Reunion (the real post)

Now for the re-creation of Sunday’s deleted post…

Reunion. The word is deceptively simple. The dictionary definitions are:

1. the act of uniting again.

2. the state of being united again.

3. a gathering of relatives, friends, or associates at regular intervals or after separation.

This weekend I had not one, but three reunions with people from all eras of my life – ages 7, 15, 20 and everything in between. Living in a remote area, I had to pack it all in at once. Fortunately, everyone else was on the band wagon!

As I drove home Sunday night after this amazing whirlwind, I started to think about the word reunion and merged it with what I was feeling. The three groups of people I saw were from vastly different times in my life. The first group of friends was from college. By then I was reaching adulthood, happy to be starting a new chapter in my life, happy to be moving on to a new place and new environment, happy to have new adventures with new people, happy to evolve into the person I would be as an adult, and happy for my education to lead to a career (at least I had hoped). Friendships were deep and lasting.

The second group of friends was from an intergenerational recreation group (www.ecrs.org) that my family and I started going to when I was seven. Within this group I met my extended family. This is where I felt the most authentic, alive, joyful, accepted, and bonded with people from ages 7 to 97. This group of people laid the foundation for who I am today and what kind of environment makes me happiest and how to realize my full potential. These days were filled with play and song and dance.

And lastly, I reunited with my high school friends. I won’t lie. High school was not always an easy time for me. I never really felt like I fit in. I never felt like I could really be myself. I never wanted to be part of one group, so I had friends from many – the jocks, the burnouts, the music and theater group, the fringe…I like all kinds of people and it didn’t matter to me what pack they traveled with as long as I enjoyed being in their company. While I didn’t have enough esteem to let my authentic self fully show up in high school, I definitely had a ton of fun and made some wonderful friendships. At home I wrote lots and lots of poetry and listened to a lot of music (thank you JT and Cat Stevens), wrote a lot of letters (remember those?!), and tried desperately to feel connected. By virtue of my family situation I was literally alone the majority of the time at home. This was not all bad. (It made for a great party house, LOL!) It forced me to become a fiercely independent person, which I don’t regret for a second. At 13 I was traveling by train alone to visit friends in other states, going to concerts solo or with friends, cooking food for myself and doing my laundry.

So on that drive home Sunday night, I thought about all these eras of my life. And I realized that prior to the weekend, I had thought of them as breadcrumbs dropped along the path of my life, leading me back when I wanted to visit those places in my mind, but forever being separate from each other. After reuniting with all of the wonderful people I saw this weekend, though, I had a new realization. A reunion isn’t just a gathering of old friends. It is a gathering up of all those breadcrumbs and putting them back together into a whole loaf of bread. That these parts of my life were not, in fact, separate. They are all me. The experiences and relationships I had with people make me who I am today. All of them.

Realizing this was very satisfying and relieving in a way. I felt like I didn’t need to try to discount any part of who I was. “Oh, that’s what I was like at age 14, but I’m not like that today.” Yeah, but that 14-year-old still lives in me, as does that 7-year-old, and that 20-year-old, and all the people I knew from those times.

So I’ve forged a new definition of reunion: A gathering of the pieces of your life that make you who you are today. A reuniting of the fragments of your life into one integrated whole. The sum of our parts.

Thank you to every single person I saw this weekend that is a piece of my life – some that have been for decades, some brand new pieces, some lost and found. I cherish each and every one of you, and thank you for making me who I am today.

You inform who I am, you inform what kind of teacher I am, and you inform the stories I write.

May you all celebrate the parts that together make you whole. May you make a happy reunion in your heart.

Life Lesson #19: We are always becoming the person we are at any given moment.

Words, words, and more words

Words. What more is there to say?

Okay, seriously. I love them and I find myself wishing I had taken that Latin class in high school that so many of my friends took. I’m convinced I’d have a better vocabulary. Sometimes I absolutely, positively cannot find the right word. It exists. I know it does. I’m sure I’ve heard it or read it scores of times. But where is it when I need it?

Sometimes, as a writer, I turn words into a game. My goal, after all, is for kids to love reading my books not only for the story but for the sound of words. This, to me, is one of the re-readability factors. What makes them coming back for more!

I’m currently working on a story that I’ve had in my noggin for over a year (as happens with most of my stories), and I really, really, really want to get the words right. The story depends on it. So here’s what I did last week…

Photo on 5-29-15 at 1.44 PM

This is my bedroom floor, or should I say my drafting table? It’s probably impossible to see in the photo, but the middle row of cards are the nouns in the story. The cards under them are onomatopoeia, and the cards above them are verbs. Along the side I have the location of every scene from the book. As I worked on my manuscript I realized I had so many of these in the draft I couldn’t possibly move them around on my computer screen. With the cards I could see where I fell short. Heck, you can see where I fall short. There are a couple of lengthy columns there and then a few pipsqueaky ones. Those are my word holes. Where are the words I need? By doing this exercise I could see it so much better, and come up with the words desperately waiting to be heard in this story. Now I’ve transferred this mess onto a spreadsheet so I can carry it around with me while I work on my story outside. Downstairs. In the shower (okay, just kidding there). And (hopefully) sooner, rather than later, the rest of the words needing to be heard will come to me. It’s like a miracle.

Do you have favorite or crazy way you find or organize the words you use in your writing? Do you have some favorite words to share? Please leave a comment. You could be my miracle!

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