Monday, December 18, 2017

My Relationship with Words

“A word after a word after a word is power.”
― Margaret Atwood

Words have always possessed a mysterious and infectious power for me. I’m not exactly sure when this initially took root, but I imagine it dates back to many overlapping instances that each contributed to who I am today.

One of the first stories I ever wrote revolved around a boy who was assigned the difficult task of naming all that existed around him. His circumstances, his environment, events both painful and exhilarating, birthed the beautiful process of naming. It’s how he grew to understand the world. As a maybe-ten-year-old, I imagine this young boy’s story was closely linked to my own.

Or perhaps my fascination and reverence for words came alive during a rowdy dinner table moment. I had three older sisters and often our conversations tilted toward the profane. Wearing thin of this, my parents tried something new one night. They invited us to, on the count of three, yell out our favorite curse word. One. Two. Three. At maybe-ten-years-old, I let the F-word fly. Everyone else kept their traps shut so my F-bomb shot out like a solo grenade. I think my parents were intending to strip profanity of its brassy lure. I get it. But something else stuck with me that night. Words have impact.

Some words I wear like scars. Others I have tucked so far deep down inside me, they’ve ossified like bone because they’ve meant that much.

Words are exquisite. Volatile. Heartbreaking. Tender. Blades and balm. They evoke all kinds of reactions and interpretations. They are our primary way of communicating, of speaking both love and hate.

I’ve grown quite attached to words, the way they bend and shift inside my mind. The way I can spill them on a page, then fold them up origami-style, reveling how they change shape. And meaning. Words can mutate and blossom. They can multiply exponentially or shrivel within a second.

As I age, I’ve learned to be more careful with what I say, more discerning.

I share all of this to drive home one point.

Words brush against the sacred for me.

You can do a lot to me. Much has been done already. I rebound with fire in my soul.

But do not take away my words.

These words—they are how I understand this world. I am free in them. And I have every intention of staying that way.

“A word after a word after a word is power.”
― Margaret Atwood

*I’ll be back in a few weeks. Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 11, 2017

10 Things Anyone Can Benefit from Doing this Holiday Season

It’s a mad-rush time of year. Lines are long. Tempers flare short. Traffic stresses. To-do lists feel endless. These are the best times to keep perspective—to focus on the things that matter most.

I’m throwing out a few ideas that help me to stay centered and spirited during the holidays.

Hope they help you.

10 Things Sure to Benefit ~

Let Go of a Grudge
Aunt Mabel forget to include you on the holiday Christmas card. Nephew Troy didn’t invite you to the big event. Yep, you were hurt. You still are. You have every right to that hurt. You also have every right to let it go. Now’s the perfect time. Let that hurt solidify rock-solid inside you or witness the change in your attitude and countenance after you choose to let it disintegrate.

Get Outside
I walk my youngest to the bus every morning. It’s not a long walk, but it does take about five minutes. And every morning I’m grateful I go. I have no idea if she even wants me there anymore, but aside from giving us a few moments alone together, it feels good to move. I’m also in love with the stars I see when I look up.

Take a Break from Social Media
But then you wouldn’t be able to read this. So? I’d rather you reboot and spend a good chunk of time away from “liking” and binge-reading recipes you’ll never try. We’re losing something in our culture by spending so much time online. Take a piece of it back. I’ll be here waiting for you when you return.

Reflect with a Grateful Mindset
What went well this year? Who were you most thankful for? What new and impactful interactions did you have? Have you changed for the better?

Write a Handwritten Letter
Lost art. I know it. You know it. Imagine what a surprise it will be for someone to open their mail and read actual handwriting. Think of the things you could express.

Make a Christmas Gift for Someone
Maybe I’m hinting on this one. I’m a real sucker for homemade gifts. I could spend all day on Etsy (see point above about a social media break). There’s a real opportunity to tap into some creative juices when you don’t throw a credit card at everything. Resources are everywhere (says the woman who keeps painting on drywall she keeps finding in her basement).

