The Speech No One Asked Me To Deliver

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Well it’s been a crazy couple of weeks. As usual I am over run with life and so I am combining two blogs that have been swimming around in my brain, which is at capacity, by the way.

Last Friday, I stood and graduated from Wichita State University with my Bachelors Degree.

It. Took. Twenty. Years. 1994-2014

As I looked around me I wanted to tell the predominantly twenty-something graduates what they had done, how far ahead of me they were, how they needed to stay focused, stay selfish, stay young! I looked into the stands at my children, willing them to postpone marriage & family, the two most important things in my life…until later; begging them with my mama eyes not to do as I had done. With nothing but the wisdom of age, I wanted to shower the whole stadium with my thoughts and advice. “This is awesome! Don’t let it slip away!”  

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Now I don’t have to insert that long paragraph here where I apologize and promise I love my kids do I? ty

So…. fast forward to today. I am half-way through a summer pre-session at WSU where I just graduated but needed to get a few more credits. So, pre-session means an entire semester, nine credits in 9 days. I have been an online student for 20 years mostly, but I had to take these classes here on campus. So here I am, daughter in tow, hotel room, etc. Fourteen hours of classes a day, but in four more days I am free until I start my Masters program in the Fall.

I am so glad I did this. I’m exhausted and stressed and overwhelmed and I am so glad I did this.

Being on a university campus every day is…amazing. There are art galleries and coffee shops, architecture and libraries, new people and so much to see and do and talk about and share and experience. I almost went my whole college career, Masters included, without knowing this. I’ve already promised my daughter (special needs) who is not degree seeking, that I will send her here for at least a semester, with a paid companion, to just live in dorm on campus, take some classes and experience this once in her life! I have another daughter who isn’t speaking to me, but I’m tempted to make her the same offer!!  Maybe if she had a tiny taste of what the world has to offer, she would stop settling! One of our sons is for sure college bound so I am not worried about him, but the other one hates school and wants to get out there and make money. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I’m already wondering how I can bribe him into one semester!!

It’s like that semester abroad or spending a summer at camp. It’s just getting out of your box and into another one! I don’t care if my kids get degrees or make millions, but I want them to hang out in a coffee shop where hundreds of cultures pass through daily! I want them to hear teachers tell stories about Indian Reservations and sweat shops and Mardi Gras. I want them to spend hours getting lost in a library, not because they like to read or have to write a paper, but because they have no where else to be and every book has a different title!

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I got my college id the other day. I had to have one to use computers and labs and things. I’d never had one. I go to class early and take my time walking to the car just to look around.There are sculptures everywhere, a church, restaurants, it’s like an aircraft carrier. It’s a little city!

My daughter, who does go to a community college in our small community, came to class with me once and she was overwhelmed. Why do the seats in the classrooms go up like that? Where is the car? Are those apartments? *Mom…where are you. I’m lost.* 🙂

From the golf course to the book store, I am just in love with this little piece of life. I’ll take my two weeks, but I recommend everyone else take more! On Friday I will go home, back to my husband and kids and the farm and the small town I love. I will still be me, but I know something now about what I almost missed. Almost.

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Save the money, get a loan, sell your car. Go to college.

 

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Sell Yourself Tall!!

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I just sold a book. Just now, to a friend of a friend, who had already read it.

They were both amazed that I had written a book, that they were meeting a real author and when I said I had written ten I thought they would swoon and need to fan themselves and have a seat. She insisted I sign it and went on and on.

To this I reacted as I typically do.

“It’s nothing, really.”

Then I charged her $8, even though the price on the back is $11 and tucked the cash in my pocket, pleased that I would have lunch money today.

Why did I do that? Why did I undercharge? Why did I shy away from my well-deserved praise and why do I act as if writing a book is no big deal?

We musn’t do this to ourselves. Whether we have written a book or a book report, cleaned the house or caught a fish, we must accept credit and hold our heads high! If we do not place value on the things that we do, then how can we expect anyone else to?

 

I think some of this stems from childhood anxiety, not being able to take compliments, not ever being taught to receive compliments and instead being taught that to boast or commiserate in one’s own successes is somehow arrogant or prideful. Well I’m not arrogant, but I am proud, of myself, for writing TEN books! There, I said it. It is a big deal. It does take countless hours and it is worth eleven dollars! She probably would have paid twenty, but I’ll never know will I?

I did the same thing the other day with a photography client and I knew the minute she reached for her checkbook that I had charged too little. She jumped too fast and I knew she was surprised, pleased, but fully prepared to pay more. Why do I do that? My husband says I do the same thing with our furniture business, that I have never charged too much, so I let him give quotes more and more. 

