From Jeff: Today, we're having our first guest post (if you want to guest-blog, email me), which happens to be an essay. This blog is becoming a community, and it's important that we share our work. In this post, Amber Anderson shares her insights on writing, finishing what you start, and being a mom. For more about Amber, check out her blog and follow her on Twitter.
“The male mosquito doesn't suck your blood; but the female ones do. So if you get a mark from a mosquito, you'll know it was a female that bit you.”
“Where did you learn that?!?” I ask her this as I am pulling out my iPhone to Google “mosquito female bite” so that I can pretend to know as much as she knows. Arrogantly, I thought I was going to need to correct her misinformation. I was wrong. She was right. (God is teaching me humility. I pray that I am never too prideful to tell my children that “I was wrong, and you were right.”)
“Well, I learned it from a book.”
My seven year-old little girl is the oldest of our three. She's been reading since kindergarten. When I say “reading,” I don't mean that she's been reading just words; we're talking books.
Over the summer (when she was only six) we bought her a few Junie B. Jones books from our local Goodwill. As we piled our thrifty finds and three little girls into our van, she asked for one of her books. 20 minutes later, after hearing not-a-word from her during our ride home, she passed her book forward and asked us if she could have her “next book.”
(Side note: Junie B. Jones books are “chapter books.”)
“Why don't you want to finish this one first?” I asked her as I'm trying to hand her book back to her.
“I did.” (I didn't believe her.)
“No you didn't. There's no way. Are you sure?!?!”
“Yes, Mommy, I'm sure.”
I flipped through the 57-page book and skimmed over the details. And then I did something horrible. I quizzed her with the intention of trying to catch her in her dishonesty. She was not being dishonest. I passed back her other book, and looked at my husband as he and I mirrored each others mouth-wide-open “Holy crap, she's a genius!” look.
Then we started glowing and patting one another on our backs giving ourselves credit for doing such a great job creating the genius that was now beginning her second chapter book within a 30-minute time frame. I don't know what we were congratulating each other on — our ability to procreate?
The Beginning of Genius
Our daughter loves reading. She's a total nerd in the best sense of the word. If it has words, she picks it up, and delves into it, which can be both scary and exciting for her parents. When we visit a new place, I have to scan surface areas for reading material that may be inappropriate for her age, the same way that I scanned for glass and scary things that she could put in her mouth when she was a toddler.
As a Christian family, we try to help our kids find things that are uplifting and encouraging in the forms of media outlets. Child-friendly movies have been hard to come by, as well as TV shows and music. Now that we have an avid reader, books are a challenge. The biggest challenge.
It's hard to find short-chapter books that offer humor alongside a positive message that will also keep a child's attention long enough to allow them to finish the story. This gave me an idea. I'd just write a book series for her.
Who cares if it ever got published, or if it did anything more than sit on our shelves; it'd be a book for our family, if nothing else. This was my mindset in starting the series.
The Book I Never Finished
I began writing in a little notebook this past summer when I had time to sit on our hammock outside and do nothing more than watch our sweet daughters play in the sunshine.They inspired me. (Still do.)
My seven-year-old read the introduction and the first chapter, twirling her hair with her finger and biting her lower lip as she scanned the pages with her big brown eyes. Her hiney was scooted toward the end of her seat as she flipped to the last page and finished the last paragraph. My bottom was on the edge of my seat too, waiting to see her reaction.
She looked at me and said, “Oh, Mommy, I love it!” And then she shoved the notebook in my hand and insisted, “Write some more,” before running back to her sisters on the swing set and continuing her summer-time play time. I wrote a bit more, made an outline of chapter ideas, and promised myself that I'd work on it daily.
And then summer was over. And then it was time for her and her sister to start school.
And then life got crazy busy, and the vision of the book was ignored completely. I broke a promise to myself, and an unspoken promise to her.
Last week, my husband and I were in our bedroom talking. We have to lock our door as to not get disturbed if we ever want to have a real-life conversation that last more than 10 minutes. Our children knock and we ignore them, or shoo them away. They've (sort of) learned to leave us be when we're in our room and the door is locked.
This time, however, as we werere chatting, I noticed a notebook slowly making it's way under our door, and we heard little giggles and “shhhhh's” coming from behind the door. He and I laughed at how relentless our children are, but we ignored the book and prompted our children to go play somewhere else.
A few minutes later, our eldest knocked at our door. “Mommy? Did you get my note? It's on the notebook.”
“I'll get it in a few minutes. Go. Play.”
My husband and I finished our conversation, and I stepped on the notebook as I started toward the door. I picked it up, and realized that it was the book with a note on it saying, “Please Finish Writing This” in sloppy seven year-old girl handwriting.
My heart slowed down, and I was covered in guilt. The book I was supposed to write — her book — I had forgotten all about it.
She didn't forget. It was months later, and she still remembered. On that afternoon when I began writing that book for her, I felt affirmed in the fact that I was, indeed and certainly, meant to write. And even moreso this winter afternoon when she instructed me to finish what I had started.
It's easier to forget what I want to do when life is so chaotic.
I'm so thankful for our children — the ultimate perspective givers.
What gives you perspective and holds you accountable to finishing what you start?