Category: Opinion

Sometimes Blue is just Blue

Subbing in a high school language arts classroom recently, my thoughts turned toward symbolism in literature. And the fact that I don’t use it heavily in my own writing made me ponder a few things.

For those of you whose stint with literature in high school isn’t as recent as mine, let me refresh your memory.

The teacher would stop the reading of a story, play or novel and stare over the tops of reading glasses and ask, “Why was the room blue?”

Most of the time, I’m guessing the author made the room blue because they liked blue. Or maybe it reminded them of their character’s eyes or the bright orbs of the husky next door.

“Because the woman’s getting depressed.” This from the geeky person who always raised her hand when the teacher asked a question. (Hermione Granger or even me back in the day.)

Blue often symbolizes depression. Which I totally don’t get because a blue sky can make me content and happy faster than just about anything else.

The Story

The two freshman classes were reading “The Scarlet Ibis” by James Hurst.

This story of two brothers is set in the 1910s. It’s narrated by the older brother, and chronicles the brothers’ journey to make the sick and invalid younger brother “just like all the normal boys” when he starts school.

The Symbol

You might guess from the title that the symbol is the ibis. What the heck is an ibis? Glad you joined the freshmen in asking such an important question. An ibis is a tropical bird.

However, if you look up different meanings for the color red or scarlet, you might see that it is often used to symbolize things: like blood, for example.

In the story, a scarlet ibis shows up in the tree outside of the boys’ home and drops to the ground: dead. The younger (invalid) brother is highly affected and decides to bury the bird. His mother warns him that to touch it would bring the death curse on himself. So he manipulates it with a rope.

This is foreshadowing, of course. And when the final image of the story in the younger brother bleeding from his nose beneath a red bush, it’s clear that the author used the bird and the color of its plumage as a symbol.

Sometimes the symbols are obvious. Other times they’re more obscure.

If they’re obscure, I tend to wonder if they are reader created rather than author intended.

After all, if I’m going to use symbolism, wouldn’t it be most effective if it was clear and plain?

Literary fiction is rife with symbolism. The genres I write? Not so much.

This reflection made me wonder if readers enjoyed the odd symbol now and again. Would they want the woman to be wearing a green shirt when she learned a new skill? Did they understand the plot and arcs better when symbols were used?

I can only speak for myself. A well-done symbol is fine, and even interesting or enlightening when it’s well-executed. Making the murderer wear black just because black is the color of death? Not so much.

There must be a point to it. A point other than using symbolism for the sake of symbolism.

Is symbolism important to you when you read? Does it add to your enjoyment? Does it add extra dimension to the story? Or is it something you pay very little attention to?

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LA LA LAND of Dreams

In my experience, watching award-winning films is a mixed bag. Some are masterpieces in every way and others leave a person shaking their head (UNFORGIVEN). So I had low expectations when I viewed LA LA LAND.

This is not a review of the movie. It’s a reflection of underlying themes in any work of art.

Appreciation of art is utterly subjective. I will throw my hands up at cubist paintings while another person is deeply moved. I’ll see paint splatters and psych evaluation ink dot images in some impressionistic works while others can easily envision what the artist intended.

So if I’ve already offended you because you loved UNFORGIVEN or hated AMADEUS (an old Academy winner that I especially enjoyed), I apologize. Not for my opinion but that you found it offensive because it was not offered up for that purpose.

The Story

This is a story about a girl who wants to be an actress and a boy who is an accomplished musician but has bottomed-out while seeking his dream (of owning a jazz club).

Girl meets boy when she hears him playing the piano at a restaurant when she’s walking by. (I loved that the tune of that song underwrote most of the music for the score. In my opinion, this is composition at its finest.) He’s just been fired for not sticking to the manager’s set list, so he blows by her with hardly a glance.

Later they meet up at a party and it’s the “boy and girl despise each other when they meet” trope in action. Neither of them are looking for love or a relationship and that’s when it blindsides you.

They support each other’s art, but they come to a crossroads where the choice seems to be “career/dream” or “relationship.” He has chosen a career and it isn’t fulfilling him, and her dream lets her down. They part with the assurance “I’ll always love you.”

Five years later, a “chance” meeting sends them spiraling down the path of  “what if.” And while it appears they have both “arrived” at their dream, neither of them appears happy.

My Takeaway

Dreams can only take you so far.

If you’ve followed me long, you know I’m a middle-aged woman who has only been pursuing her dreams for seven years, and single-mindedly for four years. I am a proponent for never giving up on dreams.

However, I wouldn’t give up my family or my husband if it meant that I had every dream I’ve imagined (best sellers, movie adaptations, million-dollar contracts, etc.)

To me, that is what happened in the movie. Especially for Sebastian. Mia moved on and found another man, had a daughter, although her reaction when she heard him play tells me it wasn’t all golden for her either.

