Tag Archive | blog

Leaving Yourself on The Page

This morning as I read through the blogs I follow with regularity, I came across this in Candycoatedreality:  Every time I write, I leave pieces of me on the page.

These few words resonated with me because as bloggers we do so in a very big world. We  unknowingly unveil our very souls to people who follow us.

As we all know, there can be no false masks in good writing. We can all use our imaginations to bring forth fantasy and other fictional tales, but deep down, the writer’s own personality is the bedrock of the writing.

I kind of like that idea. Maybe it’s because I’m old enough to finally accept myself as I am. I’ve tried to fit into boxes other people have designed for me, and dah — that didn’t work at all for me. The images of what other people wanted for me didn’t suit me, and I was the unhappy one. The good thing about going through such experiences is I found out what I didn’t want in my life. It wasn’t until I had the courage to cut MY path by using MY machete to get through the brush did I find the peaceful meadow.

Climbing out of boxes other people build for you is a brave feat. For me, it meant divorce and estrangement from my teenage children. It meant living on my own for the first time in my life. It meant not having the money I was accustomed to having. But the result was so worth the effort. For the first time in my life, I had the freedom to explore me, throwing out the parts I didn’t like and nurturing the parts that I did like.

Liberation does come with a price, though. Some people I used to call “friend” had to fall by the wayside because of the changes that were taking place in me.  I slowly emerged as a new person I liked better than the old one. I wasn’t afraid any more. I stood up for myself and took calculated risks that paid off. After all the exploration and work was done, I met a wonderful man who wanted me for me. He had no desire to make me over in his own image and restrict me to a box.

Ken and I have had almost twenty years together. We’ve weathered the storms of life that caused us to strap ourselves to the mast of our ship. We’ve felt the sting of the churning waters of sickness and unemployment. Weathering such storms together showed us we can face anything.

If you find yourself in a place where you don’t fit, don’t waste time to change your situation. It might be scary or hard or both, but in the long run the sacrifices you make will be so worth it.

Finally, know the only person you can change is yourself.

What is Carpal Tunnel, except for a Pain in the Wrist?

Today I am attempting to post this blog with a brace on each hand. I’m beginning to think the doctor might be right about me experiencing problems with my carpal tunnels. By wearing the braces to bed last night, I slept through without waking. That was the first time in over three weeks! Needless to say, though, this new development is putting a damper on my writing.

I’ve been a pretty good typist since the ninth grade when I taught myself how to use the keyboard. At the time, I was marooned at home, recovering from a broken tibia, and I was restricted to bed rest.  It was a devastating experience at the time. I lost the lead of the school musical because of my injuries, and I was isolated from all of my friends, which was certain death to a thirteen year old girl.

During that time, though, I learned so many important lessons I never would have experienced any other way. I quickly recognized my true friends. and I learned how invaluable they were to me.  Since then, I’ve cultivated and maintained many good people in my life. I also learned I could improvise. Even though I was sequestered to my bed, I developed different ways to do things. I saw the difficulties as challenges to conquer. I also recognized I could teach myself anything I wanted to learn.

Four months later when I returned to school with a toe-to-hip plaster cast still on my leg and a pair of crutches, my good friend Debbie stayed with me, carrying my books and helping me in any other way she could. The popular kids at school who tried to hitch their wagons to my brief shining star didn’t remember my name by the time I returned to school. Before I was anybody, I was a nobody. I learned the “importance” of popularity and from then on chose my friends by their character, not their status.

Even now, the lessons I learned almost 50 years ago still resonate. Now that I’m experiencing a temporary limited use of my hands, I recognize I cannot do things the same way I did in the past years. I will have to limit my computer time or perhaps invest in a tool like “Dragon” to help me keep “writing” my books. I’ll have to wear support braces until the issue is healed or resolved by surgery. But in no way, will this little setback of tingling, painful hands keep me down. I may not post everyday, but when I do, I hope I can share something that is useful to you.

Please excuse the typos, though.

The Wonderful World of Blogging and Its Surprises

Here we going a blogging among the world of words!

Here we going a blogging among the world of words!

