Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Book Review: I Remember Nothing by Nora Ephron

Let me be clear: I think Nora Ephron is a fabulously funny and insightful writer. She reminds me of Erma Bombeck and that is the pinnacle of the highest praise from the Red Shoes. So when I perused her new book, I Remember Nothing at our local two-week, library-sponsored book sale, then heard her interviewed the next day on Minnesota Public Radio, I was convinced that any impulsive buy would be justifiable.

And Nora, does not disappoint. From the first sentence I was wooed. "I have been forgetting things for years - at least since I was in my thirties," she writes. I am in my thirties and can now let go of the angst of not remembering where the "special spot" is where I put "that thing."

I appreciated her frank discussion about flops stating, "It seems to me the main thing you learn from failure is that it's entirely possible you will have another failure." There's something freeing in there, like coming to the realization that no matter what I do, I'll never be the perfect parent. The kids will surely drudge up some injustice inflicted on them and so, rather than fret, I can be hopeful that they will at least get creative in recalling their version of childhood.

Her addiction to Scrabble Blitz - Blitz Scrabble, shows me that even professional writers can spend enormous amounts of time procrastinating, musing, or doing nothing, and still turn out respectable work. And I will be thinking of what food I'd like to be named after, steering clear of the meat loaf.

And finally, a particularly sweet morsel from the chapter, Twenty-five Things People Have a Shocking Capacity to Be Surprised by Over and Over Again is #4, "Beautiful young women sometimes marry ugly, old rich men."  The day I am freed from this surprise, I will be a truly nonjudgmental, liberated woman.

While I can't relate to her New York state of mind and I have a different expereince regarding spoons, I still enjoyed this read very much and highly recommend it.

In honor of Nora, I created my own personal Surprise List, and while I was at it, thought of a few for my husband.

The Red Shoes' List of Things that Surprise, But Really Shouldn't
1. My husband will always park in the farthest space possible from the entrance.
2. There are only 24 hours in a day.
3. It gets really cold during the winter.
4. I don't like waking up.*
5. Kids grow up.
6. I grew up.
7. Kids have iron wills and it can often outlast mine.
8. Children will continue to do the same thing no matter how many times you tell them 'no.'
9. My husband gets me a gift at the last minute.
10. My husband will drive an extra fifty miles if it means saving one cent per gallon.
11.Our kids behave at everyone else's house except ours.
12. Kids look angelic and innocent in their sleep. (How is this possible?)
13. I fall asleep when I read.
14. I still don't like watermelon.
15. I severely dislike housecleaing.
16. But I love to cook.
17. And I will catch vomit, if it means sparing the furniture and the carpet.
18. Kids these days sing the same "underground" rhymes that I did when I was a kid. "Jingle bells, Batman smells..."
19.Which means my mother must have realized the same thing when I was a kid.
20. I'm becoming my mother.
21. There are far more than 20 things that surprise me, but really shouldn't.

The Red Shoes' Husband's List of Surprising Things (from my perspective)
1. Just because the house looks exactly as it did when you left in the morning and there's no dinner on the table, does not mean that I wasn't busy during the day.
2. My only steadfast requirement for any home improvement is that it also look nice or pretty.
3. I prefer chocolate over flowers.
4. I shave because of cultural conformity.
5. Having sex three times a day is your fantasy.
6. Three children under the age of 7 are not able to endure a 3-day, 20-mile backpacking trip no matter how much you want them to.
7. And no, I don't know where you put it.
8. Yes, honey, I honestly do not know what you call the do-hickey that's connected to the whats-it. But I'd be happy to pass you that, there thingamajig.

*This fact I finally accepted after trying for years to wake up "early."  Now I just get up at 6:30 a.m. like everybody else. Well, actually 6:35 -  just like everybody else.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A 2010 Nano Winner!

I'm pleased to announce that I have managed to scribble out the required 50,000 words of the Nanowrimo challenge! Here's my winner's banner to prove it.

I think I'll print one out and hang it up next to my kids' drawings!

Thanks, Nano, for a wonderful writing frenzy! And thanks to my writing partner whose taunting kept me moving along.

Now it's time to get back to writing that last 50k....clickety, clackety, click, clack, space, click, period.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Red Shoes are going Nano!

There's nothing like a good novel-writing project, to get you in the mood to write anything other than your novel.

Therefore, I'm capitalizing on this wonderful opportunity to National Novel Writing Month, or as it's affectionately known by devoted participants - Nanowrimo, or even more simply - Nano.

Eleven seasons ago, a group of writer-aspiring folk in San Francisco decided it would be swell to dedicate the month of November to the art and challenge of novel writing.  (You can check out the full Nano story here.)  The goal was to write 50,000 words in one month.

