Tag Archive for freedom

Honoring Service

flag.4Dad carefully unrolled the recently acquired panoramic photos of his and his brother’s graduations from basic training during World War II. A tiny arrow was placed above both of their heads on the respective photos to identify them from the near hundred men.

“That’s Bo?” I asked with quiet respect. “I don’t know that I’ve seen any pictures of him.”

My 84-year old father nodded in a mixture of pride and sadness.

As he shared stories, Dad handed me a small, tattered brown folder. Inside were personal and official letters. I removed a faded telegram.

“…Private Clarence Martin Smith, Jr will be accompanied by Private. . .to the funeral home in Thomasville to arrive on December Two Four. . .”   The strict language marched as formal as a precision military formation, yet devoid of emotion.

Most of my life I’ve known Bo got an infection from a wisdom tooth extraction on base. On the transport ship to Europe, he reported ill to the infirmary on a morning before Thanksgiving, was diagnosed with spinal meningitis, and died before the next sunrise as the ship churned across the Atlantic. The family waited over a month for the return of his body. He was buried on Christmas day.

I gently blew open another envelope’s ragged end and retrieved the fragile paper inside. Seeing Bo’s handwriting and reading his words for the first time was like hearing his voice. Bo plainly wrote to his Momma about where he was, what he was doing, and how much he loved her and his family. There was also one page written just to Dad encouraging him to get a particular piece of farm equipment running and an added mention about their sweethearts. I asked Dad some questions, some of which he couldn’t remember the answers, some he simply couldn’t muster the words.

Gently folding and returning the letter to its resting place, I felt a rush of sadness—reading Bo’s words and holding his letter in my hand as I stared at his benevolent, timid expression in the photo was like meeting him and burying him in the same moment.

As I looked into Dad’s eyes full of respect for these precious artifacts, for what was and for what might have been, my heart began to grasp the depth of his loss. Through the tremble in his voice as he bravely fought to hold off the flood he’d kept in check for so many decades, I fought alongside him as he allowed me to be present with his love and loss.

It’s not a duty, but a freedom to choose to honor all who serve. With Dad, I am also grateful to witness and benefit from his choice to live every moment of his life in service to God, country, and family. He inspires me to strive to higher service in my own.

Teen Writer Success: Curtained Confidence

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While conducting a writing workshop for teens, I encountered a 14-year old boy who didn’t interact in discussions or make eye contact.  His jet black hair covered his face Emo-style leaving only piercings and tattoos visible.

teen writers 4After giving instruction followed by an exercise, I walked the room for individual questions.  The boy was silent, sitting like a statue with black-nailed hands in his lap.  A notebook was perched atop the desk opened to a blank page harboring a lonesome, loitering pen.

Kneeling next to him, I asked him about his writing experience.  His head upturned toward me, and I imagined he was peering through the thick locks that hung over his face like a sheepdog’s.

Quiet and well mannered, he peeped, “I like to write, but I’m a bad writer.”

“Do you ever write just for yourself?” I asked.

He shook his head.

I instructed him to change his thinking, so he could exercise his desire to write and become a good one.  “Write just for you right now.”

teen writer 5The mop of locks slowly swayed from side to side as he turned away.  I thought of how some teacher, some parent or sibling, even some friend – a saboteur of his creativity and expression – had not liked what he wrote for some reason, then put him down, teased him, maybe lowered his grade.  He believed this person was right and himself to be very, very wrong.  Unrepairable.

I picked up his pen, handed it to him, then tapped the paper and said, “Please, can you give it a try?”  He tilted his head down, and the screen of hair fell upon the page like a final curtain closing on a poorly reviewed production.

When I came around a few moments later, I asked how it was going.  Without saying a word, he handed me the notebook.  On it was scrawled, “I want to write more.”  He wasn’t ready to say he was a good writer, but with the saboteur hammering on the walls inside his mop-topped head, he’d made incredible progress.  With five words, he showed he was willing to face his fear and express his thoughts in writing.

“That’s great.  You’re moving forward.  Keep writing.”

With barely detectable fervor, his head bobbed and the curtain shimmied like a musician playing a slow jam.   His arm was moving across and down the page.  I wondered if he was drawing, but never got a chance to look inside the curtain until a magic moment when it lifted as his head came up to face me.  There on the page were words, row after row of words from a teen experiencing freedom.

I hoped he could see my encouraging smile.

Here’s another story about Teen Writer Success.

*Academic Coaching available by appointment

Disclaimer —  It’s true: writers write what they know, and, yes, I write from my experiences.  However, all characters and situations in my stories are fictitious fusions, creative amalgamations.  Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, or real interactions with me are purely coincidental.

Crazy-Busy Writer

When the young writer didn’t communicate in his usual combination of valley-speak and text-speak, I knew something was up.