For the past couple of weeks, I haven’t blogged everyday as I intended when I entered this new world over a year ago because Ken and I have been out enjoying the gorgeous Fall weather with our friends and family. It’s nice to have the freedom to come and go as we please with the aid of our new/old van with the wheelchair lift. Having that little bit more freedom has made me a happy camper.

Originally I started this blog to give people a taste of my writing prowess. Selfishly, I hoped some of my visitors would rush right out to Amazon or Barnes and Noble to buy my books. However, like most experiences, this blogging thing hasn’t turned out the way I intended. In fact, I dislike blogs which only exist to sell something.

Instead, this platform has offered me so much more. I’ve found a world of like thinkers, writers, and artists who offer me as much as I can offer them. I have a place to think through my everyday challenges by sharing them with all of you. I vent when I’m frustrated and cheer when something wonderful crosses my path, and being able to share that with an audience, makes the bad stuff not so bad and the good stuff so much better,

The saddest part of blogging is when a person who was with me for over a year stops coming to my blogging doorstep. I never thought that such an acquaintance would ever be a such a terrible loss, but it is. I miss her. She used to make comments on most of my posts, and we found that even though we were a world apart, we were a lot alike. I NEVER expected to feel a loss for a person I never met.

The other surprise I’ve found with blogging is I enjoy reading about people’s experiences much more than I enjoy reading self-help type columns. Don’t get me wrong, the bloggers who offer insights on writing and other topics do us all a service, and I do enjoy their work; however, I am a frequent visitor to blogs where I can “get to know” the writer, their challenges, and their successes. I enjoy pieces about everyday life. It’s fun to read about a stay-at-home mom’s challenges with her little ones, or a student struggling with the life on campus, or other Baby Boomers who deal with the disappointments and fun of growing older. With these blogs coming from different parts of the States or around the world, I can expand my worldview from my own living  room. How great is that?

For those of you who come and read my blog, I want to thank you for taking an interest in what I have to say. If you’re like me and enjoy reading about the simple frustrations or accomplishments we all experience in our normal lives, I appreciate you stopping by to learn what’s going on in the McCloskey household and for taking your valuable time to care and make a comment. For those of us who are caretaking for someone else, writing, teaching, and once and a while getting up on a soapbox about some injustice, it’s nice to have a venue to talk about such things.  Don’t you think?

 

 

A Note from a MIA

I’ve been MIA for the past couple of days because the great outdoors has called me to put my energies into making our little space in the world more beautiful. Yup, time to cut the grass–again, water the plants and roll waterproofing the ramp, which I lovingly call “the deck.”  Physical work is satisfying, but tiring. After I’m done cutting, pruning, and fertilizing, I usually plop myself my weary carcass down in one of the patio chairs to catch my breath and inspect my handiwork. About this time, I could use a nice cool margarita!

Yesterday, I put a leaf blower together. Why yesterday after the thing sat in the garage in a water-logged cardboard box for about five years? Well, I needed some easy way to blow away the gunk from the gutters that were cleaned last week. The rotting leaves finally dried because we had two days without rain.  I needed to clear the stuff from the driveway, patio, and deck, so I could get to the rest of the chores on my Saturday list. The blower was easy to assemble (once I read the owner’s manual), and easy use once I strung together three or four extension cords and turned on the  power. I doubt whether I will hall it out again in the fall, though, because I think God never intended us to rake leaves. Eventually, they will blow away.

Beside the outside chores, I’ve been putting the finishing touches on my next novel. STEPHANIA IN AMERICA has been in the works for about a year. My other books poured out of me and I had the draft down in a couple of months, but Stephania was my first character I didn’t like. In fact, she turned out less evil than I originally intended, but I can live with her because I understand her motivations. The story has gone through about four rewrites, a pass by my editor, and another pass before my proofreader. The next step is to approach the publisher and then my sister-in-law should have the cover art ready.

So, please be patient with me if I don’t post everyday; sometimes my day jobs get in the way of writing something worth posting. I feel guilty when I have no good stories or true words of wisdom to pass along.  . . like this post. I just thought you might want to know I am still around, just doing some different activities that need my attention.