In the “what if” scenario, both of them ended up in the same place–dreams fulfilled–but they were together.

The theme here was about choices and how one can alter everything–for better or worse.

A dream might have a price, but some prices are too high to pay. Each person must decide what the “upper limit” will be for them. Sadly, we might not realize how much we’ve lost until it’s too late to recover it.

A feeling of melancholy accompanied the end of this film. The dreams didn’t seem to bring as much joy to Mia and Seb as their time together. It was a reminder to count the cost, appreciate what you have and live each moment.

Have you seen LA LA LAND? What theme stood out to you? What emotion did the film leave with you?

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A Tale of Two Conferences: Comparison Ahead

Willamette Writer’s Conference and Oregon Christian Writer’s Conference are two local writer’s conferences. I attended Willamette Writers in 2014 and 2015. In 2015, I considered attending the OCW Conference instead, but I didn’t have much Christian nonfiction at the time, and that is what the majority of agents and editors were looking to buy.
In 2016, I didn’t attend the conference. I invested the money in an online Scrivener class, several online workshops and to hire a professional to help me find and streamline my brand.
This year, I had the God-given project weighing on me. I knew I wouldn’t get any peace until I consented to write the personal narrative heavy book on dealing with grief.
My brain reminded me about OCW Conference with one simple formula:

Nonfiction + Christian = What You’re Writing

Both conferences had value. Both helped me improve my craft and gain more confidence about my writing.

What’s The Same (Similar)

These two conferences are both for writers and publishing professionals. However, the sponsoring groups represent different segments of the author/publishing world.
Because OCW is an organization of and for Christian writers, the markets they speak to are limited to those publishers with the Christian Book Association. WW is a broader organization that would include Christian writers but not cater to them.
Many aspects were the same:

  • Pre-conference workshop with a publishing professional for an extra charge
  • Numerous sessions addressing various publishing topics
  • Agents and editors available to hear pitches
  • Advance manuscript critiquing services
  • Bookstore
  • Author book signings
  • An Awards program and ceremony

Let me mention that the pitches and critiques at WW Conference cost an additional fee. When I attended, it was $15 per pitching appointment and $40 for a manuscript critique.
The manuscript critique at WW Conference was more thorough and included a 15-minute appointment with the cirtiquer. The manuscript submission program at OCW Conference was presented more as a query and the responses didn’t include markup on every page, just an overview of what was good and what needed work. It might include a 15-minute appointment, at the critiquer’s discretion.

What’s Different

The biggest difference I noticed was the cost. The overall cost of these conferences is about the same. However, with OCW two lunches and two dinners are included in the price. All pitching appointments are also included. There is a $5 per submission handling fee for the manuscript submissions.
At WW, you pay additional for meals, or you plan to eat elsewhere.
Both of these include late night sessions, but I don’t recall feeling tempted to stay over at WW to attend the classes. Those sessions were exactly why I forked out $225 extra for a hotel room at OCW.
However, I sat with the OCW president during the awards dinner and found out a shocking truth. OCW doesn’t pass along the “sticker price” of the conference to conferees. If it did, it would be more expensive than WW.

Instead, they use the entrance fees from the writing contest to offset the difference.

Why would they do this? They don’t want to price the conference out of range for new or struggling writers.
I hope they appreciate it as much as I do. But still, it’s not good business sense. They could pull out the meals (make them extra) and that would make them break even.
The other big differences:

  • The friendliness of the attendees
  • The availability of presenters to answer questions and continue discussions after sessions
  • The 30-minute mentor appointment

Meeting with memoirist Bo Stern for thirty minutes was the second part of the conference that made all the emotional turmoil of rejections and introvert post-conference burnout endurable. She looked at my proposal. She answered every question I presented to her.
Most of all, she was compassionate when I broke down discussing the painful subject matter of my book.
I decided against pitching it to other agents because I knew I would break down again. I didn’t want any “pity requests.” Those would have raised my hopes further so they could be dashed more violently when the rejections came.
What other questions do you have about these two conferences? What else would you like to know about attending writer’s conferences?

My Overall Recommendation

I have to stay with my original assessment. Each conference is aimed at different audiences.
If you’re writing Christian nonfiction, OCW Conference is the place for you. There are workshops, mentors, editors and writers there to help you find your path to publication. If you have a book proposal, there are agents there who want you to pitch to them.
If you’re transitioning between genres, it’s best to look at the individual workshops being offered. Which ones will meet your current needs? Which ones offer information that crosses the boundaries between genres?

