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Category: Writing

Help Me Write Fiction

The copse of Oak trees formed a canopy over that section of the dense woods, almost completely blocking the light pouring from the full August moon and holding the humid air tight against what would soon become a buzzing crime scene.

Beneath the trees, his small, naked body had grown cold despite the warmth of the summer night, but his dead eyes held secrets — secrets that formed the foundation of a living prison for one woman and that blazed a trail toward freedom for another.

Excerpt from my novel “Half Measures” (working title)

* * *

“My world is spinning out of control. A six-year-old boy is dead and I’m supposed to find his killer. Me — the fraud, the fake, the imposter. I can’t even find the empty bottle of vodka I hid last night. I feel as dead inside as that little boy looked, lying beneath the trees, unseeing, unmoving, unconnected as life pulsed around him and left him behind.”

— From the journal of Detective Laura Rogers Zarrick, from my novel “Half Measures” (working title)

* * *

Laura knew she had a problem. If she had any doubts, they dissipated the morning she found a note to herself tucked inside her blush compact. It was a messy, drunken scrawl that read:

“Bottles in the Christmas tree box.”

She didn’t remember writing the note until the moment she read it, and then it came rushing back.

Excerpt from my novel “Half Measures” (working title)

I’ve wanted to be a writer since a high school journalism teacher entered me into a news writing contest and I won. I pursued that path and am proud to say that I’ve worked as a journalist and writer my entire adult life.

But I have a longing for something else — a desire to write fiction. And I’ve been quietly, almost secretly, working toward that goal for a few years.

I have a story inside me that I’ve thought about for decades, first sparked back when I worked as a reporter covering cops and courts. It’s a story that involves crime, cops, alcoholism and recovery — all things I’ve written about as a journalist, or lived, or both.

Now I’m 50 and it’s time. I have a manuscript that is growing and taking shape, but I need help bringing it forth. I actually applied and was accepted into an MFA program, thinking that might be the path. Until I realized that working toward an advanced degree was simply my way of putting off “doing” in the name of more learning. A way to hide for a couple more years while I sought creative legitimacy.

Then I was introduced to Laura Munson and Haven Writing Retreat. I knew from my first conversation with Laura that Haven is what I need — that amid the mountains of Montana, I will pick up the final pieces of the puzzle to finalize my manuscript and deliver it into the publishing industry to see what happens next.

And so I am asking for your help. Laura has established the Haven Foundation, a 501(c)(3) to help writers attend her retreats. Would you consider making a tax-deductible donation to the Haven Foundation in my name? Your donation will help me (and possibly other writers like me) continue on a creative journey. I would be exceptionally grateful and when the time comes, I’ll sign a copy of “Half Measures” for you.

Can I count on your contribution? If so,  here are two options for sending your tax deductible donation:

1) Mail a check (with the name Michelle Cox in the memo section) to:

Haven Foundation
155 Livermore Flats
Whitefish, MT 59937

**Include your email address on the check so Haven can email you a receipt for your tax purposes

OR

2) Email David Rasmussen at david@lauramunsonauthor.com and request that he send you a PayPal invoice so that you can make a donation in my name.

Thanks for considering a donation. Your support is truly appreciated.

Four Things to Get Started Writing

An alarm began sounding in my late 40s and it wasn’t my biological clock. It also wasn’t a mid-life crisis, although it probably had the makings of one.

The alarm was more of a wakeup call, similar to the one that sounds to announce the start of a new day, this one began chiming in my consciousness, telling me that there was something I needed to commence.

It took some courage to take note, some pushing back on the fear of failure, ignoring the voice that said, “Who are YOU to think you can do this? It’s not time. You’re not ready.”

But it was time. It IS time.

So here I am, with a website that focusing on writing: more specifically, writing in the second half of life, owning the title of writer and encouraging others to do the same in whatever form that title might take. Take a look at my About page to learn more.

I’m excited because I’ve always had this dream, one I didn’t verbalize often, but one that remained since my youth — a dream to be a fiction writer.

But I hadn’t done a single thing to make that happen.

And when that alarm bell began to ring in my late 40s, I asked myself, “What am I waiting for, anyway? My 50s? My 60s? That day when I will have an abundance of free time?

