Inspired

Happy Monday, folks. Between the two blogs and the normal day-to-day (with the extra life throws in as one goes), I’ll most likely be alternating my posting schedule. Thank you for your continued kind support.

These past few weeks, I’ve had varied reasons to reflect on drive: that inner something that propels one through the challenges life brings; keeping one’s focus on the prize despite obstacles (external and internal). For some reason, my mind jet-setted to a lady patient I had in my first, in-patient rehab setting.

This lovely lady will go by Margaret (not her real name). Margaret was about 65 when she came to me. She was much disfigured and disabled by a long-standing history of rheumatoid arthritis. Diabetes had also taken its typical (associated) toll on her vision and circulation: she was legally blind and had been admitted to rehab due to a below-the-knee amputation of one of her legs.

Margaret couldn’t really turn her head b/c of the arthritic changes. Her fingers were thick little sausages that couldn’t open wide enough to really hold on to a walker. And her hips and knees were already fairly contracted into flexed positions.

Little by little, Margaret shared pieces of her story. Sometimes, more than I wanted to know, on a highly-detailed and personal level. She had many a reason to be bitter and resentful of her past, but was one of the kindest, quietest patients ever.

Because of her multiple deformities and weakened state, no one expected much of this tiny, hunched lady. She was fitted with a prosthesis anyway. The physical therapist most likely adapted her walker so she could hold on to it, and Margaret found a way. She was able to walk short distances with her very-devoted daughter nearby, enough to manage in her living space.

For some reason, she wasn’t able to return home right away and wound up on an ‘alternate level of care’ at our sister facility. Unfortunately, ‘alternate level’ wasn’t good. Long story short, Margaret wound up with an amputation of the other leg, ABOVE the knee.

Anyone who has worked with prosthetic patients knows that walking with two below-the-knee prostheses takes less energy than getting around with one above-the-knee.

To this day I don’t know how she did it, but Margaret pulled it off. There was no way she should have accomplished what she did, but I’m thinking her drive, spirit and motivation made the difference. So did her daughter’s support.

Who am I to make excuses when I remember that?

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This Reader’s Pet Peeves

Welcome to November, folks. How does every year seem to go faster and faster?

Hope those who celebrate enjoyed a fun Halloween. ‘Trunk or Treat’ delayed our candy-seekers, but we wound up with a good turnout nonetheless. I was also thrilled when a former co-worker rang the bell; she wound up informing me she and a neighbor—a widower whose wife unexpectedly passed of an undetected aneurysm late last year—were ‘together.’ I’ve been praying for that man since September, 2013. So grateful and happy for him and his very young boys, and for her. Far as I know, he’s a great guy, a firefighter who writes–or has written–on the sly. That’s got to be good, right? 😉

To everyone taking on the NaNoWriMo challenge, I applaud you and wish you all the best. As much as I can churn out a report or a blog post under pressure, I can’t seem to generate the heart that kind of undertaking warrants. You’re an amazing group who inspire me.

NaNoWriMo--persistandwin

Image credit: From CommuniCATE Resources For Writers 

Lately, I feel my attention span is more and more compromised. Even reading, a life-long passion that helped spur me into the writer-world, has been suffering. Maybe it’s age, too much to do, life, internet-spawned attention deficit—all of the above. My tolerance isn’t what it was, either. Having learned first-hand some of the tricks of this trade messed with my reader side. I can rarely push myself to swallow content that doesn’t grab me right away or gets my pet peeves coming out in full force.

I’m not pointing at only indie works either. A few years ago, a well-established author released a long-awaited new work. I’d read at least two of her previous compositions and thoroughly loved them. The Big-Five publisher that backed her put out a LOT of fan-fare (and $$$) to promote her book.

Hate to admit it, but I never downloaded more than the sample. The style of writing was dated. Exposition went on and on. (Very 80s, I guess?) Don’t think I made it past page 20. So there’s pet peeve #1.

#2: A poorly-developed, contrite or dragged-out story. I’m not implying every story should have block-buster style action pouring off every page. Readers who’ve been around a while know every story has been done. PLEASE, authors! Give me a story I want to believe, and move it along at a forward pace that feels like it’s on some kind of continuum.

#3: Repetition: I’m forcing myself to read a romance that somehow found its way onto my Nook app. It’s okay, but if one more person ‘snorts’ I might decide how the author got to the HEA isn’t worth knowing.

#4: Crappy editing: Good service is pricey. I’ve looked into it (and hoping this post, or a future release, doesn’t haunt me one day). Heck, I’ve heard authors mention their editor this, or their editor that.

