Calling All Tweeners and Teens (MG/YA)

I’VE HAD AN AH-HA MOMENT AND CANNOT believe I hadn’t thought of it earlier.

Here I am blogging my little heart out with my personal musings, photography, art and information about my books, some of which might—just maybesome of the time—be of interest to my focus group (the middle- and high-school readers). Though the things I write about are always “clean”—wholesome and viewable by any age (I want to maintain my “G-rated” status), I must (much of the time) seem awfully boring to the middle grade and young adult readers.

That’s not my intent.

So, to rectify that, I am looking for young writers, ages 10-17, that might be interested in using my blog platform to show off their writing and artistic skills. I know you are out there. I’ve seen evidence of it! Some truly awesome writing and art by so many young people! Depending on the number of submissions received, I will post on Wednesdays, at least once a month—I only need four to five regulars to post weekly. Submitted work will remain anonymous (if you wish, use a pen name)—unless you choose to reveal your true identity to the readers, but either way … when submitting, I will need real (legal) name, age and a verifiable email address and parents phone number (you are under-age…I need permission to do this).

What qualifies? Things that kids can related to, connect with … here’s the requirements:

Submissions may be poetry, prose, artistic or photo-journalistic in nature, about:

Excerpts from a story or poem you are writing
•Photos, artwork or sketches that tells a story
•Short stories about problems you encountered and have—or are attempting to—overcome
•Short stories about awesome teachers/instructors/adults that have help you overcome an issue/obstacle
•Tell us why you like to read—and what type of books you like to read
•Tell us why writing or art is a passion—and what types of writing or art you do
•What are the passions in your life?
•Let us know what kinds of things are lifting you up or dragging you down

You could even give us a book review of your favorite/least favorite book/poem. Show ’em how it’s done right, without putting the author down. This is not a school book report, don’t worry. Why did you like/dislike it? What made you pick it up to read in the first place? Did the book cover catch your eye or a friend recommend it? Or did a teacher force you to read it and you discovered it wasn’t so bad?

Other types of submissions will be considered on an individual basis.

Submissions should be (I will consider exceptions to this rule):
•No longer than 800 words
•Use less than ten photos (JPEGs no larger than 10mb)
•Verbiage must be clean—that means, think and write about what you want to want to say without vulgarity. No swear words. It is possible. (Submissions will not be automatically rejected, but I may return for re-writes with suggestions.)
•Photos must not be vulgar—I know … that is in the eye of the beholder, but please consider that my site is pretty much G-rated and I do not want to violate my readers’ trust. I will have the final say—I may choose to use it with a cautionary note to readers if I feel it is appropriate to what you are trying to convey.

Pass this link on to others you think might be interested in participating. As soon as I get materials from a few of you, I’ll begin posting on Wednesdays—I’ll announce the first post the Friday before. Together, we can make things work.

Kids, Keeping Your Cool and Consequences

I WAS AT A RESTAURANT ON WEDNESDAY, sneaking in a nice meal—salmon, to be exact (one of my favorites). I was seated near two women with kids—one under five, the other probably under two. The older boy was amazingly good. I planned on telling them, but my nose was buried, scribbling notes on a napkin—forgot my electronic device, so resorted to the ol’ standbys … paper and pen—when they paid and left—insert pout. (It is my feeling that parents really need to hear that their kids’ behavior is appreciated.) The younger one was—appropriate to his age—a wiggly, giggly little fella in good spirits, but a wee bit fidgety. Mom kept him reigned in as best as she could, allowing for a natural flow of things, yet keeping him “relatively” quiet (except for a few squeals and his giggles) in her lap.

The couple seated in the booth in front of me did not look that comfortable with the situation, but continued to order their meal. One of them occasionally turned his head in their direction with some of the louder giggles and squeals. All I could do was smile. Though not quiet (it’s a sports bar, right…what’s quiet about that place?), I feel things were handled fairly well. There was no child running up and down aisles or disruptive screaming at any point. And when she was finished eating, she promptly took the kids out and away from the diners so they could finish their meals in peace.

