Tag Archives: Postaweek 2011

At a Loss for Words

Every writer runs out of words – at least good words – at some point. I’ve come to the conclusion that this is both normal and inevitable. Nature goes in cycles, from the seasons to the life, death and rebirth cycles of everything from stars to mayflies. From writers to dancers to architects, everybody hits points where our creativity and energy go dormant. Stars and mayflies, however, do not have to meet deadlines, performance schedules and project completion dates.

What do I do when words and energy run out? I remind myself of the opening to Ecclesiastes, Chapter 3: “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven…”. So the first thing to do is not panic. The words are gone now, but they’ll come back.

The first thing I don’t do is not write. It’s frighteningly easy to say “The words aren’t coming, so I’m not going to try today.” Next thing you know, you haven’t written anything new for a week, or a month. Or longer. For me, not writing is never an option. Even if you can’t do more than journal and brainstorm, write something every day. I also edit previous scenes. They get me back into the story and (hopefully) remind me of why I wanted to write it in the first place.

Or maybe you don’t have to write out a full scene. When I’m really desperate, suffering from severe ‘page fright’ – the conviction that everyone down to chimpanzees could write the story better – I resort to my fallback habit: lists. In this case, it’s what I, as the author, need to have happen in a scene, and with whom. Mine often look like this:

  • Introduce Imogen and mother
  • Morgan panic
  • Alix lie to save him
  • Morgan disgusted at lie
  • Reaction of servants? How can A. be guest and employee?
  • Study or entry????

Far, far, far from a full scene. Not even the bare bones of a scene. But at least there are a few building blocks of life swimming around in the primordial broth. I can see the major players and necessary action, which gives me something to work with.

And I know from personal experience that the thing with the most question marks behind it is where I need to start. Sometimes I’m stumped for the location, as above. Sometimes it’s whose point of view to write a scene in. Whatever it is, the question marks tell me what is not nailed down that needs to be.

It helps to leave a scene that’s not working. Is there another scene you can imagine more clearly? Write that one instead. You might discover that the problem scene might not need to be in the book, or it could work better in another character’s point of view.

An excellent way to avoid blockages like this altogether is to allot time in your schedule for stuff that you like, but which has nothing to do with writing. Physical activity is crucial for good health. We don’t all have the time or money to join health clubs (I sure don’t), but we can take daily walks most of the year. Take a few minutes to put on a good song when you’re alone and boogie around the room. Seriously. If all you can do is chair dance, do that! The music alone gives you a mental break.

People do a lot of things when they’re stuck. I also find cooking and needlepoint soothing. What do you suggest to refresh yourself?

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Filed under Writer's block

The Play’s the Thing

I earned my bachelor’s in Theatre Arts and I’m not sorry. As a writer, I still use what I learned in acting, criticism, and theater history. Playwrights and actors, like writers, are storytellers at heart, and books, screenplays and stage plays all share similarities. But the best thing about spending years during and after college immersed in theater is that I learned how to talk.

Yes, I could speak before I started college. But plays depend on the spoken word for every aspect of the story: character development; setting up Goal, Motivation and Conflict; description; and back story. Most actions on a stage are rooted in the dialogue between characters. (The italicized stage directions are, in most cases, notes taken by the stage manager of the play’s original production.)

Each character in a play has his or her own voice, made up of vocabulary, speech patterns, and slang; influences include but aren’t limited to education, economic status, occupation, gender and historical era. Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire speaks differently not only from Stanley Kowalski, her brother-in-law, but from Stanley’s wife Stella, who is her sister. In Edward Albee’s Three Tall Women, three actors play the same character at different stages in her life. You will think, and thus speak, differently at 90 than you do at 52, or than you did at 26, as Albee’s dialogue for A, B, and C makes clear.