  • If you want to talk to professional writers without paying an exorbitant fee: OCW
  • You’re looking for a manuscript critique: OCW (unless your content is totally without Christian worldview)
  • You have general market fiction or nonfiction ready to shop to agents and editors: WW
  • You’d rather have short sessions on a variety of topics than a block of time devoted to a single thing: WW

Do you have specific questions about either conference? Have you attended either conference? If so, would you share your perspective on it?

 

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How Conferences Make you more Professional

Professionals attend conferences. One thing all conferences have in common is the availability of workshops so attendees can customize their experience.
Writing workshops will help you improve your craft , making your writing more publishable. Conference workshops can also enlighten you on the use and availability of helpful tools of the trade.
One of the things about the Oregon Christian Writer’s Conference that appealed to me were the number and quality of the writing workshops (which were included in the tuition). For several years, I’ve wanted to attend these smaller, interactive classes, but the additional fee for them at other conferences (or the stand-alone tuition) made it an either/or proposition.
I can either attend the workshop for a day (or a few hours) OR I can attend several days of sessions at the conference.

The variety of the conference sessions always won.

But at OCW Conference, I didn’t have to choose. An eight-hour workshop came with the regular tuition for the event. The only thing I had to choose was WHICH one of the workshops would benefit me most at this time in my career.

The Choices

OCW Conference organizers called these “coaching classes.” The instructor becomes a coach. Check out the popularity of coaches in every area—life coach, fitness coach, writing coach, nutrition coach—and you’ll understand the high appeal of this concept.
These were the nine coaching classes available at this year’s conference:

  • Weaving Spiritual Themes into Fiction
  • Children’s/Young Adult Critique (yes, you brought pages which were shared with the class and coach and picked apart)
  • Writing Historical Fiction for Contemporary Readers
  • Destined for Glory: Crafting Your Protagonist and His/Her Inner Journey
  • Get Published Fast: The Art to Writing Great Articles
  • Imaginative Fiction Critique Class (yes, more sharing your manuscript and getting feedback)
  • Telling Your Story with Authenticity and Empathy
  • A Novel Career: for both indie and traditional authors at every stage in the writing journey

With such an incredible selection, you can imagine my struggle in choosing only ONE.

I considered the critique classes but decided I have enough published authors reading my manuscripts in the beta stage that my time would be better spent on something else.


Since I chose to pursue the nonfiction path with all the one hour sessions, I decided against taking the coaching class. Although, after meeting with that coach in my mentor session, I know it would have been profitable for me.

My Workshop

In the end, I asked myself: “Why am I going to this conference this year?”

The answer was three-fold:

  • To pitch my Christian projects
  • To learn more about writing and selling nonfiction
  • To further my writing career through networking and accrued knowledge

Susan May Warren is the author of more than 50 fiction novels. She was the coach for the “A Novel Career” workshop, and because I respected her writing and knew she had a career writing novels, I decided to let her impart some of that knowledge on to me.

It was the right choice.

It will take me months to work through all the information she covered attempted to cover during our eight hours together. Thankfully, she emailed all her slides to class members, so I’ll be able to look back at her presentation rather than trying to make sense of my notes.
Along with talking us through finding our brand and forming a writing plan, she stopped to answer any questions we had. On the first day, she filled a white board with all the things we told her we wanted to learn about in the class.
She covered all those subjects, too. If not thoroughly, she included the information in the mailer to us.
It would have been worth $550 just to take her class. Although I’m a frugal-minded author since my writing paychecks have yet to cover my writing expenses, so I doubt I would have understood that in advance. So I would have passed.
This single coaching class made the time and money invested in the conference an epic win for me.
I pray my writing career bears witness to that claim in this next year.
Do you think networking or knowledge is more essential in business? What’s the best class you’ve ever taken?

Like reading this? You’re a click away from getting Hero Delivery, a bulletin with deals and new releases from Sharon Hughson.

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Why I’m Glad I’m Not a Kid: Part Four

Media and conversations continue to remind me how relieved I am NOT to be a kid these days. It’s like kids are expected to come from the womb knowing exactly who they are and what they want from life.

If you read my other posts in this series, you might recall that I wanted to be a secret agent at one point. Oh, and if I didn’t wish to be a horse, I pretended to be a boy. All of this to say school isn’t about learning the basics anymore.

Recently, I realized that I had another advantage over kids these days. Of course, movies and journalists will claim it means I was brainwashed, but I was expected to adhere to a specific set of rules. And my mother took me to the church she believed taught the right things.

So Many Beliefs

Our world is diverse in so many ways. There are different races and religions. People choose political affiliation.

Cultures stress family units or individual achievement. Books are written about things as vague as basketweaving to the ridiculous notion of a zombie apocalypse.

Who’s to say what’s right or wrong?