As fate would have it, around the time I started contemplating these things, a friend and former colleague published a fiction novel. I read her book and was proud of her.  She also had a dream to write fiction.

The difference between her and me? She took action. She sat down at her keyboard and got started on her book and she finished it.  (Susan Sagarra, Cracks in the Cobblestone).

The difference between her and me? She took action. She sat down at her keyboard and got started on her book and she finished it.

I went to her book launch party and chatted with several other former colleagues. Guess what?  We all talked about being impressed with our friend. Interestingly, many of us had harbored quiet, private dreams about writing a book, as well.

According to writer Joseph Epstein, about 200 million people aspire to authorship. So my colleagues and I had a lot of company, but Susan actually WROTE her book. What an inspiration!

So, that party not only launched my friend’s book. It launched me out of dreaming mode and into action mode.

Here are the four things I did to get started owning the title of writer and to help me move closer to my dream of becoming a published fiction author.

  • I started journaling.

Writing takes practice. One of the biggest objections I had about establishing a daily writing practice was that I didn’t know what to write about each day. I would sit with a blank cursor or a blank piece o
f paper, and no words would come. So I channeled the inner “middle schooler” and just started  cataloguing what I’d done that day. Really. Boring. Stuff.

But in time, it morphed into more, and sometimes, as I was cataloguing who I’d seen or what errands I ran that day, I’d remember something significant – the way a store clerk treated an elderly patron with kindness or the way the summer heat made me think of my late father. And then I’d be off to the races with more interesting, heart-felt writing. I’ll share more tips on establishing a regular journaling practice in a future post, so be sure to subscribe below. When you subscribe, I’ll send you my free PDF: “Tips on How to Get Started Journaling, Stay Motivated and the Best Journaling App.”

  • I started reading more.

My favorite author is Stephen King. (For real, I’m almost a stalker. I recently drove six hours just to hear him speak. More about that in a future post, too). I listen to his advice like it’s gospel, and in his non-fiction book called “On writing” he says:

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” 

This book full of practical advice and encouragement that can make any writer or aspiring writer feel empowered. I cannot recommend it enough. Later this month, I’ll share some of my favorite non-fiction resources on the topic of writing and becoming an author.

The best part of the advice, above, is that it’s a perfect excuse  to curl up with a good book and read. In addition to reading non-fiction to help me with my craft, I also started reading more of the kind of fiction I want to do. No time? I’ve also got some suggestions for that in a future post.

  • I started small.

I want to write a fiction novel. I have a story idea that has been bouncing around in my head for years. But the idea of a whole book seemed too daunting. A short story sounded more doable. I started on my novel,  but I also decided to work on a few short stories as ideas came to me.

I did this for a couple of reasons. I wanted to get feedback on my fiction writing, and there are lots of places to submit short-stories (contests, literary journals, online magazines). Even if that feedback was rejection (and so far it has been, for the most part) I figured that would help me learn.

I also did this because of another quote from my favorite author’s book:

“By the time I was fourteen the nail in my wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips impaled upon it. I replaced the nail with a spike and went on writing.” — Stephen King, On Writing.

This is not to say that I didn’t get started on my novel. I did. It’s coming along and I’ll share more about it as I go. But I’ve found that I’m learning a lot about writing fiction in crafting short stories. I am applying those lessons to my novel and it’s making my book stronger.

  • I signed up for a class.

This isn’t necessary. In fact, some people avoid “doing” by taking classes. Ever heard of a professional student? I don’t believe that taking a class or a workshop is necessary to get started as a writer. But for me, taking a fiction class at the local community college  and then doing a writer’s workshop were motivating activities that gave me more confidence. I did not, however, wait until I took the class and workshop to start writing.

Most community colleges and continuing education programs  offer classes in writing — fiction and non-fiction. Some even offer a certificate program, which I’ll also write about in a later post.

I’m eight months away from my 50th birthday, and I’m no longer just dreaming about claiming the title of writer and becoming an author. I am a writer because I write every single day. And I will be an author soon enough. My novel is started and I’m making progress. I’ve got a laptop full of completed short-stories that are out for submission, some nearing publication and one that recently was a finalist in the Atlantis Short Story contest.

All of this because I got started.

