Please, Just Don’t

Forget about truth being stranger than fiction, truth is way funnier. It almost always is. And Jean Kerr wrote brilliantly about her truth as a mom. Originally a playwright, Kerr also wrote magazine essays. She parlayed those into books. And she sure had a keen talent for highlighting the laughter in the mundane. I like her style.

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Please Don’t Eat the Daisies was, for me, a perfect example of how our lives are the perfect material for any piece of art we have the desire to create. Whether it’s the feelings that accompany the varied life circumstances that are universal, or the cast of characters who are almost always by our sides (again, universally), a mom-writer will never be short of ideas if they look down about 20 inches to the nearest child.

The thing about humor writers like Betty Macdonald, Shirley Jackson, Erma Bombeck, and Jean Kerr is that they inspire me. For any woman desperately seeking time to mother, wife, and foster a writing career, these women modeled a way. They just took family-life experiences and mined them for gold.

Life is messy and parenting is tornado-level messy, but with quotes like these, I feel mollified when I must loudly proclaim things like, “Don’t lick the mirror!” Because, ew! And please, just don’t.

“The real menace in dealing with a five-year-old is that in no time at all you begin to sound like a five-year-old.”

Truth? Yes indeedy.

Enjoying the books I’ve chosen in my Write 31 Days Challenge series of the Best Books Ever? Missed a few days? Click the button below!

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It Seems Like It’s Disappearing

What makes a childhood?  I’ve been giving that question a lot of thought since the day I first read Neil Postman’s The Disappearance of Childhood. That thinking took on an urgency once becoming a parent.

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Sweetgirl had a playdate for the girls in her new classroom last week. As I eavesdropped (because, MOM) on their conversations, I heard one eight year old exclaim to another that so-and-so in their class asked her out. One girl squealed, another put her hand to her heart and sighed (I kid you not), and another asked if it was The So-And-So from their classroom.

Wait.

Back that train up a sec.

HE ASKED HER OUT?!?!

She’s EIGHT YEARS OLD.

Yes, I am yelling.

Before I get an onslaught of negativity about not taking their little conversations so seriously and they are just testing out this growing up thing, SHE PRODUCED A PHONE NUMBER! He apparently wrote his phone number down and said, “Call me sometime.”

Full up stop.

Just stop.

Because, childhood? It seems like it’s disappearing.

When I was eight, the only adult things missing from my social life were teeth.

Neil Postman wrote about the phenomenon I was witnessing in his book.

More, and more frequently, I am struck by how we are losing our social idea of children as separate from adults. The divide between what experiences a child should have and what experiences we encounter as adults is shrinking.

It bothers me.

Does it bother anyone else?

Of television Postman writes,

“The six-year-old and the sixty-year-old are equally qualified to experience what television has to offer…For in speaking, we may always whisper so that the children will not hear. Or we may use words they may not understand. But television cannot whisper, and its pictures are both concrete and self-explanatory. The children see everything it shows.”

Television isn’t the root of all evil. (We all know money is, right?) But, what the t.v. does is “eliminate the exclusivity of worldly knowledge and, therefore, [eliminate] on of the principal differences between childhood and adulthood.

Right?

I mean, take a look at any current cartoon geared towards “children” and you will hear plenty of adult humor peppered throughout.

Reading this book opened my eyes to the ways in which media can negatively impact our children’s ability to have an actual childhood. And while it won’t leave you with warm fuzzies, it will open your eyes to the realities of the techno-world we live in.

Parenting is full of pitfalls and epic fails. I’m thankful for Postman’s ability to draw my eyes to the places where it can get especially holey. It helps me be more aware.

And I’ll take all the help I can get. Yes indeedy.

We’re winding down here in the Write 31 Days Challenge. If you’ve missed any of my other posts in the Best Books Ever series, click the button below. (They’re not all this heavy!)

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Outside Looking In

Any book that references Dairy Queen is a book I’m going to love. And it was certainly true for The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton. 

