Monday, February 28, 2011

My Childhood Neighborhood Revisited

Without a doubt one of my favorite exercises so far while working through Bill Roorbach's book Writing Life Stories was the mapmaking exercise. 3 months ago I drew from memory my childhood neighborhood and randomly wrote about some of the physical attributes and memories created in that neighborhood. That map sparked so much stored way back in the forgotten corners of my mind. So many stories and memories came flooding back in surprising clarity. That was last November. In December I had the opportunity to visit with my siblings over coffee and we laughed and carried on about our different perspectives growing up in little ranch, on a corner lot, with a huge yard.

Most recently , as I continue to work through Roorbach's book, he suggested Google Mapping the neighborhood in which you lived. I did that today and I've been glued to the computer for well over an hour.  I am most amazed at how accurate I remembered the landscape of that northern suburb of St. Louis. Here, look for yourself:

potential stories to visit from the map: (interestingly they are all sparked from the church in our backyard)
riding roller skates down chapel hill and feeling so afraid
when my sister went missing and we found her in the church sanctuary
the Sunday I told my teacher my parents were splitting up
whipping Frankenburger because he wouldn't stop pestering me
the Haunted House in the intercom
the snow mounds from the parking lot
Julie Summers garden & Barbie collection
biking in the church's back parking lot and feeling like it was pure freedom
sign language class that landed me a spot on television
graduating from Brownies in the gymnasium @ church

Mapmaking has turned out to be a very productive memory evoker for me. This is good news as someone who has confessed in the journey blog that I fear many of my memories have been lost. My intention is to come back to this above list on days when I need a little inspiration.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Chapter 4 Big Ideas, Exercise 4

Exercise Four: "On...."
"This exercise should be as close to automatic writing as you can make it: Pick your title, think for a minute, then write. No pausing, no editing. Just tell us what you know about, say, humiliation, or ecstasy, or what have you, that word that's in your head right now."


from Chapter One Getting Started; "And something else - the stuff she really wanted to talk about? The hard stuff? She didn't really actually in fact want to talk about." (page 11)

On Being Fertile

When it comes to my ovaries I have never felt more afraid or lonely/offended or misunderstood. It's a big joke, you know. My fertility...the number of children I have. Once the bagger at the grocery store called me the old woman who lived in a shoe she didn't know just what to do. About that I am not kidding. I sometimes try to go along with the jokes, to be playful as well, but the truth is I don't want you to make fun of me...or make a joke about the size of my family. It's not comic material. My family is serious business to me. If I'm gonna have this many kids than I think I have a very important responsibility to be well, responsible.

We're not fodder for your bad jokes.
Except it's OK for me to make fun.
I'm hypocritical that way. I can say "Gimme a break! I have 5 kids after all!" but you can't. I could never be friends with someone who cracked a joke about my family.
I'm apparently uber sensitive that way.

Getting pregnant was like ca I liken getting pregnant to getting a cold. It seemed like I was always catching it.

Here's the hard part for me. It is very difficult for me to be real about the way I feel because I am very, very aware that there are women, women I know, who can't get pregnant. Women who long for life to flutter in their womb. But I'm coming to grips with the fact that my story is my story. This is in fact how I feel, right or wrong, sensitive or insensitive; I get pregnant. Easily. And it's been fear I carry around in my in the deepest corners of my heart.

I got pregnant easily when we wanted our first child.
I suffered a terrible miscarriage with my second pregnancy, which I also conceived easily.
I feared I would never be able to carry a baby again but was easily impregnated just months later.
My second child was 6 months old when I suspected I was pregnant again. That misnomer about not getting pregnant while nursing... so not true.
So I had a preschooler, a toddler and an infant.
And I was at the end of my mental limits.
I was not er, am not the most nurturing person. I was worried I didn't have what it takes to be a good mother.
When my baby was a preschooler
Believe me not a day after my 3rd baby was born did I not worry about getting pregnant. I faithfully took birth control, crossing my fingers hoping and believing that I was warding off any future pregnancies.
We're not rich.
Children are expensive and ...

I felt maxed out in my ability with 3, I was actively trying to NOT get pregnant and yet fear loomed in my heart and mind like a monthly panic attack. My mother had 4 children, the fourth after her tubes tied. I have a sister who has a set of twins. When I think about my family history I should --- I recognize there is a fertility issue present. In favor of reproduction. It makes me think I'm hardly really, ever in control of my own uterus.

When my baby was a preschooler (and I was faithfully trying to NOT get pregnant) I got pregnant. Very. On my second visit to the OB a sonogram confirmed I was expecting twins.

How can I explain this? I believe on this day, upon hearing this news, I stood at the edge of my sanity and considered jumping off.

It was a surreal moment. In fact, one of the few times in my life that I believe I heard God speak to me. After my temper tantrum, after my rant, after I accused the Dr. (I actually said, "This is your fault") I prayed. I said, "WHY!? This is enough to send me over the ledge!" and as certain as if it was my own thought I heard God say, "It will if you let it".

Now, it's been six and a half years since those two little darlings entered our life. And I truly mean this when I say, Thank goodness there is two of them. They have each other, and now that the infant and toddler years are behind us, now that they are potty trained and on the verge of tying their own shoes, it is actually easier (not less expensive, mind you - that's a whole 'nother thing) as they have each other for companionship.

I also went for a more permanent solution to my fertility problem. I asked the Dr. - and I quote - "Give me the best tubal ligation you've ever performed! I do NOT want to come here again!"