“I’m crazy-busy,” he spouted, jittery as an overly caffeinated Chihuahua.

crazy.4 I paused to inhale, maybe have a thought, so he anxiously interrupted to cement his point.

“Like, OMG, cray-cray busy!”

Oh, NOW I get it!

Sure, times seem fast, and we get busy, but does it make us crazy? Has the world gone mad, or are there just so many more options to pull our focus: smartphones, iPads, apps, games, social sites, blogs, internet radio, as well as televisions in restaurants, cars and, well, everywhere while at the same time we have tiny TV-computers in the palms of our hands?

Nowadays, it’s hard to get a word in edgewise.  Writers, like everyone else, are not immune to Crazy-Busy Syndrome.

To sit at my home studio desk and fully concentrate on my own or a client’s writing, I have to:

  • declare a strong intention (involving gigantic musty books, fire, and a magic wand a la Dumbledore)
  • turn off my iPhone (a crime in some states)
  • darken the computer screen and disengage audio alerts (can’t shut it down, I might need it)
  • hope the UPS delivery doesn’t arrive (shopping is SO easy these days)
  • ignore the cats screaming for their evening meal at high noon, even with abundant dry food in their bowl (when will they make apps for cats?)

Without disengagement, the ‘ping’ of a text message, the appearance of a new email’s little golden envelope icon, or “Meow!  Meow!”  and WHAM!  Cray-Cray!  Where did my focus and time go?

A retired professional I know can’t even write in her own home as she’s pulled by her past students, her sorority planning committees, her church friends, as well as her neighbors.  The epitome of graciousness, she would never ignore a doorbell, a phone call or anyone reaching out.

“I need to hide, and I mean in another country, but that takes too long.”

crazy.3 - CopySince she is years into retirement from an institution with offices available, I suggested she call a work friend and set up a temporary space as most of the current staff doesn’t know her.  Also, I mentioned, there are rooms at public libraries.  I could tell that the idea of getting out of the house where she lives alone to have some privacy seemed absurd or, in today’s terms, crazy.

The world keeps spinning, and ideas keep coming and going, so when do you find the time to write?  And where do you take the time?  Writers have to claim the moments and protect the space to have sanity, peace and the opportunity to write.

Disclaimer — It’s true: writers write what they know, and, yes, I write from my experiences.  However, all characters and situations in my stories are fictitious fusions, creative amalgamations.  Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, or real interactions with me are purely coincidental.

Revolutionary Revision


All the writing for his book was on one flash drive.

Bending to the tyranny of fear that harm might come to the computer – a theft, a lightning strike – Bob only wrote on the flash drive, placing it in different spots throughout the house to further protect his work.  Eventually, he couldn’t find it.  His exhaustive searches dwindled before he struggled toward acceptance.

“I know what I said about just sitting down and starting over, but how is it even possible to rewrite something that you wrote from your heart and soul? All I am doing now is listing facts on this chapter I’d almost finished. I came across a few handwritten notes and sketchy opening pages, but I just can’t seem to put meat on these scattered bones.”  The smoke of dismay clouded the light in the room.  “Right now, I am not a happy camper.”

Like the colonists who fought for the right to build a free country for its citizens, one that’s been adapting for 237 years, writers constantly carry on a process of creating and recreating.  Revision IS writing, and when we have something, anything, on paper, we have a place to start.  However, Bob, with no draft to revise, had a choice to survey scattered notes, comb his memory and reexamine his thoughts to spark a creative revolution.

So many things can happen to stymie a writer’s progress.  Losing your work is a harsh one, yes, but it is possible to completely rewrite a lost piece from scratch.  Make peace with the fact that the writing is gone.  Feel the sadness, then replace it with gratitude that you still know the story and have the ability to write it again.  Celebrate your right to creative independence as you prepare to represent your story anew.

Even if all you can get down are the bones, these basics are a start at structure to hang specifics on.  Question what you have to find details to fill in the framework, and continue writing.

If you have a draft with notes, yet aren’t a happy camper, pitch your tent somewhere else.  Switch gears to another chapter, or work on a completely different story.  Let the frustrating one rest, and seek a different view.  Maybe a new campsite will have more sun and warmer inspiration.

Sometimes you realize a draft isn’t going anywhere.  Working within it becomes more of a struggle than simply starting fresh on a clean page.  Be grateful the unusable draft did its work by clearing your mind.  Go with your gut. Move on, and begin again.

Revere your process, and volunteer to re-enlist in your project.  A setback doesn’t mean the cause isn’t winnable.  Adaptability is a creative act.  Stand up to your issues, then express your freedom to write.

Disclaimer: It’s true; writers write what they know, and, yes, I write from my experiences.  However, all characters and situations in my stories are fictitious fusions, creative amalgamations.  Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, or real interactions with me are purely coincidental.