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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Story Cake

I'm on holiday!

You can tell right?

I did one of my favorite things while visiting home for the holidays: took leisurely time to enjoy coffee at a Starbucks. 2 of my siblings were available and my parents. In fact, I even invited my oldest daughter to join us. I told her she had really turned a corner. At 15 she was having her first coffee, even actually drinking coffee (as opposed to a foo-foo I'm at Starbucks but won't drink anything that tastes like coffee-coffee) with the grownups.

The 6 of us sat there and did precisely what I love to do.
We told stories.
We laughed because my brother tells stories with (we suspect) added drama.
We chuckled because my sister gets defensive when we tell the stories about her stubbornness and tendency to have caused me angst as a child.
The siblings got hysterical when mother throws her hands up in exasperation. She can't believe we remember her acting like that.
My dad's whole belly shakes with laughter because these are all new stories to him. Most of these antic happened while he was out driving his big rig and we never had the nerve to tell him what happened while he was gone.
My daughter laughed and laughed and laughed at our stories. She shares that she is hoping someday she'll have moments like this with her 2 brothers and 2 sisters. I think think she will. The shear fact that I have 5 children comforts me that we still have a crazy life ahead of us full of potential memories. My daughter doubts me. She says all kids do now a days is play video games and sit at the computer. They never make their own fun. We all get solemn for a moment pondering her theory.
Most of our stories revolve around our friends in our old neighborhood. The very same neighborhood I drew a map of a few entries ago. I loved it! All the memories I recently explored and pulled out of my memory grew in strength and power.
Sitting there and watching everyone toss in their memories and stories ... it felt like we were creating something. A fancy cake perhaps. Or a gourmet meal.  
I had some ingredients - memories.
We tossed in a few more ingredients - other's memories.
We mixed it all up with drama.
We baked it.
Frosted it with humor.
We decorated our Story Cake with characters and what we had created was a beautiful masterpiece. It was everyone's favorite flavor and we all marveled at how much we enjoyed it. We savored our creation.

And I was thankful for my neighborhood map. It came alive that day at the coffee shop. Our memories and friends, even our past tragedies and victories came to life over lattees and mochas. I was transported on the sound of laughter to relive those times.

That's why coffee shop visiting is one of my favorite things to do. To me it means talking and visiting and storytelling. Stories are powerful. We need to tell them more. We need to live today so that tomorrow we'll have a story to tell.

May you make your own story cake.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Assignment Time Line

My next Assignment in my book is to pick a year and create a time line from memory about that year.
ok
I'm totally hung up on this one. I have a great internal fear that I can't remember anything. This is the very reason I picked up this book. Don Miller aptly gave words to my insecurity (in his book A Million Miles) that my life is nothing but a blur. Nothing noteworty. So boring I can't even remember it.

And even if I can decide on a year to timeline; I mean what year should I choose? There's the obvious, year I met Aaron, got married, had a kid, had another kid, had twins, got a job, bought a house....but each of those things happened in their own years. Each one is a year unto itself. That makes for a boring timeline. (Of course there's this year I could chronicle, but that's just too fresh...not going there yet).

sigh

I really don't know how to start on this one... the thought often comes to me that I could pull down that box of journals hidden in the back of my closet. But that would require digging into the back of my closet. Where I keep all my memories - you know - out of sight, out of mind. Not that there are bad memories there...that's not what I mean at all. I mean there are a lot of memories there. I mean, think of all the mental energy it will require of me to read a dozen or more maybe legible many not scrawled handwritten books just so I can assemble some sort of timeline for a silly-nobody-will-ever-even-see-even-if-I-ever-get-the-courage-to-show-someone assignment.

What do you think? What year should I choose? A recent year so I'll feel good that I can remember stuff? or Is it worth the work of digging and prying into the dark cobwebbed corners of my mind?





Friday, December 10, 2010

Write Everyday -working on it!

Today I wrote 2 things!
One, my weekly parenting article for the Review Atlas (it will run next Tuesday, December 14)
and this ... from my exposed, feeling a little brave, ready to show myself.... blog.

click here --> SIKORSKI7 website BLOG


Julia in Eat, Pray, Love

This is me! in my very own life!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

My Bad!

"The great stumbling block of the creative mind is the awareness of self from the perspective of others"
Don Miller

This is a very raw quote for me. I am turning it over and around and thinking about it and reexamining it.
Didn't I start this blog because I wanted to control what people think of me?
Don't I stare at this screen night after night and imagine what I think you would like to read about (even though there is not even anyone out there - yet?).
And don't I have secret things hidden in my heart that feel so powerful and yet too intimate to share?