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Oh Dally, Pony, Sodapop, Darry… your names, alone, slay me. I’ve been on the outside looking in. Plenty.

And writing really has been the catharsis to the angst that brings.

It was for Ponyboy, too.  “Stay gold,” Pony.

There were quotes upon quotes that moved me in this story of East side greasers versus West side Socs.

“Nothing sparkly can stay.”  Now, that one was a lie. As a parent, I now know that glitter can stay. Glitter ALWAYS stays.

Hinton packed a ton of wisdom into this short novel about outsiders looking in. “There isn’t any real good reason for fighting except self-defense,” is there?

But his insights into our common humanity, well… even in High School, I was desperately seeking the commonalities.

“It seemed funny to me that the sunset she saw from her patio and the one I saw from the back steps was the same one. Maybe the two different worlds we lived in weren’t so different. We saw the same sunset.”

As years become decades, I’ve realized how beautiful it can be to acknowledge that we all see the same sunset. There is comfort to be found in that, isn’t there?

Yes indeedy.

Only a handful of days remain. If you’ve missed any of the posts in my Best Books Ever series, click the button below. I am writing these as part of the Write 31 Days Challenge.

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Can’t Handle the Tooth

In honor of the incredible toothache pain I’m in right this very minute, I’m going to share a quote by one of my favorite authors of all time (and then a book of his, too). Or maybe two books of his. Or three. Or…

“If only this toothache would go away, I could write another chapter on the problem of pain.” -C.S. Lewis

That guy, up there, wrote exceedingly well about the God. And life. And pain. And love.

And friendship.

I like what he wrote about friendship so very much.

The first book of C.S. Lewis’ that I read was “The Four Loves”. Although still hovering over Christianity as though it were a possibility, I was still too full of Bertrand Russell and Friedrich Nietzsche to land.  And as I read Lewis’ take on charity, eros, philia, and storge, I realized there were enough “thinkers” in this Christianity gig to make it a pretty sure thing.

And then, I got to the part about friendship and I exhaled. Because, exactly.

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art…. It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.”

But, then in The Abolition of Man, Lewis brought me down to my knees. I thought I saw through all that religiosity and hypocrisy.

“You cannot go on ‘seeing through’ things for ever. The whole point of seeing through something is to see something through it.”

Oh boy! He had my number. And as I speed read every book I could get my hands on (because, BOOKS!), I realized that there was no more denying God.

So I didn’t.

Ultimately, C.S. Lewis, turned my eyes outward and upward.

And they are ever upward.

Even as I sit here feeling like I can’t handle the tooth (pain). 

Yes indeedy.

If you are hovering over Christianity, grab a copy of C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters. Or, The Great Divorce. Or, if you are more fantasy fiction leaning, The Chronicles of Narnia series. (And no, it’s not just for youth. I daresay you get far more out of it as an adult!)

And then, if you missed any of my previous posts on the Best Books Ever, click the button below. I am writing this series as part of the Write 31 Days Challenge.

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Where Your Treasure Is

Ah, Santiago… searching for the elusive “treasure”.

It’s always where we least expect it, isn’t it?

And, you know what the Bible says… “Your heart will be where your treasure is.” -Matthew 6:21

Yeah. Tis true.

Tonight, I leave you with a line from a book that will always be considered one of the Best Books Ever, The Alchemistby Paulo Coelho.

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Oh that humanity would strive for this:

“When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.”

Indeed.

To read other posts on the Best Books Ever series I’m writing for the Write 31 Days Challenge, click the button below.

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Oh the Humanity!

Brene` Brown knows a thing or twelve about self-esteem. You can check out her bio here. But, she has also grown a movement of more kind humanity. Kind both to ourselves and one another. And how has she accomplished this? Through research.

Tons and tons of research.

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Daring Greatly is essentially a manifesto for how to be kind. Kindness begins within. And we so need that in our world, don’t we? Both because of our keen interest in penchant for value.

