Persistence

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This little guy showed up outside my office window yesterday morning. Perfect timing for Mother Nature to remind me that persistence is the key to achieving your goals.

You see, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to having a somewhat hard to shake case of the blues, lately. Last week was spring break for my school district. A week I look forward to for the simple fact that eight hours of my day can be spent on writing. I look forward to days off for precisely this purpose. I had a list of accomplishments I’d hoped to achieve by the waning hours of Sunday evening. Unfortunately, life had other plans, and I have very few check marks on my To-Do list.

I’ve been fighting some weird illness for over a week now. Nothing major, mind you. Just cough, fatigue, random bouts of light-headedness… You get the picture. It started the Thursday before break and in spite of the antibiotic I’ve been on ever since, I’m still not my normal productive self. And the fact is, it’s wearing on me.

An entire week I could have spent polishing my manuscript, finalizing plot lines, and beefing up characters and conflict was instead spent in a ridiculous state of frustration because my body couldn’t keep up with the whims of my mind. It’s been a fruitless week.

But as I reflect on the past week, and watch my wood-pecking friend as he drills mercilessly through hardened bark to get whatever juicy morsel is hiding inside, I’m reminded of something important. Those extra blessed days of no school tossed in here and there are not what will make or break my future writing career. It is how I handle myself around that day job that makes the difference. My mystery illness will eventually dissipate and life will again revolve around school day schedules, homework, lesson planning, and trips to my daughter’s riding lesson barn. And I’ll find a way to make it work.

On Monday, I will trek back to school. I will do my best to leap feet first into my school time routine. My alarm will ring at 3:00 AM and I will slog downstairs to my coffee and computer. I will plunk out as much coherent text as I possible in those early morning hours of solitude. (I don’t even think my feathered friend gets a start that early.)

Perhaps that was what I was missing over the course of the past week. That element of satisfaction that comes from those early mornings spent at my computer. As I wipe the sleep from my eyes each morning, I know that what I’m doing is worth it. I know that someday not long from now I will be thankful for the ability to force my eyelids open at such an hour. I will be thankful for the persistence it takes to do that every morning. And I won’t beat myself up for those random days off that end fruitlessly.

I’ll just focus ahead and keep writing.

What do you do to shake off the blues?

 

A Gentle Reminder

Teachers work hard.

No matter how you feel about the profession or those in it, one thing is for certain. Good teachers put in many hours and go above and beyond to make the lives of their students more memorable. None of us went into the profession hoping to satisfy our state department of education (although it has become a necessary evil). We chose this profession for one reason, and one reason only… to enrich the lives of students.

The one downfall to this, however, is that we rarely get to see the impact we’ve had on their lives. Students get older, move on to the next grade, until eventually, we are but a speck in their memory. Hopefully, a speck they remember fondly, but still… you get the point.

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of experiencing one of those rare moments of gratification. I was mentioned in the acknowledgments of a student’s novel.

“The last person I would like to thank is Mrs. Anthony. She brought NaNoWriMo to [our] school.”

-Joshua, 4th Grade Student at London Elementary School

It’s nothing more than a blurb, but I can’t tell you how warm and fuzzy that kind of thing makes me feel. That one line makes all the extra effort worthwhile. And since today I’ll be opening up sign ups at our school for Camp NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), it seems my young friend had perfect timing.

Thanks, Joshua, for proving that what we do makes a difference. You rock, my friend! And remember…

A_Mary

Spring Renewal

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Starting over – it’s not easy, but the season of Spring exudes it. Flowers poke their heads above the warming earth and trees begin to bud and leaf. What better season, then, to make a metamorphosis of my own?

I will graduate from Spalding University’s Master of Fine Arts in Writing program on June 4th. It’s been a long journey that has spanned four countries and two continents. It has been the impetus for new friendships with wonderful, imaginative people, and an excuse to travel to places I’d never under normal circumstances get to go. And although it proved arduous at times, and will likely bankrupt me as I spend the rest of my days paying back all those student loans, it is a decision I’d make all over again.

A year ago, in the midst of writing my extended critical essay, I was ready to be done. I was tired of the grind that five packets a semester entailed. Tired of critiquing books by other authors when all I wanted to do was write my own. But now that the time has arrived, now that I’ve spent the last several months immersed in my own fiction, spit shining my creative thesis, I’m having a hard time letting go.

I can’t help but ask the question, “What happens now?”

Thanks to the poignant words of my mentor in our final conference, I think I can begin to answer that question.

This is not the end. This is just the beginning.

This is the time to plan, the time to give voice and merit to the goals I’ve set for myself. It’s time to stop calling this vision I have a dream, and begin calling it what it is…a professional goal. One that I’ve spent the last four years dedicated to achieving, and one that has become even more attainable by earning this degree.