And so what am I to do? If I write what is so important to me, what is in my soul,  I risk telling the personal stories of the people I love who may not want me to share their story... but it's part mine too ...
and
what if it's TMI (too much information)? Just because one has a free blogsite should one post whatever she wants without regard to discretion?
and what about renowned blogger MckMama? who has recently posted in her blog that she left her husband? is this much access to vulnerable information going to make us a better society?
because I don't want my words, my story to be thrown out and mixed into an overloaded cyberworld.
I want to believe my story isn't just noise added to the chaos of internet blogging sensations.
I want to believe my words are powerful.
I want to believe that I don't care what you think about my words.
But I do
and I'm clearly an idealogist who's expectations are running a little high.
Any my husband can tell you ALL the stories of when I've let my expectations get the better of me.
And so now I rethink about Don Miller's quote ... and I think I'm at a stumbling block. Cuz I don't want to write what I want to write because of the self awareness you might have of me.
oi!
but at a minimum my soul is eased because I wrote today. I am supposed to write everyday. sigh.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Review Atlas Articles

I am still struggling to write every day.
Golly....everyday seems so tedious...ug! It's not that I don't want to. I have thoughts in my head constantly. "I should write about this, I should jot that down..." I just never do it.
I'm also sick of excuses!
I guess if I got up at 5 am I would have time to write.
But would my brain work then?
Just wondering....
Anyway, I do write at least once a week. It's amazing how easily I can plunk out an article for the local paper. Years ago I wrote for the Review Atlas, and again just recently (since spring of '09) have I submitted a weekly parenting/advice column.
But since I'm writing I'll say it counts and I'll link you to this weeks article as proof!
PARENTING COLUMN