I hate when a book starts out decently edited, then slides down a steady decline. (Kind of dealing in that with those ‘snorting’ characters, among other complaints.)  I once read a supposedly edited book where love scenes were repeated for 5-page stretches every time they occurred. IDK, but that’s overkill and cause to skip the scenes or even give up on the story. And don’t get me started on head-hopping. (BTW, I have no problem with POV shifts within a scene and use them myself. But those authors whose books sell simply b/c their names grace the covers, while POVs shift from head to head within the same paragraph??? Nah, I’ll read someone else’s stories, thank you very much.)

There are beta readers, critique groups, online and in-person workshops. Translation: We shouldn’t be lacking for a way—via use of cash, barter or someone’s kind-hearted donation of services—that any book should be lacking in quality.

Any thoughts on this? How patient are (or were) you as reader? Do you have pet peeves about the stories that come your way? I’d love to read about them. Are you doing NaNoWriMo?

Residents of the USA, if you can, get out there and vote. (MHO: it’s become far too important to do so.)

Have a great day,

Joanna

How Far Will You Go To Impose Order–On Others?

It’s been a busy past two weeks, folks. Between being down with a nasty cold and (good) family stuff going on, last week got away from me. Hope all is well with all of you!

I love when my blogger-pals’ posts spur me toward a post of my own. (I’ve been having a run of that lately. Thanks, friends!) Last week, Stacey Wilk zapped me into action with one of her most delightful write-ups yet. Those who crave order, check it out. You might find a kindred spirit at Stacey’s stop!

Sounds like order makes Stacey’s heart sing. I commented that in my day-gig, we call that one form of self-regulation. That’s a term from ‘sensory integration’, defined as a “calm-alert state that is optimal for learning.” Order makes my heart sing; it helps me self-regulate. Did I mention orderly spaces tend to look good in a calming and soothing sort of way? A friend who is into organizing gave me a term that makes complete sense to me: visual peace.

I totally get that lining things up a certain way in a cabinet creates order and ease of finding things, as well as making it easier to put things away. In my kitchen, most things have a place, but very few items have to be exactly in one spot for the big picture to work. A few things work best lined up a particular way. (My bowls and my pots have to be nested or they won’t fit). My kitchen was remodeled about 5 years ago. Almost everything is still in pretty much the same place I assigned it b/c it works. And unless someone else (Ahem!) doesn’t put things in the designated spot, I never have a problem finding things.

Nabby n Kitty under the counter 10-2014 My girls, just hanging under the kitchen counter. 

So, the question was, how far will you go to impose your need for order on others—outside your house?

Y’all know I work in a school setting. At the school where I work most days, I’m lucky enough to have two large metal closets in the back of auditorium to keep games, papers, etc. (In other schools I have to drag the Barney bag and be grateful to use the lunchroom, a table in the library or a small office space.)

Anyhow, every year these closets wind up a tad messy by the end of the school year. B/c of issues the year before, I never got to put them back in order when the summer program ended (in 2013). That meant the closets started out pretty messy for 2013-14 and only got worse. By the end of the 2014 summer program, those closets were a disaster, especially after SIX people spent three weeks pulling stuff out and stuffing it back. (Two of those folks don’t put foot in my school during the school year, so they had no sense of how things fit together in there.)

One work friend and I spent over FIVE hours cleaning those war zones at the end of this year’s summer program. I decided (threatened, promised—whatever–at the possible cost of my job-buds still liking me) that I’d take pictures of the finished product, blow them up, laminate and hang them in the closets, shelf by shelf. (For once I followed through.)

school closet top shelf (See the chaos under the top shelf? That’s just a hint of what the other NINE shelves had become. Just sayin’.)

One of my co-workers teased me for being so uptight about my desire for order. It was all in good fun, and she’s been very respectful with putting stuff away as per the photos. And there IS a practical reason for order: Putting stuff away at the end of the day goes a whole lot faster when there is “a place for everything and everything in its place.”

school closet (2) Say what you want, but at least there is some kind of reference for insuring all this stuff fits at the end of the day. I have to load up a cart at least twice weekly b/c I don’t have a real ‘home’ at school.  

BTW, we’re six weeks into the school year, and the closets are still looking good.

So…I now pose this question to you:

What will YOU do to insure order either in or outside your home?

Enjoy your day, folks,

Joanna

5th Graders, Paying It Forward and Projects

Happy Cinco de Mayo, everyone! I so love spring and am very excited to be getting the garden together while I “grow” a number of other projects!

