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.

Writing (2)

This post was written in response to November’s Writing 101 – Day 1 assignment.

It never hurts to re-examine why we write. Back in September, I completed the assignment I write because… which gave some insight as to how I became a writer. That first assignment can be found here: https://positivelyunbroken.com/2015/09/13/writing/ I am re-taking Writing 101 because the need to write is strong. My ability to find the time and structure is weak. So here goes….

I write because I am convinced that the world in which I live will someday live up to my expectations. For now, my life is rough around the edges; stuffed with busyness and work and people who might be too unfriendly or even downright rude. Writing helps me to process and to find a place where I can be at ease, reflect, and be myself.

I write because lately, the need to write has been immediate and pressing. There is something out there that I am missing; I just know it. When my head hits the pillow at night, the ideas are knocking at the door, pushing hard to get in. As I am falling asleep, the barrier between the conscious and the subconscious relaxes. Sometimes, the ideas push hard enough that fingers slip between the door and the casing, slivers of light into a world I have yet to explore. Through writing, I believe I will find the key to that world.

Some days, when I least expect it, I find pieces of ideas scattered across the floor like shards of glass, glinting in the sunlight, begging to be picked up, examined, and assembled into a logical or creative whole. On those days, I have the choice to gingerly tiptoe around them, or to dive in and begin to assemble, using the words I write to bind and develop the found ideas.

As long as the ideas continue to be compelling and urgent, I will continue to write. When the urgency is no longer there, I will dig deeper, searching, until I can dig no more. I write because I am convinced that when the ideas stop appearing, I may also cease to exist.

Virtual coffee date…

For Writing 101, Day 10 (which was many days ago…), we were asked to update our readers in a post of a “virtual coffee date.” So here goes….

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If we were having coffee, I would tell you that the school year is getting off to a slow start. Every September, I marvel at how late the sun rises, and yet every September when I wake up at 5:30, it is dark. Just like last year. Getting up at 5:30 is not my favorite thing to do, and the weeks are already feeling long, while the weekend is a mere blink. This year, readjusting to the strict schedule has been taxing to my mind and body. Each day, it seems, I wake up with a new pain that I chalk up to aging for the time being. For now, I will leave those “aging” pieces where they lie.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you how much I love reading the essays of my college freshmen—the narrative essays on a place that shaped them. Through years of reading these essays, I have learned that students don’t choose to write about the elaborate vacations, and the events or places that represent the material parts of life. I have learned that an overwhelming number of students choose the places where they have been able to connect with their families, spend meaningful time together, and feel the love and support that surrounds them. These essays let me know that even though I am not able to take my children on long vacations far away—even though they haven’t had some of the amazing experiences that their peers have had—maybe, just maybe, what I am doing is not so bad.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you how often I hear the phrase “Welcome to my life,” and how very much I despise it. There are so many things people keep secret, not revealing their pain, their failures, and their worries. No one has a right to assume that their life is more difficult than that of another person. Their life is different. Period. Using this phrase only serves to diminish the road traveled by others.

If we were having coffee, I might tell you that I had a challenging summer. I took on a great deal of work—more than usual—because it was available, it was offered and the offer halfway felt like a promotion, and I need to support my family. The workload might not have been such a great idea. Other areas of my life suffered, and I felt as though I was unable to do anything well. I hate not doing things well.

If we were having coffee, I might tell you that I worry a lot about my children. I would tell you that I try my best to keep up with everything that needs to be done, but sometimes things slip. Letting things slip falls under the category of “not doing things well.” Did I mention I hate that? Being a single parent is the toughest thing I’ve ever done, and I need to learn to let go of some of the things that can slip and not be noticed.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I am truly blessed to have three teenagers and a boyfriend who love me. I am sure that some days, they love me more than others, but they love me. And that’s what matters. Sometimes, when I am being honest with myself about my life, my past, and my future, I realize that I would not trade a thing. My road is difficult sometimes, but everyone’s is. Some days, I am stronger than I look, and those days are the ones that get me through.

Then again, if we were having coffee, I might have second thoughts about not trading any of it… I can think of one or two toxic people I would trade for something more positive….

 

 

 

 

A Letter on Navigating Adolescence…

Posted in response to Writing 101, Day 9: Reinvent the letter format.

Dear Teen,

I see you sitting quietly on the edge of the action, deciding whether you will jump in and get involved or not. You are observing the situation, sizing up the participants, and gauging whether or not you will take part. I see the uncertainty you are feeling as you approach new situations and new people, wondering what will happen if you insert yourself into this activity and this group. As you sit here, you are deciding the likelihood of your success, defining what that success might look like, and determining whether you will be rejected if you don’t succeed…and if it matters.

I see your struggle because I have been around teenagers for the vast majority of my life. I have been a teacher, coach, mentor, dorm parent. These days, I am even a parent to my own teenagers. Eons ago, before the Internet and cell phones and MP3 players, I was a teenager. And despite how old I may seem, from my perspective, it wasn’t that long ago.

Adolescence is a bumpy ride. You may hear that these are the best years of your life, but don’t believe it for a second; these years are tough! Some of your friendships may grow stronger, but some will dissolve. Through the conflicts you have with friends now, you will learn to recognize the people who will be there for you through thick and thin—the friends you will support and who will support you through even the toughest of times, the ones you will want to keep close by always. These years can have a huge impact on the person you will become and the sensitivities you will have. I see the tolerance you have developed when you accept the people around you, regardless of how they are different from yourself. You have watched how mean other people can be, and you have recognized that not everyone is thoughtful, considerate, and accepting of others.

You are caring and sensitive and polite, and you are stronger than you believe. These traits are important. They will help you to navigate life and make your mark. And you will leave a beautiful mark in the footprints you leave behind.

Consequently, I would urge you to make good decisions and live like you don’t care what other people think. In the grand scheme of things, the opinions of others don’t matter. What matters in your life are your own opinions and those of the people closest to you. Be nice, be creative, be loving, but most importantly, be brave enough to stand out. Remember… fitting in is over-rated.

So jump in there and be a participant. These people are having fun, and you are likely to have fun, as well. Perhaps you’ll make a new friend. Perhaps you’ll discover a new activity you love. You never know until you try! Life is short—get involved and live it to the fullest.

May you always know that any time you need it, you have support right here!

Love,

Mom