What You Learn When Writing About Yourself

finding peace

When I began to write again in September 2014, the first story I attempted to write and did not finish was a fictional piece where the main character was loosely based on me and my life experiences.  In doing this, I found that some of the events from my dating and romantic relationships in my early twenties weren’t what I’d always thought they were.

As I wrote scenes in which my main character reacted to the boyfriends and men in which she had crushes, this became apparent to me, especially for one intense relationship I had.  I’d spent twenty-five years seeing it all through my perspective and believing I’d been wronged and the guy was a jerk.  As if everything I did was wonderfully good and considerate and his was absolutely bad and apathetic.  Not so.

This narrow view expanded to a more balanced and clearer picture.  It was a bit of an epiphany . . . a painful and stunning discovery, mixed with regret and shame, in which I’d been so self-absorbed only caring about my own feelings and never considering or understanding his.  Now, it’s true this one boyfriend didn’t volunteer any of his deep, personal feelings with me, so I wouldn’t, couldn’t have known.  But twenty-five years later, it’s quite evident that there were problems that neither of us knew how to deal with and didn’t have the knowledge and relationship tools in which to figure it all out.

This first writing endeavor truly turned the mirror on me and my behavior in my early twenties, for which I’d been selfish, naive, and clueless.  But writing what I did brought about a catharsis for which my past hurts and whatever disgruntled feelings or misunderstandings and frustrations I’d felt so strongly then dissipated and resolved four years ago, leaving me with a sense of understanding and peace within me.

Having experienced this, I wonder if this happens to other writers, especially those who write memoirs.  Writing truly is an outlet to self-discovery and catharsis.

 

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Why Do You Write?

writing in notebook a story

We authors have a variety of reasons why we create and write stories.  Perhaps the reasons have changed over the years.  Did you start writing stories at an early age?  If so, your reasons for writing them then may be different than now.  Did you want to be an author when you grew up?  I did, but the reality of a one percent chance of getting published and my parents telling me I couldn’t sustain or support myself when I was out on my own pretty much shelved that aspiration.  I then decided to attend business college because I typed very well and graduated with an administrative assistant degree in 1991.  A typing position had worked fine for me in my early twenties.  I didn’t hate my jobs, but I also wasn’t thrilled or totally invested in them.  They mattered for paying the bills.

Getting back to why we authors write, I think my reason when I started writing at age twelve was because I enjoyed immersing myself in the make believe world of my characters.  It was a pleasant escape.  It wasn’t until after the long nearly eighteen-year hiatus from writing and going back to college in 2014 that I thought of doing this seriously and full time.  Instead of writing only for myself and a couple of friends, I desired everyone who was interested in my genre, writing style, and storylines to read them.  Thankfully, with four classes left until I graduate from university and all the techniques and mechanics of writing I’ve been learning have not hampered my joy of writing.  Producing a story is more difficult because of what I’ve learned it takes to write a good story, but that difficulty is not something overwhelming or unachievable.

As I continue to wait to hear back from the publisher on whether they’ll want to see my whole manuscript or reject it, I know that no matter what, I want to share my works with everyone.  I believe God gave me this ability to create stories, and with this gift, I am to share it with all.

What are your reasons for writing?  Share your thoughts below.

 

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A Guardian Angel’s Warning

Orthodox guardian angel for women

 

In the summer of 1993, Deanna drove her gray hatchback around the unknown neighborhood for a third time, seeking out a friend’s house.  After the past three years of a tumultuous and painful relationship with Kyle, she desperately desired a man who would fiercely love her back. She wanted to take a chance with her good friend, Patrick.  They had been fellow classmates in their sociology class at the local community college four years before and had kept in touch.  She knew he liked her more than just as a friend, so she believed her efforts to pursue Patrick would be worthwhile, as she struggled to unshackle herself from the dead end that was Kyle, the golf enthusiast.

The gray cloudy sky veiled the afternoon sun, as Deanna rolled down the same street for the fourth time.  Panic and worry settled in her chest as she faced the realization she didn’t know which house was Patrick’s.

As her hopes fell, the car rumbled to a stop in front of a modest, two-story house.  She checked her watch and found it was already after four o’clock. Anxiousness took hold of her, and the thought of calling Patrick flooded her mind.  The insistence grew so strong that she turned off the engine and exited the vehicle.

