Traces

Today was my coworker’s last day before she heads off to a well-deserved retirement. The official countdown began a couple of months ago, building in anticipation until today. A day of great joy for my friend, but a bittersweet moment for the rest of us. Farewells are never easy.

This anticipation of saying goodbye to a friend started me thinking about the things left behind when relationships end or change. What impressions – or traces – are left by those who are no longer around?

In regards to my newly retired coworker, she leaves behind a legacy of kindness and compassion. She is one of the kindest people I know, and I will forever be grateful for the privilege of working alongside her even for such a short time.

There are others, of course, who have left traces of themselves behind. The obvious ones like parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins. I am who I am today because of the foundation these key people laid for my life.

There the less obvious ones. Like the girl in eighth grade who took a chance on the new girl, the painfully shy one who was probably a little bit odd. She showed me what it was to be a little wild. And though we’ve moved on, her friendship still means the world to me.

The college roommate who became a lifelong friend. She taught me what it means to share space with another. Her faith in me helped me to climb out of the self imposed shell I’d created for myself years before.

And still there were others…

The young woman from India who became a college roommate and cherished friend. She opened my tiny experience and showed me a global perspective. She is a far better friend than I ever deserved.

Or the girl in middle school born without arms who taught me that friends come in all shapes and sizes.

The high school English teacher who tried to get me to challenge myself, and reach beyond “just enough” for something greater. I wish I’d listened to him at the time.

The uncle who believed in me enough to tell me he would read my truly terrible first novel.

The list could go on. Employers, coworkers, classmates, teachers, neighbors, youth group leaders, pastors and Sunday School teachers.

For every relationship by birth or by choice, I am grateful. Every chance encounter that has left its mark on my life. Not all of the traces left are positive. But I’m grateful even for the negative ones, as they have hopefully left me a stronger person.

An Ordinary Day

I am grateful to have an ordinary day.

As a not so ordinary week comes to an end, I found myself looking forward to a bit of normalcy today. The kind of normalcy where I tell my children more than once to get themselves dressed. The normal morning where I nearly forget essentials like earrings or coffee. Or the normal work day morning routine where the boys squabble over who gets the first hug as I’m on my way out the door. Normal. Ordinary.

This week has been one of those roller coaster type rides I think most parents anticipate, but are never quite prepared for.

It started with registering my youngest son for kindergarten. Come September, all three of my children will now be enrolled all day in formal education. I’m sure most parents can relate to the storm of emotions this event can trigger. The bittersweet milestones as we watch our children grow up.

Now there are no more babies. No more cuddly, little boys who need their mama. No more being the center of the universe. Now their peers will become the most important influence in their lives. Have I given them all they need to move successfully into this next phase of their lives?

As if this emotional trauma wasn’t enough, I no sooner returned to work after completing this task when I got the call no parent wants to get from the school. “We have your son here in the office. There’s been a fall on the playground. Can you come right away?” Of course, I dropped everything—including my uneaten lunch—and went straight to the school.

I arrived to find emergency vehicles outside in the parking lot. The principal met me at the front door. Inside, was my middle son, his arm very obviously broken, scared and in pain, but holding it together pretty well, all things considered. We spent the next several hours in the ER waiting for x-rays, waiting for doctors, waiting for results of x-rays, and so on.

My son hadn’t had his lunch either, having fallen during recess which comes right before they eat. So, between the pain and discomfort of his injured arm, the pain of hunger and being denied food because he had to be sedated for treatment, and the pain of sheer boredom, it was a lengthy ordeal for both of us. One I hope I never have to repeat.

I’m a mother of three active little boys, and there’s always been a sense of inevitability about this sort of thing. I wondered when the first incident would come. Which of my three boys it would be.

The inevitable has happened. After three days of adjusting to life with one useable arm, of having to help my son dress himself or use the bathroom and of doing my best not to allow my other two children to feel neglected in the wake of their brother’s obvious need, I am exhausted. Both physically and emotionally.

Today, I am grateful for a normal, ordinary day. A day filled with ordinary things. Normal things such as reminding my children more than once to get dressed, forgetting essentials like earrings and the daily squabble over who gets the first hug as I’m on the way out the door for work.

Tyrion Lannister, Body Image & Books That Make You Think

My first thought when I saw today’s word prompt, was of Tyrion Lannister. If you don’t know the name, Tyrion is a character in the book, Game of Thrones, by George R. R. Martin, the first book in the Song of Ice and Fire series.