And yet nonetheless, I still worry. I watch the calendar ferociously. Any slight nauseous wave sends me into a mental spiral of calculating bio rhythms, intimate moments and diaper costs.

I have girlfriends who have had tubals and have no worry or fear what so ever that they could get pregnant.
I'm terrified.
And the fear causes mental anguish
that causes stress,
that causes irregularity,
that causes panic,
that causes marital strife,
that causes guilt
that causes ...

I fear I'll have triplets next time. I think I'll be the oldest woman to ever have a baby. I think the jokes will only increase. I think I really should relax because if I'm doing so much to not get pregnant and yet I do, I succumb to the fact that is must be meant to be. I think about all the women who want babies. I think I should ask for a hysterectomy next time I go to the Dr.
I think what women requires a hysterectomy for birth control!?!
I think it's exhausting being me.
I fear I am too fertile for my own good.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The A.C.T. Method of Discipline

(this article originally appears in the 2/22/11 edition of the Monmouth Daily Review Atlas as a part of my weekly Practical Parenting series)

Picture a mother who is busy rushing around the kitchen preparing dinner for her family. She bounces frantically between the stove, sink and refrigerator gathering ingredients for the evening meal. Naturally her toddler is underfoot. He too stumbles around the small space imitating his mom's every movement. His natural need to explore however becomes a problem when he reaches into the open refrigerator and pulls down a container of pudding. It spills all over the floor and makes a mess.

His mother has a very important choice to make.

Most of us, if we would be honest enough to admit it, would yell, accuse and/or demean our little one for playing in an off limits area. Some might hit or spank the child and most of us would banish him from the kitchen. The entire scene would be loud, tearful and painful. This is what child development experts call punishment. It is the action parents take after a child has already misbehaved. 

Or the mother could use a discipline technique that recognizes the child’s need to explore while keeping them safe and out of trouble at home.

Did you notice that this entire scenario could have been avoided? Parents should remember that in many instances problems can be prevented before they even occur. Toddlers are curious, incredibly persistent and unbelievably quick. It should not have taken this mother by surprise that trouble would be on deck with an agape refrigerator. The entire moment could have been one hundred percent preventable if she would have simply closed the door behind her. Problem diverted. Yelling unnecessary. No tears shed.

But alas, many parents act surprised when young children misbehave. They think that children ought to know better and that they should want to cooperate. To this I ask, “What parenting book are you reading?” Neither my first, nor second, nor third, fourth or fifth child were ever agreeable. Not when they were in the throes of the terrible twos and certainly not....well, ever! I think it’s pretty safe to assume that this is normal.

But let’s go back to our kitchen scenario. A more positive discipline technique, the A.C.T. Method, as coined by Dr. Michael Popkin, would have been an excellent way for this harried mother to correct her nosy toddler. The three steps include: A - accepting the child’s feelings, C – communicating the rule or limit and T – targeting a positive response.

Most parents discover they are already familiar and utilizing portions of this technique. Consistently combine all three steps together however, and parents create a sort of super nova of discipline.

In the first step; accept the child’s feelings; the mother would say in our scenario, “I know you like to explore things,”. Since the kitchen, especially the refrigerator can be a very unsafe place for a child, she should then communicate the limit by saying, “but the refrigerator is not for exploring.” Notice this is a very short and to the point sentence. No long explanation is needed. Often parents get embattled in a long dissertation with a two year old! This is an unnecessary use of your time. Toddlers are not rational. If you waste your time explaining why the fridge is off limits, point out everything inside that could harm them and all the electricity they will waste by being in it, your words will fall on deaf ears. They don’t care about any of your reasoning. They simply feel like exploring. So let them!

That’s where the third step of A.C.T. comes in handy. Don’t forget to target a more positive activity for your child. Be prepared to move and show children another activity that satisfies the same need to explore. Say, “Here’s a drawer full of fun things for you to play with!” In this case (and I confess, even in my own home) we created a play place in our kitchen because my children were always following me in there. So instead of being crabby about it, I recognized that I needed to create an environment where they could be in the kitchen but more importantly be safe.

We have a drawer full of leftover kids meals toys, lids, containers, wooden spoons, blocks and hot pads. When my children would toddle in, I’d direct them to the drawer, sometimes repeatedly depending on how ornery, er, I mean persistent they were being. But eventually, they learned, "I can’t climb on the table. I can’t play by the stove, if I’m gonna be in here I gotta play in this drawer".

The A.C.T. method is a fantastic technique that allows children to be children while moms can keep their sanity. Instilling a new discipline method hardly ever works the first time. A good technique, no matter how brilliant, is not a magic wand. In addition implementing the three A.C.T. steps make take some practice. It can take some time getting used to mentally formulating your words in a concise, orderly manner. Master this method, however, and it has the potential to revolutionize your parenting journey.

Your spouse will be impressed with how well your kids listen to you! You’ll sleep easier knowing you are fighting with your kids less and your children will be happier because they feel as if you understand their needs. Now isn’t that a recipe for success? Give the A.C.T Method a try today. Why? Because I’m the mom and I said so! That’s why!

Stephanie is a Professional Parent Educator for the Monmouth-Roseville School District and can be reached at

Monday, February 21, 2011

Design Work 2day

No official writing for me today ..
I spent my time working on my blog template, adding tabs and other boring but important stuff.
It needed to be done!

