Mistakes

Writing 101, Day 13: Play with word count….

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This evening, in an effort to get to bed earlier, I made the mistake of asking my children to start their own lunches for tomorrow. If they don’t have time to eat the lunches I make, they will definitely not have time to eat the lunches they made.

It was an experiment that became the mistake I am not likely to repeat….

Writing Space

Written in response to Writing 101, Day 6: The space to write….

My children were very young when I became a single mother—my youngest was 14 months old—but I have never stopped writing. I have “paused” every now and again when life becomes overwhelming, but I have written, at least a bit, through each stage of their lives. Because I also took on an online teaching position, I became accustomed to working with much distraction.

When the children were young, I would work and write while they played—sometimes in the other room, and sometimes right near me. Often, the children would have their various craft projects or drawings-in-progress splayed across the kitchen table; I would squeeze myself in, claiming a tiny little spot of table real estate, just big enough for my laptop. Crayons, markers, clay, googly eyes and cast-off drawings inched nearer with every movement they made. When they were quietly engaged in their own activities, I could write without a problem. However, I developed tactics to deal with noise and distraction.

On one particularly memorable day, I was sitting at the kitchen table working, and W was sitting across from me, bent over some project or another. He might have been about eight at the time. The other two were in the living room, and they were not being quiet, by any stretch of the imagination. I was working, but to keep my focus, I was dictating to myself as I typed.

I saw W look up from his project, so I watched him as I typed. He looked at me, cocked his head and narrowed his eyes as he studied me, pondering what to say. I stared back without pausing in my typing or my dictating. “Mum, can you type silently?” he asked me.

I raised my eyebrows in question and halted my dictation and hence, my typing. “Do you hear your brother and sister?” As if on cue, one of them squealed, and they both giggled. W nodded. “That is why I can’t type silently.” He held my gaze for a long moment before he sighed and turned back to his work.

Since then, I always try to type silently. But sometimes, when the distractions are just too much to handle, I have to type out loud.

Talk-to-Text

Writing 101, Day 7: Let social media inspire you. In this case, texting rather than tweeting.

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On Friday night, my boyfriend discovered the talk-to-text feature on my phone. He was texting my daughter who had just finished her evening performance of “Our Town,” and I needed to let her know we were on our way to pick her up. “Oh look, I can say something!” he announced as he pushed the microphone button and recorded his message. Because he had been privy to J’s iMessage voice recordings to her step-sister on her iPad, he thought he was familiar with this feature. I believe he thought it would send a recorded message that J could listen to.

Instead, it translated his recording into a text message, one that made little sense. He read the first to me. “Hello just seen we are on our way the by.” I glanced over just as he hit “send.”

“Did you just send that message?” I asked, watching his reaction while trying to keep my eye on the road ahead. He looked at me sheepishly and nodded.

“It’s fine,” he said. “It’ll be fine.”

I turned back to the road, shaking my head. “She doesn’t know you’re with me, so she won’t know why I am texting,” I said. The thought was meant for him, but it was pretty clear I was speaking to myself. In my peripheral vision, I could see him playing with the microphone button, holding the phone near his mouth again.

He was like a kid with a new toy. He recorded a long message, then read it back. “Is a new place not called our house call to you or town whilst turn it I am actually talking English probably my accent I’m not sure goodbye a deal spot lab what’s in.” And as soon as he finished reading, he hit send again.

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING??” I laughed. I wanted to take my phone back, but I was actually somewhat amused. By this point, I knew that J would realize it wasn’t me texting, so I was exonerated of all responsibility. He recorded another message and sent it, then another. “Are those messages even making any sense?” I asked. He had stopped reading them to me before he sent them.

“Not much. She’ll figure it out.” Yeah… I doubt anyone would figure out those messages!

When we pulled up in front of the high school, the last few drama students were out in front waiting for their rides. It was a beautiful night, unseasonably warm. I rolled down my window. J was holding her phone. “Guess who discovered talk-to text?” I asked, and we all burst out laughing.

A Single Image

Going back to Writing 101, Day 4: A story in a single image…

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Image is not mine but from Unsplash.com

When I was in college, I took several photography courses as part of a self-designed minor of study. One weekend during my senior year, I got the idea to go to the top of a mountain and photograph the sunrise. It was October, and around here, you never know whether October will be the back end of summer or the front end of winter. I remember getting up very early and piling on layers of clothing. While the forecast was for seasonal temperatures in the valley, the mountain was a different story. Two shirts, a sweater, winter jacket, hat, gloves… I was prepared.

It was still dark as my car crested the mountain and pulled into the small parking lot near the lodge. There was no sign of other people, though a couple of cars sat empty in the lot. The lodge was dark. I turned off my headlights and got out of the car. Stars blinked in the night, but the sky was just taking on a faint grey cast. I picked my way over the rocks to find myself a perch at the top of the eastern slope. I sat in silence; the only sound was the cold wind which swiped at the top of the mountain as if to blow it clean. I shivered, and I remember wondering if I would make it to daylight without breaking down and seeking shelter my heated car.

It didn’t get warmer, but slowly, the sky brightened. The first rays of morning sunlight winked over the distant horizon, and a layer of white fog blanketed the valley. The mountains, in varying shades of blue-grey, touched the sky tainted pink with the promise of a new day. In time, the color faded to a pale blue.

That morning, as I sat on the rock and watch the landscape change from night to day, I realized that there are some things that we truly must experience. I could take pictures to show to family and friends, but being on that mountain, exposed to the elements and taking in the splendor of the scenery as the day dawned was a moment that is meant to be captured by the eye and the brain and the senses, by being present and in the moment. It was a moment that created an image that will forever remain in the accessible archives of my brain.

