Thursday, July 19, 2012

My Success Is Not Mine Alone

     I don't often watch the news, I must confess. I do most of my reading of the news online. I may be partly responsible for the demise of print media. I generally try to read from our local media outlets online; the local newspapers, televisions stations, and radio station feeds.
     I also often check the Yahoo news headlines after I have checked my email. I rely on this group and the postings of videos on my friend's Facebook pages to help me stay aware of the current issues being discussed by various news programs.
     As is often the case, I am sure much of what I read and see is taking totally out of the context that the speaker originally meant his thoughts and words to be nestled in. I sometimes try to then track down entire speeches or debates. I like to think that I make at least a minimal effort to remain informed about the problems that are plaguing our communities.
     Sometimes I discover that my abbreviated understanding of what the speaker was trying to say really is more to the point of the intention of the words. Other times I discover it was way off base. Almost always I think that I am better off with whatever happy spin I had put on the speaker's words or intentions.
     Apparently some people are extremely upset with some things our President had to say. I listened to a clip that was posted by a friend of mine. I decided that the three minutes I heard was more than enough to support what I believe to be true. It may or may not have been what he was trying to say. His statements had to do with success and how we credit our successes.
     To be fair to those that got all red and worked up with his words, I do agree that our success depends in part on our own efforts. I have always tried to do my best, keep my nose to the grind stone, and do the leg work so that I just might be prepared if and when opportunity decided to show up and knock on my door. I would not have had those skills or desires, however, if there had not been parents, teachers, friends' parents, friends, aunts, uncles,grand-parents, and assorted other relatives that put lots of time and effort into leading me and teaching me how to be ready to work and how to make fairly good choices.
     I spent two decades working on my degree. I spent just as long writing and re-writing stories and tales that no one else will ever see. You could say that I was preparing myself for a success that I could only hope and dream of; it certainly was evident that it would ever be a reality.
     The only reason I kept going with my dreams was the occasional kind word from friends in my writing groups or a small success in a story I wrote as a gift for a friend and having it be well received by them.
     I was forever entering contests for years. Then I got to the point where I was tired and felt foolish. It seemed time to put these schemes to an end. I still entered a few small contests. It was through one of those that I found a contest about a chance to have a storybook published.
     I took the last of my courage and set straight to work. I had the story ready and sent in within a few days.   You could say that it was through my being ready and doing the work that this was able to happen. But I wouldn't have been ready at the time the opportunity presented itself if there hadn't been people that challenged and encouraged me along the way.
     I entered the contest. It would become a matter of a popular vote. The story was good and I did the best I could with the editing, but I still would need to rely on the help of others. I shared my dreams with as many people as I could. Yes, it took my work and my efforts. It took my perseverance. But it also took thousands of people to help me find the success that I have had. Thousands of people had to be willing to take a moment and honor me and my dream with some of their own time and effort. They had to stop what they might have been doing. They read what I had written and then voted for the story.
     After all the encouragement I have been given, I am determined to encourage others. Another fabulous children's book author I know has decided to share other authors books on her blog pages to help introduce them to new reading audiences. I plan to share other authors and their works as well in honor of all the help and blessings I have been given.
     My success is not mine alone. I didn't do this on my own.

     Featured book for today's blog is by Sarah Perry.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

No One's Being Shortchanged

     In case anyone was worried, after reading my last post, if I my mother was getting her fair due; don't. With parents, as with children, it can seem difficult to share an equal amount of time, affection, and experiences. This is especially true in regards to my interactions with my mother.
     As you may have gathered from some of my past musings, my mother has had many health difficulties over the course of the last several decades. She is now at the point where her need is such that she has to be on supplemental oxygen 24 hours a day 7 days a week. She has mostly recovered from the pneumonia she had, but she is far from a more complete recovery.
     This makes a little adventure like the one I took with my father a few weekends ago virtually impossible. Fortunately, my mother's parents lived far longer than my father's did, so I grew up knowing the homes and area she group in. I even attended the same school system she attended and had some of the same teachers she had. It sometimes seem that where her memories might leave off, mine begin.
     There will be no road trips anywhere in our future. It has been years since that ever could have been a possibility for her. That is a sad fact for me as well. My favorite type of vacation has always involved driving some place fantastic. So, since this type of travel down memory lane is an impossibility, I had to come up with a more personalized trip for us.
     This led me to a fun and rewarding project I have been working on since before last Christmas. I decided to write a sequel to one of my mother's beloved books from her childhood, Marion Holland's No Children, No Pets"." This was a book my mother received as a gift from her Aunt Een back in the late 1950s. It was one of favorite stories featuring a family that inherits an apartment building in Florida, travels down there to sell it, gets involved in a mystery, and ends up staying.
     I decided to first ask my mother if she had ever thought about how the story would continue. She had. I had, too. This was a favorite book from my childhood as well since my mother read it to us every summer break when we were little. Not surprisingly, she and I had different ideas how the story progressed. It was an enlightening conversation. I wrote the first chapters, busily incorporating her ideas into the narrative, as part of her Christmas gift.
     As each holiday has passed this year, I try to make sure that she gets at least one more chapter. I hope to finish the continued story this Christmas, if possible. I finally confessed that when she was in the hospital it through my project and plans into a panic. I wasn't sure if I should do a sloppier rush job, or cling to the faith that she would endure this latest illness as well. So far, so good. We are able to carry on with our extended personal literary trip down our memory lane.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Tripping Down Memory Lane