Whether it’s on the stage or the page, dialogue shows how a character thinks or how they respond to other characters. If a conversation or a line of dialogue — especially interior dialogue, a luxury playwrights don’t have — doesn’t convey something about the characters or advance the plot, cut it. Tight writing keeps the reader engaged in the story and turning the page.

And the spoken word has a rhythm all its own. Listen to the people around you next time you’re standing in line. We repeat each others’ words, emphasize points by slowing our speech down, and convey ideas with a brief phrase.  We use slang from our workplaces or ethnic backgrounds. Even geography affects dialogue. A New Yorker is likelier to start a conversation by stating what he or she wants right away, as opposed to someone from the American South, where even business conversations begin with “How are you doing today?”

The best playwrights of every nationality and era capture the language they hear (or heard) around them. The vitality of Elizabethan English lives on in Shakespeare’s plays, as do the drawls and flutterings of the mid-20th century American South in the those of Tennessee Williams. English plays one of my most valuable resources for grasping the syntax and slang of both the nobility and commoners through the centuries.

If you’d rather rent a movie of a play, that’s great! Although film is much more visual than stage plays are, many are a good introduction to dramatic dialogue and characterization. Plays were meant to be seen and heard. I haven’t tried looking on Netflix to see if any of my favorites can be streamed, but there are a lot of DVDs of plays out there. Some library systems have good collections. Or best of all, support your local community theater! Go see a play!!

If you could pick any play,stage or movie version, to see today, what would it be? Shakespeare wrote my all favorite body of work, but my all time favorite play is Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac.

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Filed under Character development, Dialogue, Theater, Writers, Writing

Fall: Football and Food

Warning: This will be one of those cheesy ‘Hello Fall’ blog posts.

I can’t help it. This is my favorite time of year. The broiling temperatures of summer are relieved by cooler temps, yet the wicked winds of a Nebraska winter haven’t started blowing. And the violent weather of spring (rains, tornadoes, thunderstorms, hail, etc.) have disappeared for the most part.

My favorite sport resumes in the fall. Around here, Husker football approaches the status of a state religion. Our home games have sold out for the last forty-nine years. (The 50th anniversary will be in early November 2012.) We do have four seasons, but they have different names: Post-Season, Spring Practice, Pre-Season and FOOTBALL! I not only remember where I was for the Game of the Century, I can describe the outfit I wore.

This year, we’re pretty excited about joining the Big Ten. For one thing, the Cornhuskers will be going up against new (to us) opponents, which is exciting both because we hope the team will do well, and because the competition will be tough. But you have to love a conference that has its own TV network. Yes, that’s right: the Big Ten Network. Yeah, baby! Candy bar!!

Both cooler weather and football games means I start to enjoy cooking again. When it’s over 95 F outside, my goal for dinner is ‘do not heat up the house’. Come autumn, we can go back to stews, oven-braised meats and what may be my kids’ all-time favorite dish: Roasted Rosemary Potato Slices. And then there’s baking — muffins, cookies, brownies, cakes. Life is good!

Now if only we could get Oklahoma back on the schedule.

Here are a couple of my go-to recipes: One is a great year-round appetizer and the other is the aforementioned potatoes.

Cucumber and Cream Cheese Appetizers

1 loaf of party rye or party bread

1 8 oz. package of cream cheese

1 envelope of dry Italian salad dressing mix

1 cucumber

Combine the cream cheese and dressing mix until well blended. Let it sit while you cut the  cucumber into 1/8 inch slices, or a bit thinner if you prefer. Spread the cream cheese onto slices of the party rye bread and top with a cucumber slice. Easy peasy!

Roasted Rosemary Potato Slices (serves 4)

4 Russet potatoes, scrubbed

4 T melted butter or olive oil, as you prefer

1 t salt (Sea salt or Kosher salt are also yummy)

1 t dried rosemary, crumbled

Cut the potatoes into 1/4 inch slices. Pour half the butter or olive into an 8-inch baking pan and swirl it to coat the bottom. Layer the potatoes in the pan, in separate rows, arranging them so that they overlap slightly. Pour the remaining butter over them, then sprinkle them with the salt and rosemary. Add pepper to taste.