Well, in the world of what I want to believe, I get to decide what is right for me. And, as a parent, I’m responsible for teaching my child the difference between right behavior and wrong behavior.
How did any of us survive with our mothers feeding us cow’s mile in our bottles? Everyone knows babies can process all those harsh proteins. They need their mother’s milk or expensive formula.
But we did survive. Our parents fed us what they ate.
Medical research has since declared cow’s milk “unhealthy” for infants. But did babies die from drinking it back in the day when people didn’t know better?
Maybe. Most likely they developed some form of allergic reaction. Even I was allergic to the fat in milk. It made my skin bubble up and itch.
All this to say that no person can teach their child every different belief system. In fact, they should give due diligence to being consistent living their own beliefs and explaining them to their children.
This whole “We don’t take our kid to church because we want them to choose their own beliefs” mentality confuses me. Introducing your children to what you believe is choosing to believe it for them?
I think not. You’ll put the Crest toothpaste on the counter in the bathroom and watch them brush their teeth twice per day. Why Crest? Is it really better than Colgate or Aquafresh or the store brand?
How can you force your toothpaste choice on your child?
Even more to the point, why do you make them brush their teeth anyway? What if they believe bad breath is better?

Pressure to Conform

Children will face pressure to conform.
If the parents don’t give them a baseline of acceptable responses (based on their own worldviews and societal standards), they’re setting their child up to fall in with the loudest voice.
For a few years, parents can be the only voice a child hears. And believe me, they will choose to ignore that voice plenty of times. Hopefully there will be consequences when they do.
Fair and consistent outcomes won’t happen very often in the larger world, but parents can make sure they happen in their child’s pre-school world. Why wouldn’t you take the opportunity to do it?
Because you’re brainwashing your child to be a Christian or a person who bathes or someone who eats three balanced meals per day?
As soon as they begin interacting with other kids, the pressure is on. Eventually, they’ll want different toys, different clothes, and different opportunities.
Do they really need these things to become a well-rounded individual?
Or if they conform to these expectations, are they being brainwashed by larger society to believe and act a certain way?

Freedom to Choose

God created humans to have free will.
Every person should have freedom to choose for themselves. God said so. He set the universe in place on that truth.

But if there is a choice, there is a right one and a wrong one.

Just because being a doctor is right for some people, it’s wrong for me. I don’t like to listen to a sick person’s list of complaints. I don’t want to go to school for a decade and be exposed to every bodily fluid.

But that doesn’t mean being a doctor is wrong. We need conscientious doctors who care about the physical and emotional well-being of people.

I wouldn’t be that doctor.

This is a case where the freedom to choose will give individuals unique outcomes. What’s right for one isn’t right for all.

However, children need to eat protein and vitamins. If they don’t, their brains and bodies won’t grow to optimum potential.

And fortified cereal isn’t the same as fresh fruit and organic eggs. Even if all the nutrients are the same, we know the foods aren’t equal. One choice is healthier for the developing human than the other.

In this case, freedom to choose can have a negative outcome if you choose poorly. And there is a better, more healthy choice.

All choices aren’t created equal even if the right to make them is consistent across the board.

I’m glad my mother didn’t give me a choice. Even though it meant eating liver and butternut squash, I didn’t get to choose to have a bologna and cheese sandwich instead. It meant I had to pick up rocks, pull weeds and clean toilets, but I’m not afraid to work hard and I know how to take care of my yard, garden (ugh, or how to NOT have one) and home.

I wouldn’t have been able to make good choices about many things in my life when I was a kid. If I’m honest, I still make poor choices as a middle-aged adult woman.

Let’s face it the $5 lunch from Dairy Queen sound delicious. And so much easier to make than fresh fruit, plain yogurt and sliced red peppers. But which one is a healthier choice?

The Books of Summer

With the return of The Game of Thrones to HBO, people are into the groove of summer viewing. I’d rather be reading, and I know plenty of people who would rather READ George R. R. Martin’s next installment for this series.


Still, the anticipation of the show reminded me that summer’s long days encourage reluctant readers to pick up a book and head to the porch (or patio or deck)

What I’m Reading

I’m always reading something. This year, I’ve challenged myself to read 150 books. At the time I wrote this, I had read 102 (actually more since a couple were collections but Goodreads only counts them as one).
Recently, my reading choices have expanded to include more women’s fiction and Christian romance. These are genres I’m trying to break into with my writing, and the best way to understand what works is to read the genre.
As part of the First Street Church Kindle World, I’ve been reading the original series and some of the spin-offs.


