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When you let your 5-year-old choose where to turn: 5 lessons about life and writing

When my daughter was five, we began a tradition that continues to this day. She called them “The Martin Family Traveler Trips.” As a single mom who was blessed to have the same holidays and summer vacation as her daughter, we relished our times together.

Katy (4)

Katy, Age Five

 

Sometimes, though, we (or more accurately, I) would be struck by cabin fever and just need to get out. Money was tight, always, so big vacations were out of the question. But little day trips? Perfect.

We’d load up the Dodge Neon with snacks and drinks, and Katy would fill up the rest of the space with blankets, paper and pencil, and enough dolls babies to staff a world summit. Then I’d start driving.

Katy would choose the direction. Not only did this reinforce the concepts of “left” and “right,” but also taught her the value of observing her surroundings, patience, and looking for just the right moment. At first, her directions would come quickly, and we’d make endless loops just around our neighborhood. But as she grew, and learned to wait, we’d head farther and farther afield, and the rewards were great.

At some point during the trip, she’d give in to her sleepiness and nap for several hours. (A reward for me, at the time. A few hours of quiet is a luxury for any parent.)

We still do these trips when our schedules allow, only now we take turns driving and snoozing in the passenger seat. But sometimes I head out on my own, music blaring. Ryan Kelly’s Live for Life is the perfect song for a road trip, as are most of the songs on Byrne & Kelly’s albums.

When writer’s block hits me, or I’m struggling through some issue I may not even be able to name yet, driving with no particular destination in mind is therapeutic. The wide open roads allow for careful daydreaming, and introspection. curveThe unfamiliar scenery prompts new scenes, or better descriptors for a current scene. The scary, tight turns of the two-lane roads through the mountain passes gives me a different place to focus all my energy, which provides respite from whatever I’m working on. Especially when the road looks like this:

 

What I’ve learned from our Martin Family Traveler Trips:

  1. Fill up your tank before you go. Whether that’s a practical thing, like with fuel (you’ve never known fear until your gauge reads “empty”, and your car is at the top of a two-lane, pitch-black road, with ten miles before the next station). Or with snacks (isn’t life much better with snacks?) Or with the gift of the Spirit that provides refreshments of a whole ‘nother sort.
  2. It’s the journey, not the destination.  I know–a trite saying. But it’s true. The only caveat is that if you’ve got a five-year-old on the journey with you, make sure to hit the bathrooms as often as possible. (And for the love of God, don’t forget Baby Jennifer (Katy’s favorite doll) in that restroom.)
  3. Don’t force it. Our trips were a fairly equal measure of talkative five year old, road trip games, and quiet moments. Granted, most of the quiet moments were when Katy was sleeping, but still.
  4. Enjoy each other. Katy gets her sense of humor from me, but her vocabulary is entirely her own. Some of my favorite moments from the trips we took are when she’d play school with her babies, and listening to her teach the dolls their lessons. She’d tell them, “I’m going to show you the next letter, and you’ll learn it by my own gracious will.”  She cracked me up–still does.
  5. The best moments in life aren’t planned. Discovering a fun little store, or an awe-inspiring vista, or having the gift of your child making up a song from her journey–all gems from allowing my child to choose our path.

There are so many things in life that you must choose for your child, at least at the beginning. Giving her or him this one freedom, and responsibility, is incredibly rewarding.

I’d love to hear about any trips you’ve taken, and any lessons you’ve learned. Please feel free to comment below.

Great. Writing this post has gotten that song of hers stuck in my head. Thanks, Katy. Well, to share the love, I’m going to post it below.

Flexibilly ruler, flexibilly ruler,

Riding around in a limousine.

No trespassing, ke-ep out,

Pri-i-vate property.

Yep. Love that kid. And you’re welcome.

Part Three of an Interview with Thea Kelly, and a chance to win some cash!

One of these men is my Uncle Martin Regan.

One of these men is my Uncle Martin Regan in Enniscrone, Ireland, 1955.

Ireland has long fascinated me. The sheer rich history of the place and my connection to it through my mother have always caused me to seek out stories, music and conversations with those lucky enough to be from there.

This is part three of my interview with Thea Kelly, from Cape Clear Island in Ireland. Parts one & two are available through the previous posts.

You mentioned travelling. Have you been to any other countries?

I’ve only ever been to Germany to visit my grandmother. It’s a bit of a yearly tradition to be honest! I’m going there at the end of July again to see her. Because I’ve only ever been there, that bites in big time into my craving to travel! I want to go everywhere!!

