As a child, I loved to write. Letters, diaries, notes to pass to friends sitting down the pew at church.
“I wish you were here to help me go through all these pictures and stuff,” she said. “Who would have ever thought we could have stored all of this in that little hall closet?” she mused. “Now that we’ve moved and I’m going through it all here, there are huge piles of pictures and papers everywhere. I’ll just leave them like they are until next time you come to Amarillo, ok?”
From my side of our telephone conversation, I easily envisioned my little mother, sitting in her comfy living room chair, which was looking a whole lot more over-sized than it did a few years ago when she bought it.
“Oh, and guess what I found?” asked the keeper of all the important things. “Hmmm, I don’t know – tell me!” begged the one who had now lived enough life to understand what things are truly important.
“A letter. It’s written on wrinkly tablet paper, turned nearly yellow, and your handwriting looks really young. But I think it’s the first letter you ever wrote. It says … do you remember writing it?”
My mother knows me pretty well. She knows I love to write, and I guess she also knows that, if somebody loves to write as much as I do, they might actually remember everything that ever hit a page from the tip of their colored marker. Otherwise, why would she think I would remember it?
Have you ever wanted to be a writer?
My junior year in high school, I was super-bored with the required reading list in Mrs. Moutos’s English class. I don’t really know why, especially, but it seemed to me that reading all those short stories with the aim of analyzing every word and phrase under the microscope of hidden meaning took the fun out of just letting your imagination wander.
I ended up with a very complacent C in that class, and, even worse, a big fat D on the final writing exam.
However, as it turned out, that may have been the best grade I ever got on a test. Why? Because I wrote such a whopper of a short story that my teacher thought I had plagiarized it. I was beaming, I tell you, beaming, when she asked me if I had copied it from Seventeen magazine. Furthermore, even when I emphatically and persistently told her I actually wrote this, she didn’t believe me.
“Look at this,” I announced to my best friend, Rhonda, as I flung the stapled story onto the door of her locker next to mine. “She thinks I copied it! Isn’t that amazing??”
Later, someone encouraged me.
Sure, I told my best friend, but I’d bet 1978 dollars that she has no recollection of it today. And I wasn’t about to tell anyone else. My story about a young girl who packed her Samsonite suitcase and jetted off to Oslo, Norway for the adventure of a lifetime? Well, it became part of a treasured teenage memory, tucked away into the recesses of a very busy brain.
There were other fish to fry, so to speak. I was ready to go to college, make more friends, find my man, get married, have kids and be PTA president. At the end of every jam-packed day, it seemed there was barely enough energy left to read bedtime stories, much less develop any characters or propose any plots.
You should write a blog, she suggested.
About what? Bloggers are experts on things, I countered. What would I be able to write about, for crying out loud, and furthermore, who would possibly find their way to read it, and even further still, what if people do read it, and they don’t like it? Yikes. No, thanks, I said. That creative ship has long since sailed.
Maybe I’ll just take up knitting.
Knitting is a lovely hobby. It truly is. It’s relaxing and therapeutic, and you can make Christmas gifts for every single person on the list if you just keep those needles clicking through all your favorite TV shows. My friend who taught me how to cross-stitch when we were newlyweds said she would help me learn this, too, and bless her heart, she did try. Six months and two measly washcloths later, I decided something had to give.
These are some serious goal-setting girls! We worked at the same law firm in Amarillo. The one to my right is Monique. She was our ringleader and the first one to encourage me to write a blog.
You could call it “B is for Brenda.”
See, here’s the thing that made me keep thinking about it. The same women who encouraged me to write a blog were my co-workers, and they were very, very good friends. We were distinctly different women who found ourselves working in the same office for a few unforgettable years. We had grown so close and shared so much that we could name the dreams that lay within each other’s hearts. No one would have dared trample on any one of those dreams with empty encouragement. So, when they said I should blog, stacked their trusted advice on top of my high school short story memory and decided to give it a go.
How about Austin Over Fifty?
Mike and I brought a group of students from Muleshoe High School to Austin to tour the Capitol years ago. My parents packed our family of seven into the big brown station wagon and did the same thing when I was about 13. Mike’s parents brought him for the obligatory visit to the Capital of the Lone Star State when he was even younger than that.
