(Everyday) Adventures with Erin: Reliving My Youth

As exciting and dramatic as it sounds, this week, reliving my youth is tooth-366335__340 anything but. At the ripe old age of (fill in the blank with any age older than nineteen), I have just had braces applied to my teeth–for the third time!

After surviving the discomfort of getting braces while suffering from a cold (it is hard to breathe when you are mostly upside down and have a plastic guard in your mouth), I had to go home and eat soup. I had forgotten how tender my teeth would be with the braces on. In fact, a week later, I am still not able to bite through a sandwich or an English muffin. I received a very helpful checklist from the dentist, detailing what foods I can and can’t eat.I was slightly offended that the list was in cartoon form, but I guess I am not really their target audience. While I am past the stage of enjoying Starburst and licorice, I was dismayed to see pizza crust on the list. And popcorn and nuts? With sadness, I brought my high-protein almond packs and bags of microwave popcorn home from school this week, having resigned myself to living on soup and yogurt at lunch time.

To make matters worse, I also have occasional facial blemishes (commonly known as zits) and silver, wiry hair popping up on the top of my head. Is it any wonder I am confused half the time? My body can clearly not decide what age it actually is. Thankfully, Madeleine L’Engle (I know–I quote her all the time, but she is my favorite author), says:

I amadeleinem still every age that I have ever been. Because I was once a child, I am always a child. Because I was once a searching adolescent, given to moods and ecstasies, these are still part of me, and always will be. Because I was once a rebellious student, there is, and always will be in me the student crying out for reform. . . Far too many people misunderstand what putting away childish things means, and think that forgetting what it is like to think and feel and touch and smell and taste and see and hear like a three-year-old, or a thirteen-year-old, or a twenty-three-year-old means being grownup. . . if I can retain a child’s awareness and joy and be fifty-one, then I will learn what it really means to be grownup. (L’Engle 199-200).

Although I am considerably younger than fifty-one, now is as good a time as any to practice thankfulness, which will hopefully lead to joy. After all, braces are definitely a first-world problem.

In the meantime, I think I’ll start taking notes on what it feels like to get braces. Maybe I’ll even get brave enough for aqua bands, like the girl in the picture. Who knows? Perhaps a middle-grade protagonist is in my future.


L’Engle, Madeleine. A Circle of Quiet. HarperCollins Publishers. 1972.




Adventures with Erin: RenFest


For those of you who haven’t realized, I am also a contributor on www.Landsuncharted.com. Recently, I wrote about visiting our local Renaissance Festival (for the 17th year in a row, I think)! You can check out my post on Renaissance Festival here, if you aren’t already following us at Lands Uncharted. I love the adventure of living in a fantasy world for a day. This adventure is even more fun now that my children are old enough to join in (although my son does keep trying to convince his dad to buy a giant sword).

Do you have a Renaissance Festival or Fair near you? What do you like best about attending?

Adventures with Erin: The Kenneth Stories


Recently, I was teaching my students about personal narrative and telling them one of my earliest memories involved climbing a “mountain” with my imaginary friend, Kenneth. I was four, and we lived in Washington State. On sunny days we could see Mount Rainier from our windows, so mountain-climbing was a normal pastime for us. All I needed was my clear, plastic, Winnie-the-Pooh galoshes and a rain jacket, and I was ready for adventure. We’d go out to the log pile and hike up and down it, pretending to reach the summit. Kenneth and I did everything together. He began his life as a darling doll in a pink dress, but after I washed his hair several times in the bathtub, he ended up with a blonde dredlock sticking straight out of his head. My dad wasn’t comfortable with Kenneth in his dresses, so my grandma sewed him blue pants and a red shirt. However, Kenneth the doll wasn’t always allowed to play outside or go to the grocery store with me, so he quickly became imaginary.

Fast-forward a few decades (nearly four).¬†As I was speaking to my students, I realized there is probably a connection between my vivid memories of Kenneth, who had his own personality and actions, and writing my story characters. Years ago, long before I started writing fiction, I read Madeleine L’Engle’s book, Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art. The part of L’Engle’s book that puzzled me the most was when she was talking about story characters having a will of their own. She says, “It was an exciting plot and I thought I had the story pretty well under control. I had long and carefully worked out what was going to happen to Adam and the other characters” (209). As a teacher who had been teaching plot chart for years, this made sense to me. But L’Engle’s words that follow made me pause. She continues, “Then something unexpected happened. Adam had gone nearly three nights without sleep. . . he woke up and there, sitting in a chair and looking at him was a young man named Joshua. Adam was very surprised to see Joshua. Madeleine was even more surprised to see Joshua” (209). Following the story was a bit of a foreign concept to me, until I started writing fiction myself.

L’Engle says, “I had a choice at that moment. I could ignore Joshua, refuse to allow him into my story. Or I could have faith in the creative process and listen to Joshua” (209). I vividly remember listening to Kenneth, my four-year-old best friend, as we climbed the mountain. When a log rolled out from under me and I fell, knocking out my two front teeth and hitting the back of my head on the stone porch, Kenneth was there. He was there as I rode my red tricycle around my driveway, carting a glass jar of spiders behind me. He was there when I got in trouble and was sent to my room. Being comfortable with an imaginary friend as a child has perhaps made me more comfortable with characters who don’t always act in the way I expect.

For a while, while working on Amber in the Mountains I was worried about naming a character after my grandfather, because I really couldn’t tell whether the character would turn out to be “good” or not. It took an act of faith and surrender to follow the story and see how he would turn out, instead of forcing him into a tidy plot chart.

Have any of you had to deal with unexpected or unruly characters in your writing? How did they turn out?