If you read my About page, you’ll see that I’ve been paid to write my entire adult life. So, you might be thinking that I’ve always been a writer. That’s not true, because it is only in the last few years, as I’ve taken the above steps and started loving writing again, that I have claimed the title of writer. I’m writing with passion, and I’ve never felt more energized or excited.

Callout to Midlifers (not you, never old): If you think you’d like to do the same — own the title of “writer” in your midlife — then stick around, this is the place for you.  I plan to keep sharing my journey and providing content that will help you on your journey, as well.

Memories & Goodbye to My Minivan, Hello Mini SUV

I cried on my 30th birthday. I was sitting in a bar in downtown St. Louis at an impromptu party that my husband had organized and suddenly I was crying.

The nostalgia hit me when I was cleaning out my minivan. I was reaching under seats and into storage nooks, evoking emotions and extracting memories along with loose change and band-aide wrappers, piling it all onto my driveway for sorting.

My friend, Jan, asked me what was wrong, and I said, “I’m 30 years old and I’m driving a minivan.”

Jan snickered and reminded me I wanted the minivan, believing it would be easier on my back to get my 2-year-old in and out of her car seat. That only made me feel worse – I chose to drive a minivan for a practical, “old lady” reason.

“Oh God,” I sniffled. “What’s next? Sensible shoes? Then Depends?” We laughed and the moment passed.

That was in 1997.

It’s 2016 and I’ve owned four minivans since that time: a Dodge Caravan, a Chevy Venture, a Kia Sedona and finally a 2004 Honda Odyssey — My favorite. Car. Ever.

My goal was to drive the Odyssey for several years after we paid it off, which we’ve done. With 207,000 miles on it, it’s starting to need more maintenance and repairs, and the last repair happened when I was out of town, which was a major inconvenience.

It was time to downsize.

But my Odyssey served me well. It was extremely reliable. And kid friendly and comfortable. And best of all, it had lots of Mom-friendly real estate, which means lots of places to stash things and the perfect spot to put my large purse where it wouldn’t tip over and spill its contents all over the floor.

Criteria for a New Car

When I sat in the Honda dealership to choose my next used Honda, our salesman asked me what things were important to me in a vehicle. I said:

“A place to put my purse; safety; good gas mileage; room for family road trips; low mileage; a key fob with automatic door locks; comfort; all-wheel drive; a backup camera; deep cupholders for my coffee; and don’t forget a place to put my purse.”

Salesman: Does color matter?

Me: No.

Salesman: Do you want alloy wheels?

Me: What are alloy wheels?

Salesman: They’re nicer wheels. They come with the higher trim package.

Me: No, I curb my tires all the time. I’ll ruin them.

Salesman: Leather seats?

Me: I don’t care. But I like having an arm rest, and I need luggage racks on top. If I’m giving up the space of my minivan, I need to be able to put luggage on top. I don’t travel light. So I want a trim package that comes with those things. And a place to put my purse.

Salesman: Purse. Gotcha. Okay, well, let’s take a look.

My new Honda CRVWe ended up purchasing a 2014 Honda CRV. It had everything I wanted but the luggage rack, which Honda installed for me. Not surprisingly,  the dealership agreed that we could sell our used Honda for more than they could give us, so we took it home to sell ourselves.

Minivan Memories

The nostalgia hit me when I was cleaning out my minivan. I was reaching under seats and into storage nooks, evoking emotions and extracting memories along with loose change and band-aide wrappers, piling it all onto my driveway for sorting.

This van used to smell like chlorine, because my oldest was a swimmer and I drove lots of carpools, meaning a wet towel was forever being left inside to bake and release its chemical scents into my cloth interior. Now she’s a swammer (retired swimmer).

It sometimes reeked of teenage boy sweat because my son plays basketball and seldom used the locker-room showers before climbing in to ask “What’s for dinner” or “Can we get Qdoba?’ Now he drives himself home from practice.

It used to smell like sour milk because a sippy cup would inevitably roll under the seat to start the process of making cottage cheese. Now she won’t even drink milk.

It’s covered in dog hair from our Golden Retriever and coffee stains decorate the carpet. Well, at least the dog still sheds and coffee still stains.