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

My Childhood Neighborhood

From Writing Life Stories by Bill Roorbach
page 21 Exercise One: Mapmaking Please make a map of the earliest neighborhood you can remember. Include as much detail as you can. Who lived where? What were the secret places? Where were your friends? Where did the weird people live? Where were the friends of your brothers and sisters? Where were the off limit places? And so forth.
This is a sketch of my childhood neighborhood. I don't know when we moved in but I know it was sometime before kindergarten. I lived there until just before my 17th birthday. That's a long time and a lot of childhood memories. My assignment was to draw out whatever I could remember .Surprisingly I remembered a lot. And more came flooding to me as I kept going.
We moved into a brand new home. It was a ranch. The first lot on the left in the neighborhood. We had the biggest yard of everyone. One one side of us was a little white house, on the other side - just past our enormous side yard - the highway. We lived a stone's throw away from the service road and a major highway. 
Our house was green. It was 1970something. Everything was a shade of green. Even our stove and fridge in the flower power wall  papered kitchen. Except for the eagle. The eagle wan't green, above the window on the front of our house was a golden colored 3D eagle.
Our driveway was long and steep. We couldn't ride bikes on it because we'd go right into the street and seeing as how we were the house off the highway right by the neighborhood entrance, there was too much traffic.
I had a bird's eye view of our neighborhood though. From the super large picture window in our formal living room. Often we would sit on it's ledge and watch the world pass by. Sometimes when we were really bored, my 3 siblings and I would play manican. We would pose in crazy ways and then stay perfectly still until some poor passerby would notice us. 
We didn't live in a block. Our neighborhood was a huge oval. As you traveled into our neighborhood, from either direction, you went uphill. This made for leaving - especially on our bikes - exhausting. However, we could get home (at the bottom of the hill) in no time flat. And we had friends everywhere. No matter which way round the loop we'd go... we had friends. My sister played endlessly with Julie Summers. My brother with Matt Godatt. My youngest sister was too small to leave the house and yet she managed to. The summer she followed the sound of the ice cream truck and got lost in the neighborhood was a tragic day. I remember we called the police as my mom was sure she had been snatched. She hadn't. She just went too far and didn't know how to come home. I remember she was barefoot and the neighborhood had just been retared. Her feet were covered with black goo.
I had neighborhood friends as well. But mostly I remember my neighborhood enemy Kelly Lungsford. I don't know why she didn't like me. But she didn't. At all. She hated me. She bullied me ruthlessly and had her best friend Brenda, who was a grade older than us, beat me up one day after school. My siblings and I were walking home together after school and they left me when I got jumped. They ran home scared as could be. I must have been too scared to move. I wonder, do I have the flight or fight instinct because I didn't fight back and I didn't have the common sense to run away. I got the crap beat out of me. I think I was in 5th or 6th grade. After that year, I didn't see Kelly again for 3 or 4 years. I don't know why she didn't attend my school anymore. But my freshman year there she was again, standing at the same bus stop as me waiting to go to high school. On cold days her grandfather would drive by the bus stop and give her a ride to school. One cold day he told her to invite me to go along with them. I didn't refuse the nice warm car ride. Whether she liked me or not didn't matter to me. .. it just beat standing out in the cold. From that day on, whenever her grandfather drove by I got in the car as well. I just know she hated that.
I think she was the one who cut our Christmas lights that year. My dad went all out to decorate the house. Probably because so many cars could see our house from the highway. He would decorate the house with big multicolored bulbs and each and every window and bush got smaller blinking, muliticolored lights. One year, the same year I got rides to school with Kelly, someone vandalized our decorations. They cut the lights. Dad would buy more. And then they would cut them again. This seemed to go on and on, I have no idea how many times he replaced the strings of lights. I have no idea if Kelly was responsible. But I've always wondered.
I don't remember it snowing a lot in St. Louis growing up, but I remember when it did it was a big deal. Our side yard served as the best sledding hill. And when we'd get too cold or too wet we kids would go inside and warm up from the picture window. We'd laugh and gawk at all the drivers who lost control coming down the neighborhood hill. They're cars would go up the median, spin around backwards and provide us with much entertainment. One time though a car got stuck and another vehicle stopped to help. A third car came down the hill and couldn't stop. The third car hit the second car, which pinned a fella in between the second and first car. I remember taking a blanket off our bed to keep him warm until the ambulance arrived. 
The ambulance probably didn't take long. We lived right by a major hospital. Ambulances zooming by were a common thing. We were used to it. Sometimes I remember praying every time I heard the sirens. I'd first listen to see if it was coming to my house, then I'd say a prayer for whoever it was going to get. My mom needed an ambulance once. When our green house began to show it's age we hired house painters. This time Dad choose an army green color and the trim a pale yellow. They painted the windows shut. On a warm spring day my mom tried to open the windows. But they were stuck. She took a kitchen knife and went along the edges in attempt to loosen them. When that didn't work, she took the palms of her hands to hit the window sashes. She missed and put her wrists right through the glass. I didn't see her do it but I remember the kitchen towels she had wrapped around her hands. They were so red. She screamed for me to go to the neighbor's house. The neighbor - who's name I can't remember - drove her to the ER. She could have died. Aunt Judy stayed with us that night. I remember she let me stay up late coloring in my Snow White coloring book. I will never forgot that day. For lots of reasons but mostly because on hot summer days I loved to play on our front porch. The cement felt cold as it was well shaded. I played weeble wobbles there watching cars go by, keeping close eye on the neighborhood. My mothers blood stained the cement of that front porch. Sometimes I would play there and pretend I couldn't see the perfectly, round brown stains left behind. Still to this day, I sometimes catch myself trying not to notice what is right in front of me. 

Monday, November 15, 2010

I'm Back!

I honestly can't believe I am back!
Part of me thought if I quit, if I took the book I was working on back to the library, I'd never get back to it again. But here I am. I took about a month's hiatus. This fall has been super busy for me as I traveled into Central Europe with an amazing team of women to host a women's leadership conference call EMERGE.
It was a really great trip. In a lot of ways! Myself, my soul, my insides, my heart....we're doing so much better. This trip was amazing. I go with the intentions of being a blessing to others, but I'll admit it was I who rec'd the greatest. But...that's another story for another blog...

Two days ago I went back to my public library and rechecked out Bill Roorbach's book: Writing Life Stories; How to Make Memories Into Memoirs, Ideas into Essays, and Life Into Literature

Sorry, Bill. I promise to buy a copy when I actually make money writing.
But speaking of Bill Roorbach...he's now my Facebook friend. Yep! Isn't Facebook an amazing thing? A complete stranger, who upon receiving a random compliment from me, will "befriend" me. I love this book though. It feels like I have a focus. Sure I could gal avant around the world, attending writers workshops here and writers workshops there. I could even sign up for a local writers college course at the community college...but the truth is all that takes time and $ - both of which I am unfortunately, consistently lacking.

But that is irrelevant to the goal. I am back to writing. I am self teaching, staying focused, making myself write daily.... I'm doing it. I'm back. And if no one else knows it....well, I do. I'm writing again.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Takin a Break



Friends,
I am signing off my "To Write a Better Story" Blog for a short time.

I have been quite busy planning and preparing for a mission trip I'm taking.

EMERGE is fantastic and I am thrilled to be apart of an amazing team of women who are traveling and bringing good news to European women.

