Thursday, September 27, 2007

Nancy J. Ring, Exploring the Path Home


Anchors,Signposts and Wanderings

Forks, bends, detours, scenery, and fellow travelers I've discovered while Exploring the Path Home.

This is what you'll find on freelance writer and community mental health counselor Nancy J. Ring's blog. That, and a whole lot of wisdom and truths that just leave you breathless. I am having a tough time telling you just one post to read, so let's just say that you should read the whole thing including quotes, favorites, and  things.

Last year she graduated with a Master’s in Community Counseling  and now has her Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) certification. She works with adults who have severe and persistent mental illness, so she knows a lot about how it can be tough to find the path home. She's worked at the same place for nearly 10 years and loves that her work focuses on helping people achieve their vocational goals, as well as working on emotional health and well being.

When asked about how all of this affects her writing she said,"Helping people become who they are meant to be is a theme that runs through my writing, my counseling, and my ministry."

I know I gain many insights into myself and my own writing from Nancy and her blog. Plus, she has been a writing buddy in my Struggling Artists of Literary Talent (SALT) for many years, so I love her as a sister.

Nancy writes nonfiction articles for women, adults, and teens on all kinds of inspirational, Christian living topics. She's  also written Sunday School curriculum for her church and award-winning grants for her vocational program at work.

Her blog started as a way to get back into writing after she had finished graduate school.

Nancy says, "It’s helped me find my voice, connect with other writers, and helped me identify writing topics I might not have otherwise considered."

Now let's delve into Nancy's past as a kid. You'll see why I absolutely love her and her writing, too:

Childhood Ambition: When I was a kid, I wanted to be a doctor, a gymnast, a scientist, and an artist. Sadly, I wasn’t very good at any of these things. When I discovered how much math with required to be a scientist or doctor, I ditched those goals right away.

I still like gymnastics and art, and I’m still not good at either one of them.

Fondest Memory: Ok, I’m having trouble coming up with one stand-out memory. I think it’s mostly the little memories that I’m fond of. Our family Christmas traditions, getting ice cream or Gene & Jude’s hot dogs when me & my brother had good report cards, having my aunt’s family over for brunch after church on Sunday. I’m sure there’s more extraordinary memories, but these are the ones I recall at the moment.

Crystal Editor comment: I love it that Nancy remembers food. Me, too!

Proudest Moment :A lot of my proudest moments seem to be related to academics. I guess I’m a nerd. When I was in 7th & 8th grade, I won 3rd place in a spelling bee. At the time I was disappointed that I didn’t place better, but I’m proud of that now. I was also a finalist in a regional story writing contest. I’d been interested in writing ever since I’d read The Hobbit back in 3rd grade, but this was the first time I received real, genuine, encouraging feedback about my writing. Even though I was only a finalist, I was proud of this at the time. Go figure.

Biggest Challenge as a Child or Teen: Most people would think my biggest challenge was growing up with a disability. Spina Bifida has always been a part of my life. I’ve never known life to be any different, and being disabled is only an issue when it’s an issue. Snow on the ground creates an unpleasant experience, but it’s hardly the biggest challenge I’ve ever encountered. The quadratic formula, now that’s a challenge. Does anyone know why we needed to learn that thing anyway?

Crystal Editor comment: Ok, raise your hands: How many of you had to go look up quadratic formula? Much less has learned it?

My First Job: My first job was as a telemarketer for a basement waterproofing company. Cold calling at the age of 14. Despite the fact that most of the calls were rejections, we had fun in the office. Our boss was young himself & would do all sorts of goofy tricks to try to keep our spirits up. He taught me to think outside of the box when you need to address a problem. And if that doesn’t work, go next door to the Hostess shop and buy everyone Twinkies.

Childhood Indulgence: As a kid I was always asking to stay up late to read “just one more chapter.” Also, when my dad was working overnights as a paramedic, on Fridays Mom & I would get pizza and a movie. I looked forward to those nights all week.

Favorite Outfit as a Child: Well, there’s the tea bag Halloween costume my mom made me out of pillowcases. (No, I do not have a picture). I also had a mint green Easter dress I loved when I was about 5 or 6 years old. It had pink ribbon, and lace, and a layered, pleated skirt. I loved that dress.

Favorite Childhood Movie: I loved The Muppet Movie. I still do. Kermit the Frog is wonderful.


