Nestling in cozy blankets October shrugs a cold shoulder Vibrant colors on display Enhance the grace of letting go Muddy paws after scarf-wrapped walks Blustery winds nip the nose, chase the chin Edible delights of pumpkin spice and apple pie Retreating beside the fire with a book, a drink, and you ©2021 Sue Santiago all rights reserved
I did this for me to protect my sanity when littles with legos and Thomas the Train tracks turned the house into chaos my mind craved discipline, tugged by a place unfamiliar. I did this for me and a story I wanted told. Shaping history into his story was a degree in itself. It's OK that it sits in the basement on a shelf in timeout. Three stories later I do this for me. It's a surprise to myself what word pictures and turn of tale fly from my fingers onto a clicking keyboard. Sometimes you'll catch me standing in this world, but living in another. I do this for me, but also for them, they're watching me chase my dreams for her, hoping the story can heal hurts for joy, childhood should sing of it for truth wrapped in love freckled with humor. Yet, it's OK that I do this for me, too. ©2021 Sue Santiago all rights reserved
As I sit here thinking about the passing of a man with a great legacy And the end of the month remembers the passing of a great man whose legacy I sit in and help define I wonder, What is the legacy I'll leave behind? They will not interrupt the broadcast when I pass, but I celebrate this quiet life of mine. The great man told me, slow down. Showed me, go where needed with a happy heart sit and listen forgive and focus on what's most important. The words I play with may mean something, to someone, someday but each today I can do little things that in the end matter most. I do not have the voice that can change the world, but I can help change someone's world a little bit with each today. When an unexpected text from an under-known friend tells me I'm easy to love, I think, perhaps I may be on my way to growing the legacy I never knew I always wanted. ©2021 Sue Santiago all rights reserved Inspired by today's passing of Colin Powell, which made me think about my father's passing later this month and topped off with a very kind and well-timed text.
I had a black grandfather not by blood, but in all the ways that mattered. From my infancy to his death bed his gentle soul left a heartprint on mine. I learned about unity seeing my black grandfather, born 1900, and my white grandfather, born 1910, - both having seen their share of the worst of this world - tend our vegetable garden then sit together on the porch and watch the garden grow. But this sweet treasure of my childhood doesn't mean I understand the Black Experience. I taught several years in a black school. Some of my students put me through the wringer my first year, but not all, not most. But some. And it became a special connection we laughed at together a year or two down the line. For some, but not all, not most. I could not encapsulate their world, not here, not ever, But their humor and humanity strength and pride sass and sweetness left their mark on my world. I likely learned more than I taught, but it doesn't mean I understand the Black Experience. Some of my closest friends have been black women. A lot of laughter and keeping things real came in equal measure in the hours spent talking in the classroom after hours walking laps, pushing strollers in the mall. We shared the highest celebrations life brought to our doorsteps, held each other close during the devastation of loss. Our times together shaped who I became as an adult. Though we journeyed so far together I still do not understand the Black Experience. Because I am white. White, white. Blond haired, blue eyed white. I am slow to speak. I watch and listen. I'm taking it in. I don't know my part. But I'm listening. I'm learning. I will bath my actions in kindness and my words in love. I will teach my children to do the same. Like my grandfathers, I'll tend this garden out of control before us, pull out the weeds fertilize the land and plant good fruit. And hopefully one day soon we too can sit together and watch this garden grow.
I have a 10 and 13 year old. They have two weeks off. I’ve got stuff to do. They don’t. In an effort to work smarter not harder, I tweaked this list to help keep my sanity at the start of winter break. Fix it to fit your family too. Here’s to helping our kids stay out of trouble. For the sake of their brains (and our composure) . . .
Absolutely relentless. As soon as the liftgate is open, these two jump in. I call them out so I can load the first suitcases. They jump back in. Call them out so I can add the cooler. They jump back in. And this pattern repeats as all of the linens, food, and forms of entertainment that are needed to open our camper for the season are loaded into the vehicle.
They don’t know where we’re going. In fact, the puppy has never been “to the camper,” but they are determined to not give up. No matter how much is squished in, they would find space. They’re part of the pack.
This was their solution.
Maybe I could use a little more of this doggedness applied to my writing. Life has a way of over-packing my time-trunk too. The first layer is normal responsibilities of existing. I jump right back in and get to writing. Then the hats start adding on – wife, mother, business owner, homemaker, small group leader, daughter, sister, property owner, on and on. With each of these hats comes responsibilities. But relentlessly, I keep jumping back into the car. I’m growing my dream. I’m writing. Until the point my time-trunk is overpacked. I look in the trunk-space of my energy, my brain-space, my heart-space, trying to find a spot to jump in and keep writing.
Admittedly, my doggedness wains. Writing, right now, is a luxury. I have absolutely no deadlines. No commitments. No editors. No agents. So doubt is quick to accuse and excuses are easy to make.
My daughter has been ill most of this year. Ill to the point I had to remove her from school and home-school once she was able. When your child is sick nothing else matters. Truly. I do not regret, not even an ounce, putting a pin in writing and many other things to care for her. But now that she’s doing better, will I be relentless?
In my list of hats I did not say Christian. I do not think it is a hat to wear. To put on and take off. It drives my every movement and thought, or at least that’s the direction I’m aiming. The fuel is my prayer time, personal devotion, opening up with close friends. In a recent Francis Chan video I listened to, he brought us to Jeremiah 1:5 where God says, I chose you before I formed you in the womb; I set you apart before you were born.