A couple of weeks ago I had the joy of guest-teaching about Point-of-View to a friend’s 5th-grade class. I developed a very basic workshop several years ago, to present at a monthly Liberty States Fiction Writers, a wonderful group of pay-it-forward kind of folks. Took me about an hour to put together a simple PowerPoint, and now I have another workshop-with-slide-show to add to a growing resume!

The kids were phenomenal. Most looked interested (as in, only a few yawned), and many of them asked all kinds of great questions. A few even groaned when their teacher said we had about 10 minutes left before they had to break for lunch—how cool is that?

Aside: For those of you who don’t know this, I’m putting it out there: I want to talk to big groups of people on a regular basis. I have a variety of topics.

Workshops are: writing-related; educational/occupational therapy (including assistive technology, handwriting, sensory, etc); parenting. (That’s what happens when one’s interests are all over the place, lol.) Anyone who wants further detail, y’all can contact me here or message me on Facebook.

Glad I put fingers to the keys this morning to write about jeans! (I’ll work on putting that together as next week’s post. (Working hard to keep things short and sweet here. )

Here are links to a couple of things that caught my interest:

This one is for dolphin lovers—like myself. They are SUCH incredible creatures.

This post by Tammy Dennings Maggy spoke to me big-time. (Have a feeling it will to many of you as well.) Please take a moment and welcome her back to the blogosphere!

As always, please feel free to SHARE—not just my content, but any or both of the articles above as well. As the lovely Jane Porter once said in a workshop I attended, one can never underestimate how far-reaching what one says and/or does is, or who you’ll touch. (I paraphrased. Don’t remember where the notes are to that workshop.)

Have a wonderful week, folks, and a very Happy Mother’s Day to whomever the greeting applies!

Joanna

 

 

 

 

Guests Bloggers at The Write Practice Inspire!

Happy Tuesday, everyone,

And a happy birthday shout-out to my daughter-from-another-mother. Older Son’s girlfriend turned the big 1-7 yesterday. (This post was supposed to go live on Monday, but I forgot to click the SCHEDULE button after I set the date.)  She’s been around four years already, something I still can’t believe sometimes. Luckily, she’s a very nice young lady and there is no real drama between them.

I’m always  a bit sad watching an Olympic flame go down. Being a lover of athletic ability in so many forms—especially since God did not put superstar status coordination into this writer girl—I  so enjoy living vicariously watching the grace and power of those who are. (I get to the tennis courts whenever I can. Luckily, I can hit a few good flat shots–I so can’t do any spin on the ball–and let’s not talk serve.)

I will NOT  miss listening to the rather biased coverage and talk involving American-Russian rivalry re: medal counts, hockey games, etc. That’s just not me, and the Olympics is a place where the world supposedly comes together, right? (Just sayin’…)

Sochiolympicflame

Image credit: Flickr via Wikimedia Commons (Pretty sure I did this properly. Feel free to let me know in the comments or privately if I didn’t. Thnx!)

Having my life back from the TV is always nice (barring Law & Order SVU re-runs—those suck me in almost every time; Modern Family is starting to get me too and I just walked away from auditions for The Voice). Indian Wells, the ‘fifth slam’ of tennis starts March 6th…Dancing with the Stars is about four weeks away… There goes Monday night…again.

Back on track: I haven’t written about writing for a while, nor do I plan to now. What???

I did, however, come across a couple of great posts from The Write Practice, to whose posts I subscribe. I recently moved from lurker to commenter/participant and am finding a very supportive community. (Writers can be like that, cheering each other on, helping each other out, paying it forward…you know.)

In lieu of musings by me, I figured I’d share an exercise prompted by this post, Let Me Be Your Muse. Writer/blogger Joy Collado of the Phillipines suggests I do nothing but write in response to what my character(s) have to say about their feelings relative to me and getting their stories into some kind of existence. Let me tell you, some of mine are pretty dang frustrated, lol. Here is a very short excerpt of the fruits of that effort:

These are one of my POV character’s thoughts. She’s a tad annoyed waiting for me to get it together, to find a direction for her story, and to get things right between her and her hubby.

“So you’re letting me be the muse, huh? It’s about time you stopped trying to figure out my story and started committing to putting down something concrete about it.”

From there my character pretty much outlined her story and gave me a great framework to draw upon. My next step is to do the same with the other POV characters. I’m hoping I don’t choke myself (again!) with all the ideas that come from this kind of brainstorming. That’s what happens: I get overwhelmed with all the info and can’t seem to find a start point to make functional use of it.

Becca Puglisi‘s guest postPurging Your Writing Fear spoke to me too. From that I was inspired to jot down two key affirmations. Those are on my nightstand. I’m seriously considering fancying them up a bit and framing them, so that they’re that much more visible to me on the day to day.

