The Forgotten

 

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I remember it like it was yesterday…
the heavy scent of lemons,
squeeky floors,
hallways of gleaming lockers.

I had finally made it to grade 9!

I was soooooo nervcited. Image result for nervous emoticon

But as exciting and new as it was,
there was also a scary not so cool side too…
girls snickering at my “uncool” clothing,
dropping my books in the classroom,
getting lost in the maze of hallways.

And, of course, I knew no one…
I had no friends.

Now, I did eventually meet my “group”,
and although we weren’t the most popular we made memories,
watching out for each other,
getting in trouble together,
discovering what it means to be a true friend

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This year, my oldest stepped into highschool,
from homeschooling.

He knows no one.
He’s a gentle giant,
and doesn’t understand teenage social structures.

I feel like every day I’m throwing him to the wolves.

Maybe if I locked him in his room,
kept him at home until he is thirty,
He wouldn’t have to go through this…
I wouldn’t have to go through this.

But we do.
And the school bus picks him up each morning.
And I lay awake at night.

My son.

Not bullied,
but forgotten.

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Why do I tell you this?

Perhaps you know someone who is going to your school,
sitting by themselves for lunch
say hello
sit beside them
you’d be surprised at what you learn from a gentle giant.

Or you are the teacher and there is one in your class,
playing by themselves at recess,
nose stuck in a book because they are safe
find out their interests
help them interact with others.

Maybe it’s you,
at school,
at church,
at work,
take a chance,
find your tribe.

It may involve pain and discomfort,
but it’s worth it.

I challenge you to keep an eye out for not only the bullied, but the forgotten in your life. You know who they are…the ones your eyes pass over almost involuntarily.

If you like what I write I’m revamping my blog,
and will be discussing tons of my most embarassing teenage moments. :/

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The Writing Life

I’m trying to settle back into real life after the amazing adventure fellow Scriblerian Linda Samaritoni and I embarked uponScribcolumn
last week attending the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) Conference in Nashville. And I have to tell you it’s kind of lonely, real life that is. Oh I came back to a family happy to have me home, an exciting 4th birthday party for our grandson, and even overnight guests we don’t get to see often enough.

But you see, all of these people are what we in the ACFW refer to as “normals”. They aren’t writers. They don’t continually participate in an alternate universe inside their heads. They don’t carry on conversations with very real, yet ultimately imaginary people. At least most of them don’t. They don’t dissect every motive and response and conversation in every TV show and movie they view. And boy, do they wish the writers—the “non-normals”—in their life would chuck that annoying habit.

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Linda and I at the ACFW Conference Gala

Writers are a unique breed. We know our brains work differently than do “normal” brains. We accept that fact and try to convince our head-scratching family and friends to accept us as GOD made us, all the while realizing they probably never will truly “get” us.  

Back to the conference adventure. My mind was literally racing in a hundred different directions as Linda and I headed south. The myriad details of life had piled especially deep in my brain for weeks. I wondered if I’d have the ability to put all of that stuff aside and be fully present at the conference. I’d so looked forward to being with my writing friends and soaking up the classes, the workshops, the writerly atmosphere, but I worried I’d be too strung out on the daily-life-grind to immerse myself in the conference experience.

I needn’t have worried. Even as I scanned familiar faces across the expansive Omni hotel lobby, my mind began to settle in. Within hours, I was home. Not small-town-Indiana home, but at home with my fellow writing community.DSCF8745

I’ve said it probably fifty times in the last five to seven years since I got serious about writing, “There’s nothing like being with other writers.” Absolutely nothing in the world. I tell those new to the writing life to snatch every second of “writer time” because there’s nothing like surrounding yourself with people who get what it’s like to be a writer. Being with folks whose brains functions as yours does, well, it’s tough for even a writer to describe how amazing that is.

I came home from the conference armed with answers to specific questions and direction for my publishing journey and determination for pushing my YA series out of the “still working on it” phase, where it’s been languishing for years, and into the “publishing phase”. But in order to accomplish that, it’s time to move past the “missing my writing friends” stage and forge ahead.

