Sunday, April 17, 2011

Let Fortune Smile

My fortune at the Chinese restaurant was “Sell your ideas they are totally acceptable.” Oh, and my lucky numbers are 10, 11, 25, 29, 32, and 47. Which is sad because my birthday is next week and none of those numbers is my birthdate or my age.

I was just thinking today that I need to be less attached to my ideas. I become my ideas, to the point that if you don’t like my idea, I take it personally. I know that’s not logical, it’s just the way I’ve always been. I got a piece I’d written sent back covered in “red ink” last week, and I was devastated. There was this voice in my head that said, “Toughen up. You’re never going to make it as a writer if you can’t take a little criticism.” Of course, that’s my fear- that I’m not good enough. But Chinese fortune says differently!

I have tons of ideas. So many that I’ve thought about hiring myself out as a board member to various organizations just to help them come up with new ideas. Now, I admit, I’m not the best person to see an idea through… unless it’s my passion. But if you just need a brainstorm, I’m your gal.

So, I want your opinion! If I have ideas that are salable, I don’t know which ones they are. Can you recognize a good idea? Check out my facebook page, my blogs, my old website. Comment if you want- even if it’s criticism. I can take it. No, really!

I’d also be interested in hearing from you- what would you do with a writer? Suppose you had access to my writing services for free for one project- what would it be? Memoirs? Resumé? Thesis? Children’s story? What are writers good for anyway?

Thanks for playing!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Top Tips for Fun at Festivals

I enjoy festivals. It’s not the crowds, because I could do without that. It’s the celebratory atmosphere, the neighborly chats, and the break in the everyday humdrum.
I just came back from the Wakarusa Maple Syrup Festival. Even though it was cold and wet, my children and I had a really nice time. After several years of festivalling with my children, I’ve learned a few things.

1. Know where you’re going. I spent a half hour traipsing all over a small town with young children because I was too proud to get a map and too cheap to pay for a shuttle. These days almost everything is online. You can look up schedules, directions, everything. You just have to plan ahead.

2. Dress for the weather. And walking. I always make my kids where tennis shoes and socks, even if it’s scalding hot. Hot is better than blisters. I also try to prepare for the worst. It was fifty degrees outside today, but if we hadn’t all had long sleeves and winter coats, we would have frozen. Ponchos would have been a good thing, if I knew where ours were…

3. Eat first. And use the restroom. Even though festival food- fried everything- is one of the main draws to attend, trying to purchase a meal and a snack for a family of four can easily run to almost $50! If you eat before, you won’t be tempted to overdo it. And you can focus on enjoying your favorite treat instead of mere sustenance. The second is obvious- facilities are rare and rarely ideal.

4. Weigh the costs and benefits of paid parking. Often, if it’s a small town event, you can find street parking or after-hours business parking within a few blocks of the main attractions. It beats paying Joe Schmoe $20 for a patch of his lawn. On the other hand, I’ve found that young children have a limit on walking distance- if they’re exhausted by the time they arrive, it’s probably too far.

5. Pick a few favorite events or activities. Don’t try to do it all. Today, we ate pancakes for breakfast with the Lions, attended a parade, visited the Wakarusa Dime Store (home of the Jumbo Jelly Bean) and went to a magic show. It was actually a pretty full docket, but I can get away with it with older kids, and a very small venue.

6. Budget. Everyone wants your dollar. And I’ve gone between spending nothing (which is boring) and bending to every whim (not really, but I still felt guilty). The last few times I’ve only taken x amount of cash- so when it’s gone, it’s gone. Today I gave the children their own spending money, and I actually spent less. I could say no without reservation- they made their own choices (which, incidentally, was mostly buying candy).

7. Have fun. That’s why you came, right? Chances are the weather will be iffy, and something unexpected will happen. That’s part of the charm of the event. Keep your cool and your perspective. You’re making memories… no matter what.

Friday, April 15, 2011

A Beautiful Life

Elizabeth Taylor is still stealing headlines weeks after her death. Who was Liz Taylor? Why was she called “Liz” when she didn’t even like the nickname? How could someone who was so adored by the public seem to be constantly seeking love?

I’m too young to appreciate who Elizabeth Taylor was in her glory days. I can look at her pictures, at that fabulous hair, itty bitty waist, gorgeous skin, and dark eyes (some people say her eyes were violet). She was an accomplished actress and Oscar winner, well known for her roles such as Cleopatra. She was actually a British citizen, born in London, ballet dancing virtually from birth. Her father was an art dealer, her mother, a stage actress. Practically after setting foot on American soil at the age of ten, she was in the movies.

Less than a decade later, she was pursuing what some considered her second career: marriage. Seven husbands, eight marriages, spanning over 40 years. How could someone so loved by the public struggle to find love?

It seems people are drawn to dreams of fame and fortune, yet so few who gain celebrity status are able to find joy, love, and peace as they try to meet the demands of their admirers. They discover that no amount of stuff makes anyone happy.

In reality, then, anyone can choose to have a full, rewarding life, whether fortune smiles on them or not. Isn’t it ironic that some celebrities retire from their careers because after they’ve had “it all,” they decide they want to spend time with their families and pursue philanthropy? They are seeking after the mundane, everyday experiences of love and generosity that you and I have the opportunity to participate in everyday! Is it a case of the grass being greener? Or is a desire for fame merely a craving for love and acceptance? Is a desire for fortune merely a longing to pursue our passions without financial concern?

I’d like to believe that at the end of her life, Liz Taylor was at peace with who she was.  In 1993, she was honored with the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for her work raising money for AIDS research. The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation is a lasting legacy of the true Elizabeth Taylor- a beauty inside and out.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Crossroads

I think that people reach their mid-life crisis (I’m pretty sure everyone has one) when they realize that time is going by so fast, they can’t keep up any more.

It’s like the moment when your child passes you by in a talent or skill. Weren’t you just teaching him how to sing a nursery rhyme, and now he’s performing in front of others? Weren’t you just showing her how to kick a ball, and now she’s winning soccer championships?

Around the same time, your child believes he or she is so much smarter than you. I don’t mean when you can no longer help them with their math homework. I mean your child’s perceived reality is that you can’t possible know all the right answers or give good advice and you are basically clueless to the real world.

While your child is dealing with a new identity crisis: Who am I? Where am I going? What do I want to do with my life?- you start to have one as well. You may have spent the last 12 to 15 years in the role of a parent- maybe in the same job or field as well. All of the sudden, you’re not sure what you want to do with your life either!

My children are not yet teenagers, but I find myself asking my oldest: “Why do you always have to argue? Why can’t you just do what you’re told?” I know that’s a silly question. And I know in my heart I want them to have a tendency to question. I don’t want them to take everything they learn in school as gospel. I want them to ask “Why?” and “How do we know?” Especially when half of what they learn is on the playground. I want them to be strong and think for themselves. As long as they clean up after themselves and do their homework!

As adults, I don’t think we can take anything for granted. We have a limited amount of time to be hands-on parents. We have a limited amount of time on earth! Are we asking questions that will keep our life’s journey on the best, most fulfilling path? Are we settling for a life based on the circumstances we’re given, or do we choose to make our own way?

A “crisis,” mid-life or otherwise, is not always a bad thing. It can be a crossroads. It can be a point of assessing your values and strengths, and determining to either persevere in the current path, or to find a new way. It is, however, a purposeful choice, to go forward in the direction we feel called.