Inspiration

The Making of a Memoir

The Making of a Memoir.

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Sweet Suprise

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To say that a five year old can be impatient is an understatement. For them, the air is still electrified with constant discoveries assailing their senses in the best of ways. They are Magellan, Marco Polo. And the world awaits. How could they stand still? Why should they?

We adults, on the other hand, have spent several decades in conditioning. Our eyes closing to the wonders around us, and we would-be visionaries grew up to have mortgages and car payments, too many to-dos, toilets to be scrubbed and schedules to keep. We barely have time for sleep, let alone for dreaming. Really dreaming.

A few months ago, my little family and I were standing in line on a soccer field, waiting for my son to have his picture taken. The adults, myself included, were standing and staring, reining in the occasional stray child. The nonconformist rebels.

My son and his little friend were trying so hard to be still. “But Mommy, my body is telling my brain that it just can’t stay still much longer!”

Then, it happened. Her words came out of my mouth, unbidden. My mother telling my son and his friend to sit and look for a four-leafed clover. As she had told me to do countless times in a life long past.

Their bodies were still, for the most part, and their wills were occupied.

The little patch of clover at our feet that I don’t really remember seeing in the first place, was dotted with miscreant dandelions. Pretty patches of yellow in a sweet patch of green. They looked and looked, but never found a four-leaf. But during his search, my son occasionally picked a dandelion or two, and a couple of fragrant clover blossoms, and gave them to me.

“Mommy, I picked these just for you! Will you keep them forever?” Blue eyes hopeful.

“Yes, of course I’ll keep them forever.” A hug and a kiss, and a mother’s hand brushing against his freckled cheek.

I hold onto them for a while, then tuck them into the little side pocket of my purse.

Today, I was looking for something. A boring, grown-up something that I knew was in there somewhere.

Frustrated, I take everything out. Wadded up napkins, receipts, a pen, more receipts and some loose change.

My fingers scrape the bottom seam, and there’s something not a penny, or a Tide stain stick. Something soft and delicate, dry and crumply.

I draw it out. My little wilted waiting bouquet.

It had survived months in the crucible of my life on the go. Pounded down, smothered, by bills and checks and keys and my cell phone. Day. After. Day.

Still, they have color, and fragrance, and shape. Identity.

We were all Magellan once. I think we all are still. Where are you keeping your dreams? Your mind’s occupations? Are they dormant, glazed over by an “I want coffee,” “when will this day be over,” or an “I’m so tired?”

Go. Outside. Breathe Deep. Look for the four-leaves in your life. Look up. Look down. Search. If you don’t find one, it’s okay. You’ll find something else. Just keep your heart open.

Back in the Saddle, Again – my weight loss journey, June 18, 2014

Well, friends, this is going to be short and sweet :0)

Honest Confession: The last few months, I’ve found it difficult to focus on my goals. Illness, the loss of my mother, grief, random stress and busy-ness have all jumbled together into a whirlwind that has been disorienting and exhausting. But now, I feel as though I’ve been spit out of the storm and thrown against the ground. A bit bruised, but breathing, I feel not so much like starting again, but picking up where I left off.

I went for a brief walk on my morning break in the basement of my office building. I plan on having lots of veggies for lunch, and I’ve been drinking more water.

My sweet little boy has offered to be my evening walking partner, with the vision of doing our first 5K together this fall (probably a walk-run).

It’s something – that transition from knowing you need to do something and actually taking action. Our troubles won’t be remedied in a day, dear ones, but in the moment-to-moment choices we make for ourselves, the ones we love, and the sweet little ones who love us back.

If you need to get “back in the saddle,” too, don’t worry about swooping up and going for a full-tilt ride. Just lift that first foot off the ground. Afterall, it’s how all great journeys begin. And, yours is going to be great. And so will mine 😉

Identifying your Memoir Audience

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One of the first things you learn in a writing class is the importance of identifying your audience. Who are your readers, and why will they want to read your work? What are you hoping for them to take away from your project, and how will you craft your message to meet their needs?