     This past weekend, I had the pleasure of taking a road trip with my father. It was part of a belated Father's Day gift. He had been talking for a long time (a few years) about driving up to check out the property and cottage that had belonged to his grandparents and then his mother until around 1971.
      I had meant to make the trip with him last fall, last summer, even two springs ago. Time just has a way of sneaking by us. Then, this past May, my mother ended up in the hospital. At first it seemed to be not so bad. It was a bit scary. She had a pretty bad pneumonia, but that is what antibiotics are for, right? After a long week, she was finally released to go home, but with more medications and supplemental oxygen that she has to have 24/7.
      Suddenly I was forced to realize that time has been marching rather rapidly over us all. What would have been a simple endeavor, to go on a road trip for the afternoon, was going to take some strategic planning. My desire to take this trip had only multiplied after realizing how random life can be. One minute you think you have a simple cold, then you realize you have pneumonia, and the next thing you know you are dealing with the fact that a person's heart is too worn out to cope with such illnesses.
      Fortunately, my husband is the caring sort and he rolls with what ever odd requests I have had over the years. I told him of my plan to take my dad for a drive and explained how my husband would need to be on duty as sort of sitter, to ensure nothing went wrong with my mother's oxygen tank. My husband readily agreed.
      Then it was just a matter of explaining the idea to my parents, printing up the maps, and hoping the best with the weather. I have no air conditioning in my car and the temperatures have been scorching here in south west Michigan for the last several weeks.
      The Saturday of our trip dawned hot and dry. My father and I first toddled over to the local farmer's market to get fresh fruit for my mother and snacks for my husband. Then we got some lemonade for ourselves and started off on our journey, to revisit his happy memories and for me to learn about he family I never knew, his parents. His mother died when I was two and his father died long before I was born.
      The lack of air in the car was not a real issue. It made the trip up to the cottage seem more like any trip my dad would have taken with his family in the early fifties, as they didn't have air either. It made it all seem more authentic and real.
     My dad spent the drive up telling me stories of how his grandpa bought he land in 1939 and built the cottage about then. How it was passed to his grandmother in 1946 when his grandpa died. He then told me how his mother inherited it after her mother died.
      He told me a lot of stories, he made my grandparents and uncle live for me again. I was also able to clearly see him as the boy he had been. One of my favorite stories involved the time when my uncle (16 at the time) let my dad (12 at the time) drive his car into the driveway at the cottage. My dad couldn't see over the dash and had trouble controlling the big old 1937 Ford my uncle had refurbished that summer of 1951 and ended up running into the porch. My dad mentioned how he took off the corner of that cement porch. Their family had never fixed it.
      After just over and hour, we reached our destination. We weren't sure. Things change over time. There was a building that appeared to be the right place and it was on the right small back road. Fortunately, there were some folks sitting outside their trailers next door. we got out and asked them a few questions. It turned out that they had bought some of the property back in 1971 and could confirm that the cottage we were looking at was the original one built in 1939. It has been remodeled some but we were able too look around.
      We took several pictures. One of my favorite ones was of the front porch steps. There is still a chunk missing. Even though it happened 61 years ago, my dad had made his mark. It was just such a great moment to add this confirmation to the wonderful stories I learned that day as I took this trip down memory lane with my father. It was meant to be a gift for him, but it was also such a fantastic gift for me!