Here are some of the things I found as I cleaned it out:

  • A complete change of clothes in size 3T – pants, top, underwear, socks, shoes –My youngest now wears a size 8, but in the not so distant past, a mess that would require a complete change of clothes was a very real possibility.
  • Multiple cloth rags, one tucked under each seat in case of a large spill. They reminded me of the time my daughter got carsick on the way to camp; and the time my son had rotavirus; and all the carloads of kids who would spill their slushies, ice creams and milkshakes onto the carpeting, complimenting my numerous coffee spill stains.
  • Two first-aide kits for an emergency that thankfully never came. One kit contained a baby enema and “night-night juice” (aka Benadryl) that I may or may not have used to drug my daughter and my niece on a lengthy road trip that was wrought with whining and fussing.
  • The remote control to an entertainment system that quit working two years ago when a Barbie movie borrowed from a neighbor got permanently stuck inside.
  • A handheld can opener and enough food, some packaged, some petrified, to sustain me on a Whole30 eating plan for at least three days.
  • A stack of bank deposit slips from a bank I left six years ago.
  • $3.57 in change.
  • A princess blanket that I discouraged my husband from purchasing at Disney when my daughter was three because I didn’t think she’d use it. I was wrong, and we never make a road trip without it. It came in quite handy a few years ago when I was snowed in at a swim meet in Crawfordsville, IN and had to stay in a nasty hotel that shared a parking lot with a strip club. I was reluctant to use their bedding, so I busted out the princess blanket for my daughter and I to use.
  • A handful of my late father’s police department business cards, proving he was a detective and giving me some help in a avoiding a few speeding tickets.
  • A Chick-fil-A placemat and a box of melted crayons from Applebee’s.
  • 10 reusable grocery bags from Aldi’s, Wholefoods, Dierbergs and Schnucks.
  • Three lip glosses.
  • 12 pony tail holders.
  • Four road flares (again, the cop thing — no car is complete without government-issue road flares – these are at least 30 years old).
  • And a partridge in a pear tree (Couldn’t resist).

I’m almost 50. My oldest is 21 and moving out for law school in August. My middle child is 18 and will be a senior in high school this year, most likely going away to college in 2017. My baby is 8 (and a half).

It was time to downsize.

So, I cried at the start of my mini-van days and I almost cried at the end of them.

It’s a minivan full of memories, representing an entire era of my life that has come to a close. But I really love the CRV so far and I think we’ll have fun making memories to fill it, as well.

NOTE: We purchased the pre-owned Odyssey and the pre-owned CRV from Bommarito Honda in Hazelwood, MO. That is NOT close to our home, but we had such great service there in 2008 that we returned. We were treated like family and they went above and beyond to make sure we found the car that was right for us. Then they went above and beyond to get my luggage racks installed before we head out on our first road trip. A big thanks to everyone who helped us: Kevin Hall, Randy Graves, Guy Taylor and Jake from service. 

Gratitude — Hearing the Right Messages

Rejection. Dismissal.

Those are lonely words – words of not belonging, of being on the outside, of being alone.

Yesterday, I was rejected and dismissed by someone I love, someone to whom I used to be very close. I experienced a range of emotions and the symptoms of those emotions – sadness and tears, anger and spitefulness, thoughts of revenge, sarcasm, detachment. I finally settled into sadness and disappointment.

I sat in my family room that looked dreary and neglected and felt sorry for myself. I looked at the layer of dust on the furniture and the cat and dog hair woven into the area rug and gathered like tumbleweeds against the baseboards. I stared through the blinds and dirty windows at the common ground behind our house and the landscape matched my mood – cold, gray, a little dingy from the melting snow. The trees were bare, no evidence of life.

Except there was evidence of life. I was briefly distracted by two squirrels racing impossibly fast across branches that appear too feeble to hold them, then leap from the large oak in my backyard to one of the unknown (to me) species of trees in the neighbor’s yard.

I spent my evening brooding, occasionally tearing up, but basically moving from task to appointment to task. I got some good advice — “Write down your blessings. And thank God for them” — but I didn’t follow it. I’d wasted enough of my day crying over the situation.

No time for gratitude.