Some audiences are easier to identify than others. For instance, consumer ad copy will speak to a targeted audience depending on the product being advertised. YA dystopian literature will have its own audience as well. Memoir? Well, that can be a bit tricky.

I wasn’t very far into outlining my memoir when I realized identifying my audience wasn’t going to be as easy as I had first assumed. My story could appeal to a variety of people and age groups. I sought the advice of my friend, Robin Stanley, a professional coach and writer you can visit at http://www.robinstanley.org.

She gave me the most wonderful advice – to create the image of a reader in my mind, and write to them. So, that’s exactly what I did.

Of course, me being me, I couldn’t keep it simple ;p

My “reader” is Lizzie. She lives in New England, and whenever I see her in my mind’s eye, she’s settled in an over-sized chair, sipping a warm mug of cocoa while watching a gentle snow fall out the window. She’s in jeans and a Henley – purple, and she’s wearing striped socks. She’s holding my book against her propped up knee while her other leg is stretched out, foot skimming an old, dark hardwood floor.

When I write, I write to Lizzie. And, for the most part, it works 🙂

How about you? Do you write for someone in particular?

The Making of a Memoir

ImageAs some of you may know, I’ve been working on a memoir for the last 2 years or so. While I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was 5 or 6 years old, I never intended to write a memoir. I thought they were reserved for celebrities or renowned movers and shakers — great minds, innovators, etc. You know, people who’ve made a contribution to the arts or humanity in general.

I am not a celebrity, nor am I a “mover-and-shaker.” I’m just a woman who was a girl with a story to tell.

I’ve written most of my life, writing my first short story in maybe the first grade. I like stories of all kinds, as long as they’re good stories.

When I began writing my memoir, I was actually elbows deep in another project that had completely captured my heart – a fantasy trilogy. Then, I got the call that my mother had been diagnosed with Leukemia, and my mind drifted back in time, flitting in and out of memories that mama had always meant to write down, but didn’t. I decided I would write them down for her, and quickly realized that I wasn’t able to write her story. I had to write my story, and by telling about my life, I would be able to share her life in mine.

So, I set about writing. Joy, pain, suffering, victories, loss, and change.

It has been difficult. I relive moments of my childhood through my grown up filter, and I’m overcome with respect, compassion and understanding for my family that I couldn’t see before. I see my mother’s actions now as a mother myself, and so many things make more sense. I value the journey, and attempt to honor the past.

But, I doubt.

I doubt my talents and skill. I doubt the value of my words, the significance of my endeavor. Will it offer anything to the world, to my readers? Will I do justice to the past? Will I honor my mother?

Then, a friend asked me a simple question. Why are you writing this memoir? You’re wanting to make a contribution, right?

Yes. A contribution.

It may not be published. It may not be praised. It may not receive a Pulitzer.

But all those things are reactions to my work that are out of my control. My job is to create and give. A part of myself, my history, experience DNA – this is what my experience was, and this was my reaction. Maybe it will help you if I share it. Maybe I can contribute to your life.

An offering. A gift.

Do you have something to contribute? Have you been hesitating? Do you doubt?

Remember that there is a purity to a gift given without expectation. When we do our best and offer the world a bit of ourselves unselfishly, good things happen. How can they not?

Be encouraged. Embrace the journey and the things you learn along the way. As you give, you grow, and isn’t that part of the joy?

 

My weight loss journey, May 16, 2014

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So, this is me, like 100 pounds ago. I was a size 4 or 6 in this picture. Cute, huh? 🙂 At that time, I sure didn’t think I was cute. My then husband and I were about to file for divorce. He was leaving me for his girlfriend who, in his words, wasn’t as nice as me, but was more attractive. Girls, can I just say right now that we are all beautiful in God’s eyes? It took me years…no, DECADES to really start to understand that thing that I’d heard over and over again through the years. That I am God’s precious daughter, and that He loves me. He knows my heart and created me from the inside out, so he knows the sacred secrets of my innermost being, and sees that they are lovely.

He thinks you’re lovely, too 🙂

This summer, I go into the season the thinnest I’ve been in 3 or 4 years. Now, that’s not necessarily saying much as I’ve gained and lost the same 10 pounds for the last 3 or 4 years, but I’ve finally crossed the threshold and am on my way down again.

