Is This the Start of Something New?

As I laid in bed last week with the flu (worst sick ever) and I could not do anything more strenuous than sleep, I had a moment. An epiphany if you will.

I thought, “God is preparing me for something GREAT,” in an out-with-the-old-in-with-the-new sort of way. A cleansing perhaps. As if by starving my fever and feeding my cold, or is it feeding the fever starving the cold, that He could somehow jump start this lackluster stage of my life.

Visceral.

Dramatic.

True.

My lucid moments were spent evaluating my life. Maybe because if felt like dying – again worst sick I’ve experienced.

I wondered how am I doing as a mom and a fairly new homeschooler who works full time away from home. I tried to measure myself as a wife and friend; sister and daughter. Heavy thoughts while physically drained and emotionally vulnerable; which contributed to the sense that God was trying to tell me something.

Of course, it didn’t take long before that self reflection turned to my writing life or let’s be honest my non-existent writing life. It’s been two years since I’ve focused time and talent toward writing with intention. WRITING:  a thing I’ve come to avoid, a thing not to speak of …

At least not until my oldest questions me:  “Mom, when are you going to publish your book?”

I haven’t finished it.

Or when my husband buys me the most thoughtful Christmas gift, a new computer, citing, “Hopefully, it will inspire you to start writing again.”

Then there’s guilt because my response is vague, “I don’t know. We’ll see.”

But what I really mean is, “I afraid.” I don’t want to be. I want to be a good example to my son when it comes to:

  • Finish what you start.
  • Chase your dreams.
  • Keep fighting, never give up.

Quitting than wasn’t a real option but I’ve gotten talented at postponing and deflecting … a dream deferred or whatever.

All the same fears from 2014 still haunt me:  should I, could I, am I? My self talk isn’t positive and while I have fear, the possibilities energize me.

Now the question has surfaced and demanded my attention, I have to wonder what’s in store. Wonder, if there is a greater plan in the works.

Is this the start of something new?

But probably not.

Maybe it’s the start of something old … a continuation … a love for words that may spill over into something more.

No promises,  only hope.

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Judgment Seat

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint  Judgment Seat

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint
The Golden Throne of Judgment

When I click “publish”, “post”, or “tweet”, I am essentially saying, “Criticize me, please!”

We have an open invitation to sit in judgment; whether we are consuming music, books, films, photos, meals, or even other people’s lives, from neighbors and friends to celebrities and strangers, and much more.

We are encouraged, almost expected, to give our opinion. We are prompted to share and often incentivized for it.

It’s a function made easier and easier every day:

  • Service surveys on receipts e.g. restaurants and retailers
  • Social media icons everywhere e.g. blogs and articles
  • Popup windows e.g. websites and apps

In one click, with little or no commentary we can tell the who, what, when, where, why, and how of our misadventures and mundane undertakings. We can be a cheerleader or a naysayer in another person’s story.

Some would consider lending a voice to our likes and dislikes, hopes and dreams, a privilege. Others would call it a right. You know, freedom of speech? Or maybe a Public Service Announcement? We have something to say.

Regardless, our opinion matters to someone somewhere at some point in time. Possibly it will only matter to us.

We are like snowflakes. Individual and unique, falling from the sky with the power to collectively blanket the world with our thoughts.

Our voices shape the world we live in, its future; and so, some would also label it a responsibility as well as a privilege and right.

But is there a danger in our acknowledgement of the good events, bad events, and underwhelming events of our lives?

With a sense of immediacy, often while it’s happening, we become the real-time superstars of our own narratives. We begin to believe the artificial hype.

Don’t believe me? Check out this article. Now I ask again: Is it good for us?

One challenge I find is the lack of universal language or philosophy relative to the act of rating. It’s not regulated (nor am I suggesting it should be), but we need a shared language.

If we return to the snowflake analogy, we can comfortably say, we have differing definitions based on our personalities, preferences, and pasts which all act as filters.

There is one universal standard we could and should apply but don’t, at least not often enough. The Golden Rule: Treat others how you would like others to treat you.

Since opinion giving is pervasive today we sometimes forget the importance of reciprocity in relationships.

We tend to think it’s acceptable to use harsh words and accusatory or mocking tones, demean another person; especially because our sentiments often reside in cyber space. We tend to judge others without respecting the fact that on the other end of a post or comment is a real person with feelings.