All of this triggered fond memories of my “well-behaved” youngster. I also remember when she wasn’t (thankfully, not terribly often—and it was nipped in the bud quickly for the sake of everyone’s sanity). Like the time we were traveling with my mother-in-law, having dinner out at Andersen’s (of Split Pea fame) when our “perfect” child began acting out. I honestly don’t recall how old she was, but absolutely no more than 18 months old. I really don’t recall what she did, but I do remember saying—and regretting it almost immediately—that if she didn’t stop, she’d go to the car and not get anymore food or time in the restaurant (she loved eating out at restaurants). Well, she didn’t mind … so, reluctantly, I left my food … giving it one more longing glance, snatched the offender up explaining to her what was about to happen, excused myself from the table and went to the car. To say she was unhappy was an understatement.

We sat in the car (with her in her car seat) until she calmed down. Once calmed, I gave her one of her “travel” boxes, filled with age-appropriate things to keep her occupied (I found these boxes to be lifesavers—I used old lunchboxes, filled them with crayons, paper, small games and puzzles—things she loved to play with, etc and made sure I had a number of them in the car so I could switch out the boxes when it was a long trip). In hindsight, I should have had it in the restaurant to keep her busy, though it might not have helped completely in this case. After a while, my husband came to trade places so I could go finish my cold dinner. My MIL and I finished dinner, I paid the bill and we went out to the car to find our little Precious fast asleep. Too much excitement, later than usual dinner, plus nothing to keep her occupied was my undoing and the cause of her meltdown.

She adored restaurants. Being removed from an activity she loved was memorable. She never acted up in a restaurant again. But, that’s not to say problems did not arise elsewhere. I had to leave groceries at stores a couple of times when she acted out. Back to the car, explaining why we were not shopping anymore finally got her to stop. And then there was the church service I had to exit quickly. She learned fast. So did I. With each acting out and the consequences that followed, she learned to be a better person in public and I learned to not put her into situations that might cause a meltdown … and to be on the look-out for symptoms to nip them in the bud to avoid the situation altogether. And to always have something to keep her active little hands and mind occupied. And to be willing to let her squirm a little (age appropriate squiggles) quietly.

She learned not to handle things as we walked down aisles in stores by folding her hands when I told her not to touch things, keeping temptations at bay. This is one where I felt like I’d triumphed magnificently (yes! score one for mom!!) I know I was blessed with a very “easy” child, so these tactics may not work with all kids. Nevertheless, it is a good place to start.

Please do not underestimate the intelligence of that little Imp—I mean, Angel—in front of you. Kids are much smarter than parents realize. They learn from their mistakes (very early on)—and their parents’ mistakes … sometimes capitalizing on them (even my daughter has been guilty of that—especially when she reached her teen years).

The one thing I’ve learned (well, I learned oodles of things … mostly through trial and error, but this is one of the more important ones) is that consistency is The Key: if you say something is going to happen as a consequence (no matter what their age), you must follow through—no matter how inconvenient it will be for you. Maybe groceries won’t be purchased. Dinner will not happen as planned. Or, you get stuck with the kid(s) longer and/or sooner than you anticipated. Consistency—it is the key.

You will learn to choose your words. Yup, you will also learn to control anger, because when angry, you say things you’ll later regret, especially if you will have to actually follow-up with said threat. You will learn that consequences should be age appropriate or they are meaningless.

And your child will learn you mean what you say. If they continue to act out, they know the consequences will happen as stated. Whether they choose to obey or continue to disobey, it’s their choice. Choices they must make to grow.

All you need to do is to stay consistent. Maybe keep your cool (yes, definitely keep your cool) … and of course, have fun with your child. Enjoy them, love them, teach them right from wrong … be one of those parents that others come up to and thank for having such beautiful, loving children.

You are their world. Let it be a magnificent, stable world for them to explore and grow. (stepping off my soap box now…)

Have a blessed week.


