Tag Archives: Writers

Having Faith

On Thanksgiving morning, six years ago, my father passed away. Ironically, his father was born on Thanksgiving day so it seemed appropriate that a day of significance bore another milestone within my family’s history.

It was a morning like any other. As the day began, my sister was at her home busily preparing a wonderful Thanksgiving meal to provide us all with a sense of normalcy. My father was at home on Hospice care and I had spent the night before in my childhood bedroom to help my mother out. As my mother sat at the kitchen counter, I sat by my father’s bedside in the living room, holding his hand, and thinking about how thankful I was for him – especially on that day. I stroked his hair and told him everything was going to be alright, as he had done for me so many times before.

Then came a simple act. An act I knew not of the consequences, for I had no medical background. He appeared to be sleeping soundly, so I asked my mother if I should remove his oxygen for a while. She simply said, ok. As I shut off the machine, there was a calm and long-awaited silence that blanketed the room in a sacred stillness. My father was gone.

While sorrow bore its well-timed way into my heart, oddly enough, on that Thanksgiving morning, I was more thankful than ever. Thankful that I was blessed with amazing parents; that I was blessed with a sister who was holding up the world for the rest of us on a difficult day; and blessed with the unmistakeable knowledge that my father now had a quieted body that no longer needed to fight the good fight – for though he had lost a few battles, he had finally won the war of everlasting grace.

About a month prior to my father’s passing, we were discussing how I wanted to have a third child and he said that I should; that I would regret it if I didn’t; and that there was plenty of love in me for another. I thought that ship had sailed and was at peace with having my two beautiful boys. A week after my father passed, I became, quite unexpectedly, pregnant with my daughter, Faith.

My father has given me so many gifts over the course of my life: he taught me how to love the written word, how to mow the lawn, how to be an independent woman, and has given me an abundance of skills and knowledge that have served me well over the years. But his parting gift to me was a gift that is rarely able to be given twice – the gift of life. My birth was his first present, my daughter was his second.

So as I sit here on the eve of another Thanksgiving, the phrase “having faith” has manifested itself in so many miraculous ways. I asked the question, “Why do you believe in God?” on Facebook the other day. Among many of the wonderful answers was this one, “I can just feel Him…” And today, having faith allows me to feel God and my father as ever-present spirits working to guide me on my journey. Faith allows me to feel blessed in so many ways. It allows me to feel a never-ending joy that mitigates any and all sadness, especially as I look to the heavens and feel nothing but the radiant sun of souls on my face.

Tomorrow, on Thanksgiving day and every day, remember those who have passed on before you. Those who remain as a special tenant within your heart. It is ok to cry for them, for you honor what they meant to you with every tear. But also rejoice in all that they have given you, and continue to give you, with each breath you take. They gave your life meaning and defined you in a special way. By having faith, you can now live for them by carrying on their life, within yours. Make them proud.

Happy Thanksgiving and love to all.

Peace.

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A Short Story – The New Writer

Natalie wondered if she would ever make it as a writer. In a way, she had arrived late to the game. While she’d always loved the written word and was quite good at expressing herself with a pen and paper, it still didn’t equate to the volumes of work successful writers had amassed by her age.

Many of her writing projects to this point revolved around corporate affairs. A press release here, a company statement there, and even the solemn task of a writing a recall notice for a product that had taken lives. All of which was done just on the other side of receiving her weekly paycheck.

So when she decided on a creative writing path – leaving the doldrums of describing the features and benefits of the latest must-have product behind her – had she veered too far off course? Life changes come in many forms, and she wondered if she was redefining herself a bit too dramatically, a bit too late, and for a bit of what? Were the company mission statements really all that bad?

These are the thoughts Natalie was having as she was sitting in her local library. Today was her first book signing and the turnout had been mediocre at best. Of course, the family and friend well-wishers were there, for which she was most thankful, but her core audience was missing. There was not a single child in sight.

So while she packed up and courteously smiled, thanking everyone for coming, she was startled by the little voice behind her saying, “Am I too late?” Natalie turned around to see a raven haired boy about 10 years of age, clutching a tattered and well-read copy of her book.

All he asked was, “Can you please sign this?”

All she heard was, “You’ve made it.”

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Hello? Kids?

