I am Fifty

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It’s here. I’m beginning my fiftieth year.

Fifty.

It’s been a long road to get where I am through swamps, over mountains, across oceans, and under my covers. I spent the last year trying out fifty new resolutions to bring with me into the second half of my first century. I didn’t find fifty things to actually resolve, but along the way, I made some serious moves toward being the person I’ve always wanted to be.

Here’s a few discoveries I’ve made last year:

  • I’m resilient. A few things came at me like a tsunami in the past two years, and I survived them all. I might have been knocked down, but I was never knocked out. Experience makes a person stronger. I can survive some pretty good hits and that gives a confidence I didn’t have when I was younger.
  • My friends are my lifeline. A person doesn’t need a lot of friends, but the ones I have are priceless. They support me when I need it, and lately I’ve needed them more than ever. My hope is to make it up to them in the next half century.
  • Raising children is not a job for perfectionists. My kids, no matter how much I try to convince them, will not take the easy road to success that I’ve laid out for them. They push out in directions I would never go, and they face challenges that they wouldn’t be facing if they only listened to all of my advice since birth. Yet, they’re forging amazing paths that perhaps I would have been too fearful to pursue. So, as I stand back and allow them to fail when the road gets too bumpy, and watch them brush themselves off and head out into even more difficult challenges. I’m glad they didn’t listen to everything I said, because their lives are turning out perfect for them.
  • I’m privileged. I grew up in a middle class family with the most amazing parents. They supported me in all my efforts. Financially and emotionally. As a brand new lawyer, I married a medical student who worked hard and made something of himself. Our careers allowed me financial freedom many people don’t have. Today, his everyday efforts have allowed me to pursue careers in public service and writing while raising our children. Some of the hurdles I’ve had to jump over on my way to success were lower for me than for others following a similar path. I understand that and appreciate it, and my law practice hopefully will make the road a bit easier for others as well.
  • I’m a hard worker. I definitely have advantages in my life others don’t have, but I never squander opportunities. I take each task I do and commit to doing it the best I can. As I tell my kids often ( too often if you ask them), in most cases of success, it’s not about talent, luck, or genetics, it’s about showing up and putting in your best effort every step of the way. Hard workers who can overcome challenges and setbacks stand a better chance at success than someone who arrives at the top without any effort, because to stay at the top, effort will be necessary.
  • I can’t eat flour and sugar. Not even a little. I have no willpower when it comes to sweets. One bite of a cookie can become a plate full of cookies in less than fifteen minutes. I gave up eating the evil substances back in December and am surviving. In fact, I feel better than ever. My Youngest can even eat ice cream next to me on the couch and remain safe from me attacking her for the last bite.
  • Someone told me to write a bucket list for my next 50 years. It’s not necessary. I’ve achieved pretty much everything I’d wanted to achieve during the first fifty years of my life. I traveled all over the place, I met so many wonderful people, I was able to work in many fields, and I found my best friends and my home. For the next fifty years, I want to make it all matter.

Old Fashioned Friends

by Veronica Forand

Did you ever wonder exactly how many friends you have in this world? Not Facebook friends, Twitter followers, or relatives, but the “help, my battery won’t start, do you have jumper cables” kind of friends? Real honest to God old fashioned friends.

I recently did a count and realized that I’ve let too many people go from my life because of obligations and commitments. If I called them for jumper cables, they’d be surprised to hear from me. That’s not right. And it puts me at the mercy of AAA.

I do have a small posse who I can rely on and who can rely on me for any number of things; coffee chats, lunches out, watching the kids, or plain old griping over the phone. Not redecorating advice, I’m pretty inept at decorating. I once decided on blue wall-to-wall carpeting, so I painted the walls the same blue. I then added a blue and white striped couch for contrast and a painting of a boat in blue water. Luckily, we moved and my friends never let me decorate again without assistance.

So I’ve come up with five steps for me to reconnect with some lost friends:

Call them. I need to get over my fear that they don’t actually want to talk to me. We are all busy, so I need to give them the benefit of the doubt. And believe me, there’s a lot of doubt.

Surprise them at their houses with coffee. Although the last time I tried this, the friend was just short of finishing her afternoon romp with her husband.  She won’t be inviting me over in the near future.

Pick up their children from school to give them a break. Generally, call first. Kidnapping charges are difficult to fight, especially with an irate parent sitting next to the prosecution.

Have my children join their children’s activities. Kids get more structured learning moments, because they don’t have enough, and mothers have a chance to connect. I first need to make sure John wants to join the ballet class, because pink tights aren’t comfortable for boys, or so I’ve heard.

Use social media. This generally defeats the point of personally reaching out to my friends, but time is limited and they should be happy with any contact I can give them.

Thanks to my friends (and various sisters in law), the rooms in my house have more than one color.

Critiquing Novels 101

  • When critiquing another person’s manuscript, remember that your voice does not belong in someone else’s work. I’ve restructured entire pages before remembering that I’m not the author and the person doesn’t necessarily want a humor hit immediately after the dog dies.
  • Sometimes showing is more dramatic and effective than telling, but not always.
  •  Sentences containing the word “was” are not all passive. Sorry to the person whose work I annihilated. I’ve been reading up on basic grammar and shouldn’t make that mistake again.
  •  If judging a contest, NEVER tell the writer that you would have stopped reading if you didn’t have to judge the story. That’s just mean.
  •  Novels don’t have to be in deep POV.  Many successful writers have drawn readers into their stories without using the technique at all.
  •  Rhetorical devices can create interesting, amusing, and entertaining passages. They can also create cloying, artificial, and annoying pages to endure.
  •  Read dialogue aloud. If it doesn’t flow off your tongue, it probably won’t flow off the character’s tongue either.
  •  Don’t send people a first draft to critique. Fix the glaring errors yourself so the person doing the critique can concentrate more on plot, characterization, and flow.
  •  Find people to critique your work that understand and like your voice. If you write snarky vampire princess books, make sure the person who critiques your manuscript appreciates snarky vampire princesses.
  •  Be honest, but only if it’s helpful. A professor in college once told me that I couldn’t write a quality term paper because I had no talent for writing. I proved him wrong when I won a writing contest in law school and earned a spot on the International Tax Law Review. It wasn’t my lack of talent that hindered me; it was my lack of a quality teacher.

 

Welcome

 It may not look like much now. Yet, in the next few weeks, this will become a place to explore some really cool stuff. Amazing, intelligent words that will leave you craving for more. You will beg, you will plead, but you’ll have to wait because I also need to finish other things in my life.

A list of things that need to be done before the next blog post:

  • Laundry. Trust me, we’re wrinkled and smelly. It must be done.
  • Decorating for Halloween. Apparently this is more important than decorating for any other holiday. The pagan gods are winning the war to create the best window displays and creepiest landscape designs.
  • Change my first novel from one genre to another. Thanks Romance Writers of America, I needed a challenge and you gave me one.
  • Write and edit the next 100 pages of my 2nd WIP. No problem, I write fast and hate exercising so I’ll have more time.
  • Walk the dog. When I’m in a hurry, I just take him out for a drive. He likes the change of scenery. Win-win.
  • Plant an obscene number of bulbs. They darn well better arrive in the spring or I’m calling in the groundhogs to clear the defects out.
  • Hanging with the family as we rush from activity to activity in pursuit of… I have no idea. I never rushed from activity to activity as a kid. I turned out fine. Just ask my therapist.

Hopefully, you have a more enjoyable week to look forward to.

Where I’d rather be…sailing in Hyannis.