Write Anywhere #63

Write Anywhere is a weekly challenge to realize we can discover the fuel for creativity any place we choose. I love finding different places to get inspired and write, then sharing my experience with you on Fridays. Some weeks aren’t as conducive to exploring, with things like illness or bad weather to keep me close to home. But that’s not a problem when the adventure comes to me. Continue reading

The Introvert’s Guide To Winning Friends and Influencing People (and What Extraverts Can Learn From It)

Cafe de la Paix, Constantin Korovine, public domain

‘Cafe de la Paix’, Constantin Korovine, public domain

I suffer from a most curious malady. As a teenager, I was convinced I was abnormal because of it. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve accepted it, and even embraced it. It’s not really a malady, but in the cultural Kardashiverse of look-at-me, social media oversharing, and viral guerilla marketing, it can feel that way.

I am an introvert.

Introverts have a personality bent more inclined to solitude and thinking. Some introverts are shy as well, but not all introverts are shy. Some just prefer quiet activities, their own company or the company of a few familiar friends. Their personality type craves solitude and can be drained by too much social interaction or stimuli in general.

Sometimes a stigma is attached to this type of behavior; introverts have been considered ‘painfully shy’, ‘anti-social’, ‘withdrawn’, ‘depressed’, or even ‘arrogant and stuck-up’.

Introverts make up about 40% of the general population, 60% of the gifted population, and 75% of those who consider themselves a creative or artistic person. If you’re not an introvert, you probably work with one, live with one, or will be sitting next to one at your next social activity.

Introversion and extroversion are not cut and dried. As with many personality traits, most people are a combination on the spectrum. Not surprisingly, a majority of writers consider themselves introverts. Writing is a perfect introvert activity.

However, when it comes to interacting with others in places like writing groups, writing conferences, or Heaven forbid, speaking in front of a book club or other group, some writers would prefer a root canal.With conference season coming upon us and writing groups always on our radar, what’s a dyed-in-the-wool introvert to do to connect in the writing community?

  • Stretch yourself

It’s hard to talk to someone you don’t know, whether in person or on social media. You don’t think you’ll have anything interesting to say. You overthink it. It’s easier to keep to yourself, lurk on blogs and Facebook pages. Find a way to be a part of the conversation. Take a chance and say hello. It may be the start of a mutually encouraging relationship.  Ask the other person about him/herself. People like to talk about themselves. When in doubt, these two questions will always get writers talking: What do you like to write? What are you working on right now?

  • View connecting with other writers as missionary work

Whether you call it sowing seeds, creating good karma, or paying it forward, reaching out to other writers, especially beginners, may seem like effort you don’t want to put forth. You never know when those good efforts will pay in a connection at the right time, a supportive word when you need it, or even a book sale. Not to mention the gratification you will receive by encouraging someone else.

  • Give yourself time to think before interaction

Introverts can be intimidated by social interaction because they like to take their time and think about things before they engage in conversation. When you know you will be in a group situation, take the time to think about it ahead of time, even writing down some notes to help you start a conversation. You don’t have to actually use your crib notes, but just thinking it through will help you feel more confident when you interact with people.

  • Connect authentically with one person

Introverts are usually good listeners, and deep thinkers. Use your skills to your advantage. Choose one person in a gathering and connect. Spend focused time listening, and giving thoughtful responses. The person will appreciate your undivided attention. You won’t be overwhelmed when you focus on the individual.

  • Smile

If you can’t bring yourself to interact at an activity or social function, smile. Your pearly whites will be a signal to others that you acknowledge their existence, and they might take the initiative and come talk to you. You can also accomplish this in the virtual world of social media by ‘liking’ posts on Facebook,  1 plussing posts on Google+ or retweeting others’ tweets on Twitter.

What if you’re not an introvert?

If you are an extravert, remember, in your writing group, workshop or writing class sits an introvert, probably right next to you. Do them a favor and smile, invite them to sit with you and your friends, ask them what they like to write. First, you’ll probably see them breathe a sigh of relief, and return the favor with some interesting conversation, or if you’re lucky, you’ll gain a good companion on the writing journey.

Introverts: Need more encouragement that introversion is not a ‘malady’?

Watch Susan Cain’s TED Talk The Power of Introverts

Introverts: Have you ever felt ‘abnormal’ for being an introvert? Do you have any tricks to avoid being overwhelmed by social situations?