So, how to handle this differently, next time. Say thank you. Tell a story about how many nights you sat up, how many rough drafts you had or what you’re working on now. Share the credit with an old teacher or your mother or your children. Ask them to please get back to you and let you know what they thought. Care. Be gracious.

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Weather whiplash, illness, and getting “lost”

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Sorry I got lost for so long folks. But, in between sickness ruminating in our house for last three weeks, and waking up in Narnia yesterday with snow falling on trees already in bloom, I just got stuck. Stuck inside, stuck in fear and doubt, stuck hiding from the world.

Thanks to the beautiful weather this week end though, and as Cherilyn stated, prom was afoot in our neck of the woods and I got out to witness it. Although I didn’t have a child attending either, I did take photos as well and take in all the pageantry–and there is no doubt that’s exactly what it was–rivaled only by toddlers in tiaras, but not by much.

You know, it’s a sad state of affairs when a parent feels they have to drop more than a mortgage payment for their child to fit in. Especially here in the rural Midwest, where the unemployment is the highest in the entire state, you’d think someone would put their foot down. But apparently the buck doesn’t stop here.

I saw kids in dresses I know cost as much as a bride might invest in something she would wear for her big day. Not to mention Limousines, Hummers, and other high style modes of transportation. Dinner, before you go to prom and eat all evening? Of, course! Lets drop another Benjamin Franklin there for a cute couple to pick at the plate and then send most of it to the waste bin.

As much as I don’t want to sound like a cynic, I guess I am. When did we become so concerned with appearances that we lost all common sense?

In my opinion, it’s that moment when we allow our kids to require that we provide them with every little whim they think will make them fit in with the “in” crowd. $200 for Miss Me jeans? Sure, absolutely. Hair weaves? Fake nails? Kicks that cost a weeks wages? Oh sure, honey, whatever you want. But what are we teaching this next generation?

A false sense of wealth, that’s what. I never really noticed when I lived in the city, and maybe I’m wrong, but it seems that the lower the actual wage of an area the more there seems to be a prevalence of fake wealth. Let me explain what I mean. I’ve not only lived in large cities, but I’ve traveled extensively in the U.S. and abroad. In places like Aspen, Colorado, or maybe Park City, Utah, it’s not uncommon to see high priced vehicles. On an average day, you’ll see Corvettes, Hummers, and Cadillac Escalades. Those are common. They don’t stand out. However, here–in a small rural community–where the average wage is very low by any standards–you might see those as well. So, what’s the difference?

The difference is this, in Aspen those vehicles are parked in front of financially equitable homes. They are driven by people who can afford them. They drive those types of vehicles because, having paid their bills, saved, sent children to college, donated to their communities and churches, they are able to easily afford luxury. Here? Well, here you see them parked in front of mobile homes, shacks. They are often driven by people seeking what I call a pseudo sense of power. They truly can’t live comfortably, their homes and responsibilities reflect that. But, by golly they are going to go broke, or live on someone else’s dime to look good. So, do they?

In my opinion, no. In fact, in more wealthy circles, brand names on clothes or gaudy shows of wealth are just that; gaudy–tacky. As one of my friends who is married to one the highest paid attorneys in the state used to say, “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” True wealth has no need to prove itself. It exists without external recognition and therefore needs no acknowledgement. And that extends to people. So, why don’t they see it?

Well, for one, modeling. The attitudes presented by parents who allow their children to be more focused on their outward appearances than their true achievements; good grades, upstanding behavior, kindness and citizenship, set a standard for those kids to live by. If you are told, or encouraged to gain the approval of others through shows of false wealth–or even true financial wealth–as opposed to having true character–what do you learn? You learn to maintain a facade. You learn to hide the truth. You grow up thinking you can’t be your authentic self and be accepted by your peers, or the world.

What a lie. To be more appropriate, what a load of crap. How many of these kids will reach adulthood only to leave their tiny fishbowl and get their lunches eaten in the real world? I see it all the time: big fish–little bowl. I’d wonder why these parents don’t see that they’re crippling their offspring, but the truth is I don’t wonder, I know why. It’s because they do the same exact thing themselves.

They hide. They keep up with the Jones. Even well into (what should be) adulthood, they are still acting like children; judging others by the size of their homes, cars, and bank accounts instead of their true value, their true worth. And as much as I’d like to feel sorry for them, I struggle. You’d think at some point they would figure it out.

