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My Grandmother, the Writer

I love to write. I love finding the right string of words to convey an emotion or thought. I love the way my sentences sound when I read them out loud after writing them down. I don’t write quickly. I scrutinize each word that I use and question if there is a better one. I started this blog, in the midst of all the chaos going on in my life, because when I sit down to write my mind settles and I am able to do something that I love.

Any skill that I have at writing I received from my mom. An English major, she’s written far more and writes far better than I do. I am able to write so openly and honestly because she set the example years ago by opening herself up and writing her thoughts and emotions on a page. She taught me that it’s okay to be vulnerable in the words that you write. There are stories to be told in our minds and until we put the words on a page they remain hidden in our brains unshared with the world. The world may or may not embrace our stories but until we are willing to share them, we will never know.

My mother’s love for writing came from my grandmother. The story goes that my grandmother was always writing something in her early adult years. From writing and directing the school plays at her children’s schools to authoring her own column in the church newsletter, when people needed something written, they asked my grandmother to write it.

It wasn’t until she went on a spiritual retreat in the early 1960s that she met a mentor who encouraged her to take her writing more seriously. The mentor, Emmy, told my grandmother to take 30 minutes every day to sit in absolute silence doing nothing and to write Emmy once a month about what she feels and hears or if she feels and hears nothing, to write about how that feels.

And so, for several years my grandmother wrote. Gradually, as my grandmother started teaching 9th grade English her time for writing grew less and less. My family is lucky to have a lot of her writings from the 60s; my aunt compiled a book for each of us to keep with her work. It only takes reading one of her short stories to realize that my grandmother had a way with words.

My grandmother will turn 90 in May. I’ve been blessed to spend the last few days with her. She doesn’t write any more but she is still a fantastic storyteller. Her memory of recent years is a bit fuzzy, as it tends to be in the mind of a 90-year-old. But the memories of her childhood and early adulthood are crystal clear. For two days I had the pleasure of listening to her tell stories of riding her pony on her Kansas farm as a young girl, how she came to meet my grandfather and why she became a 9th grade English teacher. She told me stories of traveling to Ireland, England, Turkey, Greece and Germany. If I asked her a question, she gave me a story for an answer.

My grandmother is a storyteller. She used to write them down but now just shares them by memory. They are still the same beautiful stories only spoken not written. I was blessed not only to listen to her stories this weekend but also to receive her passion for writing in life. I hope I can share this passion to the generations that come after me just as she shared it; first with my mother and now with me.

Thank you Grandma.

Trading Cars

The summer before my junior year in college I decided I needed a car before I returned to school in the fall. I had several reasons for coming to such a decision. The main reason being that I was taking a daily class at Cornell and I didn’t want to take the bus from Ithaca to Cornell everyday because it would add an hour to my travel time. So I did what any responsible, motivated and driven college student with a summer job would do: I tried to convince my parents to buy me a car. I started with my mom. She bought me my first car so I felt I had a good shot with her. I would still be driving that first car if it had not been totaled in an accident that both the police officer and insurance company agreed was not my fault. And yet, apparently there was a “one and done” rule with my mom because she was not budging when I came to her this time with my best pitch for a second car.

So that left my dad. A reasonable man and my only remaining chance. I knew I had to succeed with him. The man had a law degree so I knew my arguments had to be solid. I needed to have my facts together. I needed make sure he understood how much this car would benefit him too. I reminded him that once I had my car, he wouldn’t have to make the 6 hours drive to drop me off or pick me up from school anymore. I promised him that after two years, when I graduated, he could have the car back and would then he would have a larger car to be able to transport things around when he needed one. I may have also played the daddy’s girl card and exaggerated the conditions of a perfectly respectable public transit system in the town of Ithaca but I was desperate for a car.

My powers of persuasion must have paid off because that summer the two of us went used car shopping. I had done my research. I knew what I wanted. I wanted a Honda CR-V. It was large enough to hold my stuff while travelling to and from college each semester but not too much of a gas guzzler. It would handle well in the snow which is a must for a Virginia girl driving in upstate New York in the winter. I remember how excited I was when my dad bought the car. It was only three years old and it was wonderful. It had a pull out card table in the trunk if I ever randomly needed a table. Believe it or not, this was a huge selling point for me about the car. In the two years that I drove the car, I think I only used the table twice but it was great to know that it was there if I needed it.