I’ve been beta reading for some of my author friends. In this case, one of the books was a new take on vampire origins. (I’m NOT a fan of vampires.) I was intrigued by the twist on this, but still wasn’t convinced that I would invest myself in an entire series about them.
For my online book club, I read The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster for July. It sounded intriguing, but I had a hard time engaging with it.
On audiobook, I listened to a YA fantasy series from Tamora Pierce while cleaning, crocheting and coloring. (I love being able to multi-task.)
The second book in the Spellsmith & Carver series releases on July 31 (TODAY), and I’m excited to read it. I read Coiled by this author (H.L. Burke) earlier in the summer and couldn’t put it down. If you’re looking for a fairy tale retelling…pick this up.

What I’m Writing

I’ve written the final installment for my Virtual Match romance series.
The first draft of my debut into both Christian romance and Kindle Worlds has been wrapped. I’ll be rewriting it and getting it out to beta readers. I have until September 7 to get a copy to my editor.
My next writing project will probably be a short story I’m submitting for an anthology my publisher is putting out in 2018.
After that, things are up in the air. Once I know how my manuscripts are received at the Oregon Christian Writers Conference, I’ll know if I’m going to work on another women’s fiction story.
I will finish writing Through the Valley of Shadows, the grief memoir that’s been in and out of my queue for several years. I’ve decided to pursue indie publishing for it if I can’t get an agent to contract it.
Some books fill a hole in the market, and that’s how I see this book. Everyone will grieve (at multiple times in life) and the idea of mourning in a healthy way for as long as it takes isn’t highly promoted in Western society.

What I’m Wishing For

I’m not much for paranormal romances…most of the time. Maybe it’s because I forced myself to read the Twilight series so I could discuss it with my students. So if there are vampires and werewolves? I’ll pass.
So color me shocked when I downloaded the first book in Melissa Haag’s Judgement of the Six young adult paranormal romance series a couple years ago.
To date, Hope(less) the first book, is still my favorite and Clay and Gabby are my favorite couple.
I love the integration of a society existing in our own world. It’s well-crafted and believable. For some time, I wondered if bulky blond men on motorcycles were actually werewolves.
Just as Stephanie Meyer created her own vampire history, Haag has given the wolves an interesting backstory. By starting with a skeptical character in the first book, she had a chance to show us the two sides of werewolves. Later we saw the “dark side” generally meant they were a different species.

What?

And each human girl that is the central character in the book has a special gift. Because truly she is something called a Judgement. Six women are born in a 100-year cycle and if all of them unite, they get to make a judgment.
Haag has kept us in the dark about all this entails. But there is one group of wolves trying to round up the girls and mate them with their kind so they can control the judgment.
The final book, Sur(real), doesn’t release until November, but I’m ready for it now. This year I intend on re-reading the entire series in the weeks leading up to the release.
If you haven’t read this series, check out the first book for free. I promise you’ll get hooked.
What books are you reading, writing or wishing for this summer?

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Why I’m Glad I’m not a Kid These Days: Part Three

Reading headlines and listening to newscasts has given me a revelation: Being a kid these days is confusing. And with technology and convenience, and easy access to information and answers, this shouldn’t be so.
It makes me glad I grew up in the 70s and 80s. Things were so much simpler back then.
Angst is nothing new. Having an identity crisis when you’re a young person is part of “coming of age.”
But back when I struggled through it, no one confused me with platitudes like, “Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t be whatever you want.”
Because—the truth was—when I was in elementary school, I wanted to be a boy. And without a surgery and complexities I don’t want to imagine, I could never be that.

Why Did I Want it?

When I was in first through fourth grade, we lived on a farm. For four years. Those were the happiest days of my life.

Those were the most painful times of my life.

How can it be both? Because that’s the way the world works. Happiness is fleeting. When it’s gone, what follows is magnified by the lack of the blissful state it isn’t.
We had a section of land in Rainier. There were cows and apple trees and fences and a section of woods filled with creaking pines and aromatic cedars. I remember the warm scent of cow manure and the gentle hum of bees pollinating the flowers.
I tried to keep up with my over-six-feet-tall father, but my legs were stubs compared to his. I trailed him to the barn, the pasture, the pond and down the rutted track in the woods.
I might as well have been invisible. Because I wasn’t what he wanted. I was just another daughter.

So I spend many years of my life wanted to be his son. Trying to be his son.

Nothing Would Have Changed


Let’s say that happened these days. And a well-intentioned teacher told me that it sounded like I wanted to “identify as a boy.”
I’d wonder if that’s all it will take to get my dad to finally see me?

But, no. That wouldn’t have changed anything.

In his eyes, I would still have been a girl. And what memes now decry as sexist: a tomboy.
No matter what I wanted to think of myself, I would never be the son he wanted. What I thought didn’t matter. The truth was in the anatomy: I was a girl.

Why This Makes Me Sad

When I started thinking about this post a few weeks ago, I started to experience melancholy.
It was so easy to recall the yearning I had in those days. Why wasn’t I enough? Why couldn’t he love me? Because I was a girl?
In the years since, I’ve realized the lack is not within me. In fact, the truth is probably that he did love me and was dealing with his own disappointment in the only way he knew how.
Which meant shutting me out.

