Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Life is Simply "Blunderful"

 Life Is Simply “Blunderful”

 

Never heard the word blunderful?

Here’s the definition:

 

blunderful-  adj.  Word used to describe one’s own mishaps, mistakes, and blunders ultimately leading to unexpected positive outcomes. (WatersWords)

 

Here is an example from my own life:

 

My husband worked for the University of Cincinnati. One of the perks was a tuition remission program. When Tom discovered the benefit extended to me, we started talking about the possibility of me pursing an advanced degree. Someday. I didn’t see it on the near horizon. After all, I was busy as a wife and a mom to three active little girls. I was a teacher and had many responsibilities at church. I wanted to continue my education, but kept putting it on the back burner.

 

One Monday as we cleared the dinner dishes, I told the girls to get ready for volleyball. It wasn’t a league. It was a family night at a church gym. 

 

“Oh, wait,” Tom said, “we can’t go to volleyball tonight. I signed you up for a class today.”

 

That evening and every Monday evening for the first quarter, Tom and the girls drove me to my class. The next term, we decided I could drive myself. Sounds like a good plan, right? 

 

Unfortunately, I couldn’t park where Tom always parked. I did not work on campus. I did not have an employee sticker on my car.

 

I followed directions from the gatekeeper into the unfamiliar parts of campus. I finally located a parking garage. I looked at my watch. I was late. Furthermore, I didn’t know how to get from the garage back to the building where my class was held. I asked for directions. I kept the brick building in sight and headed that direction.

 

There was not a direct route via sidewalk or street. I had to keep the building in view. That meant I had to cross a drainage ditch and climb a hill to reach it. Then I couldn’t find the classroom. A sign on the door said the class had been moved to a different building. I only knew the one building on campus so I had to ask someone else for directions to the new location.

 

I walked in late. Unbeknownst to me, the professor asked each person to introduce him or herself and tell why they chose his class. He was weeding out the unqualified. As I said, I didn’t know this. 

 

“My name is Joe Smith. Dr. So-and-so recommended I take this course.”

            

“Hi, my name is Linda Jones. My research is called Dissonance in Urban Communities: Cultural Differences in Communication.”  Must be a doctoral student. They title everything with a colon. You could hear it in her voice.

 

It was finally my turn. I was honest. “My name is Rebecca Waters and I am taking this class because it is on Monday nights.” There was a chuckle in the room.

 

After the introducitons, the professor gave an overview of the course and offered his first lecture. Before he dismissed the class he advised students to walk in groups back to their dorms or cars. It seems there had been a couple of attacks on campus. He also offered to stay a few minutes after class in case anyone had any questions.

 

I had a burning question. I waited until the others finished and approached the professor. “Would there be any chance you could help me find my car?”

 

I explained my ordeal and tried to describe the parking garage.

 

The whole evening had been a blunder. I knew it. All I wanted to do now was get home safely. Tom could help me drop the class later.

 

That professor, Jeff Schultz, walked me to my car. I drove him to his. Because of my blunder, we had time to talk and he learned I was not the ditzy woman I appeared to be in class. (At least I thought I was a bit ditzy.) He encouraged me. Moreover, Jeff became a friend, mentor, and my advisor in the master’s program.

 

What “blunderful” moment have you experienced?


University of Cincinnati:
Tom with his PhD
and
Me with my Masters
All in the same day!


 

 

 

 



 

 

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Metaphors That Matter

The Short Iron Press

No this is not about weight lifting. It is about metaphors that matter.

 

Perhaps it is because I am a writer I see life unfold as a series of metaphors. It is the old “Life is a Box of Chocolates” notion.

 

Maybe it’s simply how my brain functions. I tend to understand more when I see life through “story.”

 

Take the gardening metaphor I use for writing.

Research? I liken that to preparing the soil.

First draft? Planting seeds.

Adding words? Watering and fertilizing.

Editing? Weeding.

Publishing? Harvesting.

 

My thinking isn’t limited to writing, though. I’ve compared my life to a jigsaw puzzle, marriage as a dance, and my education to a painting with layers and layers of color. I’ve described widowhood in terms of a boat on a rough sea shrouded with fog. 

 

As a professor, I’ve encouraged a few students to not give up on college simply because the four-year degree may take six. I’ve drawn a mountain on their notebook and described their journey as one that may meander this way and that. I’ve told them that though it may take them a bit longer to reach the top (graduation), the view once they get there is every bit as beautiful. 

 

I think in metaphor.

 

This week, I had the chance to golf. Real golf. Not the kind with windmills and clown faces. It was… So. Much. Fun.

 

I hadn’t been golfing since 2019. The weather was perfect and the company great. Moreover, since we were both fully vaccinated, we were able to go grab a bite to eat at a restaurant after our round. 