Walking up to the porch, ideas of what she’d say to Patrick floated through her mind.  Since she’d lost the chance to surprise him at his house, she’d have to surprise him with a call.  She knocked on the door with anticipation of the soon-to-be conversation.

A minute later, the door slowly opened, and a middle-aged man in a bathrobe eyed her with a mixture of irritation and curiosity.

“Hi, can I borrow your phone?” she asked with an impatient smile.

He hesitated for a moment, still staring at her, but then said, “Just a minute,” and retreated from the doorway, leaving the door cracked.

Eagerness and excitement bubbled inside Deanna as the imagined conversation with Patrick danced in her head.

Suddenly, a voice neither specifically male nor female squelched the talking in her head.

“What are you doing?”

Deanna froze, hearing this unexpected and unfamiliar voice.

“Leave the porch, get in your car, and get out of there.”  The tone was firm but not cruel.

Fear laced through her stomach as the realization of nearly entering a complete stranger’s home shook her.

Deanna bolted from the front of the house, got in her car, and fumbled for her keys, trying to shove the car key into the ignition.  As the vehicle hummed to life, she glanced at the house, where the man stood there still in his robe, behind the screen door, peering at her with a stony expression.

Heart pounding, Deanna flicked a wave in his direction and sped off.

 

(This story is based on my true life experience, with change in names for privacy)

 

 

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Pondering 2017 & Anticipating 2018

happy new year clock

 

This year started out rough.  My husband, Troy, had been searching for a job since November 2015, and by the time 2017 ushered in, our hopes were dwindling but not completely gone.  We still held on to our faith that God would lead us toward the right job for Troy and having survived the past year on his small military retirement and disability, God provided for us in our financial and familial circumstances.

In February, I worked for a temp agency to help our financial dilemma.  An architectural firm employed me for a month, and that was fine.  It had been about seventeen years since I’d worked outside the home, and that was a huge step for me and a good experience.  It helped a little when we needed some supplemental income.

But in those many months, I wondered what God ultimately wanted us to do.  What was His Will for us?  Well, it seems, in echoing our priest here at our church in Lancaster, God was teaching us perseverance, patience, and testing our faith in Him.

john 14 18 beautiful verse

And then God provided us a door that opened to the richest of blessings.  A couple weeks into May, the local school district hired Troy as Maintenance Director.  This truly was, as I said, a huge blessing because we had thought Troy would end up having to find work and commute from one of the big cities one to three hours away from our home.   Instead, his office is no more than ten minutes from our house!  God is good.

So, 2017 started rocky, but blossomed into a pretty awesome year.  We got to finally go back to our beloved Colorado for two weeks to spend it in the Rocky Mountains at Estes Park and visit our church family/friends in Colorado Springs.  After being away because of Troy’s schooling in Boston since 2013 and moving to Lancaster, PA in 2015, we didn’t know if our friends had just moved on.  We know how relationships and life can change with time.

Troy & I in Estes Park:Drake, CO June 2017

(Troy and I at our cabin in Estes Park, CO)

But we were pleasantly surprised, overjoyed, actually EUPHORIC, when we visited with our cherished spiritual father, his precious wife, our church family, and friend I have known for thirty-eight years.  My friend, KiMar, and I have managed to keep in touch for that amount of time, in separate states, moving about all those years since both our dads had careers and retired from the Air Force.  It’s the longest friendship I’ve had in my life, and it’s beautiful.

My university online courses have kept me busy throughout the year, and I’ve learned a great deal in those classes, such as nonfiction writing, context of writing, playwriting, literary theory, English language, and modern European history.  It’s been great.  It’s only strengthened my writing skills.

snhu logo 2

Then things started opening up for my writing. In the summer, I got back into revising my novel, Passage of Promise, that I’d written in 2015 and finished in early 2016.  I wrote a couple of short stories, and then I wrote a short play.  By December, as I’ve said in another blog post, that play and one I wrote in my creative writing class back in 2015 were read informally at the local theater.  It was the most wonderful experience, something I hope to never forget.  Thankfully, my dear son videotaped the readings so I can go back and watch them at any point to help raise my spirits if ever I’m feeling down or doubtful about my writing abilities, which happens sporadically.  The three actors who read my short play, “Falling Up Stairs,” will be performing it on the theater’s small theater-in-the round stage January 20, 2018, and I’m really excited about this…to be watching in the audience and getting to hear and see their reactions to this quirky piece.  I hope they like it!  I hope it makes them laugh!  I also began a new story December 7, and am still working on that.  What a way to wrap up the year!