I have to admit I’m on this reflective path because I was struggling with rating and writing a review on Goodreads for a children’s book I’d read. I agonized over it. Why? Who knows? After all, it’s just my opinion.

Keeper by Kathi Appelt was a story I enjoyed. However, there was a storyline that parents may be concerned about their children reading.

And I wondered if I needed to draw attention to the content in case other parents saw my rating and review and then deemed it appropriate for their kids. Would my review matter to the Goodreads community? Probably not. Would it matter to my personal circle of influence? Possibly.

I felt the responsibility tied to my privilege and right. The trifecta.

The whole experience had me questioning: “What does it ALL mean?”

What does a 5-star book rating mean to you on Amazon or Goodreads? Or the other extreme a 1-star book rating? Does it affect your decisions about what to read?

I am easily entertained. Therefore I tend to be generous in evaluating creative works.

Plus, I feel “bad” being critical of what an author or artist invested their time in. Again, generosity.

My ratings on Goodreads range from 3 to 5-stars with only one 2-star rating. Not everyone shares my view or operates as I do.

We have to wonder about the differences I referenced. Is our rating based on the merit of the writing, plot, and characters? Subject Matter? Reader enjoyment? Or something else entirely.

Maybe it’s not an issue for you, the idea of applying individualism to a collection. I actually considered editing my comments to address the storyline / parenting issue. I probably shouldn’t have allowed reading some of the other reviews to throw me.

Yet and still … How can we use the information that is so readily available, thanks to the opportunities we have to speak up, say what’s on our minds.

The irony of my blogging and asking you to engage in this conversation isn’t lost on me by the way! Now let’s see how many views and likes and comments I get on this post (I’m kidding … kind of).

Seriously, “Criticize me, please.”

What are your thoughts on rating? How does it impact your decision making, if at all? What can we all do to keep the process positive even if the feedback is constructive?

3 Writer’s Truths

Writer's Stop

Writer’s Stop (Photo credit: Stephh922)

I love how our experiences teach us the best lessons. I love how they shape us.

Over the past few weeks I’ve heard some interesting statements which have made me reflect on my writer life. These statements have led me to some new truths.

I want to share my new found knowledge with you. Forgive me if these are truths that you already carry around with you.

1. Knowing is half the battle.

I had the privilege of attending a motivational conference for work. One of the speakers said, “Know some stuff, so you can say some stuff.” Her topic was about meeting new people, striking up conversations with strangers.

My colleague and I were tickled by this assertion. Why? Because it’s obvious. To have something interesting to contribute to any conversation you have to know something.

I guess this is why some of the most frequent advice to writers is you should be readers especially in the genre you write. Reading is research. It helps you know stuff.

Another frequent piece of writer advice is write what you know. My recommendation … know some stuff, just as the speaker at this event said. Then you’ll have lots to say.

But equally important to remember, like in a conversation, is the other person knows something too. Your reader knows stuff. You don’t have to describe or explain everything because the readers’ experience can fill in gaps.

2. Boring is relative.

I listen to a few podcasts. On a recent episode of I Should Be Writing, the host was reading comments and questions from her listeners. One said, “My life isn’t interesting enough to blog about.” Hmmm.

Then I listened to an episode of Writing Excuses where the writing prompt was:  The Hero of the Most Boring Story Ever.

Both made me think of the Seinfeld phenomenon. A show about nothing that has a cult following.

Isn’t it the responsibility of the writer to help the reader connect to the content; to get them to feel something?

If our lives aren’t interesting or if we are the hero of the most boring story ever, it doesn’t matter. Boring is relative. We need to make them feel excited about what we perceive as boredom, just as Seinfeld writers accomplished.

My recommendation … write with abandon … write like what you have to say is the most important and exciting, interesting, wonderful story that needs telling. It’s your job.

3. Solitude produces the goods.

I recently added a new podcast to my list, The Introvert Entrepreneur. In this episode, they were explaining the differences between introversion and shyness. The guest quoted Carl Young, “…The introvert is usually happy alone with a rich imagination and prefers reflection to activity…”

This made me think of a cartoon that my mom-in-law sent me by Jason Love. The caption is:  “The writer:  Someone who spends a lifetime in solitude for the sake of communication.”

Sound like any writers you know? Maybe yourself. Definitely me.

Now … let me say that not all writers are introverts and not all introverts are shy … but it stands to reason that if introverts are recharged by their alone time that their best work would come during times of solitude.