The last week or so, I’ve experience something new that I’ve been wanting to share with you. It’s peace. I don’t feel driven to lose 50 pounds in a month, or 100 pounds in 3 months. I feel a new peace with my journey that I can’t quite explain, but I know where it comes from – that same place that brings us all peace that we can’t fathom – our Father’s heart. It was always there, waiting for me and, for some inexplicable reason, I find myself with open arms, accepting it.

If you’re somewhere on a journey, whether for weight loss or forgiveness, healing or a fresh start, I encourage you to open your heart. Open it to the world around you – to the friends and family who love you, and the God who adores you. You’re not alone. You are worthy. You are enough, and you are lovely.

The Language of Motherhood

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My husband and son, at the beginning…

My earliest memory of my mother is of her hands. Strong, soft and sure, one holding me fast by the arm while the other sudsed me up with a soft cotton washcloth. I was sitting in the kitchen sink. It was stainless steel, cramped, and cold against my back, even though it was summer. But she had me, and wasn’t going to let me go.

Now, looking back over the last 40 years, I can see my mother’s hands over and over again. Brushing my hair, scrubbing the floor, rolling out dough, pulling weeds, holding her Bible, ironing with steam, sewing a button on, making sandwiches, tucking me in, wiping away my tears, pointing the way, holding my hands and waving goodbye…

Sometimes, often in fact, during my own journey through motherhood, I wish I was more like her. She was a doer, always busy, always with a goal in front of her – she didn’t rest until her work was done. Our house was spotless. Her hands were always busy and full.

Sometimes, when I was young, I would get frustrated. Why can’t we just relax and have fun once in a while? I would ask. Because there’s work to be done, she would say. Won’t it feel good when we’re all done?

Now, I wake up in the morning, feed the cats, feed the dog, feed my son, get my son ready for school, and get myself ready for work. I get dressed and while I’m curling my hair, I see that the bathroom could use a sweeping. I should plan on going to the laundromat tonight after work, but my son has a music concert, so it will have to wait. Backpack? Check. Lunches? Check. I pull out of the driveway…did I make the bed? Uhm…maybe not. Geez, the flower bed needs weeding…I sure wish I was more like mom.

I look at my son in the rear view mirror, and we share a smile, my hands gripping the steering wheel in a tight turn into our busy, busy day. We laugh and talk. At the stoplight, I reach back and we hold hands for a brief moment, our secret signal to one another that everything will be alright. Then, we move on.

We get home at the end of our day, and I fix supper, we eat and do a few chores, and then there’s this precious window of opportunity – about 45 minutes before my little boy has to go to bed. The bathroom floor still needs swept, but I don’t do it. Instead, I sit on the couch with my son, and we read. Or tell stories. Or play Legos. Or watch Green Lantern. Or have a tickle fight. Or just snuggle.

The time goes by, and we say our prayers…a tuck here and a tuck there, and he’s off to sleep.

It’s 8 o’clock. I go into the bathroom. I forgot the broom. Why can’t I be more like mom?

I indulge in a pity party. Mom was a better mother than I’ll ever be. She worked so hard and loved so much.

Then, I hear her whisper in my ear. You love just as much. You work just as much. You are everything just as much, just different. You are just what you are supposed to be.

I came to realize that my mother’s love language was acts of service. Every jar of pickled beets, and every starched blouse; every hot meal, and every clean floor said I love you.

My love languages are words of affirmation and physical touch. So, every conversation about my son’s day at school, his favorite Skylander or Pokemon, and every snuggle on the couch says I love you.

So, mom and I are different, but the same.

Our love is different, but the same.

Our mothering is different, but the same.

It’s easy to compare ourselves with others, especially those we hold in high regard. It’s also easy to use that comparison as a way to tear ourselves down instead of building ourselves up without seeing the good that we do. We come to equate different with wrong.

Try to see yourself with loving, truthful eyes. That’s the way those who love you see you, and it’s the way your children see you, whether your bathroom floor needs swept or not 😉