Today, I attended the memorial service of a 22-year-old young man. Many people loved him. He was a loyal friend and a devoted son and brother. He was greatly admired because he showed courage in the face of tremendous health challenges, and then he used his compassionately, selflessly help others.His life ended much too soon.

I knew this man because he was a swimmer with my daughter on the Rockwood Swim Team. Not surprisingly, there were dozens of people from our Rockwood swim family in attendance at the funeral.

Just like there were dozens from our swim family in attendance a few months ago when the mother of one of the swimmers died.

Just like a group of them gathered a few weeks ago to help one of the swim dad’s celebrate the arrival of his 60s.

Just like they dropped off meals and gifts when I had a baby at age 40, and helped me get my daughter to swim practice in the weeks following.

Just like they surrounded a widower nearly 10 years ago when her husband died of cancer, leaving her to raise three young children.

Just like they’ve surrounded many others in times of great joy and great hardship.

And it hit me. These people. The people helping to fill the pews at this memorial service. They are the ones who matter. The ones to include on that gratitude list.

Somewhere along the way, probably as children, most likely in a school lunchroom or on a playground or in gym class when teams are chosen for kickball, we feel that first sting of rejection. We internalize that first message that “you’re not wanted” or “you’re not good enough.” The lucky ones get the message from people outside their families; the unlucky ones get the message from those closest to them. But all of us, at one time or another, have gotten the rejection message.

And for some reason, those messages often ring louder, sound truer and echo longer than the messages that say “I love you” or “I’m here for you” or “You’re good enough.”

Why is that?

Maybe because we don’t write that gratitude list.

Maybe because we don’t always see the squirrels racing on the branches and remember that they are reminders of the life that is still present even though the trees are bare.

I think the memorial service for Christopher Parsons was beautiful on so many levels – it was an amazing tribute to his life. For me, it was also a reminder to be grateful for those around me, to notice the signs of life and hope amid landscapes that seem lifeless, and to let messages of love, friendship and affirmation ring louder than messages of rejection.

And those thoughts reminded me of one of my favorite Bible verses:

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

NOTE: Christopher Parsons father read this poem at his son’s memorial service. I thought it was beautiful so I looked up the words. Here’s a link.

 

The Shadow of Fear versus the Light of Courage

My late Grandmother once told me that fear is a sin. I can’t remember the exact circumstances that prompted the conversation, but it had something to do with my children – my fears and worries related to them.

The message sounds harsh, but that wasn’t her intention. Her words were delivered lovingly, without judgment, and her point was that I should trust Jesus more and fear less. I listened, and then continued to be fearful, especially when it came to my kids. But the words stuck with me and through the years, in a quiet moment or sometimes in a moment fraught with fear and worry, I remember them.

Thankfully, I haven’t lived with the kinds of horrific fears others have endured – fear of physical abuse or violence, fear of starvation or homelessness or life-threatening illness. I have been abundantly blessed in the areas of family, health, home, education and opportunity.

But when I am being honest with myself, I realize that fear has been a fairly constant companion in my life.

Sometimes, fear has been like a rude roommate, dampening my joy as I entertain guests or meet new people or embark on new adventures. He whispers words of doubt or criticisms in my ear or shouts insults from the well-worn Lazyboy he occupies inside my brain. I know he’s there and I’m aware of his tactics. Therefore, I’m able to ignore him for the most part, but he still makes an impact.

Sometimes fear disguises himself, arriving in designer cloaks of justifiable worry or good parenting. Like many mothers, my greatest fears involve my children, and most of the time those fears take the form of concern for their health, safety, future and happiness. I worry when my teens drive away from the house. I grow fearful if they are driving in bad weather. I fret over their academics, their success in and out of the classroom, their social lives.

Fear is most effective, however, when he takes the form of my shadow — unnoticed, unacknowledged, seemingly inconsequential. Just like a shadow at high noon, fear is smaller and less effective when there is a great deal of light on the subject at hand. But when I keep things hidden, intentionally or unintentionally, the light grows dimmer like a setting sun and the shadow of fear grows longer and more powerful.

That is when fear can change the course of my life. That is when he can keep me from discovering God’s purpose for me, from enjoying the blessings and gifts God has bestowed upon me. That is when I unknowingly, unwittingly take action based on my fears. And more often than not, because I’m unaware that fear is occupying the driver’s seat, my action is simply NOT TAKING ACTION.