The Digital Age of The Writer: Review of WANACon

'Speaking', courtesy chiarapassa, Creative Commons

‘Speaking’, courtesy chiarapassa, Creative Commons

by Kristin Nador/@KristinNador

Last weekend I attended the first all-digital writing conference WANACon, produced by Kristen Lamb and her WANA International group. If you’re not familiar with WANA, it stands for We Are Not Alone, and refers to an attitude of service and support among writers while making career choices for success. Check out either of Kristen’s books We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide To Social Media and Are You There Blog? It’s Me, Writer for more insight into the WANA way.

I wanted to give a review of this conference, as it was history-making event. If you want a technical overview with screen shots, check out Kristen’s post:

All You Ever Wanted To Know About The Writing Conference of the Future – WANACon

screen-shot-2013-02-05-at-11-43-46-am

It started with a simple click to PayPal to pay and register. Then I was notified by email of the passwords needed to ‘enter’ the conference. Another click on the link, enter the password, and there I was, socializing with my fellow conference attendees in the ‘lobby’ while still at home relaxing in my sweats. We got to know one another through a group IM chat. Attendees came from all parts of the U.S. and the world. How often does this Okie girl get to hang out with people in Australia and Saudi Arabia? That was kind of cool.

The conference started on a Thursday evening and ran each day through Sunday. At the scheduled times, we ‘entered’ the virtual classrooms. There were two classrooms: one for classes and one for agent pitches. Yes, just like at live writing conferences, you could sign up to pitch to an agent. You had the ability to IM chat, ask questions with audio, or show everyone your lovely face with video.

During a workshop if you had a question, a click of a button let you ‘raise your hand’. After a class ended, we herded back out into the ‘lobby’ to schmooze until the next one. The classes covered all the information you’d expect to find at a writing conference: writing craft, publishing trends, social media platforms, e-books.

Just like a live writing conference, I soaked in information until it oozed out of my brain. The top epiphanies swirling around in my head right now:

“What is your business model?” (Yes, authors, you are a business.)

“Sell the hook, not the book.”

“Always be a professional.”

“Define your dreams.”

“Agents ARE looking at your social media platform.”

“Invest in cover art: we do judge a book by its cover.”

“What do you want social media to do for you? Figure it out, then you can make it happen.”

“A villain is the hero of his own journey.”

“Do the research. If you don’t, others will and slam you for it.”

“What’s my word cloud?”

Lest you think it was all business and no fun, hilarity abounded in the comments, and Sunday was ‘Pajama Day’ and those brave enough showed up on their video cameras or snapped a photo and entered the ‘PajamaCon’ contest. I learned a lot, made some friends, and felt I got my money’s worth. All from the comfort of my own house. Being able to attend from my own home is a special help to me right now, as I continue to go through physical therapy, and travel is not good for my condition at all.

To sum up, here are my pros and cons for a digital writing conference:

Pros:

  • Save on travel costs
  • Schedule availability
  • Can continue with everyday life (I didn’t have to get a cat sitter)
  • Advantage for those with physical disabilities or other special health needs
  • Save money on restaurants, bars, cabs, and the like
  • No rubber chicken dinners (unless you cook rubber chickens like I do)
  • No box lunches
  • Pajamas!
  • Won’t mess up your diet (unless you want to)
  • Easier to engage in in-depth conversations with others that can be hard for introverts to initiate
  • Already on your computer so you can follow along and put into practice what you learn about social media
  • Can take important calls or emails if you need to
  • No worries about long bathroom lines
  • Pajamas!
  • No need to cancel attendance for weather reasons
  • Don’t have to sit in airports
  • No DUIs (Friendly PSA: NEVER Drink and Drive)
  • If you miss a session, there’s a recording for that
  • Pajamas!

Cons:

  • Occassional audio issues, but nothing that wasn’t quickly fixed by TechGuy extraordinaire Jay
  • Conversations in the IM chat box during a presentation can be distracting if you’re easily distracted (like me) – all those conversations wouldn’t be happening in a live event without lots of stink eyes being thrown around – but an easy fix of closing the chat box can help you regain focus
  • If presenters are a little less tech-savvy, they can miss questions from the audience, but a good moderator makes it all seamless. (Yes, I’m talking to you, Jami Gold. You rocked it!)

WANA International will be offering more online conferences in the future. Will online conferences take the place of the traditional writing conference? I don’t think so, and we should continue to support them. With information in the publishing business changing as fast as you can say Jeff Bezos, online conferences may be a good way to supplement in person conferences to keep abreast of what’s happening.

I’ll be attending an in-person writing conference in Oklahoma this year, but I’ll be looking forward to the next WANACon as well.

Find out what other participants thought of WANACon:

My sincere thanks to all involved with WANACon. It was great. I’ll be back.

Do you like writing conferences? What are your pro/con list for an in-person writing conference? Would you consider attending an online writing conference?