This book will always be among my favorites because it helped me see where I belong as a human, woman, wife, mother, friend, and family member. And, while I began with her book The Gifts of Imperfection, and overcame the shame hurdle, this book pushed me toward vulnerability. In every area of life.

And, it was necessary.  Because, while I’ve never considered myself a perfectionist, it became obvious that I allow what I know to provide a large boost to my confidence levels. This quote below rode high on my heart for a good long while:

“What we know matters, but who we are matters more.”

Who we are matters.

What a powerful message of truth and hope.

If you are drifting through life on autopilot right now…

If you don’t feel all that hopeful lately…

If you let the weight of shame or the fear of vulnerability order your hours and days, this book is for you.

This author is for you.

Have you read any of Brene` Brown’s books? What’s your favorite? What idea changed your mindset?

If you missed any of the previous posts in my Write 31 Days Challenge, click the button below to go to the list. If you want to explore other topics written about during this challenge, click here.

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In the Pits

Around the time I was eight or nine years old (I’m sure I’ve blocked the exact date out in my memory), I did something incredibly stupid. Wet socks snugly encasing my feet, I shimmied along the edge of the electric stove to get to the cupboard above it that held the Oreos. That same stove top had a pot of The Nana’s homemade spaghetti sauce boiling on it.

Yes.

Exactly what you are imagining could have happened, did.

And, in case you weren’t envisioning anything, I’ll give you the short version.

Girl wants cookies. Mother says she can’t have them before dinner. Girl’s mother goes next door to borrow more oregano. Girl, dripping in still-wet socks from playing out in the rain, lets desire for chocolate override all intelligence. Girl shimmies along, gets a shock and jumps up. On her descent literally and figuratively, girl’s foot catches handle of pot. Girl lands on kitchen floor bum-side-up and boiling sauce lands bum-side-down.

The next days are a blur, in my mind. I do, however, vividly remember ice baths and laying on a bed, bum-side-up, while there were daily “dressing” changes.

There was one silver lining to this incident.

Yes.

I got to sleep in the guest bedroom at the back of our ranch-style house, because it had a bathroom, en suite. This allowed me to shuffle the shortest amount of painful steps to the facilities each time I needed them.

But also? The guest bedroom is where the bookshelves were.

The bookshelves that housed all of my mother’s favorite books, books to be read, and cast-offs.

I got a glimpse into my mama’s mind.

And it started with being in the pits.

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If Life Is a Bowl of Cherries – What Am I Doing in the Pits? by Erma Bombeck was my first taste of humor writing.

And it was delicious.

From there, I picked up anything I could find by this funny female. It wasn’t until college that I learned of her struggle to get published. It wasn’t until I hit the big 4-0 that I became brave enough to enter her writing competitions.

And, while I could choose about 30 quotes from Erma Bombeck, alone, the following is still the one that gets me every time.

“I am not a glutton – I am an explorer of food.”

Clearly, Erma got me.

Yes indeedy.

This post is part of my series, 31 Best Books Ever. I’ve joined in the Write 31 Days challenge. Click here to visit over there and see all of the topics people are writing about. Click the button below, or here, to see my previous posts. Happy reading!

missindeedybooks31days2016

Day 4 in Which I Learned How to Read a Book

Picking up a heavy book and feeling the heft of it in my hands and thumbing through the pages and smelling slighty musty papery pages is bliss to me. Anyone else? #booknerdsunite

But, before beginning to read through each page, it’s good to have an idea of how to understand an author’s meaning. That is the aim of Mortimer Adler’s How to Read a Book.

 

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Mr. Adler does for the art of reading what Sun Tzu did for in The Art of War. He breaks reading a book, down to its most simplistic forms. Take understanding an author’s terms, for example. Adler helps create a reader who is able to mine the pages of a book for all they’re worth by first becoming sure of what an author means by using a specific word in a specific context.

Sound a little too detailed?

