My Summer of Content

You might think I’ve been on an extended summer vacation, considering how little I have blogged the last month or two, but other than our single dismal camping experience we have not taken a “summer vacation” per se. What has been a vacation for me
has been the respite from homeschooling and all that it entails. While we lean towards a more relaxed type of homeschooling, there is still the planning for each day, and the implementation, and I am the one who has always been responsible for that. David and I expect that this year will likely be the same except that more of the implementation will be on him while I pick up additional writing projects.

This summer, the summer of 2011, will go down in the book of my life as my summer of great content. Not content, as in what it contained necessarily, but content, as in very happy and fulfilling. After a long winter of discontent; grieving my mother and having my grandson diagnosed with cancer, it is a much-appreciated change to experience a summer that I will always be able to look back on and say, “Now that was quite a summer.” Besides the obvious; Jacob is nearing the end of his cancer treatment, David getting an all-clear at his five-year-checkup, and me learning to live without a mother while discovering I carry a part of her inside, there are these reasons for my joy:

I’m now writing features for the local newspaper, and find that I actually enjoy interviewing local residents and business people. When my innate shyness gets the best of me, I do something fairly odd, but that works for me: I pretend for a moment that I am either my mother, or in the case of interviewing five residents of a nursing home, that the interviewee is my mother. I’m not sure why this helps me but I always loved drama and acting and it is easy to pretend for a moment that I am not myself, but the curious and outgoing enigma of a woman that was my mother.  She loved meeting and talking to new people. On her infrequent bus and airplane trips she’d come home with new friends she added to her address book. With this practice in my secret arsenal of social tricks (I also take off my glasses before I do public speaking because then I only see blurry friendly faces) I find myself relaxing and enjoying the interview after that initial ice is broken. Now I look forward to meeting new people and finding stories behind the stories.

I’ve also nearly completed my book this summer. The final two chapters are the two that should have been the easiest to write; one profiling interesting couponers and the last chapter which sums up the “how-to’s” in coupon use in case readers are intrigued enough by the history of avid couponing to want to take it up themselves. I would be fine with leaving that chapter out entirely since others do such a good job of teaching couponing (see Jill Cataldo’s Super Couponing website) but somehow the book doesn’t seem to be complete without at least an overview of couponing. The profile chapter has turned out to be more time consuming and maddening to write than I ever imagined. There is no dearth of couponers to choose from anymore. Just Google the word “Extreme Couponer” and dozens of news reports about couponers pop up. However, my goal is not to feature “extreme couponers,” but instead, a wide variety of avid couponers who have worked couponing into their life in a less extreme manner. I feature rich couponers, middle income couponers, females, males, and several coupon users who have developed an important part of their life around couponing.  Those two chapters are still in the rough draft stages but the rest of the book is mostly complete. (I say mostly because changes in the world of coupons are happening every day, and I am working those changes into the manuscript, and because a publisher is likely going to want further edits.)

This was also the summer I had three essays chosen for publication in the fall; two for future Chicken Soup books and one for a new series God Makes Lemonade. I have submitted other essays and entered several writing contests this summer, as well. In other words, I have really been writing. And that sure feels good.

And then, who can forget the experience of my first writing conference in June, the Cedar Falls Christian Writer conference? I had no idea what I’ve been missing. I am already looking forward to next year’s conference.

Writing-wise, this has been a very productive summer for me.

And it all ends in one week, when school begins.

Not really, of course, but I can’t help feeling a small, but looming dread of a new school year and the mornings that will no longer be mine.

Homeschooling is a lifestyle, I quote another homeschooling mother in an article for next week’s paper. I have to remind myself that it is a lifestyle that includes a lot of flexibility and creativity, and what better way for a homeschooling mother to
show her children that learning is lifelong, than to practice that herself? This summer my children observed me scouring the Internet for pertinent facts and figures to insert into my articles. They’ve watched me juggle bylines with household tasks. They’ve seen me be what I want them to be: creative. And those creative juices won’t just shut off like a switch on August 17th when another school year begins. On the contrary, I’m in the process of organizing a winter writing course for young homeschoolers and will continue to write for the newspaper and finish up my book. One of the greatest things about homeschooling (and having a husband home), is the inherent flexibility that will allow me to leave home a few afternoons a week to do~what else~but writing.

Words of wisdom from my mother’s Memory Book:

Try lots of activities and work when young. Find out what you like to do, what you are good
at and get into doing that- even if it doesn’t pay well. Use your talents.”

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