I’m reminded that we weren’t intended to do this thing called life alone. Not one of us was meant to navigate this world in a solitary fashion. We need each during the gut-wrenching times as well as the over-the-moon celebrations. We crave the camaraderie of friends and family in the doldrums of daily life as much as we do in the moments, both joyous and grievous, that steal away our breath. We’re wired to walk this road in tandem with others.

In the crazy busyness that surrounds most of us, it’s easy to ignore the longing of our soul for those deep connections. I challenge you to make time to embrace the connections in your life, to nurture the relationships that feed your soul’s cravings. Let others lighten your load as you help to shoulder their burdens. Don’t try to be strong or tough and do this life alone.

We Scriblerians do this life together thing quite well despite the many miles that separate us. I hope each of you finds a niche where you can be yourself with fellow travelers. 

Call Beth a “cheerleader for abstinence”!  She’s passionate about saving sex for marriage and believes strongly in accountability and mentoring as crucial tools to success in postponing physical intimacy until marriage.  She’s equally as passionate about “renewed waiting”. Because SEX is worth waiting for. YOU are worth waiting for. She’d love to hear from you! Comment here OR email her at waitingmatters@gmail.com. And connect with her on Facebook at Beth Steury, Author.

 

A Different Kind of Trust

 

I stabbed the unsterilized pin into my thumb, then squeezed it until I was rewarded with a small blob of blood. With a scrunched face and a small squeal, my girlfriend followed suit.

We triumphantly held up our bloodied thumbs, then pressed them together. We were blood sisters forever!

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As an adult, I cringe at the memory of the unsterilized pin and the possible exchange of viruses or whatever else we could have contracted that day. But we were only eight and we’d seen a similar blood ceremony in a movie. That day, however, was the start of a long sisterhood and a close bond that lasted through making forts behind sofas to giggling about boyfriends in high school. We trusted each other implicitly and would never have knowingly hurt each other. We would have sacrificed a hundred date nights than to have stood idly by watching pain enter each other’s lives.

I’ve since discovered even more of a trusting and protective relationship between my husband and I. Our soul aim within our relationship is to try and make each other happy and secure.

But yesterday I was reminded of the most important relationship of my life. I strode into my friend’s hospital room, and was greeted by the radiant smile of my sister in God. She had been in and out of the hospital for years with infections due to circulatory problems. Last year after a few toes had been amputated on her left foot, she lost her whole foot and ankle. Now she is facing more amputations on her right foot. But through it all, her faith remains strong. Of course there were tears, especially when she told me about her son who hadn’t visited for two years. God promised that there would be problems in this life, but He also promised He would never abandon us, and would always walk through trials with us.

Learning how to trust God through trials takes me back to another story, this time, from my teen years. I worked at a stable in exchange for riding lessons. One horrible night, I smelled smoke in the hallway of the barn. While a few people raced to battle the blaze in the feed room, others ran to evacuate the horses.

One horse refused to budge from his stall. There was smoke funnelling down the hallway and all his senses told him that his stall was the only secure place. I hauled at his halter, but when a thousand pound animal sets its feet against a hundred pound girl, there is no contest. It was only when I covered his eyes with my sweater that he allowed me to lead him through the smoke. When he arrived with the rest of the horses outside the smoky barn and I took off his blindfold, he immediately settled down.

Similarly, we have to relinquish control and walk ahead by blind faith alone at times of trials. When there is pain in our lives, we have to trust that God has a master plan for it all. If we could see our lives from beginning to end, we wouldn’t receive gifts like faith, and hope.

My friends earn my trust by not hurting me or allowing pain to enter my life. However trusting God is a different kind of trust. God isn’t interested in protecting me from all pain – he has a much bigger goal in mind. As a parent, I do understand that to shelter my kids from pain is to not allow them to grow stronger as adults. And unfortunately pain is often God’s tool to increase my faith in Him. Like the blindfolded horse that had to relinquish control to walk through the smoke, I too have to trust that His plan is the best, even if it hurts.