It is! But, deliciously so for those of us who adore letters strung together to form words, and words sewn together into sentences.

At 389 pages, this might not be the best beach read. But, with a list of “The Great Books” in the final chapter, it is worth every turn of every page.

Learning how to read a book thoroughly allowed me to see the truth of this quote, from Adler:

“…a good book can teach you about the world and about yourself. You learn more than how to read better; you also learn more about life.”

Yes and yes.

And what’s more, my writing journey began as a reader. It’s true! In fact, my favorite quote from How to Read a Book confirms this (although, I would add that this is true for any of us calling ourselves Writer or Author):

“The great authors were great readers, and one way to understand them is to read the books they read.” 

Ask any author how many books they’ve read. Almost all will say a TON! Maybe not in that exact terminology, but pretty close (and there are some authors for whom I would love to know what their favorite books are!).

So, to sum up:

If writer, then How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler.

If reader, then How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler.

Yes indeedy.

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Did you miss the first three books in my Write 31 Days Challenge? Click the button above, or click here and you can catch them all. Tomorrow, I’m in the pits.

Top 31 Favorite Books (and Quotes)

Do you remember the first time you read a book that made you laugh till your sides hurt? I do. It was 1981 and I borrowed my babysitter’s copy of The Official Preppy Handbook. To this day, I hear the word “preppy” and laugh. Or see plaid. And laugh.

Jo, Meg, Beth, and Amy March (of Little Women) riveted me to the pages as I discovered bits of myself in each one of them. But mostly, Jo.

The first time I read the Bible cover to cover, I was stunned by hope. And shocked by how many mistakes we humans seem to make century after century without ever learning from them. And was genuinely amazed by Grace.

Laughter erupts as I read paragraph after paragraph in books by some of my favorite humor writers. Especially when I find myself in the pits.

Longing is never more defined than when I read a quote in a book that resonates soul deep. Is that true for you, too?

Fiction, non-fiction, biography, memoir… doesn’t matter much what kind of story I’m reading, as long as it’s a bound copy with pages I can inhale deeply from (it’s a thing), I’ll read it. Books are my go-to during times of stress, relaxation, and even in my search for writing inspiration. They are also a constant source of discussion for every social situation I’ve ever been in.

Books are cool that way.

While there have certainly been a few that I wish I could erase the reading of, the rest have each held a pearl of wisdom or joy for me. And. I know I’m not alone in this because I can post a picture of the latest pile of books I intend to read through and get instant feedback on every one of them. (Here was a recent pile –> )

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This next 30 days, I’m searching for inspiration in some of my favorite books. I’m going to pull a quote from each one and share a thought or two about it. It’s my hope that you’ll read along and be touched, too. But, I said “31 Favorite Books (and Quotes), didn’t I? So, here we go with number 1.

♥ Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

By fourth grade, I realized I was a little more wild and thinker-ish than your average bear. It made for difficulty making friends. I was thankful for the wildness that I found in Laura, as I read through this series. But, the quote that stayed with me year after year and gave me fortitude for feeling different as the years wore on, was the following:

“There’s no great loss without some small gain.”

It wasn’t until college that I really understood that being a bit more this or less that wasn’t a deal breaker for all friendships. It didn’t preclude you from relationships. And in fact, oftentimes, different drew deeply of the relationships that were formed and fostered. 

Laura Ingalls Wilder tapped into the spirit of adventure and wildness that I harbored in my heart. I’m forever grateful for that series in my young life.

In case it wasn’t obvious, I’m joining in the Write 31 Days challenge again this year. I’ve taken some time off to live and laugh and love and now it’s time to get writing. And spark some more creativity. What better way than to dive into some favorite books? Join me! 

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Links to the series (updated daily):

Day 1 – Top 31 Favorite Books (and Quotes)

Day 2 for Some Irreverent Reverie

Day 3 Is Like a Walk in the…

Day 4 – In Which I Learned How to Read a Book

Day 5 – In the Pits

Day 6 – My Eyes are Watching

Day 7 – Oh the Humanity!