If you'd like to know more visit http://www.nliemerge.com/


When I return and reenter the central time zone, I will again post .... until then, it's just too much on my plate. Instead of doing 5 things average-ly I am commited to do 3 things fantastically.

Thanks for understanding.
Stephanie

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Working through the book

Was able to get back to the book that I'm working through in order to make myself a better writer;
Writing Life Stories How to Make Memories in to Memoirs, Ideas into Essays, and Life into Literature
by Bill Roorbach

Exercise Four:
Make a Schedule
"I have all kinds of sympathy for busy people (new parents tops on the list!), but if you look into successful writers' lives, you'll find unbelievable burdens: full time jobs, children, multiple deadlines, car trouble, weddings and funerals, family expectations, illness, exhaustion, depression, imprisonment, on and on. Yet the work gets done."

Well, Mr. Roorbach, why don't you just look right to the heart of my problem and call me right out on it?!? (sigh)
I get it. I knew when I took this bold, mental leap that I had no time for one more thing. But all writers have their busy lives don't they? Is mine really that different? or if it is who really cares? Is my obituary going to say, "She was going to be a really great writer someday?"
Pathetic.
I am overworked and overwhelmed and I move on superspeed so often I hardly even know how to be still. It's true, if there is nothing to do at the moment I literally flop and flail because I hardly know how to decide on my own what to do. My calendar often literally dictates my life.
So....I need to make my calendar include writing.

Sometimes I've done that. Sometimes my darling husband will ask me what I'm doing on the computer. And sometimes I'm Facebooking but sometimes I've answered, "Writing" or "Working".
I am from this exercise forward going to call any writing or work for writing that I do "Working".

Mr. Roorbach says set a scheduled time to write. I set aside the time early in the morning or later in the evening when the kids are in bed to write (except right now I just finished checking the twins' take home folders, supervised Ebay's homework, started dinner, cleaned up the kitchen, checked the mail, shot off a few Blackberry emails and unloaded the dishwasher).
All that took about 25 minutes.

One a side note, I had a sick kid Sunday evening. And I will confess ..... Monday morning, the idea of calling into work, using sick time, to keep my son home from school was an intoxicating idea.I did it. I stayed home and got a massive amount of work done from my dining room table. I was able to knock out research for the upcoming mission trip and conference I am speaking at in 20 days. Never had I ever been so happy about cleaning up vomit!

Monday, September 27, 2010

I could totally write that!

I just finished a book I picked up from the library not because I was interested in the subject but because of it's first line. And at the sake of sounding totally egocentrical - I totally could have written that book. 209 pages of my life, mealtime and cooking philosophy penned by someone else. Every tip I have, every idea that gets me through, every organizational task I implement right there in front of me with someone else's name on it. Now this is not to say the author did a bad job, quite the contrary! She's published. She did it. She did what I want to do. She wrote on everything I do right now from my kitchen table. As I read through the book I would occassionally read aloud to my husband what sounded like my very own words. He shrugged, looked at me and asked, "Well, why didn't you write it first?".

Nice encouragment, babe! (read with sarcasm)

So maybe I can do it. Maybe I can write. Oh if someone would just discover me.....



Today I wrote. I put the finishing touches on my weekly parenting article. Inspired from my time in church this weekend I felt compelled to write about how parents - with unrealistic expectations - get frustrated when their children won't be still in concerts, athletic events and church services.

The good thing about small town living is all the compliments I receive on my little column. The bad thing is I write for a small town, obscure newspaper. Just today, my girlfriend returned my pan (I filled it with homemade cinnamon rolls for her) and she said that I've missed my calling in life. She says I was ..."meant to cook and write. I mean it!".

And I think in my head... I'm trying. I'm really trying.....

Friday, September 24, 2010

TGIF

Today I ruled the day instead of the day ruling me and it was one of the most enjoyable days I've had in quite a long time.

I was up for a predawn exercise class, Skype'd with my Slovakia friend and fellow conference planner and drove the van all over town dropping The Tribe off at their various schools.

Then.....home. Home where no one else was. Home. Where it was silent. Home where I watched what I wanted. Home where I took as long of a shower as I wanted. Home. Where no one came looking for me because they needed their backpack/lunch made/paper signed/ride organized/to tattle/fill in anything you want. NObody needed me. I shaved. I applied makeup in a leisurely fashion AND I painted my fingernails & toes!! Freakin' A that was awesome!