My best writing ideas come when I am alone with my thoughts like curling my hair, taking a shower, doing the dishes or driving to work.

My recommendation … make solitude a priority if you want results. It can get your creative juices flowing.

So … these are my new truths. Maybe I’ve always known them but hadn’t categorized them. Either way I will be operating in truth.

What have your recent life experiences taught you? What new truths will you be exercising? Share the stuff you know in the comments and make it engaging!

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Where Have The Friendly Skies Gone?

Friendly Skies

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

Remember when flying the friendly skies meant:

  • You received a meal with the price of your ticket instead of a meal for purchase.
  • You checked your luggage for free unless it exceeded 50 pounds instead of the flat rate of $25.
  • You received complimentary headphones to watch the in-flight movie instead of supplying your own.
  • You received a full can of soda with a cup of ice instead of a plastic cup of soda.

Plus there were these added services like:

  • During descent the flight attendant would announce the gates for all the connecting flights of passengers so you didn’t have to look for it when you landed.
  • If there were delays and it was possible that you would miss your connecting flight, the attendant at you arrival gate would call the departure gate of your next flight and request they wait for you.

If you don’t remember, you missed out on a golden age in air travel.

But the friendly skies went the way of safer skies which can be traced back to a single moment in American history. 9/11 is my generation’s equivalent of “Where were you when Kennedy was shot?” It changed the landscape of America literally and figuratively.

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint Model in the lobby of my hotel. Only sight seeing I got in.

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint
Model in the lobby of my hotel. Only sight seeing I got in.

Usually the changes in practice don’t bother me but my recent trip to DC on business found me longing for the convenience of quality customer service while traveling. Don’t get me wrong, I value the safety of our nation. It’s just created a deficit in courtesy.

Still, I make it a rule not to be rude to flight attendants or ticket clerks. I employ manners … using my “please” and “thank you” words; letting my smile reach my eyes. They don’t have an easy job.

But the pursuit of safer skies over friendly has made airlines apathetic to the travelers’ plight. Essentially were held hostage to these skies; accepting our rations in our cold cramped spaces with grateful smiles.

My desire for the friendly skies to return started when I checked in for this trip. There was a request for volunteers to give up their seats. I opted not to and thought nothing of it.

However, my coworker who came to the airport later than me wasn’t given an option. She was booked on a later flight. Then was grounded at her layover spot and missed our first event session …

While sitting in the gate area, they announced that our plane was late but only by 10 minutes so “it won’t affect any connecting flights.” Really?

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint Before take off ...

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint
Before take off …

We landed and I had less than 15 minutes to get to my next gate, which of course required me to run (and I’m out of shape, so picture me huffing, puffing, and wheezing; lugging a backpack and a purse).

Surprisingly, I got there in enough time … I held out my boarding pass and the attendant at the gate took it and scanned it without meeting my gaze or interrupting her conversation with another attendant. They had NO concern for me or my near miss. It added to my heaviness.

On the return trip … I handed my checked bag to the TSA agent for scanning. He didn’t make eye contact or ask me the standard safety questions … you know:

  • Firearms or other weapons?”
  • Lighters or flammable chemicals?
  • Film or batteries?”

Instead he was scrolling through his Facebook feed on his iPhone. He didn’t even speak to me.

So much for safer skies. In that moment “friendly” and “safe” were on a break. We all lost.

Bring back the friendly skies! Who’s with me? I am hopeful for my next trip …

Seriously, though, there has to be a way to marry the two; so we can fly the safe friendly skies. What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your stories good, bad or indifferent about traveling the [insert adjective of choice] skies …

FUN FACT: The “Fly the Friendly Skies” ad campaign and tagline were used by United Airlines from 1965-1996. If you’re interested you can check out some of their old commercials on YouTube. Below are links to a couple that I enjoyed:

Friendly Skies – Nice Flight

Friendly Skies – Friendship Service

Friendly Skies – 1982 Commercial

Welcoming Winter

 

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

The cold is coming. I can tell because the trees have started to shed their leaves at a rapid rate.

Some are already bald while others are receding gradually. A little lighter and thinner on top; but full and bushy around the edges.

Winter is my least favorite season.

My corner of the world will be devoid of color soon. Grey. Pale. Like a water color portrait of steel.

I enjoy Winter only for the first snow, especially if I’m home watching bright white hot innocence spill to the ground. I smile at it. In that moment, I welcome winter. It’s pure and undisturbed.