While many have debated the value of Nano - I belong to the camp that just loves it. Here are my reasons in totally random order:

1. It gets you writing.  Even if you only spend one month out of the year writing, it still counts for something.

2. Anyone can do it.  If you've ever had a dream to write a story, here's your chance.  Nanowrimo offers a place to hang out with lots of support, and when you get your 50k of words validated, they give you cheerful paraphernalia which boasts your accomplishment.

3. It's FREE!  There are lots of resources, online and off, available for writers, but they can come attached with a fee. And these fees can add up.

4. Quantity vs. Quality.  Nanowrimo is all about getting in your word count, so no need to worry about writing the next best seller.

5. Your Inner Editor, Critic, Mother-in-law gets to take a vacation.  See Reason #4.

6. Young Writers' Program.  They support school-age children to write with their own goal and kid-friendly forums.

7. Other cool literacy awareness projects. They are really passionate about making literacy available to everyone!

8. Nanowrimo empowers, is positive, and is filled with the passion for writing.

Reality check:
It's not always easy, and the month can feel like a 50-year marriage smushed into one month. 

The first week is all bliss, the stress mild, as you sit down each day to dutifully put in the time to get your word count.

Week 2 is riddled with doubt and anxiety and if you're going to get sick, this is usually the week it happens.  You feel like chucking this ridiculous and seemingly impossible endeavor and other projects such as ironing, cleaning out the gutters, washing windows, and re-cataloging Christmas cards suddenly look a lot more appealing than that book you started out writing last week. 

If you can get over this hump, then Week 3 is about accepting that - if you're in it for the long haul - than you have to do the work.  You've come to terms with the all of the challenges of juggling your normally busy life with that of novel-writing, because, hey, you've only got one more week to go. 

When you hit 35,000 words, a miracle happens.  Suddenly, the joy for your story comes back. It feels so much easier, as you cheerfully bang out 1,500 words in fifteen minutes. You wonder how achieving that 1,667 daily word count goal seemed so hard in the beginning, but is effortless now.  In other words, Baby, it's all down hill from here.

And when you hit that 50k mark, the confetti flies and it's all elation and triumph,

Granted, what you've written will probably be worse than the toddler's guide to car maintenance, but that's okay. The point is you did it. And that's all that matters.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Mental Health Training for Faith-based Organizations

Part of my college years included being employed as a church secretary. Regularly, a middle-aged couple would stop by our office asking for some sandwiches.  The other secretary always treated them respectfully and would slap together some bread and butter.  Sometimes one of the priests would attend to our guests or sit and visit with them while they munched. I was so thankful that my co-workers were able to help these people because I, on the other hand, had a paralyzing fear of helping those on the fray - stemming from a childhood experience that would bloom in full color everytime I would see this couple walk into the church.

It was a frustrating internal struggle - to want to help and yet be fearful of it. As an adult, this anxiety is something that I work hard to overcome.  When my gorge starts to rise, squeezing my neck, a friend's prayer comes to mind like a mantra: "May we see the face of God in everyone we meet."

So, when I heard about this project, I jumped on it immediately.

Tri-Valley Opportunity Council's mission is to create opportunities to improve the quality of life for people and communities.  One of their latest projects includes partnering with Northwestern Mental Health Center, Inc and Polk County Social Services to provide mental health training for faith-based organizations (FBOs). The first training will be held June 8-9, 2010 at the Evangelical Covenant Church in Crookston, MN. This two-day, all day training includes certificates of completion for Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) and Psychological First Aid (PFA). Cost is $10 per person and to register, please contact Mallory Smith at (218) 281-3940 or

How did the idea for this project come about?

Two things happened. Four years ago Tri-Valley applied for a federal grant to build the capacity of faith-based organizations and they didn't receive it.  Today, they're currently in the fourth year of a six-year planning grant which is specifically for families with children who have mental health disorders. They were faced with the question of what services and resources were going to be in place to continue the programming provided by this grant. Tri-Valley identified a need to reach out to faith-based organizations because that's where the people who need human services are going first.

Tri-Valley had interviews and held focus groups to find out what faith-based organizations are experiencing and what they need in terms of resources and support. The feedback they got is that FBOs are really concerned about mental health issues, drug and alcohol abuse, parenting, and access to resources for all of these needs.  They also learned that, while people may know where to go for monetary assistance, the FBOs provide the necessary emotional support.

Why is this project important?

