As a kid, I was a total Trixie Belden fan. I couldn't be bothered with Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys. I was loyal to the sandy haired mystery solver, her best friend, and their band of friends. Although I no longer have any of the books in the series (too many moves), I have many fond memories of escaping from the reality of my world to join in on whatever adventure the Belden kids got themselves into. Here are ten things I learned from reading Trixie Belden books:
1. All mysteries can be solved. Even the mysteries of reading, writing, and understanding SQL code. It may take a too hundred page book and a lot of determination on my part to learn a new skill, but it can be done. Every single time.
2. The Hudson River and Sleepy Hollow somehow go hand in hand. I don't know how exactly, but they do. And both are equally good and mysterious.
3. Volunteering is good. Just ask Trixie and her pals. IT didn't matter that they had school and homework and chores. They still had time to be the staff at a dude ranch or put on an ice skating fundraiser to help the less fortunate. Even Honey did these things and she was rich.
4. Being friends first is always better. It didn't matter how much the six of them hung out together, they fostered their friendships. Did they end up paired off, married, and living happily ever after? I think so. And I think their marriages were better for it.
5. If your younger sibling gets bitten by a snake, Trixie can show you how to save him. Remember when this happened to Bobby Belden? Trixie managed to save him, solve that book's mystery, and still had time to weed the blasted garden. It's all about having a little know-how and some time management.
6. Opposites make the best of friends. Middle class, farmer's kids? Rich, only child? Beaten, abandoned, and adopted? Veering down the wrong path in life before a divine intervention comes along? Get together, hang out, solve a few mysteries. A little diversity only strengthens the bond between true friends.
7. Girls can do anything. Who cares that detective agencies are usually run by men? Girls can solve a mystery, play a sport, drive a car, or start a business, and be just as successful. Shatter that glass ceiling, ladies. And teach your daughters how to do the same.
8. It's never too late to try something new. And when you're learning a new skill, don't be afraid to get up and keep trying if you get knocked down. Honey didn't give up when she was learning to ride that bike. Trixie got back on the horse after falling off. And when the mysteries became a challenge, they kept investigating until they figured them out.
9. Once a Trixie fan, always a Trixie fan. Reading this series is where I learned about being brand loyal. I never could read Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys. Trixie gets under your skin and brings all her friends with her. Brand loyal? Who am I kidding? They became my friends.
10. A well written book is more than a short escape from a harsh reality. To travel to far away places (like the Hudson River) and meet new (albeit fictional) people. A well written book (or books as in the case of the Trixie Belden series) is a chance to believe in long lasting friendships, the power of confidence...and even yourself.
What book(s) helped you grow into yourself? Did you learn something about yourself as you learned about new characters, new words, and explored new places through the gift of reading?
Sometimes, I want to give up. Not on life, but on some of the things that make life hard. The things that get in the way of reaching for and achieving those goals. Do you ever feel that way?
Take the application I recently completed. I applied for a grant for emerging artists because I really want to get my children’s book illustrated and out to the world. I have a friend who has been illustrating the book. I want to pay her for her work, get the book bound/published and share it with little kids so they can learn about their feelings.
I first learned about the application last year. After the deadline. Hard thing number one: reminding myself to wait (as patiently as possible) for the following year when the grant application process opened up again.
Right before it opened in January of this year, I printed out the old paper application, filled in my name, etc. on the first page and laid it on my writing desk. Every time I wrote or cleaned off my desk, I looked at that stack of papers and reminded myself I would apply when the submission window opened up again. The week before January first, I set an alarm on my cell phone for the first Saturday. When it went off, I opened the website in my browser and printed off the current paper application.
Then I did nothing for a while except read through the application instructions.
At the beginning of February, I texted my sister (who is a master at grant writing) and asked her to set up some time for the following weekend to chat about how I should go about applying. Because let’s face it, I had a million questions.
I also started drafting some of the writing pieces needed for the application (Hard part number two). A resume that touted my creative artwork, an artist’s statement, and a description of the activities I would need to complete to get the project done were also drafted.
After I spent a lovely Sunday chatting with my sister (I <3 her!), I had a lot of my questions answered and even came up with a few more questions. I sent her my drafts and waited for the feedback. Then, I went back to the website to read through the process a little more. When I realized the online application submission process was easier, I decided to go that route. Otherwise, hard part number three would have been ordering toner for the printer, going to the post office…ugh. Not interested in that.
As usual though, technology decided to fight against me and my goal to submit this application. I had to save word documents as PDFs. Figuring out how to do that became hard part number four. I had to figure out how to upload videos that I directed onto Youtube (hard part number five). And then how to get the perfectly configured Youtube URL to go into the persnickety field on the application (hard parts number six through ten because it constantly rejected my URL).
