What Makes a Good Story

I have recently increased my reading time in support of better writing. I wanted to digest what I loved about the stories I was reading so I could find inspiration to create a story worth reading to others. Here is my shortlist of what makes a story special to me.

  1. Characters that become clear to me through their actions and reactions. By reading how a character responds to situations or others, I can peel back their layers from the safe space of being curled up with a good book. I also like learning how the story changes characters for better or worse. Give me the reasons to love or despise the characters through how they behave. Make their actions speak louder with words.
  2. Enough detail about the setting of a story or specific scenes in the story to get me in the space where the characters live. Even brilliantly crafted characters can fall flat when their setting isn’t specific enough to matter. I want to learn enough about the main setting and individual scene settings to understand how they impact the character or others. For example, whether my character dumps a significant other over the phone from the safety of their place or in a coffee shop face to face might matter in how I view them. Scene setting is an Achilles heel for me in my writing. I now go back when I finish each chapter to see where I can add detail.
  3. Stories where every scene moves us forward (or backward if needed) to something relevant. I like to dive deep and understand characters and their space, but if each word, page, or chapter is not moving me along the story arc or taking me back to places and times of significance, I get bored and skip to where I think the pace picks up again.

Some books I am currently enjoying are Little Fires Everywhere and One Day in December. I would love to hear what stories you are enjoying!

Reasons

What are your reasons for getting up in the morning with a smile on your face? What are your reasons for not giving up during the toughest times? What are your reasons for being you? Only you get to answer these questions, aIMG_5389nd that is a powerful thing.

I have three beautiful children. I have the love of a lifetime. I have family and friends, a close circle these days, and I can trust them to be there. I have a fulfilling career. And, I have a passion for writing, running, music, and veganism. I also have four, yes 4, wonderful dogs and two wooded acres in a community where I fit. All of this makes me smile each day, even on darker days.

I have not always appreciated my reasons to the extent I do now. There were times when things did not go as planned, and times when I made poor choices. I chose to find my way back, and I chose to leave behind what was not good. In this process of learn & burn, I found “the me” I was always meant to be. My reasons inspired me.

Here I am, uniquely me, following my passions. Before me is endless possibility and my reasons. Behind me is the regret and sadness I am not meant to carry forward. I write inspired. I wake happy. I stay healthy. Thank you, reasons. I love you.

One Child at a Time

I am back. I have a new job, and a clear path forward in life. It has been a wild ride through life challenges we all face since I last posted here, and I was greeted with backed up comments from an anonymous troll, a very ugly one. Yet, I still want to show up and write because life is good if you let it be. It does not matter who you were yesterday. Today is a new one, and a good one to do something worthwhile. That is exactly what I did.

I have the privilege of working with special abilities athletes on many Saturdays at a cheer gym. My heart grows each moment I spend with them. My challenges seem so inconsequential to those faced by the athletes and their loved ones. I always feel like I walk away each Saturday learning more from them than they learn from me. And their excitement over learning a new skill could provide a new source of light for our sometimes dark world.

Imagine if we all focused on one child at a time, supporting them through challenges. We could teach them about the mistakes we made and how they could avoid them. We could show them unconditional love. We could be a person they deserve. Maybe they would then grow up to be better than we are, making the world a better, less mean place.

You can do this. I’m trying to do this. It’s making me a better person while maybe, just maybe, adding to an improved future where differences make us beautiful, and we want to help each other solve challenges. It may start with a cartwheel today on a gym floor, and with a butterfly effect, turn into more love and kindness tomorrow for all. One child at a time.

 

Finding The Other Side

Whenever I find myself in trouble or hear the woes of others, there is a unifying theme. Everyone is searching for what is on The Other Side of their current strife.

Is is health? Is it a new job? Is it love? Is it love undone? Is it wealth? Is it peace? Is it a trip? It seems for most as if The Other Side is one or two magic things that will make life seem beautiful, whole again. I am learning The Other Side is not that simple or concise.

If you imagine life as a circle you continue around, there really is no Other Side. You will always have closures, new beginnings, and in betweens. Going in circles is dizzying. Most of our world is forced into a linear progression where if we achieve #1, then we can continue on to #2. While I don’t want to go in circles, I know that I have done #1 on many occasions, and #2 never comes. Am I a failure? No, not at all. Maybe I am just not meant to have that #2. Life is not tidy enough to remain linear.

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So how do we pull ourselves out of circles or off endless, hurtful, linear paths?