Two of our three children had never been to Austin until the day we checked into the DoubleTree Hotel, walked down Congress Avenue for a cup of coffee, and waited for Mike to finish his first job interview. It was such an exciting time! We felt like we were on an incredibly wonderful adventure together, and in reality, we were.
Don’t get me wrong. We have loved every single place we’ve ever lived, and I tell Mike all the time that he has made me the happiest woman on the planet. But when he brought me to Austin? Well, it still feels a little over-the-top to me.
Did you ever watch The Mary Tyler Moore show? At the beginning of every episode, she all but skips down the busy city street, smiling all the way, and then tosses her (knitted) cap high into the air with uninhibited joy. That’s how I feel every time I walk down Congress Avenue. Like if I had a cap, I would throw it and skip and catch it and throw it again. Well, actually, that’s not a very pretty mental picture, so maybe I would just stand in place. LOL!
No one else had done it.
Once we made the move and settled in a bit, I began to follow Austin bloggers and what-to-do type websites, but they seemed to be all written by people half my age for people who went to work when they wanted to and spent all their free time drinking pretty cocktails.
While that looked fun and all, I needed to know a few other things, like how to entertain my granddaughter when she comes to visit and where to go for a quiet Valentine dinner with my sweetheart.
It would be really fun to write about all these adventures we were having and the places we were eating, from an Over Fifty perspective, I decided. so I tried setting up a website – All.By.Myself. Ugh. That was even harder than learning to knit one, pearl two!
So, I finally gave up and got help. I watched webinars and found someone to design a website for me. Then I started writing blog posts.
It has been SO s-c-a-r-y.
They (the people who know everything) say you have to let go of your fear. You have to embrace vulnerability and stop worrying about what people will think. They say you have to find your voice and just write from the heart. Easier said than done, for sure and for certain. Let me tell you, if you have a friend who is a writer, he or she might just be the bravest person you know.
It takes guts. It takes a certain measure of raw courage to type out what’s in your head and throw it to the internet-wind, even if it’s only a blog post about shoes that don’t hurt your feet! You also have to be willing to learn the hard way, by letting anyone who reads your thoughts go through them with a slightly critical comb.
In so many ways, blogging is like learning a new language, and it definitely takes some time to figure out how to speak it.
But I love it!
This blogging thing is so much fun! I’m two years into it, and I love it more than ever. I can’t wait to try a new restaurant or design a new day trip in the Texas Hill Country around Austin. We have barely scratched the surface when it comes to all there is to do, see and eat.
Here’s my granddaughter enjoying the massive tree roots at Krause Springs.
It’s all about encouragement.
Once I determined that my blog wasn’t for everyone, that it was really for people who need to be encouraged, I started finding my voice. It really didn’t matter to me if hundreds of thousands of raving fans found me on the web. (Although, hey, wouldn’t that be something?)
What seemed way more important was communicating a little joy and zest for life in the second half. Once you hit the big 5-0, there are some new decisions to be made. We can take the right or the left, be the pessimist or the optimist, and we can settle in or venture out.
Intentional adventure keeps us excited about life.
It’s that venture out thing that gets me revved up and excited about life. No matter what we’ve been through, there’s still adventure ahead. No matter where we’ve come from, there’s something new to see.
Yeah, I know our knees hurt. I understand that we’re concerned about retirement, and I absolutely hate that so many of us live without a sweet spouse. But, if I can help set the pace and hold high the Over Fifty bar, if I can inspire myself and my readers to be intentional about finding the adventure in every single day, the other stuff might not matter quite so much. Together, we will focus on ourselves a little and on every other good thing in life a lot.
What matters to me is you.
What do you need encouragement to do? Maybe you have a long ago dream that still begs to be fulfilled. You want to write a book, take a trip, start a business, or even go to a Bible study for the first time? Then, go for it. Now is the time to do it, my friend. Let’s face the facts. If we’re ever gonna do it, we better do it now!
Just Start, then get some help if you need it. Don’t try to do it all yourself. Know your limitations and step harder into your strengths. There’s only one person in the whole wide world like you, so get up and shake what your mama gave ya.
However, if what you really want to do is learn to knit one, pearl two and make beautiful gifts for people, do it.
I’d like my knitted beannie to be a nice bright shade of green, please.
Encouraging intentional adventure and inspiration to do what’s still left undone,