After lunch I headed into work stopping off at a daycare providers home to leave some information she requested to help a mother of one of her daycare children. Her husband said his wife loved my parenting articles for the local newspaper. Says she cuts them out and shares them all the time. Even said that once, she was talking about the very same issue with a parent the day a similar article came out. He said, "It was a God thing!".

Wow! I really am so surprised/flattered/humbled that people tell me they enjoy my articles and share them with friends and family.

That's what Mrs. Lee said when she phoned tonight. She invited me to return to an After5 program next month, that all the former chairwomen (that's me) would be there. While I said I'd check my calendar she informed me that she too, clips my articles and sends them to her daughter in law.

Again, wow!

I feel so blessed to do what I enjoy so much. I love writing. I just wish I was braver but sometimes the small town-ness keeps me from being so frank. I hope to get over that.

In the meantime, I am pondering my next article - it's due in just over 48 hours - and I've renewed all those memoirs I checked out from the library. Two weeks have flown by and I read 2 of them, started the 3rd and have 3 more to go, PLUS the book I am working through.

Today, though an Amazon order came in the mail. Books that darling husband ordered and what did I do? Read the first lines. Ha! This was a good one from The Land Between by Jeff Manion; "One late November morning when I was in 7th grade tragedy reshaped our family and segmented time - life before the accident and life after."

Great first line, huh? It reminds me of Donald Miller's book (the one that started all this for me) and the harsh truth that a good story is a good story because tragedy/hardships/problems happen.

((sigh))

Thursday, September 23, 2010

I know! I know!

I know! I know!
Stop staring at me big white empty text box!
I know I've neglected you...... I KNOW!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Got a Tag Line

I am so excited! I was putting the finishing touches on my weekly article at school today and I think I finally came up with a tag line. Some of the other writers in The Monmouth Daily Review Atlas have tag lines.
Rev. Myers concludes with "See you in church".
Mr. Bowman "As if you care".
Me? "Why? Because I'm the Mom and I said so! That's why!"

That is super exciting to me!

Otherwise I haven't done any reading or working any further on my book. Instead I did a week's worth of cooking in the kitchen, played w my twins and enjoyed some TV time with the new Fall Season and my darling husband.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

First Lines

"You're assignment is to look at first lines, as many as possible in an afternoon's browsing. Head to the library or bookstore or even your own shelves, and read - first lines only. Type up a list of your ten or twenty favorites. What makes them work?"Exercise 3 from Writing Life Stories by Bill Roorback

So I did. I spent an afternoon at my local library. It's not a big library, it's a small town library. Small town as in I know 4 of the 20 people sitting in here. Small town friendliness. They're gonna come and ask me about my family and ask what I'm doing and I can't decide whether I'll admit I'm doing research. I can't imagine saying, "I'm learning how to be an author" just yet.

So I head to the back shelves. Out of the eye sight of any curious acquaintances. I am in the nonfiction section and I'm pulling down random books and reading first lines. But I'm not sure if Mr. Roorbach means the first line in the book or the first line of the first chapter. Because these books have forwards, introductions and acknowledgements. Read the first line of what? I decide to read first lines of first chapters. Here is a list of my favorites:

"A serious man in a serious life."

"We were young. We were in love. We were rollicking in those sublime early days of marriage when life seems to be as good as it gets." Marley & Me by John Grogan

"My mother is scraping a piece of burned toast out of the kitchen window a crease of annoyance across her forehead." Toast by Nigel Slater

"There is a sign on my fridge that reads 'I serve 3 meals; frozen, microwave &  take out' and sadly I'm not exaggerating." Dinner for Busy Moms by Jeanne Muchnick

At 7 o'clock on a dreary evening in the Left Bank, Julia began roasting pigeons for the second time in her life" Julie & Julia by Julie Powell

"For Snow White cleaning came easy. Not only did she have an army of cute little forest creatures to help her sanitize the 7 Dwarves' home but also she knew how to clean house with a smile on her face and a hope in her step. Her secret? Whistling while she worked." Clean It Fast Clean It Right by Jeff Brendedberg

"It's great to love ones' work" The Martha Rules by Martha Stewart

"When under siege she rises early, dresses quickly, and cauterizes her emotions" Hillary's Choice by Gail Sheehy

"From the porch, the river looked smoky brown sometimes, rosy and lavender when the sun was going down, then slate grey, just before it turned pitch black. From the porch the lights of the Island Queen beckoned like reachable stars. From the porch, the river promised better times coming, far away places just around the bend. From the porch, the river was a wide tranquil ribbon, no hint of a dangerous current. All you could see from the porch were possibilities, not perils."  Girl Singer by Rosemary Clooney with Joan Barthel

"What did I have, what was makin'me so scared that my heart beat out of my chest? I just knew I was gonna die..." It Ain't All About The Cookin' by Paula Dean

"Thank God for snobs" Tony Curtis The Autobiography

"The first and foremost way I knew my marriage was in trouble was the usual way, the trouble itself" Still Life with Chickens by Catherine Goldhammer

"My Grandmother Cheever taught me how to embroider, how to say the Lord's Prayer, and how to make a perfect dry martini" Note Found in a Bottle by Susan Cheever

x CHECK
Exercise 3 DONE!
now off to read. I grabbed almost all of the above mentioned books to read.... their first lines were really that good!!