I loved that car. I logged plenty of hours driving to and from school at the beginning and end of each semester. Driving down Interstate 81, I listened to a lot of great music and thought through a bunch of life choices in that car. It was the perfect car. For the two years that I drove that car, we were perfectly paired.

Eleven years later, my dad still owns that car. True to our agreement, when I graduated my dad took the car back and has used it as his back up car ever since. It’s a bit more banged up than it was when I drove it. It doesn’t run as smoothly, being that it’s a 14-year-old car. We borrow the car from time to when our van is in the shop because we can’t fit three car seats in the back of our compact car.

Our van has been in the shop since Monday. Which means we’ve had the CR-V for the entire week. As perfect as the CR-V was for me as a 20-year-old, it could not be more ill-suited for me in my current life situation. Our three car seats BARELY fit in the back seat and when all three kids are in the car they are sitting elbow to elbow. This works great for kids who have no desire to touch each other or pick at each other. Unfortunately that phrase does not describe my children. Also, this is the first time we’ve borrowed the car since the twins have been able to open car doors. So that was fun on the first ride in the CR-V when they both decided to open the door while we were sitting at an intersection and then didn’t know how to close the door. I have since enabled the child-locks so we’ve nipped that problem in the bud. Also, our water heater broke this week so we showered at the gym one day after school. I didn’t realize how much more space our van had until I had three backpacks and a gym bag crammed in the front seat.

While it’s been incredible helpful this week as a temporary car for us, there is no way I’d ever want it to be our permanent car. It just would not work for our family. I miss the automatic doors on our minivan. I miss the captain chairs that separate siblings that like to pick at each other. I miss the kids being able to buckle themselves in alone instead of needing my help because the car seats are packed in so tightly.

It’s tempting to let the new problems of the CR-V taint the memories of the past. It’s tempting to deem the CR-V the worst car ever. It’s tempting to hate it. When I drive the car now, I can hardly believe it’s the same car that I used to love so much. We’ve both changed. My life demands different things now than it once did. Even if I didn’t change, cars don’t stay new forever. They start to rattle and shake and don’t run as smooth.

There are a lot of things in life that work this way: hobbies, jobs, cities we live in. As we go through the different seasons of life, our needs and wants change. Things that fit one season might not fit in another season of our life. This doesn’t discredit the times from the past. Those memories will always be there. It just means that it’s time to move on. It’s time to find something that fits you better. As a college student, I never thought I’d choose a minivan over my CR-V but today I wouldn’t trade my minivan for anything.

So I Redesigned My Blog

So if you have ever been in my house more than once, you’ll notice that I don’t like to keep things the same for too long (and I wonder why my son is constantly rearranging the toy room. The apple really doesn’t fall far from the tree, does it now?). For this reason, it’s pretty amazing that my last blog design lasted for more than a year. I blame the fact that my kids no longer take naps. Also, the fact that my husband and I discovering the show Breaking Bad didn’t help. If either of those two things had not happened, there is no way we would be this far into 2013 with the same design as last year.

I’m really excited about this new design. You’ll notice there is a lot more going on the landing page. I’ve spotlighted some of my favorite posts. These will change periodically. The rotating images at the top will also change. I’m still living into this design and what’s great about it is that I can change things up in a few months to keep things fresh. There are a lot of possibilities with this new design and I am very excited. If you ever get nostalgic for the old style, you can scroll down to the bottom of the home page and click on “Go to Blog” which is very similar to the old style.

Once again I could not have done this without the help of my brother-in-law, Brian Patterson. Brian is a founding partner at Go Fish Digital and is incredibly knowledgable in the world of websites and blogs. He made this transition seamless and very easy (at least on my end!).

That’s all I have to say about that. So feel free to browse around and check out the new site. I hope you like it as much as I do!