In Northwest Minnesota there is overall poverty with young people leaving the area; leaving behind an older population and no economic growth. This region is a conglomerate of small agricultural communities and access to resources can be a challenge. For example resources for kids with autism might be 60 miles away. Geography is an issue. In this kind of work, while some resources are available through the internet, building relationships with people is critical.

Generally these relationships tend to be created on an informal basis, for example individuals working in human services might reach out personally through their own church. However, while the formalization of this relationship building between FBOs and human service organizations exists in some places, it is new in our region of Minnesota and generally a ground-breaking movement.

Most people are connected to some kind of faith-based organization and feel more comfortable seeking help initially through their church.  Human services is great at providing training and resources, but not so great at giving the emotional support and that's why the FBOs are so important. For implementing long-term, lasting change, the FBO community is a key component. People want emotional support and they can get it for no cost at a church or other faith-based organization.

Therefore, this project is important because it's a win-win for everybody. The training and resources that human service providers can give to FBOs are things that help all of us provide better services to our communities. The FBOs help by supplying volunteers, making resources available, and by reaching the people who need these services. They can also explain and help people understand the process and what to expect when reaching out to human service organizations. Together they can do mutual information sharing to best serve the people in our communities.

Why is your organization taking this initiative and not governmental agencies?

Tri-Valley is a private, non-profit organization and a community action agency. Government organizations have some trepidation working with faith-based groups because of the issue of separation of Church and State. Other non-profits can also potentially be fearful because they see it as a competition for resources and funds. We see the collaboration with faith-based organizations as another opporutnity to serve the people of our community. We're all in this together.  In these economic times when families are struggling, you can't do it alone, so we all need to play a part in it.

For more information about this project and future trainings, please contact Tracey Sundeen at

Monday, May 24, 2010

Live Your Best Life - Now!

I'm very excited to kick off the Red Shoes Movement with an invitation to Live Your Best Life - Now! - a Women's Retreat in June that will be led by Umo Udo with Teena Dietz.

I met Umo through the NMF LeaderImpact program and was impressed with her compassion and ability to help people take ownership of their lives. She is an ordained Presbyterian minister and serves as the Director of Spiritual Care at Catholic Charities. She is a certified professional coach and a trainer on topics related to Intercultural Effectiveness and Spirituality. She describes herself as a very resilient woman who likes to help others tap into their resiliency. Her personal mission is not only to help women create their best life, but to create and live their best life now, because - as she says, "The present moment is what we have."


So what is this retreat all about?
This retreat is about helping a woman think about her current state of life, creating what she wants, and setting up accountability.  What makes this retreat exceptional is that it helps a woman follow through on her plan by creating a system of accountability.  It's easy to get excited after a weekend getaway, but then what?  This is where Umo comes in.

What makes her retreat special?
Umo's retreats are guided with what she calls the 7 C's:  Cleanse, Clarify, Claim, Create, Challenge, Commit, and Celebrate

Cleansing is about looking for those obstacles in women's lives that prevent them from moving forward. Then she focuses on helping women find their unique core values.  She centers many activities on drawing out and defining vision, purpose, and dreams.  Finally, Creating (yes, with a big C) is about getting into the nitty-gritty of vision and what it is women want to create in their lives. She emphasizes that a vision or dream doesn't have to be about material things; it's about a woman's unique definition of success. The key is to be intentional with her vision.
Umo's favorite part about doing these kinds of retreats is witnessing people's harmony. "It's amazing how they are transformed in under 48 hours," she says. "It gives me joy because I know that this is the beginnning of their journey."

What's the skinny on this retreat? How do I sign up?
The retreat will be held June 25 - 27, 2010 at the Villa Maria Retreat Center, located near Red Wing, MN - about 90 minutes from the Twin Cities. It begins at 4:00pm on Friday and concludes Sunday at 2:30pm.

Cost is $350.00 for early bird registration by Monday, May 31, 2010. Regular registration is $375.00. This includes the retreat experience, accommodations, linens, meals, and refreshments.

Special Offer!! The first five registrants will receive two sessions of personal coaching after the retreat. This is a $200.00 value.

Please call Umo at 612-414-9539 or email her at  for more information and to register. Or ask me, and I'll email you a brochure.

Do you have any red shoes?
"Not yet. I'm still looking for the ones that say, 'This is it.'"

Umo, I know exactly what you mean.  You may not have found your red shoes yet, but their spirit has certainly found you! Good luck with your retreat!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Welcome to Red Shoes Movement

Welcome to Red Shoes Movement - a movement to celebrate all the goodness happening in the world that embraces empowerment, positivity, and passion.

Please let us know what your up to and how you or someone you know is promoting these values.

And I'll do the same!