Tomorrow look for my weekly parenting column!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Potentially secured 2 -no! 3 -more writing jobs! So excited!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Dedicated to Crazy

Before I ever had one follower I decided I would write an essay on him or her. While I started this blog last fall, it was months before it was discovered (don't feel bad for me, that was of my own irrational doing). Today though, I have one lone follower and this entry is dedicated to her.

She happens to be a friend of mine. A very good friend of mine. And this is what I have to say about her:


She and those close to her call her crazy but it’s more of a term of endearment than an adjective.

She's not crazy, not hardly. What she is is amazing
and clever
and brave
and bold
and fun
and adorable.
She avoids the outdoors. She hates exercise and loves long island iced teas. I've never seen her try to be someone else. Ironically though, evebody wants to be like her. She is perfectly OK with being herself. I’ve never met anyone more comfortable in their own skin.

This is my friend.

The down side to being her friend (if there is one) is that I have to share her. Her energy is like a magnet and it's no exaggeration to say everybody wants to be her friend. And almost everyone who wants to be - is. Which is no problem for her, she has enough love for everyone; her high school girlfriends, college friends, sister friends, all get time with her. She thinks she is lucky to have been able to maintain so many close relationships but we are really the lucky ones.

And you should see her with her kids. The compassion and endearment she lavishes on her sons is creating boys -who will grow up to be men- who know how to receive and give affection. She often kisses their heads and engulfs them in hugs so hearty it makes me question whether I snuggle my own children enough.

She's really funny. Her timing is spot on and her antics are well, animated. If there is a party, she is in the middle of it. If there's no party she creates one. She makes friends out of enemies and has the charm to convert any stranger into a BFF. Her laugh is impressive. She laughs at me but it's more fun when she's laughing at herself. She knows she's funny and she often cracks herself up. Giggling, laughing and snorting - in that order. Which only makes her laugh some more. Which only makes me happier.

Laughter is medicine for the soul.

While I don't know what her life motto is, I fully suspect that faith is the foundation on which she's built her life. I've witnessed her conquer the challenges of life with grace and dignity. Not unlike any of us, her mountains have been really high and her valleys really low. Shame, embarrassment, fear and grief knock on the doors of all our lives. She simply refuses to entertain them. This might make her one of the strongest women I know.

Why she followed me I don't know. I'm just glad she did. Crazy is a blessing in my life. Without her I'd laugh less and my story would be incomplete. You've been one of my favorite chapters so far. You've inspired me. I could not be more thankful for you. Thank God in heaven that our journeys have intertwined.
Crazy, this blog is dedicated to you.
I love you.

My & Crazy - our favorite spot!


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Getting "out there" is time consuming!

When can I get to the point that I'm not sitting down at the table scrambling to get in one writing assignment for the day?
Flippin Don Miller says he wrote today's post a month ago (which btw may be one of my favorites yet!).
Ok, I get he IS a writer and I'm TRYING to be a writer while being a full time mommy, employee, wife, du-da, du-da, du-da...
but when can I get to the point that I am working ahead and not squeezing it in?!
and also
I'm super excited to be "out there" now, the blog posts to Facebook, I've also since joined twitter (thanks to Frank Viola's blog; Tips for Bloggers) but I am discovering one thing...
this requires me sticking my nose in my Blackberry and computer A LOT!
I know because darling hubby mentioned it last night while we were watching t.v. "together".
But to tweet you need followers...
to follow you need to find...
to find people you need to research....
to research you need to read...
to read requires time...

and then there's the issue of trying to drive traffic to your blog, Viola recommends you read the blogs of others and leave comments. The thought being if you contribute a quality statement it might catch a reader's eye which brings traffice to your site.
Well now I'm reading bloggers. And I'm commenting when I can but more than anything I just discovered how weak my blog looks.
So I was researching how to add widgets.
Which I don't even know if I really want a widget.

And then the same darling husband who encouraged me to get my face off my book (ha! get it facebook?!?) was quick to show me this morning how some bloggers blogs show up in a mobile format from Twitter but my blog shows up as a webpage - which is more difficult to read from a mobile device.
Well how the heck does one figure that out!?
in between cooking dinner, doing laundry and all the other stuff ?


well. every little bit counts
I worked 7 hours at school today but managed to price out my airline tickets to Portland next June
plunk out this blog
take tomorrow off. Gonna get up and write from a new coffee shop we just got in town. So come back tomorrow and look for (hopefully) some new, good material.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


I have commentors on my blog!
You found me ..... and inputed!
Thank you mykidsmomx4 and Jason!! My first 'official' commentors!

I thank you for reading my stuff!
seriously....thank you!!!!

The Best Valentines Day ever!

For weeks my darling husband warned me not to get my hopes up for Valentine's Day.
"I only spent $7.00 on your gift" he said.
And yet it was one of the best gifts ever.

You see, I borrowed Writing Life Stories from our local library MONTHS ago. I just keep renewing it and renewing it and renewing it. But Aaron bought it for me (thanks used Amazon books).

That was my Valentine's Day present.

Oh and a card that looked just like the ones he used to pick out for me when we were 'long-distance' dating back 20 years ago
in the card was an e-ticket. A ticket to Don Miller's Storyline Conference next June.
Ladies and gentlemen, I gotta tell you... he really hit it out of the park; a grandslam Valentine's Day present.