Favorite Childhood Book: I read all the time when I was a kid. My mom would buy me chapter books at the beginning of a shopping trip to keep me quiet and by the time she finished shopping I was always asking for another one to sustain me over the car ride home. So while it’s hard to pick just one book, I’d have to say my favorite is The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien. This was the book that made me decide I wanted to be a writer. I remember reading the opening paragraphs and trying to figure out what the magic stuff among the words, what made those words do what they did.

Favorite Childhood Activity: Well, there was reading of course. And playing on the swings. I still loved to do that. The neighbors across the street had a swing set, but we never did. When my parents did some renovating in the backyard I lobbied for a swing set. Instead, they put up a 2-car garage. My beloved lilac bush was also sacrificed in favor of this ugly, mustard yellow & brown monstrosity. Mom would say that it was “her” lilac bush, but it’s not like she lobbied to save it from the invasion of the garage.

Childhood Hero: I think my favorite childhood hero would have to be Jim Henson. I mentioned this at work the other day, and several of my clients laughed at me. I just think the guy was a creative genius. Kermit the Frog & I seemed to understand each other, and that was very important to me at times when I was growing up.

Favorite childhood Ritual: Well, there’s the pizza & movie nights with Mom that I mentioned. At Christmas, our family would also hold auctions, where the kids would get to bid on dime store items. For some reason, that was almost as exciting as opening presents. I think I liked knowing that it was something special about how our family celebrated the holidays; something other families didn’t do.



Book Lovers on Shelfari, a note from Nancy: 

My screen name on Shelfari is Njring121. Come find me & I’ll be your friend.

Sample of Nancy's Writing Expertise:

"The Need to Be Needed," reprinted for Ministry in Motion

She has also written for Discipleship Journal, Young Salvationist, Christian Standard, The Christian Communicator, and other publications.

Nancy says about her development as a writer, weaving in all aspects of her life and her philosophy behind it:

"Both my jobs (writing & counseling) are driven by a passion for communication. I’ve also recently discovered the art of making handmade books. I’m very interested in how making books can be used in a therapeutic manner. I think handmade books can be a great bridge between my interests in writing and counseling."

Anchors, Signposts, & Wanderings

Nancy's Dog, Nika: "Well, as Kermit the Frog would say,'Time's fun when you're having flies.'”


Paula "Adventuresome Alaskan Moose Lady" Lindstam

Imagine waking up and finding a moose looking at you through your window. Imagine throwing apples at said moose to get them to leave your harvest alone. (Imagine telling this story at meal time at Mt. Hermon Writers Conference and winning a free book for it and forever being known as the moose lady.)

Or how about a bear clawing at your windows, leaving marks where he could've easily come in?

How about that time that the kids had to take a different route to school because moose were scrounging around the bus stop?

And oh, yeah, the time your car blew across the ice in the school parking lot because of a winter storm.

Who can forget watching your kids play in a huge state soccer tournament at midnight because that's when the Midnight Sun is most beautiful?

Yeah, well, if you are like me, you are fascinated by the life of Paula Lindstam, wife, mom,Bible study leader,writer, real estate agent and general-all-around adventurer. Her husband, also a real estate agent and a pilot, flies people around--because sometimes that is the only way to get there. I've been in a critique group with Paula for years and this woman has written some of my favorite stories. Her characters, settings and voice are rich with the experiences she has lived and observed as a lifetime resident of our huge state to the north--Alaska.

She thinks nothing of hopping a plane and traveling the world. Her kids are confident and independent. And why wouldn't they be? Check out a recent photo of Paula taking a ride (which she loved) on a canopy rip-line!

So, what is it like growing up in last frontier--Alaska?

Tell us about the places you have lived in Alaska.Where did you live?

Around the state of Alaska, mostly.(A little time in Washington state.) I moved from house to house seventeen times by the time I was nineteen years old. My dad worked for the Weather Bureau on and off for over thirty years and we moved from town to town for his job. The highlights are that I was born in Nome, have lived in Anchorage three times, (including the present,) lived in Fairbanks and, briefly, in Delta Jct., graduated from high school in Naknek while living fifteen miles away in King Salmon (twice).

Childhood Ambition: I just can't think of anything. I'm not one who has always known what she wanted to be when she grew up and worked toward that end. Life unfurled as I went along.

(Crystal Editor note: Life unfurls as an amazing adventure for Paula. OY!)