Hopefully, I’ll “see” you tomorrow.

A Milestone — My 301st Post

Here we going a blogging among the world of words!

Here we going a blogging among the world of words!

Today I celebrating my 301st post. I’ve been blogging for almost a year, and I am so happy I’ve explored this world of writing. The best part for me is the people I’ve “met.” The novelist, writers,  photographers, and poets. I feel close enough to some of you to call you cyber-friends. I truly hope we can meet in the flesh someday.

You’ve traveled with me through the highs of getting new novels published and the lows of my husband’s MS journey. You’ve tolerated my rants, and even thought I had a couple pearls of wisdom from time to time. You’ve cried with me with the passing of my father and mother this year. I’ve been happy to share my thoughts about myself and amazingly, you’ve been interested. I’ve been lucky enough to received awards from other bloggers and was honored to be “Freshly Pressed” once. So, this blogging journey has been most satisfying.

Since my childhood, our world has changed so much. When I was born, plastic wasn’t on the consumer market yet. Yeah, you youngsters out there in Internet-land, the years I’ve walked the earth say I’m old, but my heart remains young. When I was a kid, it was time to go home when the lightning bugs came out. When the fire siren blew at noon, it was time to go home for lunch. When mom wanted one of us, she yelled our names out the front door. We played outdoors all day, otherwise Mom threaten us with some household chore. We only played indoors when it rained. We had games where we moved little pieces around a cardboard platform and learned to play poker before we were twelve.We used unprotected,  two-wheel transportation well into our teens, riding miles during a day. Families only had one car, and Dad always needed it to go to work.  So  much of this world doesn’t exist any more.

Games no longer involve competitors who sit next to each other. Now games are played on Ipads, Smartphones or Laptops. Your competitors might be across the room or across the world. Heck, some competitors be smarty-pants computers! You’d never know the difference. Now Mom’s text their kids to come home instead of yelling their brains out. You wear helmets when you ride your bike–if you ride a bike.

A lot has changed. Some for the good — like the Internet where the world can be connected. Where like-minded bloggers can gather. Where research is at the touch of a keyboard. Where we can entertain ourselves alone.

Our connection technology also has a dark side, though. Our electronic devices  isolate  us so much, conversation is becoming a lost art. Meeting in parks for a pick-up game of baseball is unheard of any more, and playing outside without protective equipment is prohibited. We explore nature by reading about it instead of walking through the woods. We travel vicariously through websites instead of getting on a bus, plane, or train to actually experience the place. So many of us live our lives in our heads.

I never want to go backward because I am a progressive thinker; however, I do think we need to pick and choose when we use technology. I do miss the social interactions of the pass where neighbors knew each other and looked after one another. Where spontaneous cups of coffee were shared at the kitchen table instead of a coffee houses. Where raking leaves into a huge pile in the fall would become a playground for all the kids in the neighborhood. But there I go again, being nostalgic.

My mood must be due to looking at so many old photos lately or maybe it’s because I’ve begun researching my next novel. I just finished STEPHANIA IN AMERICA, and the manuscript is with my editor and proofreader, so it’s time to get to work on something new. As a historical romance novelist, I’m always looking back to the time when my parents were young adults. Perhaps after this book, I’ll take a look at my own childhood years in the 50’s and 60’s, after all, that time period is far enough to be history too, isn’t it?

Saying Goodbye One Last Time

Today, my family buried my father who died about 10 days ago. We had hoped my brother John could come home from California, but his wife Wendy is suffering the affects of chemotherapy and he chose to stay with his wife. It was the right thing to do, but I’m sure his heart was right here with all of us.

My father lived 89 years in the same town; in fact, in his lifetime, he moved one block from where he was born. He served on the volunteer fire department for over 40 years as an active member and 25 more years as an honorary member. The fire truck he used to drive in the 1940’s led the procession from the church to the cemetery past the park where I played as a child, past the old fire station where he served (and played poker once a month), and finally past the home where he lived for over 65 years. It was a fitting end for a man who served others most of his life. At the cemetery he was honored as a World War II vet, with a 21 gun salute while the stars and stripes covered his casket.

