat story and didn’t get responses.  “Don’t give up.  Keep trying.”  With little enthusiasm and less confidence, I submitted a story about mother/daughter relationships and received an email that said, “Your story has been selected for the final selection of Chicken Soup for Mothers.”

“Aren’t you glad you kept sending in stories?  You’re in!  Congratulations!”  my friends said.  I sent the required release form to the book editors, and I gloated a bit.  And then, a month before publication, I received an email, “I regret to inform you that some of the final selections have been cut…blah…blah…blah.  We hope you will try again.”

By then, I was determined.  I hung a poster beside my writing desk that had hung in my school classroom.

It’s okay to try and fail and try and fail again. 

            It’s not okay to try and fail, and fail to try again.

I submitted a story about my first house and one about friendship.  No responses.  I revised a story about being a parent and emailed it on the deadline date for submission.  Many months later, I received an email stating, “Your story has been selected for the final selection……”  I read the rest of the message with great skepticism.  I’d believe it when I saw it.

And, now six months later, I believe.  Chicken Soup for the Soul, Parenthood is now available to buy and there’s my story entitled “More to Life than Basketball.”  Way in the back of the book, under the heading Giving Them Wings to Fly.

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, again.  Those words taste sweeter today.  Chicken Soup is now accepting submissions for a proposed book entitled Reboot Your Life.  I surely have a story for that book.