Fondest Memory (then):

I can't say that I really enjoyed picking berries with my mother at the time, but as I look back it was a really sweet time. No matter where we lived in Alaska we picked local berries and my mother made jams and jellies and all manner of delicious things. I learned the names of the berries and where they grew, what they looked like. Black currants in the dark, dim woods near the Anchorage airport. Raspberries in sunny spots along the gravel road up on the hillside. Blueberries in the muskegs. I was very good about putting the berries in the bucket and not eating them. If I ate them it meant we would be picking longer and I usually wanted to be doing something more active.

Proudest Moment:

I took a scuba diving class in Sitka, Alaska when I was going to college there. My proudest moment was when I got my open water dive certificate. Years later, the first time I ran into my diving instructor, he told me I was his first female student. It was a different world then.

Biggest Challenge as a child or teen:

Learning to drive the motorcycle I bought when I was sixteen. It was a Honda 100 and learning to drive the clutch was an agony I thought would never end. It took a good day, at least. I didn't learn to drive a car until a couple years later and the how-to-use-a-clutch lessons from the motorcycle stood me in good stead. In the Alaska Bush the state offered an Off-System Driver's License in order to legally drive there. No driving test was required. The only road was fifteen miles from King Salmon to Naknek in one direction and King Salmon to Naknek Lake in another direction. I got my first real car driver's license when I moved to Anchorage in 1981 when I was 24 years old.

My First Job:

I was a maid at the hotel in King Salmon, Alaska. The clientele were nearly all men, usually villagers stranded by weather, construction crews, or German sport fishermen. I still fold my towels the way I was taught at the hotel. The Germans would leave Swiss chocolates on their pillows for the maids. Mmmm. I don't think I'd known what real chocolate tasted like until then.

Childhood Indulgence:

Reading, reading, reading. My favorites were biographies of first ladies. I also liked the Narnia series. In 1970, when I was thirteen, we moved to Fairbanks and lived in a small apartment for the summer. In an effort to find something for us to do my mother would take us to the library once a week. I think I read every book that a girl might want to read and was begging for more. There wasn't much to do and I just ate them up.

Favorite Outfit as a Child:

Girls weren't allowed to wear pants to school so my mother made all my clothes, which were dresses until I was in junior high. When I was six, she bought me a dress to wear for a picture taken of me and my brothers. I loved it! A store-bought dress. We still talk about it. (That's the dress in the above photo: Ralph, Duane and Paula in 1964.)It was the only studio picture ever taken of our family until we were adults. It was taken in Olympia, Washington where we lived my first semester of the first grade. We finally had access to a photographer/studio.

Favorite Childhood Play Time Activity:

Swinging through the trees near my house in Anchorage. Someone set up a trapeze-like swing in the trees. We'd run and take a flying leap at it, hopefully grasp it, swing aways, and then let go and drop onto the dirt path below.

Favorite Childhood Movie:

I went to a movie theater for the first time to see Mary Poppins. I was a young adult before I watched many movies. In the places we lived where we had television my favorites were Get Smart and My Three Sons.

Favorite Childhood Book:

Meet the Austins by Madeleine L'Engle. I also liked The Four Story Mistake by Elizabeth Enright.

Childhood Hero: My dad was and is, the smartest person that I know.

Anything you would like to add that my readers might be interested in knowing about you as a child or how your childhood may have influenced your writing as an adult:

My childhood was filled with such interesting people. It seems that if someone runs away from their life, they go to an exotic locale and start over. Alaska is one of those places they run to, so when I was a child my family tended to meet and befriend people with the most varied backgrounds. I like to weave those incongruous tidbits into my characters' personalities. The skinny old man wearing overalls as he swamps out the vacant apartment probably owns the building and used to be a top defense attorney in another state until his wife left him and his secretary embezzled all his money. I met people with outrageous stories like that all the time growing up. It really helps one not to leap to conclusions based upon looks.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Delia "Gatorskunkz and Mudcats" Melton

What a little cutie. Delia has a way of warming you just by her happy, positive talk, and she could've grown into a bitter woman, but Jesus came into her life and well, it's a happy story, in spite of the ups and downs. Her famous blog, Gatorskunkz and Mudcats, is like a serial addiction for me. I have to get a dose of Delia whenever I'm having one of those days.

She is passionate about her family (and they are in her blog as "characters," like her husband,The Honey, and The Kiddos) and she promotes causes that most of us relate to. Delia just makes the world a better place. She is open and honest (check out her frank discussions on child-raising!) and I wish she lived closer (wanna be a Hoosier?) so those of us in the Indiana ACFW could have her.Delia is precious and you will see why I adore her so. What is not to love with someone like her?