This means, before God made me, he knew the purposes he designed for me. He knew which “ingredients” to put in so that I may be able to accomplish those purposes. It’s so easy to doubt this “writing thing” when I think it’s just about me. When Moses told God he couldn’t speak and do the things God called him to do, God reminded him, Who made your mouth?
Perhaps the reason I don’t give up on writing, the reason it provides a contentment and satisfaction that nothing else does, is because it is one of those ingredients God decided to put in me before he formed me. I’ve had every reason to stop writing. But it calls to me, relentlessly. Time to stop doubting.
Psalm 37:5 says, Take delight in the Lord and He will give you your heart’s desires. Maybe our hearts desires were planted there, long ago, before they were a thought in our minds.
The thing about a faith journey is there’s a lot of maybes. When Jeremiah doubted himself, God told him, Do not say “I’m only a youth,” for you will go to everyone I send you to and speak whatever I tell you . Do not be afraid of anyone for I will be with you to deliver you. Jeremiah 1:7-8.
So, Sue, (and you too), do not say, I’m only an aspiring writer; I’m only a stay-home-mom; I’m only a . . . Do not be afraid to go after those heart desires that God probably put in there in the first place. Don’t doubt. Head in the direction of your dream. Relentlessly!
(By the way, the doggies made it to the camper too. We just had to use two cars.)
You know how we teach our kids to write a basic story summary using the somebody-wanted-but-so-then model? It holds up from picture books through grown up books. So when I hit a plot problem I applied the somebody…strategy.
I noticed quickly that I couldn’t complete this framework covering the expanse of the story from beginning to end. Since I knew there was a plot problem this didn’t surprise me much. So I ended up doing somebody. . . hops. I completed the framework for the opening sequence of this plot, knowing (hoping! expecting!) that each little hop would grow into a full plot.
After about 4 hops I hit the midpoint of the story where everything changes for my MC and her world starts to fall apart, so did this story line. I decided to ignore previously written scenes and tried to figure out what the next logical hop would be. From there I kept hopping until a new resolution showed itself, the timeline changed, character actions turned on their heads, and drama ensued in ways I hadn’t been able to piece together before.
At the end of it, I tried to apply the somebody-wanted-but-so-then-framework to the overall story, and you know what? It worked! It worked! It worked! It worked! (Insert happy dance!)
“Rediscover the child in you so that you may write for the child before you,” literary agent, Stephen Fraser, urged a room of writers at the recent Marvelous Midwest conference.
Just warning you, there will be no acting like adults here. These times are too desperate. It’s a matter of life and death. I love my characters too much to let them die from a deprived imagination. It may call for some rather awkward moments, but for the sake of the story, I must do what must be done.
Eight Ways to Push Down the Adult in You
1. Ever notice how children dress themselves when they are first given permission to pick out their clothes? They pick out the stuff they love best and makes them feel happy. Go to your closet and pick out something that makes you feel twirly or like you could take down Megatron on your own, or whatever mood you are trying to establish in your story.
2. Get out an art medium and paper: crayons, oil pastels, finger paints, etc. No oil paints. Those are far too adultish. Have at it, but don’t think. Play. See what pops into your head all on its own.
3. Laugh. What makes you laugh? What makes kids laugh? Surround yourself with it. My kids need to laugh every night before they can go to sleep. Bodily noises will always be funny. But what really gets them going is pretending, especially if it involves taking down their dad.
4. Get in trouble. You know those things that would bring your mom to say, “Don’t make me come over there!” or “If I have to tell you to stop . . .one more time!” Do those (at your own risk – not sure what kind of kid you were. 😉 )
5. Play with kids. If you’ve got your own it’s beneficial in so many ways. If you’ve got nieces and nephews offer to babysit. If you’re a teacher plan a fun day and enjoy it with the kids. No grading papers in the background! Just play. Let the kids lead. NO MULTI-TASKING! That’s an adult habit, not allowed here.
6. Play like you use to. Think back to when you were a tween. What did you enjoy doing when you weren’t feeling awkward? When you were free to be you and were having a blast doing it. What did you do? Go do it now! Slumber party? Bike ride? Build an ice cream sundae? Sneak attack your siblings with water balloons? A healthy or fierce round of uno? Pretend you were a spy on a secret mission? Make believe you were a vet? Police officer? astronaut? Go ahead. I won’t tell!
7. Dance. I don’t mean the kind of moves you tried at the club when you turned 21. Have you ever watched kids dance? They just get into it.
8. Build a fort. Bring your computer in there. With all that playing you’re ready to write. Why not do it in a fort!
Okay. Did you shake off all that thick adultish scabby stuff that blocks creativity? Good. Have fun playing with words.
Bonus: 10 Kid-favorite movies
I am pretending that I am retreating at a B&B as any smart writer would after another great SCBWI conference. She knows from experience she needs time to digest all those delicious morsels she filled and refilled her plate while at the all-you-can-eat-buffet of children’s literature.
In truth, this is being written between the becks and calls of a mom wearing the innumerable quantity of hats that moms wear. Nevertheless, I refuse to let these precious morsels fall to the floor to be devoured by dust bunnies. Instead, I will
Discern what are the most valuable take-aways to apply to my writing, my thinking, my view of the world, before they are a jumble of partial, fragmented, and distorted memories packaged into a file in my spaghetti bowl brain.
And a bunch o’picture books to boost the funny thanks to Linda Skeers
Not to mention meeting more kindred spirits in this tribe!
The only problem with the conference is not being able to split in two, really four, to be able to sample all the delicious entrees. Just wondering, how’s the development of Time Turners coming?
All of these food analogies remind me to answer the call of family life and get that dinner going. Cue hat switch. Where’s my chef’s hat??? Onward and forward!