Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Introducing Making a Somebody . . .

   It was suggested to me that I take a few weeks and introduce each of my short stories and how I came up with the idea for my novel. I've thought about it and, since coming up with great post ideas isn't that easy for me, I decided to go for it. I have a few ideas percolating for future posts explaining a little about what I have learned in the writing process, world building, dreaded query letters, hiring free-lance editors, writing classes, and conferences, etc. So, hopefully in between short story introductions there will be things you might really be interested in:).

  There is a short introduction for each of my stories contained on the "Shorts" page but not a lot of details. Each of my stories came from specific inspiration, no matter the purpose the story was used for. I've said before writing is my therapy and each story has a concept, or thought, behind it that goes deeper than one might see on first glance.

   The story I'd like to start with is Making a Somebody Out of a Nobody . The introduction on the "shorts" page says "the inspiration for this story came from a youth activity using similar experiments the counselor used with Miracle--it was a success and led to this story". I'll take it a step deeper. As you read, please note this is only my opinion based on my own observations over the last several years. It's psychology according to me not those who are probably far smarter than I am.

   I have worked with young women ages 12-18 for almost thirteen years. I have witnessed firsthand the trials they struggle with such as: dealing with friends, the desire to fit in, drinking, drugs, premarital sex, trying to find themselves, seeking those things that give them the self-worth they need to decide to pursue worthwhile goals. Just to name a few. I have seen how much influence good role models have, good literature, good music, television etc. I have also seen how much influence poor role models, unrealistic television, and literature without morals can have. Frightening statistics for our teens keep cropping up. More and more teen births, fewer and fewer high school graduates, more and more drug and alcohol abuse. It breaks my heart to see these incredible individuals, who have so much potential, the whole world at their finger tips, and years of ready-to-fulfill dreams ahead of them, lost to the pain of drug/alcohol abuse, or becoming parents at an age when they could be thinking about traveling the world, college degrees, or taking the time to really search for and find their true mate. These statistics are even more frightening when you contemplate how it effects the overall state of the world. They say that children born to unwed young mothers are more likely to become unwed young parents themselves. They also say children born into homes where drugs and alcohol are used, are more likely to become users themselves. They also show that children born to parents who did not graduate high school are less likely to graduate themselves. Scary. I know these are just statistics, but I have seen the truth of these results myself, even within my own circle of friends and extended family.

   As I've watched my girls I've noticed an interesting trend. Most of them at twelve and thirteen are at a crossroads. They still very much want to be little girls who love playing with their Barbies and stuffed animals, and yet they very much want to fit in with what they see as the older more "mature" crowd that just doesn't waste their time with such things. This transition from little girl to young woman can be almost sad to watch--its as if a piece of their innocence dies.

  There is another transition that takes place from age fourteen to sixteen. By fourteen most of them have moved the Barbies into storage, and are using their stuffed animals as extra pillows or to entertain the kids they babysit. Most of them by now have found their specific "group" of friends and are just beginning to really think about the deeper meanings of life. They are starting to question the beliefs their parents have taught them all their lives as they listen to the taunting of the world, and face greater depths of peer pressure. Frightening though it may be, by fourteen many of them already have been offered their first drink of alcohol, their first drug, or had their first opportunity for a sexual encounter of some kind. I have noticed in my years working with these youth that the ages of fourteen to sixteen are the most crucial time of their development. Some of them reach it earlier, but most seem to be in these short two years. 

   The transition from sixteen to eighteen for some reason hasn't seemed as drastic. I think it's because by sixteen most of them have made up their minds and for the next two years they are simply living out their decisions. They have already decided whether or not they will listen to any adult advice; they have decided whether or not their parents are wise or clueless old geezers; they are concerned about what kind of guy/girl they want to date versus the kind they want to marry, and they are beginning to get a taste of the real world as they get jobs, think about college or after high school careers. Or they are becoming (or have already become) hooked on drugs and alcohol, are participating in regular sexual activity, flunking out of school, or simply showing little or no interest in future responsibility. Each of these trends always seemed to start with choices and actions from back when they were fourteen and fifteen--some stemming as far back as when they were that innocent twelve-year-old. It has been proven that by eighteen the choices they have made up to this point ultimately effect the adult they will become.

   I began to realize that in each age group there were four things that were either strong or weak within each girl:

First--Dreams. The girls that had specific dreams or goals and--this is vital--were actually encouraged to work toward and pursue those dreams, didn't fall off the wagon like many of their peers by the time they were sixteen. Even if their dreams or goals changed as they got older, having something to hope for and work towards, and parents, adults, mentors, and friends who encouraged and helped them along the way, were far less likely to follow the crowd and become involved in destructive behavior.

Second--Path. Pursuing a path. This one follows right along with dreaming. The girls who had dreams, and then were given, or sought out, the opportunities to follow the path to their dreams, seemed to have more self-confidence in themselves, their talents, and in the worth and talents of those around them.

Third--Love. The girls who had a loving home environment, good friends, good role models and mentors, were far more likely to love themselves and be willing to never settle for second best. And if we as youth instructors, teachers, and mentors, took extra time with those from more difficult home environments, or had a lower self-esteem, and worked to encourage them in their abilities, their worth, and showed the love we had for them and how to love themselves--these more at risk girls excelled much better in their endeavors as well. "A life without love, is no life at all"--EverAfter

Fourth--Dignity/Integrity. The girls who had begun to develop a love of self by fourteen were so much more likely to believe in themselves, believe they were worthy of their dreams and goals,and be encouraging and service oriented toward others. They had a dignity about them that wouldn't allow them to be disrespected or taken lightly. Though young, their opinions were respected and valued.

