#DearDad, With Gratitude

Did you see Brian Klem’s blog last week? He was running a contest to promote his book, Oh Boy, You’re Having a Girl. (See his original blog plus the contest winner announced. ) I enjoyed the tweets all week regarding this contest.

Brian’s humor about raising (worrying about) daughters got me thinking about my own father. I have four sisters. Yes, dear ol’ dad raised FIVE girls — and survived the experience. Today is his 60th Father’s Day celebration!

I thought it would be fun to tweet my gratitude for my father – and other fathers of daughters out there in the Twitterverse. Feel free to join me! Here are few:

#DearDad you raised FIVE daughters and still have a full head of (white) hair

#DearDad you raised FIVE daughters who all dated guys with motorcycles

#DearDad thanks for holding the car door for Mom AND me cuz I expected that from dates

Now, my dad is also a Korean vet, though I don’t know whether that experience had anything to do with building his fortitude toward raising daughters. Maybe it did help for dealing with the boys in his daughters’ lives, however? Anyway, I thought it time to see our lives from Dad’s perspective. Brian helped me do that. So, take heart all the dads out there with daughters. We turn out just fine. I’d love to hear your tributes to Dad today. Reply below or Tweet using hashtag #DearDad.

And to all the dads out there, Happy Father’s Day!

Seasons of Life — and Writing

I’m celebrating a milestone birthday as I round another decade’s corner. Though my friends will joke about my age, I don’t feel all that old. No need for black balloons and crying that I’ve topped the middle-aged hill; I actually feel like celebrating! I’m excited by the possibilities. Each decade in our lives is like embarking on a new season. Some have more meaning and significance than others, but all are milestones.

When I reflect on my life I can mark those milestones by the seasons in my development as a writer, too. My early writing years felt as if I were in a holding pattern. I lived to “write someday.” Eventually (thankfully) I moved into a season of writing and reading excessively and taking as many classes and workshops as possible. Next I simply wrote and submitted like mad and, once I’d garnered a dozen writing credits, I began my “reading-study” season again. I read about craft and studied how the pros accomplished their craft. I dissected published stories and articles to learn how the pieces fit together.

Finally, I began teaching. I realized that when I explained what I had learned about craft, it validated for me all I knew and had acquired about this writing business. That gave me confidence. It also forced me to look at my writing from a different angle, especially when students asked questions and I had to figure out how to express the answer. I believe it was during this season in my writing that my talent/craft soared. Things clicked and flower buds of productivity burst into bloom. This was also the season that I most enjoyed my writing because the work of it no longer took so much effort but instead brought joy – it felt free and easy.

Eventually I entered a reflective season. I closed myself off from the demands of sharing what I had learned and focused instead on doing, on producing. I was incredibly productive during this season, but I also felt the loneliness I had often heard other writers expressing (but had not understood as I do now). That loneliness drove me to seek something in my career and I ended up looking within, reflecting on life and craft and career. My writing deepened like the shades of green during Michigan summers and Florida winters. During this time my fiction improved because personal reflection helped me develop more rounded characters as well as the twists and turns that create engaging plot lines.

The next season was one in which I became focused on balancing a variety of teaching and writing. Long ago a Newbery medalist coached me and told me that I could take two paths in my writing career—focus and rise like a rocket, or scatter and spread my interests and climb slowly like a mere jet. I chose the latter only because variety is essential in my life. I became a freelance writer because I love language but also because I have a need to learn and share what I’ve learned with others. (“Teaching one reader at a time” has long been my motto.) I wanted a career in which I could thrive on a variety of projects and I often work on three books at various stages, plus a half-dozen shorter works, all at the same time. So, in this season I learned to better balance all the these demands plus those from family, friends, and so on. Life-coaching helped tremendously in this regard.

I recently embarked on a new season. In this season I am exploring creativity. How does it work? Why do I thrive on varied projects? What is it that I actually do when I get into that lovely flow of writing? Perhaps this is why I don’t mind having those decades behind me. The next is filled with exploring and creating. That’s exciting!

What about you? Have you ever thought about the seasons of your life? Where are you at as a writer and where do see yourself heading? Wherever it is, I wish you happy writing!

Subtle Seasons

It’s been more than a decade since I swapped peninsulas to move from Michigan to Florida. When I did, everyone told me, “You’ll miss the seasons. Florida only has two: hot and rainy or warm and dry.” They were right – and wrong.

They were right because I loved autumn with the crisp nights and sunny days, the bonfires and hay rides at the orchards, and the fresh apple cider from the local mills. I also loved the vivid colors of fall foliage; a weekend pastime was to drive Edward Hines from end to end to soak in the beauty. I missed autumn. I also missed winter–more accurately, the beauty of winter. It was the endless dirty piles of snow and ice from plowed parking and roads that I disliked. It was clearing the car in frigid temperatures that caused me to move away. And because spring stopped making all that bearable. I used to love spring and seeing the fresh light green of budding trees and tender grass sprinkled with the white and yellow and pink and purple of new spring flowers.

But they were wrong, too. When I settled in Florida, I felt the joy I felt for northern summers with their deepening and varied shades of green and their bursts of vibrant reds, oranges, and yellows. Day lilies and tiger lilies were a staple around my patio in Michigan. Though I couldn’t get them to grow here, I have fallen in love with the creamy white flowers and glossy green-black leaves of the Frangipani trees and the sprinkles of white, star-shaped fragrant jasmine flowers on hedge-like bushes. These plants herald summer and the coming rains. Our season to “suffer through,” just like the winters of Michigan.

Autumn emerges with vivid greens after all the summer rains. It is a subtle transition, one likely to be overlooked except by the very observant. Another herald is the noise of congested beaches and numerous cars, including more honking (something about southern drivers limits their use of horns, even in near-accident situations or car horns are usually northerners). The arrival of the Snow Birds is a true indicator of autumn when overnight travel time will double no matter how sort the distance.

The coming of winter is marked by the dropping of humidity and cool, zephyr-like breezes. Tension in the air also drops as locals give thanks for “paradise weather.” Leaves of the Ficus trees fall and walkways crunch with the hard brown leaves. For about three weeks we experience cool nights when sweaters are needed and sometimes frost advisories cause citrus grove owners to scramble to protect their delicate crops.

Spring arrives around March with the orange blossoms delivering their heady, sweet scent for miles on the breeze. The scent is citrus-y in the dewy mornings, but the sun-warmed fragrance in the afternoons reminds me of the lilacs I miss from my northern home.

So the seasons here are subtle just as the seasons of our lives creep up on us, yet they exist all the same. Someone tuned into her surroundings will notice the patterns emerge that transition one season to the next. And just as when I lived in the north, I look forward to the next season, the next stage in the progressing year, and my heart is content.

What transitions suggest season’s change where you live? Note those details for your next story or essay draft. Happy observing–and writing!