Then it becomes the guest who’s overstayed his welcome. Glaring at me. Moving in and settling down without concern.

I wrote these words back at the end of October as the weather started changing. It was part practice for scene description and part emotional response to the pending weather.

I was granted a reprieve because we didn’t get the first significant snow until the day after Christmas.

While others were dreaming of a white Christmas, I was wishing for it to dawn dingy green and brown with bare branches pointing in all directions.

Growing up, two inches of snow meant “Snow Day” which meant no school. It takes a lot more than two inches to garner a “Snow Day” here.

And even if schools shut down, places of business rarely do. Which is my way of saying, I still have to go to work even when the dudes are given an unexpected break.

I’ve worked for the same company for 12 years now and only twice in all those years have they closed their doors due to inclement weather.

I don’t ski or sled. I don’t like to make snow-angels or snowmen. Ice-skating? Forget it. I don’t like to be cold – I wear long sleeves in the summertime.

Winter weather is best for curling up on the sofa with a good book and a hot beverage of choice.

Christmas was just the beginning of five or six months of living under a cold ashy blanket. Okay? So some will say, “Winter Wonderland”. But it gets really old very quickly.

My dudes love the opportunities to be outside throwing snowballs and rolling around in the winter white. Okay, my youngest dude loves it. My oldest, not so much, he’s like his Momma in this regard.

Usually, the snowy opportunities come at school or the sitter’s.

They won’t have any childhood memories where I am a part of the snowy play. So, I will have to suck it up this year for the sake of my dudes.

But I’m still not excited about welcoming winter.

How do you respond to onset of winter? What suggestions do you have for winter fun?

Looking Back to Look Ahead

English: Two New Year's Resolutions postcards

English: Two New Year’s Resolutions postcards (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I don’t really believe in making New Year’s resolutions. In all my years I’ve never made it through March of the new year doing all that I resolved.

So … I’ve stopped making them. And this year is no exception. I won’t make resolutions but I will set some goals. Okay so I just use a name with less of a stigma …

But before I can look ahead I need to take a brief look back at 2012. I need to consider what I accomplished, failed at, and overlooked to determine what I should focus on in 2013.

Seem reasonable? It’s harder than I thought it would be to capture my year accurately.

2012 Year In Review

Writer Me

I decided or better yet declared:

I am Writer,
hear me roar.”
Or purr.
Or whimper.

It just depends on the day within my world.

In response to my declaration I started this blog as a way to write regularly; gain momentum; earn experience; and learn to deal with rejection.

And it’s served its purpose. I write every day even if the words don’t make it into a post or into my manuscript.

And I’ve learned a lot about writing. Sometimes it’s good and other times it’s not. I can easily psych myself out based on the latest advice I read. But still I committed to accountability with two partners and attended my first writers’ conference.

I haven’t forgotten that after the conference I committed to accountability to all of you … sharing more about my WIP. I am getting there. I am shy and anxious about it. Please be patient.

That's me ... the Middle Sister who's sweet and sassy. I wish I'd thought of naming a wine like that.

That’s me … the Middle Sister who’s sweet and sassy. I wish I’d thought of naming a wine like that.

Sister/Daughter Me

I reconnected with my family: brothers and sisters; niece and nephews.

Living at a distance has been a great excuse not to engage in what’s going on with them. I could keep it light and uninvolved.

Yet most of 2012 was spent wondering: How can I deepen relationships? Investing in others and being willing to take on their crap is part of it. That means family too. And distance isn’t an excuse in the technological world we live in.

No more excuses.

Parent/Wife Me

I watched myself grow up as a parent this year. Sounds strange I know.

My angry voice is lessening. I am slowly decoding my normal tendency to yell first and “use my words” second. It’s a wonderful thing to see how my mood influences my whole household. And, it’s important for me to show them how to manage their emotions rather than telling them.

It’s come in handy as we’ve traveled this first full year of my husband as pastor. With him working 3 nights a week, I am the constant for the dudes. Right now I hold us all together.

We added a Family Night to our schedule which doesn’t get touched by anything. We don’t accept appointments on those nights. It’s the one day each week we are intentionally together. And I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Coming into my own.

This is the sum of my 2012. The highlights reel so to speak. My life is pretty homey really. Not a lot going on.