Write Anywhere #59

by Kristin Nador/@KristinNador

Living in Oklahoma is a climatic crap shoot. The weather fluctuates to extremes week-to-week, day-to-day, and sometimes within the same day. You’ve heard the saying ‘Don’t like the weather? Wait around for an hour…’ That’s Oklahoma. We’ve had 24-hour periods in January and February go from the 30’s to the 70’s and back again.

This winter has been a dry one, and we continue to suffer drought conditions, so news this week of precipitation arriving was welcome. The temperature ping-ponged and we bounced from drizzle to rain to sleet to snow to freezing rain to flurries.

An errand that couldn’t wait got me out in the snow. I dread driving in winter weather most of the time, but during the time period I was out fat fluffy flakes filled the sky. (Try saying that three times fast!) A stand of trees that I normally pass by without thought got my attention in the snow, and before I knew it I turned down an unknown street and found myself in the perfect spot for a quick winter wonderland writing session.

Write Anywhere #59: Snow Storm

snowy day

snowy day

I turned off the car and rolled down the window, listening to the snowflakes. They brushed the earth with a soft sweeping.

snowy trees Tulsa Oklahoma photo by kristin nador

Creaking tree branches, heavy with ice and snow, drooped with the burden. The air tasted fresh and cold, and I watched my breath form little clouds.

spotted through the snowfall

spotted through the snowfall

A run-of-the-mill suburban neighborhood sat on one side of the street and on the other a winter still life. The snow revealed hidden treasures:

snowy field

snowy field

winter meditation

winter meditation

 

 

I took in the landscape, got out my pen and notebook, and wrote what the scene stirred up inside me.

A quiet winter meditation among the snowflakes warmed me up to creativity.

Make a habit to grab creative moments when you can, and they will begin finding their way to you.

Where did you write this week? Tell us about it in the comments.

For The Love of … Food: Top Ten Food Adventures

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I’m rounding out this week with the Oklahoma Women Bloggers and their Valentine Blogging Challenge. Today we get to talk about food! Yum!

by Kristin Nador/@KristinNador

I love food. Who doesn’t? I’m an adventurous eater, and I have to attribute it to two things:

1. My mother required us to try one bite of every food that was put on our plate. If we didn’t like the food after one bite, we didn’t have to eat it. But we had to eat that first bite. Funny thing was, about 98% of the time, my sister and I liked the new food, and we happily added it to our repertoire. The other 2% involved certain beans and peas that will remain nameless as to not unduly influence future food testers.

2. I’m very curious. People completely fascinate me – their behaviors, belief systems, and cultures, which includes food. I had a relative ask me once “Why don’t you like your own food?” I told him I didn’t know what he meant. “American food. How come you don’t like American food? All you eat is all that weird food.” Hmm. Weird food? Spam, turducken, pickled pigs feet, fried cheese curds, Rocky Mountain oysters (and they ain’t oysters, folks), cheez-wiz, and marshmallow fluff. Yeah, ended that conversation.

My lack of cooking expertise hasn’t stopped me from food adventures. I just let someone else draw the map. And I’ve been all over the map discovering new tastes. Have you ever had a food experience that was so amazing you still remember it twenty years later? I’ve had a few. Keeper Hubby and I have moved around quite a bit during our twenty-five years of hanging out together. If we mention a place we’ve been, do I think about the weather, the landscape, the people, the traffic? Nope, my mind goes straight to the food.

Here are the top 10 food adventures that have shaped my palate:

  •  Joe Tangaro’s South Broadway, St. Louis, Missouri – Boiled shrimp by the pound

Joe Tangaro was a professional wrestler who started a restaurant in South St. Louis where I grew up. Shrimp was one of their specialties, and you could buy boiled shrimp by the pound with tons of homemade cocktail sauce. I remember I was about six years old, my dad used to get it to go, and it came in a bucket, like KFC. This began my love affair with seafood, and one of the few types of food Keeper Hubby and I battle over. He does NOT have a love affair with seafood. Sadly, Mr. Tangaro passed away and the restaurant closed.

  • Wong’s Inn, Manchester and Big Bend Maplewood, Missouri – St. Paul Sandwich

In the early 80’s after high school I got a job, moved out, and started commuting to a local college for classes. My job in retail had crazy hours, and my culinary skills were so lacking at this time, it was usually sandwiches, macaroni and cheese, or affordable take-out for meals. I had discovered Chinese food, but stuck to things I could recognize, fried rice, lo mein, egg rolls. One day I decided to be brave and ordered a St. Paul Sandwich.