Bake in the middle of a 425 F oven for 22 minutes. Turn the potatoes over. Supposedly you can do this with a long, thin spatula. I’ve tried to and failed, so any more I use a regular spatula and don’t worry about keeping them in rows so much. They’re not as pretty, but they’re still delicious. Aaanyhoo, after you turn the taters, put them back in the oven for another 20-25 minutes, until they’re golden brown.

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Filed under Family, Football, Fun Stuff, Nebraska, Recipes

Will Volunteer for Food

Sunday, I had the pleasure of working the Nebraska Writers Guild booth at the state fair in Grand Island. I freely admit that my volunteerism was influenced by a desire to eat corn dogs as well as ice cream from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Dairy Store in the FFA/4H building. The prospect of air conditioning, a roof and walls encouraged me as well.

Although NWG authors are allowed to bring their books and sell them, mostly I just wanted to meet people. And I did! I worked with fellow writers Charlene Neely (poetry), Jerri Hauser (inspirational), Dr. Jean Lukesh (Nebraska history) and Mary Maas (Nebraska and local history). I had a blast talking up the guild with these women. The Guild is a statewide organization that includes journalists, fiction writers, non-fiction writers, poets, and family historians. In the next 12 months, the guild plans to hold a Young Writers Conference in Lincoln, NE.

Charlene Neely, Jean Lukesh and Jerri Hauser

A lot of people stopped because  they love to write and didn’t know the NWG existed. A lot of others stopped because they love to read and are excited at the idea of finding Nebraska writers, particularly on subjects of state or local interest, kids’ books and fiction set in the state. I even met a young woman who specialized in historical textiles and design in college. Hello, resource!

The location provided a great view of the 4-H pet presentation, and we chatted to passers-by to the background of kids describing the history, care and quirks of various gerbils, guinea pigs, cats and one ferret. We joined the applause as the judge awarded ribbons and grand prizes. I am pleased to say that all participants earned either blue or purple ribbons for their animals’ health and well-being.

My personal favorite was Princess the Cat, whose owner has a great narrative style and should look into creative writing.

Although I did sell copies of Her Scottish Groom and To be Seduced, I spent most of my time handing out bookmarks and booklets, aka ‘free samples’. My romances were upstaged by a 4th grade history book! Jean Lukesh, a former teacher, wrote what may be the most popular textbook in the state. Used by 85% of our school districts, it drew kids like a magnet. The ‘double-take, ‘hey-I-used-that-book’ ‘ response happened over and over. A lot of the kids asked for her autograph, and at least one wanted a picture with her.

Jean and Fans

To say that Jean is a talented local historian is like saying Einstein was kind of a smart guy. Her current project is a series for kids on Noteworthy Americans. The first in the series, Lucky Ears: The True Story of Ben Kuroki, World War II Hero recently won a Bronze Medal for Multicultural Nonfiction for Children/Teens/Young Adults in the Independent Publishers’ 2011 Book Awards. And she is hilarious and outgoing in person.

Before I forget: the UNL Dairy Store ice cream is so OMG FABULOUS that I passed on the corn dog in favor of their chicken bacon ranch wrap in a tomato basil tortilla. Yum. Next year, I may have to come back an extra day to get that corn dog in.

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Filed under Books, History, Nebraska, Nebraska writers, Writers

The Gentlewoman’s Guide to Coach Travel

Cambridge stage-coach (Howden, Boys' Book of L...

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Let me preface my remarks by observing that the most preferable mode of travel is always the latest model of Private Carriage, pulled by a team of prime horseflesh. Nothing matches the comfort, privacy and convenience of one’s own well-sprung vehicle! Or one’s father’s. Or one’s husband (even a husband acquired for the purpose of placating one’s father). Even the personal conveyances of handsome, if overbearing, strangers met on the road often prove superior to stagecoaches, provided one demonstrates suitable breeding and does not engage in any Improper Activities suggested by said handsome stranger. At least not right away.