After all, this world isn’t our home, and God isn’t in the business of making us comfortable and happy here. If nothing else, pain is a reminder that I’m not meant to handle life’s trials alone.

Here is my gift to you! If you haven’t heard Laura Story’s song Blessings, you are in for a treat. Have a listen!

 

 

 

Pep Talk to My 15-½-year-old Self

Okay, Cindy, pay attention because this is some of the most important stuff you’ll ever hear. And the only time you’ll hear it.

First, congratulations. You made it through your freshman year of high school. Now in 10th grade and 15 ½ years old, you’re midway through your teen years. And still alive and well. That’s an accomplishment you’ll appreciate later.

Caught at the halfway point between childhood and womanhood, you’re having a Mid-teen Crisis, although you have no name for it. You’re tying to figure out who you are, while others are tying to tell you who or what you should be.

That’s all right. In fact, it’s pretty normal.

You forget to shave your legs or tweeze the uni-brow because you’d rather be outside examining trees and plants, playing with your dog, or running wild in an open field and flying a kite. And maybe when you finally go inside at dusk, you don’t feel like washing your hair and winding it around giant rollers to make it straight, as fashion of the time dictates. You get teased about your unkempt appearance.

So what? Enjoy being a kid a while longer.

Try not to obsess over your delayed physical development. Don’t even think about it for another year, because you’re wasting your time. Of course, you’re in awe of girls your age and younger who wear a bra cup size with letters that otherwise represent mediocre to poor grades in school. It hurts sometimes when boys pay attention only to those girls, especially that one boy you like in particular.

Don’t worry. Your time will come.

When it does, don’t let a boy you date convince you to drop any activities, hobbies, or friends you enjoy. He criticizes those things you love because he’s jealous. He knows they make you look interesting and attractive, and he can’t stand it.

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A drawing I did in high school of a happy couple I hoped someday to be a part of.

On to the practical aspects of life.

It’s great that you learned to sew. That skill will serve you well in your impoverished college years when you mend torn pants to wear another semester and create a blouse from a dollar’s worth of fabric.

Now learn to cook. Don’t wait so long.

And read more. A lot more. Classic novels and current events magazines.

The times in which you live are a turning point in American history. Watch the news, and listen to adults talk about it. You’ll use the knowledge gained to interpret the cultural and political events in your adulthood.

Even though it’s hard to talk to your father, do it. Think of topics you both might enjoy. You won’t have many more years of conversations with him.

Consider more career options than you do now. Research them and ask questions of professionals in those fields. Seek advice about what to study in college to prepare for more than one option.

Bottom line? Don’t limit your possibilities in any way. In forty years, the people and things you enjoy in life may surprise you.

profile_pic  Cynthia

Rare Close Collaborations

Many publishers forbid their authors and illustrators to work closely with one another because often the author’s preconceived notions of what things should look like conflict with the illustrator’s ideas. And the publisher doesn’t want that hassle.

However, the publisher that I’m working for, Sono Nis Press, welcomes this type of collaboration. And I love it! Growing Up in Wild Horse Canyon is the fourth book where I’ve been able to work with the author to produce illustrations.

I thought you all might like to meet my friend and colleague, Karen Autio, the author of our book whom I have known for 18 years. She has stuck it out with me and my crazy requests for models and/or people to take pictures of me doing various crazy things. (ie. taking pictures of me dancing in the snow in a silk housecoat for another book. Maybe I’ll show it to you someday…)

Here is a picture of Karen and I in the Wild Horse Canyon in 2014.

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Karen, you have been very busy! Can you tell us about your other books?

My trilogy of historical novels for young readers focuses on Canadian history that hasn’t had much attention, along with issues of family, friends, and faith. Second Watch deals with the Canadian Pacific Empress of Ireland steamship’s role in immigration and its shipwreck in 1914—Canada’s Titanic. Life purpose and the impact of tuberculosis on a farming family make up the core of Saara’s Passage. Sabotage in Canada during the First World War is the central theme of Sabotage.  My newest book is an illustrated chapter book called Kah-Lan the Adventurous Sea Otter, set on the west coast of Vancouver Island, BC.