One of my cousins asked if I would post the eulogy I gave at the funeral. So, as one last salute to my Dad, here are my final words.

Today we’ve come together to honor my Dad.

Because he lived such a long, rich life, many of his friends have passed before him, but I see their children sitting here today. His sisters Beverly and Ellie are here, and so are his nieces, nephews, and grandchildren and one of his two great grandchildren. I hope all of you realize you had a special place in Dad’s heart, even though he may not have said it in words. Dad’s long life touched everyone sitting here either directly, or indirectly through the friends of his children who are here to support us. I want you all to know how much our family appreciates your presence as we send our father off with honor and dignity.

My Dad was a good man. He loved his wife and his family more than himself. He served his community as a volunteer rescue and fireman for most of his adult life, and he also served his village on the planning commission to make Sturtevant a better place to live. His life was simple, but rich.

He was lucky to call a special person “friend” since he was three years old. Now most of us have had children that age, so it’s hard to imagine two little boys barely out of diapers becoming friends. But that’s what happened when Roy Stuart wandered down to my Dad’s house on 96th Street one day. It wasn’t long before Dad found Roy’s house, and their friendship has seen them through to this day.

Roy told me a funny story when we sat together at the hospital watching my Dad sleep. When the two of them were around eight years old, they liked to go the Herzog farm to go swimming. You see, there was a pond there, but before they jumped in, they had to chase the cows out. The swimming hole was muddy pond, but Dad said he learned to swim there. Roy said it was a miracle they didn’t die from typhus .

When I was born, my Dad was proud to have a girl. He proved it his entire life. When I was in first grade, I had tonsillitis much of the school year, and Dad would stop on the way home from work to buy me a chocolate milkshake at the new McDonald’s to soothe my sore throat. When he took me to the father/daughter breakfast at church he bought me a corsage to make me feel special. When I was thirteen, I needed a new winter coat. Mom budgeted $20 for the purchase, but we had no luck finding something suitable at that price. When we did find one we both loved, it was $35. One night after work, Dad took me back to Penny’s where we had found the coat, made me model it for him, and he made up the shortfall, so I could have the beautiful red coat. Every time I put it on, it was like getting a hug from my dad.  I never knew where he got the money until I was much older and my mother confessed he used his poker kitty to buy me the coat. Playing poker once a month with the guys at the fire station was one of the few things he did for himself.

As the oldest child, I was pretty much a test model, so Mom and Dad were stricter with me than John, Mark and Chris. But being the oldest did have a few perks. I got to go with Dad to pick out the Christmas trees, and every Thanksgiving I got to carve the turkey with him. Dad taught me how to play baseball as good as any boy, and how to oil my glove and mold a nice pocket. When I taught myself how to roller skate on the cement sidewalk in front of our house, he cried when he saw my black and blue butt. He ran beside me when I learned how to balance a bike and cheered when I took off on my own.

The most important thing my Dad did was teach all of his children how to be good people. He gave us everything we needed to live happily on our own. He taught the boys how to be good husbands and loving father’s by his own example. I learned how to love a husband by watching my own two parents be happy together.

Today, we say goodbye to him, and we’ll share our memories. Tomorrow we’ll go on without my him. But no one should be sad. Dad was ready for his angel wings, and I truly believe he’s having a great time getting reacquainted with old friends, his brothers Marco and Jimmy and sisters Mary, Rosie, and Josephine. And of course, he’ll dance with my Mom again.

He wouldn’t want us to cry; he’d want us to remember the words of his favorite Nat King Cole song entitled “SMILE”.

 

Smile though your heart is aching

Smile even though it’s breaking

When there are clouds in the sky, you’ll get by

If you smile through your fear and sorrow

Smile and maybe tomorrow

You’ll see the sun come shining through for you

Light up your face with gladness

Hide every trace of sadness

Although a tear may be ever so near

That’s the time you must keep on trying

Smile, what’s the use of crying?

You’ll find that life is still worthwhile

If you just smile.