Here is one of them: I am can and will make _____ and _____’s story into a viable suspense/romantic novel. (It’s that suspense part messing with me. New territory.)

So, what are your thoughts on these topics? Have you tried Joy’s technique or written down affirmations/goals the way Becca suggests? Do you feel it’s been helpful? If so, how and/or why?

Thanks and have a great day!

Joanna

Could We Have Possibly Done Something Right? (Part 6 and Done :)

The Australian Open Tennis Championships are underway! The first Grand Slam of 2014 is here! Tennis in the morning. Tennis after work. Tennis in the evening. Tennis at night.

And everyone wonders why I don’t get any real writing done. (“Yeh,” say the Aussies).

Yes, I’m moving on. Maybe a calming chamomile tea is in order. (Nah. Hate tea. Coffee’s my brew.) Hope everyone is well, this second full week of the New Year.

Can I possibly wrap up this series? I suppose I should have be done, but one incident with Older Son (OS) stands out too much to not share. And it’s so interesting how several seemingly unrelated events came together to help Hubby and me with our responses to the situation.

OS turned 17 this past November. In my state, that means a driver’s license, which he got December 11, 2013.

That means OS has had a driver’s permit since April. Sometime before June he came across a used car for sale, pretty much what he wanted, and a great deal for him. Hubby and I had our misgivings, but we allowed him to use a portion of his savings to buy it.

It got parked at a friend’s house, pronto, not to be registered or insured until he got the DL.

On a mid-June weekend this past summer, Hubby and I were supposed to go to our PA cottage. A dear friend had passed away and we’d hoped to attend the funeral, which was in the vicinity. OS was scheduled to work and Younger Son (YS) is in the ‘bored’ stage in PA (no internet connection for the X-box in the woods).

Because putting together arrangements for a responsible adult to be available to a 14- and 16- year-old was turning out to be more tedious than we figured it should have been, Hubby and I made a last-minute decision to stay home. Neither of us felt all that comfortable leaving the kids home while we were three hours away. And we’d visited my friend twice during her bout with cancer, so I felt better knowing I’d connected with her before she exited this life.

So, there we were Saturday afternoon, June 15th. Kids are both out and Hubby decides to step out—maybe run to the deli or something along those lines.

He came home livid.

He’s spotted OS driving his should-have-been-parked-car, with his girlfriend (GF) in the passenger seat.

OS came in a few minutes later, pleading his case for the necessity of the run.

Hubby grounded him on the spot, including not allowing him to attend a rather formal birthday party he and GF were due at in less than two hours.

Not sure I agreed with Hubby’s choice of handling the situation—he was pretty mad—and the party, as far as I could see, had nothing to do with the transgression. I spoke to Hubby privately (so that OS wasn’t aware of the conflict of opinions Hubby and I had), but supported his decision since it had already been made, and he felt very strongly about not changing it. He believed strong action that showed OS the severity of his transgression was necessary. I did agree with the rationale, but might have chosen a more related form of discipline (i.e., revoked even permit-driving privileges for x-amount of time, or something along those lines).

Aside: GF was kind enough not to attend the party w/o OS.

So, that’s how Saturday, June 15th went. OS probably said something to me here and there, but I reminded him (nicely) that he’d made a choice, got caught and now had to deal with the consequences of his action.

The next morning we realized there was some emergency vehicle activity going on a few blocks from our house. Being the mind-our-own-business folks we usually are, Hubby walked down to scope out the action then texted OS and GF to come down. They took off on their skateboards.

A FIFTEEN-year-old boy had taken his mother’s SUV—she had gone to church—piled in at least three friends and lost control making a turn. He ploughed headlights first into an electrical pole. (Don’t ask how the force at the bottom toppled the top third of the pole, knocking it onto a power line and taking out the electricity to one or more houses on that street.)

OS hung out, and chatted for a while with the tow truck guy, who talked about the law-end of what this kid and his family would be dealing with in the not-so-far-future. And that kid won’t be seeing a driver’s license anytime near his 17th birthday. (He kind of seriously messed up that privilege.)

So what’s my point? Hubby and I could have ranted and raved at OS for making the impulsive choice he did. We didn’t. In agreement or not, we stood united in doling out consequences. (We are lucky. OS takes his lumps like a man (?). YS shows a much more dramatic side, but eventually does his time—often the next day, once he’s calmed down.)

I’m getting at this: LIFE stepped in and demonstrated a real-life example of what could happen when a kid takes a vehicle, especially if said kid is not terribly skilled/experienced at handling it. Sans getting preachy, we used that illustration to point out how flippin’ lucky OS was that his actions the day before cost him a party and little else.