My other ambition is to travel the world! I keep a diary of all the places I discover and plan to visit them when I am older. Places such as Dinant in Belgium, or Tropea in the south of Italy. My number one destination is the U.S though. Ever since wanting to work for NASA, and having a unusual interest in WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) I gained a bit of an accent and a strong desire to travel there. Someday I will! 🙂

Do you have any questions for me?

Thea: Do you or did you have an American Dream? 
It’s funny that you should ask about the American Dream. We don’t really call it that–it’s just usually mentioned in terms of goals, or ambitions. I was actually listening to a fellow Kelly’s music (Ryan Kelly of Celtic Thunder, from Northern Ireland) and he has a great song he wrote called “American Dream.” I think that’s something people from outside the US call it.
For me, when I was about your age, I wanted to be an elementary school teacher, get married and have seven kids. (I’m the middle of seven, myself). But my dreams changed. I became an American Sign Language interpreter, and worked in schools for nearly twenty years.

The Martin Family, waaay back when.

The Martin Family, waaay back when.

And I only have one daughter. 🙂
My gorgeous daughter

My gorgeous daughter

I guess my dream now is to become successful enough at my writing to support myself with that income, and continue to try to entertain people with my books. By the way, I’m honored that my little translation project was your strangest assignment. 🙂 I love languages, and am always interested in learning more.
What’s high school like? I’ve always wanted to experience it! 
The education system sounds a bit different than yours. Education is free here until the age of 18, or 19, unless the student has special needs o disabilities. Then they can stay until they are 21. High school is either for grades 9-12, or 10-12, which translates to ages 15-18. Students have six classes per semester, and are allowed to choose which teachers and which hour (we call them periods) they would like to take, but have to satisfy requirements of the state for which classes. English, Math, Science, World Languages, Fine Arts, Shop, Physical Education, and History are all required, but most students satisfy the requirements by the time they become a senior and can choose their electives then. Classes are about an hour long, with occasional short days for school-wide assemblies, or teacher training.
College, then, for us is after graduation, and students must pay or earn scholarships or grants to attend, as well as passing the required tests and applying to the college/university of their choice.
Do many natural disasters happen where you are from? Like volcanoes or earthquakes? 
We do have some natural disasters here. We’ve had several earthquakes; the biggest one was in 2000, I think, on Ash Wednesday. It caused lots of damage. We’re supposedly due for another one soon. Our quakes are different than the kind that occur in California, because of the way the plates are stacked under the earth.
We’ve also had a few small tornadoes, which has only just occurred recently. We often have impressive thunder & lightning storms, and we flood often.
And, oh yeah, Mt. St. Helens blew up on May 18, 1980. That mountain, as well as Mt. Rainier and several others in the Cascades and Olympics are active volcanoes, but had been quiet until Mt. St Helens blew her top. I remember watching the huge ash cloud rise into the sky and come our way. We were lucky, though. We only got traces of the ash from the eruption. The people living on the other side of the mountain were pretty much buried in it.

Mt. St. Helens

Mt. St. Helens

Would you ever come to visit Ireland, and if so which area?
I would love to visit Ireland! That’s one of my dreams, for sure. My mother’s family is from County Mayo. Her parents moved to England, where my mom was born and raised, and then she emigrated to New York, when she was just sixteen. So I would love to visit. I feel a connection to the land, and the people there. County Mayo would probably be my first stop, but I’d really like to spend several months exploring everywhere. I hear Bray is a particularly nice area, and I’d love to try some of the trails that Ireland is famous for.
The rain definitely wouldn’t bother me. 🙂 In fact, my mom and dad decided to settle here because our weather, and all our green, reminded her of her home, and of Ireland, where she visited each summer.
From the previous answer regarding slang used in Ireland:
What does “throwing shade” mean?
“Throwing shade” is a term they use here for giving someone a hard time, and not usually in a good way. It might be a snide remark, especially one made under one’s breath, or an eyeroll,rolling eyes something like that. It can be combined into other terms; for example, my colleague here said “such shady boots” when another employee mentioned the schedule in a negative way (which is something we create).
I often misuse it, so I’m probably not the best judge. And my daughter (she’s 21) won’t let me use it at all. 🙂
I want to thank Thea for graciously agreeing to answer my nosy questions. I love her enthusiasm! This, then, is an open invitation to Thea and her mom to visit. We’d love to host you here, my daughter and I.
*************************
Calling all musicians!
In my previous post, I included the song that “Molly” wrote for “Cáel” for The Celtic Captive. Here’s the challenge:  Create the melody for the song and perform it in any style. Shoot me the video on either my facebook page @https://www.facebook.com/jmartinstories or send it to me by email: jmartinstories@gmail.com, or just post it in the comments below.
The winning two entries will win a $100 movie prize package, and two weeks of dedicated tweets/publicity for the video.
Be sure to leave your contact info so I can get in touch with you!
Good luck! I’m looking forward to hearing your music!
Jeanie