You see, I didn’t want to be a boy because it was who I was, but because of what I wanted. Acceptance. Love. Camaraderie.

And none of that would have happened just because I “identified” as male.

I wanted to be a boy so badly that I pretended to be one in many ways and at many times.
Because I was a kid. I was trying to win my father’s approval.
That’s what kids do.
And that’s why I’m thankful I’m not a kid these days. It wouldn’t have helped me in the least to have someone encouraging me to accept my maleness and become the boy I wanted to be.

It would have led to more angst and more disillusionment for me.

Because true acceptance means looking in the mirror and seeing what is really there. And being okay with it.

Even if it means you don’t have a great relationship with your father. Or you can’t play baseball with the boys. Or you have to sit down to pee (yes, I really did just say that).
Acceptance isn’t about trying to be something you are not because you’re uncomfortable with what you are. That’s pretense, and it’s the gateway to a Disappointment Road.
Thank the Lord no one tried to tell me that my desire to be a boy meant I was supposed to be one. That all I had to do was decide I was one, and everyone would have to accept me as male.
Think of everything I would have missed out on in my life: a 29-year marriage, two sons and now two daughters. Being a sister, a wife, a mother.
Self-acceptance is hard enough for kids. Why do people want to make it even more difficult?

Like reading this? You’re a click away from getting Hero Delivery, a bulletin with deals and new releases from Sharon Hughson.

Maybe you like romance or some of my other books. I’m sure there’s something worth reading on my page.

Already read one or more of my books? Please leave an honest review on your favorite site. A review is the same as the author discovering a gold nugget in the bottom of her washing machine.

Are Holidays Warping Society?

Now that we have a lull in holidays here in the United States, let’s talk about them. Some recent chatter on my Facebook profile has me thinking that holidays are being warped by society.
Or maybe society is being warped by the endless deluge of holidays.
Every day is National “something” Day, but no one pays attention except the marketers of whatever that something is.
Worse are the actual nationally recognized holidays that are treated as another excuse for a sale or to overeat (or drink to excess).
What is a holiday? Why is Mother’s Day sweet and Father’s Day swept over? And who decided everything (even selfies) needed a day of recognition?

Holiday Defined

According to Merriam-Webster, these are the top four definitions:

1. Holy day (does this need explanation?)
2. A day marked by a general suspension of work in commemoration of an event
3. Vacation – chiefly the British definition
4. A period of exemption or relief

In the case of this blog post, we’ll accept the second definition. Most people consider a special day off of work as a holiday. We all prefer these are PAID holidays, but that’s not the point of this post.
So, the day is not just for sleeping in and throwing a party. Notice the last part of the definition: “in commemoration of an event.”
What’s commemoration? Again, Merriam-Webster helps us out. It’s a call to remembrance or mark significance by ceremony or observance.
On Mother’s Day we remember our mothers by bringing them cards and gifts. Perhaps taking them out to lunch or dinner.

No Love on Father’s Day

Father’s Day should include the remembrance of fathers. They should be showered with cards and gifts.
Recently, I observed an interesting (and I thought amusing) difference in the WAY mothers and fathers liked to observe their holidays. I posted on Facebook this innocent comparison:

Father’s Day: Dad wants to grill his meal
Mother’s Day: Mom doesn’t want to cook or clean

I found this entertaining because Mom generally cooks on EVERY day, so in honor of her special day, she’d like a break from that work. Isn’t that the very definition of holiday (see number two definition above)? But since Father’s aren’t generally (meaning I know this isn’t true in ALL cases, so no men need to get offended at my admitted generalization) responsible for cooking, they want to play with their grill and cook up some fatty brats and burgers (or steak and ribs).
One female friend responded that my observation was true.
Two male friends said they noticed that father’s were generally disregarded on Father’s Day in lieu of celebrating the women who were both mother and father to their children.
What about the single dads who were both mother and father? Why no commendation for them?
The truth is, I have little contact with my own father and haven’t given him a card or anything else in more than 35 years. But I spoil my husband (as much as he’ll let me) because he’s the most important father in my life these days: the father of my sons.
Is the culture of women’s equality affecting the way we observe Father’s Day?

National “Whatever” Day

The reason I think many holidays are getting bland treatment is because the marketing department heads work overtime to create days to sell products.
On National Flip-Flop Day, there will be a huge discount on the disposable footwear of summer. National Selfie Day promotes selfie sticks and smart phones.