ImageI have to say, I am quite social media savvy. That is, if I’m talking to adults. It is a primary part of my day job and I [stupidly] thought it would translate seamlessly to my night job as an author. An author who has penned a book for kids. For kids. One more time…for kids. Who are ten to twelve years old. Do you see my problem? If not, let me explain…

Sure, I’ve been working the social media channels whenever I get the chance; specifically to attract moms and dads – those with influence over my target market. I’ve blessedly made some inroads in rallying the cause of trying to help another mom realize her dream. However, 9 times out of 10, they aren’t the folks reading the book, their child is. So if their child LOVES it, that’s nice, but it more often than not ends there. No word of mouth, no Facebook posting, no Twitter shout-out, no messages blowing up their peeps phones, and no five star reviews on Amazon. Nada, nothing, bupkis.

And the sad part is…I’m DYING to talk to them. Which characters did they like? What did they think of the Monstrosities? Do they think Theo was asleep or awake the whole time? Did they see the twist coming? On and on. Oh sure, I’ve pressed my sons, niece and nephews ad nauseam, but they KNOW me. Don’t get me wrong, their feedback has been invaluable, but I’d love an unbiased chat with a bunch of kids. So much so, I’m going straight to the big guy and have officially put it on my Christmas list. In fact, here is my letter to Santa:

Dear Santa,

Growing up with the last name Rudolph has certainly had its pluses and minuses. Being part Irish, the red nose thing was inevitable (and unfortunate at times.) I powered through, though, and have come to love my name and all that it represents. In fact, it is very deer to my heart.

However, I digress. I am writing because I am now a full fledged adult per my driver’s license and I only want one thing for Christmas – to hear the voices of children who have read my book. To hear their gleeful songs rise up like the Whos in Whoville to a crescendo atop Mt. Crumpit. To see a sparkle in their eyes, their jumpy squirrel bouncing as they retell their favorite part, and their imaginations catch on fire as they play act each and every scene.

Rudolph has seen you through many a storm to brighter skies. I only hope you have it in your big velvet bag to repay the favor to his humble namesake. Please, let me hear the children.

Sincerely,

Cindy Rudolph Barlow

P.S. If you have time to throw world peace in there as well, that would be awesome.

As I sit here staring at my Facebook page, Twitter feed, and Amazon listing, I do so all the while refreshing my browser like a lifelong gambler pulling on a slot machine handle. No triple cherries and no coins pouring forth onto the floor like an endless stream of validation.

So kids, if you are looking for me, please tell me how to play hide and seek. Until I can find my way out of the “ain’t got no feedback” paper bag, know that I’m just sitting here waiting on Santa, hoping that he REALly is all that and a bag of presents. And that he’ll deliver your thoughts to me with a big red bow.

That, or your parents see this blog post and decide to get you a Facebook account based on my plight. For that you can thank me later with a “hey, girl!” direct message and a page like. But only after I’ve asked you a billion questions about the book. And possibly five more questions after that.

Peace.


So Much to Say

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With all that has happened this past week, I feel as though a lot of people are compelled to write down their feelings; to be heard. Everyone has so much to say. We used to talk to one another at the local diner, or on our way through the grocery store aisles, or even via a quick chat with the neighbor as we went out to get the mail. Nowadays, it seems as though the bulk of the talking is done in writing via blogs, social media posts, feed updates, comment sections, and the like. Much like I am doing right now. I have a lot to say, so I write while you read. Then I’ll read what you write. And so it goes as huge amounts of information enter our brains unfiltered, going around and around until we process how we feel about any given subject…or get overwhelmed.

Last week, two bombs tore a rift in a 117 year old tradition, compelling people to run in to help those who could not run away; a fertilizer plant explosion shook Mother Earth in Richter scale proportions a few days before Earth Day; a man formerly known as an Elvis-impersonator sent ricin-laced letters to elected officials, while elected officials chose not to listen to the majority of the people who elected them and instead chose to vote down background checks for gun applicants.

On these subjects and more, everyone has something to say. Including me, it seems. Why do we crave so much information? Why do some type for hours until their fingers are numb, while others read every word until their eyes are bloodshot? I think we have so much to say simply because we can. It is the beauty of our liberty here in America to be able to speak and read freely. Open dialogue is a gift not to be taken lightly because it connects us. Language is what elevates us as humans. It is what forms everything from marriage proposals to ideologies. Words can be painful, happy, drive one to kill, save a life, or command a dog to sit. They are in one word – impressive.

