Ten Year Wake-Up Call–Or Not? (Part One)

Happy Tuesday everyone. Hope you all had a great weekend and are in place and geared up to get through another one.

Quick note before I continue: this post was originally slated to run a month or so ago. Because September wound up being a fairly busy time with school starting, I’m running this essay exactly as I wrote it and keeping the tenses to reflect my thoughts the day I jotted them down. Thank you for your patience and indulgence. 🙂

 (AP Photo/WTC Memorial Foundation, LMDC,HO)

I write this post on the tenth anniversary of the day Americans—and possibly most of the world—refer to as 9/11. For days I’ve been bombarded with pictures, news articles and television coverage of the tragedy that befellNew York City’s lower Manhattan area that morning. Over and over one thought kept crowding out all the others:

Ten years have come and gone.

Please note I speak only for myself as I share this. There’s something about that decade mark that makes me stop and note how quickly such an expanse of time elapses seemingly without notice. I don’t think I look all that different. As a whole, I don’t think I feel very different either. To date I’m blessed in pretty much any aspect of my life I can name.

Some changes I have no choice but to see: hubby’s hair was probably more pepper than salt. My son, who on the morning ofSeptember 11, 2001was attending his fourth or fifth day of preschool, presently attended his third day of high school. My other son (pushing age three on 9/11) wasn’t in school then and is now in his second year of middle school. Along the way, I’ve been married close to seventeen years. Somehow, I spent those days in relatively the same manner while years slid by. Only the annual markings of time—New Year’s, birthdays, etc—reminded me how quickly time moves.

I don’t want to be long-winded. (Yes, those who know me well are chuckling, smirking and/or rolling their eyes. Be careful: those orbs might get stuck up there. J) This morning, though, I watched some of the televised ceremonies and tributes. As I watched water flow into the footprints of theTwinTowersI was amazed that ten years passed and I’ve never once visited the site. (I live close enough that a trip into the city shouldn’t be a major affair.) Today also reminds me how annoyed at myself I was then that I’d never put my boys on the Staten Island Ferry to see the Statue of Liberty and then watch the lower end of Manhattan loom small into tall as the ferry pulled into port. (Watching the towers get taller and taller as we got closer on the ferry was always one of my favorite parts of that ride. Who would have thunk those hulking rectangles that stretched into the sky wouldn’t be there forever? At least I can see the tower lights from my house. I make sure to go outside every year and spend some time looking and reflecting.)

So much for being long-winded. I had another point to share but I’ve gone on too long here. (Besides, I thought of another take on that point and will expand on it in the next post, scheduled to run on Thursday of this week.) Thanks so much for staying with me.

Until Thursday,

Joanna

My Son’s Graduation: A Measure of Things Learned

Good day friends!

My apologies folks. Due to glitch in real time (mine), the pet peeves blog promised last Friday should be running this upcoming portal to the weekend. (When lots of exciting tennis is expected to happen!!! And yes, I plan to be there, lol. :D)

The other night, while at my son’s eighth grade graduation ceremony (OMG! How did he grow so much already????), I got to experience something spectacular.

I’d already been deeply touched to watch one of the special needs kids be presented an award for most motivated to self-improve (or something similar—I don’t remember the details). This particular child attended a class/program designed for the unique considerations of those students whose IQs run on the significantly low side. As an occupational therapist who works with so many of these kids (and familiar with this one) I was pleased beyond words to see this girl—who daily strives to work to the very best of her capabilities—receive an award alongside a regular education student. (Only two were given.)

One by one, by homeroom, each graduate was called by name and handed his/her certificate. You could easily tell how popular a student was by the volume of applause and cheers for a given individual.

I never conceived what came next. The special needs class was called. Two-hundred-thirty-six eighth graders erupted into a standing ovation and maximum volume roar for this very special four, who positively beamed and preened down the aisle, heads held high and smiles wide enough to see from the top bleacher. (I get goose-bumped and teary-eyed every time I think of it.)

The evening progressed to refreshments with my son and his friends in the school cafeteria. I told him what a wonderful thing this graduating class had done by supporting their special needs classmates the way they had. He casually responded, “During rehearsal I told Bobby (whoever that is) we should clap for them.”

Earlier that evening I’d felt disappointed knowing my son would not receive an academic achievement award; he’s ridiculously capable but not terribly motivated when it comes to studying. After he shared that, I realized he’d achieved far beyond what any trophy, certificate  or gift card could ever show.

Joanna

It’s All for a Reason

Hello everyone! I know it’s been a while. Still working on getting back into a routine that involves connecting with all of you on a regular basis. When I first got into blogging I never thought I’d be writing this but…I really miss it and all of you. As always, I thank you for your patience, loyalty and support.

I do believe, however, everything happens for a reason. Hokey and cliché as that sounds, I can’t discount that tenet I hold as I watch different pieces of my life’s puzzle come together. That’s one of my favorite analogies/metaphors: considering life a 1000-piece puzzle I get to assemble without benefit of the photo on the box to show me what the finished product will look like. All I have is that multitude of pieces tossed together, and I get to fit them into a unit via trial-and-error. When enough pieces have come together, I get to step back, look at that section (from some distance) and realize what a particular section is. Oh! There’s a flower. That’s a bird, etc. Then I get to start semi-blindly fitting pieces together again until another section identifies itself.

