Memoir Challenge

Story Circle Network is sponsoring a challenge starting tomorrow and running for three months. The idea is to read three memoirs in three months and review each one. The catch is, that each review must be four sentences in length!

Each month a prize will be awarded for the best review and the winner will receive a copy of Susan Albert's An Unthymely Death and Other Garden Mysteries and have their review published on the Story Circle Book Review site. A monthly door prize will also be awarded of Susan's Starting Points: Weekly Writing Pompts for Women with Stories to Tell.

At the end of the three months a grand prize winner will receive a one year membership to Story Circle Network!

So, come on! Join us in reading some great memoirs! If you want to get some ideas of what books to choose, bounce over to the memoir section of the Book Review site to get some ideas!

Mennonite Inspiration

In the late 1800s my great-grandfather Heinrich Letkeman, his wife Katarina, and their four children joined the mass migration of Mennonite Brethren from Osterwick, Russia. The six week journey cost the life of their five-year-old son, Jacob, who succumbed to illness before the six-week journey ended.

They settled in Manitoba Canada and over the next six years Katarina gave birth to four children, none of whom survived beyond their third birthday. Even their youngest son, after enduring the harsh Atlantic crossing, succumbed to illness within four years of their arrival in Canada. Sustained by their faith, the couple persevered and eventually added four more heathy children to the family.

I can't imagine the heartache Katarina must have endured at losing six of her twelve children as the family tried to build a new life in a new land.

I just finished reading and reviewing a Kim Vogel Sawyer's new book, Fields of Grace. This is a fictional tale about a family of Russian Mennonites who immigrated to Kansas at around the same time of my great-grandparent's journey and it parallels many of their experiences. You can check out my review here.

I'll share more about my own Mennonite family in the future.

Story Circle Network - Star Blogger

Recently I was given a Star Blogger award by Story Circle Network for My Own Velvet Room! I'm honored to be counted among the other SCN bloggers who have received this award.

The SCN Lifestory Blogger page says that "the selection is made on the basis of the blog's outstanding content, visual appeal, and the importance of its contribution to the growing universe of lifestory blogging."

You can find a list of other blogs written by SCN memebers, as well as a list of other Star Blogs here!

It's not you, it's me.

Before I start, let me just say that there's nothing wrong with you. You are beautiful in your own unique way and it's not your fault I don't appreciate you more.

When we first met a few months ago, I confess that I had a touch of spring fever. Who wouldn't after a long, dark and wet winter? I remember those first sunny weeks when it seemed like there was rebirth wherever I looked. I wanted to take in as much sunshine and fresh air as possible. It was glorious! And then one day, there you were.

I knew there was something different about you from the beginning. You stood out from the crowd, your appearance as distinct a your name. It was useless for me to try and resist your charms, I wanted to have you from the beginning. I was ready for a change.

I watched as you tried to fit in, but soon realized that something wasn't working. By the time I admitted to myself that I had made the wrong choice it was too late to do anything about it. When I look at pictures taken last year, when another was in the place you now occupy, I regret my impulsive decision.

Tidal Wave Silver Petunia, you just didn't turn out the way that I had expected. You've seemed a bit spindly from the beginning. Perhaps it's your color, or lack thereof, that makes you look like you've passed your prime. In another garden, in another flower pot, perhaps with different plants to accent your unique hue, I'm sure you would be beautiful. Just not in my garden.

I just should have stuck with my tried and true Tidal Wave Pink Petunia. Don't feel bad if I walk past you next spring as if I don't know you. Just remember: It's not you, it's me.

Simple Blessings

Last evening I was sitting in my back yard, gently swaying in the lawn swing, relaxing. For a while I put down the book that I was reading and enjoyed the moment I was in.

Chelsea naps on my lap while Maya runs after some birds who have the unbelievable nerve to try and land in our garden. I notice the deep cherry colored wave petunias in my window boxes, looking so full and vibrant as they cascade over the edges of the window box toward the patio below.