I can continue to work through Bill Roorbach's book - mark it up, write notes in the margins...whatever I want it's mine!
I can prepare to attend conference in Portland in June!
I wasn't even mad that Aaron told me he spent $7 and actually spent more.
He loves me.
He loves my dreams.
I love him!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Respecting Your Children

I'm calling for a group of people who will commit to being respectful to our children. Read about it here in my weekly Practical Parenting column....

Respecting your children - Monmouth, IL - Daily Review Atlas#comments

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Seed Sown Grows

A true tithing tale from my Tribe.
click here to read at our families website ->

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Chapter 4 big ideas
Exercise 3: Trying
The word essay comes for the French verb essayer which means to try. So Roorbach says that to write as essay is to try. Instead of labeling everything memoir or essay or piece or article say "try". Just to yourself. Just for now.

I love this so much! I made big steps this week towards my writing career. Aaron sent me an email highlighting 5 things every Blogger wanna be author does one of which was tweeting. I thought about tweeting a few months ago but I just couldn't get excited about managing one more on line account. But since I went public (and realizing the earth didn't fall out from under my feet when I did) it wasn't a big leap to join the tweeting world. So I did.
You can follow me if you want. I'm @steph_Sikorski
And my tweets will be mostly related to my journey To Write a Better Story.
I said all that to say this: when Aaron saw I took the email to heart he said he was proud of me for "doing it". It being writing. I replied "I'm trying".
And I mean it. When I'm 60 years old - whether I have a book in my hand or not - I will have tried. I will not have any regrets in regards to this! At 60 I may or may not have succeeded but I will know I will have tried.
I am trying.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Big Ideas, Exercise 2

Chapter 4, Exercise 2- The Conversation - pick a dear friend with whom you enjoy conversation and argument,  and picture that friend reading over your shoulder as you sit down and revise any exercises to date. 

from the previous exercise Memories I choose the memory of miscarrying to write as if I am telling it to my trusted friend.

My Miscarriage
There are some taboo conversations in the parenting world. When moms strike up small conversations in the park or over the booth in a restaurant we might acknowledge that we are exhausted, overstimulated, behind on the laundry or disappointed with our children's grades. But we will never admit that we often feel like we are an utter failure or that we had a miscarriage. It ruins the mood every time.

I had a miscarriage. And a DNC. And it was horrible.
Our daughter was 2 years old when we got pregnant for the second time. I worked part time. Aaron worked full time. We shared childcare duties and one car. I was about 10 weeks along when I began bleeding. It was a Friday. Aaron picked me up from work. He gently chastised me for looking so down, as if a few hours at school couldn't possibly been as depressing as I was appearing.

I've always been one to wear my emotions on my sleeve. Not that I mean to but often people can tell just by looking at me that something is wrong.

I couldn't have hid my worry from him if I wanted to. I blurted out that I was bleeding. He grabbed my hand and reassured me that it was all going to be OK. But I knew in my heart it wasn't.

I just knew.

I called the doctor's office when I arrived home. I explained my symptoms. They too, assured me that sometimes bleeding is a normal occurrence and not to worry. I was advised to rest over the weekend. I was instructed to call back only if it got worse.

It got worse.

Now, after office hours, I had the operator page the doctor. It was agonizing waiting for the phone to ring. I was near collapse as fear gripped my heart. I was compelled to go to the bathroom every few minutes. I just wanted to check, you know? I had to monitor whether it was getting better or worse. As it only got worse I felt more compelled to check. Until I was practically living on the toilet.

Still the medical advice was to wait it out.

I remember my heart wouldn't stop pounding. My tears would stop flowing. I was so afraid.

A few hours went by and I insisted I needed to be seen. Aaron drove me to the e.r. The wait was excruciating. I sat on the patient bed in a thin blue gown. I was shivering. Aaron just stood by me. I remember he looked so helpless.

While waiting for the OB Dr. to come in - the same one who told me to wait at home - I had to pee. I hobbled down off the bed, wet between my knees, to find a bathroom.

Just down the hall from my curtain was a single toilet. I locked the door, looked in the mirror and cried. I silently wept and prayed and wept. Wiping my face in attempt to pull it together I lifted my gown and sat on the toilet. It was then that I felt a large, warm rush.

It was horrible.

I'll never forget the sight. I stood there at the door to the bathroom. Refusing to flush for fear I would flush my baby away. Refusing to leave it there. I stood at the doorway. I stood guarding the toilet.

I knew the pregnancy was over.

I didn't need the Dr. to do the sonogram.
I didn't need him to tell me there was no more heartbeat.
I knew.
And I never felt more hollow in my life.

I needed surgery to stop the bleeding. Aaron kissed my head as they wheeled me away. I have never, to this day, seen him look that sad and broken.

When I woke later it was to the sound of babies crying. After surgery, because I was an OB patient - I suppose - I was placed on the same floor as all the new mothers, they're crying babies the first sound I heard. Not my baby. Their new babies.

While a woman next to me was cuddling and nursing her baby I was mourning.
While balloons and flowers were being delivered I was going home empty handed and empty womb-ed.

Over the years it's become apparent that those of us who have suffered this loss speak up only when we learn of another woman who has lost her pregnancy. Whether we know her well or not, we will feel compelled to hug her and hold her hand. We will cry with her and then we will tell her our story. Our eyes will gaze at each other softly communicating that we understand precisely how it feels. We are like an invisible army of women who only reveal our ranks when we must, when a comrade in our midst falls.