But recently, I’ve started to let more light shine into areas of my life that I’ve historically kept to myself, and that light has decreased the size of my fear shadow. I’ve set out on a new path prompted by a maturing faith in God, age, life experiences and an increasing awareness that my willingness to keep company with fear speaks volumes to my children.

I am pursuing my dream of writing fiction. Although I have always made a living with the written word, I strayed from my profession some in the past few years for various reasons, some of which had to do with fear.

I have returned my focus to making a living as a writer and communicator, but I’m making room for writing that fills me in addition to the writing that pads our checking account.

Interestingly, fear followed me on this new path because I left him a trail of breadcrumbs. Bad habits die hard, and he catches up every once in awhile. When he does, he tells me:

  • “You don’t have time for this” or,
  • “You aren’t creative enough to write fiction” or,
  • “You’re too old to write a novel” or,
  • “You have no idea what you’re doing” or,
  • “The rejection letters will just keep coming” or,
  • “You need to focus on making money and bringing in new clients/projects, not writing stories” or,
  • “You’re being selfish to spend time on this hobby” or,
  • “You are a Mom, not a writer, and your mom work is more important and the two are mutually exclusive,” or
  • the list is exhaustive . . .

A friend recently recommend the book “Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear” by Elizabeth Gilbert. The book is speaking to me – the book is singing to me. In the first few pages, she writes, “The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them. The hunt to uncover those jewels – that’s creative living. The courage to go on that hunt in the first place—that’s what separates a mundane existence from a more enchanted one.”

I would say that it is God, not the universe, that buries those jewels within us, and God that gives us the courage, if we let Him, to go on that hunt.

I’m choosing to let Him. I’m writing, and I’m putting myself out there: on this blog; in the short stories that I keep submitting and that have, thus far, only resulted in rejection letters; and now, in a book manuscript that is starting to take shape.

Gilbert suggests that we are more than the sum of our daily obligations and duties and that we can choose to make something of ourselves with ourselves. And she says that “fear is a desolate bone yard where our dreams go to desiccate in the hot sun.” That is not the life or death I want to choose for my dreams.
Dream Hope JoyI’m trying to choose courage, trying to let the light shine on my dreams a bit more – to shorten the length of the shadows that are cast over them and instead let them cast shadows of hope and joy.

Now it’s time for me to get back to work on my manuscript.

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Last Chapter: Aging Gracefully

My friend called me this week to tell me she is officially done with menopause — as in scientifically DONE, as in she has lab results with real numbers indicating that that she has completed this phase of her life.

I wanted to say something clever or quote a song lyric. But nothing came to mind as I watched the kaleidoscope of memories flashing like a flipbook in my brain. We’ve shared so many milestones, some in person, some on the phone.

Flash: She’s relaxing poolside and she spots the man she would eventually marry. “Do you know him? Can you introduce me?”

Flash: My phone rings and she’s telling me she had sex for the first time.

Flash: She’s chasing me into the bathroom at a wedding reception, telling me he popped the question.

Flash: We’re at her wedding reception.

Flash: We’re on the phone and she’s telling me the pregnancy test was positive. She’s going to be a mom.

Flash: Another positive pregnancy test. And another. And another.

Now this. Menopause. I’m doing it, too, although I don’t have any lab results to prove it. Not sure I’m on the other side of the fence yet, but those details don’t really matter. What’s important is HOW we’ve decided to do it.

We have both arrived at a milestone, a crossroads  of sorts — our coordinates are not exactly the same. We are in slightly different spots, coming to the crossing from slightly different angles. But our theme song is same. Jeremiah 6:16 says “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.

Our theme song, our chorus, is that “We are going to walk in it and we are going to OWN this last chapter.”  We are aging gracefully but with panache. That was how we ended the phone call announcing her post-menopausal news.