Fleeting Fame Has Landed On My Blog-step

nov 2012 008I am SOOOO jazzed today — one of my posts, “A Day in The Life of an Adjunct Teacher” was “Freshly Pressed” on Friday.  Thank you, WordPress Editor, I am thrilled to receive this honor!

Every writer dreams of his or her work being read by thousands, preferably millions of people. We all dream of being famous. We do what we can to promote our work. That is why I am so excited about this recognition. Having one of your posts selected for this honor increases the number of people who follow what you have to say. Holy Exposure, Batman!

I started blogging last year in August at the suggestion of my publisher. Miranda told me blogging was a great tool I needed to use to promote my writing. I was leery to blatantly blab about my novels, but then again, if I don’t say anything, who will? Eventually, though, I talked about other things–like teaching and writing, my husband’s MS and every once in a while, I’d get up on my soap box and yell about something. Over time, my blog evolved, and I anticipated writing a post everyday.

Little did I know I would enjoy blogging so much. The best part of the medium is learning about other writers from around the world. In a strange way, we all are connected by this new blogosphere in ways we wouldn’t enjoy without technology.

However, with recognition comes responsibility. I agree with Jules Renard, a French writer who said:  Fame is a constant effort.  I expect now I must raise my writing to a new standard because more eyes will read what I have to say. There’s a certain pressure that goes along with such recognition. Like a zillion emails showing up in my In-Box this morning. I haven’t had that many emails since I left a corporate setting ten years ago!

So, my dear friends and loyal followers, as well as those of you who are just getting acquainted with me, you have my promise I will give you my best on a given day. Some days will be good others, not so much. It’s the best I have to offer.

Adventures With A Good Friend

Last night I got a call. “Barb! Are you okay? You’ve missed two days without posting a blog!”

I laughed. I was glad my friend was checking up on me because she missed my daily words of “wisdom.” Yes, I had been away. On Wednesday, I had my second writing class and had to cut the rest of the lawn. And Thursday was a real adventure. I wrote 15 chapters to finish my seventh novel and helped out a friend.

Our friend Patrick suffers from diabetes, and for the past several  months he’s had a rough row to hoe. He’s undergone several surgeries and does home dialysis everyday. He really hasn’t had a chance to recover, so the doctors don’t want him to drive.

Yesterday, he needed help getting to an appointment that would take a couple of hours and then he needed a ride home. My schedule was free, so I agreed to pick him up at nine o’clock, drove him to his destination, and then returned home to help Ken with breakfast. (He was sleeping when I left.)

About eleven o’clock, the phone rang. I anticipated I’d be leaving right away to retrieve Patrick. However, instead of going home, he was being sent to the Emergency Room. He had taken a tumble and hit his head. I was sorry that he had fallen–again–but I was relieved he would be checked out.

Patrick called me about three o’clock and said he was “free at last.” Ken and I got in the car and drove to the local hospital to take him home. But again, Patrick had another idea. He hadn’t been given anything to eat all day and wanted to go to a restaurant. I was concerned he might be too weak for such an undertaking, but he insisted he was all right. I parked in the handicap space in front of the restaurant, got Patrick and Ken’s walkers out of the car, then ran ahead of both of them to open the doors. Whew!

After everybody ordered and was comfortably sitting at a table, the conversation started. Instead of talking about world events, we talked about doctors, medication, and surgeries. Halfway through the conversation I said, “Boy are we getting old. Listen to what we’re talking about!”

Patrick and Ken just laughed. “Welcome to our world!”

The two of them are facing a life where the best years are in the rear view mirror, but they find humor in their situations when someone else might now. They revel in the good times and take the bad days as they come. They both are amazing. I’m lucky to know them.

Welcome Back, You’re Dreams are Your Ticket Out

welcome-back-to-schoolToday was the first class of my summer writing class at the community college. Right now I have 15 students, which is really a nice number for this basic class. Unfortunately, though, it’s been my experience to lose half of them by the end of the term. I’m hoping I entertained and cajoled them enough this morning to keep most of them engaged.

