I won’t grow up!

Peter Pan

When I was a kid, there were several TV broadcasts of Peter Pan that I watched with great enthusiasm. After doing a little research on Wikipedia, I figure I saw the production when I was 8, 11, and 14 years old. I found the show delightful at 8 and 11, but when I watched it again at 14, I was devastated with the realization that I was growing up and would never be a child again. Remember Peter Pan refusing to grow up and how Wendy understood she was at the cusp of becoming too mature to believe in Neverland and Tinker Bell? I was hit with the realization that I would soon have responsibilities and adult-sized problems. I was sure there would be a longer and longer list of things I should no longer do, because they were too childish. After all, those were the messages I heard from my parents, teachers, and other adults.

How often have you heard a sentence beginning with “you’re too old to…”? Or uttered the words yourself, in the form of “I’m too old to…”?

Well, I say STOP IT! Stop it right now!

I just turned 64 (“Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m 64?”) and Charlie is 78. Old fogies, right? Yes, but we ignore those numbers when it comes to deciding if we’re able to take on some activity. We both still rock climb, cross-country ski, hike, backpack. Charlie’s a fanatic about ice climbing. I took up kayaking this past summer. At a convention I attended for a service organization I belong to, I was thrilled to go try out the water slides at the hotel we were staying in. I think one other adult gave it a go. When I go into a McDonalds with a play area, it’s all I can do to keep myself from kicking off my shoes and crawling around in the brightly-colored tubes. I’m almost short enough to get away with it, too.

I was almost 40 when I started rock climbing, over 60 when I wrote my first novel. My body has gotten older, and there are things I can’t physically do any more, but I know that because I tried, not because I looked at the calendar and decided the number of years since my birth meant I shouldn’t do them. Remember that age is just a number. Don’t let that number define who you are and what you can do.

As Peter would say,

“If growing up means
It would be
beneath my dignity to climb a tree,
I’ll never grow up, never grow up, never grow up.
Not me!”

How about you? What do you do to defy the number on the calendar? I’d love to hear from you…comment below.

Write about what you know?

Cover Concept The Daughters' Baggage

Cover concept and possible title

When I sat down to write my first novel, Faces, I kept a tight grip on the advice to “write about what you know.” The main character was a software developer, enjoyed rock climbing, lived in Denver, and had acquired prosopagnosia (face blindness that begins following some sort of brain injury). I am a retired software developer, enjoy rock climbing, grew up in Denver, and have developmental prosopagnosia (face blindness that I may have had since birth). Gee — what a stretch. The rest of the story was fictional, however.

I’ve just completed the first draft of a new novel, tentatively titled The Daughters’ Baggage. The primary character is a black, teenage girl living in California with her mother, struggling to pull themselves out of poverty in the years following the death of her father. Another important character is a young Afghan refugee who has come to the U.S. without legal documentation.

I’m a 60-something, white woman who has never experienced poverty, and has never been to a war-torn country. Is it okay for me to write about these characters I don’t really know? Can I possibly empathize with them, having had a limited number of black friends over the years and no direct exposure to refugees from central Asia?

I like to believe that writing about people with different backgrounds and experiences than my own isn’t against any “rules” on being an author. Men write about female characters and vice versa, middle-aged authors write about teenagers, bankers write about detectives, and nobody finds that to be strange. I hope that my exposure to other points of view through conversations, presentations, and my reading, along with my desire to imagine lives different from my own, have allowed me to present fictional characters and situations that are true to real life.

Soon, I hope to have a draft of the book ready for Beta readers — people who read an early version and provide feedback on the story, plot, pacing, characters, and any other reactions they have to the book. I’m especially interested in finding readers who have more of a personal connection to some of the background or experiences of my characters. Reading books and articles has been helpful to me — conversations with people can be even more powerful.

Would you like to be a Beta reader? Not only would I love to hear from persons of color and people with personal knowledge of life in Afghanistan, I’d like to get feedback from anyone who enjoys reading fiction with strong female characters and contemporary settings. Leave a comment below or email me if you are interested. The likely time period for reading will be January 2016.

 

 

Thanksgiving Outdoors

While we’re bombarded with ads and online messages to see how much we can spend and how quickly we can spend it on Black Friday, Charlie & I fall b20151106 Grand Mesaack on our own tradition of planning to stay as far from a shopping mall or even an online sale as possible. Depending on weather conditions, we may go cross-country skiing or take a hike or strap on our snowshoes and explore a trail.

We applaud companies like REI which is urging people to #OptOutside this holiday weekend. Not only are they not forcing employees to work on Thursday and Friday instead of being able to celebrate this wonderful holiday with family and friends, they are also turning their back on what has become an obsessive dedication to equating “the holidays” with spending money. They will be closed on Black Friday, and are urging people to get outside rather than roam around a shopping mall, to enjoy nature rather than vegetate in front of the big screen TV.

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. In my family, we have a tradition of going around the table, saying what we are most thankful for. Guess what. Stuff we own never makes the list. Relationships, health, satisfaction with the work we do (paid or volunteer), living in a beautiful area — these are the things we’re most thankful for.

Being outside, surrounded by nature, is an ideal way to calm the mind and to become more fully aware of the wonders that surround us. Feeling thankful for my life and all the people in it comes more easily when I stop in the woods and take in the beauty surrounding me.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. I hope you’ll take time to #OptOutdoors this weekend — and whenever you get the chance.