However, let us proceed on the assumption that no personal carriage is available for one’s journey. In that case, a Lady must decide between Speed and Comfort. If her destination involves a Sickbed, Preventing an Execution, or Escaping an Unwanted Marriage, one can only choose the Royal Mail. The whirlwind speeds attained by these maroon wonders whisk the intrepid traveler from London to York — a distance of two hundred miles — in a mere eighteen hours!! Truly astounding compared to the days it normally takes to travel this distance!

The cautious gentlewoman should be warned that a seat on the Mail requires a certain amount of Fortitude. For one thing, Mail coaches often travel at night, when there is less traffic. And as instruments of His or Her Majesty’s government, these vehicles make only a few stops, of most Unchivalrous Brevity. A lone female in a passenger load of four to six (often ill-bred) persons, with even more on the roof, is advised to arm herself with a Winsome Manner so as to encourage the others to allow her the first chance at the hasty meals provided by inns and posting houses along the route. Sadly, even the most charming airs fail to impress the drivers themselves, so a Large Purse is useful in convincing these hard-hearted individuals to allow one sufficient time to eat and use Certain Necessary Facilities. (The writer dares not go into more detail here, other than to bitterly note that ladies are at a Severe Disadvantage in this area due to the encumbrances of fashionable dress.)

If Illness, Death or Immediate Disaster does not figure into one’s reasons for taking to the road, or Limited Funds do, the stage coach is a reasonable alternative to the Mail. Indeed, this choice offers many advantages over the Mail. For one thing, stages nearly all run during daylight hours. And besides the decreased cost, stage coaches stop more frequently, and for longer periods of time. True, the passengers are at the mercy of each hostelry in the manner and quality of food and beds (for overnight stops), but many inns take pride in offering tasty meals and comfortable lodging.

A lady with any kind of breeding guards her behavior when visiting even the most respectable establishment, even if forced by circumstance to travel without a chaperone. She will not visit the taproom unless carried into one in a dead faint, preferably by a strapping male from a Good Family. It is to be hoped that in such a case, the inn’s host will offer the use of either a private parlour or at the very least a bedchamber for one’s recovery. Although the male in question cannot, with propriety, enter either of these rooms with her, it might be acceptable, if he speaks like a gentleman and is quite good-looking, for her to join him for dinner. Particularly if it seems likely that he owns a carriage and horses of his own.

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Filed under Great Britain, History, Victorian era

Make Something of Yourself

Razvan Ionut / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

People often ask, “Where do you come up with your ideas?” and “How do you make time to write?” before telling me, “I could never be that creative.” The answers to #1 and #2 are blog posts of their own, but I always feel terrible when I hear the last comment.

I am convinced that all of us were put on this earth to make something of ourselves. Not in the usual meaning of the phrase, which means a person establishes her- or himself in a prestigious job, or becomes a celebrity or earns a big income. Say ‘make something of yourself’ aloud, but emphasize the last word.

‘To make something of yourself‘ implies that you put your heart and soul into creating something you love. For me, it’s making up stories. If I weren’t published, you know what? I’d still think of characters and plots. My stories happen to take the form of books. Other people make stories in the form of movies via screenplays, or acting. Some people love to tell stories to their grandchildren.

My mom always says she’s not creative. This from the woman who took a shoebox of broken rhinestone jewelry, cleaned it up, and glued the pieces onto colored felt in the shape of marvelous, sparkly Christmas trees to give to her friends as gifts one year. I would never have thought of finding such a cool use for junk jewelry! And she does stuff like this all the time.