Wong's Inn St. Louis MO

 

Never heard of a St. Paul Sandwich? I’m not surprised. I’ve only found them in St. Louis, and none of the chinese restaurant owners there I’ve asked has been able to tell me where they came from and why they are called St. Paul sandwiches. What is it? Basically, it is an egg foo yung patty (scrambled eggs mixed with onion, bean sprouts, meat of choice and spices, and fried, no sauce) on white bread with lots of mayo and tomato slices. It was the perfect on-the-go cheap meal for a broke college student. I still eat them when I go back to St. Louis. Wong’s is still there, right behind the White Castle on Manchester.

  • Gutierrez y Rico’s, Salinas, California – Carnitas

After Keeper Hubby and I got married, as a Marine he got stationed at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California. We lived in base housing and it was only about a 15 minute drive to the beautiful blue waters of Monterey Bay. I know, it’s a hard life. Hubby’s brother lived in the area, and told us we had to go try a place called Gutierrez y Rico. Mexican food was not plentiful where we grew up, and what was available was very Americanized. Think lots of Velveeta.

Delicioso!

Delicioso!

 

One day we drove through the mountains to a farming town called Salinas, and found Gutierrez y Rico. It was a hole in the wall, everything was in Spanish, and everyone spoke Spanish. Keeper Hubby was learning Russian at DLI, so he was no help at all. We smiled, we pointed at the pictures on the wall, and in just a few minutes the biggest platters of food you ever saw appeared at the pick-up window. Keeper Hubby had to carry them, they were too heavy for me. Succulent meats, seasoned like we’d never tasted before. Smoky refried beans. Puffy handmade tortillas.  Perfectly cooked tamales. REAL Mexican food! We were in love. We gorged ourselves, and still had enough for leftovers for the next two days. This hole in the wall must be keeping up the standards, because after 25 years they are still around!

  • The Palace Indian Restaurant, Norcross, Georgia – Saag Paneer

When we moved to Georgia, all we heard from the people we met at church, through work, and in our apartment complex was ‘You can find any kind of food in Atlanta’. It was true, they did have a lot of different ethnic restaurants that you couldn’t find back in the Midwest in those days. And no matter what kind of restaurant it was, they served the famous sweet tea of the South. You never called it iced tea, it was sweet tea, y’all.

We lived in Decatur, home to a large enclave of Indians. A Hindu temple, the first I’d ever seen, stood on the corner next to our apartment complex. Many of our neighbors were Indian, and advised about the best places to try the foods of their homeland.  We discovered The Palace. Their Sunday brunch made me want to go back to church and have someone pray the glutton out of me.

saag paneer, photo courtesy Quadell, Creative Commons

saag paneer, photo courtesy Quadell, Creative Commons

Here’s where I found saag paneer, a wonderful melange of spinach and homemade curd cheese; meats roasted in the tandoor, a special clay oven, biryani, naan, tikka masala, I loved them all. And for dessert gulab jaman – sweet, fluffy, deep-fried, sugary-syrup is good in any language! The Palace is still around.

 

 

  • Momo’s Pizza Tallahassee, Florida – A slice as big as your head!

Tallahassee is a college town, so they cater to college tastes. Lots of sandwich shops, sports bars, etc. But one place that stood out when we lived there was Momo’s. It was your average pizza place, except for the pizza. It was beyond average. They were huge! Their claim to fame was ‘ a slice as big as your head’ and it was true. Once I went to pick up two pizzas for a get-together my teenagers were having with their friends, and I couldn’t fit the boxes in my car. The slices were a bit smooshed, but teenagers don’t care, they eat anything. Momo’s is still around, check it out if you’re ever in Tallahassee.

  • The Back Porch, Destin, Florida – Oysters on the half-shell

We discovered Destin while living in Tallahassee. It became our refuge when life got crazy. We were blessed to visit three different times. There’s something about walking in white sands along the edge of that big blue ocean that helps priorities fall into place. One of my priorities while there was enjoying oysters on the half shell at The Back Porch.

Corona lasts longer than the oysters. Slurp!

Corona lasts longer than the oysters. Slurp!

Raw oysters are an acquired taste, but once you acquire it, the fresher, the better. The Back Porch had them fresh out of the Gulf of Mexico each morning. The Back Porch is one of those touristy kinds of places you expect in beach towns, but if you can manage to learn to tell ‘locals time’, you can really kick back and enjoy yourself. 3 p.m. was a great time, all the tourists were snoozing in the sun or conked out in the their rooms after a day on the water, saving their strength for a night of partying. So 3 p.m. found Keeper Hubby and I sitting on the back porch of The Back Porch, which we had all to ourselves, enjoying oysters and Coronas. Okay I enjoyed the oysters, I think he got a French Dip or something. I relished those fresh gulf oysters. Slurp!