Karen and books

How long have you worked on Growing Up in Wild Horse Canyon?

I’ve lived in the Okanagan (in British Columbia’s Southern Interior) for 20 years, and most of that time I’ve been intrigued by Wild Horse Canyon and its history as a place to trap wild horses. I so wanted to get to Wild Horse Canyon (in Okanagan Mountain Park) to explore it, but I thought the hike in from Kelowna was onerous, and I didn’t have access to a boat to take me across Okanagan Lake for the shorter hike* in from Commando Bay (* see my answer to the third question). In 2006, my curiosity got me researching the canyon, and the more I learned about it and the area, the more fascinated I became with the history. By 2013, when my third historical novel was about to be published, I couldn’t resist writing the outline and then text of this picture book, which was then accepted for publication by Sono Nis Press in January 2014.

What were your thoughts on working so closely with a friend and colleague?

I remember when I first mentioned this story idea to Loraine (before it was accepted for publication) and asked if she’d be available to illustrate it, she said, “No, my schedule is too full.” I was incredibly disappointed. So you can imagine my delight a year later when my publisher agreed with my recommendation of Loraine as illustrator and offered her the contract, and she accepted. She is the perfect artist for this project, with her lifelong knowledge of the Okanagan, intimate experience with horses, and realistic art style based on detailed research. Loraine stated at the beginning of this project, “I can’t think of a better partner to work with,” and neither can I.

Now, if we were horses, Loraine would be a fancy warmblood and I’d be a trustworthy cob (we confirmed this via an online quiz!). She’s full of spunk and energy, a true extrovert, while I’m more quiet, contemplative, you know, an introvert. At times I’m reining her in and at other times she’s spurring me on out of my comfort zone. We complement one another in so many ways. Knowing each other so well, we’re free to honestly critique each other’s work, which has strengthened both the text and illustrations.

What were the most challenging and rewarding aspects of the project?

Two challenging aspects immediately come to mind. First, wrangling the historical details, especially when resources were non-existent, were scarce, or disagreed. Second, and here’s where I address the * in my first answer. Getting into Wild Horse Canyon to actually see the setting of the book was incredibly challenging! In September 2014 we finally met someone who was willing to take us by boat to Commando Bay! (Just below the canyon) However, the promised short hike to Wild Horse Canyon had us detouring through a smaller overgrown canyon, needing to bushwhack over fallen and burned trees, through prickly bushes, and climbing rocks and sliding on loose ones.

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But we made it!

A year later we met a hiker who guided us to Wild Horse Canyon on foot from the end of Lakeshore Road in Kelowna—not as onerous a hike as expected, but still a full day’s adventure.

The most rewarding? Again, I have two answers. First was experiencing the incredible, awesome Wild Horse Canyon twice, with its breathtaking sheer granite west wall and the peace of its secluded location. Second was the initial feedback on the story, that people got what I was aiming to convey about the history of place, a journey through time.

What do you hope readers will get out of the book?

I hope readers (and those being read to) will enjoy connecting to history. May they be so fascinated by the changes over time in one place that they’re inspired to explore the range of history of their own neighbourhood.

I have been told, and have experienced, that in order to keep a friendship healthy, you shouldn’t live, work, or travel with friends. Karen and I have committed all of the above taboos, and will do even more as we tour together to schools and libraries this fall. I am looking forward to finally sharing this huge project with kids and adults alike – with my buddy Karen!

Karen Autio at Mission Creek Greenway

I’m taking a stab in the dark, but I’m assuming most of our readers are creative. I hope you also have a friend with whom you can share many types of creative activities.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Confessions of a Social Addict

 

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“… It is hardly surprising that most of our happiness arises in the context of our relationships with others” Tenzin Gyatso (14th Dalai Lama)

I feel like I’m raising my hand in front of people, having to admit I am addicted to being social. And that is a problem when my job, whether it be writing or illustrating, requires me to be completely solitary for at least 5 hours a day. I’m sure, back when I was a young mom, the very thought of being by myself for long periods of time someday would have been second only to heaven. However, I realize as a social creature my mind goes stir-crazy without the constant interaction. (Think Tom Hanks in Castaway – “Wilson!!!”)