The key is, I’ve got to be patient while I’m fitting one piece to another. Not easy, I promise. But on my life’s journey, as events fall into place and I take that step back to view how one impacted another, I get a better sense of how one episode relates to another to put me where I am today.

Here are three quick examples:

 In the long run, this one is insignificant; I’m only making a point. My son and I stopped at CVS. Of course I only meant to buy one item, had a limited amount of cash and didn’t want to use my credit card. As teens will do, he kept handing me things to buy. The last item was a lip balm that cost almost $4, but I didn’t realize it until the cashier rang it up. That put me over my cash limit so I told him to put it back. The cashier had to cash out the sale and redo it. I’ll be darned: I got a $3 coupon to use on the spot and even went home with some change. Go figure.

Second example might get me somewhere in life. I love the idea public speaking. (Remember me? I’m that kid who made microphones from ping-pong balls, aluminum foil and shoelaces, lol.)  Had a taste of presenting to an audience–and my first paycheck!–earlier this year at school, during a professional development workshop I gave with a friend/colleague. When recently, I needed to follow up for a copy of the certificate and proof of the professional development hours for my own employee file, I wound up connecting with a key person who coordinates workshops and their speakers. I put my goal as a speaker out there and guess what? I’m to stop in her office to discuss this further!

The third relates directly to my novel writing. I was waiting for word from a publisher on a given manuscript. Took four months to be told, “Doesn’t meet our needs” (again). Last time, the rejection hurt. Guess what? Part of  me wanted to be turned down. The publishing world has changed dramatically in the few years since I became part of it, and I now feel I have a clear path on the direction of my next step.

So how about you? Do you see your life events as a random series of happenings, or a chain of events that link together over time? 

Wishing all of you a wonderful day. I’ll be posting a long-promised interview to online friend and author Patricia Andres this upcoming Wednesday–looking forward to checking in with you again then!

Joanna

FAFF, New Love, Anniversaries and Life Lessons

Happy Friday and next-to-last-day of April friends. How is it almost May already?

Okay, before I go further, please indulge me while I digress briefly and address those of you in the Union, NJ area: I’ll be sharing a table with fellow Wild Rose Press author M. Flagg at Union High School’s vendor night from 7-10 PM! (I’m awful at promo, people, and didn’t consider this an ‘appearance’ until Ms. Flagg reminded me. :)) I hear they’re vying for table space and will have all kinds of great wares–just in time for Mother’s Day (and wedding anniversaries ;)–are you paying attention, hubby?

Speaking of wedding anniversaries, how can it be #16 at my end? And sixteen years ago, who would have ever thought I get to share the date with a royal couple? (Best wishes William and Kate!) If I read her comment yesterday, author friend Laura Hogg and her husband share the date with us, too. So in the spirit of romance, weddings, new beginnings and couples standing the test of time…

I picked my wedding song long before I met my husband. Kept it a secret, guarded it closely for a very long time. It wasn’t popular or a secular standard. The song would be a unique choice (or so I thought) for that day when I committed myself to someone else for the rest of my life.

About twelve years ago I read a powerful biography: that of Mary Kay Ashe, founder of the much-familiar Mary Kay Cosmetics (skin care that I swear by as those of you who read my most recent guest-post at Chris Redding’s blog on 4/15). As per Mary Kay’s book, this remarkable woman lived a fairly hard life very much on life’s terms but somehow made the best of whatever situation came her way. One chapter in particular (named You Can’t Outgive God) stood out.

Seems Mary Kay was a stickler for being prepared whenever she had to address a group publicly. Due to unforeseen circumstances the night before she was to address a church group about fundraising possibilities for the church’s new building, she was unable to prepare her speech. The next morning, Mary Kay honored her appointment. In an off-the-cuff moment, she felt inspired to match dollar-for-dollar the amount of money the congregation raised. She never imagined the amount that was presented her—somewhere approximating $1 million—during a time when her assets were tied up in other projects.

The woman had faith and for good reason. As Mary Kay sat there wondering how she’d honor her promise, her son called, his voice laced with excitement. Seems an oil-well she’d invested in came at exactly the right time and the cash Mary Kay needed became available exactly when she needed it. Her message to the congregation when she told them about her miracle? “You can’t outgive God.”

How does this tie in to a life lesson of mine? I’m married sixteen years today. Girlhood dreams of my wedding morphed into more concrete possibilities as I progressed through my twenties (and with no prospects, lol). At age thirteen I picked my wedding band; I was bridesmaid for my cousin and saw it on the back of one of her bridal magazines. (Can you believe I thought twice about it when it was time to pick rings? The jeweler looked at me and said, “You’ve wanted this all these years now you’re thinking about it???” Good thing she said something!)

And you already know my wedding song was chosen, Steven Curtis Chapman’s I Will Be Here. (Good thing hubby liked it, too).

Our first dance as Mr. and Mrs.