  • Pho Vietnam II, Southhaven, Mississippi – Pho Ap Chao

On the drive from Florida back to Oklahoma one year, we discovered Vietnamese food, in of all places, Mississippi. A delightful place off the Interstate just south of Memphis, we needed to eat, and we were tired of Arches and burgers and such. We hadn’t really had Vietnamese food before. I know, a lot of Americans think Vietnamese and Chinese and Korean and Thai food are all the same. No, no, dear food-deprived. Be adventurous! Try them all. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.

I had Pho Ap Chao, which ended up being crunchy little patties of pan-fried rice noodles with shrimp, beef, chicken and piles of fresh veggies. Everything was so fresh, and we vowed if we ever came back through the area, we were definitely stopping at Pho Vietnam again. Sometimes food adventures have a sad ending. We did go back about 3 years later, only to find that our original experience must have happened in a dream, because the restaurant was only a shadow of its former self, and a very bad shadow at that. I wasn’t surprised to find that the restaurant is now closed. But since that experience I know I like Vietnamese food and seek it out whenever possible.

  • Meers Restaurant, Meers, Oklahoma – Buffalo Burger

Keeper Hubby was stationed at Fort Sill, Oklahoma when he was in the Army. No, you didn’t read that wrong, even though I said earlier he was a Marine. This man was a glutton for punishment. The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge sat right next to the artillery practice field (still not sure how that works). It’s a great place to see buffalo, longhorn cattle, prairie dogs, and all sorts of southwestern wildlife. It’s also home to a strange little town called Meers. Meers was a gold-mining town that popped up at the turn of the century, but after the gold was gone, the town got smaller and smaller. Today all that is left is one building that is a grocery, post office, restaurant, and has a seismograph installed by the U.S. Geological Survey.

Unbuckle your belt yummy!

Unbuckle your belt yummy!

 

After his army days, Keeper Hubby took the kiddos and I on a day trip there (it was a ‘field trip’ because homeschoolers use everything for a ‘field trip’ dontcha know) and that’s when we were introduced to a MeersBurger. A MeersBurger is served on a pie tin and fills that tin to the brim. Back in the day, they used to serve buffalo burgers (not anymore) so of course I had to try one. It was melt-in-your-mouth and unbuckle-your-belt delicious. This is a photo of a MeersBurger I had last year when I took a solo trip to the refuge for some writing research. There’s nothing like a giant pile of perfectly cooked ground Texas Longhorn with melted cheese all over. Getting hungry yet?

  • The Spudder, Tulsa, Oklahoma – The Gusher

The Spudder is one of those places that even long-time locals have never heard of here in Tulsa. Of course, this being a steak and potatoes kind of town, there’s a steakhouse on just about every corner. And if they aren’t grilling steak, they are chicken-frying it, which I won’t discuss because I don’t particularly care for chicken-fried things, except for chicken of course, but chicken-frying is a religion here, and I’m a heretic. The Spudder doesn’t really advertise, is in a weird spot off the main streets, and you can’t even see it’s sign. It’s surrounded by homes and apartment buildings. It’s been there long enough that the city grew up around it.

The Gusher in all its glory

The Gusher in all its glory

 

Keeper Hubby and I, always on the lookout for bloody meat (really K.H.), found The Spudder about ten years ago. The theme for the restaurant is the oil boom days of Tulsa. It has an actual oil rig out front. In the middle of a neighborhood. Told you it was weird. But the food wasn’t weird. Velvety potato soup like you’ve never had, fluffy dinner rolls served in black metal lunch boxes, and then there is The Gusher. It’s a 22 oz. bone-in ribeye steak, cooked to perfection, whatever your perfection is. I like it medium rare, Hubby likes it well done. My father-in-law likes it to moo; it looks like a slasher movie when we take him there. This is the place we take out-of-towners. Because it’s awesome like that. It’s headed for its forty year birthday, so I guess some other folks must think so, too.

  • Dairy Queen, anywhere in the world – Peanut Buster Parfait

PeanutBusterParfait(Revised)

I love Peanut Buster Parfaits. I grew up with Dairy Queen, and the Peanut Buster Parfait was their piece-de-resistance. A sweet treat perfectly proportioned with hot fudge, soft serve ice cream, peanuts and whipped cream, the Peanut Buster Parfait will always be my one true love. Why? Well, besides the fact I love me some chocolate/peanuts/ice cream, I was eating this very treat, sitting on the top of a wooden picnic table, on a busy city street, on a certain spring afternoon, bought by a certain young man who plied me with said treat and then proceeded to ask me to marry him. That was the start of our food adventures together and that’s why he’s a Keeper. 🙂

Got any food adventures to share? Tell us your favorites in the comments!