2013 Year in Preview

Writer Me

 

Reading Like a Writer

Reading Like a Writer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I want to read two books on writing this year. I have one picked out: Reading Like a Writer. Plus, I want to read at least one book outside of my regular reading and writing genre of YA fiction. And, I will continue my weekly and monthly accountability with my partners in crime. Love ya guys.

Also, my goal is to have a first (rough-rough-rough) draft of my novel in progress. Hovering, just shy of 40,000 words. Goal = 90,000 by August. I know … it’s been slow going up till now. But my characters haven’t been speaking as much or keeping me up at night with ideas.

Blogging will be at a slower pace. Still interesting and engaging. PROMISE.

Sister/Daughter Me

I will continue to call home (weekly) and chat with my family and live life with arms linked. Hopefully, I will have one of my nephews living with me in 2013 for college. Who knows?

Parent/Wife Me

I will continue to take deep breaths before responding to a whine or foot stomp or a flippant word. Living moment by moment here.

And Family Night will involve some fun things like dessert for dinner or movie theater popcorn. Who says balanced meals are what’s important? Isn’t it more important that we are together and talking about our lives?

I also have some craft projects planned … specifically I need to scrapbook the pictures from our 2012 Summer Vacation which my youngest dude still says he’s thankful for when we pray at night.

Maybe I’ll plan a Husband and Wife B&B retreat! 😉

Nothing grand or amazing in the year ahead. Mostly maintenance for things I’ve worked on in 2012. Or maybe there are great things lurking around the corner. And there will be ALL new adventures to share.

You know the drill … what are your resolutions or goals for 2013. Or share one of your favorite moments from 2012.

Happy New Year!

Some Photos from Zemanta

Wine and Cheese Party: A Non-Wine Drinker’s Perspective

Witches Brew Spiced Red - December 2012

Witches Brew Spiced Red – December 2012

My approach to wine has traditionally been one of avoidance. But it’s an interest others have that fascinates me … Wine is serious business or hobby. Make no mistake about it.

My introduction to wine in my early 20s was:  Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill followed by White Zinfandel in my late 20s. I don’t have any recollection of wine moments in my 30s, maybe the discovery of Riesling. And in my early 40s I’ve discovered Moscato, which is sweet and doesn’t have that sharp taste that makes me chose other libations.

Every year my girlfriend hosts a wine party. She spends a couple of days preparing savory dishes, selecting the right cheese, fruit, nuts and snacks, and stocking up on a variety of wines and beers. She has something for everyone even someone like me who isn’t a wine lover. It’s not meant to be pretentious, but it definitely can be involved and intense.

The invite encourages guests to bring their favorite bottle to drink and share, “Whether it’s an old favorite or a new discovery … We would love sip a glass with you.”

I picked 3 bottles of Moscato to contribute … Oh and I should mention that I couldn’t tell a good wine from a bad one, meaning whatever has a sale sign on it at the grocery store would work for me. Recommendation:  Don’t leave selection to me because I’ll probably choose a dessert wine to go with dinner.

The fun of attending such a party, for me, is in watching the evening progress. At the beginning of the night there is a lot of talk about wine:  making, tasting, selecting and favorites. Talk about vineyards and wine tours. It’s incredible how much I don’t know. Then it moves into general topics:  family, community, work, and world. By the end of the night it’s laughter about anything and everything.

Now back to the wine lessons I learned.

Put a Cork In It

Put a Cork In It

Screw Tops vs. Corked

I agonized over what wine to pick. Worried that buying a wine with a screw cap would immediately single me out as wine challenged. But one of my first conversations of the night alleviated my fears. Apparently screw caps are no longer the signifier of poor quality. I’m told by one winey that it’s actually the opposite. As cork becomes increasingly difficult to come by and manufacturers want to be environmentally conscience, we see a shift in quality wines turning to this practice of bottling. Who knew?

Put a Cork in It

And speaking of corks … there’s a reason people sniff the cork. I learned this over dinner in the days leading up to the event. A coworker used to be a wine buyer so while we were entertaining clients he displayed his wine skills for us. And the fun fact of the evening was:  if the corks smells of mold it means moisture got into the bottle which could compromise the wine. Good to know that fermented grapes can be moldy …

A Breath of Fresh Air

The other thing I heard as the night progressed … some wines need to breathe. So they get poured in decanters in order to “open up”. My palate wouldn’t know the difference as it’s not discriminating or discerning. But I watched as friends poured glasses and sipped only to say, “This one needs to breathe.” I was impressed that one drop touching the tongue could give so much information.

