My graduate

My great-nephew is graduating from high school. This is a young man who struggled in school when he was younger. In fact I home schooled him for his third grade year because the school he was attending had no resources to tutor him. So I quit work and spent the year bringing his math skills up to the appropriate level.  This was a child who could read at a fourth grade level but couldn’t add.

I was not going to let him fail and I was the one who could help him. After researching into what his math block might be I found that as we are starting to learn our brains break the concept of numbers into the visual-the number we see and the conceptual-what that number is in quantity. For example the number 3 is visual. The number III is conceptual. But they are equivalent. He had a disconnect between these. In his mind 1+3 and 3+1 required separate calculations. They were independent of each other. This was a young person who required the old-fashioned memorization process.

Once this process was put into place using math flash cards he started making progress. By the time our year was complete he could add, subtract and had started to learn multiplication. He could tell time and make change.

The most amazing thing was I could reward his hard work with history and literature. This little fella loved history. We learned about all fifty states by the history of each state.

I also helped him become a student. I tried to impress on him that the teacher was there for all of the students but it was difficult for a teacher to work individually with their students and he needed to make sure the teacher knew when he needed help. We worked out the way for him to ask for help and what to expect in a public school classroom of 25-30 students. He did well one-on-one but was shy in expressing himself in the classroom.

He is graduating from high school and my heart is happy.

Congrats Kristopher.

-N

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Writing research

I have been spending lots of time doing research on how to improve my writing . Topics have included agents/editors, Beta readers, query letters, improving plot lines and POV, and self-publishing. The more I search the more I realize how much I don’t know. I just know I like to write.

I have two notebooks with plots for two stories. Do most people work on two stories at the same time?

I have also been reading a lot more. My Kindle has been working overtime.

I have so many questions about being a published author. Is the best route getting an editor or agent first and then breaking into that area or going the route of self-publishing to get my work out there and hope for the attention of a publisher? I have two complete manuscripts, and the genre seems to be very popular but in looking at agents accepting queries my genre isn’t on their lists. What does this tell me?

The two stories I have in process right now are different from the two other works. Does this say I’m changing or growing in my interests? I know that I read the books I like to write.

Blogging is turning into a very fun outlet for me. I see it as a side of me growing directly from the messy thoughts rushing around in my brain that have nothing to do with the fiction competing for my attention. I can compartmentalize them both because I know where they come from. My imagination finds a home in both. I will continue to tease them out and hope there will be a place for them in the literary world.

-N

Travel, it’s good for you

One of my favorite programs is Rick Steves travel programs. His experiences and the way he gets involved with locals is right up my alley. My father was in the Air Force and we were fortunate to be able to travel to Japan and the Philippines. My husband and I have also visited Mexico, Canada, the Virgin Islands and Lesser Antilles. I love to go places I have never been before.

One of the things we do when we travel in the US is to take along our National Parks Passport.  It is very cool and has introduced is to sites we would never have tried or in some cases even known about. It is cool because you visit one of the places-a national park, monument, historic site, etc., listed in the passport. At the visitor center you will find a station where you can get a dated endorsement stamp for that location and a special sticker for your passport. It cracks me up to see little humans clutching their books and racing each other to the station. I think I would be a great host for a TV program featuring the passport program. Just saying.

When I travel one of the best things to do is find a local and make friends and then you find out the really great places to have the best food and drinks, the place to mingle with the people who live there and know what the travel people don’t.  You end up having the most amazing and rewarding experience. Off the beaten path is the way to go.

Another important aspect to going local is you begin to understand the differences in culture and perspective and you can reveal yourself as well. Communication is accomplished without prejudice and judgment. Just how it should be.

We are humans, and underneath the color of our skin we are the same. No debate, no question and no argument. We are made the same with the color of our skin and shape of our eyes is based on where our ancestors came from.

For several years I worked at the University of Arizona in the athletic department. I made friends with so many athletes and it was so fun to understand them as they opened up to me. One of the African American athletes was an especially good friend. I saw him nearly everyday. We would laugh and share and we hugged when they won or lost. Once he was a passenger on a motorcycle when he brushed his leg against the muffler. He had a nasty burn that took a while to heal. At one point the scab was nearly off and the skin underneath was whiter than mine had ever been. I laughed and told him he was a latent white person! Gosh we laughed about that. When I heard many years later he had died from diabetes complications my heart broke.

I guess what I am trying to say is everything is skin deep. That is as deep as our differences should ever go.

Traveling is a great way to expose yourself to the myriad of ways we humans are the same. Our differences are because of what we are taught. There is a song in the musical “South Pacific” which says it better than I every could.