DreamWrights Community Theater

Every New Year’s Eve/New Year’s Day, it is in our Orthodox Christian tradition to make a vasilopita (St. Basil’s bread).  St. Basil lived in the fourth century.  He believed strongly in helping the poor.  Via Saint Basil’s Greek Orthodox Church’s website, here’s a little excerpt on the life of St. Basil:

During the fourth century, one of the  greatest Fathers of the Christian Church appeared on the spiritual horizon of the  Orthodox Faith. His name was Basil and he was Bishop of Caesarea, Cappadocia (Asia Minor). He was born four years after the First Ecumenical Council held in the year 325 A.D. Saint Basil was one of the three Cappadocian Fathers of the Church (the others were Gregory of Nazianzus, his best friend, and his brother, Gregory of Nyssa).

Saint Basil was the first person in human history to establish an orphanage for little children. He also founded the first Christian hospital in the world. His fame as a Holy Man spread like wildfire throughout the Byzantine world. He was considered one of the most wise and compassionate clergymen in the entire history of the Church. His Feast Day is observed on January 1st, the beginning of the New Year and the Epiphany season. The Church, therefore, in respect for his many contributions to the Church and to mankind in general, combined the joy and happiness of the New Year with the glory of the birth of Christ, and the Epiphany into what is known in the Orthodox Church as the Vasilopita Observance.

st. basil the great

This bread we make is a sweet bread named after St. Basil.  From the same website, here’s some background on why we make the bread and how its made:

Saint Basil the Great, who was a bishop, wanted to distribute money to the poor in his Diocese. He commissioned some women to bake sweetened bread, in which he arranged to place gold coins. Thus the families in cutting the bread to nourish themselves, were pleasantly surprised to find the coins.

This original event which happened in Cappadocia of Caesarea in the last half of the fourth century, is very much alive in our Orthodox homes each year the 1st January. According to tradition, special sweet bread (in some areas of Greece, it takes the form of a cake) is prepared both in the Orthodox homes and in the Church community which is called Vasilopita. Sweets are added to the bread which symbolize the sweetness and joy of life everlasting. It also symbolizes the hope that the New Year will be filled with the sweetness of life, liberty, health, and happiness for all who participate in the Vasilopita Observance. When the Vasilopita is prepared, a coin is usually added to the ingredients. When the bread is cut and the observance begins, the individual who receives that portion of the Pita which contains the coin is considered blessed.

vasilopita

(example of a vasilopita – St. Basil’s bread)

It is rare that I get this coin, and it is pretty rare for Troy, too.  In 2016, our brother-in-law got it and had the best sales record that year where he works.  Lo and behold, Troy got the coin for 2017, and we saw so many blessings spring forth from it!  Secretly, I’m hoping and wishing very much to see the coin in my slice of vasilopita for 2018, so this upcoming year will be the year my books are published, and I am fortunate enough to hear and read the reviews of my readers feeling hope, inspiration, and satisfaction after perusing my book(s).  God willing!  In any case, I’ve got much to look forward to 2018:

  • Finishing up revisions of my first novel and preparing it for a professional editor, submitting a query to a publisher, and hopefully getting a positive response, even though I know to expect a rejection letter!  It’ll be published in 2018, for sure. 🙂
  • Watching my play on the stage!
  • Finishing up my current work in progress.
  • Reading so many great books.
  • Four-day weekend in D.C. (tentative!)
  • Vacationing in Estes Park and Colorado Springs again! (praying!)

 

Here’s to a successful and blessed 2018!

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From Arcade Antics to Estes Escapades

sports balls

If you read my previous blog post, “Two And a Half Years of Foosball Mania,” you’ll know that I grew up a tomboy, and I loved to play soccer, arm wrestle, and at times, get into tussles with boys.  Therefore, from our first blind date until we reached our early forties, my husband, Troy and I have contended with each other in the realm of sports.