I sampled a few things … I didn’t drink enough to ever have two full glasses. But I found a red wine that I would drink again:  Witches Brew Spiced Red. Needless to say I had a good time.

And, now that I have exposed my wine ignorance … my lessons don’t have to end. If you have a favorite that you’d like to recommend please leave it in the comments. Or if you have a fun fact about wine I would love to hear it. Gearing up for next year’s party … I could be a connoisseur yet.

What’s Your Story?

Film poster for Pretty Woman - Copyright 1990,...

Film poster for Pretty Woman – Copyright 1990, Touchstone Pictures (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Remember this line from the movie, Pretty Woman:

“Welcome to Hollywood! What’s your dream? Everybody comes here; this is Hollywood, land of dreams. Some dreams come true, some don’t; but keep on dreamin’ – this is Hollywood. Always time to dream, so keep on dreamin’.”

I feel like the guy asking the question; only you could say my question is:  “What’s your story? Hey, come tell me your story.”

No matter who you are or who you’re becoming. No matter where you are, where you’ve been, or where you’re going. You have a story.

I forget that sometimes. As I wind my way through the city at the start of each day. Passing other parents with waves and nods as we drop our children off at school. Smiles and conversations of varied brightness.

I don’t remember it as I stop-go-stop-go-stop-go down the road to work. Weaving my way through traffic, we’re all trying to get somewhere. It’s part of our story.

I fail to see it when I cross paths with my coworkers in the halls and as I interact with clients of diverse backgrounds and influence.

And by this point in my day it’s only 8:30A. Imagine if I were to consider all the potential touch points of my day. How many people have I passed? Are you with me? How often do we see people without seeing them as people? As a collection of joys and sorrows; hurts and celebrations; and gifts and shortcomings. Broken, healing, and broken again.

Story matters. It’s important. But I selfishly tend to focus on the stories that directly have an impact on my life. Or stories that I am personally invested in like my husband and dudes; my friends and extended families, because to do otherwise is overwhelming.

More and more, lately, I don’t have a choice. Stories are finding me. Women are seeking me out and telling me their stories as if I’m the Happy Man standing on the street corner calling out to them.

The spectrum of women ranges from “I only know you by sight but can’t remember your name” to “Something must be wrong because I haven’t spoken to you today and we talk every day.”

Prompting isn’t required beyond a “How’s it going?” or “What’s new with you?” The levels of disclosure are vastly different; from incredibly intimate to superficial – I’m just having a bad day. Usually, they are unloading a burden or secret. Sometimes they just need someone to listen to what might seem mundane. Or, they may want to trust someone with their dream.

At work, this week I stopped in the kitchen area to get sweetener for my coffee. A coworker was frantically looking through the cabinets.

Me:  “Good morning.”
Coworker: “We’re out of creamer.”
Me:  “No we’re not. There’s some right there.”
Coworker: “Oh yeah but I like the flavored creamer.”
Me:  “Oh okay.”

She sighed and went away with black coffee. I felt bad for her. I went back to my desk and pulled out the last of my flavored creamer and took it to her. About 10 minutes later she sent me a note thanking me for taking what was an already bad morning (before the creamer issue) and helping her overcome the crabbiness about it.

It didn’t seem like a big deal to me but it was a big deal to her. I received a glimpse of her story in that moment. My response changed her story for the day.

After writing my notes for this post, I met with two very busy lawyers. I just needed input on materials I was working on. I wanted to respect their time and promised to be brief. To my surprise both women engaged me in lengthy conversations about their lives. They just needed to talk.

Why me? I don’t know.

There is a burden of responsibility when carrying around someone else’s story. They have to be handled with care. I am amazed by the depths of trust freely given.

And the most surprising and rewarding outcome is that caring for a story that’s not my own and not mine to tell, alters my story. My life is enriched by it. I am forever changed with each secret shared and I am grateful.

Now I am calling out:  What’s your story? Who do you confide in? What do you do with the stories placed in your care?

Photo from Zemanta …

Twitter Advice for Newbies Like Me …

Thanks for advice in response to my post … I learned some very helpful things.

Some of you shared you would be checking the comments for the advice. I thought I’d make it easy for you by providing it here. No need to scroll through the comments.