The chicken and Charlie, part three…and other bits of useful info

Hey, everyone! Thought I’d do a quick blog to give a little update. So, my new book is out—The Celtic Captive. During the weekend, it was free on Kindle, along with my first book, The Celtic Contract. Altogether, the books were downloaded an incredible 1,113 times! Thanks to everyone who took advantage of the promotion. Please let me know what you think—either here, or on the Amazon website in an official review.

I promise I won’t cry if it’s bad. (At least, not where anyone can see me.) 😉

If you missed out, don’t worry. I’ll be running the promotion one more time, soon. And, of course, they are always available for purchase on Kindle, Amazon Prime and Createspace.com.

Those books are part of a series about strong women, and the Irish men they meet, who cause all sorts of havoc in their carefully controlled lives. Book three, Séamus’s story, will be out in January.

Right now, I’m working on several different projects. The first is a novel, unrelated to the series, which I’m classifying as a psychological thriller masquerading as a romance. Obviously, it’s a little darker than my Kilts series. (Is it weird that I’m enjoying the Dark Side?)

The second and third are projects with my good friends Dennis and Dee Dee Irby. We’re putting together a couple of fun ideas–a cookbook (don’t laugh. I can cook ), and another fun event we’re keeping under wraps for now.

The fourth project is the continuation of Charlie and the Chicken. Thanks to Julie Lucich and Jim Martin, the story is rolling along. Now it’s your chance to help me create.

Just read the whole story so far, and then leave your list of words that match the parts of speech listed. For each person who leaves a list in the comments, and their email address, I will send you the story with your choices included. Then, I’ll pick the best/funniest options, and post the next section of the story.

Be creative!

And, thanks again for downloading or buying my books!

Cheers,

 

Jeanie

 

It was a surprisingly hot day at the Puyallup Fair when the incident happened. When Charlie Miller made her report to the police later, “incident” was the only word that fit.

She had just finished her third scone, this one dripping with butter and raspberry jam, when the man ran by her, screaming about a crazy postpartum chicken who had just tried to run him over with a disproportionately large tractor. Charlie hadn’t really paid much attention to him–it was the Fair, after all. Over a million people had been expected for this opening day, and Charlie was pretty sure she had seen every single person. Besides, tractors were the norm, and how big could the tractor be?  Chickens were pretty small.

The Fair was jammed with little kids crying for caramel apples and Krusty Pups, people throwing up and teenage boys pretending they hadn’t just been scared out of their minds by the seemingly death-defying rides they had just been on.

But when a second, and then a third person ran past, and the third one was a woman with yolks dripping from her ears, Charlie began to take notice. She hurriedly shoved the rest of the scone into her mouth, took one last drink of ice-cold lemonade, and regretfully passed up the elephant ears booth on her way to make her report.

It was her job, after all. Charlie Miller may have looked like an easy target, standing just 5’1″ in her heels, and not a single, shiny black hair out of place in her elaborate hairdo. And to her kindergarten students, she might have been the beloved teacher who sang to them each morning, and brought homemade cookies for them for snacks, making sure to always have peanut-free and gluten-free treats.

But Charlie Miller’s side job, her real mission, was in her position as Short-Statured Egg  Snatcher. Usually, the chickens didn’t put up much of a fight when Charlie snatched their eggs. But her partner, Nancy “Butterfingers” Lovelace had been on the job earlier. Oh, it wasn’t that Butterfingers was bad at her job, she just was…dexterity-challenged, and Charlie spent a lot of time cleaning up her mess.

Just then, the chicken drove by.  Apparently, tractors can get pretty big–the chicken, dressed in a polka-dot bow, was a speck against the seat of the behemoth that rumbled past, slowly pushing its way through the crowds of people without regard for personal space, or toes.

She clucked as the tractor went past, and the chicken clucked back, an angry demand that she be allowed to roam as chickens were supposed to–high up on their tractor seats.