Social Media

This post was written for Writing 101, Day 5: Respond to a quote…

Just as we teach our children how to ride a bike, we need to teach them how to navigate social media and make the right moves that will help them. The physical world is similar to the virtual world in many cases. It’s about being aware. We can prevent many debacles if we’re educated.”     —Amy Jo Martin

 

The great thing about social media is that it is (for the most part) public. We can see what others are posting, saying, doing, thinking. Social media allows us to navigate a different world—to create a persona, if you will, of how we see ourselves or would like to be seen. Because it is so public, it provides great lessons for parents who are willing to trot out their ‘friends’ as examples, both good and bad.

A few years back, a young acquaintance of ours made an impulsive tweet in a moment of adolescent thoughtlessness. Hundreds of miles away, his tweet was picked up by people paid by our federal government to monitor such things, and he ended up squarely in the center of their radar. By the time he arrived at his first class of the school day, the local police were there to meet him. His parents were called, and ultimately, he was asked to quietly withdraw himself from the school—a private institution—and finish his senior year elsewhere.

What parent wouldn’t use this incident as an example for his or her children? Granted, this is an extreme example, but nothing that ends up on the Internet is private. Or unmonitored. Or irretrievable. If SnapChat postings actually did “disappear,” the terms and conditions wouldn’t ask users to agree to allow them to store all posts forever. But who reads the terms and conditions, right?

Every now and then, I see things on the Facebook sites or blog posts of the adult crowd. “I don’t think she should have shared that,” I grumble to my children. “Her children might not be on Facebook, but their friends and their friends’ parents are….” I wonder sometimes if people consider the ramifications of the things they post.

As C prepares for college, he is going out into a different world—his own world, away my watchful eye, where he has to make his own decisions and create his own identity and purpose. What I don’t want is for him to suddenly find that his Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, or whatever are under scrutiny and not be prepared for that. This is the world in which we live, Friends. If you are putting yourself on the Internet for people to see, you very well may fall under scrutiny. That scrutiny may mean that you are held as an example within the private world of your “friends,” or it may have much bigger implications.

This lesson is one that each of us—teen or adult—will benefit from keeping in the forefront of our minds as we venture ever further into the virtual world.

Abundance

Posted in response to Writing 101 Day : One word inspiration.

A few years back, when I was young and athletic and fit, I would go out for a run to find inspiration for writing. I used running as a way to move through moments (and sometimes hours) of writer’s block. I found running to be a particularly effective way to generate new stories and to deal with ideas that wouldn’t flow.

Yesterday, I happened upon an article on running and what runners think about while they are running. It was based on a study in which ten long distance runners were wired with microphones during their runs, and they were asked to narrate their thought processes.

Ha! I thought. Wouldn’t that have been a fun study to be part of? Then I reconsidered when I realized that had I been chosen as a subject, I probably would have been sent to the loony bin before the study was over. As a creative person, my mind can string some strange thoughts together, like beads on a necklace that will attract some inquisitive remarks, but will never be the sort of thing that’s in style.

In some instances, there is no doubt that my thought process was similar to that of the subjects—Come on! You can do it! Keep going—just a little farther…. But in other ways, I would have to say my ‘train of running thoughts’ strayed far from the beaten path.

While my feet were pounding out the rhythm of my run, my head was spinning tales from the things I saw by the side of the road, the events of my day, thoughts halted before spoken, and the struggles my head was working through. My running mind tended to weave these things together in ways that might be considered unconventional.

One day when I was running, I noticed a discarded ATM receipt along the side of the road. At first, I didn’t think anything of it, other than the fact that people really should properly discard their trash. Not far away, I passed a discarded Styrofoam coffee cup. Probably the same person, I thought. Took some money out of the bank and bought a cup of coffee on the way home. I kept running.

Down the road a bit was the most unusual piece of the puzzle; a pair of men’s black dress pants was strewn along the roadway. And now it seemed that the person had not only withdrawn some money from the bank, he had withdrawn all of his money from the bank. He bought a cup of coffee, and while he pondered his situation, he decided to quit his job and create a new life, one that was less restrictive and didn’t have the office trappings. No more business attire for him!

Oh my! I can just imagine what those researchers would have thought had they been listening to me narrate these thoughts while I was running. But a great story was hatching. And running was always a means to access abundant inspiration.

May you always have an abundance of inspiration to fuel your journey.

Living with teens

Posted in response to Writing 101 Day 2, Write a list…

10 Reasons I don’t particularly like living with teenagers:

  1. It seems someone is always sleeping in my house.
  2. The laundry piles up and gets out of hand. If we do one load a day, we can stay on top of it.
  3. The grocery bills are steep. And growing.
  4. With people comes We need to get control of the stuff.
  5. Someone’s plans always conflict with someone else’s and it’s my job to juggle the calendar.
  6. Just when I think I know what my teens like to eat, their tastes change.
  7. There are always shoes by the door.
  8. Things can get loud. So far, the neighbors have not called the police, but it’s coming. I know it’s coming.
  9. They make me feel old.
  10. Knowing they’ll soon be off to college, careers, families, even though that means I have done my job.

10 Reasons I love living with teenagers:

  1. There is always someone in the house to give a fresh perspective. If I am stuck or stymied, someone will help me out of my conundrum.
  2. Teenagers can actually reason with me—sometimes better than I would like—unlike when they were younger.
  3. The house is full of life and activity.
  4. We have a lot of great books around our house—kid books, young adult books, grown up books. If you need something to read, you can always find something!
  5. There is always someone to help me with my technological devices, talk me through the glitches, hook up my new printer, or figure out why the DVR is not recording the show I watch.
  6. I can bake cookies without having to eat them all myself.
  7. There is always a pair of shoes by the door that I can slip into if I need to run out to the car late at night (or first thing in the morning).
  8. They keep my young.
  9. The laughter.
  10. The love.