As in the worldly meaning of the phrase, it’s not easy to make something of yourself. Society approves of some goals more than others. For example, Warren Buffett is usually admired for doing what he loves, namely making sound investments. The rest of us aren’t so lucky. If you like making up characters and stories about them, people say you’re a daydreamer. If you like to paint, people tell you to stop fooling around with watercolors and get a job. Even if you already have one.

To make something of yourself, here are some things you’ll need:

1.  Something you love to do or have always wanted to try.

2. Teachers or mentors: Instinct only goes so far. You’re not going to know how to compose a picture, dry flowers or develop a character right off the bat. If you can’t find someone in person, look online for help, or in the library. Julia Child still inspires budding chefs thanks to her cookbooks, for example.

3. Time alone to explore what you love: This one is a bear, especially if you’ve always tried to be there for others. That makes you a wonderful person, and means you’re entitled to schedule a bit of time once a week or so for *you*. Schedule your time, and fight for it. You’re allowed to be less wonderful for that hour or two.

5. Permission to Fail: We all suck the first time we try something. This is normal. If you’re feeling terribly ashamed of how much you suck at whatever it is you tried (which you shouldn’t because you’re still a wonderful person, right?), you don’t have to show it to anyone. It was just an idea that didn’t work. You will get better next time.

6. Permission to Succeed: Use part of your creative time to think about your definition of success. Work backwards from there to where you are now. This way, you’ll know what you need to do next. Then, when a painting is accepted for the show, or a manuscript is requested, you’ll know what you want to happen, where you are on your road to *your* success. Other people will have a hard time talking you into what they think you should want. Don’t forget to give yourself credit for every stepping stone you land on, even if others say, “Are you sure you should waste time doing this?” If it’s still fun and you can put your heart into it, the answer is ‘yes’.

For more photos from Razvan Ionut at FreeDigitalPhotos.net, click here.

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Filed under Goals, Writing

Everybody’s a Critic!

My mother, bless her heart, is under the impression that writers just scribble or type out the words and poof! — we’re all done.  I wish!  I’ve never, ever heard of a book being accepted as is by a reputable publisher, and that is a very good thing.  As a writer, I am too close to the work to judge it objectively, never mind the spelling and grammar errors that come out when you’re focused on just getting the story written down.  One of the best pieces of advice I can give to new writers is to seek out supportive, respectful criticism from other writers.

The key words there are supportive and respectful. I have heard a number of horror stories about critique groups.  My own weekly group is a huge blessing.  It includes writers at all levels of experience and in a range of genres from romance to science fiction to thrillers to horror.  Some of us write books, some write poetry and some write plays or screenplays.  The main thing is that we all demand well-written stories with vivid characters that draw us in and keep us begging for more.  Without this group’s encouragement, I would never have had the nerve to enter the contest that led to my first sale.

Equally important are rules of conduct that limit criticism to the writing.  Our primary goal as a group is to help each other become better writers.  If you join a critique group that praises or dismisses anyone’s writing based on how well or poorly they conform to a set of religious or political views, move on!  The same goes if they treat you differently based on your genre.  Or if they think there is something wrong with you because you want to write a book that people can buy in grocery stores.  (This is one of my goals as a writer, so I will admit to some bias here.)

I’ve also heard stories where new writers are condescended to by those who have been in a group longer.  This is not okay.  Most published authors I have been in contact with, either personally or through correspondence, have answered questions and provided advice when I asked, and even when I didn’t.  Those who were unable to help still took the time out of their schedules to offer encouragement and good wishes.  If these women (and men) can treat strangers nicely, so can Madame Poobah of the Local Community Writers Circle.

Of course, supportive and respectful apply to the ‘critique-ee’ as well.  If you are submitting your work to other people so they can exclaim that it is the most innovative piece of fiction since Western Civilization crawled out of the Dark Ages, probably you’re not going to have a positive experience.  (Yeah, we have folks show up with that attitude from time to time.  They don’t last long.)  ‘Critique’ and ‘criticize’ are related.  You’re asking people to tell you where the weak spots are in your WIP.  Don’t be surprised or offended when they actually do that.  If you get comments from five different people complaining about the same paragraph, that’s a pretty good indication that you should reconsider it, but it’s unlikely that they’re conspiring to drive you away.