Charlie gave pursuit. It was the longest, slowest chase she had ever been on. Charlie had time to eat that elephant ear she had been craving, ride the ferris wheel, play an impossible-to-win game, and spin the wheel at the Mountain Mist booth (she won!) before the chicken atop its mammoth tractor had even gone ten feet.

But that was where Charlie’s luck ran out.

Before Charlie could finish eating her second elephant ear, an actual elephant came stampeding past her, trailing a number of small shouting men who seemed to be alternatively calling for the huge beast to stop and calling for someone to buy maps of the fairgrounds.

“Stop! Stop!” yelled the nearest.

“Maps! Maps!” yelled the shorter one.

The elephant, apparently not able to read the map stuck in his trunk, feinted a right turn and then swerved left.

Right into the path of the slowly rolling tractor.

There was a colossal crash as the pachyderm rammed into the side of the tractor followed by a squawk of outrage from the chicken.

Things might have gotten ugly at that point – you haven’t seen ugly until you’ve seen a knock down, drag out fight between an enraged chicken and a pachyderm – but the nearer small shouting man finally managed to catch the big animal’s lead rope and regain control.

The other small man sold a map to Charlie, who didn’t need a map, and quite against her wishes.

Charlie considered filing a complaint with..someone…but couldn’t get her sticky fingers to work her cell phone correctly.

The tractor, apparently mortally wounded in its battle, gave a groan of disgust and quit moving.

The relative silence that followed was interrupted by the angry chicken pecking at the controls and making sounds more appropriate to a mistreated tea kettle.

Giving the now dead machine one last resentful kick, the chicken looked up and around, seemingly searching for something.

Charlie felt herself flinch as the crazy bird’s beady eyes swung past her and then flicked back, widening in outrage.

“Why me?” Charlie muttered.  And then she realized that the bird wasn’t staring directly at her, but rather at her hands.

Testing a theory, Charlie cautiously waved the map, which was still stuck to one hand, up in the air.

The bird went ballistic.

Here, we should pause to note the following chicken logic, to wit:

The chicken was making good its escape, if slowly.
The elephant took out the chicken’s slow motion getaway car.
The small shouting men chasing the elephant were selling maps.
Charlie was waving a map.

Therefore:

Charlie was one of the enemy.

Charlie’s logic train, all of the two cars it included, looked something like this:

The crazy bird’s eyes had started to glow an eerie red in the lengthening shadows of the big fairgrounds.

Run!

The bird launched itself into the air.

Charlie screamed something incoherent, whirled, and ran for her life.

Chickens, it turns out, can make a fairly decent speed in a sort of glide / hop / walk way.

But they don’t have a lot of stamina.

Charlie was able to duck into the next lane of booths, finish yet another fairground sweet – chocolate covered strawberries this time, and do some updates to her social networks on her cell phone before the end of the chase came.

Hiding behind a stack of quilts that were being sold for the low, low price of 199.99, she heard a flutter behind her.

She reflexively ducked and would have rolled, but she still had sticky chocolate on her hands.

As she turned to face the foul fowl, she knew the worst of her late night fears had come to life.

The mad eyes of the chicken stared into Charlie’s from about a foot away. And the chicken was holding an electric shock rod that it must have stolen from the fairgrounds security person lying unconscious on the ground.

Charlie slowly raised her hands above her head and whispered, “Oh, boy!”

 

  1. Verb
  2. Noun
  3. Adjective
  4. Adjective
  5. Superlative
  6. Helping verb
  7. Number
  8. Number
  9. Adjective
  10. Verb
  11. Adjective
  12. Noun
  13. Adjective
  14. Adjective
  15. Noun
  16. Adjective
  17. Verb
  18. Exotic food
  19. Verb
  20. Adverb
  21. Verb
  22. Verb
  23. Verb
  24. Verb
  25. Body part
  26. Body part

 

Write a story with me! (Part deux)

It was a surprisingly hot day at the Puyallup Fair when the incident happened. When Charlie Miller made her report to the police later, “incident” was the only word that fit.

She had just finished her third scone, this one dripping with butter and raspberry jam, when the man ran by her, screaming about a crazy post-partum chicken who had just tried to run him over with a disproportionately large tractor. Charlie hadn’t really paid much attention to him–it was the Fair, after all. Over a million people had been expected for this opening day, and Charlie was pretty sure she had seen every single person. Besides, tractors were the norm, and how big could the tractor be?  Chickens were pretty small. Continue reading