I began this conversation with myself this morning with the word squat, and with trying to think of what I could write. I saw a number of posts taking the word “squat” and talking about its meaning of “nothing.” I didn’t want to go there, having been suffering of late from this “nothingness,” and an inability to put words to paper.

That’s when I thought of Tyrion Lannister.

I am currently reading Game of Thrones as part of my 2017 Reading Challenge. I am about two thirds of the way through the book, and I haven’t yet decided if I like this character, or despise him. Tyrion is a squat, little man, affected by dwarfism. He makes up for his lack of physical size with a keen mind and a brash, often impertinent tongue.

This compensation of his frequently gets Tyrion into trouble, opening his mouth at the wrong moments and saying all the wrong things. The reverse is just as often true as well, however. He can talk his way out of certain death as quickly as he got himself into the trouble in the first place.

It is human nature to hide our weaknesses from others whenever possible. In Tyrion’s case, however, his physical stature is an obvious weakness, plain for all to see. Rather than hide it, Tyrion instead hides within his weakness. He embraces it, and uses it to his advantage over those who would discount him for it.

Negative body image is a huge issue in our real world today. We don’t really need characters like Tyrion to remind us of this fact. But I couldn’t help wondering what could we learn from Tyrion about dealing with those who would shame us for our physical attributes. He says:

“Let them see that their words can cut you and you’ll never be free of the mockery. If they want to give you a name, take it, make it your own. Then they can’t hurt you with it anymore.” – Tyrion Lannister

I found myself surprised that I would think of Tyrion when this word prompt came up. I haven’t had much to write lately, and I didn’t really think a little word like squat could inspire me. As I wondered about my apparent inability to write, and what to do about it, I asked myself the question, what have I been writing about lately? Aside from my fiction projects currently in the works, I’ve mostly been writing about what I’m reading. And currently, that is Game of Thrones.

Unlike another book I’ve read recently, a collection of stories by H. G. Wells, I haven’t been inspired to write much about Game of Thrones. I’ve been too busy reading it! I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the book, completely absorbed in the story.

While reading the Wells book, on the other hand, I had several ideas pop into my head along the way. My curiosity was triggered about a lot of different things. Such as this impromptu mini-study on the discovery of helium. Or this ongoing investigation into the treatment of gender roles in fiction. Reading through the Wells collection also generated ideas for several new stories I hope to one day pursue.

There are, of course, any number of differences between these two works that could account for this variance between them. Wells wrote his stories more than a hundred years ago. His language and styling are vastly different from Martin’s contemporary storytelling. Also, Wells is a collection of stories, as opposed to a single work. Make that part of a single work.

The bottom line is, there are some books that make you think. They instruct and inspire curiosity about the world around you. The H. G. Wells collection was such a book. Then, there are other books like Game of Thrones that simply take over your world, and devour you whole.

What does all this have to do with Tyrion Lannister? Ultimately, not much, I suppose. But he does fit the description of squat, and for that I am grateful, as he has inspired me to write these words.

And, what do you know, I suddenly find myself intrigued by dwarfism. What causes it? How many people are affected by it? How do those affected manage their day to day lives? …

Party Time!

One thing I love doing for my kids’ birthdays since the very beginning is to create a fun party centered around a theme. I probably go a little overboard with the cake, decorations, snacks and hand made invitations. I’ve done bug-themed parties and lion-themed parties. Dump trucks, monster trucks and fire trucks. There was Batman, the Avengers and the Flash. Most recently it was a Pokémon/Minecraft party.

When my boys were really little, I had freedom to choose the themes for their birthday parties. Now that they’re getting older and have distinct interests of their own, I let them choose the part theme. Then, I go searching online for ideas. I prefer to keep things simple, but I also want them to be fun.

The next birthday comes up in early March. The theme this time is pirates. Or, more important – treasure! My middle son is obsessed with tiny things—figures, cars, coins—that fit inside his fist. Sparkly things are especially attractive to him. A treasure hunt birthday party wasn’t a hard sell.

First I went looking for the perfect cake. There are some seriously talented bakers and decorators out there. I’m no professional cake decorator, but I love making cakes for my boys. I found treasure map cakes

and treasure chest cakes

and even this amazing pirate ship cake

Again, I’m no professional, but my children think I can work miracles. My version will not look nearly so cool as one of those. But I’ll have fun with it.