This is my spring renewal… my metamorphosis from dreamer to achiever. My chance to put what I’ve learned into action, not for the purposes of the next packet, but for myself. Each word, sentence, and scene that I write will bring me one step closer to the goals I’ve set for myself. This spring, it’s time to bloom.

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bravery.

Bravery is something I’ve been giving a lot of thought to lately, and this blogger has hit the nail on the head. Kudos, YoungandTwenty! If only I were still young and twenty but with the perspective I have today. 🙂

The Fine Line Between Fear and Success

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When I was about eleven or twelve I took a horse named Applejack in 4H. He was a beautiful sorrel American Quarter Horse gelding who was all of five years old. For those of you who may know anything about horses, a five year old horse is probably not the best choice for a very green rider, and that is what I was… green with a capital G.

I cleaned up in Showmanship classes, but when it came to time ride him, it was a completely different story. The worst fall happened at The Madison County Fairgrounds. He bolted (who knows why) and I lost control, falling to the ground just before he ran under a guy-wire that sliced the saddle horn in two. I don’t remember the fall, but I often wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t landed head first on a strip of pavement. Would the wire have sliced through me, too? I was hospitalized with a concussion.

The next fall I remember also happened at the fairgrounds, although this time I was in the arena with a bunch of other kids, just trying to have a good time. Again, Applejack spooked and took off, bouncing me off toward the fence rail. All I remember from that one is hooves pounding the sand next to my head as my horse galloped on by.

That was the tumble that did it, the straw that broke the camel’s back, so to speak. Although I’m sure I rode Applejack after that, I don’t remember it, and it seems like it was a pretty quick transition from being a star-struck horse owner, to…well… not.

I should note that all this happened back in “the good ole’ days” when kids who rode Western didn’t wear helmets. I’m definitely glad things are changing in that regard.

But back to the point of my story… when my daughter Jillian expressed an interest in learning to ride, I was all for it. My days with Applejack weren’t my last foray into horse ownership. (Once bitten by the horse bug, I don’t think it ever entirely goes away.) My parents bought me a wonderful 20+ year old mare named Babe when I was in high school, and although I didn’t show her, every moment I spent with her was pleasurable. If I’d had her before Applejack, I’m sure my horse showing path would have been significantly altered.

When Jillian was very little I bought the first horse I ever purchased on my own, a black Arabian named Prince. He was just two when I got him and after some training at a barn in Marysville I had high hopes for him. Unfortunately, my fear got in the way. I’d hit the ground too many times. Trust was a big deal. If I couldn’t trust him, there was no way he was going to be able to trust me. You see where this is going. He now has a wonderful home as a trail mount for a lovely Parelli enthusiast. I know he got the best end of that deal.

So, fast-forward to today. We have two horses in our pasture, a sweet Arab-Quarter cross named Molly, and a miniature horse named Voodoo, plus an American Quarter Horse at a barn outside of South Charleston, where Jillian takes lessons. Jillian’s had horse riding lessons off and on since she was four years old. She loves horses. Which is why we took the plunge and bought her the horse that resides at the barn away from our home. The horse we thought would be the perfect mount for her to start out with in local shows and 4H.

But… it hasn’t worked out as we’d hoped. The easy-going, been-there-done-that horse that we thought we were getting has proven to be a touch unpredictable, even when lunged before riding. I thought I was doing everything right, but it comes down to this… a horse is still an animal, unpredictable due to its very nature as a prey animal. I can’t eliminate all risk, but when risk leads to fear, what is a parent to do?

She’s already taken several tumbles. The last one being the most traumatic, as her foot was caught in the stirrup when she hit the ground. It has shaken her confidence like I’ve never seen. And as a parent, I’m having a hard time trying to force her over that hump. Don’t we have the reaction of fear for a reason? Without it, would humans have made it as far as we have? But what’s the cost? Don’t we need a touch of fear in order to foster success? To spur us on to become our best selves?

Sadly, I don’t have the answers, but I was given the glimpse of a possibility this past weekend, when my husband’s uncle and cousin came by to help teach us how to drive our miniature horse, Voodoo. I watched as Jillian took the lines and looked confident as we line drove Voodoo around our yard. Could this be the stepping stone? Could this tiny little mare be the stepping stone to propel Jillian over her fear of the saddle? Maybe I jumped the gun on buying the “show” horse. I may never know, but what I do know is that Jillian is happy and confident with Voodoo.

Last night when I was tucking her into bed she said, “Maybe I could take Voodoo in 4H instead of Jett. Would that be okay?” Of course, my answer was a resounding, “Whatever you want to do, Sweetheart.” But a nugget of regret taps at me from the inner recesses of my brain… Make her face her fears, Alicia. She’ll never experience success if you don’t make her face her fears now.”

