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Why Do We Do the Things We Do?

Why do we do the things we do? Why do we respond to situations or events in our lives the way that we do? How is it that the smallest things can make us angry as heck, but the really big issues don’t even phase us? Or why does something we do not have any control over bring out our controlling tendencies?

Human behavior is a fascinating topic. It’s even more fascinating when one examines why teenagers do what they do. And even better yet when one gets to research and write about why teens do what they do for teens.

I got that chance when Nomad Press, an educational publisher, chose me to explore and share this topic through their Inquire and Investigate series for young adults.
Here’s how it happened and what I learned through the process.

Andi Diehn, the editor extraordinaire of Nomad, reached out to me to contribute to their series on cool career avenues for girls. Man, I wish I could have written one of those books, as I’m all about girl power. Unfortunately, the deadline for that work directly conflicted with that of another of my books, so I had to turn down the offer. But I told Andi to keep me in mind for other opportunities. In the interim, Andi came to know a bit about my personal journey.

When Andi called to offer the chance to write Psychology: Why We Smile, Strive and Sing, she suggested that she thought I would be perfect based on my experiences. Andi thought that my positive choices through what most consider the worst tragedy, the death of a child, served as a great foundation to draw upon in researching and writing the book.

I’m grateful for the vote of confidence.

The truth of the matter is that I’ve often wondered how it is possible that I made the choices I did then, and now. How is it that I managed to literally pick myself up from off the floor on that horrible day and chose to not only survive but to truly live? What physical, emotional and genetic factors came into play? How did my environment and upbringing factor into my choices? (And for this I must thank my five siblings for helping to shape my survivalist nature!)

If you wonder the same, why you do the things you do, Psychology: Why We Smile, Strive and Sing breaks down the science behind our choices. Whether you are a teen, or parent one, my book offers insights into why this is such an amazing time in emotional and physical development, lending to choices.

So what did I learn through the process?

I learned that we as human beings all carry our experiences, our triumphs and our tragedies with us every day. We make decisions and judgements based on the influence of how we were raised, our current environment, and our support system, or lack thereof.

I learned that we as human beings have the capacity to either bury ourselves in our grief and sorrows, or to apply our energies in positive ways to experience post-traumatic growth.

I learned that for such a complicated topic it is great to have experts to lean on, such as Dr. Patrick McCormick, Neurosurgeon, Toledo, Rae Yenderusiak, LPCC-S, Toledo, Dr. Katie McLaughlin, Clinical Psychologist and Professor at Harvard University, and Dr. Nancy Segal, Psychologist and Director of the Twin Studies Center.

And, I learned that if you always have wondered about something, read about it.

Psychology: Why We Smile, Strive, and Sing

Psychology: Why We Smile, Strive and Sing releases on August 15, 2020. To pre-order a copy, visit https://bookshop.org/books/psychology-why-we-smile-strive-and-sing/9781619309111

Back in the saddle again

One of my favorite movies, Sleepless in Seattle, features the Gene Autry tune, Back in the Saddle Again, as the widower Tom Hanks decides it’s time to start dating.

The phrase reflects one’s desire to get back into doing something you had before, whether from injury or self-imposed time-out.

In my case, both apply.

My last post reflected my overwhelmed state of mind. I wrote it on the heels of our 18th annual Claire’s Day and several months filled with various writerly and literacy advocate commitments.

I was burnt out and felt a need to recharge.

Well, it’s interesting how life just kind of helps you figure things out.

In my case, it all began over the Fourth of July weekend. My right foot began to bother me. It started to nag at me, a dull, continuous pain. Then it began screaming after walking the golf course in bad shoes.

The timing couldn’t have been worse.

My husband, Brad, had presented me with the gift of playing in the Marathon Classic pro-am the Wednesday following the holiday weekend.

Understand that for me, playing in a pro-am was one of ten things I wrote down that I wanted to accomplish years ago during a team-building exercise during my sales management days. It was on my bucket list before there ever was such a thing. It represented my desire to get my golf game to the point that I could hold my own on the course.

The LPGA Marathon Classic supports charities that benefit children. Last year a portion of the proceeds from the tournament were given to Claire’s Day. As our way of showing our gratitude, Brad purchased two slots in the pro-am at the tournament host course, Highland Meadows.

But I had this throbbing foot. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to play, to fulfill this dream I’ve had for years. I called a friend of mine, a retired podiatrist. We both kind of figured that it was a stress fracture, brought on by bad shoes and over-exercising. His advice? “Get a golf cart if you can, wear the most supportive golf shoes you have, and have fun.”

I didn’t sleep well the night before the tournament. I felt like a kid going to Cedar Point amusement park the next day. I finally got up around 4:30 a.m., made myself some coffee, and sat out on the deck with my confused four-year-old Labrador, Luna. As I sipped my coffee and iced my foot, a sense of calm came over me. I knew that it was all going to be okay. I knew I was going to play well. And I felt so grateful to have the opportunity.