Taxes and Death

“IN THIS WORLD NOTHING CAN be said to be certain, except death and taxes” was written by Benjamin Franklin in 1789. And before that, in 1726, Daniel Defoe wrote “Things as certain as death and taxes, can be more firmly believ’d”.

I actually think I like Defoe’s version better. It takes a much broader view of life, using death and taxes as the balancing mechanism. Franklin twisted the phrase to state that death and taxes are the only things that are certain.

These two things, basically “carved in stone” must be dealt with—in the case of taxes, with every purchase Uncle Sam takes his share and more precisely every year we must make an accounting—to pay even more or be given back what is rightfully ours. That’s what I’m dealing with right now. Taxes. Shudder. The clock is ticking and here I am writing a blog instead of working on my yet-to-be-complete tax return. Um, can we say “Procrastinator”? Yup (I’ve written about this before—insert grin). I’ve heard another word for it: Parkinson’s Law. It’s the adage that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”. April 15th isn’t here yet, so …

Well, maybe it’s not quite accurate for my “problem”. I’d rather be doing anything else rather than sifting through all of my receipts, crunching numbers (I am dyslexic and numbers are not my thing—at all!) … I can honestly say that I hate this time of year. Really hate it. Can’t I just wave a wand and have some magical fairy come in and do the sorting and posting for me? There must be one of those floating around, eager to do my bidding, right?

Every year at this time, I promise myself I’ll be more organized so it won’t be such a painful task. But I’m already a quarter into the year and look back at the pile of receipts I’d have to organize and shrug it off … “later”. And later never happens. Another year passes and I’m back to that same spot, promising myself next year will be different. Well, maybe.

So, I’ve procrastinated long enough. My accountant is waiting patiently for my pile of numbers and receipts, and the sand in the hour-glass is nearly gone, so I guess … I must move to the analytical side of my head (oh, so small … kinda cramped in here!) and get the task done.

I certainly hope you are doing better at this than I am. And for those of you just beginning to take on this daunting annual task—be smart. Keep good records, file early and stress less.

May your April 15th be sweet.


Good Intentions and Detours

A WRITER FRIEND OF MINE POSTED on FB recently—something about procrastination—that she normally doesn’t and cannot understand the reasons for those that do.

As a confirmed procrastinator, I—perhaps too proudly—responded with my affirmation and preceded to explain why it happens with me.

And that got me to thinking—always…I repeat, always a dangerous thing 😉

My life is filled. Filled with lists of things to do, places to go, things to see, people to talk with, books to read (not necessarily in that order) … so much stuff. My intention is to get it all done. But, I find it seldom works out the way I plan. Life happens. Maybe, for lack of a better word, doldrums sets in, or pain happens or things explode (figuratively, of course) from out of nowhere. Or, I simply get lazy. Yes, I said lazy.

Hmmph. Not being accountable to anyone but God can and does make me lazy sometimes. It shouldn’t, but it does. Free will can definitely have it’s bad side. I can see Him staring down at me, slowly shaking his head when I choose to chill rather than be doing something—anything—on that long list of mine. My excuse—and yes, it is an excuse (even if it is legitimate)—is my pain. And/or fatigue. Once upon a time I’d just “do it” anyway. The heck with it—”…till you drop” is the way I used to go. But the level of pain and fatigue I’m willing to live with is beginning to be my decision maker. The big question is, should it be??

So, with these ideas fresh in my mind, I set out to knock out one or two of my “to do” items on my ever-growing list. Mind you, I was not looking at priorities, because if that was the case, I’d be working inside on my taxes. I wanted to be outside. It was beautiful. Not too hot, not too cold. “Just right”, as Goldilocks would say.