Before I can make the cake, and before I go all crazy with pirate-themed food and games, I’ve got to make the invitations. It will be a pirate’s treasure chest, complete with gold coins and sparkly gems. They might look a little bit like these invitations, but not nearly as adorable.

I’ve got some work to do. Sometimes I get a little carried away with the birthday parties. But it’s about having fun. And making memories for my children.

A Promise Delayed

Back in July, I made a promise to you, my readers, that I would write and share a new short story. You helped me decide which story to write first by telling me which one you most wanted to read.

I wrote the story in July. I rewrote it in August, filling in holes I’d left in the plot and working on character inconsistencies. In September, I sent the story to a handful of beta readers and anxiously awaited their input.

Now, here it is October, and I still have not shared the story with you. My promise remains unfulfilled. I assure you, however, it is merely delayed, not broken. I appreciate your patience as I learn my way through this process of writing, rewriting, reading, more rewriting, editing and ultimately publishing a story.

The process has been harder than I expected in some ways. The hardest part has been to come up with a reasonable time line and consistently work my way through it. All while trying to maintain forward momentum on my other projects as well.

Just like my short story, I am a work in progress. I’m learning as I go, and each day presents a new challenge to overcome. But I am learning, I will overcome, and next time, things will be a little easier.

I have not forgotten my promise to you. October is my birthday month. I can’t think of a better time to officially become a published fiction writer. I’m working very hard to make this story the best it can be. Shattered will be arriving soon. I promise!

In the Beginning There Was the Blank Page…

Borders are nothing more than lines on a map. They have no meaning or value except that which we give to them.

That said, what makes a border? How are they determined?

Most borders are naturally defined such as coastlines, rivers and mountain ranges. Others are completely arbitrary political devices such as the one between the United States and Canada.

My interest in this right now is that I am creating a map for my fictional world. I am creating those natural borders out of nothing by building those rivers, oceans and mountains – geological features that have to make sense. The placement of cities and fortresses, farms and villages, all have to have a reason to be where they are.

I have a general idea how I think my world should look. There’s a north and a south. There’s the western hills and the central plains. Several large cities, islands and another land across the sea.

Add to all this, there are the political boundaries. Political boundaries separate people groups. People groups have histories, cultures, religious traditions and so much more. And unlike natural boundaries, political boundaries have a way of shifting. War and conflict seem to be an inevitable part of human interaction.

World building is a difficult, time consuming process. But at the same time, it’s fascinating and exciting. It’s a process worth taking the time to do well. I’ve been spending a lot of time in this world, I may as well do it right.

Is It Done Yet? Now? How About Now?

Unfinished.

This is something I unfortunately know more about than I’d like. I’m in the middle of a novel that I’ve been writing since 2010. It’s nearly finished. Sort of. I wrote the first 50,000 words in the frenzy of my first National Novel Writing Month experience.

I then found that after November ended, it was difficult to maintain any sort of writing routine. And impossible to keep up the same frenetic pace of November. I managed to add another 25,000 words, or so, over the course of the next year, but it was extremely slow going.

The next November I started a new novel. The idea behind NaNoWriMo is that you write a new novel rather than work on one you are already invested in. This is a good idea, and one I typically try to adhere to. However, I now had two unfinished novels clamoring for my attention.

In the years since I began the first novel I found myself bombarded with new, shiny novel ideas. I’ve started a number of projects that remain incomplete. I have completed two novels – an adult sci-fi and a middle-grade adventure – but the original novel remains incomplete.

I haven’t abandoned the novel, and it continues to grow and develop, even when I’m not actively working on it. I made this novel my Camp NaNo project in July 2015 and have added another 50,000 words. However, in the time between first starting this project, and now, new developments have rendered the first half badly in need of rewriting. Like world changing new developments.

Now, despite the conflicting interests of multiple writing projects, I have made this novel my priority. I am more determined than ever to see it through to completion. I’ve already committed to making this my project for this year’s NaNoWriMo (yes, I’m publicly declaring my rebellion!).

I’m committed to finishing this novel. I’d like this to be the November I write “the end.” I’m ready to finish and move on. I’ve got an outline of the first half of the novel that needs to be rewritten. I’m working on character profiles. I have investigated map making software in order to put together a map of my fictional world. All the pieces are in place. It’s time to make this dream a reality.

Manuscript

Now?