I like to break down The Other Side into moments I live each day.  This past year, I did not deserve to lose my job. Today, I really don’t want to face oncoming health challenges. I’d love to see what is on The Other Side of these challenges. Also today, I looked in the mirror and realized I made the successful conversion to being a vegan. I am working steadily on my book and job search. I have volunteered and put so much good back into the world while I have

been out of work. And, most importantly, I have people who love me, get me. These things are Other Sides, too. They are not necessarily big moments or solutions to major issues. They make a difference though.

Other Sides can be the in betweens. They can be slides off of vicious cycles. They can be as simple as a glass of tea after a tough day or as complex as a cure for our disease. They can be what is in us waiting to come out or what is outside of us waiting to lift us to new heights. Appreciate them all. It’s how you keep living when life punches you

Feeling The Quiet In Between

img_0249I am noisy. I am always working, engaging others, listening to music, moving, learning, reaching for new heights, and for the most part, growing. To say my life has been chaotic since my 20s might be an understatement. I knew nothing of The Quiet of which others speak. You know, those meditative types with an awesome balance between work, play and rest. That has never been me…until recently.

Life hands you changes, many changes. They can be good or bad, or something along that spectrum. The year of 2018 will deposit in my memory bank as a year of tough changes. It was also a year made of noise I did not like. Everything was loud from demands on my time to the spaces where I worked and lived. I could not find any quiet, even in sleep, and I suffered mentally and physically. I was sleepless on an early morning mid-December morning where I could hear every noise in the house, and I decided I would only find quiet and peace if I made it.

You cannot control everything that happens to you even though you have great power to make things happen.  I need to find a new career, raise a family, get healthy, write, make music, and most importantly, love my people. My noise is not going to disappear in 2019. In fact, it might get louder for a bit. This is where the In Between becomes critical.

I was hiking yesterday with my daughter. My life did not have space for a hike yesterday, but an unusually warm, sunny day in January in Michigan is a gift you don’t refuse. We hiked a wooded path along the Red Cedar River. It was beautifully silent as we made our way. We did talk to each other and stop to take photos. I had no demands during that time though, a time I made during a busy day: An In Between. I could feel The Quiet in me. The noise stopped, my pulse steadied. Everything was going to be okay even when I exited the trail of my In Between.

My life will never be completely quiet. I do not have the luxury of long stretches of nothingness, and I am pretty sure I designed my life this way. Changes will continue to happen, whether I make them or take them. There is still a quiet I can find during the In Between that will be the salve to heal and the glue to keep it together, an essential oil of peace.

 

Joy is Simple

Joy is freshly baked monkey bread, hot from the oven smelling of sugar and spice.

Joy is fresh mangoes, juicy and sweet, sunshine in a little dish on a rainy winter day.

Joy is a desk etched with the scratches of time where a tree grows inside while an old tree passes outside, completing the circle.

Joy is looking for one bird in the bush and finding many, nature’s symphony of life and potential.

Joy is simple. Joy is you.

Breaking the Band

I’ve had my share of bad people in 2018. Whether it was selfishness, greed, insecurity, or all of the above, I’m coming in hot to the end of this year and overdone. I am a loving, forgiving person by nature, so to find myself in a place where I don’t want to do either is unusual and uncomfortable. I am trying to find peace as I move into 2019 no matter what continues to happen or doesn’t with people. I need an analogy. Bands.

U2 has been together many trips around the sun. They’ve had hits and flops. Egos have risen and been bruised. There has been love and love lost. Yet, they continue to travel together in the same composition of their Bono mullet days. Both love and forgiveness had to fuel this longevity.

Now let’s talk Fleetwood Mac. They fired Lindsey. THEY FIRED LINDSEY. They have all loved and hated each other, some two or three times over. They’ve swapped secondary players in and out of the band, and they have swapped with each other, to keep some momentum to the legend they have become. Whether you like them or not, and whether you are Team Lindsey or Team Fleetwood, they are arriving at a new version of peace before they retire.

Simon & Garfunkel. There is no repair or true peace for them. They are forever frienemies. I saw Paul on his farewell tour with my son. There was a sad beauty to him as he spoke of Art. Some bands can’t be repaired. The individuals can go on to find peace and success even if a tiny heartache remains, waxing and waning as their days grow shorter.

You knew I would have to mention the Beatles. Sometimes pressure and Yokos break the best of them. There is tragedy in the loss experienced after the break. Every time Hear Comes the Sun plays though, I can see those four young lads stepping out onto the stage for the first time, breaking hearts and making parents angry. They left something permanent and transformative no matter what happened between them or to them.

Bands arise. Bands break. Some bands remain for a long time, in perpetuity either by staying together or through the legend of their music. Life goes on after bands break. Life goes on after people break. My band broke in 2018. My guitar and banjo are packed and ready for new music, an improved soundtrack of my life, in 2019.