The fact that we’ve made every day a commemoration of something has watered down the exclusivity and sacredness of actual national holidays.
“Oh, it’s just another day.” And so some great fathers get no recognition (or veteran’s or soldiers who died in battle—who are to be honored and remembered on Memorial Day).
I’d joked with one of the men who commented about this disparity on my Facebook post, “We should have a National Appreciate Someone Day.”

And we both claimed that Monday as the day to appreciate someone and we affirmed each other.

Because adding such a day would only exacerbate the problem. Stores would carry “I appreciate you” mugs and florists would sell “You’re appreciated” balloons. Money would be made, but the impact would be trampled beneath the push to commercialize the day meant for connection.
Every day of our lives should be marked by gratitude for the courtesy, hard work and dedication of those around us. It should be an automatic thing to say, “Thank you” (and mean it) and tell people how much we appreciate the things they do.
What do you think? Are the abundance of holidays warping the effectiveness of those days to commemorate special people or events?

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Why I’m Glad I’m Not a Kid: Part Two

Both of them have their phones in hand, fingers gyrating madly, half-smiles on their lips. My old fingers aren’t so coordinated, and here lies another reason I’m glad not to be a kid these days.
Technology is great. I love it. Obviously, you’re reading this via the Internet on my website as a blog post.
When I was a kid, none of those things existed. Most of them weren’t even under consideration. Heck, I learned computer programming in Basic as a sophomore in high school. And computers were as big and clunky as a TV (well, the TVs of the 1980s).
But those kids in the opening paragraph? They’re texting each other while seated on opposite ends of the couch.
How do I know this? Because they’re MY kids. I watched them do it, and shook my head thinking:

What has the world come to that we have to send messages to a person five feet away in the same room?

Social Engagement In Person

Although my kids are big with texting and private messaging, they know how to talk to people in person. And I’ve always made them put the phone away during family dinners.
Well, I did when they were kids. They’re still pretty good about respecting this and boy do they give me a hard time if I have MY phone out while we’re at the table.
Usually I’m just checking in on Facebook because…it’s the thing to do. Right?
I’m an introvert, but I can totally engage with people in person and especially in small group settings. A family dinner generally falls into this category.
Many kids don’t know how to make eye contact when they’re talking. They might mumble or fidget. Like the physical connection makes them itch.
Is this what we’re teaching them by letting them only engage via text, chat and messaging?

Social Engagement Via Device

It was funny the first time one of my kids texted me when I was across the room. Ha, ha. *waves*
It’s not funny that so many kids prefer this to face-to-face interactions. How will they learn the rules for good communication if they never engage in it?
Or are we moving to a society where the closest we get to face-to-face is Facetime? That’s a disheartening thought because people need physical connections.
It took me years to get a Facebook account, and I finally did it only to build my author platform. (And I’m not sure how much it’s helped with that as opposed to distracted me from writing books, but that’s another post.) Now, the younger generation has moved on from that.


They’re into SnapChat or Instagram. They want to post pictures more than have a conversation.
It all sounds so superficial to me. Where are they making friends they can talk to about their issues?

Why I Would Hate It This Way

As an introvert, I could hole up in my office all day. If I chatted with some friends via Messenger, that would satisfy my need for conversation.
But I would still be lonely for human interaction.
And the social media brand of communication is pretty me-focused. Look at what I’m wearing. This is where I’m eating lunch. Check out the view from my vacation.
To prove my point about the self-centered bent of engagement on social media, the day I began writing this post was National Selfie Day.
Really? Because that should be a thing?
I’m terrible at taking selfies, and I have no desire to get better. The best photo of me is the one I don’t know you’re taking.
As an author, I live to write. And my words are meant to be read and enjoyed by other people. That means I can’t be self-focused or no one will want to read my stuff.
I avoid the guy (or gal) in the room who’s talking all about their latest and greatest whatever without any thought to care about anyone else’s. Ugh.
It’s not just the thumb action that makes me glad I’m not a kid in this tech-enhanced-communication era. I need human touch and connection, eye-to-eye so I can see that the person cares about me.
Do you think social media is playing havoc without our ability to interact face-to-face?

Like reading this? You’re a click away from getting Hero Delivery, a bulletin with deals and new releases from Sharon Hughson.

Maybe you like romance or some of my other books. I’m sure there’s something worth reading on my page.

Already read one or more of my books? Please leave an honest review on your favorite site. A review is the same as the author discovering a gold nugget in the bottom of her washing machine.

Why I’m Glad I’m Not a Kid: Part One

Recent trips into the classroom at one public school where I work has inspired a series of blog posts. In fact, it’s reminded me to be thankful I’m not a kid these days.

My main job is to be a writing superhero. My alter ego works as a substitute teacher in local middle and high schools. There are plenty of things there to inspire my creative side, as many blog posts attest.

Unfortunately, all is not magic and unicorns in the realm of public education.