I had to ask for help from my husband.
And not shout obscenities at him every time the link wouldn’t take (hard part number eleven). Because even though I love him to the moon and back for not leaving me when I get irritable about computer problems, I still want to swear in his presence when things like this don’t work.
Eventually, it all worked out. All the documents saved as PDFs. The youtube URL emerged from the bowels of cyberspace and the grant application gods received it as one of their own. I did not swear at or around my husband and asking for help was a blessing because, as usual, he fixed the tech problems. He’s so smart.
The hardest part of it all, though? Not giving up. Finding the courage deep within myself to apply for the grant in the first place. Which meant not giving up. Ever. Not through the waiting of several months for the submission window to open. Not through the challenges of finding the standard industry format for screenplays (did I mention how searching for that took up an entire morning’s worth of writing time?) and then copying/pasting two of my non-industry formatted screenplays. I hadn’t even realized there was a standard industry format.
The goal through it all has been to face my fear of rejection and denial. I mean, it’s quite possible that through all of that hard work that I won’t get a dime from the grant program. If that happens, will all that work have been for naught?
I don’t think so. I’m not saying it won’t hurt a little if that happens. It will. I’m not saying I won’t be disappointed if I get nothing. I will.
It’s just that I still think it will be worth it. I think it will be worth the questions, the frustration, the learning about youtube links, all of it. The whole kit and caboodle. It’ll be worth it because I didn’t give up even when I wanted to.
Yes, I wanted to give up a time or two. The time my writing time was eaten up by grant application steps and having gotten up at 4:30 in the morning to write felt extremely unproductive; I wanted to give up. The time I spent a solid hour trying to figure out how to get the stupid URL to fit whatever criteria the grant application expected; I wanted to give up.
I even told my husband I wanted to give up. I said the words out loud because it was important to me to voice my feelings. I’m learning to be more aware of my feelings and less afraid of them. That’s a whole other blog for a whole other time.
My husband told me not to give up. My sister encouraged me. She texted me one day with feedback on my submission drafts and told me she was proud of me. That helped me a lot. She was proud of me whether I got the grant award or not. My husband researched youtube URLs and dealt with my snarky attitude with grace and kindness. Whether I got the grant award or not.
So I didn’t give up. I decided I was an inspiration to me for not giving up. For plugging ahead. For asking for clarification on application instructions when I wanted to be absolutely sure I was doing everything as it was required.
In the end, I turned in my application six days ahead of my self-imposed deadline. Six days early. On Valentine’s Day. It was a gift to me. Whether I get the grant award or not.
A while back we went to the movies. We’re not usually movie going people, but it was Valentine’s and we were already going to be in town for dinner, so a movie seemed like a good pair to the crab legs and prime rib we had for our evening meal.
We watched The Wedding Ringer. Have you seen it? It’s a comedy about a guy who’s about to get married but has no friends to stand up for him. He hires a guy who has made his living out of being the groom’s “best friend.” There were some really funny parts, some parts that were a bit over the top, and a few really good lines. It made for a fun date, though don’t take the kids. It’s Rated R for some sexual content.
Anyway, in one scene, the Wedding Ringer is feeling down and his receptionist gives him a pep talk. At one point, she asks him: Why are you in this business?
Which got me to thinking…why are we in the businesses we’re in? What possesses us (other than the paycheck) to get up in the morning, punch the clock, and work? Or if we’re salaried, what compels us to put in the time to get the job done, even if there is no overtime? And if you don’t work for ‘the man’ what convinces you to work for yourself, crafting an art or creating things or whatever it is you do? Why do you do it?
While some folks are likely out there putting in their time to ward off starvation and homelessness, many of us are blessed enough to be doing something we love. Though, there are times when work becomes just that. Work. A drudgery that we endure for the sake of the almighty Friday.
When we were watching that movie and that line was said, it got me to thinking. Why am I in the business I’m in? A few months ago, I stopped my walk in the path of life and found a fork in the road. Instead of continuing in the career I’ve spent almost a decade in, I veered down a new path into the world of IT.
Why? Because I needed a new challenge. Because for two years as the team I’m on now was being created, I spent a lot of time telling anyone who would listen “If they would pay me to do that full time, I’d do it in a heartbeat.” Those aren’t the only reasons though. I’m in the business because I want the end users jobs to be easier.
There is so much administrative required work in the field of health care these days that being able to spend quality time with a patient is dwindling. The easier it is for an end user to get his or her paperwork finished, the more time that provider can spend with the patient. Which is why providers get into the business they’re in.
