Lessons Learned

What a great month with the Spring Cleaning Challenge!

I’ve edited half my story so far and while there are major plot points I need to redo and minor character enhancement, overall my story doesn’t blow chunks as I previously believed.

This month taught me so much more than I’d planned.

I learned that the skinny, beautiful perfectionist trapped inside my current frame doesn’t know half as much as she likes to believe. I learned laughter really is the best medicine and mixed with wine can do wonders.

No seriously. I learned I’m not perfect and while it’s hard to let go-it’s okay-I won’t die of embarrassment, anger or shame. I learned I can grow as long as I give myself the right to make mistakes, and then promptly forgive myself, on the way of enhancing my skills.

I learned nothing is quite as awful as you first judge. I learned I’m my biggest critic, but also my biggest fan.  I learned editing doesn’t have to be equivalent to poking my eye out with a fork anymore then walking two miles a day does.  I learned if you want results you have to be willing to do the work.  HARD WORK! (Perhaps outlines are on my horizon after all.)

But most of all, I learned the journey doesn’t have to be full of solitary pain, angst and avoidance.

Sharing my work here on HerStoryCalls with some great friends has been an extremely humbly and wonderful experience. Freeing. So thank you!

I hope you find/share the same enjoyment and pleasure in writing as I. May your words flow like meandering streams and your love hold with constant passion.

Seize your pen and write!

Sláinte my friends, you deserve it!

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Is is simple or is it easy?

“All difficult things have their origin in that which is easy, and great things in that which is small.”

– Lao Tzu

Most people believe that simple and easy are interchangeable terms.  I know these two words are worlds apart and because it’s almost Christmas, I’m going to share the story which taught me a very valuable life lesson; what’s simple is almost never easy.

Back in the days of my single parenthood when I believed it was still possible for me to be all things to all people I refused the advice of the older wiser people around me, refusing to “slow down”  take it “slow and easy” to be kinder to myself and to the child I was raising alone.  I wanted to show all the people who warned me not to marry young or get too involved with someone who was inconsistent or self-centered and only wanted what was good for them alone.

So many Christmas’s at our house were spare and lean, while I finished graduate school and tried working full-time while raising a child without the support of a second parent.  Times were often hard, money was always tight, and I saw much of the trouble that came our way as rudely unavoidable.  Once the TV set broke and we had no money in the budget for a repair or replacement, so we started the nightly tradition of reading a book together.  It was a wonderful choice.  We dove in, the two of us, with trips to the library and to the second-hand book store, and advanced the adventures in our heads with many classics, Robinson Crusoe, The Count of Monte Cristo, The Three Musketeers, and my personal favorites, The Hobbit, followed by the Ring Trilogy.  We read each and every night, curled up next to each other on the sofa, and no interruptions.  We never answered the phone while reading, unless I was on call at the hospital.

This simple substitution gave rise to even better traditions for us, books were always on the gift list for the following Christmases and to this very day we are both avid readers across all genres.

One specific holiday, I simply didn’t have any money for gifts or treats of any kind.  There was no extras for the holidays.  There would, of course be a huge holiday feast spent with my large and loving family.  My child would receive gifts, albeit small remembrances from all my grown siblings.  But I didn’t have any money for gifts.  It had been a tough year.  My ex wasn’t paying child support, and we’d had more than our share of growth spurts and unforeseen draws on our meager resources.  Fortunately the year before I’d bought an artificial tree, which was housed in the attic.  Sadly the attic leaked, (did I mention tough year?) and the decorations were moldy when we brought them down to see if a little decorating might improve the mood.

Now I am the child of depression parents, so I keep my own expectations fairly low (so I’m not often disappointed), but that year I knew I needed to come up with something special to get us both through the holidays.  I sat down in my kitchen on the verge of tears, angry at the situation, angry at the ex, angry with working so hard and so long so often that my creativity was all but gone.  I wanted to be able to go out and buy my child whatever it was he wanted for Christmas without worrying over the bill coming due in January.  I wanted him to have all the things his school friends had, skiing trips, time with grandparents, new ice skates, and toys galore.  I wanted to buy him every book he’d ever asked for instead of constantly schlepping back to the library to return the books he wanted to keep on the shelves  in his room.

Of course, the worst thing happened.  My son caught me crying in the kitchen.  I know it made him feel worse about the Christmas we were having but I couldn’t help myself.  The more I tried to stop the harder I cried.  He hugged me and tried to comfort me, and asked if making some cookies might make me feel better.