I’ve taught this class several times, and believe it or not I was just as nervous this morning as I was on the first time I stood in front of a roomful of eyes looking at me. Honestly, I guess I just have to accept getting in front of a class is just like when I was singing in front of audiences — the jitters will always be with me. But that kind of nervousness with sweaty palms and a few butterflies rolling around in my tummy  keeps me on top of my game. I’m alert and alive. Ready to give my best performance.

The hardest job that I have to do is to dispel demons of past “learning” experiences. I also have to kill the bullies who told these people they weren’t smart enough or good enough to be able to make it in college. I always address these two things during our first encounter. You see, teaching adults is different from teaching children. They carry baggage. We need to dump these negative attitudes quickly, so we can travel though the course work successfully.

Adults also need to know how they will benefit from the efforts they put forth. They need to see how learning English grammar will fit into their end goal. So, I also ask each of them what they want to accomplish and why they thought they needed to learn what I was hired to teach them. This discussion usually ends with a list of business communications they all will have to produce.

Then we read a piece by Sherman Alexie about being stereotyped, and I give them an assignment to write a paragraph on how they might or might not identify with the author. All of this is preparation for the future. They don’t know it yet, but I will instill in them that they are good enough for college courses by building their skills and their self-esteem. At the end of the day, we all need that kind of support–even the most seasoned writers among us still have to hear the good stuff.

So every Monday and Wednesday mornings, I’ll be doing my best to pass on my expertise about English grammar and basic writing, while my blog will have to go on the back burner until the afternoon. Forgive me, but it is for a good cause.

Lazy Day of “Summer”

cappuccino (1)Experts say following the same routine or doing the same mundane things the same way makes for a lazy brain. I guess it has something to do with forming new pathways for the synapses -but don’t quote me, I’m the person who took one science class, remember. Today I shook up my brain to the max! In fact, I spent my whole day totally backwards.

As most of you know, I start writing as soon as I get up in the morning. No so today. Today I overslept and was scheduled to meet a friend for a cup of coffee at 10 a.m. It was already 9:15 when I finally rolled my carcass out of bed and stumbled into the kitchen. Ken had been up for about an hour and a half already, so thank goodness he had the coffee brewed and sitting on the hot burner. My eyes were full of grit from a hard night’s sleep, and even a splash of cold water didn’t revive me. I felt like I was in a drugged stupor. (Not that I’ve ever used drugs, mind you. So I’m really guessing with that remark.)

I have no idea why I was feeling so sluggish. Perhaps a cold is coming on? Perhaps my outing with both Patrick and Ken yesterday was too much. I don’t know. I NEVER feel that way when I get up. I’m the kind of person who is alert and raring to go as soon as my toes touch the floor. Who was this sleepyhead anyhow?

I probably would have canceled my date if I hadn’t been looking forward to seeing Heidi. She started off as the best neighbor I ever had, then we became close friends, and now she’s the dear soul who edits my books. In fact, one of her first questions was, “When is Finding Gessler coming out?” (Her mother is a BIG fan of mine and I’m sure Heidi would like to bring her a copy of the new book as soon as it is released.)  I had to tell her I really didn’t know. “Hopefully, it’ll be out by the end of summer.”

We enjoyed our conversation over a cup of delicious cappuccino on her back patio. Yeah! It was like a summer day today. No whiny about the weather here. We discussed our summer classes. (We’re both teaching at the community college this year.) But even with the anticipation of starting a new class and the great fancy coffee that Heidi made me, I was still dragging my anchor.

By the time I left, it was noon. I drove home and made lunch for Ken and I. Today it was summer fare–a lettuce and tomato sandwich with mayo. (No, I didn’t forget the bacon. At $6.99/pound they can keep the greasy stuff.) After lunch I had to cut the grass or hire a herd of goats–and as we’re not zoned for farm animals, my only alternative was to rev up the mower and travel around the backyard much like a rat forced to go round and round until he gets to the center. (You can tell how much I love to cut grass.)

But now it’s 3:30 p.m and I can finally sit down to write my blog. I know this story is a pretty weak attempt, but I think the important thing to remember I’m exercising my brain, even though I would have really rather taken a nap.