I also write. Big surprise as you’re reading this, right? But why do I write? Why do I get up at 4:30 in the morning five days a week to write? Just a sec. I need to get more coffee. Okay, I’m back. Right, there was a question.
Why do I get up and write? Because it nourishes my soul. Because I’ve finally embraced this as my go-to hobby that propels me drags me out of bed in the morning when everyone else is still sleeping.
Do I want to be published someday? Yes. Only to get my super encouraging daughter off my back about getting it done? No. But getting published is the destination, it’s not the journey.
The Wedding Ringer had a great business idea (in the pretend world of Hollywood) and sometimes he lost sight of why he did what he did. That’s what I would be doing if I only focused on getting published. I would lose sight of the journey and all I’ve learned and am learning in the wee hours of the morning.
The journey is part of the reward. A big part, even. Let me give you a couple of examples.
Getting up this early to write has given me so many things. Like how to be a morning person. How to face my fears. I’ve met lots of new (and great) people along this journey. [Waves to all the #10MinuteNovelists.] I’ve had great opportunities because of this journey. Like writing the screenplays for and directing this.
Working in IT, in a daycare, at a restaurant, for yourself, and any other business you might be in or get into has rewards. Sure, there are days when we have to look a little harder and remind ourselves a little bit more about why we’re in it. Not every day is Friday, right?
But if the only reason we’re in the business is to get to Friday or to have a job or to please someone else, maybe it’s time to find another business.
It’s funny the things we learn about in this wacky world. It’s even funnier where we learn those things at. Like in the movie theater while watching The Wedding Ringer.
Why are you in the business you’re in? Settle in and share your story. I’m all ears.
Crying isn't for the weak. Nor is it a sign of weakness.
Far from it. Crying is a sign of forging ahead through the darkness that comes with this roller coaster journey we call life. It's a sign of reflecting, remembering those who have fallen. Weeping for those who have overcome life's hardships. Because both losing someone and watching someone emerge from a tunnel of darkness into the sunlight are both important moments worth commemorating with tears.
I've never been much of a crier. Years of being told to "suck it up" or "quit being a baby" will do that to a person. And by that, I mean stifle the all important shedding of tears. Then, there was the not understanding phrase (command) "Stop crying or I"ll give you something to cry about." If I could have stopped crying, don't you think I would have? Don't you think I wished upon every star in the sky that whatever pain or fear or angst I was feeling hadn't happened? Because when we cry (it really is a matter of when and not if), there are reasons for it.
Last week a good friend of mine said she was "going home to cuddle up in a blanket, watch a movie, and have a good cry." I asked her if anything was wrong. Her response: "No. Don't you ever feel like you need to do that? It gets things out. It's healing."
I thought she'd lost her mind. Have I mentioned I don't like to cry?
I nodded along and gave some vague reassurance that even though I didn't get it, I thought she was awesome anyway. Because, truth be told, I was holding back tears of my own.
The last week was rough. As in one of the hardest weeks I've experienced in a long time. It was fraught with too much change, anniversary effect creeping up on me, and the heartbreak of a dear friend. I had a crying spell every day last week.
The crying didn't even happen at expected moments when thinking about the anniversary of a baby lost or when updating my caring husband about how our friend was doing. Because crying can be like that. Where it sneaks up on you when you least suspect it and aren't prepared with a Kleenex handy.
Instead, the tears came at random. When a friend shared exciting news, when I sat down to dinner with my husband, or when another dear friend gave me a hug. The week before that, I burst into tears over a cup of tea.
Crying isn't for the weak. It's for the living. Because while living, sad and happy things happen. We watch movies that evoke strong emotion. We sometimes have no words for what we're experiencing. We lose a warrior. We love really hard.
I don't like crying. It's not a good look on me. But there was no way I could "suck it up" this past week. I wasn't being a baby. I was hurting. I was confused. I wanted to rail against God himself for some of the stuff going on around me. And honestly, though I have a professional history of helping people deal with life's changes, I don't care much for change. Bring me the sameness, the familiarity, the comfort of that which I've gotten used to.
Did I need to stop crying or risk being given something to cry about? No. I had plenty to shed tears over.
It's true that crying doesn't fix anything. It doesn't. It won't mend a marriage or bring a baby back. It won't solve years of hurt or lost relationships. It won't undo the change that has happened.
But we weren't put on this Earth to fix things for others. Bikes, dishwashers, and the like, maybe. But the real life hurts and brokenness, no. That's not our job.
We won't always understand what's going on. We may never learn the reasons for why bad things happen to good people. And the grief and loss we experience; nothing prepares us for that.
Crying won't fix those things.