Friday, September 17, 2010

I wrote today!

I save writing my weekly parenting article until Fridays. I enjoy spending my week as a parent educator visiting with families and listening to their concerns. Then I formulate what I hope to be a relevant article.

This week however, I used myself as inspiration. I wrote of the day Eric walked home from soccer practice with a crushed spirit because I was late picking him up.

So I wrote.

And I read. I finally finished the first memior book I got from the library. Now 4 more to go.

And I had some time with my Vault friends. Some down time. Some catch up time. Some sharing and visiting time.

And I told them I was reading memiors for "research". I may have alluded that they needed to be thinking if they'd like me to use their real names or would they like to choose their character names for my book.

Little by little I'm telling about my journey to write a better story.
Little by little I just may get this done.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Excuses! Excuses!

Well, clearly this is going to be a blog about excuses.
If excuses are good, do they count?
Today is Thursday - the Internet at home was just restored.
Yesterday was Wednesday - the Internet was down.
The day before was Tuesday - and it was a day full of work, ticket taking at the soccer games, a prepacked dinner out of the cooler and 4 filthy children who needed a bath. I think I was in my own home a total of 3 awake hours. 1 hour before we went to school. 1 hour upon arriving home from school and the hour I cleaned everything up before I crashed into my bed.
Before that it was Monday. I don't know why I didn't blog on Monday. Today is Thursday and from my spot in the recliner, with my feet up and a pile of books next to me... well who can remember 4 days ago??
The day before that it was Sunday and I remember on Sunday I told myself I would take a day off. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

There's no excuse - no good excuse anyway....if I want to be a writer I have to write. I have to read. I have to do it. That's why I invented this blog. I don't care today, if anybody even ever reads it. Just posting it "out there" is the kick in the pants I need to be accountable.

I'm accountable to a virtually un-locatable blog.
The point is I'm accountable.
Now suck it up Sikorski & make the time.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

the Book that Got me Started

So when I got serious about writing I knew I needed help.
The first thing I did was write a friend. She's a professor of literature and is published herself. She didn't tell me not to do it. So that's a good sign, right?

My friend encouraged me to familiarize yourself with queries and the Writer's Digest. So I did what everyone does in 2010 I googled: How to become a writer
and no joke I took notes from the ehow.com article that popped up.

This could be a long journey.

The next day I went to the library. I live in a small town with a small library but who am I to despise small beginnings? This is the book I found:
"Writing Life Stories; How to Make Memories into Memoirs, Ideas into Essays, and Life into Literature"
by Bill Roorbach

The title alone spoke to me. Because I'm no expert on anything except my own life. I love to write about my life. Hmm, sounds a little egocentric.
I hate sounding egocentric.

Chapter 1 "Why is it so hard to sit down and write? Great expectations, for one thing."

Roorbach is speaking to me. Because I have great expectations. And it is hard to sit down and write.
But I want to turn my life into a better story so I'm willing do something hard.

As it turns out the book is a workbook of sorts. You read along and do the exercises and I think that maybe by the end you'll know the difference between a memoir and autobiography and a protagonist and an antagonist.

Exercise One; A Clean, Well-Lighted Place. Roorbach says, "...set yourself up in a decent writing environment. Not too beautiful (lest you get distracted by the view), not too Spartan (lest you find it a place best avoided), but a place you can hope to be uninterrupted for the blocks of time available for writing."

Crap! I'm in trouble. First, there is not one unused square foot of space in out home. I'm not kidding. We live in the first home Sears Roebuck sold in their 1900 Modern Home Catalog. It's well over 100 years old. It has 800 square feet on top of 800 square feet. 7 people and 1 Jack Russell occupy every inch in this home. Creating a home office is impossible.

Secondly, I am never, ever, under any condition, not un-interruptable. Have I mentioned I have 5 kids?

Thirdly, a clean space to work from? Have I mentioned I have 5 kids? Ok, that line gets old, even I know that but seriously what is the definition of clean? If 'picked up' counts then I think I'll be in business. For you see I am forever picking up after the kids!

