Monday, April 16, 2012

Why Our Writing is Part of Us

I think I have just lived through one of the most insane weeks of my life. I am so glad today is Monday and we are starting over.

Because last week was rough.

Last week was spring break for all my kids so we planned a fun trip to the zoo (hich we did but it rained on us) and other activities like that. Unfortunately, we also started out the week with my mother being in a car accident, then continued with my son being in a car accident and totaling our car, my son having an eighteenth birthday, my husband's uncle dying and us attending his funeral, helping my friend move into her new home, and having an extended family birthday luncheon at our home right after we finished working at my other son's Eagle project.

See what I mean?

Thankfully, my son and my mother were okay and walked away from their car accidents with only bruises. (The airbag hit my son so hard in the face it was pretty swollen and his ears were ringing from the airbag popping out, though. Scary.) But as I reflected on the events of the week, two things really stood out for me.

When the phone rang late that night I was pretty calm, just wondering why my son wasn't home yet. But I learned quickly that seven words "Mom, I've been in a car accident" can make the adrenaline in my body start flowing freely and it takes a while for adrenaline to calm down. So, someday in a book I will be able to say with authority that reactions to a child in distress can be adrenaline-fueled with no action necessary.

I also had the experience at the uncle's funeral of witnessing the military honors for this relative. From my line of sight, there was a young man in full uniform, down to the crisply pressed pants and beautifully shined shoes, folding the flag as they prepared to give it to the widow. This was being done in the mortuary's small back area, and directly behind it was an apartment building with a little balcony. On that balcony was a young man, with ripped jeans, earbuds in his ears, a t-shirt with something I can't repeat emblazoned on it, and sunglasses. He was watching the ceremony, but from where I was standing, he was directly behind the military man about his age who was folding the flag. It was a powerful image for me. The sacrifice of those in our military seems to huge, so that people like that young man on the balcony, and myself, can have the freedom to express ourselves through words, clothing, and actions. Having the mournful notes of "Taps" being played as I watched these two young men was an image I won't soon forget and I know I will write about someday.

It's not that I write about every experience I have, but there are times when life experience can add another dimension to my writing that wouldn't have been there if I hadn't experienced it myself. I think that's why writing becomes such a labor of love because we put ourselves and the fruits of our observation in the pages that eventually becomes our book, our baby, that part of us that we express through our stories.

So, I am chalking up this past week to lessons learned and experiences that will someday be put into the words of a book to be explored and re-lived through a character's eyes as well as my own. However, living through last week has also motivated me to start working on my grand finale that I've been struggling with. We'll see how I did on Word Count Wednesday this week.

How was your weekend? Did you do anything fun?


Melanie Conklin said...

My boys are still babies but reading those seven words just gave me a heart attack in advance. Glad you weathered the storm!

Janice Sperry said...

I'm not looking forward to the driving years. My kids aren't super observant. They can spend a week stepping over something in their room and have no idea where it is when they need it. I'm so glad your mother and son are alright after their accidents. It's too bad your car is totaled. Car shopping is not one of my favorite activities.

Jon Spell said...

And I thought I had a bad weekend! (Your week: much worse.)

We had determined at some recent point that it just wouldn't do to have the nursery in the basement and have to walk up and down the stairs in the middle of the night. That meant moving the study (with our computers) out so the nursery could come in. In turn, that meant pulling stuff out of the room where the computers would go. This all happened on Saturday, with special thanks to our home teacher. He's in the EQ Presidency, but couldn't find even one young man able to help out (to be fair, most of the ward is elderly) and ended up calling his buddy, an old college roommate, to come help. And then, all the stress of "where is my..." and 2 teething babies to go with it. Yuck. Of course, the babies who are not sleeping through the night already, had to go through an adjustment from sleeping in the nursery, so I got to have a little emotional breakdown at 4:30 in the morning. Bleh.

I don't care how much it costs (maybe a little) but I want to get professional movers like Microsoft uses for employees who relocate. It sounds awesome! Perhaps I should go work for Microsoft? Washington is a lovely state.

Jon Spell said...

P.S. I have little moments like you had of the juxtaposition of the two young men, and I put them in a little notebook for remembering and maybe putting in a book somewhere.

My most recent jot was a turn of phrase:

The special ops guys are bad dudes; they club Navy Seals.

Debra Erfert said...

I'm glad that your family is alright. Car crashes scare me more than anything.

You said that your adrenaline flowed after hearing those seven words? I can tell you that we all react different to similar situations, but they still stand out in our minds as if they happened this morning.

Back a few years ago while Mike was still a patrolman, he and a motor officer tracked down a suspected hit-and-run drunk driver to a very small--and old--trailer park. While the driver wasn't there, the man who had given him a lift from the scene was sitting outside his trailer and talked to Mike, telling him that he'd taken that man home. Going against the rule book, Mike asked that man to go and get the drunk driver and bring him back, and they would wait--totally not what they should've done.

Moments after that man left, Mike smelled smoke. This was not too long after the sun went down so it was dark. With their flashlights, they discovered smoke billowing out of the rear window of a 20 foot trailer. Worse yet, they could hear children screaming inside.

The only door had a big padlock above the doorknob, locking the children inside--and help out!

Mike and the other officer began breaking the louvered windows next to the door -- and my husband crawled inside a fiery inferno.

Later that night when my doorbell rang, I had Mike's lieutenant and sergeant standing outside my screen door. Just their presence should have clued me in that something bad had happened, but I stared at them, waiting for them to say something. My pulse didn't increase. My adrenaline didn't kick in until I was at the hospital and saw Mike with an oxygen mask over his nose and mouth. I think at that point I had almost fainted.

Good news? He got four of the five little children out of the trailer before the other officer dragged my husband out through the window overcome with smoke inhalation and not breathing. A neighbor took his place and grabbed the 5th baby before it was totally engulfed in flames. The trailer was consumed in less than 3 minutes.

Yeah, we remember details, and use them in our writing. I know I have.

Julie Coulter Bellon said...

Thanks, Melanie. Sometimes I long for the days when they were babies. But then I remember how hard that was and think, well, maybe I'll be okay with the teenage years. :)

Janice, car shopping isn't my favorite either, but I'm glad my boy was all right. Cars are at least replaceable. :)

Oy, Jon, I feel for you. My babies don't sleep through the night regularly until after they are two. I'm pretty much a zombie until then and I can totally relate to the emotional breakdowns at 4:30 a.m. Poor you. (Thankfully we have Castle to look forward to tonight.) And Navy seal--so wrong, yet so funny. :)

Debra, just reading your story twisted my stomach in knots. I don't think I could ever be the wife of a law enforcement officer for that very reason. I don't really do well under stressful circumstances. I'm glad the kids were okay and that your husband was, too. How horrible. :(

Siar said...

Writing about our daily life is a good way to attract more readers. And you did well.

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