I had a miscarriage 14 years ago. Until until this writing assignment, you probably didn't know that about me. It is, after all, personal and complicated. Miscarriages stories are the silent unmentionables.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Tales of the Tooth Fairy

(this article orginally appeared in the 2/8/11 edition of The Review Atlas as a part of my weekly parenting opinion column)

The tooth fairy must be getting old. It appears she has developed a severe case of short term memory loss. It's really been quite devastating.
The Tooth Fairy is one of America's few original fables. A quick internet search reveals that ceremony has always existed around the loss of baby or "milk" teeth (as some countries call it). The Vikings bought children's teeth in order to bring good luck, the Irish bury them to assure new teeth will grow and the English would burn the lost teeth saving them from a wicked witch's spell.
Leave it to the American's to turn a sweet bedtime story into a filthy rich, pretty in pink princess! Originally the Tooth Fairy left a coin or a treat. A; as in a singular, single object. However, it appears cost of living increases have affected us all, mythical or otherwise. Have you heard what the current exchange rate is for a new tooth? My oldest kid took a quarter to show and tell the day after the Tooth Fairy visited only to have a classmate scoff. Apparently their tooth scored ten bucks. Highway robbery I tell ya! I got five kids. Do the math. If each kid loses the typical amount of twenty teeth each at a mere five dollars a tooth that's $500.00! Suddenly a harmless little fairy tale has the potential to break this mother's bank!
Well, that is if the Tooth Fairy can remember to make an appearance.  And she didn't forget just once. The Tooth Fairy has pretty consistently forgotten to make the drop.  Old age is unfortunate.
It was early in the morning, when I cuddled my teary eyed, toothless wonder of a child; my heart broke into a million pieces.
"Why?" my sleepy angel asked, "did the Tooth Fairy forget me?"
I wiped her sweet tears, kissed her head and cursed the fable that brought me this fate. The magnitude of shame that weighed on my soul was too much too handle. Especially without my morning cup of coffee.
 I couldn't fess up and admit to the farce. Instead I did what every guilt laden mother of a toothless child has done. I lied. I perpetuated the lie with another lie. And then I checked my nose in the mirror to see if it had grown.
I gently explained that I forgot to mention that the Tooth Fairy needed a note, not unlike Santa on Christmas Eve. Immediately we penned,

"Dear Tooth Fairy,
Here is my first tooth. I brushed it everyday. Thank you.
Sincerely, a little Sikorski"
(Otherwise known as a helpless victim to my mother's guilty conscious).

It worked. Quite well. The Tooth Fairy left a wad of cash and a pile of coins! In hindsight I see how I shouldn't have let my emotions get the better of me. Of course, I inadvertently created a standard by which all future donated teeth would be judged. Yet, still to this day, all of our children have left a handwritten note with each lost tooth. And that would be a nice ending to our story except that the Tooth Fairy forgot. . . again.
What could I say? I told my child if he lost a tooth and if he put it under his pillow and if it was accompanied by a note it would get the Tooth Fairy's attention. Of course he believed me. So now, collapsed in tears and feeling quite ripped off, my child was left wallowing in the rejection of an imaginary fairy. Clearly I'm not doing something right as a mother.
At this point, and much to my own dismay, I recognized I was too far in to dig my way out. Instead of reaching for my wallet and coming clean I choose to tell a story, a great work of fictitious art. I explained that I once heard of a child whose teeth were too small for the Tooth Fairy to find in the dark. It was confusing because she found the child's note but never found a tooth under the pillow.
"What did the little girl do?" my child asked in sweet wonderment.
"The next night," I continued, "she put her tooth in a baggie."
"Did the Tooth Fairy come back?" he asked with his hands clasped nervously.
"Yes! The Tooth Fairy felt so bad that she returned. She found the tooth and everyone lived happily ever after!"
And you guessed it. The next evening we placed the tooth in a baggie, with a note, under a pillow, raking in some serious cash.
Listen, I'm not happy to admit any of this. I am deeply disturbed by the lengths I have gone through to perpetuate this simple folklore. But the truth of the matter is the Tooth Fairy is getting old. And she's quite exhausted at night. And she collapses in bed thinking more about what she has to do tomorrow than the task at hand. She needs some slack. Since February is Dental Awareness month wouldn't now be a good time to develop a tooth recouperating system like the cable company? You know, the Tooth Fairy will be here sometime next Tuesday between 8 p.m. and 10 a.m.? I think that's a much better idea! Why? Because I'm the mother and I said so! That's why!

Chapter 4 Big Ideas

I had a massive amount of hours accumlate at school early in this week. I am therefor afforded the opportunity to take today off (for the most part, I have a meeting @ 3) and "work" from home.

Today I am being a writer!

After months and months of working through this book I'm on Chapter 4 entitled Big Ideas. I like this chapter because I often think I have great ideas in my head. Then I go to write them down and it's a bit of a garbled, unconnected set of random thoughts. I've often wondered how something that is so clear and precise in my mind can be so incomplete when I go to write it down. This is so true of me that in fact when I write my weekly parenting column I email it to myself before I send it off to the editor. A day or two later I open it up and reread it. 10 times out of 10 I find incomplete thoughts that don't read like I imagined they would in my mind.

The Big Ideas chapter comforted me in knowing that it is like this for most writers. Roorbach writes, "ideas are abstract by nature. Unbidden, ideas arrive in our brains in pieces; a bit of evidence, a blast of emotion, a sentence oglogic, a shot of paranoia ..... The problem is getting what seems whole and vital in our brains onto the pae whole and vital."