My gladiolas look so proud and pretty. They remind me of my Mom and the glads she grew against our back fence every year I take in the rest of our garden and feel a sense of accomplishment and contentment. We worked hard on it last weekend and now it looks neat and tidy.

I lean back and look at the sky, clear blue except for the white trail of a jet. I like the white against the blue sky. Where is going? I wonder. As I watch the white trail move ever so slowly across the sky, I think about the passengers, very likely in uncomfortable in too-small seats, trying to get settled, thinking about their destination.

I am glad I am not on that plane regardless of it's final destination. At that moment I am content to be in my back yard, enjoying the warm evening, swing slowly, not looking forward, not looking backward, just enjoying the simple blessings of the evening.

What simple summer blessings have you been enjoying lately?

Judith Viorst

I promised myself when I got my Kindle that I would stop buying "real" books. For the most part, books are cheaper on the Kindle and, quite frankly, I'm running out of places in my house to store them. There was a caveat on my promise though, because some books just aren't yet available for the Kindle, and for those, I would make an exception and I've stood by that promise. Until last Saturday.

I was playing around on my computer, Googling this and Googling that, when I came across this book of poetry by Judith Viorst.

Back in the day, I used to love Judith Viorst! Do you remember the children's book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day? That was written by Judith Viorst! It doesn't stop there, either.

In addition to being the author of this classic children's book, Judith Viorst wrote the type of light-hearted poetry about every day life that somehow seemed to validate my own experience. In fact, I was inspired to write a fair number of my own domestic-centered poems after reading Judith Viorst!

Then I found that not only has she authored Forever Fifty, she has also published volumes called How Did I Get To Be Forty, Suddenly Sixty and I'm Too Young To Be Seventy. Before I knew it I was putting in an order on Amazon without even checking availability on the Kindle. Judith Viorst books are the kind I will want to jot notes in, put sticky tabs in to mark favorite poems, and carry around as a crazy source of comfort.

Today, I arrived home from work to find Forever Fifty waiting for me! A warm and sunny day, a book of poetry, and a lawn swing. What more could I ask for!

It's Only a Number

I went shopping this week. Recently it's been a struggle every morning as I stand in a closet full of clothes and feel like I have nothing to wear. Last year at this time I loved choosing clothes in the morning; I had lots of cute outfits and it was fun! This year, it's not so much about styles changing or clothes wearing out. It's the size. There I've said it.

So I made a decision this week that I was going to stop being so fixated on the number and just go out and buy a few things that feel good and fit better. I'm tired of feeling like I can't relax or breathe properly because my clothes are tight. Actually wearing things that are just a titch too tight makes me feel fat. (Ugh. I can't believe I just used the f-word on my blog)

Anyway, I am letting go of the size I've relied on for so many years. I'm surrendering to the idea of moving up one number for now. My reliable size nn clothes will be put away for now and I will begin to move into the land of size nn.


Zero to ninety.....

Earlier this week I had an opportunity to read something written by a woman who will turn ninety years of age next month. I was taken aback with the mention of her spending time thinking about "who she is supposed to be". Somehow, I thought that one day we would be able to figure out the answer to this question for our own lives. And yet, I found it refreshing to read that this incredible woman was still thinking about her purpose.
Sometimes I walk through my too busy and frazzled to think about purpose. It's all I can do just to accomplish the tasks that I need to accomplish. But there are other times, when I allow myself to be quiet, that I think about deeper truths.
Sometimes purpose changes. The purpose I had when I was a young mom of pre-schoolers is no longer relevant to a fifty year old woman. There have been times when I knew I was walking smack dab in the center of my purpose, and others when I felt like I had nothing to contribute. There are some consistencies throughout my life, and when I look back I can see that there are some areas of purpose that stay with me.
I love the thought that seasons change and, with that, so do the roles we play. With each new season we may have an opportunity to walk freshly into a new purpose.
What new purpose to you sense in your life today?

Best Friends

While I was in the lunch room heating up my lunch today, I noticed two women laughing and chatting as they sat down to eat together. I know that they are good friends in the real world (i.e. outside of work) and that their children play together and their families spend time together on weekends. I couldn't help think how blessed they are to be able to share both their personal and professional lives together and I wished I could let them know how precious these times are.