 

I came home from golf with new energy. I told my daughter about the day. During the conversation we started talking about metaphors that matter. 

 

Stay with me here. It will all come together. I promise.

 

A few years ago I wrote several handbooks for writers. One was on the habits writers cultivate to be successful, one on developing a business plan for writing, and one on marketing. My novels are with honest to goodness publishers, but I wanted to publish these handbooks myself. 

 

I studied the self-publishing topic. The trick, I’m told, is to give your “publishing house” a name. Some people use their initials or the street they live on. You get the idea. 

 

I wanted a strong name. Nothing girly. I chose the name Short Iron Press. I took it from my golf game. 



 

But after my conversation with my daughter, I’ve been thinking about it. Short Iron Press is more than a strong name. It is a metaphor for living. 

 

Spectators at a golf match are impressed with a long drive. Crowds “ooh and ahh” over a winning putt. But matches are most often won by how the golfer plays the short irons.

 

I’m talking about those clubs you use between that initial drive and that final putt. 

 

It may be the sand wedge that gets you out of the hole you’ve buried yourself in or the iron you select to hack your way our of the tall grass separating you from your target. Sometimes you select a club to maximize distance. Other times, you choose a club to simply put you in a better position for the next shot.

 

It’s what we do in life. We tee off. We make a million decisions along the way. If we’re smart we consult our Caddy. We move forward. We chase the ball and advance along the course of life. 

 

Trust me, you’re not going to see me on the LPGA tour unless I get a ticket as a spectator. However, if you watch carefully, you will see me choosing clubs, making decisions, giving my best effort, and preparing…no…anticipating my final putt.

 

What is the metaphor for your life?

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Call of the West...

 Call of the West...A Call for "Can-Do"

I was four-years-old when my family moved from Ohio to Arizona. The move was necessary. The prevailing theory at the time was that given the opportunity to breathe in a warm, dry climate, children could outgrow respiratory conditions such as asthma. I had asthma. It was pretty bad.

 

Moving to parts unknown was a challenge for my parents. Dad was leaving a good job and security. In Ohio we were surrounded by family and friends. Mom and Dad knew no one in Arizona. I only knew Mom and Dad. They didn’t know where we would live or anything when they made their decision.

 

What they did know was that I couldn’t breathe. They packed everything they could carry with them, loaded their asthmatic daughter in the car and headed west.

 

While living in Arizona, my parents built a house. When I say, “built a house,” I mean it. Literally.  I don’t mean they went to a builder, toured his model homes, picked out their floor plan and plunked down their money. They bought a plot of land, drew up their own plans, hired workers, and threw themselves into the task at hand. 

 

Dad worked his day job and hammered away every evening. Mom worked onsite as well, painting and laying tile. I got in on the action, too.

 

My first assignment was to stay out of harm’s way.  I wasn’t very good at it so I was assigned other, more interesting tasks. 


“Becky, see these scraps of wood? It would sure help if you could pick up the small ones and put them in that wheel barrow,” my dad would say. Or, “Becky, could you hand me that brick?”


 

I watched as my parents thought through challenges the project brought with it. This was long before the technology age. They couldn’t Google answers. 

 

Sometimes Dad would ask other contractors, but often my mom and dad figured things out for themselves at the kitchen table. They both grew up on farms. 

 

Farm life is good training ground for creative problem solving. 

 

Through it all I took on my own can-do attitude. For example, I salvaged one of those long scraps of wood and hammered several nails into it in a long line as a gift for my mother. It was a spool holder for her sewing thread. She cherished it. She didn’t use it as a spool holder, though. Instead, she put it on display.  

 

For years, I figured she didn’t use it because it was simply too beautiful. I was much older before I recognized the imperfections in my project. 

Spool Holder (In case you couldn't tell.)


For one, I should have use finish nails instead of regular nails. A spool of thread would never fit over the flat head of the carpenter’s nail. 

 

My mom and dad never pointed to the deficiency in my design. Instead, they applauded my effort and creativity. They encouraged me. 

 

Perhaps that’s what shaped me as both a teacher and a writer. It’s a good thing. I certainly could never be a carpenter. I still can’t hammer a nail worth a hoot… and I still have trouble staying out of harm’s way. 

 

Through those experiences, I learned to try new things, there is always a solution to a problem, and you can do anything you set your mind on accomplishing. 

 

But the big lesson my parents imparted was one of facing life’s challenges with a sense of adventure. 

 

For that…and for the capability to breathe, I will always be grateful.


Rebecca Waters now lives in a house built on the farm once owned by her grandparents in West Chester, Ohio. She is an author and speaker. To learn more about her or to sign up for her newsletter, shoot her an email at rebecca@waterswords.com. 