At first, my body resisted the idea of getting outside to weed. I couldn’t find the hula-hoe (this is an amazing little device—every gardener should have one!) … had to do some serious searching and wondered if it was worth it. Yes. But, I think I unconsciously chose the closest thing that needed weeding—just to get it done. It also happened to be one of the hardest bits of dirt around the yard. Filled with base rock (can you say cement??) I’m laughing now, but at the time … oh, the moaning and groaning (insert huge sweaty grin). It didn’t take too long—perhaps ten to fifteen minutes—of hard labor. It was just a tiny patch, under the eaves along the kitchen wall. Maybe a foot wide and twenty feet long. I drug myself back into the house to have a drink of tea and rested. Serious rest. Complaining all the while to myself at how out of shape I was. Panting, shaking from such little work. Honestly …

But, once I was feeling better, I cautiously went back out and looked at what I’d accomplished. Not bad. I felt good about it. So good that I went to work on weeding a much larger area out by the driveway. Last year I’d planned on creating a parking pad near the front drive’s gate … with a retaining wall, a plant-arbored gate … didn’t happen. I think I may actually get it done this year (insert grin)—yep, it will get done. I’m sure. When I finished the area, I was tired and sore, but felt very good about what I’d accomplished. It is nice to see the results of hard work.

I rewarded myself with lunch (and a yummy dessert—I’d burned enough calories to enjoy it without feeling guilty) and pondered what else I could do. The tax return—piles of receipts waiting to be sorted and recorded—was still waiting for me, quietly tapping me on the shoulder. I vetoed it. The mind-numbing number crunching would have to wait for another day. I went back out and did a bit more weeding—well, raking with a sort of thatcher rake (not sure what it’s real name is)—in the patio/”lawn” area. Not quite as much enthusiasm as before, but I was definitely getting excited at all of the “improvements” I was seeing. Did I mention I have a tendency of going overboard. I was going to do more, but my energy levels were diminishing fast.

And, I was also starting to feel the consequences of so much work. Not muscle pain from unused muscles—I keep myself busy enough so that is not much of an issue—but rather, flat-out fatigue … and my arthritis rearing it’s ugly head. This is the reason I usually try to reign in how much I do and when I do it. The problem is, when I’m really excited about what I’m accomplishing, that kinda goes out the window.

The same “bout of excitement” happened the Saturday Open Ground Studios was up for an award—while other members helped kids/adults paint and print things, I spent the whole day standing (a no-no) or bent over (a really bad no-no) working with kids and adults making accordion books. We all had a blast making our presence known and our director, Denese—and Open Ground Studios—won … and it took three days for me to recover from the enthusiasm. So worth every bit of the pain!

Then, yesterday I completely ignored everything on my to-do list—especially the piles of tax receipts—and spent a lovely late afternoon and evening with a friend. That’s important. I don’t have it on the to-do list, but it is equally important to spend time with friends. A delightful and necessary detour in my busy life. We had a grand time … dinner at the Fishwife Restaurant in Pacific Grove, then we braved blustery, chilly—no, rephrase that—icy cold weather as we climbed over rocks and across sand to get the perfect pictures of a moonrise, crashing waves and finally, a sunset (and I will reward you with a few shots taken yesterday). They are not perfect, as I still have not had the camera cleaned (insert huge frown).

Sunset at Asilomar

One of several view of a sunset along the coast of Pacific Grove

Rocky Vantage of Sunset

Playing with angles, ragged rock in foreground

Moonrise at Asilomar

Playing with surroundings to capture the moonrise

Moonrise at Asilomar2

More playing with imagery

Waiting for Sunset at Asilomar

Blustery weather as we waited for the sun to set along the coast

Moonrise and Chain Fence

Love capturing the landscape surrounding a moonrise or sunset

Procrastination has presented me with a mile long (and then some) list of things to do, in no order particular of priority or preference. I do an internal check of my energy/pain levels and decide from there. I used to get very frustrated at how much I could not accomplish. Now, I just go with the flow. Things will get done—eventually. And I’m happy when they do. No stressing now. That’s all that matters for me. In any case, I’m not sure I’d defend procrastination for others, but I do see that it has it’s place—at least in my life—if one doesn’t fret about the list that grows. And grows.

What’s on your procrastination list? And do you fret about it or take my philosophy?

May your days be filled with a list of blessings, peppered within your “to-do” list.