It is when words are used in a technological vacuum that they lose their true meaning and become distorted – to the point where we have nothing important to say or have any value to add anymore. Similarly, when we are no longer able to speak face-to-face with our neighbor and learn about them – truly hear what they have to say through their accompanying facial expressions and mannerisms, that the personal connection language makes is relegated to lines of type preceded by a blinking cursor.

The irony of me typing this is not lost on me. However, I do invite you to now go out and talk to a human being face-to-face about the events of this past week. Listen to what they have to say, impart your thoughts upon them, and walk away knowing you made a made a connection because you not only heard their words, but you saw their tears.

Many in-person bonds were made through the tragedies of last week. A runner who stopped to comfort a wounded stranger, a nurse who held the hand of a dying women whose name he did not know, or a couple who stopped to bequeath a well-deserved medal on a young woman who was robbed of her personal victory. Few words were spoken, yet they had so much to say. It was their actions that spoke volumes.

In closing, I invite you to always follow this golden rule whether online or in person, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

Peace.


Are You Smart?

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What defines intelligence? Is it your GPA, IQ score, or merely the fact that you can find your way out of a paper bag with ease? Is it that you know a lot about a little or know a little about a lot? I have thought long and hard about this, simply because I’m saddened by seeing folks be so mean and disrespectful to each other on social media platforms, all in the name of extolling how smart they think they are. And because, to me, kindness outweighs intelligence. So I have a theory on intelligence – or being informed as I prefer to call it. (That is why being “Informed” plays such a big part in Theo’s journey in my book.)

In order to be informed, you need three things: 1) exposure, 2) understanding, and 3) retention.

1) Exposure – unless you have seen, heard or felt it, you wouldn’t know about it. So next time someone doesn’t know what a word means that is commonplace to you, don’t roll your eyeballs and tell them, “How dumb can you be?” Because [gasp] they might have never heard the word before it came out of your mouth. Instead, re-explain what you mean in simpler terms so that they can learn from you. Lift them up.

2) Understanding – I can teach you all day long about the theory of relativity, but if you don’t have the mental capacity to understand what I am teaching you, then you won’t learn it. Everyone’s brain is built a little bit differently. One person may excel at math, while another is excellent at history. Does it make the math person stupid at history or the history person stupid at math? I sure hope not, because then that would mean I’m an absolute idiot at math.

3) Retention – So I spent all day teaching you about the theory of relativity, and while you understood it long enough to take the test and ace it, you forgot all about it in a few years because you went on to be an English scholar, get married and have three beautiful children. Information relative to your everyday life started to imprint on the brain cells previously dedicated to the theory of relativity. Which, ironically, makes intelligent relative, no? So if you were able to retain the information at one point and then not now, does that make you smart then and stupid now? Nah.

That is the beauty of our world. The fact that each of us operates and understands things differently is what adds diversity to our lives. So next time you get annoyed at someone who doesn’t think like you, remember they might be able to school you on how to grow a successful vegetable garden. And if you think they don’t know anything more than you do, then remember that arrogance is uglier than ignorance.

As mentioned, I’ve thought about this more and more lately as I’ve seen examples of one person calling out another on their ignorance. And as I read through my book again and again and see mistake after mistake, I cringe. But then I realize something basic, something important, and something that levels the playing field for all of us – I’m human. Yes, folks, I make mistakes. And I will continue to do so for the rest of my life. More importantly, I will continue to learn and become more informed for the rest of my life as well. If someone wants to point out that I’ve used a semi-colon improperly; (whoops, there it is!) please do so – kindly. I don’t know it all and want to learn more. I want to better myself everyday and inspire those around me to do the same.

Where do I net out on all of this? I think it is more important to be kind than smart – or right. WHOA, STOP THE PRESSES! So am I saying we should give up on grammar, algebra, and the like? Of course not, because that would be stupid. Rather, I believe if we all helped, taught in an inspiring way, and opted for a positive vs. a negative spin on our interactions with others, then we would be in a better place. A place where we can all be smart.

Peace.