On this first date, we met at a mall and after strolling around there and discussing foosball and pool, Troy drove us to a nearby arcade/pool hall to show each other what we were made of.  We both showed our competitive natures in battling on the foosball table, with which I had had previous experience, and Troy had little.  I won.  Then, we moved to the pool table and shot the cue ball around, knocking it off of striped and solid balls.  This time, he had more experience than I did, and he won.

pool table with balls.jpg

In between visiting each other’s churches at the time, we found another opportunity to wrangle with each other at my church’s pool party.  There was a badminton net in the patch of grass by the pool, and the rackets and birdies were there waiting for us.  Mind you, we were twenty-six years old, and puberty in my early teens had feminized me to where I had to shower every day, doll myself up everywhere I went, and attending the pool party was no exception.  But as soon as I picked up the racket and birdie and eyed Troy through the red net, the excitement of playing the game and beating him coursed through my veins.  It was as if the girly in me took a hike, and I was now the powerful, unstoppable badminton freak.  Never mind the diving to the ground for the shuttlecock, sweat pouring out of my head and body, I had to hit that blasted bird over the net!  While I was scurrying around my side of the grassy field, Troy was doing the same, scooping the birdie here, swatting it over there.  At times, though, he missed, and I giggled with glee.  But then I’d actually missed a few, and he snickered from his side.

badmitton rackets and birdie

I’m not sure who won that because we both mirrored our misses and hits, but we came away from that short-winded with grins on our glistening faces…well, one of us was glistening.  Troy always had the genes or advantage (whatever you want to call it) to not perspire in huge, salty drops down his face like I, unfortunately, do.  Let me tell you, I didn’t feel fresh or dry after that game, and it was in the middle of summer in northern Louisiana.  Yuck!

Flip the calendar to the summer of 1998 in Dayton, Ohio, in which we’d been married over a year.  Troy’s son, Stephen, came for a visitation, and we decided to head out to the nearby ball park to play some baseball.  It started out well enough, with each of us taking turns batting and catching and pitching.  By the way, Troy knew I could hit the ball because we’d played baseball in one of our rare non-competitive games while dating.  Stephen was in the infield waiting for the ball to come his way.  Troy threw me a nice underhanded pitch, and I swung the bat, making contact with the ball.  It blazed straight back at him–a line drive.  It slammed him in his chest.  He huffed, the wind knocked out of him, and I froze for a moment, wondering if he was going to keel over and die!  I walked over to him, afraid of what I’d done.  I asked if he was all right, and he nodded while rubbing his sore chest, and managed to say that he was okay.  Well, that ended the game for the day!

Baseball Equipment Laying on Grass

Later on, Troy showed me the round, black, blue, and green spot on his chest where the ball had hit him.  It missed his heart by inches!  Lord, have mercy!  That moment always freaked me out, but any time he would tell that story, he’d relay it with a smile and with pride on how well his wife could hit the baseball!

Another incident of competitive tussling in the same year was around Thanksgiving time when Troy’s mom, sister, and his mom’s boyfriend were visiting.  We were renting a house in a nice neighborhood in Fairborn, Ohio, when Troy was stationed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.  The house had a basketball pole and net cemented into the end of the driveway to the left of the one-car garage.  Somehow, while we were out there talking with his mother, et. al., the basketball surfaced, and there was immediately the pulling on shirt sleeves and collars and stumbling around the driveway, half dribbling, half committing holding fouls, as we tried to score two-pointers.  I think my mother-in-law thought we were nuts by the look on her face.  After some wrestling with the ball and running out of steam, Troy put the ball away, and we limped inside the house.

basketball and hoop

Between 1998 and 2008, there were skirmishes fought at the local skee ball and basketball hoop machines at fun centers.

Lastly, it was the summer of 2008 in Estes Park, Colorado.  We’d lived in Colorado Springs at that time.  We’d taken a four-day weekend to spend it in the majestic Rocky Mountains.    Our sons, Nicholas, was nine, and Christopher was six at the time.  On one of the afternoons, we all decided to go play miniature golf, ride the go karts, and then take several swings at the batting cages.  When we’d finished the uneventful miniature golf, we climbed into our go karts–Troy and Christopher were in one, Nicholas was in his own, and I was in my own.  This was one sport that we didn’t feel the need to contend, so we drove around the race track with ease, enjoying the experience.

