Sunday, September 20, 2009

Write Away Seminar: Surprise!

Art by Ronald Anderson

You'll remember I turned 60 a couple of weeks ago. There was a barbecue, fireworks, presents, phone calls from across the nation, the whole shebang. My family memorialized the occasion and I felt properly celebrated and feted. Birthday over, I assumed.

Friday night our daughter Amy invited us out to dinner, which was special but not suspicious. At the restaurant we were guided upstairs, and while I looked for the hostess to seat us, Dee turned me a bit and I saw a big table of people. One guy looked like my son-in-law (they live in Philly) and another resembled my son from Denver. Suddenly they were all standing up, singing Happy Birthday. To me!! I looked around and they were ALL there—our seven kids, plus in-law kids (from 5 different states)—we hadn't all been together at the same time for four years, before Anna even joined the family.

Wait . . . where was Anna? Amidst all the hugging, Pete said, "Anna's in labor. I just came for the surprise—I've got to get back to the hospital." (Doesn't this sound like the finale of It's a Wonderful Life, where, to top off the huge, loving reunion, the war-hero brother flies in through a blizzard to make his appearance?) Peter rushed back to help Anna deliver our 20th grandchild. PJ arrived in tip-top shape the next night, after 30 hours of labor (not part of the birth plan!) while the rest of us partied all weekend.

P & PJ

I'm not often surprised, but I have been rendered speechless this month. OK, OK. You, of all people, know I'm not speechless; but I am amazed. Take my School Days Seminar. TravelinOma has been my hobby for three years, with regular daily posts and encouraging comments, but most nights I wonder if there's anybody on the other side of the computer. Still, I type away because I'm passionate about writing, and The Blogosphere is my writing group.

The last Thursday of August I was brainstorming for a gimmick to jazz up my blog and School Days: A 12-Week Seminar was born. No thirty-hour labor for me—in fact, in that blazing moment I knew my new predetermined topics would dissolve writer's block. Posts would flow out of my finger-tips forever. Besides, who would know? Who reads my blog anyway?

The next morning I had 128 comments! Over the next two days I got two dozen more, plus 155 emails from readers wanting to sign up. People thought I was for real! What had I been thinking? Sixty thought provoking, daily posts? On what?

But I was committed to my birth plan. After the panic passed, it began to seem like an opportunity to challenge myself. All summer my son-in-law had been training for a one-day, 210-mile bike ride. Just because. People hike mountains, swim Channels. School Days could be my marathon. (I'm no runner but I'm good with a dash—)

Natalie Goldberg wrote this when she finished a book: "It might not be the greatest novel, but it was my greatest effort. Maybe that's my talent. Tremendous determination. In this one area: writing. Not in other areas. For instance, I run around the block once—uh, I don't want to do it anymore. I stop. Skiing: I fell, oh I don't like skiing; I take off my skis. But in writing I have that determination." So do I.

If I had labored over this seminar idea for a few more hours, I would never have suggested it. It's hard! But then I wouldn't have discovered your blogs, or read your creative, funny, moving, heartbreaking stories. Reading your work is motivation for doing mine.

I'm putting in my labor hours as we go, and I'm surprised that every day I get a bunch of ideas. Creativity generates creativity. There are lists laying all over my desk, tucked in my folders, waiting to be noticed. You and I have nine more weeks to polish our pens, and share our skills. Just write away, and don't be surprised by your progress.

Homework: Do any or all or be inspired.

~Has a surprise party ever worked out for you? Were you the surpriser or the surprised? Record the memory in your blog or journal, with as many details as possible.

~List 8 ways you've surprised yourself lately. Ideas: "I'm a better cook than my mother-in-law." "I was too nervous to get out of the car."

~Use the Natalie Goldberg quote as inspiration. Write a page that starts, "I have tremendous determination in this one area:_______. Not in other areas. For instance:_________."