A friend of mine recently just returned from her winter away in southern climates. The weather was, as you would expect, gorgeous, and sunny. Palm trees and beaches galore. But she told me about having to wrestle with depression from being away from her normal friends. I can totally relate!

A few weeks back, I was sitting with my 97-year-old mom watching one of BBC’s nature series. A clan of chimpanzees was being spotlighted, and it showed how complicated their social system is, with it’s hierarchy and security in packs. It was entertaining, but startling at how similar we are in so many ways: the same need for friendship and acceptance, the same resourcefulness to gain the latter, and the same desperation when separated or rejected from their clan.

So much of our daily routines involve others, whether it is from direct interaction or contact on a myriad of social networks. That is why the social networks have literally taken hold of us; it is just another way of being with friends. Indeed, we are addicted to them, and most quite simply can’t be without their phones, or their computers. A lot could be said about being addicted to screens, however that is another blog post. 🙂

I find reality shows on tv are another example of how we need to watch others in various ‘real’ situations, so we can get close to their plight and empathize with them. It isn’t enough that we have many around us to watch and get involved with, we need more!

So what do I do when I’m trying to get through the solitary hours? I need to take a break, physically, mentally and socially. I will check on my FB friends, so a couple of texts, exercise, and give my eyes and mind a rest from the concentration. My social break is just as important as my physical and mental breaks.

And I need many different groups of friends. Other than my immediate family, I have walking buddies, coffee buddies, internet contacts, writing and illustrating colleagues and past school friends that I can’t do without. Now, looking at that list, you might think that I’m meeting them all the time. Not at all, certainly not as much as I’d like. But we all support and need each other at some point.

So I’m quite happy to admit to being a social addict. That’s the way God made me, and most days I start with meeting Him, then get to my day.

I will leave you with another quote…

“There are two questions that we have to ask ourselves. The first is ‘where am I going?’ and the second is ‘Who will go with me?’” Howard Thurman.

(Thanks Scriblerians for your support and friendship!!)

So I have a couple of questions:

  • Is there such a thing as too much social interaction?
  • What are your social vices?
  • Do you have a basketball named Wilson that you are particularly fond of?

 

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Hall of Heroes

Hall of Heroes

Just over a year ago, I posted a review about Jeri Massi’s Peabody Kids Series, in particular, Derwood, Inc., my favorite title to teach in fifth grade reading classes. I recently found out she has a new book – also set in Peabody, Wisconsin – Hall of Heroes. While she employs a style of humor similar to Derwood, Massi’s latest title goes far deeper than the surface plot of a club of middle-schoolers battling a new gang of bullies.

The ongoing war of pranks between the two groups keeps the mood light even when the gang manages to steal the the Hall of Heroes’ clubhouse, a broken-down old shed. The club members  lose more battles than they win, but “right is on their side,” and they press on toward victory.

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publicdomainpictures.net. photo by Karen Arnold

Meanwhile, Jean, the youngest member of the Hall of Heroes, experiences a serious adventure of her own. She volunteers to help Martha Harris, a reclusive lady in her church. What begins as a do-gooder project grows into a beautiful relationship, and Martha teaches her what it means to be a real hero.

Jeri Massi is able to communicate Biblical truths on a kid’s level of understanding. As Christians, we all know we ought to love God. Massi starts with this taken-for-granted cliché and guides her readers to a clear understanding that loving God brings the beautiful experience of enjoying Him forever.

enjoy God forever

Jeri isn’t content with the standard “Heaven is a beautiful place where Christians go to live after they die.” No, heaven is much, much more. Not only is its beauty incomparable to anything on earth, heaven completes us as creatures made in God’s image.

Jeri Massi has continued to write nonfiction over the years, but I believe this is her first new fiction title since the 1980’s. I love it when a favorite author creates new work, especially after a long hiatus. Welcome back to the world of novels, Jeri!