About fifteen years ago there was a short-lived TV show called The Mommies. I loved the fun way that it portrayed two Moms, best friends, navigating waters of motherhood and marriage.

I have been blessed to have had three special friends during my lifetime, each one unique and at a different stage of life, and each one who has been a "best" friend. I'm doubly-blessed because I am still in touch with each one of them in some manner. In fact, I'll bet that each on of them will be reading this post.

I was thirteen years old and terrified to be the new kid in town when I met Danna. We went through the awkwardness of adolescence together, skipped school, talked about boys, yakked on the phone, and talked about the future. She was going to be a commercial artist and I was going to be a writer. Then we graduated from high school and our lives took separate paths.

I met Dannielle when were both standing on a street corner waiting for a bus with children and babies in tow. She was starting a Mom's group and I was one of the first to join. Over the years we raised our children and drank countless cups of coffee together and talked about everything under the sun. We even shared a passion for writing and talked about writing a book together. Eventually our children grew older, we began to work outside of the home, and went in different directions.

I met Wanda when I started a new job almost twenty years ago. We used to joke that it was the best of times and the worst of times because we worked so hard but still had many laughs together. After she retired, we started meeting for coffee every week and our friendship grew stronger and deeper. Wanda knows me in way way that no one else does, and the best thing is that she still loves me!

When Gerry and I moved away a few years ago losing that face-to-face relationship with my BFF left a large void in my life. I miss Wanda and I can't imagine having another friend like her in my life. It would take twenty years to get to the place where we are now, for goodness sakes!

Still....I'd like to have another friend to have coffee with once in a while......

Where is my hairbrush?

The mind is an interesting thing. I first heard The Hairbrush Song from the VeggieTales videos more than fifteen years ago. It came back into my mind a few months ago, and why I can't stop thinking about it is anybodies guess.

One would think that the precious, sometimes fleeting, brain cells in my head could be put to better use. But no, I walk around humming "Oh where is my hairbrush?" day after day. It's a cute song and it makes me smile, so I guess it's okay.

This picture is my little Chelsea after a bath during the blow-dry section of the grooming routine. She looks like she could use a hairbrush, doesn't she?!

All Grown Up

We do most of our grocery shopping at Top Foods, and I have noticed that they have the best shopping music playing. Many times I just can't help myself from bopping along as I'm pondering the brand of olive oil to choose, or trying to remember if I need green beans. Being fifty has given me the freedom to dance in the grocery store if I feel like it.

Sometimes I don't feel like I'm fifty, in fact sometimes the inner me still feels like a child. Yet I can remember a handful of times in my life when I distinctly had the feeling that I was an adult. Here is a list of a few of those times.

  • Sitting in the backyard of the first home I bought all by myself realizing that I owned it
  • When Gerry and I bought our first "real" bedroom set. It's solid wood and a classic design that I absolutely love. It's made for adults only!
  • Holding my baby granddaughter for the first time
  • Receiving word that my Mom had died
How about you? What moments in your life made you feel like a grown up?

The Face in the Mirror Remix

You never know when some small gesture that you make may inspire someone to step out onto a path that they may not have otherwise taken.

Yesterday I found out that I won second place in the Susan Wittig Albert LifeWriting Competition. You can read my entry here.

Those of you who are regular visitors to My Own Velvet Room may find this piece familiar as it originated on this blog a few months ago. Due, in part, to some of the comments that you made about the piece, I was inspired to polish it up and submit it. If you had not encouraged me by your comments it's very likely that I would not have submitted this piece at all. So, thank you for commenting!


On another note, I wanted to share with you an excellent blog that my friend Janna has called Something She Wrote. Janna recently had a contest where she awarded a prize for the 100th person to follow her blog, but the coolest thing is how she announced the contest. She did a video post! I have no idea how she did it, but I aim to find out. Wouldn't it be cool if we all did a little video post of ourselves?

Hmmm....think about it.....!