So I got up, dried my eyes and started a new tradition with my son.  We made gingerbread men, caramel corn balls, sugar cookies and candy.  We wrapped our wonderful homemade goodies in cellophane and tinfoil.  We used the bits of ribbon we salvaged from our moldy, damaged decorations box in our leaky attic.  These wonderful homemade goodies became the decorations for our pathetic artificial tree.

My son knew his school friends would be exchanging small gifts, and because I didn’t want to see his excitement spoiled by having nothing to share, I began to write short four line verses on plain white cards, which he decorated with hand drawn holly. I added the childrens names, and writing the annual Christmas story became a favorite tradition.  His friends came to our house to see how we were celebrating our holiday.  They were so excited to find their gifts were part of our tree decorations!  But the real treat came when they cards were all put together and the Christmas poem had each and every name in it.

The following year, we fared much better financially and found ourselves less stressed by the approaching holidays.  But also, that year starting at Halloween, each child stopped by the house to remind us they’d been part of the “Christmas Story” and wanted to remembered again this year.  For the next several years each child came during the holidays looking for their own special gingerbread man or popcorn ball.  They all wanted to be with us for story time during the holidays.

For many years afterward his friends would recall the special times they’d spent with us, our tiny artificial tree laden with homemade goodies.

So that’s how I learned that sometimes the simple things which make life special are not easy.  I’m sure sometimes life is meant to be hard so that we remember, simple although not easy, is always better.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays

from my home to yours!

Summer Vacation

This week I’m on vacation. Soaking up the sun and enjoying my family. I find the days are starting to pass way too fast and my children are growing up at a rate I can’t believe.  Or perhaps don’t want to. 

These days we spend together now are what will live within each of us as we age. Forever in our minds, no matter what happens in the future.  I want to make these days the best they can be. 

I’m trying to paint their three smiling faces and laughter into my soul. Saving the jubilance for when they aren’t near anymore. The close calls with fish hooks caught in my shirt, the buzzing about what’s next on our adventure, or the muddy kisses and scraped knees are the glue that makes it all stick in my memory. These are the best of times and I’m truly blessed to be a mother. 

Scenery that’s been crafted by a master, fantastic fun, and delightfully burnt food cooked over a campfire unite us as we wander the beautiful state of Colorado. The bright stars, the high vistas, and the love we share is extraordinary and I would not trade a moment. 

Yes. I’m blessed. 

I hope you are, too. 

Summer

www.summermahan.com

Love*Laugh*Read

Humour: Can it really make you live longer?

My first blog, ever, and I’m still amazed. This morning in a highly scientific method I pulled two pieces of folded paper from the suggestion pile. “Regency novels and humor can make you live longer,” they read.  As a writer of Regency romance some proper British English was called for, hence humour not humor was used, and I couldn’t have been more tickled.

I thought back to the first time I read Regency, an era 1811-1820 when the king of Great Britain was deemed unfit to rule and power was given to his son, the Prince Regent. It was the summer I turned fourteen. I literally did not move from my bed for three months and my poor mother, would hover in the doorway, asking if, ‘everything was all right?’

Of course it was.

I was in love!  Day and night I’d read close to 2 romance books a day. Great novels from Johanna Lindsey, Julie Garwood, Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer, Mary Barlogh, oh, I could go on, had captivated me.

Now, what made these books so compelling? Strong characters, great plots, exciting places. Yes, yes, yes! But there was something more, something so engaging that I would laugh aloud, giggle late into the night underneath my bedcovers with a flashlight.

That was it!

They all made me laugh.  The sparkling dialogue, wit, and charm made me feel so darn good reading them that I never wanted my hormonal teen body to leave my room.  It was safer anyway.

I finally left my room, but I have been laughing ever since.

Especially now that I am a mother, why just the other day my 4 year old twins raced across the newly shampooed carpet with muddy shoes and…oh, wait, that wasn’t funny. How about when my 10 year old took the golf cart and smashed it through the fence…wait, I wasn’t laughing then either. I did, but later, much later with some really good friends who were sharing their ‘experiences’ as well.

And friends you can laugh with are worth their weight in chocolate.

So yes, personally, I do believe humour makes us live longer.  I know it’s helped out my kids.

I hope you’ll join me again.

But don’t go before you share your own humorous experience.

Summer

Love*Laugh*Read

www.summermahan.com