I’ve known this to be true for many years. It’s the main reason I decided NOT to pursue a degree in education when I went back to college in 2010. But in the final weeks of the school year, it was reiterated to me.

Why am I glad I’m not a kid?

Because education in the 21st century is all about meeting regulations and ranking well on state assessments.

Back in my day, school was about learning to read, write, do sums (and other math you never use in real life) in a social environment where you were expected to get along with everyone.

Learning at School?

Isn’t school supposed to be for the purpose of learning?


And not learning how to bully others. Or make excuses for late homework. Or perfect the art of doing as little as possible.

Believe me. Spend a few days in the average public middle school, and you’ll start to wonder.

Who decides what kids are taught in school?

Did you say the teachers? You’re wrong if you did.

Not even the school board has the ultimate power over curriculum.

Nope. Big Brother gets to say what will be taught in school.

Or else.

The fact they require kids to spend weeks and months learning things that do NOT help them understand their culture or prepare them to be an adult isn’t even the worst of it.

It’s not?

High school teachers and counselors in our school district have been heard to say, “Middle school doesn’t really count.”

So, what are they doing there? Why are we wasting six or seven hours of our time hanging out in classrooms?

Every day of school should be preparing kids to be responsible adults. Primary school should focus on the basics of reading. Once they get to third grade, throw in the basics of math. Without those two things, they’re not going to be able to succeed in the upper grades.

Nor will they be able to fill out a job application or make a budget.

Citizenship in School

I’ll be the first parent to tell you that it isn’t the school’s job to teach my kid to be a decent human being. Sorry. If you wait until your kid’s five to start teaching courtesy, discipline and respect, it might be too late.

It is NOT the school’s job to teach my child values or how to treat other people.

School needs to be a safe place to learn the complexities of social interactions.

How do I react if I have to work with a stranger? What if I get stuck with someone I don’t like? What should I do if my teacher doesn’t like me?
And the answer is NOT tell my parents and have them call the school to put me in an ideal situation.

That’s not life. School social settings should prepare kids to face the interactions they will have in the workplace. We’ve all had to work with someone we didn’t know or didn’t like.

I might be the only one who’s ever had a boss that I didn’t get along with, but I’d like to think it’s a common occurrence. And my mom didn’t rescue me from that person because that’s not what being an ADULT is about.

Staff at school should model ideal behaviors, sure. They shouldn’t tolerate bullying. Yes, they should keep kids from beating each other up because school is supposed to be a safe place.

Natural consequences should be allowed to fall on students in cases when it doesn’t mean bodily harm. For example, if you’re late too many times to work, your boss will fire you. There should be consequences for being late to class.

And I don’t want to hear your excuse. You either have a note from an adult…or you don’t. That’s all I need to know.

We’re only hurting the future of our society by failing our students in school. They deserve to learn to read, write and do math, and they should be held accountable for obeying the standard of conduct required in the schoolhouse.

Politics in School

I’m not saying that learning and citizenship don’t happen in schools these days. But those aren’t the priorities.

Government has their fingers in the U.S. educational system, and they like to generate red tape. Schools rely on the government for funding, so they have no choice but to march to the regulatory drumbeat.

Or they can shut their doors.

What happened recently to remind me of politics in school?

A teacher who taught both of my sons and I’ve worked closely with for a decade is transferring to a different position. I didn’t know asking her about it would open a can of worms.

The school has decided to combine language arts and social studies for middle schoolers. This isn’t a new or unusual thing. We had it before when the students could have a humanities block—two class periods for this class.

That isn’t what’s happening. Teachers will be expected to cover the learning goals for both subjects in one hour.

Furthermore, they’ll only receive one day of training on how to do this.

I hope the trainers are handing out Time Turners or some other magical device that will stretch one hour in to two (or ten).

How can students be expected to learn twice as much content in half the time? How can teachers be expected to teach twice as much content in half the time?

The biggest problem I have with this: the school is doing this because of budgetary constraints. They will use fewer staff to teach in this way.
Because money is what education is all about in our world.

I’m sure schools were funded the same way when I was a kid, but there weren’t common core standards and annual state assessments back then.

We went to school to learn how to be a productive citizen of the United States of America. That’s why the founding fathers pushed for public education for all people.

Kids these days are getting the short end of the learning stick. And our country will reap its dues when these under-educated people are running our country in a couple decades.

Are there things you’ve noticed about kids in school that make you grateful to have grown up in an earlier era?

Like reading this? You’re a click away from getting Hero Delivery, a bulletin with deals and new releases from Sharon Hughson.

Maybe you like romance or some of my other books. I’m sure there’s something worth reading on my page.

Already read one or more of my books? Please leave an honest review on your favorite site. A review is the same as the author discovering a gold nugget in the bottom of her washing machine.