Day 8 – Quilting Isn’t My Thing, But…

Day 9 – Magnificently Defeated

Day 10 – Fairly Sensible

Day 11 – A Whale of a Tale

Day 12 – He Hits My Funny Bone

Day 13 – Just One of the Misfits

Day 14 – Me and Mrs. Who

Day 15 – Sound Familiar?

Day 16 – Passionate Fiction

Day 17 – An Hour of One’s Own

Day 18 – A Gift Indeed

Day 19 – In the Gap

Day 20 – For the Birds

Day 21 – Where Your Treasure Is

Day 22 – NO POST

Day 23 – Missed It By This Much

Day 24 – Can’t Handle the Tooth

Day 25 – Rooting for the Underdog

Day 26 – Outside Looking In

Day 27 – Through the Trees

Day 28 – It Seems Like It’s Disappearing

Day 29 – Please Just Don’t

Day 30 – NO POST

Day 31 – I’ll Tell You What’s So Amazing

Happy Reading!

Oh Write Thirty

Is it just me, or is time kind of stampeding on? From the moment I turned forty, I feel like I’m constantly sprinting after time and yelling, “Slow DOWN, for the love!”

As soon as I saw that clock tick over to 12:01 a.m., January first, I was struck by one thought: I haven’t been diligent about focusing on my dream this past year.

Opportunity is knocking.

I am not fully prepared.

One doesn’t simply crack open the door for Opportunity.

Amiright?

It’s in the still quiet moments when I hear The Dream Giver whispering into my ear and heart. He seems to have to whisper the same word time and again: “Focus, child.”

I’m hanging onto that word and letting it drive me for 2015.

Over and over again, no matter how well-intentioned I am, I find myself running down rabbit trails. Some, are necessary. The project that my Autism Spectrum Disordered child has looming over his head becomes too big for him and begs further breaking down before we all break down. Those kind of unforeseen circumstances are the unavoidable trails.

But, then, there are the ones I step down willingly. The research for a pending trip become fodder for vacation dreaming. And poof! A week’s worth of days are spent using my writing time for Internet Surfing time.

That’s not even the kind of ten I like to hang!

I would never have described myself as one who needs help with direction, in the past. My life as a Second Grade Teacher, before children, dictated a routine. It demanded organization. It fostered creativity within the bounds of structure.

This past decade-and-a-half, though, God has shifted my life. It has been more about living moment-by-moment, based on the ever-changing needs of the ones I care for.

Looking back on the year of preparation that I had in 2014, I realize that the rabbit holes were awfully dark. It’s hard to write or create in the dark.

And, I’m not a rabbit.

Zeroing in on a word that will drive me, in this new year, isn’t something I intended to do. After all, I was all about being intentional in 2013. And I wasn’t all that…intentional. Then, in 2014, I thought much about pursue. But, rabbit holes!

So, here I sit, staring at the number2-0-1-5 and thinking, “Isn’t it time I get serious and focus?”

I can almost hear God doing the exasperated parent sigh. Almost. Although, I’m sure He would never. even.

One of the most beautiful things to come out of taking on the Write 31 Days Challenge last October was seeing how I thrive on routine. I knew that about myself, at one point in time. But, I’d forgotten. Being forced to write some every single day burst open the creative gates. It also kept me honest. Saying I was going to write every day, and then having to show up on Day Whatever without a thing in hand, was a mammoth motivator to stick to it.

Back to the whole idea of focus, I know what I have to do. I work well with a schedule. If it’s looming, I’m moving. That’s where I can start. I’ll choose an Oh Write Thirty time during each day and set my trusty time and just do it! Oh those smart Nike people!

And then, hopefully, the next time I hear Opportunity knocking, I can fling wide that door and welcome It in!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to close out of approximately four vacation destination tabs.

Yes indeedy.