I’m Not Sugar

Recently after a gathering here at our retirement community, we emerged into the drizzling rain that’s standard at this time of year here in the Seattle-Tacoma area. I hate both raincoats and umbrellas, so I usually just brave the elements if I’ll only be out for a short time. A friend of mine, T., huddled with her husband under their big umbrella. “Oh, Mary, you’ll get wet!” she said to me.

“My mother always told me ‘You’re not sugar, you won’t melt,’” I told her.

“That’s funny,” she said, “my father always told me I WAS sugar and I WOULD melt, “ she replied.

Obviously T.’s father had a different attitude toward her than my mother had toward me.

I initially took this difference as an example of my mother’s lack of caring about me. But maybe the difference didn’t mean that at all.
Maybe what my mother was really telling me was that I should go forth in the world without letting a little thing like a drizzle affect me. Perhaps this was her way of toughening me up in preparation for whatever life might throw my way.

And perhaps there’s also a significant gender angle at work in this difference. As a man, T.’s father might have felt obligated to protect and shelter his daughter. He could have been exercising both his obligation and his right to guide her into the role of someone who needed to be cared for. But my mother, who had had to learn to take care of both herself and me on her own, had a different outlook on life. Perhaps she was really telling me that I didn’t need to become someone fragile and dependent on another person to protect and shelter me.

Whatever my mother’s reasoning was, there have been many times in my life when I took comfort in knowing that I wouldn’t melt.

8 Lessons College Bowl Season Teaches About Writing

I haven’t talked much about my writing here before, but I’ll be discussing it from now on because of my commitment to my writing for 2015.

Watching the Rose Bowl recently got me thinking about how dedicated and committed to their work these college athletes are. What can they teach me about how to commit more fully to my work of writing?

1. Success requires regular and frequent practice.

To win, you have to put in the time and do the work. Every day. If you’re serious, there is no off-season. For a writer, this means not thinking or talking about writing, but actually sitting down and writing.

2. Sometimes you have to drop back to move forward.

A quarterback steps back to see where he needs to go. For a writer, this means looking at what you last wrote to see where the work needs to go. This is why many writers advise stopping in the middle of a section instead of at the end. And once the first draft is done, a writer steps back to look at revising and editing the work.

3. Small amounts of progress can add up to big accomplishments.

Two five-yard runs earn a football team a first down. For a writer, writing even a small amount every day will eventually add up to a finished piece. Don’t knock incremental progress, just keep working at it steadily.

4. You have to study the playbook.

A team has to know what plays are available and when and how to implement each one. For a writer, this means reading widely to see what techniques other writers use and how they use them.,

5. There’s more than one way to advance.

There’s running and passing and all kinds of trick plays. For a writer, this means knowing what writing techniques are available (see #4) and what effects each one produces.

6. You have to be open the opportunities that present themselves.

The best quarterbacks are able to see the whole field and to recognize what options for advancement are available. For a writer, this means not only knowing what writing techniques are available, but seeing which approach or variation of an approach is the best choice in a particular context.

7. Sometimes you have to abandon one approach and try something else.

Often a team has to improvise when the planned play won’t work. For a writer, this means trying technique after technique to find the one that works best.

8. A season is more than just one game.

Whether a team wins or loses one week, it must be ready to play again a week later. For a writer, this means that finishing one piece means that it’s time to start working on the next one.

Zoolights 2014

Every year Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium holds Zoolights, a fantastic display of color highlighting many of its animals and several local features (e.g., Mount Rainier, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge).

The weather has not been very cooperative lately, but last night we finally got a clear and relatively mild night, so off we went. Check our my SmugMug album. Keep in mind that it’s very hard to get good shots in the dark, at least for a non-professional photographer like me.

Zoolights is a glorious sight!

Marcus Mariota of Oregon Wins Heisman Trophy, and Hawaii Rejoices – NYTimes.com

Mariota was an inspiration in his home state [Hawaii]. He further validated the Oregon football program. And he has become viewed as the N.C.A.A.’s ideal student-athlete, especially after character issues in part defined the previous two Heisman winners, Jameis Winston and Johnny Manziel.

Mariota has garnered attention for his more positive off-field activities. He volunteers at the Boys & Girls Club in Eugene, Ore. He graduated early with a degree in general science. He tutored his teammates in high school.

“He’s always had a different mind-set than everyone else,” Taylor Troy, a close friend of Mariota’s, said by telephone last week. They played football together in Pop Warner and high school.

He added: “He always had his priorities in the right order. Around here, your priorities can sometimes get turned the wrong way. But he stuck to it. Stuck to football. Stuck to school. Stuck to his family. He’s just never gone off track. That’s why he’s so great.”

via Marcus Mariota of Oregon Wins Heisman Trophy, and Hawaii Rejoices – NYTimes.com.

What a relief to see someone truly deserving win a major sports award. It’s about time we start sending the message that life off the field or off the court DOES matter. Perhaps if we start rewarding the good guys and ignoring the trouble makers at the lower levels of sports, we won’t have such big problems with professional athletes.

Personal Challenge: A Blog Post a Day in 2015

I woke up a couple of days ago with this thought: I should challenge myself to write a blog post every day during 2015.

I dismissed this thought right away because such a huge commitment seems like setting myself up for failure. Why not just commit to writing a post a day for the month of January? I asked myself. And if that works out, then do it for another month.

But the more I thought about the year-long challenge, the more it excited me. First of all, I know that some of my best ideas arrive just when I wake up. Sleeping allows my conscious mind to pull what it needs out of the chaos of the unconscious. I’ve learned to trust these awakening thoughts, just as I’ve learned to trust my intuition. Second, setting this goal certainly aligns with my recent decision to focus on my own writing. Finally, this challenge would allow me to distribute content across my three blogs:

On the day when I woke up with this thought, I looked throughout the day for ideas to write about. I was surprised and encouraged at how many opportunities I found.

I should emphasize that I don’t intend to write a post a day on each blog, just a post a day for any one of them.

Therefore, I’ve decided to go for it and challenge myself to write a blog post a day in 2015. I could just make a secret pact with myself to try to accomplish this, but I’m formalizing the challenge here to create accountability. I’ll be much less likely to let myself slide if I’ve made a public announcement.

Meeting this challenge will offer a lot of benefits for me right now:

  1. A writer is someone who writes, and this challenge will force me to actually write instead of just thinking about writing.
  2. Looking for something to write about each day will make me more aware of what I’m doing and of what’s happening in the world around me.
  3. Looking all around me for topics will help me distribute content among all three blogs; I’ve been neglecting my personal blog, and it therefore now badly needs some refreshing.
  4. I know from experience that the more I write, the easier writing becomes.
  5. Completing this challenge will demonstrate that I can write every day, not just when I’m in the mood or have nothing else to do instead.
  6. Keeping up with this challenge will help me to practice, practice, practice my writing.

I will allow myself this condition up front: I know there will be times when I can’t publish a post every day, either because I won’t have internet access or I won’t want to announce publicly that I’m not at home. My commitment is to write a post every day, even if I have to publish it, backdated, later.

So, who’s in with me?

Who will accept the challenge of a blog post a day in 2015?

Grab the logo here:

post a day logo

(Right click the image, save to your computer, then upload to your web site.)