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For The Love of… Knick-Knacks: The Grandma Closet

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I’m still on a roll with the Oklahoma Women Bloggers as we highlight all the things we love this week. Have you checked out any of their posts? After you get done here, click the link in this paragraph and hop on over to check out all their bloggy-liciousness!

by Kristin Nador/@KristinNador

Are you a collector? Do you line your shelves with knick-knacks? Are you afraid you might be featured on A&E’s Hoarders?

I love knick-knacks, doo-dads, trinkets, whatever you might call them. But not just any old things. They have to have a meaning behind them.

Even though I love knick-knacky things, I’ve never had many knick-knacks in my house. That was a compromise I had to make with Keeper Hubby. You see, he was scarred in his childhood by knick-knacks. His dad and stepmom took ‘collecting’ to an art form. Dad thought everything, ‘just might come in handy some day’. I don’t know how empty plastic motor oil containers or rotted carpeting could come in handy, but I’m probably just not innovative enough.

Stepmom collected figurines, plates, cups, dolls, those sorts of knick-knacks. They filled every empty space. I guess little Keeper Hubby got creeped out at all the porcelain eyes staring at him all the time, so big Keeper Hubby doesn’t do knick-knacks. It’s a compromise I’ve learned to live with. That and the cat thing, but that’s another story.

Now that I have a home office, I’ve started to acquire a few pretties I keep on a bookshelf or two. But the real collecting action is not out in the open where anyone can see it. It’s in a closet. The Grandma Closet.

As young parents with almost no disposable income, we were choosy about the toys we spent hard-earned money on for our darling tykes. Educational, durable, something they could add more parts to over time, and something complementing their own personality bents. Musician Daughter liked Barbies and baby dolls. She always wanted to be the mama. Poet Son was a collector like his grandpa. He’d latch on to an item, then collect it like a tiny madman. Legos, coins, stamps, action figures, cars all had to be categorized and catalogued. Artist Daughter’s interests blew with the breeze, of course. One day she was sculpting with PlayDoh, the next she was sewing doll clothes, the next required Beanie Babies, and always notebooks filled with doodles.

Eventually they each grew out of their toys, but Mom didn’t. Of course, some things got so ragged and dirty, it was the humane thing to do to throw them in the trash to put them out of their misery. The ones that endured had history attached to them, our history.

I couldn’t bring myself to throw them away or pile them up on the driveway for a garage sale. And there was the whole Keeper Hubby anti-knick-knack thing. That’s when I came up with the Grandma Closet.

Someday I would be a Grandma, I reasoned. I remembered when I was a child and visits to grandmas meant you sat down and obeyed like a good girl, didn’t muss your dress, and no way would you have fun. Toys were out of the question. Just sit there and look at Grandma’s McCall’s magazines.

Well, that wasn’t going to happen to my grandkids. No sir. They’d like coming to Grandma’s house. We’d bake cookies. Okay, I can’t bake, but this is my fantasy, thank you. We’d bake cookies, eat them, and play together all day. With toys. From the Grandma Closet. Beautiful toys just waiting to make a child happy.

No pressure kids, but I’m going to have a closet full of toys that says you and your spouses better get some procreating done. Your toys. Full of awesome memories. In the Grandma Closet.

Keeper Hubby regarded this idea with a healthy amount of skepticism, but went along with my plan. I lovingly packed the best toys from each of my children, at the time in various stages of the college experience, and stored them in a hallway closet that up until that time didn’t have much to do. Now it got to stand guard over the contents of the Grandma Closet.

We tested out this Grandma Closet idea a couple years ago on friends who still have younger children. Thinking they were going over to some stodgy old folks’ house that probably smelled like moth balls, where they’d have to sit quietly while the grown-ups ‘talked’, they instead got invited to explore the Grandma Closet. What kid wouldn’t love this:

Button, button, who's got the button?

Button, button, who’s got the button?

postage stamps

A smattering of stamps

Gentlemen, start your engines...

Gentlemen, start your engines…

See, Poet Son collected everything.

toy

I don’t know what this guy is, but it sure is fun to take apart and put back together.

Anyone have girls who love Polly Pockets? Artist Daughter had an entire village.

The tiniest accessories known to mankind

The tiniest accessories known to mankind

In that tiny plastic backpack. My vacuum cleaner hated Polly Pockets.

Why these make me think of 'Children of the Corn', I have no idea...

Why these make me think of ‘Children of the Corn’, I have no idea…

These are What’s Her Face dolls. Lots of cool accessories. But no faces. You drew them on, then erase, and draw some more. They kind of creeped me out.