YES! I know just what he means! My Blackberry is full of typepad little bits of ideas and fragments of meanings!

Exercise One: Automatic Writing - set a time to just write whatever comes out of your head. No matter what it is just write and expect ideas to begin to appear.

5 minutes: GO! Nothing. nothing. my house is so quiet. i can hear the dog lick herself and thewashing maching running. i miss the sun. it hasn't been warm and bright here for many days. the weather man said snow flurries. why is it that in december snow flurries are magical christmasy and not they are annoying just a few mere 6 weeks later. oh well at least its not another snow storm. we had a heckofa one last week. stuck inside for 3 days. still our sidewalk is unshoveled. I  thought there was a law against that. what! it's only been  a minute! ug! but we got so much snow and then below zero temps that it made it almost impossible to shovel with out a snow blower. aaron says that is what we have our sons for. to shovel and mow and such. the problem is they are eleven and twelve and don't know how to do a job well. that is why moms do so much you know. it is because we don't have the patience to let others do what we can do better. in fact i status updated just the other day that i was so happy to see aaron loading the dishwasher while i sat at the kitchen table we were visiting but in my head i couldn't stop thinking that he was doing it all wrong. later i rearranged the bowls. i mean who really doesn't make sure they fact opposite directions. everyone knows or may be every woman knows that f you set the bowls in the same direction they have the potential to 'nest' and they they come out all dirty. yuck. and who do you think has to rewash them?well not al 11 year old kid. if they unload it they will find it dirty and throw it into the sink where i have to reload it or wash it properly just to get it clean. i wonder if the mailman is mad at us for not shoveling the sidewalk. ow well the neighbors haven't either.
ha! 5 minutes!

now what of that is a good idea to expand????
p.s. it was supposed to be unedited that's why I didn't go back and fix the typos.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Journey Documented

So for those of you who have just found this finally-now-public-blog lemme bring you up to speed (although I still hope you go back through the posts and catch up).

My name is Stephanie and I am a wannabe writer. I think I always have been as evidenced by the tote in the back of my closet. It's full of old journals. I started one 19 years ago when darling hubby and I married. I think I am on my 12th one now. I've always felt the need to document my life. I"m not sure why except maybe I was born to write.

So I began to piddle a little with writing about 7 years ago (I think) with our local newspaper. I submitted a press release, then an small article then pitched a series. I wrote everyday for The Review Atlas for about 2 years. And I found I really liked it.

But a change in the staff and a couple of kids forced me on a hiatus.

Fast forward a few years. I was reading through that same paper when there in black and white was a request for any locals who might want to contribute regularly to the opinion page. I shot off an email and now I'm 2 years into a regular, weekly column entitled Practical Parenting. I"m published!

I can no longer say I am a wannabe.

My love for the written word has be returned to me. I love writing my articles which inspired me to step up my writing for our personal website ( which landed me an opportunity to do some writing for the Women's Development Department of Next Level International ( which brought me a few compliments.

"I loved your blog this week"
"Your article was great! I cut it out and sent it to my daughter!"
"Thanks for your sharing that story, it really inspired me."

And I got to thinking, if I love writing and you like reading it well...maybe we have something here.

I've never taken a writing course. I stink at grammar and I hope my incorrect use of punctuation isn't embarrassing me. And yet I've decided to try.

Really, kinda try. So I began doing a little research. I actually gooogled, "How do I become an author?". And that's how I began.

I started researching queries and freelance opportunities, publishers versus self publication ... and found that it can be an intensive process. Simultaneously I read Don Millers book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years and was captured by the book's theme that I have the opportunity -with my daily life- to create a meaningful story. I wanted to live a better story but I also felt compelled to write one as well (thus this blog title).

I made a conscious decision to no longer think about writing to actually, writing. To stop telling folks when they suggested I put a book together, "Yea! I should!" to "Yes! I am!".

One afternoon, I perused my library shelves for books that would help me on my journey and that's when I came across a book entitled; Writing Life's Stories, How to make Memories into Memoirs, Ideas into Essays and Life into Literature.

Now I am working through that book. It's very insightful. I've already learned a lot. I've had it checked out for six months and until the library stops allowing me to renew it I'll keep working through it.

One of the book's first assignments was to spend an afternoon in the library looking at first lines. While walking up and down the shelves, randomly pulling books for the assignment I got the idea to document my writing journey. I thought:

1. blogging about it would make me stick to the task
2. I dig journalling anyway, so it seemed like a fun idea
3. my research said that publishers are looking for bloggers who have a web presence and
4. if I ever really did get published wouldn't this be a great way to document how it all began (for future book queries, naturally).

So here we are. You're up to speed. 
Now everyday, as encouraged by Bill Roorbach (who's now my Facebook friend, by the way) I read, write and work through the writing assignments as outlined in his book.
This is my journey documented.
It is my story.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Scenemaking; Our House in the Middle of the Street

I didn't want to buy this house.
Sure it was in better condition, but I wanted to buy the brick house 3 blocks south of this location. It had a massive kitchen. This house was completely renovated top to bottom. Aaron said the lack of necessary maintenance alone was worth it's price.
In hind sight, he was not only right, turns out we needed a house with 4 bedrooms. The brick house only had 3.