YOU’VE GOT TO BE CAREFULLY TAUGHT by Rodgers and Hamerstein

You’ve got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You’ve got to be taught
From year to year,
It’s got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

-N

Workout angst

I was at the gym this morning, doing my treadmill duty with a new book on my Kindle ready to start reading. The treadmill started, I got to speed and increased the incline. I was starting to cruise. The book is a new genre for me so I was trying to concentrate and get into it. So far so good.

Then he showed up.

Ok, you know the sting about personal space invasion. There is an unspoken protocol in the gym just like everywhere else. Leave a space. If there are six unoccupied seats leave a seat open between people. Same at the gym. Don’t take a treadmill or other piece of equipment right next to someone unless there is no option. There were at least fifteen empty treadmills and he took the one right next to me! He had a friend with him who took the one on the other side of him.

Alright, just keep reading.

Then he started talking to his friend, loudly. Comments on the programs on the overhead TV’s, talking about his expected workout and other crap. It totally invaded my brain. I was trying to focus, but this guy’s loud commentary was making me nuts. I was ready to stop my workout and leave. Then his friend said “Quit talking.”

I love her!!!

Book back into focus, I pounded out my time sweating and happy.

Humans.

-N

What a feeling

I just finished my edits on my manuscript. I had several scenes to rewrite and after completing those they flowed well and the scenes had much more power and added to the story. I had held off writing one chapter since it was very important to the development of the characters and plot line.

The feeling I had once all of it was done was great. I wandered around the house saying out loud “I finished!!” Yet it isn’t really finished. I know need to have some objective critiques done before I feel it is actually done. But right now this first step is made. As I looked it over, stopping in different places to read and absorb what I have written I felt good about it.

Turning it over to someone else to critically pick it apart is a bit of a troublesome thought. Of course I think it is what I want it to be yet I know I am not objective. My biggest concern is the POV. These are still my words and I know these characters as if they are real people. To me they are. I have had some help from my husband. He is an avid reader and his male perspective is valuable. It was also my first step in having another person look at a work I consider a part of me.

I guess my feelings are pretty common and I know I want to share it with readers. The time will come when I give up the words to the world and wait to see what others think. In the mean time I will continue to push it through all the steps to make it the best work it can be.

-N

Morning

I’m sitting on my back deck drinking my French roast coffee with stevia and cream surrounded by birds chatting, the occasional mosquito and barking dog, wondering what to write.

I live in the desert but you wouldn’t necessarily know that by the look of my yard. At least the tame part of it. My house sits on an acre near the Santa Catalina mountains. We are a little higher in elevation than Tucson and because of our proximity to the mountains we always have a bit of a breeze. It keeps us a few degrees cooler than the city.

Half of the acre where the house sits is surrounded by grass, trees, honeysuckle vines and roses. It doesn’t look like the Sonoran desert and I am glad of that. Most people say the desert is beautiful. I say it is brown, dry and full of things that stick you, bite you and suck the fluid from your body. I’ve lived here for too many years.

To me the desert is the best during monsoon season. When it is wet and plants that hide until the rains come make it look welcoming. When it is hot and dry even the mountains seem to shrink from the sun and look drab, but when the rains come they seem to swell and appear lush and dark. I’ve pointed this out to others and they can see what I mean. It’s almost like they are waiting to suck up the moisture.

Happy, that’s how they seem.

It is like humans. When we are lacking the support, love and fellowship of others we flounder. Our minds are so wrapped up in what we are lacking it is hard to feel good about ourselves. We know something is missing. I see children who need to feel cherished and their hearts are thirsty for acceptance and love. Sometimes they start seeking this outside of the home, many times making this worse and their souls start to dry out.

Just like my plants, people look happy when they are nourished. My plants give back by providing cool shade or soothing color. My herbs, fruits and vegetables provide me with the nourishment I require. I take care of them and they take care of me. Isn’t this what we need to do for each other as humans? It is the continuity and connection of all life God has placed on this little planet in the middle of an massive galaxy and an unimaginably immense universe.

I am but a speck on this earth, but the birds I feed and the plants I water depend on me. Much the same as the humans in my life need my love and encouragement. The true desert plants and creatures don’t need me to care for them, they wouldn’t miss me if I were gone. They belong here-that is the plan. The ones I placed here for my comfort require my attention and nurturing. If I go away the desert will continue as it always has. My place as a steward of the others requires me to place them in the care of another should I leave. It is my responsibility to them.

It is the same with the people in my life. I make sure they have what they need to continue wherever they are and they give back by flourishing where they are planted. I have two children who have grown into balanced, loving individuals who are pursuing their goals and making good lives for themselves. They give back to me with their success and happiness.

Who do you need to cherish? Who needs to nourish you?

-N