Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Kindness of Strangers

Think of all the times you’ve been in a stressful situation.  Maybe your car broke down, or you needed medical help.  Maybe it was something as simple as someone letting you in line ahead of them at a checkout lane, seeing you with two cranky toddlers and a harried look on your face.

Most of the time it’s a stranger who steps in to help, someone we might never see again.  Someone who just made our day a little (or a lot) easier.

We sometimes forget it's not an ugly world out there, that overall, we are inherently good people.  For me, over these past weeks, I’ve received endless help from fellow women fiction writers that I’ve never even met (yet.)  And every day it amazes me that these women, busy with their own writing careers, take the time out to help me, and others, who are just getting started.

We hear the term ‘pay it forward’ a lot.  And I understand why.  When people go out of their way to help us, with no ulterior motive or expectations of getting anything in return, it gives us such a warm fuzzy that you can’t help but want to share it with the next person.

We see it happen on the news every day and, especially, recently in Boston. Some gestures are life-saving (as those were), and some, like the women authors helping me, save us emotionally. 

If (when) I get my book published (a book which happens to focus on my main character reaching out for help from strangers, and receiving it tenfold), I will have a long list of women to thank, women I have yet to meet face-to-face.  Women who were there for me when I needed a helping hand.  Something that happens every day in the world around us.  Which truly is the kindness of strangers.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A loss of words

For someone who lives in a small town in rural Minnesota, I’ve been spoiled.  For years, I’ve enjoyed the comfort of ordering books on-line from our library.  A few clicks, my library card number, and I hit “send.”

Notification comes by e mail, and I’m excited when I receive that e mail, knowing the books I’ve requested from a library miles away will be delivered by the Bookmobile within a couple of weeks.  Talk about convenient; it parks across the street from my day job.

How nice it’s been over the years, to request just about anything I want, to be greeted at the Bookmobile by a cheery face, and know that I have a month to savor the books.

Unfortunately, it’s all coming to an end.  I want to stomp my foot, to scream “it’s unfair!” and to insist they can’t do this to me and all the other loyal, rural book-aholics.  But they can, and “they” are.  Yes, I understand these things called budget cuts, but it doesn’t make it any easier.

Haven’t we, as a society, been greatly lacking in our children wanting to pick up a book to read instead of playing a video game, watching TV, or playing any other electronic device?  Instead of losing themselves in a book… allowing their imagination to expand?  Why make it harder for everyone to get their hands on books?

I feel like it is one giant leap backwards for mankind, and yes, maybe I’m just singing the “poor me” song right now.  But I know I’m not alone.  There’s a whole choir of us that are going to be singing the Library Loss song soon.  And it’s not going to be pretty.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A Woman's (hi)Story

Last week, the magazine I write for (Her Voice) celebrated ten years of publishing, and with that, also received an award for second place out of all magazines published by newspapers in Minnesota.

At our Her Voice Gala, our editor spoke about the success of the magazine, the wonderful women profiled over those ten years, and also about how important those editions were to help preserve these women's stories for their families in years to come.  Women who, years ago, wouldn’t have had their story told, because years ago, women, for the most part, stood on the side-lines, kept in the background, and were rarely mentioned in newspapers or books.

Women in history, whose families will never know their story.

Over the years, I’ve written about a variety of women from central Minnesota, women whose stories deserved to be told.  One was about a woman who had to decide whether or not to pull the plug on her newborn daughter’s life, another was a woman who has spent her entire life in a wheelchair due to Cerebral Palsy.  There was also a wife who weathered more than seventy years of marriage, yet another who endured the Camps of WWII, and also a young woman who was forced to give her child up for adoption… the stories are endless.  Stories like these, and many others, have been preserved in our writings, because they needed to be.

I’m named after my great-grandma Hannah, a tall, strong, woman who ran her own farm and died the year before I was born.  Sure, there are a few family stories handed down about Hannah over the generations, but I sure wish someone would have been around sixty plus years ago to preserve her story for me.

I'm thankful we live in a time where society realizes women's lives are important enough to be written about, preserved for their family history, and especially, that men are reading these stories too, because they understand the importance of women in history.

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Un-Princess Diaries

As the only daughter in our family (blessed? with three brothers), you would have thought I'd have been raised somewhat princess-like.  Didn't happen.  Still isn't happening.  Our parents made sure I had as long of a list of chores (I'm quite certain it was longer) as my brothers, there was no sitting around being waited on or catered to with me.

But maybe that's okay.  Maybe that taught me at an early age to "put my back into it" and try hard.  (My husband recently made the mistake of saying the above quote to me when we were in a curling tournament and I was sweeping like mad.  If you saw my back, you'd know there isn't much to "put into" anything.)

Anyway, being raised un-princess-like gave me good work ethics, and as we all know, if you really want something, you need to put some effort into it.  Usually a lot of effort.

I've talked to sooooooooooo many other women writer's, and I hear the same thing over and over from them.  "I get up and write from 4 to 6 a.m. every morning before getting the kids up and getting ready for my day job."  Or, "I make all my meals for the week on a Sunday so I can have dinner ready for the family and write after supper when the kids do their homework."  The list of ways to get things done is endless.

Which proves a point ~ if you really want to do something, you'll find a way.  And the time.  No matter if it's exercise (see my story "Runnin Down a Dream" on my website), going back to college, or writing a book, most things are possible if you really want to get it done.

I'm guessing all those women who are up at four a.m. to write were also raised in un-princess-like ways.  Thanks mom and dad, I guess being raised without a princess crown was best for me after all.