What crying will do though, is like my friend said. It'll get things out. It'll help us along the path of healing. Perhaps even along the path of forgiving. I'm sure these things are true. Though in my case, my crying last week probably did more along the lines of freaking out my husband. Poor guy.
The tears I shed last week won't bring my friend's daughter back. It won't bring back the baby I lost more than a decade ago. It won't magically halt change or stop the increasing estrangement in the not-so-close relationships I have with some folks. But, crying did help. A little, anyway.
They reminded me of my blessings; like the children of mine who have made it, despite my episodes of not-so-great parenting. The tears helped me to deal with some of the discomfort I'm experiencing due to life's changes and to rejoice for those who shared with me their good news. They were evidence that while I couldn't do much to ease my friend's pain, I could help her cry. It's what friends do for friends.
Some might say the act of crying is selfish or annoying, even a sign of weakness. To those people, I hope you never experience heartache in life. If you can't cry because of it, you may never recover from the harsh blows of reality.
For everyone else, my thoughts are with you. Sometimes life hurts and sometimes those tears will come. Take heart in knowing you're helping a friend and maybe even healing a little bit yourself. If those things aren't enough, know that you're doing what Jesus would do. Because once upon a time, Jesus wept too in John 11:35.
Perhaps you're interested in doing something more for someone who's hurting. If so, I challenge you to do one of the following:
Here's what I do know though. She had a beautiful smile, she served our country, and she loved animals. She passed away this last week. Her family hurts and so do her friends. Hers was a life gone too quickly.
Crying won't change that. If it could, this post would be about the miraculous return of a woman that was loved by many. Sure, crying might ease the pain a little. But, crying while making a donation, will help rescue animals. And donating will help her family heal as they realize that even during life's hard times, there are people out there who are willing to make a difference in honor and memory of Dakota Volkman.
Go. Weep if you must. And donate to your local animal shelter. When they ask, tell them Dakota sent you.
Imagine you’re wearing your favorite outfit. It’s the one you feel most confident in. The outfit that when you don it, you stand taller, speak clearer. You exude confidence, determination, and you basically know…you’re brilliant when you wear it.
Do you have that picture firmly in your mind? It feels good, doesn’t it?
Now, keep that image in your head and build on it. You’re no longer sitting in your living room with your frumpy bathrobe on. No. You’re dressed to the nines and standing on stage. The audience is packed full and they paid money to get in the door.
The curtain raises. The crowd applauds. And the show begins.
What does the show consist of? What are you doing on stage, exactly? Stay focused people. It’s not one of those shows.
As the crowd quiets down, you deliver your masterpiece…
Of lies and witty banter. You perform magic of the most elusive kind. As you engage in one illusion after another, you engage in witty banter. The words roll off your tongue like water off a duck’s back. There are no embarrassing pauses. No gaps in whatever spiel goes along with your current trick.
Have you rehearsed the material? To the nth degree. You’re flawless. You’re funny. Your inner spirit being escapes outside of your body (hey, he can do magic too) and watches from the sidelines. You impress the hell out of even yourself.
Alright, now that you’ve had some fun, get back to reality. Sip some coffee. You’re just you again.
That bit of visualization we just did though; I saw it in action last weekend. Only instead of myself performing, it was Penn & Teller. Have you ever heard of them? I hadn’t until our long weekend in Vegas (more to come on that).
While I don’t agree with their religious views, I was highly impressed with their ability to turn one thing (like the green tablecloth that posed as the cow’s pasture) into a red and white checked tablecloth without anyone seeing a thing. It was brilliant and that was just one of their tricks.
The two have been working together since the mid-seventies when Wier Chrisimer introduced them to each other. An act was eventually born when Wier, who performed with them for less than a decade, stepped out of the business. Penn & Teller have displayed their talents on many venues from television shows (Home Improvement, 1998), famous talk shows (The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Saturday Night Live), have received multiple awards, and generally continue to fascinate large audiences at the Rio in Las Vegas, Nevada.
I’ve only been to Vegas the once and there are probably a million things I missed out on due to being there only a few days, having teens in tow, and needing some time to sleep and watch HGTV. I’m glad I didn’t miss out on Penn & Teller’s stellar act though. It was humorous, not too long and not too short, fascinating (I mean seriously, how do they do those tricks?), and made for a great date night with my favorite guy on the planet. –No, not a Chippendales guy; I’m talking about my husband.
If you’ve never heard of Penn & Teller, haven’t been to Vegas before, or have been but are looking to go again and haven’t caught this show, make sure to get tickets. Just go early enough to grab dinner at the Rio’s amazing buffet on your way to your seats. The crab legs pair nicely with the Penn & Teller act.