Nicholas rode around the loop like a Sunday driver, relaxed, both hands on the wheel, pleased as punch.  Troy and Christopher rode around with a bit more zip and exhuberance.  I followed this pattern, although I was more concerned with keeping my kart from hitting anybody else’s.  But apparently, I’d accidentally hit the side of the track and someone bumped into my kart’s rear, and the next thing I heard was the PA speaker crackle on, and a male voice tell my kart number to not run into other karts, and if it happened again, I’d have to leave the track!  Well, you can imagine my irritation considering I’d not tried to hit anyone, so I carefully finished the last couple of laps when the male voice droned into the loud speaker that the ride was over.  Good!

mario kart

Troy and the boys climbed out of their karts when I did, and we walked toward the batting cages, in which the boys had zero interest.  Only Troy and I saw it as an opportunity to beat each other’s batting averages.

The boys wandered outside the batting cage, partly watching us gear up and enter ones next to each other, and partly pawing and studying the bats by the fence.  Before we’d put the quarters in to start the pitching machines, we did notice the huge gray storm clouds that had gathered and were looming over us, but that didn’t phase us.  Not even when the lightning, thunder, and rain began to gently come down.  Nicholas walked over to our cages as Troy and I continued to swing, telling each other how many balls we’d hit thus far.  He’d said something like, “Mom, Dad, it’s raining, and look at the lightning!”  We mumbled something back at him like, “Yeah, it’s fine.  We’ve got to finish up our balls the machine is pitching us.”  Nicholas and Christopher took cover under an awning near the batting cages, watching us with frowns.  As we held the “lightning rods,” as Troy likes to say with a laugh in the years that followed, we kept on swinging, twisting, and huffing, our aluminum bats hitting the balls with a loud PING! … until…

…The lightning got closer, the rain fell heavily, and the thunder let out a BOOM next to our cages.  Well, then, we decided we’d better hang it up, call it a day in the hall of fame of batting averages.

lightning 2

If it weren’t for back problems and carpal tunnel issues, we’d still be jostling today.  Cheers to those many years of marital vying in the sports arena!

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A Christmas Household of Many Different Tongues

Christmas scene of front door and tree

 

It was Christmas Day, 1980, at our home at Rhein Main Air Base, Germany, when a handful of my mother’s friends from all over came to visit and stay a couple of nights.  I was eleven years old at the time and brimming with excitement over the gifts from Santa and my parents.  But it only grew in fun and warmth through these wonderful people who stayed with us.  Below are the people who stayed with us around Christmas.

Bill:  A World War II veteran and friend of my mother’s (and eventually my father) before they married.

Marilyn:  A sweet woman from Belgium (lives in Greece) (her father was from Belgium and mother from Greece) who speaks French and Greek and only a few English words here and there.

Frida:  An energetic woman from Switzerland who speaks German and French and English.

Chantal:  Daughter of Frida who speaks German and French.

Anthoula & family:  A family from Greece that speaks Greek and German and lived in Germany when we were there.

*FYI: My mother is from Greece and speaks Greek and English.

Everyone got along splendidly.  The languages of French, German, Greek, and English  were like a symphony to my ears.  It stoked a special joy and magic to the Holy Day.  I only speak English and did my best to communicate with our guests.  They were all very kind to me, and all of them felt like part of our family.  So, you can imagine the conversations going on between Marilyn and my mother in Greek, Marilyn and Frida and Chantal in French, Frida and Chantal and Anthoula and her family in German, and Bill and my family in English.  My sister and I tried to chat with Marilyn (early 20s) and Chantal (approximately late teens/early 20s) as best as we could.  Gestures helped out a lot.  And I remember Marilyn spoke a few words in English that were enough for me to grasp what she was talking about.

foreign languages heart

As the large dining room table filled up with delicious Christmas foods, I was in the kitchen watching my mom running in and out of the kitchen to the dining room table to set out the dishes.  She looked frantic because, with the except of the turkey (mom had no idea about how to cook turkeys being Greek!) cooked up by my dad (which was always delicious), she did all the rest of the cooking and most of the preparing and serving!  Anyway, I don’t remember my question, but I asked her something, and she looked down at me with one of the dishes of food in her hand and responded to me in Greek!  I said something like, “Mom, I don’t understand what you said.”  Haha!  She then spoke to me in English.  🙂  With all the different languages floating inside the house, it was only natural that at least once, someone would lose track of to whom they were speaking.

BEST. CHRISTMAS. EVER.

Best Christmas 1980 in Germany

(Our gathering at the table for Christmas dinner. I’m on the left closest to the camera.)

What was your best Christmas memory?

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