 

 

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Call of the Wild...Cicada

 Cicadas: The Call of the Wild (Unimagined)

 

The season of the cicada appears as loud, annoying, and relentless as the political pandemic we barely survived in 2020. Where I live in Ohio is seemingly held hostage by the seventeen-year-cicada. Entomologists are undoubtedly thrilled with the invasion.

 

I am not an entomologist. 

 

Newscasters in the area report on cicada sightings, collections of the creatures, and go so far as to share intimate details of their mating. They are quick to point out the insects are harmless. 

 

Right. Everyone who believes that…stand on your head.

 

Oh sure, they don’t bite or sting. They don’t eat away at your garden. We’re not talking destruction or poison here, but trust me…they are not the little innocent creatures scientists would make them out to be. 

 

For example, let’s say, hypothetically of course, there is a woman about my age whose lawn needs mowing. She waits until the coast is clear to get her lawn mower out. No cicada sightings? The time is right.

Picture of a Live Cicada
Taken by the
Hypothetical Woman
In This Story



 

The woman dons her straw cowgirl hat with the pink ribbon around it, puts on her “mowing clothes” and heads out the door. About halfway through the clipping process the cicadas start swarming. Apparently, the creatures are drawn to the sound of the lawn mower engine. 

 

The woman is able to bat a few away and continue her mission. Soon, however, the insects are everywhere. She steers the mower with one hand and fights off “incoming” with the other. 


Determined to get the job done, she presses on. Sort of. She makes one more pass at the tall grass before giving up.

 

Once the lawn mower is in the shed, she darts back toward the house in a zigzag maneuver designed to fool the flying insects. She learned the tactic from watching old war movies as a kid.

 

The woman, who shall remain nameless, makes it to the back deck. She attempts to race up the steps but stumbles on the second one. Bruised leg only. Nothing is broken. She makes it to the door, shakes cicadas off of her blouse and knocks them off her straw hat. 

 

She closes the door behind her and revels in the safety of her house. What a sigh of relief.

 

That is… until there is this strange tickle on her shoulder. She pulls a live cicada out of her blouse and throws it in the sink, knocking a glass of water onto the floor. Not to worry. The tumbler was…uh…is plastic.

 

No harm? No foul? No way. The woman can barely sleep that night without feeling her skin crawl. The next morning she pours her coffee and moves to the window. There are no signs of the dreaded insects, but the grass is uneven, patchy, and a third of it is untouched. 

 

Cicadas. Harmless? I don’t…uh, that woman wouldn’t agree. What do you think?


Be sure to sign up for my newsletter: rebecca@waterswords.com

 

 

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Filling the Tank After a Year of Running on Empty


 

Filling the tank. No, this isn’t about gasoline. It isn’t a post about travel. This is a post about renewal.

 

Over a year ago, we learned of a strange new virus traveling around the globe. COVID-19. The State of Ohio shut down. We had a stay at home mandate. It was quickly followed by a mask mandate. The novelty of “work-at-home” and wear masks around all the time, faded fast. 

 

But we are a country founded on a pioneer spirit. We sewed masks out of old clothes, washed our groceries, and found new ways to stay in touch with those we love. We learned how to “zoom” and likely spent more time on the internet and phone than ever before. My mother and I became a “pod.”

 

We mourned the loss of people we love. We hurt for others as we watched the horror of the virus play out on television. Someone on Facebook said we were “running on empty.” Maybe.

 

My mother got the vaccine. So did I. Then it became available to my daughters and their husbands. Even my oldest grandsons are now fully vaccinated. It was time to “fill the tank.” 

 

It started with hugging my family. Since each family member had to wait his or her turn for the vaccine, we remained masked up, but we hugged. We sat in the same room. We gathered outside. We hugged.

 

Being vaccinated also gave me the opportunity to travel to South Carolina in April. It was to be a working vacation. The timing, though, allowed for us to get together socially with close friends who also had been fully vaccinated and play games at the table in the condo. We enjoyed meals together. We could ditch the masks for walks on the beach. The ocean always fills my tank. I always return with a sense of renewal, but that trip filled my tank with the social interaction I missed.

 

Then last week my oldest daughter and her family went camping. My mother and I drove to the campsite for an overnight visit. Walking by the lake, sitting by the campfire, cooking and eating together, and playing games…it all served to “fill my tank.” 

 


As I write this, the governor of Ohio has officially opened our state. Masks are no longer mandated. (Though I hope people will don them when they have a cold or the flu to protect others.)

 

My Bible study group is meeting in person. We’ve made plans to attend the dinner theater in October. We are closer to what we call normal than we’ve been in over a year. 

 

We celebrate Normal. It is the normal, the ordinary, all we used to take for granted that “fills our tank.”

 

What is that one event or interaction that you have longed for these past months? What is it that fills your tank?