I remember the first time I saw this house and it's perfectly manicured lawn with it's For Sale By Owner sign. I remember I used to take different routes home from work looking, scouring the little population 9,000 town for a place to settle. We were desperate to find a home. A home. A place I could nest. A home front I could be proud to bring company to. A place to host Christmas dinner and parties and backyard BBQs.

It's the best house on the block. She sits tall and tan in a squat little yard.

Our home is wrapped in a warm aluminum siding each window framed with maroon shutters. All the renovations she endured the year before we bought her still looked and smelled fresh and new. Built in 1900 she was the very first house plan sold in the Sears & Roebuck Catalog. It's a stock house. Nothing exciting or  cutting edge about her. She was built for endurance and practicality.

Our home is a square. 2 floors of 800 square feet each. 4 perfectly square rooms up. 4 perfectly square rooms down. This is an excellent idea in that every nook and cranny counts for something. No space is wasted. It's also unfortunate in that my foyer is as big as my living room as is as big as my kitchen is as big as my bedroom.

It's a warm home. It nested well. She's humbly decorated in a warm a ray of browns and neutrals. The wood floors have lost their luster and the brown couches are showing their wear but I love the way she smells. I've traveled some in my life and I always love the unique fragrance she greets me with each time I return home.

There are 4 framed pieces of art in the family room. 2 pieces found on clearance from Kmart. A Monet print given to me 19 years ago and a pencil sketch my mother in law framed as a gift to my husband. The drapes were on sale from ShopKo. The blankets a gift. The end tables a gift. The recliner a gift. The side board table snatched from neighbors donate pile. The lamps are too small for the size of this room, purchased from Dollar General. She is humble. This is a very humble home. And yet it feels warm and welcoming.

I think our neighbors would assume by the looks of our home that we do well financially. The truth is we got this house for a really good deal. And in reality, it's been 10 years and she is starting to show her age. All that maintenance my husband looked forward to not doing, needs to be done.

The main floor toilet won't stop leaking. The tile has been pulled up and remains up until we can seal the leak. We've replaced the tank, and since tore it up twice and still a slow steady leak mocks us from the bare naked plank flooring.

The kitchen floor has more gouges and gashes than I can count. The wall paper is torn from when we adopted Libby in August 2009. There is a glob of candle wax behind the couch on the wall and my oil warmer scented plug in dripped on the wood floor and stripped the finish. The hand rail on the stair has been off for 3 years as we're not sure the plaster can handle the stress of a reattachment. The lace on the front door is torn and every time the weather changes quickly the large lead window sweats and drips on the wood frame.

A home is not a house in perfect condition. That's what I've learned in this particular writing assignment.A home is where love grows. Where your children come home. Where their growth is written in pencil on the wall. It's a smell and feeling not designer art or expensive furniture. Our house is old and new. It's where all 5 of our children will remember growing up. It sits tall in our neighborhood, the only house on the block. It's a lovely home. It's our home.

Chicken. Bawk. Bawk. Bawk.

Clearly I am a chicken sh!t.

I wrote the last post, checked my Facebook, made sure the site was linked and then did the bravest thing I have ever done. I added a link to the RSS feed so that any time I add a blog post it immediately posts to my news feed. It was thrilling... the thought of being brave, posting it all for the world.
But I deleted it. It went live. It linked and connected and I deleted it.
It was the most anti-climatic chicken sh!t thing I've ever done.
I'm clearly not all that.

Thursday, February 3, 2011


I got another "book" idea this week. Not gonna tell you (not that there are any of you..I'm well aware I have no followers but more on that in a minute) what my idea is. It's actually a concept I was turning around in my head when Aaron and I had dinner with another couple we hadn't seen in awhile and the guy said right away, in an attempt to catch up, "So tell me what's really going on behind the  ______s". The blank being the great idea. And at this point it seems to be an originial idea. I need to get to work on it.

This from my favorite blogger, Don Miller:

Donald Miller
2/2/11 Every successful creator has friends who think he or she is lucky. They met that one curator at a coffee shop, or Oprah’s housekeeper accidentally left that book behind in the kitchen. And the truth is their friends are right. They did get lucky. Everybody gets lucky. Luck is like the weather, it comes and goes, it makes crazy things happen randomly. But unless you actually spend the hours painting those paintings, meeting the curator amounts to nothing. And unless you put in the year to write the book, it can’t get left behind on Oprah’s counter.
Luck favors the prepared.
My friend Melisa told me about some people she’d heard of that win sweepstakes professionally. They enter drawings, lotteries, play bingo and sweepstakes and win an enormous amount of money every year. Are they lucky? Perhaps, but you would be too if you spent eight hours a day filling out forms and entering contests. It’s not unlike that with a creators work.
Don’t worry about luck. You can’t do anything about the weather and you can’t do anything about luck. All you can do is work. All you can do is create, and let your work go into as many places as it can so that good things will randomly happen.

Remember a few posts ago I admitted I had a dream of being "discovered". Well Mr. Miller spoke right to that hope in my heart. If that lucky day comes and I've nothing to show for it, it won't really be a lucky day at all will it?

