Thursday, August 25, 2016

I found a website called It is a pretty fun site that recommends books, lists quotes or book titles, and posts other cool things. A reader's dream.

Another awesome thing about is . . . that I'm writing for them!! Check out two posts that I wrote three days from each other. And more ideas are flowing!! (I know. This blog is jealous of the other blog getting all the attention.)

My first post recommended books for parents of twins. And believe me, twin parents need all the help they can get.

My second post listed reasons to listen to music while reading.

Check them out!!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Olympics, Winning, and Losing

During the Olympics, NBC covers tons of stories about athletes who overcame obstacles and trained hard for hours a day for years to win a gold medal. Some reports tell about humble athletes, whose natural abilities raised them up to glory. We eat up stories about Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt, and Simone Biles. These stories inspire us to pursue greatness.

We all want and need to believe that our dreams will come true if we work and believe hard enough. We believe that it is possible. Children's interest piques in gymnastics and swimming and ice skating. Some of those inspired children become Olympians themselves, all because of the victors and their stories.

I'm not trying to take away from their victories or make it sound like the gold (or any) medalists haven't earned their rewards, but what about the athletes who don't win the medal they wanted or any medal at all?

Chances are, those who get the "participant ribbon" worked just as hard and just as long as, or perhaps even harder and longer than, the winners. Some of them come from even humbler circumstances or had to overcome and sacrifice even more to get to the Olympics. But despite their best efforts, they lose the race. Or someone else nails their dismount better than they did. Or the other team plays just a little bit better and scores more. And because these athletes don't win or come close to winning, we don't hear about them.

This Olympics, I keep thinking about those who "lose," despite doing everything right. How do they feel knowing that they gave everything they had, and it still wasn't enough? That their best will never beat someone else's? How long did they dream of and train toward winning a gold medal? How do they feel about the time they spent working toward a goal that will never be theirs?

I'm not an Olympian, but I know the feeling that my efforts sometimes don't actually contribute to the end result. There have been times when I have worked as hard as I can and done everything I can do, and still nothing. I struggle to accept the results and to feel that my best is good enough when it clearly isn't. It makes dreaming seem like a cruel trick.

And yet. . . . (Yes, there is a hopeful ending to this post.)

Yet most of the Olympic athletes are young in their early thirties, twenties, and even teens. Some will have chances to try again in the Tokyo Olympics. For those who won't return, life goes on. Even for those who win, time goes on. Life doesn't stop after the Olympics. Everyone must find a way to move on to the next goal, the next step.

I would love for NBC to run features that catch up with some retired Olympic athletes: some who won gold and perhaps some who didn't. What have they done since they stopped competing? What have past water polo players moved on to do? What is Michelle Kwan doing now? What is Misty Mays up to these days? Do they coach? Do they have families? Did they take up a different career? Your accountant could be a former Olympic diver. Who knows?

I guess the point is that sometimes dreams change. Whether we reach them or not, dreams evolve with life. Everyone, gold medalists, Olympic participants, and us normal humans alike, must realize that dreams, unless obtained at the end of our lifetimes, are not the end-all goal. Getting into a certain college, obtaining a dream job, or achieving a weight limit are admirable goals, but regardless of whether we achieve them, life goes on. We learn to dream new dreams.

So, at the close of the Olympics, I want to wish everyone happy dreaming!

What were some of your favorite moments in the 2016 Olympics?

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Writers, Read This Book!

If you want to be a writer, you have to read. A lot. A whole lot.

The more you read, the more you notice writing styles you admire. The more you read, the more you notice how the authors create that style you like. Then, comes the hard part: creating your own style.

I'm going to share some books that I think provide useful guidance for all writers, whether you're writing short blog posts or the next great American novel. Some will be fiction, others will be nonfiction. They just have to be helpful, entertaining, and relate to writing.

To start off this series of book recommendations, I thought I'd start with a fun, yet complex work of fiction that models excellent first-chapter writing--times 10. Italo Calvino's If on a Winter's Night a Stranger (1979) pushes impatient book lovers to the limit. If you must finish a story, you may not like this book. Just breathe into a paper bag and read it anyway.

The main story line takes "the Reader" through an experience of reading the first chapters of 10 different books. What prevents him (and therefore us) from progressing beyond the first? The book he buys only contains the first chapter, and then to correct the mistake the publisher sends him the wrong replacement book, which also is defective. He meets with the publisher, who gives him the first-chapter manuscript of another book, etc. One cruel twist after another leads him to seemingly endless dead ends as he tries to finish the story, any story!

Why would I recommend such a frustrating book? Simply put, introductions and first chapters are hard, and Calvino nails several in a single book. In my favorite first chapter, the character is running, something his doctor said would "calm his nerves." However, as the character runs, his train of thought runs away as well. I felt that character's panic and confusion and the intensity of his situation. Turns out, his panic was justified after all. By the end of the chapter, I was sincerely invested and wanted to know what came next.

His style and mechanics are worth studying and possibly emulating.

In addition to providing exemplary literary devices, If on a Winter's Night also discusses the experiences of writers, readers, and their relationship to each other. I can't count how many times I said as I read, "That's me. I do that too." If anything, read this book to feel understood both as a reader and a writer.

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? What books have helped you develop as a writer?

Friday, July 1, 2016

You Might Have Twins . . .

Nod to Jeff Foxworthy.
Although these mostly apply to the first year with twins, some still apply to me now.

- If you feel you could win most arm wrestling matches.

- If you get only 10 minutes without a baby in a 12-hour period.

- If you have had 16 or more diaper changes in one day.

- If perfect strangers ask you about your kids' conception.

- If you feel like a celebrity . . . in that you can't go anywhere without being stared at, stopped, asked a million questions, admired, complimented, and/or consoled.

- If there is no such thing as a quick errand.

- If you can't remember which baby woke you up last night. Or which baby you just changed. Or who you just fed.

- If you have to paint your kids' toe nails to make sure you don't mix them up, regardless of whether they are identical or fraternal.

- If there are bags under the bags under your eyes.

- If starting solids means wearing a hazmat suit.

- If changing diapers means wearing a hazmat suit.

- If you have two of everything and you hide things that you only have one of.

- If you coordinate your kids' outfits most days without even thinking about it.

- If you have single-handedly consumed an entire 1/2 gallon of ice cream in 24 hours.

- If your kids giggle at each other's jokes in their own baby language.

Any others I forgot to mention? Leave yours here.