And how crazy was it that Hubby and I stayed home and Hubby just happened to be on the same road at the same time OS had taken out his car? Coincidence? I’m not so sure…

Anyone out there with similar experiences to share? Please do! How did you handle it? Would you have grounded OS from the party? If not, what consequences might you have imposed? Did life show up with a lesson better than anyone you could have given?

Have a great day, folks,

Joanna

Could We Have Possibly Done Something Right? (Part 5)

Happy New Year and Merry Little Christmas, everyone! Welcome to 2014 and the New Year’s first post at ‘da blog.’

I’m hoping to wrap up the parenting topics we dealt with prior to the holidays coming in and taking life over, lol. One li’l Christmas 2013 memory ties in, that of the bag of coal Younger Son (YS) got attached to one of his gifts. Several years ago, he was much more difficult to deal with, so we punked him, if you will, and wrapped up some coal Older Son (OS) found somewhere outdoors.

YS was very offended that Christmas morn. Jumped up, ran away crying—very dramatic. (Okay, we weren’t trying to be so mean. Nor did we expect him to react so, lol. And yes, we felt badly.)

He handled it much better this time. “Again,” was all he said, after I called his attention to the little red bag attached to another gift.

bag of coal

That brings me to where I left off last time: dealing with me when it’s time to dole out the disciplinary stuff.

In my last post I talked about letting Older Son (a.k.a. Dawdle Boy) show up at school in his PJs. (Details on that episode here.) As a parent, sometimes the hardest thing is getting past my feelings when the kids do something that requires some kind of addressing or intervention.

Okay, I’ll admit that during those moments when a kid frustrated me ‘til no end I was happy to dole out discipline, punishment, or whatever you want to call it. I. Was. MAD. At those times, it’s easy to ground them for life, take away TV or whatever—I’m guessing underneath it all, I wanted to get even for him for putting me in a position to feel crazy as I did (and still do sometimes).

Did I mention YS is my challenge-child?

Back to our originally-scheduled next point: Follow-through. It’s the hardest part, folks. Once I calmed down, I had to get past feeling badly that my cherub now has to deal with being punished or disciplined.

(BTW, this isn’t even beginning to touch on the host of sentiments a parent deals with when kids are whining, negotiating, screaming “I hate you!” and all that other fun stuff they dole out when  doing their time, if you will. That stuff, you tune out in any way, shape or form you can—assuming no one will be physically hurt by any of the behaviors going on.

One more thing: if you can’t calm that child–or yourself–down enough to get them to time out or whatever other consequence you imposed–wait. Impose it later, when things have cooled down. It really works.)

Back to feeling badly. That is my problem. Real life demands I deal with the consequences of my actions. The same is true for EVERYONE around me—no exceptions.

When I take a step back and let my kid off the hook I erase a vital opportunity for him to learn that for every action there is (typically) a reaction.

A (quick-Ha!) illustration:

YS was about 8 years old. Hubby and I went out and Nonna (a.k.a Grandma) babysat. As soon as we got back OS was at the door informing us that YS had physically pushed his grandmother when she told him once and for all video game time was up for the night.

Nonna gave OS a look, then admitted she would have kept quiet about the episode. She felt badly about YS “getting in trouble.” (Of course OS, the informant, had no problem insuring li’l bro suffered the consequences. ;))

Now I know grandparents tend to have soft places in their hearts for the grandkids—and y’all know I would never have gotten away with behavior like that.

So, YS had to apologize to Nonna on the spot. Next his video games went away for the following three weeks. (Nonna objected—again, she felt badly—but that’s the fun part of being the parent. My word now carries the weight, lol. And guess what: dealing with feeling badly was Nonna’s problem, not mine or YS’s.)

Was YS a ‘bad’ kid? No, just impulsive—very typical of kids, and of boys in particular. Although not formally diagnosed to date, my inner occupational therapist senses YS has a bit of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) going on; decreased impulse control is typically an issue with that crowd.

To wrap up that incident: YS spent the subsequent three weeks ticking off the days on the calendar. Chances are he whined and begged a bit—or more. (Kids do that! ;)) And yep, at times hubby and I felt badly (there’s that phrase again) but we didn’t give in.

Guess what: YS never pushed his grandmother again either. Plus, he learned hubby and I meant business.

(In case you missed them, links to the posts preceding this one are included in Part 4.)

What about you? How do you handle situations such as these? Do you follow through or fold? One more bigger illustration next time and then I should be done.

Have a great day and week, everyone. If you feel inclined, please SHARE. 🙂

Thanks,

Joanna