If it is hard to be a writer, how difficult will it be for me? I'm part time employed with the school district. Part time self employed with a missions organization and full time wife and mom.

Well, I'll stick with Exercise One. I'll just have to make a few little tweaks.
I vow to have a well lit space. Wherever the laptop and I find ourselves - it may not be clean, it may not be quiet and it may not have a view. But it will be well lit!



(sidenote: should anyone ever actually see this I am sorry for the certain improper notations. Mr. Roorbach if I've neglected to quote you properly know that it is only in my novice-ness not because I wish to steal any material. I hope in an upcoming exercise I might learn how to properly use excerpts from books.)

Write Everyday

I wrote today!
I wrote my weekly parenting article.
Inspired from a conversation we had in BABYgroup I wrote about the dilemma every new mom faces and how we can pay for it later. Sticking a bottle in baby's mouth so they'll be quiet and go back to sleep.
you can search for it here: http://www.reviewatlas.com/ (after Tues 9/14/10)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

3 I need more time or less to-do!

I was up @ 7 a.m. & you can be sure my feet hit the ground running.
All 5 kids were out the door by 8 am.
Yep that's right! An hour is all it takes to clothe, feed and check personal hygiene (but on the hygiene note offer me some grace please I do have pre teen boys.).

Next I had a skype call with an amazing team of women with whom we are planning the EMERGE women's conferences (that are just weeks away) and then back to my 'real' job by 11 am.
(Oh yeah there was that stop for some Golden Arches' sweet tea - I have my sweet tea!)

I was as productive as I could possibly be ... what with a handicap computer and all (another story for another day). I worked all through the day and picked up the twins @ 3:15 p.m. Maneuvered the van thru traffic to pick up the boys only to head to home and pick up my daughter and her volleyball squad. Well, not the whole squad but still!

I had 45 minutes at home to put my feet up, yeah right more like to pack snacks and busy items (to keep the twins well behaved) and we walked the 3 blocks to the high school. I have signed up to be the ticket taker @ the vball game. (Every $ helps!).

So while I'm collecting $3 for adults, $2 for senior citizens and students and making change, I helped Er with his spelling words. capital - political - kingdom - photosynthesis - chlorophyll .....

Its now 7:30 PM, the ticket table is closed and I've moved to the gym to watch the final match. When it's over I'll get to go home. I'm sitting on the bleachers typing this on my BlackBerry because I know after I get home there will be dinner
and dishes
and laundry
and conversations waiting to be had.
So what  "I wanna be an author" work did I do today?
I brought a book to the game.
I read a whole, entire 3 pages of it but I read it.
My book (which I'll blog about as soon as I find more time or lessen my to-do list) says in order to be an author you should read and write everyday.
Well does this count? I'm going to put down my BlackBerry (it's running low on battery anyway) and pick up my book. I can read on the bleachers right?
Bleacher View

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

2 A writer needs certain tools, ya know!

Since I have no idea how to be an author I thought I'd better do some research.
And since I have no computer I had to steal one of my kids' notebooks and write this stuff down longhand.
Are you kidding me?!?
No computer??
Yep that's right.
Skipping all the legitimate financial excuses why I don't have a computer, let me explain by saying there is some sorta bad Karma around here.
How is it that a computer dies (actually gets sick with a virus) at the simultaneous moment I decide to become an author?
How can I write with no computer?
It's like writing without a pen a paper. Ug! the frustration!

My darling husband has a laptop. It has no battery and the power cord has a short in it. So IF I can get on his computer I HAVE to sit in his space to use it and quite frankly his space isn't conducive to my work ethic.

We had a little netbook. I loved it. It's no fancy machine but it was portable, has a long battery life and gets me anywhere on the web I want to be from anywhere I want to sit. FANTASTIC! Except the kids use it and I am blaming them for the nasty, nasty little virus it caught. It needs to be put out of it's misery. But that's not an option. Instead we are going to wipe it clean, reset it to factory settings. Except we don't have the backup disks and you can't download it from the manufacturer's site - not that I can go there anyway...the virus goes bezerk every time I try and get online with it.

So I am waiting for the disks to come in the mail.

Have I ever wanted to see my mailman so much?

And don't think I could stay at work late to get some of this done! NO! There's a computer curse loose in the school district. I can randomly find and not find any work I've done there. So attempting a new project such as say.... to "Become An Author", is too risky to take on from there.