“Last chapter” sounds macabre. But it’s not. It simply means we are trying to:

Love the skin we’re in, and the bodies with which we have been blessed. We began a Whole30 journey together and we are both really excited about the program. It’s not a diet. It’s not a weight loss program. We are both embracing those aspects and we are both feeling great. For me, it has provided freedom from the scale, something I have not had since I was in middle school. MIDDLE SCHOOL! That’s 35 years. I didn’t know that I could ever feel good, really good, about myself unless a certain number showed up on the scale. But I do. And my scale is hidden away, collecting dust. I honestly don’t know if I’ve lost a pound. This article explains part of my victory. And this is a beautiful video which explains why I’m done “waiting” — “Our body size, our Weight… Wait. We wait to be fully alive, feeling disallowed from joy, unable to REALLY live… until our size can be something other than “big.” Waiting. weighing.  withdrawing.” — I’m not going to “wait” anymore.

Exercise (but not abuse). For me, this means less pounding. Less running. Less is more. Again, a new concept for me. My friend and I have been meeting to walk and do some strength training. But for once in my life, I’m not worried about achieving the burn. I am simply enjoying the time. Soaking in the early morning hours with the very best woman I know. I am honored to spend the time with her. I put it on my calendar because it nourishes my soul.

Parent and Let Go. We both have daughters who are the same age now as we were when we met. We have teens who are navigating the tricky waters of high school. I have a 7-year-old who is giving me the opportunity to enjoy all of it again but with the wisdom of an older Mom. During this last chapter, we hope to parent with wisdom and serenity, owning the pieces for which we are responsible, and gracefully (or not so gracefully at times) letting go of the pieces that belong to God. My friend reminds me not to arm-wrestle Him. Her skills are better developed in this area than mine.

Wear the Damn Hat (or boots or jeans or . . . ). This is as simple as it sounds. I am leaving the land of “cares what other people think.” I love hats, boots and bell bottom jeans. And in the last seven days, I’ve worn all three (Yes, boots in August. And bell bottom jeans that my son thinks are just awful. And a J-Lo-looking cap with a blinged out cross on it). I also love big earrings, and lots of mascara. And bohemian-flowy tops with macrame. My friend loves frosty orange lipstick and she seriously looks hot when she is wearing it.

Embrace our Strengths/Gifts. Several years ago, my friend attempted a career change and eventually found her way back to her original field. She reflects on the journey as God’s way of showing her that he bestowed her with certain gifts and talents, and today she embraces those gifts, not only in her work life, but in her approach to people and circumstances. I’ve spent the last couple of years floundering in an attempt to build success in a professional arena outside of writing. I abandoned those efforts recently, initially feeling like a failure, unable to move outside my comfort zone in order to make more money and be more successful. Then my friend reminded me of her journey, and encouraged me to embrace my gifts. I am a writer. I like that label. It feels comfortable – because it is my strength and my gift. But I will venture outside my comfort zone because I’m going to finally, finally, finally follow my dream to write fiction. So I’m keeping my work life in writing and communications, and I’m adding fiction to spice things up.

And I just might wear bell-bottoms and a sleeveless flowy top while I’m doing it (sleeveless in case of hot flashes!)

 

“Writing is not life, but I think that sometimes it can be a way back to life.” — Stephen King

When I attended journalism school at the University of Missouri-Columbia in the late 1980’s, I was full of dreams – dreams of becoming a hard news reporter; dreams of breaking stories that would change the world, or at least the part of the world that I chose to call home; dreams of a long career as an award-winning journalist.

And I had big ideas about the power of the written word.

Some of those dreams came true. I became a hard news reporter for a time. I was assigned the cops and courts beat at a couple of different newspapers. I wrote about murders and assaults and missing and abused kids. I covered death penalty trials and was present when a jury chose to send a man to the electric chair. Hard. News.

I broke a few stories. I won a couple of awards.

I also fell in love, got married, moved and began having children. I believe dreams change to match blessings. Mine did.

Now, three kids and more than two decades of marriage and work experience later, I’m still writing.

And I still believe in the power of written word.

These days, I am a freelance writer and strategic communications specialist. I have combined my decades of experience as a print journalist and public relations professional into a boutique communications business through which I serve a gamut of clients in the healthcare, financial services, biotech, law enforcement/emergency services and education industries. I help these clients communicate with their internal and external audiences. I also continue to write for newspapers, magazines and blogs and I am trying my hand at fiction.

P.S. Stephen King is my all-time favorite word slinger.