Take what works for you and leave the rest …

  • Figure out how you want to use Twitter. Knowing is half the battle. Is it just to follow friends, family, or other people of interest? Is it for the purpose of building writer platform? Or is it for some other reason? The answers to these questions can help you determine: who you’ll follow, what you’ll tweet, and why it’s tweet worthy. You can use it to:
    • Network
    • Research topics
    • Polls on topics
  • You’re in control. You can turn off tweets from individuals you follow e.g. if you don’t want the political season spam or they just tweet excessively. As my blogger friend, Talli put it, “It is much less offensive to follow / unfollow on Twitter than Facebook. A Facebook “unfriend” is akin to a slap in the face to some.”
  • Numbers are fluid so don’t worry about them. They will change constantly. Some people expect the follow in return for a follow and will unfollow if there isn’t reciprocation. “So, lots of followers doesn’t mean squat.”
  • Cultivate relationships with the list feature. You can keep track of the people you really want to hear from by creating lists. Then you won’t miss stuff from the people you most want to support. Favorite, reply, retweet and repeat. Go for it.
  •  Learning something new takes time. Again, don’t worry. Don’t stress. It will come.
  • Have fun and be real. It’s a great way to reveal who you are in sound-bites kind of like revealing characters in a story. So share the humorous, random, odd, and non-meaningful.
  • Make it work for you. You can have all your social media talking to one another. Your tweets can show up on Facebook at the same time. Your Instagram photos can hit your Twitter and Facebook page simultaneously. Your blog can publicize to Twitter and Facebook. All with the click of a button. You decide.
  • Put it in perspective. My blogger pal, Britt says, “Ah, Twitter. What a fickle beast.” Good to keep in mind. It will help you stay sane.

If there are other thoughts that weren’t shared here … add them to the comments, it’s not too late to help out the newest to the twitter-verse.

 

Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder

Art by one of my dude’s

The first time I heard this phrase was from my fifth grade teacher. I don’t know why I remember it.

She used to read out loud to us and each character had its own voice. It was the coolest thing.

One day a disagreement bubbled up about one of the stories she was reading us. I don’t remember what book it was or what caused the dispute. (The mind keeps what it wants.) But I remember her response.

She said, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Do you know what that means?”

Wagging our heads in ignorance she explained that beauty can be determined by the individual. That we didn’t have to agree that the words in the story were beautiful. WOW! I didn’t even know I needed a new point of view. Who does at the age of 9 or 10?

It changed my world. Or better yet … it opened my world wide. It helped me know that art is the artist’s expression but beauty is the observer’s impression. I understand that beauty is as varied and unique as a sea of snowflakes just as we are all different.

Learning such a simple but powerful phrase allowed me to create my own definition of beauty. One that would no longer be limited by popular culture.

It was the start of me being able to decide what beauty looked like. Even I could be beautiful. A girl who didn’t look like “valued beauty”. A girl who didn’t look like Barbie. Even a girl like me could be beauty.

Amazing!

Fifth grade was the year I learned to not just accept everything as it was presented to me, but to challenge myself and my beliefs. It was the year I learned to not just enjoy our school outings to concerts, plays, and the ballet. I learned to search for the beauty and meaning in them. My beauty. What I valued.

Every year at Christmas we had a school field trip to see a production of the Nutcracker Ballet. To this day, The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies, is my favorite. But the fifth grade found me wonder what makes it so beautiful to me?

I still don’t know the answer to the question. Maybe the beauty in it was the possibility in it. You see I wanted to be a dancer back than. And I would imagine myself dancing in the Nutcracker.

I hold the memories in my heart like snapshots in a photo album.

Grateful doesn’t describe what I feel for the teacher who shared these words with me. Now I work at helping my boys find what beauty is to them. In our house we have a saying, “Don’t yuck my yum.” It started out a way of teaching our kids to appreciate others food choices but it extends beyond that.

Maybe you have your own phrase as well … feel free to share in the comments.

I am reading the book, Matched, by Ally Condie. A dystopian story where a government structure defines appropriate beauty:  100 poems, 100 songs, 100 books, 100 paintings … All for the sake of control and keeping order.

Could you imagine living in a world where you couldn’t create new artist’s expressions? Or, a world in which you couldn’t share an observer’s impression unless it’s the “appropriate” impression?

There certainly wouldn’t be a blogosphere for you to hang out in. If you’d like, share your favorite poem, song, book, painting, play, etc. that you’d miss if it was no longer available to you …

This post is a round about way of reminding us to value the beauty you see in the world even if no one else values the same thing.