Be patient if someone suggests you take your story in a direction that you don’t want to go.  There is no law that says you have to follow every piece of criticism you get.  Ultimately, you are responsible for what you write.  Smile, say thank you and move on.

And yes, you should thank someone who has taken time to listen to or read your work and given you their advice.  Even if you don’t agree with them.  Even if someone has given all negative comments, or you think they’re being nit-picky over teeny tiny details.  I’ve slept on criticism I’ve disagreed with and found it valid the next day.  When something isn’t working my weekly group lets me know.  They’re not brutal, but once you’ve been there long enough for your skin to thicken, they’re blunt.  And I love it when people nit-pick — it means there are no major problems that week!

As long as I’m discussing critiques, what are some of the best or worst scenes you’ve read in a book?  Or what kind of scenes do you love or loathe?  As writers have any of you ever found some embarrassing mistakes in your manuscript — or worse, in your book?  (Like the two paragraphs where I use the word ‘wrist’ four or five times.  Or one of my first readings where everything was ‘scandalous’.  Luckily for all of you, I abandoned that story!)

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Filed under Fiction, Writers, Writing

Lunch and a Ghost Story

Last week, my husband and I drove with our youngest daughter to Louisiana for a college visit.  It meant a lot of driving, but after years of taking our older daughter to out-of-state skating competitions, road trips are nothing new to us. While it’s nice to leave our daily routines behind and see new parts of the country (or revisit fun destinations), there are downsides to car travel. One of which is road food.

I love burgers and fries more than is good for me, but eating in fast food joints, or even nice chain restaurants, palls after the first few days away from home. After a frustrating morning that included two wrong exits and a stretch of road without even a burger place, we decided to stop at Isabella, in Port Gibson, Mississippi. Located in a house dating from 1880, the bed and breakfast also serves lunches at its Porch Restaurant. Lucky us!

Owners Bobbye and Phil Pinnix are only the third family to own the historic house, and their renovations include Victorian furnishings in the parlors and bedrooms.  Even our lunch was served on a collection of vintage glassware and red toile plates.  My husband enjoyed a huge roast beef sandwich with fresh fruit, while my daughter tucked into sliders and I tried a burger with a side of Bobbye’s potato salad. Yum! Did I mention they grow their own tomatoes?

Fortunately for us, we arrived at the tail end of lunch, so we were able to chat with the Pinnixes. Bobbye told me that while she is not fanciful, she is convinced that the house is haunted by some of the former owners.  She and Phil, along with some of their guests, have heard the sounds of glass shattering in the butler’s pantry and  furniture dragged over the wooden floors.  The ghostly activity seems to be limited to making noise, as there is never any broken glass or rearranged furniture to be found.  Bobbye even told of receiving a comforting squeeze on the shoulder while she was completely alone in the kitchen area. According to her, spirits in the house don’t mean any harm.  “After all, it was their house before it was ours,” she said.

I am skeptical of most reports of paranormal activity myself, because I think much can be explained by scientific fact. However, I would love to risk a haunting if it means I can return to Isabella!

Isabella Bed & Breakfast

1009 Church Street

Port Gibson, MS 39150

601-437-5097 or pinnixdesignsinc@gmail.com

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Filed under Family, Victorian era

Description

Recco, Giuseppe - Still-life with the Five Sen...

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I love descriptive scenes.  They set time and place, character appearance, their favorite kind of clothes, their homes and their other possessions.  Believe me, this stuff is important. I’ve read books light on description, and it’s like groping my way through fog to get an idea where the scenes take place, and when.