The experience was surreal, from the moment I met our pro, Mirim Lee, from South Korea, and our playing partners. When I got up to the first tee, I took a deep breath, settled into my stance, and struck the ball perfectly. The team used my drive, as they did often that day. And, as I was lead putter, I sank a number of putts, saving the team from having to do so. We ended up at a respectful 13 under.

Later that afternoon I got the official diagnosis, a boot, and the prognosis of 6-8 weeks of heeling from my new podiatrist.

So, I’ve spent the last 7 weeks icing, elevating, and hobbling along in my boot. I’ve been humbled by being pushed around in a wheelchair at our zoo and museum during a family visit. I’ve not been able to golf, walk my dog or bike.

Brad calls me his “Energizer Bunny.”

My batteries didn’t die. They were cruelly pulled from me.

For those of you who know me, it’s been hell.

But, for those of you who know me well, you know that I didn’t just sit.

I reflected. I meditated. I healed. And, I must admit, I binge-watched This is Us.

I wrote.

Through this process, I’ve discovered a subject that is so perfectly reflective of my experience that I can’t wait to share it with you.

But that will come in time.

For now, I’m celebrating being back in the saddle again.

 

Seeking True Center

 

In the Gift from the Sea, Anne Morrow Lindbergh reflects on her life and her roles as a wife, bereaved mother, mother to five other children, and writer.

I’ve read this treasure numerous times, gleaning something applicable to my life at the moment each visit.

Mrs. Morrow Lindbergh shared her meditations from a little cabin by the sea in Captiva, as she temporarily stepped away from the responsibilities of her life.

Simply put, she retreated. She reflected. She wrote.

I’m doing the same, and I need to for my own health and well-being.

I told my daughter Kyle on a visit in March that I was feeling anxious about the numerous appearances, events, and presentations that filled my calendar early-April through May. I admitted that many of these activities are out of my natural comfort zone.

She responded, “You’d never know that.”

Revelation: at my core, I’m still that shy, not-so-confident girl from a small town.

Life has forced me out of my shell, just like the little hermit crab who resided in the channelled whelk shell Mrs. Morrow Lindbergh discovered.

As my girlfriend Gayle offered, “we’d never know that because you do all that you do so well. But I get it…and since it’s not within your innate nature, it takes all the more energy from you.”

There’s more to the story too. Let’s just say that sometimes being an author of nonfiction for young readers can be challenging.

I find myself questioning who I am, and who I should be as a writer.

As Mrs. Morrow Lindbergh offers, this is a time in life when I should be “shedding shells,” shells of pride, self-ambition, one’s mask, one’s armor. It is a time, particularly as a woman, to find our “true center.”

I ask for your support as I reflect, retreat in my inner shell, and continue to discover purpose as a writer.

My heart is filled with hope that as I pull back and within, as I escape to my own waterside haven, that the universe reveals where my “true center” is.

Meeting new “peeps”

This weekend I had the opportunity to be surrounded by amazing creators of children’s books. Now, I know what you’re thinking. As the co-founder of Claire’s Day, a children’s book festival, this would not be unusual for me. In my role as an author, this isn’t necessarily a new experience either, as I’ve been fortunate to attend many Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators meetings and conferences.

But, this was different.

This was a writing workshop specifically for nonfiction children’s book authors, editors and agents.

Ahhh…finally. My peeps.

I felt like the nonfiction kid-lit shelves at my local bookstore literally came to life in front of my eyes as I met my fellow attendees. Writers I only knew through common on-line writing groups or social media were there, live and in person. I met scientists, educators, and biographers, all passionate about sharing their discoveries in creative and exciting works with children of all ages.

These writers have created works on everything from the history of dogs, to the significance of road kill. It was a thrill to meet peers who have written biographies I’ve read as mentor texts, admiring their style and structure.

I fan-girled over Candace Fleming, whose works range from stories about giant squids, to revealing, incredible biographies of Amelia Earhart and Buffalo Bill. I learned about the importance of “vital idea” of story and exciting page turns from Candace.

Jennifer Swanson, the creative genius behind the workshop, shared her excitement over establishing a nonprofit that provides author school visits to children who might not ever have the chance for this incredible experience otherwise. Jen participated in Claire’s Day last year, and it has been an honor offering her support and advice in this endeavor.

It was awesome meeting editors who are passionate about nonfiction, who are actively acquiring the manuscripts we are all creating.

Most of all, it was so refreshing to talk about research, back matter, interviewing subjects, challenges in getting experts to “vet” our manuscripts, agents who specialize in nonfiction, and all things related to the beauty and opportunities in this genre as an author.

I walked away from the experience feeling as though I have a whole new support group of writers who really “get” what I’m doing, because they are walking the same path. They speak my language.

My new peeps. Nice to meet you.