   I developed an activity that spanned over the course of several weeks with "experiments" tailored to each of these four concepts. Each experiment was designed to enlighten them to the importance of the concept. The main goal of the activity was to help the girls see just how incredible and powerful they really are; to help them see that what may seem is impossible is only as impossible as you make it. Some of the girls really took to it and ran . . . others took to it for awhile and then slowly got bored--I guess it was too long:). I later condensed it for other activities. But the enlightenment I was able to see on so many faces made me think, hopefully, I was on the right track.

Making a Somebody Out of a Nobody might not seem really realistic once you read it. In truth you might be thinking to yourself that a girl like Miracle would have dropped out of high school long before Jamie Daws ever had the chance to work with her. But in my own personal experience I have found that sometimes the girl (or guy) you think you will never be able to reach, is exactly the one you will make the biggest difference to. I learned long ago that God is no respecter of persons. He loves each of us the same and desires each of us to succeed in this life, no matter our station or status. If we really try to listen, leave our arrogance at the door, and try to see inside the individual--past the exterior, we will be amazed at what we can find. There are Miracles all over out there who just need that one person to show that they genuinely care, and its all they need to decide to discover they are worth all the world has to offer, and all the greatness they have to offer the world. We cannot save them all--it's ultimately their choice, but if we can help just one, and in the process help the state of the world, isn't it worth it?

 Below is a short excerpt from Making a Somebody Out of a Nobody

                Jamie lifted three bags onto her desk. The first was a shiny gold gift bag; the second a sack with a printed label from a local restaurant, the third a brown lunch sack.
               “I want you to take a guess at what is in these three bags without looking inside or touching them.”
Miracle smirked, “Okay, in the shiny gold one I say jewelry. The Pizza Pit sack’s obviously food, and the brown sack…” she lifted her eyebrows, “I dunno garbage probably.”
Jamie held back a smile as she lifted garbage out of the shiny gold bag. “People come in all shapes and sizes, but just because the outside package is beautiful, it's no testament to what is on the inside. If you don’t take care of what truly makes a person unique you wither and rot like garbage in a landfill.” 
               She pulled out a thick book of poetry from the Pizza Pit sack. “There’s a reason why they say ‘never judge a book by its cover’. Until you are willing to open it up and find out what it’s about you’ll never discover what you can learn by what lies within—the same applies to ourselves and how we see others.” 
She then lifted a delicate crystal rose from the brown sack, “Sometimes the most beautiful of creations lay hidden within the most unlikely of packages. If you were to pass by this sack on the roadside you would probably just walk on by, but look what you would have missed.” Jamie looked at the small rose then glanced at the teenager sitting in front of her. “Every human being has the potential for inner and outer beauty. Inner beauty begins with dreams, but dreams must become goals then a path to those goals.”


Wow! This was a long post! Sorry, I'll try to keep the rest of the introductions to a minimum! If you made it all the way to the bottom of this post, without falling asleep, bravo to you!!
      






Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Epiphany


I was sitting in my car waiting for my son to finish his karate class, fighting a migraine and the ever present nausea that goes along with it, and thinking about my body and all the trouble it likes to give me.  And it hit me...

I might not be able to do anything about the physical woes I was born with (or genetically inherited)...no matter what I try to do for this body I was given there are some weaknesses I just have to accept. But where my body has limitations, my spirit, my soul, does not. I can make my soul as strong as I choose. There are no limitations to the power of what's inside a person. 

The only person who can limit your potential is yourself.

We are as strong as we choose to be. 


"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." --Eleanor Roosevelt 

"You don't have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body." C. S. Lewis

Monday, February 11, 2013

Everyday Moments

" The happiest people I know are not those who find their golden ticket; they are those who, while in pursuit of worthy goals, discover and treasure the beauty and sweetness of the everyday moments. They are the ones who, thread by daily thread, weave a tapestry of gratitude and wonder throughout their lives. These are they who are truly happy." 
--Dieter F. Uchtdorf 

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is one of my favorite books. And not just because I have a serious addiction to chocolate. It's wonderful to read about a poor young boy, with no special talents or abilities, winning the prize simply because he was honest. Charlie was just a good boy who tried to do what was right, and in the end he won the greatest prize of all--not a life-time supply of chocolate, but safety and stability for himself and his family. 

In the end isn't that even better than the golden ticket? A day-to-day beautiful life filled with beautiful moments

Enjoy the moment!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Embracing My Nerdiness



Funny, when I was younger the idea of being unlike everyone else was appalling, yet now as an adult I thank God I am not like everyone else. 

When I was younger I would have been afraid to admit I wanted to be Princess Leia when I grew up, or if I had the choice, I would live in Narnia over this world, any day. I lived for fantasy and science fiction. I watched Star Wars, Star Trek, and Battle Star Galactica with my big brothers religiously. Occasionally, whenever they were feeling kind toward their annoying little sister, they allowed me to join in their light-saber and blaster battles, sword fights, and mystical power encounters. 
 
Anything space or fantasy related I ate it up. I wanted to be an astronaut more than anything else—until I learned that traveling through hyper-space and actually landing on Endor to hang out with Ewoks was extremely unlikely. I stuck to the fictional world after that.

I wish so bad I could go back and tell that little girl there is nothing more beautiful than dreams. I’d tell her it’s more than okay to hope for something beyond the everyday; that it’s not just okay, but so INCREDIBLE to be unique and like or do things that some people call weird or nerdy. What a boring world this would be if we were all the same. Diversity is an amazingly fabulous God given gift.

My husband heard someone say once that being a nerd means you’re passionate about something. Well, I’m passionate about my family, books, and everything fantastical. 

I’m proud to be a nerd.

Who wants to be a lemming anyway?