*Sigh*

If only we all had a crystal ball. But I’m open to advice…

What would YOU do – make her ride, or give her a chance to regain her confidence?

My Muse Has ADD…

If you know any writers or have spent time listening to their conversations, I’m sure you’ve heard reference to the term “muse.” In my mind, the muse is that little voice, the imagination if you will, behind the plot lines and characters that come through on the pages of the writer’s creation. Lately, my muse has exhibited the signs of a very serious problem. My muse has ADD.

Short of providing an imaginary dosage of Ritalin, I’m at a loss for what to do. The project I’m working on is the second book in a series and I’ve got TONS of ideas. Too many, perhaps. I’ve been working on this particular novel for the past few months and have written well over 200 pages in total. Unfortunately, those 200 pages are spread across seven different Word documents and take my characters in seven different directions.

I’ll be tapping along on my laptop for days on end following one storyline, when all of a sudden, out of nowhere, my muse jumps up on my shoulder and screams, “Yeah, just kidding, I think that character should do __________ instead!”

Like a mother with an ornery child, the first few times didn’t bother me so much, I thought it was cute. A mark of my great imaginative prowess, even. Look at all these great ideas I have. Now, I’m done with that. My ornery child of a muse is not so cute anymore.

So, what should I do?

I’ve tried writing through it. Going on in the direction I started, but I realized pretty quickly that when you shun your muse, your muse sticks her tongue out at you from behind a tree and hides.

Hmm… So here I sit, writing a blog post instead of working on my novel because my muse is having a field day with my creative process.

Where’s that bottle of Ritalin??

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A Walk Down Memory Lane

One morning, many years ago, a little red-haired girl stood at the top of a flight of stairs, rubbing her eyes and yawning the remnants of sleep away. Her stuffed turtle was clutched in her little fist as she descended the stairs toward the scent of freshly fried bacon and homemade pancakes. That little girl was me, of course, and this morning I was transported back to those days thanks to the kindness of strangers.

Growing up, I spent a good deal of time at my grandparents’ farm. The century old structure somehow soaked up all those memories, holding them tight within her walls through the years, and today they came spilling out. Ten years ago, Doug and I sold our home in Columbus after agreeing to purchase “the farm” (as we lovingly called it) from my aunt. Unfortunately, the best laid plans do not always work out, and such was the case with the farm. Instead, we were left to quickly find a replacement home and ended up where we live today. I’ve always wondered what would have happened if the transaction had worked out. Those walls that saw so many Christmas gatherings, the floors that withstood the frolicking of rambunctious cousins, and the yard that provided endless hours of sun-drenched entertainment would stay in the family. I often regret that we couldn’t make that happen.

This morning I drove down a familiar long gravel driveway. Under the guise of a garage sale, I was prying into the lives of the couple who now lived within those memory-filled walls. The closer I got to the house, the more solid the lump in my throat became. What would I find? Would this couple have any interest in sharing a walk down memory lane for people they’d never met? Thankfully, they did.

These amazing people have lovingly returned my grandparents’ old farmhouse back into a well-loved home. As I ventured inside, I was struck by the care they’d taken. Flowers bloomed across the yard and along the walk. The kitchen, where I’d eaten more silver-dollar pancakes than a child ever should, was in its glory. An apron front sink spoke of an era gone by, and each furnishing seemed specially chosen to accent the age of the home. I was enthralled, and frankly, leaving was hard.

But as I drove away, I realized something. These wonderful people are perfect caretakers for the farm. I’d been afraid the new residents would somehow strip those memories away, but instead, they’ve managed to magnify them. I can still see that little red-haired girl at the top of the stairs, with turtle in hand, waiting to join her Grandmother and Grandaddy around a worn kitchen table.

Deep down I will always bear a seed of regret, and perhaps, when the time is right, I’ll have the opportunity to make it right. But in the meantime, I can rest easy, knowing that through the kindness of strangers, I got one more walk down memory lane.

Happiness is… Newly Discovered Kittens

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On Monday, we came home from school to find kittens tucked away in the feed room of our barn.

Those of you who live on a farm know that unexpected baby animals don’t always make it. Over spring break, Jillian’s rabbits had a litter of four kits, all of whom perished on that frigidly cold night after three days of 70 degree weather. Mother Nature at it’s best, some might say. However, I know a little eleven year old who was mighty bummed about it.

So, when she came to the house after feeding on Monday, with a grin as wide as the Grand Canyon, I knew something was up. In her hands she carried a cute little ball of kitten fluff. Of course, nothing can completely erase the disappointment felt at the bunnies’ demise, but if anything can ease the pain it’s a nose full of kitten fur!

Here’s to warm spring days and bright eyed new kittens!

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