I lead a triple life. For more than a decade I described myself as a human resources director by day, a writer by night, and a master chef in my dreams. Recently I became a writer by day, a human resources consultant on the side, and a master chef in the eyes of my overworked adult children in need of a home cooked meal. In other words, my story continues to be a journey into new territory. Please ride along with me on my journey thus far.
While I have a Bachelor's degree in Adult Education & Training and over 25 years of experience in human resources management, my writing background stretches back 40 years to a family trip (actual backseat photo at left) when I started work on my first book. It was a book about a lost dog, but that's all I remember about it because it was written on sheets of loose-leaf notebook paper that blew out the back window of my dad's station wagon as we cruised through Missouri. (Come to think of it, lots of strange and life-changing things happened to me in Missouri, but I digress.) Although I could make an educated guess as to why Dad lowered all of the windows at once, precisely what prompted him to do it is lost from my memory. What I do remember - vividly, I might add - is watching my life's work get sucked out the back of our vehicle. I never wanted to ride in "the way back" again.
Fast forward a few years to my eighth grade English teacher who just happened to have the same name as mine. She was the toughest teacher I ever had. She was also the most effective. I exited the eighth grade confident that I could write anything my heart desired. A few days later my mother packed me, my sister and my grandmother into the car and headed to – you guessed it – Missouri on a momentous genealogical expedition. I learned on that trip just how fascinating family stories can be, but my mother was the one doing all the writing at that time.
A few years later I came within inches of running over a guy with my car. While I wouldn’t recommend running people down as a means of meeting one’s soul mate, it worked well for me. Within a few years we had lived abroad, brought two cool kids into the world, returned to Texas, and experienced enough life to make me think I knew a thing or two that I should share with others. I was too naïve to think that making a career as a writer would be difficult, so I purchased a rudimentary electric typewriter and submitted story after story to editors. One of my first rejection letters was hand-written, complimentary, and so encouraging I celebrated as if I had just won a Pulitzer. While rejection continued to be the norm, I never received a hand-written letter again, and almost no one offered any encouragement. But I am a tenacious sort, so I kept trying and finally broke into the freelance market as a writer for business and regional lifestyle magazines.
When life dictated the need for a steady income, I sought “real people” employment. I stumbled into the remarkable field of human resources where extraordinary stories unfold on a daily basis and yet professionalism prevents the sharing of said stories. A writer working in human resources is like a sugar addict working in a magnificent bakery where no one – especially the sugar addict – can lick the frosting. Fortunately, life is so full of possibilities for good stories, one can craft a great tale based on imagination, and I found fiction writing to be an amazingly effective outlet for the stresses that life presents. I also found that I enjoyed traveling to conferences and developing training programs, and I was good enough at the latter to be flown to – yep – Missouri where I was recognized with an award. (The little chickens in this photo enjoyed traveling with me, too. You can read about them in my blog.) Additionally, during this stage of my life I discovered how much my parents enjoyed hearing me read to them, whether it was a story I wrote or not. My mother loved to be read to during her final years while suffering from vascular dementia, and my father always liked to hear and discuss a good story.
When my granddaughter was born in another part of Texas, my husband and I relocated to be near her. I happily accepted a remote job based out of – getting tired of this yet? – Missouri, and then life took me in a number of other directions. I returned to my interest in writing, dusted off some of those works of fiction that I so enjoyed creating during my treasured free moments, and began to consider the positive impact that dialogue and stories can have on health. A new mission started to emerge wherein I hope to build a community that learns from each other and captures their important stories. That mission is what prompted the creation of this website and the book Filling Mama's Shoes.
My sister and I have spent many years digging through our dear mother’s boxes, unearthing sentimental and wildly entertaining items. (This box pictured was one of Mom's boxes, and for the record, it was an accurately labeled "empty box." My mother had a beautifully warped sense of humor.) If you’d like to see a few of the treasures we’ve found, including those chickens I mentioned earlier, you can follow my blog – www.gemsmymomsaved.com.
Among my most treasured finds are the family stories written by my mother. She wrote some of them on – what else? – loose-leaf notebook paper. Fortunately, none of those were lost to any highways in Missouri.