So today, Aaron's out. I jumped on his laptop so I can stay with my commitment to keep at it.
But just look at this example of handwritten research I've begun.
Whens the last time your hand cramped up from writing? 5th grade? Mine too!

1. I'm Really Gonna Do This

As I wrote (more like LABORED) over my blog entry for the Don Miller "To Write a Bettter Story" contest I made a decision!
I didn't intend to make this decision.
I was trying to get a free ticket to Portland (I have friends there, ya know!)
but as the blinking cursor turned into letters on my screen, the whisper of my heart was being softly typed out on the computer screen of my life.
I am moving on.
I am moving past folks who tell me I should write.
I am moving past thinking, "Yeah I should try that in my spare time"
I am moving out of the realm of hopes and dreams into an atmosphere of action.
And it scares the S%i$! out of me.
Just sayin.

So here it is. This is my journey. I am really gonna do this!
I opened this blog up simply as a contest entry form. But as I sat in the library today doing some "homework" I thought what better way to keep me accountable. I'll blog my journey.

I may fall on my butt (well I probally will) but in the off chance I actually 'make' it I want to remember the journey. I don't want to forget a minute of it! I want to try to be a writer. I want to be an author. I want the words that are locked in my heart to experience freedom. I want to do this because I don't know if I can't NOT do it. It seems to be what I love to do, what I want to do.

So here we go! Thanks Mr. Miller for provoking me onward. I may have lost your contest but I am gonna write a better story with my life.




"You can only change direction when you are in motion." Don Miller

Thursday, August 19, 2010

To Write a Better Story

I hardly ever worry. I don’t fret. I live quite positively really, except for this one thing: I have been nagged with one fear my entire adult life; I fear that my memory is failing me.

I have girlfriends who have memorized the most detailed information. They know precisely how long their labor was, how much their babies weighed to the ounce, the hour their child lost their first tooth, birthdates and shoe sizes!

At first I attributed my memory lapses on the fact that I have 5 kids (we don’t call ourselves a Tribe for nothing!). I attempted to comfort myself believing no one in her right mind could keep track of so much data. But I never believed it. I couldn’t convince myself to let go of the sad nagging fear that gripped my heart. Some nights I lay in bed wondering “Am I developing Alzheimers?”
And then I opened A Million Miles in a Thousand Years (my first Don Miller book).
Chapter ONE: “The saddest thing about life is you don’t remember half of it.”
So it’s not just me?

My heart swelled with relief. My eyes stung with tears that fell … and fell… and fell… I swear at that very moment a weight the size of the world was lifted off my shoulders. To this day, just thinking about it still moves me.


Excuse me – I need a tissue……







My life’s not boring - far from it. I actually have the largest calendar available via retail hanging on my refrigerator. Appointments, games, deadlines, birthdays and practices scribbled all over it with no white spaces to spare! Most people couldn’t keep up with me.

I’m not complaining – nay, I consider it a serious privilege to raise these children to be healthy, happy, contributing members of society who will love Jesus with their whole hearts no matter what they do when they grow up (and who will separate the whites from the colors).
That’s not all I do.

Aaron and I work together with Next Level International, a fantastic missions organization who is empowering a whole generation of leaders to equip, transform and expand the church in Europe. We are missionaries looking for partners who will send us to church plant, develop leaders and provide resources.

And then there’s my day job.

I’m a Parent Educator serving my community, supporting and encouraging parents of young children to be their child’s first and most important teacher. I facilitate playgroups, write weekly articles, visit isolated families and give away children’s books at the health department.

So to write it all out, it doesn’t sound boring. But I now know after finishing A Million Miles, that having a long string of random events, or in my case a plethora of activity, is not the same a living a good story.

I often get compliments on my writing. I write for conferences. I write blogs and articles and commentary on my Facebook photo albums. I do it because I like it. I’ve not been formally trained, my Microsoft Word program regularly corrects my English and run on sentences. I hardly know what I am doing.

But I want to do it.

After reading A Million Miles I made a simultaneous, dual pronged decision: I am going to write a better story; with my life and on paper.

Formerly, I considered it a success if I made it through the day. But I don’t want to simply make it anymore. I want to make memories.

And I don’t want to agree with people who think I should be a writer. I want to be a writer.

I wish I could go to Portland. I wish I could attend the conference Mr. Miller is hosting. If I could go I would meet incredible people, I would be inspired to change the boring, overactive reality I call life and transform it into a beautiful narrative.


Wait! Is this a positive turn? Am I, the character, deciding what I want? Could this decision, this blog be the beginning of a good story?


Living a Better Story Seminar from All Things Converge Podcast on Vimeo.

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