Advice From A Writer

This week’s blog was planned in my mind, but rather than sitting down at my computer and writing immediately, I decided to make a phone call and get some laundry done. I now have no idea what the blog was to be about.

At almost any writer’s conference, workshop, meet-up, discussion group, or critique session, someone will say, “No matter where you are or what time of day it is, if a writing idea comes to you, write it down immediately. But most writers have to learn first-hand that this is an important bit of advice.

I first discovered how crucial this piece of advice is when I got Amanda, the protagonist in my novel, into a very bad situation. It was easy enough getting her there, but I had no idea how I would resolve her dilemma. After several unsuccessful tries, I decided to let it rest for a while. I went to bed.

At around 2:00 a.m., I woke up and the solution immediately came to me. Not just any solution, but the perfect solution that would advance the action into the next chapter. The first thing I thought was that I needed to make a few notes so I wouldn’t forget. But it was dark and I was tired. I reasoned that a solution so brilliant could not possibly be forgotten in just a few hours. So I fluffed my pillow, pulled the cover up under my chin, and went back to sleep.

With daylight came the realization that I needed to get the middle-of-the-night revelation on paper. But I quickly discovered I could not remember anything about the sequence. I went to the manuscript, certain that reading again about Amanda’s situation would cause me to remember. It didn’t!

For the better part of my writing time that day I struggled with getting the story to move forward. Now, I wonder how different the story would have been had I sent Amanda down the forgotten path.

Trust me on this suggestion. Never let a writing idea go unrecorded. Write notes on a napkin. Scribble words on your hand. Enter remarks in your electronic device. Draw images on the bottom of your shoe. Whatever it takes to keep that thought! And always keep in mind that if not recorded now, there is a high probability it will never be recorded. I have no statistical evidence to support this claim, but tempting fate is never a good idea.


Post-Trip Musings

A week-long trip to Illinois and Michigan for the purpose of attending two graduations of family members provided opportunities to add new things to my wondering mind. (Note that I did not write “wandering” though that might be appropriate.)

The first graduation we attended was in Chicago. I enjoy the beautiful city of Chicago but do have to wonder:
  • how one is supposed to know which vehicle is the target of the driver who honks the horn of the big bus.
  • when preparing for the NATO protest march, why the police chose to close the interstate just a couple of minutes from a major exit and, instead, closed it at street exit.
  • why Chicago natives have smiles in their voices during private conversations, but lose those “smiles” when going about life in general.

The very first miles on a new rental car were added on drives around Chicago and from Chicago to Michigan where we attended the second graduation. Things I have to wonder about when I’m in Michigan include:
  • why, after having lived in the open spaces of Colorado, the beautiful green trees along the highway give one the perception of traveling in a tunnel.
  • what it might take for geese to earn equal status with ducks on subdivision lakes.
  • how something considered to be a lovely green plant in Colorado can be destroyed as a weed in Michigan.
  • how interstate drivers know that when they claim a lane, it will be surrendered to them.

While in Chicago, I was privileged to spend Mother’s Day with three of my four children. How special is that? 

I’m very proud of Nancy Beth (Huck) Powers (daughter-in-law) who was awarded a master’s degree in non-profit management at North Park University and Jacob Nathaniel Walker (grandson) who was awarded a bachelor’s degree in mathematics at Calvin College.

I have no intention of stepping on a scale anytime soon to confirm the certain weight gain from the graduation celebrations.

Great week!


No Ordinary Mother

It has been 21 years since I stood in a little country cemetery and said my final farewell to an extraordinary woman, my loving, caring mother.

Mama had extraordinary time management skills. She lived by a schedule, though she might have denied doing so. I always knew what would be happening on each day of the week.

Monday morning meant the sheets from our beds would be hanging on the clothesline, along with the clothes that needed to be laundered.  “Unmentionables” always hung as much out of the sight of neighbors as possible. No need to expose them to things they didn’t know about!

The family knew that on Monday the evening meal (called supper at our house) would be cornbread, beans, stewed tomatoes, and a dish of fruit. The beans cooked all day and were ready by the time the last load of clothes was off the line and folded. The tomatoes and fruit were from the cellar, stored there during the summertime when Mama spent days preserving fruits and vegetables. When I crawled into bed after prayers on Mondays, I was privileged to enjoy the unforgettabl fresh aroma of sunshine-dried sheets.

Since Monday was wash day, it stood to reason that Tuesday was ironing day. So it was with Mama’s “schedule.” The clothes were sprinkled with a small amount of water and left to rest for a period of time. Then Mama stood at the ironing board for hours making sure every shirt and dress was wrinkle free.