Description is anything that tells the reader what characters experience through the five physical senses. When it’s necessary to give the reader some mental breathing space, say after an intense action scene, describing the aftermath or what surrounds the characters in a lull is like providing oxygen before the readers submerge themselves in the next fast-moving sequence. Still, even I will admit that too much description becomes downright annoying.

When a writer stops and provides every detail (as I tend to do in my first drafts), they sloooooow their pace to a crawl.  The mind lingers over descriptive passages in order to process what the characters see, hear and feel.  When a reader wants to move on to the next action sequence, they often (consciously or not) skip over long descriptive passages to get to the exciting bits.  Description is like the chocolate swirls in fudge ripple ice cream: ideally it should appear evenly throughout a book, but not in big gooey globs.

Good description layers all five senses throughout the book, without sounding like “Miss Girlygirl eyed the petit four, admiring its pick icing.  She picked it up, inhaling chocolate and fondant icing.  When she bit into it, hearing the delicate crunch of its layers, the coffee flavoring coursed over her taste buds.”  That chunk was heavy-handed and awkward.  Description is the art of adding details to a scene without overpowering it.

What about you? Do you read every word of a description or do you tend to skip over them?

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Filed under Description, Fiction, Writing

My Thorn Among the Lilies

“I’d rather be the thorn. They’re sharp and pointy.” — my youngest

The first time I stepped out of the car wearing the Darth Vader-esque boot that has made up half my footwear for the last month, my youngest daughter took one look at it and deadpanned, “You’re never going to be able to accessorize that.”

That is only one of many reasons I love the kid.  While both of my children are phenomenal young women and I’m thankful to be their mother, I have a soft spot for my wise-cracking, moody, impatient youngest.  This summer especially, she has demonstrated remarkable fortitude in the face of disappointments.

Originally, my mother-in-law planned to take her to France for three weeks. However, my MIL’s doctor found a malignant skin tumor shortly after our daughter’s passport arrived. Thankfully, the doctor appears to have removed the entire tumor and my MIL is sailing through chemotherapy. While my daughter is as relieved as the rest of us that her granny is doing so well, it’s only human to feel disappointment at the change in plans. Who could blame her?

Then I injured my leg severely enough to warrant a cast and crutches. So instead of visiting Paris and the Ardennes, my youngest spent three weeks serving as my hands and feet. My oldest helped where she could, but she had a lousy summer last year when her college closed.  To make up for credits lost when she transferred into the state university system, she’s been taking day classes, night classes and summer school for nearly 12 months.

My younger daughter managed housework, cooking, grocery shopping and driving me to and/or from work. Granted, she already knew what she was doing for all those things, but she was spending a lot more of her time doing them. And according to my family I am not a very good patient.  (I have no idea why they’d say that.) Yes, there was a certain amount of muttering, but I can’t complain. There were also a lot of times when she’d poke her head in the door and ask I wanted a drink or something brought to me.

Not only that, she had to say good-bye to her best friend Sarah because Sarah’s dad accepted a job on the East Coast. Sarah is everything my daughter is not: perky, optimistic, mild-mannered and soft-spoken. She and my moody, outspoken, assertive offspring have been inseparable since seventh grade. My daughter would use her sharp tongue to scare off people like the obnoxious boy in math class that creeped Sarah out, in return getting a daily dose of cheer. My daughter has other friends she loves dearly (she may be moody but she’s no loner!), and they all form a Lack of Sarah Support Group for each other. But the day Sarah moved away required Mom hugs and medicinal Ben & Jerry’s.

Our tastes aren’t the same, but she’s got a sound critical eye, particularly for film, and she’s smart enough to be able to back up her opinions with good arguments. We’ve had some great conversations about dance, books, and movies.

As a late bloomer myself (really really really late), I watch this daughter make her plans for college and beyond, knowing that like most of us, she may very well change directions mid-course. I’m thrilled that she’s looking at the future with as much optimism as a moody sarcastic person can. Changes and obstacles are the nature of life. But even if her plans fail, she won’t.

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Filed under Family, Friends