Big Words, Little Minds

ImageWhen I set out to write, Theo’s Mythic, I knew two things. The first would be that the book would contain words that kids would have to look up. [Gasp!] The second thing was that it would be a non-linear narrative because kids think in random tangents. For example, a five second conversation with one of my children could run the gamut of, “Look ma, a squirrel!”, “There’s a ball!”, “Where’s the art project with the penguin I made last year?”, “How many M&M’s do you think I can fit in my mouth?” and so on. Therefore, the characters and storyline weave and bend, to and fro, but then all converge at the end. Just how a child thinks.

As for the first thing, the “big words”: A few people have questioned if the use of them was a wise decision. Does that make for good commercial fiction? Would the words be problematic? To which I reply, “So if a teacher gave you a math problem you didn’t understand, that would be the end of it?” My goal is to teach and challenge children to be so much more. Learning the word enigma is just as easy as learning its synonym, mystery. In fact, it is one letter shorter, so really the big word, by way of letter count, is actually – mystery. So why the word enigma is considered the big word is a mystery to me.

As mentioned in a previous post, my father would make me look up every word I came across that was not familiar. He would also use big words in routine conversation. In fact, many of my favorite moments with him began with, “Do you know what that word means?” Like one day in particular – we were standing in the yard of my first house while he explained what a deciduous tree was. I’ll never forget that moment, or the evergreen pine that prompted the conversation that I wouldn’t have to worry about raking leaves in the front yard.

Big words get a bad rap and kids are smarter than just sitting around to watch Jane run – in a straight line. And to be quite honest, some big words are just so fun to say, like, obtuse. Obtuussse. Fun, no? How about supercalafragalisticexpialadoshus? Ok, so maybe that isn’t an official word, but Mary Poppins sure knew how to have a whole lotta fun! And if a word with 33 letters can be learned and roll off the tongue, then any word can.

As part of the teaching process, I tried to put the word into context, so that the rest of the sentence or paragraph would lend itself to explaining the word or words used. After all, I don’t want to totally disrupt the reading flow every two seconds with, “We pause this reading for an important dictionary look-up.”

So do I think little minds can handle big words? Yes, I unequivocally do.


Imagine Nation

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My Imagination at Work

I was going over my book the other day with my aunt and was taken aback by how dumbfounded she was as to how I came up with the overall idea, creatures, characters and the like.  I have a crazy imagination and thought everyone had the same thing.  Apparently not, according to her.  Doesn’t everyone see walking trees when they are driving to work?  No.  Doesn’t everyone talk in funny voices throughout the day?  Ah, no.  Doesn’t everyone constantly think about how to make something funny, off kilter and unbelievably believable?  Nope.  And that surprises me, to no end.

I’ve always relied on my imagination and I love looking at the world in a quirky way.  Being rooted too deeply in reality and that which is heavily weighted in the present makes me feel chained.  Letting my mind go is liberating and a whole lot of fun.  When I’m writing I get to go places.  My imagination is simply a passport to travel to worlds unknown.  I’ve been blessed to have been able to see much of America and am always amazed at how things are the same, but different.  People live in houses, but the construction might be different.  Flowers bloom, but they might be of a different species than I’m familiar with seeing.  It is the same thing with writing.  I see people, an environment, creatures and circumstances – but they are all native to the world I am creating.  Taking the familiar into the unfamiliar is the wonderful basis for exploration.  Going into the unknown.

One thing I hope to impart upon my children, as well as all children who I’m lucky enough to have read my book, is that an imagination is a gift.  It may help you escape from a difficult situation or it just may be an outlet from the ordinary.  But most important of all, your imagination it is the part of yourself that allows you to dream.  Envisioning a new take on the ordinary has led to classic novels, the iPod, the internet, setting foot on the moon, curing diseases, awe-inspiring art and music, revolutions that birthed freedom and so much more.  So being a nation of dreamers doesn’t mean that we are flighty or without grounding, it means we embrace that which is yet to be explored.

As I rely on other great and interesting minds for the music that floats through my ears, and to photographers who capture a precious moment in time, and to those that cured polio so that my children’s bodies would be strong – I give back Theo’s Mythic to all of those who don’t have an imagination as crazy as mine.  So welcome to my world – and imagine that.