All year long (seeing as how it's 33 days into 2011 ... but still ALL year) Mr. Miller has been kicking my writing butt. I swear it's as if he is fully aware of my journey to writerdom. February 1sts thoughts are still bouncing around my head. He blogs:

I liked this line from the film True Grit: “I do not entertain hypotheticals, the world as it is is vexing enough.”
Most of the things we worry about, as creators, never happen. We are not as rejected as we think we are, in fact, our creation has given us a greater community, even if we do have a few critics. And we did not fail as badly as we thought we would, and if we did fail, people hardly noticed. Most of the fears we entertain as creators have to do with hypothetical situations, things that could happen. But this is a waste of valuable creative energy. Most likely, things we think will happen won’t. A creator takes risks, a consumer lives in safety. Are you a creator or consumer?
When you are tempted to entertain thoughts of pending doom, ask yourself what real problems you have, not what hypothetical problems you have. Most likely you have very few real problems. Most likely the resistance between you and your creation is in your head. The only thing you really have to do, then, is work. Let the consumers serve on committees about pending earthquakes, about serial killers, about the return of small pox, you just do your work.

This blog is relatively secret. I've never published it. Never linked it to my very active Facebook account. I have a vague link on our family website. I guess it is possible for someone to accidentally find it - if they really looked. And I wanted it that way. I wanted to have the safe security of not having anyone look over my shoulder because they might (as in hypothetically) hate it/find it boring/it's just another blogger clogging up my web feed/ etc... etc... etc...

In otherwords, part of me has the audacity to hope to be discovered while part of the, apparently the ruling part, is refusing to take risks, entertains thoughts of pending doom and is afraid of failing in front of the entire world - when in reality - the world probably wouldn't even notice.

So do I thank Don Miller? because I'm feeling brave enough to go "public" (and btw this has always been a public site I've not been foolish enough to block the world from it, I just set the world up by thinking if they looked hard enough I could be found). Why am I making myself - a wanna be author - hard to find?


If this is an epic fail, however, I am fully aware I could spend an entire future blog blaming Don Miller. (Listen, I don't even know the guy. I love his blogs. I'm trying to figure out a way to make it to his next Storyline Conference in Portland, OR ... that's the whole thing that started this blog anyway).

No matter how it turns out whether I blame him or whether I dedicate the success of my next book to him, I'm thinking I am gonna take the risk. Put it out there. Stop hiding this blog under a bushel.. NO!... I'm gonna let it shine.

O Lord, help me!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Test blog! Maybe I can do it everyday if I can blog from my blackberry! ? !

Scenemaking - My Office

At least it has a window. If it weren't for that glass covered view to the outside world I'd have gone a touch delirous by now. And then I'd be the patient on the bed.

It's a small space, maybe 12x8. But it's lined with shelves that are lined with supplies which makes it feel even smaller. I'm sure it is not intended to be a 2 person office and yet there our two desks sit butted up against each other.

I'm thankful I have a place from which to work, don't get me wrong. I just never imagined it would be so .... so...  icky.

When my early childhood grant was secured the school rehired me. What they didn't allow for was the space my program would need to operate. I was left to fend for myself. I scouted all the school buildings as the board reorganized the grade levels. I lurked and poked around keeping my eye open for any potentially available space. And that's when I discovered the school nurse had an office all to herself. An office she would only occupy one day a week.


It didn't take long for dread to replace my feelings of elation. Here I thought I saved my program only to discover I am loosing my sanity.

The walls are forest green. The vinyl circa 1970something couch where the sick children lay is lime green. The carpet ... green. The sides of my retro metal desk emerald green. It's green. All green. It makes me sick.

I have literally carved out a little corner in this office. My desk is positioned in the furthest corner from the doors. In front of me -the nurses desk. To the left of me a door to the hallway. Next to the nurse's desk the door that leads to the main office and nestled in between is the couch and a squeaky, old mini refrigerator that holds ice packs for minor injuries.

And not only do I sit in the sick station my office has become a breezeway. Everyone wanting to avoid the public and parents visiting the main office (and that's usually every staff member) walks through my office. Naturally, everytime someone walks through my office they walk right into my periphal vision and my tendency is to look up. This means my thoughts are interrupted approximately 3 times for every 5 minutes I sit at my desk.

And do you think I get a cordial hello? or even a basic smile? No! They walk through and pretend I'm not even there. Or maybe they can't see me.

Because directly behind me is the wall of supplies. Dusty boxes, piles of STD phamplets and cartons and cartons of bandaids, Qtips, guaze pads and tooth brushes line the shelves directly to my left and behind my head. It is without a doubt one of the (didnt I have an update here?) ugliest places I've ever worked. I had no idea how Fung Shui sensative I was until I lacked it!

Did I mention the nurse is only there one day a week? Handy on Fridays, yes! but children tend to get sick ... well all the time! So naturally there is a parade of children coming in and out of my office. The secretaries take temps, clean wounds, administer band-aids, mop up bloody noses and yes, even check for lice Monday through Thursday.
In my office.
That is also the medical storage.
That is also a breezeway.
We even had 2 cases of ringworm this year! Exciting stuff!

Thank God for the window directly to my right. My desk bumps right up to a 4x8 window that overlooks the main street entrance to our building. I often sit at my desk and look outside. Rain, snow, sun... it doesn't matter to me. I ignore the stares of the sick children waiting for their ride. I divert my eyes from the lice lamp that rests 3 feet from my file drawer. I position myself to look out the window as much as I can on any given school day.

Every morning when I arrive at school I raise the clanky, green metal blinds, stand at the window and pretend I'm not in the corner of the nurses office. And every afternoon when the bell rings, I lower them again. Thankful I have a job. Praying I didn't catch the chicken pox and asking for the strength to return there again tomorrow.

Practical Parenting

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