So, prom has come, and gone. But graduation looms, another chance to try to out do everyone. One last chance for many, because after all the good-byes and well wishes, this generation will head out into the real world to discover for themselves the true definition of wealth, and life. I pray for them. I do. And I hope that at some point they learn to swim against the tide they’ve been tossed into. Otherwise, they may not survive, and even if they do, they surely won’t thrive.

True wealth will allude us all until we come to realize that we are not valuable because of what we wear, or drive. We have value because the God of the universe choose us from before the beginning of time. He made us, and loves us, for who we are.

You can’t improve on that, you can only accept it.

Until the next generation learns that, they will keep searching. I sure hope someone steps up to tell them the truth.

Prom Night in April

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Well it’s prom season where I am and of course, like everything else, it gets me thinking.

My oldest son’s girlfriend went to prom with a friend while he stayed home, which is somewhat of a trend these days and as a photographer I had one prom sitting, so I had a little bit of first hand experience in the affair. Beyond that, I perused mother and prom goer photos via social media late into the night.

What I saw was a little disheartening.

I saw a lot of young girls who seemed stressed, miserable, unable to see through their mascara or walk in their shoes. I saw preoccupation with windblown hair and out of place hem lines. I saw a lot of make-up and a lot of money. So I wondered if everyone had as much fun as prom is intended to be. I hoped.

I saw a lot of kids who clearly had some parent’s Mastercard bankrolling their evening. I saw other kids who looked like they had done a great job doing what they could with what they had and others still who chose their own unique flair and style regardless of the price tags involved.

Obviously prom is a tradition beyond compare that will likely never go away. I just wish, I wonder if the kids would enjoy it more, stress less and spend less if they could just find a way to let go of expectations and demand and imagine what they really want to wear, do and be!

I didn’t go to prom. Not because I was too cool or so evolved. I was pregnant and though I wasn’t showing, it just wasn’t on my list of priorities. 

All of these thoughts reminded me of my three weddings.

I had two expensive, fancy formal weddings. Neither marriage lasted. I was 20 and 29 when those marriages took place.  A couple weeks ago, at 38, I married for the last time, in a small ceremony, on our property, in clothes we already owned. I wasn’t nervous or stressed. I had a fun and carefree, meaningful day.

The young girl whose pictures I took for prom was fussing and fretting throughout our session, with her mother in tow. The comment was made that when she has a wedding it may kill them both. Her response was, “no, I’m having a Cherilyn style wedding.”  

Amen sister.

Guilty As Charged

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FOR SHAME!!!!    I haven’t blogged in nine days!!! I apologize profusely and promise to blog extra this week for my penance. 

 

What shall we talk about today? Perhaps I’ll start with what we WON’T be talking about…. 🙂

My wedding.

My remodeling.

My dad’s heart attack.

My daughter’s car accident

 

So….. let’s talke about WRITING!!

On a sad note, but an experience every writer has if not once, then a million times, I did not make it to the second round of the NYC Midnight Short Story Competition. Bummer. My awesome tour buddy Pam reminds me that Red Snow was a great story, that just because it may not have met their ideas of what they were envisioning, does not discount that. Judges are HUMAN. Always remember that. They’re just people. My husband does not like cheesecake. Is he an alien??  Nope. Just human. 🙂

On a happy note, I DID submit two entries to the Nimrod Literary Journal Competition, which is both a great compilation and an annual conference that I never miss. It is inexpensive and local and that’s a hard thing to find in a writer’s conference. The deadline is still more than a month away, so I am including the information below. I submitted poetry and Red Snow. So glad I sent it before the short story was denied by NYCM, because I KNOW this would have made me doubt it, doubt myself and perhaps not send it. But Pam’s words were whispering in my brain as I licked the envelope and away it went. Fingers crossed.

Both of these sides of the coin having been said, just submitting is a GREAT accomplishment. Without trying, we can never accomplish anything. It’s all a numbers game! For every ten or twenty or whatever your number is…for every group of submissions, there WILL be success, learning, reflection and growth! So submit!!! Never be afraid of failure, because trying is its own success. When you lick the envelope, you have already won. One more trick in surviving submissions…..just forget about it. If you make submitting the goal, instead of ‘winning,’ when you send it, you’re done. You did it. Walk away and don’t think of the results, the deadline, the prizes. If only submitting is on your ‘to do’ list, you can always be triumphant!

*** Submission Fees *** Of course, sometimes, submission fees can sometimes slow us down. This is a fact of life. I have two things to offer on this topic. (1) Make it a priority! This is your dream. What is more important? Two Starbucks? New socks? That blingy shirt in the window? You get your electricity paid, why aren’t you getting your submissions paid? Make submission as important as electricity!! (2) There ARE free and lower cost submission, conferences and opportunities out there. Find them.