Do your plants look like this? Then you have a boy lurking somewhere in your house.

Do your plants look like this? Then you have a boy lurking somewhere in your house.

Poet Son had an action figure collection. He found all kinds of ninja sneaky places for them. In my plants, in a heating vent, in my shoes.

There’s no way I could get rid of these.

A long time ago, in a teeny, tiny galaxy far, far, away...

A long time ago, in a teeny, tiny galaxy far, far, away…

Our friends’ kids had a great time. The toys covered the living room carpet for an afternoon, then the children politely packed them back into their boxes and into the Grandma Closet. Theory became fact.

Now we have our first grandson, Destined-To-Be-A-Musician, or DTBAM for short. He’ll be two years old this summer, so he’s not quite old enough for Star Wars and stamps. But there’s a few wooden blocks I managed to save, handmade by Grandpa Keeper Hubby, all those years ago when we had no money, but we did have a pile of 2×4’s, a radial arm saw, and love. We’ll eat some cookies, open the Grandma Closet, and start some more memories.

Have you saved any of your children’s toys? Toys from your own childhood? Tell us about it in the comments.

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For The Love Of… Music: Be A Superstar In Your Own Car

http://www.oklahomawomenbloggers.com/

We’re having a change of pace this week on the blog. I’m having fun with the Oklahoma Women Bloggers while we recognize the stuff we love during the season of love. Go check these ladies out. They have some pretty great blogs. In the meantime, I hope you’ll join in this valentine fun.

by Kristin Nador/@KristinNador

Love music?

I do. I’ve been a music lover ever since I heard Don McLean croon American Pie out of my mom’s clock radio in 1972.  All kinds of music, anything that had good lyrics. I love story songs. Country, rock, alternative, R&B, pop, classical. I love it all. And I love to sing. I have a quick memory for songs and can sing old standards or new classics at the drop of a hat. I harmonize with Michael Buble, I belt it out with Adele, I get my twang on with Reba, and do my best quirky indie-pop imitation with Gotye. If I could have made some different choices in life I would be in L.A. working with Clive Davis or in Nashville at the Grand Ole Opry or in NYC on Broadway.

Retro-tytöt finnish singing group, photo courtesy of motopark, creative commons

Retro-tytöt finnish singing group, photo courtesy of motopark, creative commons

There’s only one problem.

I can’t sing.

Sure, physically, I can sing. I open my mouth and sounds come out. The fact these sounds are singing may be up for debate. It’s pretty bad. I’m not like many of the contestants on American Idol, who have somehow convinced themselves that despite being completely tone deaf or having the voice muscles of a mouse, that they are the next big thing. I have no delusions. I can’t sing.

But does that stop me from singing? No way. When I want to sing, I just go to my very own music studio. It has perfect acoustics, a basic mixing board to adjust the bass and treble, it’s even mobile. I sing in my car.

I’m sure you’ve seen me, driving around the streets of Tulsa. Sometimes my fingers are playing the steering wheel like a baby grand. My head is moving from side to side. And when I hit the high notes my mouth looks like a catfish on a trot line. You might see me, but I don’t see you. Because I’m in my music studio, where no one can hear me, no one can see me, and boy, do I sound great. I definitely need to tweet Alicia Keys and set up some time to jam.

I play it pretty cool here in the city, but when I get out on the highway, or even better, do some travelling, it’s all about the playlist. Did I pack my shoes, my underwear?

Who cares!

Do I have the right playlists?

There’s the driving karaoke playlist, the taste of folk playlist, the sentimental journey playlist, the spicy flavor playlist, and the red, white, and blue playlist. What did we do without Itunes? Oh yeah, spin that dial around until a singable song popped out. Playlists are definitely better. I can sing the same songs over and over and over.

Keeper Hubby loves that. He’s the only one privileged enough to be allowed to hear one of my concerts. I try not to overwhelm him with all my razzle dazzle. He knows that singing makes me happy, so he never complains, just endures. That’s why he’s a Keeper. 🙂 The majority of my car singing has no audience to cheer me on. It’s just me, singing at the top of my lungs, to an audience of me.

That’s okay, I hear the applause in my head. It’s always a standing ovation. Maybe I should re-think the whole American Idol thing. I could be a superstar.

As long as I don’t roll down the window.

Do you sing in the car? Any other interesting places you sing? Tell us about it.

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Advice To Your Younger Self

inside Jin Mao Tower, Shanghai, China, image courtesy Dmitry Fironov

inside Jin Mao Tower, Shanghai, China, image courtesy Dmitry Fironov

by Kristin Nador/@KristinNador

It’s 12-12-12, so in honor of strange happenings on unusual dates, let’s talk science fiction. Time travel to be specific. What if time travel was a reality?