*If you do any part of this assignment on your blog, please link it back to TravelinOma and provide proper attribution. Leave a comment here (with a link to your homework if you want to share it) and/or a link to your blog (so we can get to know you.) School Days has open enrollment so join anytime. No make-up work required! If you're new, click here for an orientation.

End of the 1st Quarter Announcements:

Class Statistics:

159 different people have done homework assignments.
Sherbet Blossom and Formerly Phread are tied for the most recruits (21 each.)
These students have completed 10-15 written assignments:
  1. Audrey
  2. Allison
  3. Alana
  4. Beck
  5. Crissy
  6. Diane
  7. Diane L
  8. Dalene
  9. Heather
  10. Jordan
  11. ~J
  12. Jessica
  13. Sassy Piggy
  14. Kiasa
  15. ~Kristina
  16. Marissa Marie
  17. Michelle
  18. Soybean Living
  19. Miranda
  20. Mrs Organic
  21. Queen Scarlett
  22. Rebekah Writes
  23. Sassy Lewis
  24. Sarah N
  25. Sara
  26. Tiffany
My numbers may be a little off because in a comment I can't tell if all five Rebeka's (Amanda's, Dianes, etc.) are the same person; or I may have you under amyatyahoo, The Kitchen Table and The Jordan's and think you're three different people. Plus new recruits will say, "I came from Tiff's blog" and I know it as "MonkeyBusiness." So don't list these honors on your resume. But you all deserve extra credit!


the wrath of khandrea said...

first off, i want to know what you're using as your metaphorical epidural.

second, i love your surprise story. i love that you were totally oblivious, even in the face of reality. i hope christie was there to capture the moment.

good stuff, m. good stuff.

kenju said...

What a lovely surprise and a 20th grandbaby to boot! You are blessed.

I have only had one surprise party; given to me on my 50th birthday by my daughter-in-law and son. It was a very welcome surprise, since I had worked doing and delivering flowers all day.

dalene said...

congratulations! and what a beautiful baby!!

my homework is done. thanks for letting us enjoy the fruits of your labors.

Hannah said...

What a great surprise!

I have done all my writing assignments as well...but have done most on my own in my journal.

Anonymous said...

You are such a gift to all of us. I wish I could keep up on my homework...even though I don't get it done, you've given me great things to think about and I've written some fantastic posts (with photos!) in my head.

I had a wonderful time with Christie and we spent much of he time talking about how much we love you. Thank you, thank you.

xoxo, m

The Grandmother Here said...

What a happy surprise from your kids! And a new baby too!!

Miranda said...

What a wonderful family you have! I'm on a mini vacation with my parents and am looking forward to finishing any of the assignments I have missed. Enjoy your time with your children!

Diane said...

I feel about parties like you do about travel.

A note: I am Diane L, but put my full name as a display name to hopefully lessen your confusion. All my previous posts were Diane L, and any other Diane(s) are other people. Thanks for your hard work.
week 4 assign 1

Alana said...

What am I going to do in nine weeks without these prompts? I love them!


diane said...

Now that is a fabulous surprise and another grand baby is the cherry on the top.

audrey said...


~Kristina said...

Congratulations on the latest addition and three cheers for surprises! Yours is of the best kind.
Congratulations on the incredible stats for your School Days. I look forward to seeing what is next every morning.
And finally, here is a link to my post today:

Jake said...

Best birthday weekend. Ever!

Mrs. O said...

Suprises come in all shapes and forms - I think babies and parties are the best kind.

Here's my assignment.

Allison said...

That's wonderful that your whole family made it to surprise you. I've taken part in surprise parties before, but haven't yet been super involved in the planning.

Wish I had some more time to write about this, but I'm exhausted, so here you go.

Sheri said...

You never cease to amaze me! You have become so prolific and popular with your School Days course. You inspire me, but I can't make myself write for some reason.

~j. said...

Another linky one, but it's worth it.