Nimrod Info:

The Nimrod Literary Awards Are Open for Submissions!

Dear Writer:
 
Greetings from Nimrod International Journal. I’m writing with some information about the 36th annualNimrod Literary Awards: The Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry and the Katherine Anne Porter Prize for Fiction.  The Awards offer first prizes of $2,000 and publication and second prizes of $1,000 and publication, along with a trip to Tulsa to receive the Awards and take part in our annual writing conference. The postmark deadline for this year’s Awards is April 30th, 2014.
 
The Awards are among the most distinguished literary prizes in the country. Past judges include Stanley Kunitz, Marvin Bell, Mark Doty, Olga Broumas, W. S. Merwin, Denise Levertov, William Stafford, Ron Carlson, Linda Pastan, and John Edgar Wideman. Past winners include Sue Monk Kidd, Diane Glancy, Daniel Lusk, Felicia Ward, Ruth Schwartz, and Gina Ochsner.
 
One of the oldest “little magazines” in the country, Nimrod has continually published new and extraordinary writers since 1956.  We are dedicated to the discovery of new voices in literature, and theNimrod Literary Awards are a special way to reward talented new poets and fiction writers.
 
I have included the Awards rules in this e-mail.  Please contact us if you have any questions, or visit our website—www.utulsa.edu/nimrod—to learn more about Nimrod.  Also, feel free to share this information with any writing friends or groups.  I hope to see your submission soon!
 
Best,
 
Eilis O’Neal
Editor-in-Chief
Nimrod International Journal
 
Contest Rules 

The 36th Nimrod Literary Awards
The Katherine Anne Porter Prize for Fiction &
The Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry
 
Founded by Ruth G. Hardman
 
FIRST PLACE: $2,000 and publication
SECOND PLACE: $1,000 and publication
 
Contest Begins: January 1, 2014
 
Postmark Deadline: April 30, 2014
 
Poetry: 3-10 pages of poetry (one long poem or several short poems).
 
Fiction: 7,500 words maximum.
 
No previously published works or works accepted for publication elsewhere.  Author’s name must not appear on the manuscript.  Include a cover sheet containing major title and subtitles, author’s name, full address, phone & email.  “Contest Entry” should be clearly indicated on both the outer envelope and the cover sheet. Manuscripts should be stapled, if possible; if not, please bind with a heavy clip. Manuscripts will not be returned.  Nimrod retains the right to publish any submission.  Include SASE for results only.  If no SASE is sent, no contest results will be sent; however, the results will be posted onNimrod’s website. You must be living in the US by October of 2014 to enter the contest.  Winners will also be brought to Tulsa for the Awards Ceremony in October. All finalists will be considered for publication.
 
Entry/Subscription Fee: $20 includes both entry fee & a one-year subscription (two issues).  Each entry must be accompanied by a $20 fee.  Make checks payable to Nimrod.
 
Send to:
 
Nimrod Journal
Literary Contest–Fiction or Poetry
The University of Tulsa
800 S. Tucker Dr.
Tulsa, OK 74104  

____________________________________

 

TOUR NEWS:

I am totally bummed, but moreso surprised that I have received ZERO responses from my Craigslist call for venues. 😦  Hmmm. When I have a blanket void like that, I wonder about my process. I posted in “Community Events”…. perhaps that was the wrong heading. Perhaps other categories get more traffic. So… I will try again.  What about my blog followers??  That’s YOU! 🙂   Do you know any venues that may be appropriate or welcoming in our tour cities? PLEASE let us know. We will do the rest! 

Received adorable tour stickers. These are just tiny, one-inch by one-inch square stickers with our faces, our logo and other writing prompts, pics and motivation! We can stick them on our shirts, our envelopes, etc…. just a shameless plug! 🙂

The Quiet Republican passed 10,000 words the other day and is moving along nicely. So far, one of the easiest books I’ve written. This can be very motivating and very suspicious. Sometimes if something is too easy…something is missing. I will have to decide which idea is the right one.

IN CHERILYN’S HEAD:

Seriously thinking of hosting, building, founding a writer’s retreat/conference in my town, at my home, etc. Am I crazy? Why yes, yes I am. I thought we already established this. 😉   Thoughts?

CHERILYN’S LIBRARY:

Just finished The End of Eve by my favorite author, Ariel Gore. Recommend to all. Quick, yet profound read. ~ 

 

love & peace to all

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