Ask What Kind of Impact You’re Making
Through your language, how often you volunteer, the way your children look at you when you’re talking, how often people look to you for support…what has been your role for making this world different than it currently is?

Try Something New
Studies have proven when you launch into learning something new you unlock potential in other areas of your brain. A new recipe. Language. Subject. I kid you not, I’ve been learning a great deal while watching Narcos with my husband. Laugh all you want, but it’s inspired a lot of conversations between us.

Set a Goal & Stick to It
I happened to catch a show the other day when famous comedian, Tiffany Haddish said a fellow actor nudged her in the life-changing direction when he gave her money at a time she needed it and insisted she create a list of goals. There’s something to be said for direction. Motivation. Accountability. I also wanted to mention her because I love that she’s a unicorn on the cover of her book, THE LAST BLACK UNICORN. (Want to read.)

Make Peppermint Crack
My husband says we probably shouldn’t call it this, but I can’t help it. It’s so much fun to say. Think graham crackers, melted chocolate, sprinkled with peppermint candy. Look it up. You’ll thank me later.

Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Book Crafting Lessons from a Bug

Let me preface this post by letting you know I’m not usually scared of bugs. Normally I don’t hesitate to squash ’em when I see ’em, but it was my turn to sleep in when one particular crawler, track-racing around my ceiling, caught my attention. Here’s something else, this little guy captivated my focus for a healthy duration. I watched, intensely curious (and still hazy from sleep), as he trekked almost entirely around the room. You may be wondering why I didn’t hop up and take the little guy down. I’ll tell you why. He’s perfect fodder for this post—that’s why.

Because that bug (I refuse to call it a roach because I’m still in denial that’s what it was and our bug guy comes this Tuesday, so it’s better for me if I just remain in denial) somehow led me to think about what makes a reader stay with a novel. And not just stay with it, flip pages with vested interest.

I came up with a few parallels between my bug buddy and a book that successfully pulls a reader along.

Fear. Of course not all books must make a reader afraid per se. But compelling novels will evoke emotion in a reader. They will make you feel something. I couldn’t shake the thought that maybe that roach-looking thing was going to go all ninja on me. So I studied it with hawk eyes. My interest was hooked in part due to my emotional reaction. Tension is gold.

Curiosity. I wanted to see where my bug buddy would go. Strong novels lure the reader deeper in when they include characters to care about and a plot that goes somewhere. Truth be told, my bug buddy could move it, move it.

Fascination. I’ve been an animal lover since I was a child. Animals of all kinds intrigue me. And it’s a little embarrassing to admit, but I’m pretty sure I’m the reason why we turn on Wild Kratts every morning before school. All this to say, I had to know how this creature would play his next move. Would it eventually fly? I’ve seen a few creepy-looking ones do that. Would it leap down onto the window and flit against as though caught in a zapper? Would it attack my nose with its flesh-eating legs or spit venom on my forehead? Novels that excel at hooking readers incite readers to ask questions—they encourage readers to care. Whether a reader realizes it or not, they are constantly assessing how a book compares to their life. We want to learn something. Be it simplistic in nature or highly involved, humans are learners at heart.

I know you want to know what happened. Did I eventually smash the sucker and toss it in the toilet? Did it live on to procreate and produce hundreds of other bugs festering in the vents of my home? This leads me to my final bring-it-home bug-related point . . .

The bug made a Houdini great escape. It leapt into some Christmas shopping bags and instantly became invisible. Both my husband and I were not able to locate the little guy. He fled, accomplishing one of the most important things to remember from this post. He embedded himself into my thoughts. The bug is gone. The novel read. And it stays with you. That, my friends, is an indicator of a compelling read.

Think of me tonight as I sleep with one eye open because the bug has done its job. 

Taking Time

college applications                 homecoming                            flag football                basketball             SATs   ...