I wanted to know what made her into the writer she is today (and she's also working on fiction these days,too.)

Childhood Ambition:
When I was a kid I wanted to do everything. I went through all the phases; doctor, lawyer, police officer, truck driver, etc. Yes, at one time I wanted to be a truck driver. There were also quite a few members of my family who had joined the military and I even went through a phase where I wanted to join the Marines. Then, about halfway through my teens I decided I wanted to be a nurse and that stuck with me until I got older and worked in a nursing facility. I soon realized that I just was not cut out for it. I loved caring for people but the other, more medical side of nursing just wasn’t for me.

All of my life there was the love of writing, which I'm sure stemmed from my love of reading, but it never seemed like it was something I could do. Authors were like celebrities to me (they still are) and I didn’t think that just an average Jane like myself could do it. It never occurred to me that I could be a writer and write the stories that I love and try to get them published until just a few years ago. Then I kept my aspirations to myself. Everyone knew I loved writing but it was something just for fun and no one suspected that I would ever want to do anything with the stories that I wrote. I still haven’t had anything published but I’m doing what I love and that’s what matters.

Fondest Memory (then):
When we were younger we weren’t close to our real grandparents and we sort of adopted an older couple to play that role in our lives. I’m not exactly sure how we knew them but they were always a part of our family. We called them our Mom-mom and Papa. My mama was a single parent who worked a lot and they were our main babysitters. Then when we got too old for a babysitter we would go visit them as often as we could and during the summer I would sweet talk Mama into letting me spend a couple of weeks at a time with them.

Papa had an old swing house right smack in the middle of the yard and when I would go visit he and I would sit out in the swing in the evenings and discuss anything and everything that came to mind and then sometimes we would just swing. I learned a lot about God and life in that old swing house with my Papa and it was a sad, sad day when it was torn down.

Proudest Moment:

I have so many proud moments in my life but my proudest moments would have to be when each of my children were born and I saw the beautiful babies that God was entrusting me with.

Biggest Challenge as a child or teen:
My Mama got mixed up in a bad marriage when I was a kid and we saw a lot of things that children shouldn’t have to see. Overcoming the feelings of anger and shame that it all induced took a long time for me and it was definitely the hardest challenge I had to face when I was younger.

My First Job:
My first job was in a sewing factory when I was seventeen years old. I accrued enough credits that I was able to graduate in the middle of my senior year so I decided to get a job and try to save some money. There was a sewing factory in town hiring and I figured I could make more money there then I could at a fast food restaurant so I eagerly applied. Ha! It was a horrible experience and I didn’t work there long.

Childhood Indulgence:
I don’t know whether to tell you that my indulgence was books or to tell you that it was those little candy necklaces with all the candy pieces strung on a piece of elastic. Because back then both were equally important to my child’s mind. Books took me on so many wonderful adventures and let me see into so many different worlds and I was constantly reading something. (Now don’t laugh…) But those candy necklaces made me feel like a princess. Think about it, only a princess could have such a colorful necklace that not only made her beautiful but when she needed a little snack, she could just lift it up and take a bite! I’m sure my mama would’ve liked it if I’d just stuck with the books then she wouldn’t have had to cart around a child with a piece of elastic wrapped around the big colorful ring stain on her neck all those times when the candy was gone and I refused to give up my princess necklace.

Favorite Outfit as a Child:
My memory isn’t all that grand Crystal, but I can vaguely remember a dress that I once loved and some red patent leather shoes that I tried to never take off.

Favorite Childhood Movie:
"The Neverending Story"

Favorite Childhood Book:
Oh, there were so many; The Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Judy Blume, Beverly Cleary (what little girl didn’t love Ramona?), and everything else I could get my hands on to read.

Favorite Childhood Activity:
Dancing. I loved to dance and would only need the music in my head. I never cared where I was or who was watching me, if I felt like dancing- which I did most of the time- I would dance.

Childhood Hero:
My mother.

Now you know some of why I love Delia and hope I can meet her in person one day. (I'm still laughing over the candy necklaces, and I love it that she danced to the music in her head.)Delia, write stories that you fictionalize about YOU. We will read them!
Best Blog Name in Blogdom:
Gatorskunkz and Mudcats

100 Things About Delia