Have you seen the movie Looper?

It’s an intriguing sci-fi story that explores the consequences of technology in the wrong hands. I also enjoyed all the actors in this film: Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and especially Emily Blunt.

Although it has the common dystopian futuristic themes: a dark world full of bloody violence, wanton sex and drug use (oh wait, is that the future?) as well as a time travel element, the second half of the movie is not quite what you expect out of this type of film.

This movie makes you think. It makes you think about how children can be pushed down a path they didn’t have to go but for the decisions and actions of their parents. How important parents are in their children’s lives. How people can change and time changes them, and that the future is never set.

Future Joe goes through a lot to try and warn Present Joe about where his path is leading and how they will both pay for it in the end. I won’t spoil it for you, but if you can stomach bloody violence, foul language and a smidge of unnecessary nudity, it’s an intense story.

What it got me thinking about was what I would change about my past if I could, and if I could warn young me about the future, what I would say.

I would say:

Hey Younger Kristin,

Don’t waste your time, energy and self-worth trying to get the people who should accept you the most to accept you, because they can’t accept themselves. It’s not in them to accept you and love you like they should and that’s not your fault.

Keep reading everything you can get your hands on and keep learning. You are not a failure.

Trust your gut.

You look terrible in those purple dance tights and gray legwarmers. Just sayin.

Dentists aren’t all evil so let them look at your teeth.

You’re going to live past 25 so stop treating your body so badly.

Guys who always ask you for money, won’t introduce you to their friends, and tell you what ugly knees you have are guys that will never care about you, do matter how much they SAY they do.

This baby WILL grow up and do great things for God.

Life is hard just keep going because it gets better.

Money makes things easier but really doesn’t make things right.

Listen to older people. They know some good stuff even if they speak slowly.

He’s the best thing that will ever happen to you and you can trust him so say yes.

The financial adviser is an idiot. Buy the Apple stock.

God is.

Ms. Sweet is right. Keep writing.

Friends are family you choose for yourself. Choose well.

All the things you think are so important really aren’t. Important moments are like flowers that bloom, whither and the petals blow away in the wind. You will miss them if you blink. Be present.

Take more photos.

Signed,

Older and Maybe Wiser (but mostly heavier) Kristin

I don’t think I would really change anything about my life because if I didn’t go through the things I did, I wouldn’t be the person I am, I wouldn’t have the strength I have. But maybe I would let myself get prepared. As in ‘Hey, some crap is going to hit the fan tomorrow, prepare yourself ‘.

For further inspiration:

Chuck Wendig shares entertaining and salty (what else – it’s Chuck Wendig!) advice to his younger self:  25 Things I’d Like To Say To My 18-Year-Old Self

What message(s) would you send to your younger self from your future self if you could? Share in the comments or if you’re inspired write a blog post and share a link.

Happy Little Trees: The Bob Ross Guide To Getting Your Creative Groove On

The North Side of Hook Mountain, Sanford Gifford, 1867, public domain

The North Side of Hook Mountain, Sanford Gifford, 1867, public domain

by Kristin Nador/@KristinNador

I ran into Bob Ross about 1990, while mothering three kiddos under the age of five. We spent a lot of time on Sesame Street, at The Electric Company and under the Reading Rainbow. In the midst of all our PBS intake, Bob Ross’s show “The Joy of Painting” was a happy little respite. I wasn’t a painter, but I loved watching the show. Bob’s soothing voice and lush enthusiasm for painting calmed my harried soul. I never did any painting, but I created masterpieces vicariously through Bob and his happy little trees.

Fast forward twenty-plus years when I ran into Bob again, on of all things, a YouTube video. Have you seen this?

It’s a lovely video that auto-tunes scenes from “The Joy of Painting”. But it’s actually more than that. It’s like a creative manifesto set to music:

I believe every day’s a good day when you paint

I believe it will bring a lot of good thoughts to your heart

There are no limits here

Start out by believing here (in your mind)

All you have to do is practice

This is your world

You’re the creator

Find freedom on this canvas

Believe that you can do it, cause you can do it

Relax

Let it flow

Think like water

We don’t make mistakes just happy accidents

You can do anything that you want to do, total power

 

You can apply what Bob says to writing or any creative pursuit.

Believe every day’s a good day when you write. All you have to do is practice. There are no limits. Relax. Let the words flow. The story is your world, you’re the creator. Find freedom on the page. Believe that you can do it, cause you can do it.

Go create worlds. Pursue your passion like Bob Ross did. You can do it.

Question: Do you have a creative manifesto? What phrases or mantras would you include? Share in the comments.

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