Mama was an extraordinary homemaker. She kept a house that could have served as a model for a magazine, and did so while preparing well-balanced meals. All of the food groups were represented, even though she knew nothing of the food pyramid.

Shopping was an art for Mama. She had an extraordinary ability when it came to making her small budget stretch to meet the needs of her family. Before factory outlets became tourist attractions, she knew where to find them. She also knew when a bargain was a bargain. When I was in high school and not allowed to wear sleeveless dresses, she purchased two identical sleeveless dresses at the factory store – one to wear, one for material for sleeves. The dress still cost less than had she purchased it at the department store.

Mama was trained by her very proper southern mother and the lessons on being a “proper” lady were well-learned. This meant that Mama lived by extraordinary standards, and that she, in turn, required certain things of her daughter with respect to being a lady. These things included becoming an excellent cook, mastering clothing construction, and having a lady-like hobby, such as embroidery. Additionally, “ladies” did not talk loudly, laugh heartily, sit with their feet on chairs, or call boys on the telephone. Needless to say, a tomboy daughter who preferred climbing trees and playing ball to sewing and cooking was not a great source of pride for Mama.

Mama was an extraordinary Christian. She was a student of God’s Word and a woman of great faith. She believed that her primary mission in life was to introduce everyone, most especially her family, to Christ. She had a keen mind that was filled with scripture, including the Gospel of John, which she learned during the early days of the Cold War in the event our Bibles were taken from us and destroyed.

Thankfully, Mama never gave up on her tomboy. I learned to sew and even made my wedding gown. I wouldn’t want to compete with her for the “Homemaker of the Year” award, but things are quite presentable at our place. I’m no chef, but Hubby seems fine with my cooking. Of course, that may be related to the fact that his cooking skills are limited to making peanut butter sandwiches and warming hot dogs in the microwave. But the most important lesson I learned from Mama was that God loves me, and so the narrative about her Christ continues to the next generation.

I know you are having a Happy Mother’s Day, Mama, as you wait for me to join you in your heavenly home.

Mama with Daddy on her wedding day.

Mama with Daddy on her fiftieth wedding anniversary.


How’d You Get That Job?

There are some jobs in this world that must be perfect. Daily I receive a notice from a company that gives out mega prizes. Sometimes they refer to me as a “star player,” even though I have never played any of their games. Other times the notice invites me to use a search engine that will enter my name for a chance to be a multi-millionaire. One thing that is hard to miss in these messages is the name of the Executive Director of the “Prize Patrol.” 

What a great job! Who is ever going to be displeased with someone’s job performance when what they do is arrive at front doors with flowers and messages involving millions of dollars?

I can just imagine the job performance evaluation:
  • Organizational Skills
Efficiently handles multiple activities simultaneously: Holds facsimile of check, presents flowers, smiles, and offers congratulations in a professional manner while appearing that he is happy about the recipient’s win.
  • Client Satisfaction
During the past year all clients have been 100% satisfied with the performance of the Executive Director.

I might enjoy this job, but the position is already filled.

Other jobs that don’t seem perfect on the surface but, with some digging, may qualify. These are jobs that come with mega severance packages. In big cities where I have lived, this "perfect" kind of job is often held by a school superintendent. Since there are so many wonderful educators out there who actually know what schools should be doing in order to be successful, I’m always puzzled as to why a board signs a contract that includes using taxpayer money to rid the district of an underperforming, hard-to-get-along-with leader. But school boards are not the only organizations that are used by these leadership types.

Just this past week, it was announced that the CEO of our city-owned hospital will be leaving. It seems that this split is a mutual agreement between him and the hospital board. His deal is a $1.15 million dollar severance package that includes 18 months of severance pay, $20,000 for job placement, the title to the car furnished to him by the hospital as a part of his salary, and health benefits.* 

Say what? Well, maybe not the mayor’s words, but what he meant when he requested that the city council fire the hospital board, which it promptly did. 

I don’t think I would be able to sleep if I had scammed a not-for-profit organization out of big bucks. So, obviously, this would not be the perfect job for me. But for this CEO, he had the perfect job if his ambition is to pad his own pockets.

I have long criticized this very common practice, but had decided that it would forever “fly under the radar,” so to speak. Now I’ve discovered that our population voted wisely for a mayor and council who have the fortitude to take a stand against people who apparently exist to scam the system.  Yea mayor! Yea city council! 

*The Gazette (Colorado Springs)