Enter one of my co-workers of the time, a departmental assistant who tended to be moody and not necessarily the best-liked person in the department. She had an upcoming wedding but expressed ambivalence about her song (the wedding, too, I think—but that’s another story…). She was probably the last person I would have ever considered sharing the title of my song, but something moved me to do so. She loved it and chose it for her first dance with her new husband.

Of course, I met my honey very soon after that. The rest, y’all already know and once again, I, like Mary Kay before me, am convinced that “you can’t outgive God.”

         

Shall we talk similar experiences? How has God, Higher Power, Universe–whatever force you feel active in your life–outgiven you? I’d love to read your story (and if you think it’s too long for the comments section, email me privately and we’ll set you up with your very own Friday post!)

Have a great day,

Joanna

Making It Happen or Forcing a Solution?

I’m big on life lessons. Those of you who so kindly take the time to read my mental meanderings have probably already realized this.  I don’t necessarily look for them but I tend to spot them easily, especially in some of the most unexpected situations. 

Here is one example. Earlier this year, one of the writers’ associations to which I belong (Liberty States Fiction Writers—check them out at www.libertystatesfictionwriters.com) announced a contest. From January through May of 2009, members were encouraged and challenged to ‘Mayke it Happen’ or complete a full-length novel at a minimum 60 thousand words. All credit and kudos to those who did—I’m almost there, nearly three months post deadline, just shy of 59,000 as I write these thoughts. I also have the luxury of not relying on my (fiction) writing as a source of income, at least at present (though one can dream) and as intrigued as I was with the challenge, I knew I needed to work at my own pace, that I couldn’t force a book out of me in order to meet a timeline.

Last year the idea of forcing a solution really zinged home. We’d been in our house two days after ten weeks of living ‘the suite life’ at a local Holiday Inn (a fire took up the back wall of my home). My house was a major disaster after restoration. While driving to work I got hit by someone who ran a stop sign two blocks from my house. (I ended up renting a Mercedes; it was the “only” 4-cylinder vehicle available that day–what could I do?) I arrived home just as the dry cleaning company that had emptied my house of every item made of fabric two months earlier was bringing  everything back. The workers stacked twelve 25-lb. boxes against my dining room wall and layered the floor with items on hangers as high as the dining room table, after having treated everything for ‘smoke damage’. Besides that, my entire first floor had been packed into boxes or a POD unit so that my floors could be refinished. Only the furniture had been returned to it’s pre-fire place. (Yours truly got to unpack every single other box–took me until August to empty the last one.) Not sure a word exists to describe how chaotic my house looked or how my family and I felt trying to navigate amidst that mess.

Life, however, had to go on. It was late May, so that evening, after having prepared dinner and cleaning up, I was dealing with my younger son’s homework.  We heard the strangest noise upstairs. We traipsed up to the second floor and realized our youngest and smallest cat was standing guard over something in the only functional bathroom. A closer look under the vanity revealed a small squirrel. (He probably got in while the dry cleaning folks unloaded their van.)

O-o-o-kay. Now what? Could anything else have happened that day? My kids, especially my 9-year-old, began to panic. He begged us to go back to the hotel. My husband made a quick trip to Lowe’s, bought a humane trap and set it up, but that creature wouldn’t budge. Our biggest concern was him getting out of the only bathroom we could use, plus the kids were scared. My husband even got a little nutty and started calling for a stick, a kitchen knife and duct tape. Taming his inner “Rambo” wasn’t too hard once I reminded him he’d have to live with himself after the squirrel was gone.

 At about ten-thirty, we decided the tiny critter wasn’t goin’ nowhere. He hadn’t moved from under the vanity even though we’d gone in and out several times. We made sure to keep the door fully closed while Mauer McNabb, feline sentinel extraordinaire, kept guard outside the door. When morning came, my husband raised the bathroom window screen. Within only a few minutes, the little guy climbed out and was gone.  

 So where’s the lesson? Well, when I heard about the ‘Mayke it Happen’ challenge my muse immediately felt the pressure. With a new manuscript underway (about 50 pages at the time), the challenge was exactly the impetus I needed, right? For some reason, though, I remembered the squirrel and how, when and if possible, letting a situation work itself out might be the better way to go. I’m not saying, by any means, that one should let things go, be complacent and hope something happens. There are times when taking action, setting and meeting a deadline, speaking up, etc is definitely the better way to go. In my life lessons and nearly a completed manuscript later, I’ve also found that manipulating the environment for the change I need then sitting back and letting a situation take its course has its place, too. And on that note, I’ll add that I write this blog as a necessary break away from my current work-in-progress, since thinking endlessly about my next scene and how/where it’s going is, at this moment, beyond me. I do know, it will come—it always does.  

BTW, in addition to life lessons I love comments, too. Hope you take a moment to share instances when you had a choice to make,. Did you take action or let the situation take its own course? I’d love to know your stories and your outcomes.  (For all you or I know, another book may be born. :))Thanks for stopping by!

A SPECIAL NOTE: For those who love a  mix of good reads, please join me  on the Summer Reading Trail! Start right here at  www.joannaaislinn.wordpress.com/read-an-excerpt  then link up with other writers from there!